The Plastic Surgeon

A Beauty and the Beast Fan Fiction


Linda White



Authors note: This is my fourth story submission to the CABB website, and while the stories I’ve written are stand-alone stories, they do follow certain assumptions that I established in the first of my stories entitled, “A Crisis of Confidence”. These assumptions are, that Catherine no longer works at the District Attorney’s office, but has instead set up several charitable foundations and sits on the board of directors for those foundations. That she now lives in a multi-story brownstone-style townhouse she inherited when her father passed, and that the house has an entrance to the world Below accessible via a utility door in her basement. With safe passage via that door, Vincent is a frequent guest thereby making it possible for the two of them to finally have some semblance of a life together. My second story available via CABB is entitled, “Vincent’s Day in the Sunshine,” and my third is entitled, “The Haunted Clock”.

Here then, is my fourth submission, “The Plastic Surgeon.”

Hope you, the fans of our favorite romantic couple, enjoy my stories.




“Quiet. Quiet, please. This meeting of the council will come to order,” Father said, using his most official voice. “We are meeting today to consider inclusion of a new helper to our family of friends from the Above world. He is a colleague of our own longtime friend and helper, Dr. Peter Alcott, who is with us this morning. Peter, would you like to take it from here?”

Peter stood up. “Thank you, Jacob.” He turned to the others. “I would like to recommend Dr. David Sterling, an extremely gifted plastic surgeon. As most of you know, Vincent found an abandoned child a few months ago who was born with a severe cleft palate.”

Everyone’s eyes turned to Vincent, who nodded.

“Little Daniel has been under Mary’s expert care,” Peter reminded them, and everyone turned to Mary, who also nodded.

Peter continued. “With Jacob’s permission, I have shown Dr. Sterling photos of Daniel, and he is convinced he can reconstruct this young boy’s face. He has always gone above and beyond his practice, volunteering in poor neighborhoods, even going abroad from time to time to war-ravaged countries where he has surgically repaired many scarred people. He is a humanitarian in every sense of the word, and I am certain he would be a tremendous asset to this community. He is a man of integrity. I am sure he would never betray the secret of the world Below. With your approval, I would like to bring him here this afternoon to meet you all and to discuss Daniel’s case. I’ve also brought copies of a few medical journals in which photos of Dr. Sterling’s cleft palate corrections are featured.”

Peter handed the journals to Mary, who was sitting closest to where he stood. He sat down.

Mary gasped at the first photo of a young boy’s mangled face, but then smiled when she saw the “after” photo. “This is amazing, Peter. Truly, your friend is gifted.” She glanced at the other photos, then passed them to Vincent, who sat next to her.

Vincent looked through the photos next. “Remarkable,” he enthused. “To give these children a life-altering gift is a miracle. It is heartening to know such people as Dr. Sterling exist in the world. I agree with Peter. Let us bring him into our sphere.”

Everyone sat quietly while the photos made the rounds, then Pascal spoke up. “I agree with Mary and Vincent. This man would be a genuine asset to our world.”

Everyone to the last person voted in favor. Father’s was the final vote, making it unanimous. “Peter, you have the votes needed, and we would be happy to have you bring Dr. Sterling to us this afternoon.”

Peter smiled. “Thank you, Jacob, and all of you. I’ll see you this afternoon.”

The meeting broke up, and the members left in twos and threes, chatting enthusiastically as they went. Vincent stayed rooted to the spot, not saying a word.



“Vincent, do you mean to stay there until the council reconvenes later today?” Father joked.

“Sorry, Father. I was lost in thought.”

“Well, as long as you’re still here, come have tea with me.”




Peter was happy at the prospect of bringing his friend into the secret world of the tunnel community, but he did have one huge concern.


He needed to prepare his friend before bringing him Below. He not only needed to describe Vincent, but should probably also explain the relationship between Vincent and Catherine, especially since Catherine was often with Vincent in that subterranean world.

Peter pulled into David’s driveway. He cut the engine and took a deep breath. His friend was waving from the porch. Peter got out of the car and walked up the drive. The two friends shook hands warmly.

“Come on in,” said David. “You’ve been so mysterious about these people you want me to meet.”

“I know. There’s a lot to tell you, but when you hear it, I know you’ll understand why there is a need for all the secrecy.”

“Well, sit down, have some coffee, and tell me what I need to know.”

Peter did!

When he got to the part about Vincent, David was completely enthralled. “The face of a lion you say?”

“Yes, and no. He has definite leonine features and has claws and fang teeth, but he looks human, too. He is immensely strong, highly intelligent, a skilled strategist, but at the same time, very well spoken. He’s very gentle unless his tunnel family or Catherine is threatened. He reads poetry to her, for cripes sake.”

“And this Catherine is smitten with him?”

“She absolutely adores him. And it goes deeper than that. They have some kind of bond wherein Vincent can sense not only her emotions at a distance, but can even sense her location. I’ve known her all her life – in fact, I delivered her, and I’m here to tell you, she is not given to flights of fancy. It’s the real deal with them.

“Speaking of Catherine, you may be interested to know, she had extensive plastic surgery herself a few years ago, after having survived a brutal attack by thugs who slashed her face to ribbons. It was Vincent who found her bleeding and semi-conscious in the park and brought her Below to be patched up by Father. She’d been beaten so badly some of her ribs were broken. Vincent cared for her for several days until she was mended enough to return home. A short time later, she had surgery to repair her face. The work was done by Dr. Sanderly. Do you know him?”

