Adel, Part 1
And we have the next Wednesday Brief in which we finally get into Adel’s head. He proved a little stubborn, but I’m pretty happy with where he’s going.
Adel couldn’t decide if he was amused, annoyed or… impressed. Ghalib had managed to evade him for more than a week. His room had still been cleaned, but Ghalib had done so when he’d been out of the room. So, despite doing his best to be there, he’d managed to miss Ghalib every time.
The one time he’d been in the room when Ghalib came in, he’d been in the bathing room and hadn’t heard anything until the door closing. He’d nearly leaped out of the tub, snatched up his towel and hurried out to the main room only to find that the fire was lit, the wine tray was on his table… and Ghalib had gone.
It was, in a word, ridiculous.
Adel hadn’t brought himself to directly request Ghalib yet. He would, if it came down to it, but he saw that as borderline abuse of his rank and didn’t like to do that. Because what he would be requesting Ghalib for had nothing to do with actual duties. And everything to do with the attraction he felt for Ghalib. But he was getting closer and closer to that point with every new day that Ghalib managed to avoid him.
Because that attraction irritated him by its simple existence.
Adel didn’t want to be attracted to a servant. It had nothing to do with their station –except for the fact that they most often felt they couldn’t say no. And he refused to put someone in that situation.
Adel’s father had had no such reticence. He’d slept with nearly every servant he came across. He’d had no compunction over using his maids and kitchen help as much for sex as he had for cleaning or cooking. As such, Adel now dealt with more of his father’s bastards than he knew what to do with.
And though Adel much preferred men to women and, thus, wasn’t about to father bastards, he didn’t want to follow in the man’s footsteps anymore than he already had. Which was to say, none. Thus, he’d refused to touch any of the servants—male or female.
So his attraction to Ghalib annoyed him to begin with. The fact that Adel couldn’t stop thinking about him only made things worse. And then there was the fact that Ghalib didn’t seem even remotely interested in returning that attraction, which made Adel even more determined to see and talk to him. Because despite the avoidance Ghalib was doing, Adel could have sworn something had passed between them the night of the Midwinter feast. And with the reaction Ghalib had had to his touch, he was sure he hadn’t been the only one to feel something when he’d grabbed Ghalib’s arm.
As if being a servant wasn’t bad enough, Adel was fairly certain Ghalib was still too young to get involved with. He had a very youthful face, and though Ghalib was plenty tall—as tall as Adel himself—something in the round cheeks made Adel question Ghalib’s age.
And yet, all of that aside, the thing he hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the most hadn’t been the deep, dark eyes or the lean body Adel could tell was under the tunic nor had it been the strength he’d felt in the arm he’d grabbed. No, it’d been… the sigh.
He’d called it “forlorn” to Ghalib. And that was true, but there was more to it, too. He’d heard so much in that single sigh; it said so much about Ghalib.
And yet, not enough.
Adel picked up on the fact that something was wrong. But what exactly it was, he couldn’t know and until he could pin Ghalib down and ask—again—there was no way to find out.
He’d tried. He’d spoken to the lady from the kitchen, four of the other footmen, two pages and several maids. And though they knew who he was, none of them seemed to know much about him. The lady in the kitchen, Safiya, seemed to know the most, but even she didn’t have much to tell him. Ghalib had come to the palace young with a baby sister who had been adopted by another couple. He’d been there ever since, did what he was assigned to do and mostly just kept to himself.
Which had been very… unhelpful.
Adel paced his rooms, trying to puzzle the whole thing out. He wanted to help Ghalib. He was a qadi, he had wealth at his command, lands, people. Whatever it was, he was sure he could do something. But not until he knew what was wrong.
He liked to help people. Ever since he was a small boy, he tried to help people. His mother often found him in the kitchen “helping” to cook or carrying an injured animal into the villa to help it get better. He’d taken more than a little bit of teasing over it through his life.
But he didn’t care. He didn’t care then and he didn’t care now. Because more than liking to help, he felt that, since he was in the position to do so, it was his duty to use what he had to help others.
He stopped next to the window and looked out over the rooftops of Behekam. Lights twinkled on as the sun sank behind the horizon and Adel lost track of time.
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