BETWEEN THE SCENES

SEASON 2

  

THIS BOND ... THIS CONNECTION

By Kathy De

SIXTEENTH IN THE SERIES

 

Catherine had just walked away from her desk for the night when the phone rang. She rolled her eyes as Joe grinned. 

“Almost made it, Radcliffe.”

Catherine stuck out her tongue and lunged for the phone. “Catherine Chandler, can I help you.”

I don’t know,” said a voice filled with fear. “I was told you’re the one investigating the release of the Phoenix album.”

 Catherine excitedly motioned to Joe. “That’s right. My office is conducting an investigation of High Life records and its owner Mel Ray, do you know him?”

The voice on the other line chuckled derisively. “Yeah, unfortunately I do.”

Catherine grabbed for a pencil. “Can I get your name?”

“Gold ... Adam Gold.”

“Well, Mr. Gold would it be possible for you and I to meet. I have questions I’d love to get answers to.”

“I asked around and the word on the street is you’re fair. I’ll talk to you ... alone ... no FBI no DEA ... just you and me.”

Catherine thought quickly as she glanced at Joe. “Look my boss is a stickler. He won’t let me go out alone. Can you come to my office or some other public place?”

“There’s a diner across the street from your office. I’ll meet you there tomorrow at 2:00.”

“I’ll be there. Thanks Mr. Gold.”

“Adam ... you can call me Adam.”

“Okay, Adam. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Catherine hung up the phone and she and Joe high-fived one another.

“Good work, Chandler! How’d you get him to call?”

“I don’t know, Joe! I must have asked someone the right question ... ”

“You want to go grab something to eat?”

Catherine thought briefly and knew Vincent would be waiting for her. “Can’t I’ve got plans, maybe next time ... ”

 

****************************


Catherine didn’t see Joe’s disappointment as she left and quickly caught a taxi. On the ride home, she thought about how she knew Vincent would be waiting for her ...

It had been over a month since she was terrorized by a stalker. She was no longer afraid of spending time on the balcony but most nights after work she had gotten into the habit of going Below and having dinner with her tunnel family.

On those nights when she couldn’t get away from work, Vincent would wait patiently on the balcony for her to come home. William always managed to make sure he supplied Vincent with a dinner that Catherine could readily pop into the microwave.

It was on such a night that Catherine came into her apartment and walked right out to the balcony. 

“Hi, sorry I’m late.”

“I just got here myself, Catherine.”

Glad that he hadn’t been kept waiting but knowing he was normally there earlier, she cocked her head quizzically wondering what had held him up. “Did something happen?”

Vincent sighed as he began to unpack the dinner he had brought. “Spring rains are always a problem for us. Some of the tunnels were flooded and the higher level chambers needed to be evacuated again.”

“Again?”

“Yes, every year we have to evacuate them in the spring. Normally it’s done by now but this year time got away from us.”

“Why do you keep using them if they flood every year?”

“Lack of space. We often ask the single men in the community to stay in those chambers. It seems like every year our family grows larger. Your world keeps producing people with a great need for help. This year alone we already have four children that have joined us and it’s only May.”

Catherine thought of the new arrivals and was embarrassed that it never occurred to her to ask what the burden of more people did to their community. She thought of ways to slip the helpers money so they could start sending extra food down. “And those children have to stay close to Mary and Sara ... ”

“Yes, so we move people around as needed. Most of the men readily volunteer and some of the older children will sometimes stay with them, Michael for instance or Zac.”

“Why not make more chambers Below?”

“Catherine, making a chamber big enough to stay in sometimes takes months. Without Kanin here, it takes even longer.”

Wondering if she could purchase better equipment to aid them in carving chambers, her mind raced with the possibilities. Knowing if she asked Vincent, he would be evasive she made a mental note to ask Mouse or Cullen exactly what type of tools would be best for them.

Catherine finally looked down and her eyes widened with surprise as she saw for the first time the amount of food Vincent had spread out on the table.

“My God, how much does William think I can eat?!”

Vincent grinned. “I haven’t eaten yet so I thought I would join you.”

Catherine giggled. “For a minute there I thought I’d be sending you back with almost as much as you brought.”

Vincent pulled out her chair and the two sat down and enjoyed their dinner.

Satiated, Catherine sat back with and held her stomach. “Ohhh ... I am stuffed!”

Vincent cocked his head shyly. “You ate well.”

Catherine tried to pretend to be offended. “Are you politely saying I pigged out?”

Vincent grinned as he stood and started stacking the dirty dishes. “I’m saying that for once I saw you eat a good meal instead of the small servings you usually take.”

Catherine smiled back. “I forgot to eat lunch today ... I was starving.” She stopped his busy hands as she took them in her own. “Thank you for bringing me dinner.”

“I should help clean-up.”

Catherine waved her hand in the air. “I’ll get those later. Sit with me?”

“I only have a short time until my turn at sentry duty.”

“How short?”

“An hour.”

She quickly reached inside and grabbed the ever present blanket and laid it out on the ground. Vincent sat and Catherine cuddled up next to him.

“This is my favorite part of the day, Vincent.”

“I enjoy it as well, Catherine.”

Catherine kicked off her shoes and turned to get closer to him. “It’s so nice to come home and relax.”

“You’ve had a hard day? Tell me ... ”

She sighed aloud. “We’ve been working on this case that I can’t get any leads on ... every time I think I get one step ahead, I find I actually fall two steps back.”

Vincent patted her hand sympathetically. “I can feel your frustration.”

“I finally got a return phone call today ... This guy is ready to come forward and he wanted to talk to me ... that’s why I was late. I just hope he’s the real deal or I’m back to square one.” Catherine looked up at him and sighed. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to bring my work home with me then burden you with it.”

Vincent squeezed her gently. “That’s what I’m here for.”

Catherine’s eyes drifted shut as she smiled. “And I thought it had something to do with me.”

Vincent’s smiled as his hand lazily caressed her back. He felt her relax against him as he reveled in the feel of her hand on his chest, her fingers making circles in the hair peeking out of the collar of his shirt.

The time quickly went by and he scowled at the night sky. “I have to go, Catherine.”

“I know ... I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Hmmm ... .” He said as he reached down and helped her to her feet.

She hugged him briefly then went inside to get ready for bed.

**************************************

Catherine got to work early the next day and settled in to making her list of questions for Adam.

Joe came up to her with a scowl on his face and handed her a picture of an apparent suicide. She gasped when she heard it was Adam Gold, the man she was supposed to interview today. They both suspected it was a murder made to look like an overdose.

