"Well... one thing is for sure," the King said, rolling back the scroll and placing it upon the maps laden table with a weary hand, "This peace is fragile. So far the harsh winter has shielded us from Sultan Sadiq's wrath, as he cannot transport his cannons up the Danube on such weather, but in spring he will be upon our walls… That is, if we don't act wisely while there's still time…"
Gilbert shook his head, trying to concentrate on what the Venetian emissary was saying, but his father's words kept popping into his mind. He had only been here for six months, and the pain was still vivid inside him.
"I have thus negotiated with the Divan and so, my sons, it was decided that one of you will be sent to Sadiq's court, as a guarantee of our goodwill towards the Ottomans. As such, he will enter the Sultan's service and be at his disposal…"
The Prussian sighed. And so the old King Ludwig had paid a heavy price to protect his people, by giving away his eldest son, sending him to the Ottoman hell. Gilbert had known it would be him, even before his father had uttered the words himself, that he would keep the younger Ludwig - the one who'd had the privilege to inherit his name – by his side, safe, shielded from harm. The choice had both honored and pained the older boy. Just as fearless as he would have ridden into battle for the freedom of his people he would now go to the Ottoman court, but it hurt so much to know that he probably wasn't ever going to see his parents, his brother or his homeland ever again. As one of Divan's military advisors, he was pretty much burdened with work, but there were times like this, when no amount of work could keep his mind away from painful memories.
He was brought back from his thoughts when a servant walked in hurriedly and whispered into his ear that the His Greatness the Sultan wanted to see him. His mind barely registered the Venetian retreating with a long bow as he stood up himself and followed the man outside of the room, into the richly decorated hallway.
Gilbert hated how this palace overwhelmed him – it was by far the largest he'd ever seen in his life – how there were so many intricate corridors, so many passages, interior gardens, some areas that were restricted to the majority, other areas that were completely forbidden, and how he still needed to be guided around the place like a child every single time, for fear he would get lost in this maze, this endless prison that was Topkapi, and would end up in a very wrong place.
The Prussian ignored the occasional glares thrown at him by the various courtiers and servants as he passed them by on his way to the Divan's hall. He had not adopted the humble, rather hunchbacked posture that was so familiar with them, instead walking proudly, with his chin held high. Also, the fact that he was still dressed after the European fashion irritated them, and the silver cross he stubbornly wore around his neck was an open act of defiance. Anyway, their opinion was not important. It was always the Sultan's will that mattered, and His Greatness had shown tolerance in this respect. Even if he hated the idea, Gilbert had to be grateful for these small privileges that differentiated him from the servants otherwise recruited from other parts of the Empire and its surroundings, and which had been forced to convert fully to the Ottoman ways.
But what he hated the most was the fact that Sadiq was a man to be threaded around with extreme care, feared, he was so intimidating. He was never to be looked directly in the eye, one's head could roll down for that alone. Saluting him took more than kneeling, one's forehead had to touch the cold marble at his feet and the hem of his robes had to be kissed in reverence. It was all more than humiliating and Gilbert did not take humiliation too well.
The Prussian followed the servant into the Divan's hall, wiping away the sudden sweat of his palms onto his long, black velvet coat. It was one of those moments when the familiar weight of the sword against his thigh gave him no comfort. Clenching his jaw ever so slightly, he proceeded with the protocol, crouching and leaning forward until his brow touched the soft carpet. His reluctant hand then reached for the silky purple robes and he pressed them against his lips. He could almost feel how much that was pleasing the Ottoman, yet he did not dare look up into the masked face that hovered above him. He was forced to remain in the same uncomfortable position while the Sultan leaned back on his cushions and launched in a speech meant to emphasize his on-going disdain in regard to the ways of the non-believers. Gilbert had quite the conviction that Sadiq was also enjoying that, enjoying every word that went past his lips, and felt all the more resentful for it as his back was beginning to hurt.
"… and as such we now see fit to grace you with our generosity and reward you for your services…"
Wait, what? Had the Sultan said something about a reward? For him? Well that was unusual… However, said reward failed to be named and knowing the perverted mind that was behind that statement, Gilbert decided to regard it with circumspection rather than be glad about it.
After a brief dinner Gilbert had retreated to his room, on the edge of his nerves, dreading this whole mystery surrounding the Sultan’s decision to reward him, as he couldn’t fend off a vague feeling that it was something foul involved in it. He walked up and took Gilbird - his little canary - out of its cage and played with it for a while rather absentmindedly, but that failed to make him feel any less uneasy. After some more time, he just flung himself onto his bed and laid there with his eyes closed.
It was almost midnight when the door suddenly swung open and the Prussian, who had almost dozed off in the meantime, jumped up to his feet at the sight of the Administrator Murat. A cold shudder crept down his spine, remembering the first time the fat, powdered courtier had barged in on him like this, shortly after his arrival, to search his room. Gilbert had shouted at the man and had demanded to be treated according to his rank, only to have the tip of a riding crop placed promptly under his nose. The non-believer would do better to keep his mouth shut if he did not want to be dragged outside and be given a beating in front of all the servants, Murat had warned coldly, and that was the moment when Gilbert had fully understood just how precarious his position was here. And so, he naturally assumed that the Administrator’s presence could mean nothing good.
“In his majestic generosity, His Greatness the Sultan sends you this servant as a gift,” Murat recited monotonously, ”He’s a Valah (A/N – Romanian) prisoner of war. He is very educated, speaks several languages, writes poetry, plays the flute and knows how to wield a sword…”
Gilbert cleared his throat, which felt suddenly dry.
