by Thomas Mc
Author's Note: Every story eventually comes to an end. And so must it go, even with Catherine and Vincent. This is a sequel / addendum to The Hunter
When Vincent had first learned that his newest great grandson's naming day would fall on his own ninety-second birthday, he had been quite pleased about it. He discussed it with William and they had decided to combine the two celebrations and hold it in the great hall. The last time a naming day celebration had been held there was when he and Catherine had presented their first born, the twins Jacob and Jennifer, to the entire community along with most of the helpers. So much had happened since that day. Though the way of life down here had not changed much at all, the way it was supported had. The community infirmary was very well stocked and maintained as well as the communities food supply. Every child that was raised or helped by the community had the where-with-all to go to any college or university they wished. All thanks to the Wells-Chandler Foundation. That foundation had been built on the wealth of his own loving wife combined with the wealth left to the community by his father's great love, Margaret Chase. However support of the tunnel community was only the tiniest part of what that organization did. Most of it's budget was invested in the people of New York City. Vincent suspected a lot of people would be extremely shocked if they ever got a look at some of the males that ran that foundation, such as his own son Charles or his grandson Devin.
With great care Vincent helped his beloved Catherine to her seat near the back wall of the great hall. The trek down here had been difficult, especially for Catherine. Like himself, age was rapidly catching up with her and nowadays she needed help just to get around. Vincent suspected that this would be the last time they would be able to make it down to the great hall.
Vincent gazed down into Catherine's face as she looked up at him. Her snow white hair falling down to her shoulders still drew his touch as he combed his fingers through it. A lifetime of smiles and laughter was written in the lines of her face. Her eyes still danced with a joy that came from deep within and just a hint of mischief that was always lingering in the back of her mind. Her smile spoke of contentment and love as she returned his gaze.
Catherine gazed up at her magnificent lion. His mane was snow white and the rest of his fur ranged in color from gray to white with a few hints of gold in some spots. He still looked like a magical impossible dream to her and his incredible blue eyes were as bright as ever. In another three months it would be their fifty-seventh anniversary yet their love for each other was still undimmed and his touch could still send a thrill through her. Life was good, she was happy.
Catherine looked over as Jacob and Linda approached. Three of their four children, Devin, Michael and Sharon, were following behind. Caroline had been unable to come. She had just been elected New Jersey representative to the US Congress and had her hands full as she began her first term as a congresswoman. Devin and his wife Emily were such an unlikely pair. Emily was a very beautiful and very successful fashion model. The difficulties Catherine had gone through to hide her relationship with Vincent were nothing compared to what Emily had to endure, but despite her spending half her time jetting around the world for her job, they had made it work well enough to produce three boys. All the public knew was that she had taken three sabbaticals in her career where she simply vanished from public view. The media had speculated endlessly about where she disappeared to. They had even managed to pull off a public wedding in the middle of Central Park by staging it as a Beauty and the Beast themed fashion show. The photographer and most of the crew on that fashion show were unaware that the vows exchanged were real. Michael and Madison had only been married one year. Madison as was Sharon and her husband Desmond. Madison and Desmond were siblings that had spent several of their teen years below when their parents had been brought below by Catherine to hide them from a vicious mob boss. Sharon was one of the few of Catherine's female descendants that chose to remain Below though she and her husband both worked for the foundation. Their two children were already turning into a handful, always full of mischief. They both reminded Catherine of Vincent's late brother Devin.
While the hall was filling up they sat around and talked about old times and current accomplishments. Caroline's election to Congress was a major topic and a source of pride for Jacob and Linda.
The great chamber became quiet as the naming ceremony began. Jacob's younger brother, Charles, spoke the words of the ceremony that would introduce his grandson, and Vincent's great grandson, to the rest of the tunnel community. Elizabeth stood by her husband's side beaming at their son with pride. William and Patricia stepped forward and announced that they had named their son Alexander, after Patricia's departed father. Afterwards William and Patricia's best friends, Harold and Carolyn, from above and newest of the communities helpers, introduced their new son, Travis, to the community.
After the ceremony William and Patricia came over to Vincent and Catherine. Patricia placed Alexander in Catherine's arms. "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 her, a glimmer of unshed tears 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 felt a surge of love and pride coming from his mate as he reached over to caress the infant's cheek. He looked up at his grandson. "Alexander is a conqueror's name," he told William. A hint of a long forgotten dream tickled the back of his mind, an image of sitting on a park bench in the open noonday sun, but it was soon gone. He gazed down into the child's leonine face. "I wonder what worlds this Alexander will one day conquer." He continued quietly mostly to himself.
