I Carry Your Heart - Chapter 14

~ See Me

Even an infant cries itself out, gives up the fight and so Catherine found herself spent, lying alone in a strange place neither real nor magical, suspended in her own disbelief. “Damn it,” she repeated, weakened. She covered her eyes with her arm. After a while, she turned to the light of the bedside candle.

“Well, what now ...” She let her mind drift; her gaze fastened on the dancing flame ... and heard the soft lilt of Eimear O’Carroll’s voice ...

“Oh, sometimes he says he wants to be alone. Maybe ... maybe he even means that. But I won’t let him be alone in this. Ever. No matter what. You can only step closer to him, Catherine, so that the chasm is not so fearful."

And then her own voice, loud in the silence of her chamber, unfaltering, sounded words she remembered saying first many months ago – I am never giving up.

She rose from the bed. She washed her face and brushed her teeth, brushed her hair. She took one last look at the silky nightgown. It was for her wedding night.

I’ll hang on to it a while longer, she said to herself as she left her room for Vincent’s. And if I don't get to wear it, I'll throw it into the abyss.

She had imagined he would be in his chamber, but his room was empty. His pack was where he said he’d dropped it, just inside the doorway, a book protruding from the outermost pocket. It was Adam Bede, marked at a passage with a folded page of paper.

Perplexed, she scanned the chamber. Where could he have gone? There were miles of tunnels, many likely known only to him. She noticed then that her gift was missing. Empty, his chair was pulled toward his bed. The jute strings lay loose on the floor near the wall where there was, she found, a slight misalignment of the rocks.

Ah ha! Hidden passage!” A frisson, a gleeful little triumph washed through her. Pushing, pulling, running her fingers over the surface, she located the ring and chain that maneuvered the stone. “Yes!” she crowed. The passage took her to a ledge behind the stained glass and the way out was dark, but she forged ahead on a remembered path. At the stairway, she hurried down, her first instincts propelling her toward the chamber with the mirror.

And so ... she found him. He was there. Her approach was stealthy, though she expected he would sense her arrival. Regardless of his contradiction, he was difficult to surprise. But if he heard her or was aware of her, he gave no sign.

She saw him reflected – sitting down, his elbows on his thighs, his hands clasped, his head lowered to those troublesome hands, hair streaming down, the epitome of misery. She could feel despair and turmoil, savage and loose in the room.

That was not all she saw.

She saw all that she’d dreamed, what she’d imagined with the anticipation of a virgin and the appetite of Aphrodite. He was beautiful, exquisite, even stunning ... as it might be to look upon the face of an angel. Raising his head, he stared at her image in the great mirror that leaned against massive stones. She saw herself – small, determined, unflinching. He flung himself from his seat, whirling away from her and then back.

“Is this ...” He spread his arms. “Is this what you wanted to see, Catherine? THEN LOOK AT ME! SEE ME! See what I am!”

He was stripped to the waist, some strange loose leggings, long and stark white, folded over at the belt line, hanging tantalizing and low on narrow hips. The ladder of his muscled abdomen rose to his powerful chest and his arms outstretched were defined by the demarcation of hard work and his peculiar nature.

Tawny bristles covered just to his upper biceps. His shoulders and back were clear and sleek, though long silky swirls covered his chest and curled down his flat stomach. A ripple of muscle in his thighs strained the leggings. More than all of this, more than his magnificent virility, it was his color that seized her. He was bronze and gold and rose-colored, flushed with an internal heat and bright with a sheen of moisture. With his mane of hair untamed and flying and the fierce energy he expressed, each breath a guttural, constant rasp, he was a vision beyond imagining.

He held this pose for long moments, his eyes trained on her, more brilliantly blue against his heightened color. Then he began again to pace. His familiar step was altered, his stride long and potent ... back and forth, treading the roadways of a shrouded, impenetrable, unseen map – self-caged. She was careful to hold herself still and silent.

He stopped, closed to within a few feet of her and in a voice new and dark, a shadowy rattle beneath the words, demanded, “Tell me, Catherine. What do you see?”

“I see the man I love.”

