Catherine was as white as a sheet, her green eyes disturbingly bright against the pallor of her skin.
There was blood everywhere. At first Vincent couldn’t see where the knife had cut her. He knew she was going into shock. Years of assisting Father had taught him everything from simple first aid to delivering babies. He had to act swiftly.
Trembling, Catherine reached out her uninjured hand. “Vincent…help me”.
Vincent gently held her hand. His touch calmed her, gave her strength.
He released her hand for a moment while he ripped a section of his cloak off. Realizing he needed something slightly cleaner, he took a clean tea-towel out of the kitchen drawer and wrapped it securely around the wound. It was tight, but not enough to cause her pain. The fabric instantly turned crimson. The cut was deeper than he had originally thought. She needed to get to a hospital quickly.
It was too great a risk to deliver her to an emergency room – it was a little after two in the afternoon. He’d have to take her below.
“I’m going to take you to Father. Put your good arm around my neck, and hold on as tight as you can.”
Vincent lifted her easily; her weight was nothing in his strong arms. Once she was in his arms, she put her head against his chest and closed her eyes, whimpering only a little.
He carried her safely, but swiftly, to the basement, then took off at a run.
Father jumped up when he saw both Vincent and Catherine covered in blood.
“Oh my God, Vincent, what’s happened?”
“Father, Catherine needs your help; she cut her hand badly.”
Nodding, Father followed Vincent to the hospital chamber. He arrived shortly after Vincent had put Catherine down on one of the cots. Coming up next to the cot, he got the first look at her hand. The towel wrapped around it was already soaked through. He gently unwrapped her hand and found the wound was still bleeding. “Vincent, quickly give me some water and clean towels. I need to get this bleeding stopped right away since she’s lost a lot of blood.”
Vincent did as he was told. He sat the water down and put a towel in Father’s outstretched hand.
Father’s next order came then, “Vincent, I need you to send for Mary.”
Vincent hesitated because he did not want to leave his beloved Catherine, but Father’s commanded order of ‘Now’ made him move from her side and do as he was asked. After sending the message, he immediately came back into the room and held onto Catherine’s other hand.
Soon after he had sent the message, Mary rushed in. After what seemed like hours, they had Catherine’s injured hand fixed up.
Addressing Vincent, father said, “We’ve done what we can; it’s up to Catherine now.”
Catherine opened her eyes slowly and smiled up at Vincent. "I don’t know why, but I am really hungry, Vincent. Is there anything to eat?” she questioned softly.
“I will send for something, but it has to be light; your system had quite a shock.” He brushed her bangs out of her eyes and kissed her forehead. “I will be right back, my love.”
Catherine nodded. "Soup would be good." She also turned her head towards where Father was checking on another patient. "Could someone let Peter know?" she sighed, knowing Vincent would be returning in a few minutes.
Indeed, in a few minutes, Vincent had returned and was once again by her side. “Your soup will be here soon. Catherine, I was so scared,” he admitted. “When I felt your pain, I came running.”
"Vincent, when I felt your worry through the bond, it hurt. We have to think positive." She smiled at him, but then shivered. "It's cold." Vincent covered her with a warm blanket.
Soon after that Father walked over. “Can one of you tell me how Catherine got that cut?”
Vincent looked down at Catherine as he sat beside her. "I don't know how..."
“I was attacked outside of my apartment, but he got away with my purse. I was able to defend myself from the worst of it. He ran away after that, and I made my way into my apartment, hoping I could take care of the cut myself,” she said, looking up at Vincent.
Vincent nodded. He looked over at Mary as she walked from the doorway to the infirmary. She said, "I've sent Kipper with a message for Peter, Catherine."
Mary also had a tray in her hands, laden with soup bowls and fresh rolls made by William. Samantha came in a moment later with a pot of tea and cups.
“Thank you, Mary, Samantha,” both Catherine and Vincent said.
Vincent took the tea from Samantha as Mary put the food down on a small table that Samantha had quickly set up. Catherine had bought a few sets of the collapsible tables some weeks previous and had them delivered to her apartment. Vincent and a few others came to the threshold below Catherine's building and carried them to where they would be the most useful.
“This is the perfect place for them,” she said, reaching out with her good hand for a bit of the food.
