She ran until she knew where she was. The Chamber of the Falls. It had been one of her most favorite places. So beautiful and light. And there – he stood. She was out of his sight but his words were carried to her.
“What we shared will never die. I’ll always be with you. Goodbye Catherine. Be happy.” He was holding their painting. The one Kristopher had done many, many years ago - at the beginning of their love. Suddenly he set it down and she saw that he was crying.
“How can I tell you goodbye!” he roared. “When all I want to do is hold you and be with you?”
His pain was too much to bear. She put her hand on his shoulder. He whirled to her. When their eyes met it was as if time and space had stopped for them. The lost years melted away. The Bond reopened strongly for both. His breathing was heavy.
“Don’t tell me goodbye,” she whispered. “Hold me, love me.”
But he couldn’t move. He was paralyzed with desire. If he touched her now, he would never stop touching her, wanting her, needing her. Needing to feel her body joined with his. He would hurt her in his passion. In his anger for having lost so much time.
She moved into him. “Oh, Vincent, don’t you know how I’ve longed for this. To see you once again. To feel your hair on my face. To feel your hands clasped with mine. To hear your voice speak my name.”
“Catherine!” He pushed away from her. He turned away in order to regain some type of control over his senses and body. “You must go now!”
“No!” she screamed. “I won’t go. I have as much right to be here as you do. My son lives Below.”
“Our son,” his voice was almost a whisper.
“Our son,” she echoed. “Such a beautiful child.”
He was allowing his love for his son to cloud his thoughts. He shook his head and looked down so the hair blocked her view of his face. “We can’t be together.”
“How can you say that? How can you know that’s what I want?”
“It’s . . . what . . . must . . . be.” The words were drawn from him.
“But you grieved for me,” she told him. “I felt it. I still feel it. I still feel your pain and heartache over something that was kept from you.” She touched his shoulder but he drew away from her touch. “Why does it hurt you for me to touch you?”
“I feel so much want for you,” he replied. His voice wasn’t much more than a breath. “And I will hurt you in that want.”
“How can you think that? Especially after seeing proof of the love we shared once. You didn’t hurt me then. You’ll never hurt me.”
“You don’t know that!” He faced her. She could feel rage and passion within him.
Instead of moving away she took a step forward. “These hands,” she began as she took both of his into hers. “Loved me once. Caressed me as tenderly as a feather. These hands are your hands and they could never do anything to hurt the ones you love.”
“Your life Above, Catherine. How can you turn your back on that? Being able to walk in the sunshine again? Being able to visit with friends?” He could never understand why someone who had the ability to enjoy the fresh air and daylight would choose a life away from it. Not when it was something that had been denied to him because of his unique physical characteristics.
“I have no life Above, Vincent.” Tears formed in her eyes. He turned away to keep from seeing her pain. Yet he felt it in her heart. “I’ve had no life for ten years. Sunshine or no sunshine. Friends or no friends. You once told me that I was trapped in my aloneness. Yes, I was. And if you consign me to a life Above – a life without you – without our son – I will be held prisoner by that aloneness forever.”
His heart broke at the intensity of her anguish. He withdrew his hands from hers and moved further from her. This was not how he wanted this to be. Knowing that he was the reason for her sorrow. That he would be the reason she would be kept apart from their son for long periods of time.
“I feel your despair,” she said flatly. “If you really don’t want to be with me, then I want to hear you say it.”
“No. You must look me in the eye and tell me that there is no love. No reason for us to be together. That you wish it this way.” She waited. Finally he moved closer to her and held her gaze. Yet there was only silence.
“I can not say those things,” he admitted. “I do love you. I do want to be with you. I don’t wish it this way.”
“Then why are you pushing me away, Vincent?” She saw tears on his face. She reached to touch him. This time he didn’t pull away. “We’ll work through your fear together.”
As soon as he felt her soft fingertips on his cheeks, he knew that he would be forever lost in her. It was only due to his self-control that Vincent was able to stop his emotions from engulfing him. He threw himself away from her and moved several feet back. His breathing was rapid and his heart was racing. What had he nearly allowed to happen?
Catherine’s eyes were wide with pain at his rejection of her touch. She started forward but he put his hand up.
“No!” His voice reverberated off the cavern’s walls. “No, Catherine!”