Rita traced Adam’s phone records and it showed that he tried to call someone in Los Angeles six times before he was killed. 

Joe asked Catherine to go to LA and interview the woman Adam tried to call. Catherine’s thoughts flew to Vincent and the fact that their relationship had been steadily growing stronger lately. She suspected that he might be ready to move to the next level and she hated to lose the forward momentum.

Her sense of duty won out and she reluctantly agreed to go. Two hours later, she walked into Joe’s office. He looked up but when he saw her face he frowned.

“Don’t ask it, Cathy!”

Catherine’s face fell as she looked at him. “Don’t ask what?”

“If someone else can go to LA ... ” Catherine started to speak but snapped her mouth shut when he got up to pace. “Look, we’ve put blood, sweat and tears into this investigation and frankly I don’t trust anyone else to go. I’d go myself but you know Anderson’s got his two cases going to trial on Thursday, Stevenson just got a major break in the Bayer case and Levinson needs my reports on the four cases that ended Monday and Tuesday.” Joe shot her another glance and continued to play with the rubber band in his hands. “I’m sorry if you have plans for the ballet or some charity benefit at the museum but I really need you on this, Radcliffe.”

Catherine was looking away as she clamped down on her guilt. She realized how petty it would sound to say she didn’t want to go because she wanted to be close to her boyfriend. She smiled weakly as she looked back at Joe. “I just wanted to ask about travel expenses…”

They both knew she was lying but Joe looked at her as a sense of relief washed over him.  He walked over to grab her elbow and squeeze it. “Thanks, Cathy. I owe you big time. Tell your boyfriend I’m sorry.” Catherine blushed as she blinked with surprise that he had guessed so easily why she didn’t want to go. Joe grinned at her as he turned away. “You really got it bad for this one, eh, Radcliffe? Does he know how lucky he is?”

“It’s me that’s lucky.” Catherine chuckled as she turned to go back to her desk.

Later that night, Rita came home with her and as she packed, the two colleagues went over all the cases that Catherine was currently working on.

It was dark when Rita left and Catherine waited patiently for Vincent to come to her. She knew he was close and she walked out to the balcony as he came over the wall. 

“Hi, Vincent.”

He held open his arms and she walked right into them. “Catherine ... ” He lowered his head to her ear as he enfolded her in his embrace. He looked up briefly and noticed the luggage on her bed and he released her slowly. “You’re going away?”

Catherine sighed as she pulled him close and snuggled back up against him. She blew out a long breath then slowly withdrew from him as she began to pace. “Our witness from that case we were working showed up dead.”

“Murdered?”

“No ... yes! We don’t know, it was supposed to look like a drug overdose but ... ”

“But you don’t think so ... ”

Catherine shook her head. “No ... He arranged to meet with me today ... I think he was going to testify against the man who had been embezzling money  ... ”

“So he died trying to do the right thing ... ”

“Yes ... ”

“And the man who should be prosecuted will walk away free?”

“Maybe not ... we have a possible lead.” Vincent looked at her curiously so she continued. “Last night before the guy was murdered he placed six phone calls to a phone number that we traced to a woman in LA. Joe asked me to go out there. My flight leaves in the morning.”

California?” he said with surprise.

“Yes.” She replied sadly.

Vincent knew then that was what had been troubling her all day. He tried to hide his own distress at the news that she would be leaving and he turned from her. “3,000 miles ... that’s a great distance to be apart from someone ... ”

“Someone close.” Catherine agreed.

“How long will you be away?”

“A week ... maybe ... ” Catherine could see he was trying to hide his feelings and she grasped for a way to turn a positive spin on her trip. “Is there something you’d like me to bring you from California?” Vincent looked to her and nodded. Surprised he would actually ask for something she jumped at the chance to bring him a gift took a step towards him “What?” she asked curiously.

“Yourself ... safely home.”

Catherine heard the worry in his voice and quickly tried to reassure him. “I’m only going to interview someone, it won’t be dangerous.”

Vincent shook his head as he voiced his fears. “If something should happen to you ... ”

Catherine took his hands. “I’ll be all right ... you’ll be with me ... ”

Vincent clamped down on his emotions as he tried to be supportive of her. He looked out wondrously into the night sky. “Tomorrow you’ll be standing on another shore ... looking out at another ocean!”

Catherine realized that as much as she didn’t want to go he wanted the freedom to be able to go just as badly…to be able to have the experience of traveling. “I’ll be seeing it for the both of us.”

Vincent’s voice was thick with emotion when he turned back to her. “I’ll miss you, Catherine.”

She threw her arms around him. “I already miss you!”

Catherine tightened her hold as her heart ached with the desire to take him with her. Vincent held her tighter and buried his nose in her hair, inhaling her scent deeply, hoping it would be enough to hold him over until she returned.

With a catch in his voice, he backed away. “I should go so you can pack.”

Catherine grabbed him and gently pulled him close again. “No, Vincent ... I packed earlier today. I left this night open so I could spend it with you. Will you stay with me? Please?”

Vincent wondered briefly if she meant for the night in her bed…dismissing that thought, he smiled shyly. “Of course, I’ll stay.”

Catherine was relieved as she looked up at him. Her eyes darkened with desire and she was going to ask him to come inside when he suddenly turned from her.

“So you’re flying on a plane?” he asked evasively.

“Yes.”

He turned and smiled a real smile. “Are you excited?”

Catherine thought about the taxi ride to the airport and the long lines at the check in terminal. She thought about waiting for the luggage and hoping hers wasn’t lost and she thought about the hassle of renting a car and finding her hotel. Then she realized that to Vincent, this would be an exciting adventure.

She nodded at him. “I guess I am. It’s been a long time since I’ve flown anywhere.”

“The thought of it is wondrous!”

“I hate to admit the whole airport experience can sometimes be a hassle but I remember loving to fly as a child.”

Vincent smiled at the picture in his mind of her as a toddler. “Were you a good traveler?”

Catherine laughed aloud. “Horrible! I remember my first flight. We were ... oddly enough ... going to California. My parents wanted to take me to Disney.”

“How old were you?”

“Five.”

“And you’d never flown before?”

“No, Daddy thought I could handle it because I was such a daredevil on carnival rides. My mother wasn’t so sure so they made me sit between them on the plane. I heard her tell my father she was afraid if I looked out the window I would be too afraid.”

“And were you?”

“During take-off I got so scared I screamed at the top of my lungs. Daddy picked my up and put me on his lap. He held me tight and I glanced out the window and I ... was mesmerized.”  

