Chapter 14: Worlds Enough (PG)

Vincent was still sleeping the next morning when Catherine awoke. His headache had faded somewhere around midnight, but his sleep was restless. She pulled the quilt up over his bare shoulders and padded from the room.

It was beginning to get warm in the kitchen. Indian summer, Catherine thought. She poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the oak table. A vague sense of unease prickled. Closing her eyes, she could see the morning chaos of her office, hear the chattering of co-workers as they staggered in from the weekend, see the files on their desk, smell the burned coffee and Joe's chocolate cheese nuggets. This was the world that awaited her when they returned, as they must. Cath, her inner Jenny chided. You're doing it again.

Doing what?

Overanalyzing. Be honest. What are you really worried about? And it's not your work. You know as soon as Joe hears from you that he'll understand. So, be honest with yourself. What is it?

She opened her eyes, watched as a couple of winter-hungry crows fought over an incautious earthworm. I worry that when we get back, all of this will have been a pleasant dream...but nothing will really have changed. Catherine snorted into her coffee. I'm being foolish.

Perhaps, her inner Jenny piped up. But what do you think will happen? That Vincent, of all people, will want to go back to how things were between you?

No. I don't think that.

You do.


Yes, you do.

Catherine sighed. Her conversations with her inner Jenny were turning out to be just as provoking as her conversations with the real Jenny often were. All right. Father's been telling him for years that our dreams are impossible. When we go back to our separate worlds, what then?

That's not the real question, Cath. The real question is: what do you want to happen?

I'm tired of seizing moments out of every day and pretending it's enough. It's not. It's not nearly enough. But at the same time, I'm not ready to move below full-time. Maybe I never will be. I don't know how to make this work.

Well, it isn't just you who has to find a way to make this work. Vincent has to want it too, and I'd say he's pretty committed to the idea. When he wakes up---why don't you just ask him?

“That's an excellent idea,” Vincent's voice, rougher with sleep, murmured. He walked into the kitchen and sat beside her.

The sight of him, dressed in a pair of old, worn sweatpants and with his hair sticking up in all directions, brought a smile to her face. “I don't think I'll ever get used to you doing that,” Catherine said.

In the sunlight, his mane seemed haloed with fire. “Doing what?” he asked, gathering her close.

Catherine leaned up against his solid warmth. “Hearing my thoughts so clearly. Could you do that...before?”

His voice vibrated against her chest as he spoke. “Before my illness? No. But our bond is changing.” He tilted his head to look at her, that azure gaze that had calmed so many, many storms in her soul. “What worries you so?”

“What's going to happen to us when we leave here, Vincent?” Catherine's gesture took in the kitchen, the house, and the forest beyond. “As lovely as this is, as happy as we've been here, this isn't the real world. The real world is files that get lost and witnesses who disappear and hearings that get continued for the millionth time and pantyhose that run just as I'm leaving for work---”

“And pipes that rupture and classes that have to be taught and bridges to repair and chambers to carve out and children who need soothing,” Vincent finished. Gently, he turned her to face him. “Catherine, those are parts of our real life, yes. But do you think I could forget this, forget us?”

“It's one thing I'm afraid of, yes,” Catherine said, not wanting to hurt him but knowing the words had to be said. “Vincent, I don't want to go back to the way things were. But it would be the easier path. This journey we're on....I don't know how we're going to go forward.” She ran her hands through his dense, wavy hair, something she knew he found soothing. “But what I'm most afraid of is not seeing you every day. I'm tired of the few stolen moments we do get, because they're not long enough.”

His eyes crinkled as he smiled at her. “And are you sure you see no way around this?”

Surely he couldn't be...could he? Their bond was dancing thread of joy, but she couldn't make out anything else. “Vincent, what are you trying to say?”

“You wish me to make things clearer? Very well.” He took her face between his hands and she stared up into the shimmering blue of his eyes, unable to look away. “I want to wake with you in the morning and welcome you home to our chamber at night. I am tired of days and nights spent without you. I don't want the easier path. I want you. Catherine, I love you. I want to marry you.”

The hug she gave him nearly knocked them both off the narrow seat. And when she tilted her head up to kiss him, she found that they were both crying.


Breakfast turned out to be a chaotic and messy affair; Vincent spilled his coffee and Catherine dropped her toast, startled. Vincent's hands, his whole body, shook with a wild, tremulous joy and Catherine smiled as she helped him clean up the coffee and picked up her toast and put it in the trash can. “Sit down, love, before you fall down.” She led him outside into the bright welcoming sunlight of an Indian summer. “So,” she said, “nervous, are you?”

He shook his head. How to explain the joy coursing through him, the joy of possibilities finally realized. “I never thought to know such happiness, Catherine,” he said softly.

