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What he remembered most clearly now was the hunger and the cold.

No food, no clothes, no cover of any kind, just cold glass.

For a hundred years he shivered, starved, thought about the past, mulled over every word, every choice made. For a hundred years he believed that this would be forever, that he had lost not only his freedom and his name but also his voice. It had been so long since he had said anything to anyone that he did not know if he still remembered how to speak.

In the end, his escape only happened out of pity from a man he could not, in the end, spare, for his husband had also hurt Morpheus. And even after everything, he couldn't let that anger go. He felt empty, sad, lonely. But he didn't feel satisfied, or even truly free. Sometimes it felt like he was still locked in that basement.

-

Hob was sitting at the bar, reading and writing something that Dream simply didn't care enough to ask what it was, the only thing that mattered was that Hob was there, waiting for him, after all those years.

"You are late." Hob said, smiling.

“It seems I owe you an apology. I've always heard it impolite to keep one's friends waiting.” Dream sat in front of Hob, smiling a smile that only seemed to exist in Hob's presence.

"So how were your last years Hob Gadling?"

Hob smiled, and for hours he talked. And not just about the last few years, but also about everything that Dream never had the patience or desire to hear before. He asked Hob about his past, about the songs he had listened to, the places he had passed, the books he had read. And Hob, always kind, always friendly, answered all his questions with a smile on his face.

"And you, how are you? And don't you dare say it's all right." Hob said at last, his hand opening and closing nervously on the table.

"I'm tired." he said sincerely. The anger, the despair, the anguish, it had all slowly faded away, leaving him empty, exhausted.

"I've been... detained by certain circumstances these past few years. Some things happened to me, some things happened because of me. It doesn't matter now, it's all over." Dream said, with an air of finality, but he didn't feel it, didn't feel that it was over.

Hob stared at him as if he wished to say something, but in the end he shut up and nodded.

"Very well then. May I ask a question?" Hob asked finally.

"You may. I just can't guarantee I'll answer it"

"Fair enough." Hob said laughing, but suddenly his countenance turned serious, almost sombre. "It won't be another hundred years from now, right? I think it's only fair that the hundred years count from 1989, if only to keep the tradition going."

Dream let out an incredulous laugh. He hadn't even thought about it yet. What a strange thing, to think of seeing a friend, someone important, only every hundred years, but of course Hob would think about it, and of course he would care about Dream and his visits. Hob was, after all, the first to consider them friends.

"You are absurd, Hob Gadling." he leaned towards Hob, placing his hands on the table, close to Hob's hands. "I sincerely hope our next meeting is sooner than a hundred years from now, perhaps in a few months."

Hob smiled, the delight caused by Dream's words clear in his expression.

"Agreed. Now, I have other questions, since we're friends and all."

"Alright, go ahead, ask away."

And Hob asked about so many things over the next few hours.

About Dream's family "You have a family? Really? Siblings? Are all your relatives magical?” (Yes, I have a family, and many siblings. And it's not magic, it's something more complex than you're capable of understanding. No, I will not elaborate)

About what he did. (I create things, and stories.)

Where he lived. (A kind of kingdom, but not the kind you humans have. It's different, more - ) “Complex, yes, I got it.”

What he was. (I am a representation of something.)

And so on. Often Dream was purposefully vague, he had no need for Hob to know about things Hob couldn't really understand, or that wouldn't even be useful to his life.

The truth was, Dream didn't want Hob getting involved with people who understood what Dream was.

"Are you satisfied, my friend?" Dream asked when Hob finally stopped bombarding him with questions.

"Not even close." Hob replied, a flame burned in his eyes, a longing for something distant, unattainable. Perhaps Dream had said enough. Perhaps it had been too much. Hob was a good man, but he knew that too much power and knowledge could corrupt even the best of men. Dream cringed and looked out the window, seeing that it was already dark.

"I need to go, it's late."

"Sure. Just, can I tell you something, before you go?" Hob asked, sounding nervous.

Dream nodded positively.

"I know you had said you didn't need my friendship, my company, but, well, I'm only human, after all. My heart felt like an open wound that day, aching and mourning the friendship we could have had, the undying companionship I lost because I didn't know when to be quiet. I felt haunted for years by the look you gave me, as if I had said the worst of offences. I..." Dream stretched his arm further across the table and held Hob's hand, squeezing it tightly. Hob laughed breathlessly.

"I suppose what I'm trying to say is, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the pain I caused that day, I'm sorry if what I did somehow made you, I don't know, caused your lateness. I'm just, I'm sorry."

"Hob Gadling, my friend, you owe me no apologies. Not for that. I wish I had realised earlier, much earlier, the truth behind the words you said that day." Dream smiled then, knowing that Hob adored his smiles, wanting to make the man happy.

"Well, I'm holding you back." Hob spoke, blinking back tears.

"I think I can stay a bit longer."

"In that case, do you want to come up? I live up here. It's starting to get dark, and the Inn can get pretty busy, it gets kind of hard to talk."

"You live here?"

"Sure. I own this bar, it's easier, and cheaper, to just own one place."

"Oh. I hadn't realised."

Hob stood up and gave his arm to Dream, who took it smiling. They entered a door at the back of the pub, near the kitchen, which led to a narrow staircase. Hob let go of his arm and bowed slightly, signalling for Dream to climb the stairs. Dream rolled his eyes, but couldn't stop smiling. What a strange feeling, Dream thought, this pain in his cheeks, he had never felt it before.

Hob's house was lovely, but it looked more like the home of a hundred different men living a hundred completely different lives.

The living room was huge, with only a countertop separating it from an equally large kitchen. Objects from different times and places decorated the walls and shelves. There was no TV, just endless books, paintings and portraits. Near a balcony, Dream saw an old sewing machine, and next to it, a computer from the beginning of the last decade. The overlapping of so many lives, all so diverse and so culturally rich, made Dream's eyes water. Humanity could be extraordinary, indeed. Hob was extraordinary, in his simple complexity, in his sincere naivety.

A shiver ran through Dream's body, and he realised, with some amazement, that he was hot. He took off his jacket and threw it on the two-seater sofa.

"What do you want? - Hob's voice sounded distant, and only at that moment did Dream realise that Hob was not with him in the living room, but in the kitchen. - I have wine, beer, tea, coffee..." Hob stopped talking and arched his eyebrows at the sight of Dream's grimace at the latter.

