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It begins shortly after Hell invades the Dreaming. 

They do not succeed, of course. Lucifer has always had a nasty habit of trying to exert their influence beyond the borders of their realm, and the Endless are accustomed to sending them home with their barbed tail between their legs, cowed by the prospect of a Pyrrhic victory if not outright defeat. Lucifer forgets, every five thousand years or so, that the legions of Hell bleed power exponentially as they climb upwards through the realms towards the Silver City; the Dreaming is not particularly close to God but it’s not particularly far, either, which has always been enough to sap the Lightbringer’s hordes of their strength. 

Nonetheless the demons do spend quite some months encamped on Fiddler’s Green before Dream manages to drive them away, and in that time the ambient heat of so many hellspawn raises the temperature of the Dreaming considerably.

“Nearly fifty degrees celsius,” Lucienne reports, unwinding her neckerchief as she trails Dream through the field hospital they’ve established in the throne room. It’s the only concession she’s made to the heat, not a hint of the stress on her face, but she is his creation and he can tell that she’s flagging — it doesn’t help that they have all of them been without rest for months now. “It may be prudent to find some way to…cool the realm down, sire.”

Dream raises an eyebrow as he kneels by his next patient — a childlike nightmare whose needle-sharp teeth are gritted against the pain of her limbs, which have unravelled from the bone. “I know your opinion of my aptitude is low, Lucienne,” he grumbles, “but shockingly enough I had thought of that.”

“Of course you did, sire,” Lucienne says, with that faint hint of condescension that she reserves just for her king. 

“All the solutions take time.” Dream begins to wind the nightmare’s flesh back around her limbs, like wrapping a bandage. She screws her face up in courage against the sting of it, and when he is done Dream pauses to soothe her, his hand on her forehead, sending her into the half-sleep which all his creations enjoy. 

Once the nightmare is slack under his touch, he rises to join Lucienne and continues, “Time is something which I do not have. My people have fought for me and died for me; I cannot abandon them now that the fighting is done. I must tend to them.”

“I understand, sire.” Lucienne dabs delicately at her brow with her neckerchief; there are beads of sweat on her bald head, and Dream realizes with an empathetic lurch that he’s sweating too — his duel with Lucifer must have laid him lower and closer to mortality than he’d registered at the time. “Perhaps I might send a missive to one of the Anemoi? Request some assistance?”

“Notus,” Dream allows, after a minute. “He owes me a favor.”

“Very good, sire.” 

For the next twelve days Notus blows warm summer wind clear across the Dreaming from the Mare Serenus. It is, Dream is informed by Fiddler’s Green, who spent a fair amount of time as a human, rather like sitting in a car with no air conditioning but the windows open; no one cools down much, but at least they stop sweating. 

Storms rage for long hours each night, rains driving against the windows of the palace, washing the land; Dream spends the hours he ought to be resting haunting his throne room, tending those dreams and nightmares which still require his attention. Sleep calls to him, rest calls to him, but he is of the Endless and does not truly need it, so he does not answer. He remains, and he is alone in his vigil, as there is no other who can do the work he does — the work of making and unmaking. 

On occasion, however, Matthew does keep him company. Dream mostly doesn’t listen to his beaky yammering, preferring to treat it as a pleasant sort of background noise, until one night when he hears Matthew say “…poor dude thinks you abandoned him again.”

Lightning flashes outside, turning the throne room bright as day for a split second. 

“What?” Dream says, in the darkness that follows.

“I said Hob — ” Matthew begins, but before he can finish his voice is drowned out by a peal of thunder. He rifles his plumage, like a man whose shoulders shake with a tremor of fear, and says, “Fuck, I hate thunderstorms. Give me a battle with Hell over a thunderstorm any day of the week.”

“What day is it in the realm of men?” Dream demands.

“Tuesday,” Matthew supplies. 

Dream fixes him with an imperious look.

Matthew caves. “Fine — September 6th. But I gotta warn you, boss, it’s hotter up there than it is — ”

Without so much as another word, Dream disappears in a cloud of sand.

“ — down here.”