Mary nodded as she stepped slowly toward the door. "I agree with that. I have to head back to the nursery now; Rebecca is in there alone at the moment. "
Catherine nodded, then realized that Vincent might have other things he needed to do as well. “Vincent, if you have something to do, you can. You don’t need to sit around here with me. I am fine.”
"You're hurt, Catherine, so I am staying by your side. Would you like me to go get a book to read to you?"
“No, Vincent, I am fine; my hand doesn’t even hurt. You have duties here to attend to; I will be fine. If I need someone, you are only a pipe call away.”
"Catherine...I don't need to go anywhere unless they tell me something is wrong. Anyway, you need to rest. I think I hear that Jamie is bringing Peter down." The pipes relayed that message. "Father says he will go to greet Peter." The old man had left and had tapped out on his way that he was heading to where some of the Helpers come below.
“Yes, resting sounds like a good idea, I am feeling tired,” she stifled a yawn.
Vincent gently removed the bowl from in front of Catherine, and sipped the last of his tea. He leaned over her and his hair draped down to tickle her nose as he smoothed the sheet and quilt over her chest and her good hand. He left her bandaged hand out, visible for Father and Peter to check when they arrived. He saw one of the girls from his history class enter, and he treated her for a splinter. Before she left, Vincent gave her instructions to go and get one of the thickest books from his room for him.
The little girl nodded and sped out of the hospital chamber and then snagged a big book for Vincent. She arrived back, out of breath from running with the large book, and gasped, “Here you go, Vincent, the biggest one I could find.”
Vincent smiled. "Thank you." He opened the book to the first page, and began reading to himself as Catherine dozed off. Peter and Father entered, quietly talking to each other about different things. Peter went all businesslike and gently checked Catherine's hand feeling it through the bandage. She opened her eyes to see Peter looking down at her and Vincent reading silently at her side.
"What's the story, morning glory?" Peter asked.
Catherine smiled up at Peter and relayed the whole story. “I was attacked outside of my apartment; he got away with my purse. When he ran off, I made my way into my apartment hoping I could take care of the cut myself.”
"When you're ready to travel back Above, Catherine, I'll take you to the hospital for an x-ray and then help you call to cancel your credit card and get you another driver's license."
“Thank you, Peter,” Catherine replied
“Any time, kiddo, you know that.”
Vincent trusted Father, but consulted with Peter any way. “How is she doing really?”
“As far as I can tell, she is fine. I want to give her a more thorough check up when she comes back above, but she should heal all right.”
Vincent nodded and then decided that she would be more comfortable out of the hospital chamber. “Would you like to go back to my chamber for a while, Catherine? I know you don’t like hospitals that much.”
“I would like that, Vincent, thank you.”
Vincent offered Catherine his arm as Father overheard their conversation and artfully distracted Peter.
Later that evening, Peter caught up with Catherine and Vincent having a late snack under William's watchful eye. "I promised the children cookies tomorrow, and if you each eat more than three, you'll have to make up the loss," the large hairy cook rumbled with a mock frown on his face. His eyes twinkled a moment later, knowing he would be glad to make more cookies for the children.
“Well, one is all I really want at the moment,” Catherine said eating a steaming, round delight, then cooling it in her mouth with a little bit of milk.
Peter smiled as he took one of the chocolate chip cookies. "Whenever you are ready to go back Above, I'll be ready." He took a look at his watch. "On second thought, it’s late enough I'll just stay the night in one of the guest chambers, and we can head up tomorrow."
Vincent smiled at that comment and nibbled at his cookie. In the corner of the kitchen, a shadow rose. It was long and fuzzy. Suddenly Arthur ran up, jumped on the table, stole about three cookies, and then ran at William's shout of, "Get back here, creature!"
Catherine had finished her cookie and started laughing, as did Vincent and Peter. After they got their laughter under control, she looked up at them through watery eyes. “Staying the night will be fine; it will give me a chance to spend more time with Vincent.”
Peter’s eyes twinkled at this. “I thought you would like that idea.”
As the trio prepared to head to their respective chambers for the night, they passed Samantha in the hallway. She held out Peter's bag to him. "You left this in the infirmary...Father told me to bring it to you."
Peter smiled at the young lady, and said, "Thank you."
“You’re welcome,” she called over her shoulder as she dashed off again.
