What’s Next To Come

       “Well...” Father held Catherine’s chin with his thumb and forefinger, examining the cut along her
jawline, “ it’s not life-threatening.” He was trying to lighten the dark and uncomfortable mood that hung in
the room. It didn’t work. “It will need a few stitches, but I think you’ll live.”
       
       Catherine, perched on Vincent’s bed, tried to give a reassuring look to the brooding figure in the far
corner of the room. Father rummaged in his medical case, completely unaware of the non-verbal
conversation being carried on next to him.
       
       She tried to find his beautiful eyes in the shadows that shrouded him, but Vincent turned away,
avoiding her. So she took it a step further and sent the strongest emotions she could manage through the
bond and her gaze. But Vincent shifted his body away from her and attempted to focus on something
else in the room.
       
       “It seems I’ve left the thread in my chamber.” Father, a little frustrated, came up between Catherine
and Vincent from his med-bag. “You just...” Father found Catherine’s eyes trained unavoidably on
Vincent. Her expression was so terribly enigmatic. He couldn’t tell if she was angry at him, sad, or simply
curious of what was going through his mind at the moment. Father sensed the impending possibility of
an argument and hurriedly made an exit. “You just sit tight, and I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
       
       There was silence. Everything was silent. The clocks ticked, and the sounds of the children playing
around the bend was carried through the chamber, but there was no sound for Catherine and Vincent;
only each other’s haggard breathing.
       
       “Vincent...” Catherine ventured with only her timid voice.
       
       “No.” He cut her off with such conviction it was almost a command.
       
       Taking his tone as it was meant, she gathered her strength and challenged him back. “Vincent, look
at me.”
       
       Silence from the shadowy corner.
       
       “Look at me!” She sat forward even more as if that inch closer would prevent him from turning away.
A dull pain ached between her legs; the memory of him held, not in her mind, but there.
       
       “I can’t.” He admitted in an emphatic whisper.
       
       He was crying, but Catherine saw no tears. Through the bond, her sweet Vincent was weeping,
sobbing, pining, aching, loathing. “Oh, my love...”
       
       “No!” He was much more forceful this time. The desired effect was achieved, Catherine sat still in
her place. “Just please keep away from me.”
       
       Catherine only nodded. “What do we do now?”
       
       “I don’t know.” He breathed. The silence came again, thick and heavy, as if it could be seen in the
air. It became too much for Vincent, and he came out of his corner to pace at a distance from her.
       
       His pace was quick and though he was on the other side of the room, she swore she could feel the
breeze created by him. The scent of him lingered on his body and wafted across her nose at each of his
turns.
       
       “We both know what we should do now.” Vincent stated, eluding to the very thing he was afraid of.
       
       Catherine knew what he meant, but she chose to feign ignorance. “And what is that?” She asked
delicately.
       
       “You have to leave.” His pace never slowed and his eyes never met hers. “We have to end this. Get
as far away from me as possible, Catherine.”
       
       “Vincent...” she was already off the bed and headed toward him.
       
       “Don’t!” He spun toward her, stopped and waiting for her next move... dreading it.
       
       She didn’t come any closer, but she wouldn’t stop her tongue. “Vincent, honestly... it’s alright.” He
began pacing again furiously. “You heard Father, I’ll live!” She tried to reassure.
       
       “Yes, you will!” He affirmed with more conviction than she’d have liked. His simple pacing had
become an actual mission. He found her duffle, serving as her overnight bag, and threw it gently into the
chair nearest her. “Go on, take it.” He looked at her now, but kept as much distance between them as he
could manage. “Go far away. Far beyond my reach. So far that you won’t even chance seeing me.” He
was weeping, that inward weep that made Catherine’s heart shatter. These broken pieces stung as a
visible tear slid down his cheek. “Go so far away that I will no longer be able to... feel you anymore.
Where I won’t be able to hurt you.”
       
       “Please Vincent...” she took a step forward, but stopped.
       
       “Catherine, will you listen to me?! Just this once, listen to me!” He breathed heavily, and she glanced
around herself awkwardly. “It’s happened. We tried.” He seemed to be forcing the words out. How to be
delicate after so intimate an encounter? “There’s no shame in that. We tried. It just cannot be. We just
weren’t meant to be.”
       
       “How...” She was nearly at a loss for words, she was so offended, “how could you say that?! I’m not
ashamed, Vincent! Far from it! I am proud! I am so proud of us, Vincent! I am so proud of you!”
       
       “How could you be proud of this, Catherine?!” He paced again, back and forth. “You’re proud that I
hurt you? That our worst fear has come true?”
       
       “Whose worst fear?” She challenged back. “Vincent, do you really think that I’ve never been in any
way injured during sex?”
       
       He glanced around himself nervously. What a terrible word; sex. So dark and animalistic. So much...
what he had just done to her.
       
