Providence: Chapter 34: One True Thing (PG)

Chapter 34: One True Thing [41]

It was true, as Vincent had told Catherine, that there were many places in the tunnels where someone might hide successfully. But several of them he could reject out of hand in his search for Angus. Some caverns were too dark, isolated from all sensation, and although Vincent had visited those reaches in his adolescence and young adulthood, they were not places that most people sought out. The caverns where water dripped unceasingly he decided to reject as well; Angus was irritated by Cullen’s tuneless whistling and so it was unlikely he’d journey to any cavern with persistent sounds.
He received one clue from a sentry—Angus had been seen, yet again, heading towards the network of caves beyond the Mirror Pool. Vincent himself tended to avoid the area, not out of fear, but out of memory. He had fled there, and to reaches far past them, in the depths of his madness the previous year. But there was no help for it; where Angus had gone, he must follow.
Catherine stared unseeing at the motion in front of her. She had been on its fourth or fifth rewrite when a vision assailed her: Vincent, golden and peaceful, under an autumn Connecticut sun. His paradise, and mine, she mused. He had looked worn and tired; first her car accident, then the tumult with Angus and its possible ramifications, had weighed on him considerably. 
The thought was still on her mind when she heard her name on the pipes---Father, asking her if she’d care to join him. She smiled again at the warmth behind that simple gesture and tapped back a quick response. 
When she entered Father’s chamber, he was making a determined—but futile---effort to clean up his desk. “Ah, Catherine, I was just doing some cleaning and I thought I’d take a break for a moment and have some tea.”

Are you sure you know where the teapot is?” she teased.

He gave her a gimlet stare over the tops of his eyeglasses, at odds with the smile on his face. “I can always find the teapot, my dear. It’s the tea itself I have problems locating.” He frowned. “Where is my copy of the Physicians’ Desk Reference, I wonder?”

Catherine hid a smile; this was one of the books Vincent had mentioned as disappearing from time to time. “I haven’t borrowed it, Father.”

I’m sure not,” he replied dryly. “Vincent said much the same a few months back, then he found it on Lady Justice’s scales. Never mind, it’ll turn up eventually.”

Sure,” she agreed equably. “Your teapot is right behind you, along with a tea canister.”

Why, so it is. Do you take milk or sugar?”

Just sugar, thank you.” He poured the tea into a flowered teacup with a small chip on its rim and handed it to her. “It's chamomile, isn't it?” 
Father nodded. “Yes. After the last few days...”

It's been a trying time.” For Vincent too, she thought but did not say.

A companionable silence fell between them and Catherine studied the older man. They had met in this chamber so many times, in conflict and worry and fear, that it still felt vaguely unreal that she should be here now as this man's daughter-in-law. “Are you quite recovered from your accident?” Father asked.

I am,” she told him. “No headache or blurred vision, just some occasional muscle soreness, but even that's almost gone now.”

Good,” he replied. “We're all very glad you're safe.”

Thank you, Father.” Catherine took a sip of her tea. “What prompted the cleaning?”

The need to stay busy,” he answered. 
The situation with Angus?” 
He nodded. “Just so.” He tilted his head and Catherine wondered absently if Vincent had learned the gesture from him or if Vincent had taught it to him. “What would you do with someone like Angus, Above?”

She considered, and thought of her first apartment after college. “When I was at Radcliffe, I shared a walk up with my friends Jenny and Nancy until we graduated. It was difficult living there at times.”

How so?”

It was noisy, and you heard everything through the walls---the drunk neighbor across the hall, the woman screaming at her kids. Eventually we learned to tune it out. You don't have that option here, do you?”

No. We can't ignore the signs of trouble, no matter how much we might wish to. Angus is a part of us and what's bothering him---whatever its ultimate cause---affects us all.” He leaned back in his chair. “You know, I don’t think we’ve ever had a conversation like this.”

Catherine smiled at him over the rim of her cup. “Just you and I? Discussing tunnel politics? No, I don’t think we have.”

I’m not surprised. Tunnel politics is an incredibly boring subject,” Father replied dryly. There was a weighing sharpness in the grey eyes as he studied her. “Are you settling in well here?”

Oh, yes,” she said. “Everyone has been very helpful.”

And is it…are we…what you expected?”

