A story based upon the characters of “Beauty and the Beast”
by Nancy Lynn Knauff * Artwork by Sonia Mª Corral
Vincent looked up from his journal entry, pondering what he felt from the bond he shared with Catherine. He felt a profound fatigue. That in itself wasn’t unusual- he knew that she had been working hard at her office recently on her latest cases. However, this exhaustion wasn’t the kind he felt from her when she worked too hard. It felt more like…
The past few months Vincent had been even more diligent about protecting Catherine from harm. During his recent breakdown Vincent’s vision had shown him what his life might be like without Catherine. Although the details here hazy, its message was clear. He would not survive intact without her. Any slight flutter of emotion from her set him on edge for hours. Right now the fatigue he sensed from her set his own heartbeat racing.
Finally unable to stand it, he quickly shut his journal and lighted from his high-backed upholstered chair, quickly snagging his cloak with one hand as he left his chamber.
Catherine snuggled deeper into the cotton robe she was wearing and looked out over her balcony. For late summer there was a definite chill in the air. Fall was not far behind. Catherine sipped the herbal tea from the mug she held, cupping her fingers around it to absorb its warmth. For some strange reason she could not get warm today. Even her earlier shower had failed to keep away the creeping exhaustion into her bones. She shrugged. I’m just working too hard, she thought. I can’t wait for the weekend.
That brought a smile to her lips, brightening her entire self. She had no plans Above and she was planning on spending most of it Below with Vincent. There was to be a concert Saturday evening, a rare choir concert in the park. She had found out from her late father’s friend Kay that one of the pieces to be performed was Vaughan Williams’ In Windsor Forest. Catherine was ecstatic. She couldn’t wait to see the look on Vincent’s face as he recognized some of Shakespeare’s verse in the piece from their secret music chamber.
But Saturday was three days away and Catherine was feeling the frustration. She still had a mountain of paperwork at the office, and two cases that Joe would be bringing to trial next week. She was also holding out that Moreno would give her the Lenox case to prosecute. She had worked long and hard on that one, and it would give her immense satisfaction to finish the job in court.
She was so absorbed in her musing that she didn’t notice Vincent as he landed on the balcony. He watched her from a distance for a moment, always taken aback by her strength and beauty. She was, as always, a vision, and Vincent was always amazed that this incredible woman could actually love him.
She had closed her eyes, breathing in the night air. Vincent, feeling slightly foolish for staring at her, announced himself. “Catherine.” Her eyes opened quickly to glance in the direction of that musical voice. When her gray-green eyes met his sapphire ones she greeted him with a smile.
“I was just thinking about you,” she told him as he took a step towards her.
Vincent returned the smile with a small one he knew she could see. “I know.” He looked out over the balcony at the night skyline before them.
“I haven’t seen you for a few days. Is everything alright?”
He continued to look out over the night but Catherine felt that there was no distress within him. Still, she thought that he looked almost as tired as she felt. When a small wave of concern washed through her, he shifted in his gaze from over the city to where she was behind him and to his left, obviously feeling her emotion through the bond. “Yes, all is well,” he assured her. “There has been much work in the lower chambers recently. There was also a leak from Mouse’s recent aqueduct that needed repair. Three people had to be evacuated from their chambers.”
Catherine grimaced. She remembered Vincent once telling her about the last large flood Below almost two years ago. “No one was hurt?”
He shook his head, his long locks from his blond mane softly and lightly swinging around him. “Thankfully, no.”
“Good.” She reached around to the back of her neck to massage her suddenly tired muscles. Vincent didn’t miss it. “I’m alright, Vincent,” she said to his frown. “I’m just tired. It’s been a long day.”
“I should leave,” he said. He still wasn’t quite sure what exactly had drawn him to her. He only knew that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t rational, but them again the bond they shared seldom offered explanations.
“No,” she murmured, putting her cup down on one of the nearby chairs. “We spend so little time together as it is.”
“True.” That admission brought both joy and sorrow to him. As pleasant the stolen moments they shared were, they were never enough. They probably never will, Vincent thought to himself.
A sudden shiver went through Catherine. She tightened the folds of her robe around her. Vincent silently came forward to wrap his cloak around her, offering his own body warmth. She sighed and snuggled into him, glad to have him near. Two strong arms enveloped her, holding her closer to him. Vincent leaned his head onto the top of her freshly washed hair, taking in her scent, the scent he held so dear.
