Epilogue: Under All Silences (PG-13)

III. Under All Silences [4]

Two weeks after leaving Elysium, Catherine returned Above. It was necessary, she knew, to return above for even a few hours; bills had to be paid and plants watered and doubtless there were a million and four messages from Joe clogging her answering machine, all the minutiae of the modern life. Still, she had not wanted to go; there was so much more tying her to the tunnels, to Vincent, now. In the end though, he had smiled and said, “I will be here when you return.” And that had been enough, because even though she was still a woman of two worlds, he knew perfectly well which one claimed her heart.

She left him standing at the Central Park entrance, standing in the shadows of an early fall. And smiled as he waved goodbye.

***

“Ah, Vincent,” Father said, stepping into his son's chamber. “Catherine has gone above?”

“Yes. She had some errands to attend to above. She will return later today,” Vincent replied, turning his head to look at him. The physician's eye noticed that Vincent looked healthier than he had for weeks. The father's eye saw that his son looked happier, more relaxed and more content than he could ever remember seeing. Father didn't fool himself; he knew who was responsible for both of those changes. “It's been good having her here,” Father said.

Vincent's eyes widened fractionally, amused. “Don't look at me like that, Vincent,” Father replied, trying to remain stern. “She is a lovely woman and we became much...closer during your illness. Catherine must be…quite formidable in court.”

Vincent nodded. “I suspect she is, yes. What did you talk about, if I may ask?”

“You, mainly,” Father said, sitting in the old carved chair opposite the chess board. “There was much she didn’t know, much I had never told her.” He paused. “Actually, that’s why I’m here now. I have not been honest with you, Vincent. There were things I should have told you long before this, about John—Paracelsus---and Anna, but I didn’t. Catherine pointed out my folly in not giving you the whole truth. And I’m ashamed to say she was right. If I’d only told you…”

“Surely you acted as you felt best,” Vincent replied. “I know, I have always known, that you had your reasons. But…yes, I would like to know what really happened.”

“John murdered Anna with poison in a glass of wine. But I might have saved her, Vincent, saved a woman who wanted to be your mother. That failure haunts me to this day.”

***

Looking back, Father knew when the trouble had begun, though at the time, preoccupied with the logistics of keeping a small community alive and healthy through a New York City winter, he’d passed the first clues off as just a marital spat. Anna, normally so vivacious and happy with the infant Vincent in her arms, gradually stopped showing up at the community meals. When John was questioned about it, he said only that his wife had the flu and didn’t want to infect the rest of them.

It was only when Deirdre reported seeing Anna at night, walking the halls with her wailing baby in her arms but apparently quite healthy, that the first suspicions began. John was not widely liked in the community whereas Anna was, and Deirdre had been quite insistent. Something was very wrong with Anna.

For years afterwards, Father would remember his next words to Deirdre. “Anna and John have been married a long time. Surely if there was a problem, he’d tell us.”

Deirdre had fled to the tunnels after an abusive marriage. The disdain in her blue eyes had been clear as she spoke. “Sure he might, if he wasn’t the problem.”

Reluctant to intervene in a marital spat, Father had shaken his head. “John wouldn’t do such a thing.”

Deirdre narrowed her eyes. “I don’t think, Jacob, that we quite know the limits of what John would or wouldn’t do. Just…talk to Anna, will you?”

And so he had gone, on a pretense of checking up on the infant Vincent, that strange foundling now being raised as John and Anna’s son. There was no real need to check on the boy; once he’d gotten past the serious bout of pneumonia he’d suffered shortly after coming to the tunnels, Vincent, now just a few months old, had proved almost relentlessly hardy. John, by some good fortune, had been out on a foraging expedition and Anna had been there, thin and pale, holding her son as if she quite feared to let the child out of her sight, or out of her arms.

John tells me you’ve been ill,” Father had begun, not knowing how else to open the conversation.

Anna’s laugh was brittle and utterly lacking in humor. “Is that what he said? Well, then, it must be true.”

Her hands, he noticed as he took one in his own, were ice cold, her pulse hammering. Stress, he thought. Or fear. Aloud, he said, “Anna, you do know…if something were wrong…”

Anna shifted the child in her arms and he noted again how tightly she held the boy. “If something were wrong, Jacob…John and I aren’t getting along just now.”

Why is that?” he asked, trying to be gentle. He hadn't missed the way her gaze kept straying to her son. Some dispute over the boy, then, he thought.

