THE PATH THAT LEADETH ON

Southofoz

This is an SND rated PG, inspired by Remember Love and The Rest is Silence this story takes place instead of TLBL. The Poem ‘The Path That Leadeth On’ by Helena Petrova Blavatski and the lyrics to ‘If’ by David Gates and were preformed originally by Bread in 1971 no copyright infringement intended.

There are many paths we take each day many decisions that may change our lives. ‘Forks in the road’ as-it-were and when we take one, the question arises ‘what if we had taken the other path?’ Sometimes the outcome is clear but then others are not so clear. For Vincent and Catherine I ask the question "What if?"

What if Vincent had not found Catherine that night – what would her life have been three years later? He would not have been there to help cope her after the attack, nor would she be changed by his love, or he by hers. In Remember Love the ‘Image of Catherine within Vincent’ had told him "Nothing is ever lost we are all on the same journey. We create that journey for each other." So with that in mind and with the idea that all paths lead on to the same destination – was their love, even on another path meant to be?

 

Part One

"And when my love for life is running dry
You come and pour yourself on me,"

*****

Violent emotion drove him – primal and mindless. His eyes saw threats in every shadowed corner. His ears heard only his own anguished cries and angry roars, echoing off the rock walls. He was alone, totally alone; his only security the cold rock wall at his back. The fear of his unknown surroundings tore at him, as his claws tore at the constricting clothes covering his body, tearing at his own flesh. He was trapped in the darkness. All awareness of who he was, was gone, leaving him with no knowledge of how he had come there, nor did he know how to escape. He roared in frustration at the dark …

Suddenly he became aware of someone approaching and a scent assailed his nostrils; his senses perceived it as female and vaguely familiar, a potential mate? Yet familiar or not, potential mate or not, his rage overcame his need for copulation. She was unwanted here, an intruder. How dare she come near! This was HIS domain.

He charged, a murderous roar tearing at his throat. One thought on his mind. KILL!

"Vincent!"

He paused, claws raised. Something within him was fighting its way to the surface.

"Vincent!!!" the cry came again.

Vincent heard the scream and blinked, looking down at the pale, beautiful face turned up toward him – it was the face of the woman he loved more than life.

Catherine?

Suddenly he was assailed with the sudden horrifying realization of what he was about to do. Like waking from a nightmare – with the shock of ice water thrown in his face – Vincent’s last thought before he collapsed was "I must protect Catherine!"

"No! No! Not without me!" A desperate cry, echoed from far away.

Catherine!

He was himself again, but something was different – very different. He heard Catherine’s anguished cries, commanding him to come back to her, but he couldn’t obey, nor did he want to. Knowing him had only caused Catherine pain and the shame that he had almost killed her caused him to retreat further.

He was tired, so very tired, but he knew he must do one last thing before he left her forever. With determination and Catherine’s welfare his only concern he disconnected the bond they shared, as he had tried to do when Catherine had wanted ‘A happy life’.

"Nooooo!" he heard Catherine scream, as he felt something break deep within him and he felt her lips pressed to his. He responded in a parting embrace in a wholly instinctual and reflexive action. His head swam and feelings and sensations flooded throughout his body as Catherine tried desperately to reach him. But in the end he had made up his mind. Knowing him had only ever caused Catherine pain. He was concerned that this last episode of losing himself might only be the beginning, it was better to set her free now. He bid her a silent farewell and ignored her heart wrenching sobs. At last he ceased his long struggle with life and fell into the waiting dark …

 

*****

He drifted … drifted …

He felt as though he was dreaming. There was no time, no feeling and no light – but there was peace…

He heard a voice – Catherine’s voice, strangely deep and resonant and emotionless, echoing around him, but he knew it wasn’t Catherine. "You gave up your own life to save her." Slowly a shimmering being of light materialized before his eyes, pushing back the darkness. He knew who she was, the image of Catherine within him.

"Catherine is gone … I can no longer feel her within me. Yet you are here?"

"I am an echo of what once was."

 

"Why are you here?"

"To do your bidding,"

"Then let me rest." Vincent pleaded; he wanted only peace. He had given up everything he held dear all he wanted was to bathe in this peace.

"Do you wish to know nothing of those you left behind?"

Unable to fathom the cryptic meaning of her words, Vincent asked what was foremost on his mind. "Catherine, she is well?"

"She has what you always wished for her.

Anxious to be assured, he demanded. "Show me! I must see. Please?"

"I cannot do it alone."

"Then tell me what I must do?"

"Think of her."

"Always…"Vincent murmured as he closed his eyes. He let his mind search for that spark of Catherine that was once within him. The darkness dissolved and he stood in daylight on a beach, but he could not feel the heat of the sun, or the breeze from the sea. But there before him was Catherine and a man Vincent couldn’t recognize. He was tall and had dark hair but Vincent had seen so few of Catherine’s acquaintances, Elliot Burch, Joe Maxwell, and this man could have been either of them, or perhaps even someone she had met later. He watched as they enjoyed a swim, and with them were two children, a boy of eight or nine, with golden hair and a girl with dark hair and perhaps four years of age. They were all happily laughing and splashing in the sea.

