39

WHEN YOU WISH

By Southofoz

This is an SND Mystery rated G. From Vincent's capture in 'Nor Iron Bars a Cage' someone else discovers Vincent's existence and begins to search for him. Three years later Vincent became more certain of himself in his search for and rescue of Catherine and then his son but he soon discovers his life changes are not yet over.

****

"I- I was a baby …abandoned, left to die. Someone, found me, brought me here to the man who became my father. He took me …he raised me. He taught me everything…He named me Vincent. That's where I was found near the Hospital, St Vincent's… "

When you wish upon a star

Makes no difference who you are

Anything your heart desires

Will come to you

If you heart is in your dream

No request is too extreme

When you wish upon a star

As dreamers do

Fate is kind

She brings to those who love

The sweet fulfillment of

Their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue

Fate steps in to see it through

When you wish upon a star

Your dreams come true.

Many years ago a little boy looked up at the night sky. He had left the tunnel entrance with a song Mary had sung to him the night before, and it seemed to echo all around him. Mary had said it was from a moving picture she had seen as a child. It was about a little wooden puppet who wanted to be a REAL boy. Mary had told him the story of Pinocchio then, and he had learned that by wishing upon a star he could have his dearest wish fulfilled.

Even at his young age Vincent saw the similarity with his own story and Pinocchio's. He looked up at the sky and one star was shining brighter than the rest. One day he would know its name, but tonight it was just a star to wish upon. Yet his wish was not to be the same as other boys, although it was sometimes at the back of his mind. That night there was a different wish in his heart, the wish of an orphaned boy and the desire to find what was lost…

****

"Vincent is missing," Father told Catherine in the basement of her apartment building.

Catherine felt a cold arrow of fear strike her heart and worried endlessly about Vincent. She used her skills and followed a trail from a Newspaper report of the capture of 'a monster' in the park to Mrs. Lauche who showed her where Vincent had been taken, and then to the university where she confronted Professor Hughes.

He led her to a university basement room, where she found Vincent lying in a cage. He looked gravely ill and Catherine was appalled and heartbroken to see him treated so badly. She reached out and touched his hair, and it was as if he had closed himself off so completely that he hadn't felt her so close. He moved his head and looked up at her with surprise. There was so much pain in his eyes that she demanded that Hughes let him go.

What happened next was terrifying and ugly. When it was over Vincent lay back on the pillows to recover from saving Catherine's life. She opened the cage and gladly embraced Vincent, afraid for his weakened state, but glad to be able to give him comfort.

Catherine waited with Vincent until he was strong enough to be moved and when it was dark she helped him out of the university. He was weak and leaned heavily on her as they made their way to her car.

She helped him to lie in the back seat and covered him with his cloak which she'd found in the corner of the cage. She asked him where the nearest entrance to the tunnels was. He answered weakly, giving her directions, and she made her way there and then helped him as he directed her through the maze of tunnels to his chamber.

Father was sitting in Vincent's chair, worriedly, holding a book but not reading it. Catherine's softly spoken; "Father!" brought his head up and at the sight of Vincent leaning heavily against her he gasped. "Oh my God, Vincent!" and helped Catherine guide him over to his bed. Then with clinical detachment went to work bringing his son back from the dead.

Catherine didn't leave Vincent's side. He was fully recovered physically very quickly. However the fear his ordeal had caused in him gave him nightmares for several days. At these times she read to him and sat beside him as he had done for her in those first painful days when he had saved her life. She would readto him until he fell asleep and refused to leave him until his sleep became peaceful again.

But how could I forget thee?

Through what power,

Even for the least division of an hour,

Have I been so beguiled as to be blind to my most grievous loss?

That thoughts return was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore

Save one, one only,

When I stood forlorn,

Knowing my hearts best treasure was no more;

That neither present time nor years unborn,

Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.

****

"Professor Preston did you hear? Professor Hughes is dead! They found him and his new assistant in the basement this morning!" a young man said to a petite, white haired woman, as she walked into the corridor leading to her office in the university. She was wearing a conservative grey suit, her only jewelry a large gold locket resting against her pearl grey silk blouse.

Professor Preston's bright blue eyes lifted to the young man with sudden interest. "Tell me," she said in the quiet voice and calm demeanor, for which she was well known, and the young man began to tell her what had happened.

The news of the double homicide in the basement was, spreading through the university like wildfire. Professor Edward Hughes was a difficult man, reclusive and secretive, and most of the staff knew that he was only kept here from pity, but no one would ever have wanted this.

Professor Preston had passed him in the corridor only yesterday and there had been something about him – something that had made the hairs on the back of her neck tingle. She had had a class and couldn't follow him as she had wished to, but when she went to the room where Edward and his student had been found, it wasn't long before she began to realize why she had felt so uneasy around the man.

As the first of the senior staff of the university to arrive, she was permitted to enter the room where the two bodies were covered with sheets. Professor Amalthea Preston wasn't easily affected by death or even murder but something in this room not only surprised her it also appalled her. It was a cage, standing like a silent sentinel to one side, and a witness to what had happened in this room.

With calmness she didn't feel, Thea Preston turned to the security guard at the door. "When were the police called, Anthony?" she asked. Professor Preston knew all the employees of the university personally and always called them by their full names.

"The bodies were only found thirty minutes ago Professor Preston and the police were called as soon as the janitor got to a phone after throwing up. So I hear…" and he smiled, she patted Anthony on the arm with sympathy, and paused before she entered the room. She knew his lighthearted manner was his way of dealing with the situation and that he was as disturbed by all this as the students were.

When she walked into the room she ignored the bodies and made her way to the cage. It was open, with the keys still in the lock, and it was lined with old blankets and pillows. Strange, she thought, what animal would need such human comforts? She noticed that in one of the pillows was the imprint of the head that had lain upon it. She crouched down and touched it and gasped at the sudden flood of emotion that struck her – pain, fear and loss – and she drew her hand back suddenly, finding it hard to breathe.

As she recovered from the sensory overload her hand went to her chest grasping the gold locket they lay there, and her highly observant eyes searched the entire area for clues, taking note of every detail – was it possible, could it be? Then she saw something that made her heart skip a beat – a lock of hair, red-gold in color, long and thick.

With trembling fingers she reached out and grasped the several strands carefully. It looked as though they had been caught in the bars and then torn out, uncaring of the pain it must have caused. Intuitively, she knew that the physical pain had not mattered.

Suddenly there was a commotion at the door, as the police arrived. The Professor hurriedly scooped up the lock of hair, clutching it tightly in her hand. She spoke to the senior officer, informing him who she was and where she could be reached if necessary, then left the situation in the hands of the police.

