Chapter 8: The Truth More First Than Sun 
All too soon, the weekend sped by and it was Sunday night. Catherine had an early court appearance in the morning and a staff meeting after it, so she knew she’d have to return above instead of trying to leave for work directly from the tunnels on Monday morning. “I don’t want to go,” she murmured against Vincent’s chest as they stood at the basement entrance, and felt his arms enclose her.
“I don’t want you to go,” he replied, “but you have work to do, and I have to finish up the last of the packing so we can begin demolition tomorrow.”
“You’re right,” she agreed with a sigh. “I should start packing as well.”
“You’ll have far less to do than I did,” Vincent quipped.
“That’s for sure,” Catherine replied, smiling, remembering her amused chagrin at just how many things he had wedged into the out of the way corners of his chamber. “There are a lot of memories in those boxes, aren’t there?”
“There are,” Vincent said, “but I’m looking forward to making more with you.” He kissed her gently. “Here’s one to go on.”
Catherine sat down in court for what felt like forever; as her luck would have it on a Monday, the defendants she was arraigning were at the very bottom of the calendar this morning. Glancing around the crowded courtroom, she saw several other attorneys covertly doing crossword puzzles or reading and sighed, realizing she’d left both her crossword puzzle and her book stashed in her desk drawer. Clearly, it was going to be that kind of Monday.
The court broke for recess around 11 and she stepped out into the hallway and turned at the sound of a woman calling her name. Catherine recognized the woman as a fellow law school classmate from Columbia and a memory of several torturous weeks in Civil Litigation rose unbidden. “Dinah?” she asked, smiling. “How are you doing?”
“Defending the innocent, leaping tall buildings, that sort of thing,” Dinah Goldstein replied dryly, shifting the files in her arms. “Cathy, do you have a moment?”
She nodded. “What’s going on?” Catherine asked as they entered a nearly empty hallway.
“Word on the street has it that you got the Max Avery case,” Dinah said without preamble. “Is that true?”
Catherine raised her eyebrows, again wondering how “word on the street” had managed to outpace the newspapers, which had all but ignored the case after the initial burst of publicity. “Yes, I’ve been assigned it.”
Dinah looked at the ground, then back at her, and her dark eyes were worried. “Be careful, Cathy. Avery plays hardball.”
The words were an echo of her own to Elliot not two years before, and Catherine felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. “Do you know something…specific?”
The other woman snorted. “From my clients? The ones who ‘don’t know nothin’? Are you kidding? Just…things I’ve heard. Be careful, okay? If I hear something specific, of course I’ll tell you…but I wanted you to know. Avery still has friends in this town.”
Catherine nodded. “Thanks, Dinah, I appreciate it.”
Dinah smiled. “You’re welcome.” She glanced at her watch. “I have to get back to my office; I’ve got trial resuming after lunch, and my daughter’s home sick with my mother so I need to check on her now. Let’s get together for lunch sometime, okay?”
Catherine nodded and leaned against the wall, watching Dinah leave. Vincent would, she knew, have sensed her apprehension as soon as she felt it and she took a deep breath, forcing calm. She’d promised him once, long ago, to never shut him out of their bond as she had when Paracelsus had kidnapped her, but the rock-slide on Saturday had increased her resolve: Vincent must never be in danger or distracted because of something she felt.
She looked at her watch. If she hurried, she had just enough time to catch Joe before he left for lunch.
Vincent shook his head as the cresting wave of tension hit him, then abruptly subsided. “You okay, Vincent?” Cullen asked, shaking his arm.
He nodded. “Yes, it was just…I’m fine.”
“And Catherine is too, right?” Cullen said.
“I’m glad,” Cullen said. “She’s a good woman and I…remember what that’s like.”
Vincent rubbed one hand against a rough edge and reached for the fine-grain sandpaper to sand down a narrow band of splinters. “How is Valerie doing?”
“Fine, but that’s….Vincent, she’s just….” He repressed a grin at the sight of Cullen, normally so articulate, reduced to a series of sentence fragments.
“The woman who wouldn’t leave your side while you were injured?”
“Look, I like Valerie,” Cullen retorted, running a hand through his thinning hair. “I like her a lot.”
“But?” Vincent inquired.
