Catherine stood on her balcony and read the lines of the 
sonnet over and over until the words blurred before her and she 
could read no more.  Blinking furiously, she sat down in the 
garden chair, settled the book in her lap, and turned the pages 
     The marginal notations were written in the same precise hand 
as covered the front page, and some of the pages were dogeared.  
Catherine suspected that Vincent knew the sonnets by heart, that 
he had passed to her a small piece of his soul.  She was 
astonished and rather frightened that he had been so honest.     
     The sonnet itself was clear; Vincent recognized her love.  
Yet Catherine had not dared to give a name to her own feelings. 
     She wished Vincent were with her, for she needed to talk to 
him.  Did he already know her despair and disillusionment?  In 
Elliot, Catherine had reached for something that did not exist.  
Along with the book, perhaps Vincent was giving her time to heal. 
     The night's events left her drained and a little tired, but 
the storm-tossed devastation she felt after leaving Elliot's 
office was gone.  She had not been in love with Elliot; of that 
she was glad.  Her pain could have been much worse.     
     Replacing the book in its case, Catherine caressed the rose 
that kept Vincent's place.  This gentlebeing recognized her love, 
and by inference he admitted his feelings for her.  What was she 
to do with them?     
     She could turn away, or she could hold her feelings up into 
the harsh light of reality and examine them.  Since Vincent could 
not share her world, Catherine expected him to wish her well if 
she found someone who could.  She expected him to continue their 
relationship even though another man was a part of her life.  Now 
Catherine knew that she had expected too much.  
     If Vincent's appearance was not so fearsome, would she 
hesitate to touch him?     
     "I know what I am," he had told her.  "There is no place for 
me in your world."     
     Until this night, Vincent hid his pain beneath an 
intellectual acceptance of his fate.  While Catherine thought she 
understood his loneliness, she hadn't made his existence less 
     Although she owed him her life ten times over, Vincent asked 
for nothing except companionship.  Reason told them both that 
friendship was the only thing Vincent could expect from 
Catherine.  But reason could not dampen his jealousy of Elliot, 
nor his resentment of any other man Catherine might come to know.  
     It was difficult to think about Vincent when Catherine knew 
he could feel her emotions.  Whether he read or misread them, he 
might be hurt by them.  Still, Vincent's sonnet had opened a door 
and Catherine did not want to close it.     
     Beyond the sonnets and extensive knowledge of any classical 
work Catherine would care to discuss, Vincent had little to offer 
that the world valued.  He owned no conglomerates, held no mines 
or bonds to make her future more secure.  The inhabitants of his 
world made their living by selling crafts and talents at 
Renaissance fairs, street singing and playing, and an assortment 
of other rough skills.  But for all their seeming poverty, they 
treated one another with a gentleness that Catherine had never 
before known.      
     Besides all that, Catherine didn't need material wealth.  
Her mother left her enough to live in comfort the rest of her 
life.  The money was safely invested, and wherever she went it 
would always be there.  Vincent's materialistic shortcomings were 
no obstacle at all.   
     Taking a deep breath, Catherine lay her head back on the 
chair and pondered.  It was fairly easy to admit that the 
attraction she felt for Vincent was more than mild.  It was less 
easy to think of being intimate with him.     
     "Is he a beast, or is he human?"    
     She had no answer, and didn't know how to phrase the 
question to the only one who could answer it.  She considered 
that, perhaps, Vincent dared not ask himself.     
     What was it like to see your reflection in a mirror, or look 
down at fur-covered, claw-tufted hands and believe that you would 
be alone all your life?  Caresses were forbidden, love and 
intimacy to be avoided.  You could ask no one to walk with you, 
or lay beside you, and as for children.... 
     Featured like a lion, with a heart as noble and courageous 
as that animal, Vincent seemed locked into a beast's body with a 
man's intelligence, emotion and...she had been blind not to have 
seen it before...a man's desires and dreams.     
     Vincent should have been insane.  As it was, he was the most 
stable, dependable, and consistent person in her life.  Catherine 
thought that she was probably the only person who could 
fluster--or endanger--him.     
     When Vincent left the message regarding Misha, had he known 
she was seeing Elliot?  Had he sensed her the gentle hope for a 
life with another?     
     Catherine tossed her head in the chair.  Of course Vincent 
had.  His mood and manner changed from that night onward.  He 
delivered the plea for help, then disappeared.  Vincent had not 
visited her; she had to ask him to meet her.  Her knowledge of 
his pain at their meeting had been instinctive, and the painful 
words between them had been the last she had from him.    
     Animal, or human....   
     His intelligence was vast and entirely human.  His 
bestiality was a defense triggered by his anger.  Purely 
protective, it would only surface whenever a loved one was 
endangered.  No one in Catherine's life had ever cared so 
fiercely about her as did Vincent.     
     Elliot was only the latest person in Catherine's life to 
chose riches over humanity.  Vincent was the only one to love her 
more than they loved themselves, and she had looked on him with 
mere friendship.  
     "Catherine?" came a voice from the shadows, startling her 
from her thoughts.     
     Vincent was there, standing on the ledge, cloak billowing in 
the night breeze.  His golden mane flowed behind him as he stood 
and braced himself on the ledge and wall of Catherine's 
     "I startled you," came the soft, relaxing tones.  "I'm 
     He hesitated, as though uncertain of his welcome, and 
Catherine rose to her feet.  Crossing the terrace, she reached up 
and took his hands in hers.     
     "The sonnet, Vincent--"   
     He did not meet her eyes as he stepped down from the wall.  
Drawing his hands from hers, he turned to look out over the city. 
     "I wasn't sure I should have left the book.  I came to tell you...."     
     Sensing his embarrassment, Catherine stopped his words with 
a hand on his shoulder.  Gently, she turned him to face her.  The 
blue eyes meeting her own green were uncertain.    
     "When last we spoke--"  She spread her hands, stumbling over 
the words.  "I'm so sorry, Vincent.  I didn't understand, and I 
should have--"    
     "I feel your regret...."    
     She struggled for control as her fingers hesitantly caressed 
his cheek.  Feeling her pain, Vincent reached his own hand 
upward.  Catching his fingers, Catherine held his palm against 
her cheek, closed her eyes to savor the warmth. 
     She let go his hand to slide her arms slowly beneath the 
cloak.  Leaning against his chest, Catherine closed her eyes and 
clutched the belt at Vincent's waist.  He was so warm, so solid.  
Security rolled off him to envelop her.     
     "Did you love him so much, then?"  Vincent questioned, 
resting his cheek against her head as he tentatively stroked her 
     Her answer was muffled against his chest.  "I didn't love 
him at all."     
     "Then why--" Vincent tried drawing back to tilt Catherine's 
face up and see her expression, but she clung more tightly to him 
and would not release his waist.     
     Not knowing what else to do, Vincent wrapped his arms around 
her and rocked gently on his feet.  He felt her sadness and 
disillusionment, but they ran quietly beneath the surface.  She 
stopped crying after a few minutes, but she didn't relinquish her 
hold on him.  If anything, she gripped him tighter.   
     "Are you still angry with me?" she whispered, not looking up 
at him.    
     He rested his chin on the top of her head and closed his 
     "I was never angry with you.  Only with myself."    
     "Because you weren't like Elliot?" she sniffled, shook her 
head against him.  "Don't change, Vincent.  Ever."     
     He sent a smile into the night.  "I have no intention of 
changing.  I am well content to remain as I am...for now."    
     She drew back.  His calm blue eyes looked down at her.     
"I don't promise never to be angry with the gods, nor frustrated 
that I am not like other men."  
     Cocking his head at her, Vincent continued.   
     "Right now you are in my life, and I will not relinquish you 
to any man until you need him more than you need me.  He may come 
into your life tomorrow, but tonight it will be enough to linger 
a little while with you."     
     Catherine's gaze strayed from the slight smile on his 
muzzle.  She looked at the long, tangled hair and reached up to 
touch it.  Vincent did not draw away, but stood quietly and 
accepted her inspection.     
     She stroked down the reddish-golden strands at will, and 
tried to memorize the feel of it between her fingers.  Her eyes 
travelled on to the slanted brows over his eyes, then to the 
nose, so catlike, yet aristocratic.  As she met his eye--they 
were the color of the sky, and so human--she rested her hands on 
his arms.  Glancing shyly downward for a moment, she glanced 
upward again to settle her gaze on his lips...the lower one full 
and soft, the upper one feline and so very tempting.     
     Catherine had seen the fangs behind the lips.  She wished 
she had the courage to reach upward and venture between Vincent's 
lips to caress the sharp points beyond.  Where had her fear gone?  
