Never a more auspicious time to end a heist.
All the treasures in the world belonged to Gilgamesh. Museums, private collectors, and so on were only allowed to borrow them until he came to collect.
The police officers tied up with taped-down mouths trying to wriggle themselves free of their bonds had fallen into his trap, just as he had planned. Knock-out gas came through the vents once all of them had started patrolling the cargo bay of the ship. Gil played dirty. Everyone knew it, but he didn’t have a body count to his name. He was a professional collector, you see, and he didn’t dirty his hands more than he needed to, but that never meant he had to play fair.
Arthur Pendragon was by far the biggest thorn in his side. To see him tied up and staring woozily up at him as he held a briefcase full of jewels meant for a museum was a delight in and of itself. Just another time he one-upped his dearest rival. Arthur would almost win, he’d almost outsmart him, but there he was, again and again, outfoxed.
Gilgamesh pulled his ski mask above his nose and knelt to Arthur’s spot on the floor and pressed a kiss over the duct tape keeping his trap shut. The indignant noise Arthur made was well worth it; he pulled his mask back down and headed up the stairs carefully and into a bathroom where he’d change from the slim tactical gear into a tuxedo and join the party on the docks as if nothing had gone wrong.
It wouldn’t be until the ship pulled into port that he’d walk openly past the police barricade as one of the ‘guests’ in disguise, touting his treasure in a nondescript suitcase and getting into a luxury car and driving off. Before anyone was any the wiser, the car would be abandoned in a parking lot and Gilgamesh would be stocking his personal warehouse with more ancient diamonds and rubies.
… and Arthur would have so much explaining to do to his boss.
“I could kill him, I really could.” Artoria spoke between bites of food her brother had prepared for breakfast. Arthur was an exceptional cook, and Artoria never missed a day when he stayed home to make meals. He was on a brief suspension while they investigated the case, so naturally, he was stress-cooking. “Gilgamesh kissed you? Really? I’ll knock his bloody teeth out—”
“Get in line. My whole division wants a piece of him.” Arthur pulled another dish out of the oven and set it on the table, swatting Artoria’s hand with a cutesy lion oven mitt so she didn’t burn herself digging in. “I may be the head of his investigation team, but it feels like it’s only a matter of time before they take me off the case again…”
“Every time they do, Gilgamesh just tricks the new guy twice as bad as he ever does you. You know him best. It’s as if he wants you to chase him.”
Arthur’s mind drifted back to a tapped phone call they had once shared; where Gilgamesh promised that he’d only ever play fair so long as Arthur was leading the charge. It had made Arthur look incompetent despite what a stand-up officer he was outside of that particular case—he had few friends in the precinct… Lancelot, Gawain, Bedivere, Tristan… that didn’t make fun of him for Gilgamesh both having an apparent crush on him and how Gilgamesh won every single time. The serial thief was on another level. His code name had changed a few times. At first it was ‘AUO’, then it was King of Heroes, and now he’d finally settled on naming himself after the Mesopotamian king. No one knew his real identity… no one got close.
“You’ll get him. If anyone in the world can do it, it’s you.” Artoria reassured him, before hissing in pain as she nearly burnt her hand on the side of the pan. Arthur sighed.
“I hope so.”
The phone began to ring, prompting Arthur to take off the oven mitts and go answer it. Artoria listened in as Arthur began talking hurriedly to what she presumed was his boss.
“I… I understand, sir. I’m glad.” They hadn’t found any fault with how he conducted his investigation. He had the right place and time, but the gas was unprecedented and more dangerous than Gilgamesh was usually accountable for. “You want me to file my report? Right away? I can come in…”
Artoria sighed, and wordlessly stood up to start packing the food away. Arthur cooked, she was responsible for the mess after. After their parents had died, they stuck together in their childhood home so the bills wouldn’t pile up. She worked in security, he was a bona fide cop. Several times he’d asked her to join the force with him, but her lowkey job at a nearby museum was more than enough for her. Besides, there was no guarantee she wouldn’t just shoot Gilgamesh the first time she met him.
“Will you be okay, sis?”
“I’ll be fine. Go catch a thief.” She smiled at him warmly, though one could notice her hands clenched around the pan she was in the middle of wrapping. Gilgamesh’s harassment of her dear younger brother had clearly gotten under her skin.
The paperwork at his desk was insurmountable. So many people wanted to know why he had messed up so badly, and he had detailed the plan he’d set in motion over and over, for different people on different pieces of paper. Someone had just left another stack in front of him, prompting him to look up wearily at their face.
“Working hard…?” Diarmuid Ua Duibhne asked. A friend. Arthur forced a smile as he turned the page on his next report.
“A lot of people want to know why the police couldn’t stop one man from stealing a handful of jewelry.” Mind, that jewelry was worth more than Arthur had ever earned in his life, several times over. “And as the head of the investigation, that question falls on me to answer.”
“Rough…” Diarmuid was a part of the office dealing with Interpol and the undercover operation involving the Irish mafia. “Queen” Medb had been causing quite a stir lately, especially with her attack dog of a person, Cu Chulainn. Interpol agent Scathach was currently undercover in her mob, and he was tasked with monitoring the situation as closely as possible without interfering with her directly. Neither of them were in very enviable positions.
“It’s not the first time, though I certainly hope it’s the last.” Arthur sighed as he finished writing the last report before starting on the stack that Diarmuid had left on his desk. “Has he posted anything online yet? Or left another calling card out in person?”
“Not yet… he’s quiet for someone who usually gloats afterward. It’s unusual.”
“Great… well, maybe he’s going to give me a vacation for a while. Enjoy his stolen goods while it lasts.”
“You can always hope…!” Diarmuid laughed. “The Chief wants to speak with you later, too. Around six.”
Fionn… Arthur furrowed his brow, sighing. “Got it.” Being lead investigator didn’t stop him from getting scolded, and Fionn’s brand of passive aggressive nonsense was the absolute worst. Both of them knew that—Diarmuid was Fionn’s favorite officer to bully whenever he was in a bad mood.
“Take care, alright?”
“I will,” Arthur’s gentle smile still shone through despite the amount of stress he was under. If only the rest of his friends were here to help him handle the work, but knowing them, they were still on patrol or something like that. Diarmuid gave him a slightly pitying look before heading back to his desk.
“It’s true, this ruby can only be appreciated when you see its color in person…”
Lounging in his penthouse suite, Gilgamesh couldn’t help but admire his haul from the previous night. There were diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and some less precious gemstones that were no less beautiful. There were golden bracelets that hung on his wrist loosely and rings that had been on the hands of kings. He was getting acquainted with them like one would an old friend, all while listening to the details of his heist on the television.
He always made sure to watch, just in case he’d slipped up anywhere. If they ever found a stray hair at the scene of the crime (never), or a tool he’d left behind (nope). He knew they would probably test for DNA on the other end of the duct tape, if Arthur had the guts to admit he’d been kissed. He was off the grid entirely, so what did it matter?
Another code name. Gilgamesh had rarely made friends in the business, but he and Ozy had similar goals in mind. So long as their targeted treasure didn’t intersect (he was halfway across the world anyway, it’d be hard to), they were amicable. He didn’t know Ozy’s real name and Ozy, likewise. There was no honor among thieves, after all.
“Hahahaha…!” Ozymandias’ voice boomed over the loudspeaker of Gilgamesh’s custom-made phone system. “You’re getting bolder! A heist on a ship that wouldn’t dock for another several hours? What made you think you’d get away with it?”
“Skill.” Gilgamesh said simply. “Arthur may be good, but he’s not good enough to keep up with me.”
“Mhm… you’re a little too nice to him.” Ozy responded, sounding like he was busy with something on the other line. “You should get him fired. Another officer would be less tenacious.”
“Why? And spoil the fun?” Gilgamesh admired the rings on his hand, glinting off the sunlight. “Arthur’s part of the game. He knew where I’d be without so much as a hint on my calling card. He’s a genius. Everything I hoped for when entering the business.”
“Dangerous… tsk. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you have a crush on him.”
Gilgamesh scoffed. “Please. It’s like I said, he just makes the whole thing fun.”
“Then why did you kiss him?”
Gilgamesh sat up straight. “How do you know—”
“Sources. Eyes everywhere. Just like you.” Ozymandias chuckled loudly on the other end of the line. “It’s bad to fall for a cop. Just saying. Especially someone as righteous as Arthur Pendragon…”
“I haven’t fallen for a cop.” He snapped back, before getting comfortable again in his seat. “It’s just fun to tease him. To leave him knowing I was just outside his grasp…”
“Whatever you say. I’m a bit busy--”
“That’s right. You retired for Nefertari.”
Another code name. Who on earth would trust a thief with the name of their loved ones?
“If only temporarily. We’re expecting, you know.”
Ugh, children. “I’ll be sure to send something for the baby shower.”
“Send yourself! It’s been far too long since we’ve met in person.”
“I’ll see how my demanding schedule is…” Gilgamesh made a quick excuse to hang up and leave it at that. Arthur Pendragon was unobtainable. Someone so perfectly outside of his grasp made Gilgamesh want him all the more—but the only way he could keep him was in this dance of cat and mouse, making sure he never got caught. So long as they played the game together, they would be able to dance together as long as Gilgamesh liked, until he tired of him.
But he hadn’t grown tired of him yet, and that was mildly worrying in and of itself. Usually investigators were boring creatures who didn’t devote themselves to his capture, merely ‘assigned’ to it… Arthur had given several loud, passionate speeches about how stealing history from the public was a crime he couldn’t forgive, and how he’d dedicate his life to finding and apprehending him… it gave him chills just thinking about it. Sooner or later, they’d have to meet face to face. Have a friendly chat. Maybe somewhere outside his jurisdiction.
A beautiful painting was going to be the centerpiece of the local art museum in a few days, and he guessed that Arthur must have planned he’d be there. Outguessing your opponent was so fun. He didn’t know how ordinary people got by without having a rival. Placing the jewels back in the velvet lined box he’d stolen, he immediately set to work making his next calling card.
“He’s been like this for hours…”
Lancelot watched Arthur’s desk from his own, seeing him hunched over his laptop, trying to decode where Gilgamesh might show his face next. His paperwork all done, he’d now devoted himself to the second half of his job—figuring out Gilgamesh’s next target before he did. The obvious contender was a painting by Van Gogh being displayed at the National Museum, but even he wondered if Gil had the guts for that. Someone would be standing by the painting all night. With a gun. And Arthur might not have been trigger happy, but that didn’t mean someone else wouldn’t be.
Wait… the National Museum… oh god, that’s Artoria’s job.
He immediately rung her on his cellphone.
“Hello?” The sound of her voice was clearly muffled with food. She must’ve been enjoying the leftovers from the feast that Arthur inadvertently cooked.
“Artoria? You’re not going to believe this—”
Arthur filled her in, and Artoria clenched her phone with resolve. “So you’re saying I could be on shift when he tries to steal that painting?”
“No worries, I’ll send an officer over to help guard… you like Gawain, don’t you?”
“Th—that’s— I can handle it on my own."
“Your own little brother can’t handle Gilgamesh on his own. I have a feeling you may need help.”
Sensing she might damage his pride if she said no, she reluctantly agreed. “Send him over for the next few nights. We’ll see if that creep shows up.”
Arthur would get a calling card in the police mail no sooner than the next day. It said, in simple font with a deep red insignia marking the corner:
“Would you Gogh out with me, Arthur?”
He was tempted to crumple it on the spot, but the people in charge of DNA and fingerprint testing would kill him. Artoria was getting pumped. She knew that museum inside and out, and took her job incredibly seriously.
“I’m going to kill him,” She said, resolve clear in her voice.
“You’re not going to kill him.” Arthur responded reluctantly. “He needs to be tried before a court of law. Don’t you dare use your gun.”
“Fine… then let’s plan out how this’ll go.”
It was a simple layout, really.
While the painting would be on display, it would be behind bulletproof glass that could only be slipped out from behind the wall. So long as Arthur and Artoria never left that spot, nobody would be getting that painting out of the museum. Gawain was happy to tag along, having an apparent crush on Artoria that she may—or may not have—noticed.
“I’ll guard the front of the glass. You two stay behind it. And no one leave the area if one of us has to go investigate any suspicious noises, or—”
“We’ve got it.”
Stakeouts were both the easiest and the hardest part of the job. Staying awake all night before retiring his shift to someone else… he couldn’t let Gilgamesh use something like sleeping gas again. All three of them wore gas masks this time around. It’d be too easy if he picked them off like that and Arthur rarely made the same mistake twice.
Meanwhile, Gilgamesh sat next to the window overlooking the inside of the museum, stealthily pressed against the wall and plotting his way in.
Arthur, you’ll have to forgive him, it’s going to be way too easy this time around.
It was a game of sounds. A symphony of suspicious noises.
Nobody noticed him planting small speakers the day before, while the museum was open for business. Tuning his radio into one he placed perpendicular to the painting’s hallway, he played some very convincing footsteps.
“We’re the only ones covering the inside of the building. Go check it out.”
The first bait had been taken. Gawain had walked away from the front of the painting. Then, he played a sound on the radio that vaguely sounded like his own voice—hissing an expletive down further in the hallway.
“Someone’s here!” He shouted back to the siblings, who stayed in place, watching the surveillance cameras. There was absolutely no way Gilgamesh could pull this off with three of them there!
But all Gilgamesh needed was exactly two minutes and thirteen seconds. He’d timed it in his last rehearsal. He played another noise, this one closer to the siblings. Artoria ran off in that direction, leaving only Arthur, who couldn’t abandon his post. Good. This couldn’t have possibly gone better. Grappling a rope down the open window, he slid down expertly and nodded to his cohort above him to signal when to pull him up.
Bulletproof didn’t mean laserproof. On his cue, the security cameras cut. He had eleven seconds to cut the painting out of the glass and pull himself up. Cutting it rather close, mind, but it all hinged on whether Arthur would stay in place, thinking he was blocking the only route to the painting, or rush out to the front. Gilgamesh had never been overtly violent before, but the thought of being clubbed over the head stuck out in Arthur’s mind.
Arthur stood stock still as Gawain and Artoria searched for the source of the noises. It would be too late when they discover the tiny speakers.
Something was ringing in his ears… no, something was ringing, a high pitched noise coming from the other side of the wall. Arthur started running.
“Plan B it is.” Gilgamesh thought, tugging on the cord to be pulled up, abandoning his post with the laser and leaving the painting where it was. Arthur only caught a glance of him as he pulled himself up out of the window, mockingly blowing a kiss down his way.
Arthur looked at the painting. It was… still there. For once, Gilgamesh had failed his heist! Finally! He was elated, but still ran outside, drawing his gun and heading for the fire escape that would lead to the roof.
This, of course, left the painting unguarded, for thief #3 to slip out the back and take.
Gilgamesh would be gone by the time Arthur got to the roof, the siren would sound downstairs, and Arthur would later have to update his case file on Gilgamesh: has accomplices. Plural.
Back at his apartment, Gilgamesh had cleared a space on the wall for the painting, just to admire it. It wasn’t even one of Van Gogh’s best, but it still showed off the most beautiful colors he’d ever seen in paint—it was a true masterwork. He was glad he shelled out for it in the form of paying his accomplices.
Enkidu was his best friend, and naturally, didn’t want any money. Kingu, however, was a bit more demanding as Enkidu’s brother that they get some share.
“Haven’t I said it enough?” Gilgamesh asked, tipping a goblet of wine back. “All treasures in the world belong to me. You’ve merely helped return them to their owner.”
“Delusional…” Kingu muttered under his breath, as Enkidu pinched him. Hard. “My brother might be loyal to you, but I want to be paid.”
“Hmph.” Gilgamesh merely watched the swill of red wine in his glass swirl. He’d forward some money into his account by the end of the night. He’s never not compensated them for their time.
“Your crush on Arthur is going to cost you, eventually. What if we’re not there to help next time?”
“Then I’ll manage as I always have.”
Gilgamesh disliked the term ‘thief’—he genuinely believed everything he owned, he was meant to own. He was taking back what was his, that’s all there was to it. When it came to Arthur Pendragon, he couldn’t help but feel the exact same feeling. That he belonged to him, that he was owed him, in some sense… but he could only keep him if he played this game with him, keeping each other in their sights for as long as the dance could go on.
That, or if he finally got fired, he supposed he could court him properly then. But where was the fun in it? That was like a heist with no guards.
He’d have to monitor Arthur, pull some strings, make sure that their game could continue. In the meantime…
… Arthur had never properly answered his note, had he? What a shame.
A conversation late at night. Drinks are shared. The people you want to know the most are the people you often can't connect to at all.
Dear readers, I wish for you to suspend your disbelief in the same vein as Lupin the III and overlook one crucial detail; if Arthur ever got fired from the case, there’d be no plot, even though it would really make a lot of sense for him to be fired. :D; He’s the Zenigata here. He has to be the one to catch Gilgamesh. Other than that, thanks for reading! I’m glad to be writing for this pairing again.
Fionn was the one shouldering the embarrassment from a missing Van Gogh painting, and he appropriately laid into the task force that had been sent to make sure it never got stolen in the first place.
Fionn had a remarkable way with words; he could make you feel like you were at your absolute lowest but he still wouldn’t free you from his clutches by firing you; no, he would put your nose back to the grindstone to prevent future disappointments. Arthur had been catching hell ever since he was first assigned to Gilgamesh’s case, but in the times he’d been taken off the case to be assigned to another officer, they had failed twice as miserably. Nobody talked about what happened to the other people who Fionn had built up as more competent.
It was just that day that he tried calling up the world’s only consulting detective, only to be rebuffed thoroughly.
“The case of Gilgamesh is a rather interesting one…” Fionn had goaded over the phone. He was met with the sharp twang of someone adjusting their violin.
“With all due respect, I have been monitoring the case and find it best left in the hands of the police. Currently, I have bigger fish to catch than someone stealing mere artwork.”
“That artwork is worth millions of dollars—”
“It’s artwork. Inconsequential. A thief who has no intention of harming others in his pursuits, no less. I’m more concerned with cases where lives are at stake. Not petty criminal behavior.”
“We’d be happy to pay a respectable fee for your services…”
A pause on the other end of the line. “We’re not hurting for money here at Baker Street. In the meantime, if you have any information on James Moriarty, I expect the swiftest of calls. Good day.”
And with that, Sherlock Holmes hung up and Fionn made Arthur go back to his paperwork.
At the very least, insurance would be paying for the painting and all that was well and good, but a priceless treasure had been lost in the process. Arthur was never quite sure if he could forgive Gilgamesh for this—his motives had been clear as day and the most uniquely selfish that Arthur had ever encountered. He knew what he wanted, inside and out, and that was treasure from all over the world. Even other jurisdictions when he crossed country lines had no ability to catch him. What’s worse, was that he was gaining a fanbase.
No one had ever seen his face, and yet—fans. So many of them demanding interviews from Arthur, who’d been the only one to see him up close, once. A glint of red eyes, blond hair visible from the inside of his mask—he’d been playing it safe so far, and nobody had ever gotten a composite sketch of him. He had a muscular, lithe build that lent itself to his profession, and…
For whatever reason, he was obsessed with Arthur.
He’d received Christmas cards from him before, even! It took a lot of strength not to rip them up on the spot. He’d made a fool of him so many times it felt like Arthur had no time outside of work to focus on anything else.
He put his head down on his desk briefly, before sitting back up and writing. His descriptions of Gilgamesh were usually the same. He made a goal next time he saw him—rip off that mask at all costs.
Diarmuid’s days began bright and early, when he went out jogging with his greyhound before work. He’d clean up, take a shower, brush his teeth and get in uniform for the next day. A model officer. Nobody would ever know he had a secret that he should really be telling someone.
He was currently nursing a really, really bad breakup.
It was simple, really. They had too much that was different between them. He was a cop, Cu Chulainn happened to be Medb’s lapdog. Medb was the lead of the Irish mafia, a queen in her own right and ruthless down to the core. Whatever it was, she had something over Cu that made him cut things off. It was no good for a mobster to be involved with an officer anyway, but to Diarmuid… he missed him, and terribly at that. He hadn’t seen him for months on end since Cu abruptly cut contact, and it felt like all of his hard work getting him to open up had been for nothing.
Diarmuid spent most of his days thinking about him, missing him, trying to get past him. He’d been focusing on Arthur for that exact reason—both of them really seemed like they needed a friend.
“Yes?” Arthur barely looked up from the forms he was filling out on his desk.
“After work, would you like to get drinks? It’ll be on me. You’ve been having a rough one…”
“… that’d be nice.” He eventually conceded. He’d have to text Arturia and tell her she’d be on her own for dinner, which would earn him a lot of sulking, but he was grateful for the distraction. “I’ll meet you out in the parking lot at six, then. That’s when I get off.”
“Sounds good to me.”
The bar they chose was a relatively upscale one in downtown. Clean white countertops and a menu written out on a chalkboard of the drinks of the evening. It was all very modern, down to the seats as they took a table by the window and looked outside at the passing traffic. For the first time in a while, Arthur felt at peace, and it definitely wasn’t his drink talking. Diarmuid had the same kind of comforting presence that Arturia had—someone reliable and trustworthy. A friend ever since he’d joined the force to try and change it from the inside.
Ugh. “What about him?”
“Is it true he likes you? It seems like he’s usually just toying with you…”
“’Like’ is a strong word. It’s like you said, the only thing that man is interested in is playing games…”
“He seems to occupy all of your time though.” Diarmuid paused to take a sip of his drink—bitter, but warming and relaxing. “Do you think he has it out for you? He really makes sure that you’re the only one on his case. The last time—”
“—he made a fool of the entire department instead of just me when I was taken off the case.” Arthur sighed. “Can I confess something?”
“Of course. I won’t say a word.”
“Sometimes I wish I could just… talk to him. Understand why this is such a big deal to him, to own all the treasures in the world. I feel like if I could get him to quit, I’d understand him a little better.”
“… that’s rather merciful of you.” It vaguely reminded Diarmuid of a superhero, who didn’t care about how they caught the baddies as long as they learned their lesson.
“I guess it is. Chasing him so long, I feel like we have an understanding.” Arthur’s grip tightened on his glass. “But that still doesn’t mean he can go about kissing me and expecting me to just take it.”
“He kissed you?” Diarmuid balked.
“Over duct tape. It was a… taunt, I bet.”
“That doesn’t sound like a taunt. That sounds like he, uh, likes you.” Diarmuid went on and continued. “You know, a cop and a criminal… that kind of forbidden romance—”
“There’s no romance,” Arthur asserted. Diarmuid laughed gently.
“Of course not! But I’m wondering if that’s how he feels about you rather than the other way around. You’re like… integral to his plans. You’re not incompetent, it’s just that you pose a new challenge every time he steals from somewhere. You’re always trying to be one step ahead of each other. It’s almost as if he won’t have fun unless it’s you.”
“… you’ve given me a lot to think about.”
“I hope so! But hang in there, Arthur. Just because he’s playing games with you doesn’t mean you have to play back.”
Diarmuid’s voice was warm and comforting, or it might have been the alcohol in the pit of his stomach making him feel so, but he radiated a positive energy that he couldn’t help but feel seep into his mind. Arthur offered a genuine smile his way, something that made Diarmuid think ‘oh fuck’ in the pit of his stomach. Arthur was a handsome, single detective and Diarmuid was more or less the same… but at the same time, he just couldn’t get over Cu. There was no getting over someone he’d more or less been in love with ever since he’d met him.
“How do you deal with…” Diarmuid began.
“How do you deal with wanting to be with someone it’s impossible to be with?” He offered, hopefully thinking Arthur wouldn’t take it the wrong way. Arthur took in the question and let it roll around his mind for a little while.
“I suppose there’s nothing to do but move on. If nothing can change, then nothing can change. Is it someone who doesn’t feel the same way?”
“No… he feels the same way… it’s just… different careers and all that.” Diarmuid tipped back his drink and hoped Arthur wouldn’t pry for more.
“Then I’m sure you’ll find a way to make it work out.”
“I can certainly hope so. If two people really care about each other, it’s hard to keep them apart.”
“Excuse me…” A bartender came up to their little seat by the window with a deep red glass of wine. “The gentleman over there wished to buy this for you.”
“Me?” Arthur asked, looking over his shoulder. A blond man in a blue button-up shirt raised his glass towards him. Arthur had never seen the man before, but felt a tinge of red hit his cheeks nonetheless. He gave a small wave, and the man raised a glass to him with a catlike smile. Arthur could’ve sworn he’d seen it somewhere before.
“Tell him thank you.”
As the bartender left, Diarmuid offered a hopeful smile. “It seems some people other than Gilgamesh are interested in you. Maybe you should… I don’t know, pursue something like that? I bet he’ll back off if he really does have a crush on you.”
“Are you trying to tell me to go talk to this guy?”
“Maybe you should… Or, maybe you should do what you’re most comfortable with.”
Arthur gave him a soft look, before finishing off the rest of his drink. “You know, I’m pretty comfortable here.”
“Yeah. It’s good to have friends in the force.”
“No need to tell me twice.” Diarmuid raised a glass to Arthur. “To good friends.”
Gilgamesh spent the rest of the night relatively annoyed.
He’d sent a drink Arthur’s way, but he spent his night chatting with that… lowly officer instead of coming his way. Arthur had never seen the real Gilgamesh without the mask and makeup, and that had been his chance to swoon him over to his side before he even realized what happened. Enkidu was maybe right—this game between them was getting to his head. What did it matter if Arthur went out to drinks with a coworker? It was all it was, after all. No sense getting worried about it. But that possessive streak of Gilgamesh ran deep; it did, after all, drive his career of crime. Perhaps there was something about Arthur that he wanted to steal before anyone else could.
Enkidu was flipping through a magazine, looking at articles from their latest heist. They glanced over the edge of the paper, wondering just what it was that drove Gilgamesh to pursue Arthur so relentlessly.
“You know, there are safer targets to romantically entangle yourself with.”
“But none of them are quite so intriguing as Arthur,” And once Gilgamesh had his eyes set on something, he could never take them off. Even when it was apparent there would be no happy ending between them, he couldn’t help but desire the man. He wanted him to be a part of his perfect collection; the one thing you couldn’t steal, stolen. He was aiming for Arthur’s heart, naturally. A fatal shot, as well.
“Do you think he’s interested in…” Enkidu paused for pronunciation’s sake. “Deer-muid?”
“Hard to say. But I know something about that officer that no one else does…” He looked out the window overseeing his city with a wide smirk. “He’s got ties to the mafia. An ex. If that information were to fall into the wrong hands…”
“Whatever happened to winning over Arthur of your own merit?” Enkidu chided and challenged at the same time. “I think you should try to talk to Arthur again. One on one.”
“One on one…” Gilgamesh repeated, before he got a delightfully terrible idea.
- G: Hello, Arthur.
- Arthur Pendragon: Who is this?
- G: Guess.
- Arthur Pendragon: I’ll have this traced before you can blink.
- G: You’re probably at home in bed, aren’t you?
- G: I’m willing to bet you won’t contact the authorities in time for me to scrap this burner phone, so I would suggest enjoying our conversation while it lasts.
- Arthur Pendragon: What do you want, Gilgamesh?
- G: Many things.
- G: So many, I can hardly count them.
- G: And yet you’ve skyrocketed to the top of the list.
- G: Hm.
- G: You’ve left me in a very precarious situation, you know. My livelihood at risk, all because you happen to be the only man who can keep in step with me.
- Arthur Pendragon: Why me? There are plenty of other competent officers on the force—
- G: Not as many as dedicated as you. Not as many who spend their hours profiling me and trying to understand me. Some things are precious because I cannot have them, and yet you dangle yourself in front of me so temptingly…
- Arthur Pendragon: Are you out of your mind?
- G: Of course not.
- G: You tell me you don’t feel the same? The same kind of rush we feel at the scene of the heist, the feeling you might almost win…
- Arthur Pendragon: …
- G: I thought so.
- G: Know this, Arthur. You are the only man in this world with my permission to capture me.
- G: Do not take this privilege lightly. I only even our games for your sake.
- G: But I intend to win before you do.
- Arthur Pendragon: Win what? What do you have to gain?
- G: Your heart. Of course, every treasure in this world belongs to me.
- G: People of note are no exception.
- Arthur Pendragon: You’re insane if you think I would ever…
- G: We have a lot more in common than you think. You’re a king, Arthur, though you may not realize it yet. A leader among men. That’s why you have permission to capture me. If you can do it, that is.
- Arthur Pendragon: I swear I’ll find you.
- G: I swear I’ll look forward to it.
- G: In the meantime, stay as beautiful and noble as you are. It would be boring if you become jaded to the world by the time you catch me.
