A Dark and Stormy Night
by Edith Crowe

     Catherine lay in the quiet darkness, too content to open her
eyes, and wondered idly why she was awake.  The November storm
that had raged earlier, rattling the house and sheeting its
windows with rain, had clearly stopped.  Manhattan was never
truly silent, even in the middle of the night, but its unceasing
background hum was so familiar to Catherine it never would have
disturbed her sleep.  She smiled.  Her mind might be awake, but
her body was still heavy with langorous satisfaction.  Something
in the storm had triggered an answering wildness in Vincent, and
their loving that night had been fierce and prolonged.  Thinking
of it brought an irresistible need to be closer, and Catherine
turned to snuggle against him as he lay beside her.
     Her eyes snapped open in surprise as she encountered not the
relaxed muscles of a sleeper, but a tense rigidity that told her
he was not only awake but alert.  There was just enough light in
the room to reflect the glitter of his open eyes.  Moving her
hand to touch his cheek, Catherine whispered next to his ear. 
"Vincent, is something wrong?  Did you have another dream?"
     Turning his head just enough to face her, he slipped one arm
across her body in a reassuring caress.  "No, it's not that.  I
just ..."
     "What? Tell me."
     He sighed, then spoke slowly, reluctantly.  "I heard
     "Heard what?" she pressed him.  "Where?"
     "It sounds like it's coming from downstairs."
     Catherine clutched his arm as a surge of adrenalin banished
every vestige of relaxation from her body.  "You mean someone's
in the house?"
     "No."  He spoke quickly, but his voice lacked complete
conviction.  "It sounds more like someone at the door, trying to
get in."
     "But you can't be sure.  Have you been hearing it long? 
Could it be someone from Below?"
     Vincent shook his head.  "I doubt it, it's been going on too
long for that.  If someone from the Tunnels needed to contact us
in an emergency, they'd come up right away and knock on our
bedroom door.  Many of them know the house well enough to find
their way around it, even in the dark."
     As Catherine slipped from Vincent's arms and threw back the
covers, he quickly grasped her hand to hold her back.  "What are
you doing?"
     "I'm going downstairs to see what's going on, of course."
     "Catherine!" Vincent's whispered hiss was sharper than he
intended.  "You don't know what's down there--it could be
     "Vincent, you know this house has the best security system
there is, that's one of the reasons I bought it.  If someone's
trying to get in, I doubt they'll succeed.  I'll look through the
peephole, and if it's anyone who looks suspicious, I'll call the
police.  No heroics, I promise."
     Vincent pulled her close, partly so she could hear his
words, partly from his instinctive need to protect her.  "I can't
be sure the sound is coming from outside.  And no matter how well
the house is secured, there's still the Tunnel entrance.  Some
outsider could have found that."
     "The way Mouse concealed it, that wouldn't be easy," she
argued.  "Besides--I can't just lie up here wondering what's
going on.  And I'm not about to let you go down there and risk
     Vincent sighed, hugging her.  "I don't suppose I could
convince you to leave that way," he asked, nodding toward the
wall that concealed the stairway to the Tunnels.
     "Certainly not without you," Catherine replied emphatically,
"and I don't want to leave the house at the mercy of who-knows-
what.  It means too much to me, to us.  I can't stand by and see
it violated."  Vincent sighed again in a way his wife recognized
as capitulation.  She knew he felt the same way about their home,
their refuge that was a bridge between Above and Below.
     Releasing her, he threw off the rest of the covers.  "We'll
both go," he announced, "and very carefully."
     "I don't want you to risk being seen---"
     Vincent picked up his robe from the chair where he had flung
it hours before.  Its deep green was barely distinguishable from
the surrounding darkness.  He pushed his golden hair under the
hood, which he pulled far forward over his face.
     Catherine put on her own robe, somewhat reassured, and
gently removed her gun from the nightstand drawer.  It had lain
there, untouched, since she had moved into this house nine months
ago.  She had hoped it would lie there forever.  Quietly, she and
Vincent moved to the bedroom door.  Catherine opened it with
great care, but its hinges were well-oiled and made no sound. 
She moved slowly down the stairs, walking on the side of the
treads to avoid betraying creaks.  Her right hand held the gun;
Vincent held her left as he followed her closely.  
     As they approached the lower floor, she heard the sounds
that only Vincent's ears had detected earlier.  Clearly, they
were coming from outside, as if someone were trying to find a way
in.  Motioning Vincent to stay behind in the shadows, Catherine
approached the front door, rising up on her toes to look through
the peephole.  After a moment, she returned to where Vincent
waited, tense and alert.  Dark as it was, Vincent could still
see that Catherine's face was puzzled.
     "What did you see?"
     "Nothing," she whispered back.  "Someone's obviously out
there, we both hear it.  But I can't see anything but the
street."  She was silent a moment, considering, then spoke with
conviction.  "I'm going to open the door."
     "Catherine!" Vincent hissed.  "The danger--"
     Catherine put a reassuring hand on his arm as she spoke. 
"Someone could be lying there hurt.  It's cold out tonight, and
that storm was a bad one--how could I face myself if some poor
homeless person died on my doorstep for lack of my help?  Or
someone who's been attacked, like I was?"
     Vincent knew that Catherine could not turn her back on such
a possibility, any more than he could have left her bleeding in
the park three and a half years ago.  "Let me--"
     "No!  You can't risk anyone seeing you!  I promise," she
argued placatingly, "I'll keep the chain on; I'll just look. 
I've got my gun.  If it's someone who looks the least doubtful I
won't let him in, I'll call for help."
     Vincent agreed--reluctantly--but stayed as close to her as
he could without being seen as she deactivated the security
system and slowly opened the door.  Expecting to find a shivering
or bleeding body on the doorstep, they were slow to react as
something shot through the small opening and disappeared into the
dark interior of the house.  Vincent was the first to recover,
running after the mysterious intruder as Catherine pushed the
door shut with an expletive that would have surprised Father. 
Not wanting to stop to turn on lights, Catherine followed the
pursuit by its sound, wishing she had brought a flashlight.  She
thought she heard Vincent in the living room, but just before she
reached it Vincent burst out into the corridor almost in front of
her, heading down the hall to the library.
     Close behind him as he followed his quarry into that room,
Catherine had the presence of mind to push the door firmly shut
behind her.  Whatever it was wouldn't escape now.  Vincent seemed
to be all over the room; whatever he was chasing moved quickly. 
She could hear her husband caroming off the furniture.  A crash
and clatter in the far corner told her the table holding the
chessboard had gone over.  Concerned for Vincent, Catherine was
about to abandon her post at the door when an unearthly screech
almost made her jump out of her skin, and sudden silence
descended.  Fearful, she groped for the light switch.  
     As a lamp in the middle of the room illuminated the scene,
Catherine's jaw dropped.  Carefully clicking the safety on, she
put the gun into the pocket of her robe.  She needed both hands
to clutch her stomach as she began laughing till tears came.
     "Catherine," Vincent grumbled as he struggled up from his
ungainly position on the floor, "I hope you are laughing in
relief, because I find nothing funny in this situation."  Not
only had the hood of his robe fallen back; the belt had come
undone, giving Catherine an unobstructed view of one of her
favorite sights.  Vincent in his semi-naked glory was normally no
laughing matter, but--clutched to his chest, hanging on for dear
life, was a soaking wet and hissing kitten no bigger than his
hand. "If you can compose yourself," Vincent suggested, "perhaps
you could help me find a more effective way to restrain this
creature before he damages a portion of my anatomy you would
sorely miss."
