The Gift of a Son
Vincent and Catherine had overcome much and finally found their happy, though complicated, life together. They lived in a beautiful brownstone with tunnel access when Above. While staying Below, they occupied the chamber Vincent had lived in since boyhood. Lying in his bed Below, with his beloved at his side, Vincent reflected on his life. Catherine had brought many gifts to himself and his world since that fateful April night when she had become a part of them. Soon there would be another. A gift he never dared imagine could be possible. Their first child would be born any day now.
In order for them to have their life together many compromises had been made. The decision of where this child would be born was another. This was the reason they were currently in their chamber Below instead of in the brownstone.
Father and Peter had wanted the baby to be born Above and had discussed plans to bring in complex monitoring equipment. Neither physician had been shy regarding voicing all manner of complications that could arise. Both medical men seemed oblivious to what this was doing to the parents-to-be.
Catherine awoke alone once again in the bed that they should have been sharing. These last weeks had been difficult. Vincent had been the very picture of solicitude. She lacked for nothing that he was physically able to give her. Emotionally it was another matter altogether. The concerns expressed by Father and Peter had taken root and would not release him. The old worries and doubts had come back with a vengeance.
She found him in the whispering gallery. Something about the floating voices seemed to allow them to release their own. He was sitting with his back firmly against one of the posts on the bridge spanning the abyss. One leg was bent and he rested an arm upon the upturned knee. The other leg was held straight before him and he was unconsciously drawing his palm back and forth on one of the boards beneath his hand. His head was tilted back and his eyes were closed. Vincent did not say a word or move to rise, merely lifting his arm in invitation. He shifted slightly to pull her snugly within his warm embrace. Catherine settled and burrowed her face against his chest with a sigh of contentment as Vincent arranged his cloak to envelop them both.
"Catherine, it is late and you should be resting" he breathed into her hair.
"So should you" she responded quietly. "Why are you here?"
"I found myself unable to sleep and did not want to disturb you"
"Vincent, you have been very restless these last days. Is it because of the changes having a child will bring to our lives? We have time enough to prepare for that. I am only in my third monthÖ."
At the words "third month" his heart lurched in his chest and he could not prevent a convulsive tightening of his arms. Catherine felt a bolt of intense fear speed through the bond before Vincent was able to cut it off. She knew he was thinking of Paracelsus and the lies regarding his own birth. She also knew that he needed to articulate those fears before he could fully defeat them.
"Talk to me Vincent. I know you are thinking of Paracelsus. There is nothing you need to hide from me."
There was a long pause and she was starting to think he would not answer. When that response finally came, his quiet voice held great pain. "Catherine, logically I know that what Paracelsus told me could not possibly have actually occurred. But emotions have nothing to do with logic. I fear for you. I want this child so badly, but at the same time am terrified that it will mean your death. I can protect you from much, but not from this. I love you so deeply and know that I would not long survive such a loss"
For an unknown time all Catherine could do was hold him tightly and stroke that broad back comfortingly until she felt his tension begin to ease. She took Vincentís face into her small hands so that he could not look away. Her gaze and words were intense as she spoke "We will protect each other. We will come through this as we have always done. Together"
Vincent slowly brought his hands alongside hers and answered "Yes. Together"
Satisfied, Catherine pressed a tender kiss to each of his hands before removing hers and once more settling against his chest. "I know that Father and Peter mean well, but they are making both of us crazy. I want this baby born Below. I want him born in our bed in our chamber. We are both strong and healthy and there is no reason to believe that our child wonít be as well. We will not suffer through any more of this gloom and doom!"
With that she turned her face up to his and asked sweetly "Would you talk to Father?"
When Catherine used that tone of voice, Vincent knew that she was trying to get him to do something that she thought might be unpleasant. He could not help a small chuckle, his mood of minutes ago forgotten.
"Yes, WE will need to talk to Father and Peter about this."
It was exactly the response that Catherine had hoped for "Right. Now take me home, itís late and I and the baby should be resting." With a toss of her head she got to her feet and prepared to start back.
