The Devoted Fan

by Nefereu

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Emily looked up at the night sky as she got out of her car and sighed at what she saw there: a full moon. It was bad enough that tonight was Halloween. With the added element of the full moon, she had no doubt her shift in the E.R. tonight would be a rough one.

 

Emily Trelane had been an E.R. nurse for five years after being offered a job at a major hospital in Atlanta fresh out of nursing school. She enjoyed her job, but it left little time for a social life, not that Emily had one anyway. She’d always been a bit of a loner. That had only intensified when she’d lost both her parents several years before in a car accident.

 

 As looks went, Emily was actually quite pretty. While no supermodel, her black hair and brown eyes did garner her some male attention. Unfortunately, she was also a bit short, barely five feet. Most men tended to treat her like a kid sister rather than a potential girlfriend due to her height. It made dating somewhat awkward.

 

Of course, it didn’t help that Emily was a hopeless romantic. In spite of not having much of a love life, she still firmly believed in soul mates and hoped one day to find her own. So far, he still eluded her. She had dated a bit, but most of her “Prince Charmings” had turned out to be frogs.

 

 As with many other romantics, Emily had her favorite ‘couple.’ For her, hands down, it was Vincent and Catherine off the TV series Beauty and the Beast. She had loved the show and owned the whole series on DVD.  She also had numerous collectables and had even been to a few conventions. For Emily, Vincent and Catherine’s story was magical and gave her hope of finding her own true love someday. Like some fans, she also had her own opinions on how the series should have ended.  If I’d been a writer, Season 3 would have been much different!”she often thought. But that was just harmless daydreaming.

 

As she predicted, the night shift was horrible. Around midnight, things really got harried as a group of kids from a local youth group picnic came in with stomach pains from a bad batch of chicken salad. About the same time, local police brought in an addict who was delusional from an overdose. He ranted and raved for almost an hour before finally seeming to slip into a deep sleep. Emily couldn’t wait until the end of her shift.  

 

Just as Emily was treating a five-year-old from the youth group, a strange noise drew her attention to the next bed beyond the curtain. Out of nowhere came the addict, brandishing a scalpel in his hand and heading straight for them both. Emily looked around in desperation, only to see the police too far away to reach the delusional patient. Realizing they would be too late, Emily did the only thing she could and threw herself at the man. Vainly, she tried to wrest the knife from her would-be attacker as he screamed incoherently, trying to slash her. Suddenly, she felt a sharp pain in her chest and she looked down in surprise to see the scalpel protruding out of her.  The police appeared and subdued the incoherent man just as the world slowly faded and she fell to the ground. Everything went black. She never heard the call of “Code Blue” as her colleagues rushed to her aid.

 

* * *

 

Emily awoke in what could only be described as a maintenance corridor. From her work at the hospital, she realized she must be somewhere deep inside some building. She sat up and took stock. She was still in her scrubs, her stethoscope around her neck. Oddly, there was no wound in her chest and she didn’t appear injured otherwise. Carefully, she stood up.  In front of her was a heavy metal door similar to the one-way emergency exits at the hospital. Cautiously, she opened it and peered out to see three men standing in front of an elevator only a few feet away. Luckily, they failed to notice her. For some reason, they looked vaguely familiar. The shorter one turned in profile and Emily had to stifle a gasp as she recognized him as ‘John Moreno,’ the crooked district attorney from Beauty and the Beast.

 

Fearing she’d lost her mind, Emily started to close the door just as she heard one of the men with a gun address John Moreno after speaking to someone on a walkie-talkie.

 

“She’s in the elevator on her way down, Mr. Moreno. We’ve got her trapped,” he said.

 

“Just make this quick. I can’t be connected to this,” Moreno shot back.

 

Oh, my God! This is “Though Lovers be Lost”!  Emily thought. Now she truly began to doubt her sanity.

 

 

 Chapter 2

 

 Shaking her head, she looked around one more time, hoping to see a film crew or something else that might explain the bizarre events unfolding in front of her.

 

 Have I lost my mind?!! This can’t be happening!

 

Emily knew Catherine was now on her way down in that elevator, walking straight into the trap that would set in motion all the events of Season 3: her kidnapping, death, and the stealing of baby Jacob. For one tiny second she considered remaining where she was and not interfering, believing this some elaborate hallucination, but it was simply too contrary to her nature and everything she believed in. Frantically, she began to cast around for a way to help. She instantly noticed the fire alarm switch next to her. Emily knew from experience how loud and jarring the alarms in most public and municipal buildings were. Her hospital had at least one false alarm every week. A quick look out the door revealed not one but two such alarms right next to the elevator. As the elevator doors opened, instinct took over and Emily threw the switch.

 

The doors opened and Catherine thought she was safe. Then she saw the men with guns and John Moreno, her boss. Almost simultaneously, a deafening alarm went off, distracting them. To her right, a small brunette threw open a nearby door and screamed her name.

 

“Catherine!”

 

Never one to waste an opportunity for escape, Catherine began to run.

 

Emily just managed to slam the door and it locked with an audible click as the first gunshots rang out. Quickly, the men began pounding and Emily turned to Catherine.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“Yes, but...”

 

“We should get out of here! That door won’t stop them for long. What now?” Emily breathed.

 

“We go down!” Catherine said as she turned to run.

 

“To the tunnels?” Emily asked automatically.

 

“How...?” Catherine struggled to ask as they fled.

 

“Never mind; I’ll explain later! Let’s just keep going!” Emily called back.

 

The pair fled in a general downward direction for what seemed forever. They went down various steps and ladders, always descending, at a dead run. The urgency of their situation prevented them from talking more. Finally, they reached a corridor with pipes running overhead that ended abruptly.

 

“Oh, dear!” Emily remarked. “Dead end.” She grimaced. “Sorry, poor choice of words.”

 

In spite of the danger they were facing, Catherine managed a smile.

 

“Are they following us?” Emily asked.

 

“I don’t think so, but they will soon. I don’t know who you are or why you helped me, but thank you,” Catherine said. “I just hope you haven’t followed me to your death.”

 

“So do I,” she agreed. “Emily Trelane,” she introduced herself.

 

"Catherine Chandler."

 

 “Yeah, I know. Any ideas?” Emily posed.

 

“ ‘Fraid not,” Catherine replied. “I’m open to suggestions.”

 

Emily suddenly recalled another detail from “Though Lovers be Lost.”

 

“What about a message on the pipes? Surely someone will hear it - Mouse, Pascal or maybe even Vincent!” she cried enthusiastically.

 

Catherine instantly looked alarmed. Emily rushed to reassure her. “Look, Ms. Chandler... Catherine, I promise I’m no threat to you or anyone Below. I know this all seems kind of crazy; believe me, I feel the same way! Maybe when we’re out of danger I can explain it all to you. But for right now, I’m afraid you may have to just trust me. I mean, honestly, take a look at me! Do I look like I could be a threat to anyone, let alone someone as big as Vincent? All he’d have to do is step on me!”

 

 Catherine shook her head and fought another smile. Here she was fleeing for her life with some stranger, and yet she still found this woman humorous. In spite of herself, Catherine decided she liked Emily and maybe even trusted her a bit. After all, Emily had saved her life. Vincent had taught her to trust her instincts and everything within her now told her this woman was no threat. Catherine chose to trust those instincts when it counted. “Okay, Let’s give it a try,” she agreed.

 

“I’ll boost you up,” Emily offered.

 

Catherine shot her a skeptical look.

 

“Don’t worry. I’m stronger than I look. Besides, I don’t know the tunnel code!” 

 

Emily managed to lift Catherine up just enough for her to tap on the pipe with her shoe. After a minute, Catherine came back down and said, “Okay, let’s just hope it works.”

 

As they waited, Emily debated whether to tell Catherine what she knew. Deciding there was little point in holding back, Emily began carefully, “I’m sure you realized by now, Catherine, that your boss, John Moreno, is scum.”

 

“I kind of suspected as much when he tried to kill us,” she replied acerbically.

 

“It’s because of the black notebook, the one Joe Maxwell got from Pat Halloran. Moreno’s probably in it. He’s on the payroll of a big crime lord name Gabriel who controls a big drug and weapons cartel. They know you’re on to them. That’s why they’re after you,” Emily said in a rush.

