Jacob peered up the winding tunnel with youthful enthusiasm and tunnel-instilled caution. Vincent had decided it was time for him to learn about the mapping of new tunnels for the community, and for some past-due, quality, father-and-son time. He let Jacob lead as they progressed deep into the unknown area. His senses were heightened, always alert for danger or unsafe situations.
In giving Jacob the lead, his father taught him to react and adjust to changing conditions. At fifteen, he was almost as tall as his father, with broad shoulders. He was eager to learn everything about his dad’s world, even though he had lived more than half of his young life Above. Between his father’s duties Below, school, and his younger siblings, there just didn’t seem to be enough “guy time,” as he put it on a few occasions.
Catherine had asked them several times, “Are you sure you have everything you’ll need?”
“Catherine, we have more than sufficient food, thanks to William. We have extra clothes and blankets; we will be fine. We won’t be below the pipes or far from them in any case, so you need not worry yourself,” he said, kissing the top of her head and wrapping his arms and love around her.
“I know…it’s just…well you know me, and besides, I’ll miss you…I’ll miss both of you. Promise me you’ll be careful and take good care of each other. What would I do if….”
“We promise!” they said in unison.
“Ah Mom, I’m not a baby any more. I’m almost as big as Dad, and there’s nothing he can’t do,” Vincent’s son stated with filial pride.
She rolled her eyes and smiled as they walked away.
“Ok, I can’t fight the two of you. Have a good time and remember your promise!”
She knew all would be well, but almost a week apart would seem like forever to her…and to Vincent. Her time would be spent Below with the three younger children, who were not happy about being left behind. Thankfully each had a favorite tunnel friend, and William always seemed to give them extra special treats. He loved Vincent and Catherine’s children as did the whole community. They were special to all as the gifts of possibilities never envisioned by any of them.
Vincent, using his internal clock, suggested they stop for lunch. He could hear the boy’s stomach rumbling along with his own.
“Good idea, Dad. I hope William packed enough food. I’m really hungry.”
“Jacob, I believe you’re always hungry, but at your age, I was too. I remember Mary would always bring extra on her plate and then say she couldn’t finish it and push it onto my plate. I think your grandfather was on to her trick but never said anything.”
They put down their packs and dug out the sandwiches, fruit, and a canteen William had filled with a sweet tea.
As they ate, Vincent explained that there were many tunnels and natural chambers that had never been visited by anyone, even himself or Mouse. Even though they probably would never have to use them, it was important to know about them, and whether they were safe and habitable. Was there fresh water? Were the rocky walls solid, safe from ground water that weakened them and cause rock slides? Were there areas of the tunnel floor that were too uneven or broken for safe travel? Or sections blocked from previous rock slides or collapse?
“Gee, Dad. I never thought about all those things. Guess I have much to learn and remember. I’m really glad we came, not only to learn, but to spend time, just the two of us. I guess I was spoiled having you and Mom all to myself for so long before Charles was born. And now with Jenny and Joey, it’s really hard. But I guess it’s harder for you and Mom, you two never seem to get a break. I’ll try to help more with the little kids.”
Vincent looked at his son, his spirit gladdened.
“Jacob, your mother and I wouldn’t trade the chaos of our lives for anything in the world. I never thought I would be a father; I didn’t believe I deserved your mother, and now I question what we did to deserve having you for a son.” He reached over and kissed the top of the boy’s head.
“Ah, Dad. You’re getting just like Mom…all mushy and stuff,” he said trying to pull away.
Vincent reached out and tousled his son’s blond hair. “Is that better, not too mushy?”
“Yah Dad, that’s better.”
Vincent loved being called “Dad”. It was a gift that warmed his soul.
They finished lunch and slung on their packs to proceed further along the tunnel. They walked for another three hours, looking, mapping, and talking, but most importantly, listening.
“Jacob, at times you can hear noises that may alert you to something in the process of or actually starting to occur. Slight crackling sounds, water drips increasing, or even windy sounds. These sounds tell you to be on the lookout for rock or mud slides. An increase in water dripping can mean a flood may start, and some of those can happen very quickly. You could be washed away and injured or perhaps even drowned. Care must always be taken Never take anything for granted or you could be caught completely off guard. The earth is a living entity; it moves and changes without warning. As it’s caretakers we must be constantly on alert and work with it.”
Jacob listened and absorbed what his father told him.
