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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.
Vincent found himself watching her more frequently, her coltish legs, her translucent complexion, her fiery temperament sometimes matched her hair. She was singular, she was his new 'friend' as they called Diana in the Tunnels. It was odd, she seemed so comfortable in the tunnels.... almost as comfortable as in her own loft. Diana seemed to thoroughly enjoy an excuse to come and visit whenever she had time to- which was usually between cases. Did it surprise him when Mary appeared in the arch of his chamber? Carrying a stack of tunnel style tunics and loose trousers she half expected Vincent to know exactly what was going in. "Mary, what is that?" "Oh, a few things you can give to Diana" "We're giving a Helper clothes?" he asked. "Isn't it usually the other way around?"
"She was down here last week and pulled a sweater when she brushed against a rough wall. I thought she might like something she can wear here and not worry about ruining." Vincent accepted the soft stack of clothing thinking Diana was down more frequently. Even though her 'above' clothing seemed casual he'd never seen her in a dress.
That evening when Diana arrived they caught up, then Vincent offered her the clothes. 'For me? Wow!' She smiled softly.
'Mary brought them for you.' He declared neutrally and her heart fell Diana lifted each piece and drew closer to smell them, "They smell like you!" their eyes met over the soft skirt and she clutched it to her chest. "Is there something...you need to say, Vincent?"
He walked behind his chair and gripped the chair's back. Feeling a wall rise between them, Diana picked up the clothing and left his chamber. Her eyes stung from fighting back her emotions. Vincent had been sweetly attentive but could have just been his courtly manners?
Vincent hung his head in thought. Why was it so difficult to just say how he felt? How the room glowed whenever Diana was there or how much he adored her? Had his hesitation with Catherine taught him nothing about the mortality of life and lack of courage sharing deep feelings? With cautious steps, he knew she'd be in the guest chamber where she had spent nights."Diana, I do have so many things to say" His frame filled the doorway and she held out a hand. He was beside her, his hands in his lap. She took his hands into her lap. 'Tell me, Vincent,'
Their eyes met and he wrested his hands from hers. With delicate grace he caught her face drawing her close.
She fought for breath, her heart clammoring. 'I need the words, you can say them. Can't you?'. Whatever it was, he had swallowed the words. Yet, gently holding her face he kissed first her forehead. She froze. Then his lips moved to her chin. She inhaled slowly. Then his partially open mouth claimed her waiting lips with great purpose and warmth. The kiss was all it was meant to be. Sweet and tender one moment, intense and intriguing the next, as their tongues explored each other's mouths in an intimate dance.
It broke suddenly, leaving both of them stunned. "Diana, I've relied of learned words so often, yet what I feel here", he touched his heart, "Had to be expressed like that." She nodded mutely and
he worried at that, "Have I offended you?"
With vigor she Shook her head, 'never. I'm starved for you, would you do that again?'
He did more, he wrapped her closer to him and they traded kisses until they were breathless.
When their lips separated they were along side each other in the bed. 'Don't leave me!' Diana begged.
"I think I'd better," he told her, sitting up. "I wanted more, but this is moving too quickly." He stood.
"But you will be back?" she asked as he moved away.
"I will," he promised and was gone.
She let the memories warm her dreams. Vincent nestled in his bed, the taste of her lips on his. He ruminated her words, "I'm starved for you." He agreed. Could he turn this silent night into something else? He headed to a bathing chamber to think. He bathed with sandalwood soap and meditated. Diana surprised herself by sleeping soundly for the rest of the night. Her dreams were fragments, cool rock, a woman smiling over a cradle, Jacob's cradle. Catherine! Her look held no reproach, no bitterness. "I'm so glad we could finally talk," she said. Vincent rose from the bath, dried and dressed. Sitting on the side of his bed he felt Diana's rest. He knew they had found a rare part of each other. They were ready to accept the love they deserved. Silently he headed to her guest chamber......
