A/N: This takes place in the same universe as “When Fall Comes to New England,” and "Twenty Things: Catherine," but you needn't have read those to understand this one.
My thanks, as usual, to Carole and her eagle-eyes. :-)
For one version of "The Rattling Bog" (there are many, usually with different verses to boot) here's one version on YouTube, performed by The Irish Descendants.
1) The first sound Catherine hears in the morning as she wakes up isn't the tapping on the pipes, or the roar of the subway overhead, but the sound of Vincent's heart against her ear. She loves feeling his heart speed up when he wakes and sees her next to him, or pulsing under her hand when they make love. One morning, he notices her contentment at that ordinary sound and he glances at her, bemused. She murmurs against his lips, “'I carry your heart,'” and he smiles at that old familiar line from a poem they both love. For a time, there are no more words between them.
2) She no longer remembers when she stopped noticing the fur or the claws on his hands, but Catherine is fascinated by his hands. They are strong and fierce, but kind and gentle too, a contradiction in flesh and bone and fur. She sees their beauty as he signs with Laura one afternoon, fingers dancing gracefully in the air as Laura tells him of her adventures as a teacher at a school for the deaf, of the child she's expecting later in the summer, of Jerry's new job in the police department. Vincent speaks as he signs and for Catherine, it reminds her of the stylized kabuki dance she saw once in Japan, all formal gestures and rhythmic sound. Catherine knows those same hands will be loving her, in her, that night, and when she leaves to get a glass of cold water, it's Vincent's knowing smile that makes her blush.
3) Catherine returns to work the week after their marriage, wearing Margaret's wedding band—now hers—but making no formal announcement. She knows there will be gossip and speculation, but can't quite bring herself to care. If she can't shout from the rooftops that she's married the most amazing man in the world and that she's never been happier, she can at least wear the one visible sign of their joining and publicly acknowledge their relationship that way. She gets one comment from Joe---only one, though she can tell he's dying to ask more. He glances at the narrow platinum band, and says, “Nice ring, Radcliffe,” and the conversation turns to the latest round of case files that have landed on his desk. She smiles, and life goes on.
4) She lives below during the first months of their marriage, as their house above—a half-rotted brownstone that Cullen says is held together by worry beads, chewing gum and bailing wire---is slowly renovated. And it's then that she gets a real awakening as to what living below is like. She's stayed below before, of course, during long weekends or her rare vacations, but now that she is Vincent's wife, she sees a whole new side of the tunnels. The work is never-ending; the pipes leak off and on, the children need to be taught, meals made, food preserved, laundry done and clothes mended. Everyone pitches in—there are no layabouts in the tunnels, as Father says---but it's still a lot of work and Catherine feels unequal, at first, to learning any of it. But at the end of her first month in the tunnels, she feels the same as she did when she passed the bar. Vincent smiles when she tells him this and Catherine realizes that he had let her find her place in her own way, and she loves him for it.
5) Vincent can sing. Catherine comes above one night with groceries, intending to make dinner for the work crew, when she hears the faint strains of song coming from one of the floors. The voices singing are something her high school choir teacher would have shuddered upon hearing; untrained, out of tune, but enthusiastic. As she put the groceries away in the kitchen and goes further up the stairs, the tune becomes familiar: “The Rattling Bog.” Kanin's warbling voice is clear, as is Cullen's atonal song and Warren's drawl, but what draws her attention the most is Vincent's raspy baritone which is keeping pitch and tune as the lyrics get faster and faster. It's distinct and unique and so completely him that she stares, transfixed. He'd told her he couldn't sing, but Catherine thinks it's more he was told that he shouldn't...and as she stares at him, half covered in sawdust and who knows what else, she knows that the picture of Vincent singing will remain fixed in her mind.
