8

Love's Journey

By Southofoz

This is an alternate TLBL SND rated PG. Poem excerpt 'The Journey' by Robert E. Carter (no copyright infringement intended)

Love with my love

Life with my life

Hand in my hand

A journey did begin

A journey most said would end

Love of my love

Life of my life

A journey has just begun

Love of my love

Life of my life

Your hand in mine

The journey will never end

****

"No!" Catherine cried, as Vincent fell lifeless to the floor of the cave. He had been through so much. He could not die now!

"No," she repeated. "Not without me!" she commanded, with every fiber of her being. She felt for a pulse. There wasn't one.

"No! No!" she gasped, angry, fearful and desperate.

Suddenly so many things raced through Catherine's mind, at the thought of this wonderful man being forever taken from her. All the things they had never been able to do together – walk in the sun or go to a movie or have dinner in a fancy restaurant – make love. All these things no longer mattered. All she wanted now was to have him hold her and to hear his beautiful voice speak her name. She made up her mind in that instant to experience all the things they had yet to experience together. If he survived, they wouldno longer be apart. Catherine came to a decision she would not accept this. She would look forward with new hope. To sit in Vincent's chamber listening to him reading in the evenings and to walk through the tunnels during the day, any day, every day – to hold each other in the early morning, after a night of love.

She would not give up what could be, and, without thought, she did the only thing she knew, in such a situation. She lifted his chin slightly and placed her mouth firmly over his, and began to blow air into his lungs. She had never truly kissed Vincent, not as those who had been in love as long as they, and this kiss, their first real kiss, and he couldn't even feel.

As she alternately breathed into his mouth, then pushed on his chest she counted – One – two – three – four – five. She wished that her lips on his could be a prelude to something more – the kiss of love instead of the kiss of life.

As she worked, she remembered the tender look of wonder on his face when she had kissed him that day, when he had brought her home after her father's death. How would he have felt if she had been brave enough or bold enough to do it again? She made up her mind that if he lived she would never allow Vincent's uncertainties or fears to stop her again.

"One – two – three … come back to me, Vincent!" she commanded. When she breathed into his mouth this time, he accepted the life she offered, and inhaled the air she gave him in a gasp. He gasped again, and took another deeper breath and then began to breathe slowly.

Catherine was elated as she felt for his pulse. It was faint and erratic but it was there and growing stronger. His breathing was shallow but his skin was beginning to warm as she swept back his hair from his forehead. She lifted his head and shoulders, and placed her lips firmly upon his in a long gentle kiss of gratitude for his return. Then she quietly knelt holding him, watching his every breath – willing him to get stronger.

Catherine became lost in this task, until she heard footsteps. Looking up, she saw a shadow as Father asked, "How is he?"

With relief and joy, yet extremely tired, Catherine was able to say, "He's alive." There was only one fear, which she did not voice, and that was what Vincent would be like when he came to himself. Would there be damage from a lack of oxygen to his brain? And, if he remembered everything, how would he cope with the memory of what he had become – and the knowledge that he had almost killed her?

It was then that she felt Vincent's head move, and looking down she saw that he was opening his eyes. He looked up at her. In the faint luminescence coming from the rock walls, those eyes were clear of the wild beast that had rushed toward her. His eyes were now calm and they were filled with questioning, innocence.

She smiled to reassure him and he turned his head in Father's direction.

****

Father checked Vincent's pulse and examined him as best he could in the dark cavern. "We can't stay here. He needs warmth and rest."

Retrieving Vincent's cloak from a nearby corner, Father brought it to Catherine. They eased him to a sitting position and wrapped the cloak around him.

Vincent had not spoken and Father asked, "Are you able to walk, Vincent?"

Vincent gazed at him in silent confusion for a moment and then nodded. He tried to rise but was too weak and made little progress. Father and Catherine helped him to his feet and guided him out of the tomb of his past to the world of his future.

*****

At the cave entrance, concerned tunnel dwellers filed in behind Father and Vincent. Catherine followed, her mind still reeling with the events of the last few days.

By the time they reached Vincent's chamber, he was visibly drooping against two strong young men.

Catherine left the room as Father helped Vincent out of his torn and dirty clothes. And when Father called to her, she went in to find Vincent lying in his bed looking very tired and very confused.

Catherine went to him. She had an almost compulsive desire to touch him in some way, to reassure herself that he was going to be all right, and as she pulled the cover up under his chin as he continued to look around the room.

Then he spoke for the first time.

"I don't remember this place."

"It's your chamber," Father said from behind Catherine.

Catherine's heart ached at his words. What else had he forgotten, the bad and the good? She smoothed his hair away from his forehead again and said, "You're among people who love you. Sleep now."

As he closed his eyes, Catherine reluctantly left Vincent to sleep.

*****

Vincent recovered quickly, as usual, but this time was different. When Catherine first came into the room, as he lay in his bed, he had such a strange look in his eyes. She stayed for as long as she could, each visit, but Vincent seemed uncomfortable and would say little and so she wouldn't stay as long as she wished. Bidding him a good night, she would leave, to toss and turn in her bed, wondering what was troubling him. Then at last a few days later, when she came to see him, Catherine stopped at the entrance to Vincent's chamber as he was wandered about, touching things.

"How are you feeling?" she asked.

He turned to her with a bewildered expression, lifting his hands. "I'm not sure."

"Try to tell me."

He shrugged and gave a gusty sigh. "Like a stranger."

"What seems unfamiliar?"

"Many things, many things I can't … I don't remember."

"Do you feel like a stranger with me?" It had been a question burning in her mind for days. Was it that he didn't remember her, or what she meant in his life?

