Rosemarie Hauer's MAGIC

I Felt You Go


Vincent shivered in the cold night air as he stood on Catherine’s balcony without the familiar protection of his cloak. Leaning forward, he stole a quick glance through the sheer curtains. In the living room Catherine was still arguing with the woman who had brought her home. The dark-haired man who had been with them had already left.


Standing there outside the terrace door, Vincent suddenly felt foolish for believing that Catherine would need him to be with her after all she had been through. She had friends who cared about her, who were there for her when she needed a shoulder to lean on. Yes, he had rescued her, saved her life with his preternatural ability to locate her and his strength. He had given her his breath as she’d lain lifelessly in his arms, and his cloak to keep her warm. But now? What could he give her now?


The woman was still there, sitting in the living room and waiting. Catherine had withdrawn to her bathroom, and he could hear the sound of running water.


Closing his eyes, Vincent could still hear the tremor in Catherine’s voice as she told him she loved him, in a moment when she had been dazed by exhaustion and barely overcome terror. Unable to respond, he had just cradled her against his chest, holding her, rocking her gently. And then everything had happened very fast. Leaving her had almost torn him in two, but the lights and the voices had driven him away to seek the darkness, and he had fled into the night.

 
He had known that she was safe with the police and her friends, yet he’d had to come and see if she was all right, if there was anything he could do for her. No, he amended silently, he had come because he needed her, because he had been missing her nearness, the solid softness of her body, ever since the moment he’d had to release her.


Oh, God, he had almost lost her tonight!


With a gasp he staggered back against the wall, splaying the fingers of one hand over his heart. He squeezed his eyes shut to ward off the feeling of emptiness and despair that drove the air from his lungs.


Voices from within the apartment dispelled his dark thoughts, and he pushed himself from the wall to look through the window once more. He saw Catherine hugging the woman before she closed the door behind her and switched off the light. And then she turned and came running towards him across the room. Vincent’s heart was hammering wildly against his ribcage as Catherine pushed open the doors and flung herself into his arms.


The feel of her as their bodies made contact sent his blood racing. “I felt you go,” he managed hoarsely, burying his face in her hair as he tightened his embrace. “I felt you go.”


“Hold me,” he heard her imploring voice as she pressed into him. “Tighter.” An uncontrolable tremor ran through him as he complied, taking great care not to hurt her.


They were silent for long, uncounted moments, just savoring each other’s warmth and comforting presence and listening to the joined rhythm of their hearts.


Catherine shivered in the crisp air, her damp hair cold against the bare skin of his neck, and Vincent moved his hands to her shoulders, squeezing gently.


“You’re freezing,” he observed, knowing that he could no longer maintain his refusal to cross the threshold to her apartment. He caught himself wishing fleetingly that the circumstances were different ones. If the phone hadn’t rung that night...the candles inside the apartment had been so beautiful, and Catherine’s smile so radiant and inviting...


“No,” came Catherine’s slow reply, “not really.” And for a moment he had to make a conscious effort to remember the thread of their conversation.


Carefully, he turned her around and, nudging her gently towards the open wings of the french door, followed her into the living room. She tilted her head back to look up at him, and the smile she gave him stirred something in his heart, a tenderness so deep that it was almost painful. He closed the door behind them, in order to keep out the cold, and for a second the uneasiness returned. But Catherine took his hand, pulling him over to the fire, and they sat down on the carpet, facing each other.


Vincent’s eyes were brimming with tears as he took in the pallor of her complexion and the dark circles of fatigue around her eyes. He still held her hands, but he couldn’t distinguish whether it were his or hers that were shaking so badly.


“You need to rest,” he said softly. “I shouldn’t keep you from sleeping.” He knew, though, that he didn’t sound very convincing, for he couldn’t have left her now, even if she had demanded it of him.

 

“What I need more than anything,” she responded quietly, “is having you here with me, Vincent. I need to talk about what happened tonight, and you are the only one who can understand. Truly understand.”


He nodded, encouraging her to continue. She inched a little closer, and he opened his arms for her to lean against him, giving her the warmth and reassurance she needed.


