A Mosaic Story - Classic
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Please note: This is the Classic Mosaic and your entries should reflect that. It's the place for those for whom B&B was a two season show. No 3S entries, please.
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This story was created by participants of Winterfest, piece by piece to create the collective whole. Thanks to eveyone who contributed in the creation of such a wonderful story.
Catherine was walking through the park humming the latest Billy Joel hit, the one that they'd been playing on the radio so often lately. It was a beautiful evening and she was looking forward to meeting Vincent at the threshold. It had been a long day at the office, and the soft candlelight would be a welcome change of pace. This past week's events had caught her off guard and time spent with Vincent was exactly what she needed to regain her sense of balance.
She was just about to cross the little bridge near the culvert when she she heard a twig snap behind her in the darkness. She froze, looking around to see if someone was following her. There stood the last person she expected.
"Joe? What are you doing here?" With a quick glance back towards the culvert,she hastened to walk towards her friend and boss.
"Noticed you left these on your desk..." He held up her keys,and grinned impishly.
"Oh! Well...thank you!" she replied brightly and reached out her hand for the keys.
"So..." He looked around, then back at her. "Kinda late for a stroll in the park, isn't it?" His tone was light,but there was concern mixed with puzzlement in his eyes.
She tried to play it off with a casual shrug & smile that was a little too practiced, "Not at all..." He wasn't letting it go that easily.
"You OK? You seem a little on edge." "I'm fine, really." Catherine made another attempt at a reassuring smile. "I just needed to clear my head after all the hoopla over the McBain case today. Surely you have better things to do than stalk employees on their own time?"
With one final glance around Joe gave her a nod, "OK, I get the message, but I'm here if you need to talk."
"I know..." her smile was genuine and with that she watched him slowly walk off. *whew that was close* Catherine thought to herself.
She waited a few minutes, pretending to be just enjoying the rising moon, but as she felt herself completely alone, she started her purposeful strawl toward her favorite place. And there, waiting with outstretched arms near the colvert, Vincent stood, She smiled and glided into his arms. They began walking towards the home tunnels hand in hand. There were no words spoken, but none were needed between them as he understood at that moment her need was to simply be with him in the safety of his world.
But in the deep shadows of overhanging bows far across the park from the culvert entrance, Joe lowered the night vision goggles he had borrowed from Greg Hughes, shock distorting the features of his handsome face. He knew that Catherine had secrets, and while he hated to intrude on her privacy after a stalker had almost drowned her last month he felt he no longer had a choice. He had tried reaching out to her to get her to talk to him, but nothing had worked. Well, now he had something concrete to follow. He would return to the culvert during the day and check it out. He felt that unless he presented solid evidence that he was aware of her secret, she would never confide in him. And he wanted her to. Joe watched the culvert for hours before finally packing it up with his mind still whirling at the possibilities of what he had seen. He recognized the cloak that had hidden the shadowy figure's face as the same one that Catherine had been wrapped in. "Curioser and curioser," Joe thought to himself.
Meanwhile, Catherine was telling Vincent of her day, concluding, "My boss Joe followed me into the park. He said I left my keys, but I could have sworn they were in my purse."
She thought about it more, "I must have set them down when I grabbed up the stack of case files that needed to be refiled. I was almost to the culvert when I noticed Joe." Catherine leaned against Vincent & he held her close as the concert finished.
"The concert was beautiful tonight, just what I needed," she said with a sigh, "Today and this week have been a rough one. I am so glad its the weekend. I just hope Joe didn't see anything."
The following morning Catherine swept into the office carrying her overstuffed briefcase and headed immediately to the coffeemaker. It had been quite late when Vincent had left her at her threshold after the concert.
Joe was waiting for her. It was Saturday Catherine & Joe were the only ones there to wrap up the overflowing cases.
"We need to talk." His tone was firm,& hair on her neck bristled. "Cath,I'm worried for you."
"Why Joe? What is about?"she was guarded yet open to hear him out.
"It's about the park...and that guy you met in the culvert."
Catherine froze for a moment, her coffee cup halfway to her lips. Then she slowly set the cup on a table and turned on him. "You were SPYING on me?!"
Startled, he said, "No! Well...yeah. You almost died last month! I don't want anything to happen to you. I didn't get to see who -"
She took a breath to steady herself. He hadn't seen Vincent's face."Joe, my private life is *private*. End of story."
"Even if it ends up getting you killed?" "Getting my killed?" Catherine asked with a doubting smile. "Joe ... You're sweet to worry about me, but I'm a big girl ... I can take care of myself."
"You think you can," Joe said, hooking a finger under his collar and loosing his tie. His expression saddened. "We've worked together awhile,& thought we were beyond that... Friends even. Why is it hard to trust me on whatever you are involved in. Maybe I can help."
"Joe... I do trust you. It's just not my secret to share." She felt torn. But her promise to safeguard the Tunnels was more important than any misunderstanding she might have with Joe. "I'm sorry, but the subject is closed."
Catherine turned her back on him. She sat at her desk, pulled a brief out of her bag, and read it. He stared silently at her,but when she didn't even look up to meet his gaze Joe walked into his office & closed the door without another word. Upon hearing the door she risked looking up. Catherine hated keeping him in the dark,but she had made a promise.
Joe realized he would get no further approaching Catherine directly. He decided to stake out the culvert to learn what he could on his own. So Saturday evening he was back in his hiding place, binoculars trained on the place he had seen the cloaked man.
Right after catching up the workload, Catherine had darted to the basement entrance to alert Vincent of Joe's inquiries.
"Joe saw a figure.. he doesn't know more. But he's concerned for my safety after last month. Not sure how far he will pursue this."
Vincent contemplated her words. "Perhaps we should avoid the park entrance for now."
She nodded. "He's stubborn. I doubt he'll give up, especially since he knows he saw...'something'."
"Catherine...it gets more dangerous for us as time goes on."
"We will get through this Vincent.. together we can get through anything. There are risks worth taking." She smiled reassuringly.
At the park Joe was about to give up when he saw an oddly dressed kid with glasses emerge, & he quickly began trailing him. The boy seemed to be humming to himself, lost in the reverie of a child away from his homework. Was he talking to himself? Did he look old enough to be alone?
"Son" Joe pulled his credentials from his pocket, secreting it in his hand. Eric didn't stop. Joe gently laid a hand on the boy's shoulder. Eric jumped and turned around.
"Hey it's OK.." Joe took a step back to keep from scaring him. "Where's your parents?"
Parents? Eric's mind raced. "I'm with the DA, You're a little young to be on your own." Eric adjusted his glasses and looked up at Joe. He wasn't sure what the "DA" was, but he had heard Catherine talk about it from time to time.
"It's okay, sir. My parents are dead, but I live with friends. They take good care of us." "Friends?" Joe queried,as Eric began to dig in his pocket.
"I got friends, mister. See?" Eric showed him a worn business card.
"Catherine Chandler?" Joe was aghast.
"She helped me find a good home, gotta go there now" Eric hid the card and darted off.
"Hey, kid...wait!" Joe was astounded. He took off after the boy but quickly was out-distanced. As he bent over trying to get his breath, he considered the odd encounter. WHAT is Catherine involved with? he thought.
Catherine's phone rang in her condo. "Ok, Radcliffe, when did you move to family court?" Joe launched before she even answered the phone.
"Joe? Do you have ANY hobbies, or am I your project?" She took two deep breaths and waited for his answer.
"I need some resolution,let's meet for lasagna" Catherine considered her answer carefully and then spoke "Okay Joe, When and Where?" she only hoped when they met she could come up with something that sounded like the truth, without telling a lie because Joe could tell when someone was telling a lie.
As she wrote down the restaurant address, Catherine heard a sound and turned. A note had been slipped under her door. It read: "A man from the DA's Office stopped Eric. Eric showed him your card, then ran. He apologizes. Vincent"
Catherine ruefully shook her head at the note as she grabbed her purse to go meet Joe. He was waiting for her in front of the restaurant,but they never made it inside.Four men jumped out of a van that pulled up beside them, & drove away with them inside. Panic flared inside Catherine as she remembered the abduction that led her to meeting Vincent and the abduction last month she started to hyperventilate, this was her worst nightmare but she had to try and force herself to calm down. Joe tried to position himself between Catherine & the men that had abducted them.
"What's the meaning of this!" Joe hoped his voice sounded confident as his heart was beating wildly.
"McBain wasn't too happy with the verdict. Sit & shut up lawyer man."
"You don't think every cop in the city will figure out what happened to us?" Joe barked, hoping he sounded more confident then he felt.
One of the abductors laughed cruelly. "It's the weekend. Think we're stupid? Nobody'll notice you're gone for now."
Joe turned back to Catherine and whispered, "You OK?" She didn't speak, but nodded slightly. Her eyes were still slightly panicked but her breathing was slowing back to normal. Joe had been lead council for the DA's office with Catherine as second chair. Vincent had been chipping to enlarge a corner of his chamber, to build an alcove to share with Catherine. As he struck the stone a flash rolled thru him, "Catherine" and the rolling in his gut told him she had opened the Bond wide out - She was in danger.
Vincent didn't notice that he had dropped his tools. He just knew he was running, following the thread of his Bond with Catherine, desperate to reach her soon.
Catherine pulled herself together, realizing her emotional turmoil would draw Vincent. She wasn't able to completely shut down the bond, but she managed to calm the emotions in the hope that Vincent would not rush into danger to save her. The men were armed, and if there was a way out for her and Joe without Vincent she had to find it.
Catherine took a good look at the 4 men again and thought she recognized one of them. Had she seen him before? She had done most of the legwork, as usual, on the McBain case. If she could just remember what his connection to the case was...
The man wearing the blue jacket was Peter McBain's cousin and business partner. He had testified that Gordon was innocent of driving drunk & hitting the ten year old victim that had ultimately died. The McBain's were Old Money, & the press was constant. Surely the family couldn't want even more bad publicity? When word hit the papers that the prosecutors in the case were missing, suspicion would naturally fall on them. Catherine wondered if these men were acting on their own, not on behalf of McBain.
