First Love? Only Love!
Mouse hurried along the tunnel leading to Catherine and Vincentís house, anxious to talk to his friend about a new project that had been buzzing around in his brain. He entered the basement of the brownstone, completely forgetting to press the buzzer to alert the occupants of the house to his presence. He catapulted up the stairs bursting with the need to talk it over with Vincent. Reaching the kitchen he found no one about, so he quickly checked the dining room then went up the next flight of stairs. There was no one in the living room. As he walked to the back of the house he heard sounds coming from the family room, not sounds he was at all used to. Cautiously he crept to the partially open door, being as quite as his namesake and peered in. What he saw froze him on the spot, Vincent was lying on top of Catherine on the floor, they had no clothes on and Vincent looked like he was biting her neck and Catherine was moaning as if she were in pain.
Mouse didnít know what to do he never thought that Vincent would ever hurt Catherine, but he couldnít deny the evidence of his own eyes. As he watched glued to the spot he saw Catherine raise her legs to lock around Vincentís waist. He saw Vincent rock his hips as Catherine writhe beneath him. Mouse hastily backed away, he couldnít watch anymore. He was confused and upset and he wanted nothing more than to go home. Quickly he went down the stairs and back out into the tunnels, running all the way back to his chamber, his mind in turmoil. How could he? How could he hurt Catherine? He paced around his chamber unable to concentrate on any of his numerous projects. Finding no solace there he left his chamber and wandered around finally ending up at the mirror pool. He sat at its edge wrapping his arms around himself gently rocking back and forth as tears rolled down his face. How could he, his best friend, the one he admired, looked up to, how could he hurt Catherine?
This is how Jaime found him; she had looked for him everywhere after he had failed to meet her as planned. Slowly she approached him. "Mouse?" She called softly. "Mouse, whatís wrong?" She squatted down next to her friend putting an arm around his shoulders. He looked so miserable. What could possible have upset him so? Then a thought stuck her, "Mouse is Arthur all right?"
Wiping his nose on his sleeve he mumbled, "heís fine."
"Well then what the heck is wrong?"
Pulling away from her he began to trace his finger in the sand at the edge of the pool.
"Well?" She prodded.
Keeping his eyes averted he sniffed, "Vincent."
"Vincent? Whatís wrong with Vincent?"
"HeÖhe was hurting Catherine."
Jaime was shocked, "no way Mouse, heíd never hurt her."
He looked at her indignantly, "did, saw it!"
Knowing Mouseís proclivity for exaggeration and misinterpretation she gently asked him exactly what he saw. It took awhile, but she finally pieced together what must have happened.
"Mouse you didnít push the buzzer when you entered the house," she admonished him.
Mouse had stopped crying and his eyes went wide, "forgot."
"Well had you pushed the buzzer you never would have seen what you did."
"Would have warned him, would have stopped hurting her." The tears started again.
"Mouse he wasnít hurting her, he was making love to her. Mouse itís what two people do when they love each other."
Mouse was shaking his head, thatís not the way he saw it and she wasnít convincing him.
"Was growling like when heís mad. Catherine was making noises like when Arthurís scared."
"All right calm down, Iím sure youíre wrong. I want you to show me exactly what you saw."
Sniffing loudly he pushed her down so she lay with her back on the sand; then he climbed on top of her stretching out so his length covered her completely.
"Ok then what?" She huffed as his weight pushed on her chest.
He lowered his mouth gently touching his teeth to her throat. She felt something stir deep within her, a burning kindled by his weight on her body and by his touch on her throat.
"What else did he do?" She whispered.
He pulled his face up far enough back so he could see her. "Catherine had her legs up."
She pulled her legs out from under him, lifting them to either side of his waist, "like this?"
Mouse looked around, "higher."
She lifted them over his back, locking her ankles around him.
"Ok good, ok fine." He began to rock as he had seen Vincent do. The smoldering ember burst into flames, her breath coming in short pants, her eyes locked onto the lips that hovered so tantalizingly close to hers. She kissed him. He stopped rocking stunned. She caught her breath afraid to move, but he too was now caught up in the conflagration; he kissed her back.
Suddenly their bodies were hot, too hot and they began tugging at each otherís clothing. Soon they were both naked and nature took its course. After they had reached their climax they both lay exhausted in each otherís arms.
"Mouse I can tell you for sure," Jaime panted, "that Vincent was not hurting Catherine."
Mouse was blown away by what had just happened; now he knew what having a love was like, it was wonderful!
