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Catherine hovered in a stairwell. She wore every piece of clothing in her cell of a bare room. She was in shock that her door had been left unlocked. Had they let her go? Could she head toward Vincent safely, or did she need to travel a winding path? She held her breath and listened intently for any sound. Nothing. Slowly she began to descend the steps every nerve on end for any surprises. The stairs seem to go on forever when finally there was only a door with a small window near the top. Holding her breath, she stood on tiptoe and peered cautiously out the window. She could see nothing but an empty alleyway. Her heart beating wildly with hope, she turned the doorknob...and stepped out into a cold winter's day. Freedom! Her mind raced with where to go. First she needed to put some distance between where she was so no one would snatch her back to that room. Ignoring the biting cold Catherine raced down zig zagging streets. Finally, She could barely stand from exhaustion. Where was she? Her internal map was off! She looked for a recognizable skyline, was she in Manhattan or had they taken her further south? She pulled her clothes tight around her and ran toward the sound of people to get lost in the crowd. Wasn't long before Catherine started to recognize the streets. She slowed as she neared Issac's gym. Ducking in & collapsing against the wall, Catherine was quickly noticed by her old friend.
"Cathy?" Issac rushed over.
"Need your help." she gasped.
Isaac was stunned. He'd been following the news of her kidnapping, growing more frustrated as the news slowly petered out. He'd conducted searches on his own and enlisted others to help, to no avail. Now here she was, disheveled, cold...but alive! Her body went limp as Isaac scooped her up, & carried her to a back room silently praising any listening Gods that no one else was in the gym. He laid her gently onto the cot pulling a blanket over her. He quickly scanned her checking for injuries. Her pregnancy was a surprise, but other than that, he detected nothing unusual. She was very pale, as if she'd been indoors for months, and thinner than he'd expect for someone so pregnant.
He heated water for tea while waiting for her to wake up.
"Vincent!" Catherine screamed as she bolted up then quickly regretted the sudden movement.
"Whoa! Easy now ..." Issac gently helped her lay back down. He noticed the needle marks on her arm earlier, but drugs didn't match what he knew of Catherine.
"I'm guessin' you've had a real hard time," he said, "but you're safe now. Rest. You tell me who to call and I'll get 'em here."
Catherine sipped the tea he'd offered, breathing deeply to calm her nerves. "I..I'm not sure who to trust at my office."
He hesitated. "What about this Vincent you called out for?" Catherine lowered her eyes. As much as her heart ached to be Below safe in his arms, she didn't want to risk drawing danger to the tunnels or any of the helpers.
"I..." how could she explain?
Isaac took a calculated risk and asked, "That door...the one under that old hotel. What if I knocked?"
She stared at him a long while before responding, "It was sealed...right after you saw it."
"But...." She knew she could trust Isaac. "There are..other doors." Would the people who kidnapped her still be looking for her? Could she & Issac make it safely Below? Unconsciously her hand went to the injection marks. "They might be watching me." Her mind was clearer now. "It was too easy."
"They did this to you." It wasn't a question but a statement tinged with disgust. "If they could do that to a pregnant woman, they could be following you now. So...stay here. I've got metal gates, bars on the windows...it'd be tough getting in."
Catherine smiled a sad,sincere smile. "Thank you Issac. I'm just so tired."
"Get some sleep. Maybe things will look better after you've had rest. I'll be close." He added a second blanket & made sure the blinds were closed before checking the locks. Then he opened a locked cabinet and took down a shotgun and a box of shells. For the rest of the long night, he sat in the middle of his studio, shotgun in one hand, a mug of strong coffee in the other, determined that no one would get to his friend.
Vincent once again walked the city streets at night relentlessly searching for Catherine. He was not daunted by the passage of weeks. She was alive. He clung to that belief with all his heart. Perhaps it was fate that guided his footsteps that night. Finding himself at the door of a martial arts studio at which he knew Catherine had once trained, he paused. He knew the man inside had seen him once...and had kept the secret. Catherine had trusted him to help her. Vincent was desperate. Should he...? Desperation was driving Vincent to take risks he normally would not think of. He pulled up his hood, & softly knocked. Issac cautiously stood & moved closer to the wall where he could pear slightly out of the space between the blinds and the door. Standing back from the dim light over the door Vincent waited for a second before he knocked. The second knock got a response.