She took his trembling hands in her own. “It was always right in front of you, love.”

Vincent kissed her then. She tasted of hope and all the dreams he'd once thought would never be his. The sunlight was warm on his bare shoulders as she settled next to him. “So, Vincent,” Catherine said, playing with his chest hair, “are there couples who...commute in the tunnels?”

“You mean, where someone works above and then comes below? Yes, there have been a few. It's not common, but it's been done.”

“Who?” Catherine asked.

“Well, Marisol---one of our weavers---is part of one such couple. Have you met her?”

Catherine shook her head. “I don't think so. Wait, was she the one who was helping Samantha on the loom the other day?”​

“Yes, that was Marisol. She came to the tunnels a few years ago; her husband Miguel is a bus driver up top. He comes below after his shift is over. Miguel's a good man and a good helper.”

“And the other couple?”

“Well, there was Pascal and Janelle.”

Catherine pulled back to look at him in shock. “I didn't know Pascal was married.”

Vincent nodded. “She died of cancer the winter before I met you. Janelle was born in the tunnels, but she went above and became a musician. She commuted while they were married.”

“Her loss must have been horrible for him,” Catherine murmured.

“Yes, it was. I sometimes think that's why he stays in the pipe chamber all the time. Janelle couldn't stand the constant noise so their chambers were located elsewhere. After she died, I don't think he's slept in their chamber more than a couple of nights, if that.” He paused. “Do you know what Pascal said to me before we left?”

“No. What did he say?” Catherine asked.

“'Don't think there will always be time enough to say what you want to say.'”

Catherine smiled. “Pascal's a wise man.”

“He is,” Vincent agreed. “Do you wish to commute between our worlds after we're married?”

“I think so, yes,” Catherine said. “I'm not ready to move below full-time, Vincent. I love you and I love your world, but what would I do there? You don't need a lawyer much, do you?”

He gave a short chuff of amusement. “No, but there are many council meetings where we could use a referee, to say nothing of a penalty box.” Vincent looked into her eyes, serious once again. “Catherine, you do so much good in the world above. If you wish to commute as Miguel and Janelle did, I can't think that anyone would object.”

She nestled further under his chin. “You make it sound so simple.”

“Perhaps because it is, Catherine. You have no wish to live below full-time and I have no wish to make you. We will simply make a place for us to live below. How is that complicated?”

Catherine laughed, her delight stirring the longer hairs on his chest. "It isn't. Makes me wonder why we didn't think of this earlier."

"Perhaps," Vincent replied, "because we weren't ready to see the possibilities yet."

“Perhaps,” she murmured. “But at least we got there in the end.” Catherine kissed him and a heat that was warmer than the sun began to spread through him. He pulled her into his lap, needing to feel her weight, the reality of her, in his arms.

“What is it?” Catherine asked, brushing one small hand along the short fur of his cheekbones.

“I never thought I would ever make plans for a wedding, for a future,” Vincent replied. “I find myself astonished. And blessed.”

She leaned her forehead against his, close enough to ruffle the jagged edges of his bangs. “I'm glad to hear it. I never want you to doubt that you have a right to a happy life too.”

Her lips touched his and before the last need for words fled, Vincent murmured against her mouth, “Do you want to discuss the wedding?”

He felt her smile. “I'd rather practice for the wedding night, wouldn't you?”

Click here for Chapter 15.....


SandyX said...

Awwwww, I wasn't expecting that! How sweet.

And, we got some Pascal backstory too...

You're full of surprises, aren't you?!?

That was fun. I'm gonna go read it again!


Krista said...

Hey Sandy!

Those two, I swear, they throw me a curve every time I write :) I honestly didn't expect to write that--I'm glad I did (and more than happy that you liked it) but I get surprised a lot in this story. :)

I have a soft spot for Pascal, what can I say? :)

I'm so happy you enjoyed it :)

Thanks again,

Krista :)

RomanticOne said...

The title was perfect. Being alone with no interruptions gave V and C the opportunity to see what everybody else knew - their love would find a way to keep them together. Most people hate to commute. I have a feeling Catherine isn't going to mind this one at all, considering who will be waiting at home at the end of the day. I keep visualizing the scene at the end of "A Happy Life"...her running with open arms to the man she loves waiting to catch her. What a way to end each work day! Great chapter. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Krista said...

Hi R1! :)

Yeah, I'm thinking that the commute will be a whole lot easier with Vincent at the other end of it. ;-)

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving yourself---and thanks so much for reading :)


RomanticOne said...

Had a great Thanksgiving. Hope you did too. Been checking my computer and giving thanks for those who still keep "the dream" alive and are talented enough to write about it (unlike me). I can only read, enjoy, encourage, and remain a faithful fan. Thanks for sharing your talent with us.

