Sunday was a general day of rest in the tunnels, as Catherine was coming to learn. All but the most critical tasks were delayed and classes postponed. Even the pipes were muted as the tunnel-dwellers abandoned their usual method of communication in favor of visits to friends and family. Breakfast was muffins from the day before, and coffee brewed before William had returned to his chamber to enjoy his day off.
Catherine's Sunday began not in the commons but with the faint, clean smell of fur and the feel of the warm, beloved body intertwined with her own. His grasp held her close, the claws making a slight kneading motion in his sleep. She rolled her head to one side to watch him, and the mild scent of lavender rose from the pillows. Her waking would often trigger his own, but Vincent slept on, and Catherine was glad. Even though he seemed not to need much sleep, she had seen his rest interrupted too many times by dreams not to be happy that he was peaceful now.
She dozed for a time, content, until the scent of cloves and lemon and spices and hot desert sand reached her. Catherine knew air currents went wild in the tunnels sometimes, mysterious as everything else was in this world; Vincent had told her once of smelling William's cinnamon rolls in a new chamber far distant from the commons. Maybe William decided to bake after all, but why do I smell the desert? she wondered, and wandered back into the realm of dreams.
It would never seem usual to him, this experience of daylight. Dust motes glinted and settled, dancing in the faint breeze. A jewel tone of colors—reds and greens and blues---brightened in the slanted light of mid-day and burned the eyes. Vincent stood in the shadows of an arched overhang and watched as the merchants milled around their booths---selling basmati rice, fruits, rich spices---and dodged out of the way of a veiled woman with basket on her head. The movement forced him into the light but no one noticed.
“No one looked twice,” Catherine said, emerging from the shadows herself. She smiled. “Vincent, where are we?”
He knew, though it was impossible that he should have known; this was a city they had never visited and a place he would never see. “Marrakesh,” he said.
“And we're dreaming, I suppose,” Catherine replied, voice full of wonder but somehow unsurprised.
“I suppose so,” he agreed, returning her smile. “Come.”
Fabric stretched for drying fluttered in a prism of color. Her dress lifted slightly in the hot desert breeze and the scent of lemons and cardamom drifted towards them. “Yes, please,” she said, taking his hand.
The courtyard was full of people and animals, but the throng parted as if they were normal, any other couple visiting the market. Men met his eyes but did not shy away in fear or dismay. Women gathered in little clumps as children scampered. “They don't see us,” he murmured.
Catherine chuckled. “We're dreaming. Of course they don't.”
They walked down long corridors, aisles lined with an array of goods in no particular order---tables piled high with rare spices, lanterns of colored glass dazzling in the sunshine, flowers and herbs. An old woman beckoned them at the very end, her face shadowed, not veiled but hidden. Vincent was not at all startled to find Narcissa, here in this place where none of them had ever been. They followed her through a keyhole entrance to a sunlit room where a fountain splashed gently in the stillness.
They were alone. Catherine sat on the small tiled ledge in front of the fountain and ran a hand through the cool water, splashing it on her bare neck. “Would you look at this place?” she said. “It's like something out of Arabian Nights.”
The water beaded and flowed down the graceful lines of her throat, towards the delicate strength of her collarbone, on the pale satin skin he loved to touch. Vincent swallowed. “It's lovely.”
“And warm,” Catherine said. She drew him down beside her. “You're overdressed, love.”
He looked down at himself. Of course he was---though with all the usual outrageousness of dream, he hadn't really noticed the heat until she mentioned it. They were in Morocco, at the height of midday, in the middle of summer, and here he was dressed for a winter Below. “I am.”
She loosened the heavy cloak, pushed it off his shoulders. “Well, you're only wearing a vest, a shirt and an undershirt this time,” she said, teasing. The vest went the way of the cloak, the heavy shirt beside it. When he was wearing just the thin woven undershirt, Catherine stopped. “Better?”
“Much,” Vincent agreed, though he was becoming hot from reasons unrelated to the torrid summer heat. The mingled scents---the spices in the air, the warm desert sands, Catherine herself---were as bewitching as any elixir.
Catherine looked at him, a wicked mischief darkening her eyes. “You appear to have a problem. That problem. Again.”
He shifted. This was a dream, but they were in public, they could not....but he did have that problem. “What do you suggest?”
She laughed. “Vincent, we're dreaming, remember?”
“So we are,” he said, and drew her to him.