"I don’t understand is this real or a dream? How long has it been?"

"For you, time has ceased, but for those you love it has been ten years."

"But what of my world … Father?" Fear struck him like a knife; he hadn’t considered the repercussions of his death on others. His only thought at the time was for Catherine.

"She made sure they were kept safe," the emotionless voice asserted

Vincent understood finally but was concerned. "She cannot see me?"

"No. You are no longer of this world. You are a shadow – an illusion, glimpsed from afar, or from the corner of the eye."

As he watched the woman he would always love, frolicking with her family, the sun began to set and Catherine picked up the little girl. The man put his arm around Catherine and kissed her cheek, she smiled up at him. The little girl was transferred to the man’s arms and the older boy ran on ahead, toward a mansion higher up on the sand.

"A Happy Life," Vincent whispered,

"Your sacrifice was a worthy one. She is happy, but she will always mourn your loss," the resonant voice echoed beside him

"She is happy," he murmured, his own heart aching, but full of joy for Catherine’s happiness.

Half way up the hill Catherine stopped, and turned back, and her eyes searched the beach where Vincent stood, as though she could see him – or sense him. Her smile faded, and a shadow passed across her face.

"She grieved your loss greatly. But you gave her life and your death protected her from a greater danger."

"I don’t understand."

"She would have been lost to you, had you lived. No matter how much you would have wished it otherwise."

"Then I am content. She deserved so much more than I could ever give her. To know that she was saved and happy is all I need, to give me peace" he affirmed.

Vincent turned back to Catherine and she was still looking in his direction. Suddenly the boy came running from behind and took her hand, pulling her with him. Catherine bent and kissed him on the top of his golden head, and then with an arm over his shoulder they walked toward the house.

Vincent stood watching Catherine walk away as his companion said, "There is more you must see …" And she lifted her arm and everything around them went dark.

Slowly the muted light or candles and torches appeared. Vincent began to recognize the room, the books and the spiral staircase. "Father’s study," he murmured.

As the vision before him cleared, he saw someone seated in Father’s favorite chair, but it wasn’t Father. It was a woman, an old woman. Her silver head bowed as she softly read to a little girl who was sitting on her lap.

Another child, of about six years, came running into the room. "Grandma they’re here, they’re here! From the far tunnels, they came …" the boy declared excitedly.

The woman looked up and smiled," Thank you Joseph," she said softly in a well remembered voice and Vincent’s heart constricted painfully.

Her face was changed little by age, and her silver hair brought out the beauty of her green eyes which had never lost their glow. "Catherine," he breathed. "How can this be? She lived Above, with her family …" Vincent asked, confused.

"Her heart has always been in this world with those she loves," the white spirit answered.

As he watched a young couple came into the chamber, the young woman was carrying a blanket wrapped bundle in her arms. She resembled Catherine greatly. Behind them came other children and young adults. The little girl climbed down from Catherine’s lap and the young woman handed Catherine the baby.

"Here he is, Grandmamma." the young woman said.

Catherine took the warmly wrapped infant, lovingly into her arms, and cradled him close. Placing a gentle finger into the blanket, to touch the tiny cheek, she smiled with tears forming in her eyes, and when she spoke. it was with a catch in her voice. "Hello, Vincent. Oh, you are as beautiful as your grandfather."

Suddenly becoming aware of the significance of her words, Vincent made his way to stand behind Catherine and look over her shoulder, at this newborn. He gasped when he saw the child’s face. It was the mirror image of his own in every detail but an infant’s face. He was beyond words. He turned a questioning gaze upon his guide. "How is this possible?"

The white Lady smiled tolerantly. "The boy you saw was your son."

"My – son!" Vincent was unable to believe that this could be real; it must be some delusional dream after all.

"Yes, it was he who helped give her the will to go on without you."

"My son, I don’t understand," Vincent was overwhelmed.

"On this path you will live in your children and grandchildren, who are no different from those around them. With this child you will never to be forgotten."

Vincent looked back at the scene of Catherine holding her grandchild, his grandchild, surrounded by her family and he was content. "Truly A Happy Life’" and his heart was so full. Catherine was in the midst of her children and grandchildren and she was happy. He could ask for nothing more.

The light of the room began to fade and reluctantly he turned his back on it and followed the glowing white apparition. The love of his life was left behind him, but his heart was full of joy.

When they were again in darkness she stopped and faced him all around was blackness, she the only light. "And for yourself, do you ask nothing?" his guide asked.

"What else could I want? What you have shown me are all my dreams come true."