- G: Good night, Arthur. Dream of me.
- Arthur Pendragon: Gilgamesh?
- Arthur Pendragon: Answer me!
- Contact Not Found –
Arthur sighed as his head hit the pillow in frustration. He’d have to turn this conversation into his superiors in the morning. He had no doubt the phone had been thrown away or destroyed already. The most regrettable part about it was that he probably would dream of him. It wouldn’t be the first time, or the last, to think of a man he couldn’t put a face to, so his dream made him a jumble of words in human form, with a ghostly face he couldn’t quite make out.
Arthur needed to solve this case faster than ever.
Dance the night away. Forget your worries until they come back and bite you in the ass.
Artoria had been fuming ever since she read the text messages.
She had been the big sister. The one to protect Arthur when no one else had his back. To think that a criminal was basically stalking him at his work, had at one point drugged and kissed him over tape, made her blood boil. Older siblings had a responsibility to not let anything happen to their younger siblings. Reading his messages on the phone made her nearly crack the screen by grip alone. To think she’d been so close to kicking his ass when he was trying to access the painting from the front! She would have wrangled him off that rope and tied him up with it, she’d step on his face and—
God, he made her so mad!
She hadn’t been fired from her post at the museum, mostly because of clout and the fact that Gilgamesh was an incredibly unusual case. They’d found the speakers after a police sweep through the museum and blamed the ruse on Gilgamesh, not her. But someone had to take the heat. Arthur had pursued Gilgamesh on foot, and Gawain was the first one to run off…
… so Gawain was shouldering the blame for the sake of his ‘kings’. A two-week banishment to the files room was his punishment handed down by Fionn. Everyone cringed—that was the most boring job you could have in the force. It was filing and filing and even more filing. Gawain probably would have rather taken a suspension. There was a reason Fionn kept that area understaffed, and that was to keep it open as a dungeon of sorts, to throw cops he didn’t like down into.
What was really embarrassing was taking a transcript of the conversation into the meeting room and having all of his peers discuss how Gilgamesh apparently wanted in his pants.
There wasn’t much to say—Gilgamesh had stayed on course the entire conversation. The source of the texts were untraceable, and it wouldn’t have made a difference had Arthur made it there first thing in the morning or not. The trail was cold. All it did was give his colleagues another reason to tease him. Though one of them, Lancelot, was starting to get the idea that… it didn’t bother Arthur as much as he thought it should.
“You’re remarkably composed,” He said after the meeting. “Like… you and Gilgamesh know one another too well.”
“It’s his mind game. I have him profiled. He’s an egotist, he likes to have someone treat him as the center of attention, and I’m the only one who keeps up with his little hints. Why he picked me of all people, is…”
Lancelot neglected to mention that Arthur was incredibly handsome as well as noble to a fault, and that might be the reason why an egotistical criminal like Gilgamesh loved having his attention, but the last thing he wanted to make this sound like was some weird sex thing. ‘Punish me’ and the like.
“It’s because you’re in step with him. He wants a rival because defeating you makes him look better. Even the FBI and Interpol haven’t gotten as close as you have.”
“That’s because Interpol is currently wrapped up in Medb’s case, and the FBI… well, the guy they sent from there was shamed right back to his office.”
“I don’t know… you’re very good at what you do, Arthur, and you’re not ashamed to share any clue you have with the rest of the precinct. We’re proud to work with you.”
“Thank you… I’m glad to have your support.”
“Have you gotten any other clues since?”
“I’ll be at my desk if you need me.” Lancelot had to get back to work, and Arthur was fine with letting him. It had been a while since he scoured for clues on the internet. Gilgamesh had once had a website he used to deliver calling cards that had been traced out of the country, but no longer was operational. There was also his fanbase…
He loaded up the fansite to see if he’d interacted with anyone there.
‘I bet he’s really handsome underneath the mask. ♡’
‘Do you think Arthur Pendragon will ever catch him? He’s so serious on the news’
‘I’d let Gil raw me over the Van Gogh painting he stole’
“Jesus,” Arthur said out loud before clicking out of the tab. Again, a bunch of gibberish from people who would rather see Gilgamesh in their boudoir instead of behind bars. The fact that Gilgamesh was openly flirting with him too just made this all the more irritating. What did he expect him to do? Give up his badge and go smooch him on the beaches of Tahiti as they wore stolen jewelry? Arthur’s sentiment from before remained the same—he wanted a good, honest conversation with Gilgamesh more than anything else in the world. He wasn’t just determined to put him behind bars, he wanted to see the inside of the mind of someone who wanted all the treasures in the world to belong to him.
Also occupying his mind was Diarmuid—the question he’d posed him before was interesting. Someone you could never be with, huh? He could play devil’s advocate and say even if he had that kind of relationship with a thief, it didn’t change the fact that it was well against his morals to change himself for someone, but at the time it didn’t seem like the kind of answer Diarmuid wanted to hear. He was worried about something… and it was a shame.
He’d have to go talk to him again, later. Ask him out for drinks, maybe.
Cu Chulainn wasn’t always like this.
He used to fish. He used to run his own shop. He was always kind of ruthless, but someone had made him even more so. Falling in with the wrong crowd had him tumbling face first into blackmail.
Queen Medb of the underworld had a gigantic crush on him, not unlike the one Gilgamesh had on Arthur, but instead of letting him come to her, she had other plans. It had all started when Cu had saved one of her men from being sought out by the police. She noticed how handsome he was in person and tried to seduce him into coming onto her. Sorry. He was taken. He was the bigger and quieter half of a couple. Not interested.
She didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. See, it’d be so easy to kill a cop on the force if he just got tangled up with the wrong people on a stakeout. Or, she could just order a hit. So best drop the storefront and the lazy days spent fishing and come work for her. He had a good amount of muscle on him from working as a bouncer once. He could work like that at one of her clubs, too—but the only rule was no more Diarmuid, or she’d kill him.
Cu loathed her, but he couldn’t do a damn thing about her, so he broke up with his boyfriend and started working for the mob.
He’d been tattooed since, marked with her emblems down his eyes and on his chest. All he did now was sit quietly at the front of her establishment and look at his phone.
He had unanswered texts from Diarmuid. Contact was forbidden, so the only exchange between them was entirely on Diarmuid’s part. One day, he’d probably stop texting and that’d be the end of it. Cu quietly wished that Diarmuid would continue to message him despite the lack of response.
Inside the club, Medb had a meeting with a very special guest.
“You should really put yourself up for commission sometime. There’s a lot of treasures in the world I want, too…” She said in a sing-song voice.
Gilgamesh merely nodded to the person pouring his glass before crossing his arms and looking at her. He had criminal ties everywhere, a veritable cat’s cradle held between his hands.
“If I were in the business of sharing, I might. However, you know that’s not how I operate.”
“Ooh, what if I were to get you Arthur?” She bent the crop she always held in her hands excitedly. “Then you could owe me a big favor.”
“Arthur is off the table.” Gilgamesh said, seriously. “I don’t want him broken and obedient, like you prefer your big goon outside. I want Arthur to come to me of his own will, to break under his own feelings.”
“You might be worse than me…” She chided happily. “Like a devil whispering in a priest’s ear. That’s what you are.”
“I’m flattered, really.” He took a sip of the wine and set the cup down—that was below his tastes. It was pink wine and that seemed like all it took to make Medb happy.
“So what are your next plans?”
“A secret, naturally.”
“C’mon, we’re friends, right?”
“Courteous, but you wouldn’t share with me where you plan to raid and bootleg next.”
“… I guess not.” She tittered. “I’ll be watching the TV for you, Gil. You always put on the best show. In fact, I have a gift for you.”
She motioned for one of her men to come over and put a suitcase on the table. Inside was an ornate mask and a ticket.
“Charity masquerade. I sent one to the police station, too, specifically for Arthur. Maybe you can get to know him face to face? If he wouldn’t recognize your voice, that is…”
Gilgamesh leaned in with some interest. “I’ve always altered my voice around him. This… is an interesting gift, but it comes with a price, doesn’t it?”
“What? No…” Medb waved him off before taking a sip of her bright pink wine. “I love romance. I like to see forbidden things come true. Call it a weakness, but I kind of want to see you win.”
“So it’s a ‘you-owe-me’.”
Gilgamesh closed the suitcase and put it at his side. “Will you be coming?”
“I’ll be busy that day. But I’ll have friends on the lookout.”
“Then I’ll consider it. And Medb? For the sake of your future guests, I hope you pick a better wine. There are some rose wines that taste better than that swill. Not everything has to be about the aesthetic.”
“Ha! Look who’s talking.”
“I don’t sacrifice quality for aesthetic.”
“Well then…” She folded her hands under her chin and bat her eyes. “I’ll be sure to try and impress you next time, thief. And Gil?”
“Don’t you dare ever set your eyes on anything that’s mine.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” He responded with a casual wave over his shoulder, striding past her guards and noting the painting on the wall had been missing from a museum on the west coast for ages, and how nice it would look in his kitchen… oh well. Medb had something he didn’t, manpower. He could only put up the one-man army schtick for so long.
Meanwhile, there was this masquerade business to attend to—
“The police want to send me to a charity ball…”
Artoria, who had gotten her fair share of being chewed out by her boss, was taking in her little brother’s comfort food to soothe her soul. She looked over the note and the blue and gold mask they had sent him in case he hadn’t had any of his own (naturally he didn’t, who would?)
“Are you going to go?”
“It’ll be a nice break. It’d be nice to mingle with people…”
“Gilgamesh takes up so much of your life that you probably should meet new people.” She agreed between bits of cauliflower. “And it’s for a good cause.”
“You’re right.” He agreed, finally. “I’ll go.”
A white suit, blue mask, and a few butterflies in his stomach later, Arthur was ready to go that weekend.
A limousine arrived to pick him up. He wouldn’t know it now, but there was no one at the police station who called one for him—it just seemed to show up out of nowhere claiming his employers wanted him to arrive in style, and that his boss was owed a favor by the driver. It didn’t seem like something Fionn would do, but nonetheless, Arthur sat quietly in the back that was lit blue beneath the seats and rested his hands on his crossed legs.
“We’re picking one more person up, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
It was a long drive through the city before they pulled up to an apartment complex. A man took the seat opposite of him in a fully tailored coat that looked like it was worth a fortune.
“Do we know each other?” Arthur asked, tentatively.
“Not really.” It was honest of Gil—who knew everything of Arthur and who Arthur only had guesses about. “But I’d like to change that. Arthur, is it?”
“How do you know my name?”
“The driver said we’d be picking you up. You’re the talk of the town, detective.”
“And you are…?”
“Call me Red.”
“Red… it’s nice to meet you.”
“Likewise. Your work is impressive. I’ve never seen someone follow a case so tenaciously…”
“You’re a friend of the police?” Arthur guessed as much, considering the ride came for the both of them.
“I’m a patron of them, you could say. Donate a lot of money to the cause.”
“Thank you,” Arthur said in earnest, smiling and offering to shake his hand. Gilgamesh took it with a firm grip that didn’t quite want to let go after a moment had passed. “Can I see what you look like beneath the mask?”
“Hmm… no, it’s not a masquerade if you do that. You’ll see me sooner or later, anyway. Maybe by the end of the night.”
The two talked for a while before they reached the party, the chauffeur opening the door for the two of them and escorting them to the door. Inside, at the top floor was a packed room of people in evening gowns and suits with waiters carefully navigating between them, champagne flutes in tow. ‘Red’ took a pair of them and offered one to Arthur.
“Would you like to sit with me or go meet and greet?”
“… to be honest, I’d prefer your company.” Arthur had enjoyed their talk in the car and wanted to continue.
“As you wish.” The two sat on a velvet bench against the wall, watching the people talk, dance, and listened to the soft sounds of the band playing in the background. Arthur tried to study the man next to him, but the mask he wore wrapped around his face. He could hardly see his eyes, only a crop of blond hair.
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a curator.”
“Something like that. I work all over the world, organizing moves from one place to the next…”
It just so happened that everything he moved went into his warehouses, and some in his apartment.
“That’s fascinating. I’ve been on the force ever since I graduated…”
“And yet you’re handling a big case like Gilgamesh’s?”
“I’m the only one who seems to get anywhere with him. His last calling card was easy. Almost… too easy. Usually they’re riddles that I have to solve.”
Red gave a soft ‘hmph’. “Do you prefer it when they’re difficult?”
“It’s bad to say it, but it … invigorates me.”
“It’s like solving a puzzle that no one else can… did you know one of the answers to his riddle was an obscure 1800’s painting, and it lead to a museum that had a hidden cache of old paintings? It took me ages to figure out, but I nearly caught him!”
Red seemed to like the way his eyes lit up. He leaned on his knee and watched as Arthur went on, talking about this like it was his passion project. Like Gilgamesh was someone he was destined to meet, destined to stop. It was all very flattering to hear. Ozymandias’ teasing about having a crush resonated within his mind, but he paid it no attention.
“If you could say anything to Gilgamesh now, what would you tell him?”
Arthur paused. “I… guess I’d ask him why he does it.”
“Of course, that’s not all,” Arthur rebuked. “I’d want to understand him. Try and… stop him? I don’t know. He’s an intelligent man. If I could just convey to him it’s not worth risking his livelihood to steal things and to give them back, then—”
Red laughed. “But there’d be no getting through to him, would there?”
“You don’t know that. Maybe he’s reasonable.”
“I doubt it.” Red said firmly.
“What good is having treasure if the world doesn’t share in it…?”
Red tilted his head. “What do you mean?”
“Well, something is only as valuable as the populace perceives it to be, right? Then it should be shared with everyone. You’re a museum curator, you know that.”
“Well… to play devil’s advocate… would you feel that way about a lover?”
Arthur snorted. “Surely he’s not attracted to his treasure.”
“No, but if you had someone you truly valued, would you want to share them or keep them to yourself?”
“Well—some people are fine with that, but personally, I couldn’t share. But we’re talking about people!” Arthur laughed. “Not treasure. Not paintings. Not history. He’s clearly got some sort of psychological connection to the concept of treasure—all things are his. And that includes some people.” He coughed, not wanting to divulge the contents of his text messages.
“So he can’t share. That’s a rather simple end to that story.”
“If he can’t share…” Arthur mused. “Then there would be no reasoning with him. Unless he found something he valued more than all the art and gold in the world.”
“Now that, I doubt. He’s greedy, after all.” Red smirked. “Greedy people always want more.”
“You’ve given me some things to think about. Some things I can add to his profile, maybe…” Arthur had already guessed as much as Red told him, but now his gears were turning in a different direction. Seemingly wanting to put a stop to the serious talk, Red set aside his glass and stood, offering his hand to Arthur.
“Would you dance with me?”
Beneath the mask, Arthur flushed slightly. “We’re both… I mean…”
“It’s 2019, Arthur. Nobody will care.”
Gently, Arthur took his hand and let Red take him to where the others were dancing. The soothing piano melody that took hold with the low bass beat was just enough to encourage him to move along with Red in a slight sway, trying to search his eyes for something, but the mask really did obscure them almost completely. It was like he was wearing tinted shades beneath the eyes of the mask. His arms were strong, wrapped around his waist with a definitively guiding motion, leading the two of them in the dance before Arthur got bolder and decided to change their tempo.
“Meeting you in person has been a treat, Arthur,” Red said quietly, low enough that few people around them could hear.
Arthur had never been quite this close to someone so bold before—it was obvious Red was hitting on him, and yet he hadn’t a single clue what to do with that information. “And the same for you.”
“I can see why that criminal would hate to share you.”
Oh boy. Suddenly, Arthur’s collar felt a little tight around the neck. It’d been a while since someone last flirted so heavily… the last time had been with his ex, Guinevere. Where was that charm he had hidden within him? Arthur eased into the conversation with a soft grin.
“Well, he doesn’t own me,” He murmured back. “I’m quite free to do whatever I want, Red.”
“He doesn’t? That’s a surprise…” This conversation was coming so easily, so naturally. “I’m expecting him to sweep you off your feet any minute now.”
“He’s welcome to try. I’m a bit preoccupied, myself…”
“It’s been a long time since I danced.”
“Let’s make sure it’s never so long again…” Gilgamesh leaned in and whispered into Arthur’s ear with a voice he knew he’d recognize. “Arthur.”
It was a scramble and a flurry after that. “Red” had let him go and ran off in the opposite direction, lost in a sea of people as Arthur shouted after him and for people to make way, that he was police and that a criminal was escaping, but it was all for nothing. No matter how many flights he ran down to try to get to him, Gilgamesh was gone in style. Embarrassment was hot on his face as well as a deep shame—letting him get so close, him making him feel something…!
Artoria really might kill him, Arthur thought. More paperwork to file. Another incident, this time completely at his expense. Did Gilgamesh just seek to make a fool out of him?
He barely noticed the kerchief that had been folded neatly in his front pocket was gone.
A favor for the evening. Gilgamesh’s thumb ran over the rich blue silk with fondness. It had the same scent as him, carrying just a bit of his cologne by proxy. It was rare for him to go to such lengths to steal something of only sentimental value, but this would leave a mark on Arthur—he wasn’t safe from him even face to face.
And he couldn’t doubt the electricity between them anymore, either.
Stealing Arthur would be his greatest heist yet.
The fact that Gilgamesh had danced with Arthur in secret was kept as covered up by the police as possible, but everyone knew something had happened.
Arthur was terse. He nearly refused to talk about it. The very indignity he had suffered was almost too much to bear, and he wasn’t about to go talking about how not only Gilgamesh had convinced him to dance, but he had stolen from him as well. He’s taken a favor for the evening without Arthur even realizing it, and all it did was make Gilgamesh a greater mystery to unpack. There was no understanding his attraction, the basis of his apparent love for Arthur beyond goading and teasing.
He wished he recorded the conversation; there were strange bits of truth sprinkled in with the lies Gilgamesh told that night. For one, he now knew what his real voice sounded like, and Gilgamesh told him he was the selfish kind of person who wouldn’t compromise with the things he wanted to own, apparently including Arthur. Why had he gone to such a risk just to dance with him? All it would’ve taken was for Arthur to call Fionn and ask why he sent a limo for it to be all over for him. In retrospect, that would’ve been a smart thing to do.
The red light of his alarm clock blared the numbers “3:30 AM” as he lay amongst twisted sheets and a restless lack of sleep. He had work first thing in the morning and he almost wanted to call in sick, but everyone would know the reason as to why. He’d just have to get up in the morning and face the shame. He kept trying to close his eyes and will his vision to grow darker and heavier, but each time it did, he could feel the brush of Gilgamesh leaning closer to whisper his name.
He didn’t even like the guy. This was a hell of a lot of power to hold over him.
Resolving that sleep was a foregone conclusion, he got up and decided to open up his laptop in bed. Rumors were pouring out everywhere that Gilgamesh had been sighted, but thankfully there was nothing of Arthur. Wherever Gilgamesh was, he was sure to be gloating up a storm. Just the thought of it gave Arthur a headache.
Whatever. Even just laying in bed in the quiet was better than obsessing over a man who thought of him as a mere toy accessory to his crime. He closed the laptop and went back to bed.
“It’s a bit dishonest of you, I have to admit.”
Enkidu’s legs were propped up over Gilgamesh’s as they laid against the end of the couch. Their friendship was so close that such intimacy was the norm; expected. It also meant that Enkidu had no problems laying into Gilgamesh when he was being questionable. “You’re going to succeed in making Arthur hate you, that’s all you’re going to do.”
“There’s magnetism between us,” Gilgamesh said resolvedly, cutting out clips from the newspaper regarding his latest heist. “Surely he understands that after he agreed to dance with me.”
“Dance with Red,” Enkidu corrected. “Just because he flirted back with you then doesn’t mean he’d flirt back with you knowing the real you.”
“But that’s all he wants! He wants to talk to the real me, to understand why I do it—and then he has the nerve to try and chase me off—”
“You are a wanted criminal. Let’s not forget the important details.”
“Hmph.” It didn’t really matter to Gilgamesh that he was a criminal and that Arthur was a cop, they had something going on between them that might’ve been rivalry or something more. How pliant he was beneath his grasp when he lead him on the dance floor was proof of that. He’d felt an attraction start to build, only to rip it away from him at the last minute by revealing his true nature. That didn’t mean it couldn’t be built up again.
“There’s no deterring you if you find something you like,” Enkidu sighed. “I just want you to be more careful.”
“I haven’t been caught, have I?” Gilgamesh smirked. “Arthur is going to be my greatest treasure yet.”
“That sounds romantic and all until you realize you’re talking about making a cop go full criminal.” Enkidu reminded him. Even he wasn’t above realizing that to have Arthur, he had to taint him in some way. There was no changing Gilgamesh, after all.
“Whatever happens, I expect Arthur to entertain me until the bitter end. That kind of relationship… is an ideal for me. It’s the only kind I can have in this life.”
“Ozymandias managed to do something other than that, you know.”
“That’s because Nefertari was in on it,” He paused. “For the most part.”
Their conversation was cut off by the ringing of Gilgamesh’s private call system. Enkidu uncrossed their legs and sat up properly.
“Answer,” Gilgamesh said out loud.
“Gilgamesh!” A cheerful, older voice rang out over the screen. It was none other than James Moriarty—someone Gilgamesh had met on a heist once and was more or less blackmailed into keeping in contact. Make no mistake, Gilgamesh was a criminal genius, but Moriarty was a mastermind. No matter how he tried to elude him, Moriarty always found him again and again, and despite his cordiality, he was more than willing to dangle Gilgamesh’s identity above his head and use him whenever he needed a master thief.
Gilgamesh hated the son of a bitch. He hated being used, he hated being manipulated, and Moriarty was great at both. Gilgamesh would’ve honestly killed him if he thought it possible.
“What’s with the dour look? Oh, is it because news from me is never good news at all? A pity… I want us to be friends, Gilgamesh! In fact, I’m here to invite you to my lovely daughter’s birthday party—”
“A shame, I won’t be able to make it.”
“I haven’t even told you the day yet!”
Moriarty darkly chuckled, tuning down the disarmingly charming chit-chat to what he was really here for. “But you’re going to owe her a nice birthday gift. I happen to have the list right here.”
It was for Moriarty, no doubt. Fran never wanted for anything—she was near mute and could only say a few words. Nonetheless, she was Moriarty’s pride and joy and anything she showed interest in—at all, ever—her papa would get for her. Gilgamesh leaned in, knowing this was a job that would merit no calling card. It would require his absolute concentration and the least amount of risk possible. That meant not involving Arthur.
“Do you know our good friend Medb?”
“… of course I know her.” Gilgamesh swirled the glass of wine in his hand. “We met just the other day.”
“She happens to possess a tiara that vanished out of a Swedish treasury around 1995. It’s been missing ever since. I think it would look absolutely darling on Fran’s head for her birthday. She’s turning 16, you know!”
“But that’s not all.”
“No,” Moriarty conceded. “It isn’t. Medb possesses a very interesting article I want to get my hands on. It’s her little black book of politicians, officers, and officials she has in her pocket within the city. If I have it, I might be able to corner Holmes in a way he cannot possibly fight against and neutralize him as a threat. It’s no fun if I kill him,” He paused. “Yet.”
“He’s your interesting rival, I take it?”
“Just like your Arthur.” Moriarty laughed. “Though quite a bit more competent. Anyway, I expect both the tiara and the book delivered at my PO box—you know the one—before the fifth.”
Gilgamesh drummed his fingers on the side of the sofa. “And if I don’t?”
Moriarty balked. “Surely we don’t need to discuss your imminent future in jail, do we?”
“Right. Throwing me in front of the Irish mafia so you don’t have to.”
“Ah, my back… it’s not what it used to be. Thievery is fun, but I don’t have it in me to do it anymore.” Moriarty’s grin was transparently evil and increasingly obvious. “Anyway, keep it punctual as always. I’m counting on you!”
The feed cut out after that. Gilgamesh groaned… hadn’t Medb already threatened him along these lines just a few days ago? She’d notice both the jewels and the black book gone as soon as they were taken. Enkidu looked at Gilgamesh with a concerned stare.
“Are you really up for this?”
“I have no choice. I just have to cover my tracks this time… make sure she doesn’t guess it’s me. Maybe pin it on one of her own.”
“I don’t think that’s going to work… you have a certain touch to your work.”
“Then I’ll lay low for a few months. I’ll miss Arthur, but it’ll be for the best.”
Enkidu couldn’t shake the feeling of almost certain doom that came along with Moriarty’s call, as if Moriarty didn’t really care about what happened to Gilgamesh (he didn’t) so long as he got what he wanted, even if Gilgamesh was a useful asset. Then again, Moriarty would almost certainly make good on his word to turn him in.
“… I have an idea.”
“What is it?”
“Ask Arthur for help.”
Gilgamesh laughed uproariously, as if the suggestion wasn’t even worth considering. “Really? You think I should consult a detective for how to best steal from the Mafia?”
“I’m saying you would do well to get Moriarty off your case.” Enkidu paused. “Then again, I don’t think anything would stop Moriarty from talking if he were arrested. Forget it.”
“… Actually, you have a good idea, my friend. If I convince Arthur to get to the mafia first, I can take what I please and get out.”
Unspokenly, there was the threat of one or all three of them getting killed in the matter, but life in prison wasn’t so glamorous as a plan out of it. Gilgamesh knew exactly how to get in contact.
-G: How have you been since the dance?
-G: What were your words? ‘I’m quite free to do whatever I want’.
-G: If that’s true, would you like a helpful tip?
-Arthur Pendragon: You made a mockery of me and my badge!
-Arthur Pendragon: If you think I want anything to do with you beyond putting you behind bars—
-G: Easy. Easy. I’m talking about a bigger fish to fry than me.
-G: The Irish mafia has been a thorn in the precinct’s side for a while now, hasn’t it?
-G: I want to help. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
-G: If you want to investigate them, I can show you where their latest hideout is.
-G: I just have a few… conditions.
Arthur considered his options. This would be turning down a rare opportunity to get rid of a plague on the city. If Gilgamesh really was as into him as he seemed, maybe he was offering intel based on that? Maybe this was his apology?
-Arthur Pendragon: And that is?
-G: Stay alive. You’re no good to me dead, Pendragon.
-G: And you make sure to arrest the Queen. Medb.
-G: You’re dead if she escapes. You and anyone you care about.
-G: And one more thing…
-G: Leave the warehouse without police supervision for about ten minutes. Think you can do it?
-Arthur Pendragon: You want to steal from her. Is that what this is all about
-G: Maybe. But remember, getting a promotion to Detective puts you closer to capturing me.
-G: This is a good win for you.
-G: Anyway, that’s all. I’ll manage whether you do or don’t keep your promise.
-Arthur Pendragon: I haven’t promised anything!
-G: But I know you’ll use this information well.
-G: Have a fine evening, Arthur. I cannot wait until I get to see you face to face again.
-Arthur Pendragon: In handcuffs.
-G: If only I were so lucky!
-G: Here are the directions. Goodbye, Arthur.
Arthur decided to scope out the location alone, first.
He didn’t know what kind of trap it could be, and he didn’t want his fellow officers killed. If they made a big raid, there could be hails of gunfire and somber funerals shortly thereafter. Besides, when he was tasked with this information, it felt like his responsibility. He wouldn’t go near the place. He would just check out the area. Then, he’d hand in his phone for analysis. After renting a car and following the map, he drove by a series of warehouses on the bad end of town that looked rather unsuspicious. They fit in with every abandoned part of town, blending in with the background with broken panes of glass and old brick.
Thankfully, there was a bar nearby. Arthur parked his car in the narrow parking lot and stuffed his hands in his pocket, thinking over how he should go about this. He was just a normal bar patron. Who’d… watch outside the window to see who entered or left the warehouse.
It was just the wrong kind of calculation to assume that the bar across from the criminal empire warehouse wouldn’t be operated by the same people.
He knew something was up from the moment he entered. The way the people stared at him… like they knew. They knew right away he was there for them and he only brought one of himself and there were dozens, dozens of them.
The stolen painting on the wall should’ve tipped him off, too.
He acted like a normal person, taking a seat by the window even as the eerie silence took hold of the entire room. With an almost supernatural urge for safety, Arthur deleted his conversation with Gilgamesh on the off chance someone here took his phone.
It wasn’t long before someone took the seat opposite of him.
“Hi!” The peppy, bubbly voice quickly caught his attention. This was a woman he immediately recognized. The queen herself. She looked as friendly as anyone could be, but Arthur knew immediately with her sitting here, he’d made a grave mistake.
“Arthur, right?” She twirled a lock of hair between her fingers, admiring him. “You’re really cute up close. No wonder that thief likes you so much. Now, what are you doing here?”