“So… he is to be my secretary?” he took the opportunity to ask while the Administrator had paused to assess the effect of his words, even though said servant had not yet come into view.
A smirk played on the Turk’s lips for a brief moment before he answered. “He is to be your servant and whatever else you wish him to be. His skills, his body and his life now belong to you…” He made a calling gesture and two Janissaries appeared, forcefully dragging a young man into the room.
“However,” Murat went on, “despite his many qualities, he is also extremely rude, rebellious, disobedient and cheeky. His Greatness has expressed the hope that you will be able to handle him, and thus succeed where others have failed…”
The Prussian simply stood there, silent. He didn’t like this at all, especially the way in which the Administrator had uttered the word ‘handle’. But he knew that a refusal, irrespective of how polite he chose to phrase it, would be an offence to the Sultan and it would almost certainly result in punishment.
“And now,” the Turk said, gingerly turning to the boy, “Valentin, I hope you have understood your instructions!”
Gilbert eyed the newcomer with curiosity. He was a tad shorter than him, his body lithe bordering skinny, had a very pale but almost unearthly handsome face, and eyes the same color as his own, shadowed by long bangs of strawberry blonde hair.
His careful observation was rather abruptly interrupted when the Romanian shouted something in a language unknown to the Prussian and spat right into Murat’s powdered face. One of the Janissaries promptly moved and punched him in the face, and Gilbert flinched at the sound of cracking bones. The Administrator murmured profanities, wiping his face with an embroidered handkerchief, then made another calling gesture. The Janissaries shoved Valentin down on his knees at the silver haired man’s feet.
“Come on now, kiss the hem of your Master’s clothes” Murat instructed, his voice seeping with anger, pushing the tip of his crop between the young man’s shoulder blades.
The Romanian pushed a strand of hair behind his ear and snorted back some of the blood that was gushing from his broken nose, then reached for the hem of Gilbert’s black velvet coat and reluctantly brought it to his lips.
“Thank you… I-I’m very grateful to His Greatness for his gift…” the Prussian finally mumbled, taking a deep bow, and secretly sighed in relief when he noticed that the Administrator looked pleased with his answer.
“Very good then!” Murat concluded. “Oh and be careful… he bites…”
With another devious smirk, the Turk was gone, carefully closing the door in his wake. Gilbert was left standing in the middle of the small room, feeling utterly inane, while his new servant had retreated to a corner and was leaning against a wall with his arms crossed, pressing his bleeding nose with a piece of cloth he’d fished out of his pocket.
“What the hell?”
The Prussian cast a glance around the room, inspecting the fine carvings that adorned the walls, and feeling himself getting more and more worked up by the second.
“They’re watching us, aren’t they?” he shouted again. “He is watching, yeah?”
Somewhere in the back of his mind Gilbert knew that, since he was never away from prying eyes and ears, throwing a tantrum was a very bad idea, but now he just couldn’t hold it back anymore. His fingers worked furiously to unbuckle his belt that suddenly felt too uncomfortable to wear and he threw it on the floor, along with his sheathed sword, and they hit the carpet with a dull thud.
“So… Valentin, is it? You were given instructions,” he spat, “tell me, what am I supposed to do with you, huh? Fuck you against my desk while His Greatness is watching and stuffing his face with sweets?” he added pointing to the small piece of furniture on which he kept his papers.
“Is that what you want to do?” The Romanian snorted some more, but his voice was blunt and emotionless.
“Ha! When was this ever about what I want?” the silver haired prince jumped. “Because if it were, you wouldn’t be here at all! I have no need of an additional someone to stare at me! Heaven forbid, they must have thought I was enjoying too much privacy! It wasn’t enough that I can’t take a bath, I can’t even take a fucking piss in this damned place without someone being around! Some reward this is, not that I was in need of his fucking rewards in the first place!”
It was late and Gilbert was tired, his little outburst had left him feeling all drained. Without any further words, he slid the coat off his shoulders and tossed it on the back of his chair, then flung himself onto the bed and turned his back on the other boy, pulling the covers over his head.
The Prussian had barely slept for a short while, yet he woke up again. He was still tired, but the nervousness that was upon him refused to let him rest. Now his anger had positively melted into fear. What the hell was the meaning of the Sultan’s gift? What was expected of him? He had better figure this out soon or else… Gilbert had quickly learned that – especially as a hostage – a lot of bad things could happen to someone in this place. One could be beheaded, or impaled, or tortured to death. Or tortured period. Or whipped in public. It all depended on how much the Ottomans hated them, or on the nature of their offence. But there was also a rumor that as a hostage, especially if you were young, you could have the further misfortune of being bedded by high ranking courtiers and even by the Sultan himself against your will. And that thought alone turned his stomach more than everything else.
The silver haired boy shifted in his bed, glancing down at the servant who had fallen asleep curled up onto the floor, using his long coat as a cover. A pang of guilt shot through him at the sight, but his bed was so small that he himself had to be careful not to turn in his sleep and fall down, not to mention that he could barely stretch his legs properly. In fact, the whole damned room was so small and cramped that they lay pretty close to one another as it was. Anyway, said servant happened to be very attractive, he pondered. Gilbert was into both men and women, so he could tell. But he would have never forced himself on someone, a thing which he was convinced that the Sultan had no problem doing. It was very strange then how this young man, who was also a non-believer, had been given to him, of all people. Well, it was obvious that he was not exactly the compliant type, but it wasn’t like they couldn’t have broken him if they wanted, they had effective ways…
‘His Greatness has expressed the hope that you will be able to handle him, and thus succeed where others have failed…’ Do they want me to break him, to bring him to obedience? Yes… force me to do this, to hurt another non-believer, what better way to humiliate us both…?
