Dancing Lights by Arianahrod
Authors' note: This is my first BATB story, though not my first fan fiction. It's been a few weeks of reflection before I decided to dedicate this first story on the 20th Anniversary of Catherine and Vincent's meeting.
When I was a young girl, about 8 years old, we traveled from overseas to the US to visit my American relatives. While we were visiting my grandparents, I was first introduced to Vincent and the World Below. My grandmother was an avid watcher and fan, she used to record the shows on her VHS tapes. I first fell in love with the show watching it with her. Even at the time I didn't realize what a strong impact it would have on me, though with amused reflection I realized that BATB was probably the underlying catalyst for my Inuyasha fandom in some ways. Adventure, courage, and the overwhelming unresolved romantic tension echoes in both.
Fast forward 20 years later, my grandmother's tapes have long since been re-recorded, worn out or lost, but now with the DVD appearance I've been able to visit my roots and fall in love again with the cloaked and mysterious figure with a heart-stopping poetic voice and his beautiful lady.
To all those who dream of a love so pure and strong that it transcends time and media, this is for us.
His voice, soft and deep drifted through the haze of sleep that surrounded him, the soft grey blanket of comfort and solitude that seemed to be his only real barrier left.
"Father, you've fallen asleep at your desk again," came the voice again and a firm hand reached through the fog and began to bring him back to the land of waking. Slowly he opened his eyes and gave his summoner a clean and straight gaze, the cobwebs of sleep quickly dismissed.
"I did not fall asleep, I was merely "
" resting your eyes. Yes, I know." Blue-green eyes sparkled with humor as his lips curved into a wide and welcoming smile, his mother's smile. "No one believes Grandfather when he says that, what makes you think you can get away with it?"
Vincent stretched out his legs beneath the desk, his arms following the linear path above his head, a full bodied stretch, adding another feline movement to his already feline face. "Because Jacob, I am your father and am not prone to the exaggerations or fabrications that your namesake has become proficient at in his later years."
"Exaggerations and fabrications?! I have half a mind to put you over my knee and show you how well I still get on, even in my so-called 'later years'," came a gruff voice behind him and the swift knock on the head by a sturdy cane was proof-positive that Father, his father was standing behind him. Vincent flinched and looked up to give Jacob Wells, founder of their community an apologetic glance.
"And you should not be so quick to point out how the years have passed, you're not quite the spring chicken yourself anymore Vincent, there's a bit of grey in that mane of yours. Soon this cane will be your best friend and the cold air of the tunnels will be creeping into your bones. Just you wait, and I hope I'm still around to remind you of your old age." Despite his seemingly irritated tone of voice, Vincent knew his father was not really upset.
"Now, pay young Jacob some mind, he's got some very important information to share with you," the elder Jacob said, sitting in his chair, well padded for his comfort, and pulled a blanket over his legs. The years had been very kind to him, for the passage of time had only marred him with a few more wrinkles and the bleaching of his hair into a very dignified ashen grey. Though in his 80's, he was still a very handsome man.
The younger Jacob Chandler Wells may have inherited his mother's smile, but he also had inherited his father's calm and stoic gaze, especially when he didn't want to give the game away too quickly. It was the scourge of his Grandfather's chess playing to never know exactly what the child had in mind, even at an age where all children brim to the rim with excitement and barely concealed glee.
"Well," he paused, considering his words carefully, "You know that I've been receiving top marks in all my classes Above," he said slowly conscious of the fact that his father very reluctantly agreed to allow him to go topside to attend high school with the children of some Helpers. In the end, it was Uncle Peter and surprisingly enough his grandfather that swayed the gentle giant into allowing his son to live part of the week Above and attend school.
Vincent was naturally protective of his only son, especially after the actions of Gabriel in Jacob's infancy. He had always recognized the fact that Jacob was a child of both worlds and needed to have a connection to his mother's world. Until his adolescence, he had lived Below with the rest of the community but his existence was never denied him. Unlike his father, and several other tunnel dwellers he had a record Above. Joe Maxwell, Diana and other Helpers who were instrumental in his early childhood worked the red tape and the wires of the system to create records of his existence without ever needing to submit him to that system.
