Sleep, My Love
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. This is my "she's not dead" story, and it won't make much sense unless you have seen the Beauty and the Beast episode Though Lovers Be Lost. The sequel is Surfacing.
Inhuman. It was inhuman, what they'd done to her.
The doctor's hands shook as he slid the needle into the rubber cap of the morphine and drew the dose into the syringe. Dear God, if she'd only told Gabriel what he'd wanted to know, months ago . . . but she had resisted, fought the influence of the drugs amazingly. And in the end, as always when one opposed Gabriel, resistance had been in vain.
Enough. Finish it off, quickly.
His soul cringed from the words, but there was nothing in him that was stronger than his fear of Gabriel. Not mercy, not compassion. Nothing.
The others had gone to the roof with the baby, fleeing the menace of the creature that had supposedly fathered it. He would follow in a few moments.
Behind him, the woman lay, still tied to the birthing chair. Her skin was white with exhaustion, her damp hair plastered to her head. She was unable to gather even the strength to plead with him for her baby. Had she heard Gabriel's command? Did she know what he was about to do?
He turned and approached her. Years of habit had him reaching for cotton and alcohol to swab her skin before injecting her, but he checked himself. Infection was hardly a consideration, now.
"What is that?" she whispered, eyes lifting to him.
He was shaking badly now, and nausea swam at the back of his throat. He knew his hands would be too clumsy and slow to manage the rubber tubing for an intravenous injection. He slid the needle through her skin and into a muscle. Her death would be slower, this way. He was sorry.
"You won't suffer. I promise." He turned and fled to the stairway, knowing he would carry to his dying day the stricken horror in her eyes. His breath sawed in and out of his lungs as he climbed and the pounding of his feet on the metal stairs seemed to chant murderer--murderer--
He could not climb fast enough to leave behind the accusation in those wide green eyes, the eyes that had held him silently guilty for her torment since the first questioning session. A thought nagged at him, something he'd wondered about months ago. He heard again his own voice saying, Her resistance is remarkable.
He sprinted across the concrete toward the helicopter. Its blades were already whirling, and the sight of the man waiting to usher him into it made his blood freeze.
Surely he'd given her enough morphine, surely. . . . It would be absorbed into her bloodstream from the site of injection, slowly shutting down her system until her brain no longer told her heart to beat and her lungs to draw breath. Surely he'd given her enough. If he had not, Gabriel would kill him. And there would be no one to promise him he would not suffer.
He was certain she was dead, or dying. She had to be.
Part 2 of 2: The Journey
She did not belong here. She was to cross over. Mother and Daddy were waiting, and the one who loved her best had come.
He held her fiercely close against his heart, within the circle of his strength, the trembling circle of his pain. He swayed back and forth, rocking her. She knew she would never rock her baby this way. His sobs shook her, his tears wet her hair.
She could no longer feel the warmth of his arms around her, the warmth that was all the warmth in the world. It was not her own will which held her here even now, but his; the depthless enormity of his love. Yet the Morpheus' brew in her blood pulled her from him, gradual and inexorable, like the ebbing tide.
She had told him of their son, and just as the baby's body had passed from hers in blood and pain just before, so the responsibility for it had passed from her to him. She could go now, held safe in his arms, in his heart. Safe from all harm. A gentle passing, after months of anguish.
She floated. Scattershot images came to her, and remembered sounds . . . they caressed her like invisible hands, sometimes rough, sometimes soft. She knew their texture, knew their meaning, but in this grey place she had no eyes, no voice of her own.
In this place there were no words. She had gone too deep for words.
* * * *
Vincent felt her go. Not as he had before, when their bond lived, but he felt it. The fragile pressure of her fingers eased until it was nothing. Her breathing, as intimate to him as his own, so close did he hold her, faltered. When it ceased, when her muscles went lax in his grasp, the howl rose inside him. Savage and primal, the grief of the Beast raged for release. It fought the sobs of the Man for possession of his throat. He could not breathe. He could not live, without her.
He huddled there, on the night-shrouded rooftop, cradling his love's still form.
He pressed her close, close--as though he could merge with her, infuse his own life into her, die for her. Catherine! Catherine! his heart screamed. But the only answer was his own voice, crying, and the moan of the wind.
Catherine. My Catherine.
After an unimaginable time, a blessed numbness came to him. He rose, his legs almost without strength, and began to carry her away from the place of her death. He would take her home. No one would hurt her further. He would take her home.
