Catherine lay sleepless in the guest chamber, as she had done for many nights, worrying about Vincent. He seemed to be slowly recovering. At least he hadn't had those awful nightmares for some time now, the terrible visions only she could soothe, and that he didn't even remember in the morning.

She sighed. There was something else that he didn't remember. She was the only one who knew what had happened to them in that cavern. Sometimes, when she saw him groping for bits of memories, distressed by the blank places in his mind, she felt guilty to hold this from him. But she kept silent, feeling it could distress him even more to find out. She suspected Vincent's mind had unconsciously blocked out events he was not strong enough to face, also shutting out the bond between them so her own emotions could not get to him.

For some weeks now she had known that she was not carrying his child, as she had half hoped, but this was not to be…not this time. Even though her reason told her it could only have complicated the situation, her heart still mourned what could have been.

But Vincent was recovering, some of his lost memories coming back to him, and someday, she both hoped and feared, the hidden places in his mind would unlock, and he would have to face the truth. And she knew the rest of their lives might depend on his reactions then…

Suddenly she gasped, a hand on her throat, as an almost unbearable surge of emotions reached her. Fear and longing, agony, pleasure and guilt, all mixed…



Vincent sat up on his bed, panting. That dream again! The dream that had been visiting him nearly every night lately, filling him with both delight and shame.

He could still feel Catherine's body under his, hear her soft cries as they were locked in a torrid, frantic joining, in the darkness and silence of a deep cavern. It all felt so real…and suddenly the truth came over him : it was real! He hadn't been dreaming, only remembering, and once that breech opened in the protective walls of his mind, his lost memories came tumbling down on him, filling him with contradictory emotions.

He was alone in that remote cavern, roaring his pain and rage, having lost his fight against the beast, given himself up to darkness. He suddenly was aware of a presence and leaped, fangs bared in a roar, claws ready to rip and tear.


He stopped short as her voice and her scent made their way into what was left of his consciousness. This was Catherine, his Catherine, he could not hurt her! Even the Beast did not want to hurt Catherine. No, what the Beast wanted from Catherine was…

Vincent moaned in despair. He would never know if it was the man or the beast, or both, that had then reached for Catherine and laid her on the ground, crushing her with his weight. There had been no tenderness, no words, not even a kiss, only the hurried satisfaction of a hunger too long denied. A hunger that had not been his alone. Catherine had shared every second of it, her body instantly ready for his, her hands helping him to push their clothes out of the way and reaching for his bare skin as he had groped for hers. He remembered how she had clung to him and moaned, with a passion equaling his own. His last sensation before darkness finally engulfed him had been of almost unbearable pleasure, both his and hers mingled in their bond.

The simple evocation of it set his whole body aflame and he tore off his nightshirt to lie back on top of his bed, hoping the cool tunnel air would calm him down.


He started and opened his eyes to find Catherine standing near his bed, devouring his naked and aroused body with hungry eyes. He hastily sat up and gathered the quilt to him.

 "Catherine! What…"

  "You called me, Vincent! I could feel your need, it was so strong! I had to come to you. "

He could feel her too, he sensed her concern, her love, and the surge of desire the sight of him had provoked. The bond, the bond between them had come back with his memories, and it even seemed to work both ways, now.

"You remember." It was a statement. He bowed his head, and she could feel the shame in him.

"Yes…yes I remember. Oh Catherine, what have I done?"

Unexpectedly, she smiled.

"There were two of us down in that cavern, Vincent. I claim my own share of responsibility for what happened, and I am not ashamed about it. It was wonderful!"

He could feel how true it was to her, but still could not accept it.

"Catherine please leave me now, you can't stay here, I need to think…"

She said nothing, her mind suddenly unreadable as she kept a firm hold on her emotions. Slowly she turned and walked to the door, as if she had accepted what he had said and was about to leave…but she only reached to the tapestry hung on the side of his chamber's entrance and undid the fastening that kept it open. The heavy fabric fell across the door, shutting the chamber from the corridor.


She faced him again, an enigmatic smile on her face. All he could feel in her was calm certainty…and iron-cored determination.

"I love you, Vincent." she said quietly, then before he could say anything her hands raised to her neck…and the next second her nightgown was on the floor and she walked out of it to the bed.

He gasped and clutched the quilt to him.

"Catherine, you can't…Catherine, please!" but he could not take his eyes off her.