"Kidnapping us won't help.. it will only put you in prison with him. What do you hope to accomplish with this?" her voice was soft to try to derail the tension but the men heard her & glanced around to the others.Obviously they had not planned this out.
Joe noticed and chimed in, "If you let us out now, we promise we won't pursue prosecution. It'll just be a misunderstanding, forgotten. What do you say?"
"We'll trade you for McBain," one growled.
"Won't work," Joe countered. "It's over." A hand pulled a pistol out of the pocket of the blue jacket, "I told you to sit & shut up!" the man put the gun in Joe's face to back up his command. Joe backed up to sit beside Catherine without another word. Catherine exchanged a look with Joe-not good. They felt the van slow, then tilt downward slightly as if entering an underground garage; it came to a stop. Joe and Catherine tensed, wondering what would happen next.
What did happen stunned Joe. The back door of the van was torn open. Everyone but Catherine was caught off guard. Gunfire resonated among fierce roars & squealing tires as the men in back fired & the drive stomped on the gas. Two of the gunmen fell out of the back to land beside the torn door. The van swayed as it raced on. The confines of the garage proved too cramped for the driver to make a clean getaway. As he negotiated around cars, bouncing the van's occupants from side to side, guns clattered to the floor of the vehicle. A dark figure jumped inside the van. The van crashed into a divider with the driver quickly running off. Vincent disabled the remaining men then turned to Catherine who was bruised, but otherwise unharmed. Joe was unconscious & there was a dark red blood stain expanding on his leg.
They heard retreating footsteps as the men who had been thrown clear of the van raced away from the scene.
"We can't leave Joe!" Catherine begged as Vincent lifted her from the floor of the van. "I think he's been shot."
Vincent set her on her feet. "You, head for the grate to the left, there's a fire box on the wall" Vincent carried an unconscious Joe to the doorway and laid him out, "Pull the fire alarm, they'll be here in minutes" Vincent rasped, his heart in his throat. "we'll meet in the tunnel"
"Soon as help arrives I will be there.. please go Vincent they will be here any minute." she wanted him safe. He stood to leave looking around the garage.
"Be careful Catherine. The driver is still out there." He heard the sirens and left upon her nod. Catherine cradled Joe in her lap, lucid one second, rambling the next. "Radcliff,I'm finally in your arms and feel like I'm losing it"
"Joe, stay with me, it's just a flesh wound, you'll be OK" Catherine whispered.
"Hey, I can always enjoy the view" "You can't be too badly hurt if you're cracking lame jokes, boss," she responded, smiling.
"Who was he?" Joe demanded. "The guy who pulled us from the van."
"You were hallucinating," Catherine replied. "I didn't see anyone." The EMS crew arrived and stabilized Joe's injury.
"How's he doing?" she asked the medic as they loaded Joe up.
"Looks like the bullet passed clean though... he'll need stitches, but should be fine."
"I'll stop by & see how you are doing, OK Joe?" The police had arrived with the ambulance, and they took a statement from Catherine about the abduction. None of the men involved were in the garage, but Catherine gave them the name of the one she could identify. After an hour, she was free to leave.
At last she was in the tunnel & could fall into Vincent's arms to reassure both of them that the danger had passed and each was now safe. "How is your friend?" he inquired.
"He'll need stitches & checked out but should be OK. Not sure how much he saw." "Vincent, I was so scared," came the quiet comment from his arms. "when we were abducted I had a flash of the two times that I was taken and was afraid that I would never see you again." He held her tighter.
"I felt your fear. Many times I have wanted nothing more than to keep you safely at my side, but I know I must let you go & have faith that I will see you again." unshod tears were evident in his voice." Are you sure you are OK?"
"I am, we got jostled around quite a bit so i have a few bruises and I am kind of tired but i am fine." she said as she began to sway a little bit on her feet as some of her more hidden injury's became more noticeable as the rush of adrenaline wore off.
"You need to rest." Vincent eyed her skeptically as she claimed to be fine.
"I will... promise. Just need to stop off and check in on Joe then I will head home. Might even take tomorrow off." the faint smile didn't negate his concerns yet he nodded.
with each step that Catherine took once she left Vincent's side she could feel something was wrong, it was getting harder and harder for her to breathe. soon she had to stop and lean against the wall and slid down it as her legs gave out from under her. Thankfully she was close enough to the hospital that the EMS staff noticed her collapse & quickly got her inside. The ER staff went to work getting her stabilized & comfortable. Due to no apparent severe injuries upon her body, x-rays were ordered. Vincent was frantic. He could sense Catherine's weakened state, her muddled thoughts and her fear. He paced in an alley near the hospital, waiting for Peter Alcott, who had been called, to bring him word of Catherine's condition. She had seemed fine! Vincent told Peter about the attack. When Peter arrived he learned Catherine had internal bleeding, & she was prepped for surgery. The surgeon seemed confident the wound could be secured, but there was always a heightened risk with internal injuries. Vincent's pacing wracked Father's emotions. He had watched two people so in love tortured by the elements of society the Tunnel folk had fled from. Once the message was tapped out Vincent flew to the basement of the hospital and hugged Peter in victory.
Catherine opened her eyes slowly in the recovery room to see Peter sitting in a chair a few feet away, & Joe with a pair of crutches sitting against the other wall.
"Cathy?" Peter sprang up to stand as she became more awake. "How are you feeling?"
"With my hands" her wry sense of humor had survived the day. "Joe, now that we both are in stitches will you give the 3rd degree a rest?"
"Cathy, I'll table my side of the discussion until we sit at a table with lasagna" Joe smirked & hobbled to his room
Peter looked quizzically at Catherine, "The third degree? Discussion? Feel like I missed something." She shook her head indicating she didn't want to go into it right now. "I'm just glad the surgery went well. Now you rest, and I must get word Below." "Vincent, you'll be happy to know Cathy will be home in 3 days" Peter declared.
"Perhaps Father can follow her care here in our hospital chamber?" Vincent ached to see her, to care for her again. So many times she had begged to join him in the tunnels. But he knew for all the risk & trials they endured part of Catherine's life was still Above. He could understand & empathize with Joe's concern over her. Vincent was forming a plan to ease Joe's mind without risking exposure of himself or those Below.
Vincent understood Joe's concern, Catherine's devotion and most of all the need to keep the world Below secret. Too dangerous to visit Catherine in the hospital, Vincent sent her constant loving support through their Bond. He woke in 3 days, anxious.
Vincent dressed & quickly made his way to the entrance below Catherine's building to be close when he felt her return.
At the hospital Joe was picking Catherine up to help her back to her apartment. There was no mention of previous concerns, but in time. Cathy rode home waiting for the "shoe to drop". "Joe, I have help at home, you can let me out at the curb" Joe frowned, but saw a sweet faced but oddly dressed young girl waiting to open the car door.
"Catherine,welcome! William has been cooking for days" Jamie helped Catherine out of the car, and both ladies waved goodbye as they moved along inside the building. Joe was left with the words half formed to ask the young ladies name.
Once inside Jamie & Catherine carefully made their way to the basement. Vincent felt Catherine's exhilaration at being close to him. Jamie hopped down the stairs and flew to her place Below, giving them a quiet privacy to greet each other.
"Love, oh, love" she kissed his downy cheek as he comforted her with tender hugs. Vincent swept her up in his arms.
"Vincent!" her laugh echoed in his ears as he carried her Below to the guest chamber. "I have the rest of the week off,but will have to face Joe come Monday."
"Shh rest now Catherine.. we can talk more about Mon. later Joe, feeling uncomfortable about leaving Catherine in front of her building despite her odd assistant, picked up the phone as soon as he arrived home. Her phone rang until the answering machine picked up. He left a message to call him, troubled.
The more Joe sat waiting for Catherine to call him back the more on edge he became. Finally he could take it no more & went to her apt to knock: no answer, no lights. His mind kept reliving the attack & could swear he remembered hearing the oddest voice. That velvet voice. Was swith neoghbo
Was she with neighbours? Who was William? Who was that girl?
Too many questions , Joe's head spun as he fainted at her door When Catherine's neighbor arrived home from a late flight, he was stunned to see a man collapsed at Miss Chandler's door. He banged on it, got no answer, then ran into his apartment to call an ambulance.
Catherine woke after a long, restorative sleep. She looked up at a bemused Vincent standing at the entrance, "How long have I been asleep?"
"It's Thursday afternoon." His smile faded.. "We got word that your friend Joe is back in the hospital. He was found at your apt door last night unconscious." Catherine shook her head,"He's been asking so many questions, even followed me. Vincent I can't lose you!" Vincent's heart was breaking, would he lose this rose of a woman? Their relationship was at such a tenuous place.
"But I can't let Joe come to harm either if I can prevent it. I know his heart is in the right place, it's just how he is choosing to go about things. He doesn't understand. By trying to find out to keep me safe he may be doing the opposite."
He nodded. "I have been discussing the situation with Father. We may have a solution to the immediate problem."
Catherine rose on one elbow, anxious to hear it.
"Father himself will visit Joe Above. we have developed a 'story' to tell him about us."
"do you know what the story is? So I know and can keep to the story when Joe and i see each other again." "Father will inform him of a group of concerned citizens with the support of anon. benefactors,have made a network to help those in the city who need help that they cannot find elsewhere. Meeting locations must be varied and kept confidential for safety." "That just might throw him off the scent!" Catherine nodded her approval, smiling. "It will be a relief to have Joe focus his mind elsewhere - back on work, not on us." She sighed deeply. "Thank you, and thank Father." "Great, I can concentrate on recuperating! And my time with you, love" Vincent's heart soared when he felt Catherine's need for him beside her. It was need, devotion, it was love and a taste of desire.
Joe had regained consciousness on the way to the hospital. The doctors said he had a concussion from the attack that had not been evident previously. If he took it easy for a few days the concussion should not be a problem long term.
