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It wasn’t the first time Hypnos had offered to kiss him.

The first time, Zagreus had firmly said no, he was not going to use his friend as a rebound just because he was lonely and miserable that his sort-of-girlfriend-okay-not-really had ended things. It’d been his own fault, anyway, for bringing feelings into what was supposed to be a physical relationship. Hypnos had just rolled his eyes, said You’re boring when you’re gloomy, and left, presumably to find something or someone more exciting than Zagreus to entertain him.

But one day he’d felt a little lonelier, a little more miserable, which maybe had to do with the fact that the Hydra had killed him for the third time in a row. And Hypnos noticed because of course he did, they’ve known each other for ages, and he was more perceptive than anyone suspected. So when he puts a hand on Zagreus’ arm, says Just one little kiss to ease your sorrows? and Zagreus stays silent, Hypnos leans forward and bumps his cool lips against his cheek, and somehow that had turned into the two of them lying on his couch, Zagreus straddling Hypnos and pinning his tiny wrists above his head, licking into his warm mouth.

It’s sloppy and uncoordinated because Zagreus is heartbroken, sure, but he is now discovering that he is also apparently very, very, desperate, and he doesn’t think he realized just how much he wanted to be on top of someone, stick his tongue in their mouth until this moment, when he’s on top of Hypnos, sticking his tongue in his mouth.

At some point, the harsh licking and biting and teeth-clacking turns into something actually resembling a kiss, Zagreus loosening his tight grip so Hypnos can pull his hands down, and he only uses the freedom to slide his hands into Zagreus’ robe, press cold fingers to his sides.

They fall asleep there tangled together, and Zagreus realizes, belatedly, that he liked the feeling of Hypnos’ small body underneath his.

-

It wasn’t a secret to anyone – no, actually, it was probably a secret to most people in the House, maybe everyone but Zagreus, that Hypnos had a lot of... bedwarmers.

Zagreus doesn’t ask about it, and Hypnos doesn’t go into detail of where he goes or who he's with, but it’s something he tells Zagreus about, confides in him when he gets back to the House after disappearing for hours or days at a time and the bags under his eyes look just a bit darker, a secret Zagreus silently holds for him.

But he knows about it, so he wasn’t surprised when Hypnos had offered a kiss, and he’s not surprised now, when Hypnos puts a hand on his knee, and Zagreus knows an invitation when it’s handed to him, so he nearly drags Hypnos from the lounge to his room, grip tight on his small, cold wrist as Hypnos stifles a laugh behind his hand.

“I’ve always wondered – ,” he says, after he’s yanked up Hypnos’ skirt and tugged his underwear off while Hypnos did absolutely nothing to help, just laughed as Zagreus scooped him up and pinned him to the wall, one arm secured beneath him and Hypnos’ legs around him, skirt hiked up, “ – How easy access this was.” He traces a hand over the pale leg thrown around his waist, delights in how he barely has to stretch his fingers to have his hand span the width of Hypnos’ thigh.

“You were always welcome to ask,” Hypnos says, smile teasing even as he lets out a sharp exhale when Zagreus creeps his hand up his leg, “I – would’ve been happy to give you a demonstration – Zag, would you touch me already?”

“I am touching you,” he says, grins as he retracts his hand, rubs the inside of Hypnos’ thigh.

“No, you’re not.”

“Oh, alright – here,” he holds out his hand.

“What?”

“Spit.”

“Oh, you are such a beast,” Hypnos says, but leans forward and spits into his hand.

“You love it,” and he doesn’t think his grin could get wider, but it does when Hypnos whines as he slips his hand up and grips his cock. Hypnos already sounds breathless, wrecked gasps Zagreus pulls out of him with the stroke of his hand until he’s leaking, and Zagreus grazes his fingers over the head to spread the slickness down the length, ease the slide of his hand.

Hypnos' hands reach up to cup his jaw, oddly gentle compared to how tight he had his legs wrapped around him, dragging Zagreus closer while his cool fingers curled over his cheeks and under his eyes. It keeps Zagreus' head up, lets him take in Hypnos’ closed eyes and parted lips, how his eyelashes flutter when Zagreus twists his wrist. Then Zagreus jerks his hand roughly and Hypnos’ fingers fly into his hair to twist in the strands, head falling back against the wall as his hips stutter up to fuck into Zagreus’ hand.

“You – ” Hypnos grinds out, “ – Your hand is so big, it’s – hell, it is way too hard to breathe right now.” He scrambles a hand against his own neck, and the metal collar there disappears the moment his fingers make contact with it, revealing the low hanging neck of his tunic.

Zagreus stares at the newly exposed span of skin, Hypnos’ neck so flushed and thin he wonders how far his fingers could wrap around it. Hypnos slides his hands to rest on Zagreus’ neck, and where his fingers were pressed he could surely feel a racing pulse, just as Zagreus could watch the rise and fall of Hypnos’ chest through gulps of air, could take in the sharp lines of his clavicles jutting out under skin that seemed translucent against the bright red tunic.

“No,” he says, tightens his grip and has Hypnos hiss when he gently scrapes his nails up his cock, hand sticky with spit and pre-come that he smears over the head, “You’re just that small.”

“Zag – ”

Like a canvas, he thinks, staring at pale skin, then leans forward and bites hard into his neck, hears Hypnos swear and whine and feels him jerk his hips up as he spills into his hand. Zagreus silently commends himself for stopping it from splattering on their clothes.

He loosens his grip, and Hypnos ruts out his orgasm into the loose curl of his fingers while Zagreus bites his way down his neck to his shoulder, sucks hard on the skin, and when he’s done Zagreus pulls back, brings his hand to his mouth to lick the come off his fingers.

“You know I could just charm us clean, right?” Hypnos says, but he sounds winded, eyes wide and fixed on Zagreus’ mouth as Zagreus sucks his fingers into his mouth, licks the spend off his palm.

“I know,” he says, wipes his hand on the cloth at Hypnos’ hip with a smirk that has Hypnos rolling his eyes.

“Alright, now – ” Hypnos pushes at his shoulders, “Put me down. You can use my mouth.”

Hypnos barely has his feet on the floor before he pitches forward to wrap his arms around Zagreus’ waist, and Zagreus lets himself be turned until his back hits the wall, hears a soft thud and looks down to find Hypnos grinning up brightly from his knees.

“Hey, Prince,” he says, running his hands over the sides of his legs, curling over the backs of his knees and up his thighs.

Zagreus tilts his head, bites his lip to suppress the grin that threatens to break when Hypnos grabs his ass, “Hello to you, too. I think I recall you saying something about your mouth.”

“I didn’t expect you to be impatient,” Hypnos says, leans forward to press his face into his clothed crotch, rub his cheek against the growing length of him. The heat of his cheek feels suffocating, makes Zagreus buck up into him.

