BIRTH OF A DREAM
Vincent was stretched out on his bed, gathering whatever strength he could muster before his nightly search for Catherine. "Please my love, call out to me," he pleaded, "scream my name". He closed his weary eyes but refused to sleep. Dreams tormented him. He knew he had failed her. Failed to keep her safe and thus had broken the vow he made to her father and to her….the vow to protect her till his last breath.
He felt no pity for himself, but what must Catherine be enduring because of his broken promise? His nightmares were easy to tolerate compared to the things his mind made up. They were far worse than any dangers he had saved her from before…except…The Watcher. He could hear The Watcher say…"you’re too late" and it rang over and over in his head. Could some cold-hearted man have Catherine now…a man that wanted to possess her?
Vincent’s eyes widened. Didn’t he himself fight those very thoughts when Catherine was in his arms? "No!" he answered himself quickly. He would never…could never cause her harm or take away her freedom.
Vincent lifted his head and swung his feet to the floor. He rested his elbows on his thighs and held his head up with one hand. His other hand clenched the pouch that held Catherine’s rose. The rose had been gifted to him on the first anniversary by his beloved. Yes, Catherine, someone is thinking of you, thought Vincent, I will not stop until I find you, I need you…always.
His eyes wandered around the chamber he had had since his childhood. Over the years he had surrounded himself with mementos…memories of his life past, but none of these things held any value anymore. Now the only treasured item in his chamber was Kristopher’s painting. Kristopher’s vision of them was one of lovers. A loving Catherine leaned against an attentive and shielding Vincent. He had never held her in such an embrace but he could feel the warmth of her body leaning, pressing against his. He could smell the scent of lavender in her hair as she nestled under his chin. Before he could venture Above, he would gaze at Catherine’s face, reach up and gently run the back of his hand from her upper thigh down to her knee hidden under a flowing velvet gown. A fantasy, but he needed to touch her, if only her image.
"Have we received any word today?"
Vincent had entered Father’s chamber to check if there was any news, but this visit was more to inform Father he was going Above. He knew he would be told instantly if there were any developments but still waited for Father’s response…still holding onto a thread of hope. Repeating the all too familiar response, Father visually assessed his son. Vincent hadn’t slept much, which worried the aging doctor. He watched his son go out night after night in search of Catherine, only to return Below determined to continue again the next night but weaker from his efforts.
"Father, it spares me from the dreams." said Vincent whenever Father asked him to stay Below and rest.
He couldn’t stop the nightmare. From the second story of the building, Vincent could see Catherine being pushed into the back seat of a car. He tore away the steel grate covering the window and leaped through. He landed hard on the roof the car as it began to pull away and he tried to stop their escape but all he had accomplished was to reveal himself to her captors and a new memory of the red tail lights speeding away with his Catherine, his life, within. Vincent watched the fleeing car and could hear again The Watcher’s declaration, "You’re too late".
But she was alive, he knew that much, and as long as there was breath in his lungs he would continue.
** ** ** **
Vincent had mindlessly picked up a book and escaped the enclosing walls of his chamber. He found himself at the Whispering Gallery and only then glanced at the book in his hand, "Great Expectations". He gasped as memories flowed before his eyes.
He could see her clearly, her bandaged face and her out-stretched arms as she blindly tried to navigate his chamber. "I know you’re there…you can come in".
"I’ll read to you."
"It won’t help."
But Vincent knew the sound of his voice calmed her somewhat and although she was frightened and worried, his soothing voice removed the sharp edges of these emotions. He knew this thanks to the new bond…the new connection he felt with her.
"It might…we can finish Great Expectations".
His reverie was disturbed. His head shot up, his eyes fixed on the far wall. He tilted his head as if he was listening to a far off conversation. Was this what he had felt in his chamber twice before, or just noises from Above? Immediately all else faded away. "Catherine?"
"Catherine!" Vincent shouted. He sprang into motion, grabbed his cloak and headed for the Central Park entrance. The heartbeat next to his own must be Catherine’s. It was faint, different, and although it began as gently as the flutter of butterfly wings, it quickly became intense. He could not question this now, for it filled his whole being with joy and urgency.
Father, who was returning from dinner and was nearly mowed down, watched his son’s exit and inwardly prayed.
Vincent did not falter until he stopped outside a New York office building. He could feel the force of a heartbeat in his chest and in his head. His head ached. The pain caused him to grab the sides of his head with his hands. He was being pulled upward towards the higher floors of this building. Catherine must be inside.
