Burrowing down into Vincent's chest, Catherine twirled tight, amber-toned curls around her fingers. She was stiff all over, but oh, what a glorious ache. Giving her an abashed look, he rolled over onto his side, facing her. "I feel what you feel, my love. I know that I've caused you distress with the heat of my…my desire."
Putting one finger to his lips, she shook her head, smiling. "I adore every tingle, so hush." She arched an eyebrow at her thoroughly exhausted looking mate, and pointed to his hairy arm. "Besides, I think I gave as good as I got, don't you?"
Glancing down, Vincent inspected the long scratches covering his forearm. Swallowing the laughter rumbling up from within, he winced, the gesture widely dramatic. "Oh, such affliction! It seems that I've been assaulted by someone's pitiless nails."
Rasping one nail lovingly from the center of his chest all of the way down to his puckered ‘innie’ of a naval, she eyed him. "How did it feel?"
"To be attacked so passionately?" Tensing his stomach as her finger drew lazy circles around his belly button, Vincent chuckled in spite of himself. "I think it was quite marvelous."
"Good." Rubbing her throbbing bottom, Catherine grinned at him. "After all, fair is fair."
A flash of confusion surfaced in his eyes. "How is it possible to love you as I just…did…and not hurt you beyond…acceptable…limits?" he asked, still truly an innocent.
Pondering the question, she shrugged. "I only know two truths--you love me, Vincent, and because you do, you can't hurt me." Smiling, she added, "At least, not beyond ‘acceptable limits’."
"Even in the cave, I gave you no cause to fear me, or brought you any pain," he stated matter-of-factly.
"Only when you…had…to leave me. Oh, it was such a night! I wish you could see how you looked to me then…"Catherine hesitated and then eased away from him. Sitting up, she urged Vincent to sit beside her as she slid into her nightgown. Reaching for his hand and tugging him to his feet, she whispered, "Come, there's something that I want you to see…"
Moving to stand in front of her dressing table, Catherine invited him to sit down facing the mirror. As she turned on a small boudoir lamp, Vincent glanced at her, unsure of her intent, but he did as she asked. Easing down stiffly onto the small, brocade covered bench, he kept his eyes averted from the glass.
"Please look into the mirror? I know what I'm asking makes you uncomfortable, but will you do it, just for me?"
His stomach was churning. Swallowing hard, Vincent fought off the bile rising in his throat. What did she expect him to see but…himself? He already knew what he looked like, and he abhorred mirrors. But because it was Catherine who asked this of him, he looked…
"Oh!" Jerking back in the chair, startled by his reflection, he exclaimed, "What alchemy is this!" Leaning slightly forward again, he stared at the image reflected in the glass. Could this be him? Him? The face peering back at him was completely relaxed, the eyes soft with the tenderness of love's afterglow. A ghost of a smile curled into the corners of Vincent's mouth. So, this is how Catherine saw him then? He looked again. Why, he wasn't all that repulsive to look at after all—not…really.
Cupping his chin in the palm of her hand, Catherine smiled into the mirror with him. "Yes Dearest, see yourself as I see you; as I've always seen you." Bending forward, she kissed the side of his bristled cheek. "This is how you were in the cave after you made love to me that first time. Now do you understand? Do you see why I could never fear you, or deny you anything? Vincent, you are truly beautiful."
At last seeing himself through her eyes, Vincent felt a tiny smile tug at the corners of his mouth. Smiling shyly, he brushed his lips over the tips of Catherine's fingers. "Very well, my Love, whatever you…say."
COMPLETING THE CIRCLE…
The same night, Vincent had the dream again, but this time, it was very, very different…
He was walking along the beach, listening to the sounds all around him--the gentle swell of Catherine’s laughter as another gull dove for the bread she was offering, the sound of the sea as it crashed against the rocks. So many sounds, so many sights…
"Spare me this cloying sweetness, will you!" thundered a voice on Catherine's right--a voice that she couldn't hear.
Glancing over the top of her head, Vincent’s eyes met a darker, slightly bemused pair. "Are you…displeased?" he asked, curious to know why his less gentle side was sneering at him.
"Yeah, you could say that." A rumble of displeasure rose from his chest as the ‘beast’ glared at the wimp who was now a part of him forever. Forever…how completely wonderful. "I never thought to be walking along a beach with YOU, feeding the birdies’," he observed snidely.
Vincent frowned, the look penetrating. "You choose to live life with me, in my way." His eyes went from Catherine, to the sky, and then the beach. "This is my way. It is my life."
Smirking, the darkling hunched his wide shoulders. "I suppose one can get used to anything.’ Adding maliciously, "After all, I got used to you."
Laughing aloud, Vincent stopped, waiting for Catherine as she knelt down to dig a shell from the sand. Helping her back to her feet--she was extremely pregnant --he brushed the sand from the hem of her loose-fitting cotton dress. "How are you feeling, Beloved?
She patted her tummy. "WE are very well, thank you." Linking arms with him, she looked up and smiled. "And how are you?"
"Oh, PLEASE." Sneering, Vincent’s less humorous side looked just about ready to upchuck all over this BEAUTIFUL sand. "You do love pushing your luck, don't you?" As he nodded towards Catherine, chuckling, dusky eyes twinkled in a swarthy face. "She seems to enjoy having both of us, doesn't she?"
Vincent’s eyes met the darkling’s candidly. "What do you think?"
Lifting a few strands of her long hair to his nostrils and inhaling appreciatively, the ‘other’ winked at his gentler half. "Me? I think she’s quite the one."
Glowing eyes met shaded ones of the same shape and alignment.
"Oh, yes," Vincent agreed, his voice gruff with joy, "Catherine most assuredly is…the One."
‘…when stars collide, like you and I, no shadows block the sun.
You’re all I've ever needed--baby, you're the one…’ *
*The One by Elton John