She hurried to Hughes laboratory, before the police, or anyone else could find the evidence she knew must be there. She found his journal and slides and specimen vials from the last few days. She was very careful not to touch anything other than what she intended to take with her. In her search she came upon a photograph and gasped at what she saw. She staggered backward and leaned on the desk staring at it until she gathered her emotions pulling herself together. Aware that she had only minutes before someone came in and with her heart beating frantically she threw everything into her briefcase and hurried out of the office. She didn't see the man who had just turned into the corridor as she hurried away. Although he had been employed to watch her he didn't follow her, he knew where to find her if needed. Instead he went into the dead man's office.

Professor Preston didn't have classes until the afternoon and so she quickly went to her own office and disposed of the blood samples and other specimens, but saved the slides to confirm her suspicions. After taking two strands of the hair for study, she opened the locket that her late husband had given her when they were first married. There was no picture within, only a delicate lock of similar red-gold hair, but this was not long and course it was soft baby hair that had been lodged carefully beneath a protective film, safe from the ravages of time. She wore this locket always, only removing it when she showered. It meant everything to her. Then she took the rest of the long strands and wrapped them around her finger, creating another curling lock. She placed it carefully within the locket and then with a satisfying click she closed it. With a sigh she closed her eyes as she clasped the locket within her hands, feeling it warm against her skin. The rest of the day went by in a blur and she was constantly aware of the heavy gold that lay against her breast which protected her precious find.

That night when she was safely in her apartment she took out the small book that had belonged to Professor Hughes and began to read the entries

'The subject is male, approximately thirty years of age and in perfect health with abnormalities at the cellular level. Without further extensive testing it is impossible to know how far the antimorphic abnormalities go.

He is too powerfully built to dispense with the sedation and restraints until an appropriate cage can be erected.'

The cage – how cruel …

"The subject appears leonine in appearance. The exaggerated musculature and upper and lower canines suggest animal, but however fierce his features may be, they have a human quality that defies explanation. His body is massively built; his lungs and other organs, such as his heart, are highly advanced and amazingly efficient but they are wholly human in my opinion. What a find!

He spoke! Under the sedation he spoke one word, a woman's name 'Catherine'! Gould disagrees that he is more human than animal as I believe and I am fearful of what Gould may do."

He spoke … she closed her eyes. How must he sound? Is he intelligent? Is he gentle?

"His name is Vincent! He spoke again today. He is articulate and seems highly intelligent and educated. When I asked him if there were others like him he said. "There is only me." In a deep pleasant melodious voice, I asked him about this Catherine he had mentioned and he said "She is EVERYTHING, but she lives only in my heart." What does that mean? Is this Catherine dead?

Vincent... His name is Vincent…

"His condition since capture has begun to determinate. I fear for his failing health as long as he remains in captivity. It is as though captivity itself is killing him. He has asked me to release him and told me that he is dying. But I can't let him go! I CAN'T! I need him! What can I do? He is such a noble beast."

That was the last entry…

Thea lifted the photo from the couch beside her, and looked into the face of someone who could not exist. Or so she had believed for over thirty years now. She had felt a distant whisper in her mind, body and spirit for days now. A faintly familiar echo that she couldn't identify – so many of her gifts had become clear over the years but this, this was different. It was close by and she had registered pain and suffering but she couldn't pinpoint its source. Had it come from…him?

Meditating hadn't helped, neither had any of the exercises she had employed throughout her life. Then this morning everything had been explained.

Hughes had captured a gentle and intelligent being, strong and healthy when taken and had cruelly caged him. What must this have done to him?

That night she dreamt of him – a tall shadow, always out of reach and when she awoke she felt as though she had been physically running hard all night and then the fear struck her.

In the morning she hid Hughes diary where not even a burglar would find it and went to the university as usual. For the next few weeks she merely went through the motions of living because her heart wasn't in it.

Somewhere he was alive but where? She read the newspapers avidly for any sign of him but there was no mention of him and she was both relieved and fearful. Was he all right?

Then one morning when she entered her office a white haired man was sitting at her desk, a man she hadn't seen in more than thirty years.

"Thea, it's been a long time," he said in a deeply accented voice, a voice that made Amalthea Preston's blood run cold. She closed the door behind her with a feeling of dread.

"What do you want Carl?" Thea asked with unveiled hatred.

He leaned back in the chair, unfazed by her behavior. "Can't I visit an old friend after all this time?"

"We were never friends." The last word was a spoken with a sneer.

He turned his head on the side, his expression innocent. "I remember differently."

"Then you remember wrong." She hadn't moved from the door, leaning against it for support, as though she would run from the room at any moment, her hand behind her on the doorknob, but she stood her ground. "Our association was over a long time ago," she declared.

His attitude suddenly changed and malice took the place of the pretence of innocence." It will never be over."

This answer chilled her even more, but she demanded." I repeat. What do you want?"

He didn't answer her question but simply waved his hand indicating the university. "I hear you had a bit of excitement here recently."

"Only you would see the tragedy of two lives cut short as excitement," Thea said with disgust.

His expression suddenly changed to something menacing and his eyes blazed. "What was in the cage Thea?"

"I don't know."

"I think you do. You didn't destroy everything you know. You should know by now dear Thea that you can't hide anything from me."

"I don't know Carl but just so you're clear on how I truly feel, I hope you never find out."

"You still blame me."

"Yes."

"I told you there was no alternative." He stood up and walked toward her.

She stood her ground. "There is always an alternative." She replied as an old pain struck her hard and she cried. "He was a helpless baby Carl!"

He came very close and smoothed her cheek with his hand. "He was never helpless not then and not now. But I underestimated him it seems." She turned away from his touch in revulsion but he repositioned himself to make her look up at him. "Was it him Thea?"

She wanted to pretend she didn't know what he meant. She wanted to scream at him that she truly hoped that one day Vincent would make Carl pay for what he had done all those years ago. But she had to keep calm, she had to think. A life was at stake.

He watched her closely, hovering like a cobra ready to strike, and his silence was more terrifying than anything he could have said. "I think you might not know that it's him but you suspect it. What did Hughes do with him?"

This time she could tell the truth. "I don't know." And she stared up at her nemesis without blinking, hammering home the truth.

He stepped back and Thea opened the door. "You better leave or I will call Security. Goodbye, Carl" she said without looking at him.

He began to walk through the door, but stopped and looked down at her, and she could feel his breath on her face as he said. "Not goodbye Thea, never goodbye…"

Then he was gone.

Thea closed the door and with hands shaking, she slipped the lock and put her forehead on the glass center panel. What was she going to do? She had to get away for a while. She knew that maybe she should leave forever but she couldn't. Vincent was out there somewhere and for the first time in over thirty years she had hope. She couldn't lose him now but she had to think, she had to gather her emotions. She knew that now Carl had suspicions he would have her watched, if he hadn't already. He would return. She had to stay away from Vincent or at least appear to …

****

When Vincent was fully recovered Catherine was still concerned that there might be a chance that Professor Hughes had left notes on his capture of Vincent. There was nothing in the Police Report or the newspapers so she went to the university and discovered that Professor Preston was the first member of the faculty on the scene. This was not mentioned in the Police Report either.