“Only by reputation. He’s top drawer by all accounts. You say it was Vincent who found her. Is that when they first met?”

“Yes. I think their bond was formed during her convalescence.”

“Uncanny. I can hardly wait to meet him.”

“Well, you’ll have your chance this afternoon.”

“What about the little boy with the cleft palate? How old is he? It’s hard to tell from the pictures.”

“As near as we can guess, about five or six. Vincent found him, too. Poor little guy had been tossed into a dumpster, obviously abandoned by the mother or family. Vincent’s own story is similar, so he probably felt an overwhelming sense of compassion for the child.”

“What about the man you call Father? You said he’s a doctor too.”

“Yes, he was a brilliant research physician, but was blacklisted during the communist witch hunts of the fifties. He and a few others found the tunnels and have built the whole community Below. It’s actually quite a remarkable accomplishment.”

“Interesting group of friends you have there, Peter! As I said, I can hardly wait to meet them, especially Vincent!”




“Vincent, you seem to be in a pensive mood this morning,” remarked Father. “Is everything ok?”

“I’m fine Father. I just have a lot on my mind.”

“Perhaps you should go and visit Catherine. She always seems to have a calming effect.”

Vincent, who hadn’t seen her in several days, suddenly knew that was exactly what he needed.

“Excellent idea,” he agreed. “I’ll be back in time for the afternoon meeting.” With that, he took his leave.

Some thirty minutes later, he entered Catherine’s house through the utility door in her basement. He called out to her as he walked up the stairs. He rarely bothered with the elevator. “Catherine, are you here?”

No answer. She hadn’t heard him. He sensed she was in the stained glass greenhouse on the roof. He ran all the way up. “Catherine?” he called out again.

“Oh, Vincent! This is a surprise. I wasn’t expecting you.”

He pulled her into an embrace and kissed her lightly. “I’m sorry I didn’t send a message ahead. I hope I haven’t caught you at a bad time.”

“Not at all. I’ve been repotting some of these plants, but was just about to take a break and have some coffee. Will you join me?”

“Thank you, Catherine. I’d love to. I can only stay a couple of hours. I have to get back for the afternoon meet and greet!”

She laughed. “That sounds like something my ex-boss, Joe Maxwell, would say. And what meet and greet are you talking about?”

Vincent told her all about the new member they were bringing into their fold and of how they hoped he could help the young boy, Daniel.

“He sounds like he’ll be a welcome addition, and if he’s a friend of Peter’s, then there is assurance of trust. If I know Peter, and I do, he would never recommend anyone flaky or untrustworthy.”

“Come back with me Catherine,” he said suddenly. “I’m sure Father would be happy to see you, and you are one of our most trusted helpers yourself.” It always amazed Vincent that Father, who had disliked Catherine at first, thought so highly of her now.

“When will he be there? Do I have time to get cleaned up and change into something decent?” Vincent realized she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The knees of her jeans had soil all over them.

“Plenty of time. It doesn’t start for two more hours.”

“Good. I’ll have time to wash my hair too.”

“Have you eaten?” he asked. He knew she had a tendency to skip meals when she was preoccupied. He worried about her.

“Actually, no,” she admitted.

“Go get your shower then,” he said. “I’ll go down and make sandwiches.”

“You’ve got a deal.” She high-fived him.

Catherine came into the kitchen twenty minutes later with a towel still wrapped around her hair to see that Vincent had grilled cheese sandwiches ready, along with a side of pickles and potato chips.

“You’re getting really good at lunches,” she said approvingly.

She had changed into a nice pair of slacks and a soft sweater and had tied her hair up into a ponytail. They rode the elevator down to the basement and entered the passage under her house that went straight into the tunnels. As they walked, he put his arm around her protectively.

Father had been right. She always lifted his mood.




The meet and greet went off without a hitch. Everyone was eager to meet Dr. Sterling, and there was much hand-shaking and small talk going on. David was a friendly, affable fellow and seemed genuinely interested in each of the people he met, and was enthusiastic about the miracle of the tunnel world.

Vincent knew at once that Peter must have coached his friend on what to expect when they met, for David showed no outward sign of shock or fear, and in fact, reached to shake Vincent’s hand.

“So glad to meet you, Vincent,” he said. “From what I understand, it was you who found little Daniel.”

“Yes,” replied Vincent. “Peter has informed all of us that you’ll be able to help him.”

“Oh, yes, absolutely. The cleft palate can be repaired to appear as close to normal as I can make it. There might be some residual scarring, but as I say, as close to normal as it is possible to get.”

Catherine had come to stand by Vincent while David was discussing the probable outcome. She smiled.

Vincent absentmindedly reached for her hand. “Please allow me to introduce Catherine Chandler,” he said. Vincent did not miss the look of open admiration on David’s face. “Catherine is one of our helpers from the Above world and much beloved by our community. Especially me,” he added for emphasis.

“I am sorry to stare, Miss Chandler. Peter has made me aware that you’ve had reconstructive surgery, and I couldn’t help my frank admiration for the surgeon. I hope I am not opening up a painful topic, and I hope you are not offended.”

Catherine smiled again. “Not at all. And yes, I was most fortunate to have a very skilled surgeon. Perhaps even more fortunate to have had a generous father.”