Going their separate ways after that, Vincent and Catherine headed to his chamber.
Once there, Vincent took off his cloak, and boots. He then slid himself on top of the covers with one of his books. "Would you like me to read to you?”
“I would love that,” she said, and took a seat on the edge of the bed.
Vincent picked up a book he hadn't read to Catherine in a long time, and turning away from her, blew the dust off of it. "Great Expectations…or do you want to read another book, maybe poetry?"
“Let’s have a poetry reading tonight; that way, if I do fall asleep, I won’t miss out on a lot of the story.”
Vincent nodded at Catherine. "All right." He stood up and moved the candles that were still lit on their metal stand closer to the bed. The rustle of pages let Catherine know he was searching for a poem in the middle of the book.
Soon Vincent’s voice came forth with the words of Shakespeare's ‘Sonnet 36’:
“Let me confess that we two must be twain,
As he started reading, Catherine felt herself relax; and then, not realizing how tired she had been from the excitement of her day, she fell asleep before he reached the end.
Vincent noticed how slowly and even his lady's breathing had become. He quietly closed the book, with the bookmark by the sonnet he had just read. He blew out the candles, and almost silent, he removed a layer of his clothes. Grabbing a blanket from the chest in his chamber, he fell asleep on the chair next to his bed.
Later that night Catherine awoke to the painful throbbing of her hand.
Vincent, sensing her pain though the Bond, opened his eyes. "Would you like me to get you something for the pain, Catherine?"
“Yes, please,” came the unnecessary reply.
Vincent slipped out from under the blanket, revealing himself in blue swim trunks. He quickly donned his pants and boots to go to the Infirmary for the medicine. As he stepped out of his room, a sleepy Rebecca appeared. Cuddled in her arm was a colicky baby girl; she was one of the latest to be brought Below by a Helper. In the other hand, she carried a pitcher of water. "Amaryllis is having trouble," Becca yawned. "I'm walking her so Mary can get some sleep. She owes me. I knew it was getting close to time to clean Catherine’s hand again, so I brought some water. Mary told me that she was supposed to bring some to you but was too tired."
“Thank you, Rebecca.” He took the water from her, put it in his chamber, then headed down to the hospital chamber to get the pain medication. When he arrived, Father was still there.
“What are you doing up at this hour?” he asked his parent in concern.
Father looked up. "I was just prescribing something for the baby; Rebecca was at her wits end. I told her to get some chamomile tea with milk in it. Mary swears by it and said it worked on Devin and you when you wouldn't go down for naps long ago."
“Yes, I saw her down by my chamber right before I came to get Catherine some medicine for the pain. She had brought some water so I can clean Catherine’s hand again. I think I might get some of the tea for Catherine as well, to see if it would help her to sleep.”
Father nodded. He took a candle over to the shelves where the pain medicines were locked up. He pulled out a bottle, saying, "You can keep this in your quarters for Catherine until her hand heals and the pain is gone. Just don't let the children get their hands on it."
Vincent took the bottle. “Thank you, Father. I will keep it out of their reach; you have my word.”
Father nodded and quietly headed back to his room.
Vincent headed back to his chamber to find Catherine sitting on the bed with tears standing in her eyes, holding her hand close to her body and willing the pain to go away.
He moved quickly over to her, “Do you want me to get Father to check your hand out? He is still awake,” Vincent asked as he looked at Catherine with worry in his eyes.
“No, my hand just really hurts.”
“Here, let me take a look at it; it’s time to change the bandage anyway.”
“How could I have been so stupid to think I could have taken care of this myself?” she asked, shaking her head as Vincent gently took her hand in his and took off the bandage so he could take a quick look at the wound.
It did not appear to be infected, so he cleaned it, stopping only once when he felt Catherine stiffen. He soothed her, then quickly finished up what he was doing. He then gave her the pain medication and some water. “Would you like me to get you some chamomile tea? Rebecca is making some for one of our newest foundlings that is having trouble sleeping.”
“Thank you, Vincent. Which baby? I did hear the baby outside, and I would like a cup of that tea.”
