The Waterman's Revelation

Originally published WFOL 2012

By Gayle Cara Maxwell

A Third Season – "Catherine Lives" Tale

Steam Tunnel Rated


The young Waterman had arrived home late; Zander Williams worked the same waters his father worked before him. Today the storm had pushed his boat further down the Chesapeake than he'd wanted to travel, yet he knew man never controlled the seas. He attentively pulled the boat into his slip and worked double time to get the crabs stowed and the boat secure then he bounded to the old pickup truck and roared down the gravel road to the bungalow he shared with his wife.

These days were tense, Emily was pregnant with their first child and Zander regretted not having a more conventional job.

"Emily?" he called out as his key entered the back door, "Emily, love, I'm sorry the weather caught me" he put a shoulder into the door as his arms were full of bags of sweet corn from the roadside vendor. Emily had asked for corn this morning as he slid out of bed in the dark and his sweet heart deserved this fresh sweet corn. The house was silent, an eerie omen for a home as lively as theirs.

Zander dropped the corn on the kitchen table and warily picked up the note:

Zander:

Emily is ill, we've taken her to the Regional Hospital, couldn't raise you on the radio.

Meet us there.

Callie

++++++++++++++ New York +++++++++++++

Joe worried the rubber band on his fingers, if Cathy had been awake and alert she would have plumbed thru his expression, but she wasn't. Cathy, until just 4 minutes ago had been received in the Morgue, perceived dead by a Morphine overdose.

As the Coroner bustled around the Morgue fishing for medical equipment he rarely used Joe mentally thumbed thru every contact and every favor he could pull. Cathy Chandler was his right hand; they had changed the face of the DA's office together. In the past few months he felt he had sent her to her grave – finding that she was alive, albeit barely alive was a breath of redeeming air.

"We're calling in the FBI, whoever this Gabriel character is we need greater protection than what you've relied on" The Coroner peered over half glasses as he regulated the IV and moved about his most unusual patient. Joe prayed her spasmodic movement wasn't just reflex actions.

"No, no FBI….how do I know they aren't in on this too?" Joe circled the table and regarded each rise and fall of her chest to be a triumph, "I have a Doctor, someone trustworthy" Joe withdrew his pocket notebook; the Doctor was the one with anecdote about meeting Cathy "Naked".

The Receptionist had hurried into the office without her coffee; it didn't endear the first call of the day to her. "Alcott and Peterman" she clipped into the phone.

"Dr Alcott, Please" Joe was champing to speak with the Doctor.

"He's blocked out the week, Dr Peterman is available if this is an emergency call 9-1-1" She was rifling thru a drawer looking for gum or something to wake up with.

"Did he leave a forwarding number?" Joe grit his teeth at the news.

"Dr. Alcott will be checking his messages later today, your name please?" Anything to get him off the call she thought as she turned on the desk lamp and sat down.

"Tell him, Joe Maxwell, a friend of Cathy Chandler needs him, urgently. Can you get that message to him?" Joe rattled off the Morgue number, his office number as well as his home number before closing the call.

The Receptionist peeled the pink message slip off the pad and laid it on the desk; she left for the break room and with a swift whoosh of her skirt the wisp of a paper flew off the desk landing below the copy machine. When she returned with a steaming mug of coffee she put down the mug without a thought of where the message went.

Joe was a desperate man. Of all the times to wish he had pushed Cathy harder to find out about her mystery man. Joe paced as the Coroner toiled gathering clues to Cathy Chandler's health.

"Joe, I need a physician, I mean the last time I treated the living was my son's skinned knee" The Coroner stood at Cathy's feet, wearing a frustrated look of concern.

"Who would you trust?" Joe winced at not knowing a soul with all his contacts, who could he trust?

"I have a brother in law, and he's an Ob/Gyn, he's who we really need"

"WHAT?" Joe assailed the man with his surprise.

The Coroner went back to his charting, "While you were on your call I discovered she's delivered a child within the last 12 hours".

Joe cursed himself for bringing her into the "black book" incident, "A child?"

++++++++++ Havre de Grace, MD +++++++++

"Mr. Williams, we'd like to bring you back" the nurse extended a hand as she turned and led him into the ante room of the labor and delivery surgical suite.

"Is she OK? Will she be alright?" Zander seemed confused by the conflicting messages, things looked urgent while the nurses seemed so relaxed, so "in charge". He shook his head to reconcile the conflicting emotions. Somehow it all turned his stomach yet he had to be strong for Emily, his Emily and their son. He knew it would be a boy, he just knew it. They robed and gloved him and led him into the surgical suite.

The keening sound of machinery and the scuffing of rubber soled shoes threatened his peace, he knew enough to freeze and let them do their work yet that would keep him from holding her hand and brushing back her cool blonde hair from her blue eyes. There was blood, more blood than he had seen in the birthing films. He slid close to her to grasp her hand as their eyes met. Those cool pools of blue that had called sweetly to him for years were wide eyed expressing her panic. Emily's cool grasp was barely there.

"Emily, hang in there, we've got so much ahead," Zander's heart lodged in his throat, what words would keep his Emily from teetering over life's edge? He prayed and bargained with God while the hands of men and women toiled in earnest.

His son was delivered and wrapped while they stitched Emily up from the C-section, "Let me see him" her voice whispered from her pale lips as Zander cradled the boy in his arms. He bent to lay their son into her arms and for a moment their shared a sacred circle of life and love. Emily opened her mouth to speak and her voice was obliqued by the monitor's static blare.

Zander bounded back reflexively and was caught by the assisting physician and the neonatal nurse, "Mr. Williams we need to take care of your wife" and in a haze his son was plucked from his arms as he was led to a small shadowy room.

++++++++++++++ New York +++++++++++++

"Other than the delivery and the drugs, she's in good shape for an overdose" Dr Phiney washed his hands and turned to his brother-in-law and Joe.

"DELIVERY?" Joe spun on his heel in disbelief.

Ignoring his question Dr. Phiney continued, "she needs monitoring, even though she's breathing, she needs a rehab unit." Then with a moment of careful hesitation, he queried, "She's that lawyer that's been missing, isn't she?" Fear replaced medical curiosity and he added up the pieces in his head.

The Coroner nodded and turned to Joe, "All this secrecy, where do you go from here?"

That was the rub, Joe didn't have unlimited resources, he didn't know who to trust so he had to trust the FBI.

"We need to hide her, move her for a few hours until we find a rehab hospital. I can't have her found here, alive" Joe paced a circle around her still body. "I need to find a substitute for her" he began mumbling under his breath, confounding the two physicians.

"We've got a Jane Doe, came in a couple of hours before Miss Chandler, I'll bring her out, we'll move Miss Chandler into the back" They energized at the idea of their "secret", that they shared a confidence to be carried to the grave.

The 160 mile ride to the small rehab hospital was long enough for Joe to assess his life. Working far up his telephone tree, Joe made a call an agent he trusted. The FBI listened to his list of loose ends and agreed that the little black book brought Cathy Chandler a date with near death. Once they arrived at the discreet rehab hospital outside of Havre De Grace, Maryland Joe had pledged to avenge Cathy's kidnapping and attempted murder. He watched as they admitted her under the name Caterina LaRosa, his mother's maiden name. Joe paced the hallways as they bathed and reset her IVs, he watched for movement, just a flutter that could tell him she was in there somewhere.

Before he left Joe dropped to one knee at the end of the bed, "Cathy, as long as I have breath I'll find out who did this to you and bring him to justice". Then as rapidly as she arrived in a storm of activity Cathy was left to rest in the dark tranquility of the private room. No machine kept her steady pace; it was as if there was an inner metronome that held her breath and heartbeat. Somewhere inside her head and her soul she remembered the strong arms that held her last.

Vincent, he had come at last and although their words were brief she had shared the news….they had loved and there was a child. I was just a matter of time before he would for her again.

++++++++++++ Below, New York ++++++++++++

In his world Vincent followed her voice, down a golden-lit tunnel he walked until he dropped in anguish. So many times the pain in his heart conjured a shape or a scent of her. These were phantoms and though Vincent was skilled at slaying the specters threatening his world, he had no desire to slay the image of his Catherine beckoning him.

Within his pained desire to wipe away the agony of the past months he felt Catherine's love as angels wings that wrapped him in his solitary hours. For in these months behind the plink, plink, plink of the pipes there was a winsome cadence of sound that logic rejected as much as his heart embraced it.

+++++++++++ New York +++++++++++++

Joe had slept on his "find", if you could call it sleep. The next morning he met with Nick, the Detective on Cathy's case, at the coffee shop before going into the office, "Nick, this isn't a normal homicide".

'You might want to check out some other alternatives….Diana Bennett, here's her card". And after some cajoling Joe found her on the 5th floor. She wasn't the titian haired Raphaelite goddess she appeared to be, yet he knew she'd be the key to finding Cathy's demon.

"This woman, was she important to you?" Diana leaned on the concrete doorframe; she called his situation in an instant. And with Joe's answer they came to an agreement.

++++++++++ Below, New York ++++++++++

Mary's suggestion of hot tea brought Vincent no solace, having shoulders to cry on or hands to clasp only magnified his loneliness. The pain that Vincent "could not endure" crushed into him as stones and boulders could never have. Although Father had proclaimed he knew his son's grief, Vincent blanched at the thought that Father even understood their love.

Certainly now Vincent felt he hadn't understood what he and Catherine had between them. Catherine had listened to every one of his monumental fears and had attempted to break them down from boulders to sand.

Had he relented to give her what they needed? No, he hadn't.

Had he possibly suffered because of this? Yes, he had.

Had he thrown away the chance for their "happy life" He most certainly had and it numbed him to think of it.

Hearing Father admit that he knew of their love had Vincent wishing he could tear back the pages of the calendar to a time where Father would have received Catherine with open arms, to a time where Vincent could admit his own love for her.

++++++++++ New York ++++++++++

"I think it's you and me" Jenny had dried her tears, yet seeing Joe's pain thru his brown eyes brought a new eruption of emotions. Together they cried, and his heart clenched at knowing he held this secret from her best friend. Together they made the arrangements for what Jenny thought was Catherine Chandler's funeral.

Diana's forays into Cathy's apartment whet her appetite for knowing the Father of her child. After all of Diana's questions, there seemed to be a triangle around Cathy, this "Vincent", Joe and Elliott. The child's father was the piece that would make everything "fit" was the piece that disturbed Joe, was it Elliott Burch?

+++++++ Below New York ++++++++

As Vincent prowled the tunnels, torch in hand, pain wracked his memories for what happened at his darkest hour, at the hour when Catherine came to the "other". He knelt as his hands shifted the sand they had lain on. The blessed memories of their first Winterfest, the rain during the concert, the raft ride from Paracelsus' lair. It laid out a string of perfect opportunities for him to have welcomed her with open arms into his life, she had wanted him so. Although he constantly denied Catherine, he had wanted her too.