"Who is it?" Issac couldn't tell if it was the same man Catherine had been with that night.
Rather than answer the question, Vincent replied "Have you seen Catherine?" There was no mistaking that voice saying her name. "Tell me your name," Isaac demanded.
"Vincent. Please...if you have seen her, I must know!"
In answer, Vincent heard the lock snick open and the door come ajar. "C'mon in, quick," Isaac muttered.
Vincent slid inside and watched as Isaac re-locked the door. He didn't put down the gun down as the shadowy figure pulled back into the darkness of the far wall. "What would you do if you found her?" Issac asked. Eyes sparkled from the hood.
"You know where she is?" tenuous hope was plain in that graveled voice. "I's you," Isaac whispered, "She's here, in rough shape. You ready for this?" Vincent didn't wait for Issac once he knew Catherine was there he darted for the door off the main gym. Quickly finding her, he fell to his knees besides her weeping with relief and joy. Issac hung back at the doorway. The heartbeat pounded at Vincent. "Catherine......" that voice fell on her ears, she thought she'd never hear her name on his lips again, yet she felt his arms around her and his voice calmed her and the child within her. His hand trembled as it hovered over her belly. "Yes, Vincent" A million questions shown in Vincent's eyes as they locked with hers. She was back in his arms & he never would lose her again. She was pale, & Vincent then noticed the needle tracks on her arms. Alarmed his eyes darted back to hers in silent concern.
"I'm...OK," she managed to murmur. "Take me home."
Vincent spoke over his shoulder to Isaac, his eyes never leaving Catherine's. "You have a gun...so, there is still danger to her?"
"From what she said...yeah."
"Then I may have been seen entering."
Isaac led them to the back of his building, "This might get you home", he grabbed his keys and opened a large windowless van. "Tell me where to take you." Isaac volunteered.
"The alley behind Peter's house" she murmured as Vincent held her tighter.
"Peter?" Issac echoed back.
"Peter Alcott. He's my doctor." Catherine murmured & laid her head against Vincent's chest. Vincent provided the address & Issac put the van in gear; gun on the passenger seat.
"I have you." Vincent whispered in assurance.
Isaac backed the van slowly into the alley, scanning for spying eyes. "I'm gonna take a roundabout way, just to make sure we aren't being followed," he told them. As he drove, Vincent's keen eyes peered into the side mirrors, assessing the risk. Catherine closed her eyes allowing the tension to release.Vincent hoped Peter would be home to tend Catherine,but if not there was a tunnel entrance."You may be in danger if we are watched." Vincent softly told Issac.
"She needed my help." he replied.
Isaac parked as close to the back door as possible and knocked. Peter peered carefully thru a curtain and spoke thru a small window, "Who are you?"
"I have Vincent and Catherine in that Van. She needs your help"
Worried, Peter asked, "Prove it!"
Issac held up the rose pouch Vincent had handed him. Peter yanked open the door & rushed the van. The site that met his eyes stopped him in his tracks. Vincent cradled her protectively in his arms. As Vincent stepped out of the van a gunshot rang out. Vincent pulled Peter into the van as Isaac ran to the driver's door and gunned the engine. Tires squealed as the peeled away, leaving Peter's back door gaping open.
Peter, frightened, asked, "Anyone hit?"
"I'm fine," shouted Isaac.
Vincent winced. Catherine gasped, "Vincent you're bleeding!" her hand came away from his side stained red.
"It is nothing." he insisted.
"I'll be the judge of that." Peter began examining Vincent as he glanced to Catherine. "You OK?" She nodded eyes glued to V's side. Peter pulled away the layers of clothing, exposing Vincent's side. "It's just a graze," he announced. "But I don't have anything to clean it with."