She ached to be closer to this gentle being, to touch him as she 
had allowed no one to touch her.   
     Her inspection continued downward, and she knew Vincent had 
to be mystified.  She also knew he would wait trustingly and 
patiently for her to explain herself.    
     The arms beneath her hands were solid and muscled as another 
man's would be, but the hands she slid her fingers down to hold 
were quite different from anyone else's.  Catherine came to 
realize that those differences excited her. 
     Bringing up his hands, she laid them, palm down, across her 
own hand.  Gently, Catherine touched the tip of one finger to 
each of Vincent's claws.  They were hard, dark golden things...on 
the ends of fingers slender and strong.  Soft fur moved beneath 
the side of her hand as she moved over him.  She looked up with a 
smile of delight to meet his confused gaze.   
     Vincent was exactly what he appeared to be, 
probably--neither animal nor human, but a combination of both.  
She loved him as he loved her, and found him neither ugly nor 
repulsive.  When she looked at what Vincent was, Catherine did 
not want to turn away, and if he reached out to touch her, she 
knew she would not run.  What she felt looking at him was 
anything but fear.     
     Lifting his hand to her face, Catherine rubbed her cheek 
against Vincent's palm.  Her eyes were full of amusement and 
     "Would you consider staying longer than a little while?"   
She let all the warmth, love, and desire she felt flow from her 
heart through her fingertips.  She shivered beneath the intensity 
of her feelings for him, and knew by the startled look in 
Vincent's eyes that he had absorbed it in a matter of seconds. 
     His shock was thorough and complete.  Catherine was not 
mourning her love for Elliot.  She was not disillusioned.  
Neither was she broken.  Vincent knew it.  All of it.     
     He nearly snatched his hands back as his own feelings 
matched and merged with Catherine's.  He had to repress the 
possessive purr that began in his throat.  It would be so easy 
for him to take her away from this world, into his own where it 
was safe and warm.  Instead, he caught her face in his hands.  
His eyes searched hers in the shadow of the terrace as he bent 
over her. 
     "Catherine," he whispered.  "You're dreaming."    
     A fear of rejection as strong as his own shadowed the green 
depths of her eyes, but her need for him did not falter.   
     His fingers curled over her narrow shoulders.  Shaking his 
head fiercely as though to clear it of their desire, Vincent 
stepped away from her.      
     "No, Vincent...."  Unwilling to let him run, she followed 
him.  Her arms took possession of his waist once again.     
     He did not pretend to misunderstand, for her fingers curled 
into his vest and he felt the thrumming quicksilver in her limbs 
that threatened to engulf her.  Catherine trusted him, and 
Vincent wrapped her close in his cloak as he brushed the top of 
her head with his cheek.     
     He had expected to continue guarding Catherine from all 
evil.  He had expected to watch and stay with her, be connected 
to her the rest of his days.  He had even expected to continue 
meeting the pain of her world on every side as he did so.  But he 
had never expected to protect her from himself.     
     She caught a handful of his hair, buried her fingers in it, 
and shivered as he pulled away from her.     
     "Catherine, may I go inside your apartment?"    
     Silently, not daring to look at him, she turned and led him 
inside.  Vincent turned at the French doors, closing them and 
drawing the curtains.  She stood quietly as he prowled the 
apartment, turning off the lights and leaving only a small, 
rose-colored reading lamp burning in the living room.  Returning 
to Catherine, Vincent guided her to the bed, settled her on the 
edge of the comforter as he knelt on the carpet.  The cloak 
flowed around his boots.   
     "Do you know what I am?"  The question came in a whisper, 
for Vincent did not trust his voice.     
     Catherine nodded, her eyes meeting his with a naked longing 
to which Vincent had to respond.  Taking her hands in his, he 
held them firmly, caressed her fingers with his lips as he 
watched her shiver.    
     "I am a man, no less than others you have known.  But I 
frighten you far more than any other man ever could.  Perhaps I 
will always frighten you, and for that reason, if no other, we 
must forget what we feel.  Do you understand?"   
     She shook her head violently, hair obscuring her eyes for a 
     "You don't frighten me, Vincent.  The possibilities of what 
we feel frightens me.  Never in my life did I think I'd feel this 
     "For me?"  he finished for her, and Catherine dropped her 
head.  Vincent lifted her chin with his finger.  "Yes?" 
     She nodded, trembling.  "I'm not afraid of you, Vincent.  
I'm only afraid of what I don't know."    
     "As I am."    
     Her head came up at that.     
     "I could never hurt you, Catherine.  Yet you must know that 
what you want, and what I may also want, is impossible for us 
     She searched his gaze, needing to understand what he was 
telling her, needing to know, rather than sense.     
     "You cannot seek to be with me from pity, Catherine, for the 
sake of a sonnet.  Nor for the sake of curiosity.  My own desire, 
once unleashed, would never let you go."     
     She looked down to where his hands were once again entwined 
with hers.  Once again, she touched each long-clawed finger.     
     "Little girls dream of this, Vincent."   
     "I am no fantasy."   
     "I know.  It might be easier if you were.  I've never felt 
such a need for any other man in my life.  I feel as though I've 
always known you, and always needed you.  I have no choice, but 
to love you.  I wouldn't want a choice, actually...."     
     He considered her words quietly for a moment, until she 
reached out and touched his cheek with a gentle hand.  Her 
fingers ventured on to encounter his mouth, and he nuzzled his 
nose against the softness of her caress.     
     "Catherine--" came the moan, and he threw back his head, the 
golden mane flowing across his shoulders.   
     She slid off the bed to kneel with him, steepled her fingers 
against his.       
     "Vincent, please tell me.  Do we go on, or do we stop here?  
Do we stand on the brink forever, waiting for stable ground--"   
     He braced his forehead against hers and smiled wryly. 
     "Do you think stable ground will ever come?"   
     They looked at each other through his scattered bangs as 
both remembered the adventures they had shared, and would 
probably continue to share.  Catherine laughed as Vincent smiled 
lopsidedly at her, revealed the tip of one fang.   
     "No.  Not really."     
     "As long as we can laugh at out predicament, perhaps we will 
not fall over the brink...until we decide to do so."    
     "But the question between us must still be answered, 
Vincent...if not tonight, next month, or next year.  What do you 
want of me?"   
     Catherine heard him stop breathing.  His eyes glimmered in 
the darkness, and she knew the answer to her question.  She also 
knew that Vincent could not admit it, yet.     
     "Your friendship," came the gravel-throated reply.  "Time 
for both of us.  We'll share what we can, Catherine, and be 
content with that."  
     "One further question, my love."  She stroked down his nose 
affectionately.  "What do you need of me?"    
     "Aren't they one and the same?"    
     Solemnly, she shook her head.  "They may feel like it at 
times, but I don't think they are."     
     Vincent pondered a moment, knew it was a question to haunt 
him for at least a month.     
     Reaching up, he touched her cheek.  "I must go."    
     "I know."   
     "Please don't think me harsh."    
     She took a deep breath.  "I don't.  Why can't things be 
different for us?"    
     The cloak swirled about Vincent's boots as he rose to his 
feet.  He looked down, the same lopsided smile curving his wide 
     "One day, perhaps they will be different.  Until then, we 
dream.  And we wait."   
     Catherine watched him move across the room, the cloak 
sighing over his boots.  Opening the French doors, Vincent paused 
with one foot on the stair and looked back at her.  Silently, he 
continued on, cloak flowing out through the doors.  A moment 
later, the terrace was empty.  
                           * * *   
     The night of searching the lower east side had been far too 
long. She was terrified of arriving too late, of finding Vincent 
in the jaws of death, gasping his last on some wet asphalt while 
she cried, helpless, over him.  All the nightmares of death she 
had as a child resurfaced.  But when she saw him, still on his 
feet and stiffening in preparation for yet another battle, 
Catherine's eyes filled with tears and her heart ached to pull 
him close and never let go.    
     "I was never giving up," she told him, and her fingers were 
alive with the reality of him, and the knowledge that he would be 
all right...must be all right, for both their sakes.  There was 
so much wanting to be said, waiting to be shared. 
     The first thing she noticed was that he was exhausted.  She 
had never imagined seeing Vincent in such a state, and the 
realization of his vulnerability frightened her.  Next she heard 
the rasping breath that was familiar from the memory of her own 
broken ribs less than a year before.     
     The weight of his arm across her shoulders was heavy, but 
Catherine welcomed it, along with the knowledge that it was her 
fault he was suffering.  Mentally cursing herself for not finding 
him sooner, Catherine stepped carefully through the rubble and 
followed behind Father.  
