Jenny poked her head into Catherineís room. "I donít know how you can be so calm."
"Hi, Jen. Dev with you?" Catherine looked up from her sewing.
"Hi, gorgeous." Devin followed Jenny into the room and kissed Catherineís cheek. "Whereís Vincent?"
"He was driving me crazy with his care and concern. I booted him out, told him to continue doing his lessons with the children. Go find him so Jen and I can talk."
Devin laughed, "Iím on my way."
"How are you really?" Jen asked, giving her a big hug.
"Ready to burst."
"Soon. Vincent swears he can sense their heartbeats, like he did with Jacob Vincent. That was the day JV was born. As a result he hovers. He doesnít want me to be alone."
"I donít blame him. That was the day he thought he lost you forever."
"I know. I thought if he could keep busy doing his daily routines, he could relax."
"He lost you ten years ago, Cathy. I donít think heíll ever relax again now that he has you back. He sure didnít waste any time marrying you after you regained your memory and he saved you from that horrible man, Pope, who was responsible for everything that happened after Gabriel died."
"No." Catherine smiled remembering her wedding and honeymoon. She looked around the workroom Vincent set up for her so she could continue the art quilting she had learned over the past ten years. He didnít want her walking the long distance to her quilt shop above so close to when their babies were due. He had enlarged his chamber, adding a small, private sleeping area and this workshop for her. He had even managed, with Mouseís help, to bring in a temporary electrical line for her sewing machine.
She loved living Below with Vincent and their son, sharing their lives with Father and the rest of the community. She was even able to keep her shop and its apartment, since a tunnel ran right to it. Vincent spent many nights and early mornings there with her, unobserved.
A thin finger of ice made her shiver at the memory of Pope. She and Vincent could have both died that night when Jonathan Pope tried to kill her. Only Vincent and his exceptional abilities enabled him to save her, as he had many times before.
"Cathy?" Jenny shook her shoulder lightly, a worried look on her face. "Are you okay?"
"Iím fine, Jen. Just remembering."
"Are you ready for Christmas?"
"Yes. All the presents are made, wrapped and labeled. Iíve decorated the chamber; Vincent even brought me a real Christmas tree."
"What are you working on now?" Jenny asked.
"Joe and Dianaís wedding present, to hang in their new loft." Catherine showed her the quilted wall hanging of the New York City skyline at night. "Itís almost finished."
"Cathy, itís beautiful. Their Valentineís Day wedding will be so romantic."
"What about you and Devin? Whatís holding you up? Iíd love to do a quilted wall hanging for the two of you," Catherine teased.
Jenny smiled. "Maybe..."
"Oh...!" Catherine gasped, clutching her belly.
"What? Oh my God! You just started labor. Let me get Vincent." Jenny exclaimed.
"Heíll know. Heíll be here any minute. Ouch."
"What can I do?"
Catherine extended her hand. "Can you help me up? Oh boy."
She bent forward cradling her belly in pain, she took some deep breaths. "I donít think they will take their time. Those were pretty strong contractions. Jen, I have a bag all ready with some clothes for me and the babies behind the couch in the living chamber. Would you bring it for me? Here comes another contraction. I think itís going to be hard and fast." She leaned against the stone wall of the workroom until the pain eased.
"Catherine," Vincent shouted, running into the chamber.
"I told you." Catherine winked at Jenny. "Mmm," she groaned, grabbing Vincentís arm as another deep contraction took control of her body. She smiled softly, but from the look in her eyes, Vincent knew she was in pain, and suddenly he felt panic clutch his heart. He reached down behind her knees and swept her up into his strong, powerful arms with ease and kissed her.
She placed her head on his shoulder, held him tightly as he carried her from the workroom.
Devin passed them on their way out. "Now?" he asked Jen.
"I think so. Do you know where heíll take her? She wants me to bring her bag."
"The birthing chamber. Iíll show you."
Catherine had two more contractions while Vincent carried her swiftly to the birthing chamber. "Iím sure there is plenty of time. I was in labor a long time before JV was born. Iím glad they are coming before Christmas."
"Catherine, are you sure?" Vincentís low, deep voice caressed her cheek.
"Itís a little late to change my mind now."
"No," he smiled. "I mean are you sure you want to deliver down here and not in the hospital? Think of all those complications in having twins that Peter and Father talked about."
"I have every confidence in you, Peter and Father."
"I have not delivered any babies, Catherine."
"I know but you have helped at many and you are my coach, my support. I canít do this without you."
"Weíre here. I sent someone for Father, Mary and Peter."
"Oh...another contraction," she gasped, digging her fingers into his shoulder.
Mary was waiting for them. "Put her down, Vincent. Let me get her into this gown then you can walk her around so sheíll feel more comfortable. Howís you back, Catherine?"
"Much more painful than what I remember with JVís labor. A lot of the pain is in my back." She felt herself trembling with the next contraction and reached out for Vincent.
Father arrived and placed a hand on her shoulder. "The size and weight of two babies is causing you more pain and discomfort."