They decided to stop and set up for the night in a small alcove. Vincent started a fire for cooking and warmth. The boy opened the bedrolls and got out a pot for soup and one for tea. A hot meal and mugs of hot tea would do both of them good. William, of course, had provided plenty, even a loaf of rye bread and his famous oatmeal cookies.
Jacob sat back and smiled. This is great. Just me, Dad, and oatmeal cookies. I could ask for no more, he happily thought to himself.
After finishing their meal and cleaning up, they prepared for bed. Vincent let Jacob stoke the fire for the night, and they decided to sleep in their clothes for the extra warmth. The alcove was curved and would help hold the heat from the campfire against the coldness of being deep underground.
“Sleep well Jacob.”
“You too, Dad. ‘Night.”
They were tired, but a good tired, and sleep came within minutes of their heads hitting the blanket rolls.
Vincent woke first. Sleeping on hard ground and not spooned next to his beautiful wife was not his favorite way to awaken. He checked their Bond; she was still sleeping, and he wished he was there holding her in his arms.
He got up and stretched out the kinks. His son was still asleep, so he decided to fuel up the fire for some tea and oatmeal. Since he didn’t require as much sleep, he’d get things ready and then wake his son. He thought he could sense moisture in the air, perhaps there was a fresh water source close by.
Jacob was still sleeping peacefully, so he decided to go up the tunnel a little way to see if he could find water. He took one of the lanterns they carried and started searching; he could now feel moisture in the air. He continued forward to where the tunnel opened into a large, high-ceilinged cavern. His lantern’s glow caused the lichen formations on some areas to add dimension to this remarkable sight.
It seems nature has been at work for a long time here, he thought to himself. He ventured slowly into the space, looking, listening. All his exceptional senses were working overtime to assess the newfound wonder. He held his lantern high and the light reflected off the water and danced on the walls and ceiling. He dipped his hand into the water and tasted it. Hmmm, fresh water. Good.
Their Bond told him Jacob was waking. He took one more look and returned to their campsite. They could explore this together. He wouldn’t say anything about the new cavern and would let his son experience the same thrill he did at this new wonder of his subterranean world.
He had tea and the oatmeal ready when Jacob sat up, stretched, and rubbed his eyes.
“Gee Dad, how long have you been up?”
“Not long, son. Enough to get things going for breakfast. Did you sleep well, or was the ground too hard?”
“No, it was ok. I was really tired. I didn’t sleep much the night before because I was excited about our trip. Now that we’ve started and walked all day it felt real good to curl up by the campfire and sleep.”
“Well then, let’s eat, clean up, and see what we find today. I hope we find a fresh water source. I could use a bath,” Vincent said with a small grin.
“Me too. I just hope it’s a warm water spring. cold ones make me miss the shower at home,” Jacob replied as he wrapped his arms around himself and shook.
His father simply smiled.
They ate and talked about the task of mapping. It was interesting, but still a chore that needed to be done. Finished, they repacked and proceeded up the tunnel. As before, he let Jacob take the lead and kept their Bond quiet, anticipating the boy’s excitement when he stepped into the new cavern.
He was about ten steps behind; their Bond was normal and then, like a starburst, the excitement rushed through. He enjoyed it along with his son as the boy got his first look at this new wonder.
“Dad! Wow! Dad, come here quick! Look at this!” His eyes were wide, roaming over the cavern and leaving him totally speechless. Vincent was savoring the feelings coming through their Bond; the boy was full of wonder and pride at finding this new cavern. He came to stand beside his boy and held his lantern high to provide more illumination. Jacob could feel the high emotions from his father mixing with his.
“Gee, Dad. Can we explore the cavern?”
“Of course, but please remember what we talked about and be alert. Caution must always be the rule.”
They took their packs off and set them at the entrance. Together they proceeded to walk around the large opening, enjoying the adventure of exploring something new.
“Dad, is the water drinkable? I mean fresh water, not salt water coming from the ocean?”
He checked so the boy wouldn’t know he had been there earlier.
“Yes, it’s fresh. Good for us, as we were getting a little low in our canteens. Not too cold for a bath either,” he said, teasing and splashing at his son.
“Dad, could we set up camp here for the night, even though it’s still early? There’s so much here to look at.”
“My thoughts also. We have time and there is a lot to look at and map. We could spend the whole day here and move on tomorrow. Let’s set up and then explore.”
Jacob retrieved their packs and went about setting up camp. Vincent found a few pieces of wood from long ago and added it to their supply at the campsite. They found a spot where the campfire glow would reflect off the water and create floating shapes on the walls.