 

Catherine’s face became anxious again, but whatever she was going to say was preempted as a reply came back on the pipes.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

“What did the message say?” Emily asked.

 

“Stand back.”

 

Catherine and Emily quickly complied. Almost instantly, a small metal panel they hadn’t noticed before, since it looked to be part of the wall, slid silently open and a familiar face popped through.

 

“Hi, Catherine,” Mouse greeted, his face alight with a large grin. “Heard your message.”

 

Just then, the sounds of footsteps and raised voices echoing in the distance reached them.

 

“Mouse, can we discuss this later? We really need to get out of here,” Catherine whispered urgently.

 

 Mouse merely shrugged in response. “Okay, good. Okay, fine.”

 

He slid back inside what proved to be a small ventilation duct to allow Catherine and Emily to enter. For the first time, Mouse actually began to look at the stranger with Catherine, regarding her with open curiosity.

 

“This is Emily,” Catherine informed him. “She’s … a friend.” It was as good a description as any for the woman who had just saved her life.

 

“Tight fit. Only Mouse knows the way here. Good place to find things,” The young man asserted proudly as he pulled the metal plate shut behind them.

 

“Right now I’d crawl through a sewer to get out of there,” Emily muttered as the three began their long crawl to safety.

 

“My sentiments exactly, “ Catherine replied as she struggled to move in the tiny space.

 

“Better get going,” Mouse suggested. “Long way back to the tunnels.”

 

Mouse wasn’t kidding. After what felt like an eternity to Emily, the trio finally emerged into a tunnel. Emily took in a huge breath as the enormity of their narrow escape finally sunk in. Catherine was safely back in the tunnels! Somehow, they had managed to escape the events that started Season 3! Suddenly, Emily felt ridiculously happy.

 

“Mouse, you did it! You saved us! Thank you, thank you!” Emily cried as she enthusiastically gave the bewildered young man an enormous hug.

 

Mouse’s expression quickly changed from confusion to shy happiness as he turned to Catherine for confirmation. “Saved you? Mouse did that?”

 

“Yes, you did, Mouse,” Catherine confirmed with a soft smile as she too hugged him. “Thank you,” she added simply.

 

Mouse immediately grinned, obviously pleased with himself. “Saved Vincent’s Catherine. Just like Vincent,” he said proudly to no one in particular.

 

“Well, well,” a flippant voice announced from a nearby corner. “Look what the Mouse dragged in.” Then the voice quickly turned serious as the speaker put a hand on Catherine’s shoulder. “I heard your distress call over the pipes. You okay, Chandler?”

 

Safely hidden behind Mouse, Emily’s mouth fell open in shock as she recognized that cheeky baritone. It was Vincent’s wandering brother, Devin! Instantly, Emily’s pulse began to jump erratically as her heart skipped a beat. What was he doing here? That hadn’t happened in Season 3! Of all the tunnel folk, why did Devin have to be the first to meet them??

 

While Catherine and Vincent were her favorite couple, Emily’s favorite character from the show without any doubt had to be Devin. Whether it was his dark good looks or his “bad boy” persona, Devin’s appearance never failed to make Emily sigh wistfully. To have him so close “in the flesh” sent a thrill up Emily’s spine.

 

“I’m fine, Devin,” Catherine informed him, “thanks to Mouse and Emily.”

 

“Emily?”

 

“Catherine’s friend,” Mouse informed him as he stepped aside to reveal the small woman behind him.

 

For the first time, Devin took notice of the tiny woman standing next to Mouse. At first glance he had mistaken her for one of the many tunnel children who were so fond of Catherine. Closer inspection revealed otherwise. Though she was amazingly petite, there was no mistaking the womanly curves of the person in front of him. Long silken black hair hung down in a practical ponytail almost to her waist. Her features, while not classic like Catherine’s, were still lovely in their own right. But it was her eyes alight with intelligence and glowing the color of warm topaz that immediately caught Devin’s attention.

 

As Devin’s dark eyes locked with hers, Emily froze as another tremor went down her spine. She hadn’t realized Devin’s eyes could be so piercing. She felt as if they saw right through her in an instant.

 

“Devin, where’s Vincent?” Catherine’s inquiry broke the spell instantly.

 

Devin hesitated, shaking his head to clear it. “He was in the lower tunnels, helping Cullen. But he’s probably heard your message by now and will probably ….”

 

“Catherine!” Vincent exclaimed loudly as he came into view. In an instant he was at Catherine’s side, pulling her into a firm embrace. Catherine eagerly returned it.

 

“Catherine, I heard your message. Are you all right?’ Vincent inquired anxiously as he tightened his embrace.

 

“I am now,” she sighed tiredly.

 

“WOW!”

 

 

Chapter 4

 

Belatedly, Vincent realized there was someone else present and quickly stiffened, almost as if bracing himself. It was too late to hide now. Normally, he would have been more cautious, but his concern for Catherine had overridden his usual care.

 

Emily hadn’t meant to speak out loud, but the sight of Vincent left her completely in awe.

“You really ARE tall!” she blurted out unintentionally as she craned her neck to look up at him.

 

Vincent stared down at the small woman and blinked in surprise.  It certainly hadn’t been the reaction he’d expected. He allowed a small smile as some of the tension eased from his body.

 

Next to Emily, Devin snorted in amusement and fought hard to hold back a smile of his own as his opinion of this interloper rose several notches. Most people tended to react with fear when first meeting his unique sibling. Even those who didn’t usually couldn’t hold back some comment about his claws, teeth, or intimidating leonine-like features. Oddly enough, one of the few things that had never bothered his brother was his height.

 

Though Vincent had several inches on Devin himself, there had been and still were tunnel residents who were taller. By remarking on the one attribute that had never truly bothered Vincent, “Emily” had unknowingly put his brother at ease. Devin found himself beginning to like her in spite of his natural skepticism.

 

The moment was interrupted though as Catherine suddenly began to sag, her knees giving way. In response, Vincent instantly swept her up, his voice betraying his concern. “Catherine!”

 

“I’ll get Father,” Devin offered. But Catherine’s objection stopped him.

 

“No, please!” she protested weakly. “Just give me a minute.” She wasn’t up to confronting the tunnel patriarch just quite yet.

 

“I’m a nurse,” Emily piped in. “I can help!”

 

Catherine nodded her consent and the group quickly made its way to Vincent’s chamber. Once there, he tenderly sat Catherine down on the bed and hovered nearby as Emily began to check her over.

 

Luckily, Catherine’s pulse and respiration seemed all right. But the signs of stress were evidenced in Catherine’s face, namely a pallid complexion and dark circles under her eyes. Emily also suspected another reason for Catherine’s sudden weakness.

 

“When was the last time you ate?”

 

The guilty expression on Catherine’s face and her refusal to meet Emily’s gaze were all the answer she needed. “Catherine!” Emily cried, forgetting to hold her tongue once more. ”Don’t you know how important your nutrition is, especially now? Skipping meals is very bad for you, even dangerous!”

 

The moment she spoke the words, Emily could have bitten her tongue off as she realized inadvertently she had just revealed exactly how much she knew. Catherine’s head jerked up and her gaze became anxious again as she met Emily’s. But they both had forgotten the other occupants of the room.

 

“Dangerous?” Vincent echoed, his voice full of concern and curiosity.

 

Impulsively, Emily grabbed Catherine’s hand reassuringly and spoke in her best nurse voice. “Tell him!” she urged.

 

Catherine quickly teared up and turned to her beloved. “Vincent, there’s something I need to tell you …” she whispered softly.

 

Emily smiled, tearing up herself in anticipation of the tender scene she thought she was about to witness. But the other person in the room took a firm hold of her arm and hustled her rapidly outside. Once there, he released her as he fairly bristled with hostility.

 

“Okay, lady! I want some answers and I want them now! Just who the hell are you?!!!” Devin snarled angrily.

 

“I’m a friend of Catherine’s,” Emily stammered, trying desperately to lie.

 

“Bullshit! I saw the look on her face. She was afraid and Chandler doesn’t scare easily. You know something that Catherine never told you!”

 

“I don’t know what you mean,” Emily hedged.

 

“Oh, really?” he continued harshly, folding his arms as he pinned her with another piercing gaze. “Then maybe you’d care to explain that little scene?”