“What did you see?”

“Oh, Vincent! It was beautiful! The city got further and further below us and the cars looked like tiny ants. The sky was so blue ... Then we were up in the clouds and it felt like we were sitting in a giant cotton ball. I felt so safe!”

Vincent let his mind imagination run free as he envisioned all she had described. “Beautiful ... ”

“It was! Daddy scooted over to the middle seat next to my mother and I sat alone and stared out the window for hours. We went again two years later but it never was quite the same as my first time.”

“It’s been so long since you’ve flown ... I hope you experience that feeling this time.”

“I will ... for you.” Catherine lowered her eyes sadly and sighed. “I don’t want to go, Vincent. I don’t want to leave you.”

Vincent drew her into his arms and lowered his head. “You’re taking me with you, remember. I’m a part of you, Catherine and you’re a part of me ... we can never lose each other.”

Catherine hugged him tightly. “I love you, Vincent.”

He shyly lowered his head and took a deep breath. “And I ... ”

The phone rang loudly and Vincent tensed. Catherine looked up at him expectantly as her heart pounded rapidly in her chest. She thought he was going to tell her he loved her as well but Vincent stepped back as Joe’s voice came over the recorder.

“Radcliffe, I need to talk to you about a new development in the case. Call me when you get this message. I don’t care what time it is!”

“I should let you go. I’ll be here when you get back.”

Catherine nodded sadly. “Okay, goodbye, Vincent.”

“Be well, Catherine.”

*******************************************

 Vincent headed Below and walked into the library.

“Father.”

Father smiled as he looked up from his book. “Back from seeing Catherine already?”

“Yes,” Vincent sat down despondently. “She’s going away.”

Father’s stomach rolled at the news. He knew the pain his son must be going through. He frowned thinking back to the last time Catherine said she was moving away and he tentatively asked for more information. “This is quite sudden. When did she decide this?”

“Today.”

“Today!” Father exclaimed angrily. “When ... um ... when is she leaving?”

“Tomorrow morning.”

“Tomorrow!” Father gasped. “She’s decided that quickly to make a major move in her life?”

Vincent looked up in confusion. “What?” He realized what Father thought. “I’m sorry, Father. Catherine isn’t moving, she has to go on a trip for business.”

Father was surprised to find he was relieved. “Oh, thank goodness. How long will she be gone?”

“A week.”

“That’s not too long ... ”

“Long enough.”

Father smiled knowingly. “Maybe if you keep yourself busy the time will just seem to fly by ... ”

“I ... doubt it.”

Father chuckled. “I do too; actually I was just hoping to raise your spirits. Catherine and you have been together almost every night since her kidnapping. Maybe this is a good thing ... ” He held up his hand to stop the protest. “Maybe ... it will make you grow closer. You know the old saying ... absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Vincent appreciated Father’s attempt to lighten his mood. “Perhaps you’re right. It’s late ... I’m going to try to get some sleep. Goodnight, Father.”

“Goodnight, Vincent.”

*************************************

Vincent lay in bed the next morning and concentrated on the feelings flowing through the bond. He felt Catherine’s frustration and knew it was about the time she should be arriving at the airport. A short time later, he felt her elation and knew she must have taken off. He felt a wave of love flow through the bond and knew she was thinking of him.

He smiled as he lay there. Over the next few hours, he felt the bond slowly fade to a dim light. He frowned as he realized that with the great distance separating him, the bond was somehow muted. He hated that he had been able to feel Catherine so intensely for the past two years and now he would have to resign himself to feeling her from afar.

Father quietly walked into his room. He frowned when he saw that the only candle lit was the night time one used for safety. He called out worriedly. “Vincent?”

“Hmmm?”

“Are you all right?”

“Yes.”

“You ... didn’t show for breakfast ... I thought that perhaps you weren’t feeling well ... ”

“I’m fine, Father. I ... just wasn’t hungry.”

“You?! Not hungry? Now I know you’re sick.”

His sarcasm was not lost on Vincent who snorted humorously as Father walked over and lit some candles. As the room brightened, Father turned to observe Vincent lying on his bed, still in his bedclothes. “You haven’t even been out of bed, yet?”

“I ... was just lying here ... thinking.”

Father sighed as he sat down on the edge of the bed. “About Catherine.”

It was a statement but Vincent answered anyway. “Yes ... I felt her leave.”

“So, as we speak, she’s on a plane to California! What an adventure!”

“Yes ... I can only pray that the flight encounters no problems.”

Father now knew what worried his son. He looked over at him and patted his leg. “Vincent, statistics show that a person is more likely to get into a car accident than an airplane crash, I can assure you Catherine is quite safe.”

“She had to take a taxi to the airport.”

Father laughed. “But you felt her leave so she arrived safely at the airport and is now soaring above the clouds.”

Vincent cocked his head curiously. “Have you ever flown before, Father?”

“Yes, a few times. It was amazing.”

“Tell me what it’s like.”

Father blew out a long breath. “It’s been so long, Vincent ... um ... let me see ... ” Father said as he scanned his memories then smiled. “I remember the funny feeling in my stomach as the plane became airborne ... it’s kind of like that tire swing you and Devin made when you were children. Remember when you first jumped off the side of the cliff ... your stomach would flutter for that briefest second?”

“Yes ... ”

“It’s kind of like that. Then when you’re finally up among the clouds it’s as if God himself is holding you safely in the palm of his hand.”

“I hope for Catherine’s sake he is ... ”

“Vincent, I know you would love to put Catherine in a bubble where she will always be protected and safe but that’s no kind of life for anyone.”

“Yet, you’ve done that to me my whole life, Father. It was Devin and now Catherine who have showed me what a gift life truly is.”

Father’s head fell forward. “I know ... and I thank God every day that Catherine has come into your life. I misjudged her, Vincent. In my eyes, Margaret and Catherine came from the same background, the same lifestyle. I took my own anger over what Margaret did and projected it onto Catherine. For that I will always be truly sorry.”

Vincent sat up and clasped Father’s arm. “Catherine knows you love her, Father. She’s a forgiving person and understands that she needed to prove herself to you and the community.”

“Which she has done in ten fold! I can’t picture our little community without her presence in it.”

It was Vincent’s turn to lower is head. “I can’t imagine any kind of a life without her, Father!”

Father stood and slowly walked to the door. “I don’t think you need to waste your time thinking about that. Get dressed, I’ll have someone bring a tray to the library, you can have your breakfast there ... perhaps we can have a challenging game of chess.”