"Emergency kit's under the passenger seat," Isaac informed him.
Soon Vincent's side was cleaned and bound. "How much fuel do you have, Isaac?" Cathy asked.
"Full tank, but they've spotted us. I'm making a detour" Isaac turned off his headlights and slipped into an alley. Opening a garage door he drove in and began spraying the van with what paint they had. While Issac finished up the van, Peter turned back to Catherine. With Vincent no longer holding her Peter was able to fully see her front."Catherine!"Peter's surprise was fast followed by an unspoken question.
"Yes" she smiled & eyes met. "Vincent's." "Then we have more reason to be swift! Isaac,head to the NYC Marina, I have a boat there".
Once at the dock they headed toward the old 80' Bertram.
Once on board Isaac hid the van and rejoined them on board.
"Where to now, Peter?"
It was tricky getting on & off the docks without Vincent being seen, & thankfully the trip to Peter's cabin just outside of the city had been swift. There was no further indication of being followed. The four of them settled in while Peter made a call. "Henry will take the message to Father." Peter turned to the other 3. "Let's get comfy, we may be here a while."
Vincent fluffed the daybed for Catherine as she returned from a shower in old sweatcloths.
In DR mode he asked "How are you feeling, Cathy?"
"Better." Catherine tried to hide the underlying discomfort she had been experiencing since the rushed escape in the van.
Vincent could sense her pain and how well she was covering. "Are you?" His voice was tinged with a slight indication that he knew. She reached for his hand, their fingers inter-weaving. Hers tightened and her lips straightened in a grimace. Vincent moved behind her, cradling her between his legs. She felt so loved & cherished as she managed her breathing. Peter watched, "So soon?"
"My water hasn't broke. It's just cra-" her voice was cut off by a gasp.
" Get her to the bedroom." Peter ordered. Vincent scooped her up and carried her to bed.
"She gonna have that baby now?!" Issac asked.
"We need to stop the contractions." Peter said. "I don't have what we need...if anything goes wrong."
Catherine let out a groan.
"There may not be time to get a kit together, Peter," she said through gritted teeth. "I think the baby's got other ideas."
Suddenly her water broke.
Issac excused himself back to the front room, "I'll just wait out there."
"Vincent grab some towels and extra blankets out of that closet. Catherine I need you to try to breathe & don't push. How far along are you? What drugs did they use on you?"
Vincent whispered to her, words Peter couldn't hear. His furred hands spread over her belly and with gentle ministrations Catherine laid flat. Vincent knelt and whispered to his babe as his hands performed some calming magic. Peter watched as time slowed. Catherine's pulse slowed with her more relaxed state. "Amazing." Peter whispered as Vincent had provided similar effects to a sedative. "Catherine I know it's difficult, but I need whatever information you can provide. Going blind.. can be dangerous." "What did you mean, Peter?" Catherine's words were relaxed and slow....
"Without knowing how far along or what drugs may have been administered makes decisions of what aid to provide .. difficult especially when the wrong choice could prove fatal." Peter spoke calmly trying not to alarm her but needing to explain the risk.
"I'm almost 7 months along." She saw Vincent's expression and told him she'd explain later. She described the schedule of drugs they'd given her and the last dose."Gabriel wanted this child, he said it would be any day, they did tests almost daily."
Vincent could guess why the madman had wanted this child. He felt at least in part responsible for Catherine's continued imprisonment. If this had not been his child..Mentally he shook it off he would deal with his guilt later Catherine needed him now. Ever practical, Peter replied, "If he wanted a healthy child, that bodes well. All right, let me roll my sleeves up and wash up, and we'll get down to the business of you giving birth."
Her labor was short, guided by Vincent and Peter. Soon... the infant was resting in Peter's hands as Catherine gave her final push. The cord was cut, and tiny limbs wiped off then wrapped snugly in a fluffy towel that served as a blanket. Vincent guided the small bundle from Peter's hands to Catherine's arms. Small fists boxed upward, uncurled revealing tiny clawed fingers. "Mom" lifted the blanket to see the arched brows and broad nose meeting a familiar clefted upper lip. Yes, when "Dad" pulled back the towel his daughter kicked and let out a mewling sigh.