 

Never very good at lying, Emily sighed and gave in. “Catherine’s pregnant.”

 

Devin froze and a grin slowly began to spread across his face. “You mean …?” He broke off, glancing back in the direction of Vincent’s chamber.

 

Biting her lip, Emily nodded frantically. Devin’s smile immediately increased. “Well, I’ll

be damned! Way to go, little brother!” he said softly. “So how do you play into all this?”

 

It didn’t take much for Emily to recognize that there wasn’t much point in lying to Devin any longer. “Okay, I’ll tell you. But you’re not going to believe me,” she sighed.

 

Devin quirked an eyebrow as he bit back another smile. “What makes you so sure?”

 

“Father wouldn’t!” she retorted before thinking.

 

Devin’s eyes widened in shock as his smile disappeared. “Well, I’m not Father.”

 

“Thank Heavens,” Emily muttered and then winced as she realized Devin had heard

her. “Sorry. No offense,” she apologized.

 

 “None taken,” he replied as his smirk returned.

 

 

Chapter 5

 

“Let me get this straight. You’re telling me you’ve seen all of this … the tunnels, Catherine and Vincent, even me … on a TV show???!!!”

 

“See! I told you, you wouldn’t believe me!” Emily shot back as she paced around the guest chamber down the tunnel from Vincent’s chamber. They had come here at Devin’s suggestion so they wouldn’t be interrupted. Though she was nervous, Emily’s strange tale quickly spilled out. Yet, even now she could tell Devin was struggling to believe her.

 

Devin held up his hands in surrender as he sat in a chair. “Okay, I’ll give you that. But you’ve got to admit, it sounds more than a little crazy.”

 

“Don’t you think I know that? If someone told me this story in my E.R., I’d be calling for a psych consult!” Emily countered. “I only wish I had some way to convince you .…” Suddenly her eyes lit up and she reached inside her scrubs. “You want proof? Here!” she crowed triumphantly as she slapped a small item into his outstretched hand.

 

Devin examined it carefully and quickly discovered that it was a pen. But it was the unmistakable images of Catherine and Vincent on that pen that left Devin momentarily speechless. “Beauty and the…WHAT?” Devin protested loudly as he read the logo.

 

“Hey, don’t look at me! I didn’t name the series!” Emily replied mildly. “I know Vincent is most definitely NOT a beast.”

 

“This could be some sort of trick,” Devin said softly as he eyed Emily warily.

 

“But you know it isn’t.”

 

Devin met and held her gaze for a very long moment. “No, I don’t think it is,” he admitted softly.

 

Suddenly the room felt positively claustrophobic as a rush of warmth swept over Emily.

 

“Look, I don’t want to cause trouble. Just take me back Above and I’ll figure something out by myself,” Emily said. In truth, she really didn’t want to go, but Devin’s intense scrutiny was almost more than her poor frazzled nerves could take right then.

 

“Did they see you?” Devin asked.

 

Emily frowned. “Who?”

 

“The men who were trying to harm Catherine,” Devin explained.

 

Emily’s frowned increased. “I’m not sure. Moreno may have .…”

 

Devin’s face reflected his shock. “JOHN Moreno? Catherine’s boss? HE was the person who tried to kidnap her?!!!”

 

Wincing, Emily nodded.

 

Devin’s face took on a very hard look of determination as he stared at Emily. “You’re going to tell me EVERYTHING you know, starting right now!”

 

* * *

 

Devin let out a long breath a short time later. He was now sitting in the chair, hunched over, his forearms resting on his knees as he stared down at the threadbare rug, completely lost in thought. Nearby, Emily perched on the edge of the bed. She, too, was silent as the weight of her words sank into Devin. Suddenly, he shot to his feet and began restlessly pacing the room for several minutes in complete silence, his head down and his fists tightly clenched. He looked so much like his brother that it made Emily smile. Noticing her expression, Devin froze mid-stride as he looked up.

 

“What?” he inquired.

 

“It’s nothing,” she remarked as she shook her head. “For a moment there, you looked like Vincent.”

 

Devin allowed a small smile in return. “Yes, I guess I did, didn’t I? Unfortunately, my little brother isn’t the only one who paces. It’s a side effect of growing up Below. You can always pace in the tunnels, but there’s no guarantee of any real privacy; kind of tough to pace and think with an audience.”

 

They both shared a small chuckle as Devin sat down next to Emily. But his expression quickly grew serious as he addressed her by name for the first time. “Emily, I honestly didn’t want to believe you. But there’s simply no other explanation for what you’ve shown me and how you know what you do. That’s why I can’t help but believe you about the rest. This Gabriel sounds dangerous. If he can corrupt someone as high up as the District Attorney, he could have connections anywhere. You and Catherine can’t go back Above. It’s too risky for both of you. If Gabriel is willing to risk kidnapping Catherine in a public place in broad daylight, he’s either foolish or desperate. There’s also no guarantee that Moreno or the others didn’t see you as well. The only safe place for you both is here in the tunnels. Is there someone we should notify? I could have a helper contact them.”

 

 Emily shook her head. “No, I have no family. My parents are dead and the only people I know here are you, Catherine and Vincent.”

 

“Then it’s settled,” Devin replied. “You can stay Below and that will give us a chance to figure out our next move.” But the expression on Emily’s face had Devin taking her hand in genuine concern. “You don’t need to be afraid, Emily. We can protect you, I promise.”

 

“It’s not that.”

 

This time it was Emily who shot to her feet as all of the events that had unfolded thus far whirled around in her head. In spite of all she had told Devin, there was still one piece of morbid information she had withheld, namely Catherine’s tragic death. Mentally, she battled with herself, debating whether to reveal this final terrible prediction.

 

Her expression must have betrayed her inner turmoil, because Devin soon came to stand in front of her. “There’s more, isn’t there? Something you’ve been holding back; I can see it in your face.”

 

Emily attempted to quirk a smile. “This is where Father would use his famous expression of ‘Tell me.’ ” But Devin merely remained silent and waited for her to talk. “Before I tell you, would you answer me one question?” Emily asked.

 

“Sure,” Devin joked, “but I thought you knew all my secrets already anyway, right?”

 

“The person who told Father about the pocket knife, the one who caused your argument with Vincent, it was Mitch, wasn’t it?”

 

Devin’s face became pensive as he absentmindedly touched the large scars on his cheek. “I didn’t think anyone knew that,” he quirked a rueful smile, “except Father, Mitch and me, of course, and Mitch is gone.”

 

“You told Catherine that night when you took her to the carousel, when you and Father made up.”

 

Devin’s smile got bigger. ”Yeah, I guess I did.”

 

Emily exhaled loudly. “I’m sorry. I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable. I just always wondered.”

 

Devin looked pensive again. “No, it’s OK,” he replied softly. To his surprise, he realized he actually meant it. Devin had never been able to be so open with anyone from outside the tunnels. “I’ve spent most of my life having to keep secrets for one reason or another. It’s kind of nice to meet someone who already knows them all for a change.”

 

 

Chapter 6

 

Devin stared at Emily for several long seconds, admiring her courage and more than a little impressed by her sheer fortitude. Most ordinary people would have fallen apart long before now, believing they had taken leave of their senses. Not only had Emily not gone to pieces, she’d even had enough presence of mind to rescue Catherine. He also couldn’t help but notice that she was quite attractive as well, even if she wasn’t very tall.

 

Amazingly, Devin found himself feeling protective instincts towards this diminutive interloper that he didn’t even know he possessed. He had always been a little dismissive of Vincent’s overly chivalrous “white knight” behavior toward Catherine, but now he found the idea of charging to Emily’s rescue was beginning to look very appealing.

 

Jerking himself out of his reverie, Devin turned his attention back to the present. “So, you ready to tell me the last of your secrets?”

 

Emily nodded as she bit her lip again. It was a habit Devin was beginning to realize Emily only did when she was upset. Absurdly, he found even this tiny gesture appealing.

 

“I told you that in the series, Vincent went to rescue Catherine as the baby was born, but I didn’t tell you the whole story. Before he gets there, the doctor gives Catherine a morphine overdose … a fatal overdose,” Emily finished, her voice trailing off at the very end.

 

Devin’s face instantly clouded as he finally understood.