       “I’m sorry, that was harsh.” She was quiet again. “It happens, Vincent. Accidents happen. In ‘the
throws of passion’ anything can happen.”
       
       “No... no, this can’t happen... not for you.” He insisted.
       
       “Vincent,” she couldn’t stop the incredulous laugh, “you’re being unreasonable!”
       
       “This isn’t a game, Catherine!” He hollered. “What if I wasn’t able to stop myself?”
       
       “I wouldn’t be as sore as I am right now.” She argued honestly.
       
       “Why are you dismissing this as if it were nothing?” An argument. He was truly angry with her, and
they were having their first real argument.
       
       “Why are you trying to make this into something it’s not?” She hollered back, just as fierce and
determined as he.
       
       “Because it is something, Catherine! It is something! It’s something I’ve prayed would never
happen... and now it has.” He finished quietly. He could feel Catherine’s anger ready and waiting to
bubble to the surface. She was offended, and she wasn’t about to be as delicate as he was attempting
to be.
       
       “Now, I’m confused,” she began with a calm tone, and fire in her eyes, “which part of all this were you
‘praying would never happen’?”
       
       “Catherine...” he looked away, thoroughly embarrassed, ashamed.
       
       Her arms were folded now as her stare bore down on him. “No, I just want to be clear about all this. I
was under the impression that we cared deeply about each other, and that we have simple progressed
to the next stage, finally! But, if I’m wrong...”
       
       “No, Catherine... I love you.” Oddly enough it was difficult to say. Vincent had told her his feelings so
easily before. But the simple, common, three word phrase seemed as if it was stuck in his throat.
       
       “Well... I’m glad we established that.” She interjected sarcastically.
       
       “Stop mocking the situation!” That slid out easily enough.
       
       “What else would you have me do with such a ridiculous situation?”
       
       “Please take this seriously! Catherine... I have always been terrified of hurting you. You know that!”
He paced again, not looking at her, but at the floor.
       
       “I do know that.” She was quiet and completely serious. “But I also know you. And I know myself. And
you are not a boy anymore... and I am not Lisa. I’m not the delicate flower you take me for.” Her voice
went quiet; intimate. “I’m also not a virgin, Vincent. I’m very much experienced at this.”
       
       He stopped. A nearly silent voice, “I know.”
       
       “So believe me when I tell you,” she was slowly advancing on him, as if quick movements might
scare him away, “that you have done nothing that isn’t completely normal.” She reached a tentative hand
up behind him to rest on his shoulder.
       
       Before her hand ever made contact with him, Vincent had spun around and backed away from her.
He fled to a corner and pinned himself there. “Please don’t come near.”
       
       “Vincent...” she pleaded, starting forward again, her hand outstretched to him.
       
       “Don’t touch me!!”
       
       The world was frozen for those moments. Vincent, melding himself into the corner as if a frightened
animal. Catherine, stunned still and a little afraid herself of what would happen next.
       
       No warning, no catalyst, Vincent merely made a frantic dash out of the chamber. Catherine had a
hold on his arm for only a second before he broke out of her grip. She chased him out to the tunnel, but
only caught a glimpse of him disappearing behind to rock wall.
       
       “Vincent!!” She called futilely, tears forming.
       
       “Catherine.” Father’s soft voice approached from behind. “He’ll be alright. Come along.” He tried to
pull her, but she wouldn’t move. “Come along, dear. Let’s get you stitched up.”




Be All My Sins Remembered

       Central Park. It was amazing how some strategically placed trees, fences, walk-ways, and bushes
could hold so many details of Catherine’s life. An oasis amid an ongoing metropolis, the groundwork for
the most major and minor details of her life. As a child she had visited the park to climb trees... to be
closer to her mother. As a teen she had sat and studied. As a young adult it was a bit of a romantic
getaway. Later, when the magic of this park seemed to have died for her, Vincent had rescued her.
Suddenly there was no other place she loved more. Central Park was the gateway to her hopes and
dreams... to him.
       
       And then, she lost him... or he lost her. The details of their separation would never be clear. For
seven long years Central Park was the enemy. It held nothing but beautiful memories that hurt to
remember. Everywhere she turned she found traces of Vincent, and even when she didn’t, she saw the
children delivering messages, or Helpers delivering goods. She had raised Anna to stay away from the
park, which only worked for a few years. The park was a haunting memory that she couldn’t escape.
       
       Catherine breathed in the crisp Central Park air; very different from the New York City air. Winter
was approaching; the heavy, bitter smell of impending snow in the air. The park was beautiful in winter; it
sparkled and glittered, a winter wonderland of it’s own definition. There wasn’t much beauty now, autumn
had passed and Central Park was held in stasis, waiting for winter to blanket it. The trees were
unattractively bare and the colorful leaves that would typically layer the ground were few and far between;
only a couple had escaped the city’s maintenance crews.
       
