Move Toward Tomorrow
by Catherine Maya
I remember my parents being in love. I remember Papa, and his strong presence that comforted me on nightmare filled nights. Mom was always there to talk to, or to give advice, or to help the friend of the friend who was in trouble. I don't remember much of them together; just that they loved each other beyond words.
I'm sixteen now and it's been eleven years since my life and my perfect world shattered. It took me this long to figure everything out. To understand everything that my Mommy and Papa went through, years ago.
It started while Mom was still pregnant with me. Another attack of a madman's incessant pursuit to get to my father, done, as always, through my mother.
'Who are they? Why are they after me? Kicks? It doesn't matter. All that matters is getting away.'
Down the ramp. Turn left and left again.
'It seems like everyone's out to kill me. Why these men?'
Down the next ramp. Turn left.
'Why does it feel like I'm going in circles? Because I am! Get out, get out, get out!! Run, Catherine, they're right on you! Yes! An elevator!'
"Come on. Come on." She paced while she waited for the doors to open.
'They're coming! Close, come on, close!' The elevator doors closed as she pulled her hand-gun out of her purse. 'One floor to go!' She raced out the second the door opened. She practically flew through the front door of the building.
Vincent stood quickly when he heard footsteps coming down the ladder through the brick doorway. He was expecting her, but wasn't quite prepared for Catherine to launch herself into his arms. "What's wrong?" He stroked her silky, dark-blonde hair and held her tight.
"I... I got into my car and I started to pull out and two men started shooting at me. I almost didn't get out." She allowed a few tears to fall as she spoke.
He pulled her away slightly, to look into her face. "Are you alright? You're not hurt, are you?"
"No, I'm all right. I was just so scared, Vincent."
He tightened his grip around her and nuzzled his face into her neck. "Why?" His breath on her sent an almost comforting chill down her spine. "Why was it taken from us?"
"It will return, I promise you," she mumbled into his hair.
"I hear the sincerity in your voice, Catherine, but I can't feel it. I can't feel you! All I feel is emptiness."
The hot breeze against her skin was beginning to make her stomach knot up excitedly, the sexual tension building. 'Not here, not now!' she scolded herself. But at the moment her emotions were going haywire and logic had no control over it. "I'm the reason the bond is broken." It was all her shallow breaths would allow.
"No, Catherine. You must not blame yourself. It's no one's fault."
His breathing and words were starting to make her crazy. She had to make him step away somehow, although she was sure she didn't want him to stop. She lifted her lips to his ear and whispered, "Vincent, I'm pregnant."
That did the trick. He pulled his head up quickly to stare into her green eyes.
She nodded slowly. She wanted him to lift her into his arms and be hysterically happy, but she knew it wouldn't be that way.
"Catherine... you're carrying a child?" He still couldn't grasp the concept.
"No. Not a child. Our child." She could see in his eyes that he wasn't going to share her excitement just yet. "I couldn't tell you. You've been through so much. I knew it would just hurt you more."
"I see the joy in your eyes, but I fear for the worst. No one knows what happened to my mother. If this child is like me... "
Catherine couldn't take it any more. She wasn't sure what it was, maybe the knowledge of their child, maybe the longing for the passionate embrace he didn't remember, but something made her launch herself into him and press her lips to his.
Both opened their mouths immediately, allowing their tongues to meet against each other.
She wrapped her arms up around his neck and pulled herself into him. His arms went around her back and waist as he pulled her upward.
They barely parted a few minutes later. Catherine brushed her lips over his; waiting for the rest to come. Vincent began to regain his mind, to understand what had just happened. He pulled his head away just enough to look into her eyes.
Catherine put a finger to his lips. Her breath was almost non-existent and a chill ran up her spine. "Don't. Please don't. I don't ask for anything more than your love." She pulled her finger down his bottom lip. "Not your fear, or your concern for me." She linked her fingers behind his neck again and whispered as she ran her lips over his. "Just love me."
If she weren't right there, if her lips weren't touching his, Vincent would never have believed this could, or would ever happen. It was right. He knew it. Catherine was now carrying his child... and it was right. But he had to worry for her. 'Not now.' A voice told him. 'Catherine's right. Now isn't the time to worry. Right now, all she needs is my love.'
"I love you," he told her softly and fit his mouth to hers.
They kissed slowly, deeply, and passionately. They savored every second of the moment they had both wanted to share since the night he found her in the park. The kiss seemed to go on forever; the very thing they both wished for.
When their lips finally separated they rested their heads on each other's shoulders, panting, trying to calm their emotions. Catherine brought her arms down and turned to face outward, her head still tucked into his neck.
Vincent brought his hands around her and rested them on her stomach. He intertwined his fingers with hers when she set them on top.
"Vincent." She breathed in his name.
"Do you promise?" Her words had only a hint of love in them. More of a test to know what he would do in the years to come.
It took Vincent a few minutes of silence to figure out what she was talking about and come up with the proper answer. "Yes, Catherine. Whatever comes... I promise."
Catherine smiled and sighed as she tucked her face into his chest.
"Father." Catherine called from the top of the steps to the library. Vincent stood behind her, seemingly giving her strength.
"Catherine! Vincent! Come in and sit down!" Father ushered them in excitedly.
"Actually, Father," Vincent started as he followed Catherine down the stairs, "you may want to sit down."
Father suddenly became as serious and almost grim as Vincent and Catherine. He sat in a large red velvet chair and stared at his son expectantly. "You're going to shock me," he stated, waiting for conformation.
Vincent nodded slightly and spoke. "Catherine is pregnant."
There was silence for a few minutes while Vincent watched Father keep his face as calm and blank as possible. Catherine sank into the chair next to him, waiting for any sign of a reaction. Vincent stood behind her, knowing that she too felt like a child about to be punished for breaking the rules.
Father ran his hand over his eyes. "I feared this day would come. How long has it been?"
"I'm eight weeks along." Catherine looked away, waiting for the inevitable speech from Father.
"And you're keeping it, right?"
Catherine looked up sharply, a wide look of awe in her eyes. "Of course."
"I would expect no less of you."
Neither Vincent or Catherine knew whether to take that as a compliment or an insult.
"Mary and I will monitor your progress to make sure there aren't any... difficulties." Father rested his head in his palm. "You two have made mistakes before, but this tops the chart."
Catherine looked away again, and shook her head with a role of her eyes, growing more and more impatient with Father's condescending tone. Vincent's head snapped up, anger and amazement burning in his eyes.
"No." Both Catherine and Father's eyes met his. "No, Father. I believe this is one of those rare occasions when Catherine and I have done something right!"
" Well, it's obvious neither of you intended for this to happen." Vincent and Catherine looked away in admission. "I knew this day would come." Father started. "The day when you two would force pain on yourselves of your own free will."
"Father, to deny me that pain is to deny me my humanity." Vincent knew those kinds of statements made Father nervous.
Father sighed, and leaned his head back. After a second he brought it back down. "I'm not angry with you. I'm afraid for you. Both of you. Catherine especially. We have no idea what might happen to you if this child is... special." He tried to put it delicately.
Catherine reached up and clutched Vincent's hand on the back of her chair. "Nothing will go wrong!" She sounded as if she were convincing herself instead of Father.
Vincent twisted his fingers with hers to reassure her. Or maybe he was assuring himself.
"Look at reality, please, both of you!" Father's loss of patience was apparent in his voice. "Whether this child is physically different or not doesn't matter. It will have a unique chemistry. You will be in constant danger through your labor, Catherine, possibly even your pregnancy. Don't you see that?"
"I see it." Catherine began strongly. "But I will not surrender to it."
"You two are acting like stubborn children!"
"No." Vincent countered. "We're acting like parents who are more afraid for their child than themselves."
"Stay here tonight." Vincent tried to tempt her.
They stood at the brick doorway beneath her apartment building's basement.
"I wish I could. But I have an important case that I'm working on, and Moreno needs me. We're so close to winning." Catherine smiled at her accomplishment.
Vincent wrapped his arms around her shoulders, pulling her into him. "Promise me that you won't work too hard. Don't put too much strain on yourself. If anything should happen to you or the child, I don't know what I'd do."
She smiled and tucked herself into his arms. "I promise. NOTHING will happen, but I promise. I love you." She kissed his high cheekbone.
"I love you." He breathed in the scent of her hair more than he kissed her. He set his hand on her abdomen. "And I love you especially."
Catherine smiled and let go of him, backing away slightly. "I have to go. Come see me tomorrow night on the balcony."
"Of course." Vincent watched her walk into the bright light that filtered down from the basement like the transportation for an angel; which to him was what Catherine was. She was an angel sent from the heavens to bring him everything his heart had ever longed for, but knew he could never have. His dream vision popped when he remembered their previous conversation. "Catherine!" She stopped and turned. "Your encounter today with the two men... "
"It's all right. I'll handle it." She climbed the ladder.
As she walked through her apartment she turned on a selected few lights. Catherine hit the large button on her answering machine.
"Hey, Cathy!" Jenny's voice replied from the box. "It's Jen. I'm returning your call. Don't have a heart attack, I do that sometimes. You know, return phone calls."
Catherine smiled as she pulled out a nightgown for herself.
"Well, anyway, you said it was important. So... call me whenever. Bye."
"Hey, Radcliffe, it's me." Joe's voice was low and almost unrecognizable. "Listen, I need you to bust me out of this joint before I go crazy! Nurse is here! Gotta go, bye!"
She shook her head and smiled as she went to shut the light off by the door. She stopped when an envelope was slid underneath it. As she picked it up she laughed softly at Vincent's boyish insecurity about her.
She opened the note and read it to herself.
Kill it before it kills you.
Kill it now, Catherine, before it has a chance to breathe air.
Her breath shortened and her legs suddenly became weak as she read. Someone knew about her pregnancy and wasn't about to celebrate it. The only person who fit that description was Father, and he would never do something like this. No, somebody knew about Vincent and his background.
Her body shook as she made her way to her bed. She covered her mouth with her hand to keep from the possibility of screaming. Her small puffs of breath made her sick stomach knot up. She pushed herself to the head of the bed and tucked her knees half way up. She wrapped her arm around her stomach and clutched the note in the opposite hand.
"Kill it before it kills you." She read it over and over until the tap on the glass on her balcony doors distracted her. She leapt from the bed, yanked the door open, and took heaving breaths as she stared at Vincent wildly. She held out the note for him to read.
It only took him a few seconds to read it. He immediately bolted for the edge of the terrace. "I'll kill him! I'll... "
"No! Vincent, no!!" Catherine clutched at his vest. "We don't even know who he is!"
"It's Paracelsus, Catherine!" he blurted out.
"Paracelsus is dead!"
"He isn't!" He began to pace wildly. "That's how I knew you were in trouble. Narcissa sent a message to me. She said she saw a child, somehow physically connected to both of us, in danger. Although the child in her vision wasn't born yet."
"So how do you know it's Paracelsus?" She tried to be understanding of his paranoia.
"Who else? I don't know whose body we buried, but it wasn't Paracelsus. He's back! And he wants to see our child die at his hand!"
"Because of you." The revelation of the truth sent a spiritual pain through her.
"Exactly!!" He stopped pacing and stared at her helplessly.
She closed her eyes and sighed. She opened them again as she spoke. "I love you, Vincent. And I love our child just as much, if not more than you. But every time we face Paracelsus, you are hurt in some way. You lost yourself and your memory last time. Just think of what extent he'll go to this time. If something should happen to you... "
"What are you saying, Catherine?! Are you saying to give up the child to him?!"
"No! Never! I'd die first." She narrowed her eyes at him, speaking to him through them.
After a few minutes Vincent shook his head slowly and his eyes widened. "No. No!"
"I'm the key. If we can keep the child out of this long enough... "
"Catherine, no!! You're talking about sacrificing yourself! NO!"
"Vincent... " she choked back her tears, "I won't let you die! I won't let OUR future die! I won't!"
"You're sentencing yourself to death just by letting the thought into your mind."
"So what are we supposed to do? Are we supposed to hide for the rest of our lives?"
"No, but not to resort to this."
"He'll come tonight and take us. The child and I will be gone. Lost forever. If we run, he will run faster. Don't you understand? This is the only way."
"No! I will not accept that!"
"We don't have a choice. He has to be stopped." Catherine clutched her stomach.
"Come Below tonight."
"I can't. I told Father that I wouldn't surrender to danger. Well, I will not surrender to threats either. We have to stop him, and I can keep the child safe as long as it's inside me." She sighed and tucked herself into his chest. "We just have to wait this one out."
"Then I will stay with you until dawn." His mind raced with the possibility of her capture. It frightened him beyond words to know that his child was the newest target.
"Eventually," she stepped back away and pressed her hands against her stomach, "I will be forced to go with him, you know that?"
Vincent barely nodded his blonde mane.
"The trick will be keeping all three of us alive." Catherine had to smile at her responsibility for a third life. She dropped her smile and her heart sank as she let the next sentence spill out. "Vincent, he'll expect a quick rescue."
Their horrified eyes locked with each other and they simply stared for a long while.
"How long?" His voice shook.
Catherine shook her head and shrugged, her eyes still wide. "I don't know." She avoided his eyes as she spoke. "Until the baby comes... maybe."