She went to Professor Preston's office but she wasn't there. When Catherine asked at the front office they told her that the Professor had taken a leave of absence.

Concerned but hopeful for Vincent's safety, Catherine went back to work.

That night Vincent came to her balcony in the middle of the night to say that Father was missing…

****

When she returned Professor Amalthea Preston did not have a viable plan in place but she was hoping to think of something before Carl returned. As she passed the front office she was given a card and asked to contact Ms Catherine Chandler at the District Attorney's office concerning Professor Hughes death. But she was concerned that this young woman might want to know more than Thea was willing to disclose and sure that she was being watched she didn't make the call…

In the weeks and months that followed Amalthea sensed strange whispers of emotion, mostly at night. They were on the whole pleasant, positive emotions but sometimes they were tormented or fearful. The positive emotions were faint and calming but the negative emotions were stronger and very disturbing. Had she been a younger woman and less able to distinguish them she would have ignored them or explained them away, but not in her latter years with her training and knowledge –there was no doubt in her mind from whence these whispers came. Strangely however she was comforted by them, rather than disturbed. This whole experience told her much about herself as well as the source of this strange phenomenon…Vincent.

Part Two

With no apparent cause Thea became very ill. She had experienced something like it fifteen years before but not with this severity. She had fevers and was hallucinating and the dreams were horrors worse than anything she could possibly imagine … then suddenly it was over. She woke one morning feeling well – although slightly tired from her ordeal – but something was very different, something was missing. Something vital had changed during the night she just knew it. She became desperate to find out what had happened but it was another year before she was able to piece together recent events and find where Vincent must have gone.

****

Vincent held Catherine in his arms on the rooftop of an abandoned building as she wept. "He's gone Vincent they took our baby…" she cried into his chest.

A child! Vincent couldn't believe it – his and Catherine's child. But before he had time to savor this miracle the pain in Catherine was almost more than he could bear.

Their connection had reestablished itself only moments before he had sensed Catherine's location and rushed there to save her, and save her he had. Bursting into the room where she was strapped to a table and a man was approaching her with a syringe in his hand. Vincent stood by the door and growled menacingly concerned only to get to Catherine and stop the man. He knew there was death in that syringe. Filled with fear the man dropped the syringe and ran out of the door as Vincent ran to Catherine and freed her from the restraints. But she was so distraught that she had stumbled from the bed and mumbled. "They've taken him Vincent…they've taken him…"

At that moment the sound of a helicopter on the roof made them both look up and Catherine gasped. "Stop them Vincent! You must stop them!" and she began to stumble out of the door. Not willing to leave her now he had found her but concerned for her he hesitated. "Who, Catherine, who have they taken?" he asked quickly.

"Our son!" Catherine declared with angry pain-filled eyes. At his shocked look she hurried on, "I'll be okay, Vincent go! Please get him back!"

When Vincent arrived on the roof the helicopter was already in the air and a man's face was forever burned in his mind. As he stood in the buffeting winds caused by the blades of the helicopter, he heard Catherine's soft tired voice behind him. "Vincent?"

When he turned empty-handed to face her she almost fell but he ran and caught her and held her as she wept. He had carried her Below to the tunnels and his chamber where with a hurried tap on the pipes brought Father and Mary.

The next few months were filled with both pain and joy as Vincent and Catherine mourned the separation from their son and grew closer together. Until at last with the help of Diana Bennett Vincent held his son for the first time in the basement cage. Then as the police were bearing down on the mansion Vincent retrieved his son and took him home and placed him into Catherine's arms. They both wept with joy and at last Catherine was where she had always wanted to be – at Vincent's side forever.

****

Thea read in a newspaper article that Catherine Chandler was missing. Six months later the district Attorney of Manhattan John Moreno and an accomplice were found murdered by someone they called the 'Slasher' at the Central Park Carousel. There had been many murders in Central Park over the years but to Thea the 'Slasher Murders' stood out and the police suspected that one man might be responsible. But they couldn't identify any of the evidence left behind and the police had drawn a blank. Then after the Moreno murder a man named Elliot Burch was charged.

Thea didn't know what this Elliot Burch had to do with it but she knew who the 'Slasher' really was and when Moreno became connected to organized crime and the disappearance of Ms Chandler it all seemed to make sense.

Vincent was connected in some way to this Ms Chandler and either protecting her or avenging her murder or disappearance and might even be trying to find her. Thea was so worried and confused she wished she knew more about what must be going through Vincent's mind and what was happening to him but she was at a loss.

Then one night on a whim Thea went to Central Park and began to piece together a map of where many of the incidents had occurred. She had them all memorized and it wasn't long before she was standing at the entrance of a drainage tunnel.

This was near where Edward Hughes had written that he had captured Vincent almost three years before and when Amalthea had discovered Vincent's existence. And now as though coming full circle she stood with her heart pounding before what must be the entrance to his world. Was he in there somewhere hiding from unfriendly eyes, afraid and alone? She hoped not. There was something she was missing something she didn't understand and tonight she was determined to find it – and him.

She had felt lost since awakening that morning almost a year ago after her illness to find the terrible change, since then she had not felt anything from Vincent. At first she was afraid that he had died until she heard of the deaths of Moreno and his accomplice which had given her hope. She knew she was taking a terrible chance coming here. Carl was still watching her but Vincent had proven he could take care of himself and as for her own life she had nothing left to lose.

With a large torch in hand and her heart beating painfully Thea entered the culvert. She followed a long tunnel and then came to an intersection of sorts, where an iron gate stood. Behind it was some kind of wall that had a jagged hole in its center and through it she could see lighted cylindrical shaped pipes, large enough for a man to walk without bending. There had been an explosion here recently the walls were burned and the floor was littered with dust and debris. The area looked as though it had been occupied by vagrants. The gate was swinging on its hinges broken and in disrepair.

The city's department for repair of such things must not be aware of this area – or they have been left unaware, Thea thought, as she opened the gate and began to make her way down one of the tunnels. She wandered for some time amazed at how extensive these passages were and came to many dead ends finally becoming concerned that she may become hopelessly lost. Then she noticed chalk marks, a number, on the wall a little way ahead and she followed that passage until she came to another number a lesser number. Realizing that if she followed these marks she must end up somewhere rather than lost, she decided to do so. It was something at least.

At one point she thought she heard a noise behind her the sound of a boot scraping against dirt, but when she turned shining her torch into the darkness there was no one there. Sure she was hearing things she went onward.

****

"Father, there is an intruder in the upper tunnels by the park entrance." Rebecca said as she came to Father's study.

"Is it Diana again?" Father asked.

"No, it's an older woman, small. I've never seen her before."

"Well keep an eye on her Rebecca. We don't want her finding us or falling prey to any of the pitfalls that Mouse has devised lately."

"But Father someone is following her."

"Who, do you know them?"

"No."

"Well keep an eye on them both."

