Hob Gadling sat at the silver table, drinking his beer and smoking his cigarette. He looked as the robotic waitress took drinks from other tables. The holographic advertisements ran across the billboards outside, talking about the 2089 model Honda Civic. He looked down at the virtual menu sitting on the table. Hob remembered when all of this was mere science fiction. When it was totally impossible. Well, he wasn't one to talk about the impossible.
Hob had been waiting in the White Horse Restaurant, once a tavern, for half an hour. He had come early, just in case he came early too. Hell, Hob was wondering if he'd come at all. Dream, Morpheus, The Sandman, his friend.
Ever since he had proclaimed in 1389 that he will never die, and he never did, Hob had met with Dream, in this tavern, every hundred years. For so long, Dream claimed he only met Hob because he was "intrigued". Hob only later figured out that was a bunch of bull crap. Dream met up with him because he was Dream's only friend. The only person he had some lasting connection with, outside of his bizarre family. And Dream had become Hob's only true friend as well. He was the only one who knew about Hob's true age and experiences.
But things had change. Dream was dead. Hob had gone to his funeral. He was certainly gone. Well, the Dream he knew. A new one had taken his place. A different Dream. His sister, Death, had informed Hob of this. Hob was unsure if he should even be here. Would this new Dream come? Would he even know who Hob was? Had Hob Gadling lost his only real friend?
"Would like a refill sir?" a metallic voice asked.
The robot waiter's voice snapped Hob out of his thoughts. "Uh, no thanks, not right now. Just take take the glass please," he replied.
The waiter took the glass away. Hob blew out another puff of smoke from his cigarette. He sat there, slumped on his chair looking at the ceiling.
"Is this seat taken?" a calm voice said.
Hob looked across the table. There in front of him stood a man of average height, not towering, but tall enough to be intimidating. He wore a long white trench coat with light brown, almost golden, boots. His hair was snow white and hung down in front of his face. His skin was the same shade of white as his hair. Hob looked into deep black eyes, and saw the tiniest twinkle of light.
"You're..."Hob's voice trailed off.
"Hello again, Hob Gadling," Dreams' soft voice said.
Dream sat down in the chair opposite. Hob couldn't stop staring at him. He looked so unfamiliar, but looked very much the same.
"I, I wasn't sure you'd be showing up."
"You thought I would forget?"
"Well, you've changed..."
"As have you, yet you're still here."
"You look, younger."
"Yes, it is quite strange. I have grown accustomed."
There was a very long pause until Hob spoke again. "I went to your funeral y'know. Your brothers and sisters, most of them gave speeches."
"You know? How could you know?"
"I watched the whole thing. I didn't go, I felt it pointless to mourn for myself."
"I mourned for you," Hob mumbled.
"I know. I saw you there." Dream kept his monotone, but Hob could hear the smallest twinge of sadness and regret. Hob was confused by this. The Dream he knew had little to no regard for anyone. But now, he seemed sad, like he actually regretted that he had put Hob through that pain.
"How has life treated you over the last century Hob?"
"It's been, quite strange. All this technology. It's got me missing the old days with actual paper instead of holograms."
"Very true. But it does look like some people's dreams really have come true," Dream said with a slight smile. Hob was dumbfounded. Had Dream, stern, serious, practically unfeeling Dream, made an actual joke? It was hard to even comprehend.
Hob smiled in reply. "You could say that, Morpheus."
Dream became serious in an instance. "Do not call me that. I don't use that name. That's his name, not mine."
"But, I thought you were him."
"We are both Dream of the Endless, but we are not the same person. He earned that name, I haven't, and never will."
"So, are you even the person I met every century? Are you even really my friend?" Hob could feel his blood boil. He felt like this Dream was not the one he knew.
"If you're different people, then are you really my friend? Are you the man I've met here for the past 700 years? Do I even know you?" Hob stood up, and stayed to the side of the table, eyes filled with anger and hurt.
"I told you. I am Dream of The Endless. I am still the man you have met here every century. I still remember when you proclaimed, in this very place, that death was a mug's game you wouldn't ever partake in."
Dream stood up and placed his hand on Hob's shoulder. His touch felt a lot like a dream, you could feel it, but not completely there. "I came here for one reason Hob, I am your friend. and you are mine."
Hob looked right at Dream. He saw sadness, with the smallest hint of desperation. He was desperate for Hob to just understand, understand that the Dream he had always known was still there. That his friend hadn't really died.
Without thinking, Hob threw his arms around Dream, hugging him tightly. In all the centuries they had known each other, Hob had never hugged him. Dream was shocked to say the very least. He stayed stiff for a while. Hob hugged him tightly, not wanting to let go. Dream nervously hugged the man back. Hob smiled to himself. This may be a different Dream, but it was still Dream. Hob let go but kept a hand on his shoulder.
"Now my friend, can I buy you a drink?" Hob said with a smile.
Dream smiled ever so slightly back. "I wouldn't have it any other way."