"Wine, please" Dream replied, leaning on the passage between the kitchen and the living room and watching Hob move around the kitchen with the practice of a man who could cook with his eyes closed. If Dream stopped to think about it, he would realise that most people spend a good deal of their lives cooking, and Hob lived a much longer life than most people. But at the moment, the only thing on Dream's mind were Hob's hands. What a strange thing to notice after so long.

He knew Hob was a strong man, he could see that strength in his arms and legs, in the way he carried himself. But he had a strength in his hands too. Perhaps more sensitive, or contained, than the one in the rest of his body, but it was still there. The way he contorted his fingers and flexed his hand, the ease he opened the wine bottle.

A tremor passed through Dream's body, and he closed his eyes. He knew those tremors, and they were rarely kind to him.

"Here, I think that wine is almost as old as I'm supposed to be." Hob smiled, reaching the glass over to Dream and taking another glass for himself. Dream thanked him, and took a sip of wine.

He began to mull over the questions Hob had asked him, and the one he did not dare to ask. He wanted to talk it all out, wanted to tell everything that happened, everything he understood in those years he was 'held back', but something in the stuffy atmosphere, the tension in Hob's back, prevented him.

Dream wasn't ready to talk about it. Maybe he would never be.

"Well" Hob began, holding his cup tightly, looking nervous, "Can I ask you a question? The last one, I promise."

Dream smiled and nodded positively.

"What is your name?"

Dream looked at the man in front of him, at his tense shoulders, his nervous eyes, the false calm he was trying to convey. 'He's afraid I'll run away again, that I'll disappear for another 130 years.'

“Dream of the Endless.” Dream answered. He thought about giving him another name, about telling Hob that some called him Morpheus, Sandman, Oneiros. But it seemed too much, he didn't feel ready. Few humans understood the power of names, and although Dream trusted Hob at the moment, he wasn't willing to expose himself that way yet. One name is enough, Dream thought, waiting for Hob's reaction.

"Dream, of course it's Dream." Hob said laughing.

"Why 'of course'?" Dream asked, tilting his head.

Hob didn't answer, but let out a breathless, almost maniacal laugh, his eyes glittering with something dangerous.

"Let's sit down, come." Hob said, going towards the small passage, where Dream was leaning. Hob stopped right in front of him, waiting for Dream to go into the living room. But Dream couldn't move. He remembered that feeling, he knew that if he stayed, if he sat on that sofa for two with the glass of wine, he wasn't going back home that night.

"I'm sorry, but I underestimated my availability. I need to return to my realm."

"Ah. All right, just... hold on a second, I've got something for you." Hob set his cup down on the kitchen countertop, and squeezed himself between Dream and the wall to pass into the living room. Dream took a deep breath, closing his eyes tightly. He was just going to wait for Hob to return, and he was going to leave. He couldn't stay away from his kingdom that long.

"It's just a little something, a book I read many years ago, and it made me think of you, for some reason. I bought it a long time ago, so it's a bit threadbare." Hob said, putting his hand on Dream's shoulder, as if asking him to turn around.

Dream had already noticed how Hob spoke with his hands, always moving them, always touching something, someone.

The book Hob was holding was an old paperback, battered and clearly read several times. The cover was black, with a reddish font written The Passion According to G.H., by Clarice Lispector. Dream took the book gently, avoiding touching Hob's hand. Dream flipped through the book, looking at the markings on the margins of the pages.

"Thank you very much, my friend." Dream said and didn't wait to hear Hob's reply, disappearing in a cloud of sand.

-

(That night, 39-year-old James Miles had a dream about his best friend from school, Jim. The two went out drinking and came home holding hands. The only memory James had of the dream on waking was of wet moans and gentle hands).

-

Dream had already noticed that he was always cold.

Perhaps a consequence of years trapped in an uncomfortable and hopeless cold, or maybe just a 'psychological thing' as Matthew had said, he didn't know. Ultimately, what mattered was that Dream was cold all the time, and there wasn't much he could do about it.

"My lord, if you allow me to say, I think it is advisable to look more closely at the Corinthian situation, and the Gault, and the Fiddler's Green. And the Vortex.”

"Yes, Lucienne, I'm already taking care of it." Dream said, calculating how much hotter he could make the dreaming without causing a revolt.

"My lord, I do not think you are paying the necessary attention to those matters. I know it's been difficult, but the dreaming needs you, and this way," she gestured in Dream's general direction, "you won't be able to solve anything."

Dream raised an eyebrow

"And do you have any advice, or just complaints?"

"Well, excuse my tactlessness, but a few weeks ago you came in from the waking world without a coat, and sweating, if my memory serves me right. I just think whatever you were doing, it helped, so maybe you could do it again."

"I was just visiting a friend," Dream said, but he felt the heat on his cheeks, "and it's very hot in the waking, something to do with global warming, or something" he mumbled.

"But, my lord, the other times you went to the waking world, you didn't come back like that."

Dream did not answer immediately, still feeling his cheeks flush. He remembered that night very well. Of Hob's sweet, kind, dangerous words. Of how he almost stayed. A chill unlike those of cold crossed his body.

"All right, I'll sort it out." he answered, resolute, and turned to his throne, a swirl of sand already coming to life around him.

-

Dream walked into The New Inn and looked around for Hob's familiar face, but he didn't seem to be there. Without hesitating, Dream appeared in Hob's house, looking through all the rooms quickly without really paying much attention, but the house was empty.

Dream frowned.

Hob had said he was teaching a history class at a public college a few blocks away, but Dream couldn't remember the name.

Beaming back to the Inn, Dream headed towards the bar, where a middle-aged man was pouring a drink and laughing while chatting with another man. He was going to ask where Hob worked, but suddenly Dream realised that Hob was most likely using another name now, and he had no idea what that name was. He thought about sitting at a table and waiting, but the cold made his fingertips ache. Dream turned to the door and walked out, asking direction from the first person he saw, asking where the nearest public university was.

-

Dream took longer than he expected to find the right floor.

The building was giant, and looked more like a maze than a history department. Dream frowned when he saw the name Robert Gadling on the door. Without knocking, he opened the door.

Hob's room was small, barely fitting the desk, the bookcase and the small sofa inside it, but perhaps the room gave the impression of being tiny by the absurd amount of stuff crammed inside.

There were posters, pictures and paintings on every inch of the walls. On the bookshelves, books were piled up mixed with miscellaneous objects and colourful stained glass windows. Dream took a deep breath before entering the room, but still he felt unprepared for the air of the past, for the feeling of nostalgia that engulfed him as he put his two feet into the small space.

