Policy Of Truth
TITLE: Policy Of Truth
GENRES: Mythology, fantasy, drama, GLBT, romance/love.
SUMMARY: He was taught to always be truthful. Now, that lesson is tested...an original myth.
WRITING STATUS: Completed.
WRITING DATE: Circa 2002.
LENGTH: 6500+ words.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Mild adult themes.
COPYRIGHT: This story and all characters, unless otherwise stated in the Disclaimers, are copyright © tehuti_88 and may not be used or distributed without permission. The reader is free to print out or download a copy of this story for offline reading as long as the author's copyright information remains upon it. Please do not distribute; if you wish to share this story, send a link to this page.
DISCLAIMERS: Certain characters are from Egyptian mythology. Although aspects of this story are loosely based on Egyptian mythology and culture, artistic license has been taken as this is a FANTASY story. Please take note that this story was written around 2002 and that my writing style and understanding of the mythology I created may have changed vastly in the meantime.
ADDITIONAL INFO: NA.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This short story ties in with the other Kemet short stories and/or the Kemet/Egyptian mythology as I make use of it in my writing; as such, it might not make much sense out of context. Please note that this story has gay/lesbian themes, if that sort of thing offends you. In my mythology, Imiut (who in reality was just another form of Anubis) is the adopted son of Anubis, a child who was left behind when Anubis had to bring death to his family. (That's the subject of another story, "The Deathbringer's Burden," unfinished as of now.) Rather than abandon the baby, Anubis took him in and he was granted immortality to become a demigod. Dua is the name of a minor god who in my mythology, like Imiut, is a demigod. I decided to try to flesh out Imiut a bit and this story is what resulted. My apologies for the Depeche Mode reference, but I could think of no other fitting title.
A LARGE TREE now stood in the south courtyard of Horus's palace. It had been imported by ship and planted in Kemet's soil and now it looked completely out of place among the much smaller Kemeti trees and shrubs. Just about every day since its inception at least a few of the neteru would come and look at it, cocking their heads with puzzlement before leaving again. They wouldn't go near it though, it was so strange to them. Which was one reason why Anubis now sat upon one of its branches, scribbling on a scroll when he should have been writing. He knew he wouldn't be bothered by most of the others up here. The drawback was that while he had plenty of time to himself, now he didn't feel like utilizing it. The garden was hot despite the tree's shade, and he kept dozing off. What he'd placed upon the scroll looked nothing like writing. It looked more as if a drunken ibis had danced around on his papyrus.
It wasn't until a voice spoke from below him that he even realized his eyes were closed. "Lord?"
He snorted and blinked awake, rubbing them and suppressing a yawn. It wasn't very seemly for a prince to be perched up in a tree, not that he'd ever cared much for appearances. He knew it would annoy most of the servants. He looked down over his shoulder to see who he had to deal with now, and was glad he hadn't snapped out a flippant response as he'd thought of doing. His adopted son stood below, staring up at him.
Anubis blinked again, caught off guard. "Imiut?"
The demigod only continued staring at him. "I thought perhaps I could speak with you, Lord."
"Of course." Anubis tucked the scroll into a crook of the branch and started climbing down. Imiut stood silently nearby and watched him descend. Anubis knew he must look even more ridiculous now, a member of the royal family, pristine clothing and jewelry and all, climbing down a tree like a monkey, yet his son said nothing. Imiut had always been quiet and serious, even as a child. Now that he was grown he was even more quiet and serious, and though Anubis appreciated that he wasn't loud and annoying like some of the more boisterous gods, sometimes Imiut's strange silence unnerved even him. He never had any way to tell what he was thinking. Perhaps it was just as well; he would probably have been reduced to a nervous wreck if he knew what was on everyone's mind.
His foot touched the paved ground and he let go of the trunk, dusting himself off. Imiut bowed and Anubis nodded at him.
"You wished to talk?"
"I actually wished to ask you a question, Lord."
"All right, but let's walk. I have a cramp in my leg."
