Written by Verity Mathews - Artwork by Sonia Mª Corral
I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.
If I show you the roses, will you follow?
(Nick Cave + Kylie Minogue, Where the Wild Roses Grow)
Vincent dropped soundlessly into a shadowy corner of Catherine's balcony, a move so practised that he could do it in his sleep. The evening air was clear and fresh, and there were roses in Catherine's cheeks despite the snug blue jumper she wore. Oblivious to his presence, she was kneeling over a new pot plant; her absorption in her task seemed to spill over into him, and he stood there, silently watching her. Her hair was tied back into a casual ponytail, giving him an uninterrupted view of her face; it held an endearing mixture of pleasure and anxiety as she fussed over her new acquisition.
To see her fingers - kneading the rich soil, stroking the leaves, brushing over the delicate, unopened rosebuds - was to want those hands on him. The unbidden thought gave his features a dreamy, unfocussed vulnerability, and was not easily suppressed. It occurred to him that he should announce his presence or leave immediately; to stand about gaping at her in this useless fashion did him no good at all.
As he watched, she wielded a pair of secaturs with the tentative touch of the occasional gardener. The small rosebush fought back, piercing her left finger with a thorn; Vincent felt a pang in his own finger, and although he had long accustomed himself to this bone-deep knowledge of her, it still astonished him.
"Ow, dammit!" she cried, and he came forward, drawn as always by her distress.
"Catherine, are you hurt?" At the sound of his voice, she looked up with surprise, her finger already forgotten.
"How long have you been...?"
"Only a moment," he answered, feeling abashed about his silence earlier. She looked so pleased to see him. "You were so absorbed in your work. I didn't want to intrude."
She chuckled at this, shaking her head a little. "Must've appeared pretty ridiculous."
"No. You looked..." Vincent thought for a moment as he approached her, before continuing, "...determined."
As he crouched down beside her, he eyed the plant with interest, feeling her pleasure in it. "The terrace gets so much morning sun," she said. "I thought a rosebush might do well here."
"Roses?" he mused, thinking of the flower's unspoken language of poetry, passion...love.
"The man at the nursery said this is a very special bush...if I don't kill it with my gardening," she said ruefully. With a quick glance at her bleeding finger, she seemed to acknowledge that the rose might well kill her first.
Vincent's gaze was drawn to her finger as well, the scent of her blood filling his hypersensitive nostrils. "Catherine...your hand..."
Overtaken by instinct, he took her bleeding finger between his lips, drawing it into his mouth to absorb the coppery warmth on his tongue. To taste of her this way was to magnify their bond a thousandfold. Never had he felt so intimately connected to her as at this moment, when he was soaking up her very essence on the raspy roughness of his tongue. His teeth clamped helplessly, hungrily on her finger - not enough pressure to hurt her, but more than enough to hold her there before him. On his haunches, he crouched over her hand as - hidden behind the golden curtain fall of his mane - he savoured the sensation for what seemed like a remarkably long time...though it was in fact no more than a moment.
Looking up at last, he met Catherine's gaze. Her eyes were wide with awareness, and Vincent felt the grip of panic. He was all too aware that he'd crossed an unspoken boundary, and was desperately uncertain of her reaction to his incursion. Their bond - now pulsing with frenetic energy - gave little hint of her underlying emotional state, even had he been calm enough to read her properly. His head was filled with the pounding of his own accelerated heartbeat...and her heartbeat as well.
Catherine looked...mystified...even hypnotised...by an unexpected and most extraordinary development. Her expression disturbed him deeply. He saw bewilderment and uneasiness, and interpreted them as rejection. The desire - a mirror image of the need in his own eyes, had he but known it - was something he could barely recognise, much less acknowledge.
His eyes darted anxiously from side to side under the steadying pressure of her own gaze; as she gathered her composure - and her determination - his own seemed to be breaking apart. His rational self urged him to leave her and pretend that these minutes past - so utterly telling - had been a figment of his aching, restless dreams. Wished the boundary uncrossed, the moment undone...for where could it lead but to frustration and despair? She could not possibly accept him...crouched over her like some beast of prey, luxuriating in the taste and scent of her blood, and knowing only that he wanted, needed...more.
At least his dreams, restless though they may be, were safe. Safe for Catherine, and sanctuary for him. So he would pretend this was just another dream, from which he would awaken soon, hard and wanting of her love, but safe.