6) She makes the acquaintance of one of the three tunnel mousers---Kali, the grey tabby cat—late one Saturday evening as she's putting away the laundry that Vincent had washed and hung to dry earlier in the day. One minute, she's folding some extra blankets and the next minute, the blankets are hissing violently. Kali tumbles out, snarling, just as Vincent walks in and the change in the cat's demeanor is astonishing. The cat hops down from the corner of the bed and starts purring loudly as Vincent scratches her chin. “I see you and Kali have met,” Vincent says, laughing. “She's an old, if somewhat...cranky friend of mine.” Kali's green eyes meet Catherine's and the cat's gaze is nothing if not hostile. I protect him, it seems to say, and Catherine meets the cat's eyes squarely. Me too, Catherine thinks, and the cat withdraws its hostile gaze, just a little.
7) Occasionally, her split lives try to merge. There's the office gossip she can't help but hear, especially as Max Avery's trial draws to a close and Elliot Burch reenters her life as the prosecution's star witness. Elliot's gaze is stricken when he sees her wedding band and at the end of the trial, when Max Avery is remanded into custody and it's finally all over, Elliot disappears into the throng of waiting reporters without a word. And then there's Joe, asking if she and her husband will attend the office's winter holiday party. Catherine has a stock repertoire of answers by now; she could tell Joe that her husband was going to be out of town that week on business, or that they were going to see his family for the holidays. It's not quite a lie and not quite the truth, but Catherine feels the tug of having to say it at all. Instead, she says what is nearest the truth. “Thanks, Joe, but we've been invited to another party. Maybe next year.” Joe accepts it, and Catherine thinks...hopes...that maybe, just maybe...the day will come when she won't have to lie to him.
8) Their first Winterfest as a married couple is something of a revelation. The preparations begin months before; Rebecca orders boxes of wax to be made into the Winterfest candles and Catherine helps deliver those, taking some more lessons from Rebecca in making candles. She helps the cleaning crew that scatters a year's accumulation of dust and spiderwebs from the Great Hall, and takes her turn with William helping to bake the desserts that make the Winterfest feast so memorable. The week before Winterfest is exhausting and she barely sees Vincent for more than a few hours in any given day; he, too, has his tasks to perform and anytime a job requires strength or dexterity, she knows where he'll be. But it's worth it, in the end, to see him open the Great Hall doors, to walk next to him, and to hear him introduce her to a new helper as his wife.
9) “So you want to put a wood door here?” Cullen asks. His eyes are twinkling and Catherine fights to keep the blush off her face. Her reasons for the wood door are numerous and necessary, but the basis of it all is that they need more privacy. Vincent's old chamber is now their antechamber and they make their lives below in the bedroom and adjoining study that a small bit of Elliot Burch's plastic explosive had opened up for them, but the door to the antechamber is still needed. Catherine nods and Cullen takes pity on her. “Kanin and I can do it, no problem,” Cullen says. “We can definitely get it done before Vincent comes back from his field trip with the older kids.” And so they do, so quickly that the door is hung full day before Vincent returns. When Vincent sees it, he is touched and slowly, very slowly, he closes the door, drawing her near to him and shutting the rest of the world out.
10) Their house is finally finished the following summer. It's worlds away from where it began, a brownstone just on this side of being razed for the bricks, and everywhere Catherine looks she sees Vincent's touch, or those of the many, many people who helped restore the place. Cullen carved the missing balusters in the staircase; Kanin restored the stone fireplace. There's her own hand in the tile design of the bathroom floors and the back-splash and floor in the kitchen. Vincent uncovered the old stained glass above the windows and replaced the pieces that were cracked. She'd known that almost everyone below had talents that were often lost or disregarded by the world above, but seeing the carver's tools, the carefully chosen shards of colored glass, and watching the care the plumbers and electricians---helpers all---had lavished on the building makes her regret what her world lost.
11) One night, Catherine finds Vincent knitting. Knitting, of all things. She's long ago lost track of the things Vincent knows; from languages to history to literature, the number of things he's learned still astonishes her. But knitting? Catching her thought, he tilts his head up at her and smiles “Mary taught me, years ago when I was a small child. I was fascinated by her yarn collection, and I suspect it was self-preservation on her part.” That visual, a kitten-child in a heap of yarn, makes Catherine laugh. “You must have been cute,” she replies. And before he can make his standard response---that he isn't cute---she kisses him soundly and settles in to watch him knit, the needles flickering by firelight.
