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"Oh, Jamie, but do you really think it is a good idea?" Vincent was becoming increasingly anxious at his friend's enthusiasm and his own boldness.
"Are you kidding? Vincent, she'll love it!" Jamie smiled anticipating Catherine's reaction.
"Who says Father has to know?" Jamie grinned. "At least right away..." the look he gave her admonishing, but soon a small smile began to play across Vincent's face as well as he considered the possibilities.
"It would ... unexpected." he admitted.
"But it's past time I show her with actions how much she means in my life... instead of surrounding myself in walls for fear of getting hurt." He blushed, aware he had probably revealed more than he intended.
Catherine had had a horrible day. The only thing that had remotely gone right was she had not broken a heel... yet. The cases she was assigned all seemed to have developed problems, traffic had been backed up making her late to the office, and Joe approached her with a fresh frown on his face. "Hope you weren't planning on goin' home early tonight, Radcliffe!" Joe's face held a hint of apology despite his brash words. The files he dumped onto her desk looked like more than one late night's worth of work. Catherine groaned.
"Hey you knew what you were signing up for when you became a public servant." Joe teased trying to lighten the mood.
"Public servant or slave?" Catherine smirked.
His tone turned serious."Need to update you on Perez." He motioned her to follow him. After a half hour meeting, Catherine attacked all that paperwork, and long hours later, she was ready to go home. Just the thought of what awaited her there made all her frustration vanish.
"I'll take it from here, Vincent. You'll be late!" winked Jamie
Vincent inclined his head in acknowledgement as he donned his cloak and headed out of the chamber. Excitement warred with old fears as his feet carried him off. At the first turn, he ran into Mouse.
"Vincent!" Mouse's face lit up. "Come see new Gizmo?"
"I'm going Above...to see Catherine," Vincent replied, head tilted in oblique apology.
"Just take a minute! Come!" Mouse turned and shuffled off quickly. Vincent frowned but then shrugged. It would probably not take long, and it would make Mouse happy.
Mouse excitedly chattered on his newest prize. "Found it last night. Didn't take!" he assured the taller man at the look of worry that had started to form. "Makes neat sounds... lights... not sure what it does yet. Figure it out." Arthur scampered away. 'Mouse, you've outdone yourself. But tonight I ask you to excuse me."
Mouse frowned, 'Why?"
'I need to be with Catherine, trust me' Vincent wore an anxious look Mouse knew when he missed Catherine.
"Sure, tell her Mouse says thanks for the new tools'
Vincent quickly exited the chamber, but before he could reach the surface he ran into Father. Trying not to grit his teeth, Vincent greeted the older man.
Above Catherine's day was not improving. "At this rate I'll be here all night!" she hissed. With a determined sigh, she closed the door behind her and headed out. The ride home was tortuously slow, but at last she made it. But instead of going up, she headed to the basement, his world, him.
The tunnels were quiet as she made the familiar way
Vincent could sense Catherine coming closer, but he was still unable to extricate himself from Father's unceasing monologue about the duty roster and the changes that had to be made to accommodate the illnesses of several Tunnel dwellers. Knowing he had to prepare things before meeting with Catherine if plans were to be salvaged, Vincent managed to break into the long list of duties without too much overlap on Father.
"Certainly, first thing in the morning." Vincent darted off quickly. Jamie, God bless her, had intercepted Catherine. He wasn't ready. And she wasn't supposed to be down here, he was supposed to be up there. With her. As surprises went, this one was not working out. He needed a way for Catherine to return Above. tapping an older code he hoped Jamie knew he sent a message: Send Catherine Above, V needed at urgent meeting, all is well.
When the proper reply was received Vincent breathed a sigh of relief. Although Catherine was left frazzled. Jamie spun Catherine around not waiting for an answer when the young girl spun Catherine back towards the apartment entrance with a clipped apology of how Vincent was detained but fine. The long day had not helped foster patience with this turn of events.
