Ghalib’s Decision, Part 5

In which Ghalib is embarrassed, Bathasar is comic relief and Teman runs interference…


He blushed at the thought. But when he’d been in the slaves’ wing a short while before, no one had seemed to even make an issue out of being naked and he wondered if he wouldn’t simply get used to it the way the others had.

He frowned as he tried to work through all the questions in his head. There was so much to consider. There was his sister. Would he ever be able to see her? Would he want to, if he was naked? She was in good hands, she certainly didn’t need him, anymore. She was very happy with her new family.

He stood up and paced to the window, though the shutters had long since been locked against the storm. He closed his eyes and listened to the wind blow and the sand batter against the wood.

…Trained to accept pain…

He let that thought work through his mind. He’d certainly experienced plenty of pain over the years. Most of it, he’d certainly not liked. He remembered once a kitchen maid who’d mistaken him for another of the runners, thinking he’d been the one to pinch her ass and she’d slapped him. He remembered being very confused when, while it’d hurt, he’d rather liked it. He didn’t know what that said, if he was like Teman and Nadir, or not. But he suspected that, at least, the pain training would not cause him a problem.

So, if they offered him the chance, was he hesitating? Why?

Ghalib sighed, opened his eyes and paced back to the chair. Just as he sat—on the edge once more—Teman and Bathasar came out from the bathing room. Ghalib sprang to his feet, earning him a long-suffering sigh from Bathasar. Ghalib blushed, but couldn’t bring himself to sit back down.

“Really…” Bathasar shook his head and threw a glare at the snicker Teman let out. The glare only pulled a louder snort.

“Really indeed, my love. What do you expect? You are our ruler. We can hardly keep from showing you the proper respect.” Teman grinned.

“But we’re alone,” Bathasar nearly whined. “No one is around to care or think about it.” He waved a hand. “Never mind. Sit, Ghalib. That’s an order.”

Ghalib sat, though he stayed perched on the edge of the chair. He watched out of the corner of his eye as Teman went over to a table and started pouring wine. But Ghalib’s attention was drawn back to Bathasar when he took the chair opposite Ghalib, rolling his eyes. “Teman and I have been talking.” He tilted his head and Ghalib couldn’t decipher the look in his eyes. “Sit back. Relax.” He sighed. “I wish I could order you to do that.” This last was muttered, but Ghalib caught it.

Ghalib took a deep breath, scooted to the back of the chair and did his best to let go of the tension. He couldn’t stop the confusion and tension that was cause by why he was there. But he worked to relax a little and at least try to not appear like he needed to jump up and bow at any given second.

Bathasar watched this and nodded. “Good. Thank you.” He smiled and Ghalib felt himself relax even further. “I really like to think of myself as a fair, friendly, approachable person.” He chuckled. “Unfortunately, my title seems to get in the way of that.”

Teman came back then and handed a goblet of wine to Bathasar then turned and held one out at Ghalib. Ghalib widened his eyes, but took the glass, hoping to not upset Bathasar any further than he already had by refusing. He still felt uncomfortable at sitting with the malik like an equal, but he was beginning to learn that Bathasar rather preferred that. Not that he could ever get comfortable with that idea, but he’d at least try to pretened. After retrieving a third glass for himself, Teman took a seat in the chair next to Bathasar.

Ghalib smiled. “I… if I may, Your Highness… it is that very… um… attitude that makes us want to show the respect.”

“So I’ve been told,” Bathasar said, ruefully, shaking his head. “I am not about to turn into a tyrant or nasty person just to get people to not want to show respect.” He waved a hand. “Okay. Enough about that. My love has been telling me some interesting things, Ghalib.”

Butterflies Ghalib didn’t know he had woke in his stomach and fluttered. “Oh, Your Highness?”

Bathasar nodded. “He has indeed. He started by making me aware that you prefer men to women. I am… aware of the restrictions people of your station feel. If I could, I would change them now. But that is an ideal that takes time to happen. I’m afraid that even if I made it clear that who you are attracted to is none of the law’s business, it would not change the peoples’ view.”

Ghalib nodded, frowning. “Yes, I understand.”

Bathasar smiled. “I also understand that those of us in the higher ranks have a bit more freedom when it comes to that, especially when we choose pleasure slaves. I wish I could do something to make that easier on you, but I cannot. As for the other…” He frowned and glanced at Teman. “I confess, I’m a bit at a loss as to how to proceed.”

“Let me, love.” Teman took a sip of his wine and smiled encouragingly. “I think, as intelligent as you are, you’ve figured this out, haven’t you, Ghalib?”

* * *

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