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An Unconventional Arrangement

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It started with a boast. Two kings trying to one-up each other with egos and bare chests inflated to show off prowess. El Melloi II looks on in half-exhaustion and amusement. To his left, Enkidu has a look of pure enchantment.

They’re going to join in. El Melloi thinks as he breathes out the nicotine from his lungs. They will throw a punch at Iskandar and they’re going to tear everything up. Which will include me if I don’t get out of the way.”

Enkidu does exactly that as they jump to their feet, dropping the handful of El Melloi’s hair they had been playing with only seconds earlier. With a speed no normal human could make, Enkidu runs to the brawl, drawing their fist back in order to throw a punch at the King of Conquerors.

There’s a distinct pause in the commotion before a jovial laugh rips from Iskandar. Enkidu goes for the shins of the hulking man as the King of Heroes takes advantage of the opening. As impressive a man as Iskandar is, there was no way he could effectively block both swings at the same time. Despite his size, the man is incredibly fast. He’s able to halt the punch to his face with his fist, but he endures the hit to his shin. It’s enough to make the man flinch and nearly enough to cause him to lose his balance, but he’s able to stand firmly in place.

El Melloi knows there’s going to be a welt there in less than an hour.

Gilgamesh scoffs as he tries to pull his fist from Iskandar’s grip. He knows he won’t be able to get away easily, so he waits for Enkidu to find another opening. This time it’s Iskandar’s side, the thick leathers only cushioning so much damage from the strike.

At that moment, Gilgamesh is free and focusing on the opposite side of where Enkidu’s strike connected. From the sidelines, the fight looks impossible for Iskandar to win. Not only was he fighting the King of Heroes, but he was also fighting the one person Gilgamesh considered his equal in terms of strength and more.

The two of them didn’t underestimate their target and this ended up being Iskandar’s literal downfall.

The end of the match brings El Melloi to all of them; grown men covered in dirt and bruises while laying on their backs facing the sky. He stands over Iskandar, looking down at him to ask if he’s finally worn himself out.

With a boisterous laugh, Iskandar sits up claiming that this match ended in a draw, but who’s to say what will happen next time.

—-

One wouldn’t expect Enkidu’s hair to be as soft as it is. Akin to forest moss, but not as rough at the touch. El Melloi gently runs his fingers through the thin strands, a soothing motion to keep his hand occupied while he reads from the thick novel in his other hand out loud. Enkidu is resting against the arm of the couch they shared with their eyes closed listening to even cadence of El Melloi’s voice.

He’s reading Dream of the Red Chamber for them. After mentioning it being one of the most popular Chinese novels ever written, Enkidu couldn’t be denied. It’s a story he read long ago and one he wouldn’t have normally bothered with today. But Enkidu had brought the first volume over to him and asked him to read it. It’s hard to say no to a bright face full of interest.

While lounging, they asked questions every now and then, trying to understand the people and their motives and the twist and turns of a fictional novel.

“They’re like Gil and me,” Enkidu says during one of El Melloi’s smoke breaks. They don’t necessarily like the smoke but knows of it as one of the things El Melloi just does by habit. They do, however, enjoy the scent of tobacco that finds itself weaved into his hair and clothes. “A story about their lives, but with less fighting, monsters, and gods making a mockery of humans.”

“It’s because they are human,” El Melloi says after a deep exhale.

“That doesn’t mean the gods don’t meddle.”

“At this point, they don’t need to. Humans seem to do a good job of doing that themselves.”

Enkidu hums as leans over to rest his head on El Melloi’s shoulder. It’s not muscular like Gil’s, but the suit coat is soft and his hair is silky in a way that’s just as comforting. They turn their head to snuggle into the hair and cloth, breathing in the lingering smell of burnt tobacco, books and a hint of vanilla and pine. While Gil was home in every sense of the word to Enkidu, El Melloi was home-y.

“Do you want me to continue?”

Enkidu breathes out a soft yes before closing their eyes; allowing the soothing tones of El Melloi’s voice take them back into the world of the story.

—-

Jealousy was something Gilgamesh was familiar with. Whether he admitted that or not was another thing entirely. The annoyance he felt when watching Enkidu talk with Iskandar burned a little more fierce as time went on. At first, he was sure he was jealous of all the attention Enkidu gave to the King of Conquerors. He was loud, excited and ready to impress.

And impress he did.

He was all Enkidu could talk about for two days straight.