John wants things for Vincent that I...I can't....” Anna's voice trailed off. “I'm his mother, Jacob.”

Yes,” he agreed, smiling, “and no finer one to be found, I know. Have you been arguing over Vincent?”

I suppose you could call it that,” Anna said. “Please...I don't know what to do.”

***

“I should have listened to her, to what she was trying to tell me,” Father said now, seeing the compassion in his son's eyes and rejecting it. He deserved no compassion, only Anna did. Brave, fierce, loving Anna, who'd been murdered by her husband a few hours after that conversation. “She was terrified and I misread the whole thing. Thought she was just misunderstanding what John wanted.”

“What did Paracelsus want?” Vincent asked, and there was no mistaking the venom with which he spoke the name.

“He wanted...control, control of you,” Father replied, remembering. “John was...confused. No, that's not precisely it; I don't think I've ever met a man more sure of what he wanted. But he confused love with obedience, with power. If you didn't do as he wanted, then you were his enemy. Anna saw that, too late. And I saw it...not at all until she died.” He met his son's eyes, the slanted blue eyes set in that lion's face, and thought again how close he had been to losing him forever. .

“Why didn't you tell me this years ago?” Vincent asked. “Or even when Paracelsus resurfaced last year?”

“I have always felt I had to be perfect for you, Vincent,” Father replied, not wanting to meet that intent gaze and yet unable to look away. “And I couldn't admit that my greatest mistake cost you a woman who would have been your mother. After a time...well, we had no direct contact with Paracelsus or his community for years. I came to believe that perhaps he'd found some other target for his obsessions, and after that...what would have been the point of telling you?” He sighed, the sound loud in the room. “I was wrong. I killed Anna, just as if I'd poisoned her myself. And I was a coward for not telling you earlier.”

“The fault lies only with Paracelsus,” Vincent said. “But it would have made a great difference to know that a woman wanted to be my mother.”

“I know,” Father replied. “And I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about her before. But those times were…very painful for all of us who lived through them. After a time, it was just easier to not speak of it than to remember. Those first years after John was exiled were hard, very hard.”

Vincent nodded. “I understand, Father. Truly. I carry my own burden of things I’d rather not remember.” He paused. “Is there anyone left who knew Anna well?”

Father thought about it for a moment. Deirdre had died in a rockslide the summer after Anna’s death and Winslow’s father Simon had passed away in the 1970s. “Narcissa knew her well, something which infuriated John no end. But yes, if you want to know more about her, I’d talk to Narcissa.”

“Thank you,” Vincent replied, and Father marveled again at the strength of his adopted son. Another man would, perhaps, have clung to his fury and rage over having the truth withheld from him for so long and yet…there was no sign of anger, only relief at finally knowing the truth, however long-delayed it had been.

He remembered Anna, white-faced, holding the dying infant, stubbornly insisting that the child would survive in spite of the hours of exposure, demanding that he put aside his prejudices and preconceptions and help. What a miracle she was, Father thought now, looking at Vincent, saddened again that she'd never had the chance to see the magnificent being he'd become. “She'd have been very proud of you, Vincent. And she loved you very much.”

There was a faint, cryptic smile on his son's face. “I know, Father. I know because...she told me.”

***

Bills paid, mail sorted, Catherine leaned against the wall and sighed. Fifteen messages on her answering machine, eight of them from Joe relating to one case or another and all of them relating to cases that Rita was covering in her absence. Damn it, she thought, what does he think “I need leave” means, anyway? But then, she acknowledged ruefully, in many ways she had only herself to blame. How many late nights had she worked? How many times had she taken work home? No wonder Joe thought she was accessible despite being on leave.

She glanced around her apartment, seeing the clean lines and pastel colors. Aside from the furnishings, it was beginning to feel like a more luxurious version of her office. And it seemed strangely sterile when compared to the books and haphazard furnishings, the cheerful clutter, of the world below. In some deep, essential way, this place was no longer home. Home was Vincent and candlelight and the people below and the warm tug near her heart that was the bond. It wasn’t this place, not any longer.

The patio doors were still askew, barely hanging on their hinges and she remembered the sternly-worded letter from the co-op board about the noise level coming from her apartment recently, along with a not so polite demand that she have the patio doors fixed. Catherine chuckled a bit ruefully, knowing that if she’d just rented the place instead of owning it outright, she’d have been evicted long ago. Between voodoo cults and rogue cops and stalkers, it was a miracle she hadn’t received more letters.

She gathered the neat pile of bills into one hand and grabbed her purse. It was time to go home.