“Challenging?” Vincent rolled his eyes as he got out of bed. “If you say so ... ”

Fifteen minutes later, Vincent sat in the library across the chessboard from Father. The game had just gotten underway and while he munched on his breakfast, Vincent easily anticipated what moves Father was going to make. Within the hour, it was clear that Vincent was going to win yet another game.

Samantha came running into the room. “Hi, Father ... hi, Vincent! I need to get Vincent’s breakfast tray.”

“Kitchen duty today?” Father asked.

Samantha nodded. “Yes, Brooke took my turn in the nursery so I’m doing her kitchen duty.”

Vincent smiled at her. “You’d rather wash dirty dishes than play with babies?”

Samantha made a face. “I’d rather wash dirty dishes than change dirty diapers!”


Both men laughed at her joke then Samantha looked curiously at Vincent. “Can you read to us today?”

Vincent knew he had to do sentry duty late in the afternoon but he nodded. “Yes, what do you have in mind?”

“Brooke said that Romeo and Juliet was a good story ... ”

Father’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “That’s quite an ambitious book for your age.”

Samantha frowned. “Couldn’t Vincent explain the parts we don’t understand? Me and Kelly and Tiffany and Megan all listened to Brooke tell us the story. Now we want to read it too but she said we’d need help ... that it’s pretty hard!”

Vincent took her hand and turned her to face him. “And I’m very proud that you girls are up for the challenge. Get the others and we’ll meet in my chamber in an hour.”

“Can’t you come to the girl’s dormitories?” Samantha pleaded.

Father laughed as he knowingly guessed her distress. “The boys are teasing you about reading a romance.”

Samantha rolled her eyes in disgust. “The BOYS still make fart sounds with their armpits! They’re such babies.!”

Vincent smiled as he realized how quickly she was growing up. “Yes, but perhaps one of them will surprise you and wish to join us.”

Samantha picked up the tray and turned to leave. “I doubt it!” was her parting shot.

Father chuckled. “I don’t know why but I’m always surprised at how much more quickly the girls mature over the boys.”

“It happens every time!” Vincent laughed.

Father got up and walked over to grab the classic novel and hand it to Vincent. “Still I applaud you as a teacher for undertaking this task.”

“I’m honored that the children are so eager to learn. It shows how well they are being raised to commit themselves to such a challenge.”

Father put his arm around his son and hugged him. “It shows how much the girls love and respect you that they are willing to rise to the challenge. You’re an excellent teacher, Vincent. Don’t ever doubt that.”

Vincent blushed as he stood. “I need to prepare my chamber for guests. I’ll send some of the boys for the extra chairs.”

“The boys ... are you that certain they’re going to show up?”

Vincent smiled. “I’ve seen the way Jeffery looks at Samantha. They’ll be there.”

Father chuckled as he shook his head. “Jeffery and Zac at least.”

“Kipper and Eric will show as well.”

“I think you’re mistaken ... ”

“They won’t want to be left out. They’ll be wherever the older boys are.”

An hour later when the girl’s were all seated, Vincent was proven right as the boys shyly started to filter inside.

Vincent began to read and the room fell silent. He answered any questions as they arose and was pleasantly surprised that the children were able to follow along without too much of an explanation. Surprisingly, they finished a good portion before they stopped for the day.

Vincent walked to his post and continued to read about the heartbreak of the young lovers. After his turn at sentry duty, he headed Above and walked the streets aimlessly, missing Catherine’s presence.

He headed Below and was stopped by Mouse at his sentry post.

“Go to see Catherine?”

“No, Mouse. Catherine is out of town.”

“Where?”

Los Angeles ... ” Vincent saw the confusion on Mouse’s face and explained further. “It’s in California, Mouse.”

“Far away, right?”

“The other side of the country.”

“Not good ... should be here ... we can’t watch there.”

Vincent sighed as Mouse had managed to voice his worries. “Yes, Mouse, I agree. I wish Catherine were here as well.”

“Come back soon?”

Vincent shrugged. “A week, maybe.”

“Too long ... ”

“Yes.”

“Hope she stays safe ... ”


”Me too, Mouse ... goodnight.”

“Night.”

Later, Vincent spent a restless night tossing and turning in his bed.

*********************************

The next day, Vincent was tired and woke in a foul mood. Instead of his usual friendly manner, he was quiet and withdrawn.


He removed himself from everyone and sat alone by the falls and let his mind wander to Catherine.

Mary walked around and found him later that morning. “Vincent?”

“Yes?”

“I brought you something to munch on; William said you missed breakfast again.”

He sighed and looked over at her appreciatively. “I’m not hungry Mary, but thank you.”

Mary frowned and set it down next to him. “Starving yourself is not going to make her return any faster.”

Vincent looked up in surprise. “Father told you she was gone?”

Mary smiled as she shook her head. “Mouse announced it at breakfast.”

Vincent groaned. “Now everyone will want to spend time with me today.”

Mary bent down and hugged him. “Yes, because we all love you and want to take the burden of her absence off you.”

Vincent nodded. “Yes, and I am quite thankful for that but sometimes I just need to be alone.”

Mary stood and started to leave. “I’ll try to head off anyone I see coming this way ... it may buy you some more time.”

Vincent shrugged and slowly started to drop pebbles into the pool again. Mouse came in not long after.

“Vincent ... ”

“Yes, Mouse?”

“Been sitting here for hours ... ”

Vincent frowned at his friend. “Have you been spying on me?”

Mouse shook his head and held up his hands. “No ... Mouse goes to work ... you sit ... Mouse comes from work ... still sit ... ”

Vincent shrugged. “I have a lot on my mind.”

“Catherine? You miss, right?”

“Yes.”

“Come with me and Jaime. Showing her new tunnel ... found yesterday.”

“Perhaps tomorrow you can show me the new tunnel.”

“Okay good ... okay fine ... ” Mouse grumbled sadly as he walked away.

Vincent got up and began to walk the tunnels. Pascal saw him and waved him into the pipe chamber.

“Hey, Vincent!”

“Pascal.”

“I thought that you might be willing to help me today. Zac had other plans ... ”

Vincent smiled knowingly at his friend. “Pascal, you’ve been running the pipe chamber by yourself since you were ninteen years old. Do you really need my help or are you thinking you could take my mind off of Catherine for a while ... ”

Pascal blushed and looked away. “Well ... ”

“Pascal ... I’m fine ... really. I just miss her.”

“I’m glad!”

Vincent cocked his head curiously. “You’re glad I miss her?”

“No, I’m glad you finally found someone for you to miss.”