Well the Prussian resolved that he wasn’t going to do that. If they’d given the Romanian as his servant, fine, he would treat him as such. He would put him to work, give him chores, coerce him to do his duties if he had to, although he really hoped it wouldn’t be necessary. And he would just play dumb for all the rest. He hadn’t been with anyone since he’d gotten here so no one knew his preferences anyway. With these soothing thoughts he finally drifted off to much needed sleep…
The break of dawn and the hour when his daily duties usually started came around much too soon for the still exhausted Prussian, and he cursed, struggling to drag himself out of the bed. Recalling the events of the previous night, a groan escaped his lips, realizing that he wasn’t alone in his room anymore. God, that was totally not awesome, in fact it was down straight awkward… Deciding that he had to face it, so the sooner the better, he sat up and glanced around the room, still blinking sleepily. And that was when the awkwardness suddenly turned into terror – Valentin was gone.
Gilbert sat unmoved for what felt like endless hours, wave after wave of terror washing over him. All sorts of horrible visions of torture and other sinister punishments floated before his eyes as he could not stop wondering what they were going to do to him for having 'lost' his servant. And on top of everything, he could not stop blaming himself for this – what the hell had he been thinking? He'd been clearly told that the prisoner was rebellious and disobedient, shouldn't he have thought of restraining him or something…? Not that there was any chance for the man to escape Topkapi alive, but still…
His heart nearly jumped out of his chest as the door slowly creaked open, pushed by a foot and Valentin walked in, carrying a tray of food, which he carefully placed on his desk.
The Prussian finally dared to move, but it was only to bury his face in his hands. Where the hell have you been? How dared you leave without my permission? he wanted to scream, but the answer was obvious. The Romanian had probably just done as previously instructed by the Administrator Murat, so snapping at him now would have been misplaced… Taking a deep breath, he waited for the knot in his stomach to gradually dissolve.
"I've brought you breakfast, efendi (A/N – Master, Turkish)," the servant said, his voice unexpectedly soft but still terribly impersonal.
"Thank you," Gilbert grumbled, rubbing the back of his head, uncomfortable.
It wasn't that he wasn't used to having servants, he'd had plenty in his father's palace, but hell, those were real servants, not prisoners of war forced to do the job. As such, he didn't have a very clear idea on how to behave with this fellow non-believer, who was most likely of noble origin by the looks and description and who, just like him, had had the misfortune of ending up in here.
"Efendi, you never say 'thank you' to a servant," Valentin corrected him. "It is against protocol"
The silver haired prince suddenly looked up to see if he wasn't being mocked by any chance, but the other boy had quite a serious expression.
"Whoops! My bad…" he retorted ill-humored, stuffing a piece of bread in his mouth and poking randomly at the cheese. He then busied himself with pouring a cup of fresh coffee from the kettle, burning his finger in the process, while his servant simply stood there, silent and staring at the carpet pattern.
"Ah, ow!" the Prussian whined, almost dropping the kettle and sucking on his finger. "Could you help me with that, Vali?"
"You don't mind if I call you Vali, do you? It's… you know… shorter," he added, eyes trained on the slender fingers that now held his cup, filling it carefully, but then looking up their possessor gave him a glance that clearly told him he'd made yet another goof.
Damn it! he suddenly realized, I'm not supposed to ask his permission! He's my servant, I can call him whatever I like!
Gilbert scrubbed a hand over his face, nervous. There was something that he had to get off his chest and it had to be done now.
"Look, there's something I want to say, and it's not against protocol, because since you're my servant I can say whatever I want to say to you, other than 'thanks', right? So here it is – I'm sorry that this happened to you, well hell, not half as sorry as I am that this happened to me, but I am… And I'm sorry that I yelled at you last night and that I said those horrible things… I mean none of this is your fault…"
Valentin lifted his head and his gaze bore into the Prussian's, scrutinizing and somewhat surprised.
"It's no one's fault, efendi," he eventually said cautiously, imperceptibly tilting his head in the direction of the door.
"Right… no one's fault…" Gilbert understood.
After having a rather brief breakfast and changing into fresh clothes, Gilbert had been escorted by his new servant to the Hall where the Court would gather for the day. Hell, that was even more awkward – how come Valentin knew his way around this place so well? How long had he been here anyway? There were many things the Prussian wanted to ask him, but for some reason he just wasn't in the mood for talking, or at least not yet.
His discomfort was unexpectedly amplified as he entered the Divan Hall and made the unsettling discovery that he was now the subject of the latest gossip among courtiers. Apparently everyone knew about the 'gift' made to him by His Greatness the Sultan.
"Come now, beyefendi (A/N – Sir, Turkish) Beilschmidt, tell us everything!" one courtier said openly, while several others giggled suggestively.
My Goodness, they act like they're a bunch of silly wenches, not men!
"What about?" he asked coldly, but still careful to preserve a polite appearance. Hell, he could not afford to step onto anyone's nerves. Unfortunately...
"The Valah devil…" the man murmured, leaning closer. "See, my friends and I have made bets whether you'd still be alive this morning. So now I want to know how come I've lost so much money," he added somewhat chagrined.