Before she could take a step, Vincent had scooped her up in his powerful arms. He gave her a deep kiss and said "Come my love, letís go home"
This would not be the last time such fears would surface, but it would be the last time either would try to face them alone.
Catherine was starting to awaken. Vincent nuzzled the top of her head and pressed a kiss there.
"How are you feeling?" he asked softly.
Her eyes opened slightly "Hmmm, that was nice. I feel like the Hindenburg just before someone struck a match. Can you help me up or do you think you need to call for reinforcements?"
A smile spread across his face. "It may be a test of my strength and fortitude, but for you my love I will make the effort"
With a last brief caress, Vincent regretfully left the bed. After seeing Catherine up and dressed, he made his way to the commons to get them both some breakfast. As he finished filling the tray, Vincent felt a strong wave of emotion rush through the bond. He was hit by a whirling maelstrom of shock, anticipation, fear and joy tangled with other feelings that he could not name. He rushed back to their chamber to find Catherine standing by his writing table. The expression on her face reminded him of the Madonnas of Raphael and DaVinci.
"I seem to have made a mess on the rug" she murmured distractedly. Then turned to him and raised her eyes to meet his. "Are you ready to become a father?"
Father, Mary and Peter had helped them through what seemed to Vincent to be a long and difficult labor. Anything that caused his Catherine pain was hard for him to bear. Truth be told, she had come through it much better than he and Vincent had marveled at her strength.
Finally, he heard his sonís newborn cries and felt a new deep connection form while at the same time, feeling an even deeper disconnect. He was a participant hereÖ and yet not. He was an observer hereÖ and yet not. He could feel everything strongly yet somehow was able to think quite clearly. Vincent felt and heard those infant cries and experienced a deep fracturing within. As if it was he himself that was the infant. His sonís cries became his own and Vincent felt a coldness that all but his deepest memories had forgotten. The comfortable chamber around him disappeared and he was back in that frigid alley. Alone, unwanted, abandoned utterly. To taste the bitterness of death before given the opportunity to enjoy the slightest bit of hope that was life. The freezing temperature and bitter wind began to seep through his body and to his very bones. Small as he was, that cold would not take long to complete its grim work.
Part of him accepted the decision of her who had borne him. That he was an abomination that should not have been permitted to draw its first breath. That it was better so, and he should submit to that wisdom. Go back to that nameless, unfeeling void from which he had sprung. Surely what lay here was a deformed creature from the stuff of nightmare that no reasoning being could abide, much less nurture and love.
Another, primal, part of him bellowed with rage. He would not give up without a fight! He would not go quietly into the night! He had been born and he had survived! This part of him brooked no defiance and would not be denied. Would continue to fight and scream until his challenge was answered.
An unknowable time passed and the infant that was Vincent was surrounded by strong arms. There was an incredible sensation of warmth, an all encompassing feeling of love and comfort there. He ceased his struggles and opened his eyes.
The dizzying feeling of disconnection was suddenly gone and he was once more in that familiar boyhood chamber. As he held his son in his arms Vincent was nearly overcome by emotion. This beloved child had mended a long shattered part of his fatherís soul just by reason of his existence. Slowly Vincent turned and made his way to the bed where the mother of that child waited.
"Catherine, we have a healthy son. He is as incredibly beautiful as his mother. I have no words that can possibly begin to convey to you what I am feeling at this moment"
Vincent recalled the promise he had made at the bedside of Catherineís dying father. In a low voice grown rough with emotion, he renewed that vow to her, a vow that now included his son. "I will watch over you, protect you and love you, both of you, until my last breath. ALWAYS"
"Always" came the tired response.
"Sleep now. I will keep you, my family, safe and warm"
Sometime later, Father quietly entered the chamber to check on those he loved most in the world. He found Catherine and Vincent in each otherís arms with the babe nestled between them. All were sleeping soundly and seemed to be enveloped by an almost imperceptible golden glow. As if their mysterious bond was somehow physically manifested, protecting and soothing that very special family. Jacob Wells shook his head as if to clear it, more likely it was just a trick of the candle flames combined with his own fatigue. Seeing that he was not needed, he turned and went to seek his own rest.