Worth a Thousand Words
Father turned the corner, headed for his adopted son's chamber. He had anticipated asking if Vincent would like a game of chess, (which Father would surely win this time), but the happy sound of soft, feminine laughter echoing down the hall, followed by a gravelly chuckle in response, told him that Vincent was otherwise occupied.
Father smiled wistfully to himself. He had finally accepted Catherine's presence in Vincent's life, and learned to trust in her deep abiding love for him. He hesitated outside his son's chamber uncertainly, wondering if he should turn back, but the tapestry was raised, a sign common in the tunnels that visitors were welcome. Father was still uncertain, it wouldn't have been the first time the lovers had forgotten to lower the tapestry, and Father blushed at the thought of that particularly embarrassing incident. The voices inside were low, and Father couldn't hear what was being said, until he heard Vincent's loud, amused, "Awww..."
Curiosity piqued, Father announced his presence outside the chamber. "Vincent?" he called.
"Come in, Father," Vincent replied.
Father entered Vincent's chamber to see Vincent and Catherine sitting of the edge of his bed, side-by-side, with a book opened across both their laps.
"Father, come and see," Vincent said, looking up from the book, with a delighted expression on his face.
Father crossed the room to stand at Vincent's side, craning his neck to look at the big album. He couldn't resist a smile when he looked down at the pictures, of a lovely little girl with light brown pigtails and bright green eyes. In one picture, she was in front of a birthday cake, preparing to blow out five candles.
"Why, could that little girl be Catherine?" Father said teasingly.
Catherine beamed up at him. "I found this old album in my closet, I haven't looked at it in years. I brought it down to show Vincent pictures of me when I was little."
"Look at this one," Vincent said, his mouth turned up at the corners in a small smile. He turned back a few pages, to older photos, of Catherine as a baby. On this page, was a fat, giggling baby being given a bath by her mother, and several of little Cathy crawling, laughing, and eating quite messily. "Wasn't she just a little cherub?"
Father laughed merrily. "That she was. My, my, Catherine, you were such a chubby thing back then, were did it all go?"
Catherine chuckled and playfully rolled her eyes, changing the subject. "My dad was a camera maniac. He took pictures constantly, and never relinquished the camera, so that's why you see so much more of my mom then him!"
"I'm glad he did," Vincent said.
Father looked at a few more of the pictures, the politely excused himself, leaving the happy couple to enjoy the little pieces of Catherine's past. He sighed inwardly, there had been many times when Vincent was a child that Father had wished he could have taken a picture of him. Of course, there was always the beautiful painting Elizabeth had done of him in her tunnel, but that wasn't quite like capturing a moment, like the picture of Catherine blowing out her birthday candles, just the same as Vincent had done many times. Unfortunately, photographs simply weren't worth the risk to his extraordinary, and very different son. But at least he still had his memory, and hopefully would for a few more years.
After Father left, Vincent and Catherine resumed their little journey through Catherine's life, as the photos gradually advanced to older ages.
"Oh, Lord, I remember that dress," Catherine groaned, as she looked at the image of a young girl in a bright pink and white dress, with little horses printed on it, and absolutely dripping with lace, marching unhappily to her school bus. "Ugh, I simply loathed that dress, the lace was SO itchy, and I looked like a cupcake! A horse covered cupcake!"
"An adorable, horse-covered cupcake," Vincent offered, his mouth twitching slightly with barely concealed mirth.
"Oh I hated it," Catherine said. "I was so embarrassed to wear it to school."
"But you did anyway," Vincent observed.
"Yes," Catherine's voice grew soft, distant, as thought she was traveling to the day. "My mother made me that dress. The first one, the only one, she ever made. And she was so proud of it. It was my birthday dress, for my tenth birthday."
Vincent reached over to wrap his arm comfortingly around Catherine's shoulders as tears welled up in her eyes. "I wore the dress because I didn't want to hurt her feelings, but I joked about it at school that day to my friends, to cover up my embarrassment. I didn't know then that she was sick. I would have appreciated her gift more, had I only known that it would be my last birthday with her there..."
Vincent hugged her closer. "You mustn't think that way, you were only a little girl, some little girls wouldn't have even worn the dress, but you did, because you loved her."
Catherine nodded. "Yes."
After the photos of her tenth birthday party, there were many pictures of her with both her parents, with her mother looking slightly paler in every photograph, until there were no more pictures at all, just a few empty pages.
"After my mother got very sick, she didn't want anymore pictures taken of her, she wanted us to remember as she was when she was well. After she...passed away, my dad stopped taking many pictures. Except of me, occasionally."
Vincent rubbed Catherine's back lovingly, and they sat in silence a few moments, as Catherine looked at the last picture taken of her mother.
After they were done looking at the pictures, Catherine related a few more stories from her childhood, and Vincent listened intently, he then told her some of his crazy childhood stories, most of which involved some wacky scheme of Devin's that always backfired.
"Oh, Vincent, you must have been such a fun kid," Catherine said, wiping a tear from her eye, from laughing so hard.
"I did get into my share of mischief," Vincent said.
"It's just too bad that there aren't any pictures of you."
Vincent shrugged. "It is impossible, unfortunately."
Catherine gave a sad smile and reached up to place her left hand on her husband's cheek. Her husband! Sometimes she still couldn't believe it, that she and the love of her life had finally begun their happy life together. She looked at the hand on the side of his face, at the simple gold ring around her finger. To her it was the most beautiful piece of jewelry, second only to a very special crystal necklace.
Vincent, as always, picked up on his wife's trail of thought, and took the small hand on his cheek in his own clawed, furry one, and placed a kiss on its palm with his unusual lips.
"I love you," Catherine sighed. Would she ever get tired of saying that?
"And I love you, my Catherine," Vincent said, his voice almost like a purr, Catherine loved it when he sounded like that. He lowered his face to hers, placing a tender kiss on her lips. He was still a bit shy about initiating an intimate embrace, but he was learning. After all, practice really does make perfect!
Vincent pushed Catherine, ever so gently, to lie underneath him against the pillows. She gave a soft moan, and deepened the kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck.
Vincent pulled back, but only slightly, to look into her eyes, his face just inches from her own. "What is it?" he asked, so quietly she almost didn't hear him.
"What is what?" Catherine raised an eyebrow, a gesture she did without thinking, but Vincent loved.
"Your emotions changed. So suddenly," he responded. As he was kissing her, he had noticed the sudden switch, from passionate to melancholy. "I sense a sadness in you. Why?"
"Not sadness, really," she said, playing with one of the tassels on Vincent's vest. "I was just thinking, again, about you as a child. I think about that a lot, how we grew up, here in the same city, so close, Peter watched both of us grow, how easy it would have been for us to know each other. I wish so much I could have known you, it feels like all the years we didn't know one another were wasted."
"Not wasted," he said. "It just wasn't meant to be, perhaps..." he hesitated a moment, before going on. "Perhaps you were not yet ready to meet me; perhaps back then you wouldn't have...understood."
"You mean I wouldn't have accepted you." she said, more of a statement than a question. Vincent nodded, almost imperceptibly. "How can you say that?" Catherine felt hurt, did he think she was really that shallow back then? "You think that the only way for me to accept you, was for you to save my life? Well I don't think that, I didn't fall in love with you because you saved me, I fell in love because you're you." She looked up at him, defying him to disagree.
"I didn't mean it the way it sounded," Vincent said. "I know that you love me, for me, truly I see that now. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that," Vincent tilted his head to one side, and Catherine was powerless to resist him when he did that, and he knew it.
"I forgive you," she drawled, reaching up to wrap her arms around him, pulling him down. He came down willingly, to rest his head against her breasts. "Not that any of it matters, we're here now, that's all that counts, right?"
"Right," Vincent said, his voice muffled as he nuzzled against her, making her giggle in response. "But I do see what you were saying, I do wonder what it would have been like to know you as a girl."
Catherine nodded, gently stroking his mass of wild blonde hair. "Wouldn't it be fun, to go back in time, as adults, and meet the younger us? Could you imagine your reaction if we told the young you that we are married?"
Vincent chuckled. "I never would have believed us," they both dissolved into fits of laughter, at the absurdity of the conversation. "If I did believe," Vincent raised his head to look at her with a sultry expression in his eyes as his voice lowered to that rumble that always gave Catherine chills. "I would have known I had a lot to look forward to..."
Catherine couldn't respond, only moan as his mouth lowered back to hers, taking her in the most passionate kiss he had ever given her. He raised up on his elbows, taking his weight off of her, and reached down to caress her skin under her sweater, as she frantically tried to untie the multiple fastenings of his vest. Once that was accomplished, he assisted her in removing it, then his sweater and thermal shirt. She stroked the fine, soft hair of his chest, eliciting a deep growl from him. The sound made her tremble, and she cried out softly, trying to move so she could remove her own clothes, those irritating barriers. He immediately complied, allowing her to sit up so she could take off her sweater and jeans, and then her underwear, as he moved to remove his own jeans, that had become extremely uncomfortable, and unwanted.
Clothes tossed away, like so much unneeded trash, their bodies moved together, as their hands explored one another, never tiring of learning more and more about what pleased the other best. As they became one, they both marveled, how could they have gone so long not being together? How did they ever survive?
Later, much later, the happy and sated couple rested in each other's arms. "What ever did I do before I met you?" Catherine sighed, snuggling closer to Vincent's warmth.
"I was thinking the exact same thing," he whispered close to her ear. "If I had known, as a boy, the wonderful companion I would have, the beautiful woman who would love me..."
"Maybe you wouldn't have felt so lonely?" Catherine said, already drifting to sleep, she felt him nod. "Me too."
Vincent felt Catherine fall asleep, he shifted softly to his side, and gathered her up beside him, succumbing also to sleep.
"Mmm..." Catherine mumbled, rolling over on her side. Memories of the night before flashed before her eyes and she smiled, allowing herself to slowly awaken. The first thing she noticed was that she was cold. She must have kicked off the blankets. She reached out toward her legs, eyes still closed, searching for the blanket, not finding it, she reached next to her, and realized that Vincent wasn't there...and for that matter, neither was the bed!
Her eyes shot open in alarm when her hand met cold stone. She sat up with a jolt, eyes darting around her frantically. She was on the floor, in one of the tunnels. It was dark in both directions, the only torch she could see was right above her. She looked down at her clothes, she was wearing the sweater and jeans she had been wearing the night before, before bed, but she distinctly remembered getting up with Vincent, after their...activities, and taking a bath. Then she put on her favorite article of clothing to sleep in, one of his shirts. So how did she come to be in her clothes again? More importantly, how in heaven's name did she come to wake up in the middle of a tunnel?
"What the hell..." she muttered under her breath, rubbing her head and trying to clear her sleep-muddled brain. "All right, is this some kind of prank?" Catherine called out to the darkness, the empty echo gave her the shivers. "Vincent?" she waited, no one answered. "Come on, guys, who did this? Very funny. Mouse? Jamie?" still, no one. "Okay, this isn't funny anymore! Vincent, please come out!"
She stood up shakily, for some reason she felt a little hung over, but she hadn't drunk anything the day before. Could someone have drugged her and brought her here? She knew some of the younger tunnel residents liked to pull pranks, and Vincent was often among them, but they never ever would have drugged someone, and even if this was a joke, they would have come out by now, Vincent would have felt the very real fear in her. So, if this wasn't a joke, what was it?
Panic began to rise, but she fought it down with a vengeance, forcing herself to stay calm. She looked up and down the corridor. This part of the tunnel didn't seem familiar, but many of the tunnels looked the same in the dark. She had to stand on tiptoes to reach the torch, then stood in the middle of the corridor, deciding which way to go.
Suddenly, relief hit her like a ton of bricks when she realized she could plainly hear the distinct tapping on the pipes. She was so used to the sound by now, in her panic she hadn't noticed it at all. It was the common, everyday relay of messages, an all clear alert from sentry post nine, a question Catherine didn't quite catch, and the announcement that breakfast was served. Good, she was hungry.