     Galvanized by this frightening if unlikely possibility,
Catherine ran across the hall to retrieve some towels from the
downstairs bathroom.  Returning quickly to the library, she
carefully extricated the kitten's claws from her husband's chest
and wrapped the small, dripping bundle in a towel, cooing softly
all the while.  Vincent gathered his robe and the shreds of his
dignity around him once again, looking more than a little miffed.
     Taking pity on him, Catherine made a prodigious effort to
stifle her laughter.  "Let's go into the kitchen; it's warmer
there.  Besides, I think we could both use a cup of tea."
     Vincent ended up making the tea while Catherine continued to
coo over the little furry bundle, drying him off with one towel
then wrapping him snugly in a dry one and cuddling him close to
her breast.  Although quite unable to recognize the source of his
irritation, Vincent frowned to see a spot which he regarded as
his own usurped by the little hellion.  "Catherine, are you sure
you should do that?  He might have fleas."
     "Even if he had," Catherine smiled, "they've certainly all
drowned by now.  The poor little thing looks awfully skinny--
let's see if we can find him something to eat."
     "Yes. Let *us* do that," Vincent said in resignation as he
up to search the refigerator while Catherine continued to hug the
kitten.  Warming some cream in the microwave, he set the dish
before her.  Rummaging in the cupboard, he unearthed a can of
tuna fish and put some on a small plate.  Setting it down on the
table as well, he sat again, pulling his chair closer to
     "He's so tiny," she said softly.  "I'm not even sure he's
old enough to be weaned--let's see what he thinks of the cream."
     A comfortable silence settled around them in the warm glow
of the kitchen.  As the kitten's fur dried, Vincent was surprised
to see it was almost the same tawny gold as his own.  He watched
as Catherine settled the kitten on its back, against her breast,
and carefully transferred the cream from the bowl to the hungry
little mouth with her finger.  Happy, as always, to watch his
wife for hours, Vincent let his thoughts drift.  The two of them,
sitting in their own comfortable home in the middle of the night,
steeped in the great contentment such togetherness always brought
... he smiled as Catherine made soothing noises.  The kitten's
eyes never left her face as he greedily devoured the cream.  How
beautiful she looked as she tenderly cared for it, almost as if
it were ...
     The sudden pang of longing that overwhelmed Vincent was so
intense and so unexpected he must have made some inadvertent
sound.  "Vincent?"  Catherine raised her head.  "Did you say
     It took all Vincent's concentration to make his voice sound
normal.  "He ... seems to be taking that well.  Why don't you see
if he eats on his own?"
     The golden fur stuck out every which way as Catherine
unwrapped her charge and set him on the table in front of the
food.  Devouring the remaining cream in short order, he began to
attack the tuna fish with relish.  "Well," Catherine exclaimed in
surprise, "Seems like he can handle solid food after all.  I
guess he's just small for his age."
     Vincent cleared his throat.  "What do you intend to do with
     "Well, for tonight I thought we could put him in the
solarium; he can't hurt the furniture in there.  There's some
sand in the basement for plants, so we can make up a cat box."
     "I hope he knows how to use it."  Vincent frowned.  "I
wonder if this was wise ..."
     "Well, we didn't really have any choice, did we?" Catherine
challenged.  "Besides ... " Catherine's voice became very soft. 
"I think it's a good idea, as a matter of policy, to rescue small
adorable furry things left out in the cold.  You never know how
they'll turn out."
     Vincent made the only response to this he could, leaning
over for a long, loving kiss.  They broke apart only when a
demanding yowl from the table startled them back to reality.
"Well!" Catherine laughed.  "It appears our guest is asking in no
uncertain terms to be shown to his room."      
     After several trips up and down stairs, the kitten was
installed in his new quarters with a makeshift cat box, bed, and
second helpings of food.  After warily examining every corner of
the large room, he finally settled down and yawned prodigiously. 
As Catherine smoothed down his spiky fur he began to purr, and
soon fell asleep.  She rose and took Vincent's hand, smiling
fondly at her new charge.
     They tiptoed away as quietly as possible, shutting the door
gently behind them.  "Catherine," Vincent whispered, "this door
doesn't latch very well."
     "I know," she whispered back.  "I keep meaning to ask Mouse
to fix it.  I'm sure it'll be OK--our furry friend is much too
small to open a door this heavy."
     Hearing the tiredness in his wife's voice, Vincent swept her
up in his arms and headed down to their bedroom.  Sighing in
contentment, Catherine kissed the hollow of his throat as she
wrapped her arms around his neck.  Thank God, there had been
nothing to fear tonight after all.  Perhaps the Fates were
through testing them at last.
     When they returned to bed, Vincent took Catherine in his
arms as they nestled under the warm comforter.  "You're going to
keep him, aren't you?"
     "No, love," she replied.  "*We're* going to keep him.  Don't
forget, we're married now.  What's mine is yours and vice versa."
     "For better or worse," Vincent sighed in resignation.
     "Think of how much the children will enjoy playing with a
kitten ... and he'll be company for me when I'm alone in the
     "Think of what fuel this will provide Cullen's dubious sense
of humor," Vincent winced.  "It could be worse, I suppose.  It
could be a raccoon."
     Vincent could feel Catherine's smile as she snuggled into
the circle of his arm.  Soon afterward, she was asleep.  It
had begun to rain again, but a soft quiet rain as gentle as a
lullaby.  The warmth of Catherine's body beside him, and the
sound of the rain, soon sent Vincent into the same sweet

     A welcome winter sun poured through storm-washed air and the
gauzy curtains of their bedroom.  Catherine could feel the
brightness on her eyelids as she slowly woke.  When she finally
opened her eyes, she had to clamp her jaw firmly shut to keep
from laughing out loud and waking her husband.  The poor man
certainly deserved his rest after his exertions of last night. 
Between lovemaking and cat-chasing, neither of them had gotten
much sleep.  Lying on her side facing Vincent, Catherine kept as
motionless as she could, unwilling to disturb the priceless scene
before her.
     Vincent lay on his back, his face turned toward her.  During
the night the covers had migrated downward, and his furred torso
was pale gold in the winter light.  The tilt of his head caused
part of his hair to spill gloriously over the pillow next to her;
the rest swept over his cheek and the upper part of his chest. 
Nestled there, so close in color he was almost invisible, curled
one very contented sleeping kitten.
     It was too good to last.  As he shifted in his sleep,
Vincent's nose began to twitch as it encountered a small furry
tail.  The tail in question began to switch even more at this
stimulus.  A rapid escalation of switching and twitching soon
caused Vincent to jerk awake, sneezing.  His eyes opened as a
small golden tornado launched itself off his chest, bounced off
his thigh and leaped to the floor.  It suddenly reappeared in one
of the chairs that flanked the fireplace.  After several loud
complaints, the kitten ignored them and began washing its tiny
face with vigor.
     Vincent sat up, glaring first at the feline terror and then
at Catherine as she dissolved into giggles at last.  "Catherine,
this is not amusing!  Did you see where he landed?  He could have
     Pulling the bedclothes down all the way, she leaned over to
inspect her husband's thigh very closely.  "Looks fine to me,
dear, but just in case ..." She bent even lower.  "I'll kiss it
and make it better."
     Vincent drew in a deep, shuddering breath as he tried to
concentrate on feeling indignant instead of ... "Catherine," he
began firmly.
     Restraining herself, Catherine moved back to Vincent's side,
propping up on one elbow to caress his chest where it had been
used as a launching pad.  The thickness of his fur there seemed
to have prevented any damage.  "I'm sorry," she said contritely. 
"I should have removed him before you woke up ... but he did look
so sweet there, curled up on your hair like he'd made a nest in
the tall grass."
