To Be Made Whole Again
By Katie A
Catherine closed and locked the door, dropped her briefcase and purse on the floor where she stood, and leaned her back against the door wearily. She was SO tired. Physically worn out? Yes. Mentally spent? Very much so. But worst of all? Emotionally, she was completely and utterly exhausted. She had worked several very intense cases back to back, and somewhat simultaneously. She had spent almost no time Below, or with Vincent on the balcony. She needed him. She needed rest. She needed to get away from this world Above that was beating her slowly to death.
As Vincent approached the balcony, he knew Catherine was completely exhausted. He had felt her strength failing bit by bit as the week wore on. He had spoken with Father before he departed for Catherine’s balcony this evening. He voiced his concern for Catherine’s health, describing the utter physical, mental and emotional exhaustion he sensed in her. He had asked if Catherine could come Below for a few days, if he could persuade her.
“By all means, Vincent, and do be sure you persuade her,” Father said. “Peter is out of town, so there is no one up there to keep an eye on her. She simply MUST come here and let us take care of her. She works far too hard.”
Vincent was gratified to hear Father voice such concern for Catherine. He really HAD changed his feelings about her. It seemed that he loved her as much as any of his Tunnel charges.
“I shall do my best to persuade her, Father,” Vincent promised. “She can be very stubborn about not being a ‘burden’ to us, but I believe it may be a welcome surprise when I ask her to come Below.”
Now, landing softly on her balcony, he felt even more the weariness and dejection in her. It’s worse than I thought. I only hope she has enough strength to make it down to the threshold. He decided to take a bold step, and perhaps galvanize Catherine’s spirits a bit.
Instead of tapping on the glass as usual, he opened the living room set of French doors, and stepped inside. Observing the figure slouched wearily against the door, he went quietly over to her, took her into his arms, and said, “Come Below, Catherine. Let us care for you. Do you need help packing?”
It took her overtired brain a moment to process all this very unusual information. Vincent was INSIDE her apartment! Voluntarily! He had just asked her to come Below and stay awhile. Oh, I just want to stay right here in your arms for awhile, my Love, she thought.
Vincent smiled to himself. He didn’t need to read minds to know what she had just thought. The bond communicated her relief and her happiness at being in his arms. “Catherine,” he whispered, “do you need any help packing a few things, and can you make it to the threshold to meet me?” Even as he said this, he cuddled her closer, and rubbed her back soothingly.
“Mmmm,” she said. “I can pack a few things, and I think I can probably make it down to the threshold. Letting go of you long enough to accomplish that is going to be difficult, though.”
“You won’t have to give me up for that long. Just bring your toiletries and a few items of clothing. You can borrow anything else you need, and I still have some of your things in my dresser from when you stayed Below to help during my illness.”
They both shivered a little at the memory of that awful time. Vincent gave her one more squeeze, then pulled back and looked into her eyes. They were almost muddy with fatigue. “Remember, Catherine, you don’t need to bring a lot, and I’ll be waiting anxiously for you.” He kissed her forehead, and noted that she felt a trifle too warm. Hmmm. I think we shall stop and see Father first thing. I’ll send a message the minute I get down to the threshold to wait. Aloud, he said, “I’ll see you soon.” Then he left her side and was over the balcony wall in a flash.
Catherine was feeling a bit dazed by all this. Nonetheless, she grabbed her duffle bag out of the closet, put in her toiletries, some undies, some socks, a pair of athletic shoes, some jeans, and a couple of sweaters. She zipped the bag, grabbed her purse, unlocked the door, was through it, and had it relocked behind her in record time. The briefcase she left dumped unceremoniously right inside the door where she had first let it go on returning from work.
Her trip to the threshold was uneventful, except that Brian met her on the way down. “Hi, Catherine!” he greeted her. “I’m on my way down, too. I’m meeting Mouse and Jamie. We’re working on a project together. Mouse has really helped me with my physical science coursework. You wouldn’t think it, but he really does know a LOT about science. He just doesn’t know he knows it.”
Catherine was far too exhausted to follow all that, but she said, “I’m glad of the company, Brian. I’m meeting Vincent. It’s been a rough week.”
Brian noticed that she seemed pale and looked tired. “Here, let me at least carry that bag for you.” And he took the duffle from her.
She smiled. “Thanks, Brian.”
The rest of the elevator ride and the walk to the sub-basement were quiet. They carefully checked to make sure they were unobserved. Brian moved the boxes, let Catherine climb down, handed down her duffle, and started down himself after a brief pause to re-arrange their camouflage of boxes in front of the doors.