"Shh, my love!" she said softly, easing herself into the bed and reaching for him.  "It's all right, everything's going to be all right now! Just come here and let me hold you." She tugged gently at him and he yielded, because behind all his doubts and fears it was what he craved to do and she had sensed it. Catherine's skin against his felt like heaven, and he moaned softly as she pulled his head to rest between her breasts and started stroking his hair.

"Catherine, we should not…" was his last conviction-lacking attempt, before he surrendered to her gentle touch.

She felt him relax in her arms, even snuggling closer to her, and for a few blissful minutes they just enjoyed each other's intimate contact.

Yet that short moment of peace was still more than Vincent's tormented soul could allow him. Opening his eyes he saw his hand on her. His hairy, sharp-clawed, deadly paw on Catherine's satiny white skin! It felt like a desecration to him, this just could not be! He tried to pull away from her…only to find that he couldn't. She was holding him tight, her slender arms like steel around him, he knew he would not break her embrace without hurting her.

"Catherine…please let me go!" he pleaded.

"No way, Vincent!" there was steel in her voice too, and in her mind. "You won't run away this time, you can't hide yourself from me anymore! Whatever torments you I can share fully with you now, as you always did for me, and we'll face it together".

"Catherine, you don't know… "

"Then let me know!"

"I can't…there are no words to tell…" She could feel his agony, but braced herself against it.

"There's no need for words, Vincent. I can feel it all, now, buried deep inside you. You keep it under control most of the time but it's poisoning you…it's poisoning us. It nearly killed you! Please share it with me, Vincent, I know I can help you! I love you, I love all of you, there's nothing in you that could frighten or hurt me."

He sighed. She really believed that, and he realized that a part of him wanted to believe it too, as her love and whole-hearted acceptance of everything he was flowed to him through the bond. And of course she could feel that too. No spoken argument would convince her. There was only one way out. Show her…

He opened the dark depths of his soul to their bond, knowing that she could only shy away from what lay there, bracing himself against the pain her rejection would cause him…

But her reaction, when confronted to the black and red snarling maelstrom that was the hidden part of the man she loved, was not the one he'd expected. He could only feel love, and sorrow, and compassion, as she cradled his head back to her breast and rocked him softly. "Oh, my love!" she cried. "My poor tormented love, so much pain!"

Vincent's control crumbled and he clung to her, his face buried between her breasts, his great chest heaving with sobs. "Oh, Catherine…" she felt wetness on her skin and stroked his hair, crying too.

"Yes, my love, yes! Let go with it all! I love you, I'm with you, it's going to be all right now!"

He was sobbing helplessly, shedding hot, bitter tears that burned them both to the bone as all his long-hidden fears and pains poured out with them and flowed into her. She took everything in, shared everything, accepting the whole complex truth of him even when it made her heart bleed.

The most painful thing to accept was his self-loathing. Vincent was the most wonderful man she'd ever met, she loved him, so many people loved and trusted him, but deep inside he would not trust himself, always wary of the 'beast'. She remembered what she knew of his education, how Father had stressed Vincent's differences to keep him safe. She suspected he had been overdoing it, leading the boy to blame on his 'beast' side everything that wouldn't fit into the model his Father had set. No matter how many opportunities Vincent had later had to see how ugly the true human nature could sometimes be, he'd clung to the certitude that everything violent or disturbing in him belonged to the beast, and not to the man. Including, she realized, the fierce but very human desire he felt for her…

The crisis that had nearly cost him his sanity, and his life, had probably no other cause than the devastating effects of his inner conflict, brought to a paroxysm by Paracelsus' deeds. How he must have suffered, torn between what he thought were two different personalities, when his primal drives and emotions were mostly those of a normal- if anything much better than average- human being. Only in Vincent they were stronger, and most of the time under better control. Whatever his differences, she now knew at the deepest level that they didn't affect his essential humanity.

She cradled him closer, lavishing her love and acceptance on him through the bond, letting him see in her innermost soul that she loved him just as he was, for all that he was, and felt a surge of incredulous joy in response. His sobs slowly subsided, his last tears soft, sweet tears of relief.


He tried to lift his head but lacked the strength. The trial had taken all he had, leaving nothing but numbed exhaustion, and she gently kissed the top of his head.

"You need to rest, my love. We'll have time later. We have all the time in the world, now."

With a grateful sigh, he settled comfortably against her, his hand grasping her waist in a possessive hold.

"I love you, Catherine." he said drowsily.

"I love you, Vincent. Sleep, now, my darling."