After Jamie left, Catherine's spirits were decidedly down. There just wouldn't be any brightening of her day. She wished Jamie hadn't been so obvious in wanting her out of the tunnels. Feeling like a fool, she wished Vincent had been honest with her. Vincent obviously didn't want to see her,Catherine decided to call Joe & see if he still wanted her on that stake out tonight that she had begged off of.Why he suddenly was putting distance between them she didn't know. Joe confirmed the address to meet.
Catherine arrived with large cups of coffee and slipped into the stake-out car, passing the coffee to the cops and Joe. They grabbed them gratefully and sipped as Joe filled Catherine in. She settled into the back seat and silently fumed.
Vincent thanked Jamie for the interference to allow him the time and space needed to prepare for the special evening Vincent had planned for Catherine. Jamie assured him Catherine returned above. She neglected to mention or take note of Catherine's mood.
There in the back of the unmarked car, her mood became as dark as the coffee in the paper cup.
'What crawled down your back, Radcliffe?" Joe saw her knitted brows and her frown.
"It's nothing." she fumed.
"Nothing? Yeah right." Joe looked skeptical.
"Lets focus on the case." Catherine replied. She spotted a shadow move in the alley to her right. "Joe.." she motioned in the direction of the alley as the cops exited the car. "Joe, be careful out there."
"Yeah, kiddo and what about you? Are you Wonderwoman?" Joe stepped out of the car and a bullet flew past his head. He dropped to the ground. Catherine radioed, "Shots fired, none returned. Lost sight of the officers" Joe managed to crawl into the back where Catherine was as the shots continued to be fired. "Stay down!" he shouted without looking back.
Vincent sensed Catherine's fear, but was startled to realize she was not home where he expected. Vincent moved toward the intense emotions emanating from Catherine . Gunshot was heard as Vincent approached the ally way opposite of where the bullets were streaming in from. Vincent eyes the car carefully realizing that Catherine was inside. He assessed the situation believing he could make it to the next roof over.
He started to jump as another car came rushingly in sight. Vincent stopped moving, he could'nt loose track of the hole situation. The car stopped and four men with guns bursted out, hiding behind the cars doors. Now Vincent could feel his own fear too. Inside the van, Joe's arms covered Cathy's head, his body half over hers. Detroit steel was protecting them, though the glass was obviously taking damage. Air hissed, from the tires, as bullets from the four new gunmen pierced them. They were trapped. Vincent was about to charge for the vehicle with Catherine when the police car pulled up. The gunfire was two way now,but the van was still in the middle. Joe squeezed his way to the drivers seat keeping low. Joe managed to get the van moving forward. "Good job, kids!" Greg's voice assured them on the radio, while they watched the gunmen being handcuffed at a small distance.
"Are you all right, Joe?" she tried to control her still pounding heart.
"Not a scratch, kiddo. C'mon, I'll take you home."
Joe looked at the van. "Maybe I'll get us a cab to take you home." his smile causing her a sigh of relief with a smile.
Joe walked her up to her door. "You sure you're all right?"
Concern shining in his eyes went unvoiced not unnoticed.
Catherine shut the door behind her and, exhausted from the night's emotions and activity, trod wearily toward her bedroom, intent on a quick hot shower and then sleep. It was not the night she'd envisioned by a long shot. Noise on the balcony stopped her. A familiar cloaked shadow crossed against the moonlight. Stealing her resolve, she opened the French doors. She was still slightly shaken & unsure why Vincent wanted her out of the tunnels earlier.
"Catherine" his voice relieved "I was coming for you."
Catherine opened the door and ran right into Vincents arms which held her tight and save. They stood quite for a while, then Catherine asked: "You said, coming for me; is something wrong Vincent? Because I haven't a good day today."
"I know", he smiled. "Earlier tonight, I was coming Above but was detained."
"Jamie said you couldn't make it tonight." Confused marred her voice.
"Forgive me I was attempting to prepare a surprise. Accept my apologies. I am merely glad you are safe."