     "I can't see," Vincent murmured, and Catherine looked up at 
him to see his face close and fatigued above hers.     
     "I know," she murmured back, stretching out with her 
feelings to wrap him in a welcoming, safe haven of warmth.  
"We're right here.  We'll guide you safely home."    
     "Father?" he rasped.     
     "Here," the older man said over his shoulder as he made his 
way on hand crutches around the corridors winding down through 
the levels.  "Can you make it with Catherine's help?" 
     "Yes," came the tired reply.   
     The catacombs were endless.  Catherine's shoulders ached 
horribly, but she made no complaint.  A sense of urgency made her 
determined to keep putting one foot ahead of the other, until it 
was plain to both her and Father that Vincent wasn't going to 
last as long as the distance required.     
     Father paused at the intersection of yet another tunnel.  
"We're in a safer part of town now.  I suggest you and Vincent 
return to the surface and take a taxi to the park.  From there, 
it's only a short distance to our chambers."     
     "What about the subways?" Catherine asked softly as Vincent 
weaved on his feet.  His eyes were half-closed, his breathing 
more harsh.  He hadn't spoken for half an hour.   
     Father shook his head.     
     "Vincent's usual way of using them is far too brutal a 
journey."  Turning, he gestured with one crutch.  "The surface is 
two hundred feet down that tunnel.  A hospital is right across 
the street, and a taxi should be waiting nearby.  Keep him safe, 
     She met his worried gaze as Vincent repositioned his arm on 
her shoulder.  There was no recrimination in the grey eyes 
meeting hers; only a pleading to bring his son home.    
     Catherine turned with Vincent, who sighed as he was required 
to walk yet again toward the surface that had treated him so 
viciously only an hour before.     
     His eyes were glazed with an inner pain as Catherine guided 
him from the shadows of the drainage tunnel and out into the 
street.  She glanced down the street as she reached up and pulled 
Vincent's hood over his head.  A taxi waited as Father had 
predicted, and Catherine guided her burden slowly toward it.    
     "Are you on call?" she asked the driver after settling 
Vincent against the door.    
     "Yeah, lady--unless you're just going down the block." 
     "I need you to take us to the corner of Fifth and the park." 
     "Get in."   
     She opened the door and guided Vincent slowly inside.  He 
settled painfully back as Catherine climbed in beside him.  
Cradling him against her shoulder, she was relieved to see his 
eyes closing beneath the protective folds of the hood.    
     "Drunk, huh?" the driver grinned.   
     She held Vincent close and looked out the window as a light 
rain began to fall.  The world outside was glowing with a misty 
haze, and Catherine thought her companion might have enjoyed the 
ride in other circumstances.     
     The trip seemed endless, and Catherine stared out the window 
as Vincent slept against her shoulder.  They reached the park in 
less than twenty minutes, and it was with reluctance that 
Catherine woke him.    
     Reaching across to open the door on Vincent's side of the 
cab, she urged him out into the wetness and slid after him.  He 
swayed on his feet, half-asleep as she paid the driver.     
     The taxi roared off into the dawn as Catherine guided 
Vincent into the lightening shadows.  Keeping away from the main 
path where danger always waited, she moved slowly with him 
through the trees to the familiar drainage pipe at the bottom of 
a hill.   
     He leaned against the locked gate as Catherine picked up a 
rock, began tapping out their arrival.  The door rolled back 
almost immediately, and two men Catherine had never seen before 
opened the gate and steadied Vincent as he staggered toward them.  
They half-carried him to a waiting stretcher, their expressions 
grim as Catherine's.     
     "Who's here?" Vincent murmured, swaying on his feet yet 
refusing to relinquish control until he was certain of his 
     "Daniel and Tomas," one of the men answered.   
     "It's all right," Catherine reassured him as she brushed 
past the men and unfastened Vincent's cloak.  "You're almost 
     Throwing the cloak over her shoulder, she took Vincent's 
hands. "There's a stretcher to your right.  If you kneel, you'll 
be right beside it."    
     He sighed as he sank to his knees.  Reaching out and bracing 
himself, Vincent lay down slowly, favored his left side.  The two 
men helped straighten his legs as Catherine eased his head onto 
the ground. 
     "Please be careful,"  she whispered.  "He has internal 
     Nodding, the two men stepped to the ends of the stretcher as 
Catherine laid Vincent's cloak over him, tucked it securely 
beneath the stretcher padding.     
     "You're safe now," she murmured close to his ear as the men 
picked up the stretcher and began walking.     
     "Please don't worry," Vincent admonished softly, unable to 
keep his eyes open even as he managed a faint smile.  "I'll be 
all right.  I just need to rest."   
     He still couldn't focus on her, and Catherine bit her lip to 
keep the tears in her eyes from falling as Vincent turned his 
head.  It wouldn't do to cry and distract him from his sleep.  
Blinking furiously, she commanded herself to calm down.  When 
Vincent was asleep and couldn't sense her feelings--that was the 
time she could have hysterics if she still felt the need.     
     The tunnels were familiar to her now, and Catherine knew 
there wasn't much farther to go.  She lay a hand on Vincent's 
forehead and was relieved to find it warm instead of clammy.  
Perhaps the danger of shock was long past.      
     Father joined them at an intersection, fell into step beside 
the stretcher after glancing across at Catherine.   
     "Are you all right?" he asked quietly, taking his son's 
pulse as they moved along.    
     "Is he all right?"    
     He offered a tight smile that Catherine suspected was meant 
to be reassuring.     
     "You've kept him warm.  His pulse is good, and while I 
suspect he's broken a rib or two, there's no symptoms of a 
punctured lung."     
     Father hesitated, then glanced up again.     
     "I'm glad you're here--" came the admission, "however much I 
wish this had never happened.  Can you help me obtain medical 
     "I'll get them myself," she promised as Father returned his 
attention to Vincent.     
     "I don't think there's any internal bleeding, but I'll be 
better able to tell once we get home."    
     She stared ahead to where the last stairway waited.  "I feel 
so responsible for all this.  If only he hadn't been with me."    
     Father looked across at Catherine, saw her grip Vincent's 
hand as they walked onward.  The young woman's shoulders were 
stooped as the shadows under her eyes were prominent.     
     Slowing his step, Father moved behind the stretcher and 
joined Catherine on the other side.  Unwrapping her fingers from 
Vincent's, he placed his son's warm, limp hand beneath the cloak. 
     "There's no sense wishing for what might never have been." 
     "If I could have sensed him more strongly--"    
     "Could you sense him at all?"    
     She nodded, her eyes haunted as they watched the stretcher's 
progress up the stairs.  "I just couldn't move fast enough.  
Vincent might have guided me to him under calmer circumstances, 
but he had to stay on the move.  The men who took him from the 
fire--they were trying to kill him."   
     "Then his mind was on other things, and you mustn't blame 
     She nodded, but Father knew she hadn't heeded his words.  
Daniel and Tomas guided the stretcher through the tunnels leading 
into their home, but Father stopped Catherine at the door.    
     "Listen to me, please.  It was a miracle at all that you 
were able to find him.  Another miracle that he is home.  Vincent 
needs your help now.  I need your help.  If you would leave 
behind your guilt, help me make Vincent well.  Help me make him 
     Catherine followed him into the rooms, through the catacomb 
of tunnels until she paused at the doorway to a bedroom.  The men 
gently lifted the still-unconscious Vincent onto the large bed 
that dominated the room, and Catherine watched as Father took a 
pair of scissors and cut through the familiar knitted vest 
Vincent wore.    
     Stepping into the room as the Daniel and Tomas rolled up the 
empty stretcher, Catherine gathered Vincent's cloak and left to 
wander back the way she had come.  The two men passed her on 
their way out as she stood in the corridor and hugged the cloak 
     "He'll be all right," Tomas offered with a reassuring wink.  
"He's been in worse shape."    
     Be that as it may, Catherine thought to herself as the men 
continued on their way, I wasn't responsible for his pain, then.  
Sighing, she settled on an oaken bootstand that sat in the 
hallway.  She was worried, she was tired, and she wondered if 
Father knew where she had gone.     
     She heard him calling her a few minutes later.  Returning to 
the bedroom doorway, Catherine saw that Vincent was tucked 
securely beneath the covers once again.  A basin of water sat on 
a stand beside the bed, and a quick glance told Catherine that 
there was, at least, no external bleeding.    
     Father gestured her into the room.     
