2:38 A.M.

by BeeDrew

This story originally appeared in the now out-of-print fanzine Heart of the Minstrel I, in 1990. Beauty and the Beast and its characters are owned by Witt-Thomas Productions and Republic Pictures. This story is presented merely for the enjoyment of fans, and won't make much sense unless you've seen the episode Though Lovers Be Lost.

My baby wakes me with a roll and a kick. I push myself up on one elbow, eyes seeking the blue glow of the clock on the beside table.

2:38 a.m.

Gently I rub the taut swell of my stomach, trying to calm the restless baby within. I speak soothing nonsense words to it, as though it were the child I comfort, instead of myself.

Lying here in the quiet, interminable spaces of the night, I wonder what I could have done to prevent this.

Nothing, a small voice whispers. How and where could I have skewed events in a different direction? Should I not have loved Vincent, not have conceived his baby so my captor would have no reason to hold me? Should I have turned away from Joe, lying there broken in his hospital bed?

No, and no. I made my choices out of the deepest part of myself; out of love, and truth, and duty. I could not be less than I am--less than Vincent has helped me to become--in these two crucible years we've had. Together we have walked through fire, and become in the burning something eternal, unbreakable. . .something that has never been.

I have not one regret, except that I never told Vincent he is to be a father.

A thousand times I've cursed myself for letting the chance pass by. Another time, I said, never imagining it would be our last time together. He was so despondent, mourning what he'd lost, and I wanted to tell him in peace, in love--I wanted his first moments of fatherhood to be joyous. Now he may never know at all, because I pushed it too far, took one too many chances. . . . How could I have guessed that John would betray me?. . .Oh, Vincent. We were so close to our happy life.

It has been about six months, as closely as I can figure. I keep track of time with tiny scratches in the wood of the headboard, but those first days were drug-hazed. My window tells me it's fall now--a season blazing with color as the world dies into winter. It was spring when he took me.

I still marvel that he has succeeded in this. Between them Joe and Vincent--even Elliot--must be tearing the city apart. But they can't find me, since I am in none of their worlds. I am in his world.

His name is Gabriel.

I heard one of the guards say it as they escorted me--with forced gentleness--back to my room after one of my attempts to escape. I jammed the door lock with a tine broken from a fork and got halfway down to the next level before they caught me. Doubtless they had security cameras--I guessed as much before I began--but I had to try. Now I eat with spoons, and one more hope is dead.

In the beginning, struggling against him seemed important. I fought the drugs, the questions, the examinations, because all the time I believed that he could not really succeed in keeping me captive; that if I kept fighting, he could not tear away my will, my power over my own destiny.

Now I know he can.

He has stolen almost all the choices, leaving only these: Live, or not. Give life to my child, or not. And like the very bones of truth, I realize that it's not the struggle that's important, but survival. Gabriel intends to kill me as soon as he has my baby in his hands--I know this; I can feel it, and I'm frightened. I'm too large for six months--I don't think it will be long now. Don't be so impatient, little one, I want to tell the tiny life within. Don't struggle so to be free of me. While you're inside my body, you're safe. I must survive long enough, somehow, to tell Vincent that we have a child, so he can protect it if I am not there.

Vincent. It is Vincent who keeps me alive now. I breathe his name like air, whisper it like a talisman against fear and despair. It's strange--I am more free to love him now than ever. There are no distractions, no conflicts between his world and mine, no limits other than the physical. I can simply lie here and love him with all that I am, and cherish him in my heart as I cherish the life he placed within my body.

I doubt he remembers it, our night together--when life was born out of death, and we conceived our baby. He was so far from himself; he was submerged in that other side--the side he fights, the side he denies. The side he finally let me love. I've wanted to love the wildness in him for a long time. At last, in weakness and pain, he let me see and touch the beast. And as I have always known it would, our love gentled him, tempered that raging power even in passion. Our night was beautiful, so beautiful that it's almost painful to remember, lying here apart from him.

In the days that followed he reclaimed himself, becoming again the Vincent I know best--but not entirely. He was changed. His descent into darkness formed a chasm so wide between what was and what is that he can't remember his passage from one to the other. And the bond is gone.

Without it, I am truly alone--cast back on my own strength, and forced to test it as I never have before. Our love lives, but the bond is dead . . . a memory only, that sweet resonance. Forged in pain, it was lost in pain. How glib I was, dismissing his anguish at its loss. I told him to have faith that it would return, that perhaps it was no longer needed. My words mock me.

