FLIGHT OF HOPE

Alison Duggins

 

Devin looked up as the flight attendant announced that they would start serving the in-flight meal shortly. He unbuckled his seatbelt and decided to go to the bathroom before the aisle got crowded.

As he moved toward the back of the airplane, Devin tripped over a passengerís bag that was poking out from under the seat. He reached out to the nearest passenger seat to steady himself; then, looking up, he gazed into the startled eyes of Catherine Chandler! He gasped to himself ĎBut sheís dead!í

"Are you all right?" her seatmate asked, as Devin continued to stare at Catherine.

Devin finally came out of shock enough to say, "Yeah, Iím sorry." Then to Catherine: "Did I hurt you?"

"No." Catherine said somewhat hesitantly.

Devin straightened up slowly, trying to compose his features.

Catherineís companion stared at him. "Are you sure youíre all right?" he asked.

"Yes, thank you." Devin answered, finally composed.

Devinís mind raced with thoughts of Catherine, very much alive in front of him. He reasoned he must find out what her circumstances were before he said anything to Vincent. Heís suffered enough since her "death"; heís finally been able to deal with it. So Devin decided to keep mum till he learned more.

"I hope we can meet again." Devin said with an appreciative glance at Catherine.

"Iíd like that." she answered.

As Devin moved away, Catherineís companion turned to her. "Are you sure youíre all right? He bumped you pretty hard." her companion commented.

"Yes, Iím fine." she answered

"Once we land, weíll meet with Joe Maxwell at the DAís office. There you will be able to find out about your friends and family." he said.

"No more guards?" Catherine asked.

"No more guards." he answered with a grin.

As Devin returned to his seat, the flight attendant announced that they would be landing in New York in about an hour or so. As Devin ate his meal, he occasionally glanced back at Catherine who smiled and nodded at him.

"Do you know that guy?" Catherineís companion asked looking suspiciously at Devin.

"Yes, heís the brother of the man I was involved with before Gabriel...Heís probably on his way to see him. I'm just surprised to see him." Catherine answered as she glanced at Devin.

"Would you like him to go with us to meet Mr. Maxwell?" he offered.

"Yes, I would. Could he...please?" Catherine said.

"Ok, when we land, weíll talk to him. Iíll let him know to wait for us when we land" he said as he got up.

Catherine watched as the agent went and whispered something to Devin who looked back at Catherine with a wide grin.

Once the plane landed, Devin moved quickly to the exit. He wanted to make sure he met up with Catherine and the agent guarding her. As Devin waited at the gate, Catherine finally came into view. Devin greeted Catherine with a giant bear hug.

"I canít believe Iím doing this" he said as he hugged her.

"Iím so glad youíre here" Catherine said with a watery smile.

"When I realized it was you that I fell into, I just couldnít believe it" Devin said as he released her. "At first, I thought I was seeing things. Then when your companion came up to me, I was ready to jump for joy."

"Devin, this is James Cox, the special agent who has been helping me," Catherine said as she introduced the two men.

"Hello Mr. Wells," Special Agent Cox said as he shook Devinís hand. "Miss Chandler said you are the brother of the man she was involved with before her kidnapping."

"Yes, I am" Devin said as he gave Catherine a squeeze, his arm still around her after they embraced.

"Itís nice to meet you, Mr. Wells. This is the first Iíve heard of any gentleman involved in Miss Chandlerís life" Agent Cox said.

"Cathy was always a very private person" Devin said. " My brother was devastated when he heard of Catherineís death and he has never recovered."

Catherineís eyes widened with alarm at Devinís words.

"Devin, he didnít..." Catherine asked in horror as she sank to her knees. Devin knelt next to her.

"No, Cathy. Physically heís fine but mentally heís destroyed. Nothing and no one has been able to cheer him up, not even little Jacob. He continued for the babyís sake, nothing more."

"Little Jacob? He named the baby after Father." Catherine realized. " I knew he would."

"Mary and the children help him as much as they can but his spirit is gone." Devin said with a touch of grief in his voice.

"Oh my god! I have to see him! Tell him..." Catherine cried as she clung to Devin.