"You do not wish anything for yourself?" she asked

"No. I am content. Let me rest."

"If there were another path, where the one you loved is still in pain, what then? Would you wish to take your rest then or lead her from the dark?" the ghostly apparition declared.

"Another path, where Catherine is in pain?"

"Yes."

Vincent remembered the ‘dream’ he had had the first time he had met this spirit. The world where he had died as a child and everything was so terribly changed.

"But that was a dream." he declared

"Was it?" The resonant voice asked, causing Vincent to doubt so many things he had thought were true.

"I don’t understand."

"Would you wish to ease the pain of the tortured soul you saw then?"

Vincent didn’t need to think. "I would do anything … and everything I could, to bring Catherine peace."

The darkness suddenly faded and he stood on Catherine’s balcony, just as he had in the ‘dream’ looking through the doors into Catherine’s apartment. It was night and there was a small candle burning on the bedside table. In the bed, Catherine tossed and turned, tortured by dreams and he could feel her terror.

A white draped arm lifted toward the tortured young woman. "In this path she was found by others."

"If she was found, why is she in such pain?" he asked aching to comfort her.

"You were not there to give her peace – to comfort her – to give her strength – to give her hope."

"Please, how can I help her?" the need to go to Catherine was almost uncontrollable.

"She does not know you. She never knew you," came an echo from the long ago dream.

Catherine cried out in her sleep, and Vincent felt her fear as if it were his own. "I can feel what she is feeling! " He gasped, as echoes of terror lanced through him, and he wanted to rush to her, to comfort her, but he could not move.

"Let me go to her, please?" he pleaded

"You choose this path then, or do you take your rest now and go to the end of life’s journey. There is no other path where you did not die as a child. Here the memories from that other life will fade."

"I will never forget Catherine."

"You will forget. She will be as a dream. The mind cannot bear the burden of two lives."

"I will never forget Catherine" he repeated quietly to himself. To the spirit he said. "I will do anything to ease Catherine’s pain, let me try…please."

"Come then…"

The path that leadeth on is lighted by one fire:

The light of daring, burning in the heart.

The more one dares the more he shall obtain.

Helena Petrova Blavatsky

 

Part Two

 

Cathy woke with a start and sat up, her heart pounding. The nightmare had returned – the men throwing her into the van – and she relived that terrible night all over again. It had happened exactly two years ago to the day. She knew that date very well April 12th Tom’s dinner for the Architects, the argument and then leaving alone to catch a cab. Waking up in the hospital, with her eyes covered and hearing her father’s gentle caring voice from beside her, he sounded so tired, frightened and so very worried. Then the surgeries began. Tom came to see her between the first and second surgeries; his face was filled with pity and distaste. She knew it was because she was no longer a trophy to take to parties or show off to his friends, and it hurt more than the knife as it cut into her flesh. How could she ever feel safe again? When would she ever be free of fear?

Cathy had lost everything since then. Tom, her father, and after her father’s death the law firm had tired of her ineptitude and bought her father’s share, and now she had nothing, only money, and that brought little comfort. Now she had no job and no life and no family. She felt completely alone, and for most of the time since that terrible night, she had withdrawn from the world, a world that represented only pain and loss. She had thought of ending it all many times, and if it hadn’t been for Jenny and Nancy who had stayed faithful and in constant touch, she would have. Even Steven Bass had tried to help, but when he saw what a mess she was in, he gave up any thought of rekindling their relationship. Now she lived from day to day secluded in her apartment, going out only rarely, and always in a constant state of fear…

*****

Vincent opened his eyes. He was in his chamber, the comforting sound of the pipes and the distant rattle of a train; were a balm to his soul. His mind felt sluggish and he couldn’t remember how he came there, but visions of a beautiful smiling face of a woman, with deep green eyes, sparkling with love and laughter, floated just out of reach. He knew her, he loved her.

"Catherine …" he heard his own voice and it sounded weak and hoarse. His throat felt raw, as though from overuse.

A hand came to his forehead and he turned to see the person sitting beside him.

"Father, I had a dream."

"Oh Vincent, we’ve been so worried." Father murmured tiredly, strain etched on his pale face.

"Father, what happened?"

"You’ve been very ill Vincent. We almost lost you."

"I have no memory of it."

"Don’t worry, Vincent, rest. You’ve been through a terrible ordeal. We’ll talk later when you’re stronger. In time you will remember everything," Father smoothed Vincent’s brow as he spoke, and he drifted back to sleep.

When he awoke again, his mind was clearer and awash with memories of his life with Catherine.

"Father, Where is Catherine?"

"Catherine, Vincent who is Catherine?"

