Author's Note: Here is my epilogue. I'm sorry it took so long in coming, but here it is, in time for Vincent's birthday. I probably should have changed the rating to "M," but it isn't too bad. If you don't want an "M" story, skip the last few paragraphs. Thanks for all the positive feedback! Enjoy!
One week after the naming ceremony, Catherine and Vincent relaxed among the pillows and blankets in the chamber underneath the concert stage in Central Park while Mozart's Symphony in F, No. 43 played over them. It wasn't private to them, but they did use the music chamber more than the rest of the Tunnel community. If the other members desired to hear a concert, they could easily melt into the crowd. For Vincent, it was a different matter, and so the Tunnel members always made other plans if they knew Vincent wanted to attend a concert in privacy.
This was their first outing since the Naming Ceremony, the first time they had done anything not related to healing and baby rearing since Vincent had stumbled out of Gabriel's clutches. The first days, they both just slept and ate and then slept again. If the baby needed tending, other than feeding, Mary or one of the other women took care of him. The entire community was fascinated with Vincent's baby. The teenaged girls were especially smitten.
Slowly, they both regained their strength. Catherine was completely recovered from the birth and her morphine over-dose. Sometimes, she felt fuzzy-headed and had difficulty with mathematics. But since she rarely had a need of arithmetic Below, it didn't bother her much. Vincent's wounds healed quickly, as he usually did. He said nothing more than, "Electrical burns," when Father asked what had happened to his hands. At the look on his face, Father had said no more and silently re-bandaged them. Catherine had helped him regain his range of motion by slowly bending each finger and then straightening it three times a day when the bandages were changed. Now, Vincent had full range of motion on both hands and the bullet wounds were completely scarred over.
While he was healing, Vincent began having nightmares of his time in the cage. He never said anything to Catherine or to Father, and in fact refused to discuss that time with anyone at all. But one night, after they had been home for about two weeks, she was up with the baby, nursing him in the chair near the bed. Suddenly, he was wrenched out of sleep and jumped out of bed. He was snatching his cloak off the hook by the door when her quiet voice reached him. "You can't keep running away from it, Vincent."
He paused at the door, looking at the back of her head, bent over the baby, and went out anyway. He ran the tunnels for several miles, then slowed to a walk. He found himself at the old entrance to Catherine's apartment building. The blue light that had come down from the elevator shaft was gone; Mouse and some of the others had sealed the entrance when Catherine had been returned to the Tunnels. He sat down heavily, breathing deeply as the images played over in his mind. He had dreamed of the time when Gabriel had played the images of him killing the guards over and over. The grotesque pictures and sounds drove him to a frenzy and he attacked Gabriel, ripping out his heart, then eating it while it still beat, dripping blood in his hand.
Vincent held his hands out in front of him, but they were clean. He had expected to see blood. He looked at his claws, then turned them over and looked at the fur on the backs. He turned them palm up and clenched them into fists. He took a deep breath and then leaned his head back against the tunnel wall. He wished he had ripped out that madman's heart. He wanted to feel his blood drip hot from his hands, his mouth. He wanted to watch the life-force drain from his face. What that man had done to Catherine, to him, to their son, was unforgivable.
And yet, Vincent had to forget. He was grateful for one thing, however. That torture had shown him that he could control his rages. He could think and feel. He had made a conscious choice to close his fist and not to slash with his claws. He hadn't killed anymore men that night. He felt confident that he could continue to protect his loved ones without killing. It was a relief to his very soul.
But, the torture and the evil and the hatred that man had exuded would not leave his mind. He could not stop reliving those horrible hours he was trapped in that cage.
Suddenly, his head came up and he was instantly alert. Footsteps were coming down the passageway. He jumped to his feet, ready to confront what came.
"Vincent?" Catherine's voice filled the passage. "Are you there?" She came around the corner, a lantern lighting her way.
"I'm here," he called. She walked to him and set the lantern down. She wrapped her arms around his waist. He pressed his face into her hair and held her tightly. "How did you find me? I'm not even certain of how I came to be here."
"Thomas saw you go this way." She stepped out of his arms and went over to the new wall. She traced the lines of the bricks with one finger. "It is sad to see it closed off, isn't it?"