Then the battle began anew, darkness and light clawed for supremacy - doubt clouded all his judgment, losing weakened him and when he could fight the "Other" no more he woke holding her crystal necklace in his hand. Dry eyed and parched mouthed Vincent trudged back to his chamber.

++++++++ New York ++++++++

Why were funerals on bright sunny days? Joe felt they should be held on grey, dark days where the emotions can blend into the background. Joe dug his hands deep into his pockets, he felt duplicitous watching the mourners before this empty grave. It was a deception he had to carry on for Cathy's sake.

The assembled crowd stared at each other, each wondering how they knew Catherine Chandler. Joe would have to rely on the Detectives to scan the crowd; all he could do was count the numerous red roses splayed over the white casket. He would leave the social dissection to Diana by tonight she'd have the 8x10 black and white glossies on her bulletin board.

++++++++ Below, New York +++++++++

By nights Vincent prowled the streets hearing phantom chopper blades above so he'd stride the stairs two at a time to return to that fateful roof, he'd hear her call his name and then as a vapor she was gone. He realized he had to confront Elliott Burch, it would do him no good to debate with Father, and he would have to make this step of faith alone, for the sake of his son.

++++++++ New York ++++++++

The photos on the board snickered at her. None of the faces were notable; most of them were unidentifiable. She shook her head - where to now? Who was the old man who shook hands with the deaf girl, both of them involved in cases within the last two years? Why would they attend Catherine Chandler's funeral?

How long would Diana have to shake it all up before the pieces would settle to form sense?

"Who the hell are you?" Elliott moved with the gun pointed at the caped silhouette.

"My name is Vincent" The voice held mystery, it sounded like darkness and power personified.

Elliott wondered exactly what Cathy had told Vincent about him and he breathed a heavy sigh. Had Cathy told Vincent of his dogged determination to court her? Why wouldn't he reveal himself?

At a distance they held their meeting and by the time Vincent declared that he knew Elliott loved her too they had come to an understanding. With Elliott's visit to Joe the wheels of justice began to move. The move was glacial, however there was movement.

According to Elliott, 1900 6th Avenue held the key; if Joe would confront Moreno with that address it should crack Moreno's icy reserve. It would take Joe's courage in sleuthing to bring that to light.

The night brought out another sleuth, Diana walked Cathy's apartment, this time she found the framed invitation for the recital, the thought of a "threshold" fascinated Diana. Where would this lead, where would it end? Then, October blew the pieces of the mystery into place. Diana found the linchpin to her mysteries…..Vincent.

+++++++++++ Havre de Grace, MD +++++++++++

'Caterina' was a fighter, her lab values held steady, her body tolerated the physical therapy and even as she lay in bed her complexion was one of a woman in love, a woman who knew she was loved. Joe made weekly phone calls to the charge nurse, yet his fear of her being exposed kept him from frequent visits. Weeks spanned to months, FBI agents undercover as Nursing Assistants patrolled the hallways and by the end of the third month Joe had made a pilgrimage to see his dear friend.

The daisies Joe brought stood tall in the glass vase; Joe thought about the roses Elliott had sent her at work, that vase alone was his weekly paycheck. Now Elliott was dead, Moreno was dead and Gabriel was dead. Cathy had become the victor, yet where was her victory lap? Where was her crown? Where was her son?

Joe sat, reading the New York Times to her, especially the theater reviews, "You know, Radcliffe, I gotta care about you because I'm reading about this mushy stuff", his eyes returned to the paper where he scanned for the next story.

"Hey, that Ballerina you knew is back on Stage, some sort of National Ballet Troupe" he dropped the paper to make eye contact with her unresponsive form, then he broke a smile and went back to reading the comic pages…at least he could enjoy those too.

"Mr. Maxwell, we've brought you a lunch tray" The nurse's cheerful voice belied the fact that she knew how long Joe had sat there, his hope withering.

"Now if you had some of my Mom's lasagna, I'd bet she'd wake up for that" Joe nodded in Cathy's direction.

"If you could figure out how to feed it thru the IV we could, Mr. Maxwell" she smiled and left him to his feast of a chicken cutlet over rice pilaf and string beans with a tapioca cup.

"Radcliffe, if I promise you some crème brulee would you'd wake up for me?" Joe slid closer to the tray and began to eat, his eyes reading the monitors. The readings were foreign to him, yet one value seemed to be changing, he wondered if it was a good sign. He turned on the radio and kept the volume low while he ate. He didn't want her to feel alone.

Zander had made a life for the two of them. He had begrudged buying the life insurance policy on Emily and he'd thanked her on more than one occasion for her logic. Now he leased his Crabbing boat to a fellow crabber and conserved the insurance settlement. With luck and planning he could wait until his son went to kindergarten before he went back out on the water.

Zander woke every morning knowing he was living for Emily too, he never forgot that when he looked into Emil's blue, blue eyes. By the time Emil was three months old he belly laughed and gurgled back at Zander, he was the only sunshine of his dark, heartrending life. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

+++++++++ New York ++++++++

By April Joe thought it was odd that Dr. Alcott had never returned his call, was Alcott in with Moreno? That ship had sailed and sunk. Under peculiar circumstances Moreno died a bloody death, then evidence of Elliott Burch's fiery death from the Compass Rose explosion padlocked the Burch Era in NYC.

Joe shook his head and gathered his newspapers for the trip home. Out of the corner of his eye he watched the "blip" again, the blip coincided with the flutter of her eyelashes, and he watched the rhythm as the tempo grew. "Radcliffe, are you there?" He grabbed up her free hand in both of his, her legs began to flex, her toes curled and uncurled. Joe's breath caught in his throat as he barked out "NURSE" to bring a parade of staff into the room.

"Joe, Joe?" her voice was parched and low. These first words had blazed thru her long stilled throat. She blinked back at the reality - where was she?

"Cathy….. I'm here" they attempted to make that visual connection through hands and arms tending each of her connection to machines. When the fury quieted, it was them together in the dim room.

Her lips moved and slowly her soft voice uttered, "What happened to me, Joe?" she had qualms about this strange environment, he could tell by the way she fidgeted in the bed.

"You don't remember the last 9 months?" Joe came up dry as to what to say as Cathy sadly shook her head.

"If I could remember, why would I ask?" she ran her hands thru her hair, marveling at the length of it. She inspected her hands and nails, softly shaped to delicate ovals and buffed smooth. They were longer than she ever remembered wearing, but what had she needed short nails for?

"You were kidnapped, when they were done with you, you were given a morphine injection and left for dead. When I was in the morgue we noticed movement, found you were alive. We moved you here" Joe explained.

"Here? Where's here?" She shook her head and peered out the window not recognizing the view, way too flat, way too foreign to be NYC.

"Little city called Havre De Grace, sleepy little town in Maryland, I wanted safe for you" Joe quieted, his elbows on his knees, his hands folded in front of him. "Now, I guess you want to know when you can go home" Joe's eyes brightened at the thought.

"Where is home, Joe?" And that sunk his hopeful heart, "I don't even know my own name!"

"You're kidding me, right?" Joe sat back and passed his sweaty palms down the thighs of his trousers.

"You call me Cathy," she looked at her ID bracelet, "Caterina LaRosa, I'm Italian?" she craned her neck to look at herself in the mirror, "Northern Italian?" she questioned dubiously.

"No, I put you in her under my Mom's name, we were worried about the attempt on your life" Now Joe pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes, thinking was hurting his head and his heart.

"Well, who am I, Joe, that someone is after me?" Cathy was stretching, adjusting her place in the bed as if she wanted to get out and get on with her life.

"You work for me, in the D.A.'s office - you are my top investigator" Joe was proud to brag about her.

"Where is my family?" Cathy moved the bed back up to lever against it, she pivoted slowly to let her legs dangle over the end.

"Cathy, I'm sorry to have to tell you, your father, Charles Chandler is dead, just within the last year. And you told me your mother died when you were ten" Joe was bracing for more of her questions, what would he tell her about all the failed attempts to find her son?

"I'm an orphan" Cathy sunk her face into her hands. She was silent, confused and now the tears began to stream down her cheeks as she faced Joe, their knees nearly touching.

"Cathy, do you remember the man you were seeing?" This question hurt Joe so deeply.

"Has he been here?" Cathy licked the tears off her top lip, the Daisies registered and she turned back to Joe, "Is he a daisy kind of guy, Joe?"

"No, Cathy, I brought those, you don't remember him?" Joe silently recounted what he knew of Cathy's "partner". By this time he knew it wasn't Elliott Burch, but Joe had nothing more about the elusive "Vincent".

"Where are my friends?" Cathy sorrowfully asked as she regarded the downy hair on her legs, while she stretched and flexed her toes she stole a look at Joe's expression. "Do I have friends, Joe? And, why do I seem to know you?"

"Thanks, Radcliffe, and I call you Radcliffe because you went to school there" they nodded conspiratorially and that made her smile, "Your friends think you died and we had to leave it at that, for their safety and yours". He bit at his knuckle as he waited for her to digest the facts.

"Do you know my friends Joe?" Cathy reached out to him, her cool fingers pulling his fist away from Joe's face, their eyes met again, painfully.

"A couple of them, your girlfriends, they came by the office over the couple of years you've worked for me. Jenny and I arranged your funeral. If I brought the photos from the graveside service could you look at them, you know to jog your memory?" Joe figured it couldn't hurt; they were simply head shots, not images of the grave site.

Joe had dismissed Peter Alcott's months of silence - Joe heard Peter had executed Cathy's estate exactly as it had been written, he only hoped there would be room for Cathy when she came "back"

"Cathy, there is one person who never returned my calls, do you remember, Dr Peter Alcott?" Joe's smile lessened to a squint at her blank response.

"Should I?" she grimaced and shook her head.

"He handled your estate, distributed it to a Chandler Wells Charitable Trust. All sorts of help for people transitioning from homeless to homes and jobs" Joe spoke painfully.

"I must have been a nice person, Joe, how can I go back and claim it all?" Cathy shook her head and shrugged. "Let me figure out myself before I go barging back in and pulling money off the table", she chewed a bit at her bottom lip. What would she do for herself….what danger would she court if she went back to New York?

"How long did you want to wait before you came back?" Joe smoothed his trousers as he stood. Cathy wanted to stand, feel her feet on the floor before she made any statements about standing on her own two feet.

"I'll have to think about it. Obviously, there's no heartbroken man looking for me, I might as well ease back into life here at a slower pace" her face drained of all her excitement until Joe slid over to the bed and sat beside her. She melted into his shoulder and buried her face there. No keening sobs, just silent tears as she wrapped her arms around his neck. They sat for nearly an hour, Joe frozen and unwilling to leave her. Then as the moon had risen high he knew he had tired her out.

"Let's keep this Caterina LaRosa thing going while you're here. I can't be down here to keep you safe, so it would be for the best" Joe slid out of her arms and helped her get settled back into the bed. "I'll be back this weekend, OK Radcliffe?"