The Prussian frowned, further irritated by their chuckling. "And why wouldn't I be alive, my dear sirs? I can handle my own servant just fine!" Saying that, he tried to walk away to his seat, but the courtier obnoxiously clung to his arm.
"Wait, wait! Beyefendi Beilschmidt, you will forgive me for saying it, but I fear that you are terribly ignorant in this matter…"
"What do you mean?"
The other man shook his head.
"We have all seen the boy when he was brought here after his capture… it must have been a little while before your arrival, beyefendi… Well, we had heard stories of his people before - they are all savages, bloodthirsty fighters who would rather take their own lives than surrender… Anyway, I suppose that the Sultan thought it somewhat of an accomplishment to take this one alive, after all the damage he and his men had caused among our ranks, so he was brought here, before the Divan, to be judged. Oh, very beautiful, this barbarian, but he behaved like a wild beast! The foolish guards had underestimated his strength and so he managed to free himself from their grip and dared to attack His Greatness with his bare hands!"
Sounds like the deed of someone who has nothing left to lose... But honestly, wouldn't any of his enemies want to do the same? Gilbert thought bitterly. "That sounds pretty terrifying…" he said instead, trying to appear mildly interested.
"Of course, we all thought that his head would roll down right then and there," the courtier went on, "but the Sultan would not let go of his precious prey that easily, it seemed, so instead he was thrown in the dungeons. And no one has heard about him ever since, well, not until now, when he was handed as a 'gift' to you. Yet rumor has it that the Sultan alone has visited him, in great secrecy though, from time to time…"
"I see, well… I suppose that what the Sultan has decided – in his infinite wisdom- to do with his prisoner is none of my business, is it beyefendi? I am only His Greatness' humble servant, and as such I shall not stick my nose where it doesn't belong…"
In all truth, Gilbert had no desire to hear any tales of Sadiq's possible perversities and furthermore he suspected that the courtiers only meant to intimidate him in their usual fashion. Look what happened to this man or the other, they would say, if you don't obey it could very well happen to you too.
"That might be true, but now that he is all yours… he is your business, and you may very well know what you're dealing with before, Heaven forbid, something unfortunate might come to happen to you…"
The Prussian snorted. "Beyefendi, you will forgive me if I don't see the reason for all this fuss over a simple servant. Administrator Murat has told me that the boy was trained for the job, and indeed so far he has done his duties, and nothing inappropriate. Other than scaring me shitless when I thought he was gone! So I had no trouble with him"
The courtier looked genuinely surprised and wanted to say something in reply, but then Sultan Sadiq walked in and everyone fell silent, kneeling to the ground in reverence.
When the Divan meeting for that day was over, Gilbert walked out hurriedly, seeking to avoid further pestering on the subject of his new servant. But that wasn't going to happen soon. Valentin was waiting for him outside in the hallway, and that instantly drew the attention of the annoying courtiers.
What the hell!? This couldn't have been any worse! the silver haired male cursed inwardly, noticing how they were staring at the young Romanian as if he were some treat they would have liked to try their teeth on.
He'd been given more suitable clothing – or probably they'd just returned his own clothes - a dark red, buttoned up coat that reached down to his knees, black trousers and knee high boots. And he also wore a small matching hat with two colorful… ribbons? Red suited him so well, Gilbert noticed, contrasting beautifully with the color of his hair and matching the ruby shade of his eyes, as well as the small earring bud adorning his left ear.
"Are you alright, efendi?" the blonde asked him, noticing how he stared a bit. Yeah, maybe just a bit…
"Phua, just awesome!" the prince snorted, rolling his eyes. "Let's get out of here, I've pretty much had it for the day!"
They walked in silence down the corridors, the Prussian tugging at his collar from time to time. Gah! It's so damned hot, hot and humid, this weather is appalling! He smelled himself discreetly. Hell, now I stink!
"Vali, wait!" he said stopping abruptly. "I will need to take a bath tonight," he added fidgeting uncomfortably, deep down already dreading it.
The Romanian nodded curtly. "Very well, efendi, just wait here for a bit, I'll go back to your room to fetch some fresh clothes and I'll take you there"
Left to his own devices, Gilbert started to wander around the spot where his servant had abandoned him. He would not think anymore of the current situation, after all, it was just gossip. In six months he had gotten pretty much used to their malicious teasing and he knew they would never stop, no matter what he did, so he might just as well do nothing. He was an enemy, and he was trapped here at their disposal for life. Slowly, his thoughts wandered back home, to the green hills where he'd used to take Ludwig with him on horseback when his brother was too little to ride on his own. That blue, infinite sky dotted with soft clouds, the wild smell of herbs, cool fresh air… All those things long gone, never to return…
Suddenly, as he refocused his vision, the image of his younger brother melted into the slender silhouette of a dancer shrouded in veils. Without thinking, his nose got stuck to the wooden grate that separated him from a large, dim lit room. Curious, he peeked inside at the hypnotic movements of the woman who lasciviously swayed her hips to the rhythm of drums. The Prussian wondered if she wasn't by any chance one of the Sultan's favorites…
He was brutally brought back from his reverie when a hand suddenly gripped his arm, yanking him away from the marvelous sight.
"Hey, what are you doing?" he snapped angrily at the culprit, who was none other than his servant.
