By Ginny Shearin

Chapter 2



By the time the two older men had returned to Vincent’s chamber, Catherine had made a decision she knew Father would hate; but she had every intention of simply stating that it would happen and implementing her plans.

She waited another several days to be sure that Vincent’s condition was stable enough that the doctors felt confident about his eventual recovery. She braced herself for resistance and announced to them that she would require a cot to be brought to Vincent’s chamber for her and that her things should be brought from the guest chamber, because she would be taking over the mundane parts of Vincent’s care. The doctors would be given hours for regular rounds and visits; and barring some medical emergency, of which she would apprise them immediately, they were to stick to those hours. They would help Vincent bathe and dress and take care of similar personal necessities. She would gladly do those things, but Vincent would not be comfortable allowing her to do those things now. She would see to any other needs.

She completed her demands by saying, “I promised Vincent I would always be in his life. If I’m really going to be a part of his life, he has to learn to accept my care when he needs it. As much as it pains me to think it, there will come a time when you can’t care for him any longer. I need to be able to do that, and he needs to come to terms with allowing it.”

It was abundantly clear that Vincent would have no say in the matter either, and he was still much too weak to do anything about it.

Father, as expected, had launched into what threatened to be an endless list of reasons that this would be a very undesirable idea.

Peter took Jacob’s elbow and turned him slightly away from Catherine. “Jacob, you’ve watched her for weeks never leaving his side, any change in his condition even waking her from sleep. She hasn’t just been observing. She’s been sending him her love, sharing her strength until she barely has any of her own. Why would her awareness change now? Vincent has always been his own physician to a certain extent. You know we can’t do much more than monitor now. His wounds are nearly healed, and you said yourself you suspected that his illness had little to do with physical damage. She risked her own life going into that cave with him in the condition he was in. Her intervention could very well be the only reason you still have him at all. Maybe this is what he needs. Besides that,” he pointed out with some amusement; “she’s recently talked your son back through the doors of death. Do you really want to take her on?”

Catherine simply stood by with arms folded and an air of determination that could have rivaled Moses at the Red Sea.

Out flanked and out argued, Father turned and gruffly waved his hand at them as he left. “I’ll see to the cot and have Jamie move things from the guest chamber. No doubt she’d love the excuse to see Vincent for a minute.”

Jacob was not a happy man.

Catherine was given orders that any more “discussions” such as the tirade she threw at Vincent earlier would be grounds for banishment to the guest chamber and only short, supervised visits - otherwise, her demands would be met.


A large dressing screen was placed at the door of Vincent’s chamber both to ward off well-meaning visitors and to remind Father of his appointed hours. Catherine was taking better care of herself now. Sometimes when Vincent slept, she slept, too. She pulled the cot up close to his bed and slept with one hand on Vincent’s arm. That small contact made her feel more connected. For some reason her side of their bond had seemed slightly stronger through his illness; and she knew, as small as her side of it might be, it would tell her if anything were wrong. Vincent was still too weak to take care of himself and still slept a large part of the day. When he was awake Catherine brought him books, helped him prop himself on the pillows to listen as she read them, fed him his meals…. His ability to heal was amazing. The wounds he had created in the cave were nearly invisible already. She noticed that the knife wound on his palm from a couple of months ago no longer showed a scar, not even a red mark; and she found herself wishing he could manage to heal his spirit as efficiently.

Each time Vincent slept, she could see him wake a little stronger. For the first few days she had touched him as she helped him move, having him lean on her for support. She enjoyed the feel of touching him with only the one soft layer of shirt between them; but she prudently didn’t allow herself to dwell on that aspect of her assistance. Father and Peter, knowing that Vincent would eventually be acutely aware of Catherine’s presence, saw that he was clean and dressed in fresh night clothes every day, but they didn’t think too much about his hair. She could see that it needed attention; so she found his brush, started at the ends where the touch wouldn’t feel quite as intimate, and gradually progressed to the rest. To her amazement, he allowed it without protest. Too weak to argue, she thought. She decided she must have been controlling her less than altruistic thoughts pretty well. She had wanted for so long to explore that glorious mass of gold that it took all her powers of self-control to confine her hands to just brushing and smoothing and detangling. When the hairbrush moved the right way, she did allow her curiosity a peek at his ears, though. She couldn’t help smiling. They were very human ears; but, like nearly everything else about him, trimmed with extra hair - just around the upper edges. When she stopped brushing, he settled on the pillows and relaxed into a restful sleep.

After helping him with dinner that evening, she sat curled up next to him and read. They shared stories about the children and she gave him messages from friends she had seen while “medical rounds” were in progress, all the while enjoying that he was allowing her to be so close. He eventually asked for his journal; and while Catherine was returning the dinner dishes to the kitchen, he made the first entry since his illness began.

The following morning Vincent allowed Catherine to pour the hot tea, but he insisted on managing the rest of his breakfast himself. When he spoke, his voice sounded stronger. After breakfast she stacked the dishes on the tray William had supplied and put them aside to return while Father was with Vincent. She straightened her bed, moved it aside, and came back to him to straighten his.

