Andrew’s worry about his dreams of Ghost House was put to rest that night. He stood in the parlor, the usual nightly crowd surrounding him with its familiar laughter and smoke. He took a moment to survey the sights and sounds before scanning the room for Caius.
"Lookin’ for some company, sugar?"
The man who had spoken was a smarmy-looking guy with dark, oily hair that matched the rest of his appearance. Andrew recognized him as one of the prostitutes, but not one he’d conversed with before. The hooker was standing closer to Andrew than necessary, and Andrew stepped back to put some distance between them.
"I’m looking for Caius," he said.
"Caius?" the man asked, confused.
"Oh! Him. I’m sure he’s around somewhere. Why don’t you wait with me until he shows up?"
"No, thank you." Before the prostitute could hit on him again, he added, "Excuse me," and moved on.
He headed toward the bar. This room was noisier, filled with laughter and clinking glasses, but Caius wasn’t among the throng. He turned back the way he’d come and spotted the archway to the foyer at the front door. He hadn’t ventured past the parlor since the night he’d slept at Ghost House and had forgotten about the alcove there. He weaved his way through the furniture and people toward it, giving a wide berth to the man who’d propositioned him. Hopefully, he’d find Caius in the alcove instead of having to venture upstairs. For all the nights he’d visited, they’d never been higher than the first floor.
Unlike the rest of the house, the setup in the alcove was pretty much the same in the dream as in reality. Couches lines the walls and a bunch of pillows were scattered on the floor. The main difference was the fabric that draped from the ceiling, giving the space a tent-like atmosphere, and the tall, fancy glass bottles set around the floor. Caius lounged on a chaise, a haze of smoke above his head. In his hand, he held the end of a hose which connected to one of the fancy bottles. The bottle was topped with tinfoil and charcoal.
"What is that?" Andrew asked.
Caius brought the hose to his lips and inhaled deeply. When he exhaled, a cloud of smoke billowed in front of his face. "A hookah pipe."
Andrew had heard of them but had never seen one in person before. "You have a hookah lounge in here?"
"People like the exotic." Caius offered the pipe to Andrew. Now that he was closer, he could see there was a mouthpiece at the end of the tube. Having never smoked before, Andrew was careful as he took a drag. The smoke that gathered in his mouth had a sweet hint of apple in it. He laughed as he exhaled.
"Yes." Andrew settled back against the pillows next to him. It was the first time in a long while since they’d been alone together. He took advantage of it by sitting close and putting an arm around Caius’s shoulders. "Tell me more about your life before you owned this place," he said.
"Isn’t it your turn to share something?"
"You’re the interesting one here," Andrew pointed out. "My life isn’t nearly as glamorous."
"Oh no," Caius said. "That won’t do. I must be courted by somebody exciting. Make something up if you have to."
Making up stories wasn’t Andrew’s forte. He was majoring in business, not English. "I’m a member of the university hockey club. Ice hockey."
To his surprise, Caius perked up at the news. "You’re on a team?" he asked. "Do you wear uniforms and compete?"
"Yes. It’s not as intense as some of the other sports on campus, like the football team, but our games can get pretty heated."
"Wait a moment," Caius said as he took the pipe from Andrew. "I want to imagine you all sweaty after a game." He sucked on the pipe and closed his eyes. They remained closed as he exhaled.
Andrew waited a beat before asking, "Are you done yet?"
Caius sharply held up a hand. "Hold on. I’m enjoying this."
"And what about me?" Andrew asked, taking the pipe back. "Don’t I get to imagine you all sweaty after doing something?"
Caius’s mouth curved wickedly. "If you’d like," he purred. He opened his eyes and turned a heated gaze on Andrew. "I only get sweaty after one thing."
Andrew held Caius’s stare for a moment before inhaling a mouthful of smoke. He set the pipe aside and leaned forward, crawling his way over Caius’s body. Caius waited, tilting his chin when Andrew was close enough for their lips to meet. Andrew blew the smoke into Caius’s mouth. A few wisps escaped but the majority was caught by Caius. They stared at each other as Caius held it. Instead of releasing it, Caius reached up and brought their mouths back together. Their tongues tangled in a smoky kiss that soon made them forget about the hookah.
Eventually, the pipe burnt out, but Andrew didn’t care. Caius was lying half on top of him, and their legs were entwined amongst the pillows. He was lazily threading his fingers through Caius’s hair, which was softer than he’d expected. He was easily becoming addicted to the sensation and to the comfortable way they fit together.
"I think it’s your turn for sharing," Andrew said.
"I think it’s high time you asked me to take you upstairs."
Caius pushed up from where he’d been resting his head on Andrew’s chest. "Why not?" he asked, his voice incredulous.
"Because I will not have sex with you in a dream." Andrew couldn’t bring himself to do it. A wet dream was one thing, the dreamer had no control over the events. This would be on purpose. "I want the real thing."
"Is it?" Andrew asked.
Caius was silent for a moment before he lowered his head back down with a sigh. "I suppose it would look like you bought me, and we can’t have that."
Andrew was glad Caius couldn’t see his face. He hadn’t realized how much he’d wanted their meeting in the real world to be possible until he’d said it out loud. "No, we can’t."
They lay quietly for a while, and Andrew wondered if Caius was just as disappointed as he was. He’d already known it was impossible. Caius had said as much once, but that hadn’t stopped the flicker of hope burning in Andrew’s chest. It was a spark that burned brighter every time he looked into Caius’s captivating green eyes. His own prickled, and he closed them, waiting until the tightness in his chest had eased before opening them again.