"Was a close call." "Yes." A shadow passed over Vincent's face as he thought about the shooting. Then his expression changed. "Catherine, of course I always look forward to your company Below, but tonight is such a lovely night, I thought we could take a walk in the Park." Her exhaustion and that shower beckoned her to say no, but Vincent asked so infrequently she relented with a tired smile. Vincent noticed her hesitation. "Are you up to a walk tonight?"
"I'll be OK. I'll meet you at the threshold." she promised.
Catherine always walked to the threshold with so many desires.
The desire for Vincent to never return her to the world above.
The desire for him to claim her in every way. Was his secret one of her desires tonight?
Vincent tried to calm his mind as he waited for Catherine to appear. He had planned a special evening where he would finally tell her how much he loved her and demonstrate that love with a kiss. Was now still the time with the events earlier?
Dust motes stirred in the blue-white light from the storage rooms. Vincent's stomach quivered with the sounds of Catherine moving things about. He steadied his feet and folded his arms over his chest, there he felt his heart race. Catherine arrived and Vincent gently aided her off the ladder. They started out in silence as they made their way to the park. Finally Catherine broke the quiet.
"What is it? What is on your mind? You seem ... preoccupied." her voice was soft & curious.
"Catherine, is it juvenile that being alone with you makes my heart race so?"
"Vincent, that's what's on your mind?" She stopped and stood before him, "Don't you feel my heart tremble at the sight of you? It's Love!"
"Indeed, I do love you,Catherine"
She beamed. "Then what is it?"
With an intensity in his eyes she had never seen before, Vincent began "I want you to know without question of my feelings for you. I need to tell you of what is in my heart. Our lives place so many barriers for us yet
somewhere within a fantasy world I live with you and you're the first face I see each morning" He took a deep breath. "I never want to you question your place in my life or wonder if I will be there. You have shown me our love is possible, and while I do not have all the answers of how or when I can promise you we will find our way together."
They weren't in the park yet, just in the drafty, dusty tunnels. but he couldn't wait any longer. He gathered her into his arms and slowly leaned down to kiss her eyelids, her nose, her cheeks...her mouth. He lingered there, relishing her return kiss. When they parted, Catherine looked at him with bright eyes. "Vincent, I never should have jumped to the conclusion that you didn't want to see me. I'm sorry for doubting you. I love you too - will all I am - and I know that we will find our way together." After another few kisses they walked out into the night the breeze feeling especially brisk celebrating new found freedom. The muted music of the night was interrupted by a roaring engine as a motorcycle sped towards them out of control crashing nearby. Vincent raised his hood and caught Catherine's hand, "We need to leave"
"What if someone is hurt?" She tried to see around the crowd of trees where the mangled bike now lay. Safety warred with providing rescue. Finally Vincent moved silently in the direction of the downed bike. A small figure lay on the ground not moving.
How could a child be out, on such a vehicle at this time of night? "She can't be much more than 12 years old ..." Catherine looked around for others who may be with the girl, but there was no one else. The child started to stir as Vincent faded back into the shadows.
"Are you OK?" Catherine helped the girl sit up.
"Yes, I guess, my arm still hurts and I can't move my leg" she answered.
Catherine went back to Vincent. "We could take her to Father, could we?", she asked.
"We don't know what happend Catherine. If she's on a run, taking her below could be dangerous!" Vincent pointed out.
"We can't just leave her... wait there is a pay phone across the park. Would you stay with her if I go call 911?" Catherine offered. After a moment's hesitation he nodded. She smiled.
C returned to the girl. "I'll be right back."
After calling 911, Catherine returned to the girl. "I want my mom," she was saying.
"If you give me her number, I'll call her, sweetheart. Don't be afraid"
Having reached the girl's mom, Catherine stayed until she and the ambulance came.
When it left, Catherine found herself talking to the police officer Regarding the motorcycle accident and the run a way girl. Vincent had retreated safely back into the tunnel. The girl had said they were new in the city, and she got lost when she left home to explore, so Catherine left the case in the hands of the police.
Back Below, a frustrated Jamie was pasing. "But Mouse, how are we gonna get a van? This just won't work."