"Yeah, Joe, I'll be here waiting for you" Now she sat up in bed with her knees drawn up to her chin. She was going to be awake all night; she never wanted to sleep again.

A few weeks of physical therapy revealed that Cathy's muscles had memories her mind didn't. As she walked the track squeezing rubber balls she poked her own memories and dreams for anything, any clues to uncover her past. Her dreams of concerts wrapped in dark wool meant nothing. How many people attended classical music concerts? The books she remembered were sentimental yet they were classics, certainly no timely clue for her.

Had she been in love with a married college professor who couldn't gamble searching out his murdered love? Her head spun with the possibilities and when the day came she opted for the simplest option, taking an administrative job at the hospital where she could walk back and forth to work. The money Catherine Chandler left was temporarily out of her grip, she didn't have the strength to fight for it now.

The day she waited for arrived and she wondered why she had looked forward to it. No memories had jogged loose so she elected to burrow into the little community near the hospital. Having made friends with several of the staff she had taken the offer of a garage apartment. The 700 square feet seemed cozy with the kitchenette and breakfast nook encroaching on the sitting area with the ragged wing chair and sturdy daybed. For a woman alone it would be what she jokingly referred to as her "launching pad".

As Joe drove to the bucolic town to move Cathy into her apartment he spun possibilities Diana Bennett never addressed. Diana never reported finding Cathy's son. How could Joe pile loss over heartache with the news that she had lost a son? Like a benevolent parent he kept that tucked inside his heart.

One day at a time Joe thought, one day at a time. May's flowers were in bloom when Joe arrived at the hospital to "spring" Cathy.

"Hey, Joe!" Cathy waved from the wheel chair in her room's doorway, "What took you so long?" Cathy released the brake on the side of the chair and held her dish garden in her lap. "I hate leaving in this thing" she tapped the armrests with her elbows, "I wanted to walk out of here".

"You will, Cathy, right into my car" Joe winked as he took the handles and pushed her toward her getaway.

"Hey, no dinky couches" Joe exclaimed as he keyed open the door for her, she had taken the rental sight unseen and she laughed at the Joe's unseemly comment, whatever did he mean about dinky couches?

She sat and checked the sofa's bounce while Joe carried in groceries and kitchen supplies from his car.

"It's a nice sofa", her hand dragged across the pale blue velour couch, three cushions long, why even she could lay down and not have her feet hit the end, "Do you have a story about this, Joe?" and in fact he did. He shared a few of the "Cathy's strange apartment" stories while she set up her kitchen drawers. They'd work and chat then sit and drink coffee, and then they'd move things into a comfortable order together. There was never any good time to talk about her missing child and the elusive "Vincent".

"So, once a month you'll come down?" She grew nervous as the sun set.

"On the train, Friday evening, I'll get a rental car and a hotel room" Joe stumbled over the words, she looked too eager to have him return and he had to chalk it up to her recovery, not her heart's desire" He ducked his head shyly as he left and closed the door behind him.

It was an arduous drive back to New York, Joe regretted every mile.

The loveliest aspect of the garage apartment was the vista she saw from the front bay window. From the second level she could see over the rustic street traffic and watch her neighbors' active lives. There was the woman with the Springer spaniel puppy, out several times a day training the dog to fetch and there was a striking figure of a man who would put a small child into a hanging carrier while he did lawn work or tinkered on an old pickup. She initially felt like a voyeur, sitting at her small round bistro table eating a simple meal while she imagined the stories of their lives.

Cathy wondered why the woman with the dog didn't make a connection with the man and the baby. Then she shook her head at her "matchmaking" and carried her dishes to the sink. She slid on her cross trainers and grabbed a slicker to take an early evening walk. With her cane as her backup, she made leisurely steps into her block. She couldn't remember if she had grown up on a street like this, it was sea swept and friendly. Small cars tucked up into carports near porch gliders, hydrangeas pillowed up over the edge of flower beds. Knowing no other life, this was a good place for a new life she decided. The corner would be her destination tonight, there was a coffee shop she had heard good things about. She decided to make it that far and have a decaf.

Cathy heard a friendly "Welcome to Mary's Tea House" as she pushed the door open, the smells of pastries and coffee gently floated toward her. All thoughts of just a cup of decaf flew out the door as she closed it behind her.

"I'll have….."Cathy searched the chalkboard sign and noticed the list of teas, "Let me have an Earl Grey and a biscotti" she didn't realize why she changed her mind from decaf to tea. Then the matronly barista offered up her order and Cathy sat in an overstuffed wing chair to enjoy her dessert.

She lost herself in the swirling steam over her mug and didn't notice the open door until the stroller bumped over the wooden floor in front of her. A bright blue eyed baby boy gurgled at her and her eyes snapped up to the owner of the Red Wing work boots before her. He stood well over 6 feet, in worn Levis with a plaid shirt over his Henley. His sleeves were folded and pushed up muscular forearms covered with tawny red gold hair. She watched as he kneeled before the stroller and pushed the baby's hat back. "You'd pull it off soon enough" the man smirked as he pocketed the knit cap. Without much thought he stood and pushed the stroller up to the counter and quietly ordered.

Cathy secretly smiled at the father, this was the mechanic from across the street, and she kept her head down over her tea as she enjoyed her little corner of this world. She withdrew the pocket book from her slicker and read to keep from overtly watching the captivating father and son. The man's voice was so deep it seemed to rumble the floorboards, it was a smooth and deep and entrancing.

After he drank the greater portion of his steaming mug he gathered the boy into one arm and laid back on the love seat nearest the Tiffany lamp on the end table. The child's bright eyes found fascination in the bright glass pieced together in Firefly shapes. And his chubby fingers excitedly reached for the golden light, then as Cathy realized she was staring she heard the father's deep voice carry the end of the poem,

"They lived their lives upon this earth before the dinosaurs.

Since ancient times they've hunted food around their watery shores.

The dragonflies and damselflies will make you stop and stare.

They're living rainbows in our world - These artworks of the air."

The child seemed calmed by the poem as much as she was then she suddenly felt as if she had intruded on their private time together and she buried her nose in her mug.

Cathy slept well that night. Perhaps it was the tea or the warmth of the atmosphere yet somewhere deep she thought it was watching this powerfully strong man engaged in so many gentle actions with his son. They shared the same coloring, wild, rusty blond hair and fascinating azure eyes. The boy's hair stood like chick fuzz while his father's grew past his shoulders tamed by a leather thong. Cathy was smitten.

By the time she began work on Monday she had pushed her little crush deep within her whimsy.

She idea of punching a clock and working seemed right, she knew she had to work, her coworkers were friendly and her work commonsensical but the end of the day all she could think of was stopping at Mary's Tea House for a cup of soup and a scone, she couldn't even think of cooking!

And there he was, spooning chicken noodle soup into his son's smiling mouth while his roast beef sandwich sat on a plate untouched. The sight of them halted her steps as she entered the Tea House. The hurried woman behind her virtually pushed Cathy further into the room and self-consciously she sidestepped the harried woman and fell behind her in line.

Caught within the bubble of her first day at work she waited to place her order, in her haze she missed the harried woman's words,

"Cathy, I'm sorry I seemed so brusque", then the woman touched her elbow and she jumped to hear the woman repeat them. It was the woman from across the room at work. "I'm sorry Cathy, I was hustling to get back home with this soup for Ed" then she noticed Cathy watching the father and son, "Do you know Zander and Emil?" she asked in a half whisper.

Cathy's attention snapped back to the woman, "No, they live across from me…" Then the co-worker grabbed Cathy by the elbow and pulled her toward them, Cathy's heels dug into the wood, suddenly a thatch of nerves.

++++++ Below New York ++++++

These months had changed the face of the Tunnel community. Vincent's late night return with his child swaddled in a green blanket turned their futures around. Certainly it wasn't just Father's expression as he caressed his son's face or the resounding happiness as his family gathered around this beloved child.

It was the irrepressible truth that Vincent and Catherine had loved and born of that love was this child. Vincent's pained hours of searching for his infant were traded for the tranquility of rocking and feedings and the entertaining giggles over new foods. The cradle at the foot of his bed seemed to draw all of the community. One such night, Vincent sat in his chair pulled close to Jacob while he read from "The Child's Garden of Verses" when he caught the sound of hard sole shoes outside his chamber.

"Vincent?" Diana called out softly.

"We're here, come in" Vincent silently closed the book and laid it on his bed.

"I had a meeting down town with Joe Maxwell and it just reminded me that I hadn't visited you and Jacob in a while" Diana wandered his chamber, drawing in the books stacked along with his bric a brac. Vincent caught a bit of confliction in her voice.

"What's on your mind this evening, you seem -"Vincent blanched at her abruptness.

"Agitated? Just a wee bit, it's a bad case of rage against the great big political machine" Diana was flush and her words and gestures emphasized her ire.

"It just stirred up everything surrounding Catherine's death and even though I shot the bastard myself with her gun I cannot reconcile the fact that if I hadn't, he'd have ruled the world from a jail cell." She drew in a heavy breath and pulled her hair out of the rubber band. Her hair seemed to have a life of its own, as wild as her emotions were. She played with twisting it into a bun while she waited for Vincent to speak.

"What was done closed the incident, Diana; we all did what we could. If any failed it was when I lost my sense of Catherine". Now Vincent's expression turned dour and sad. Together they stared in silence then Diana broke from her place across the room and she knelt at his feet.

"Vincent that time's passed. You have Jacob and having you as a father is so much better than his living with Gabriel" With her words he sat back in the chair and laid his hands on the armrests. Her hand gently covered his as she continued. "I can't do all this work here in this city anymore. I am leaving the force, moving back to my family's home."

At those words Vincent's head snapped off the chair back, "What of all the work you do?" Then he huffed a deep breath and settled again, "I fought a similar battle with another woman over a parallel subject, I imagine your mind is made up" he resigned.

"Yes, Vincent, my mind is made up. I leave Sunday afternoon" Diana rose and wrapped her arms around her torso, her head tucked to her chin she stood silent, "This. . . .is. . . .good-bye, Vincent"

He abruptly stood and froze at what to do or say. A careful thumb traced his jaw before he decided to step toward her for the first time to wrap her in a hug. She didn't resist, in fact she fell into his arms with a sad acquiescence that they had triumphed and failed together.

She captured all the things about him that she had imagined, she felt the authority of his arms around her, the massive muscled chest that caught her tears, she leaned into his thighs and felt the source of his speed and endurance. They stood for frozen moments feeding off each other, trading respect for regard, fears for hopes.

"You know where you can find me, Diana" Vincent smoothed her auburn wisps from her face and stared into her moist eyes. Her hands rested on his shoulders, her cheek on her chest, near the small brown pouch that held Catherine's necklace and her rose.

"That I do, Vincent, and here is where you can reach me, by mail" Diana palmed a folded note into his hand and reluctantly stepped back from an embrace she did not want to break, "I need to give Jacob a good-bye hug, then make my good-byes to Father and Mary", her eyes proliferated fat tears as she pulled back from Vincent's warmth.

