"I see possibilities in everything.  For everything that's taken away, something of greater value has been given."
~~Michael J. Fox


February 2001

Vincent watched as Catherine brushed out her hair then dug through a dish, searching for the perfect jewelry.  Earrings, rings, necklace...  She appeared so calm, so poised.  He felt neither.

Aware that two very blue, very intent eyes were on her, Catherine turned from her mirror and grinned at her admirer.  "Nervous?  You're staring."

Vincent bowed his head.  "Perhaps."

Catherine moved away from her vanity and sat beside Vincent on their bed.  "Talk to me about it?"

"What if he..."

Catherine frowned when she noticed the old tic resurfacing.  With no cloak, Vincent was trying to hide behind his hair.  She cupped his chin.  "Psyche wouldn't have requested this introduction if she thought you and Andrew wouldn't get along.  Actually, she said he reminded her a little of you.  Something about reticence and insanely high standards for yourselves..."  Her eyes flickered with knowing amusement.  "Besides, he's an angel.  A literal angel, Vincent .  He can't be cruel."

"An angel..." Vincent echoed.  It was still astounding.  Despite not seeing each other in the past two years, he and JenniAnn had kept up a regular written correspondence.  Bit by bit his godchild had revealed her new life.  First, she had told him she'd moved out of her parents' home in Nebraska.  Then she had revealed that she'd left Earth entirely and was "in a place kinda like Narnia... but no Aslan.  Well, at least not that we can see.  No White Witch, either.  Thank God."  Vincent had been so astounded by this revelation and worried it pointed to either drug use or mental instability that he'd asked Catherine to call Allison and Robert Chandler.  That's when he'd been assured of the reality of this place and first heard its name: Dyeland.  The Chandlers said little about it but it was obvious they were not pleased.  Still, they would try their best to respect their daughter's choices and so must he.  In March of 2000, Vincent received a lavender-scented missive of loopy, heart-dotted handwriting.  Psyche told him she had met someone.  She'd said she thought he'd like Andrew and that she hoped they'd meet one day but things were "complicated."  Another call to the Chandlers soon followed.  He could still recall Robert's tone of voice as he'd muttered the shocking words: "Our daughter has run off with an angel of death.  Yippee..."  Vincent had thought this was the name of some gang, perhaps one involving motorcycles.  It was Allison who finally got through to him that Psyche had fallen in with a literal angel of death, a messenger of God, a psychopomp.  And then, only a few days before, Psyche herself had stood before him and told him about Andrew.  Well he remembered her giddy smile and glistening eyes.  This is Psyche in love, he had thought.

Vincent noticed that Catherine was studying him so left his recollections alone.  "An angel of death...  What he's possibly seen..."

Catherine shook her head.  It was unimaginable.  "I'm sure he's seen a great deal.  More than I want to consider.  Wars, famines, torture..."

"My killings..."

"Vincent, no..."

"Have you asked him?" he implored.

"Well, no...  But if he had seen the times you killed then that means he saw that you were protecting me or others.  Andrew was very kind to me when I met up with him and Psyche yesterday.  More than that, he was friendly and warm.  If he knows anything about us then it hasn't made him hate us."  Catherine wrapped her arms around Vincent's shoulders and pecked his cheek.  "And that means neither does God.  Not that I ever thought He did."

Vincent looked at her with a wavering smile and nodded.  That was at least one worry lessened though not yet conquered.

"Psyche's known Andrew for a year now, Vincent.  She had to have talked to him about us."  Catherine settled on her beloved's lap and rested her forehead against his.  "She loves him.  And I don't think she would love someone who said anything against us."

"She loves him..."  Vincent sighed. 

"You're not really nervous about Andrew, are you?" 

Vincent carefully deposited Catherine on the bed then stood to pace.  "She's only eighteen...  A girl..."

"And now we come to the truth.  Your little girl's grown up and you're not happy," Catherine asserted.  Though amused, she kept her smile subdued.  "I understand.  I do.  Especially since she's only recently..."  Grimacing, the woman paused.  The separation between her cousin and Vincent had been painful for both.  Now that it had ended, Catherine understood Vincent's reluctance to accept his godchild's maturity.  Still, she hadn't tolerated her father's old-fashioned sentiments when she was a teenager and she wouldn't encourage Vincent in his.  She moved to stand in front of him, taking his hands in hers.  "Vincent, Psyche's actually reached this milestone some years later than most girls.  By the time I was eighteen, I'd already had a serious boyfriend... several less serious ones.  And I... well... you know I wish I'd waited until I met you but seventeen year old Cathy had other ideas."

Vincent paused.  Catherine's romantic history had never bothered him.  It had never made him think any differently about her.  He loved her completely and utterly: past, present, and future Catherine.  In that moment, however, her reference to her youthful trysts gave him reason for concern.  It was so unlike Psyche.  She had always seemed wholly uninterested in dating and all that went with it.  Some of the boys in the Tunnels, boys Vincent knew she was fond of, had tried to woo her.  Always she had been kind and gentle yet discouraging, sometimes even trying her hand at matching them with another girl... with no small amount of success.  On the occasions when he and Catherine would chaperone the childrens' dances, he'd noted that Psyche always danced when asked but, when left to her own devices, she stood to the sides.  In those moments it had always seemed to him that his godchild was waiting for someone.