“But I’m no good with this stuff. Betty…” Cullen’s face softened as it always did whenever he mentioned his wife. “Betty was the romantic in our relationship. I’ve been alone for a long time and I don’t know how to do this anymore.”
“Valerie’s been alone for several years herself,” Vincent pointed out. “Drew died six years ago and she’s never looked at anyone since. Perhaps you might…teach each other?”
Cullen looked up from the container of varnish he was stirring and grinned. “When did you get so wise?”
Vincent raised his eyebrows. “’Wise’? Hardly. But if it can happen to me, to Catherine and me, it can certainly happen to you and Valerie. You just need…open your hands and believe that nothing is truly impossible.”
“Sounds wise to me,” Cullen replied, chuckling. “Is Renata’s shop open, do you think?”
“Her shop doesn’t close until 5,” Vincent said. “It’s only just after 11 now.”
Cullen bounced up and down on his heels. “Good. Valerie likes daisies; I hope Renata has some.” With a wink and a grin, he left.
Vincent sat down and stared at the roses he was carving along the edges of the dresser and smiled, an idea coming to his mind, remembering Olivia’s bed, strewn with lilacs...
“That’s all she had to say?” Joe asked, leaning against his desk and looking worried.
“That was it,” Catherine replied. “And it’s nothing we didn’t already know. Avery does play hardball and he surely has friends in this town, as we both know too well.”
Joe blew his breath out once. “Not much else you can do, then, except to stay on your guard, which I know you’d do anyway. But if you see or even sense anything suspicious, I want you to tell me, Cathy. We came too close to losing you to that nutcase at the lake.”
Catherine nodded. There were still nights, all these months later, when she awoke in a cold sweat, disoriented and not knowing if she was in her room or in the trunk of a sinking car. She had transferred to a safer assignment after Vincent’s illness, but there were still risks; Dinah’s warning, as vague as it had been, only reinforced her determination to stay safe for both their sakes. “In the meantime,” Joe continued, “you heard the lecture when Benitez had that gang case. Vary your routine. Come a little later, leave a little earlier. Don’t take the same route to work that you always do. In other words, don’t make yourself an easy target by being too predictable.”
That also meant the tunnels, Catherine realized; no more going through the park entrance. Which was fine; she hadn't used it as much since returning from Connecticut, preferring the more direct route through her basement, but she'd have to be careful there too. “Cathy?” Joe asked, breaking her reverie. “You okay with this? I know you didn't expect this kind of risk, coming from investigations...”
She took a deep breath and nodded. “I made a commitment, Joe; I'll see this case through. It'll be fine.”
“All right,” Joe said. “But even one hint of something suspicious, you tell me, okay?”
“I will, I promise,” Catherine replied, standing. She had a salad in the refrigerator; with some luck, she might be able to eat before returning to court.
“And don't forget,” Joe said, “there's a staff meeting this afternoon.”
Catherine groaned theatrically and laughed as Joe made a shooing motion. Leaving his office, she was chuckling a bit until she saw the roses---a dozen of them, blooming in scarlet profusion on her desk. She shuddered a bit, thinking of the Watcher. Red roses had never looked the same to her after that.
Rita bustled towards Joe's office. “Hey, Rita, did you see those come in?” Catherine asked.
The other woman nodded. “Yeah, about five minutes ago. They're gorgeous, Cathy. That's some guy you have there.”
“Yeah, some guy,” Catherine replied absently. Vincent had never, would never, send her roses at the office; the risk was simply too great.
Joe was at her side in an instant. “Cathy? You look shook up. Are you okay?”
He followed her as she walked to her desk and pulled out the card buried among the green stems of the roses. Her hands shook a bit. Damn it, Chandler, get a hold of yourself, she thought. It's just a card, just roses. “I don't believe this,” she muttered, handing the card to Joe.
“Elliot Burch?” Joe spluttered. “'I really enjoyed our meeting, and I hope to see you again soon.' Like it was some sort of social event. Who does this guy think he is?”
“He thinks he's Elliot Burch,” Catherine replied, torn between anger and annoyance. She noticed two of the interns chattering excitedly and repressed a groan. More grist for the office gossip mill. Wonderful.
Aloud, she said, “Joe, can you find a home for these flowers?”
Joe gazed at her, and Catherine wondered what her face must be showing. “Sure, Cathy. You want me to call Burch and ream him a new one?”