"Yes Father,"

As Rebecca left Vincent came into the room, gliding down the stairs with his usual grace and in a bright humor. "There's an intruder in the tunnels?" he asked as he stopped before his father's chair.

"Yes," Father said removing his glasses as he looked up at his son.

Vincent was greatly changed by the ordeal to retrieve his son but he was happier than Father had ever seen him. At last all his son's dreams had come true. He had Catherine in his life now and forever and he had his son back. Father was relieved beyond measure.

"We are keeping an eye on her," he added

"Her?" Vincent asked curious.

"Yes," Father affirmed then he noticed a mark on Vincent's throat, almost hidden by the neck of his sweater and smiled. It was a telling mark but one that could go unnoticed by others less acquainted with passion. His son was finally finding out what it was like to be in a relationship with a passionate woman, fully and without reservations and the old man's heart rejoiced. "How is Catherine feeling?" he asked.

A slight blush brightened Vincent's cheeks. "She is resting. Jacob had a restless night."

"I see, and you?"

Vincent smiled. "Father, I have never felt so …well, in my entire life. She makes me feel more alive than I could believe possible." Vincent's eyes glowed and he began to move around the chamber, as though the walls could not contain his joy. "Father, I thought she brought me joy before but now…"

Father looked up at his son. He had all the signs of a young man completely in love and blissfully happy. He hoped it would last forever and nothing else would come to disturb his son's peace. To see Vincent and Catherine together these days touched everyone in the community and Father remembered how that felt. The rush of blood that came from a touch, or a kiss, the joy that being with the woman you loved brought. How it felt to make love to her. Yes Vincent was well overdue for such a life.

Then suddenly Mouse came hurrying into the room. "Trouble!' Mouse declared

"Where Mouse?" Vincent and Father asked together.

"Upper tunnels… the intruder…"

Vincent was out of the room grabbing his cloak from the banister, before the echo of Mouse's words had ceased in the chamber…

****

Thea could hear tapping, a metallic staccato all around her. She noticed that the tunnel she was traveling down was lined with pipes and so she put her ear to one. There it was, a regular series of echoes, possibly some sort of code. But that meant there were others down here. She closed her eyes. Then Vincent wasn't alone.

Suddenly she was grabbed from behind and an arm came around her waist, she was pulled up against a hard body, and something cold was forced against her ribs.

"I knew you would lead me to him, Thea dear."

"Carl!"

"I've had you watched since our little talk. I knew if I waited long enough you would lead me straight to him."

"I know about your watchers Carl but the truth is I only found this place myself tonight. I realized that he is beyond your control and I could wait no longer to see him…"

"I read the same newspapers. He's down here somewhere and I intend to get him back."

"He isn't yours anymore Carl and you're the one who threw him away remember!" Thea said angrily. "Even as a baby he was smarter than you he fooled you into thinking he was dead."

"I'll get him Thea, I have a team waiting for my signal and if they don't hear from me in thirty minutes they are going to flood the area with a sleep aerosol. I will get him back and nothing you can do will stop me." Carl breathed into her ear.

****

Vincent had raced to the area where the pipes indicated the intruder was situated, but instead of bursting in blindly as he might have done before meeting Snow and with the complete control he now had over that 'other' part of himself, he hid around the bend in the tunnel and listened.

He was shocked by what he heard. These two knew about his origins and the man was planning to flood the upper tunnels with gas. He growled letting the man, know he was near. Then he tapped out a message on the nearest pipe, telling Mouse to seal this section of the tunnels. He would not risk his family being taken or even touched by this man. He had learned a great deal from just listening and with his acute hearing he had missed nothing and he wanted this man to know that he was aware of his presence.

****

Thea heard the growl and knew that Vincent was near. "You underestimate him Carl he has obviously evaded more than you over the years, and he will not be so easily captured again."

The gun pressed painfully against her ribs. "If he rushes me you die."

She laughed, strangely joyful at the knowledge that Vincent was near, "You think I care about whether I live or die? Every moment since that night I have lived for only one thing, and that is to know if he was alive and well. I know that now and so there's nothing left to live for."

Suddenly she twisted out of his arms and took hold of the gun. "But I will take you with me…" The gun went off twice and Thea felt a thud in her right hip and then something wet trickling down her thigh. When the echoes ceased Carl was lying dead at her feet. She dropped the gun just as she felt another presence in the dark.

She looked up and in the light of her torch, that now lay on the floor, she saw the face of her savior. There was silence as they looked into each other's eyes and then all at once the pain in her hip became unbearable and Thea felt herself losing consciousness. She stumbled against the wall and Vincent came closer and steadied her with his hands, but she had to warn him.

"Gas … releasing …gas…" She gasped.

"I know," his deep gentle voice answered, and her heart leapt at the sound of it … a beautiful voice. "You're hurt," he said as he laid a hand on her arm, steadying her, "let me take you to a doctor." he added.

"No. Stay here, its safe here. Let me look at you for just a moment," she asked tiredly. The blackness beckoned but before it took hold completely she wanted to savor every moment. She had waited so long. Then as she began to lose consciouseness she felt powerful arms come around her and cradle her gently. Her head fell against a broad chest, and the smell of candles and leather assailed her nostrils, strangely comforting and calming. She lifted a hand to touch his face and reveled in the moment and she allowed herself to finally relax, then she passed out.

****

Father – Urgent – Hospital Chamber – signed – Vincent –

Father heard the message over the pipes and lifting his bag hurried to the Hospital Chamber.

When he got there Vincent was crouched beside a bed in which lay the unconscious body of a petite white-haired woman. Vincent was holding a thick cloth against a blood-covered wound on her hip.

As Father came closer Vincent turned his head and said. "She has been shot Father. I think it's only superficial but she has lost a lot of blood."

"And the one who shot her?"

"They struggled with the gun and he was killed." Vincent answered as Father came forward with his bag, he added. "I heard them talking Father. I think they were talking about me, when I was a baby. This woman said she had lived for only one thing since that night to know that I was alive and well."

Father paused in his tending of the wound on the woman's right hip and looked down at Vincent. "You mean she knows where you came from?"

"I think so Father. She said that even as a baby I fooled the man, pretending I was dead." Vincent stood then and walked away from Father and the woman. Then stopped and looked back. "Father, do you think she may know…?"

Father knew what he meant, there was no need for more words, it had been something unspoken all of Vincent's life. Just like every other orphan Vincent wondered where he came from, who his parents were. But for Vincent the answer might be worse than not knowing.

"Well when she is well we will ask her," his father said as he turned back to the unconscious woman.

****

Thea woke slowly to pain and the sound of the metallic tapping. When she opened her eyes she was in a stone cavern of some kind surrounded by simple cots and out-of-date medical equipment, dimly lit with candles. She turned her head to her right and sitting beside her bed was a pretty young woman wearing an outfit, of what looked like a cream dress made of wool with an over robe of gossamer white. Her skin was alabaster and her golden brown hair was long with some swept up away from her face and the rest falling over her shoulders. Her head was bowed as she read an old book.