I take it the remaining scar near your ear was too deep at the time to remove?”

Catherine realized he missed nothing.

“Have you considered having that one done now?” David continued.“It would be a relatively easy procedure.”

“Yes, Dr. Sanderly offered as well, but I have chosen to keep that one for a very private reason. Will you excuse me? I just want to go and pay my respects to Father.”

Catherine wandered off, and David knew that he probably had gotten a little too personal.

“And what about you, Vincent?” he said in a casual manner. “Have you ever considered reconstructive surgery? Of course I realize you’ve probably not had any exposure to anyone with the skill required for such an extensive undertaking.”

Vincent was thunderstruck! He couldn’t even begin to formulate a coherent answer and stammered, “I …was born this way.” He knew it sounded stupid, but it was all he could think of to say.

“As little Daniel was born with a cleft palate, yes? I admit it would be an enormous challenge, no doubt requiring multiple procedures.” David warmed to his topic. “There would need to be some dental work too, but, yes, it could be done.”

“And what exactly would this work entail?” asked Vincent in a skeptical voice.

“To be honest, there would need to be a lot of restructuring around the nose and mouth and possible skin grafts to replace the … uh …furrier parts.”

“And my claws? What of those?”

“Well, that would be a separate and very delicate surgery, for the hands have many sensitive nerves, but essentially it would be like declawing a cat. Do your claws retract?”

“Only when I’m with Catherine,” replied Vincent, who hoped Dr. Sterling grasped what he meant by that, because he wasn’t about to spell it out for him.

“I see.”

And Vincent knew he did see. “I will consider your words. Thank you for the insight, and welcome to our family of helpers.”

“Sure thing,” said David, who wandered off to rejoin his friend, Peter.

Vincent realized the whole conversation had been casual shop-talk for David, but for him the conversation had been profound. He glanced around and spotted Catherine on the other side of the meeting hall talking to Father and Mouse. His eyes focused on her like two laser beams. She was so beautiful. He suddenly envisioned himself transforming into the handsome prince of storybook legend and whisking her off to some enchanted land.




Vincent closed and locked the doors of his chamber. They’d been arguing for over an hour.

“Why?” said Catherine for about the umpteenth time. “Why do you think you need this? Are you out of your mind? Do you have any idea what it would be like going through multiple surgeries with no guarantee of the desired outcome? I know he’s a skilled surgeon, Vincent, but it’s always a risk going under the knife, and in your case, it would be several times.”

Vincent lashed out in righteous anger. “So what you’re saying is that it was ok for you, but not ok for me? It was ok to get your brutalized face fixed, but it’s not an option for me?”

“But your face hasn’t been brutalized, Vincent. It’s fine.”

“You know perfectly well what I mean. You’d deny me the chance to live in the Above world as a normal person! To walk in the sunshine every day instead of having to wait until Halloween, pretending I’m in disguise. You’d deny me the chance to go to a university, to go explore the Amazon, or to visit the Great Wall of China, or just go sit on a beach and soak up the sun… things you take for granted. All those things would open up for me with an altered face. I could get a driver’s license, take vacations, maybe even get a job! So many things. I could finally partake of what life has to offer.”

Catherine burst into tears. “But you wouldn’t be you any longer.”

“Of course I’d still be me,” he said in a furious rage. “I’d simply have an altered face, a better face, more human, more like a true man.”

And suddenly Catherine was weary to her bones with arguing. He just didn’t get it. Didn’t get what she meant at all. She realized Vincent was so deeply entrenched in the idea of gaining a more human face that he didn’t want to hear any arguments to the contrary. And she understood why he felt that way. His life experiences had been so limited, so hidden, so restrictive. And, when it came right down to it, who was she to stand in his way after all? She knew she was probably being selfish, but she couldn’t get past the fact that she’d lose him as he now was.

“You’re right, Vincent,” she said wearily. “You do deserve a full and rich life. You deserve all that and much more besides. Please accept my apologies. I wouldn’t dream of denying you anything that made you happy. If this is truly what you want, then it’s what you should do.”

That took him aback, but he was still so caught up on the idea of an altered life that he didn’t catch the choking sob underlying her speech. He didn’t catch the pain flooding her heart, and he seemed to feel nothing of her sadness coming through their bond.

Catherine gazed hard at him, trying to burn the memory of his face into her brain. Except for the portrait of them together painted by Kristoffer Gentian and residing here in Vincent’s chamber, there were no photos of him anywhere. She loved her Vincent. The Vincent with the furry nose. The Vincent with the majestic lion’s face and golden flowing mane. The Vincent whose clawed hands held her close with such exquisite care.

To her, he was handsome, just as he was. Otherworldly, yes, but handsome never-the-less. She didn’t need Prince Charming. Didn’t want Prince Charming. She wanted the Vincent who read poetry to her in that liquid velvet voice.

“I’m very tired now, Vincent. I hope you don’t mind, but I want to go home.“

“Of course. I’ll walk back with you.”

They walked in silence. If Vincent felt anything amiss, he made no mention of it. If he noticed her lashes fringed with tears, he didn’t remark on that either.

“Do you want me to stay, Catherine?” he asked when they entered the basement of her house.

“No, Vincent.” Her voice quivered. “I just want to be alone for a while.”