Suddenly they heard the sound of childish laughter coming towards them. Hurriedly they scrambled into their clothing. Mouse had just finished pulling on one of his boots and was hopping on one foot struggling to pull on the other as the children came into the chamber accompanied by Brook who was acting as lifeguard. The couple beat a hasty retreat after greeting the group and ran down the tunnel towards Mouseís chamber.
They reached his sanctuary gasping for air, laughing hysterically. They collapsed onto the bed, lying on their backs. When they finally regained their composure they rolled onto their sides facing one another, propping their heads up on an elbow playing with the fastenings of each others clothing with their free hands shyly not looking at each other.
After a few minutes of toying with a leather thong on Mouseís vest she looked at his face meeting his eyes.
"Mouse, I have to report for sentry duty."
"Donít want you to go," he began playing with her hair, pushing strands of it back behind her ear. She closed her eyes and leaned into his hand. He hiked himself up enough to kiss her. She let out a low moan returning the kiss. Remembering her duties she pulled back sharply.
"Mouse, I donít want to go either, but I have to. Iíll come back after ok?"
Mouse could only nod and watched as she left, she turned once at the chamber entrance to flash him a smile. He lay back on the bed cradling his head in his hands; all of a sudden he had crossed the threshold into manhood. He had made love to Jaime just like Vincent did to Catherine. He felt himself no longer an adolescent, now he was on the same level as his best friend and mentor. He sat up suddenly dismayed; he had done it in the wrong order, but then again maybe not. Maybe you didnít have to be married first to make love. He and Jaime certainly werenít and maybe Vincent and Catherine werenít either their first time or Olivia and Kanin.
He looked around the chamber; it seemed so lonely now that she was gone.
He became aware of the grittiness in his shorts and realized he had sand in his clothes from the mirror pool beach. He got up and went to the nearest bathing pool. He stripped off his sandy clothes, let himself down into the warm water, and began to scrub his body. He lingered over the slight scratches Jaime had left on his skin, remembering when she had given them to him.
He once asked Vincent what was it like to have a love and he had told him that for him it was the end of his aloneness. Mouse didnít mind being alone, he didnít have to be if he didnít want to be he had plenty of friends, but upon reflection it was Jaime who he was with most of the time. She would go with him when he went up top to "find" things. She said she went to keep him out of trouble, but maybe it was more than that. And here Below they were usually together just because they enjoyed each others company. Maybe that was what love was, being together all the time. He couldnít wait to see her to tell her and to show her. He left the pool, dried himself off and got dressed in a fresh outfit. He walked back to his chamber thinking about what the near future would bring.
Mean while the object of his thoughts was deep in thought herself. She had lost her virginity and so unexpectedly. How had it happened? She thought back over the last few hours realizing it had been her need to comfort Mouse that had set up the circumstance that had led to her first love making, and she had no doubt that it had been his first time too. She had to admit that she had greatly enjoyed the act and looked forward to the next time. She had never given sex much thought at all, she had always been considered such a tomboy, had always been more adept at male endeavors rather than the more feminine chores, although she always enjoyed dealing with the younger children. Perhaps thatís why she was always with Mouse it was her mothering instinct, he always seemed such a child. Now she had to change the way she looked at him, he had brought her to sexual maturity, but was she in love with him? What was love any way? Was it the all-encompassing love of Vincent and Catherine? Their love you could practically feel when you were in the same room with them. She herself didnít think sheíd like having someone know what she was feeling all the time, that might be fine for Catherine, but she needed her own space, her privacy. Then there was Brook and Steven, they were just plain sappy, making goo-goo eyes every time they were near each other; no that wasnít for her either. She much preferred Olivia and Kaninís relationship, you knew they loved each other, hell they were married by Below standards, and had a child together, but their love didnít hit you in the face, it was quiet and steady.
She pondered her situation; she and Mouse had always been good friends. They were always together; they were comfortable with each other. Perhaps falling in love was the natural progression of their relationship. Could she see him as a boyfriendÖyes. As a husbandÖthat was a bit of a stretch. As a fatherÖnot really, at least not at this point. Well just because he was her first lover didnít mean he was her last. She shrugged her shoulders it wasnít like she wanted anyone else, maybe she did love Mouse. It wasnít like a bolt of lightening hit her proving that she was head over heels in love with him, but right now she couldnít think of anyone sheíd rather be with. She shook her head ruefully pulling herself out of her reverie. This was no way to stand watch, an army could have passed in front of her and she wouldnít have notice. She decided that the future would take care of itself for now she would go to Mouseís chamber after her watch and enjoy the delights of her new found sexuality.