Despite his steep moral objections, Joe and others had orchestrated a "will" for Catherine's estate, with Peter as the executor and Joe as the official guardian for Jacob, or Jacob Chandler Wells as he was registered. A trust fund was place aside in the event that Jacob should decide to attend higher education, or eventually choose to live topside. Money was periodically taken out to orchestrate the appearance of maintenance for Jacob, and the child graciously informed his father at the bright age of 4 that, "money help others, Jacob is okay good," at which point Vincent realized that his son had been spending too much time with the mischievous Mouse.
Vincent studied his serious son, marveling in the miracle that he was and has been every day since he first held him in his hands, his heart quaking deep inside as he whispered, "He is beautiful Catherine." The courage he showed everyday never ceased to astound him. When he had announced he intended on going Above to attend high school, Vincent wouldn't hear of it. Despite the dangers of once, the events of that fateful September had placed the whole of the Tunnels under stricter rules and regulations. People were more observant now than they were 20 years before, people ducking through holes, traveling through the subways and through Central Park were watched with much more scrutiny and suspicion than once before. No longer were the regular fears in play, but anyone who seemed out of place could raise the suspicions of the authorities.
Jacob's voice brought him out of his daze, "Well, I applied to Columbia and I got this letter today," he said, his normally steady voice shaking slightly as he pulled out the warn envelope from his pocket, the creases showing the many folds it had undergone. With a deep breath he began reading, "Mr. Chandler-Wells, it is with great pleasure that the University of Columbia, School of Physicians and Surgeons welcome you as its newest member to the graduating class of 2011. It is also our esteemed honor to recognize your outstanding academic aptitude with a full financial scholarship " His voice dropped off as he slowly raised his gaze up to meet his father's face.
Vincent's leonine lips were parted slightly and his eyes were wide with astonishment and awe. Michael and many of the other Tunnel children had all gone on to earn their degrees and make their way through the world, but this was HIS son. His and Catherine's living proof that impossible was just a word that could be proven possible. Jacob swallowed hard, nervous by his father's lack of immediate response.
"It's .it's a big step I know, but I was thinking about it. I could live in the dorms, and come Below on the weekends, like I do now. Most kids go home on the weekends. Mouse said that there's an old entrance near the University that I could use to get home or I could "
"Columbia," Vincent slowly whispered, his voice barely audible. "I didn't know you applied to Columbia."
"I didn't think I would get it, and I didn't want to get my hopes up. I applied because .of Mom," he began, feeling through the bond he shared with his father the pinch of pain at the memory of his mother.
"Mom went to Columbia, and I thought that maybe, if I could get in, if I could walk those halls, maybe it would bring me a little closer to her," he finished and folded his hands in his lap, nervous.
Vincent rose to his feet quickly and Jacob echoed his father's movements, afraid that his father would leave the room as he was apt to do when his emotions were running hard and threatened to overspill his normally calm exterior. But Vincent did something he did not expect. He reached forward quickly and grabbed his son's arms tightly, holding him at arms length. His head was bowed, shadowing his face in red and gold. Then without warning he pulled his son close in a tight embrace.
"University, my son is going to university. Words fail me at this moment to tell you how incredibly proud I am of you, how proud I know your mother is." He whispered hoarsely in his ear and Jacob felt his knees grow a little weak with the relief.
"Yes well, of course this is no reason to neglect your studies now," came Father's voice breaking the seal of emotion that had filled the room. Jacob chuckled and faced his grandfather, "Yes sir, I know."
"Medicine is the path you have chosen?" Vincent said, bringing them back to the issue at hand, "I thought you wished to become a lawyer."
Jacob smiled faintly, "I did, I thought that becoming a lawyer I could help keep us safe Below. Now I realize that with the world changing as it has, there would be too much to explain, too many dangers to the Tunnels and those below. Besides after seeing what happened, after seeing Grandfather and all he has accomplished, I can do so much good as a doctor. Not only for our Community but even those Above who need help."
Vincent nodded, "You have your mother's courage and strength, there is much good you could do for so many. If your course is true, there is nothing you cannot accomplish."
An excited voice echoed behind him, "Jacob has good news. Okay good, Okay fine, will tell Pascal, need to speak to pipes. William makes party."
Father chuckled at the messy sandy haired man who peeked around the corner of the chamber, "Mouse, you know far better than to eavesdrop on private moments."
"Not spy, looking. Arthur ran from Jamie, ran into Father's Chamber. Heard words, not spy."
Jacob heard a faint giggle and saw the twitching little feet of one of the tiniest of the Tunnel children sticking out from beneath his father's bed. With a finger to his lips, he tiptoed around and grabbed the feet, pulling the little boy from his hiding space with a cry of "FOUND YOU!"
