Chapter 9: A Universe Emerging from a Wish 
Catherine was stunned at the interior of Vincent’s chamber. It was completely empty save for the bed and the lone remaining dresser; even the stained glass had been carefully removed and packed away. “Wow, you were busy today.”
“Yes,” Vincent said, smiling down at her. “We’re going to begin demolition tomorrow.”
“It’s really happening, isn’t it,” she replied, clasping his hand, the stress of the day gradually releasing its hold on her.
“It is,” he said. “By this time tomorrow, we’ll have made a good start on joining this chamber with the two rooms just beyond it. It should be ready by the day before we wed.”
“It’ll be lovely, I’m sure,” Catherine replied, picturing it. Vincent had drawn a sketch on a scrap bit of paper and she’d been instantly impressed by how detailed even that quick diagram had been. He was—among his other talents---apparently a natural engineer and it struck her how wondrous it was that she could still be surprised by him. “But you will be careful tomorrow?”
Catherine knew she hadn’t really needed to ask; Vincent was as aware of the dangers of plastic explosive as she was, probably more since his life and Father's had been saved by it, but he nodded just the same. “I will. But you must try not to worry. Mouse assures me that his…gizmos…will work fine tomorrow.”
“And are you planning to tranquilize Father during the demolition?” Catherine asked, grinning.
Vincent smiled, a chuff of amusement riding under his words. “We…considered it. Instead, Father assures me he’s going to read some books in the Chamber of the Falls and not return until we’ve told him we’re done.” His eyes sparkled with some mischief. “Mind you, I don’t fully expect him to stay away; it’s not in his nature to…”
“To…stay out of things?” Catherine asked.
“Precisely,” Vincent agreed, amused.
“Ah, for the house,” he said. “No engineers, unfortunately, but many of our helpers do work on construction crews and as contractors. I’ll see what I can find out.”
Catherine nodded. “So, what’s on the menu tonight?”
Vincent quirked an eyebrow at her. “Dinner in the Chamber of the Falls. It seems like you need it.”
After they ate dinner, Catherine became conscious of an unusual tension in their bond. It wasn't coming from her, but from Vincent, a pensiveness tinged with self-reproach and regret. She studied him in the brilliant light of the Falls and finally said, “Vincent, what is it?”
“Elliot,” he said.
She should have known. “I know. I'm sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Vincent said, turning to face her. “But I cannot protect you from his advances; I cannot confront him and warn him away.” He clenched his fists. “I can do nothing.”
Catherine touched his hands and watched them unclench, just a bit. “I'll handle Elliot; goodness knows this isn't the first time I've had to deal with a suitor who didn't understand the meaning of the word 'No.' But please don't blame yourself because you can't be there. Don't you know what it means to me that you are here? It's hardly 'nothing.'”
He didn’t say anything for a time but she felt the tension in his hands slowly loosen. Finally, he laughed, a rueful chuckle. “I really don’t like Elliot Burch.”
She smiled at the dry, reluctant observation but inwardly counted that as progress---at least he admitted it. “Right now, he’s not on my top ten list of favorite people either. But don’t beat yourself up because he’s being an ass. I’ll deal with him.”
“My fierce one,” he said softly, and touched her face in a gentle caress, the claws lightly grazing her skin.
She clasped his hand in her own. “If I am, it’s because you’ve taught me I could be fierce and strong.”
More relaxed now, Vincent stretched his long legs out and she took advantage of the unspoken invitation to sit on his lap and lean against him as they watched the rainbows arch. His arms enfolded her, gathering her close and his breath was warm against her neck.
“Vincent,” she murmured.
“Yes?” Vincent asked.
“I don’t have to be at work until later in the morning,” Catherine replied and explained Dinah’s warning and Joe’s advice. “It’ll be good for me not to be too predictable, and I don't even have court until 10 tomorrow,” she finished and was startled to feel the low rumble of Vincent’s laugh against her back. “What?” she asked, bemused.