The next day found Mouse on Vincentís work crew carving yet another chamber out of the unyielding rock, down in the lower level. Vincent noticed Mouse grinning at him every time he looked at him. At the first opportunity he discreetly took Mouse down a tunnel a short distance away from the work site to have a little discussion with him.
"Mouse is there something you wish to tell me?"
Mouse shyly looked down at the floor, and then back up to his friend again, "canít."
Jaime had made him swear not to tell anyone, not even Vincent that they had become lovers. "Secret, promised not to tell."
"And you should not break your word, but is everything all right?"
"Better than all right," Mouse grinned at him again. Suddenly his face became serious, "going to Crystal Caves soon?"
Vincent hadnít expected that, "I had thought about showing it to Catherine," he replied hesitantly.
Catherine had surmised that the stones in her wedding ring had come from the Cavern and had asked to see it, but they hadnít made any definite plans as of yet.
"Go with you?" Mouse asked hopefully.
Vincent was perplexed, "why Mouse?"
Now Vincent was intrigued, "for whom?"
Mouse screwed up his face in thought, would it be breaking his word if he told? No he decided.
"Jaime," he finally replied, giving his friend a wide smile. "Make necklaceÖlike Catherineís."
Mouseís face was so bright with happiness that Vincent couldnít help but smile back and clapping Mouse on the shoulder he said, "Mouse I will talk to Catherine and when we go you can go with us."
Mouse could barely contain his excitement and hopped from one foot to the other. "Soon?"
"Soon, Mouse, I promise."
When Vincent got home that evening he related the conversation to Catherine.
"Iíve always wanted to see the place my necklace and ring came from. Iíd love to go. Why do you suppose Mouse wants to give Jaime a necklace?"
"I donít know itís not a special occasion as far as I know, unless itís something just between them, but Mouse was acting very strangely today."
Catherine laughed, "you mean more so than usual?"
Vincent laughed with her, "yes, all the while we worked I would catch him looking at me with that lopsided grin of his, it was unnerving."
"Well Iím sure itís nothing, just Mouse being Mouse."
The subject was dropped until the following day when Vincent came home extremely agitated.
Catherine had felt his agitation through the bond all afternoon as she worked in her office and was anxious for him to come home to tell her what the problem was.
"Vincent what is it? Whatís wrong?"
"I believe I know why Mouse has been acting so strangely of late."
His gaze left her face and his eyes lost their focus. She looked at him curiously waiting for him to continue. When he came back to himself he sighed deeply,
"Jaime passed by me when I was on my way to class today, I havenít seen her all weekÖ" He looked away again.
Catherine was puzzled, why was this so difficult for him?
"Vincent whatís wrong? She was becoming alarmed. "Whatís the matter with Jaime?"
Catherine was shocked, "did she tell you that?"
He shook his head, "no IÖsmelled it, her scent, it was different," he stammered as she looked at him incredulously.
"You smelled it? How can that be? How can you be so sure?"
"Catherine a womanís body changes when she is pregnant and I can smell that change. It was the same when Lena and Olivia were pregnant."
He took her hands in his, squeezing gently, "Iím not wrong about this," he said earnestly.
Catherineís eyes widened in comprehension, "and Mouse is the father."
He nodded; he had made the same deduction.
"But it must have just happened; she canít know sheís pregnant."
"Thatís my quandary, Catherine. What do I do? Mouse is so happy and although Jaime is very reserved I felt her joy too. They are so young and their love is so new. Do I tell them what I know, putting the pressure of an impending birth on that new relationship? Do I let them find out on their own, giving them perhaps a month of unencumbered joy? Will they be happy about it, will it be too much of a strain on their new love?"
He looked at her pleadingly, "tell me what I should do?"
She cupped his cheek gently with her hand, stroking the stubble there with her thumb.
"What we should do, youíre not alone in this Vincent, weíll think of what to do together."
She lowered her hand and began to think through their options. A small part of her felt a twinge of jealousy, she so wanted to have a baby with Vincent, someday she thought wistfully and wrenched her mind back to the problem at hand. If they told the couple now it could either destroy their newfound relationship or strengthen it. Jaime could decide to have the baby or not, it was ultimately her choice. They were so young, but she could see Jaime raising a child, after all, she was always so responsible. But Mouse a father? He was just a child himself albeit a brilliant one. Of course it wasnít up to them to make decisions; it was up to Jaime and Mouse. They would be there for them, of course, no matter what they decided and she was sure the entire tunnel family would be supportive. Suddenly her eyes went wide and she sucked in her breath bringing a hand to her mouth.