"Professor Hob." Dream said, breathless, his voice faltering.

Hob looked up in surprise, but smiled as he saw Dream standing there.

"To what do I owe this wonderful surprise, my friend?" Hob asked, getting up and going to take a stack of papers and books from a chair on the opposite side of his desk. Dream hadn't even noticed there was a chair there.

Dream tried to come up with an excuse for appearing again, so suddenly, and so soon, but couldn't think of anything. Honesty then.

"I'm cold."

"Is that bad?” Hob asked, and with only a look from Dream, decides that it was, indeed, a bad thing. “I've got a coat here somewhere, hang on." Hob said, pulling out the chair for Dream to sit in, and already turning to look for the coat.

Dream wanted to explain to Hob that the cold he was feeling couldn't be combated by just one more coat. That that cold reached into his bones, it burned and hurt. There was no escaping him, no escaping his long, icy hands. But Dream said nothing, just sat and waited, watching the movement of the muscles in Hob's back as he moved.

"Aha! Here." Hob said, taking a black woollen coat from an old rucksack, and reaching for it for Dream. "It's clean, I was wearing it on those days when it got cold out of the blue, you know, late summer."

"Thank you very much."

Dream didn't need to put on the coat. He was already sweating.

"So..." Hob began, but Dream interrupted abruptly.

"Is that John Everett Millais?"

Hob turned to where Dream's gaze was set and grimaced.

"Yes, Ophelia. A beautiful painting, from an acceptable piece of work."

"Oh. Is Shakespeare not to your liking?" Dream asked, knowing he couldn't keep his smile from leaking into his voice.

"Honestly? I find him overrated. He's written a nice verse or two here, a dramatic sonnet there, and boom! He's automatically the greatest writer in the English language. Nonsense! Marlowe was, and in my humble opinion, still is, far better than Shakespeare, or any other English playwright." Hob discoursed, his hands wild, gesticulating extravagantly with every word.

"The English in general have this custom, of choosing average artists to represent our art. Have you ever listened to The Beatles?" - Dream gestured negatively - "It's so annoying!" Hob raised his hands as if in prayer. "Don't get me wrong, I kind of like some of their songs, but you have no idea how crazy London was back then. Everything, and by everything I mean everything, was about the Beatles. It was unbearable. I ran away to the States during those years, to be quite honest."

Dream straightened up in his chair, wide eyes fixed on Hob.

"You were in America?"

Hob looked at him as if he had grown a second head.

"Obvious. I'm over 600 years old Dream, I've known many other countries." Hob must have noticed the mistrust on Dream's face, for he smiled and stood up, heading towards one of the shelves. He picked up three books, one in each different corner of the room, and sat down again.

"This first one I bought in the Soviet Union," Hob said lifting the first book and turning the cover to Dream. "It's called Requiem, by Anna Akhmatova. It has a collection of poems, including the one with the title, requiem. It's in Russian, and I'd like to make it clear that I read it that way, in Russian." Hob reached the book out to Dream, who took it but didn't read it, just dropped it in his lap and looked at the other two books in Hob's hands, curious.

Hob laughed, and turned the second book towards Dream, showing the cover.

"That one I bought in Colombia, in the so-called Boom period. It's by one of the greatest writers who ever lived, in any language, in my opinion, Gabriel Garcia Marquez." The cover read Cien Años de Soledad. One hundred years of solitude. Dream smiled, but felt sad at the same time.

"And the third, well, the third you already know." Hob turned the book over to Dream and he saw the words The Passion According to G.H. on the cover. "I bought it in Brazil, and read it first in Portuguese. Years later, when it was released in English, I read it again, and again, and again."

Hob reached both books for Dream, but he only picked up Cien Años de Soledad, dropping it in his lap next to Requiem.

"I've travelled a lot, met a lot of people, a lot of different things. Maybe that's why I can say with total certainty. Shakespeare is overrated."

Dream laughed out loud, his body warm, his mind mercifully still.

-

"I see you have found a solution, my lord?"

"Yes, Lucienne, I believe I have found a solution indeed."

Dream was holding Hob's coat in one arm, and the two books in the other.
-

 

They were at Hob's house again, sitting on the small sofa, drinking tea and reading, each a different book.

To be fair, Dream was bored.

Dream and Hob had developed a sort of routine over the last few months. Dream came and went in the distance of a few weeks. And every time Hob would give him something. A book, a painting, a picture, a CD.

On Dream's last visit, Hob had introduced him to Beyoncé. Her name was not unfamiliar to Dream, but he couldn't remember ever stopping to listen to anything by the woman.

"Oh my God Dream! Not even the classics? Not even Crazy in love? Or Sweet Dreams?"

"No Hob, not even 'the classics'."

"Here, I have her latest album, listen to the whole thing, please. This woman is one of the greatest artists of the last few decades."

"Very well."

Of course, Dream didn't tell Hob that he wasn't too sure how to listen to a CD, but he and Lucienne, with Matthew's help, solved that problem. And Dream listened to the whole album, paying attention to every melody and every lyric.

(That night, 98-year-old Vera Toulmouche lay in her bed one last time, and dreamt of her beloved, Marla, and they danced all night in the disco downtown, not caring about the stares, or the cruel voices, nothing could touch them).

So when Hob invited him to spend the afternoon with him, Dream imagined the man had more exuberant plans than just sitting and reading a book. He got up, dropping the book on the arm of the sofa, and stretched. Hob raised his eyes briefly, but didn't react otherwise.

Dream walked over to one of the walls, the one near the corridor that led to the bedrooms. On it were several different types of art, copies of various paintings, various photographs, collages and pictures with framed writing. Arranged one on top of the other, in the left corner of the wall were Gustav Klimt's Death and Life, Dali's Persistence of Memory and a black and white photo of Tchaikovski. On the right, several small paintings by Edward Hopper, Workers by Tarsila do Amaral and Madame X by Sargent.

In the centre of the wall was a carefully centred photograph, large enough to catch the eye of anyone entering the house. The woman in the photograph was black, her long curly hair combed so that it was static, her red clothes burning like fire from the high contrast used by the photographer. The woman was with her back turned to the camera, but with her face and part of her torso showing, as if someone had called her and taken a picture just as she turned around. The serene look contrasted with her clenched jaw. Her hands were visible, even if blurred by the movement, placed in a fist over her chest, as if she were in pain.

That picture seemed more important than the others, more personal.

"Who is she?" Dream asked, his voice soft and without any judgement, just curiosity.