"Be well, Diana" Vincent's expression mixed surprise with dismay. What lengths Catherine went thru to convince him of his humanity, Diana reinforced unknowingly through her ease of accepting him.

Once again, Vincent spent his night sorting his feelings for others who had left for greener pastures. First it had been Devin, just when he needed male peerage. Lisa pirouetted through his heart and out of his life, shredding his psyche and sexuality in one dance step. Catherine had saved his life and emancipated his humanity then died in the process of protecting their greatest treasure, Jacob.

Now it was Diana, who had plain and simply made him smile with her fearlessness. That night, alone in his chamber, while he cuddled Jacob to his chest he reminisced softly over these "flashbulb" memories, when in actuality, the events Vincent remembered were somewhat indiscriminate and were far from complete.

+++++++++ Havre de Grace, MD +++++++++

Cathy took light steps home from work Thursday, tomorrow Joe would visit with photos or other items that could jog her memory. She had been having placid dreams of Central Park as if she flew over the greenery on Aladdin's carpet always disrupted by the hellish image of a satanic angel spreading dark wings over her. She had slept hard all week rescued by hearing a husky voice reading to her. Had she been a fan of Books on Tapes?

As she rounded the corner she saw Zander paying a Pizza Delivery at his front door. As the driver jumped back in his car Zander waved, "Hey, Neighbor, they delivered an extra-large instead of a Medium, how about joining me?"

His spontaneous invitation knocked her out of her daydream, "Oh, sure, OK….. Let me drop my stuff off and I'll be over. May I bring anything?" She was inventorying her kitchen for an acceptable offering….all she had was Eskimo Pies.

"You're my guest" He shook his head of long, full hair and smiled at the words, his large shoulders seem to dwarf even the extra-large pizza box. She hurried up the steps and returned to his door with the Eskimo Pies, she couldn't go empty handed!

"Wow, Ice cream, how did you know I loved Eskimo Pies?" Zander caught the box from her hands as she entered his warm bungalow. She could see the remnants of a woman's touch somewhere under months of his being a single parent. The warm stone fireplace mantle had a pencil sketch of their wedding portrait, besides their Wedding Candle as if it were a shrine to their union. "Welcome to my humble mess" he swept a hand over the overstuffed furniture you could sink into.

Cathy inhaled the scents of cinnamon and vanilla from the candle jars in sconces in the dining area, the home felt warm and hospitable. They sunk onto large carved wooden chairs with calico cushions and began their shared meal. Their generic conversation flowed easily until Cathy admitted she couldn't remember ever being on a boat.

"You don't ever remember being on a boat?" Zander's incredulity at Cathy's comment brought a smile to her face as he served up a slice of pizza and a cold beer.

"I'm that one person on the coast of Maryland who doesn't remember ever being on a boat" Cathy shrugged then admitted, "Then again….I can't remember what I did last year" They watched each other's response, then Cathy finished the thought. "I had an accident, lost my memory, figured this was as good a place as any to try and recall them".

Zander plated his own pizza and made busy work of feeding Emil, "Maybe what you make of the next leg of your life will be even better than you could have ever imagined it?" His long copper hair glinted in the warm light, across his chiseled face a flurry of emotions settled. His deep blue eyes shot from Emil in the high chair to the gold band on his left hand.

"I guess the last year has beat up both of us" Cathy wiped at her mouth and took a long drink of her beer. The bottle felt solid in her hand, more solid than most things in her new life.

"At least I have Emil" he inclined his head to lay a smooch on the boy's forehead, his lips touched his son's wild hair and Emil grasped a handful of Zander's shoulder length hair, "Hey, buddy, let go.. No pulling, remember?" The chubby baby laughed and let go, once Zander dropped another handful of Cheerios on the high chair tray.

"He's beautiful" Cathy wistfully stated as she watched their comfortable interactions. She felt a tingle in her heart that migrated to her breasts, she felt them prickle and she couldn't distinguish whether it was for the man or the child. Had she ever had a child? The man before her would be quite a handful she mused with a secret smile.

"It's taken me a while to say I'm blessed, he's the best of both of us and I'm lucky to have him" his lips drew straight at the comment and then he playfully smacked his work worn palms on the table and declared, "Enough of this…. It's time for ice cream" he surged up gracefully, surefooted from years spent on rolling decks.

His back muscles danced under his tight Henley as she watch him remove dirty dishes and empty beer bottles, when Cathy rose to help, his single hand went up in a "stop", "You're my guest and that means no dishes until your 6th or 7th visit". She enjoyed his wit and his company; he made her feel at home.

The night air had turned damp and it rang with the sound of a freight train echoing as she left Zander's front door and her porch light was a beacon glowing softly as she walked toward it. When she turned to lock the door behind her she saw another light blinking on her phone machine. With an anxious step she pressed the button, "Cathy, I'm bringing a small box of your treasures tomorrow, I'll bring more when I drive down in a couple of weeks", see you around 10, OK?"

It was Joe's friendly voice; she smiled at the thought of going over her week with him. She felt comfortably happy that she'd have good things to share. She ran a warm tub and poured in some lavender bath salts, as she undressed she thought about the surge she felt at being in the company of Zander and Emil. Her body seemed foreign to her although she felt fit as someone who had been bedridden for a few months. Her belly was flat for the most part, just a few stretch marks on either side hinted at a mystery that was compounded by the sight of her breasts. Her areolas were prominently dark, something her nurses had mentioned as a hint toward "motherhood".

Now she slid down into the warm water and thought about the "voice", those husky low tones that read to her. As she drew the soft washrag over her skin the sound of "his" voice tingled wherever she touched. Soon she lay back and found her fingers stroking her nipples into peaks as that ethereally husky voice lulled her into a sensual haze.

"When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate,….."

The chill of the bath water startled her awake; she had slipped downward her knees splayed open above the lavender water. She bolted with the realization of what she had done, how she had touched herself at the sound of HIS voice. Cathy looked around the bathroom and giggled at the thought of it….she hadn't remembered ever having sex; she knew she had to have had sex at one time or another. She wondered if there was someone out there looking for her and she hurriedly wrapped the bath sheet around her to sit on the commode and have a good earnest cry.

She hadn't cried since when? That was the crux of it. Nothing about "being Cathy" was coming back to her.

++++++++ Below, New York +++++++++

From the night Vincent had brought their son home he found a solace in the rituals of feeding and bathing Jacob. The sacred time chiseled out of his workday meant everything to him as if he were sharing a mug of tea with Catherine. His duties below had shifted; the other residents began self-defense classes with the understanding that Vincent was no longer their watch dog. He found a solace in being a "Father" like Kanin and so many other men below. Now work was punctuated with stories of sleepless nights and Baby advice, his conversations with Father became opportunities for hearing the old man's humorous trials and errors of child-rearing. Life was almost full.

Tonight as Vincent floated Jacob in the warm pool he told his infant son stylized stories of Catherine, the way they sat and read on the balcony, their first Winterfest. In the placid waters he held his infant son to his wet chest and gently ran the back of his fingers over Jacob's baby skin. What a miracle Jacob is, Vincent prayed his thanks as they "talked", Jacob's bright, blue eyes followed his father's words as the cares of the day washed off them. Then Vincent diapered him, held him close for his "beddy-bye" and tucked him into the cradle.

In the light of the solitary candle behind that Stained Glass window Vincent lay back in the bed he never shared with Catherine as he listened to the pipe sounds taper down. After the last whoosh of a subway train he found himself in that limbo where voices from another time beckoned him. He listened to Catherine laugh, listened to her feelings – how she trembled at the thought of a blue eyed child, how alone she felt.

It wasn't until Jacob's fretting woke him that Vincent realized he had been asleep at all. The night had filled him inside with a morsel of hope that grew as his day mechanically began with diapering and feeding Jacob.

+++++++ Havre de Grace ++++++++

"Hey, Joe, come on in" Cathy held the door open as she watched him teeter up the stairs bearing an overstuffed Banker's Box of albums and framed photos. "I can't wait to dig into these" Cathy caught the box and dragged Joe in with it.

"You know where everything is Joe, help yourself….I'm going to immerse myself in….. myself" Joe smirked at her enthusiasm and helped himself to a class of milk and a chocolate chip cookie.

"Are you sure you want to dig into this tonight?" Joe knew the clippings from her attack would be there to slap her into a brutal reality.

"Is that code for you preferred to get settled at the hotel?" She froze, kneeling over the burgeoning box.

"I want to start fresh, Cathy, there's some heavy stuff there" He offered the cookie to her as well as glass of milk, "If you let me sort it out in the morning, we'll be better equipped" Joe turned and poured another glass of milk and two cookies.

Once he sat on the sofa she left the box of her secrets to join him. "No fairy tales in there, huh?" Cathy's posture flagged, until Joe caught her shoulder and shook his head. They bit down their cookies slowly and washed down this moment's reality with cool milk.

"Do I look like your Fairy Godfather?" Joe sighed as he grabbed up his keys and bid her adieu. "Cathy we all have secrets, yours are buried a bit deeper than some". Cathy believed that and she slept dancing thru dreams of Fairytale Princesses who led charmed lives. She wondered if she was a Princess at all while she readied herself for bed. She slept another dreamless night.

"Knock, Knock" Joe announced his morning's arrival with a box of pastries and two steaming cups from Mary's Tea House.

Cathy had been up almost four hours prior to his 8:30 am arrival. "Ok, I waited patiently even when I woke up at 4am I didn't fish around, I'm digging in now!" she brushed past Joe and methodically spread everything on the braided rug.

Cathy blew thru her yearbooks, her autograph books and headed for her parent's photo albums, she watched herself from birth to ten years old. "This was where Daddy must have lost heart" she closed the album and dug for more and then at finding none she blanched and sat back to finish her coffee. Joe could feel her sad gratitude.

"Can you believe they thought I'd major in FASHION LAW?" Her expression mocked incredulity, then her sarcastic expression broke with a grin, "Joe, there's no money is issuing fashion citations is there?" Cathy flipped thru her teenage albums, mining humor from the psychedelic covers and "crazy" clothes. Then she recognized the gravity of her education with the professionally framed degrees, "I'd have to be smart to earn all these, right? I mean I feel smart about things…. Just feel so daft about me"

Joe was speechless; this was a journey she had to travel with him looking over her shoulder, not beside her. He couldn't interpret signs and omens from the clues of her life.

In the early hours of the day someone who could read the tone of her thoughts and give her that feedback was miles away confused at what he was sensing.

+++++++++++ Below New York ++++++++++++

"I'm sorry to wake you, Father" Vincent was stoop-shouldered, a broken man.

"Is it Jacob?" Father turned in his bed reaching for his eyeglasses from the bed side.

"No, not Jacob, I need to share something I'm not sure of. Could you give me your unvarnished judgment?" Vincent's soft voice convinced Father to sit up and prepare himself for this talk. Vincent was already heating water and digging into the biscuit tin for a few cookies.