“I understand,” he said. “I’ll see you later then.” He went back through the utility door and was gone.

Catherine looked at that door for a long time and wondered for the first time since she had lived there, whether she should lock it. But she couldn’t bring herself to do it. I am a helper to those Below, she said to herself. Those people might have need of me.




Back in the world Below, Vincent stopped in to see Father and told him about the conversation he’d had with Dr. Sterling. “He assures me it could be done,” enthused Vincent. “Think of it, Father! A more human face that would finally give me the freedom to explore all the possibilities of life.”

“And what does Catherine think about that?”

Vincent banged his fist on Father’s desk, some of the earlier anger coming back. “She hates the idea. She says I won’t be me anymore. I love her, but she’s being ridiculous. It’s the first time I’ve ever known her to be so narrow-minded.”

“Is she? Being narrow-minded, that is? Actually, I rather happen to agree with her,” said Father quietly.

“What?” Vincent was flabbergasted. “Explain yourself,” he said hotly.

“That’s easy,” said Father. “You would cease to be Vincent Wells, the strong and fierce lion-man of the tunnels. After all, you’d no longer have fangs and claws, isn’t that so?”

Father didn’t wait for a reply. “But aside from your natural, protective armaments, you’d cease to be one of the strong voices of the tunnel community, a leader among us. You’d be too busy galivanting around the world seeing what you think you’ve missed. You’d cease to be a teacher of the tunnel children, who have come to rely on you. And you would cease to be my strong right arm and confidante. Oh, you’d still be Vincent, but you’d be a different Vincent in more ways than just sporting an altered face.

“And, you should have been honest with Catherine and said goodbye to her, instead of see you later, because you’re going to lose her.”

“What?” said Vincent again. He was filling up with fresh anger. First Catherine, and now Father. “You’re speaking complete nonsense. Catherine is a well-traveled woman. We can go galivanting together.”

“And I tell you, Catherine will not go anywhere with you once you cease to be her adored Vincent. Oh, she’ll not stand in your way. She would deny you nothing you truly wanted, but an altered you will make her unhappy, mark my words.”

“But that’s so selfish. How can she, or you, for that matter, deny me a chance to experience all that life has to offer?”

“As I said, she’ll deny you nothing… except herself! She’s come to love you as you are, Vincent, and it was she who gave up much to be with you. Do you really believe you’re the only one who has had to give up the things of life because you’ve been forced to live within the confines of the tunnels?

“It is she who no longer travels abroad or anywhere else for that matter. She who reduced her circle of friends to almost nothing, and she who gives more and more of herself and her fortune to those of us Below. She even gave up her job in the District Attorney’s office so there’d be less stress to you. And she did it because she wanted to be with you more than she wanted any of those things.”

“But she had her own face fixed! How is it fair for me not to have the same opportunity?”

“Vincent, Catherine wears the face she was born with! That face was savagely ripped from her by monsters in an act of extreme violence that very nearly killed her. I’m the one who stitched her up and bound her broken ribs. I’m the one who agonized over the amount of blood she’d lost and how I had no way to replace it for her on that long ago night, so I should know better than anyone how desperately close she came to exiting this world.

“By good fortune and a doting father, she was able to get her own face back. Not a different face, Vincent. Not a face out of a fashion magazine. Her own. And she was so humbled by the experience, so utterly grateful, that she’s been using her beauty, her courage, her wits, and her fortune to help others ever since. Catherine did not undergo reconstructive surgery out of vanity or a need to alter her lifestyle. She simply regained what was rightfully hers. After all this time, how can you know so little about the woman you say you love, the woman to whom you are supposedly bonded. And how is it that you don’t recognize that she came to embrace with all her heart the very values she learned from you during her convalescence?

“I’m sorry Vincent, but in my humble opinion, it is not Catherine who is being selfish. Far from it.”




Vincent watched in complete awe as Dr. Sterling performed a medical miracle on little Daniel’s face. Both Father and Peter assisted, while he and Mary, medical masks in place, stood by to act as backup in case any further assistance was needed. None was.

Father was ecstatic at the amount of medical equipment that had now found a home Below. They’d even moved the medical bay into a much larger chamber, and Catherine had donated a huge amount of cash to fill in with as many medical supplies as possible. Dr. Sterling gave fully of his time and his skill, as did Dr. Alcott.

“I’ve always kept an extra surgical bay equipped and ready at my facility in town,” remarked Dr. Sterling. “But it’s rarely ever been used. It’s nice to know it will be now. I was happy to transfer all of that down here.”

“I can’t thank you enough,” said Father warmly. “Especially on behalf of the children.”

Mary took the first watch in the recovery room, while the others retired to Father’s library to share a toast to a job well done.

“I must say,” declared Father, “that was one of the finest surgeries I have ever had the privilege to witness. My congratulations to you, David.”

“ I couldn’t have done it without your able assistance, yours and Peter’s both.”

“Jacob’s right, David,” said Peter. “We only assisted. Any competent doctor could have done the same. The real skill flowed from your hands.”

David laughed. “Be careful, or you’ll have to do another surgery to repair my inflated head.”

The three doctors had not noticed that Vincent was no longer in their company.




Vincent was pacing –so much so, that the faded, but thick Aubusson carpet was in danger of having a path worn in it. He had retreated to his chamber and locked the doors. Father’s words weighed heavily on his mind, as did Catherine’s unhappiness.