As Vincent puzzled, Catherine continued.  "If it makes you feel any better, I don't think Andrew can consummate a relationship.  And even if he could, as you've pointed out, she's only eighteen.  And he's...  well, he wouldn't.  He's not in love with Psyche.  I could tell when I met with them.  He loves her.  Maybe in a brotherly sort of way.  Nothing more.  I only mean Psyche's come to her first love much later than most girls.  So it shouldn't really be shocking.  And, please, don't worry too much about it.  It sounds like Allison and Robert are doing enough of that for all four of us."

Vincent nodded.  He mentally replayed the phone call the Chandlers had made to him and Catherine earlier in the week.  They had sounded a trifle hysterical.  Allison was already in a panic about what this Andrew meant to her daughter's chances at motherhood.  The worries had struck Vincent as utterly premature.  Their Psyche was much too young to be a mother.  And yet...

"I'm sure it's only a phase, a crush," Catherine continued.  "Surely Psyche will want a lover eventually and she knows Andrew isn't..."  She noticed Vincent flinch and rolled her eyes.  "I really don't understand any of you!  We raised Psyche to follow her heart, to be true to herself.  You know she'd be responsible!  No one said anything about her staying a little girl forever!  Allison and Robert I can almost understand.  Their side has always been... well, conservative.  Them not so much but maybe they're leaning that way now.  It happens.  But you!  Vincent, why are you acting like this?  I can remember when Laura took up with Jerry and you handled that gracefully.  Psyche's entitled to her freedom as much as Laura was."

"Yes..."  Vincent knew that was an entirely different situation.

Miffed, Catherine returned to her vanity and her preparations.  "I'm surprised at you."

Her soul mate said nothing in his own defense.  He stood, went to his desk, and began digging through some papers.  After finding what he sought, he approached Catherine and held it out to her.  "Who is this?"

The woman glanced at a childish drawing.  "You kept that all these years?  That's Psyche's Cupid.  Please put it away, Vincent.  I still curse myself every time I remember that day.  Thank God she wasn't scarred for life.  For a while I never thought she'd let that Cupid thing go."

"And you think she did?"

"Of course.  She hasn't mentioned Cupid in years."

"And I stopped speaking of you to Father for a time in the beginning.  Yet you remained, always, in my heart.  Catherine, look at this drawing.  Think of how you described Andrew to me.  Think, too, of when 'Cupid' entered our lives... the very day you had Psyche Above and she saw that dead body.  If Andrew is an angel of death..."

"He... he is."  Catherine had been skeptical at first but being brought through a magical portal and then seeing the utter and complete sincerity in the man's eyes, she hadn't been able to maintain her doubt for long.  Her years with the D.A. had encouraged her belief that there was more to reality than the material world.  Too many witnesses and even some perps described miraculous encounters with majestic, glowing beings... angels.  Then there was her own near-death experience, times she had felt her mother's and father's spirits so near and so strong, mysterious happenings since Vincent had entered her life...  Yes, Catherine believed in angels.  She believed Andrew and Psyche.  She studied the scrawl some more then tugged it away from Vincent.  "My God..." 

"I don't believe Psyche ever let Cupid go.  She only stopped talking about him because she saw how uneasy it made us and her parents.  She's been waiting for him.  Now she's found him."

"Andrew... an angel of death.  A... a little girl sees a man... a glowing man... she probably had no concept of an angel of death so..."

"So she connected him to the hero of her favorite book."  Vincent nodded.  "Cupid was real.  He is Andrew.  This isn't a phase, Catherine.  This is Psyche's life now."

"But...  He... he can't be with her."

"No.  He can't.  You misunderstood my unease earlier.  I was not upset by the possibility of Psyche beginning a romance.  Yes, it is bittersweet to realize she is no longer a little girl but I have always only wanted a happy life for her.  But this...  The sacrifices..."

Catherine joined Vincent in gaping at the drawing in her hand.  She remembered how often he had spoken of her sacrifices in the early days of their romance.  Since then, many of their limitations had fallen away.  They had become lovers.  She had moved into his chamber.  Even when they did not make love, they soaked in the comfort and pleasure of each other's embrace as they slept.  They had conceived a child and shared hopes and dreams for their son or daughter.  Even as they grieved for their lost little one, they had done so wholly united.  They had healed and grown together.  With Andrew, Psyche would never know any of that.  Catherine shook her head.  "First loves... they don't always last.  Most don't," she reasoned, trying to assure herself as much as Vincent.

Vincent nodded though he didn't believe the words.  He'd long had a presentiment about his goddaughter: when she fell in love, she would fall wholly and irrevocably. 

Catherine hugged him close.  "This... it'll be a good thing, regardless.  Psyche seems truly happy.  And Vincent... this place... you... you can walk in the sunlight.  Psyche said we can come whenever we wish."

The man had been so focused on his concerns for his godchild that he hadn't considered the promise of this place... Dyeland.  "But surely there are others..."

"Yes.  Others whose lives there rely on secrecy as much as our own.  They wouldn't betray us.  Besides, they have angels around.  It must be difficult to do anything too bad with angels around."  Catherine smiled. 

Vincent saw how much joy the prospect of this new life brought to Catherine.  He remembered, too, the way Psyche's face had lit up when she'd told him he had to come visit her in her new home, assuring him that he would be safe.  Somehow it hadn't dawned on him that she was holding out freedom to him.  Of course they would go.... Cupid and Psyche were waiting for them beneath the midday's sun.