Suddenly Vincent’s mind heaved like a ship on a wind tossed sea. Catherine where was Catherine? He remembered finding her in the Park and the time she had spent Below, two years of great pain, mixed with a greater joy. He remembered that he had loved her from the moment he saw her, but for Catherine it had taken a little longer for her to realize her growing love for him as they lived through frightening and wonderful times. Then his terrible decline, and his own death and Catherine’s ‘Happy Life’ – his son and grandson – finally the white spirit’s words concerning another path. A path where Catherine had not been found by him. It was almost too much to believe…

"Father, what happened to me?" he asked.

Father looked away, his face a mask of sorrow and regret. "You were in a terrifying state. Such agony and rage, I don’t think I’ve ever been more afraid in my life – for you – for all of us."

"Because of what I might do …" Vincent replied without remorse, he remembered his feelings of rage and confusion and his need to get out of the tunnels to go to Catherine. But what had happened here without her? "Was it because of what I did to Paracelsus?" He asked gently, knowing it would be a very sore point for Father.

Father’s face darkened, his jaw clenched. "What John tried to do to you was monstrous. To use his drugs to try and stop you, only made you worse…"

"Tell me."

Father then told Vincent a completely different series of events than he remembered. When his drug producing operation was finally discovered by the tunnel folk, Vincent had gone to stop him and had been drugged. But unlike before when Catherine had brought him back from that terrible place, Vincent had killed Paracelsus under the influence of the drug. This had sent Vincent into a mental and physical decline, and without Catherine to cling to, he had almost been lost.

Vincent was no longer affected by the uncertainties he had felt in that other realm, nor was he sorry for what he had done to an evil manipulative man. He felt completely in control now and at peace. More than he had ever been in his life. He closed his eyes and slept again.

When he awoke, Father was still sitting beside his bed, reading.

"Father?" When he looked up, Vincent continued, "You are always by my side when I awake from an illness. Do you ever sleep at such times?"

Father’s weary face lit with a gentle smile, "Rarely." then he lifted a cup to Vincent’s lips, "Here drink this. You need fluids." Vincent drank and laid back feeling very tired.

He heard the words of the White Spirit, concerning the different paths, and he finally accepted that it had not all been a dream, but what in this ‘Path’ was different?

His mind wandered to all the incidences where Catherine had been instrumental in saving either him or Father, and even their world. He needed to know what had happened here without her help.

He remembered one particular incident in which Catherine had been invaluable, and he asked. "Father, would answer some questions for me?"

"Of course Vincent, what do you want to know?"

"I have a memory of being in a cave-in, in the Maze,"

Father shook his head. "There was a cave-in in the Maze some time ago, but no one was caught in it. It’s now unreachable."

"There were two children, Eric and Ellie. Eric fell and we went in to help him. The walls collapsed and we were trapped."

"There are no children here with those names Vincent, and no one was in the Maze when it collapsed. It must have been a dream."

"Yes, it must have," Vincent remembered sweet Ellie had died during the epidemic. Perhaps her life might have been spared too, but what of Dimitri?

"Father did I bring a young man from Russia here last year? I found him at the docks. He was ill."

Father’s expression became sorrowful. "Yes, Dimitri, poor boy he brought an epidemic with him, but Peter was able to bring enough medical supplies to help us, but sadly Dimitri died."

"And those in the tunnels?"

"They all recovered. Dimitri was our only fatality," Father said sadly.

"So Ellie is still alive out there somewhere," Vincent murmured to himself.

 

Father I remember a time when you went Above, and I couldn’t find you, what happened to you then?"

Father’s face fell and his jaw clenched. "I would rather not talk about it."

"Please Father," Vincent was concerned and put a hand over his father’s, but the fact that he was here Below told Vincent that even without Catherine something must have occurred to return Father safely.

"I was accused of the murder of a man I knew when I lived Above. Alan Taft, a lawyer."

"What happened?" Vincent encouraged gently, squeezing his father’s hand.

"I spent six months in prison …" Father stated coldly, his expression grim.

Vincent was shocked and saddened. "Father, no! What happened? How did you come to be released? "

Father brightened a little. "Devin, Devin saved me. He returned and was working for the District Attorney’s Office. When he came down here to see us, you were beside yourself with worry, but you knew I was still alive and told him that I was missing. He found me, and found evidence to prove me innocent and arranged for my release. It was too late however to say goodbye to Margaret." Father was obviously still heartbroken.

Vincent remembered that it had been Catherine who had found Father, before he went to prison and had reunited him with Margaret before her death. How different life had been without Catherine.

"Sleep Vincent, you are still very weak."

He slept again, his dreams filled with visions of Catherine – alone, troubled and in pain.

"The mind cannot hold the memories of two lives – you will forget in time." Vincent heard the words echo in his mind and he vowed he would never forget Catherine…

*****

He read again the words written in his own hand but words he did not remember putting there …

All that is written in these pages must not be forgotten. Study every detail memorize them. The time is coming near I must be there in time to save her – Catherine…

It had been almost a month since his illness and for days now he had been feeling a strange pull Above. He understood now these strange impulses and emotions that were not his own and what it all meant, even if he did not comprehend every detail this journal had revealed a great deal to him. Now that he was whole again he could not wait. He intended to go there tonight, even if Father tried to stop him.