Catherine thought of Marisol’s friendly, intent face as she switched colors on a tapestry, of Rebecca’s easy kindness, of Cullen’s casual raillery, and Valerie’s constant warmth and the slow heavy weight of her husband’s heartbeat in the depths of a tunnel night. “Oh, yes.”

Vincent halted briefly in his tracking to take a drink of water from his canteen. Angus’ footprints had disappeared for a time, lost over the sharp rocks and outcroppings that were beginning to appear more frequently, but his scent remained. If Angus had not moved on, he was perhaps an hour’s walk to the east. And then…what will I find?
He remembered Catherine’s gaze as he’d readied himself to leave. She had been concerned, worried that too much was being asked of him, that he asked too much of himself. “I know why you’re going,” she had told him before kissing him goodbye, “but you don’t have to be all things to all people. You have a right to not be so…available.”

I know,” he’d murmured against her hair, grateful she loved him, loving that she cared. “I’ll return soon.”

Now, Vincent rose again to continue the hunt for Angus. Seep-water from numerous small eddies soaked the edges of his boots and made the rocks slippery. Angus was not a skilled climber and like nearly everyone in the tunnels, he would know to avoid areas where the seepage was strongest, which eliminated a few more caverns. His memory of this cave system was extensive; there were, by his calculations, only three or four places where Angus might have hidden. 
Vincent recapped the canteen and continued on his journey, deep in thought as he mused over Catherine's words. She did not begrudge him his multiple roles in this world, he knew, but her concern was for him, that he not be overwhelmed by his tunnel family's needs. Catherine spoke of choices and options; much of his life had been duty and responsibility, with virtually no thought given to what he might have wanted. 
He smiled. What he wanted, right now, was her.
After Catherine left Father's chamber, she decided to do a little exploring. She looked at the bookshelf nearest the doorway and found the small woven basket containing an assortment of sidewalk chalk. It had been a wedding gift from the children and she had been bemused, at first, as to its purpose. “So you don't get lost,” Vincent had said, demonstrating how it created a visible streak on the rock walls. “Almost everyone has a piece in their pocket, even people who've lived here a long time.”

Oh, like Theseus!” she exclaimed. “Do you ever get lost?” Somehow, seeing his utter ease here, she couldn't quite picture it, and yet....

He smiled at her then, a full, happy smile, untrammeled by worry or fear. “Not anymore,” he answered and kissed her. 
Catherine remembered that kiss now and the carefree glint in his eyes, remembered too the surprised joy in their bond when he'd found her at the Chamber of the Falls shortly before they'd married. She knew her growing knowledge of Below gave him pleasure and---though he might never admit it---just the smallest amount of pride. And it thrilled her too, in a way she wouldn't have expected, to know she could navigate his world---their world---without him. “The pillars of the temple stand apart,” [42] Catherine recalled, smiling; it had been one of the readings at their wedding. 
I wonder if I can find the tunnel access near our brownstone? Vincent had left a map of it on their drop-leaf table. She looked at it and saw the corridor was not far from the entrance to Renata's shop, and almost parallel to the Chandlery through a little-used auxiliary tunnel. Catherine picked up the chalk, and grabbed her flashlight, and dropped the tapestry behind her.

Vincent sensed Angus a long time before he saw him; the hemorrhaging flood of his pain was as loud as a shout in a quiet room would have been. He had never felt its like from Angus before, not even in the instant before he'd almost hit Kanin, and Vincent wondered at its source. Jonah, a former priest, had been as taciturn then as Angus now was. Small wonder that so much of Angus’ past was a complete mystery, even to those he’d lived with for nearly eleven years.

He rounded a corner and saw Angus sitting next to a fitful fire. “I know you’re there,” Angus said, voice cold and sullen. “They send you after me to drag me back?”

Vincent glanced down at the other man, weighing his options, choosing his words carefully, the prickling of Angus’ pain a raw aching burn along his nerves. “Do you think I should?”

Angus glared at him. “That’s what you’re doing here, ain’t it?”

No,” Vincent said. “May I sit down?”

Angus shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He added fuel to the fire and it began to flicker more strongly. “And I suppose you want me to apologize to Kanin too.”

Anger, pain, fear… Vincent shook his head to clear it of the dark morass of the other man’s emotions. “Angus, I’m not here for any of those things.”