"I cannot stay for long, just know you have my blessing." Diana felt her heart bend and crack, it was almost too much. "I am in his memories where I belong, you are to walk beside him now." Her figure began to dissolve, "Be well Diana." And she was gone. Vincent watched Diana from the archway, a veil of happiness passed over her and the air crackled with their attraction. Diana rose and silently they fell into a silent embrace. Then joyously they began trading nibbles and kisses on each other's ears. They knew each other at last. When they awoke there were no stammered apologies or fearful glances, but two companions looking at the other with tenderness. "I want to stay all day but I have to go," Diana reached for her clothes, "tying up a case Above." Vincent watched her retreating silhouette, his heart full of their loving. Today he'd walk a bit taller and smile more readily. Above, Diana blushed with every thought of him. If only she could have lingered within his embrace, simply there were no words! At her loft her thoughts became serious, she was not ready to give this place up, especially as she didn't know how she'd feel sharing a space he had never gotten the chance to share with Catherine. "Careful Bennett," she mused "you must be careful."
Diana stirred her soup and puckered to blow it, she'd rather have Vincent within her grasp, teasing and giggling. He made her giggle girlishly with his touch, all his awesome power he diverted to so much comfort and pleasure. She turned at the sound...
It was Joe! "I came in through the roof, like he does." His eyes were cold but ached with sadness that could not heal. "Like him, Cathy's lover, the father of her child," his mouth twisted "I want to meet him, I want to know Cathy's baby is safe. Now." Diana sputtered, it had been years. "Joe, if he lived he wouldn't be a baby"
"He lived, the look on your face just told me so. Fess up, you know the boy's father. You have as many secrets as Cathy".
Diana fairly shook at the accusation.
"Why, Joe?" Joe began to fight the tears, "Because I failed, I failed Diana. I didn't save her, I didn't save her baby. I can't stop seeing that empty crib with the gun. If I could just see the baby, the child, I could feel it wasn't all for nothing." "Joe, you know he's safe with his father."
Joe approached her, "I want to meet Vincent, see their son"
Diana blanched, "Easier said than done"
"I know they're in the city, but where?"
"Let me ask him. Perhaps here, OK?"
"Ok, Diana, OK" She did not move from the window until she saw Joe hail a cab and speed away. "He should know," she thought. Already she was building her argument to make as she took her own cab to Chinatown. She smiled at Lin tending her baby girl in the shop. She found Vincent with an armload of dirty clothes."How can a child make so much mess?" he asked as he dropped them to hug Diana. She thought about the logistical mess to connect Joe and smiled mutely.
"Vincent, we need to talk about Joe Maxwell." Vincent had been dreading this conversation. Picking up from what Diana hadn't said about her work he knew Joe was growing more despondent. He knew Joe deserved to hold Jacob in his arms. But fear and jealously plucked at him. "Not just yet. Please?" "No" "He showed up on my roof, said it was the way you got to Cathy, he's a bright man. He's a good man."
Vincent dropped his head, then hissed, "Not this week."
Diana pushed, "Next Sun.then. I'll bring Jacob to my place, then you join us."
With resignation, Vincent admitted she was right. 'Do you truly trust him?'
'After all these years, yes. It's personal now, he's concerned. He's still grieving'
Vincent drew her close, their lips met. 'We have each other now. He is alone'
"I have been continually blessed with those who love me and Jacob and now you, Diana"
"Soooo, Sunday I'll take Jacob up to the park, you'll come for dinner, I'll invite Joe for dessert"
"Will you have that caramel cake?"
"Yes, Vincent, for you, I will" It was Brooke who handed Jacob to her that Sunday but decided to not press for questions. She got Jacob settled and promptly at three her buzzer rang. His eyes were still ice in the elevator, but then he saw the child. "Oh Diana..." Joe's eyes swam with unshed tears as he watched Jacob playing on Diana's rug. "He's...amazing. He looks a lot like Catherine. But he must have 'his' eyes."