Father came into his chamber. "Ah Vincent, you’re feeling better I see."

Closing the book Vincent said "Yes, Father."

"Mary asked if you might like some tea? "

"No, thank you."

Father sat beside him, and placed a hand over Vincent’s, which rested protectively on the journal. "You seem very preoccupied these days, what troubles you?"

"My memory is not whole yet Father and it concerns me,"

"Of course, it will take some time for you to regain your strength and with it your memories. Don’t worry, Vincent."

Vincent was concerned more about what he had read in his journal. It confused him, but he knew that what was written there was something he couldn’t ignore. He could feel the truth of it deep within his heart, like a nagging ache. Someone needed him and her name was Catherine. He rose and picked up his cloak and began to throw it over his shoulders.

"What do you think you’re doing?" Father demanded.

"Going Above,"

"You are not strong enough!"

"Father please, my life must begin again." And he left the chamber, one thought foremost in his mind – Catherine …

*****

Cathy heard something and she was wide awake. It was a scraping on the balcony. What should she do? No one would listen to her anymore, not her neighbors and not even the police. She had received two strange phone calls a few nights ago as she sat on her balcony reading. The first from Jenny, concerned and asking if she was okay and that she had had a strange dream. Cathy had assured her she was fine and a few seconds after she had hung up, there was another call from a stranger saying, "Cathy, I can see you …" His voice terrified her. The sound of it, the way he spoke, gave her chills. She had hung up the phone and pulled it out of the wall. Terrified she had closed her curtains and huddled on the couch weeping.

She looked into the darkness of her apartment now, and could see nothing but shadows. She leaned over to turn on the bedside lamp and suddenly she was grabbed from behind and dragged from the bed. A cloth covered her face, and the pungent odor of chloroform filled her mouth and nose. Her ears began to ring as she started to black out. Strange echoes filled her ears, the sounds of an almighty roar and glass shattering, a man’s scream, then silence.

Disconnected and completely unable to fight, Cathy was unable to move when she felt herself being lifted and laid gently on her bed. A cold compress was placed on her forehead and a voice, gentle beyond description saying. "You’re safe now."

Cathy drifted in and out of consciousness, and times slowed, until the drug wore off. When she came back to the present, she sensed someone in the room and sat up, fear lancing through her.

"Please don’t hurt me!" she gasped, and backed up against the wall, her entire being filled with fear.

"Don’t be afraid. Please don’t be afraid. No one will hurt you," the same deep voice murmured from darkness.

Trembling and finding it hard to breathe, Cathy demanded. "Who are you, what do you want?"

"My name is Vincent," he whispered gently. "I want nothing, please don’t be afraid."

"What are you doing here?" she asked, fear still strong within her, but hope beginning to surface.

Vincent didn’t answer her question, "The man is no longer a threat. The police will be here soon. But I must go…"

Now his leaving scared her more, "No, please, don’t go. You saved me. Stay. Tell the police what happened. They will believe you." She hadn’t begun to wonder how he had saved her, or where he had come from. All she knew was that for now this voice represented safety, and she needed to feel safe at least for a little while.

"I’m sorry, that is impossible. I must go." His was voice filled with true regret, "But I will see you again. I promise you." And she saw a shadowed figure exit through her shattered balcony doors.

When her head cleared, Cathy turned her bedside lamp on and saw the dead man on her living room floor. She slowly got out of bed and when she stood over him, she saw no blood. She knew enough to realize that his neck was broken. A sudden knock on her door startled her.

"Miss Chandler, it’s the police, are you all right?" A man’s voice called from the other side of the door. When she opened it, there were two uniformed men standing on her doorstep. "We had an anonymous call about a prowler, and your neighbors reported strange noises coming from your apartment," one of the Police Officers said.

Cathy stood back to let them in, revealing the body on the floor. "He attacked me and when I fought him, he fell against the coffee table." Cathy lied. She hardly believed her savior’s appearance in her apartment and for many reasons she didn’t want anyone to know the truth. The man was removed and she mentioned nothing about her strange visitor. She was asked to give a statement in the morning.

Cathy went back to sleep that night surprisingly quickly and for the first time in years she was able to sleep soundly.

*****

Vincent made his way Below. He was greatly relieved that he had been able to prevent Catherine from being kidnapped by this Watcher. He could feel her peace as she slept. It wasn’t complete and the fear hovered but he was encouraged. The nagging ache that he had been feeling within him was eased and at last he understood that he was truly connected to this sad young woman. He did not know how but he would do all in his power to lift that sadness.