“Can’t say I didn’t expect you to be handsy, mate,” he grits out, chokes on a moan when Hypnos grinds a hand against him and mouths at his cock, now fully hard, and Hypnos tongues at the leaking head like he was trying to suck the pre-come into his mouth despite the layers. The wetness makes his breath through the fabric that much more maddening, and Zagreus growls low in his throat at the tight heat in his pants, at Hypnos’ mouth on him but not on him, “Quit being a tease.”

“Oh, I’m the tease now?” Hypnos quirks, but finally yanks down his pants enough to take his cock in hand, “You took way longer to get your hand on me, and – Wow, Eros help me, how are we gonna fit this inside me? You’ll split me open. Oh, right – did you want to fuck me at some point?” He looks up at Zagreus so casually, like he was asking him if he wanted to raid the kitchen to have snacks instead of asking Zagreus to have him, like he wasn’t stroking his cock, licking at the slit for Zagreus to watch white drops smear over his tongue and disappear past his lips.

Any surprise Zagreus feels twists hot in his gut and shoots straight to his dick, and he thinks he might come just from the thought of pushing into Hypnos’ small body, how well it would give under his hands and mouth and – hell, Hypnos would be so tight, the inside of him hot and wet with oil as Zagreus opened him up with his fingers.

He nods, tries to ignore how breathless he feels all because Hypnos was blinking up at him on his knees, soft lips and tongue pressed against him. “Yeah,” he breathes, doesn’t trust himself enough to raise his voice without it tapering off into a moan, or a whine, oh gods – “I’ll fuck you. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

He settles his hand at the back of Hypnos’ head, just cradles his skull while Hypnos drags his lips over his cock, small kisses and licks before he pulls back to settle the tip against his lips, kisses it cutely and his eyes are alight with amusement but he sounds so, so earnest when he says, “You’d be good to me, Zag.” Then he parts his lips to wrap around him, takes him into his mouth.

His hot, hot mouth. Hotter than Zagreus remembers it being when they kissed. Enough that he tilts his head back to thud against the wall, and the pain that shoots through his skull as he squeezes his eyes helps him focus, steady his breathing, stops him from just jerking his hips up to fuck into that warm, wet mouth. He sneaks a glance down, sees the stretch of Hypnos’ mouth over him, bobbing head and throat and he doesn’t think, just moves his hand until it trails from Hypnos’ hair to caress his face, and Zagreus can feel the outline of himself through Hypnos' cheek.

The action draws Hypnos’ gaze up, white hair flopping over pretty gold eyes. Except now Zagreus notices the eye mask staring up at him, too – decidedly less pretty and exponentially creepier. He moves his hand back again, up Hypnos’ temple to push his bangs back, rake through his hair and tug the mask off with the motion. It’s thrown to the side, and when Hypnos makes a curious sound he only says, “It was staring at me,” in one shaky breath, but it turns into a huff of laughter when Hypnos makes a high-pitched, amused noise that might have been giggle if there wasn’t a cock in his mouth.

He’s half-distracted by the softness of white curls threaded through his fingers until Hypnos lurches his head forward and Zagreus feels the head of his cock hit the back of his throat, feels Hypnos swallow around the mouthful, and he staves off the urge to shove in by pulling back, uses his grip on Hypnos’ hair to tug him back until his hand slips from the strands. The sudden motion causes Hypnos to give a muffled cry, turn his head to cough when his mouth slips off, and his voice is hoarse when he looks up at Zagreus, says, “Everything okay?”

“I don’t want to choke you.”

“Ohh – that'd be hot,” Hypnos strokes a hand down his cock, smears spit along the length, “It’s okay. You can fuck my mouth if you want. That’s the whole point, right?” There’s a mess of spit on his chin, and Zagreus is half-tempted to wipe it away with his robe.

Instead, he pushes his fingers against Hypnos' jaw, his cheek, curls a strand of hair behind his ear, then pushes his fingers back into his hair, scrapes his nails along his scalp and grabs a loose handful, asks, “Is this okay?”

Hypnos nuzzles into his hand, voice barely a whisper when he breathes, “It’s perfect,” before he takes the head of his cock into his mouth, sucks almost sweetly and looks up at Zagreus with expectant eyes while his hands rub comforting trails over his shins, squeezing the sides of his knees until Zagreus slowly rocks his hips in, pulls Hypnos forward by the hair until he hits the back of his throat, pulls out, feels the press of a hot tongue and the slightest hint of teeth.

He keeps the slow drag, fucks himself in and out of Hypnos’ mouth as Hypnos jerks his hand around what his mouth doesn’t reach. Zagreus looks down, takes in the bruises starting to bloom on Hypnos’ shoulder – bites that would only be hidden under the huge blanket he lugged everywhere – while he moves in long thrusts, pushing in until just before he thinks it would gag before pulling back, fingers tightening in Hypnos’ hair.

On one drag out, Hypnos looks up at him, and his eyes are watering slightly as he laps at his cock messily, mouth slack even as he sucks on the head, blinking blearily before his eyes fall shut and he’s inching his head back down.

Zagreus wonders if he could fall asleep like that, with a cock in his mouth. Then he wonders what the hell is wrong with him, when that thought is what drives him over the edge, has him coming all over Hypnos’ tongue.

Turns out, Hypnos doesn’t swallow, and Zagreus finds this out immediately after Hypnos pulls back and cups his hands in front of his face, spits the contents of his mouth into his palms. There’s spit and come all over his lips, is dripping down his chin when he looks up at Zagreus, says “You got anywhere I can put this or will I have to dump it in your scrying pool?” and any tension Zagreus was worried would rise from what he’d just done – from who he’d done it with – instantly dissipates as he laughs.

-

Hypnos was waiting in his room, was sleeping in his bed, of course, the next time Zagreus gets back from a run.

He spares only a glance to the basket at the foot of the bed before he crashes face first into his blanket, jostling the whole bed and causing Hypnos to stir from his sleep. So ready to fall asleep, he barely notices the shift in the bed as Hypnos sits up until there’s a hand between his shoulder blades rubbing soothing circles, a slurred “Wha' gotcha this time?” said through a long yawn.

He groans loud and long-winded into his pillow, part frustration but mostly theatrics to draw a laugh out of Hypnos, and he hides his smile at the giggle he gets for his exaggerated annoyance, keeps smiling even as he mumbles “Theseus.”

“Again?” Hypnos swats the back of his head lightly, “I’m starting to wonder, you know – are you getting off on this? You’ve let him kill you, what, five times now?”

“Four,” but who’s counting? Definitely not him. He turns his head to glare at Hypnos, at his stupid smirk and his stupid dimples, “And yes, of course I enjoy getting hit in the face with a chariot – Really turns me on.”

“Oh, come on, he’s pretty. Be honest.” Hypnos has on a sort of dreamy smile that just curls the corner of his lips, eyes alight with something like fondness, and Zagreus’ thoughts are immediately pulled in the direction of Hypnos' unknown bedmates.

