Wednesday Briefs #7: Growth, Part 5: Ghalib & Adel’s First Meeting

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Ghalib & Adel’s First Meeting

And this week we get back to Ghalib. He meets Qadi Adel for the first time and finds himself reacting in a wholly unsettling way. I almost feel sorry for the boy.

Almost.

Ghalib

Ghalib slipped out of the Grand Hall and down the corridor to the courtyard door.  He stepped out into the rapidly-cooling desert night and took a deep breath of the sharp air. The sounds of merriment from the Midwinter feast floated through the windows to Ghalib’s right but he paid them no mind.

He stared, instead, at the moon that filled the sky, his mind not on the festivities or even the cold night. He wasn’t even really seeing the bright moon and its face. Instead, his thoughts were on the date and what it meant.

In two days’ time, he would turn nineteen.

Another year, another stretch of time he’d spent cleaning rooms, fetching things, running messages, setting up fires or carrying food.

He knew he should be grateful for it. He should be happy that he had work, could be in the royal palace. He never went without food, was always clothed—and well—had almost everything he needed. So many didn’t have even that.

And he was grateful. He’d been hungry and desperate. But Safiya had taken care of that and now, now… he was restless.

He wanted something more, something else.

He wanted to be useful in a way he wasn’t here. Here, he was just another footman, just another page, just another runner. And maybe there was a little more than that. He was known to the malik. He was specifically requested on occasion, but in the end, it made little difference. If he stayed here, as a footman or page, that was all he’d ever be.

He took a deep breath and let the sigh out, closing his eyes and trying to sort through the mess his mind was in.

“That sounded very forlorn,” a voice said behind him.

Ghalib spun around to see a man he didn’t recognize leaning against a wall, partially hidden in shadows. He couldn’t make out everything, but the fabric of the man belied station and Ghalib scrambled to bow his head. “Ya sayyid, my apologies, I didn’t realize you were there.” He stood up again and started for the door.

“Please, don’t leave on my account.” He stood out of the shadows and Ghalib’s breath caught. Long, black hair shone in the moonlight. Dark eyes that held a wealth of secrets focused on him and Ghalib squirmed a little. “What is your name?”

“Uh…I… My,” Ghalib stuttered, then blushed. “Ghalib ibn Ahmed, ya sayyid.”

“I am Adel. And though I am a qadi, you needn’t address me as sayyid. My given name is quite enough.” Adel stepped closer and considered him. “Ahmed? The justice advisor?

“Oh, uh, no, ya sayyid. My father is dead.”

“My condolences. And I thought I told you to use my given name.” He paused and tilted his head. “Do I know you? You seem familiar.”

Ghalib blinked and he found himself grateful for the night and shadows as the color darkened on his cheeks. “Nothing to be sorry for. He’s been dead many years. And I, uh, I am usually the one to clean your rooms, ya say—uh, Adel. Please, I am sorry for interrupting.” He started to back away, but Adel’s hand shot out to clamp onto Ghalib’s arm.

“I think I said you shouldn’t leave. What was the sigh about?”

Ghalib found himself scowling though he usually mastered his expressions well around his betters. But he didn’t like admitting his thoughts and feelings to himself, much less speak them out loud. He’d never told them to anyone. He certainly didn’t want to tell this stranger—and a noble at that—about his feelings. The reaction would only involve laughter and ridicule. He’d heard plenty from the other footmen the few times he’d mentioned doing something besides being a footman. He could well imagine what a highborn noble would say.

Before he could speak, however, a bright smile flashed in the darkness. “You didn’t like that.” Adel chuckled. “That is quite alright. I will see you again, Ghalib ibn Ahmed. And next time, I’ll get you to tell me.”

With another chuckle, he turned and walked back into the palace. Ghalib stared after him for a long moment, scowl still firmly on his face. He couldn’t remember ever reacting quite like that. The man irritated him.  And though that wasn’t unusual for a noble, the irritation was much sharper with this man.

Partially because, he could admit, Adel also surprised and fascinated him. He’d never had a noble tell him to use a given name. Never had one speak to him—except for the malik, that is—the way Adel had. Never held what would have been considered a normal, if brief, conversation with one.

The other part of his irritation came from finding out that he’d reacted almost violently to the small touch and Adel’s proximity. Ghalib’s cock was uncomfortably hard. It was ridiculous. But the touch, the smile and those eyes had been enough to send his system into the swiftest arousal he could remember feeling in a long time.

He shot a look at the doorway Adel had disappeared through. With any luck, he could avoid the man in the future. He had no wish to subject himself either to Adel’s insistence on him talking about his feelings or to the insane arousal he’d experienced. And he’d be damned if Adel saw both at the same time.

With a headshake and, surprisingly, his earlier melancholy forgotten, Ghalib went in search of a private spot to take care of his discomfort.

* * *

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