It still didn't tell her which way to go, and although she could hear the tapping, there wasn't a pipe here, so she couldn't send for help. She finally just eeny meeny miney moed and went left, using the torch to light the way. She could see lights ahead, and decided she must be in a rarely used tunnel, since there had been few torches, and ahead was the more populated section. She reached a pipe, but decided she didn't need to call for help, because she felt she knew pretty much where she was.
As she got nearer to the lighted path ahead, she felt better and better, and was thinking about how mad she would be at whoever's bright idea this had been. Catherine stopped cold, however, when a louder, sharper tapping began on the pipes. Intruder Alert. "An intruder?" Catherine thought to herself. "Where?" she hastened her pace, the nervousness, setting back in, along with the distinct feeling that something wasn't right.
She gasped and spun around when she heard footsteps, coming from somewhere behind her, or beside her, she couldn't tell.
"Hold it, right there," she heard a man say. She spun around again, facing foreword, she held the light up to his face. Real terror set in when she didn't recognize this man. It must be the intruder! He was an older, balding man, who looked oddly familiar in a way, but no one she knew.
"Who are you?" she said, trying to make her voice sound strong, and accusing.
"I was about to ask you the same thing," the man said. He didn't sound very threatening, almost friendly, like she amused him. That's when it dawned on her that he was wearing the typical tunnel clothing. What in the world was going on? "How did a pretty young woman like yourself get all the way down here?"
Catherine stared at him, completely baffled. "What are you talking about? Who are you? Why haven't I ever seen you before?"
The man stared at her, puzzled, but didn't answer. Catherine stared back, then finally broke out into nervous laughter. "Ha ha ha, very funny," she said, not without a bit of hysteria. "Joke's over now, I don't know who went through all this trouble just to fool me, but it worked," she directed the rest to the walls around her. "You can come out now! You got me!" she turned back to the man. "So really, who are you, are you new?"
The continued to stare, confused amusement now turned to alarm. He looked at her like she was crazy. "Are you all right?" he said gently, as if he were talking to a child. "Did you hit your head? Are you hurt?"
Either this guy really didn't know who she was, or he was a very good actor. "No, I'm not hurt," She fought down the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. "This really isn't funny anymore," she said, in a whimper.
"What isn't funny?" the man asked, taking a hesitant step toward her, he seemed genuinely worried about her, he held out his hands, as if he expected her to faint. She felt like she might.
"Where's Vincent?" she said, her voice quivering as she took a step back.
The man froze, his eyes widened to saucers, and Catherine couldn't be sure due to the lack of proper light, but it looked like all the color drained from his cheeks. "WHERE IS VINCENT?" she yelled, her heart almost beating out of her chest. "Please..."
"Hey!" someone shouted from behind the man. "Ben, what's going on?" two other men appeared beside the man called Ben. She couldn't see their faces; it was too dark.
"Winslow, go get Father," Ben said to one of them.
"Winslow?!" she whispered harshly, feeling the world around her begin to spin. It can't be Winslow! Winslow is dead!
"Do you know her?" she could barely here one of the men ask.
"Never seen her before in my life," a younger one said. "Uh oh, she's going down!"
All three men leaped to catch Catherine as her knees buckled and everything went black.
Vincent moaned and sat up. There was a horrible pounding in his head, and a sharp pain behind his eyes. "Catherine what did you do to me last..." Vincent stopped short as he immediately realized something was very wrong.
Vincent leapt to his feet, baring his fangs and growling menacingly. He forced himself to calm down, so that he could rationally consider his predicament. Predicament! That was an understatement.
He wasn't in his room, that was for certain. It seemed to be some sort of warehouse, or perhaps a storage building. He had awakened on the floor, behind some crates. The only windows were up very high, and were very small. Horror coiled in his stomach as he saw the sunlight peeking in through those dirty windows.
"How did I get here?" he thought, crouching down behind the crates. He didn't sense anyone else in the building, but he felt slightly more secure being hidden, while he sorted things out. "Or the more important question, how do I get back?"
This wouldn't have been the first time Vincent had awakened in the morning somewhere other than where he fell asleep. He recoiled from the thought of that other time, when the illness was taking him, and he had walked in his sleep, waking up from a nightmare to find himself lying in the middle of Central Park in broad daylight. Surely the same must have happened, but he was not sick this time, was he? No, he wasn't sick, the battle with his "Other" was long over, and he had learned to accept that other, more bestial side of himself, as a protector of the ones he loved. He had learned that with Catherine's help.
Vincent shook his head, clearing his thoughts. Memories of last time wouldn't help him now, nor would wondering how this came to be. All that mattered now was getting back to the tunnels.
He stood up, and left his hiding place furtively, walking along the wall, looking for a door. No, not that one, that one obviously led outside. He didn't want to be out there. There had to be a door leading to a basement or something, some way of getting to the tunnels, but there was none. Two other doors, both marked "Emergency Exit Only, Alarm Will Sound", but no other, no way, it seemed, to leave the building, except for the front door.
Returning to his place behind the crates, he examined his options: unfortunately, there weren't many. The building, its purpose still undetermined, seemed seldom visited. A heavy coating of dust covered everything, including the floor, he noted the footprints he had made were the only ones. So perhaps he was safe, relatively, until dark, when he could leave. His internal clock told him it couldn't be much past eight-o clock, so he had a long wait ahead of him. If only he knew where he was, his sensitive hearing could pick up the sounds of people outside, not that close, but not that far either, he imagined perhaps that the building sat away from the street a ways. He could faintly smell salt water, maybe he was near the bay? Vincent grumbled, this was so frustrating.
"Father and Catherine will be worried sick," he thought. He felt for Catherine through their bond, he had sensed earlier she had awakened, and he felt her shock, and then her worry, most likely from waking up and finding him gone. That worry had turned to fear and confusion, and was increasing rapidly, as he imagined she must be learning he was nowhere to be found. He hated that, worrying her so. Especially when he was virtually powerless to go to her. He leaned his back against the wall, trying to send her his love through the bond, to reassure her he was okay. "Curious, her mind is so unfocused, so many emotions playing at once, I can't get through," now he was getting worried about her. Could there be something else wrong? He didn't sense she was in any danger, in fact, he could tell that she was in the tunnels. But her emotions were running rapidly now, fear, confusion, humor, anger, fear again, anger again, constant confusion, fear. Suddenly it hit him, her call for him; he could almost hear her cry "WHERE IS VINCENT?" than nothing. Vincent sat up like a bolt, trying to feel for her, she was unconscious, fainted? He could still feel that she was safe in the tunnels, so he tried to force himself to relax. He would have some serious making up to do, not that he had done this intentionally, but he still felt guilty for causing her such stress. "Try not to fear, my love, I will be home soon, don't worry."
"She's waking up,"
Catherine moaned and put a hand over her eyes. "What the hell did I eat last night?" she should try to remember not to eat junk food too late, her mother always told her it caused nightmares, and what a nightmare that was. It was a nightmare? Wasn't it?
"Try not to sit up too quickly dear."
"Mary?" Catherine said groggily. She opened her eyes to see Mary's face above hers. She sat up slowly as she had been told. "Mary, what's going on?"
Mary stared at her with a worried expression on her face, not unlike the one that man, Ben had on his face in her dream.
"M...Mary?" Catherine said again, she didn't like that look. Was she dying or something?
"I'm sorry, dear," Mary said, almost apologetically. "But I don't know you."
Catherine's eyes went round. "What?! What do you mean you don't know me? Mary why are you doing this? It isn't funny! I want someone to tell me what's going on and I want someone to tell me RIGHT NOW!"
Father rushed into the hospital chamber, and Mary stood back from the bed quickly as Father put a hand against Catherine's shoulder. "Now, now, calm down, no one's going to hurt you," he said, in his best doctor’s voice.
Catherine stared at him, so intently that he flinched slightly. She stared for several moments, resisting his efforts to make her lie back down, watching for some signs that he was joking. He had to be joking, this was some elaborate hoax. No. What was she thinking? Father didn't joke.
"Father?" she whimpered, silently begging him to say her name.
Father gave up trying to get her to lie back, satisfied at least that she had calmed down, a bit. "Yes, people call me Father here, what is your name?"
Catherine shook her head slowly. This was no hoax. Father really didn't know her! So that meant...what happened before was not a dream! Unless this was all a dream, it had to be a nightmare. Tears began to roll down her cheeks. "Please," she whimpered. "I don't know why this is happening. Please, where is Vincent?" Vincent would know her, he could never, ever not know her.
Father looked at her with what seemed to be a mixture of shock and horror. "How...how do you know Vincent?"
Catherine was sobbing now. "Please, just let him see me, he'll know me, I know he will!"
Father shook his head tiredly, and stood up, watching Catherine warily, making sure she didn't try to get up. "Wait right here," he said, trying his best to sound calm. He took Mary's arm and led her outside.
Ben was waiting outside with Winslow and Mark, two of the tunnel's resident teenagers. Pascal stood beside his father Ben, looking nervous, as usual.
"How's the woman?" Ben asked.
"I'm not sure," Father said. "She seems delirious, but you were right, she asked for Vincent. Pascal," he said, turning to the boy. "Go now and fetch Vincent, and Devin too while you're at it. I'm sure if anyone is responsible for this, it's him."
Pascal darted away without a word. Father sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "How could that woman possibly know Vincent?"
"How does she know you or me?" Mary asked quietly.
"What?" Father said. He had assumed the woman must have just heard someone call him Father.
"She knew my name," Mary said. "And yours, but I'm almost certain she hadn't heard any of our names. It was more than that though, she seemed to genuinely know me, she asked what was going on, it seemed like she thought we should know her."
Father was baffled, he had never seen the woman in his life, and neither had anyone else so far. So far, there was still Vincent and Devin in question. What had they told this woman about them?
Catherine sat huddled on the bed. Never in her life had she felt so utterly lost and confused. She prodded deep for her small share of the bond with Vincent; she could feel him, he was sending her his love, so why wasn't he here?
Father entered the room, with Mary, and that man, Ben. "Now, please, try not to be frightened, dear, no one is going to hurt you."
"I know," Catherine said glumly.
Father studied her for a moment. "Do you know where you are?"
Catherine thought, should she play dumb? They didn't know her, should she pretend she didn't know them? No, she didn't think she could do that, Vincent would be here soon, and he would get to the bottom of all this. "Of course," she said, honesty being the only thing she could manage in this state of mind. "We're in the tunnels."
Father's jaw grew tight, but Catherine could tell he was trying not to show his shock. "What's your name?" he asked, more like demanded.
"Catherine," she said simply.
"Catherine," Father echoed. "How did you come to know about this place, how do you know Vincent? Did Vincent and Devin bring you here?"
"Devin?" Catherine wondered. What did Devin have to do with anything? She nodded, not knowing what else to do. As the panic was subsiding, she was noticing things that startled her, Father and Mary looked very different. "Younger," she thought, in a daze. And Winslow was here earlier, although she didn't see him, but how was that even possible. And Ben, where had she heard that name before? "Pascal's father?" she said, not realizing she had.
"You know my son?" Ben asked, surprised.
Catherine's breathing increased. How was this possible? It wasn't possible! She had to test it, "Where...where's...Mouse?"
"Who is Mouse?" Father asked.
This wasn't happening. "What...year is it?"
Father furrowed his eyebrows. "1967." he answered simply.
Catherine's mouth dropped. "Twenty three years?!" she blurted, not meaning to.
Father put a hand on hers, all three of them looked at her like she was crazy. "What do you mean, twenty three years?" Father asked, talking to her like she was a child.
"I've lost it," Catherine said. "I...have...completely...lost it."
"You said it," Ben mumbled. Father and Mary both glared at him.
"Father?" all four turned to the doorway. A young boy stood there, looking uncertain. Another child stood beside him, but Catherine couldn't see who it was.
