This is a D/V post Season 3 what-if scenario, rated PG. What would have happened if Gabriel had escaped with Vincent's baby? I am not usually a Diana and Vincent fan but this story – like so many of my stories – seemed to write itself and it just seemed logical in this context that Vincent would turn to Diana if he didn't save his son and have him as a constant reminder of Catherine. So for all the D/V fans this one's for you.
"Hurry, Vincent! The police are almost here," Diana said urgently.
Vincent didn't move, he was standing before a baby's crib – it was empty. He stared into it blankly and with disbelief. He raised his head to the ceiling, and the sound of a helicopter fading into the distance told him all he needed to know. All his frustration and desperation merged within him and he let out a roar of pain and suffering as he fell to his knees. It was a cry to rival that which he had emitted on the night that Catherine had died; even Diana was affected by it.
Vincent stared up at the ceiling again as though he could see the instrument of his despair through the masonry – the helicopter that could be heard fading into the distance. He clenched his blistered fists and spoke as though he was having trouble breathing. "He's gone Diana … Gabriel has taken my son." He began to weep quietly, his forehead touching the side of the crib where his tiny son had slept.
Vincent had been imprisoned in a cage for three days. He had seen and held his son – Catherine's son, for the first time. Their hearts had bonded and Vincent had saved his life with that bonding. Only moments ago he had felt, through that bond, a rising fear and a threat of death.
With fierce determination he had torn the electrified gate from his prison. Overcoming every obstacle in his path he had raced through the house wasting the precious seconds it took to reach his son.
He had made his way here but the room was empty and his son was gone. The baby still lived, of that he was sure, and the danger had passed. Gabriel must have changed his mind at the last moment, deciding to let the child live, but Vincent had failed to retrieve Catherine's son, and for that failure he could not forgive himself.
He didn't care that his hands were blistered and burning or that chains hung from the manacles at his wrists. Inside he was dying, as he felt his son moving further and further away.
He stood and touched the sheet, still warm from his son's tiny body. Then he lowered his head and wept and his tears fell like drops of blood on the pristine surface of the white sheet. "I'm sorry Catherine… I have lost our son …"
"Vincent!" Diana demanded, trying to get his attention." There might still be a chance to get him back. But if you're dead that will be impossible! Hurry, Father is waiting Below." And Diana tugged on Vincent's arm.
The sound of sirens and men's voices finally reached his tormented mind, and with one purpose in his heart, to retrieve his son no matter how long it took, Vincent turned and followed Diana to safety.
They met Father in the tunnel and he embraced Vincent, who wept bitter tears into his shoulder. "I have failed, Father. Gabriel has taken my son."
"Not failed, Vincent," Father said softly, smoothing his son's hair "You went there to save your son's life, did you achieve that?" Father asked lifting Vincent's head in his hands, to look into his tear filled eyes.
Vincent's expression changed to a triumphant smile. "Yes, I saw him, and I held him …and, Father … he is beautiful, just as Catherine said he was. I've held him. I've bonded with him." Then with a look of intense determination he finished, "And I will never give up until I have him home, Father. If it takes the rest of my life…"
With those words ringing in his entire being, Vincent allowed Father to lead him out of the unfamiliar tunnel.
Diana followed silently behind, praying that for his sanity's sake, Vincent's determination to retrieve his son would one day be rewarded.
The sun beat down on his head as the boy ran through the hills of Tuscany where he and his father had been living for most of his life. A security guard ran behind him, trying to keep up. Running helped the boy deal with the emotions and visions that were coming more frequently now. The sun, the heat, the mindless mechanics of putting one foot in front of the other, of the wind rushing through his hair, and the joy of getting out of the Villa that his father owned – one of many throughout the world – gave him a sense of freedom.
The dreams and visions had always been a part of him, as was the feeling that something was very wrong in his life – that some vital part was missing.
He was almost eleven years old now but taller and stronger than other boys his age. His father always kept pushing him to excel in physical and scholastic exercises, which he always achieved with little effort.
His father – now there was a contradiction. In all his life the man who was supposed to be his father never once showed him affection. Yet he remembered …someone holding him, filling him with love and joy and strength and speaking to him in more than words. That was so long ago that it seemed like a dream, but deep inside him there was a place where he could find those feelings whenever he needed them. That physical touch had been snatched away, but not the dual sense and the knowledge that he was loved by someone, somewhere.
There was a place within him where he would hear whispers telling him never to give up that one day everything would change and he would be reunited with that touch of warmth and love.
These comforting feelings were snatched away as he reluctantly approached the Villa and he heard a man's voice. "Julian!" his father called. This name also felt wrong it wasn't his real name. He knew it. He thought of Julian as another person, the boy that the man called Gabriel was grooming to be his heir, but Julian was a puppet. He didn't know what his real self was called, but he knew that one day he would find out.
He slowed his pace, trying to prolong the inevitable meeting with this often absent parent, who treated him more like a pet than a child. He knew Gabriel wasn't his real father that had been made clear since Julian could understand such things. He was adopted – a chosen child – supposedly loved more than a real son would be. But for Julian, that was not so. He knew he was a possession – and a prisoner.
Gabriel had told him that his mother had been killed just after his birth and that he had a father, somewhere. One day he would learn all about him, and Julian waited patiently for that day. He could sense that it was coming closer each passing day and his excitement was building with it.
When he reached the gates of the Villa his trainer pounded up behind him, and the security guard moments later. Julian's father declared "So you outran your coach again, good." But there was no pride, only pleasure the likes of which only a spectator would show – nothing resembling an emotion ever touched Gabriel's dark lifeless eyes.
Stopping before his guardian, Julian said "It was an easy climb."
"Hmm," Gabriel said running his finger and thumb over his chin.
Julian cringed, that gesture always meant something unpleasant would follow. But to his surprise, his father said the words Julian had been wishing to hear for as long as he could remember.
"Go and get cleaned up. We leave for New York in an hour."
Julian's heart leapt. He had never been there but he knew there was something that drew him to the 'City That Never Sleeps'. Trying to keep his excitement to himself, Julian trotted inside and up to his room.
He had every modern piece of technology on the market and was always supplied with things. But what he craved most was knowledge and answers about his origins. He loved reading and would absorb anything and everything he could. Gabriel indulged him and he had read all the classics as well as so many other forms of literature and he was at University level scholastically. In his eleven years, he had heard his father often mention New York and that Julian had been born there. What had happened there and snatches of conversations had caused him to wonder what had happened to frighten his guardian so much that he had never returned. There was little that frightened the great Gabriel.
Keeping his joy hidden beneath a veneer of calm and disinterest, Julian dressed, packed and was ready to climb in the back of the limo when his father called. But when that call came he was led into the Theater Room where Gabriel would watch old movies and news reports sent especially for him to watch in private.
"Sit down, Julian, there's something I want you to see before we leave."
Julian sat in the plush red velvet chair that his guardian indicated, and waited patiently as the lights dimmed and the screen lit up. What he saw next both chilled and excited him.
It was an old black and white film, scratchy and crude, most likely from an old surveillance camera, but what was happening made Julian's heart beat fast. It was as though it was he who was on that screen and the roars were coming from him. His eyes were glued to the brutal murders of black clad men – Gabriel's men – as they were slashed or thrown against walls like rag dolls. His ears echoed with the sounds of fury and men dying.
"That happened the night you were born," Gabriel declared with his usual emotionless voice. "When your mother was giving birth to you, he… was ripping my men apart."
"Why?" Julian asked, knowing that what came next would most likely be a lie or a blend of truth and lies, but he had to ask.
"He was trying to stop you from being born. We got you out just in time. He was the one who killed your mother." And Gabriel made a pale attempt at trying to sound grief stricken. As Julian turned back to the screen, Gabriel stated flatly. "That's your real father …"
Julian felt like he had been punched in the chest. That was his father? He looked closer at the face – the fangs – the swiftness with which he killed – to get to him? Did he really want to kill his own son or was that the lie? Did this angry snarling killing machine, really kill the mother Julian had never met? He doubted it. But what was the true story? How could he find out?
One thing Julian knew for sure was that the face in this film was the face he had been seeing before his mind's eye each night before he went to sleep, throughout his entire life. And in those moments it was not a snarling angry face trying to kill him; it was a gentle face with eyes filled with love and the same color as his own. However he had learned long ago that he must let Gabriel think he believed the lies he told, so he said. "If I ever see him, I'll make sure he knows what I think about what he did. The man who killed my mother will die at my feet." There was conviction and fury in his voice. He had suspicions who might have killed his mother but had no proof, but until he did he would hold his fury inside.
Some hours later in the private jet, the closer they came to their destination the stronger Julian's feelings of excitement became and he felt as though he was finally going home.
