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Fly down into the endless mysteries (Sandman; Desire and Dream)


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Suddenly the flower
Has fire-colored eyes
And one of the shadows vanishes.
Clearly, now, the flower is a bird.
It lifts its head,
It lifts the hinges
Of its snowy wings,
Tossing a moment of light
In every direction
~ Mary Oliver, “What is it?”


It’s near enough to last orders when the bell above the pub door rings that Hob almost calls out that they’re finished serving before he looks up and it’s only luck (of some sort, he can’t say good or bad) that stops him. Someone pauses just inside the door, a burning vision of scarlet and gold. Raindrops glitter in their hair and dapple the velvet of their jacket a deeper red and Hob swallows, struck silent.

An almost-memory teases the edge of his thoughts like a word on the tip of his tongue. Familiarity, though he can’t place why. The sensation is hazy, indistinct, maybe dream rather than memory? A fever dream? For an instant his skin flushes hot. Restlessness burns along his muscles. Longing floods him - for the savor of his father’s venison stew, the curve of Eleanor’s breast under her nightdress, the sparkling notes of Robyn’s laugh, the warm weight of his mother’s arms around him when he was very, very young. Over it all like a watercolor wash a wordless aching to be needed. It clenches his stomach, tightens his chest, snagging the softest parts of him with barbed hooks. Has anyone, ever, honestly needed him, in his particularity? Not for position or role - husband, son, soldier - but his deepest, truest self? If you have to ask… the song on the jukebox echoes his thoughts.

They slide into an open spot at the bar, which seems to have freed up just for them, and give a smile that somehow feels sharp as a knife blade. It cuts; he’s not sure where, but pain slices through him. He resists the urge to retreat, reverts to script. “What’ll you be having?”

They look at him and their eyes spark amber, feline. “What would you suggest, Robert Gadlen?” Their tone is rich, smooth caramel. He has the unsettling sense they know this isn’t his name.

“I’d wager you’re one who appreciates the finer things.” His fingers itch to toss back a shot. Or to reach out and touch their cheek, see if their skin is as rosepetal soft as he imagines. Ghost fingers squeeze his heart; yearning shivers through him like the echo of a struck bell. He turns away, ostensibly to pluck a bottle from the line behind him. The Glenmorangie Signet isn’t a whiskey he offers to just anyone, but the liquid is the color of their eyes and tastes as spicy sweet as he imagines their lips would. He pours out a couple drams, striving to ground himself, to focus on the clicking of billiard balls, the murmur of conversation, the movement of breath in his lungs.

Hob slides the drink across the bar; they reach for it; fingers brush. Feverflush blooms through him again.

A smirk hovers at the edge of their lips. “Why don’t you join me?” They raise the glass and take a long, slow draught. Hob watches their throat move as they swallow and finds himself wanting to press his lips to the hollow.

Instead he pours himself a healthy measure of a significantly less expensive whiskey and tosses it back before he can taste it. Even so, he coughs once on the burn.


The word implies question, but Hob hears the demand in it and his body responds, muscles going loose. A pleasant blur settles over his senses. He nods and refills the glass. He’s going to need all the help he can get.

“You don’t want to sit?” Hob could have sworn someone had been beside them just a second ago, but the chair they indicate is empty.

He shouldn’t. He knows he shouldn’t. Warning prickles the hair at his nape.  Heedless, he slides into the seat. Sounds muffle and recede, a bubble of privacy encases them. The air is heavy with the sweet scent of summer peaches.

They tilt their head, take in the room at a glance. “You have built an inviting space, Robert. A place for the lonely to find companionship; a home for those who lack one.”

Their unexpected understanding startles a laugh from him. “It’s my aim,” he says, shrugging.

“You strike me as someone who has seen and experienced much in your years. Doubtless you understand the importance of family.” Layers of meaning in the words and Hob is off kilter, certain he’s missing nuance. After six centuries of practice he usually has a better grasp of a person.

“I recognized the need in my first year teaching uni. So many students couldn’t go home for hols…” Kids who couldn’t be themselves; kids who had been rejected for who they were, for who they loved. “I couldn’t be what they lost, but I could create a haven, of a sort.”

“Blood kin plunge their dagger in the most secret corner of our hearts.” Their eyes go distant, shadowed with sadness, but only for a moment and they smile again, bright as sun reflecting from glass shards. “Chosen family can be suture and balm,” they add.