       As she walked, she let the memories fill her up. In the clearing to her left Vincent had told her of the
first time he’d ever seen the moon. She smiled, someday Jacob would be able to tell his story too. A little
way further up the hill was where she had been thrown out of a van, bleeding to death, a decade ago.
Had it only been that long? If she took a right and walked a little further, she’d be in the exact spot
Paracelsus’ hit men had attacked her on motorcycles. The tree, now to her left, was the one she had
climbed the day she made peace with her father’s death. She turned to her right, and there it was...
       
       The tunnel. A million moments, memories, were spent at the mouth of this tunnel. Slowly, with more
trepidation, she climbed down inside. The darkness engulfed her, leaving her blind for a moment or two
and then the rusty tin and dirt layered floor filled up her senses. She stared at the door for a while,
unmoving. She remembered how dreamy and whimsical it used to seem to her. It was never dark or
dirty. It was a magical portal to her heart’s desire.
       
       Voices; echoes of moments shared in this very spot. A life that was left behind long ago.
       
       “Let me come Below! Let me stay in your world! Let me try!”
       
       “Providence is when... something is meant to be.”
       
       “You have to let me- you have to let my world deal with this!”
       
       “This child must not be forgotten!!”
       
       “What we have is all that matters! It’s worth everything!”
       
       “Everything...”
       
       She spotted a nearby rock and picked it up, examining it. Who knows how long this rock had been
there, conveniently located. Had this been the same rock she had used so many times to announce her
entrance, or call to Vincent? Biting her bottom lip, a nervous habit she hadn’t fallen into in years, she
approached the pipe, a sudden panic overtaking her. She couldn’t remember the code. How many
successive taps for Vincent? Was it three or four? She couldn’t remember!
       
       Dropping the rock, she looked around the tunnel, panicking slightly. She knew where the switch was,
and how to open the doors, but she had no intention of going inside. She hadn’t set foot in those tunnels
in seven years, and she was resolved that she never would again.
       
       The familiar scrapping noise; the music that used to sing her to her magical Neverland. She spun
and backed away from the door, watching the light filter in, pushing the darkness off of her. Vincent was
bent over, clutching the gate. He was through and facing her before she had caught her breath. She
forgot how beautiful he was by firelight.
       
       “I intended to be here before you arrived, so that you could meet us here. I apologize.” He spoke
quickly, out of breath.
       
       “It’s alright.” She swallowed hard. It was the first time she’d seen him in a semi-public setting. She
had to fight the urge to jump into his arms. She could tell he was blushing, even through the thick fur and
dark skin.
       
       “How are you?” He asked awkwardly.
       
       “Okay... um, good.” She fumbled worse than he.
       
       An awkward silence fell. This had been the place of many romantic meetings, but they still weren’t
sure how open they wanted to be about their newly intimate relationship. “I apologize for being late.” He
broke the silence, shifting uncomfortably. “It seems the children have led a rebellion.”
       
       Catherine glanced around him, trying to find her daughter, but she was no where to be found. “What
do you mean?”
       
       Vincent handed her a sheet of paper with scribbling. “They left a ransom note.”
       
       A surprisingly neat handwriting that had to be Jacob’s was scrawled across the parchment.

       
Catherine,

       Your daughter has been kidnapped. She is now at our mercy.
       If you want her back, you’ll have to come and get her. And,
       if you can, bring candy!

       Signed,
       The Dreaded Pirates
       (we couldn’t think of a good name)

       P.S.
       Mommy, I’m actually okay. I’m not really kidnapped. Don’t worry.
       We just want you to come down here.
       Anna       


       Catherine smiled. ‘Apparently all of Anna’s imagination transferred to Jacob in the womb,’ she
mused.
       
       “I searched for an hour.” Vincent sighed heavily. “They’re well hidden. And it doesn’t help that they
seem to be connected. They could be anywhere.”
       
       Catherine giggled. She folded the note after she re-read it once more, and tucked it carefully in her
purse.
       
       “They’re obviously determined. They won’t come out of hiding unless you come Below.” Just the tone
of his voice betrayed his secret desires.
       
       Catherine looked up at him, wide-eyed, with fear emanating from her. He was serious; he wanted
her to come Below with him.
       
       Immediately, Vincent backed down. “Catherine,” he held her arms, the first physical contact, “if you
don’t want to, I’ll go and find them.”
       
       “They won’t come without me.” She stated monotonously, no longer looking at him, but at the torch-lit
passage beyond the door.
       
       “I will find them, Catherine.” He assured her, already settled that she wouldn’t go near the tunnels.
       
       “It’s getting late.” She sighed, still looking past him. “I’ll get them.” She looked back up at him shyly.
“Show me the way?”
       