"Hello," Thea said softly, her voice rough and her throat dry.

The young woman looked up. "Hello," she said in a soft voice and lifted a glass of water to Thea's lips. Thea drank thirstily and when she had had enough the young woman sat back and said. "I'm Catherine."

"How do you do Catherine, my name is Thea. Where am I?"

"This is the Hospital Chamber." Catherine said softly.

Thea looked into Catherine's green eyes and then said. "You're Catherine Chandler aren't you? I saw your picture in the paper when you disappeared."

"Yes," Catherine said softly.

"Is this where you've been all this time?" Thea asked.

Catherine smiled slightly, but there was pain in her eyes as she said. "Not all the time, no, but this is where I live now. And my name is Catherine Wells now."

"I see," Thea said. There was a very urgent need inside her that she had to satisfy. "Is Vincent here?"

Catherine had been told that this woman knew about Vincent and that if she asked this question she could answer truthfully. "Yes, he is looking after our son while I watched you. He has been very anxious to speak with you. You see I am Vincent's wife."

"Wife," Thea repeated surprised and pleased.

Catherine smiled, her own happiness overcoming any concern or displeasure. "Yes, for three months now."

Thea was pleased but one thing that Catherine said struck her. "Son, you and Vincent have a son?"

Like any new mother Catherine beamed at the mention of her baby. "Yes, he's teething and Vincent is the only one who can calm him. They have a very unique relationship."

Thea wanted to ask another question but wasn't sure how to put it. Her expression must have shown on her face and Catherine smiled and said. "Its all right you can ask."

"Your son is he …?"

"Like Vincent?" Catherine asked, smiling tolerantly without any discomfort, "Our son is beautiful. He has his father's eyes but I am sure that he will be just like Vincent as he grows, gentle and sweet and with some very special gifts."

Satisfied that so many of her questions had been answered so simply, Thea turned her head and looked up at the rock ceiling. "A wife and a son," she whispered to herself. A smile spread across her face and she closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep.

The next time Thea woke, a man about her own age was bending over her with a stethoscope in his ears and he was listening to her heart. She looked up at him, "Who are you?" she asked and his gaze shifted from his patient's chest to her face.

He put the earpieces around his neck and straightened, smiling as he took her wrist. "My name is Jacob Wells, Doctor Jacob Wells. But everyone here calls me Father."

Thea smiled as she said. "Well excuse me if I call you Dr Wells. I am too old to call you Father."

He laughed softly as he laid her wrist back on the covers. "I think Jacob would be fine."

"Thank you Jacob. I am sure my recovery is due to you."

"And Vincent, he was the one who brought you here before you lost too much blood," Jacob replied placing the stethoscope in an old battered doctors bag.

"Yes, Vincent…" Thea said with a sigh.

Jacob sat down beside her then and asked. "Do you feel strong enough to answer some questions?"

"Yes," Thea murmured with a sigh. 'Here it comes' she thought.

"Catherine thinks you are Professor Amalthea Preston. Is that true?" Jacob asked.

"Yes."

"What were you doing in the upper tunnels and who was that man?"

"I was looking for Vincent and that man was Professor Carl Krosburg."

"Carl Krosburg? I've heard of him," Father said. "He was a brilliant scientist."

"And a cold blooded murderer," Thea declared angrily. "I worked with him many years ago. You have no idea of some of the things he did in the name of scientific research."

"I can imagine," Jacob replied with a frown.

"Well then I am sure you are not surprised to discover that Vincent was one of his … projects…" Thea had to stop as the memories flooded back and her throat closed.

A hand came to her arm and Jacob murmured sadly. "And you were one of his assistants who helped him in Vincent's … birth?" Father could see how painful this was for the professor, who must have been privy to some very disturbing sights. He knew from personal experience what a research scientist did. But Thea's next words shocked him more than he could ever express.

"No Jacob, "Thea exclaimed. "I am Vincent's mother…"

Part Three

Amalthea had known her child was different even before he was born and when she first saw him she thought he was beautiful. His beautiful face and kittenish smile made her heart ache with joy. Moments after he was born she had held him and spoken to him in more than words, as she had throughout her pregnancy and she wept bitter tears when he had been callously ripped from her arms. His deep lusty screams of protest had broken her heart. It was as though as tiny as he was he knew what they were doing and that sound was the last she had ever known of him until now. Carl had told her a short time later that her child had died. She had never truly believed it. She knew he still lived even after his 'supposed' death and callous disposal. She could feel his life force mingled with her own and the special abilities she had had all her life had aided her. That Vincent and she were connected in some unfathomable way was unmistakable to her now if only one sided. She felt even now that he was nearby and he was content and mingled with this contentment was another different essence fainter but separate, Was that his son? She had wondered what, if any, of her gifts Vincent might have inherited from her. She didn't need any psychic powers to know that what she had just said had affected Jacob Wells deeply.

After her announcement he had sat back heavily in his chair with his mouth open. "Oh, my God!" he had exclaimed.

"When can I see him Jacob?" Thea asked gently as the man beside her gathered himself together.

He sputtered a moment and then answered her. "Well …I…I don't know. I will have to prepare him. This is not something you can just spring on the boy out of the blue."

"Jacob I have waited over thirty years for this moment …"

"I know, but let me think, a little while longer won't hurt surely… Please?" Father pleaded. "As soon as I can I will get him here, I promise but you must give me time." He stood and went to the nearest pipe and tapped out a request for Mary to come to the Hospital Chamber.

While they were waiting Thea asked. "Did you bring him up?"

"Yes."

"How did he come to be in your care?"

"Vincent was found behind St Vincent's Hospital by one of our community. A woman called Anna." Father was very preoccupied but he answered her questions truthfully.

"What condition was he in?"

"He was ill for a very long time."

"Yes so was I…"Thea declared with tears in her eyes. " I would have kept him you see. That's why they took him. I would have found a way to look after him and bring him up safely." She lifted the locket from around her neck and opening it spoke as she smoothed it with her fingers. "They let me hold him for a few moments after he was born and they left me alone with him. It was then that I took this lock of hair. I knew it was all they would let me have of him." She opened the locket and Father saw two locks of hair each secured beneath protective plastic film one dark auburn and short the other long and Vincent's color. She smoothed her fingers over each compartment with great reverence. "He was so tiny and so beautiful." Then she looked up at the man beside her "The second one I found … in a cage… two years ago." Then she asked quietly as she looked up at Father with tears glistening in her eyes. "Does he know anything do you think?"

"I think he suspects something, he heard you talking to professor Krosburg and he knows you were there at his birth."

"Do you think he will forgive me?" Thea asked, the pain of so long ago twisting within her.

"Forgive you, for what? You had no choice."