Arthur, Mouse's very mischievous son who lived up to his namesake, giggle hysterically and squirmed as Jacob tossed him easily over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. "Come on squirt, let's go find your mom." He turned his head and gifted his father with a bright smile, "We'll talk later Father," as he moved nimbly up the stairs and into the tunnel, followed by beaming Mouse.
Vincent sank back into his chair, his head falling into the palm of his hand. "Above, living above full time, going to University. Father, could it be possible?"
"Of course it is possible. Young Jacob is more than capable of taking care of himself. He knows better than anyone else the security and safety features in place to keep our homes safe. The last few years he has been attending lessons Above have acclimatized him quite well to being there. And remember, he is Catherine's son. Like his mother, once he has an idea in his head, it is nigh impossible to change it."
Vincent sighed deeply, "I need a moment to take all this in," he said and rose, moving swiftly towards his private chamber. Once there he paused to stand before the portrait of himself and Catherine, eternally locked in a gentle loving embrace. Her eyes seemed to look right through him as he gazed up her face, paused forever young. He felt older than his years, looking up at the younger visage of himself standing protectively behind her.
"It's been 20 years Catherine, and I can still feel the cold night air of the first time we met, the still chilled mist of early spring on the air while I scooped up your battered body from the park." He paused only sit back on his bed, his eyes never leaving the painting.
"20 long years, how I miss you so. Our son is almost a man full grown, and I mourn the knowledge you held him only once and so briefly. He brings me such joy with every breath he takes, for I see your spirit in him and it grows more brilliant every day. He has been the light in the darkness of your loss." He lifted a hand to brush back the hair that had drifted in front of his face.
Vincent reached for his cloak and headed out. The sentries nodded at his passing and no one spoke or questioned his actions, despite the new rule that everyone must account for their goings and comings which were then passed by pipe to Kipper, who recorded it as Pascal intercepted it. That way all members of the community were accounted for at all times. But everyone knew where Vincent went on this special night.
Every April 12th, he would be a ghost in the city of lights, reliving the movements and motions of his brief time with Catherine. Despite Father's most intent forbidding, he began his journey atop Catherine's balcony. He gazed out at the city, looking at the strange new skylight twinkling in the ebony night sky, recalling Catherine's words to Michael, "I look at the lights, and I see hope." The tenants had changed several times in the years, the faces behind the window panes were always different. This year the apartment was empty, awaiting yet another new occupant. Vincent turned the handle of the balcony door, not surprised to find it unlocked. At this height, the likelihood of an intruder entering through the balcony was highly unlikely. He stepped into the darkness, and felt it engulf him.
No scent of her remained; nothing but the smell of new paint and carpet cleaner. The fireplace had long since been shut up and was merely decorative, thanks to stricter fire codes. The vast emptiness made this place feel less like the luxurious home it had been, and more like a cavern, an empty cold hole. Vincent watched the spirits of his memories paint the room as it was, and for a moment he expected Catherine to walk through the front door and see him there. Then the winds of reality wiped his eyes clear.
He walked through the park, remembering their Halloween walks, when the world for one night would accept them together under the sky. He stopped at the bench by the Brooklyn Bridge and remembered how wonderful she looked under the dawning sun. At every turn, around the shadow of every tree, he caught her gazing at him before just disappearing. No longer did this walk ache in his chest, but rather it made him wistful, because it was on this night that he felt her the closest. As if despite the distance of death, she returned to take him on this journey for this one special night.
As he completed his journey and returned to the tunnel entrance in the park, he paused and looked back into the woods. If he closed his eyes a moment, he could hear her heart pounding excitedly as she dashed across the grass and flew into his arms, crying and laughing and apologizing profoundly for having doubted in him, in them. He felt the pull as their souls kissed, that soft sweet kiss that none could see but only they could feel. The wind brushed against his cheeks and wrapped itself into his hair and he could feel her warmth in that touch.
Careful to be sure no one followed him, he stepped through the tunnel entrance and pulled the gate closed, pulling the latch to slide the solid door closed behind him. As the sounds of the outside world were cut off, his ears became aware of the urgent tapping along the pipes. Four words, repeated over and over.
Jacob. Mirror Pool. Urgent.