"What are you doing, efendi? Do you want to lose your head?" Valentin questioned with a scowl, holding the bundle of clothes with one arm, while with the other he continued to drag the Prussian away.
"What the hell?! I was just looking!"
"Just looking? Those women are not for your eyes! They belong to the Sultan!" the Romanian scolded him.
"Right!" Gilbert agreed rolling his eyes emphatically, "What was I thinking? We all belong to the Sultan, don't we…" he grumbled dryly.
"You would do better to thread more carefully, efendi…" Valentin stated in a softer tone.
"Ha! What, like you did?" the Prussian immediately jumped. "You're one to talk, after you jumped to beat His Greatness in front of everyone!"
The strawberry blonde chewed on his lower lip, avoiding his gaze, and said nothing in reply, as they continued to walk towards the hammam (A/N – public bath). However, the expression on his face was clearly not one of repentance, the prince noticed. Yeah, he was definitely one hard nut to crack, at least for them, he concluded.
But much too soon they reached their destination and Gilbert suddenly had much bigger troubles. He stopped dead in his tracks in front of the large doors, wishing he could have been anywhere else in that moment, anywhere but there.
OH HELL, now I'll have to take a fucking bath assisted by the man that is apparently craved by everyone, while they're all staring at me! Arghhh, just when I thought it couldn't get any worse! he realized in utter horror.
Letting out a deep throated groan, the prince walked past the double doors, feeling his stomach cringe.
„I’m awesome, I’m awesome, I’m awesome, I’m awesome....” Gilbert mentally repeated his little confidence-boosting mantra, until it suddenly hit him that most likely it was his own awesomeness that was at the root of all his current problems. Hell, if he had been some repelling, gruesome midget they would have probably still stared at him, maybe they would have pointed at him, laughed and made jokes, but not this...
The Prussian disliked this whole idea of public bathing not because – Heaven forbid - he was a prude, oh hell no. In fact, he very likely was the only prince ever who had happened to spend the night in a tavern and gamble away not only all his money but also all his clothes in the process, and to walk back to his castle stark naked as well as drunk out of his mind, much to his father’s utter horror. No, he hated it because of the appalling way in which the Sultan’s courtiers were always so openly checking him out… And he wouldn’t have cared about that one bit, had he not been so helpless and vulnerable in the given circumstances.
But today it was different, Gilbert pondered. Today they would be busy staring at his servant instead, like he was something else entirely. They were probably as fascinated by the beautiful non-believer that had taken so much effort to be captured as they were intrigued by the mysterious reason for which the Sultan had chosen to spare his life, even after his outrageous behavior. And so, for once, they would not stare at him.
He walked determined to the edge of the large steamy basin and quickly removed his clothes, avoiding the gazes of the few courtiers who lounged on the hot tiles on the other side of the hall, chatting and giggling, and stepped inside. Unfortunately, he was proven wrong in his previous assumptions, as it soon became evident that now both he and his servant were being watched.
Fucking hell! They’re probably wondering if anything has happened between us last night… Gilbert thought morosely at their snickering, as he sat down into the hot water and proceeded to sulk. But his muscles were so strained and his back was hurting after the long hours spent with the Divan, and so he gradually allowed himself to relax, lazily motioning to his servant to bring him a piece of soap. The silver haired prince’s eyes closed as he let out a deep breath, propping his shoulders and head on the warm marble behind him.
Yeah, this is not so bad… I could just stay here and relax… and think of nothing… The hell with them!
But his moment of peace was short lived. Suddenly he heard something like a faint squeak, followed by a loud splash and a gale of laughter, and his eyes snapped open, only to discover that Valentin had taken an involuntary nose dive into the basin not far from him.
“Hey, are you alright? Did you get hurt?” the Prussian asked standing and hurrying over there, getting hold of the young man who had just managed to resurface with a loud gasp and looked a bit bewildered. He shook his head no.
Gilbert turned abruptly and glanced behind him, meeting the amused expression of Administrator Murat hovering above them. He glared questioningly at the fat courtier, who – he noted – looked even more disgusting without his makeup.
“You will forgive me, beyefendi Beilschmidt,” he murmured in a mocking tone, “It was just a little accident…”
More laughter followed his explanation and Gilbert’s frown only grew deeper, his annoyance amplified by the fact that he was in no position to properly respond. Little accident my ass, you did it on purpose, you fat fuck!
“Hey, barbarian, you can’t bathe with your clothes on!” one of the courtiers shouted at the young Romanian, who looked rather confused and just stood there. “Take them off, take them off!” the others joined.
“They are right, this is unacceptable,” Murat intervened, his voice firm this time. “So take them off, haydi (A/N – come on, Turkish)!” he ordered.
Shit! I should have imagined such a thing would happen! A pang of guilt instantly shot through Gilbert’s guts and he mentally scolded himself – he should have left Vali to wait for him outside. Damn it!
The strawberry blonde proceeded to remove his garments slowly, without a word, but defiantly meeting Murat’s shameless gaze, and he placed them on the edge in a neat pile, which he topped with his small hat. Then he crossed his arms with a stern expression, looking somewhat expectant. The Turk shook his head and sighed, and then walked away with a seemingly indifferent air, to join the others courtiers who had fallen suspiciously silent.
The Prussian quickly dove and fished the soap from the bottom of the basin, where Valentin had dropped it, and started to rub himself hurriedly, with his back turned on the whole scene. As soon as he was finished cleaning himself, the prince grabbed a towel to dry off and threw one to his servant as well, glancing at the Romanian’s wet clothes and realizing that Valentin now had nothing left to wear.
