Vincent dons a red cloak for a change
Christmas Eve Below was like no other Above, not that the tunnel dwellers had much to spend on presents or decorations, but what they did have to give to one another was immeasurable. Love among themselves. They were a real family.
The eve before Christmas, Vincent walked the streets deep into the night, his eyes feeling pity for the street people huddled together around a hot stove, there expressionless eyes telling of their despair, their need, their hunger. Vincent so desperately wanted to gather them all together just as a mother hen does with her chicks, and say ‘Come follow me, I know a place where you will find love and refreshment for your weary bodies, and where you will be fed every day, and not just a handout at Christmas.’ but of course he couldn’t say the words he longed to utter, for to do so would be to betray his world, and those that lived there, who relied upon it remaining a secret.
Not that his world was a hiding place for fugitives, but certainly for those weighed down by life, children hiding from family abuse, or those who needed time to recuperate before going to live Above again, his world was ideal. A safe haven to recover from whatever life had thrown at people.
Riding the roof of the elevator eighteen floors to Catherine’s balcony, he was surprised to find her out. Her apartment was in darkness, and Vincent paced up and down wondering where she might be. Since their Bond had left them, Vincent was ever fearful of her whereabouts, never knowing if she needed him or not, and he was certain that these past few days there had been something distracting her.
Vincent waited, somewhere a clock chimed eleven p.m., and he began to grow anxious, where was Catherine on Christmas Eve?
Reluctantly, he turned for home, there was nothing he could do, but his heart grieved him, he had so wanted to spend the rest of the night with her.
He hadn’t got far into the park, when his attention was drawn by the sound of laughter, Catherine’s laughter, and turning he saw her stood on the pavement paying a taxi driver his fare, her arms full of presents. The taxi driver got out, went around to the boot, and pulled out even more gift-wrapped boxes, and helped her into the building with her wares.
Waiting until all was clear, Vincent padded the distance across to the building to the basement to ride the elevator once again, arriving just as Catherine’s apartment flooded with light. And he watched with a grin, as he saw her shuffling all the boxes into the apartment, and knocked quietly to signal he was waiting.
Quickly pulling the last of the boxes inside the room, Catherine ran across to open the balcony door, “Vincent, how long have you been there, you must be frozen, come inside?”
“Not long” Vincent told her, adding to himself, ‘this time,’ nonetheless he was grateful for the warmth of her centrally heated apartment.
“Vincent, I shall have to leave a key on the balcony for you. If I am late, you must let yourself in. Promise me you will do this. Its too cold to stay outside.”
“You aren’t usually out so late.” he told her, “I wondered where you might be.”
Catherine’s eyes dropped from his, “What is it?” he asked suddenly worried.
“Vincent I have been trying to organise something special for tomorrow for the children Below. These gifts are for them, I wanted to give them all something so much, but I don’t want them to know that the gifts came from me.”
“Then how do you propose giving them Catherine?”
Catherine smiled then, her face lighting up with mischief. “I thought perhaps you could do it.”
“But surely, Catherine if the children see me deliver these parcels, they will know that they are from you?”
“Yes, usually that would be so, but I had another idea. Vincent do you think you could wear this?” pulling something out of a large bag, Catherine handed him a red and white outfit. Vincent gasped, Santa Claus! You want me to dress up as Santa Claus?”
“That was the general idea.”
Stunned, Vincent stared at her open mouthed, until the thought penetrated his mind, and he could see the sense in her idea. “Where on earth did you get a Santa Claus outfit from at this late hour on Christmas Eve Catherine?”
“Hum!” Catherine blew upwards, ruffling her hair, “That’s the bit you won’t like. I had to pull some strings, and call on a few favours, but none of them came to anything. In the end I had to make a promise to get the suit from a friend who knows a friend with a toy-shop. This costume was used by the chap that had been playing Santa in the toy-shop. It has already been dry cleaned, to be put away for next year, and I have been loaned it until next week.”
“I don’t understand Catherine, why do you think I wouldn’t approve?”
Catherine grimaced, “I haven’t told you everything yet. This friend, the one that knows the guy with the toy shop, it was...Elliot Burch.” Catherine closed her eyes, as she heard Vincent draw in a sharp breath, and her words came out in a rush “I promised I would have Christmas dinner with him tomorrow. That was the promise I had to give to get the outfit.”
“Catherine!,” Vincent was furious but tried hard not to show it, “Elliot Burch of all people.” He whispered hoarsely.
“Elliot’s not a bad man Vincent.”
