Chapter 11:

Things are Changing

By the Shores of Time

Celeste fixated her gaze toward the blank ceiling, observing the illuminated flicker of a freshly-lit scented candle. Its citrus scent set a mood for what would be a continued sleep-in had it not been for the snoring man next to her. She looked over, finding his somber face as his hands crawled toward her arm. Reaching over further toward her chest, she smacked him against the back of his head. This was all a recurring theme between them when they did find themselves in the same bed.Bookmark here

“Ow,” he muttered, slowly retracting his hand.Bookmark here

“So, you were awake,” she giggled, patting the back of his head. “I don’t know who you think you’re fooling but—Did you sleep well?”Bookmark here

“My back still feels stiff.”Bookmark here

She sat up slowly before delivering an unsuspecting chop along his spinal column with a jolt, sending him off the edge of the bed. She chuckled, glimpsing over as he clung to the side.Bookmark here

“What the hell was that for?” he muttered.Bookmark here

“Well, it worked, didn’t it?” she teased. “Not looking too stiff now.”Bookmark here

“I mean, that depends on context.”Bookmark here

As he stood up, she glimpsed his surprisingly toned abs, albeit slightly visible under light. His messy hair rested over his defined shoulders as he sat down at the edge of the table. His time scouting helped his physique atop of the enforced rationing. She licked her lips, wanting to reach out and wrap her hand around his abs. Yet she thought about the pleasant moments they had before they came to the precinct. Their relationship was far more innocent than many would perceive. She smacked her pillow against the back of his head. He started laughing after the second hit, quickly grabbing his own to counter. A swing well-placed swing was enough to knock her off the bed. Their jovial laughter became infectious while they kept outdoing the other until one of the pillows she flung knocked the candle over.Bookmark here

“Crap, crap!” she panicked.Bookmark here

“No, no!” he grabbed one end as he rushed to the door.Bookmark here

“Wait? What are you going to do?”Bookmark here

“L—Look out below!” he shouted before dropping it below.Bookmark here

He scrambled back as a panic ensued. Celeste quickly closed the door, letting out a sigh of relief. Glimpsing another, they smiled at their reckless behavior. She couldn’t remember when it was the last time a genuine smile as he always seemed preoccupied It was good to know the marble floor would catch on fire. That peace was quickly undermined after hearing the commotion about books and records being burned. Their childish glee became unmitigated concern.Bookmark here

“Aya,” he moaned as he leaned against the wall.Bookmark here

“Did anybody see you?” she asked, meeting his glance.Bookmark here

“I don’t think so. Ah… If anything, they’ll come knocking.”Bookmark here

“That’s probably not the only flame you stoked,” she replied.Bookmark here

“Did I rekindle the flame in your heart?”Bookmark here

His cheesy grin nearly melted her serious scowl.Bookmark here

“I’m talking about Victoria,” she answered. “She’s going to be pissed about this. But—”Bookmark here

“But, what?”Bookmark here

“Good thing, that was a pillow I snuck out. They’re probably about to start counting that.”Bookmark here

“That seems silly.”Bookmark here

“You know we wouldn’t put that past her.”Bookmark here

The well-argued point silenced her otherwise debate-prone counterpart. He pondered what they would do today, especially having returned after being missing for 2 weeks. The notion of time felt incomprehensible, but granted the circumstances they’d grown accustomed to made it a norm. What mattered to her was that they reunited. Celeste giggled after releasing the door handle, remaining against the door with pursed lips cast from the dim light.Bookmark here

“What’s funny?” he asked.Bookmark here

“That was—fun,” she whispered wholesomely before taking his hand.Bookmark here

“You’ve hung around me for a little too long.”Bookmark here

His growling stomach interrupted the brief silence between them. The dark room did well to hide his flushed face, but her smile indicated what she could see. She recalled he hadn’t eaten much since he arrived as he ran around to catch up on what happened. On the rare occasion he wasn’t running his errands, they’d finally find some time for another. She opened the door with the wafting burned fragrance lingering.Bookmark here