How could the two of them be so blind? How could they not see how his life would be so enriched if he were able to finally have the freedom to function in the world Above? To taste its wonders and see its beauty not in the dim light of the tunnels, but in the brilliant light of the sun.

But inside his head, a little voice nagged. They would want those things for you if you choose to take that path. As Father had said, neither he nor Catherine would ever deny such a thing to him.

So, what was the problem? He didn’t understand her unhappiness. Oh, he felt it all right, felt it down to the core of his being through their bond. He was in such turmoil. The idea of ultimate freedom made him euphoric, but Catherine’s distress threatened to tear his heart asunder.

Why was she being so stubborn? Why couldn’t she accept the idea that he could become more human, be more like a normal man?

He tried to imagine how his image would change, tried to visualize how the downward curving lines of his mouth would move upwards into a more human smile. He imagined his nose and chin devoid of fur. He laughed out loud when he imagined his tawny mane cut into a regulation, cropped, man’s haircut.

Vincent knew, though, that the claws would be the most painful part of the transformation, and he shuddered. He held his hands up to the light of the refurbished Tiffany lamp, examining them closely. Catherine had always complimented him on his penmanship and on the fact that he could manipulate all but the smallest tools so easily, yet those hands had eviscerated evil men in about two seconds flat.




Vincent suddenly sat straight up, his musings cut short. He knew in an instant that Catherine was in her car and moving at high speed away from New York. She was heading in an easterly direction.

Where could she be going? He could almost see a roadmap in his head. New England? He wondered if she’d sent a message or left a note. He unlocked and threw open his doors. He made his way to Father’s library and found that Peter and David had gone.

“Father, have any messages come in?”

“Yes, there was a–”

Vincent cut him off. “I need to see it at once.”

“I’m sorry, Vincent. The message was not for you. It was for Peter.”

“Peter! Was it from Catherine by any chance?”

“Possibly. It did look like her stationery,” replied Father.

“And he said nothing? Gave no clue?”

“I’m sorry, Vincent, no. I’m sure whatever it was, it was private.”

“How long ago did he leave and did he say where he was going?”

“About half an hour ago. I assumed he was going home. What has you in such a kerfuffle, Vincent?”

“It’s Catherine. She’s gone. Heading in the direction of New England, but she’s in motion, so I don’t know her final destination. I thought she might have left a message.”

Father said as gently as he could, “Has it occurred to you, Vincent, that she didn’t want you to know until she was well on her way?”

Vincent looked like he’d just been slapped … hard.

Father hated to pour salt into the gaping wound of shock, but he had to say it. “Vincent, she may not be coming back.”

Vincent staggered from Father’s quarters heading in the direction of his own chambers, but Father and nearly everyone else Below heard the anguished roar a few minutes later. Father knew there was nothing he could do. Vincent had to work this out for himself.




Peter took the note out of his pocket, along with a sealed envelope. The envelope had Vincent’s name on it.

He read through Catherine’s note again.


Dearest Peter,

You are the closest thing to a father I have left in this world, and I know you love me like a daughter. Based on that special relationship, I beg a favor. I have enclosed a letter for Vincent, but I wish you to withhold it until I have had time to arrive at the summer house in Connecticut.

I need time away.

Vincent is considering allowing your friend David to perform facial reconstructive surgery. I think you can guess what the goal is. I am unhappy about this, and we’ve had words, but as you know, I love Vincent beyond anything in the world, and would never stand in the way of his happiness, even at the cost of my own.

I may not see you for a while, but you know the address. If you need signatures on any important foundation paperwork, send them to me and I will sign them and get them back to you.

Love you deeply,


Peter sent Catherine’s letter to Vincent through the helper’s network two days later.




Father knocked on Vincent’s door – several times. “Vincent, I know you’re in there. A letter has come for you.”

The door opened, and Father noticed the unkempt appearance of his adopted son. He also noted anguish in Vincent’s eyes.

Vincent took the letter, his hands visibly shaking. “Thank you, Father.” He gently closed the door.

Vincent sat back down in his big, thronelike chair. He tore open the letter that he knew was from Catherine. A tiny whiff of her perfume wafted out, and his heart clenched in pain. He unfolded the pages and read:


My Beloved Vincent,

Soon, you will embark on your journey towards a new you, a new face, and your dream of living fully as a man, free to move through the world Above will at last come true for you. It will be such a wonderful new experience. To travel, to see oceans, mountains, forests, and all the wonderful things of the world will be truly exhilarating.

I have experienced many of those things myself, so I rejoice for you. I wish you the greatest happiness imaginable.

You taught me strength, Vincent. Taught me to be brave and to face my fears. To find courage and venture into dark places where I could truly help people. But I am a coward after all, for I find there is one thing I cannot do, and I am so ashamed at my weakness and so utterly sorry.

I cannot imagine my life without my Vincent. I can’t imagine not waking up to see your cute furry nose, the quirky downturned lips that kiss more wonderfully and tenderly than any man I have ever known, and I can’t imagine not running my fingers through that soft, flowing, saffron hair. I will even miss the claws, for as I once told you, those aremy hands!  The hands that hold me tight, that write wonderfully soulful letters to me and defend me from evildoers.

I will miss the Vincent who has saved me time and time again, the one who cared for me so carefully when I could not care for myself. The one who shares the things I love and the one who shares my bed. That Vincent wears the face of the one I came to love.