Vincent opened his eyes to stare into the wide, startled gaze of his wife. “Vincent,” she began, but stopped.
“I know,” he replied, equally as stunned. “I hadn't ever thought that we might....share such a thing.”
Their faces were very close; her forehead touched his. “Oh, love, how could you?” Catherine asked. Some imp tugged at the corner of her mouth. “Was Marrakesh your idea or mine?”
“It must have been yours,” he replied. “I don't recall dreaming of Marrakesh before I found you there.”
“What were you dreaming of, then?”
“Father and I were playing chess, but I knew it must be a dream.”
“How did you know that?” she asked.
Vincent chuckled. “Besides the fact that we were in daylight in Central Park, he was winning.”
Her snort of laughter set off his until they lay there, breathless and relaxed. She turned in his arms and her thigh brushed against him. “Vincent, you know...that problem you have....”
He smiled, enjoying the susurrus of her feelings pulling and merging with his own. It was becoming an intimate joke between the two of them, yet another thing he had never thought to experience for himself. “Yes. I might need some help with that.”
Catherine's touch was cool and soft, but it brought a low groan from him nonetheless. “Oh, I can see that you do.”
It was easy to forget her strength and remember how fragile she had seemed that April night, easy also to forget that she trained with Isaac as often as her schedule allowed (“my weekly pummeling,” Catherine had referred to it one morning, laughing.) But as she pushed him onto his back with no little force, Vincent was startled all over again. She could not have moved him had he not been willing to go, of course, but there was no underestimating her.
His hands rested on the curve of her hips as she settled over him and pulled the flannel nightgown off. “There,” Catherine said, “much better, don't you agree?”
Her skin was soft and warm, gooseflesh rising where he touched her...the feel of her...her scent.... “Yes,” he managed, his heartbeat thundering in his ears.
The contrast between his fur and her smoothness should have been jarring, but Catherine's gasp when he brushed against her breasts reminded him---as nothing else could---that their differences were a source of joy and delight. She rocked against him, the rose tint of her need rising, beckoning, demanding in an ancient, timeless call.
Vincent thought he might have stopped breathing momentarily, stunned by the beauty of her face above him, haloed in candlelight, of her breasts that rose to meet his eager mouth, of the low groans that found a counterpoint in his own. Their bond opened wide, the flooding of mingled sensation and thought---his? hers? theirs?---no longer unknown or feared. There were no words between them---none were needed---but he knew, as clearly as if she'd spoken.
Need. Want. Joy.
Catherine realized she must have dozed again, feeling the dampness of Vincent's fur as they rested together. She felt around for the quilt and pulled it up over them; the cool air was drying the sweat from their intertwined bodies. There was a light rumble to his breathing---almost, but not quite, a purr---and she smiled, loving the sound of his contentment.
Vincent brushed back her hair back to nuzzle at her neck. “I love you,” he murmured.
Catherine breathed in the scent of him, stronger after their loving, the distant rhythm of his heartbeat slowly returning to normal. “'I carry your heart,'” she said, and knew he smiled.
“There’s a place I want to show you today,” Vincent said later that morning. With nothing scheduled and no particular plans, they had awoken again in each other's arms and were enjoying the luxury of just being together.
Catherine smiled. “Not Marrakesh?”
“No,” he replied, running a furred hand down the curve of her hip, and she shivered, the touch lighting a flame along her nerves. “It’s a special place I kept meaning to take you to, but…”
Her hands toyed with the hair on his chest. “Then I’d love to see it.” She peered up at him. “Except that would mean we’d have to leave, wouldn’t it?”
“Usually,” he agreed. “But we don’t have to leave now.”
“Oh, good,” she said. “I don't much want to get up.”
“Nor do I,” he replied.
“I'm glad to hear it,” she told him, “because I've been meaning to ask you if your...problem is solved.”
Vincent's expression was one she'd seen before, but never tired of: happiness and love mixed with a roguish glint in his eyes. “No, not really.”
“Damn,” she said, and grinned at him. “I guess we'll have to do something about that then.”
Catherine was gradually becoming familiar with the most routine tunnels---the pathways to the commons or the Chandlery or Marisol’s workshop or the Moonstone Cavern--- but she knew there were many that were unexplored and unknown to her. So she was not at all surprised when Vincent guided them down yet another corridor at some distance from the inhabited chambers. “This way,” he said. “Be careful, there’s a slight incline.”