Their fingers brush Hob’s, then trail over his inner wrist. A shiver runs through him and he could swear they also shudder, cheekbones and nose suddenly stained with a light flush. Even as Hob notices, they raise a finger and rub their nose once, twice, then sniff delicately.

“It’s what I hope to provide,” Hob says. Don’t stare, he admonishes himself, but can’t seem to look away.

“Excuse me.” Their voice pitches up, breath catching. They turn, pulling a linen handkerchief from an inner pocket of their jacket, fold it over their nose and mouth and wait. Hob waits too.

They breathe in, slow, deep, their shoulders hunch and “Ht’chff! T’chh! Hih-t’shhew!”

“Bless you.” He hopes the words sound more normal than he feels. He’s fairly certain his face has gone redder than theirs.

They flash a look of gratitude over their still raised handkerchief and hold up a finger, their eyes losing focus again and drifting closed. Hob forces himself to look away; take another drink.

Then they hitch a sharp breath and his attention snaps back. Their brows crumple and they stifle two sneezes. A third and fourth follow near on top, escaping their hold with small sounds, and the fifth breaches their defenses completely. “Ht’chesshiew!” They shake their head slightly on the exhale. “Pardon me.” Despite the contrite words, their expression is sly, eyes alight with teasing.

Hob waves away the apology. “No need; are you quite alright?” They don’t know… do they? How could they? He’s told no one in lifetimes. He’s had too much to drink on an empty stomach. Firelight and shadow are playing tricks on his eyes. He’s imagining things.

“I’m afraid I seem to have come down with a chill.” As if to prove their point, their voice rasps over their words and they muffle a cough in their shoulder. In the aftermath, they suddenly look delicate, vulnerable, in need of protection and Hob wishes, somewhat desperately, for a chill of his own to douse the fire that licks along his skin.

Then, almost as a prayer answered, a hand comes down on his shoulder, cool and steadying. “I believe this establishment is closed.” Dream’s words are frost-rimed, crackling.

“Good evening to you as well, my brother.” The knifeblade smile is back; their eyes flame. “I could be offended you have not yet introduced me to your … companion.”  They tsk tongue against teeth. “After all of these years. Could you be ashamed of something?”

“No.” Dream offers nothing more, arms crossed over his chest, face still as a carving. Even so, Hob can feel the tension in him.

“Why don’t you join us?” The invitation spills from Hob before he considers the wisdom. He really needs to stop doing that with Endless siblings in pubs. He tries to recover with another drink and he can feel Dream’s coming refusal in the set of his jaw.

Before he speaks, though, his sibling cocks a brow and their teeth glint, putting him in mind of a shark. “Yes, why don’t you?” The challenge couldn’t be clearer if they’d dropped a gauntlet on the bar.

Dream slides a chair between them and sits, stiffly. “Why are you here?”

“Come now, can’t a sibling want to meet their dear brother’s paramour? To have a drink and a friendly chat?”

“Delirium? Maybe. Death? Regularly. Even Despair, occasionally. But not you, Desire.”

Hob holds his expression carefully neutral. Desire - well, that explained things then, if their realm followed the pattern of Dream and Death.

They lean back and away, take a sip of their whiskey, and as they cast their gaze down, dampness shines along their lashes. Sadness flickers in the corner of their quirked lips. “Perhaps not me,” they admit with a sniff. “Perhaps I just needed shelter from the storm.”  Lightning flashes through the windows behind them. Thunder cracks and rolls. They shiver and Hob only stops himself from offering his coat at the last moment. They won’t actually need it, will they?

“You bring the storm with you,” Dream says, giving no quarter.

They cough a mirthless laugh, and it’s followed instantly by a heavy sneeze, belatedly caught in their handkerchief. “I do,” they agree, blowing their nose. “You are not the only one in the family who appreciates melodrama. And I know an appreciative audience when I see them.” They dip their head to Hob, toss back the last of their whiskey and stand. “Relax, brother mine. I merely wished to see who you find more compelling than one I created. And he is, indeed, delicious. When you exhaust his patience with your eternal melancholy, I do hope you’ll send him my way. In the meantime, maybe loosen the stranglehold you have on your reins.” They lean forward, abrupt as a striking snake and press a kiss to Dream’s cheek and they are gone, only the jangle of the bell as the door closes to mark their movement.