Devin stared off into space for a long time and Emily sat back down on the bed. The air in the room had quickly taken on a melancholy, almost oppressive feeling. While she was relieved at finally being able to tell someone the horrible secret, she wasn’t sure it had done any good. Suddenly, Emily felt very lost and out of her depth.

 

“You can’t tell them,” he said quietly, still staring at nothing.

 

“Devin, you can’t be serious!” Emily cried. “They have to know; we have to warn them!”

 

“Emily, listen to me,” Devin responded in earnest as he took her hand. “If you tell Vincent what you’ve told me, the first thing he will try to do is destroy Gabriel and John Moreno before they can hurt Catherine or the baby. He’ll only put himself in danger. Vincent can be reckless when the people he loves are threatened.  He might even get himself killed. No, you have to keep this between us. Promise me that, Emily, PLEASE!”

 

“What about Catherine?”

 

“Do you really want to tell her about her death?” Devin asked.

 

Emily frowned as she contemplated the notion. Honestly, the idea made her nauseous. Sighing heavily, she shook her head.

 

“Good!” Devin exclaimed, finally beginning to feel more positive. “Now all we have to do is keep Catherine safely Below until the baby is born.”

 

“What about Gabriel and Moreno?” Emily asked.

 

“We’ll worry about them later. Right now, keeping Catherine safe is our first priority.”

 

“Our?” Emily commented skeptically, not sure she liked where this conversation was going.

 

“Sure, you’ve gotta help me. You’re my ace in the hole! Without you, I won’t know the good guys from the bad ones.”

 

Emily folded her arms and glared balefully at Devin. “Are you forgetting something?”

 

“What?” he asked in genuine confusion.

 

“Me, you dingbat!” Emily shot back, beginning to become irritated. “Just how do you plan to explain what I’m doing here?”

 

“That’s easy. I’ll tell them you just happened by …” But Devin broke off as he noticed Emily vehemently shaking her head.

 

“That won’t work!” she replied adamantly. “I already told Catherine I know about Vincent and the tunnels.”

 

Devin gave Emily one of his engaging grins. “Don’t worry. I’ve got it covered. I’ll come up with something when the time comes.”

 

“That’s it?! That’s your plan?! Just winging it?!”

 

“It’s worked for me before.” His grin got bigger.

 

Emily could only groan. “Why do I get the feeling I don’t know what I’m getting myself into?”

 

 

Chapter 7

 

Devin left Emily for a few minutes to check on Vincent and Catherine. As he walked down the hall, he couldn’t stop himself from grinning again. Despite all she’d been through, Emily had never once showed one ounce of fear at taking on the task of helping Devin keep Catherine safe. She also hadn’t let him easily charm her the way so many women Devin had met had. Though he wasn’t aware, Devin’s grin got wider as he remembered how she’d even called him a dingbat and taken him to task for his lack of a plan. She might be small, but Emily had more courage and “spunk” than many grown men he’d met.

 

Devin arrived at the door to Vincent’s chamber and paused, listening for any sound. When he heard nothing, he quietly drew nearer and peered cautiously in. The sight he saw brought his grin back. Catherine and Vincent were curled up in each other’s arms, lying in the middle of Vincent’s bed. Catherine was tucked close to Vincent, who had entwined his whole body protectively around her. Catherine appeared to be asleep, but as Devin stepped closer, Vincent opened his eyes and raised his head. The smile Vincent gave his brother was almost blinding in its joy. It lit his whole face and all his canines flashed in the candlelight, a testament to the depth of his emotions. Devin smiled back and silently withdrew, leaving the couple to their happiness.

 

Devin hadn’t been gone long when Emily heard a noise in the tunnel.

 

“Back already?”

 

But to her dismay, it wasn’t Devin who stood in the doorway. It was Father, the tunnel patriarch and leader. Judging from the stern look on his face, he was none too pleased to see her either.

 

“I’m afraid to disappoint you, young lady, if you were expecting someone else. Mouse came to my chamber a short while ago with a rather fanciful tale of having rescued Catherine with the help of a mysterious stranger who accompanied them Below. I was hoping it was a tale, but I came to see for myself. I now see that it wasn’t.”

 

Almost immediately, Emily had to fight the urge to fidget. She suddenly felt like a young child caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Though Roy Dotrice had a definite “screen presence” in the series, it didn’t do Father himself justice. In real life, the man was positively intimidating in spite of his minor disability. Emily found herself quite tongue-tied and at a loss for words.

 

“Would you care to explain your presence here?”

 

Emily’s eyes widened in alarm, unsure how to respond to his question.

 

“I can answer that,” a voice from the doorway interrupted.

 

Emily sagged with relief as she saw Devin had returned.

 

The sight that greeted Devin when he returned to the guest chamber had instantly “raised his hackles.” Father was looming there trying to browbeat poor Emily, who looked like a deer caught in the glare of a car’s headlights. Devin knew from experience it wasn’t a pleasant place to be. Immediately he’d realized he needed to act quickly.

 

“I see you two have met,” Devin commented, desperately trying to appear at ease. “I wanted to do this later after Emily had settled in, but I guess there’s no reason to put it off any longer.” Summoning all his skills of deception, Devin looked his Father straight in the eye and lied shamelessly. “Father, this is Emily Trelane, my fiancée.”

 

It was a good thing Father was looking at Devin and not Emily. If he had been, he might have noticed that Devin’s “fiancée” appeared as shocked by the announcement as he was.

Emily managed to recover herself and promptly closed her mouth. Putting on her best “nurse” face, she managed to appear calm, but inwardly she was seething. If this was an example of how Devin “winged it,” they were doomed!

 

Devin moved over to stand next to Emily, deliberately pulling her to his side and putting his arm around her shoulder as he did. Reassuringly, he gave her shoulder an unobtrusive squeeze. “Emily, this is my Father, Dr. Jacob Wells.”

 

Though Emily’s stomach was rolling with trepidation about Devin’s so called “plan,” she decided it was too late to back out now. She had no choice but to go along. “I’m pleased to meet you, sir,” she offered quietly.

 

Father recovered from his shock as well. “I must say, this is unexpected. I am … er, pleased to meet you as well, my dear.” Unfortunately, his expression made it quite clear he wasn’t. “Devin, may I see you outside?” Father posed, trying vainly to sound calm.

 

“It’s okay, Pop. You can say whatever you need to right here. Emily and I have no secrets from each other, do we honey?” Devin maintained.

 

“None?” Father couldn’t help but challenge. He was still irritated with Devin for circumventing his authority by bringing this intruder Below without permission.

 

“None! I’ve told Emily everything about me, even my past.”

 

“I see. And does she know that you’ve broken some of our most sacred rules by bringing her here without the Council’s permission?” Father went on.

 

“You can’t blame Emily for that! Someone tried to kill Catherine today! If Emily hadn’t been there, they would have! She risked her own life to save Catherine. The problem is they probably saw her. Now her life is in danger too. She had to come Below; she had no choice!”

 

“And she just happened to be there?” Father commented skeptically.

 

“YES!” Devin practically shouted.

 

“No,” Emily countered softly, stunning both men silent for a moment.

 

At first, Emily had been intimidated into silence by Father’s presence. But as the older man had begun to interrogate his son, Emily’s temper had flared up again.

 

Come on! You’ve seen every episode at least a dozen times, Emily! Think, damn it! There has to be something you can come up with that will sound plausible!

 

Taking a deep breath, Emily decided to follow Devin’s lead and began to improvise.

 

“I was on my way to see Catherine when I ran across her and her attackers.” Behind her back, Emily crossed her fingers and sent a silent apology to the heavens for lying. “I work at the hospital. I’m an E.R. nurse. But I wasn’t on duty the night Joe Maxwell was brought in.” That much of her story was at least true. Emily was a nurse and she did work in a hospital. She only hoped they didn’t ask her which one, since she had no idea which one Joe Maxwell had been taken to.

 

“Today as I was getting off my shift, I heard about two men who were at the hospital asking a lot of questions about the night Mr. Maxwell was brought in and offering money for the information. Someone on duty that night told them that Catherine had taken a black book from his personal effects. When I heard them mention her name, I decided to follow them.” Desperately, Emily hoped she sounded convincing.