"Devin, Vincent," Father said. "Perhaps you can shed some light on this. Do you know this woman?"
The boy looked at her. Devin? Catherine's eyes went to the small shape beside him. It couldn't be. "Vincent?" she asked weakly.
"Who are you?" said the shadow, not coming into the light. The voice was young, raspy, with just a hint of a lisp.
"Father, I've never seen her before, honest," Devin said, eyeing Catherine with a mixture of wariness, and admiration.
Catherine's eye's never left the shadowed figure, he was so small, his voice so young. It couldn't be Vincent. "Come into the light," she said.
"No," the little boy said.
"I don't think you understand," Father told Catherine. "My son is a bit, unusual. He doesn't want to startle you."
Catherine swung her legs over the side of the bed, and stood up shakily, still looking at the little form that seeming to cower back a little. "He won't startle me," she said softly. "Come out, Vincent."
Vincent took a hesitant step forward, coming partially into the light, his face still in shadow. Devin gave him a shove, and he nearly tumbled into Catherine.
Those same, crystal clear, cerulean eyes met hers, worry plain in them. His face was the same, same cleft upper lip, same furry nose, only it was the face of a child, a frightened, slightly muddy child.
Catherine fought down her emotions, something she was practiced at, after being with someone who always knew how you felt. She didn't think this...boy knew what she was feeling, but she didn't want her shock and fear to show, he would think it was because of his appearance, not because he was the child version of her husband.
She didn't want to hurt him, she had no clue what, how, or why this was happening, but one thing she knew with certainty, she never wanted to hurt Vincent, so she smiled, allowing the awe and wonder show. "Hi, Vincent." she said softly.
Vincent's worried expression melted instantly, and he smiled back, for some reason, unconcerned that he was showing his teeth, and she was unconcerned too, so he smiled wider. "Hi," he said.
Father watched this exchange, as did the others, in total astonishment; never before had Vincent warmed up to a stranger so quickly and easily. "Vincent," said Father. "Do you know this woman?"
Vincent looked at his father, then back at Catherine. "I don't think so, what's your name?"
Catherine found she couldn't wipe the smile off her face. What had happened to the fear she felt before? "How can I be afraid when I'm looking into this angel's face?" "My name is Catherine," she said.
"Catherine," Vincent repeated. Catherine was surprised to hear that it was said with the same reverence as when her Vincent had said her name that first time, after he had saved her.
"Hi, I'm Devin," Devin stuck his hand out, with a goofy smile on his impish face.
Catherine took the offered hand and shook it, noticing there were no scars on his cheek. "Hello, Devin."
Father cleared his throat. "Miss...Catherine. Would you care to tell us, how is it, that you seem to know all of us, but we do not know you?"
Catherine looked at Father then back at Vincent, whose eyes asked the same question. She chewed on her bottom lip, how to answer. "Haha, well, you see, I am apparently in the wrong time, I know all of you, in the future!" Catherine looked at each face in the room in turn, settling on Father. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you," she said with a wry grin.
"Try us," Ben said.
Catherine shifted weight from one foot to the other. "Can we sit in your study, Father? I think you should all be sitting for this one."
Father let out a small gasp. "How did you know...well, maybe we should all be sitting."
Sitting in Father's study, Catherine looked around. Everything was pretty much the same, rearranged a bit, and there weren't as many books.
"Now, Catherine," Father said. "You seem to have a vast knowledge about us, about Vincent, and about this place. Yet we know nothing of you, I'm sure you can understand that we want to know who you are, and how you came to know what you know."
"Of course," Catherine said, realizing how worried Father and the rest must be, their secret balanced on the shoulders of a stranger to them. "First of all, you don't have to worry, your secret is absolutely safe with me."
This seemed to calm Father a bit, but he still wasn't convinced.
"This is very, very strange," Catherine said, trying to find the words. "I don't really know how to explain."
"Just try," Vincent said kindly. For some reason he couldn't understand, he felt the urge to make this lady feel better.
Catherine smiled at Vincent. "Thank you," she paused, and tried to think. If this was 1967, she would have only been 10 years old, and so would Vincent. So, was the 10 year old Catherine out there? Must be, thought Catherine felt a bit disconcerted at the thought. They were never going to believe her story, they would think she's crazy, although she didn't think she'd completely argue that at this point. If only there was some way of showing that she existed here, as a child, maybe that could help. That's it! "Peter!" Catherine exclaimed, the outburst making Father and Mary both flinch.
"Excuse me?" Father asked.
"Peter Alcott!" Catherine said. "Can you send for him? I think he can help!"
Obviously baffled, Father complied, any way to get some answers! "Ben," he said. "Can you please get an urgent message to Peter? Ask him to come as soon as possible?"
"Of course," Ben said, and left.
The rest of the company turned back to Catherine, who took a deep breathe. " All right, the only thing I think I can do at this point is tell you the truth. None of you are going to believe me though, I don't believe me!"
"Just tell us the best you can," Mary said gently.
Catherine nodded. "I don't know how, but when I went to sleep last night...it was..."
"What?" Vincent prompted.
"1990," said Catherine.
Everyone simply stared for a breathless moment. "Boy, you really are nuts!" Devin said, laughing.
"No she's not!" Vincent shot back.
"I know how it sounds," Catherine said. "I know I sound crazy, but I tell you, it's true! When I went to bed last night I was here, in the tunnels with..." Catherine hesitated, glancing at Vincent. "With my husband."
"You mean you live here?" Father asked.
Catherine nodded. "Yes. Last night, we were talking..." Catherine suddenly remembered their conversation the night before, about wishing they could have known the other as a child. Could this possibly mean this was their wish granted. If that was the case, where was Vincent? Her Vincent? She could still feel him, and she knew the bond wasn't coming from this boy.
"Talking about what?" Vincent asked when she didn't speak for a moment.
"About...what we were like as kids, we were looking at my old photo album, and we were wondering what would have happened if we had met. We went to sleep, and when I woke up, I was alone, on the floor in the tunnel. After that I ran into Ben, and you know the rest.
"You mean to tell us you are from twenty years in future?" Father asked, incredulous.
"I don't understand it either!" Catherine exclaimed. "I don't know how this is possible, believe me Father, I'm as much of a skeptic as you are!"
"She really does know you," Devin said. Father shot him a glare.
"All right, all right, where's the fire?" Peter darted in just then, carrying his medical bag. He paused at the entrance, casting Catherine a quick glance, then turned his attention to Father. "What is it, Jacob? What's the emergency?"
"I'm afraid it isn't, a medical emergency," Father said.
Peter glanced again at Catherine and did a double take, then looked back at Father. "Then what is it?"
"Hi Peter," Catherine said standing up.
"I'm sorry, do I know you ma’am?"
Catherine stifled a chuckle. He was just as she remembered him!
Father stood up and crossed the room. "Peter, this young woman here, well, I don't know how else to say it, so I'll just come out with it. She claims to be from the year 1990."
Peter raised an eyebrow at him, than looked at Catherine. "Oh really?" he said, in the way he used to when Catherine told him silly stories.
Father related the entire story, with Vincent and Devin throwing in details whenever they could. Catherine stood by and waited. Watching the emotions play out on Peter's face, first it was total disbelief, but then that melted into surprise and interest, when Father explained how Catherine knew all about the tunnels, and knew everyone by name, and had asked for Peter herself. Father never said her name.
"How do I come into this?" Peter asked, half to Father, half to Catherine.
"Peter," Catherine began. "I know this will be hard for you to believe, but it's me...Cathy We...I mean, Chandler."
Peter stared at her, aghast. "You...can't be, she's only ten!"
Catherine half-smiled. "I know, and I'm thirty three, in the year 1990."
Peter shook his head. "I can't, I won't believe this. This is impossible!"
She didn't want to have to do this, but it was the only way. "My name is Catherine Elizabeth Chandler, my mother's name was Caroline Chandler, my father is Charles Chandler. I was born at St. Vincent's hospital, YOU delivered me."
Peter stood stock still, his mouth hanging open. "Can't be..."
Catherine groaned. "I have a birthmark in the shape of an M on my...bottom." she heard Vincent and Devin chuckle.
"I'm willing to believe you're psychic before I believe you're from the future," Peter said, but his eyes were wide.
"Fine!" Catherine shouted. She turned around so the boys couldn't see, and unbuttoned her jeans, tugging down the side to reveal her birthmark.
Vincent tried not to laugh, but Devin nearly fell off his chair. Peter tried to stop her, but when he caught sight of the birthmark, the unmistakable M shape, that had to many conversations with his friends, the Chandlers, that they might should have named her something with the letter M, he had no choice but to believe.
"My God, it really IS you!" Peter exclaimed as Catherine zipped up her jeans. Catherine suddenly pulling down her pants flustered Father, but now that he too, had seen the birthmark that Peter obviously recognized, it must be true!
Vincent and Devin had stopped laughing, and Mary simply looked on in awe. Vincent got up and walked over to Catherine. "So, you know me, as a grownup?"
Catherine grinned. "I sure do, and what a fantastic adult you are!"
Vincent beamed. "Really?"
"What about me?" Devin asked.
"You're about the same," Catherine couldn't resist saying. Devin rolled his eyes.
Father was at a loss for words, as was Peter. Peter looked at Catherine as if she were a ghost. "Cathy..." he said, and hugged her. "I can't believe I'm believing this, but you've turned into such a beautiful young woman!"
Catherine reached up and put her arms around the man who had become like another father to her. "You always have been proud of me, Peter."
Peter stood back, with a glimmer in his eye. "So, twenty years down the track, I'm still kickin’?"
Catherine chuckled. "I'll say, you're just as active as you are now!"
Peter grinned. "So wait, how did you find out about this place? Did I, uh, tell you?"
"No," Catherine said, feeling very odd about telling him what will happen in the future. Should she be telling them? What were the rules on time travel anyway? "You didn't tell me, I met Vincent myself three years ago, you and I didn't even know the other was in on it until a little over a year ago! Boy, were you surprised!"
"Much like I am now, I'm sure," Peter said. "This is so strange, talking to you like this..."
"Wait," Father interrupted. "You said you met Vincent, how did that happen?"
Catherine winced. She had no choice but to tell them the truth, but Father seemed a little over-interested in future happenings. "He, uh," she glanced at the sparkling-eyed boy next to her, looking up at her with nothing short of adoration. "Saved my life," she whispered, and unconsciously touched the scar beneath her left ear.
Vincent noticed, "What happened?"
Catherine shook her head, "Some bad men hurt me, you found me, and brought me here."
Peter looked concerned. "Who hurt you?"
"Look, I don't know if we should be talking about this," Catherine said. "I mean, if this really is happening, maybe I shouldn't tell you your futures!" she made a face, this really was bizarre.
"Maybe you're right," Peter said, uncertainly. "Look, Cathy, if it's okay with you, I want to give you a check-up, maybe take some blood samples, I have the equipment here."
"Why?" Catherine asked. "You're going to DNA test me, aren't you?"
Peter chuckled. "No, no, I believe you, how can I not? But you do look a little worse for the wear if I may say so, all this must have come as quite a blow."
"No kidding, all right, test away, doctor!" Catherine followed Peter and a still baffled Father out the door, turning back to see Vincent smiled shyly at her. She felt...connected to him, not in the way she was with "her" Vincent, no, that connection was still there. "Wait, it's still there!" Catherine began to worry, was Vincent here too? If so, where was he?
Vincent waited miserably for the darkness to come. Catherine's emotions had been like a roller coaster all day. He couldn't understand why now she felt content, amused, and ever so often, he felt a surge of love, but not really the kind of love he usually felt for him, something bordering motherly. What was going on back there? Wasn't she worried?
Of course she was worried, she must have just felt through the bond that he was okay, he had wanted her to relax. He just didn't expect her to.
He was feeling more and more that something was off, he was very keen to these types of things, but he couldn't quite place a finger on it, but he was pretty certain something wasn't quite right. Would that stupid sun just set already?