“No, he’s not, but he is in love with you, and Christmas day of all times, should be an occasion to be with the one you love, or your own family, certainly not with someone who could get the wrong idea by your agreeing to it.”
“I know that Vincent, and I didn’t agree lightly, and it is only dinner after all, as soon as dinner is over, I will come straight Below to you. Please Vincent, I wanted to make this night perfect for the children, and it would be so special to have the gifts delivered to them by Santa Claus.”
Vincent sighed, “Is this what has been on your mind these past few days, have you known about it previously?”
“Not the dinner arrangement, if that’s what you are asking, though I have toyed around with the Santa idea, and the presents have been on order for weeks. You’ve noticed, I have been pre-occupied?”
“Yes, sometimes I look at you, and there is a look in your eyes that tells me you are far away, and without the Bond, I am unable to reach into your heart to see where you may have gone.”
“I’m sorry Vincent, I never meant to shut you out. I have had something on my mind, and only today discovered the answer to my pondering, but I plan to wait until tomorrow before I tell you.”
Vincent drew in a deep breath, and let it out again in a long steady sigh, “Something to do with Elliot perhaps?”
“No! Of course not, Vincent how could you think that?”
“Intuition, in the absence of our Bond Catherine, it’s all I have to go on right now. Elliot could give you all the things I never could.” he sighed sadly.
“But you Vincent have given me, something Elliot never will. Vincent I was going to wait until tomorrow, but I don’t want you to go home feeling so bad about this, come sit down Vincent, I have something to tell you that will, believe me come as quite a shock.”
Taking up the seat beside her Vincent grew anxious, as she waited for her to speak, he noticed she wrung her hands together in her lap nervously.
“Vincent?” she began, “You don’t need me to remind you about that dreadful day in that cavern when I almost lost you to death, do you?” Vincent shook his head, his eyes opening wide with surprise, whatever was she going to say?
“You almost died Vincent, and I couldn’t let that happen to you.” He smiled, she had already told him this bit, of which he had no memory still, “And you kissed me, and just like the fairy story, your kiss gave me life. I wish I could only remember Catherine,” his eyes misted over.
“Vincent.” Catherine swallowed hard, she had wanted to say the following words for so long and had been unable to, now she was forced to do so, “Kissing wasn’t the only thing we shared that day.” Her words trailed to a halt, her voice a mere whisper.
As realisation slowly dawned, Vincent could only stare at her, mouth agape, “You don’t mean?”
Catherine’s face reddened as she nodded, unable to meet his eyes.
His voice a hoarse whisper went on, “How far did we go?”
Unable to voice more than one word, Catherine replied “All.” Without meeting his eyes.
Stunned, Vincent could only stare at her harder, trying to believe her, “If only I could remember. You mean I actually, we actually... I can’t even say it.”
Catherine nodded, lifting her eyes now to meet his, as her lips trembled, “I didn’t want to tell you Vincent, I had hoped you would remember before I needed to tell you.”
Still stunned, Vincent hardly heard her, “And I didn’t hurt you? And the dark one didn’t appear?”
Catherine shook her head, as tears be-dimmed her eyes, “No. It was just you and me.”
Vincent got up to pace the floor, whirling back to fall on his knees at her feet, he took her hands in his. “Catherine, I don’t know what to say.” Then as an afterthought, “You always wanted this from me, Catherine forgive me, I have to ask, you aren’t making this up are you, to make me feel better about going ahead with this aspect of our relationship.”
Catherine’s mouth had dropped open wide, “Vincent how could you, I would never lie to you, especially not about something like this, besides I have proof.”
The loving blue eyes met anxiety clad green, and held unwavering, “So tell me?” He asked softly.
“I’m, I’m,..” unable to get the words out, Catherine could only stare into those beautiful eyes, wishing only to drown in them at that point.
“You’re what Catherine?” he prompted gently.
Catherine traced her suddenly dry lips with her tongue, “Pregnant.” she whispered.
Her eyes lowered from his penetrating gaze, feeling suddenly very much alone with her problem, but Vincent wouldn’t let her. Placing a hand under her chin, he lifted her face until her eyes looked into his. The love she saw there warmed her heart.
“The child is mine! I’m sorry I shouldn’t have said it like that. Oh Catherine!” he could say no more, but sat shaking his head with disbelief, ‘Catherine was pregnant with his child! It was wonderful.’
Getting to his feet, he pulled her up with him, his arms went around her holding her close when he saw she was crying. “Catherine, why the tears? Please don’t cry, I love you.” He told her tenderly, then as though he had done so every day since they met, he brought his lips to hers and kissed her tenderly. And suddenly something about the touch of her lips beneath his sparked a memory, a quick flash through his mind, of having done this before. He gasped.