Diana smiled. "Yes. He has Vincent's eyes. She called to Jacob. "Jacob! Come here a minute." So Joe couldn't wait until desert. She understood completely. The little boy held out his arms and Joe picked him up with a sound like a sob turning into a laugh. "Hey Little Man." Diana wondered if Vincent would come, Joe was in his own world now. Diana watched Joe's easy banter as they played with legos and Joe talked NY baseball. Joe was in "Uncle" mode."He's smart as a whip, is he in some special school?" He asked while grabbing a juice box. "You could say that!" Diana mused. After dark Vincent stood watching what could be a normal family. Only it was his son with Diana and Joe.
He turned and ran. It was madness but part of him wanted to leave Jacob there, let him grow up Above, his memories of Below fading into fuzzy impressions. He paced the Whispering Gallery, when he returned Joe was gone and Jacob asleep. Diana sat sipping coffee eyeing him. Diana's eyes narrowed, "That went well. Good thing your son has such charisma Joe only asked about you 3 times."
"I saw the 3 of you and my mind spun at the possibilities for him" His shaggy head hung.
"Vincent, where is this going?"
"I don't know,Diana"
"Alright then I am going to make something clear. You do not have to stay with me, but are not leaving Jacob with me for good, ever."
"He could have-"
"Don't you dare! Don't you goddamn dare! He is your heart, and he is of Above and Below, not one." 'I could think of no better upbringing than you and Joe.'
His words threw her 'Joe and me? Whoa big guy, if the other night was a fling for you I get it but I love Jacob and I love his Daddy more! '
Vincent tremored at reconciling his love. I understand so little yet about love he thought.
"I just want you to be happy Diana."
"Don't give me that. And don't try to pin it on Jacob, what would Below feel like not being able to watch him grow up?
She flinched, "That was unfair." Vincent hung his head. "I know. I'm sorry." He sighed and lifted his eyes to meet Diana's. "Last night was NOT a fling, Diana. You know better than that."
Diana's face lit from within, but she only quipped, "Besides, you don't DO flings." "That is so. It took me months, years to work up to expressing myself." He turned, his voice a whisper."Vincent, I'd be thrilled to share our love."
"Jacob does love you"
"How about Jacob's Daddy? does he love me? I'd share above and below if he did!" It was folly to lie anymore. "I do, so much, you are my huntress. Your crimson hair catching the light like fire as you bring bad men to justice. We can share our spaces, I do want Jacob to go to school Above when he's older." Diana smiled, warm as honey. "Vincent,if we could get Jacob's birth Cert. I could get him registered for preschool, he's 4"
"Going back to subjects of the heart, Diana, could we perhaps make a few promises to each other?" He caught her up in his arms and held her close for a kiss. "Alright, I promise not to push when you're not ready."
"I'm ready, for all of it."
"And I hope you will never feel you can't be sad around me."
"Why would I-"
"There you go! You have to be willing to miss Catherine around me, not always but some..." "Diana, she brought me to you." His fingers combed through her hair,"Now I have Jacob and the 3 of us will be a family."
"Vincent, I like the sound of that, what do you think you family below will think?"
"They will share in our joy," he kissed her cheek Vincent left Jacob with her, to get him used to spending the night in her loft. The next day Diana began the work of paring down her books. The phone rang, "Hey D, I just want to thank you yesterday."
"It was time Joe."
"And...I want to meet Vincent." "Yeah, I think that can happen now. What's your schedule Friday night?"
"To meet Jacob's Daddy, I blow a hole big enough for him to walk through" Joe chuckled.
"Let me work this out, OK, Joe?" Diana hung up and made her way Below.
Diana hadn't expected this. "Why?"
"If he sees me he'll have to know about Below and that's a few too many secrets to keep for a man like him."
"Things have changed."
"He's a good man, what if he thinks Jacob should be Above?"
"Vincent, have faith. Once he meets you, he'll see the caliper of education you've had. Jacob will be a child of both worlds."
"Then I will be here after dark Friday and I'll stay"
"Will you stay for awhile after Joe leaves?"
Vincent's smile broadened. Friday night came, and Vincent stood before the mirror in his chamber assessing his appearance. He was terrified. There was nothing he could do to change who and what he was, but he COULD make himself look like a civilized being. Father wasn't happy. "You have never tied your hair back in your life!"