"Vincent, could Jamie gather a few things from my apt.?" Cathy wanted him to hear some of Billy Joel's music, perhaps it would inspire Vincent.
"If you put together a short list of what you seek, I am certain Jamie would not mind the errand to make your weekend stay more comfortable." Vincent assured her.
"I know it's only for a few days, but I would appreciate it." a smile lit up her face.
Jamie let herself in with the key Catherine had provided. She gazed around the apartment in wonder - so much room, all for just one person! She began to gather the clothes and other items Catherine had put on her list.
There was a knock on the door. Jamie froze. She dared not answer.
“Cathy?! It’s Jenny!” came the voice. “Are you in there? I saw a light from the window! Cathy! Cathy! I’m not leaving until - ”
Unable to think of an alternate plan, Jamie yanked open the door and met Jenny’s wide eyes across the threshold.
“W-who are you?” Jenny sputtered.
"A friend.. Catherine asked me to come pick up stuff for her. I have her key, see?" Jamie stumbled out a quick explanation. Jenny came in & closed the door behind her being sure to effectively block the exit.
"Where's Cathy?" Jenny eyed the girl close.
"She's staying with...with my family," Jamie stuttered.
"She is? Why? And why have I never heard about this family of yours?" Jenny demanded.
Jamie paled, unable to come up with a believable lie with Jenny glaring at her.
"What are you taking?" Jamie opened the backpack. Clothes, music, & books including items that Jenny knew were very dear to Catherine & a list in Catherine's handwriting. The list shocked Jenny. Seemed this girl was telling the truth,but who was she & just who was Cathy with??
Jenny made the only decision she could live with. "I'm coming with you."
Jamie stammered, "Y-you...you can't!"
Jenny's eyes narrowed. "Why not?"
The younger woman whispered, "I can't say."
"Work with me here, I'm willing to let you go, but I...." Jenny didn't get to finish her sentence before the phone rang. They listened to the machine pick up then heard, "Cath, It's Joe again.. been trying to reach you, but you've seem to have vanished. Gimmie a call OK?"
Instantly Jamie darted out the door. "Hey!" Caught off-guard, Jenny made a desperate grab for the young woman...and missed. Instantly she whirled and grabbed the phone, catching Joe just before he hung up. "Hello...Joe?"
"Who's this?" Joe's voice was wary.
"Jenny, Cathy's friend."
"Is Cathy there?" For a moment he hoped.
"No,but something strange is going on. Caught a girl here gathering things to take to Cathy, but she ran off." Jenny explained.
"Blond straight hair,kinda off beat clothes?"He described from memory.
"How did you-" "She was with Cathy earlier."
"Joe...she said Cathy was staying with her family. Who ARE they?"
"Dunno," he admitted. "But some old guy just left here, telling me something about a secret society Cathy belongs to that helps people - you know about it?" "No.. she never mentioned-" *or running TO someone* Jenny flashed on the conversation she had with Cathy & the prophetic dreams before Cathy was kidnapped. "Joe, tell me all you know about this society... I have a hunch but not sure what it could mean."
Jamie had fled the apartment building and not stopped running until she was safely Below. Now she entered the chamber where Catherine was resting. "Sorry, I only got part of the stuff. Someone came, and I had to leave quickly."
C oncern replaced disappointment. "Who came?" Catherine asked.
"Name was Jenny. I ran when she got distracted by the answering machine." She tried to catch her breath.
Cath's brow furrowed,"Who called?"
"Jen & Joe.. if they got together.." Oh boy.
Jenny arrived at Joe's apartment and he let her in. "Thanks for coming. I'm laid up."
"No problem. Now, tell me what you know."
Vincent listened to Jamie recount her accidental meeting with Jenny. "It could be worse," he said, smiling.
"No police.. no plastic explosives." his eyes twinkled then became serious as he turned to face Catherine, "These are your friends.. colleagues.. they notice when you are absent. There are worse things.Still, our attempt may have fanned the fire instead. With Jenny's "dreams" and Joe's facts they surmised that Cathy had made a life for herself away from her "society" roots. "You really think she's OK? tell me what your gut says, Jenny?" Joe's earnest brown eyes probed Jenny."I'll stake my intuition on it"
"Why all the secrecy? If she is a part of a helping network, & she really is safe..." Joe's frustration shown clear in his voice & movements.
"Joe, at times there are parts of ourselves we can't share even with those close to us. I know you care, but Cathy has a heart as big as Central Park. Since she disappeared her personality has done a 180 degree turn" Jenny confessed how "social" Cathy HAD been."So I need to accept her as she is, right?" Joe capitulated as Jenny stood to go."Will I see you again?
"I'll be around." She smiled back at Joe; both feeling more reassured. "You just have to do something even harder than trying to protect her, Joe."
"What's that?" puzzled he frowned.
"Trust her." Jenny gave an understanding smile.
Meanwhile Below... Cathy tenderly sorted out the items Jamie gathered,her toiletries and the portable player with her Billy Joel tape, "Even though I'm in love sometimes I get so afraid I'll say something so wrong" Outside the chamber Vincent hovered, holding his breath.
Those words hit straight to his heart. Fear of making a mistake & losing Catherine was always lurking. She loved him unconditionally.. He knew that, but accepting that nothing could destroy that connection was a struggle. He softly walked over to her. Her eyes closed she treasured the lyrics,"If the girl gets too close, If I need some room to escape when the moment arose I'd tell her it's all a mistake". Silently he listened as Bill Joel sang right to him. "Catherine....." his voice reverent and low.
She opened her eyes to find him standing next to her. The expression on his face caused her to quickly push pause on the player. "Vincent?" He sat down next to her, his eyes speaking volumes of fear, longing, love, & tentative anticipation.
A burst of noise from outside the chamber entrance startled them both. Mouse scurried in without asking permission, shouting for Vincent. "Intruders! Park entrance!" he shouted.
Vincent disappeared down the passage. Catherine sighed. One more missed opportunity... she would definitely have to talk to the council about rotating protector duty. For now she must wait for Vincent's safe (and hopefully speedy) return and trust all will be well.
Vincent rounded the last corner and found a slender man with dark hair staring at him with a surprised look on his face. The man held a flashlight and lockpick tools. Clearly he had come prepared. Vincent surmised this was the persistent Joe, finally getting answers - very unexpected ones.
"Hey Mel we gonna need this-" a second man stopped walking towards the culvert suddenly upon seeing Vincent.The dark haired man closer to the gate with the tools had not looked up yet.
"Need what?" but the second man had ran off. Vincent softly growled. As he got closer, recognition flaired, and Vincent had never been so happy to be wrong. "Devin!" he said, catching his brother in a fierce hug.
In his apartment, Jenny's words kept haunting Joe. "Trust her."
"Am I becoming a stalker too? What right do I have to think I know what's best. 'Cath... I'm sorry' he chastised himself. What he did was out of concern but he understood now it didn't make it right. I'll talk to her about it on Monday. He would let her know he was there for her but wouldn't push.
She had been there for him, she deserved as much.
"Woh, little bro, what a welcome!" Devin teased.
"I'm sorry, Devin. The centries said there was an intruder and..." he stopped when he caught sight of another figure.
"C'mon Vincent, don'tcha remember m elvin?" Devin gestured towards the younger man standing with his hands in his pockets looking hard at the ground.
"Melvin.. Cob? George's son? You stayed Below for a time after he passed. Good to see you again." Vincent offered a hand to the shy lad.
"I don't blame you. It's been over 20 years!" Melvin laughed, returning the handshake. "How have you been, Vincent?"
"Mooning over a topsider," Devin poked his brother before he could say anything. Vincent blushed, but a part of him secretly rejoiced in the reference to Catherine.
"Come... both of you." Vincent motioned to proceed inside then fell back to slyly whisper to Devin. "She is not topside at the moment little brother." Devin stumbled a second at this news, but quickly regained his balance.
Devin hugged Cathy, "any closer to a real kiss?", they both chuckled at his whispered words.
"So, Devin, what brings you and Mel Below?", Vincent queried as he came to sit beside his Catherine, a possessive arm around her shoulder. She melted into him.
"Melvin is relocating his business to New York, & when I heard I thought I would tag along to see the old place again." Devin explained as he roamed the chamber.
Catherine playfully raised her eyebrows, "No ulterior motive? No grand plan?" she teased.
"We-e-l-l-l." Devin blushed. "I'm never without SOME plan!"
Catherine, sparing him further discomfort, turned to Mel. "What business are you in?"
"I've got an import-export thing going. Mostly legal..." His eyebrows twitched upward.
Devin quickly spoke up,"Mel,did I mention Catherine works at the DA's office?" the meaning of the timely tidbit was not lost on anyone as Catherine stifled a small chuckle & glanced away.
"I'm off till Monday. Here I'm just Catherine." She grinned.
Mel had paled, but regained his color at Catherine's response. "Phew! I'm not saying I'm not legit! Got a lotta contacts here in New York, so I figured...go where the people are."
Devin smiled, then got serious. "What happened to you, Cath?"
Her smile faded, "Joe & I were attacked earlier in the week over a case. He didn't come out of it so good either, but I think we'll be OK given time."
"If you both will be OK then why do you still look troubled?" Devin picked up on unspoken tension.
"Joe has been...following me. He knows something, but he can't put the pieces together. But he's a good prosecutor - he'll figure it out, given time."
Vincent and Catherine filled Devin and Mel in on what had been happening.
"I see why you're concerned. What's your plan now?" Devin watched the interplay of emotions.
"Have to talk with him at some point,but I don't know how to make him understand with all I can't say. Who knows what Jenny & he may have figured out already." She leaned closer to Vincent. "Did Father say if Joe looked like he believed the story about the secret society?"
"Father said joe had a poker face. No telling what he really thought."
"Great...and now this thing with Jamie and Jenny...the world's conspiring against us!" Frustration echoed in her words.
"We will find a way to get through this Catherine." Vincent nuzzled his face in her hair.