"Let Vincent help you with your back," Mary said
Vincent bent and put her arms around his neck. "Hold on Catherine." Slowly he stood straight, stretching her spine and back muscles.
Her head fell to his chest. "Oh that feels so much better." She hung from his neck for a minute, his fingers massaging her back.
Vincent could feel her belly contract. "Look at me." He brushed her damp hair back from her face and kissed her.
Her fingers gripped his arms. "Now that they have decided today is the day, the twins are not wasting any time. I canít even catch my breath."
"Hereís Peter," Vincent said softly in her ear.
Peter spoke to Father before coming to her. "I delivered you, Catherine. I never thought Iíd get to deliver your babies. Come lie down and let me examine you. Youíre very close to delivery."
The next contraction dragged a long moan of pain from her lips.
"Iíll hold you," Vincent said. He got into the bed and sat back against the headboard. He helped Catherine settle between his legs and pulled her back against his body his arms around her. "Hold onto me, brace against me. Iíve got all of you."
She held onto his arms tightly. "Donít you leave me," she cried. "Growl, roar, whatever, but you stay with me. I need you."
"All the way, Catherine." He kissed her wet brow tenderly.
Her water broke. "Very soon, Catherine," Peter told her.
She bore down with her next contraction, gritting her teeth she growled in her throat. A scream escaped her lips, her grip a vise on Vincentís arms. He roared with her scream.
Peter whispered to Father, "Is Vincent going to be okay? The contractions are coming faster and harder than normal. Catherine is getting no time to rest in between. Sheís in for a rough time."
"I donít know Peter. Heís going through the pain with Catherine. Heís holding her. I hope everything will be okay."
"Vincent, put your arms under her legs, help support them," Father said.
"Sorry," Vincent whispered to Catherine, putting his arms under her legs. "Iíve got you now. Hold tight, push as hard as you want."
"Just a few more should do it," Peter encouraged. "I see hair."
Catherine leaned forward, her legs braced against Vincentís hands. She growled fiercely again and pushed then fell back against Vincent breathing hard.
"Just a few more pushes Catherine and your baby will be here."
With her next contraction, Catherine tried to grit her teeth as she pushed but her growled scream pierced the air.
"Hereís the head," Peter said. He eased out the rest of the babyís body. "Itís a girl." He placed the baby on the blanket Mary put across Catherineís stomach. The baby cried loudly. "She has a good set of lungs."
Father had Vincent cut the umbilical cord. Catherine started to cry. "Sheís beautiful." She held the baby close and kissed her face, then Vincentís.
"Beautiful," Vincent agreed. He had told Peter and Father how upset Catherine was when she only saw JV for a few seconds and had never gotten to hold him when he was born. Heíd asked them to give the baby to Catherine as soon as possible. He put his arms around her and his new daughter, bursting with pride.
Catherine only had a few moments before her body was wracked with another contraction.
Mary took the baby gently from Catherineís arms. "Iíll clean her up and put her right here beside you in the bassinet," she promised.
"This one is coming just as fast and hard as the first baby," Father said. "Push, Catherine."
"I canít. I have no more energy," she said, weakly. The contractions gave her barely time to breathe. She cried out, "Vincent, help me."
"You can do this, Catherine. You have the strength. You do. You are almost finished. His arms encircled her again, supporting her legs. "Push. I love you, Catherine, always."
"Once more, Catherine. The head is almost out," Father encouraged.
"Our second baby is almost here," Vincent said, kissing her temple.
She was soaking wet with perspiration and birthing. So tired. She gripped his arms once more.
"Now, Catherine," Father encouraged.
She screamed, took a deep breath and pushed, Vincent roared, holding her tight.
"Itís another girl," Father exclaimed. Placing the baby on Catherineís stomach, he had Vincent cut the cord.
Tears ran down Vincentís cheeks. "Iíve got daughters," he said in wonder. "She is beautiful, too, Catherine."
Catherine held her second baby girl close. Her eyes full of tears, she smiled up at Vincent.
"Can I clean her up?" Mary asked. "Iíll trade." She handed Catherine the first baby now wrapped in a blanket.
Catherine lay back against Vincent, exhausted, smiling and crying at the same time. Mary handed her the second baby also wrapped in a blanket. Vincent cradled his wife and daughters close to his chest. "They are beautiful, Catherine. You are beautiful." He rested his cheek against her hair.
She turned her head and pressed her lips to his throat then promptly fell asleep.
"Father, Peter, Mary," he panicked.
"Sheís fine, Vincent, just exhausted," Peter said. He handed one baby to Father and took the other. "Let Mary clean her up and make her comfortable.
Vincent eased from behind Catherine and each of the older men handed him a baby. "Congratulations," they both said.
Vincent looked at his two daughters in awe, kissed each tiny cheek.
"Can we come in?" Jenny called, softly from outside the birthing room.
"Daughters," Vincent said, proudly, showing Jenny and Devin the two tiny bundles in his arms.