     "He has at least two broken ribs," he said without preamble 
as he dried his hands.  "There's no bruising or extensive 
swelling, so I don't think he's bleeding internally.  His knee is 
swollen, but nothing's broken, so I think the bone is only badly 
bruised.  I can't check his sight until he awakens, but he's 
probably concussed from the explosion.  If that's the case, he'll 
be able to focus in time."   
     "Is he in shock?"    
     Father shook his head.  "Vincent forced himself to stay on 
the move too long.  His system adjusted--or, rather, he forced it 
to adjust."     
     Catherine smoothed damp tendrils of hair from Vincent's 
eyes. "He looks so vulnerable."   
     "He is vulnerable, at least to infection, which is why I've 
made you a list of things to get."  
     Circling the bed, Father handed the paper to Catherine, who 
scanned the list quickly.  Along with the expected bandages, 
drugs, and other medical supplies was a grocery list. 
     She looked up.  "Are you sure this is enough?"    
     "It's all that is necessary.  Can you bring it?"  
     "Of course."  She stuffed the list into her pocket.  "I'll 
leave immediately."     
     "Good."  Father nodded, his hand on Vincent's shoulder.  
"We'll be waiting for your return." 
                           * * *   
     As she pounded on Isaac's door at five thirty in the 
morning, Catherine wondered if she wasn't presuming too much upon 
her friend's willingness to help.  A moment later he unlatched 
the door, opened it two inches, and peered out with squinted eyes 
into the New York dawn.   
     "I thought I'd see you again," he greeted her with a grunt.  
"Where else can you get painkillers without a prescription?"    
     She stepped into his entryway and smiled.  "I don't need the 
painkillers, Isaac, but I do need a few other things.  You're the 
only man I know who'd have this stuff on hand." 
     He took the list she offered, shuffled through the gymnasium 
as he peered at the neat handwriting.  Heading toward a tall, 
broad metal locker,  Isaac pulled a dufflebag from a corner.  
Throwing back the locker doors, he pulled a generous amount of 
supplies from within.   
     "Did a doctor make out this list?"    
     "Vincent's father."     
     Isaac whistled.  "Your friend's in good hands.  He's listed 
a score of antibiotics, salves, pills, and you should know you 
were wrong about the painkillers.  They're here, too." 
     "I'll pay you for all this, of course."    
     He waved the offer away.  "I get this stuff cheap.  You're 
sure to need more bandages.  Wait a minute."    
     Catherine sorted through the bag as Isaac traipsed into the 
next room.  Although Father had specified supplies, Catherine 
suspected she was being given far more than even Father could 
use.  Still, it was best to be prepared.   
     Isaac returned with a box full of tape, gauze, and bandages.  
Tucking the box into the bag, he zipped it closed. 
     "Are you going to be able to carry all this stuff?"    
     She nodded.  "I don't know how to thank you."    
     "Just make your friend well, Catherine.  He must be a 
special guy."    
     She led the way across the gym.  "He is.  Maybe someday I 
can introduce you."    
     "I'll look forward to it."  Isaac opened the door for her.  
"I've put a lot of extras in there, just in case.  If you need 
anything else, you let me know."    
     It was with a sense of gratitude that Catherine left Isaac, 
for the hardest part of her job was over.  Taking a taxi back to 
the park, Catherine thought it best to deliver the medical 
supplies before tending to anything else.  She carried the 
dufflebag through the damp grass of the park and into the tunnel.  
Kipper appeared after she had banged on the pipes for a few 
minutes, and she handed the bag over to him. 
     "Is all this for Vincent?"    
     She nodded.  "Are you alone?"     
     The child nodded.     
     "Are you sure you can manage?"     
     "If I can't, I'll get more help."    
     She grinned at him.  "I suppose everyone knows about 
Vincent, now?"    
     "You betcha." He turned with his burden, slung it across his 
shoulder and looked back at her.  "Thanks for bringing him home." 
     She watched him disappear into the shadows of the tunnel, 
made certain the gate was securely fastened behind him, and then 
retraced her steps out of the park.     
                           * * *   
     Fumbling at her apartment door lock, Catherine shoved past 
the door and dumped the box of groceries on the couch.  Breathing 
a sigh of relief, she rubbed the bridge of her nose and stretched 
to ease the tension of her muscles.   
     Glancing at the mantle clock as she moved into her bedroom, 
she saw that she'd been up for twenty-eight hours without a 
break.  Yesterday, she'd gone to work, then to meet her witness 
on the lower east side at ten o'clock that night.  She and Isaac 
had found Vincent at four the next morning.     
     The morning sun shown through her balcony doors as Catherine 
gathered a few things before returning to the tunnels.  She flung 
the bare essentials into a carryall, didn't bother to change 
clothes.  Thanking the gods that it was Saturday and she didn't 
have to call in sick, Catherine gathered her carryall and the box 
of groceries.     
     Locking the apartment door behind her, Catherine headed for 
the elevator and the basement.  Kipper answered her banging 
almost immediately, and Catherine suspected the boy had been 
assigned to her permanently.  She wasn't certain who should take 
responsibility for the assignment; the boy seemed on equally 
friendly terms with both Vincent and Father.     
     She followed silently behind Kipper, allowed him to take the 
carryall as he guided her back to Father.  The journey down 
didn't seem to take nearly as long as the journey to the surface 
had; perhaps she was merely getting used to the various levels.  
Or perhaps they had once again changed the way, and the current 
route was shorter.     
     "Anybody home?" she called a greeting as she stepped into 
Father's dwelling.     
     "Catherine?" came an answering voice as she found the 
kitchen, carried the groceries into it.     
     Setting her carryall on a nearby chair, she began putting 
away the supplies.  "I'm back." 
     "Yes, I see that you are," Father said as he stood at the 
kitchen door, leaned heavily on his cane.  "Kipper delivered the 
medicines earlier.  I thank you."    
     "No trouble--" she said, opening yet another cupboard door 
and glancing over the assortment there.  "Where do you keep your 
     "Breadbox," he instructed, pointing with the cane.  "The 
refrigerating unit is to your left."     
     "How is Vincent?"    
     "He's still sleeping."  Moving farther into the kitchen, 
Father began helping her with the groceries.  "You've brought 
much more than I requested."    
     "Yes, well.  If you're to have a guest, you're going to use 
     She paused as she rearranged the refrigerator to accommodate 
a head of lettuce.  "I'm staying, in case you were wondering."    
     "I wasn't."  He handed her a stalk of celery.  "Though I 
assumed such was the case."     
     "I expected an argument."    
     He shook his head as she sat the empty cardboard box beneath 
the sink.  "Yours will be the first name Vincent speaks when he 
wakes up.  You have to be here."    
     She set a kettle to boil, measured tea into a strainer.  
"Have you had breakfast?"    
     "Toast and tea?"    
     "That's fine."  He peered at her intently, seemed to notice 
the dark circles around her eyes for the first time.  "Aren't you 
     "I think I'm running on pure adrenalin at this point."  She 
cut four slices of bread, set them on a tray and into a small 
stove that was next to the sink.  "What's your source of energy?" 
     "Electrical.  We steal it from the subway lines.  Catherine, 
you should sleep."    
     "I'll sleep after breakfast."     
     The kettle began to boil, and in a matter of moments she 
spread the tea and toast before him.  He pushed jam her way, and 
for a time they ate in companionable silence.    
     "Do you mind if I go see Vincent?" she asked, clearing 
crumbs from her place.     
     "Not at all.  I've set up a cot beside his bed.  You're 
welcome to use that, if you like.  Call out if you need me.  I'll 
be close by--trying to rest as well."     
     She nodded understanding and left the kitchen, wondering why 
Vincent's father seemed so accepting of her presence.  Perhaps he 
knew he had no choice; nothing in the world would have prevented 
her staying near his son.   
     Catherine removed her shoes before entering the bedroom, 
padded on stocking feet to peer over the bed at Vincent while he 
slept.  He lay on his back, ribs bandaged and covers settled 
around his waist.     
     He slept with his head to one side, his hair matted and 
tangled, spread out across the clean, white pillows.  The closed 
eyes were dark and sunken with fatigue, and Vincent's breathing 
came deeply.  One hand was curled up at the side of his head; the 
other rested across his thigh.     
     Catherine listened to Vincent's breathing, stepped carefully 
round the bed to lift his hand and pull the covers and comforter 
up.  Vincent didn't move as she gently lowered the hand and 
tucked in the covers.  Wincing, Catherine stepped back from the 
bed and sighed.  If Vincent had been awake, she had no doubts he 
would not have condoned her caretaking.  Nor would she have dared 
to try, probably.    
     "You should be sleeping," came the hiss from the doorway.  
     Catherine whirled, startled.     
