I. Through Fog and Stones 
If Elysium had been a place where situations and people appeared and disappeared without warning, it was nothing compared to the mayhem once he and Catherine had returned and awakened, Vincent reflected. Father wanted to do an exam, of course, and Mouse and Pascal and Jamie and Cullen and Lena with little Cathy and Kanin and Olivia and Mary had all stopped by in the space of hours with their best wishes....all of which was appreciated, but wearying too. What he wanted, needed, was quiet and Catherine and space in which to think.
Finally, Father put his stethoscope away. “You're in better shape than I had any right to expect, Vincent,” he said, touching the side of his face in a gesture so familiar from Vincent's childhood. “You have a couple of cracked ribs, so I want you to rest and let them heal. No climbing tall buildings,” he said, with a glance at Catherine.
She smiled back at him. “I'll be off work for another three weeks, Father.”
“Of course, Catherine. I'd forgotten,” Father replied, smiling. “And you? No ill effects from....?”
“From being unconscious for a day?” Catherine said, yawning. “No. Except that I'm really tired just now.”
“Hmm,” Father said. “Well, you know how Vincent is when he's recovering from an illness: he'll be up and trying to walk around long before he should and generally doing all sorts of things he shouldn't. So your job is to make sure he stays in that bed for a few days.”
A startled silence fell as Catherine's wide green eyes met Vincent's over Father's bent head. The older man's head jerked up as he realized what he'd said, and his face flushed---Father blushing? Vincent thought, amused and astonished.
Catherine chuckled, tossing her long hair over her shoulder and meeting his gaze with a decidedly sultry look. “I...think I can manage that.”
Vincent couldn't help it. No matter that it hurt his ribs, the laughter would not be contained. Pretty soon, they were all laughing in joy and release and happiness that the long dark nightmare was finally over.
Father finally left and it was just he and Catherine in his chamber. They'd had dinner and once the dishes were cleared away, Vincent gingerly swung his legs over the edge of his bed and pulled Catherine to him. The silk of her hair was cool against his neck. “Do you think any of it was real?” Catherine asked.
“All of it, yes,” Vincent responded. “Do you?”
She pulled back a little to look at him. “My rational mind---the part of me that kept saying Kristopher Gentian couldn't possibly be a ghost---says no. But...I don't need that much certainty in my life anymore. I believe it did happen, somehow...and I don't need any more proof than that.”
Vincent sighed, unaccountably relieved. He'd been afraid that Catherine's need for absolute certainties would make her believe that Elysium had been just a dream. “You were worried?” she asked, touching his face.
He nodded. “I know it sounds ridiculous.”
Catherine shook her head. “No, it doesn't. We went through a lot, you and I, in that place. I don't want it to be unreal, Vincent. I learned too much.” Her gamin smile reappeared. “Like what a good kisser you are. Talk about hiding your light under a bushel.”
Vincent felt the heat crawl up the back of his neck and heard Catherine's delighted chuckle. “I didn't know you could blush,” she said. One lock of errant hair fell over her face and she moved to push it away, but Vincent reached up first and placed it behind her ear. When he would have moved his hand from her face, she placed her own over it. “I was so afraid, Vincent, so afraid I'd lost you to that darkness.” She leaned forward so that her forehead was touching his. “Please don't ever shut me out again. Don't ever let the darkness take you where I cannot follow.”
“There is no darkness,” Vincent whispered, feeling her warmth in his heart and knowing it to be forever true, “when I'm with you.”
They stood like that for a time, until he felt her fatigue echoing his own. “Stay with me,” Vincent said.
Catherine smiled. “Did you think I'd run for the guest chamber now that you're awake? I'll stay as long as you'll have me.”
Vincent watched as she pulled her shoes off, her movements in his chamber already as familiar as if she'd been there for years. He stood a bit unsteadily and pulled back the blankets, climbing in after her slowly and blowing out the one solitary candle by his bed. Her head came to rest on his shoulder and he thought again how utterly natural, how right, this was to have her in his bed. “I'm glad you stayed,” he murmured against her hair.
“Where else would I be?” Catherine murmured, nestling carefully next to him. “Am I hurting you?”
His ribs were a little sore, but he wouldn't have moved her for all the worlds. “No,” Vincent replied, one arm pulling her close. Catherine wore only a light sweatshirt over some loose fitting pants and he could feel the heat of her through the thin material. That, too, was a revelation; instead of being afraid of her very nearness, as he had been before, now he allowed himself to enjoy the feel of her nestled against him, her legs intertwining with his own. I was afraid...of this? Of her?
Of yourself, the Other chimed in helpfully. But there's no need for that now.
And indeed, there wasn't. There was no fear between them, no worries about some dark inner beast rising up to harm her. There was just...Catherine, warm and safe in his arms, and as her hand came to rest near the open collar of his nightshirt, the thought of what they might one day do in this bed caused a very pleasant warmth to spread through him. “You're happy,” Catherine whispered, toying with the chest fur that peeked through the open collar.
“Yes,” he said, running a hand through her hair. They had been through the darkness together, and now all there was...was light.
Her days and nights below began to assume a certain regularity. In the morning, she and Vincent woke together and invariably, Catherine would find a carafe of coffee and breakfast left just outside the chamber entrance and so it had been with all their other meals as well. The rest of the day, they might well see no one else save for Father, occasionally, or Peter, more rarely. It was as if by some tacit agreement, the community had decided to leave the two of them alone.