***

After their last meeting was so heinously delayed, and after Dream grudgingly — in a lapse of good judgement, perhaps, but nonetheless — admitted to feelings of friendship, he and Hob agreed that instead of every hundred years, they should meet every year, on the 21st of August. For two years they did just that, but now their third meeting has come and gone without Dream’s attendance, and surprisingly — unsettlingly — it makes him sick to imagine Hob waiting alone at that table, thinking that his friend had once again abandoned him.

So he goes straight past the bar on the ground floor of the New Inn and up to the first, where he knows Hob keeps his flat. He knocks on the door, concentrating hard to keep his hand from passing through it — he hasn’t spent all that much time corporeal, as of late — then steps back to wait.

Hob answers a moment later, smiling and shirtless.

He’s clearly not expecting Dream — his eyes land on him and it’s like Hob’s good mood walks straight into a brick wall. It only takes him a second to recover, but it’s long enough for Dream to see it — and even once it’s over Hob is different. Less ebullient, less radiant.

Softer, whispers a voice at the back of Dream’s mind, but he ignores it, in favor of glaring at Hob to cover up how awkward he suddenly feels.

“Dream,” Hob says, startled. “You, uh — you’re here! You’re — I mean, why are you — ”

“Who are you calling dream, Professor?” A girl with an overabundance of blonde hair and nothing on but Hob’s shirt comes swanning out of the bedroom to wrap her arms around his shoulders and lick his ear, all while Hob’s eyes are still locked wide on Dream’s. “I’m the only dream you’re having tonight — and I’m a wet one.”

Dream’s eyebrows shoot halfway to the back of his head.

Hob is clearly fighting the urge to laugh as he disentangles himself from the girl. “I’ll be right with you, Penelope, just one second — I’ve just got to — ” He manages to push her successfully in the direction of the bedroom, then worms out to join Dream in the hall, shutting the door behind him.

Suddenly it’s dark except for the light filtering up from the pub downstairs, quiet except for the noise permeating from the same, and Dream is conscious of Hob’s bare chest in a way he has never been conscious of a person’s skin before. It's thick with hair, slightly sticky with sweat — Dream can feel it even without touching him, can smell the salt and the musk. 

It’s nearly midnight but it’s still more than thirty degrees outside; Matthew was right about that. Global warming — something the humans have done to themselves, or so says Fiddler’s Green.

After a minute, Dream clears his throat. “I realize I missed our meeting. It was not my intent.”

“Your raven said you had a war on,” Hob says, voice low. “I can hardly expect the king of dreams to drop everything in the middle of a life or death battle with the bloody devil.”

“Nonetheless.” Dream inclines his head. “You have my apologies. Perhaps we might reschedule.”

Hob smiles — quick and shining in the dark. “Sounds great. How’s tomorrow?”

Robbie!” Penelope wails from the other side of the door, before Dream can answer. 

Truly, Dream thinks, the wonders never cease. “Robbie?” he echoes, privately delighted.

Hob gives him a put-upon look. “I can hardly go around introducing myself as Hob, can I?” he defends. “No one’s named a child Hob since the 16th century, at least. And besides, it invites all sort of nasty taunts about knobs and polishing them — trust me, it’s for the best.”

If Dream had laughed at any point in his existence, he might do it now — as it is, he only feels his eyebrows climb again. “Tomorrow,” he says, after a minute. “The usual time.”

“The usual time,” Hob agrees.

Dream has the brief, lunatic urge to touch him in parting, to feel the skin of Hob’s chest under his own hands, his own mouth — but luckily he is a creature composed almost entirely of repression and control. So he does not. He simply stands in the shadows, buzzing with a desire he refuses to name, as Penelope loses patience and sticks her head out the door to draw Hob — smiling, eyes darkening — behind it again.

***

Back in his own realm, haunting his own humid quarters, it’s all that Dream can think about. 

The dark lick of hair at Hob’s collarbone, the hollow of his throat. Dream paces a trench in the stone floor before the great stained glass windows in his quarters, studiously ignoring the bed. His bones, such as they are, ache with exhaustion, with the wear and weariness of so many days on full alert, first on the battlefield and then at sickbeds, but he feels he is in danger of being overcome by a feeling — a feeling which he has never experienced before, like someone has replaced all the organs in his chest with molten rocks, still smoldering from the ancient fires of primordial earth — he feels at once hungry and nauseous, two eminently mortal sensations, which alarm him, and he fears that if he lets himself rest, they may seize him, the way fever used to suddenly seize children.