Vincent clasped his friend’s shoulder. “I was blessed the day I found Catherine.”

“We all were ... so do you want to hang out here for awhile?”

Vincent shook his head. “I was just going to go for a walk ... ”

Pascal shrugged. “Okay ... but I’m here if you need me.”

“Thank you, Pascal.”

Vincent walked away and Pascal turned to look for a piece of paper and a pen. Unused to writing any more, he scribbled a note to Father and sent for Eric.

Eric ran up within a few minutes. “Pascal?”

Pascal handed him the note. “Good you’re here. Eric, run this message to Father.”

Eric looked at the message then back at Pascal. “Who’s it from?”

“Me.”

“Why don’t you just use the pipes?”

“Because I don’t want Vincent to hear the message.”

“How come?”

Pascal sighed. “Because he misses Catherine and would like to be alone. Father thinks he would do better with company. I wanted to let Father know I couldn’t talk Vincent into staying here with me.”

Eric nodded vigorously. “I’ll take it to him right now!”


Eric ran the message to Father then quickly headed to the girl’s dorms.

Samantha was brushing her hair and shrieked when Eric came inside. “Out! No boy’s aloud!”

“I had to come! It’s about Vincent!”

Eric had said the one thing he knew would get Samantha’s attention. As she got older, it had become harder and harder to hide her crush on Vincent and Eric knew if he had information on him, Samantha would want to hear it.

“What about Vincent?”

“He’s really lonely because Catherine’s gone. Father is trying to get people to keep him company.”

“How do you know?”

“Pascal told me! He made me deliver a message to Father saying he couldn’t get Vincent to stay by him.”

Samantha threw her brush down on her bed. “Then we have to do something about it ... ” She paced in the room as her mind worked furiously. “Let’s get all the kids together and beg him to read some more of Romeo and Juliet.”

Eric made a face. “That’ll only be an hour or two ... can’t you come up with something else?”

“No! What did you come up with?”

Eric looked away, a few seconds later his face brightened and he turned back. “A play! Let’s tell him we want to do the play Romeo and Juliet! That’ll take all day!”

“We’ll still have to finish the book but ... all right. Let’s go!”

The two ran from the room and quickly gathered the other children who were more than happy to help Vincent. The group searched the tunnels and with the help of the sentries, quickly located him.

Vincent was surprised when the group came upon him so quickly. He had been lost in thought and admonished himself that he was paying so little attention to his surroundings that he hadn’t heard him. He sighed at that the thought that he could have avoided them if he had heard their approach. Instead he smiled as they stood in front of him.

“Hello, everyone.”

A chorus of hellos echoed through the tunnels then Samantha stepped forward. “We were hoping if you weren’t busy that you would read to us again.”

Vincent shook his head. “Perhaps later, I was just ... um ... walking.”

Eric piped up. “You can walk anytime. We want to finish it so we can start on the play.”

Vincent was intrigued. “Play? What play?”

Kelly smiled. “We enjoyed the book so much we wanted to make it into a play and perform it for Catherine.”

“A play requires a tremendous amount of preparation to truly do it justice.” Vincent saw some of the boys lower their heads and knew that the girls were responsible for this undertaking. He smiled at Jeffery. “Is this true, the boy’s are willing to take this on?”

Samantha elbowed Jeffery, her eyes pleaded with him to go along with the ruse. Jeffery nodded as he grimaced then looked back at Vincent. “Yeah, the boys are ready.”

Vincent lowered his head as he felt the pull of being a teacher overtake him. He would reflect on his relationship with Catherine at another time. He nodded then turned towards the home chambers. “Then we should start right away.”

He started to walk back to his chamber as the children followed excitedly behind. He read for several hours then the children insisted they start to make plans for the play.

Zac took charge and Vincent helped him fit each of the children into characters from the play. Several more hours were spent discussing time lines that included practice schedules, costumes creation, scenes and props.

The dinner message took them all by surprise and everyone filtered into the dining chamber for an early meal.

Vincent explained to Father and Mary all that they had accomplished that afternoon and Father secretly smiled as he realized the children had managed to distract Vincent for the entire day. “I wonder how she’ll be gone,” he thought to himself.

**************************************

Later, Vincent was sitting alone reading in his chamber when Father walked in. Hoping to spend a night alone, he lowered his head and sighed. Father missed the gesture and challenged him to another game of chess. Vincent declined but Father came and sat with him anyway, knowing his son was lonely. They reminisced about the past and Vincent shared with him a passage from the book he was reading.

Father could hear the loneliness in his son’s voice and grimaced as he realized there was no way to help him. He decided Vincent needed some time alone and stood suddenly. “It’s late ... I’ll leave you to your thoughts ... ”

“Goodnight, Father.”

“Sleep well, son.”

Father left and Vincent tried to lie in his bed but the thoughts kept swirling through his mind. The restlessness finally overtook him and he headed Above.

He walked the streets aimlessly as if he were searching for something. Finally, he headed to Catherine’s balcony and looked inside her darkened windows.

He realized that without her presence they were just empty rooms full of furniture and that she was the factor that made the rooms warm and inviting. He expelled a long breath and leaned against the wall as he looked out over the city.

He thought back to the first time he came to her and the innocence of their relationship. Then he thought about the countless nights spent here with her and all of the conversations they had together. All of the time they spent learning about each other and growing as a couple.

His brow furrowed when he thought about where there relationship would take them now. He had revealed the truth about what happened between him and Lisa and Catherine easily dismissed the incident as an adolescent mishap. He spent many hours alone reflecting on it and a part of him wondered if she was right. He had such little experience and he wanted to trust in her and believe that she was right.

He let his mind wander and he imagined what it would be like to be kissed by Catherine. She had kissed him only once and he remembered the softness of her lips as they made the briefest of contact with his. He thought about all the times she had kissed his chest and his neck, his cheek and his hands. He had read countless stories and poems of love and he shifted his stance to allow for the hardening of his body as his mind took him to what could be the next step.

Catherine’s phone rang and he startled to the present. He heard a voice on the recorder asking if she was interested in getting her carpets cleaned ... it was another reminder that she was not here. He shook his head to dispel the images that had been floating around in there and with a sigh he turned to climb down and head back Below.

***********************************

Father sent for his usual night time report and all the sentry’s reported that no one had left the tunnels. Father was satisfied until Matthew reported that Vincent had left some time ago and never returned. He sighed and sent out a message asking that Vincent be told to check in with him when he returned.

Father lay in bed and tried to go to sleep but he knew he wouldn’t until he heard of Vincent’s return.