     "Do you consider it flattering to compare your husband's
body to... the African veldt?"
     "Actually, it's more like northern California ... beautiful
hills and valleys all covered in gold ..." Her hand moved slowly,
sensuously, down its favorite landscape.  "Why look, I must be
right about the location ... there's a redwood tree!"
     "Catherine," Vincent said hoarsely, "you are taking an
unfair advantage in this discussion."
     His wife continued her caresses.  "I'm a lawyer, dear.  I
was taught there's no such thing as an unfair advantage."
     Vincent was finding it increasingly difficult to marshal
cogent arguments; it seemed his blood was finding better things
to do than nourish his brain.  Reaching for Catherine, he gave
in.  Why fight it, when capitulation would be infinitely more
pleasurable?  As her lips began to follow the route of her
exploration, Vincent began stroking her naked skin with the
furred backs of his hands.  When he thought he could bear no
more, she knelt above him then lowered herself slowly as she
guided him into her, eyes never leaving his face.
     As her strong legs lifted and lowered her in a rhythm that
sent fire along his nerves, he slid his hands up her sides to
support her, letting his thumbs caress her sensitive nipples. 
With a small sound, Catherine's head leaned back at his touch. 
Vincent never could decide what excited him the most when they
made love--her caresses and the indescribable feeling of her
welcoming body accepting his, the look on her face as their
passion built, or the inarticulate sounds of pleasure she
couldn't control.  As if this were not enough, their bond flooded
him with all her feelings as if they were his own.  Sometimes the
intensity was so overwhelming he feared he would die from the
sheer joy of it, but could not bring himself to care.
     As he felt Catherine nearing her peak, Vincent relinquished
the last vestige of his control, thrusting powerfully upward as
she pushed downward.  Swept away by sensations too primal to be
named, he knew nothing more until Catherine collapsed on top of
him, too weak with pleasure to support herself any longer.  As
soon as his own limbs would respond he wrapped his arms around
her, caressing her back as the world slowly took shape around
them again.  He turned his head a little to kiss her hair. 
Opening his eyes, he found himself looking into two green ones
staring unblinkingly back at him from the top of the bedside
chair.  Disconcerted, his hand groped for the sheet to pull it
     This unexpected movement caused Catherine to raise her head. 
"Vincent, what?--"  Following his gaze, she spotted the little
voyeur, then turned back to her husband in amused surprise. 
"Dear heart, he's only a cat."
     Vincent reluctantly tore his gaze from their observer to
face Catherine.  "I wonder.  Perhaps I should take him to
Narcissa and ask her opinion."
     Catherine traced the unique line of Vincent's lips with her
fingers, then kissed him thoroughly.  "You can hardly blame him
for watching.  He's probably just impressed."
     "Catherine ..." Vincent lowered his eyes.  Even after almost
a year of loving her this way, and seven months of marriage, he
was never quite sure how to respond to compliments of that sort. 
The need to do so was obviated by a peremptory yowl from the
     "I wonder if he's hungry," Catherine speculated, looking
toward the bedside clock.  "Oh, good grief!"  Leaping out of bed,
she tugged Vincent after her.  "I had no idea it was so late,"
she gasped as she threw on a robe and slippers.  "Don't you
remember?  We've got a horde of Tunnel children due in less than
an hour for the latest *Story of English* tape."  Catherine
up the cat with one hand and propelled Vincent toward the
bathroom with the other.  "I'll feed this feline vacuum cleaner
and take my shower downstairs."
     "We could shower together," Vincent offered.
     "Oh, right," Catherine answered drily.  "Today's lesson is
supposed to be language, not sex education."
     Vincent drew himself up in affronted, if naked, dignity. 
"Don't you trust my self-control?"
     "Always," Catherine replied as she treated herself to one
more quick kiss.  "But I can't say the same for mine."
     It was a near thing, but Catherine managed to get everything
ready just as a familiar knock sounded on the cellar door.  "Just
a minute!" she called out, securing her four-footed guest before
opening it to Brooke and the children.  As they poured into the
kitchen, they were immediately entranced by the kitten.  All
asking questions at once, they jockeyed for the best petting
     "Children, this is supposed to be a lesson in English, not
animal behavior."  A slightly damp but reasonably kempt Vincent
entered the kitchen and regarded his pupils with mock
     "But he's so cute," Samantha insisted.
     "Which, of course, excuses everything," Vincent laughed. 
"Why don't you all help Catherine carry the food into the living
room, and we'll tell you how we acquired our new boarder."
     Still a little awed by Catherine's house, the children were
very careful as they carried the platters and baskets across the
hall.  "Wow, there's a lot of food here."  Zach sniffed
appreciatively at a basket of apple-cinnamon muffins.  "We all
ate breakfast, you know."
     "And I'll bet you can still manage to eat more," Catherine
countered.  "You look an inch taller every time I see you. 
Besides, Vincent and I haven't had breakfast yet."
     "Oh?"  Catherine was startled by Brooke's speculative grin. 
She was growing up, and Catherine made a silent promise to
herself not to forget it.
     "Yeah, we wondered what happened to you guys last night,"
Eric announced through a mouthful of bagel.  "You usually come
Below on Friday nights."
     "Well, we kind of got involved with other things," Catherine
explained lamely, avoiding Brooke's eyes.  "And it got to be
pretty late, and since we had to be here this morning for your
English lesson ..."
     "Well, it's a good thing you *didn't* come last night." 
Teresa was happily petting the kitten, delighted by his ecstatic
purr.  "Otherwise nobody would have been here to help him."
     Her sister Maria watched, wide-eyed, as Teresa's lap was
mercilessly kneaded.  "Where did he come from?"
     Catherine and Brooke brought hot chocolate from the kitchen
while Vincent began a dramatic, if heavily edited, account of the
kitten's rescue.  Sensing he was the center of attention, the
furry dynamo exhibited his feline prowess by mercilessly chasing
a grape around the floor.  At the conclusion of the narrative,
Kipper asked the sixty-four-dollar question.  "What's his name?"
     Discovering he had none, the children insisted no more time
should be wasted.  Suggestions were tossed out thick and fast. 
In short order, Marmalade, Leo, Kzin, Cuddles, Aslan, Pumpkin,
and Surprise were discussed and discarded.  A silence fell in
which the sound of mental wheels turning could almost be heard. 
Naming a cat was an important matter.  
     Vincent cleared his throat.  "What about Bulwer-Lytton?"
     Catherine looked blank.  "Who, or what, is a Bulwer-Lytton?"
     "A relatively obscure and largely untalented Victorian
novelist," Vincent explained.  "Originator of that deathless
     "It was a dark and stormy night!"  The children shouted in
     "Vincent makes us read his stuff to help us learn how not to
write," Zach explained.
     Catherine grinned.  "I like it.  It's certainly appropriate
to the circumstances."  She regarded Vincent fondly.  "You're
probably one of the few people in New York who knows that didn't
originate with Snoopy."  Catherine knew Vincent's cultural
literacy was sufficiently vast to encompass the legendary beagle
as well as minor Victorian novelists.  What a remarkable man
she'd married.
     "That's a pretty long name for a little cat," Zach objected.
     "Well, obviously, he has to have a nickname too," Samantha
informed him in a superior tone.
     "You could call him Bulwer for short," Teresa suggested.
     "Or Bull," Vincent amended, his gaze firmly fixed over
Catherine's head.
     "I think Bulwer's perfect," Catherine announced, in a tone
that did not invite disagreement.  "It's kind of dignified--maybe
he'll grow into it."
     Samantha bounced up and down in excitement.  "We should have
a naming ceremony for him, just like we do for babies!"