You’re not?”

No. I just want to know…why.”

He laughed, a harsh dog’s bark, devoid of humor. “Sure you do.”

I did ask,” Vincent replied mildly. 
And that’s all….that’s all you want to know? You won’t turn me over to the Council?”

I can’t promise that,” Vincent told him. “I’m not the Council. I can’t answer for what they’ll decide.” 
Angus didn’t respond for a time. Finally, he said, “How long you been married? A month now?”

A little over a month,” Vincent confirmed. “Why?”

The other man poked at the fire. “Amy and I were married for almost ten years, though I knew her since we were kids. She was…everything.” The first hint of a wry smile, so different than his usual dour expression, crossed Angus’ face. “I’m no poet like you are, but I loved her.”

Vincent nodded. “I was a plumber Above,” Angus continued. “Worked a lot of crazy hours, trying to get my business established. Amy asked me to bring home eggs one night, and I just plain forgot. So she went down to the corner bodega.” The high red crest of his pain flared in the air between them. “Drunk driver going the wrong way killed her at a stoplight. They never caught the bastard.” He clenched his fists. “I never liked Kanin before but…he killed a kid. Didn't pay for it.”

Only years of his life, lived in fear and deceit, Vincent thought. “And that’s why,” Angus said. “I look at him, alive, walking free just as you please. Saw him kissing Olivia before we started work on those pipes. What I wouldn’t give for just one more hour, one more day…”

Vincent closed his eyes, thinking of Catherine, of how it could have been Catherine had her car accident been more serious. “I’m sorry.”

Angus didn’t seem to hear. “Nearly twelve years she’s been gone. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, or wish I’d stopped at the store instead of forgetting. Ain’t ever gonna bring her back, but I don’t forget. I can’t.”

You could have told us,” Vincent murmured. “We’re your family. You’re part of us.” 
Angus shoved a stick at the fire. “Yeah, well…some things you can’t tell family. And when Kanin was welcomed, like what he did was nothing…”

Kanin had been resolutely closed-mouthed about his months in prison. He had been released early for good behavior, but had returned to the tunnels changed---a greyer, faded version of the man he’d once been. His path back to his family, to his community, continued to be a difficult one, but at least he’d had Olivia and Luke, Vincent thought. Angus had no one. “What will you do now?” Angus asked.

It’s up to you,” Vincent said. “Angus, this...fury you feel will destroy you, if you let it.”

And I supposed you'd know about fury, wouldn't you?”

The words were carelessly chosen and Vincent flinched. Angus looked at him, real regret in his eyes. “I didn't mean---”

You did,” Vincent insisted quietly; there could be no equivocation here. “And it's true. I have known fury. I have also known a guilt that nearly destroyed me. It's no pleasant place to be.” He looked squarely at Angus. “Is this how you'd want Amy to see you? Festering with guilt, holding onto your pain because it's all you have left of her?”

Angus snarled, a wordless sound of anguish, and his fists clenched and unclenched again. “You don't know...” he growled.

