Chapter Twelve: Filled the Autumn Plentiful (PG)

They were in the kitchen washing dishes the following morning when the phone rang. It was, Catherine thought, going to be an unseasonably warm day; already, the sun peeking through the closed curtains was warm on the back of her neck as she put away the dishes. When the phone rang, it was startling in the morning stillness. The first call was from the mechanic, stating that the van wouldn't be ready for another week. Joe's just going to love that, Catherine thought. The second call was from Gertrude, who was going to the store and wanted to know if Catherine needed anything.

“Oh, thanks, Gertrude, we do need some supplies. Our van's been laid up another week, something about having to special order parts,” Catherine said, feeling Vincent's warm presence behind her. He brushed aside her hair and began to nuzzle the side of her neck. The warmth uncurled, low in her belly and she nearly lost track of the conversation. She reached up and felt the back of his neck and the rough silk of his hair flowing over her hand. “Just the staples will do just fine. I don't think we need the oysters. Thanks so much, Gertrude. Keep the receipt and I'll pay you when you get back, okay? Yes, I insist. Thanks again.”

Catherine hung up the phone and started laughing. “Obviously, you're hungry,” she said, kissing him. “But be careful when I'm on the phone. For all I know, Gertrude could be bringing us pickles and ice cream for us to eat for the next few days.”

Vincent looked at her from where he leaned against the copper sink. It was that look, the one that made her have a hard time remembering that they'd spent years without ever kissing. He was certainly a fast learner. “So I disrupted your conversation, then?”

“And short-circuited my brain,” Catherine replied, throwing a handful of soapy bubbles at him and laughing when he ducked. She didn't entirely miss him; a crown of soapy bubbles rested at the top of his head and slid slowly down his long nose. So quickly she nearly didn't see it, one clawed hand flung a wet soapy mess at her, hitting her square in the chest.

“Oh, this means war, buster!” Catherine laughed. She grabbed the hose from the back of the sink and turned the water on full blast, soaking him in the chest.

Vincent was too quick again; he turned the faucet off and advanced on her slowly. He touched the hem of her turtleneck, which was soaked clear through. “Catherine, you're all wet.”

“Yes, so what else is new?” she said, and kissed him hard. She felt his hands roam underneath her sweater and shivered when he rubbed the soft fur on the back of his hands all along her spine.

“Why don't we get you out of those wet clothes?” Vincent said, silken against her mouth.

Catherine smiled. “I thought you'd never ask.”

***

Later after their loving, Vincent read in the library while Catherine took a shower. She'd insisted on taking one alone this time. He had to admit her judgment was correct; if they'd taken one together, neither of them would have actually gotten clean. Looking at the bookshelves, he found an old volume of poetry and began to read, content in the sunlight and the peace of the fall that was enveloping him.

A faint sound from the entryway drew his attention, the distinctive sounds of a lock being turned. Who can it be? Vincent though frantically, looking for a place to hide. There were some shadows clinging to the edge of the library, but it wouldn't be enough. Perhaps if he went upstairs....Vincent sprinted for the stairs, and just as he reached the top of the upstairs landing, the door opened.

“Oh, hello there,” an older female voice said. “I was just coming to drop off the groceries; I didn't mean to disturb you.”

Vincent stood frozen on the landing with his back to the woman, afraid to turn around, and at that moment, Catherine opened the bathroom door, her eyes wide---clearly, she'd sensed his fright---and stepped out to look down the staircase at what had frightened him so. “Vincent, what is it?” She gathered her towel more securely around her and came to stand next to him to look down at the bottom of the stairs. Incredibly, she smiled.

“Oh, hello, Gertrude. Let me get dressed and I'll help you with those groceries.” Catherine placed one hand on Vincent's shoulder. “Vincent,” she said for his ears alone. “It's okay. Really. I promise.”

Trusting her as he did, he turned to look down at the woman. There was a strange intent rigidity to her expression and Vincent abruptly realized why.

Like Narcissa, Gertrude was blind.

***

Sometime later, after the groceries had been put away and Gertrude's husband had called to say he'd be back to pick her up in a few minutes after making a quick return trip back into town, Vincent and Gertrude were sitting at the kitchen table while Catherine made a quick lunch. “I'm so sorry for startling you both,” Gertrude said. “I didn't know anyone was here; I just figured I'd put the groceries away and wait for Matt to come back.”