"Ask Catherine!" Happy with his ready answer, Mouse beamed at Jamie.
"She's busy. Besides, she's Up Top right now - working, probably."
Vincent encountered them walking past his chamber entrance.
"Are you speaking of Catherine?" he inquired.
"Oh, Vincent!" Jamie looked surprised to see him. "Did you & Catherine have your moonlit boat ride on the lake as we planned?"
"Actually, someone needed our help, Catherine is tending to them now. But we did have a lovely talk on the way."
The morning rose on a new day, and Mouse was going to make sure Vincent and Catherine had their precious time together.
As Mouse planned, Catherine got to work, only to find Tara, the girl from the accident, standing by the door to her office.
"Tara? Is something wrong?'
"I...I ran away again," she admitted.
"This morning?" Catherine was incredulous. "Why?" "My mother, she has this new guy, that's why we moved here. But I don't like him. When I come home from school he's always waiting for me. And ..."
"he wants you to do things you don't wont to do." completed Catherine the sentence.
"Yes", Tara whispered. Catherines first instint as to tuck the girl safe below but catherine knew she couldnt not with police already involved. Catherine guided the girl to joes office.
"Joe, we need to talk." She filled Joe in on Tara's situation. He called Child Protective Services while Catherine completed court documents to remove Tara from her home for her own safety. It was a grim task, but necessary. It was going to be a while before the case worker could come pick Tara up.
"Why don't we go grab come lunch." Catherine offered.
"Together?" Tara grinned. Catherine nodded.
"You can even choose the place."
"Cool!" Tara called as they left.
"McDonalds...?" Catherine questioned with a frown, as the pair entered the restaurant.
"Of course!" Tara beamed. "I'd like a Big Mac with everything, please."
"Okay, but I gotta warn you. You can't have this every day." Catherine pulled out her purse. They soon were seated with Tara popping in the french fries. "Slow down ..."
"So young lady.. where did you get the bike...and why the park?" Catherine asked.
Tara shrugged. "Why were YOU in the park?" Catherine was tempted to retort 'asked you first'.
"I know this city and the park. I go there often. But so late at night, it's not a safe place for a young girl."
Tara just nodded, accepting the logic. "Sory."
"It's ok, honey. Tara, tell me... Does your mom know, what you told us?
"No. What if she didn't believe me?
"Then we must be sure she knows the truth. What could it hurt?"
"Plenty." Tara scowled over her Big Mac. "My Mom don't like me telling stories. She says I'm bad."
"No-one is bad." Catherine took her small hand. "We can make it all al right."
Vincent paced in his chamber. He wanted to go Above since he could sense Catherine's feelings whirling about someone who needed help. But it was middle of the day, so he must wait for evening and Catherine reaching out to him or go to meet her at her balcony. Maybe besides her worries they could find a private moment to continue their talk from the park. He deeply wished for that. Besides, he was still not done planning with Mouse and Jamie, and he was a little concerned with Mouse's enthusiasm. So while he waited for night to come, he decided to check on them.
"He went Above, Jamie. Something about a van." a worried Geoffrey relayed.
"Van... but Mouse was suppose to take care of that part!" she frowned.
Vincent kept to the deepest of shadows, hidden ways that even Above he could stay out of sight. He peered at Catherine and the girl from an alley across the street. As the cab he saw them take disappeared in traffic, Vincent felt a tug on his slieve. He whirled to find the anxious eyes of Jamie.
"Got to follow you Vincent, sorry."
"What is it, Jamie?
"Mouse came Above to get, um, something, but look what I found in his chamber." She held up several sticks of dynamite bound together by cord. "I didn't want to leave it lying around."
Gingerly Vincent took the dynamite from her. "This could be old and unstable, Jamie - very dangerous."
Jamie nodded. "You know Mouse!" 'Indeed I do. ' Vincent grimaced
"What are we going to do?" Jamie's forehead creased with anxiety.
"I do not know." Vincent handled the dynamite gingerly. "We simply cannot throw it away down the Abyss. That would be too dangerous."
