Chapter 7: And Echoed in the Well of Silence (PG)

Catherine turned in her sleep, dreaming of a bright field of sunflowers. Vincent was beside her, holding her hand and the summer's heat beat down on them. It was hot, so very hot and the yellow of the flowers burned her eyes....the sun was so fiery....why was it so warm? Some inner warning of danger made her her eyes snap open and she stared at Vincent. “Oh, no,” she said.

It was cold in the chamber but the heat of Vincent's body burned her. She threw on a shawl over her nightgown and rushed into Father's chamber. “Father,” Catherine said, “please wake up.”

He came awake almost instantly, a doctor's reflexes never forgotten. “What is it, Catherine?”

“I think Vincent's running a fever,” she said.

“A fever, you say?” Father said, rubbing his eyes briefly. “I was afraid of that.”

She raised her eyebrows. “You were?”

“It's probably from those chest wounds---we cleaned them but they were quite deep, you remember.”

Catherine nodded. Those wounds had been the deepest, the ragged tears in the skin making them hard to close, and finally Father had just settled for flushing the wounds out with saline as best he could and bandaging them lightly. She watched as he grabbed his doctor's bag and followed him into Vincent's chamber.

Vincent's skin was flushed, dark with fever. Father lifted one of the gauze bandages and pressed gently, stopping when he felt Vincent flinch and snarl in his sleep. “I know it hurts. I'm sorry.” Father turned to Catherine. “I'm afraid he's developed an infection in those wounds.” He stood, banging out a quick message on the pipes. “I'm going to send someone above with a message for Peter. He needs antibiotics, and quickly. We've run out.”

She tore her gaze from Vincent's face. “I can go, if you want.”

Father shook his head. “No, I appreciate it, but...no. Vincent needs you more, here.”

Catherine nodded. “What can I do, then?”

“Stay with him. I'll send Geoffrey up to reach Peter.” Father placed one hand on Vincent's forehead. “You're right. His fever is quite high.”

“Can you give him anything for it?” Catherine asked.

Father shook his head. “No. He reacts badly to many medications. We'll have to bring the fever down some other way until the antibiotics come.” He stood and banged out a second message on the pipes and a few short minutes later, Mary came, along with Elijah and Paul. Geoffrey arrived just behind them, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “What's going on, Father?” Geoffrey asked.

“I need you to take a message to Peter. Can you do that, Geoffrey?”

The boy---no, young man, Catherine thought, wondering when he'd grown so tall---nodded. “No problem, Father. I'll find him for you.” And just like that, he was gone.

Father turned his attention to Elijah and Paul. “Can you please lift him? Catherine, Mary, we'll need to get the quilts out from under him.”

She watched as Elijah and Paul gently lifted Vincent up, pulling off his nightshirt and then she and Mary pulled the quilts out from under him, folding them neatly on the chair. With a muffled groan, Vincent was settled back on the mattresses. Father filled a wash-basin from the dry sink in the corner and dampened some cloths with the cool water. Together they ran the cooling water over Vincent's body, turning the golden fur dark.

After what could have been a few minutes or an hour, Father stopped and placed his hand on Vincent's forehead. “No change,” he said, worrying at his lower lip.

Catherine dampened another cloth. “Then we'll just keep going,” she said, running the cloth behind Vincent's neck and watching as the water trickled down the strong lines of his jaw. “What do we do if this doesn't work?”

“It has to,” Father said. “We don't have many other options.”

***

The morning wore into the afternoon as Vincent’s temperature continued to rise. Geoffrey had sent a note down through a helper; Peter was in emergency surgery and not expected back anytime soon. Mouse had brought bags of ice from the community’s freezers and they’d applied the ice near the major arteries. Then, and only then, had his temperature begun to fall. “I don’t understand this infection,” Father said. “He usually heals so quickly. I didn’t see this coming.”

Catherine placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s not your fault that he got an infection, Father. You did all you could.”