“Someone told me to meet them here.” It was the quickest lie he could think of.
“Gilgamesh…?” She crooned, interested.
“… yes.” Deciding to play up the rumors about the two of them, he looked suitably bashful about admitting it. She laughed. Please, god, let her buy it.
“I think you got played. No one would invite you here, of all people. There are a thousand anonymous bars in this city, and this one… No, Gilgamesh isn’t dumb enough to pick this one. Unless…” She tapped her chin. “He wanted to show you off to me! Well, mission accomplished!” She tilted her head with a funny laugh, and Arthur knew he was fully out of control of the situation.
“Now then,” She began. “You’re a police officer who walked in, alone, to the den of the mafia. What do you do?”
“…” The pulse and desire for justice, knowing what Medb was responsible for kept him from answering.
“Right, so, you don’t pull out your gun or do anything stupid. That’s a good first step. What’s next?”
“… could you tell me anything about Gilgamesh?” He asked. In now what was an apparent bid for his survival, he decided to turn Gilgamesh’s request on its head and make it look like he was here seeking information on the thief. If she bought it, all she would assume was that he was a dirty cop who wasn’t above seeking to arrest someone, even if it meant contacting the underground.
“Are you really that desperate to come to me?”
“Well… Gil is a good friend, so I don’t think I have anything for you.”
“Then I’m sorry for wasting your time.”
“Hold on,” Medb held up her hand. “I’m a little pissed off at Gil for thinking he could show you this place. I’m not sure you should go home yet.”
She snapped her fingers.
“Or, you know, ever.”
Like lightning, two men were upon Arthur and hoisting him up out of his chair, holding onto either of his arms as he struggled in vain against them. Medb put her finger beneath his chin, lifting it up as she stood on her tiptoes.
“Gil is going to think this is hilarious. I caught his little boyfriend! Don’t worry, Arthur, I’ll let you go… maybe… but I’m going to make sure you were telling the truth first. I’m going to ask Gil about what you told me and see if it’s true. If not— well, let’s just say I won’t be too happy."
With more force than Arthur ever expected out of someone as petit as Medb, she reeled back and punched him in the stomach, causing him to gasp and spit. He was dragged off into a back room with a handcuff over his wrist and the other end attached to a radiator. He could vaguely see Medb giving orders to a hulking brute of a man before he came over and sat in front of the door. Cu. That’s what she called him.
Without speaking, Cu picked up Arthur’s cracked phone and demanded, “Passcode.”
Cu stood up, kicked him down, and stepped on his skull. The pressure was so overwhelming Arthur was sure it would crack.
“The passcode, if you want to live.”
“0605…” Arthur choked out. Cu lifted his shoe but kicked him in the stomach for his trouble. Arthur was once again wheezing on the floor as Cu sorted through his messages, freezing when he got to one name.
“Diarmuid…” The words escaped his lips without even thinking.
“What?” Arthur spat out. “Do you know—”
“Shut up. Stay quiet.”
Arthur watched intently as Cu began to scroll through his messages. Medb stepped in to take a photo with her phone.
“Annnnd smile! We’ll be sending this to Gil. Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll come through for you.” She snickered. “Thieves are all about rescuing people, right?”
The light tap of her heels was all Arthur heard as he lay on the dirty floor, watching as Cu pried through his phone. He worried for Artoria. He worried for everyone.
The image was up on Gilgamesh’s phone’s screen, flickering with static.
“So… you invited him to my bar?”
Gil almost said nothing, before answering. “He’s cute, isn’t he?”
“Oh yes. But I’m wondering what you were thinking bringing a cop to my place.”
“I’m wondering the exact same of why you would do this to my treasure.” Gilgamesh growled.
“Don’t act high and mighty. You may think you have power over people, Gil, but you’re still a thief crawling around in the night, hoarding treasure like a little baby dragon. I’m the one with the city in my pocket. And I’m the one with your cop boyfriend in my interrogation room.”
“… Release him.”
“And let him exact his justice? Oh no, I know exactly the kind of person Arthur Pendragon is. He’s not going anywhere. I’ll let you come by and say your farewells though, if you want.”
“I’ll leak everything,” Gilgamesh threatened. “Your hideouts, your people, all of it to the police. If you kill him, I’ll ruin you.”
“Ooh, so scary. Like I can’t save myself. Listen, I’ll have him taken care of in the next few days. My offer still stands. Give him a good kiss goodbye if you want.”
Medb hung up the phone to Gilgamesh shaking in rage. It wasn’t even that Arthur had failed—she had threatened him, of all people, and taken one of the things he had valued most. Gilgamesh might have only been a thief in the night, but he was cleverer, more dangerous than Medb, who wielded power like a mallet. It was his fault Arthur was in this mess, and he would be the one to get him out of it, too. He would undo her little criminal empire and take back what was his while he was at it.
And the tiara, too. Fuck Moriarty.
In which a daring rescue operation goes underway from the most unlikely of sources.
It would be like any other heist—except he had a hulking bodyguard to get past and the rest of the mafia, AND he had to steal something that he was sure Medb both kept on her person and one thing she kept in her warehouse. To most thieves, it was utterly impossible.
Gilgamesh relished a challenge.
It was also a chance to exercise his power—the mob might have his Arthur, but Medb knew not a thing about Gilgamesh. They couldn’t implicate him in a crime, they couldn’t hunt him down if he didn’t want them to—this was going to take an extra special finesse. He wouldn’t send a calling card, Medb wasn’t above just killing a man to get it over with. He wouldn’t enter straight through the front door either, as he’d been invited to. Dressed down in dark clothing and black leather gloves, Gilgamesh cased the building. He’d get the tiara first—it was less likely for it to be directly watched.
Creaking a glass pane open in the warehouse division, men armed with guns patrolled the interior. Here, he could see the mob’s production line—drugs, weapons, et cetera. Slipping in as deftly as a slender black cat, he walked the high beams near the ceiling to secure his quarry. Sure enough, using a special-made pair of binoculars, he could spot a vault through the glass door in the corner. He guessed the guards never really bothered with it, as they were busier guarding the production line.
Here, he’d have to be quiet and fast. One rope down, sliding down it, and then using his special digital skeleton key to open the door. Breaking into vaults was an easy task for him, it was the timing of watching men patrol with their guns that was a bit harder. He had to time it just right so that not a soul would catch him in the periphery of their vision.
The rope was a bit conspicuous, so he tugged it down, catching it neatly. He had a grappling hook for the trip back up.
Inside the glass door, Gil was quick to cut the lights so no one could see him within the doorframe. Then, it was a hearing device stuck to the vault door so he could listen for the meticulous clicks.
Thank god she hadn’t grown up from using an analog vault. A fingerprint scanner and he’d have had to bust out his hacking device. Either one was child’s play, but this was particularly fortuitous.
As the door slid open, one last precaution in check. He stuck a camera outside the door so he could see who was passing by and, who he might have to knock out. Just because he didn’t kill didn’t mean he couldn’t get violent.
Tiara, tiara… Moriarty had provided a picture, and there was a lot of loot in the vault to go through. It’d take some narrowing down to pick up. He couldn’t go through all of these drawers of money to find one thing. Suddenly, something caught his eye, a gold-studded red briefcase sitting in a stack of silver ones. It looked old enough to match the description of the tiara. He pried it open and—bingo.
Closing the latches on the suitcase, he brought it in tow with him, now faced with another predicament. Someone was sure to catch the lights going back on the moment he walked out the door. Best to leave them off… He stuck his mini-camera back in his pocket and eased out the door, aimed his grappling hook for the high beams, and pulled himself up.
He watched the drama ensue from above as he managed to step onto the high beam, balancing the tiara’s suitcase. Someone noticed the room went dark, opened the door, called the men over. But everything looked the same. ‘It’s shoddy wiring’, one goon said to the other, flickering the light switch on and off. “It’s fine. Go back to your posts.”
So the easiest part of the heist was done with. For now, he’d have to call in a favor from none other than the man who tasked him with the job himself. Once he was out on the roof, he phoned Moriarty on his smartwatch.
“I’ve got the tiara.” He took a quick photo of it with the flash on, and Moriarty gave a sound of approval.
“Not too much trouble?”
“Not at all. But since I’m such an investment for you, I’m going to ask for a favor.”
“… Heh. I suppose you did make my beautiful daughter’s birthday a bit brighter. Ask.”
“I need a distraction on 67 South Boulevard.”
“Medb’s place.” Moriarty was on the same page. “Going after the black book and the police officer, huh?”
“Can’t do the job if I don’t have the right tools.”
“Very well. Can you hold your position for about ten minutes? That’s all it will take.”
“Good. And Gilgamesh—don’t screw it up. Otherwise, it won’t just be that officer going down.”
“Do you doubt me? My flawless record? Hah!”
“I doubt everything. It’s a part of what makes me a better criminal.” Click.
Gilgamesh knelt on the rooftop waiting for what felt like hours when only minutes ticked by. Moriarty was always a surprise. No matter what he did, it would have its own, unique, personal touch that no other man could quite pull off. And when he heard a car screeching down the road, he knew that it was one of Moriarty’s men out here, pulling him a grand favor.
He didn’t expect the guns out the rolled down window, but he didn’t have time to complain about brutish methods. He leaped from rooftop to rooftop with the help of his grappling hook, slid down the fire escape alongside the building, and grimaced, somewhat. Really, Moriarty. A gentleman thief had some class! He didn’t kill because he didn’t need to—now, he supposed, his record was a bit tarnished.
But at least he knew where Medb’s interrogation room was.
Slipping in through the window as all of Medb’s men were drawn to the front of the building, he found Arthur slumped down on the floor, stripped of his weapons, looking like a mess. When he saw Gilgamesh standing over him, he nearly shouted.
“You are so damned lucky I like you so much.” Gilgamesh hissed, sticking his skeleton key into the handcuff and unlocking it, pulling Arthur to his feet and realizing—shit, he had one more thing to take care of. The black book.
A cursory glance around the bar where everyone was pouring out the front lead him to one thing—a sparkling, jewel-studded purse sitting on the counter. It was inelegant, but in rooting around it he pulled out a leather-bound book and gave it a quick flip through. “Alright, Arthur. Now is the time to prove to me you can pull off acrobatics.”
Someone had glanced in the window and started yelling, Muttering an expletive, Gilgamesh pulled two bombs from his belt and chucked them at the door as it opened. One was a smokescreen, the other, tear gas. He pulled Arthur out the window to the side and ran through the streets, holding his hand until he caught sight of his getaway car.
Without even thinking, he threw Arthur into the backseat and piled in after him, throwing the suitcase and black book on top of him as Enkidu floored it. The commotion at the front of the bar would be too much for anyone to get in and chase them properly. They’d get away—for now.
“Here—” Gilgamesh found a phone in the glove compartment between the seats and tossed it at Arthur, who was still pretty much in shock. “Call you sister. Tell her to go directly to the police, or she’ll end up in another hostage situation.”
Without even thinking, Arthur dialed her number. Artoria still hadn’t gotten home from work and was waiting for the bus. She started yelling over the phone immediately, that she had been so worried, and he tried calming her down and reassuring her everything was fine. “Just—just go to the police. Tell them Arthur is requesting you go into protective custody. Don’t leave until I get there. Love you. Bye.”
As he hung up, Gilgamesh realized just how much Arthur was in disarray. A busted lip, a near-black eye. They’d clearly roughed up his treasure while they had him in their room.
“Enkidu—the post office.”
Right. First things first—Moriarty needed to get what he was owed.
When they pulled in front of the post office, an elegant, old fashioned car was already parked there. As Gilgamesh walked by it, the window rolled down.
“Gilgamesh!” Moriarty was ever cheerful. “And you look no worse for wear.”
“Easy for you to say,” He was bitter to lose an ally like Medb, but he wasn’t exactly thrilled with her for trying to steal from him. “Her book. And your tiara for your little girl.”
Gilgamesh didn’t even seem to care about the chaos that would be unleashed with this much power in Moriarty’s hands. He’d done his part. Moriarty checked over everything and gave an approving whistle as he opened the briefcase. Naturally, this meant no one from the mob could attend his little girl’s birthday party, but no one—not even Medb, messed with Moriarty or his crew. If they showed up and saw this crown on his petit daughter’s head, all they could do was compliment how cute it looked.
“Always a pleasure doing business with you, Gil.”
“Don’t call me that, mongrel.”
“So touchy!” The window began to roll up. “See you in a few days. No need to bring a present.”
Gilgamesh sighed, getting back into the car with Arthur, who knew something obviously shady had just gone down, but Gilgamesh was in no mood to argue. He’d done this for Arthur’s life, and Arthur was starting to appreciate the gravity of what he had done.
“… but why?” Was all he had to ask.
“… you still have to ask?” Gilgamesh sunk into the backseat of the car as they sped off into the night. “I’ve told you a dozen times by now. You’re my treasure. For someone to steal from me is an unforgivable act.”
Now, Arthur could see the full of Gilgamesh’s face. He was handsome, with piercing red eyes and a strong jawline, and Gil was more than happy to let him look. Arthur was a downright disaster compared to him, even after a heist that big. What’s more, Arthur owed him for this. Owed him his life. Owed him his sister’s life, for thinking to call her so quickly. He couldn’t slap cuffs on him now. At least… not yet.
“… I won’t tell them it was you who rescued me.” Arthur resolved.
“Really? You, Mister Justice himself, are going to go easy on me? As if I can’t handle it? Don’t insult me. I pulled off tonight out of sheer skill alone. I can handle a mugshot being posted.”
“… you didn’t have to risk your life for me. You could have just let me die.”
Gilgamesh tilted Arthur’s chin his way, looking him square in the eye. “I hope you know I’ve proven tonight that I can steal you, Arthur. And I will again. And you will join my treasury someday, willingly.”
At that, Arthur started to grow annoyed, as if his praise had been too much and now Gilgamesh was egotistically immersing himself in it. “… just because you saved me, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to me.”
“Oh, of course not. You’ll come willingly when the time is right. Now get out of my car.”
Arthur noticed they were parked a few blocks away from the precinct. He obeyed silently, taking one look at the car and trying to remember the license plate number before it sped off into the night.
“You look like a mess!” “Arthur, are you okay?” “What were you thinking?”
His friends and coworkers crowded him as they tried to take his statements, that he was kidnapped briefly by the Irish mob for going into one of their bars unaware. He was true to his word, he didn’t mention anything about Gilgamesh except for the fact that he was taken because he was trying to get information about him. Really, everyone was just happy he was back alive. Most officers didn’t survive that kind of treatment.
“Go take a shower,” Fionn ordered. “And then prepare yourself for the interrogation of a lifetime. Naturally, you won’t be able to go back home for some time, so consider yourself and your sister under police protection.” He glanced at Artoria, who had spent some time hugging Arthur, just glad he was okay. “And never—ever—enter a mob den alone again.”
“Of course, sir.”
“How on earth did you manage to get out?”
“I… slipped out of the cuff once they had their attention on a drive-by.” Apparently, he was going to keep his promise to Gilgamesh.
“That easy, hm? Just be glad you still have your life. I suppose we'll have to send some cars down to the scene of the crime, too...”
“I am, sir.”
“Now go. Arthur, you’re starting to prove you’re much more trouble than you might be worth.”
Cleaned up, Arthur realized only then that he’d lost his phone for good. Whoever that guy who guarded him had it now. That phone contained a lot of memories, pictures of friends and family. He had it backed up on his computer, but still—it hurt to lose it. Still, better than losing his life.
The hotel that the police put them up at was just a block down from the precinct, and cars would be parked in the parking lot to watch for any suspicious activity. Artoria sat on the end of her bed, relentlessly questioning Arthur, only easing up when she could sense how weary the whole ordeal had made him.
And then there was Gilgamesh, who’d risked everything to save him.
And now he was protecting him.
It shouldn’t be much, he thought. A favor for a favor. That didn’t make him crooked, right? Gilgamesh saved his life. Admittedly, he did it for selfish reasons, that being he wanted to keep Arthur to himself someday… and that irritated him as much as it could, but imagine turning in the person who saved you from the mob. Arthur was noble, and sometimes that clashed with being the right kind of noble and the lawful kind of noble. Ideally, he wanted to be both. Now Gilgamesh had made it so he was at war with himself.
The phone that Gilgamesh forced upon him buzzed. Arthur had forgotten he had it.
-G: I take it you’re safe?
-A: You had all this prepared down to the phone?
-G: Of course. How do you think I beat you so many times? Accident? Pure luck? I leave nothing to chance and everything to skill.
-G: Of course, you owe me now…
-G: An exciting prospect.
-A: I didn’t sell you out or give them your license plate number. We’re even.
-G: We’re talking about saving your life! All of that is petty change compared to what I want.
-G: How about becoming my husband?
-G: Don’t have an aneurysm over my proposal.
-G: It’s an inevitability, after all.
-A: The only inevitability is when I catch you, fairly, and put you behind bars.
-G: Arthur, is that really what you want?
-G: To put away someone who risked everything to save your life?
-G: Besides, the mob is almost certainly not done with you. We might have to work together again.
-G: I think you’re going to have to get used to me.
-A: But once this is all over, it’s back to our old song and dance. Got it?
-G: I wouldn’t have it any other way.
-G: Dream of me, Arthur.
-A: Stop saying that!
-Contact Not Found-
Arthur locked the phone and flopped backward onto the bed. Artoria opened her mouth to ask him what seemed to have him so drained, but thought better of it and let her younger brother get the rest he needed. Meanwhile, all he could think of was how in too deep he was, how much he wished he never went to that bar, how things could be deceptively normal—and not in debt to a thief.
Rubies are red, Arthur's tie is blue, oh shit I probably have a crush on you.
Become my husband.
Become… my… husband.
Those words had been ringing in Arthur’s ears like a mantra. Gil wasn’t serious—sorry, Gilgamesh wasn’t serious, yet he’d been absolutely serious about rescuing him like a hero in disguise. No mask, either, just that sharp look in his eyes and very perfect face—he was like a phantom thief in the comic books, one who made a show out of stealing but for the fact that he never gave anything back. Gilgamesh was a criminal who wanted Arthur and was somehow convinced that their escapades would end in marriage. That was lunatic thinking. Galaxy brain thinking, a term he’d learned from Gawain. Yet, Gilgamesh saved his life. This egotist had something he treasured more than his own apparent wellbeing.
Arthur hated living in the hotel, but at least it was close to work and he could work on his cases there. He still had a few murders he had to solve, after all. Gilgamesh wasn’t his only piece of work—just his biggest.
And here was the thing about Arthur, he was kind of a genius about figuring out people’s true intentions. He was great at deducing who was the culprit in lineups. He was excellent at interrogation because he always seemed to understand the criminal mind, no matter how deplorable. He knew weak points and when to ease up on someone. If someone asked him if Gilgamesh was his most difficult ‘client’, he’d say no. The hardest had been interrogating a kid who’d offed his parents and little sister by far. Arthur didn’t drink often, but Lancelot had taken him out to drinks that night.
He was back to work and it felt good. The groove of his office chair and the sound of typing around him made him feel like he was back in the zone. The looming threat of one of Gilgamesh’s calling cards descending upon him didn’t even feel like a problem. He said he’d catch him and he meant it.
Become my husband.
Oh god damn it, this again. Just as Arthur tried to drown out his own thoughts, Diarmuid had approached him, looking nervous.
Diarmuid was as reliable as someone could be. Arthur smiled up at him gently, grateful for his presence and remembering vaguely that he owed him drinks. Before he could bring it up, Diarmuid spoke.
“Did you text me a few days ago?”
Arthur paused. “… no. I was in a cramped little interrogation room. Why?”
“I just… got a strange message from your number. That’s all.”
“What does it say?”
“That’s just it. All it says is ‘hope you are doing well’. It seemed innocuous enough, but now that I check the time, it doesn’t add up.”
That was when that big lug had Arthur’s phone. “Probably someone in the Irish mafia playing a prank. They still have my phone. This one is, uh—” Arthur held up the one he got from Gilgamesh, and despite it looking rather valuable… “—a burner.”
“A prank…” Diarmuid sadly trailed off, before perking up. “Well, if that’s all it is, that’s all it is.”
“Anyway, Diarmuid… would you like to go out for drinks? After work, I mean.”
“Huh?” Apparently, he wasn’t expecting that much so soon. “Oh… sure.”
Diarmuid was Gilgamesh’s complete opposite. While Gilgamesh was an egotistical wildcard of a man, Diarmuid was reliable and loyal and kind. Arthur deeply appreciated that in a person, because his fellow cops could be just as egotistical as Gilgamesh in worse ways. Diarmuid did things like go to schools to talk about drugs and often used his own money to help with their fundraisers for the poor. Maybe Gilgamesh would leave Arthur alone if he shifted gears? Showed an interest in someone else? And besides, he liked Diarmuid.
He just didn’t pick up on that sad air Diarmuid had about him.
Arthur didn’t really drink beyond socially, and at most he’d have only one or two. Diarmuid, however, was knocking them back like it was the end of the world. He’d never seen him like this before, Diarmuid was in control of himself most of the time. Moving one shot glass to the other side of the table, the other man was carefully considering telling Arthur the truth.
“Did you see a big guy in there? The mob place.”
“I… they were all big guys, with the exception of Medb.”
“Blue hair, red tattoos…”
“Ah,” Arthur remembered him quite clearly. “He stepped on my head.” Diarmuid winced.
“That’s…” he downed another shot. “That’s my ex.”
That explains why that man took his phone. And why Diarmuid received that message. Arthur felt foolish for even trying to project his feelings onto him. What was he thinking?
“Your ex is in the mafia?”
“Not so loud?” Diarmuid asked pitifully.
“Sorry, he, uh—” Arthur couldn’t muster the words ‘he seemed like a nice guy’ with all the pain he put him through, personally. “You must know a side to him I don’t.”
“He hates everything but me,” Diarmuid sighed. “He’s always been like that, but then that… woman set her eyes on him. She said she’d hurt me if we ever got close again. Now he’s…” He gripped the glass tightly, anger apparent on his face. “Now he’s the slave of a woman he hates.”
Arthur rubbed his back gently, trying to reassure him. He motioned for the bartender to refill their drinks. Arthur thought his love life was rough. There was that mess with Guinevere and Lancelot back in college, and then there’s the fact that an internationally wanted thief has proposed to him via text message. That still didn’t compare to wanting to be with someone you couldn’t be with no matter what, on opposite ends of the law—oops, that still described Arthur’s situation. But it was different. Arthur wanted no part of the equation.
“He hates everything but you?” Arthur asked, somewhat disbelievingly.
“Most things… he’s a quiet guy. He’s always been linked to trouble in one way or another, but we were good for each other. I would rein him in, he’d treat me right…”
“So…” Diarmuid emphasized. “So right…”
“I get it.” Arthur said firmly.
“But now that message has dug up all kinds of feelings. I want to help him get free of that place, but the only job I have as an officer is arresting him. Doesn’t feel good…”
“Why don’t you… quit?”
“Because if I’m still an officer, I might be able to arrest the kingpin herself. Maybe he’ll get out of it okay, and we can be together again.”
Arthur paused thoughtfully. Diarmuid’s loyalty was commendable and crazy all at the same time, but as long as he’d known him, he’d always been that way. Even to people who treated him like dirt, like Fionn. He hoped that hadn’t manifested as a complex where anyone who treated him right got his unyielding, unwavering loyalty. Maybe Cu was just a really cool guy who happened to step on people’s heads when he was ordered to.
… Arthur began to doubt more and more by the minute…
“I think I’m going to aim for a promotion.”
“Good luck,” Diarmuid ate the cherry sitting on the side of his drink. “You’re not Fionn’s favorite by far, but if anyone can do it, you can.”
“Thanks, and Diarmuid?”
“I’m always here for you.”
With a slight glance aside, at first, he didn’t say anything. Then he let the softest of smiles shine in Arthur’s direction, a light at the end of the tunnel. “Thanks, Arthur…”
It took ages before Gilgamesh showed his face again.
Arthur would watch his phone for new texts, new signs that he might be out there, but there was nothing. It was almost as if he had vanished from the face of the earth.
Arthur and Artoria had moved to a new house in secret, part of their protection program. Artoria had worried about her brother before, but now it came with a whole new cause for concern; the mob might want him back as fodder against the person who stole from them. It was difficult to draw someone out who had been in hiding this whole time, though—wherever Gilgamesh had slinked off to, it was apparent he wasn’t going to show up anytime soon.
At least, that’s what Arthur thought.
Overnight, a banner had been hung outside the window of the police department.
‘I rise with the sunrise, pigeons streaking across the sky, blood orange tea for my morning, and on my finger a precious ring. -G’
It was marked with Gilgamesh’s personal insignia. He didn’t always announce his heists like this, only when he wanted to make it a fun game for Arthur to try and figure out where he’d be.
It didn’t take Arthur very long to figure out what it meant.
“Get the private owner of the Sunrise Ruby on the phone—I don’t care if it was an anonymous auction, do it!” Arthur sighed, feeling the familiar headache roll back into his skull as he felt the weight on his shoulders of stress and exhilaration. Finally, he’d be able to see Gilgamesh face to face again. This time, he wouldn’t have the chance to slap duct tape over his mouth.
He was ready to catch him. He was.
The owner was naturally cool as a cucumber. They had several hired bodyguards and security at their mansion already and declined police protection. Arthur had already failed so many times that they had no faith in the police force’s intervention, despite Arthur insisting that Gilgamesh can and would get away with it. Nonetheless, they didn’t want him involved. Somewhat slumped and defeated, Arthur would hand over the evidence (the little rhyme) and the methods Gilgamesh commonly used to get what he wanted. He asked them to stay vigilant, they promised they would.
It was only with a nasty phone call a night later that they complained that the police hadn’t done enough and that their precious 30 million dollar investment was gone. Arthur calmly explained on the phone that the police would conduct a thorough investigation, but had firmly been turned away at the door when trying to prevent it. They had it on record. There was nothing they could do now that Gilgamesh got away.
Arthur sighed. At least he couldn’t be blamed this time.
Gilgamesh admired the ring on his finger—the beautiful bright blood colored stone made him feel so elated it was like pulling all winning numbers in the lottery. He never wanted for anything so long as he could take it, and he fantasized selfishly about dressing up Arthur in his jewels and ornaments in his private warehouse one day. To see him bedecked in gold that had been mined since the dawn of humankind would be like putting icing on an already delicious cake.
Ozymandias was right. Enkidu was right. He did have a crush. That was a pity, he hoped he could get this far without forming attachments to anyone beyond his best friend. But he supposed when he bullied him about that proposal, he’d been half-honest at the very least. In all of its bodice-ripper glory, he’d be happy to convince Arthur to run away with him and join him in life in the underworld, but he had a feeling he’d be too loyal to his friends and family to run away. What a shame…
… that didn’t mean he was going to give up.
Hadn’t Ozymandias had a happy ending? He met a sweet girl running a flower store just down the street of his operation. He was head over heels for her and proposed to her in no time. Gil guessed that she must have been either condoning of his lifestyle or at the very least tolerated it…
A luxurious looking feline curled up at the side of his leg, with Gil idly patting it as he watched stories of his latest heist unfold on the television. They were offering a million dollars for any information related to the ring—paltry money compared to what they paid for the gemstone itself. Still, he’d better watch his back. That was deeply tempting money.
Figuring it had been long enough since he teased Arthur, he picked up his phone and opened the secret message window that was linked to Arthur’s phone.
-G: Feeling blue? Don’t worry. We can’t win them all.
-G: Especially since they forced you off the case.
-G: I was really looking forward to seeing you, too…
-A: Who is this?
Gilgamesh paused. Someone else had Arthur’s phone.
-A: Who is this??
-A: IS THIS GILGAMESH
-A: You monster, have you been bothering my brother this whole time?!
Ah, it was the older Pendragon. Artoria, was it? She was cute, too.
-A: I still haven’t forgotten the night at the museum.
-G: You should, it was a terrible movie.
-A: So it is you!
-A: You leave my brother alone, or so help me I will end you.
-G: You know, it’s his job to find me, not the other way around.
-G: If you have a problem with our working relationship, I suggest you bring it up with him.
-A: Don’t be daft! And here you’ve been teasing him this entire time?
-A: Why didn’t he tell me?
-G: That’s a good question. Why don’t you ask him?
-G: Maybe I’m his little secret in more ways than one.
-G: But I’m not interested in talking to you. We can speak when we’re in-laws.
-A: You’re a crude man. My brother deserves better than you, better than to have to chase you!
-A: I’m getting to the bottom of this!