Homeplace. Tears on her skin, warming it slightly. Soft cloth beneath her, not hard concrete. His kiss, the kiss she'd longed for. While I live, you live. With me. In me. Always.
Brian left for school very early that morning, his arms straining with the load of the box he carried. He had a science project to set up. It was the best one he'd ever done; he had a special friend who'd helped him with it. Mouse cared little for the science that went with the electronics they had developed; he just cared about gizmos. And they'd both needed something to occupy their thoughts in the past months, since Miss Chandler had disappeared.
Feeling his throat tighten with the familiar ache, Brian crossed the street to wait for his father's chauffeur to pick him up. He lifted his eyes almost reluctantly, as he did every morning, to look up at her balcony, hoping against hope that he would see her there, looking out over the city. She wasn't there. She never was. He started to turn away. Then, something--
Riveted, Brian stared upward. He lifted one hand to shade his eyes. There! Was that--it was! Something fluttered, something white, it wasn't a bird, omigod--
"Brian? Brian? Hey buddy, you in there?"
Casey's voice cut through his concentration as the chauffeur leaned toward the passenger side of the car. "Wanna jump in? I thought we were supposed to get you to school early today."
Brian jerked open the door and dumped his box and backpack on the seat. "Wait, Casey. I gotta go, I gotta--"
He bolted across the street, heedless of traffic and blaring horns. He shoved through the doors of the apartment building and ran toward the super's office on the ground floor. He'd get Milo. The night doorman had just finished his shift, and was probably enjoying a cigar before his walk home.
"Milo! Milo, please, you gotta help me!" Brian gasped, bursting into the office. The grizzle-headed old man looked up from his newspaper and smiled kindly.
"Sure, Brian. Tell old Milo your troubles."
"It's Miss Chandler. There's someone up there, I saw--please, Milo, hurry! Bring your keys. Come on!"
Milo shoved himself to his feet, his gnarled hand going to the belt where he carried his passkeys.
"Calm down, boy. You say you saw someone in Miss Chandler's apartment?"
"Yeah! From across the street, something on the balcony--Milo, come on!" Brian tugged on the man's arm, dragging him toward the elevator.
Milo followed, fingering his keys with a slight frown. "Brian, you sure it wasn't a pigeon, or a trick of the light? You got an awfully big imagination."
"No! I saw something. Honest, Milo, I did." Brian watched, almost dancing with impatience, as Milo used one of his keys to call an elevator.
"Police been in and out of that apartment, but they always call ahead," Milo mumbled. Brian kept silent, knowing Milo's habit of thinking aloud. The elevator seemed agonizingly slow to the anxious boy as he bounced lightly on the balls of his feet. Come on, come on. . . .
"Miss Chandler's got valuables in that apartment. Best find out if some one's after them," Milo decided. When the door opened on the eighteenth floor, the old man moved purposefully toward Apartment 21E. Brian dogged his steps.
Milo fitted a key into the lock. "You stay out here, Brian," he ordered. "I shouldn't oughtta be doing this anyway. Just don't want to look like a damn fool if there's nothing in there."
He stepped inside, calling loudly, "Anyone here? Miss Chandler?"
Brian waited until Milo had walked a few steps before he ducked in, his sneakered feet silent. There was no sound, no feeling that anything moved or lived in the still apartment. Brian began to feel afraid.
Milo approached the bedroom door and stopped. Brian saw his back stiffen.
"Oh, no," the old man whispered. Brian crossed the room in three steps and shoved Milo out of the way. He had to see, had to know--
He sucked in a deep breath. She was there, on her bed. She looked peaceful, asleep maybe? Maybe?
But her limp stillness told him it was not so.
"Come on, Brian," Milo said gently, putting an arm around him. "Come on, now."
* * * *
Confusion. Other voices, not the silk-on-sand voice she loved, harsh babble against her tranquility. She tried to shove the noise away, but she had no way to move, she was weighted down in greyness. Bag her hands. I don't want to lose anything on the way in.
Someone touched her. Vincent. Vincent, where are you?
* * * *
Dr. Abraham Marx straightened his aching back and sucked down the last of his coffee, grimacing as he got a mouthful of grinds. He spat them into the waste can and continued scribbling notes in an open file. Just one more autopsy today--then he could get out of his greens and scrub the stink of formaldehyde off his skin. He'd go to his health club, knock back a beer and soak for a blessed half-hour in the hot tub. Life didn't get any better than that.
