Memories Of Change
By Thomas Mc

Authors Note: - Just a little something that occurred to me in the middle of a restless night so I jotted the outline down and fleshed it out the next morning. This would fit between the two halves of the epilogue in the story 'And the Towers Fell Down'.

Catherine drew her winter coat close around herself to keep out the winter chill of the snowy rooftop. She approached Vincent as he sat on the bench in their rooftop garden staring out into sparkling snow-covered beauty of Central Park. She had been drawn up there by the feeling of deep contemplation that she had sensed in Vincent over their bond. She paused a moment to gaze at him and thought how magnificent he looked all decked out in his finest Winterfest clothes. Then she reached out and caressed his golden mane.

"What is it that has you so deep in thought, my love?" She laid her hand gently on his shoulders as she stood behind him, their bodies barely making contact.

"Life." Vincent replied simply as he leaned back into the soft warmth of her body. He turned his head and looked up into her eyes smiling at the quizzical look on her face. "My life, to be specific."

"Oh?" She smiled down at him. "What about your life?"

Vincent turned back, and was again looking out into the park. "I was thinking about how my life could be clearly divided into three very distinct phases."

There were several moments of silence as she waited for him to continue. "The first phase was my early childhood. That part was defined by the presence of Devin. He was my friend, my big brother. No matter what the children were playing, he always made sure I was included." He paused and watched as a hawk wheeled overhead then dived toward the snow covered treetops. After the bird swooped down below the trees, he continued. "Devin always made sure that all of his dreams of adventure included me."

He chuckled. "Even at that young age, I was aware of my differences and Devin never hesitated to tease me about them."

"He still does." Catherine added with a hint of a smile. "I believe his favorite term for you is fuzz ball."

"But it was always a gentle friendly teasing between brothers, and it only served to make me feel even more like I belonged. We had many a grand adventure in the lower caverns, Devin and I. He taught me to dream of things that others believed were beyond my grasp."

Vincent paused and released a deep sigh. Catherine caressed the side of Vincent's face as she felt his emotions shift from bittersweet to a deeper melancholy. With another deep sigh, Vincent continued.

"The second phase of my life was defined by the absence of Devin." Vincent reached up and touched her hand that now rested against the side of his face.

"The world of my carefree childhood began to crumble the day Father took away Devin's new pocket knife. Devin thought that I had been the one that told Father and we had a terrible fight about it. It was the only time I have ever struck out in anger at someone that I cared about." He gave her hand a squeeze. "You've seen the results of that event in the scars on Devin's cheek. Later that day Devin found out that it was Mitch that had told Father about the knife. For several days, I was unable to look at Devin without being reminded of what I done to him and he was ashamed of his erroneous accusation against me. Then Devin arranged that little midnight expedition to the park carousel in an attempt to make up with me." Vincent patted her hand as memories of his last happy moments from his early childhood flashed through his head. "You heard how well that little adventure went. The next day Father reamed Devin out for his part in it, and the day after that, Devin was gone." Vincent sighed again. "That was the beginning of my aloneness."

Catherine felt tears forming in her eyes at both the sadness in Vincent's voice and the sorrow she felt coursing through him over the bond. She blinked the threatening tears back as he continued speaking.

"From that day on I became more and more convinced that I was destined to spend the rest of my life alone. Without Devin to draw me into the other children's activities, I became increasingly isolated from the other children of the tunnels. Mitch in particular was forever pointing out my differences and excluding me from their games." Vincent gave out with another deep sigh. "Then Lisa came along and for a short time I again felt like I belonged, until that night in the great hall. What happened there and her subsequent absence, when Father sent her away, brought the reality of my differences crashing in on me even stronger than before. It confirmed my aloneness and the corollary of an empty life with no legacy to leave behind."

Vincent reached up and gripped both her hands, which were resting on his shoulders, as she again felt a shift in his emotions.

"The third phase in my life is defined by you." He gave her hands a squeeze as she felt hope and joy began to rise up in him. "That night I found you in the park was the night that my aloneness finally came to an end." Vincent gently rested his head against Catherine's arms. "Though it did take me three years to truly believe that I could really have a complete loving relationship with a woman, much less being loved by a wonderful and beautiful woman like you." He paused a moment. "I am forever amazed that such a incredibly wonderful woman like you could feel so much love for a creature like me."

Catherine came around and knelt down in front of him. "I spent most of my life, after mother died, looking for something that I was unable to give a name to. I was just spinning my wheels, drifting aimlessly through my life, waiting for some indefinable something that I was missing." She gripped his hand tightly. "Then you found me. You helped me find the thing that I had been missing." Her gaze bore longingly into his eyes. "It was you . . . Now I have you, my magnificent golden lion, to complete me and I have those five beautiful children that you have given me. Plus that sweet young child, Naomi, that you snatched out of mid-air and added to our family." She kissed his hands then shifted around to sit next to him on the bench and laid her head against his shoulder. "Every day I bless that night you found me and marvel that I was lucky enough to be given the love of someone as wonderful as you."

For a short time, they sat there together staring out at the park and enjoying being in each other's presence.

Vincent finally broke the silence. "Devin gave me the ability to dream of having everything I wanted in life. But it was you that took those impossible dreams and made them reality. You even gave me children, including two sons that look just like me, and you gave them a happy child hood, free of all the pain and doubts that haunted my own youth. You even instilled in our sons a sense of pride in what they are. And wonder of wonders, you were even able to teach me to have pride in what I am."

Catherine jumped up and took Vincent's hands. "Speaking of our boys, the Winterfest procession begins shortly. Father, would never forgive us if we aren't there to speak our lines in the opening ceremony." She pulled him to his feet. "And we certainly don't want to miss seeing Jacob and Linda beginning their new life together. It is, after all, a major milestone in the story of our family."

Vincent placed his arm around Catherine as they started back into the brownstone. "Today's wedding also foretells the beginning of the fourth phase of my life where I will see the last of my impossible dreams, finally, made a reality. That phase will be defined by our grandchildren as our children begin having families of their own."

As they descended the stairs, Catherine and Vincent were both filled with excited anticipation of a bright future for themselves and all of their children.

The End

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