“Let’s get something to eat,” she chuckled.Bookmark here

They emerged, seeing rising dark gray smoke. Celeste leaned over, spotting the guards securing the perimeter. A few people gathered while those investigating stared upon the charred remains of the pillow. She leaned away before they noticed her with a smirk, confirming Gabriel’s assumption on the damage done.Bookmark here

They glimpsed the scene in a somewhat convincing awe, blending in with a curious crowd. It wasn’t long before Victoria emerged from her eastern wing with her trademark scowl. It was the couple’s cue to flee while the lieutenant fixated on their mishap. She began ranting, smelling the smokey stench while approaching the charred area. The pair passed the near empty infirmary before reaching a small cafeteria. A small crowd also gathered, speaking over another amidst the sound of tables being upturned. Gabriel and Celeste squeezed through, reaching the soldier’s blocking the crowd. They didn’t have to ask what was happening upon seeing the blood, and a few belligerent people roam the cafeteria.Bookmark here

“Let us through,” he suggested, surprising her with his sudden bravado.Bookmark here

“Wait, what?” she questioned.Bookmark here

“We got it handled,” the guard sighed while the duo looked over his shoulder.Bookmark here

“They’re trying to kill us!” someone shouted. “Don’t you all see what they’re doing?”Bookmark here

“What happened?” Celeste pressed the issue.Bookmark here

“Eh, well—Hey, what are you doing?”Bookmark here

Gabriel shoved through without resistance. Celeste followed, wondering what he had in mind. The guards closest to the entrance kept the deranged individuals at bay as they controlled the mid-sized room. She followed him through the dark corridor which led around back. The hall contained opened storage boxes of MREs stacked against the walls. They crept along, listening to the deranged ramblings of the individuals inside. A stream of blood trailed from the broken down backdoor as the kitchen’s lights blinked.Bookmark here

“W—Wait!” she whispered reluctantly, breaking his focus.Bookmark here

“What?” he responded.Bookmark here

“What are we doing?”Bookmark here

“You’re asking now?”Bookmark here

“Whose out there?” Someone shouted with a notable slur.Bookmark here

Celeste covered her mouth as the staggered footsteps approached. Gabriel pivoted to another stack of boxes across before the man emerged from the kitchen. His greasy, stringy hair shone against the poor lighting. Blood dripped from the spoon in his scrawny, blood-soaked hand. Her visible anxiousness left her in a trembling stupor upon hearing his erratic pacing. The index finger over his lips should’ve put her thoughts at ease, but her body rattled against the box.Bookmark here

“There you—” He laughed for but a moment.Bookmark here

Celeste tried to put him in a chokehold, pressing one foot against the wall so he wouldn’t slam her into it. Gabriel froze, expecting the deranged fellow to attack her instead. The lanky man eventually slammed her against the boxes, which she tried to cushion to avoid from drawing their attention. Her heartbeat paced with every sudden movement, feeling her grip loosen. Knowing he’d holler once she let go, Gabriel picked up the spoon he dropped, driving it into his eye. Celeste gasped before dropping away from the falling body. Blood slowly pooled next to her as she shuffled against the wall.Bookmark here

“What the hell?” she whispered.Bookmark here

“You know he wasn’t going to stay quiet,” he replied with a tinge of annoyance. “Quick thinking.”Bookmark here

“Quick thinking? You killed him.”Bookmark here

“What? It’s us or them, Celeste. They’re clearly no right—”Bookmark here

“So—”Bookmark here

“You can turn back if you want, but we need to get this under control.”Bookmark here

Gunfire erupted over the sound of people scrambling into the kitchen. The pair glimpsed the other upon hearing the presence of a handful of people occupying the kitchen. His frigid expression sent chills down her spine before turning toward the kitchen’s back entrance. She didn’t understand why it had to be them, or him for the matter. When trouble called, he’d throw himself to harm’s way. He stopped after feeling the gentle tug on his hem. Turning over, he met her stern gaze.Bookmark here