“No,” she said, finding her sense of humor surfacing at that particular visual. “No, I'll take care of him. But...thank you.”
“Sure,” Joe said. “I'll talk to reception about not letting anything else from Burch through.”
“That'd be great,” Catherine replied. “Thank you, Joe.”
“No problem,” he said, and removed the offending flowers from her desk.
After lunch, Catherine had rushed down to court, arraigned her defendants, and come back for the staff meeting, which had been mercifully brief. Then she took a deep breath and dialed Elliot's number. Her call went through almost immediately, as it had the last time. “Cathy, it's so good to hear from you,” Elliot said. “Did you get the flowers?”
She felt the muscles clench in her jaw at his words, then forced herself to relax. “Yes, I did. That's why I'm calling you.”
“You didn't like them,” Elliot replied. “I thought red roses were your favorite, but---”
“Elliot,” she broke in, cutting him off. “That's not the point. It's completely inappropriate that you sent them to me in the first place.”
“So there's someone else in your life,” Elliot said, with the air of a man who'd already anticipated this objection and dismissed it as ultimately being of no consequence. “I'll wait for you.”
Catherine wondered if maybe she shouldn't have had Joe talk to him after all. “Elliot, you're a witness in a case I'm prosecuting. What on earth made you think that sending me flowers---as if we're still in a relationship---was a good idea?”
“I'm sorry,” Elliot said. “I should have sent them to your home.”
“Elliot,” Catherine said, “let me make this clear to you. There is someone in my life, and it's not you. It will never be you. The only contact I plan to have with you is communication regarding this case. That's it. Any other...deliveries...will be rejected. Do I make myself clear?”
“You do,” Elliot said after a pause. “I never meant---”
“Yes, you did, Elliot,” Catherine said. “Goodbye and don't send me anything ever again.” She hung up the phone and leaned her head into her hands, wondering how much of that Vincent had sensed.
“You shut him down pretty hard,” Joe said, returning from dispersing the flowers.
“I don't see that I had much choice,” Catherine replied, looking up at him.
“No,” Joe said, “you didn't. But are you sure he'll be as...available...when Avery finally comes to trial?”
She shrugged. “I don't know. But it's a risk we'll have to take. We may have to make this case without him.”
“Well,” Joe said, a wry grin quirking his mouth, “his immunity agreement was contingent on his full and truthful testimony, wasn't it?”
Catherine smiled, feeling her spirits lifting just a little. “Why yes, yes it was. But still, I think it's best if we don't have to rely solely on his testimony.”
Vincent was putting away the last of the woodcarving tools when he felt the gentle tug and the warm light near his heart that was his sense of the bond. Catherine, coming home. He threw a moving blanket over the dresser to protect it before blowing out the candles in the workshop.
He was covered in sawdust but he knew Catherine wouldn't mind, and besides, she needed him; her emotions had run the gamut this day. Vincent brushed the off the grime as best he could and arrived at the basement entrance just as she descended into his world. She threw herself into his arms as soon as she saw him. “Oh, Vincent, this day has been....”
“Difficult,” he finished, holding her close. “I'm here.”
Catherine laughed, just a little ruefully. “What you must have sensed today.. yes, it was difficult. To say the least.” She pulled back a little. “So tell me how your day went. What's life like where sane people live?”
Vincent chuckled. “I'm not at all sure that 'sane' is a good description but it seems to have been at least a little calmer than your day.” He inhaled the scent of her, noting a subtle difference. The last time he'd smelled it had been only a few short months before. “So...you saw Elliot?”
“No,” Catherine said, not at all surprised or discomfited by his knowledge, “the idiot sent me flowers. If I'd seen him, I'd have slugged him.”
“He seems...most persistent,” Vincent observed as they walked towards the hub.
She stopped him with one firm hand on his arm. “Vincent. You know there isn't...there couldn't be...”
He smiled. “Hush,” Vincent replied, turning to face her. “I know. I also know he does not seem likely to give up.”
“No,” Catherine agreed, sighing. “For some people, it's all about the thrill of the chase.” She brushed her hair out of her eyes, and smiled at him. “But let's not talk about Elliot now.”
“No,” Vincent replied, and kissed her.
Click here for Chapter 9....
 “Being to Timelessness as It's to Time,” by ee cummings