His breathing slowed, and the conscious part of his mind drifted away but she could still feel his presence through their connection and marveled at it. She'd never completely understood what their bond meant, but now she knew how it had felt to him, how he'd shared everything she experienced, as aware of her as of himself…and loving her much more than he loved himself.

It must have been so hard to bear, sometimes, when the weight of her fears, her sorrows, her longings, added to his own burden! But he hardly ever let it show, always there for her, giving her his love, his strength, speaking words of hope in their dream even when he doubted it could ever come true. And all he'd allowed himself to take from her in return was her company, the warmth of her presence, and romantic, intellectualized love. Her passion, her desire, and her utter trust in him he wouldn't fully acknowledge, much as he craved them, because he believed himself unworthy, because he thought she deserved better than the half-beast he was convinced he was… Oh, Vincent! Had there ever been a man more worthy of being loved? And what had she done to deserve a love such as his?

He stirred against her, his chest heaving with a residual sob, like a child who's cried himself to sleep. She hugged him tighter, in a surge of love and fierce protectiveness, and as he slept on she could sense how peaceful he was, now. Vincent being Vincent though, she suspected it would be only temporary, as the doubts and fears that had been his lifetime companions weren't likely to give way so easily.

But he wouldn't have to face them alone, never again, she vowed. She knew what she was up against, now, and could fight from inside. She felt sure that with time and love, she could convince Vincent he deserved everything she could give him, and much more. Starting with… With a smile of happy expectation, she let herself drift into sleep, surrounded by the steady rhythm of his breathing and the peaceful waves of his presence.


Vincent woke up to a world that felt like heaven, a world that seemed to be all Catherine. Catherine's scent, Catherine's skin, her arms around him, her sweet breath on his face, her legs entwined with his. He could hear her heartbeats, and feel the regular rise and fall of her breathing under his cheek. He'd never known such happiness could be possible and marveled at the peace in his own heart.

Waking up had always been a painful moment for him, as the aching burden of his loneliness and never ending inner fights fell back on him along with consciousness. But things had changed.

Catherine had changed them.

With the same courage that had made her walk into that cavern, straight to the snarling beast he had become, she had ventured into the troubled depths of his soul, and fought his inner dragons. And though darkness might return, it could never be so utterly black anymore, nor could he ever be lost in it again. For Catherine's love had lit a candle in the darkest, deepest part of him. A small, flickering but indestructible light. And just like the first candle breaking through the obscurity of the Great Hall at Winterfest, it carried the power to light many others, bringing back light and warmth everywhere.

Now the fulfillment of their dream didn't seem out of reach any more, and she'd made it possible by her steadfast faith in it, and her love for him.

She loved him. Never until now had he allowed himself to really accept the truth of it. She loved him completely and utterly. Body and soul, man and beast, she loved all of him, the same way he loved her, and this knowledge filled him with happiness so intense he could hardly bear it

Catherine stirred, and the bond told him she was about to wake up. He realized the force of his feelings had reached her in her sleep, he still had to get used to the new way their connection worked, and the changes it would make, had already made, in their relationship.

As consciousness crept back into her, he felt her reaching for him through the bond, sensed her joy as she felt his loving answer.

"Vincent! I was afraid I'd dreamt it all!"

He raised himself up on an elbow to see her, and she gave him her radiant smile, her eyes shining with love. She was so beautiful, he could hardly believe she was there in his arms. He smiled back to her.

"If truth be told, Catherine, I am not quite sure this is not a dream." 

"Then I'd better make sure you're real."

She reached to him, running her fingers through his hair, lazily tracing the shape of his cheekbone, the line of his jaw, opening herself to his sensations. She was not searching for particularly sensitive places…not yet, but she could feel the pleasure her touch gave him, and the instant awakening of his desire. Then suddenly Vincent's hand was on her face, copying her movements in gentle touches, his blue eyes locked on hers . And as they continued their apparently leisurely exploration, she knew he felt her own pleasure, her own desire, as their sensations mingled in the bond. Her hand went slowly down his neck, followed the shape of his shoulder, and, with the slightest of hesitations, he did the same. She ran her fingers through the thick fur of his chest, letting him share the joy it gave her, savoring the pleasure it gave him. Then she stopped, and waited. His hand didn't move, but his eyes left hers to travel slowly downwards, and he swallowed hard, captured by the sight. He'd never dreamed such miraculous perfection would be his to behold, even less to touch, but the bond told him how much she wanted his hand there, and his hand obeyed her as if of its own will. First he dared only light feather touches, wary of his sharp nails on her silky skin, then, emboldened by her responses, he allowed himself to discover her fully, marveling at the joy it gave her.

