Hmmm Ö this feels so good, he thought as he relaxed in the warm, swirling waters of the bathing chamber to ease the stiff and sore muscles from the never-ending work of keeping Below safe and dry. The work detail had just returned from replacing and shoring up some leaking pipes near one of the storage chambers. They were wet, muddy, and tired, but pleased with themselves at the work they had accomplished even quicker than they had anticipated.
Vincent knew he had time to let his aching body be renewed. He searched the Bond he had with each member of his family and was able to feel what kind of day they had and that all was well.
He would pick up his one-year-old son, Charles, from Mary in the nursery and head home through the tunnels for dinner with his wife and older son. Catherine was busy finishing up her usual load of unending paperwork and thinking of dinner with her three favorite men. Jacob was on his way home from school and playing ball with his friends.
Vincent washed away the sweat and mud and was in the process of drying himself when he felt a stir in his bond with Jacob. First excitement, then a little sadness, and finally a feeling of acceptance, he wondered what would have caused this in his eight-year-old son. He would ask Catherine first if she knew of anything that might have caused these feelings in their son.
They all arrived at the brownstone within a few minutes of each other and busily started to prepare for dinner. Catherine had picked up Chinese from Henry and Linís restaurant on the way home. They all liked the assortment of different foods and spices used; Henry always put in something new along with the favorites they always ordered.
He would tease Catherine, "You know I tell Lin you are my testing team when I decide to try something new."
She always would laugh and tell him, "One of these days, Henry, youíll have to teach me to cook!"
"No Cathy, if I teach you to cook, I would lose too much business and my family would go hungry," Henry would tease her.
"Henry, Iím not here that often Ö am I?"
After an enjoyable dinner and chatter about the dayís events, Vincent and Jacob cleaned up the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher before going up to the study. Jacob set about to do his homework, Charles played with his blocks, and Vincent relaxed, began to read, and kept an eye on his youngest. Catherine had bathed Charles while her other men had done dish duty. As usual, she was finishing up paperwork for an upcoming case.
Jacob always sat at his Fatherís desk to do his homework; it gave him a special feeling he loved. It was the picture of normal family life. Vincent looked up from his book at his son, who was making faces at his homework assignments. He sensed nothing wrong, but he still had questions in his mind about the feelings he had felt earlier in the day. Hopefully, the boy would mention if something was bothering him. He wouldnít press him about it; Jacob would come when he was ready to talk about it if he needed to.
Catherine finished her notes for tomorrow morningís meeting, put her paperwork in her briefcase, and headed for the bathroom, informing the family she was going to take a shower. She could see Charles was about ready to go to bed and didnít want to keep him up too late. Then she told them quietly she would get them some of Williamís special evening tea and maybe some oatmeal cookies.
"That would be fine, my love," Vincent whispered, smiling at her as she walked behind his chair trailing her hand across his shoulders.
"Aw Dad, donít start getting mushy!"
With that Catherine crossed the room to where the boy sat and gave him a big, noisy kiss on his cheek.
"I like mushy, young man," she said and tussled his hair.
Vincent smiled, "Jacob my son, you should be careful of that lady; she tends to be quite unpredictable at times."
"I know Dad; I just like to tease you guys; itís fun! Iíll bet none of my friends have as much fun as we do. They sure donít know what theyíre missing."
His sonís comment sent a wave of contentment and pride through him, warming and touching his soul.
As she started out of the room, she looked at Vincent, then to Charles who was rubbing his eyes and yawning.
He picked up on her thoughts and asked Charles if he was sleepy. The toddler smiled at his father, and then put up his arms to be gathered up and cuddled by his father. This was a ritual with the little boy and his father. This was special feeling for themówarm and safe, most comforting to both. Vincent got him ready for bed, and as he read to him a short story, the little one drifted off to the sleep of the innocent. He kissed his curly brown hair, covered him with one of the soft tunnel quilts, and turned off the light.
"Sleep well, my son."
He returned to the study and picked up the book he kept attempting to read, but set it back down again. Instead he watched Jacob stretch and smile as his homework was completed.
"Did you have a good day at school, possibly learning something new or exciting?"
Jacob was a good student and loved learning about everything.
"No, just the regular stuffótraded my oatmeal cookies for a comic book Ö donít tell William, or I might not get anymore. I know you donít think comic books are real books Dad, but sometimes theyíre neat!"
"May I see your comic book? Perhaps I could be persuaded to change my mind," Vincent teased.
"Sure Dad if you want to; you might even like it. You know like Mom always says, expand your world."