I do,” Vincent responded. “You're not alone with this...unless you choose to be.”
Catherine leaned her head against the wall. “Face it, Chandler,” she said out loud, “you are well and truly lost.” 
What had seemed so easy---a consultation of Vincent's map, careful chalk lines down an unfamiliar corridor---had turned into a much more complicated situation. The chalk lines helped, it was true, but large sections of the walls were damp and the colored marks faded quickly or mingled with other, earlier marks. And she had never fully appreciated how much the corridors looked alike until now. Okay, think. It's colder here. I’m closer to the surface. There aren't any pipes in this section, but all you should need to do is backtrack to find them. This corridor branches off into three sections. Pick one and follow it. 
Catherine retreated down a pathway that seemed to hold some promise; it was warmer than the others she'd tried. And on the walls there was a lighter line of purple chalk—hers? Someone else's? She didn't know. Her fingertips touched the rough surface of the rock walls, and found what she hoped was a familiar pattern. There. She had felt that indentation before. 
The corridor curved to a narrower passage and she thought she heard the low tapping of pipes from somewhere close. Why can’t I make out what they’re saying? I’m not expert like Pascal is but I can’t pick out anything, not even a single word. 
Catherine walked in the direction of the sounds, staying in the shadows of the tunnel, uneasy for no reasons she could explain. There was the glow of lantern light in the distance, but what she saw brought her up short. A Chinese man, dressed in the garb of another time, pressed a finger to his lips for silence. He shrank against the wall---hiding, she realized, stunned---and lowered his lantern. Two other figures, almost transparent, rushed past, carrying a struggling bundle. 
She remembered with a start the stories of the Tong invasion from almost three years before; in the unending wait after Vincent had left to confront the Tong, Henry Pei had said his ancestors had used the tunnels for smuggling years before. Was she seeing evidence of this, replayed by ghosts? The thought should have frightened her, but after what she and Vincent had experienced on their honeymoon, and Kristopher Gentian’s own ghostly reappearance, all she felt was a mild unease. 
Once the two other ghosts had passed by them, her companion turned his lantern up again and beckoned her to follow him. He led her down a wide corridor---one Catherine hadn’t even known was there---and gestured her forward. All at once, she understood the messages on the pipes---William’s last call for the lunch leftovers----and saw that she close to the Chandlery. “Thank you,” she said, but the figure had disappeared. 
She walked the comforting, familiar pathways to their chamber and almost ran into Vincent. “What is it?” he asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Catherine couldn’t help it; she started laughing in mingled relief and joy. “Why, yes, yes, I have.” She glanced up at him, saw the worry, and her amusement faded. “Angus isn’t with you?”

Vincent looked away for a time. “It’s his choice to make now.” He ducked his head, so that the long amber hair shielded his face. “I failed to reach him, Catherine.” 
She took his hand. “I doubt that, love. You did your best; no one else could do better.” The lines of concern etched around his eyes eased somewhat. “Let’s go home, shall we?”

Click here for Chapter 35...

[42] “On Marriage,” from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran


RomanticOne said...

Lots of food for thought here. For instance, the perceptions of guilt - Angus', Kanin's, Vincent's. Catherine getting lost and then "found" again, and seeing that living Below in that particular community can be tricky at times. Her helping Vincent to see that he has choices. I found it all very thought provoking. Great chapter. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Krista said...

Hi R1!

Thank you so much for commenting :) I'm glad it gave you some food for thought---one of the things I've loved with writing this story is trying to figure out how the community below would actually function and what it would be like to live there.

And Vincent..well, part of the thing that drives me bonkers in canon is the feeling the guy never gets the choices everyone else gets, simply because he's different. Okay, the guy can't go walk down Fifth Avenue in broad daylight but why does he end up being Mr. Fixit? For a community that's supposed to be self-sufficient, they sure rely on him a lot.

Anyway, thank you again. I really appreciate it. :)


Anonymous said...

Hi Krista!

I LOVE the ghosts in the Tunnels, particularly Kristopher Gentian. I LOVE how he challenges Catherine's "certainties," and I really hope he will continue to pop up from time to time, particularly as they begin excavating the tunnel entrance to the house and coming to terms with the various entities Kristopher implies have come to consider the house and its tunnel their "home." Catherine's encouter with the Chinese ghosts was priceless! As Shakespeare would say, "There's more in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Catherine!" Glad she's starting to come to terms with this!

I also really appreciated Vincent's encounter with Angus, particularly their final exchange:

“Angus, this...fury you feel will destroy you, if you let it.”

“And I supposed you'd know about fury, wouldn't you? . . . I didn't mean---”

“You did. And it's true. I have known fury. I have also known a guilt that nearly destroyed me. It's no pleasant place to be. Is this how you'd want Amy to see you? Festering with guilt, holding onto your pain because it's all you have left of her?”

“You don't know...”

“I do. You're not alone with this...unless you choose to be.”

That puts the ball squarely back in Angus' court, doesn't it?

Best regards, Lindariel

Krista said...

Hi Lindariel!

That was the one thing I never bought about "When the Bluebird Sings." This is a gross oversimplification, obviously (LOL) but Catherine's dating a six foot tall lion...and she has problems believing in ghosts? Really? With all that magic and mystery in her life, she can't accept one more?

I'm glad you liked the exchange between Vincent and Angus; that's the main reason this chapter took a little bit longer to post. ;) Man-speak is tougher to write when you don't have the requisite chromosomes. ;)

Thanks again for commenting---I'm happy you've enjoyed the chapter :)

-Krista :)

RomanticOne said...