Thea looked down at the locket again. "At the end no, but at the beginning … yes, I had a choice then…"

His scientific curiosity peeked Father asked. "And, Vincent's Father?"

Thea stared ahead of her and with a grim smile she answered. "There was no father … Well not as you or I perceive the term. Carl would have been the closest thing to Vincent's father just as Frankenstein was a father to his creation.

She suddenly looked up at the man beside her in alarm. "Don't say anything to Vincent he need not know these details surely…"

Father smiled sadly, his love for Vincent overriding the unasked questions that burned in his mind. "He will have his own questions Professor."

"Yes and I will deal with them as they come but please let me be the one to answer them if I can," she pleaded.

This was an opportunity to at last find out HOW but he quickly realized that to delve too deeply could only be hurtful to Vincent and so he fought the impulse as the lady before him changed the subject as her concentration stayed on the large gold locket.

"What is he like Jacob? Catherine has told me a little about him and I know he is strong and caring." She paused and smoothed the worn face of the locket with her fingers, thoughtfully before she continued, " In his eyes I abandoned him when he was born because of how he is … what he is…"

"He is the most compassionate man I have ever met Thea, I'm sure he will not blame you. He has an immense capacity to forgive and understands things that you and I would find difficult to fathom." Father replied with emotion,

Thea was silent for a few moments her attention on the locket simply smoothing it with her thumb.

"I will leave you now."

But as he was about to leave, she grasped his hand. "Thank you Jacob. You have eased my mind a great deal."

At that moment Mary entered the chamber. A look passed between Mary and Father as she saw his hand held by the patient and then Mary smiled with understanding and came up to them saying. "I am Mary."

"Hello Mary." Thea said with a smile releasing his hand.

"I won't be long. Mary will see to all your needs until I return." Then as he was about to leave the room Father asked." Please say nothing until I have had a chance to think of the best way to do this?"

Although reluctant and eager to see her son, Thea understood that she keep her revelation to her self until Vincent was told, and she said, "Of course Jacob."

****

Father made his way straight to Vincent's chamber, but he was not there only Catherine, who was feeding Baby Jacob.

"Father, is something wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost." Catherine said placing the baby over her shoulder.

Father put a handkerchief to his forehead and then sat heavily on the bed. "Catherine, I must speak with Vincent, when will he return? Do you know?"

"He's down in the lower chambers with Kanin and Mouse…But I am sure he would return if called for. What is it Father?"

As gently as he could, Father told Catherine what he had learned.

"Oh, my God!" Catherine gasped placing her sleeping baby into his crib. "What are you going to do?"

"Do? Tell Vincent of course, as easily as I can."

Catherine frowned and sat beside him on the bed. "Father how can you tell him something as unexpected as this easily? This is something Vincent has wanted all his life."

"I know that. Don't you think I know that? I also know what a shock it will be to him." And he bent and put his head in his hands.

Catherine blinked at Father's tone, but she was also well aware of the strain he must be under as the bearer of such knowledge. "Vincent deserves to know the truth as soon as possible Father. We can't keep something this important from him for very long. Even now he must be able to feel my distress. I have been able to keep some things to myself but this…"

Father was diverted for a moment." You mean your connection has returned?"

"Yes," Catherine answered with a gentle smile.

"When did this happen?"

Catherine blushed. "It started just after Jacob's birth. That's how he was able to save me, but with all the stress and concern for Jacob it was blocked somehow. Then after Jacob was returned to us… the first time we…it reestablished itself quite dramatically." She finished with a tender smile.

Father cleared his throat, well aware of the extent of Catherine and Vincent's new physical relationship. "I see…"he murmured, and then coming back to the problem at hand he asked. "Then we haven't much time. What do you think he would want us to do?"

With a gentle smile, and conscious of Father's need to do what was right for Vincent, Catherine said softly. "I think we should leave it between Vincent and his mother."

"Yes, you are right. I will tell the Professor and send one of the children for Vincent. When Vincent returns ask him to change and then to go to the Hospital Chamber would you please?"

Catherine leaned forward and kissed the man who was now her father too and said." Of course, Father."

****

A short time later Father reentered the Hospital Chamber and laying a hand on Mary's shoulder, said. "Thank you Mary." Mary took this as a signal that Father wanted to be alone with the Professor and nodding to them both left.

Father sat in the chair Mary had vacated and with a stern look at the silver-haired woman, he said, "Vincent will be here shortly and I trust you will be gentle, Professor, it will be even more of a shock to him than it was for me."

"I understand that and I will try, Jacob," Thea said firmly.

Some time later as Father and the Professor were speaking quietly about her search for her son, a sound made them turn to the entrance or the chamber as Vincent entered.

"Father, is something wrong? Catherine is disturbed but will not tell me any more than that I was to come here," Vincent declared as he came to stand beside his father, with a curious look toward the woman in the bed.

"Ah Vincent, there is someone here who wants to speak with you." Father said as he rose to his feet and began to walk out of the chamber. He stopped at the entrance and spoke softly, "Just call if you need me." And then he turned and left the room.

Vincent watched him go, picking up on Father's concern, but unsure what it signified.

"Vincent," he heard from behind him and he turned to the woman in the bed. "Come and sit by me please. I have to talk to you, to thank you."

"I wish to talk to you as well and thanks are really not necessary," Vincent said softly, still concerned by Catherine's behavior and the muffled emotions he sensed from her. When Catherine tried to hide her feelings from him he became worried, and now Father's strange behavior bothered him as well.

"But the talk is," Thea Preston said bringing him out of his reverie.

"Yes," he answered simply. Vincent had often wondered where he had come from, who his parents were. He had made his own assumptions about many things, some simple and some outrageous, but nothing had ever revealed the truth … until now. This woman knew the whole story of his origins, he was sure of it, and he was both afraid and anxious to know the answers. But there was something about this woman that he couldn't fathom, a familiarity he felt when he was near her. He had felt it clearly in the tunnel when he first met her and it had grown as he carried her to the Hospital Chamber and now it seemed much stronger. Like a forgotten memory in the back of his mind that was slowly reemerging.

Thea watched her son, seeing him clearly for the first time in so many years. He sat looking at his hands, obviously lost in thought. What questions were going through his mind, while she absorbed every aspect of him? His face was still as it had been when he was born, unique and beautiful. She took in every line, every change from the babe to the adult, there were whiskers on his cheeks and chin that weren't there then and the high cheek bones and chin were family traits as was his broad chin. His hair was so thick and long and the same color that hers had once been and the way he wore it must be a personal choice which only confirmed his total acceptance of who he was.

Vincent looked up at her then and his eyes met hers. They were her father's eyes she realized – her eyes, and Catherine had mentioned that those eyes had been passed to their baby son as well. In Thea's opinion Vincent was completely beautiful, body, soul and spirit she could feel it, and she was so very proud of him. Whatever his beginnings this unusual young man was something to behold. The clothes he wore only made him look more handsome and he was wearing the unique cloak-like garment he had been wearing when she first met him. She could still smell the aroma of candle wax and leather, as he had put his arms around her in the tunnel.