“Here, you can take my coat,” he grumbled, tossing the garment in his direction.
“From now on you will bring me hot water in here, because I’m not planning on ever going to that place again!” Gilbert ordered annoyed, as soon as they were back in his room.
Valentin shook his head, pulling a clean shirt on. “That may not be deemed acceptable, efendi,” he stated.
“I couldn’t care any less whether it’s deemed acceptable or not!” the silver haired young man shouted in response. “I’m sick and tired of this constant humiliation! Didn’t you see how they stared?” he blurted out unwillingly. He didn’t really want his servant to know that such things actually managed to get to him.
“You have no reason to be concerned, efendi. In the end, all they can do is stare…”
“Oh really?” Gilbert jumped. “Is that what you think, in view of what has just happened? Oh I beg to differ!”
Gah, stop it! Stop it, you idiot! The Prussian cursed himself inwardly for his words. Now he’d managed to make himself look like a complete weakling, afraid of some stares and teasing, like… like a damned girl, and in front of his servant no less!
No, I must never do that again! How the hell am I supposed to handle him if he thinks I’m a weakling?
Gilbert knew he’d made a mistake, but he reckoned that it had only been because he had been so alone all this time, with no one to talk to, at least no one who wasn’t on their side, and that had made him blurt out so foolishly. He briefly wondered whether Valentin had been made aware of how deep a shit the proud German prince was actually in. Did he know that Administrator Murat had threatened him with a crop, as if he were a miserable slave? He could only hope not.
“I-I’m afraid…” Valentin was staring down at his feet with a troubled expression, hugging his upper arms as in a faint attempt to protect his naked body.
Gilbert glanced around but there was no one in sight, they were all alone in the hammam. He advanced carefully in the water until he was standing right in front of the Romanian, a bit uncomfortable at the closeness of their unclothed bodies.
“Of what? Did you not say that all they can do is stare?” he asked gently, placing a comforting hand on the other boy’s shoulder.
“I did but… I’m scared! Please, don’t let them hurt me efendi,” the strawberry blonde murmured, suddenly leaning and hiding his face in the crook of the prince’s neck, sniffing.
“Shhh… Vali, it’s alright, I’m here,” the Prussian soothed, “I’ll protect you…” He gently lifted his servant’s chin and cupped his face with both hands, glancing deep into those gorgeous red orbs that had a pleading look about them.
On a sudden whim, the silver haired young man slowly lowered and tilted his head until their lips met, shyly at first, but then his tongue slipped out, licking the other’s lower lip teasingly, requesting entrance. The servant’s lips parted welcomingly, his hot breath already a little laboured, allowing the prince to explore his mouth, hands sliding up to the other’s shoulders for support. Gilbert’s fingers traced the blonde’s spine teasingly, all the way to the small of his back and then further down his backside, enjoying the sensation of the soft, heated skin.
Soon the tension in both their bodies became evident and, pulling away for breath, the Prussian reached down and grabbed Valentin by the back of his thighs, lifting him up and prompting him to wrap his legs around his waist. He carried them out of the steamy basin and carefully laid the Romanian down onto the warm marble, allowing himself to take in the beauty of his naked form. Taking a deep breath, he then began to plant butterfly kisses on the other boy’s forehead, on his flushed cheeks, on those oh-so-soft lips and further down on his exposed neck, in the same time slowly grinding their hips together, craving the friction.
“Ah… efendi…” Valentin moaned, closing his eyes, slender fingers digging into the prince’s muscular back in a silent plea.
“Gilbert… I want you to call me Gilbert…” the Prussian corrected him, before he bit down on the sensitive, moist neck of the blonde, leaving a red mark on the pale skin.
“Gilbert… t-take me, take me… now,” his servant whispered, in that sensual voice that sent shivers down the silver haired prince’s spine, legs wrapping around his waist once more, “I’m already… already…” Before he could finish, the boy on top of him had sheathed himself fully and began to move slowly, not wanting to hurt him but hardly resisting the urge to pound him senseless.
The Prussian obliged, increasing the speed of his thrusts and causing the blonde to arch his back in pleasure and moan out loud every time he brushed against his sweet spot. It wasn’t long before he felt his own climax close and pounded harder, urged by the response of the other’s delightful body. He finally came, in the same time as the Romanian called his name out loud, an expression of utter ecstasy on his beautiful face.
“Valentin! Ahhhhh… ah Vali!” Gilbert cried out, riding his orgasm, but then suddenly he was up, eyes wide open and still panting hard, only to realize he was sitting in his own bed. Oh, and his servant had probably heard everything ….
OH FUCK! He instantly squeezed his eyes shut and buried his face in his trembling hands, utter embarrassment washing over him like never before. Shit! Shit! Shit! Why the hell did I have to have this dream, oh God, why?
When Gilbert eventually decided that it was time to face whatever shit he was in and looked up, he had the same surprise like the day before – he was all alone in the small room. Glancing out the window, the prince saw the break of dawn and - despite his obvious relief at the absence of his servant - he cursed, dropping back on the pillows. There were a few things in this world which the Prussian really, really hated, and waking up early was one of them. Back home he had never woken up at the break of dawn, for fuck’s sake… Home…. But now he wasn’t home anymore, Gilbert bitterly reminded himself. He would never be home again.