Rain lashes against the windows in thick sheets. Dream throws open the window nearest him and turns to face the storm, letting the warm South Wind drench him, paste his hair to his forehead and his cheeks and the back of his neck, hoping that it will wake something inside him, put him right.

Instead it puts him even more wrong. 

His eyes are closed for a second, rain running from his chin and the tip of his nose in rivulets, and in that second he thinks of hands on his sides, rucking up his shirt, groping over slippery skin — a hot mouth on his own, strong solid shoulders to grab onto, and by the time his eyes fly open in silent alarm he’s trembling where he stands. 

If Dream were a lesser man, or indeed a man at all, he would swear aloud. 

As it is, he grits his teeth, clenches his fists at his sides, and stalks out of his chambers — leaving the window open and the rain lashing the stone floor behind him. 

“Sounds like you’re horny to me,” says Matthew, the next day.

The previous night’s storm is still upon them, though the sky has lightened ever-so-slightly, enough to signify morning. Dream is, ostensibly, meant to be out at the Shores of Night, creating more dreams to replace their lost soldiers, but what he hasn’t told Lucienne is that he hasn’t the heart — not yet, not so soon. So instead he is here, sitting on the edge of a cliff, sharing an umbrella with a raven and staring at the sea.

“Horny,” Dream echoes, testing the unfamiliar pronunciation. “You cannot mean — Lust?”

It is true that Dream has felt love, that he has fallen for mortals on more than one occasion. Nada, Calliope — his feelings for them were never false. But he did not feel this heat, this strange thirst, not even when he took them to bed. Sex for him had always been a purely practical exercise, intended for his lovers’ satisfaction and not his own. Dream had never needed it. Lust was — it was a low sensation, animal. Gods might trifle with it, but not Endless.

“Yeah, boss,” Matthew says, with a laugh in his voice. “Lust. Passion. Li-bee-do.”

“Libido.” Dream frowns at the gray horizon. “That seems…unpleasant. And rather unlikely.”

Matthew’s a bird, but he still manages to look skeptical. “Whatever you say, boss.”

It’s tougher to deny the truth of Matthew’s statement later, though, when Dream is cloistered in their usual table at the New Inn, waiting for Hob to come back with their drinks. Ceiling fans churn furiously, and all the windows are flung open, but the air in the pub still feels like a dog breathing on the back of Dream’s neck. He’s down to shirtsleeves, sweating through the thin black linen, and across the room leaning against the bar Hob is in a white t-shirt and blue jeans, cuffs rolled up around his bare ankles, feet in leather thongs. Dream’s attention lingers on the bulge of his arm muscles, the louche line of his lean, how his toes scrunch when he goes up on the balls of his feet to get the bartender’s attention — it’s nonsensical, the pieces of Hob that transfix him, that make him feel as if he’s wound tight, like a spring. 

Penelope is in the corner of the bar with a tipsy gaggle of university students, looking a bit dazed under her massive nest of hair as she watches Hob across the room — Dream slips briefly into her daydreaming mind, like dipping his fingers in a pool of water to test the temperature, and on his next inhale he’s taking great gasps of Hob’s scent, panting around Hob’s tongue in his mouth, spread out naked and sticky and soiled with Hob driving over and over into the wet mess between his thighs. It’s so good he can barely keep his legs up around Hob’s waist, the pressure building inside him so suddenly that he feels like he’s speeding up, heading downhill, about to rush over a precipice, and it makes him panic for a moment — he grabs onto Hob for something to steady him, hands reaching under his braced arms, nails digging into his back, all the air forced out of his lungs by Hob’s cock as Hob mouths sloppily over the hinge of his jaw and a woman’s voice moans, “Robbie — ”

“Sorry that took so long,” Hob says, returning to the table. He raises his voice so the bartender can hear and adds, “Can’t even get good service in my own bloody pub — the disrespect is unreal, I’m telling you!”

The bartender flips him off. “Feck off, mate!”