Vincent marveled at the seamless way his son fit into both worlds, with an uncanny sense of normalcy. Yes Ö he is the best of both of us.
When Jacob opened his backpack to fish out the comic book, a small blue envelope fell out. He quickly picked it up and shoved it back in his pack, and then handed his father the comic book. Vincent noticed the envelope and the quickness with which the boy put it back in his pack.
"Jacob, is there something you need to tell me about that envelope?
"No Dad, itís just some dumb thing, no big deal," he said with a crooked grin.
Vincent wasnít sure that was the case, so he gently searched the bond, but Jacob was closing it a little, so he backed off to give the boy some privacy. He knew his son would come to him; he just needed to work it out.
Catherine came out of the bathroom in her fuzzy robe, a towel resembling a beehive around her head, and proceeded downstairs for the tea she promised. Vincent followed her down while Jacob finished packing up his homework.
"Catherine, I think something is bothering Jacob and I canít quite put a finger on it. I donít want to invade his privacy; still I think there is something he isnít saying."
"Do you want me to talk to him, Vincent? Or would you prefer I use my investigative skills first to see if there is a problem or concern?"
He pulled her into a warm embrace as they waited for the kettle to boil. "I love your investigative skills. You know, you can investigate me anytime and as long you want," he whispered in her ear.
"Later, my impatient love. One of our sons is still awake and I did promise tea and maybe a cookie or two before bed, remember?"
"Yes I remember Ö I can be patient, Catherine," he said, softly kissing the top of her head.
They got the tray ready with the tea and cookies. He carried it up to the study and sat it on the low table by the fireplace; they all sat on cushions around it to enjoy the tea, cookies, and the warmth of the fireside family time. Vincent loved these together times and was still amazed at it all, how so much love and happiness could be his. His eyes drifted to Catherine knowing it was because of her love that this was all possible. His eyes met hers with so much love that it sent a shiver through both of them.
This was not missed by their son who felt the warmth of their love for each other and for him. He knew they loved him very much; he also knew their love for each other was really something special. He wondered if any of his friendís families were like this, or was it just his special family?
The chiming of the grandfather clock downstairs told him it was time to go to bed, so with a kiss and hug for both his parents, Jacob went sleepily to his room. It only took a few minutes and he was fast asleep, dreaming the dreams of little boys.
Vincent pulled Catherine onto his lap. They sat in front of the fireplace, gazing into the slowly dying embers and enjoying the quiet of the moment. She could still feel his slight concern about Jacob through the bond. She kissed him on the nose and got up pulling him with her.
"Come, letís get into bed and talk about it," she said softly.
"Catherine, if we get into bed, we wonít talk very much ...."
"Thatís the plan, my love" she grinned as she turned to shut off the desk lamp Jacob had left on. In doing so, she inadvertently knocked over his backpack and its contents fell out at her feet.
"Dammi!" she said, bending over to pick up the contents and put them back together in the pack. It was then she noticed the small blue envelope. Not thinking much about it, she opened it to see if it was something she needed to do for the school. Reading the contents told her all she needed to know.
This was one of those times that not being the normal family could cause some discomfort for their son and his parents. It was an invitation for a father and son weekend camping trip with some schoolmates of Jacobís.
Vincent felt in her a little sadness for their son and himself. He came up behind her and surrounded her in his embrace. He read the invitation over her shoulder and immediately shuddered at the thought that his son would be deprived of this experience. His guilt and pain flowed through the Bond.
Dropping his arms, he stepped back and started pacing. Catherine turned to face him, punching him soundly in the chest. "Stop it right now, Vincent! We all knew this would happen at some point. Even Jacob knows there are things we canít do as a family. Thatís why he didnít say anything to us about this; he didnít want you to feel guilty." She hugged him tightly, pouring love and strength through the Bond to help ease his guilt.
"Itís not fair that he must suffer because of me Ö because of what I am," he said softly.
She took a step back, fighting to keep her voice from rising, and put both hands on his chest to stop him from pacing again.
"Itís not what you are Ö I donít want to hear that ever again. Itís who you are and that is what matters to all of us Vincent. Your sonóand I mean your sonólooks at you with so much love and pride in who you are that sometimes Iím jealous and wished he looked at me that way. He has more of you in him than he does me, and I donít mean his beautiful blues eyes either. He has your strength of character, your love of life and learning, and believe it or not, your tendency for patience. We all know patience isnít one of my strong points."
He started pacing again, all his emotions trying to settle out and calm. He knew she was right, but it still didnít stop the hurt.