While they explained,Devin had been coming up with a plan, "Why don't you let me give it a shot." They all looked at him wearily.
"I'm not sure, Devin," Catherine said. "I am tired, so tired... They are my friends and I love them, but there are limits." she sighed, determination in her voice. "They're almost worse than the watcher... Enough! I must put an end to this myself."
Cath took a breath to calm herself & remember they didn't mean her harm. Maybe she was more tired than she realized since lashing out at friends was very unlike her.
"Why don't you rest." Vincent cleared the room, & decided he would risk a note to Joe. As they left the chamber where Catherine rested, Devin murmured to Vincent, "Listen, brother, maybe I can help. Joe knows me from my time at the D.A.'s office. I can go see him, tell him Cathy's working with me on a top-secret project and he's in the way. Vincent considered Devin's words then declined.
"There must be a balance.We have been using deception to solve this.. perhaps we should try truth."V softly noted.
"Let him know about the tunnels!?!"Devin gaped.
"No,limited truth on why not who or where." "And who do you propose tell him this...limited truth? Father's spoken to Joe, Jamie has talked to Jenny...too many people are in the mix, too much has been said already. How does your limited truth fit in?"
"We will find a way," Vincent declared. "You are correct-too many are involved I cannot ask you to delivery this message.Jamie can slip a note under his door to avoid further incidents."Vincent sat at his writing desk to carefully determine what to write to put Joe at ease & keep them all safe.
"You really haven't heard anything I said?" said Catherine from the bed. "I was not lashing at you, I apologize. I cannot allow you to risk so much, Vincent." She put a hand on his, stopping his writing.
"Catherine writing this note is the least risk.It is a way I can explain without exposing myself or the tunnels.You want Joe to trust you to know what you must do,please Catherine see that I need you to trust me as well that this is something I must do."
Vincent finished his note and Kipper delivered it to Bennie, requesting he put it on Joe's desk under the pretext of delivering legal papers to the D.A.'s office. Bennie was in and out with no one the wiser. Joe found the note minutes later. Catherine had called in to let Joe know she would be running late. He glanced around then curiously opened the note. Handwritten script flowed across the page: Mr. Maxwell, We have never met & I must ask you to understand there are reasons. Some I can tell you and some I can not tell. Catherine speaks of you often and truly values your friendship. Know that it pains her greatly to have to keep certain aspects of her private life from good people like you. It pains me as well. You see, I am the reason ..." Joe blinked & tried to keep his heart from leaping out of his chest, "Know that I would protect her with my life. She is my life. The choices she must make keeps many safe.We may never meet face to face,but I felt you needed to know these truths to grant Catherine the privacy she and I require"
The note definitely gave the impression of an intimate relationship. He start to blush realizing he had stumbled upon much more than a social network. He looked up to see Cathy walking in, & he motioned for her to come over. He still owed her an apology. “Don’t hate me, Radcliff,” Joe said with a lop-sided smile.
“Joe, I could never hate you . . . you are very dear to me,” Catherine responded, taking his hands in hers and looking earnestly into his face.
Emotions swelled in Joe’s heart and he almost spoke his true feelings.
"I got carried away..." He confessed. "When you came to me to talk before I didn't push.. figured if you didn't want to share it was none of business." Joe paused. "Then you almost died. Maybe if I had insisted a little more.." his voice was chocking up.
"Listen, Joe, forget it. I appreciate your concern. You know now everything's OK with me, right?"
"Good." Dismissing her personal life from the conversation, she said one word, "McBain?"
"They never found the driver of the van he was never positively identified.. the other four bodies were recovered from the garage." He paused with an unspoken question, but went on when Catherine shook her head. "And McBain denies knowledge of any of it.
Catherine was shocked. "How did they die? They all ran off, and one of them was McBain's cousin and business partner! It makes no sense he'd have them killed, even if they abducted us without his knowledge. It's crazy!"
Joe eyed her deciding how much to say. "Cathy, two of the bodies were found next to the mangled back door-the other 2 bodies were inside the back of crashed van. All deeply slashed by some unknown weapon. I don't recall much after being shot..."
"I recall everything & there were no bodies. They were injured but I heard them run away. Do we know for sure the bodies are the same men who abducted us? Maybe McBain is trying to distract attention from himself by planting other bodies at the scene?" Paracelsus laughed. Vincent would never reveal the secret of the Tunnels. His plan would work. Vincent would be captured and he, Paracelsus, would control his Tunnels again! How clever of him to have murdered the men and returned them to the van!
"McBain's cousin was among the bodies, & I got a good look at them before I was knocked unconscious. It's the same men.How they were killed forensics couldn't determine outside of severe slashes." Joe said. Catherine needed to talk to Vincent about this. And although her mind kepp picturing a conspiracy by Paracelsus, she knew this couldn't be, since that horrible man had been dead for months.
Just then, an excited Rita surprised them both: "Joe, they found the murdor weapon!"
"Where?" He grabbed the report from Rita & quickly scanned it.
"They found traces of blood in an old tunnel connected to the garage. A double edged knife was hidden behind a bit of brick that had been carved out & replaced. No prints." Rita relayed.
Catherine sighed with relief. "That's our slasher, Joe. But without prints..." A flashback of their recent abduction made her jump: "Joe! The knife! Three of them had guns, but the man behind you in the van had a knife!" She started pasing, just like Vincent often did.
"But that doesn't make sense... all four bodies were accounted for. The driver is the only loose end, & I didn't get a good look at him." Joe responded. "Surely you don't think the man with the knife killed the other 3 then himself."
"Of course not, Joe... But remember we all got out of the van in the commotion. The driver could have easily gotten it after shotting its owner. Why do you think there are no prints? He got the perfect alibi!"
"Hey, that's a possibility, Radcliffe. Good! What we need to do then is focus on finding that driver. He's our prime suspect. Did you get a good look at him?" excitedly he asked.
"No.. I only know he was gone by the time the back had cleared out. He could be anyone." Frustration filled her voice.
McBain looked at the photo of his cousin. It would be the picture they'd run with the obituary. It was a shame he'd had to off his own blood but after the botched kidnapping... the man had screwed up too many times. McBain knew how to cut his losses. But he would wait. It was not the time to atract attention.
"You did?" Vincent held her close.
"Mmhm," she sighed happily. "I just told him the truth: That Peter ordered a week off after my cirjury. I gave my statement, and Joe can manage without me."
Catherine continued, "Told Joe I was going to be out of the city staying with friends during my time off so he wouldn't worry." Vincent smiled in approval. "Joe really shouldn't be back at the office either, but he feels he needs to pursue the case."
"That reminds me of someone..." Vincent smiled at her, a soft kiss to her temple, feeling her joy at the simple contact. He wanted to stay like this forever, but he had other plans.
"Come, Catherine. I have... I have a surprise... for you." He took her hand as they began walking towards the Chamber of the Falls. It was one of her favorite places below.Upon entering the chamber she saw the blanket, pillows and picnic basket that had been laid out with candles on the edges.
"I wanted to give you peace and perhaps.." Vincent never stuttered, yet he found himself searching for the words, "What you give up to be with me, humbles me. Your love knows no bounds and I hope that I can unleash the bindings I've inflicted on myself" he whispered with downcast eyes. She gently put her hand on his chin to urge him to look into her eyes.
"We can work on moving forward together. I love you, Vincent. Know that I will be here no matter how long the journey takes. You can't lose me."
Vincent wrapped Catherine in his arms, covering her with his cloak. She inhaled his scent and fell back against his chest. Feeling his breath on her cheek she closed her eyes.
"What lies above threatens to separate us, let me move below" She asked.
Closing his eyes he breathed a deep sigh,"Catherine,I could want nothing more, but you have a life Above that you cannot turn your back on.We will find a way to combine worlds.To do otherwise would destroy who you are;you are a woman of both worlds.
"VINCENT, what just happened threatened my life, you say I am your life...so this threatens you too"
"If it is death himself you seek to elude moving Below will not prevent him.There are dangers Below as Above, & in time the grime reaper comes to all." He paused.Maybe recent events had shook her more than he had acknowledged. "You still feel the fear."
"My fear is that we will NEVER have the chance for OUR happy life" Catherine hugged him tightly, he felt her heat thru his vest and shirts, "You, Vincent, have the power to bring about our future" Her lips hovered over his neck, he felt chaotic inside.
Just then they heard a low rough voice coming from the shadows,"The future is mine as it should have been from the start."
Vincent whirled around a growl erupting from his throat. It couldn't be,Paracelsus was dead. Wasn't he?
"Kill me and you will
....... never see your precious 'Father' alive again." an evil grin spread across Paracelsus face.
"What do you want?" Vincent stood in front of Catherine to shield her as he tightly restrained his fury at the intrusion & threat.
"What I've always wanted." You are my son and I want you to take your proper place in our kingdom. The man you call Father stole you from me. Your place is at my side. If you do not agree to come and serve ith me I will have no other choice but to remove everyone and reclaim the world I began. Father will remain my 'guest' while you think it over,but don't take too long." A burst of light made Vincent & Catherine to shield their eyes while the Evil One vanished.
Above the van driver stood over Father in apt 264. "That explains our kidnapping today, I'm afraid for Joe too, NOW!" Catherine exclaimed, clasping onto Vincent's arm.
Joe was dealing with his own headaches without a solid lead to follow up on. "When you will have some answers?!" he slammed the phone down mumbling curses to himself.
"Bad time?" Jenny stood at the office door watching his tirade. His face brightened. Hi Jenny, so much has been happening since I saw you last. I honestly feel thast Cathy is in danger but she just will not trust me enough to tell me. Maybe she will tell you what's happening to her and this mystery man in her life. What mystery man Joe?
He wanted to bite the words back the moment he said them.'Didn't mean to let that slip' he thought. "Uh well Cath let me knew she was going out of town while on sick leave & I figure there has to be a man in there somewhere, right?" Jen's eyes narrowed.
