Chapter 66: Though the Hills Be Held Shadows 
Catherine went to work somewhat later in the morning; with her court appearances scheduled more towards the late afternoon, there was no reason to be there as early as possible and Joe had encouraged both her and Rita to keep a more irregular schedule as long as Max Avery's case was ongoing. Rita met her almost as soon as she opened her briefcase. “Joe wants to see you as soon as you get in. He's on a tear this morning.”
“Why?” Catherine asked. “Something bad happen?”
Rita gestured towards Joe's office. “Take a look in there and tell me what you see.”
Bemused, she stashed her purse in a desk drawer and walked towards Joe's office. Joe's vacant office. “Oh,” she murmured. “Did he...?”
Rita shook her head. “I'm not sure if he's moved into the...other office or someplace else entirely, but your guess is as good as mine. The rumor mill is going nuts, though.”
She knew what Rita meant by “the other office”: John Moreno's old office, which had sat empty since his arrest. Catherine saw two of Rita's interns hovering nearby, trying and failing to look busy. “I'll just bet. Where is he?”
“Last time I saw him, he was pacing down by the...other office. Waiting for you.”
“All right. Anything else I should know?”
Rita smiled. “Don't bring coffee. Looks like he's had more than enough.”
Vincent was putting the final touches on his gift for Marisol's son when he heard the message rattle across the pipes. Marisol, asking to see him. It had been almost a month since the birth of her son; the naming ceremony had been delayed somewhat to make sure the little boy was healthy enough to be in the drafty Great Hall. He shut the carved wooden lid of the box gently so as not to rattle the colored glass he'd fitted into the lid, and rose to answer the message. Do you need me to bring anything? Vincent asked; perhaps she needed his help moving some furniture. Though he and Marisol were friendly, as he was with nearly everyone in the tunnel community, Catherine and Marisol were much closer.
No, Marisol responded. Just yourself. It might have been his imagination that there was just the faintest tinge of amusement in her answer, but somehow, he thought not.
When he arrived, it was to find Marisol changing her baby into a flannel sleeper. “Oh, hi, Vincent, glad you came.”
“Is everything all right?”
She zipped the sleeper and picked up her son. “Of course. Would you like to hold him?”
The last baby he had held had been Lena’s and he hesitated, feeling suddenly awkward. Her son was so tiny... “I…are you sure?”
“I’m sure,” she told him, and placed the baby in his arms before he had a chance to object.
The baby’s warm, comforting weight sank into his arms; a little fist bunched and raised to his mouth as he opened his eyes. “Hello,” Vincent murmured. The baby couldn’t focus at his age, but there was…an awareness there behind the murky blue eyes, perceptions still blurred and unformed. The baby's feelings flowed gently against his own: warmth/comfort/safety. Settling the blankets more carefully around him, Vincent gazed at Marisol. “Why did you ask me to come?”
Marisol settled herself carefully on the bench of her loom. “You know where I come from,” she said quietly. “You know why I ended up here.”
“Narcissa told me, yes,” Vincent replied, and was startled when the baby’s finger grasped his with surprising strength. It had been on Marisol’s account, some years before, that an agitated Narcissa had entered his chamber late one night, demanding he guide her Above because she needed to bring someone Below. The “someone” had proven to be a bruised and battered Marisol, and as he and Narcissa gently cleaned and bandaged her wounds, Narcissa revealed what she’d seen in her vision. When Father had arrived, alerted by the sentries, she quietly left and Vincent let both Father and the council believe he’d been the one to find her. He had, he recognized now, been obeying some imperative he only dimly understood, but in the years since, Marisol had become a valued member of their community, the circumstances of her arrival almost forgotten.
She folded her hands. “You fear many things, Vincent, but this thing you fear the most…it will not come to pass. It won’t.”
There was such surety in her gaze; she might have been announcing the sky was blue. “How… how can you know this?” he managed, wanting to trust, not daring to hope. “How… when even I don’t know?” The meaning of her words struck him then. “How did you know that we were…?”
Marisol smiled. “I’ve got two eyes, haven’t I? Three if you ask Narcissa and anyway…I’ve seen you with the children, you and Catherine both. I know it’s been weighing on your minds and I know….I know what you were told.”
“Narcissa said you were a seer,” Vincent said softly. No one could have known what Paracelsus had told him, the foul lies born of a madman’s hate; only Catherine and Father had been around for the immediate aftermath and neither of them would have spoken of the harrowing night which followed Paracelsus’s death. He should have been appalled that someone else knew but all he felt was a curious sense of relief. There was no blame in Marisol's eyes, no fear of him.