Maybe it was the too frequent exposure to Psyche's beloved picture book with its illustrations of a togaed, majestic Cupid.  Maybe it was all that time spent reading the King James version of the Bible and the descriptions of fiery, fearsome angels.  Maybe it was the regally angelic statues Vincent had glimpsed in his books and during nighttime excursions Above.  Whichever it was, Vincent was unprepared for the fellow standing in front of him clad in jeans, a T-shirt, and a red and gray flannel shirt.  He looked so... mundane and earthy.

"Hi!  My name's Andrew.  Vincent, it's really great to finally meet you."  Andrew reached for the man's hand and heartily shook it.  "Catherine, I'm glad you could some see us again.  C'mon in," the angel waved the couple into the entry of Willowveil Castle.  "JenniAnn's in the kitchen.  Slight problem with lunch.  Our chicken salad's a little plain...  she's working on it.  Soup's great, though.  We'll have plenty to eat even though neither of us are the greatest chefs."  He grinned.  "I'd offer to take your coat and cloak but, well, you'll see."

Catherine smiled at the gleam in the angel's eye.  She had a feeling they'd be dining al fresco.  She looked over at Vincent who was gaping at their surroundings.

"I know it's a little overwhelming."  Andrew tilted his head back, gazing around the large entryway.  "But JenniAnn loves it."

"She lives here... alone?"  Vincent peered at Andrew then quickly away for fear of seeming rude.

The angel of death blushed.  "Oh, well... yeah.  Mostly.  She has friends stay over.  I, uh, when I'm here I stay... house that way."

Catherine suppressed a giggle.  "Vincent, Andrew has a house two doors from here.  He calls it Serendipity.  This is Willowveil," she clarified.

"I see.  How... wonderful."  Finally Vincent managed a smile for Andrew.  Only then did he consider that the man... angel... had exhibited no shock when he'd opened the door to Catherine and him.  Perhaps it was proof
Andrew had seen him during one of his rages.  His eyes again flitted away from the angel's.

"Vincent!  Catherine!" 

The three looked to see JenniAnn running towards them.  Soon she had her cousins tightly in her embrace.  "I'm so glad you're here.  I'm sorry I wasn't at the door to greet you.  Culinary issues."  She pulled away enough to look into her godfather's eyes.  "I thought we could eat outside.  Have a picnic.  I know it's a bit cool but since the sun's out and we've started a fire in the stove, hopefully...

Vincent studied the girl's face, noting her glistening eyes.  She knew this was no small thing for him.  "I would like that very much, Psyche."  He pressed his lips to her forehead.

JenniAnn took his hand in one's of hers and Catherine's in the other.  She led them to the door to the backyard.  "You two can make yourselves comfortable.  Andrew and I'll bring everything out."  She and the angel disappeared before either of their guests could protest.

"Vincent, let's walk around.  Look at that pond..." Catherine enticed. 

Vincent roused from his musings and smiled at the love of his life.  She looked as beautiful as ever in the light of day.  He took her hand and let her lead him into the sunshine.


"This is delicious, Psyche!" Catherine effused after sampling her sandwich and soup.  "I wouldn't have known anything had gone wrong if Andrew hadn't told us."

JenniAnn laughed and beamed at Andrew.  "Andrew's very truthful."  She reached over to squeeze his hand.

Vincent noted the slight blush that crept into the angel's cheeks at this show of affection.  However, it was Psyche who truly captured his notice.  Her resemblance to Catherine had always been there though never overwhelming.  Only their eyes were strikingly similar.  Yet in that moment, Psyche called Catherine to mind more than ever.  With a start, Vincent realized why.  The way his goddaughter looked at Andrew perfectly mirrored the way Catherine looked at him.

"Vincent, JenniAnn tells me you're a teacher.  What do you teach?" Andrew asked, hoping to engage the quiet man.

Vincent, his throat suddenly very dry, took a sip of his cider before replying.  "History, Literature, and Theatre although I have considerable help with the latter."

"Sometimes he subs in on Math, too," JenniAnn added, her voice full of pride.  "Vincent's a genius."


"Well, you are!"

Andrew smiled from behind his mug.  "I love having assignments that give me the chance to teach.  There's nothing like instilling a love of learning in a kid.  Last year I taught a course on poetry at a college and had a great time.  I think, if I were human, I might like being a teacher."

"You're welcome to come Below and lead a class whenever you wish, Andrew," Vincent replied.  The offer came out so suddenly that it took him a moment to realize he'd made it.

The angel's face lit up.  "I'd love that.  Thank you!  Thank you very much."

"You can come see where Psyche spent many of her summers.  Now that we've rediscovered the portal maybe this could be the beginning of a sort of alliance between our two worlds?" Catherine asked hopefully.  She was already dreaming of midday spring and summertime strolls with Vincent.

"That'd be great," Andrew agreed.  "You know, I have to believe the Father had it in mind all along the way He connected the two with that portal.  JenniAnn thinks that's how she found her way to the Tunnels when she was little.  She was brought here and then slipped into the portal one day."

"And then you both found me.  I really do believe very much that God had a hand in that.  I would love it if Dyeland and the Tunnels could be close-knit..." JenniAnn dreamily replied.  "The kids could come here to safely play outside and, Vincent, I can't wait until you see all the flowers in bloom!"

