Jareg stood on a mountainside ledge looking out across the plains. The sun was sinking into the west, bathing the world in a golden glow, its light warming his green skin and giving him the strength to stay awake a little longer. Here, he could make the most of the sunset, drawing out every last second before night fell and he sank inexorably into sleep.
He could save every last second for her.
As the first edge of the sun hit the horizon, the shadows shifted among the rocks. She stepped out, trailing streamers of darkness. Bright eyes sparkled amid skin as smooth as obsidian.
“You came,” she said in a voice like smoke.
“For you?” he said. “Of course.”
She wrapped her arms around him as she had done so many times before. He hugged her back, feeling the familiar curves of her body, breathing in her scent.
They each took a step back. Despite himself, he couldn’t help glancing at the horizon. It had always been part of the thrill, snatching time together while it was still both day and night, during those fleeting moments when they were both awake and in the world.
“Remember dusk over the salt desert,” she said, looking out across the plains.
“Every inch of the earth sparkled,” he said. “It was like a field of stars had fallen just for us.”
“And dawn over the Eastern Ocean, making love by the red light.”
“Trying not to fall off that rickety raft you’d stolen from a fisherman. I could have drowned!”
“Wasn’t it worth it?”
The looked into each other’s eyes, caught between happy memories and the inescapable fading of the light. The sun was halfway across the horizon, the sky turning from orange to red.
“I have something for you,” Jareg said.
He took a ring from one of the pouches on his belt and held it out to her. A diamond gleamed as bright as the tears at the corners of his eyes.
“My grandmother’s ring,” she whispered, cupping it in her hand. Then she slid it onto her finger with a small smile. “I should keep this safe.”
“I thought that you would want it back,” he said.
“I thought the same.” She held out another ring, this one in beaten brass engraved with tiny images of animals at play.
“I made that for you,” he said, unable to keep the sorrow from his voice. He had spent weeks crafting it, an image of his world to be carried into hers. “You keep it.”
“I can’t,” she said. “Please don’t ask me to. It’s too much.”
Reluctantly, he took the ring and slid it into his pouch. Weariness was bearing down on him. The sun was little more than a blood red sliver where the merciless desert touched the endless sky. There was so little light left, so little time.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I wish that…”
“So do I.”
He sank to the ground, leaning back against the rock face. She knelt next to him and they embraced.
“We’ll always have the memories of the sunsets,” she said, settling his head gently against the stone.
“All the beautiful sunsets,” he mumbled, eyes closing.
Then he slept and the dream was over.
* * *
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