Hob looked in the direction Dream was looking and cringed, his lips and eyes compressing. With a long, tired sigh, Hob straightened himself up on the couch.

"This is Delial. I met her in 1974, she was my lover for years, and, well, I didn't know how to hide anything from her. She simply knew, just by looking at me, everything that was going on in my head. She suspected something, and as time went by she realized that I didn't age, I didn't change. So I told her. I told her everything. Maybe I told her too much. When she understood what I was doing in 1780, she rightly got angry. But the worst was the fear, the hurt. I had never seen that look before, of pure terror. She realised there that she didn't know me."

Hob paused, his eyes resting on the photograph.

"I told her that I regretted it, that there wasn't a day that the things I did in that period, that the choices I made, didn't weigh on me. She said it didn't change anything, that my regret, that my pain, didn't change what I did, what I helped build. Of course she was right."

Dream turned away from the wall as Hob stood up, moving towards the framed photo. His face clouded with an anguish all too familiar to Dream.

"She left that night.” Hob paused for a second "That same year I started to get more involved in... well, various things. Some of it more publicly, some of it quietly. I donated as much as I could. I bought houses and left them empty, especially to be occupied as shelters. It was the post WWII period, there was no fixed concept of anything anymore, man was crumbling, but to be involved with so many wonderful people, who were fighting day and night for the right to exist, in a world that didn't respect them or even want them... I lived more in those years than in the many centuries before that."

"In late 1990, I found Delial again. Or rather, I rediscovered her image. It was the exhibition of a photographer, Ursula Reis, long erased by history, killed in a confrontation with the police. She, and her partner, her muse." Hob was smiling, his eyes distant. "It was Delial. I got a copy of the photo and framed it, never to forget that I lost her through my own mistakes. By my own choices. And that every choice I make has consequences, some more serious, some less, but consequences nonetheless."

"I wish I could talk to her one more time, to be able to tell her that I did something with my pain, that my regret helped a lot of people, that I really changed in those years we were apart, that I am a better man now. I wish I could ask her permission to have this photo. I wish I could apologize for all the pain I caused her. I wanted, I wanted so much." Hob was still looking at the photo, so sad, so desolate. Dream closed his eyes.

"I'm sorry for her. And for you." Dream replied, eyes still closed, burning Delial's face into his memory.

"Yeah, me too." Hob said, but Dream was no longer in the room with him.

-

The Dream, despite what many imagined, also slept. And on some occasions, though rare, he also dreamed.

It was interesting, how he had complete control within his own dreams, but he liked to pretend he didn't, to try to feel what humans felt.

On that particular day, Dream dreamed of Hob.

In the dream he wasn't himself, he was Delial, and she was leaving Hob. And even if he was Delial, he was also an omniscient narrator, seeing the scene from the outside, seeing the backs of both of them. Seeing Delial, who was also Dream, heading towards the door. Seeing Hob's back tense, nervous, like the night he took Dream out for wine, so many months ago.

"I wish I could stay, but I can't." Delial/Dream stopped, their hand on the door, and without turning around, continued "I wish you were a good man Hob, I really wanted that."

She left, but Dream did not go with her. He stayed in the room with Hob, he watched his back change from tense to completely relaxed, and then they began to jerk. First gently, and then violently, the sobs now loud enough for Dream to hear. He was crying, sobbing.

The dream changed.

Dream was someone else, he was lying on a bed, his legs spread, his eyes fixed on little stars stuck to the ceiling. A warm, pleasant, pleasurable sensation rose from his hips to his chest, making him blush and sweat, squirming in bed. They felt a light kiss on the inside of his right leg, while a hand pushed his left to open it wider. Dream sighed. Even without looking down, he knew who was between his legs, the legs of whatever person Hob had taken to bed.

Hob kissed his thighs, and knelt between his legs, looking at him so lovingly that Dream almost cried. Hob ran his hands slowly down the length of his body, all the places he could reach, and then held both of Dream's legs above his shoulders. Hob made no further movement, just looked at him and smiled.

The dream changed.

He was sitting in an audience, the stage was in complete darkness, until someone started singing, a deep voice filled the room.

Someone to hold you too close
Someone to hurt you too deep
Someone to sit in your chair
And ruin your sleep

Then suddenly, Dream was behind the stage, the music muffled, he was completely invisible to everyone.

"Congratulations, I suppose, Stephen." It was Hob, his hair was different, his clothes more casual.

"You didn't like it? You know, don't you?" The man, Stephen, said.

"Yes, quite discreet his name being Robert." Hob was smiling.

"So you don't mind?"

"No, my friend, I don't mind. Nothing makes me happier than to know that my life has served for something as beautiful as a work of yours." Stephen smiled, and put a hand on Hob's shoulder.

Dream heard, as if thousands of miles away from him, the final verses of the song, sung with such passion that they made him close his eyes.

"Somebody crowd me with love
Somebody force me to care
Somebody let come through
I'll always be there
As frightened as you
To help us survive
Being alive
Being alive
Being alive"

Dream awoke.

-

Sitting on his throne, Dream picked up one of the books Hob had given him. He still remembered clearly the dreams that had plagued him a few days ago, Hob's face marked in his memory, appearing like a ghost in his peripheral vision every time he was distracted. Dream needed a distraction, and updating himself literarily seemed appropriate. It had been a few weeks since Dream had just leafed through the pages, read the markings, but delayed the beginning of the reading.

The Passion According to G.H. seemed important, as if the book had a much greater weight than it should have, but the book was thin, just over 100 pages. Determined to finish that book as quickly as possible, Dream snuggled into his throne and opened the book to the first page, seeing Hob's name written in cursive font, with a date just below it, November 22, 1988. He smiled, and skipped a few pages, going to the beginning of the text.

I keep looking, looking. Trying to understand. Trying to give what I have gone through to someone else , and I don't know who, but I don't want to be alone with that experience. I don't know what to do with it, I'm terrified of that profound disorganization. I'm not sure I even believe in what happened to me. Did something happen, and did I, because I didn't know how to experience it, end up experiencing something else instead?

Dream dropped the book. Suddenly, he was cold again. His body shivered desperately, and not even Hob's coat, thrown over his shoulders, helped. All the warmth in his body was gone. Dream took a deep breath and hugged the book, pressing it against his chest, trying to swallow those words, to try to spit them out. To try to get rid of them.
It hurt, but he needed to go on, he needed to try to understand the incomprehensible.