 

“One of them snuck into one of the empty offices and made a phone call. I overheard him call John Moreno, Catherine’s boss, and tell him that they were on their way to get her. He said the person they worked for, someone called Gabriel, wanted the book and Catherine. The man told Moreno to do whatever it took to get them. If he couldn’t, their job was to make sure Catherine could never reveal what she knew.” Emily didn’t specifically say that they intended to kill Catherine, but the implication was clear.

 

Throughout her narrative, Father had remained silent, but his expression had grown increasingly more serious. Evidently, he must have believed her, because what he said next betrayed no sign that he suspected she was lying.

 

“My God!” he breathed softly. “I had no idea. Well, we were fortunate that you were there. Otherwise, who knows what might have happened?” His expression softened visibly as his affection for his son began to show at last. “I should have known nothing could be simple where you’re concerned, Devin.”

 

“Well, at least it’s never dull,” Devin quipped in reply. “Does this mean we’re forgiven?”

 

Father sighed heavily. “I suppose, under the circumstances, the usual rules can be waived.” It was obviously not the first time he’d done so where Devin was concerned.

 

“Thanks, Pop!” Devin said enthusiastically as he hugged his parent. “You won’t regret this.”

 

Father returned the hug eagerly. It was plain to Emily that he loved his son very much.

 

As he drew away from the hug almost reluctantly, the older gentleman assumed his gruff demeanor once more. “I still expect a full explanation. I will see you both later in my chambers,” he ordered with mock sternness.

 

“Sure thing. Right after Emily gets settled in.”

 

The tunnel patriarch turned to leave, but Devin intercepted him. “Listen, I think maybe you should talk to Vincent and Catherine as well. Not now, they’re resting, but definitely later. They have something they need to discuss with you.”

 

“What is it?”

 

Devin’s grin took on a wicked gleam. “Sorry, Father. That’s one piece of news I wouldn’t deprive my brother of delivering for the world. I just want to be there when he does.”

 

 

Chapter 8

 

Devin walked Father out, giving Emily a moment to herself. She let out a slow long breath that was half irritation, half relief. Devin’s harebrained idea of claiming her as his fiancée had actually worked, much to Emily’s astonishment. She wasn’t quite sure whether to be thankful or furious. But she strongly suspected that she was in for more trouble, especially where Devin was concerned. As if in answer to her speculation, he appeared in the doorway, a smug smirk firmly on his face. With a loud whoop, he swept Emily up and twirled her around before setting her back on solid ground. “Em, you were fantastic!!” he exclaimed, but quickly lowered his voice. “I can’t believe we did it! We actually put one over on the old man! That stuff about St. Clare’s was brilliant!”

 

“St. Clare’s?” she asked distractedly.

 

“Yeah, the hospital where they took Maxwell. Vincent told me about it.”

 

Emily wrinkled her nose sheepishly. “Oh, I didn’t know. I was just bluffing.”

 

Devin grinned again. “I thought you knew all about us.”

 

“Well, I tend to avoid that episode,” she admitted. “It’s the one where … you know. I honestly didn’t remember what the name was. I’m just glad Father didn’t ask which hospital!”

 

“Wow, you made that all up? Are you kidding me?” Devin couldn’t help being impressed.

 

Emily rolled her eyes. “Devin, I’m from Atlanta. I’ve never even been to New York before today. I just can’t believe Father bought it! Normally I’m a terrible liar!”

 

“Could have fooled me. And here I thought I was the con man,” he joked.

 

At the mention of Devin’s rather dubious past, Emily remembered something she’d been meaning to ask him. “Devin, can I ask you something else?”

 

“More questions? Hasn’t anyone ever told you about curiosity and the cat?” Devin simply couldn’t resist teasing Emily. It was almost as much fun as teasing Vincent.

 

“Hey, I just wanted to ask you about Charles,” Emily protested.

 

Devin’s face lost some of his mirth. “Oh, you know about him too. Actually, he’s upstate in a private specialty hospital Catherine and Peter Alcott found for him. He’s developed some serious health problems and he needs a lot more care now. He misses being on the road with me, but the place is great! It’s got trees and a garden. The staff is specially trained to deal with neurofibromatosis and other conditions like it. The doctors and nurses there all love him.”

 

“But you miss him,” Emily observed shrewdly.

 

Devin’s smile had a touch of sadness. “Yeah, I guess I do. But Charles and I got to see and do so much. You can’t imagine what it was like seeing the look on his face when he saw the Rockies for the first time! At least he got to see some of the world before he got too sick.” Devin then grew very intense and took Emily’s hand in his own as if to drive his point home. ”Don’t you see, Emily? That’s why it’s so important to protect Catherine and this baby. I couldn’t give the world out there to my brother; but I can give him this gift. This is Vincent’s chance to at least know some real joy and happiness by having a family of his own. And NOTHING is going to deprive him of that if I can help it!”

 

The expression on Devin’s face was so fierce that it gave Emily pause. She had no doubt at that moment that he meant every word he said. She pitied anybody who got in his way. She only hoped that Father wouldn’t present too much of an obstacle for Vincent and Catherine. She had a feeling the poor man wouldn’t know what hit him if he did.

 

By mutual agreement, the pair decided to part for a bit. Devin felt Emily could use a breather from all the excitement of the day and he also wanted to speak with Vincent before Father did.  

 

“Hey, you must be tired. I should get going .…” Devin’s voice trailed off as the pipes suddenly began to almost ring with an urgent message. “Oh, no!” Quickly he dashed for the door.

 

“What? What?” Emily cried as she struggled to keep up with him in the tunnel. She had followed Devin and wasn’t about to be left behind.

 

“Fire in the kitchen! Sounds like people have been injured!”

 

“I’m going too! Father may need some help.” Slowing down, Devin caught her hand and swiftly led the way to the hospital chamber.

 

Emily’s comment proved to be oddly prophetic. Devin and Emily arrived at the hospital chamber only to find it full of casualties. Though none of the injuries appeared to be very serious, Father had his hands full. It certainly didn’t help matters that Mary, his regular assistant, was among the injured.

 

Mary was crying at the side of  the burley William who had also been injured on one of his arms.

 

“Oh, William!” Mary sobbed. “Father, please tell me he’s going to be all right.”

 

“Now, now, Mary, honey. I’ll be just fine. It’s worse than it looks,” William consoled the distraught Mary, slipping his uninjured arm around the small woman and dropping a kiss on her brow for good measure.

 

Devin and Emily had identical expressions of surprise as they both regarded the tender exchange. However Father soon interrupted. “Devin, hand me that basin, will you?”

 

But it was Emily who stepped up to help. ”Yes, Doctor,” she replied without thinking.

 

Father quirked an eyebrow and Emily grinned sheepishly. “Sorry, force of habit.” Without another word he turned back to his patient, but Devin noticed him fighting a smile.

 

With Emily’s help, Father quickly tended the rest of the patients, including William and Mary, all of whom were not grievously hurt. Most everyone had minor scrapes and cuts incurred in the confusion.

 

Devin arrived back in the hospital chamber, having left earlier while Emily and Father were working. “I just spoke to Vincent, Pop. He’s overseeing things in the kitchen right now. The fire’s out and there’s only minimal damage. We’re lucky more people weren’t hurt.”

 

“This is my fault, Father,” the tunnel cook announced. ”One of the Helpers sent down an old camping stove. I knew I should have had Cullen or Mouse check it first, but it seemed fine to me. There must have been a leak though. No sooner had I lit it and stepped away than the thing blew up. If it hadn’t been for Mary’s quick thinking, I’d have injured more than just my arm. She got burned dousing the flames on me. I’m sorry you were hurt, sweetie.”

 

 Mary blushed and batted her lashes as she replied, “That’s all right, William, dear. I’m just glad you weren’t seriously hurt.”

 

“How long has this been going on?” Devin asked Father quietly as he indicated what he meant by a tilt of his head in the direction of the older couple.

 

“Hmm?” Father commented as he put away some of the medical equipment. “Oh, you mean William and Mary? Why those two have been paramours for years. I thought everyone knew,” he finished nonchalantly.

 

“Obviously not everyone!” Devin muttered under his breath.

 

 

Chapter 9

 

Later, Emily headed for the dining chamber full of apprehension. Rebecca had come to the guest chamber not long after Devin left to aid in the fire clean-up and offered to show Emily where she could freshen up.  