Father’s grey eyes looked at her, and then past her, into another time, another place. “No, if I’d done that, we might not be here.”

The brittle edge of bitterness in his words startled Catherine. “I don’t understand.”

“Three times I had the chance to kill Paracelsus and three times I didn’t. And now my son is paying the price for my cowardice.”

Paracelsus. Just hearing the name was enough to make Catherine's stomach clench, remembering all Vincent had endured at his hands. That he'd kidnapped her from her balcony and tried to kill her was secondary, she thought, to the torture Vincent had experienced. “Father, I need to know,” she began, and stopped, unsure of how to phrase her next words. She’d faced hardened criminals in court, men with dead eyes and hollow souls, but words failed her now.

“What do you need to know, Catherine?” Father asked. “Anything you ask, I’ll tell you.” His eyes settled on Vincent’s flushed face. “I owe you that much.”

There was no other way, she thought, to lance the poison except to be quick about it. “Why didn’t you tell Vincent about Paracelsus? About Anna? He’s lived with half a story all his life and if you’d just told him what really happened, maybe…”

“Maybe he’d not be lying here? Maybe he’d not have been driven to the very edge of madness?” Father’s voice held no self-pity. “You haven’t said anything I haven’t thought a thousand times since.” He paused. “The short answer is, I was ashamed.”

“Why shame? Anna’s death wasn’t your fault,” Catherine said.

“It was,” Father said. “I made a mistake, a dreadful one that cost a good woman her life. Anna, you see, knew that John had become unstable, but he was quite skilled in hiding it from the rest of us. When Anna first came to me…I turned her away, thinking she was exaggerating. John was my friend; surely he couldn't be capable of such things. So I sent her back to him, and left her---and Vincent---in the care of a madman. John killed her the next night and would have escaped with Vincent had her body not been found first. No, my dear, you can’t accuse me of worse than I’ve done.”

“And then after…” Catherine prompted, knowing there was more; the unspoken words pulsed between them on a current of grief and ancient pain.

“And then after,” Father continued. “It was my own vanity, my need to be perfect to lead this community. Too many people depended on me to keep them safe; I didn’t want to admit to anyone, least of all Vincent, that my stupidity, my arrogance had killed a young woman who had trusted me with her life and his own.” He paused. “Anna loved him so and would have been his mother, had she lived. How could I tell him I took that away from him?”

“Paracelsus did that, Father. No one else.”

He shook his head. “Who’s more responsible, Catherine? The cancer or the one who lets the cancer continue? After we found Anna’s body and discovered what John had planned for Vincent…we expelled him. The argument was made that we should have executed him, thrown him into the abyss for his crimes. But I argued against it, shouted down those calling for blood, because I didn’t want the community’s healing to be based on revenge. And John had been my friend...once. If I’d known then....” Father shrugged then and his eyes were old and tired. “I did what I thought was best. But I’ve been wrong a great many times, Catherine.”

She looked at Vincent, remembering his shattered, stunned agony the night he killed Paracelsus. The anger twisted and roiled inside her.”You could have told him later. Even when Paracelsus resurfaced, you still could have told him. Instead you sent Vincent out---alone!---to face him without knowing the full truth of what Paracelsus was capable of. Father, how could you put him at risk like that?”

“I was wrong,” Father said. “I don’t have any explanation, except that once the lie was told, the truth left half-revealed, it was easier to keep going than to admit I’d lied to him all those years.” He ran a hand through his hair. “So many times, I’d look at him and want to start explaining….but I couldn’t. I’d almost convinced myself that it wouldn’t matter in the end, that Paracelsus would give up, find a new target for his obsessions, and I'd never need to tell Vincent just how wrong I'd been.” He gave a short bark of laughter, utterly without humor. “I’d forgotten that John was always a much better chess player than I.”

“Do you think there's still a risk from his followers?” Catherine asked.