Part of him wants to ask, but a larger, louder part of him is actively screaming at him to Mind your own fucking business, so he very firmly yanks his brain away from the topic before he can think of any sentence which contains both Hypnos and Theseus, says instead, “Pretty or not, he's an ass and I’m going to find a way to kill him.” He turns onto his back, catches the amused glint in Hypnos’ eye as he stares up at the ceiling like it could map out a plan, “I just need to think of a better strategy.”

Hypnos tilts his head, gives a thoughtful hum, “Have you tried hitting him really hard? Maybe with something sharp?”

“I’ll put it on my list of ideas.” Zagreus winces at the recent memory of a chariot crashing into him, presses the heels of his palms to his eyes to quell his thoughts. Well, at least it had been quick.

He blinks in surprise when he feels small hands encircle his wrists and pull them away from his face, a soft, “Alright, tough guy, get some sleep,” and then there’s a cool hand settling over his eyes and he feels his exhaustion yanking at him until –

“ – Wait,” he catches Hypnos’ wrist and pulls until thin fingers are curling at his throat instead, “What’s with the basket?”

“The – oh, right. I brought back some fruits from the Surface, but those can wait until after your nap. Though, there was something I wanted to give you – ” Hypnos tugs his wrist free, and Zagreus barely has time to mourn the loss before Hypnos is clamoring over him, reaching over the side of the bed, and when he pulls back it’s with a grin and an apple in hand, “Ta-dah! Plucked from the highest branch – well, maybe not the highest, but well enough up there. Now, don’t tell Aphrodite I said this, but they should have given this to you.”

Zagreus is about to ask Give what to who? as he reaches for the apple, but it gives off a flash so blinding it leaves his vision spotty, come and gone in the instant it takes for him to flinch. He would think it like staring at the Sun for a brief instant, but Zagreus has never seen the Sun, and when he’s done blinking rapidly to clear his eyes, the apple sitting in Hypnos’ palm was now a brilliant gold. Hypnos tugs at his wrist until he raises his hand enough that Hypnos can slip the apple into his palm, and it may as well be a stone, with its heaviness, but Zagreus knows he could just as easily dent or scratch the soft metal if he’s not careful.

He pulls it to eye level to examine it, runs a finger lightly over the stem and leaf sprouting from the top. In the admittedly crappy lighting of his room, he wonders what it would look like if he were to hold it up to the Sun. Hypnos sits in the corner of his eye, and Zagreus is suddenly struck by how the gold of his eyes match the apple, wonders what Hypnos would look like in the Sun, too.

“The highest branch?” Zagreus says, as he considers the apple, “And how were you able to reach that?”

“How do you think I reached it?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” he smiles, “Maybe you charmed one of the Surface’s many winged creatures to fall asleep mid-flight and crash into an apple tree to shake the branches,” then he laughs, suddenly struck by the image of Hypnos running around the base of a tree, basket in hand, trying to catch falling apples and avoid sleeping animals dropping out of the sky.

“It’s called a bird, Zag,” Hypnos sniffs, “And I wouldn’t do that – it might get hurt, or fall to the ground.”

“Well, then you could just wake it up before it hit the ground.”

“It might not recover fast enough to take flight.”

“Oh, of course,” Zagreus says, and Hypnos looks so worried over this hypothetical bird, the absolute sweetheart, "I forget, sometimes, that you’ve got a vast heart stuffed into that tiny body of yours.”

“We can’t all punch our way out of situations,” and – oh, that blush was adorable.

He sits up enough that he can turn to set the apple on his nightstand, falls back into bed with an arm around Hypnos to drag him down onto his pillow with him, and Hypnos curls his fingers around his jaw when Zagreus pulls him in for a kiss.

“It’s lovely,” Zagreus hums against his lips, hears his voice slur with exhaustion, “Thank you.” His muscles feel like lead, when Hypnos presses against him and strokes a thumb over his cheek, and he feels Sleep’s pull on him when a tongue slides against his own, until Zagreus can barely register Hypnos pulling away, and he passes out to the feeling of gentle hands pushing his hair out of his face.

-

He knows it doesn’t mean anything. Not really, anyway.

-

In Zagreus’ defence, the detour to Sleep’s abode in Erebus was meant to be a short one. He was in the middle of a run, after all, but Hypnos had told him to drop by if he had the time. Something about wine and honey cake, and while he had no plans of eating, he also had no plans of denying himself the company of a friend in the middle of his murder spree, if only for a few minutes. He follows the growing trail of poppies along the bank of the Lethe until he finds Hypnos, sitting among the flowers watching the memories flow through the river. He has a bottle in hand, uses his other to drag Zagreus to his half-dark room by the wrist where they sit on the ebony bed, and Hypnos indulges himself in food and drink while Zagreus indulges himself in the company and sight of Hypnos, who wasn’t in his usual tunic but a simple nightgown, something white and flowy that made its way to his ankles and covered his arms to the elbow.

But there was a trickle of wine sitting at the corner of Hypnos’ lip, and Zagreus had made to kiss it away – just one little taste before he pulled away and took his leave – but when he leans in Hypnos turns his head to connect their mouths and Zagreus gives in and grips his tiny waist to pull him into his lap so Hypnos was straddling him.

The gown pools over their legs, and Zagreus finds it really is as soft as it looks, when he sneaks a hand under it to settle against the bare skin of Hypnos’ back, brings his free hand to fist at the nape of his neck so he can tilt Hypnos’ head to properly devour his mouth, taste the wine still sitting on his tongue and teeth.

And it was sort of funny – who was he kidding, it was hilarious – that Hypnos was sitting on his thighs and still only eye level with him, arms wrapped tight around his shoulders. Hilarious that Zagreus could slide a hand down to grip his ass and fit one cheek in his hand, has to stop himself from smirking when Hypnos gasps into his mouth as he runs a finger over his hole.

“Let me fuck you like this,” he breathes against Hypnos’ lips, tries to pull him closer like that were possible, like they weren’t already chest to chest, tongue in mouth and sharing air, “Please, I want to be inside you.”

Hypnos huffs out a laugh, and Zagreus can hear his grin as he says, “Well, since you’re asking so sweetly,” and Hypnos is pulling away – wait, what? – and there’s still Hypnos’ next-to-nothing weight in his lap but no chest pushed up against his, nowhere to put his hands until Hypnos pushes a vial into his palm after drippling oil over his own fingers.

“Um – ” he starts, as he watches Hypnos gather up the fabric of the gown so he can slip his own hand underneath, brace his other hand on Zagreus’ leg and close his eyes as he starts to work himself open. Zagreus can only see the small movements of his arm where his wrist disappears under white cloth, “ – What are you doing?”

Hypnos looks up at him and tilts his head, doesn’t stop the little twitches of his hips, “What’s it look like I’m doing? You think I’m gonna let you stick that thing inside me without prep? Just give me a minute, or if you can’t wait I could blow you while I do this – fuck,” he stutters off on a sharp inhale, and Zagreus can see him shaking, can feel the unsteadiness in the hand braced on his leg.

