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To say he hadn’t expected it would be a lie – Well, okay, not a lie entirely. It had been more like… wilful ignorance – a conscious decision not to see what was in front of him because if he wasn’t sure how to deal with it than it was better not to think about it, right?

Right?!

Apparently, the Fates don’t agree.

Not that he blames them. But can they really blame him? He’s been pouring all his energy into trying to escape this damned place, throwing himself out his window into Tartarus to fight through for his escape unendingly. So, okay, he’s been busy, okay?! But he’s avoiding the point.

The point: basically, Hypnos had kissed him.

Well – okay, no – it hadn’t quite been a kiss, just the hard press of his mouth to Zagreus’ cheek before he had scurried off back to his post, avoiding eye contact. And Zagreus had smiled and turned to dive into the depths of Hades yet again and tried very hard not to think about it. He had other things he needed to focus on right now, like not falling into traps or... lava? He thinks it’s lava.

But his brain, it seems, doesn’t want to focus on this – this being, you know, not dying.

So, okay, fine! He’ll think about it! But it’s not like there’s anything he can do, because this time, he’s getting out of Hades.

 

It had surprised him then, but looking back on it now it made perfect sense, like nothing else could have happened between them.

Over countless deaths, Hypnos’ teasing encouragement each time Zagreus crawled out of the Pool of Styx became a constant (“Have you tried not standing there when, like, the spikes come out?” or “Go knock some sense into that Hydra for me, okay? Okay!”), something he could count on, look forward to, even – to the point where he found himself disappointed whenever Hypnos was missing from his usual post. But recently there had been... more. To their interactions.

Zagreus had dragged himself out of the Pool one day and Hypnos had said, “You’ll get ‘em next time, buddy,” and patted his arm, which was new, but Zagreus paid it no mind. But Hypnos had kept at it, a quip and a pat, until it started to feel more like petting, then a caress, quick as it was on his arm, his shoulder, his neck.

After one particularly unpleasant death, Hypnos had reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind Zagreus’ ear as he joked about the Wave-Makers that had just killed him, and Zagreus had realized with a start that he liked this, liked Hypnos’ reassuring touch and stupid jokes and that dumb smile that nothing ever seemed to wipe off his face.

But he didn’t think about it, didn’t assume anything, didn’t make any move to reciprocate – at least for a while. And then, some painful deaths later, Hypnos had run a quick but gentle (always so gentle. Was he scared that Zagreus was hurt, after he’d just died?) hand through Zagreus’ hair, fixing his laurel, laughing and asking why he hadn’t just moved out of the way, if that Minotaur had been charging at him? – and Zagreus had returned the gesture by bringing a hand up to brush his cheek with a knuckle and say he’d take the advice to heart, which had caused Hypnos to squeak and stammer that he had to get back to work before darting off.

The next time Zagreus had gotten back to the House (damn that Hydra), Hypnos wasn’t there to greet him, and Zagreus had ached at the idea that he’d made him uncomfortable, misread the signals, that Hypnos may be avoiding him, but then he finds him in the lounge, curled into a corner under his blanket as he naps. He blinks blearily when Zagreus put a hand on his arm to shake him awake, but his face pulls into a sleepy smile when Zagreus stammers out that he had some nectar to spare, and did Hypnos maybe want to share it with him?

They’d shared the nectar in the lounge, then in his bedroom when the warmth of the drink had settled into their bones, laying on his bed as they passed the bottle back and forth, but nothing else (had he wanted something else?).

And when he’d gotten up to leave again – to have another stab at Hades – Hypnos had pulled himself onto his toes to kiss him on the cheek and all but fled, and Zagreus had let him, and left through his window, and didn’t think about it.

 

Turns out this is not the time he is getting out of Hades.

