There are many advantages to sharing a bed with sleep incarnate. Ares now rests, naked and satisfied, with Hypnos curled against his chest, from one of these advantages. But it is not the only one. Ares no longer finds himself plagued by nightmares and sleepless nights. When people hear his name, they picture him standing over a pile of corpses, blood dripping from his sword, and while he cannot say that this is wrong, it’s not the whole truth. People forget, the soldiers on the losing side prayed to him too.
Ares puts these thoughts aside, forces his breaths to deepen, and sinks into the dark waters of oblivion.
He is standing on the balcony outside his bedroom, in the corners stands a pair of large flower pots, growing lilac roses. Ares stares at them. Oddly, he doesn’t think they are quite right. The colors off. They should be crimson like blood, or white like bone. He blinked. The roses are pink. Now, Ares felt very confused. He was in the middle of trying to turn the steams and leaves black when a voice interrupted him.
“You know, It really doesn't matter what color the flowers are, and if you’re always judging them like that, you’ll make them all sad!” Hypnos said. He was sitting on the railing, his back to Ares and his feet kicking lazaly in the air. He was looking over his shoulder and he wore his usual grin. Ares hadn’t noticed him earlier. Ares moved to stand next to him, and they looked out at the rolling fields of Elysium. In the morning Ares would wonder how he could so vividly dream of a place he’s never seen, but in the moment he doesn’t think to question it.
“Is this a dream?” Ares asks.
“Yep!” Hypnos’ singsong voice seemed to echo. “Cause in the real world, you can’t just change the color of things just because, You know?” Hypnos gasped. “Wait, you do know that, don't you?”
“Of course I know that” Ares said, glaring at his lover. Hypnos giggled.
“Oh, good! You had me worried for a second,” Hypnos said.
“Is this your dream or is it mine?” Ares asked.
“It’s yours! Not that it makes much of a difference,” Hypnos said.
“Well, if it is my dream, then I can control it.” Ares said confidently.
“Oh, my sweet war god, It always has to be about control with you, doesn't it? Victory and defeat. Can’t something simply be?” Hypnos twirled a pink rose with a black stem in his fingers. Ares was sure that he had not had that in his hand when they started talking, but he knew Hypnos hadn’t moved to pick it. Even more discornerning was that Ares could not pinpoint the moment it had appeared in his lover’s hand.
“Besides,” Hypnos continued, “This may be your dream, but all dreams are my domain” Hypnos smiled at him. Ares had seen that smile before, but never on Hypnos. He had seen it on generals who had their enemies right where they wanted them. It was the smile of a man of power, and it sent a shiver down Ares spine.
Then, as if to drive the point home, the world shifted. They were no longer standing on the balcony. Instead Ares was sitting on his throne, and Hypnos was on his lap, blinking up at him with innocent eyes and a dangerous little smile. Ares looked around for something to anchor his mind.
They appeared to be in Ares’ war room. The throne sat at the head of a large table which took up the majority of the room. Spread over it was an equally large map that could show any battlefield in the world. Scattered about were the painted wooden figures he used on the rare times he devoted himself to strategy. Athena had a near identical room in her sector, which saw more use than his own. It’s not like he didn’t see the value in it. Terran advantages, supply chains, the wit of generals, an archer or cavalry unit in the right place at the right time; All things that could make or break a battle. But when he stood on a real battlefield, with the air full of the screams of men and the scent of blood, he found those things mattered very little. The difference between him and his sister was that Ares was the war god of the soldiers, and Athena was the war god of those who plan battles from their cozy tents at the back lines. And everyone loves her for it.
“Is there a reason you’re scowling at the table?” Hypnos asked. “Has it committed some unspeakable crime, and now your plotting revenge. What sort of unspeakable crimes does a table commit anyway? Maybe it moves so that you always stub your toe on it. Or maybe, actually I can't think of anything else.”
Ares’ laughter was a deep, rumbling thing, much like the thunder his father Zeus favored. Hypnos’ laughter soon followed, like the chiming of little bells. Ares buried one of his hands in soft white curls, and placed the other on hypnos back, and dragged his lover closser. He could feel hypnos breath against his collarbone. He muffled his own laughter in Hypnos’ hair. Ares tightened his hold. Then, after his giggling subsided, Ares pushed him away so he could kiss the little godling senseless. Ares always took great pleasure in painting hypnos checks violet.
“Some days I wonder what I have done to deserve you, My dearest,” Ares confided. “I deal so much death and suffering, and many here treat me with contempt for it. But not you.”
“Do any of us truly deserve happiness? I mean, I never do anything but sleep. Anyone will tell you that I’m lazy, and not good-for-anything, But I don’t let that get me down. It’s not about deserving to be happy, it’s about choosing to be happy.” Hypnos took in a breath. “Besides, even if happiness was some divine blessing only bestowed upon those who are truly worthy of it, we’re gods!”
He had gotten more and more animated as he spoke, and by then end of his rant he was waving his arms about wildly. Ares smiled, catching one of hypnos hands and lacing their fingers together.
“It’s a shame your family cannot see your worth. You’re charming, compassionate, and you can be incredibly insightful, and yet they can only see you for your flaws.” Ares said. He used his free hand to brush hypnos hair behind his ear.
“You know, I could say the exact same thing about you and your family. The fates sure have a funny sense of humor, don’t they?” Hypnos said.
“Indeed,” said Ares.
Hypnos sighed. “You’ll be waking up any minute now,” he said.
Ares startled. In truth, he had forgotten they were dreaming. Now it was his turn to sigh. “You will be returning to the underworld then.”
“Of course, the dead won’t record themselves.” hypnos said. “It really is funny to see all the ways that mortals have kicked the bucket, and I like helping out. Than is so busy, and if I can do anything, even if it's just for a few minutes between naps, then that’s what I want to do.”
The world went dark. Hypnos voice sounded like it was coming from further and further away.
Ares woke up.
He woke up to find that at some point in the night, they had started spooning. And worse, based on their current positions, Ares must have been the little spoon.