He made his way through the sub-basement…one objective in mind, to reach his beloved. He encountered several armed guards that were quickly dispatched with a brutally quick swipe of his claws. He was unaware of the security system with motion detectors and cameras that were watching his onslaught.
The more he advanced, the more resistance he came in contact with. He knew then, they were tracking him. As the latest guard slumped to the floor, Vincent searched for evidence. Noticing a camera mounted to the wall, Vincent growled as his sweeping hand effectively destroyed it thus hiding his next route. After he opened the door marked "Security" on the fifth floor, he quickly found his target. Behind a plate glass window, a guard frantically scanned the multiple TV monitors, trying to locate him. Vincent heard a voice come from a speaker, "Seal off the upper levels and stop him". The voice was calm but demanding.
Before the guard pushed the button to answer, Vincent burst through the door and disabled the security system and the guard. Lights flickered on the upper levels and the TV monitors in Gabriel’s office went black. Gabriel was only slightly put out, for he wanted to watch the creature kill. He was amused that his men had many chances to stop this creature but were stilled from action at the sight of him.
Gabriel was a business man, but he was best at the business of control. He had discovered that the woman he held was pregnant with this creature’s child when it had tried to rescue her from the warehouse. He was no longer concerned about the information she might possess regarding his affairs, but with the child she was carrying. Gabriel felt this child was a gift to him…a son he could raise and mold to continue to build his empire.
The creature would get through, this he knew to be a fact, but Gabriel also knew that he had time to get to the helicopter with the woman pregnant with his son. Although she was in labor and it meant a delivery in route, he would move her away from the city, maybe to his estate where this beast could not find them. For the mother, there was no guilt or compassion, the birth of the child was all that mattered and he would order the baby be unmercifully taken from her womb if need be. He would not have this gift taken from him.
Gabriel entered Catherine’s room with the doctor and a nurse pushing a wheelchair. He moved to the window and looked out over the city. It should be dark and many should have retired for the night if this were the suburbs. But the city was still very much alive with noise, lights, and traffic. He owned this city and he felt that whether someone felt joy or sorrow it had been given to them by him. He truly held the belief that he controlled them all. Even Catherine complied with all of his wishes…whether submitting to him for the child’s safety or just the hopelessness of the situation, it didn’t matter to Gabriel. He would have control.
"Doctor, bring the woman to the helicopter." Gabriel ordered.
Catherine knew she was still in the early phases of labor and she thought it strange they would move her now. Certainly there must be a reason. Vincent she thought, he must be near. Could their bond have been restored? Vincent could always feel her pain and strong emotions. She searched within herself but could not feel the bond… his illness had taken it from them…then maybe it was the police or Joe.
Catherine often searched for opportunities to escape or get a message out. During one trip to the examination room, she had given the nurse a note to deliver but the note was surrendered to a guard. She also tried to talk to the guard that delivered her meals but he ignored her and did not utter a word. Until that is, after taking inventory of her dinner tray, he requested she relinquish the knife that she had obviously taken as a weapon. She even held hope that the doctor would take pity on her, but all attempts to find an ally were foiled by the fear for their own lives.
With her baby on the way, Catherine’s only option was to run. She did not expect to get far with the many guards she saw but it was her only option. She hoped this attempt to move her while she was in labor was the result of the police or Vincent. At the very least she might be able to delay their travel plans.
The doctor reached his hand out to assist Catherine to her feet. He had become accustomed to her compliance and did not expect any problems. Remembering that Isaac had taught Catherine about street fighting…"use what you got", Catherine reached out her left hand to the doctor as her right hand instinctively grabbed the dinner tray that had not been removed yet and was lying on the bed. Catherine swung the tray with all the strength she had. The doctor staggered as the corner of the tray hit the side of his head, momentarily blurring his vision. Turning from the window, Gabriel just shook his head as Catherine disappeared from the room.
As Catherine approached the stairwell, she was forced to the floor as a contraction hit her and she screamed. "Not now". She struggled against the pain, pulling herself to her feet while leaning heavily against the wall but was grabbed by the two men that frequently attended her examinations. Catherine struggled to free herself, but already tired from labor, she was easily brought back to her room. "You will only leave us after my son is born" proclaimed Gabriel. Although Catherine was aware that her role was only to carry the child, she was still shocked at the blatant statement. She must try again!
