"Catherine, I believe you have my shirt as smooth as it can be, and I don't believe these delicate hands can do much to improve my hair. Perhaps if you brought me a brush, I might be able to do something with it. Though I don't think your father is going to notice my ruffled shirt or my hair.”
Catherine smiled at him and cupped his face between her hands. He was right and she knew it. Her father would probably not notice much of anything except this beautiful face, though she doubted he would think it beautiful. Vincent wrapped his arms around her, his large hands gently caressing the small of her back. And those hands, she thought to herself, he's bound to notice those wonderfully gentle hands.
Leaning against his strong frame, Catherine hugged as much of him as her arms allowed and tried to relax. “I'm sorry, love. I don't know what's wrong with me.” She leaned back to look up at him. “You'll just have to bear with me. After all, it isn't every day that a girl introduces her fiancé to her father.”
Fiancé! Vincent shook his head slightly, the sound of that word filling him with delight and wonder all over again. He still felt as though he might be sleeping and would awaken any minute to discover the past few weeks had all been a dream. A beautiful, hopeful dream like so many he'd had before.
"Would you like me to pinch you, Vincent?” Catherine giggled softly
at the look of
astonishment that filled his blue eyes. "Well, you were thinking that you were afraid this was all a dream, weren't you?”
Vincent nodded his head slowly. “Yes, I was, but how...??"
Catherine smiled and buried her hands in the thick softness of his golden hair. Pulling his head down, she nuzzled the end of his nose. “Don't worry, Vincent. I haven't started to read minds. You just had that look in your eyes again.”
“What look, Catherine?”
“That look that says you can't quite believe that in two months you and I'll become husband and wife, and start living a life that you always thought impossible.” Her eyes held a message he had no trouble reading. She'd known all along that their life together was not only possible, but was bound to happen sooner or later. Catherine would never accept any other possibility. She kissed him softly. “That look that says you can't quite believe we are lovers."
"Lovers. . .” Vincent whispered the word softly - almost reverently. Truth be told, this was the part that he found the hardest to believe at times. Catherine's gaze made it easier for him to believe. Her bright, green eyes darkened with passion as she cuddled suggestive against him.
“Yes, Vincent. Lovers! We. . . " she kissed the end of his nose, “are...” she kissed the corners of his mouth, “lovers!” Catherine captured his exotic mouth in a kiss that left him breathless.
Managing to keep some semblance of rationality, Vincent pushed her gently away from him; a feat that was probably the hardest thing he'd had to do in a long time.
“Yes, Catherine. Lovers who happen to be expecting a guest.” He smiled gently, longingly at his beautiful bride-to-be, wishing with all his heart that they could forget their expected visitor; for more reasons than one.
Catherine shook her head slightly, remembering the reason they were here. “Daddy! I almost forgot.” She glanced at her watch. “He should be here any minute now.” Her heart went out to her gentle over as his face suddenly took on the look of a man about to face the gallows. "Vincent, if you'd rather not do this tonight, we can just forget it. I'll tell Dad that something came up, and you couldn't make it. We'll do it some other time.”
“No, Catherine. We may as well get this over with. You want to be able to invite him to the announcement party Below next week. I think it's only fair that we give him time to recover from the shock of meeting me before springing another shock on him. Our world can be quite disconcerting for someone seeing it for the first time. Just how much have you told your father so far, Catherine?”
"I told him the truth, Vincent. I told him that you look different and that because of those differences you cannot live in my world.” Reaching up, she gently caressed his cheek. “I told him that I love you more than anything I've ever imagined possible and that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
"Did you tell your father about my differences?" He smiled at her tenderly. “Did you tell him what look like Catherine?”
“Are you kidding? He'd have thought I was crazy, or hallucinating, or both. Anyway, he would never have believed me.” She caressed his face again, her eyes filled with love. “At any rate, this isn't a face you try to explain. In your case, seeing is believing.” The doorbell interrupted them. Vincent stiffened slightly. ‘Don't worry, Vincent. Everything will be fine.” She kissed him again and went to answer the door.
The phone's ringing caused Catherine to jump slightly, but she was grateful for it's intrusion. The tension was thick enough to cut with a knife, and she needed a moment to catch her breath and figure out what to do next. She reached for the phone, keeping a wary eye on the two men in her life, face to face with each other for the very first time. "Hello."
“Hi Cathy, it's Jenny. Has your dad arrived yet? How are things going?”
“Yes, he just got here and I'm not sure how things are going yet. I'll have to get back to you on it.”
“Okay. Don't worry, Cath. Everything will work out.”
"I hope you're right.” Catherine's voice sounded doubtful.
"I am. Is Vincent handy?”
