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Only The Gods Are Immortal

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Gilgamesh dreamed. He dreamed of a star that fell to earth and seared the ground with its brilliance. So bright! With his bare hands he reached for it and felt its heat burn the skin and flesh off his bones. He cried out in pain, but he would not let go. The pain became great -- so great he could not think, he could not breathe, he could not live. But he would not let go. On no, for the star was his, and his alone.

He dreamed of a wounded bull, pierced by a great spear. It gasped for breath and cried out in fear. He looked into the eyes of this bull and felt its pain strike him, as if it were he who had been stabbed. My friend, he thought, holding the bull's great head in his hands, do not die. You cannot die.

When he woke in his bedchamber, he turned to the empty space next to him. He reached out, expecting a warm body to be there, but he was alone.

~~~

Enkidu dreamed. He dreamed of simple things -- of the high grass on the steppe and the moonlight reflecting off a pool of still water. He dreamed of running with the animals, the strong power of his legs, the wind in his hair, his heart beating sure and proud. He hunted. He swam. He lay amongst the animals, his friends, knowing their thoughts and sharing their warmth.

Until he woke one day and saw his own reflection rising before him out of the grass -- an animal like him! Tall, walking on two legs, eyes so bright. My friend, he thought, where have you been? I have been looking for you. And at that moment, he knew it to be true, that within him was an unfulfilled void that waited, seeking his other half. But as he approached, cautious, smelling the air and tasting the wind, he saw that it was not his friend, but something else. He felt deceived, the sudden sadness in his heart awakening him from his life in the wild steppe.

He followed this other thing -- female -- letting her touch him and raise his lust, falling hungrily on her. But he knew she was a pale shadow of what he longed for, and felt himself alone even as he thrust into her willing body.

~~~

The people gathered around the marketplace and whispered a name -- Gilgamesh, they said. The King! The King is here.

Enkidu stood at the entrance to the family house and faced a man as tall as himself, but where this man's skin was golden and smooth, Enkidu's was tough and burnt dark by the sun. Enkidu watched the man move, fluid like sunshine and strong like a mountain. He was beautiful, as only a god could be. They called this man king, but what kind of king would defile another man's bride? Hot rage flowed in his veins.

"You cannot pass," he said.

"Who are you?" asked Gilgamesh, more curious than angry.

"I am called Enkidu, and you cannot pass." The day was hot and bright and the air tasted like dust in his throat.

Gilgamesh's face darkened. "This is my city. These are my people. It is my right, and you are nothing. Get out of my way, or face the anger of the gods."

Enkidu did not move. What cared he for gods?

Fire entered Gilgamesh's eyes and he lunged at Enkidu. Like wolves they fought, tearing at each other. Enkidu heard a roaring in his ears and felt a burning in his stomach. He saw nothing but Gilgamesh, his world narrowing to the feel of the other man's weight bearing down on him -- to the slam of the ground and the grit of the earth pressed against his face. They rolled, now one on top, now the other, evenly matched.

Gilgamesh took hold of him, pressing his weight onto Enkidu's chest, crushing the air from his body. Enkidu looked up, into the wild brown eyes of the king. With a sudden gasp he recognized him. You! His eyes widened.

Enkidu flipped them over and pinned Gilgamesh's arms above his head and looked down into his eyes. "My lord," he said, breathless.

Gilgamesh blinked at him and then he laughed. "Yes."

They rose, Enkidu offering his hand. They stood at the center of the marketplace, hands clasped, breathing hard and smiling. Enkidu touched Gilgamesh's face.

"I dreamt of you," said Gilgamesh, taking him in his arms.

Enkidu said nothing, only falling into Gilgamesh's embrace, turning his head to breathe in his scent. At last, he wasn't alone.

~~~

Gilgamesh took Enkidu to his palace and dressed him in finery. He gave him every weapon -- sword, dagger, mace -- heaping valuable gift on top of valuable gift. Jewelry. Armor. Wine, women, song.

They sparred and wrestled, delighting in each other's strength. Gilgamesh taught Enkidu everything he knew. No one could best them! They were champions in every contest, favored by the gods. Now Gilgamesh won. Now Enkidu.

They traveled all over Uruk, visiting every street, every corner, every sun-baked brick. They went to the Temple at the center of the city and made an offering to the god Anu, slaughtering a bull calf. They spilt its blood and then sliced their right hands, mingling their blood and the blood of the calf.

"Everything that is mine, is yours," said Gilgamesh, waving his hand across the horizon. They stood on the balcony outside his bedchamber overlooking the city.

"My lord, I care only to be near you."

Gilgamesh looked into Enkidu's black eyes, eyes like bitumen, and smiled. "Let us go to the marketplace. There are two new virgins today. They are yours, my friend."

Enkidu frowned, dismayed that Gilgamesh would still pursue this dishonorable act. "They are not yours to give. You have women enough, why do you desire to take that which is not yours?"

"Because it is my right. And it is an honor bestowed upon both bride and husband." Gilgamesh's eyes flashed anger. He was not accustomed to being refused anything.

"No, you bestow only fear and hatred. You are not the man I thought you were." Enkidu lowered his voice and turned and walked away.

Gilgamesh seethed with rage. He roared and charged at Enkidu, tackling him to the ground. They fought brutally all over the bedchamber, smashing furniture and breaking every fragile item. The servants fled from the room in fear.

The walls shuddered and cracked. Bright red blood dripped down Enkidu's arm and down the side of his face, but he felt nothing, only the strength and force of Gilgamesh slamming him against the wall.

Suddenly Gilgamesh stopped, a horrified look on his face. He stepped back, tripping over the remains of a table, falling to the floor. He started crying, bent over, his head in his hands.

Enkidu went to him and knelt beside him. He stroked his hair and took him in his arms. "My lord," he said.

Gilgamesh lifted his head. "Do not call me that."

Enkidu searched Gilgamesh's face. A beautiful face, one to rival any prostitute, even bruised and bloodied. "But you are my Lord."

"I don't care to be your lord." Gilgamesh lowered his head, resting it against Enkidu's shoulder. "You are better then I am. You are the lord."

Enkidu said nothing, only taking Gilgamesh fully into his embrace. They lay on the floor of the broken bedchamber until the servants crept quietly back and the light faded from the sky.