Vincent was unaware of her scrutiny, only her silence as he gathered his own thoughts. But when he looked up something palpable passed between them as their eyes met. When he spoke it was hesitant. "In the tunnel … I heard what you said to the man…"

"Yes," she prompted.

"You spoke as though you were there when I was …"

"Born, yes I was there."

Vincent seemed to relax. What had he thought all these years? The way he had hesitated, how else did he think he came into this world? What horrible things had he thought or been told, or perhaps tormented with by other children, because of the way he looked?

Blue eyes met blue eyes, "Tell me…please," Vincent asked with a mixture of fear and anticipation.

"You came into this world like any other baby Vincent. You were conceived and carried within a woman and when the time came you were born."

"Normally," Vincent asked, the horrific lie that Paracelsus had created in his mind where he had tore at his mother's flesh to come into this world, still tormented him. Even though he was aware it was an irrational fear, he couldn't help it.

Thea smiled sadly. "Yes, dear Vincent, very normal."

Thea moved closer to him then, wincing in pain, and Vincent helped her, putting another pillow behind her. When she was comfortable she began to answer all of Vincent's unasked questions. "I will not go into the how of your conception and birth Vincent dear. I am sure we both agree it is irrelevant. Your motherbecame pregnant and carried you for less time than was normal, just as Jacob tells me your Catherine carried your son."

Vincent digested this, agreeing with her reasoning and accepting it. Then the most important of his questions burst forth, "Do you … know what… happened to my mother?" he asked almost fearfully.

"You already suspect the truth dear one." And leaning forward Thea took both of Vincent's hands and looked into his eyes.

Vincent felt something go through him at her touch, and as he watched her eyes they filled with tears. He gasped as the truth struck him, "You … are my mother…" it was a choked whisper, and he felt tears burn in his own eyes.

"Yes, dear Vincent, and like your Catherine, you were taken from me just after you were born…"

Vincent couldn't speak, his throat closed and his breath escaped his lungs with difficulty. His mind was in turmoil 'how could this be?'

Thea hurried to reassure him and ease his shock. "I know this is difficult for you, you have only now learned of me, but I have known about you all your life."

Vincent watched the woman beside him and scanned her face. Was she who she claimed to be? Yes there were similarities, he could feel it. Although physically he was larger, he had her chin. Much more delicate than his of course, but the same shape, but the eyes told a story he could not deny. He had seen them looking back at him in the mirror pool all his life.

There was a moment of silence as Thea simply took in every detail of Vincent's face. He sat passively before her allowing this – there were few whom he would allow to do such a thing, but this woman, out of them all, had a certain right to scrutinize him. He felt for the first time in his life that, to this woman there were no surprises only re-acquaintances. A small hand lifted to his cheek. It shook. And the tears in her eyes escaped to slide down her own cheeks. "Oh my dear sweet boy…I have waited so long for this moment…" she said in a choked whisper.

Vincent was overwhelmed with feelings he had no name for and no words either, this was a dream come true, a wish fulfilled. He had thought he'd lost everything a few months ago, and then it was all returned to him, and now this. His heart was so full, as now before him sat the mother he had always craved. And his hand came up to cover hers and she took it in her own.

After a moment as he felt the smallness of her hand in his – much smaller even than Catherine's he asked gently, "How did you find me?"

"Oh my dear, I have been looking for you for a very long time. I could not let you think I abandoned you and I was so very young when you were born. In my search I learned all I could that might one day lead me to you. I worked very hard with one purpose –to find you, and in time I gained a privileged position at the university. I knew you were alive and somewhere in the city and I never gave up hope.

"How did you know I was in the city?"

"Oh I knew in the deepest part of me. A sense of you here." And she placed a hand on her heart. "I vowed never to give up until I found you. I knew Professor Hughes and when I read the article in the Star Confidential that day so long ago now, I knew you were close but then I lost you again. I went through Hughes' belongings and saw a photo he took of you and read his journal. I knew then who you were but I didn't know where you were."

Vincent turned from her, remembering a very painful time in his life when he had been taken by the two men and caged as an experiment.

"I am so sorry I couldn't have spared you your treatment by those men my dear. I didn't know any of it until it was too late and you were gone. I found Edward's journal in his office just after his death and kept it from the authorities. It was not relevant to his death, since it was clear that his assistant had killed him – although the cause of Gould's death was declared an accident."

Vincent looked down at his hands, now clasped in his lap. "I had no choice."

A small delicate hand covered Vincent's large clawed ones, and squeezed gently. "I know."

Thea continued. "After your rescue I was visited by Carl. It was Carl who took you from me …"

"Was he my father?" Vincent asked suddenly.

"In a way, but not the way a true father is. To Carl you were … a tool he could use to further his career, but you fooled him, you appeared to die almost the moment he took you away from me. He wanted you alive you see. I don't know how you came to be where you were found but I am so glad you were. The alternative was unthinkable and so I knew I had to hide whatever I knew about you from him. If he caught you …" the rest was left unsaid. It was obvious to Vincent that he would be better off not knowing. "After Carl's visit and your escape I feared he would find you. I took a leave of absence and when I returned I was given the card of a young woman from the District Attorney's Office and asked to call her …"

"Catherine?"

"Yes, I feared she had discovered that I had been in Edward's Laboratory. When I read the journals I knew that it must have been you whom Edward Hughes had held captive, and that you had spoken the name Catherine was also mentioned."

Vincent withdrew his hand and asked. "Why didn't you …"

"Why didn't I run straight to Catherine and demand to see you? I was in shock Vincent and I also knew Carl would not give up so easily. He had me followed. I couldn't believe it might be you and although I had hoped to find you for so long I was alone and unsure where you had gone. I became ill and was sick for some time. Whether from the pain and uncertainty and loss after so long hoping, I don't know. How could I tell Catherine who I was, Vincent? I didn't know very much about her then or your relationship with her, or even where you were."

"She was protecting me." Vincent said softly,

The woman at his side laughed without humor. "So was I."

Their eyes met again in complete understanding and Thea continued. "Then some time later I felt something was very wrong and I discovered that Catherine was missing."

Vincent looked away, remembering the pain he was in at that time. "I had been ill and had lost the Bond I share with Catherine. I searched for her for months, not knowing that she was carrying my child, and then on the night he was born the connection that I had with Catherine was reestablished with our son and I rescued her, but not before our son was taken. It was another three months before I could bring him home."

"You have been through so much …" Thea reached out a hand to Vincent again and he took it.

"It seems we have been fated to be apart," Vincent said with great sadness.

"Yes," she affirmed, there were tears in her eyes as she continued. "A few months ago I went back to Hughes' journal and he mentioned that he had … captured … you, exiting the drainage tunnel in the park. So in desperation I came here. By this time I was sure you could stop Carl if needed, and I didn't care what happened to me. The rest you know."