-G: See that you do. Have fun, Artoria.
Artoria had her arms crossed, tapping her foot as the phone sat between them. Arthur looked more than appropriately guilty.
“Well?” Artoria asked. “Were you ever going to tell me the thief that’s been plaguing your life for years has been flirting with you over the phone?”
“It’s more complicated than that, at least recently—”
Arthur sighed. “Look, when I said I got out of the mafia hideout by myself…”
“That’s actually… Gilgamesh helped me. He rescued me, basically.”
Arthur’s face was a muddled red. “He… he likes me, I think.”
“Yeah, I got that much. But you don’t like him?”
“Of course not! He’s a wanted criminal who’s just using this as some kind of… mind game!”
Artoria pointed at him. “You’re absolutely right that’s what it is. He’s obviously some kind of sociopath who’s just using this as a way to get to you! Don’t ever let him get to your head!”
Arthur nodded hastily. “Of course! I’m not letting him get to my head, I’m the officer in charge of his case! But… I need to ask you a favor, sis.”
Artoria looked like at first, she wasn’t going to listen. Then she nodded, swiftly, as if to say ‘get on with your point’.
“You can’t tell anyone he’s been contacting me. I’d get in so much trouble… and you’ll never know if there’ll be a time when he’ll give me important information for a case.”
Artoria wanted to argue, say that it was insane and that he should turn in his phone immediately, but… Arthur was really trying. He was-- trying not to let this get to his head and trying not to let Gilgamesh do whatever he wanted, but it was apparent he was burdened by the guilt of being saved by him, too. Artoria was suspicious of Gilgamesh’s intentions, as if having one over on Arthur was a mind game to him, too. It felt like she was seeing more warning flags than Arthur was.
“… fine. But you’ll have to tell me what he texts you.” She handed his phone back to him.
“I promise.” Hopefully, it wouldn’t be any more embarrassing things. Arthur had never broken a promise to Artoria since they were kids, and he wasn’t about to start.
“In the meantime…” Artoria trailed off. “Don’t let him get to you. He’s just playing tricks, same as he always has.”
Easier said than done.
Disclaimer: Don't drug a mob boss, guys.
Cu Chulainn was not a happy man.
He didn’t want much in life; an apartment, a steady job-- something where he didn’t have to talk to other people too much, and Diarmuid. Three things he considered life essentials were pried away from him by a pink-haired mafia don who thought he was too cute to let go to waste. Running was not an option, as Medb clearly demonstrated to her enemies time and time again that she wasn’t above killing to get what she wanted, and she always got what she wanted. Indentured servitude it was, but it’d be a cold day in hell before he’d fuck Medb. She’d settled for him acting as a body guard, at least he had that much to be thankful for.
Sure, the thought of killing her crossed his mind several times, but it always felt like more trouble than it was worth. She would snap like a toothpick beneath his hands, but her group was loyal—Cu would swim in bullets before he got away with it. They resented him already as it was; Medb’s favorite. The source of her crush was unreasonable and she never let it up.
Mafia business was ugly, and the scars on his back were proof. Some of them were fresh and still healing, others had faded into white marks pulled taut over his skin. As he rolled his shoulder, he felt a few of them just beneath the tips of his fingers. He’d been holding on to an idea for a while now, and today felt like the best day to execute it.
Medb ordered her coffee to be brought to her at nine sharp, every morning. Usually a lesser man would do it, but Cu couldn’t pass up the opportunity. As he mixed in an absurd dosage of ground Ativan into her coffee, no guilt plagued him if she turned up dead from it. He knew better, though. This would just knock her out for the day, and he’d be free.
She never let her dog roam, and everyone knew this. Any chance to slip out of the building would be one used to contact his old flame, and her bitter jealousy wouldn’t allow it. Still, with her taking her morning and commenting that it was bitterer than usual, it was just a matter of time before she passed out and he could sneak out.
“Hmm…” She yawned after finishing the coffee, stretching out her arms in a clearly enticing pose that Cu was oblivious to, and flopped back on the bed. “Actually, I think I’m going to take five more minutes in bed. Keep an eye on the people downstairs, would you, darling?”
Medb was out cold in a matter of minutes. Cu snapped his fingers a few times to see if she’d stir, but she didn’t. Finally, this was his chance.
Taking the fire escape down the side of the building, he hailed a taxi with a clear destination in mind.
Diarmuid’s morning routine was fairly simple. Take the dog for a run, wash up, and then prepare breakfast, like clockwork. Scooping out an avocado and spreading it on toast, he waited briefly for the egg to finish frying before putting it on top with a bit of pepper. He left a little bit of egg to sit in the pan so he could feed it to his greyhound later. A morning treat, also a ritual.
As he bit into his meal, he nearly spat it out when he heard the familiar click of his door unlocking. Only one other person had the key to his apartment. His toast messily hitting the plate, he rushed over to the burly, tattooed man and clasped the sides of his head.
The taller man grasped Diarmuid’s wrist, deceptively gently for how tight his grip looked. To be in his presence again was calming. It was the first time in months. He’d gone and drugged a mafia don to get this far, he wasn’t going to squander his chance. Backing Diarmuid up against the door, Cu caught his lips in a rough kiss that barely gave the man the chance to catch up with his thoughts. Diarmuid, of course, was a cop, and his first instinct should really be to deal with the fact that a mob member was kissing him, but instead all he could do was kiss back, tangling his fingers in Cu’s hair like he was holding on for dear life.
“Don’t even say her name.” Cu said quietly. “I drugged her so I’d have time to come here.”
“You drugged her?”
“Never would’ve gotten out if I didn’t,” Cu scoffed, hands sliding down Diarmuid’s waist to his hips. “Did you get my message?”
“I did… Cu, this is dangerous—”
“You should. God, I missed you…” Diarmuid apparently couldn’t make up his mind whether to scold him or embrace him. The last time they’d spoken, it was with Cu’s warning to never come after him with the same kind of energy that one would ‘set free’ a loyal friend by telling them to get lost. Cu knew Diarmuid better than anybody and knew that after years and years of a relationship, he wouldn’t forget him so quickly.
“I can only stay for so long. Maybe a few hours.”
“How has it been…?” Diarmuid asked quietly. “I know you don’t want any of this. What has she made you do?”
Cu couldn’t answer that honestly. He was a brash and cruel person, Diarmuid knew it, but he couldn’t admit to a cop’s face how many people he’s had to put down since coming into the job. Instead, he let go and sat down on Diarmuid’s sofa, motioning him to come over. Diarmuid didn’t even bother taking the seat next to him, he went straight into his lap.
“All I have is a couple hours,” He repeated, wanting to make this as clear as possible: Cu would be going back to Medb at the end of it. “If you want to arrest me, arrest me. If you want to make the most of this time, then do it. I’m not going to tell you what to do.”
“You’re still acting like you don’t care. About this. About what Medb is making you do.”
“Well, I haven’t.” Diarmuid growled. “I never know if you’re going to turn up in the morgue after a gunfight or if you send someone there yourself. I need more than a few hours to decide what to do about you, Cu!”
“That’s all you get. I’m not letting her jealous streak get you involved.”
Diarmuid leaned against his shoulder, pride telling him that Cu would be safer in jail than with Medb and still, reluctant to turn him in. Crossing his arms, he just wanted this moment to last, despite the minutes ticking down to the deadline. In the end, weakness would get him into his bedroom with Cu, apologizing for how messy it was and Cu bluntly telling him it looked nicer than he ever kept his. He’d spend his hours reacquainting himself with Cu’s body because god, he needed it, and when it came time to leave he’d ask Cu one last thing.
“Can you do this again?”
“… she’ll realize she was drugged. I’ll be punished.” He said quietly. “But she won’t kill me.”
“She’ll be more guarded next time…” Diarmuid knew what this meant. It meant that Cu’s window for escape would narrow the more time went on.
“… I’ll visit when I can at night, when she sleeps.” It was a dangerous promise to make, and it felt like for sure he’d get caught. The reward outweighed the risk. “But the moment she suspects something is up, it’s over.”
It was cruel, to have their relationship walk a tightrope that depended wholly on how Cu could escape the clutches of his boss, but Diarmuid had missed him too much, for too long. He couldn’t abandon those feelings any more than he could abandon Cu. He was his last ally in the world.
And he wasn’t afraid of Medb.
Gilgamesh was at the head of an office meeting, explaining to a group of very important people why a merger would be beneficial for both their companies, why it would increase profit and how they could keep layoffs to a minimum. He earned a polite round of applause for his presentation, all the while complaining in his mind about how much it bored him to have to appease these people. His persona by daylight was that of a high-ranking corporate drone, not yet CEO but certainly gunning for the position. He liked where he was, though. It afforded him enough days off to keep up with his hobby of reclaiming his treasure.
Naturally, he was a master of masking his true identity. Now that Arthur knew and had seen his face, he’d have to take extra precautions to conceal himself in action. Makeup art was a special talent of his—he could use masks to alter his face ever so slightly to be unrecognizable, he had an assortment of wigs to help him in this task too—no thief worth their salt didn’t know how to use makeup. Ozymandias had a remarkable technique where he could change his appearance just by how he carried himself, making his otherwise striking appearance change on the flip of a dime. Gilgamesh sought to emulate it. Last he recalled, Ozymandias had an entire other identity by the name of ‘Dio’ he used when he was working in the underground. Nobody could recognize him when he was acting.
Gilgamesh had made himself known to precious few people. Moriarty had chased him down on a heist with the desire to ‘talk’. That old man was deceptively strong, for all the complaining about his back he did. Then came the blackmail over his identity. Gilgamesh was bitter, but it came with the territory. Medb didn’t know anything about Gil’s real life, and he intended to keep it that way. They’d met at an anonymous auction where Gil had snapped up every precious item that Medb had her eyes on, and she cornered him to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Other than that, the siblings Kingu and Enkidu were his only friends. Kingu was more terse with him, but Enkidu had been his rock. He didn’t know what he’d do without the two of them as backup. He kept a professional distance from people at work; he didn’t get involved with them beyond signing birthday cards being passed around the office, though several young women had tried.
Gilgamesh had only one person on the mind as a candidate for his affection.
Contacting him would be harder, now that his sister had seen his phone. Sitting at his desk and staring at the document he’d been typing up, he wondered if he could—yes, Arthur was still reachable via email. Glancing around himself before he pulled up a very innocuous looking laptop, he opened it up and booted up all of the firewalls that prevented him from being traced. This was an OS of his own design, with a little bit of help from Ozy and Moriarty.
It’s starting to get harder and harder to contact you, you know. You’re lucky I enjoy our games.
Don’t bother tracing the email.
Arthur, I’d like to meet one on one again. No tricks, no heist. It’s a shame I can’t trust you into not making it a sting operation, though…
If you’re interested, contact me through your phone. This address will be deleted as soon as I hit send.
Don’t let your sister find out.
The message would hit Arthur’s phone just as he was getting home. He recognized the name at the beginning of the email right away—Gilgamesh’s old alias. He was right, agreeing would make that a perfectly easy sting operation, if only Gilgamesh ever made it that easy. He frowned, thinking of his promise to Artoria. He’d promised to show her texts, not emails… though in the end, he was just self-justifying it. He’d be breaking his promise to her either way.
He’d decide later. Stuffing his phone back into his pocket, he had a long day to recover from.
Medb wasn’t pleased.
She’d been robbed blind, her hostage taken from her by a trusted ‘friend’ and her beautiful little notebook had fallen into the hands of some ordinary criminal scum. Revenge would be swift. She had all of her men on the lookout for Gilgamesh. Could she just hand everything she had of his to the police, including pictures of his face? Maybe. But this was on her turf, and she wanted to make her revenge very personal.
She’d get Arthur, too, as soon as she could find him. Both of them knew too much. This time, she wouldn’t wait around to kill them. As much fun as teasing the anvil above the captive’s head was, it was better just to drop it and be done with it. When she woke up from her nap, she was cloudy, hazy, but Cu was still there, outside her door. If she’d been in her right mind, she might’ve noticed the telltale bruises on the sides of his neck. Instead, she grabbed the front of his shirt where he sat.
“Drugging my coffee…?” She spat. “Really, Cu? You’ve… you’ve hurt me when I’m already licking my wounds from that heist. What did you hope to achieve?”
Cu didn’t answer.
“Did you go see him?”
“Hmm…” She let go of his shirt. “If you’re lying to me, there’ll be hell to pay, my love.”
“Wouldn’t risk it.” Cu said bluntly.
“I’m sure you wouldn’t. I’m in a very, very bad mood.”
She stumbled back into her room, to take her shower like usual, letting the medication wear off under cold water. Too many people had been pissing her off lately. She expected Cu to be a rebel, but Gilgamesh? She would make him her bitch. All it would take was time.
Meanwhile, Gilgamesh was enjoying a party.
The mansion on an island in the middle of a river was elegant and sprawling, with lush green grass covering the whole area. It was a treat to sit in the warm summer air, holding a sangria and watching the princess of the party unwrap a veritable mountain of gifts. On her head was the tiara that Gilgamesh stole, pink diamonds glinting in the sunlight. She would open one, stammer a thank you, and go onto the next as Moriarty filmed the whole thing. If there was one good thing about being used by Moriarty, it was that he favored him enough to invite him along to these little soirees.
Gil didn’t remember if the girl was biologically his or not; he supposed it didn’t matter. Moriarty loved her with all of his very small, black heart, as if his capacity for adoration was meant for one person alone.
She was remarkably unspoiled, graciously thanking people with small words as if she had no idea why Moriarty treated her like this, but took it in stride. When she had finished unwrapping everything and Moriarty’s servants were clearing up the mess, Moriarty took a seat next to Gilgamesh, fiddling with the camera to make sure it had recorded everything.
“Isn’t she lovely? I knew that tiara would fit her perfectly. Go on, say it! My daughter is the loveliest girl you’ve ever seen!”
“Somehow, I feel like saying that is a trap.” Gilgamesh laughed. “I’ll say it, and you’ll say ‘don’t you dare look at my daughter that way.’”
Moriarty smiled wryly, as if to agree. “But you admit, it does look good on her.”
“It does.” Gilgamesh couldn’t help but wonder how nice it would look on Arthur, too—no, no, pink wasn’t his color. He’d be better off in sapphires.
“Well, I didn’t invite you here for nothing. I have a warning for you.”
“Medb is planning her counterattack. I would get out of town if I were you.”
Moriarty snorted. “But you won’t, will you? You’d be leaving Arthur to her wolves.”
“Reading me as clear as a book. You never fail to impress, Moriarty.”
“Here’s my suggestion: plan a heist far, far away from here. Have him chase you down there. It’d be killing two birds with one stone.”
“I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me there’s something you want me to steal halfway across the globe?”
Moriarty watched as his little girl struggled to socialize with her guests, sensing he may need to swoop in and rescue her soon. “Not yet.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ve never failed to handle myself.”
“I never worry about you, don’t flatter yourself.” As if he’d made an uproarious joke, Moriarty laughed and slapped him on the back. “I’d better attend to the guests. Behave yourself.”
Gilgamesh merely lifted a glass in his direction before downing the whole thing.
A heist out of town, hm? That could be dangerous. Leaving his warehouse unattended, his apartment empty, all to escape Medb for a little bit. But still, he couldn’t deny the allure of traveling across the globe and having Arthur chase after him.
It might be time to call Ozymandias again.
I'll chase you to the ends of the Earth.
The two lovebirds were so saccharine that Gilgamesh almost thought it polite to avert his eyes, but this was just how Ozymandias was; he was utterly unashamed to show the world how in love he was with his wife.
Ozymandias was something of an old flame. Before he’d met Nefertari, he and Gilgamesh had done their fair share of flirting. They’d compete over heists and occasionally team up—they’d kissed before and done a bit more than that, but any awkward feelings over the encounters since had entirely been buried. Ozymandias had moved on, having since made his fortune in counterfeiting and settling down in retirement. Gilgamesh hadn’t stopped teasing him over that. He’d always thought Ozymandias would never give up the game, but it turns out life had a way of changing people. Now he was wholly focused on raising his child-to-be.
“So you want tips…” Ozymandias was more than a little boastful of the fact that Gilgamesh sought his council, on stealing of all things. “… on what should be your next heist?”
“For once in my life, I find myself not wanting.” Gilgamesh was lying. He was never not seeking out some new treasure or a way to bother Arthur, and Ozymandias could easily see through it. He was just asking for the sake of finding an easy target that could lead Arthur outside of his jurisdiction.
“You’re a terrible liar.” Ozymandias stretched out next to one of his sphynx kittens and gave it a generous scritching behind the ear. “You know I can’t afford to be an accomplice anymore, right? What’s stopping you from being your usual, creative self?”
“Nothing at all. I’m just not familiar with the area.”
“But you are familiar with its treasures.”
“So pick something and make a plan like you usually do.”
“You always loved making it harder on me.”
“I like seeing you succeed. There’s a difference.”
Ozymandias’ home was comfortable and warm—open windows sending in the breeze from the desert river it sat close to. It was luxurious and fit an ex-criminal perfectly. Why Ozymandias gave up the trade for something as simple as domestic life was beyond Gilgamesh. He couldn’t imagine the same thing happening for him, even if he did win over Arthur on his side. Ozymandias insisted he’d ‘learn someday’ and that he’d see that the high stress life wasn’t a sustainable one, but Gilgamesh couldn’t forget the thrill of the hunt so easily.
“I’m going to head back to the hotel.”
“Why? You always have a room here.”
“I’m not roping you into this. You’ve chosen the cushy life, it’s only fair I keep you out of mine for now.”
“Harsh,” but Ozymandias was nonetheless appreciative. He’d hate to give up everything now for the sake of one last heist. Nonetheless, he’d have his men drive Gilgamesh back, where he could start planning everything, including his great plan to get Arthur out of the country for at least a little while.
Arthur was starting to get worried over Gilgamesh.
It wasn’t like him to take this long of a break between heists. Medb’s kidnapping was still fresh in his mind and he was worried she’d exacted her revenge and offed him already, even if he knew Gil was far too crafty to let something like that happen. Gilgamesh might have been an antagonist through and through, but Arthur didn’t want him dead. People didn’t understand that about him, but it was like this: having a rival for such a long time meant you became altogether too familiar with the way they functioned. It didn’t morph into something like friendship, but it did culminate in a kind of worry. Arthur didn’t want Gilgamesh to end up hurt, just… in jail.
And even now, he was starting to wonder if that was what he really wanted for Gilgamesh at all.
When Fionn teased that Medb might have handled their Gilgamesh problem once and for all, Arthur nearly snapped back that Gilgamesh was way too talented for something like that to happen, and thank god he caught himself, or else he might have sounded like he was praising his rival.
A postcard had come in the mail that afternoon.
Showing off the pyramids of Giza on one side, Gilgamesh’s familiar scrawl saying “Wish you were here” complete with a stamp of his insignia meant that this couldn’t possibly be anything but another calling card. Gawain, recently freed from the records room, looked over his shoulder and sighed.
“At least we know he can’t steal the pyramids.”
“It’s not my jurisdiction anymore…” Arthur said, quietly. He’d have to leave this up to the professionals in Egypt. Nonetheless, he’d call Interpol and send a warning that he’d receive a calling card from the man himself and fax over Gilgamesh’s sizable file. As he was scanning the papers, Lancelot watched with a solemn stare.
“Maybe you should go.”
“…?” Arthur looked up, wordlessly shuffling papers from the fax machine. “Do you really think they’d let me in on a case across the ocean?”
“You are the Gilgamesh expert, after all. Give them another call. See if they’ll take you.”
“It’s no vacation…”
“Still. If he’s stealing something big, it’ll be an international problem. You’ll want to stop that before it happens, don’t you?”
A few phone calls later, Arthur had packed his bags and headed for the international airport. He would be met by an interpreter after a sixteen hour flight. He was disturbed by how worried he was for his apparent rival—like that if he got caught here, the red tape would be big enough to cover the entire planet. He sincerely hoped Gilgamesh had a plan that wasn’t robbing someone blind.
Arthur wasn’t fond of planes.
Maybe, most likely, it was because he lost his parents in a plane crash, but he was always uncomfortable on any sort of flight, to the point where he had anxiety medication just for the rare occasion he had to fly. He could feel his annoyance with Gilgamesh build for making him do this, as if he’d give him a stern talking to whenever he landed. That was, of course, on the off chance they’d do more talking than chasing.
He slept off most of the sixteen hours, messaging Diarmuid to keep himself stable over the plane’s wi-fi. Diarmuid had seemed… squirrely for some reason, he was avoiding topics and trying to focus on Arthur alone. Something must’ve happened, though what it was Arthur had no clue. Nonetheless, having someone to talk to helped in a major way. He’d have to thank him properly once he was back in the states.
As the plane landed and Arthur carried his precious cargo off the plane (Gilgamesh’s bulky file, hidden away in his briefcase), he remembered that he was told to look for a sign with his name on it. Sure enough, a man in a black suit toted a red sign with his name on it in black sharpie. Rolling his luggage to their car, he sighed as he sank into his seat, grateful to be on land.
“You look relieved,” Said the voice next to him.
“You have no ide—”
Of course it had to be Gilgamesh, who signaled the driver to lock the doors as they sped off down the road.
“You’re putting up less of a fight than I thought you would,” Gilgamesh poured the two of them drinks from a wine bottle that looked old enough to be one of his stolen treasures. Gilgamesh hadn’t committed a crime here… yet, and this was far out of Arthur’s jurisdiction. He could have him arrested, sure, but he had no idea why Gilgamesh angled to kidnap him and have him brought back to his hotel room.
“Come on, Arthur. Say something.” He handed him the glass of wine and Arthur merely stared over the top of it in Gilgamesh’s direction.
“Are you going to keep these goons of yours here?”
“They’re employees of a friend of mine, I’ll thank you not to call them goons.” Gilgamesh took a seat on the bed across from Arthur. “But if you insist, I’ll dismiss them.”
When the two other men had left the room, Arthur fixed an icy stare on Gilgamesh. “Just what are you planning?”
“Planning? Nothing,” He took a sip of the wine, relishing the taste. “I had to get you out of the country, so I did.”
“Medb, naturally.” Gilgamesh set the glass aside and folded his hands. “She’s planning something. I wanted to get you out of there before she could exact her revenge.”
“…” So Gilgamesh was looking out for him, yet again. But he did it in such an infuriating way—trying to trick him that a heist would go down and leading him on a wild goose chase halfway across the world!
“You can say ‘thank you’ any time.”
“I don’t know, Gilgamesh, do you think you could’ve sent an email or something telling me to get out of town? Do you always have to be so… so extra?”
“Where’s the fun in that? Besides, now I get to grant a wish of yours.”
“You wanted to talk to me, one on one. I’ve brought you someplace where you have no power over me. If you want to get to know me, Arthur, now’s your chance. You have my full permission.”
Arthur balked. “You remembered?”
“How could I forget? It was flattering.” The night they danced together was still fresh in his mind, still so enjoyable to revisit. Arthur would never let him get that close again, so he savored his memory of it.
“… why?” Arthur asked, suddenly. “Why do you do this?”
“Even you know that,” Gilgamesh sounded bored. “Everything precious in this world belongs to me.”
“Not just this! Why do you toy with me like this? Drag me halfway across the world under the guise of protecting me? It can’t just be because you have some… strange crush on me!” Arthur exclaimed, wanting desperately to understand Gilgamesh, more than he wanted to arrest him.
Gilgamesh nearly spoke, nearly had something to rebuke, but instead, let Arthur figure it out for himself. People in this world were desperate to have someone who understood them, and Arthur was the only person who understood Gilgamesh, even if he didn’t agree with him. He’d spent a good chunk of his time and life profiling him, and in the end, all he wanted to do was earnestly understand Gilgamesh. To Gilgamesh, it was worth his time. “Arthur, you’re a smart man. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the most reasonable.”
“No…” Arthur couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You can’t do this just because you…”
Gilgamesh said nothing, instead opting to open Arthur’s suitcase and pull out the file on him. Arthur tried to swat it out of his hands, but Gilgamesh had already opened it, and started reading over the little tidbits Arthur had amassed over the years.
“Almost supernatural genius… Prides himself on taking without killing… Understands the layouts of buildings at a glance… works alone except for a few cases…” He kept ducking Arthur’s attempts to pry the very classified file out of his hands. “Supernatural genius? I’m so touched, Arthur.”
“Give it back—”
“Unrepentant, remorseless—oh, here’s where you start to get rude…” Gilgamesh tsked. “Will never stop unless stopped. I suppose I have you to thank for ending up on the Most Wanted list.”
Arthur finally snatched the file back and stuffed it in his briefcase. “You earned your place there with or without me.”
“You should know by now that I value your persistence. You keep me improving, you make sure I never repeat the same trick twice.”
“Oh, and I should be flattered?”
“You should.” Gil’s ego clearly knew no bounds. “Because it reflects well on you to be able to keep up with me. You already know no one else can do it like you do.”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “This is a bust. I don’t know why I ever thought I’d get anything out of you that wasn’t boasting.”
“But you have been entertaining my questions,” Gilgamesh reminded him. “You’re here, and you haven’t phoned the police or done anything to put me in danger. You really want to learn, don’t you, Arthur?”
Gilgamesh pulled aside the curtain leading to the balcony. The desert at night was frightfully cold, but it didn’t stop him from walking out into the night and motioning for Arthur to follow. “I like you, Arthur. I really do. When I said I intended to keep you before, I wasn’t lying. You keep coming after me, again and again, but I don’t think your heart is in it anymore.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Ever since I rescued you, you’ve questioned my character.” Gilgamesh said, simply. “But you can’t just leave me alone to do what I want, correct?”
“That’s right. As long as you keep stealing—”
Gilgamesh laughed. “You’ll keep chasing me?”
“Still, you feel kind of… indebted to me, don’t you? For your life?”
“… you did rescue me. It’s hard not to feel like I owe you one.”
“I thought you said we were even.”
Arthur glanced away from him. “It doesn’t feel even. Even now, you’re trying to save me from that woman by leading me out here.”
“You’re not the only one who can read people, Arthur. I already knew that much.”
Arthur said nothing. To feel like he owed Gilgamesh was hard to deal with. He almost wished he outfoxed the mob himself and got out on his own without his help, so he could chase him with just as much tenacity as he used to. Right now, it felt unfair. Even with his strong sense of justice guiding him, he didn’t… want this.
“I wish you were a normal person sometimes.” Arthur said, quietly. “Then we might be friends. Then I wouldn’t have to chase you to the ends of the Earth.”
“… but at the same time, you wouldn’t be ‘you’ if you weren’t the great thief Gilgamesh.”
“Careful, Arthur. You’re starting to sound like you like me.”
“Don’t worry, you make that very difficult.”
Gilgamesh chuckled. He appreciated this time they had together, to get to know one another outside the confines of their usual relationship. It endeared him to Arthur all the more—it made him wish they were closer or could be closer. He slipped back into the room as Arthur stood and pondered at the balcony before feeling a cool metal chain slip around his neck.
Gilgamesh clasped the necklace shut and looked at Arthur appraisingly. “You do wear it well.”
“What—” Arthur looked down at the gem-studded necklace with a shock. “This is--!”
“The Grand Phoenix necklace. You remember that heist, don’t you? You very nearly caught me. Of course, I had a grappling hook and a diversion, so getting away wasn’t too hard…”
Arthur was too afraid to remove it from his own neck for fear of breaking something so valuable and so delicate, worth more than his paychecks put together in the past eight years. Gilgamesh couldn’t help but enjoy how he froze on the spot as if weighted down by the necklace, so unacquainted with something so valuable, yet wearing it so well.
“Sapphires would suit you better,” Gilgamesh said simply. “Take it. As a gift from me to you.”
“I’m sure the owner misses it. A pity, I wish you’d keep it as a token of yours truly.”
Arthur could hardly stammer out a response. This was the first time Gilgamesh had given up any of his treasury. The reason he was unhanding it was clear, too—this was to be a win in Arthur’s books. Reclaiming one of the lost treasures and handing it back to their original owner was sure to get him promoted or at least praised.
“Why would you do this for me?”
Gilgamesh leaned in, smiling. “Because I like you, Arthur. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Parting with that necklace is bittersweet for me, but in the long run, if it nets me a bigger treasure, I’ll be better off for it.”
Gilgamesh was correct—this was a victory for Arthur that the precinct wouldn’t soon forget.
Arthur didn’t sell him out—he said he merely found the necklace in an abandoned hotel room that must’ve belonged to Gilgamesh. After all, who would believe him if he said Gilgamesh handed it over as a token of his favor? The owner of the necklace was thrilled to have it back. Fionn, for as much as he loved to torment Arthur for his failures, was benevolent for the victory. Arthur’s new badge and ID proudly identified him as a detective, now. He had full seniority on Gilgamesh’s case.