He pressed the heels of his hands hard to his eyes, raked his fingers into his hairline.

“I AM NOT A MAN!” He wheeled and strode away, his chest heaving with labored breath ... wheeled again. “But I am, as many men, FOOLISH, SELFISH AND A COWARD!” He fixed her with a fiery stare, a dare to contradict him.

“Vincent, NO!" She moved closer to him, but the room was large and the gap between them seemed a dreadful chasm. “Take that back ... take all of it back.”

She reached out to him, touched the bare, hot, velvet skin of his shoulder. He recoiled from her touch, cringing, each exhalation a warning rumble. “I WILL NOT ... take it back. Look at this room ... a testament to my folly. See that I am selfish, selfish enough to dare to believe ...”

Even as he swept across the space, even as his face distorted with sadness, even in his wounded state, his presence stirred blood memory deep within her. She did as he requested – she looked.

There was the mirror, leaning huge, measuring surely over eight feet tall and as wide, a wooden frame of carved flowers and beading, gold-leafed. Reflected in it, the entire chamber was reduced to its marrow - a majestic mahogany bed, unusually crafted with raised convex panels, fluted and lotus carved stiles, over-wide and blanketed with quilts the color of alabaster and pearl and ivory. It was magnificent and suggestive of pure passion. She knew her gasp was audible and she saw Vincent's eyes narrow as he watched her.

In the middle of the room where she had first seen him seated, there was a broad stool with low rolled arms and arched legs, a fabric of sapphire. A Renaissance library table of dark walnut and with griffin ends stood against one wall, host to several small objects – keepsakes, remembrances – and where Catherine’s gift rested, middlemost.

“Vincent.” She spoke softly, hoping to soothe his distress, unsure of the direction of this exchange, but knowing in her heart that much – no, everything – depended on it. “Tell me what this room is to you. After all these months, you’ve never spoken of it.”

She walked toward the table and the curious collection he'd amassed there, but he moved in front of her, blocking her, leaning on the table, arms wide, protective, possessive. Each muscle in his broad back quivered with his efforts to still his movements. He gathered a breath, released it, bowed his head low, his voice now a raspy whisper.

“In Thailand, there is a shrine, an elephant shrine ... where centuries ago a nobleman’s favorite died. A temple was built at the site to honor the animal and it was believed that there one could make a wish ... and if the wish came true, one must return with a gift for the lost elephant, to thank him. Even today, gifts are heaped at the base of the shrine, evidence of fulfillment.

“Here in this place where I would come – even before you, Catherine – where I would come as a young man and dare to dream ... of one day finding that which Father deemed impossible ... for me. A life beyond duty and obligation, a life in which I am chosen by a woman, held and loved, a life with children of my own, whom I would adore. In that dream, I created a home for them in these rooms. But after a while, only a terrible truth was reflected in this great mirror and I grew to accept my limitations, even to be ... content ... and I came here more for the privacy of it. These are mine after all, all the rooms in this hall mine alone.

“After you came into my life, I visited here with a stronger, stranger dream. I came with a new regret and a cherished optimism. What I once dreamed ignited my thoughts again, and I came here ... to wish.”

He turned to her then, softening his grim expression, beckoned to her, moving aside so she could better see ... allowed her in. He chose an object, a large shard of reflective metal, cradled it, held it out to her.

“Do you recognize this?” Without allowing her answer, he went on. “You threw this at me when you were healed, the day you first saw my face, the day you ... returned home. After I cleared away the pieces, I saved this one. I pushed it far back on the shelf, yet it would glint at me as I passed. A memory of a memory ...

“Months passed. I tried to forget, all the while becoming more and more deeply connected to your feelings, more aware of yours than of my own. I stared long into this mirror, until its reflection was no longer of me, but of you, Catherine. I wished that I could see you again ... that you would welcome me ...

“That wish came true. I was ... so grateful. I ferreted out the shard and placed it here, a gift, the beginning of my own shrine ...”

He held out a small music box that played, when he opened it, slow, mournful measures from the Pathetique. “This gift I brought when I was granted a second wish, that you would not ... find love with Elliott Burch.