“So she did,” Marisol replied. “Does that make it easier to hear the truth? Very well, then. I’ve seen your child, yours and Catherine’s, playing here with my son as clearly as I see you now.” She shook her head, as if in response to the question he hadn’t quite dared to ask. “That’s all I saw. But don’t go forth in such fear, Vincent. There’s joy waiting for you both ahead.” She grinned, the expression making her seem the impish young woman he’d first known. “When you and your wife decide to…well, send her to me if she doubts.”
The baby stirred against him. “She’s not the one who doubts,” Vincent replied. “She never has been.”
“Then believe her,” Marisol said. She rose from the bench and took the baby from his arms. “Now, I believe my son is hungry so…we’ll see you at the Naming Ceremony tonight?”
“Yes,” Vincent said. “And...thank you.”
Marisol nodded, the baby's hand clutching the woven material of her patched sweater. “You needed to hear it.”
Catherine saw Joe sitting inside the empty conference room. She knocked on the door. “Joe? You wanted to see me?”
Joe opened the door. His tie was askew and his dark hair disordered. “Oh, hey, Radcliffe...yeah. Come on in.” He sank into the nearest chair. “Got a press conference today. I'm not looking forward to it.”
“The one with the governor?”
“Yeah. It's an election year, you know. He wants to look tough on crime and...” he yanked his tie further askew. “I knew what I was getting into when I agreed to take this job, but man, I hate press conferences.”
“You used to like them,” Catherine said lightly.
“I did, but I also used to like Moreno. Should have been smarter there too,” he shot back. He sighed. “I'm sorry, Cathy, I shouldn't have snapped at you.”
She shook her head. “Joe, did you think you'd get out of this whole mess completely unscathed? He was your mentor, your friend, and now you're stepping into his role in your first press conference since you were sworn in. You're bound to feel...conflicted.”
He chuckled, a distant echo of his usual hearty laugh. “That's an understatement. Oh, and...the governor wants to meet with us afterwards.”
“Us?” Catherine repeated. “Why?”
“He wants an update on the Avery case.”
Catherine raised her eyebrows. “That sounds...ominous. Why? What does he want to know?”
Joe rubbed the wood of the table absently. “He and Moreno...they went back a ways. They went to law school together and Moreno donated heavily to his campaign. If we can put Max Avery behind bars, it'll go a long way to minimizing the idea that the governor might have been linked to corruption.”
“Oh,” Catherine murmured. A thought occurred to her. “Joe, you don't think...?”
“No, I don't,” Joe replied. “But...just to be safe, let's not tell the governor anything he couldn't find out in the papers. I have to work with him, say the right things, but that's a long way from trusting him.” He flashed a tired grin. “Or anyone, save you.”
After speaking with Marisol, Vincent headed to the commons. There were too many possibilities clattering in his mind, and while his natural inclination was to brood over what she'd said, he knew it would be a mistake to examine her words too closely. The gift she'd given him was the rarest of jewels, and one he'd keep in his mental stockroom of other such moments---the first time Catherine had looked at him with love and trust in her eyes, their parting embrace at her threshold (did she know that was the first time I'd been embraced by another woman since Lisa? Vincent wondered,) her easy, wry grin as he'd stumbled through one of his vows at their wedding. Marisol had let the future touch them, just for a bit, and like those other moments of magic, it didn't need to be analyzed. It simply was.
He found Cullen, Kanin, Warren, Mouse and Angus clustered around one of the long tables, pouring over a set of blueprints. A notepad, a few pencils and several crumpled up balls of paper spoke of a planning session. “Hey, Vincent,” Cullen called. “Come over here, will ya?”
Vincent filled a mug up with coffee and walked towards the table. As he came closer, he realized the blueprints were a copy of the ones Matthew had given them for their brownstone. He and Catherine had one set, but the other had been given to Cullen, who’d volunteered to be the unofficial foreman of the tunnel crew who would be working on their house. In many respects, it was ideal: Cullen could enter the house without fear of discovery during the day, plus, he’d had enough construction experience to be able to interact with Matthew’s workers without attracting undue attention should an inspector come by. “Hello, everyone,” he said as he sat down. “What seems to be the issue?”