The nurse pushed a wheelchair up to Catherine and the two men holding her backed her up to the wheelchair pushed her into it. Gabriel, knowing that time was becoming short, directed them to get the elevator.
After the two men complied, Gabriel just coldly stared at Catherine, waiting. Catherine did not disappoint him. "Why do you want my child?" she asked.
Gabriel smiled and replied to her, "This child will have the best of everything and I will teach him to be a leader…a conqueror. His genetics and my guidance are all he needs. You and I both know this to be true, because of the father."
How…how did Gabriel know? Did he know? Even with all the resources available to him, Gabriel couldn’t know that Vincent was the father. Catherine decided to turn this confrontation in a different direction. "Children need love and nurturing."
Gabriel’s only response was, "Not my child". Catherine was horrified and renewed her resolve to escape.
The elevator arrived and one man entered the elevator to hold the door open and the other turned back toward Catherine’s room to inform Gabriel the elevator was waiting.
Vincent made progress once the security system was disabled. Since they no longer knew where he was, the armed guards were spreading out to find him and he could easily remove them as they searched in pairs.
Vincent wanted to move faster, he wanted to get to Catherine before they could take her away again. He decided to use the elevator shaft; this would get him to the upper floors faster. He sighted several elevators and looked above them to see if any were in motion. There was one heading up. Just as he pressed his claws in the center of the door, attempting to pry it open he heard the sound of footsteps coming towards him. He found a place to hide…a shadow to disappear in, for the sound of the footsteps told him there were at least ten men in this group. Vincent waited for them to leave but to his dismay, they stopped just outside the elevators.
"He should be on this floor so we should split into two groups," said a shaky voice.
Vincent heard others speak, some at the same time.
"What is this thing?"
"Why hasn’t the boss left yet so we could get out of here too?"
"We need to know what to do!"
Then a call came over their radios instructing them to report to the roof and secure it. Vincent, with a deep sigh, could hear their footsteps and their voices becoming faint as they moved off.
"The roof?" Vincent questioned, "a helicopter perhaps?"
His mind raced. If they reached a helicopter with Catherine, he would lose her again. He moved quickly back to the elevators doors. This time all the cars were heading for the upper floors. Prying open the outer doors, he looked down and could see a car climbing towards him. He judged the speed of the car and just as it reached the floor below him, he jumped. With any luck, this car would take him to the roof.
Suddenly the car slowed and stopped many floors below the roof. Not deterred, Vincent began to climb the cables only stopping to listen when he heard two men enter the vacant car.
"I’ll hold the car and you go get them", said one man. One set of footsteps indicated a man was leaving the car but they came to a halt when his radio announced, ‘The roof is now secure, let us know when you’re bringing them up’.
Vincent’s heart soared when he heard the response, "I’m bringing up the boss, doctor, and the woman Catherine, now."
"She’s close", he thought "I’m here, Catherine!" He could sense how close she was but still he did not question why the bond with her felt different. He had greatly missed his connection with her.
The ache in his head was building again but he would not let it stop him. He could feel pain now…pain that was not his own. As he reached down and prepared to open the car’s ceiling, he heard her scream. It violently shook him and a fierce roar erupted from deep in his chest. All reasonable thought was gone. There was only one thought, one need - he must reach Catherine.
He ripped the access panel from its hinges, tore the ceiling away and launched himself on top of the man in the elevator. The man made no noise other than a gasp as Vincent’s huge dark form came down on him. His weight alone rendered the man unconscious.
Vincent exited the elevator and was face to face with another. This man had heard the roar and unwillingly turned towards the sound. Working on the floor with a pregnant woman, he had no need for a weapon. Gabriel knew Catherine had worked for the DA’s office and was trained in self-defense. With locked doors and guards on every floor, Gabriel eliminated any chance that she would arm herself. He had ordered that no guns be on that floor. Now unarmed, the man was face to face with a snarling creature. Boneless, he dropped to his knees, hiding his face in his hands …fear seeping through every pore.
Vincent walked around him and continued on.
Gabriel had heard the roar and knew he was out of time but he was grateful that he still had two choices. He could hold Catherine as a hostage and get to the roof or he could kill her and wait for his own death. He would not hesitate as his guards had. He reached out to grab the knife that had fallen to the bed when Catherine had used the food tray as a weapon; then he grabbed Catherine.