       He couldn’t hide the astonishment of how quick her decision was. He nodded blankly, and took her
arm to lead her in. She didn’t move right away, frozen for a few seconds, taking in what exactly she was
about to do. Slowly she relaxed and allowed Vincent to pull her past the door and shut them inside.
Simple as that, she was shut securely into the world that had rejected her so many years ago.
       
       She had forgotten how quiet the outer tunnels were. She walked slowly with Vincent, savoring that
sweet sound of tapping pipes. Paranoia was beginning to creep into her consciousness. She was being
watched. ‘Of course I’m being watched,’ she attempted to reason with herself, ‘there are sentries all over
these tunnels.’ But still she was unnerved. She was terrified, suddenly, of who could be watching her.
       
       Vincent gripped her arm a little tighter. “You can still go back.” He assured her.
       
       Catherine swallowed and shook her head. She had to do this, even if it was just for closure. She
pushed onward, remembering more and more as she went. The side tunnel to her right lead a very direct
route to the kitchens, instead of going through the hub. Somewhere around this area there was a step to
avoid; one of Mouse’s traps had always been hidden there. Vincent’s arm suddenly locked around her
waist and pulled her away from a portion of the tunnel.
       
       “I thought it was somewhere near here.” She smiled ironically at him.
       
       “Mouse has gotten more... creative as years have gone.” Vincent chose his words carefully as he
rolled his eyes. “That one involves a net and some substance that adheres you to the spot.”
       
       Catherine laughed, imagining sweet Mouse (for the first time in years) pitching the idea of this
‘substance’ to the counsel. She jumped when she heard scuffling feet and her heart stopped for a
second as she realized that whoever the sentry was at this post was about to confront them.
       
       “Vincent?” An older teenage girl emerged from her hiding place. Drawn away from her spot by the
sounds of familiar voices, the girl now stood wide-eyed and frozen, staring at Catherine.
       
       Catherine’s heart was racing as she began to panic. Vincent’s arm tightened around her waist
slightly, but only the girl took any real notice of it. Who was she? Catherine recognized her face, but no
matter how hard she worked her brain, she couldn’t put a name to her.
       
       “Vincent?” The girl’s frantic eyes darted back and forth between the adults.
       
       “Samantha...” Vincent acted as mediator, soothing both the astonished teenager and the panicking
woman at his side, “the whole point of being a sentry is to not be seen. Do not confront intruders, only
alert others of their presence.”
       
       The girl didn’t move, not even acknowledgment that she had heard the lesson. Her attention was
trained on Catherine.
       
       She wasn’t sure why she hadn’t recognized Samantha right away, but Catherine couldn’t help
seeing that happy little girl standing in front of her. Eleven year old Samantha who knew of the cruelty of
Above, very well, but chose to ignore it. Instead, Samantha only saw beauty and grace in living
successful life outside the tunnels. Little Samantha, who would race Geoffrey to deliver Winterfest
candles every year, and who had perfected her chess skills to such a degree that she had nearly beaten
Vincent once. She had to be at least eighteen now, staring back at her with huge brown eyes.
       
       “Samantha?” Vincent’s voice broke through. “Samantha?” He finally caught her attention. “You have
to stay hidden.”
       
       Samantha nodded slowly as she began to edge her way back to her post.
       
       “Samantha.” Catherine caught the girl’s wrist as they walked by her. “Don’t alarm anyone, please. I
don’t want them to know I’m here.”
       
       Samantha nodded slowly as she backed away and watched Catherine and Vincent pass her.
       
       “Are you alright?” Vincent stroked her arm to ease her tense muscles as they walked. She nodded
silently. He was surprised that the hub wasn’t busy with dwellers. Instead there was only a group of young
children who passed them. They said hello to Vincent, and stared curiously at Catherine. She was
strangely at ease with the children; smiling and waiving casually. It wasn’t until an older boy, in his late
teens like Samantha, was jogging toward them, head on, that she began to panic again.
       
       “Vincent!” The boy called. “The children were seen! Down toward the waterfall. They were headed
this way.” He stopped breathlessly in front of them.
       
       “That’s good.” Vincent’s hand covered the boy’s shoulder. “They’ll come out now. Their game is
over.”
       
       The boy smile up at him. “You gotta admit...” his voice trailed off as his eyes fell on Catherine.
Recognition shined in her eyes as she smiled at him. His attention snapped back to Vincent. “What’s
she doing here?!” He demanded angrily.
       
       Catherine’s smile instantly fell and she felt Vincent subtly stroking her arm with his thumb. “She’s
here to get Anna. She won’t be long.” Vincent explained cooly.
       
       “Does Father know?” He asked, fire in his eyes.
       
       “No, and we’d prefer it stayed that way, if you would, Geoffrey.” Vincent took Catherine’s hand and
led her away from Geoffrey as quickly as possible.
       