"Catherine?" He touched her shoulder.
"I don't know!" She burst and tried to hold back the unrelenting tears.
Vincent immediately pulled her into his arms. He held her as she openly cried on his shoulder. He kissed the side of her forehead, and twisted his hand against her stomach so his palm rested on the growing child inside. "Whatever comes," he breathed.
Catherine Chandler tossed and turned in Vincent's arms that night, unable to sleep. Too afraid to sleep. In the end exhaustion overruled willpower. She drifted into a listless sleep.
The alarm clock woke her with a start. Her eyes flew open. She expected to be in Vincent's arms or some unknown place underground. Instead she was in her own bed, in her own room, in her own apartment. She sat up and let her face fall into her hands. She sat there for a few minutes before a feeling of nausea swept through her. She jumped up and bolted into the bathroom.
'Allowing myself to be taken is the only way.' She told herself as the elevator doors slid open, revealing the main lobby. She stepped out and toward the doors. 'No car today.' She had to take every opportunity to be captured, it was the only way to keep Vincent, herself, and her baby safe, however twisted it might be.
She stepped onto the New York City sidewalk and glanced around for a taxi.
After stopping one, she climbed in and gave him directions to her office building. As she made herself comfortable in the backseat, she wrapped her arms around her stomach. 'What now, little one?' She asked the unanswering child inside.
She noticed that the driver suddenly went off course. 'This is it.' She prepared herself. 'Stay calm. Appear not to notice.'
The taxi stopped suddenly at the top of a hill in a back alley, allowing a man standing there into the backseat.
He was in his early twenties and dressed all in black business suit type clothing. He eyed her as he climbed in.
Catherine's eyes widened as he reached across her, opened the door, and shoved her out, sending her rolling down the cement.
Her eyes opened slightly, just enough to see the circle of men and women around her. Her head was suddenly yanked back by the hair. She was wide-awake now.
It was obviously a man's fist around a clump of her hair. The grip was tight and unrelenting.
"If we cut her open, do you think we'll find what the old man's hiding from us?" the man hissed. He pulled Catherine's head back even further to look into his muscular, dirt-covered face. "Hey, lady, you talk? Maybe you can tell us what's inside you. Tell us what he wants from you. Or should we just find out for ourselves?" He flipped a jackknife open and flashed it in front of her.
"If I find out you pulled even one strand of hair from that woman's head, I'll kill you." An older, gruff man spoke from behind her. "Let... her... go!"
Catherine's head was shoved down to the dirt again. Eyes narrowed and glaring, she turned to look over her shoulder at Paracelsus standing on a rock ledge a little ways from her. She turned herself to face him, sitting up.
"Catherine," he smiled and sneered, "so nice to see you again."
"Sorry I can't say the same."
"I'm guessing you know why you're here." Paracelsus kept his head high, making him seem superior.
Catherine began to work her way up. She got to her knees and was about to step up when a large hand shoved her back down. She heard the draw of a knife and the intake of breath from the crowd. She looked up at the man, a huge gash now in his jaw.
"Do I need to spell it out for you?! If you touch her again, I'll kill you." Paracelsus growled. He held out his hand to help her up.
Catherine simply stared at it. She pushed herself onto her feet without help. "I'm guessing this isn't a social call." It wasn't meant as a joke, it just slipped out. "Seven months is an awfully long time to keep someone prisoner."
Paracelsus dropped his hand, but his smile never faltered. "True. But then again, I don't intend you to carry for even a full trimester."
"Then why not let them kill me? Or better yet, you kill me. May as well. You've already destroyed Vincent. Kill the child, kill me. Vincent will die without you even lifting a finger. A more logical approach would be to keep me here; you take the child and start fresh. Teach him to be everything you wanted Vincent to be. Raise him as your son." The thoughts made her sick, but she had to take his mind off killing her baby. "He? Interesting how you assume it's a boy."
"It is a boy. I can feel it." It was a lie, but it sounded good.
"I accept that. As for raising him, it would be a waste of my time. He'll be half mortal because of you. Not nearly as powerful."
"Admit it, Catherine. Vincent isn't exactly human."
"He is just as human as you are! No, he's more human than you are!" She had been told he wasn't human too many times to let this one slip by. The rage in her voice was like a smack to his face.
Paracelsus smiled curiously at her. "Then again, he may just have the spirit for it." He thought for a moment. "Strange, but a good idea, none the less." He met her eyes. "It's too easy, I don't trust you. Why would you suggest it? Me, the heartless villain, taking your child?"
"I don't want to die." She knew she was no good at lying, but she hoped he'd buy it.
"Come now, Catherine. You've never been one to plead for your own life. You're trying to spare your child. A noble quest. A good attempt. And actually not a bad idea. Your bond is broken. Vincent can no longer feel you. You will be easily kept hidden. It won't be long before you give birth. It's cruel, deceitful, and yet I still obtain power. I like it. Thank you, Catherine for giving your child up to me."
Her blank face disappointed him, but he was glad he had rubbed her nose in the fact that her son would become the very thing his father fought against. Fully satisfied with himself, Paracelsus ordered her taken to a separate room with a guard, one of the women. He chose a young girl, barely more than sixteen, to be Catherine's guard/servant/nurse.
"And if one more person touches Ms. Chandler," he warned as he stared at the man he had cut, "that person will have no warnings. Just a slow and painful death."
The grumbles and murmurs of the group were soft as they dissipated. Paracelsus stepped up to Catherine's side. He took her elbow gently and began to lead her away; the young girl followed close behind.
"You'll need medical care. Don't worry, I'm just as good a doctor as Jacob."
'Oh, well, that makes me feel so much better,' she thought sarcastically as she yanked her arm away from him. Her shocked breathing had slowed to almost normal. A second wave of morning sickness knotted up her already sick stomach. Nothing came up, but the nauseated feeling was almost unbearable. She followed Paracelsus reluctantly as he babbled about her carrying the child for only a short period of time. She didn't care how or when the child was born, just that it was. She knew she could overcome heartache. The heartache of not seeing Vincent for months. But losing her baby was something she couldn't overcome. She had to keep the baby alive at all costs. Vincent would save them in time. She knew it.
Paracelsus kept on his ramblings while they entered a room, and Catherine sat in an old, rotting rocking chair.
It would be simple for Vincent to find them. They were very obviously below the city. Below the tunnels she knew. But Paracelsus had to have anticipated a quick rescue. Vincent would have to wait, make him think he had won this time. She was afraid for everyone but herself. And for some reason she still had this sense of sadness for this man. She wished deeply that she were in Vincent's arms at this very moment. But instead, she was in Paracelsus' exiled territory. His followers were exactly as she had pictured them. Some older, evidently the original followers. The rest were kids; juvenile delinquents, homeless teenagers, and runaways with no one to turn to. The girl assigned to her looked new to his command. Catherine's assumptions were confirmed when Paracelsus was about to leave, and turned back to the teenager.
"This is your chance, girl. Do well on this and you'll be part of the family." He left with a dramatic turn.
Catherine and the girl stared at each other for over a minute.
"So... " the girl started nervously, "what's your name?"
"Catherine." She watched the girl sit on the bed across from her.
"Is there a shorter version?"
"Cool. I'm Terry. Short for Theresa." She glanced around the room nervously. "So, what are you doing here?"
"What are you doing here?"
"Got no where else to go." Terry shrugged. "They take care of me here."
"How long have you been on the streets?"
"Few weeks." She shrugged. "I was brought here about a week ago." Terry's long, straight, dark hair was almost invisible. As she turned her face into the light, Catherine thought she could have a little Mexican in her. But it could have been a trick of the light. "What does he want from you?"
Catherine kept silent.
"You were saying something about a baby. Is it your baby that he wants?"
"Is it born yet?"
"No." Catherine barely whispered.
"Why does he want it?" she inquired.
Catherine sat there for a few minutes. She avoided the girl's eyes as long as possible. She finally brought her head up. "I'd like to go to bed. That's okay, right? I can sleep?"
"Oh... yeah, sure... sorry." Terry jumped off the bed and hopped to the doorway. She watched Catherine ease herself into the cot. "Cathy? Do you know who the father is?"
"Does it matter?"
"It's just a thing with me. My mom didn't know who my dad was. I always hated her for it."
"Yes, I know who he is."
"Will he come for you?"
Catherine stared at her in silence. To tell her, or not to tell her? If she said yes, who knows what this girl would do. On the other hand, she wasn't exactly the best liar in the world. "I'm tired, Terry."
"Okay." She left solemnly.
Terry had struck a soft spot in my mother's very open heart a few weeks later. She vowed that she would help this girl better her life, knowing that she had potential.
I lived inside my mother for months, feeling every emotion she felt as she lived in the dark home of her long time enemy. She waited for my father; sure that he would rescue her. Assuring Paracelsus he would rescue her.
"Mr. Burch, it's been four months. I'm starting to believe that we're not going to find her alive," Manning told Elliot Burch's back from the chair on the opposite side of the desk.
Elliot whirled around, slammed his hand on his desk and pointed his finger at the officer as he leaned across the desk and spoke. "I don't care what you believe you'll find, just find her!" He fell back into the chair and sighed as he rested his hands over the edges.
"What kind of relationship have you got with Catherine Chandler?" Manning let it spill out.
"We're friends! We help each other out!"
"Are you sure that's all?" He eyed his employer. "You were involved romantically before, weren't you?"
"That was a long time ago, it has nothing to do with this."
"Are you sure you don't still have feelings for her now?"
"I'll always have feelings for Cathy. That will never leave me."
"What else, Mr. Burch? What else do you want us to find, besides her?"
Elliot went silent and stared out the window.
Catherine slept peacefully. Something she had learned to do in the last four months. She didn't toss and turn as much, mostly because of her fully developed belly. She knew she was far too large for only five months and Paracelsus, lately, had frequently told her how soon her labor would be. 'Any day now,' he would tell her with a hungry child's eyes. Sometimes in the middle of the night she'd wake up screaming for Vincent. She taught herself to keep quiet, knowing it gave Paracelsus pleasure to hear her anguish.
It was hot where they were and Catherine left her stomach exposed. She was asleep, but her senses went wild and she clutched the cold hand that ran over her unborn baby. The hand was thin, bone thin. The fingers were long and the nails were broken and cracked.
Her eyes flew open, their green stealish color flooded with anger and fear.
She stared into the terrified face of her teenage nursemaid. "Terry?" She let her tight grip ease as she sat up and watched the girl shrink away.
"I'm sorry Cathy! I... I... I'm sorry!" She shrank into the far chair.
Catherine grunted slightly as she tried to light the candles next to her bed. "What were you doing?" She asked groggily.
The light filtered through the room quickly. Catherine wiped her eyes to clear them. Terry's appearance immediately shocked her. The usual bright and bubbly girl now seemed small and meek. Her dark eyes held a horrified glaze that wouldn't blink away. Tears seemed to leak from every pore in her face.
"Terry, what happened?" Catherine was immediately focused.
"Cathy... it was horrible. I... I had to run." She choked out.
"What did he do to you?!!" Panic and anger burst from her voice. Immediately the blame was set on Paracelsus.
"He... he... " Terry stumbled with her words as she made her way to Catherine, "he told me that... that I had been doing my job well. That... I had earned the privilege."
"Earned the privilege to what?" She encouraged.
Terry sat on the edge of the bed next to her friend. She glanced sideways at her and suddenly jumped up as if Catherine was terrifying to look at. "He... he took me above, to a back alley."
Catherine's eyes widened in horror. Had that sick old man raped her young friend? It made her sick to even think about it.
"For mon... months you've been telling me about this perfect guy. Your baby's father, and how he loves you and protects you." She sobbed uncontrollably. "P... Paracelsus took me to the alley and we watched two men try to rape a young girl. But some... something stopped them. Oh my god, Cathy!" She covered her face with her hands and wailed.
Catherine launched herself up off the bed and threw her arms around her friend.
The girl cried on her shoulder for a few minutes before regaining her voice. "What's it like to love a monster Cathy?" she asked innocently.
Catherine pushed her away. "What?!"
"Paracelsus said that the thing that stopped the men tonight is the father. Is it true? It ripped those men to shreds with its bare hands!"
"He's not a monster Terry! He is not! Everything I told you about him was true. He does love me. He does protect me. And I love and protect him."
"But, what I saw... in the alley... "
Catherine fell back into the bed. "That Vincent isn't... "she fought with her words, "he isn't the one that I know. But in a way I do. Do you remember me telling you about the bond?"
"Well, when Vincent loses control like that, a piece of me does too. Whenever one of us is angry, or frightened, or sad, we both feel it. Even if it's only for a second."
"He was so animal-like." Terry's tears were stopping finally.
"But that isn't his true nature. Please believe me."
She nodded slowly, reluctantly, the fear still in her eyes, but slowly fading.
"That's why you wanted to touch the baby, wasn't it?"
"You said it was okay before."
"Come here." Catherine smiled and motioned her over. She took the girl's skinny hand and pressed it to her swollen stomach.
The child kicked and turned a couple times before settling down.
"Now," Catherine began as Terry pulled her hand away, "does that feel like the child of a monster?"