"You're probably right. But as curious as I am too, there must be a reason for her silence, one we must respect." They remain thoughtful for a while. "We could start now," Jenny said finally. "How about some lunch?"
Catherine shook herself. It was the It was the second time she was having visions of Paracelsus disrupting her happiness. Vincent noticed her unrest and held her tighter.
"What is it Catherine?"
"Can't stop thinking about Paracelsus.. his thirst for vengeance. Do you know where he would have taken Father?" her prosecutor's mind kicked in.
"Above. Somewhere I could not follow." Vincent clenched his fists.
"Maybe contacts I have could help." Vincent regarded her, confused and worried. "Contacts, Catherine? And what is this about Father and Paracelsus?"
"I don't understand, Vincent... I close my eyes and Paracelsus is there, threatening all we have."
"You've been through so much... Maybe you should rest. You are suppose to be on sick leave." he reminded her.
She thought of a compromise, "I can rest in my apartment & still be able to call people that may have info on the case that could lead to finding Father." Reluctantly he agreed.
That way he could gain time, since he knew she would object to being examined.
"Tell me more about these "visions", my dear," a worried Father inquired back in the Hospital Chamber. "Have you been sleeping at all? You've been under great stress."
Father's voice suddenly turned rough.She turned to find Paracelsus standing there. She screamed, & there the nightmare ended. Vincent held her close, "Shh Father is well, & Paracelsus is dead. You fell asleep shortly after taking sick leave from work."
“Vincent!” Catherine sobbed, “What do these dreams mean?”
“I’ve had disturbing thoughts,” Catherine went on tenuously. “Even though he asked the questions any doctor would ask a patient, something about Father doesn’t connect. His natural warmth is missing; his actions seemed forced.”
"Catherine, he's gone. Paracelsus is dead." As he spoke the words, memories came flooding back into his mind. He knew this fact better than anyone. "You've been under great stress. Of course your dreams are disturbed, but you're safe. It'll be all right."
"It seemed so real. I guess the recent trauma still has me on edge." She pulled closer to Vincent. "With the driver of the van still out there I suppose my mind got carried away."
"You're safe.. no one will harm you here. Come lets get you some tea."
Vincent held her tight and kissed her hair. "Things will feel right again soon. Justry to relax. I'm here." Catherine hugged him tight. "I just want to be with you. Will you take me to the falls and read to me?" She smiled. "Anything." He whispered. They spent the rest of the evening content in each others' warmth, Catherine's spirits already lifted.
"I meant to give you something earlier," he softly said, smiling into her hair and producing a familiar object which he offered to her.
"Winterfest!" She exclaimed as she held the candle lovingly.
Jenny & Joe were hitting it off over lunch.The sparkle in Jenny's eyes almost made Joe forget his dashed dreams of a date with Cathy.Almost. At least he now knew Cath shared a love that would be good to her. Joe suddenly remembered the message he left on Cathy's answering machine. He wished he hadn't been so honest about his feelings for her. He wanted Cathy to know that he was always available if her mystery man ever let her down. Now that he and Jenny were talking... well he would always be there for Cathy as a close friend nothing would change that. Jenny seemed very intuitive; almost scary good at seeing into him yet he didn't feel the nervousness that was often there with the women he met. Vincent decided to take Catherine back to his chamber. For some strange reason he did not want Catherine to be out of his sight. Catherine was extremly happy that she would be able to spend more time with Vincent. Secretly she wanted to stay in his chamber with him, but she knew such a request would cause him unease. She laid down on his bed, & he pulled the cover over her.
"Sit with me,please?"He could deny her nothing.
"Better?" the caress of his voice soothed her. She placed her hand on his. Catherine slept yet was restless, within the hour she had the bed coverings tangled in sweat.
Vincent tapped for Father - "Vincent, what is it?"
Vincent spoke softly explaining the visions, her trepidation. Father shook his head sadly, "Vincent..... I know this will bring neither of you little comfort,but after such reawakening of trauma as she has been through flashbacks & nightmares are not uncommon.The best thing you can do for her is to be near & reassure her all is well." he instructed.
Vincent quietly sat down on his bed next to Catherine. He was pleased that she seemed to belong in his bed. He wished he could share this thought with her but he as sure he might frighten her with his true desires. He placed his head gently next to hers, & closed his eye for a moment to dream.In her sleep Catherine snuggled closer wrapping her arms around his neck. He froze not wanting to wake her. Then it happened. She softly pressed her lips to his. It took all his restraint not to pull back. Catherine continued to nuzzle his mouth, then a soft moan escaped her lips. The sound undid him. He lay beside her and pressed close, molding himself to her. He couldn't help himself; he wanted her so much. She woke to find him wrapped around her. Upon her waking his fears flooded back to him, & he started to pull back.
"No.." Her sharp insistence stopped his retreat, "Please don't pull away." His eyes riveted to hers. The intensity between them spiked.
"Catherine.." his voice was rasped. "Share your light with me, Vincent. Let that light warm me, bind me to you" Catherine was breathless as she wrapped both arms around Vincent's neck.
Vincent inhaled deeply & she rolled closer, reflexively his arms encircled her. He relished the feeling. His whole body shook from holding her so intimately. Hesitantly at first but with increased pressure as she leaned to him - He kissed her fully for the first time. Both were breathless from this step forward. She treasured his rare chagrined half smile. "That wasn't so bad, was it?" she murmured. "The sky didn't fall."
"It may have and I didn't notice," he replied, bending to kiss her again.
He lifted one hand to her mass of honey-gold hair, his fingers drifting through it. She shivered at his touch. Vincent pulled away from Catherine. He felt as if his whole body was on fire. Catherine looked at him questioning his actions with a raised eyebrow. Catherine he said, if I don't stop, I dare to think where this would lead. I hope it leads us to our understanding of what is to come..." He sat up on the edge of the bed to regain control, "one step at a time." Eyes looked back at her pleading for her to understand - he needed to know he could stop. Know that control was within his grasp even in this.
She rose and leaned against his back, her arms surrounding him. "Just as long as you know that I am here, always, waiting for you. I want you, I need you...so much." She pressed a kiss to his shoulder and hugged him hard. "Always. I'm yours." Touched by her willingness & expression of desire for him,he laid back down beside her now that the raging fire under his skin had cooled enough not to threaten loss of control.With a final kiss & a soft caress of her hair they fell asleep side by side.
Vincent woke up expecting to find Catherine still in his arms. To his surprise Catherine was not in his bed or his chamber. He jumped up and frantically pulled his boots on. He searched their bond to ascertain where she might be. He was startled to hear her laughter and footsteps approaching his chamber.
"He didn't!" Catherine exclaimed to Devin as they both rounded the corner from the outside tunnel.
"Bet me!" Devin challenged. Vincent looked at them quizzically which made her laugh harder.
Hey little brother. I as just telling Chandler here about the times you would go skinny dipping. She doesn't believe me. Vincent's face turned beet red as he hid his face behind his hair. Catherine began to giggle as she told of her own experiences in college on nights out with the girls.
Jenny had been disappointed that Cathy was not due back till Monday.She hoped to catch lunch with her, & see how her recovery was coming.The girl at Cath's apt still tugged at her,but thoughts of Joe soon overruled. Jenny decided on the spur of the moment to call Joe and ask him to attend a gallery show with her; she enjoyed his company and she thought he enjoyed hers, and they were two single people alone in the big city - so why not? He sounded a bit nervous on the phone when she mentioned the gallery, but she was sure he would enjoy catching a bite to eat beforehand, & who knows maybe they would find somewhere afterward that echoed of Billy Joel.
Joe fiddled with his tie debating He was about to say, 'sure, kiddo', when he realized that was Cathy's nickname.'I'd love to', and they planned their "date".
When they were alone Catherine inquired,'would you take me swimming?'. Vincent's smile was enigmatic.'you don't give up!'.
"Not easily." her grin was playful. Much of the tension between them had melted away with the previous night's exchange; a confidence borne from knowing their relationship was moving forward at a steady pace brought Vincent peace & Catherine hope.
Vincent's plan to take Catherine on a picnic seemed to be the trick to her relaxation. They'd read then eat then read some more. "Feel so lazy, so brazen with you holding me, feeding me morsels of muffins" she lay in his arms as his heart rate soared.
In the guest chamber Devin glanced over his shoulder then picked up the pack that had tools and something else that he had avoided till now. Coming home to the tunnels to visit was one reason he was in New York, but it wasn't the only reason.
Devin wondered where Melvin was. He was supposed to help him with this project. Well, he would have to go on, alone, for now. With tools in hand he quickly left his guest chamber, being careful not to be seen. He was headed to a secret place that even few of the tunnel dwellers knew of to see if it was still undisturbed after all these years. It had bee the one secret Devin had kept from Vincent growing up, but it was time to unearth the past.
Devin doubted if even Mouse knew of this place. As he went deeper, he noticed there was no evidence of the tunnel floor being disturbed. He was confident his last visit years ago was the last time anyone had been in this part of the tunnels. Even the tapping of the pipes was lost to this section of the tunnels. Finally he arrived at the spot so long undisturbed, but never forgotten. How could he forget? The contents of his make shift safe had haunted him for more than half his life.
As he dug up the little box, he hesitated to open the lid. Did he really want to resurrect those memories again? Yes. If he didn’t, they would also haunt the rest of his life. He had to do this in order to move forward. The lid was almost rusted shut. He was careful getting it open so as to not damage the contents. Would Father and Vincent forgive him for having secreted it away before he left the tunnels? Scooping up the treasure he placed it safely in his pocket. Devin hurriedly placed the box and the rest of the contents back into his “safe” and covered it again. As he left the secret place, he carefully smudged his footprints to eliminate evidence of his passage. Devin's fingers toyed with the ring in his pocket.It had been Grace's engagement ring; at the time Devin had taken it to get back at the old man. Why the ring had been important to Father Devin had not known as a child, but it was past time to return it.
"Father, are you busy?" Devin slowly descended the short of stairs into Father's workspace. The old man looked up. "Always. But I never pass up an opportunity for a chat. Come! Sit."