The joy and excitement between father and son in their Bond was amazing. Both were experiencing not only their own but the other’s as well – “a double hit”, as Jacob liked to call it.
Catherine could feel the happiness in her Bond with Vincent. They are having a great time, apparently. Good for them, she thought, smiling to herself. If they were happy, that made her happy all the more.
With camp set up they started to look around and found two more tunnels leading from the main grotto. They would explore the open area itself and then look at the tunnels.
“Which way should we take, Dad? I know…why don’t we flip for it?”
“Jacob, I don’t have any….”
“Oh, I forgot, Dad. You don’t use money, but I have a lucky penny Mom gave me a while ago, just for this purpose, I bet. She always seems to know what we need somehow.”
“Your mother is a remarkable woman and still finds ways to surprise me all the time. Jacob, I’m the luckiest man I know in our both worlds.”
“Ok, I’ll flip. Heads for left and tails for right.”
Jacob flipped his penny, missed the catch and watched it roll down toward the water’s edge where it stopped heads up.
“We go left, Dad.”
“So it seems. Lead on, son.”
They slowly walked and checked the area. They found small alcoves along the walls that had what appeared to be man-made stone walls at the front of each. The stone walls were not high; their purpose seemed to be the sectioning off of each alcove. There were depressions in the ground, not too large or too deep, and Vincent suggested they may have been fire pits used for cooking and warmth. Whoever had used them, had done so a very long time ago. He found a small quantity of wood and would later add it to their supply.
“Jacob, your grandfather will be quite interested in all of this. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to tell your Above friends about it, and for that I’m sorry,” he said quietly with his head down.
“Hey Dad…no worries, with grandfather and my tunnel friends, it will be no problem. They will ask enough questions for everyone. By the time they’re done, I’ll be really tired talking about all of this. And because it is Below, it makes it better. As Mom would say, it belongs only to us.”
To break the guilt feeling he felt in their Bond, he grinned and said, “Hey Dad, I’m hungry!”
Back at the campsite, they toasted some bread with cheese over the fire, had some fruit and a mug of tea. After relaxing a bit, they cleaned up and started back to the right this time.
It looked much the same, only the alcoves were bigger; they were actually chambers with no sectioning stone walls. They had rough, carved stone benches and what appeared to be a table, perhaps to eat on, in two of the four chambers.
“I wonder who lived here and how long ago they were here. What happened to them? Did they just go away or did they die here? It’s really a quandary, isn’t it, Dad?”
“I believe it is. We may never know, but we can try to find out.”
Jacob stood with his hands on his hips looking around, much as Vincent usually did. When his mother saw this occasionally she would smile and think like father, like son!
“I’m sorry I have no answers to all of your questions, Jacob. Perhaps if we look a little further down one of the side tunnels, we might find some.”
“Ok Dad, let’s go.” And with that, he started off to the tunnel entrance.
“Better let me lead this time son, just for a little while anyway. Since there have been inhabitants, we must be extra careful. Caution is our best friend and we will need all our senses to help guide us.”
Vincent preceded slowly, his senses on full alert. Jacob stayed about ten feet behind him as instructed, taking in all he could see and hear.
There was a feeling of apprehension flowing through their Bond. Usually Vincent didn’t have these feelings when exploring, but his son was with him and it changed the dynamics of the search. He stopped and turned his head a little - they both heard it - a crackling, sliding sound, but Vincent recognized it.
“Jacob, go back! Run as fast as you can out of the tunnel!” he roared.
Vincent caught up to him in three strides and pushed him ahead faster. They could see the light at the entrance, only a few more feet to go. The ceiling was collapsing behind them… then on them. Vincent, knowing they wouldn’t make it out in time, threw himself on top of his son and hugged him against the wall to shield him from the falling rock. Rock and dirt rained down on them for several seconds, Vincent taking most of it against his shielding body.
As quickly as it started, it stopped; small rocks falling, rolling and finally settling. They lay there among the rocks and dust-choked air. Vincent was unconscious, lying on top of his son.
Jacob was dazed and trying to breathe; the wind had been knocked out of him by the force of his father pushing him against the wall. The air was thick with dust, making it even harder to breathe. He was in shock and confused. Just breathe slowly and try to move, were his only thoughts at first. As oxygen slowly reached his brain, he started to realize what had occurred.
“Dad…Dad, are you all right? Dad, talk to me…please, Dad!”
He tried to move but most of Vincent’s weight was on him, pinning him to the floor and wall. He pushed with his hands, then his feet, to get some leverage – any movement to create space so he could get out from under his unresponsive father. He pushed, then rested a moment, then pushed again, and little by little, he could feel it was working and he would get free.