“What is it?” Catherine asked him anxiously.
“Just then, when I kissed you I saw in my mind, my kissing you at some other time, in the past. But how can that be?”
Her face lit up, “Your memory is being restored! Oh Vincent, soon you will remember everything.”
“Perhaps if I could re-trace all my steps of that day Catherine, I would remember far more quickly.” His eyes burned into her’s leaving her in no doubt as to what he meant.
“Vincent, it was so beautiful, and I would love to help you remember, but we are no nearer getting these presents delivered, and Christmas Eve will soon be over.”
Vincent frowned, “and then tomorrow, when I would wish you all for myself, you will be spending the day with another man.”
“Vincent, why do you think I told you about the baby, tonight? You must know that having dinner with Elliot will be all I shall share with him. Elliot may be able to show me the world Vincent, but what you have given to me is worth more. You don’t have to worry about a thing Vincent, I belong to only you.”
Leaning his chin upon the top of her head, he held her close, “To think I am holding two people, it sends my blood to molten lava, Catherine, I feel as though I may melt with the love I am feeling right now. Catherine I love you, and now I know that we have a future together, there is only one more thing to say.”
Catherine turned her eyes to his, searched his own blue watery pools, “Tell me?”
She whispered holding her breath.
“Marry me Catherine.”
Her short sharp gasp frightened him for a split second, until he saw her whole face light up with wonder, “Oh yes Vincent, I will.” she told him breathlessly, and drew his face down to hers to kiss him passionately. Vincent felt the molten lava flood his very being, “Santa Claus will have to wait Catherine.” he murmured against her lips, “There is something I just have to do first.”
Catherine giggled, as she felt him lift her and walk with her in his arms towards her bedroom, but she stopped him nonetheless. “Vincent, believe me darling, I know how you feel, but we have to put others ahead of ourselves. Let’s get these presents Below and get you into that costume, and then what is left of the night I will spend in your chamber, in your bed, with you.”
His eyes burned into hers, as a deep rumble came from somewhere in his chest followed by a long sigh, “If I must, come then my Catherine, let’s get the deed done.”
Most of the boxes Catherine took in the elevator down to the basement, and once Vincent arrived there, he took them from her.
There were one or two, that she packed into her overnight bag, and when at last all the boxes had been taken past the threshold, and put inside two huge sacks, Vincent carried them down to the home chambers, leaving Catherine to carry her bag and the Santa outfit.
Vincent was surprised at how easy he found it to undress in order to don the outfit, with Catherine in the room, though he could not yet remember making love to her, suddenly he felt no embarrassment at her seeing him with hardly any clothes on. But when he saw the hunger in her eyes at the sight of his near naked body, he almost changed his mind about giving out the presents first, but instead changed the subject. “I just hope none of the older ones, least of all Father, ever find out about me dressed like this, or I will never live it down.” He told her, grinning wryly.
Catherine smiled, “The names are on each box Vincent, so you know who to give them to. I will wait here for you. If I should be asleep when you get back, please wake me.”
“You can count on it.” His eyes blazed with desire. “This will be the quickest Santa on record.”
Catherine smiled, “Well don’t forget to hide the costume before coming to bed, we don’t want the children to know it was you, do we?”
“I don’t want anyone to know it was me!” He replied seriously making Catherine laugh.
As Vincent made his way between the various chambers in his Santa outfit and sack thrown over one shoulder, he smiled. For the first time in his entire life, he felt complete. Though he had no recollection of it, he had given his seed to the woman he loved, and with it her body had created their child. A warm glow spread through him. Catherine was right. The knowledge of new life had set him apart from all the others that had loved her, elevated him above those that still loved her. No one could come between them ever again, she was his into infinity. That thought filled him, right down to the depths of his very soul, this woman who he owed his very life, his whole existence, had freed him from bondage to the beast, and made him a man.
Vincent closed his eyes, allowing the warm rush of love seep through his body, he pictured this blackness that he had always associated himself with, being enveloped slowly, purposefully by gleaming white, cleansing him, purifying his very being, and the relief was overwhelming. He loved her so much, and his body burned to be one with her. Quickening his steps, he carefully extracted each gift from the sack, placing it upon the bottom of each appropriate bed, and then silently left the chamber. When the first sack was empty, he returned for the second. Those gifts were for the younger children, those that really believed in Santa Claus. Vincent knew they would be expecting him, he would have to be even quieter. In previous years, the gifts had been set up in the Great Hall, and everyone would have breakfast there together and open their gifts afterwards. How wonderful it would be for the children to wake up to Catherine’s surprise, how thrilled they would be to think that Santa had visited Below. He smiled wryly, of course that would mean that every year from now, he would be destined to have this job, not that he minded, knowing now his own children would benefit from it. ‘Children’ the word conjured up images he never dreamed he’d have. His children, flesh of his flesh, a soft ripple of delight ran through him.