"I suppose it only makes sense. No one else will be using it and keeping it open will only invite the curious." Vincent said nothing. "Mouse did a good job. You can hardly tell there was a hole here."
"Jamie and some of the others helped him. I asked them to do it after you were brought Below from the hospital."
Catherine nodded. "I miss our balcony, too."
"After some time has passed, we can find another special place."
Catherine went back to Vincent and grasped his waist. "Talk to me, Vincent. What is troubling you? What happened in Gabriel's house?"
He shook his head and pulled away. "No."
"You've been through so much, Catherine. I don't want to cause you anymore pain."
"Seeing you like this hurts me." He sighed and said nothing. "Can you speak to someone else? Father maybe? Or Pascal?"
"No," he said again.
"I won't push you, Vincent. But you need to discuss this. Talking about it can free it from your mind. Then, you'll stop reliving it in your dreams."
Vincent looked at her curiously. "How did...?"
"You were talking in your sleep."
She looked at him solemnly until he broke her gaze and looked away. "We should get back. The baby will want you."
"He is asleep and Father is listening for him." She stepped behind him, near enough to touch, but didn't. "I have bad dreams, too, Vincent."
"While you were gone, it was awful. Then you were back and fell unconscious. I had no idea what happened to you. Sometimes not knowing is worse than knowing the truth. Sometimes what I imagine is worse. Or, the not knowing if it's true is worse."
Vincent lowered his head and then turned to face her. "It was every fear I've ever had come true."
He sat down on the floor and pulled her down next to him. She wrapped her arms around him and laid her cheek against his breast. "Tell me."
He laid his head against hers. "I went to the roof where I had found you, like Diana's note had said. The helicopter returned and a gunman shot me three times. They were tranquilizing darts. Then everything went dark." He kissed her hair and continued. "When I awoke, I was chained to a wall in a cage. A doctor came and took blood from me. It was just like Father had said – they captured me, put me in a cage and 'studied' me. Gabriel came and tormented me with words. Then, he brought me the baby." Catherine squeezed herself tighter to him. "I cannot describe the feeling of holding him. He knew me, Catherine. He knew me and he had no reason to know me. He was crying when he was brought to me, but as soon as I picked him up, he stopped. He just looked at me and I, I was enchanted with him."
"I know the feeling."
"He is a special child." Vincent kissed her hair again. "I could feel him growing stronger through the night. I didn't feed him. I didn't change him or sing to him or any of the normal things you do with babies. I just held him and looked at him."
"And loved him," Catherine interrupted.
"He had been so ill and all he needed was to be loved. But as he grew stronger, it frightened Gabriel and he took him from me. And, then, the true torture began." Vincent's voice faded into the near darkness.
Catherine stroked the arm that held her, waiting for his words to come. He said nothing, just laid his head on hers and let his arms hold her against his chest. "Vincent?" Catherine asked quietly. He did not respond so she sat up, moved away from him and rose to her knees in front of him. He did not try to stop her and let his arms fall at his sides. His head bowed. She took his face in her hands and lifted it up so he looked at her. "Vincent." She leaned forward and kissed his lips firmly, then pulled back and looked into his eyes. Her face softened at his look and she leaned forward and kissed him again, softer, more intimate. She held his face firmly, afraid he would pull away, knowing they both needed this. So, she was surprised when, as the kiss ended, his arms came back around her, kept her close and kissed her again.
Catherine shifted off of her knees and sat on his lap as the kissing continued. Vincent grew bolder, stroking her lower lip with his tongue, moving to kiss her cheeks, her eyes, the curve of her jaw. He then moved back to her mouth and kissed her deeply. As this last kiss ended, he pulled her close, burying his face in the curve of her neck. "Catherine," he huffed.
"Oh, Vincent," Catherine murmured. They held each other for long minutes as their breathing slowed. "Tell me, now," she said.
Vincent sighed and shifted Catherine more comfortably on his lap. "We played a sort of 'cat and mouse' game. He had me trapped in that cage with cameras trained on me. I had shortly pulled the chains out of the wall, but the bars of the cage were electrified and, whenever I touched them, I was burned."
"Your hands," she whispered.