Vincent sat in his chamber, reading one of his favorite books, when he felt Diana entering the tunnels. He stood and, pulling on his cloak, went to meet her.
At the junction from the home tunnels, to those leading to Diana's part of town, he waited for her to arrive. Moments after she came into view, she was in his arms and her head was on his shoulder, and there was a moment of silence between them.
They saw one another rarely, but they had found comfort in each other over the years, yet both knew that Vincent's heart still ached for Catherine and his son. But Diana had been patient and in time she had been rewarded with Vincent's affection.
When she stepped back out of his arms he asked "What is it Diana?" sensing an undercurrent within her.
Diana met his gaze, "Its Gabriel. He's back in New York," she said bluntly, knowing that Vincent deserved to be told as soon as possible.
Vincent stepped away from her, looking up at the ceiling, clenching his fists, his heart slamming painfully against his chest. "I have sensed…something … in the past few days and I have been having the dreams again. It has been so long, I had begun to lose hope. Where is he, Diana?" He said as he turned back to her with fire in his eyes.
Diana knew that he didn't mean Gabriel, he meant his son. "One of my sources told me he's in a high security penthouse in Manhattan. But Vincent you can never hope to get in there, or rescue him."
"Diana I must. This is the first time since Gabriel took him that he has been so close. I must try."
"Vincent, Gabriel almost killed you the last time you met. You barely got out of that cage alive. You can't hope to reach your son now."
Vincent's whole demeanor changed and he smiled knowingly. "I will reach him, Diana, one way or another. And I will get my son away from that monster. I know it." The smile broadened as he placed his hands on her shoulders and said. "You see we have never been completely separated."
Julian fired the gun until it was empty, leaving the target riddled with holes –in the heart and the head. An hour later he was sparring with his sensei in several forms of hand to hand combat, then weapons practice, including Kendo with all forms of blades.
As he bowed to his instructor, at the end of the final session, he heard loud slow clapping. When he straightened he saw Gabriel standing in the doorway of the dojo, still wearing his business suit and overcoat, with a pleased smile on his face, as usual this expression never touched his eyes.
"Well done, my son. You have done better than I could ever have hoped," Gabriel said as he came forward, waving the instructor away.
Wiping sweat from his face with a towel, Julian endured a brief embrace and a slap on the back. "Thank you, father,"
"I think you're almost ready," Gabriel said with pleasure.
"Ready?" Julian asked.
"To make your first real kill, I was older than you but sooner is always better."
Julian went cold all over, but he showed no emotion. He had hunted and killed animals, butchering them afterward, but what his father meant was blatantly clear. He wanted him to kill someone. "Who am I going to kill Father?" he asked, trying to make it sound like he didn't really care.
Gabriel smiled with a deathlike grin, and his eyes turned to black lifeless orbs as he declared. "Your real father of course…"
"Are you insane!? Father demanded angrily when Vincent told him of his plan to try and reach his son.
"Not at all," Vincent said with quiet determination.
Father, now white haired, paced about his study and leaned heavily on his cane, Diana stood by Vincent's side, lending her support; even though she knew he didn't really need it. He was not the timid grief-stricken man she had first met. Now, Vincent was determined and self-assured in every way. It was only his respect and love for his father that had caused him to come and tell him his plans in the first place.
Father turned back to the two, as they stood at the base of the stairs, knowing that it was only out of courtesy that they were here at all.
Diana's hand was on Vincent's arm in a familiar way and Father frowned. He knew that they had become closer in the last few years, and he had mixed feelings about it. But Vincent was no longer the shy uncertain young man who had fallen in love with Catherine. He was now a man who was at peace with himself, and because of his son, a man no longer afraid of physical intimacy as he had once been.
Father sighed and turned away. Vincent would do as he wished where his son was concerned, no matter what his father said. But before he left them to return to his bed he added "Be very careful, Vincent. It has been eleven years and there is no telling what that monster has done to the boy."
Vincent came forward, and with affection, laid a hand on his father's shoulder, turning the older man around to face him as he declared. "Trust me Father, I know my son. He is one of us, no matter where he has been or with whom. Even a rose can bloom in a desert, Father."
Father grunted and then limped out of the room.
Later in Diana's loft, all was quiet, the living room was empty and a small light from a candle could be seen in the bedroom. In the bed Diana rested her head on Vincent's shoulder, making lazy circles in the thick hair on his chest with a finger.
"Father knows about us, you know, and he's not happy about it either," she said matter-of-factly.
Running the long claws of his right hand, lazily and gently, up and down the soft skin on her naked back, Vincent murmured half asleep "Hmmm, Father misses little. But I think he has accepted that we are together."
The question 'are we together?' hovered on Diana's tongue but she ignored the uncertainties that came with loving Vincent. He had never said he loved her although she knew he cared. He had never mentioned the future either, their future, but she understood why. However sometimes a girl likes to at least know where she stands. So she rested her chin on her arms to look into his face and said instead, "Do you remember the first time we did this? You came to me to … talk."
"Yes I did." Vincent opened his eyes and looked deeply into hers, as he lifted a hand and ran his fingers through her fire-tinged hair. "But you seduced me instead," he murmured with a knowing smile. "Quite thoroughly too, as I remember."
"You needed seducing …" Diana declared with a wry grin and an unrepentant air. "It was the least I could do; besides it had been six years Vincent. And you felt it too. I know you did and you didn't need much convincing either, if I remember. You were a very willing pupil – once you let go." She then kissed him lightly on his unique lips.
Vincent returned the kiss, prolonging it, as he felt an undercurrent in this playful banter which had nothing to do with making love.
He rolled with Diana until she was on her back, and her hands buried themselves in his thick hair, pushing it away from his beautiful face. When the kiss ended, she looked deeply into his eyes, the fears she had been trying to hide rising to the surface. "Father's right. You are taking a terrible risk, you know."
"A risk that is well worth taking, if I am to retrieve my son," Vincent declared with conviction.
"I know," Diana replied.
She put her arms around Vincent's neck and squeezed tight, breathing in the scent of him; candle smoke mixed with earth and the unique fragrance that was his alone – all male plus something more. "I don't want to lose you or what we have." She declared in a rare moment of complete candor. They had become comfortable with each other over the years, as many lovers do – as companions – friends and confidants. Diana knew he cared for her deeply, as she did him, but the words were never spoken. There were times when he would become thoughtful and distant. Diana knew in these moments that he was thinking of his son or Catherine, or perhaps both.
She knew, for Vincent, their relationship was very different to what he had with Catherine and for that she was glad. But in essence she also shared him with the memory of Catherine. She had accepted that from the beginning, but they were good together and they connected on so many levels.
Diana had never been a moonlight-and-roses kind of girl. But she had never felt so complete with a man as she did with Vincent, nor had she been in a relationship this long. There was no thought of the future, marriage and children; because she knew that for Vincent it was as though his life was on hold until he found his son. What they had was just something he had fallen into along the way. It was enough for her though and it seemed enough for Vincent too. But what would happen when he had his son back? She didn't want to think of her life without Vincent in it, not now, and if their plan went wrong she could lose him forever.
He leaned his elbows on the pillow, on each side of her head, the complete contact of their naked bodies comforting as he said. "Don't worry Diana; I am not afraid of Gabriel. He can do nothing more to me than he has already done."
She took his face in her hands and shook his head roughly once, to hammer home the point, as she declared angrily, "No, only kill you this time! Don't you care what that would do to those who love you?"
Vincent looked deeply into her eyes and knew her feelings and her fears as if they were his own. He took one of her hands and disengaging it from his hair and kissed it as he said, "What we have is important to me Diana, as are you. Please know that, but my son is alone. He has no one but me. I have no choice. You have always known that with my last breath I would do anything to save my son. I must try."
Tears welled up in Diana's eyes as she whispered. "I know…" He would do anything to save his son and others that he loved. He was a truly noble man. Unable to speak, she pulled his head down and kissed Vincent fiercely, putting all her fears for him into the kiss. He responded with equal fervor and the time for talk was at an end, for the time being.
Julian awoke when he heard the buzz of conversation in the hall outside his bedroom. Something was setting off sensors all over the floor.
Julian climbed out of bed and armed himself with a small throwing knife, from a collection he kept in his drawer, and then he took out a small revolver and a weapons belt and secured them in it, then opened the door a crack and peered out.
There were two black uniformed guards outside his door, talking quietly and the thing that surprised him was that – they sounded scared. These were highly trained and fierce seasoned killers, who never flinched at anything. What would fill them with fear? There had been many attempts on Gabriel's life over the years, and even Julian too, but they were usually detected and over very quickly. This was very different.
