Spending the warm days of the weekend above with his mother had been so much fun. They had gone to the zoo on Saturday, and had ridden the carousel. After that they had spent several hours playing at the playground. Jacob had laughed when his Mommy climbed with him on the monkey bars, and had swung next to him on the large swing sets. Sunday had been rainy so they had gone to the museum taking Luke and Katy along with them. Jacob had loved everything he had seen in the museum, but most of all the Unicorn Tapestries, not so unlike the tapestries that hung in the Great Hall. Each of those nights before bed he had been more than happy to tell his father all about what he had seen, reliving the moments before bedtime.
The new week had arrived, and Jacob sat on his parents bed watching as his Mommy sat at her vanity getting ready to go above. His arms were folded across his chest and a frown had creased his face. "I don’t want you to leave," he said softly. He watched as she finished putting her hair up and looked down as she crossed over to the bed and sat down beside him.
"Jacob, I know how hard this is for you, which is why I don’t go above unless I’m truly needed. Uncle Joe has a very important case that he needs me to help with. It will help a family who has lost so much," she said.
At five years old understanding why his mommy needed to help others above was still something he struggled with. "You can help people below," he tried. He still didn’t look at her, too hurt by the fact that she was leaving, and that his father was also going to be going away.
Her life had changed so much over the past six years since her marriage to Vincent, and Catherine was content with her role as mother, friend, wife, and sometimes teacher. Yesterday a note had arrived from Joe pleading with her to come above and give some of her insight on a very tragic case where a city worker had lost his life in an explosion. The case was complex and filled with emotion on both sides, and he needed her help to sort through it all. Be that as it may, she was struggling to help Jacob understand. This would be a long week for her family, with Vincent’s duties calling him away as well and she felt guilty as she watched her son balling up his small fists in frustration. "I love helping our family below, but this week I am needed above," she said as she stood up. She moved in front of her son and knelt down. "Jacob, I will be home before supper and I promise that you and I will spend some special time together."
"No," he said as he slipped of the bed and ran past her.
Catherine turned and watched as he pushed past the curtain to go into his small chamber. Vincent stood at the entry and was at her side in two steps holding her in his arms. "I can’t do this to him. He isn’t used to me going above, and with you gone…" She felt his lips press against the top of her head and breathed in a heavy sigh.
"There is a family above who needs your help Catherine and I will try and help Jacob understand," he said.
"And if you can’t?" She pulled away and lifted her head peering into his blue eyes.
Vincent reached out and traced the back of his hand over her soft cheek. "Then we will find another way to handle this situation." He lowered his head and the shared the briefest of kisses before he walked over to the curtain and slipped inside.
Being in his preschool class among friends was something Jacob loved. He was a bright child who loved to learn, and share his love for learning with his friends. Today that brightness had dimmed and he sat at a table alone coloring a picture out of an old coloring book donated by someone from above.
"Jacob, why don’t you come over and join us for a story," Brook called out.
He stood up letting his shoulders slump forward as he walked over to the group. Jacob took his seat next to his best friend Luke, but kept his eyes focused on the rug he was sitting on.
As Brook began to read, Luke poked his shoulder. "Why are you so grumpy?"
"My Mommy went above to work," he replied as he found a loose string in the carpet and began to rub it between his fingers. His daddy had explained to him that mommy would only be above this week, and that he would have her back for another weekend. That seemed very far away, and Jacob sighed.
"My Mom doesn’t do that, and my Dad doesn’t do that either. They stay here with me."
"Jacob’s Mom lived in the world up there," Katy whispered in defense of Catherine.
"Maybe she wants to go back there," Jacob added feeling worse. He thought of the weekend and longed to go above if only to feel close to her. Suddenly his eyes widened and a smile crossed his lips as he looked from one best friend to the other. "I’m going to go above to play in the park," he quietly announced.
Instantly, Katy objected his idea. "You can’t go there by yourself. Above is very dangerous, My Mommy said it is, and your Mommy and Daddy would be afraid for you to do it."
Sometimes having Katy be the voice of reason was a bother, but today Jacob had his mind made up. "Then you and Luke have to come with me."
Both of them looked at one another, and Jacob smiled as he saw a spark of interest in their eyes. Before they could make any further plans, Brook was calling them to be seated at their work stations and for now going above was pushed aside.
After classes ended, Jacob went with Luke and Katy to spend some time with Mary. Their parents were busy and Mary usually watched them along with the other children in a large chamber that was a nursery of sorts. Other people helped her, but today there were only a handful of them and Mary was capable of taking care of them on her own. With her attention drawn to Luke’s baby brother, Jacob had pulled his two friends away from her to try and figure out how they were going to have their adventure.