After what seemed like an eternity, complete darkness settled within the building. He got up, stretching out a cramp, then crossed the floor to the door. He pushed gently, then harder, but it was chained from the outside. "But, how did I get in?" Vincent wondered. He shook his head, he couldn't think about that now.
Vincent took a deep breath and held it, hoping against hope there was no one on the other side of this door. He shoved the door harshly, breaking the weak chain on the outside with ease. He peeked his head out, it was an alley, and it was deserted.
He cautiously took a step out, then another, pulling his hood farther over his face, then darted, catlike, to hide behind a dumpster.
He roamed from alley to alley, passing no one but the occasional homeless person, who paid him no mind. If he was correct in where he was, Brooklyn, then there weren't many entrances to the tunnels here.
Was he in Brooklyn? Everything seemed so different. Usually he felt a degree of comfort on the streets, in the alleys, when he was under the cover of night, but that comfort was dissolving rapidly, as he was coming to the conclusion that he was lost.
He had just decided that the only thing he could so was find a manhole, fast, when he heard a soft whimpering. He was going to ignore it at first, but then the sound got louder, as if whoever was making it was getting closer. Now he could hear footsteps. He knew he should hide, but something in the way whoever it was crying made him stop. It sounded like a child.
He backed up against a wall, and peeked around the corner. A little girl, no older than ten years old, was walking up the sidewalk. She glanced around herself fearfully, her hands jammed stubbornly in her pockets. It looked to Vincent that she was wearing very nice clothes, so she couldn't be a homeless girl, and she was carrying a backpack. "A runaway, perhaps," Vincent thought sadly to himself. No matter, he couldn't leave the girl alone, it was very dangerous for her to walk alone here, on a practically deserted sidewalk. He would just have to keep an eye on her, hopefully a parent would come looking for her soon.
The girl continued to whimper, and walked slowly looking all around as if she were lost. Vincent was sympathizing until he got the feeling he wasn't the only one watching her. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end as he watched three teenage boys cross the street, headed for the girl.
"Hey there, cutie," one of the boys, a blonde, said. "Whatcha got there?" all three boys were wearing black sweatshirts and jeans, Vincent couldn't see the other two, because their hoods were raised, but the blonde boy's wasn't
The girl didn't respond, but kept walking.
"Hey wait!" the blonde said, stepping in front of her. One of the others came to stand behind her, while the third blocked her way to the street. "What have you got in your backpack, kid?"
"Nothing, leave me alone!" the girl said, with surprising authority.
"Whoa," the boys all said in unison, the blonde stepped foreword. "You tellin' us what to do? Give us the damn backpack, kid, before you get hurt!"
The girl stuck her chin out defiantly. "You better leave me alone, my dad'll be here any minute!"
The boys laughed menacingly. "Oh yeah?" The blonde reached out and grabbed the girl's arm, while the boy behind her wrestled to open the back pack.
"Let go!" the little girl shrieked.
All four froze instantly when they heard a something growl from the alleyway. "What the hell was that?" the blonde said, still gripping the girl's arm.
"Let's get out of here!" the boy next to the street yelled.
"Bring the kid!" the blonde ordered.
The one still holding her backpack wrapped his arms around her and lifted her up, kicking and screaming. Before he could take one step with her in his arms. Vincent leapt from the shadows and grabbed hold of his hood, yanking him backward. "Put her down!" he growled low.
The other two boys took off running, leaving their friend behind. The boy released the girl. "Let me go! Please!" he cried.
Vincent released his hold on the shirt, shoving him foreword to make sure he didn't touch the girl on his way. The boy ran, and turned once to see the cloaked figure, and caught a terrifying glimpse of fangs.
Vincent ceased growling, and noticed for the first time that the little girl was clutching his cloak. He couldn't see her face, but her tiny body shuddered with racking sobs.
Checking to see if his hood was firmly in place, the last thing he wanted to do at this point was scare the poor child more, he bent down, trying to keep his distance. "Shh, there there, you're all right now," he said in his most comforting voice.
The girl fixed wide, green, tear-filled eyes on him. Although there was fear there, Vincent saw a great deal of bravery. "Why are you out here alone?" he asked gently. "Don't you know how dangerous it is?"
"I ran away," the girl sniffed. "I don't know why I did it, I just did, but I got on the wrong bus, and ended up here. I'm lost."
"So am I," Vincent thought wryly. "What is your name?"
"Cathy," the girl said, wiping a tear. "What's yours?"
"Vincent. Do you have some money for a payphone? Why don't we try to call your mother and father?"
"My mother died," Cathy said, tears welling up again.
So that was it. "Is that why you ran away?"
Cathy nodded. "I couldn't stand it anymore."
"Don't you think your dad is awfully worried?"
Cathy didn't respond, only looked at her feet.
"I'll bet he is," Vincent said.
Cathy looked up. "Why won't you let me see your face? Are you a crook or something?"
Vincent couldn't help but chuckle. "You remind me very much of someone."
Cathy tilted her head from side to side, trying it seemed, to look at him.
"I don't want to frighten you," Vincent said. "My face is...different."
"Aw, how bad can it be?" Cathy asked, reaching for the edges of his cloak.
Vincent gasped and grabbed her wrists, stopping them.
Now it was Cathy's turn to gasp, her eyes went even rounder when she took sight of the furry, clawed hands. Vincent immediately released her hands, backing away, preparing to stand up.
Wordlessly, Cathy reached her hand back out, touching his shoulders. Vincent crouched back down hesitantly. Cathy took hold of his hood again, then slowly pushed it back, revealing his face to the dim light on the streetlight.
Vincent expected at least some shock, but the girl only smiled, setting off an alarm in Vincent's head it was so familiar.
"See, I told you it couldn't be that bad!" Cathy said. "I knew it couldn't if you have a wife!"
Vincent smiled. "I guess not."
"Thanks for saving me," Cathy said.
"You're welcome. I'm sorry about your mother. I never knew my parents."
"Really?" Cathy asked.
"Yes. I was found when I was baby." Vincent's head snapped up, a car was coming. He sank intuitively to the shadows. After the car passed, he noticed that Cathy had followed his example. Vincent stared at the girl, that old feeling that something was off returned, why was she so familiar?
"I'm hungry, are you?" Cathy said suddenly, taking off her backpack to dig through it. She pulled out a chocolate bar. "Here you go, I have another one somewhere."
Vincent took the candy, he was in fact, starved, and he did love chocolate. "When you ran away, did you intend on living off of candy?"
"Just until I got to my Grandma's house," Cathy said seriously, still digging through her pack. A piece of paper slipped out.
Vincent picked up the paper. "You dropped thi..." he froze, staring unbelieving at the paper. It was a graded test, but that wasn't the unbelievable part, he looked at the writing scribbled in the corner.
Catherine Chandler, 10/5/67
"Where did you get this?" he said, barely above a whisper.
Cathy raised an eyebrow at him. "That's the test I got back today. My dad won't be happy that I only got an 80, why? Hey, what's wrong?"
Vincent stared at her, her eyes, her hair, the way she was raising one eyebrow. It can't be!
"Catherine?" he whispered.
"Yyyeah..." Cathy said. "That's my real name. Are you okay?"
"Catherine Elizabeth Chandler?"
Cathy looked at the paper, then back at him startled. "Hey, how'd you know my middle name?"
"Your mother's name...was Caroline."
"Hey!" Cathy snapped, taking a step back. "Cut that out! How do you know that!"
Vincent shook his head slowly, he felt dizzy. He saw the date on the paper, but he couldn't believe it. "Catherine, what year is it?"
Cathy took another step back. "1967."
Vincent spun to the side, his back against the wall, and slid down to the ground. "1967? But how?"
Cathy stared at him. "I'm going home now," she walked around him, giving him wide berth, and went back out on to the sidewalk. Looking both ways, she couldn't see a payphone, or an open store. She glanced back to the shadowed figure slumped against the wall warily. He was obviously crazy, but he had saved her life. After a moment's consideration, she decided crazy lion-man who saved her life was better then being alone on these streets. So she went back to the alley. "Didn't you know what year it was?" she asked him, quietly, afraid suddenly to startle him.
Vincent shook his head. "No, last time I checked, it was 1990," he didn't even sound like he believed himself.
Cathy raised an eyebrow again. "1990? I don't think so."
Vincent looked up at her. "I have to get to the tunnels."
"The what?" Cathy said. "Are you crazy? Tell me how you knew my mother's name."
"I would frighten you if I did."
"I'm already frightened!" Cathy spat.
"My wife..." Vincent whispered. "Before she married me, her name was Catherine Chandler."
Cathy shook her head. "So we have the same name?"
"Her mother died when she was 10, her name was Caroline. Her father's name was Charles."
Cathy continued to shake her head vigorously. "You have GOT to be kidding me!"
Vincent reached for the pouch hanging around his neck and stood up slowly, walking over to her. He emptied the pouch's contents into his hand.
"Hey!" Cathy said, her voice quivering. "That's my mommy's rose! Where did you..." she went to her backpack, digging furiously. Vincent watched her pull out several objects and toss them aside, until she stopped, and turned back around slowly, cradling a small white rose in the palm of her hand.
"She gave it to me," Vincent said, and handed Cathy the small picture that had accompanied the rose in it's pouch.
Cathy took the picture and turned, holding it in the light. A woman who looked so much like her mother, only with big green eyes, like her own stared back at her. "That's...me," she said in a tiny voice. "Isn't it?"
Vincent nodded. "I can't believe it either."
"I look just like my mom," Cathy whispered, seemingly to herself. She shot her eyes back up at Vincent. "Okay, I believe you now, so you're from the future, how'd you get here?"
Vincent was taken a little aback by her sudden acceptance of something he couldn't accept. "I have no idea, when I went to sleep last night, it was 1990."
"Well, tell me what happened, did anything unusual happen last night?"
Cathy rolled her eyes. "In the movies, something weird always happens right before the people go back in time, or switch bodies, or something."
Vincent sat down on a stoop, Cathy sat down beside him with the air of importance. Vincent couldn't help but marvel at this child's bravery, acceptance, and trust, but this was Catherine, after all.
"Well, let's see..." Vincent said, trying to think back at the night before. Well, before they went to sleep, he and Catherine...no, he certainly didn't need to tell Cathy that, besides, that was nothing unusual, if not wonderful. "Catherine and I were looking at some of her old photo albums, of when she was a child."
"Of when she was me?" Cathy giggled.
"I guess so," Vincent said, also laughing. "Why is it none of this seems to bother you?"
Cathy shrugged. "Why should it, I've seen weirder."
"When?" Vincent asked, incredulous.
"About five minutes ago on the sidewalk," Cathy said, grinning up at him.
Vincent smiled, showing his teeth, a gesture he was usually uncomfortable with except for those who know him very well, and sometimes not even then, but this child was capturing his heart, even more easily than her adult counterpart.
"So you were looking at pictures..." Cathy prompted.
Vincent shrugged. "And then we talked about how we would have liked to have known one another when we were children."
"Sounds like you got your wish," Cathy said.
Vincent gasped, she was right! But if he was here, where was Catherine? He could still feel her, she didn't feel twenty three years away, she felt close.
"If I was placed in the path of you," Vincent said, trying to wrap his mind around the concept. "Perhaps Catherine was placed in my path, or at least in the path of the child me."
"Where would that be?" Cathy asked.
"The tunnels," Vincent said.
"What's the tunnels?"
Vincent looked at the girl. He really should get her home to her father, but he might need her help. He believed he was placed here for a reason, and not just to save her from those punks. She might be necessary to get home to his own time. "Alright, I'm going to tell you something, something that you must promise to keep secret..."