Imiut bowed again and they walked away from the tree. A few times Anubis hopped and scowled, rubbing at his right leg. The courtyard was empty aside from them, so he didn't have to worry about looking like an idiot. Imiut appeared to pay his actions no attention, but stared straight ahead as they went.
"Would you disown me, Lord?"
Anubis stopped hopping, still holding his foot in his hand. He looked at Imiut and frowned as the demigod came to a stop as well, turning and meeting his eyes. They stood staring at each other for a moment until Anubis spoke.
"I wish to know if you would ever disown me for any reason."
"Disown you?" Anubis's frown grew.
"Yes, Lord. Consider me not your son."
The jackal god's mouth twitched. "Well...you're already not my son."
"I know, Lord." Anubis, knowing how it felt to not know who one's own parents were, had told Imiut of his true parentage long ago, in the hopes of avoiding trouble; he hated that he had been lied to before, and so made it clear to the human that he should be truthful. "But I wish to know if there is any reason why you would not consider me your son in name anymore."
He'd hoped Imiut would be a little more specific, yet wasn't surprised when he wasn't. He sighed and rubbed his leg again.
"I can hardly think of anything, unless you've decided to kill me in my sleep. Then, I might disown you. Truth to tell I don't think I would wish to be around you anymore."
Imiut blinked and Anubis could tell the joke hadn't been completely understood. He bit the inside of his mouth and sighed again.
"I apologize, Imiut...I was being humorous. At least I was trying to. I can't think of any reason why I would disown you...why do you ask? Has something been bothering you?"
"No, Lord." Imiut responded rather quickly. He put his arm to his breast and bowed. "Thank you for answering me."
Anubis nodded, puzzled. Imiut rose and turned to walk away. The jackal god watched him as he left the garden, not once looking back. He frowned once more and wondered over his son's strange behavior.
"You told him...?"
Dua lowered the mirror he held in his hands, slightly. Imiut gave a small sigh and went over to sit on his balcony. He leaned on the wall and stared at the river flowing south. Dua set the mirror on the table and went toward him.
"There's a reason you didn't tell him, when that was what you went to him to do...?"
"I'm not certain he would understand."
"You spoke with him, surely? You were out there so long, you must have said something."
"I asked him if he would ever disown me. He didn't understand." His gaze drifted down to look at the large tree in the courtyard. "I'm not certain that he would if I told him."
His servant appeared to want to say something else, yet didn't. He sat down beside Imiut and looked down over the river as well.
"I know you wanted to say something besides that," Imiut said, barely looking at him out of the corner of his eye.
Dua shrugged. "Merely that I've always wondered why you do not worry about the difference in our standing, yet you worry about this."
"That I believe he would understand. This, not."
"You didn't even ask him. How do you expect to know?"
"Is it so important?"
"I thought it was, to you." The demigod shrugged again, and Imiut glanced away from him with an annoyed look. "At least that was how you made it seem."
"I would prefer not to talk about it any longer right now. This subject bothers me."
He scowled when Dua's mouth twitched in what might have been, might not have been a smile; he didn't take a close enough look to know for certain. "As you wish, Lord." He stood up and bowed and retreated into the room.
Imiut couldn't take it any longer. He followed, clenching his fists at his sides.
"Why must you always be so petty about this! I told you I don't think he would understand. Is that so difficult for you?"
"You didn't ask him," Dua replied in that calm voice that maddened him so much, "so you can hardly say you know for sure."
"And I ask again why it even matters. Things are fine enough without everyone knowing!"
One more shrug; Imiut ground his knuckles to his forehead. "If you want to keep everyone fooled, then it's your decision, Lord."
"I'm not fooling anyone."
"If that makes you happy."
Imiut's temper flared and he stalked toward his servant, raising one fist and shaking it. "If you don't cease with this attitude--"
Dua smirked and didn't back away. Instead he draped his arms over Imiut's shoulders and smiled at him.
"Then you'll find me someplace else to sleep? My Lord is generous tonight. I was feeling this room was beginning to grow cramped lately."
Imiut just scowled. Dua laughed and touched their foreheads together.