     A sudden flicker of emotion, gone almost before he felt it,
caused Vincent to turn quickly to Catherine.  Her head was bowed,
and she seemed inordinately interested in the pattern of a sofa
     "That's dumb," Kipper scoffed.
     "Did you have one for Arthur?" Maria asked.
     "Nope," Kipper pointed out.
     "We wouldn't want to hurt Arthur's feelings," Vincent
suggested softly.   
     "I guess not," Samantha reluctantly agreed.
     "Well," Vincent continued, "I think it's time we learned
about English in Shakespeare's time.  Do you think you'll be able
to pay proper attention, or shall I take Bulwer upstairs?"
     Faithfully promising Vincent they would not be distracted,
the children settled down and remained on their best behavior
throughout the tape and their teacher's subsequent lesson. 
Afterwards, they all helped Vincent and Catherine clean up so
they could go Below without further delay.  Unwilling to leave
Bulwer on his own, Catherine found an old picnic basket that
could be pressed into service as a cat carrier.  As they made
their way, they decided it was much too dangerous to let Bulwer
loose in the Tunnels. However, they were at a loss to decide how
to limit his wanderings in a place that lacked real doors.  To
any Tunnel resident, a curtain closing off a room was as
inviolate as a locked door would be, but how to explain that to a
kitten?  Catherine finally concluded they would have to trust to
Mouse's ingenuity to come up with something.  Kipper found the
idea of a Mouse helping out a cat very funny.
     Vincent and Catherine spent the rest of the weekend absorbed
in the life of the Tunnels.  Vincent spent every day there when
Catherine was at work, but Catherine was seldom able to manage
more than one or two nights a week Below in addition to weekends. 
Since the loss of her father, and her marriage to Vincent,
Catherine had become an integral part of the community, and when
she was Below she seemed to spend all her time inundated by
people wanting to show her what they'd been doing since her last
appearance.  The children, especially, were as fascinated with
"Vincent's Catherine" as ever, but less in awe of her since her
presence had become so familiar.
     As he and Catherine prepared for bed that evening, Vincent
watched Bulwer test the web-like contraption Mouse had rigged
over the the door of their outer chamber.  Fortunately, it seemed
to be one of his successful inventions.  The kitten didn't seem
to mind--perhaps he saw it as a cat gym provided for his
amusement, rather than a means of restraint.  Entering the inner
room, Vincent found Catherine already in bed, gazing fondly at
Kristoffer's portrait of them where it graced the wall next to
the door.  She smiled as the artist's rendition and the even more
beautiful original stood side by side for a moment; then Vincent
moved forward to settle gratefully beside her in the large bed.
"If you don't mind, Catherine, it would probably be a good idea
to spend tonight sleeping."
     "After last night, I'm forced to agree.  I could hardly keep
my eyes open after dinner."  She snuggled close to her
deliciously warm husband.  "Besides, I read someplace that the
average married couple makes love 6.2 times per month.  We're way
     Silence.  "Vincent?"
     "I was just wondering how one makes love .2 times."
     "Too quickly for my taste!" Catherine laughed.
     Vincent rubbed his cheek against Catherine's hair.  "I'm
afraid we take advantage of your generous nature.  You give so
much in your work Above, then come Below where we demand even
more.  No wonder you're tired."
     "Don't be silly--I love it; especially the children."
     Vincent held her closer.  "I noticed."
     "I can't believe how fast little Cathy's growing--and Lena's
such a good mother.  I was so worried whether bringing her down
here was the right decision.  Thank God it worked out so well."
     "Catherine--have I told you how happy I am to be married to
     Catherine lifted her head to look at his face.  "Regularly. 
But I never get tired of hearing it."  She gently traced his
cheekbones, and the line of golden fur from his nose to where it
disappeared under his hair.  "I love you."
     Vincent stroked her hair as she settled back against his
chest, not trusting himself to speak for a moment.  "And I love

* * *

     Several days later, Vincent meandered along the familiar
route towards what Cullen had dubbed "the Chandler-Wells
Residence."  Slipping through the well-concealed entrance, an
engineering triumph of Mouse and Cullen, he made his way up the
narrow winding stair concealed inside the wall of the house.  He
paused, concentrating on the bond.  Catherine was near, and alone
... she was always careful to warn him if it wasn't safe to
enter.  As he drew his attention back to his other five senses,
he realized something smelled quite wonderful.  His long fingers
went unerringly to the hidden trigger.  As the wall pivoted,
Catherine turned to smile at his entrance.
     "Catherine," he exclaimed in astonishment.  "You're ...
     "You don't need to sound quite so surprised.  It's hardly
the first time you've seen me do it."
     "It isn't something you ... er ... choose to do often." In
the interests of diplomacy, among other things, he bent to kiss
her. "Mmmm."
     "You have something very tasty on the corner of your mouth."
     "You're just trying to distract me.  I happen to be quite a
decent cook, if you don't expect anything too complicated." 
Catherine began stacking dishes on the counter.  "My mother liked
to cook. I used to help her in the kitchen, before ... well, then
my dad had a very grandmotherly sort of housekeeper who let me do
the same with her.  I'm sure she felt sorry for me."
     "You must have been very lonely, with your father working so
     Catherine took off her floury apron, the better to embrace
her husband.  "Dear heart, don't sound so sad.  That's all in the
past ... and you've given me an even bigger family to replace the
one I've lost."  They stood there for a long moment, until a
peremptory buzzer from the direction of the oven called Catherine
back to her responsibilities.  Vincent sniffed appreciatively as
she carefully took four loaves out of the oven.
     "Is there some particular reason," Vincent queried, "for
this sudden ..."
     "Domestic fit?"  Catherine smiled and turned back to begin
loading the dishwasher.  "Part of it's the holidays coming up. 
Thanksgiving's pretty close, and pumpkin bread seems just the
thing for this time of year.  Besides, we had a shower today at
lunchtime for one of the paralegals.  Maybe that got me in the
     "A wedding shower?" Vincent asked idly, as he began putting
away containers of baking supplies.
     "No.  A baby shower."  Catherine's voice was even--too even. 
Through the bond, all Vincent could sense was a smooth,
impenetrable surface.  Her absence of emotion told him more than
its presence ever could.  She never tried to hide her feelings
from him, unless they might cause him pain.  He stood still,
irresolute, at a loss for what do.  Her back to him, she calmly
continued with her task like an automaton.  Stretching out a hand
to her, Vincent was about to speak when a knock rapped at the
cellar door.  Catherine quickly moved to open it, and the moment
was lost.
     "Jamie!  We didn't expect to see you tonight."
     "I'm sorry.  I know you were just Below last night and you
must have lots of work to do ..."
     Catherine patted Jamie's shoulder.  "Nothing that can't wait
another day.  How can we help?"
     "It's the play we're working on for Thanksgiving.  Mouse has
come up with some terrific special effects, but they're kinda
complicated.  I told him we needed to do a trial run, a kind of
... what do you call it ..."
     "Technical rehearsal?" Vincent prompted.
     "Right!  Well, you know Mouse, he insists Vincent and
Catherine are the only ones outside the cast who can see what
he's got planned.  He wouldn't pay attention to anyone else's
advice anyway."  Jamie sighed.  "I told him you were probably
busy, but he can't stand waiting 'till Friday."
     "Of course we'll come," Catherine said brightly.  "Won't we,
     "Of course."
     Relief was obvious on Jamie's face.  Getting Mouse to accept
"no" for an answer could be very trying.  "Why don't you come
Below for dinner?  There's still time.  I'll help you carry the
pumpkin bread."
     Vincent shook his head in dismay.  "Jamie, that is the most
blatant hint I have ever..."
