Chapter 12: Pillars of the Temple 
Catherine looked around her apartment, seeing a sea of boxes and remembering the one other time she had packed to leave. Then, she had been planning to leave for Providence (and the tug on her heart pulled taut again---how could I have thought to leave him? she wondered now.) Now she was leaving to go to something, not away, and the thought warmed her…though this place would remain her physical address for some months to come, her heart and everything she was called another place home.She glanced around the carefully decorated rooms once again, feeling the small velvet bag with her grandfather’s wedding band in her pocket, heavy with promises. Tomorrow for the first time (except to establish that yes, the ring did fit) Vincent would wear this ring, as she would wear his. Then they would leave after the ceremony and the next time she would return here, she would be Vincent’s wife, publicly joined to him, an open expression of the private commitment that had grown in both their hearts since her first return from Connecticut.
The warm light near her heart that was Catherine’s own impression of their bond grew: Vincent, arriving at the threshold below to help her with the few necessary things that hadn’t already gone ahead. She picked up a duffel bag of practical things for their camping trip and one box of things too fragile to be entrusted to anyone else and locked the door behind her.
Vincent was waiting at the threshold---pacing, actually, Catherine thought, smothering a grin. She tossed the duffel bag to him and carefully descended the rest of the way down. “Are you ready for this?” he asked, placing the duffel on the ground and gathering her near.
“Always,” she said, and kissed him.
“Are you ready for this?” Devin asked some hours later, standing in the middle of Vincent’s expanded chamber.
Vincent looked up from where he was sliding the side-rails of the bed into the carved headboard. “Yes, of course.”
“I can’t believe it,” Devin said, lifting the other side-rail and helping Vincent slide the end of the rails into place against the footboard. “My little brother, getting married.” He glanced at the mattress propped against a wall. “Vincent, is that the same mattress we used once Father decided we were too old for our bunk beds?”
Vincent nodded. “It fits the bed best. And it’s a perfectly good mattress---old, but fine.”
“You know it squeaks, right?”
“I’m not likely to forget,” Vincent said dryly. “Considering how many pillow fights Father broke up because he heard it squeaking.”
“You started most of them,” Devin accused.
“I did,” Vincent agreed, smiling. With one last tap, the footboard slid neatly into place and Vincent rose from his crouch.
“I’m sure Catherine will like this,” Devin said. “I can’t believe you carved the furniture in what---two weeks? And renovated this chamber too?”
“I had help from Cullen and Mouse and Kanin,” Vincent replied. “Without them…I’m afraid this would be a very nice drawing, but nothing else.”
Devin looked down at the rock floor then back at his brother. “It’s an easy thing to forget up there,” he said, gesturing to the ceiling but meaning the world Above. “Everyone down here is so…connected to each other.”
Vincent tilted his head. “Do you miss it?”
“Sometimes,” Devin confessed. “But then I think of Charles, the things he needs, the life he has now. He’s in a support group now at the hospital, did I tell you?”
Vincent nodded. “Charles mentioned it at breakfast. He seems much happier, now that he knows he's not the only one with his illness.”
“I think he is,” Devin said. “He’s come a long way, considering where he started. I can barely keep up with the books he reads, and our local librarian has gotten entirely too used to seeing my face.”
Vincent looked across at him and flashed a quick grin. “The librarian?”
“It's not like that,” Devin said, feeling his face warm.
“Of course not,” Vincent replied..
Devin laughed. “Chandler's been a bad influence on you, Fuzz.”
“Are you ready for this?” Jenny asked, leaning up against the brass headboard of the bed in the guest chamber. Catherine was reminded of Jenny as she’d been all those years ago in college, a skinny girl with a cloud of dark hair, studying late in the library every night. They had met in the library, groaning over Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, and had been fast friends ever since.
Now, Catherine leaned against the rungs of the footboard and smiled. “Yes, I am.”
“I know you are,” Jenny said, chuckling. “And I’m so happy for you, Cathy---I just can’t tell you how much. This place, these people are pretty special.” She looked around the rock walls. “And you’ll live down here?”
“If the seller accepts our offer, yes---at least until the house is renovated. The contractor we saw a few days ago seemed pretty optimistic that the brownstone could be restored fully, but there’s a lot wrong with it right now and I’m not about to pay full asking price for something that needs that much work.”
“I don’t blame you,” Jenny replied. “So your contractor is another helper?”
Catherine nodded. “Matthew Glazer and his daughter Annie---Annie is an architect.”
“Now that’s what I call a fortunate coincidence,” Jenny said. “And if you need help stripping wallpaper or refinishing floors, let me know. I can do unskilled labor.”