"Not at first," Vincent said. "I could feel the baby, feel him growing stronger despite our separation. It bothered Gabriel. He kept coming downstairs to me, telling me things. He tossed that ring back to me and told me Diana was dead. I would speak to him through the cameras. I told him that my bond with our son was growing and I think it drove him crazy. But it was true. Our son needed nothing that Gabriel could give him; he only needed to be loved. Then, he came down with two men with guns and had them fire into the cage."
Involuntarily, Catherine gasped and held him tighter.
"He must have told them not to aim at me, but they fired several shots. At first, I thought he wanted me dead because the baby responded so well to me, but that was not the case. It was another form of cruel torture. But, I refused to let him see my fear. When the air cleared, he was looking at me, anxiously, hoping to see some sort of fear or capitulation. I did not. He could kill me, but I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of breaking me. Then, he showed me the film."
"Do you remember when you sent the message through the pipes and I nearly found you?"
"He had filmed me, breaking through the wall, attacking the guards, killing them."
"He showed me that, on a continuous loop, over and over. It was loud and the images filled the basement. No matter where I looked, I had to watch it."
"Oh, Vincent," Catherine murmured and kissed his brow and cheeks and lips. "I'm so sorry."
"It wasn't entirely bad. I had never seen myself in that state before. I realized that all it was was my feelings, my emotions being expressed without reason or censorship. I was frightened and I struck out blindly, without thought. And after awhile, I realized that I could still feel fear, anger, passion but not let it over-take me. In a way, his torture gave me a gift."
"I always knew that."
Vincent kissed her forehead then tucked her head back into the crook of his neck. "There is more." She nodded into his neck. "Can you hear it?"
"Can you tell me?"
Vincent took a deep breath and nodded. "After awhile, I have no idea how long, the pictures changed. He showed me the baby. He was happy, cooing and kicking his legs, you know how he does? And he was looking into the camera as if he knew I was looking at him. Then Gabriel came back in. He claimed to be showing me mercy. He let the doctor into the cage, saying he needed another blood sample. As the doctor drew my blood, he spoke of you and how you both had known how beautiful the baby was. He said he had let you hold him, which I knew to be a lie. Then, he said that he was sorry about your death, but it was the doctor who had killed you. I admit I became enraged. I knew you were alive, but also knew how close you had come to death. But, then I saw the doctor and I knew he had only acted on Gabriel's orders. He was a weak man."
"Gabriel ordered me to kill him, to take my revenge, but I couldn't. I wouldn't. So, he had his gunmen shoot him."
"Oh, God. Right in front of you?" Vincent nodded. "I remember him. I always thought he had more sympathy for me than any of the others. When he gave me the injection, he told me he was sorry, but I wouldn't suffer. But knowing I was dying, leaving you and the baby? It was exquisite torture."
Vincent kissed her. "We should go back. You are still weak and my hands are not completely healed."
"No, you should finish it."
"I know there is more."
Slowly Vincent nodded. "There is."
"I could feel tension in the house. Something was happening. Gabriel was uneasy, but somewhat gleeful, excited as well. It was like he had descended into a new level of madness. He told me the police were coming. I didn't care. He thought they would kill me or just leave me in another cage. I didn't care. He couldn't control me anymore, despite keeping me in that cage. Then, he left me. I didn't know what was happening, but I was worried. I began to feel stronger. I hadn't eaten or drank in more than twenty-four hours, but the fear, the strength of the Other began to fill me. I knew we could work together."
"Suddenly I felt a fear and a struggle coming from the baby. Something was happening. I had to get to him, I had to save him."
"How?" she asked. Vincent turned his palms over in her lap and they both looked at them. "Electrical burns," Catherine said quietly.
"A guard came down and tried to increase the current, but I pulled the door off before he could. He aimed his gun at me, but I knocked it out of his hands and pushed him to the side. I don't think I seriously injured him."
"I was frantic. The fear coming from the baby turned to frenzy. I ran up to his room. I followed my sense of him and went right to him, just like I was able to do with you. When I entered his room, Gabriel was leaning over the bed, with a pillow over the baby's face."
"Oh, my God." Catherine finally let the tears flow down her cheeks.
"I wanted to kill him. The need for revenge burned in my breast. I snatched him away from the crib and threw him across the room. He fell to the floor and he laid there, staring up at me. There was no fear in his face, just a grim satisfaction. I didn't care. I was about to strike him again when a voice called to me."