“It's fine,” he said. “Thank you for bringing the groceries.”

Gertrude smiled. “You're welcome. I've never met any of Cathy's...friends. How long have you known her?”

“Three years this April,” Vincent said, liking her. He didn't know how much she could see, but since she hadn't run for the hills yet, he decided to trust his instincts. His sense of her was faint, but still present. Gertrude might ask questions, but she meant neither of them any harm

“He met me soon after the attack,” Catherine said, tossing a salad and casting a quick, nervous glance at Vincent. He knew what she was concerned about, that Gertrude's curiosity might open the door to questions that neither of them could answer.

“I see,” Gertrude said. “You have such a lovely voice, Vincent. Do you work in the theater?”

Vincent nearly laughed. His voice, that lisped when he was tired and growled when he was angry---beautiful? Catherine put the salad plates in front of them, along with the sandwiches. “I keep telling him his voice is wonderful,” Catherine said. “But he doesn't believe me. Even his students listen to him.” Her hand played with his hair and Vincent relaxed, minutely. After a lifetime of believing himself as something less than human, it continued to be a source of wonder that Catherine found anything about him beautiful.

“Oh, so you're a teacher? That's fantastic. I taught some before I had the girls, and now our eldest is a teacher. What do you teach?”

Vincent thought fast. “Literature mainly. Though I fill in where I'm needed.”

“And he does a fantastic job of it,” Catherine said, clasping his hand under the table. It occurred to him then that this was the first time he'd met someone who also knew Catherine but who didn't know about the tunnels. Catherine's friend Jenny had been brought into the secret some months earlier and was settling into her role as helper quite well, but she knew about the tunnels and understood about the secrets she had to keep. Gertrude knew only that he was Catherine's friend, and the thought was somewhat unnerving, like he was swimming in very unfamiliar waters. Am I being foolish, risking this much on a gut feeling that she means us no harm?

“Gertrude,” Catherine asked, turning the conversation to safer matters, “have you seen anyone on your land recently?”

“You mean, like a trespasser?” Catherine nodded. “No,” Gertrude replied, grinning, “but then, I wouldn't. But Matt hasn't seen anything and the dogs have been quiet. Why, has someone been lurking around here?”

Catherine nodded. “We thought we...saw someone recently.”

“I wouldn't worry about it too much, Cathy,” Gertrude said. “Every so often, we get some break-ins, that sort of thing, but it's pretty rare. Usually what we get up here are lost hikers. Just lock your doors, and if you see anything suspicious, call the sheriff ”

“Thanks, Gertrude, I will,” Catherine replied, but Vincent knew she would do no such thing. The risk was simply too great.

They talked back and forth for a few minutes and Vincent slowly became astonished at Gertrude's ability to draw him out of himself. She didn't ask where he lived or where he taught or anything too specific; indeed, she avoided the entire topic with an adroitness that reminded him of Catherine, back when they were still getting to know each other. He found himself telling stories of the children he taught, of young Samantha being entirely too realistic in her role as Katharina the shrew, when Geoffrey had annoyed her too much one winter day; of Eric, announcing with all the gravity a nine year old could muster that Caesar should beware the ides of March; of Michael, who had made the dean's list for the second year in a row and who was thinking of becoming a teacher himself.

“I loved teaching,” Gertrude said, “and I can tell you do too.” The sound of a car's wheels on gravel broke up the conversation. “That'll be Matt. Vincent, Cathy, it's been a pleasure. Call us if you need anything and both of you, don't be strangers.”

***

After Gertrude had left and the lunch dishes were dry and put away, Catherine sank onto the couch next to Vincent. “It's been quite a day, hasn't it?”

Vincent pulled her close, the sort of hug she had longed for and received on many nights on her balcony. “Yes. Gertrude was...surprising.”

Catherine laughed. “She has that effect on people. I think about all she's managed to do and she's really quite amazing.” At Vincent's questioning look, she continued, “She wasn't always blind. When I was a kid, she used to take me hiking in these woods along with her daughters. But as Gertrude grew older, her vision began to fail. I never heard her complain. She and Matt just adapted and went on with life.”

“Catherine, she saw me,” Vincent said.

“She couldn't have,” Catherine responded. “All she can see now is light and shadows.”