Not long after, it was then Iskandar who cornered Gilgamesh and began asking about Enkidu. Of course, he had heard of the friend of Gilgamesh, the only person who he had seen as an equal. He had to see how wonderful this person was for himself.

He wanted to know what sort of things Enkidu enjoyed. Was it music, literature, the thrill of a man to man fight? What was it about Enkidu that made them so special?

The line of questioning began grating on Gilgamesh’s nerves. Why would the King of Conquerors have such an interest in Enkidu? The more Iskandar spoke, the more he became annoyed. This burning feeling of anger flowing through him, he was jealous, but of whom?

Suddenly, there was a pause in the conversation. Iskandar was staring at him, with a thoughtful look on his face.

“Come, let us enjoy a drink over this. A good wine always helps bring people together,” Iskandar arm wrapped around Gil’s shoulder, pulling him into a friendly walk. “We can talk of our brethren and past battles.”

“If you think I would take time out of my busy day to-“

“Oh? And what have to do today? Come on now we have all the time in the world at the moment. I’ll make sure to bring my best wine. Something that will pack a punch.”

With a sigh, Gil nods in acquiescence. he doesn’t want to set aside time for someone who annoys him this much, but he had to admit he had enjoyed talking to Iskandar in the past. Even if the man seemed to want to get on his nerves more often than not.

They arrive at Iskandar's room. A room Gilgamesh had only seen in passing. It was spartan for a man who seemed to love all manners of things, but there were few items that called out to Iskandar's personality. Gilgamesh expected the book of philosophy and war, the large casks sitting next to the table, but what he didn’t expect was the lute that day next to the bed.

After the first glass of wine was poured and the taste rushed over his tongue, Gilgamesh decided to ask, “Are you a musician as well?”

Iskandar glances at the instrument and chuckles, “I dabble. I had lessons as a child and these hands have changed much since then.”

“Mmm, play something for me.”

“And what would I get out of playing this for you?”

Gilgamesh kicked back his wine, finishing the fine red in a couple of gulps. The grin on Iskandar’s face grows wide when Gil holds out the cup.

“I’ll make it worth your while,” he says as Iskandar pours.

“Worth your while” ended up including three songs, six glasses of wine each and boisterous laughter over shared stories. It also included Gilgamesh sitting incredibly close to Iskandar, waxing poetic about Enkidu and his triumphs over the gods, then somberly regaling the story of the pain he felt at the loss of his friend and the completeness of seeing them again.

Iskandar listens, getting misty-eyed during the lows and intrigued with the highs. So what if he was lightly playing with the King of Hero’s gold hair now and again. When Gil leans into it, Iskandar starts brushing the strands from his face. The wine cup is dropped and Gilgamesh is now in his lap.

With his hands framing the King of Conquerors face, Gil leans in close to brush their mouths together to test. Then when satisfied, they come together once more. Gil takes control, pushing Iskandar back against the cushion of the bed as he groans into the other’s mouth.

With large hands holding onto his waist, Gilgamesh tests the mood by pushing his hips downward. The rumble from beneath him makes him shudder. Good. He respected Iskandar, enjoyed his company as much as anyone else he could see as a potential ally, but the man was also attractive in his strength. If he could make that strength his own… well, then there was really nothing to be jealous of in the end.

Gil bites Iskandar’s lips before pulling away, faces flushed from the liquor and the exertion. They stare each other down for a moment before Iskandar cracks a smile. Gil reciprocates with a smile that could be considered downright dangerous.

“Ready to rumble?” Iskandar says in between a growl and gasp.

Gil was shifting his hips in a slow, enticing rhythmic motion. It wouldn’t be the first time he tried to rile another man up. And if Enkidu’s enthusiasm over the man meant anything, then Iskandar wouldn’t mind a little bit of a challenge in their action.

With one more slow grind, Gilgamesh says almost breathlessly, “Winner takes all?”

Iskandar’s laugh echoes in the room before being cut off by Gilgamesh’s mouth. If there is one thing to be said about the King of Heroes is that he always ends up coming out on top.

–-

Iskandar was having the time of his life. Not only was he able to sit and talk with Waver in some fashion after being apart for so long, but now he had the added bonus of having Mesopotamia’s most powerful couple being interested in the both of them. Enkidu was, oddly enough, the one who brought them all together.

They were the one that would excitedly talk to him as if hanging on each word with amazement. They were beautiful in more ways than he could count - an inner beauty that reflected how much they cherished all life, a master at fighting where each move looked like it took effortless skill on their part, and then there was the odd ‘taming’ of Hessan Lobo that no one amongst the Chaldean group expected.