"You will, Cathy, you will." Devin helped Catherine rise to her feet. Agent Cox offered her his handkerchief which she accepted with a wane smile.

"We can go now if youíre able." Devin said.

"Miss Chandler, youíre supposed to meet Mr. Maxwell at his office." Agent Cox reminded Catherine.

"Youíre right, Jim, Joe will have the whole NYPD plus your superiors searching for you if you donít show up." Catherine said as she tried to pull herself together. "You are coming with me to see Joe, arenít you, Devin?" Catherine asked with concern as she turned to Devin.

"Of course I am. I am not letting you out of my sight." Devin said with conviction.

Devin, Catherine and Agent Cox picked up Catherine and Devinís bags and went to the airport entrance where another agent was waiting for them. Devin put the bags into the trunk and climbed into the back seat, and put his arm protectively around Catherine at the same time.

"Does Joe know anything about this?" Catherine asked Agent Cox.

"I think so. All he was told by my boss was that I would be coming to his office with someone involved in the witness protection program. I called him before we left Denver and he said your friend Jenny would be waiting with him also. I think he knew you were coming." Agent Cox looked at her.

"Howís that?" Catherine asked

"Your friend Jenny told him she knew you were alive but he didnít believe her until I called him." Jim told Catherine as they pulled in front of the DAís office.

Suddenly Catherine started to shake uncontrollably in Devinís arms. "I canít believe Iím really here. That itís really over." Catherine said as she buried her head in Devinís shoulder.

"Iím here, Cathy, Iím here with you" Devin said as he hugged Catherine. Agent Cox helped Catherine out of the car.

"Hold on to me, Devin, or I think my legs are going to give out." Catherine leaned into Devin.

"Iíve got you, Cathy." Devin said.

Together with Agent Cox following, they crossed the lobby and got into the elevator for the ride up to the DAís office on the 10th floor. Slowly they exited the elevator and Catherine stopped in front of the DAís office.

"Devin..."

"Come on, Cathy. Joe and Jenny are waiting."

"Iím scared."

Slowly Agent Cox opened the door. As they walked in, Devin saw that Joeís office door was open.

"Thereís Joeís office, Mr. Cox."

"You two wait over there. Iíll speak to Mr. Maxwell first, then bring you both in."

Agent Cox walked to Joeís door and knocked as he stood in the doorway. Joe looked up as he was talking to Jenny.

"Agent Cox?"

"Yes sir, I am."

Joe glanced at Jenny, "Is she...?"

"Sheís fine, just scared after all sheís been through."

"Does she want to see us?"

"Yes, Joe. I do." Catherine said as she stepped out from behind Agent Cox with Devin close behind.

Devin closed Joeís door as Joe stepped from behind his desk. Everyone stood awkwardly, staring at each other.

"Radcliffe..."

"Oh Joe..." Catherine cried as he pulled her into a tight embrace.

"Iím glad to see you, kiddo. Iím sorry, Radcliffe, for all the hell you went through on account of me." Joe said as he hugged Catherine tight.

"Jenny...Iíve missed you so much!"

"Oh Cathy, Iím so glad youíre alive!" Jenny cried as she rushed to hug Catherine.

As Jenny and Catherine embraced, Joe noticed Devin standing by the door.

"I know you, donít I?" Joe asked Devin.

"Devin Wells, Mr. Maxwell. Iím a friend of Catherineís. We bumped into each other. Actually I fell into her on the flight here from Denver."

"You look like someone who worked here brieflyÖwhat was his name? Jeff, Jeff Radler." Joe said as he shook Devinís hand.

"Jeff and I were roommates at UCLA. People have always said we looked alike. Itís nice to meet you Jenny, and you too, Joe." Devin said.

"Miss Chandler, Iíll leave you to your friends. Good luck" Jim said as he turned to go.

"Agent Cox, thank you for giving me back my life." Catherine said as she shook his hand.

As Agent Cox left Joeís office, Jenny asked Catherine where she was staying. Devin told them Catherine was going to stay with him for the time being.

"This calls for a celebration. What say we four go out?"