"Maybe we should leave early in the morning," Katy suggested as she held her little rag doll.
Already both of the boys were shaking their heads. "My Mommy will still be here and she would find out and we wouldn’t have enough time to stay above," Jacob said feeling unsure of this plan. He knew that if they did this and if they got caught they would all be in very big trouble.
"We could do it at lunch. If I leave to go to the bathroom, and then you and Katy do the same we could sneak out without really being noticed." Luke had a point. Lunch time was always a busy event in their days, and sometimes confusing, which was the perfect time to get away.
"Tomorrow we will do it. I know a way to get around the sentries so that they won’t get us and take us back to Grandfather or Mary. We might get in trouble if we do it," Jacob said. He was young, but knew the risks he was putting his friends into and wanted to be sure they understood what it meant.
Luke and Katy looked at one another and told him at the same time that they were in on his plan and suddenly a week without his mother didn’t seem as lonely as it once had.
Catherine finished the story of the Elephant’s Child expecting Jacob to be asleep, but when she looked down at him she found him still very much awake. Something was troubling her little boy and so far he had not been willing to share what that was. "Jacob, are you still upset with me for going above?"
"No, you need to help those people. Daddy said you would be able to spend all weekend with me. Can we take Luke and Katy with us to the playground on Saturday?"
"I think we can manage that," Catherine answered as she slipped out of his bed. She pulled the covers over his small body and leaned over him kissing his cheeks. "I love you."
Jacob sighed and looked away from her and Catherine sat down on the edge of his bed. "Jacob, tell me what’s wrong."
He wanted to do that, but if he did he would spoil the adventure for Katy and Luke and he wasn’t going to do that. "Mommy if there was a little child who was going to do something bad do you think her Mommy and Daddy would still love her?" Jacob looked up into her face and saw her frown. His heart began to beat faster and he knew that he wouldn’t be able to go tomorrow.
Catherine reached out and ran her fingers through her son’s hair. "If she was going to do something bad, and she knew that it was so, I think her Mommy and Daddy would still love her, but I also know that the little girl would probably get some sort of punishment."
"If it was really bad what would her parents do to her? Would they lock her in a closet and throw away the key?"
Catherine reached out and gathered him in her arms. "I don’t think they would do that, but if it were really bad the little girl might be confined to her room for a while without seeing any of her friends."
"Would she get a spanking if it was very dangerous?"
"Jacob what are you planning?" Catherine asked gently as she held him away from her so that she could look into his eyes.
She knew something was going on and Jacob looked away from her. "I’m not going to do anything mommy. I was going to, but I won’t now."
When he pulled out of her arms and rolled on his side facing away from her, Catherine remained by his side. She wondered what he had been planning and wasn’t entirely convinced that he still wouldn’t do what ever it was that he had thought of. In some ways she thought he was like Devin. Jacob’s spirit was not bound by limits easily and there were times in the past when he had wondered away simply because he was bored.
After a few moments Catherine stood up and went into her own chamber feeling conflicted. There wasn’t a way to make Jacob tell her what he was up too, but Catherine was going to be sure that an extra set of eyes kept watch on him just in case.
Luke had not been very understanding when Jacob told him that they couldn’t go above. It was when he noticed that everyone seemed to being paying attention to them when they snuck off into a corner that he agreed that they would have to wait.
It was that Thursday when two new families moved below that the children agreed the time was now. They got away from the Dining chamber with ease and Jacob led them through the maze of tunnels until they finally reached above.
"I’m the oldest so I’ll go out first," Luke said.
Jacob agreed to let him do that holding Katy’s hand. She had wanted to go back but they had pushed her to come along, and Jacob felt bad that they had forced her to do this. "It will be fun and we won’t go anywhere but to the play ground," he whispered.
"My Mommy will spank me if she finds out," Katy said as a tear ran down her cheek.
"I’ll tell my Daddy to keep you safe." When Luke called out to them they joined him outside and Jacob led them to the playground for their day of fun.
Concern etched the otherwise soft features of her face when Zack, Kipper and Samantha returned to her chamber without the missing children. Mary had gotten wrapped up with helping the new families settle in, as had the rest of them. Their attention drawn to that task had given the children the chance to slip away, making Catherine’s concerns come true. Jacob had planned something but he had not been alone. "We need to organize a large search party. Zack, I know you have classes to tend to, but I need to go to Vincent and the others and let them know what is happening. Kipper you go with him." It would be a long journey for the boys, but Mary was not willing to take a risk and knew that Vincent’s bond with his son would come in handy, or at least she hoped as much.
