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It’s usually the same thing every time: after our workout, we’ll hit the locker room, and Zane will head into the showers while I’ll hang back to stretch. Zane will sing through a full song before he gets out of the shower, and by then, I will have stretched sufficiently. It’s our unofficial routine. However, after thinking about him so intensely last night, I woke up realizing that my curiosity hasn’t waned. Not in the slightest. Even while we were working out, I kept eyeing Zane’s musculature bulging in his tank top and nearly-see-through gym shorts. I realized I was focusing way more on him than myself, and too often did I have to force my attention away from his body. It’s distracting. *He’s* distracting. And he doesn’t even know it.

As I sit on the bench in front of our lockers, I hear the water turn on in the adjacent shower area, quickly followed by Zane’s crooning voice. Frank Sinatra again. I smile slightly before I bite my lip, stretching my leg in a half-assed way since most of my energy is being used to visualize Zane right now. He’s probably soaping himself up, the water and suds sliding over every muscle, every contour, every… I blink a few times to shake that image out of my head. Jesus Christ, what’s happening to me? Don’t tell me Jason was right about me.

Zane is a quarter way through “The Way You Look Tonight” by now, so if I want to catch a glimpse, I have to act quickly. Sneakily, I head over to the communal showers, my heart racing as I poke my head around the corner and peer in. Zane took one of the middle showers on the left and is currently washing his hair, eyes closed as he stands completely under the shower head. He looks like a god, even from the back. Greek or Roman, I’m not sure, but one of those heroic, admirable types. And I’m just the creep who’s ogling my friend’s ass.

I don’t know what compels me to do it. I don’t even really think about it. Not consciously, anyway. All I know is, one second I’m picturing myself standing next to Zane, and the next, I’m stripping out of my clothes, tossing them near our lockers, and then rounding the corner. I step into the communal showers and choose the head that’s right next to Zane’s. Since his eyes are still closed, he doesn’t even notice me, singing his heart out until I turn the water on. He pauses, pulling his face away from his spray and opening his eyes in surprise before he notices that it’s me. He laughs, looking both relieved and intrigued. “Well look who it is,” he says, quickly eyeing me.

“Don’t stop singing ’cause of me,” I say with a smile, rinsing off my body lightly.

“You’re funny,” he says, smirking slightly. I know he doesn’t like to sing in front of people. It’s a shyness thing. “I’m surprised you’re joining me.”

“I worked up a decent sweat,” I lie. Zane even looks at me skeptically for a moment because he knows I don’t sweat all that much, but he doesn’t seem to think much of it. He just shrugs. “Hand me the soap.”

“Gonna have to share,” he says, grabbing his bottle of body wash. He squirts some into his palm before passing the bottle to me. I watch him as he starts with his torso, scrubbing his armpits before lathering up his chest and then rinsing himself off. I follow a similar pathway, starting with my upper body before making my way lower. We keep having to pass the bottle back and forth but we seem to find a decent enough rhythm. Plus, it gives me plenty of chances to look in his direction. When Zane gets to his crotch, I watch his hand massage that thick piece of manhood between his legs. He tugs on it a bit, making me bite my lip. Why does it look so… interesting?

To be honest, I’ve always been a little fascinated by Zane’s cock because he’s uncut and I’m not. I remember when I was younger, I had asked Baba why Zane’s looked so different from mine. He had all this extra skin at the end of his penis, and the head of mine was always out and about. Baba just chuckled, giving me a little smile and a quick explanation, but not before saying that he wished I had been left “intact.” I was delivered to him already circumcised, apparently. It’s a common practice, especially among Muslims, but it’s not mandatory, and Baba’s disdain for the fact that I’m circumcised makes me wonder if I’m the odd one out or something. Is he uncircumcised too? What about Seth? I’ve often wondered.

That’s another reason I find Zane’s body so intriguing. Aside from some occasional light manscaping around his pubes, he’s his raw self: intact, scruffy in a charmingly unkempt way, never fusses over his body hair, never tries to drastically alter his appearance. Not that he has to. He’s sexy as is. I feel my face get warm when I think that thought, but it’s the truth. Zane is sexy. Period.

“Mind if we swing by my parents’ before we head back?” he asks suddenly.

I pull my eyes away from his lower body and look up at him. “Your parents? Why?”

Zane gives me a strange look before turning his head away.

Instantly, I know what he’s talking about, what he’s planning. “Zane, no.”