Suddenly, 'The General', as Julian called him, came into view down the corridor. He was a burly, grey-haired man and the coordinator of Gabriel's security force. "Don't leave that door unguarded for any reason or you'll regret it." He said to the two men and then left.
The two men nodded and positioned themselves on either side of the door. Julian closed the door and leaned against it and closed his eyes. He let his mind calm, as he had been taught, and opened it up to the things going on, on the other side of the door.
Suddenly he encountered something – or more precisely someone and his eyes flew open…
Vincent had dealt with the two men in the surveillance room, where a battery of small screens filled an entire wall. He could see that there were men in black coveralls searching the entire top floor. He smiled ironically; Mouse had lived up to his name and supplied Vincent with a box full of mice. Vincent had released them as he entered from the service panel in the ceiling and they had scattered. It was these that were setting off the sensors all over the penthouse floor. It was a distraction, allowing him to find his son's room.
After scanning the many screens, Vincent finally found the boy's room and there he was. A tall youth, almost man height, he wore a dark sweatshirt and pants, and he was standing with his back against the wall beside the door, and Vincent's heart leapt. Even in the darkened room, Vincent could see the boy's resemblance to Catherine and an ache started deep within him.
Suddenly the boy stiffened and Vincent realized that his son was staring straight at the surveillance camera, and him, and there was a look of fear on the boy's face. Vincent felt something pass between them – a knowledge – a plea…
Vincent closed his eyes and concentrated, projecting peace, love and assurance. He was unsure that it would work but he had to try. Suddenly he felt an answering emotion pass through him, and he almost wept. It was insubstantial and impossible but so like that which he had once felt from Catherine, oh so long ago. And it was relief, surprise… and joy.
When he opened his eyes and looked at the monitor the youth nodded once and Vincent knew the message had been received and understood.
Vincent raced from the surveillance room to where his son waited and overcame any resistance along the way…
Julian waited impatiently; knowing that his father was nearing and he stepped away from the wall and faced the door. He stood in the middle of the room as he heard the two guards by his door cry out and then the door opened.
The person who stood there, in the light from the hallway, looked unchanged from the images he had seen in a black and white film. He took up almost the entire space in the open door. Julian's heart beat painfully fast and he looked back up at the camera in the corner of his room, knowing that whatever happened next would be recorded. But that was soon remedied when the intruder walked deliberately into the room and with one mighty swipe with his right hand, destroyed the camera.
He turned then and faced Julian, his black hood shadowing his face as though he was uncertain what to do next…
"I am sorry," was all Vincent could say.
Then suddenly Julian ran at him, knife raised and Vincent, though shocked and heartbroken, deflected the knife easily. It clattered away from them and he twisted the boy gently but firmly, pulling him up against his chest and securing his arms by his sides.
Julian struggled for a moment in the immovable hold of his father. So many emotions were cascading through him that he was overwhelmed and wept.
"Please don't struggle. You will harm yourself." Vincent murmured against the boy's ear. Then he realized that the child was sobbing and words filtered through the sobs.
"You have to leave … you have to go! There's another camera." The boy whispered.
"I came to take you away from here… from him." Vincent said urgently in return.
Julian shook his head. "You can't …"
"I will not leave you here." Vincent declared fervently.
"You have to! This is a trap… He wants me to kill you… he wants you to be the first person I ever kill!" the boy declared as he struggled and sobbed. "And you can't take me anywhere. I have a chip in me somewhere that he can track. You and all your family will die!" Julian yelled the last to create the illusion to whoever was watching the camera that it was a threat.
"Jacob …" Vincent whispered, his heart breaking, as he held his son against his chest and laid his cheek on top of the boy's head.
"That's not my name! My name's Julian!" The boy's voice cracked with the vehemence of the declaration as though he was proud of that name, but his feelings were saying something else.
Suddenly the door flew open. The hallway beyond was full of black clothed men and then a voice Vincent knew well said, "Do you think I'm stupid Vincent? I knew you'd head straight for him."
Vincent ignored Gabriel and as he turned to face his enemy, he whispered into his son's ear with great emotion, "Find a way to get to the roof. I will be waiting." Then he added clear for all those in the corridor to hear, "Know that I love you and your name is Jacob. It was my first gift to you when I first held you." Then Vincent let the boy go and backed away with a snarl of contempt for Gabriel and his men.
He then lifted his right arm just as a rope dropped from the ceiling, and in seconds he grasped it and was lifted up through a hole, where Mouse operated a crude pulley.
When he was safely in the duct, Vincent heard, "This way quick," as Mouse began to crawl away.
Vincent took one last look back down into the room and his eyes met those of his son, and with great reluctance he followed Mouse.
Gabriel came into the room as his men began searching the service shafts.
"So what did he say to you Julian?"
"He said he wanted to take me with him," The boy who heard the name said automatically, still looking up at the hole through which his father had escaped. He knew that from now on Julian was no longer who he was. He could still feel his father's warmth surrounding him, and even as the coldness of Gabriel encroached upon this moment, he felt the physical touch of his true father fade, but the sense of that soothing presence stayed. Another thing was also clear to the boy; Julian was gone, only Jacob remained.
"You should have let him take you," Gabriel's voice murmured, dripping with venom. "Then he'd be dead along with everyone he cares about."
Jacob didn't answer, he simply stared at the hole in the ceiling.
"Don't worry, you'll get your chance …" Gabriel said, before he turned and left the room.
Diana paced Father's study, chewing on a fingernail, until she heard voices approaching.
Father was quietly sitting, reading a book; she knew he didn't like her relationship with Vincent, even though she had saved his life in the past. It was the present that annoyed him. His son was gone on a fool's errand and Diana had helped him.
When Vincent came into the chamber, moving smoothly down the stairs he had a smile on his face. "What happened?" Diana asked unable to hold herself back.
"Exactly what we expected," Vincent said removing his cloak.
"You saw him. He's all right. Does he remember you?"
"Yes to all," Vincent affirmed.
"And what did such an excursion prove?" Father said from his chair.
Vincent was jubilant and he went over and kissed his father on the forehead and declared. "That my son is still my son and not Gabriel's creature. We will get him back, Father, now that we know what to do." Then he turned and walked back to Diana and took her in his arms. "He will soon be home Diana." And as they embraced Father frowned.
Jacob had escaped from Gabriel many times, which is why the chip had been placed in his body, although Gabriel had said it was for his own safety. Jacob had learned that it took the guards eight minutes and thirty three seconds to locate him. Then it would take another ten to get to him. Eighteen minutes and thirty three seconds, four minutes and twenty seconds of which had been wasted getting here. It happened so often that Jacob and the guards viewed it as a training exercise. Each time they locked down one escape route, Jacob would find another.
He was sitting in the shadow of one of the Gargoyles on the hotel roof, staring down at the bustling street below, when he felt a presence behind him and he knew it wasn't the guards. He turned and there was a large cloaked shape watching him.
"Hello," he said, as he looked back at the city.
Vincent didn't answer. He could feel the pain in the boy and was at a loss as to how to help him. Vincent came forward and sat next to his son.
"They'll be here in twelve minutes and thirty," Jacob said.
Vincent adjusted his cloak for comfort. "Do you know where this device within you is located?"
"No, if I did I'd have cut it out long ago."
"I have a friend who knows about such things. I will ask him what may be done."
Jacob turned to the amazing man who was his father. "You really don't get it do you? If he catches you, he will kill you."
"Don't you care?"
"All I care about is taking you away from him."
"Then you will have to kill him, because he won't let me go without a fight."
"Do you wish to stay with him or be removed?" Vincent asked. "If you wish to stay I will go no further."
There was a moment of silence, and then Vincent was grasped with such force that the air was momentarily forced from his lungs by its suddenness.
"Please, I don't want to stay here…"
Vincent pulled his son close and laid his cheek on top of the boy's head and as his heart almost burst with love, he declared. "Then I will do everything in my power to save you. This I promise you."
They both sensed movement on the roof. "Be well, my son." Vincent said placing a kiss on Jacob's forehead and then with a flutter of his cloak he was gone, with only ten seconds to spare before the guards found him. Jacob knew there would be punishment but he didn't care. He had a father who loved him and one day soon he would be with him.
Jacob dodged and got in a punch to his opponent before dancing away. The cheers and shouts of the crowd of onlookers was like the sound of a storm in his ears. But he didn't let it affect his concentration. In the next few moves he had overcome his opponent and won the match.
These fights were illegal but that had never stopped Gabriel. An eleven-year-old fighting someone his own age was bad enough but Gabriel was now putting his 'son' against men much older and larger.