     "What are you doing?" she hissed back as Father smiled at 
     "Watching you care for my son.  Is he still asleep?"    
     She nodded.  "From the look of it, he may be for some time." 
     "Sleep is the best healer.  As for you--" he gestured 
threateningly with the cane.  "Lay down and do likewise."    
     "Yes, sir."    
                           * * *   
     Father checked on Vincent five hours later.  He was still 
asleep, with Catherine curled up on the cot at his side.  They 
were all exhausted, and Father shook his head as he left the 
room, returned to his own bed.   
     Six hours later, Vincent awoke to the soft, distant sound of 
clanging pipes, translated the messages almost unconsciously, and 
relaxed after finding that the sounds around him were safe, 
familiar things.  For the first time in what felt like weeks, he 
did not fear waking up, did not tense at the slightest movement 
beside him.     
     Instead, he cocked his head as he realized his hearing had 
fully returned.  And with it came the sound of someone breathing 
beside him.  Blinking, Vincent tried to focus and found he still 
had double-vision.  He closed one eye.     
     "Catherine?" he whispered, scarcely daring to believe what 
his eye was telling him.  She lay with her back to him, but his 
senses were alive with the reality of her.     
     She stirred in her sleep, muttered almost as though in reply 
to his whisper, and rolled over.  Her hand stretched out, her 
head resting on her arm, and her fingers were barely five inches 
away from his covers.     
     Vincent reached out and took her hand in his to feel the 
warm life of her.  He smiled as he watched her sleep, barely 
noticing the pain in his chest, the throbbing in his knee.  He 
was home, and Catherine was with him.    
     "Vincent?" came a voice from the chair on the other side of 
his bed.    
     "Yes," he replied and sensed Father stir.     
     "How are you feeling?"    
     "Tired, but safe."     
     He did not look away from Catherine.    
     "How is your vision?"    
     Vincent turned his head, looked at Father.  Blinking, he 
felt his eyes water.     
     "Better than it was.  You're blurred, but there is only one 
image of you.  Last night, there would have been at least three." 
     "Let me see."     
     Father took Vincent's head in his hands as Catherine stirred 
beside him.  It seemed suddenly very important that he retain his 
grasp on her hand, and so he tightened it.  He felt her tug from 
the edge of sleep, slightly confused that her fingers were 
constricted, and then he sensed her coming fully awake as his 
father examined him.    
     "You'll be all right in a day or so," came the 
determination.  "I'd surmise the explosion stunned you.  Nothing 
serious.  You're very lucky."    
     "Are you hungry?"    
     "I don't know.  I haven't been awake long enough to notice." 
     His father smiled at that.  "Well, you may notice I've taped 
your ribs.  You broke a few, you know."   
     "And your knee--you won't be running on that leg for at 
least six weeks.  Is that clear?"    
     "Quite clear."    
     "Did I miss anything in my examination?"    
     "Not that I'm aware of, Father."    
     The older man peered at his son.  "Are you sure you're all 
     "Why do you ask?"    
     "It isn't like you to be this submissive."    
     "We have a guest.  It's best to make a good impression, 
     The older man smiled at Catherine where she lay quietly, 
eyes open as she took in the entire scene.     
     "Good morning.  I didn't know you were awake."    
     She lay on her stomach and stretched with a grimace, seemed 
contented to let Vincent hold onto her hand.  He moved with the 
stretch, turned his head back to watch as she squeezed his hand, 
     "I'm not a morning person.  I'm not certain yet I'm awake." 
     "I'll get you both some coffee."    
     Father chuckled as he left and Catherine suddenly felt shy.  
Vincent closed one eye again, the better to focus.  She felt he 
looked almost adorable--like the Robber Kitten of a childhood 
tale, or as though he were a lion winking at her--but she thought 
better of confessing her observation.   
     "You'll like his coffee," Vincent remarked softly.  "It's 
fresh ground."    
     "How are you feeling?"    
     "Much better than last night.  I have a vague recollection 
of being helped from tunnel to taxi to tunnel.  Thank you."    
     She hesitated, then sat up as he relinquished his hold of 
her hand.  "Vincent, I'm so sorry about what happened to you.  I 
feel entirely responsible.  No, don't interrupt, please."  
     She lifted her hand as he opened his mouth.     
     "I thought about this the entire time we searched for you, 
and I promised myself I'd say these things when you were safe 
again.  If I don't get it out all at once, I won't get it out." 
     Sitting on the edge of the cot, feet dangling, she 
     "This bond we share is something very special.  I can't deny 
its strength or its existence, but I think for your sake you 
should learn to.  No--" she silenced him with a look.  "Hear me 
     He sank back on the pillows, a look of horror on his face. 
     "You lay there, body broken, eyesight impaired because of 
me."  Her eyes were filling with tears.  "The things you went 
through last night...."     
     She looked away.  "It isn't right.  It shouldn't have 
happened, and I don't want it happening again.  Vincent, you have 
got to ignore my feelings.  I have to stand on my own two feet.  
I have to learn to survive."    
     "You were in danger."  His voice was deceptively soft. 
     "I may be in danger again.  And if I am, Vincent, I don't 
want you coming after me.  Is that clear?"  She glared at him, 
knowing he would feel her insistence, if not see her 
determination.  "Is it?"    
     He was silent for a moment, raised himself slightly against 
the pillows.  "I should let you walk into danger alone?"    
     She shook her head at him.  "You should never have been in 
that part of town with me."    
     "Though your soul called out to mine in terror?"  His voice 
dropped to a whisper.     
     She rose from the cot, wrapped the robe she had brought 
around her.  "Vincent, you could have died.  If you had, how do 
you think I would have felt?"    
     "How am I to feel if I ignore your fear and your life is 
     She stood, eyes brimming over, arms folded protectively 
before her.  "That isn't the issue.  I don't want to see you 
     "Nor I you."    
     "Are you refusing to stay where it's safe?"    
     He considered her question for a moment, snorted softly.  
"If you continue walking into dangerous situations, I suppose I 
     He sat up, gestured shortly.  "How do you propose to stop my 
feeling what you feel?  Or my knowing your thoughts whenever they 
are charged with strong emotions?  We are connected, Catherine.  
Do you understand what that means?" 
     Moving forward, Catherine grasped the footboard of the bed 
with both hands.   
     "Please, Vincent, stop it," she pleaded, eyes full of tears.  
"The risks are too great, for both of us."    
     He leaned back, rested his hand on his chest.  "I agree, 
Catherine.  The risks are great."     
     Vincent shook his head as his breathing grew labored.  
"However much I agree with you, Catherine, I cannot ignore your 
need, any more than you can ignore your concern for me.  I have 
told you that I feel what you feel; that hasn't changed, nor is 
it likely to.  And it would have to change before I left you at 
the mercy of your world."  
     "No!" she insisted.     
     He let his head fall back on the pillows, closed his eyes.  
"We will not discuss it any more."     
     "No more."    
     She was trembling with rage when Father entered with the 
tray.  He looked from Catherine to Vincent, sensed the emotion in 
the room.     
     "Did I walk into something?"    
     Catherine turned her wrath on the older man.     
     "Your son--" she sputtered.  "Your son is the most obstinate 
person I've ever met.  Maybe you can talk sense to him.  I 
     She stomped from the room, viciously wiping the tears from 
her eyes as she did so.     
     Father turned, still holding the tray, and looked at Vincent 
who now had one eye open.  A bushy eyebrow rose.     
     "Cream, or sugar?"   
     It won a slight smile from his son, who sat painfully up and 
adjusted the pillows.  "Neither, as well you know."   
     "What was all that about?" Father asked, pouring Vincent his 
     "She wants me to be safe.  In short, she wants me to ignore 
our connection, and any fear she may feel in the face of danger." 
     "In short, she wants to keep you safe, down here."     
     Father snorted at Vincent's nod.  "I wish her better luck 
that I had.  You know--" He sat back with his own mug.  "I've 
worried about your going above for years.  Now, with Catherine, 
the dangers seem even greater.  And though I constantly nag at 
you and worry, I understand what the surface means to you.  I 
understand less this connection you share with Catherine, but the 
fact is it exists.  And since it does, it must be very special.  
I only wish it manifested under much 
                            * * * 
     Father slowly entered the living area and approached 
Catherine where she sat on a divan, her legs curled beneath her 
chin.  Pausing beside her, he offered her a cup of coffee.  She 
took it, pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear.   
     "Am I disturbing you?"     
     He settled himself beside her, sat aside his cane, and 
folded his hands.     
     "You know, you two can't ignore each other forever.  It does 
no good, you see?"    