Father shrugged. “Oh, they're still below, if that's what you mean. But Paracelsus was very much the dominant force behind his community. We've been monitoring the message traffic from their pipes; they're disordered, in confusion, without him to guide them. That may change, of course, and we'll have to remain vigilant, but I think most of the danger is past.”

Catherine nodded. She leaned towards him, intense. “Father, when Vincent comes out of this---and he will---you have to tell him what you've told me. All of it. No matter how much it hurts you.”

“I know,” Father replied. “And I hope that in his great heart, there will be forgiveness for the pain I've caused him.”

***

It was raining, Vincent noticed, a hot steaming rain that evaporated almost as soon as it hit the purple grass. The Other made a wordless sound of disgust. “I don't really enjoy being wet,” his twin said wiping off the rain as it dripped from his dark, ragged bangs. “I don' t suppose you'd care to go inside?”

“Inside where?” Vincent asked, wiping the heated rain off his damp forehead. There didn't seem to be a shelter around.

And in an instant, they were on Catherine's balcony. The Other opened the balcony doors---not a difficult task, since they were only barely hanging on their hinges. “Come in,” he gestured.

Vincent felt an instinctive recoil, both at the sight of the damage he'd caused in his delirium just a few days before, and at the thought of entering Catherine's apartment. “I can't.”

“You didn't have a problem a few days ago,” the Other observed. “And you know the mate wouldn't mind. What gives?” Without waiting for an answer, the Other gave one sharp tug on Vincent’s hand and all but yanked him into Catherine’s apartment.

Vincent blinked. “Are you sure I have the right apartment?”

The Other laughed. “This is what Catherine sees when she dreams of us with her.”

It was not the interior of Catherine’s apartment as he remembered it, pale interiors and clean lines. This was a cottage library, full of overstuffed furniture and bookshelves filled to the ceilings. “It’s the library at her father’s place in Connecticut,” the Other said.

Connecticut. Vincent winced. “One more place I’ve failed her,” he said.

The Other stared at him, hard. “Are you the same person as you were then?”

Vincent shook his head. “Then don’t assume,” the Other continued, “that you’ll never see this place. Your love, the love you share, has the power to remake your reality and shake all your assumptions. Think on it, will you?”

Vincent nodded and was startled when his twin handed him a towel. “You’re dripping on the hardwood floors.”

“So are you,” Vincent replied.

“Nope, I’m not. Figments don’t drip,” the Other said, grinning.

Vincent dried himself off, and sat gingerly on the leather couch. “It's comfortable, isn't it?” the Other said, propping one booted leg on the coffee table.

Vincent nodded. “So why am I here?” he asked.

The Other shrugged. “Isabella. Catherine. Why you're still letting old fears of our beastliness run your life.”

Vincent folded his arms. “Isabella left to attend college in California. She was never afraid of me.”

“No, but you certainly were afraid of her, weren't you? Afraid that if you told her how you felt, that she'd reject you. Or were you more afraid of Father's reaction?”

A fire appeared in the stone fireplace, burning brightly. Vincent stared into it, remembering. “Isabella was never going to stay below; there was no point in telling her how I felt. I'd just have burdened her with something she didn't need to know.”

The Other rolled his eyes. “Oh, please. Are those Father's words I hear?” Before Vincent could answer, the Other plunged on. “Vincent, Father has done his best to raise us. But he's also put us in an impossible position, insisting that you be only half of what you are, that you be 'normal.'”

“He never---” Vincent began.

“Never what? Came out and said that? No. But how many times did he break up our horseplay with the other boys in the tunnels because he was afraid we would hurt them? How often did we make him uncomfortable with our differences---what we could hear and smell and see and sense? You know he stopped trying to measure such things, even in our medical records. We made him uncomfortable.”

“Yes,” Vincent said. There was no denying such a thing; the smell of Father's unease had been dense and thick whenever some oddity, some strangeness had occurred.

