Decision incoming in 3… 2… 1…
And once he makes the decision… then what?
Ghalib swallowed, then decided that a bit of wine might not be a bad idea after all, and took a drink. He cleared his throat. “I believe so. I… I…” He sighed, unable to make himself say it.
Bathsar breathed a sigh of obvious relief. “Thank you, love.” He paused to take Teman’s hand and kiss it then turned back to Ghalib.
Need to serve. That summed it up pretty well. Ghalib hadn’t put it like that before, but that was about as accurate as it could get. I’m best at taking care of people. He wasn’t far off in what he’d said, even if the way he’d said it wasn’t exactly right. Ghalib focused back on Bathasar when he spoke again.
“I can… well, I don’t exactly understand the need to serve,” Bathasar said. “But… I recognize that some people have that it. What I do understand is that the type of service you give now in the palace doesn’t come close to filling that need.” He paused and considered Ghalib again for a long moment. Then, finally asked, “Do you want to go into pleasure slavery, Ghalib?”
He took a deep breath. The question hung in the air as if suspended on a string between them. The idea that’d been teasing him for some time. And now that it was presented to him, the butterflies went from fluttering to rioting, his heart pounded, his palms moistened and his throat dried completely. Could he do this? Was this what he wanted?
- That answer rang clearly in his mind. So, he knew he wanted it. But… could he? “I… I…” He swallowed hard, staring into his wine.
He hadn’t heard any movements, but a moment later, Teman was squatting next to his chair. “Ghalib?”
He glanced over at the man who’d befriended him, swallowed around his dry throat and dug up the ability to speak. “I…”
“Perhaps I should ask another question and make a few things clear,” Bathasar said, drawing Ghalib’s attention. “Are you unhappy in the palace?”
Ghalib quickly shook his head. “No, Your Highness!” Ghalib’s cheeks heated but he forced himself to look up at Bathasar. “Your… Highness, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for what I’ve been given here. I am very glad that my sister has a home, that I have food—”
Bathasar shook his head, holding up a hand. “I don’t think that, not at all.” He smiled gently. “And it’s not given. You most definitely earn it. No, I want to make sure you like the palace itself. As a part of the pleasure slaves, you will be forced to stay inside most of the time. We do allow them out on the grounds, but they cannot leave the palace completely. Though, if you did do this, if you found that you were truly unhappy… I would not make you stay.”
Ghalib’s eyes widened. “You… you wouldn’t?”
Bathasar smiled. “I prefer to think I’m not a tyrant.”
Ghalib blushed. “I didn’t mean—”
Bathsar sighed. “I can’t even make a joke. Anyway, no. If you choose to become one, you may also choose to leave. I would ask you give it some time, get through the training, give yourself a real chance to see if you’ll be happy there, but… if, in the end, you aren’t… you will be free to go back to your former duties.”
Ghalib stared at Bathasar for a long time, then dropped his gaze to his wine glass. Teman laid a hand on his leg and he met the brown eyes that were focused on him. “I… I… what if I am horrible at it?” He flicked a glance at Bathasar, then Teman. His cheeks burned brighter and he dropped his voice. “I… uh… I have never… um…” He cleared his throat and looked away.
Teman’s hand tightened. “It’s all right. I think you will do beautifully, I think you’ll… bloom there. They will teach you all you need to know. And you will have a chance to… practice… your skills before they pronounce you ready to be requested.” Ghalib looked up again and Teman nodded. “But I really don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
Ghalib met Teman’s gaze for another moment, then took a deep breath and, around his pounding heart, finally forced the words out. “Then yes. I would like that.”
* * *
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