Perhaps, though, this aloneness is right, and fair. Who can grow who never faces herself, without another to be lost in? Who can be whole who has never stood apart? With hours of thought and searching behind me, I now know so much that could have helped us, had we been given time.

I began to know the truth when Spirko threatened Vincent. I said to Father, What he does, he does in my name. But it was more than that. A part of Vincent's ferocity and power belongs to me. These are my hands, I told him, to soothe his pain. And they are no less mine in violence than in love. He did not kill for me. I killed through him.

The knife attack was a watershed, an unheralded split between girl and woman, and the rape of my spirit forced me to choose a new path--one that bonded us in all aspects, dark and light. The darker face of the bond has always been there, but I refused to see it. Vincent, once again, took up the burden of guilt and shame. I believed I was stepping outside the circle of my father's protection, learning to stand on my own two feet.

And so I was--but I was also stepping into Vincent's protection, into his care. Without realizing it, I brought with me intact that feeling of a charmed existence: It can't happen to me, I'm safe, I'm secure. It was as if the power over myself that I lost in that van had come back to me. It came back large, strong, and clawed; I could call it at will, and it was ready to defend me until death. I held to that feeling even as I learned to love Vincent for himself.

Looking back, I know he didn't fight all my battles--but he shouldered more of the risk than was good for me. There was not enough fear left; I had such faith in him and myself that any risk seemed justifiable. It was a grave mistake, for which he paid, my poor Vincent. He paid dearly, and so do I.

My deepest fear is that our child will pay, as well. I know it's a boy, Vincent's son; my heart's dearest wish. He is strong, kicking beneath my ribs. Sometimes I feel as if my whole body pulses with this new life, and I stand still, and wrap my arms around that feeling, and think of my baby's father.

I have to fight to hold on to the thought of Vincent; to stop the frantic maelstrom of my thoughts when they turn to darkness--a soft, velvet darkness that seeps through my soul, robbing me of hope. He will never come for you, it whispers. Your baby will know no other father than Gabriel. The panic, the pain of it--

But that's not what I believe, in my heart, where my faith in Vincent lives. He will come. I know he will. So I wait. Sometimes I am calm; sometimes I give in to anger and frustration. I had a life! A life full of purpose and family and love and work. Now I have this room, and my baby, and memories. And I wait.

He knows it, the man who holds me prisoner. That's why he's given me the clock. There's nothing else in the room that isn't necessary to maintain and safeguard my body--sheets and a comforter to warm me; a light so I don't stumble and fall on my way to the bathroom. But I have the clock, to remind me that I am only marking time until the baby is born.

In my world, I was a person of importance--wealthy, successful, loved. Here, I am less than human. I'm an animal--a breeding female, ripe with life for Gabriel to harvest. And in realizing this, I've finally come to know Vincent's torment. All his life, he's been regarded by some as subhuman, unworthy of respect. Is this what he feels, this hopeless horror?

His world has always been contained by walls and ceilings, its limits painfully visible. Like Vincent, I am so close to life and freedom--but they are beyond my reach.

Still, I've learned to cope. The first months were horrible, beyond imagining. After the drugs wore off I felt as if I were being slowly suffocated. I talked to myself, I paced, I raged. Without Vincent, I would surely have gone mad. But I didn't, because he read to me.

While we were together, we read for many hours. Beginning with Dickens, we explored far and wide through words. I reach into myself, and his voice comes to me clearly. It was the first part of him I knew, the first part I loved. And I remember so much, because I need it so desperately. Vincent's voice drives back the roar of the silence in this room, when seconds are hours and minutes are years.

Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage . . .The king of all the wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all. . .One fire burns out another's burning, one pain is lessn'd by another's anguish. . . .

Snippets only, scraps of our life together. Sometimes, though, it's as if I've fallen into a waking dream. I feel I need only turn my head to see him beside me, reading whole passages.

When love beckons to you, follow him,

Though his ways are hard and steep.

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him,

Though his voice may shatter your dreams

As the north wind lays waste the garden.

A full moon hangs outside, filling up the wide window. Silver light spills into my room, but the vertical blinds block it, laying bars across my bed. Across my soul.

I rise, ponderously, and go to pull the blinds aside. Unfettered moonlight washes over me, and I wonder if Vincent is standing somewhere, looking up, sharing this moon with me.

Author's Note: Catherine's remembered verses come from To Althea: From Prison, by Richard Lovelace; Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak; Romeo and Juliet I, ii, 47, by Shakespeare; and The Prophet, by Kahil Gibran.