Down to the Earth


Special notes: A week or so after the episode "God Bless the Child".


The streak of snow storms was finally breaking ... at last ... giving way to icy showers instead. Sleet was falling tonight, as Catherine and Vincent stood on her balcony. Vincent's agility was remarkable, to have climbed the building's slippery walls and fire escapes as he did. Or maybe it was a statement on his determination to visit her. ... She would certainly hope as much.

Now they stood side by side, watching the city receive its icy bath.

"I heard from Lena today," Catherine spoke, breaking the peaceful silence. She had a difficult time hiding her trepidation. It had been a week since Lena's departure from the world below, and she didn't know what wounds may still remain.

Vincent and Father had argued the night after the girl and her newborn had moved to a home for unwed mothers. Catherine knew that. And she also knew why. ... ... As wonderful a life as the safe house promised, it was not the sole reason Father was hastening the girl out of the tunnels. Lena's advances on Vincent had scared the patriarch. Perhaps even more than Catherine herself had ever done.

Did that make Father an ally? She'd pondered the idea more than once over the last few days. When it came to Vincent, maybe Father saw her as less of a threat. Dare she hope that the patriarch was beginning to see the authenticity of her love for his son?

... ... Or, maybe he was simply fighting one fire at a time.

Either way, Catherine couldn't deny the breath of relief she took once Father set the wheels in motion for Lena's return above. Catherine, too, had worked extra hard to find mother and child a safe place. -- -- A safe place *away* from the quiet, leonine man.

"Are they doing well?" Vincent asked with a hopeful voice.

Catherine nodded. "It's a wonderful program. She'll be starting community college soon, in between helping out at the childcare center that will be watching the baby. A crash course in parenting, and at the same time, starting an education that will help her build a good life."

"And the child will be safe?"

"More than safe," Catherine reassured. "Little Catherine will eventually be in a wonderful head-start program, if her mother stays with the group."

Vincent nodded, his gaze scanning carefully across the city. She watched him, wondering what thoughts were filling his mind. ... ... The life Lena could now have? The life she might have had if Father had encouraged her to stay below? ... Or the life Vincent himself might have had, had he accepted her offer.

The girl had meant something to him, even if only as a symbol of the sadness and loneliness in the world. Catherine couldn't deny such a basic truth.

"Lena will be ok, Vincent," she assured genuinely, her gloved hand landing lightly on his arm. "If it causes you pain," ... ... she swallowed with difficulty, feeling slightly queasy over what she was about to say ... ... "If her leaving causes you pain, maybe I can arrange for" ...

"It is the child I worry over," was Vincent's sudden reply, looking to his love. It had taken a moment, but he recognized the tone in Catherine's voice ... the fearfulness with which she was making the offer. Fearfulness that he wished to soothe immediately. "The innocent child who remains at the mercy of those around her."

Catherine met his eyes, understanding dawning on her face. Vincent's own beginnings in this world had colored his experiences and made him who he was -- -- he always felt first and foremost for the children.

"Besides," he added, hoping to further communicate where his heart truly lay. "The child carries your name. It's fanciful, of course ... ... but it is yet another reason I would wish her to have a happy and safe life."

Amazing, wasn't it. After all that had happened, Vincent's concern for the newborn was still colored by the fact that the child bore Catherine's name. After the potentially life-altering offers Lena had made, it was Catherine's helpless little namesake over whom Vincent fretted the most.

Catherine bowed her head in shame. For days she had glossed over her jealousy of Lena's behavior. How awful must she be to feel such bitterness toward a poor young waif, abandoned and treated so cruelly by the world? How terrible was she to harbor such jealousy over the girl's first tentative search for affection?

"Why are you so melancholy, Catherine?" Vincent asked when she remained silent. Had he done something wrong? Said something wrong? "What weighs so heavily?"

... ...

A pause, as Catherine took a breath ... a cloud of moisture that hung between them. She would face her guilt, and -- as badly as it could potentially end -- allow Vincent the chance for honesty.