“Vincent, I died out there in that trunk,” she began, and he shrank back at her words. Before he could say anything, she continued, “I left my body and looked down on the scene from above. I saw you jump onto the sinking car, tear off the lid of the trunk, and pull out my limp body. I could feel your desperation, your pain, and it choked me to see you suffer so.” She leaned back in his arms, looking up at him and caressing his cheek with icy cold fingers. “I called out to you, but you didn’t seem to hear me. And then, suddenly, something happened. There was a sound behind me, something like music, and I turned and saw the most radiant light I have ever seen. It was warmth and comfort and.. .love, and out of that light came two figures. First I actually thought they were angels, but then I recognized my parents. My mother held out her arms, and for a moment I wanted nothing more than to throw myself into them. I’ve missed her so much. And then...”


Catherine fell silent, searching for words, and Vincent continued, “...then I appeared and snatched you away from her.” His throat constricted painfully around the words, and he swallowed hard. He knew it would hurt to hear the truth, but he had to ask. He had to know. “Catherine,” he whispered hoarsely, “would you have wanted to stay?”


She didn’t respond at once, and the silence between them, while she was gathering her thoughts, seemed like an eternity to him. “I don’t know,” she said finally, avoiding his gaze. “All I know is that, at that moment, I longed for her embrace; I craved the sound of her voice, and Daddy’s. There were things I wanted to tell them, to ask them, but there was no time...” Her voice trailed off, and she lowered her head uncertainly.


Vincent thought that his heart would stop beating as the realization hit him that his action may have been one of pure selfishness. “Catherine,” he said, his voice choked with suppressed emotions, “I’m sorry. I had no idea….In fact, I didn’t even think for a second...”


Instantly she was on her knees, placing her hands on his shoulders and looking deep into his eyes. “Vincent, no,” she exclaimed. “I wasn’t telling you this to give you the impression that you should have acted differently. You did the right thing. I can’t thank you enough for saving my life and bringing me back...to you.” She leaned her forehead against his, and he felt tears run down his cheeks. Tentatively, he reached out to pull her close, needing to feel the living reality of her to soothe the raw pain her words had caused. All he could do was hold her, bury his burning face against her shoulder, and hope that his doubts and shame would subside at last.


She shifted slightly in his arms, pressing a soft kiss on his temple. “When I came to and found myself in your arms,” she whispered against his ear, “all I could feel was my deep love for you, Vincent, and I swear to you that there was no place in Heaven or this world where I’d have rather been at that moment.” Her features were alight with her feelings for him as she met his tentative gaze. “Or any moment ever since,” she added softly.


“I remember the peace you felt there,” he said.


“And did you see them, too?” she asked eagerly, searching in his eyes for confirmation.


“No,” he replied, “but I saw the light, or rather heard it…I don’t know. It was blurred somehow. I could not perceive you as clearly as I normally can when you...”


“...when I am in my body,” she finished for him, and he nodded.


“I was not really there,” he explained. “I only felt it through you.”


“Then you can’t tell me if it was real either,” she said, disappointed.


“I have read books on experiences like yours,” he pointed out, “about people who actually died and then returned to life. What you told me resembles their reports in many ways. Not all of those people met somebody, but those who did claimed to have seen an angel, or Jesus, or some Divine Being according to their creed. Many of them were welcomed by people they had loved, deceased friends or family members. All of them saw some kind of light, though, and felt themselves engulfed by comfort and love.”


Catherine had been listening with rapt attention, and at his last words her face had taken on a faraway expression that Vincent found highly disconcerting. This was not like Catherine. Not at all. He hesitated briefly before he finished, “And most of the people who had gone through such an experience were reluctant to return into their bodies.”

 
“I can understand that,” she said dreamily, and he had to look away, lest she see the pain and confusion in his eyes. But then he felt her hand on his chin, gently guiding his gaze to meet hers. “But it wasn’t like that for me,” she added softly. “I had a strong reason to return, and a beautiful one.”