Vincent took off in a run, startling the few folk who still lived at this level of the tunnels with his speed. He hadn't run like this, not in many years, but the fear that echoed in his heart, the fear for his son gave him the strength and youth he had long left behind. He leapt down the spiral staircase with the grace and agility of his feline nature, following Pascal's echoed tapping through the pipes. His feet skidded to stop as he entered the chamber of the Mirror Pool and nearly collided with young Arthur who giggles and grabbed his hand, pulling him forward.
"Jacob " he breathed heavily.
"Is fine Father," came his son's voice from the shadows.
"The pipes said " Vincent asked confused.
"That was my idea, forgive me Son," said Father, limping carefully forward, "I knew you were in a melancholy mood and I couldn't think of any way to get you here without giving away the plan."
"You spread false word of Jacob's " Vincent growled angrily.
"Actually, all we said was Jacob's name and urgent. We didn't say that he was in trouble, did we?" said Jamie innocently, but with a sly look on her face at the double play.
Jacob came forward, "Father, we didn't want you to miss this." He slowly lead his father forward towards the Mirror Pool, the candles of the community that were gathered around its shores glittering like stars on the black surface.
"20 years ago, a light appeared in our home. A pure light, a brilliant light, a candle to beacon hope into places we only dreamed of," Father began. "Some didn't recognize the power of that light, some knew it right away."
Pascal stepped forward, "She brought us hope when we were down, gave us warmth when we were cold, laughed in our joy and cried in our sorrow."
Eric appeared, a young man of almost 30, with his young daughter Ellie in his arms, "She brought me from the pits of despair and gave me a family again. She gave all she had to save my sister, and was my rock when I needed a friend."
Lena and Cathy came forward, the younger holding a white rose. Lena spoke, "She gave me strength when I had none, forgave my errors, was my sister and friend and showed me that love comes in the forms you least expect and want the most." She gave her daughter, named after Catherine a gentle smile.
William crept forward, "She was a good woman"
Mouse stepped up, "No, Great Woman. Trusted Mouse, Helped Mouse, Helped Mouse save Father and Vincent"
Jacob whispered, "She gave so much to all of us, and she gave me the greatest gift of all, she gave me life. So tonight, on a night like she first came to us, we honor her." He lifted his hand and Vincent noticed a small object in it. A white rose, like the one he wore close to his heart. Jacob pulled out a long taper candle and lit it from one of the torches, then carefully lit the rose in his hand. He passed the taper to Father who did the same and passed it along.
Vincent watched in amazement as slowly across the pool small flickering lights began to appear, as everyone began lighting these candles and one by one laid them on the water's surface. Light reflected off the water and danced everywhere along the cavern walls, small rainbows illuminated the faces of everyone present and Vincent could see not one tear was shed, but rather they were all smiling. Even the little ones who had not met Catherine where placing their candle in the water.
The scent of roses fill the air, and Vincent took a deep shuttering breath, his arm wrapping around his son's shoulders. "How did you find so many?"
"Our Helpers collected them, when I told them what we had planned." Jacob explained, leaning against his father's broad shoulder. "I wanted to do something special and once word got out, everyone wanted to be a part of it."
Vincent stared out at the candles that were drifting slowly towards the center. As he stared into the pool, an image formed.
He felt his son tense up and knew that it wasn't his eyes playing tricks; this was a true vision and by the silence that spread across the room, it wasn't only for them.
Catherine looked serenely up at them from beneath the surface of the water. Only it wasn't Catherine of once, but the Catherine as she would have been now, had she lived. Her hair was sun-ripened hay, streaked with a soft grey, and laugh-lines and crows feet creased her once smooth skin. Her eyes were bright and happy as she looked around and then at the two men in her life.
-I love you- her lips formed silently, -Thank you-
Jacob swallowed a sob in his throat as Vincent stood strongly for his son. Only Catherine could see the tear sliding down his cheek as his lips also moved silently.
-We love you. You live in us.-
Catherine gave him one of her secret smiles, the ones she reserved for him alone and through the once silent Bond; he felt the warm caress of her spirit. Then the candles, melted below the water's level began to dim and go out. They watched as her face faded back into the darkness. One candle remained lit, and it drifted towards Jacob, unaided by breeze or current. He knelt in the water and looked amazed that it had not even melted. It was a perfect rose.
-Carry my light within you, and you will do great things- he heard a soft voice whisper in his ear and he held the candle close.
"I love you too Mom," he whispered.
"Happy Anniversary Catherine," his father echoed, for the first time without sorrow, but with hope.