His eyes lifted to hers. "No, not with you, you're the woman that I love."

"I'm glad," she said, elation filling her entire being.

"But there are things …things in my mind that I can't reach." He made his way to the bed and sat down as he added, "I reach for names of things and they're not there."

Catherine came and sat next to him. "Vincent, the words will come…"

"Names," he continued.

'I wouldn't worry…" she wanted to reassure him.

He turned troubled blue eyes to her, still disturbed, "Your name."

Catherine was shocked more than she let him see. "My name? You mean you can't …"

Vincent shook his head, regretful, but helpless to change what was unchangeable.

"Catherine," she said at last, with a gentle smile.

He made a sound that was almost a laugh, and looked down, taking her fingers in his and caressing them. His expression revealing that, like a memory just out of reach it had been on the tip of his tongue all along. "Yes," he said.

Catherine gazed at the beloved face and said softly, "Vincent, don't worry. I won't let you forget." He squeezed her hand and Catherine leaned toward him placing her forehead on his, silently promise him that she would always be there.

Catherine stayed with him until he seemed fatigued, and helped him back into bed. She kissed his forehead, and when he closed his eyes, she watched over him until Mary came to send her home to rest.

*****

It took Vincent several weeks to recover fully from his ordeal and as his strength returned, he would venture further and further from his chamber and his bed.

One evening Father came to him and asked, "Vincent, would you like to come for a walk Above? It's a beautiful evening, so the lookouts tell me. Clear cloudless skies full of stars."

"I would enjoy that very much, Father," Vincent said, putting down his book and picking up his cloak.

****

"It's Cassiopeia. Do you see her chair?" Vincent remarked, pointing to the stars.

Father laughed, "Now, I'm the one losing my memory."

Vincent turned to his Father. "Father, what happened to me? I have no memory, none."

When Father told Vincent what Catherine had done, how she had saved him, by going into that dark cave to help him, Vincent's heart ached with love for Catherine. He had known that this time during his recovery, and what he remembered of the time before it, must have been hard on her. He was determined to let her doubt no longer.

****

Vincent was waiting in the Music Chamber some time before the concert began. He sensed someone approaching and then heard footsteps. Looking up he saw a beautiful vision in blue approaching. "Catherine." She stepped into his arms and he was filled with joy. Mingled with his joy was the knowledge that he hadn't felt her approach. He had only sensed it as he did most people.

He was finally recovered from his terrible ordeal in the cave. This was their first night alone together. Although he had not mentioned it to her, he suspected she also felt something was not as it once was. Saying nothing about his fears, Vincent drew Catherine down beside him, against the cushions, as he remembered having done many times before, and with an arm encircling her, made her comfortable against his large frame, giving a soft sigh of pleasure and placing his lips on top of her head.

She looked up at him and their eyes met. Vincent felt Catherine's pulse quicken and her gaze went from his eyes to his lips. He had regained much of his memory, but one now came to the surface – the feel of Catherine's lips on his. This was not a tentative touch, as when he had returned her to her apartment after her father's death, but a true kiss. The kind he had seen lovers share at night, in the park or in the shadows down Below. Suddenly he found it hard to breathe.

Catherine noticed this and saw that the look in Vincent's eyes was one she had never seen there before. Uncertainty was there, of course, but – was that hope? Yes, there was hope in those innocent eyes as they searched her face.

She remembered her thoughts when he was dying in her arms. All the lost opportunities and how she had made up her mind to never let another pass them by. Catherine lifted her hand to his cheek, and his expression was one of wonder, as she slowly slid it behind his neck, into his thick, soft hair. Then she with gentle pressure she pulled his face down to hers.

Would he resist, or would he allow this to happen? Catherine wondered as Vincent came closer.

Vincent's heart was thundering in his chest. He knew what Catherine wanted but should he allow this huge step forward? Once this bridge had been crossed there would be no going back and he wondered if he was ready. But before he could talk himself out of it, Catherine's lips touched his, and all reluctance fled but fear remained.

They had both been changed by the experience in the cave. Much of Vincent's memory had returned. Although what had happened between the time he had left Father's Study, and waking up in Catherine's arms, was still beyond him.

Catherine had made up her mind back in that cave as she had breathed life back into Vincent. She would take this step forward if she ever had the chance. And here it was, but as usual Vincent was fearful and inexperienced. The latter could be easily overcome, but the former was another thing entirely.

Catherine teased his mouth with hers and he groaned, his arms tightening about her. "Catherine." He breathed suddenly uncertain.

Catherine was not going to let him back off this time. And although words were unwanted right now, Catherine felt she needed to use them to help the transition. "I almost lost you, Vincent. I almost lost you …" She put both her arms around his neck and pulled him closer, as she continued her assault on his amazingly unique lips.

Vincent was finding that he uncontrollably responded to Catherine's kiss – and her words were like a spark to tinder within him. His heart was beating so fast he could barely breathe. He knew what Catherine wanted, but should he allow this huge step forward? Catherine had always been the one to make the overtures to him, just as his reticence had held him back. He wondered if he was ready for this step. But before he could think any more, Catherine's tongue touched his, and all his fears and concerns fled.

Suddenly he gasped, as their bond reestablished itself. It was like the flame of a newly lit torch, bursting into life, hotter and more intense than he had ever felt it before. He felt Catherine's desperation at the thought of his loss. It almost rivaled his own feelings, were he to lose her. He felt her determination never to allow him to withdraw from her again, and she was doing everything in her power to convince him. His feelings were quickly mingled with Catherine's and swiftly but with great care together they both embarked on a new world…

****