12) They return to the cottage in Connecticut to pick up Gertrude's surplus of vegetables. The weather turns to winter much faster than it had during their first visit and much of the week, it rains a bitter cold drenching that keeps them indoors. Catherine doesn't mind, of course; any time together with her husband where pipes don't leak and cases don't get continued is pleasant and needed. Vincent wants to see some of her family pictures, so they go into the attic to search for photo albums she knows are up there. They find the cradle first, a long oak cradle with spindled wood sides. Catherine doesn't remember it---was it hers? Her mother's? Her aunt's? But a lump goes to her throat when she sees Vincent's hands upon the wood. He could take the cradle, fix the minor damage for a new baby, their baby, to sleep there. She knows he loves children---impossible not to know when she sees him with the tunnel children, who all love and confide in him. But does he wish to take the risk into the unknown and have a child of his own? Catherine asks him their last night in the cottage and is surprised by the tears in his eyes. “A child of yours and mine,” he says finally. “In that cradle...our child. Yes, Catherine. Yes.” They don't sleep the rest of the night.
13) Spring comes, and with it, a hasty note from Father warning of the plague of colds and influenza that's struck the tunnels. Catherine had been away for a week at a prosecutor's conference in Albany and half the time, she'd felt like she was fighting off some strange bug. But she feels marginally better when she returns below, only to find that her husband has earned himself a very bad head cold. That's according to Father, who grumbles that Vincent won't be making his “easiest patients” list anytime soon. “He's in no danger,” Father continues. “But do make sure he gets some rest, will you? He seems to think he's indestructible.” Father looks at her closely and observes that she seems a bit pale. It's at that point that her light breakfast of toast and coffee threatens to make a reappearance and she runs to the bathroom. When she comes out, Father's knowing smile should make her nervous, but it doesn't. She merely smiles back and goes to check on her husband.
14) Catherine keeps waiting for Vincent to tell her he knows she's pregnant; his sense of smell is acute enough that he can easily know such things. But his head is clogged and from the coughing and hacking she hears from him, it'll be a while before he smells anything, so she gathers her news close to her heart and waits. Catherine could tell him, of course, but she wants him to know in his own way because this is his child, their miracle. When Vincent's cold finally ends and he glances at her in shock and joy one March morning, it's all he can do to ask when. And she knows, as he pulls her close and shuts the door behind him, that she made the right choice. “January,” Catherine whispers as his arms enfold her.
15) Everything is going fine with the pregnancy, until her headaches cause her to schedule a doctor's appointment. “Your blood pressure is on the high side, Cathy,” Peter says. “Not high enough to be dangerous, yet, but if it continues to increase...” She's done her reading and knows what he's not saying. Preeclampsia, and the only cure for it is the delivery of the baby...Vincent's baby...and she's only a few months into her pregnancy, too early for the baby to survive. “What do you suggest?” she asks, stricken. “Come below, stay on modified bed rest and we'll see if that helps.” Peter's note requesting medical leave goes to Joe that hour and just a while later, she meets Vincent at their basement threshold. He's terrified, as is she, but fear shared is lessened and when he presses a kiss to her forehead, she feels her heart begin to calm. “It will be all right,” Vincent murmurs. “You'll see.” He carries her all the way back to their chamber below and although Catherine knows they've got a long road ahead of them, she's never felt safer.