But something was indeed amiss. Vincent noticed almost immediately. He pulled back from their embrace to look down at her. He noticed that her face was flushed, even more so than usual. The air was crisp, but not enough to cause the rosy look about her skin. His heart jumped in concern. He raised a furred back of a hand to her forehead. It rested there for only a moment.
“Catherine, you have a fever,” he said, concern filling his voice.
“Don’t be silly, Vincent. I’m just cold.” She glanced in surprise as he looked at her in disbelief. That look was usually reserved for the children he watched over Below.
“You should not be out here. You should be inside.” Catherine tried to object again, but Vincent had already opened the terrace door to her bedroom before sweeping her off her feet into his arms to carry her inside.
Moments later Vincent had settled her into her bed. He tucked in the sheets snugly around her before shutting the terrace doors. This surprised Catherine, for it was rare for him to be in her apartment. During the summer, in the midst of his breakdown, she had nursed him here for several days. As Vincent had recovered and began to come back to the balcony, he had only entered once during a sudden intense thunderstorm. The subsequent blackout had been an added bonus. Thank God I had those candles… She suddenly closed her eyes for a moment. Her mind was wandering. Where is my head?
He glanced back at her for a moment, frowning at her sudden confusion before heading into her bathroom. A minute later he returned with a thermometer in his hands and sat down at her side. She tried to protest again, but he popped it into her mouth with a practiced hand.
“Under the tongue, Catherine,” he said, in a voice she knew would tolerate no defiance. She obeyed as another wave of exhaustion washed over her. Vincent felt it as well, as his face deepened in concern. They stared at each other for a few minutes waiting for the result. A small voice inside Catherine whispered how strange and funny this might be someday. But for now, she could only gaze into those soft blue eyes currently drinking in her own pools of green intently. Vincent’s eyes were full of concentration and concern for her well-being. She couldn’t help but be touched by his devotion to her.
When he finally took the instrument from her, she gave up any protest when he spoke the reading. “One hundred one.” He looked at her. “You’ve been tired all day, I felt it.” Catherine watched him as he shook the thermometer down.
“I thought I was just tired because of my workload.” She had really hit the pavement recently. Now it seemed that it had finally caught up with her. She yawned, trying to hide it behind her hand. “Really, Vincent, I had no idea.”
Tourmaline blue eyes softened as he listened to her. “Alright. Rest now.” He got up from his seat on the bed, as if to leave.
“Please, don’t leave Vincent,” she softly pleaded. Already she could feel sleep calling to her, making her eyes droop, but she wanted him to stay. She hadn’t seen him for several days, and was loath to let go of him so fast. Strange, she thought. It was almost as if she couldn’t let him leave her yet that night. That same voice whispered of her need to have him near.
He gave a small sigh, feeling it all in her and into himself. How could he resist? “I won’t leave, Catherine. Sleep now.” He picked up her spare blanket to drape it over her, then sat back on the bed and took her hand in his furred own. She didn’t hear him or feel his touch; she was already asleep.
Vincent watched over her throughout the night. He had hoped that she would sleep through whatever she was suffering from. But when she woke up again and again after midnight, he knew she was very ill.
Her fever didn’t go down, and she shivered despite the added blanket. Vincent could feel the ache in her body, and the tightening of his own throat he could only associate with Catherine’s own soreness there. He felt helpless. So many times he had come to her, drawn by her sudden fear, when she faced certain danger. He had protected her from so many evils, had even tried to protect her from himself. But there was no way to battle a demon from inside a body, a danger that attacked from within. All he could do was sit with her, holding her hand. He felt he had to do something, but what?
It was only a few hours from dawn when Vincent finally made up his mind. Catherine was finally in a deep sleep, after tossing and turning for hours restlessly. He left her there and softly walked into the living room. He found her address book by the phone, picked it up to thumb through it.
He had never had any use for this particular device, but had seen it in use many times; he knew how it worked. Still, this was highly unusual for him. Fully conscious of possibly exposing himself, no matter how small a chance that might be, he glanced back into the darkened bedroom. No, he felt he had no choice. Catherine needed more than he could give her. He found the number he needed, swallowed the lump in his throat, took up the receiver and dialed.
His highly sensitive ears did not appreciate the high-tone broken shrill coming from the earpiece, so he was quite relieved when he heard a familiar, if groggy, voice on the other end.
He paused for a moment. Then he took a long breath. “Peter?”
It took a second for Peter Alcott to register whose voice he was indeed hearing on the other end. “Vincent?”
“Yes. Peter,” he broke quickly, before his friend could interrupt further. “Catherine’s not well. She’s running a high fever.” He was thankful that Peter quickly got over his shock of hearing his voice on the telephone.