"She's beautiful.." Catherine reverently sighed. "Would you like to hold our daughter?" The aww on Vincent's face was priceless, & Catherine's heart took a picture to savor.
Peter put a hand on Vincent's shoulder, "She seems to be in perfect health."
"It's a girl," Vincent whispered in amazement.
Peter smiled. "There are only two choices, is it so surprising?"
"I thought... Gabriel kept her alive because he thought the child would be a boy. If he had known..." Vincent shuddered.
"It doesn't matter now." Catherine wrapped her arms around her daughter again as Vincent softly kissed Catherine's forehead. Peter started to walk out into the living room,"Coming Vincent?"
"I will remain here." Vincent sat in the chair next to the bed. If she had not run and the baby been born would both of the been killed? Catherine shook her head, she could see Gabriel 'breading' her daughter to the finest male specimens and shivered at the thought. They had to get to a safe place.
Vincent & Catherine finally had a moment alone to talk. "You look a little dazed." she softly smiled.
"I never stopped searching. You had to be alive. I was told to not hold out hope, but I could not let you go. Now you're here and.." He trailed off. With our daughter and you have a hundred questions.'
'I know she is mine, I knew something was up when I felt a tiny vibration calling me months ago.'
'This will totally confound Father wont it?' She smiled as the infant latched on 'oh you dickens'
He chuckled. "I am twice blessed." Vincent ducked his head slightly as his voice lowered, "Catherine..I have no memory of ..us. Did I.." the thought burned so hot in his mind. "Did I force.." She used her free hand to lift his chin.
"No..I wanted to." Vincent bowed his head. She wanted him! He had felt this as their relationship grew, felt her desire for him, but something in him didn't believe it, couldn't respond. He gazed up at her, at their tiny baby girl, and at last he understood. Boldly Vincent approached her, placed his hand behind her head in support, and kissed Catherine full on the lips. It only took a few moments for Catherine to recover her shock and lean into the kiss. A knock was heard coming from the front door.
"I know you've fallen in love with her, but I need her for a few measurements." Peter felt like he was wrenching the child from their arms.
"Catherine, the promise I made to your father I now must keep for his granddaughter."
"You will, dear Vincent!"
As Peter checked over the baby, Isaac murmured, "We need to move 'em pretty quick. And maybe we need to split up. Any ideas?"
Peter considered. "There's a neighbor with an old car he said I could borrow anytime. I have the keys here." Knowing Isaac had canny skills he would drive the car with the new family to a new destination. Peter would head back to NYC and head for cover.
"Where will we go, Catherine?" Vincent carried his woman and child to the old car between the cottages.
"Vincent,I can't ask you to leave your home & family behind, yet I'm afraid going there now will only bring trouble Below." Catherine began to cry.
"For now we must leave. We will return when the danger is past. There are helpers outside the city."
"Where, Vincent?" Their daughter was rooting at her breast as the car pulled into the dark 2 lane road.
Vincent pulled a small tablet from his cloak, "The Archers are in Jersey, here's the address, Isaac"
He pulled his hood up and sat back in silence. When the night had began Vincent never dreamed it would end in leaving behind the tunnels with Catherine & their child.Their child. His mind still raced to reclaim never recalled memories of that dark cave.
Peter watched them go then headed back to NYC. He parked the van in a long-term lot on the outskirts of the city and took the subway into Brooklyn, where he had an old friend with a comfortable guestroom. It wouldn't do to return to his home, only to be tortured for information on Catherine.
He would have to update Jacob.That was a conversation Peter was not looking forward to. 'Jacob your son & Catherine went driving out of the city with a non helper topsider. & BTW you're a grandpa now.Will be lucky if Jacob doesn't have a heart attack!