Mary set Catherine up in one of the guestrooms, which, Catherine realized with a chuckle, would someday belong to Jamie. She, Mary, Peter, and Ben had decided together that, to prevent upset, and a lot of explanations, Catherine would simply be introduced as a new tunnel dweller. Rumors, however, had already been spread, mostly by Winslow and Pascal, that the new woman was insane, but Father planned to dispel these rumors by telling the community at dinner, that Catherine had been found after a nasty bump to the head, but was now okay.
"Hmph, " okay", yeah right, I'll be okay when I'm back in my own time!" Catherine thought as she settled the clothes so graciously donated to her in the drawer. She had been on the receiving end of the tunnel dwellers’ hospitality before, but never like this, when she, like so many who came to the tunnels, had nothing to call her own. Things were given to her, without so much as a thought. This truly was a wonderful place.
"H...hello?" came a small voice from the doorway.
Catherine spun around. "Vincent! Hi, come in!"
Vincent crossed the threshold hesitantly, glancing at her, than away shyly. "How are you? Are you comfortable?"
"Yes, thank you," Catherine said.
Vincent stood there a moment, not speaking and fiddling with the fastenings on his vest.
"Was there something you want?" Catherine asked.
"No," Vincent said. "I just wanted to see how you were, if you needed anything."
"I'm fine," Catherine said, trying to hold back a smile. "Would you like to stay and visit a while?"
"Sure!" this seemed to do the trick, as Vincent abandoned his shyness and plopped down in the chair while Catherine took a seat on the bed.
"Can I ask you something?" Vincent asked.
Catherine nodded. "You can ask me anything."
"What am I like as a man?"
That wasn't what she was expecting. Catherine hesitated. She was uncomfortable with revealing too much, especially the bit that he was her husband, but his question was innocent enough, and she knew good and well how insecure Vincent had always been. She wanted so much to really show this boy how much she, and everyone else loved him.
"You're a wonderful man," Catherine said, unable to keep the love from her voice, as she thought of her husband. "You're my best friend in the whole world."
"I am?" Vincent asked, his eyes sparkling. "When we met, you didn't mind that I'm...different?"
"Well, it did surprise me at first, but not because I thought you...can we talk about the grown-up Vincent as another person? I feel strange saying "you"." Vincent nodded. "It wasn't because I thought he was ugly, I had just never seen anyone like him before. As soon as the surprise wore off, I thought Vincent was the most beautiful man I had ever seen."
Catherine didn't know that her eyes were getting that "far away" look, but as young as he was, Vincent saw it. "Does he love you?"
Catherine gasped. What a question for a kid to ask! Then again, this was Vincent she was talking about. There was only one way to answer. "Yes."
"Do you love him?"
Vincent's eyes wondered to the wedding band on her finger, he had heard her say that she was married. "I always hoped I'd get to marry someone as nice as you."
"You did?" Catherine asked. Vincent had told her that he had always thought things like marriage were impossible for him. Maybe that didn't begin until he was older, at ten years old, he was too young and too innocent to think anything was impossible, but the fact that this little boy dreamed of things like marrying a nice lady warmed her heart. "You know, when I was a girl, I hoped I would marry Prince Charming," Catherine took Vincent's little chin tilted it up so that their eyes met. "And I did."
Vincent smiled, showing all his sharp little teeth. Catherine tousled his hair. "And don't you ever think you deserve anything but the best, do you hear me? Even though you did settle for me!"
Vincent tilted his head to one side. It was even cuter when he was little!
Vincent turned toward the door. "I'm in here, Winslow!"
A teenage Winslow peeked his head into the room. Catherine felt a sharp pang when she saw him, she missed Winslow terribly, and had always feel guilty for his death.
"Vincent, Mary told me to tell you that it's past bedtime!" Winslow said, after casting Catherine a cautious glance.
"Aw, man," Vincent grumbled.
"You better go," Catherine said, reaching down to give him a hug, which after a surprised pause, was returned tentatively.
"Oh, and Catherine?" Winslow said. "Peter is back, he's in Father's study, he asked to see you."
"On my way, thanks Winslow," Winslow smiled politely and walked out, Catherine and Vincent trailing behind. With one sad look behind, Vincent followed Winslow to the left, toward his chamber, while Catherine turned right.
"Peter?" Catherine called as she descended the stairs.
"Hey, Cathy," Peter said and rose, offering her a chair. He and Father had been in the middle of a game of chess.
"Who’s winning?" Catherine asked.
"He is, unfortunately," Father said grumpily.
Catherine was tempted to break the news to him that some things would never change, but she didn't have the heart to discourage him. "So, doc," she said to Peter. "Am I healthy? Am I human?"
Peter rolled his eyes. "You really haven't changed much. Yes, you're fine, I knew you would be, but you know me, I worry."
Catherine smiled and put her hand on his. "I know you do, and I thank you."
"But there was something," Peter said, hesitantly.
Catherine grew concerned. "What?"
"Well, I just didn't know whether you are aware or not," Peter stammered.
"What is it? Tell me!"
Catherine's mouth dropped. "Preg...nant?"
Father's eyebrows raised. "This, is good news, isn't it?"
For a second, she didn't know why Father was so calm, but she remembered that he didn't know who her husband was. "I'm going to have a baby?" she asked, her voice barely more than a squeak. Vincent's baby? Vincent's baby!
Catherine squealed and jumped up, throwing her arms around Peter, and then Father. "I'm having a baby! Oh, wait til Vincent hears!"
"Vincent?" Peter and Father said in unison.
Catherine stopped jumping around and looked at the two men.
"You're having a baby?!" All three spun around to see Vincent, gawking from the doorway.
"Vincent, you should be in bed!" Father said.
"I came to say goodnight, Father," Vincent said and walked down the steps. "Catherine, are you really gonna have a baby?"
Catherine nodded, "Yes I am."
Vincent grinned. "Wow, wait til he knows!"
Catherine chuckled, suddenly Peter and Father didn't seem to be there. "That's who I meant before, not that I'm not glad you know too!" That's when it hit her, the connection she felt toward young Vincent, he made her think of the child she so desperately wanted to have, a child like Vincent. When she saw those eyes, and that face, on a child, her heart filled almost to bursting. She knelt down and scooped the boy into her arms. "I hope he's just like you!"
"Me too," Vincent said, trying to pull himself away from her suffocating embrace. "It would be cool to have someone else like me around!"
"I hope he feels the same," Catherine thought.
"Can someone tell me what's going on?" Father demanded. "What do you mean, you hope your child looks like Vincent? Why would it look like Vincent?"
Peter chuckled. "Are you really that blind, man? It would seem we are in the presence of your future daughter-in-law."
Father opened his mouth to speak, but shut it again. "You...you mean, you're married to Vincent? Impossible!"
"Why?" Vincent asked.
"Yeah Father, why?" Catherine stood up facing the man challengingly. "WHY is it impossible that your son could marry me?"
Father stood stock-still. "I don't know, I guess there is no reason. You're a fine woman, Cathy, it's just too bad I must wait so long to play with my grandchild!"
Catherine raised her eyebrows, surprised. She was expecting more of a battle, but then she remembered many of the events that had caused Father to restrict his son so much, hadn't happened yet. If only she could stay, and keep them from happening, so that this sweet little boy would never have to go through all that pain, but she knew she had to find a way home, and she knew she had to find her husband!
"Coast is clear!" Cathy stage-whispered to Vincent from inside the back door to an old, Italian restaurant, where Vincent knew there had been an entrance to the tunnels for as long as he could remember.
Vincent entered the building and took Cathy by the hand, to lead her through the dark. They made their way to the basement, and Vincent pushed away an old refrigerator to reveal a hole in the wall, with a steel ladder leading down. Vincent got on the ladder first, then reached for Cathy, and descended slowly in front of her, holding a hand out lest she slip, but Cathy navigated the ladder easier than he did, and soon they were both on the ground.
It was almost completely dark in the tunnel, and Cathy fumbled in her backpack quickly, pulling out a small flashlight. Vincent could just barely hear her whimpering a bit until the light was on, and then he remembered, Catherine had used to be afraid of the dark.
"Through this tunnel, I can get you to your apartment building, so you can go home," Vincent said.
"But I thought I was going with you!" Cathy pouted.
"I don't want to keep your father worried."
"But I want to stay with you! I want to meet the grown-up me, just until morning, pleeease?"
"Do you always get what you want?" Vincent asked wryly.
"Yep," came her response.
Vincent rolled his eyes. "No wonder, how can anyone say no to those eyes?"
"That's what my daddy always says."
Vincent chuckled. Oh what a pushover he was going to be if he ever had a daughter! A daughter, Vincent sighed inwardly. He and Catherine had discussed children, but he had always felt that maybe it wasn't a very good idea, after all, what if the child turned out like him? That thought didn't seem to bother his wife in the least, but how could he pass his genetics to another? How could he inflict upon a child all the limits he had been forced to live with? The girl walking beside him, however, tugged on his heartstrings something fierce. He could almost imagine that she was Catherine's daughter, not Catherine herself. What he wouldn't give for a child just like Catherine, just like Cathy.
Vincent felt a very tiny hand creep into his, he turned his head ever so slightly to look at Cathy through the corner of his eye; she was walking silently, but her eyes were everywhere, shining the flashlight in every crevice, lest there be a monster there. Vincent resisted the urge to chuckle, she walked beside him holding his hand, and she was still afraid of monsters? He curled his fingers around her hand and looked at her; her eyes were drooping. "Are you sleepy?" he asked.
"No," Cathy said, in a very sleepy voice.
"It is a long walk to the inhabited tunnels, are you sure you can make it?"
"Yes!" Cathy snapped, opening her eyes wide and assuming the best "awake" face she could make.
Vincent sighed. It was a little over a two hour walk from here, if they were walking at his pace, but she could never last that long, she must be exhausted enough as it was. Without a word, Vincent released her hand and knelt in front of her, facing away from her. "Hop on," he said.
Cathy giggled and wrapped her skinny little arms around his neck and he hoisted her up on his back, holding her legs. There, now he could walk faster, and she could rest. "Better?"
"Better!" Cathy said and squeezed his neck, laying her head on his shoulder and closing her eyes. With that, Vincent's heart melted.
"No Lisa! She's asleep!"
"Devin said she's prettier than me!"
"She's not! Let's just go!"
"I want to see her for myself!"
"Come ON Vincent! Just take me in!"
"Fine, but if she's asleep, can we leave?"
Catherine listened to the not-so-quiet exchange outside her chamber trying not to laugh out loud. She had already been awake a while, and had hardly been able to fall asleep the night before, unable to hold in her excitement. The knowledge that she was going to be a mother nearly overwhelmed the other, more urgent situation.
When she heard the kids outside her door, she rolled out of bed and pulled on a robe. She washed her face with the water provided for her in the basin.
After curling up in her chair, she finally decided to give Vincent a break. "Hello?" she called.
Vincent peeked in, "Hi, Catherine, can we come in?"
"Sure, come on in," she said, beckoning with her arm.
Vincent shuffled into the room, followed by, then brushed aside by, a pretty little girl a year or two younger, with dark brown hair and an air of self-importance.
"Let me guess, Lisa?"
"Yeah, how did you know?" Lisa said, putting a hand on her hip.
Vincent looked from Lisa to Catherine. "Do you know..."
"I heard you say her name outside," Catherine interrupted, giving Vincent a discreet wink.
"What was that?" Lisa said, not missing the wink. She turned to Vincent with an accusing glare. "Are you keeping a secret from me?"
"No!" Vincent said, looking panicked. "I wouldn't keep a secret from you!"
Catherine couldn't completely resent the girl for bossing Vincent around, goodness knew she had several boys in her elementary school wrapped around her finger when she was that age. However, even though this Lisa was only a little girl, Catherine couldn't get out of her mind the pain she would someday put Vincent through.
"Well, you see," Catherine said, throwing the brat a bone. "Vincent told me earlier about you, he told how pretty you are."
That worked. Lisa's face lit up. "Oh, well, you're pretty too."
"Thank you," Catherine said.
Vincent smiled, happy that his two favorite girls were getting along.