"Who was it?"
"The woman, Diana Bennett. She said that the baby was crying." Catherine squeezed his hands gently. "And he was. At her words, all my rage disappeared and I went to the baby. I snarled at that evil man one more time, but I never looked at him again. She told me there was an exit in the basement. I went there directly and took the baby to you."
"Joe's note said Gabriel was dead. It wasn't you?"
"No. I wish it had been. I dream of it."
"It must have been her."
They sat in silence, holding each other, stroking arms or chests or hair and kissing softly every now and then. Catherine began to nod off in his arms. Finally, he spoke. "Catherine?"
"Hm?" she roused.
"Now, we must go back. The baby is hungry. And I think I can sleep now."
They rose and Vincent made to pick up the lantern, but Catherine stayed his hand. "I'll carry it." They began to walk back to the home tunnels. "We must think of a name."
"What?" Vincent asked.
"Father said the naming ceremony should be soon. Typically, the baby is six weeks old. In light of recent circumstances, he thinks we should delay until he is eight weeks. But, we must think of a name."
They walked in silence for several minutes. Vincent spoke. "He has two grandfathers. Should we name him for them?"
"Jacob Charles or Charles Jacob?" Catherine asked with a slight smile.
"Let's ask him" Vincent smiled back.
And Jacob Charles it had been. Vincent's nightmares faded as did Catherine's. They had healed, physically, completely. Vincent had resumed his teaching duties, but did not go on the heavy work details yet. Father did not want him to over-exert himself and both he and Catherine still were nervous when he was not nearby. Catherine discussed beginning a Government class for the older students and volunteered to give legal advice to Tunnel dwellers who needed it. It went without saying that she could not legally represent anyone, but the advice would be helpful.
As time passed, Peter began proceedings to have Catherine declared legally dead. Once that occurred, he could release her assets. She wanted to establish scholarships for the children that wished to attend college or go to a trade school. She also wanted to provide funds for the daily needs of the community. Father was reluctant to accept everything she wanted to give, but since the arrival of his grandson and namesake, he was easier to convince.
Joe and Diana continued to work together to tie up the loose ends of the case. He was reluctant to let any of the ADA's take over, but he did utilize the investigators. The police department had several officers resign and no questions were asked. Jonathan Pope was still at large, but the net was tightening. He was confident the case could be closed within six months, but with Catherine remaining Below and officially still missing Above, presumed dead, he did not feel extreme pressure as he had before Catherine and the baby had been found. Diana was fascinated with the Tunnel world and Joe begrudgingly admired it as well. They were both on their way to becoming helpers. Life was returning to a new normal, Above and Below.
So now, Catherine and Vincent sat in the music chamber, a place they had spent many delightful hours, listening to the Mozart Symphony. Catherine had nursed baby Jacob then handed him to Vincent while she tied up the lacings of her dress. He expertly burped him and rocked him gently, looking into his eyes. Catherine sat back and watched them. Jacob locked his eyes on his father, but then began the slow blinking that so often heralded slumber. Soon, he was asleep and Vincent stroked his forehead. Then, he kissed him, tucked him into the Moses basket and laid him off to one side. Catherine snuggled closer to Vincent and his arms went around her automatically.
"Happy?" she asked.
"Mmm, yes. I never thought to be so happy."
"Who knew this dream would come true?"
"Yes, but," Vincent began.
"What, Vincent?" Catherine asked gently.
Vincent turned and looked over at the sleeping baby. "I wish I could remember."
"Remember what?" Vincent turned to her with a knowing look. She looked down, blushing a little. "That time has still not returned to you?"
"No. I wish I could remember, but I cannot."
"In a way, I'm glad you cannot remember."
"I was desperate. I thought you were dead. It was beautiful, but it began in desperation and fear. I'm glad you don't remember that."
"I want to remember something!"
"Oh, Vincent," she murmured. "You've tried so hard."
"Everything else has come back to me. It has been nearly a year. Father and Peter doubt that time will ever return to me."
"Do you want me to tell you?"
"I'm not sure."
"Or..." She stopped, unsure.
"Or?" he asked.
"I could show you."
"Catherine," he breathed.
She sat up and began to unfasten his vest. When it fell open, she began to untie the lacings of his shirt. He captured her hands. "Catherine," he said again.