“Why does it have to be us?” she questioned.Bookmark here

“Because who else?” he responded before proceeding.Bookmark here

Feeling the fabric of his shirt slip away, she looked at her hand. The cuts and faint bruises lingered, reminding her everything she’d done. But the constant strife of having to fight where she didn’t need had become tiresome. It was the very reason for their shaky relationship. Gabriel would always find a way to do whatever he needed, even at her expense. If tomorrow were to be her last day, she’d rather it be full of peace before it all came tumbling down. Her eyes trailed toward him as he reached the kitchen.Bookmark here

She crept up behind him, awaiting his next move. Her nimble movement allowed her to get to the other side before those within the kitchen noticed. Gabriel looked at her, amazed by her bold maneuvering while plotting out how they’d take them down. More gunfire kept them at bay, sending them into a panic. Given the opportunity with the guard’s unintentional suppression, the duo proceeded simultaneously.Bookmark here

They kept low behind cover, parting further away. Celeste lost sight of him as he continued his path. Gabriel hoped to draw the most of three to his direction. The dull metallic setting left little to note with its basic setting. Unused pots and pans were stacked along the center counter. Celeste glimpsed the disastrous cafeteria setting, seeing the guard’s aim toward the back entrance.Bookmark here

“Where did Georgie go?” he growled.Bookmark here

Gabriel’s patience waned as he popped up across from him. The balding man panicked, revealing his gap-teeth before being subdued. Celeste froze in fear, remaining behind cover while the other two closed on Gabriel’s position. Gabriel broke his victim’s neck before tossing him to the side. One of his accomplices jumped over and slammed into the cabinet in his botched attempt to grab him. He growled with an ache that slowed him down.Bookmark here

While Gabriel was preoccupied, Celeste crept toward the other with a heavy pan. With a single strike, she knocked him unconscious. Gabriel saw her exaggerated shock before she proceeded toward the other, who just recovered. Gabriel kept his distance while the aggressor ran forward. Celeste intercepted him, slamming the metal object against his face. He collapsed forward, bloodied at the top of his head. Gabriel glimpsed her hands tremble as she took a deep breath. He felt kneeled to feel a pulse, confirming the man survived the surprise hit.Bookmark here

“Is he?” her voice quivered before meeting his exhausted glimpse.Bookmark here

“He’s still alive, don’t worry,” he answered, relieved it was over.Bookmark here

“G—good. What the hell were you thinking?”Bookmark here

“I trusted you to act. Simple.”Bookmark here

“You’ve really lost it.”Bookmark here

“Yet you’re hanging with me.”Bookmark here

“I—”Bookmark here

Someone approached from the dark hallway, silencing them at once. A woman’s bemused chuckle lingered as she entered the kitchen. Victoria glanced at them before looking at the bodies on the floor. In her hands was the charred pillow Gabriel had thrown over earlier. Celeste glanced away, feeling her soldier’s eyes peel away. She tossed it onto the cold, metallic counter with her smug expression.Bookmark here

“You cleaned up this mess for us,” she spoke, seeing Gabriel open his mouth. “The holding cells, ah… We don’t have the space. As for the burned pillow, we can call it even, yeah?”Bookmark here

“That’s not mine,” Celeste gulped.Bookmark here

“C’mon, man. Everybody knows you’re the only one that goes out their way to steal extra pillows. The thing is no one cares!”Bookmark here

“You’re kidding,” Gabriel mumbled.Bookmark here

“And it still has your scent,” the lieutenant continued. “You’re the only one that uses scented candles.”Bookmark here

“I—Well…” Celeste fidgeted as her cheeks flushed.Bookmark here

“You can stop now,” Victoria insisted. “I just gotta ask, how the hell did you manage that?”Bookmark here

“A pillow fight!” Celeste and Gabriel pointed at each other, much to the lieutenant’s amusement.Bookmark here

Well they finally get to spend some time together
Eh, perhaps not the most ideal circumstances...
But, leave a comment and like if you enjoyed! ^^
If that's not the case, feel free to chime in, I'd really appreciate some insight!

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