Catherine laughed. She hadn’t lied to Dara; her last experience with a hammer really had been hanging prints in her apartment. “You and me both,” she replied. “When it comes to the people down here, I really am unskilled.”
“But they don’t care, Cathy,” Jenny said. “And neither should you. You’ll learn what you need to know, so relax, will you?”
She snorted. “The night before my wedding and you’re telling me to relax?”
Jenny nodded, dark curls bouncing in the candlelight. “I am.” She put a piece of pizza on her plate---William’s special for tonight---and tilted her head. “So you won’t see Vincent at all until the ceremony?”
“It’s tradition here,” Catherine replied, remembering Vincent’s face as he’d told her, earnest in the candlelight, as they had lain sweetly entangled only a few days before. “And I know he’s been busy with Devin and Charles and Cullen finishing the last work on our chamber, so it’s probably good I’m not around to distract him.”
“Cathy, I’ve seen him with you,” Jenny said, laughing. “The fact that you exist is a distraction for him.” She tilted her head. “I don’t know how you kept him a secret for so long. He’s…magical.”
“He is,” Catherine agreed. “There were so many times I wanted to tell you, but I couldn't. I'd promised.”
“I understand,” Jenny said. “I do. I'm just happy you have each other now. And tomorrow....”
“Yes, tomorrow,” Catherine said.
“I think we're done,” Cullen said, throwing his chisel into the toolbox.
Vincent stepped back and nodded. “I agree,” he replied.
“It looks great,” Charles said, placing the last of the books on one of the bookshelves.
The time rang out on the pipes---9pm—and Devin looked over at Vincent. “Does William still keep leftovers around after dinner?”
Vincent nodded. “Then I think it’s time we head to the kitchen for a snack,” Devin continued. “You look like you could use something to eat, Vincent.”
"Yeah, you missed dinner,” Cullen put in, grinning. “What’s the matter, man? Too nervous?”
Devin remembered the old saying about a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, and barely managed to avoid saying it. As if sensing his mirth, Vincent looked over at him and raised an eyebrow. “Are you all right, Devin?” Vincent asked, perhaps too innocently considering how well they knew each other.
“I’m fine,” Devin said, coughing, trying to restrain his laughter.
“Are you sure?” Charles asked.
Devin nodded. “Let’s get some food so Vincent doesn’t pass out during the ceremony.”
“Yeah, man,” Cullen said, chuckling. “I’m not carrying you anywhere; you're just too damned big. So eat, will you?”
The day of the wedding dawned cold and bright, a layer of crystalline snow covering the park and a snowstorm was predicted to arrive soon. Far below the city streets, no one noticed, of course, but Catherine just smiled when she was told. “My parents were married just after a snowstorm. I’d call that a good omen.”
There weren’t a lot of things left to be done; the wedding would be at night---another tradition, Catherine was coming to learn---and the day was spent largely in the company of the tunnel women, helping finish the last bits of decorating in the Great Hall and Father’s chamber, where the ceremony would be held. As the women worked, they told stories, passed on hard-won advice about tunnel living---everything from where the shower water was the hottest to how to make candles last longer and the proper care of homemade soap---while the married women passed on bits of wisdom to the bride-to-be.
The whole scene reminded Catherine of a custom from a long-gone era, a community accepting a new bride as one of their own. And despite the fact that she’d long ago been accepted as a Helper, Catherine had never felt more close to these people, to what bound them together, than she had at this moment.
Vincent’s day was spent---as Devin would say later---wearing a hole into the rock floor. There were some nominal chores he did to stay busy---though anyone would have gladly taken him off the work roster. Still, his interior time sense didn’t lie to him. It was…not yet time. And it remained not yet time for hours, through the hasty lunch, through Devin’s attempt to distract him with a chess game, until finally Vincent decided he needed to go find a good book and relax.
The first book he pulled off the shelf was the first edition of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King that Catherine had given him all those months ago. He had his suspicions about what the book really was, and decided against encouraging a visit from Kristopher Gentian tonight. With a smile, he placed it back on its shelf and picked up a well-worn copy of The Prophet.
He looked up as Mouse rushed into the chamber, barreling through the dropped curtain. “Catherine sent me,” Mouse said. “Wants to see you.”
“Where is she?” Vincent asked, though he almost didn’t need the answer.
“At the Chamber of the Falls,” Mouse said, a bit breathless as he always, always was.
There was a sort of...mellow, happy warmth in the bond; Catherine was clearly not in danger, then. “Thank you, Mouse,” Vincent replied.
“I'm to come too,” Mouse said. “Keep people away. Catherine insisted.”