Anyone other than Gilgamesh, that is.

“In another place, at another time, Enkidu was at home with a wolf.” Gilgamesh had said over their drinks when Iskandar asked. With an added shrug, the King of Heroes added, “You should know by now that they are clay given life. Hessan Lobo wouldn’t feel threatened by them no matter what body they held.”

Iskandar never questions Gilgamesh over this; he doesn’t need to when he can see the proof with his own eyes. Instead, it just makes Enkidu more interesting in his eyes.

When he talks to El Melloi about Enkidu, the man merely smiles over the book resting on his chest fondly and replies, “Of course you would be interested in them. Beautiful, strong… they hang on your every word. The thing is, they were made for Gilgamesh. So we shouldn’t give in to the illusion that they’d look our way.”

“But if Gilgamesh is interested?”

“Heh, well that’d be a different situation altogether, wouldn’t it?”

Iskandar hums in agreement. Gilgamesh was not the owner of Enkidu, that’s not what El Melloi meant. Instead, it’s important to just reiterate that Enkidu and Gilgamesh’s bond was like no others.

It takes a few days of thinking through ideas and reactions before he comes across Enkidu again. Iskandar makes it a point not to seek them out, to let come what may. But they are there, sitting, watching the younger Gilgamesh chatting animatedly with his younger self. The whole situation jarring as it is inevitable.

Enkidu hears him arrive in mere seconds before he takes a seat next to them. The smile on Enkidu’s face never wavers but becomes slightly skeptical once Iskandar makes it known he’s here for them.

“Come to join us?” Enkidu asks, never taking their eyes off the boys.

“I wouldn’t mind as long as I'm not interrupting anything.”

With a shake of their head, Enkidu smiles softly. “They decided to showboat a bit. Nothing too over the top, but I can only assume this is how boys are. Seeing Gil like this makes me happy and Alexander is a good match for him.”

“To speak with one of the legend’s greatest heroes when they’re equal in age would have been a dream for me,” Iskandar says with a grin.

“You knew of Gilgamesh even then?”

“There are some legends that came to our land through caravans. There were versions I would have heard, but there’s nothing like knowing the real thing.”

Enkidu nods, “Tell me of the caravans. Uruk had a few travelers, but not the to point where we could learn of far off lands.”

“Gladly!” Iskandar roars laughing. Alexander and young Gil look over to them in curiosity as the Iskandar starts animatedly telling stories told by an Amazigh trader** he had come across in Egypt.

Curled up where he’s seated, Enkidu listens as Iskandar weaves a tale; imagining the tall sandy dunes surrounding a large weather-worn structure holding what could only be a treasure of some kind. But what the hero of the story didn’t know, was that taking any of the treasure from inside the structure would cause bad luck to fall upon the pursuer. Only a few dared bother to find the stone structure marker and by now, it was probably swallowed up by time and sand, but there was always a possibility that the treasure would be out there waiting for its true owner.

“Do you think it could still be there?” Enkidu asks as their hand idly plays with the thick leather tassets of Iskandar’s armor.

Iskandar’s chuckles as he brings his own hand to pat the top of Enkidu’s.

“One of the only ways to know is to find out for ourselves…”

Enkidu’s face lights up as their grin spreads across their face. If there was one thing that Iskandar could determine from not only hearing about Enkidu from El Melloi but also just with their interactions, was that they were always up for an adventure. Their need to see and experience humanity was something that was hard for them to pass up.

“Gil! Alexander!” Enkidu calls out as he turns towards the two boys tussling it out in the grass. They freeze and once all eyes were on Enkidu, they say, “Iskandar is taking us on an adventure. Let’s go!”

Iskandar doesn’t miss how both boy’s reactions are entirely the opposite. His younger self’s face is lighting up the exact same way as Enkidu’s had, while the younger Gilgamesh rolls his eyes with a smile as if his expression meant “never change, my friend, never change.”

Enkidu jumps to their feet as the boys come running. They turn to Iskandar only to grab his arm in a tug to stand up as well. “We’ll go and see if this place still stands. I want to see the expanse of the hot sands and the buried temple.”

With a boisterous laugh, Iskandar stands and the four of them leave the room.