Alarmed Vincent looked at her sharply, "Catherine, what is it?"
"Father, what will Father say? Heíll be furious."
"Iím sure he will be at first, but heíll come around, heíll have no choice." Vincent looked thoughtful, "maybe we should talk to Father about the situation."
"No Vincent that feels too much like going behind their backs, theyíve known Father for most of their lives. They should be the ones to tell him." She shook her head, "I donít know what to do. Perhaps weíre too close to the problem." Abruptly she stood holding out a hand to him. "Letís go talk to the Bishop; heís always full of good advice."
Vincent let her pull him up and they went Below in search of their friend.
They thought they would find the Bishop in the chapel since it was time for Vespers so they went by a little used route that Vincent knew, skirting the sentries. For them to be Below on a Thursday would raise curious eyebrows.
They found the Bishop alone, deep in meditation, but when Vincent cleared his throat he roused himself and greeted them warmly.
"Well there must be something afoot," he slowly got up, joints audibly creaking, "to bring you two down this time of day."
"Yes," Vincent began, "we have need of your council."
They sat on one of the long wooden benches opposite the old priest. He stared at the two people in front of him, still marveling at the miracle that they were. Two halfís of a soul that managed to unite in these two oh so different beings. A sudden bolt of fear shot through him, "youíre not here to see me because of marital problems?"
No they chorused together, hastening to put his fears to rest.
"Itís Jaime," Vincent began. "And Mouse," Catherine added. Then they fell silent again.
"Come, come," the Bishop admonished them, "what could be wrong with them? They are the best of friends."
"Not anymore," Catherine blushed, "itís gone beyond friendship."
Vincent sighed, "Jaimeís pregnant."
"Pregnant?" He was shocked. "My dear boy theyíre just children." Seeing their grim faces he backpedaled, "no of course itís possible." He thought back to the time when he was working in the back hills of Kentucky, girls barely into their teens were wives and mothers. "So Jaimeís told you this and sheís seeking advice?"
Vincent shook his head, "Jaime doesnít know yet."
The Bishop was puzzled, "then how do you know?"
"I just do," was the whispered response.
Catherine interjected impatiently, "Bishop do we tell her or let her find out on her own?"
He stroked his chin thoughtfully, "you have information that will alter both Jaime and Mouseís lives, you have to tell them, that is clear, but perhaps tell them somewhere where they can absorb the shock of it and come to terms with it away from the community."
Vincent nodded, "I was thinking of taking Catherine to the Crystal Cavern and Mouse has asked to go with us."
"Capital, itís just the thing, take Jaime along as well, it will give you a chance to assess them as a couple and then on the way back you can break the news."
The next day it just happened that Mouse was assigned to Vincentís work crew. He told the boy that he and Catherine would be going to the Cavern this weekend and he and Jaime were welcome to come.
Mouse was beside himself, "Jaime too!" he said excitedly, then he grew thoughtful, "but then it wonít be a surprise."
"Sure it will Mouse, the trip will be the surprise and sheíll be able to pick out exactly what she wants." He saw Mouseís hesitation and added; "besides Catherine doesnít want to be the only woman."
Mouse broke into a wide smile and nodded his head vigorously and suddenly he was gone. Vincent shook his head in amazement; obviously he forgot he was supposed to be working. An hour later he came back with Jaime in tow.
"Is it true Vincent, what Mouse says, weíre going with you and Catherine to the Crystal Cavern?"
"Yes Jaime weíd like to have you if you want to go?"
"Well yeah thatíll be great!" She beamed at him. When they turned to go Vincent cleared his throat, "ah Mouse you are supposed to be working."
"OhÖoh right" sheepishly he turned back to Jaime. "Iíll see you later Mouse." She scooted out of the work area with Mouseís eyes following her.
Saturday morning the four started off early. Vincent and Catherine had slept in Vincentís former chamber Friday night, spending most of that evening with Father and the Bishop. They had told them of their trip explaining that Mouse and Jaime would be accompanying them. Fatherís eyebrow rose at that, but he made no comment.
Vincent set a brisk pace getting to the campsite earlier than expected. After a brief conference with his fellow travelers they decided to push on and stay over night at the Cavern. The trip was uneventful and would have been extremely amusing except for the serious situation they would have to discuss with the younger couple. Mouse watched everything Vincent did with regards to Catherine and when he would lift her down from a ledge or help her across a particularly bad stretch of footing Mouse would try to do the same with Jaime. She would slap his hands away with a "what are you nuts" comment.