He had been reading about her in his own journals, her strength, generosity and love. Who could not love her? But she was in terrible distress and he wanted desperately to help her – to reach her, but she didn’t know who he was or that he loved her.

He searched for a way to reach out to her without frightening her. Suddenly it came to him and he left her balcony with a plan forming in his mind and a new purpose and lightness in his heart. He must be careful not to frighten her, but all he could do was try. It would work, it must work, but first he must let Catherine know that someone was thinking of her. That she was not alone.

He went back to his chamber and began to write out a list of ways he could gently let her know he cared. In the following days and nights he went through each moment with a renewed purpose. His mind and heart becoming more attuned to Catherine’s emotions,

The next night he left a red rose on the iron table on her balcony, he waited out of sight, for her to come onto the balcony, hoping that as his journal had mentioned, her habit of watching the city at night had not changed. When she did come out his heart leapt with joy.

She looked out at the city for some moments her mood contemplative, and then her attention turned to the table and she found the rose. He held his breath –would she be frightened by the thought of a stranger coming onto her balcony?

At first he felt her surprise, but there was no fear as she went back into her apartment and closed the balcony doors.

Her heart was in turmoil and her life was in ruins and he would not let that continue. He had made mistakes in that other life and he was determined never to make the same mistakes again, where Catherine was concerned, and he would never give up on her.

He came back the next night and the night after that, leaving something for her on the iron table. Once she realized he meant her no harm perhaps she would allow him to help her gain her life back.

****

Vincent found where Noj lived and he watched the building for some time every night. It wasn’t difficult to identify Ellie he was struck by how beautiful she was. Her golden hair shone in the streetlamps, its waves falling about her lovely face. She would be almost Fifteen now according to his journal. One night he followed her to the back of a building and watched as she threw small stones at one of the second floor windows. After a few minutes the window opened and a figure climbed down the drainpipe. When his feet touched the ground he embraced Ellie. Eric, Vincent thought.

Keeping to the shadows Vincent made his way to where he could hear the children’s conversation.

"When Ellie?" Eric demanded. "I dunno how much longer I can stand it here."

"It won’t be much longer Eric. I promise we’ll be away from here, and someplace safe and free very soon."

"I hate it here Ellie and I miss you." The boy complained, looking up at his sister, his large spectacles shining in the street lamp.

"And I miss you to Eric, but I haven’t got enough money yet to get us out of the city."

"Is he still beating you? That looks like a new bruise on your face."

"I’m okay Eric. I can take whatever he dishes out. Knowing we’ll get away gives me the strength I need."

"And when will that be?" demanded the boy.

"Not long now, I promise."

Vincent could stand it no longer. "It can be tonight if you are not afraid." He said from his hiding place.

Shielding her brother and pushing him behind her, Ellie demanded. "Whose there?"

"My name is Vincent, I will not hurt you."

"What do you want?" Ellie asked anger more than fear upper most.

Coming out of the shadows, Vincent said. "I can take you to a place of safety, where no one will ever hurt you again."

"Oh yeah," Ellie said crossing her arms in front of her. "I’ve been told that before mister, and I don’t believe there is such a place, not in this city anyway."

"There is such a place, and you and Eric can come right away."

"Come on Ellie it can’t be worse than where we are now."

Ellie turned on her bother. "Getting killed by some creep is worse Eric!"

"If I show the place I speak of will you trust me then?" Vincent asked

"If I’m not back in my bed by the time Noj wakes up I’ll be worse off than anything you can do mister."

"It will not take long if you come now." Vincent said and without another word he turned down the nearest alley.

By the time he was at the manhole, both children were not far behind him. He lifted the cover and slipped into the hole, and down the metal ladder. He didn’t wait for them; he hurried down the tunnel listening to their surprised comments. When they reached the lighted tunnels, both children seemed less fearful yet they still clung to each other’s hands

Finally they entered Father’s chamber and he was sitting in his favorite chair, as ever reading a book. Father looked up with a smile, expecting to see only Vincent, but when he saw the two adolescents following Vincent, Father put down the book and demanded. "Vincent what is this? Who are these children?"

Vincent slipped his hood back and turned to the children. "Father this is Ellie and her brother Eric."

Both children stared at the room, Father and finally Vincent, who smiled.

With a sigh of resignation, Father said. "Welcome Ellie and Eric. Can you tell me anything about yourselves?"

"Yeah when you tell us about this place, I’d heard rumors but …" Ellie demanded.

"You didn’t believe them." Vincent replied

Both children shook their heads in wonder.

An hour later the Council was called and an hour after that Ellie and Eric were welcomed into the tunnel community.

******

Cathy was unable to sleep, she’d had that nightmare again, and finally giving up, and she got out of bed. Sleep was out of the question now. She went to the balcony doors, opening them and walked to the wall, staring out into the night, the city and then the stars. When she looked down, on the iron table was a small red book. She picked it up. It was a copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. For months now she had been finding such things.