"No!" She shook her head excitedly. She loved feeling the child kick against Catherine.
"Then do you truly believe that Vincent isn't the creature you saw tonight?" There was silence and Catherine prayed that she'd say yes.
"That's how he's gonna treat us when he finds you, isn't he? Like tonight."
"Unfortunately." She nodded.
"Why are you doing this, Cathy? Allowing yourself, allowing your baby, to be put through this, and then have Vincent rescue you. Why are you allowing it? Why aren't you fighting?"
"Because Paracelsus has terrorized Vincent... and myself too many times. This was the only way we could have to upper hand." She whispered so no one would hear.
"And what if your bond isn't restored? Then you've just given your child up to a madman. Cathy, don't you see it? You have to get out!"
"I can't! Not now. Look at me, Terry. I could go into labor tomorrow. Escaping is the furthest thing from my mind. I have to put my faith in Vincent. I don't have any other choice now."
"Then I'm gonna push your luck." She grabbed her coat off the chair and turned back to Catherine. "He has to find you now, or else your baby is as good as dead! And I don't want him killing everyone down here to get to you."
"Terry," she grabbed her wrist, "I'm down here to stop Paracelsus. Do you agree he has to be stopped?"
"Yes, but not that way!"
"There is no other way! This is the second time he has captured me, and the second time he has almost killed me, along with Vincent. Vincent is the only one who can stop him. The only one who should stop him."
"I'm going to find him, Cathy. I'll bring him back here. We'll play the rest by ear." She yanked her arm away and strode to the door.
"Terry, wait!" She watched her teenage friend step back cautiously. "He'll think he's being led to a trap. Give him this," she pulled off her crystal necklace and dropped it into Terry's hand, "and tell him that death has no dominion."
Terry nodded excitedly and skipped out.
A hand slid across her stomach again. Again she grabbed it and pushed it away. Her eyes flew open to see Paracelsus over her. She inhaled sharply and pushed herself against the wall. "What?! Am I really that fascinating?!"
"Not you, exactly." He flashed a malevolent smirk.
"What do you want?" She demanded with a roll of her eyes.
"Oh, I just thought you might want this back." He held out a small chain with her crystal attached to it.
Catherine snatched it away and wrapped it in her fingers as her fist tightened around it.
He mocked her in her own voice. "Vincent is the only one who can stop him. Tell him death has no dominion."
Her eyes snapped up to his. Her breath shortened and her heartbeat quickened. "Did you kill her?"
"What else could I do, Catherine?" He shook his head and shrugged.
She covered her eyes with her one hand and ran it down to her mouth.
"Life's full of little heartaches, isn't it?" He sighed as he began to walk out. Over his shoulder he whispered, "At least yours will soon be over."
She stood up slowly. 'Almost there.' She coaxed herself. They had hit her on the back of the neck. They must have thought the blow had killed her. It only knocked her out for a few hours.
'Just a little bit further, Theresa.' She walked her hands across the wall.
After a little ways she stopped. "I can't do this." She leaned all her weight onto the arm that walked her along the wall. Suddenly the rock pushed back away from the rest of it, and Terry fell through the hole that opened up beneath her.
She fell into a rope net that tightened up around her in a tear shape. She fought against the net. Kicking at it only made her more tangled. She stopped finally and quieted long enough to hear a meek voice call to her.
"Let me outta this thing!" She screamed at the small man that stepped into the light.
"What do you want?" His short blonde hair came into her view.
"I have to see Vincent! It's important!"
"Who sent you?"
"Cathy! Cathy sent me!"
"Cathy?" He eyed her.
"Yeah... um... Catherine!" She stumbled out. "Catherine sent me!"
"Catherine?!" He grabbed the rope next to him and lowered the net. He ran over to it and pried the top open.
Terry stood and shook the ropes off her feet and arms.
The man grabbed her upper arms and stared into her dark eyes. "Catherine?!"
"Can you take me to Vincent?" She pleaded.
He let go of her. "Okay... good. Okay, fine." The man bounced and proceeded to lead her by her arm.
"How can we know you're telling the truth?" Father insisted.
Terry reached at her neck, but found nothing but her own clothes and skin. "He took the necklace. Listen, Paracelsus found out about our plan. He thought he'd killed me, and he took her crystal necklace, which was supposed to be my proof. Please come! She could go into labor at anytime! She needs you. Or your baby will be Paracelsus'." She pleaded with the two men in front of her. "She told me all about you." She turned her focus to Vincent. "About what happened the last time you went up against Paracelsus." She stopped. "That was it!! She told me to tell you that death has no dominion. She said you'd know what I meant."
Vincent leapt from his chair. "Take me to her!" That was all the proof he needed.
"Vincent... " Father tried to stop him, still not fully convinced.
"She speaks the truth, Father!"
Months of not seeing Catherine's face, not hearing her voice, not being able to feel her through the bond had started making him crazy. But it was actual fear that had been driving him over the edge lately. The not knowing of what Paracelsus had been putting her and his child through. Not knowing if his child was even alive for months now, worse not knowing if she was alive.
Everyone had supported Vincent, the children especially. Vincent had pointed this out to Father one of the many nights he had sat on the bridge over the River Of Voices, trying desperately to hear hers. Father simply smiled at his comment and began a discussion on the minds of small children.
Vincent and Terry trekked steadily along the path of dirt and the rock walls. The silence was almost deafening to both of them, especially Terry who had done nothing but talk for months.
Terry glanced sideways a few times, waiting for a conversation topic.
Vincent's eyes never left the path, but in his eyes, she could see his mind wandering.
The silence continued for a long time while they almost jogged down the paths. After hours and hours of walking, Vincent quietly suggested that they rest for her sake.
Being the strong willed, defiant girl Terry was, she kept her pace and narrowed her eyes at the road before her.
An hour went by before Vincent spoke again tentatively. "How is she?"
Terry waited for a good response to come to mind. "She's... ;she's... okay."
"Okay?" Vincent worked desperately to keep from asking what exactly that meant. He found out he didn't have to.
"Vincent," Terry began reluctantly, "she's tortured. Sometimes I thought she would die. She'd go on and on about you. She used to wake up screaming for you. I had to keep her quiet."
"God," he shook his head, "I should have never let her do this."
"Catherine swears by your plan, Vincent."
He was silent for a while. "The child?" The question was quiet and inaudible except for the fact that the tunnel echoed.
Terry smiled and sighed. "You know, Catherine lets me feel the baby kick sometimes. I don't think I've ever felt something so strong."
The kick at her abdomen confirmed her thoughts.
"I know, little one." She ran her hands over the unborn child within her. "We knew he would come soon, didn't we?" She cooed at her belly.
Vincent was near. She didn't know how she felt it, but she did. Maybe it was hope, or maybe the child had the connection, therefore she felt it. She never pretended to understand the bond, the strange connection that seemed immobilized because of the baby.
So many nights she lay awake, feeling his pain with him. This must be how he felt. Instead of him being the only one with the strong enough portion of the bond to feel her every second of the day and night, she was the one who was forced to suffer through his pain and heartache with him, with no way to comfort him. But, in a strange way, it comforted her to be able to feel him at all.
He must have found Terry. He must have found her dead and traced her steps to here. That was the only possible explanation.
Terry. Poor, young Terry. She was never given the chance to go home and straighten her life out. She really wanted to, but was afraid her mother wouldn't accept her back. Catherine assured her, many times, that she would.
Catherine brought her head up to the doorway slowly as she felt Vincent enter the large area, just beyond her room. It took everything in her to not run to him.
Sand shifted beneath his boots as he entered the large open area and stood in the middle. He examined the levels of rock stairways, climbing upward, above him, waiting for someone to advance.
"This is it." Terry announced and spread her arms wide.
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure." She rolled her eyes.
"Go and get Catherine then." Vincent called over his shoulder and kept circling himself.
Terry nodded and set out up the path to her room. Her attacker was so quiet, she never heard him drop from the floor above. She felt his arm wrap around her chest and pin her tight against him. The dagger was set just away from her chin, and his vile breath slid across her face.
"Going somewhere, Terry?"
Terry struggled in his grip and yelled to Vincent.
Vincent got about a foot from them before he froze in his spot.
"Don't come any closer, or I'll kill her." He looked Vincent up and down. "Shit! What are you?"
"Perfect." A voice behind Vincent answered. "Vincent, I truly expected you to come a little quicker."
He turned and watched Paracelsus step closer, followed by each and every one of his followers.
"You thought you had killed me, didn't you?" Paracelsus sneered and began to circle Vincent.
Vincent glared at him as he followed the circles he was making with his eyes. "What is it that you truly want from me? Why this constant torment?"
Paracelsus shook his head. "I just wanted you to be my son, Vincent."
"No!" He snapped. "That is not it! You want to take over the community, and you want me by your side!"
"Why did you ask if you already knew the answer?"
"This is the third time you have captured an innocent woman and held her hostage, completely willing to kill her. Not just any innocent woman, but Catherine. MY Catherine. Why must she suffer for me? This time you took my child as well. You've gone too far."
Paracelsus shifted to his other foot and stared curiously at him. "Is that a threat?"
"Vincent!" Terry whined quietly.
Vincent glanced at her, then back at Paracelsus. "Let her go. The girl has nothing to do with this."
"Oh, but she does. Your Catherine sent her to find you. She's now involved in all of this." Paracelsus watched him intensely, as if trying to force him to think the same thoughts.
"Are you murdering children now, Paracelsus?"
"One more time, Vincent!" Each balanced his weight and stared into the other's eyes. "Join me. Be my son, help me reclaim MY world."
Vincent shook his head slowly. "Never."
Paracelsus gave Vincent an evil smile. "Then the child will."
A low growl escaped Vincent's lips as Paracelsus drew the inevitable knife from above his wrist.
Terry immediately shoved her elbow into her captor's stomach, forcing him to release her. Bracing her fist with her other hand, she shoved her elbow again into his face. She sped up the stairs toward the room where Catherine was, leaving the sounds of the battle behind her.
She pulled aside the blanket that was draped over a bar as if it were a door. "Cathy!" She called to her friend, and finally found her in the darkness.
Catherine stood up, completely stunned. "Terry? He said he killed you." She hugged the teenager as she approached her.
"He just hit me over the head. He thought he had killed me, though. I was unconscious for a little while."
"I found him." Her words were confirmed as a deep roar reached their ears.
Catherine looked toward the door as if expecting to see him there. A combination of feelings crossed her face. Fear, sorrow, hope, love, and apprehension drained the color from her face as she felt and heard Vincent's rage taking over.
Catherine and Terry stood for about ten minutes, just listening to the sounds of the battle. Sudden silence fell throughout the tunnel. A sudden deep, low scream was heard, and then the piercing screams of a huge group of people. Catherine squeezed Terry's hand slightly. "He's coming," she whispered.
Terry ran out of the room to direct him to them.
Catherine heard Terry's voice calling to him. The blanket was pulled back again and Terry stepped in and to the side, allowing Vincent inside.
Terry watched them stare at each other. Neither spoke, or blinked for that matter.
Catherine's arms fell limply at her side and she stared in apprehension as a single tear rolled down her cheek.
Vincent stepped toward her hesitantly. He stared at her as if he had just met her and was completely enchanted. "Catherine?" He held out his hand for her.
She gently took it and laughed a little as a few more tears spilled over. "We knew you'd come."
As if neither of them could bear to be separated for a second longer, they rushed into each other's arms. They ran their hands over each other's hair, shoulders, and back, making sure they were real.
Catherine's arms were tight around his neck, but his were gently placed on her back. She knew he was being delicate with her, but too many nights of dreams, and waking up in cold sweats calling to him to come and rescue her, had taken their toll. She needed him to be physically part of her. She needed his strong arms around her; pulling her so close she could barely breathe. She knew him, she knew his fears. The only way she could get that closeness would be persuasion.
"Some nights," she whispered with small sobs, "I'd be screaming to you... and suddenly you were there. In the doorway, ready and waiting to rescue the child and me. And as soon as I stood to run for you, you would be gone." She closed her eyes and took in the feel of his sigh down her neck.
"I'm sorry." Vincent tightened his grip just a touch more.
That wasn't good enough for Catherine. She needed to be held closer than he had ever held her. She tightened her arms around him and made her sobs a little more apparent to his hearing.
Sure enough, he tightened her into him more and let his breath roll down her back. "I'm here now. I'm here now."
"Vincent... " she mumbled into his straggly blonde mane, "take me home... please."
"Always." He literally swept her off her feet and into his arms, cradling her the exact same way he had the night he found her in the park.
The crowd of followers cowered against the far wall, leaving their dead leader and friends exposed in the center, as he emerged through the archway, but relaxed into amazement when he turned so that Catherine was in sight. They watched him walk, with her in his arms, back out the way he had come.
Terry followed behind them in slight awe. Everyone had told her as a child that there was no 'fairy tale' ending. She was a dreamer. She would make up fantastic adventures and romantic tales for herself to live by. Everyone had told her that her fantasy world would never exist, not for her or anyone else. But here they were. Here was her proof. This couple lived her romantic fantasies. They were the ultimate fairy tale, right there in New York City. A place a person would never think something like this to be.