As he wrapped his robe around his waist Father stood in the doorway between his bedchamber and his parlor. How many changes had his son gone thru in these past years? "Tell me, Vincent, what seems to be on your mind?"

"Father, now that Diana has brought Jacob back and she herself has moved - -"

"Diana's move has meant something to you hasn't it?" Father expected once Vincent's heart had opened he could be more vulnerable.

"No, Father, not as you expect. Now that she's gone and I have Jacob's wellbeing on my mind I'm feeling as if there's a force vibrating in the background. As if I am feeling Catherine from the other side" Vincent sat, his hands folded hanging between his knees. He studied the carpet pattern, waiting for Father's comment.

"You said you lost your bond with Catherine - -"Father was at a loss for more to say, he needed to know more.

"At the time I came out of my funk that bond was lost then as Jacob drew his first breath I felt a throbbing beat in my chest alongside my own heart. It was him calling me, only I was too late. Now as the static settles and our bond is what it is I hear Catherine's emotions hurling toward me" He ran his clawed fingers thru his hair and sat back, peering at the ceiling, mouth agape, breathing heavy.

Father hadn't been much for what seemed to be parlor tricks speaking to those on the "other side" he grimaced at what his son proposed.

"It began the other day." Vincent huffed in a full breath then continued, "What if her soul is confused, conflicted about her eternal path" there was a silence between them and Vincent rose to pour the tea, "We shared so little really in the two years, essentially just literature and the arts"

"We can live a lifetime and perhaps not know a person, Vincent" Father nodded, lost for words. "You said she shared her dying words with you, she is at peace, be sure of that".

"Does she know Jacob is with me? Can she rest without knowing that?" Vincent delivered the steaming cups to the desk and leaned over the desk on his knuckles, "Who could give her soul absolution to rest, Father?"

"Son, you already have, with your delivering her to her apartment". When would Vincent rest? Father had no answers as he held the steaming mug to his lips.

"Vincent, its times like these where I know imminently that you are my son, as sometimes we just think too much"

++++++++++ Havre de Grace ++++++++++++

"I didn't know there were still guys like that anymore" Joe chuckled as he saw muscularly defined Zander using a chain saw to methodically take down a storm damaged tree in the front yard. Joe curiously studied the agile man from the picture window as Zander took careful cuts and stacked the tree limbs at the back of the property line. The vista included the barely fluttering sheets on the 4 laundry lines along the property line.

"What do you mean, Joe?" Cathy had been knee deep in flipping thru society clippings and Joe had taken to wandering the small living room.

"The guy in your landlord's front yard, he has muscles in his ears. With all that hair is his name Samson?" Joe smirked at his own joke as Zander turned to slide out of the plaid shirt to reveal solidly chorded deltoids and as he turned a pair of gracefully thick trapezium muscles peeked out from under the wild, long mass of red-gold hair.

Cathy blinked at the everyday ballet of Zander's movement. "Well, Joe, he lives across street and his name is Zander, he's a widower with a little boy" she shook her head at Joe's humor and found herself drawn to the strength her neighbor exhibited in tree trimming. "I love yard work, I could watch it for hours" she quipped with a wink then stepped back to reopen the book she had been flipping thru.

"So, you're getting used to yard work, Kiddo? I thought you were a NY city girl" Joe took a seat where he could keep an eye on this Zander.

"Hell, no, I don't do yard work, that's what Zander does" Now the book sat open in her lap.

"You've been here two weeks and you've met a guy!" Joe grabbed another cookie and with Cathy's silence on the subject of meeting a guy he changed the subject, transfixed by all her belongings on the floor, "Found any clues in all that?" eager to change the subject.

Cathy turned from her pleasant view and wrapped her arms over her tingling breasts, "Joe, did I have a child?" That question just about knocked the wind out of him. He shoved the cookie into his mouth to buy time.

Once he swallowed his body language gave his guilt away. "When the Doctor examined you at the morgue he said you had delivered a child within the last 24 hours, we found no evidence of the child" that news settled between them, their tension drowned by the chain saw noise.

"No evidence as in no child or a dead child?" her mind's gears picked up speed as her breath hitched.

"We found neonatal supplies, clothing, and yet no trace on any of it, not even a dirty diaper" now Joe folded his arms over his chest as his eyes scanned for a rubber band. "I never spoke about that night with you, Cathy, are you ready for this?"

Cathy sat back against the front of the sofa her knees under her chin; she nodded, wide eyed and hopeful.

"By that time you had been missing 6 months or so, we didn't know who to trust, our Boss, Moreno was in thick with this Gabriel fellow" Joe's speech was emphatic. Suddenly a vision struck Cathy, the meaning of the dark angel in her dreams – this "Gabriel" was no sainted angel to her.

Cathy's head nodded, eyes begging for more. Should he be cautious? Joe measured his words, "Then Diana Bennett, the special investigator was kidnapped herself, she remembered a floor tile we tracked to the home where your child was detained."

He leveled his tone so as not to encourage Cathy. Her eyebrows knitted in expectation. "When the smoke cleared, Gabriel and his men were dead and the child was gone. Into thin air, this small baby boy was gone." By those words she was turned to bury her face in her folded arms on the sofa, her shoulders heaving in her tears.

"We know he was alive when he disappeared" Joe found his way to the sofa, pulling her into a brotherly embrace. "Cathy, I didn't want to heap this pain on top of your adjusting to your amnesia" She buried her face in his shoulder and bit back bitter tears. Joe pulled her to straighten up, to look at the parcels of her life lying in stacks. "Cathy, does any of this jog any of your memories?"

++++++++++++++ Below, New York ++++++++++++++++

Vincent floated in placid warm waters in his bathing chamber, if he had learned anything from Catherine he had learned to meditate on the bond, listen and it would lay the path ahead. If Catherine was grasping for peace he would deliver it however he could.

"I'm with you, Catherine. Our son is with me, Jacob is a hearty boy with such a loving spirit" He felt weightless in the dark water, he sensed the ends of his hair floating outward as jellyfish tendrils would. Vincent felt free as he let his muscles ease and he spread his arms out to the side, his tired, powerful legs hanging heavy. How did Catherine describe it? To let each body part "go" until you floated to peace.

He relaxed the feet that carried him to her lose tension as he flexed his toes. Vincent heard the water swirl around him as he skimmed his palms over the water's surface. Only God knew how long he had wanted to use these hands to hold his Catherine? Now he prayed that the full recollection of Jacob's conception return to him, since Jacob had been put into his arms that darkness had been lifting in layers. As he recollected his confusion and agitation he "saw" Catherine enter that sandy hollow, now he ached that he had raged toward her, claws drawn until she screamed his name.

Down, down they fell in a spiral until she lay over him, beating his chest at his silence. Where "was" he that he lay unresponsive to her loving words? Through their clothes he felt her heat over him as she straddled his hips. She pivoted her feet back as she lay directly over him, channeling her life force to emanate downward into his still form. Her mouth hovered at his throat; warm damp breath flowed past his ear as he lay unresponsive.

Then the darkness separated into shades of gray, her fists pounding frantically gave way to the chill air as she lifted herself off him. Technicolor auras splayed before him, the sounds of fabric, and a zipper, one shoe dropping while her silhouette remounted his thighs, did he unbuckle his belt or had Catherine unthreaded the complex closure alone?

Then his impassioned pressure sprung as she unfastened his trousers, liberating his length into her warm eager hands. Clawed hands scraped at the sand beside him then curled to ball into his palms, the set of his jaw went slack as her womanity clenched his full length. He felt her sweaty hands land on his shoulders as she leveraged to ride him and with all his strength shelved he lay there submitting to Catherine. Eyes clenched shut he lay submitting to all he had repulsed for so long, giving way to the sweet surrender she arduously yet lovingly ground out of him.

Her stillness confirmed the eruption they had shared. Catherine had captured what she had come for and carried them both back from the edge; fae kisses rewarded his face as they lay still for just a flash. Now those memories lay tattooed so deep within him that only meditation brought it to the fore and Vincent thanked the heavens for the revelation.

The shock of the truth drained him, nearly dragged his whole body beneath the shallows of the warm pool. He stood abruptly, sweeping the wet hair from his eyes, expecting to see Catherine before him and in resignation he stood and left the pool.

Knowing Jacob's beginning gave Vincent the strength to stretch further toward Catherine's tortured spirit. One day, in their hereafter, Vincent vowed to learn the ways of love to share with Catherine all the love he held inside.

+++++++ Havre de Grace +++++++

"Joe, who is this Elliott Burch?" Cathy wondered if he was the romantic voice reading Shakespeare to her.

"Ahhh, Cathy that's a sad story. You met him right after you started at the office." Joe reminisced about the lunch Elliott delivered to Cathy's dismay. "Elliott was a developer, a real mover and a shaker" Joe's finger tapped as the news cuttings about Burch Towers and the endless Charity Events.

Together they flipped thru a few pages until Cathy stayed Joe's hand. "You're talking in the past tense, what's the sad story?" Their eyes met and Joe's hand slipped abruptly from under hers.

"He was murdered a while after you were moved down here" Joe turned back to the brightly floral view outside.

"Joe, no, he died because of me?" Cathy folded he chin to her knee and bit at her lip, the news crushing the morning's pleasant origins.

"He died because Patrick brought me that damned black book." Joe angrily turned from the sunny vista and stood with his hands on his hips, his stance was no nonsense. "Burch knew he wanted to help get your son back, by the time he died he had lost most of everything anyone knew he had"

"Do I want to know about this Gabriel that you had mentioned?" Now Cathy leaned back against the sofa and frowned at her hands.

Suddenly there was a rapping knock at the door that broke the somber tone. Cathy jumped to open the door then her "landlord" announced herself, "Cathy, we're going to picnic in the backyard around noon" Cathy opened the door further to invite her in.

"Marva, this is an old friend from New York, Joe Maxwell. Joe, this is my landlord, Marva Lewis" The tone of the room lightened with Marva's easy nature and graceful smile.

"Well then, Cathy, it's going to be more fun if you bring Joe down with you for the picnic. We've got chilled shrimp and Bart brought corn on the cob and some of those ribs you liked so much"

"Well sure, Marva, we'd love to. Anything you need?" Cathy pushed the albums together, as if she welcomed the chance to leave the apartment even if it was to walk around a grocery story.

"No, Cathy, just bring you and Joe down around Noon, we'll just enjoy the time together"

++++++++ Below, New York +++++++++

"Vincent" Jamie called out a few steps before she approached his chamber; she heard the rustle of wool and the sound of his footfalls.

"Jamie, we're up, I'm just wrestling this baby octopus" Vincent's voice registered his fatigue and frustration as Jacob arched his back and dug his heels into the changing table. The child babbled and flung his arms at his sides, swinging at Vincent's locks as he leaned over his child.