Suddenly loud noises broke outside his door, brutally interrupting his reverie. Clatter of cutlery and the unmistakable banging and cracking of broken dishes, all laced with yells and a load of swears in what he guessed was a mixture of Turkish and Romanian made him deduct that apparently Valentin was otherwise occupied.
Tossing his covers aside, the silver haired male jumped to his feet and struggled to pull up his trousers which had somehow gotten untied in his sleep. Then he wasted no more time and darted out the door to assess the occurring disaster.
“LanetValah, üstümden! Bırak beni!” a small, olive-skinned servant cursed desperately, struggling to shove off the Romanian who had him pinned down to the floor and was pounding him mercilessly with his fists. Yet despite the apparent victory, the strawberry blonde looked like he’d gotten his share as well.
“Să nu îndrăznesti să mă mai lovesti, futu-ti gatul mă-tii! “he swore between pants, sniffing, with a killing glare.
Gilbert was a bit taken aback by how fast the two servants had managed to get themselves so bruised and bloody, and so he suspected that their quarrel had began sometime before they had reached his door. Fucking hell, irrelevant! he thought as he jumped in and got hold of Valentin, immobilizing his arms with some effort, but eventually succeeding to pull him off the other man.
“Allah, Allah, what happened here?” an angry voice suddenly inquired, and the Prussian saw Administrator Murat standing only a few feet away from them, tapping his crop against his palm impatiently. Oh fuck, this is bad! he rapidly concluded, eyes widening in terror. This really was the biggest crap he could get like, first thing in the morning. Ugh!
“Lütfen efendi, kurtar beni!” the smaller man whined, crawling to place trembling lips on the hem of Murat’s rich purple robes. “Bu Valah şeytan hepimizi öldürecek! “ he cried,but the courtier kicked him off with his foot in disgust.
“Do you mind explaining this to me, beyefendi Beilschmidt?” he then inquired in false sweetness and with a clear hint of menace.
The fuck?! What did I do? Oh right, I had nothing better to do than stick my nose into this… why couldn’t I just pretend that I was still asleep? the prince scolded himself inwardly, while wracking his brains in search of some pertinent excuse. Not that he could find any to explain the disaster.
“It was he who-“Valentin began to say, struggling to free his hand from the Prussian’s grip to point at the other servant, but without warning Gilbert slammed his fist into his ribs, making him groan in pain.
“Oh, excuse me, beyefendi, it was just a little accident…” the prince finally uttered with a curt bow, unable to restrain sarcasm. Predictably, the Turk’s expression changed, and not for the better. His eyes wandered over the mess that tainted the stone floor, and then he leaned down to grab the trembling servant by the collar, only to shove him back to the ground brutally.
“Sen!Bu pisliği temizlemek, ve siktir git!” he ordered harshly, before returning his attention to the two non-believers.
“As for you… I’m sure you remember, beyefendi Beilschmidt, that not so long ago I have explained what will happen if you give me cheek again… Is that not so?” Gilbert’s gaze trailed to the crop that was being weighed impatiently in the courtier’s hand, and he gripped the Romanian harder, with the sudden urge to tear him to pieces right then and there. He simply nodded, wordless.
“Good then… because you might find out that I am a man of my word…”
Saying that, the Turk spun around on his heels and walked away, leaving a pretty much fear frozen Prussian in his wake.
“ If you ever dare to speak to me like that again, you will be dragged outside and given a beating in front of all the servants!” he recalled in horror, as he proceeded to shove Valentin inside his room and slammed the door shut with his foot.
“UGH! I want to tear you to pieces right now! I really feel like killing you on the spot!” the silver haired male yelled, grabbing his servant by the throat.
But the strawberry blonde only snorted. “Then why don’t you, efendi? Didn’t they say that my life belongs to you now? What are you waiting for… take it!” he spat disdainfully. Gilbert fought a sudden irresistible urge to slap him across the face as hard as he could, but the boy already looked like he’d gotten plenty, so he refrained.
“Didn’t you tell me – ha, you told me - to fucking tread carefully! Honestly, just WHAT THE FUCK were you thinking?” he continued to yell, letting go and stepping away from the other boy. “For fuck’s sake, you’re a noble, you’re educated, how can you behave like a wild animal?! Jumping to beat that pathetic servant! Have you no fucking restraint?”
“Oh, so it isn’t enough that I’m being kept here alive against my will and forced to do a slave’s work! Now I was supposed to let that damned heathen beat me too?” the Romanian shouted back, clenching his fists.
Gilbert pulled at his own hair, exasperated.
“Well if this is some ‘strategic approach’ to end your torment, I’ll have you know it’s SHIT! Which part of ‘His fucking Greatness doesn’t want you to die’ did you not get, you fucking idiot? He won’t let you die until you’re crawling at his feet, broken, begging to kiss ass! But in the meantime, while you’re constantly looking for it, I’m the one who actually gets it! ME! I’m getting it, not YOU! Because you were given to me!”
Valentin rolled his eyes blatantly. “You’re whining like a woman again! You’re a German prince, you know very well that that fat cunt would never touch you!”
The Prussian’s hands closed around his throat again, squeezing, and he slammed the servant’s back against the wall with all his strength. “Oh is that so? He would never, would he?” he shouted. “When I came here Murat took whatever gold I had, he took all my books, hell he even took most of my clothes! And he said he’d beat me like a dog if I dared open my mouth! I was a prince once, but now am SHIT, that’s what I am! And as if that weren’t enough, I was supposed to handle you now! Well fuck me, failed miserably at that, haven’t I? But you have no right to act like that, like you’re the only one who has fucking lost everything!”