Jenny was glad to hear the light tone creeping back into Catherine's voice. “Cute, Cathy,real cute. Just put the big guy on. I'll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Okay, hold on a minute.” Catherine turned to see that Vincent and her father hadn't moved an inch. They were still staring at each other as though trying to decide what move to make next and who should make it. “Excuse me, Vincent. Jenny would like to talk to you.”
Vincent moved to take the phone, a look of relief crossing his unique features, He, too, was grateful for the temporary reprieve. Catherine stood close, allowing her love and support to flow through their bond.
Her father stared at Vincent as if he couldn't quite believe that this “creature” his daughter had just introduced him to was doing something so normal as talking on the telephone.
Vincent laughed softly and hung up the phone. Catherine looked at him curiously. "She told me to tell you to quit worrying, that her money was on the big guy.” He glanced at Charles Chandler who stood waiting. “I'm going to hope that she meant me.”
Catherine hugged him, as much for his sake as to show her father that she was serious about her feelings for her gentle giant. “You know she did. Jenny is delighted about our marriage. She adores you and you know it. In fact, if I didn't already have you all sewn up, I have a feeling she'd go after you herself.”
"Catherine, that is ludicrous!"
She did not bother to correct him. One of the things about Vincent that she found most alluring was the fact that he was totally oblivious to the fact that he was a very exciting and sexy man, and that most women found him extremely attractive. Hooking her arm through his, she led him back to her father.
“I wish you didn't have to go Vincent. Why can't you stay?” Catherine buried her face in the ruffles on his shift.
Vincent stared over the top of her head at her father who paced hack and forth in her living room, “I have a feeling your father wishes to talk to you alone, Catherine. I think I should give him that chance.”
“Anything he wants to say can he say to the both of us. I have no secrets from you, Vincent. You know that.”
“I do know that, Catherine, and I have no secrets from you. Even so, I think your father should have some time alone with his only child after such a shocking announcement. He will probably try to talk you out of your decision.” His voice was light, teasing, but she could hear an undercurrent of worry in it, and she hugged him tighter.
"That can't happen, Vincent.” She leaned up to kiss him soundly. "That can never happen. Like it or not, mister, you're stuck with me for the rest of our lives." She touched his face tenderly, "and more, if have anything to say about it. Our love is forever, Vincent. In this life and any other you care to share with me."
“All of eternity, Catherine. That is what I wish to share with you.” He kissed her passionately. “I'll come to you later. After your father leaves.”
Catherine nodded silently as he kissed her once more and slipped over the edge of her terrace into the dark night. Squaring her small shoulders she turned to join her father and the lecture she was sure awaited her. She wasn't disappointed.
“Cathy. you can't be serious about marrying this...” Charles Chandler stopped in midsentence completely taken hack by the look of defiance he saw in his daughter's eyes. “Cathy, he's not even..." He hesitated, unsure how to continue.
"Human, Daddy? Is that what you're trying to say?"
"Yes damn it. Do you even know what he is? What he really is?”
“Not completely. No one does. The fact is, I don't care what he is. The only thing that matters to me is that I love him and want him." Catherine made up her mind. She didn't care to listen to her father's objections. There had been enough obstacles put in her path to the life she wanted with her Vincent. She would stand for no more. "Daddy, I'm sorry, but this subject is not up for debate. The bottom line is this, next week Vincent's friends are giving us an engagement party and we'd like you to be there. In two months, I am going to marry Vincent and I'd like you to give me away. I asked you up here to invite you to our celebrations and to meet the man I love more than life itself. I didn't ask you up here for advice."
Charles sighed deeply. He knew from experience what the tone of Catherine's voice meant. He'd heard it often enough before. She had always been a stubborn little girl and adulthood had done nothing to alleviate that quality in her. He reminded himself too, that she also possessed a unique ability to judge people. If Catherine thought enough of this Vincent to want to become his wife, he must be a very special person. Still...
"Catherine, please, try to understand. I know you love Vincent, but are you sure that marrying him is the right thing to do? I mean. what kind of life can the two of you live with him not even being able to show himself in your world? What about children and ...?” Once more Charles found himself hesitating, not sure how to proceed, Catherine stared at him patiently, waiting for the questions she knew were coming.
“Cathy know how much you want children. Suppose he can't father children. In fact, you and he may not even he able to.. .” Charles Chandler blushed deeply. He hadn't had so personal a conversation with his daughter since she was a senior in high school. Charles did not miss the shiver that shook his daughter's petite frame.
"We haven't discussed the subject of children yet, Daddy. Vincent and I will cross that bridge when we feel the time is right." Her green eyes pinned him with a look that plainly said that subject was closed. "As far as the rest of it goes, even though it is really none of your business you needn't concern yourself about it. My relationship with Vincent is perfectly normal. In every way.”