"Mouse!" Jamie's hands flew up. "He's crazy."
"Catherine knows a man...someone who is in the building trade. He could dispose of this properly." Vincent hated to ask Catherine to go to Elliot for anything, but this was very nearly an emergency. "Let me take care of this." He pocketed the explosives.
He walked carefully, not sure his pocket would not explode at any moment. He felt the weight of responsibility. He wondered where Mouse had gotten the explosives in the first place. Had he "found" them somewhere, as the tinker had found other stuff?
Catherine had the uncomfortable task of joining the police as they took her to Tara's house to serve notice to her mother that her child had been placed with CPS pending an investigation of her charges against her mother's boyfriend.
"What did she tell you?" Tara's mother raged. "She's nothing but a little liar. He wouldn't hurt a fly, not my man."
"The fact remains." Catherine held her temper with difficulty. "There is an accusation that has been made. We must investigate."
"Where's that girl? If I get my hands on her...."
"She's in protective custody. Once an investigation is completed, you'll be able to see her."
Catherine turned and left as Tara's mother cursed at her and her police escort.
I'm glad you guys are here!"
"Let us know if there is anything else we can do, Miss Chandler." One officer tipped his hat, as they walked away.
"What happens now?" asked Tara, her big eyes full of tears.
"Well, I guess you'll have to come home with me." Catherine hugged her.
Just then the representative of CPS came into the office. "I'm here to pick up Tara," she said briskly.
"Oh! Yes," Catherine said. Looking at Tara, she added, "It's the law. You'll be safely placed, don't worry." She hugged Tara and waved goodbye. Vincent did not dare scale the trip to the balcony with the dynamite. He watched for Catherine to approach her building and quickly came up beside her startling her. "Catherine." He urgently whispered her name then fell back to shadow. Catherine followed.
"It's so good to see you, Vincent." Catherine reached to kiss him softly. His arms closed carefully around her. "What is it?" Catherine questioned worriedly.
"It's something in my pocket." Vincent frowned worriedly. "It might explode at any time." Catherine couldn't help an impish grin despite the seriousness. Her imagination had to wait as Vincent was quickly explaining why they needed Elliot's help.
"Dynamite!?!" she hissed. "Wait here..I'll call from the lobby." He set the sticks down easy.
They gleamed sweat in the street lights. He stepped back, brushing his hands down the legs of his pants. He didn't like handling the stuff. He had been worried it would all go off in his pocket. He wiped the sweat from his brow and sighed. Romantic... as the night was, there was no time to enjoy the bright moon and gentle breeze before Elliot's limo pulled up. Catherine motioned Elliot over after having said a brief good night to Vincent. Seeing the dynamite Elliot's eyes widened motioning to his men.
"Here give them that." Elliot extended his hands warningly. "And why did you send your friend away, Cathy?" His grey eyes assessed the shadows. "What storybook did he walk out of, what century?"
"Who?" Catherine frowned. "I don't know who you saw." Elliot gave her a knowing look but didn't ask more.
"Should I even try to ask where this came from?" he indicated the dynamite. She shook her head with an apologetic smile.
"Let's just say I owe you one now, OK?" Catherine touched his arm in parting.
He caught her hand. "Don't you want a ride back to your office?"
"Thanks, Elliot, but I prefer to walk."
"Meeting your mystery man again?" Elliot's grey eyes saddened. "You still have me to guard you back, Cathy. Always, you know that."
She nodded smiling before turning to go back inside her apartment building & down to a certain threshold entrance. Elliot had assumed she was going back to her office not knowing Catherine had taken the rest of the day off after having turned Tara over.
She climbed down the ladder and stepped into the blue downstream of light. Passing through it she walked straight into Vincent's warm, waiting arms.
She snuggled closer. "Now, about that in your pocket. You said was going to go off any time now."
Slightly blushing but taking the rare moment to tease he responded, "What would you know of such things my love." Her eyes sparkled with mischief as she leaned into his chest chuckling softly to herself.