He let go and the other boy fell to his knees, gasping for air and clutching his throat. He kept his head low as if suddenly burdened by an infinite sadness and he remained silent.
Gilbert leaned and stuck his index finger under the Romanian’s nose. “Just bear this in mind, Valentin – if I get my ass kicked for what you’ve done today, I’ll ‘forward’ it to you like you’ve never seen in your whole life!”
The silver haired male’s cheeks were burning with fury and shame as he walked towards the Divan hall, all alone. Surprisingly, he managed to find his way this time without help, maybe precisely because he wasn’t thinking much of it, tormented as he was. He found his seat in the Small council, and this time he was lucky enough not to be asked any indiscrete questions.
Today Berker Pasha was presenting his project to build a different type of vessels that could travel faster up rivers and were better designed to carry both troops and horses, which eventually gave rise to quite a debate, but Gilbert found himself incapable to focus on the damned subject. Whatever he did, the pestering thought of Murat’s threat came creeping back into his mind to torment him. What if the Administrator was really going to keep his word? SHIT! How could I possibly endure such humiliation? And the satisfaction it would bring to all these bastards… The Prussian felt his knees go weak at the mere thought of the promised punishment.
And things were bad enough even if he’d somehow be let off the hook this time! Hell, he thought with quite the dread, his servant was some fucking reward, maybe Sadiq had known all along what he was doing to him by entrusting him with this prisoner! The idea had probably amused His Greatness to no end… Morosely he had to conclude that Valentin was actually nothing like in his dream – that shy, helpless, fragile looking boy in need of his protection was just that, a fantasy… Well damn, the Romanian was undeniably…um… hot as hell – Gilbert mentally kicked himself for thinking that yet again – but otherwise he was a complete nightmare! Good God, what a madcap!
“Maybe beyefendi Beilschmidt would like to share his opinion as well?”
The question curtly interrupted the Prussian’s train of thought and he glanced around, confused and embarrassed. “What?”
“I was saying that I don’t really see the need for this farfetched innovation, beyefendi, and our vessels are in no need of improvement,” Onur Pasha repeated impatiently, “and I was wondering what your opinion is on this matter?”
The prince cleared his throat, which suddenly felt dry. “Well I… um… “ he stuttered uncomfortably, “As we all know, His Greatness has always been a supporter of new ideas… and Berker Pasha’s project indeed seems to bring useful improvements… and as such I believe that it should be brought to his attention”
The meeting went sort of more smoothly after that, Gilbert struggling more to concentrate on what was being discussed, and so the hours passed rather quickly. Soon the dusk came and one by one the courtiers stood to leave, and the Prussian was slowly but surely gripped by terror once more. He walked out in the hallway half expecting to find Murat’s Janissaries waiting to grab him, but to his temporary relief there was only Valentin there.
“So… any news from our mutual friend?” the silver haired prince asked casually with a hint of sarcasm as he walked briskly towards his room, not looking at his servant. There was no need for the Romanian to see how scared he really was, in addition to his stupid confession from earlier. Just what the hell had he been thinking to reveal the true dimension of his misery to this nasty piece of work of a person? Now he would never get the upper hand with him, ever!
“None, efendi…” came the whispered reply, and for a while they just walked in silence, until they reached the small room.
“Bring me some dinner, will you?” Gilbert ordered. “And Vali…. maybe not kick anyone’s ass in the process?” he suggested, shaking his head.
The servant made himself scarce without a word and the Prussian dropped on his bed, on the edge of his nerves. He wasn’t hungry in the least, he just wanted to be alone. His gaze trailed to the small cage near to the window and he suddenly found himself envying the little yellow canary which chirped happily, without a worry.
Soon Valentin returned with a tray of food, which he quietly set on the desk. Gilbert’s gaze shot up at his face and he noted something positively striking – the strawberry blonde’s face was intact – not a bruise, not a scratch marred the beauty of his features. What the hell? Then he remembered – when they first brought him here one of the Janissaries broke his nose, and very soon there was no trace of that either… how can this be?
He frowned, puzzled. “What happened to your face?”
The Romanian avoided his gaze, looking sort of uncomfortable. “What do you mean, effendi?”
Gilbert stood and grabbed his chin, tilting it so that his face was fully into the light. “You were quite trashed this morning and now look at you! There is no mark on it! It looks fully healed! How the hell did you do that?”
“Nothing, nothing… I’m a fast healer…” the blonde replied in a low voice, taking a step back as if he was suddenly afraid.
“Not good enough!”
The Prussian wanted to say something more, but the door was swung open without a warning and two Janissaries loomed in the doorway. He gulped, his brow covered in a cold sweat, and took a step forward.
“Not you!” one of them growled. “You! Haydi!” he added pointing at Valentin.
LanetValah, üstümden! Bırak beni! - Damned Valah, get off me! Let me go!, (Turkish)
Să nu îndrăznesti să mă mai lovesti, futu-ti gatul mă-tii! - Don’t you dare hit me again, fuck your mother’s throat!, (Romanian)
Lütfen efendi, kurtar beni! - Please master, save me!, (Turkish)
Bu Valah şeytan hepimizi öldürecek! - This Valah devil will kill us all!, (Turkish)
Sen! Bu pisliği temizlemek, ve siktir git! – You! Clean up this mess and fuck off!, (Turkish)
Haydi! – Come on! , (Turkish)