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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Gabriel,” she whimpered.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

“This is fate, yeah?” he interjected.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“No one else made it?” she asked.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

“This is from… Greg’s notes.”Bookmark here

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

“But how?”Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

“What?”Bookmark here

“I—Killed him.”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

Her hand gently gripped his, observing his withheld fear.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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?Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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,
Feel free to comment, like, and share!
Feedback is always appreciated.

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