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Hope Springs Eternal

Chapter Text

Gilgamesh sighed as he set up his ingredients. When he told the others that he was going to try cooking he knew that their attention was minimal, but he thought maybe they would at least show up to humour him. But he hadn’t seen any of them since the battle this afternoon. They had gathered, sat, rested. He had told them that he was so fascinated by the humans’ cooking and eating together that he wanted to try it. They had smiled and nodded at the idea, but they were all still new, to the planet as well as each other.

Gil knew that eating wasn’t something they needed to do in any great excess, but he thought it would be a nice idea. He wanted to spend time with his family. But currently the kitchen was just him and the cabinets and the cold, creaking walls of the Domo.

“What are you making?”

Gil turned and couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face. Of course she came. She, who was sometimes the only one to listen to his voice over and under all the others. She sat at the head of the table, split between her and Ikaris. It was a fair distance from him now but no one could ignore the smooth, roiling voice and golden halo of hair. “Thena, you came!”

Thena blinked owlishly, her face a stone tablet, save some confusion in her emerald eyes. “You said you were making something when the sun had set. I am here.”

That was Thena: she spared no more words than necessary, her face was a (beautiful) placid lake. But all the same, Gilgamesh felt honoured by her choosing to spend her time with him. He smiled at her, and was delighted to see the faintest tugging of the corner of her lips. This was as much a smile she was usually capable of mustering. “I am glad you’re here.”

Her smile grew to a real, genuine smile.

“Uh,” Gilgamesh blinked and turned back to his counter. What was he doing? “Right! I thought about the stuff everyone likes to eat and thought I would try making something with them.”

“That’s quite a variety of things,” Thena tilted her head, observing him with her unnerving, unblinking eyes, like a predator.

Gilgamesh felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. “The others haven’t grown to like eating yet, but it can be a beautiful thing–to share a meal, I mean.”

Thena sat up in her chair a little more, if at all possible. “Yes, I see what you’re saying.”

Gilgamesh turned to her. “Come and watch.”

She seemed to debate it for only a second, and in that singular second Gil wondered if he should have kept to himself after all.

“I am curious,” she said as she rose, but her voice was so stately that it sounded like a declaration of war.

He supposed it was fitting for her. “You liked beef, didn’t you? The cooked meat of the cows?”

Thena stared off, recalling the fulfillment she felt when she felt the flavour reach every corner of her mouth. She didn’t have to answer, Gilgamesh was already rubbing some meat in…leaves?

“The locals always use this herb when they cook with cow, and I found that the dust from the salt planes really added a nice touch,” he chuckled with enthusiasm. “They make bread into little flats, but I thought, what if I showed them how to make a food you could carry, so they wouldn’t have to travel to and from the fields so much.”

Thena listened to him intently, although the others might have assumed her blankness was mere tolerance. But Gilgamesh had such enthusiasm about their new home, and she found it quite infectious. The caring he showed humans, thinking of these little things that could improve their lives, were something that none of the others had expressed to this extent. “That would be a great improvement to their days.”

“I think so!” he turned to her with a grin bright enough to make her forget the infinite darkness of the night sky. She was helpless against letting it get to her, and her smile grew to match his. “Okay, try this.”

Thena watched him carefully, folding the dough the way he had, pinching it in until she had created a…bread pod…full of meat? “This is it?”

“I’m going to call it,” he paused for effect, “a bun.”

How utterly charming. “How will they cook it? They cannot consume the animals raw.”

“I think this could help,” Gilgamesh narrated as he raised one of the baskets the women and Sersei had made that day. “They have fires going all day, for warmth, for melting, for the fish, so what if they used the steam? It would make the meat inside hot but still tender and not so hard to chew. Then the older ones could have them too.”

Thena continued to smile at him, her gaze and attention uninterrupted. She wasn’t sure what was driving her to do so. It was just an effect of being around Gilgamesh. When he smiled she had great difficulty not smiling with him. And his laugh was impossible to resist; it was like hearing her own name being called.

“What?”

She was staring at him. The others often complained about her staring and her unblinking focus. They said it was ‘intimidating’, and ‘unsettling’, and ‘Thena, I’m begging you, just blink once’.