"What more can I do?" Samantha asked easily reading the concern on Mary’s face.
"We need to speak with father and organize a larger search party. Someone will need to get a message to Catherine as well."
Samantha nodded and volunteered to go above agreeing to take Brook along with her.
Once she was on her way, Mary walked over to the cradle and lifted Noah from his cradle. "Come little one we need to talk to your mother and let her know that Luke has gone missing."
"Watch this," Jacob called out as his swing lunged forward. He let go of the chain and launched out of it landing on the sandy surface with a thud. A moment later Luke landed next to him and a second later Katy.
"Let’s climb on the monkey bars," Luke called out as he got up and ran ahead of them.
Jacob stood up and took Katy’s hand before the two ran after him. They were having such a great time that they had forgotten about time. A few minutes later they were playing with four other children engaged in a fun game of Hide-n-seek.
When they finished they went with their new friends over near the lake to have lunch. As they were all sitting down, the woman watching the other children asked them about their family.
"Our Babysitter is still over at the playground," Luke said before Jacob could think. The woman who was also a nanny seemed satisfied, though one look at Katy’s face, and Jacob knew his friend was on the verge of tears again.
"How long can you stay here?" Tommy asked as he finished up his sandwich. He looked like he was the oldest of the four children and again Luke spoke for them saying that they had most of the day to play.
Several hours had gone by, and Catherine sat in the chamber she shared with Vincent trying to figure out where her son had gone. She remembered his questions that night, but couldn’t bring herself to ponder what he might have done. She wanted to be out looking for her baby, but Father said it was best if she waited for him there in case he came back.
"Oh Vincent, this is all my fault." Her voice was shaky as he drew her to stand and when his arms wrapped around her, Catherine did her best not to shake.
"No," he said as she felt him draw her closer. "Jacob had always had a free spirit like Devin. I can understand better how father felt all those years before."
Already Catherine was shaking her head. She had not sent word to him of the conversation she had with Jacob and he was not yet aware of what she had known, which was that their son had planned this. "Jacob was troubled the other evening Vincent." Catherine moved out of his arms and walked over to their bed and sat down. They didn’t have time to go through this, and yet she needed him to know this at the hope that he might be able to channel the bond to find their little boy. "He asked in a round about way what would happen if he did something very bad. It was almost like he was trying to decide if he would do this based on what kind of punishment he would receive. I think he might have gone above."
Vincent’s focus drew away from her and Catherine knew he was searching for Jacob with the bond they shared. She waited and when his eyes focused on her again his face held a grim expression.
"He is keeping the bond from me. What little bit I felt was very distant. We need to gather a team to go above. Do you think they could have gone to the playground?"
"Yes," she whispered shutting her eyes.
Katy was crying and Luke was mad, leaving Jacob to try and comfort her the best way he could. The sun was getting lower in the sky which meant it was almost night. They were hungry, and Jacob was terrified of going back home. He knew that everyone below had to know they were gone, and what was worse is that he felt his father probing to find him.
"We have to wait until night Katy. Our punishments won’t be so bad if they find us below," Jacob tried as he hugged her close.
"I don’t care now. My Mommy is probably very afraid and so are yours and Luke’s," she sobbed.
They were hiding in some bushes while Luke and Tommy played catch. It was so tempting to open the bond to let his Daddy know they were above, but Jacob didn’t want anyone to be angry with him, especially not Luke. He looked up to his friend who was two and half years older, and Luke had not been happy about Katy being so sad.
"Jacob shut her up, there’s a police person on a horse," Luke called out.
Reluctantly Jacob put his hand over her mouth and hugged her very close. Katy was a year older than him, but wasn’t as brave as they were because she was a girl. "Shh, he can’t catch us," whispered Jacob as Katy tried to calm down.
They heard the horse’s hoofs fall closer to their hiding spot and Luke was talking to the Police person telling him that their sitter was just behind some trees.
"I’ll need you to take me too her so that I know you are safe."
"I can’t really go with you. I’m not supposed to talk to strangers."
Jacob shook his head and shut his eyes. If that officer was smart he wouldn’t buy that, and he didn’t.
"Are you here by yourself?"
"No I’m here with my two friends."
Jacob opened his eyes and led Katy out into the open. "We snuck here," Jacob said trying to find a way out of this. They could all run in separate directions but that would be too dangerous, and as Jacob looked into the face of the officer he instantly knew him.
He was busted. His mom had talked to the Officer man that Saturday when they were at the park and told Jacob later that he had known her when she worked above. He was one of Uncle Joe’s friends and someone who used to look out for her. "Hello Officer Webb."