Vincent filled the doorway. A man stood against the far wall holding a knife to Catherine’s throat. Another man and woman were standing to his right. Vincent snarled as Gabriel’s face held a grimace revealing the control he knew he had.
"Doctor, please fill a needle for me," ordered Gabriel. The doctor gasped at Gabriel’s obvious misunderstanding of the situation. He knew Gabriel felt he had control, but the doctor also knew he was crazy. If he didn’t follow orders, he and his family would surely die but that was only if…if Gabriel made it out of there alive. His eyes drawn to Vincent, then to his medical bag to Vincent and back again. Suddenly the doctor felt a piercing pressure on his side and knew. He had hesitated and Gabriel would not have it. Dropping his medical bag, the doctor moaned and fell to the floor.
"Would you like to fill a needle for me," asked Gabriel as he turned to the nurse. She did not hesitate nor did she gaze at the doctor’s bag. She raised her arms above her head in surrender and keeping her back to the wall, circled the room towards the door. She halted in front of Vincent. As Vincent kept his eyes on Gabriel, he could sense the fear in the nurse, he stepped aside and the nurse slipped past him.
"There is only you", snarled Vincent.
Gabriel would not let this drawback affect him. "You can have the woman, I only want the child."
Vincent’s eyes only now turned to Catherine. He now saw her pregnancy and was horrified. He had not protected her and she was now carrying this monster’s child! How could I let this happen to you? I have failed you my love, he thought, anguished. His worst fears were realized. This cold heartless man had taken Catherine as his possession and used her body to give him a child. Just as quickly, Vincent’s shock was replaced with blind fury. In all his life, Vincent had never felt this deep, mindless anger. He could feel it coursing through his veins hammering his heart…an anger that ran deeper than any before it.
Catherine could see the torment in Vincent’s eyes and the play of emotions sweeping his face. "No", she screamed. She would not let Gabriel take her child…Vincent’s child. Catherine could feel another contraction building. She wrapped her belly with both arms and looked at Vincent. She needed his help now…needed his strength.
"Catherine!" Vincent again feeling the pain in his head, took a step forward.
"Not recommended, my friend." said Gabriel as he forced Catherine closer to him by pushing the blade against her neck, drawing blood. Vincent roared as the white collar of Catherine’s gown turned crimson. He knew he needed to save Catherine and the life of her child. It didn’t matter that Gabriel was the father.
"It hurts" cried Catherine, "I need to sit down".
"You will let me pass, or I will kill both of them" said Gabriel, ignoring Catherine’s pleas.
Vincent knew he meant what he said but needed to wait for Catherine’s next contraction to act. He was looking for something…anything to break this stalemate, and he felt anguish with his decision to use Catherine’s pain for this task. He would need to stall. "You would kill your own child?" growled Vincent.
Gabriel smiled and stated, "It is the greatest gift I could give him, never to be born".
Vincent’s head jerked backwards, not understanding what Gabriel had just said. "A child is the greatest gift, have you no love for this child?" growled Vincent.
"I did think of this child as a gift because he is a special…unique but I will lose nothing…nothing if I can’t have him" stated Gabriel.
Before Gabriel could finish, Catherine’s next contraction came upon her and Vincent went into action. She began to scream and her knees gave way. Gabriel tried to keep her on her feet and in doing so had removed the knife from her neck, and Vincent was on him. He pulled Gabriel away from Catherine and effortlessly threw him against the wall.
The sound of breaking bones and the last air being expelled from Gabriel as he said, "He is my son…" convinced Vincent it was over.
Vincent rushed back to Catherine. He wrapped her in a blanket that he pulled from her bed, picked her up with his massive arms and carried her out of the room.
At the elevators, he saw the man that he had spared and this man was holding the elevator open for him. Vincent watched him closely as the three stepped into the elevator and began their descent. The man stopped the elevator on the floor above the lobby, exited the car and gestured Vincent to follow him to a stairway in the back of the building. It was used by the employees to access the parking garage. Vincent nodded at the stranger and Catherine whispered, "Thank you."
Vincent could not feel that his beloved was safe until he reached the tunnels and Catherine tried not to distract him but the contractions were coming fast and hard. She knew it wouldn’t be long now.
As each contraction began, Vincent would drift deeper into the shadows, and sit with Catherine on his lap. He held her tight, rubbed her back and whispered reassuring words to her. She buried her face in his corded vest to stifle her cries. After the contraction subsided, he resumed their journey, heading for the nearest hospital.
