The Beginning of the End
By: Stephanie Bardy

Celeste stared at the spot where The Elders had just stood.

Love was the way, and it wasn't the way. Cryptic as usual.

She walked to the window and leaned her forehead against it. She could feel the turmoil and confusion raging within Merrik. She could feel the battle of conscious. His guilt. The struggle between wrong and right. He loved his family and longed to see them again, but he also loved Celeste beyond words. He had loved her in every lifetime. Every incarnation their energy had found each other and had loved each other. He was angry.

She felt him, more than heard him walk up behind her. He just stood there, afraid to touch her.

"Celeste?" he asked, barely above a whisper. He was closer than she had thought. He was trying to shield his emotions from her. That was why she hadn't known how close he was. He hadn't shielded from her since the beginning. She had always known what he was feeling, and to the full extent. This time, it was muted. She lifted her head from the window and stared out at the night that had seemed to fall out of nowhere.

"You are keeping me out." she said. She looked at his reflection in the glass of the window. He wouldn't look her in the eyes for long. It was brief, then he would look away.

"I am." he said flatly. He turned and walked away from her and it felt like all the heat, all the air, had been pulled with him. Their connection had never been this strong before and yet, it felt so distant.

"Why? Why now?" she asked.

He sat down in front of the fire and stared into the flames.

"Guilt. This isn't right. I don't understand. I loved Shannia, and my babies. I wouldn't trade that life for anything, and yet…" he trailed off.

"Finish your thought." Celeste prodded.

He hung his head low, bracing it in his hands. "And yet, I love you. I want those missing years back. I want time back. All the time I didn't spend with you. I want what I had with Shannia, and what I had with you. I want both, I want it all. What is wrong with me?"

Celeste came and stood beside him, she raised her hand to touch him and then withdrew. She was suddenly unsure.

"We have both been manipulated by The Elders. Nothing we feel is wrong, nothing we long for is wrong. We have loved both our families, and we have genuinely mourned their loss. They were the innocents caught up in this mess." she said. She was furious. "We have loved each other as well. Beyond what we ever knew. Through time, we have loved. Loved others, and always loved each other."

Merrik looked up at her. This time his eyes met hers and held. The intensity of that look hit Celeste like a wave. He slowly stood until he was standing in front of her, facing her. He gently reached up and touched the air between them. He dropped his shields completely, as did she.

"This, "he said, watching the glow of bluish white ebb and flow between the two of them. "This scares me. This is new. This is stronger than anything I have ever felt, stronger than it has ever been between us. Why?"

Celeste raised her hand so that it was parallel to Merrik's. Palm facing palm, the light surrounded the two hands.

"How did you bring me back?" she asked.

"I drew on my energy, from my core, and gave it too you." he said. "As you lay dying, I saw the white light, it was like it was reaching for me, I drew my energy, which was a dark blue, and shoved it into you. Since then, there has been this visible tether between us. I tried pulling my energy back, I tried pushing yours out, and it is like they have now become one."

Celeste nodded. That was why she hadn't felt how close he was when he came to her at the window. He was trying to sever the strong connection.

She turned and sat on the edge of Merrik's cot.

"I fear that our life force, our core energy is now combined. I have some of yours and you mine."

"What does that mean?" Merrik's voice was laced with suspicion.

"It means that my life is now tied to yours, and yours to mine. Before we would just feel the pain of the loss of the other, we would feel the physical ripping away of that energy, now, if one dies, the other dies. No matter where we are. Together or apart, we are bound." she rose and paced the cabin. "The Elder's knew this. They knew that this would be the outcome. When I brought you back after Ren Daul killed you, it was my essence I used. Which bound us originally. I could feel every emotion you had, every pain, every wound, but you couldn't feel all of mine. Just what I let out. I should have known then what they were planning." she slammed around the cabin, anger radiating off her in waves.

Merrik stood and stopped her mid pace. He placed his hands on her shoulders and the explosion of energy sent them both reeling.

"What the hell?" he screamed. His hands felt like he had grabbed a lightening bolt. Celeste lay a few feet away, slowly sitting up.

"Oh, we need to do something about that." she exclaimed sarcastically.

She stood and motioned for Merrik to do the same. She didn't want to touch him again until she had the wildness of the energy under control.

"Put your shields up." she ordered.

Almost instantly his energy was muted. She did the same and approached him. She raised her hand, palm facing Merrik, he did the same. Slowly she moved towards him. When she was almost a foot away, a blinding white light exploded around them. Merrik shielded his eyes with his one hand, but never moved the other one from Celeste. She closed her eyes.

"That felt warm, and cold at the same time." she said.

"I found that your energy is very warm, and mine is cold." said Merrik. Celeste cocked a brow at him.

"When did you have time to figure that out?" she asked.

He grinned boyishly. "You were dying, I was saving your life. Had nothing better to do, so I examined what your energy and mine felt like."

"Nothing better to do?" Celeste was not impressed. Merrik laughed. "I'm teasing. I didn't trust The Elders, so I paid attention as our energies combined, in case I had to figure out how to unwind them."