"Where is your Mom?"
"At work with Mr. Maxwell at the DA’s office. We have to get home but it was nice to see you."
"Hold on right there. I’m sorry Jacob but I can’t let you go."
Before the officer could say anything else his radio went off and as he focused on speaking to the other person, Jacob grabbed Katy’s hand and Luke’s and pulled them to run. In the back of his mind he knew that it wasn’t the smartest thing, but he also knew that they had to try and get below so that no one else would know they had been above.
"Jacob," Catherine called out as she walked with Samantha at her side. It was dusk and there hadn’t been any sign of the children.
"Do you think he tried to go to your old apartment?" Samantha asked as the playground turned out to be another dead end.
Her mind was at a loss and Catherine felt defeated and half scared out of her mind. Vincent hadn’t wanted her to come above and she had gotten angry at him for suggesting that she wait in the chamber. She felt bad for her words to him earlier and her heart ached for her husband and son. "I don’t know where he could have gone. Let’s meet back at the Carousel with the others and then we can head that way.
Hidden behind a dumpster in a part of the city Jacob didn’t know, the little boy clutched Katy close as Luke tried to think of a way they could enter the tunnels. Katy had been crying since they left the park and was shaking. Jacob was so afraid that his stomach hurt him and that fear kept him from opening the bond.
"I think there may be a way in down a few blocks. We are on 34th street right now," Luke whispered. It was dark now and the city seemed larger and more frightening than it was during the day.
"I don’t think we should go. I need to let my Daddy feel my bond," Jacob said as his voice trembled.
Luke ran a hand through his hair looking afraid for a moment before he sat down next to them. "Do you want to get in trouble, the kind of trouble that will get your butt blistered?"
"My Daddy and Mommy have never hit me like that before," Jacob defended.
"They will once they know you are above." His words made Katy cry even more and Jacob pursed his lips. "Then you go by yourself she’s afraid and so am I and I just want my Daddy to help us." Jacob expected Luke to leave but he didn’t and agreed that he should open the bond.
Jacob shut his eyes trying not to think about how angry his Mommy and Daddy would be. He wanted to open the bond but his fear prevented it. "I can’t do it Luke. We have to run away now. My Uncle Devin would keep us only he lives in Washington and that’s on the other side of the map."
"Hey what are you doing behind there?" a strange man asked.
"Nothing," Luke said as he stood up.
"Don’t look like nothing to me. Looks like she’s afraid."
Something about the man didn’t feel right to Jacob and without knowing it his hold over the bond slipped as fear engulfed him. The little boy stood with Luke and remembering the movie his Uncle Devin had let him watch where the kids got in trouble with intruders in their house, he kicked his foot right into the guy’s groin.
"Get Katy," Jacob yelled as he ran out from behind the dumpster. He screamed as loud as he could, knowing that he would get attention of someone who could help them, or at least he hoped as much.
When they arrived at her old apartment it was nine o’clock in the evening. Catherine dropped her keys on the floor and was about to go to the kitchen to get a glass of water when her phone began to ring. She looked at Samantha before she ran over and pulled it off the receiver. "Hello."
"Cathy its Joe. I’m here at the downtown precinct with Jacob and his friends."
For a moment she couldn’t find the words. "Is he alright?"
"They are all pretty shaken, but none the worse for wear."
"I’ll be right there. Joe, thank you." He had known the moment she received word that Jacob was missing and had not argued when she needed to go. Catherine was thankful that she had made Jacob memorize his number along with Peter’s in case he was ever to get lost above. "They are safe. Samantha go to the basement and tell everyone I’ve gone after them."
They hugged and after Catherine got her purse they headed on their way.
Taking a bath without his toys was boring, but Jacob didn’t dare say a word. His mommy had hugged him and she had been crying which had really frightened him. His daddy helped him to his feet and handed him the washcloth letting him clean his private parts. "Do you and Mommy hate me now?" Jacob sat back down watching the water as it rippled around him.
"Jacob we could never hate you. You are our special little boy. What you did today was very wrong and I think you knew better didn’t you?"
That was really hard to answer. Jacob knew his Daddy was angry with him. He never yelled but his voice wasn’t as gentle as it usually was. In a moment he was lifted out of the tub and a warm towel was wrapped around his tired body. His daddy picked him up and carried him the short distance to his chamber. Mommy wasn’t there and Jacob felt his heart start to hurt him.
"I made my mommy cry," he whispered as his father began to dry him off. "I hurt her didn’t I?" In a moment he was held close in those strong arms and Jacob let his tears fall silently down his cheeks.