Devin fidgeted. Father had never known him to do that.
"Tell me." Devin hesitated, then decided the best way to handle this was to just blurt it right out. He plopped down into the chair across from Father and said, “Well, Pops, just before I left 20 years ago, I took something that wasn’t mine.”
Father restrained himself from launching into a lecture on all that Devin had done wrong in his leaving. Devin reached into his pocket to bring out the ring, but it was gone! He tried the other pocket with Father eying him closely. Where did it drop out.
"Uh...sorry...I..." Devin was at a loss for words, Father's brow was lowering into disapproval, and he frantically backtracked in his mind to come up with an explanation. Finally he spouted, "Be right back!" and fled.
Father shook his head. "Devin...."
Devin retraced his steps looking for any glimmer in the dust that might be the ring. Curiosity got the better of Mouse as he saw Devin muttering to himself while looking where he was walking. Mouse followed a good 20 feet before asking, "What Lost?".
“Arthur!” cried Mouse, “Missed you! Been gone!” He reached to scoop up the errant raccoon, but Arthur scampered higher up onto the bookshelves. “What’s that?” Mouse called after him, spying something gold and shiny in the animal’s paws. “Uh-oh! Arthur, you been taking?”
Arthur chittered as if to say *Finding!*. Mouse looked closer & saw it was a ring."Pretty!" Mouse didn't realize the ring in Arthur's paws was what Devin had been looking for. Walking back to his chamber,Mouse had an idea,"Give to Vincent for Catherine". Mouse rejoiced, "Ahhh, Vincent's Catherine!!!'
Joe had felt out of place at the gallery,but he tried not to show it. Jenny and he laughed over dinner at the different interpretations. Before long the conversation turned more personal. "Don't think I ever got the full story on how you know Cathy."
"College, a dorm mix up. Then I had a dream a about a first date and we got closer"
"Did you see this thing with her mystery man?" Joe asked.
"I did not believe it, I have to trust myself more"
Joe smiled, "I trust you", his hand slid to hers.
It was unusual for people to accept her dreams without being skeptical. Jenny found herself squeezing his hand in unspoken thanks. They both blushed at the intimate moment. When Cathy got back to town, there was definitely need for some girl talk on men. But she's always been a very private person, she took matters from the heart very seriously. Even if Cathy wanted to keep her romantic interest behind closed curtains, Jenny definitely wanted to pick her friend's brain on learning more about this Mr. Joe Maxwell.
After the picnic Catherine & Vincent saw Devin muttering to himself as he walked.
"Devin? Is something wrong?"
Startled, Devin looked up. "Uh...lost something. A ring." Head back down, he continued perusing the ground, wlowly waking away from them.
Mouse was waiting in Vincent's chamber and tugged on Vincent's sleeve to whisper.
"Arthur found pretty ring. Mouse give ring to Vincent.Vincent give ring to Catherine." Mouse grinned.
"Where did Arthur 'find' this ring?" Vincent asked.
"Don't know. Have to ask Arthur." Mouse shrugged as he handed over the ring then darted out.
Bemused, Vincent's eyes followed Mouse whirl out of his chamber. Giving a light shake of his shaggy head, his eyes lowered to focus on the ring in the palm of his hand. It looked very old & familiar somehow but his mind couldn't place where he would have seen the ring before. Catherine had stifled a laugh at Mouse's matter of fact reply as she came over to look at the ring Vincent held in his hand.
"It's beautiful... looks like a wedding ring. Must be the ring Devin said he lost and is searching for. What do you think Devin is doing with a wedding ring?" Catherine asked, her eyes moving from the ring on his hand to his eyes.
Vincent gave a slight shrug and replied, "Your guess is as good as mine." Though a fleeting thought passed through his mind, one he didn't dare voice to Catherine. "Would you excuse me for a moment..." Vincent went in search of Devin leaving a confused Catherine shaking her head.
While Vincent was gone Catherine entertain herself by looking at all the treasures Vincent had accumulated in his chamber. She caressed his belongings wishing that she was one of his precious fxtures in his chamber. As she glared into her heart she chastised herself feeling foolish as she knew he loved her more than anything in this room.
Devin was slumped down aside a tunnel when Vincent caught up to him. "Devin?" Vincent queried. The older brother looked up into deep blue eyes with a scowl. “Did you, by any chance, lose this?” Vincent asked, gently, as he held up the ring Mouse had given him.
Devin leaped up, "Where did you find it?"
"Mouse... correction, *Arthur* found it..." He tilted his head in thought, "Devin, *is* this the ring you were looking for?"
"Yeah that's it!" Devin smiled as reached for it, but Vincent pulled back a moment. Devin's eyes quickly lifted from the ring to Vincent's eyes, a puzzled look on his face.
"Mind telling me why a wedding ring is in your possession?" inquires Vincent, his scrutinizing gazed fixed on his brother's.
Devin began fidgeting, "I was returning the ring to it's owner."
"Who would that be?" blue eyes waited.
Devin sighed & gave up. "Father." Vincent's eyes got wide. Now he recognized the ring! He recalled how Father had searched for months for it. Vincent handed the ring to Devin but his eyes stayed fixed on his as he waited for his brother to explain. Devin lowered his eyes to the ring in his hand then-sighing again-he confessed to Vincent why he had taken the ring & hidden it all those years ag0.
"For vengeance.. one last blow?" light dawned in Vincent's mind, "That is why you wanted me to beg Father for an extra story that night.. so you could sneak to take the ring." Hurt & disbelief played across his face.
"I was a kid!" Devin argued.
Yes. Vincent sighed, remembering all the childish pranks he himself pulled. He looked directly at Devin and reminded him that he as an adult now. "Father, I am sure would appreciate the return of his ring. Devin hung his head and appeared to be considering his options.
"Could leave it on his desk..." Devin was only half kidding.
"Devin..." Vincent's tone implied that was not a satisfactory solution.
"The old man and I were just starting to get along..." sighed Devin. Vincent's eyes softened. "Don't you think this would seal the relationship?" Vincent queried. "Gotcha on that one, little bro" Devin followed Vincent to Father's chamber.
"Father, I have something of yours" Devin confessed.
"Devin, will wonders ever cease?" Father smiled. Devin glanced to Vincent one last time before revealing what he had in his hand. Vincent nodded to go on.
"Grace's ring..." Devin explained as he held out his offering to Father.
The old man's face paled then erupted in fury, "All these years... DID you have this????" He shook his head as he held the ring for closer examination.
"It took a little. . .ah..journey of its own" Devin confessed further.
"The issue is that it is safely back in your hands, Father" Vincent gathered both together in a hug ,but Vincent was the only one willingly participating. Like Father like son... they glared at each other stubbornly.
Catherine was starting to wonder where Vincent had gone. They only had the weekend left before she needed to return Above to her office. She headed toward Father's Chamber, hearing Vincent's voice she hovered - it did not sound like the time to pop in.
"Enough!" Vincent sternly declared. They turned their glares to Vincent. This squabble was costing him precious time with Catherine, & it would stop. "Father you have back a treasured keepsake; Devin you are free from the weight of guilt. Let it rest!". "I for one will choose to spend my day in harmony, finding a true accord with my Catherine" and he left swiftly.
"True accord?" Father repeated.
"You thinking what I'm thinking?" Devin winked lasciviously.
"Devin!" Father showed his prim side.
Devin got serious for a moment. "He does have a point."
Humbled by his eldest son's uncharacteristic humility & reason, Father conceded. "I suppose he does. Devin, I apologize for being harsh it's just that you can't know what that ring meant to me."
Hearing Vincent's words she braced herself, ready for whatever Vincent had planned, "Hello, love,I have missed you."
He caught in a his finest hug, "come away with me, Catherine........."
His voice wrapped her in dreams. They stopped off at Vincent's chamber to pack a few things then she happily let him lead her to a special place he had prepared for their weekend to maximize private time before she had to return Above.
"I want this weekend to be special Catherine... For too long we have been interrupted, pulled away by other demands...but not today."
Catherine smiled. "I agree completely."
"And so we are going to a special..."
They were interrupted by Samantha and Geoffrey, who entered the chamber arguing. "Excuse us, Catherine and I were just leaving".
Samantha's eyes bugged at Vincent's statement,"we wanted you to help us settle this" she pouted.
"Where would you go if I was out?"
"We'd go to Mary." She admitted.
"Then we'd appreciate your understanding
Finally Vincent & Catherine left her guest chamber where they had been interrupted to proceed on to the chamber that had been specially prepared with a sliding door to afford increased privacy to those Below for times such as an anniversary or honeymoon.
Joe escorted Jenny out of the cab and up the steps to her brownstone's door. She turned and smiled coyly. "Would you like to come up and see my etchings?"
When she opened the door to her loft, he saw a dozen etchings on the walls.
"You weren't lying!"
She laughed, "What were you expecting?". It was a teasing question as the mischief in her eyes said she knew the question had been vague with the possibility of very different meanings.
"Well.. you never know." he shrugged with an inviting sideways grin.
"Let me take your coat," she offered, as she peeled hers off. Soon she had poured them wine and lit a fire. They sat in cozy silence, listening to the crackling flames. Joe sipped his wine, gazing in admiration at Jenny's lithe form curled beside him.
"So tell me Joe why did you pursue a career in law?" Seemed a causal enough question, but the pain it brought to his eyes almost caused her to brush it away.
"Kinda runs in the family. My dad was a cop. He uh..was killed. They were never convicted." "Oh Joe, I am so sorry," Jenny said sincerely.
He attempted a smile to minimize need for her concern,"It was years ago.."
She reached out a hand to softly touch the side of his face.Joe reacted by meeting her eyes questioningly;what he found there was compassion without pity. He sat his glass down.
"Some pain never leaves us," she murmured.