As Catherine neared the bottom of the ladder, strong yet gentle hands lifted her from the ladder, and powerful arms cradled her. Vincent waited for Brian to come down and said, “Hello, Brian! Thank you for making sure Catherine got down here safely. If you would be so kind as to follow us with Catherine’s bag, we’ll be going to the Hospital Chamber, and Mouse will meet you there.”
“That’s fine, Vincent, thanks!” Brian responded and picked the duffle bag up and followed as Vincent carried Catherine off to the Hospital Chamber.
“Vincent, I’m really all right, just tired; why are we going to the Hospital Chamber?” Catherine asked.
“Because you have a slight fever, Catherine, and Father has been worried about you, too. He knows Peter isn’t in town to check on you, and he wants to make sure you are all right,” Vincent said in a tone that let her know HE wouldn’t rest easy unless she gave in and let Father examine her.
“Oh, that’s so kind of Father to worry over me, “ she said. “I can’t refuse and make him worry even more.” She felt amusement along the bond at that statement. She smiled to herself. I can’t refuse Vincent anything, especially not when he’s so worried about my well- being that he’s mentioned it to Father. Father really has been very kind to me lately, and he does seem to fuss almost as much as Peter when I let myself get too buried in a case and forget to eat right.
As soon as they got to the Hospital Chamber, they were met by Mary. “Hello, Catherine. Vincent, please put her down in the examination area, and then you wait out here. Hello, Brian.” She turned her head toward the inner chamber and raised her voice a bit. “ Mouse! Brian is here. You’d best go find Jamie and get started on your project!” She smiled at the three of them and took Catherine’s bag from Brian and set it on a nearby chair.
“Hello, Mary,” Brian said. “Thanks for getting Mouse to meet me here.”
“You are very welcome, Brian.” Mary smiled again. “It has been good for Mouse, working with you and Jamie on this project.”
“Yeah, better than best! Best project EVER! Brian’s gonna get an A!” Mouse exclaimed, entering the outer chamber. “Come on, Jamie’s waiting in my chamber. Better not keep her waiting too long. NOT good!” Mouse said, and they hurriedly left.
Vincent had come out of the examination area after depositing Catherine on the exam table during this exchange. “What is it about a conversation with Mouse that always makes one feel as though one has been caught in a windstorm?” he asked a laughing Mary.
“He is so very exuberant, but he has his own sort of intelligence, does our Mouse,” she offered in exchange.
“Father will be here in a moment, Vincent. Please let him know that I’ve only just gone in to get Catherine into a gown for his examination.”
“I will, Mary, and thank you for all your help,” Vincent said.
“Think nothing of it, Vincent. We are all very fond of Catherine, you know. I, for one, worry about her living all alone up there, and Peter can only check on her once in a while. I’d better get going.” Mary patted Vincent’s cheek as she finished saying this and went in to help Catherine prepare for her short notice check-up.
Father came into the waiting area and spoke to Vincent. “Is Mary with her now?” he asked.
“Yes, Father, she went in about two minutes ago to help Catherine get undressed and into an exam gown for you. “ Vincent’s demeanor became very serious. “I believe she may be running more of a fever than I first thought, Father. She feels warmer to the touch than she did earlier, and she dozed off at least once between the threshold and here.”
Father looked at Vincent with deep concern. “How can she let herself go like this? Does she not realize that people, especially you, worry about her?”
“Father,” Vincent soothed, “she is so very dedicated to her work, and the work is difficult and important. She tries to spare me the worst of it, but I can sense that these three cases have involved some horrible abuse against children. Very young children, Father. It tears at her heart, and she feels she is letting the children down if she doesn’t do absolutely everything possible to win the case and stop the abuse.”
“I realize all that, Vincent,” Father replied, sighing. “Still, I will have a word with her about not being any good to the children if she is flat on her back in a hospital bed!”
Catherine sat down on the examination table again after Mary helped her change into the gown, which was far more substantial than what one was given Above for an exam, thank goodness. “Thank you, Mary,” she said. “I feel so bad inconveniencing you and Father like this. I am sure you have better, more enjoyable things to do on a Friday evening.”
“Catherine, dear, taking care of our family is one of the things we do here. You are family, and we mean to take good care of you, especially since Peter isn’t in town to check on you. Now, here, let’s take your temperature, and I’ll go tell Father you’re ready.”