"Catherine, I need to get you to the hospital"
He wants me to go to a hospital, thought Catherine. It was painfully obvious to her that Vincent did not remember they had made love in the cave. How could she tell him? "No Vincent, I can’t go to a hospital. Please bring me to Father". Her words were more demanding than she had intended but she knew the child could look like Vincent and the only safe place for delivery was the Tunnels.
"I don’t think I can get you to Father in time." He knew the truth.
Vincent, a hospital is not safe." She was pleading with him.
He knew she was terrified. She had been held against her will, unspeakable things had been done to her and she had been kept from the ones she loved and trusted. How could he put her back in the hands of strangers? He would also not be able to stay with her at the hospital and although he felt it best, he just couldn’t let her out of his protective arms ever again. "As you wish, I will try:"
As Vincent entered the nearest tunnel entrance, he gently lowered Catherine to her feet so he could tap a message on the pipes. Turning back to her, he listened and received a response. "Help is on the way, but Catherine, they will not be here in time."
She nodded her understanding.
Vincent had attended births below and had in some way helped. The last birth was Lena’s daughter. Since Lena had been brought Below by Catherine, Vincent wanted to continue the same support Catherine felt she needed, during the birth. He had remained close to Lena throughout her labor and delivery. Many of the births below were uneventful - expect for his brother Devin’s birth. Devin’s mother had died after giving birth to him because Father could not stop the internal bleeding. Vincent wished Father was here now.
But this was not like any birth he had attended, this was Catherine. He was frightened as he realized that his very life was leaning against a tunnel wall - right there before him and he could not save her if anything went wrong.
Vincent pulled his cloak off and spread it on the ground. He gently lowered Catherine on it and knelt at her side. Catherine searched his eyes and reached for his hand. He gladly took her hand in his and he gazed back at her with all his love and strength. His upturned hand wiped the perspiration from her brow.
As unnecessary as it was, Catherine stated, "Vincent, I will need your help".
Vincent took a deep breath into his lungs so he could steady his voice, "I am here, always".
She began to cry. She wanted to be strong but here she was, finally, with Vincent. She was going to give birth to their child and he did not know this was his child. How could she tell him all the things she must before their child was born? "Vincent?"
"Do you…do you remember…any…anything…that happened in…the cave?" Catherine was panting
"Catherine, this may not be the best time to discuss this."
"No Catherine, that time has been lost to me."
"Vincent, we loved…and this is our…our child."
Catherine wondered where Vincent had gone. His eyes held fast to hers but they were vacant and there was no expression on his face. . He was lost in thought, somewhere far below in a dark cavern, remembering.
"Vincent?" Catherine said as softly as she could. A sudden urge to push frightened her and she felt her body tighten and bear down. "Vincent!" she screamed, "help me!"
Without thought, Vincent went into action. As he mimicked Mary and Fathers actions during childbirth, he first removed the blanket from around Catherine and helped her remove her undergarments. He moved from her side and knelt at her feet.
Her legs were bent with her knees close together. "Catherine, I will need to check for the head" whispered Vincent with a shaky voice. She felt him place his hands on her knees and gently guided then apart. Vincent gathered the blanket and readied it so he could handle the baby without the fear of his claws hurting Catherine or the baby. As Catherine’s contraction built, he could see the pain in her eyes and feel it pounding in his own head.
"Scream, It will help" He repeated what Mary had told Lena. And so she did.
Vincent could see the baby’s head and wrapped his hands with the blanket. "Push, Catherine, push!"
After she couldn’t push any longer she relaxed and fell back.
Shaking, Vincent looked back to her, "You are very close but you will need to push harder my love."
"I don’t know if I can do it"
"Catherine, you can…you must. I know you have the strength."
"I don’t think I do" she admitted.
Since the day she woke with bandages wrapped around her head, Vincent had been her pillar of strength. Sometimes all she needed was to think of him, sometimes it might be a kind word, a look, or his guidance, but today he knew she needed more. Gazing straight into her eyes, his voice unwavering, he said, "Catherine, for our child you must find the strength in you," and with no hesitation Vincent added, "I love you"
He’s right Chandler, so buck up girl. You have survived an aggravated assault, put thieves and murderers behind bars, and brought Vincent back from the darkness. You can surely do this. Catherine had reaffirmed her commitment and as the urge to push came upon her, she grabbed the back of her thighs, raised her head, and pushed.