     She brushed away a tear.     
     "He knows what you're feeling; you can't hide that from 
     "I know that.  It's the reason why we're having this 
     Father shook his head as a small smile threatened the 
corners of his mouth.  "You may be arguing, but Vincent isn't 
listening.  Oh, he's listening to your emotions, certainly--he 
can't avoid that.  But he isn't willing to discuss the matter.  
And if Vincent won't talk about something, it doesn't exist."    
     "I'm trying to protect him."    
     "You should sooner try to cut his hair and change the way he 
dresses.  Vincent can be more stubborn about things than you--no 
matter the thing might be the eventual cause of his death.  I 
don't mean you--" Father raised his hand as Catherine looked at 
him, shocked.  "I mean his determination to protect you at all 
     Leaning back, Father folded his arms across his chest as 
Catherine lowered her legs, fingered a book that lay next to her. 
     "You don't know each other very well yet, do you?  If you 
did, perhaps you could work out a better form of communication." 
     "What do you mean?"    
     "You might warn Vincent when you're going into danger, and 
let him accompany you more closely.  As it is, he lives in terror 
of reaching you too late.  You live in terror of his being 
caught.  Perhaps a bit of planning on both your parts would ease 
the negative possibilities."  
     She shook her head.  "I'm not certain I understand."  
     "Last night, for instance.  You might have had help besides 
Vincent.  You might have planned the meeting a bit better, taken 
your co-workers into your confidence, and set officers all along 
that street.  You could have sent word to Vincent that you would 
be in danger, along with the location, time, and reason why.  You 
might also have told him there would be others looking after you, 
and he would not feel that only he could be there to protect you.  
Vincent would then have the option of going, observing that you 
were protected, and he could ensure from a safe distance that 
nothing amiss happened.  If the bomb still went off, he would be 
there to look after you, but perhaps the street gang would not 
have succeeded--either in setting the bomb, or in abducting him." 
     "But I gave my word to the witness that I would go alone." 
     He shook his head.  "You must learn when to break your word, 
Catherine. When to seek help if a risk is too great.  You are 
sworn to serve the city of New York; if you served it honestly, 
would you not tell the authorities of our world?"   
     She looked at him with wide green eyes.  "That's not a fair 
     "Isn't it?"  Father cocked his head.  "We steal energy from 
the city; we pay no taxes, yet we use their resources.  Our 
children do not attend the public schools.  We are a secret 
organization operating illegally beneath their city.  Why 
shouldn't you betray our trust?"     
     "That's different."    
     "Because you care for Vincent and others among us?"  He 
shook his head.  "It is no different, Catherine.  You protect 
Vincent one way, and are seeking to protect him in another way.  
But he will not accept your restrictions.  He has never stayed 
where it is safe, and you cannot expect him to do so now.  He 
will continue taking the risk for you, and you will continue this 
charade of caring you share until one or the other is fatally 
     "What?"  She stared at him, appalled.  "Are you suggesting 
Vincent and I seek risk in order to prove we care for one 
     Father shook his head.  "No.  I am saying that you will grow 
dependent upon Vincent to protect you from the danger inherent in 
your job, and he will continue sensing your need in times of 
violence.  He will run through the tunnels, race to reach and 
rescue you--but one day, he will be too late.  Or he will be in 
time, and death will find him.  I am saying that you cannot go 
on--either of you--cheating death.  You cannot continue 
confronting this city alone, Catherine.  You must measure the 
risk against the possible harm to Vincent.  If you would not 
betray the existence of our home, nor of Vincent, then you must 
base your decisions on Vincent's continued ability to protect 
you, and your ability to protect him."    
     She nodded, her eyes searching the fire that burned low on 
the hearth.  "Vincent won't protect himself, so I have to?"    
     "He can protect himself in matters excluding you.  But 
Catherine, he cares too much to walk away from your dangers.  You 
must ensure that he never has the need to run into them." 
     "Yes."  Her eyes searched Father's.  "Thank you."    
     He shrugged.  "There is nothing to thank me for.  We both 
want the same thing for Vincent."     
                           * * *   
     The days slid easily by as Catherine thought about Father's 
words and wondered how to approach Vincent with them.  She 
climbed to the surface each morning to dress and go to work, 
while Father stayed and watched over Vincent as he began to heal.  
Returning in the evening, Catherine helped Father with dinner, 
then sat and waited as he took the food in to Vincent.     
     "Do you think that I should talk to him?"    
     Father shook his head.  "He's looking a bit bruised, of 
late.  I don't think he'd want you seeing him like that."    
     She accepted his judgment, if for no other reason than she 
didn't know how to approach Vincent after their argument, didn't 
know how to convince him of the validity of Father's suggestions. 
     In the days following his harrowing experience Above, 
Vincent had frequent headaches and neglected to tell Father that 
the pain was keeping him awake.  Within two days circles formed 
under his eyes, he began losing weight, and Father unstintingly 
administered the drugs Isaac had provided--along with a stern 
lecture that although nature was the best healer, in some cases 
nobility was stupidity, and Vincent was being stupid.     
     His son hadn't argued--the painkillers took affect and sleep 
stole him away before he could think of a retort.  So Vincent 
began sleeping the nights as well as the days away, much to 
Father's relief.  
     Father wouldn't allow Catherine to see Vincent until the 
circles and shadows had disappeared, until the sallowness of his 
son's cheek's went away.  So Catherine ran errands, helped about 
the caverns, and provided much-needed companionship for Father as 
Vincent healed.     
     Father grew accustomed to having Catherine with him 
evenings.  They took turns reading to one another, then got into 
lengthy discussions about foreign countries or history that took 
them well away from the work at hand.   
     Father was no stranger to Boston, for he had attended 
medical school there.  After discovering Catherine had attended 
Radcliffe, they spent an entire evening raving about the seafood, 
the clam bakes, and the wonderful used bookstores.     
     Vincent woke one evening to Father's chuckles and 
Catherine's murmured narrative.  Worried, he listened intently 
for any sign that they weren't getting along.  It appeared they 
were, for the chuckles continued, Catherine's lighter laugh 
joining in. 
     When next he awoke, Vincent caught a hint of the scent 
Catherine wore, and he wondered if she was still below.  He grew 
used to smelling it on the edge of sleep; once or twice he 
dreamed she brushed back his hair and tucked the covers tightly 
around him.     
     Father expected Catherine to stop coming once Vincent was on 
the mend; to his surprise, she didn't.  Knowing the tunnels like 
a native, now, she travelled back and forth on her own.  It was a 
long journey to make twice a day, but she never commented on it. 
     It wasn't long before Father found things laying about and 
suspected they came from her.  Specially scented candles, a book 
or two he had mentioned that he wanted to read, and a warm 
sweater for Vincent.  Chocolate cake appeared one morning in the 
kitchen after Catherine had left for work, along with a wonderful 
Caesar salad in the refrigerator that waited for both their 
lunches.  Father tried to thank Catherine a few times, but she 
stared at him with innocent eyes and insisted she didn't know 
what he was talking about. 
     Vincent was ready to get out of bed after two weeks; Father 
refused to consider it.  When his son defied him and padded 
slowly to the wardrobe, Vincent found it bare with the exception 
of two nightshirts and a robe.  He growled in irritation as he 
realized someone didn't want him returning to the surface very 
soon.  Reaching for the robe, Vincent resigned himself to 
obedience and returned to bed.  He knew Father would insist upon 
having him in it for at least another week.    
     That was fine, until he began to itch.  His ribs itches, his 
knee itched; anything that had been bruised, bandaged, or 
previously knocked about itched.  He couldn't stand it; it was 
worse than being in pain.   
     In addition to his discomfort, it occurred to Vincent that 
Catherine visited below every night.  That was also fine, but she 
was visiting Father.  He heard her voice, but she never visited 
him.  Why not?  Grimacing, Vincent sat up in his bed and 
considered matters.    
                           * * *   
     Catherine walked wearily through the tunnels, paced down the 
stairs into Father's study, and sank into the chair beside his 
     He closed the book he held and nailed her with a pair of 
steel grey eyes.     
     "Hard day?"    
     "Mmmm," came the answer.  "I feel tired, depressed, angry, 
and discouraged."     
     He watched as she rubbed her neck, eyes closing as she 
attempted to relax.    
     "You know--" The older man moved around the desk, perched on 
one corner after shoving a pile of books and manuscripts aside.  
"Vincent used to come home discouraged when he was a little boy.  