"And this,” he said, holding out a worn leather-bound book, its edges gilt, marked with a brilliant blue feather, “is the gift I offered when you did not go to Providence.” She took the book from him, found the marked verse. Surprised by Joy.

The next was simply a small paint container, empty, orange color dried to its rim. “I brought this when you did not marry Elliott.”

One finger brushed the rim of a crystal candleholder. “When you left, confused, in despair of knowing me ... I visited your balcony to say goodbye. I took this. I thought my heart would stop, or feared, rather, that it would not and I would have to live on in my wretchedness, but I wished ... so desperately ... and you came back. You said we were worth ... everything. I brought this gift then.”

His voice broke. “I have made many wishes of late ...”

She pulled her sculpture toward the table’s edge. “Do you like this, Vincent? It's so beautiful. I had to have it for you. You see, I've been wishing too.”

“I treasure each gift you've ever made to me, relive each moment of surprise. But this ... this mocks me, Catherine.” His voice darkened and there was again a low rumble behind his breathing.

Mocks you? NO! How? I could never ...”

“I know you did not mean it to ... but see, his hands are forever clasped behind him, his kiss is upon her heart, below her breast, but he is destined, eternally, to be separate from her, restrained.”

“No, that’s not right. This is different!” She turned the sculpture in the candle's light. “Look,” she implored him, moving closer. “See, he’s let go. His arms are moving toward her and her hand is lifting his face. Everything ... is beginning!”

The scent she knew rose around her, strong on a radiating wave of heat and light from him. The room, which by all rights should have been cold, was not. She could not discern the source of warmth beyond him; as she had come to expect, there was simply magic here.

He was so very beautiful, so near. She wanted to be held, to be kissed. There was no mistaking her desire, but again his eyes narrowed and he backed away from her.

Will you not ask me about this bed?” he snapped, ice and daggers in his tone. “Will you laugh at the exposure of a fool’s desire?”

He stalked to the bed frame, shook the high finial hard and flung back the covers. He passed his hand seductively over the sheets as he peered over his shoulder at her. She stood very still, not afraid of him, but for him. His pain was as unclothed as he.

“I discovered this bed months ago in a deep chamber, not long after you found the lilacs for Kanin and Olivia. I sensed your longing at that moment and in my dreams, I surprised you with a perfect room of our own. I dragged the frame in pieces to Cullen’s workshop, cleaned it, polished it, in pretense of giving it to a helper. I doubt Cullen believed me. I asked Olivia to find the appropriate bedding. She went above, brought back these.

“Nights, after visiting you, I would come down, sit beside this bed and think only of having you close to me. I had such ... skin hunger. I dreamed of the day you might choose me. I expected I would faint with joy, but instead, I heard the lie.”

His voice sparked. A drumming thunder reverberated in the chamber, a clash in the stillness that was simply his energy. Catherine stood unsupported, apprehensive, in the middle of the room.

“Yes, I feel that in you – the lie.” He began a slow circuit around her, moved close behind her, bent to her ear. His breath, hot on her neck, moved her hair.

“I haven’t lied to you, Vincent.”

“No, your lie is the one you refuse to admit, your deepest fear, unconfessed.”

“I don’t understand.”

His arm encircled her, pressed her backward against his body, his open hand low against her abdomen. She could feel his groin at the small of her back – so large he was, towering over her. His words were thick with pain.

“Would you take me as your lover ... come to me willingly, Catherine ... and live in fear of carrying a monster in your belly ... or would loving me condemn you to a lifetime with an empty womb.”

In a sudden movement, he released her, the burn of his touch still on her skin. She pushed both her fists into the pain of it and her tears welled and cascaded, hot and sad and desperate.

He walked to the head of the bed. His back to her, one hand on the bedpost, he sagged onto an arm bent against the chamber wall. His beautiful shoulders, smooth and wide and strong, shook with sorrow.

When the tears stopped, when his silence settled in, she spoke.