“Narcissa is blind from cataracts, but she's always been able to see me and the world she lives in. Gertrude is the same way.”

Despite occasional visits from Kristopher Gentian, Catherine was still no great believer in the supernatural. But Vincent's own abilities she trusted absolutely. “Are you sure?” she said.

“Yes, as sure as I am of you. She...sees things in pictures sometimes, I think. Gertrude saw me when I came back down the stairs.” He shrugged. “I can't explain it.”

“You don't have to,” Catherine said. “I believe you. If you're sure, you're sure.” She kissed him. “She must have found you as beautiful as I do.” She laughed then. “Vincent, you're blushing.”

“I don't,” he said.

“Yes, you do,” Catherine replied, chuckling. “It's quite the lovely shade of red. I can't believe I finally found something to make you blush.” He gave a short chuff of amusement and pulled her closer.

She glanced through a crack in the closed curtains, at the sunlight shining brightly. “Normally, I'd suggest we take a walk but...”

“But you still wish to be cautious,” Vincent finished.

She ducked her head briefly. “Yes, I guess I do. I know Matt would have called if he'd seen trespassers, and we've been locking our doors every night, but I still worry.”

“Catherine,” he said, touching the side of her face with one warm hand, “it's quite all right. Besides, there are...things we can do inside, are there not?”

Catherine pulled back to look at him. “Why, yes,” she nearly purred. “How about a game of Scrabble?”

***

As the sun was setting, Catherine put away the Scrabble board. “Vincent, does Father play this game?” she asked, innocently.

“No, I don't think he does. Why?”

“Because it might rescue him from his depression when you always beat him at chess.” She shook her head, smiling. “I cannot believe how bad you are at this. I mean, really. Doesn't anyone in the tunnels do crossword puzzles?”

Vincent thought for a minute. “Mary, I believe. And Pascal, sometimes.”

“Pascal? Really? I thought he spent all his time in the pipe chamber.”

Vincent smiled. “He does. But the crosswords are to help him pass the time when things get boring.”

“Things get boring down there?” Catherine asked, genuinely surprised. “I guess I never thought that you all might have your dull days too.”

“Sometimes,” Vincent said, smiling. “I've done a stint or two on the pipes when Pascal's been sick. Once you get used to the sounds of the routine message traffic, the whole thing can be quite..repetitive.”

“Show me,” she said. “I've always wanted to learn pipecode better; right now, I can manage an emergency message and most of the shorter ones, but longer messages are harder.”

“They're harder for most of us, including people who have lived there for years. Pascal is constantly working to shorthand the system even further so that it's easier for our newcomers to learn. You've learned quite a lot already, Catherine.”

“But I want to learn more,” she replied.

“Very well,” Vincent said. “Is there a pencil handy?”

She walked over to the desk and pulled one out of the drawer. Catherine handed it to him and sat down next to him. “Give me your hand,” he said. “On longer messages, the first code is the name of the person, then the location where you want the message to go. So if you were sending a message to me, and you knew I was in the Commons, you'd start by tapping this message out.” He tapped a brief rhythm into her hand. “That's 'Catherine to Vincent—Commons.'”

“But what if I didn't know where you were?”

“Then you'd tap this rhythm.” A different beat, a longer tattoo of sound, with some similarity to the first message. “That's 'Catherine to Vincent-query location.' Pascal would pick that up and route it along with another message asking anyone who'd seen me to route the message back to him with my location. I would then relay it to you and then you'd send the message back to me with the location code.”

“That must be...inconvenient,” Catherine said wryly. At his raised eyebrows, she said, “Always having someone around who can find you. What if you don't want to be found?”

His eyes crinkled as he smiled. “Pascal is the keeper of many, many secrets. So is Mouse. If I've gone down below the level of the pipes or to the nameless river, he sends the message to Mouse and Mouse finds me if the matter's urgent. If it's not, it waits.”

“And that's accepted?” Catherine asked, thinking that Father for one wouldn't have been happy to have his son completely out of reach.

“Father accepts it. Having no choice,” Vincent said, dryly, and Catherine wondered just how many battles were hidden behind that simple phrase.

The rest of the evening, Vincent took her through the shorthanded Morse of the tunnels' pipecode until she was able to follow most of the longer messages he tapped into her hand. “Wait, I got it. That one was, 'Vincent to Catherine-Chamber of the Winds-need avocados for guacamole. Dinner tonight. Suggested meal?' Right?”

