The dancing girls are pretty, their steps intricate, provocative and designed to entice. Quatre turns his head away, watching instead the handler ready the next set of slaves for the block. He shifts farther down on his cushion, wonders briefly whose ire a nap might incite. But it is his idea to come; he had to insist despite the protests against it.
Idly, Quatre is rubbing his chest, the fine fabrics soothing the imagined burning he feels. For sixteen years he has lived with the occasional grip of pain, the flash of fire. Over the past week, it has been a constant condition. In hand-wringing certainty, his father's physicians had long ago deemed he would live a short life; Quatre began ignoring the pain and forgetting to inform others when it would occur.
A male slave has stumbled, nearly falling and pulling others with him. The handler prods the slave, barks a sharp order still heard over cymbals and tambourines and tympanon. Quatre starts, has knocked over his wineglass. He is almost is to his feet and the pain flares hot and bright, drowning all other sounds and sight.
The room is dark but for a single light. The night is moonless and he is prone before a kneeling boy, his cheek pressed flat to the tile and his arms outstretched with his palms flush with the floor. He feels the coolness of the fingers as they stroke his face; he hears the soft lilt of the voice as it pleas for him to rise. And he is kneeling with the boy, holding him and being held.
Words are spoken. Vows of eternity are consummated with the surrender, the giving and taking and sharing more than bodies and lust.
With a jolt, Quatre is still lying amongst his cushions, the room filled with light - natural and enhanced, music resonates and bare feet keep time on the tiled floor. Quatre is gasping and the slave is looking directly at him, ignoring the handler's whip.
His gesture is answered immediately; two of Rashid's men approach the slave. Quatre looks away and rises. He leaves the auction house, his retainer preventing its proprietor from following. And though he is trembling, he has never felt stronger: his father's physicians are wrong. In less than a minute, the condition is known, answered and soon to be cured.
Duties delay him, keeping him from discovering what the double cadence of his heartbeat means. He returns to his personal wing much later than he had planned. The room is dark but for a single lamp. The new male slave drops in fluid motion as Quatre comes closer. He is kneeling before Quatre and Quatre feels a new pain in his chest, a new fire that burns in his heart. Quatre follows the slave to the floor, reaching for him with hands not quite steady.
I love you already, and I know you not...
Quatre is looking into the boy's face, and realizes this is the first time a slave has dared to look at him with the same scrutiny. But then, he is not really a slave. Quatre pushes himself away from the boy, removes his headdress, his vest and strips off his robes. In his loincloth he kneels to the floor, lying flat on the tiles as he had in his vision.
Fingers are touching his hair, tracing over his cheek, words are spoken in whisper and Quatre smiles as he allows the boy to pull him to his knees, to hold him close and offer him happiness shared.