Yet his body still clung stubbornly to her lofty balcony, and the dream went on as dreams do, with its own sense of reality - vivid yet hazy, and quite pregnant with significance. Like a flash, Catherine grasped his chin with her right hand, compelling him to acknowledge the truth of the unspoken moment. His bottom lip, swollen and glistening from its caress of her bleeding flesh, slackened now, trembling infinitesimally as Vincent realised that in this Catherine was stronger than he, and would face this head on whether he was ready or not. He had, almost unawares, initiated something powerful here tonight, and the growing resolve in her eyes told him that she would force him from dreams into the waking world.
A world where he could hold her...perhaps hurt her...
"No," he muttered, his voice husky and harsh. He was unwilling to remove himself from her grasp, but hoped desperately that she would release him of her own accord...make the decision for them both. Her fingers did not fall, however; if anything, they gripped his jaw tighter. Through the pulsing chaos that had infused their bond, Vincent felt her unspoken plea - stay - and was lost.
The air between them was thick with almost unbearable tension. Responding, perhaps, to the anxiety in his expression, Catherine smiled a little, a gleam entering her eyes. "Wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?" she asked, cocking an eyebrow.
Vincent swallowed. His tension was unwavering, but he was not unappreciative of her attempt to ease it. "If we're to reenact a certain balcony scene, I believe that should be my line."
"Then say it, Vincent. Say it."
Vincent stared at her, his breaths drawn sharp and shallow as he tried to feed his fevered brain enough oxygen to think straight. An honourable task, but ultimately useless as he soon discovered; watching a delicate pink flush cross her features, Vincent could feel his own face overheating as rational thought dissolved and instinct took over.
His bottom lip still shook uncontrollably, and Catherine's wide eyes hooded as she watched it, transfixed. She knows now, he thought. She knows how much I need to kiss her...taste her. Such all-consuming hunger. Why doesn¹t she run? How does she find the courage to stay, when I have so little?
He spoke finally, his words hesitant, yet utterly heartfelt. "Wilt thou...leave me..." Catherine's eyes narrowed alarmingly as he paused. Her fingernails pressed into his jaw, and he gulped before continuing, "...so unsatisfied?"
The smile he loved so dearly bloomed across her face, telling him without words that he had asked the right question...and already had his answer. Her determined grip on his jaw shifted now, her index finger stroking his bristled chin tenderly and her thumb soothing his yearning mouth. "Never, Vincent," she murmured, before leaning closer to touch her lips to his. "Never," she repeated with quiet emphasis, and the word seemed to fill his mouth and sink deep into his lungs as he breathed her in.
It was...unspeakable bliss...to have her so close. So close that he could feel the gentle flutter of her eyelashes against his cheek as her eyes closed. So close that the heat of her skin against his threatened to inflame them both.
Vincent thrust himself away from her, unusually graceless as he lost his crouched balance. Arms outstretched to brace himself, his right hand met the secaturs that Catherine had dropped earlier. One blade cut into his thumb, and he fell back against the balcony wall with a soft growl of discomfort - more at having torn himself from Catherine than from the small gash.
Slumped on the ground, Vincent glanced up to see his reflection in Catherine's glass balcony doors...and loathed what he saw. The reminder of what he was...and all that he was not...cut Vincent more sharply than the keenest blade. His head drooped wearily to rest on his raised knees. It was too hard to pretend that this was all a dream, not with pain slicing through him so harshly that he couldn't begin to imagine where his ended and Catherine's began.
A soft sound made his ears prick, and he turned his head to find Catherine wiping a stray tear from her cheek...the same cheek he'd been nestled against a moment ago. He had pulled away so as not to hurt her, yet nonetheless his retreat caused her pain - her face bore the proof. What was he to do? This impasse was destroying them both, and he saw no way around it. They had long since passed the point where they might have parted forever. Had there ever even been such a point? She had entrenched herself so irrevocably in his heart - in his very soul - from the moment he had first caught the scent of her life's blood seeping uselessly into the earth. Then and there he had resolved to keep death from her at any cost...even of his mortal soul. And surely his soul was in peril, for in keeping her safe he brought death to others. So many...maimed and killed for her sake, and he would do it all again. Not gladly - never gladly - but without question. There had never been any question in his mind that harm must not be allowed to touch her.
But if Catherine was to be protected, then should he stay away? He was the very embodiment of his own fears for her. These hands - and he looked at them now, so inhumanly strong, so fiercely armoured - these hands could do more damage to her in an unguarded moment than six inches of steel had accomplished two years ago. A man - and man he had been, though cold and cruel and utterly without mercy - had been in control of that knife. Vincent was warm and loving, but he knew what it was to be without mercy. Part of him was not a man - even Father had admitted as much - and Vincent feared that this part of him had precious little control of his own deadly hands.