Catherine collapsed…she was spent and had nothing left in her. On their own, her legs sank and laid flat straddling Vincent still kneeing between them. In his wrapped hands, he was holding their son, who was announcing his arrival with the wondrous cry of a newborn.
Vincent could not move his eyes from his child when he felt a hand firmly grasp his shoulder. "Let me help", cried Father. Vincent was speechless as he handed the baby to Father and he went to his Catherine. He sat next to her and gently raised her head onto his lap. "I love you, Catherine", he whispered.
Catherine surprised Vincent when she pushed herself up with newfound strength, "Father?"
Father chuckled for he was aware that in that one word there were actually multiple questions. All mothers had the same questions but it did not escape him that Catherine had one question no one had ever asked before. "You’ll need to give me a minute Catherine, but so far, there are 10 fingers and 10 toes. I assume Vincent told you it’s a boy" answered Father as he glanced at his still wide-eyed son.
Catherine looked back to Vincent as he leaned in close to say, "It’s a boy, Catherine". She giggled. He must have missed the fact she was there and heard Father make the announcement.
Father finished with his well-practiced routine with newborns and handed the baby to Mary. She cleaned, dressed and wrapped the baby in clean blanket before handing him to Catherine. "Oh Vincent, he’s beautiful" said Catherine as her eyes filled with tears. Partially coming around and still at a loss for words, he placed his hand on Catherine’s shoulder, "Yes, beautiful."
"Catherine" called Father, "I am afraid your job is not done. I will need you to push one more time and then we will move you to a guest chamber near Mary. I would like you to take medicine to prevent any infections and we will watch your son closely as well. This is not a sterile environment for childbirth." Hearing Father’s words, Vincent instantly was clear-headed and aware that his family might not be out of danger yet. "Father, is Catherine or our son in any danger of illness?"
"Our son?" queried Father with fused brows, "Vincent, you are saying that this child is your son?" Jacob was a doctor first and while he responded to the emergency call that Vincent had sent over the pipes regarding Catherine’s labor, he had not thought beyond that.
"It would seem that you are a grandfather" Vincent said now, beaming with a pride Father had never seen before.
"I will take care of Our Catherine first, but we will need to talk after you have rested. Vincent, would you please send a message to Cullen to bring a stretcher." Looking back to Catherine, Father continued, "My dear Catherine may I say how happy we are that you are safe and back with us, now I need you to push."
Covering Catherine with the remaining blanket brought by Mary, Father turned his attention to his son. Grinning he said, "Vincent, I must tell you that you are not unlike any new father, you are numb and I believe the stretcher would be half the distance closer if you had sent that message."
Vincent was stunned but he had heard it with his own ears and would remember this moment all his days…he had the love of his life back, an infant son, and Father’s words, Our Catherine. "What…Father …a stretcher."
Vincent was still awestruck. The sight before him – Catherine, the women he loved more than anything was cradling what he knew before today was only an impossible dream he had. He reveled in the joy of having Catherine back and bringing with her the very evidence that he was more man than beast. She had told him before the baby was born that it was his child but he still believed it impossible until he realized that what he thought was Catherine’s heart beating next to his…this new connection…was not her, it was his son. The connection with his son had grown as her labor progressed. There was no more doubt, this was his child and the delight he felt was mirrored in Catherine’s eyes. "There is no need for a stretcher Father, I will see to my family" he gently raised Catherine and his son into his arms and leaving no room for argument, "I am taking my family to our chamber."
"Thank you, my dear" said father as Mary helped him rise to his feet, and the party moved swiftly to the hub of the community. Not unnoticed by them, the tapping on the pipes was abuzz with questions.
"Did V say C was here?"
"He found her!"
"Who’s in labor?"
"Was it Catherine in labor?"
A final message from Pascal silenced the tapping, "Emergency all quiet"
Placing Catherine in the center of his bed, Vincent stepped back to take in the sight before him, "Catherine, finding you has saved my life, for you are my life, I love you."
"I love you, Vincent." Looking down in her arms, "and I thank you for saving me and bringing our son safely into the world." Only hours before, she had been pregnant, in labor, and feared for her life as well as the life of their child. Now she and her son were safe in the tunnel world she loved and with the man she loved. A calmness enveloped her as Vincent pulled more blankets over her and the baby.
Father sat on the bed and checked Catherine’s vital signs. Noticing her bloodstained collar and the wound on Catherine’s neck, Father looked with fused brows at Vincent.
