By Thomas Mc

Chapter 10 : Renewal

William watched sadly as Elizabeth, Patricia, Harold and Carolyn went out the back door and got into Elizabeth's car. This was one of the very few times that he regretted what he was because it prevented him from going with Patricia when he so desperately wanted to be there for her. He shook his head and slowly returned to the parlor. Charles watched him sympathetically, he of all people understood what his son was going through.

~ o ~

Patricia and Carolyn sat in the back seat holding each other's hands for comfort. Harold sat up front with Elizabeth. They pulled out into the back street, their route being illustrated on the car's GPS screen. As they turned onto Central Park West, a rectangle with the words 'Auto-Trac Available' appeared at the top of the screen as the display chimed. She touched the rectangle and it changed to 'Auto-Trac (ON)' then she took her hands from the wheel and turned her attention to Patricia. The car adjusted itself to the standard one and a half second spacing from the vehicle in front of them.

In a very short time the car chimed and the GPS voice announced, "Vehicle is about to leave Auto-Trac roads. Return to manual mode." Elizabeth took the wheel and pressed the 'Auto-Trac' rectangle on the screen. It changed to 'Auto-Trac Available'. The Auto-Trac rectangle disappeared from the screen as she turned into the underground parking entrance.

Elizabeth led them up to her office. There were only about a half dozen people in the whole DA office. She picked up a large manila envelope and slid the contents onto the desk in front of them.

There was an old antique leather wallet, a Texas longhorn keychain, a scuffed up computer thumb drive, a cellular phone, a University of Texas school ring, an orange barreled pen, a pocket change holder, a white handkerchief with an orange longhorn emblem and the name Alexander embroidered on it and a twenty year old Timex World Time digital/analog watch.

Tentatively she reached out towards the items. Her hand stopped and hovered about two inches above them. A lump rose in her throat as she stared down at the pitiful remnants of her father's forty-eight years laid out before her. Slowly she drew her hand back, the items untouched. "Daddy." She whimpered. Then she turned away, collapsed into Harold's arms and cried. Carolyn was immediately by her side with her arms around her. Elizabeth quietly gathered up the items and put them back into the manila envelope and sealed it.

As she cried on Harold and Carolyn she felt compassionate warmth growing within her, supporting her, comforting her. It was William touching her emotions from afar. She felt her sorrow fade to the background as she released her friends, straitened herself and faced Elizabeth. "What do I do now?"

Elizabeth pulled two pieces of paper from the middle of her desk. "Just sign these. One verifies the identification and the other is a receipt for his effects." She handed Patricia a pen.

~ o ~

The trip back was silent as Patricia stared down at the large envelope that she was turning over and over in her hands. Finally they arrived back at the brownstone and the four of them entered the back door.

William was there at the door waiting for her. She stepped into his arms drawing on the comfort he was offering. "Take me Below." She quietly told him. William picked her up and carried her out through the parlor's hidden door.

Harold and Carolyn stared fascinated at the part of the wall, where the door had just been a second ago. Elizabeth walked up and placed her hands on their shoulders. "I want to thank you both for being there for Patricia today. The biggest drawback to William being what he is, is the inability to be with someone you care about at times like this." There was just the slightest hint of sadness and regret in her eyes that quickly vanished. "I know that my son appreciated your support as much as Patricia did." Her face brightened into a friendly smile. "Now, it's getting late. Would you like to stay for lunch? You're both very welcome to eat with us."

They both accepted the invitation and enjoyed a very nice quiet meal. Harold found it interesting that they had both become so used to the appearance of Charles and William in so short a time. He still wasn't quite sure about the idea of a match between Patricia and something . . . someone like William but there was no denying the connection between them and William had been there for Patty yesterday and last night, when she had needed him the most.

Carolyn and Harold found Charles to be both charming and fascinating as a lunch companion. After lunch they headed back to campus.

~ o ~

William carried Patricia all the way back to her chamber. She laid her head on his shoulder and clung to him, soaking up the physical comfort from his strong arms and the emotional comfort from the compassion that he continued to send to her over their link.

When they reached her chamber, he set her on her feet beside the little desk at the far end. He gently removed the envelope from her tightly clutched hand and placed it on the back corner of the desk. Then he softly touched her cheeks with his hands and wiped away her tears with his furry thumbs. "It will get better with time."