Had to comment again about your comment about Catherine's disbelief in ghosts. I agree. She's looking at living proof of some of the best (and sexiest) magic the world can provide and she'a got a closed mind? I had trouble with that one too. That's one of the things I love about fan fiction. It provides an opportunity to "fix" the things that drove us crazy in canon.

Krista said...

Hi R1 (again! :-)

Yeah, fanfiction is great for that. :) On one hand, I can totally understand Catherine's inital skepticism; even if you believe in ghosts, one that comes with a cappucino mustache and borrows a sketchpad is a bit of a stretch. But there was enough oddball evidence that Kristopher wasn't what he appeared that I think Catherine would have begun questioning her certainties a little sooner---especially with Mr. Sexy Magic ( love that phrase) next to her. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi Krista and RomanticOne!

I don't know . . . accepting Vincent -- a living, breathing being whose unusual appearance can potentially be explained scientifically in a variety of ways (spontaneous mutation, genetic experimentation, or a combination of genetic "disorders") -- is probably a very different thing from accepting the existence of ghosts. "Magic" or supernatural influences aren't necessary to explain Vincent's existence, although I do agree that he is completely wonderful in an almost "unworldly" way, and I would have no problem conferring upon him the title of "Mr. Sexy Magic."

However, I emphatically do not believe in ghosts, and I know I would find it extremely upsetting to have that "certainty" challenged. Just the idea of incorporeal beings manifesting in front of me gives me the willies! So I'm completely in Catherine's camp here.

I thought the writers did a very good job of blurring the lines with Kristopher just enough to make a pragmatic person suspect he was pulling off an elaborate hoax/con. At least, right up to the end, when the completely dried oil painting of Vincent and Catherine was received.

I liked the additon of Kristopher to the BATB canon very much; he was enigmatic, irreverent, and a lot of fun, and I greatly enjoy stories that incorporate him imaginatively and well. More please!

Best regards, Lindariel

Linn said...

I have to giggle and agree with your comment- it does seem pretty incredible for Catherine not to believe in ghosts while being in love with Vincent;-) Bluebird was my favorite ep. Kristopher is such a lighthearted and humorous character.

I enjoyed the part about the sidewalk chalk too, never thought about it but that would come in handy down Below. Thanks for another great chapter Krista

Krista said...

Hi Lindariel!

My apologies for not posting a response sooner to your comment or Linn's but Blogger was giving me some fits. :)

I guess Vincent could be explained scientifically (and goodness knows, there's enough fanfics that try) but for me, he's more magic than science. I don't have to know where he comes from, and I love the mystery that he really doesn't know either. So I think that Catherine---having someone in her life who can't really be explained---might have been a bit more open to the possibility that Kristopher wasn't at all what he appeared. ;)

As for the issue of ghosts...I've seen enough in my life that I can't explain that I won't rule it out. "More things in heaven and earth," right?

Anyway, thank you again for your thoughtful comments. :)


Krista said...

Hi Linn,

I love Kristopher. Love him. I wish they had done more with him; somehow, I think had the series been let to run (and if TPTB hadn't been so obsessed with that 18-34 male demographic...ugh...) we might have seen more of him.

I'm glad you like the sidewalk chalk---when my daughter was smaller, I cleaned a lot of that off the walls, so I figured it'd be a nice way for the tunnel-dwellers to keep from getting lost...though as Catherine found out, it's not totally foolproof :)

Thanks so much for continuing to read this story and commenting; I really appreciate it. :)

-Krista :)

RomanticOne said...

About to leave for a vacation trip but will still be keeping an eye out for a new chapter. Have laptop, will travel. :)

Krista said...

Thanks, R1! You're the best :) Have a great vacation! :)

Vicky said...

Sigh... You know, you've captured that great quality of "A gentle rain" here, both sides of the pain with equal intensity and reason. Poor Angus, and Kanin...and Vincent...
What an awesome tapestry of a story!

Krista said...

*sniffles* Thank you, Vicky. That means so much coming from you :) Hugs to you!

Post a Comment


Design in CSS by TemplateWorld and sponsored by SmashingMagazine
Blogger Template created by Deluxe Templates