“It’s killing me, dude,” he says, looking at me in a pleading sort of way. adiosbet yeni giriş “It’s making me twitchy ‘n shit.”

“Do you really have to tell him *today*?” I ask. It feels too soon. Baba has gone his whole life without telling Seth, and probably for good reason. Maybe Zane should take a leaf out of Baba’s book if he wants to maintain a relationship with his father.

“I thought about it all night,” he says, running his fingers through his wet hair. “I wanna do it.”


“Stop trying to convince me otherwise.”

“I’m just saying, you should think about it more,” I tell him. “You don’t know what this could do to our unit.” Of course, I’m referring to the bond between my family and Zane’s. If Seth freaks out or does something drastic, what’s going to happen to all of us? Even if it ends up being us versus Seth, it’s a disruption that none of us want to deal with.

Zane looks positively distraught when I make that point. He looks down at his feet, sighing. “I don’t know,” he says in a broken voice.

I don’t understand why Zane is so adamant on telling his father all of a sudden. He’s spent a decade under the radar. Why now? But I try to be supportive, and I reach over and pat his arm affectionately. “There’s no rush, man. You should wait for the right moment.”

“When *is* the right moment?” he asks.

I shrug. I don’t have the answers. “Maybe when you have someone you want to introduce to the family,” I suggest. “Someone serious.”

He snorts. “Like that’ll happen,” he says bitterly before punching the shower faucet in and shutting the water off. I raise my eyebrows, surprised by this small but sudden burst of aggression. He just grabs his towel off the hook, snatches up his body wash, and leaves the showers altogether.

I finish up in the shower pretty quickly after that. I hadn’t anticipated showering, so when I head back into the locker space, I ask to borrow Zane’s towel. Those are all the words we exchange, though. By the time I’ve dried off, he’s fully dressed, and he silently waits for me to get some fresh clothes on before leading the way out.

We head into the parking lot still without speaking, and when I hop into my car, I watch Zane slide into the passenger seat with a sigh. He shuts the door and puts a foot up on the dash as he chews on his nails and looks out the window. I don’t make any moves to buckle up or start the car yet. I just look at him for a few moments. “Everything okay?” I ask, finally breaking the silence.

He looks towards me before softening a bit. “Sorry. Yeah,” he says. “I’m just all in my feelings right now.”

“What’s up?”

He shrugs. “I don’t know. I don’t wanna sound like a sap.”

I smile. “I won’t judge.”

He glances at me, debating for a few moments. Then: “I’m just worried I’m not getting anywhere.”


“Relationships,” he says. “All my relationships have been so… short.”

I laugh once through my nose. “Yeah, I know that feeling.”

But he doesn’t appreciate me trying to relate to him. “It’s not the same, man,” he says. “You like to fuck around. I don’t.” Harsh, but he’s right. I’ve never portrayed myself as the type of guy who’s ready to settle down in a relationship yet. In fact, I think I’ve always been afraid of that. What if I regret it down the line? “It’s hard not to be cynical after a while,” Zane says.

I feel like I understand what he’s going through. He’s had quite a few baby relationships from what he’s told me, but they all get cut short for a number of reasons. The relationship was rushed, or the other guy cheats, or it’s all just flirtations and physical chemistry, or whatever else. Seems like he wants something real for once. “You’ll get there, buddy. You’re a catch,” I tell him, and he looks at me with a skeptical look. “Seriously. You’ve got the hunky exterior and the soft interior. An Egyptian Jake Gyllenhaal or some shit.”

Zane immediately laughs, shaking his head but clearly liking the compliment. “Well, at least someone thinks so.”

I smile at him. “Just don’t give up, okay? If this is what you want.”

“I don’t know what I want,” he says, scratching his head. “I just don’t want to end up like your father.”

I falter slightly, surprised. Baba? “What do you mean?”

He looks at me and utters one word: “Lonely.”

I frown a bit. The more I think about it, the sadder it seems. There are a plethora of women out there for me that I can openly be involved with. The same cannot be said for Baba and Zane. Their options are limited as it is, and with what options they have, they often have to keep things “discreet.” I don’t want Zane to be so down about his relationships, especially if he feels that he can’t be public about them. That only makes his situation worse. I want to cheer him up somehow – and I know exactly who can help. “Hey, is Rashida working today?”

Zane looks at me. “Yeah, why?”

“Let’s go visit her,” I suggest, pulling my seatbelt on, grabbing my keys, and starting the car. “I miss that woman.”