“Alright, I’ll be over there as quick as I can.” There was a pause on the other end. “You are at her apartment?”
“Okay, I’ll be right there.” Peter hung up the phone so fast Vincent flinched from the abrupt sound.
It seemed to take an eternity before Vincent heard a knock on the door to Catherine’s apartment, then his friend’s loud whisper. “Vincent?” After a quick glance at them, he undid the locks and deadbolts of the door, then swung it open. He stood behind the door as Peter came in, allowing no one to see him. The door swung shut behind the elderly doctor, and Vincent emerged from his hiding place.
Peter looked rumpled, looking out of place in jeans and a pullover, a change from the usual suit and tie. There were circles under his eyes, but he still managed to give Vincent a small smile.
“Neither one of you will give me a decent night’s sleep, will you?” he teased. It had the desired effect. Vincent relaxed a little, his shoulders losing some of their tension. Peter tossed his coat onto one of the sofas and shifted his grip on his black doctor’s bag. “Now, my boy, let’s see what’s going on here. Where is she?”
Vincent escorted him to the bedroom. Catherine was still asleep, and made no move as Peter placed a cool hand on her forehead. “Mm-hm. Did you take her temperature?” he asked.
“It was one hundred one at 10:30, but I’m sure it’s gone up since then. I gave her two aspirin to try to bring it down.”
“Any other symptoms?
“Sore throat, aches. She had a headache the last time she woke up.”
Peter frowned as he thought. “Get a cold washcloth for her. We’ll start there. Don’t worry, Vincent,” he said, seeing the tension in the younger man’s face. “She’ll be fine. It’s probably just a cold.”
Nonetheless, Vincent was worried. In all the time he had known her, she had only been sick once. She had caught a small cold after she had almost drowned last April, but it hadn’t kept her down at all. Besides, anything that caused distress to her was unbearable to him. He couldn’t protect her from an illness, and that one fact was eating away at him. He turned around and headed into the bathroom to wet a washcloth. * She knew this feeling well, yet at the same time it felt so unfamiliar. One minute she felt normal, but the next a kind of wet blanket seemed to envelop her. Worse, she had the strangest sensation of her head being too big for her body. Her limbs felt far away from her, heavy and limp. She hadn’t felt this bogged down since she was a little girl.
What was worse, someone was talking to her, saying her name. Swimming up to consciousness the wet blanket followed her, much to her annoyance. “Catherine,” the voice repeated. Inwardly, she frowned. Hadn’t Vincent been with her when she had fallen asleep earlier? The tone was familiar, but it wasn’t Vincent’s smooth velvet voice.
She opened her eyes to see the face of Peter Alcott looking down at her pleasantly. What the… she thought, her mind stalling for a moment. How did he know I- Then it hit her. Only one person she knew would have gotten Peter here if he was worried enough. Vincent. She wasn’t mad; it was impossible to be mad at him, but she wasn’t exactly thrilled either. Oh, great.
She groaned in frustration. “Peter, what are you doing here?” she half moaned.
“Making sure you’re okay,” was the reply.
She looked around, but couldn’t find any sign of her other half. “Where’s Vincent?”
“He had to go, honey. Believe me, he didn’t want to- I made him. He’ll be back tonight, I’m sure.”
Her body felt as if it weighed a ton, and her head was still pounding. The impending dawn coming from her terrace doors didn’t help any either. Still, she was curious. “How did-“
Peter was ahead of her. “He used your telephone to call me.” She frowned at that for a minute. That didn’t sound right; Vincent didn’t have a need for a telephone, nor did he have one Below. She was really too groggy to let that sink in.
Peter sat down on the bed next to her with his stethoscope. He helped her up and examined her for a few minutes. “Well,” he said, putting the instrument around his neck, “It’s what I thought when Vincent left. You, Cathy, have the flu.”
“The flu? In the summer? It’s too early.”
He shook his head. “There have been quite a few cases of it popping in the area hospitals already this time of year. I’m not surprised. You’ve been running yourself ragged recently. You forget,” he admonished, “I know your boss and those Below.”
“Busted,” Catherine conceded. She flopped back down on the bed like she did when she was a little girl, unable to let her head rest on her sore neck a minute longer than necessary. “So, what’s the prescription, Doctor?”
“Bed rest, lots of liquid, and sleep. Sorry Cathy,” he hurried in when she opened her mouth to object. “You are going to have to stay in bed for a few days. You keep this up, and it’ll turn into pneumonia. Vincent’s already concerned enough. He made me promise I wouldn’t leave until he sent someone up to stay with you.”