I hope you will bear me no ill will for my weakness, my inability to cope. The Vincent I have known and loved is the best part of me. I’ll carry that with me always,



Vincent’s eyes filled with tears, and suddenly he understood exactly how Catherine felt, because he couldn’t imagine a life without her. And he finally understood about beauty. He’d always accepted that it was Catherine who was the beautiful one –and she was.

But he now knew that he was beautiful to her! Not a beautiful soul, not a beautiful voice, or beautiful in virtue or generosity, though he hoped he was all of those things, but truly beautiful to look upon. The face he wore was the face she adored. She saw true beauty when she beheld his strange, lion-like face.

 He was shaken to his very foundation.

He knew she was in Connecticut, only one state away, but she might as well have been on the moon. She had once spoken to him long ago of a magical place where she had spent time as a girl, near a lake in Connecticut. She had wanted to take him there, to make it their place, had even gone so far as to rent a van so she could spirit him away.

But, at the last moment, he had succumbed to the greater voices of reason that spoke of the dangers should he be caught above so far from the safety of the tunnels. Father’s voice. And he had obeyed that voice to Catherine’s crushed disappointment.

Yet didn’t he choose to wander Above at night himself? Exploring Central Park by moonlight? Climbing high-rises to gaze at the fantastically lit streets and avenues of New York? He put himself at risk. Repeatedly.

And he suddenly wished he had gone with her back then. Now she was there.



What if something happened to her? He wouldn’t be able to get to her in time to help her. The thought filled him with dread. And then, a worse thought came to him.

What if she sealed up the passageway in the basement of her New York house… walled it over and then sold that house, thereby cutting off all ties to the world Below? He knew she would never betray the secret. She would always protect his world, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t sever ties to it …to him.

And his heart ached with renewed pain.

It was he who had been blind. In his desire to see and experience all that he had never known, he’d lost sight of all the wonderful things that he did know, and he realized the world Below was not only home, but held wonders of its own. The Crystal cavern where he had procured Catherine’s necklace. The mirror pool with the night sky reflected in it. The Whispering Gallery and Elizabeth’s painted tunnels. Nameless underground rivers and secret places that only he knew.

But the most beautiful thing in his world, whether Above or Below, was Catherine. She had become so much a part of his life that he had begun, he now realized, to take her for granted. He’d forgotten that love and, yes, sacrifice, was a two way street. Father was right. It was Catherine who had been doing the heavy lifting, the one doing the giving for a long time. She was so generous that it was easy to take from her! And he was ashamed.

But it came to him that he could easily rectify his oversight. Fulfilling her wishes would be the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, because the only thing Catherine needed or wanted was him.

As he was.

Not some made-over, plastic semblance of a man.

He wanted to go to her, was desperate for that. To fall on his knees and beg her forgiveness. To beg her to come home.

To him.

And then it hit him.

He would go to her.




Peter opened the letter that had come through the helper network that morning. It was from Vincent.

A desperate Vincent.

Dear Peter,

You are my only hope! I must get to Catherine. I must make my apologies, and I must make them in person, or I fear I will lose her forever. I am begging you for your assistance.

Take me to her. I do not care what the risks are. I care only that she knows I love her far more than anything else in my life and that she is far more important to me than a new face.

Help me.

In desperation,



Peter came up with a plan.

He penned a note instructing Vincent to meet him at his medical facility later that night and to bring several changes of clothes. “Pack as though you were going on an extended trip,” he told Vincent.

Vincent showed up at the appointed hour.

“Come here, Vincent. Sit down.” Peter pointed to a low chair. “You are about to become a burn victim. Very tragic case!”

Vincent noticed several rolls of gauze on a nearby metal tray. “I see,” he replied with a grin.

“Here, put these on.” Peter handed Vincent a complete set of scrubs, top and bottoms, and even a pair of gauzy medical booties. He then proceeded to wrap Vincent’s entire head in a swath of gauze, except for two slits where the eyes were. He wrapped Vincent’s hands in the same manner. “I have the medical van parked out back and will take you to Catherine. If by some remote chance we are pulled over, the story is that you are a burn victim being transferred to another facility.

“You’ll have to act the part and stay on the gurney the whole way just in case, or at least in the back of the van. Can’t take a chance on someone seeing me chatting with a burn victim in the front seat.”

“I understand,” said Vincent. “I owe you everything, Peter. How long will it take to get there?”

“Depending on traffic getting out of the city, about two hours, give or take.”

“Catherine once told me the place is secluded. Are there other risk factors I should know about?”

“It is secluded. Quite a lovely place really. I’ve been a guest there many times. The Chandler’s bought it years ago as a refuge from the city. You should be perfectly safe once we get there. The biggest risk is getting there, but I think my burn victim trick will work.”




The journey to Connecticut went without a hitch. Peter’s plan worked out brilliantly. Vincent told him he would have been willing to lie in a hearse if it meant getting to Catherine.

“Glad to know that,” Peter joked back. “Maybe that’s the ploy we’ll use next time.”

As Peter drove up that last piece of densely wooded, winding road, he glanced over his shoulder and said, “You can start taking the bandages off now, Vincent. We’re almost there. It’s only another couple of miles.”