Father came into the examination room, took the thermometer from her mouth, read it, scowled, and said, “Catherine! Your temperature is 100 ! I’ll have Mary take a blood sample so that I can determine if it’s something that needs antibiotics, or is just a virus. In any case, I hope you’ll stay here for the weekend at the very least.” He looked at her over the top of his reading glasses, and was appalled at how pale and worn down she looked.
“Oh, Father,” she said, suddenly feeling rather teary to be so obviously worried over by this man with whom she had certainly had her share of tussles, “I’ll stay as long as you feel it’s wise. I know I have to take better care of myself. I’m so sorry I’ve caused everyone so much worry, Vincent especially. “
“Well, of course we worry about you, my dear, you are one of us! Now, let’s get that blood sample, and let me listen to your lungs, and we’ll be through.”
Mary drew blood and prepared a slide for him as he listened to Catherine’s lungs and looked in her ears and down her throat.
“Well, nothing alarming but a slightly inflamed ear on the left, and some redness in your throat, but my dear, you are obviously exhausted past any safe limits,” Father said with his most ominous scowl yet. “Do you really have any idea what this does to Vincent, to feel you wearing yourself to a frazzle like this? He’s been concerned about you for days, but was loath to disturb you until you turned in the files for those last cases.”
Catherine felt tears sting her eyes. She was tired, she was SO tired, and couldn’t stop herself. “I know exactly how much this affects Vincent! Why do you think I shield him from as many of my feelings as I possibly can? THAT’S what’s exhausting me emotionally: trying not to let my horror and anger and despair over these poor children get through the bond. Also, as you well know, Vincent only lets me so close; so any feelings that might make him uncomfortable with me have to be hidden as well. It’s very difficult, Father.” She was nearly sobbing by the end of this.
Mary came over and hugged her, and said, “Jacob, now is not the time for this. Let’s get this poor girl some of William’s good soup and send her to bed. You can harangue her about taking better care of herself tomorrow.”
“Yes, of course, Mary. Catherine, dear, I am sorry.” Father took her hand in both of his, and looked at her with great affection. “I worry so much for BOTH of you. This relationship of yours with Vincent is a remarkable thing, and I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must be to hide your feelings from him, given how connected you two are. Please, do as Mary says. Get into your comfy sleep clothes and have some soup, and crawl into bed and get a good night’s sleep, for once. Might I suggest you stay with Vincent?”
At this suggestion, Catherine’s eyes got huge and she looked at him as though he’d gone mad, or perhaps she thought she was having delusions. “Father?” she asked.
“I know. Very unexpected, isn’t it?”
Is he actually grinning at me? This has GOT to be a fever dream… “You won’t object to me staying in Vincent’s chamber?”
“No, I won’t. For one thing, you are so exhausted that I KNOW nothing untoward will happen. For another, I know Vincent won’t rest if he can’t keep a constant eye on you, and, finally, I know that BOTH of you will rest much better in the same bed, just as you did when he was recovering from his illness. I DID come in and check on you after you fell asleep, you know. I knew you were sleeping in the bed with him. I also knew he slept much better when you did that.” He smiled at her. “Now, get going so you can rest. I’ll check that blood sample, but I’d be willing to bet that if you get a good night’s rest, and eat properly, the irritation and the fever will pass. I will also give you a couple of aspirin.”
Catherine climbed down from the exam table, hugged Father and said, “Thank you. I love you, Father.”
Leaving a rather stunned Father behind, she followed Mary out of the exam area to find Vincent, who was informed by Mary that she was taking Catherine for a nice warm bath, and would he please go get some soup from William and meet them back in his chamber in about 30 minutes?
Vincent had felt the roller coaster of Catherine’s emotions, and he looked at her questioningly.
“I’m all right, Vincent,” she said. “Or I will be once I can get comfy and rest. Father said I should stay with you tonight.”
Vincent looked a bit surprised, and said, “I am glad he agrees with my opinion on this, for I need you near. Now, you go have your bath. I’ll see you soon.”
He left Catherine and Mary and went to seek William in the kitchen.
“Come, dear, let’s get the cares of the week washed off you and get you ready for a nice rest.”
“Thank you, Mary,” Catherine said, wondering why she felt so very close to tears all the time just now. I’m just so tired, that’s most of it. Father being so kind, and, well, Mary is always kind, but I feel so coddled just now, and so very loved.
One short but soothing soak later, Catherine was wearing her soft tunnel gown and robe, and she was sitting at Vincent’s table when he returned with a tray containing two bowls of soup. He was closely followed by William himself, who had a teapot and cups on his tray.