That night, as she pretended to sleep on the opposite side of the campfire, Terry listened to the laughter and the awed sounds of Vincent and Catherine. Once in a while, she would open her eyes just enough to see Vincent's hand resting against his unborn child. Terry drifted to sleep that night with her childhood dreams rekindled in her heart.
"Are you sure about this?" Terry stared at the large brick apartment building.
"Terry," Catherine took the teenager's hands when she turned around, "just because she didn't know who your father was doesn't mean she doesn't love you. It doesn't mean that she doesn't miss you, or worry about you."
Terry nodded slightly as she dropped her eyes. She startled Catherine a little when she threw her arms around her and hugged her tightly.
Catherine smiled and wrapped her arms around the girl. "Thank you, Terry."
"For protecting us."
"No," she shook her head, "thank you." Terry pulled away and stepped back a little to stare at Vincent, Catherine, and the child she watched grow within Catherine for months. "I want a camera!" She whined a little.
"We'll send you a picture of the baby." Catherine smiled at the teenager she had counseled like a younger sister.
"You had better!" She forced her smile through the threatening tears.
"You'll always have a place with us if you ever need it." Vincent whispered with a smile.
"Thank you." Terry stared at them for a long time before hugging Catherine again. "Oh, Cathy!"
Catherine sighed. "Give her another chance, Terry."
Terry nodded and stepped away.
Catherine and Vincent watched the teenager walk up the old brick steps to the door where she pushed a button for the bell. After a few minutes the door opened to a woman in her mid to late thirties.
The woman stared at the girl for a minute, as if not believing her own eyes. Terry mumbled an almost inaudible, "Mama?"
The woman's voice peaked as she pulled her into her embrace. "Dear Lord... Theresa!"
Vincent put his arm around Catherine delicately and led her back into the shadows as she brushed a tear away from her smile.
"Mr. Burch, a call for you on line three." The woman secretary's voice spoke to him through the speakerphone.
"Who is it?"
"She won't say."
"She?! I'll take it, thanks, Liz." Elliot hit a button on the box and lifted the cord phone to his ear. "Elliot Burch," he announced.
"Elliot?" Catherine's voice answered him.
"Cathy?!" He almost yelled into the receiver. "Cathy, is that you?!"
"Yes, it's me." Her voice was hoarse but she got her words out.
"Where are you?!" He demanded.
"I can't tell you. I'm safe, though. Stop searching for me. Tell Joe that I'll be back to work in about a month. Do you understand?"
"No! What's going on?!"
"I can't tell you any more. I'm safe. Stop searching."
The dial tone sounded as she hung up the phone. Elliot put the phone back down and stared at it. "One of these days, Cathy. I'm gonna find out your secret."
She hung up the dial phone and spun around to face Vincent. His expectant eyes met hers.
"Hopefully he'll stop." She sighed as she wrapped her arms just above her large stomach.
He walked with her back through the back room of one of the helper's restaurant. She took his hand as he started the lead down to the basement.
"I want to thank Tommy. I'll catch up with you." She flashed him a smile and let go as she made her way up front.
Vincent's hand rested on her large abdomen. He lay on his stomach, his head tilted toward Catherine.
She envied his ability to sleep in that position. It was slightly uncomfortable having to lie on her back. 'Despite that, everything is perfect.' Everything felt perfect. 'Felt?' Come to think of it, the baby hadn't moved at all today. She fingered the lacings at the neck of her nightgown. 'Oh well, nothing to get worried about.' At least she didn't think. Well, she had a check-up with Father tomorrow afternoon. 'The little one is probably just asleep.'
'I should sleep too.'
Catherine tucked her head against Vincent's and fell asleep.
Her eyes opened slowly. She was peaceful; finally, there was peace in her life again. She glanced down and smiled at Vincent's hand resting gently on her stomach.
The thoughts of the night before, just before she fell asleep, filtered back into her mind. Slowly, her eyes widened. Little bit by little bit her heartbeat quickened.
Vincent sat up instantly. "What is it? What's wrong?" He pushed himself up swiftly to look into her distressed green eyes.
She wondered how he could have possibly known there was something wrong, unless... "The baby hasn't moved at all in the last 24 hours. I'm scared."
Vincent immediately leapt off the bed, dressed in seconds and sped off through the tunnels.
"Vincent, good morning!" Father greeted him cheerfully as he sped into his chamber.
"Catherine needs help," he blurted out as he skidded to a stop.
"What's wrong?" Father pulled himself up on his cane swiftly.
"She says she can't feel the child. She hasn't for a long while." He handed his father his black medical bag.
"The last 24 hours, she said." Vincent took his elbow to lead him faster up the stairs and down the tunnel.
"Are you sure the child isn't just sleeping? It's possible."
"She's afraid. I think she'd be the first to know if something was wrong."
"Catherine... " Father came down the steps and tried to keep his voice soft and calm.
"I can't feel it, Father!" She didn't look up from her hands running back and forth over the swell. She had obviously been crying a little and was now trying to stop it, because when she spoke she sounded as if she were hyperventilating.
Vincent knelt next to her on his bed and clasped her hand. His other hand stroked her hair and pushed it away from her eyes as he whispered things like, "It's all right. Everything's going to be all right."
Father went to the opposite side of the bed, and watched Catherine cling to his son. "Catherine, would you feel better if Mary and Lena were here?"
Catherine nodded furiously as she fought to get her sobs under control.
Without a word spoken to him, Vincent kissed her hand, let it go, and ran for the two midwives.
Mary and Lena ran almost full speed into the chamber and headed straight to Catherine's side. Mary grabbed her hand and stroked it comfortingly.
"Lena, would you please assist me?" Father beckoned the young woman to his side.
Vincent, determined to look like he was being useful, followed her over to watch.
Father pulled out his stethoscope and fit it into his ears. After raising the hem of her nightgown he ran the instrument over the child. After a minute his concentration deepened and he began pushing it into random spots.
"Jacob," Mary used this opportunity to use his given name, "what's wrong?"
"I can't find a heartbeat," he mumbled.
Lena's hands fluttered to her mouth as if she were about to be sick.
"No! No!!" Catherine began to sob again; her voice was deep and hard.
"It's okay. It's okay." Mary repeated in a low melodic voice as she stroked Catherine's flushed cheeks. She remembered what it was like to lose a child.
Another minute of searching without success had made Father extremely nervous. He finally stopped in one spot and listened hard. "I've got it!" he exclaimed triumphantly. "It's low and unsteady, though. Lena, go to my chamber, on the bookshelf you'll find another black bag much like this one." He indicated the bag next to him. "Go and get it! Hurry!" He turned his attention back to his patient. "Catherine, the child is still alive. But, I don't know what's wrong, so we're going to give you a cesarean. The child seems to be fully developed, so there shouldn't be anything physically or mentally wrong with it. All right?"
Catherine nodded, still recovering from her shock.
Father look back to Vincent, who had begun to massage her foot reassuringly. He set his hand in his son's shoulder. "Everything will be all right."
"Hey... !" A young girl's voice called from the top of the steps. "What's with all the rushing around?"
"Samantha," Father's head snapped up, "go take care of the younger children. Mary and Lena are needed here."
"What's wrong with Catherine?" She was immediately concerned and eager to help.
"Go Samantha, quickly!"
The girl sped off in the direction she came from.
"Mary, would you get some extra candles and torches. Vincent, gather as many spare sheets and blankets as you can, and bring these candles closer to the bed."
"Ma!" A little two-year-old girl called to Lena from the other end of the tunnel.
"Catherine, what are you doing out of the nursery chamber?!" Lena almost yelled at her daughter. She fought with herself and finally relented. She lifted her little girl onto her hip and ran as fast as possible back to Vincent's chamber.
Black bag in one hand, and her daughter in the other, Lena swung around the corner and into Vincent's chamber.
She almost threw the bag into Father's arms and explained as fast as she could. "I'm sorry. I was on my way back and somehow Catherine got out of the nursery chamber. So I had to grab her. I'll be back in two seconds, I swear!"
"All right, hurry!" Father encouraged.
As her mother spoke, little Catherine looked over at the occupied chamber bed. She reached toward it with a slurred squeak of, "Aunt Cathy." She suddenly felt the pull of Lena rushing out. She squirmed in her mother's arms, trying her hardest to get down.
"No, Catherine!" Lena tightened her arms around the child.
When Lena returned, Catherine was laying stiffly straight on the bed. Sheets were tucked over, around, and under her to create a type of surgical tent. Lamps, lanterns and a few spare candles were hung, or were set on small end tables inside the tent.
Lena made her way to Father's side. Vincent on the opposite side was trying desperately to help. Mary was up by Catherine, lighting scented candles to keep her calm.
"Ah, Lena, good." Father greeted her. He looked over the sheets to see Catherine's face. "We're going to go step-by-step, but quickly. So try to stay calm. I've given you something for the pain, but I don't have enough to completely numb you. So, just relax... "
"Peter! Has anyone called Peter?!" Her voice squeaked.
"Yes, I've sent Kipper with a message. He'll be here soon."
"Okay." She settled back into her soft pillows.
"All right," Father began, "we'll start with the incision." He indicated to Lena to hand him one of his new instruments.
Mary pulled a chair up next to Catherine and began running her fingers through Catherine's dark blonde hair. "What color hair do you think it will have?" Diverting her attention would be the best way of keeping her mind away from the pain.
"Blonde." She answered plainly after a small inhale of pain.
"And its eyes?"
"Blue." She smiled broadly.
"What do you want it to be?"
Catherine lay there in silence for a long time before slowing turning her head toward Mary. "Alive." Another sting of pain broke her locked trance.
Mary ran the back of her hand over her forehead to soothe her. "Don't think about that."
"How can I not?" she sobbed out quietly.
"Shh. Try to relax."
"My baby is dying inside me. And I can't stop it this time." She choked back her tears and as many of her fears as possible.
"All right, Catherine we can see the problem!" Father called to her. "Now I want you to take a few deep breaths and hold the last one."
On Catherine's second breath she felt her hand being pulled upward slightly. She never looked at it, or at its source. She didn't need to. She simply smiled, took her last breath, and listened for their next step. All she heard was Father's reassuring voice of knowledge instructing Lena.
"Lena, do you see?"
"Good. I'll hold. I want you to cut slowly and straight right here."
Catherine suddenly felt a stifled sting. It lasted for about 5 seconds. She let her breath out slowly as the sting subsided. She was almost oblivious to the weight that was lifted from her. Suddenly Vincent's breath slid over her hand.
"We have a girl, Catherine." There was a smile in his melodic voice.
She laughed a little and suddenly felt Father moving his fingers quickly to stitch her up. It took her a second to realize that the room was silent. "Where is she?!" Her head whipped back and forth between Mary and Vincent. "What's wrong?!"
Almost on cue, Peter, in his white coat and badge, rushed into the room, followed by Mouse and Kipper.
"Brought Peter! What's happening?" Mouse inquired from the steps.
Peter started toward Catherine until Lena grabbed his arm to stop him. "She's not breathing!" she shrieked a little too loudly; the baby was dead weight in her arms.
Catherine's eyes widened and she jerked her head toward Lena, Peter, and her daughter, straining to see them.
"The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck!" Father called to his friend. "It cut off the oxygen supply!"
"Does she have a pulse?" Peter took the child from Lena and rushed her to a nearby table.
"As far as we can tell." She followed him over and watched him lay the baby girl face up on the covered end table.
"Lena, get Father's stethoscope."
She did as she was instructed and glanced nervously between the unconscious child and a panicking Catherine. She turned her focus to Peter, who was frantically searching for the baby's heartbeat.
"She's breathing, but barely. I have to get her to a hospital, now!" Peter grabbed the child and wrapped her in the tablecloth. He started toward the stairs, baby girl in his arms.
"No! Peter, no!!" Catherine's deep voice almost screamed to stop him. Her light green eyes glanced between him and her child. They were pleading, frantic, grieving eyes that locked with his. "Please." She whispered in a release of breath.
"I don't think that she has time, Cathy. I have to get her to a hospital right away." His eyes were still locked with hers.
Catherine complied with a slow, reluctant nod.
"I'll go with him." Lena volunteered and bounced up the steps behind the doctor.
Catherine stared after her baby girl, almost pleading to bring her back. She didn't even notice that Father had finished stitching her up. She didn't feel him bandaging her stomach. All she felt was the panicked impatience of possibly losing her daughter.
Vincent kissed the top of her hand, then rubbed it gently, lovingly.
In an immediate reaction, Catherine pulled her other arm away from Mary and wrapped it around his neck. She tucked herself into his neck, hiding in his sandy blonde hair. She cried on his shoulder until Mary pulled her back down.
Vincent reluctantly unwrapped his arms from their embrace. He eased her back into her pillow, knowing that things would get worse if she ripped the stitches, but at the same time not wanting to let her go. Wanting to comfort the pain she felt. That he felt from her since the cut of the umbilical cord. It was a strange combination of pain and nothingness. The pain was Catherine's. That he could feel. But the nothingness had no owner. No name, face, or personality to match it.
A sudden thunder of feet broke his concentration. Children of all ages piled into the limited space of the chamber. Catherine's hand was taken and pulled down slightly.