Stepping back and placing his hands on her shoulders he looked into her sad face. "We have a tradition down here for when we loose someone dear to us. It was begun back in Vincent's time." He took her hands in his and gave them a gentle squeeze. "We write a letter to the one we lost, telling them all the things we want to tell them or wish we could have told them. Then we take the letters down to the mirror pool, start a small fire and allow the flames to carry our words to the ones we have lost." He handed her a piece of stationary and a pen. "I think it will do you some good." He placed one hand on her upper arm. "I'll leave you to your thoughts." He gave her arm a little squeeze, "I'll be in my chamber when you are ready."

William unhooked the tapestry and let it fall across the opening as he left, giving her the privacy such an endeavor required. She stood there for a while staring at the gently swaying tapestry then she looked down at the paper and pen she was holding. She sat down at the desk where she found her eyes drawn to the large envelope on the far back corner of the old desk and felt herself tearing up again. With an effort she pulled her gaze away from the envelope and down to the paper in front of her.

For a while Patricia just sat there staring at the piece of paper on the desk before her. Then she finally started by writing to her father how much she missed him and how much she loved him. She stared at the half dozen lines for a while thinking it was so inadequate. Then she wrote about the times she remembered when they had been a happy family, telling how much those memories meant to her. This led to the not so happy times when her father had been there for her to advise and comfort her. She stopped and stared at the last paragraph for a moment. She began writing again, this time much more slowly. This part turned out to be very hard for her. She haltingly wrote about the summer Karen disappeared and how she felt about what happened to her sister. She ended that paragraph by forgiving her father for what she believed was his part in her sister leaving. After staring at the last paragraph for a very long time she added to it by asking him to forgive her for the times when she had disappointed him or caused him to worry. She stopped writing and reread the last few paragraphs over several times before she could continue. Next she told him about the fantastic new world she had found Below and the wondrous denizens that inhabited it. Her pen seemed to fly over the page as she wrote about one denizen in particular named William and the effect he had on her. She told him about his beautiful precocious granddaughter that he had never seen. She finished up by again stating how much she loved and missed him.

She put down the pen and stared at what she had written. She was surprised that she had managed to fill three whole pages. As she gazed at the three pages she pondered the marks of her teardrops that were scattered over them. William was right, just the act of writing them had released a great deal of the load of sorrow she had been carrying. It had also reminded her of all the years of good memories she still carried with her. Standing up she carefully folded the three sheets of paper, squared her shoulders and headed to William's chamber.

William stood up from his desk as she entered and she noticed that he picked up a sheet of paper as he did so.

He looked down at the paper in his hand then back up at her. "I thought I would write one as well." He came forward, folding the paper and putting it in a pocket. Then he took her arm. "Shall we go?" He asked as he moved towards the doorway.

He picked up a small bundle of wood sitting beside the doorway on the way out. It took the better part of an hour and a half to make the long silent trek to the mirror pool, each of them deep in their own thoughts. All the way there Patricia's thoughts kept coming back to how much comfort it gave her just having William near.

When they arrived Patricia stared into the pool in wonder. This was the first time she had seen this place and she kept looking at her face and the myriad of stars reflected in the smooth surface. When she looked up she saw only the darkness of the cavern ceiling. Where did the stars come from?

William quickly got the fire burning cheerily beside the pool then kneeled down on the other side of it from Patricia. He reached into a pocket and pulled out the letter he had written. He looked down at the letter in his hand and began to speak softly. "We never met, and I am sorry for that, but I thank you for the gift of your daughter. I promise that I will always be there to protect and care for her for as long as she will let me." He dropped his letter into the flames then gazed across the fire at Patricia.

She swallowed the lump in her throat then looked down at the folded pages in her hand. "Goodbye, Daddy, I will miss you." Tears rolled down her cheeks as she looked up at William. "But I think I'm going to be OK." She dropped her letter into the fire and watched as it turned to dozens of tiny red sparks floating up into the air. Patricia gazed across the fire at William. Three times now he had been there for her when she needed him. Twice when she had been nearly overcome with sorrow and he had shared in her sorrow helping her to release it and move on.

This is what true love is, she thought, sharing the pain as well as the joys. As she looked into his magnificent leonine face she finally understood that she really had fallen in love with him. He came around the fire and put his arms around her. Here was the soul deep love she had always dreamed of, and then some. She threw her arms around him and again began to cry, but this time the tears that soaked into his shirt were carriers of love.

The long trek back was also made in silence but this time, as they walked hand in hand, it was the comfortable silence of two people that were happy just to be in each other's presence. By the time they reached the main tunnels it was well into dinner time so they headed straight to the dining chamber. Charles and Elizabeth were already there so William and Patricia sat with them.

"Been to the Mirror Pool?" Charles remarked as they sat down. Patricia looked at him in surprise. He shrugged with a half tilt of his head. "I can smell the wood smoke." He smiled.