And that side of him wanted Catherine too, loved her beyond reason. Could it be trusted? It shed blood so unthinkingly...so unstintingly. What if it touched her with the same heedlessness? Catherine would call such fears pointless - and indeed, there seemed little point in turning violence against the one person he'd sworn to protect - yet that animal side of him was so simple, and so completely beyond comprehension.
So much a part of him...
No use pretending there was a schism within him, either. He might like to think that the beast within was somehow separate...other... but it resided deep in his marrow and surged thick and fast through his veins when called upon. It wasn't some entity he could argue with or battle. It wasn't something to be used and then shunted aside for the sake of expedience.
It was him.
Could he, Vincent, be trusted?
Catherine evidently thought so. Her faith in him seemed boundless. How else could she bear with him after all that she had witnessed? She had seen the almost insane bloodlust that overtook him whenever her life was threatened. The horrified shrieks of his victims as their flesh was torn asunder - straight through to the bone, and beyond - and that puzzled expression that came over them, each and every one, as they grasped their own entrails. These were the sights and sounds that stalked Vincent's dreams, as surely they must haunt Catherine. If he was the perpetrator of such frenzied acts, then she was the inspiration. Yet she abided with him still. No amount of carnage seemed to shake her faith.
No amount of shed blood...
His eyes moved from the blood on his hand to the tears on Catherine's face; it seemed an apt symbolic indictment of their relationship. But if Catherine believed in their love, its rightness, then shouldn't he believe in her? She had strength - he had known that from the beginning, before she had even begun to feel it herself. When she saw him for the first time, instinct had prompted her to fight, not run, and though her reaction had given him pain, it had also made him proud; even at her lowest ebb, she had been able to draw on deep, untapped stores of courage. Courage that had seen her through any number of atrocities since she had begun testing the limits of her new life.
Their bond had from the first become an imperative in his life, and the impulse to be with Catherine, to surround her, was growing stronger with each day. Much of this had to with the advancement of Catherine's own powers of empathy. She had always been a person of great affinity for the feelings of those around her - countless times he had seen people drawn into her tender, soothing focus - but proximity with him, with his hypersensitive perception, seemed to ever heighten her own empathic intensity. To be the subject of her compelling attention was more than he could resist. He could no longer even try. No longer wanted to.
Time seemed curiously suspended, marked only by the fall of Catherine's tears. Vincent watched the salt water trace her soft cheeks and fall to her cupped, waiting hands. A powerful longing to taste those tears - to savour her again - washed over him, and he felt for the first time that it was right to feel such urges...and right to act upon them, too. She looked up at him then, caught perhaps by the changing current of his thoughts, or by the vivid mental image of his mouth on her flesh as it had been earlier to such devastating effect. She was becoming so attuned to his every impulse that it frightened him sometimes, but it gave him great satisfaction as well. The intimacy was beautiful, almost unbearably so; he had been a slave to it himself for so long now, and it was both joy and terror to watch Catherine become as entangled as he himself was. Could she still love him once she learnt all his secrets?
Evidently he would find out sooner or later, for Catherine felt no inclination to stem the tide of their intimacy - he could sense her determination. Even now she crept closer to him, in almost unconscious response to his unspoken call, until she knelt before him, cupped hands held out towards him. Earlier, he had taken her by surprise when he drew her bleeding finger into his mouth. Now...now she offered herself freely. Sweet compliance to his fractured, fraught desires, their bond telling him quite plainly that she shared his thirst.
His head dropped to her outstretched hands, his lips searching eagerly for the salty droplets before they dried. Her tears - the physical manifestation of her charged emotions - tasted as intoxicating as her blood. Nuzzling her hands, he breathed in her fresh, loamy scent - so unusual for his Catherine, who was not much given to grubbing in the dirt. He was close enough to see every intricate pattern on her palms, the loops and whorls at her fingertips, the three endearing freckles on her left pinkie. His avid mouth sought the small wound made by the rose thorn, but it was already healing, leaving only the memory of her blood for his palate to dwell on.