"Aunt Cathy, you sad?" Two-year-old Catherine noticed the tears that were still falling.
She tried her hardest to smile but it just didn't work. She choked it back enough to talk. "I'm just very scared right now, honey. VERY scared."
"Here," Catherine handed her a handmade teddy bear, "hug Jeffrey. Feel allll better." She spread her arms wide, her speech pattern reminding the woman of Mouse.
"Oh, that's the nicest gift anyone's given me, thank you." She hugged the bear. "There, now I feel better." She handed the bear back as she wiped her eyes.
"K'I come with you?"
"No, honey. If you do, I might get hurt." Catherine supposed she meant to climb up with her.
"Come on, Cat." Samantha took the girl's hand. "Come on, everyone, I think Catherine wants to be alone." Being the oldest in the particular group had its advantages. She herded everyone out from the back. Before Catherine pulled her up the stairs, Samantha turned back to look at the woman lying on the slightly blood stained sheets. She couldn't comprehend what exactly she was feeling, but she knew Catherine was pregnant the last time she saw her, and now her stomach was flatter and her frantic face wasn't well hidden.
Catherine knew Samantha saw it, so she didn't try to smile to reassure her. She simply watched her walk out, and Mouse and Jamie walk in.
Jamie took Mary's place and crouched next to her friend. "What happened?" she asked tentatively as she watched Catherine start to sob again.
Vincent answered slowly. "We don't know if the child will live."
"Oh, Catherine!" Jamie almost matched her friend's panicked face.
Catherine was grateful for the small hug she was awarded from her young friend.
The day went by, Catherine disregarded all advice from Father to rest. She knew Vincent understood and felt what she was feeling. The bond was restored. That she was sure of.
It was late. Vincent and Catherine were sitting together. She had been able to sit up in bed, and Vincent was in a chair next to her. He pulled her into him as he described their precious child to her. How perfect she was. Of her inherited 'normal' beauty, like her mother.
The scuffle of feet on the top stair made Catherine and Vincent snap to attention. Catherine's bottom lip quivered as she watched a grim Lena descend the stairs slowly.
Lena reached the bed and sat on the edge, starring sorrowfully at the couple who clung to each other. She watched Catherine suck in the tears that already began to fall. She watched Vincent put a strong arm around his love, and set his jaw to keep a straight face. Lena stared at them, not wanting to say anything, not wanting to put them through the pain of this, but it would be worse if she didn't say anything. She finally opened her mouth and allowed sound out. "We... we waited a little too long." Her voice was raspy and her stomach turned when Catherine broke out into an agonizing cry.
Catherine clutched at Vincent, keeping herself tight against him. There was no logic in her mind, she involuntarily screamed into him; it echoed through the room and down the tunnel. She felt Vincent pull her tight and secure into him. He tucked his face in her hair, and she felt tears roll down from the top of her head.
Lena put her hand on her arm and leaned close to her. "Cathy, she's alive."
Catherine's head snapped up to Lena's and their eyes met. Vincent's head came up too, but not sure why Catherine's had.
"She's very sick. VERY sick. If we had waited any longer she would have been dead."
"But," Catherine sobbed out her words, "but... she's alive?"
Lena nodded. "She's alive."
Catherine hadn't noticed she was holding her breath until she released it in relief. She was gathered into Vincent's arms again. She wasn't aware she was repeating the two sweet words to him as he kissed the side of her head. She clung to Vincent's gray vest as if she feared it would all be a fantasy if she let go.
"Let yourself heal." Father and Peter told her. Catherine was impatient, restless, and whenever she told them that, they would tell her that they understood. How could they understand? Was it their child in the world Above that was dying without them? She couldn't heal until she knew that, above her, her child was safe. She knew Vincent knew that. She knew that he felt it.
Somehow she got the feeling that everyone who had been with the child, seen her, knew exactly of her condition, wasn't even telling her parents the whole truth. Whenever she asked they would always say, "she's fine", "she's perfect." Catherine accepted that for only a day and a half before getting suspicious. Peter had managed to hold her at bay for three days until Catherine began making threats to just go without them.
He opened the door of the special care nursery and walked her in. "We put her under your name, but they're getting suspicious about her blood type. She can't stay much longer, it's too dangerous."
The clear plated incubator held a tiny, fair skinned, dark blonde haired, blue-eyed baby girl. She was still, attentive, but staring at her mother, pleading with her to get her out.
"She's not breathing on her own." He stated the obvious.
Catherine allowed one tear to fall as she ran her hand over the top, avoiding the tubes and wires. "You know who I am, don't you?" She kept her eyes locked with the child's as she spoke. "What's wrong with her?"
"I'm not positive. Her blood type is so irregular, I don't know what's human and what's... " Peter stopped himself. "I have a theory, but... "
"Well, what is it?"
"Tracheomalacia. The only problem is it has only ever been seen in premature children, and as far as I can tell, she is fully developed."
"Hold on, just tell me what it is."
"It's an upper respiratory condition that results in the undevelopment of the trachea. A ring forms around it, preventing it from strengthening."
"Is it life threatening?"
"It's only a theory. I can't tell for sure."
Peter stared at the mother and daughter. "Catherine... " he stumbled a little with his words, "she was getting better."
"WAS?!" Catherine snapped to attention.
"The... the milk you sent was helping, but... "
"But... ?" She urged him on.
"But, yesterday she started to take a turn for the worse."
Catherine starred at him wide-eyed. The anticipation in her eyes spoke for her, but words came out anyway. "How is she worse?"
"She may not make it." He let the words stumble out.
"What?! Why didn't you tell me?"
"Cathy, last night I would have bet you a million dollars that she was going to be a perfectly happy, healthy baby. When she started having trouble breathing again, Jacob and I thought it best to wait and see if she got better."
Catherine folded her arms across her chest. "Well, thank you ever so much, Peter." Her sarcastic tone was harsh. "And I suppose Vincent knows all about this, and agreed not to tell me?"
"No! We didn't tell Vincent either, because we knew he would tell you. We knew he would react the same way as you. Jacob and I were positive she would pull through within the hour at the most."
"Oh, well, that justifies everything, now, doesn't it? Don't tell either of the parents and that way she'll get better! It makes perfect sense to me!"
Peter set his hands on her shoulders lightly as she sighed and relaxed her tense muscles. "I'm sorry Cathy, I truly am. What can we do to make her well? I've run out of medical answers, her blood type is too unique. I don't dare give her any kind of drug."
"She needs Vincent and me, together." Catherine turned back to her daughter.
"That's what I thought."
"Well," she sniffled a little and wiped a tear away, "how would you get her out if they started getting too suspicious about her?"
"I don't know." He admitted and shook his head. "You said that she needs you and Vincent together."
"Can you do it? Tonight?" he was tentative in asking.
Catherine glanced around the room nervously, searching for a window of opportunity, literally and figuratively. She turned back to Peter. "She won't make it through the night if we don't do this, will she?"
"No. No, she won't." His words were reluctant and his voice quivered.
She tightened her jaw and nodded. "I think we can do it."
"You do realize that when we take her off the respirator she'll be in danger?"
"Medicine won't save her. Not now." She sighed to keep the tears back.
"You know," Peter put his arm around her and shifted so they were both looking into the incubator, "the day I met you, we were right down the hall. I was technically the first to hold you. Now you have a baby, and I was the second to hold her." He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, pulled her close, rubbed her shoulder, and kissed the top of her head. "You grew up too fast for me, little Cathy."
"Do you think Daddy would be proud of me?"
"Oh, most definitely."
Peter hesitated a second. "You're happy, Cathy. It's written all over you. That's all she ever wanted for you."
Obviously, I lived. Like you didn't guess that already!
Everything was perfect from then on. My parents were married shortly after I was well and brought home. Everyone was more than happy to welcome me. Right after the wedding ceremony, I had my naming ceremony, where I was named after one of Shakespeare's most famous characters, and the woman who found my father when he was abandoned as an infant.
"We welcome the child with gifts. But first, we welcome the child with a name. And I believe Catherine and Vincent have chosen it." Father turned to the couple next to him.
Each dweller's eyes turned to them and waited.
Catherine held the tiny child in her arms. She was backed into Vincent; his arm around her waist. "Rosalind." She announced. "Rosalind Anna Wells."
"Presents!" Samantha exclaimed and ran to be first in line.
But Elliot Burch never gave up on my mother, even as she proudly wore her Celtic wedding band. He insisted on knowing why she always refused him. Five years later, he would get his answer.
Joe watched the fourteen-year-old, dark-haired boy rush a sobbing five-year-old dark blonde-haired girl toward him. The girl clung to the boy as if he were the edge of a cliff. They were both dressed in slightly worn jeans and T-shirts.
Joe watched as the boy dragged the girl into his office. He skidded to a halt and squeezed the girl's hand tighter. "We have to see Catherine Chandler!"
"I'm sorry, I... "
"We have to!" He insisted. "Look, it's important! Please!" He struggled to form words. "Someone is in danger!"
"Whoa, hold it! Who are you kids, and who exactly is in danger?" Joe had made his way around to the front of his desk and held his hands up in front of them.
The boy sighed. "Please." He glanced down at the girl still crying on him. "Just tell her that Kris and Ross are here. She'll see us."
Joe glanced back and forth between Cathy's cubicle and the two children. He fought with himself and finally relented. "I don't know why I'm doing this," he mumbled and opened the door. "Follow me."
Catherine's pen practically flew back and forth over her paper as she deepened her concentration.
Joe approached her slowly, knowing how jumpy she was lately. "Cathy, there are a couple of kids here to... " Joe was interrupted by the little girl's squeal as she ran into Catherine's lap.
Catherine's eyes widened as the tiny body slammed into her chair. The child grabbed at her knee length, red business dress as it climbed onto her lap and clung to her. She looked down and moved the thin blonde hair away from the trembling child's face against her. The child's blue eyes stared up at her, horrified. "Rosalind?"
"Mommy." The girl mumbled and tucked into Catherine. She squeezed her so hard, any second she could become part of Catherine's body.
Catherine looked up to Joe, and Kris caught her attention. She used expressions as if to ask him: "What are you two doing here? Do you know where you are?"
Kris shrugged. "We had to come see you!" he insisted. He looked all around him at the eyes staring back, including Joe's. "Catherine, we have to talk!" He bounced.
Catherine, suddenly realizing she was part of a scene, stood, adjusted Rosalind on her hip, and grabbed Kris' hand. She dragged him through the sea of staring eyes, through the hall, and into the conference room.
She almost slammed the door behind her. She detached Rosalind and stood her next to Kris. If her daughter had not been trying to stop her tears, Catherine would have screamed. She paced in front of the two children as she scolded them. "You are not allowed to come here!" She pointed her finger at Rosalind.
"But, Catherine... " Kris tried to stop her.
"And you know better, Kris!" She kept up her pace as she raged. "You couldn't just send a message, you had to just come here. Vincent, Father, and I have told you a thousand times to send a message if you need me for something. That's the way it has worked for the last seven years, did it suddenly change unbeknownst to me? Now," she stopped in front of them and dropped her hands on her hips, "what was so important that you came here to tell me?"
"P... Papa!" Rosalind wailed and threw herself at Catherine again.
Catherine's mind began spinning with the possible things that could be wrong. She pried her daughter off her legs and knelt to be eye level with her. "What happened?" She held her upper arms tight and shook her gently.
"He... he wouldn't wake up!" she sobbed out.
Catherine's eyes widened in horror. Her head shot up to lock eyes with Kris'.
He sighed and stumbled with his words. "He collapsed in class. No one can wake him up."
She lowered her eyes as her mind raced. Rosalind threw her arms around her neck, snapping her out of the trance.
Catherine shifted Rosalind onto her hip as she stood and ran to the door. She pulled it open, and took a step forward, then a step back.
Joe dropped his fist and stared curiously at the trio. "Secret conference?"
Catherine fought with herself for a half-a-second before speeding past Joe, dragging Kris behind her.
"Cathy! Whoa, Cathy! Hold it!" He followed her back to her desk.
Rosalind clung to her mother with every ounce of strength she had at the moment as Catherine stacked her folders and shoved them into her briefcase.
"Cathy, what's goin' on?" Joe watched her grab her coat and once again, drag Kris toward the door.
"I have some family problems at the moment." She grabbed her coat and purse and hurried out.
Joe grabbed at her arm to stop her as she stopped and turned around. "What's going on here?"
"Look, Joe. I probably won't be back for a while. I'm taking all of my work home; I'll do it there. But I have an emergency... "
"Mommy," Rosalind squeaked, "We have to hurry!"
"I have to go!" Catherine grabbed Kris' hand and spun around, leaving Joe standing there with the entire room staring at him.
Catherine flew into the chamber, dropping things as she went along. First Rosalind on the stairs, then her briefcase and coat on the large chair as she sat on the edge of hers and Vincent's bed.
She ran her hand over her husband's forehead, pushing away stray hairs in the process. The sight of his unconsciousness formed tears, but she sucked them back, remembering that Rosalind was on the stairs and Father was next to her.
"What's wrong with him?" She ran her fingertips over his prominent facial features, never looking up at Father.