“Vincent, why are you pushing me away?” She could see his shoulders heave with every breath he took. “It’s been so long. I love you. I’ve never stopped loving you. I didn’t know that I was declared dead. Please, let us be together now.”
“We can’t be together! We never could. We never should have . . . “
“What? We never should have made love? Never had a child born to us? A beautiful, perfect son?”
“Our son is everything to me!” he told her. “He’s a gift.”
“The gift I tried to tell you about so long ago in your chamber. The gift that was waiting for you.”
“If I had known . . . “ his voice trailed off.
“I wish I had told you, Vincent.” The words died in her throat as tears began streaming down her cheeks. “I wish I had stayed Below.”
“We could have had a life together,” he told her.
Suddenly, Cathy wiped the tears from her eyes and regained some of the strength she thought she’d lost. “But we can’t have one now? For the sake of our son? Is that what you are trying to tell me, Vincent? That this is my fault?”
Her anguish pained him. He could feel her anger and her sorrow. It was more than he could bear. “I do not blame you, Catherine.”
“Then explain to me just what it is you are trying to tell me. You still love me. I still love you. I have felt your sadness and grief. Are we always to be separated? Are we going to continue to be only half a person without the other?”
“What you ask . . . to be with me . . . I am afraid for you.”
“Why? Surely you’ve realized that you could never harm me.”
“I remembered our time in the cave during my illness,” he stated. “But I feel as if I was watching someone else. I am standing apart from it and not feeling it here.” He touched his heart. “For all intense purposes, Catherine, I’m still a virgin.”
“And that scares you?”
“It causes me shame. To see your face the first time you gaze upon me, I’m afraid of what I’ll see.”
“How can you say that? I only see the man I love. I see beauty in you, Vincent. I could never see anything else.”
“I am not like other men,” he whispered.
A smile grazed her lips. “You are more like other men than you realize.”
He was disarmed at her smile. “My thoughts and desires . . . they come from within the beast that I am.”
“Your thoughts and desires are no different than mine, Vincent. Passion and love are instinctive. Can’t you feel my desires?”
They were silent. Vincent concentrated on the Bond and Catherine’s thoughts. What he sensed astonished him. How could she want the same things he did? How was it possible that she would have such intense desires? The things she was imagining between them seemed unnatural and wrong – yet how could they be if she wanted them too? Slowly he raised his eyes to meet hers. He saw the smoldering warmth blazing within them.
“How?” he asked.
“Because of the deep love I have for you,” she told him.
More thoughts came through the Bond. She was thinking about the Great Hall but it was not a Winterfest Celebration – it was a wedding. Their wedding.
“You would be joined with me? Take me for your husband?”
“If only you would ask.”
He inclined his head.
“Ask me, Vincent.”
“The time that’s past,” he began. “How will those be returned to us?”
“We’ll make new memories,” she told him. “Memories that include our son.” She swallowed as she wondered what his reaction would be to her next words. “Memories that include our children.”
“You would intentionally bear other children with me?”
“I would be honored to, Vincent.”
“And you would live Below? You would give up the life you were meant to live?”
“This is the life I was meant to live. With you. With our family here. That has always been my destiny.”
“And your friends.”
“We can trust them, Vincent. They would be our friends.”
“And your career?”
“My lifelong job – my happiness – would be to contribute to the world Below.”
“All this you would do for me?”
“For us, Vincent,” she replied.
He moved closer to her. This time he initiated the contact by putting his arms around her. She leaned into him expecting the same embrace he so freely had allowed her to have when they’d been together many years before. Instead he bent his head and with his lips tasted hers.
When the kiss ended he gazed deeply into her eyes. “I have no ring, but I have my heart to give to you. Will you be my wife?”
“With all of my heart, mind and soul, I will marry you,” she answered.
They sealed their engagement with a kiss that was their new beginning as well as a continuation of the love they had found within each other over ten years previously. They had worked through and beyond their fears and were now ready to share a life and love together due to their courage and care.
All characters are the property of Ron Koslow, Republic Pictures, and CBS. No infringement is implied or intended. Story is purely for entertainment purposes only. "Courage and Care" copyright 2002 ® Wendy Littrell
"Courage and Care" copyright 2002 ® Wendy Littrell
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