Hob laughs and turns to flip him off in return, which is good because it means he’s distracted long enough for Dream to realize he’s spreading his legs under the table and correct the issue. He’s hard in his pants without any desire to be, without any control over his arousal, which has never happened to him before — ever, in his million-year history — and he fears he might even be blushing as Hob sits down across from him.

His friend gives him an odd look, tilting his head a bit. “You alright? You look a bit flushed — is the heat finally getting to you?”

“Yes,” Dream says, grateful for the easy lie. “The heat.”

Hob slides him his beer. “Well then, better drink up. Dehydration’s a killer.” He winks. “Or so I hear.”

Alcohol’s never done much for Dream, but his recent travails have left him closer to mortal than he’s been in millennia, so he figures it’s worth a shot. He picks up the beer and drains it mostly in one, until Hob reaches over and takes it out of his hand, saying, “Whoa, slow down there — with Paul behind the bar it might take me another century to get you a refill.”

Paul must have exceptional hearing — without even looking, he flips Hob off again, puts an entire pitcher on the countertop, and goes back to the noisy football fans on the other end of the bar.

“Cheeky cunt,” Hob says admiringly.

Dream takes his pint back and finishes the job.

***

“You know, I wouldn’t have guessed the king of dreams would be a lightweight,” Hob muses cheerfully, a couple of hours later, while he helps Dream up the stairs to his flat. “See? This is why I do it, Dream. Each and every day, life bestows on me such wonderful little surprises.”

“I despise you,” Dream informs him. He thinks it probably doesn’t come across as menacing as he intends, since he’s hanging off of Hob’s shoulders and feels like a pail of acid is sloshing around in his stomach — and since Hob only smiles beatifically in reply — but he feels accomplished for having said it.

He should return to the Dreaming, he knows, but the moment they stagger inside Hob’s flat he feels rooted to the spot, like an anchor has been tied around his ankles. The flat is dark and warm, just on the cusp of cramped and cozy, as if after 600 years Hob has finally managed to strike a balance between mansions fit to host the Queen of England and sleeping in the streets. Hob hauls Dream over to a couch and deposits him unceremoniously upon it, the sort of rough but affectionate handling that Dream remembers from being married to Calliope, who as his wife had been entitled to touch him whenever she chose but not necessarily obliged to do it well, or carefully. He lands with his face in the cushions, and has to roll over.

When he does it’s to Hob’s smiling face, the lines of it familiar even with the lights off. “I’d offer you the bed, since you’re royalty and all, but it’s even hotter in there than it is out here. And besides — I haven’t changed the sheets since last night.”

Good, Dream almost says, but manages to bite down on the word in time. He’s not human, but he knows enough about pretending to be that he knows that would be crossing a line.

Hob crosses his own line, though — reaching out to sink his hand in Dream’s hair, giving it a fond little tug. “You need a hair brush, duck,” he murmurs. “Maybe in the morning. I know you don’t need sleep, but I’m knackered.”

“Duck,” Dream repeats, a bit indignantly.

Hob snorts and takes his hand back, standing. “G’night.”

He goes in the bedroom and shuts the door behind him, and Dream remains stretched out on the couch for long minutes, the room spinning around him, entertaining visions of joining him. 

Hob is right — it’s wickedly hot, even with the windows open and a trio of box fans circulating outside air through the stale flat, and it’s nonsensical to Dream that he should want to add to the heat by plastering himself against a warm human body, but he does. He wants Hob’s thick thigh thrown across his slender hips, wants to drift into his version of sleep with the slow overheated beat of Hob’s heart beneath his ear. He supposes this feeling must be in some way related to the delirium of fever — humans dream up all sorts of counterintuitive nonsense when they’re burning up, and in the last week or so Dream has learned that his creations are much the same. 

Whatever the cause, he wants, a sick hunger matched only by his conviction that he cannot eat — he’s not had many friends, but he understands that desperate animalistic fucking is not generally part of the arrangement.

Dream sits up, with half a mind to leave. He lays back down. He stares at the ceiling.

Before he can think better of it, he closes his eyes and steps sideways into Hob’s dream.

In the pub downstairs, Paul gasps, “Shit, shit, shit — Rob.