As he hunched over her, she crept ever closer, easing his legs apart before curling into the curve of his body. With her back tucked snugly against his torso, she relaxed into the cushioning embrace, quivering as he wrapped his arms about her with possessive fervour. His left hand pressed into the softness of her belly, drawn helplessly by its yielding appeal; he was certain that she could feel the imprint of his claws even through the woolly protection of her pullover, yet she didn't protest, and he felt incapable of loosing his hold. His right arm crossed beneath the delicate weight of her breasts, and she arched into his touch trustingly, increasing their contact further.
Vincent's face nestled into the crook of her neck, his uneven breathing ruffling the soft tendrils of hair that had escaped her ponytail. Her woollen sweater was soft against his left cheek, but the skin against his right was softer still - lush velvet that cushioned his bristles and coaxed his ardent lips. Could there be any greater happiness than this? he wondered. The rapture of this embrace was almost beyond his comprehension.
A restless movement from Catherine snared his attention, and he followed the direction of her gaze to where his bleeding thumb rested between her breasts. He was daunted suddenly by the unheard-of intimacy - terrified that he had gone too far - but he felt no hint of disturbance in their bond. Instead he sensed in her a longing to taste him, just as he had tasted her. She took his hand in hers, drawing the reluctant fingers from the shadow of her breasts, and brought his thumb to her waiting lips. Instead of taking him into her mouth though, she stroked his thumb slowly along her lush bottom lip, painting it blood-red, whilst the tip of his razor-sharp thumbnail traced a path over the delicate bow of her upper lip.
Vincent shuddered in a state of anxious entrancement. Her fingers were interlaced with his own, and he struggled to keep from clenching his fist. As if sensing his tenuous control, she let their joined hands fall as her head dropped back against his shoulder. His gaze was drawn helplessly to her blood-stained mouth, which creased into a breathtaking smile beneath his regard. She tilted her head to face him more squarely and freed her hand to caress his bristled cheek, gently coaxing his mouth to meet hers.
Vincent needed little persuasion; he was utterly beguiled, so many untried senses and desires coming to life. All too susceptible to the enticement of her grey-green gaze, he coiled his neck about hers to claim her mouth. His kiss was slow and exploratory, a feather-touch that became increasingly urgent as he tasted his blood on her...in her. Her lips parted willingly, joyously, for his delectation, and he stroked their copper-scented softness with his questing, eager tongue. All the while, a low groan issued from deep within him to match her jagged panting; both of them were desperate for breath, yet loath to separate for even a moment.
Mouths melding in a series of hot, shivery kisses, they shared his blood between them until hardly a trace remained; then they shared the salty sweetness that remained. His tongue rasped against hers, the roughness a tantalising reminder of how different they were...and how compatible they might prove. Never before had he had the freedom to satisfy such cravings as these, but he would not be deterred by inexperience and felt certain, on some soul-deep level, that he was giving her pleasure. Her gasping, restless mouth could not release him long enough to smile or speak of her happiness, yet a dreamy glow suffused their bond, and her heart pounded beneath his hand with an elation he knew well, for it lived in his own breast as well.
Dimly he realised that he was kneading her, claws clenching and relaxing at her belly and breasts in a rhythmic paroxysm of pleasure. Would he leave marks on her skin? The thought did not disturb him nearly as much as it should; she was so sweetly yielding in his arms that he could not even imagine her turning from him now. Indeed, she covered his hands with her own, holding him captive as she enjoyed the pin-prick sensation. And still their lips danced to music only they could hear.
Before long - or had it been hours? - she had coaxed his right hand beneath her jumper, where he lightly, helplessly scored her soft belly flesh; a foe would have been done for at this juncture, but she was his love, and he touched her with a lover's caress. Yes, there would be marks - it was unavoidable - but they would not last long, and he shivered to think of her at her bath later, tracing his mischief with her fingertips and remembering the pins-and-needles ardour that had gripped him in her arms. How he longed to be with her always!
The thought seemed to penetrate his most primal senses. With his left hand, he cupped her cheek and eased her away, just enough so that he could look into her eyes and see the unswerving love there. Her delicious mouth, so swollen and damp from his kisses, made him think of Housman's rose-lipt maidens; and if his Catherine was a rose, then he possessed more than enough thorns to protect her from harm. Rose and thorn had intermingled since the time of Bacchus; so Catherine and Vincent were meant to be. He had never felt more certain of anything.
Thus he let his yearning mouth drop to the hollow of her neck, where he branded her with his teeth. Four small punctures; his mark on her, for always. As her blood filled his mouth like fire, the unique kiss sang hotly through their veins...and they embraced their dream of roses.
"ROSE-LIPT" belongs to Verity Mathews. 1999 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