Theseus kills him this time, and Zagreus just wishes he could die faster so he wouldn’t have to hear the man gloat as he drowns in his own blood. The world goes dark, then silent (thank gods), and then there’s that deep, sinking feeling that’s become so familiar before he’s pulling himself out of the Pool in the House. Again. Gods, he’s lost count of how many times he’s done this (fifty-two, his scrying pool would helpfully provide).

Hypnos is sitting on the steps, which is new, but also – expected, now that he thinks about it, and he is thinking about it. His face lights up the instant Zagreus steps out of the Pool, setting aside his slate and quill as he all but jumps from his seat.

“Theseus again, huh?” he walks alongside Zagreus down the hall, bumps their hands together, laughs “Did you experience the glory that comes with being killed by the mighty hero-king yet? What’s it feel like?”

“Like shit,” Zagreus says, reaches out a hand to ruffle Hypnos’ hair, and he commends his self-control when he’s able to will himself to pull his hand out of the white locks and keep it firmly at his side, “If I’m to be killed by a hero, I’d rather it be Heracles than that prick in Elysium.”

Hypnos walks him to his room, and Zagreus has the horrible desire the whole way to hold his hand, or throw an arm around his shoulders, or something, he just wants to be closer. Then he thinks to himself is it horrible, though? Just to want? and what’re you waiting for, mate? and when they stop outside his door the thought spurs Zagreus to set a heavy hand on Hypnos’ shoulder, incline his head to his room and say “Wanna come in?”

Hypnos’ smile drops off his face, eyes suddenly serious as they flit from Zagreus to the bedroom door, “Zag –”

“I’ve got something – ” For you, “ – thought we could share it,” he says, words coming out in a rush as he pulls his hand back, “And, uh, it’s not nectar this time. Well, it is, but I’ve got something else, too.” Gods, he’s rambling, he’s nervous, dammit, “Just some pomegranates. They’re in my room. If you’ve got time to spare, we could –”

“I do!” Hypnos says, and his cheeks immediately darken. “Have time. I mean, if you want. But I guess you do, because you’re asking me and, um, yes, let’s do that.”

And – okay, it helps that he’s not the only one who’s nervous. So he smiles, wider than he has in a while, and presses a bottle of nectar into Hypnos’ hand in lieu of taking it in his own before walking into his room.

 

Zagreus feels déjà vu, once again passing a bottle of nectar to Hypnos as they sit on his bed, only now they’re taking apart a pomegranate as well, plucked from a batch that Zagreus had bribed Charon into bringing back to the House. Hypnos had dumped everything on him onto the floor – the metal plating around his arms and neck, his huge red blanket, the sleeping mask which seemed to be more for taming his white curls while he was on duty than for naps – now in just his tunic with one of Zagreus’ blankets slung around his shoulders. The juice of the pomegranate is getting everywhere, and the urge to lick at the drops on Hypnos’ fingers and mouth (how sweet would they be?) – that’s new, too.

But Zagreus keeps his hands to himself, and by the time he's licking the stickiness of a second pomegranate off his own fingers, Hypnos has dozed off under his blanket, curled up peacefully. The bags under his eyes seem more prominent now – Zagreus idly wonders how someone who spends so much time asleep could possibly look so tired.

He sighs, slowly gets out of bed, and heads to the back room to decide which weapon he’ll use for his next escape attempt. After grabbing Stygius and smacking around Skelly a few times, he returns to his room and takes a moment to stare into his scrying pool, sees countless enemies falling and so many of his own deaths, but then the water ripples and stills and he’s left with nothing but his own reflection.

“Heading out again?”

Zagreus does not jump at the soft voice behind him. He sets the sword against the wall and strides back to sit on his bed, “Yeah, wish me luck.”

Hypnos nods and sits up, says “Good luck, Zag. Maybe you can try talking it out with Theseus this time,” with a wicked grin, then sets his hands on Zagreus’ chest as he pulls himself close to press a kiss – a proper one, Zagreus’ mind cheers, not just the hard press of a mouth – to the corner of his lips.