Catherine felt tears of pride well up as she held her newest great grandchild. She felt truly blessed as she gazed into the sweet face that mirrored her beloved Vincent. She smiled up at William as Charles and Elizabeth along with the rest of his siblings and their best friends Harold and Carolyn came up to wish Vincent a happy birthday and get a look at the newest member the family. For a while they all sat around talking about future plans.
Catherine and Vincent's youngest twin daughters, Nancy and Brigit, approached drawing their husbands with them. They both lived in Connecticut now and were heavily involved in local politics but they came to New York at least once a month for a visit. They had produced three children each and all six of those grandchildren had made it back for this day.
Even Jacob's twin sister Jennifer had come all the way from Texas with her husband Texas State Senator Byron Wyatt.
"What is it that amuses you?" Vincent asked.
Catherine smiled. "I was just thinking of how many of our progeny have gone into politics."
"Well, your family has become so big there was bound to be a few that would fall from grace." Jennifer responded with a laugh as she leaned into her husband's embrace. "All of your descendants have done well. That is a rare occurrence in any family. You and Father should be proud of what you have done."
"And I am proud to be a member of this family." Byron chimed in. "Now if I could only get the lot of you transplanted to the great state of Texas, maybe the Inner Space Caverns. Texas has the best of everything so it would be fitting."
"Are you bragging about Texas again?" Naomi asked, laughing, as she came up and joined the group. She was still wearing her FBI jacket from the raid she had been involved in this morning. She had only arrived a few minutes ago.
"It's a Texan's prerogative." He shot back with a grin.
Catherine smiled at him. Byron was such a lovable blowhard but he was a very good politician and Jennifer loved him so.
Catherine glanced around the hall. Everywhere she looked she could see her and Vincent's progeny. She wondered what Father Wells would have thought if he could have seen this brood produced by his foundling son that was never supposed to be able to marry or have children. She could see his gruff sputtering reaction to this sight. She really did miss that dear old grump with the marshmallow heart.
Catherine and Vincent sat in their slightly raised chairs. Their fifty-seventh anniversary was tomorrow. Around them were arrayed all of their descendants, there were now forty-four in all, and their spouses. Fourteen of them exhibited Vincent's leonine heritage. They ranged in age from Jacob and Jennifer at Fifty-six to baby Alexander at a bit over three and a half months. Then there was their grandson Joseph who's wife Paulette was three months pregnant with their second. All in all it was quite a legacy. This gathering was in the community dining chamber because it was the only one, besides the great hall, that could accommodate everyone.
Vincent found himself wondering what his adopted father would have thought if he could have seen this brood they had produced. He looked over at his beloved Catherine and saw his own pride in their family reflected in her eyes.
"OK now, everybody smile." Harold called out as he adjusted his digital camera. He was the only non-family member at this gathering. "Perfect." And he snapped five pictures in quick succession. Miraculously he managed to catch everyone smiling, eyes open, simultaneously in two of the shots. He then pulled the memory card out of the camera and handed it to Jacob. His purpose now fulfilled, Harold gathered up his camera equipment and left the chamber but he would be back for tomorrow's more public celebration.
With his arm firmly around her waist, Vincent helped Catherine make her way to the head table. Meanwhile everyone took their places at the tables as the anniversary party continued with the feast that had been specially prepared for this occasion. Everyone had a wonderful time as family members became reacquainted with other family members that they had not seen in years.
There were even a few family members here that had never met any of their leonine relatives before this week. Their reactions became a major source of amusement and dinner conversation. Long gone were the days when Vincent was bothered by the initial reactions of people to his appearance. He looked around again at his huge far flung family. All of this was possible because Catherine had believed in him and refused to allow his own self doubts to get in the way of what she wanted.
He looked over at this woman and again marveled at the miracle of her unwavering love. Life was good. He was happy.
Catherine smiled up at Vincent. She had been bed ridden for the last month and a half. Her poor ninety-one year old body was just worn out and she knew that her time was coming soon but she was not afraid. She had enjoyed a good life and she had no regrets. Vincent was in better shape but he too was showing signs of his advanced age. She worried a little about how he would get along once she was gone.
She thought to herself that Vincent, half reclining beside her and reading, looked almost comical with those reading glasses perched on his still magnificent leonine face. Their son Jacob entered their tiny chamber and Vincent quickly removed the glasses, stuffing them under the pillow. Catherine suppressed her amusement at his actions. Although he had once been embarrassed by his leonine aspects, Vincent had never been vain about his appearance yet he just didn't like others to see him with those reading glasses on.