“I thought you knew ... I took for granted you would feel what I feel, always. I should have told you, the moment I knew ... when I saw you holding Lena’s child, when I asked you how it felt to hold a baby in your arms. I knew then that we were ... a possibility ... and that we could make a baby together, an extraordinary child, a most welcome child. I knew, Vincent. If only I’d realized you didn’t.”

She went to him and pressed her hand to the deep V of muscle low on his spine. He stiffened, but did not move away. A rasp stuttered from deep in his throat, a painful scuffle through shards of glass, fading, as she stroked his skin, to a rough drone, to a velvety, harmonic vibration.

At last!

His voice quivered, dawning thought crowding his breath. “I felt that word, heard it in my mind ... possibility ... but I thought it was ... Lena’s word and after the briefest moment, I had to block the pull of the feeling. I didn’t understand ... couldn't dare to believe ... it was yours.”

“Perhaps it was Lena’s too," she said. "Her feelings were strong and you are so kind. You know now, don’t you? You even know that possibility isn't the right word. You are necessary to me. I don’t harbor that fear. There is nothing more to confess. And I won’t have you ever, ever, call yourself a monster again.”

He turned to her with a keen, unblunted roar and sank to his knees. She moved in close; his arms went 'round her. Her hands caught in his wild hair and she held his face to her breast until his heartbeat evened, until the tension eased from his shoulders, until the cold, bunched cords in his neck loosened under her touch.

“Vincent,” she said, stepping back, tugging him to his feet. “You’ve used words today I’ve never heard from you. Tell me. How can you call yourself a coward? You're the bravest man I’ve ever known – selfless, valiant. What is it you're afraid to do or to say? And I’ve never heard you refer to anything as ‘mine’. You claim so little for yourself. Tell me.”

She kept both his hands in hers, waiting, fighting a strange impulse to smile.

“These two ... words ... are superimposed, inseparable. I am a coward because I'm unable to tell you what it is that I want ... what I want for my own ... afraid to ask you, afraid to hear your answer.”

Her appeal to speak met with a customary silence. She pressed and coaxed with similar unsuccess. Finally she touched his face, raising his chin as she had done hours before. She flattened her palm against his cheek and he covered her hand with his.

“Vincent, just say it. Whisper the words into my palm. I’ll keep them safe for you.”

And so he obeyed her. He held her hand open, tight to his mouth, pressed his lips to her skin. She felt the words carry to her soul, surely singing her body electric ...

Cleave to me, Catherine. Marry me.”


Click Here for Chapter 15


Anonymous said...

This scene -- incredible! I LOVE the private chambers and the imagery of the elephant shrine and Vincent's wishes. I can SEE it. Thank You!


India said...

This has to be one of the most fully realized scenes I've read across all fan fic. It is beautiful and sensual. I've been reading and rereading it.

(hope you don't mind!)

I'm recommending your stories wherever I can.


Vicky said...

Oh.. my... God... So exquissit... and again, so, so powerful! This whole chapter never fails to send my heart racing and bring tears to my eyes... of many mixed feelings!

“Cleave to me, Catherine. Marry me.” No words. *Happy sigh*

Carole W said...

Gosh, I missed your comment here India. (Leanne and I exchanged emails last year). No I don't mind at all! I'm honored and humbled by such praise - now, I must work even harder. There's little more encouraging to me, as I discipline myself, as I push and shove myself word-wise, to think that I've been recommended ... Thank you, so much.

~ Carole

Carole W said...

Vicky - this experience, reading your comments here, is just wonderful. You have such depth of knowledge about the episodes and fan fiction, that to believe that this chapter stands out to you ... I'm just so pleased, blushingly pleased, but so encouraged.


Brandy said...

What an interesting way you chose to make their retreat and home, Carole! There seems to be this terrible need to set up house for C&V; are we all frustrated interior designers? :)

I was intrigued by Vincent's choices of "gifts" to his "shrine." A paint can of orange? From Elizabeth? A crystal candle holder? One of a set?

Vincent feels so dangerous in this chapter. It's like he does all he can to frighten Catherine away, and when she sees them through (sudden recollection of the ballad of Tam Lin), his only option is to offer her himself.