Lowering his head to the side and closing his eyes, painfully remembering, Vincent answered "a knife wound, Father"
"I see", Father knowing his son as he did was aware of Vincent’s shame for not preventing harm to Catherine, "I don’t think this needs any stitches and the antibiotics you will be taking will prevent any infection. You will need to clean it twice a day." Father said, trying to put Catherine at ease.
"I will see to it, Father."
"Of course Vincent." Now Catherine will need to rest, Mary will watch over you until Vincent returns."
"Thank you, Father." said Catherine but her eyes were on Vincent.
"Vincent, you and I should let Mary tend to Catherine and we can speak to Pascal. You can decide what message he can send out. :
Vincent, only taking his eyes from Catherine when she nodded her agreement, replied, "Yes Father."
The news of Catherine’s safe return and Vincent’s new son brought cheers that Catherine could hear coming through the entrance of Vincent’s chamber. Mary had interpreted the pipe message for Catherine which included a request that the couple and their baby have several days together alone. Mary had been Catherine’s adopted mother ever since she became a helper. Ever concerned for others well-being, Mary could see how good Vincent and Catherine were for each other and had on more than one occasion kept Father at bay. Mary, with heated water, helped Catherine bathe and change into a tunnel gown that tied up the front. Catherine was now ready for a well deserved rest which seemed to be her son’s cue to begin fussing.
Catherine looked at Mary, "What now?" written on her face.
Mary chuckled, "Let me teach you how to feed him."
The first empty, Catherine offered her son her second breast. This is what Vincent first saw as he entered his chamber. Pride was clearly written on his face when Mary turned to the door to excuse herself. Before she passed Vincent, she placed her motherly hand on his shoulder, "You did a wonderful job bringing your son into the world," and with a grin she continued, "I believe we have a new midwife in the Tunnels."
The image of the labor and delivery flashed in Vincent’s mind. "I am not that brave!" he said as he returned her smile.
Vincent sat on the side of the bed watching Catherine feed his son. The past few hours were now a blur. Such big changes in his life usually meant that he would find a solitary place to ponder them, a trip to the nameless river, sitting on top of the tallest building in NY and hours spent writing in his journals, but no thoughts ran through his mind. It was just as Father had mentioned, Vincent was numb. He just watched as Catherine tied the front of her gown and began to burp the baby.
"Catherine, Vincent". A call from the chamber’s entrance awaked Vincent. "Yes Cullen, come in" he answered.
Cullen entered the chamber with Mouse in tow and they were followed by William with a tray of food and tea. Cullen had received a request from Father to retrieve the cradle that Vincent had slept in as an infant.
"I’ve cleaned it and Mary added new bedding," said Cullen.
"Mouse helped, can’t carry without Mouse", Mouse proudly stated.
"Yes, Mouse, and thank you…to all of you. You can place it here next to Catherine." said Vincent. After putting the cradle where Vincent asked, Mouse leaned over Catherine to see the baby.
"Yours?" asked Mouse looking at Vincent. "Yes Mouse, Catherine’s and my son."
"Good, better than good, better than better!" exclaimed Mouse as he bolted from the chamber. Catherine giggled.
William put the tray on the table and after congratulations were given both he and Cullen left.
When they were finally alone, Catherine placed their son in Vincent’s arms and after watching him sleep for some time, he lowered his son into his cradle. He climbed onto the bed and gently pulled Catherine to him. His arms circled her and he rested his cheek on top of her head.
"Are you happy?"
"I have you in my arms and you have given me a son. I have my own family, a dream I have never dared to dream. Yes, Catherine I am happy…beyond words. But…."
"As happy as I am, I dare ask you to make my last dream come true."
Catherine was smiling. She felt she knew what he was going to ask but was not going to make this easy for him.
All the events that led him here, his battle with the fever, consummating their love, the long search for her, the fight to free her, and the birth of their perfect child, released Vincent from all his fears and he would never more doubt that he was a man. She was unaware of how easy his question was to ask.
"Catherine, you are my life. I want you to know how deeply I love you and need you. For three years, we have measured our time together not in minutes and seconds but moments complete within themselves. I no longer wish to measure our time this way but as a lifetime together. Catherine, will you marry me?"
"Yes Vincent, I have been yours since the night you found me. I would love to continue to be yours as your wife. And now I am living my happy life"