Charles nodded his bead silently as he accepted her unspoken message. This subject was also closed. Catherine was his only child. He'd always given her the freedom to live her own life and there was nothing he could do about it now. In his heart he knew that if he couldn't accept her decision, he would lose her, and that was something he would never take a chance on doing. His decision was easy, but he didn't have to like it. He drew his daughter into his embrace.
"When did you say this engagement party and wedding is supposed to take place?” He laughed softly at the look of gratitude she gave him, “Cathy, you didn't really think I'd say no, did you?”
Catherine hugged him. He wasn't fooling her though. She knew
that he hadn't truly
accepted her decision; that he was merely humoring her because he knew he had no choice. She wasn't worried, though, because she knew that, given time, her father would come under Vincent's gentle spell just as everyone did.
The engagement party was in full swing. Catherine and Vincent had managed to share a couple of waltzes in spite of the fact that they were constantly surrounded by well-wishers. At the moment they were captured by a hoard of children, all wanting to hug and kiss their two favorite people.
Charles stood in a corner alone, still somewhat overwhelmed with all that had happened to him since coming Below. He thought himself beyond shocking after his meeting with Vincent, but found he was wrong. This world was amazing, as was its people. He could hardly believe that such a place existed. He watched the children as they milled around his daughter and the man she was going to marry. It was obvious that she was loved very much by the people that inhabited this strange world, and she seemed as much at home here as she did in her world.
“They look so good together." Jenny's soft whisper brought Charles out of his reverie. “Don't you think so, Mr. Chandler?”
Charles smiled down at the dark haired young woman who had been his daughter's friend for so long. It had been no surprise when he discovered that Jenny had been told all about his daughter's plans. The two girls had shared practically everything since high school. He glanced back at Catherine and Vincent, trying to ignore the fact that Jenny was waiting for an answer. An answer he couldn't give her.
“What is it about Vincent you don't like, Mr. Chandler?"
Charles looked at her in surprise. “I never said I didn't like Vincent, Jenny. It's not that. In fact, I think he's a very nice...person." He looked away quickly, feeling a slight twinge of guilt over his hesitation. “It's just that he's...”
“Different?” Jenny laughed softly. “Are you forgetting some of the guys Cathy dated in high school?"
Charles laughed loudly as memories of some very unusual looking young men came to mind. “She did have a decided tendency to bring home strays didn't she?”
“Vincent isn't a stray. Look at them, Mr. Chandler. Vincent is what Cathy wants. The life he's offering her is the one she wants. It may not be the life you would have chosen for her - it's not the three bedroom ranch with attached garage, white picket fence and 2.3 kids, but it's the life she's chosen. She loves him very much and Vincent lovers her, Their love is the stuff fairy tales are made of. It's a love we all dream of, wish for."
“What kind of life can he give her, Jenny?” He can't make a living. He can't even show his face above. For pity's sake. She'll have to bury herself in this underground world of his and give up everything she's ever known in her own world.”
“Why do you think she'd do that?"
“What else can she do if she marries Vincent? What kind of marriage would it he if she lived Above and he lived here? I've always wanted the best for my daughter, and she's chosen this life.”
“She's chosen, Mr. Chandler. That's the key point here. It's Cathy's decision and no one else can make it for her. She isn't giving up her life Above. In fact she's even planning on keeping the apartment for business purposes. She's staying with the DA's office, too. The only change she's going to make is in the sort of work she does. No more dangerous stuff. She said she was going to concentrate more on research.”
Charles glanced at her, relief plainly written across his face.
“You can thank Vincent for that. Cathy said she was never going to put her life, or his, in danger again,” Jenny nodded her head toward the pair. "Vincent is a good man, Mr. Chandler, and he loves Cathy beyond anything I could ever imagine. Forget his differences. They'll make it together. I know they will. And here is one more thing you should keep in mind, Mr. Chandler. In spite of his different looks and different way of life, there is one thing you cannot ever deny.” She glanced toward her friend as the sound of Catherine's soft laughter floated across the room, “He makes her happy. Mr. Chandler, Vincent will give her a happy life.”
Charles watched as Catherine leaned up on tiptoes to kiss Vincent gently. Her face glowed with love in spite of his Doubting Thomas presence and he knew that this wedding would take place with or without his blessing. She was not asking for his permission - only his support and love. She was the most important thing in the world to him and he knew he could give her nothing less. He leaned down to kiss Jenny's cheek, whispering softly, "Thanks.”
Catherine could feel the change in her father as he walked across the room to join them. He wrapped an arm around both his daughter and this “different” man she'd chosen to be her husband. “Catherine, Vincent, I believe we have a wedding to discuss.”