"You frightened all of us. None of us knew if you were hurt or if someone had taken you away. Mommy cried because she was relieved to find you safe."
"Are you and Mommy going to spank me?" That had worried him more than anything else, and that also told his father that he didn’t understand just what he had done today.
Vincent finished getting him dressed and carried him over to his rocking chair. He turned Jacob to face him. "You will not be spanked Jacob. Your Mommy and I have yet to decide how to punish you, but the more important thing is that you understand what you did, and why it was wrong."
"We didn’t get hurt." They had played all day without anyone trying to hurt them except the very bad man, but Jacob had known what to do.
"You were extremely lucky that nothing happened to you," Catherine said as she entered the chamber. She walked over and knelt in front of them.
"That bad man wanted to hurt us but I kicked him in his private parts like the boys did in that movie Uncle Devin let me watch at his hotel. I screamed and nice people helped us."
Catherine reached out and took her little boys hand. "Jacob, what would you have done if no one would have helped you and that bad man had friends to help him?" She didn’t want to scare him but he needed to know that he had lucked out.
"I would have kicked them all and I would have let Daddy find me with the Bond."
"It would have taken your Daddy time to get to you. That man could have taken you away with him and hurt you."
His brows furrowed when she said that and he leaned his head against Vincent’s chest. "Molly got hurted by bad men. She said they made her do bad things. I just wanted to feel better mommy." He was tired and confused and hurt and Jacob hated all of it.
His daddy stood up and carried him to his bed laying him down before his mommy pulled the covers over him. "Are you going to make me stay in my chamber?"
"For at least tomorrow," Catherine said as she kissed his forehead.
"I’m very sad," he whispered as he pulled Fiver over his face. Fiver was his bunny, named after the rabbit in a book called Watership Down that Uncle Devin had read to him. Hot tears rolled down his cheeks, and Jacob scrubbed them away as he turned over looking at the wall. His Mommy and Daddy told him that they loved him but it didn’t help much.
Jacob thought about that bad man and thought about what Molly had told him. His little mind began to work in overdrive as he wondered what really would have happened if the bad man had friends. Molly said that her mommy’s boyfriend locked her in the closet when she didn’t do what he wanted to do. She said he made her show him her private parts and Jacob knew that wasn’t a good thing.
The Bunnies in the book were mean; some of them were and tortured the other bunnies. Some of them even died. "Daddy!" Jacob sat up in his bed and a moment later his daddy was there to hold him close. "What happens when you die? That man would have hurt me very bad and he would have made me die and I don’t want to do that I want to stay here with you and mommy."
Vincent lifted Jacob into his strong arms cradling him close as he began to cry. As Catherine came into the chamber and Vincent sat on the bed holding both of them as Jacob continued to cry. He was exhausted and in need of sleep, but was also frightened and confused. "Shh, you are safe. Mommy and I will watch over you," he whispered.
"Molly said bad kids get locked in the closet," Jacob sobbed.
He was so upset, that they took him to their bed. Vincent let Catherine lay down and settled in next to her never losing his hold on his little boy. Jacob rested with the length of his small body on Vincent’s chest and soon fell into a much needed rest.
"I shouldn’t have put that idea into his head about the bad man," Catherine whispered as she rested on her left side running her hand through Jacob’s soft hair.
"He needed to understand, even though it frightened him," Vincent responded as Catherine scooted closer resting with her cheek upon his chest.
"Daddy, did a bad man try and take Mommy away from you?" Jacob asked this as they sat in his chamber after sharing a story. Last night had been long with Jacob waking up crying because of bad men trying to hurt him, and today Vincent had stayed home to be with him trying to help his son through this confusing time in his life.
Vincent was well aware that Jacob knew some of what had happened during that dark time and was reluctant to tell him any more than was the already knew. "He didn’t get a chance to hurt you or Mommy."
Jacob turned in his arms with his lips pursed as though he were deep in thought. "What if he was able to hurt my mommy?"
"Jacob, he wasn’t able to do anything bad to her. He won’t ever be able to hurt anyone else," Vincent soothed as he leaned forward and kissed his son’s forehead.
A sigh escaped his little boys lips, and unwilling to let Jacob ponder on the subject that Vincent himself wasn’t ready to share with him, he suggested that they practice a game of chess.
Eagerly Jacob squirmed out of his arms and ran into the larger chamber ready to learn, wanting to one day be able to beat his grandfather at the complex game.
Catherine had gone above to help Joe one last day and Vincent had plans to take his family camping, hoping that the time alone together would be more time to help Jacob overcome his troubling dreams.