It's that something that I'd like to call disorganization, and then I'd have the confidence to venture forth because I would know where to come back to: to the prior organization. I prefer to call it disorganization because I don't want to ground myself in what I experienced— in that grounding I would lose the world as it was for me before, and I know that I don't have the capacity for another one.

"Please, please." Dream was muttering softly, eyes closing even though he didn't notice. He felt a terrible pain in his head and realised that he was pulling at his own hair, almost tearing it out by the root.

He needs something real, something to anchor him in the world.

Dream, despite the agony, continued to read.

If I go ahead with my fragmentary visions, the whole world will have to change for me to fit into it. I've gone back to having something I never had before: just my two legs.

Despite the grief he felt for what he should be, for the time lost, he understood exactly what those words meant.

The world interdepended with me— that was the confidence I had reached: the world interdepended with me, and I am not understanding what I say , never! never again shall I understand what I say. For how will I be able to speak without the word lying for me? how will I be able to speak except timidly, like this: life is itself for me. Life is itself for me, and I don't understand what I am saying. And, therefore, I adore . . .

Dream let himself cry freely now, his hands gripping the book tightly. With,his eyes burning, he allowed Lispector to guide him out of that disorganization, back into the world.

-

(A few days later, Hob Gadling slept on the living room couch while correcting late term papers. And Hob dreamed. First of an all-white city, with infinitely tall buildings, and plastic curtains instead of doors. Then he was inside a house with thousands of rooms, endless corridors, shapeless walls, ceilings that abruptly rose or fell. In that house, in a room with an orange door, Hob found Delial. She was sitting on a divan, her slender body stretched across the expanse of the sofa, her back turned to the door. Hob almost fell to his knees. She turned towards him, her pose a perfect copy of the portrait on Hob's wall. She opened her mouth, and initially no sound came out. She closed her lips and made a face of confusion that was so familiar it hurt, and then opened them again, this time speaking in a voice like velvet. "I allow you to have that picture, to look at it, for it was taken by my love. But do not speak my name with grief, do not dare to feel sad for my life and death. You possess no such right." She said, her eyes shining like millions of stars. Suddenly her face became soft, she stared at him with something akin to understanding. "You are a good man, Hob Gadling." Hob woke up. )

 

"I dreamt about you, I think." That was the first thing Hob said when Dream went to visit him a few days later.

Hob was sitting at his usual desk, his hands busy with a pen and several sheets of paper. College stuff, probably.

"Hmm, that makes sense. I am, after all, the personification of dreams. And you are my friend." he watched Hob falter in his movements, his whole posture going rigid.

"You are what?"

"I am the personification of dreams. Frankly, Hob, I thought that was already clear." Dream spoke up.

"No Dream, it wasn't clear because you didn't tell me that. You just spoke your name and disappeared in a cloud of sand. How the hell should I know what you are?" Hob looked genuinely angry, so Dream said nothing, just stared at him.

"I just wish for once you would be straightforward. That you would be honest with me."

"I never lied to you, Hob Gadling."

"But you omitted a lot. Did you know that in 1898, when you went away as if I had offended your whole family, I thought I was going to die? That you had grown tired of all that game, and that I had lost my immortality. I spent at least 20 years waiting for the grey hairs, the illnesses, the pains. I waited to start ageing, for death. Shit, I don't even know how I'm immortal. If you actually control my life and can take it away from me on a whim."

Dream was slow to respond, he first had to swallow his pride, which commanded him to get up and go. And when he finally managed to answer, his voice was shaky.

"Your immortality was a 'whim' of my sister, Death, a long time ago, you know when. I have as much power over your life as anyone else, that is, none. The only people who can decide on this matter are you and her, respectively. Any more questions, Hob Gadling?"

Dream was angry. How dare that human talk to him like that, as if Dream owed him something? No, it wasn't that. Dream was sad, hurt even. Hob had never spoken to him like that, as if Dream was just someone he knew, and not... and not one of the most important people in Hob's life.

The pieces fell into place. The anger, the nervousness, the gifts.

Hob was in love with Dream.

"Do you control everyone's dreams? Do you make them?" Hob asked, seeming delighted at the idea, then abruptly he leaned forward, eyes wide. "Your sister is Death? The real Death?"

Dream smiled, still digesting his newest knowledge.

"Yes, the real Death. She is very fond of you."

"Good. That's good." Hob said, in shock.

Dream took advantage of the shock to change the direction of the conversation.

"I have read The Passion According to G.H., my friend." Dream said, squirming in his chair and raising his head. He felt, more than saw, Hob's eyes drinking in the curve of his neck. Dream smiled. "I enjoyed it very much."

Dream didn't talk about how just the first few pages made him squirm, made his eyes burn, brought a pain so deep in his chest that he thought he was going to die.

"You liked it? That's nice. It's one of my favourites, you know. When modern man started to be something, or started to stop being something, it was that book that helped me understand where we were going."

"We?" Dream asked.

"Humanity. Us. The 20th century was difficult, it was lonely. Most of us felt lost, as if there was no longer a fixed idea of humanity, as if there had never been such an idea. It was... strange, but incredible. Never had so much completely different art been produced at the same time. It was beautiful, Dream."

Hob seemed genuinely impressed, and Dream, for the first time, found himself feeling delighted with him. He missed some of it, so much of it was new still. He was seeing, hearing, reading, so much for the first time. Hob's passion inspired him, the sparkle in his eyes drenched him, making Dream dizzy.

"You want to come up?" Dream said suddenly, his head spinning.

"Are you inviting me to my house?" Hob said, laughing, but he was already getting up, giving Dream his arm as usual.

"Yes, I suppose so." Dream replied, smiling.

They walked up the stairs almost glued to each other, and as they entered Hob's house, Dream pulled Hob onto the sofa and sat him there.

"I want to ask you something." Dream said, still standing in front of Hob.

"Anything." He replied, an almost religious devotion dancing in Hob's eyes.

"I want you. I want to lie with you. But Hob, I can't give you what you seek. I can't love you the way you want me to" even as he said this, Dream knew he was lying. He could love Hob, could easily love him, but he wouldn't, wouldn't. Dream had collected enough tragedies already, he didn't need another one.

"It's okay, it's no problem. Anything you're willing to give me, I'll take. Love me however possible, and if not possible, leave me. Leave me so that I can take care of this pain on my own. I don't want pity from you, Dream. Not from you." Hob spoke, his eyes still devoted, but his face serious. He looked old, really old, for the first time.

Dream sat on Hob's lap, one leg on either side of his hip.

