Chapter 25:

All That Could've Been

By the Shores of Time

A slender silhouette emerged from the broken-down double doors of the run-down precinct. Celeste stared at the low hanging fog stretch into the darkness ahead, upon taking a few steps on the cracked steps. Her breathing rattled faintly, seeing splats of blood trail toward the lone familiar figure leaning against the gate. The gentle taps of rain muddied the path toward the ruined checkpoint.

The closer she came, the more audible his shallow panting became. The familiar locks of hair dissuaded her reluctance, stopping at the gateway. She narrowed her eyes, peering through the lingering thicket, looking at their hands. He glimpsed her through the side of his wary eyes; His blood-coated beard revealed a forced smile. With a sudden shift in his movement, he clutched his abdomen. Celeste froze after seeing his pained reaction.

“Gabriel,” she whimpered.

“Celeste,” he grunted, trying to mask his pain.

She glanced away as he staggered forward with a weakened breath. His bloodied hands clung to the thin black bars, his lips parting with inaudible utterances. She rushed toward him when he lost his footing, disregarding his weight. A weak moan left his parched lips when he sunk against her. Her hands trembled in their cold embrace.

“You kept me waiting,” he joked half-heartedly as his breathing quickly becoming winded.

Her tears ran down her face after closing her eyes. His heartbeat had grown faint, confirmed by his taxed wheezing. She didn’t care about the blood soaking through the thin fabric. Celeste guided him out toward the fallen tree nearby, noticing the abyss that consumed the once white sea of clouds once painting the hollow scene. She set him against the tree, unable to look at his morbid condition.

“Gabriel,” she spoke, as his tired gaze rested upon her.

“You look—gorgeous,” he commented, seeing her lips quiver. “I—”

“This is all my fault. I—Should’ve never left, I—”

“This is fate, yeah?” he interjected.

Her lips tightened, wanting to hurl insults at how he was treating the matter. His dry humor found the worst times to chime in. She looked toward the building, feeling it was only then left.

“No one else made it?” she asked.

A frown replaced the hesitant smile, nodding off to the side as though to forget what happened. Celeste waited for his response while she crouched over the examine the gunshot wounds. She reached out toward his bloodied beard, stroking it in disbelief.

“Liz and I—” he spoke. “Well, we didn’t see eye to eye.”

“What do you mean?” she winced, remembering Elizabeth’s horrific appearance.

He pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket covered in dry red fingerprints. Gabriel looked at the folded contents before passing it over. She recognized it immediately, exchanging glances with the heavy-eyed lover. Celeste gripped the piece of paper, gritting her teeth.

“This is from… Greg’s notes.”

“He wrote a little more… Apparently. This weird mumbo jumbo he spoke of wasn’t some stretch, it was reality.”

“But how?”

“Everything you need to know—” he spoke, breathing exasperated.

“Don’t speak,” her voice cracked with eyes watering. “I—I don’t want to know.”

She nestled her head against his, feeling his heat drain. His body shivered as he looked into her eyes. She could sense the lingering death lace beneath his facade. After being apart for so long, this would mark their final moments together, knowing there was nothing she could do to stop the bleeding.

“I held out all this time,” he cracked a smile. “Celeste, you’ll be fine. You don’t have to cling—”

“No,” she poured her heart out. “Not like this! Not after so much time apart.”

He coughed violently, spewing blood to the side, missing her off-white dress. Gabriel couldn’t bear to look her in the eyes as his breathing worsened. Celeste held him close, embracing him for as long as she could, caressing his wavy locks. His eyes stared off toward the vacant precinct, ruined and bloodied by the overnight violence. She heard his sniffles, his voice repressing his tears.

“It’s okay to cry, Gabriel,” she insisted.

“Crying won’t change anything for me,” his voice trembled as he leaned away. “I’ve lost a lot of blood and—”

“Do it for me. I’m not here to judge you.”

“I don’t want the last thing for you to remember about me is me moping around, Celeste. I want to leave you with the memories we made.”

“I don’t know what to do without you.”

“What do you mean?”