Beautifully done, my friend.

Carole W said...

Haha, yes, the nester in me extends to the tunnels. None of this through-way traffic for V & C's room!

And I guess, being me, I can't imagine just having one chamber - but instead a condo-castle of sorts back behind there. With a door.

The gifts ... In Ozymandias, Mouse brings Elizabeth some paints and she says something like "oh orange, I was almost out of orange." and when C has gone to Nancy's in Happy Life, V comes to her darkened balcony and I think I remember, I'm pretty sure, he picks up a candle holder, all dark and cold.

Oooh, I'm thrilled with your description - that V feels so dangerous. He is trying to frighten her away. Isn't he the lucky one, that she just won't go.

I'll have to google Tam Lin too - though I have vague recollection of it, nothing concrete forms. Research! Yea!! Thanks, Brandy.

Sonia Who? said...

Ch. 14

Intense chapter. Vincent is so intensely passionate and volatile in this chapter, and keeps trying to push and frighten Catherine away. He was lucky that she loved him so much to put up with that for as long as she did. Of course, he's worth it.

I could imagine Catherine's elation when Vincent spoke the words into her palm.

Carole W said...

Thanks Sonia! I am partial to this chapter myself. C didn't let him walk away and she wouldn't be pushed away this time. I can just imagine the feel of his lips in my hand, speaking those words! Lucky Catherine.

Krista said...

I'm still wowed by this scene. Whenever I think I've described something perfectly, I come back to this---because the imagery of this is potent and charged..and simply beautiful.

AZLadyWolf said...

WOW!! You have the gift! I have never been so moved by any BatB fanfiction.. This is just absolutely the most exquisite, powerful, passionate, heart-rending, heart-soaring scene.... and these mere words are inadquate...

How can I be so thrilled and happy for fictional characters? But I am, and tearfully so, estatically happe for the both of them! **Tears....*

Carole W said...

AZ, now you've done it. You have moved me to tears. This is the nicest thing you could say to me - and your words are more than adequate - they are thrilling to my writer's heart.

There's no greater honor imaginable than what you've said today. My words are wholly inadequate, but thank you, thank you, for taking the time to write to me. It is everything.


Carole W said...

Krista! How did I miss your comment? Thank you for your words - coming from another writer, I'm pleased and humbled.

Nearing two years after writing it, I remember the moment this scene manifested in my imagination. I was watching the last of season 2 for the first time on dvd (My daughter gave them to me for Christmas and had begged me to NOT get them for myself earlier) and I was struck again - as I'd been struck 20 years before - with the necessity of V and C's future. And since I was never going to watch you-know-what again, I turned off the dvd with this welling in my heart. I closed my eyes and the "in my imagination" scene and the "cleave to me" just ... appeared.

I'm touched that you enjoy it enough to read it again, grateful that you'd tell me.

~ Carole

Anonymous said...

“Cleave to me, Catherine. Marry me.” So glad I'm re-reading this story. Oh, and Vincent whispering into Catherine's palm, "Cleave to me" - be attached, be faithful to me, "Marry me". Your touch is far-reaching Carole, all the way around the world. Cathy S

Carole W said...

Aww, Cathy. Now look what you've done. I'm smiling and feeling weepy at the same time. Thank you.


Alyssa said...

Oh, wow, I'm positively breathless...I've read bits and pieces of this story from time to time, but that part when Vincent told Catherine his fears about her fears of them having a child together...in a word, WOW. I could feel Vincent's pain straight through the computer screen. You keep writing, and the rest of us will gladly keep reading.

Thanks for doing this - Alyssa

Carole W said...

Hi, Alyssa! I'm grateful you're reading I Carry and very pleased you enjoyed this chapter. Encouragement is good for a writer's soul, that's for sure, and your words are so kind. Thank you.

My best,

Anonymous said...

If Chapter 4 was my favorite chapter because of your thoroughly realized Jamie, THIS has to be the most BEAUTIFULLY and POWERFULLY realized Vincent in all his pain and glory.