He'd sit where you're sitting now, and kick the crossbar of that 
chair--his feet didn't touch the floor, then.  He'd sigh mightily 
and tell me all his troubles.  The other children called him 
names, or he lost his tenth game of checkers in a row, or someone 
stole his soldiers.  He was in a terrible mood, but somehow I 
always managed to get him out of it. And do you know how?"   
     Catherine shook her head.    
     "I told him stories.  Magicians, pirates, sorcerers, 
witches, gnomes, fairies, gods, whales, dogs, mysteries--even a 
squirrel or two.  It always helped."     
     Father smiled at Catherine, grey eyes crinkling 
encouragingly behind wire-rimmed reading glasses.  She looked 
doubtfully back at him as he leaned forward, looked over his 
glasses, and said,    
     "Once upon a time there lived a little girl called 
     A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.  She couldn't 
help but laugh in delight as he continued the story. 
     Vincent heard her laugh.  He couldn't stand it.  Flinging 
back the bedcovers, he swung his legs over and padded, barefoot, 
out of the room.    
     They both looked up when Vincent descended the stairs, 
limped slightly as he moved across the room and sat down in a 
chair close to Catherine's.     
     "Don't say it--" he ordered as Father stood and opened his 
     "I was only going to point out that you're in your 
nightshirt and your feet are bare."  He crossed the room to the 
stairs.  "And to say that I'm going to get dinner."   
     Catherine looked down at Vincent's toes as Father left the 
room.  He wiggled them.  She giggled as she saw the long, 
fur-tufted toes curl beneath the hem of the nightshirt as though 
Vincent was trying to hide them.  Looking up, she met his 
sheepish gaze as he cocked his head at her.  She hadn't seen him 
in weeks, and now here he was, seated calmly and fairly whole, 
embarrassing himself in his father's study.   
     The giggles came uncontrolled, and she tried without success 
to suppress them.  Vincent gaped at her as she laughed outright, 
which caused her to laugh more.  She couldn't stop, hugged her 
ribs as he sat up and frowned.     
     "Oh, Vincent--" Catherine panted, looking away and gulping 
to regain her self control.  "I'm sorry.  I'm really not laughing 
at you." 
     "I hope not."     
     She sobered at his tone, though she sensed he wasn't angry 
with her.    
     "How are you feeling?"    
     "Good."  She felt nervous as well as foolish.  "I haven't 
been treating you very well the past few days.  I'm sorry."    
     He looked down.  "I'm sorry I haven't made it easy for you 
to come talk with me.  Are you getting along with Father?"     
     "Yes.  We've talked a lot these past weeks.  He's made me 
feel very welcome.  And he has a few suggestions regarding how we 
might handle ourselves when danger arises." 
     She outlined what Father had said, and found Vincent nodding 
his head as she concluded.   
     "If such a plan for your protection could be implemented, I 
would be amenable," came the slow comment as the blue eyes grew 
shadowed with thought.  "If there is clear communication ahead of 
time, I can judge your safety, Catherine.  But I refuse to stand 
by and ever risk you coming to harm."    
     Catherine fingered a small, blackstone box Father had on his 
desk.  "I'm not asking you to do that.  I'm just trying to keep 
you out of trouble while you keep me out of trouble."    
     "Catherine!" came the shout from the kitchen.     
     "Coming," she called back to Father, and rose from her 
chair.  "I'm sorry I upset you, Vincent, but you worry me." 
     "I understand."  Slowly, Vincent stood.  "Let me come with 
you to help Father."     
     Catherine supported Vincent as he limped his way to the 
kitchen door.  Father sat him down to peel potatoes while 
Catherine took over the actual task of making the meal.  An hour 
later, the three of them were seated around the table, feasting 
on potato salad and vegetarian stew.     
     "I could get used to this," Father beamed from Vincent to 
     "Yes," Vincent said, looking through ragged bangs to pin 
Catherine with a pair of thoughtful blue eyes.     
     She merely smiled from one to the other of them.  "Well, 
don't get too used to it, unless you mean for me to stay here 
     Father stared, long and hard.  "Would you consider it?" 
     "Not if you wanted me only because I cook well."    
     Her gaze locked with his, and Catherine felt herself color 
at the intensity of Father's gaze.     
     "Why are you staring at me?" she whispered.  "Haven't you 
ever considered that I might think of it?"  
     "No."  He shook his head.  "I've always felt you were tied 
to the Above; that you considered our world, albeit a magical 
place, far out of reach."    
     "I don't feel that way at all," she reassured him.  "Not at 
     Father leaned back in his chair as he pushed his plate away.  
Vincent raised his head, his expression triumphant as Father met 
his son's blue eyes with surprise.     
                           * * *   
     She parked her car in the park at midnight two weeks later 
and ran to the culvert entrance to meet Vincent.  Kipper opened 
the door, gestured her inside.     
     "Vincent's late.  He's on the fourth level and asked me to 
guide you to him."     
     She walked with the boy through the twisting tunnels, knew 
that Vincent was never late.  Was he feeling worse instead of 
     When she caught sight of him, she had her answer.  He 
carried a little girl on his back, and more children were dancing 
around his feet as he walked toward the surface.  One carried his 
cloak, another chattered about her lessons, and a third yanked on 
his vest and begged to be carried next.     
     "Story!" one shouted, hanging on his wrist and tugging to no 
     Vincent's smile was tolerant as he looked down on the 
insistent child.     
     "Tomorrow, Larena.  Tonight I must see..."  He looked up 
then, sensing her nearness as she and Kipper approached.  
     The way he said her name was a caress, and she shivered as 
she bade Kipper goodbye.  He ran away from the giggling girls who 
followed at a more sedate pace, leaving Catherine and Vincent to 
turn back the way she had come.     
     Vincent and Catherine made their way slowly to the surface, 
taking their time passing through the tunnels and allowing 
Vincent to set his own pace.  He still favored the injured knee, 
and Catherine slipped her hand into his to offer support and 
company as they turned yet another corner and walked up a steep 
     Wandering quietly from the drainage pipe, they strolled to 
the edge of the culvert and beyond as Vincent released 
Catherine's hand and raised his hood.     
     "I have missed this," came the low admission.  He showed no 
signs of lingering pain as Catherine fell into step beside him.  
"And I am glad you are with me tonight."    
     He looked down at her and smiled.  Catherine caught a 
glimpse of white fang and bright blue eyes before Vincent looked 
back up, rearranged his cloak, and began walking faster. 
     Catherine stared as she walked beside Vincent.  The aura the 
man projected really was marvelous.  The black robe and hood 
shrouded his features in mystery; only a few strands of burnished 
flame escaped its confines.  The rhythm of his gait set the cloak 
swaying from side to side and somehow emphasized the broadness of 
his shoulders.     
     Vincent pulled off his gloves, and a fur-tufted hand came up 
to capture Catherine's in its grip.  He held the gloves in his 
other hand, beneath the folds of the cloak, as the two of them 
approached the Reservoir.  Vincent turned at the railing, and 
gazed down at Catherine as she studied him in the darkness. 
     "You're very quiet tonight," he observed, the light wind 
ruffling his bangs as he looked down at her.  "Like a still 
pool...ripples spread soundlessly across the surface of your 
mind, but the true turbulence is below.  Won't you tell me what 
you're thinking?"    
     She smiled at that, looked out over the water.  "You mean 
you can't read my mind?"    
     "Sometimes," Vincent admitted.  "But not always.  I know 
you're silent, calm, and contented beneath the turbulence, but I 
don't know why."   
     "Perhaps it's because you're safe, on your own two feet 
again, and the terror of believing I might lose you is over."  
She rubbed his arm, smiled up at him.  "I was so afraid I might 
reach you too late...."    
     She shuddered against him, the turbulence of her fears 
reaching the surface of her mind where he could feel and hear 
them.  His arms went around her far too easily than they should 
have to offer comfort.  Vincent rubbed his cheek against the top 
of her head, amazed that she should care so much for him.   
     "You didn't reach me too late," he murmured low, and she 
felt his lips move against her hair.  "And I am well again.  
Thank you for searching, and for finding me, Catherine.  And for 
being at my bedside when I awoke."    
     She pulled away from him.  "So much for the still pool, 
     He shook his head, expression warm and gentle as he looked 
down at her.  "Your mind is very clear to me.  When I hear your 
thoughts, they most often remind me of a quiet forest stream, 
where fern and moss grow side by side."     
     "Is that how you see me?"     
     "It is how I most often hear you."     
     Her gaze searched the blue depths of her companion's eyes.  
Vincent looked calm in the light of the streetlamp.  He stood 
quietly, allowed her scrutiny, and almost seemed to welcome it. 