"I... I will look forward to it.
  An alliance would be very welcome"  Vincent was so overwhelmed that he no longer felt like eating but continued to lest Psyche be hurt.


The man looked up when he heard his cousin's plaintive call.  "Yes, Psyche?"

JenniAnn set down her tea and moved to sit beside her godfather.  She wrapped her fingers around one of his.  How much she had missed performing the childish gesture...  "I wanted to apologize for... for our disagreement back in 1999.  You were right to not let me move Below.  I was just trying to escape the angst of high school.  That... that I pouted a-and didn't come visit any more... it was awful.  If... if you'd let me stay, I wouldn't have found my way back here and I wouldn't... have met... Andrew."

"Psyche..."  Vincent's voice was thick and little more than a whisper as he hugged the misty-eyed girl.  "All was forgiven long ago.  You know I would have loved to have had you nearby always.  But I wanted you to find your own way.  It seems you have."  He noticed Andrew looking tenderly at them.  The angel seemed genuinely touched and happy for Psyche and this endeared him to Vincent. 

JenniAnn finally pulled away and nodded.  "I have."  She kissed his cheek then reclaimed her place beside Andrew.

Andrew looked at Vincent and Catherine with a warm smile.  "JenniAnn did tell me so much about you both.  I couldn't wait to meet you."

"We're very glad to meet you!  Andrew, why don't you tell us a little more about what you do and what brought you here?" Catherine requested.  "We'd love to know more about you."

Andrew swallowed a bite of sandwich, nodding as he did.  "Oh.  Yeah.  Sure." 

JenniAnn briefly rested her hand on his arm.  She'd learned that Andrew wasn't used to talking about himself.  And he'd be doing a lot of it with the Catherine-the-lawyer asking the questions!  While she'd done some of the preliminary explaining, she knew there was much her cousins were curious about.

"Well, as an angel of death, I'm sent by God to take people Home to Him," the angel began.  "To Heaven.  But I also do caseworking."

The term captured Catherine's interest.  She laughed.  "Caseworking?  That sounds like what I do."

Andrew smiled.  "In some ways it probably is.  We... usually I work with my friends Monica and Tess but sometimes other angels, too, and sometimes alone... help people to... well, every case is different."

"Tell me about it," the assistant D.A. knowingly interjected.

The angel chuckled.  "Sometimes we help heal marriages.  Sometimes we reunite estranged friends or family members.  We might help someone escape an abusive relationship.  Another we might help deal with trauma resulting from war or... or rape or anything.  But always... always... we tell people God loves them."

"All people?" Vincent questioned.

Andrew looked intently at the man.  "Yes, all people.  God loves everyone," he reiterated before popping a potato chip into his mouth. 

There were a few moments of silence as if Andrew, Catherine, and JenniAnn had all agreed to give Vincent time to mull over the implication of Andrew's words: God loved him.


Turning down Catherine's and Vincent's offers of help, Andrew and JenniAnn carried the dishes and leftover food back inside.  The couple again began to walk near the pond.

"So what do you think?" Catherine inquired. 

"I am impressed."

"He's very well-spoken.  Maybe a little awkward at points but I think it gives him a sort of charm."


"Whatever else, Psyche's got good tastes," Catherine opined with a laugh.  "Runs in the family."

Vincent modestly smiled.

"Yesterday she told me she has a greenhouse.  I told her I'd like to see it.  I'd love to admire her roses and... I think it would be good if you and Andrew had time to talk.  Alone."

Vincent hugged his beloved to him.  "Do you think so?"

Catherine caressed his cheek.  "Yes.  I think it might give you some peace over Psyche's future."

"You're without worries now?"

"No.  Not at all.  It does make me sad to think about her potentially giving up so much.  But I feel like it's more important that you come to peace with this... for however long it lasts.  Vincent, I know Psyche loves me and respects me.  But she's always valued your opinion more.  I can't blame her for that.  And... I think you need to ask Andrew the question weighing on your heart."  She kissed him.  "Just think about it?"

Before Vincent could answer, Andrew and JenniAnn returned. 

"Catherine, ya wanna see the greenhouse now?" the girl asked.  "Vincent, you can come, too, but I understand if you wanna stay outside."

"I could show you more of the grounds, Vincent," Andrew offered.

Vincent glanced over at Catherine who looked quite pleased at her plan coming together with no effort on her part.  He smiled at his goddaughter.  "Psyche, I'd love to see your greenhouse but perhaps for now I'll remain with Andrew?"

"Kay!"  JenniAnn kissed his cheek then darted towards the castle with Catherine following her.

"So... how about a walk to the shore?" the angel suggested.

"I would enjoy that.  Thank you, Andrew."

The two walked in silence for a few moments before the angel turned to his guest.


"Yes, Andrew?"

"I just want you to know that I care very much about your cousin and I only want what's best for her.  I know this... crush probably came as a shock.  I know it did to me but... but maybe JenniAnn just needs me for a while.  To... well, to sort of bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood.  I'm... safe."

"Safe?" Vincent repeated.

Andrew sighed.  "I don't know what, if anything, you believe about angels.  I know some books and movies have some really interesting theories about us.  But we don't fall in love or have... desires.  JenniAnn knows this.  So I think maybe she's taken to me just because she's at that age but maybe not ready for... for, you know, the whole dating thing and all that sometimes implies."