"Things will get better dear." Elizabeth advised. "Besides in two and a half months is Winterfest and you're not allowed to be unhappy during that." At her look of curiosity Elizabeth explained the festival that was so unique to the tunnel community. Though she had read about it in the manuscript it was different hearing about it from Elizabeth's perspective.

To Patricia the concept seemed totally appropriate to these people and she found that she was looking forward to experiencing this new aspect of Williams's life.

~ x x x x x ~

The next Monday Patricia returned to school and resumed her studies with renewed interest and vigor. The lawyer Elizabeth had arranged for her, quickly and efficiently handled all the legalities for her. She now owned her family's condo free and clear and there was a small trust fund that covered all of the expenses of home ownership as well as a nice little income that just covered her college expenses.

Her first Winterfest was a totally magical experience. The opening ceremony moved her to tears and the friendship shown her by everyone there warmed her to her soul. Her most surprising discovery was when she met Supermodel Emily Hanson escorted by William's cousin Devin. All in all the evening was both joyful and enlightening.

Nearly every weekend Patricia spent Below with William and about the time the first flowers of spring were once again in full bloom they had become lovers. Immediately afterwards she discovered that there were very few secrets in the world Below as everyone was soon aware of her and William's new status. Everyone apparently approved of the new situation even to an approving nod from Charles and Elizabeth.

Harold and Carolyn were married that same spring and Patricia served as maid of honor. Though William was not able to attend he was still present through Patricia's emotions.

~ o ~

Patricia gazed around the great hall, her eyes dazzled by the way the candle light sparkled off the mineral encrusted walls of the great hall. Out in the middle of the floor her two best friends, Harold and Carolyn were dancing the waltz still half stunned by the beauty and magic that surrounded them. Patricia smiled as she remembered her first Winterfest last year. Even though she was now a seasoned veteran she still felt just a little bit overwhelmed by it all. Over in the corner she spotted little Karen, now five, playing some kind of board game with other children her age, and smiled. Patricia couldn't conceive of a better place for her niece to grow up than the tunnels or a better person to raise her than William.

William gazed down at the small package in his hand then back over at Patricia standing near the back stairway. As he made his way toward her he felt his nervousness rise. He was positive what her response would be, but he couldn't help feeling just a little bit uncertain. As he approached she looked over at him and smiled. He felt a familiar warmth inside in response to her smile. They embraced and kissed then William stepped back and stared longingly into her eyes. He drew the small package from his pocket. "Patricia, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?" He held the now open box out to her. Inside was a beautiful silver ring with a perfect emerald that matched the color of her eyes.

William had brought three raw uncut emeralds back from the crystal cavern last month. Harold had gotten the stone cut and the ring made for William at a well known New York jewelry company. The remainder of the first large emerald had been turned into matching pendants and earrings that were destined to be Christmas presents for both Carolyn and Patricia. It had all been paid for by the two other large raw emeralds.

Barely glancing at the ring Patricia threw her arms around his neck. "Of course I will my love." Then they were engaged in a passionate kiss much to the amusement of those around them. She released him and, before he could react, took the ring from the box to put it on her own finger. As she stood there admiring how right it looked, everyone around her grinned.

The current song came to an end and William pulled Patricia up onto the stage. Her hand firmly clasped in his, William announced their engagement to enthusiastic cheers. They stepped down and the band started up a very old song, that they had both become very fond of lately, called 'Never My Love' for their first dance.

~ x x x x x ~

In the world above it was a sunny Summer day. Below the sunshine paled next to the light of golden eyes and emerald eyes that gazed into each other as they spoke their vows of love. The magic words 'I now pronounce you husband and wife' were intoned and they entered into each other's embrace. As they broke from the kiss Patricia whispered in his ear. "I love you, husband . . . and father of my first child."

William drew his head back and gazed in surprise into her beautiful green eyes as she smiled and nodded her answer to his unspoken question. With even more reason he tilted his head back and cut loose with a roar of triumph as she clung to him and laughed with joy. It was said that every male descendant of Vincent had begun their marriage with such a roar. Patricia liked that tradition. It seemed to bring an extra joyfulness to the occasion, especially with the cheers of the guests in response.

Soon everyone was busy moving things around as the great hall was reconfigured for the reception. Harold and Carolyn came up to them. "Congratulations Will. That roar was a perfect way to cap off the ceremony. I would have done that myself when we were married if I had your ability. He drew Carolyn in close.

Patricia looked up to see Vincent and Catherine approaching. To her there was something almost mythic about them. They were the origin, the pattern. There was a sense of pride and contentment about them.