"Iíd like that, Joe, but not tonight" Catherine said. "Iím feeling a little overwhelmed by all this. Iíd like to take things one step at a time."

"Sorry Radcliffe, I wasnít thinking" Joe said with a slight grin.

"Iíll give you a call in a couple of days. Right now, I need to contact someone and let him know Iím ok." Catherine looked at Devin who gave her a nod and a wink.

"I sure am glad that youíre ok." Jenny said as she gave Catherine a hug. "Call me, SOON!"

"I will" Catherine said as she released Jenny.

"Keep in touch, Radcliffe." Joe said as he put his hand on her shoulder.

"Count on it, Joe. Just give me some time to get reacquainted with my other friends first."

Catherine took Devinís hand and gave it a tight squeeze. Devin guided Catherine out of Joeís office and out into the hall outside the DAís office.

"OH MY GOD...!" Catherine cried as she collapsed against the wall.

"I didnít realize...Devin! We have to get to Vincent. I need him. I donít want to wait any longer."

"We will, Cathy, we will." Devin said as he helped her to her feet.

They left the DAís office and slowly made their way to Central Park. As they ducked through the drainage tunnel, Catherine breathed a sigh of relief as the hidden door opened before them.

"Welcome home, Chandler" Devin said as the door closed behind them. Devin tapped a message on the pipes inquiring Vincentís whereabouts. Vincent sent a message that he was with Father and that he would meet with Devin shortly.

"Iím frightened, Devin, frightened of what Vincent would think of me. After what I did to him, wondering if he still loved me?"

"OF COURSE HE STILL LOVES YOU!" Devin and Vincent both said as he came into view.

Vincent pulled Catherine into a tight embrace. "I will love you with my dying breath and beyond. I have never stopped loving you." Tears were running down both their faces.

"Catherine, you are my life. I was lost without you. Even Jacob could not ease the agony of losing you." Vincent looked into Catherineís eyes and gently kissed her lips.

Devin cleared his throat and the two of them reluctantly pulled apart.

"Devin, how on earth...? How can I ever thank you for returning Catherine to me? There are no words..."

"No thanks are necessary, Vincent. Iím just glad I "fell" into her when I did" Devin said as Vincent touched his shoulder with his hand.

"Fell into her?"

"Yeah, on my way here I literally fell into Catherineís lap. I tripped over someoneís bag on the plane and when I looked up, lo and behold Iím staring at Catherine, alive and well. Once I realized who she was, I would not let her out of my sight." Devin said with a glance at Catherine.

"Take me to see our son, Vincent. I need to hold him." Catherine whispered.

"Come."

Vincent picked Catherine up and started to carry her down the tunnel.

"Never let me go, Vincent. I love you so much. I want to be with you always." Catherine whispered as she nuzzled his neck.

"Never again, Catherine. I promise never to let you go away from me again." Vincent said with conviction.

Devin followed them as they proceeded down the tunnel. As they neared Fatherís chamber, the delighted laugh of a baby wandered through the doorway. They stopped outside the chamber entrance. Devin indicated to let him go in first. Father looked up as Devin walked through the entrance.

"Devin! What a pleasant surprise! What brought you here for an unexpected visit?"

"I did, Father" Catherine said as Vincent carried her into Fatherís chamber.

"I DONíT BELIEVE IT!" Father stated in shock.

"Catherine! Is it really you, my dear?"

Father handed Jacob to Mary who was also staring in shocked silence. As Vincent set Catherine on her feet, Father approached her.

"It really is me, Father, Iíve come home."

"Yes you have, my dear sweet Catherine, yes you have." Father gently took Catherine in his arms and softly kissed her cheek.

"Itís a miracle" Mary exclaimed as Vincent took Jacob.

"Welcome home!" Mary embraced Catherine.

As Mary released Catherine, Vincent approached carrying the baby.

"Vincent, heís beautiful." Catherine raised her arms and hesitated to take her son in her arms for the first time. Devin put his arm around Catherine to support her as Vincent placed Jacob in her arms.