"I want him to trust me."
"Pretending to be what you aren't isn't going to help."
"If this goes wrong it means danger for all of us."
"You don't think we have an escape plan?"
Vincent finished dressing in corduroys, thick cableknit sweater and chukka boots. He looked "topsider", Arriving at her roof he thought about leaving his cloak on the roof, but he kept the hood deep over his head as he approached her door.
He glanced through the skylight: he could see Joe playing with Jacob. Diana, however, was looking directly up at him. She smiled and said something to Joe, causing the man to look up. Vincent ducked back and waited anxiously for Diana to open the door. Surely, Diana would have warned Joe about his appearance? Joe stood, hands in his back pockets waiting for Vincent's approach. Diana accepted his cloak and Vincent's shoulders squared to show his size.
Joe extended a hand, 'No wonder she kept your secret' Vincent's hand met Joe's. Their eyes met in silent understanding.
Suddenly Jacob ran to hug Vincent's leg, 'Daddy, so glad you came!'
Joe watched him lovingly draw his son into his arms. Joe saw the blatant love between them. Vincent hoisted Jacob on his hip and strode with Diana toward the sofas. Jacob straddled his Dad's lap and patted at his unique face,"Unca Joe worked with MY Mommy!"
"I Know, your Mother was fond of Mr. Maxwell"
"Daddy, he said to call him Unca Joe,OK?" Vincent smiled at his child. Joe looked more serious.
"Do you have enough there?"
"what you mean?"
"Is there enough food? Fuel? How do you stand the sewers?"
"Come see for yourself."
A knock at the door startled all of them. Vincent caught his son into his arms and headed for the bedroom. Joe sat, waiting on the sofa as the elevator escalated to Diana's floor. When Diana opened the elevator, she was astounded to see Jamie, dressed in "topsider" clothes. The girl grinned. "S'okay, Vincent," Jamie called. "You can come out."
Jamie smiled and said, "Thought I'd come just in case of bloodshed. Glad there's not." Diana wilted at her choice of words but the group laughed it off. As they moved through the threshold Vincent gave Joe a brief history.Joe marveled at the pipe code and Vincent's chamber where he saw Gentian's painting in a corner. "Wow,Radcliffe" 'Thats the look I remember every day at work. If I had known I wouldn't have bugged her. She kept your secret, Vincent'
'As she knew she had to' Vincent bowed his head and tilted the portrait for Joe's inspection.
'At the time I was decrying any woman's
love. I made mistakes and learned from them" Vincent confessed.
Joe's hand went to Vincent's shoulder, "Hey, we've all learned?" he regarded Diana's expression and tilted the portrait to the wall,"We've got new relationships too."
They talked for hours. Joe even passed Father's scrutiny after they talked about their past meetings.
Joe kissed Jake and Mary put him to bed as V & D walked him to the threshold.
Watching him leave Vincent asked 'will you stay awhile?'
Diana happily nodded yes. Once settled in Vincent's chamber he held her hand,"A wise woman once asked me if I would move toward love" Diana nodded, listening.
"I tarried,but won't make that mistake 2x. Will you move with me toward love?"
She nodded,"Yes,I will" and they kissed. 1 yr later: 'we gather today to join Vincent and Diana, two people who pledge their love. Once vows were spoken Father nodded to his son and with dawning knowledge he smiled and took Diana in his arms and their public kiss thrilled their friends.
Devin's eyes scanned the room, he kept Jake, now almost 6, at his side. Unseen by most the tapestry rippled as a spirit ducked to see the ceremony. Devin's eyes met Catherine's they shared a silent nod, Devin nudged Jake and they each blew a kiss.
Catherine's spirit melted and the tapestries stilled.
Vincent and Diana walked the aisle sharing hugs and good wishes.
'Vincent, what was that quote, about the bluebird?' Diana whispered.
"and over our heads will float the Blue Bird singing of beautiful and impossible things, of things that are lovely and that never happen, of things that are not and that should be.”
Diana cuddled closer, "perhaps that's us" he answered with a kiss.