Back in their chamber, Catherine was reading in peace as the younger children were scattered throughout the tunnels with their friends. She felt apprehension in their Bond, fear, and then a sharp pain in her head. Then nothing.
She knew something had happened. Vincent was hurt and unconscious; how badly hurt she didn’t know. Was Jacob hurt? She didn’t have the same Bond with him that Vincent did.
She sent love and strength through their Bond to help Vincent. At this point there was nothing else she could do. She wouldn’t tell Father until she had a better idea of what had happened. He would want to send a search party, but they didn’t know where Vincent and Jacob were. So she waited quietly, her head aching.
“Dad, can you hear me? Dad…please hear me,” Jacob kept talking, hoping to get a response. He checked their Bond; it was quiet. He could feel Vincent breathing against his back. Good. At least I know he’s alive. He looked up the tunnel and could see light. Must only be about five feet from the entrance. He could have made it if I wasn’t for me in front of him. It’s my fault he’s hurt. My fault, was all he could think at that moment.
He heard a soft moan and snapped out of his guilt quickly. “Dad…Dad, can you hear me? Please Dad, talk to me, please!”
Jacob pushed harder and created enough space to pull himself up to a sitting position. The dust was beginning to settle a little and let a small amount of light into the area where they were. His father was still lying across his legs; his head was turned away so he couldn’t see his face. He took a deep breath and tried to focus on their situation. What would Dad do first? How do I move him? I have to get him to the campsite…Stop! Be calm. Go slowly. Free yourself first and check him for injuries. Ok…I can do this!
He pushed and pulled, finally freeing his legs. He pushed himself up against the wall to a standing position. At first his legs felt like rubber. He waited, took a few deep breaths to steady himself and then stood free of the wall. He looked at his father – there were rocks covering him except for his head and right shoulder.
He spoke aloud to himself. “Ok Jacob, get to work and clear him, check for injuries, keep talking to him…he will hear you.
“Come on Dad, wake up. I need your help and you know you can’t refuse a request for help, it’s not allowed in your…our world, right?”
As he talked, he cleared the rocks one by one. Some were hard to move, and he pushed, pulled and kicked at them – anything to get them off and away from the prone figure. Finally he had cleared them all. Still there was no sound or movement from his father.
Jacob’s fear was increasing by the minute. He checked their Bond. Nothing. So he sent love and strength through his side, hoping against hope.
The rocks are moved away, now I can check him to see what’s wrong, was his next thought.
He started moving his hands over his father’s body, arms, and legs. Everything feels good, nothing broken there. Good! He struggled and turned Vincent over onto his back. This elicited a moan from his father, causing him to open his eyes for just a moment. There was blood coming down the side of his face from a nasty gash above his right eye. Jacob ran his hands over his father’s chest and felt some give. That’s why he moaned when I turned him. Broken ribs. Sorry Dad. He put his head on Vincent’s chest; he could hear the steady heartbeat of the man, this man who was his father, this man who was his teacher, and this man who was his best friend.
For a moment Jacob’s blue eyes became misty and tears began to fall. Stop it. This is not the time for this. You’re the only one to help him now. You’re not a child any more. He wiped his sleeve across his face to dry his tears and stood up to assess the situation
He ran to the campsite across the cavern and dug out the first-aid kit his grandfather always insisted they carry. He also grabbed a canteen and didn’t stop to take a drink himself until he was kneeling at his father’s side again.
He took a quick drink to clear his throat. “Dad…Dad, try to wake up, please,” he begged.
Nothing from Vincent.
“The Bond; I’ll try the Bond. Just maybe it can help get through to him.”
He started sending love and need through their Bond as he let a few drops of water trickle into his father’s mouth. He poured some water on a clean cloth from the first-aid kit and started to clean the head wound and stop the bleeding. It was a nasty gash and it needed stitches. I need to move him first to a better light and to make him comfortable. Being the grandson of a physician helped his thinking.
He let a few more drops of water trickle in his mouth, hoping to help him wake up. He thought his father most likely had a concussion. He kept sending love and strength through their Bond. Vincent started to stir and then went quiet.
Jacob figured he could pull his father across the clearing and to the campsite, using his cloak. First, he cleared a path to the entrance. Next, he took a piece of rope from one of the packs and put it through and under the shoulder pads of the cloak. Then he made a harness and put his arms through it, pulling it up onto his young shoulders.