Jacob had been participating in these fights since he was six and had lost only the first three until he learned how to use latent talents he didn't understand at first. Since then he was unbeaten and Gabriel had gained a great deal of respect and wealth from pitting his son against all comers.
The fact that the boy had been badly hurt in some of the early bouts didn't stop the man from sending him into the ring again and again, with only a short time to recover from each bout.
These days however, Jacob was barely touched and left his combatant bruised and bloody. And he hated it… but he had no choice. If he refused he was punished in ways he preferred not to think about.
Gabriel called these events 'Games' like in Roman times and they were fought much the same. Very few rules and terrible injuries sometimes deaths, although Jacob had never consciously harmed anyone beyond unconsciousness and no one had died. Gabriel had other fighters in his 'stables' that were less discerning, but none were as young as Jacob nor as famous.
In the last three weeks, Jacob had met with his father three times, in three different places to confuse the guards, and they had formulated a plan. After this fight, he would excuse himself and go to the bathroom and escape through the grate in the floor that a man named Mouse was at this moment loosening. Jacob would then lift it and slip through to the pipes below.
Jacob didn't know what would happen next, as his father had not told him but Jacob trusted him. Vincent had also told Jacob that this friend would be able to locate the chip. Another man Vincent called Father, who was a doctor, would remove it, and then Jacob would be free.
It all sounded so simple but would it be?
This went through Jacob's mind as there was a break in the brutality and his opponent was led to the other side of the dirt arena which was surrounded by a wire fence. Gabriel always sat behind Jacob's 'corner' even though the arena was more round than square. When Gabriel spoke, Jacob didn't even turn.
"You have your father's reflexes, Julian and you are only a boy. We will make millions when you're fully grown."
Jacob said nothing, if all went well he would be out of this man's hands tonight. Then he was back in the fight. He had been taught to make the fights last and make it look like he was tiring even if he wasn't. Then when he had his opponent where he wanted him he would strike and the man would be lying unconscious in the dirt.
When this was accomplished, Jacob simply walked away, not looking back. He made his way into the room at the back of the building. He wiped the blood from his mouth where his opponent had gotten in a lucky hit and went to the bathroom but forgot to lock the door.
"Hey, Jules, you okay?" one of the bodyguards asked. He was a likeable lump of a man with a hard surface and soft centre. Jacob affectionately called him Rocky Road.
"I'm fine, Rocky," the boy said as he bent and tested the drainage grate. It moved. He straightened with a smile and cleaned and wiped the surplus sweat from his face.
"Hey kid, your Pa wants to speak with you. Hurry up."
"Yeah, I'll be right out," Jacob said. But before he could bend to remove the grate he heard the door open.
Jacob stood still as the man who called himself his father entered and locked the door from behind him.
"You were distracted tonight, Julian."
"You'd better be. I don't want any signs on you that you've been fighting at the banquet tonight."
"He got in a lucky shot," Jacob said wiping at his bloody lip.
"Why were you distracted?"
Jacob had learned many things from his adopted father and one of those things was how to lie. "I can't help thinking of Him."
"He will be dead soon and we'll both be free …Come on we'll be late," Gabriel said turning to leave.
"I'll be out soon," Jacob said, walking into one of the stalls.
"Hurry, we leave in ten minutes," Gabriel commanded as he left the bathroom.
When he came out of the stall, Jacob locked the door. He bent and gave one last heave on the stubborn metal, and slipped through, replacing it behind him.
"Here," came a soft voice down a small pipe to his right.
When he looked, there was a small light flashing, and he went in that direction.
"Follow," the man said and staying silent, Jacob did as ordered.
They soon came to a larger pipe and the man jumped out and turned to Jacob and the man said, "Here," and he put a strange contraption around the boy's neck. It looked like a large radio microphone on a heavy metal chain.
"What's this?" Jacob asked.
The blond man smiled broadly and chuckled. " Jammer. Vincent said you have a radio chip inside. This will stop signal being sent. You'll be invisible." Then he laughed gleefully. "Come, Vincent is waiting." Then he turned and hurried down a long pipe, where water flowed onto the floor, and Jacob followed.
After about an hour of twists and turns, Jacob saw light at the end of the large pipe they were traveling in and his keener than average sight picked up a large cloaked figure. He hurried past Mouse and within seconds was standing in front of Vincent.
"I knew you could do it," Vincent said with a smile.
The next moment Jacob was in his father's arms, sobbing with relief.
Mouse wiped tears from his own eyes, Vincent had his son back.
Vincent led Jacob to the Hospital Chamber where Father waited, wearing his surgical gown.
"Jacob, this is my father. Father, this is Jacob, my son."
Father came forward and lifted his right hand for the boy to shake. "It's a pleasure to meet you …Jacob."
"My … G…Gabriel calls me, Julian. But I prefer Jacob." The boy said with a nervous smile.
"Yes well, come over here and lay down please."
Jacob looked back at his father with uncertainty but Mouse answered his unspoken question. "Bug, gotta take it out. Gotta find it first." He added and then took a long instrument out of the satchel he carried and said "Gotta find it, with this."
Vincent placed a firm, comforting hand on his son's shoulder. "We must remove the tracking device quickly. These walls are thick. It is hard for signals to be detected here but if you stay with us, you must go Above sometimes. It will surely be detected then. It must be removed Jacob, as soon as possible."
"I understand," Jacob said with a sigh of resignation.
Two hours later Jacob lay asleep in one of the beds in the hospital chamber and Vincent sat beside him, simply watching him. Father came up behind him and said." Vincent, can I speak with you?"
"Of course, Father." Vincent stood and followed his father out into the corridor.
Father turned. "Vincent, what are you going to do now?"
"I don't understand, Father."
"We couldn't remove the chip, Vincent."
"I am aware of that, Father. I was there when you found it."
"That chip is still active, Vincent, and imbedded in his brain too deep. I couldn't even attempt to remove it without a massive amount of damage. I don't know who could have put it there. But they must have been highly skilled, to have avoided irreparable damage. I am not young anymore nor that skilled. None of our Helpers who are doctors would even attempt to remove it. So I ask you again, Vincent, what are you going to do?"
"Do? Father I am going to try to help my son recover from eleven years in the hands of the man that would do such a thing to a child."
"Vincent, I know you want to save your son, but be reasonable. The monster that did this will be searching for that child and will stop at nothing to get him back. How in all good conscience can he remain here?"
Vincent's eyes darkened and his face reddened. "That child is My Son! And he will remain with me… No matter what happens, I will never abandon him again."
"Vincent, you never abandoned him."
"In his eyes, I did and I feel it, Father. He is afraid that if Gabriel comes after him, I will do so again. I must reassure him that will never happen."
"But what are you going to do to stop this?"
"I intend to take him as deep into the earth as I can. Far away from the world Above where Gabriel's trackers will never find him. He will be able to survive in the deepest caverns just as I can…"
"No, Vincent! Catherine would never want that for her son!"
Vincent gasped at mention of Catherine. "Catherine would want me to protect our son as I protected her." Vincent almost growled.
"But not by hiding him away from the sun, Vincent. Catherine would want him to have what you didn't. A life free, in the sun and filled with adventures in the real world."
"Father, as long as Gabriel is alive he will be hunted like an animal… what else can I do?"
"Send me back…" Jacob said from the doorway.
Vincent and Father turned to face him. "No!" Vincent cried with anguish.
"It's either that or be hunted until you're dead, or I am. He won't give up."
"Then, I will kill him," Vincent growled.
"And become a monster like him…" His son declared.
"No, he wins this round, but he won't win the match," Jacob said with determination. "I will get away from him one day even if I have to kill him to do it."
Vincent took his son into his arms." Oh Jacob, I am so sorry…" and they both wept as Father looked on, his own eyes moist, but his heart certain that this was the best course of action.
"Come, there is something I must show you before you leave," Vincent said later that day, as he led Jacob to his chamber. Jacob stopped in the entrance as a portrait of Vincent and a beautiful woman caught his eye.
"Is that my mother?" He asked with awe, walking slowly into the room.
"Yes," Vincent said with pride.
'She is beautiful."
"Yes, she is."
The boy walked forward and stood before the large painting hanging on the wall, staring at his parents as they stood in a loving embrace looking down at him. He didn't look at Vincent when he spoke, "Did he kill her?"
Vincent knew of whom the boy spoke. "He ordered her death…yes, I couldn't save her, or you," Vincent said softly, the pain still fresh.
"He said you did it. To try and stop me being born."
Vincent came up behind him. "I would have given anything to save Catherine's life but I was too late. And you were an impossible dream come true Jacob. I would never have harmed either of you."
"I wish I had known her," the boy murmured with a catch in his adolescent voice.