Knowing Jacob would be distraught he we to Henry's. Carrying dinner for 2 Peter arrived to see Jacob in the flower of anger.
"This will be my demise, he just takes off!" To quiet him Peter replied,"To save Catherine and his child"
"CHILD?" Father blinked. Blindly reaching for his chair Father sank down. "Catherine alive after all this time and ... " Peter's words started to really sink in. "The child.."
"Yes your granddaughter favors her father, Vincent." Peter interjected.
"Where are they now?"
Jacob fell into his chair, in shock. 'Is Catherine ....' It was hard to ask if Pater's lies had been true.
'Cathy's a natural with Vincent beside her. The child scored well on the Apgar' the 2 drs. Broke out the brandy! The two old friends allowed time for celebration, but there were matters to discuss of a darker nature before the night was done.
"Jacob, about those who held Catherine." Peter stared into his drink. "They have to be dealt with before V&C can come home." 'Cathy told me to trust Joe Maxwell. We go to him.'
'Then hope they bring Gabriel down?'
'Jacob it's the only way'
"Also, Jacob...I can't return Above, at least not yet. The kidnappers know I'm helping Catherine, so I need to lie low. We must send someone from here to Mr. Maxwell, along with this note telling him to trust whomever carries it, from Catherine." Jamie, dressed for above, safely made it to Joe's apt. Once inside she unfolded the facts for Joe without divulging secrets of "Below".
"I'll have to go to the FBI, this is too big with Moreno being dirty!" Joe wondered why he hadn't met Jamie before!
"Is the FBI safe? The kidnappers may have people at every level of government. Your boss can't be the only one in their pocket."
Joe eyed Jamie with respect. "This could get rough."
"I can get you helpers...trustworthy people. Just tell me what you need. "Jamie,let me check with a detective I know and trust" Joe shook his head then wondered, "How can I reach you?"
Jamie worried at that, "Drop a note with Benny, the bike messenger. I'll get back with you." Her confident smile convinced Joe.
Joe called Detective Hughs and explained what was happening. Greg Hughs was shocked, but immediately responded as Joe hoped he would.
"What do you need me to do?"
"Keep this between us, for one thing. I don't know who else to trust right now." Vincent's heart overflowed at seeing his love and his daughter."What do we name her?" he asked as he held her in one arm. He brushed the back of his finger along the down on her nose. Her blue eyes sparkled as she bubbled her unique lips at her Daddy. Catherine watched with maternal pride, one arm through Vincent's, the other holding the small of her back as she walked around the small room.
"I never thought we'd get a chance to discuss a name for her. This is...overwhelming."
Vincent titled his head in thought, "She was born free of your captivity, Charlene means 'free'" Vincent nestled closer. "And my Dad's name was Charles, OK, what about a middle name?"
" 'Jacqueline' is a feminine form of 'Jacob,'" Vincent suggested.
"Then let's introduce Charlene Jacqueline to our family." Catherine smiled. "I'm so happy, Vincent. Two days ago, I was convinced I'd never see you again, that our child would be taken..." He put a finger gently on her lips.
"In time we will all be home again. For now rest." Sleeping babe in arms Catherine lay down with Vincent.
The next day Joe paced his office then caught sight of Benny.
"Fastest messenger in town!" he grinned at Joe. "Yeah, hope it's good news!" Joe was a portrait of tension. Closing the door, Joe opened the envelope. He grabbed a pen & scribbled a reply. Benny stuck it back in his punch. "Hey..is it true? Is she really back & OK?" Joe was afraid to hope.
"Getting there." Benny nodded. Joe grinned with tears in his eyes.
Hours later having no journal, once his family slept Vincent wrote on found paper. "My heart is full. Charlene Jacqueline is my image and I am warmed by the love that created this angel." He folded the paper and slid into bed holding them in his arms.
Vincent awoke to a tiny hand grasping his hair. The Archer's toddler was fascinated by the long hair. Vincent smiled at the child who giggled in return. Sarah Archer lovingly picked up the 2 yr old, "I'm sorry did he wake you?" Vincent quietly stood.