And yet, the favor Gilgamesh granted him felt like another thing Arthur owed him for, a game that Gilgamesh was carefully playing to bring Arthur into his arms. He understood Gilgamesh entirely and didn’t at the same time.
At the same time, returning the necklace reminded him why he was so determined to win in the first place. Returning treasures to who they rightfully belonged to felt good. He was determined to find wherever Gilgamesh kept his cache and liberate history back to its rightful owners, to the museums and collectors they belonged.
Gilgamesh had returned shortly after, silently. No news on Medb had been good news. After a clean sweep of his apartment, he was certain that nothing was out of place. It’d be no good if the place had been ransacked by her crew, but his home was a top secret. Only Enkidu and Kingu knew where it was.
He was bitter, but only a bit. He liked that necklace, damn it, but it served an important role: to remind Arthur what he was doing and why he did it. Enkidu insinuated otherwise, that Gilgamesh had kicked Arthur down so many times that he wanted to remind Arthur that he liked him enough to give him a victory. Gilgamesh wouldn’t confirm or deny it.
What he did know, was that his next heist would be his greatest one yet.
Diamonds are a Gil's best friend.
It was all over the news.
Gilgamesh had sent his calling card in the form of confetti—literally, scattered across town with no knowable source to be found. It seemed Gilgamesh didn’t want anyone to miss his most ingenious heist yet; no riddles, no wordplay. ‘Tomorrow evening, at 11 O’ Clock, I will collect the Starlight Diamond for my treasury once and for all. -G’. Granted, Gilgamesh wasn’t the only criminal who wanted this diamond—mob bosses yearned to put that diamond on their necks, the wealthy elite coveted it as a social status piece. It would be passing through town for only one night, and it would have the highest of security.
Medb was no exception to wanting it, and she had a bone to pick with Gilgamesh. Two birds, one bullet. As she watched the news coverage on TV, she was already doling out orders to her men. Get her best sniper on the line.
“Billy?” She said, cheerfully as soon as the phone picked up. A surprisingly young sounding voice answered.
“I’m retired, Medb.”
“Oh, so you saw the news?” She was holding her other hand out as her nails were painted by one of her men. “You must know what I want then! Come on, who else can say they shot the one and only Gilgamesh?”
“Plenty of people who do your bidding can, ma’am,” He was as polite as ever, but it was clear as day Medb wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
“Nobody can aim like you can,” Medb said firmly, overlooking her nails before holding out her other hand to be painted up just as prettily. “And I need someone who can get the job done right the first time. You get me?”
“… what’s my salary?”
“Don’t you worry about that. You’ll be paid premium for this hit.”
“You know the rules, Medb. We discuss payment first, then I’ll get your guy for you.”
Annoyance was all too clear in her voice. “Fine. 2 million.”
“Make it ten.”
“Ten--?! You must think I’m loaded.”
“Fifteen. Tack on another five for lying to me. I know you’re loaded. It’s the talk of the underground how much money you made on your last drug deal. That’s still a fraction of the worth of the diamond that Gil’s stealing.”
“… fine. But I expect results.”
“Have I ever let you down, Miss Medb?”
“I guess not.” He had taken care of her ex husband for her, after all. This would be much more high profile, though—and there was no guarantee a police sniper wouldn’t take out Gilgamesh first. This was one of his most prolific heists yet, and it was sure to garner more lethal attention than his usual. People weren’t going to let him get away with this much longer. He was only one man, and all the talent in the world couldn’t save him forever. “I don’t have any idea where he’s going to set up the heist, I just know where the diamond will be.”
“Don’t worry. Gilgamesh might be good at his job, but I’m better.”
“Thaaanks, Billy,” Her voice trailed off happily as she hung up. She’d better get the money ready for him. After all, Billy was one of those rare few she couldn’t blackmail into doing whatever she wished.
“The Starlight Diamond…”
“Worth its weight in gold,” Gawain said quietly, looking over the picture of the gem in question. “Well—if you converted that back to its weight in diamonds, anyway.”
This would be Arthur’s first job as detective. They’d sent word to the owners of the diamond, who had it on display at a museum in downtown. Of course, the very first thing they wanted to do was move it out of town, but Arthur reassured them that it would only create a window of opportunity for Gilgamesh to steal it earlier. He wasn’t a gentlemanly thief who would stick to his calling card if another option opened itself. He left nothing to chance, and that’s precisely what made him such a pain in the ass to deal with.
“We’re going to need armed guards at all entrances,” Arthur could admit to himself now that he really didn’t want Gilgamesh to get killed on one of these ventures, but he trusted the man enough to avoid getting shot. If they could bring him in quietly and without bloodshed, well… Arthur couldn’t hope for more, right? He was the head detective on his case. Bringing him in was part of the job description. Besides, ever since coming back home from Egypt, Arthur had accepted that Gilgamesh’s thievery was not his moral quandary—he had made the choice to steal from people, and it was Arthur’s job to catch him.
Nothing simpler than that.
The gala held at the museum that night was as rich and posh as one could get, now with the bonus of armed guards overlooking every single corner for someone suspicious.
Gilgamesh didn’t ring any alarm bells, what with the disguise on. He looked the perfect picture of a young woman with long, blond hair and dazzling earrings, a cropped fur coat hanging on his shoulders and a red dress hanging down to his knees. The coat did its job to disguise his silhouette, and it didn’t hurt to have hips already subtly curvy enough for the get-up. Able to disguise his voice perfectly, he made his way through the crowd, scoping out the scene of the would-be crime. His best friend and accomplice would cut the lights at the right time, he’d get the gem, and off into the night he’d disappear.
Did he feel bad for poor Arthur? Not a chance. For all of his affection for the man, a job was a job and both of them had to play their roles. He was needling his way into his heart slowly, and it was a matter of time before Arthur turned in his badge. Gilgamesh was so confident in his ability to prick Arthur’s heart and drag him down into a life of crime, he didn’t even consider the other man’s feelings on the matter—he would be his, as certain as any diamond. He passed by Arthur’s sister as he rounded a corner into the medieval painting exhibit. A slow smirk spread across his face as he took a few steps back.
“Lovely night, isn’t it?”
“Oh—” Artoria straightened her tie. “Yes, absolutely. Though I fear it’s going to be a mess, soon…”
“Why is that?”
“Haven’t you heard? Gilgamesh is targeting the museum tonight. Not that he’ll get away with it.”
“Oh, doesn’t he always? I’m here hoping I can catch a glimpse of him myself.”
Artoria rolled her eyes. “Are you one of his fangirls?”
“Something like that. Anyway, good luck tonight! Maybe you’ll get him!”
His impersonation skills were flawless, all thanks to Ozymandias’ lessons. 11 PM was drawing closer on the clock, and people were starting to get worried and excited for the show that was bound to begin. Slipping into an ‘employees only’ door, Gilgamesh quickly tossed off his wig and stuffed it into a duffle bag. Changing into a sleek pair of black pants and a turtleneck, he admired his friend’s handiwork—several staff members neatly tied up with their mouths taped shut. He couldn’t tell if it was Kingu or Enkidu’s handiwork, but it was immaculate all the same.
He took out a radio and pressed down. “Fantastic work, as always.”
“You’ve got a small window to do your thing, so get it over with.”
“Are you worried about me? I’m touched…” Gilgamesh’s pompous voice would be etched into the minds of the museum staff currently trying to wriggle out of their bonds on the floor. “But there’s no need to worry. Not when it’s me.”
Gilgamesh looked forward to the chase that would come afterward almost more than the theft itself. A helicopter waited on a nearby rooftop, obscured by darkness. That would be his ticket out of here, to the getaway car and then back to his warehouse, per usual. After climbing the wall that would overlook the museum’s main hall, he quickly pinpointed where Arthur was—close to the diamond, per usual. If there was one thing he had to be grateful for, it would be that Arthur would have a first row seat to behold his magnificence in action.
Putting a microphone on the collar of his turtleneck, he waited for the greenlight over the radio to signal he’d been hacked into the museum speaker system.
“Well, well…” The speakers suddenly blared to life with his voice, alerting everyone downstairs. “It seems another one of my treasures has fallen into the hands of the elite. I’ll be taking it back now.”
There were gasps and cheers from people who couldn’t decide whether they wanted Gil caught or to see him in action—the police scattered like ants as they tried to find the source.
“Let this be a lesson to anyone listening! All of the riches in the world are borrowed from my treasury. If you hold something precious, it’s only a matter of time before it returns to me. And now—”
Arthur was barking orders left and right as the lights were cut and a loud shattering sound emerged from where the diamond was kept. The glass display had been rigged to explode, sending people running left and right. The diamond was the only thing unscathed, and Gilgamesh had flipped on night-vision goggles in order to aim with his grappling gun to grab it and pull it back up to him. Normally, mishandling a beautiful gem like this was a crime in and of itself, but Gilgamesh couldn’t afford to just walk down and pluck it out with his bare hands. As he caught it deftly as it reeled back up, the lights turned back on. Now was the time to move.
“There--!” Arthur pointed him out, running across the ceiling beams. “Meet me outside! I’m going up to the roof!”
Gilgamesh wasted no time getting to the top of the building, pausing only to see which direction his getaway vehicle was stashed. Smirking when he saw the helicopter rev to life, he waited until it was hovering over to grab the ladder hanging from it, giving Arthur a coy salute once he made it to the roof.
“Looks like I win again!” He laughed haughtily. “You really need to step up your game, Arthur—”
A shot rang out in the darkness, catching Gilgamesh square in the chest. He let go of the ladder and tumbled down, down into the dark alleyway below.
“Medb? I got him.”
From a nearby hotel, Billy was waiting for the money to hit his bank. As the dollar signs lit up on his phone and a hefty sum appeared in his off-shore account, he nearly pocketed the phone before settling his crosshairs on Arthur.
“Want to double what you paid me?” Billy asked.
“Arthur. I’ve got him in my sights.”
Medb weighed her options, knowing time was of the essence. “Hold on, Arthur’s not worth half the money I paid for Gil—”
Arthur practically flew down the fire escape, dreading what he’d see at the foot of it. Gilgamesh couldn’t survive a fall that big, let alone a gunshot straight to the chest. This was supposed to be a normal heist, damn it! Who ordered someone to shoot?
As people were running out the museum thanks to the sound of gunshots, Arthur found him. He’d landed straight on the ground, arm outstretched, holding his grappling gun. Apparently, it had grabbed something on the way down and broke his fall, so he wasn’t dead the moment he got shot. That was good, but Arthur could still see blood.
“Hold on—hold on…” He pressed both hands to the wound, applying as much pressure as he could. “You’re not allowed to die on me… not before I can put you before a judge—”
Gilgamesh croaked a laugh. “Even now, you’re still so…”
At first, Arthur thought he felt the bullet beneath Gilgamesh’s shirt, but it wasn’t the right shape—surprised, he pulled the diamond out from his front pocket, looking thoroughly ruined. The blast still caused quite a bit of damage, but the diamond had absorbed the brunt of the bullet and deflected it for the most part. He could tell his ribs were absolutely shattered, though, and the chance of one going into his heart--
“This is the luck of a devil…” Arthur whispered, staring at the broken gem. Gilgamesh could only laugh in hazy breaths.
“You need to go to the hospital!”
“I need—to stay out of jail, is what I need.” Gilgamesh began to stand, faltering on his feet as he looked up. “Normally, I’d be mad to waste such a precious gem, but since I’m still here—I’ll allow it.”
Arthur stood up as Gilgamesh held his chest, pressing down on the bleeding wound that thankfully hadn’t gone through to his heart.
“… next time it’ll be fair.”
“… no.” Arthur said, determinedly. “There’s not going to be a next time. You’re coming with me.”
Gilgamesh only looked up at Arthur, trying to keep his balance by holding onto the fire escape ladder. This was kicking him while he was down, but if people were trying to kill him—he was safer in jail, wasn’t he?
Arthur didn’t think about it. He turned to go find the other officers, to get paramedics to treat Gilgamesh’s wounds, and as he emerged from the alley, a small red dot had appeared on his forehead.
“Do you want your revenge or not?” Billy asked over the phone, finger close to the trigger.
“Mmm… I want him dead so bad! But—”
“Another time. I want him to enjoy a world without his precious little thief before I do him in.”
“If that’s what you want.”
Billy hung up and began to dismantle the sniper rifle. He’d have to start moving before the police showed up.
When the cops flooded the alleyway, all that was left was a stain of red. Gilgamesh had escaped—even mortally wounded.
Arthur would deliver the press conference saying that he saw Gilgamesh up close, and the chance of him surviving that kind of gunshot was… minimal. Arthur couldn’t believe Gilgamesh had ran with shattered ribs, bleeding out. If that helicopter got to him, he would have had a hell of a time pulling himself up into it. If he got into a car, maybe he’d have a chance—but… Arthur was worried. There were no responses on his phone, no snarky call-backs. If he died, Arthur didn’t know what he’d do.
But Gilgamesh’s case was shelved for the time being. He’d have to focus on other things—like who shot him in the first place.
No one in the police force had fired their weapons that evening. They couldn’t find traces of a sniper anywhere, despite their best efforts. It was clear this was an outside job, and Arthur had a guess as to who was culpable. His friends couldn’t help but notice the stress on his face, the expression of complete and utter defeat. Arthur couldn’t go up against Medb, and Interpol already had that case under their belt. Even if a part of him was calling out for revenge, there wouldn’t be any.
Arthur was done lying to himself now that Gilgamesh was gone. The thief had only done him two favors after what felt like a lifetime of trouble, but he still felt like he owed him for both. He had Gil to thank for his position and his life. All Gilgamesh wanted in return was his… love? Even Arthur thought that sounded a little ridiculous. The thief insinuated there was a deeper meaning to all this, something more than the jewels and the flirting. Arthur had no clue.
“Maybe you were lovers in a past life,” Lancelot was balancing a pencil on his finger on the next desk over, clearly bored with his work. “And the whole reason he’s claiming all of these riches is because they really belonged to him at some point in time?”
Arthur chuffed. “In that case, I want a reincarnation divorce.”
“Hey, it’s death do you part. If there’s no death, you’re stuck together.”
“I’m not the one with a secret weakness for bad romance flicks. Save that plot for a screenplay.”
Lancelot paused, sizing up his superior and sighing. Arthur was too pretty to look so stressed all the time, a sentiment he was sure he shared with Gilgamesh. “I don’t think he’s dead.”
“You didn’t see him—he was a mess…”
“Sure, he’s never been shot before, but he got away. He could just be nursing his wounds somewhere.”
“He needed a doctor.”
“Maybe he has one? You never know.”
Gilgamesh’s chest heaved as another layer of bandages was wrapped around it. He’d been in pain from heists before, but this—this felt like a god damn curse. The bullet hadn’t pierced him but the sheer shock of force had driven the diamond into his chest, leaving behind a nasty wound he was praying wouldn’t get infected. How Arthur had pried it out of him without noticing was beyond him, but at least his heart was fine.
“Nightingale, you’re a treasure worth stealing.”
“Flattery won’t lower your bill,” The nurse said sternly, snapping on another pair of rubber gloves to continue her disinfecting of the wound and checking the fractures in his ribs one more time. Bedrest was a given— any sudden movements could jostle around the ribs trying to heal. She was an underground doctor, someone who knew the human body inside and out thanks to putting mob members back together piece by piece. She charged a fortune for her services and thank god Gil had a fortune, or he’d be SOL.
“How long will you be staying?”
“Until you recover. I will prepare your meals according to what your body can take, I will routinely clean and dress your wound—as outlined in my bill. Do you think I charge by the amount of zeros at the end merely because I can? My services are valued and you’re lucky I wasn’t working for someone else when you stupidly got shot.”
“Fantastic…” He hissed. His face was unusually stoic as she redressed his wound. Every breath was an exercise in agony, but he’d live. The look of worry on Arthur’s face was still etched into his mind, but it’d be a bad idea to let him know he’d lived. As long as Medb knew he was dead, or at least presumed, he wouldn’t be a target, and he was in no condition to fight back as he was.
“Naturally, if anyone interferes with your recovery, I’ll dispose of them. Nobody dies on my watch.”
Gilgamesh glanced at the gun on her hip. She wasn’t joking.
“I suppose you’ll clean up after yourself if that happens?”
“It’s not my first time disposing of a body, if it comes to that.”
Nightingale was scary as hell. Thank god she was on Gilgamesh’s side. The nurse-slash-soldier was a literal lifesaver.
Gilgamesh mustered as much of his strength as he could to turn on the TV to Arthur’s press conference. The way his face fell when he announced that Gilgamesh’s wound didn’t look livable couldn’t be faked—he was worried about him. As enemies for such a long time, they both wanted this fight to be fair. Interference from a third party was unacceptable. Arthur’s noble demeanor was cute, and it certainly lifted his spirits to see him practically announce his death on television like that.
What would he say to him when he resurfaced?
As he bitterly winced when Nightingale finished, he supposed he had a long time to think about it.
Music for this chapter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zvIxD4FUTA
Arthur was starting to become more and more certain that Gilgamesh succumbed to his wounds and so did the rest of the world. People around the precinct could feel the glum air radiating off of him as he was forced to work routine cases. Yes, Gilgamesh was a pain in the butt and made his life a consistent routine of punishment, but Arthur meant it when he said he didn’t want him to die. At the same time, Arthur couldn’t imagine him in jail, either. It was impossible to picture him in the orange jumpsuit that would result from Arthur finally arresting him.
What did he want? To fail or succeed? Did it even matter, with Gilgamesh dead?
He supposed their adventures had to end eventually, in one way or another. Why was there a small part of him that hoped it didn’t have to end at all?
I really should book an appointment with a therapist, he thought to himself. It’s healthy, and my life has been anything but.
Even Artoria had noticed Arthur’s lowly mood, and though she couldn’t understand his attachment to Gilgamesh, she could understand he wasn’t feeling well.
“Maybe it’s time you used your vacation days,” She helpfully offered.
“I’d feel bad pushing all of the work on the guys,” He was almost done making her lunch for work. At least cooking had provided a much-needed distraction. “With or without Gilgamesh, it’s busy down there.”
“You’re not Batman. You don’t get to say ‘crime never sleeps’ and then never take time for yourself. I mean it… we’ve got enough money stored up that you can go somewhere nice without any trouble.”
Arthur considered it.
“I guess… it could take my mind off things. Why don’t you come, too?”
Artoria gave her brother a soft smile. She really suggested it for his sake but having family there might keep him from staying in his hotel room the entire time, working from his laptop. She’d been with him on vacation enough times to see him do it before, and she wasn’t about to let him do it again.
“Sure. Where to?”
“Somewhere tropical… is Hawaii too cliché?”
“Hawaii sounds great. Call in what days you can take off, I’ll go buy the tickets.”
Arthur paused. “Artoria?”
“Make it a cruise to Hawaii. I’ve had enough flying for the year.”
With silent agreement, Artoria understood why.
Thank god for his building’s private gym.
With Nightingale paid and gone, Gil had been exercising himself back into shape. Of course, it was unwise to push himself too far, but he needed his stamina back and quickly. You couldn’t be a Phantom Thief without the muscles to pull it off, after all. The scar the diamond left on his torso was gnarly, but at least he could wear it as a badge of honor of Billy the Kid’s first missed target. Finishing with his sit-ups for the day, he moved onto the much more taxing push-ups. He was idly watching the television as he did it. As news about him on the TV slowly dwindled down into a slow drip of wondering if the great thief Gilgamesh was even still alive, he was more determined than ever to make a comeback. He’d just have to be more careful about his calling cards.
The confetti was a bit much.
How long was too long to leave Arthur hanging? He might’ve moved on by now—no, he knew Arthur better than that. Arthur was the type to ridiculously worry until the end of his life if someone died on his watch. He was too loyal, even to the people he didn’t need to be loyal to, and Gil appreciated it. He wanted to make a grand re-entrance in his life as much as he wanted to make one to the world at large. With one last pushup, Gilgamesh was resolved to find a way back into his life.
“Sunscreen, extra swimwear, selfie stick—wait, where is that…?”
“Arthur, come on! The cab is here!”
Arthur would zip up his suitcase and follow his sister out of the house they’d grown accustomed to over the past half year. It might have still been a part of the protection program, but they’d made themselves a cozy home out of it. Arthur thought, with some gratitude, that he was glad to not have to worry about Medb for the next two weeks. Perhaps this vacation really was long overdue. Artoria had the brochure spread across her lap, talking about all the perks the cruise would offer and Arthur would occasionally nod and respond half-heartedly. He was too focused on watching the city speed by, wondering if Gil would make his return while he was gone. It was too much to hope for, Arthur had already accepted him as dead; but he still hoped, vaguely.
He had all the time in the world to think on his vacation, but Artoria hoped for once he might stop and just enjoy the moment. Her brother worked hard, so did she, and they both deserved this.
The cruise ship felt titanic in size, and a little Titanic in design. The spiraling staircases and golden railings all spoke to complete luxury. He could expect Artoria to book the best. The look on her face as the two of them looked around before checking in made it all the more worth it. He’d brought his laptop but was strictly forbidden to use it. This was going to be relaxing, whether Arthur liked it or not. He thought back to the heist where Gil kissed his duct-taped face while on a cruise ship, and all the implications Gilgamesh left him in Egypt.
So he’d loved him, huh? Why. Gilgamesh had no reason to like Arthur even a little for making his life harder. There was some piece of the puzzle Arthur was missing, and he had no clue what it was.
Did he know him from somewhere? ‘Gilgamesh’ was just his thief alias. What was his real name?
It didn’t matter anymore. With that in mind, Arthur felt his heart sink a little, even as Artoria took his hand and dragged him to their hotel room.
Arthur laid back on the bed as the warm sea breeze drifted in. As Artoria unpacked their clothes to stuff in the dressers underneath the TV, Arthur felt strange. This was going to be a long trip, wasn’t it? No worries, no cases, no Medb…
“I’m going for a walk.”
“Okay, but meet me at the buffet for dinner around six, okay?”
Arthur was catching glances as he walked out onto the main deck. He was never really aware of it, but he was a handsome man. With a defined body and an open white jacket, he really thought of himself as dressed for comfort rather than to show off. When he caught someone lowering their sunglasses to look at him, he felt a sheepish embarrassment creep up on him. He’d never really considered relationships with an absolute seriousness, so the obvious flirting was met with his usual, charming response. People tended to take that as flirting back, so he did his best to avoid it altogether.
‘Come on, Arthur,’ he thought to himself, holding onto the deck railing. ‘It’s not as if you were ever dating anyone.’
With Gilgamesh gone, could he finally confront the fact that he was a little attracted to him? He was handsome, he saved his life, and he had a mysterious desire for him. That was enough for the protagonists of Lancelot’s romance novels. Okay, fine. Be a little attracted to the thief you’re sworn to catch, but only if it doesn’t interfere with your job, idiot.
A shout rang out across the deck, and before Arthur knew what he was doing, he was turning away from the sunset to see what the trouble was about. An elderly woman had opened her suitcase to find a valuable piece of jewelry missing. They’d already disembarked, and she worried the thief got off the ship before she had realized it was missing. Arthur was quick to calm her down, mentioned that he was a detective off duty, and he’d be happy to help.
He didn’t realize how elated it made him feel to think a thief might be on the ship.
There was no note left behind, though. No calling card. That meant it was most likely some common criminal, but the look on the old woman’s face, having lost her memento of her precious husband, made him still quite resolved to figure out who the culprit was.
He took down a sketch of what the necklace looked like, asked her where she last left her suitcase unattended, and started his investigation.
He was down in one of the lounges where the woman had waited, taking testimony from people who’d seen her get up and leave behind her luggage. Apparently, a blond man had sat there for but a moment before standing up and walking away hurriedly, according to a little girl who’d seen it all. He thanked her and tried to make sure his heart didn’t skip any beats.
Stealing from an old woman without even using a calling card is really low, Gilgamesh, He thought to himself, not even considering that he was hyping himself up for someone who wasn’t there, who could never be there. But that one descriptor had him hoping, even if he knew he’d be wrong.
He took down a second sketch, too vague from the little girl to tell who it really was. She just mentioned he looked ‘a little bit like you’ and stared at him somewhat suspiciously. He was sure to remind her that he was a cop, and that he was here to catch bad guys. She didn’t let up.
So someone who looked like him? Arthur kept his eyes open for anyone with blond hair and a build like his, trying not to think that Gilgamesh… well, fit that description entirely, but it wasn’t his MO to steal without warning! He would announce himself, knowing that he was so good at his job he could tell the world he’d steal something and still get away with it! That’s who Gilgamesh was!
When he caught sight of someone skulking away with something glinting in their pocket, he was quick to follow. As soon as the person caught on that they were being followed, they started to run. In the sunlight, Arthur could see that they fit the description—blond, square shoulders, about his height.
Now the man had broken into a full on sprint, turning over chairs in his path so Arthur would trip, but Gilgamesh had given him too much practice. He jumped over the obstacles with ease, narrowly avoiding a waiter with a full tray of glasses, feeling his excitement build. So long off the case had left him wanting for this, for the chase, for the thrill—
As the man rounded the corner, something knocked him flat on his face. As Arthur approached, he realized…
No, this wasn’t Gilgamesh.
“Mistaking me for a common criminal, Arthur? Even you know I aim higher than tacky jewelry like this.”
That voice. The man who knocked out the runner was twirling the necklace on his fingers before handing it back to Arthur. “I did you the favor of catching your bad guy. Now will you do me a favor?”
“Not so loud, fool. Unless you want this boat to turn around back to the docks and end your vacation prematurely.”
The man Gilgamesh had laid flat had started to stand up and walk away as Arthur was too distracted dealing with Gilgamesh. At first he grabbed the front of his shirt, looking as angry as ever.
“Months and months and you don’t let anyone know you’re alive?! I thought you were—”
“You missed me.” The smug look on Gil’s face said it all, and Arthur realized he was right.
“Maybe I did… but—how did you know I’d be--”
“Can we just say it’s a lucky happenstance and leave it at that?”
“No! Did you hack my email? My phone?”
“While both would be incredibly simple, no… Arthur.” Saying his name got his attention quickly.
“Do you still not remember? I hoped these past few months would’ve given you time to reflect on me.”
Gilgamesh started to walk away, motioning for Arthur to follow. “What do you mean, ‘do I not remember’? What’s there to remember? You were dying, you got shot, you—”
“Lived. Naturally.” Gilgamesh said it like he was shrugging it off completely, like a bullet to the chest had been no more of a problem than Arthur had been. Arthur could see the scar on the inside of his open shirt and knew better. He had to take time to recover—why did Arthur expect him to contact him? He was a criminal, knowing that he was down and out would have been a risky move for him. Still, he pressed on.
“You can’t just talk in riddles. What am I supposed to remember?”
“I can’t believe you chase me with such dedication and still don’t recall.” Gilgamesh was sounding a little annoyed and a bit… sad? Arthur had never heard that in his voice before, a saudade-esque melancholy that seemed to know something Arthur didn’t.
“… Gilgamesh. I… missed you.”
“I know I shouldn’t. I know you’re a thief, but my life is somehow bleaker without you.”
There it was, that signature Pendragon charm that spoke from the heart. Gilgamesh was as weak to it as anyone else. He cleared his throat, gesturing to the necklace.
“Go return that to the old woman. Then, I want you to meet me on the deck back here.”
“I’ll give you until the end of this trip, Arthur, to figure out what you’re not remembering. Now go.”
Resolved to the fact that he’d be spending a vacation with Gilgamesh on the same boat, on the same island, Arthur left, believing that he’d keep his word and stay there.
“You’re talking like we have some kind of past together…” Arthur’s arms stretched over the railing. “Beyond what we already have, I mean.”
Gilgamesh rolled his eyes, hoping that much was at least obvious. “You really don’t remember me?”
“I’m… not sure what I’m supposed to be remembering.”
Gilgamesh sighed. This really was pointless, wasn’t it? He looked at Arthur, in all his pristine glory, the hero of the hour after delivering the old woman her necklace. Yet it was just another case for him, another day, another… something. Even when he was supposed to be relaxing, he’d rather be working. That kind of lifestyle was unhealthy, but Gilgamesh knew Arthur couldn’t live any other way.
“I said I’d give you time to remember, and I will. Just… think back to when you were younger.”
“I’m not giving you hints.”
“Mongrel.” Gilgamesh sneered back, but his mischievousness and melancholy were intermixed. Arthur could tell whatever he’d done in forgetting, it really meant a lot to him. “You missed me?”
