Another TimeAu of Though Lovers Be Lost. Rated Adult - for sexual situations and adult themes (Trigger: Mention of miscarriage, but no miscarriage)
Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
– Sonnet CVII, William Shakespeare
“Vincent, there are so many gifts waiting for you. All you have to do is … just … open your arms and receive them.”
It takes a long moment, but he mumbles, “I believe you,” His brief words and rigid stance contradict him.
“Just open your arms,” Catherine insists, an entreaty wrapped in a command. He does so, but the embrace is begrudging, rote. He’s hurting too much to accept—or offer—any comfort. Too focused on his losses, he won’t be open to the … news.
So, of course, he’ll ask for it anyway.
“Now tell me what’s troubling you.” A command wrapped in an entreaty.
The ache, the wish, clutches. She wants to, to have him know, to tell someone, especially him. But how receptive can he be when he’s only thinking of how different things are between them?
And soon enough, they’ll be very different…
Put him off. Defer.
“Another time,” she bargains from her place at his shoulder. When he’s more open, when his mood is better…
“No.” He draws back and sets her right. “You’ve come all this way.”
“Vincent, it can wait. Don’t worry.”
He tugs her to the bed to sit.
“Please, Catherine, I only have my eyes and ears to understand … And I have been wallowing today…” He seizes her hand. “… in pity for what is past, in self-pity. You came to talk with me.”
He won’t let this go.
You aren’t getting out of this.
“Please tell me,” he persists.
He strokes her palm with his thumb.
He is so much more affectionate now. Does he realize?
She releases a held breath.
You’re asking for it.
“Do you remember anything from when you were ill?”
If he could remember, even a bit, this might not be such a surprise.
Who are you kidding? her second thoughts argue. You remembered what happened between you and you still couldn’t believe it.
His gaze travels upward while his mind searches.
“I have … impressions, feelings … but little memory.”
Impressions and feelings will have to be a start.
“What do you recall from the cave you ran to. Anything?”
With an extra squeeze of her hand, he begins.
“I’ve been told that you came for me, in that dark place, that you cared for me.” His eyes narrow. “I remember … confusion, rage … terror … cold… and then warmth … finally peace. Even in my state, I must have known you. You must have reached me.”
Understatement of the decade…
“I did … reach you…” Staggering over words she needs to be confident. “We reached for each other,” she says with more conviction.
He blinks at her explanation.
“So, that’s…” she tries to catch his eyes, “…everything you remember.”
His head bows in defiance of her efforts, a forlorn nod his only answer.
She should honor his sadness, the gravity of the loss, but what can she say that hasn’t already been said a million times over.
Your memories will return. Give it time. You need time to heal.
Time had never been on their side and now even less. Their time belongs to someone else, someone who would demand all of it.
He deserves to know what’s coming.
“Without any memory, this’ll be harder to explain, but I’ll do my best.” She forces a weak smile.
She tries to be light. She could almost laugh at the absurdity.
How is she going to explain? How to even start?
Vincent waits but, judging by his clenched jaw, not patiently.
You start with the truth.
You never withhold the truth from him.
She spins away. She can’t look, not yet.
“I’ve thought about this day and night … how to tell you. I came up with a hundred ways,” she sighs, “and they’ve all flown out of my head.”
She pivots back to him standing stock-still and concerned.
“I love you, Vincent.”
Please don’t worry.
“And I hope you’ll see this as the gift I do.”
The natural crease of his forehead deepens. She wants to kiss it, but she needs to say the words.
Just say them.
Shock. Only shock.
Mouth opening, no sound.
He doesn’t speak for so long she’s afraid he’s lost the ability again, but, finally, emotions wander across his features, traveling from astonishment to confusion into hurt.
He doesn’t remember … any of it … anything they did. He thinks…
If he asks who the father of the baby is, she’ll die.
“The baby’s yours, Vincent,” she hurries to clarify.
She sees the questions, How? When? perish in his still paralyzed mouth.
“In the cave, you fell. Your heart stopped. I thought you were dead.”
You seemed dead, and that was unacceptable.
“I reached for you. I kissed you, and you came back to me.” She tries to soothe with a smile. “From there, it just…”
“We loved, Vincent,” she concludes.
He stares for a minute more before shifting focus to his hands, clenching and releasing, claws curling.