He closed the short distance between their lips and kissed her tenderly. She responded with gentle warmth. He sighed as he pulled back. "I couldn't help myself. I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I liked it." They were made for each other. Jenny's sense of humor lightened Joe's heart. His unvarnished questions about art tied them in stitches until Joe found every reason to stay for breakfast.
Vincent and Catherine emerged from the cocoon of their private evening, each of them misty-eyed and smiling. Their spirits had been restored, their love celebrated, and they faced the new day's challenges with full hearts. Catherine would return Above knowing one less barrier existed between them.
Joe hesitated at the door."You're still a little uneasy about this mystery with Cathy,aren't you?" He nodded slightly. "Don't be. Trust ME" Jen assured him with an impish grin. Vincent & Catherine walked leisurely towards her threshold, their sides touching, her hand held firmly in his, their bond humming with their happiness & the love that's always over-flowing from their hearts. Both couldn't help the smile that lighted their faces despite being at the threshold where they had to part ways.
"Did you have a good week off?" He asked with a bemused smile.
"Oh it was OK... " She grin devilishly. They hugged *and* kissed good bye as she turned to climb the steps up.
Vincent slowly strolled towards his chamber. He was replaying the private moments he and Catherine had recently shared. He did not have adequate words to describe the passion Catherine bestowed upon him. He had a decision to make about their new bond.
Catherine was still grinning widely as she slumped into the chair to listen to her phone messages. BEEP "Cath. Jenny here. call me when you get back we have got to have lunch.. " BEEP "Cathy .. just seeing if you were back yet. See you at the office."
Catherine listened to all her messages promising herself to return all the calls but first..a nice hot bath. She dumped all her dirty clothes into the washer while her bath tub was filling. She promised herself to take at least an hour soak. She needed it; to get clean & to ease those sore muscles. Morning would come too soon with the pressing caseloads. She absently wondered what Jen wanted to discuss over lunch. Had to be something grand as Jenny was next to impossible to nail down a lunch date with.
After she eased her body into her warm vanilla scented bath, she began to daydream about the private moments she and Vincent shared. She was so very pleased that Vincent was able to finally see her as more than just a casual companion. Her mind was lingering on their last night together when the doorbell rang. She was certainly not expecting anyone. Annoyed, she quickly wrapped a towel around herself to go see who was now knocking insistently. She hastily opened the door only to find no one there.
As Catherine was about to close the door, she looked downward and to her surprise there was a gift basket wrapped with white silk fabric and a gorgeous bow. She brought the basket in and began to smile as she recognized the elegant script that was on the card - Elliot's. It had been quite a while since she last saw him, and this wrapping alone must have cost a million bucks. As she started to go through the basket she was surprised at the things she found... on top was a pair of tickets to the NYC Ballet, they were hosting The Bolshoi in a grand Fete. Elliott had a major stake in the fancy dress evening. Cathy shrugged at the thought of declining the evening, she could only think of being in Vincent's arms...warm and furry heaven as they were. But it would be good to see Elliot who had become a dear friend & Vincent had already told her that he had to be in the lower chambers helping to move a family into new chambers the same night as the concert on Tuesday. She accepted the invitation.
"Cathy-am I too early?" Jenny vibrated with enthusiasm over the phone. "You're in a good mood today!" Cathy giggled.
"From my dreams, we should both be in excellent moods, am I right?" Jenny probed.
"Kiss and tell? Oh, no Jenny!" Cathy's emotion effused. "I'm not the type to kiss & tell you know that..." Cathy remarked guardedly.
"OK.. tell me what you know about Joe." Jenny grinned as Cathy's eyebrows raised."We've been spending some time together... " Catherine stared at her friend in surprise.
"Time, or TIME?" Cathy was agog!
"None of that K&T, Cathy!" Jenny countered, "I'll say he's quite a guy, my kind of guy".
Meanwhile, Vincent's body clock told him there were too many hours until he could ascend to his lover's arms. He'd have to stay busy!
Catherine shook her head disbelievingly, "I go away for a week - Seriously though Joe is one of the most sincere, honest, decent guys I've ever known."
"And that is saying quite a lot.. " Jenny dove into her salad with a satisfied smile.
Vincent sensed excitement through the bond he had with Catherine. He wondered if Catherine was sensing his own eagerness in regard to him visiting her later that evening. He glanced heavenly and momentarily wished he could go to her during day hours. Suddenly he felt her hopes fall.
"Nancy.. what do you mean your apartment is being fumigated & you thought it would be the perfect night to sleep over!" Catherine stared at her friend.
"What's wrong Cath... hiding someone in your closet." Jen joked.
"And if I was?" Cathy felt her heart fall to her feet."Nancy, I was leaving for the night...take the apt, OK?" Cathy got Nancy settled with coffee, and sent a expectantly happy wave to Vincent.
Vincent thought, love was a wild ride of emotions!
Jenny & Cathy had been surprised to see Nancy stop in,but not as surprised as Cathy had been by her request. Nancy & Jen watched as Cathy headed out of the restaurant then looked conspiratorially at each other.
"Lets see what she's up to." Nancy grinned
She was tempted, but... "Nope. Let's leave her to her secrets," Nancy replied, remembering the chat she'd had with Catherine not long before...about the man she loved, the man she couldn't say much about.
Jenny frowned. "You're no fun! So...about Joe.. I think this might really be something special." Jenny confided.
Joe say Cathy come back into the office after lunch."Hey Ratcliffe got a minute?"
"Sure Joe what ya need?" she asked.
He hesitated,"Van driver was caught.Got some story about a lion man.." "Did they run a tox screen for drugs?", covering her fear.
"Didn't think of that, Radcliff!" Joe breathed easier now that could explain it.
"What else do we know, Joe?" She worried about loose ends. This all had to stop, she wanted to move Below. But she knew she had a responsibility to those she knew Above as well.
"He's talking.. details on the other four claiming McBain set them up.Don't know Ratcliffe he seems pretty lucid.Going to go ask him some questions of my own. You taking off early?"
"No, I'm here for the whole day. I'd like to come with you and watch the police interrogation, if you don't mind?"
"The more the merrier. I was just leaving."
As they took a cab to the police station, Joe confided, "I've been seeing Jenny."
"I heard! " She smiled as his slight blushing. "It's OK Joe.. "
They arrived at the police station. Deputy reported the drug screen had come back clean. Cathy stayed behind the one way glass as Joe went in to talk to the driver.
"He roared! Had a mane & claws.." Cathy's mind reeled, the man was lucid, he presented earnest testimony. Suddenly an unknown officer barged into the room, shot the man point blank, dropped the gun and ran. Joe never got a clear view of the killer. Lost in a sea of uniforms _ gone! Joe & the officer raced to review the video surveillance footage. The killer as not clear,but Joe was able to listen to the previous information given by the now dead driver. Cathy caught up to hear,"...was hiding. Heard her call'im Vincent." She paled.
Joe turned toward her, a question on his lips. But he thought about the fact he had been rescued by this unknown person, his and Cathy's lives saved from kidnappers with guns. And he said to the officer,"Sounds screwy, like he made it up. Forget it." A look between Cathy & Joe - understanding on his part & gratitude on hers.They walked to Joe's car to head back.Neither spoke for several minutes."Thank you Joe."She said simply.
"Vincent has nothing to fear from me Ratcliffe.Maybe.." he stopped short.
Answering his unspoken question, she replied, "Maybe. Someday."
That was enough for him.
Father contemplated Grace's ring. It couldn't be chance that placed it back in his hands. There was a reason for it to be "found" at this point in time. Devin had been wrong to take the ring all those years ago, but what was important is where they all went from here. Grace was Devin's mother... perhaps he should pass it down to the next generation. Mind made up, Father set off to find his eldest son.
Father located Devin in the candle making chamber joking and laughing with Rebecca. It had been a long while since Father visited this chamber. This chamber and all the candle equipment always reminded him of the early days in the tunnel and Grace. He cleared his throat to get their attention.Devin straitened a bit when Father walked towards him out of habit.
"Devin,I think it's only right that you should have your mother's ring.I loved her very much, & will always miss her but it should pass to you.
Devin choked up, who would he give such a precious possession to? When he thought of "Love", he thought of Vincent and Catherine if his block headed brother would EVER take it to the next level. Should he even mention it to Father, the way he felt? Devin reconsidered... he would bring it up to Vincent first. In an uncharacteristic moment of endearment for the Old Man, Devin gave Father a quick hug and wiped a tear from his eye as he accepted the ring.
Vincent was writing in his journal when
he felt a jubilant flutter of excitement. He realized it was the bond He shared with Catherine. She was on her way to see him. He capped his ink pen and returned his journal to it's special hiding place in his desk. He could feel Catherine's desires bubbling just under the surface. He was about to go to meet her when Devin appeared.
"Got a minute Vincent?" Devin sounded hopeful. While wanting to go meet Catherine, Vincent would never begrudge his brother an audience. Vincent motioned Devin in.
"This ring of my Mother's...it's a family ring. Father gave it back to me, so I've been thinking maybe you might like to have it...for Catherine."
Vincent's eyes widened in surprise. "For...Catherine?"
"Make an honest woman of her, baby brother!" Devin exclaimed with a firm pat on Vincent's back.
"Surely you are not implying that I should propose to Catherine." his tone was incredulous.
"No to her boss.." Devin smirked, "of course I'm implying you should propose to Catherine!"
Why? Vincent,you love her and everyone knows that she loves you. Man, I wished I had someone like Catherine desiring to spend her life with me. She's smart, loyal, beautiful and she's RICH.
Everything any hot blooded man would want. That's it, I'm not taking no for an answer. She deserves this ring, deserves a life with you...just as you deserve a life with her. Take the leap, take it now!"
Vincent was dumbfounded. He stared hard at Devin, but Devin wasn't laughing. He meant every word.
"You're serious." Vincent had never seen Devin so earnest. "I will not ask her to sacrifice her life above."
"Who says she has to? She can still have her work Above even if this becomes her home. Don't you owe her the chance to have both worlds?"