       Once out of earshot, Catherine stopped and pulled Vincent around to face her. “Why Geoffrey? Why
him, of all of them?” She was near tears and holding off Vincent’s arms. She needed answers more than
comfort.
       
       Vincent sighed, secretly hoping that she wouldn’t ask. “Geoffrey... has always held a grudge against
you. Apart from you taking Anna with you, whom, I hear from Olivia, he was very attached to while she
was here...”
       
       “He was.” She nodded, her tears beginning to clear. “He used to sit and talk to her every day. He
adored her.”
       
       “Yes, well, apart from that, Geoffrey claims that you promised him something. He never has told
anyone what it was, but... whatever it was meant a lot to him.”
       
       Catherine shook her head, searching her memories for every moment with Geoffrey that she might
have forgotten. Suddenly she found it. “His scene! The day Father told me I had to leave, I promised
Geoffrey I’d watch the scene he and Nicky had been working on. I never got the chance.”
       
       Vincent awkwardly set his hand on her shoulder; a gesture of comfort he wasn’t used to being
limited to around her. “It’s alright. It isn’t your fault.”
       
       “I feel horrible.” Her hands covered her face in frustration. “I told him I would be there. I told him
nothing would keep me away.” She set her head against his chest. “I’m in a nightmare.” She mumbled up
to him.
       
       “I’m sorry.” He pushed her hair back, completely unsure of himself.
       
       Suddenly her head came up from his chest. “Did you hear that?”
       
       “What?” He glanced around them. There was no one in sight.
       
       “The twins. They’re in your chamber. They know I’m here and they’re hiding.” Catherine never
hesitated, she simply headed down the familiar route to Vincent’s chamber.
       
       Vincent felt sure that they would encounter someone... anyone. But they never did. For the early
afternoon, the tunnels were eerily silent. Catherine looked as if she was following a distant sound that she
couldn’t quite place and he couldn’t hear. He followed her patiently, wondering if this was how he looked
as he followed the bond to wherever it led him.
       
       Catherine gestured for Vincent to stay quiet as they crept into his familiar bedchamber. Catherine
never hesitated, never paused for a memory. She stood by Vincent’s desk, poised, as if a cat stalking
prey.
       
       “Catherine?”
       
       “Shh!” She hushed him quickly and stood waiting a minute longer.
       
       Suddenly there was sound, movement, and pandemonium. Jacob came running from the wardrobe
closet and almost made it past the desk. But Catherine was quicker. She caught him around the waist
and pinned him against her, both arms entwined around him.
       
       “I caught one!” She called triumphantly as she fought the squirming little boy.
       
       Another child jumped out from behind Vincent’s statue and wound her way out of the crowded room.
Catherine shouted to Vincent to catch her. He reached out and nearly had a hold on her arm before she
escaped out into the main tunnels.
       
       “Run, Cat! Run!!” Jacob shouted, giggling, and all the time fighting Catherine’s hold on him.
       
       “Well,” Catherine began, a joke in her voice and a smile on her face, “we may have lost your
comrade, but we’ve still captured you!” She caught his legs with her arm and hoisted him up to her chest.
“Tell us where you’ve hidden your prisoner, you scurvy pirate!”
       
       “Never!” Jacob proclaimed proudly, and then laughed hysterically.
       
       Catherine set him back down and, keeping her arms around Jacob’s shoulders, she looked up at
Vincent. “Well, it seems this ruthless pirate doesn’t want to talk. What form of torture do you think will get
it out of him? Should we hang him upside down by his toes? Put him in a box and sweat it out of him? Or
maybe...” she bent down so that she was cheek to cheek with the little boy, and glanced up at Vincent,
who was staring at the scene in wonder, “we should just tickle it out of him!”
       
       “No!! NO!!” Jacob cried and squirmed, trying to avoid Catherine’s fingers that were sending chills
up his spine.
       
       “No?” She stopped and spun him around to face her. “Well then, are you ready to release your
prisoner and renounce your life of crime?”
       
       “Um...” Jacob faltered, glancing around the room, trying to find an escape to this situation.
       
       “Plead the 5th!” Anna’s voice suddenly whispered from under the bed,
       
       “What?” Jacob whispered back as if no one could hear them. Catherine smiled up at Vincent, who
seemed completely lost in this conversation.
       
       “Just say it!” She hissed.
       
       “What?” He whispered, trying not to look in her direction.
       
       Anna sighed heavily. “Just say, ‘I plead the 5th’.”
       
       “I plead the 5th.” Jacob stammered, having no idea what he was saying.
       
       Catherine smiled at him. “Well, it’s a proper lawyer you’ve got hidden under that bed, I’ll give you
that. I’ll tell you what, sir pirate,” she leaned down so that she was nose to nose with him, “you release her
and next weekend I will take you and your...” she nearly said ‘sister’ but caught herself and continued
expertly, “prisoner to Africa, Egypt, and China.”
       