When he finally regained breath to speak, Vincent said, “I’m sorry, but ‘too predictable’ is not a phrase I’d ever use to describe you.”
Pushing her hair out of her eyes, Catherine turned to grin at him. “So you’re telling me I’m unpredictable---“
“You are,” Vincent assured her, blue eyes twinkling.
“Well, if I’m so unpredictable, then how about I give you a challenge. What do I want right now?”
“Dessert?” he asked, smiling, nuzzling her neck.
“Damn,” Catherine said, sighing in mock despair. “I am predictable after all.”
They spent the rest of the evening going through Father's books in the upper alcove of the library. At the end of it, with books scattered all around them, they were no closer to settling on their vows than they had been when they started. “I don't believe all the ways people have found to declare their love for each other,” Catherine said, frustrated. “And we can't decide on any of them.”
“Maybe that's the problem,” Vincent replied, leaning up against one shelf and looking at it uneasily as it rocked just a bit. “We're reading other people's ideas of what love and commitment are. But we should have some of our own by now. Don't we?”
“Oh, yes,” Catherine murmured. She had been an English major at Radcliffe; why hadn't she thought of this before? She looked up at him under her bangs and grinned. “I, Catherine, promise to love, honor and cherish you...and to continually supply you with detangling conditioner.”
Vincent chuckled. “Detangling conditioner? You plan to keep supplying me with detangling conditioner?”
She smiled. “What? It's not poetic enough?”
He shook his head and the candlelight reflected copper in his hair as he laughed. “Perhaps we should stick to Shakespeare.”
Vincent handed another book to her and she noticed his gaze fixing ever so slightly on her left hand. “Our commitment will not be without some challenges,” he said. “The wedding ring...are you sure you won't mind the questions?”
Catherine remembered the chattering interns and smiled. “There's always been some gossip about me at work. I don't care. You've made me stronger than that.” She looked up at him. “Besides, I want to be...claimed by you.”
He tilted his head in that endearing inquiring gesture Catherine loved. She continued, “Vincent, I've never so much as mentioned your name at work. There is not a picture, a note, anything to suggest you exist or to lead someone else to the tunnels. What's been hardest is not being able to shout how much I love you from the rooftops. If there are any questions, I'll deal with them. They won't be as hard as having to deny you has been.”
Vincent’s eyes glittered and she thought he was about to say something but Father’s voice called from below them, breaking into the conversation. “I’m going to bed. If you’d be so kind as to put the books away when you’re done?”
“Of course, Father,” Vincent called back, the mood broken. “Good night.”
The light in the upper library soon faded to a comforting haze of shadows as Father blew out the candles before them. “We should leave too,” Catherine said, and Vincent nodded as they picked up the rest of the books and placed them on their shelves. “There’s another way down,” he replied, gesturing to a ladder she hadn’t noticed when they’d climbed up here. “You’ll have to jump the last few inches, though; the ladder is missing its lower rungs.”
“Jump?” Catherine asked.
He smiled and there was a universe of meaning in his eyes. “Don’t worry. I won’t let you fall.”
The next morning was the usual bustle of activity. Catherine helped move the last of the furniture out of what would soon be their chamber and was bumped into a number of times by an excited Mouse, who was thrilled that he’d soon have the chance to use his gizmos again. Vincent merely shook his head at the younger man’s enthusiasm before calming a nervous Father and sending the older man off to the Chamber of the Falls as he’d promised. “You’re right,” Catherine said, chuckling. “Things really aren’t all that calm down here.”
“No,” Vincent replied as they walked to her basement entrance. “It’s just another order of chaos.” As they reached her ladder, he asked, “What will you do before you go into work?”
“Start packing,” she said. “It’s not as tall a job as packing your chamber was, but if I can get a good start on it before I go into work, that will free up some time this evening for tonight’s concert.”
