So did his friend.
The others failed.
So the birds promised to make the people regret their stubborn cruelty, while the boy and his friend went far away from the people who’d hurt them to start a new life together. And they lived happily ever after, because, sometimes, monsters are more deserving of happy endings than heroes are.
It was a nice day for traveling.
Jensen let his feet carry him along the well-worn path, cataloguing the minute changes in the landscape that had occurred in the time since he'd left. There weren't many, which wasn't surprising. He'd only been gone a couple of months.
A mere blink of an eye in his life, these days.
The temperature dropped noticeably as soon as he crested the hill that overlooked the shallow valley they'd made their home. Jensen smiled.
It was good to be home.
Jensen started his slow, ambling way down the hill, enjoying his last few steps of warm summer air. Honest was settled on his shoulder, taking shameless advantage of the fact that Jensen's arm no longer grew tired from being held out to support the bird's weight. Patience and Stalwart were soaring overhead, more or less in time with Jensen's pace, while Benevolent and Loyal had gone off ahead, no doubt to tell Jared that they'd returned.
The valley was a picturesque spot, which was an almost embarrassingly large part of why they'd chosen it. They'd had the whole world - minus Tjal - to choose from, so they'd been able to be picky. In between one step and the next, Jensen stopped walking over emerald grass and started wading through a shimmering blanket of snow. In their valley, summer melted into winter in one seamless transition that left half the valley perpetually ice-locked while the rest experienced the seasons normally.
It wasn't entirely Jared's fault. Their cottage - conspicuously striking with its cheery red roof - was nestled in the foothills of the Rix Mountains, right next to the Golilian Pass.
As it turned out, Jared made for an excellent mountain guide. Not in the least because he could ward snow off nearly as easily as he could create it.
Jared was waiting at the door by the time Jensen finished the trek to the cottage, his broad smile a now-familiar sight that never failed to make Jensen's heart lift.
"Hi," Jared said, hauling Jensen in for a kiss as soon as he was within grabbing distance. It was a warm, hungry sort of kiss, not as fierce as the ones they'd trade later tonight but more than enough to get Jensen's blood pumping.
"Mmm," he hummed, when he pulled back. "Hi yourself. How was the Golilian Pass?"
"Generally uneventful," Jared answered, shifting away so they could walk inside. "How was the rest of the world?"
Jensen wasn't as good at staying still as he used to be. Part and parcel of being the undying keeper of a bunch of winged gods apparently. He'd worried how Jared would react to his wanderlust in the first few decades of their life together, but he'd learned that Jared didn't begrudge him his time away. When they had all the time in the world to spend together, a few weeks here and there was nothing to worry about.
And something Jensen had learned about having a house was that one of his greatest joys was coming back to it.
"It's mostly in one piece," Jensen said, in answer to Jared's question.
One of Jared's eyebrows arched. "Mostly?"
"Another drought in Tjal," Jensen explained, with a passable attempt at nonchalance. His hand fisted as he added, "And a plague broke out in the southern part of the country over the summer."
Jensen knew that the disasters that had befallen Tjal were deserved, a cold reckoning for a longstanding lack of human compassion. In turning Jared away after all they'd done to him and all he'd done for them, the people of Tjal had broken faith with the gods that protected them. And gods, Jensen had discovered, had little respect for the disrespectful.
He just wished it didn't continue to upset him so much.
Jared's arms wrapped around Jensen's waist, and Jensen sighed as he leaned back into Jared's broad chest.
"It's okay to be sad about it," Jared murmured.
"I've spent more of my life here than I ever did in Tjal," Jensen said, the words of the familiar argument rolling easily off his tongue. "And I know they deserve what they get. Why does it still bother me after all these years?"
"Because it was your home. That's never going to change."
"I have a new home now." Jensen tilted his head up to look into Jared's face. "A better one."
Jared smiled. "That's true. But you wouldn't be you if you didn't care about those who have no one to care about them." He closed the scant distance to press a kiss to Jensen's forehead. "And I wouldn't have you any other way."
"Likewise," Jensen murmured, chasing Jared's mouth with his own, and nothing more was said for a long time.
Just another day in the glamorous life of the former Bird Keeper of Kerak.
Jensen hoped it lasted for a thousand years.