Vincent bit at the gauze on his left hand, tearing it free, then used his freed hand to undo the rest. He took the surgical booties off and shook out his mane. He was still garbed in scrubs, but he didn’t care.

All that mattered was that they were here. In Connecticut. Another state. He’d never been out of New York before, but now he was!

The house was dark, and he realized she was probably sleeping. He tried to reach her through the bond. Catherine. Dearest Catherine, please wake up.

And she did, though not realizing he had called out to her. She saw the headlights of Peter’s car shining at an oblique angle through her bedroom window …

And panicked.

Who could be coming up her road in the middle of the night? She reached into the little drawer of her nightstand and withdrew the small pistol she kept there.

Vincent felt her panic, but also her brazen determination through the bond.

“Be careful, Peter. She’s armed herself.”

Peter parked, killed the headlights, and shut the engine off. He carefully opened the door and hollered, “Cathy, it’s me, Peter.”

Cathy opened the front door. “You gave me such a fright, Peter.” She put the gun in the desk drawer near the door. “What’s going on? Why did you come in the medical van?”

“I’ve brought a friend.” He slid the side panel open, and Vincent stepped out.

Catherine was beyond stunned.  “Vincent, you’re here! In Connecticut! At my house!”

“Yes, Catherine. Thanks to Peter.”

“Cathy, can we come in?” Peter interjected.

Catherine found her manners. “Of course, come in, come in. I’m just so surprised to see the two of you. You might even say stunned.”

Once they were in the house, Catherine moved about the kitchen making coffee for all of them. They sat down at her kitchen table. Peter spoke again. “Listen, Cathy, Vincent has some things he’d like to say to you, and they were important enough to him to beg me to haul him out here. Why don’t you give me the keys to one of the cabins down by the lake. I’ll make myself at home down there for the night and drive back to New York in the morning.”

“Oh, sure,” she said. “Here you go.” She took the keys off the hook by the door and tossed them to Peter.

Peter took his leave.

Catherine burst into tears. “Vincent,” she sobbed and threw herself into his arms. “You’re here. You’re really here.”

He hugged her fiercely. “I’m here.” He stroked her hair. “And I’m so sorry, Catherine. So very sorry. I hurt you so badly. Please forgive me.”

“Oh, Vincent, I daresay we hurt each other. But your goal for a new face, a new life in the world Above. What has happened to all of that?”

“I came to realize that I already have the perfect life, Catherine. A life that has you in it. Nothing compares to that.



She sobbed afresh, but this time, they were mostly tears of joy. “But, you took such a risk coming here. I once thought it would be such an easy thing, but Father was right. Anything could have happened.”

“But didn’t, Catherine. And I’m here. Where I belong. With you.”

She hugged him more tightly and rained kisses all over his face, the face she loved so dearly. And he kissed her back with all the passion of his heart.

“Come,” she said and led him into the cozy bedroom of the house he’d never seen before.




The next morning, Cathy prepared a sumptuous breakfast for Peter and Vincent. It was a veritable smorgasbord with waffles, toast, eggs, bacon, hash browns, and fresh fruit. And rich coffee made from freshly ground beans.

“Cathy, this is wonderful,” said Peter appreciatively. “You really do great things with food.”

“Thank you, Peter. Anything for my favorite doctor.” She laughed.

“I hate to eat and run, but I’ve got to get back to town. I’ve thought it over, and I think Vincent should stay here for a few days. I’ll get word to Jacob, and I’ll get him calmed down even if I have to give him a sedative,” Peter said ruefully.

Cathy knew what Peter was doing. He was giving her and Vincent a gift, and she loved him for it with all her heart. She hugged him fiercely.

“I’ll come back with the van in, let’s say, a week, and take Vincent back in the same way I spirited him out here, ok?”

They agreed to the plan. Vincent suddenly understood why Peter had made him pack for an extended stay.

“Do me a favor when you get back to town, will you?” said Vincent.

“What’s that?”

“Tell Dr. Sterling, thank you, but I won’t be needing his services after all.”




It was the honeymoon they’d both dreamed of and never dared to hope for. Walks through the quiet woods hand in hand, dappled sunshine lighting their path. Fragrant flowers peeping through the mossy forest carpet. Running with abandon through meadows of tall grass. Picnics in secluded glades where they sat quietly watching little animals and deer foraging on the verdant grass. And Vincent pocketing small things: pinecones, acorns, pebbles.

“What are you picking those things up for,” she asked curiously.


She giggle d. “Oh, Vincent, you are so precious.”

And their nights were as magical as their days. Moonlight swims in the lake and strolls under the velvety sky. He witnessed a meteor shower and saw the Milky Way. He saw nocturnal creatures – owls and bats – and heard the baying of coyotes. Everything was a mystery and a wonder to him. But mostly the nights were made for love, and he gave to Catherine the fullness of his heart.

“And all of this is yours, Catherine?” he asked her one morning.

“Yes. Dad bought this property years ago as a retreat from the city. An easy drive, but worlds away. It was once a large farm in colonial times, from what I know of it. I have about sixty acres: the house, the two small cabins on the lake, the boathouse, the lake itself, and all the surrounding woods. We’re quite private here, so there should be very little danger of discovery.”

“I never realized you owned such an extensive property,” he remarked. “When you mentioned spending time here as a girl, I didn’t realize the scope of what you were talking about.”