Intrigued---and knowing how much Mouse idolized Catherine---Vincent smiled. “Very well, then.”
As Vincent had expected, Mouse disappeared pretty much as soon as they reached the Chamber of the Falls. “Keep watch,” Mouse said. “You go.”
He entered, expecting to find Catherine sitting in their favorite place---the rock outcropping with the best view of the falls. But she wasn't there. Over the rush of water, Vincent heard her voice calling to him. “Up here,” she said.
How did she know about that chamber? Vincent wondered. He and Mouse had found it only the week before; it was small enough to go unnoticed by all but the most dedicated climbers and the entrance had long been hidden by a rock tumble. He smiled. Mouse. Of course. Carefully, Vincent made his way up the worn steps and stopped, stunned by what he saw.
Catherine had clearly raided the collection of old quilts and pillows they used under the concert shell; they were spread in colorful profusion all over the rock floor of the small chamber. In the middle of the chamber, Catherine sat, naked, lit only by the light of one candle. Vincent felt his mouth go dry and every bone in his body go rubbery. “Catherine...what...why?”
Her chuckle was a rich symphony against the muted roar of the falls. “Devin said you were nervous, and Mouse, Cullen and Father agreed with his assessment. I thought I could help you....relax.”
“But it's three hours until the ceremony,” Vincent protested, though his heart wasn't really in it. They had been separated only a day by the customs of his world, and it was almost too hard.
“So it is,” Catherine agreed, green eyes sparkling. “You don't want this?”
Not want her? It seemed utterly implausible. “Of course I do.”
“That's what I thought,” Catherine said. “And don't worry about someone finding us; Mary, Jenny and Marisol pretty much kicked me out of the guest chamber, which is when Mouse showed me this room. They won't be looking for me for a couple of hours, at least. And Mouse is a good guard.”
“He is,” Vincent said, unbuttoning his shirt and removing his jeans. “None better, especially when things which are slightly...irregular...are going on.”
“Well,” Catherine replied, “I couldn't have waited to see you until tonight anyway.” She leaned back against the covers and the candlelight reflected tiny pinpoints in her green eyes. “Now that we're all in agreement, come here, love.”
The feel of Catherine's skin against his was warm silk as he laid down beside her and the scent---her scent (woman, wife, mate, lover, mine)---nearly undid him. It took every bit of self-control Vincent possessed not to feast upon her as a man starving and when Catherine took his head between her hands and murmured, “Let go,” he shook his head. “I can't,” he managed. “I want you too much.”
Her eyes were dark and glowing. “There's no such thing as too much. Don't you think I want you 'too much' now?”
“It's not the same,” Vincent murmured, ducking his head against the warmth of her throat, the power of his want rising like a fearful tide. If he should injure her in his need....“I don't know if I can...control.”
Catherine pulled his head back just a bit to stare into his eyes and the hunger in her own eyes shredded the last bit of his restraint. “Then don't. Let go.”
Their loving was fierce, Vincent would remember later, fierce in a way that he would have shied from only a few months earlier, but at the end of it, as their souls began to separate and their bond released them both as separate beings, it seemed to him that there was nothing more fierce, more powerful than this woman and their love.
Catherine stroked his hair as she often did in the after-times, waiting for the use of words to return to him. “Are you ready for this?” she asked him, sensing his heartbeat beginning to slow into its normal rhythm.
He was dazed to realize they had spent a little over an hour in the cavern. Vincent rolled onto his side and pressed a kiss the golden silk of her hair. “Always.”
Catherine smiled up at him impishly. “Then let’s go get married, shall we?”
And in the end, it proved as simple as that. Vincent had returned to their newly enlarged chambers and dressed in his wedding clothes, all the while wondering how, exactly, Catherine had known his exact shoe size as he pulled on the boots that had been her wedding gift. Catherine, for her part, showered and returned to the guest chamber where Mary, Jenny, Marisol and Jamie waited to help her with the wedding gown.
When the last button of her gown was buttoned, Jamie worked on Catherine’s hair with swift, adept fingers. “I know you wouldn’t believe it to look at mine, but I can do hair, just not my own,” Jamie had said when she’d offered. Now, as then, Catherine found little reason to doubt her; every motion was skilled as Jamie twisted her hair into a low knot. “Don’t touch it too much until…you know…” Jamie said, flushing slightly. “I’m not sure how much fussing it’ll stand.”
Once the last bobby pin was in place, Marisol placed the veil on Catherine’s head and pinned it carefully in place. “How will we know when it’s time?” Catherine asked when all was said and done.
Almost as if on cue, the loud message rang out. “Ready?” Mary asked.
Catherine nodded and the women left the chamber.