“You’re welcome, Catherine. It's Amaryllis. She has colic.” Vincent went after the tea and returned to find Catherine and Rebecca singing a song to a sleepy Amaryllis. Catherine was holding her, rocking gently. Once the baby was asleep, Rebecca left to return her to the nursery, and Catherine was able to have her own tea. Within minutes after drinking it, she was fast asleep and didn’t wake till the next morning.
After breakfast, Catherine and Peter went back Above. Catherine returned a few hours later, with more pain medication and some extra medical things that Father needed.
William had served calzones, with tomato sauce for lunch. One of their Helpers owned a catering business and had a large amount of extra pizza dough, sausage, pepperoni, and vegetables he had sent Below.
Vincent and Catherine spent the early afternoon reading to each other. About halfway through a chapter of Little Men, Mouse stuck his head in the door.
"Is there something that you need, Mouse?"
"Children waiting for you to tell them a story with their snack."
Vincent's head tilted back slightly with a chuckle. "I nearly forgot about that." He looked at Mouse. "Go on ahead and tell them I will be there soon."
He turned to Catherine as the young man scampered out of the room, "I'll be back soon. You just stay here and rest."
Catherine nodded, “I won’t go anywhere.”
Jamie came in a few minutes after Vincent had left. "Vincent asked me to come check on you, Catherine. He is telling them a long story." She looked like she hadn’t had much sleep recently. "Want me to stay with you until Vincent comes back?"
“No, Jamie, I’m fine. I am just going to rest. It looks like you should rest as well.”
Jamie nodded and yawned, putting a hand over her mouth.
"You take it easy, Catherine. You look like something a cat dragged in." As she said this, Vincent reappeared, and Jamie went quiet but smiled and started to slip away.
Catherine shook her head, at the irony of the statement.
Vincent entered, tilting his head at Jamie's comment. "Cat dragged in?" he questioned, then added, "I'll have you write a science report on the genetic differences between lions, tigers, and cats for that, Jamie."
Jamie rolled her eyes, "I'm done with school, and you know it, Vincent!”
Catherine shook her head, hiding her smile with a yawn, and a laugh hidden in a cough-like sound, “Vincent, leave Jamie alone. She was only kidding.”
Vincent's eyes twinkled as he rasped out a full bodied chuckle. "So was I...I remember the first time I assigned her something similar between lions and tigers. She borrowed one of the Helpers' Polaroid cameras, and took pictures at the Zoo. Luckily she went in with that same Helper that summer.
"Vincent, I was in...seventh grade, or the equivalent, when you did that," Jamie's voice echoed as she left.
“Well, at least she never missed a chance to learn. I also did a paper like that in school. It was quite fun.”
Vincent nodded at Catherine. He settled down in the chair next to the bed. "Is there anything I can get you, Catherine?"
“No, its okay. I am fine,” Catherine yawned.
Vincent nodded at Catherine. "Go ahead and sleep, Catherine. I will watch over you as you dream." As she closed her eyes and her breathing began to slowly turn to soft snores, he silently pulled a curtain across the half of the room that had his writing desk. He blew out quite a few of the candles on the side of the chamber where Catherine slept.
He sat at his desk, putting pen and paper, and he wrote:
"My dear Catherine,
"Tonight you sleep in my bed, and I could not rest for worrying over you. I know that you will heal quickly, and hopefully, an uninterrupted night of sleep will help put you on that path.
"I have often imagined what it would be like, to have you in my bed….
He finished the letter and put his journal away before blowing out most of the candles. Only one remained lit, and that turned the sleeping Catherine's hair into palely shining gold. He pulled a spare blanket from an opened cedar chest before getting comfortable in his chair. Soon his breathing joined hers in a soft duet.
They slept peacefully through the night, and Catherine awoke feeling much better then she had the previous day. This day felt full of promise, and she knew that this incident only brought Vincent and her closer together.
Later that day Vincent escorted her to her apartment entrance, and before she walked away from him, he asked, “Catherine is there any thing else that I can do for you before you go?”
Taking a moment to think, she smiled and replied, “You know, when I was little my father always kissed all of my injuries to magically make them better.” She held out her hand with her palm up, hoping that he would take the hint.
Vincent hesitated only a moment, then stepped forward, and with a gentle smile, took her outstretched hand in his. Leaning over, he placed a feather light kiss in the palm of her hand.
Credits: A special thank you to our beta reader Clairisant
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