I love how you build the tension around Vincent's accusation that Catherine has "lied," not to him, but unconsciously to herself. And the lie proves to be that he feels she has not considered the "sacrifice" she would make to either bear his "monster" child, or no child at all. How beautifully you get to the root of his uncertainties -- the mystery of his existence and what that might mean for the woman he loves.

Then, to learn that Catherine HAS considered this and WELCOMES the possibility of his child -- an extraordinary child -- accepting him with no reservations in such a fundamental and all-pervasive way. Powerfully moving.

And finally -- there can be no more beautiful marriage proposal in all the world -- "Cleave to me, Catherine. Marry me."

THUD!! Someone HAS to get Ron Perlman to audio-record that bit of dialogue for us!!


Regards, Lindariel

Anonymous said...

I'm visiting favorite "spots" today, and of course, THIS chapter is one of my all-time favorites. In my post just above from a few years ago, I mentioned so much of what I love about this chapter. Today, I'm caught by your skill in conveying Vincent's "Otherness."

"More than all of this, more than his magnificent virility, it was his color that seized her. He was bronze and gold and rose-colored, flushed with an internal heat and bright with a sheen of moisture. With his mane of hair untamed and flying and the fierce energy he expressed, each breath a guttural, constant rasp, he was a vision beyond imagining. He held this pose for long moments, his eyes trained on her, more brilliantly blue against his heightened color. Then he began again to pace. His familiar step was altered, his stride long and potent ... back and forth, treading the roadways of a shrouded, impenetrable, unseen map – self-caged. She was careful to hold herself still and silent."

"She was careful to hold herself still and silent." -- YES!! As BATB writers, we must never, NEVER forget that Vincent is indeed "something there has never been" and RESPECT that fact. Too many, I think, make the mistake of conceiving Vincent as a dual personality. Or seeing his differences as superficial. They are NOT! He sees, feels, experiences, and understands in an entirely unique way. Not that he is unrelatable, but he is at all times MORE than human.

I love the way you capture this aspect of him, and how he suffers fundamentally from a misplaced (and Father-reinforced) need to try to make himself something other than what he is.

Yes, Vincent is different -- abundantly so, MAGNIFICENTLY so. And the Beauty of Batherine's love for him is that she requires him ONLY to be himself. In this chapter, he finally, FINALLY begins to understand that.

How I do LOVE this chapter!

Your FOREVER fan, Lindariel

Carole W said...

Lindariel, again, you are so good for my spirit. You're generous and kind, and I love you for it. Thank you, a dozen times over.

I so agree with you - Vincent's Otherness is the key. The unexplainable explains him. He is awesome, in every definition.

I'm grateful to you for reading and for reading again. I can hardly believe it, but I sure am happy you do.


Anonymous said...

Any chance you might ask one of our amazing BATB artists to depict parts of this scene -- Vincent fuming, stalking about in nothing but those leggings, Vincent and his shrine, Vincent accusing Catherine of "the lie," and, oh YES, crashing to his knees and declaring softly into his Beauty's palm, "Cleave to me Catherine. Marry me."

Whew! Regards, Lindariel

Carole W said...

Lindariel - If only! I would love to see these illustrations.

An artist friend has done something incredibly lovely for Iron/Velvet (very soon to be unveiled!!!) but she's so busy with her own work, I don't have the courage to ask her for more. (But maybe she'll see this and hear the pleading, wishing, hoping, wheedling in my voice. :-) )

Thank you for visualizing these moments. It means a lot that you do.


NYC Utopia said...

Oh dear. How could we NOT be your "forever fans".
This was such a tight rope, and you did so beautifully.

The second chamber could've been a creepy thing... from someone like Stephen B.
From Vincent, it is beautiful: the difference, and the leap of faith, from a taboo to a secret, a private thing. He dared to dream! In a tangible setting!
And (as Eimear said about Flynn) "he says that"...he continues to express refusal, but amidst all the pain of his rebirth, he moves forward! and shows her!
I will probably find something new next time... next year! when you've completed I\V and we all start again from the beginning! :)

"Pale thanks" that surely mock your work of art ;)