"You have to stop looking like that. It isn't flattering."
"As if you would know about flattering."
"I like to think I do. I have to put up with you somehow." He touched Imiut's face and his smile grew gentler. "You don't have to tell him if you don't wish to. I merely thought this is what you wanted to do."
Imiut averted his eyes. "I thought so as well. Yet when I was there I could think of nothing to say to him."
"Then perhaps you need only to think on it a bit longer. There is no rush. You know things will be the same with us, whether he knows or not."
Imiut sighed. Dua kissed his forehead before looping his arm about his own, and led him further into the room.
The tall form turned to look down at him, sunlight casting it into shadow. He stared back up, one hand clenching at the side of his kilt, a nervous reaction, even while his face remained calm.
"Isdes told me that you aren't my real father."
The shadow continued to stare down at him. After a while it moved, kneeling and placing one hand upon his shoulder.
"Isdes tells the truth. I brought you in, but I never fathered you."
He said nothing, only looked him in the eyes. The shadow removed his hand from his shoulder, and clasped both of them between his knees.
"You know what my duty is, Imiut."
He nodded. "You are the Deathbringer."
The shadow nodded as well, just once, as if to tell him he were right. "Your parents were to die. I had to be the one to do this. You were a baby; you were not meant to die." A small pause. "I couldn't leave you behind either. I brought you with me. You're neteri now. Your father is dead. I had hoped that I could assume his place. You understand?"
He only continued staring. After a while he nodded, silently.
The shadow softened slightly, sensing what he felt. Again the hand touched his shoulder.
"I was once much where you are now...only I was older than you are...and I was angry. It took me a long time to not be angry. Once in a while I still am." Another pause. "You are much more than your years, Imiut. I don't know why. But it's good that you understand. If you are angry, I hope one day you remember that when you asked me, I told you the truth. It was years before I was told the truth about who I am. Do you remember what Thoth's taught you, what I've taught you?"
"The truth is not always an easy thing," the shadow said, "and not always what we would want to choose. But it will spare you pain in the long run. Always tell it, Imiut. Even if another grows to hate you because of it, your heart will be clear. This is what matters. That you are true, and that you are true to yourself."
Imiut nodded again.
"I will, Father."
But that had been years ago. And things had changed since then. For one thing, he had stopped calling Anubis "Father" long ago.
For another thing, there was what had happened with him and his servant, Dua, near the river.
He'd been close to the other demigod almost since he had become his personal servant; being very private, he hadn't much wanted a personal servant, until he'd learned that Dua could respect that as well. When Imiut didn't want him around, Dua left him alone. He'd always thought servants were pestery things. Perhaps that was why he liked him; they were somewhat alike, in that they seemed to understand boundaries. Unlike the rest of the palace servants he'd seen.
Which, of course, meant that he then preferred Dua to be around whenever he could. He told himself it was because it was better to have a servant who obeyed you than to have none--and to end up saddled with one who wouldn't obey you, as he felt would inevitably happen. The fact of the matter, though, was that Dua was simply more interesting to be around. They spoke little--at least, to each other. Imiut did most of the talking, and Dua the listening. There were very few things he didn't feel comfortable enough telling Anubis, yet he felt comfortable enough sharing them with his servant. Dua never spoke of them to anyone else. Imiut appreciated that.
He complained to him often, about palace life (which he detested even more, he felt, than Anubis did) among other things, and Dua never complained back. He rarely spoke unless Imiut asked him to, and Imiut often forgot to do that. When he finally remembered that his servant might actually have something to say, and granted him permission, he found out he'd been right...and he was surprised. He'd never known servants could have such opinions as Dua did. Neither had he known how much they disagreed on things; they'd seemed so alike, when they hadn't both been talking to each other. And so, since Imiut couldn't let a point go unrefuted, and since he again granted permission, the two of them ended up in plenty of arguments. It infuriated him no end that Dua would never give up and see things his way. Then again, he also found it pleasant to actually converse with someone who wasn't a sycophant, and who didn't change his views just to suit him. They may not have been so similar after all, but at least they knew how to communicate. Imiut wasn't nearly as bored anymore.