"Vincent, I'm surprised you haven't thought of this," Jamie pulled off the leather thong bracelet and untied it, holding it out to Vincent. Once he had Jacob dressed he gathered his son into the high chair and regarded her "offering".

Wryly the flustered father asked "And this is helping how?" Vincent blew upward to shift his hair from him face as his eyes narrowed with a wry grin. Jamie had seen this expression on parents….that short fuse brought on many late nights and early mornings with a teething baby.

"Pull you hair back and tie it with this. Just be glad you're not a woman with earrings" Jamie stepped toward him to offer her help and he reflexively stepped back away. Jamie grinned and shook her head, "Vincent, nobody cares about your ears" Jamie knew for a fact Vincent hid behind his hair, especially his ears.

"I'm sorry, Jamie, I'm distracted…..not myself" Vincent accepted the length of leather and made an expression Jamie read to his debating exposing himself.

"Come here, Vincent" Jamie led him to the shorter backed chair and pulled a wide tooth comb out of her pouch, "Let me do this" her tone demanded his complicity, something she had grown into using more often in the past year. Jamie was becoming an adult.

Vincent resigned his shock of wild hair into her hands, his shoulders relaxed at the feel of the comb tugging thru hair he had neglected. This wasn't the sensual pull that Catherine held over him; this was a perfunctory and purposeful touch. Vincent realized how he had retracted himself from the community.

"Anyway, what I came in for…."she got back to why she had arrived on his doorstep, " We're doing Kinder Music this afternoon" She worked the comb thru a rat at the back of his neck and then continued, "So I wanted to take Jacob, maybe he'd nap longer"

Vincent had been listening to her, falling back into the tug and strokes of her comb then came alert at her silence, "Fine" his voice softly trailed within that one word.

"FINE? You've spent too much time with Mouse" Now she girlishly giggled as she discovered a grown out love braid tucked behind his right ear. She silenced that laugh as her brows furrowed as she realized Catherine's work from probably a year ago. She wordlessly worked it into the French braid; did he even realize it was there? "Now, you have one less thing to think about, some of us braid our hair for days" Jamie's hand touched his shoulder and felt the iron stiff resolve that got Vincent thru each day. "I know it's been rough for you – it's been rough for us to watch all this unfold – not knowing how or IF we could help you"

Vincent rose, knowing her wide eyes were sad, he sensed those glances as his family turned to examine scuffs on their well-worn shoes once polite conversation stilled.

"It would seem parenting will change me physically and mentally more than any other thing I've done" Vincent's voice, redolent of happier times hinted at his hopes for Jacob as he methodically mixed his boy's rice cereal.

"Yeah, that's why I'll always be the happy Auntie….none of this parenting stuff for me" Jamie fell into step, tying the worn bib around the child's chubby neck. "So, what about it, Vincent, I'll take him off your hands, wear him out for you, ok?"

"I'd appreciate this as much as Jacob would enjoy the music. I'm sure he feels my… … disquiet" Vincent began mashing a soft banana with the spoon as Jacob bucked and smacked at the tray in anticipation.

Jamie watched in silence, what made their Tunnel home strong? Had it been Catherine's love for Vincent that had enlivened them during Paracelsus' last reign of terror? Had Catherine's love bolstered Vincent? Jamie had caught gossip on the wind that Catherine had been Vincent's downfall, his Achilles Heel. She was mature enough to know Father's perceptions had been wrong, she could see it from the very first night Vincent hovered over Catherine's bandaged form.

Vincent was a man who for truth and honor's sake had stood fast and long suffering, Jamie only hoped his suffering would soon make a turn.

= = = = = = Havre de Grace = = = = = = =

Joe watched the clock, the promise of a Barbeque fueling his recounting of various "Cathy" stories. They had consumed a pot and a half more of coffee before the boxes were shoved aside to go down to the yard.

"So, Joe, ready to move to Maryland yet?" Cathy grinned as she locked the door behind her and they made tracks to the picnic table to join the neighbors.

How different this scenario was from New York City? Joe watched the nut brown blanket flapping on the laundry line, how he reminisced about the short laundry lines in the backyard when he grew up. Here the line ran the depth of the lot, full of white sheets, dish towels and blankets. He listened to the harmony of the snapping linens in the wind as they drew Joe back to reality, the reality of a large charcoal grill smoking fragrantly.

"Jeez, Radcliffe, that grill is the width of my back porch when I was growing up" Joe meandered following Cathy to the picnic table and eight or nine people from the block. Zander bounced Emil on his knee as the two of them spoke some secret language.

Children, 3 or 4 boys ran in frenzied circles after each other each of them carrying a plastic replica of whatever weapon their comic book hero brandished. It reminded Joe of summers at his sisters.

"Don't be shy, Cathy and Joe, just dig in, sit anywhere" Bill opened the cooler to offer a beer or soda, "Joe, I'm Marva's other half – I hear you're down from NYC?"

Jos crossed the thick grass to shake Bill's hand, "Yeah, I brought Cathy some of her things to jog her memory"

"How's that going?" Bill's smile straightened as he turned to the grill to tend the flames.

"Not too good" Joe confided as he withdrew a beer and popped the top, "BUT, I'm of the mind something is going to pull a thread and it will open up". The two men nodded in agreement as they watched the hive of neighborhood activity they could see from the backyard. A dog issued his strident reply to the whine of a lawnmower while the drone of boats hung like white noise. It was peaceful, Catherine thought as she watched Zander make nearly silent chatter with Emil on his knee. Emil wrestled to be let down onto the cool grass to try his steps.

"Would he walk to me?" Cathy asked as she sat on the end of the picnic bench a foot or so away.

"He might try" Zander grinned enigmatically at Cathy, "Your visitor, is Joe here long?" Then he let Emil find his balance as the child's chubby arms reached out to balance himself.

"Joe's down till Sunday, Emil… here" Cathy held out a snack to garner interest as Emil babbled and made high kneed steps, 1, 2, 3 to cover the short grassy space between Zander and Cathy then she swept the child up to cuddle and coo the sweaty curls at Emil's temple, "He's visiting to bring me some things from my previous life, he was my boss"

Cathy breathed in the baby scent that embodied innocence and glee while Emil patted at her cheeks and stuck out his tongue. She was lost in Emil's trance when the young boys squealed by in an energetic streak to culminate in a clatter of metal and patio furniture and Bill's yelps of pain as his shirt took the flames.

Instinctively Cathy was swept within herself…. To a place from months ago. She guarded the child hovering in arms as her eyes scanned for the ruckus. Post traumatic shock rocketed her into a panic cocoon. Bill's shirt was aflame and he spasmodically smacked at the loose Hawaiian shirt as he ran in a nervous circle, igniting the rayon further as flames licked at the blond hair on his arms.

Zander had disappeared from the seat across from Cathy and she shivered in a world alone with a sapphire eyed child. Tunnel vision overcame her as she saw the larger than life figure flying toward her, hair winged wildly with his incoming speed, the brown wool airborne behind this massive man running toward her, extracted one word from her "VINCENT" she screamed as Zander bolted light-footed past her to smother the flames licking at Bill.

While the rest of the picnic guests hovered following Zander's instructions Cathy rocked the child to her chest whispering a mantra repetitively, "Vincent, our son is beautiful, he's a miracle - Vincent I love you".

Her words halted when Joe's hands rested on her shoulders, "Cathy" there together Joe pulled her toward the bench under the tree, "Cathy, look at me…." Now her eyes were shedding hot tears when Joe wasn't used to seeing Catherine Chandler cry at all. Her slim arms encompassed the child, unaware of any of the danger of neither the fire nor his father's heroic rescue.

"Cathy" Joe caught her shoulders again and sought her gaze, "Did that remind you of something? Vincent, you cried out for Vincent".

"Vincent, oh, love, let me be the only one… … my heart beats only for you. . . . ." Her eyes had glazed over as she blindly spoke to her heart's desire.

++++++++ Below, New York +++++++++

"Vincent, oh, love, let me be the only one… … my heart beats only for you. . . . ." Vincent's head snapped upward from his lunch. Suddenly the cacophony of utensils against plates melted away, the drone of conversation silenced. Her voice was enflamed within him as he felt his lungs burn to run to her – but where? His eyes closed slowly as he tucked his chin to his chest and squinted back hot tears.

= = = = = = Havre de Grace = = = = = = =

"Vincent's in mourning, he thinks I'm dead and that my soul is tortured, he doesn't realize I'm alive" Cathy's brows knit a deep crease across her forehead as the tears streamed down her cheeks. All the while she nuzzled the child as he garbled content baby sounds. Cathy turned from Joe to watch Zander in his usual caring way as he checked Bill for burns. She realized Zander reminded her of Vincent in numerous ways. It was falling into place now, his powerful physique, his caring manner, and the voice! She could beat a path back to Vincent and they could begin valuable steps to returning their son to his rightful life Below.

"Joe, can you take me home tonight?" Cathy paced circles around Joe, streaming the happiest tears she had ever remembered.

The neighbors had Bill's first aid under control. In the distance the local EMT squad was rolling toward them while Zander ambled toward them, standing back a ways he asked, "Cathy, everything OK? Is Emil OK?"

Cathy tearfully nodded while she fixed her smile, realizing she still held Zander's child, "Oh, my gosh, I have Emil." She kissed his sweaty curls and offered the child back to Zander, "You know, I think somewhere out there I have a child just like Emil… and his Daddy is waiting for me too".

With that cheerful news, Zander stepped closer to her and embraced his child along with her. "Cathy, I couldn't be happier for you, we sure will miss you, right fella?" He caught his son into one arm as Cathy recounted the images that triggered her memories.

Too excited to eat, Cathy excused herself to make her good-byes to Bill and Marva, she was heading home!

++++++++ New York +++++++++

"You're telling me you want me to drop you off in front of your apartment as if it's just another day at the office? Have you lost your mind, Radcliffe?" Joe caught short glances at her while he drove back into New York City.

"OK, then Peter's home, his housekeeper can let me in" she wasn't budging; she wanted him to cut her loose.

"Before you take off on me I want to be sure I know where I can get a hold of you, now you've got your memory back you'll want to come back to work, won't you?"

"Joe, please, give me some time to get settled" Cathy eyed the street numbers as they sat at the traffic light.

"With Vincent?" Joe's heart clutched now that he could put a name to her "love".

"If you must ask, yes" her heart pounded at the thought of having Vincent in her arms. How would he handle that?

"You finally admitted it! How many years have you two been together?" Now Joe was exceedingly satisfied, after poking around for years.

Joe seemed to turn corners slower as Peter's address drew nearer, and their building silence sucked all of the rides' joy out of the atmosphere. As Joe threw the car into park Cathy sat with her hand on the car door. "Well, you're helping me get into the house, aren't you?"

Joe Maxwell jumped at the chance, "I thought you'd never ask…."