“That … can’t be.”
Don’t go there, Vincent, not now.
Doesn’t this child prove what is possible? What may be?
“Believe me, Vincent. It can. It was beautiful.”
Believe … believe … Please, believe…
He shies, rising and stepping out of her reach.
The finality of it echoes in the chamber.
He doesn’t want this?
He’s breathing hard, pacing, eyes wild, seeking something.
Is this enough to set him back, to relapse?
Tears cloud her vision; she swipes them away.
“I hoped …” she starts, but where would that end? “I wanted you to…”
What? To know? To hold me, to reassure me? To make me feel safe?
Stop, just stop.
It’s too much for him. You should have waited. You shouldn’t have let him convince you.
He isn’t ready and now this will always be the way he reacted when he heard.
His hands brace against the table, trembling at his own weight, the strength he’d found in the last weeks, gone.
His health is still fragile. Should she leave him this way?
But can she stay? To be hammered—again—by his rejection?
No, she’s only able to take so many blows—Paracelsus, illness, lost memories, missing names, a baby, (their baby, Vincent’s baby,) Joe, work, all the change … denial. One more, and something will break irredeemably, irreversibly.
“I’ll go.” Her voice teetering. “I’ll let you think.”
Glancing over his shoulder, he says nothing.
Come to me, she responds silently, when you can … as soon as you can.
She should say it aloud. She shouldn’t trust he’ll understand without words anymore … but she can’t.
Maybe I’m grieving a lost bond too.
At the passage out, she stops, pivoting, returning only once, she swears.
Don’t fool yourself. If he called for you, you’d run to his arms.
But he won’t. Not today, not anymore … and he has to know … at least this.
He stares, but pain haunts his eyes, and she cannot look at them.
“I … I want this baby … your child,” she says to the floor. “I don’t know how, but I want it.”
Before he condemns her any longer with his silent glare, she walks, then runs, leaving him and the Tunnels.
He doesn’t stop her.
The next evening, barely on the edge of shadows, he climbs to her balcony.
He’s spent a sleepless day alone–by design, ready to speak to no one and because of a lost bond. The silence in his heart is as maddening as when she first invaded it and made a home there.
After she fled, of course he wanted to call her back. When certain his voice would no longer reach her, he considered the pipes, and when she was surely Above, he almost ran here.
But something stopped him.
It took him an indecent amount of time and wandering to realize what.
Anger at her.
What if I’ve killed you?
What if you made me your murderer?
And, finally, his darker self’s response.
She did what you both wanted. It saved your life. Yet you blame her?
And after more hours of agonized musing, came the answer.
Yes, I blame her, but I also love her.
As lonely night flowed into a pacing, interminable day filled with recrimination, “should haves” and guilt, he waited.
How had she fared? Was she all right?
Could she ever forgive him for his reaction to her news?
Sunset couldn’t come soon enough.
Praying she is there, he peers into her dark apartment. Dread moments of seeing no movement amplify his anxiety until he finds her curled on top of her covers. She sleeps still wearing her work clothes; her blouse untucked, the zipper of her skirt undone, stocking feet pulled onto the corner of the bed.
She doesn’t even wake when he steps over the balcony threshold into her bedroom.
Trapped in a depleted sleep, she’s defenseless.
Pregnant with your child.
Shaking from the consuming thoughts, he spies a pad and pen lying beside her. He picks up the paper. Under notes from what looks like a case, he reads:
Next steps. Tell–
That line scratched out and underneath
Father with Vincent
Peter with Vincent
She wants them, expects them, to reveal this to the others.
She has never given up on their dream of being together.
So why can’t he remember?
She said it was beautiful, but how could it be? In that rank place, so deep in the earth, how did something so monumental leave no memory, no trace.
It did leave a trace … in her.
She begins to waken. She looks tired, but like other Tunnel women during the early upheaval of pregnancy, she also seems healthy. Her hair shines in the reflected light of the lamp and city, flowing as she rises.
She glows. She is beautiful. She’s whole.
“I am sorry.”
For everything you’ve had to bear. For my illness. For my doubt.
She shakes her head and grasps his hand, guiding him to sit next to her.
“Don’t be,” she exhales.
She looks out into the gathering city lights.