“Hypnos – ”

“I’m fine,” he says, sounding decidedly not fine when he hisses, “Just – Just need more oil. Zag, give.”

Zagreus blinks, and does not give him the oil.

“Zag – ”

“Let me do it.”

“You don’t have to. Worry about getting your cock inside me, and I’ll deal with this.”

“I want to,” he says, tugs lightly on Hypnos’ sleeve to draw him into a kiss, slow and insistent until Hypnos loops his arms back around his neck.

“How doting,” Hypnos says, tips forward to push his face into Zagreus’ neck, “Which isn’t surprising, I guess, since you’re always trying to shower everyone in gifts. But you did also slam me into a wall and jerk me off, so.”

“I don’t think foreplay counts as doting,” he says, pops the stopper off the vial, “Besides, you only get to fuck someone for the first time once.”

“That’s exactly the sort of stupidly sweet sentient I’d expect to hear from you.” Hypnos presses his mouth to his jaw, slides his fingers into his hair as Zagreus slips a hand under him, and there’s no resistance when he pushes one, then two slick fingers inside him.

Desire is a steady thrum through his veins, and Hypnos was an inviting sight in his lap – arching his back when Zagreus scissors and crooks his fingers, finds the angle that makes Hypnos tighten his fingers in his hair, makes him pant against his mouth with each twist of his wrist – tempting enough to just push down, flip over, and fuck proper, to just slam his cock into until he came messily inside.

But he wouldn’t be able to touch as much, wouldn’t be able to kiss, and Hypnos was so sweet in his hands, pushing back onto his fingers, kissing him clumsily and twining his fingers in his hair, breathy laughs and drawn out exhales every time Zagreus spread his fingers out inside him.

“Serious question – ” Hypnos says, fucking giggles, eyes twinkling with amusement and mouth hidden behind curled fingers when Zagreus finally pulls down his pants to free his cock, “How in hell did you manage to keep that in your pants?” His laugh turns into a sigh when Zagreus pulls his fingers out of him with a wet squelch, replaces them with the head of his cock.

“I…” He knows it’s meant to be a joke, but his thoughts draw back to Hypnos looking up at him from his bedroom floor with a cheeky smile but a trusting gaze and soft voice, “I want to be good to you.”

He feels a smile against his jaw, when Hypnos pushes his nose into his cheek, whispers, “You are, Zag,” and kisses the corner of his mouth. Zagreus slants their lips together, slides his hands down until they settle on sharp hips bones as Hypnos rolls his hips slow and sinks down onto the length of him, doesn’t stop until he’s fully seated.

Long, hard thrusts weren’t really an option in this position, so he savours the slow grind, how Hypnos barely lifted off of him before dropping back down into his lap, kisses every piece of skin he could get his lips on, could sink his teeth into, could bite down into the inviting skin of Hypnos’ neck and thrill at the shaky exhale he hears, bites down harder until Hypnos moans.

“You’d better not chomp the same spot twice,” Hypnos grits out, when Zagreus drags his lips over his jaw, grazes his teeth over the skin, “And – oh – not somewhere I won’t be able to hide.”

“I know, I know.” Zagreus kisses the last bite, pushes his tongue against the skin to feel the indents of his own teeth, knows it will bruise, “These are just for me to see,” he pulls back to smile.

“You – ” Hypnos flicks him on the forehead (“Ow”) with a pout, “ – Are being very greedy, you know that? Just can’t keep your teeth off, killer?”

“And so what if I can’t?” He’s sure Hypnos’ wide grin is only beat by the one he probably (definitely) has on his own face, but when Hypnos leans in to kiss him, tangle their tongues together as he grinds into his lap, Zagreus has the sudden realization that these weren’t just for him, that the next person who had Hypnos in their lap would see bite marks and know it came from someone else, would probably leave marks of their own for the next person to see. And on and on and on.

Something twists in his stomach and his mouth goes slack, but Hypnos uses the moment to lick into his mouth, and Zagreus forces his thoughts aside to focus on the tongue pushing the taste of wine into his teeth, fingers tugging the back of his robe to knead the skin underneath, the tight warmth around his cock, slowly dragging up and down.

He tilts his head, licks alongside. Focus. Warm tongue, wine, cool fingertips, next-to-nothing weight in his lap, in his arms, the wet heat inside Hypnos, the bones of his hips digging into Zagreus' palms when he squeezes his hands. Fabric shifts, and Hypnos pulls back and presses his face into his neck, breathing hot against his collarbone – Zagreus opens his eyes, looks down to find Hypnos palming himself through his clothes.

He grabs Hypnos’ wrist to still his hand, and Hypnos blinks up at him owlishly.

“Zag, what – ” Hypnos' voice is stripped, still moving himself on Zagreus' cock even as he lets his hand be pulled away.

“Let me.”

“It – No, it’s fine. You don’t have to.”

“Do you not want me to?”

“… No, it’s not that. You just don’t have to think about it.”

“Yes, I do,” he takes both of Hypnos’ wrists in a loose grip, guides them back to his shoulders until Hypnos wraps his arms around his neck, brings his own hands to lace at the small of his back and bump their foreheads together, “Why do you keep saying that? I want to touch you.”

Hypnos closes his eyes, presses a kiss to his nose with a sigh, “Just – habit. One less thing for you to deal with.”

“I’m not dealing with it,” Zagreus grapples with the vial of oil, then with the folds of the nightgown once he has his fingers slicked, pushing it aside until he can set a hand on Hypnos’ knee, “You’re saying it like I don’t want you to come in my hand.” He trails his hand up until he can splay his fingers over the soft, heated skin at the inside of Hypnos’ thigh, smears in oil with his fingertips.

“That – ” Hypnos whispers against his mouth, and Zagreus hears his smile through quick breaths, “ – Sounds pretty gross.” He bites at his lower lip, lightly at first but then Zagreus fists his cock and he feels Hypnos' teeth break through his skin, tastes copper in his mouth.

Hypnos pulls away to look at him, blush high on his cheeks and shaky breathes and leaking all over Zagreus’ hand, but his brows knit in worry as he brushes the back of his fingers over Zagreus’ cheek, pushes the hair out of his eyes, “Zag, ah – You’re bleeding.”

“It’s fine – I’m fine,” he says, tries not to wince at the sting when Hypnos pushes at the cut with his thumb to coax out a bead of blood and laps it up with his tongue, sucking and licking in between whines while Zagreus jerks his hand.

He bumps their noses together, hyper-aware of the sounds of his own panted out breathes, Hypnos’ little hiccupped inhales and the taste of his own blood on Hypnos’ tongue, how he feels it ooze from the cut onto their lips. Fabric shifts around their legs, along the back of his fingers, when Hypnos fucks up into his hand and back down on his cock.

It’s not with a moan but a soft “Zagreus” breathed against his lips that Hypnos comes into his hand and onto their chests, on their clothes.