“William, you brought me tea?” Catherine asked, somewhat sleepily, for she was feeling drowsy and comfy, finally.
William smiled. “Yes. This soothing tea will help you sleep, though it sounds like you may not need it,” he added as he set the cups and teapot on the table where Vincent was setting out the soup bowls. “Now, you just relax. Have your tea and soup, and get some sleep. I’m going to make an extra special breakfast tomorrow, so we can build you up!” He turned and left them, with barely time for Vincent and Catherine both to say thank you.
Vincent looked at Catherine. She was much more relaxed and comfortable than she had been earlier, but the exhaustion was still there. He needed to get her to tell him about the cases she’d been working on so she could let go of the anger and grief. It wouldn’t be easy; she was very stubborn when she thought she was protecting him.
Ah, let’s just get ourselves fed and rested. Tomorrow morning is soon enough for that talk. “Catherine? Are you going to be able to stay awake long enough to eat?” Vincent asked her with a hint of mischief.
“Yes, I think I just might manage it. “ She smiled back. “Both the tea and the soup smell delicious. Strange, I haven’t really been hungry until now.” She proceeded to eat her soup and sip her tea with obvious enjoyment.
“Why are you joining me, Vincent? Didn’t you eat earlier?” she asked.
“Well, at first I just wanted to keep you company, but now, I find I’m a bit hungry, too. It IS good soup,” he answered, knowing the reference to her first stay Below would not be lost, even to her very exhausted brain.
He was rather stunned when he realized she was crying.
“Catherine!” he exclaimed, getting up and going to kneel next to her chair so he could take her in his arms. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I just feel so grateful, so overwhelmed with the love in this place. You all have been taking such good care of me, as you always do, and I am so very grateful this place is here for the children who need it. I just wish more kids could know the love and support of a place like this.”
Vincent scooped her up out of the chair and sat back in his own with her in his lap. “Catherine,” he whispered, “you are SO tired, please, just let’s rest now, but we WILL talk tomorrow, all right?”
She snuggled her face against his neck and answered, “Yes. I really can’t talk now, but I need to. Tomorrow will be soon enough.”
They sat there, warming each other with the love flowing through their bond, until Vincent felt Catherine was almost asleep. He stood up, and carried her to the bed, where he sat her down, and helped her take her robe and slippers off, then lifted the covers so she could climb in.
“Are you going to sleep yet, Vincent?” she asked groggily.
“In a little while, Catherine. I’m going to go take my bath first. You go ahead and sleep. I’ll be back.”
“All right, but don’t be too long, please, and don’t try to sleep in that chair! You need to sleep in the bed, too, so you can rest properly. Father knows we did that when you were recovering from your illness. He told me he knew we BOTH rested better when we slept in the same bed.”
Vincent was rather taken aback that Father had mentioned this to Catherine, but he thought he should be able to control himself tonight. Her fatigue was making him extremely tired as well. “I will join you in the bed, Catherine, but please, don’t worry about me. Get to sleep.”
He left her already drifting off and went to the bathing chamber he shared with Father.
As he finished his bath, he considered the prospect of sharing his bed with Catherine.
It isn’t as though we’ve never slept in the same bed. I WAS very ill at that time. However, Catherine is so very worn out, and I am not much better, so we should be fine tonight. Part of him was a bit concerned about when they woke up in the morning, though.
He returned to his chamber dressed in his thermal shirt and sweats. Catherine appeared to be deeply asleep. He set about blowing out candles around the chamber, and when only the light behind the stained glass window remained lit, he came to the side of the bed. Catherine was indeed sound asleep, curled on her side, facing the window, and she had left room for him on the bed. He smiled, and lifted the covers and eased onto the bed. As soon as he settled, Catherine turned in her sleep and snuggled up to his side, her arms enclosing one of his.
Vincent sighed and, closing his eyes, drifted off to a peaceful sleep thinking This is heaven.
Catherine was having such a beautiful dream, she didn’t want to wake up. She was snuggled up comfy and warm next to Vincent, in his bed, and he was holding her as they slept. It was SO wonderful. Her stupid bladder, however, insisted that she get up RIGHT NOW.