"Perhaps," Vincent casually replied.

They walked on in silence for a few more moments then the man turned to the angel.

"Earlier... you said Psyche had told you about Catherine and me.  Did she say... what I've done?"  Vincent peered down at his clawed hands.  "Or had you... known?"

"I didn't know.  JenniAnn told me that you've acted in defense of Catherine and your community and that, sometimes, this protection has resulted in death.  I've been assigned to cases like that... never when you were involved... but others when someone kills someone in order to protect a loved one who was being threatened.  I don't like violence, Vincent.  But I know that most times the person who killed to protect doesn't like violence, either.  I don't blame them for what they've done.  If I were human..."  Andrew's voice trailed off. 

Vincent looked at the angel, feeling a mixture of relief, gratitude, and curiosity.  "If you were human?" he prompted.

The angel of death shrugged.  "Who can say I wouldn't have killed to save someone I loved?  Angels have to respect free will.  Some... we call them Search and Rescue and then, of course, the guardian angels... they're allowed to intervene sometimes, to save people."

"But not you?  Not angels of death?"

Andrew shook his head, his eyes on the horizon.  "Not usually."

Vincent again looked down at his hands.  For so long they had been a source of shame.  They still were but now for a different reason.  He had cursed them when he should have been thankful for all the times they had helped him protect those he loved.  Andrew did not have such a gift.

Sensing the man's heavy heart, Andrew smiled at him then pointed in front of them.  "Look."

Vincent saw an expanse of sand and, beyond it, the edge of an ocean.  "It's beautiful," he murmured. 

"We call it the Indigo Ocean.  Maybe you could stay until sunset.  The sunsets here... amazing."

"I can only imagine."

Andrew glanced over at his transfixed guest.  "JenniAnn... She wanted to ask you here before.  Please know that.  She's worried you might be hurt, thinking she hid this place from you.  Things were... complicated for a while.  People coming and going.  They still do but even more so in the year before I came up until a few months after I arrived.  But now... now JenniAnn feels more comfortable trusting the people here.  So do I.  She never wanted to hold the possibility of this out to you then have to tear it away or, worse yet, have you harmed."

"I understand.  I could never be angry or upset because of her waiting.  She knows how precarious my life is."  Vincent sat down on the cool sand. 

Andrew sat, too.

"What do you intend to do if Psy... JenniAnn doesn't outgrow her fondness for you?"

"I like that you call her Psyche.  It's fitting."  Andrew smiled encouragingly then looked out to the sea.  "She's a deep girl.  And I'm sure she will... outgrow the crush, I mean.  JenniAnn's a great kid... a very spiritual one.  Fitting in an aspiring Theology major.  I'm sure it's pretty interesting for her to have an angel of death around.  But after a while the novelty will wear off and she'll continue with college and be around new people and...  She has a lot of love inside her.  For nearly a year I've been very blessed to be the recipient of so much of it.  But she wants someone to go through life with her, kids..." 

Vincent was surprised to find himself pitying the angel... and relating to him.  Andrew seemed to have no concept of his own appeal to Psyche.  He had no expectation that she would remain true to him.  He saw himself as a phase, one to be outgrown and left behind... only a memory.  Vincent could recall the similar lies he'd told himself about Catherine.  Andrew wasn't lying.  He simply didn't know better.  He must be made to know... or at least to consider the reality of Psyche's feelings.  Vincent didn't want the angel's self-deprecation to hurt her as deeply as his had wounded Catherine.  He had to speak.  "And if she decides you're worth the sacrifice?"

Andrew gaped at JenniAnn's godfather.  This was something he hadn't considered.  "You think she... she might?"

"Psyche will follow her own heart.  As much as I think I know that heart, children surprise their parents all the time.  No less their godparents.  Yes, she may drift from you.  But... she may very well stay.  What would you do if she did?"

"But she... she's eighteen!"  Andrew dragged his hand through his hair.  "In this day, in your culture; that's no age to even be thinking about spending a lifetime with someone!"

"Perhaps not but, please, answer my question.  It... it would give me peace to know your answer."

The angel looked over at the man.  He saw the parent, needing assurance that no matter what his child would be cared for.  Andrew looked out at the crashing waves and thought.  If JenniAnn stayed with him; she would never be kissed, never be proposed to... or be the one to propose, she would never marry, never make love, never share a home with the man she loved, never carry a child, and quite possibly never be a parent.  But she would be loved.  He had his answer.  "I would love her as much and as best as I could.  No matter what."

Vincent felt tears creep into his eyes.  All at once he was a man in mourning and in celebration.  He hoped Psyche would outgrow her love for the angel sitting beside him and allow it to settle into a comfortable friendship.  She could go onto a life with someone else, with children.  Yet... if she didn't... at least he knew she would have what mattered most: someone who loved her unconditionally and would remind her that God loved her, too. 

For several minutes, Andrew and Vincent sat alone on the shore in companionable silence and admired the ocean. 

Vincent sighed.  He was sitting beside the sea, beneath the winter sun, free from worries of being caught or exposed.  It was no ocean he'd ever imagined seeing but it was beautiful.  Being there, in that strange and stunning world, it was easy to believe God did love him.  He certainly had ways of creating possibilities where none seemed to be.  Vincent tore his eyes away from the glorious waves and sky and looked to Andrew.  Maybe God would make a happy life possible for Psyche and her Cupid. 