Every so often, he would sneak away from the palace, as Anubis had told him he'd used to do when he was younger. It mattered little, as long as he returned in time and got into no trouble while he was away. His sister Kebehut often insisted on coming, and he didn't try to argue with her; knowing how much the jackal god doted on her, he also knew the futility of making her stay behind. At first he brought Dua along out of necessity--what would anyone say or ask if they found his servant present at the palace, but not himself?--but in time he found he preferred having the demigod accompany him. He was easier to relate to than Kebehut, who cheerfully preferred chasing after insects and hopping about on the rocks near the river to simply walking among the trees thinking, as Imiut liked to do. By the time they reached the river she had usually wandered off by herself, so he didn't have to deal with her. He would instead make his way to a clearing near an offshoot of the river and lie down to look up at the sky, and Dua would sit down nearby, in silence. They would stay this way until Kebehut returned.
The day things had changed seemed normal enough. Looking back on it, Imiut wondered if it had been his fault for starting the conversation, when every other day they hadn't held any conversations. Leave it to him to change things, that were well enough the way they had been before.
"I believe this is the spot, right here, or near here."
"Kebehut told me about it once. She said her mother told her. I could hardly believe it."
"Told you what, Lord?"
"She said this is the spot where she was made." He sat up and looked at the stream. "Lord Anubis and her mother. She said they came here sometimes, before she was born, and this was the place...or a place near this." He shrugged and lay down again. "Not that it matters much. I merely find it hard to believe he was that type."
"We are all simply mortals granted immortality, Lord, nothing more."
"That makes us sound very special."
"Are we meant to sound thus?"
"You would think so, wouldn't you?"
He didn't wait to hear Dua's answer, and Dua gave none. "I wonder what he thought to gain when he brought me here..."
"Gain?" For once, Dua spoke without being prompted; this made Imiut's mouth twitch. He paused, then said, "I don't know why you seek a reason for there to have been any gain, Lord."
"He must have thought he would gain something by bringing me here, by not leaving me behind. A son perhaps. Or even just peace of mind."
"You feel he has lied to you?"
"I did not say this..."
"You seem to insinuate it."
"You think too much."
"Only because my master gives me ample reason to."
Imiut scowled and Dua smiled and fell back so they both stared up at the sky together. That irritated Imiut even more.
"You don't have to mock me."
"I never intended to."
"For not intending to, you're doing an admirable job."
Dua's smile only grew. "As are you, of pretending to be a spoiled brat."
Imiut sat up abruptly, almost baring his teeth. "You do it again. I'll simply head back to the palace if this is how the day will go."
Dua sat up as well and touched his arm when Imiut turned away. "I was only joking," he laughed. "I said pretending to be a spoiled brat."
"That makes it any better?" Imiut snapped. He yanked his arm away. "I change my mind, perhaps you should go back to the palace without me. In this frame of mind I might just tear my rooms apart."
Dua laughed harder. "I said pretending to be a spoiled brat. As in, I didn't believe that you were. But now I'm reconsidering it."
The other demigod quickly rose to his feet and clenched his fists. "For acting as if you're trying to make it better--you're doing an EXCELLENT job of making it worse!"
Dua stood up as well now and took his arm again; Imiut tried to pull it away but his servant gripped it more tightly. He didn't stop smiling. "Lord, I apologize. I guess you're more like your father than I thought. I truly didn't mean to offend you."
"It's not so much me," Imiut said, automatically. He flushed. "It's this place. I come here and tell you of it, and all you can do is make jokes. If what Kebehut said is true, I don't think that's fitting for this place."
"Then I apologize for that as well. I didn't know it meant that much. Will you please stay, Lord? Or at least find yourself something else to do? I don't want you to go back to the palace because of me."
Imiut stared at him a moment before sighing and sitting back down on the ground. Dua knelt beside him. "I apologize also. Perhaps I am more like him. It seems to cause me no end of trouble."