He chuckled weakly, gauging the confused tilt of her head. His eyes traced along the tree line past her, trying to avoid the anxious expression she had. She pressed against him; Her warm touch brought him back to his senses, forced to see her. Her messy hair hung over her shoulders, her eyes locked, begging for another way.

“You never needed me,” he responded, with a tear trickling along the side of his face. “You’ve come a long way from when we first started. When we first met, you were still finding your way from his grip.”

“Alex,” she repeated, looking him in the eye.


“I—Killed him.”

“Did it make you feel any better?” he wondered, seeing her pensiveness.

“How could I be satisfied with taking another’s life,” she responded softly, looking to the side. “Even if I hated him?”

“Even justice can be a powerful tool of hate when wielded recklessly, but Celeste, that’s not you.”

His lukewarm hand held hers, caressing her soft skin to soothe the tension she felt. Interlocking their fingers, she slowly looked toward him. His eyes didn’t cast a modicum of judgment from what she’d done.

“Who am I to judge either way?” he asked rhetorically.

“I never wanted this,” she admitted with an open heart.

“Sharing my final moments with you is all I could ask for. It’s—strange. I never thought I would think that, not now… Well, never. If I could do it all over again, I’d meet you before all this happened.”

“Even after pushing me away?” she chuckled. “Open-relationships? Oh, forget about me? I can’t believe you kept pushing for that.”

Her hand gently gripped his, observing his withheld fear.

“I just never wanted you to get hurt,” he sniffled, resting his head against the log while gazing toward the clear skies. “I wanted you to be happy.”

“I would’ve always been happy with you,” she responded with a kiss on his lips. “I wouldn’t—Have traded it for anything else.”

“Heh, you know—I never realized how beautiful it was.”

Celeste felt his grip falter before taking his last breath. She realized his eyes fixated upon her as his face began resting from his smile. The shine in his eyes was gone, leaving an empty husk of the man she loved. Her heart paced, her hands trembling as she gently nudged his shoulder.

“N—No, please,” Celeste tried to raise her voice. “Gabriel, c’mon—”

She broke down in a flood of tears, howling to the still air. Her arms wrapped around him, feeling his warmth slip away. She wondered how things would’ve been if she stayed with them. And those thoughts would trickle as she held him close. Leaning away, she closed his eyes, leaving a peaceful expression on his face. She wondered what went through his mind during his final moments. What kept him going as he came closer to death’s door?

These thoughts lingered while laying him down on the muddied ground. Crouching over him, she took one last look at him, his eyes slightly open, facing the dark skies. The stillness of his body marked the absence of life. Her tired eyes couldn’t look away, wondering if anything was real at all. A light drizzle set in, tapping her shoulders to bring her back to reality.

“You always liked the rain,” she recalled with a weak smile. “That’s what you mentioned when we first met. You were drenched that day and—I was scared.”

She paused, thinking of that fateful day. Those dark clouds above harkened the old memories she wished to forget. The loneliness and despair enveloped her soul as the world went away. She remembered the sensation of standing along the building’s edge, observing the grim chaos engulf all she knew. And like a sudden light in the dark, he appeared, struck by the maiden’s melancholy. That defining moment brought a heartfelt smile to her face. Her tears had long stopped, keeping his memory alive in the uncertainty of the present.

“I guess, this is goodbye,” she concluded with a heavy heart.

As she stood, she gazed into the abyss. With her hand over her heart, she took a deep breath, closing her eyes as doubt filled the newfound void.

“Look into the abyss—” she clenched the fabric of her dress.

Sometimes—You gotta be the light in the dark, Celeste recalled his words.

She remembered his kindness, his hopes, and strong-mindedness amidst a sea of his own insecurities. And with those words, she remembered his comforting smile.

Her lilac eye glowed faintly as she walked away from the weak fog lights behind her. She didn’t know where she would go upon taking those first steps. Somehow, the pain lifted, liberating her from the chains that bound her.

And it was with a smile, she held her head up high before disappearing into the void.

We come to our conclusion, one left up in the air...
The ending is for you to interpret with all the twists and turns...
And hopefully, I accomplished what I set out to do with this story,
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