~ ~ ~

Rashida has her own nursery on adiosbet giriş the outskirts of our hometown. She’s big on plants, and the nursery is basically her second baby. Zane often teases that she loves her plants more than her son. He doesn’t mean it, of course, because Rashida’s adoration for her child is more than obvious. She has a magic about her that makes Zane calm and happy. It’s something about her presence and her voice. She always talks in whole words, and emphasizes syllables with a song-like intonation.

When we stroll into her shop, she’s just finishing up with a customer, handing an adorable old lady a potted Japanese andromeda before she sees us. Instantly, her soft-natured, fair-featured face brightens up. She smiles with her perfect teeth before she holds up her finger to us, signaling us to wait as she politely escorts the customer out of the shop.

I look around briefly, brushing my hands over lilies and lavender and plenty of other plants that I don’t know the name of. They’re all beautifully maintained, though. Rashida takes pride in her work, and it shows. She often assists Baba with the garden outside our house as well. Baba always says knowing the face behind the business has its perks.

Soon, she returns, brushing her long dark hair behind her shoulders before smiling at us. “Boys,” she says sweetly before opening her arms. First, she hugs Zane, then me, her smile never wavering. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“We missed you, is all,” I say.

“You would not miss me if you visited more often,” she says, cocking one eyebrow in a stern fashion before laughing lightly.

“We lead busy lives now, Mama,” I say smoothly, and she rolls her eyes.

“No excuses.” She pokes my chest before smiling. “Come, come. Sit with me. I have to finish a few orders.”

We join her behind the check-out desk, where she has a few small stacks of papers laid out next to the register. “Keeping busy, Mama?” Zane asks as he and I each take a seat on the small bench against the back wall.

“Very,” she says, hunching over. “You know how it is this time of year.” Even I know. It’s May, which means lots of college graduations. A lot of people in the area seem to collectively decide to spruce up their homes with plants around May as well. I guess it’s that whole “April showers bring May flowers” saying.

“Anything we can do to help?” I ask.

She turns back towards us and smiles. “No, my love. Just give me a few minutes to get things in order.”

While she sorts through her orders, counts money, and makes a to-do list, Zane and I sit quietly together on the bench. At one point, I naturally find myself resting against his shoulder. I hear him let out a small laugh, but he puts his arm around me a bit so that he can play with my hair. I smile to myself. It’s not uncommon for us to end up like this, but now, somehow, it feels even more intimate.

“Your father has been asking about you,” she says suddenly while she’s in the middle of organizing bills.

Zane perks up. “Has he?”

“Yes,” she says, glancing at Zane for a second. “He seems to think you are angry with him.”

“I’m not angry with him,” Zane says.

“I have been telling him that,” she says, shrugging slightly, “but it would be better to hear it from you, would it not?”

Zane makes a small sound in his throat and I draw in my bottom lips slightly. “I actually do want to talk to him,” Zane says.

“Well, good,” Rashida says, stuffing the cash back into the little register. The bell dings when it’s shut and secured.

Zane clears his throat. “About something specific.”

Now Rashida looks interested, because in the middle of putting a few orders in a separate stack, she turns to look at her son. “Oh?”

“I…” Zane pauses for a moment, and I move my head off of his shoulder to allow him to focus. “I, um…” He glances at me, and I give him a little nod. He has nothing to worry about. I’m sure of that. Rashida is the last person I’d expect to berate her son for being gay. But that’s not what Zane says. “I got a promotion,” he says quickly.

I stare at Zane in surprise. Before I can really process what he said, Rashida gasps and smiles and says “That is wonderful, love!” She comes over to give Zane a congratulatory hug, and over her shoulder, I make eye contact with Zane. He just winces before looking away. A promotion? Did he just make that up? He hasn’t mentioned anything about a promotion, and I was fully convinced he was about to come out to his mother. I’m surprised. He was relatively fine when talking to Baba. His mother should have been a piece of cake.

We only stay a little longer. For the most part, the three of us chat about Zane’s alleged promotion before she asks how I’ve been doing at work. After that, we help her lug in large bags of soil before taking our leave. She gives Zane a few flowers on our way out as a way to express that she’s proud of him. “For your apartment!” she says happily before hugging each of us tightly. She invites us both to dinner at the end of the week, and Zane promises to be there, adiosbet güvenilirmi but since I’m taking an evening shift that night, I have to decline. She gives me a disappointed look, but I laugh and assure her I’ll attend the next dinner, though.