       Jacob sighed, staring deeply into her eyes to see if she was still playing, or being truly serious. As
much as he loved his imagination, he was hoping that she meant what she said; that in just a week he
would be touring the jungles of Africa, the pyramids of Egypt, and the rice fields of China. Drifting
somewhere between hoping and a feeling of impending disappointment, Jacob only stared at her.
       
       With over-dramatized grunts and groans Anna emerged from under the bed. “Alright,” she climbed
to her feet, “we surrender.”
       
       “We?” Vincent set his massive hand on the top of her head and tilted it back to look up at him. “I
thought you were a prisoner.”
       
       “Uhhh...” she fumbled, searching for an elaborate story, “I was! But... he convinced me to become a
pirate too. He told me they make a lot of money and it’s fun. That sort of thing happens all the time.”
       
       “Really?” Vincent chuckled.
       
       “Hey, don’t blame me, blame history.” She nodded, her head bucking under the restraint of his hand.
       
       “Okay.” Vincent moved Anna in front of him, his hands on her shoulders, facing Catherine and Jacob.
       
       Catherine and Jacob were still staring intensely at each other. Her smile had slowly relaxed as they
watched each other, waiting.
       
       “Jacob?” Anna called. “Jacob, didn’t you hear? We surrendered.”
       
       “What do you think?” Catherine broke their silence.
       
       “Really?” He watched her carefully, wanting so desperately to believe her.
       
       “Mm-hm.” She nodded, never breaking eye contact.
       
       “How?” He stared skeptically.
       
       “No, no.” She spun him around and looped her arm around his shoulders again. “A magician never
reveals her secrets. You just have to wait for the magic to happen.” She smiled at Vincent, a hint of their
secret hidden in the corner of her mouth. “Besides, it doesn’t matter much now, does it?” She indicated
to Anna. “You’ve already surrendered.”
       
       “Anna,” Jacob sighed, disappointed, “you’re not supposed to surrender. Pirates don’t surrender.”
       
       “Yes they do!” She folded her arms indignantly. “They do all the time! It’s called a plea bargain. It
saves a lot of time and paperwork, right mom?”
       
       Catherine suppressed an uncomfortable laugh. “Yes, Ann, that is the general belief.”
       
       “Anna, do you have everything packed?” Vincent helped her set the backpack on her shoulders.
       
       “Yeah.” She sighed sadly.
       
       “Don’t worry, sweety.” Catherine smiled watching Vincent try to set the overstuffed backpack on
Anna comfortably. “You can come back another time.” She took Jacob’s hand and looked down at him
with her head thrown back dramatically. “Will you walk us out, good sir?”
       
       “Certainly, m’lady!” Jacob tossed his head back, his little nose in the air, and put on his best
arrogant strut, pulling Catherine along behind him.
       
       The group had barely stepped into the main tunnels before they were confronted again. But
Catherine never flinched. She seemed strengthened, as if her children were her immunity to any possible
harm. A woman came out from around a corner and ran toward them with her child, a boy about the
same age as Jacob and Anna, in tow.
       
       “Vincent! Oh good, you found the...” Olivia stopped and dropped her son’s hand. “Catherine!”
       
       Catherine barely had a chance to say hello before she was wrapped up in Olivia’s embrace. She
never let go of Jacob’s hand, but hugged Olivia back with her one free arm. She was nearly gasping for
air by the time Olivia let her go.
       
       “What are you doing here?” Olivia looked as if she was near tears at the sight of her. “We thought
we’d never see you again!” She spoke so fast that Catherine never had a chance to answer. “Thank you
so much for letting Anna come to stay. When we found out that she and Jacob had met... I can’t even tell
you how excited we were to see her. She’s a darling!”
       
       Catherine realized she’d been given space to speak, but had no idea how to answer. She got out a
meek ‘thank you’, and glanced around nervously. Her eyes fell on the little boy at Olivia’s side and she
smiled at him as he inched away to hide. “Oh my god! Is this baby Luke? He’s gotten so big! He’s the
spitting image of Kanin!”
       
       “I know! It startles me sometimes.” Olivia kept up that parade of children, so typical of long
estranged friends. “But this one...” she reached over and tugged Jacob’s hair, “he’s got his mama’s
smile.” Olivia grinned slyly up at Catherine.
       
       Catherine nervously glanced down at Jacob, who was grinning largely at Olivia. He was obviously
fond of the idea of looking like his mother... but no matter how she played out scenarios in her mind,
there was no good way to tell him the truth. She was starting to worry that Olivia was going to give it away
as she moved her gaze to Anna.
               