His breaths are shocked out of him, rhythmic and fast, because Hob has him bent over the bar fucking him rough and hard. Dream can’t see anything too graphic, lingering in the shadows, but he can see enough. Hob’s wide tan hands on pale, thin hips. The pistoning motion of Hob’s thrusts, how he’s smiling even as he works hard to draw breath, giving Paul shit as usual and getting shit in return, Paul swatting blindly back to hit Hob’s shoulder after a particularly good jab. The sounds of it are obscene, wet and slapping and base, but what makes the air go molten in Dream’s throat isn’t that bawdy symphony but the dark cast of Hob’s eyes, the delighted curl of his lips as he bends down to mouth at the back of Paul’s neck.

Rob,” Paul begs again, almost sobbing, and then it becomes Hob Hob Hob, and Hob is pulling out with a muffled swear that Dream hasn’t heard since the 16th century. Hob ignores Paul’s protests at the abrupt emptiness to heft him onto the bartop and manhandle his legs around his waist, finding his sloppy, abused hole with his fingers before he guides in his cock, and by the time he shoves all the way home and takes his lover’s head in his hands and kisses him he’s not kissing the bartender but — Dream himself.

“Duck,” Hob breathes against his mouth, and then he’s fucking again in earnest.

Mired in shadows, Dream realizes that they’re no longer in the New Inn, but the old one. The sconces on the walls have been replaced with lanterns, low-burning firelight, the distinct sour smell of Elizabethan England, there are people at the tables and voices murmuring around them, and still Hob bends his Dream back over the bar, licking shamelessly over his alabaster throat, hand moving fast between their sweaty bodies as he growls, “Mine, you’re bloody mine — no one else’s.”

“Yours,” Dream hears himself promise, in his voice that always sounds strangely deeper when he hears it aloud. “Hob, please.

“Anything, duck.” Hob fists his hand in messy dark hair, drawing his Dream’s head back to give him more throat to brutalize, hunched protectively over the lithe white line of his body. “Anything, anything, anything — you know you could make me do anything you want — ”

Dream makes an involuntary sound, and Hob’s eyes snap to the shadows, locking with his.

“Wait — ” Hob starts, anticipating what’s about to happen. “Wait, shit, don’t — ”

But before he can say anything more, Dream is gone.

***

“Not to overstep my bounds here, boss,” Matthew says a few days later, fluttering at Dream’s shoulder while he paces through Fiddler’s Green, “but have you tried — I don’t know — jacking off?”

Dream stops dead, feeling affronted in a way he hasn’t since he was a babe in the celestial cradle. “What?” 

“You know, jacking off. Polishing your knob. Beatin’ the meat. Shucking the corn. Waxing the discoooooo — you know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Obviously. King of Dreams and all, I’m sure you’ve seen some wet ones. Ha ha. Ha. Haaaaooookay. I’m gonna shut up now.”

“No,” Dream says, frowning at the trees.

“‘No’ you don’t want me to shut up, no? Or — ”

“No,” Dream reiterates, and disappears. 

It’s not that he’s disdainful of the act — he understands that humans have to perform certain lewd acts of self-maintenance, lest they be driven mad by animal urges, but for the gods or the Endless to admit to such weakness would be untenable. 

Nonetheless, he has spent a while now plagued by what Matthew informs him is called The Itch, and no amount of dropping in on the sex dreams of mortals has been able to satisfy it. Most of them disquiet him, and that’s not even counting the ones that turn his stomach outright, the ones that involve violence and blood and unwilling victims; when he makes his way back to his own chambers the only thing he wants is a gentle touch, and the only person he wants it from is, mystifyingly, Hob Gadling.

He lasts another day after Matthew’s impertinent and appalling suggestion by devoting himself to small repairs in Cain and Abel’s village. There was no fighting here — not on the ground, at least — but Abel reports several of Hell’s legion fell from the sky after being dispatched by nightmares and left molten craters that are big enough for Goldie, small as he still is, to tumble in and get stuck.

Once that’s finished, though, he’s back to being idle. As Lucienne’s pointed looks remind him, he ought to be out creating new dreams and nightmares to take the places of those lost in the invasion, but it makes his heart hurt to think of it, heavy and cold, so he does not.

Instead, he gives in. 