"I hadn't meant it as an insult either, Lord. The prince is a good person."
"But moody. As am I."
"You're...well, yes, you're moody. I'm sorry. I was going to lie."
Imiut could only gape at him with surprise. Dua started laughing again. After a moment he realized it must have been another joke and his look softened a bit. He even smiled, slightly, but looked away when he did so. He stared at his hands.
"If you do really wish to go back to the palace, Lord, we can go find Lady Kebehut. Or I can look for her."
"No, this is fine...she'll find her own way back. I'm not so angry now. Please stay."
Dua nodded and offered a small bow. Imiut lay back once more and Dua did the same, leaning on one elbow.
"Did you know your parents, Dua?"
"When I was little, Lord. They were mortals."
"Mine were...but I never knew them." He paused and traced the outline of a cloud. The sunlight peeking between the fronds made him feel sleepy. "I wonder if they loved one another like Kebehut said Anubis loved her mother. I wonder how they felt for each other."
It wasn't something he would have said to Anubis. Which was probably why he said it to Dua instead. He sighed and shut his eyes and let the sun play over his face, listening to the water lapping.
After a moment the sunlight faded. Something brushed against his cheek, and then pressed against his lips. Imiut didn't even think of trying to pull away; for some reason it simply felt right. He just stayed where he was, eyes still closed, until it pulled away. The sunlight returned. He opened his eyes now and looked up at Dua, who smiled down at him.
"You said you wondered how they felt."
Imiut blinked. Dua's smile grew and he pulled back, as if afraid of laughing in Imiut's face. The other demigod let out his breath with a slight feeling of disappointment. His heart began to slow, and he realized he hadn't even noticed how quickly it was beating until now. Dua already sat up, looking out at the stream; Imiut followed suit, a flush rising in his cheeks. They stared at the water together.
...There had been more, after that. It had been a while before the two of them returned to the palace. And this had not been the only time. Imiut found he liked talking with Dua more than before, but he also liked being in silence with him. It was fortunate that, being his personal servant, Dua shared adjoining quarters with him; but Imiut began to feel edgy. He never spoke to Anubis about Dua. Nor to anyone else. When they were together in public, he made certain to act as if the demigod was his servant and nothing more; Dua, for his part, played along without complaint. When they were alone, he made certain no one would happen upon them even sharing a glance together. Though early on, he'd made a mistake with that one; once, while he and Dua were again by the river, Imiut swore he had seen Kebehut peer from the trees when Dua touched his face. She had looked surprised, and had vanished as quickly as she'd appeared. This caused him no end of anxiety. Kebehut had always been very close to her father, and he didn't doubt she would tell him what she'd seen. Still, Anubis never acted as if he knew, and Kebehut never spoke to him about it. He couldn't understand why she hadn't told yet.
"Maybe you wanted her to tell?" Dua suggested as they lay beside each other on Imiut's bed, stroking his face as he did so often. Imiut flushed at the suggestion and hoped that the dimness hid the color in his face.
"Why would I want that? It would probably just cause me more trouble!"
"So you wouldn't have to be the first to tell him. You must admit it, you came up with the idea."
That much was true. After the incident by the river, Imiut had paced his quarters endlessly while Dua stood nearby. The only solution, he'd assumed, was to tell Anubis outright, before Kebehut could. He'd sensed neither agreement nor disagreement from Dua, and had set his mind on doing so...but had put it off, on feeling that his sister had not told after all. The days passed by and Anubis's attitude didn't change; either she hadn't seen them after all, or she wasn't telling. What was she up to?
"You're making something out of nothing," Dua murmured.
Imiut sighed and put his arm across his eyes. "No, it is something...I just don't know what. She hasn't told him for whatever reason. Which means I have to."
"I'm not disagreeing with you, Lord, or calling your idea into question. But why do you feel you have to tell anyone?"
Imiut lifted his arm and looked at him. "I thought you wanted them to know," he protested.
Dua raised an eyebrow. "Did you ever ask? Frankly, I don't much care whether anyone knows or not. I've already told you it would change nothing. But why do you feel you 'have' to tell anyone? And especially him?"