"Baby?" the toddler wriggled out of Sarah's arms to seek out the baby in the bed. Modestly Vincent nodded,"A baby girl!" Vincent faced Sarah,"I can't thank you enough, you've saved our lives"
Somewhere others were working on the same mission. Benny handed the reply to Jamie. She scanned the message quickly. "Let Father know I'm needed Above urgently. Joe's got some news, but doesn't feel it safe to send out. I have to go in person." Jamie dashed off to change and return above.
Joe paced. "I got here as soon as I could!" Jamie had rushed and not changed into 'street' clothes, she look indomitable. "I've got a good description of the building Catherine was held in. We know the cross streets. If anything is left inside, maybe you can get fingerprints...something?"
Joe nodded. "I have a good pal in Fingerprints. He can dust for me when he's off-duty." Jamie shuffled at his words, "Where do I fit in?"
I need to go into that building with some people who aren't afraid of what they might find. Do you know..." he paused, trying to think of the right words, "...others like you?"
Jamie smiled at the compliment. "As many as you need. Tell me when."
"Tonight. The sooner we cover the area the better chance we have of finding something." Joe handed Jamie the address. "Careful who you trust. These monsters aren't shy about people getting hurt."
"We can take care of ourselves & Catherine trusts you."
When Joe arrived at the building that night he found a small army of determined people of every age waiting for him. Jamie said, "Lead the way and tell us how you want us to proceed."
He handed out walkie-talkies and divided them into groups. "Remember we are looking for any evidence that could give us a lead as to the kidnappers. Use these plastic gloves when you touch anything so as to not leave your own fingerprints. Any questions?
Mouse raised his hand,"If Find & you not need, can keep?"
Jamie poked Mouse in the ribs. "He's just joking, Mr. Maxwell," she advised, throwing Mouse a warning look.
Joe looked at Mouse warily for a moment, then continued, "Check in with me on the walkies every 5 minutes by team number. You have your floors. Go Jamie stayed close to Mouse just in case he hadn't gotten the hint. The groups spread out with Joe starting to wonder if this was a good idea after all. Then his walkie started to crackle.
"Team on on roof..empty helicopter pad up." Brooke reported.
The Tunnel team secreted themselves in the halls, clicking Morse code to the Police crews that moved stealthily through the building. Gabriel and his crew moved without knowing their presence. Cock sure of his dominance Gabriel moved his crew right into the trap laid by the swat team.
"Find her. Bring him back alive." The voice like ice commanded. With one hand motion the specially trained officers descended down up the skeleton crew that remained in the building. Only the head snake slithered away. Gabriel stepped to the heli-pad, searching for his copter. Out of the black the searchlight blinded him. It landed, he threw open its door and leapt in. "Hands up. We are the FBI". He turned to run and was shot by the police sniper in the building doorway The body fell to the roof. Joe kept his gun leveled as he approached. "I always win." Gabrial spat.
"Not this time." Joe retorted. Gabrial attempted to fire the gun in hand, but Joe was faster.
They were in that stunned place where winners go when they are shocked by their triumph. Dazed that it was over, they stayed 'on guard' in case one more villain would arise. It took a week or so to realize their success.
"Vincent, we got a call.It's safe ."
Catherine raced to Henry Pei's restaurant to use a phone, calling Joe for more news.
"That Gabriel guy didn't believe in grooming successors, I guess. His organization is falling apart, guys are offering info for immunity, telling all. It's over."
She sighed in relief. The nightmare was finally over. "What about Moreno?"
"You're talking to the new acting DA." Joe beamed.
"Joe! That's wonderful!"
"It sure is good to hear your voice Ratcliffe." the sincerely of how much he cared was unmistakable. They returned in secret as they had left. This time their reception was with applause and hugs and blessings. Father's eyes misted as he held her and Vincent whispered, "Excuse us we named her without a proper ceremony. Charlene Jacqueline Chandler"
"Well we shall have to rectify that once you both have had a moment to settle in." Father assured his son.