And it’s all Zagreus can do to just look at him as he pulls away, thinks Gods I must really fucking like this guy if something that small is making me so happy as he stares at him for a few long moments.

Hypnos, in the meantime, has started to squirm under his gaze.

“Um,” he starts, fidgets with the collar of his tunic, pushes away the blanket at his waist, “Sorry, was that weird? I just thought that – I’m, um, I’m gonna go – ” he makes to get up, but Zagreus grabs his arm, says “Wait” a bit too frantically.

Hypnos looks at him expectantly.

Zagreus swallows around the jumble of words in his throat, “What – what did you think?”

Hypnos resettles into the bed, eyes trailing to where Zagreus' hand rests on his arm, where it slides to rest at the side of his neck. Zagreus gives what he hopes is a reassuring squeeze. “It’s just, I thought – I think these are all supposed to be… dates, you know? I think I like you. I think – ” Zagreus feels the uneasy swallow against his palm, marvels at how much of Hypnos’ small neck his hand can wrap around as he runs his thumb over his throat, has him stuttering out, “I think you like me, too.”

Zagreus moves his hand to the back of his neck to thread his fingers through white curls, and they’re just as soft as he thought they’d be, maybe even more so, “I do like you. A lot. So much I don’t know what to do with it.”

Hypnos’ eyes widen, a split second of surprise before he smiles, as bright and easy as if Zagreus had told him he’s decided to break out of Hades, “You could kiss me with it.”

And to say he hadn’t expected it would be a lie – because they’ve been dancing around each other for ages, it seems, and this is right in front of him and he’s still not sure how to deal with it, but he doesn’t want to not think about it, because Hypnos wants to kiss him and Zagreus thinks – knows – he would meet him halfway.

(Wants to do a lot more than that, if he’s being honest, and he always tries to be honest.)

Hypnos barely has time to tear his gaze away from the sheets to Zagreus’ mismatched eyes before Zagreus is yanking him forward into a bruising kiss, and all Zagreus can think is finally, finally as Hypnos grips the front of his shirt, pulls him forward until they fall back onto the bed together, Zagreus bracketing his so, so narrow hips with his knees as he pulls on Hypnos’ lip with his teeth, licks into his mouth, feels his heart soar at the moan that gets out of the small god. Hands slide into his hair, tugging so hard but so good, turning his head to slot their mouths together to kiss slow and deep.

Then hands are on his chest and he’s being pushed up, up, and Zagreus pulls back, keeps his hands on either side of Hypnos’ head as he stares down at him.

Hypnos waves a hand and gives him another light push, “Alright, c’mon, get up. You were all raring to go beforehand and I’ve got to get back to work.”

That was before you kissed me and made me want to split you open, Zagreus thinks, but he just nods and stands, offers a hand to Hypnos, “Can I at least get a goodbye kiss?”

Hypnos laughs as Zagreus pulls him up, sets his hands on Zagreus' shoulders to beckon him down so he can press a soft kiss to his forehead, and something inside Zagreus squeezes at that thought, that even on his toes Hypnos still needed him to lean forward to reach his eyes. When Hypnos pulls back, there is a blush high on his cheeks as he winks, “You’ll get a lot more than a kiss the next time I see you,” and Zagreus doesn’t have time to respond before Hypnos is scurrying out of the room.

 

Zagreus tries to tell his brain (again) that he needs to just stop thinking and focus on fighting and not… other things. But it’s not like he can help it, if he keeps thinking about soft lips and a tongue sliding against his own and hands tugging his hair –

He’d been so distracted he’d wasted a Death Defiance on Meg – fucking Meg – who hadn’t been able to kill him since the first time he’d tried to set foot out of Tartarus. She’d seemed so pleased at his split-second death, even when he’d gotten right back up and killed her back (it still hurt, watching her die, knowing he had killed her).

If Meg had noticed his bad mood, she hadn’t mentioned it.