"Because I can't hold that from him."
"And so why don't you just continue to pretend?"
"Because I wouldn't be myself."
"And that matters why--?"
"Because that's not being truthful."
He cut himself off and paused. The scene that had played itself over in his mind a hundred times since he had found Dua played itself over again.
The truth is not always an easy thing, and not always what we would want to choose. But it will spare you pain in the long run. Always tell it, Imiut. Even if another grows to hate you because of it, your heart will be clear. This is what matters. That you are true, and that you are true to yourself.
Imiut blinked. Dua frowned at him. He sat up and his servant did the same, and he rubbed his eyes.
"I have to tell him..."
"Now? It's late. You feel like you're ready?"
Imiut dropped his hands to his knees. "No. But if I wait until then, I will never tell him."
Dua put his hand on his shoulder. "Lord, I don't believe you have anything to fear. I believe he'll understand."
"If he doesn't?" Imiut looked at him. "I asked him if he would disown me. He couldn't give me a clear answer. He has doubts about me, even without knowing the truth. I've never told him how important he is to me, what I would do if he no longer claimed me as his son."
Dua paused, then pulled his hand away. "What would you do?" he asked quietly.
The demigod sighed again and stared at the bed. "I don't know," he said in a small voice. "But I know I will have lost one of the people who mean the most to me."
"Is this worth it?" Dua squeezed his hand. "Please don't mistake me, Lord, but I want to know that you've thought over everything. If you make a choice, I don't want you to make the wrong one because you hurried ahead."
Imiut only continued staring at the bedsheet. The two of them sat in silence for a long while. His fingers tightened around his beloved's.
"It has to be worth it. He told me so himself."
The day was just as hot as the last, and a humid breeze blew off the river over the city. It was too sweltering now to even write. Anubis stood and stared at the large odd tree instead. He looked at it from every angle and no matter where he stood it just didn't seem right in the garden, and he found himself trying to think up excuses as for why it should be there. He was stumping himself.
The soft clacking of sandals distracted him from his meaningless endeavor and he looked over his shoulder. Imiut approached from the far entryway, glancing up at the tree before giving him an odd look.
"Hello, Imiut...I was just wondering about it..." He turned back to the tree and stared up through the branches. His ears flicked.
"Maybe the birds will nest in it..."
"I came to tell you something, Lord."
"Tell?" Anubis turned to him again, just his head, then completely around. "I felt you needed to say something yesterday...but you didn't."
"I came to say it now, Lord. I apologize that I kept it for so long."
"Kept it--? What you had to say?" Anubis frowned. "What is it?"
Imiut stared at him for a moment, hands clasped. He then dropped them, tugged at his kilt a bit, and broke eye contact. His gaze wandered over to the edge of the pool. Anubis stood and waited for him to speak, frowning a bit more at his hesitation. Imiut clasped his hands again and took a breath.
"Lord...I believe...I believe that I've found someone."
"Found...?" Anubis was silent for a moment, then his face brightened a bit. "You mean, you're in love? You've found someone?"
Imiut nodded and bowed.
Anubis let out his breath. "Well, you made it seem so serious. Why this has been bothering you I have no idea. Who is she? What's her name?"
Imiut's face went red, so much so that the jackal god noticed and peered at him oddly. "It's...it's not a she, Lord," he murmured, and forced his fingers to remain still, though he felt like tearing his clothing into tiny little strips, just to keep them busy.
The silence this time was very long and almost unbearable; he peeked up at Anubis several times to see if he had actually heard. The look on Anubis's face made it clear that he had. His eyes had grown wide, mouth slightly agape with a surprised look. Surprised was too weak a term. Stunned seemed more appropriate.
The silence stretched on and on. Anubis's shoulders lowered a little and he began to blink a few times as if dazed.
"Lord Dua," Imiut blurted out; he felt his ears burning but didn't retract what he'd said. Anubis appeared to be surprised again.
"Dua--? Your servant--?"