Gazing at the ocean, Vincent prayed it would be so.


Some time in 2015...

Andrew was at the window, staring blankly at the dreary sky.  His eyes were blood shot and his face was gaunt.  He hadn't slept in days.  He wouldn't.  His appetite had failed.  He only ate to keep from adding to the others' grief and worry.  He closed his eyes and prayed that, when he opened them, all would be well.  It was a childish prayer, one more suited to little Belle.  Still he prayed it.

Opening his eyes and turning away from the window, Andrew saw no change.  JenniAnn remained still and silent on the hospital bed.  He couldn't understand it.  The crisis was over.  She'd come through surgery well.  She was breathing on her own and yet she would not wake.  He returned to the bed, barely fitting as he lay on his side next to her. 

"Laja, please... please come back to us.  Your... your parents are here.  I finally talked them into going back to Catherine's apartment to rest.  She... she needed it, too.  They haven't left your side since... since you got here.  They have Belle with them.  Sweet Belle...  She made you this."  Andrew brushed his hand over the macaroni bracelet he'd helped the little girl place on her mother's wrist.  "Laja, Belle... she doesn't understand.  No one does.  Everyone back home is just... devastated.  You have so... so many people praying for you."  As gently as possible, he wrapped his arm around her.  "I'm not... not leaving until you're out of here.  One... one way or... or the other."

Andrew thought back on their last happy morning.  He'd had a 9:22 and stopped over at Willowveil for breakfast first.  He smiled.  "Laja, you were in such a tizzy!  Bet you wish you'd never told Belle about Hide-and-Seek.  She does have quite a talent.  But we found her... fallen asleep where she hid in the greenhouse.  And we told her... told her we'd always find her.  Laja, you have to be with me next... next time Belle hides.  We have to find her... together." 

Beginning to weep, Andrew rested his chin against JenniAnn's hair.  He knew that, either way, she would be happy and she would live.  Either way, God's love would surround her.  But it tore at him that, in the blink of an eye, all her plans, all their dreams had been threatened.  He wasn't ready for her life on Earth and in Dyeland to end. 

A quick and quiet knock on the door sounded.  Andrew hurriedly got to his feet as the door opened to reveal Joe Maxwell and two others pushing a gurney on which rested a black body bag.  "M-matthew...  Joe...  Portia..."

Joe and Portia rolled the gurney into the room and shut the door while Detective Matthew Bratton hugged the angel.  "We brought someone," he whispered when he stepped back.  "And we... Joe and I... we're not going to give up until we find the cretin who did this to our girl.  We will, Andrew."

Andrew nodded and pulled the man into another embrace.  He was surprised that he still had tears to weep.  As he watched Portia and Joe unzip the bag, the angel had a feeling more were soon to come.  "Vincent..." he greeted.

JenniAnn's godfather sat up and slid off the gurney.  "Thank you," he hugged Portia and gave a trembling smile to Joe and Matthew.

"You're very welcome."  Joe looked over at the angel.  "Andrew, we'll be in the chapel.  Come get us when he's ready to go, okay?"

"I will.  Thank you."  Andrew forced a smile. 

When the door closed, Andrew and Vincent looked at each other then down to JenniAnn.  Vincent's body began to quake with sobs and Andrew lowered him into the chair beside the bed.

Vincent rested his head on the mattress.  "Psyche..."  He held her hand, remembering.  He had felt Catherine's fear and anger.  She and Psyche had been followed by the estranged husband of one of the women at the Phoenix Inn.  He had cornered them in an alley and then...  Rushing towards them, Vincent had heard the shot and seen their Psyche begin to fall.  He had caught her and cradled her as Catherine frantically called 911 and tried to stop the blood.  If only he'd arrived a moment earlier...

Andrew perched on the edge of the bed, carefully taking JenniAnn's other hand with the IV line poking out.  He still couldn't understand why the Father hadn't allowed him to be with her when it had happened.

"There... there was a brief moment... before she... she went away from us." 

The angel looked into Vincent's eyes which were rendered even more blue by his tears.

"She... wrapped her fingers around mine and then she... she looked up and she... smiled."

Andrew let out a ragged sigh.  "I'm glad she... she was happy when she saw..."  He stroked some hair behind JenniAnn's ear.  "She could come back.  Sometimes... sometimes people do.  I've seen it happen so... so many times."

With his free hand, Vincent reached for the angel's.  The three formed a small circle.  "Thank you."

"I... I wasn't there.  I didn't do any... anything."

"I'm thanking you for loving Psyche... your Laja for all these years.  You gave her the life she dreamed of.  Once I wouldn't have believed it possible.  But you made it possible, Andrew.  Both of you together... with God.  You promised me once that you would love Psyche 'no matter what.'  You have... you do.  I... I only wish..."

Tears rolling down his own cheeks, Andrew squeezed Vincent's hand.  "What do you wish?"

"Did you ever conclude which of you was Beauty and which the Beast?"

The angel was so surprised by the fanciful question that he chuckled.  "No.  We even asked Joshua to settle it but he just grinned and said he thought *he* was both so why did it have to be either/or?  I don't think he wanted to ruin the game for us."

Vincent smiled.  "A very Joshuan response."  He closed his eyes for a moment.  "I wish he was here."