"Perhaps another time, Vincent." She reached up to kiss him, delighting in his response. This was becoming more and more the accepted thing between them. A small kiss to meet and part, another step upon the long road to full acceptance of their love. But this time...this time he didn't pull away after one kiss. THIS time...his mouth lingered against hers, savoring her. Catherine grew weak-kneed. She kissed him back whole-heartedly, putting all the passion she dared to into her responding kiss.
Her hands ran up into his hair, tangling there, closing tight with their shared passion.
Vincent finally pulled back to rest his forehead against hers. "Do you have to go back Above?"
Catherine gazed into his eyes. "Not if you don't want me to." Their gazes locked with intense silence before breaking apart. "Not tonight anyway.. come morning I will need to be back at the office."
"But we have tonight." Vincent thought of where they could go to spend some time without interruptions.
"I know a place we could go, where no-one will see us or disturb us." He caught her hand, pulling her beneath the shelter of his mantle.
Catherine looked up at him. "Understand, Vincent, to be alone with you is all I want. But there's much more..." She paused. "More I wish for us than... brief, chased moments. Come. Show me that place." Her smile, as always, lit up his heart as they made their way into the tunnels.
He led her to a wall of seeming solid rock. But at the last moment he turned sideways and disappeared. Catherine stared at the place he had just been, then his hand reappeared beckoning to her. She stepped forward into a secret place with a pool and a broad ledge, where a blanket, pillows and a basket had been placed. He reached out for her hand and she stepped into the chamber, while he kept his face under that glorious curtain of golden hair.
"I, I wanted us to have this... I asked Mouse to furnish it for us, and William supplied the food."
Catherine frowned. "They know that we are here then?" She didn't sound pleased.
"No," Vincent quickly reassured her. "They know nothing beyond I asked for a picnic for us. They
don't know about this place, except mouse and Jamie. Unlike my chamber, no one will come, I promise," he said with a wink and a small smile. Her soft laugh told him he had read exactly what she was fearing.
"Oh, Vincent. We've come so far... Sometimes I wonder if we will ever complete this journey of ours, that began to long ago now."
Vincent took her hand, drawing her closer. "If we believe in love and ourselves, then nothing and no-one can defeat or harm us." He addressed the unspoken. "Catherine... for a long time now I have sensed your need to move... forward in our relationship. I wanted you to know I feel the same but also know you are the first to truly accept me as I am body & soul. This is new to me."
"We are something that has never been, Vincent. This is just as new to me. This is not merely about... being lovers, that's the easy part," she looked down. "It is more about my need for you to fully believe there can be nothing, no one for me but you."
A smile spread across his face. "Catherine, in the times I have lost sight of that truth you have been there to remind me, & for that I am grateful.You never lost faith."
"And I won't.It took time for me as well to understand but now there is no doubt." Shyly but determined, he gently framed her face in his hands and gazed deep into her eyes. "I... I love you, Catherine," he whispered, amazed at the freedom his heart was feeling in speaking the words of this truth beyond knowledge. "I love you, I love us."
She smiled then and gently kissed him. Still keeping her gaze locked on his, she began to undress - kicking off her shoes, slipping her jacket off.
He stayed her hands. "Let me."
With slightly trembling fingers, he began to unbutton her blouse. The two halves fell apart to reveal the lacy twin cups of her bra. Vincent stilled, slowly breathing, and looking. He felt no shame, no concern and he could feel Catherine's acceptance, her smile
and a longing that matched his. He took her in his arms and sat on the ledge with her on his lap, running his hand through her arm, up to her shoulder and finally, daringly, . to touch the forbidden, the warm, soft curve of her breast through the lacy fabric of her bra. He felt, rather than saw, the generous flesh beneath swell and mould itself to the shape of his seeking palm. His heart did a flutter as he dared cup one breast in his palm. Catherine reached behind her to unclasp her bra and Vincent let it fall away, revealing her breasts to his adoring eyes. She took his hand and placed it upon her breast again. "Yes," was all she said.