“And our visions---he has disregarded those too, especially when they concerned the mate,” his twin said.

“He's a man of science,” Vincent said. “How could he be expected to---”

“To believe? Forget believing, then, how about trusting us, because we are his son and he should know we don't exaggerate?” The Other snorted. “When that man, Stephen Bass, was stalking Catherine and we had a vision of her danger, Father dismissed the visions as simple jealousy. Sure. Because we always get precognitive visions from mere jealousy.”

I was jealous,” Vincent admitted, finding for the first time no shame in admitting it, or in acknowledging the feeling of how much he had disliked Stephen Bass. “But I...the danger was quite real.”

“It was,” the Other agreed. “And when we returned to the tunnels, what did Father say? Did he apologize for being wrong?”

“No, he didn't,” Vincent said. “In fact, he was quite determined to ignore the whole incident.”

“Of course,” his twin responded. “Because heaven forbid Father should ever admit that he was wrong, that you were capable of things outside his experience.”

Vincent chuckled dryly. “I've always been outside his experience. Outside everyone's, for that matter. To say the least.”

“So we are,” the Other agreed. “But Father knew us and he should have known better.”

“Catherine didn't,” Vincent said.

“Not then, no. And it hurt terribly,” the Other replied. “But it was all very new to her that we could know such things. Father had no such excuse.”

Vincent started at the touch of a clawed hand on his shoulder. “Brother, you have to be content in yourself, in your abilities, in whatever we are, before you can be whole.”

“I know,” Vincent said. “I'm trying to learn.”

The Other chuckled. “You'll do.”

***

Father awoke instantly at the touch of Catherine's hand on his arm. “Father, look. His fever has broken.”

“Oh, thank God,” Father murmured, touching his son's forehead and feeling nothing but the clammy dampness of the end of a fever. Vincent was sleeping soundly again, holding Catherine's hand tightly in his own.

He sat down heavily in his chair. “Catherine, I was so afraid---”

“I know,” she said. God, didn't she just? “But you'll have that chance to talk. Don't waste it.”

He stared at her as if seeing her for the first time. “I won't.”

Click here for Chapter 8....

16 comments:

Vicky said...

I "almost" feel sorry for Father... your work is done! LOL kidding. This was clever and touching, he truly needed to start waking up.

What a terribly fascinating journey this is for poor Vincent. I am so hooked! Thanks, Krista.

Big hugs.

Krista said...

Hey Vicky,

Well, so you know---this isn't National Let's Pick on Father Day. :-P There is a LOT he has to come to terms with..and yes, he meant well, but that saying about the "road to hell being paved with good intentions" is as true here as it is anywhere else.

Thanks for reading--I'm so happy you're enjoying this :)

New York City Utopia said...

So did I.
Glad those awake -and I mean Father of course- are doing some fruitful soul-searching of their own!

Claire

Krista said...

Hi Claire! :)

Glad you enjoyed it :)

Yeah, everyone's got some heavy thinking to do---Catherine has, regarding her job. It was Father's turn to do some soul-searching while Vincent and his Other do their version of male bonding :-)

Thanks for reading and commenting :)

Anonymous said...

You knew I'd have something to add, don't say you didn't! Well yes, Catherine had too, but also it was Vincent himself who put her in the line many, many times, unintentionally as it may have been (actually very few of those instances were job-related). Shared responsibilities there, in my opinion of course.

OMG don't you get sick of me? LOL!
Love you!

Krista said...

Hi Vicky *grin* I knew it was you. :) And again, I'm not saying that Catherine is anywhere near as responsible for Vincent's mental state as she thinks she is---but I do think, in a crisis like this, everyone would be evaluating what they could have done better.

C and V did share the responsibility together, but I can't blame her for wanting to make some changes to protect him as best she can.

Hugs,

Krista :)

Vicky said...