Jacob took a few deep, cleansing breaths. He looked at his father, who was definitely a big man. I can do this. I have to do this. He needs me to do this! He started forward, but he hardly moved at all. He changed positions and turned the other way, facing his father, and tried again. Instead of pulling forward, he was pushing backward with his legs and getting better leverage. This time there was movement, and he continued halfway across the clearing before he was forced to rest. He gave them both water and checked the loose bandage on the head wound. The bleeding had slowed.
Again, through their Bond, he sent his need for Vincent to wake up and talk to him, to tell him what else he needed to do. Although he knew what he needed to do, it would give his father something to grasp on to, hopefully.
Up again and on to the campsite. Almost there. I can do this, and then I can rest. Not yet…keep moving…moving.
“Yes! I did it, Dad, I did it!” He dropped down beside Vincent, shaking his father’s shoulders. “Dad, please. You have to wake up now. Dad, I love you, and I need you to help me!”
“Vincent! Wake up now!” he shouted. He had never called his father by his name ever in his life, but his fear for his father was escalating.
Vincent moaned softly and slowly opened his eyes. His confusion at first awakening was cut short by the pain he was in, but more so by seeing his son looking down at him with tears in his eyes. He tried to speak, without success, his throat still full of dust.
“Dad. Oh, Dad. I was so scared.” He reached for the canteen and gave him small drinks of water.
“Jacob…are you all right? Are you hurt? Help me up…ohhh, maybe not.” The pain in his head and ribs was considerable and movement right now was not a good idea in his clouded mind.
“Dad, I was so worried when I didn’t wake you. You’ve been out for hours and I know that’s not good, especially because you may have a concussion.”
“I see it’s Dr. Jacob now!” his father said, trying to smile to alleviate the boys’ fear.
He looked around and realized he was no longer in the tunnel, but at the campsite.
“Jacob, how did we get here? I remember the sounds of collapse and telling you to run. We made it out of the tunnel and across the clearing before I blacked out?”
“No, Dad. We were trapped, you on top of me and rocks on top of you. It took me a long time to get free and then get you free. I was really scared and couldn’t wake you. Dad, you need stitches. You have, I think, broken ribs and…I…called you…Vincent. I’m sorry, Dad; I didn’t know what else to do to wake you.” He sat there looking at his father and trying to catch his breath.
Vincent took in all his son had told him, almost unbelieving but knowing it to be true. He looked at his son and was sure his heart would truly burst.
“Jacob, you may have started this journey as a boy, but you have grown into a man in my eyes. I know you had great fear, but you didn’t let it control you. I will be forever grateful to you for saving my life, but more so for saving your own. If something had happened to you…,” He stopped as tears filled his eyes.
To break the flood of emotions in their Bond and between them, Jacob hugged his father and said, “I guess I need to stitch you up. Dad, I’m sorry we have nothing for the pain. Remember we promised Mom we’d take good care of each other. She’s going to be mad anyway because if I hadn’t been in front of you, you’d have made it out in time. I’m sorry. It’s my fault you’re hurt,” he said quietly going about getting things ready.
“Jacob, it’s no one’s fault. The earth moved. We were lucky. We could have been trapped completely, and then your Mother would be really mad! Don’t worry about the stitching; I’m used to it. Your grandfather always worries too. I think about your mother…it helps me…but not her. She already knows through our Bond I’m afraid.”
She did know. He was sending her his love, and even though she knew he was in pain, she knew they were all right. It was a great relief and now she would tell Father there had been a problem and all was under control. Father didn’t take the news well, but settled down after she told him they were all right, and would be on their way home soon.
Jacob carefully cleaned and stitched the wound on Vincent’s head as he had been taught by his grandfather. After helping him to sit up and removing his vest, he wrapped the rib injury as tightly as he could.
Vincent thought it would be good if they ate and then rested for the night. The day had been very long, painful, and exhausting, but he needed to stay awake for a few more hours because of the concussion. They decided to take turns reading for a while and then get some sleep.
Next morning Jacob woke first and this frightened him for a minute, as Vincent was always up before him. The movement was enough to awaken Vincent to his son’s worry in their Bond.
“I’m all right; no need to worry. How about a bath? I myself feel, as you would say…grungy. If you’ll help me by unwrapping my ribs, I‘ll go slowly into the water, wash away the dust and dirt, and feel much better. You may rewrap and help me dress if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind, and I think I could use a bath and clean clothes too,” Jacob said grinning.