As he walked past a sentry post, Mouse stepped out. “Vincent.”

“Mouse.”

“Back finally ... ”

“Yes, I ... took a long walk up top.”

“Raining ... ”

“Yes, it was but ... sometimes the streets are quieter when it’s raining.”

“Lonely too ... ”

“Sometimes ... ” Vincent nodded.

“Miss Catherine, huh?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Be back soon ... you’ll see!”

“Yes she will.”

Mouse nodded then made a face of distress. “Father wants to see you.”

Vincent frowned. “Is everything all right?”

Mouse shrugged. “Quiet tonight ... ” He pointed at Vincent. “Worried ... maybe.”

Vincent chuckled humorously. “Yes, he always worries when one of us is Above at night. I’ll go see him now, Mouse.”

“Okay good ... okay fine!”

Mouse tapped a message to the other sentries telling them of Vincent’s return while Vincent went to the library.

Vincent found him in the tunnel way instead. “Father ... ”

“It’s late.”

Vincent shrugged. “I couldn’t sleep.”

“Neither could I ... ” Father admitted.

Vincent patted his wet hair and smiled. “The park is beautiful when it’s wet.” He took Father’s cane and then offered him his support as they walked along. “I found myself on Catherine’s balcony ... ”

“They’re can be little comfort on that.”

“I wanted a sense of her,” Vincent explained.

“What did you find?”

“Only her absence.”

Father frowned as he faced his son. “What about your connection to her ... your bond?”

“I feel it ... at a distance ... she’s so far away.”

“But you can feel it?” Father asked incredulously.

“Oh, yes.”

“Then trust in that, Vincent ... ” Father looked out wondrously. “That’s a remarkable thing ... to feel the beat of a woman’s heart on a distant shore ... ”

They started walking again and Vincent cocked his head thoughtfully. “I’m as surprised by it as you, Father.”

Father looked at him then looked away as they walked into the library and took their usual seats. “You and Catherine have a deep love that transcends all impossibilities.”

Vincent looked down at the floor and shrugged. “I hope that’s true.”

Father cocked his head curiously. “You doubt it?!” 

“Didn’t you?”

Father blushed and looked away then back again as he smiled sheepishly. “Maybe a little ... but Catherine has proven time and time again that she is worthy of your love.”

Vincent’s eyes opened in surprise. “I wondered if you would ever reach this point.”

Father chuckled. “I may be old but I didn’t forget what it was like to be in love. The way your senses soar at the very thought of her ... ”

“Yes ... ”

Father sighed. “So ... tell me ... what has Catherine been feeling while she’s been gone?”

“Like I said it’s harder to get exact feelings but I know she’s been frustrated, things must not be going well.” 

“Huh ... well perhaps tomorrow will bring Catherine more luck and she’ll be able to return early.”

Vincent nodded as he stood. “We can only hope ... goodnight, Father.”

“Goodnight, son.”

**********************************     

Vincent was right. Clear across the United States, Catherine sat alone in a hotel room staring at a television screen and trying to calm her frustrations.

She had been in California for two days and after a dozen phone calls she still hadn’t gotten a hold of Gina Barrett. This woman was either incredibly busy or she was avoiding Catherine.

The only good that Catherine found in the trip so far was the free time to reflect on how much Vincent meant in her life. They had come so far these past two months and she thought that they were on a good path to becoming more intimate. The change in their relationship was coming closer and she excitedly dreamt about where it could take them.

Her phone rang and she grabbed for it hoping Gina was finally returning her call.


“Hello!” she said enthusiastically into the phone.

“Hey Radcliffe!”

“Hi, Joe ... ”

Catherine’s voice dripped with disappointment and Joe frowned into the receiver. “Sorry to disappoint you.”

“I’m sorry, Joe, I thought you were Gina.”

“You two got plans?”

Catherine laughed into the phone. “Hardly! I’ve left her at least a dozen messages Joe, she won’t return my calls!”

“Do I have to remind you how important this investigation is ... ”

“And here I was thinking I flew across the country on a whim! I’m on my time out here, Joe!” Catherine spat indignantly.

“I know, Cath ... I’m sorry. So why the hell isn’t this bimbo calling you back?”

Catherine sighed aloud. “I don’t know. I finally got a lead from some guy with a purple mohawk and a chain that went from his nose to his ear! I’m going to the address he gave me tomorrow. It’s supposed to be Gina’s office ... I’ll go from there.”

“Well good luck. I hope you catch a break.”

“Yeah, me too. Goodnight.”

“Night, Chandler.”

Catherine hung up and stared at the television again.

A commercial came on for Fed Ex and she thought about the little package she had over-nighted to Vincent. She smiled as she remembered how lucky she’d been to find the perfect shell on the beach.  She sat and wrote Vincent a lengthy note filled with all the longings in her heart. She described in detail the colors of the sky as the sun set over the water and the sounds of the waves crashing on the shore.

Afterwards, she got a box and filled it with sand, the shell and then the note. After double wrapping it, she sent it to Stan at the supermarket and asked him to forward it to Vincent. Sometime tomorrow he would receive it and Catherine smiled as she thought about what his reaction would be. Somehow, imagining what he was feeling brought him closer and Catherine changed clothes and settled underneath the covers and let herself dream of him.

The next day she woke early and after a quick lunch, headed to Gina’s business. The receptionist promised to forward the message to Gina but Catherine was able to find out that Gina would be out at a video shoot. Catherine went to the shoot only to find she’d been duped by Gina who had pretended to be the receptionist earlier.

Gina tried to ignore her but stopped abruptly when Catherine broke the news of Adam Gold’s death. Clearly devastated, Gina sat and told Catherine everything she knew. They went to her apartment where she grabbed the tape of the Phoenix album Adam had sent her. She and Catherine took it to a friend who proved to Catherine that through frequency codes they could prove the second album was a counterfeit production.

Catherine got Joe to agree to bring Gina to New York so she could testify in the case. Gina quickly packed some bags and as they started to leave she went back to her apartment for a last minute check of everything. Catherine continued on so she could pack their luggage in the car.

Miles away, Vincent was sleeping but somehow his senses were registering danger for Catherine. He called out a warning to her and waited for her feelings to calm.

Catherine was bent over putting bags in the trunk when she felt Vincent’s outcry. She grabbed her suitcase and swung out at the figure that approached her from behind. The guy fell to the floor and dropped the lug wrench he had been carrying with his. Catherine scooped it up as she ran and hid under a car. When the man came close again, she hit him across the legs and as he was down on the ground, she leapt to her feet and knocked him out. 