       “And you...” Olivia pressed Anna’s nose, at which the little girl giggled and squirmed closer to
Vincent, “you’re smart as a whip, just like your father.” There was no look this time, nothing to give
anything away... until Jacob spoke up.
       
       “You knew Anna’s father? Anna, she knew your father! How did you know him Olivia?” Jacob’s
bright eyes were fixed on Olivia, ready to suck in as much information as possible.
       
       Olivia could only gape at him and then glance at his parents apologetically. There was silence, mere
seconds that seemed like hours in which a thousand excuses and lies ran through all of the adult’s
minds. Panic set in until Jacob, still holding Catherine’s hand, craned his neck around her to see Anna.
       
       “Really?” He asked solemnly. Anna only nodded, her eyes on the floor.
       
       Olivia’s smile grew slowly as she, Vincent, and Catherine stared at the children. “And then, of
course, there’s that.” She dropped the subject quickly and then turned and took Luke’s hand. “Well, on
that note, we have work to do.” She pulled Catherine into another one-armed hug. “I am so glad you’re
back. We all are. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. They’re all in denial.”
       
       Catherine gave her a small, ‘thank you’ and watched as Luke shyly waived goodbye to Jacob and
Anna. She looked down when Jacob lightly squeezed her hand. His intense blue eyes stared into hers so
sadly that she wanted to cry.
       
       “I didn’t know.” He spoke quietly, with such undue sympathy that her heart shattered. “I’m sorry.”
       
       Realizing that he was still on the subject of ‘Anna’s father’, Catherine drew a shaky breath. The
mental telepathy... whatever it was, that had developed between the twins was becoming less endearing
and more unnerving. There was so much knowledge behind both children’s eyes that she had to wonder
just how much they were sharing between them. What did Jacob know about ‘Anna’s father’ that he felt
the need to apologize?
       
       “Jacob,” Vincent spoke softly, and Catherine stiffened slightly at the sound of his voice, “it’s a painful
subject. She doesn’t need to be reminded.”
       
       “He knows.” Anna answered for him, staring into Vincent’s eyes with such intuition that he took a
step back away from her, and laced his fingers into Catherine’s discreetly.
       
       Slowly, and with a touch of fear, Catherine turned and glanced at Vincent. She lightly squeezed his
fingers, and then pulled her hand away. Smiling down at Jacob as if nothing at all had happened, she
grabbed him under his arms and hauled him onto her hip. “So,” she kept walking and left it up to Vincent
and Anna to discover that they were supposed to follow, “do you want to hear about the trip?”
       
       “Yeah!” Jacob beamed, his arms looped around her neck, following in stride with Catherine’s
positive attitude.
       
       “Well, I have a friend who works at the Museum of Natural History.” Catherine glanced behind to be
sure Vincent and Anna had followed. “And he owes me a favor.”
       
       “A lot of people owe her favors.” Anna nearly skipped to keep up with the group’s pace, but held
Vincent’s hand tightly to insure that she didn’t get lost. “You’ll notice a pattern eventually.”
       
       Jokingly, but with an edge of a warning, Catherine responded. “Keep commenting, Miss Smarty-
Pants. Maybe Jacob and I will go see the dinosaurs without you.”
       
       “Dinosaurs?!” Jacob’s eyes grew twice their normal size. “Real ones?”
       
       Catherine nodded and began the explanation. “See, when archeologists find remaining bones of
dinosaurs, the museum pays them...” her voice trailed off.
       
       “Catherine.” Father had stepped out from a side tunnel and now stood in the family’s way, greeting
the mother stiffly.
       
       Catherine swallowed hard, her energetic face long gone. Instinctively she tightened her arms around
Jacob and only stared at the old man. He looked so much older than eight years would warrant. His limp
was even more pronounced and his eyes looked as if he hadn’t slept in a week. His salt and pepper hair
hat gone snow white, and he looked a bit on the thin side to her. She felt Vincent move protectively closer
to her, which she was grateful for, but she was nervous that their new relationship would be easily seen
by the old man.
       
       “Lovely surprise.” Father stated with a touch of sarcasm, but still there was no response from her.
       
       Anna glanced nervously between Father and her mother as if waiting for the volcano to erupt. She
moved closer to Vincent, watching Father more carefully than before. In just the couple days that she was
Below she had only seen ‘Father’ once, and she hadn’t liked what she’d seen. He frightened her, and
she didn’t easily hide it.
       
       Jacob watched Anna shift closer to Vincent and took it upon himself to make the uncomfortable
situation a little better. “Grandfather, this is Ca-.”
       
       “I know who she is, Jacob. Thank you.” Father was not looking for a light conversation, and he let
Jacob know by his tone. He watched them all frozen uncomfortably under his unyielding gaze. He
observed Vincent’s step closer to Catherine, and how she seemed to breathe easier because of it. With
a small sigh of recognition, he challenged the woman before him. “You swore you would never return,
Catherine.”
       