"You are my friend. I have great affection for you." Dream said, running the tip of his nose across the tip of Hob's nose. He pulled away, looking up into Hob's face, and held him in his hands. "I adore you." Dream whispered.

"Can I stay?" the question seemed to make Hob's stiffness come undone. His face softened, his hands, previously frozen on the couch, went to Dream's back, hugging him, holding him.

And Hob held him as one who holds something delicate, firmly but without force, with a tenderness that no man ever held him. Dream let himself fall into Hob's arms completely, and closed his eyes. They didn't kiss, not at that moment, they just held each other, Dream's restless hands roaming around Hob's chest and back as if searching for something. When Dream finally let his hands rest on Hob's neck, he was trembling.

"Dream, are you okay, do you want to stop?" Hob asked, putting distance between their bodies, and starting to pull Dream off his lap.

"Don't you dare." Dream said, wrapping his arms around Hob's neck and sinking his head into the man's hair.

"My love, I need you to talk to me. What do you want?" Hob said in a tender, calm voice, waiting for an order from Dream.

Whatever Dream said, Hob would do. Realising the power he possessed over that man made Dream shudder.

"I want to go to your room." Dream said, refusing to get up. Hob laughed and hugged him tighter.

"Hang on love." Hob said, and stood up, taking Dream fully wrapped around him.

Hob carried him into the bedroom, and gently dropped him on the bed, but continued to stand, looking at him.

"Now what?" Hob asked

"Now," Dream said, sitting up, taking off his coat and shoes, "you lie down with me."

They lay entwined on the bed. At first it was just caressing, wandering hands, then Hob's moist kisses crowned Dream, and Dream in turn attacked Hob's neck, tasting his warmth.

There was no rush, they both knew that, but when Dream stretched himself fully out on the bed and pulled Hob on top of him, replicating their position in the dream he'd had so many nights ago, something seemed to snap inside Hob. His lips kissed the hollow of Dream's collarbones, whispering something about 'drinking the wine from his lips', and Dream found himself lost in that moment, as if in a reverie, a delirium. Hob was still muttering something like 'rewrite history', but Dream couldn't keep his eyes open.

"Please." Dream spoke, so that it sounded more like a command than a request.

"Anything. You can ask me anything love." Hob said, his lips still pressed against Dream's neck, his hot breath making Dream shiver.

Dream didn't reply, he just spread his legs and looked up at the ceiling, full of little glittering stars stuck together. Hob sighed deeply.

"May I?" Hob put his hands on the hem of his t-shirt, and waited.

There was no way for Hob to know, there was no way. And yet, even though his kindness was ignorant of Dream's pains, it was welcome. Dream smiled. He realized he didn't mind being naked in front of Hob.

"You may."

Hob removed piece by piece from his body, leaving Dream completely naked as he kissed every inch of bare skin. Dream was about to complain that Hob was fully dressed still, when the man began to take off his clothes quickly, without even seeing where the pieces would end up. Dream smiled, and stretched out even further on the bed, waiting.

When they were both naked, Hob lay on top of him, pressing him against the mattress, but not putting enough weight on him to hurt.

They were chest against chest, their faces so close that their noses brushed against each other in a timid Eskimo kiss.

"Can I kiss you?" Hob asked.

"You don't have to ask before you do anything with me. If I feel uncomfortable, you'll know." Dream said, letting a million stars leak into his eyes.

Hob wasn't intimidated, he just raised his eyebrows.

"On our first time, yes. I need to ask before I do anything."

"First time? And who said you'll get more than once?" Dream asked, smiling.

Hob nuzzled his nose against Dream's gently, and shook his head gently, making Dream giggle with delight.

"There will be other times love." Hob said.

And then Hob kissed him.

The kiss tasted of warmth, tasted of the purple in Dream's veins, tasted of the wind blowing on the beaches of his kingdom. It was familiar, but it wasn't. Dream moaned, and opened up, letting Hob do whatever he wanted, let him ask as many questions as he thought necessary.

The heat spread everywhere Hob touched, making him think of the feverish deliriums that took humans in times of illness. Dream didn't even notice Hob was kissing his thighs until he felt a hand on his penis.

A strangled scream caught in his throat, making his eyes water and his whole body tremble.

"More." He commanded.

Hob swallowed him whole.

After that the heat covered him entirely, he had no room for anything else, no other feelings, just the feel of Hob's mouth and the pleasure that overwhelmed his body. Dream was writhing on the bed, his hands squeezing his own neck, pulling his hair. Pleasure and pain were mixing until Dream knew he couldn't take it, he needed something else.

"More, I want more." Dream said, pushing Hob's head away from his lap and bringing him up.

"What do you want, my love?" Hob asked, his voice trembling, lips red and wet.

"Inside, I want you inside." Dream said, spreading his legs wider.

"Are you sure? We don't have to do this today." Hob said, his trembling hands gripping Dream's hips.

"I know what I want. Don't you?"

"I do, love, but, have you ever done this before?"

"Hob, I've been married, I've been in relationships. I'm not what you humans call a 'virgin'." Dream said, his voice louder and more controlled than before.

"But did your wife fuck you, love? Did she have you like I'm going to have you now?" Hob asked, kissing lightly on Dream's neck.

A tremor ran through his body, and he had to hold back the moan that formed in his throat.

"Sometimes. We loved each other, it made little difference who was inside who, as long as we were together." Dream spoke softly, almost in Hob's ear. He felt the shiver that ran through the other man's body and smiled.

Hob didn't respond, didn't say anything as he moved down Dream's body again. He lifted Dream's legs over his shoulders, and kissed the back of Dream's knee, the inside of his legs.

"Give me a minute" Hob murmured, and got up from the bed, going to the cupboard by the door and rummaging around in there until he found a small pink and white tube.

Hob went back to the space between Dream's legs, and opened the small container, pouring a clear gel onto his fingers. Dream remembered what to do in such moments, he closed his eyes and relaxed, letting his body open slowly over Hob's careful fingers. Feeling, without seeing, the affection the other man felt for him. The sensation wasn't particularly painful, or pleasurable, it never was at first, but Hob knew what he was doing, and with two fingers and the right movements, he made Dream cry out.

The minutes drained from Dream's perception, he no longer knew what was real and what was memory. He only came back to his senses when he felt Hob's fingers leaving him and his body being dragged to the centre of the bed.

"Is that okay?" Hob asked, kissing him.

"Yes. Please." Dream murmured against Hob's lips, almost pleading.

And then Hob was pushing inside him.