“Of course… I know I shouldn’t, but the thought of you dead or in jail makes me feel…”
“…” Arthur wasn’t sure how to answer. If he wasn’t actively trying to catch Gilgamesh, he was almost certainly an accomplice to letting him get away, and he didn’t want that.
“I can take care of myself, Arthur.”
“That’s a lonely life, though, isn’t it?”
“Whatever do you mean? I get what I want, and the notoriety and respect of my peers. I couldn’t ask for a better life.”
“Don’t you want… more?”
“That’s the point. I always want more.” Gilgamesh deadpanned.
“No, more out of life than sticking to the shadows…” Arthur glanced down, unsure how to word this. “A life where you could fully be yourself, with no consequences. No threat of being caught.”
“Sounds awfully boring!”
“I think you’re lying. I think you do want more.”
Why else would he be so dedicated to making Arthur see something he couldn’t see?
Arthur moved closer to him on the railing, so that their shoulders were touching. He couldn’t explain it, he just wanted to feel that he was back, in the flesh. What surprised him was Gilgamesh putting his arm around his shoulders. He lifted his gaze towards the man next to him, curious.
“This would almost be enough.” Gil said quietly.
Arthur didn’t say anything in response, didn’t pull away, didn’t know what to say. He was deep in thought, trying to remember Gilgamesh from a point in time where they weren’t enemies. Whatever Gilgamesh wanted him to remember, but he couldn’t.
“Come back to my room, Arthur.”
“Are you suddenly embarrassed? You’re letting me hold you.”
“You’re too fast—besides, I don’t even feel that wa—”
“Your mind is in the gutter,” Gilgamesh laughed. “I want to show you something.”
If he wanted that much, Arthur supposed he could agree to it. He couldn’t properly arrest him on the ship, as it was. He was going to take as much of Gilgamesh’s time as he could.
Gil’s room was one of the nicer ones, a single king-sized bed in a full suite. Arthur felt sheepish for assuming Gil had other intentions. He watched quietly as Gil rooted around his suitcase before pulling up a little paper envelope with something inside.
“Here,” He said simply. “Open it.”
Inside was the Starlight Diamond, cracked and ruined. Arthur remembered it as if it were yesterday.
“I want you to have it, even if it’s worthless now.”
“I can’t keep it, it’s priceless even broken!”
“So selfless…” Gilgamesh chuckled before sitting down next to him on the bed. “What’s wrong with keeping something for yourself? Insurance has probably paid out to the owners already. They don’t need it back.”
“What’s your name? Really?”
“As if I’d give away a secret that important! Besides, Arthur. It’s in your head already, somewhere.”
“! Then we do know each other--!”
“What else would I have been insinuating?”
Arthur would have to dig deep, really deep, to figure out what Gilgamesh meant. He had two weeks to find out, and he wouldn’t squander it.
“… can we keep meeting?” Arthur asked, quietly.
“You’re starting to enjoy my company?”
“It’s…” Arthur couldn’t bring himself to lie. “It’s just good to know you’re okay.”
It put a smile on Gilgamesh’s face, but it still had that same air of sadness. Arthur didn’t want to be the source of that, even if this was his rival. He put the diamond in his pocket, resolving to return it to the owners—he couldn’t just keep it, after all. The two sat comfortably in one another’s presence before Arthur excused himself back to his hotel room to get an earful from Artoria for missing what was an absolutely amazing buffet. Arthur reassured her he’d be there the next evening.
It made him nervous to hold the diamond beneath his pillow as he tried to sleep, like it was something forbidden to touch. Something that was once so valuable, but now shattered.
Why did that feel familiar?
Please forgive me for whatever I do, when I don't remember you.
It would be a day and a half before they reached Hawaii. Arthur realized he’d have to precariously balance his time between Artoria and Gilgamesh. If she found out he was here, she’d absolutely throw him off the side of the ship. Thank god Artoria didn’t know what he looked like, though—perhaps he should think of a code name?
Keeping the diamond in his front shirt pocket like loaded cargo, Arthur was sitting by the poolside watching Artoria swim laps and half-heartedly keeping an eye on his book. He’d picked up a novel under Lancelot’s pseudonym when they were waiting in the lobby, and it hadn’t caught his attention yet. Lancelot was a great writer, but he limited himself to bodice rippers and stories about tenderly aching for someone against all odds, and Arthur couldn’t relate as well as he should’ve. He jolted when someone put something ice cold to his cheek.
“My name is Bill.”
Arthur looked at him as if to say ‘really? That’s what you’re going with—’ and Gilgamesh just handed him the crimson red drink with an umbrella floating on top. The thief took the seat next to him as if nothing was the matter, sipping his own cosmopolitan under the warm sunlight. With sunglasses on, it was hard to recognize him, but Arthur knew who it was right away.
“No. I still don’t know what…”
“You have time, still.” Gilgamesh responded in a frank tone, like the clock was ticking and he was growing impatient. Arthur felt like he was at the center of an interrogation and he couldn’t remember all the fuzzy details. So he knew Gilgamesh—from where, and why was it so important to him? He prided himself on his good memory but if Gilgamesh was going by another name and looked different back then, how could he link him to the one standing here, in the flesh? It didn’t make any sense.
“Want to go swimming?”
“No… it’ll mess up my hair, but I’d love to watch you swim.” Arthur’s cheeks burned at that remark, remembering he was wearing the same open jacket as yesterday. As if to say ‘fine’, Arthur shrugged it off of his shoulders and tossed it on the chair before jumping into the pool. Gil didn’t even flinch when the splash hit his legs, though he did lower his sunglasses to watch him, as promised.
Artoria, thrilled to have him in the water, immediately tried to dunk him by wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pushing him down, but Arthur was too solidly built to go down without a fight. Gilgamesh pretended to read the newspaper as he watched the Pendragon twins duke it out. It had been a sunny day like this, hadn’t it? But there were no beaches, only the muddy shores of a nearby river that was so clean it ran clear against its banks. He remembered the mosquito bites and catching tiny, silver fish with his bare hands as easily as he remembered any heist.
Back when he met Arthur Pendragon the first time.
Blond hair. Green eyes. Gilgamesh had hated them before he met Arthur.
That was the appearance of the Senator who adopted him from the foster system. Gilgamesh was a corner of his campaign, proof that the good Senator had angled to support the fostering system in his run (he would go on to break petty promises like that, though). Gilgamesh had no birth father or mother to speak of, only a photograph and a few family trinkets. He was somewhat resented as the youngest child of two related-to-Father-by-birth elder siblings. He was told to smile and wave and look like he was happy, damn it, or he wouldn’t eat that night. It was in that time of his life that Gilgamesh realized he wanted to get back at the people who treated him like dirt.
Yacht outings, red carpet parties, Gilgamesh loathed the display of people who had everything and didn’t care that they had it.
He was ushered into a world of wealth but nothing was truly free.
The lush mansion garden lead down to a river behind the house, and Gilgamesh would spend his time there to get away from people telling him what to do and how to act. It was there he met the second blond-haired, green eyed person who’d change his life. Just a preteen reading comics across the river. Those were banned in his household. Rotted the mind. Arthur didn’t mind sharing once they got to know each other.
“So what was with…”
“? Out with it, Pendragon.”
“… you were teasing me by asking me to marry you. What the hell was that all about?” Arthur was toweling himself off on the deck chair next to him as Artoria went to get food from a nearby table. He was going to use this moment to themselves to clear up this mystery once and for all.
“Oh.” Gilgamesh crossed his arms, wondering how to treat this question. “… It was a good way to get under your skin, that’s all.”
“Unless you’re accepting my proposal now…” Gilgamesh leaned over, resting his chin on his hand.
“I wouldn’t dream of it.” Arthur abruptly ended Gilgamesh’s free show by pulling a shirt over his torso. A pity, Gilgamesh was really enjoying that, too. Artoria came back with three drinks for all of them and a sizable burger for herself. Arthur snatched one of her French fries before she could swat his hand. Gilgamesh couldn’t help but admire Artoria’s form—if it had been her on the banks of the river and not Arthur, fate might have changed his mind on which Pendragon twin to pursue. She was beautiful, but she was not his. That royal privilege belonged to Arthur.
There was a question weighing on Arthur’s mind that he had to confront sooner or later; was Gilgamesh actually attracted to him, or was much of this a game? Arthur… admitted to himself that Gil was pretty, sure, but he didn’t know how much of this was Gil messing with him. Gil thought the answer was clear as day and Arthur had to be overthinking every small step, but naturally, neither could read minds.
Artoria was the first to say something that surprised both of them.
“Bill, you look familiar…”
Arthur’s head turned so quickly it felt like whiplash. “He does?!”
“You don’t forget eyes like that.” She took an enormous bite of her burger and tried to think. “Maybe before we moved from Camelot Boulevard?”
“That was ages ago, Artoria…” But the hint got Arthur’s mind working in the right direction. Gilgamesh looked at him expectantly, like he expected some sort of revelation from him. It didn’t come. “Besides, it was just you and me back the—”
Arthur paused, remembering a boy by the banks of the stream that ran through their backyard. But no, that couldn’t be Gilgamesh. They were barely teenagers, and he never spoke to that guy again. What was his name, anyway?
Gilgamesh was now staring hard at Arthur, seemingly angry. Suddenly, he stood up from his chair.
“I’ll see you two later. Arthur, you know where my room is.”
Artoria watched him walk off in a huff. “Are you two—”
“No!” Arthur exclaimed. “No, we’re just friends.”
Arthur was like sunshine.
Gilgamesh didn’t bother disappointing his foster father by telling him he was bisexual until it was time to leave the family and give him the biggest middle finger as a parting gift. By then, Gilgamesh was an accomplished and clever grifter—he had his family pay for his college, his trips, and even his training to become a proper thief (not that they’d ever know) by blackmailing the Senator over some oily misdeed he’d let slip out at dinnertime. If this family didn’t like him, he’d mistreat them back. It wasn’t like they could send him back into foster care without it tarnishing his legacy.
The point was, Gilgamesh liked boys and girls and Arthur was probably the highlight of every day.
When the water was low enough, Gilgamesh would cross the creek to sit on Arthur’s side of it. Arthur had a plethora of comic books, and he especially loved the ones about thieves. Robin Hood issues 1-45 were all his, and Gilgamesh spent an entire afternoon pouring over all of them. He also had a few on classier thieves, ones who wore top hats and suits and plucked gems out of the hands of the rich for their own, mysterious purposes. They had mansions and butlers and were basically the kings of thieves. Gilgamesh already fantasized about a way to get back at the rich, it was in his youth that the idea was burned into his head.
But the real treat, more than the books, was Arthur.
Arthur remembered his Birthday in the summer months and brought him cupcakes he made himself when Gilgamesh’s adoptive family didn’t care or bother. He listened to him rant and ramble about how much he hated them with a kind ear. Gilgamesh knew he liked him early on, but Arthur felt too… typical to tell.
By the time Artoria started joining them to play in the creek, they were thick as thieves. That’s why it was such a pain that Arthur couldn’t remember. How could he not treasure this as much as Gilgamesh had?
“You would be a great thief,” Arthur said, finally. “You’re smart enough and cool enough….”
“I wouldn’t just be a great thief, I’d be THE great thief.” Gilgamesh let another fish swim by his fingers in the water. This was a daydream the two of them entertained from now and then. They talked about how he’d have to train like Batman to be strong and clever enough, and how he’d have to learn so much stuff about the underground.
“I bet I could catch you, though.”
“Yeah, right! You’d just be a big nerd, tripping over yourself like Zenigata.”
“Hell no! I’d bring you in the first time.”
“…” Arthur paused. “… I’d… probably not. I would want to see you get away with it. You’d be stealing from the rich to give to the poor, right?”
Gilgamesh grinned. “No way.”
“… well, why not?!”
“I want to keep it. Why steal in the first place otherwise?”
“I guess it’d be hard to sell a big jewel on the black market right after it goes missing.”
“See? Exactly my point.”
“… if you do become a cool thief, I promise I’ll be there to watch your heists.”
“Yeah. You gotta have fans if you’re a phantom thief!”
Gilgamesh said nothing as the words etched themselves on his heart.
This was how his summers were supposed to go. Just the three of them, away from their parents and goofing off.
One day, Arthur stopped coming back to the creek. When Gil saw Artoria last, she was standing at the edge of it in a black dress.
“Mom and Dad are gone,” She told him. “Arthur… he’s really…”
“Can I see him?” He tried to keep the desperation out of his voice.
“We have to go live with our Aunt Morgan. The funeral is today…”
“Tell him to come back!” Gilgamesh demanded. “He can’t just leave!”
“I’m sorry…” Artoria began to cry, and Gilgamesh pushed past her to go up to the house. The woman who met him at the door slammed it in his face when he asked for Arthur.
He never saw him again after that.
Or, that’s what Gilgamesh thought.
As he was making his way through business school, he stopped by the police academy for a school report. On the training grounds, he recognized someone.
Blond hair, green eyes. The kind he didn’t hate.
He tried to get his attention, but Arthur didn’t notice him, didn’t seem to recognize him. With a bitter realization, he’d realized he lost his first best friend. And now he’s a cop, too! So much for catching him, so much for—
… had he never let go of his dream of becoming a thief?
He’d realized just then it’d been a subconscious plan this entire time. He was plotting around his school schedules, stealing meaningless things from offices just to practice his sleight of hand. He kept up to date on valuable things and when they moved in and out of the city. He’d never let go of his dream. It just seemed so fantastical that it wasn’t worth pursuing. … but now that Arthur was a cop, part of his dream could come true.
… Who told Gilgamesh what he could and couldn’t do?
He already had connections through his foster father. He knew someone who could teach him. He’d even had a code name in mind. AUO. He was unnaturally attached to the Epic of Gilgamesh, and Eiyuu Ou sounded like King of Heroes. It might not be perfect, but it was a good name to start with, and even after all this time he’d been planning a logo…
With Arthur in the police academy, Gilgamesh resolved to drop his classes.
He’d become a world class thief, if only to make Arthur remember his promise that he would.
“Friends…” Arthur repeated, thinking back to their childhood home, the one that he and Artoria had to abandon in police protection. There was a creek that ran through the back of it, and Arthur had spent a lot of his summers wading in it, and there was someone from the house across the backyard—
Who liked his Robin Hood comics a lot.
That… that couldn’t be it. That was so long ago! Right before his parents died! The trauma of the incident had left his memory of the time fuzzy. There was just no way that the kid across the stream was Gilgamesh. He remembered this kid hated the rich like they were gods on pedestals he couldn’t reach and wanted to knock down. He’d talk about it hours and hours on end.
Arthur felt like a fool.
Getting up from his seat, he hurried down the hallways and deck, even though it wasn’t like Gilgamesh was going anywhere. He just—this was his only lead, and Artoria had sparked it in his mind. If Gilgamesh wasn’t the kid he knew so long ago… he was out of leads. He would have no clue what he wanted out of him if that were the case. Knocking on his room door, Arthur began to speak.
“Did you live across from me?”
“Did you borrow my comics, did you talk to me about how you hated rich people and wanted to take back from them to ruin their lives?”
“… did I promise you I would watch you someday?”
Gilgamesh opened the door a crack, leering out the small slit.
“… And you had to become the cop assigned to my case.” He huffed. “Not that I’d have anyone else catch me.”
“Gilgamesh, please open the door.” Arthur asked, softly.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Gil opened the door and suddenly looked sullen before Arthur. He looked less like a thief carrying himself as a king and more as a human who had kept a secret for so long it had bore down on him like a weight. Arthur’s feelings were complicated, but he remembered those warm, sunny days in full now, like a fog had been lifted. He recognized those red eyes now.
“I abandoned that name a long time ago, don’t call me that.”
“Gilgamesh…” Arthur said softly. Unsure of himself but moving all the same, Arthur caught him in a hug. It took the would-be king by surprise, expecting Arthur to do something else, to ask him why he turned to a life of crime just because they joked about it as kids, but Arthur sensed the words that Gilgamesh needed to hear.
“I abandoned you to be alone again,” He said, quietly. “I’m sorry.”
At that, Gilgamesh clapped his hands around his back, leaning his forehead on his shoulder.
The third voice came from nowhere, as well as the sound of someone’s purse clattering to the ground.
“GILGAMESH?!” Artoria practically screamed as she looked at the two in an embrace. She pried them apart and grabbed Gil by the shirt and pressed him against the wall. Her grip was surprisingly strong, Gil noted as he was immediately threatened.
“You— You were that boy! AND YOU ACTUALLY DID IT?” She rattled him against the wall. “YOU ACTUALLY BECAME A—”
Arthur clapped a hand over her mouth. “Please? Not so loud!”
Artoria was indignantly muffled against Arthur’s hand, prompting her to let go of the thief. The moment he moved his hand though, she was right up in Gilgamesh’s face again, pointing at him and growling.
“What kind of man becomes a thief because of comic books?! You idiot! We were friends!”
“It was because of Arthur, actually, the books were just inspiration—”
“WHAT KIND OF A MAN BECOMES A THIEF BECAUSE HE LIKES ANOTHER MAN?”
With Artoria putting it out in the open, Arthur sputtered and Gilgamesh just looked smugly back at her, as if to say ‘this guy, right here’.
“Can we talk about this inside the cabin?” Arthur offered hopefully. His own feelings were still mixed—he couldn’t help but feel betrayed by Gilgamesh, having been lead astray by him all these years and teased and mocked, just because he liked him—but knowing he was the reason Gilgamesh was a thief all along further complicated those feelings. Artoria glared at both of them and stepped inside Gil’s room, sitting on the bed as if to say ‘I want a good goddamn explanation for all of this, and you’re going to give it’, and then, looking to Arthur as if to say ‘If you knew he was Gilgamesh this entire time, I’m going to have your head.’
Arthur followed Gilgamesh back in, and the three would have to talk it out.
It took considerable effort to convince Artoria not to call the police. She wasn’t like Arthur—she was not so ready to forgive Gilgamesh for the torment he put her brother through just because he wanted revenge for his childhood and also to lead Arthur in a game he’d been dreaming of since they were kids, and neither was Arthur. To Arthur, it felt like a poor excuse, but then again, he didn’t understand Gilgamesh’s pain, he could only bring it back in small memories of their conversations.
But he did understand Gilgamesh to this degree—the man was determined and unstoppable. If something got into his mind, he would train until he was able to do it, and when he was able to do it, he would do it, consequences be damned.
If that’s who Gilgamesh was all along, Arthur could understand. Artoria’s scolding and threats were well merited, though. Gilgamesh seemed to enjoy them, as if reliving an old, pleasant memory.
When she’d exhausted herself, she put two fingers to her eyes and then pointed at Gilgamesh, as if to say ‘I’m watching you’, then retired to her room. It was just the two of them now.
“You weren’t joking about your crush, then?”
Gilgamesh didn’t answer.
“… you put me through a lot of pain, Gil. It was fun for a while and it was a thrill for you, I’m sure, but I had to suffer the consequences of losing to you. Of not catching you when it was my job. I have a lot to think about, but—”
Gil looked up.
“… I won’t turn you in. Not until you commit another crime but mark my words—we’re still on the opposite ends of the law. I’m honor-bound to stop you.”
Gilgamesh looked like he’d been expecting something else, but Arthur was as reliably himself as ever. He nodded, in that melancholy way.
“Got it. But… Arthur?”
“Stay for a while. Hearing the water outside and seeing you here, it feels like home.”
Arthur could at least grant him that much.
Now their lives were intertangled in more ways than one, and Arthur couldn’t help but wish it were so much simpler.
Hawaii was beautiful. They had arrived at sunset and would be there for the next five days. For a while, Arthur didn’t see Gilgamesh. He assumed the revelation had left him a bit distant, as if he didn’t know what to do with Arthur now that he knew his secret. No more were the coy games they could play as thief and detective; it was now a matter of taking responsibility for the past and moving on with the future, whatever it may have in store for them.
Artoria was furious. Furious that her brother wanted to be so lenient on Gil, that she had played a part too in all of this, but she was remarkably calm talking to Arthur about his guilt. They were all lonely children once, and that was how they bonded and that’s how it came to today. They couldn’t help what Gilgamesh had decided to do with his life, no ordinary person would make the jump to ‘international thief’ based on a childhood dream. Arthur was guiltless, but that didn’t truly reassure him. Besides, he felt for Gilgamesh. As his memories came back to him, he wondered if there was anything he could really do about him… maybe convince him to give this all up?
The hotel they were staying at had a pink exterior right on the coast. Artoria promised Arthur, and made him promise in return, that they would do nothing but relax the entire time they were there. They needed it, damn it. Arthur couldn’t afford to waste his vacation stressing out about Gilgamesh’s various involvements in their lives. Arthur agreed, up to a point.
Now, things were magnetic between him and Gilgamesh. He found himself drawn to him just to talk to him and hear him out, to wonder what he had to say for himself and if he’d truly make a change now that Arthur remembered him. Now he didn’t have to steal anymore, right…? Arthur acknowledged him. He acknowledged the reason they were so intrinsically linked at all. That meant they could move on, right?
It was not so easy.
First, was the fact that Gilgamesh was now transparently in love with him, and he did nothing at all to hide it.
He would lean on Arthur’s doorway, waiting for him to get dressed after Artoria had already left. He would follow him out to the beach and keep talking to him as Arthur relaxed beneath an umbrella, skin beginning to freckle in the sunlight. Arthur never realized how desolate it was for Gilgamesh growing up. He’d been a light shining in the dark that was a loveless family and a bleak future. Gilgamesh learned to survive and survive it well by becoming just as bad as them, but Arthur had helped him retain not goodness, but humanity.
“It’s going to be a long trip home…” Arthur said, finally giving up on his book and stretching out on the chair.
“It doesn’t have to be. We could spend some time together…”
“Things are still too complicated, Gilgamesh. I can’t just forget everything you’ve ever done—” He paused. “And the things you’ve still stolen that are in your possession.”
“Arthur. Are you really meaning to tell me you don’t feel anything for me?”
Arthur couldn’t tell if his cheeks were burning in the sunlight or something else, but he knew the answer deep down. “It’s… complicated.”
“Thank god I have something to put on my Facebook relationship status, then.”
“I do know one thing, though…”
Arthur sat up to look him square in the face, and Gilgamesh looked back unflinchingly.
“I’m never going to let you live down the fact that you’ve taken the fake name ‘Gilbert’ for your day job.”
Was it one of the rare times he’d catch Gilgamesh laughing genuinely, not haughtily down at Arthur as he made away with another painting or rare jewel? “By all means. I don’t aim for subtlety, Arthur.”
“If I had known, I would’ve arrested you sooner on suspicion.”
“Back when we danced at that masquerade. You were flirting with me pretty heavily.”
Oh. Arthur looked aside. “I… guess. ‘Red’ was charming. I also don’t have good luck with women, so—”
“You prefer men?”
“If you’re any indication, I don’t have good luck with men either.”
“I’m hurt!” But by Gilgamesh’s tone of voice, he was chuckling along with that, too. “But the thing is, you liked what I was offering, true?”
“Maybe…” Arthur wasn’t going to give in so easily, though. How many times had he had to work in the records room because Gilgamesh had outfoxed him yet again? It was a very complicated feeling to deal with, to have such access to your rival now and to finally understand him, but still hold him very accountable for all the raw bullshit he put you through. Gilgamesh didn’t even seem very sorry for it, he just expected Arthur to fall into his arms, like their unresolved sexual tension had been leading to this very moment.
Sorry, Gilgamesh. It wasn’t going to work that way.
“Regardless of what you were offering, it was still an offer coming from a thief.”
“…” Gilgamesh went quiet at that. So after everything, Arthur viewed him as a thief and as a thief only, huh? “I saved your life, you know.”
“And I’m grateful for that every day. But if the price to pay for that is to—is to fall head over heels for you—”
“Arthur, it’s not just—"
“No, Gilgamesh. I’m sorry I abandoned you. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there to prevent you from making such a reckless decision. I should’ve written back. But that doesn’t mean everything is said and done.”
“You got my letters?”
“I think I did—sorry, everything before and after my parents died is still hazy…”
Gilgamesh crossed his arms and looked away from Arthur. This sucked—it wasn’t going anywhere near as well as he’d have hoped. He hoped to seduce Arthur away from his badge and remind him who he belonged to after all these years. He thought their rivalry meant more to Arthur than a pain in his backside. Arthur was sorry for the fact that he wasn’t involved in his life, but that wasn’t enough. He had to be invested in the two of them. He wasn’t content with Arthur just saying ‘It’s not going to work like that’ and calling it quits.
Arthur was at an impasse, too. Gilgamesh wasn’t recognizing his literal, actual crimes as a problem in between the two of them, as something that caused Arthur suffering throughout the years. He wanted to believe that Arthur understanding him was all well and good enough for the two of them, and that nothing would stop their continued flirting. In truth, it had made Arthur angrier—why had he not reached out sooner, before he became a thief? Then things between them might have changed. He even might have…
“Gilgamesh. Thank you for saving my life, I mean it. Thank you for being my friend, all those years ago.”
As egotistical as he was, Gilgamesh couldn’t help but perk up at those words. Perhaps they were finally getting somewhere…?
“But you need to grow up.”
What Arthur had said was a slap in the face. After everything they’d been through…! Arthur still thought Gilgamesh was only a thief for childish reasons, not because of Arthur himself. He failed to see that that, in itself, was a childish reason. It still hurt though, bitterly, and Gilgamesh got up from his seat on the chair next to him.
“You push people away, Arthur. You do it out of this sense of justice you have engrained in your mind, but you never truly pick the people you care about over what you think is right. It’s selfish of you. Never forget that.”
Arthur felt himself regretting his words as Gilgamesh started walking away, apparently fuming for being told he needed to outgrow his dream-made-reality of being a thief. Hadn’t he done this for Arthur’s sake? Why was he so ungrateful? Arthur had faith he would change, but he was failing to see within himself the halfway point he needed to meet him at.
He sighed. If Gilgamesh didn’t vanish into the rest of Hawaii, he’d have to seek him out and try to reason with him.
Arthur knocked on his hotel door.
“I just want to talk to you about earlier…”
Even more silence. Arthur twisted the doorknob to find it unlocked. Gilgamesh must have unlocked it from the inside, as hotel rooms tended to lock on closing.
He was sitting at the end of his bed, pensively watching a television show on his own criminal escapades. Even here in Hawaii, huh? Arthur sat down next to him, rewatching the press conference that he’d given months ago. The pang of Gilgamesh having almost died hit him in his heart. He wondered if his recovery had been leading up to this point.
“How did you make it out of there alive…?” Arthur finally asked.
“A true artisan never reveals his secrets,” Gilgamesh responded coolly. “But I managed to contact a nurse who works with the underground trade. She monitored my health until I fully recovered.”
Gilgamesh pulled aside his shirt where the scar was brazenly on display—it was truly nasty even healed over, a mark on an otherwise perfect body. Arthur could feel the shattered diamond in his pocket and wondered how he managed to pull it out of his body when the bullet had forced it in. Perhaps he should’ve left it in… but Gilgamesh was safe and sound as it were.
“I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Are you?” Gilgamesh scoffed. “You were going to send for an ambulance. Have me arrested.”
“… if it’s any consolation, I’m glad I didn’t before we had this talk.”
“Before?” Gilgamesh asked. “You still intend to arrest me?”
“Do you still intend to steal?”
“Naturally! I’m at the top of my game. The world is due for my comeback, and—”
“Medb will just try to have you killed again.”
Something about the somber note in Arthur’s voice caught his attention. He was worried for his wellbeing, after all. Well, good! He should be. But he shouldn’t be worried about it happening again. Gilgamesh never let the same mistake get him twice, and—
“Gilgamesh, I want you to retire while it’s safe. The world thinks you’re dead, there’s literally never been a better opportunity than right now. Please. I do care about you, to the point where I don’t want to see you hurt, so please… stop.”
“That’s one thing I can’t do.”
The resolve in Gilgamesh’s voice was firm. This went beyond his promise to Arthur as children. He still held a deep resentment for the elite despite being a part of them, thinking of them as the uncaring gods to the rest of humanity. Someone had to make sure they were always on their toes, someone had to call their blunders and steal their wealth for himself, for all things truly belonged to him. He was the King of Heroes! He was—
“I guess our working relationship will never change.”
It was a bitter, final realization. Gilgamesh had wanted him and wanted him for so long, but Arthur still couldn’t see the fact that he didn’t prize his own selfishness over what was right. He intended to catch Gilgamesh and Gilgamesh intended to continue to steal. Arthur’s heart was full of mixed feelings—this was someone he was attracted to, someone he understood better than anyone else in the world, but he couldn’t just ignore it, no matter what his reasoning was. He was honor bound.