***

Vincent met her at the basement threshold. She saw him there, leaning against the wall with his arms folded, looking more relaxed than she’d ever seen him. “Well, hi there,” she said as she descended the stairs.

His hands, calloused and warm and strong, touched her waist and braced her on the metal ladder as she descended into the tunnels. “Hello yourself,” Vincent replied, gathering her close. “I missed you.”

“Did you, now?” Catherine asked, loving the faint candle smoke-spice-leather smell of him. He was wearing a blue sweater and corduroys, patched and faded from many washings, and the color of the sweater made his eyes darker.

“Mmm..hmmm,” Vincent said against her hair before kissing her. “I did.”

Catherine grinned up at him. “I'll say. So, what did you do today?”

“Father and I talked,” Vincent said as they began walking towards the home tunnels, his hand clasping hers.

From his tone, she gathered they hadn't had a casual conversation over a chessboard. Through their bond, she could sense nothing but contentment and relief. “Did your talk go well?” Catherine asked.

“Yes,” Vincent replied. “Father told me about Anna...for the first time, I heard the truth of what happened all those years ago.”

“I'm so glad you and he had a chance to talk,” she said. “How do you feel about what he told you?”

“I feel as if I finally have some answers. For years, Paracelsus’ name was mentioned only in muttered whispers, and those who were around when he was exiled….they would not even speak his name. I understand why, now. And although I wish Father had told me about Anna earlier, at least I know now.” He looked at her sideways, the gesture making his eyes even more cat-like. “What about you? I sensed you were…quite frustrated earlier.”

“You could say that, yes,” Catherine said, and related the story of Joe and the pile of messages on her answering machine. “I take my work back to the apartment too much, and he’s come to depend on me being available,” she finished and felt Vincent’s hand tighten on hers. “What?”

“You said the apartment, not home. Is it truly no longer home to you?” Vincent asked.

“Home is where you are, Vincent. I don’t think I fully realized that until Elysium, but yes. It’s not home. It’s an apartment, a mailing address, but it’s not where you are.” She tugged on his hand and stopped walking. “What is it?” The emotions flooding their bond were too fast for her to sort out, but a shy hope was chief among them.

The corridors were deserted, unusual for this time of day. She glanced at Vincent quizzically and he smiled. “We’re taking the long way around.” He turned to face her and took her other hand in his. “Catherine, I don’t know how to ask this.”

She smiled, reaching up to smooth the wild mane. “Don’t worry about ‘how.’ What do you want?”

His arms enfolded her, his words a rumble in his chest. “I can’t believe I have the right to ask anything of you…but…no place is home without you. Not anymore.” Vincent ran one clawed hand through her hair and his eyes were the deep blue of the ocean he'd never seen.. “I want you to join your life with mine. Catherine, will you marry me?”

For a time---seconds, an eternity, perhaps---words escaped her. Then a vast universe of joy rushed through Catherine as she stood on tiptoe and pulled his head down to hers. “Yes.”

***

They stood there for a time, holding each other, until Vincent stirred. “If you're hungry, I believe William has some dinner saved for us.”

Catherine smiled. “I am hungry,” she said, just as the rumble in her stomach threatened to reach epic proportions. “And then we can...talk?”

Vincent nodded, though his eyes were on her lips. “Yes. We can...talk.”

They returned to his chamber to find a hot stoneware tureen that revealed William's beef stew and an accompanying dish that held homemade bread. Finally, there was a teapot full of steeping tea. Catherine touched the warm teapot, thinking of what care and concern the meal represented. “It's been good, having this time,” Vincent said, picking up on her thoughts.

“It has been,” Catherine agreed, smiling. “Though I know not to expect it once we're married.”

Vincent grinned in what could arguably be described as a roguish smile were it not for the love in his eyes. “No. Lack of privacy tends to be the norm here, though there are always ways around that.”

“There are?” she asked, sitting at the old table and pouring a bowl of soup.

“Yes,” Vincent replied, tearing of a chunk of bread. “Some chambers have doors or curtains.”

Her eyes darted to the entrance of his own chamber, where no curtain or door could be found. “Yet you don't have one.”

At his indrawn breath, Catherine met his eyes. “No. But there are places I have gone, the quiet places, the still places, when I've needed to be alone.”

And she wondered, briefly, if he never had a door because it was believed he'd never need one. Vincent, the different one, the outsider, the one who had been told---or had come to believe, it scarcely mattered which---that love and its passions and risks and joys was not, could not, be for him. Well, she had the rest of her life to prove differently to him. “Well,” Catherine said, “we'll need a door. Or a curtain at least.”