 

 “I’m sorry I didn’t speak to you earlier, Emily. Things were a bit chaotic. I’m Rebecca. Mary wanted me to thank you for helping Father today on her behalf. I understand you’re a nurse.”

 

At Emily’s surprised look, Rebecca laughed. “Don’t look so shocked. Word tends to get around pretty quickly here. Think nothing of it. We’re all family.”

 

“I know,” Emily remarked to herself, or so she thought.

 

“Oh, Devin told you, did he? Well, I hope he warned you that we can also be like any other family.” Rebecca sighed. “I hope you aren’t too sensitive, Emily. I feel it’s only fair to warn you that you may get some serious teasing tonight at dinner. Devin has always been a bit of a joker and some folks may be planning on some good-natured revenge for his past deeds. Cullen in particular is looking forward to it.”

 

“You grew up in the tunnels, didn’t you, Rebecca? Was Devin a handful back then?” She couldn’t resist asking.

 

“And how!” Rebecca laughed again.  “Every time he got into trouble you could hear Father bellow ‘DEVIN!’ all over the tunnels.”

 

Now clean and dressed in a tunnel gown, Emily made her way down the passage Rebecca had indicated earlier. She was almost there when a familiar voice called her name softly. “Emily.” It was Vincent. As he approached her, she noticed Catherine was at his side.

 

“I’m glad to see you again, Emily. I wanted to thank you for helping Catherine today. I’m sorry I didn’t do so earlier, but I was busy helping with the fire clean-up.”

 

“Devin told us about you and him,” Catherine added as she hugged Emily. “I’m grateful for what you did for us. You risked your own life to save mine. I can never repay you for that.”

 

“Nor can I,” Vincent echoed as he awkwardly bent to embrace the small woman.

 

Embarrassed, Emily shrugged. “Anyone could have done it. I’m just glad I could help. Umm, there is one thing though …” Emily reluctantly admitted. “I apologize for that outburst earlier about you being so tall. I’m afraid I’ve always been on the short side. I’ve always felt a bit like Arriety Clock.”

 

In response, Vincent smiled broadly. “There’s no need. I took no offense. And The Borrowers book series was one of my particular favorites growing up. I especially liked Arriety!”

 

On the way to the dining hall, Catherine asked Emily something that had been bothering her for a few hours. Predictably, she wondered how Emily had known she was pregnant. This time Emily didn’t have to improvise since she had already planned ahead, knowing the question was bound to come up. Once again, she hated to lie, but knew the truth was too fantastic to believe.

 

‘When I heard about the two men at the hospital, I thought about calling to warn you.  But since I didn’t know your number, I took a chance and ran your name through the hospital database. The test results were in your records from the night you donated blood.”  Once again, her explanation was accepted without question.

 

Before long, Vincent, Catherine, and Emily emerged into a large, well-lit chamber ablaze with candles. Large wooden tables and benches were lined up in neat rows next to a huge sideboard that was virtually overflowing with food. Everyone was helping themselves and the whole room seemed to buzz with a friendly energy.

 

"Sorry, folks. Potluck tonight until the kitchen is back to normal," William announced.

 

Across the room, Devin noticed Emily’s arrival and felt his pulse quicken. He could hardly believe he had only met this petite woman earlier that day, yet she’d managed to turn his whole life upside down in that short time. She’d known all his secrets including his rather dubious past, yet she’d trusted him implicitly. Somehow this tiny lady had slipped past his considerable defenses and wormed her way into his affections with alarming speed. Devin had never believed in love at first sight but he was beginning to reassess his position.

 

“Hey, Devin! Your better half is here!” Cullen called loudly for all to hear.

 

“So are Catherine and Vincent,” Mouse remarked as well.

 

“And just where have you two been hiding? We haven’t seen you all day,” Cullen teased the lovers. “A little Mouse says you had a top secret meeting with Father today.”

 

Catherine blushed and Vincent stiffened. Emily correctly guessed that they were not yet ready for their secret to be revealed. Automatically, her eyes flew to Devin.

 

Cullen may not have noticed the couple’s discomfort, but Devin did. As Emily’s gaze flew to his, he smiled wickedly and decided to come to their rescue.

 

“Where have you been, Cullen? Didn’t you hear? I’m getting married. We can’t do that without a best man and a maid of honor, can we?” he shot back.

 

Emily’s eyes rose at Devin’s pronouncement, but the news was met with a rousing cheer. Devin smiled wickedly, confident all attention was now on his coming fictional nuptials.

 

After the meal, most of the tunnel residents lingered. They were all quite curious about the newcomer in their midst and how she came to capture the heart of Father’s “prodigal son.”

 

“There’s not much to tell,” Devin commented. “I was doing some construction work in the city to pick up some cash when I got hurt. I ended up going to the E.R. and Emily was on duty. It was love at first sight.  Our eyes met and Emily and I fell head over heels. We had our first date that same day. It was real romantic, wasn’t it, babe?” Devin grinned devilishly, knowing he was pushing his luck yet again. He knew Emily had no choice but to agree with him, yet he found himself deliberately wanted to see how much she’d let him get away with and how far he could push her. Smirking, he leaned back and propped his feet up as he looked for all the world like the proverbial “cat that ate the canary.”

 

Cullen snorted derisively. “Sounds too good to be true. Was that how it happened, Emily?”

 

Emily shot Devin a malevolent look. He knew darn well she couldn’t contradict him without putting their plan in jeopardy. But that didn’t mean she was going to let him get away with the overly sentimental baloney he was dishing out.

 

“Well, he did come into the E.R. and I was on duty. But as for the rest ….” Emily folded her arms and gave Devin a smile dripping with fake sweetness. “Actually, Devin hung around until my shift was over. He kept pestering me to go out with him and even followed me out to my car. I agreed to go out with him just to get him to stop bugging me. Our date, if you can call it that, was in the coffee shop at the hospital.”

 

Across the room, Devin grinned widely. It pleased him to no end that she had indeed not let his overly sappy story pass unchallenged. Though it was only a fantasy, Devin found himself getting caught up in the game. “Hey, I bought pie!” he protested good-naturedly.

 

The crowd looked to Emily for confirmation. “One piece. Two forks.”

 

“What did I tell you? Romantic, huh?” Devin replied.

 

 

Chapter 10

 

The rest of the evening had been very jovial. Even Father had joined in, telling a few tales of Devin and Vincent’s childhood antics. It had been a very pleasant evening. Yet Emily still couldn’t help feeling a little unsettled, especially when she caught Father looking at her twice with a strange expression on his face. Finally, Devin had walked her back to the guest chamber. Maybe it was her imagination, but Devin seemed almost reluctant to leave her.

 

“You were great tonight, Emily. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you going through all this. I know it can’t be easy for you.”

 

If you only knew, she thought, but merely smiled and said, “It’s no problem. I’m just glad everything is working out. I guess this is good night.”

 

“Well, good night,” he replied before slowly departing.

 

After he had gone, Emily sat down on the bed, finally alone at last. She was exhausted, but the events of the day left her entirely too keyed up to sleep. Though it seemed a lifetime, she realized, much to her surprise, that she had only been in the tunnels for barely a day. Maybe it was her passion for the program or her familiarity with the people themselves, but Emily realized that somehow in the past few hours she had stopped thinking of all this as merely a TV show. This place and these people had become real to her and she found herself caring what happened to them more than she wanted to admit. Whatever happened, she knew now she would do whatever she could to prevent the tragedy of Season 3 from repeating itself.

 

A short distance away, someone else was having trouble getting to sleep as well.  Devin was in bed trying to get a hold on his wayward emotions and runaway thoughts. It had taken all his willpower not to sweep Emily up and plant a kiss on her diminutive mouth right there in the guest chamber. Though their engagement was a ruse, he couldn’t help almost wishing it weren’t. In spite of only knowing her for less than a day, she was making Devin feel things he never had before. Always with other women, Devin had kept up a front, never allowing them to see his true self and unable to speak of his past. The only time he had ever gotten close enough to a woman to even contemplate telling her the truth about himself, it had ended badly when she found he wasn’t the person he pretended to be.

 Since then, he’d never allowed anyone except Charles to ever get close to him emotionally again. But Emily was different. She knew all his secrets, yet she still trusted him, even going along with his schemes when he wasn’t sure how they’d turn out. Her faith in him made him want to do things the right way instead of taking the easy road as he always had before. It was a daunting notion. But it certainly promised to be very interesting, to say the least.

