Ghalib had been very happy—once he’d calmed down. Adel had heard the plea in the whines, couldn’t have missed the need in Ghalib’s voice for anything. Yet, despite being denied release, despite being so obviously close to orgasm and still pulled back, he’d smiled.
A beautiful, breathtaking smile. Much more beautiful than the scowls or looks of depression that had been on Ghalib’s face the last time he’d seen the man.
“Adel?” Cyrus murmured and Adel felt the lounger shift as Cyrus sat next to him. “Are you okay?”
Adel looked up at Cyrus and shook his head. “Truthfully… I don’t know.”
Cyrus nodded. “It is a lot to take in and understand. If you were brought here as a slave, you might understand a bit more were you to experience the serving side of things. Not that I think you should join the slaves,” he added, a look of amusement on his face and Adel wondered what his own expression must have looked like to garner the comment.
“I… supposed I can agree to that. But… I’m not, and I don’t think I could.”
Cyrus smiled. “No, I don’t think you should, either. At least, not be a slave. However, I think you might consider requesting one for an evening or two and talk more with His Highness about the things he does with Teman and Nadir. I would also be willing to talk to you, though I suspect Bathasar would do a much better job of it than I could.”
Adel pursed his lips, trying to decide how to answer. His first reaction—the almost instinctive “I don’t take slaves” needed to be suppressed. He knew that in this situation, if he was truly going to understand Ghalib and help, automatically saying that would be counterproductive.
As he thought it through, though, the idea of taking one not Ghalib did not sit very well with him. He was being silly, he knew it. What they’d done—or not done—before they were together, if they were ever together, was nothing to worry about. Even so, he didn’t think taking another slave was the answer, either.
“I will have to consider that.”
Cyrus nodded. “That is fair.” He considered Adel for a moment. “Bathasar has asked Ghalib to see the training through. If you truly think he is doing the wrong thing; feel free to say so. But I would ask that you allow him time to make his own decision.”
Adel didn’t like it, but at the same time, he knew he couldn’t force anything, anyway. He would get nowhere trying to push if Ghalib was otherwise happy.“I am also going to mention something else, something I believe Bathasar has told you, but that you might not be considering.” Cyrus paused, seeming to gather himself. “Without the slaves, Ghalib is more or less relegated to being lonely. He can have no lover outside of the slaves. As a simple servant, he can’t be with someone of the same sex. If he were to fall in love here or with a master, he could be with them. But otherwise…”
Adel didn’t need to hear the rest, he knew what Cyrus was getting at. He wanted to say that it really didn’t matter, but as Bathasar had pointed out to him, he had privilege when it came to that. Were Ghalib out on his lands, it might be different, but he could admit that there were likely things that happened in the village that he didn’t know simply because he was the qadi. His people, while open and friendly, were still human and subject to the same human failings of jealousy, fear and, thus, hatred as anyone else was.
He sighed. There still had to be something else, something he was missing. But he’d be damned if he could figure it out. Perhaps, despite how he felt now, perhaps Ghalib would tire of it by the time the training was over. Adel forced himself to take another deep breath and remember that he knew very well how to be patient. He hadn’t been acting like it, he could admit that, but he could do it.
He’d talk to Ghalib directly, see if he could convince Ghalib to take another path and if not… he’d figure something else out.
Admit it, you don’t want him with anyone else. Adel swallowed the annoyance but admitted it to himself. He did want Ghalib, didn’t want to see Ghalib going to someone else. But he didn’t know that it was his right to demand anything, no matter how attracted he was to the man. That’s all it was, attraction.
He sat up and looked over at Cyrus. “My apologies, I am keeping you from your duties.”
Cyrus shook his head. “No, no, it’s quite alright.” He smiled. “Would you still like to speak with Ghalib?”
Adel nodded and stood when Cyrus did. “Yes, please.”
Cyrus hesitated, looking him over. “Do you know that Ghalib is still a virgin?”
Adel’s stomach dropped out and he was pretty sure he swayed on the spot. “He’s never been with another man?”
“No,” Cyrus said, shaking his head. “He has not.” He watched Adel for a long moment and Adel wondered what his expression looked like because something in it made Cyrus’s eyes twinkle. “That won’t be the case for much longer, of course. It will become known before long and there will likely be a clamor to request him when he is released for duty.”
Adel stared at Cyrus, unable to speak or move. The image of Ghalib with any of the other men in the palace made Adel’s blood boil, but especially knowing what he did, it could make Ghalib’s introduction to that type of pleasure horrible. One of the crueler members of the nobility may no longer be around, but Jabir was, by far, not the only one to push as far as he could against Bathasar’s dictates when it came to the slaves. And the thought of Ghalib subject to someone like that… Adel couldn’t allow himself to contemplate it. He was, for the most part, a peaceful person. But he could all too readily imagine challenging someone over that and it simply wasn’t done, not over a slave.
He shook his head. He had to get perspective on this. As attracted as he was to Ghalib, as much as he wanted to help the man, he couldn’t risk his qadidom over it.
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