“When I found out … about the baby, I was surprised … frightened … a bit.” She swallows. “It’s understandable … a big shock … especially since you don’t remember—”
She stops, reticent for his feelings. Out of deep kindness, she is making excuses for him.
She turns. Her fingers dance close to his ear, curling his hair away so it isn’t in the way of her gaze.
“But you had to have noticed … how much closer we’ve been … these last few weeks. Touching … holding each other.”
He nods in agreement. Much closer. Perhaps part of him remembered the barrier crossed, the steps taken … the moving forward.
“When did you realize?” he asks.
Will she be all right?
“Did you show any signs?”
Anything out of the ordinary?
“No signs. Not really … only … extra tired.” She chuffs, looking at the state of her rumpled bed. “Some cramping … but I had no clue. Figured I was burning the candle at both ends.”
She has been, for too long. That must end tonight … if she would heed him.
“I didn’t know until the doctor at the hospital told me. I’d given blood for Joe. A car blew up, and he was close by. It killed an old friend of his.”’
“Horrible…” Her friend, hurt? “Will he survive?”
“They said he’d recover, but it’ll take time.”
“I’m sorry.” The sentiment and sentence are insufficient to what she deserves.
“This last month…” she goes on, shaking her head in disbelief “…almost a month, isn’t it, since you’ve been recovering? Since we …”
She threads his fingers into hers.
“I was so focused on you getting better. I didn’t realize I’d missed…” She releases a shaky breath. “It felt like my period would come every day, but it never did.”
She pauses and grins, making sure he sees it, making certain he understands.
“Vincent, I was serious when I said I want this. I’m still not sure what this means,” she and her voice quiver, “or how this will work, but that joy you once sensed from me through the bond… I feel it now. After everything we’ve been through … all the hurt… a part of you is growing inside me. The idea of becoming a family with you…”
A family … with her, together.
His deepest most secret longing.
“I love you so much,” she declares, kissing him high on the cheek. “I wish you could sense that happiness now.”
“I do,” he answers, which produces a quizzical look.
“It’s not our bond,’ he explains. “Perhaps only my joy, my hope … and my fear, but I experience it all through my love of you.”
Their heads dip, their foreheads touch.
“You are allowed all those feelings,” she declares, generous with him.
“I share them with you,” she says.
“I know that.” And he does. To be equal in their regard for one another, it is a miracle. Yet that doesn’t mean his greedy heart doesn’t wish for more.
“But the bond between us … I still want it back.”
She breathes out a fragile laugh. “I understand… I’m just glad to know you want something.”
Behind the words, glad you’re here to want anything.
He’s never been good at wanting for himself, at least, until recently.
The march of days since his illness have been brightened with her tenderness and too brief visits. More than once he’s found himself covetous, impatient for her, keeping her beyond sensible hours, smelling her hair, curling around her body, resting in her embrace, unembarrassed, unashamed.
Unleashed from impediments by too many brushes against death, now all he is … want … desire.
“Catherine, you do not understand. I want so much,” he whispers, a secret too destructive to be declared, “it overwhelms me.”
A caress cupping his jaw, keeping him close. “We can start small.” She raises his face so he sees her eyes, sees the grin that says she’s unafraid. “What do you want at this moment?”
“You.” The deepest truth. “You, healthy, whole … and this…” He dabs his fingers across her lower belly, only a hinting stroke, as if to acknowledge it further would break the spell. “…with everything that I am.”
Her smile widens. “That’s good, Vincent, because you have me … you have this.” She places his palm, claws curling, around the tiniest swell low on her abdomen and holds it there.
She gazes up, expectant. “But what do you want right now?”
His heart pounds so loudly it drowns his voice.
He halts there, for long seconds, before revealing his vulnerable heart.
To ask for what he wishes aloud will take more courage than any battle. But she deserves it. His heart was hers well before she started it again.
“Show me what we did to make this happen.” He rubs her abdomen. “Show me how we made this begin … the start of this journey that will either make me … or ruin me.”
At the rumble of his words, she trembles.
Even without the bond, he knows it isn’t from fear.
Her eyes burrow into his soul for endless moments before, in a deep, low command, “Lay down on the bed.”
As if in a dream, he obeys.
“You … ran and when I followed you, you charged at me.”
This is the truth she promised you. A truth never ready for.