"Yes, Lord." Another bow, purely out of instinct. "Lord Dua and myself...we...have feelings for each other. We have for a while."
He couldn't bear to keep looking at Anubis's face. The god seemed too baffled to speak straight. He stared at Dua even when the demigod could look at him no longer, and then his gaze drifted to the ground ahead of him. He looked as if he would sit down, had the bench been any closer. He put out his arm to balance himself against the tree instead, and the gesture pained Imiut with its implications of disbelief and disappointment.
"This is why I asked if you would disown me, Lord."
"Disown you?" Anubis finally looked at him again.
Imiut bowed. "Even if you would or wouldn't, I wanted to tell you truthfully. I apologize I kept it from you when you instructed me better, Lord."
Anubis said nothing, only stared. Imiut hated that he did so. With another bow he turned away and started to make his way back to from where he'd come.
Two people...one person. He hated also choosing one over the other; it wasn't right. But Anubis had taught him. If keeping them both meant he had to deny that truth...he could never do it. Anubis had taught him better.
He had taken only a few steps that felt like a million when the god's voice stopped him.
He froze instinctively in midstep. He lowered his foot, turned, bowed, stood straight again. Anubis still stared at him, but then came forward. The look on his face was guarded now, something Imiut couldn't recognize. He stopped a short distance away and they both stared at each other.
After a while he sensed rather than felt the jackal god let out his breath, and his eyes lowered. Imiut recognized the look now and bit the inside of his mouth.
He felt his heart twist in his breast but said nothing. It was only the truth. Anubis must follow the same rules as he.
"...That you won't likely give me any grandchildren."
Imiut blinked. He lifted his head as Anubis sighed and walked away a few steps toward the pool, scuffing his sandal along the tiles and kicking up a little puff of dust. He continued in a murmur, as if talking to himself.
"Not that I had ever planned this out or expected it anyway...but it would have been good to be a grandfather..."
"Lord...?" Imiut asked, confused.
Anubis stopped scuffing at the pavement and looked him in the eyes. Imiut froze. The jackal god approached him, not breaking his stare.
"For how long?"
Another blink. Imiut's fist clenched.
"About a few months after he first came to serve me, Lord."
"All this time?"
"Yes..." He felt his cheeks burning. "You may ask Lady Kebehut."
Anubis frowned. "She knows?"
"I...I believe she does, Lord. Accidentally."
"And who else?"
"None, Lord...only you."
"I didn't wish for you to disown me."
"And the reason you tell me this now?"
"You told me to tell you the truth. I had to decide. I don't...I don't like fooling you," he murmured, not certain if the god could hear.
There was a brief pause. He didn't dare look up at Anubis again.
"Does he treat you well?"
Imiut's brow furrowed. What an odd question to ask. He searched for the answer, although he already knew it.
"...Yes...yes he does, Lord."
"And you, how do you treat him?"
"The same, I should hope, Lord."
"You're happy with him? And he with you?"
Imiut nodded. "Yes...I am. We are."
The pause this time was even longer than the others. Imiut felt ready to start squirming, or else run from the courtyard altogether. By now he just wanted to go back to Dua; this was too difficult. If only there was a way he could take it all back, perhaps it would have been better to have never told him, after all. He hated having to choose only one...but Dua was better than nothing.
He dimly heard Anubis sigh. "Well...this is what matters, I suppose."
Imiut lifted his head now and peered at him. The god looked resigned; he crossed his arms and again scuffed at the tiles.
Anubis uncrossed his arms and approached, placing his hands upon Imiut's shoulders. Imiut stared at him stupidly, uncomprehending. The jackal god's eyes were hard, searching, yet after a moment or two they began to soften, tinged with sadness, memory.
"I can see it," he murmured, "the way you look...you are certain." He let go of his shoulders and glanced upward. "There's the difference in status..." He sighed. "But you're not royalty...and neither is he...there will be some talk, but perhaps I can keep it mostly quiet...it's not as if it's never happened before..."
"Lord?" Imiut was truly confused now.