“Father should be here soon,” she said. She sat down on the edge of the bed and put her hand on his chest near his shoulder, the same way she had in the days before. “Is there anything you’d like me to bring you while I’m near the kitchen or Father’s library? - Anything you need?”

At the touch of her hand he seemed uncomfortable this time. He took her hand from his chest and held it in both of his.

“You could see if William has more of those apple muffins,” he answered, smiling slightly, “and I trust your taste in reading material. Choose something you would enjoy.”

Catherine didn’t understand the sudden impression of discomfort at something he had accepted so easily since she had been caring for him; and when he took her hand in his, it was done in such a loving manner that she began to think she had imagined it. Before she could mention it, Father was calling.

“Good morning, children!” came from the other side of the screen.

She stood, squeezed Vincent’s hand, and moved toward the door.

“Come in, Father,” she called. It warmed her heart to hear him include her as one of his children.

“He must be better this morning,” she told Father. “I have orders to see if I can score a couple of extra muffins while I’m out.” Turning toward Vincent and picking up the pitcher on the table next to the bed, she added, “I’ll bring a fresh pitcher of water, too.” Back toward Father she continued, “And I might stop and rummage through your library, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course not,” he answered. “You know the library is always open to you. Take whatever you like.”

She tucked a change of clothes under one arm, added the pitcher to the tray, and left for the kitchen.

She walked through the passages smiling and greeting the people she passed in the halls, enjoying the sense of belonging that she had finally begun to feel when she was Below. This had become the most comforting place in her life. Nothing Above brought her this kind of contentment anymore. That thought had surfaced more and more lately.

William made it clear that mealtime hours were to be respected. The dining area was empty; but the kitchen was bustling, as usual. Those who had been scheduled for kitchen duty that day were in various stages of dish washing and food preparation, anticipating the next meal. She knew there were a few things that had to be kept as staples; but it still amazed Catherine that William could manage to feed so many so well on supplies that he might not be sure he has until one of the helpers delivers them. She made a mental note to see what she could do about inconspicuously helping some of the helpers.

As expected, William grumbled in his gruff fashion about the muffins. He loved Vincent like a son, though; and Catherine knew if William had it, he would send Vincent anything he wanted. He found a few extra muffins and wrapped them in a napkin for her. He also found a few pieces of fruit and put them all in a small basket with the muffins.

“If that boy is getting his appetite back, you’d better take these, too,” he told her.

“I don’t remember seeing Vincent eat all that much at a time,” she laughed. “You must be exaggerating.”

“That’s because when you’re here he’s too busy mooning over you to remember he’s hungry,” he answered with one of his rare real smiles. Wiping his hands on his apron, he added, “Better move along now, before I add you to the dishwashing detail.”

She left the kitchen smiling and went to see if Mary had time to help her arrange for another sit-down-and-soak bath.

Mary was busy sorting laundry, and Catherine volunteered to help in return for bathing arrangements. Some of it was Vincent’s - the soft, often washed knit shirts and drawstring pants he slept in and a few pairs of heavy socks. No underwear? So there was nothing under that sleeping gear but Vincent?

“Watch it, Chandler!” she thought to herself. “You certainly can’t let him catch you thinking those thoughts.”

To distract herself as she folded clothes, she asked Mary to tell her about Vincent’s childhood. She had picked up a few stories here and there; but according to Mary, he and Devin apparently got into a lot more mischief than one would expect from seeing Vincent now. Catherine wanted to know small things like his favorite toys and desserts and what he liked to eat, what worried him when he was small; and Mary was more than glad to share her memories.


Father was pleased with what he found. Vincent hadn’t needed help with his morning meal, and he seemed stronger and more himself today. His wounds were healed, and his appetite seemed to be nearly normal.

“When Catherine returns, we should try to help you out of bed,” Father told him. 

“Could you manage alone before she returns?” Vincent asked him.

“We could try.” Father answered, “But it would be easier with two of us to lean on. I’m sure Catherine would consider it part of her nursing duties,” he smiled.

Vincent hesitated briefly.

“If I am to be out of bed dressed in as little as this, I would prefer it to be before Catherine returns.”

“I see,” Father answered, taking a deep breath. “You aren’t comfortable having Catherine see you in your night clothes.”

“No,” Vincent answered, looking down.

“I’ll find your dressing gown for you. You had been so weak . . . .  It hadn’t occurred to either Peter or me that you might need it.”

Father left his chair and found Vincent’s robe. It was made of blanket like fabric, soft from frequent use and frequent washings. He was sure it wouldn’t entirely assuage Vincent’s present modesty dilemma, but it would provide another layer between him and Catherine’s comforting touch. It would also provide a little more cover when he worked up the nerve to get out of bed in her presence. He placed it on the foot of the bed and put his hand on Vincent’s shoulder.

“I’ll leave your dressing gown close. Maybe this will help you feel a little more covered.”

“I would still like you help me stand now . . . please,” Vincent nearly begged.

“All right, but we’ll need to take things slowly. Let me move the chair closer to you. You can use it for support and use me for balance.”