"I don't know." Father sighed and shook his head. "I don't know if he's going through another phase, or... " He stared at Vincent and set his hand on her shoulder. "I do know that he is stable for now. How long will you be here?"
"As long as necessary." Her eyes never left his face.
"Good." Father began picking up his equipment and loading it into his bag. "When he wakes up, have him drink a lot of tea, coffee, any kind of hot liquid. Don't let him do any real physical activity." Rosalind stepped up next to the bed and Father put his hand on top of her head and ran it down the her shoulder.
"What was it?" Catherine was determined for answers.
"He blacked out." Father explained quietly.
"Was there any reason for it?"
"Not that I can tell. But, Catherine, I should tell you... " He glanced down at the child and began pushing her out the passage. "Why don't you go find Mary and get your Papa some tea for when he wakes up."
"You're gonna say something interesting, aren't you?" Rosalind accused him.
"To be honest... yes." Father smiled. "Go get the tea."
"Okay!" She bounced out.
He looked back at Catherine, and this time met her eyes. "Vincent didn't want to tell you. He didn't want to scare you two. He's been doing this a lot lately. Blacking out. It's very unpredictable. He could be fine one second and passed out the next. He goes into a short coma, usually comes out of it within five minutes. Only, lately it's gotten longer and more frequent."
"He never said anything to me!" She stated the obvious of her shocked face.
"He didn't want to frighten you. He thought he could handle it on his own." Father shrugged.
Father read her suddenly angry and astonished face and stopped next to her as he left. "He wanted to protect you."
"Yeah?" Her eyebrows raised, she shook her head. "Don't side with him."
Father sighed and patted her shoulder as he walked out.
Catherine had sat in the wooden chair for four hours so far. She was working on some casework when Vincent began stirring in bed. She loaded it up in an organized file and switched to the edge of the bed. "How do you feel?" She asked as Vincent opened his eyes.
"Clearer." He set his hand on top of hers as he blinked away his fuzzy vision. "Catherine, how long have you been here?"
"A few hours."
He nodded as he ran his thumb over the top of her hand. "I need you here."
After a second of processing what he had said, she pulled her hand away and stood. "No." She whispered in a raspy voice.
"You promised me seven years ago that we were in this together. That means we share everything... because we want to!" She tried to suck in the welling tears. "How long have you been blacking out? A week? Two weeks?"
Vincent looked away, ashamed that she had found out his secret. "Who told you?"
"A month?" She repeated and began pacing wildly. "You've been keeping this from me for a month? What the hell were you thinking?!"
"I didn't want to scare you." He sighed and looked back at her.
"You scared me more today than you ever have in the last seven years! I get a visit from Rosalind today at work... "
"Because you passed out in class, and the CHILDREN you were teaching couldn't wake you up! You scared our little girl more by doing that!"
"You should be!" She grabbed her shawl in a huff and threw it around her shoulders as she sat next to him again. "You promised me that we would face our lives together. 'Whatever comes,' isn't that what you said?" She tried to force back her tears. "I was so afraid!" She whispered. "I don't want to lose you. I can't lose you."
Vincent stared into her sea green eyes. The eyes that locked with his the very first time they saw each other, and countless other times.
He propped himself onto his elbows, then painfully worked himself into a sitting position. As she moved closer, he took her hands and kissed them both in the center.
Catherine collapsed into him with a sigh. 'Cheater!' she thought. 'He knows that something like that just makes my heart melt. I can't be angry with him when he's romantic and apologetic.'
Vincent wrapped his arms around her tightly and laid his head on top of hers. "You'll never lose me. Us, what we are together, that can't be lost. Nothing can even harm it."
Catherine tucked her arm around Vincent's waist. She smiled and laughed slightly. "You are such a cheater!" she mumbled into his vest.
Vincent brought his head down close to her ear. "It's a gift," he whispered, sending her into a fit of quiet giggles.
Four days. Four days of waiting for answers and unexpected blackouts. For a while, Catherine felt each blackout coming on, and she would invent an excuse to get Rosalind out of the room. After a while she shut out the empathy completely.
Catherine stopped at the top step of Father's chamber. She stared down at him blankly and descended slowly down the stairs. She settled into the large chair next to him. Her eyes were sunken into purple circles, and her cheeks were flushed. Her hair fell flat against her face, lacking its usual bounce. She examined Father's face. It was frozen with shock. She knew it was happening. Right here, right now. Her face remained blank, but her stomach twisted.
"How long do we have?"
"It could be any day now." Father chocked out, tears stinging his eyes.
"Is there a treatment?"
"Vincent's chemistry is so different from our own, I don't know where to even begin to look for one."
"We have to find something."
"Everyone is working day and night to help. But Catherine, please prepare yourself and Rosalind. We all have to prepare ourselves." He mumbled the last sentence.
Catherine pushed herself out of the chair and smiled. "Why? They'll find something, Father! We've been through things like this before!"
"No! We haven't, Catherine! Vincent is dying! Right now! In his bed!"
Catherine's breath caught in her throat and stuck there.
"His body is shutting down. Catherine, he's dying of natural causes. His life expectancy has worn itself out."
"He's not!" Father stood the touched her shoulder. "When we found Vincent, we did not expect for him to live for a week! He has had a remarkably long life!"
"You're his father, and you're letting him die?! You can't do that!"
"Catherine, I am just as devastated as you are. Believe me! But I also accept the fact that I'm doing the best that I can possibly do, and that may not be enough for Vincent."
Catherine studied his face as she forced her breathing.
"Go. Go, and take Rosalind. Spend as much time as you can with him."
Catherine simply stood there starring at him, then finally turned solemnly and watched the floor go by as she walked back to her chamber.
Catherine wrapped her thin shawl tighter around her handmade tunnel dress. It wasn't cold, it was summer in the world Above, but a strange cold dread filled her body. Her walk back to the chamber was more of a shuffle, but she stopped abruptly when a fear pushed its way into her thoughts. 'It's just me,' she told herself, but a sudden burst of terror sent her running.
She slid into the chamber and down the metal stairs, meeting her five-year-old daughter's side. "Rosalind?!" She bent to Rosalind's level and forced the child's shoulders to face her.
Rosalind's cheeks were tear-stained and flushed. Her hand shook as she pointed at Vincent. "He won't wake up." She could barely get it out.
Catherine jumped onto the edge of the bed and put her ear to his chest as her daughter went on.
"We were reading, and he looked like he fell asleep, but he won't wake up."
Catherine closed her eyes and breathed heavily as Vincent's heart beat lightly against her ear.
"Is Papa okay?"
'No!' Her heart screamed as she wept inside. "Yes, he's fine. I want you to go to bed now, it's VERY late."
"But..." Rosalind was thankfully cut off by Vincent's sudden consciousness.
"Catherine... " She snapped her eyes back to Vincent's, and he reached up to push her hair back behind her ear. "I don't know how much more I can take of this. Something's happening to me." He hesitated as her watched her blink away a threatening tear. "Catherine, I think I'm... "
"Rosalind, time for bed!" Catherine jumped off the bed and guided her to the next room.
"I don't want to go to bed!" Rosalind whined as she led her mother into the adjoining chamber.
"Well, guess what, you have to." Catherine told her matter-of-factly, knowing the usual argument by heart now.
"But what if a monster gets me while I'm asleep?"
"Well... " She lifted the blankets draped over the bed and peeked under, "I don't see any monsters."
Rosalind sighed, deciding her next move. "But what if... "
"But what if the sky falls, Chicken Little?" Catherine pulled the covers onto her chest. "The world is full of 'what ifs,' baby. Let someone else worry about them and you go to sleep." She stood, skipped up the stairs and to the door, where she stopped at her daughter's words.
"But what if I fall asleep and never wake up, like Papa?"
Had she just heard her little girl correctly? She spun around and crept back down the stairs. "What?"
"Mommy," she propped herself up on her elbows, "am I gonna die?"
"Where in the world did you get an idea like that?" She sat on the edge of the bed, completely stunned and horrified.
"Father... and Papa." She stared innocently at her mother. "Is Papa gonna die?"
Catherine's brows furrowed in confusion and she narrowed her eyes at the girl. "Who told you that?"
"Nobody. But Father told you. If Papa dies, does that mean I'm gonna die too? What'll happen to us if he dies?"
"Rosalind!" She shouted and touched her daughter's shoulders to stop her.
"Nobody is going to die, all right? Not Papa, not you, and not me. We're all going to be all right!" She stood quickly to end the argument. She kissed Rosalind's forehead and straightened back up. "I love you. Goodnight."
"Mommy!" She grabbed Catherine's hand. "I think the sky is falling."
Catherine stared into the serious deep blue eyes of her five-year-old. Sometimes she hated the empathy between the three of them. Sometimes she wasn't able to lock up her feelings completely. "Goodnight, Rosalind."
"Night, Mommy." She settled back into the pillow.
Catherine walked slowly through the doorway and into the single candlelit chamber. She stared helplessly at Vincent in the far bed.
He stared back and held out his hand to offer her comfort.
Catherine took it gratefully and curled into him. Her head rested on his chest, her one ear listening to his heartbeat.
They sat in silence for a moment, wrapped in each other's arms, remembering other times much like this one until Catherine spoke.
"It's not fair." She sniffed to keep back the oncoming tears.
Vincent held her tighter, trying to comfort her.
"It's not fair!" She shrieked softly. "They can't do this to us after all we've been through, after all we've achieved!"
Vincent rocked her slowly, rhythmically.
"You know sometimes I have this urge to grab people on the street and tell them what a gift life is. To tell them: I have had my fair share of death; life is a privilege to you! All of you! You over there, with your fancy car and lifestyle! And you with your blindness to the beauty of this earth! Life is given fully to you! And you waste it while the people who make a difference in the world die each day!"
"They die because of people like you!!"
"Catherine, stop!" Vincent was sure he would leave marks on her skin, but he had to stop her from fighting against him. He rocked her again and kissed the top of her head. "It's no one's fault. No one is to blame." He kissed her again. "Shh... we'll get through this, I promise."
Catherine laughed slightly. "We have lain like this countless times. We have made countless promises to each other, all of which we have kept. And the one night that our dreams seem to be crumbling, you make the one promise you can't be sure you can keep."
Vincent sighed, knowing he could start an argument. Instead he analyzed her words. And for the first time, in a long time, the heartbreak that his death might bring to his loved ones scared him. He was dying, and he knew it was true only by the fear in her voice and words. He rubbed her arm a bit and buried his face in her hair.
"Please don't give up hope, my love." He sent it so strongly through the bond that he knew she had to have felt it. It was confirmed when she rolled to be nose-to-nose.
"I don't know what to do." Catherine leaned her whole body closer, becoming part of his. "Sometimes I remind myself that there was a time when you weren't in life. A time when I never knew you. I can't imagine a life without you. It feels impossible now." She closed her eyes and sighed slightly. When she opened them again, she realized how close she was to him. It started her a little, and she tensed and pulled back. She relaxed again after she remembered that she was married to this man. Her deja vu of the first two years of sexual tension between them flooded back for a second. The giddy feeling of just being near him, beginning to well up again.
Catherine sank back into the arms of the man she still considered her lover. She put her forehead to his and concentrated on the bond. She had learned to channel herself, so she could work it by will.
Vincent nuzzled his face into the side of hers. He was tired. He knew he would black out soon. He had to tell her that he loved her... right now! He had to tell her that he loved her just the same, just as purely, as the night he found her. He leaned up toward her ear and whispered.
"Catherine... I can't imagine not being in love with you."
A blackness enveloped him. Almost like falling asleep, but deeper, more like a cage.
Catherine's breath shortened and she felt him relax into the pillow. In a panic, she felt for a heartbeat, and successfully found one. She pushed herself up to stare down at him.
The man that lay next to her used to be just as alone and lost as she was. Then they finally found each other. They found true love in its purest form. But they also found danger, heartaches, and terrible secrets. They had worked through them. Their dreams of a normal life together had been reached to their potential. They were together, married, with a beautiful little girl. Everything had been so perfect. Why this? Why now? Why not someone else? Anyone else!
Catherine reprimanded herself for thinking such a horrible thing. But she couldn't seem to help it.
'Anyone else but Vincent! Please! What will I tell his daughter when she asks why her father can't read to her anymore? What will I tell her then?'
Catherine's thoughts drifted to the day they met. The first time she had spent with him. He had read Great Expectations to her. Later he had given it to her.
Vincent was dying, a reality she refused to accept, although she knew he wasn't getting better. What a perfect thing to read to him when he woke up. She could get a copy from Father's library.
No. It had to be that one. The same one he read to her.
That meant leaving him, leaving the tunnels for at least a half an hour. She didn't want to leave him for a second. But what a perfect gift to him!
'What am I being paranoid about? He'll be fine for a half an hour. He's always been fine. I'll go as fast as I can.'
Catherine bounced into her apartment, and straight over to the large sea chest her father had given to her as a teenager. The answering machine caught her eye as she knelt next to her box. There were about ten messages on it, but she wasn't in the mood, and didn't have the time to worry about what people thought of her disappearing again.
She dug through the ocean of old toys and books that she had kept until she reached it. The novel's fragile binding shifted under her fingers and she made a mental note to be extra careful with it.
