Ghalib’s Welcome, Part 5

Where Ghalib begins to think he might be better off just sinking into the water and staying there…


His face burned and he tried, a little desperately, to think of something else. “Try not to worry so, Ghalib,” Nadir said gently. “You should react when someone touches you. Remember, your life now is about pleasure. It’s touch. It is both giving and receiving that pleasure. Even here, in the bathtub. We will not pleasure you deliberately, but as you settle into your life here, everything will take on a sensual tone.”

Teman nodded. “It is how you should be. Let yourself feel it. Let it go. You please others by allowing yourself to feel these things, by becoming this embodiment of that pleasure.” Teman smiled and Ghalib, despite the confusion he still felt, began to relax.

“Good,” Nadir said and the pleased note helped Ghalib feel even better. “See? Not so bad.”

“It was one of the things I struggled with in the beginning.” Teman took a pitcher from the shelf on the side of the tub and filled it with water. “I was very confused and overwhelmed. I didn’t understand exactly how things had shifted, or where my focus should be. Cyrus and Nadir taught me it was about the pleasure. I knew it was my duty, but they showed me that it could be a good thing. Something I could appreciate, too. Then I went and fell in love with them.” He grinned over at Nadir, who blushed but leaned forward. They shared a quick kiss; then Teman turned back to Ghalib. “I didn’t realize it then. I cared about them, surely. I didn’t understand my feelings, though, until much more recently.”

“A near-death experience is good for that,” Nadir agreed, causing Teman to laugh.

“Well, you had the near-death experience.” His smile faded. “I thought I’d lost you. We all did.”

Nadir paused in his scrubbing of Ghalib’s back. “But you didn’t. You, all of you, agreed to let that go.”

Teman shrugged a shoulder. “Most of the time, I have.” He reached up and cupped Nadir’s cheek. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with recognizing that you can lose those most important to you. And cherish them as a result.”

Nadir shook his head, smiling. “No, that is true. I remember when you left. I still cherish you now, knowing how hard that was for you.”

Teman sighed. “You are too forgiving.”

Ghalib watched the exchange, wishing he was anywhere else. He didn’t want to intrude on this moment, but there was nowhere for him to go. They seemed to realize they’d stopped washing him then, however and turned back to him. “Nonsense. You needed to do that. Teman had been given his freedom shortly after Malik Mukesh was killed,” Nadir said, addressing Ghalib again. “And I believe firmly, he needed to go.”

“I had heard something like that. May… may I ask what happened?” Ghalib asked, then bit his lip. “I’m sorry. That is none of my business. I am—”

“My friend.” Teman paused to kiss him on the cheek, making him blush—and, annoyingly—his cock twitch. “And I don’t mind telling you. You know I am a gypsy. So you know that I am used to being free.”

Ghalib nodded. “Yes, you told me about that once.”

Teman smiled. “Our clan does not abide slavery.”

“Our?” Ghalib asked, surprised by the term.

Nadir was the one that answered, grinning. “Her mother adopted us —Cyrus and me. We haven’t had parents of our own for many years. When Kaya—Teman’s mother—discovered this, she insisted we call ourselves part of her clan.”

Ghalib’s mouth fell open. “Your mother is amazing. I… I have talked to her. She is wonderful.”

Teman beamed. “She is. Don’t let her know you don’t have a mother anymore, or you’ll find yourself a member of my clan, too.”

Ghalib laughed. “Doubtful.”

“Don’t be so sure,” Nadir said, chuckling.

“So, uh… what happened?” Ghalib asked to steer things back to comfortable ground. Because the idea of having a family sounded much too good.

“When Mukesh was killed and Bathasar ascended to the throne, his social advisor —Nasr—”

“The one caught conspiring?” Ghalib asked, eyes wide.

Teman nodded, scowling. “The same. That rat… anyway. He was the one that advised Bathasar that I must be known as a slave. I… Well, whether I like it or not, he was correct. The nobility would not accept me as an official consort of the malik. I am male, gypsy and a commoner.”

Ghalib winced.

“Indeed,” Teman said. “So if I was to stay, I had to be known as slave. I… well, at the time, I couldn’t handle it. I was wrong. Very wrong. But I had to learn that.”

“Sometimes, we have to learn things the hard way,” Ghalib said softly.

“Too true, my friend,” Nadir agreed. “Now, we must wash your hair.”

The two worked together without speaking. Teman poured the water, Nadir lathered his hair with a sweet spiced soap and then they rinsed it. “Now for the part that, I am sure, you will have trouble with. If you could brace yourself on the side of the tub, please.”

* * *

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