Slowly, at first, giving Dream room to stop him, but at the moment, Dream couldn't even breathe. It had been years since he'd felt anything like this. It wasn't just sex, it wasn't the feeling of someone inside him, around him, no. It was different, a desperate hunger took hold of Dream, and suddenly it was no longer enough. Hob's delicacy was cruel, his care hurt more than the hands squeezing his hips. Dream wanted more.

“Come on,” he bites, “Fuck me, Hob.”

And like the good man that Hob was, he obeyed, holding Dream's hips tighter.

Hob began to move in short thrusts and Dream wanted to scream.

"Faster, come on." Dream sighed, trying to cling to the sheets, something to anchor him, but Hob held his arms above his head.

Dream screamed, throwing his head back.

Hob picked up the pace, faster, harder, his hips slamming hard against Dream's. It felt like a million years passed between then, like time was suspended, and only they could move through it.

"Come on," Hob murmured, his lips on Dream's neck, "come for me love."

One of Hob's hands let go of Dream's hands and grabbed his cock, mimicking the movement of his hips.

Dream came first, tightening around Hob and spilling into the man hand, a silent scream on his lips, head thrown back.

Hob started to pull out of him, but even in his post-climax state, he had the strength to squeeze his legs together and keep Hob inside him, nodding, allowing the man to continue.

Hob came shortly after, his head in the hollow of Dream's neck, Dream's name on his lips.

"Everything alright?" the hand of Hob passes gently across his neck, until it lands on his cheek, looking at him with concern.

Dream was crying.

"I need to go." he was already getting up, his legs trembling, barely supporting him, but Hob stopped him, a gentle hand, no force at all, holding his wrist.

"Stay the night. Please."

Dream stayed.

They lay next to each other, their bodies clinging together.

Dream was still crying, but Hob said nothing, just hugged him tighter against his chest, until they both fell into a dreamless sleep.

 

(That night, a little black cat dreamed of a huge ship, taking him to a thousand different places. In this dream he was bigger than all the humans, he ate whatever he wanted and walked freely, with no fear. The little cat was never happier than in that dream.)

 

Strangely, few things changed after that.

Hob touched him more, always holding somewhere of Dream. The days were friendly, full of small camaraderie and inconsequential gifts, but the nights Dream spent with Hob were full of sighs, the air stuffy and heavy.

And yet, Dream insisted that they were just good friends, nothing more.

"You are very dear to me, Hob Gadling, and I know I am dear to you, but there is no deeper bond between us than that of friendship. I have already told you that."

Dream murmured against Hob's chest on a warm dawn. That night, Hob had laid Dream on the bed with his back up, and eaten his ass until he became a quivering mass under his fingers, begging for more.

"I just said you're the only one who lays with me like that, the only one I keep so close, who I hold so dear. I'm just loyal to our friendship, I'm not asking you for anything, love."

Dream knew exactly what Hob wasn't saying. 'Some things aren't about what they are' Desire used to say.

"I don't want your loyalty, Hob Gadling."

Hob just hugged him tighter, mercifully staying quiet as he felt Dream's tears on his chest.

-

Later, when Dream's body temperature dropped, and he returned to dreaming in a dusting of sand, Lucienne was waiting for him with a serious countenance.

"What's the matter, my lord?"

"I don't know what you are talking about." but Dream could hear the thunder and the heavy noise of the rain.

Dream sighed and sat down on the steps of the grand staircase in his throne room. He told Lucienne, without really telling her, what was bothering him.

"He is my friend, very dear to me, but he does not understand that he cannot be loyal to me, not in the way he wants to be. That is absurd, he is a completely absurd man." Dream spoke in exasperation, trying to make Lucienne understand what all the fuss was about, but he realised that even he didn't fully understand why it bothered him so much.

"He is loyal to you, my lord. Is that such a bad thing?" Lucienne asked, her eyes fixed on Dream's face, forcing him to look back at her.

Suddenly Dream understood what was bothering him, understood what Lucienne could not understand.

Loyalty was never just being loyal to something, loyalty meant being disloyal to all other things.

"He is naïve. I cannot ask that of him. I cannot allow him to offer it to me."

"Perhaps, my lord, he is freely offering it to you, his loyalty. You do not have to ask, allow, or reciprocate. Just accept."

He was about to answer Lucienne, to say that she couldn't fully understand what she was talking about, when a light sensation, like a sigh on the back of his neck, made him alert.

"Calliope." she called to him, and Dream went, eyes still red, hands clenched. Ready for violence.

-

In Hob's room there was an old stained glass window, no bigger than a road sign, placed over one of the bookshelves.

Hob had to finish correcting the end-of-semester exams, and Dreaming didn't want to be in the dreaming that day, the memory of Calliope and her suffering were stronger there. Another reminder of his failures, of his losses.

In the stained-glass window, two women were embracing, their bodies made of small multicoloured glasses, in the upper corner of the image, a phrase in black glowed like embers

only death and love change all things

"When is this from?" Dream asked, still looking at the stained glass window closely. "It doesn't look that old."

Hob looked at it, the round glasses on the tip of his nose.

"No, it''s not old. It must be about forty years old now. A lover of mine, Viktor, gave me that stained glass window a long time ago." Hob took off his glasses smiling.

"Viktor" his hands were hovering over the art, "what was he like?" Dream asked, thinking of Calliope, and her beautiful histories.

"He was extraordinary, my Viktor. He created the most interesting, most revolutionary things. He made so many things for me, and I still have most of them." A shadow passed over Hob's face, and he leaned back in his chair, "Of course, I left him after a very short time. The truth is, he was dying, and I couldn't stand there and watch his body shatter. I regret that every day, that I didn't stay."

"Is there anything in your life that you don't regret, Hob? Someone you haven't let down?" Dream noticed that Hob was hurt, but there was an anger that drove Dream to be cruel. That cruelty that now was aimed to Hob, was meant for Dream himself, and even though he knew that doing this wasn't fair, he couldn't stop himself.

"No, I don't think there is." Hob was, for the first time in years, crying. Dream cringed and came to his senses.

"I've done terrible things too." Dream began, his back to the stained glass window now, looking at Hob, waiting for him to look back. "I've hurt people that to this day I love. That's what love is, it is exposing yourself to the terror of life, and willing yourself to all the pain and hurt. It's burying and grieving for someone who still lives."

Hob was silent for a long time.

"Is that why you can't love me?" He whispered.

"Hob, please." Dream pleaded. He couldn't talk about it, not at that moment. He was still feeling raw and directionless, still feeling the pains of thousands of years ago and those of only a few hours.