Vincent nodded. “Very good. You're quick at this.”

“I have a good teacher,” Catherine said, and kissed him.


Click here for Chapter 13....

12 comments:

RomanticOne said...

Hmmm. Guacamole would go great with the sangria and chips for the "porch party". Seriously, though, I'm seeing a lot calmer Vincent when it comes to strangers. I'm also seeing a lot more sensuality. Looks like this vacation has been good for him. I sense that we'll be seeing more of Gertrude. Catherine's interested in learning longer code sequences. Do I also sense she is planning so spend more time in the tunnels? Guess I'll have to wait and see.

Krista said...

Yes, wouldn't it, though? :)

I think he's always going to be cautious, but he's also become more willing to listen to his own instincts; his relationship with Catherine, against all of Father's teachings, was the first step in that process.

As to the sensuality.. yes. ;)

As far as the pipe code lessons, it's entirely possible that Catherine thinks she might be spending more time in the tunnels and doesn't want to rely on Vincent all the time to translate. :-P But in another way, she's meeting him half-way; he left his safe place (and how!) to finally make the trip to Connecticut and she's learning the more involved form of communication that's used in the tunnels. They're each taking larger steps into each other's worlds.

Thank you so much for your comments--I really appreciate that you're sticking with it. :)

Sandy said...

As I was reading, I was thinking that even if she can't see, Gertrude must be able to sense that there is something different about Vincent... I'm glad that you had him sense that she could "see" him. Further interactions between them should be interesting :-)

Another excellent chapter!

Krista said...

Yeah, I'm sort of coming to think we haven't heard the last from Gertrude :)

Glad you liked the chapter, Sandy--I'm so thrilled you're reading :)

Carole W said...

I don't think we need the oysters.

heh.

I enjoyed the tapping lesson too. Somehow the image of V kicked back, guac/chips and a beer at hand seems deliciously normal. I never expected him to ever say the word 'guacomole'. I like it, being surprised like that. There's so much to learn yet about him. Ahhhh. Happy sigh.

This:

“Father accepts it. Having no choice,” Vincent said, dryly, and Catherine wondered just how many battles were hidden behind that simple phrase.

What an excellent depiction and observation. How many indeed. And you'll be showing us more of those?????

Krista said...

Hi Carole! :)

Yes, those two needing oysters is um...like coals to Newcastle. :)

Glad you liked the tapping scene---for something that I didn't originally plan on writing, it's become one of my favorite parts of the chapter ;)

Thank you for THAT image---Vincent in the porch party with chips, dip and a cerveza. LOL! :)

Mmm..yes, those battles. I plan to show them. Eventually. Heh. :)

Thanks again for reading and reviewing! :)

-Krista

Vicky said...

Guacamole? I'm glad Vincent tapped it, I'd be in a giggle fit to hear him say it!

Smart move about Gertrude! I think Sandy is right: The sum of many wee details would have made her see something was up; that "something" on the way he moves around, even his breathing, for instance... But, oh, that stuff is always a bit hard to explain, I guess. :D hee hee

Grrr! It's over 2AM and I should be sleeping, and it's all your fault! Ok then, let me go dream of that litle party of ours...

Hugs, and thanks for another great and fun chapter!

Krista said...

Heh. I'd pay good money to actually hear him say it in That Voice. Mmm..is it a bit warm in here right now? ;)

Gertrude is special. And she is no fool---she would have had to sense that something was not quite...normal about Vincent. Which I imagine would be a wee bit hard to explain too. :)

Hugs to you too---and thanks so much for reading (Now go to bed! :))

Sonia Who? said...

(Just so you know 'from the' is reapeated twice on this sentence: The first call was from the from the mechanic...)

Oh cool! They have another week to spend together! Just what I had wished for on the previous chapter.

Glad Vincent is satisfying his hunger, and Catherine's, good they are making up for lost time. She should care more about they eat though, even though I'm sure Vincent wouldn't mind so much eating just pickles and ice cream as long as he can "have" her too.

Vincent looked at her from where he leaned against the copper sink. It was that look, the one that made her have a hard time remembering that they'd spent years without ever kissing. He was certainly a fast learner. -- He certainly is. She's a lucky girl.