There was, and she braced herself with one hand against the wall, grateful for the warning. “It’s at the very end there,” he told her. “Do you see it?”
A lone torch flickered in its iron sconce, partially illuminating a shadowed entrance. She nodded, noticing the small basket of candles on the floor. At her questioning look, Vincent took her hand. “Come. You’ll understand once you go inside.”
She entered the cavern and her breath stopped. “What is this place?”
“We call it the Cathedral,” Vincent began.
Catherine looked up and saw the high vaulted ceilings, quartz embedded in the rock flickering in the light of a thousand candles, glowing like some geologist’s version of a medieval church. “That’s...an apt name.” She had seen many cathedrals---even Notre Dame on vacation with her father---but none had moved her as much as this simple, powerful space.
The candles, some lit, some not, rested on irregular rock formations all around the interior. She became aware of how still it was, the cavern possessing a quiet peace where no pipes, no outside noise intruded. “Is this a church?” she asked.
“Yes, and no,” Vincent said. “We have people from a lot of different beliefs Below, and those who have none at all, but here is where we come to remember.”
His voice was soft and Catherine wondered which of these candles he’d lit. He turned to face her, obviously catching the thought, and his eyes were distant and sad. “Too many, some years.”
“Tell me,” she asked, taking his hand, hoping he wouldn’t wall himself in behind his silences as he had before. “Don’t shut me out.”
Vincent breathed out and gathered her close. “No, not that, not ever again.” He pointed out a squat lump of a candle, burning brightly among its fellows. “This one is for Winslow. That one over there is for Simon, the one next to it for Phillip and,” his voice fell further, “this one is for Anna.”
“You lit one for Anna?”
He nodded. “Father and I…talked, during my recovery. She would have been my mother, had she lived. It seemed like the least I could do.”
“I understand.” The candles for Anna and Phillip stood close together, almost touching. “Who was Phillip?” 
“A good friend of mine,” Vincent told her. “There were intruders and...he was killed.”
In some unnamed way, she knew the loss was years in the past, but for Vincent, very real still. “I'm sorry.”
“Phillip died defending us,” he said. “And he saved my life that day.”
“And you felt responsible,” Catherine stated. “You would have saved him if you could.”
“Yes,” Vincent said. “That's what I tell myself, and most days, I even believe it. But I didn't save him and so, a good man died.”
She remembered his guilt when Cullen had been injured and took his hand. “You're doing it again, love.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Doing what?”
“Being too responsible,” she replied. “Some things just...are, and there's nothing you can do to prevent them. I know you did everything you could to save Phillip, because I know you.”
He didn't answer for a time, gazing at the flickering candles. But she felt, through the mysterious currents of their bond, that the weights he had carried alone for so long were no longer quite so heavy. Finally, he said, “How do you do that?”
She rested her head on his shoulder. “Vincent, we're married, and before that, we were...bonded. That's what it's all about. I don't have any explanations as to how, but I want to share your sorrows as well as your joys.”
“Thank you,” he murmured against her hair.
The rest of the day was spent taking care of a few chores---laundry, some attempt to clean their chamber (“Don't bother dusting,” Vincent remarked, chuckling, “it'll just come back tomorrow”)—then it was lunchtime.
They had completely missed breakfast, and there were a number of knowing, half-hidden smiles when they entered the commons. Vincent's wry glance told her he was not as oblivious as he seemed, though she sensed he also wasn't bothered in the least. Marisol waved to them and they joined her at the table. “We were wondering when you were going to show up,” she teased as they sat down.
“Yeah,” Miguel said. “I think Cullen had it that you'd miss lunch too, right?”
“Yeah, guess I lost that bet,” Cullen responded.
Valerie rolled her eyes. “And good afternoon to you too,” she said, passing the platter of bread down the long table to them. “Sometimes, I wonder if Cullen remembers how to have a civilized conversation.”
“Hey!” he protested in mock dismay. “I resemble that remark! And it wasn't just me.”
“That's true,” Olivia chimed in from the other end of the table, trying unsuccessfully to encourage Luke to eat some of his mashed potatoes. “But you're always the loudest about it.”
“Right,” Cullen retorted, “like you and Kanin didn't speculate.”
“We didn't have to guess,” Olivia said dryly. “It wasn't so long ago that we were newlyweds.”