She lifted herself onto her bed as she stared at the inscription on the inside cover. She smiled and fingered it.
The ring of the phone made her jump, and she simply stared at it as it rang a second time.
She wasn't sure if she should answer it. She didn't want people thinking that she had disappeared completely again. She lifted the speaker to her ear slowly as a voice yelled to her.
"Cathy?! Cathy?! Are you there?!"
"Elliot?" She glanced at her digital alarm clock next to her. "It's midnight, why are you calling at this hour?"
"I've been calling during the day, but you're never there. I thought I'd have more luck calling you late! Where the hell have you been?! I've been trying to get a hold of you for almost a week now!"
"I... I've been... " she fumbled with her words, "busy." She decided to keep going. "Ya know, lotsa case work."
"Don't even try to pull that with me Cathy! I've been calling your office everyday! I was sure Joe thought I was stalking you until I finally got it out of him that you just walked out four days ago! Now, where have you been?!"
"I don't believe you actually expect to get an answer, DAD!"
"Cathy, I have talked to everyone! No one has seen you!"
"Why do you care?"
"This is the third time, Cathy. The third time you've disappeared without a trace. Where do you go, Cathy?"
Catherine paused, not sure what to say and furious that he was persistent. 'Go home.' A voice told her. 'Just go home and be with your family.'
Instantly, Catherine slammed the phone back down on its cradle.
The cell phone in his hip pocket rang and he reached for it immediately. He knew better than to wait for even a second.
"Did you see her go in at all?" The voice on the other end asked.
"Are you sure you couldn't have missed her?"
"I've been standing here since 9 p.m. Since Jimmy went off duty. She hasn't come in or out."
"Fine. She's home. Go inside, keep track of her. I'll be there soon."
"All right." He shut the cell phone and replaced it in his pocket. He sighed deeply and straightened his business suit.
The elevator doors opened to a long hallway with red flowered carpeting, standard for most apartment buildings. He stepped out as he tried to remember her apartment number. He had to go to the right... and the very end apartment was hers.
He rounded the corner and caught the sight of a long trench coat and medium length, dark blonde hair flowing out behind a female figure as it passed through the doorway and down the enclosed stairs. Immediately knowing that it was her, he silently slipped in before the door could close.
He followed her down the flights of stairs, keeping a good distance and never making a sound.
He followed her down to the basement where he watched her pull a panel away from a section of the wall, revealing a small passage downward. In awe he watched her climb down the ladder and pull the panel closed with routine ease.
He snapped himself out of the trance state and launched himself at the wall.
Catherine, Charles Dickens in hand, leapt off the last rung of the ladder and started steadily off through the brick passage into the tunnels. She was about ten feet away from the archway leading to the basement when a voice from behind her whispered something completely inaudible. Catherine froze and spun around. She squinted in the dim light at the man as she inched closer. His awed face came into clear view, and her shock turned into horror as her stomach turned. "David?" She was tired and the backs of her eyelids were beginning to sting but she couldn't mistake the face. He worked for Elliot Burch, one of his security officers.
"Ms. Chandler!" His wandering eyes snapped to hers as if he didn't expect her to be there. He studied her petrified eyes and finally let his wander down the tunnel again. "What is this place?"
Catherine was only a few feet away from him now. It took her a second to gain her voice. "What are you doing here?!"
David found her eyes again and suddenly instinct kicked in. He grabbed her wrist and began pulling her toward the walkway. "Ms. Chandler, I don't think you should be here. This place looks like it could collapse any minute."
"No!" She struggled against his grip as he pulled her through the doorway.
He was partly up the steps when she yanked her arm away so fiercely that it pulled him off the ladder. "Listen to me!!"
She spun around, recognizing the deep, gruff voice. She heard David scream, and (out of the corner of her eye) saw him back into the brick corner. "Vincent!" She ran to him and began pushing him out into the tunnel. "Go! Go back, quickly!"
"I've got to tell him about this!"
Vincent and Catherine froze. Catherine turned her head back over her shoulder, followed by her body so it was as if she were blocking Vincent. She charged at the man climbing the ladder and seized his muscular arm. "No, you can't do that! Please, David!" Her voice was steady and she tried yanking him down, unsuccessfully.
"Ms. Chandler! Mr. Burch is coming anyway!"
"Catherine." Vincent's panicked mumble was ignored.
"He'll find you anyway!" David persisted.
"No!" She tried to pull him down as he steadily climbed up.
"Catherine." Vincent was loud enough to be heard this time, and Catherine turned just in time to see his eyes roll back and his legs go limp, sending him crashing to the ground.
Catherine sprinted to him and slid to her knees at his side. She felt for a pulse below his chin and found it. It was light, barely beating against her fingertips.
Father and Pascal were leaned over a poster-board, studying the marks and diagrams on it when small feet scurried their way in and halted in front of the men.
Rosalind panted slightly, but her message was more important than her breath. "Mommy and Papa!" she squeaked out. "They're in trouble!"
Father came around his desk swiftly to talk to her. "How do you know, Rosalind?"
"I know!!" she insisted.
Father never was one to question the bond the family shared, and (especially in Vincent's state) this time was no exception. "Where are they?"
"By Mommy's basement," she announced, finally catching her breath.
Father turned back to the man behind the desk. "Pascal... "
"Coming!" he responded immediately.
She had sent her message. Her daughter knew something was wrong, she would take it from there. Catherine looked back down at Vincent, limp in her lap, and began running her fingers through his golden hair. She rocked side-to-side slightly as she murmured words of comfort she subconsciously knew were more for her than Vincent.
After about ten minutes, she saw his eyes open to slits. "Catherine?"
"They're coming." She smiled as she ran her hand over his oddly shaped face. "Just stay with me a little longer."
Vincent reached up and mimicked her hand movements against her cheek. "I love you so much, Catherine."
"No!" Her voice became hard, but no more than a whisper. "I won't let you say goodbye!" She allowed a tear to escape.
"My Catherine... " Vincent ran the back of his hand over her cheek.
Her head snapped up at a scraping sound and voices above them. "They've come for me."
"No! I won't leave you."
"You wouldn't leave me." She clutched the hand stroking her face and stared into his deep blue eyes. "Whatever comes." She told him, her voice strong so far.
"I love you, Catherine." Vincent reached up and brought her into a short, but deep, kiss. Footsteps down the ladder broke them apart.
Tears spilled onto her cheeks and no matter how hard she tried to stop them they just kept coming. She took a couple short, sobbing breaths. "I... "
"Cathy!" Elliot's voice boomed. Not comprehending the situation, he took immediate action. "Get away from her!"
The men behind him charged toward Vincent and Catherine on cue. Elliot grabbed hold of Catherine and pulled her away as the men dragged Vincent into the light underneath the basement above.
Catherine flailed and fought to free herself from Elliot's arms that were wrapped around her tightly. "No!!" She screamed through her tear and her violent sobs.
"Cathy, it's me!"
"Let go!! No!!" She stopped just long enough to see, through the hairs that fell over her eyes, the men beating Vincent down.
One man kicked his stomach to roll him over into the light. Vincent's blonde hair fell off his face, revealing his beast-like features. "Oh my god!" The one man, obviously the leader, exclaimed involuntarily. "Mr. Burch! You better come look at this!"
Elliot's distraction was enough for Catherine to break free. She shoved her elbow into his ribs and bolted to Vincent, never hearing Burch yell to her. She nearly fell over him, like a blanket, to protect him. She stared up wildly at the men; daring them to come any closer. Only Vincent's voice freed her of the hateful looks.
"Catherine... " She sat up to look at him; tears still streaming down her face, "let me go." She shook her head slowly and mouthed a 'no' as Vincent relaxed into the dirt floor.
Elliot approached her cautiously. He watched her fall into the man/beast's chest and come almost straight back up.
Catherine studied his face frantically. "No! You can't leave! Not without me! Please!! I love you, Vincent!" She seemed oblivious to the men surrounding her and watching. "I love you! Come back to me!" Catherine's tears and sobs blocked her ability to speak. She fell into Vincent as if she were a part of his body. She tucked her face into his shoulder and neck. She cried harder and harder as the moments passed.
The men and Elliot stood around the couple; confused, and fascinated. They spun around when an older man called from behind them.
"Catherine!" Father stood wide-eyed at the scene. Catherine didn't move or speak, she couldn't stop her weeping. "Dear God," he whispered at the sight.
No one noticed the five-year-old girl running past them until she cried out. "Mommy! Papa!"
Catherine's head instinctively snapped up. "KEEP HER AWAY!" She repeated it through her sobs until Jamie whirled around the corner and snatched the girl up in her arms.
Rosalind screamed for her parents and kicked to get down. Jamie had trouble holding her as she pulled her around the corner.
Catherine fell back into his chest, pulling at his clothes as she screamed into him. "Do you hear her?! She can't live without you! We can't live without you! Do you hear her?!"
Father's shaky legs walked him slowly over to Catherine. He reached down and grabbed her shoulder. "Come away, Catherine."
Catherine yanked her arm away and tucked close to her soul mate. "No! I told him I'd stay with him, Father. I have to stay with him!"
"Catherine... please." Father forced back the tears.
"He promised we'd be together forever. This was eternal! Do you remember that?!" She screamed into his chest. "We're eternal, Vincent!"
"Vincent will never leave you." Father choked out, his breaths becoming shallow. "He'll never leave any of us. He'll always be in our hearts."
Catherine kept her cry as quiet as possible. She kept it down enough that she didn't scream again, she just wept until she had no more tears left to express the pain.
After a few minutes, she leaned up to his face and covered his mouth in a kiss. Tears fell as she did, she could taste the salty sweetness of them as they seeped between their lips. "I will never, ever stop loving you," she whispered as Father helped her to her feet.
Catherine and Father held each other up as they walked. For the first time, she looked up toward Elliot and his men. Elliot was blocked by Mouse and James (one of the sentries). They walked past them, and towards the brick entrance.
"Cathy... " The familiar voice stopped her in her tracks.
She looked into Elliot Burch's eyes with her own hateful, rageful, deep eyes. The hate and rage turned into shock and disbelief. The reality of how everything had happened finally came to her.
She turned away from him, unable to take it anymore.
"Mouse, confine these men." Father ordered as he walked Catherine out.
Her head bent over her knees, and her arms folded around her legs, Catherine rocked herself and cried. Her head came up slowly to see the five-year-old whose hand rested on her shoulder. She pulled her daughter into the crevice she had made with her body and rocked the girl. "I'm so sorry, baby. I'm sorry," she mumbled as she ran her hand over the dark blonde hair that fell against her chest.
Rosalind hugged her mother silently, feeling the pain, but not comprehending it. "Mommy," she called in a whisper. Her mother was in pain and she needed to know why. "Where's Papa?"
Catherine looked into her child's eyes, the question making her cry even more. "I am so sorry."
"Where is he?" she panicked.
"He had to go away, for a very long time."
"But he's coming back, right?" Tears began to form in her blue eyes.
"No." It was almost physically painful to speak it. "No, he's never coming back."
"Why not?!" she demanded.
"Because he can't, baby." Catherine tried to stop her tears. "He's gone."
"But... " horror and disbelief covered Rosalind's face, "but he can't be gone."
"I'm sorry." She cupped Rosalind's face in her hands. "I'm sorry." She pulled her into her body again and rocked Vincent's crying daughter.
They fell asleep in Vincent and Catherine's bed that night.
Catherine felt her hair fall away from her face. She opened her eyes slowly, taking in the figure of the man in front of her. "Vincent." She mumbled as her vision adjusted. Her eyes flew open suddenly and she stared at the man in complete shock. He walked around to the other side of the bed as she unraveled herself from her daughter.
Catherine jumped into Vincent's arms, wrapping her arms around his neck. She hugged him quickly, but rushed into his deep, waiting kiss. When he pulled away from it she rested her head on his chest. "Please tell me I'm not dreaming."
"I'm sorry for your heartache, my love." His deep voice forced her breath to become shallow.
She looked up into his steely-blue eyes. "Are you real?"
"I am to you. That's all that matters now. That's all that has ever mattered. You must not forget that. I live inside you, therefore I live."
"I want you to live with me," she told him almost as a command.
He shook his head and brushed away her single tear with his thumb. "I'm sorry." He sighed and avoided her eyes for a second. "Know that I love you. I never thought any of this would happen." He met her gaze again. "I love both of you. You're stronger than I could ever think to be, Catherine. You'll survive this."
"I'm strong because of you. I can't survive without you." She argued as if it would bring him back.
"You're going to have to," he told her sympathetically. "Rosalind needs you. She can't live without you. We've endured so much, my love. This is just another milestone."
"It's our last milestone."
"No." He whispered and brushed a few falling hairs behind her ear. "We're eternal... always. We'll be together again, I swear."
"I don't want to let you go."
He kissed her again and put his forehead to hers.
'If he's trying to make this easier, it's not working.'
He reached up and ran his hands through her hair that fell into a sweep below her shoulder. "Though lovers be lost, love shall not."
She tucked her face into his hair, getting the message. "And death shall have no dominion." She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried herself in him.