“Vincent doesn’t need to do that.”
“He felt he did. He’s very worried. Yes, he might have overreacted, but I don’t have to tell you how devoted he is to you.” Peter smiled and brought up the blankets around her again, replacing the cold washcloth on her forehead. “Now, you relax. I’ll call Joe Maxwell and let him know you won’t be in for a few days.”
As Peter moved into the living room to make the call to her office, Catherine closed her eyes to snuggle in her cocoon of warmth. She was still shivering from cold, and she felt awful. He’s probably right, she admitted inwardly, although her stubborn streak would never let her admit it to Peter. Even if Vincent hadn’t of intervened, she probably would have called in sick this morning herself. She closed her eyes, tossed the blankets over her head to block out the infernal sunlight, and consigned herself to rest.
As the day progressed, she felt worse and worse. She started coughing in mid afternoon, making her headache become a steady migraine. Her whole body ached as well. Jamie came earlier that morning with some tea and homemade soup from William. She stayed with Catherine until Lonnie, a fellow Helper came that afternoon with some Chinese herbs from Dr. Wong’s shop. Catherine didn’t know Lonnie too well, only meeting her at last year’s Winterfest. But that didn’t matter to the short curly jet-black haired Scot.
“When one of our own is sick, Cath’rine, we take care of ‘em,” she said when Catherine had tried to apologize. “When I was goin’ through the chemo, I had Helpers and Tun’lers alike wit’ me, almost twenty-four seven. Vincent himself would write me everyday. Tha’ helped as much as the treatments.” She picked up a glass to get some more juice for her. “You jist sit back and relax, ‘cause you’re gettin’ pampered for the next few days. An’ besides, you’re a special case.” Lonnie winked as she left the room.
Despite the care, Catherine still felt like she had been hit with a Mack truck. She only managed to snag a nap at dusk, totally missing Vincent’s arrival.
It was a good thing, because Lonnie let him have it. “That’s how you git up here?” she half whispered to him as he eased into the terrace doors into the dining area. She was also grinning at him like a Cheshire cat. “You’re either the bravest man alive, or completely daft.” She wiped her hands on the dishtowel over her shoulder.
Vincent only gave her a sideways glance for her teasing before looking into the darkened bedroom. “How is she?” he asked.
“Poor thing’s feeling miser’ble. Her fever went down for a while, but now it’s back up.” She noticed Vincent’s fallen posture, and placed a hand on his arm. “You’re really worried, aren’t ye?”
He said nothing. “Aye, Vincent, she’ll be fine. Don’t worry none. She’s strong as an ox, and a fighter. Not to mention, as stubborn as you.” Her jibe managed a silent chuckle out of him.
But he was worried. He sat with her that entire night, and the next, only leaving her at the last possible moment. Catherine’s fever was going up and down like the proverbial yo-yo, which had surprised Peter when he checked up on her that Friday afternoon.
What was worse, Catherine lost her voice from all her coughing. The persistent cough also wouldn’t let her have more than a few hours of sleep. She could only stammer out a weak “Hi” as Peter came into her bedroom.
“Well, this might help,” he said, giving her a dosing cup of Nyquil. She inwardly groaned. She hated Nyquil passionately. “I got the cherry flavor,” Peter told her. “That and William’s chamomile tea ought to put you to sleep.”
“Thanks,” she squeaked out after making a face from the awful taste. She had hoped that this would run its course quickly so she and Vincent could still go hear the concert on Saturday, but that hope was fading fast. It was Friday, and she still felt horrible. So much for Vaughan Williams. Dammit, she thought, mad at Fate or whoever had given her this evil thing. Why can’t my plans ever go through, she thought bleakly.
She tried to apologize to Vincent that evening when he came, but he also would hear none of it. “Catherine, you cannot help it if you are ill. Think nothing more about it. No,” he insisted when she tried to object, “You should only concern yourself about getting well.” He rested against the headboard with her curled up in his arms. He rested a long furred finger against her lips, not letting her abuse her strained vocal chords.
Another feeling of disappointment and fleeting anger flew through her, adding to the frustration present. I wanted this concert to be special. It’s just not fair, she thought.
Obviously in tune with her mood, and almost as if Vincent had read her very thought, he spoke once more. “Catherine, every concert we attend is special. They are, because we share them together.” She buried her head further into his chest, still not convinced. He could feel that stubbornness within her, and his heart filled with more love for this woman, if that was possible. He knew that she had been looking forward to it, and he felt the disappointment she felt run deeply through her. “You have given so much of yourself, Catherine,” he told her, “ but now you must think of your own health. Rest now, please. For me.”