Vincent nodded, rifling through the pockets of his cloak until he unearthed a folded piece of paper. “It’s a list of the helpers I know who are contractors or who work for contractors. I wrote it out while you were showering this morning.”
Catherine took the list from him and placed it carefully her wallet. “Thank you; this will be a big help. I’ll start calling on this list today.”
“Don’t feel obligated to use them merely because they are helpers,” Vincent said. “It would be ideal if the people working on our house were helpers---there would be much less to hide or explain, for one---but if you’re not satisfied with their work references, don’t feel as though you must use them.”
“I’m sure they’ll be fine,” Catherine replied. “I want helpers working on our house if it’s at all possible.”
He tilted his head. “Why?”
She clasped the front of his patched blue sweater and tugged him forward. “Because the last place you should have to hide is your own home.”
“Thank you,” he said, drawing her close. “This is really happening, isn't it?”
Catherine smiled at the echo of her words from the previous day. “It is,” she replied, and tangling her hands in the wild mass of his mane, pulled his head down for a kiss.
Half an hour later, Catherine had bills sorted into a neat pile and was just beginning her second cup of coffee when she noticed the flashing light on her answering machine. Please, not another call from Elliot, she thought, thumbing the switch to “play.”
The first message, she was glad to hear, was from Jenny, returned from her business trip and wanting to get together for lunch. “I also have a box of books for our...friends,” Jenny's cheerful voice said and Catherine smiled, remembering the rickety shelves in the upper alcove. More books. Just what Father needs.
The next message was from Dara. “Hey, Cathy, I figured you weren't at home, but I just wanted to talk to you and find out if you were still interested in the house. The seller's getting pressure from the city to either raze the building or pay the fines and if you're interested, I'd move on it soon. Call me when you get a chance, okay? Thanks!”
She reached for her phone book and dialed Dara's number. “Dara Moran,” the other woman answered.
“Hi Dara, it's Cathy. I just got your message.”
Catherine could hear Dara's smile over the phone. “Oh, I bet. How is...everyone doing?”
“Everyone...is fine,” Catherine said, unable to keep the grin off her face. “Hey, I wanted to ask you about the house. I talked it over with Vincent and we're interested but we want to have someone come in and check it over first. Will the seller agree to that?”
Dara chuckled. “Cathy, at this point, the seller would agree if you wanted to dance naked around a bonfire inside the place. He just wants it off his hands. But I'll talk to him and make sure.”
“Sounds good,” Catherine replied. “I'm going into work later on this morning so if you hear anything, just call me there.”
“I will,” Dara replied. “I have to go---I've got another call coming in.”
“Talk to you soon, then,” Catherine said, and hung up the phone. Pulling Vincent's list from her wallet, she began to make some phone calls.
“All ready?” Cullen asked.
Mouse nodded, attaching the last of the blasting caps and wires. “Good and sure,” he replied, nodding.
Vincent followed the other men as they ducked into an empty chamber. Mouse was the last to come in, trailing wire behind him. “Flip switch, place goes boom!” he said.
Kanin glanced at Vincent over Mouse's bent head. “Hopefully not the whole place, Mouse,” Kanin said, rubbing his chin in a worried gesture. “We just need the wall between the chambers to fall.”
“I know, I know,” Mouse said. “Ready?”
Vincent stood to beat out a brief message on the pipes—the warning to all that the demolition would begin soon---and heard Pascal repeat the warning as he returned to his crouching position. “Go on, Mouse,” he said. “We're ready.”
Mouse flipped the switch and there was a loud concussion of sound and then, utter darkness.
Catherine felt the explosion as a jarring in her bones. She jolted upright as the force of the blast ricocheted through her. “Hey, lady, you okay? I don't need no trouble today,” the cab driver said, interrupting his monologue to stare at her reflection in the rear-view mirror.