Hypnos' hands – in his hair, in his robe, on his shoulders – don’t still, but it’s less groping and more petting, hands fluttering over his skin, until Hypnos is tugging at the front of his robe, saying, “Here, on my back, fuck me through it, it’s okay,” and Zagreus’ lip is wet with blood and his hand is sticky with come and their clothes are soiled and Hypnos’ thighs are a slippery mess but he manages to get Hypnos on his back, fucks him until his own orgasm creeps up on him and he moans a loud, guttural thing into Hypnos’ neck, wonders if Hypnos could feel the sound vibrate through his body as Zagreus comes inside him.

He’s about to pull out, but Hypnos paws at the side of his head, and he looks up to find Hypnos blinking at him sleepily with a wide grin.

“I really messed up your laurel, didn’t I?” Hypnos says, reaches a hand up to gently card through his hair, rearranging leaves and black locks into some semblance of composure.

It occurs to Zagreus then that he’s not sure what happens now, wasn’t sure what sort of routine Hypnos had after these encounters, and he probably should have asked before, should probably ask now.

Or he could not.

“It’s fine,” he mumbles, and if Hypnos thought anything of the fact that Zagreus closed his eyes, leaned into the touch while he stroked his hair, he didn’t say it, “I doubt I even own a comb.” He has more important things to deal with than routine, anyway, like the mess currently between them. He looks down at their wrecked clothes, grimaces, “You can clean this, right? I'd rather not continue my run with my clothes like this.”

“Are you saying you would if you had to?” Hypnos smirks, but he flicks his wrist and any evidence of what they’d done is gone in the seconds it takes for Zagreus to roll off of him and right his clothes with very empty arms and too much breathing space to himself. Hypnos was lying a foot away from him, smoothing down his dress, probably still leaking come unless his little spell had taken care of that, too. Zagreus hopes it didn’t – turns over the thought of Hypnos’ still-wet thighs in his head – and he doesn’t realize Hypnos was holding a hand out to him until he's finished talking.

Zagreus blinks, “Sorry, what?”

“Cake,” Hypnos says – repeats, with how he snaps his fingers impatiently, “Give me a piece of cake.”

His run could wait a bit longer, just the sparse moments it would take for Zagreus to drop a little cake into Hypnos' waiting palm, and then maybe a few more moments after that, when Zagreus falls back into the pillows.

He sets a hand on Hypnos' clothed thigh, feels the muscles tense then relax under his hand as he runs his thumb over the fabric. Zagreus could just as easily creep his hand inward, sate his curiosity and see if the gown would grow wet under his fingers as it soaked up a sticky mess of come and oil between Hypnos’ legs.

He doesn’t move his hand.

-

He’s pretty sure fuck buddies weren’t supposed to press their lips to trembling shoulders after the orgasm, but he can’t help it, when Hypnos is lying there all pretty and fucked out, filled with his come, and – well, he might be in a tad deeper than he thought.

-

Hypnos had, apparently, gotten a hold of some bawdy mortal romance, and he’d been practically tripping over himself with excitement when he’d first told Zagreus about it, having caught his arm right before he made to jump out of his window into Tartarus. And so Zagreus had promised they could poke through it the next time they saw each other – “Whether that be in the House or on the Surface,” he’d said, to which Hypnos had replied, “It’ll be in the House, but I love the confidence!” – because of course Hypnos liked romances, as if he couldn’t get more endearing.

But Hypnos isn’t at his post after Zagreus pulls himself out of the Styx from what had, admittedly, been an embarrassingly short run (he’d been getting experimental with Aegis. It hadn’t gone well). So after going through his usual routine – snark his father, pet each of Cerberus’ heads in turn, talk strategy with Achilles, tell Orpheus some farfetched story about how he’d taken down the Hydra with nothing but his fishing pole, give Dusa a bottle of nectar for her troubles, and be disappointed that neither Meg nor Thanatos seemed to be in the House – he mills about to try and find the small god.

He checks his own room first – since it seems everyone has collectively decided it was okay to waltz in unannounced and uninvited when they wanted to talk to him – then the lounge, then all of Hypnos’ favourite napping spots, all the dark alcoves, nooks, and niches he managed to shove himself into.

Zagreus is in one such corner of the House, closing the door to a linen closet where he'd once found Hypnos sleeping, crammed into the impossibly small space of the top shelf wrapped up in sheets, when he notices a door at the end of the hall cracked open.

It’s the last place Hypnos would be, a room Zagreus' mind had effectively dubbed Meg and Dusa's Corner – Do Not Enter, but as he quietly approaches the powder room, he hears two voices, sees sleek blue hair through the small opening of the door.

“ – need to be more careful,” he hears Meg say, a rare hint of worry in her voice.

“It's not about being careful,” and there was Hypnos, in the last place he should be, sounding as aloof as always, “I don’t mind. I didn’t tell him to stop.”

Zagreus has his hand half-raised to push the door open when he realizes that he may very well be encroaching on something private, so he knocks against the doorframe instead, realizes after the long silence that follows that his presence has only now been noticed.

He considers just creeping back down the hallway and back to his room, pretending he didn’t see anything, and just as he’s taking a step back Meg calls, “Yes?”

“May I come in?” he calls back.

“No,” Meg says at the same time Hypnos says, “Go ahead!”

“Hypnos – ”

“It’s fine, it’s just Zag,” and had Hypnos just interrupted her? Zagreus distinctly remembers the frightened edge in Hypnos’ voice the last time he had heard the two speak to each other. How many deaths ago had that been?

“I can leave.” At least then he would avoid the ridiculousness of talking to a door.

“No, no come in! Meg, tell him he can come in.”

There’s a beat of silence before Meg finally replies, tone hard, “Fine. Get in here, Zagreus.”

Now, Hypnos was very small compared to Zagreus, while Meg was very tall, and so seeing the two of them together when he pokes his head in gave off the impression that Hypnos was a sort of large ragdoll that Meg had plopped into a high stool to make conversation with. Or to smear makeup on, judging by the brush she had in hand and the little can of powder sitting on the counter.

“So,” Meg’s eyes flit curiously between Zagreus and Hypnos, “He knows, then.” She fixes Zagreus with an examining look, the kind that would have pinned him in place if he were paying any sort of attention, but he’s running on autopilot as he moves into the room, can’t process anything until he's made it to Hypnos, is setting a gentle hand over his jaw.

“Yeah, he knows,” Hypnos says, presses his face into Zagreus’ hand and Zagreus is suddenly very conscious of just what this looks like, if he were sitting where Meg is now, but before he can pull his hand away Hypnos curls his fingers around his arm, skims his thumb over his wrist, and – well, he can’t pull away now.

His awareness narrows down to the soft touch over the inside of his wrist, how he could see Meg in his periphery very casually turned away from them to give them some semblance of privacy. “What happened to you?” he asks, like he doesn’t already know, like he wasn’t trailing his fingers over dark bruises and teeth marks mottled over Hypnos' face.