Hob stood up, serious, and walked towards Dream, but kept his distance. A good space between them.

"Do you remember when you told me your name and I said 'of course it's Dream'?" Hob asked him.

"Yes, I remember." Dream spoke, his voice failing. He desperately wanted to close the space between them and pretend that none of this ever happened. That they were still just friends and the word love had never been remembered. He wanted to go back to that world he knew, he wanted the organization back. But Hob didn't care what he wanted, not at that moment.

"In the year 1920 I travelled, I went to Portugal with a friend. There I met a man called Fernando Pessoa, a decadent poet of some kind. He showed me some passages from a book he was writing."

Hob stopped talking and leaned against the edge of the table, looking at the wall as if he were in another place, or another time.

"The passage he showed me talked about dreams. About how no one ever got tired of dreams. I became obsessed. For the next few years I live just to read what he would write about his dreams, about dreaming. After he died I went after more, other authors, new or old. Shit, I even read Shakespeare. I had a giant library of books that talked about dreams, or simply had, at some point, that word. And then came the isms of the European avant-garde, the great South American Boom, with its dreamlike narratives, the dreams represented on canvas and in poems. The whole world seemed as obsessed as I was with that, with understanding, seeing, the dreams."

Hob looked at him, really looked at him, really seeing him, perhaps for the first time since they had met. And Dream looked back.

"I felt trapped by the dreams, but they didn't seem trapped by me. It seemed like I was always looking for something that didn't want, or maybe couldn't, be found." Hob smiled. "Then you came back. You see, I built The New Inn for you, so you'd have a place to come back to, but also for me, so I'd have a place to stay while I waited for you." Hob moved closer to Dream, eyes so full of tenderness that Dream cringed in shame.

"Of course, my love, your name is Dream." Hob did not touch him, and though he was only a step away from him, they never seemed so far apart.

"Dream, if you don't say anything now, you don't have to come back. I can't go on like this. I beg you, if you don't love me, leave me.

"You built the New Inn for me?" Dream asked breathlessly, his mind lost, still thinking of Hob's obsession with his name before he even knew it was his name.

"Yes, for you." the love Hob felt for him shone through in every word.

A where of shame and regret covered Dream, he cringed, suddenly remembering the years he had been a prisoner, remembering that even this he had not told Hob.

“I am sorry for keeping you my prisoner for all those years” Dream said, felling so much shame and sadness that no other felling could prevail.

“No my love. All I did, I did because I could not bear to never see your face again. I was not your prisoner, I was simply in love.”

“There are many ways of being held prisoner.” Dream answered, but his voice failed, his hand trembled. Hob was in his space in a blink. He took Dream’s hands, holding them tight, and waited. No words, no other movement, he just stayed there, warm and close and full of kindness.

Dream realised he was shaking. His eyes were burning, and he could not see clearly the hands of the man before him. Hob was such a good man, calling him love, taking care of him, waiting years and years for nothing more than a few words and a name. And yet, Dream could not allow himself to love him, there was no space for more mourning, for more pain.

"I'm sorry Hob, I'm so sorry." he didn't know what else to say, there were no words to express the grief he was feeling right now.

Hob was still crying, but a smile decorated his lips.

"All those books, those painting, everything I gave you, I put together in those years, when your name became almost a religion to me." he held Dream's hands tighter, "it was all for you, to you." Hob laughed, "and I didn't even know it."

He thought of that first day, mid-July, when Hob gave him a book that made him face his grief. He thought of the photographs, the poems. He remembered the mumbled world against his collarbone. The thousand dreams that he inspired in those months they were together.

Suddenly, he was crying. It was already love.

"Hob, can we go home? There's something I need to tell you," he spoke, his voice broken by sobs. Dream knew that if he didn't speak this now, if he didn't confess to Hob not just that he loved him, but everything he'd been through, everything that had changed him drastically and permanently, he would never be able to talk about it with anyone.

And Hob, always kind, held his hand and took him home.

(Twenty-eight-year-old Ismalia lived in an ivory tower. It was not a real tower, but a metaphorical tower, where all the writers lived. There, she was always dreaming. So the real surprise was waking up, this time. She woke up and saw next to her the most beautiful woman who ever stepped on the face of the earth, and she smiled. Maybe it was worth coming down from her tower once in a while).

Dream told everything that seemed relevant at the moment. His imprisonment, the story of Calliope (which, despite not being his story, was part of the reason Dream was so out of control in the last days), the discovery that he loved Hob.

And Hob held his hand the whole time, listening to him with all the patience in the world, without interrupting him even once.

"Can I ask you something?" he asked, for the first time feeling nervous in Hob's presence.

"Sure, anything."

"What did you feel when... when dreams were your obsession?"

"It was like an absence, like when you break a leg and have to get used to walking with only one, but still feel that other limb there. It was like losing something I didn't even fully realise I had, and that absence only softened when I thought about dreams." he replied, his fingers making little twists in Dream's palm.

The absence of Dream in the world must have been the cause of this. Hob mentioned that during a period, several artists used the oneiric in their work. Perhaps Hob missed him more strongly because they knew each other, because they were friends.

"I'm sorry for the distress I've caused."

"Don't you dare apologize" Hob kissed the palm of his hand, "it wasn't your fault."

The two were silent, sitting on the edge of Hob's bed, waiting for the rest of the afternoon to pass. That conversation was not one to be had during the day. Those were words to be whispered in the middle of the night, between tears and kisses, but Dream couldn't wait, so they sat there, drinking the rest of the sun away.

"Do you know what's scary?" Hob said suddenly, "how easy it was to choose to love you" Hob laughed at the grimace on Dream's face.

"I wouldn't say 'choose' when my name has haunted you for years."

"Yes, it haunted, but many names haunt me. Many things haunt me. And most of them I simply ignore, swallow and forget, until they become specters of what they once were, but you? You, I choose to remember. Even without understanding, I chased the memory of your name for decades, nurturing a love I didn't even fully understand yet."

"You are hopeless, Hob Gadling." Dream said, but he was smiling, "come my love, let's go to bed."

They made love again that night, the way Dream preferred. With Hob between his legs, whispering whole litanies into his collarbone, as the night dripped around them. And even though Dream knew that what had happened to him could not be undone, even though he knew that Hob carried too much stuff with him (just in case, he used to say), even though he knew that it would probably all end the same way as all the other times, he slept with Hob that night.

And in his dream, he saw a way to be happy, to survive, and he was full of joy.