Peacefully walking hand in hand through the park on their almost nightly excursion, she sighed happily and squeezed his hand. It was autumn, the leaves were at their peak of color; burnished gold, rusty orange, crimson reds and yellowing greens. Their colors and shapes made a quilt like effect on the grassy areas and pathways. He loved the woodsy smell of fall, the crispness in the air, and the scent of burning leaves from a far off bonfire. Soon the winds of winter would come and blow them all away to leave the park barren of color and texture. The beauty would return again with the snow, the park would be all white and glistening in the sun and moon light.
There were several different routes they traveled, always out of the main flow of joggers, lovers, friends, and those who meant harm to any of their fellow man. He stayed more toward the trees and bushes for easier concealment if need be. Vincent always alert to any chance of discovery or danger to them. Catherine would know through the bond if he felt at all uncomfortable or wary. She considered it her built in danger alert. It was customary that they never went the same way two nights in a row as a matter of caution and safety.
All of this was second nature to them, but never forgotten or underestimated by either.
They were older now, more content to see and take the daily happenings as they came, either the pain, or the joys or the gifts life had to offer them. Catherine had retired and on occasion gave legal expertise when asked by the tunnel counsel. She now used her devious courtroom ways on poor Vincent most of the time, or occasionally on one of her fellow tunnel family members. "Just trying to keep in practice and it keeps them on their toes."
Vincent had slowly handed over the day to day tunnel duties to their second son, as Father had passed them on to him. The young man was more like his father in his size and love of the tunnel way of life. He didnít have Vincentís leonine features, only his strength of character, understanding and unlimited patience.
Their children were grown, educated and with families of their own; they now were grandparents to the next generation of Above and Below people.
There was silver running through his tawny mane and the downy soft hair of his body now. Catherine liked the distinguished look on her man, but not on herself. "Vincent, I have more grey than you, itís not fair. Iím sure it was caused by you and your children" she would tell him. trying to keep a straight face.
"Catherine, I donít understand how you could truly think such unkind thoughts about me and our children," he ventured to say as if wounded by her words. Then laughter would overtake them, which was usually followed by warm embrace and treasured memories of their life together.
"We were so blessed, Vincent, to have had our dreams come true. At times it felt as if there were way too many obstacles to keep us from our dreamsÖwe never let them stop us from going toward love together though did we?"
"Catherine, if I hadnít found you that night in the park I would have been destined to wander the world Below alone. Never to know the wonder and depth of your love, the children I never dared dreamed would be possible and the magical life we now have together. I can not put into words how I felt when I held our first born in these hands, these hands that had harmed others. I know these are your hands, as you have told meÖit was then I accepted truly for the first time that these hands were meant to give love. For that I will be grateful to the gods of destiny always."
At that moment looking into his eyes that were swimming in unshed tears, she saw a love that she had no words for. Their bond was filled with a warm tender glow, a sensation they had never before experienced. They stood under the stars and moon and cloudless sky drinking in their ever deepening love for each other. How long they stood there in each others arms they couldnít remember.
Later as they rambled through their part of the park, the wind came up and it started to rain lightly, they went back to the tunnel entrance and then on to their chamber. Vincent added wood to the brazier and set about boiling water for tea. They tended to use their chamber more, now that the children were gone. When the children and their families or special friends came to visit they used their Above home.
It had all the room and amenities to allow for comfortable visits. The brownstone was too big when they just wanted to relax and read or talkÖ plus Below was a lot less maintenance. They enjoyed the tunnel life, no rushing around, good food; Catherineís inability to cook was legendary and Vincent dutifully ate some mystery meals with out ever complaining in the beginning. Most of the time now it was something she picked up on the way home and later most came from the tunnel kitchen. Williams meals were simple, but the best.
"Iím sorry we had to cut our walk short tonight, but we would not want to get a chill in these old bones now would we Catherine?"
"Old bonesÖ I see you still know how to sweet talk a lady, donít you my big beautiful hunk of a husband."
"Catherine, I do not believe that description applies to me any more, perhaps you may want to have your eyes checked."
"Come here my beautiful hunk, I think I need to set you straight on that issue."
She pulled him over to their bed, and wantonly proceeded to make her point. Hours later after their slow and tender pleasuring and loving, they lay sated and content in each others arms. She looked up into his deep blue eyes as she softly rubbed the hair on his chest in contentment and then at tugged it to pull him out of his reverie.
"Vincent, you will never, not be beautiful to me. Outside and inside you only get better with time as a fine wine. That, my love, is why I want to grow older with you."