     Smiling, Catherine began wrapping the warm bread in towels
while Vincent unearthed a basket. "I hope William won't think I'm
after his job."
     "Don't worry, Catherine," Jamie reassured her.  "Even if
your bread is better than his, nobody would dare say so."

     After a short but spectacular demonstration of Mouse's
latest inspirations, all concluded that more work was necessary. 
A little nervous about her responsibilities as head of the
costume department, Lena begged for Catherine's advice.  Vincent
encouraged Catherine to accept the task, claiming a good long
visit with Father was overdue.
     "Vincent!  How good to see you again so soon.  How was the
     "Fine, Father." Vincent sat wearily in a chair opposite him. 
"We were able to put the fire out right away."
     "Never mind."
     Alerted by something in Vincent's voice, Father looked
sharply at his son.  "Is something wrong?  You came for more than
a visit, didn't you?"
     Vincent sighed and leaned back in the chair.  "I cannot bear
to see Catherine hurt ... but she is in pain, and I am the
     "Surely not!  I can't believe you ..."
     "Father, she wants a child.  My child."
     A charged silence hung in the air for a moment, then the
older man spoke with great care.  "She's told you this?"
     "Not in so many words. We haven't really discussed it since
we first became lovers, but that was almost a year ago. I was
unwilling to risk it, but Catherine has such courage ... I'm sure
she agreed because of my fear, not her own." 
     "Has she said or done anything recently," Father asked,
"that leads you to believe her desire for a child is more
     "It is less what she says than what she avoids saying--and
feelings she takes care to block from me."  Vincent leaned
forward, his head in his hands.  "But I know it's true--and I
don't know what to do."
     "How can I help?"
     "I know the story of how I was found, but I thought perhaps
... some small thing, some detail you thought unimportant,
anything that might tell me ..." Father started as Vincent's fist
pounded the table in frustration.  "If only I knew!"
     "One thing I'm sure of--Paracelsus' story was a total
fabrication, meant only to manipulate and hurt you.  You must put
it out of your mind."
     "Vincent, it makes no sense!  Higher species require the
care of parents to survive--it would be evolutionary suicide to
destroy one's mother at birth."
     "Women die in childbirth," Vincent said hoarsely, regretting
the words as soon as they left his lips.
     A look of pain passed over his father's face like the shadow
of a cloud over the ground. "I know that only too well." Father
sighed.  "Vincent, no matter what I've told you, you've convinced
yourself that you were the cause of your mother's death in
childbirth--or that she abandoned you because she couldn't bear
the sight of you."
     "Both likely possibilities," Vincent insisted bitterly.
     Father reached over to lay a hand on his son's arm. "No more
likely than a number of others.  Yes, your mother may have died
in childbirth, but for reasons having nothing to do with your
uniqueness.  She could have been sick, or poor, with no medical
care.  Such women die giving birth at a disgraceful rate, even
     Vincent remained silent, so Father was emboldened to
continue.  "She could have been in the control of others, who
took you from her without her knowledge.  It may even have been
kindly meant--you were left at a hospital.  The rags you were
wrapped in gave no clue, nor did your condition.  You were small,
and very sick at first, but we weren't sure how long you'd been
outside.  It could have been no more than exposure.  You didn't
appear premature, at least not significantly."
     "In other words, no one knows anything of use.  Father, how
can I allow Catherine to risk herself when I know so little?  If
anything happened to her because of me, I couldn't bear it."
     "There is another consideration."
     Vincent lifted his head wearily.  "What?"
     "Your biochemistry is unusual.  Scientifically speaking, I
think it's unlikely you and Catherine could conceive a child ...
surely that's occurred to you?"
     "Yes," Vincent admitted.  "If that were the case, I think
she could accept it in time.  But never to know, never to try ...
she loves me so much, Father, I can still hardly believe it."
     "And, loving you as she does, it's only natural she wants to
bear you a child."
     Vincent looked at his father in wonder.  "She would even
welcome one like me."
     Father grasped Vincent's hand.  "She is not the only one. 
But what about you?  How do you feel?"
     "Sometimes, when I see her with the children Below--or even
with that kitten--I think there is nothing I could want more. 
But to expose her to such a risk, or place such a burden on a
child ... "  Before Father could think of an encouraging
response, familiar footsteps sounded in the passageway.
     "Well, are you two having a nice visit?" Catherine kissed
Father lightly on the cheek before moving to her husband's side. 
"Lena's finally through with me.  I really should spend some time
working ... would you like to stay Below longer?"
     Vincent rose to his feet and slipped his arm around
Catherine.  "No, I'll come back with you. Goodbye, Father."  As
he bent to kiss the older man's forehead, Father hugged him
closely.  Their eyes held for a long, wordless moment when they
     "Goodbye, Vincent--Catherine.  Take care."

* * *

     The next morning, as Catherine was about to leave for work,
Vincent took her hand.  "Would you mind staying alone tonight? 
There are ... things I need to take care of Below that will take
me far from the central chambers.  It would be difficult to make
the journey in a single day."
     Catherine smiled at her husband.  "It wasn't that long ago,
dear heart, that seeing you two days in a row was heaven.  I
don't want to be selfish, or have our family Below think I'm
monopolizing you too much. If you have things to do, now is
actually a pretty good time--I'm trying to get as much work done
as possible right now so I can relax over Thanksgiving.  I'll
spend the evening in the study slaving over legal briefs--and
Bulwer will keep me company."
     "You are a most understanding wife, Catherine."
     "We aim to please ... but there's one thing you have to do
     "And what might that be?"
     "Give me a goodbye kiss that'll keep me going for two days."
     Vincent smiled as he drew her face toward his.  "We aim to
     As he made his way Below, Vincent felt more than a little
uncomfortable.  He hadn't exactly lied to Catherine, but had let
her assume that his absence would be due to some work that needed
to be done in the Tunnels.  He began to brood, not for the first
time, over the unequal burden their bond placed on Catherine. 
She did not have the luxury of hiding her feelings from him
completely, since the act of doing so was revealing in itself. 
She sacrificed so much to love him--even the privacy of her own
emotions.  Did he have the right to ask her to sacrifice
motherhood as well?  But the alternative might mean the sacrifice
of her very life.  When he reached the hub, Vincent sought out
Father, relieved to discover he had not yet gone to breakfast.
     "Father, may I speak with you a moment?"
     "Of course ... have you eaten?  We could have breakfast
here, or join the community ..."
     "No--I came to tell you I won't be able to teach today.  Is
Rebecca free to step in for me?"
     "I'll ask, but I'm quite sure she would be happy to; she
quite enjoys teaching." He looked at Vincent sharply.  "Is
something wrong?  Is Catherine ill?  I could--"
     "No, nothing like that," Vincent hastened to reassure him. 
"I just need to ... get away for a while."
     Father leaned against the table and regarded his son with
concern.  "This wouldn't have anything to do with what we
discussed last night, would it?"
     Vincent nodded.  "I'd like to leave as soon as possible, to
avoid questions."
     Father approached Vincent and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"I understand, my boy.  Why don't you take what you need from
your chamber, and I'll get you some food from the kitchen.  Don't
worry about your class; if Rebecca can't take it, I shall."
     Vincent placed his hand over Father's in wordless gratitude. 
After some hesitation, he spoke again.  "Catherine has a great
deal of work to occupy her right now, so I doubt you'll see her,
but ... she assumed I would be away on some task for the
     "And you failed to correct that assumption."
     Vincent nodded his bowed head, lifting it only at the sound
of his father's chuckle.