“Friend of mine just got a bit rough, nothing to worry about. You scared me, Zag. I was worried that was Mom, or my brother – Gods, that would have been a nightmare, and I know nightmares.”

Zagreus nods, dazed, suddenly caught in how his hand almost completely covers the bruises on Hypnos’ cheek and jaw. He wants to lean down and bite, replace the marks with indents of his own teeth.

And then he sort of wants to kick himself, really, maybe ask Meg to smack him upside the head, because Hypnos wasn’t his – he didn’t have the right to feel possessive, shouldn’t crave seeing marks only he’d left on Hypnos’ skin, he wasn’t allowed to, it wasn’t his place to, and it wasn’t fair to Hypnos, and –

He forces himself to pull his hand back, tear his gaze away from Hypnos to look at the little can of powder on the counter instead. There was an apple sitting next to it, he only now notices, cut into even slices.

“We were covering it up,” Meg explains to his questioning gaze. Her lip curls with something like worry, “The last thing we need is Nyx asking about this.”

“Meg’s gonna make me all pretty,” Hypnos laughs.

“You’re already pretty,” Zagreus says, maybe a bit too quickly, with how Meg tilts her head, graces him with a raised eyebrow. Zagreus has known her long enough to tell she’s biting the inside of her lip to suppress a smile, sharp eyes looking from Hypnos to Zagreus to where his hand now rests at his side.

He wonders just what it is she sees. He wonders if she could tell him what he’s thinking, because gods know he has no idea what’s going through his own head right now.

“Well,” Meg starts slowly, then straightens up, takes on the carefully blank expression she usually wears as she covers the brush in powder and gives Zagreus a withering look, “Stay or leave – I don’t care – but at least have the decency to close the door.”

Oh, right. The door, and manners, and he’d nearly forgotten to knock, too, hadn’t he? Wasn’t he supposed to be a prince?

“Uh – ” should he stay? He looks to Hypnos, a silent question.

Hypnos grins, makes a shooing motion at him, “I left some goods in the kitchen, so grab me some food, would you? I’ll meet you in your room,” and Zagreus returns his smile before Meg takes Hypnos’ chin in hand and pulls him back to face her, lifts the brush to his face.

Zagreus spares them a final glance before he leaves and – yes – he closes the door, thank you very much, Meg.

When Hypnos appears in his room with bruises hidden, Zagreus doesn’t kiss him, at least not anywhere he knows is covered in makeup. He does feed him apple slices, though, lets Hypnos lick at the juice where it drips between his fingers, and later Zagreus sucks bruises into his thighs, just so the next person who’s there knows He's not yours, either.

-

At some point –

He’s not exactly sure what point – it may have been as Hypnos’ hands gently cupped his face as they kissed, or when Zagreus has two fingers buried inside him, relishing the way Hypnos moans when he scissors, or when he’s fucking into him, has Hypnos on his back, face buried in Zagreus' neck as he whispers harder, harder, I can take it, Zag, please – but at some point, Zagreus thinks gods I’m so in love with you.

And when Hypnos is fast asleep beside him later, leaving Zagreus to wipe up the sticky mess on their bodies, he looks at Hypnos’ sleeping face and thinks you lazy bastard followed immediately by oh fuck, I love him.

-

“I’ve heard mortals think there's a vein in your fourth finger that runs to your heart,” Hypnos says, cradling Zagreus' hand in one of his own as he traces patterns into his palm, and Hypnos' hands look so small pressed up against his own as he wraps his index finger around Zagreus’ fourth finger.

“Don't all fingers have veins leading back to the heart?”

“I don’t think they have a very solid grasp on the flow of blood yet.”

-

To be perfectly honest, Zagreus didn’t have a lot of friends.

But in being honest, it is only right to also be fair, because he also just didn’t know a lot of people. How could he, when there were so few people in the House?

All the more reason to befriend the few he did know – all the more reason not to get on their nerves, to stay on good terms, to not get into complicated, messy relationships that just end in bitterness and stilted conversations.

To not fuck things up.

He thinks of Meg, of Hypnos. Wonders if this is just another friendship he's going to ruin with his stupid, stupid heart.

But, and he is rather proud to say this, it turns out his friendship with Meg wasn’t totally unsalvageable.

Things weren’t back to how they were before… Before. They probably never would be, but they weren’t on unfriendly terms anymore, or maybe they just weren’t on we're-not-fucking-anymore-and-I-can’t-tell-if-we-can-be-friends-again terms. Meg was no longer gracing him with nothing but curt replies, they’d gotten talking again, and Zagreus was just happy to have his friend back.

At least, he was pretty sure they were friends again. Given that, she might just kill him in his sleep after this, not that it would last.

Because Meg is in his room, seemingly determined to tear it to pieces.

“Where is it?” she says, rifling through his bookshelf for the third time.

Zagreus is sitting on his bed, has given up looking at this point. “I’m sure it will turn up,” he says, “Most things do.”

“And if it doesn’t?” She shoots him a glare before turning back and yanking out books they had both already checked behind. “Do you have any idea how long it took me to compile all those poems? Sappho’s been dead for half a millennium.”

Her patience quota had been met and subsequently vaulted over at some point – when they first started this search she had set everything back where she found it, but now she adopts Zagreus’ usual method of putting things away, which entailed throwing it on the floor to be dealt with later. Or never. To be fair, there wasn’t much of a point in cleaning your room when you were trying to run away from home.

“Look,” Zagreus says, before realizing he didn’t actually have anything useful to say, “It’ll turn up,” he repeats, lamely.

Meg pulls back from the bookshelf and shakes her head, looks more disappointed than annoyed, “Maybe if your room wasn’t such a disgusting mess, it wouldn’t be a whole ordeal just trying to find a single book.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have thrown your book into the disgusting mess, then?”

Oh, never mind – there was the annoyance, but as she looks about to snap back at him, or maybe just threaten him – he has his bets on a threat – her gaze slides to the side and her eyes widen.

“What – ” she points to his nightstand, scavenger hunt seemingly forgotten, “ – is that?”

“What?” He follows her finger to the golden apple, still sitting where he’d left it when he first set it down, “Oh, that, it’s…” he wills himself not to react, hopes his calm doesn’t sound forced when he says, “It’s just something Hypnos gave me.”

“Really now,” her eyes narrow as she approaches the apple. It had felt like something he shouldn’t touch, lately, but Meg picks it up without a care, “Just a golden apple?” she says, holds it up to eye level to examine just as Zagreus had when he’d first received it.

“What about it?” he’s calm – he’s calm, this is not bothering him. Everything involving Hypnos felt like a sore spot right now, but it’s fine, he’s fine, and Meg is pushing at the little golden leaf – wait, no, “Hey, don’t – be careful with that,” he stands, abruptly enough that Meg pulls her gaze from the apple to look at him curiously.