The phone at his elbow jangled and he grabbed it irritably. "Abe Marx. Your nickel."
"Abe, it's John Moreno. I've got a hot one for you."
Damn Moreno and the whole D.A.'s office. They had put him through more hoops than he cared to count in his years as a forensic surgeon. "Look, John, I'm into the home stretch here--"
"It's the Chandler case. They found her body in her apartment this morning. The M.E. signed a death certificate at the scene, but I need you to get the preliminaries rolling. The ambulance will be there shortly."
Marx sighed, as the vision of beer and hot tub vanished like a mirage. The Chandler case wasn't just a case, it was the case. The kind that the media pups would be yapping all over. He'd better get the facts, and fast.
"All right, John, thanks for the warning."
He'd cleared the docket by the time the ambulance reached the morgue. He waved the orderlies wheeling the gurney into an examining room. "In here, boys. Rayburne, see what's holding Frank, would you? We need to get going." His eyes swept the hallway, noting that in addition to the usual complement of police, two men in business suits were observing the proceedings. He rolled his eyes as he turned away. The feds were in on it already.
Sgt. Nick Rawlins, a detective Marx knew from previous homicide investigations, started to follow him in. "Nick, back off, would you? You know I can't stand you guys breathing down my neck. Go call your forensics people and give me some room to work."
Rawlins shrugged. "Whatever you say, Doc."
Marx shut the door firmly behind him, wishing Rayburne would get back with his assistant so they could start the tissue and blood samples. He peeled back the sheet covering the body and began a preliminary examination. After enough years in forensics, corpses were just your stock in trade, stripped of all the cultural resonances and morbid fascination they held for others. He touched the tape recorder that sat nearby and took out a stethoscope.
"Dr. Marx recording. Subject Chandler, Catherine. No breath sounds, no respirations, no pulse. Rigor mortis--"
Marx paused. Damn strange. She must've died only shortly before being found, for rigor mortis had not set in. Her left arm when he lifted it was still flexible, her skin cool but not stiff. He turned the arm he held toward the light. There were faint bruises around the wrist and a visible needle mark. Someone had given her an intramuscular injection, and had not been careful about it, judging from the purplish swelling. What kind of drug had it been?
Something, some instinct, made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Carefully he fitted his stethoscope back into place, held his breath, and listened. No heartbeat. Then--
"Uh-oh," Marx whispered. He dug his fingers into her neck, trying to find the carotid pulse. With fingers and stethoscope in position, he waited for what he thought he'd heard.
She was alive. He had a heartbeat, unbelievably faint and slow, but a heartbeat. This stiff they'd brought him to cut into was alive! He had to get help, dammit, where was that intern--
The door opened too easily when he slapped his hands against it, his mouth open to yell. The two business suits crowded him back into the examination room even as he sputtered a protest.
"What the hell do you think you're doing? I've got to get help, this woman's alive--"
One of the men curled his fingers around Marx's arm, his grip painfully tight. "Are you sure about that, Dr. Marx?"
"Yes, yes, I'm sure, she's got a heartbeat. Get out of my way!" Marx tried to shove the man out of his path and suddenly found himself being backed into a wall, both arms pinned in the grip of a man with a linebacker's build and attitude.
"Now, Dr. Marx, you don't want to be hasty." This was said calmly, though the man still held both of Marx's arms in an iron grip. "We're FBI, Agents Carmichael--" he jerked his head toward his partner-- "and Higgins." He flashed an ID before Marx' dazed eyes. "We're placing Catherine Chandler in federal witness protection." Higgins spoke over his shoulder to his partner. "Call in. She's got to move." The other agent went to the phone near the door, casting a cool look at the still woman on the gurney as he did.
"What are you talking about? She needs massive stimulants, a respirator. She's got to be placed on total support--"
"She will be," Higgins promised. "Dr. Marx, this matter must remain entirely confidential."
As Marx stared, aghast, the door to the examination room started to open and Rayburne's calm voice reached his ears. "Dr. Marx, Frank's been delayed by a personal matter. Shall I--"
Agent Carmichael reached out and unceremoniously slammed the door in Rayburne's face. "Higgs, hurry it up," he barked, holding the door shut.
Higgins bent even closer to Marx's face, filling up his field of vision. "Not a word, Doctor. We have reason to believe that someone within the District Attorney's office was involved in Miss Chandler's abduction and what is believed to be her murder. For that reason, her greatest safety lies in that person's belief that she is dead."