Lisa turned a bright smile on Vincent. "Come on, Vincent, let's go find Devin and tell him he doesn't have a chance with her!"
"Okay," Vincent said.
Catherine covered her mouth to stifle a laugh. "Here's your chance," she chuckled.
Devin stood in the threshold, arms crossed. Vincent smiled sheepishly, but Lisa simply turned on the charm. "Hi, Devin!" she said sweetly.
"Ain't gonna work on me," Devin said, rolling his eyes. He looked at Catherine, and tilted his head foreword. "Hiya Cathy!"
Now it was Catherine's turn to roll her eyes. "Can I help you, Devin?"
Devin was lost a moment, blatantly staring. "Huh? Oh, sorry, The Old Man's looking for you, says it's important.
"Thank you, Devin," Catherine said, with a bit of a groan.
Catherine shooed away her little guests and got dressed. As she was making her way to Father's study, she heard hurried steps behind her.
"Wait up, Catherine!" Vincent called.
Catherine stopped and allowed him to catch up. "Hey, buddy, where's Lisa?"
"She went with Devin and some of the others to the mirror pool."
"How come you didn't go?"
Vincent looked up at her uncertainly. "C...can't I hang out with you?"
Catherine laughed had to bend slightly to loop an arm through his. "Don't be silly! I'd love for you to hang out with me!"
Vincent smiled, and Catherine couldn't be sure in the flame-lit corridor, but she thought she saw him blush.
Arm in arm, Catherine and Vincent skipped down the steps of Father's study, laughing deliriously.
Father couldn't help but smile, never had he seen Vincent bond with anyone that way. Catherine was going to be a wonderful mother, it was just too amazing that his incredible son would someday be that unborn baby's father.
Peter couldn't enjoy the heartwarming scene, and when Catherine saw the pained, worried expression on his face, she stopped cold. "Peter? Peter what's wrong?"
Peter was wringing his hands. "I thought maybe you could help, maybe you remember..."
"What? Spit it out Peter!"
"Little Cathy's missing!" Peter blurted.
"Missing?" Catherine said. "What do you mean?"
Peter sighed and ran a hand over his hair. "Charles thinks she may have run away, she's just been so depressed lately over her mother's...passing."
Catherine thought a moment. "Oh, that's right, that would have been just a few months ago. Yes, Peter, I was devastated...but I never ran away!"
"You didn't? You mean nothing like this ever happened?"
Father put a hand on Peter's shoulder. "Peter, we've alerted our helpers Above to look out for her, that on top of the police, they'll find her!"
"But how?" Catherine said. "I would remember if I ran away!" Vincent took her hand, trying to comfort her. Catherine squeezed his hand in acknowledgement. "If...if something happens to me here, what will happen to... me?"
Peter put an arm around her. Just then, the pipes were in a frenzy as an Intruder Alert was sounded.
"Another intruder?" Father exclaimed.
Catherine concentrated hard on her small end of the bond. "Vincent?"
"Wake up, sleepy head, we're almost there," Vincent said.
Cathy groaned. "Five more minutes."
Vincent smiled. "Now where have I heard that before? Come on now, we're almost there!"
Cathy opened her eyes and lifted her head. "How can ya tell? Everything looks exactly the same."
"I just know," Vincent said. "Besides, do you hear that tapping?"
Cathy listened. "Yes, I think that's what gave me that annoying dream I just had about a hammer."
"Those are messages," Vincent explained. "The tunnel dwellers are talking to one another."
"No kidding?" Cathy said. "What are they saying?"
"They're saying..." Vincent stopped, and listened again. "Actually, now they're saying there is an intruder in the tunnels."
"An intruder?" Catherine asked. "It that bad?"
"Usually," Vincent said. "But this time, I think we are the intruders."
"Us? But I thought you said you lived here!"
"I do," Vincent said. "But the Vincent who lives here now is only...well, your age. All the sentries see is an intruder, someone they don't know. From where they are, hidden in the walls, I doubt any of them have even gotten a good look at me, otherwise they would be communicating that on the pipes."
"Sentries?" Catherine looked all around. "In the walls? They can see us? Where are they"
"They're there, somewhere, but you don't have to worry. The tunnel people are nice, and they won't hurt us."
Cathy made a face. "If you say so, I trust you."
Vincent turned his head so he could smile at her, she grinned back.
"Vincent?" Cathy said. "Aren't I heavy? You can put me down if you want."
Vincent chuckled. "You aren't the least bit heav...Cathy, pull my hood over my face!"
Cathy was startled by Vincent's sudden outburst, but obeyed immediately, pulling the hood down to cover his face. "What? What's wrong?"
"Don't be afraid," Vincent said. "Someone is coming."
As if on cue, three men turned a corner and blocked the path. "Hold it right there," the eldest man said.
Vincent didn't know any of them at first, but finally recognize the man who spoke to be Pascal's father, Ben, and the two younger men beside him were Steve and Mark, two teenagers who had left the tunnels years ago. "Who are you?" Ben asked.
Vincent had to swallow a lump in his throat at the sight of old Ben, it was like seeing a ghost, he had almost been like another father to him growing up. "Please, I mean you no harm," Vincent said softly.
The three men looked a little taken aback, as many people did when they heard Vincent's soothing, yet powerful voice for the first time. Ben held up the torch and tried to see under the hood, but could only catch glimpses of shiny blue eyes. Ben looked at Cathy, noticing her for the first time, suspiciously. "What are your names?"
"I'm Cathy," she piped up, wanting to help.
"Cathy? Are you Cathy Chandler?" Mark asked.
Cathy groaned and rolled her eyes. "How come everyone knows my name around here?" she asked Vincent, who shrugged.
"Everyone's looking for you," Mark said. "Peter came down and told us you were missing."
"How d'you know Peter?" Cathy asked, the rolled her eyes again. "Why am I even asking?" Vincent swallowed a chuckle.
Ben glared at Vincent. "Did you take her?"
"No, I found her," Vincent said. "Please, let me explain..."
Vincent paused, and looked past the men, knowing who was coming before he even saw her. Catherine turned the corner and looked right at Vincent.
"Vincent!" she cried.
Vincent gently sat the girl down and opened his arms to allow Catherine to fly into them. "Catherine, I was so worried, do you have any idea what's happened?"
"No clue," Catherine said, pushing back his hood, not hearing the collected gasps from behind her, and stood on tiptoes to plant a soft kiss on his lips. "But I am so glad you're here!"
"Cathy?" Peter called, turning the corner with Father and little Vincent close behind. "Cathy!"
"Hi Peter!" Cathy waved and let herself be picked up into Peter's fatherly embrace.
Catherine's eyes went round as she acknowledged the girl for the first time. She looked at her, that was her face mirrored on that child, she remembered, she had seen the old pictures. Seeing young Vincent was a shock, and she had known all along that the child version of her was out there, but nothing could have prepared her for seeing it first-hand.
Peter was still busy crying, hugging, and scolding Cathy.
"Peter, Cathy ran away from home," Vincent explained. "But she's very sorry, right, Cathy?"
"Right," Cathy said turned to Peter. "I'm sorry."
Peter kissed her forehead. "Well, you'll just have to say you're sorry to your father, he's..." Peter paused and looked at the man who had just spoken, he had to look up a ways, into a face he knew well, or at least he thought he knew it well.
Father pushed past the sentries and Ben, facing the son he had raised from infancy, and apparently would raise for many more years. "Vincent?" he whispered.
"Hello Father," Vincent said, shaken a bit by the contrast of twenty years on his father, his hair was brown instead of gray, and he had far less wrinkles. Vincent released his hold on Catherine to embrace his father, who was near to tears.
Cathy struggled with Peter to put her down, when he complied, she looked up at Catherine. "So," she said. "You're me?"
Catherine looked at the girl, then bent down to her level. "Weird, isn't it?" Cathy nodded vigorously. Catherine smiled. "How did you meet Vincent?"
Cathy looked up at Vincent, the back at Catherine. "He saved my life, but didn't you know that?"
Catherine grinned and looked at Vincent, who, listening to the conversation, grinned back. "Some things never change," Catherine said wistfully. "Speaking of change," Catherine stood up. "Father, where's Vincent?"
Vincent tilted his head to one side. "No," Catherine said. "Not you, sweetheart, little Vincent? Father wasn't he with you?"
Father glanced around, still a little too amazed to think. "Yes, he was right beside me, where could he have gone?"
Catherine furrowed her brow, a funny little voice inside her told her to "go find him! He might need you!". What was it? "Those maternal instincts must be kicking in, Wells," she thought good- humoredly to herself. She just knew she was going to love being a mother! "Maybe I should go to him."
"I'm sure he's fine," Father said, but then he saw the look of determination and worry on the young woman's face. How many times had he seen that face on Mary when she was tending the children? "If one needed to find Vincent, the first place to look would be..."
"The Music Chamber," Vincent finished, this earned him a nervous smile from Father.
"This will take some getting used to," the older man said with a smile.
"Tell me about it," Catherine, Vincent and little Cathy said in unison.
Catherine turned on her heel and headed back up the tunnel. Vincent turned to Cathy, and noticing her confused, rather lost expression, made a funny face he had already discovered made her laugh, which it did. "Shall we go, young lady?" he asked, offering her his hand. "I just know you will like this place."
Cathy took his hand. "I better, she apparently does," she said, pointing in the direction Catherine had gone.
Vincent chuckled. "None of this really bothers you, does it?" Cathy stuck her tongue out at him.
Vincent and Cathy, followed by Father made their way past a speechless Ben, and two boys who looked like they were about to faint. Peter went to stand by them. "I don't even pretend to understand," he said, patting Mark on the back.
Catherine made her way to Vincent's Music Chamber, and like she knew he would be, little Vincent sat on floor, his back against the wall. The chamber was bare, not like the one she was used to, that Vincent had filled with rugs, pillows and blankets, most likely for her comfort.
"Hey, what's up, Buddy?" Catherine asked, coming to sit by him. From here, she could hear music playing, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. So like Vincent.
"Sorry I ran off," little Vincent said sheepishly. "I guess when I saw him, I panicked."
"I understand," Catherine said, putting an arm around him. "This is all a little scary isn't it?"
Little Vincent shrugged one shoulder. "Not, scary really, just..."
"Freaky?" Catherine suggested.
"Freaky," little Vincent agreed. "That and..."
"And what?" Catherine asked. "Tell me."
Little Vincent looked up at her, his big, blue eyes sad and shiny with unshed tears. "When I saw him, I realized, somehow you've got to figure out how to get home, and then you'll leave."
Catherine squeezed his shoulders tight. She had worried already about getting too attached to him, knowing she would have to leave soon, but she hadn't even thought about him missing her. She should have thought of that, now what? "I know, I know," she said. "I'm really gonna miss you too."
"But you'll still have him, and your new baby."
"And you'll still have Father! And Mary, and Devin, and Pascal, and..."
"Okay, okay!" Vincent said, holding up a hand to her mouth. "I get it already! But I'll still miss you!"
Catherine made to bite his hand, which he pulled away, making a shrieking noise, that with his already breaking voice, came out in a quack, making them both dissolve into laughter. "Just remember," she said. "You'll see me again, someday!"
"Remember," Vincent said, tilting his head to one side. "Will I remember you once you're gone? Will you remember me?"
"Well of course I'll..." Catherine paused. "Actually, I don't know, I don't even know how any of this happened, I don't even know if..." Catherine's breath caught. "if I can get home!"
"Well, if you can't, you can always stay here!" little Vincent exclaimed, with that kind of innocence you can only find in a child.
Catherine squeezed his shoulders again. The music came to an end, and the audience cheered, as another piece picked up. Catherine leaned her head on the wall, and closed her eyes to better listen to the music.
Little Vincent looked up at her. "How did you know how to come here? The only person who knows about this place is Father, and that’s only because he thinks he needs to know where I am every waking second. Not even Devin knows."
"Because I take her here."