++++++++++++++ Below, New York ++++++++++++++++

Peter made careful steps toward Father's chamber, it was Vincent again according Jamie's message. As he embraced his friend he read the concern on Father's face and whispered, "Jacob, you realize talk therapy is all we can take advantage of with Vincent"

"Of course, Peter, thank-you for arriving so quickly, Vincent's reaction at lunch was disturbing enough to send Livvy to me. He actually believes Catherine is alive somewhere, struggling to return to him".

"I can assure you – I read the autopsy report, the photos were Cathy." Peter accepted the chair next to Father and leaned on his arms on the desk.

"Photos? I had thought you were there" Father worried his lower lip.

"Remember, I was in Albany for a medical review, I got back and had the copy on my desk. You know, I've been knee deep with the charity, the Chandler Fund was generous; things have been progressing nicely with the charity. I don't speak about it to Vincent but you've transitioned four families into jobs and homes and we haven't been active a year" Peter had been satisfied, perhaps Father needed to adopt that attitude too. The benefits of the charity hadn't been lost on Jacob Wells; simply he hadn't realized no one had "seen" Catherine's body. Now, Jacob wondered. . . . And before he could utter another word, Vincent appeared at the top of the staircase, holding his fairly agitated son in his arm.

"Peter, I am amazed you're here, aren't you aware you're about to receive guests at your home?" Vincent descended the stairs fluidly to join the men around Father's desk.

"Susan's working, I don't expect her till Thanksgiving" Peter smiled at the thought of his daughter's next visit as well as Vincent's insistence of visitors calling.

"Do you mind if I head that way?" Vincent politely asked as he moved little Jacob to his other arm for Father to exchange some air kisses with the cheerful child.

"Vincent, who are you expecting?" Peter leaned back to fully view Vincent. He was freshly bathed, dressed in his best trousers and Catherine's favorite linen shirt. Oddly, he hadn't added his usual vest or his ever-present cape.

"Vincent, do you think it's wise to traipse off with Jacob, it's barely twilight" Father rose to take possession of his grandson only to have Jacob cling to his father's broad shoulder and bury his little cherubic face into a riot of golden hair.

"I'll be at Peter's, until we return here." Vincent shook his head resolutely, calmer than he had been in months and with those words, not answering Peter as to who he was meeting.

As Vincent walked he whispered to Jacob, "When you see her she is beauty... and when you look into your Mother's eyes you'll see what's in her heart".

++++++++ New York +++++++++

"Thanks, Joe, say I give you a call in a couple of days" Catherine had Joe is a bear hug as she led him toward the front door, "It was a kind thing you did for me, you know I'll always have a place in my heart for you, Joe"

"Which I immediately feel is a place so deep inside that I'll only see you on holidays" Joe stopped their movement and slid out of the hug, "Cathy, whatever you need – it doesn't stop tonight, I'm there for you and this guy I've never met. You remember my number, right?" He withdrew his business card from his wallet and shook it with his usual boyish grin.

Cathy grabbed it and nodded her head, "Thank-you, Joe. Good-night, Joe" with those emphatic words he was gone.

The house stood silent except three rapidly beating hearts. Catherine had known he was within the structure of the brownstone, she could feel it in her core. Carefully she drew the wide wooden blinds and pulled the draperies over them. Chaining the front door she made a hesitant turn to examine herself in the foyer mirror. She was paler, thinner, her hair was longer. For the first time in her life she had longer, painted nails. Cathy, the hospital clerk wore flats and linen jumpers, now Catherine wondered if it had been a subconscious move toward "tunnel wear".

Suddenly she felt his eyes on her, as he heard a slow creaking of floorboards made by his facile steps arriving from the hall off the kitchen. Expecting her love to arrive cloaked in darkness she made a secret wish and closed her eyes to turn around.

"Catherine, is this reality?" Her eyes widened when she saw the child in his arm, the other hand reaching toward her.

"Vincent, oh love, the best reality there is" She rushed the two of them, imagining the end of their pathos, the beginning of living their dream "Is, is . . . . . this our son?"

They stood together, shaking until they fell to their knees and then to sitting on the floor, "Catherine, meet Jacob Charles Chandler" he released the squirming boy into her arms as Jacob leaned arms forward toward her. "Mum, mum, mum…." Jacob dribbled as he smacked kisses over his Mother's face.

Catherine laid back face to face with her child, savoring his precious weight on her. She remembered his brilliant eyes as they swept him away from his delivery. Bliss enveloped the three of them as Vincent watched their bonding and within that joy he lowered himself alongside Catherine, eyeing their attachment.

"He is perfection, the best of each of us" Vincent's warm breath propelled his words toward her and she caught his wistful expression. There on the living room floor Vincent eyed the two most important people in his world. Drawn to her luminosity while she caressed their son he lowered his lips to her forehead and placed a delicate "welcome home" kiss on her temple. The prickle ran the length of her spine to set off a radiant smile and she turned on her side, laying Jacob between them.

"Vincent, I can't regret the things I have done or the things that have happened to us, because whatever I've done, I must have done something right because I've come to you"

Their lips met in deliberate and delicate kisses as Jacob giggled between them, Catherine drew close to stroke his cheek gently, she remembered the catacombs and how she caressed him. Vincent leaned into her touch, so much so that he threw a gentle booted foot over her calf to draw them closer. With a husky breath he confessed, "I used to think forever was such a long time, we're reunited, forever isn't long enough."

"Vincent, about our forever" Catherine blushed, she loved the feeling of his calf over hers, she wanted him in her arms the sooner the better, "Take me home so that forever can begin".

++++++++++++++ Below, New York ++++++++++++++++

"Do they know I'm coming home?" she asked as they made their way to Peter's threshold.

"They were quite piqued when I excused myself with Jacob, Father was certain I was headed for self-destruction above" Once they were on Tunnel ground Catherine insisted on holding Jacob for they journey. Vincent's posture had broadened by the nature of his walking alongside his woman and his child, within him churned a dervish of such happiness that the pain of his previous months evaporated. The glow on his face even caused his eyes to nearly close, especially as they passed the first sentry and he heard the alert "Vincent and Jacob are bringing Catherine home".

Vincent comically bit at his bottom lip as he heard the cacophony of pipe chatter with a final "all silent" declared by Pascal, which only resulted in throngs of his friends scurrying toward Father's chamber. Actually, without his cape they were nearly bowled over by a few of the teens so focused on their destination.

The chatter silenced as the three of them entered the packed chamber.

++++++++++++++ Below, New York ++++++++++++++++

"I hope they don't think I am a horrible Mother because I want to spend our first night together in privacy" Catherine stood against the archway into Vincent's chamber, watching his graceful steps as he lit candle after candle.

"I doubt that's their thought" Vincent blushed in understanding of her desires as he gathered Jacob's sleepwear and his stuffed rabbit into a canvas tote with his diapers, "I truly believe they understand the two of us have a lot of catching up to do". Scanning the room he nodded to himself and then held up his index finger, "I'll return directly" as Vincent passed her pressed a warm kiss to her nose, "I promise". And he swept down the hallway with his usual silence.

Catherine slid out of the shawl Mary had loaned her, the Tunnels had a bit of chill compared to the coast of Maryland in summer. There hanging at the foot of Vincent's bed was their breathtaking portrait Kristopher had painted. She shook her head that he had spent all these months with that image, it would have been her undoing to see him and be without him. She counted herself fortunate to have had no memory.

It was comical that she remembered so clearly what was different in his chamber. The stray bric a brac was gone, the dust was gone, things were up off the floor and now Vincent had a newer, thicker carpet covering more of the floor. She followed the wall until turned and there within an alcove she never remembered was a cradle and a "Vincent" sized rocker. The alcove held the scents of baby lotion and Vincent's ginger soap. She could only imagine the two of her "men" clean and cuddling before bedtime, the feeling happily infiltrated from her head to her toes. She was lost in the love in this tiny alcove when she felt his gentle hands on her shoulder.

"Oh, Vincent, words can't convey how happy I am to be . . . . "

"Home?" Vincent finished the sentence as his arms slipped off her shoulders and around her waist, slyly his forearms rose to bolster her soft breasts and his fingers of both his hands meshed to pull her into him. This revelatory gesture caused her to enthusiastically melt back into his virile physique.

Oh, Catherine had missed his power, the innate masculinity that he had previously parsed out in small amounts. As they stood there she felt the erotic tension in his body, so much was unsaid, yet it flowed between them like honey in the comb.

"Yes, Vincent, home… I'm never leaving this time" Catherine turned into his embrace and nestled her face into the warm linen of his shirt. Breathing deeply she thanked God for now.

Her nights of dreaming were a portent of their happy life to come. His solid strength enveloped her, whisking her into "now" where her side of their Bond seemed to interpret Vincent's intentions to welcome her home in the most pleasurable sense.

"Catherine, do you know the language of kisses?" Vincent's husky voice fell softly into her ear, the warmth of his words weakening her knees.

"Perhaps, you could grace me with a lesson?" Catherine managed a smile as she anticipated the "conversation".

Vincent caught her in his arms and carried her to the waiting bed. Behind him Catherine saw the heavy tapestry over the doorway and a piece of her rejoiced. She fell back into the mountain of pillows and redolent with his cachet.

"A kiss on the cheek, well it means I just want to be friends" She felt the velvet of his nose nuzzle her right before his warm moist lips brushed her cheek.

"Friends? With a kiss like that, Vincent?" Catherine's eyes mischievously twinkled.

"We've done that before, have we not?" Vincent asked as now he slipped his body next to her, that inviting thigh of his close, so she shivered closer to him.

"A kiss on the ears is more humorous" He broke a smile that revealed those often hidden canines right before he blew a warm breath and pressed another inviting kiss on her ear. Catherine melted into his embrace.

"How is this humorous?" to Catherine it was riveting.

"It means, let's have some fun" he nodded, realizing he hadn't been the most "fun" person in their past.

"Fun, in the bedroom?" Catherine coyly asked as she folded her legs behind her, wondering where this was going.

"Fatherhood has changed me, Catherine. I tend to Jacob, I work mentally and physically and - - - "

"All work and no play makes Vincent a dull man?" Catherine caught a strand of his hair and curled it around her finger, he leaned closer to her and she blessed him with a kiss on his neck, "Now what does that mean?"

"I want you" Vincent's arms drew her into his lap, now she felt his warmth burning thru his corduroys and that linen shirt she loved.

"I want you" she breathily replied, bending her neck to reveal more of hers for his heady kisses, seeking to advance this venture.

"Kissing the neck. . . . It means I want you" he leveraged her so that they lay back on their sides, facing each other.

"I do, Vincent. I want you, all of you" her words rang over the stillness in his room and their love seemed to shimmer the candlelight.

"Then it is only fitting that" he lifted her hand and kissed her palm, letting his tongue drag the length of her lifeline. "This means I adore you", then his indigo eyes went smoky.

Catherine melted into his arms and pursed her lips to return the regard then with a suggestive smile he moistened his lips. The simple act of his tongue sliding over his bottom lip and Catherine went liquid inside. Oh, if he would only . . . . . she wondered if he had the "bond", if he could tell how each of his kisses were driving her erotically wild. With that thought his brows raised and his nose crinkled.