–-

The inside of El Melloi’s room is heavy with the rich smell of cigars and a thin veil of smoke. Gilgamesh isn’t quite sure what to expect of the pseudo-servant, but he vaguely remembers the younger version of him, a young man who called Iskandar into battle… but that was in another place at another time, in a different life. The memories are weird, if he thinks about it, these feelings that come from experiences he has known but has not at the same time. But the feeling of nostalgia washes over him when he gets the invitation, a simple invite for the discussion of this arrangement.

Our certain Arrangement.

Gilgamesh laughs at the phrase. It’s an arrangement that had suddenly grown into this weird relationship that none of them had expected. They would enjoy each other’s company with conversation, drink and a bit of debauchery now and again. The situation was anything but conventional and, thankfully, none of them were conventional people, to begin with.

Then came his invitation. Of their small group, El Melloi was the one he knew the least about. It wasn’t for any certain reason, but the personalities of Iskandar and Enkidu usually won over Gilgamesh’s attention when it came down to the four of them. The fact the man wrote him an invitation in order to talk to him spoke volumes.

For one thing, El Melloi cared enough to send him an invitation to chat. Something Gilgamesh didn’t exactly indulge in all of the time, but this man was important enough that he would allow the pseudo-servant to take up his time.

That brings him to this moment, with Gilgamesh standing at the entrance of El Melloi’s abode, waiting for the man to invite him further in. What he doesn’t expect is that the man isn’t even facing him, in fact, he was currently so engrossed in a large book that he hadn’t seemed to notice his arrival. With a knock on the wall, El Melloi jumps at the noise and with a grumble, he waves Gilgamesh over.

“I apologize. I didn’t realize how late it was,” the man called Waver says smoothly with his nose still buried in the book. “I’ll be only a moment longer. I just need to finish this passage. You are welcome to take a seat.”

The chair El Melloi gestures to sits next to him and a table full of haphazardly stacked books. Gilgamesh scoffs, pulling out the chair and sitting in it. He made it this far, he may as well make the most of his time.

Once settled, his attention drifts over at El Melloi. He had a refined look to him, even with the blotchy bags under his eyes and the lines of age starting to show in the creases of his skin. In fact, they gave him a bit more character. A man who took his job seriously, dedicated to his work as a mage in this world of Holy Grail Wars and magic.

“There.”

El Melloi sighs before marking the page with a well-worn ribbon and closing the tome with a thump. He turns to Gilgamesh, rubbing the bridge of his nose under his glasses. The man was handsome, in his own particular way…

“Do you normally do this when you are expecting guests?”

El Melloi scoffs, a half-smile spreading across his face. “No, no. I expect to be leaving soon and I need to take advantage of all the downtime I have.” He looks over towards Gilgamesh, meeting his eyes, “You should remember that much about Fuyuki.”

Gilgamesh shrugs, what he does and doesn’t remember about that time doesn’t affect him here and now. He’s about to say as much when El Melloi suddenly takes a big yawn. He watches as the man blinks away tears. It’s not much, but he can see why Enkidu finds himself drawn to this man. His voice is comforting in its deep tones and his sardonic attitude was something that was so utterly human.

So instead of grilling this man for answers, Gilgamesh brings his hand up to brush the hair away from the right side of El Melloi’s face. The pseudo-servant’s body freezes in place. Apparently, it never occurred to him to expect this, nor does he seem to expect it when Gilgamesh leans in to kiss him; slowly at first, then deeply. El Melloi’s lips taste like a sharp red wine mixed with a rich, smokey flavor. A smell and taste Gilgamesh could definitely find himself associating to the man.

El Melloi looks perplexed as Gilgamesh leans back, just enough to keep close eye contact. He’s interested in how much further they would go if they wanted to. He is also interested in knowing when this man would be back to make their little arrangement complete.

“You can go, but hurry back. You have others waiting for you here.”

Gilgamesh stands, his fingers brushing against the side of El Melloi’s face as he turns to leave the room. He catches the muttered, “I’ll be sure to return as soon as possible,” as he makes his way towards the exit. He will have to talk to Enkidu, to let them know that this arrangement will surely work for all of those involved if he has any say about it.

–-

It’s late when one of the four awakens. Enkidu smiles as they feel the arms of Gil wrapped around their waist, his body spooned against their own. Across from them is El Melloi, hair a fetching, tangled mess and his hand enclosed around their own. A smile grows on their face and they squeeze the hand just enough that he squeezes lightly back as if by instinct. With a yawn, they feel the lull of sleep as it tries to pull them back into the unwaking world. The weight of Iskandar’s arm draped across everyone comforting them back into that warm safe space. They close their eyes and sleep.