"This is meant to be, is it not, Catherine?" Vincent looked up into her eyes. "You and I, this is where we are meant to join our paths, our diverse destinies."
"Stop trying to analyse what could be and know what is..." Catherine smiled, moving in to silence him with a tantalizing kiss that went on and on until he had no breath to continue. Catherine slipped her hands down to his belt, loosening it, not giving him a moment to think. Thinking was over-rated - now was the time for instinct, emotion.
His hands defined the span of her narrow waist, before slipping beneath the fabric of her underwear, closing over the warm, twin moon of her butt, bringing her in close against his. Catherine replied by dragging his shirt up his back, threading her fingers through his hair after tossing his shirt aside. She pressed her chest against his, bare flesh to bare flesh, and Vincent gasped at the incredible sensation. Her hands busy, she made short work of the buttons on his jeans, and soon they stood as naked as their own desire, soul looking into soul as their eyes met and held for a long moment of pulsing need.
Vincent reached to cup her face between his hands. "You are beautiful..."
"And so are you..." Catherine breathed. Her fingers rose
to stroke his face, softly, tenderly. He lifted her up and placed her on the blanket amidst the pillows. She held her arms out to him and he entered them gladly. As his body lay full length upon hers, their need fanned the building fire of their passion. Morning came all too soon as Vincent woke with hi internal alarm clock and gently shook Catherine awake so she could get dressed to go back to her apartment to ready for work.
Joe motioned for her to come into his office the moment she walked in.
"Where have you been, Radcliffe? I've been trying to reach you since last night."
"What?" she groaned.
"Fox decided to sing. He gave us all the names we needed. So since you took all those extra hours this week... I didn't wanna see you here today, kiddo ."
"Well here I am anyway!" She laughed "so close your eyes. Trying to get rid of me huh?" She teased.
"Never... if you want to stick around there are always witnesses to prep." Joe offered.
"Thanks, Joe, but I'll pass on that piece of fun. I think I can hear a hairwash calling. I need to get home."
"You just getting in?" Joe's brows rose. "A hot and heavy date last night, was it?"
Catherine smiled. "Something like that. Just a nice meeting of the minds, you could say."
Joe shook his head..."Radcliffe, you have a way with words". But she was thinking of Vincent's hands and lips in places they'd never been before. Their first time had been beyond descriptions, at once innocent, passionate, gentle, urgent... perfect. And she didn't want to be anywhere but in his arms this morning, sharing in the magic of the aftermath.
She went back with breakfast and found him already hard at work on fixing a section of pipe that had recently rusted through. Father had insisted that this project could not wait another day. Disappointed, Catherine decided to look in on Lena and see how big little Cathy was getting.
Lena took one look at Catherine and grinned. "Finally!" she remarked with glee.
Catherine blushed scarlet.
"Sorry," Lena said, adding, "but probably nobody else would notice your...glow."
Smiling, Catherine said, "He was...worth waiting for."
Knowing Vincent would be uncomfortable with word spreading through the small community Catherine asked Lena to keep her new insight quiet. Lena agreed with a longing in her eyes to have someone care as much for her.
Vincent winced as rust fell in his eyes, making them tear up momentarily. He was filthy and wet and thoroughly disgusting to smell. And he sensed that Catherine was Below. Frustrated, he clenched his teeth and heaved the rusty pipe out of the way. It clanged against the opposite wall. Still, he couldn't suppress the feeling of warmth and wonder at the thought of the night before. His body still tingled at the memory, and a smile graced his lips. Hie eyes still burned from the rust and his heart was not on this task, so he decided to Go to the mirror pool to rinse out his eyes. There he found Mouse grumbling to himself. " Mouse?" Vincent prompted.
The boy brightened..Vincent was his friend ..Vincent would help!
As Vincent cupped water in his palms to splash in his eyes, Mouse burbled about his problem, finishing with, "So Father won't let ME go. But can't stop YOU!"
Vincent smiled. "I cannot defy Father on this. Work sites Above are watched, as you know." "Won't be the same." Mouse frowned.