16) Living below again while pregnant shows Catherine yet another side of the tunnels. Mary informs her that she's far from the first tunnel mother to be on bed rest, and comes to visit often while Vincent has to work. She brings tea and cookies and skeins of yarn and, when Catherine expresses an interest in learning, she teaches her to knit. During one lesson, as Catherine is struggling not to make her stitches too tight, she asks Mary about Vincent learning to knit, and Mary laughs. “Oh, heavens, I had to teach him.” Mary laughs a bit. “He was such a curious thing, always was, ever since he was a baby.” At Catherine's startled glance---she hadn't known Mary had been below that long---and Mary smiles. “Oh, yes. I was here at the beginning, or almost. I nursed him soon after he was found.” And Catherine thinks of the constellation of sorrow and grief that phrase implies. She knows Mary has no surviving children of her own, so for her to have nursed Vincent means that she came below shortly after losing a child in infancy. The lump in her throat almost hurts as she clasps the older woman's hand. “Thank you,” Catherine murmurs. Mary doesn't pretend to misunderstand. She smiles, eyes misted with memory, and clasps her hand once, before returning to her knitting. “Thank you.”
17) As her pregnancy progresses, Catherine sleeps in broken stretches. The baby is most active when she's trying to sleep and there are many nights when she tries to leave for Vincent's old bed in the antechamber so he, at least, can sleep. But he never lets her. He wakes almost as she does and pulls her nearer, one large hand resting on her belly, her head against the slow thrum of his heart. It never fails to amaze her that more often than not, his hand quiets their child. “Sleep,” Vincent murmurs against her hair. “I'll watch over you.” Catherine's convinced that he stays up the rest of the night, and she'd like to tell him that he needs his rest as well, but she doesn't. His joy and love for her, for them, for their miracle is so evident that she can't bring herself to tell him not to stay awake. And if he catches a nap now and then, between his classes, she'll never tell.
18) Catherine becomes a proficient knitter during her months on bed rest. She can't knit anything but blankets, but that's fine---her child will need them, and it keeps her mind active while her body rests. She helps Vincent with grading papers for his classes and at night, she watches the old cradle come to life again. He does most of the work while she sleeps and often she awakens to the smell of old wood and beeswax polish. For its age, the cradle truly didn't have much damage, but she suspects Vincent likes the work of polishing and making it new again for their child. She wonders sometimes if Vincent thinks of Paracelsus' foul lies, the lies that had driven him over the edge into madness...but when she sees him sleep, free of dreams and nightmares, she doesn't have to wonder. Together, they have healed each other.
19) When Father agrees she can get up and walk a bit, Vincent takes Catherine visiting. They don't go far---her legs aren't used to long trips after weeks of inactivity---but after being confined to her bed for so long, she likes being able to visit the friends she's made below. Rebecca, with a wink, promises Catherine that there's a whole order of candles waiting for her to dip, and William, in his kitchen, says she's too thin---this, despite the fact that her belly seems to be arriving miles before the rest of her. They have a pleasant lunch with a newly-pregnant Lena and her husband, Warren. Kanin, with Olivia and Luke in tow, arrives shortly thereafter, followed by Father and then Mouse, with his extravagant plans for an automatic cradle-rocker. As Catherine struggles not to laugh, watching Father splutter---she'd do anything to avoid hurting Mouse's feelings---Vincent steps in and diverts Mouse's attention to the more practical plans for a new waterwheel in the level beneath the Chamber of the Falls. As Catherine glances from one face to the other, she realizes that this must be what it's like to be part of a large family and marvels at the miracle that her child will grow up among them.
20) Her labor starts fast and ends that way, and later, Catherine will be thankful that the contractions came so very quickly, without much time to dwell on their strength or just how much they hurt. She doesn't know how long it was from the time her water broke in the Chamber of the Falls to the time their daughter was born, but it was Vincent's hands which held her, his voice which kept her anchored and calm and unafraid. Looking at him just as he hands the child to her, all slippery from the birth, Catherine knows that somehow, he took her pain through their bond. “It's a girl,” he says, placing the child in her arms. She looks from her daughter's face to her husband's and starts crying herself. His face is drawn with pain and nearly white underneath the golden fur, but he looks from her to their child and his own tears overflow. “Our miracle,” Catherine she says. “Vincent, look. She's beautiful.” She gazes down at their child and sees the faint line of down alongside her nose, the split feline lip and the tiny soft claws and looks back at her husband's face. “Nor more so than you,” Vincent says, and draws her close, their family encircled in his arms.