"MAMA!" Jacob said as Catherine took him in her arms. Catherine cried with joy as she looked at Devin, Father and Mary who had wide grins in their faces.

"Yes, Jacob, this is your mama." Vincent said with pride.

"He looks just like you, Cathy." Devin said as he released Catherine into Vincentís protective embrace.

"Mama!" Jacob pulled at Catherineís hair to get her attention.

"Yes, Jacob, mama. Iím glad Vincent named him after you, Father."

"Iím very proud and honored to be his namesake." Father said with a slight touch of pride in his voice.

Jacob let out a yawn and laid his head on Catherineís shoulder.

"Heís tired." Mary said.

"Let me take him while you talk with Father, Catherine,"

Catherine looked reluctantly at Vincent.

"Please, Catherine. Stay and talk with me awhile," Father asked as he took her arm.

Catherine gave Jacob to Mary and followed Father to his desk. Devin pulled up a chair as Vincent stood behind Catherine with his hands on her shoulders.

"Devin said he Ďfellí into you?"

"Yes, on the flight from Denver, Devin tripped over a passengerís bag and fell into my lap. I was so startled I glanced at the agent I was with to see what he would do."

"Yeah, it shocked the hell out of me seeing Chandler sitting there after what you and Vincent told me. When Catherine glanced at her companion, I knew not to say anything. Once the agent verified that it was indeed Catherine, I met her at the gate and she has not been out of my sight since. I could never come home to see you, Vincent, without Catherine , knowing that she was alive. If the agent had not spoken to me, I would have followed them until either I got arrested or spoke to Catherine" Devin said with conviction.

"Iím so glad you Ďfellí into me, Devin. It made it so much easier to see Jenny and Joe with you there. If you hadnít been there, I donít know when or if I would be able to contact Vincent. Joe would have insisted on my staying with him or Jenny until things got settled. Joe thinks I am staying with Devin for the time being."

Vincentís fingers slowly massaged Catherineís neck. He had to keep his hands on her, he reasoned, to make himself believe that she was really there. Slowly his arms went around her and squeezed gently.

Father and Devin smiled as they saw the look of love that came over Catherineís face at Vincentís touch. They watched as a single tear gently floated down Catherineís cheek.

"Itís good to have you home, my dear," Father said as he kissed her hand.

"Iím never leaving this world again. Aside from Jenny and Joe and my friend Nancy, the world above thinks Iím dead, let it stay that way," Catherine said. "My place is here with Jacob and Vincent."

"What about your estate and your assets, Cathy? The agent told us they released your assets on our way to Joeís, remember?" Devin asked.

"We can improve things here, if Father would allow me to help. Besides Peter is in charge of my estate. We can decide things through him." Catherine answered.

"Speaking of Peter, where is he?" Father inquired. "He was supposed to see me about something."

"Does he know yet?"

"No, Agent Cox never informed him that you were alive, Cathy. I asked him while you were with Jenny and Joe" Devin stated.

At that moment, Peter came through the entrance to Fatherís chamber.

"Jacob, I came to see how Vincent was doing? I thought maybe..."Peter stopped in mid-sentence as he noticed Catherine for the first time.

"Cathy? Cathy, is it really you? MY GOD!!!!!!"

Catherine rose slowly to her feet, Vincent behind her as Peter came into the chamber and stood near Father.

"It is you, Cathy!" Peter exclaimed as he took her into his arms. Catherine started to cry as Peter held her close.

"Itís a miracle! Vincent must be beside himself having you here." Peter said as he embraced Catherine.

"Yes, Peter. I am overjoyed," Vincent said. "Thanks to Devin." Vincent grabbed his brotherís shoulder.

"Devin!!!! Iím sorry I didnít even notice you standing there. How are you? How..."

Peter glanced at Catherine as she slowly backed into Vincentís protective embrace.

"Itís a long story, Peter." Father said "Sit down and weíll tell you everything."

Everyone sat and they talked long into the night. Vincent, Catherine and the others discussed their future. Devin made a toast.

"Hereís to your future happiness."

Vincent and Catherine glanced at each other and said---

"Thank you, Devin, for everything."