Higgins' eyes narrowed. "Dr. Marx, if you cannot come around to my point of view on this, I'll have the IRS knocking on your door so fast your accountant won't have time to quit. Don't call me on it."
Marx gaped at him, speechless. Were they serious? He could easily lose his medical license if he went along with it, especially if the woman died later. But another kind of ruin was inches away, its breath hot on his face and its eyes hostile. If Higgins really had him audited. . . . Marx paled a bit. "Your people will see she's cared for?"
Marx straightened and flexed his arms. "Let me go." When Higgins complied, he strode to the door and opened it, watched closely by the two agents. "Sorry, Miss Rayburne. I had some equipment in front of the door. Ah, since Frank can't be here, we'll delay the autopsy until later, all right?"
He closed the exam room door behind him. "Sgt. Rawlins, bearing in mind the sensitive nature of this case, I think Miss Chandler's body should be moved to a more secure location, don't you agree? I'll see to it personally."
* * * *
It was very late at night when Marx reached home. Currently he lived alone--thank heaven for small mercies--so there was no one to see him slowly unraveling as he plodded upstairs. He stripped and put on a bathrobe before he went down to his study and poured himself a brandy. He gasped as the first swallow burned all the way down to his stomach.
Dropping into a chair, he sipped the liquor again and closed his eyes. The events of this unbelievable day wound again through his mind, not soon to be forgotten. He'd nearly autopsied a live patient! He cursed the medical examiner at the scene, who hadn't listened long enough or hard enough for the heartbeat, and had probably made his examination in the midst of police chaos. He or she had, without a doubt, gotten Marx into a huge mess.
It had been tricky, smuggling the Chandler woman out of the hospital by private ambulance. Agents Higgins and Carmichael had been miracles of efficiency. They'd even provided him with a body to cut tomorrow--same build, same hair color. He wasn't asking any questions about where they'd gotten it.
They had told him their people would run tests and examinations through the night and would deliver the results by messenger before dawn. Hopefully, the information Marx put in his report would match any evidence gained at the scene by police forensics. He shuddered to think what would happen if the deception were discovered, and his part in it traced. But he didn't believe for a moment that Higgins was bluffing about the IRS.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. Marx finished his brandy in one nervous gulp. It wasn't over yet. The police, told of his barring Rawlins from the "autopsy," had not been pleased. He'd gotten a call from the commissioner that afternoon, stating in no uncertain terms that one of their people would be there bright and early the next morning and would witness the autopsy. Diana Bennett, that was the name.
"Deal with it, doctor," Higgins had said, his face smooth and unworried. "We got you the body. Fake it. Be creative." Marx had wanted to punch that bland, slate-eyed face. But he hadn't. Instead, he'd had Rayburne leave a message for Officer Bennett that the autopsy would begin at 9 a.m. He'd told Joe Maxwell of the D.A.'s office, who'd called soon after the commissioner, the same thing. But he planned to have the autopsy on "Catherine Chandler" underway by 8:30 a.m. An understandable mix-up.
* * * *
Diana Bennett strode into the forensics department and looked around inquiringly. It was time to begin a new case, and she wouldn't let regrets for the past one hold her back. She wouldn't think about Sally Rogers, about her own failure . . . now it was Catherine Chandler's turn. The woman had seemed to mean something to Joe Maxwell, and the details of the case were intriguing. Let the woman's life, and her death, drive out the images of a tortured child that invaded Diana's sleep.
She gave herself a shake as she approached a technician who was stacking instruments on a tray. "Get a grip, Diana," she muttered.
The woman turned as Diana neared her. "May I help you?"
Diana flashed her badge. "Yes. I'm Diana Bennett, with Special Crimes. I'm here for the Chandler autopsy. Could you tell me where to find Dr. Marx?"
The woman's eyes registered confusion, both at the request and at the unconventional appearance of this police officer. "I'm afraid there's been some mistake, Officer. Dr. Marx has already begun that autopsy."
"What? He told me nine o'clock." Diana glanced at her watch. It was still five minutes before the hour.
The woman crossed to a central desk and checked a clipboard. She shook her head. "I'm not sure how that happened. It's scheduled, right here, for 8:30 a.m. Perhaps Dr. Marx can explain. I'll show you."
Diana pursed her lips in annoyance as she followed her guide down the hall. It was not a good start.