She had run into Mary carrying a load of linens one afternoon and had asked the older woman about it, curious, but the older woman denied any knowledge. “I'm sure that...whoever...had the idea, merely wished to give you and Vincent some time alone,” Mary had replied, eyes twinkling. Her expression sobered. “Catherine, we all know what you risked to bring him home, what you've both been through. This time together...take it, with our love.”
And so she had. Vincent was, in some ways, much quieter in the days after Elysium; processing, she thought, all that had happened in that strange and mythic place. She would read to him, or he to her, or they would simply sit and talk, or he would write in his journal. It didn't really matter what they were doing, or not doing...it was simply enough to be together.
One night, a peculiar restlessness struck him. She had been darting on the near edge of sleep, content and safe in the soft raspy waves of his voice, when he stopped reading and folded the book closed. “Vincent?”Catherine asked, stirring, the quick lurch of his feelings crossing the bond. He was not disturbed, she knew, but it was as if having spent so much time still and largely silent, he could no longer remain so.
Vincent smiled at her over the edge of the closed book. “I need to take a walk,” he said. “Will you come?”
It had to be near on midnight, Catherine knew, but she'd have no more stayed behind than she would have walked barefoot in the snow. “Of course,” she said, putting her slippers on and grabbing her shawl from the end chair and wrapping it around her shoulders. His calloused hand took her own and the warmth of it, so far removed from the fevered heat of just few days previously, reassured her that he was healing.
They didn't walk far, just to the Mirror Pool. The tunnels were hushed, quiet, the torches burning low. Vincent sat down in front of the pool with his usual grace and drew her down beside him. “The stars are so bright tonight,” Catherine said.
He nodded, gestured at a far corner of the pool, well above the reflected horizon. “Look,” Vincent said, his voice hushed.
“Oh, Vincent, it's a meteor shower,” Catherine said, wonder in her voice. “Did you know there would be one tonight?”
“No,” he said. “But it is beautiful, isn't it?”
“It is,” she agreed. Sensing an undercurrent stirring in their bond, Catherine cupped his chin in her hand, the bristles soft against her palm. “What is it?”
“Father said a meteor fell the night I was found, the night Anna brought me below,” Vincent replied.
Catherine thought back to Father's story, the recounting of Vincent's discovery that he told the children as she'd heard it one night some months before. “Father never mentioned that detail,” she said, bemused.
Vincent shrugged. “He also never mentioned Anna, either.” His mouth quirked in a faintly bitter smile. “He used to tell that story, complete with the meteor falling, when I was a boy. Then some of the other children read the Superman comics and....”
“Oh, I see,” Catherine said, remembering the infant Clark Kent---what had his real name been? she couldn't remember now---falling from the sky, an orphan from Krypton. “And the other children thought....?”
He nodded. “Yes. There was speculation for weeks that I was an alien. Father...was not amused. He never encouraged any speculation into what I might be.”
She stroked the unruly mane, knowing he would find it soothing. “Did you have ideas?”
“Of course,” he said, “but...it doesn't matter. Not really.”
Her heart hurt for him. Had he denied his understandable curiosity so as to not make the others around him uncomfortable with the questions they, too, could not answer? “It does,” she insisted, gentle. “Every child wonders who they are, what they will be. Of course it matters.”
“I'll never know, though,” Vincent said. “And I stopped trying to figure out the mystery long ago.”
Vincent was silent for a time after that, as the stars continued to fall. There was something stirring in their bond, turbulent, the force of the storm echoing in his blue eyes. She thought of that last revelation in Elysium, that Vincent's mother was alive. “Do you ever think of your parents?”
The expression on his face was a strange mixture of hope and reluctance, and Catherine thought she understood. “Of my mother, yes. Of my father, whoever he may be...no. Not as much. I have always had a father.” He spread his hands, claws glinting dully in the starlight. “I have wondered about my mother since I was old enough to know that many of the other children had one and I did not. That we know she is alive is one more detail but...it still tells me nothing, none of the answers I wish to know.”
“I used to have conversations with my mother, long after she died,” Catherine began, very carefully not looking at him, granting him that privacy. “I'd wonder why she and daddy never told me how sick she was, why she had to leave me, if I was saying or doing or acting the way she'd have wanted me to act. I don't think that conversation ever really stops; you just adjust to the idea that there won't ever be any answers.”
“Yes,” he whispered. “That's it, precisely. I've come to accept, for the most part, that there won't be any answers. But sometimes...”
Catherine nodded, looking at him again, at the reflected stars she knew he wasn't seeing. “Sometimes you'd still like to have the chance to ask?”
“Yes,” Vincent replied, drawing her near once again. “But I never will.”
She leaned her head against his shoulder, feeling his breath stir the fine hairs on her forehead. “Ma'at said only that your time to know your mother was not now. She didn't say never. Perhaps, one day, you might be able to ask those questions.”
“Perhaps,” he agreed, “but for now, I'll focus on what I do know. I love you.”
They stayed at the Mirror Pool until the sun rose and the last of the stars disappeared.
Click here for part 2 of the Epilogue...
 “Perhaps Not to Be Is to Be Without Your Being,” by Pablo Neruda