Disclaimer: I do not own.
You feel the wind before you open your eyes. It winds beneath the cloth that covers your head, bringing with it grains of sand. You breathe, and it's warm. What once seared you into the sky enveloped in gold has settled to thrum gently between your ribs.
Now, you look. And you find the world cast silver before you, dunes glittering like so many fallen stars, moonshine rippling across the desert. Your body feels almost weightless when you sit, easier than you've ever felt in your own skin.
There is a faint rustle of fabric as you rise, red unfurling in sheets as it has throughout your journey. You dare not blink, scanning the horizon for anything, any sign of gilded white robes, the figure who fell to his knees at your side, who rose again as you both ascended to the summit where light was so pure that for a moment you thought it would swallow you and all you ever were. For a moment, standing on the cusp of everything you'd been striving for, you hesitated. So he turned, and his eyes crinkled as he leaned in, as he pressed his forehead gently against your own. In that moment you understood that he was as solid and real as you were, that nothing could erase this moment shared without fear, and together you moved on until there was nothing more to see.
There. A shallow trail in the sand as it dips below the horizon. You run, hoping this isn't a trick of wishful thinking, that this is no whisper of a midnight breeze stirred against the world.
You find him.
He lies, curled inward on his side, limbs long and thin beneath a body you've grown familiar with but have never seen like this. He appears graceless for once, entirely without strategy or mastery over himself. At first he'd always been the one racing ahead, climbing faster and higher than you could imagine, chirping impatiently for you to catch up when you faltered. But he never left. As time went on he closed the distance to keep you close, to catch you, to show you to match him so you wove through the air side by side, scarves intertwining, soaring under the sun.
You kneel, resting your head along his chest to find a heartbeat thudding softly, evenly within. Once more you hesitate, then unfold yourself at his side. You're still there when he wakes up.
The ruin you choose to make your home isn't far, at least not by your standards. You both remember the path where sand rippled like water beneath you, where you raced and laughed and saw structures drenched in gold against the sky.
Sunlight pours between the columns, spills over the bed you've made out of cloth, tables and chairs simple luxuries you'd almost forgotten through your travels.
Outside, carpets trill and leap in the wind, tails flapping behind them as banners. Like so many times before you simply sit together, enjoying the heat of each other as you watch.
When she is born, he seems almost afraid to speak. She rests small, delicate, peering up at him from her place in your lap. The fabric shrouding her is rose like dawn, entirely without ornamentation that comes from travel and experience. She is new to wonder, untouched by hardship, unknown to the wars of ages past and the death it left in its wake.
You call and he looks at you. His approach is careful, as if this is a dream that might shatter in an instant. You press your head under his chin, and he wraps you both in the white of his embrace.
When he murmurs her name, it is beautiful.
She wants to fly before she's mastered walking. Toddling over sand she leaps to catch the trail of your cloak. Sometimes she keeps her balance, sometimes she doesn't. You smile as she gazes up in frustration, and nudge her on.
She's too young to ask about what happens to the travelers you never see again, or what happens to the ones you do. You haven't had to explain the distant groans of stone in motion, the sparks that sometimes stream and crackle overhead.
You're not sure whether to be proud or frightened by the idea of her journey, of the day she'll be swathed in red to find the mountain that has loomed over her entire life. The world is full of possibilities and risks and unanswered questions. These are things she'll need to find for herself, one day.
But it comforts you to think she won't be alone.