"Yes, Catherine, I have been "feeling" you for weeks, the closer you came to regaining your memories the more you infiltrated my heart" Vincent caught her face in his hands, her hands, "And now, this most telling kiss, a kiss on the lips means - - - "

"I love you" Catherine's lips edged closer to his as their worlds melted to one.

"Yes, Catherine, another point we agree on" Vincent's heart threatened to beat out of his chest as he leveraged his weight over her. Catherine wanted to aggressively kiss him, launch an onslaught that would keep him so bewitched he'd never bolt for the catacombs. Tonight would that be necessary?

Now it came out, his secret smile, one she had never seen. His lips parted with a heavy breath, bright white canines revealing his raw sensuality, then his whispered confession, "Catherine, I'm no longer afraid, I understand now in your eyes what I truly am."

She ducked her head into his chest, blowing gently where his shirt was gaping.

His confession continued, "Moments that could have resolved so many of my issues were lost" She listened as his soft hairs invited her fingers to dance through them as she made her way to catch his thick, profuse curls. His voice's timbre strummed down her spine as he whispered, "Now, we can be complete" Silently their give and take divested each of them of most of their clothing to shimmy under the soft sheets and lofty quilt.

"Let me look at you" she asked with an easy warm breath as she lay within his powerful arms. He fell on his back as if she could see him better in that candlelit cove of theirs. She lifted the covers and the glow of the candles washed them in a golden light. Lovingly her palm brushed from his jaw to his throat to his lightly furred pecs. "You know there's a song I always wanted to sing to you?" and he tilted his golden head in that quizzical way that endeared him so deeply.

"One song?" his upstretched hand caught the hair that fell across her forehead.

"You are so beautiful to me, Can't you see? You're everything I hoped for, you're everything I need. You are so beautiful to me"* as she whispered the words she could feel him blush and she adored the warmth it added to his complexion.

With those engaging words he leaned closer into her, moving to align himself more in tune with her hills and valleys of her curves. This was not the evening to appear gauche or miss his mark. He wanted this next kiss to be the perfect one, the one that would lead them to removing the last layers of fabric between them. Her eyes had followed his tongue when he last moistened his lips; Vincent had remembered this with great affinity.

He wanted to close his eyes, but yet he sought to see everything about Catherine up close. He treasured the gentle arch of her brows, the delightful flutter of her long eyelashes. Vincent discerned he could navigate his nose to miss bumping hers so as he parted his lips to meet hers he drew in a breath of hers…. And they kissed, they kissed purposefully and gently and when they finally came up for air it meant they weren't just a couple who had a child between them, they had shared life sustaining breath.

Reaching for each other, Vincent's thumbs slid her bra straps off her shoulders, leaving gentle kisses where the straps had left their marks. Feeling his tongue travelling the impressions left by the elastic caused her to arch resolutely into his arms, "Oh…" she hissed as her hands reached for his sculpted torso, her thumbs brushing his nipples half hidden by the down on his chest.

Vincent relinquished control at her touch. Falling back to his pillow his hands left Catherine long enough to unbutton his trousers. "I wondered why it was taking so long for you to get out of these" she sat back on her heels enjoying the pattern of his chest hair tapering to disappear into his waistband. His hands froze as her hands fell on top of his. "May I?" she asked. His furred hands slid away leaving her in to reveal the last his secrets. "Vincent, you don't wear underwear?" her heart skipped a beat that all this time he had been so "near" to her.

Catherine's eyes widened at the coarse copper curls surrounding his semi erect virility. Her fascination flashed thru the "Bond' and caused a zinger of a tingle throughout him. As Catherine's smile broadened his length twitched to release itself from its corduroy prison.

Gently Catherine slid his trousers down and off his legs then slipped out of her panties to lie alongside him. "There were several nights on your balcony when I lost control so I began to wear those horrendous white briefs, they seemed to tie me down a bit" the comment seemed humorous now that they were both naked in each other's arms. "Tonight, I wanted to be…unfettered" His sly smile hinted at the need he had previously sublimated.

"Ahhh… Vincent, love, I hope you never feel you need to restrain yourself like that again" Catherine's eyes traveled to the front clasp of her bra, "About restraints, would you be so kind as to remove mine?" Vincent eyed the clasp of the flesh pink brassiere.

"That's quite a gizmo there" Vincent's finger tapped at the clasp, then seeing the configuration he gently slid both thumbs under it to release her.

"Don't say gizmo too loud, you might draw in Mouse" She giggled as she slid out of the bra and flung it to join their other clothes.

Finally skin to skin Vincent laid his lips on the valley of her breasts and trailed alternating licks and kisses up to the scar by her ear "This might be the best volume control for us this evening" and he ended on her mouth firmly for a second. She lay under the influence of his work worn hands recalling the nights she had since she awoke. Those nights in the tub where she heard Vincent's heavenly voice, where phantom hands masterfully plucked at her nerves in the best of ways.

"You do that and I'm going to be screaming your - - -"Catherine's words were cut off by his lips on her face then his incendiary look at her lips tricked her into thinking he was about to kiss her again. Just as she believed he was going to place this kiss, he brushed those unique lips back over her cheekbones and eyelids without firmly kissing. This ghost of a kiss left her wanting so much more!

Hungrily, she started short kisses on the line of his jaw and worked her way down to his collar bone. The sound of his breaths coming in short sharp huffs stirred her further. Would he quiver harder when she blew a puff of hot breath as she made her way back to his bristled jaw? Their dance brought them hip to hip, chest to breast as their hands travelled to cover their heated flesh.

Those smoky dreams that had passed over Vincent while he lay alone in his bed were coming to life, every inch of his toned skin resonated under her delicate touch. Within Vincent's heart he prayed over and over that this night were reality and not one of those reveries.

Their bond induced a soul expressed carnal synergy where simple movements of their eyes propelled them toward their next sensation. Never had Vincent's bed sheets been so twisted and dampened with sweat in such a worthy pursuit.

Catherine was lost in the stimulating onslaught of Vincent's furred flesh rubbing and brushing against her as they tumbled. Suddenly Vincent rose and their spell snapped. Her hand caught his shoulder, "Vincent, where are you going?"

"Catherine" he caught his breath as he finger combed his hair out of his face. She was mesmerized by the sheen of sweat on his chest and face, his face flushed by their ardor. "We certainly have caught up on the kissing" he blinked to assure his reality as he flexed and released his fingers, as if to check his claws. "I had hopes of catching up on a few other things before our discussion became so heated". Now he drew deep cleansing breaths as he rested back into the corner of his bed, one knee up while his other knee relaxed. Catherine's eyes saw this deity before her and she licked at her own kiss-swollen lips to keep from flying into his lap.

"Discussion? This was the most silent discussion I've ever had" now she blushed as she drew the sheet up to her waist, waiting for Vincent's new tack in their "discussion". As he spoke his simple arm movements caused the planes of his muscles to move gracefully, distracting her from spying on that thatch of curls at the apex of his thighs.

"Exactly, before we seduced each other I wanted to hear your plans for tomorrow and all those days after this" Vincent reclined with an arm out across the pillow in silent invitation for her to join him. Yet she couldn't bear moving from the end of the bed where she had a linear view of his powerful thighs and toned calves. She hadn't remembered his feet, had she ever seen them before? She laid a gentle hand on his instep and thought about those plans she had made the entire way from Maryland.

"I came home expecting to have to find our son, Joe didn't have any hope of finding him from what was left" Her eyes traveled up his thigh to covet his resting flesh slightly tumescent from their feverish necking. As Vincent spoke her eyes popped directly to his eyes in time to see him blush at her thoughts.

"I was fortunate, when we were rescued we had been together, Gabriel was shot that evening and I returned with Jacob"

"Joe said the police didn't see a child and he certainly would have mentioned if he had seen you" Catherine's eyes weighed his relaxed flesh and her satisfaction at imagining the pendulous weight of his erection caused his size to lengthen imperceptibly as they talked.

She fought hard to concentrate on his words before she could ask an intelligent question.

"Diana Bennett mentioned that certain details were kept from Mr. Maxwell" he began to grin as he felt his body reacting to her emotions. "I was indebted to Detective Bennett for her confidentiality, she found me laying over your grave and had me brought me to her loft until I recovered from the explosion" This drove Catherine to draw closer to him and she burrowed into the hollow of his arm to wrap her other arm across his chest.

"How badly were you hurt?" she ran her hand over the scars on his chest, truly unfamiliar with how he had acquired each one, in time she would learn about each one she had her heart set on that.

"It was the night Elliott Burch died. He took a bullet intended for me right before the boat exploded, then I was thrown from the debris and managed to pull myself to your grave" Vincent's voice carried the sorrow from that night, smiling tonight because they were reunited. "Once my wounds were dressed and I slept Detective Bennett pursued our cause, even when I had been detained in an electric cage"

Catherine shook her head at the thought of each of their imprisonment. "We owe Diana everything for returning our son to me"

"Joe did some of the very same things for me" and she recounted what Joe had told her about the Autopsy and her hospitalization in Maryland. His nods and gentle caresses in response to her tale reinforced that she was thrilled to be home within his arms, in their bed.

Their hearts had taken vows to each other, now it was time for their bodies to follow thru on those vows.

"Vincent, I am here tonight and forever, as your partner and lover and Jacob's Mother" She laid a promise kiss over his heart. "Now, then. . . . Perhaps we'll make some plans for enlarging this chamber, provide us with more privacy so that Jacob can have some peace and quiet" Catherine had turned toward him now and threw her leg over his trim hips to straddle him.

"So that Jacob can have peace and quiet?" Now Vincent's sense of humor rose, understanding her words. He drew her into a hug and nuzzled her neck, inhaling their exchanged scents.

"Of course, as whenever we converse in the language of kisses I expect long, drawn out discussions with lots of lip service paid to many, many topics" Catherine caught his thick mane of hair in her hands as they viewed each other as mates, true partners in their new life Below.

With Catherine's legs wrapped around Vincent's waist her warm petalled flesh pressed his burgeoning erection between them and their bodies began to gently rock. "However, Catherine, tonight I had so hoped that I could recite a few love poems in a manner that I had never had the gumption to do before" His impish grin implied so much more than poetry.

"Do say" Catherine invited him to continue as their shared sensual energies spread throughout their bodies.

He whispered breathy words describing each step in declaring his sensual intentions into her ear and she answered with a girlish giggle, "Vincent, what would Shakespeare say?"

His eyes flashed a vivid azure as her began his intensions, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May; And summer's lease hath all too short a date…"

And over the next 5 or 6 hours Vincent kept his words…..


DRAGONFLIES AND DAMSELFLIES by Josie Whitehead

SONNET 29 William Shakespeare

You Are So Beautiful To Me. Joe Cocker

Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day? William Shakespeare