"So do I. She was a beautiful woman in so very many ways." Vincent put his hands on the boy's shoulders and turned him to face him as he said," But we are together now and from this moment on, Jacob, always and forever, the three of us."
"Yes, we are," The boy affirmed, and shortly afterward they left Vincent's chamber to take the long walk to where the boy would return to the man he hated more than ever.
At the exit into the street in Manhattan, Vincent stopped. "This is where you go out."
Jacob looked up the iron ladder and turned and embraced his father, holding him tightly in desperation. "He will take me out of the country after this and may even try to catch you. But don't let him okay. If you die, so do I…Knowing you're alive somewhere will give me the courage to go on."
Vincent's head came up and he closed his eyes. He had said something similar to Catherine once. "I will not die or allow him to capture me I promise."
"One day, I'll come back. Wait for me okay?"
Vincent smiled lovingly into his son's face. "I will be here."
"Tell grandfather goodbye for me. I think all this has been hard on him."
Laying his cheek on top of his son's head, Vincent said, "I will." He realized how much his son did understand.
"And don't worry about me. I'll be okay," the boy said to reassure his father.
"I cannot promise that. But I will think of you every moment of every day and you will be with me always, just as your mother is."
"Goodbye, Father, I love you…" Then Jacob climbed the ladder to the street, and walked to the hotel where his old life waited for him, but there was a new freedom within him.
Gabriel was furious. Jacob stood in his study as his guardian raged, pacing back and forth and Jacob sensed death only seconds away but he wasn't afraid. Then it passed and Gabriel turned to him and asked coldly, "You planned it didn't you?"
There was no sense in denying it, "Yes."
"Why?" Gabriel was calming now.
"You taught me to know my enemy. I wanted to talk to him."
"What did he tell you?" Gabriel asked as he stood before the boy.
"Just lies," Jacob said, his gaze meeting Gabriel's black eyes.
"Why did you go with him?" Jacob could sense that Gabriel still doubted what he was being told but, Jacob knew that enough of the truth would win him over.
"I wanted to get the lay of the land, ways in and out, their weaknesses. You taught me that too. It's a maze down there and I knew I had to go and check it out. I know how to get there now anytime I want."
"Not alone again, Julian," Gabriel commanded.
"I want him dead, Julian and I want you to do it."
"You can't capture him down there. There are too many places to hide. You found that out when Snow went down after him. "
"Then, what do you suggest?" Gabriel seemed to be convinced but with Gabriel he never really knew, even with enhanced senses.
"He trusts me. Let me lure him up here. Then we can trap him and I can kill him, right before your eyes." Jacob felt sick at the thought, but he had to keep Gabriel from acting on his own.
Gabriel smiled a specter-like sneer. "Julian, you never cease to amaze me. You make me proud."
Jacob smiled coldly. "Its what you've taught me all my life, Father. Never trust anyone."
Gabriel wasn't convinced. The boy was getting more difficult to read. This last escapade had showed him what the boy was truly capable of and he was beginning the feel like Frankenstein, when his creation became more than he had expected. The boy's usefulness was almost at an end. It was a pity. He did feel attached to the boy but if he didn't end it soon the child could easily turn on him. Just like any wild animal, they were never truly tamed. Gabriel may even be able to solve both of his problems at the same time.
He waved the boy away. "Go and get cleaned up. You have a busy day tomorrow."
Jacob turned from his guardian and walked to the door, but Gabriel's voice stopped him, "Did you find what you were looking for?"
"Yes, Father, I know all I need to know now to destroy the man who killed my mother." Jacob said, as he opened the door, and with a last look at Gabriel, he walked through it.
Those last words chilled Gabriel to the bone, but at that moment the phone rang and he was distracted. There would be time to test his son's loyalty.
Vincent was seated on Diana's couch, his cloak still about his shoulders, his concentration on his hands as Diana stood before him.
"And you don't know what Gabriel will do?"
"He is a boy, Diana, only a boy. I had him home at last. And now he is back in the hands of that monster."
"He has been living with that monster all his life, Vincent. He wouldn't have gone back if he was in danger."
"I know…" Vincent was in agony. Since saying goodbye to his son he had been feeling a swirling mixture of emotions from the boy, and he could make no sense from them.
Diana sat beside him, smoothing his hair in an attempt to calm him. "Vincent, there is nothing you can do. He will be all right. He is your son."
"I feel as though I have lost him all over again, Diana." Vincent could hardly breathe at the thought of Jacob back in Gabriel's power.
"Not lost. As your son he has advantages. He's already proven that. You will get him back."
"Diana, I feel his pain. He is in such agony …" Vincent moaned, putting his head in his hands.
"Physical pain, is Gabriel beating him?"
"No, not physical, more an inner torment, anguish and fury, the likes of which I have not felt in years. It's burning through me too." Vincent's hands were closed into tight fists and Diana could see blood trickling from his palms, where his claws had pierced the skin. "Diana, how can I help him?" with the last he looked at her.
Diana put her hand over both of his, "Vincent, you can't help him now. Gabriel will make the next move."
"Yes, I know," Vincent said, looking down as though only now feeling the pain in his hands. Diana pulled a tissue from a nearby box and pressed it into his hands, but the bleeding had already stopped. Vincent held it as he said, "But I have no choice, I must continue until my son is free, no matter what comes."
"Gabriel has been a shadow in your life for so long." Diana meant it as a simple statement but Vincent took it to heart.
"Yes and there is only one way my son will be free, Diana …" His blue eyes sought hers, and with that look, Diana knew that he meant one of them must die, either Gabriel or Vincent.
"I know, that's what I'm afraid of," Diana whispered, and with fear for him burning within her, she began to stroke Vincent's face as his troubled eyes searched her face. Oh God, she loved this man but the words had never been spoken and they couldn't be spoken now. Now he needed comfort and reassurance and that is what she intended to give him.
She bent forward and kissed his softly bristled cheek. Not like any other man's cheek, it was like down and so very pleasurable to kiss. Then she moved to his lips, those oh so unusual lips, which at first remained unaffected by her caresses. A barrier she had overcome many times in the last six years. But this time would it be the pre-curser for something she had feared all along, his final rejection? Would his son now and forever stand before them and take precedence over his personal happiness?
But suddenly, as though a dam had burst within him, Vincent groaned and returned her kiss, meeting her passion with his, giving and taking, measure for measure until they were beyond rational thought.
Afterward as they lay on her couch, just touching lightly, in a reaffirmation of what had just passed between them, Vincent spoke. "Diana please know that though the words have never been spoken between us, I do love you. I could not tell Catherine until it was almost too late. I felt myself unworthy of the right to express such feelings, and I regret deeply keeping those words unsaid. But mine was another life then." He moved to his right side, pulling her closer, he gazed into her eyes and added. "What we have shared in these last years is something I had never believed possible. I know that you are sometimes hurt by my continued devotion to Catherine and our son. But like all parents I find I cannot disconnect my feelings where my son and his mother are concerned. Even without the bond I have with Jacob, it would be impossible."
Diana was amazed in all their time together, Vincent had never touched on such subjects. Catherine had always been there between them and Jacob was a distant dream that haunted Vincent constantly. She knew that once again, Vincent was preparing her, and himself, for the worst. She decided to make the most of this moment of openness. She would not admit to a life without Vincent, not now, not ever.
"Vincent, whatever happens between you and Gabriel. When this is all over and Jacob is safe, I still want to be a part of your life. I have lived with Catherine's memory between us all this time. To have you I would suffer anything." There were tears in her eyes which Vincent saw.
"Diana, I would want nothing more than to be with you for the rest of my life. I once thought we are given but one chance at love – for me, most assuredly. When I lost Catherine, I thought I would die, but our son needed me. I think I would have succumbed to madness or worse when I lost him. But you were there to remind me that he may need me one day." He chuckled. "I remember how, in those early days, when my family indulged me in my self-pity, you would badger me until I saw reason. Then, when Gregory brought a reign of terror, it was you who saved Father. You are as much a part of me as my heart." With the last, he bent and kissed her gently to punctuate his words. Diana was so overwhelmed by his words she threw her arms around his neck with renewed passion and fervor…
As the two lovers shared these stolen moments, five men were scaling the building. When, sometime later Vincent left Diana's loft, they were waiting.
Jacob was brought out of a deep sleep when he heard raised voices in the corridor. He got out of bed and opened his door. Black guards were running toward the elevator to the roof where he could hear the sound of a helicopter on the helipad.
Jacob was accustomed to breaches in security. Gabriel had many enemies but his worst fears were realized when he heard a roar. The next thing he knew he was standing in the main living area, without knowing how he had gotten there, just as two men brought an unconscious Vincent and dumped him on the floor. There were three tranquilizer darts in his chest.
