“To what do I owe this unaccustomed honour?” Desire demands, sinking down gracefully onto a chaise lounge and crossing one long leg over the other. A soft breeze twirls the silk, affording Dream erratic glimpses of pale toes and calves. Desire is interested to see that Dream watches for each flash of skin.
Dream cocks his head, and seems to consider. After a moment he pulls up a footstool and perches upon it, all elbows and knees at awkward angles under the extravagant white silk of his hair. Desire watches him narrowly. “We have not been friends, I think,” he says at last. Desire’s smile is dazzling.
“We have not. We are not. Make no mistake about that, elder brother. My lord Morpheus.” Desire watches the new facet of the Lord Shaper flinch from the name, and files this reaction away for further consideration.
“I am not Morpheus. I am Dream of the Endless - but I am not who I was. Who he was.” He pauses, and Desire remembers the strangeness of meeting with a new twin sister long eons ago. The first Despair wore writhing symbols of crimson on her pallid skin, and tore out her dark hair in hanks. At times she used a scourge upon her flesh, keening all the while, and her back ever oozed with fresh scores. Her wordless howls of misery were a long-familiar music, an irritation only missed when they were silenced forever. Desire had adored her. Her new self was a more tranquil, but no less dangerous, companion. Still her, in essence – and yet not. Not at all. “I am older than gods and suns, older than universes. I am older than you, Desire. And yet I am new-minted, and a stranger to you. And you to me." Dream shifts awkwardly on the footstool he has chosen, but Desire makes no move to offer a more fitting seat and it does not seem to occur to Dream to demand one. "I would have us be friends,” says Dream at last, and there is an unmistakable note of loneliness in his voice.
Desire’s laughter is uncalculated. Astonished.
“Friends? Are you truly so naive?” Desire stares at this new Dream, searching for some clue to his new game. After a moment Desire becomes aware that Dream's eyes have fallen once more to the smooth flesh of Desire's exposed chest, and glances down to see the sharp, pale point of one nipple exposed, framed by a border of vivid silk. Dream is staring at it with the same fascination he showed for the walls of the heart in which they sit. Or perhaps – perhaps not quite the same. Desire licks lips that are suddenly dry, and is certain that Dream’s starry gaze follows the path of Desire's pink tongue.
“Why not friends?”
“You don’t have friends,” Desire replies, curtly. “Except our sister, perhaps, and that scrawny human. And I don’t have friends, Dream. Except Despair, who is very much more than a friend to me.”
Dream bites his lip. Desire has never, in all the eons of their acquaintance, seen Dream bite his lip. Dream is dull as ditch water, all restraint and responsibility and irritating alpha-male impulses unalloyed by any interesting kinks. Dream is devilishly hard to tempt into anything at all. He does not bite his lip, or wear an expression of open yearning. Dream can be broken (as Desire has finally proved), but he will not buckle or yield. He will not bend. He will not.
“Our elder sister is very kind,” Dream says, carefully. “I hope that we will become friends, but now – now she is still mourning him. Me. Morpheus.” There is pain there, which Dream does not try to hide. And that is new too, for Morpheus had always hidden his heart, even from himself. Tedious fool.
Desire watches with absolute incredulity as Dream stretches out one long hand, parts the blood-bright folds of silk and cups Desire's left ankle very gently. His thumb traces idle patterns over Desire’s skin and his expression is mild, even meditative - almost as if he is stroking an expensive and short-tempered cat. Desire's hiss of indrawn breath sounds very loud. “Can we not begin again, Desire?" Dream asks, softly. "We have much in common, you and I. We shape fancies and (continued...)