     "Good heavens, Vincent, you look as guilty as if you'd
committed adultery!  Total honesty in a marriage, or any
relationship, is not always the best policy.  I presume you had a
good reason for your silence."
     "I know that Catherine and I need to talk about this, but it
doesn't seem fair to bring it up when my own feelings are in such
confusion--it would only upset her to no purpose.  I know what
she wants.  I don't know yet what I want--or if what I want is
what I should have."
     "I wish I could give you your answer, Vincent."
     "But you cannot, Father.  I must try to find it for myself."
     A short while later, Vincent moved quickly through a maze of
lesser-used passages, trying to put as much distance as possible
between himself and the most densely inhabited part of the
Tunnels before the day's activities began in earnest.  One of the
disadvantages of living in a community that was more like a large
extended family than a village was the relative lack of privacy. 
Sometimes he felt like the last few years of his life had been
played out on a stage for the amusement and edification of his
friends and family.  He was more pleased than he liked to admit
that Catherine had managed to provide a place for the two of them
to be alone together, a place not totally a part of either her
world or his.
     Vincent smiled.  More than once, he and Catherine had spoken
with wry amusement of the symbolic burden their love seemed to
have acquired over the years.  Even if the path to true love was
traditionally uneven, theirs had been strewn with particularly
large boulders and deep abysses--and every up and down, every
twist and turn, was avidly followed by a disconcertingly
attentive, though loving, audience.  When he had finally found
the courage to consummate their love almost a year ago, the more
astute inhabitants of the Tunnels figured it out almost at once,
and within days he and Catherine found idiotic grins bestowed on
them everywhere they went.  Their wedding a few months later
acquired an aura that made the most historic royal nuptials look
pale by comparison.
     Shifting the pack on his back as the route became steeper
and rougher, Vincent thought of Winslow.  As if it were only
yesterday, he could see his friend's dark face in the light of
the fire, speaking his heart in a way he had never done before. 
The love of himself and Catherine was important enough to Winslow
that he was willing to give his life to preserve it.  Time and
again, Vincent had sensed that same feeling in others, though
never stated as clearly as Winslow had.  Without realizing it,
the community had come to believe that as long as he and
Catherine were together, anything was possible--the
reconciliation of Above and Below, the reality of "happily ever
after," love itself.  If any force, internal or external,
destroyed their union, it would break hearts in a way much deeper
than personal sorrow ... it would be as if the universe itself
had betrayed them, and Vincent feared they would never again dare
to dream.   
     Would a child be the fulfillment of their dream, or its
destruction?  Over the past year, and especially since the
wedding, Vincent had noticed many a speculative glance in
Catherine's direction, most of them directed toward her middle. 
Whenever Catherine played with the children--which, he realized
with a pang, she did more and more often--Mary would look from
her to him in a way that could have only one interpretation. 
Lena, too, and many another young parent or prospective "aunt" or
"uncle" exhibited the same mixture of indulgence, curiosity, and
discreet speculation.  Only four people knew that he and
Catherine  were preventing the conception of a child, and two of
them had been told only because of their status as physicians. 
     No matter how curious their friends were, Vincent knew they
would never ask, too sensitive to the possibility that conceiving
a child might simply be impossible for them.  "The children that
are yet to be born" ... It still pained him to remember that
night.  When he had closed the Tunnel door against Catherine's
tearful face, he was sure he had destroyed any possibility of 
happiness for himself, but given her back the future she
deserved.  He shook his head.  It was difficult now to remember
how he could once have believed her love for him could have been
so easily set aside.  After their joyous reunion, she had given
him the barest account of the events at Nancy's.  It was enough,
however, to tell him that Catherine had had within her grasp
exactly the kind of life she had always thought she wanted, and
fled from it in the middle of the night to come back to him.  It
was clear to her then, although not yet to Vincent, that no life
without him could be a happy one for Catherine.  If the price of
that were the dream of children, so be it.  His head spinning
with questions, Vincent vowed to push them all from his mind
until he reached his destination--the distant waterfall where he
had gone that night to contemplate the unbearable bleakness of a
future without Catherine in it.
      Between the relentless pace he set himself, and the strain
of not thinking about the problem that consumed him, Vincent
arrived at the falls feeling hot, disheveled, and grubby. 
Setting his gear in a protected cavity in the rocks, he quickly
stripped off his clothes and began to climb.  When his body split
the water in a graceful dive, the cold revived him and he began
to swim back and forth across the large pool, slipping into the
familiar rhythm without the need for thought.  He enjoyed the
sensations of his powerful muscles as they propelled him through
the water; of the warming blood pumping faster; of the air
filling his lungs deeply as he swam.  
     For too many years his physical strength and power had been
something to be feared, the beast that emerged after Lisa's
flight always lurking in the shadows, threatening his control. 
It had been Catherine who first realized, after the horror of
Paracelsus' bloody end, that Love was stronger than Death. 
Carefully, slowly, she led him to discover on his own that
wholeness lay not in destroying that dark side, but embracing it. 
Only after that had he found the courage to love her, and what a
glorious world had opened up then.  To know his body not as a
source of fear, or shame, but as a source of pleasure--not only
for himself, but, wonder of wonders, for her.  He continued his
rhythmic stroking, memory and and present sensation flowing
together to create a delicious feeling of warmth.  At first his
exertions banished the chill, and he continued swimming for
hours, back and forth, until the cold once again asserted itself.
     As he emerged, dripping, he began to shiver.  Drying himself
off with his shirt, Vincent was glad he had thought to bring a
spare.  He smiled a wry and faintly bitter smile.  No matter how
much he might resemble certain large felines, he lacked the
ability to shake off water as easily as they did.  This strange
body of his might grant him strength and stamina most men would
envy, but not the least of its disadvantages was excessive drying
time ... gradually his smile took on a very different character. 
Catherine had certainly found ways to make that particular
disadvantage less onerous.  Suddenly he stopped the mechanical
action of rubbing and stared at the leg he was drying as if
seeing it for the first time.  Damp fur clung closely to the
corded muscle of his thigh, and Vincent contemplated it for a
long time before picking up his cloak and moving to the other
side of the pool, far from the waterfall.
     There, removed from the force of the falling water and
protected by an outcropping of rock, was a smaller pool whose
surface was relatively still.  Spreading his cloak on the pebbled
ground, Vincent knelt and leaned far over the water.  Only a
little distorted by an occasional ripple, his reflection stared
back at him.  Was this a monster?  "I have never regretted what I
am ... until now."  Very poetic, but hardly true.  In the years
that led up to that remarkable time he had managed to forget,
conveniently, any number of regrets.  There was the time Devin
had taken him to see the moon, and a little girl had cried at the
sight of him, shattering his youthful innocence forever.  When he
was older, the obligatory swimming lessons all the Tunnel
children had to take--only the elusive Mouse had managed to
escape--caused him pain all the more acute for being kept hidden. 
Among a gaggle of playmates as sleek and smooth as porpoises, he
felt keenly the difference of his already-furred small body.  And
Lisa--no regrets? Only an unspoken convinction that the physical
expression of love was impossible for him, a conviction strong
enough to deny him that pleasure for almost half his life, and
cause Catherine years of unecessary pain and longing.
     Catherine ... what a miracle she was.  Never, in all the
years they had been together, had he detected the slightest trace
of disgust or even distaste at his strangeness.  When she flung a
plate at him the first time she saw his face, he had fled in
unthinking misery, until he realized what the strange new bond
with her was telling him.  Her horror had been a reaction not to
the sight of him, but to her own ravaged face.  When she lifted
the concealing hood away and looked at him, the combination of
her physical proximity and her emotions almost drove him to flee
again in confusion.  Not disgust, not fear--only wonder,
curiosity, and the beginnings of what she would eventually come
to recognize as love.  Vincent pondered his reflection for a long
time, but the discomfort of his leaning position finally forced
him to move.  Sitting back, he wrapped himself in the cloak and
remained in that spot for hours, staring unseeing at the
waterfall until sleep claimed him.