“But you stopped and collapsed,” she states, settling at his side. “You fell to the ground. I put my head to your chest.” The gesture repeated. “Right now, your heart is beating faster than I’ve ever heard it.”
Pounding wild, deafening, and only for her.
“Then, I heard nothing … felt nothing. You were gone. You left me.”
“‘Not without me,’ I yelled at you.”
That cannot be. The implication … not worthy of her life.
“Shhh,” she admonishes in a stern and muted tone. “You didn’t say anything. You were dead.”
She hugs him, placing her ear once again to his thrashing heart.
“But I couldn’t give you up.”
You should have. You should have left me.
We wouldn’t be here, on this precipice of fear and yearning.
He almost stands, but she holds him in place. Now, as then, she won’t let him escape, won’t allow them to end.
“I kissed you.”
Hand cradling his head, keeping him close, she does so again.
It is sweet, blessed … a jolt of life that he cannot, will not, deny.
He kisses her back as best he knows how.
“Yes,” she says into his lips, then pulls a scant inch away. “Like that.” She kisses him once more, lingering a second longer. “Just like that, you returned to me … you responded.”
He chases her lips, then embraces her, encircling.
“You held me close.” A susurration to his ear.
“Like this?” he asks, desperate to understand how. His arms seem gargantuan around her.
She nods into his neck. “You ran your hands over my body.”
Under his caressing fingers smooth silk and warm skin, round shoulders, jutting blades, muscles firm … the dip of her hip.
“Yes…” she replies, a diaphanous whisper for his actions. “And I was so happy you returned to me…”
She rises, standing beside the bed and, without stopping, pulls off her stockings and underwear.
“I knew we didn’t have a lot of time, but we needed…” A skim down his stomach until she’s at the waistband of his pants. “I needed …” She runs her fingers barely inside. A coiling, clutching ache blooms where she reaches.
“You didn’t stop me,” she explains, but with a query in the statement.
Did I do right? she asks with her eyes and tone.
Catherine, you saved us or destroyed us … but I trust you. How can I not? You brought me to life.
“I won’t stop you,” he whispers.
Free to do as she will … as she has done … she unfastens the closure with the skill of remembrance and pulls him out. She strokes him, once, twice … although he couldn’t get any harder. He groans at her caress, and, satisfied, she crawls next to him on the mattress. Mounting his hips, their two naked lower bodies touch, warm, brazen, and then … she lowers onto him.
He thought he knew warmth…
This is fire.
She arches, breeching further.
Dear … God…
Further … in, moving… rocking … piercing. Tight … again … and more … until finally, she’s flush.
Breathing heavily, but beaming, exquisite triumph gracing her features, she is everywhere, in his arms, being held and holding.
So close … found … in every way, found … filling her.
She grinds a rhythm he must counterpoint. One large hand encircles her hip, the other raises her blouse to see where they join, to witness leaving her body then finding home. It is too perfect, too sublime. He has to shut his eyes, or he will release … soon.
She rocks, spurred by his supporting clasp and movement.
Her eyes closed, chin raised, as if she’s hearing exquisite music.
“I wanted this,” she says, a declaration and promise.
“I want this,” he breathes out in answer.
And he does. God help him, he does. She dares him to want everything, believes he can, believes more than anyone.
The place where they meet calls. The hand that held her blouse switches to grazing, testing. Something tells him, right, perhaps a memory. As soon as he finds the bud in her folds … stars … tighter … holding him, but on the inside … drawing him further in.
“Yes … please,” she pleads, shaking … undulating, faster, climbing, circling higher.
Arching … finding … closer, closer.
Blinding light, crashing … darkness …
Coming back to himself, he finds her draped over him … her heartbeat, pounding from exertion … from what they’ve done. The thump, thump, thump vibrates into his chest, beneath his hand on her back … and … deep in that place that has been insensate and empty these last weeks, her pulse … resounds … quicker than his, but forceful.
…underneath that … just as strong and faster still…
…faster than he can comprehend…
Another heartbeat … a flutter … new life they’ve created.
“Mmm-hmmm,” she murmurs, face down, from somewhere near his collarbone.
“I feel it.”
“Fweel what,” she says, muffled into his skin, exhausted, still not looking up.
She is sated … delighted … He can sense her emotions.
She whips up, causing him to dislodge, and both to let out a moan and then a chuckle on its heels.