His heartbeat quickened under her intent stare, and he dared not move for fear even his smallest gesture might betray his innermost longing. He closed his eyes, wanting so much to believe that it was possible for him to accept, and return, what she yearned to give him. When he looked again, her full lips were only scant inches away from his, their warmth and softness beckoning to him, inviting him, tempting him to forget…only this once. To know the beauty of her love, if only for a moment.


But he just blinked and tore his eyes away from her face, his heart heavy with her disappointment.


“I, too, died once,” he said abruptly, knowing that he had effectively diverted her attention. “I was still very young back then, and very ill. Father told me that my heart suddenly stopped, and he thought he had lost me. But then it continued beating as if nothing had happened, and I recovered very quickly.”


“And?” she prompted eagerly. “Did you see the light?”


“No,” he said quietly, trying not to let his voice betray how much that fact disconcerted him.


“Maybe you did see it,” she offered, “but couldn’t remember it afterwards.”


“Maybe,” he conceded, hoping she would drop the issue. He already regretted bringing it up.


She extricated herself from his embrace in order to face him more completely. “If you were actually dead
-- and Father is a physician, so he should know -- you must have been there, Vincent,” she insisted gently.


He dropped his gaze, trying to ignore the stab of bitterness that went through his heart. “Unless it is an exclusively human experience,” he rejoined, his voice barely audible.


Catherine remained silent, and so he had to lift his head again to search her face for her response. Her eyes were huge with astonishment, and it warmed him to see that the thought he might not be human was entirely alien to her. Yet, he wished that he were able to take back his words. What she believed him to be could not change what he was, not even for a moment.


“Then you weren’t really out of your body, Vincent,” she said matter-of-factly, and when he didn’t contradict, she continued, “As long as I was trapped in that trunk there was only darkness and terror. The more I struggled to free myself, the more water I swallowed. The throes of death were horrible, and I remember very clearly the instant I succumbed to my fate. The next moment all fear was gone, and I looked down on the area and saw you kneeling on the ground. Your cry of anguish went through me like a knife, and I tried to reach out to you, to tell you that I was okay. But then...he...was there and you killed him.”


Startled, Vincent pulled back. “You saw that?” he asked breathlessly, unsettled by the accuracy of her description of the scene.


“I not only saw it,” she replied, “I felt it
-- through you.”


Vincent’s heart constricted painfully in his chest, and he cast his gaze down in shame. “Then you know that I did not kill him in self-defence, but solely out of rage and revenge,” he murmured dejectedly.


“Yes,” she said simply, taking his hand that rested on his outstretched leg and brushing her cheek lightly against its furred back. “You don’t think that this sets you apart from humanity, do you?” she demanded anxiously, when he wouldn’t speak or even meet her eyes.


“But it wasn’t right,” he thrust out between clenched teeth.


“No, it wasn’t,” she agreed, “yet, it was perfectly understandable at the moment.”

 

Slowly his head came up. “Catherine, I have known much pain in my life, but the pain of feeling you go…destroyed me, extinguished everything that may ever have been human about me. All I wanted was to lash out at the anguish and rip apart the emptiness within myself. In those moments there was no reason left in me. None. When…that man...appeared before me, I couldn’t think anymore. I had no freedom of will.” Self-conscious, Vincent paused, clearing his throat before he added, “I acted like a wounded animal.” Unable to meet her eyes, he looked down and studied their joined hands.


“And then?” she prompted gently.


Heaving a sigh, he made an effort to speak again. “It was strange, but killing suffused me with some kind of strength that had been lost to me before. When I felt...” He swallowed hard before saying the words, “...your death...I simply would have laid down and willed myself to die, heedless of the dangers it would have meant to my world and my family. But your murderer’s death sent me running again. I denied the fact that I could no longer sense you within me. I don’t know what would have happened if you had been beyond rescue.”


“They would have caught you,” Catherine said, her eyes wide with fright as she stared at him wordlessly.


“But that’s not what happened,” he hurried to reassure her. “You survived, and I escaped. And now...”