She brought up her head at the plea in his voice. He looked down at her with a look of pure concern. He continued. “You haven’t slept, your fever has not broken, and you are worried about a missed concert.” He shook his head, stroked her tousled hair back from her tired face. He said no more, but his unspoken message finally got through to her.
I can’t think about this when he’s worried about me, she thought to herself. Almost as if he could hear her very thought, he brought his head down to rest against her own. God, he must be out of his mind. She had forgotten that he still harbored memories of the awful nightmares he had suffered from through his breakdown that summer- nightmares that had been of her own possible death. I’m sorry, Vincent, I’m so sorry, she told him silently, wrapping her arms more securely around him. Again, as if he could read her mind, he wrapped the blankets more snug around her and held her close. She relaxed against him, wishing her clogged sinuses could let her partake of his virile candle smoke and musky scent, and letting all her love and devotion for him surpass her disappointment.
The medicine Peter had given her was finally working; she fell asleep quickly and finally slept through the night, much to Vincent’s relief. He was even more relieved when he rested a hand to her forehead later that night and found no fever burning through her. He held her tighter to him, listening to her slow rhythmic breathing and feeling the strong beating of her heart both in her and him. She would indeed be well again. And so would he.
That morning when Catherine opened her eyes to the sunshine, she actually felt better than she had in several days. The sleep had been much needed. Her head felt clearer. She was still coughing what she thought was equivalent to a lung, but she was no longer so cold. The constant ache was gone as well. She still had no voice, so calling for Jamie, who had probably come sometime that morning, did absolutely no good at all.
To her surprise though, some one did come to her almost immediately. “What are you still doing here?” she practically mouthed, unable to make much sound. “What time is it?”
“Almost ten,” said Vincent unerringly, not even glancing at her bedside clock. “And I couldn’t leave you.” He produced a steaming cup of tea for her; exactly what she had wanted. “Your fever broke last night, much to my relief.”
She was full of questions. Father? The tunnels? How- when could Vincent get home? She only stared at him in disbelief. He was in her apartment in the daylight without a cloak or vest! Seeing him in only cord pants and a light green cambric shirt was a shock to her sleep-fuzzed brain.
“I sent Geoffrey with a message when he came with more supplies. It is Saturday,” he said, almost as an afterthought. “We had planned on spending the day together.” Was he reading her mind again? She shook her head at that, but she smiled weakly up at him. There was no way for him to return until the evening now, the sunlight streaming from behind the closed curtains of her bedroom. The fact that he would sacrifice the safety of his home and Father’s possible wrath for her spoke volumes of his love. And his state of dress told her of his comfort with the situation. How could she argue with that?
He managed to cook a pretty good breakfast, despite the fact that Vincent knew next to nothing about a gas stove. She slept most of the day, a feeling of contentment washing through her. It felt so good to have him here with her, she just wished that she felt better to fully enjoy it. Still, she didn’t dwell on it too much; it was almost as if he was some fairy god who would disappear into the very walls if she pondered his presence too closely. He heated some of William’s soup for her lunch that afternoon. When a thought of nostalgia washed through her, he smiled back warmly, and she knew he was thinking the same thing. His memories of those first few days they had known each other were as strong as hers.
As evening fell, she assumed that he would leave as soon as it was dark enough. To her surprise, he didn’t. At some point he carried her from the bedroom into the living room where he had set up a cozy little nest on one of her loveseats. The lights were dimmed, a few candles were burning strongly and the radio was playing as Vincent settled the two of them onto the couch. Catherine felt snug in blankets and his own body warmth. He was still only wearing the one shirt and the effect of his strong hard chest under her was very alluring.
She tore away from the tantalizing thought, hoping he wouldn’t notice through the bond, and concentrated on the rest of the room. What’s going on, she though. She fidgeted, trying to figure out what Vincent was up to.
“Shh. Just listen,” was his only reply when she looked up at him questioningly.
She suddenly heard a voice announce a few things and an orchestra warm up their instruments. After another few minutes, music softly started from the stereo. She glanced up at him in surprise. That was choir music she heard! He looked down at her, his blue eyes sparkling with love and mischief.
“Your friend Kay left a message on your answering machine that the concert would be broadcast live on an AM radio station,” he told her. “I seem to have found it.”
If she could have, she would of laughed out loud. Somehow, instead of going to the concert, the concert had been brought to them! She wanted to shout to the world and announce that Fate had for once been in their favor. Instead, Catherine gave him a fierce hug, then both settled in to hear the concert in comfort and warmth from the room and with each other.