In their absence, the pub seems darker, somehow. Colder. The rain on the windows hisses and branches tap the panes. Hob  blinks. “I… didn’t know you have other siblings,” he says, rather bemusedly. It’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Dream, seemingly equally nonplussed by their unexpected departure, doesn’t reply.

Hob takes up the empty glasses, Desire’s stained with candyapple lipstick. He resists the urge to run his finger through the gloss as he slides it into the dishwasher. He wants to ask about Desire, ask what they meant ‘the one I created.’ But before he can figure out how to phrase it, there’s an odd squelching sound.

He looks up to find Dream hunched forward, shoulders practically to his ears as he pinches another sneeze firmly to near silence. “Bless you?”

“Th-thank you… ht’Gnxxt!” Neither this one or the several that follow seem to offer any relief. Even in the brief pause between contained explosions, he stays hunched into himself, as though he could hide in the middle of the room.

Hob’s torn between wanting to offer assistance somehow, and just wanting… He compromises, presses a tissue into the hand hovering lightly curled under Dream’s nose, which has gone an endearing pink, and lets his other hand linger on Dream’s back in comfort. Not to feel the muscles tense and relax as another set seizes him. “Httnxxt! N’xxt!  Hih-N’xxtch!”


“Hih…ht’Issh! Issh! Hih-Isssh!” He gasps a breath, two, and dissolves again. “It’chh!  Ishh!  Issshuhh!” At first he’s careful to keep each fit relatively contained, but as the sneezes keep coming he is gradually overcome, eyes tearing, nose running, and the last couple burst free. “Huhusssh!  Ussshuh!”

For a long moment, in the silence following the outburst, Hob can only stare at Dream as he blinks fuzzily in the aftermath, undone. “Are you…” He’s not sure how to end the sentence. Finished? Okay?

“It seems my dear sibling has left me a parting gift,” Dream says, consonants blurred with congestion.

“Gift?” Hob echoes and his voice cracks like a bloke hitting puberty, before realizing Dream is being sarcastic, of course he is. Why would anyone think that was a gift.

Dream wipes the moisture from his eyes, blows his nose, and studies Hob so closely he feels uncomfortably like an insect under glass. Slowly any lingering hint of embarrassment is replaced with a different flush. His eyes go black and starry and his voice, when he speaks is deep in the way that makes Hob’s knees weak. “Only you know the answer to that, Hob.”

Hob rubs the back of his neck and grins, a little rueful. “Well, if you’re ill, you’d better come to bed.”



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I don't know Sandman, but I was recently complaining to a friend that I struggle to get into TV shows because I just don't have a lot of attention span when I'm watching stuff. They suggested getting to know the characters through fanfic and recommended Sandman specifically.


I imagine that a lot of this went over my head but I absolutely love your style. You weave this amazing atmosphere. I love it. I felt a bit like I was under Desire's thrall along with Hob. Desire leaving the illness behind for the pair of them seemed wickedly kind - if that makes any sense, and I loved Dream's knowing response at the end. It felt exposing but in a way that wasn't unkind or mocking and, again, I felt entirely drawn into Hob's experiences. Thank you so much for sharing the fic. I very much enjoyed my first introduction to the world.

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Oh, Frick... I've been reading all of your Sandman fics (including this one) for a way too long time without ever commenting (I'm a terrible lurker, shame on me).

I've loved every single one of them. The atmosphere, the characters, your choice of words, it all feels so much like the graphic novels and the series do, a bit dream-like. I don't know how to describe it, but I'm really drawn into the world.

And... Desire... You captured them perfectly. I rarely feel that kind of attraction for people that Desire made me feel in this fic. The sudden shiver, the finger, the delicate sniffs, all these tiny details are just perfect. And the sneezing :wub:

I was completely under their spell, feeling a lot like Hob did.

And then Dream, too! Desire leaving the cold behind and Hob... Words are failing me, here, so I'll borrow some from @SexualOddity (I do that a lot, lately :hypoc:). I felt just as exposed as Hob, but Dream was so calm, accepting and kind about it. I could practically hear him say it with his unique voice...


Thank you for posting this! :heart:

P.S. If you ever feel like joining a very small writing community/would like some writing buddies to boost your motivation, just contact Oddity and/or me :)

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