Jacob was simply looking in on them to see how they were doing. He tried to hide his anxiety over her condition but she had known him too long not to notice. While he was there William and Patricia come by to visit.
They talked a while about little Alexander and about Karen's latest exploits. William had finally figured out how Karen got to the surface without being seen. She had found a small tunnel that went straight from the main nursery all the way up to the foundation of the band shell. The nursery end was little more than a crack in the shadows of the back wall. Just yesterday Karen had found a hidden access into the United Nations Building. She just had a knack for finding hidden and unknown places. They talked about Patricia's new job at the genetic medicine company over in New Jersey and her latest night school courses. At the urging of her new boss she had decided to go for her PHD.
Late that evening Jacob was heading towards the old brownstone with some notes on a couple of the tunnel children that were planning to attend college next year. For the last two weeks he had been keeping constant tabs on his mother's condition through his link to her. The sensation was unmistakable when it came. He sensed Catherine's passing quite clearly. It happened quickly and relatively painlessly. Catherine had felt it coming and had faced it without fear or regret. He also felt his father's quiet sorrow at her passing.
He turned around and headed quickly towards their chamber. He was halfway there when he unexpectedly sensed Vincent's passing. Like Catherine, Vincent had gone quickly and painlessly without fear or regret. Jacob stopped for a moment as his own sense of loss rose up. Finally he pulled himself together and continued to Catherine and Vincent's chamber.
As he entered their tiny chamber the first thing he saw was his parents lying in their bed enclosed in each other's embrace. They appeared to be sleeping in each others arms just like they always had done. He glanced around the tiny chamber just barely large enough for the few things Vincent and Catherine had needed in their last few years. Most of the chamber was taken up by the great bed that they had used since the day they were married. It was an excellent replica of the ancient Stickly Bed that had originally occupied the master bedroom of the old brownstone they had once shared. A newer replica now occupied that room where Charles and Elizabeth now slept.
He then became aware that his brother Charles was approaching from the brownstone as his own tears welled up. Then he felt Linda's emotions responding to his own sorrow. A moment later he felt his twin sister's sorrow all the way from Texas joining his over the link he had with her. Ten minutes later Charles joined him in the tiny chamber. Elizabeth was sharing their sorrow through her bond with Charles. Together they quietly mourned their parents' passing.
After a while Charles spoke. "I guess we really shouldn't be too surprised. Neither one of them would have wanted to remain after the other was gone." Charles placed his arm across Jacob's shoulder. "They had a long happy life together and they went out as they would have wanted, in their lover's arms." A tear slid down Charles furry cheek. "We were very lucky, my dear big brother, to have had them both with us as long as we did."
With one last look, they lowered the tapestry across the opening as they left the chamber. Charles went back Above to pass along the news to all of their friends and loved ones that lived in the world above. Elizabeth was already at the brownstone waiting for him when he arrived. Jacob headed to the main pipe chamber where he passed the news to the rest of the tunnel community. By midnight the entire community had come by the small chamber to pay their respects.
As soon as word went out Teresa came by and, after carefully checking out both bodies, filled out a death certificate for Catherine. Catherine had died from general systemic failure (old age). Elizabeth would see to it that the death certificate was properly filed tomorrow morning. As near as Teresa could tell Vincent's heart had simply stopped. She carefully prepared the bodies without disturbing their position, then returned to the community library where she noted both deaths in the tunnel communities records. She walked back to her little office alcove at the back of the infirmary where she sat back and remembered the incredible day of wonder when Catherine had brought her mother, her younger sister and herself below to protect them from their abusive father. Then she engaged in a good cry.
After making sure that everything was in order in the tiny chamber Jacob had the opening to the chamber sealed up. There they would rest just as they had died laying on the bed they had shared for all their married life and enclosed in each other's embrace. Patricia borrowed some equipment from the university lab and had the air in the chamber replaced with inert gas to preserve the bodies. A small ten inch by ten inch metal plate was attached to the wall as a simple marker where the chamber had been sealed up. There was a much more impressive monument in the crystal 'Forever' monolith Catherine and Vincent's children had managed to get placed above in Central Park on their fiftieth anniversary. The real monument to their parents however was the far flung family of descendants scattered across the country that they had left behind. On the small metal plate were the simple words,
Vincent and Catherine
1955/1956 - 2047
'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.