"We've come so far, Vincent," she whispered. "You deserve love. You deserve a happy life. We both do. Let us live it, fully, completely."
She leaned forward and kissed his mouth. He tentatively returned the kiss. Catherine moved her hands from his face, down his neck to his chest, revealed by his open shirt. She stroked the hair on his chest and kissed him again. His hands came up and rested above her hips, holding her loosely. Catherine slipped her hands lower, inside his shirt.
"Catherine," he gasped.
"Yes?" she asked. She sat back, but kept her hands on him. "Shall I stop?"
He shook his head.
He shook his head again, staring into her eyes. She moved her hands to the front of her dress and untied the lacings again. She slid neck open wider and pushed the dress off her shoulders. It fell to her waist. Vincent had seen glimpses of her breasts when she nursed Jacob. But never had he seen her, naked to the waist, looking at him with such passion. He swallowed and allowed his hands to rise. He stopped just below her breasts and watched as a drop of milk accumulated on the tip of one nipple. He caught it with his finger and tasted it. Then he leaned forward and licked her nipple clean.
Catherine shuddered. She remembered when she had cut her hand pruning a rose bush and he had kissed the blood from her palm. How much more erotic was it to have him lap the milk from her breast? She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him again, passionately. She sucked on his lower lip and then delved into the cleft of his upper with her tongue. Vincent moaned and pulled her closer, relishing the taste of her mouth and the feel of her naked flesh against his.
Catherine's hands slipped off his shoulders and drifted down to his waist. She pulled his shirt tails out of his trousers and ran her hands up and down his naked back. "Catherine," Vincent growled.
She sat back and looked deep into his eyes. Her breathing was faster than usual. She licked her lower lip and kissed him again. She moved her hands to his intricate belt and began to unfasten it. She let it fall to the side and opened his trousers, exposing his arousal. She took him in her hand and squeezed him gently as he hissed in surprise and closed his eyes. Catherine moved then, shifting her skirt and sitting astride his lap. She positioned him and then whispered his name.
Vincent opened hooded eyes and looked at her. "It was like this," she said quietly and then pressed down, taking him deep inside her. At the sensation, Vincent's eyes rolled shut. He clutched her thighs in his hands, thrust upwards twice and came inside of her. She shivered at the feeling, then laid on his chest.
After a moment, his hands released her thighs and came up to caress her hair and her back. "Catherine?"
"Hmm?" she asked, dreamily.
"That was nice."
She smiled at his choice of words. "Mm-hm." She rubbed her face into his neck and then her breasts into his chest.
"Was that all?"
Catherine pressed a kiss to the base of his neck. "You were exhausted. You sort of collapsed again, but you weren't unconscious. I held you until Father came."
"He won't be coming now, will he?" His hands moved smoothly over her back, up into her hair and back down to her hips.
Catherine smiled into his neck and kissed him there again. "No."
Vincent's hands moved back up to her head and cupped her face, pulling her back so he could see her. He leaned up and kissed her lips, gently at first and then more passionately, opening her mouth and tasting her. Catherine moaned quietly and clutched him to her. He began to shift his hips and she squeezed her thighs tighter around him.
Suddenly, he flipped her over without dislodging himself and ground his hips into hers. He pulled away from her mouth and spread frantic kisses over her face – her brow, her eyelids, her cheeks, her nose.
"Catherine," he breathed. "I can feel you."
She giggled a little and raised her hips up into his. "I feel you too, Vincent."
"No." He pulled back and pressed a hand over his heart. "I feel you here. I feel the feelings you feel when you do, almost as if we're one. I feel your heart, beating next to mine, next to Jacob's."
"Vincent, has the Bond returned?" Her eyes began to glitter with happy tears.
"I believe so." He bent and kissed the tears from her cheeks.
"Oh, Vincent!" She threw her arms around his neck and held him tightly. She laid back on the pillows and smiled up at him. Then, she leaned up and kissed his lips. Pulling back, her face had changed. "Vincent, what is our Bond telling you?"
He looked down into her eyes and smiled knowingly. He pressed his hips to hers again and kissed her passionately.
The music from the orchestra above swelled and rose around them and in his basket, Jacob, the tangible proof of the never-ending love of Vincent and Catherine, slept on peacefully.