Ghalib’s Welcome, Part 1
What has Ghalib gotten himself into? Well, it’s a bit too late to panic now…
Ghalib spent the entire trip from Bathasar’s quarters to the slaves’ wing second guessing himself. Grateful Teman didn’t push him to talk, he kept turning the same questions over in his head. Was this the right thing? What had he gotten himself into?
What was going to happen now?
He only had the vaguest of ideas about what to expect. He knew there was conditioning involved. He’d be trained in sex. He’d be naked. Beyond that, he had no real clue and now that he thought it through, he realized he should have asked so many more questions before he’d agreed to it.
He glanced over at Teman then back to the hallway ahead. Teman seemed happy. And as a gypsy, formerly as free as the wind, he’d assured Ghalib on more than one occasion that he’d do it all again. So… it couldn’t be that bad, could it?
He could admit that a small part of him was excited about the prospects. It bothered him quite a bit that he’d made it to this age and still had no sexual experience. The other pages and footmen went on and on in the evenings in the kitchens about which maid they’d been with or what brothel they’d gone to. They talked often about who they were going to take to bed and—to Ghalib’s supreme embarrassment—what they would do when they got there.
He’d kept his mouth firmly shut. Entirely aside from his sexual preferences, he had no experience and had had no wish to clue the others in to that. The teasing and jokes at his expense would never have ended.
So he was looking forward to some portion of it. But the bigger–the unknown–had him more reticent than excited.
“It’s not that bad.”
Ghalib started and looked over at Teman, raising his eyebrows.
“I could see the questions turning over in your head.” Teman grinned and nodded. “I won’t lie, there are definitely difficult parts of the training. But I am sure that Cyrus and Nadir will take care of you.”
Ghalib considered that as they started up the last set of stairs. “Is it… I…” he sighed. “Never mind me. It’s a bit late for questions now,” he said, chuckling.
Teman stopped, turning to him and putting a hand on his arm. “You can still change your mind, Ghalib. If you truly didn’t want this, we can go right back.”
Ghalib frowned but shook his head. “No. I… I will admit I am nervous about what is to come, but no. I think this is the right thing for me.”
Teman smiled, squeezing his arm. “I think so, too. I do think you’ll do beautifully. Flourish, as it were.”
“Thank you.” Ghalib smiled and his heart slowed just a little. “I… that helps.”
“You’re welcome.” He turned and they continued up the stairs. “When I first started, I had no one to tell me what to expect. I was… bewildered and confused. There was so much happening to me. Cyrus and Nadir did a lot to help me understand and that, I think, went a long way toward making it easier to deal with. Trust them. They would never truly hurt you.”
Ghalib pursed his lips. “I thought you said there was… pain training?”
Teman chuckled. “Yes, I’m sorry. Some things—the pain training, specifically—will hurt. But they won’t do anything that would… cause real damage. Nothing lasting. Entirely aside from the fact that my love has made sure that it won’t happen, they don’t believe in it.”
“Oh, okay.” Ghalib nodded. “I think I understand.”
They reached the top of the steps and Ghalib, his heart pounding once more, followed Teman to the same door they’d approached earlier. After Teman knocked, Ghalib heard a muffled “enter!” from inside.
He stepped with Teman into the room and glanced around. He’d been too confused earlier to take much in but it looked much like most other rooms in the palace. Colorful silks hung at the currently-covered windows. Lamps and a lit fireplace provided light. A lounger, two chairs and a pile of cushions provided seating. The wind battered hard against the wooden shutters, drowning out Cyrus’s voice briefly.
“Ah! Welcome back. I thought we’d see you again,” Cyrus said, standing and rounding his desk. He looked over at Teman. “So, he has agreed, then?”
Teman nodded, smiling at Ghalib. “He is… understandably nervous. But when I suggested we turn back, he said he still wanted to do it.”
Cyrus smiled at Ghalib and Ghalib worked to try not to let his nerves creep back. “I understand, Ghalib. I was quite nervous in the beginning, too. I think we all are. It’s the unknown. But Nadir and I will do our best to tell you what to expect. I find that keeps it from being too overwhelming.” He frowned and turned back to Teman. “Did His Highness mention any… uh… differences in how we are to deal with Ghalib?”
Teman shook his head. “No, he didn’t. But now that you mention it, I wonder.” He chewed on his bottom lip for a long moment then shook his head again. “I will ask him and let you know. He did ask that Ghalib see the training through. But if he is truly unhappy, Bathasar won’t force him to stay.”
Cyrus nodded. “I believe that of him.”
“Somehow, though, I don’t think he will be unhappy here. Will you, Ghalib?” Teman turned a smile on him.
* * *
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