She sighed. She opened one eye. She was shocked that she really DID seem to be in Vincent’s bed. She opened the other eye. There was Vincent, sound asleep next to her, facing her, with his arm around her shoulders. Oh, my. She remembered then, of course, that she had been asked to come Below and stay because they were so worried about her wearing herself out, and that she had stayed with Vincent. This was heavenly. Except that she really DID have to get up and visit the facilities. Very carefully, she extracted herself from under Vincent’s arm, and crawled over him and out of the bed. She grabbed her robe and slippers, and made it out of the chamber without waking him.
She made use of the facilities and made her way back into Vincent’s chamber. It seemed he had missed her. He was facing out into the chamber now, but still asleep. As she climbed back over him and into the bed, he turned, apparently following her movement. As soon as she settled next to him, he put his arm back over her, and even pulled her a bit closer. He made a tiny almost growly sound in his sleep. She was enchanted. How much he loved her, how attuned he was to her, it was astounding. She loved him with all she was. She wondered if she would move to face him if he moved while she was asleep. It was an interesting subject to ponder, but not now. Now she was interested in getting some more sleep.
Where is she? Oh. She’ll be back. Ah, there she is. All these thoughts ran through Vincent’s mind, but he was still fast asleep. Part of him was ever alert and aware of her, however. When she came back to bed, he made sure to keep her close, so he knew she was safe. All of this he did without ever being consciously aware of it.
They both slept well the rest of the night. Vincent woke to find himself still in a dream, or so he thought at first. Catherine had turned to her other side, but she was spooned against him, her back to his front. The sweet scent of her was such a pleasant thing to wake up to, especially since it meant she was snuggled safely in his arms.
I should not be doing this; WE should not be doing this! These were his first conscious thoughts, but he couldn’t make himself move away from her. We should do MORE of this! said another voice, one he tried to ignore, but could not. Catherine loves you. You love her. THIS is EXACTLY where she should be!
Vincent continued to lie behind Catherine, enjoying her warmth and the fact that she was content and sleeping peacefully. Things she had not had enough of lately.
A little while later, Catherine began to stir. She woke feeling much better than she had the day before, and she was delighted to find herself spooned by Vincent. Oh, he’s so warm and strong and comforting. I don’t ever want to move. She thought he might be still asleep, but she wasn’t sure. She moved a little, and then she knew he was awake. To her further delight, he didn’t pull away, but instead held her close and whispered, “Good morning, my Sleeping Beauty.”
She looked over her shoulder at him. “Good morning yourself, my Handsome Prince.” A part of her was daring him to say he wasn’t handsome, but Vincent knew better, even when still sleepy. Catherine would NOT accept any argument on that score, he had finally learned.
“While I find this situation extremely pleasing, I think perhaps we should get dressed and head to the Dining Chamber. William DID promise to make you a special breakfast!” Vincent said.
“Oh, yes, and Father is going to insist I eat well. No skipping meals for me!” Catherine replied, feeling glad for his somewhat playful mood this morning.
They took turns using the bathroom facilities and the dressing area, and made their way to the Dining Chamber.
“Ah, there you are, my sleepyheads! Come see what I have for your breakfast!” William greeted them as they stepped up to the serving line.
He served them each up a plate with French toast, bacon, and fruit.
“Oh, William,” Catherine said, “this is beautiful! It smells divine. I can’t wait to taste it!”
“Yes, William, I believe you may have outdone yourself,” Vincent agreed.
“Well, nothing’s too good for you two. You deserve a little pampering after all you’ve been through. Now, go eat that while it’s still hot!” William sent them on their way. He was very sure of the importance of his role as cook in keeping those who lived Below healthy, and he was determined to keep Catherine healthy, too. In fact, he (and many others in the Tunnels) believed Catherine should have been living here as one of them for a long while now.
They sat with Mary and Father and enjoyed a pleasant conversation with their breakfast.
“You look much better this morning, my dear,” Father said. “I do believe we’ll find that fever is gone when you stop by later for me to check on you.”
“I hope so, Father. I would hate to think I brought an illness Below with me,” Catherine answered with a bit of sauciness.
“Well, now I know you’re feeling better!” Father answered. “I am very glad to see that, Catherine. Please take it easy this morning, and come see me after lunch, all right?”
“Yes, Father,” Catherine answered, being perfectly dutiful and not too cheeky in her expression.
Vincent hated to disturb Catherine’s good humor, but he knew she still needed to let go of all the poisonous things she had seen dealing with those cases, and he had to convince her to let him help her do that.
They cleared away their plates, thanked William again, and headed toward the Mirror Pool.
“Vincent, why are we going to the Mirror Pool?” Catherine asked.
