He follows her through the broad, dusty streets, a pale and beautiful piece of stability in the soft brown wash of the crowd. The buildings rise tall and proud and white, raised from the desert by the sheer will and faith of these children of the Nile. The sun is at high noon, and it seems inconceivable that the golden light that shines on this endless city could ever set.
The man, tall, gaunt, and worrisome, pauses with his sister to examine a display of fried snacks sold from a market stall. The terribly human girl thanks the seller for the gift, delighted, and chews happily at a toasted fish. He looks away, discomforted, and hands the man a coin when she's not looking. He lengthens his stride to catch up as she bounces off.
He half-reaches out to her many times, to steady here, to reassure there, and she smiles and laughs –too protective, she protests, scrapes and trodden upon toes are part of the deal, and they both know it. He buys her a soft dusky desert flower in a brief flash of whimsy, and the unforgiving lines around his mouth soften just a tad when she smiles, and tucks it into her loose, dirty hair. She could have been royalty, today, could have been pampered and cosseted, her hair carefully braided and her skin rubbed with oils, litters of slaves to carry her from place to place. Instead she's simply herself, a raggedy-clothed tousle-headed scrap of a girl, skipping barefoot through the dusty streets. He paces beside her, a single solemn guard for an unheralded queen.
They pause on a rooftop to share a small sack of nuts, his long, deceptively thin fingers splitting the husks neatly in half and laying them aside. He looks at his sister, sideways, as she wrestles with a stubborn nut. There's a silent question in his ageless eyes, a deep, dark, burning bewilderment that somehow makes him more human than, perhaps, anyone has ever seen him. The mortal god-kings here take their sisters as their wives, to keep the bloodlines pure. Not all of them are gracious about it out of sheer duty. The gaunt moon-pale man on the rooftop, lord and master of his own strange domain, bound by duties beyond comprehension, is unable to give voice to this mortal-shaped burning in his heart, on his tongue. But they are old, the pair of them, and she knows him better than, perhaps, he knows himself. She hands him the recalcitrant nut to crack, and tells him no with a bittersweet smile and a dry brush of dirty fingers across his bare shoulder. Birds flutter down to inspect the careful pile of shells, and the two unlikely siblings busy themselves with peeling more to throw to the hungry, cooing flock.
Slowly, achingly, the hours and minutes slip away. The merchants roll away their mats and peel apart their stalls with tired efficiency. The scribes for hire pack up their inks and papyrus rolls. The women for sale are led away in strings, some relieved, some disappointed. Children and dogs, thin and wild, pick through what little trash is left behind. The scent of incense rises from a myriad of temples, stretching sweet fingers toward the dusky twilight. The pale man and the pale girl curl up in the doorway of a building deep in the bad part of town, grit and refuse working its way unpleasantly through the thin patches of the man's worn cloak. She laughs at his stoic discomfiture, and ruthlessly settles herself more comfortably against him; a wicked, sleepy ball of elbows and shoulder blades.
The stars come out, one by one, cold and uncaring and distant as long-dead gods, as his sister grows cold in his arms. He does not presume wonder what she dreams of.