"Congratulations, William, Patricia." Catherine smiled at her. "I hope your life together will be as long and happy as ours has been."

Vincent placed his hand on her shoulder. "When I was young, the very good man that raised me told me that I would never be able to have a normal life . . . that wife and family were an impossibility for me." He glanced over at Catherine, enclosed in his other arm. "Then Catherine came along and followed her heart while teaching me to follow mine." He gave Patricia's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Now I am attending the wedding of my grandson." His smile clearly displayed his fangs. "Always follow your heart, Patricia. Your love for each other will lead you through any difficulties you may face." He released her shoulder. "I'm proud and happy for you both."

"So what are your plans now?" Carolyn asked, a hint of amusement in her voice.

William looked over at Patricia then answered. "I think, over the next seven odd months, I will start enlarging our chambers to accommodate the new baby." He grinned back at them, his four fangs clearly visible.

Carolyn grinned back. "You know, I think we will be doing much the same thing for the next seven odd months." There was a moment's pause then Harold was staring at Carolyn, his mouth hanging open in stunned surprise. After a couple of seconds she spoke to him with barely suppressed laughter in her voice. "Close your mouth Harold dear, before you start catching flies."

William and Vincent both expressed their congratulations then Harold recovered and gave a whoop of delight. The news spread very quickly through the assembled guests adding an additional element of joy to the merry-making.

The band began the first song of the evening and both happy couples danced the first dance to the strains of 'Never My Love', the song that both couples had adopted as 'their song'.

~ x x x x x ~

Above it was a cold January day but Below everyone was filled with the warm glow of this very special day. William and Patricia stood before all of their friends from Below, In her arms was her newborn son. William had acceded to her desired choice for his name without any hesitation. Her niece/adopted daughter stood beside her nearly as proud as the parents. Patricia gazed lovingly down into the leonine face of her new son. His bright green eyes, the mirror of her own, stared back at her. She looked over at her beloved husband whose leonine features mirrored those of her new son. Finally she again looked out at all her friends, her eyes coming to rest on their best friends Harold and Carolyn carrying their own newborn baby boy. Patricia announced. "We have named our son Alexander in honor of my father who left us much too soon." She smiled. "I know Daddy would be very surprised if he appeared today to see my son and his father but I am sure he would approve of both."

After the cheers and congratulations were over, it was Harold and Carolyn's turn. Though they did not live Below, they had become as much a part of this community as those that did. Patricia and Carolyn had become as close as Patricia and her sister had once been. Harold announced that they had named their son Travis after Carolyn's father. Patricia smiled at the similarities between her and Carolyn.

The naming day gifts were given and the party was in full swing. Patricia came over to where Vincent and Catherine were sitting. Age was beginning to catch up to them. Catherine had difficulty getting around nowadays without help and Vincent preferred to do as little standing as possible but their eyes were still bright with intelligence and joy. Patricia handed Alexander to Catherine. "I thought you might want to hold your great grandson." She turned her attention to Vincent who was gently touching the infant's fuzzy cheek. "And happy ninety-second birthday to you Grandfather Vincent."

Vincent looked up at Patricia, a suspicious glimmer in his still bright blue eyes. "This child and your happiness are the best birthday presents you could have given me. Thank you, both of you." Vincent looked back down at the new child and gently caressed his cheek with one fuzzy finger then looked up. "Alexander is a conqueror's name." He told William then he gazed down into the child's leonine face. "I wonder what worlds this Alexander will one day conquer." He said quietly.

Harold and Carolyn along with the rest of William's family came over to join them and soon they were all sitting together and talking about plans for the future. Patricia expected to get her degree this spring and had already received two lucrative job offers. The one from Maine was out of the question, but the one from a genetic medicine research company in New Jersey, just across the Hudson, looked very promising. Though they lived Below she still maintained the family condo in Brooklyn as her permanent address. Harold and Carolyn however were the true residents there. Harold was now in his first year of residency at Saint Vincent Hospital and Carolyn was about to begin a new job in the Saint Vincent HR department. Clarissa who was currently playing with little Alexander was now a full fledged Assistant District Attorney and following in her mother's footsteps. Next to Clarissa sat her fiancé Phillip, proudly wearing his brand new police officer uniform, gazing lovingly at his future bride.

Charles Gazed around at their expanding family as Elizabeth kissed his cheek then quietly commented. "And so begins the next chapter of the Chandler-Wells clan."

The End

'Beauty and the Beast' and its characters are owned by Witt-Thomas Productions and Republic Pictures. No infringement on copyrights is intended. This story is presented merely for the enjoyment of fans. Original concepts and story elements may be used by other authors as long as appropriate credit is given.