He could see his hand on Catherine's skin, cupping the fragile beauty of her breast. He saw the thick fur, the deadly nails, but it didn't feel wrong to him anymore. This hand seemed to be exactly where it belonged, because it was the hand of the man Catherine loved. She was right. She had always been right.

His heart almost bursting with love for her, he looked at her to see the same love shining in her eyes.

"Catherine…" he started but words could not even start to express what he felt.

She smiled at him and put her arm around his neck, gently pulling him toward her.

"Kiss me, Vincent."

She sensed his lingering shyness as his lips came softly on hers, After all that had happened to them, this was going to be their first kiss. She couldn't help a twinge of humor at the thought, normally love-stories started with a kiss, but theirs was decidedly unique! She felt Vincent relax a little as he caught and shared her amusement. He hardly lifted his head to whisper against her lips :

"Better late than never, Catherine!"

All shyness gone, his mouth came back on hers, starting a slow but thorough discovery, getting bolder as the hunger grew in both of them. She clung to him, exploring the contours of his cleft upper lip, the sharpness of his fangs, the shape and texture of his tongue, new and foreign sensations that somehow also felt utterly familiar, as if she'd always known what kissing Vincent would be like.

As their passion grew, his hold became more possessive, his warm, rough palm kneading and grasping, savoring the touch of her, until she moaned, and he abruptly ended their kiss.

"Vincent, what's wrong?" She could sense his concern, and a touch of guilt, and understood when she saw him look down at her body. She felt his relief when he found her skin flushed, but otherwise unmarked. She took his face in her hands, not knowing if she wanted to laugh or to cry

"Oh, Vincent! I thought we were done with that! Don't you know by now that you can't hurt me? I got out of that cavern without as much as a scratch, that should be proof enough!"

He lowered his head. "I…I know that, Catherine… but…"

"Too much?" He nodded silently. He was still scared by the intensity of his own passion, part of him still refused to let it get out of control. And she felt he was not ready to discuss it right now.

She cradled his head to her shoulder, letting her love and understanding fill the bond, sensing his love and gratefulness in return. For some time they just lay together, their connection shimmering with peaceful tenderness, until Vincent rose on an elbow.

"Catherine… what happened in the cavern… why didn't you tell me?"

"I thought that if you didn't remember about it, then it meant you weren't ready to hear it. You were so weak and vulnerable, and you had those awful nightmares. I didn't want to add to your trouble. I knew you would remember when you were strong enough."

"Does… anyone else know about it?"

"You mean Father? Of course not! It was strictly between you and me, Vincent. So, after… when you were unconscious, and before he came in, I… I made sure he wouldn't suspect anything of our guilty activities." She gave him a mischievous grin. "I have my reputation to worry about. So, you see, our sinful behavior is still a secret, you won't have to make an honest woman out of me."

It was just a joke, meant to ease his tension, but she regretted it when she felt the contradictory emotions surging into him. Panic first, relief when he understood she was joking, mild shock that she was, and something else, buried deep inside him…

"Catherine, how can you speak so lightly of what happened…when all I can feel is shame?"

"Vincent, we made love! And it was wonderful! That's nothing to be ashamed of!"

"Catherine, can't you see? It was not me, it was…that other one…"

"Why do you say that? Didn't you want me?"

He kept avoiding her eyes, and his answer was only a whisper.

"Yes…yes I did…so much, Catherine! But I would never…"

"Exactly, you would never!" she cut in with a faint touch of exasperation. "So I'm grateful to whatever side of you took over then. That Vincent knew what he really wanted, what he really needed, and wasn't afraid to reach out for it, because he knew I wanted it just as much. Madness was threatening to destroy your mind, but the strongest part of you kept on fighting for life, fighting for love, and you won! You came back to yourself, back to me! Oh Vincent, I came so close to losing you! So how could I be anything else but glad that you found that strength in you? Wherever it came from."

She held his gaze, trying to convince him with her feelings as much as her words.

"And if you still insist on calling that part of you a beast… then there must have been a beast in me too, Vincent. Actually, I think there was! All those months of sexual frustration could have turned anybody into a beast!" She could feel his shock but went on. "Oh, I've said the word, haven't I? It was never pronounced between us, but maybe it should have been. Sex…" she lingered slightly on the word when she felt him wince "…is something natural, and beautiful, a very important part of love relationships… and if it had come earlier in our relationship, it might have saved us a lot of pain."