Finally in exasperation she yelled at him, "Mouse Iím not some soft top-sider that needs help negotiation a tunnel. Iím every bit as good in a tunnel as you are!"
Later when the men were answering the call of nature Catherine confided to Jaime that she really didnít need help either, but she liked when Vincent touched her. The next time Vincent lifted Catherine over some rubble Jaime called to Mouse putting her hands on his shoulders, his whole face lit up as he grasped her waist and lifted her over the stones. Catherine gave Jaime a conspiratual wink. When they reached the entrance to the Cavern Vincent insisted on going in first to light the torches he had placed there on his previous trip. When he was done to his satisfaction he called to Catherine to climb down. As she began her descent down the few steps he grasped her around the waist lifting her away from the steps and turning her so she faced the inside of the Cavern. He gently set her down as she gasped at the sight in front of her.
"Vincent itís absolutely magnificent!"
The flicker flames of the torches set the crystals blazing with all their many colors, hues of green, blue, purple, red, yellow; a kaleidoscope of every color imaginable. They heard the younger coupleís murmurs of awe as they descended the steps, Mouse gallantly leading the way and lifting Jaime down.
Catherine turned to Vincent in delight, "itís like a fairy land Vincent. How ever did you find it?"
"Narcissa told me of it and how to get here, we have her to thank."
The four roamed through the Cavern pointing out different outcroppings of crystals to each other. Mouse was anxious for Jaime to pick out one she especially liked and after giving long consideration she finally settled on a deep purple. Mouse took a small hammer and chisel out of one of his many pockets and carefully extracted the stone.
"Going to make a necklaceÖlike CatherineísÖfor you," he exclaimed happily.
Jaime was touched by his exuberance and when she thought no one was looking kissed Mouse to thank him.
They explored for quite sometime, looking into all the nooks and crannies the Cavern held before calling it a day. They headed out to make camp a little further from the Cavern entrance where there was a small trickle of fresh water that collected in a depression in the tunnel floor before running off to parts unknown. There was a sufficient amount to boil some water for tea to go along with the sandwiches William had packed for them. Vincent built a small fire with the wood he had collected and carried with him from the original campsite and had the pot boiling merrily in short order. While he was occupied with that the others had rolled out their sleeping bags. After finishing their meal they sat around talking of Catherine and Vincentís trip to Connecticut in depth. Mouse was especially interested in the telescope wanting the details of its inner workings and became frustrated with Vincentís lack technical knowledge. As the talk of their trip wound down Vincent glanced at Catherine then took a deep breath letting it out slowly.
"Jaime there is a reason we invited you along on this trip. Weíve noticed that you and Mouse have grown closer in the past few days, moreÖintimate."
Jaime looked down at the ground blushing furiously. Mouse straightened, "nothing wrong with that," he bristled defensively.
"No Mouse we donít mean to imply thereís anything wrong with you and Jaime falling in love," Catherine hastened to reassure him, "itís just that sometimes things happen that you may not expect, that youÖ" Catherine groped for the right phrase, "that you might not be ready for yet."
The younger couple looked blankly at the older.
Vincent sighed again and looking directly at Jaime said, "Jaime youíre pregnant."
Jaime stared at him blankly, then as comprehension dawned, with panic. "But, but we were careful." She stammered, "howÖ?"
Mouse interjected, "not first time," he said softly. He sidled closer to Jaime and wrapped his arms around her, "this is good," he said.
She looked at him surprised, "Mouse we were just getting started, how could this be good?"
"Donít have to wait."
At her look of incomprehension he went on, "love you Jaime, nothing can change that, would have had baby later, now donít have to wait."
She thought about it for a minute, then looked at him, "you know you must be the smartest guy on the planet, youíre right what difference does it make if itís now or a year from now."
"Yes Mouse Iím happy! Weíre going to have a baby!" She hugged him fiercely.
Catherine and Vincent both had tears in their eyes as they congratulated them and then Jaime asked Vincent, "I could only be a few days pregnant, how could you know?"
Mouse saved Vincent from answering, "Jaime, Vincent knows everything." He said it so seriously that Vincent smiled and grasped the young mans shoulder, "not everything Mouse, but thank you for your confidence in me."
Mouse smiled back at him with complete trust, then got up and pulled his sleeping bag next to Jaimeís, no more hiding, they were in love and the entire community was about to find out. As each couple snuggled with their respective mates Mouse called out, "need to go back to Cavern."
"Why Mouse?" Vincent asked. "Youíve got a crystal."
"Need more," he answered, "to make ring."
Mouse was silenced from saying any more by Jaime whose kiss of acceptance took his breath away.