~~~

What a pretty pair they made, whispered the people of Uruk. And see how much the King has changed since the gods brought Enkidu to him? Gone was the callous ruler they knew, bored with his wealth, his every wish granted. Gone was the impulsive, restless boy who acted the tyrant over his subjects. Here was a King, a true ruler of his people. And beside him, Enkidu.

~~~

Always, Enkidu slept by Gilgamesh's side, unable to bear even that simple separation from night to morning. They shared everything. They shared women between them.

Gilgamesh liked to look across from where he lay, buried in the heat of some woman, cresting the height of pleasure, to see Enkidu doing the same, close enough to touch. It was the sight of Enkidu grunting his release that brought Gilgamesh to his.

He liked to place a woman between them -- Enkidu on his back, the women on top, panting as he thrust into her, and Gilgamesh holding her still, pushing in from behind -- so he could watch Enkidu's dark eyes brighten with heat and desire, feeling Enkidu slide against him. He took Enkidu's hand and gripped it hard, biting the woman's shoulder at the moment when he spilled into her.

But it was Enkidu who reached for him when they both lay in bed, each with a woman's mouth engulfing and sucking at their stiff members, swallowing them whole. Overcome, Enkidu panted against Gilgamesh's neck, burying his face amongst his curls. They clasped each other and breathed into each other's skin, licking, tasting, then kissing, crying out their release into each other's mouths.

Then, there were those nights when there were no women, but only themselves, alone.

"I want you like this." Gilgamesh touched Enkidu's face. It seemed more beautiful to him than his own. Dark, but Enkidu held a brightness that blinded him.

"I would not debase you." Enkidu shook his head. "It is I who should lie on my back and spread my legs."

"No. You could never debase me. Do not worry. I want this."

There were not many things that Enkidu could deny Gilgamesh. Sensing his unease, Gilgamesh caressed his face, and brought his lips to meet Enkidu's. He took his hand, placing it at the entrance to his body, grunting into Enkidu's mouth. Enkidu needed no other prompting.

Gilgamesh had heard the whispering among the male prostitutes at the temples of the burning, blinding pleasure to be had in being taken by another man. He found it to be true, gasping as Enkidu prepared him with his fingers, as he had taught him.

Enkidu covered him, raising his legs, pushing slowly into his body. Gilgamesh gripped Enkidu to him, relieving his uncertain look by holding him close, whispering in his ear. Until the pleasure grew so strong that he could only gasp and groan and cry out for more.

Enkidu thrust into his body and Gilgamesh rose to meet him, more and more, and faster and faster. This was what he wanted. This was what he sought. As he felt his spend approaching, he took Enkidu's face in his hands and looked into his dark enveloping eyes.

We are one.

Yes.

The pleasure was blinding, robbing him of breath. Enkidu growled and bucked violently into Gilgamesh's body. Gilgamesh cried out and felt his life essence erupt between them.

~~~

Gilgamesh awoke alone in bed. It was night and only one torch burned, casting most of the room in shadows. Rising, he found Enkidu on the balcony, staring out into the dark void of the city.

Enkidu turned as he approached. They stood silently together, side by side.

Then Gilgamesh looked at him. "Do you long for the steppe and your old friends?" He feared the answer, but he asked because he loved his friend.

Enkidu smiled. "No."

Gilgamesh's heart lightened. "It is a still night. The city sleeps. The palace sleeps. Even the gods are at rest. What is it, my friend?"

Enkidu shook his head. "It was only a dream, but it put an unnamed fear into my heart. I know not what it could be."

"What need you to fear? You are a god among men. You are the strongest. You are the best. Nothing can defeat us but death, and death is long off still. Only the gods are immortal."

Enkidu shivered, and turned back to look out into the darkness. He had never feared the gods before. "That is what I am afraid of."

"Come," said Gilgamesh. He kissed Enkidu's cheek and touched him with his hands. "Leave the gods to their fancies. There is time yet tonight for you and I."

Enkidu followed, the unease of his dream fading under the brightness of Gilgamesh's smile. But as they re-entered the bedchamber, he felt a cold breeze caress his face and he shivered again. He knew the gods were not finished with him.

~~~