“...we are here, together,” she finished for him, laying her head on his shoulder. He lifted his arm to pull her closer, but a sudden shyness made him drop it again. He had come so close to losing her, had snatched her from the arms of death, had shared incredibly intense moments of closeness with her, and yet he had a feeling as if she were suddenly out of his reach
-- even more so than ever before. Tears he was unable to suppress welled up in his eyes, and for a moment he wished he could hide in a dark corner and just lick his wounds without having to face Catherine, without being exposed to her gentle understanding and her unconditional acceptance of what he had done.


She must have felt the tension in him because she shifted her weight and got up on her knees, brushing back the curtain of heavy hair from his face and searching for his eyes.


“What is it, Vincent?” she asked softly, but he could only shake his head while he tried to control his labored breathing and slow his rapidly beating heart. Grateful that she didn’t insist on an answer, he held still while she continued stroking his hair. He even allowed himself to be pulled close and rocked gently as if he were a child in need of comfort, and not…whatever it was that he was.


A knock on the door startled them into instant alertness, and Vincent jumped to his feet, his blood pumping through his veins so forcefully that his vision blurred and he swayed slightly. But instantly Catherine was there to support him and push him gently toward her bathroom. Panic seized him at the prospect of being trapped Above in a room without the possibility of escape, and for a moment he actually considered pushing Catherine aside and fleeing out to the balcony and up to the roof of the building. But one look into her pleading eyes told him that he could never do such a thing. She begged him to stay, to trust her to protect him and keep him safe in her home. And so he did.


Hands clenched into taut fists, he strained to hear what was going on in the living room. He heard voices, Catherine’s familiar one and that of a man. Catherine’s emotions flowed calmly, so he knew there was nothing to fear for him. Moments later she reappeared and smiled at him soothingly.


“That was only Joe,” she explained. “He was still worried and wanted to talk with Jen.”


“The dark-haired woman that was with you when you came home?” he asked.


She nodded. “Jenny was supposed to stay with me tonight. She would have stayed at any cost, so I had to confide to her that I wouldn’t be alone.”


Vincent felt his eyebrows rise in surprise. “You told her...” he managed, confused.


“I hinted that I would be with my boyfriend,” she smiled, “and that was exactly what I told Joe. He was very angry that I had sent Jenny away, and insisted on staying himself, but I warned him that the man in my bedroom was very jealous and that he’d better leave quickly. You should have seen his face, Vincent. He actually blushed.”


Vincent swallowed, feeling that he, too, wasn’t far from blushing. Telling Joe that there was a man in her bedroom implied that…Joe would think that…Vincent didn’t dare finish the thought. By now he should be accustomed to people’s ways of teasing one another, of making flippant remarks to ease tension or brighten someone’s mood
-- even about so delicate a matter as having someone in their bedroom. She had referred to him as her “boyfriend”. He was familiar with the term. The young girls Below used it all the time, and sometimes it would seem to him that it was the most important topic of their conversation. It had never occurred to him, though, to see it applied to himself.


He caught Catherine staring up at him pensively. “I was serious, Vincent,” she said solemnly, as if she had read his thoughts. “I meant every word.”


For a moment he found it difficult to follow her train of thought, and it must have shown on his face, for she smiled and took his hand. “I do love you,” she whispered, and when he just continued to stare at her she went on. “I knew what I said back then at the pond, and I meant it. It’s what I’ve been feeling for quite a long time now, but I never spoke about it because I had the distinct impression that you didn’t want to hear it; or rather that it would it would be difficult for you to deal with it.” Giving his hand a gentle squeeze, she added, “Although you must have been aware of my feelings for you.”

 
Vincent’s heart thudded heavily in his chest as he studied Catherine’s upturned face and basked in the warm and steady flow of her emotions. Of course, he had always been aware of her feelings, watching them turn from gratitude to friendship and eventually love. And, yes, Catherine was right, he had been afraid of hearing the words, because he knew that -- once they had been acknowledged -- their feelings for each other would be all the more difficult to control. That was why he remained silent -- even now.


“We don’t have to discuss this in my bathroom, though,” she said lightly, tugging at his hand to make him follow her back to the living room. They resumed their places by the fire, facing each other without touching. There was a shyness between them now, a distance as he had always feared there would be, were they to speak about more than mere friendship between them.