"Poor Vincent, I'm torturing you! I know how uneasy this subject makes you feel. I bet Father didn't discuss it with you very often, and then only to tell you, with carefully chosen words, that you were to forget about it, that it would never be for you… He even used the incident with Lisa to impress it deeper on you!"

"Incident! What happened with Lisa…"

"…could have happened between any other teenagers. You were both young and inexperienced, and you hurt each other. Granted, the fact that you happen to have claws didn't really help. But the scratches you inflicted on her healed in a few days…while your own wounds are still bleeding. And, much as Father hated to see you suffer, I'm afraid he jumped at the opportunity to enforce his point of view. Your pain was a useful reminder of your difference…but it made it impossible to heal…"

She was angry, now, and Vincent put a hand on her arm. "Catherine, don't…"

"You know I love Father, Vincent, and of course he meant only to keep you safe…but I still think he caused a lot of damage! You wanted me, and you could feel how much I wanted you, you knew how hard it was on both of us, but still you kept running away. It's difficult to fight something so deeply imprinted." She put her hands on his shoulders, looking straight into distressed blue eyes.

"But you're not a teenager anymore, you're a grown man, and what you may or may not desire is only for you to decide! You have to trust yourself, you mustn't be scared of your feelings, of your passion, however strong they are! Look into your heart, Vincent, find out what you really want most, what you really think is best…and reach out for it!"

She lowered her head, suddenly exhausted and ready to cry. He gathered her to him and held her a long time without a word. His mind was such a maelstrom of mixed emotions that she couldn't make anything out of it, and probably neither did he…

Finally he spoke, his face buried in her hair, his voice a husky whisper, his words as jumbled as his feelings. "All those things you said…Part of me still thinks I have no right to ask you…but … I also know it's what I want most…what I have always wanted…" The bond told her of the fight tearing him, but all she could do was wait, it had to come from him or not at all.

He pulled away to look at her and went on, his speech becoming clearer as his emotional turmoil gave way to a first shaky but soon growing determination. "Catherine, you said I had to trust my heart…but I find it difficult to do so even now…so I will trust yours. For your loving heart holds neither doubt nor fear, and I trust it more than I would my own to know what's best for both of us." He stopped for a few heartbreaking seconds, then took a deep breath, his blue gaze peering into her very soul.

"My beloved Catherine, will you come and live with me? Will you stay with me and let me love you always? Catherine…will you marry me?"

She let out a small strangled cry and he could feel how much he'd surprised her with that last part. He didn't know where he had found the courage, but now that it was done it filled him with pride, and calm certitude that it had been the right thing to do.

"Oh, Vincent!" She clung to his shoulders, her face buried in the soft fur of his chest, crying and laughing at the same time. "Oh yes! Yes I will, my love, of course I will! Always! Vincent I love you so!" She was too stunned with joy to be really articulate, but the meaning was clear and he hugged her fiercely. 

"My Catherine!" She lifted her face to him and they gazed at each other, feeling no need for words, the bond brimming with their shared happiness.

Then slowly he bent his face to hers and claimed her lips with a new assurance, a passion that left her breathless. Finally finding the courage to ask for what he really wanted most, what they both wanted most, seemed to have washed away his lingering doubts, and she marveled at the confidence she felt in him now. He drew slightly away to look at her.

"Catherine, only the answers I found in your heart could give me the strength to ask the questions. Yes, even that one" he added with the closest thing to a smug smile she'd ever seen on him, while she felt herself blush slightly. "You may have thought you were joking, but deep inside I could feel your secret hope, and it met my own deepest-hidden wish : that one day I could claim you as mine, in front of all those who know us. Mine to care for, love, and cherish, for ever. My wife."

She smiled back at him, her eyes filling with tears as his overwhelming emotion flowed into her, feeling his wonder as his deep, throaty voice lingered on the last words, words he'd not even dared hope he would ever have the right to say.

"Vincent, I will be proud and honored…but most of all tremendously happy to have you as my husband." She kissed him lightly and went on, a touch of mischief in her voice and eyes. "And now, my dear betrothed, don't you think we've done enough talking for the moment?" She moved closer to bring the whole length of her body in contact with his. "What about…sealing our covenant right now?"