Devin I have much to think about. There are many issues to consider. Devin SHH...Catherine is only a few yards away. I don't want you to mention what we discussed to her or anyone. PROMISE !
Ok little brother I give my word. Catherine entered to find Vincent wide eyed, & Devin with a mischievous half smile. "Boys.." She smiled as she eyed them closely. Devin quietly slipped the ring into Vincent's palm before he could object or Catherine notice then slipped out.
"What was that about?" she
asked Vincent. Vincent turned his back to Catherine as he gently moved toward his wardrobe. He carefully opened the top drawer and placed the ring Devin gave him in a small keepsake box. As he turned away from the wardrobe he felt a glint of uneaseness "I feel you ran the whole way, Catherine" Vincent eased to her open arms. She nearly jumped into his embrace. "Remind me to get a job weaving baskets when I talk about going back to the DA's office"
"you don't see the value of your job?" he asked.
"NO,no" "It's not that.There's purpose & value to my work-wouldn't wish away. Most days." she chuckled. "Been a harrowing afternoon." She told him about the van driver & Joe. He sat thinking about both her worlds.
"Joe is a trusted friend.Maybe there is a way."
"If you would have told me that we would grow this close, I would not have believed it Catherine" He stood, waiting her next words, juggling the subject of proposing. On a razor's edge Vincent balanced as he waited for Catherine's next words.
"What are you saying Vincent?" She was confused by his mentioning Joe then their relationship.
"Maybe we could arrange for me to meet with him. We could bring your two world's into one shared life." his eyes were intense.Her mind whirled - shared life? "I would to meld my life's worlds into one, what do you mean?" She was hopeful. "You've shown me time and again, how you value me. Our love is. . .eternal. Catherine, close your eyes".
She heard his footfalls and furniture moving, she refused to peek!
"Open them." Her eyes met his then down to the ring.
"Vincent?" dare she hope.
"You work Above, but would you consent to make.. this chamber, your home?" He held his breath. Tears formed in her eyes as she nodded yes. He placed the ring on her finger.
All of her past pain was absolved with his words, for Vincent a proposal was an eternal vow on earth.
"Yes, my Love" Their kiss sealed the their promise as they fell back into the familiar quilt to celebrate their love.
"Vincent?" Father's voice rang out. But he didn't get an answer & left.
It was late when they talked."Yes Catherine I do think it can be done safely."
"To have Joe be able to know you..to be at your side..precious gifts ." She smiled.
"Tomorrow night then.. your apt." he confirmed.
The next evening Catherine nervously re-plumped the already perfectly plumped pillows on her couches. When she heard Joe's knock, she nearly uttered a squeak, but she took a calming breath, then opened the door to him. He smiled. "What's the big news?"
She smiled a nervously."Recall the handwritten note you read?"Joe nodded slowly."There's someone we would like you to meet."She indicated for Joe to sit down on the couch. Vincent softly spoke from the bedroom entrance - cloak pulled up.
"Mr. Maxwell.. I would say I am Catherine's mystery man"
Joe stood stock still, then blinked twice before extending his hand."I'm honored, to meet you". When Vincent dropped his hood fully Joe swallowed hard."l wasn't prepared, I'm sorry, Vincent".
"I understand, " Vincent kept his voice low & gave Joe time to take it all in. Joe was quicker to accept than expected.
"Thank you for trusting me enough to be here."sincerity filled his voice.
"& you for wanting to watch out for her as do I." Vincent sat opposite Joe.
Joe didn't speak for a moment, then blurted out, "Well, this explains a LOT!" He turned to Catherine and added, "Next time I get nosy, you have my permission to smack me one!"
"I'll remember that," she laughed, relief flowing through her. Now the tension was broken..
"There is much I must still keep from you.." Vincent began,but Joe interjected.
"Do you love her?" he asked.
"With all that I am.. she is my life." V replied.
"That's what I need to know.. the rest is optional." Joe assured.
I disagree Joe. The rest is not optional. Catherine has chosen to spend her life with me, but I realize that there were many other opportunities or options for her. My main concern as always is her safety. I need to know that when she is above that she will be safe."
"By optional I was talking 'bout I expect some questions are off limits. Where your 'home' is being one of 'em." Joe explained.
"No one can guarantee harm won't come to any of us - *Above or Below*." She pointedly interjected to them. "The issue is, Joe, that you will be a welcome guest wherever Catherine and I make our home" Vincent assured.
That gave Catherine the idea that Vincent would be open to spending time in her apt, or perhaps a new home with Tunnel access. Her mind reeled. Time to start looking at the real estate ads she noted.
"Good to know.." Joe grinned.
"One last bit of news.. I will need some time off." Cathy moved to sit beside Vincent beaming,"For a honeymoon."
"Honey - ", Joe whistled, "Congrads Ratcliffe!"
Vincent sent a surprised glitter to Catherine through their bond. He realized they had many issues to resolve. He also realized if there was a honeymoon there first had to be a wedding elebration. He then remembered....FATHER, we haven't yet spoke to him.
"We haven't set a date,but definitely will take a couple weeks off. So start planning now Joe to get those interns ready." she warned.
"I better get going .." Joe hugged Cathy & shook Vincents hand goodnight."Good to have met you."
"Likewise." They approached Father in great joy, only his stunned look dampened them."You both hold great love in your hearts, yet day by day life is tedious. Have you thought of moving into a guest chamber to try this life?" Cathy blanched, would they get thru that?
"Father with all do respect.. this is not a trial run. We are committing ourselves to each other for life. Working through any challenges that arise will only strengthen that commitment." Vincent's voice was calm but firm.
"And your job at the DA's?" “Joe is giving me a couple of weeks off for a Honeymoon,” replied Catherine.
“Honeymoon!!” exclaimed Father, alarmed.
“Yes, Honeymoon, Father,” replied Vincent.”I asked Catherine to marry me.”
Vincent restated the news matter of factly. This was one argument Father was not going to win. As comprehension of the battle lost sank in for the patriarch he reached for his chair & sank down rubbing his forehand. "I see.You are set on this then?"
"I believe you already know the answer to that, Father," V replied as he continued to look calmly into his eyes. Father looked from Vincent to Catherine, sighed, then nodded. "Then I wish you great happiness .. suppose we should alert William." Father still struggled to sound confident in his blessing.
Devin bounded into the chamber. "Bout time! Overheard on the way in." Devin shamelessly admitted as he pulled Vincent into a hug & kissed Cathy on the cheek." He whispered closed to V's ear, "I'm glad you wised up, little brother, & finally accepted what Cathy was offering you & that you have a right to. You deserve the happiness only you can bestow each other. With an one arm around of each of them, Devin ushered them out of Father's study to make wedding plans. "You'll want to make sure to ..." Father listened as Devin's voice faded down the tunnel.
'Perhaps it will all work out after all..' Father sighed.
Mary quietly entered Father’s chamber with a tray of tea and a couple of William’s muffins. “I thought you might need a strong cup of tea, Father.”
Father looked up, sadly. “Am I going to lose him, now, Mary?”
Mary was astounded. “Of course not, Father. You're not losing a son, you're gaining a daughter. They love each other very much, they deserve to be together as they are meant to be & to have their own happy life. Please rejoice with them." There was a commotion outside Vincent’s chamber and Mouse came barreling in.
“Heard news! Good! When getting married?”
“Mouse! How did you hear the news so quickly?” Catherine laughed.
Vincent glanced at Catherine. "You know how quickly the news travels on the pipes... "
"Mouse help!" the blonde hair bobbed.
"I appreciate the thought Mouse... but I believe we have planned out what we require." Vincent gently declined.
When the day for the most anticipated event in tunnel history arrived everyone's excitement was palpable. Their closest tunnels friends+family & some esteemed helpers were there to witness & celebrate the joining of their favorite couple & share their joy . They managed to break it to Father that Joe had been introduced to Vincent - once his eyes dilated again - they devised a way to have Joe escorted to the Great Hall effectively blindfolded to keep the tunnels location secret.
They had decided on a very simple ceremony, with Devin as Best Man, Mary as Maid of Honor, and Catherine asked Peter to give her away. Father officiated. Mouse even kept Arthur safely in his chamber.
Vincent & Catherine stood side by side exchanging the self written vows.
"From this moment forward I will be by your side Catherine to share one life borne from two.Joy, pains, and whatever may come will "Catherine, my morningstar, my guiding light, I pledge my love, devotion and fidelity to you. As our lives entwine may our passions double and our troubles halve. Thru it all I will stand steadfast as your true partner."
The room stood silent ....
"From this moment forward I choose to be at your side Vincent. No matter what we face, we will face it together & come out the stronger for it. This I promise you to be with you in body, mind & spirit never to part." Even Father was fighting back tears. Father invoked "What destiny and sacred love has brought together let no force pull apart".
Vincent and Catherine turned to each other with a slow, gentle yet firm kiss. Smiles graced both their faces as they turned to look out at the sea of friends and family. Well wishes caressed the couple as the eve's celebration got underway. 12mo.later:
Vincent huffed "Peter, the pains are 3 min. apart!" "1st babies take time".
Then in the cusp of night to day, a daughter emerged just like her Mommy. As he held his daughter he realized it all began with his walk in the park, finding Catherine
Vincent and Catherine enjoyed the birth of 5 more children. A set of boy twins they named Jacob Vincent and Charles Vincent Chandler Wells, 2 daughters; Carolina Vincenta and Anna Vincenta Chandler Wells and their baby Devin Vincent Chandler Wells. They found a brownstone to "swell" into and the Chandler-Wells family made a many a joyful noise above and below the streets of NYC!
Vincent secured their brownstone making sure the door was locked and the security alarm was set. As always he visited each of the children's bedrooms tucking each child in. His greatest pleasure was admiring his children as they drifted asleep. "Catherine?" Vincent padded silently into their candlelit bedroom.She grinned as he stopped at the bookshelf. "Did you want me to read to you or what?"
"Or what? Oh.....right." She licked her lips and Vincent dropped the book, in bed in a flash.