“You know why, Catherine. We need to talk, and my chamber is not private enough. There are places to sit near the Mirror Pool where no one will disturb us.”
“Oh,” Catherine answered. She had been hoping that they could put off this talk, but she knew Vincent would not want to. He’s right, I do need to process all this, but oh, I don’t want him to know the feelings I had when reading those files!
“Catherine,” Vincent said, taking her hands as he guided her to a seat on a stone bench, “you know there is nothing you cannot share with me.”
“Oh, Vincent, this is so horrible, and my reaction to it shocked me. I was shocked that I could feel the way I did, and I hid it from you as best I could, because I don’t want you to know how vile my world really is, or how violently I reacted to it!”
“Tell me, Catherine; you can tell me anything.”
“I don’t know,“ she said, starting to feel the shocked, sick feeling, and the rage she always got from thinking about those cases. “I’ll try.”
Vincent could feel her anger, and the depth of it did shock him a bit. It would seem his Catherine had a bit of a beast inside her, too. Of course she does! Everyone has anger in the face of injustice! You deal with that all the time! You know this! that other voice reminded him. Since his illness, he had come to recognize that the “other” part of himself was really just another aspect of who he was, and not a beast to fear. He still feared the strength of his feelings for Catherine, though.
“Just begin, Catherine. I will listen and not interrupt,” Vincent assured her.
“These three cases all involved very young children. The youngest was 18 months old, and the oldest 24 months. They’re just BABIES, Vincent! Just little helpless babies, and they were hurt by men who should have been the ones protecting them- their own FATHERS!” She was near tears already, tears of rage, frustration, and sadness.
“These men did unspeakable things to those babies, and every time I had to read a medical report, it made me ill. I did my best to shield you from it, because I knew how deeply the suffering of little ones affects you. It affects me, too. I got so angry reading the evidence and the statements from the doctors that I was very glad Joe and Sam are trying these cases, and not me. I wouldn’t be able to sit in the same courtroom with those vile men. I wanted to HURT them! I felt I would tear them apart with my bare hands if I had the chance! I was so shocked to feel that way. I really didn’t want you to know that about me, Vincent, to know the depth of the rage I find I am capable of.”
“Oh, Catherine,” Vincent said, taking her into his arms. “I, of all people, understand your rage.”
She was crying now, and finally getting all that built-up frustration out of her system. It would be good to work off the anger, too. You know it helps you. Perhaps throwing some of the lighter stones around would help her? Vincent considered. Father said to take it easy, but I think some physical exertion just might help.
“Catherine, I know it will sound odd, but would you like to join me in throwing a few rocks?” Vincent asked.
Her curiosity was definitely piqued. “Is that one way you deal with anger, Vincent?”
“Yes. I find it very beneficial in releasing frustration particularly. There is a chamber not far from here where there are rocks small enough for you to throw at the wall and not hurt yourself in the effort.”
Wondering just how often he had to work off “frustration”, but quickly burying that particular double meaning, she said, “Lead on. I could use a bit of a workout.”
Vincent led her to a chamber just below the occupied tunnels. He brought a torch and set it in a pile of rocks near the entrance. There were rocks of many sizes all over the chamber, and evidence on the walls that some of the small ones used to be part of much bigger ones.
“I’ve used this chamber, and so have Winslow and a few others over the years. Feel free to hurl any rock you feel safe lifting at that far wall,” Vincent told her.
Catherine looked around. At the mention of Winslow, she felt anger well up again. Her fault he was killed, well, really Paracelsus’ fault, and it still hurt and made her angry. She found a rock that weighed maybe five pounds, picked it up, and before she hurled it with all her might at the wall, she shouted, “First of all, THAT’S for Winslow!” It felt pretty good, so she found another and hurled it, saying it was for the first child whose case she worked on, and then threw stones for the other two children, as well. Lastly, she found a rock that was about the limit of what she could safely throw. “And THIS one, “she pronounced, “is for ALL the things that have put obstacles between us!” The rock hit the wall with the loudest, most satisfying crack of all, and split into many small pieces.
She looked up at Vincent, and laughed a little self-consciously. “That felt awfully good. Thank you, Vincent, for sharing this particular therapy with me. Are you sure you don’t need to hurl a few stones?”
“Not right now, Catherine. Maybe later, who knows?” He smiled at her. “Right now, I am just happy to feel that you are free of that burden. Your spirit seems much relieved.”
“Yes, I do feel a LOT better. Right now, though, I really need to freshen up and change clothes before Father sees me after lunch!”