"Sorry, boss, he came around again just as we landed and we had to dose him a second time," Rocky said apologetically as he stood over Vincent's unconscious body.
Gabriel turned to the boy and said, "Now we'll have some fun." And while Gabriel was congratulating himself, Jacob was terrified that his father was going to die and that he would be the one forced to do it.
Diana came hurrying into Father's study with dread and when he turned to her she declared. "Gabriel has Vincent…"
"What!" Father almost leapt from his chair.
Diana came sheepishly into the room. "He was with me … and when he was leaving they shot him full of some drug and he dropped like a stone. There was nothing I could do." Diana's heart was breaking.
Father fell back into the chair, his hand covering his face. "Oh my God…"
Jacob watched as they chained his father hand and foot and then dragged him unceremoniously out of the room.
"I've prepared special accommodation for him, Julian, come and see," Gabriel said as he followed the men carrying Jacob's father. At the end of the hall was the door to the gym. They dragged Vincent through it and Jacob noticed a new addition in one corner, a cage, with thick bars and rings on the wall to secure the thick chains. They threw the unconscious Vincent into it, secured the chains to the wall and then slammed the door shut, the sound send a stab of pain through the terrified boy.
Jacob felt sick and when Gabriel put a hand on his shoulder, Jacob was startled. Gabriel gazed at him with those miss-nothing eyes and asked. "You're not feeling any sympathy for him, are you Julian?"
"No, Father," Jacob said without emotion. His eyes were on the unconscious body of the most noble man he had ever met, sprawled out on his back on the floor of the cage. The darts used to knock him out were still in his chest. His cloak was spread around him, his red-gold hair awry and fanning out around his head and over his face. Jacob was appalled by what Gabriel had done to such a gentle being, let alone that it was Jacob's own father. Within him began to burn a righteous anger that seethed beneath the surface.
He turned away and followed his adopted father out of the room. He knew that he couldn't show any of the feelings he had boiling within him and he tried every calming technique he had learned from his training.
By the time he was back in the main living room, Jacob had pushed the thought of Vincent deep within him. As he had been taught, he let the feelings on the surface bleed away and sought the calm center of his being.
"When he wakes up we'll know about it," Gabriel said with his thin predatory smile, "then my revenge will begin."
Jacob couldn't help himself, the words were out of his mouth before he knew it. "What has he ever done to you?"
Gabriel's head turned to him so fast that Jacob thought the action would snap his thin neck. There was a moment of silence as Gabriel watched him like a cobra watching a mongoose, and Jacob knew that he had revealed something to this man that he shouldn't have. "It's late Julian. Go to bed. I'm sure you'll know when he's awake."
Jacob said nothing, he merely went to bed and lay in the dark for hours feeling his father's roiling emotions as he lay in a drug induced sleep.
Jacob was brought out of a fitful sleep by an indistinct murmur at the back of his mind. It was calling to him. Suddenly he was out of bed and making his way to the source.
There was only one guard on the door, but Jacob knew the others would be in calling distance and arrive in seconds if needed. He knew all of Gabriel's men, but few paid much attention to him. He wasn't stopped from entering the room. He knew that Gabriel would be informed but he didn't care.
As he approached the cage, the murmur in his mind became a hum. Then he saw that Vincent was awake and leaning his back against the wall watching him approach.
Neither spoke, as Jacob stood by the bars and looked down at his father.
Vincent took his eyes from the boy to gaze first to the left then the right corner of the cage, where, as before, two cameras were watching, each with a single flashing red eye, mocking him. He knew that anything he said to his son would be reported to Gabriel.
He turned his attention back to the boy. "Are you all right?" he asked.
Jacob was stunned. "I'm not the one chained up."
Vincent lifted his hands, the chain tinkling, as he looked at them dispassionately. "There are many kinds of chains. And I have been bound by stronger ones than these."
"I don't understand."
Vincent gazed at his son. "We make our own prisons, Jacob. It is how we choose to live that matters. We can be ruled by our surroundings and our circumstances. They can become whatever we want them to be. Your mother taught me that."
"Very touching," Gabriel said from behind them.
Vincent couldn't help emitting a low growl as his hatred of this man boiled within him. "He will never be your creature, Gabriel."
Gabriel came up behind the boy and placed his hands on the Jacob's shoulders. "He already is, Vincent. He's always been mine. You're just like a virus that I have the cure for. He will soon show you and then we will both be free of you forever."
"Neither my son, nor you, will ever be free of me, Gabriel. No matter what happens to me."
"Enough of this! Now, you can come quietly or I will pump more tranquilizer into you and drag you."
"Where?" Jacob asked.
"Oh, I've arranged a little entertainment for my friends and colleagues. Its time to show your father what I've taught you. Now go and get ready."
Jacob knew what was expected of him, but he was terrified of what was to come. He turned to leave the room, to get changed into his fighting gear. But before he had walked a few paces Vincent said, "Jacob, whatever happens, whatever comes, know that I love you."
Jacob stopped walking, but didn't look back. He had to keep his feelings hidden from Gabriel but his heart was breaking. He took a deep breath and then continued out the door.
Diana and Father were arguing.
"I knew this would happen one day. He is unreasonable where the boy is concerned. And his relationship with you is a huge mistake!"
"Jacob is Vincent's son! The only thing he has left of Catherine in the world. Wouldn't you do the same thing?" Diana was furious – with herself and now with a father who refused to understand that whatever the cost Vincent would pay it to retrieve his son. But on one subject, Father was right. "Vincent is old enough to make his own choices Father. He lost everything eleven years ago, would you want him to have died then? He would have without the thought of his son to keep him hoping. I …I was only trying to give him some small comfort. He deserves happiness so much…"
Father looked up at her, his expression softening, "You're right Diana. He does deserve happiness. I must admit that without your help he may have succumbed to grief and we might have lost him." Then the gentle expression returned to anger and Father declared, "But he has become careless and now that monster has him again." He fell into the nearest chair, his anger giving way to fear, "My God, what can be done?"
Diana came forward. "Father, there has to be something we can do to get him out of there before Gabriel kills him."
The look in Father's eyes was full of fear. Vincent had faced death so many times and survived. Would this be the last, this time, would death finally catch up with him?
"We must do whatever we can," he said.
Placing a hand on the old man's shoulder Diana said, "Father, I will do everything I can to bring them both home. I love him, too."
Father covered her hand with his own, "I know Diana, I do, but where my son is concerned I am sometimes ruled by my heart not my head. I once thought that for him there could be no normal life, then he met Catherine and I was proven wrong. When I learned about his son, I was shocked and elated at the same time. Then you came into his life and my fear returned the fear that his heart may again be broken. But I was wrong. You have been good for him, Diana. I'm sorry that I have been so unkind to you and I thank you."
Diana smiled and nodded, before squeezing Father's shoulder and turning away. She left to do what she could to save the man she loved.
After Jacob left, Gabriel stood watching the closed door for a few moments and then he turned to Vincent.
"He's a fine boy, Vincent, a son to be proud of."
Vincent stared at his enemy, saying nothing.
"But he has scruples and a code of honor that I haven't been able to overcome. He won't kill you unless I force his hand," Gabriel said with a smile.
Fear struck Vincent, "What do you intend to do, Gabriel? He is not a cold blooded killer like you."
"That's true, but I've made provision for that. I have many drug connections, and in the last eleven years I have learned everything I can about my enemy…You. And I found something very interesting a few years back. It seems a very unusual drug came onto the market some time before Julian was born. A specially grown drug, that likes dark places, and through my connections, I found someone who knew the man who grew the drug. He told a story of how this drug had been used to stop the man from being followed. Does the name Paracelsus mean anything to you, Vincent?" Gabriel waited for the name to do its work and then he continued, "You see he wasn't alone. He had help. And it seems that he shared that secret with my source." Gabriel put his hand in his pocket and took out a small glass vial. "Does this look familiar, Vincent?"
In the vial was a grey powder that sparkled when the light hit it. Vincent's heart began to pound. He remembered it well. Fifty people had died from its use and when he tried to follow Paracelsus, Paracelsus had used the drug on him. Vincent remembered all the horrors he had seen under the influence of that drug and it was only Catherine's presence that had brought him back to reality. He had never forgotten that time. Even though he was now in full control of that 'Other' part of himself, he feared that the drug would again bring that mindless thing from the depths where he had placed it so long ago.
Gabriel's face took on an expression of glee. "Ah, I see you remember. Well I knew you wouldn't willingly fight your own son, but with this…" And he lifted the vial, "tearing at your mind. I doubt he will have any choice but to kill you to save himself."