Catherine was pregnant, he wanted to roar his delight through the underground world, and would have, had it not been that it would bring everyone running and catch him in his Santa Claus outfit. Even so the distraction alone made him careless and he bumped into a stool in Helena’s chamber and though he made a grab for it, it slipped from reach and crashed to the floor. Helena’s eyes flew open in fear. One candle burned brightly, a night-light that remained for her security, should she wake in the dark. Vincent froze holding his breath tightly.
“Mummy?” a little voice spoke into the night. Vincent remained rooted to the spot hardly daring to breathe, hoping she would go back to sleep. Perhaps she would have, but her gaze caught the fallen stool, and she knew someone was there, it wasn’t a dream. “Mummy!” she shrieked, louder this time. Vincent hurried to her side, ‘what could he say?’ He wanted so desperately to comfort her as himself, but in the outfit, he knew he could not. How did Santa Claus speak? He hadn’t a clue. He echoed the only words he knew Santa to utter, they sounded false to his ears, and he wanted to laugh, “Ho, ho, ho.”
Helena’s head flew round wildly to the sound of his voice, her eyes blinking with disbelief, “Santa!” she cried with joy, “I can’t believe it. Is it really you?” Vincent nodded, not trusting himself to speak. He didn’t like to lie, next year someone else could be Santa, he told himself. “Have you brought me a present?” Helena’s cried happily. Vincent put a finger to his lips, “Shhh” he told her, then added “Yes.”
Helena stared at him then, her eyes never leaving his face, as she asked, “Vincent is that you?”
How did she know? Catherine had cleverly hidden his face beneath the beard, even his mane had been disguised by a wig of white hair.
Vincent looked at her, “I’m Santa.” he told her, which was perfectly true, for at that moment he was.
He hoped that would suffice, for he could not bear to say, ‘No I’m not Vincent’ for that would be an outright lie.
Helena stared some more at him. “I didn’t know Santa had such hairy hands.” Helena told him. Too late Vincent realised, he hadn’t donned the gloves Catherine had given him. He remembered now, just as he was leaving her, he had taken them off to caress her face, and wanted to feel his fingertips against her skin. He decided to change the subject, “I have to leave now Helena, the other children need to get their presents.”
“You know my name!” Helena cried with disbelief. Too late Vincent realised his second mistake. “I know all your names.” He told her, then quickly handed her, a gift wrapped box and left the room.
Outside her chamber, he sighed with relief, but was unprepared for Helena. Hearing the ripping paper, and her gasp of delight, her next words filled the air, “Mummy, Daddy come quickly.”
Vincent ducked out of sight as her worried parents ran from their chamber to hers, “Look Santa has been. He gave me this present, its a teddy bear, I spoke to him Mummy. And Daddy you’ll never guess, Santa has hairy clawed hands just like Vincent.”
Vincent heard her parents, Tom and Nicole chuckle, and he crept softly away, feeling his cheeks burning with embarrassment.
The presents finally delivered, Vincent made his way silently back to his chamber, stopping in the doorway to gaze with love upon the sleeping form of Catherine. His heart turned somersaults to see her in his bed. Quietly he took off and packed away the outfit, slipping naked into the bed beside the woman he loved. His hands reached for her, intent on holding her close, when he gasped to find that she too lay naked. Closing his eyes he very, very gently slid his the palm of his hand over her silken skin, holding his breath. The contact was exquisite, and Vincent sucked in a breath as he heard Catherine moan softly.
Rolling over into his embrace, Catherine’s eyes flew open, “Vincent.” she whispered huskily, kissing his lips briefly, “You’re back.”
“Mmm.” He told her against the taste of her sweet lips, as his body moulded to hers and she gasped at his hardening desire hot against the coolness of her skin.
“I want you.” she murmured, placing her hand upon the swell of his hip, and gently tugging him to lie above her, “I want you now.” She panted breathlessly. Amazed by the depth of her desire, Vincent chuckled, and nipped her playfully on the shoulder, “Catherine” He told her, “Despite my obvious experience you will have to guide me, for I can’t remember what to do.”
“Let your instinct guide you Vincent, I can see it is already well ahead of you.” And to emphasise, Catherine trailed her hand along his upper thigh.