Vincent pushed the covers back and, with great effort, pulled himself up on his feet.

“Don’t try to do too much this time. Wait until you have someone stronger than your old father to help you walk a little.”

Vincent took a few steps, bracing himself on the chair; but he was willingly back in bed rather quickly. It was frustrating being that weak. He refused Father’s suggestion that he sit in the chair for a while.

It was obvious that something was bothering his son.

“Vincent, is there a problem between you and Catherine?”

“Not exactly,” Vincent answered, quietly.

“Then exactly what? Is something lacking in your care, something she isn’t doing suitably?” Father questioned. “Something is bothering you. Is there anything I can do? Would you like to talk about it?”

“I couldn’t ask for better care, or for it to be given more lovingly; and until today I had no difficulty accepting it. Last evening after dinner she even brushed my hair. She sat close to me, and we read together and talked for a while before sleeping. She sleeps in her own bed, but moves it next to mine; and her hand is touching my arm any time I wake. I have trouble imagining that I accepted it so easily. It was all very comforting. That was the spirit in which her touch was given and in which it was received. But this morning . . . .” he took a deep breath. “This morning she put her hand on my chest, offering only the same comfort and concern; but it felt different. I was suddenly aware of how I am dressed . . . or not dressed . . . and how close her hand was. . . .”

“I see,” Father answered, running his hand across his hair as he often did when he was perplexed, or maybe a little uncomfortable. “My suspicion is that your feelings have changed because you’re stronger this morning and more aware of them. Your body is recovering and responding more to . . . your surroundings,” he smiled. “I can certainly commiserate with you;” he said, shaking his head, “but this . . . .  This, I’m afraid, is something you and Catherine will have to work out between you. I don’t know how much you remember of the last few weeks, but it was all Peter and I could do to pull her away from you to take care of even the most basic of her own needs. As for her touch, it was with you most of the day. When the nightmares were at their worst, she would lie down behind you to hold you and whisper to you until you were calm again. That was the only thing that seemed to help. She slept in the chair beside you or sitting on the side of the bed with her arm draped across you. It was as if she thought you might slip away if she let go. That may be a difficult habit to break at this point.”

“It’s difficult enough that I have these feelings for her;” Vincent answered, “but when it seems that she might want me as well . . . and she’s so close . . . .  She tries to hide those feelings from me, but now and then they surface just for a moment . . . .  And she can’t control her dreams for me. Even as far away as her apartment, when she has those dreams, I . . . I don’t sleep.” Looking down, he said softly, “If she should have those dreams . . . here in this room. . . .  She shouldn’t have to hide those feelings from someone she loves!” Vincent said bitterly, leaning his head back against the pillows. “She deserves better than that! She should have someone . . . .”

Father cut him off in mid-sentence, a mischievous smile twitching at the corners of his lips in spite of himself.

“My boy, I would not broach that particular subject to Catherine right now if I were you!”

“Yes, Father,” Vincent replied wryly. “I do remember that part of the last few weeks rather clearly.”

Father responded with a knowing chuckle, then became more serious.

“Now and then we all have to reevaluate our perceptions. My visible discontent with your Catherine has been one of my greatest regrets, especially lately. Peter is well aware that he is the only person Catherine really has ‘on her side of the river,’ and he takes that obligation to her very seriously. At times when I might doubt her or even blame her, he points out things I have temporarily forgotten to consider. He reminds me of things like the sacrifices she willingly makes to be a part of your life, a part of our lives, and the risks and inconveniences she has been willing to accept in her life Above to protect you and our community. I have to admit that I’ve been wrong. My perceptions have changed. Perhaps it’s time you changed some of yours. As surprised as I am to hear myself say this, both of you want a life together; and it’s time you have some long and very honest discussions about it. Catherine certainly seems committed to your future, and futures can last for a long time. The two of you need to come to some understandings.”

“I know. It’s long overdue.” Vincent was looking down again, reluctant to admit the stark truth of his father’s statement. “I think we avoid it because the obstacles sometimes seem larger than the possibilities; and we’re afraid of losing the dream.”

“Are you sure it isn’t you who is afraid?” Father asked kindly, placing his hand on Vincent’s arm. “After watching Catherine for the last weeks, I believe her to be willing to reach any compromise it takes to hold on to your dream. She promised you that she would be with you for the rest of her life. You promised that she would not be alone. Where do you go from there? It may be time for you to put more of your thoughts into words for her. You have the advantage of the strong side of your bond. She has no such vantage point into your mind. Tell her how you feel. Make her understand.”

He took a deep breath. “Use the time you have with her wisely.” Picking up his medical bag to leave, he added with a smile, “Don’t let her get away from us. It’s nice to have two sons, but I’m finding that a daughter is also a great joy.”

“Catherine enjoyed hearing you greet both of us as your children. I felt it,” Vincent told him.

“It warms my heart as well,” Father smiled. He kissed the top of Vincent’s head. “I’ll check on you this afternoon. I need to see two of the children who seemed to be on the verge of the flu yesterday.” He left feeling rather helpless and very sympathetic toward his son.

 Chapter 3