"They are beautiful .I have her bag. Catherine said she packed things for her and the babies."
"Nice going." Devin clapped Vincent on the back. "Weíll come back later."
"I have to go tell JV."
"He is with Mouse," Father said. " Go clean up and get him. Catherine and the babies will be ready when you come back."
Vincent carefully put the babies into the bassinet, gently stroked each cheek with his finger. He went to Catherine and kissed her tenderly. "Iíll be right back," he whispered.
Bathing and changing clothes quickly, Vincent brought JV to meet his sisters. Catherine was still asleep.
"Dad, they are so tiny, so cute," he touched each tiny hand with his finger. "Is mom all right," he asked quietly.
"She is fine, just tired."
JV leaned over and kissed Catherineís cheek. She opened her eyes and smiled.
"My boys." She reached one hand to Vincent and circled her arm around JV, pulling him close. "Do you want to hold your sisters?"
"Can I?" JV asked excitedly.
Mary sat him in a chair and handed him the baby she had labeled with a bracelet with two small beads woven in the design, showing him how to support her in his arms. Vincent gently picked up his daughter with a bracelet with one bead fastened in the design to signify this was his first daughter. He rocked her carefully in his arms before placing her with JV.
"When can they come to our chamber?í
Both babies started to fuss. "I guess they want some dinner," Catherine held out her arms. "Give me one and go get your dinner then come back. Your dad can hold your other sister."
"Okay. See you later mom." He kissed her and the babies before leaving.
"Have you nursed them, yet?" Vincent asked.
Catherine shook her head no. She opened the front of her gown, suddenly shy in front of him. She looked up and saw nothing but love and tenderness in his beautiful blue eyes. "Iím not sure I know what to do."
Mary helped her hold the baby to her breast. The little mouth rooted against Catherineís nipple and latched on, suckling strongly.
"They wonít get much the first few tries but with each nursing session more of your milk will come in," Mary assured her. "Iíll leave you and Vincent together. Iíll be near if you need me, just call."
Vincent watched lovingly and helped her with the second baby. When the baby finished nursing Catherine closed her eyes, the babyís golden head nestled under her chin. She kissed a tiny ear. "I love you," she whispered.
Vincent knelt beside her, tears in his eyes. He ran a finger down Catherineís cheek, cupped her face. She turned her head and kissed his palm.
"How do you feel?"
"Like I was run over by a truck. Tired. Oh, so happy."
"Catherine, what can I say? You went through all this pain because of me."
"It took both of us, my love. Iíd do it again for the joy of these two babies."
He pressed his lips to hers, drank her in, then laid his head on her shoulder. She ran her fingers over his hair. "I love you."
"Are we going to stay with the names we decided on?"
"Do you like them?"
"Yes. With Christmas so close, Iím sure Father will have the naming ceremony very soon."
"Bring Noel and place her here next to Holly on the bed."
He picked up his daughter. She was so tiny, his hands so big. He touched her head with his lips. Laid her on the bed next to her sister.
Catherine opened each baby blanket, cupped each golden head. She touched each tiny hand, then each tiny foot. She opened their shirts, bent to kiss each smooth tummy. She took Vincentís hands in hers, kissed the knuckles on each. "These have always been my hands, now they are ours." She placed one on each baby.
She removed Noelís diaper and shirt, handed her to Vincent. "Your first daughter," she whispered, as he held the baby carefully. Noel slept curled up in his large hands. He kissed her perfect little face, her tiny fingers and toes, handed her back to Catherine.
Catherine redressed and diapered Noel, wrapped her back warmly into her blanket. She undressed Holly, handed her to Vincent. "Your second daughter."
His tears were so thick he could hardly see. When he returned her to Catherine she handed him the little shirt and diaper. "Do you think you can dress her?"
He looked at his big hair covered hands with their long sharp claws and shook his head.
"Try. They are going to look to you to protect them."
Slowly, carefully he slipped the tiny arm into the shirt, then the other. Being careful of the umbilical cord, he was able to get the diaper on a little crooked. He wrapped her in her warm blanket.
Catherine framed his face with her hands. "They are perfect. You are perfect." She brushed her lips across his. "They have your golden hair," she ran her hands over the golden fuzz of each baby then over his long, tawny gold strands. "Hopefully your blue eyes and your poet's heart. They are our early Christmas presents. Merry Christmas, Vincent."
He sat on the bed beside her and his daughters and embraced them all with his love. "Merry Christmas, Catherine."
The Naming ceremony was the following week. Everyone in the community came. Devin, Jenny, Joe and Diana joined them. Father said, "It has been said the child is the meaning of life. Today we celebrate the children, these new lives that have been brought into our world. We welcome the children with love, that they may be able to love. We welcome the children with gifts, that they may learn generosity; and we welcome the children with names. Catherine."
Catherine stepped forward. "We name our first born daughter, Catherine Noel."
Vincent stepped forward. "We name our second daughter, Holly Elizabeth.
JV watched, a big smile on his face. He would be a great, big brother. "Can we open the gifts now?"