Catherine and Lil' Vincent looked up to see Vincent standing at the entrance to the Music Chamber. Cathy stood at his side, craning her neck into the chamber and staring up at the grate overhead, enthralled. "Wow, where are we?" she asked, voice full of awe.
Lil' Vincent fixed his eyes on her, and found he couldn't take them off. Never had he seen such a pretty girl, not even Lisa was as pretty, although he could never tell her that! "We're under the concert stage," he said, surprised he could even speak. "In Central Park."
"Really?" Cathy said, looking at him for the first time. "My parents have taken me to concerts here for as long as I can remember! And I never knew this was here!"
"My first reaction exactly," Catherine said with a chuckle, smiling up at Vincent.
Cathy smiled shyly at Catherine and hopped over her legs to sit on the other side of Lil' Vincent. "Hi!" she said brightly.
Lil' Vincent couldn't think of anything to say, never, never had he met someone for the first time, and they not display any signs of shock, or fear, or even acknowledgment of his differences. This girl greeted him like he was any other boy. "Hi," he said, his voice breaking into a squeak. Catherine giggled, covering her mouth, but somehow Lil' Vincent knew she wasn't teasing him, and he laughed with her.
Vincent came and sat silently next to Catherine, putting an arm around her. "Now who does she remind me of?" he whispered in her ear.
Catherine giggled, matching the girl beside her. "I don't know," she said sarcastically.
The children looked at the adults. Lil' Vincent smiled at his older counterpart. "Hi," he said uncertainly.
"Hi," Vincent said. "You know, I ran into Devin on the way here, and boy, was he surprised. The first thing he said once the shock wore off was, "Dang, you got TALL!""
Lil' Vincent laughed. "When will that happen?"
"Soon enough, believe me, and when it does, no one will ever tease you again!"
Vincent sighed. "Well, perhaps Devin still will."
Catherine laughed. "Puh-lease, Devin still calls you Sir Meows-a-lot!"
"Sir Meows-a-lot?" Cathy squealed, and Catherine regretted she had said it when Lil' Vincent lowered his eyes.
"Hey," Vincent said. "Vincent, try not to let names like that bother you, they don't bother me anymore! Catherine has showed me at it's okay that I'm different."
"Yeah," Catherine said putting a hand on Vincent's chest. "I actually prefer the way he looks. I wouldn't change him for the world!"
"Really?" Lil' Vincent said.
"Sir Meows-a-lot isn't that bad of a name," Cathy said. "I've been called worse, try Rich Brat!" Catherine groaned. "Besides," Cathy flashed the very beginnings of a flirtatious smile. "You look like a knight in shining armor to me!"
Vincent couldn't resist elbowing Catherine gently in the ribs, as she shot him a sheepish grin. Lil' Vincent ducked his head, covering his face with his long golden hair, but no one missed the shy smile play across his face.
Vincent sighed. He was enjoying this time with these children, and hated to see in come to an end, but it was getting late. "Cathy, it's is getting dark out, your father is very worried about you, we need to get you home." Cathy frowned.
"He's right," Catherine said. "I'm sure daddy's worried sick. Why did you run away, anyway?"
"Shouldn't you know?" Cathy said glumly.
"No, I don't, I don't remember ever running away."
Cathy slumped her shoulders against the wall. "Ever since mommy died, daddy doesn't smile anymore, and he doesn't talk much either. We moved out of the house and into an apartment, we got all new furniture, not the ones my mommy liked so much. It's like he's trying to forget her. But I don't wanna forget! I want to remember Mommy always! I want the paintings she loved on the walls, I want to play Go-Fish like she liked to do," Cathy curled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them, ducking her head down between them. "I want to wear the dress she made me!"
"Oh sweetie," Catherine said softly, making to stand up to sit beside her, but Lil' Vincent caught on and immediately jumped up to sit on Cathy's other side. Catherine scooted over to put an arm around the little girl. "I know it's hard, I remember when Dad was like that, and it hurt. But you know what? I promise it doesn't last long, this is just his way of grieving. He'll realize soon, that he doesn't really want to forget either, but sometimes it's just too hard to keep certain things in the house that remind a person so much of the one they've lost. Do you want me to tell you what I did?" Cathy raised her tear-streaked face and nodded. "I talked to Dad about it, it was hard for him, and for me, but it was something we needed to do. After that, he hung some of Mom's favorite paintings in my room, and we started playing Go-Fish once a week."
Cathy smiled. "Maybe I should do that."
Catherine smiled back. "Believe me, it works."
Cathy dried her tears, quickly switching from sad to rather perky, as Catherine knew had been a quirk she had unfortunately grown out of. "So how come, if you remember all that, you don't remember running away?"
Catherine shrugged. "I don't know, I don't remember him either." she nodded in Lil' Vincent's direction.
Cathy turned to Lil' Vincent, who had taken her hand a minute ago while she was crying, she glanced at it, and he quickly snatched it away. She only grinned and snatched it back, thumping their joined hands against the ground in a silly way, making him grin back, showing his sparkling, razor-sharp teeth.
Catherine and Vincent exchanged a fond glance. "Cathy..." Vincent said.
Cathy swung her head around, eyes wide. "Just a few more minutes? Please, please, please, please, pleeeease?"
"Yeah!" Lil' Vincent said. "Please?"
"A few," Vincent said, trying to make his voice sound stern, not succeeding.
"Push-over!" Catherine teased. Vincent shrugged.
"Catherine!" Lil' Vincent exclaimed, making both Catherine and Cathy turn. "Did you tell him the news yet? Did you?!"
Catherine laughed, charmed by his enthusiasm. "Not yet, I haven't really had the chance!"
Vincent looked at her, slightly concerned, mostly infected by Lil' Vincent's excitement. "What news? Tell me."
Catherine bit her lower lip. "Well, I was going to tell you in private, I'm not sure how you're going to take this."
Now Vincent was concerned. "What?"
"Come on, tell him!" Vincent pleaded.
"Yeah! I wanna know!" Cathy yelled too loudly, causing them all to shush her. Luckily the music was still playing.
Catherine turned slightly so she was facing him, and took his hands in her own. "Vincent, darling, while I was here, Peter wanted to examine me a bit, he told me he just wanted to be sure that, however this happened, it didn't cause me harm, but I think he just wanted to be sure I'm human," Cathy and Lil' Vincent giggled, Catherine turned around to playfully hush them, and turned back to Vincent. "He took a blood sample, and came back with some...interesting news."
"What?" Vincent asked anxiously, nearly rising from the ground in anticipation and worry, at times like this he was usually pacing. He fought the urge to do that now.
Catherine placed a palm on his downy cheek. "Vincent, we're going to have a baby."
For several, very long minutes, Vincent didn't speak, he simply sat there, frozen. Lil' Vincent and Cathy got up and came around to crouch down in front of them, to be able to watch better.
"Vincent?" Catherine said nervously.
"A baby?" Vincent whispered. "You and I are going to be...parents?"
Catherine nodded and tried to smile, but her expression was pained and tears threatened to spill. "I know we didn't plan this...but..."
"Are you...happy...about it?" Vincent asked, his voice still low and raspy.
Catherine nodded. She didn't trust herself to speak anymore, he was crushing her.
"Aren't you?" Lil' Vincent asked. "I am, and so is Catherine, you should have seen the way she jumped all around when Peter told her!"
Vincent looked at the two children crouched in front of him, both eyeing him with concern. He worried about many things when it came to the subject of children; uppermost, he worried that the child would look like him. Vincent's eyes traveled to his younger self. What did he see? Was what he saw ugly? No, not ugly at all, in fact, if Vincent could say so himself, the child was beautiful. Would having a child like this boy be so bad? Vincent then looked at little Cathy, the girl who had so easily stolen his heart, and wrapped him so tightly around that little finger. He imagined perhaps having a daughter, even if she looked like him, she would have part of Catherine in her too, and would maybe be like her. He realized then, how much he truly wanted a child, how much more since he met Cathy, and suddenly, the chamber wasn't big enough to contain his joy.
Vincent looked at Catherine with the biggest, goofiest smile she had ever seen, and with a whoop of excitement, he jumped to his feet, pulling her with him. Catherine was too surprised at first to react, but as Vincent wrapped her in his arms, laughing loudly, and lifted her off her feet, spinning her all around, she gave in to a fit of laughter and pure, unadulterated joy.
Lil' Vincent and Cathy cheered and jumped up and down, hugging one another, then broke out into fits of giggles as Vincent captured Catherine's mouth in a passionate kiss.
"Oh, Catherine, I am so happy!" Vincent said.
"I was worried for a second!" Catherine said, eyes still moist with tears, but now they were tears of joy.
"I'm sorry," Vincent said. "I was just so surprised, but I can't believe it! We're going to have a child! This is wonderful!"
"I can't agree more!" Catherine said.
The children were still jumping and squealing, and Catherine and Vincent had to stop them when they heard the music above their heads stop, and people begin to leave.
Lil' Vincent wrapped his arms around Catherine's waist, and she broke from Vincent to wrap her arms around him, hugging tightly and leaning her head on top of his. Vincent hoisted Cathy, who was still unable to cease giggling, up into his arms and planted a kiss in her hair, which she turned to return to his cheek.
"We should go," Vincent said.
"Yeah, I don't want my daddy to worry anymore," Cathy said. "And I miss him, too."
As they turned to leave, Lil' Vincent caught sight of something small and shiny in the corner. "Hey, what's that?" he asked, releasing Catherine's hand and running to pick up the object.
"Let me see!" Cathy exclaimed, wiggling to make Vincent put her down. She darted over to Lil' Vincent. "Wow, what is it? Is it a camera?"
"Probably someone dropped it down here," Vincent said. "I hope they haven't lost any important pictures, perhaps we should have someone turn it in to a lost and found."
"Wait a second," Catherine said, taking the small, silver camera and turning it around in her hands. "This looks like my camera!"
"Yours?" Vincent asked. "How can you be sure?"
Catherine looked up at him, face full of confusion. "Vincent, they didn't make cameras like this in 1967!"
Vincent raised an eyebrow. "But how..."
"Take a picture!" Cathy squealed, throwing an arm around Lil' Vincent. "Take one of us!" Lil' Vincent looked at her uncertainly, but followed her example and wrapped an arm around her shoulder as well.
Catherine shrugged and aimed the camera. Vincent put and hand on it. "Catherine, you can't..."
"Come on, Vincent," Catherine said, shaking off his hand. "One picture won't hurt, I learned how to develop film in collage, I could always buy the stuff and do it myself, no one will ever see it!"
"Very well," Vincent said, removing his hand.
Catherine smiled. "You really are going to be an indulgent father, aren't you?"
Vincent smiled back. "Yes, but don't worry, I will still always indulge you too!"
"We're waiting!" Cathy exclaimed impatiently. "Smile Vincent!"
When big Vincent grinned wide and goofy at them, both kids broke out into an uproar, Lil' Vincent nearly tipping over, pulling Cathy with him, as their arms were still looped around each other's shoulders.
Catherine raised the camera to her face. "Say Cheese!"
The dark room was suddenly bathed in blinding white light, as the echoes of "Cheese!" bounced off the walls.
Catherine bolted upright in bed. She looked around her, that old mixture of confusion and fear kicking in again. She looked to her side to see Vincent sitting beside her, looking just as baffled as she felt. They both looked around the chamber, it was their chamber! Catherine noted the clothes tossed carelessly on the floor from the night before, she checked what she was wearing; Vincent's shirt, what she remembered putting on.
"Vincent?" Catherine turned to him uncertainly.
Vincent looked at her with the same uncertainty, he felt through the bond her confusion, and her dismay. "I...did you?"
Catherine nodded. "So we both..."
Vincent nodded too. "Yes, I suppose so."
Catherine looked around the chamber again, as if needed to make sure she saw what she saw. "So, it was all just a dream?"
"A dream we both had," Vincent said dazedly.