Everyone finally fanned out to allow the couple time alone. Mary had dropped a cradle. "Home." Catherine sighed. Vincent smiled & held her close. Within the week Catherine mused at the man who had previously declared his hands dangerous as he bathed and cared for CJ, because she was too sweet to be nicknamed Charlie. He rose at her night cries to diaper and deliver her to Catherine for feeding. Catherine was enjoying settling in to tunnel life, but Vincent still seemed to be hesitant with physical affection. "Vincent..Can we talk?"
"About anything." He smiled.
"About that night in the cave.."
He looked down,"I have no memory of that night."
"Then perhaps the best way to reach our bliss would be for you to come to our bed, ready for me to love you. The Bond will lead you. See how sweetly you care for CJ, you won't hurt me"
"We can make new memories, Catherine?"
"Oh, yes, please, Vincent."
He hesitantly stroked her cheek. She allowed him to go slowly knowing that it took all his courage to trust her on this matter. His kisses become increasingly urgent yet tender. She laid on her side inviting him closer. "I love you Vincent." she assured. "I know", his voice low,, "And yet... deep inside, there is a part of me that cannot accept this."
Catherine is dismayed. "Accept our baby?"
"No... not her. Us. How this all came to be." Vincent gazed at her. "How you put all else aside, and loved me." 'How couldn't I? '
Catherine, you're my world ' his arms enclosed her, he let her fragrance entice him
'Then welcome Óll of me into that world'
and with the hours he did, driven by his bond reading her thrills and joy. She had awoken his tender heart.
They were awakened in the morning by tapping on the pipes. "Father wishes to see us, Catherine."
She yawned and stretched. "It would have been nice to sleep in...we had such a late night!"
They kissed tenderly.
"He's not aware of how we spent our night!" "We didn't cross any medical boundaries, you think we'll get a lecture?" She smirked.
"If I hadn't said anything in the midst of our loving, perhaps I should ask for your hand"
"Vincent, take my hand and any other parts you wish, I love you so!"
"It's good to have you back, Catherine. I never dreamed.. well there is now the matter of a proper naming ceremony for my granddaughter." Father's eyes misted.
Catherine & Vincent readily agreed. The whole tunnel community wanted to play their part. When Father asked the name Vincent proudly said, "Charlene in honor of her Grandfather Chandler" and Catherine chimed in, "Jacqueline in honor of her other Grandfather". Father stood proud, "I understand she'll be called "CJ", and her parents nodded. The crowded chamber rippled with joy.
"Nervous?" Vincent asked when Catherine settled down for sleep that night.
"A little-I do want to meet with Joe. I owe him, & he's a good friend. Glad I will be coming back home to my family here Below though."
Moving stealthily Catherine approached Joe's apt. under Vincent's careful gaze. Joe threw open the door at her soft knock. "Tell me you aren't a ghost"
"No ghost, Joe!" She let him hug her up like family. Then he set back down and closed the door. "Where 've you been?"
"Does it matter?" Catherine hedged not wanting to lie.
Joe simply stared in amazement. "No,Suppose it doesn't. You OK?"
"A lot has changed Joe. Not sure when I'll back. Need time off."
"Your place will still be there when your ready."
"I appreciate that, Joe. My life has changed and it might be a while."
"Cathy, I'll respect your privacy but I'm curious."
"One day when it settles down, we'll have a long, frank talk."
She left Joe's grateful that Vincent was at the threshold with CJ.
"Catherine, our chamber here is fine for a couple, but soon enough CJ will need her own. Unless you prefer she go to the children's chambers?"
Catherine shook her head. "No, she should stay with us."
"Then I must speak with Kanin about expanding." Completely befuddled by their 'expansion' techniques she watched the men plotting rooms. She heard Vincent's husky whispers and Kanin's nods. They'd ask advice and she'd contribute then Vincent stood to block the plans. "I'd like a few surprises for you!"
Catherine shrugged, happy enough to wait to see what surprises were in store. She wandered into the chandlery to say hello to Rebecca and beg a scented candle from her.