I'll say it again here: I love their playfulness and humorous banter. The bubble fight was such fun. It's nice to see them not being so prim and proper and finally having childish fun together. The aftermath of their games are even better. Oh, they shouldn't give up their fun in the shower. They should enjoy themselves and their time together as often and in every way possible.

I'm surprise Gertrude didn't knock on the door knowing Catherine could be in the cabin with her male companion and could have been catching them during an intimate moment. That could have been ackward. I'm glad she's able to meet Vincent since she's can't see how the way he looks. But she'll wonder why he never shakes her hand.

Vincent nearly laughed. His voice, that lisped when he was tired and growled when he was angry—beautiful?

Aw, Vincent, why do you always find it so hard to believe that anything about you it's beautiful? If only you knew the way your voice affect people, especially those of the opposite sex, and the power of your sex appeal, not to mention your other very appealing charms and qualities. Then you would know that so many women desire someone like you.

After a lifetime of believing himself as something less than human, it continued to be a source of wonder that Catherine found anything about him beautiful.

That is so true. And Father shares a large responsibility for that.

Wait, if Gertrude is blind, why did Catherine reply to her with a nod, and G answers C even though G couldn't see C nodding?

(I was writing my comments as I was reading the chapters.)

Sonia Who? said...

(Again had to cut my comment in two, so here's the rest.)

Oh wow, that is so cool that Gertrude was able to 'visualize' Vincent in her mind just like Narcissa. And that she accepted him so quickly anyway. Nice lady. She could see his inner beauty shine.

So cute Vincent blushed when Catherine said Gertrude must have found him as beautiful as she doee.

Aw, how can Catherine suggest they play Scrabble (which Vincent is bad at) after he said there were things they could do inside? How can she think of Scrabble when there are much better and pleasurable things she could do with Vincent? If I was here I couldn't get enough of him, and I would want to memorize every thing about him and every inch of him. A few days can't make up for more than 2 years of waiting, longing and sexual frustration. I guess she must have picked up Vincent's incredible self-control at self-denial.

Too bad they'll not getting to spend much time outdoors. At least they are enjoying learning about each other and experiencing how it would be like to live together and share their lives. I hope that gives Vincent the incentive to ask her to marrry him.

Regarding RomanticOne's comment, I too see Vincent expressing more easily his sensuality, which I love. The trip has been good for him but even more was finally allowing himself to love Catherine fully and being love fully by her in return and accepting the commitment to each other that implies. And regarding Catherine wanting to learn more pipe-code, of course she wants to spend more and as much time with her man now that they are finally together in body as well as heart and soul, and since he lives in the Tunnels that's where she'll have to spend the most time in to be with him more. Unless they get married and share a home Above. And it is right for them to both take those large steps into each other's words, like you said Krista.

I like that Vincent is listening more to his own instincts, against Father's indoctrination and his own fears and self-doubts. I guess our sweet boy is finally growing up and taking chances and trusting himself and Catherine's instncts more as well.

I again ditto Carole's comments since I agree with what she says.

LOL, Vicky complained about stayup up past 2am to read this chapter, but I stayed up all night and haven't yet gone to bed reading the first 12 chapter of this story. I shouldn't have started until I had more time because now I can't stop until I finish it! I'm an obsessive-compulsive reader and can't stop reading good stories once I start them until I finish. LOL

I think Vincent can make any word sound sensual in that sexy voice of his.

Another very good chapter. I'm so hooked on this story and can't wait to read the rest.

Vicky said...

Um, I actually liked the scrabble game! While I'm thrilled that Vincent and Catherine finally took this step forward, and completed their union with their bodies, they are not two hormone-driven teenagers who would center their love in that to the exclusion of anything else. Catherine didn't stay by his side two years simply in the hopes of getting layed. LOL! Two years without, is perfectly possible, you know. ;-)
Ok, I'll take my impopular views elsewhere. :-D hee
Hugs!

Krista said...

Hey Vicky---that was sort of my point :) This vacation was never, entirely, about them making love 24-7. It is about them finally having some time apart from the distractions in both their worlds---Vincent's many jobs below, Catherine's hectic life above. They're taking the time to learn about each other and figure out the logistics of how they both fit into each other's lives. :)

Sonia, thanks again for reading :)

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