She wasn’t frightened anymore; there was no threat in these little gifts. Even though she had been terrified that first night, the night he had saved her life proved that he meant her no harm. Now she looked forward to these small sweet offerings. There was something magical about this phantom visitor. She had tried to catch him a few times, when she had caught his shadow out of the corner of her eye, against the curtains of the newly repaired balcony doors, but he was too fast for her. She had even begun to look forward to his visits and his gifts. First the rose, then a book – Charles Dickens ‘Great Expectations’ and tonight these sonnets and on the flyleaf, in an elegant hand, was written the words.

‘Please don’t be afraid I mean you no harm.’

 

She slid the slim book out of its protective case and it opened at sonnet 29 where a dried rose lay. She looked down at the page and read the sonnet and in its words she began to discern an answer to her visitor’s strange behavior.

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate.

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possessed.

Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope.

With what I most enjoy contented least,

Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

(Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate,

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings.

But then I scorn to change my state with kings.

V

 

‘V’. He’d said his name was Vincent.

She held the book against her breast, and smiling went back inside. ‘V’

Vincent watched from his hidden vantage point as Catherine smiled. The first he had seen and he hoped that perhaps the time was soon approaching when she would be ready for the final and most important part of his plan.

Then on the night three years after she had been attacked Cathy found a soft red suede pouch on the table, when she tipped it up a necklace slipped into her open palm. It was a crystal, on a gold chain and it sparkled reflecting the light coming from her bedroom.

 

There was a sound to her right at the end of the terrace. She turned her head and saw something that could not be …

****

Tonight was, April 12th, the anniversary of the night that in the journal was when she had been brutally beaten and left in the park. For so long he had been planning for this moment. And there she was watching him. His heart thumped loudly in his chest. This moment was the linchpin on which his life was balanced. This moment could either begin a new life for them both or destroy Catherine. He had tried to let her know he was no threat. He had tried to gently portray his feelings for her, as those of kindness and care. not obsession.

He stayed, transfixed by her, even if she was about to scream, it would be worth the pain, just to look at her, to see her face. But she didn’t scream. She didn’t move. She stood watching him. He wanted to speak but did not know what to say, afraid that by speaking he would frighten her. She stood watching him, and no horror or fear came to her face, nor did he feel it in her heart.

"Vincent?" she asked softly.

"Yes." He said, expelling his held breath.

"Vincent…" she said again, looking down at the small unique crystal in her palm.

"I’m sorry. I … didn’t mean to frighten you."

"I’m not frightened…" she stopped, and then suddenly her expression turned to one of shocked amazement. "I’m not frightened!" she breathed, laying her hand over her heart as though a pain had suddenly passed, and she smiled.

Thrilled by her statement, Vincent smiled his goal had been achieved, she was no longer afraid "I must go." He said and began to retreat to the balcony wall.

"Don’t go, Please!" she pleaded, lifting the hand which held the crystal. They both noticed it at the same time, as it flared in the light coming from her apartment.

"This is beautiful." Catherine said. "Thank you."

Vincent’s gaze went from the crystal to the flagstones at her feet remembering. He had gone to the crystal cavern, and the same crystal was there, where the journal said it would be. He had taken it to Mouse who had wrapped wire around it. Mouse had asked if the cavern was neat but had not asked who the necklace was for. Vincent’s trips to Catherine were something he had kept to himself. He had been so deeply caught up in giving to her the peace that she so dearly needed that he had unknowingly found a new depth to his love for her. Catherine was wounded and isolated and because of this other aspects of her personality had come to the fore, Her ability to overcome so many losses was not surprising. But she had become more accepting of his differences and he was deeply touched by this. Reluctant to leave, yet he knew he should. Indecision warred within him.

"I must go," he repeated, not wanting to shatter this fragile acceptance with a prolonged stay.

"No!" and he felt a sudden blast of panic from the link he had found developing strongly with her, but was it the peace she craved or his company, at the moment though he didn’t really care.

"Please stay." She said more softly. "I … this is the first moment of peace I have had in years. I – I know it has something to do with you and I don’t want to lose it. I – know now why you had to hide, and I understand so much now. Please stay."

She looked around, for a way to keep him there, and saw the copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets on the round iron table.

"You gave these to me?" And she lifted the book.

"Yes."

"Do you like Shakespeare?"

Lowering his head and smiling at the irony of her words he nodded. "Yes, very much."

"I have found these Sonnets very helpful in the past few months. Thank you for giving them to me. Would you like to read some of them?"

His heart soaring, he smiled, "I can think of no better way to spend an evening." He murmured coming closer to her.

"Come inside. It’s cold out here," she surprised him, "I have a warm fire burning and a comfortable couch, I can make us some tea. Do you like tea?"