 

* * *

 

The next week passed with amazing swiftness for Emily, but her days were happy ones. She was quickly welcomed into the community with an enthusiasm and hospitality she had rarely ever known.

 Though Emily wasn’t very domestic, she still managed to make herself useful and found ways to contribute to the community as best as she could, always offering an extra pair of hands when needed.

 

She particularly enjoyed spending time with Devin. He was forever hanging around under the guise of being her attentive “fiancé.” It wasn’t long before Emily found herself falling quite hard for his brash manner and suave good looks in spite of her resolve not to. Devin didn’t strike her as the type for a serious relationship and heaven only knew how things were going to turn out for her.

 

Perhaps the most rewarding thing for Emily was watching the relationship between Vincent and Catherine develop as it was obviously meant to.  Anyone could easily see that the two of them were very much in love. Since her escape from John Moreno’s trap, Catherine had spent every night in Vincent’s chamber. The lovers were always in each other’s company, holding hands and sharing tender touches. Vincent overcame his earlier reticence and now embraced Catherine openly, heedless of whether anyone was watching.

 

Catherine blossomed under Vincent’s gentle care and constant attention. The lines of strain on her face quickly vanished and her skin now had a healthy glow. Predictably, the other tunnel residents quietly took notice, remarking to each other how they had never seen Vincent look happier or more at peace. It was obvious to everyone how having Catherine Below benefitted their beloved Vincent and her as well. Even the normally taciturn William spoke of it, boasting how he’d “finally managed to put some meat on Catherine’s bones.”

 

 

Chapter 11

 

Devin explained to Emily that Vincent and Catherine had decided, with Father’s consent, to postpone announcing their joyous news for a time. Though it would soon be obvious, both would-be parents felt they needed a little time together to adjust to their situation without the added pressures their news would bring.

 

Of course, it didn’t help that Gabriel and the issue of what to do with the black book also loomed large on the horizon.  Devin, Vincent, Father, Catherine, and Emily discussed at length what to do with the book. Several ideas were put forth but soon rejected. Luckily, with Emily’s help, Devin was able to persuade the group to reject any idea that might have inadvertently triggered more of the events from Season 3. Soon they came to an impasse and decided to table their discussion for a while.

 

 The answer, when it came, was just as bizarre as Emily’s arrival and equally as hard to believe. One day, Emily was standing next to Devin in Father’s chamber as he lounged around reading a days-old newspaper a Helper had sent Below. Suddenly a small ad in one corner caught Emily’s eye and had her snatching the paper violently away from him.

 

“Hey!” he protested.

 

“It can’t be! It just can’t be!” Emily veritably shrieked.

 

Curious, Devin looked over her shoulder at what she was looking at. It read “Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer at 212-555-4200.”

 

Seeing Father looking quizzically at them both, Devin dragged Emily out into the tunnel.

 

All the while, she kept up a monologue, none of which Devin understood. “It’s him! But he can’t be real, can he? But if the tunnels are real, I guess he could. Why not?”

 

“Emily, what are you talking about?” Devin interrupted.

 

“This is it, Devin! This is the answer to our problems! His name is Robert McCall. If anyone can take on Gabriel and beat him, he can!” she exclaimed.

 

Devin frowned. “Em, that sounds too easy. Who is this guy? How can you be sure we can trust him? What do you know about him?”

 

“Devin, remember when you asked me to trust you? Well, I’m asking you to trust me now. Believe me when I tell you he can help. He’s an ex-government agent with connections to people who know how to deal with men like Gabriel!”

 

Devin sighed. “OK. We don’t exactly have any other options, do we?”

 

It took a bit of fast talking to convince Father to allow Devin to call in an outsider, but Devin managed to convince them that he had heard of Robert McCall from some of the Helpers Above. Catherine reluctantly agreed to trust Mr. McCall. But when she mentioned meeting with him herself, the Wells men strenuously objected. Vincent didn’t want Catherine leaving the Tunnels, Devin felt it too risky and Father felt it should be he who met with Mr. McCall. Emily was relegated to the position of observer as Catherine verbally out-argued all three of them.

 

During the series, Catherine had rarely been seen in court. Now Emily was treated to a ringside seat as Catherine was in her element. In the end, Catherine managed to negotiate a suitable compromise. Devin would call Robert McCall and arrange a meeting at Henry and Lin Pei’s restaurant early one morning. Emily and Catherine would wait below in the basement guarded by Vincent while Father remained at the tunnel entrance to summon help if anything went wrong. The only thing that remained was to contact the man himself and wait for the meeting.

 

Two days later, Devin sat in the restaurant as a sleek black Jaguar XJ6 drove up to the curb. The night before, Vincent had gone to Catherine’s apartment and retrieved the black book from its hiding place in a secret niche in the fireplace. A tall, distinguished man emerged from the car and proceeded to cautiously take stock of his surroundings before making his way to the door. His clothes were well cut and expensive and he looked like an ordinary successful businessman in New York. But there was something about the way he surveyed the area that spoke of a man of action as well as caution. His bearing and demeanor made him appear ready for trouble and more than able to deal with it if it came.

 

For a moment, he almost reminded Devin of Father, but as Robert McCall drew closer, he realized he was seriously mistaken. While this man was also older and looked equally imposing, there was none of the warmth Devin had come to associate with his parent. Robert McCall’s face was an expressionless mask and his eyes held an icy look that said he was not a man to be underestimated or taken lightly.

 

“Devin Wells?” Robert McCall asked sharply.

 

“Yes,” Devin answered, getting to his feet from the chair he sat in and offering his hand. “Thank you for coming, Mr. McCall. Will you take a seat?”

 

The man pointedly ignored Devin’s outstretched hand and replied curtly in a dangerously low voice, “I prefer to stand. You said you had some information that my former employer might find of interest. I think you should start by explain how you knew about me and who I worked for.”

 

“Well, I ... uh, can explain .…” Devin started nervously as he decided Emily had been right about Robert McCall. He looked positively menacing. If anyone could defeat Gabriel, it was this man.

 

Emily had been waiting in the basement with Catherine and Vincent, but the lovers were engrossed in each other, allowing her to sneak up to the top of the stairs and open the door. When she heard Robert McCall speak so coldly, she impulsively burst in. “Please, Mr. McCall! Don’t blame Devin. I’m the one who told him to call you and what to say.”

 

“Damn it, Em!” Devin snarled. “I told you to let me handle this!”

 

“Oh, right!” Emily shot back, rolling her eyes. “Another hare-brained Devin scheme; just what we need! Mr. McCall carries a gun! It would serve you right if he shot you, for heaven sakes!”

 

The Equalizer’s face softened a bit as he watched the two young people in front of him continue to bicker. Folding his arms, he relaxed a little as he judged himself to be in no immediate danger. He was still curious about why they had summoned him to this particular meeting, but for now their arguing was proving quite entertaining.

 

He was about to interrupt when another young woman arrived on the scene. He recognized her instantly from the recent media reports about her.

 

“Catherine Chandler, assistant district attorney,” he remarked in satisfaction, knowing they were at last getting to the heart of the matter. “Your boss, John Moreno, has created quite a stir about your disappearance.”

 

“That’s ironic, considering that he’s one of the people I’m hiding from.”

 

“Catherine!” Emily and Devin both exclaimed in unison.

 

“No, I have to do this. It’s my responsibility and I think I can trust Mr. McCall,” she replied. “At least, Vincent thinks we can and that’s good enough for me.”

 

“I think I’ll take that seat now,” Mr. McCall said, smiling for the first time since he entered.

 

 

After inspecting the black book and Catherine’s notes, the Equalizer felt certain his government contacts could bring Moreno and Gabriel to justice quickly. He assured Catherine he would do all he could to make sure she was kept safe. Before departing, he even offered Catherine protection, which she declined.

 

When the group returned to the main tunnels, the atmosphere was jovial, almost festive. Without the specter of the black book hanging over them, Catherine and Vincent felt it was finally time make their happy announcement. Predictably, their news was welcomed with great joy. It wasn’t long before an impromptu celebration broke out. Everyone was quite happy, with one notable exception: Emily. Personally, she’d never been more miserable in her entire life. 