     She was enchanted with the image he was describing, as well 
as with the features of the man holding her.     
     "Go on."    
     Vincent's voice was hypnotic as his hands began to stir on 
her back, caress gently, carefully as though he was afraid of 
startling her.     
     "Rain falls quietly upon your thoughts...Days pass slowly, 
and everything breathes contentment."    
     "As long as you're safe," she prompted.     
     "Yes..."  He nodded reluctantly.  "You seem to measure your 
contentment by my own happiness--on the surface, at any rate.  
But beneath the surface is a myriad of layered thoughts and 
worlds and dreams as far as a heart and imagination can see."    
     "I've never been described in such poetic terms before."  
Her smile was teasing.  "What does all this tell you?"    
     He cocked his head at her.  "That the casual visitor sees 
only the calm.  On a more intimate level...."    
     He looked down, almost afraid his next words would destroy 
the moment.  "A trusted companion might explore the layered 
worlds beneath the surface."    
     "As well as the dreams?"    
     "Would you like to share my dreams with me, Vincent?"  She 
ventured to reach up and gently caress his temple, and saw 
astonishment fill his blue eyes.  "Everything you've described, 
I've felt about you.  I've been wondering how to find the words 
to tell you."    
     "Catherine--" Vincent shook his head, as though he were 
unable to believe what she was saying.     
     "Do you know why I'm trying so hard to keep you safe?" 
     "You have told me you love me."     
     Gently, she stroked the back of her hand against the 
roughness of his chin.     
     "Yes, and something more...."  She felt suddenly shy, but 
she had gone too far to turn back.  "Don't you know, Vincent, 
that more than loving you, I'm in love with you?" 
     Vincent swayed backward.  He braced a hand on the railing 
behind them as his blue eyes filled with astonishment and 
delight.  The calm Catherine felt, the steady 
was all finally clear to him.  She dreamed of a life with him, a 
life of him with her...Vincent stood straighter as the truth of 
her words settled over him.  The broad shoulders seemed to widen 
even more as Vincent knew himself loved.     
     Catherine watched the play of emotions across the unique 
face, and read every one of them.  She knew he had no words for 
her confession.   
     Smiling gently, Catherine slid her arms around his back, 
lowered her head, and rested her cheek against Vincent's chest.  
Hugging tightly, she closed her eyes and sank into his giant, 
protective embrace.     
     "You' love...." 
     "With you."   
     Vincent's clawed fingers reached up and stroked her neck as 
his other hand gripped the railing even tighter.  His mind flew 
back to the night he had found her, beaten, bleeding in the grass 
not far from where they stood.  He remembered the frightened 
woman who confronted him so violently when first they met face to 
face...His shock of discovering that he could kill for her and 
her discovery that she could take his hand and share 
responsibility for his actions...Vincent remembered his despair 
as he stood before the culvert entrance to the tunnels, watching 
Catherine kiss Elliot, who seemed to have everything Vincent 
could never offer.    
     "With me...."     
     Footfalls interrupted their reverie, and Vincent started 
violently as Catherine turned, looked over her shoulder as a 
couple strolled down the cement walk toward them.     
     Vincent grabbed her hand, pulled Catherine along.  She ran 
beside him, laughter welling in her throat as they returned to 
the culvert.  They scrabbled noisily through the large pipe, 
feeling like two twelve-year-olds caught in a forbidden fantasy, 
and paused at the gate--Vincent on one side, Catherine on the 
     "Come home with me," Catherine invited on impulse.  "We'll 
talk over hot chocolate and chess."     
     "It is late, Catherine.  I should--"   
     "What you should do and what you want to do...."    
     He looked sideways at her, a smile tugging at the corners of 
his mouth.  "All right.  I'll come home with you." 
     He swung back the gate, reached out to activate the 
mechanism opening the door beyond.    
     "Wait--I have to take the car...."    
     He looked over his shoulder as she moved on the other side 
of the iron gate from him.  His long fingers curled around the 
bars, held the gate open.     
     "Do you want to meet in your basement, then?"    
     She nodded, her fingers covering his.  "You'll be there?"  
     "Do you doubt it?"  
     She shook her head.     
     "Until then, my Catherine."    
     Not really thinking about what she was doing, Catherine 
steadied herself on Vincent's arm and reached up on tiptoe.  
Vincent automatically lowered his head.  The next moment, their 
lips touched in a short first kiss.  Both drew back, startled and 
surprised at what they had just done.  Vincent's blue eyes were 
embarrassed, and Catherine instantly knew that he hadn't been 
kissed very much before.  She smiled.    
     "I enjoyed that."  Raising her hand, she curled her fingers 
around his neck, and felt the long golden hair flow between her 
nails.  "Enough to do it again."    
     She didn't have to pull down his head.  Vincent came 
willingly enough, almost in a daze, to meet her halfway.  When 
his lips covered hers, Catherine closed her eyes and concentrated 
on his touch, his taste.     
     His lower lip was temptingly full, and the upper lip with 
its light coating of downy fur was so erotic that Catherine felt 
herself leaning into the kiss to increase the pressure of those 
lips.  Vincent moaned slightly as his fingers slid up, 
encountered her hip, and moved hesitantly over her thigh.     
     They parted only to lean forward again, nuzzle and touch 
lightly.  Both teased the other, enjoying the desire curling deep 
within them, rising steadily.  Catherine released the gate with 
her other hand, entwined her fingers with Vincent's at her waist, 
and shifted to come around the gate.     
     "Vincent--" she breathed into his mouth and felt him shiver 
as she pressed closer. 
     His muscled legs were tensed against her, hard columns of 
strength as his long fingers spread across the small of her back.  
Her own fingers were trapped between his as he pulled her closer, 
and she whimpered as he drew back, caressed her temple with his 
     "You must drive your car home."  The rich baritone vibrated 
in her ear.     
     She swallowed hard, squeezed closed her eyes in an effort to 
regain control.  Vincent's touch was so different, so 
addictive...The last thing she wanted to do was turn around, 
leave him and walk into the cold night.  
     "Catherine...I feel your desire and know that you love me.  
Know that I love you, too...."      
     Running long claws through her hair, Vincent cradled her 
head in his hands as he feathered kisses down her jaw. 
     "I will please you with my touching, if you allow it." 
     She arched against his hands, her fingers gripping his 
wrists as she shivered with need.  
     "Vincent, I've never felt this way with anyone else..."  Her 
green eyes opened, met his in confusion.  "The feelings between 
     "They vibrate through our bond.  I feel what you feel, as 
well as my own desire.  Those emotions flow back when I touch 
     "Along with your own feelings?"    
     His lips were at her collarbone, his breath hot on her neck.  
The strange lips parted, and Catherine caught her breath, moaned 
as she felt Vincent nip her throat ever so gently between his 
fangs.  His claws caressed her temples, her brow, and she felt 
the strength leave her legs.  
     She slid downward, clutched at his vest.  Vincent caught her 
easily, purred low as he pulled her back to her feet.     
      "I will be on your balcony in less than half an hour.  Will 
you be there?"    
     She shook her head in an effort to clear it as she clung to 
him.  Vincent gave her time to recover, made no further advances 
to cloud the coherency struggling through the desire she felt.     
     "Um....yes.  At least, I think so..."  She frowned.  
"Strange...I can't think how long it will take me to get 
     "Twenty minutes, Catherine."   
     "Twenty...Yes, Vincent."     
     She took a deep breath as she stepped back from the gate.  
His arms slowly fell away from her and she saw the claws glitter 
in the dim light.  She wanted to feel those claws on her bare 
flesh.  Slowly, Catherine raised her head and saw that Vincent 
knew her thoughts.     
     She colored with embarrassment, suddenly shy of his 
strength, and the power of her own emotions.     
     "It's going to be terribly difficult keeping anything from 
     He smiled reassurance, blue eyes warm and amused as he 
fingered the mechanism opening the door.  If he didn't move to 
go, they would never leave the tunnel.  The door rolled back and 
Vincent stepped through.     
     Catherine reached out to touch his fingers where they 
lingered on the gate as he pulled it closed.  Vincent looked back 
as Catherine realized with new amazement that she belonged with 
this gentlebeing.  
     "Vincent, what took us so long?"    
     He stepped close to the bars as she caught his fingers.  
"Things happen when we are ready for them, Catherine." 
     She nodded and slid her hand away as he tripped the 
mechanism to close the door.  As he backed away, silhouetted 
against the bars of the gate as the door rolled closed, Catherine 
knew that through her love, neither she nor Vincent would ever be 
alone or caged again.   
Copyright 1988 by Kim Prosser.  All rights reserved.