Another look. This time, Anubis offered him a very slight hint of a kindly smile, and Imiut felt his heart speed up again.
"Imi." He called him by the name he'd used when he was very young, no more than a boy. "Do you know what my greatest hope for you was? That you would be like me, that you would continue my line or some such?...I never really cared for either of those, either way." He looked at the large tree some distance away now, then back at his son. Imiut couldn't break his gaze this time. "I only wanted you to learn the truth. To be able to tell it to others. To be who you are, not who someone else says you should be. I didn't want you to play a part, as I did. I can never tell you, how much it hurts to be someone you're not...but I don't believe I have to tell you. If you already know you don't have to be that way."
Imiut took in a breath. His eyes burned now, his vision blurry, but he forced them to remain mostly dry. He felt as if he floated slightly above the ground, his feet not touching it.
Anubis's smile grew slightly. Imiut felt himself drift back down to earth. He gave a deep but hasty bow.
"Th-thank you, Lord."
The jackal god's mouth twitched. "You truly thought I'd disown you?"
"The only reason I would ever disown you would be if you betrayed my trust in you. You've never come close." He took Imiut's arm. "I ask only one thing. The next time you come to see me, invite Lord Dua along, so I might properly meet him, all right? The one that my son loves, and I barely even know his name...that just isn't right."
Imiut flushed again and stammered. "Y-yes, Lord."
"I've put you out of sorts enough for today. You look like I must have, back then." He beamed and let go of Imiut's arm. "You also look as if you want to get out of here so I'll let you go. You don't have to make an excuse. Try to find something to do with the rest of the day. And be back to the palace before nightfall, all right?"
"Yes, Lord." Imiut started to turn when Anubis took his elbow one last time, leaning forward and speaking in a low voice.
"Oh, and Imiut...really...by the river? Just because I did it...doesn't mean it's proper. Lady Khebit and I have some fond memories of that place. Surely out of all the spots along the river, you can't find your own?"
Imiut's face must have gone completely crimson, his eyes the size of platters. Anubis started laughing and let him go. He turned and hurried away from the garden, mentally vowing that the next time he saw Kebehut, he would dunk her head in the water just for sport.
"So...did you tell him...?"
"Yes...though I did not have to..."
Dua cocked his head with a puzzled look. Imiut moaned and ran his hands down his face, the breeze from the river doing nothing to make the burning embarrassment go away.
"Please do not ask...I feel as if I've died a million times over this day."
"I take it from your look that it didn't go well..."
"No. That's not it." He sighed and dropped his hands. "He...he told me he only wanted me to tell the truth. To be who I am. This is all. He didn't say if he agreed or disagreed."
"And that matters?"
"No...no, it does not."
Dua smiled slightly. "And so you can live with this...for now? You worry yourself sick over being disowned, and then he goes and disappoints you. You are surprised?"
"No." He said it even before he considered it, and was surprised to realize, he wasn't that surprised after all.
"Well then. This is one less thing on your list of things to worry yourself sick about."
"I still have to worry about the little matter of the difference in our status," Imiut muttered. Dua started laughing now and he scowled.
"You're acting just like him..."
"I'm sorry, Lord...it's just that, without things to worry about, where would you be? What would I have left to laugh about?"
Imiut's scowl darkened and he flicked his fingers painfully at Dua's ear. Dua winced but grabbed his wrist and pulled on his arm. The gesture worked at pulling him out of his mood; they both fell back laughing. They kissed each other and touched their heads together, smiling.
The sun shone down through the palm trees and a flock of birds descended from the sky to rest upon the water. The river rippled and sparkled, the balmy breeze swaying the reeds and grass.
"Er...I think perhaps we'd best head back to the palace."
"Why? You don't like the river now...?"
"No, it's just that...well...he said...that Kebehut..."
Far beneath the trees, a soft whisper could be heard. This was followed by a raucous laugh which sent the birds scattering in every direction. The mortified protests which followed did little to quiet it down this time. "I'm sorry, Lord," the voice laughed helplessly, "but you can hardly blame me. It takes two to make a scene like THAT!"