“It’s returned.” she breathes, the relief evident in both her sigh and her soul. He wasn’t the only one missing it, no matter how she attempted to calm him yesterday.
“It has,” he assures, smoothing her hair.
He is transfixed.
With her above him, gazing into her eyes is like calling the stars by name and having them answer … like being welcomed into a larger universe.
She should know what she’s done.
“The gift you offered…” He mutters in an awed sough, unable to speak any louder of a miracle.
He pulls her close, strokes her cheek.
“… I feel it.”
Life stirs in her.
How is he going to honor and protect it? He doesn’t know. Not yet, but he will. He has to.
“You are the gift. You are the gift that brings me so many gifts.”
Only days later, men are dead.
They perished because they kept her from him. Because they meant her harm.
They died screaming, the soft and fragile portions ravaged because they took her far away. Nightfall’s safer cloak enveloped his path before he pinpointed where they held her. Their time until they met their fate—the last they would live on this earth—they spent drugging and torturing her.
They are dead, and she’s unconscious, slack and heavy in his embrace.
The seldom used ways near the southern tip of the island yield to his long, hurried, (not fast enough,) strides. He takes her home. His home and hers, for the foreseeable future, (a stupid phrase, how may anyone see the future,) but she will be with him. She and their child will be safe, protected … if they aren’t irrevocably damaged from what they have endured.
Please, please, no.
A hundred feet below Times Square, the others reach him.
By scent and sound…
“Vincent, what’s wrong with Catherine?”
Henry, the youngest sentry…
“I’ll tell Father you are on the way.” Jamie.
“She ok?” Mouse.
They scarcely register.
Near to the Hub, miles crossed, yet she remains limp in his embrace. She needs a doctor. She needs Father. He must help.
“Father!” Vincent howls into the halls of his home.
It takes far too long, but Father finds them.
“What happened?” The huffing old man checks her pulse, then her pupils under pried lids.
Vincent cannot speak, his bloody hands the only clue to how she left the world Above.
When he doesn’t explain, Father breathes a leaden sigh and instructs, “Bring her to the hospital chamber.”
Vincent can’t move, not yet. Not until he tells him. Not until he is certain the help will be adequate.
Father turns, wondering why the prodigal hasn’t followed.
“Vincent? Why are you waiting?”
Others surround them, ready to lend aid.
“Tell Peter to come,” Vincent insists, hoping someone will heed his command without issue.
“Vincent, I believe I can care for her.” Father counters, “Goodness knows, I’ve tended to your—”
This will drive him mad again.
Though they go mad, they shall be sane…
“He must come!” Vincent roars, the man and monster’s voice combine in the imperative.
The quivering heart beneath her too-slow one beats thready and frightened.
“She’s pregnant. She carries my child.”
This moment will forever be how Father learned of his grandchild.
Shock, the mirror of Vincent’s own from days ago—to his credit, the doctor shakes it off faster.
“Henry, get a message to Peter; we need him … Catherine needs him, as soon as he can get here. Tell him it’s an emergency.”
The old man focuses on his son once more, compassion quieting his tone.
“Don’t worry, I promise, I will care for her … and your child—”
“Vincent?” Catherine’s wavering voice reaches him. A second to look at her too-pale face and then he is striding to the hospital chamber.
“You’re safe.” He cradles her closer. “You’re safe now, Catherine.”
She moans from the pain breaking through to her consciousness. He feels the rising nausea in her.
In the next days he will guide her through the purging sickness. He will hold her while they wait to see if a bloom of blood declares her body too battered and poisoned a place for their child to grow. He will be with her when Peter ushers them to his office for after-hours ultrasound. They will leave with memories of seeing a thriving white seed of a child surrounded by a black bubble home and the sound of a swooshing heartbeat that echoes the one in Vincent’s consciousness. He will reassure Catherine—nearly hourly—that their baby is strong, steadfast, surviving.
In the next weeks they will reconcile a faith dashed on the rocks of a criminal city, and mourn a life forgone for the sake of one they must create for themselves.
And—with the help of many—they will find the man who hurt her friend, the man who hunted and brutalized her.
Though they sink through the sea, they shall rise again.
They will travel the well-known roads and unfamiliar paths together, for their dream, for their child.
And Death shall have no dominion.
And Death shall have no dominion.