The morning sun has yet to rise Above, and I am once again home, here Below. Catherine is safe, snug and slowly becoming well in her apartment Above. I look back at our time together there now with awe. I stayed with Catherine today, in her world. I watched the sun rise over the city like a watchful mother from her apartment. I actually risked my own safety to stay with her! One part of me is thrilled, for a moment it was as if our dream had come to be. The last time I stayed in that apartment for more than a few hours was a time I half-wished I could forget. How sweeter is this memory. Together, her and I, we, even now I cannot help but be overwhelmed by the feelings this generates in me. I feel from Catherine, then and while she still sleeps, a feeling of contentment. All during the concert I felt that from her, and even though she couldn’t speak the words, I knew she was saying “thank you”.
Father was furious when I returned an hour ago. He didn’t say anything- he didn’t need to. I could see it in his eyes, the worry and fear I caused him when I didn’t return. He was in my chamber when I entered, said only that he would see me in the morning. I know I frightened him, even though I sent word of where I was. He has a right to worry. And worry he does, as any parent would for a child, even when they are grown. And yet, even now, I ask myself, how could I leave her?
But another part of me questions my motives in staying with her. Was it wise? I risked everything to stay- my life, my home, my family and friends. This place I have sworn to protect, with my last ounce of strength if necessary. The people here count on this sanctuary, as has Catherine. Many times I have denied myself from staying with her, Above or Below because of those risks. What made this any different?
I have only to look to myself for that answer. She was ill, more ill than I have ever seen her. When Dimitri brought the plague Below, she risked her own life to help us. Not just me, but the community. She told me later that she had felt helpless, that she couldn’t just stand by and wait for news. These last few days, I’ve felt the same. But there’s another feeling within me. Not helplessness, but fear. It is deep within me, almost hidden, but nonetheless, it remains with me. I still wake in the night, haunted by images of that horrific nightmare vision. I’ve managed to keep that from Catherine and Father, but it cannot continue. Many a night I have stolen to her balcony, just to watch her sleep. My heart pounds in dread whenever I feel her emotions even close to fear. Each time, I think ‘is this it? Will I lose her tonight?’ The answer to that is something I dare not dwell upon.
This emotion I feel is only from myself, not from Catherine. And I believe that the true answer lies only within myself.
It was another beautiful starry night to Catherine a few nights later. It was back to being seasonably warm, and she was glad for the central air in her apartment. Nonetheless, there was a breeze tonight, and she was determined to make the most of it.
Opening the curtains from her dining area, she walked into the night air. Leaning against the balcony wall, she took a deep long breath, the first in quite a few days. Her run with the flu was just about over. Her voice still wasn’t one hundred percent, but when Joe had stopped by earlier that day, he had told her when she returned to work on Wednesday she’d still have the Lenox case prosecution of she wanted it. It was good to know that some things were still going her way.
A stirring from the corner of her eye brought her head around. “Vincent!” she softly exclaimed. He had been sitting cross-legged against the far wall of the balcony. She walked over to him and offered her hands to help him up, which he took. “What are you doing hiding back there?” she asked.
“I didn’t mean to disturb you, I’m sorry,” he said, letting his volumous blond hair shade his face from her view. “You should still be resting,” he softly admonished as he peeked between his bangs.
She shook her head. “I’ve been in that bed or resting for days, I’m about to crawl out of my skin.” She looked out over the balcony at another wonderful glance at the many illuminated buildings in view. “Besides, it’s a beautiful night. I wanted to see it for myself.” She looked back at him, her eyebrows sliding up in humor. “And you didn’t answer my question.”
Vincent nodded, one of his small smiles playing across his leonine face. There was no getting around it. He didn’t answer for a minute, trying to gather his thoughts. “What is it, Vincent?” Catherine prompted. She used one of his trademarks; it always worked. “Tell me.”
He walked and leaned against the balcony as Catherine had done minutes before. “I was trying to understand something,” he finally told her.
A great sigh left him as he continued to gaze over the city. “Understand why I felt the way I did when you were ill.”
Here it comes, thought Catherine. She had been expecting something like this. Why does he always feel guilty over his feelings? “Vincent, it’s perfectly natural to feel frustrated when someone you love is ill. You did everything that you could, and then some.”
“It’s not that,” he replied. “I did feel helpless, but I’m not speaking of that.” He turned from his position to look at her. “I’ve been thinking this since Saturday night.”