       “Father, not here.” Vincent interrupted, holding Anna close. “Please, not in front of the children.”
       
       Father shot Vincent a warning look. “Have you told them yet?”
       
       Jacob and Anna looked curiously at each other as Catherine’s eyes went wide. Vincent took her
hand, somewhat less discreetly than he’d attempted, and saw that Father took note.
       
       “Well, have you at least told them about your current relationship?” Father insisted and the children’s
gazes turned on their parents.
       
       Catherine, her gaze, much stronger now, never left Father’s face as she let Jacob slide down off her
hip. Jacob watched her face intensely, even as she pulled him around in front of her.
       
       “Father,” Vincent began, exuding power and strength that matched his father’s, “it is up to Catherine
and I to decide-.”
       
       “Did you loose your voice, Catherine?” Father’s eyes held true to hers.
       
       Catherine took a deep breath to steady her nerves and then looked down at Jacob. “Sweetheart,
would you show Anna the way to the park, please? Wait there with her and stay close to the sentries.
Your father and I will catch up soon.”
       
       Jacob nodded silently and took Anna’s hand from his father. “Don’t go off wandering, either of you.”
Vincent instructed. “We’ll be close behind.” The twins nodded together and then edged their way past
Father and down the tunnel.
       
       Catherine’s gaze moved back up to Father. She stared at him coldly, as if she had the ability to
freeze him in his place. “Those children are none of your business, Jacob Wells. You have no right to
breathe the edge of a word to either of them!”
       
       “Catherine,” Vincent attempted to mediate, but she kept going over the top of him.
       
       “And most especially not to Anna!” She breathed deeply. “You don’t speak to her. You don’t look at
her. And she will never, ever call you ‘Father’! Are we clear?”
       
       “Well,” Father began calmly, “you have regained your tongue.” They were silent. Staring at each
other for a moment before he continued. “We need to talk.”
       
       “There’s nothing to say.” She came back quickly.
       
       “I thought you might say that.” Another moment of silence. “I want you to tell Vincent the truth.”
       
       Catherine was quiet, just staring at him. Not even a flicker of understanding came across her face.
She was stone. “I’ve told him everything.”
       
       “No, Catherine, you’ve told him what was convenient for you. You’ve told him the half you prefer to
remember because it gives you an antagonist to blame. You told him what you knew would make you
look like the innocent victim.” Father barreled on as he watched her defenses fall away. “Well I will not
allow you to turn my own son against me! I already have one difficult relationship with the elder, and I will
not loose Vincent just because you want to look good in his eyes.”
       
       Catherine stared at him, wide-eyed and breathing heavily, her mental wall shattered. As they stared
she began shaking her head slowly. “I have to get Anna.” She spoke in a shaky voice. “I have to get out of
here.”
       
       “No!” Father took a step closer, as if it would keep her still. “Stop running, Catherine. Stop pushing
everything aside. If you want to be a part of Vincent and Jacob’s lives, you have to tell them everything
you’ve hidden. Everything.” His voice was much softer, as if he were soothing her, coaxing her into this
difficult task.
       
       “Catherine?” Vincent closed in on her. He turned her to face him, holding her arms gently. She
closed her eyes as if she could block out the sound of his voice. “What haven’t you told me?”
       
       A tear slipped by her already weakened defenses as she shook her head. “I can’t. I can’t loose you,
not again.”
       
       “Catherine,” he whispered, his face close to hers, “my love, I won’t leave you. I’ll never leave you
again.”
       
       Catherine raised her sad eyes to his slowly and bit her lip, losing herself in the sight of him gazing
curiously down at her. “You might.” She admitted.
       
       “Tell him, Catherine.” Father coaxed gently.
       
       “I can’t.” She whispered, still lost in the deep blue ocean of his eyes. “I don’t know what to say.”
       
       “I’ll begin.” Father volunteered, paternally placing a hand on her shoulder. “She didn’t lie to you,
Vincent. I did ask her to leave. I was worried, blind to the knowledge that you would do anything but
accept your new family with open arms. I thought it best to send her away. Maybe I thought it would make
the shock a little easier. It was wrong of me. And... the stubborn old man I am, it took me nearly a year
after you returned to realize this. So, I sent a message to Catherine, asking her to meet me. I wanted to
ask her to come home.”
       
       “You invited her back?” Vincent’s sharp eyes flicked back and forth between Father and Catherine.
       
       Father nodded slowly as Catherine pulled out of Vincent’s arms and leaned against the tunnel wall.
“Catherine?” Vincent watched her.
       
       With a deep breath, she folded her arms across her chest and slowly raised her eyes to his. “Call
the sentry. Make sure the twins make it back to the hub. We’re going to be here for a while.”
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