"Oh, Catherine!" There was feigned shock in his voice, but his eyes were shining, and she could feel his body's eager response. "Wouldn't it be more…proper to wait?" he teased.

Proper, indeed! She felt anything but that and proved it by taking immediate and determined action. He cooperated willingly and they both moaned with pleasure when their bodies joined at last.

He remained still, lost in the feel of her, and she could sense a touch of awe, as if he couldn't believe this was really happening to them. She managed an impish smile.

"Gotcha!" she said softly.

She felt him relax and he smiled back. "Yes, Catherine, you have got me! And I…have got you! Catherine… you are mine!" She gasped as he enforced his possessive words with his body.

He gazed into her darkened eyes. "I love you, Catherine, now and forever."

"Forever, Vincent." she husked, before he claimed her lips.

He had meant to keep control, to concentrate only on her pleasure, but as their bodies moved together in perfect harmony, he could feel their connection open to unimagined depths, their souls merging until he was her, and she was him, sharing only one pleasure, one love, one soul, riding wave after wave of uncontrollable sensations. And when the last wave finally swept them high away, Catherine crying his name, an irresistible impulse arose from deep within Vincent and he just couldn't help it. He raised himself on his elbows, threw his head back, and roared their triumph.

He fell back on her shoulder, panting, and she held him close, both lost in a happiness far beyond words, while the echoes of his powerful voice reverberated in the tunnels.


Father hurried to Vincent's chamber as quickly as his stiff hip could allow. Dear God, what could be wrong with the boy again? Lately he had seemed much better but a new crisis was always possible…

He stopped short. The curtain was down across the entrance of his son's chamber. In the Tunnels, it carried the same signification as a locked door, and even as Vincent's father and physician, he couldn't just ignore it. 

"Vincent! Vincent, are you well?" he called, determined to go in if he didn't get an answer.

"It's all right, Father, I… I'm with him." Catherine's voice answered

"Do you need any help?"

"No, thank you, Father, I think we can manage." Vincent's voice was husky and slightly breathless, but he didn't sound distressed.

A strange noise came from Catherine, like a squeal, or…a giggle? A giggle, definitely, as it was followed by Vincent's soft chuckle. They were laughing! Father felt puzzled and a bit offended, what had he said that could be so funny? He'd only offered to help…He took another look at the closed curtain, usual Tunnel way to signal a desire for privacy… and finally put two and two together. His first reaction was shock, and a shot of anger. How could such a thing have happened? Hadn't he warned his son often enough against the dangers of it? Vincent should know better than…Muffled sounds came from the chamber, where the two culprits were trying hard to suppress an irresistible fit of laughter… Oh, don't be such a stubborn old man, Jacob! How long has it been since you last heard Vincent laugh? One more thing to thank Catherine for. She'd been right from the beginning, and he'd been wrong…He'd have to tell her that, later. Now was the time for a dignified retreat.

"Oh!.. I see!" The chamber became silent. "Well, since my presence is obviously not needed, I think I can go back to bed. I will see you later. Good night."

"Good night, Father, we are sorry to have woken you."

It was his turn to laugh softly. "I'm afraid it wasn't only me! I'll take care of that, try and get some rest."

Footsteps and voices could be heard approaching. While walking towards them, Father chuckled again. When he'd warned Vincent against the possible consequences of…physical intimacy with Catherine, waking up half the Tunnel population before dawn was not exactly what he had in mind.

"Father, how is he?"

"Another of those nightmares?"

"That roar was frightful! I thought the tunnels were going to collapse on our heads!"

"Is Vincent going to be sick again?"

He smiled to the anxious, sleepy-eyed faces and stroked Eric's' hair.

"No, don't worry, Eric, Vincent is all right.  Listen to me, everyone! Vincent is well, Catherine is with him. I know that roar sounded impressive, but it's nothing to worry about, there's no danger of him being ill again. You should all go back to your beds, and catch whatever sleep you can."

"Too late for me!" said William. "I should be getting up in half an hour anyway, so I think I'll just start breakfast. Anybody fancy a cup of coffee?"

Some followed him, the others went yawning back to their chambers. Mary took Father's arm.

"I think I'll make tea, would you like some?"

"Yes, it would be nice, thank you Mary."

"What happened to Vincent? Did you examine him?"

"No, he…he said it wasn't necessary."

She gently patted his hand. "Don't worry, he'll be all right. If Catherine is with him, then he's in good hands."

He surprised her with a broad and slightly mischievous grin.

"Good hands indeed, Mary! The best there are!"