The same could not be said for everyone.

Aphrodite, when granting her boon, had a knowing lilt to her voice, tone somehow even more playful than it usually was for the god of love – as if she knew exactly what was waiting in the House for him. She probably did, and Zagreus silently curses her for all her knowing mirth. Even Eurydice notes his tension – and it’s only then he realizes just how obvious he’s making his frustration – not that anyone needed to know it was sexual, god of lust notwithstanding.

He was hitting twice as hard and getting his due in return. He knows he’s distracted, getting reckless, but he tells himself that it’s just because it’s been a while. And it has been. A long while, at least, since he’s been with someone. Wanted someone who wanted him, too.

He spares himself a moment before he throws himself into the next chamber for a fight, tries to ground himself. If he’s going to think of Hypnos then he tries to focus on non-bedroom related things, like his dumb smile and stupid quips.

But then he starts thinking about other things – other places Hypnos could put his mouth, wonders what sort of sounds he’d make if he let Zagreus put his mouth on him – thinks about being on him, inside him, how small Hypnos would look straddling him and – Gods damn, he really needs to focus on killing this Hydra or – fuck, there goes another Death Defiance.

By the time he’s trudging through Elysium, he thinks he might just die of sexual frustration. He considers finding somewhere private, concealed, where he can take this into his own hands (or, well, hand) but then that fucking Minotaur kills him and he’s back at the House.

 

He hasn’t gotten a word out to Hypnos before the god is pressing a small key into Zagreus’ hand, says, hushed, “It’s, um, to one of the spare bedrooms,” and when Zagreus quirks a brow at him he says, “Mom is standing in front of your room,” which is all the encouragement Zagreus needs before he stalks off to the other side of the House.

And when Hypnos finally decides to show up, dumping his platings and blanket and stupid sleeping mask onto the floor all over again, Zagreus all but drags him onto the bed, onto his lap, biting kisses to his jaw and neck and what of his chest he can reach before Hypnos pulls away with a laugh and pulls the rest of his clothes off.

It’s mainly – well, Hypnos won’t stop laughing, doesn’t stop until Zagreus jams their mouths together, licks into his mouth, but even then he doesn’t quiet, just moans so loudly it makes Zagreus laugh, and Hypnos pulls back to smile at him and he smiles back and for all their desperation they clank their teeth together when they kiss again.

“Do you have – ” Zagreus cuts off with a low groan when Hypnos, who seemed to be getting impatient, reaches a hand down between them to grind against his crotch. Fuck, why was he still wearing clothes?

“Do I have – ?” Hypnos says with a grin, as if he didn’t know exactly what he was doing and what Zagreus was asking for. He rolls his hips down, moves his palm in a way that has Zagreus hissing through his teeth, but he just keeps talking as if this isn’t affecting him at all, as if he wasn’t getting hard between the two of them, “Hey, why am I the only one not wearing anything right now? Don’t tell me you’re here just to look at me – I know I’m pretty, but I had other things in mind.”

“Other things?” Zagreus parrots, tilts his head to the side and blinks innocently, even as he moves back to sit fully in the bed, hauls Hypnos up with him, “Like what?”

Hypnos bites his lip, “Why don’t you look,” he jerks a thumb to the side, to the nightstand against the wall beside the bed, “in the top drawer, and find out?”

“Aw, c'mon,” Zagreus sits with his legs splayed out, tugs Hypnos forward with a hand on his wrist to kneel in front of him, “I wanna hear you say it.”

“Seriously, Zag? I’m already naked in this bedroom – in this bed – with you. I’m literally hard for you,” he sets his hands on Zagreus’ shoulders and squeezes, like he’s trying not to touch himself, “What’s there left to say?”

“I just want to be sure we’re on the same page.”

“We’re clearly not, since you're not inside me, but – ” he wraps his arms around his neck to press them flush together, grinds himself against Zagreus, and his voice is the quietest whisper as he says into his ear, “Pretty please, would you grab the damn oil and fuck me with your hands and cock already?”