She hums, and he can feel her eyes pinned on him even as he’s focused on the apple she’s weighing in her palm. “Yes, yes I know. I’m just looking, no need to throw a fit. It’s an impressive charm,” she says, in a tone that seems too casual, “Not that you’d be able to tell. I’m sure it would get you a decent sum up on the Surface. Mortals love shiny things, or so I’ve heard.”

“I’m not going to sell it,” he – okay, fine, he can admit he’s angry, at least a little bit, and he snaps, “I would never do that.”

The corner of Meg’s lip ticks up, just the smallest bit, as she says, “I know.” She looks smug – why the hell does she look smug? – as she passes the apple to him, “I'll be back later to look for my book. I’ll tear this place apart if I have to.”

“You already have,” he says, but his eyes are trained on the apple cradled in his palms, and as Meg walks out, he doesn’t see the quick wave she gives over her shoulder, rooted in place as he is.

Once her footsteps have faded, he turns the apple over in his hands, lifts it to his mouth to press his lips to it. He could just open his mouth and bite down, dent the soft metal with his teeth so it held the shape of his mouth.

He puts it back on the nightstand.

-

Hypnos had given him a little book of poems, recently – Older than the Greeks, he had said, and when Zagreus had flipped to a random page the first thing he’d read was “Sleep, begone! I want to hold my darling in my arms!” and snorted with laughter. Hypnos had given him a confused look, but he couldn’t explain the joke – couldn’t say “You’re my darling, Sleep,” no matter how much he longed to.

It just wasn’t true.

-

“I forgot to ask when you came in,” Hypnos says, then takes a swig of saltwater and swishes it in his mouth before spitting it back out into his cup and cracking a grin, “So I’ll ask now, after you came in my mouth – who had the pleasure of killing you this time?”

Zagreus drags the blankets they’d kicked off back onto his bed, settles next to Hypnos where he sits against the headboard and turns his face into his shoulder, takes in the smell of the scented oil he used in the bath, “You know those stupid chariot things?”

Hypnos throws his head back to laugh, “The ones that sound like cats? – Wait, you’ve never seen a cat, have you? Oh, I wish I could bring you back a cat. Or maybe not, since you’re obviously a dog person.” Zagreus isn’t sure what that’s supposed to mean, but before he can ask Hypnos flicks the cup into non-existence and says, “You know – most of the mortal realm is covered in saltwater. You’ve heard of the ocean, right?”

“Achilles has told me, yes. About the waters they sail over in their boats.” And not like the small things he used to traverse the underworld. If Achilles was to be believed (and he always was), the mortals had not just boats but ships, ones that could carry hundreds of men, sailing along water that stretched on with no land in sight, “Once I get to the Surface, we can go to the shore, see the water.”

“I’ll put it on the list of everything else we need to do,” Hypnos smiles, the kind that’s all small and sweet and makes Zagreus’ stomach twist, “I could teach you how to swim. Those streams we used to jump into in Elysium are nowhere near as deep as the water up there.”

“Oh, wow, Sleep Incarnate would expend energy like that?” and Zagreus absolutely does not have a knot in his throat – he doesn’t, “Just for me?”

“You know what?” Hypnos grabs a fistful of his hair and tugs, “I’ve just changed my mind, I think I'll just let you drown.”

“You would never,” he says, tackles Hypnos’ side into the bed and bites into his neck as Hypnos bursts into laughter, and oh, it was dangerous, how Hypnos brings his hands up to cradle Zagreus’ head where it rests on his chest, fingers trailing through dark hair – and he suddenly remembers all the reasons this was a bad idea, why this was the worst idea.

He pulls back, feels guilty when he has to tug up, just slightly, to dislodge Hypnos' fingers from his hair. There’s something heavy in his throat, in his stomach, as he starts re-dressing.

“Are you seriously going for another run?” Hypnos sits up, “Already?”

“Yes, I – I need to try again.”

“No, you need to learn what a break is.” Hypnos waves a hand as he hops out of the bed, is fully dressed in the instant it takes for his feet to hit the floor, “Get a move on then – the Surface awaits! Try to dodge next time, will ya?” and then he strides out of the room without another word, leaving Zagreus with nothing but the sound of the door closing behind him.

Zagreus stares at the lump of blankets strewn over his bed, vaguely wonders if any of Hypnos’ bedmates stick around afterwards or if they just get their climax and leave. Do they kiss him goodbye? The thought makes him want to put his head through a wall, and the thought of putting his head through a wall over something that wasn’t his business makes him want to – to… he doesn’t know. To do something that hurts, maybe, as some form of retribution, because Hypnos deserves better than this, deserves better than his ugly jealousy and the cowardice of hidden feelings.

-

Above all else, Hypnos was his friend. His friend who he would occasionally kiss, and on a lesser occasion would fuck, but more than that – more important than that – he was a friend Zagreus confided in, who brought him little trinkets from the Surface just because They reminded me of you, who he enjoyed time with – reading together and playing games and drinking and late-night talks and walks and Zagreus lying with his head in his lap, Hypnos promising him any dream he wants, Hypnos putting the House to sleep for him, and –

And.

He didn’t want to lose that, just because he’d been stupid enough to catch feelings.

-

The last time Zagreus had wandered the House looking for Hypnos, he’d come to that powder room again, heard two voices behind the (now completely closed) door again, and he'd turned on his heel and gone back to his room, locked the door, and thrown himself into bed, hoping if he just closed his eyes and stuffed his head into his pillow it would block out all the thoughts rushing through his head, about bruises and teeth marks and soft kisses and gentle hands in his hair and what wasn’t his, what he wasn’t.

-

He’s going to say something, he’s just not sure what, exactly. Something about feelings, about love, maybe, something about if you don’t like me back that’s fine let’s just go back to being friends but I can’t fuck you while loving you if you don’t love me and – and he probably should have rehearsed this.

The bruises on Hypnos’ neck have faded, almost invisible, when he runs his fingers over them, thinking Just say it – just say it and be done with it.

And then he’s thinking what the hell are you doing because he'd invited Hypnos to his room to talk and now he's got three fingers buried inside him, twisting his wrist and curling his fingers so Hypnos squirms underneath him and what the hell is he doing what the hell is he doing.

He’s pulling his fingers out, kissing Hypnos on the nose, on the cheek, saying “You’re so pretty.”

“Promise I’ll look prettier,” Hypnos’ breath ghosts over his cheek, “If you’d hurry up and get your cock in me.”

And okay, he knows what he’s doing, when he slicks himself with oil and leans over Hypnos, threads their fingers together where their hands are clasped over the pillow as he pushes in slowly, and it’s something along the line of savoring this – every sound Hypnos makes as he rocks into him, the sharp exhale when Zagreus bottoms out, how his eyes flutter closed when Zagreus leans in to kiss him – while he still has the chance, something along the lines of endings and last times and breaking off – breaking up? – oh no.