Oh, I definitely agree with you there! By all means, she would do all that she can to lesser the risks. I'm just saying that, even if it's a good start, unfortunately it's not a given that those risks would disappear entirely with her leaving her job. It's just never so simple with them, is it? It just breaks my heart that she'd think it's all her fault/responsibility, (like that %#$& line in TRI).

Arabesque, China Moon, Alchemist, TRIH, NIBAC, Outsiders... (And none of those are even the ones I meant he put her on the line!) It comes with beingg who they are I guess.

Ok, rant over... for now? LOL!

Krista said...

Hey Vicky (again! :))

Oh, no, it's not a given that the risks would completely disappear---and she knows that (our Catherine is no dummy :-P) But I think the risks of being shot, stabbed, etc. would drop drastically. :)

Besides, I think they've earned some peace and quiet after all this. :)

Hugs,

Krista :)

RomanticOne said...

I may be in the minority here but sometimes Father is such a whiner, i.e., Arabesque when he whined to Vincent about doing the best he could out of love but still blaming Lisa for everything. I just wanted him to man up, admit he's not perfect and deal with it. On a positive note, I loved the scene in the library in Connecticut. Hope that one becomes a reality for them. Looks like some of Catherine's and Vincent's dreams may be crossing over - the field of flowers in the sun revealing a fever. Can't wait to see what the next chapter brings.

Vicky said...

You're definitely not in the minority, R1 dear: Devin, anyone?

Krista said...

Hi R1,

Um, you're definitely not in the minority here. LOL. I'd like to think that if the end of this, his revelations to Catherine will be the start of some very long overdue conversations between he and Vincent. And frankly, Father has a lot to answer for--Devin, anyone?

You know, I haven't decided yet if "Fall" and this story will occur in the same universe...but I'd like to think that in all their realities, Connecticut will be a reality for them. :-)

Glad you liked it---and thanks so much for commenting. :)

Krista said...

LOL, Vicky---get out of my head :-)

Sonia Who? said...

I can see why Father has trouble sleeping; he's consumed with his guilt for the pain his decisions have caused his son.

Interesting. How does the Other know what Catherine dreams images are?
I like the Other's wit and humor.

Yes, Father definitely have always been uncomfortable with Vincent's differences and would rather pretend they didn't exist. And he always rather ignore any incident with Vincent he didn't like and never talk about it.

And yes, Vincent needs to accept himself, all of himself, before he can be whole. I'm glad he's now trying to.

I ditto Vicky's first comment.
You got a laugh out of me when you said, "Vincent and his Other do their version of male bonding." ;-)

I totally agree with you that both Catherine and Vincent share the responsibility for what happened. Like Vicky said, not every instance when Vincent came to her rescue and killed to save her life was related to her job, but even if it just had happened a couple of time, that would have been too much. I think it's past the time she changed to a work assignment that will not put her in danger again, and therefor protect Vincent from more pain, not to mention minimize the chance of him getting injured, killed or captured. It doesn't matter that it's not a given that all the risks would completely disappear; nothing in life is that certain (except of course their love). Like Krista said, the risks of being shot, stabbed, hurt would drop drastically. She should do anything in her power to protect him and keep him safe, and that means she has to do anything to keep herself safe, or as safe as possible.
And I don't think she thinks it's all her fault/responsibility; I'm sure she knows Father has a big share of the responsibility, not to mention Paracelsus.

You're doing a great job writing this engrossing story; I'm really enjoying the ride and looking forward to the rest of the journey.

Vicky said...

Well, the Other know what Catherine dreams images are simply because the other is none other than Vincent... and Vincent knows.

Three Writers said...

How I don't want to stop here but ..
Thank you, Krista, for this fascinating time with Vincent and his 'conscience'???!!! I'm eager to return!
Love, Nancy

Krista said...

Hi Nancy,

Glad you've enjoyed it so far---thanks for stopping by ;-)

-Krista :)

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