“Well, now that the drywall is hung,” Cullen explained, “we're trying to figure out a work schedule. What we can do at night around Matthew’s crew, that sort of thing. Most of the hard work has been done already but here's what we've come up with. Cutting tile, refinishing the floors---those are in good condition, I believe, though the ones upstairs will need some work---finishing the kitchen and painting.”
“That's...not really very much,” Vincent observed. So soon...our dream...so soon...
“No, it's really not,” Cullen replied. “You've finished repairing the stained glass and you said you'd teach Catherine how to install tile in the kitchen.”
Vincent nodded. “I have...experience.”
Cullen flashed his usual insouciant grin. “So I've heard.”
“Well, cutting tile is out,” Kanin put in with a frown. “That old tile-saw is loud.”
“Could do it in the basement,” Mouse said. “Or in the tunnel. Can't be heard by topsiders.”
“Kid's got a good point,” Angus stated. “The tunnel leading to your basement is plenty wide enough for us to get a lot of the noisy stuff done, then carry it into the house. Within reason, of course.”
Mouse smiled in a way that made Vincent a touch uneasy. “Could make machine. Lift heavy things into the house. No worries. Work great.”
Picturing the usual results of Mouse’s engineering, Vincent had never been so grateful for city ordinances in his life. “I’m…sure it would, Mouse, but remember, the idea is to work quietly so we don’t make a lot of noise and disturb the neighbors.”
Angus glanced at Mouse with an almost-smile, an unusual look on his dour face. “We’ll need some of your tools, Mouse. It’ll make the job go much faster with them.”
Mouse nodded. He grinned at Vincent. “Catherine see the glass yet?”
“No,” Vincent replied. “She’s worked late much of the last few weeks, and…I want her to see them in daylight.”
“She’ll love what you did with the stained glass,” Kanin said. “When you bring her by, let us know and we’ll keep a look-out. If you arrive early enough in the morning, there shouldn’t be too much activity on the street anyway.”
“Thank you,” Vincent replied, humbled and pleased. To think I—we--have such friends.
He looked up, startled, as Cullen’s hand clasped his shoulder. “No problem, man. We know how important this is.”
Catherine lightly jumped down the remaining few steps and turned to look at Vincent. “You have such an…unusual look in your eye.”
“Do I?” Vincent asked mildly, though the corners of his mouth twitched with the small hidden smile she loved. “It’s been…a very unusual day. How was yours?”
“Joe had his first press conference with the governor; I don’t know who was more nervous, Joe or me.” She took his hand, the clawed furred strength of it comfortable and reassuring. “Were you able to finish the gift for Marisol?”
“I was,” Vincent replied. “The memory box idea was a very good one, Catherine.”
“My mom had one for me,” Catherine recalled. “It smelled of cedar and it sat on her dresser. I used to think it was a treasure chest when I was a little girl.” She chuckled. “I was terribly disappointed to find out it held my first photo and my name bracelet from the hospital, the lock from my first haircut.”
“Marisol and Miguel will like it very much,” Vincent said as they walked. “Has Marisol…told you any of her story?”
“No,” she answered. “She always seems more focused on the future than on the past.”
Vincent nodded. “Very much so.” He paused, as if weighing his next words carefully. “Did you know she’s a seer?”
Catherine stopped and stared up at him. “That's...well, no, it never came up...” She took a deep breath, the boundaries of reality as she knew it shifting yet again. Yet in the face of the one man whose entire existence should have been impossible, how could she doubt him? “Is that how she came to live here?”
“Yes,” Vincent said quietly. She didn't press him for details, respecting the tunnels' attitude towards privacy. “She...asked to see me today,” he continued.
“Marisol...had a vision, Catherine. She saw our child.”
“Our...” For a bare second, it seemed like the universe itself stilled. “And...what...how...?”
“She said the child was playing with her son, but that's all she would tell me,” Vincent murmured, gathering her close. The beat of his heart was a comforting, reassuring anchor.
“I don't know what to say,” Catherine began, until a clawed finger on her lips stilled her words.
“I didn't know either,” Vincent said. “But...she warned me not to let my fears make my decisions for me.” Gently, he tilted her head up so that she met his eyes. “I cannot promise to be unafraid, Catherine. There is so much which remains unknown...but I can promise to try and not to be guided by my fears.”
She heard the words he could not yet speak: one day, Paracelsus will not haunt us. “That's all I can ask,” she murmured.
Vincent held out his hand. “Come, Beloved. We have a Naming Ceremony to attend.”
Click here for Chapter 67....
 “Love is Enough,” by William Morris
1 day ago