And – okay, he can’t say no to that, so he reluctantly pulls away and grabs the damn oil.

And when Zagreus finally, finally has his fingers inside him, he finds out Hypnos, unsurprisingly, looks very pretty when he’s rocking back against his hand – looks even prettier sitting on his dick as Zagreus lays back, grinding down to meet his thrusts.

Zagreus yanks him down to mouth at his collarbone, his neck, his jaw, growls, “You’re the cutest fucking thing,” before smashing their mouths together, feels it in his throat when Hypnos laughs into the kiss.

He turns his head slightly, mumbles “What’s so funny?” into the corner of Hypnos’ mouth.

Hypnos pulls back, keeps himself up with his arms on either sides of Zagreus' head as he presses their foreheads together, “Oh, it’s not funny, per se – ” he lets out another breathy laugh as Zagreus runs his hands up and down his sides, leans down to nuzzle against his cheek in a way that seems sweet and innocent in contrast to how he grinds his hips back. Zagreus feels Hypnos smile against his cheek as he says, “I'm just having fun,” before kissing him on the nose and pulling back to sit up, bracing his hands on Zagreus' chest to fuck himself back on his cock with all his weight.

Which isn’t a lot of weight, Zagreus thinks, and when Hypnos slaps his hand away when he tries to reach for his dick, which has sat pretty neglected between the two of them, saying something about wanting to make it last, Zagreus opts to plant his hands on his waist, tries to match Hypnos’ rhythm as he thrusts his own hips up while dragging the smaller god down.

Zagreus finishes inside him, thrusts up, up, up as he comes, trying to bury himself into Hypnos as deep as he can, and Hypnos gasps a quiet little thing as he splays his thin fingers over where Zagreus’ hands are digging into his waist – And really, fuck whatever eternal beauty Elysium promised because Zagreus doesn’t think he’s seen anything prettier than this.

Hypnos pulls himself up and off Zagreus, scoots closer so he’s sitting around his middle before finally taking his own dick in hand. Zagreus gropes at his thighs, thinks I was fucking right because Hypnos does look small on top of him. He can barely believe how damn huge his own hands looked, spread over Hypnos' lean thighs.

Zagreus grabs his arm, “Let me do it.”

“Are – are you sure?” Hypnos says, but he lets Zagreus pull his hand away, “I don’t mind.”

Zagreus doesn’t respond, just flips them over easily, laughs at the small shriek the sudden movement gets out of Hypnos as he switches their positions before moving down his body and taking him into the wet heat of his mouth, thrusting two fingers back into him until Hypnos is pushing his hips up and biting his own hand to stop himself from – from what? Moaning? Gasping? Screaming? Zagreus makes a mental note to find out next time. He doesn’t pull back when Hypnos spills in his mouth and Zagreus swallows it because of course he does – why wouldn’t he?

His mouth slips off with a small pop, and he crawls back up the bed to kiss Hypnos, pushes his own spend into his mouth with his tongue. Hypnos' face scrunches up at the taste of himself, and it makes Zagreus laugh quietly as he pulls back.

“Want me to get a cloth?” he asks.

Hypnos nods, “There's water in the basin.”

“Don’t fall asleep.”

“Wash your mouth,” Hypnos shoots back, and Zagreus chuckles under his breath but does as Hypnos asks because he’s a gentleman.

He gives Hypnos a damp cloth, and when he eventually hands it back Zagreus tosses it to the other side of the room. Hypnos claps his hands in quiet applause when it lands in the hamper.

Hypnos speaks first, as he usually does, “So…” he starts, sits up.

“So,” Zagreus repeats, sitting cross-legged on the bed as he turns to fully face him.

“You think I’m the cutest thing ever?”