They sat together for what seemed like forever before Vincent pulled back and unwrapped his arms. "Tell Rosalind I love her." He gently took her wrists and pulled her away from him. He kissed her deeply for the last time.
"No." She watched him stand up and let her wrists go as he began to walk to the chamber entrance. "No, not so soon!" He disappeared into the darkness of the tunnels.
"Vincent!!" She sat up in bed yelling after him. She had somehow ended up on the other side of the bed from her daughter.
Rosalind rolled over and pushed herself up. "Papa?" She mumbled.
Catherine turned her attention to the girl and sighed as she closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip. "Go back to sleep, Rosalind." She lay back down and pulled her daughter down with her.
"I want to see him." Catherine sat in the chair next to Father and leaned over the arm toward him.
"Give yourself time. Are you ready for a confrontation with this man?"
"I have to speak with him, Father. I have to work past it."
"All right. Take Mouse with you, just in case."
Catherine knew he meant 'in case he attacks you too.' But Catherine was taking Mouse in case she attacked him. "Thank you." She touched his arm and wrapped her thin shawl around herself tighter as she stood to leave.
Elliot shielded his eyes as the door scraped open and a torch came through, lighting up Mouse's dark and despising face. He stepped to the side, allowing Catherine through. Elliot glanced back at the men behind him, then relented and met Catherine's blank, cold stare.
Their eyes were locked for a long time until running footsteps came around the corner and a tiny blonde girl slammed into Catherine's side.
Two more people came around the corner, both slamming into the edge of the rock doorway. Both shouted to her with their hands out, beckoning her. "Rosalind! Come back here!"
"Mommy," she mumbled and clung to Catherine.
Lena pushed herself off the wall and put her hand on the head of the girl in front of her. "Go back home, Cat."
The seven-year-old scurried back along the path. Lena walked along the wall, meeting Mouse in the corner.
Catherine ran her fingers through her daughter's thin, wavy, dark blonde hair. She knelt down when she realized the child was crying. "What's the matter, baby?"
"I... I woke up... you weren't there, and, and, and... Papa wasn't there," Rosalind watched her mother's eyes glance toward Elliot, "and you weren't there... " She repeated and fell into her mother again.
Catherine held her for a minute, and then pulled her away. "Rosalind. Rosalind. I need you to be a big girl for me, okay? You're going to stay with Lena and Cat for a little while. I'll come pick you up tonight."
"Where will you be?"
"Herefor a while."
"But... why do I have to go?!"
"Because I'm asking you to, Rosalind. I promise you, I will come pick you up tonight and we'll go home and do something together." Catherine straightened back up and turned Rosalind to the doorway. "Now, go back and play with Cat for a few hours, okay?"
"No!" Rosalind whirled around and held onto Catherine's leg.
"Baby... " she pulled the child onto her hip, "please, just go play for a while. I promise I'll come and get you."
"Promise." Catherine nodded.
"And... and can we read when we get home... like we used to?"
Catherine forced a smile. "Of course we can." She hugged Rosalind tightly and set her down. "I'll be there in a few hours."
Lena took the girl by the shoulders and led her around the corner. She whispered, "Go find Cat," to her as she turned back next to Mouse and watched.
Catherine met Elliot's eyes again.
"I didn't know you had a daughter."
"No one does. Except down here."
"How old is she?"
"She talks pretty good for five."
"Is that a compliment, Elliot? She has a wonderfully large vocabulary for her age. She can even spell a little. It's all those damn books that her FATHER read to her! That he won't ever read to her again!" She shook her head at him. "Do you have any idea how much I would love for you to feel pain? The kind that rips your heart out? The kind that no matter where you go or what you do, you'll always have that unbearable feeling? I want you to feel exactly what I'm feeling right this second."
Elliot stepped back as she began to charge toward him.
"I could kill you! Right now!! Right here!!" Catherine pulled against the restraints of Mouse and Lena. She suddenly stopped, calming herself enough to know what she was doing and saying. She threw her head back and mumbled something like, "I can't forgive him." She twisted out of Mouse and Lena's grip, and almost flew out the door.
"How is she today?" Father inquired as Lena approached him in the library.
"She hasn't slept in three days. She doesn't eat, she doesn't speak. I'm worried about Rosalind. She's there alone with Catherine, and Catherine doesn't exactly seem to be in top mental condition. The empathy between her and Rosalind has made a small problem for home life."
"What do you mean?" He beckoned the young woman to a chair next to him.
"Every time I go to give her food, she is staring at the pipes. Rosalind sits for hours everyday staring at the pipes, just like Cathy. She'll talk to us though. She'll eat. And after a few hours of staring she'll sleep or do something else. But the most Cathy does is twist the strings of Vincent's leather pouch in her fingers.
"It started to really scare me. So, Rosalind has been staying with me and Cat since last night."
"Have you spoken to Rosalind about Catherine's condition?"
"Every time I bring it up, all she says is that Cathy's waiting. I've tried to take her to see her mother, but she keeps saying that she can't and she won't tell me why."
"It was unwise of me to let her speak with that man so soon. Too soon."
"Don't dwell on it, Father."
He sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Perhaps a visit home would do both Rosalind and Catherine good. See if being close can pull her out of this state."
Lena nodded her agreement, and stood to leave.
"Cathy, how are you today?" Lena carried a tray of food in one hand and held Rosalind's in the other. She had convinced the child that her mother would not be angry with her if she visited her.
Catherine was curled in a large chair, her legs were crossed Indian style and her arms were wrapped around her stomach. Her eyes were fixed completely on the pipes and she showed no signs of consciousness except for when she blinked.
Lena set the tray on the table next to her and knelt to the five-year-old's level when she tugged on her clothes.
"She doesn't even know we're here!" the girl whispered, and stared back with terrified eyes.
"Why don't you go talk to her?" Lena pushed the girl forward.
Rosalind swallowed hard and ventured forward. "Mommy?" She came around in front of her. "Mommy?" She slowly reached out and touched Catherine's leg. Rosalind was surprised and terrified to see no reaction.
She slowly climbed up into her mother's lap and rested her head against her heart. Lena watched, almost in awe, as Catherine brought her head down and rested it on top of Rosalind's, her eyes still focused on the pipes.
"Mommy," she spoke with a little more courage, "why won't you talk to me?"
"Catherine has to hear the message." It was barely a whisper but it came from Catherine.
"Why won't you sleep?"
"If she sleeps, she'll miss the message." Again, barely a whisper.
"Why won't you eat?"
"She has no food. And she can't leave until she gets the message."
"Lena has been bringing you food."
Catherine didn't respond, as if she had shut everyone but herself and Rosalind out, so others meant nothing to her.
"Who's sending the message, Mommy?"
Catherine brought her arms around her daughter and held her tightly as she rocked her. "Shh... Papa will be here soon. Don't cry, baby."
"Mommy, who's sending the message?" she tried again.
Catherine stopped rocking abruptly and focused her eyes even more on the pipes.
Lena listened as at that exact moment the pipes went silent.
Catherine began rubbing Rosalind's arm. "He wishes he had his roses with him. But he knows he can't."
"Whose roses, Mommy?"
"His roses!" She persisted. "Catherine and Rosalind. But he knows he can't have them. He misses them. Very much."
"Rosalind, do you know who she's talking about?" Lena encouraged, coming around the pair to reach her eyes.
"Papa." Her words were more of a release of breath.
"He needs them to be strong and brave like they always were." Words spilled out from Catherine like a flood. "He'll never leave them, just as Father said. He loves them more than anything." She stopped as the pipes came alive again.
Catherine began rocking Rosalind again, quickly this time. "You have to go, Rosalind. You have to leave. Catherine has to be alone!" She pulled her arms away from Rosalind and wrapped them around herself as she continued to rock.
Rosalind jumped out of Catherine's lap, grabbed Lena's hand, and pulled her out the door.
Days went by. Lena kept bringing food for Catherine, and no matter what she said, Rosalind refused to come along. A week had passed since Catherine spoke to Rosalind and she hadn't made a sound since.
Lena and Father sat together in his study one, of the many days. They were debating on what to do with Catherine in the state she was in, when Jamie ran into the chamber, shoved a message in Father's hands, and raced back out.
Father looking completely confused, read the message slowly to himself.
"Father, what is it?" Lena watched his expression change slightly.
"Narcissa is coming up to this level... today."
"Do you suppose she knows about Cathy?"
"I wouldn't doubt it." He set the paper on the desk in front of him and looked back at her. "Come along, we'll go meet her."
"Child." Narcissa called to Catherine as she made her way down the stairs and toward her. "Child, speak to me."
Catherine stared at the pipes still, but she twisted the string of Vincent's pouch in her fingers incessantly.
"He is no longer in need of your guidance." She sat next to her and concentrated on her face.
Her eyes never left the pipes as she spoke. "But I am still in need of his."
"You must have faith in yourself. In your child."
Catherine tilted her head to look at the woman next to her.
Rosalind picked up a thin children's book from the shelf and fingered it. She made her way past several other children to a chair in the corner.
She had curled herself into it and had the book open in her lap, when her head jolted up and she glanced around instinctively. The gap, the nothingness of both her mother and father suddenly flooded with feelings of hope, pleading, and anger.
Rosalind closed the book and threw it aside as she launched herself off the chair and down the tunnel.
Cat and Mary, who had been watching, jumped up and went after her.
Cat sprinted after her, calling to her over and over.
Mary walked, but quickly as she called back to Andrew to watch the children.
"I know you can do it." Catherine's dead glare was fixed on Narcissa's face and she could feel it.
"You ask too much of me, child."
"Bring him back! You can do it, I know it!"
"No!" Narcissa's voice was hard and stern. "It is dangerous to trouble the spirits!"
"I don't care! Just bring him back!" Tears fell as she spoke. "Please... please!"
Narcissa and Catherine sat in silence except for the heaving breaths Catherine took to keep the sobbing to a minimum.
Lena and Father leaned against opposite sides of the doorway and watched the scene unfold.
Catherine, knowing she had lost the battle, turned back to the pipes and began playing with the string again.
Rosalind bolted into the chamber and her arm was grabbed and pulled into the wall by Father, as Narcissa spoke.
"No! No, child! Don't go back! It will be a long time before you meet him again. Let him go. Let him be peaceful. It's over." She knew she was getting no response from her. She turned backward to the threesome and beckoned to Rosalind. "Come, girl. Speak to her."
Father bent down and whispered in her ear as she ventured forward. Rosalind nodded and continued her descent to her mother.
Cat flew into the chamber and was immediately pinned to her mother.
Rosalind made her way over slowly. She shook with fear, but her steps were confident that this was the right thing to do. She finally stepped in front of Catherine, trying to block her view of the pipes. "Mommy," her voice was barely a whisper, "the nightmare is over."
Catherine's green eyes snapped down to her daughter's blue. She remembered saying that to Vincent, just after the first time he killed Paracelsus, while he was in a trance-like state.
Rosalind tensed and she let out only a squeak of and exclamation when Catherine grabbed her shoulders and held her tightly against her.
"You know that we loved you!" Her voice was hard, but not harsh. "He would have done anything for you! He loved you so much! I'm sorry, baby."
Just as quickly as she grabbed her, she let her go. She cupped the five-year-old's face in her hands; she kissed her forehead and bolted out of the chamber.
Everyone watched her leave, then turned their focus to Rosalind, standing in the middle of the room.
"Everything's okay," she announced.
Catherine walked almost robotically down the long staircase leading to the catacombs. She kept going straight until she reached a rock wall. She found the inscription on Anna Pater's tombstone and moved to the left of it until she found the freshly carved message next to it.
Protector and loved citizen
Loving father to Rosalind
And husband to Catherine
Catherine ran her hand over it as she sank to her knees and rested her head on the rock as she cried silently.
Five years old when Papa died and my Mommy withdrew into herself. It took her own words to him to bring her out of the grief that formed the trance. Mommy was never the same after that. Nothing was.
The loss of my father was hard on the whole community, but Mommy had lost one of the two people she valued more than her own life. A piece of her died that night. The side that was too weak to live without him. She was never cold or uncaring. But... strange. Angry, and grieving, and joyous all at the same time.
Nine months later my baby brother was born. He was bright and happy, and I remember him looking a lot like Papa, Mom even named him after Papa. But, just to add to my mother's grief, the baby died of SIDS at three months old. Mom seemed untouched by this. Of course, she was sad she had lost her son. But it was as if she expected it to happen, or maybe it was that she had already wept for his soul in a dark and cold tunnel twelve months before. One would think, and some did, that my mother would die from the loss of her husband and son. But Mom was strong, and considered me to be the reason she kept going. I suppose because I am a piece of Papa to her.
She never got over her love for my father. She never even thought twice about another man.
She refused to let my memory of him die. The painting of them, done by Kristopher Gentian, hung on display, unable to miss it if you were anywhere near it.
I grew up remembering only the important snatches of him. I remember him reading, non-stop to me, pouring literature into my eager mind.
Mom has tried to make me forget the night that I ran into that passageway and saw her crying over my father's body. It doesn't work. That image will stay with me forever.
I don't remember much of my parents together. But I remember their love for each other and for me, and I understand now that that's what keeps us moving toward tomorrow.