Vincent was overwhelmed with so much emotion. "This is beyond belief," he said, his voice strained.

Thea declared suddenly. "If I had had my way my dear, we would never have been separated. I had plans to take you to the mountains where we'd have lived together and you would have been free, but Carl never let me out of his sight."

"I am free." Vincent said in a defensive manner. "I am with my family." He stood and his mother took his hand with a pleading expression. He looked down at her in confusion and shock and there was silence in the room as Vincent digested all he had learned.

"Vincent," Thea pleaded.

"I'm sorry but I must think. Please excuse me…" and he turned and left the room in a flurry of dark material.

****

'The Falls' had always been a place of peace for Vincent, but now it seemed insufficient. He had walked the corridors and passageways of his world as though looking for something but he wasn't sure what that was. Always before in his life he had found peace in such an action, even when Catherine was missing it had been like a balm to his troubled soul. Now he was at a loss.

He had always thought as a boy that he was in some ways so very like other boys but as he grew his mind began to take unbelievable leaps. The simple fact that he had come into the world the same way as everyone else had begun to seem less possible. He had found his life's best treasure in Catherine and since finding her he had learned so much about himself and in these last months he had become more assured in his humanity with the birth of their son. Now he had been offered the desire of his heart and the missing piece of his soul – his mother

Why was he having trouble accepting her?

She had not spoken about HOW or WHY he came about, although some of it was abundantly clear. But she was right, the hows and whys were not important, he was who he was, not because of such incidentals, but because of the choices he had made and the people who had been there for him all his life. His tunnel family, his real family

"I had plans for us," Professor Preston had said "A place in the mountains."

How would such a life have been? He would have been free to roam out in the open in the daylight but he would not have been the symbol for this world, nor would he have been there to save Catherine, fall in love with her and become a father – because of her love.

He shook his head; life was a strange adventure, filled with many twists and turns, crossroads and pitfalls. Suddenly he went cold all over as he realized he was not the only one to have suffered.

Thea Preston, too, had suffered unimaginable pain by giving birth to a very special baby, like Catherine, and, like Catherine had also had her newborn baby snatched away only moments after birth. Both women had additional pain because they remembered their baby. Whereas Vincent, now that he examined his earliest memories, realized that he could recall only vague images, feelings and sounds.

Suddenly he was assailed by the pain such an act must have caused his mother. The faceless shadow in his past he had tried to forget all his life. She was not some monster or creature used to create him. Amalthea Preston was a truly remarkable human being, who had for whatever reason and whatever circumstances – had carried him and given birth to him.

As for Vincent, nothing he had experienced had been her doing and she had found him again and that in itself was remarkable.

He lifted the pouch at his waist and opening it took out Catherine's rose and sat for some time smoothing it with his fingers…

****

Father came into the Hospital Chamber to find Amalthea Preston quietly weeping. Father cleared his throat and asked. "Would you like a cup of tea Professor?"

Thea had been so attuned to her son that she hardly heard the question. Vincent was traveling quickly away from her, his mind in turmoil and her own breathing felt constricted.

"Professor?"

"Oh, I'm sorry…" Thea smiled, wiping her eyes and Father repeated the question as he handed her a square of linen. "Yes thank you," she sniffed accepting the cloth and wiping her eyes and nose with it.

Father tapped out a request for tea on the nearest pipe with his cane and turned back to his very unusual guest. He sat in the chair Vincent had vacated and asked. "Can you tell me about your life since…"

"Since they ripped that beautiful child out of my arms?" she finished with angry tears forming again in her eyes.

"I'm sorry. If it's too painful…"

Sniffing and dabbing at her face Thea shook her head and said. "No, no, it's all right. I have never been able to talk to anyone about it. You see I couldn't tell anyone." She laughed without humor, "Who would believe me. Not even my husband knew. Although I suspect he often wondered, when on the same day each year, Vincent's birthday, I became thoughtful and morose. He must have known it was some tragedy that had happened before we met, but he never asked. You see I could never have any more children."

"I'm sorry." Father said.

"So am I and I have I been, for thirty five years." Then with a final sniff and a dab at her face she declared. "I hate self pity and never usually allow myself to indulge in it. It is such a waste of energy."

Father smiled with irony. "Vincent is the same, and unlike the rest of us he has cause to indulge sometimes." When her blue eyes met his he added. "He is very much like you, I think."

****

Vincent found Catherine in their chamber. Jacob was in her arms and he was fussing, no doubt picking up on his father's uneasiness. "Catherine."

"Vincent what is it?" Catherine asked, standing and coming over to him.

Without thinking Vincent took the baby and as he rocked him he said softly, "I …" How could he tell her what he had discovered? "Catherine the woman in the Hospital chamber has just told me something extraordinary."

Catherine knew to keep her knowledge from him would be a betrayal and so she said gently. "I know Vincent…"

Vincent stopped rocking the baby and met her gaze, "You know?"

"Yes, Father told me. He was very concerned about you and how you would react."

Catherine watched as Vincent brought Jacob's soft forehead to his lips and kissed it. She had seen him do this before and realized that this contact with his son made it easier for Vincent to think a problem through. At this moment however this poignant gesture was helping him digest this side of his life he had never mentioned and then he said. "Catherine we have never spoken of this …"

"But I know you have always wondered about your parents and where you came from. How do you feel about what you've discovered?"

He began to pace the chamber, rocking the baby gently. "I don't know how to feel. This is a dream come true but I am so confused." Then he stopped and turned to her. "Catherine I don't understand. Why should I be confused? This is a wonderful day, yet I feel as though I have been given a huge burden to carry."

Catherine came over to him and taking the baby, now asleep from his father's touch, placed Jacob back into his crib as she spoke softly. "Vincent, this is something you have wanted all your life and it's a little frightening when our dreams come true." She came back and walked into his arms, laying her head on his chest, reveling in the feel of his arms as they came around her and his chin rested on her head. "Give yourself time my love, you are still in shock. When you get used to the idea you will be filled with joy at the prospect of having the mother you have always wanted."

Sometime later, Vincent re entered the Hospital Chamber carrying his son with Catherine just behind him, to find Father and 'the Professor' his mother, talking quietly and he could see and feel that she had been hurt by his withdrawal.

He stopped before the silver-haired woman, who looked up at him with a question. With a smile Vincent said. "I thought you might like to meet your grandson." And he laid the baby into her arms and stepped back, taking Catherine's hand.

Vincent's son looked up at his grandmother with quiet curiosity. Blue eyes met blue eyes and something passed between them that was almost palpable in the room. "Hello Jacob." Thea said with a radiant smile.

Jacob's answering smile was enough to light up the entire room and Vincent laid a hand on Thea's shoulder as he squeezed Catherine's hand. "Welcome home – Mother."

'Like a bolt out of the blue

Fate steps in to see it through

When you wish upon a star

Your dreams come true.'

THE END