Notus has returned to the Anemoian realm, having restored the Dreaming to tolerable temperatures, but still Dream’s clothes stick to his skin as he lays himself languorously out on his bed — he feels like a cat sunning itself in the afternoon light, comfortable and just on the edge of too warm. 

He lets his eyes slide halfway closed, heavy and drowsing, and sinks into the slipstream.

Hob is sleeping fitfully, tossing in the sweaty mess of his bedsheets, snared by the very tips of a nightmare’s claws. Dream feels the creature retreat as soon as it senses its master’s presence, a head of blazing fire atop prim shoulders fading to embers and then to nothing as the nightmare disappears back into the Dreaming — Hob is all at once back on familiar ground, sitting in the upper levels at the Globe theatre, glaring down at Will Shakespeare as he takes the stage for a standing ovation. 

Dream slips up behind him, not making a sound. It’s not difficult — the noise is raucous and the theatre is packed to bursting, more than enough people to disguise his movements.

Still, Hob turns at once to meet him. His sour look freezes on his face, turning vulnerable and uncertain. 

“Are you really here?” he asks. “Or are you just a dream?”

“Just a dream,” Dream scoffs, teasing. “You would demean my creations? And here I thought we were friends.”

Hob smiles. It’s a pleased little thing, oddly bashful — a smile that Dream has begun to realize, as of late, is reserved only for him. “I half suspected I’d never see you again,” Hob admits, “after the last time. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable. I didn’t realize you could stroll right into my head. Or I suppose I did realize, I just didn’t think — ”

“Hob,” Dream interrupts, taking mercy. “It’s alright. I was…not opposed.”

There’s that look in Hob’s eyes. The dark, pleasure-drunk look, the one that makes Dream’s heart beat hard as the war drums of Hell, blood rising, boiling hot. 

Not opposed,” Hob echoes, faint, attention elsewhere, gaze dragging over Dream’s mouth like a touch. “If I’m going to take you to bed, duck, I need clearer words than those.”

Dream feels ridiculous. He feels very nearly mortified, standing stiff-backed in the Globe theatre while a rowdy audience jeers and roars around him, pinned so thoroughly by Hob’s eyes that it’s as if they’re alone in the world, but he has also never wanted to spread his legs so badly in his life.

“I would like you to fuck me,” he says. “I want you in me. Is that clear enough?”

He’s being petulant and defensive, hissing out crass words with the aim of putting Hob off, but they seem to have the opposite effect — instead of recoiling, Hob looks as if he’s dying of thirst and has just been led to water, like a dog presented with a bloody steak who expects it to be snatched away.

“Yeah,” he says, “yeah, I’d say that’s pretty damn clear.”

Then he reaches out — all he has to do is reach, they’re close enough that he doesn’t have to move his feet — and catches Dream by the back of the neck, hauling him into a starving kiss. 

Dream opens for him at once, his hands trembling as they come up to grasp his doublet. Hob walks him back through the crowd, jostling past people until they come to a wood wall that he can press Dream against, covering him with his body. 

“I thought you wanted Shakespeare to see you take me,” Dream gasps out, when they part for air. The swell of Hob’s stomach pushes against his own, inflating and deflating with his breath; he’s a heavier man in memory than he is in life, and the weight of him makes Dream’s cock throb. “He won’t see us all the way up here.”

Hob shakes his head, forehead still pressed tight, hands cupping Dream’s face. “No. No, not tonight. I want — ” 

And then he’s gone.

***

“Damn alarm,” Hob says, the second he opens the door to find Dream on the other side. He yanks him in, slams the door and presses him back against it, picking up exactly where they left off. It’s clear he’s just rolled out of bed, mussed hair and sour breath, but Dream does not mind — prefers it, actually. This is the truth of Hob the way a face without makeup is the truth of a woman.

Hob licks over his lips, licks into him, his tongue moving with the grind of his hips.

Dream pushes him away long enough to say, “You want — ?”

“What?” Hob breathes, hand roving under Dream’s thigh.

“Back in the Globe,” Dream reminds him. “You started to say I want — ”

“I want you all to myself,” Hob finishes, in a rush. “I don’t want anyone else to see you like this. Ever, if possible.”

Dream tilts his head, regarding him like a puzzle. In a way that’s what he is, what Hob has always been for him: a strange, beloved puzzle, representative of a much greater question, a much greater Why. But that’s not what he is right now.

