Disclaimer: I do not own The Seeker or any of its characters.

Too Close

Ӂ The cold in the air seared Merriman's lungs as he hurried down the stairs towards the sounds of catastrophe. The darkness seemed to be pressing closer as he was forced to shield his face from shards of flying ice, while below people scrambled desperately to get clear of the projectiles. He only just noticed the path of a tremendous icicle in time. Gasping a sharp "Miss Greythorne", he leaped forward and spun her out of the way as the ice spear crashed through the space she had been standing in. For a brief moment he felt a surge of warmth where she pressed against him, then it was gone as they pulled apart and leaped into the fray. The cold rushed back, and he was all alone. Ӂ

Merriman woke with a start and glanced sharply around the room, half expecting to hear cries from below. A sigh slipped from his lips as he was greeted with silence, and he quietly rose and headed to the kitchen for a hot drink. Ever since the final battle he had been waking in the night, his mind dwelling on the moment of agony when he had almost lost everything precious to him. It had been too close; all it would have taken was a moment's hesitation.

Staring moodily into his tea Merriman huffed disparagingly. There might be no room for darkness in the mind of an Old One, but that didn't mean it didn't try to gain a foothold. The faint scent of cinnamon informed him that he was no longer alone, and he leaned back and closed his eyes with a smile.

"Awake again Merriman? You know this isn't good for you" Miss Greythorne scolded gently, a fond smile on her face. Padding softly across the room, she rested a hand gently on his shoulder and gazed down at her long time companion. Her other hand reached out to smooth the familiar creases in his forehead before brushing gently through his grey-sprinkled hair. She never got tired of how distinguished his features still looked after all these years. He looked the same today as he had when she first fell in love with him.

Merriman's voice broke through her musings. "I'm sorry if I woke you Emma, I know you had a busy afternoon with the Stanton family." Sighing in regret he stood and moved to place his mug in the sink, then stared out of the window.

Miss Greythorne smiled at the used of her given name, a name that no one else ever used, then frowned in frustration as he distanced himself from her. Whatever had been haunting him must be strong to cause him to react in such a way. They might snap at each other sometimes, but he had never withdrawn when she offered him comfort.

"Merriman, please don't shut me out," she pleaded softly. Moving to stand behind him she tentatively wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned her head against his strong shoulder. " I want to help, but I need to know what is bothering you before I can even know where to start."

Merriman flinched at the pain in her voice and covered both of her hands with his own. He never wanted to hurt his lover, but he wasn't sure how to explain what he was feeling. His voice was low as he began to speak. " It was too close this time Emma. We might not die of age, but we can be killed and I almost lost you. Any hesitation, or just a touch slower and you would be gone. I can't forget it, and I can't seem to let it go. It was just too close."

For a moment both were silent, the words hanging in the air between them. Miss Greythorne was the first to break it, drawing back a step and pulling him to face her. "Look at me Merriman," she commanded. "I'm still here. Yes, it was close, but it didn't happen. Because you were there for me, just like you always are." Smiling she wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close.

Merriman smiled and buried his face against her hair, winding his arms around her and relishing in the warmth. The tension slowly melted away, leaving him happier than he had been since the battle. Pressing a soft kiss against her lips he decided that she was definitely right; close didn't count as long as she was still here.

The End