* * *          

     "... let us be thankful."
     "Before we attack this exceptional bounty ..."  Vincent
raised his head as Father continued beyond the traditional
Thanksgiving ritual.  "I feel more than the usual degree of
gratitude is in order.  Never since the founding of our community
has a single year given us so much to be thankful for.  Releasing
Vincent's hand, he turned sideways and raised his glass.  "To
Vincent and Catherine, who this year made their dream, and ours,
come true."
     Recognizing Vincent's mild discomfiture at being the center
of attention, Catherine squeezed his hand before releasing it to
pick up her glass.  Turning to Father, she smiled with disarming
sweetness and raised her glass to him in turn.  "I'm so glad it's
turned into 'our' dream--I remember, not too long ago, when it
was your worst nightmare."
     William let out a belly laugh of such magnitude--considering
the size of the belly in question--that a lesser assistant than
Brooke might have dropped the massive turkey she was carefully
lowering onto the well-laden table.  As laughter rippled around
the tables, Father protested feebly while several people
gleefully repeated some of his more ill-advised remarks
concerning the potentially disastrous consequences of his son's
relationship with a particular Topsider.  Having set the pigeon
firmly among the cats, Catherine sat back with satisfaction and
began helping herself to stuffing.
     Vincent leaned over to kiss her ear before whispering into
it.  "Remind me to give thanks that I married such an intelligent
and thoughtful woman."
     "Of course, dear." She patted his knee.  "I didn't get into
Columbia Law School just because daddy could afford the tuition."
     As Catherine pressed huge amounts of food on him, Vincent
looked around the room with profound gratitude.  Sebastian was
making exaggerated faces at one of Peter's notoriously bad jokes;
Pascal was eating as fast as he could so he could return to the
pipe chamber; Lena was unsuccessfully trying to convince little
Cathy that cranberry sauce was more effectively eaten with a
spoon than with the fingers.  The past year had certainly been
the happiest of his life.  Within a few months of last
Thanksgiving, he had managed to acquire a lover, a home, and a
wife.  It was also the most peaceful year he had spent since
meeting Catherine.  Between her insistence on transferring to a
less dangerous section of the DA's office, and the acquisition of
the house that was such a safe haven, even Father could find
little to complain about these days--at least as far as his son
was concerned.  For so long the future had been something to
contemplate with trepidation, wondering what new obstacle the
Fates would place between them and happiness.  But now, for the
first time in years, it seemed appropriate to face it with
     It seemed hours before the meal was finally over.  Ever
since Catherine had become a Helper, their Thanksgiving feast
grew more massive each year.  Father was suspicious, but William
was decidedly unforthcoming on the source of such increasing
bounty.  After the last of the clean-up detail made off with the
remnants, guests and residents began to move around the room,
talking and greeting old friends.
     Catherine gravitated immediately toward her tiny namesake,
sweeping a happily shrieking little Cathy off the floor into a
huge hug while her indulgent mother looked on.  Vincent watched,
saying little, as Catherine and Lena became involved in an
intense conversation about Cathy's cleverness, attractiveness,
and precocity.  After a while, he let the ebb and flow of people
carry him away, until he was captured by Elizabeth.
     "Vincent, my sweet boy, how nice to see you."  She patted
his cheek and fixed him with a steady gaze.  "You look quite
well, dear--marriage must agree with you."  
     "Completely."  He smiled at her.  "I only wish I had come to
that conclusion earlier."
     "Things happen in their own time, Vincent," Elizabeth
insisted, taking his hand.  "Catherine told me just last weekend
she's afraid to wish anything had happened earlier--because
everything was so wonderful now, she wouldn't dare wish for
things to have happened differently."
     "She said that?" Vincent whispered.  
     Elizabeth smiled at the awestruck look on his face.  "Oh,
she goes on and on about what a perfectly wonderful husband you
are.  I'm surprised your ears aren't burning all the time."
     Vincent ducked his head and sought for another subject of
conversation.  "I didn't realize that Catherine visited you so
     "Oh, yes, dear, she visits me quite often when you're busy. 
She loves to see the Painted Tunnels."
     "A great compliment to your work."
     "Tush!  Remember, dear boy, those are the only wedding
pictures she has."
     "Of course ..." A fleeting look of sadness passed over his
face.  "I never thought of that."
     "And," Elizabeth grinned mischievously, "they're the only
pictures she has of her handsome husband, except that lovely
thing of Kristoffer's.  She particularly loves the one of you as
a baby."
     Vincent's head rose.  "How do you know?"
     "Why, it's obvious.  Every time she comes to the Painted
Tunnels, she has to touch that one of Father holding you ... and
she has the sweetest look on her face when she does.  It makes me
wish I'd done more pictures of you, but that wouldn't have been
fair to the others, would it?  Of course, you were special ..."
     "So are you, dear Elizabeth.  And so is Catherine."
     "Yes, indeed, Vincent.  Now I must find Mouse.  I'm almost
out of burnt sienna ..."
     Vincent watched Elizabeth as she moved away through the
crowd.  For a long time he stood, an island of stillness in a sea
of movement and laughter.  Finally, he went in search of Peter
     "Vincent!"  William's homemade ale seemed to have made Peter
more ebullient than usual.  "I hope you're taking good care of my
Cathy, or Charles will come back to haunt me.  I promised him a
long time ago if anything ever happened to him, I'd do my best to
see that she was happy."  Peter looked Vincent in the eye.  "He
would have been surprised at you, no getting around it.  But he
would have approved when he came to know you.  I'm sure of it."
     "I made him a promise, also," Vincent replied softly,
"although I'll never know if he really heard it.  I shall always
regret that I never had the opportunity to really know him--I owe
him so much."
     "He certainly raised a remarkable daughter," Peter nodded. 
"She deserves all the happiness you've given her."
     "I think," Vincent sighed, "she deserves more than I've
given her."
     Peter's look of skepticism was almost comical.  Vincent took
a deep breath.  "Peter, you knew me as a baby; Father told you
about how I was found--what do you think happened to my mother?"
     At first, Peter looked puzzled at this unexpected turn of
the conversation, then the light dawned.  "There's no evidence
that your birth harmed her in any way."
     "Nor is there any evidence it didn't."
     "There are times when I regret Jacob taught you logic."
     "Peter--what do you think I am?" Vincent's implacable face
made it clear he would brook no evasion.
     "Oh, Vincent ... I wish I could tell you.  With the advances
in genetic engineering I've seen in the past few years, anything
seems possible in the future--but thirty-five years ago?  No one
then could have approached even the primitive skills we have
today ... at least not in this world."  Peter laid his hand
gently on Vincent's arm.  "I've always seen you as a miracle ...
a gift."
     As if by agreement, both pairs of eyes turned toward the
room to seek out Catherine.  Lena had taken baby Cathy off to
bed, and Catherine was now attentively listening to Maria and
Teresa as they reported at length the results of their extensive
survey of all the residents Below on the care and feeding of
kittens.  Finally tearing his eyes away from the sight, Vincent
addressed Peter again.  "I have been given one great miracle in
my life, Peter.  Perhaps I'm afraid to ask for another."
     "I wouldn't be surprised," Peter replied, "if a lot of
people in this room were already asking in your behalf."