Catherine glanced at her husband, saw his faint, wry smile and relaxed. He truly wasn't bothered by the badinage. “We did laundry,” she said.
“I'm sure,” Cullen replied. “And it took forever, right?”
“Why yes,” she answered. “And like...unpacking, it really shouldn't be rushed.”
Cullen opened his mouth, then closed it. She wondered what surprised him more: that Vincent had taken their teasing in stride or that she had? He winked at her and changed the subject. “So, Vincent, have you had a chance to look over the plans for the bridge repair?”
“Yes,” he replied. The large soup tureen looked almost small in his hands as he passed it to her. “I spoke with Matthew about the supplies we'll need and he's agreed to use his contractor's license to purchase them for us at a discount.”
“Good man,” Cullen said. “Though he'll have to be slow about it.”
“Why?” Catherine asked, ladling the stew into her bowl.
“It's because of the nature of the supplies,” Valerie answered. “We'll need a lot of steel cable for one, and while a contractor like Matthew might use such things for a renovation, if he buys too much of it all at once, and some clerk decides to notice....”
“I see,” Catherine answered. “But is it all that likely that someone would notice?”
“Who knows?” Cullen responded. “But he'll buy his supplies from a variety of sources over the next few months, just to be on the safe side. And eventually, we'll have enough.”
“What will you do in the meantime, though?”
“Limit our use of the bridge, for one,” Valerie said. “Make do.”
Marisol glanced up from her lunch. “That's the key down here. We have to make do. It makes things slower, most of the time, but you'll be surprised how sturdy that bridge will be once the repairs are done. We don't rush.”
“Something I wish would occur to the drivers up above,” Miguel said dryly, rising from his seat. “I have to get to work. Have a good day, everyone.” He bent down to kiss his wife. “Call me if you need me,” he told her, so quietly that Catherine almost didn't hear him.
“I will,” Marisol said.
“Are you all right?” she asked, under the cover of technical conversations about the precise methods of repairing the bridge.
Marisol nodded, though she looked a bit pale in the torchlight. “I've been having some spotting,” she said quietly. “Father says it's nothing, but Miguel, he worries.”
“Of course he does,” Catherine said, thinking of how Vincent would feel in a similar situation. “Is there anything you can do?”
“Rest,” Marisol replied. “That's what Father advises. And I think I'm going to do that now.”
Catherine nodded. “Good idea. Would you like me to stop by later?”
“I'd love that,” Marisol said, smiling. She rose. “I'll see everyone later.”
Later that night, Vincent sensed a strange feeling in their bond. It wasn't precisely worry or concern or fear, but some combination of all three, mingled with resolve and acceptance. “What worries you so?” he asked his wife.
Catherine glanced up at him from where she was putting away their laundry. “It's the bridge repair,” she began. “I never thought...”
“It will be dangerous to fix, won't it?”
“It will,” he agreed. “But it's hazardous now. It has to be done.”
“I know,” she replied. “I just never thought about how you'd have to do repairs. Do you always have to wait so long?”
“Sometimes,” he answered. “But we're used to it.”
“I know, but...you---or someone else---could be hurt on that bridge now, while you're waiting to fix it.”
“No, they won't.” He rested one hand on her face, feeling her turn into his touch. “Catherine, what Valerie said was true. We've greatly limited our access to the bridge; the tunnels on the other side, though important, aren't crucial in the short-term and we've done some temporary rerouting to give us some limited access. The bridge will take time to repair and it'll be inconvenient for us in the meantime, but it's not as dire as it may have sounded.”
And it struck him then that her worry was not specifically for him, but for all of them, for the people she had come to know and love. “I share your concern,” he continued, stroking her hair, “but it'll be fine. You'll see. We've dealt with repairs like this before; we know how to handle them.”
She breathed out once. “I have a lot to learn.”
“No, you don't,” he replied. “Your concern, your love for me, for us, isn't wrong, Catherine. Never think that.”
“All right, I won't,” she said. “Will you...show me what has to be done, so I can understand better?”
“I will, but not right now.”
She was so beautiful in the candlelight and almost of their own accord, his hands settled at the buttons of her shirt. “No.”
Click here for Chapter 28...
 “Aedh Gives His Beloved Certain Rhymes,” William Butler Yeats
 For Phillip's story, please see “Elysium.” (Though “Elysium” isn't part of the “Autumn Winds” series, I liked him too much as a character to let him go unknown, so he got a walk-on.)