He tries to stop his racing thoughts by burying his face into the crook of Hypnos’ neck, licks a stripe up his throat as he starts moving and Hypnos swears and grips his hair and tugs and it helps quiet his thoughts, a little.

He just needs to drink this up until he drowns, overload his senses until this burns into his memory like a brand and he knows he’s being selfish – gods what is wrong with you – he can’t help it, he just wants this one more time, one last time of dragging his nose along Hypnos’ jaw and behind his ear, telling him how perfect he looks when he’s stuffed full and Zagreus breathes in deep to quell the knot in his throat, smells sweat and the flowers Hypnos crushed and mixed with oils and honey to use in his hair.

“Your hair smells nice,” he says, tries to distract himself from how his heart is crawling up his throat into his mouth and he aches, why does this hurt.

“What is up with you today –” Hypnos lets out a gasp at a hard thrust, “ – You’re all over the map.”

“I’m just extra appreciative of you today, Hypnos,” and that was supposed to come out teasing but he thinks he might sound just a hint of miserable, and he doesn’t want to look up yet so he snakes a hand between them to curl around Hypnos’ cock, jerks his hand until Hypnos whines and comes and he keeps snapping his hips, keeps fucking him until he’s so, so close –

He finds one of the fading bruises on Hypnos’ shoulder and bites down as he comes, clamps his teeth down hard and it hurts, dammit, it –

“ – hurts, Zag – Zagreus, fuck! Let go!”

He pulls back, strings together nearly every curse he knows, “ – Sorry, I’m sorry, Hypnos – ”

“Zagreus.”

“ – I don’t know – oh. Um, yes?”

Hypnos sits up, hand clasped to his neck, covered in his own come that streaked over his chest. His hand leaves his neck, becomes a light but comforting weight on Zagreus’ shoulder, “Walk me to Erebus.”

“I… what?”

“Take me home, Zag.”

-

They sit on the bank of the Lethe watching the memories flow past, and Zagreus resists the urge to reach into the endless sea of poppies around them, pluck one up and tuck it behind Hypnos’ ear. It would look pretty there, he’s sure. Hypnos stares out at the river, avoiding eye contact. Zagreus does not notice this. He is doing the same.

“You’ve started looking at me like I make you miserable,” Hypnos says.

Now, Zagreus’ head snaps to the side, lands on Hypnos’ profile as he keeps his gaze locked on the water. Hypnos’ stare is a careful blank, but his fingers are twisted tight into the sleeves of his nightgown.

“Hypnos – ”

“You know who Endymion is, right? You know that we…” Hypnos falls silent, draws his knees up to his chest.

The topic change momentarily stuns him, and Zagreus wants to backtrack, wants to say Hypnos didn’t make him miserable – that being with him felt like breathing the fresh air of the Surface and feeling the wind on his face for the first time, was like hearing the crunch of snow under his feet with each step, how its chill made him think of Hypnos’ cool lips pressed to his own. But Hypnos’ tone had been wistful, not accusatory, so he swallows his protests, says instead, “I know of him. You two were together and he… left.” For someone else passes unsaid between them, but Hypnos didn’t need Zagreus to relay the details of his own heartbreak to him, “Why do you ask?”

The skin Zagreus had sunk his teeth into was starting to bruise, dark blotches standing out against Hypnos’ pale neck that he was absentmindedly running his fingers over. “I saw it coming,” Hypnos says in a rushed breath, ignores – or maybe hadn’t noticed – Zagreus’ question, “One day I realized he didn’t love me anymore – or maybe never had in the first place, and I looked at him and I loved him and I was miserable.”

“Hypnos, what – ”

“ – But that’s how you’re looking at me.” His voice raises now, suddenly determined, and when he finally turns to look at Zagreus his eyes may as well drill holes into him, for all the hope they hold in them, “Am I an idiot for thinking that?”

The Lethe will flow so long as memories pass through it, and memories will pass through so long as mortals die, and so the Lethe will flow until the final soul has passed.

That may as well be now, may as well be this very moment to Zagreus’ deaf ears, because he does not hear the flow of water anymore, caught in some strange bubble of reality – just him and the anxious anticipation of Hypnos’ gaze, one hand twisted in the fabric at his knee and the other pressed to the dirt in the space between them so he was leant towards Zagreus.

Zagreus thinks back – fruits, okay, not quite obvious – golden apple? Maybe he should have asked about that. Mortals think there's a vein in your fourth finger that runs to your heart and You'd be good to me and Hypnos’ disappointed face when he leaves the bed and Hypnos giving him books filled with poems – filled with love poems, and pushing his hair out of his face while he dozes and promising to teach him how to swim, promising any dream he wants and Hypnos had let him trail kisses afterwards, had kissed him right back, and –

And.

How had he not realized this sooner?

“No,” Zagreus breathes out with all the air in his lungs, and the bubble pops – he can breathe again, can hear the Lethe again, could smell freshly dug soil. The flowers Hypnos had been so careful not to crush when he’d placed a hand between the two of them are flattened when Zagreus covers the back of his hand with his own, “No, you’re not.”

The earth is soft when his back hits it, and Hypnos tastes like the nectar they shared on the walk here, smells like honey and oil and flowers crushed into a paste. There had been something heavy sitting in his chest, but it disappears now with the very real weight of Hypnos lying on top of him, as he pulls back enough to grin. Zagreus thinks his own face may split with how wide he smiles.

“So – just to be clear,” Hypnos says, and Zagreus’ vision is nothing but red petals and green stems and Hypnos looking down at him, “I’m in love with you. I love you.”

“I’d gathered that,” Zagreus smirks, brings a hand up to tuck a curl behind Hypnos’ ear, and it just flops back down over his face. Hypnos’ eyes seem to twinkle with mirth, and Zagreus realizes – he wants this, on the Surface. He wants Hypnos to gaze down at him but with the Sun above them, lighting up white hair and gold eyes and the curve of a bright smile. He wants the flowers above him to sway in the wind, feel their movement in the stems that graze his cheeks. “I love you, too.”

He closes his eyes, feels Hypnos shift his weight until he was settled into his chest, head tucked under his chin. He focuses on the pinpoints of his shoulder that Hypnos was tracing his fingers over, how the coldness of his skin leeches the heat out of Zagreus’ palms when Zagreus presses his hands to the small of his back.

“Come inside.” Hypnos’ voice is quiet, whispered into Zagreus' jaw like his words would shatter the calm between them. “You can lay in my bed and I’ll feed you – make you feel like actual royalty in between all your gruesome deaths. I promise I’ll make sure you don’t choke on the wine.”

Zagreus hums, moves his hands in comforting circles over Hypnos’ back, presses him closer. “That sounds lovely,” he says, making absolutely no move to get up. His run could wait – minutes, hours, days. Honey cakes and lying in an ebony bed and Hypnos carefully tilting his head up to pour wine into his mouth – those things could wait, too, but maybe just for a few more moments.