Many thanks to BeaconHill for betareading.
The shingles beneath my feet scraped against one another as I skidded to a stop, laughing, and finally allowed Sophia to catch me. She appeared in a plume of shadow mid-dive, throwing her arms around my torso and pushing me to the side. We fell tangled up in one another, rolling across the gabled rooftop, coming to a halt a few feet from the edge, both of us laughing like children.
We lay there for a few moments, breathing heavily, before Sophia got off of me and I pulled myself into a sitting position. I scooted towards the rooftop's edge, dangling my feet over the side. Sophia nestled into me, resting her head on my shoulder with a happy sigh.
The stars shone like gemstones overhead. A starship swam across the sky, gliding like a silver swan across the night. In the streets below us a market was buzzing with activity. Farmers, craftsmen, and all manner of artisans had set up tents along the edges of the cobbled roads, lit by rows of glowing blue lamps.
People of dozens of different species drifted from stall to stall, and hundreds of languages mingled in the cacophonous symphony of a metropolis bursting with life. A few of them glanced our way, and I saw recognition on many of their faces. A woman with marbled red and white skin lifted up the child scampering about her skirts and pointed at us, saying something to the little boy, who gazed up at us with round, violet eyes. I smiled down at them, and the child smiled back, revealing his thick, white teeth.
Beneath all the noise, emanating from far, far below the streets, I heard the rhythmic clanging of Dwarven miners at work. The sound was muffled by the layers of rock, almost inaudible against the noise of the city above, but I heard it all the same, as the Dwarves busily tunneled out the belly of this world of theirs.
I pressed my lips to Sophia's hair. "Well?" I whispered. "I wanted to go for a run through Durin's thaig. We did that. What's next for tonight?"
"I'm happy just to sit here," Sophia murmured, her hand finding mine and holding tight. "For at least a little while."
"Of course," I said, smiling into her scalp. "But you and I both know neither of us like to sit still long. So when you get bored, just let me know. The multiverse is our oyster."
"So eager," she whispered. She let go of my hand, then crawled into my lap. I put my arms around her, and she rested her hands on mine. "One might even think you're bored. You'd better get used to not having much to do—Dagor Dagorath is over. Peace reigns eternal."
I chuckled low. "If I know anything about Eru Ilúvatar," I said, "and I think I've come to know at least a little, it's that He abhors stagnation as much as we do. He allowed Melkor to fall—allowed me to fall, because a world where nothing bad ever happens is worse than one in which strife comes, and is overcome. We've won Dagor Dagorath. The world has been renewed. But it is still His world, and eventually, the story will begin again. It may look different this time—it probably will look different this time—but we won't be running in place forever."
"Should I be unhappy about that?" Sophia wondered. "I feel like I should want this peace to last forever."
"Only two things last forever," I said, leaning in and kissing her neck. "Eru Ilúvatar, and love."
She sighed contentedly, leaning her head back into my chest and closing her eyes. "Let's just rest here for a few minutes," she said. "Then we'll go and visit Sarus. Maybe fly over a stormwall, that's always fun."
"Just tell me when," I murmured into her ear. "I'll follow wherever you lead, Sophia. For as long as you care to keep me around."
"Gonna be following me a long, long time then, Taylor," she whispered back.
"Promises, promises." I thumbed Cenya on her finger. She played with the One on mine.
There was a flash of light as a firework detonated in the distance. A moment later the sound hit us, and the people in the streets below laughed and clapped as they noticed the display. More fireworks followed the first, filling the sky with glittering motes of light in every color imaginable.
Sophia rotated on my lap so that she was sitting with her legs stretching towards the display, encircling me with her arms and resting her head against my collarbone.
The night air was cool, but I was warm in Sophia's arms, and always would be.