“To be honest, I’ve been thinking of selling it. Except for these last few days, I haven’t had much use for the place in recent years. Being here with you has been so wonderful though.”

“Would you keep it if it were possible for me to come here with you once in a while, like now?”

“Oh, yes, Vincent. Absolutely. Would you do that? I know it’s a risk leaving the safety of the tunnels, but it would mean so much to me.”

“Then we must conspire with Peter for his assistance in making future trips possible. He has offered to turn me into a corpse!” They chuckled. “I never thought such a thing could happen for me, but now that I have had a taste, I find I would be ecstatic to come to this one little piece of paradise with you and never have wanderlust for anyplace else.”

Vincent knew he was only a hundred miles or so from New York and the world of the tunnels, but it felt like another world entirely out here, almost alien in its strange, ethereal beauty. He wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see fairies dancing in a ring.

Happiness as he had never known it before flooded his senses. He was with the woman he loved in a magical place. Suddenly he realized he had indeed been altered, but not in the way he had intended earlier. He had reached another level of maturity, a level of greater understanding for the truly important things in life and of greater appreciation of the beauties such understanding brings. He didn’t need a plastic surgeon to help him achieve those things.

Vincent took his shirt off and laid back on the soft bed of moss, letting the mottled sunshine coming through the leafy canopy bathe his body in a golden glow.

Catherine, sitting next to him, looked fondly on his sunlit features admiring the beauty of him. He was magnificent!


His golden mane spread out like a halo. He was hers. Her heart overflowed with joy, and Vincent, feeling it through their bond, was filled with a joy of his own.




Vincent knew Father was unhappy about his lengthy stay in Connecticut. He also knew this was the reason Father had been avoiding him, but sooner or later, they would need to clear the air. Vincent decided that sooner was the wiser choice and turned his steps toward Father’s chambers.

“Ah, Vincent. Haven’t seen much of you since you got back from vacation,” said Father.

So that’s how it’s going to be, thought Vincent. Word games. “Why don’t you just tell me what’s on your mind, Father, and skip the hyperbole.

That took Father aback. “All right, then. You already know what I’m going to say, because I’ve said it before. How could you? How could you endanger our world, not to mention yourself? And to think Peter aided and abetted. What was he thinking? Oh, he gave me every assurance that he delivered you safely to Catherine’s, but the magnitude of the transgression is beyond my comprehension. So many things could have gone wrong.”

“But none of them did! Peter took every precaution. And it was my risk to take. Discovery of me would not have endangered the world Below in any way.”

“Still, such risk for your safety.”

Vincent lashed out. “There is no such thing as complete safety, Father! Life itself is a risk.”

“But at least you’re safe in the world below, Vincent. Venturing so far from the safety of the tunnels is sheer madness.”

“The world Below? Bah! Is the world Below so much safer than the world Above? How soon you forget that you and I were trapped in a cave-in right down here in the tunnel world, and it was Catherine who found the means to free us, else we’d have died. Was it safe when the plague ripped through our community? We lost Ellie, or have you forgotten? And when the outsiders invaded our tunnels, how safe were we then? The death toll was staggering!

“No, Father, do not preach to me of safety. Was it not I who took care of the outsiders to keep our world safe? And at what cost to me?”

“But … Connecticut, Vincent.”

“Some things are worth the risk, Father. This was one of them, and I would do it again. Will do it again. I understand the need for me to hide away far more than you know, but I also begin to understand the need to experience life.”

“What would your life be like if you were caught above, Vincent? Were a few days in Connecticut worth that?”

“My time with Catherine in Connecticut was the happiest time of my life and, yes, worth the risk. I will not apologize for it, nor will I give it up. We will go again. We will go with extreme caution such as was afforded by Peter, but we will go. I will not deny this happiness to her or to myself. It is not open for debate.”

Father was flabbergasted, but secretly proud of his adopted son. Vincent had grown into a mature, intelligent, masterful individual with visions and ideas of his own. He realized he couldn’t impose restraints in the same way he had done when Vincent was a child. He had to let Vincent decide for himself.

Vincent was right. There was risk in every situation in life, whether Above or Below. He patted his son on the shoulder. “Next time, take pictures.”




Vincent entered Catherine’s house through the utility door in the basement. “Catherine, I’m here,” he called to her as he went up the stairs. He found her in her favorite chair in the living room. She was sitting amidst a mountain of wrapping paper and tissue.

“What are you doing?” he asked curiously.

“Wrapping a gift for Peter.”

“Peter? Is it his birthday?”

“No, it’s a thank you gift. I thought it could be from both of us.”

“What is it?”

“A suitcase.”

“A suitcase?” Vincent’s eyebrows rose.

She giggled. “Yes, but the real surprise is inside.” She popped the latches on the front and lifted the top.

Vincent saw a brightly colored envelope inside. It hadn’t been sealed yet.

“Open it,” she said.

Vincent lifted the flap and pulled out the contents. Then he grinned. The envelope contained a prepaid vacation voucher for any destination he might choose and where Catherine’s favorite airline happened to fly.

“This is a wonderful gift, Catherine.”

“What he gave to us was priceless, Vincent. He deserves it!”

“Father says Connecticut is lovely in the autumn, Catherine.”

Catherine understood Vincent had reconciled his differences with Father. “Yes,” she said, “it is. An absolute blaze of glory. You really should see it at that time of year.”

“I thought you’d never ask!”