Catherine let her mi
nd wander back to that particular evening. It had been the first evening she had felt remotely better, and Vincent’s surprise of the broadcasting of the concert had been a tremendous joy. She had watched him in delight as he had recognized some of it. “It was wonderful to sit there and listen to it with you,” she reminisced.
“For me as well,” he said. A moment passed as he took a breath, then continued. “You give me so much, Catherine. You shower me with your presence, your love. And I have so little to give you.”
“Oh, Vincent,” she sighed, standing by his side. “What you give to me is beyond anything I could ever possess. You give me your heart, your soul.”
He turned away from her. “But you bring me into your life. You share your hopes, your dreams with me. I cannot.”
She pondered that for a moment. “Why not?”
He looked back in surprise. “Because- because of what I am.”
Her heart broke at the anguish she heard in his voice. Then she took her own breath. “What you are is the most loving, devoted, and caring being I have ever met in my life. What you did for me these last few days go beyond love or concern. My God, Vincent, you used a telephone!” she slightly chuckled at that, but went on. “You sent your friends to take care of me, you yourself risked your own safety, not to mention Father’s wrath, to watch over me. You even figured out how to bring a concert that I wanted to bring to you!” Catherine took a step toward him and placed a hand on his broad shoulder. “You are all I ever want or need. Just you, Vincent, the way you are.” She turned him around to face her. “Your love is all I need.”
He couldn’t look at her at first, but she lifted his chin up to gaze at her. That love, the devotion that she had grown to love shone in the pools of crystal blue eyes. Then, unable to hold back, he reached for her to envelope her in a tight, warm embrace. She wrapped her arms back around him. He leaned his head against her own and held her for a long time.
“What I felt,” he finally said to her, whispering softly into her ear, “was fear.”
She looked at him, a frown crossing her features. “You were afraid?”
“Yes,” he told her, breaking away from her. His large furred hands gripped the edge of the balcony wall. “I did feel helpless. Helpless that I might lose you.”
“To the flu?” She didn’t understand. “Vincent, I was never in any real danger.”
“I know that.” He shook his head, looking out into the night. “This- fear- isn’t rational. But it still grips me, every time I feel the slightest change from you. Catherine,” he turned to face her, his true love’s eyes flit back and forth across his unique features. “I cannot lose you. I love you.”
Her own heart pounded in her chest. For as strong, as formidable as he was, Vincent was still so vulnerable. So unable to realize that he was capable, was more than worthy to be loved as she did. She took his face in her own small hands and looked as deeply as she could into his eyes. She could almost feel his gasp as she penetrated the windows to his soul. “You will never, never lose me, Vincent. I am in your life, now and always. I love you, too.”
She fused her emotions into him, still gazing into his eyes. The love and devotion she held for him was as strong as the first time he woke up from his coma and felt the Bond return to him months ago. It was amazing, and he realized then that it was the truth. She could not live without him, the same as he needed her in his life to survive.
She slid one back of a hand across his cheek. “Now, share a dream with me.” That took a while, but eventually, he did. They talked into the night and the early morning about dreams, hopes, everything and anything. Vincent found out that Catherine had never learned to swim, and she learned that he had wanted to learn baseball as a child, but had never been able to. Catherine dug into her closet and given him her father’s old Mets cap, which she thought he looked darling in. But most of all, she listened to him, finding more about this wonderful and complex man before her. He spoke at length about how his differences kept him apart from his peers growing up. Catherine’s heart felt his pain when he realized that the world Above and its charms would be forever denied him, how he had always felt that he was unworthy or unable to share in so many things Catherine herself took for granted. He revealed how much her very presence had forever changed and was still changing that perspective.
Finally, though, all words were said. A comfortable, and glowing silence swam above them. Green eyes held blue for a spell from where they both sat.
Vincent broke the unspoken communication. “It’s almost dawn,” he reluctantly told her. Indeed, the sky was beginning to show a tinge of pink when Catherine glanced over the balcony.
Vincent got up from his position and straightened his cloak. He gracefully stretched his muscles as Catherine yawned. “I’ve kept you up too long.”
“That’s okay, I still have one day of rest before going back to the office,” she told him. “What about you?”
“I have more work in the lower chambers, but I will be alright.” He stepped toward her slowly, then loosely wrapped one arm around her waist. “Thank you, Catherine. Thank you for listening.”
She smiled up at him. “I’m glad that you felt that you could trust me.”