At that, Gilgamesh didn’t see any reason to stay any longer. He picked up his luggage and headed for the door.
“I’ll be catching the next flight to California.” He said, calmly, as if this hadn’t gone as disastrously as it did. “When you get back, I’ll have a calling card prepared. Don’t you dare go easy on me, Pendragon. Not with what you’ve declared.”
With that, he was gone.
Arthur couldn’t help but feel like he made a mistake.
Holding the cracked diamond between his fingers, the rest of his trip went by in relative peace. He could dedicate all his time to playing and spending time with Artoria. It had lifted his spirits, but not enough that he could truly relax. He’d squandered his opportunity one on one with Gilgamesh. If only he could have convinced him to quit! He supposed he really did try, and gave the best argument possible, but Gilgamesh wasn’t having it. By the time they got back to the port in California, and Arthur would be beginning work the next day, he felt as uneasy as ever. So much for the trip clearing his mind… it seemed Gilgamesh followed him wherever he went, both literally and metaphorically.
His next day on the job, he hadn’t returned the diamond yet. It was still beneath his pillow back home. He’d become attached to it, like it was a link to an old friend, and he knew he’d have to turn it in sometime, but not now. Everyone said he looked relaxed, but it was a good front that Arthur was putting up. Only his closest friends could tell something was amiss.
“Did the vacation go alright?” Lancelot asked, worriedly.
“Yeah! Yeah, it was… fine.”
“People don’t usually pause before they say ‘fine’. What’s up?”
“I just met an old friend and we had a falling out, that was all.”
“Oof. Hang in there. There’s a lot of work for you to get back to.”
At last, something Arthur could focus on. In the enormous ‘in’ basket of things to do, the very first thing was a letter stamped with a wax seal, as if no one who’d placed it there realized that was really conspicuous. He sighed, knowing exactly what he was in for. It was a short message Arthur quickly deciphered to be about Egyptian jewelry coming in on tour into their city. This was going to be a high profile case, but if he announced it to the public… Medb would know.
“We’ve got another Gilgamesh case on our hands,” He announced loudly as other officers began to crowd his desk. ‘He’s alive?’ ‘No way!’ People expected more shock and surprise on Arthur’s face, but frankly, he couldn’t muster it. Besides, no one had any way of telling he’d met Gilgamesh on his vacation anyway.
It was time to stake out the museum.
This time, Diarmuid had been assigned to the case along with him. Several officers were patrolling the area, some with guns, which made Arthur’s heart sink. He wondered if Gilgamesh would even make an appearance to Arthur that evening, if he was still angry with him. God, did he even want to catch Gilgamesh anymore? His heart wasn’t in this. All he could think about was how he’d betrayed a friend, one who risked his life for him, one who clearly felt for him.
“Are you okay, Arthur…? You seem out of it.” Diarmuid asked.
“I’m fine. I’ll be fine. We’re going to get him tonight. He may be handicapped from the last heist, after all.” He lied.
“If you say so.”
Tonight, Gilgamesh was going to get his target with a renewed tenacity. He planned out every distraction, every diversion, and he planted all the technology he needed at the scene of the crime. He was going to rob this museum for all it was worth, and he dared Arthur to catch him this time. When the time came, he’d sent the police in a frenzy over the sound of his voice, people climbing up the museum stairways and the sound of breaking glass. It was just enough chaos to get away with it. Just enough chaos to grab a necklace belonging to an Egyptian queen from the B.C.s and stuff it into his pocket with little ceremony.
Arthur was running, running to the most likely escape point. He’d cased this building inside and out, and he knew for sure what route Gilgamesh would take. There were no helicopters hidden around the nearby buildings this time. He’d have to run on foot to his getaway car. With his handcuffs jingling on the side of his hips, his hunch had been right—he caught Gilgamesh fleeing at the exact scene of escape, and if he’d moved to tackle him, he’d be sure to finally—finally catch the Great Thief Gilgamesh.
Arthur simply froze.
Gilgamesh had stopped too, not hearing any other officers come down the alley yet. He looked at him as if to say ‘what are you doing? Why aren’t you chasing me?’ and Arthur couldn’t seem to bring himself to move at all.
When Diarmuid came running after Arthur, Gilgamesh made a speedy getaway, his opportunity long since passed. “Where did he go?!”
Arthur paused, before pointing in the opposite direction of the one Gilgamesh ran. “I saw a man in his description go that way. Hurry! I’ll check out this alleyway just in case.”
Arthur watched as Diarmuid ran before walking quietly down the alley that Gilgamesh ran down. He could see him getting into his getaway car and the two exchanged looks as he did so. Gilgamesh, one of surprise, and Arthur, one almost devoid of anything. It was as if he’d blanked out entirely.
The car sped off into the night before Arthur finally radioed that he’d seen a suspicious vehicle, but he knew Gil and his accomplices would be gone before anyone could catch them.
“This is a surprise…” Fionn said, leaning back in his chair in his office. “You get promoted and you’re quitting on me.”
Arthur had handed in his badge.
If he couldn’t catch Gilgamesh, if he couldn’t devote himself one hundred percent and fully to the task, then he didn’t deserve to wear it. Of course, he’d omit several reasons why to Fionn, but he was done. He barely wanted to put the last two weeks in. Not to mention the press would be covering the fact that Arthur was quitting, and he’d hardly get a moment’s peace.
“I’m sorry sir. I’ve just realized that someone else is more suited to the task.”
“While you do have a long history of failures…” Fionn never neglected to mention it. “You were the only man who ever got close. Very well, Pendragon. Dismissed. Clean out your desk and go.”
It was a quiet rest of the day, with Arthur’s coworkers wondering just what he was going to do from now on, or how they’d manage their jobs without him. Arthur couldn’t answer them honestly about why he’d quit. Maybe the failures had just gotten to him? Diarmuid could tell there was something more. Something about the way he’d directed him that night that felt off.
He didn’t ask about it, though. He merely helped Arthur pack his things and bring them to the car.
Though they’d inherited a sizable fortune from their parents, Arthur still needed to look for a job. He was browsing listings for low stress security gigs when he heard a knock at his window.
“You could use the front door, you know. Artoria knows who you are now.”
It didn’t stop Gilgamesh from opening it and slipping in as sleekly as a cat. Arthur set aside his phone.
Now they could finally hash it out.
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We're on the same side now, aren't we?
Gilgamesh couldn’t believe Arthur.
All that talk about upholding justice and he couldn’t even uphold his damn job.
“You quit for me?” He asked, incredulously.
“I quit because of you,” Arthur responded firmly. “There’s no point in holding a job if I can’t be held accountable for the one descriptor I’m responsible for. Our rivalry is over, Gilgamesh.”
All of that fight, all of that arguing… and this is how it ended? Gilgamesh couldn’t help but be disappointed, even knowing his end goal was to get Arthur to retire. He’d hoped they’d have a last few heists together, letting Arthur get so tantalizingly close, but… Arthur was loyal. So very loyal. So much that the reminder of an old friendship made it hard for him to put his all into fighting for the sake of the law. He didn’t want to acknowledge it, he really didn’t, but Arthur’s kindness stirred something deep within him that he didn’t want to face yet.
“You’re not going to turn me in?”
“It’s no longer my job to. Go… live your life. I’ll see you on TV.”
Arthur went back to the want ads on his phone, but Gilgamesh slapped it out of his hands and sat on the bed in front of him, demanding his full attention. “That’s not the Arthur I know. I might have wanted you to quit to have you all to myself, but--”
“Are you suddenly taken aback by winning the whole game? Does it bore you?” Arthur rolled his eyes. All of this and everything had been a game to Gilgamesh, but he failed to see that it had been Gilgamesh’s life, everything leading up to this point. Of course Gilgamesh took it seriously. Arthur was the one thinking it was a game to him.
To that, Gilgamesh had no answer. He just couldn’t let Arthur slip out from his grasp. Not now, not because Arthur wanted to move on with his life—he could tell it meant more to Arthur than that. He was just putting up a front because he’d quit his job and Gilgamesh was here, rubbing salt in the wound. His career had been his pride and joy, but if Gilgamesh came between it and him… it finally dawned on him.
Arthur had chosen Gilgamesh over his career. He chose his safety and freedom to do whatever he wished over the desire to capture him. Somewhere, deep inside, beat the heart of the boy who said he wanted to see Gil succeed, and that came between him and his dream job, and ultimately, Arthur had made his choice.
So stupid. So loyal.
“I have yet to win,” Gilgamesh said quietly.
“Are you listening to me?” Arthur asked. “You’ve won. You got your rival to quit, I have—”
“No, Arthur. I haven’t won until I’ve stolen something I’ve wanted for a very, very long time.”
Taking the hand that was going back to reach for his phone, Gilgamesh kissed his knuckles and looked at Arthur with those piercing, deep red eyes. Arthur understood. All these years of tension between them—when had Gilgamesh kissed him last? Over duct tape? Anger and want mixed together in the most confusing set of feelings Arthur could muster. What made Gilgamesh so entitled to him? After he’d quit his job to finally ‘set him free’? In truth, he didn’t want it to end there either, he just—couldn’t pursue him anymore. He couldn’t continue the same song and dance and charade, knowing who he was.
Could he love Gilgamesh? His hand tightened around Gil’s as his hand was kissed.
“Then try and steal it the right way.” Arthur said resolutely.
“Fuhaha! Even now, when I can tell you want it, you’re still resisting until the bitter end because of your morals? When will you surrender to yourself, Pendragon? When will you let yourself know it’s okay to want and be wanted?”
“…” Arthur looked away, unable to answer him. “When that person I want earns it.”
“So entitled…! And you call me selfish. Very well. Tonight, I’ll show you something only a few people have the privilege of seeing.”
He pulled Arthur to his feet, and took one look out the window.
“We’d better use the door this time.”
Gilgamesh’s car sped off against the city skyline to a set of warehouses just outside city limits. It was right next to a barge, so people were coming and going at an almost constant rate. Arthur half thought Gilgamesh was going to murder him here, if not very seriously. When they pulled up to a rather inconspicuous looking one, Gilgamesh got out of his side of the car and took a key from his pocket. Arthur slammed the door shut and watched.
“My treasury. Don’t judge a book by its cover, its quite different inside.”
Arthur would have killed to have found this back when he was on the force, but all he could do now was look in amazement as Gilgamesh opened the door to it and inside, found tons of looted things from heists over the years. Suitcases lined the wall filled with various jewels, ancient armor stood out proudly against the walls, things in pure gold were everywhere—and Gilgamesh took down a suitcase to open. Inside was a crown that Arthur knew had to be in history books everywhere. Gilgamesh gently rested it on Arthur’s head.
“I… I could break this! Put it back!”
“No, I want you to keep it on. Here…”
Gilgamesh tossed a cloak of red over his shoulder that must have been a thousand years old. He slipped bangles onto Arthur’s wrists that were made of pure silver, he hung a necklace around his neck that bore a heavy pendant. As Arthur stood and watched in humble fascination, Gilgamesh stood there and dressed him like an old king as he wore jeans and a plain button-up t-shirt.
“Finally…” Gilgamesh whispered, admiring his work. “You’re a part of my treasury.”
Arthur moved to take off the crown, wondering what this was all about. “Honestly, Gilgamesh, the fact that you can look at all of this guiltlessly—”
Gilgamesh caught the hand that was reaching upward and caught him in a kiss.
Backing Arthur into a wall, he pinned him with one knee between his legs, and Arthur found himself not resisting. A wave of feeling came crashing down on him, of something years in the making that Arthur could not fight or suppress any longer. Gilgamesh may not yet have won, but he won this battle. The crown came clattering down and Arthur gasped, fearful of breaking the relic but Gilgamesh simply held him in place.
“Leave it,” He commented idly, drinking his fill of Arthur’s lips. “It’s worthless.”
Wrapped up in the moment, Gilgamesh tangled his hands in Arthur’s hair and yanked his head into place, getting hotter and hotter by the second. Arthur responded by grabbing the back of his shirt and digging his nails into it, not caring about whatever designer brand he was wearing. He flipped Gilgamesh to the wall and began domineering the kiss, getting the thief to well and truly melt beneath him. Yes, yes, this was what he wanted! Arthur would likely pretend this never happened, but Gilgamesh would know, and Gilgamesh could always come back for more.
“I’m what, Arthur?”
“… I finally can understand you.” Arthur whispered. “All this time, you wanted me to be your greatest heist.”
“Haven’t I said as much all along?”
“I didn’t believe you. There had to be some better reason…”
“What better reason do I have than this?”
The sound of footsteps interrupted them. Both of them froze on the spot.
“If y’all would kindly…” Billy began, aiming his gun at both. “Come with me? Medb is real unhappy that I didn’t kill you.”
“How did you—”
“Stakeout. Your fancy police tricks work for just about anybody.”
Arthur held up his hands, completely without anything to defend the two of them. Gilgamesh was bolder.
“And what if we don’t?”
“’Reckon she’d be just fine with your corpses in the back of my car.”
“Gil—” Arthur whispered. Gil didn’t listen.
“What’s she paying you?” Gilgamesh said, suddenly. “I can triple it. I can give you one of anything in this room that you want, and you can make a fortune on the black market.”
Billy considered his options, before lowering his gun. “I s’pose… Medb would pay me more to know you’ve said that.”
Damn it. “And what’s stopping you from shooting now?”
“Boss’s orders, and I’m not one to argue with her when she paid me a pretty bounty on both your heads. Get in my car.”
The two could do nothing but follow orders. Billy took both their phones before getting into the car, just to make sure everything could be wrapped up neatly. Arthur shot a look at Gil, who seemed more calm and collected than the situation called for.
“We can handle this,” He said, calmly. “Just leave everything to me.”
Medb looked at the two of them, sitting perfectly still in her new bar, guns aimed from all directions.
“I want answers. Gil, sweetie, why did you steal from me when I told you it would be the worst decision of your life?”
Gil shrugged, smiling that smug look of his as if he wasn’t bothered by the precarious nature of the situation they found themselves in. “I was ordered by Doctor Moriarty. It wasn’t my choice. He wanted the crown for his little girl.”
“Moriarty…” Medb trailed off. “The Moriarty?”
“Said he’d turn me in if I didn’t do it. I was between a rock and a really hard place.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Search my treasury. There’ll be no sign of your tiara or notebook.”
“Speaking of…” She placed her riding crop underneath Arthur’s chin, tilting his face to look at her. “Was this cop in on the whole thing?”
“Cross my heart, he didn’t know a thing.”
“Crossing your heart means nothing to me.”
Gilgamesh shrugged. Keeping his cool with Medb was likely the only way they’d get out of this mess alive. Arthur didn’t seem to understand that, and was staring her down like the criminal she was. Manners, Pendragon, especially when you have a gun trained on you.
“What if I got both back?”
“Hmmm? Stealing from Moriarty is more dangerous than stealing from me. I might just kill you, but he’ll have your entire life ruined and then give you a more miserable, punishing death than I ever could. I’m discreet. He’s a monster.”
“That may be, but it’s my only option to get back on your good side, isn’t it?”
“Hmmm…” Medb considered his proposition. “All right. Steal from Moriarty and all will be forgiven. But I’m keeping him.” She gestured to Arthur.
“Oh, no. I’m going to need a second pair of hands on this heist. I need him.”
“Then what’s going to motivate you to come back?”
“To keep my warehouse un-pillaged, of course. That’s years of work down the drain. Arthur is going to be necessary for the work I do, else you’ll just have me dead at the hands of another professional criminal and nothing to show for it. Besides, you need that book, don’t you?” He laughed. “I know you don’t trust computers, so that was the only copy of it you had. I bet a lot of politicians are sleeping easier at night without your leverage over them.”
Medb gave an irritated sigh. “Fine! Fine. But both of you better return quickly. I’m going to put wires on both of you so I can hear everything you’re doing until you get back to me. Removing them means it’s fair game to hunt you both down again—and don’t forget, Gilgamesh. It’s not just yourself you’re putting on the line, it’s your precious boyfriend too.”
“I got it.” He really did seem as cool as a cucumber. “Have Billy drive us back to the warehouse. We’ll need my car, after all.”
They were parked outside the river with the big mansion on the middle island. Obviously, driving up to it was going to be an absolute bust.
“Are you a good swimmer, Arthur?”
“I—across that? In the dead of night?”
“Naturally. We’re not going to be doing it in broad daylight.”
“… I can try.”
“Just envision a drowning child at the other end, and I’m sure your chivalry will kick in.”
Arthur stripped off his jacket as he stood at the banks, biting back any nervousness and diving in after Gilgamesh, swimming against the surprisingly gentle current to arrive at the other end of the banks. Lights lit up on the porch, and Gilgamesh quickly signaled Arthur to hide behind him near the bushes.
Moriarty stood at the edge of the porch, talking to someone they couldn’t quite make out or understand. As he walked down the steps, Gilgamesh motioned to Arthur and pointed to some lattices aside the house with sprawling ivy climbing up them.
“First, the tiara.”
Going into Fran’s room was a danger zone. There was nothing Moriarty wouldn’t do to protect her, and he knew he would take precautions against any rivals aiming to hurt her. Nonetheless, Gilgamesh had no other options but to boldly climb up along with Arthur and knock on her window. Fran was in the middle of getting ready for bed, and was surprised to see two soaking wet men climbing up to her room.
“Pa—” She nearly called out.
“It’s okay.” Gilgamesh reassured. “It’s me. I’m the one who got you the tiara for your birthday.”
Fran still stared at him somewhat suspiciously, albeit recognizing him.
“The truth is, that tiara is stolen, and the person I stole it from wants it back. Can you do us a favor? Will you give it back to us?”
Arthur looked at Gilgamesh like he was crazy. Asking a mafia daughter for a priceless crown back at face value? But Fran was a very simple kind of girl. A basic request like that didn’t bother her at all. After all, she didn’t hold any value in the jewels that her Papa gave her, she only wore them to make him happy, and Gilgamesh had been nice enough to give it to her. She walked away from the window for a moment, opening her closet and pulling down the red and gold briefcase in which it rested. She held it out the window for Gilgamesh to grab.
“Won’t… say anything.” It seemed the princess was a bit rebellious, at that.
Gilgamesh and Arthur dropped down from the window to give her her privacy back, and she happily closed it, thinking that was the end of it. Gilgamesh opened its contents to verify the tiara was there.
“What would you have done if she hadn’t given it to us?”
“There was no plan B.”
“Are you serious?”
“All it takes is understanding people to know what they’ll do in certain situations. Fran probably doesn’t want to wear stolen goods any more than any other girl.”
“Yes, that’ll be harder.”
They crept around to the front of the house, where Moriarty was still speaking with a man both Gilgamesh and Arthur recognized. The genius himself, Sherlock Holmes.
“We’re walking into a standoff.” Gilgamesh warned. “But that might be good for us.”
“How many people know you’ve retired, Arthur?”
“I haven’t made a press conference, yet…”
“Go distract them.”
“Do it. Think of anything. I’ll be back with the notebook.”
Arthur swallowed all fear he had and walked straight over to the two men talking, Sherlock staring with a calculating look and Moriarty looking downright surprised.
“Can we help you? We’re in the middle of something.”
“Yes, I—uh, I’m Officer Pendragon. Holmes, you’ve heard of me?”
“I have. Your failures are innumerable.”
“Thank you—” He turned back to Moriarty, not focusing on Gilgamesh breaking into the house. “Sir, did you know your car matches the description of—”
“Why are you soaking wet?”
“I… tripped off the bridge on the way in here. Not my proudest moment.” Arthur mimed patting himself for his badge, and sighed. “I don’t have my credentials with me, but a car of yours matches the description of one in a bank robbery earlier this evening. Is it alright if I check it out?”
Seamlessly, without even stopping, Sherlock interjected. “I doubt you’re going to find anything, but if it’d get rid of our officer friend here, you might as well.”
“Oh, does he have an alibi? Can you vouch for him, Holmes?” All of this dancing around, pretending Moriarty wasn’t a criminal mastermind was exhausting.
“I can’t vouch depending on the time of the crime. Moriarty, I know that petty thievery is beneath you, but can we have this handled?”
“Sure…” Moriarty seemed to be on the verge of confrontation with Holmes right at the moment Arthur intervened, and like a wet blanket thrown over a burning fire, it shouldered immediately. He was absolutely suspicious, and his gears were turning just as fast as Holmes, but both of them had made a crucial error—in failing to catch Gilgamesh, they’d both assessed Arthur as rather bumbling. At least, that’s what Moriarty assumed.
Opening up the trunk of the car, Arthur found all sorts of questionable things. Rope, a ski mask, a tire iron (not all that questionable, now that he thought of it), zip ties and so on, but of course, no money.
“I don’t suppose you’d come down to the station for questioning?” Arthur asked, closing the trunk with a sense of finality. “There was a description of a man in a ski mask—”
“Just one problem, Arthur. That car hasn’t ran all day. Just feel it. Cold as ice.” Moriarty’s voice was teetering on dangerous. “I’m afraid you have the wrong man. Just like you always do.”
Arthur looked to Sherlock for help, who seemingly wasn’t going to give it. In the corner of his eye, he caught Gilgamesh climbing out of the window and making a bee line for the river, and quickly excused himself to cross the bridge.
“What on earth was that all about…?”
In an act of apparent mercy, where Sherlock had witnessed the robbery in full and figured out entirely what had been sought out at the scene of the crime, Sherlock said nothing about it at all. “Anyway, you’re planning a trip to the Reichenbach falls?”
“I am. I’m thinking of bringing my daughter, too.”
“I might be in the area sometime. Say hi if you’re there.”
The animosity between these two was thicker than it had ever been between Gilgamesh and Arthur, and if only one were to bear witness to it, they’d see these two men were seconds from going at each other’s throats.
“I have a prior arrangement, Professor Moriarty. I shall bid you adieu.”
“Finally…” Medb fanned herself with the black book, a little damp but still readable. The tiara sat on top of her head with a regal look. “Okay! All is forgiven.”
Arthur sighed, looking to Gilgamesh with a relieved look.
“But I don’t forget, and I don’t repeat the same mistake twice.”
At that, something heavy clubbed Arthur over the head, clattering to the ground as he was knocked flat. Gilgamesh started to call out, but he couldn’t block the same blow coming for him, too.
As the men lay unconscious on the floor of Medb’s bar, she kicked them gingerly over on each other’s sides and checked for a pulse.
“Okay, good,” She giggled. “I’m going to make an example of these two.”
Also, no beta this chapter, we die like men.
“Do you know what would piss them off?” Gilgamesh asked hopefully, sneering with a grin as he tried slipping the cuffs.
“No, Gilgamesh, I don’t know what would piss them off and I don’t want to.”
Finding themselves in the same dingy room that Arthur had been trapped in when Gilgamesh came to rescue him, things seemed hopeless.
For one, Medb had three guards on duty instead of just the one. The big, hulking blue haired man as well as two other nameless goons were now sitting in front of the room. It would be difficult to take down one man, let alone three, especially if that one man was Cu Chulainn. There was no telling when their execution would be, if they’d be kept held up for a while or if it would come swiftly, but nothing was stopping Medb from just walking in and shooting the two of them dead, which meant she must want something.
Gilgamesh was remarkably keeping his cool about the whole situation. It was hardly the first precarious scenario he’d landed himself in, but to Arthur, this felt like they were both dead men walking, or sitting.
“Cu… you’re… Cu, right?”
The blue-haired man never gave a sound.
“Diarmuid and I—we’re friends,” Arthur was trying to outfox him by getting at his weakness. “If you kill the two of us, he’ll never forgive you—”
“Doesn’t matter what he wants.”
Well, damn it. “Doesn’t it? You don’t want to be a part of this, do you? You used to run your own store, go fishing, all the things he told me about—”
“Shut up,” Cu stood up and pressed the end of his boot on Arthur’s chest, hard enough to threaten his ribs. Arthur stood his ground, though. If Gilgamesh was going to remain remarkably cool up until their deaths, someone had to get them out of this.
“I’m not a cop anymore,” He reasoned, as Gilgamesh watched him curiously. “I’m not going to turn you in if you suddenly show up at his doorstep again after washing your hands clean of this. You don’t have to follow everything she says. I know you don’t want to--!”
Cu knelt, leering dangerously at Arthur, in a show of intimidation that even Gilgamesh couldn’t live up to. The only tether around his neck was the order that Medb said they weren’t to be killed yet. Taunting him with his dream life was unforgivable in so many ways, and when he wrapped his hands around Arthur’s neck, Gilgamesh shouted in protest.
“Hands off! Arthur is mine, you don’t get to put your paws on him—” But Cu wasn’t going to listen to Gilgamesh any more than he’d listen to anyone else. He squeezed, demanding pain from Arthur and getting it in a crushed gasp as he tried to breathe. Still, Arthur spoke.
“Diarmuid… think of him…”
“Who’s stronger?” Arthur baited, gasping between words. “You… or the woman who orders you around…?”
Cu stood up, only to kick Arthur hard in the stomach, sending him reeling out of breath. For a moment, he felt like he might actually die, his lungs struggling for air and writhing with pain, but he knew that privilege was too far off. Gilgamesh shrugged off his condescending indifference for but a moment, flitting his gaze to Arthur.
“You can’t reason with people like this, Arthur.” He said resolutely, but with concern in his voice. “Don’t provoke him. If anything, Enkidu will--”
Arthur wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.
“You let someone boss you around and take total control of your life, and for what? Because she thinks you’re cute?!” Arthur was still gasping for air, but he was struggling against his bonds harder now, trying to break his thumb into slipping the cuff. “She’s made you into a tool when you could’ve worked with me to stop her! Not just me, with the person you trust the most!”
Cu said nothing, sitting in his chair next to the door. Arthur knew now everything he’d say would fall on deaf ears and sighed. He looked at Gilgamesh, somewhat defeated but still resolute.
“We can’t die here—”
“How can you be so—”
“Shh.” Gilgamesh whispered. “Here she comes.”
Medb was dressed to her regal best, standing over her quarry like a proud predator. Arthur’s gaze landed on her furiously, but Gilgamesh’s was more playful.
“Here I was thinking of retiring,” Gilgamesh said, idly. “But you drag me right back in, Medb.”
“Oh, shut up. As long as you have Moriarty breathing down your neck, you’re never really out of the game, are you, Gil? But I can take you out of the game… permanently.”
“But you haven’t. At least, not yet.”
Medb grabbed the collar of his shirt and ripped it aside, revealing the scar where Billy had failed to kill them. “At least I know he earned his money,” She said, sourly. “Should’ve had him kill Arthur when I had the chance.”
“Hindsight is 20-20.” Gilgamesh might have been playing it cool, but inside he was burningly furious. Medb could see it in his eyes, as she walked her fingers up to his chin, tilting it to look at her face directly. He could mask so many things, but not this—not the justifiable anger at Medb’s goons kicking and harming what was his, interrupting a vital moment in their relationship while she was at it, too.
“Awww… were you hoping for some kind of happily ever after with your little knight of a police officer?” She tugged at his cheek demeaningly, eyebrows raised and mouth mocking. “Too bad. I’m not stupid enough to let you escape my grip yet again. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to use you before I put you down. It’s a crime to have your skills go to waste, and with Arthur as the perfect leverage…”
“I’m a dead man either way once Moriarty figures out I’ve stolen from him. What incentive do you have for me to work for you, Medb? Knowing I’ll die?”
“Because I know you won’t abandon your boyfriend here once I cut you loose to steal for me.”
“Says who? He’s cute, but he’s a police officer. I hardly need to complicate my life any more than it is. I’ll be sure to weep at his grave, certainly, but…”
Arthur wisely stayed silent, knowing Gilgamesh was trying to play mind games with her. He wouldn’t really abandon him, not after everything they went through, not after what Arthur now knew… but it wouldn’t hurt to play act to make Gilgamesh’s lie more convincing.
“You’d abandon me?!” Arthur exclaimed, rattling the chains on his wrist. “I know we’re rivals, but—”
“That’s precisely why,” Gilgamesh said slyly. “At least Medb would have her own little revenge and I could keep my treasury.”
“Settle down, boys.” She propped her chin up on her hand. “I haven’t decided what to do with you yet. I’ll be sure to let you know when the suffering begins, ‘kay?”
Back to square one. Arthur slacked against the wall, still feeling himself bruise from Cu’s kick. He looked over at Gil tiredly, wondering if some miracle would pull them out from all of this, something to help the two of them escape. Gil’s mind was working faster than his mouth could keep up. Wordlessly, Arthur jangled the handcuff tied to his wrist and looked at him, as if to ask ‘can you slip it?’ and Gilgamesh gave him a nod and a look like ‘of course, but don’t focus on it for now’.