The coolness of the water actually helped the pain a little. Feeling refreshed and full after a good breakfast of oatmeal with dried fruit in it and mugs of tea, Jacob packed up everything and they started for home…slowly.
Jacob carried both packs, which were made light by the fact that they had used much of the food and firewood. Vincent walked slowly at first, then was able to go at a little better pace once he felt the pain ebbing a bit. Jacob took charge of all duties, giving his dad time to start healing; no pulling or carrying would be of benefit to the healing process. Once home, he could really rest. Catherine and Father would see to that.
When they came to the area of the pipes, Jacob sent a message that they would be home in a day and all was well.
Catherine knew he was trying to spare her, so she sent love and strength through their Bond and would wait patiently until they arrived home and were in her arms again.
A message the next morning told her they were about an hour away. She couldn’t wait; she found Mouse and asked him to guide her to them. Mary told her not to worry about the young ones. She’d keep them busy.
“Ok good, ok fine. Help Catherine see Vincent and Jacob sooner.”
Off they went, with Mouse leading at his usual pace – fast. Ok fine, she’d see her men sooner, was her thought while hurrying to keep up with him.
She saw them coming up the tunnel and noticed Jacob carrying both packs. She could tell by the way Vincent was holding himself, even though he had that little smile, that he was exhausted and in pain. She wanted to run to him but held back, putting on a cheery face as she approached them.
She gently put her arms around him. Looking at his face and feeling the tension in his body told her all she needed to know.
“Oh Vincent, I’m sorry. Broken ribs, I assume, and look at your face.” She pulled his arm across her shoulders and placed her arm around his waist to ease his walking. “What have you two been up to, may I ask?” she said, looking at them critically.
“Catherine, I’m fine. Perhaps a little bruised, but fine. We had a wonderful adventure, didn’t we Jacob?” he said, trying to relieve her worries and fear.
“Oh Mom, you wouldn’t believe what we found. I can’t wait to tell you, Grandfather, and everyone else about it,” he said, looking quite proud.
Father checked Vincent over, rewrapped his ribs, and checked the stitching, complimenting Jacob for his good work.
“You know, my boy, you stitch like a surgeon. Your father will have a thin scar to remember this trip by,” Father said proudly to his grandson. Jacob smiled and reached out to help his father up from the exam table.
Father, of course, lectured Vincent that he should rest, and then Vincent, Catherine, and Jacob headed for their chamber. But there would be no rest until the younger children’s excitement at the return of their father and brother was over. Vincent had missed his younger children, and there were hugs and kisses all around. Thankfully, Mary came and saved him from further injury.
“You know, I think William has some fresh baked cookies for you,” she whispered, as if it were a secret for the children’s ears only. “Why not let your father rest now?” The three younger ones left, dragging poor Mary with them.
Jacob saw the look in his parent’s eyes. “I think I’ll go tell Grandfather about what we found and maybe get some of those cookies, Dad. I’m hungry!”
“Yes, Jacob. I think he would be very interested in what you found. And you’re always hungry,” Vincent replied, smiling at his son.
As Jacob walked up the tunnel to his grandfather’s chamber, he seemed taller to them.
“Vincent, I need to get you into bed. I’ll help you get out of your clothes and into something more comfortable.”
“Catherine, I don’t believe I’m in any condition…and Father has me wrapped so tightly I can barely breathe,” he whispered smiling and showing his canines.
“That was not my intention! But my love, you better heal fast. You’ve been gone a week and I missed you…a lot!”
She helped him undress and put on a soft thermal shirt and sweat pants to sleep in. Once in bed and relatively comfortable, he reached for her hand, bringing it to his lips and kissing it.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
“For what, my love, are you thanking me?”
“For giving me such a remarkable son. Catherine, I can never look at him as a boy again; I only see him as the man he is growing into. He kept his promise to you. He not only saved my life, but his own, and took good care of both of us. I know he was afraid, yet he continued on with great courage. He didn’t let his fear consume him. He kept a clear head and did all that was necessary to bring us home to you.” There were tears in his eyes as he told her all that transpired on their trip.
She kissed his lips softly and snuggled next to him, gently putting her head of his shoulder. She put her arm protectively across his chest; they were home and they were safe. She needed to hold him in her arms and surround him with her love. Now, in the quiet of their chamber, they let love pour though their Bond, filling them with soothing warmth.
Father came in to check on his patient a little later and found them both peacefully sleeping. Always a parent, he gently pulled the quilt up and tucked it around them, kissing them each on the forehead, and left quietly.