He could sense Catherine’s uncertainty and her increasing fatigue, and he knew it was time for him to go. Yet, he could not bring himself to leave her like that. Not after all that they had been through. 


“Catherine,” he managed hoarsely, “you must rest.” And when she started to protest, he added, “I will stay with you a little while longer.” Only a short time ago, he would have thought it presumptuous of him to suggest that he’d stay to make her feel better. Now he could suddenly do so without inhibition. There may be a new shyness between them, but there was a new openness as well.


“Will you hold me?” she asked, and when he nodded, she rose and went to her bedroom to get some pillows and blankets. As he helped her arrange them comfortably in front of the fireplace, the thought of holding her in his arms made him tremble. He remembered all too clearly the time she had spent Below after her father’s death. Holding her as she cried herself to sleep had been exquisitely beautiful -
- and at the same time exceedingly painful.


He eased himself down on the bed they had made on the floor, and she came to him, snuggling against him and tucking her head in the curve of his neck beneath his chin. He knew that she must hear his wildly beating heart and he thought, incoherently, that it was not so much the pain inherent in their love that he was afraid of, but the beauty.


‘I’m sure you didn’t leave your body when your heart ceased to beat,” she said sleepily, “because you knew that your time hadn’t come yet.”


He was touched, but also a little disconcerted, by her effort to console him, to convince him of his humanity and deny the possibility that he might be something different altogether. But that was not a subject to be opened tonight.


“Sleep now,” he breathed against the crown of her head, smoothing back a strand of hair that had fallen across her cheek. Swiftly she turned her face to press a kiss on his palm, and he was helpless to suppress a soft moan elicited by the moist warmth of her lips on his skin. She arched her neck and gazed up at him silently.


He moaned again, burrowing his face against her throat. “Catherine,” he whispered hoarsely, “please don’t look at me that way. I...”


“I can feel you now,” she said suddenly, “within myself.”


His head snapped up and he straightened, alarmed. What could she possibly mean by that? Surely she couldn’t...


“I’ve always wondered how it might be to sense your feelings the way you can sense mine,” she went on, never taking her eyes from his face. “When you arrived on my balcony, I knew it. I could sense your turmoil
-- and your doubts.”


Vincent’s mind swam and he lowered his gaze. “When did it begin?” he asked quietly.


“The moment you wrapped your cloak around me and held me in your arms,” she replied softly. “I felt so calm and peaceful at that moment, so I knew the pain and fear and the desperate need to keep me warm and alive had to be yours.”


He shifted uneasily, and she cupped his chin with her hand to make him look at her. “I felt the depth of your love, Vincent, and the beauty of it overwhelmed me. When I told you that I loved you, the inadequacy and insufficiency of the words made me sad. It is so good to know that you can feel the truth beyond the words.”


She leaned toward him then, and he made no attempt to pull back as she touched her lips to his
-- lightly, tenderly. Yet, something in him prevented him from relaxing enough to enjoy that first shy kiss.


Leaning back slightly, he regarded her solemn features. “You said you had felt my rage as I killed the man who…almost murdered you,” he whispered, and she nodded.

 
“But I didn’t feel you within me, then,” she pointed out. “It was rather like I had been inside you at that moment. Anyway, when I was back in my body, I could still feel you so clearly as if we were one.” Tracing his bottom lip with her thumb, she added huskily, “I still can.”


Vincent could feel a blush rise along his neck, for her caress was doing things to him that he would have preferred to keep to himself. Suddenly the realization that he would no longer be able to hide anything from her, hit him with full force. He was up and on his feet, pacing the room before he knew it. “We must learn to control it,” he heard himself say desperately. “We must not let it destroy us. We...”


He flinched as her arms stole around his waist from behind. She had risen so quietly that he hadn’t even noticed her approach. “Hush,” she soothed. “There is nothing to fear.”


Slowly, he turned within the circle of her arms, deliberately meeting her imploring gaze. “For you there is,” he said hoarsely while his hands came up to seize her shoulders gently. “For you there is.”


Catherine shook her head in desperate denial. “No, there isn’t,” she insisted. “I know you.”