“Who was the last person you messaged?”
“Diarmuid… his chat window was open.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I just typed out what I could before I handed the phone to Billy. I’m surprised he didn’t notice.”
“Was it anything useful?”
“The concussion is making it hard to remember…”
“Well,” Gilgamesh began. “Let’s hope it works as our distress signal.”
Hours passed in throbbing pain, more for Arthur than Gil, who was more used to handling it. Still, the blows to the backs of their heads were doing enough to hamper their deductive skills. Arthur was sure he’d been shot the moment it hit him, but no. Medb wanted something more—more out of Gilgamesh, for sure, it wasn’t like there was anything Arthur could promise her. He was just collateral. Little did he know, his phone was lighting up in the other room with a trace, unknown to their captors.
“If this is really how we go out—”
“I just wanted to say I’m glad I finally understand you, Gilgamesh.”
“Save it for our honeymoon.”
“Are you being sarcastic or serious?”
“I’m sure you can deduce that one even with that big lump on your head.”
“How did you do it?” Arthur asked, finally. “How did you stay in love with me for so long?”
Gilgamesh frowned. “Well, it’s not like that. I have had partners, you know—”
“But when you saw me in the police force…”
“It just came back. All of it,” Gilgamesh sighed, sitting up so that his arm wasn’t dangling on the cuff quite as hard, prompting Arthur to do the same. “There’s more than one reason why I wanted to become a thief, Arthur, you’re hardly to blame for all of it. At first I thought it would be a fun game with you on the force, but as you rose ranks and tried to understand me, I felt… how do I explain this? I felt like it was fate. The more I outfoxed you, the more I wanted you, and then the more I wanted you to understand why I was doing it—though I would never give you any hints, of course.”
“I figured it out eventually.”
“Yeah, when I was yelling it in your face, practically.”
Arthur gently placed his free hand on the crook of Gilgamesh’s shoulder, unsure if he should try to get in a last kiss or wait until their hopeful freedom, but Gilgamesh glanced down and began talking in a hurried whisper.
“You didn’t notice?!”
“That band on your arm! Jewelry I put on you in the warehouse. We can use it to unlock the cuffs.”
Oh. Oh. “But isn’t it priceless?”
“I’ll be sure to mourn its loss of value when I’m alive and free. Help me bend it apart.”
Gilgamesh slipped the thin band off of Arthur’s wrist and the two worked together to bend it out of shape. Arthur recognized it; it was from an Egyptian collection, to think it’d be used to help them escape! As Gilgamesh slipped it into the cuff and jimmied it around, the sound of someone opening the door to the bar brought them both to attention, Gilgamesh slipping the now wire behind his back.
What got their attention was Cu standing up, immediately. The person who walked in the door… Arthur craned his head but couldn’t quite see him. Gilgamesh was only staring, but intently.
“You…” He could hear Medb speak from the other end of the room. “You have a lot of nerve showing up here, with a gun no less. Where are your friends?”
“This doesn’t have to be a blood bath.”
“Whether or not it becomes one is up to me,” Medb’s men stood up and surrounded the newcomer, though none yet had raised their guns. “You’re really alone?”
“… No…” Diarmuid began. “I have backup, but I know you have Arthur. All I want is his release.”
“Hmm…” Medb’s bitter jealousy over the one person Cu would give his time and attention to reared its ugly head, now that he had the audacity to enter her domain, where she had built her lovely life free of distractions. “Cu, darling?”
Cu looked her way with a stare that could kill.
“Chain him up with the others.”
“We’ll just have to—”
“That’s not part of our deal.” Cu growled. “You promised to leave him out—”
“As long as he didn’t interfere, and here he is, interfering. Men?”
Instead of raising their weapons at Diarmuid, they pointed them towards Cu. Even the hulking brute couldn’t withstand a wall of bullets. Cu could do nothing but approach Diarmuid and grab him by the wrist holding the gun, unafraid of being shot. He yanked him to follow, eyes filled with a burning hate as he looked at Medb. The gun clattered to the ground as he pulled up another cuff and latched it around Diarmuid’s wrist.
“You can’t be serious, Cu…” Diarmuid began. “Cu, please--!”
Cu only turned his back once he was done, slumping in the chair in front of the interrogation room.
Cu said nothing as the third guest in the interrogation room settled into place. The look of hurt and betrayal on Diarmuid’s face was easy to see. Now he was a police hostage, lured in by the security that Cu wouldn’t let anything happen to him—he hated Medb, there was no way he could be loyal to her!
“He had guns trained on him,” Arthur reassured. “He had no choice.”
“He knew I’d never shoot…” Diarmuid trailed off.
“You said there was back up?”
Diarmuid shook his head. “I lied, but I left a note at the police station—”
“Look, I didn’t know how much time I had to make it to you once I saw the location on the trace!” Diarmuid sighed. “I should’ve brought someone with me, but I was worried…”
“Do you have faith in him?”
“Cu. Do you think he’ll save you?”
“… I believe in him.”
Gilgamesh chuckled. “After he put you in chains?”
“He won’t let anything happen to me. I know him. I know…”
Diarmuid knew that he was the only reason Cu was in the mafia at all: to protect him, and now he was at gunpoint to help execute him. There was no way he’d follow through with that. That wasn’t the Cu he knew, he wouldn’t value his own life over his own. He was so self-sacrificing to the point that it was ridiculous, loyal to the biggest fault. Even as he watched Cu hunched over, he knew, he trusted him not to hurt any of them.
Soon, more of the goons left and it was just Cu guarding the door. Medb was still in the room, of course, still pondering what she could do with her captives. Casting a look at her, Cu walked into the interrogation room, where the three of them sat against the wall, handcuffed and powerless. Cu knelt before Diarmuid, an unreadable expression on his face before pulling him in to kiss him. He didn’t care that if Medb cared to lean out of her seat, she could see. Diarmuid was hesitant to return it, wondering if this was a parting kiss. As soon as it was done, Cu said one thing and one thing only.
“I’ll take care of this.”
As Cu turned around and as Medb began to yell at him for his betrayal, for the kiss he’d denied her for so long, he picked up the gun that Diarmuid dropped and aimed at one of the remaining goons. As the three in cuffs winced as they heard gunfire, Diarmuid shouted out for him. Now was the perfect time—Gilgamesh shoved the bent-out-of-place bracelet into the handcuff and freed himself before taking Arthur’s wrist and unlocking him too.
“Diarmuid—” Arthur gestured to him. Gil nodded, unlocking his cuff too. As bullets flew, they huddled against the doorframe, watching as Cu barreled into one goon before throwing him at the bar, using him as a human shield. He was truly beastly, fighting like a monster with no regard for his own life. Medb was running for the interrogation room for the only power she had—threatening her hostages to keep him controlled. Cu uprooted a bar stool and threw it at her before she could reach them.
As she reached for the pistol that flew from her hand, Cu stepped on it.
“You… you disobey me… and I’ll make sure all of you pay!” She roared, sitting up as her limbs quaked. “Cu, I love and hate you, more than anything! So do as I say!”
“No mob boss…” Cu reached for the gun and checked to make sure it was loaded. “No one to keep me down.”
He only glanced at Gilgamesh, Arthur, and Diarmuid as they waited for the opportunity to run. He nodded, and they dashed for the door.
Medb noticed the floor, covered in alcohol from the shattered bar, grinning menacingly up at Cu as she flicked open her lighter. “If you want me to die, we’ll die together! How romantic, Cu! How perfect!”
The thing is, Cu didn’t wait around for speeches to finish and for people to get in their last word. There was no point in being patient for putting someone down. He aimed, he fired, and he killed her, point blank. The lighter clattered to the floor, flames zipping around the bar as soon as she dropped. Diarmuid only stared back as the bar lit up, fighting both Gilgamesh and Arthur for the chance to run back in and rescue Cu, only for…
… Well, alcohol doesn’t stay on fire for very long. And there was no gunpowder underneath the bar or anything. It wasn’t like it was the prohibition era.
Cu walked out easily, dropping the gun as Diarmuid embraced him. Arthur and Gilgamesh exchanged glances.
“You’re not an officer anymore, Arthur. I think we’d better cut and run and leave it to them.”
“Right now? I’m near the warehouse.”
“We need to move all of it tonight to a secondary location. Medb’s no longer a threat but we’re going to have to lay low.”
Gilgamesh turned to Arthur. “Arthur… it’s going to be a long time before I see you again.”
“I need to hide from Moriarty. His revenge would be worse than whatever we’d face against Medb, but he doesn’t throw away toys as easily as she does. I’m going to have to skip countries, along with my best friend and his brother.”
“… when will I see you again?”
“Can’t say. Literally. My car’s communicator operates by radio, anyone could tap it. But… would you promise me one thing?”
“Anything,” Arthur said empathetically. “I’ll do whatever you need.”
“Wait for me, Arthur. No matter how long it takes.”
“… you did for me. It’s only fair I do the same for you.”
Gilgamesh pulled down the street where Arthur lived, dropping him off a few doors down from his house. The two exchanged a knowing glance.
“Gilgamesh… stay safe.”
“Worry about yourself, Arthur.”
“I’m not worried anymore. I’ll… I’ll wait for you, I promise.”
Gilgamesh only flashed a smile before tearing off into the night, leaving Arthur with a sinking feeling, but resolve to back it. With Gilgamesh out of the picture for a while, now it was time to rebuild his life.
Now it was time to keep going.
This is the second to last chapter, folks! Thanks for coming on this wild ride with me.
Arthur would have to build a life without Gilgamesh in it for the first time in a long while.
It was a lucky thing he was so adaptable.
Sure, it was lonely—to have the guy you had complicated feelings for suddenly vanish, but Arthur was not an idle player in his life, waiting in a isolated fashion for someone to return. He steadily picked up the pieces even as days and months went by without a word from Gilgamesh. He decided what he was going to do almost immediately; was going to make his own Private Investigator Agency. Artoria was a bit skeptical, wondering if Arthur’s reputation preceding him would make him a bit unpopular, but it turned out lots of people were clamoring to find lost items with the help of a professional. Eventually, the business was booming enough that even the police would call on him every now and then.
Artoria became his second in command right away. Knowing she’d misplaced her doubt, she quit her security job to help him. It was hard work… not having any of the resources he’d had in the police force, he had to track down rare and valuable items to return to their owners. He had a strict no-Gilgamesh-stolen-goods policy, though. One day, he went back to the warehouses to see if Gilgamesh had left his things there, but no, all of it was gone. Who had cleared it out, no one could rightly say. Just that it was gone. The only thing Arthur had was the shattered diamond that was once buried in Gilgamesh’s chest. He still hadn’t returned it.
Cu and Diarmuid had skipped town. Arthur rarely heard from them, but he’d occasionally get a text message from Diarmuid. Usually of somewhere sunny, with Cu fishing in the background as Diarmuid took a selfie. They had to be in a different country by now, but at least they were happy.
He hadn’t heard from Medb’s gang again. He wondered if it had new priorities being taken over by someone else, or if it had fallen apart without their leader. Either way, Arthur felt safe enough to move back into his parents’ old house. The one by the creek.
As he poured over his papers for new intel on where to look next for a painting that had been stolen and bought on the black market, he wondered just what Gilgamesh could be up to. He’d been true to his word—he hadn’t seen anyone else since he’d left. It was weird being loyal to someone who wasn’t there, and someone he wasn’t sure he’d ever see again, but it came easily to Arthur. After all, how long had Gilgamesh felt the same way?
Months turned into years. In the winter of his PI agency’s second year, he got a letter.
“Miss me? – G”
He was tempted to tear it up on the spot for the sheer gall Gilgamesh had to ask him that question, but he had to use it as a clue. Taking the letter to his desk, he checked where the letter had last been sent from. All the way in a nowhere town in the middle of the Midwest, with a population of 200 at best. Was he sending him there? Either way, Arthur booked a flight without giving a second guess.
The town was as dilapidated as one could be—dead vines crawled up buildings and houses were in various states of disrepair except for the sparse few that had signs of living in them, a plaque on the front that greeted people and annuals planted in the front yard. There was only one place of note in the entire town, and it was a bar on ‘main street’, if it could even be called that. Only a post office and it were the only open things in town.
Gilgamesh likely chose it for its mystery. That would be just like him.
He went inside the bar, drawing stares for a newcomer into a bar that only hosted farmers from the land around it. He went straight to the bartender and offered a picture of Gil on his phone, asking if he’d been around in the past few days.
“Oh, yeah. Are you Arthur?”
Nailed it. Gilgamesh not only counted on him flying out, but he also counted on him coming to this bar. The man took out an envelope from underneath the counter and passed it to him.
“You gonna buy a drink or what?”
As he sipped on a tasteless beer, he pried open the letter and began reading.
‘Sorry for the trouble, Arthur. Check the news. I’ve been hiding here for a while until something lucky came to pass.
I’m preparing things, so you won’t find me here anymore. I’ll be in your office on the first of January.
Wait for me.’
A wild goose chase. He’d have to make Gilgamesh pay him back for his plane fare all the way out here. As numerous televisions in the bar showed off various sports games, he asked for one of them to be turned to a news channel. As only a handful of people were in the bar, the bartender relented.
‘Breaking news, criminal mastermind James Moriarty has been apprehended with the help of the world’s only consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes—’
Arthur could only stare as the news story unfolded, recording the incredible story of how Sherlock had tricked him into nearly dying in order to achieve his goals. It was Watson on the television retelling the story to a news anchor, as Sherlock was hardly present to comment on it. This was what Gilgamesh meant by ‘lucky news’. As long as Moriarty was in custody, he couldn't control Gilgamesh. That meant he was free to do as he pleased.
Gilgamesh was probably hiding his stash of stolen goods somewhere no one would find before he came to meet Arthur. Who knew what he had been up to the past two years?
All Arthur knew was that he was looking forward to it, more than he could possibly say.
Arthur hadn’t gone home that night. Like a kid waiting for Santa, he stayed in his office waiting for Gilgamesh to show up. He did the New Years countdown with his sister before she went home, and he was left with a bottle of champagne and his laptop to wait for Gilgamesh.
In a matter of hours, he’d fallen asleep at his desk.
The brisk cold woke him up; someone had opened the window into his office.
Arthur shot awake. Something heavy rested on his shoulders, and he was quick to notice it was a fleece blanket. He didn’t keep one in the office. As his eyes focused, the distinct human-shaped blur in the corner of his office, by the coffee machine, took on Gilgamesh’s appearance. Arthur froze. He had a million things he wanted to say at this exact moment, all well-rehearsed, but now his mind was coming up blank.
“You keep the worst coffee in here. I’ll have to bring something fitting.”
Arthur stood up and the two walked towards one another, unsure how to greet after so long—but Arthur had enough of waiting. He pulled Gilgamesh into a kiss, which was greedily returned. Both of them had the same thing on their mind, a singular ‘I missed you’.
“All this time and not even a hint of where you were!” Arthur began as they broke apart, seizing his shoulders. “Do you have any idea how worried I was?”
“Never any need, Arthur,” Gilgamesh smirked, threading his fingers into his hair. “You know I can handle myself. Me and my cohorts are just fine. It’s good to be back in the city, too.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to send a postcard.”
“With Moriarty still out there? You never know.”
“He’s in custody now, though…”
“Indeed. I should send Sherlock Holmes a fruit basket, but I suspect he’d like to put me behind bars too.”
Arthur just took in the sight of him. Two years of waiting and waiting and waiting and rejecting dates and staying faithful to someone who could have disappeared on him entirely. It was half frustration seeing him again and half complete relief. Arthur bumped his forehead against him, trying to ground himself, and Gilgamesh let him have this moment. Arthur wasn’t even sure at first that he loved Gilgamesh like that, that their tension had lead to that kiss and it was more of an undeniable attraction than something like love… and sure, they had a long way to go, but—
“Are you going to stay?”
“Someone has to help you with your little business. Can you conduct an interview for me? I’m very good at finding lost things, particularly valuable ones…”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Why? Will Artoria be mad?”
“She’ll kill you! But if you sincerely want to work here…”
“Oh, I do.”
“… we’ll have a lot to talk about. But Gilgamesh?”
“There’s something I want to show you, first.”
It was his home.
His old home, the one he’d grown up in. Arthur had bought the property back as soon as he was able to and felt safe enough to.
Gilgamesh remembered the porch, the one he’d ran up to that day only to be turned away and told Arthur couldn’t see him anymore. As Arthur lead him to the back yard, the creek had nearly frozen over and a thin layer of snow coated the ground, but it was just like he remembered. He could even see his old house just over the creek and between the trees in the woods. He knew his old family still lived there, so he tried to only focus on the good memories in front of him.
“After all this time…”
“I wanted to get it back,” Arthur said simply. “I know how much it meant to you, so I wanted to keep it for you.”
“You bought this house just to wait in it for me.”
“You were going to come back. Didn’t you say I was your greatest heist? It’s not like you to leave something you stole behind.”
Even as Arthur was looking off into the distance, hands in his pockets, his words hit Gilgamesh directly. His message had sunk into Arthur loud and clear, and he finally understood him. It had taken a lot of finesse, a lot of time, and a lot of patience, but he finally had one of the things he wanted the most in this world.
“What are you going to do now, Arthur?”
“I’m probably going to have to steal something from you, too.”
“I don’t know if it’ll take me as long as it took you—”
“You can have it,” Gilgamesh said simply.
“Is that really fair, though? We’re stealing, here. You don’t just give it away.”
“I don’t care,” Gilgamesh said emphatically. “We’re both tired of chases, Arthur. Take it.” He leaned over to whisper in his ear.
Arthur pulled something out of his pocket. Gilgamesh looked at it curiously—the shattered diamond. The one that had saved his life. “You kept this?”
“I had to have some proof you were part of my life. I couldn’t just return it, even if it’s my job.”
“May I have it?”
“I—” Arthur paused. “You gave it to me, remember?”
“Yes, but in its cracked state, it’s worthless. I can refine it into something better and give it back to you.”
“Just let me borrow it. You’ll have it back in some shape or form, I promise.”
With that, Arthur handed it over.
Gilgamesh, careless of the snow, sat down next to the edge of the creek, reliving his old memories. Arthur sat down next to him.
“Show me the person you’ve become, Arthur. After waiting all these years, I want to see again who you truly are.”
“I… feel like the same person.”
“I don’t. I feel like waiting for you and wanting you have made me different. You’re no longer a fun game, Arthur. I’m ready to close the boardgame and set it back in its box and get on with my life.”
“I can give you everything you want, you know,” Gilgamesh said idly. “A house anywhere in the world, wealth beyond imagining, any treasure you’d have your eyes on. I’ll gladly put the mantle back on and get you whatever you need. I feel like I owe you for all this time you’ve waited for me.”
“You waited for me just the same, Gilgamesh. I don’t need anything but you.”
“Pendragon, you’re going to make me laugh—don’t be ridiculous.”
“It’s Arthur. Remember? You only started calling me Pendragon when you became a thief.”
“For my sake, retire. We can have a nice job working together at my agency. You could come live here, with me. That’s all I want.”
“Then that’s what you’ll get.”
Arthur wore an impressive band around his ring finger a few months after. Striped with perfectly cut diamond, it had been made from the cracked diamond Gilgamesh had taken with him. He had a matching one made for himself; Arthur’s silver and his, gold.
His business really picked up when a few—but not most—of Gilgamesh’s treasures made it home to their owners. Mostly, it was museums that found Arthur returning paintings and artifacts he’d ‘found’ on a hunt, because Gilgamesh refused to return anything that belonged to some pompous private collector. Eat the rich, after all.
Artoria didn’t particularly care for living with Gilgamesh and sensed that he and her brother wanted privacy, so she had her own apartment downtown. He’d been given so many stern talking to’s that he’d lost count of Artoria’s rules for dating/being somewhat unspokenly engaged to her brother. Mostly that she’d beat him if he broke his heart, which he assured her he wouldn’t.
He’d grown used to Arthur’s cooking, which was by no means as nouveau riche as what he was used to but tasted delicious none the same. He tried beckoning Arthur away from his work for his own personal attention, but Arthur was as fastidious as he was on the force, now with no restraints as his own boss. Gilgamesh had become his personal thief in stealing back things that needed to be returned to paying customers.
They had gone pro-bono a few times, for finding lost cats and dogs for children who came to his office. Those were the easy ones.
Arthur had grown closer to Enkidu and Kingu, who now could greet him from somewhere other than the shadows. Enkidu and Gilgamesh’s bond was so deeply close that Arthur almost felt like he was intruding on it. They’d been hiding away together in some foreign city all those years. They had each other’s backs until the very end, and Enkidu was as keen on testing Arthur as Artoria was with Gilgamesh. Luckily, he passed with more flying colors than Gilgamesh had.
Peace was unusual. Arthur had lived a life so stressful up until this point he was sure he’d get gray hairs by thirty-five. He was sure Gilgamesh would be the end of him, not the beginning.
How nice it was to be proven wrong.
“How’s papa’s perfect little girl?”
“Even in prison… Papa’s still the same.” Fran said quietly over the phone hooked up in the visiting room. She was dressed nicely for the occasion. Uncle Babbage had been taking care of her ever since Moriarty had been incarcerated, per his wishes. He’d taken to prison quite well, to the point where he was practically running the place. His people on the outside still followed his instructions, and he was sure he’d be breaking out sometime soon.
“You don’t think prison can change an old man set in his ways, do you? No, Papa will always be the same. Except yoga night here has been doing a lot more for my back... and prison cheesecake makes me wish for the real thing.”
“Miss you.” Fran said, one hand placed on the glass so he could touch it from the other side, which he did.
“Don’t you worry, Fran. Papa’s only got seven more life sentences to serve. He’ll be out before you know it.”
How he’d avoided the death penalty, no one knew. Some very good lawyers and a judge in his pocket, one could presume. He couldn’t outright tell her ‘I’ve got men digging a tunnel for me’, so the best he could do was reassure her that they would be on the same side of the wall again, one day, and then they’d be out of this blasted country. He had several properties overseas where he could retire. He was finally going to take himself out of the game now that Sherlock was chasing him around in it. Gil would get off scot-free, but… joke’s on him, he made copies of Medb’s book before he stole it back, so really, it had been a useless theft all along. Especially with Medb dead, rest her soul.
“Papa… graduation is coming.”
“Wish you could be there…”
There was nothing in this world Moriarty could deny his daughter. True to his word, he’d break out of prison on June 1st, show up at her graduation with a bouquet of flowers, and promptly leave the country with her to a secluded Romanian castle, where he would teach her the local language and retire in absolute comfort. The news would set Sherlock on a worldwide quest to find him, but if there was one thing Moriarty was determined to secure, it was his daughter’s future.
He and Sherlock could have that good old duel to the death when he was eighty and ready, damn it.
How are things in the big city? I don’t know how long this letter will take to reach you, but I hope it finds you well.
Cu and I are in Ireland. I can’t say specifically where, for obvious reasons, but we’re with his family. His mother’s tougher on him than I’ve seen anyone treat him. She says I’m too good for him and that he was an idiot to let mafia push him around. I have no doubt that if she were here when he first got into trouble, she would’ve stormed the place and brought him out over her shoulders. She’s that kind of person. Very strong. He says he gets it from her. He spends his time fishing and managing the family store. I’m sure if he knew I was writing, he’d say Hi.
Well, he wouldn’t. But the sentiment would be there.
It’s nice to be home after such a long time. Did I tell you I grew up here? Well, you could probably guess from my name, anyway. Your parents were British, right? If you're ever visiting extended family, come find us. It would be nice to see you again.
(Though asking you to comb all of Ireland is a bit of a tall order, isn’t it…)
I’ve been keeping up with your Facebook on the down-low. Congratulations, by the way. Though who you chose… well, I only met him once, but I could tell he looks happy and a lot better from all the pictures. Your secret is safe with me, no worries. I’d be a hypocrite to say anything. Though honestly, I thought things between the two of you would end up much … differently.
Cheers to happy endings?
Hope to cross paths again someday,
Arthur was pleased the letter had made it to his hands unscathed. There was still no sign of Medb’s goons, but he never wanted to neglect safety. It might be safer to burn this letter than to keep it as a keepsake. There was no return address, though the postage stamp did confirm it came from Ireland.
The little green-eyed child that ran up to Arthur’s leg and started tugging at his shirt demanded to see the letter, even though they couldn’t read yet. Arthur simply pat Mordred’s head and folded the letter back up.
“A very dangerous letter. Dad can’t let it fall into the wrong hands.”
Mordred tugged at his leg, standing on his foot, leaning back so far they threatened to fall. “Showwww meeeeeeee!”
Instead of denying his kid the right, he knelt down and held out the letter. Predictably, Mordred couldn’t read it very well. They sounded out the letters one by one before giving up.
“You’ll have to learn eventually, but yes, this letter wouldn’t be very interesting to you.”
Arthur began walking with Mordred still clinging to his leg and standing on his foot like it was nothing. They were practically a monkey in that sense, climbing all over everything they could get their hands on. Walking into Gil’s office, which was now decorated with some of his favorite heist items, toted as ‘famous replicas’ to guests, he passed the letter to him.
“What’s this?” Gil pretended not to notice Mordred demanding attention, focusing entirely on the letter. Gil hadn’t been one for children, not at first. He wasn’t exactly parent material and hadn’t had the best experience with families in general, but when Arthur pitched the idea to him, he could see that he really, really wanted a family—and Gilgamesh loathed to deny him something that important. Nonetheless, Gilgamesh hadn’t really changed as a parent.
“Diarmuid…” He trailed off as Mordred climbed up into his lap from the floor, trying to reach for the letter as Gilgamesh tutted and held it just out of reach. “Think he’s living his best life?”
“It sounds like it.”
“It wouldn’t be hard to track him down… we still have to visit Egypt together, too. Ozymandias positively lost his sh--… mind when he heard out about Mordred.”
“If you want to make it happen, then I’ll leave you to it.”
Mordred grabbed Gil’s face and pinched his cheeks in an effort to make him smile, prompting him to do the same back to them in a tug-of-war. Arthur laughed.
“Any word about Moriarty?”
“None. Holmes really can’t find him.”
“No news is good news.”
Gilgamesh passed Mordred to their other father, who had the patience for this sort of thing. Gilgamesh wasn’t the type that Moriarty was, recklessly spoiling without a second thought, but he did make sure Mordred grew up in a peaceful household and wanted for nothing. With Arthur helping, that wasn’t an especially tall order to make. There was something very heartwarming about watching Mordred play around the same creek he’d grown up around.
“How many requests have you gotten at the office?”
“The mailbox is full every time I open it, no matter how much I tell people we’re on family leave. We’ll be busy when we get back.”
“You can retire by now, you know. Be a stay at home parent.”
“If I do that, you’ll slip back into your old habits.”
Gilgamesh grinned. “Nothing says that’ll happen. I’ve been very good, all of the cases on me have gone cold.”
“You stole from the Smithsonian last time we visited on holiday!”
“As a palm trick. I gave it back.”
“After I asked you to…”
“It was cool, wasn’t it, Mordred?”
“Cool!” Mordred parroted back.
Arthur sighed, albeit happily. “I’m not ready to close the office. Besides, Artoria is having a blast traveling the world doing her own investigations.”
“She does have a knack for it… does she get it from her baby brother, or your parents?”
“She gets it from herself. She’s always been clever, and I’ve always learned from her.”
“Even though you were born just minutes apart?”
“Those minutes count for everything.”
Mordred rested their head on Arthur’s neck, and he pat their back. “Should get this one to bed, probably. You going to stay in your office?”
“Just for a little while longer.”
Arthur nodded and closed the door after him. Gilgamesh looked at his desk. Photos of his family, Mordred’s framed adoption certificate, and one picture that survived ever since they were kids, one Arthur’s mother had taken of them that they found in a box underneath some furniture. Gilgamesh’s window had a perfect view of the backyard where it all began. He never thought he’d be taking in a child the same way he’d been taken in, and resolved to do everything right that his own adoptive father had done wrong.
As he idled in his office for a little bit, he noticed the clock.
Never a more auspicious time, huh?
He pulled Arthur out of Mordred’s bedroom to catch him in a kiss, no duct tape, no ropes, no diversions. Arthur had been thoroughly stolen, and so had he.
We're done! We're finally done. Made it a little farther than Playing Scheherazade, but not by much. People who write 250k fics, you have my utmost respect and deserve those thousands of kudos.
Thank you for reading! Have a great day/night wherever you are!