     Catherine had been successful enough in clearing up her work
to forget about the world Above for the next three days.  The
newlyweds attended a post-mortem on the Thanksgiving play, which
had gone off without major casualties; led a marathon reading of
*The Forgotten Beasts of Eld*; avoided playing chess with Father;
escaped to the Mirror Pool for a starlight picnic; peeled
countless potatoes; broke up a fight between Kipper and Zach;
helped Rebecca make candles; and made love every night.
     Early Sunday evening, Catherine reluctantly forced herself
to face the responsibilities of her other life.  Tracking down
Vincent in Father's study, she walked up behind his chair and
wrapped her arms around his neck.  "It's been the loveliest
weekend--I hate to have it end."
     "Is it time to go Above?" Vincent bowed his head to kiss her
     "Time for me, anyway.  Would you like to stay longer?"
     "No ... I need to prepare for class tomorrow, and most of
the books I need are Above."  He rose and took her hand.  "Let's
go home."
     When they arrived at the house, Catherine went upstairs to
her office while Vincent settled in the library.  He tried to
concentrate on his self-appointed task, but with little success. 
He would find a passage he was seeking, begin reading, and know
nothing more until some sound outside would pull him out of the
reverie into which he had fallen.  Restless, he wandered around
the room, absently touching a book here, a chess piece there. 
Coming to the table where several photographs rested in their
silver frames, he stared a long time without touching.  In one,
Nancy and Paul Tucker stood with their children in front of their
home.  Another showed a large contingent of Aaronsons surrounding
Jenny, all smiling in the light of Hanukkah candles.  Peter and
his daughter posed comically in front of a large cactus ... Joe
Maxwell with Edie at her farewell party ... Devin and Charles ...
Last was a photograph of a wide-eyed five-year-old Catherine,
holding tight to her mother's hand in the Central Park Zoo.
     Leaving the library, Vincent turned out the lights and made
his way upstairs.  More time must have passed than he'd realized;
he found Catherine already in bed.  Some file folders scattered
around her testified to her determination to do more work, but
Bulwer had apparently distracted her from her good intentions. 
Eyes closed in ecstacy, he kneaded her lap furiously as she
petted him.  Vincent could not help but smile at the sight as he
began to undress.  When he came to sit beside Catherine a little
while later, the tableau was unchanged.
     "I hope Bulwer appreciates his good fortune.  You seem to
have become quite fond of him in a short time."
     Catherine smiled up at him.  "Maybe it's that beautiful
golden color of his."
     "Or his winning personality."
     Catherine cuddled Bulwer in her arms.  "Could be.  Or maybe
I just needed something *small* and furry to love."  Suddenly,
without warning, Catherine's face crumpled and she began to cry. 
Vincent was no more surprised than she was; Bulwer leaped from
her arms as her hands flew to her face in consternation.  She
shook her head in denial, but the tears wouldn't stop.
     "Oh, God, Vincent, I'm sorry--I don't know what's come over
     Vincent's heart thudded in his chest.  The moment of truth. 
He gathered her into his arms and held her close.  "Yes you do,
dearest, and so do I.  You want a child, and have only agreed to
avoid having one for my sake.  I'm sorry."
     "No, we both agreed--"
     "That was almost a year ago, when we first became lovers. 
It was hardly fair on my part, was it?  After years of waiting,
standing in the doorway of a bedroom filled with candles and
roses ... you were afraid to let anything stop us before I lost
my courage.  Things are different now.  We must talk about it--
I've been a fool not to have seen it sooner."
     "Don't you dare say that!  You were only concerned for me,
afraid it would be dangerous."
     Vincent loosened his embrace to brush the hair from her
tear-streaked face.  "It may well be impossible."
     "I realize that. But never to know..."
     Lowering his eyes, he took her hands in his.  "I know how
brave you are, Catherine ... but if I were the cause of any harm
to you ... I don't think I could live with that."
     "Dear heart, the same danger has been faced throughout
history, by every woman who's ever conceived a child.  I know
you've always assumed the worst, but there's no real reason to
believe having your child would be any more dangerous than having
anyone else's.  And I want yours--only yours."
     Freeing one hand from hers, Vincent lifted it before them. 
"Even if we are willing to face the consequences for ourselves,
have we the right to create another like me?  What of the child? 
I keep thinking of that little girl in the park, all those years
ago ..."
     "How do you it wasn't seeing Devin that made her cry?"  At
Vincent's disbelieving look, she continued seriously.  "Some
children are easily frightened, you know--William could have
scared her just as much if she'd seen him ... remember, you never
frightened Eric.  Or ..."  Suddenly her voice softened.  "Has it
ever occurred to you that she didn't cry because she was afraid? 
Maybe she thought you were the most beautiful, magical creature
she'd ever seen in her whole life, and cried because she was
being carried away from you.  I can understand that.  I felt the
same way the first time you took me back to my apartment, and
disappeared.  Only I was too grown-up to cry ... at least on the
     Vincent's own eyes became suspiciously bright at her words. 
"My dearest, dearest Catherine--when I'm with you, especially
when we make love--I feel beautiful."
     "You are beautiful!  I'm not the only one who thinks so. 
Ask Lena.  Ask Jenny ... or Mary, or Jamie, or--"  Catherine took
his hand back, laying it against her cheek.  "Remember, even if
our child took after you, he'd be a separate person.  He wouldn't
grow up wondering who his parents were and how they felt about
him.  He wouldn't be all alone, the only one of his kind.  He'd
be forewarned about what he might have to face, because his
father had been there before him."  She smiled a little, holding
his eyes with her own.  "Your life didn't turn out so badly, did
it?  Our child's could be even better, spared some of the pain--
or at least guided through it."
     Vincent was quiet for a moment, thoughtful.  "There is one
more thing.  Most in your world don't know of our marriage, nor
would they recognize its legitimacy if they knew."
     "Do you think I care?  Nor would a lot of others.  My life's
too quiet now to be of interest to the tabloids or even the
office gossip mill.  I'd have to be a movie star, or maybe the
Trumps, to be news now.  Manhattan is full of single mothers ...
and nothing like that would matter to anyone who's really
important to me."  Catherine paused for a moment.  "I have so
much to be thankful for, I should be content.  But you've always
told me to follow my heart--and it's pulling me in only one
direction.  I can't believe it would mislead me."
     Vincent bowed his head; he seemed to have nothing more to
say.  A charged silence settled; even the city around them seemed
to be holding its breath.  Slowly, he looked up again into the
infinite promise of Catherine's eyes.  "Then we must follow where
it leads, because I can no longer deny my own heart leads me the
same way."  
     Catherine neither moved nor spoke for a moment, afraid to
believe what she had heard.  Then, with a cry of joy, she threw
her arms around Vincent's neck, burying her tearful face in his
     The city began to breathe again.  Unnoticed at the foot of
the bed, two green eyes looked first at one, then the other. 
Settling paws under him and tail around, a small golden kitten
tucked himself into a sleek package.  With one last look at the
two before him, he closed his eyes in contentment and began to

Written Autumn 1990
Originally published in "Forever & Always" #4

About the Author

Edith Crowe is an academic librarian who has been involved in
various fandoms (starting with Star Trek) since 1972. Beauty and
the Beast, however, is the one she's most emotional about and the
first (and so far only) one to inspire her to write fiction. She
has had seven "continuing classic" stories published in the late
80s and early 90s, in zines now out of print as far as she knows.
She hopes that publishing them here will allow them to reach not
only people who missed them the first time, but also new fans who
weren't around in the old days. After an enforced haitus from
fandom and from writing--sometimes the Real World just gets in
the way--she has recently jumped in again with both feet. She had
a story published in the "A Kingdom by the Sea" conzine and is
hard at work on another.