Krista said...

Hi R1,

I had a very nice Thanksgiving, thank you. :)

And it's readers like you who make the writing easier; knowing that the work is appreciated is a blessing and a joy. So thank you :)

Vicky said...

I'm here, finally! It was your fault after all: The other day I got sidetracked by "The reckoning"... and after that, RL got in the way.

That was sooo sweet! Can't they just stay and not go back at all? :-D hee. Seriously, to be perfectly honest, I'm very glad with the commute! But you know it's just me and my "Catherine permanently Below just wouldn't work" near certainty, rather than theory.

And that picture of a just-out-of-bed Vincent... *sigh* For some reason, I wanna go back to the swing... so there I go. :-D

Thank you, Krista! So much fun!

Krista said...

Hey Vicky! :)

I know how RL I'm just thrilled that you made it here after all.

Alas, no, they have to go back....but they're going back with a stronger relationship and a deeper commitment to each other. Not a bad outcome, wouldn't you say? :)

Heh. I love rumpled Vincent. Obviously. :)

Glad you liked it :)

RomanticOne said...

Hey, I'm all for rumpling Vincent every chance we get! Happy birthday to your daughter.

Krista said...

Rumpled Vincent is just so....mmmmm...cuddly :)

Thanks, R1---she turns three today. :)


RomanticOne said...

Oh lordy, I remember three. My son will be 28 later this month but I still remember. Hang on to your hat. The fun is just beginning!

Krista said...

Heh. It's already been quite a ride...but so much fun. :)

-Krista :)

Carole W said...

All I can say is, there'd better be NO traffic jams to keep Catherine from getting home fast after work. I'd be bee-lining it.

Great great job on this story. So many moments of pleasure and relaxation. It's wonderful to see Vincent just ... be.


Krista said...

Nope, no traffic jams for *this* ride home ;)

I'm glad you like it, Carole---it's been such a blast writing them outside of their worlds, but having to recognize that they'll have to go back to it too. ;)

RomanticOne said...

Happy to see the next chapter is coming soon - what a great Christmas gift to us. Hope you have a safe and happy holiday and I look forward to more adventures for Catherine and Vincent. Best wishes from your fan in Texas.

Krista said...

Hi R1,

Thanks so much for your interest :) I really think you'll like the next chapter ;)

I also wish for a safe and happy holiday to you as well. :)

Sonia Who? said...

Love Catherine's conscience, and inner conversation with her inner Jenny.

I like the image of a rumpled Vincent with mussed hair and wearing clingy sweatpants.!

I love the way their Bond has been changing, uniting them even more.

She ran her hands through his dense, wavy hair, something she knew he found soothing.

I love every time and every way they touch -- the nuzzles, caresses, embraces, hugs, running hands through hair...

I love what they say to each other here, how she tells him she's afraid of going back to the way things were once they return to their real, complicated, busy and separate lives, and that she wanted more than the few stolen moments they got to share before, that she wanted to see him everyday. And I nearly screamed in joy when Vincent said:

“I want to wake with you in the morning and welcome you home to our chamber at night. I am tired of days and nights spent without you. I don't want the easier path. I want you. Catherine, I love you. I want to marry you.”

That's just what I wanted to happen! Love it! Way to go Vincent! You're finally reaching for what you want and taking steps to make their dream of a happy life together become reality. Wonderful and sweetly emotional scene! And how sweet and rewarding the joy they feel. And so well deserved.

Such a happy chapter. Though I thought it sad that Pascal had lost a wife to cancer. I like what he told Vincent before the trip.

Wonderful dialogue. This is another favorite chapter. I had to read once again. Can't wait to read the rest of the story and find out Father's reaction to the happy news.

R1 I like your 1st comment and ditto your 2nd one.

Like you, Vicky, I don't want their pre "honeymoon" to end. What a great journey it has been. And Vicky, your comment about wanting to go back to the swing made me grin.

This story had been so much fun and such a pleasant experience. I don't want it to end. There aren't many stories that give V&C so many happy, joyous moments, a taste of the happiness they could have together. Most on them spend the major portion of the story on the angst, their difficulties, the obstacles and barriers without providing much solution or compromises that could work for both of them, and spend almost no time on happy moments shared together. Usually the most we see is a glimpse of the beginning of them taking the road to their happy life together and not much time is spent on the realization of their dream.

I love how V&C's relationship how come so far here, how much have changed, how united and committed to the other they are. They know it won't be easy, that they are traveling a path no one has ever traveled before them, but they committed to doing it together because they know they can only feel complete and be happy being together, and they need and want to share themselves and their lives forever.

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