Celeste rolled her eyes. "One mortal wound and we both die, and yet, he makes jokes!" she said in mock exasperation. One thing she knew about Merrik, when he was scared or uncomfortable, he made jokes.

"With our shields up, we only get blinded when we are close. That isn't going to be very helpful in battle." he said.

Celeste moved closer again and again the blinding light exploded around them. This time she watched as best she could. It seemed the light completely engulfed them. Not only blinding what stood inside, but what stood outside as well.

"It may be useful." she mused. She trained her eyes on the window and moved in again. Again, there was the bright flash, but as she watched, she saw a sphere form around them. Bright as the sun on the outside. She turned to face Merrik and found that it was possible to see within it.

"Open your eyes." she said softly.

He opened them and looked down at her. She had moved to stand directly in front of him.

"Look in the window." she said.

He looked over her head towards the window. The sphere was solid. Anyone on the outside wouldn't be able to see what or who was on the inside.

"It's like a shield." he said. "Nothing can see us, but will it protect us like a shield?"

He looked down at her and she was grinning. "Only one way to find out." she said.

He continued to stare at her until her smile slowly began to falter.

She swallowed harshly and licked her lips nervously. "What?" she asked

"In all our time together, in all our incarnations, we have never kissed." he said quietly.

Her heart began to race. "No, we haven't." she replied.

He slowly reached for her, gently pulling her closer to him, his eyes never leaving hers.

"I plan to remedy that." he whispered bending his head down.

Celeste held her breath as she felt his caress her face. Her heart raced so hard and fast against her chest she almost felt he would hear it beating. She had thought of this moment a thousand times, pushing it away, never allowing herself to hope, to dream, to want him as much as she did.

His lips gently touched hers, tentatively, almost as if he was afraid she would pull away. She leaned into the kiss. His arms wrapped around her and pulled her against him, a sound between a moan and a harsh breath escaped his lips as they pulled apart.

Celeste reached up and touched his face with her fingertips. The heat she felt radiating off him, the emotion, overwhelmed her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him back down for another kiss, this time making it deeper, stronger. She wanted no doubt left in him. His arms tightened around her almost lifting her off her feet.

Finally, they both pulled back, breathing harshly. Merrik was the first to notice the sphere.

"Celeste, look." he said nodding his head towards the window.

Celeste turned in his arm so her back was against him, never breaking contact, and stared in shock at the window.

The bluish white glow that had surrounded them was now a dark blood red. What looked like fire swirled within the red hue, sending out small explosions. Celeste pulled Merrik's arms tighter around her.

"Move with me." she ordered in a serious tone. She moved around the room, with Merrik pressed solidly against her. Everything the sphere touched disintegrated to ash. No fire, no explosion, just ash.

"Well, that bears remembering." she said.

Merrik gave a low very male chuckle. "You think?"

Celeste laughed. She moved away from him and immediately the sphere began to fade back to its original color. She leaned back against him and it blazed red again. She wove her fingers through his, holding his hand tightly and moved her body away from his. The red hue faded but didn't disappear completely.

"If we are in total contact, the shield is a powerful weapon, if we are merely touching, it is protective. If we are shielded ourselves within the sphere it is nothing more than a place to hide." she said. "If we express our feelings openly and freely through physical touch, we are a destructive force, if we hide, it hides us." she broke complete contact and walked a few feet away. The sphere disappeared completely.

"Interesting." she sat down at the table in the only remaining chair, since the others were ash, and looked at Merrik.

"We can use that. That is the answer." she said with a smile.

He had a look of concern on his face. "The Elders said love was the way, but it wasn't the way. Love is an emotion, what we did was a physical reaction. How is that the answer?" He was confused and still reeling a bit from the kiss.

Celeste rolled her eyes. "Sometimes you can be so thick!" she teased. "What did you feel?"

Merrik sat on the edge of his cot. "Heat. Coming off you in waves. Your skin on mine. The softness of your lips…"

Celeste groaned in frustration. "Not physically!" she muttered. "Energetically. What did you feel?"

He thought about it for a moment. "I felt you, all of you, and all of me. Our energy combining, wrapping around itself as we connected. I felt an overwhelming emotion rise and spill out. It felt complete, and I felt joy. Pure joy."

"Exactly." Celeste said. Merrik furrowed his brow at her. "Explain." he said.

"Since we first met, in every lifetime, every incarnation, what is the one thing we have always done, or not done?" she asked.

"Kissed?" he replied.

Celeste laughed. "Yes and no. We have never allowed ourselves to love openly. It was always there, within each of us, but we never spoke it aloud, never allowed it to be brought into existence. Even at Ren Daul's castle, we were afraid it would be our downfall. Each incarnation, we were afraid it would be the weakness that breaks us and each time, we failed."

Merrik's eyes light up. "This time, we use it. As a weapon!" he said excitedly.

Celeste walked over to him and stood in front of him. The sphere sprung up around them again. She leaned down and kissed him breathless. The sphere blazed a red hot.

She stared down into his eyes.

"Exactly."

-

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