"I will not harm my own son Gabriel, with or without the drug. Kill me now if that is your wish. You will have no spectacle for the entertainment of your friends."
"Oh I think you will, Vincent. For one thing, the drug has been modified and for another you won't be the only one under its influence."
Vincent became enraged, pulling against the chains. "You are a monster, Gabriel, and when I get the chance, I will kill you."
Gabriel laughed with evil glee. "Not unless you kill your son first, Vincent …" He then turned his back on Vincent, tossing the vial in his hand as he walked out of the room.
Vincent slid to the floor, his chin on his chest and wept, "Jacob…"
Moments later he was struck with two tranquilizer darts.
Diana walked into Joe Maxwell's office. He had been the District Attorney now for twelve years. He was well liked by everyone, but he and Diana would still butt heads on occasion, and she knew that this was going to be one of those occasions.
Joe sat back in his chair and smiled. "Ah, the elusive Diana Bennett, what brings you here?"
"Well, if you gave me more interesting cases, Maxwell. I'd see you more often."
"I send you lots of cases, Bennett but you turn most of em down."
Diana smiled ironically, "Only the ones that your own department can solve without me, Maxwell."
It was true; Diana took only cases that she deemed complicated or unsolvable, with little evidence and very few suspects. Her success ratio was just as high as it always had been. Even though she was having a relationship with the most complicated and unusual man in the world, but she knew this was only Joe's way of saying hello.
"So what brings you to my doorstep, Bennett?"
"The Chandler case,"
Joe's face darkened, "What about it?"
"Well, you remember we made that raid on the mansion on Staten Island and the place was empty."
"Yeah, I remember. Our only lead and the guy disappears."
"Well, my sources tell me he's back."
Joe sat up. "You, sure? This guy is slippery, Bennett."
"It's him, Joe."
"Have you seen the guy? Do you have evidence that it's him? We have to be sure Bennett. My ass was on the chopping block when that bust went belly up."
"I told you it's him, Joe."
"Okay, tell me where and give me everything you have, Diana. I'll see what I can do."
"No, Joe! You have to move now. I know for a fact he has been into illegal activities in Europe, maybe even Terrorism. He thinks he's immune and, Joe, he killed Catherine Chandler. Are you going to let him slip out of town again?"
"Alright, alright, I'll see what I can do. You sound like you have a personal score to settle, Diana."
"I do. He kidnapped me, remember? And almost had me and you killed. Have you forgotten how long it took to root out his men in your office?"
"Hmmm," Joe said as he walked to the door and began ordering search warrants.
Diana didn't have any of the proof she said she had, but she was desperate. She hoped that the disruption the police would cause might be enough for her to get Vincent out of there.
Vincent awoke slowly, his ears were ringing and he saw only colors surrounding strange shapes. He shook his head to clear it but nothing happened to change what he saw and heard.
Then a dark shape weaved before him. He snarled, showing his teeth and slowly rose from the floor in a defensive crouch. The shape came closer, and something began to happen within him. For although the shape looked menacing, as he watched, the face of an angel glowed white and clear through the darkness, floating just above the shadowed shape. He knew that face, and although it was surrounded by the threat of death, he would not attack, for it was the face of someone he loved more than life itself. Catherine! It was this recognition that brought Vincent out of the drug induced haze and he saw Jacob, dressed all in black approaching him with a knife in one hand raised in a threatening manner.
Julian was disoriented but he knew what was expected of him. This was his new opponent and he could see that he was big. He was wearing some kind of dark cape-like garment, 'I will have to watch for hidden weapons,' Julian thought as he approached the man. This would not be so easy. There was something primal about this new opponent that Julian's acute senses picked up, but his mind was sluggish. He kept seeing things floating around the man, strange things that couldn't possibly be there, so he tried to see passed them. He looked up and noticed that he was in the hidden arena Gabriel had been using in an abandoned building and the place was packed with screaming men and women. He couldn't see Gabriel but he knew he'd be there somewhere, gloating over the money he would make from this bout. Then he heard a voice.
Julian looked back to his opponent. He frowned, that name sounded familiar but it wasn't his name.
"Your name is Jacob Wells. Think Jacob, you've been drugged. Nothing is what it seems."
'Never talk to your opponent'. That was one of the first rules he had been taught. 'Never listen to anything he says. He will mislead you, and distract you.' So Julian ignored the soft spoken words and attacked.
Vincent ducked the knife aimed at his heart and swung away from his son. He must get through to him. His mind was clearing and he remembered everything now. Gabriel was going to drug Jacob and the boy would not be as easily able to overcome its affects as Vincent had. Even though Vincent's vision was blurry, and his ears still rang with the echoes of the crowd, his instincts saved him time and again as the cunning fighter that was his own son, tried to kill him.
Julian couldn't think clearly but his mind kept repeating something his father had told him just before the fight. "This guy is strong but you are stronger. He's cunning but you're smarter. Kill him, son and you will make me proud."
That's what Julian wanted more than anything, for his father to be proud of him. So he attacked the cloaked figure again and again but he eluded Julian's every move, as though he could sense his attack before he made it. The cloaked figure was only defending not once did he attack. Julian was not fooled. He was obviously trying to lull him into a false sense of security to catch him unawares.
Jacob kept attacking and Vincent kept avoiding him. This went on for some time. Then Vincent sensed something to his left just before a roar was heard and it did not come from him.
His mind was still filled with kaleidoscope colors and he was still able to avoid his son, but this new threat was something else entirely.
Gabriel sat on the platform amid a large group of his peers, who had paid a great deal of money to watch this unusual match. He had advertised it as the fight of the century, between the most unusual combatants ever assembled. He knew that under most circumstances Vincent and Julian would never fight each other. So he had introduced the drug, but even drugged, Vincent was still avoiding the boy as he had suspected Vincent would do. So he had made provision for such a case. When his audience began to boo, when the two in cage hardly made contact, it was time for the next stage of his show. The tiger had been easy to get, and it didn't need to be drugged.
He had signaled the man standing on the cage to release the beast, and it now stalked the two in the cage. He had little remorse that Julian was most likely about to die horribly but the boy had out-lived his usefulness. The grand plan Gabriel had had for the boy as his successor was now gone, since he had spent time with his real father and been corrupted with his sick talk of love. Vincent's comment to the boy before he left the gym was proof. The killing machine he had hoped the boy would become had been a fruitless hope. To teach him the way of the world and have him take over Gabriel's considerable empire was now an unlikely prospect.
He didn't care now if there was a fight for power when he was no longer around to rule. He was tired. He wanted to just sell off most of his empire and retire in the hills of Tuscany.
Suddenly his attention was taken from his musings when a cheer filled the arena.
Vincent could see clearer as the adrenalin in his body pumped the drug from his system. The threat of the tiger entering the arena had made him position himself between Jacob and the animal.
Suddenly he felt a thud as a weight struck him on his back, and two arms came around his neck.
"Jacob!" Vincent spoke sternly but softly, not wishing to startle the tiger. "Jacob, we are in great danger. Try and clear your head. You've been drugged."
The hold tightened on Vincent's neck and he had no choice but to throw the boy over his shoulder and to the ground, where he disarmed him and held him down.
He stared into the boy's face and saw the wide pupils and the wild look in his eyes and the flushed face. "Jacob, you have been drugged!" Vincent declared as he shook his son gently, but the boy began to struggle. "Listen to me!" he growled. "Jacob!"It was almost a roar.
Julian stopped struggling…Jacob – Jacob – Jacob …echoing in his mind, until suddenly everything came back, just as the tiger pounced.
Vincent pushed Jacob away and he took the full force of the large cat's leap onto himself. He rolled with the cat clawing at him, as the crowd roared with approval. For the first time in many years Vincent put his full force into a fight for his life. He clawed and bit and punched the large furred body above him, as he rolled on the ground, until the cat jumped away from him. Its golden coat was streaked with blood. Its eyes were filled with hate, and its ears lay flat against its head, as a hissed growl came from its open mouth, revealing long canines.
Vincent had to keep his eyes firmly on the tiger. But he desperately wanted to see where Jacob had rolled and that he was not harmed. But the animal had begun to stalk Vincent, and he needed to give it his full attention.
Suddenly, from the right, a black shape darted in and then darted away so fast that Vincent was surprised to see a knife sticking out of the animal's throat. The creature screamed angrily, batting a huge paw at the offending object. Then infuriated the tiger charged at Vincent.
Vincent swiped it with his right hand and the force of the blow sent the cat flying into the wall where it lay lifeless.
The crowd went wild, throwing money and jewels into the ring as Jacob ran to his father and was enfolded in his arms. "I'm sorry, Father. I wanted to kill you. I didn't know who I was or who you were. I'm so sorry, please forgive me."