She nodded, not saying anything---what could she say? Vincent was unharmed, she knew, but she had felt the shock of the blast as he had. Our bond, Catherine thought, dazed. It had grown stronger since Vincent's illness, and stronger still since Connecticut, but this? She closed her eyes, shutting out the sounds and smells of the traffic and concentrated on the threads of their connection. Vincent? Catherine asked, not at all sure if he could sense her but determined to try. Are you okay?
Vincent's mental voice was startled. I'm fine. Mouse just used a bit too much. The lights are out and Mouse will have to do some rewiring, but...we're all right. I just hope we're not sharing a chamber with Father now.
Catherine smiled. If he was making jokes, he was fine. I felt your shock, she thought to him. Must have been one large blast.
It was, he thought back. Should you see Elliot Burch, you might tell him that our chambers wouldn't exist without him.
There was a wry, sardonic quality to his mental voice that made Catherine hide a smile behind her hand. Should the occasion ever come up, I'll let him know.
The cab driver made an abrupt stop. “Hey, lady, it's your stop,” he said, no doubt considering himself lucky to be rid of his chuckling passenger.
She paid the fare and stepped onto the street to begin her day.
“Boom okay?” Mouse asked as the cloud of dust and debris began to settle around them.
“Yes, it was,” Vincent replied, clapping him on the shoulder and looking around at the expanded chamber, mentally plotting the amount of work to be done to finish roughing out the chamber. Once the rubble was removed, they could start carving out the shelving and evening out the walls, but surprisingly little really needed to be done.
“I don’t know how he did it,” Kanin said, “but I don’t think demolition engineers could have done better.”
Cullen whistled. “I’ll say. We won’t even have to reinforce the arch much, and there isn’t a whole lot of rubble either. The hard part has mostly been done. Good job, Mouse.”
Mouse grinned at them under his shock of blond hair. “For Vincent and his Catherine,” he said. “Hope Father won’t mind about not having to share.”
Vincent chuckled and threw a mock accusing glare at Cullen. “What?” Cullen said, all innocence. “I didn’t tell him.”
“I’m sure,” Vincent said dryly. “Let’s go eat lunch and get the lights rewired before Father comes back from the Chamber of the Falls.”
The rest of Catherine’s day passed in a flurry of court appearances, meetings and motions. She returned from her last court appearance of the day to find Joe fairly dancing next to her desk. “You look happy,” she said, “too happy, in fact. What’s up?”
“Avery’s attorneys have decided to waive the extradition hearing after all. They’ll produce him for arraignment on the 23rd.”
Catherine glanced down at her calendar and buried a sigh of relief. The 23rd was the week after the wedding. “Oh, that’s fantastic, Joe.”
“Sure it is, Radcliffe.” He bent his head and peered at her closely. “Do you think you’re going to be ready to go once he’s arraigned? I know it’s very soon after you return from your time off.”
She thought of the boxes piled high in the evidence room, the witnesses they hadn’t yet found, of the wedding soon to come and the house that needed rehab…One thing at a time, Catherine reminded herself. “We knew enough two years ago to get a grand jury to indict him. The problem is, I’m pretty sure he won’t waive his right to a speedy trial. I wouldn’t, if I were his attorney.” She raised her eyebrows. “His attorneys do understand he’ll be going straight into custody until the trial is over?”
“After the disappearing act he pulled the last time, they better,” Joe replied. “But I’ll make sure they understand. It won’t make the usual grandstanding any less, but at least they’ll know we mean business.”
“So this is where we’ll be staying?” Catherine asked, glancing around the room, packed full with boxes and furniture stacked against one wall.
Vincent nodded. “Until we finish renovating our chambers, yes. It won’t be long, though; probably it will take us less time than we thought before the renovation is finished.”
He noticed her green eyes dancing with some mischief. “It has a door,” she breathed.
“I know,” Vincent said; it was the first thing he’d thought of when selecting which chamber to borrow.
"I like doors,” Catherine replied, and kissed him.
They never made it to the concert.
Click here for Chapter 10...
 “Being to Timelessness as It's to Time,” by ee cummings