Vincent hesitated, but then stepped over her threshold. He heard the echo of something shattering in the back of his mind. He had a feeling as though some huge chasm had been crossed by that one step.

"Yes I like tea very much." He said as he followed her to the couch.

"Give me your cloak, it will be too hot to wear it in here."

He removed it, and she placed it carefully on her bed and went to make the tea.

Vincent left an hour later assured of Catherine’s acceptance and filled with such a feeling of peace that he could not believe it.

From that night Catherine slept peacefully, in the knowledge that there was someone like Vincent who, like Romeo, would climb to her balcony just to spend time with her. It gave her comfort and she never felt alone again or afraid.

The next night when Vincent slipped over the wall of Catherine’s Balcony she was there waiting for him and the balcony was surrounded by candlelight. She came to him and said. "When I was a child I was afraid of the dark and I used to have a terrible time falling to sleep, and my mother gave me something. She told me that if I ever got frightened, to hold it and think of her and to know that wherever she was that she was thinking of me. It helped me a great deal over the last two years. But now I don’t need it anymore, because I have you. I had forgotten what it was like to have someone to be thinking of me. I would like to give it to you."

Vincent looked down at what Catherine held in her hand, it was a white porcelain rose, she slipped it into a felt pouch on a long cord and she then placed it over his head.

After this motion, she lifted her hand to the crystal that hung about her own neck. "I will never take this off." She murmured with a smile.

"I am glad." Vincent said with a smile.

This night and every evening afterward, Vincent and Catherine spent together, and as the months passed their love grew. Their nights of talking or reading to one another, turned into nights of holding each other.

Catherine was in his arms, listening to him read; he felt her mood change from contemplation to something he had never felt in her before. He looked down at her, unable to believe her beauty, and how fortunate he was to be seated on her couch in front of a warm fire. Their eyes met and Catherine smiled, placing a hand on his cheek, bringing his face closer to hers and she pressed her lips to his.

"Vincent I love you…" Catherine murmured as she kissed him again.

Vincent’s heart almost stopped beating at these words. "Catherine … my heart was yours even before we met."

"Before we met?"

He lowered his head unable to look at her, knowing how unbelievable it seemed. "Yes … I have no explanation, only to say that I knew your pain and suffering, and wished to ease it."

Catherine kissed him again.

"Catherine … Vincent began to protest, but she put her finger to his lips.

As though she knew his fears Catherine said. "Vincent to me you are beautiful …" And she kissed him again, and quickly he felt his resolve slipping away. He couldn’t believe what was happening, he was hesitant, and there were so many uncertainties within him until he remembered the words he had read in his journal.

"Catherine is my life, without her I am nothing. If I am ever fortunate enough to be loved by her I will never hold back. I will take with both hands the life I dream of. To deny this is to deny that which is truly precious..."

These words encouraged him not to withdraw, or move out of her embrace. And he began to burn wherever their bodies touched. Catherine kissed him again, this time more slowly and his heart beat frantically. Should he dare? Should he allow this? And before he knew it his body had taken over and it was too late for decisions only actions.

From that night on, Catherine and Vincent embarked on a new world, filled with passion and discovery.

*****

Catherine stood beside Vincent in Father’s chamber. In her arms was their six week old baby son. Vincent looked down at them ‘his family’ and she smiled up at him. He could barely believe how his life had changed in the last two years.

When he had felt Catherine’s excitement just over eight months ago, he had come to visit her and she had happily told him that she was carrying his child. Amazed and thrilled he had hesitantly asked her if she would come and live in his world.

Catherine had happily agreed saying. "There is nothing for me here Vincent. You are my world and my life, without you there is nothing."

A month later they were married, and today was the naming ceremony of their son. Father had just finished his speech to welcome the child and the room became silent and Vincent suddenly realized he had been asked a question. His eyes were centered on his wife and son and his mind was on them alone. He lifted his head and smiling at his father said. "Sorry Father."

"That’s all right Vincent, we understand." Father said and everyone in the room laughed. They understood the complete devotion these two had for each other, and doubted that it would ever waver in the years to come.

Vincent laughed and so did Catherine who blushed slightly. Turning to his father Vincent remembered when he had first told the older man of his love for Catherine and was surprised by his reaction. Father was concerned of course, but he was overjoyed that his son had found someone who loved him and had asked to meet the lucky young woman.

Catherine had come below that night, and many times after, until their wedding, when she had stayed permanently.

"So my son what do you name this child?" Father asked.

Turning to Catherine who nodded and then to everyone in the room Vincent proudly said. "We name our son Jacob."

"If a man could be two places at one time I’d be with you
Tomorrow and today, beside you all the way
If the world should stop revolving, spinning slowly down to die
I’d spend the end with you, and when the world was through
Then one by one the stars would all go out
Then you and I would simply fly away.

*****