“You’re probably right. It is likely best not to mention this ‘therapy’ to Father. He would probably be concerned that you hurt yourself.” He offered her his arm: “Shall we go, then, Catherine?”
Taking his arm and smiling up at him, she answered, “Yes. Let’s go and let me get cleaned up so we can enjoy William’s lunch. He was mumbling something earlier about stew.”
They enjoyed a hearty lunch of stew and homemade bread while chatting with several friends. Just as they were heading to the Hospital Chamber to meet Father, an alert came over the pipes.
Vincent froze. An intruder! Threatening one of the children! I must go! He took Catherine’s arm and said, “Someone has followed one of the newer children down from Above. The sentry believes he means her harm. I must go. Please, Catherine, see Father, and STAY HERE, so that I know you are safe.”
“I will,” she answered him, her eyes holding his. “Be safe, and come back to me, please?”
“I will do my best, Catherine, as always,” Vincent replied, and with that, he ran off.
Catherine continued on to the Hospital Chamber, where Father was waiting for her, and Mary was making sure first aid supplies were ready, just in case.
“Don’t worry, Catherine,“ Father said, “he’ll be all right. The other sentries are converging on the area as well.”
“I know, Father, I heard the messages. I just always worry when he has to protect me, or this place, he suffers so afterwards if he must hurt someone or, God forbid, kill them,” Catherine commented.
“Well, let’s just get our little check-up done, and not borrow trouble. We’ll know soon enough, and I am very glad you are here. He will need you if he has to do anything severe,” Father answered, leading her into the examination area.
The exam was completed quickly. Father just took her temperature and looked at her throat and in her ears again. “Well, as I suspected, rest and a couple of good meals have made things much better for you.” He smiled at Catherine. “No doubt talking things over with Vincent helped, as well.”
She returned his smile. “Yes, Father, Vincent was very helpful. It was hard to let him see those feelings, the ugliness I had to deal with, but in the end, sharing it made it easier to let go of.”
“I don’t suppose you’ve been able to convince Vincent that the same goes for him, have you?” Father asked
“Not yet, but I sure intend to keep trying,” Catherine answered.
They were walking back into the Library when, suddenly, Catherine froze.
“What is it my dear?” Father asked. “Something to do with Vincent? Is he hurt?”
“It’s Vincent, but he isn’t hurt,” she answered, trying to sort through the chaos suddenly present in the bond, which she didn’t usually feel this strongly. “Oh, God, he’s had to kill again. He’s worried for the child who was being chased; she’s been hurt, I think. “
About that time, a message came from one of the sentries to alert Father that someone was bringing Dara to the Hospital Chamber. The intruder had hurt her. Vincent had dealt with the intruder, the message relayed.
Catherine went to stay with the children Mary was watching so she could go help Father, and worried all the while for Vincent.
There. He is disposed of. He won’t hurt any more little girls. His Other’s thoughts were true, but Vincent was disgusted that Dara and the sentries present had seen him kill. It was necessary. The intruder would have killed Dara; as it was, he cut her arm very badly. It didn’t make it any easier to deal with the aftermath of the rage that came upon him when he had to do these things to defend his home. Add to that the journey to the Abyss to dispose of his erstwhile opponent, and he was weary as well as heartsick. At least Catherine didn’t see it this time. Still, how can I think of touching her with hands that can kill so easily? He looked at his hands, and realized they were covered with blood and dirt. I had better stop at one of the more distant pools and wash up before I reach the main hub.
Young Dara, who was about 11, had been examined, stitched up, and bandaged by Father, and counseled by Mary, and was now sleeping in the Hospital Chamber. Catherine had gone back to sit with her so Mary could get back to what she had been working on in the Nursery.
The sentries had reported Vincent returning to the hub, so Catherine expected to see him soon. However, something felt off. The bond had slammed shut even tighter than ever. She didn’t even feel the little she was just becoming accustomed to since his illness. He was shutting her out.
All the while that he bathed, Vincent could feel Catherine’s love and concern bombarding him through the bond. He couldn’t shut her out completely anymore. The bond between them had grown too strong. How she loves me! He thought, how I love and need her. I can’t keep shutting her out…
Come to me, Vincent. Let me help you. You helped me, let me do the same for you. Catherine sent that message out through the bond, over and over, and with as much love behind it as she could send.
At last, the longed-for shadow appeared in the doorway to the Hospital Chamber. Catherine looked up and held her hand out to him.