"He... he is," Andrew assured.  "We just... just can't see him.  And maybe..."  He felt peace wash over him.  "I think Joshua was with JenniAnn in the alley.  I think he's been with her ever... ever since." 

"She would like that."  Vincent peered back down at his godchild.  "Even so.... selfishly, perhaps... I wish she was the Beast.  The Beast died and came back because he... he was loved.  She is loved..."

"So... so much," Andrew choked out.  He watched as Vincent stood and bent over JenniAnn then kissed her forehead.

Their hearts sunk when JenniAnn's body seized. 

Tears filled Andrew's eyes.  Maybe she'd only hung on so her godfather could make his goodbye.

"No..." Vincent lamented when she let out a raspy breath. 

Then her chest began to gently rise and fall as if she were only sleeping.

"Laja?" Andrew softly called.

JenniAnn's eyes shot open and her hands tightened around theirs. 



"A-andrew... Vincent..."  JenniAnn sat up and clamored for her beloved and her godfather.

"Be still, Psyche," Vincent urged, stroking her face.  "You're attached to an IV and..."

Bewildered, the woman looked around the room.  Soon everything clicked into place.  "We do not need any nurses rushing in here," she concluded with a smile.

Andrew laughed, relieved that not only was JenniAnn alive but also lucid and very much herself.  "How do... do you feel, Laja?"

"Kinda hurts to breath..."

The angel frowned.  "The bullet... it... it hit your right lung.  Just... just missed your... your heart."  He buried his face in her hair.  "Laja... we were so..."

"I know...  I saw.  I'll explain everything b-but I just want...  Could you go get Joe?  Please?  The nurse will be by soon and..."  JenniAnn looked lovingly at her cousin. 

The angel nodded and quickly, though reluctantly, left the room.

JenniAnn carefully hugged Vincent.  "I'm gonna get out of here as soon as possible cause I... I don't wanna see you in a body bag ever again."

Vincent laughed and cried at once then pulled away to cup his godchild's face in his hands.  "Take care of yourself.  Listen to the doctors.  Don't push yourself for my sake.  But I... I will look forward to your homecoming.  I love you, Psyche."

"I love you, too, Vincent.  There... there's something I want to tell you.  So much I want to tell you, actually.  But for now... this.  While I was... away... I saw things.  Things from my past.  Not even just my life but things related to my life.  I saw the discussion you and Andrew had by the Indigo Ocean the day you met.  The one about... about me.  Thank you for praying for us... for our happy life."

"You're very welcome, my child."  Vincent kissed his goddaughter's hair as Andrew, Joe, Matthew, and Portia returned.  "I always have and always will."

"Thank God you're back, kiddo," Joe enthused, squeezing JenniAnn's hand.  "We'll get Vincent back safely and then I'm sure Cathy, Belle, and your parents will rush on over here and then..."

"Then we'll talk," JenniAnn promised. 

Portia set her hand on her friend's shoulder.  "Psyche, I'm just going to get Vincent back home then I'll be back to help you.  I know all this medical stuff is overwhelming."

The patient laughed.  "You know I'm hopeless.  Don't know my femur from my tendon."

Portia playfully shook her head then moved to help conceal their teacher.

JenniAnn looked away when Vincent laid down on the gurney.

Andrew sat beside his friend, stroking her hair as she buried her face in his shirt to avoid seeing Vincent be hidden away. 

When the door closed, JenniAnn pulled away.  "Do the nurses and doctors... can they see you?"

Andrew nodded, blushing.  "I think they think I'm your boyfriend.  I just... I wasn't in the mood to correct them.  And I didn't want them to kick me out."

JenniAnn smiled.  "Well, you're a boy and a friend so let's just leave it at that.  Can you call them in here?  Please.  I really want this out."  She indicated the IV. 

The angel smiled.  "Sure."  He pressed the call button and soon the peace and quiet of the room gave way to the cacophony of nurses and doctors coming in and out.  For a time, Andrew got booted to the waiting room.  When he returned he found JenniAnn unhooked from the machines, dressed in her favorite butterfly print pajamas, and sitting on the ledge by the window. 

"Aren't you supposed to be in bed, miss?" Andrew teased.

JenniAnn grinned.  "Gonna tell on me?"

The angel shook his head.

"This room feels so claustrophobic after..."  She looked to the sky.  "I at least needed a window.  And I needed that IV and everything out because..."  Tears welled in JenniAnn's eyes as she reached for Andrew.

Without pause, Andrew settled beside her and gently pulled her to him.  He sighed with contentment when her arms wrapped all the way around him and she buried her right hand in his hair.  He had wondered if he would ever feel his Laja's embrace outside of Heaven again.  "Laja... I love you.  I missed you so... so much."

"I... miss... missed you, too, my love.  I... I was back... back on our island... Joshua's island with all the kudzu.  I was happy there.  So happy with... with him.  And I got to meet David and Lor a-and see Chava and Cora and Sophia and Sarah a-and so many..."  JenniAnn began to cry.  "Joshua... he..."  Already she ached with longing for him but she reminded herself that still he was there, even if she couldn't see him.  "He would have let me stay and go further on but... but I wanted to be here as our Belle grows up a-and... I know I would have seen you either way but I..."  She rested her forehead against Andrew's.  "I wanted our life here.  There'll be time for the other Life later." 