"If it caused you pain, Vincent ... ... ... if Lena's departure has caused you pain, I'm sorry. And I would understand."

Vincent's brow furrowed. He knew when she was hiding something, this beloved of his. Even if she refused to meet his eyes, he knew when the truth ran deeper than she pretended. "Tell me. Please, Catherine? It is your sorrow that's painful to me, not the girl's departure."

She could feel his eyes piercing into her; his love for her palpable. -- -- Promising that all would be well, if she would just offer the truth.

A small smile pulled at the corner of her lips ... an ironic smile, far from genuine ... and her eyes remained steadfast on the concrete ledge of her balcony. "Lena posed a different future for you. A temptation you could have reached out for, and taken so easily. It was right there in front of you."

... ...

It was, to a degree, the answer he expected. Still, hearing it aloud -- in Catherine's sweet voice -- tore at his heart. Surprisingly, he didn't feel as flattered as he thought he might, in a different world and a different life. That her affections for him were so pointed ... so deep ... was most certainly positive news. News that in the lonely shadows of his chamber, would bring him great joy upon reflection in the days ahead. But this flattery was only a footnote, buried beneath the fear he'd sensed when she said those words.

"She posed me no temptation," he replied gently but firmly, emphasizing the words. "Believe that. ... ... I know my path. ... ... Even if I have difficulty treading it, I still know my path."

Heavens, how he wanted to tell this woman how deeply he loved her. How hollow Lena's advances were, compared to the simple sanctity of feeling his beloved's heart beating within the circle of his arms. ... ... Even the desire to just take her hand where it rested beside his, was overwhelming. The wish to touch her ... now ... when it would mean so much to both of them.

In the end, when Catherine remained so sullen, he settled for a different solution. Perhaps a better one ... he may never know.

Extending his arm beyond the canopy of overhead balconies, he allowed some of the icy rain to collect in his palm. "When the rain falls, it will find the Earth," he stated thoughtfully. "Have you ever paused to consider that? It has no choice. Nor, I hasten to guess, does it want one."

He pulled his hand back to the safety of their little world, propping it on the ledge so she could see the little puddle of water he held. Floating within it were some ice crystals ... tiny frozen pellets, clinging to their liquid comrades.

"The wind can blow it," ... he paused again, then very purposefully chose the next words of his parable, ... "even try to tempt the droplets with a new direction. Men can try to block the rain, with umbrellas; newspapers; even skyscrapers. But the rain will always find the Earth. One way or another, regardless of how its journey may twist and turn, it always knows which direction its destiny points. ... ... ... I understand the rain."

The sensations he felt through the bond were changing. Growing more buoyant. Fear was being replaced with relief; sorrow with joy. And around it all, an effervescent delight that he just knew would be shining in her eyes once she granted him the privilege of seeing them again.

Mindfully, he placed his hand just beyond the balcony ledge, turning it over so the water could run away ... plummeting down past floor after floor ... down to the Earth.

At last, she blessed him ... her eyes returning to his ... a genuine, irrepressible smile curving onto her lips. Then her hand, reaching out to take his -- the one that had just freed the rain. She raised it to her cheek, letting some of the cool water smooth onto her skin.

It was not the water, however, that made her eyes close in pure emotion as she nuzzled her face into his hand. He'd seen that expression before, accompanied by the flip of her heart whenever they touched like this.

She risked no words ... nothing to spoil the moment he'd created. But both understood completely as she silently stepped into his arms. Back where she belonged.

And so they remained, sharing their cocoon of warmth as they watched the city. -- -- Watching the lights twinkle. Watching headlights meander their way through the park. Watching people below dart and dash to escape the weather. And watching the rain, rushing anxiously down to the Earth.


Tiny footnote: Want to see that last bit acted out ... where she closes her eyes as he rubs her cheek? It's at the end of the "Remember Love" episode.