Now, he’s the one human that Dream has ever felt horny for, and he intends to treat him as such. “No one in all of time has seen me like this,” he admits. “Not precisely like this, at least.”

Hob laughs, a bare breath away from his mouth, so Dream feels it on his lips. “What does that mean?”

“Mortal sex is not normally…appealing,” Dream explains, eyes starting to slide closed. He feels blissed out, limbs heavy. “But all I’ve been able to think about for three days is coming on your cock.”

“You’re going to fucking kill me,” Hob informs him solemnly, “after six hundred years, this is what’s going to finally — ” but he gives up halfway through the last word to surge forward and seize Dream’s lips in a kiss again.

Dream holds onto him, like he’s been imagining since he first saw Hob’s bare chest, and lets himself be carried to the bedroom. Hob talks the whole way, murmuring clumsily against his lips, reverent grateful nonsense peppered with duck and love and my friend, cradles Dream’s head as he lays him back on the bed, then rips his jeans off with extreme prejudice. Dream doesn’t enjoy being naked, has not much cared for it since he spent a century cold and shivering in the Burgesses’ glass prison, but he cannot deny the thrill it sends through him, to lie vulnerable beneath Hob’s gaze, fully exposed. 

Hob runs a hand up the thin line of his thigh, the jut of his hip, the skeletal curve of his ribs. “Gorgeous,” he says, voice barely more than a whisper. “God, you’ve no idea how long I’ve wanted this.” 

“Centuries,” Dream guesses.

Hob laughs. “Cheeky cunt,” he accuses, pinching Dream’s rear. “Yeah, alright. Centuries.”

“Well, you need not restrain yourself a single second longer.” Dream goes up on his elbows, knees falling open at the same time. His cock is still soft, but it’s beginning to fill, livid red where it lies in the crease of his hip. “Tell me what you want, my friend. Whatever it is, you can have it.”

“You,” Hob answers, with that bashful smile. “Just you, that’s all.”

But it seems he means You, gently, and slow as can be — which is lucky, seeing as that’s what Dream wants, too. He begins with his mouth, lipping and biting and tonguing over every inch of skin he can get, holding Dream with strong hands around his wrists, neck to shoulder to chest to nipples, where he stays for long, torturous minutes, rubbing the sensitive buds with the flat of his tongue, laving them with kisses, the air so hot around them that his saliva feels almost cool. Dream writhes and shakes and gets so hard that he starts leaking against his stomach, but no matter how he twists he can never get more than a fleeting moment of friction, brushing against the sleep pants Hob’s still wearing before flopping back down, boneless, in surrender. 

Hob makes his way down the centerline of Dream’s torso, travels open-mouthed over the flat plane of his adonis belt, his chin bumping the head of Dream’s cock and sending a white hot bolt of pleasure shooting dead between his eyes — but he never goes where Dream really wants him, lingering to lick around the base of his cock instead, nosing through the coarse hair, content to keep Dream pinned with an arm across his hips while his thumb rubs torturously over and over the tender skin of his perineum.

Dream cannot allow it to last, Hob’s mastery of their lovemaking, so the moment Hob comes back up to kiss him, Dream gets a good grip with his legs around Hob’s waist and flips them. Hob lands with an oof, laughing, hands flying to Dream’s waist and missing, since Dream is already engaged in the valiant enterprise of wrestling Hob’s pants off of him — he flings the offending garment clear across the room and comes back, crawling up Hob’s thick virile body to lie on top of him, nothing but skin.

Hob hums into the kiss, hitching when Dream shifts, grinding down against his thigh — and grinding Hob’s cock against his hip in the process. “Fuck,” Hob breathes. “You want to come on my cock, you better stop that, duck.”

“No,” Dream corrects, “if you want to come inside me, you’d better hurry up and do it.”

Hob swears, and goes fumbling in the bedside table for a bottle of lube.