“I have always trusted you, Catherine. I knew that from the beginning, when you trusted me.” The look of love that shown in her face at that statement struck Vincent deeply. Her whole face lit up as she recognized what he had once told her so long ago when he had brought her Above the first time. It radiated from her, the devotion, care, and soul that she freely offered him. It was angelic and incredible, and it held him close in its gentle grip.
His gaze suddenly settled on Catherine’s lips as she continued to smile at him. She loved him! Her- a vision, even in an oversized sweater and tousled hair from the wind. A woman who loved him! How could this be?
He had never kissed her, certain that it was a barrier he could not cross. She had, once; a short simple kiss in gratitude for once helping her grieve her father’s passing.. He had not responded to that kiss, the shock of actually feeling her lips brush against his almost too much to comprehend. But now, as she gazed at him lovingly, he could not help but remember those lips on his own.
Before he could stop or talk himself out of it, one furred hand brushed against her smooth cheek. She watched him, her eyes searching his unique face. Slowly, he brought his fingers- carefully- under her chin to draw her face closer to his. Finally, he slowly lowered his head to hers, closing his eyes a second before pressing his lips to her lightly. Her own eyes fluttered closed at that first touch of his kiss.
He reveled in the feel of her lips under his own. The softness of her mouth was incredible! He had meant for this to be a short kiss, but at the feel of her against him he deepened the kiss, opening his mouth to taste her sweetness. Oh, it was heaven! She let him hold the kiss, giving him the lead in their first physical display of love. When he finally parted from her, her eyes held such a complex array of emotions even he had trouble discerning what exactly she was feeling.
From the Bond he could feel at first surprise, and then elation from Catherine. As they gazed at each other, he felt a small amount of relief surpassed by an all-encompassing love and passion he had never felt from her before. “Oh, Vincent,” she whispered, wrapping one hand behind his neck to disappear underneath his golden mane. “That was lovely. Thank you so much.” She was still there, here, with him! She wasn’t repelled by his display, or frightened by him at all! She really wouldn’t leave him, he realized as all fear left him.
Catherine’s eyes held a small spark of mischief as she leaned closer into him. Oh, she was so close to him! “But I would be negligent if I didn’t return your kiss,” she said before guiding him back to her.
This second kiss was much more passionate, and Catherine much more sure of herself this time. Her other arm went around his neck as Vincent wrapped both arms around her slender waist to bring her even closer to him. She opened her mouth under him, and he tasted her sweetness more fully. He held her tighter, his body shuddering at the intensity of all of their emotions spiraling up into the heavens. She shook as well with desire, ever so slightly, and it only registered somewhere in the back of both their minds. There was nothing in the world but Vincent and his Catherine, and the feel of their mouths together as if they had never known anything else.
After what felt like forever, Catherine broke the connection. Vincent’s eyes were still closed before her soft words broke through his mental fog. “You have to go.”
He looked up from her to the skyline. When had it grown so light? He had to hurry to return to his world. Oh, if only he could truly stay! His heart almost broke at his parting from her, but part he must. He reluctantly pulled himself away from her and made toward the end of her balcony. Almost there, he turned around to see her still staring at him.
“Catherine,” he asked and bowed his head, suddenly shy. “May I kiss you goodnight?”
It was probably 5 or so in the morning, but Catherine didn’t care. “Vincent, you can kiss me anytime, anywhere, for whatever reason,” was her whispered reply. He acknowledged that with a quick but sweet kiss before he left her and the balcony in a swirl of cape.
She watched him go in a daze. He had kissed her! He had actually kissed her of his own accord! She almost cried out a “Yes!” if her throat hadn’t closed off on her. So only a whispered one carried on the wind to him. That heartfelt response filled her entire being with love, relief, passion, and throughout it all, a contentment she had never felt before, almost as if a blanket of despair of unfulfilled dreams was suddenly lifted from her. There were possibilities for them, and she smiled to the impending dawn, tears of joy misting her eyes from the view.
He heard it, felt it in his own heart before leaving the roof of her building. His memory of her touch, the feel of her mouth against his was nothing he could, would ever want to ever forget. He was hers, and she was his, and as he returned to his world, for the first time in his life, he turned his thoughts to dreams he once believed never to behold.
"MOVE TOWARD LOVE" belongs to Nancy Lynn Knauff Any distribution, copy, shoul be made under her consent. Thanks
All artwork you see here are property and were desing by Sonia Mª Corral, Any distribution, copy, shoul be made under her consent.
"Beauty and the Beast" and its original characters are the creation of Ron Koslow and is owned by Republic Pictures and its owners. The stories shown here are written strictly for the enjoyment of fans, and no infringement is meant in any way