Zagreus hums, feigning thoughtfulness as he sets a hand on his chin, “After Cerberus,” he eventually says, and when Hypnos shoves at his chest Zagreus just throws his arms around him and drags him into his lap. Hypnos rests his head on his shoulder, stays silent for so long Zagreus is worried he’s fallen asleep.

“Zag,” he finally says, voice barely a whisper, “We just – that was…”

“That was... ?”

“Um – ” Hypnos pulls back and looks away, but Zagreus can see the tips of his ears darken, “Better than I imagined. And I’ve been imagining this a lot. Like. A lot.”

Zagreus laughs, pulls Hypnos back to him with a hand on his chin and presses their foreheads together, “So have I,” he admits, moving his hand to rest on his cheek, “And I’ve imagined a lot of other stuff, too, if you wanted to do this again.” He pulls him into a kiss, feels Hypnos' skin heat up against his fingers.

Hypnos lets out what sounds like a small squeak, grabs Zagreus’ wrist and pulls away, “So are we – are we like, dating now? What is this, what are we? Because I really like you, Zag. And I know you said you liked me, too, but if you only want this to be a – a purely physical sort of thing, I don’t think I can – ”

“I don’t want this to be purely physical,” Zagreus cuts him off. He looks down, where Hypnos’ small hand barely circles around his wrist in its tight grip. He tugs until Hypnos lets go, laces their fingers together, feels a blush blooming on his own cheeks as he says, voice soft, “I want – I want you to be my sweetheart.”

“Wha – Oh.” Hypnos stammers, as if he hadn't just been fucking himself on Zagreus' cock, “Um – That’s –,” and it seems they’re both refusing to meet each other’s gaze, because Hypnos also has his eyes locked on their linked fingers, “ – Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay,” Hypnos repeats. He looks up at him, and Zagreus didn’t think it was possible for someone to blush that much. He feels sort of proud of himself. “I… I’d like that.”

“Glad we’re on the same page,” Zagreus gives him a quick kiss on the cheek before collapsing back into the bed, fully intent on passing out because gods he was so damn tired all of a sudden. He wonders briefly if that has anything to do with how he’d just fucked Sleep Incarnate as he closes his eyes, can already feel himself starting to drift. Then Hypnos weaves a hand through his hair and sleep leaves him all at once.

Zagreus looks up, eyes wide, “Did you just –”

“I’ll give it back,” Hypnos says, “Promise. I was just wondering,” he worries at his lip with his teeth, “If you, y’know, have any requests.”

“Requests?”

“Of dreams.”

“You can do that?”

“Yup! Nothing’s off limits – well, okay, it has to be something your mind can reasonably conceive, but besides that – ” he curls a strand behind his ear, traces idle patterns onto his cheek, “ – Just say the word.”

“I… ” he starts, trails off. What does he want to see? His thoughts instantly stray to his mother, before he immediately shuts that particular door to his mind – a dream wouldn’t do any good for that. He thinks of the mortal realm, cloudy and moonlit and covered in snow anytime he makes it up there. It’s beautiful, he thinks so every time his footsteps crunch through the snow, but maybe –

“I want to see spring. I want to see the sun.”

“Like in Elysium?”

Zagreus shakes his head, “Mortal realm.”

“Is there anywhere in particular you wanna be? Mountains, plateaus, cliff side, seashore?”

“Flowers,” he mumbles, half his mind already lost to him, “Something pretty, like you,” and lets himself be pulled to sleep by the feeling of Hypnos’ hand carding through his hair, settling over him like the heavy blanket being pulled around his shoulders.

 

There’s a light breeze, an endless expanse of blue sky above him, and the sun is so bright – too bright – Zagreus thinks, he can’t even look at it, who would have thought? Flowers, deep red and like nothing he’d ever seen in Elysium, stretch on in an endless sea of red petals and green stems in the distance, meeting the blue of the sky, and Zagreus wonders why he had never tried to leave Hades before this, if only to see the horizon.