Catherine was waiting in his chamber. She wanted this quiet time to soak in all that was her beloved, in all the possibilities that had suddenly opened to them last night. She walked the room, touching his things, burying her face in his pillow, until a loud crash caused Catherine to spin around.
Geoffrey stood in the chamber door, the remains of a tray filled with teapot, cups and cookies now strewn on the ground around him. "Sorry, Catherine! Vincent asked to to being this, but it was pretty heavy and..."
"Don't worry! Here, let me help you." They cleaned as best they could, but Geoffrey would not meet her eyes. Catherine took his hand and touched his cheek. "It's ok, sweetheart, just an accident." She climbed on Vincent's bed and scooped the boy in a snuggle. "Hello, Geoffrey," she smiled . "You know not to cry over spilled Tea!" Geoffrey softened in her arms.
There Vincent stood in the hall watching her share loving words with a child. He said a silent prayer that they would be parents or at least parent a foundling come that day. He sighed happily, amazed hi was even considering this possibility.
"I know but... Vincent asked me. It was important. Now I messed up your meeting. And it's not like you guys have a lot of time to meet..."
Catherine kissed his cheek, sensing Vincent at the entrance. Turning, she held out her hand and he approached the bed carrying his towel, his main still damp and droplets rolling down his face. He took her hand and her warm weight was pressed against them on the bed. Putting his arms around them, he hugged them both. "It's all right, Geoffrey. You didn't mess anything up."
Geoffrey smiled and hugged Vincent back, kissed Catherine shyly on the cheek, and scooted out.
"Well, that was a dramatic entrance," she said, laughing.
"He's a good boy." 'There are so many good children here. It's not jut you, Vincent, who needs this world. Now being with you I can see the tranquility and love awaiting me." C spoke reverently.
V smiled, 'And once I bath my love, I'll be back to share that love."
A coy smile played on his lips. "Yes, Catherine I will be most happy to share your love... and that of the tunnel children's as they asked that I deliver you for a special performance in our honor."
Blushing slightly at other thoughts Catherine nodded.
An hour later Catherine sat in the Library with Vincent while other Tunnel Dwellers filled in seats and found places to stand around the room. The children rushed around setting things up. Finally, Samantha took the stage, beaming at the group. "This is for Vincent and Catherine," she announced as the adults smiled indulgently. The children performed scenes from Shakespeare and played Vincent's favorite tunes on their instruments. The hour passed quickly and happily for all, to great applause.
Just then, Mouse took the stage. "Ok good, ok fine! Mouse and Jamie have something for Vincent and Catherine too!" Jamie beamed and stepped forward, holding up a set of keys to Catherine. .
"From us, and Long and Edward," she explained. We wanted to surprise you the other night.. but things didn't go exactly as planned." Jamie shot Mouse a look.
Catherine accepted the keys in wordless awe. "Boat. Big boat. nice boat." Mouse piped up in explanation. Jamie nudged him for the rest. "Not stolen.!"
"We wanted to make sure you had some time to yourselves... a chance to get away without going anywhere." Jamie put a hand on Vincent's shoulder. "And I...we...want this to be our apology. For your trip, you know. I feel awful every time I remember. We thought you were leaving forever and... we were unfair and selfish. I, we're sorry, Vincent, Catherine."
"We accept your apology," Catherine responded, still in shock of the surprise.
"Yes, and we thank you for your generosity," Vincent added, trepidation mounting at the implications of the complete aloneness he would be sharing with Catherine. After speaking of 'holding her heart', wasn't it time to hold her? To love her as words would never describe?
Their hearts were one, now their bodies and souls could join forever.
The boat was old but seaworthy, and most importantly had a cabin containing a comfy bed. They glanced at each other with amusement. Jamie, it seemed, was determined to "help" them in every way. Catherine locked the cabin door. "Alone at last - ALL alone! "In 20 years we'll be more disappointed by the things we didn't do than by what we did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor" Vincent smiled.
"I'll sail anywhere by your side, Love" Catherine purred, close to him.
~~~~ A Beginning ~~~~