Needing some distance between them for what he had to say, Vincent extricated himself from her embrace and stepped back. “Catherine,” he began uncertainly, “there are…things…within me that I must keep locked deep inside myself in order to maintain my inner balance…and preserve the safety of those I live with. There are times when these…things…threaten to surface and swallow all the light in me, leaving only shadows. You do not know these shadows, Catherine, because I never let you see them. You have seen me kill, and you think that it is something you can understand, even if it happens out of revenge and not just in defending those I love. Those are human traits, you think, and maybe you are right. But there is more. A darkness so profound that it terrifies me to even think of it. It’s a constant battle to keep the gates shut, to stay within the relative safety of that which I can control. But always, always, the shadows are pressing in upon me, and I fight to drive them back. I can’t take you there, Catherine. It must never happen.”


Tears gathered in her eyes as she stood motionless before him, her hands hanging at her sides, her fists clenched just as tightly as his own. Silently, he chastised himself for bringing up such a trying subject when everything about her spoke of her deep fatigue and exhaustion. How could he have been so thoughtless and so selfish?


He moved closer, then, taking her cold hands in his and rubbing them gently. She shivered, and instantly he pulled her to him, without thinking, without weighing whether it was advisable or not.


“We’d better resume this conversation another time,” he suggested softly. “You need to sleep now.”


To his great relief she nodded against his chest and allowed herself to be led over to their bed in front of the fireplace. They lay down together, and he held her close until her deep and regular breathing told him that she had fallen asleep at last.


But Vincent could find no sleep. His thoughts reeled, and he reprimanded himself for having talked too much. How could he have scared her so? He should have thought about it first, searched for a way of keeping her safe by controlling the bond somehow. There must be a way. There must be. Certainly he could not simply break it, cut it off, lest he endanger her by being unable to come to her aid when she needed him. Perhaps he could dim it just enough to give her newly heightened perception access only to feelings he could control. Perhaps he could somehow reinforce the gates that held the darkness at bay. Perhaps he could...


“Don’t struggle so,” a soft voice said, and he shifted his head to get a glimpse of Catherine’s face. Her eyes were closed, and just when he thought he had only imagined hearing the words, she added, “I will always be with you now, Vincent. For better or worse. This is our fate. It always has been.” Her head came up and she looked at him solemnly. “Whatever this darkness may be that you fear so much, you will have to let me share it. But, Vincent, there is so much light to be shared as well.”


Vincent felt tears running down his face at the confidence and love that shone from her eyes, and she kissed them away soothingly with utmost tenderness. He wanted so much to believe her, to simply accept that she would always be with him now and that everything would be well. And the words of doubt he did not speak made his throat ache.


“You will learn to believe it,” Catherine said, running her fingers caressingly along his neck, and he relaxed a little. “Can you feel me now?” she asked, covering his eyes with one hand, as if to shut out any visual perception in order to make him more receptive for the things going on inside him.


He smiled and obediently turned his attention inward, focusing on the bond, and the beauty and sweetness he encountered there sent a warm wave of excitement through his veins. She kissed him then, and for once he didn’t think but allowed himself to simply feel, trusting her, loving her, and
-- to his own amazement -- kissing her back. Slowly at first, tentatively, but soon a little more boldly.

 
Her delight washed over him, filling him with serenity and joy, and -- for the first time in ages -- with a certain measure of peace.


He held her close, cupping the back of her head with one large hand while the other stroked her slender shoulders. “I love you,” he whispered into her hair.


“I know,” she breathed, her face still buried against his chest, and although he could not see her smile, it radiated into him, reassuring him, warming him.


“We’ve endured…much,” he said suddenly, feeling the ghosts of his worst nightmare recede a little farther into the shadows. Happiness was filling every part of him, yet he knew that it wouldn’t always be this way, that the darkness could return at any time.

“Yes, we have,” he heard Catherine’s voice close to his ear. “And I know in the deepest part of who I am that whatever happens, Vincent, we will endure.” She raised her head, and there was a moist flicker in her eyes as she added throatily, “We will.”

Magic I Felt You Go

 


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