"There will," Andrew asserted, softly stroking her back.  "I'm so... so glad you're back.  I would... would have done my best with Belle but I... I didn't want to do it without... you."

"Andrew..." JenniAnn cooed.  "I promise I'll be there with you for everything with Belle from the first day of school to... to the first date and beyond.  Although you may need to sedate me for some of that."  She smiled when the angel laughed.  "Now promise me something?"

"Anything, Laja."

"As soon as I'm outta here... dance with me?"

A huge smile lit up Andrew's face.  Even if she couldn't yet dance, he'd carry her through it if he had to.  "Already planning on it."

As the two again embraced, the One who loved them best stood in the corner of the room.  Joshua knew the dance, when it came, would not be what either Andrew or JenniAnn had planned.  But it would help sustain Andrew as he faced a great trial.  It would comfort JenniAnn as she and their loved ones waited for him.  Then their world, their story would brighten once more.  With their friends, they would go forth to embrace a happy life brimming with new possibilities.

The End

So I'm spending this year going back and filling in some blanks.  When it comes to "The Carpenter," Joshua needs to have a complete and flawless recollection of all these characters' pasts.  In particular, I'm planning a conversation with Joshua and Vincent that will allude to the first meeting between the latter and Andrew.  But no such scene existed...  Now it does!

I didn't intend to write the flash forward part but I felt like this story needed more.  It needed proof that, even though there were disagreements and doubts between 2001 and the current setting, both Andrew and Vincent made good on their ocean-side promises.  The 2015 scene is pointing to the same event that the flash forward in "The Walk" depicts.  That's gonna be one of my big 2015 stories if all goes as planned.

Yeah, yeah, yeah...  So I've been fixating on fairy tales once again.  :-)  I love Beauty and the Beast/Cupid and Psyche and always will.  Thus, I love exploring different aspects of it.  Mostly I've focused on its themes of sacrifice, transformational love, and believing in something beyond what your five senses can prove.  One I haven't gotten into too much is the generational theme.  Some see the tale as a coming of age story for girls depicting the acceptance of married life and a change of alliance from father to husband.  Back in the day, that could often mean traveling to an entirely new place, taking up residence in a strange household, and being bound for a whole lifetime to some guy the girl may hardly have known and possibly not known at all!  Thankfully, this is not the stuff of modern relationships in my culture nor JenniAnn's!  Still, I did like the idea of this story being about re-examining those key relationships.  It also made for an opportunity to see just how many different ways I could configure the three main characters: Beauty/Psyche, Beast/Cupid, and the father.  Joshua's right.  No one is 100% Beauty and no one is 100% Beast.  They go back and forth but the important part is that they always go back and forth together.  Like...

In the first part, Vincent (father) does have to accept that his goddaughter's life may not end up following the path he wished for her.  He has to see her off to this other world with all its beauty and strangeness.  Andrew (Beast/Cupid) has to accept that despite all reason and expectation and, hello!, the fact that he's not human but instead an AOD, JenniAnn isn't going any where.  JenniAnn (Beauty/Psyche) gets to completely break from her mythological predecessors and mark out a life in her mystical world that includes both Vincent and Andrew, father and beloved.  Although I think it would be accurate to say that modern LJA is more deeply connected to Andrew than she is to Vincent, she is still very close to Vincent.  There is no change of alliance, just a maturation from child to woman.

In the second part, everything switches.  Despite all the love heaped on her by both father and beloved, JenniAnn (Beast) is fading away.  Andrew (Beauty) can't understand how everything went so wrong.  Vincent (father) just wants his little girl back.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to them, JenniAnn (Psyche) is alive and well in one of Joshua's (Cupid's) worlds.  Everyone else is grieving for JenniAnn and worried for her and there she is living it up with the One she *really* loves.  When the time comes and for reasons not yet clear, Joshua (now Father) gets JenniAnn (now Beauty) back to Andrew and Vincent (now both the Beast).  All the while, the two humans and Andrew live with longing for Joshua who, like Beauty, left his Father's house to dwell among them and lift the curse set upon the world by undergoing, like the Beast, an awesome transformation.  Tale as old as time indeed!

I couldn't resist the fairy tale element of true love's kiss, either.  With a twist, naturally.  While I may not be overly pleased with all of the TV show Once Upon a Time's innovations, I did love that they made true love's kiss broader than just romantic love.  In the show, Emma brought her son, Henry, back from a deadly curse with her kiss.  I thought that was beautiful.  Parental love has amazing power.  Further, I stuffed Vincent in a body bag.  (How awful!  He deserved something good after that.  And, yes, it was a brand new body bag.  I'm sure Joe made absolutely sure of that.  ;-)  Anyhow, I felt like Vincent earned being the one to bestow true love's kiss.  It just seemed more right than it being Andrew.  The kiss wasn't the only reason JenniAnn came back.  But it was part of it.  I rather suspect Andrew's behavior up to that point probably tugged considerably at JenniAnn's spirit and, as she said, she wanted to be with her lil one.  The Beast came back to her Belle.  Actually, in one of my favorite modern versions, the Beast gets humanized not by Beauty-the-lover but by Beauty-the-daughter.  Need to read that one again...

Anyhow, in 2015 I'll get into what exactly Joshua and LJA were doing on that island, the repercussions of the shooting, what Andrew's trial is, and what all their friends intend to do about it.

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