Vincent gasped at the contact, his mind reeling with pleasure.
“Vincent. I know you need this, and I also need you so much.”
Closing his eyes against the rush of love that swept over him, Vincent embraced her, before sinking himself deep within her depths. Catherine moaned as his long slow thrusts intensified, engulfing her need, as her hips rose to meet his, driving him onwards to completion, when suddenly he slowed down, and stopped completely. Through the mists of love that swirled in his head, he could picture that first time, could see every glorious moment. Her bringing him back from the dead, his loving her, her loving him, total submission, complete possession. “I’ve remembered!” He cried as the memory filtered through his mind, and he uttered the words she so longed to hear, “that first time,” his voice held amazement, “Catherine, oh my love, I’ve remembered, all of it.”
“Be still Vincent, just lie with me, and let the memories come.” She told him, and she held him tightly as she felt his body relax upon her. Then gradually he took up the rhythm again, slowly deliciously, a gentle rocking while he re-traced his thoughts and his eyes lit up with the knowledge he thought lost to him forever.
“It was beautiful, Catherine, like you said and I can’t thank you enough for your courage that day.”
“It was the only thing I could think of. To bring you back to me, it had to be something sensuous. Vincent we both know the agony of our need at that time, I needed you so much, and I knew how you wanted that too, but denied yourself what was rightfully yours for the taking. I love you Vincent, you and all you are, and to me you are more than beautiful, you are absolutely gorgeous, and I could have eaten you, and I may still do so.” She laughed timidly, hoping he wouldn’t be reminded of his own non-human side to his nature.
She needn’t have worried. Vincent buried himself deep within her, satisfying her desperate need of him, and they clung together through misty tears of love and gratitude and cradled each other as they fell sound asleep.
And that’s how Father found them, limping into Vincent’s chamber early that Christmas morning a card in his hand, a smile replacing the name he was about to utter, he stared down at the two lovers, flushed with happiness. His eyes twinkled, and quietly he left the room, a lump in his throat, so much love stirred within his soul, for the woman who had brought his son everything. He felt weakened by the delight the sight had brought him and flopped gratefully down into his big old chair, his eyes still dancing from the sight he’d beheld.
Throughout the tunnels shrieks of delight echoed as the children one by one, awoke and found their presents, and carrying the precious gifts made their way to the Great Hall for breakfast. Gay chatter met Father’s ears as he went along to join them there, and was amazed to hear that Santa had visited their world, “Did anyone see him?” he asked, “Yes, I did.” Helena cried coming to stand in front of him, “See Santa gave me this teddy bear, isn’t she beautiful?” Nicole, came to stand beside her daughter, while Tom took Father aside to whisper, “We think it was Vincent. Helena mentioned that Santa had hands like Vincent.”
Father clapped a hand to his brow, “I wish I had seen that. Vincent in a Santa outfit!” He laughed loudly, “This must be Catherine’s doing.”
“Yes,” said Tom, “That’s what we thought, all these beautiful presents, must have cost a fortune. So where are Vincent and Catherine?”
“I checked in on Vincent earlier and found that he and Catherine are still sleeping.”
Tom raised an eyebrow, and Father nodded, “Yes I was surprised too. Seems like the children weren’t the only ones to wake up alongside a beautiful present.” He chuckled as Tom joined him in hearty laughter.
“Hey I have a great idea. Tom do we have any of those banners left from Helena’s birthday party?”
“Come with me, I’ll fill you in.”
Quickly they left the Great Hall, going in search of the banners, to prepare them before Vincent and Catherine arrived for breakfast.
When it was ready they took the banner back to the Great Hall, and told the children, “All of you children have received presents from Santa last night, and I am sure you would like to thank him. But as we don’t know where he lives or if anyone here knows where to find him until next year, we are going to erect this banner, and then if anyone among us who knows him see it, they can pass on the message to Santa Claus. What do you think?” he held the banner up for all to see, and Pascal and Tom erected it.
“You’ve spelt it wrong.” Helena told him, looking at the banner pinned to the wall directly opposite the great doors.
“So I have,” Father winked at Tom knowingly, “But I’m sure Santa won’t mind.”
Just then the doors opened and Catherine walked in hand in hand with Vincent. To the happy cries of Merry Christmas, and Father’s hearty laughter, Vincent’s eyes were drawn immediately to the huge banner hanging upon the wall, his eyes opening wider and wider with disbelief and horror, as he read the words written upon it, “THANK YOU SANTA CLAWS.” And Vincent blushed redder than the outfit he had worn the night before.
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