“Thena?”

“Your kindness,” she said with a softness in her voice that felt unfamiliar. “It exceeds all expectations.”

Gilgamesh offered her a small smile before returning to his task. He seemed almost sheepish, a far cry from the behemoth of a figure he carried. “I can’t wait for you to try this. I made ones for the others too.”

Thena’s eyes zipped to the rest of the counter in an instant before returning to him. “If they are not here to appreciate your time they do not deserve the spoils.”

Gilgamesh couldn’t help but smile, “Thena, you’d say that about your own family? Even Ikaris?”

The Warrior’s lips downturned, “he can eat one of the birds he flies amongst.”

Gil’s laughter was booming. It filled the room and slammed against the walls, yet it was not nearly so harsh against the ears. “You’re terrible.”

Thena’s smile widened even more.

“Gil?”

Gilgamesh turned with curiosity while Thena whipped around with speed and precision betraying her nature. “Sprite?”

“I…smelled something good,” the small Eternal shuffled into the room. She had no problem barbing and sniping with her family despite her size, but Thena’s icy stare was hard to endure. “Is there any left?”

“Of course, there’s plenty,” he smiled and started his other ‘buns’.

Sprite and Thena stood together but apart, with Gil’s back turned to them. The pressure was unbearable for the Illusionist. She cleared her throat. “I’m sorry I didn’t come earlier, Buddy.”

“Hey, that’s okay,” he offered a conciliatory smile her way, “nothing a good meal can’t fix.”

Thena turned to the doorway long before there was any sign, but soon the rest of their family poked their heads into the galley doorway.

“Guys! You’re just in time!”

Each filtered in, drawn by the delicious aroma and the promise of Gilgamesh’s warmth. But first they had to endure the frigid glare of Thena to get to their seats. Each in turn bowed their head to her, whether in apology or shame, or both. But she held their gaze, because she was not the one who deserved their remorse.

Ajak was last to enter, smiling at the sight of her family gathered together, hungrily watching the Strongest Eternal prepare a feast. Her eyes met Thena’s, and she understood the emotion in her green eyes, bordering on vengeful. Thena tilted her head at her, a completely audacious gesture to the one called their leader, but Ajak nodded to her in conceit. She moved to Gilgamesh, gently pulling his hands so she could hold his wrists in her palms. “Gilgamesh, we owe you our apologies. You did this for us, your family, and we dismissed your efforts. I am truly sorry.”

Each member in turn offers their apologies, from sincere and pleading to somewhat reluctant. But Thena’s eyes passed over each of them, and once she seemed satisfied she took her seat again.

Gilgamesh smiled at them as if he had not felt the ache of disappointment less than an hour before, “aw, that’s okay. You’re all here now, and you can try my buns!”

“His what?” Kingo asked aloud, but was thoroughly ignored.

“He has prepared a food that the humans can carry with them, so they needn’t leave their work and journey just to sustain themselves,” Thena said factually, but her eyes were still warm on Gilgamesh’s back, and her lips were still on the verge of smiling.

“Well it sounds so romantic coming from you,” Gilgamesh smirked back at her.

The Eternals’ eyes all widened at the sight of Thena’s eyes creasing, her lips pulled back and utter joy passing through her. They came to the realisation together: they had never heard Thena laugh.

“Okay, Thena’s are ready, who’s next?” Gilgamesh clapped his hands, and his family all clamoured to rise from their seats and plead their case. He laughed heartily, leaning back, head to the ceiling. “Relax, there’s plenty for everyone. I’ve got fish, I’ve got potatoes, even that funny bird that can’t fly.”

Thena sat back, watching the others excitedly speak over each other, a cacophony of instruction for the expert with no need. Gilgamesh was in his element, happily conversing with them as his hands worked the ingredients with gentility and the next second would reach into the boiling hot pot to change the basket. This was one of the best forms of Gilgamesh, to Thena, completely relaxed and surrounded by and emitting joy. She picked up her bun and bit into it softly. The outside was fluffy and as he said it would be, the inside usually tough meat had a softness to it. It was a perfect incarnation of the man standing at the fire.