He blushed, a light flushing of rose under the golden tones of his skin. The blue eyes that met hers across the table, though, were anything but embarrassed. “Yes, we will.”


Click here for the last section of the Epilogue....

_____

[4] from "Love is the voice under all silences," by e.e. cummings


14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Beautiful!! Cannot wait for part 4!!

Jenna

Krista said...

Thank you, Jenna! :-) I'm so happy you liked it.

-Krista

Carole W said...

“Well,” Catherine said, “we'll need a door.

Oh, how I love this sentence. And I hear it perfectly in Catherine's voice.

The conversation with Father about Paracelsus was so needed and I'm gratified to have it happen. You offer good insight, particularly with this:
But he confused love with obedience.

And I'm glad Vincent told Father what would have made a difference instead of just nodding and accepting. Father isn't perfect, but he isn't evi. Things between them, F and V, can progress now, when before they were stymied by the spectre of non-information.

You're doing such lovely work, easing us from Elysium, healed. I am sad to have it end, except ... part IV promises so much. :-)

Krista said...

Hey Carole!

Thank you so much. *blush* :-) It makes me so happy to hear you say you can hear Catherine say those words ;-)

It never really occurred to me before I wrote this just how many emotionally wounded people there are in the tunnels---Father with his secrets, Vincent in his battles with the Other, all the other people of the tunnels who came down there for reasons unknown and still keep their secrets. I think Father in particular just got so used to the secrecy that it became too much of a second nature...but you're right: that conversation about Paracelsus needed to take place. Whew. They've finally had it.

I'm tweaking part 4 as we speak LOL...thank you so much for reading all these chapters, in all their versions, and still continuing to comment. :-)

-Krista

OKGoode said...

Wonderful wrapping up with this conversation with Father! There must have been a sale on those clue-by-fours, huh?

And I love the sentence ending with, "even though she was still a woman of two worlds, he knew perfectly well which one claimed her heart." How I wish we'd have seen him reach that conclusion on screen!

Krista said...

Hey Laura!

Why yes, they were having a sale on clue-by-fours. How ever could you tell? :)

Thank you so, so much for reading this story--I really appreciate it. :-)

RomanticOne said...

You did a wonderful job in showing us how a close knit community with limited space respected one another's private thoughts as much as possible, even though it led to some misunderstandings and heartache. It can sometimes be a fine line. Loved the conversation about needing a door. A look, a word, can say so much. Looking forward to Part 4.

Krista said...

Hi R1!

Thank you so much. I was trying to get across that Father had made a mistake, and a tragic one, by not paying attention to the earliest signs of trouble between John and Anna---but given both the tunnels' culture of individual privacy...it was an honest mistake. Tragic, but honest.

Thank you so much for continuing to read this :-)

-Krista

Three Writers said...

I loved Catherine's "Well, hi there!", Krista. It's exactly what she'd say after those few hours away and after what they'd known together before she went Above. I can see her saying it, feel the emotion of the words. This story has been so real. Thank you for a new gift of Vincent and Catherine. I'm eager for more so get writing, dear Friend! Love, Nancy

Krista said...

Hi Nancy! :)

I'm so glad you've liked this story---thank you. I'm writing the last part of the epilogue now, and after that...it's time for some light and fluffy writing :) It's been a journey writing this---I've loved it, but I'm glad it's almost over too. :)

Thanks again for reading :)

-Krista :)

Sonia Who? said...

DITTO to Carole's entire comment. And glad that Vincent reached the conclusion that, though Catherine may be a woman of two worlds, her heart belonged to his. And I love that Vincent asked Catherine to join with him in marriage. Yay! A wonderful, well written, insightful, healing, and lovely chapter. I can't wait for the last sure to be exciting part!

Brit said...

Krista!!! GOODNESS! I loved this!
and this..
He blushed, a light flushing of rose under the golden tones of his skin. The blue eyes that met hers across the table, though, were anything but embarrassed. “Yes, we will.”

^_^ good things are on the way! I can tell! ;)

Brit

Krista said...

Hi Sonia,

Thank you so much for your kind words. :) I'm working on the last chapter now and I'm hoping to have it ready for posting this weekend. :)

-Krista

Krista said...

Brit!! :)

I'm so glad you enjoyed this chapter...they are just so remarkable to write together. :)

Thanks again,

Krista :)

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