Vincent held the boy and said with great emotion. "It wasn't your fault, Jacob. It wasn't your fault…" Vincent turned to look for the man who had orchestrated all of this, but Gabriel was gone.
"Come, Jacob. We must get out of here," Vincent said and he ran at the wire fencing that surrounded the arena, which Vincent could now see was an old movie theater. He and Jacob were in a cage in front of the screen. The people behind the fence scrambled out of the plush chairs, fled in fear, and scattered throughout the building to the many exits, just as the sound of sirens could be heard in the distance.
Vincent put an arm over the wire and secured himself, and then put a hand down to pull Jacob up. It wasn't long before they were running through the abandoned building toward one of the exits.
But when they came closer to it a group of Gabriel's men stepped in front of them and stood in their way. Vincent put Jacob behind him and growled, showing his sharp canines. Gabriel's voice came from the darkness. "You can't take my son, Vincent."
"He was never your son, Gabriel," Vincent snarled with venom, ready to die to protect his son.
"Julian, come here," Gabriel said firmly, and the boy obediently began to move away from his father's protection and toward Gabriel.
Gabriel waited, arms raised as Jacob walked a few steps closer.
"Jacob, no!" Vincent cried in anguish, but Jacob kept walking until he was standing before his adopted father. "No!" Vincent whispered, lowering his head in defeat as Gabriel's arms came around his son.
Suddenly, Vincent heard a grunt and a gasped cry. He looked back up to see Jacob stepping away from Gabriel, a bloody knife in his hand. Gabriel had slumped in the arms of two of his guards, his hand over his heart as blood oozed through his fingers.
Vincent came forward and grabbed Jacob by the shoulders, but the boy didn't take his eyes from the dying man. "Jacob, what have you done?" Vincent asked, but the boy didn't answer. He never took his eyes from the man bleeding to death on the floor.
"Julian …" Gabriel rasped. "Julian, why?"
"My name is Jacob," the boy said, "That, was for killing my mother and keeping me from my REAL father." He threw the knife to the floor "You're dead Gabriel, I made sure of that. You had me taught well. You are my first kill and my last. Aren't you proud of me?" Then Jacob turned to Vincent. "Take me home, Father, please," the boy pleaded tiredly. Vincent led him away as the sound of sirens came closer. None of the black guards tried to stop them as they watched their employer die.
Once out of the building, Vincent and Jacob ran into the night. Once, Vincent knew what part of the city they were in, it wasn't long before he was leading, Jacob through a manhole to the tunnels.
Later that night in his chamber, Vincent pulled the covers up over his son's shoulders as he lay in the bed. The boy was asleep almost instantly and as Vincent sat in his favorite chair watching him, Father entered.
"Is he going to be all right?" Father asked.
"He will be … with time. He has killed, Father. That is a heavy burden to carry, no matter how justified the act, especially for a boy," Vincent said, no looking up.
"Do you think he will be safe here now? The chip…"
"I think he is as safe as we are, Father. With Gabriel dead, his men will not follow Jacob or try to track him."
"He has been through something terrible. Hopefully, our love will help him mend," Father said, looking down at the sleeping boy.
"Yes, just as it helped Catherine," Vincent said, remembering when she too lay in his bed recovering from her attack.
Vincent came out of a doze later that night to find Jacob staring at the portrait. Instantly aware that his father was awake, he spoke softly without taking his gaze from the faces of the two lovers. "Do you think she would be glad that I killed him?"
Vincent left the chair and sat on the bed, smoothing his son's sandy hair away from his face, as he had done on occasion with Catherine. "Are you?"
Jacob looked up and there were tears of confusion in his eyes. "No, but I knew it was the right thing to do at the time."
A tear fell. "I don't know…"
"Jacob, sometimes we do things in moments of danger that we regret when the danger has passed."
"I've seen the security footage of you killing Gabriel's guards to save my mother. Is that how you feel when you've killed someone?"
"Yes, but each time I killed, no matter how much I thought it justified at the time, I battled afterward with guilt and remorse, just as you are doing now. But, if I had not taken life, your mother would have died only mere months after I first met her, and I could not allow that."
"How did you feel the first time you killed someone?"
"Very much the same as you are feeling now."
Jacob put his chin on his hands, "He … gave me no choice."
"I know… rest now." Vincent whispered, as he smoothed Jacob's hair to comfort him, "Time will ease the way you are feeling." Then he bent and kissed his son on the forehead. "And know that I am here and that I love you."
Vincent watched as the boy's eyes closed. Unwilling to leave the bo, he returned to the chair and dozed, ready to be there for the boy if he needed him.
Five night's later Diana heard a tap on her window that heralded Vincent's arrival. She ran out of the door and threw herself into his waiting arms.
"I got your message. How is he?" Diana asked.
"Recovering," Vincent said, as he looked down at her with a smile.
"Poor kid," Diana said resting her cheek on his cloaked chest.
"What have you heard?" Vincent saw the pain his son was in over the murder of Gabriel, but he had more urgent concerns.
Diana looked up. "The police, as usual, got there when it was all over. All they found was Gabriel's body and the dead tiger in the cage. Gabriel had been robbed of his wallet and anything else of value he had on him."
"Gone, probably pawned by now. We've put the word out, but I don't think we will see it again." She knew that Vincent had the second ring somewhere in his chamber. She didn't know why he still kept it, but she thought it had been the only connection to his son, until now.
"Good," Vincent said with finality. Diana was disappointed when Vincent left a short time afterward.
Vincent stood on the steps of the Chamber of the Winds looking down at the swirling maelstrom that was the Abyss. In his hand was an ancient gold ring with an almost black stone. He rolled it between his fingers, remembering everything that had happened concerning this ring. He knew nothing about it, other than it had been owned by a Hunter who had tried to kill him many years ago, and that his enemy had worn one just like it.
He had kept it for eleven years in an old wooden box. It was in this box where Catherine's crystal rested, still glowing with an inner fire. Vincent had taken it out many times in those eleven years, to smooth it between his fingers and feel it warm in his hand. The ring, too, he had taken out, feeling its coldness overwhelm him, but he felt it was connected to his son in some way. Perhaps the two rings were part of one another. Perhaps they had been made from the same stone that had been cut in two, or perhaps there were others like them. Whenever Vincent held the ring he experienced a strange sensation as though he could feel his son near. It had been comforting.
Now, Jacob was with him, wounded in spirit, and much the same as his mother had been all those years ago, but in time he would heal. There was now no need to keep this tactile reminder of those terrible days, when he had lost his love and his son.
He took one last look at the gold and black ring. He read the inscription for the last time 'the truth shall set you free' written in Latin on the inside. He had read those words so many times and they had become a prayer for his son's safe return. Freedom from the evil man who held him captive. Freedom from the lies he had been told, and at last freedom for Vincent to at last be with his son.
A ring is a symbol of continuity, an unbroken band connected forever. Like this ring, Vincent's life had come full circle. He had a new life and a fresh start with his and Catherine's son. He felt peace at last.
With one last look, Vincent let go of the ring and it fell into the swirling mist far below. He watched it until it was swallowed up by the mist. With that action he felt a great weight lift from his heart.
He knew that Catherine would now be at peace. Her murderer had paid for his crimes, though she, like Vincent, would have preferred it to have been done by someone other than their own son. Vincent believed that there was a natural law in such things, a form of justice. Only Jacob knew what life was like with Gabriel, and only he had the right to choose the punishment. Even though Vincent was certain that the boy was still partially under the influence of the drug at the time. He was sure that the outcome would most likely have been the same.
Jacob was slowly coming out of a deep depression. The love of the Tunnel Family was helping him, but Vincent still felt the guilt and pain his son still experienced constantly. The boy had also been having nightmares and waking in the night fearful that he was still in Gabriel's power.
Vincent had brought a bed into his chamber so that the boy could be close to him and his calming influence. Each day was better than the day before and each night the nightmares were becoming less frequent.
Vincent turned from the Abyss and walked up the steps as the winds blew all around him, and as they did, he felt a new peace come over him. He could go forward now with his son … and with Diana…
Diana heard the knock and when she opened the door to her roof Vincent stood there. "Vincent…"
She didn't get a chance to say anymore before he took her in his arms and kissed her. She didn't stop him – she didn't ask questions. This was the first time that he had ever initiated any kind of intimacy between them and she was not going to ask for explanations now. Her worst fears were never realized. He had not left her in place of his son. And as Vincent picked her up and carried her to the bed, Diana thanked whatever had sent him to her door in the middle of the night. She would never worry again as long as he kept surprising her like this…