It doesn’t take long after that, Hob opening him gently, watching with rapt attention as Dream fucks himself down on his hand, then pulling his fingers away and leaving smears of body-hot lube on Dream's hip as he helps guide him down onto his cock. Dream has never been fucked, and even with his knowledge of dreams, even in the long feverish hours of grudging want he never could have imagined this feeling of fullness, how it makes him feel held from the inside and without — as soon as he rests seated against Hob’s hips, he feels something collapse inside of him, and with a broken sound he lists forward, falling at the same time that Hob takes a sharp breath in and sits up to meet him.

“Hey,” Hob says softly, carding his fingers through Dream’s hair, cradling his head against the curve of his neck. “Hey, we can stop. If it’s too much, we can stop.”

“No.” Dream grabs onto him hard, digging his nails in. “Stay.”

So Hob stays, waiting like that for a long minute while Dream tries to come back into his body. It’s something he’s had particular trouble with, since the invasion, but it helps to have someone here, to catalogue himself by their points of contact. 

He remembers the Lightbringer descending to the battlefield in a shower of searing and brilliant sunlight, the anguished screams of a thousand dying nightmares calling out for aid from their creator that he could not give, how tears had lingered in Lucienne’s eyes long after, when she found him in the throne room to report the numbers of the lost, which had been — unimaginably vast. He remembers, lost himself under the weight of it, and Hob kisses wetly over the hinge of his jaw, his ear, murmuring, “I’ve got you. It’s okay, love, take as long as you need, I’m not going anywhere,” his hand running up and down the knobby line of Dream’s spine like he’s trying to soothe some sickness out of him, his body wrapped around Dream and inside of him, and gradually, like Notus blowing rain warm and cleansing across the Dreaming, he brings Dream back to himself.

“Okay?” he asks. Dream’s eyes are hot and stinging — he suspects they’re red, like he’s been crying, which maybe he has, but he nods anyways, because he is. He’s okay, for the first time in a while.

“Good,” Hob says, kissing his eyelid, “good, duck, good,” and then they’re moving, first a twitching roll of Hob’s hips and then both of them at once, fucking suddenly in earnest, Hob’s arms wrapped tight around his waist and Dream using his shoulders for leverage, speeding up, moving himself up and down Hob’s cock and tilting to hit that spot that lights him up like a struck match. Hob, he hears himself say, though he doesn’t seem to have any control over his mouth, Hob Hob Hob, and Hob’s swearing and shifting around in bed to get better leverage, the head of his cock hitting that spot again and again, rubbing over it incessantly, mercilessly, and he bites Dream’s shoulder and begs in a wrecked voice, “Touch yourself, please — ”

Dream tries to, but he can’t find the rhythm. “I don’t know how,” he admits. “I’ve never…”

Hob laughs, but it’s not at him, it’s with him, because Dream is smiling too — as much as he ever does. Hob closes his hand around Dream’s loose inexperienced fingers and shows him how, jerking tight and slick in time with his thrusts, thumbing at his slit. Dream’s blood gets hotter and hotter, rushing to his head, his face, and from the way Hob smiles at him he knows he must be turning bright red, but he doesn’t have it in him to care. He’s been utterly debauched, covered in Hob’s saliva and both of their sweat, the lube dripping down the backs of his thighs turned watery by the heat — he doesn’t care what he looks like.

He doesn’t last long once Hob’s broad hand is wrapped around his cock, hips moving convulsively as he loses his footing and skids fast towards orgasm. Hob finds his mouth and kisses him wetly through it, murmuring against his tongue, “There you go, love, that’s it — Jesus fucking wept, Dream — ” then breaks away with a ragged grunt to follow him over the edge a second later. 

There’s a warm wet rush inside of him — disgusting, some distant corner of his mind supplies, but Dream wants nothing more than to feel it, all of it; he clasps his knees even tighter against Hob’s flanks and grinds down, biting at the cleft of his chin. 

“You know,” Hob muses later, when they’re done with the unpleasant business of disentangling, sprawled out naked in the cooling sheets, “I was joking earlier, when I said you were going to kill me. But now I think I might not be so far off. Six hundred years of sex, and never anything like that. Never anything like you.”

Dream watches him, lazy and sated and stretched out like a cat. “I have never met anyone else like you, either.”

Hob rolls across the bed, closing the distance, and wraps him up in a sweaty, affectionate hug, ignoring his halfhearted protests. Outside the open window, the heatwave breaks with a low crack of thunder, and it starts to rain.