Catherine quietly waited, feeling the calm in the Bond slowly take over until he stopped and looked at her. He was still tense as he reached for her hands and placed them on his shoulders. She started to knead his shoulders, releasing the tension still left there, and trailed soft kisses along his neck.
"Catherine, Iím sorry Ö I know we canít do everything like a normal family. Sometimes I can almost forget weíre not the regular family group Ö forgive me? Please?" he said, taking a cleansing breath. "My love, you do have great patience; unfortunately, you expend more of it on me than you should have to."
"Vincent, Iíll bet we do more as a family than most other families do. So when we canít do certain things, we must enjoy and appreciate what we have. If he really wants to go, I bet Uncle Joe would jump at the chance to go with him. And if he doesnít, maybe you could take a group of his tunnel friends for a weekend camping trip Below. Uncle Joe would jump at that, too."
After a few moments in his arms, she started to feel a little guilty herself.
"Iím sorry I punched you so hard; I needed to stop the guilt before it got too big. Can you forgive me, please? If you let me, I can kiss it and make it all better Ö really, I can!"
With a pretend frown, he rubbed his chest lightly. "Perhaps it left a mark, should I take off my shirt to investigate?"
"No, let me do that for you, oh kind sir. Remember, my love; Iím the investigator in this family and you know how much I love to investigate Ö and how much you love to be investigated," she whispered, slowly undoing the ties his shirt.
"Yes Ö" he barely breathed.
Three Mondays later, Vincent, Jacob, and Charles were returning from dinner with their Below family and bringing home dinner for Catherine ,who was working later than usual. Father and sons liked these times together; they could, as Jacob described, "do guy talk."
Though Charles didnít talk much, he seemed to enjoy listening to his father and big brother's discourse.
"Hey Dad, thanks, it was really fun going camping Below with my tunnel friends and Uncle Joe last weekend. I know I had more fun than my friends from school did. It rained all weekend where they went. Some of the guys told me they couldnít do anything neat, and they got bored. Seems they donít know how to have fun with their dads, you know, just talking and stuff.
Remember when I was a little kid and weíd wait for Mom at the park entrance? Before you opened the sliding door, I would stand on top of your foot and hold on to your leg, and then youíd close your cloak around me?"
Sheíd always laugh and say, "Vincent, do you see Jacob any where?"
"Youíd say, ĎNo Catherine, I donít see Jacob.í You didnít want to tell a lie. Then when she started to look around for me, Iíd jump out and yell, Surprise! We all laughed and hugged together for a long time. That was really fun, Dad. I remember the look on Momís face; I think she knew I was there, but didnít want to spoil the fun we had. I know we have more fun than my friends doómost of the time their parents are too busy to have real family fun like us. Boy, Iím the luckiest kid I knowómaybe in the whole world!"
Vincentís heart was so full of love and pride in his son, he was sure it would burst before they got home. Catherine felt this surge as she walked in the front door of the brownstoneóit actually made her stop and catch her breath for a minute. She thought, I canít wait to find out what had caused this literally breathtaking feeling from my husband.
She came downstairs from changing her clothes in time to hug them as they arrived from Below. The four of them relished these group hugsóto them, it was home, safety, and love, the best feeling in their worlds. They chatted for a few minutes and then Jacob went up to the study to do his homework. His parents and little brother sat in the kitchen as Catherine ate her dinner of hearty chicken stew, warm crusty bread, and a succulent apple cobbler, one of Williamís specialties. Charles got an oatmeal cookie and a toddlerís cup of milk to keep him busy. Vincent put the kettle on for tea to take up to the study when she was done with dinner.
"Ah Ö William outdid himself today, that was a wonderful meal. Thanks for bringing it home for me; I was thinking peanut butter and jelly for dinner" she told him. "By the way Vincent, what happened to on the way home? You literally took my breath away."
He stood there with such pride; she thought he just might explode!
"My love, we have the most exceptional son. You were correct in how he sees our familyówhy canít I see what you always seem to know?"
He proceeded to describe the conversion he had with Jacob on the way home, still glowing with the gift their son had given him, gift he would always treasure. She now knew why their Bond had been full to almost overflowing with emotion from him. The love they shared and gave freely to each other was also flowing in their sons.
"Vincent, I remember someone, and I canít remember who, once told me that a child is a picture of his parentsí love. We, my love, are truly blessed in that sense."
"Catherine, what we have is more than I could ever hope to explain, but it seems the gods of fate have put it right in front of us to see Ö just as Kristopher did years ago."