Gina came running up and Catherine sent her inside to call the police. She stood at the end of the car staring at the unconscious man as she willed herself to calm down. “I’m okay, Vincent. I’m okay ... ” she whispered to no one.

**********************************

Across the states, Father came running into Vincent’s room. “Vincent, what is it? Are you all right?” Vincent’s head was cocked to the side as he stared out into the air. “Vincent!” Father shouted loudly.

Vincent felt a calm settle over Catherine and he knew that she was all right. He felt his hear rate return to normal as he looked up. “Father?”

“I ... heard you ... call out ... it sounded so desperate ... I’m not sure ... but I thought you said Catherine!”

“I think I may have.”

Father frowned. “You had a nightmare?”

“No ... I sensed Catherine was in danger. I was dreaming ... I could see her and I had this ... impending feeling of doom cross over me ... I must have called out to her!”

“You did! That’s why I rushed in here. Can you sense if Catherine is all right?”

“I felt her heart racing when I first sat up in bed but then I felt a calm wash over her. Father, I’m sorry I disturbed you.”

“Don’t be silly. I’m glad that if anything were happening to Catherine, she is now safe.”

“Yes.”

“Goodnight, again.”

“Goodnight, Father.”

Vincent lay back in bed and tried to settle himself down; it wasn’t long before he fell asleep again.

*********************************************

Meanwhile in California, the first police car came on the scene in the parking garage.

Officer Bradley approached Catherine and Gina. “Are you ladies, okay?”

“Yes,” Catherine answered while Gina nervously looked down at the man on the ground.

“Do you know this guy?”

“No.” Gina said.

The officer frowned as he called for back up and then took out his pen and paper. “Can you tell me what happened here?”

Gina shrugged as she held up her hands in front of her. “I got here after the fact.”

Catherine spent the next few minutes recounting the tale while an officer from the next squad on the scene handcuffed the slowly waking prisoner.

Ten minutes later another car pulled up and Catherine groaned. “Here we go again.”

“What?” Gina asked innocently.

Officer Bradley walked over and told the detective in the car everything he knew. The detective was now questioning Catherine thoroughly.

“Okay, your name is Catherine Chandler and you’re with the DA’s office in New York?”

“Yeah!”

“And you were packing Miss Gina Barrett’s bags in the trunk of her car when this guy came up behind you. You swung out and hit him with your suitcase and he fell to the ground. You grabbed the weapon he had and hid under a car and when he came close to you again, you hit his legs out from under him and knocked him out.”

“That’s how it happened.”

“Pretty fancy fighting there for a suit like yourself.”

Catherine frowned as she tried to decide is she was being insulted. “If you must know, Detective O’Malley, I was trained in the art of street fighting. I was taught to win anyway I can.”

O’Malley immediately looked contrite. “It looks like it works. Um ... do you have any idea who this guy is or why he came after you?”

Gina spoke up quickly. “I think he’s one of Mel Ray’s goons. He trashed my apartment a little while ago ... he must have waited here to ... a ... ”

Gina started to shake and Catherine put her arm around her comfortingly then looked up at the detective. “Gina is involved in the record business and she’s my witness in a counterfeit scam. Her friend was my first witness and he showed up dead four days ago of an apparent drug overdose despite the fact that he didn’t do drugs. The man involved must’ve thought that her friend sent her proof of his counterfeit tapes. This guy was sent to find it ... you can have the superintendent let you into Gina’s apartment. We caught him searching through the apartment and he ran out before I could stop him. Gina packed some clothes and we headed down here ... he must’ve waited.”

O’Malley nodded. “That explains why you were on the defensive.”

Catherine looked at her watch. “If you don’t mind, Miss Barrett and I have a plane to catch. You can verify my story with John Moreno or Joe Maxwell at the DA’S office in New York.”

“All right. I have all the information on need but it would help if you would stay available when you’re in New York.”

“Of course.”

Catherine grabbed Gina’s elbow and steered her to the car. “Let’s go before they change their minds.”

Gina smiled as they hopped into the car and headed to Catherine’s hotel to get her bags.

“What the hell happened back there?” Gina asked.

Catherine shrugged. “I told them the truth, Gina. That is what happened.”

“Wow, how’d you know it wasn’t some guy asking for the time?”

Catherine rolled her eyes. “No one gets that close unless there’s trouble.”

Gina looked worriedly out the window. “Am I in danger?”

Catherine frowned as she looked over at her and she decided to answer her honestly. “Mel Ray won’t be thrilled with you but you already knew that.”

“Yeah.”

“You should be safer in New York. I’ll call my boss when we get to the airport and he’ll have time to get all the paperwork started.”

Within two hours, Catherine and Gina were on the plane and headed to New York. A half hour into the flight, the attendants came around with the food cart and handed out warm meals along with beverages.

Gina opened her package and smiled. “Lasagna?”

Catherine poked at her food. “Looks like it ... it smells good.”

Gina dug in and took a big bite then grabbed for her napkin and spit the offending food into her. “Ugghhh!”

“That bad?”

“It ain’t good!”

Catherine sampled the lasagna then set her fork down. “You’re right.” She took a bite of the bread and nodded. “I’ve had better but at least it’s edible.

Gina ate her bread then covered up her uneaten tray as Catherine followed suit. 

Gina scooted in her seat to get comfortable then quickly fell asleep as Catherine watched the in-flight movie. It was a mindless drama about stealing cars and Catherine finally gave up watching and stared out the window as she let her thoughts drift to Vincent.

She let the memories of their times together flow through her and she marveled at how far they had come in their relationship. She realized that with any other man they would’ve crossed the sexual hurdle a long time ago but she also knew in her heart that when the time finally came she and Vincent would be wonderful together. She knew it will have been worth the wait.

The captain finally came on the speaker and announced they were preparing to land. Catherine nudged Gina who was awake instantly.

“We’re here?”

“Uh, huh.” Catherine smiled.

Gina smiled sheepishly. “Sorry about falling asleep. That cry on the beach did me in ... ”

Catherine patted Gina’s knee. “You just found out a good friend had been murdered. I think you’re entitled to a little breakdown time.”

“So ... what happens now?” Gina asked curiously.

“Well ... I’ll take you to my office and Joe ... my boss ... will want to ask you a few questions. I’m sorry; I don’t have the room at my apartment so we’ll have set you up in a hotel not far from our office.”

“That’s okay ... I keep pretty late hours ... I’d probably drive you crazy!”