On our way back to the car, I look at Zane skeptically. I know he notices me looking, because he’s very obviously avoiding my gaze as he holds the flowers in his grip. “Some promotion,” I say.

He sighs. “Don’t.”

“So proud of you,” I say with a slight grin.

“Drop it, Khalid,” he says, waving me off.

“I just wanna know why you lied to her. That was a lie, right?”

“I panicked,” he says, stopping in his tracks and rubbing his face with his free hand. “I wanted to tell her, but I panicked.”

“You panicked?” I ask, confused. “You were all gung-ho about the idea of telling your father like thirty minutes ago and now you won’t even tell Rashida?”

“I don’t know what to tell you, bro,” he says, his arms hanging at his sides. “I’ve never been this confused before.”

I sigh, taking a step back. I really shouldn’t nag him this much. He’s probably more “out” than he’s ever been, which means he’s probably feeling exposed or vulnerable. I have to take it slow. “I’m not blaming you or anything,” I tell him. “I’m just looking out for you, y’know?” I emphasize that fact by hitting one of his pecs with the back of my hand.

He smiles a little. “I know,” he says. “You always are.”

“Damn straight,” I say, and then I shake my head. “Or, gay, I suppose.”

He rolls his eyes before laughing. “You’re lucky I tolerate you,” he says, pushing the flowers into my chest and walking towards the car.

“That’s called love,” I say with a smile, holding the flowers. I give them a quick sniff, thinking that they’ll brighten up our apartment nicely.

~ ~ ~

Over the next week, my curiosities with Zane are very touch-and-go. For the most part, they take a backseat. I can go a whole day without thinking about him in a sexual manner, but then all of a sudden, something will spark. For example, last night, while watching him talk and guide a fork to his lips simultaneously, I got a flashing vision of my dick heading towards his mouth. It usually starts there and then somehow, the images spiral out of control and inevitably the roles end up being reversed. I can’t pretend that I am not a tiny bit curious to know about “the other side” – specifically with Zane. I’m not sure if it’s to answer the question “What is it like?” or if my attraction to my best friend is just flaring up a bit, but regardless, I don’t plan on ever admitting that to him. Telling him I had a sex dream about him once is one thing. Telling him that I’ve actively thought about it lately is another thing entirely, and our relationship is far too good as is to fuck it up. I just need to get laid. That’s all. I’m just horny and pent-up from lack of sex, and I need to get my dick wet and forget about this whole Zane thing. Soon, too. In fact, why not tomorrow? Tomorrow, I’ll go out to the sleaziest bar I can find and land the sleaziest girl I can court. I’ll get my nut and then I’ll be fine.

That’s what gets me through my shift. Instead of eating dinner with Zane and Rashida and Seth (and probably Baba, though I didn’t ask), I’m cycling between a variety of our older patients and keeping my mind occupied with fantasies of girls I’ll probably meet. I hope it’s another brunette. In fact, I hope it’s that same brunette I met already, just without her ginger friend. She had the perfect legs, and this sexy, bitchy sort of look that always stirs me. And she was definitely into me. Even Zane could tell.

I try to focus on her for most of my shift, but the workplace is distracting. Sometimes it’s sad working in hospice, because many of my patients have had their fair share of heartbreak and regrets. Interestingly enough, it’s more common for the men to admit to me that they’ve never found love in their lives. Never found “the one.” And sentiments like that make me wonder if I’ll end up here too. Is this going to be me, living out the last of my days without someone to look back on? Even though I don’t believe in putting too much stock into relationships as the ultimate form of happiness, there’s something to be said about the joy mutual love can bring. What if I waste so much time fucking around that I miss out on something beautiful?

I guess that’s how Zane feels. I don’t think he wants “the one”, per se, but he wants *someone*. He wouldn’t have shut down so suddenly at my mention of a boyfriend if he didn’t. He’s been in a bit of a funk for a while now, and even though he seems mostly okay, I hope he can realize that he’ll get what he deserves – someone who loves him and appreciates him and sticks with him.

I don’t want to think about this too intently, though. It’s too morose. So, when I finally finish with my shift an hour before midnight, I clock out and head back to the apartment with the brunette on my brain. What’s she doing right now, I wonder? Has she gone back to that bar hoping I’d pop in again, or has she completely forgotten about me? I go with the former, picturing her alone and wearing an even shorter dress than last time. I’d join her at the bar and she’d light up, her eyes saying “Finally!” There probably wouldn’t be much chit-chat either. We both know what we want.

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