"Even still," Catherine said, eyes filling with tears. "It was just a dream."
"But it was a remarkable dream!" Vincent declared. "One we shared! That's amazing! Why are you crying?"
"Because it wasn't real!" Catherine sobbed.
"Perhaps in a way it was," Vincent said, wrapping his arm around her and pulling her to him. "For us, anyway. It sure seemed real. Darling, we had to wake up eventually!"
"I know," Catherine said, her voice slightly muffled in his chest. "But...but we never even got to say goodbye to..." Even though she knew now it was never real, she couldn't stop herself from imagining herself suddenly gone, and never telling Lil' Vincent goodbye, after the heartbreaking conversation they had about missing one another. How could none of that been real?
"Oh," Vincent said, feeling now his own sadness. He already missed little Cathy, badly.
"And what about..." Catherine placed a hand on her stomach, and looked up at Vincent pleadingly.
"I don't know," Vincent said. "But even if not now, Catherine, soon! I want to have a baby now, I'm not afraid anymore!"
Catherine smiled sadly and nodded, then gasped suddenly.
"What? What is it? What's wrong?" Vincent asked.
"I remember!" Catherine exclaimed, her eyes lighting up in a certain way he had never noticed before, but now he did, he saw that little girl in them.
"Running away!" Catherine squealed. "Before, I swear Vincent, I had never run away, but now it's like...I don't know, it's like I've remembered something I forgot, but now I can remember it all so vividly! I ran away because I couldn't take all the sadness anymore, I hopped on a bus, I meant to go to Connecticut, where my Grandma lived, but I had never ridden a bus before, and didn't understand the bus schedule, I got off in Brooklyn."
"That's where I found her!" Vincent gasped. "What happened?"
Catherine smiled. "I called my Daddy and he came and got me, I never left the bus station."
"Oh," Vincent said.
"But it happened!" Catherine said, trying to cheer him up. "It wasn't real before, but now it is! Vincent, maybe that means..."
She didn't have to say it. "When can you know?" he asked anxiously.
"As soon as I go to Peter's office!" she exclaimed, jumping out of bed.
"Hurry!" he yelled, laughing as she fumbled around to get dressed.
Vincent sat in Father's study, playing a game of chess. He couldn't bring himself to tell Father about the dream, it was just too unbelievable, although he decided he must tell him, someday.
Father had noticed his son's restlessness. "Vincent, is everything okay?"
"Fine," came the quick reply.
"Fine?" Father asked. "Look at you, you can barely sit still, and you've hardly said a word all day. Where is Catherine? I thought today was her day off."
"She went to see Peter," Vincent said, never taking his eyes off the chessboard.
"Peter? Why? Is everything okay?"
"Fine!" Vincent said, with a bit of a growl. He could feel Catherine returning, and he knew she had gotten news, but had promptly shut down on the bond, so he was indeed, restless.
Just then, Catherine turned the corner into Father's study and walked down the steps. Vincent stood up fast, knocking the chair over in the process. He couldn't make himself ask the question he was burning to ask, too afraid of the answer. Catherine's expression was calm, neutral, not a hint of emotion, and the bond was giving him nothing. His heart sank. "Well?" he asked, barely able to croak the word.
As the brightest smile he had ever seen lit up Catherine's face, the bond flew open and Vincent was nearly knocked over by the rush of love and joy.
"Yes!" Vincent shouted to the top of his lungs, making Father jump out of his seat. Vincent flew over to Catherine and was met halfway. He picked her up and swung her around, then roared happily.
Catherine laughed as the tears she'd been choking back, along with her emotions, since Peter had given her the good news, fell unheeded down her cheeks. "Deja Vu!" she giggled, as Vincent continued to spin.
"You want Deja Vu?" Vincent asked playfully, and leaned in to kiss Catherine with all the love and passion he felt for her.
"Would someone care to tell me what on earth is going on?" Father asked, standing beside the table with one hand braced on his hip.
Vincent and Catherine looked at Father as if until then, they hadn't known he was there. Vincent, smile permanently glued to his face and eyes, turned toward Father and wrapped his arm snuggly around his beloved wife. "Father," he said, glanced at Catherine, then back again. "Catherine and I are going to have a baby!"
Father gasped. "A baby! Catherine are you sure?"
"Peter ran the test today," Catherine said and looked adoringly into her husband’s eyes. "But I already knew for sure."
"This is spectacular!" Father yelled. "Wonderful! I'm going to be a grandfather!"
Vincent and Catherine rushed to him and allowed themselves to each be wrapped up in a bearhug.
Father kissed his daughter-in-law's cheek. "What news! We must announce it to the community tonight at dinner!"
Vincent chuckled. "We will, but somehow I don't think it will come as much of a surprise."
At Catherine and Father's puzzled expressions, Vincent pointed upward, indicating the pipes. All three listened to them clang and clack, louder and faster than usual, someone apparently heard the not-so-quiet conversation:
Are you sure?
Who said Catherine and Vincent are having a baby?
Yes I'm sure!
Mouse told me!
Are you sure you can trust Mouse?
Jamie heard it too!
What is going on? What about a baby?
As they continued to listen to circling conversations over the pipes about what seemed to be the news of the year, Catherine and Vincent looked into each other's eyes, lost in their love. They anticipated relieving their friends and family of the rumor at dinner, but for now allowed them to gossip, and anticipated many, many more things to come.
"Vincent? Sweetheart, are you in here?" Catherine called, twisting around the corner into their chamber.
"I’m here," Vincent said, sitting at the table, a book opened in front of him. "Hello, darling, I missed you today. How was work?"
"Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork," Catherine groaned. "I swear, I'm so bored sitting in that DA's office all day, I might just have to go back to investigations!"
Vincent gave her a reproachful look. "I don't think so."
Catherine smiled and leaned over to kiss her husband. "I was kidding! Sheesh, you old grump! Where're the twins?"
Vincent chuckled and pulled Catherine into his lap. "Old grump, am I?" he buried his face in her hair and nipped at her ear, making her squirm and giggle. "Oh, they're around here someplace, those children are always on the move!"
"We're right here, Dad!" Jacob said, twisting into the chamber, much in the way his mother always did. He reached around his father to hug Catherine's shoulders. "Hi, Mom, how was your day?"
"Good," Catherine said, patting the side of her son's very unique face, almost a mirror of his father, except he shared her green eyes. "I thought you said we're here, where's that sister of yours?"
Right on cue, Caroline came barreling in, wincing at her father's glare, she knew better then to run through the tunnels. Although she and Jacob were twins, they looked nothing alike. While Jacob shared his father's features, Caroline was image of her mother, except with startling blue eyes and a halo of golden hair. "Hi Mommy!" she exclaimed, then took in the sight of her mother draped across her father's lap, and rolled her eyes. "Come on, get a room!"
"We're in one!" Catherine protested, getting up to hug her daughter. "And where did you hear that expression?"
Caroline grinned sheepishly. "I hear Jamie say it to you all the time!"
Catherine raised an eyebrow. "Humph, I've never heard her say it!"
"I have!" Jacob said.
"I think they're trying to tell us something," Vincent said, his eyes twinkling with humor.
Catherine put her hands on her hips. "If I can't cuddle with my husband in my own room then where?"
"Wherever we're not!" Caroline exclaimed with exasperation. Jacob laughed and nodded, always one to follow his sister's example.
Catherine made a defiant face and plopped back down to Vincent's lap.
"Give it up," Jacob told his sister. "They're never gonna stop bein' mushy!" Even though he always agreed with Caroline, Jacob really didn't mind too much seeing his parents show their affection for one another, they loved each other, and loved their children, and that's what mattered, and he knew for a fact that secretly, Caroline didn't really mind either.
"That's right," Vincent said.
Caroline rolled her eyes again, and tried not to smile. Her parents were so silly. "Mom, Dad, can Jacob and I go on the camping trip to the lower tunnels next weekend with Geoffrey, Samantha, Kipper, Jamie, Mouse and the rest? Please?"
"Now, Caroline," Vincent said, aware of the trip, and knew that it was only older kids going. "The children usually have to wait until they are thirteen to go."
"I know!" Caroline said, her voice lifting an octave. "But they said we could go, if you say we can!"
"Yeah, Dad," Jacob threw in. "They said we could! Ask them!"
"I believe you," Vincent said. "But that is a long journey, and I'm not sure if either of you are quite ready."
"Lena is letting Cathy go!" Caroline protested, trying very hard not to whine, she knew that would get her nowhere.
"Cathy is thirteen," Vincent pointed out.
"Please Dad?" Jacob asked.
"Please Daddy, please?" Caroline begged. "Please, please, please, please, pleeeease?"
Vincent struggled to keep his composure. He was quite powerless against Caroline's certain breed of begging. He looked at Catherine, silently pleading with her with his eyes. "What do you think, Catherine?"
Catherine smiled knowingly at him. "Well, they're only a couple of years behind, if you say it's okay, then it's all right with me."
The twins stared imploringly at their father. Vincent smiled slowly. "Very well, you may go."
Jacob cheered, and Caroline squealed, both jumping up and down, thanking them repeatedly.
"Thanks Dad, thanks Mom!" Jacob exclaimed, eyes dancing. "Come on, Care, let's go tell Mouse!"
"Coming!" Caroline called to her brother's retreating back. She turned back to her parents, and swung her legs up to Vincent, sitting on the knee not occupied by her mother. "Thank you!" she said, reaching over to hug Catherine. She turned to Vincent and threw her arms around him, kissing his cheek. "Thank you, Daddy," she said sweetly.
"You're welcome, Care-Bear," Vincent said.
Caroline hopped off of Vincent's lap and scurried out the door, careful not to run, and called over her shoulders. "I love you!"
Catherine and Vincent chuckled to each other. "Those kids," Vincent said, shaking his head.
"Who do they remind you of, hm?" Catherine asked with a grin. "Speaking of reminding, our helper up at the photoshop developed our pictures!"
"Oh, let me see," Vincent said, taking the stack handed to him. Multiple pictures of his remarkable, beautiful children smiled up at him, along with several of Catherine, and even one or two of him, after much convincing by his family, and a mother and daughter duet of a certain string of "please".
"These are lovely," Vincent said, stopping at one. It was a photograph of the four of them, Jacob in front of Catherine, her arms around his shoulders, and Caroline in Vincent's arms, long legs dangling down. All four smiled brightly.
"Isn't that one beautiful?" Catherine said, looking over his shoulder, she placed their photo album of the children on the table. "I thought that one should go in the book!"
"I agree," Vincent said, taking the picture and turned the pages of the album to an empty page. When he stopped, the page to the right was empty, but the page to the left held a single picture. "Catherine?" he asked. "I don't remember this picture of the twins, did you put it here?"
Catherine came back and looked over his shoulder again. She looked down at the photograph of Jacob and Caroline, standing side-by-side, arms around each other, grinning wide. But wait, there was something different about it. Catherine gasped. "Vincent," she said quietly, uncertainly. "Look at that picture, do you notice anything wrong?"
Vincent examined the picture carefully, he was about to turn and say no, but something stilled him. "Their eyes...they're the wrong colors," he said, almost in a whisper.
"Vincent, that's not Caroline and Jacob!" Catherine said, voice full of awe.
"Then who..." Vincent froze and looked into his wife's eyes. A memory flashed before both their minds, a memory as if from a dream, the dark chamber, a flash of brilliant white light, and the echoes of children's voices, no, their voices, yelling, "cheese!"
"It's us," Catherine whispered.
"But how?" Vincent said. "It can't be!"
Catherine reached out and traced the outline of the photo. "Do you remember me taking this? It's strange, because all I remember is..."
"Smiling for the picture," Vincent finished.
Catherine didn't respond, but helped Vincent place the photo of their family next the other one. Together they looked from one picture to the other, savoring the memory, the strange, fleeting memory of knowing, so young, who they wanted to love for the rest of their lives, as some unknown people snapped a photograph.