How can she still love me so much when she knows so well what I am? he asked himself. The Other answered: She is the other half of your soul. She knows you, all of you, and she loves you as you love her, unconditionally and completely. She is your light, as you are hers.
Vincent crossed the small space and took Catherine’s hand. She smiled up at him. “You came back to me,” she said.
He squeezed her hand, looked down at the peacefully sleeping Dara, and asked, “How is she?”
“Tired from all the excitement, shaken from the attack, devastated that she endangered everyone, and heartbroken that she made you have to hurt someone,” Catherine answered. “She needed a few stitches, but Father thinks it will heal well. There was no muscle or tendon damage in the arm, just a surface cut. She’s very lucky you got there when you did.”
Vincent sighed. “I am very grateful I was able to save her, but I do wish she didn’t have to be there when her attacker was dealt with.”
“Vincent, I know you don’t like anyone seeing you like that, but I can tell you, you do not frighten those of us you protect. You make us feel protective of YOU. We feel bad that our actions or inattention have made it necessary for you to call on your special abilities once again. Dara said to me the same thing I have said to myself far too many times. She said, ‘I’m sorry Vincent had to hurt someone again because I was careless and didn’t make sure I wasn’t followed. I can tell it hurts his heart.’ That’s what she said to me just before she fell asleep, Vincent.”
Vincent looked into her eyes, so full of love, and he could tell her heart also harbored a bit of fear. Fear that he would push her away again, and go off to brood on his own again. Not this time! This time I need you, Catherine. I need you to hold me and love me as I held you this morning and loved you through the pain. He sent those feelings through the bond, and saw the light in her eyes when she understood.
“Shall we take a little walk to the Mirror Pool before supper, Vincent?” she asked him.
“Yes, Catherine, I think that would be an excellent idea. Perhaps a stop at the rock cavern on the way back, as well. I think I may need to hurl a rock or two now.”
Rebecca had come in to take her turn sitting with Dara, and after thanking her, Vincent offered Catherine his arm, and they strolled off to the Mirror Pool.
Then it was Catherine’s turn to listen, and to comfort Vincent, and then to watch as he hurled a few rocks around that special cavern.
As they left the cavern and headed back to his chamber so they could both freshen up before supper, he put his arm around Catherine and drew her near his side as they walked.
“I hope Father doesn’t decide you are well enough to move to a guest chamber tonight, Catherine, because I still need you near,” he told her.
She smiled up at him. “I need you near, too. I ALWAYS need you near. I love you Vincent. So much.”
“I love you, too, Catherine,” he said, and he leaned down and gently kissed her lips.
They walked on, and made it to Vincent’s chamber, and even got themselves presentable for supper in a timely manner.
Father noticed that Vincent seemed to be feeling much better about things than he would have expected after this afternoon’s events. Noting the way Vincent and Catherine were looking at one another, he decided that he MUST convince Catherine to become a permanent part of their community Below. She and Vincent obviously needed one another. He decided to bide his time and speak to Mary about how best to assure this most desirable outcome. In the meantime, he was content to enjoy seeing the two of them so relaxed and happy, chatting with their friends.
That night, after they had visited with friends, checked in on Dara again, and done a little reading, it was time to sleep again.
“Catherine, if you’d like to go ahead and use the bathing chamber, I’ll change while you’re in there. I bathed earlier,” Vincent told her.
“Thank you, Vincent. That would be fine. I won’t be too long,” she answered.
She returned about 15 minutes later to find Vincent already in bed, with most of the candles blown out, and waiting for her. She took off her robe, left it and her slippers on the chair nearest the bed, and slipped under the covers he held up for her. He nestled her against him, his arm around her, and sighed.
“This is where I need to be tonight, Catherine. Here, where I can hold you in my arms and know you are safe.”
“This is where WE need to be, Vincent. Wrapped up in each other’s love, and healing one another. We are each other’s light, each other’s balance against the bad things in life. We make each other whole.”
“Yes. I have come to the same conclusion, Catherine.” He kissed her temple and said, “Good night, my Beauty.”
“Good night, my Prince,” Catherine answered.
And they slept safely and deeply in each other’s arms all night.
When I feel the need
To be absolved of sin,
It’s your arms I seek
To be held within.
Where no harm can find me,
There to be made whole again.
You are my light
My strength and hope
When I fear the night
In your arms, I can cope.
Say you’ll let me help you
When the grief closes in
Let me stay and hold you
Make you whole again.