The technician helped her get into a gown and mask and then ushered her into a large, cool room that smelled harshly of chemicals. Two men worked over a body on a central table.
"Dr. Marx? I'm Diana Bennett, with the police."
The man in surgical greens unbent from his close examination of the body on the table and handed a metal pan to his assistant. "For the lab, Frank."
He turned toward Diana. "I was expecting you, Ms. Bennett. You're late."
"Your message said the autopsy would start at nine," Diana said, approaching the table. She looked down dispassionately at the body. Its head and legs were covered with sheets, leaving bare the torso, which had been cut through the chest all the way down to the spine.
Marx shrugged. "A mistake. Your people or mine, who knows."
"Well, it's too late now. Bring me up to date, doctor," Diana requested, her voice even. The man was powerfully nervous; she could hear it in his voice and see it in his stiff stance. She wondered why.
"The victim died approximately twelve hours before she was found. Injection site on the left arm indicated a drug was administered, which the lab has identified as morphine." Marx held up the corpse's left arm for Diana's inspection.
"External examination also revealed that Miss Chandler gave birth to a baby shortly before her death."
"What?" Diana gasped. Joe hadn't said anything about the woman being pregnant when she was kidnapped.
Marx nodded. "It was definitely a surprise. But I've removed and examined the uterus, and she was carrying an undelivered placenta. That means she was killed within a few minutes of giving birth. Now, as far as other injuries. . . ."
Diana let Marx drone on, her mind utterly absorbed by the news of the pregnancy. She could read the doctor's full report later; right now she wanted to consider the implications of a baby. Assuming the child had survived, where was it? Who had taken it, and why? She glanced toward the shrouded head and shoulders, and reached for the sheet. She wanted to see the face of this woman whom she would come to know so intimately over the coming months. Pictures just weren't the same.
Marx didn't look up from his examination of the abdominal cavity. "I wouldn't, Ms. Bennett. It's standard procedure to remove the top of the victim's head for cranial examination and removal of the brain for analysis."
Diana's hand froze. She wasn't squeamish--far from it--but she knew from past experience how this woman's face would come to haunt her. Better to visualize it whole, if she was to see it in her dreams for months.
They wrapped up quickly. Diana made a pointed request for the full autopsy report and lab analysis, and with a mutter of agreement Marx stripped off his surgical gown and left the room. Diana paused by the door to wash her hands, glancing back over her shoulder. Marx's rather silent assistant was cleaning up. As he lifted the sheet to draw it down over the body, Diana caught a glimpse of honey-brown hair. It seemed all she was destined to see of the real Catherine Chandler.
In the hall, Diana saw Dr. Marx disappearing around a corner, followed by a dark-haired man she recognized. "Maxwell, I'm not supposed to talk to you," Marx snapped. Joe looked ready to follow him.
"Joe, I need to talk to you," she called.
Strangeplace. No voices she knew, no feeling of home. Tubes sticking in her nose and mouth and skin.
"I'm here to tell you, Sam, this little lady's blood chemistry is something else. Incredibly oxygenated--that's why she survived with hardly a heartbeat. And the morphine--she's almost completely metabolized a dose that would've killed most women. I'd love to run a few tests on that kid of hers, wherever it is. The fetal blood supply, passing through the umbilical cord and placenta. . . ."
She was moving upward, slowly, out of the greyness and into the light she now knew she would see again. It warmed her, faintly, like the memory of warmth rather than warmth itself. She had a long way to go.
She still had no voice to call out to the crazy-quilt of visions, out of time and out of joint, that chased through her mind. She reached, yearning, for the one who could give her life, the one who cherished her in his heart.
Two men thrashed in a cavern floor, roaring their anger and challenge, clawing and biting until one clutched a burning crystal in his palm and faced down the snarls of the other.
Vincent. We loved. There is a child, she called silently.
A white whirlwind descended and the faces of the dead were covered with snow . . .Gabriel!
A cloaked figure on a boat lifted its face to another man who flung words at him, then his body, as shots rang out. In a dark night suddenly gone more dark, orange fire bloomed; molten, rolling fire that became a woman's hair as she leaned over a fallen man, collapsed atop a grave.
She did. Safe in the undying love and strength of his soul, she slept deeply, but not dreamlessly, waiting for her body to gather its strength once again.
Somewhere a baby cried.
Author's Note: The poem quoted here is, of course, "Though Lovers Be Lost," by Dylan Thomas.