Catherine thought about the late hours she and Vincent kept and knew the prospect of seeing him was what really prompted her not to extend an invitation to Gina. “Yeah, I get up pretty early for work ... ”

“I’m guessing by your evasiveness that your boss is the guy who wears his pants below his gut so you need to tell him I don’t get up before noon for anyone!”

Catherine smiled again and shrugged. “We’ll see him soon enough ... you can tell him yourself.”

*********************************

Vincent could feel Catherine’s excitement all day and he felt it elevate throughout the day. He knew she was coming home and happily told Father about it.

Father followed him back to his chamber and watched as Vincent restlessly paced his chamber.

“Vincent, you do know that the flight is several hours don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“You’re going to wear a path in your floor if you don’t settle down.”

“It’s been four days, Father!”

“Yes, and people have survived not seeing their loved ones for a lot longer than four days! Think of all the men in the past that went off to war and didn’t see their wives or children for months maybe even years ... ”

Vincent paused in his pacing and looked down sheepishly. “I know that what I’ve endured is nothing compared to what they’ve been through ... ”

Father chuckled. “But that doesn’t mean that you haven’t missed her terribly!”

“Yes!”

“Will she come here?”

“I don’t know ... it’ll be dark when she gets here. I thought I’d wait for her on the balcony.”

Father hated that he went there and put himself in danger but he smiled weakly. “She’ll love the surprise.”

“I hope so.”

Father put his arm around Vincent’s shoulders. “Trust me, son. She will love it!”

Vincent grabbed his cloak. “I’m going to wait by the entrance until it gets dark!”

“Be safe,” Father said to his back as he left.

*********************************************

Catherine took Gina to her office and introduced her to Joe. They were clearly flirting with one another and Joe asked her to go to for dinner. Gina readily accepted and Joe tried to include Catherine but she quickly turned them down.

She grabbed some files from her desk, stuffed them in her case and headed out the door. The taxi driver helped her load her luggage then she turned when Joe and Gina walked out behind her.

“Hey Radcliffe, you sure you don’t want to go with us?”

Gina leaned back and shook her head behind his back.

“No, thanks Joe. I’ll see you both tomorrow. Have fun.”

She hopped into the taxi. “East 16th near Central Park.” She offered as the driver pulled from the curb. “Is the Central Park drive through open?”

“I think so ... you been outta town? You sound homesick?”

“Yeah.”

“You come in from the airport?”

“Uh, huh.”

“You come over the Queensboro Bridge?”

Catherine frowned curiously at his questions. “Yeah, why?”

“You get that great view from the Queensboro Bridge. Didn’t you read the Great Gatsby?”

Catherine was confused. “I didn’t know Fitzgerald wrote about the best route from the airport.”

“Yes, he did. I know it by heart ... the city ... seen from the Queensboro Bridge ... is always the city seen for the first time ... in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world. You can’t do any better than that lady!”

Catherine threw back her head and laughed heartily. “I never thought of it that way before.”

“No one ever does ... you’re the first one in a long time that even gets it.”

“I’ll never look at the view from the bridge the same way again.”

“Good! Just remember that in front of you, lie all the possibilities ... just waiting to be lived!”

“I know about possibilities,” Catherine said as she thought of Vincent. Somehow she knew he would know of her return and be waiting patiently for her on the on the balcony.

She directed the driver to her home and after he unpacked her bags she gave him a huge tip.

“Hey, lady? Do you know how much you just gave me?”

Catherine smiled as she picked up her bags. “Yeah, it was worth it! This ride has been the best time I’ve had in four days. Thanks!”

“Thanks, lady!”

***********************************************

Catherine fumbled with her keys on the elevator. She walked quickly into her apartment and dumped the bags as she made her way to the balcony.

She hesitated only briefly in front of Vincent as she looked into his eyes then walked into his arms.

Vincent wanted to crush her to his chest but he managed to settle for holding her tightly. “Catherine ... ”

“I’m back!”

“I felt your return ... ” He sighed aloud and voiced his frustrations. “These four days ... ”

Catherine felt all the same things he felt and interrupted. “I know ... I know!”

They hugged tighter and he slowly released her. “There was a moment when I felt you were in great danger. There was nothing I could do ... I wanted so desperately to reach out to you ... ”

“But you did Vincent! I could feel you watching over me! I heard you call out! Vincent ... you saved me!”

He was shocked by the news and slowly shook his head in disbelief. “Catherine, this ... this bond we share ... this connection ... ”

“Yes ... that strong!”

Vincent cocked his head to the side as he looked at her curiously. “You’re starting to feel it more, aren’t you?”

Catherine smiled as tears pooled in her eyes. “Yes, it’s ... wonderful. I felt you so strongly when I was gone. When I sent that letter, I spoke the truth. It was really like you were there with me!”

“I felt like I was there. Your words took me there ... ”

“It’s also how I knew you’d be here waiting for me. I just ... sensed that I should come home first instead of heading Below.”

Vincent smiled shyly. “I wanted some time alone with you before the community bombarded us. Everyone has missed you!”

“And I’ve missed them.”

“The children have been practicing to perform a play for you.”

“Which one?”

“Romeo and Juliet!”

“Wow! That’s ambitious!”

“Yes, I think that what started out as a fun way to distract me from my loneliness has turned into quite an undertaking!”

Catherine hugged him gently again and smiled up at him. “Then I’ll help! We’ll say that the play should be for the entire community and it’ll will give me an excuse to come Below.”

Vincent hugged her warmly. “Thank you, the children love spending time with you.”

He made to loosen his hold but Catherine grasped tighter. “Not yet, Vincent! I’ve spent four days dreaming of having you this close again! I don’t want it to end yet.”

He tightened his hold and they stood together as her hands started to absently caress his hair and down his back.    

“Oh, Vincent ... ” Catherine moaned.

Vincent felt her desire and unfulfilled need and he stopped himself and backed away slowly. “Perhaps, I ... ”

“No!” Catherine clamped down on her racing desires and knew he was getting ready to retreat. She looked up with regret in her eyes and turned from him. “You just got here ... I just got home ... um ... maybe I could grab a book and the blanket. Do you want to read for awhile?”

Vincent didn’t want to leave yet and he grabbed at a chance for normalcy. “Yes ... I’d like that.”

They settled down in their usual spot as Vincent began to read aloud. Comfortable and truly happy, Catherine’s exhaustion from travel finally caught up with her and she fell asleep against him.

Vincent picked her up and carried her to her bed and gently placed her in the middle then covered her up. “Be patient with me, Catherine,” he pleaded in a whisper as he left her side.

 

The End