Gilgamesh looks over uncertainly at the bride, who has flung herself up on her elbows in a very accusatory fashion.
“Yes?” Gilgamesh is not sure what he is expected to do. He is, after all, trying to get his clothes back on as soon as possible, so that the groom can get in and he himself can get out and get drunk. Or perhaps go hunt a lion. “Do you think your brother would like to come lion hunting with me?” he asks.
“No!” The bride flops back down dramatically and slaps an exasperated hand over her face. “Leave my brother out of it. And anyway, he’s a vegetarian.”
Gilgamesh now matches the bride’s expression in terms of baffled annoyance. “What?” he grunts, when the bride abruptly giggles.
“Oh, it’s just that now I get it.” She replies with dangerous sweetness. “You know, why you need to force your way to supposedly virgin bridal chambers every night with some new girl.”
Gilgamesh stares at her with horrified fascination. “Why?”
“Well, because you’re so bad at all this!” The bride waves her hand about her, encompassing her bare legs and breasts. “I mean, has any woman ever even wanted a second night with you?”
Gilgamesh gapes. “I… what? You like doing it?”
The bride laughs. “Uh, not with you, obviously. Though if you send my husband in, we can show you how it’s meant to go. He probably won’t even mind you watching, if it gives you enough pointers to make it easier for the next girl you’re fumbling around with.”
Gilgamesh really doesn’t understand. “I’m leaving now.” He says with great dignity, “I am going on a lion hunt.”
“You do that, then,” the bride laughs him out the door.
“He can’t be your pet!”
Gilgamesh stares up at his mother, bewildered, before he continues chomping on his cake, which is appropriately sweet and festive for the occasion. It was a good idea of Enkidu’s to drop in on his mother before they went to kill Humbaba, because Ninsun makes the best date-honey cakes in the city, and obviously, she would do an extra special job of it as a send-off.
“Gilgamesh!” His mother smacks the back of his head.
He frowns. He has never stopped being embarrassed by the fact that he never outgrew his mother, and that she still reaches down, rather than up, to whack him. (He knows he should also find it undignified that his mother still regularly whacks him, but he’s so used to it that he can’t be arsed to care.)
Enkidu tsks and looks at his empty plate with a wistful, beseeching look that has Ninsun heaping food on it like it’s their last meal. Enkidu beams brightly and says “Thank you, Aunty!” and Ninsun beams back at him and ruffles the hair on his head.
Which makes it all the more ridiculous that she yells at Gilgamesh when he strokes Enkudu’s soft, cuddly shoulders where the fur (“It’s hair, Gilgamesh! Fucking shit, I’m as human as you are!”) grows silky and crosswise.
“You can’t just treat him like a dog who will follow you everywhere and attack any fool demon you want to see bitten! Gilgamesh! Don’t you understand?”
Frankly, no, Gilgamesh doesn’t. But he’s irritated and annoyed at the way Enkidu and his mother are exchanging serious, sad looks, and the way they stayed up all night talking about death and loss and grieving and other things that it makes no sense to think about because that’s not the point when you’re Having An Adventure, so he snaps, “Fine, he’s not my pet, he’s my brother!”
“What?” Enkidu gives him an extremely startled glance.
Gilgamesh waves the hand that doesn’t have food in it around dismissively. “You can be my brother! That will give her an excuse to fuss over you instead of me, and everyone knows brothers do everything together.”
“Everything?” Enkidu throws him an arch look, but when Gilgamesh returns it with a blank shrug, Enkidu just sighs, and then turns back to Ninsun with a strange softness in his eyes, and says, “I would be honoured if I could protect your son as a brother.”
And then Ninsun smacks the back of Enkidu’s head! And says roughly, “You silly child, I am the one who is honoured, and I’ll be worrying about you like you’re my own son, you understand?”
Gilgamesh cannot understand this strange tendency towards watery eyes that both his mother and his newly-claimed brother have at all.
“Death means it’s over!”
Gilgamesh glares at the ferryman. It is dark, and he is tired, and his arms are sore from killing all those stone giants.
“Those giants were my crew,” Urshanabi the ferryman says with a sigh. Like he’s said the past twelve times they’ve had this conversation.
“You killed my crew. And now they are dead. Which means they can’t come back. Which means they can’t get you across the waters of death. Which is a giant honking sign, Gilgamesh, my stupid young friend, that you can’t get Enkidu back either. Because he is dead.”
“I know he’s dead!” Gilgamesh snarls. “I know he’s dead because I saw him die, and then I saw him being buried and I know what happens to dead things.”
“Yes, I imagine with the number of things you made dead, you would,” Urshanabi mutters dryly, but Gilgamesh is too angry and scared and upset to stop the lava of words erupting from him.
“When you die then you’re gone, and the blood stops flowing, and ravens whom you could have killed with one stone peck out your eyes and maggots eat into your brains and your flesh starts stinking like old rotting meat, which is exactly all that you are and spiders can crawl over your skin and you won’t care, because you’re not there!
“So yeah, I know what dead means. Which is why I’m never going to be dead. Ever.”
“Oh, Gilgamesh,” Urshanabi sighs, and the ferryman is giving him the same superior, pitying look that Siduri did, and that the scorpion-men did before that, and that his mother did even before that when he told her what he was going to do. Gilgamesh is fucking tired of everyone acting like they know something he doesn’t, like they aren’t older than him and therefore closer to dying anyway, and so maybe they’ve just given up, the cowards.
“You can’t fight death, Gilgamesh,” Urshanabi says, very gently, very kindly, like he really wants to help Gilgamesh. “It comes for everyone.”
“I don’t understand,” says Gilgamesh, because Enkidu is gone, and if Gilgamesh refused to understand when Enkidu told him something was impossible, he’s hardly going to start understanding anyone now.
He sticks his chin in the air and determinedly not understands with all his heart and soul until the ferryman finally sighs, and gives in, and mentions that 300 trees might be enough to get some punting poles.
He’s Gilgamesh. This is how he does things. And things, somehow, get done.