 

“Isn’t it wonderful, Em?” Devin commented. “It’s over now and that blasted book is out of our hair.”

 

“Yes,” Emily agreed, trying to smile.

 

To Devin, she sounded almost disappointed. “Hey, you should be glad. Emily. Catherine is safe and someone else can deal that bastard Gabriel. We should be celebrating!”

 

“Of course!” Emily agreed with false brightness. Truthfully, all she wanted to do was cry.

 

Emily excused herself and ran all the way back to the guest chamber. Once inside she broke down, crying for all she was worth.

 

It was over. Catherine was safe and the black book was in the hands of someone who could put it to good use. She should be ecstatic, but she wasn’t. Her whole presence here had been a deception. From the story about her employment to the tale about her engagement to Devin, her presence in the tunnels was based on subterfuge. Yet she’d grown fond of everyone Below. In a strange way, they almost felt like her family. As if that were not bad enough, Emily had done something very foolish. She’d fallen in love with Devin.

 

A soft footstep outside the chamber caught Emily’s attention. She quickly tried to hide her tears as the tunnel patriarch stepped quietly through the doorway.

 

“Emily, may I come in?” Father asked gently.

 

“Of course, Father,” Emily answered, hoping her voice sounded normal.

 

Father came over to the bed and sat down next to Emily. “I saw you left the celebration. Are you all right, my dear?”

 

Something in the concerned tone of Father’s voice struck a chord in Emily and the strain of keeping up the pretext quickly became too much for her. Suddenly she felt an overwhelming need to tell him the truth.

 

Turning to him, she choked up with emotion and began to babble out the truth. “No, Father, I’m not. I have something to tell you. I am not a nurse at St. Clare’s and Devin and I aren’t really engaged. It was a lie. Well, I am a nurse, but not at St Clare’s and .…”

 

To her surprise, Father smiled indulgently and took her hands gently into his ownas he cut her off. “Yes, Emily, I know.”

 

Emily was dumbfounded. “You do?! How?”

 

Father chuckled in response. “I am not the gullible old goat my son thinks I am. I knew you didn’t work at St. Clare’s that first day. I have a friend who has hospital privileges there. When he called, they informed him that there was not now nor has there ever been a nurse on staff named Emily Trelane.”

 

Emily winced and groaned as she guessed what had happened. “Peter!”

 

“Yes, Peter,” Father affirmed with a grin. “As for the rest of it, Devin told me himself less than an hour ago.”

 

“All of it?” She gaped in shock.

 

Father smiled widely. “Yes, all of it.”

 

“So I guess you don’t believe me.” She sighed.

 

“I believe you believe it,” he offered diplomatically.

 

“Oh, you think I’m crazy.”

 

Father became exasperated. “What I think is that, like Catherine, you are an intelligent, caring and independent young woman. That’s also why I didn’t believe any of that poppycock my son was spouting about you falling for him at first sight. You strike me as far too smart to be taken in that easily.”

 

“So what do you think, Father?” She simply had to know.

 

“I think you’ve suffered some trauma. My son mentioned you being attacked by a patient in the E.R.? I believe this idea of yours of seeing us portrayed on this show as you saw it was a way of your mind coping with that trauma.”

 

Emily snorted loudly. “And what about all that stuff I knew? The black book and Robert McCall?”

 

Father raised his eyebrows as he responded reluctantly, “Well, I’m willing to concede that, perhaps … you have some special … uh … gift similar to Vincent.”

 

Emily couldn’t help but smile. Trust Father to find a way to make the most unbelievable events sound perfectly rational.

 

“But that’s all unimportant, my dear. What is important is what your plans are now. That’s what I came to talk to you about. Won’t you consider staying?”

 

“I want to, Father. In fact, nothing would please me more. I don’t know why or how I got here, but I don’t want to go back to my old life. It no longer holds any appeal for me.”

 

 “Well, I know our little community doesn’t have much to offer in the way of luxuries, but there are people here who care about you. My son is one of them. He cares for you very deeply and unless I am mistaken, I think you care for him as well.” He offered helpfully.

 

Emily couldn’t help feeling quite sad. “I wish that were true, Father, but it isn’t. He was only pretending to care.”

 

“Don’t be so sure about that,” a voice from the doorway countered. It was Devin.

 

Father got to his feet and cleared his throat. “Well, I can see I’m not needed here anymore. I trust I can leave you to handle this, Devin.”

 

Devin grinned wickedly. “You know it, Pop.”

 

Father chuckled again and patted his son’s shoulder as he left the guest chamber.

 

Emily looked over at Devin curiously. “Did you really tell him everything?”

 

Devin smirked smugly. “Yep, only time I’ve ever confessed without being caught first. See, you’ve made an honest man out of me already.”

 

Devin crossed over and knelt in front of Emily. “Seriously, Em, I want you to stay. I know we were just pretending, but now I find myself wanting it to be for real. You make me feel things I never have. Will you stay?”

 

“On one condition.” Emily smiled impishly.

 

“Anything. Name it.” He grinned back.

 

“You promise never to try any of your devious tricks on me. I won’t stand for it!”

 

Devin tried hard to look offended. “Emily, would I lie to you?”

 

“In a heartbeat!” she retorted.

 

“Oh, my love, you know me too well.” Devin grinned as his mouth covered hers.

 

                                                       

Epilogue:

 

Winterfest that year was a celebration that would be talked about for years to come. It  also marked the wedding of not one but TWO of the Wells men and celebrated the announcement of another Wells family member soon to be added in the form of Vincent and Catherine’s child.

Some might have questioned the wisdom of a double wedding, but both couples felt it only made the experience more special and honored the deep bond the two brothers shared in spite of their long separation.

 

Almost every Helper, past and present, was there. No one wanted to be left out of such a momentous occasion.  In one corner, Father sat next to Robert McCall. Both were imbibing some of William’s best home brew made up special just for the occasion.

 

“You’re quite lucky, Jacob. Most men are rarely fortunate enough to get one lovely, intelligent young woman as a daughter-in-law. You’ve managed to get two and in the same day, no less,” Robert remarked.

 

The tunnel patriarch smiled widely in response. “Why, thank you, Robert. I can’t take all the credit. Vincent and Devin played their parts, of course.” He laughed as his new friend smiled. It was such a rare occurrence. “In truth, I’m glad to see them both finally settled. Frankly, I was beginning to think I’d never get those two married off.” The two men laughed heartily and shared another drink in toast to the happy couples.

 

Out on the dance floor, one pair was dancing. Devin leaned down and kissed Emily gently as he pulled her closer for the slow dance. “Happy, Mrs. Wells?”

 

“Ecstatic!” She sighed contentedly.

 

Devin smiled. “Looks like we’re not the only ones.” He nodded in the direction of his laughing brother and new sister-in-law. Vincent was resplendent in a high-neck ruffled shirt, tight-fitting blue over-tunic and thigh-high leather boots polished so brightly they shone. Catherine wore a shimmering gown of flowing white lace lovingly embroidered at the neck and sleeves with tiny pink roses by Mary herself. In her hair she wore a simple garland of flowers. She veritably glowed with health in spite of her advancing pregnancy.

 

Devin and Emily had opted for simplicity for their attire. Devin wore a white poet shirt and dark brown pants that offset the crème colored sheath of linen worn by his bride.

 

“So, what should we get the baby? We have to think about these things, you know. Being an aunt and uncle is serious business. Hey, maybe a big pink teddy bear!” Devin offered enthusiastically.

 

“Blue,” Emily corrected without thinking.

 

Devin stopped dancing and looked at her with a smirk. “Blue?”

 

Sighing, Emily nodded. Devin’s grin got larger. “Be right back, babe!”

 

“Devin, where are you going? It’s our wedding day, for heaven sake!” Emily cried in exasperation.

 

“It’s OK, Em,” He reassured her as he dropped a quick kiss on her mouth.” I just got to talk to Cullen. He’s got this pool going and he’s betting the baby is a girl. You can’t expect me to give up a sure thing like this!”

 

Emily shook her head and rolled her eyes at her new husband. Devin would never change.

 

“Say, you don’t happen to know what time the baby will come or his weight maybe? I hear William has a pool going as well.”

Some things (and people) in the Tunnels never changed!

 

The End