"Vincent's busy with a surprise," she said. Rebecca nodded. "I know!"
"YOU know?" Catherine's eyes went wide. Word traveled fast in the tunnels!
"Yes, but I didn't think he would have told you so soon." Rebecca frowned, "It's still setting in Cullen's chamber." Catherine's puzzled frown turned to a curious smirk.
"OH, please don't tell I've spoiled the surprise!"
"No problem, Rebecca, how about a couple of those rose scented column candles and we'll be square?" Catherine winked and accepted the two rosy candleds, then headed back to nurse CJ.
Joe stared at the card Catherine had given him for contact should he want or need to reach her. Not sure what he would say, he knocked on Peter Alcotts door & waited.
"Mr. Maxwell! Come on in."Peter showed Joe to the living room.A bit stiffly Joe sat. "What can I do for you," Peter inquired politely.
"I'm not sure. Cathy said...I can reach her through you?"
Peter shifted in his seat. "Well...yes. Not quickly, but...yes."
"So you can't give me her number?"
"There is no number...where she is."
"Oh." Joe tried to hide his disappointment.
Peter saw Joe was stressed. "What's wrong Joe?" Joe didn't open up to people easily, but Catherine trusted Peter.
Joe took a deep breath,"It's silly I know, but I can't shake the fear she'll be hurt again."
Peter smiled sympathetically. "I know you care for her, as do I. Please trust me as someone who has known her all her life when I tell you she is safe, she is happy, she is loved, and she will not be hurt again."
"Sure as my name is Peter! "
"Can I see a copy of your birth certificate?" Joe grinned teasingly.
"We've all been through a terrifying ordeal & lingering fears are normal. It takes time - especially when feelings run deep." Peter had caught those early Joe looking at Cath looks. "She safe, then?"
"Joe, safe and happy. Did you need her for anything?" Peter offered him a seat in the parlor.
Joe shuffled his feet,"Not really. Simply miss seeing her at the office." His gaze came up to meet Peter's. "I'm glad she found happiness though. She deserves it.
"You can write her if it helps, & I'm sure she won't stay away forever." Peter assured.
Before Joe left,Peter added,"She has great regard for you Joe, she'll be in touch!"
Joe ducked his head self consciously & gave a short wave as he walked to his car a little more bounce in his step.
Catherine returned to their chamber with the candles as the planners rolled up the sketches. Vincent sheepishly spoke,"We're going to have to spend a few nights in a guest chamber.AND no wandering in until we're done." He had the 'softest' stern eyes that she laughed.
"CJ and I can follow directions" She bounced their daughter.
As the days passed Catherine enjoyed spending time catching up with the tunnel community by day, &laying down to sleep with Vincent at night with CJ next to the bed. At last the expansion was finished! Vincent held their daughter & guided Catherine. Her eyes were closed as instructed, and she clung to the sturdy warmth of his arm as they walked - not just for suuport. When they stopped, Vincent murmured, "You may open your eyes now."
Her eyelids fluttered open, then her eyes widened in astonishment. His chamber 'childproofed' was transformed.Looking more like a museum she noticed the bed was gone. Under the window was a long low sofa."Where will we sleep?" Vincent led her back to the bed chambers.1 for them and 1 for CJ.
"Oh, Vincent... I...I have no words!" Catherine's eyes misted.
"For you, my Catherine. Anything else you want' you need only ask."
"Only one thing... It's about our daughter... Let's not call her CJ? Charlene is such a lovely name..."
Vincent smiled. His smile grew tauntingly as he moved toward Catherine, 'No Charlie, either!" she giggled as his arms wrapped around her, his lips trailing kisses and she fell to his desires, sharing them. Their chamber was quite soundproof!
And thus, their days of a happiness never imagined went by, their love growing even stronger, better. And every day, Vincent marveled at the miracle of their daughter, so much like him and yet so different... she would have her parrents' love.
And with coming decades as V & C became a legend, they were remembered with this verse:
"Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion."