Arabian Nights Ch. 01

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(Please note: This chapter is technically two chapters combined into one to serve as an ample introduction, so it’ll be lengthier and have less sexual content than future chapters.)

~ ~ ~

Coming to the gym early in the morning was the best decision we could have made for ourselves. Sure, it’s much quieter and there are less people potentially minding our business instead of their own, but nosiness has never really bothered me before. For me, the best part about coming in at the crack of dawn is being the first ones to use the locker rooms. They’re freshly cleaned from the night before, so it doesn’t smell like sweat and musk and other nameless body odors by the time we arrive. We used to come at night, and after a long day of use, it was guaranteed to reek. And since I’m an early riser anyway, starting my day with a good workout seems like a no-brainer.

Plus, it gives Zane the privacy he needs to be able to sing while he’s in the showers. I just grin to myself, going through my usual stretches as his deep, crooning voice fills the locker room. It’s been the same three songs, all by Frank Sinatra, ever since we made the switch to morning gym sessions a week ago. “Don’t you have anything else in your repertoire?” I call out.

He cuts his song short. “Let me have this, bro,” he says, and I laugh. Zane is a total closet singer. If you confront him about it in a group setting, he’ll vehemently deny it. But the thing is, he’s not bad at all. He does it just for fun, though. Says it “relaxes him.”

I hear his shower shut off in the adjacent room as I stretch out my legs on the bench, reaching down to wrap my fingers around my heel. A few seconds later, Zane and his towering form come into the locker area with nothing but a towel around his waist, hair still damp and his body dripping in a few places. He’s a bit of a beast. Standing at 6’4″, Zane has the chiseled body most guys dream of having – but he still manages to find that nice balance between fantasy and attainability. He’s not overly muscular (which he always has said looks gross if you go too far), but he’s well-defined: distinct abs, tough-looking arms, powerful thighs and calves, ripped back, and shapely pecs that don’t resemble tits. Honestly, it’s somewhat of an inspiration to be close to someone who has (if we’re talking about what is considered “traditionally” masculine) the perfect body. I’m a little leaner, myself. My core is my best feature – not as defined as his, but proportional to my shape. And though I’m just a couple inches shorter than Zane, I’m happy that I’ve at least broken the height regulation that a lot of girls have. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard a girl say “I don’t date guys under six feet tall.”

“You sure you’re not gonna stretch?” I ask him.

“You know I hate stretching,” he says, opening his locker to grab his spare clothes.

“K, but don’t complain to me when your pussy gets sore.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever, bro,” he says, grinning a bit as he unzips his bag, rummaging around for something. “Damn, I forgot my deodorant.”

I roll my eyes. He’s so forgetful. Probably his biggest flaw. I just reach under the bench, grab my Old Spice out of my bag, and say “Here” before tossing it to him.

He catches it and thanks me, popping the cap off and applying the antiperspirant to his hairy pits. “Your father didn’t invite my father, did he?” Zane asks me before tossing me my deodorant back.

I set it down on the floor before I switch legs, bending my back a bit and stretching my calf out to the max. “I don’t think so,” I say. “Just us.”

“Tight,” he says, nodding. He pulls off his towel from around his waist and uses it to dry off his hair a little more, his body on full display. “Don’t think I can handle my father this early in the morning.”

I don’t respond immediately because I’m distracted by what the towel has revealed: Zane trimmed his pubes. He only goes to such lengths when he’s “talking” to some girl. I grin a bit, wondering who she might be. It requires complete imagination, considering he never gives me any sort of details. “I don’t think any of us can,” I say, looking back up at him.

“That’s the truth,” he says, draping his towel over the bench before he grabs a fresh pair of boxer briefs and pulls them on, covering up the clean-looking bush and the thick, uncut, low-hanging cock-and-ball set hanging from it. “You gonna shower?” he asks me.

I shake my head, standing up. “I don’t sweat like you do.”

“God, I fucking hate you for that,” he mutters, quickly rolling his shirt into a whip and then snapping it at me.

I laugh, swatting it out of the way before he can hurt me. “Fuck outta here with your jealousy,” I say as I stand up, taking my shirt off.

“Jealousy? Is that what we’re calling it?” he asks, grinning.

“We’re calling it what it is,” I tease, starting to remove my shorts.

I feel Zane’s eyes on me. “You still wear Fruit-of-the-Loom briefs, bro,” he says – his way of güvenilir canlı bahis siteleri saying “How could I possibly be jealous of you?”

I look down at my cotton briefs, snug and black. “So? They’re comfortable.”

“I can’t be seen with you,” he teases. I will admit that Zane has always been a little more fashionable than I am, quick to understand what’s “cool” versus what’s not. I guess my cozy briefs are off-limits. “Throw ’em in the trash,” he says. I know he’s joking, but it’s fun to mess around with him, so when I take my briefs off, I fling them right at his head. I burst out laughing as he recoils, too slow to have stopped my underwear from covering his entire face. He pulls them off with a hearty laugh. “Fucking bastard,” he says, rolling my briefs up into a ball. I notice his eyes shift to the garbage can nearby, and before I can react, he does a little fadeaway, both of us watching my underwear fly through the air, hit the rim of the can, and land in the garbage.

“Dude,” I say, laughing. “That was fucking rude.”

“That shot? I know,” he says, grinning smugly.

“For throwing out my damn underwear,” I say. I glance in the garbage and wince. There’s too much unidentifiable stuff in there. Bye bye, black briefs.

“They’re two fucking bucks anyway,” he says. “I’ll buy you more if you’re that upset about it.”

I just shake my head, reaching into my bag to pull out my fresh clothes. Thankfully these briefs are a little more socially acceptable according to Zane, so he doesn’t comment on them as I pull them on. “Maybe I’ll get some like yours,” I say, glancing at his boxer briefs as he pulls on his shirt.

“These?” he says, lifting his shirt to look at his crotch. “Yeah, they’re comfy as fuck. Here, touch ’em,” he says, coming over to me and cocking his hip towards my hand.

I reach out and slide a finger up the leg, stroking the fabric between my thumb and index finger. “Damn, that IS soft.”

“Armani, baby,” he says with a chuckle. “I’ll let you borrow a pair.”

“Do you have any that are just briefs?”

He chuckles. “Why you so obsessed with that cut?”

I shrug. “I’m a briefs guy. Fuck off.”

“Hey, I’m not judging,” he says, going back to his bag to grab his pants. “At least you’re not a boxers guy. Then I’d judge you,” he teases. I laugh, recalling a previous conversation we had about how we both hate free-balling it, even in boxers. We both agree that our goods need a place to sit. It just feels nicer to have everything together rather than flopping around all day.

Zane gets dressed a little faster than I do, sitting on the bench and chewing on his nails while he waits for me. Once I finally get my shoes on, he stands up and pats my back. “‘Bout time,” he says, smiling. “Let’s go see Baba G.”

~ ~ ~

We were destined to be best friends, Zane and I. Hell, Zane’s first word was (allegedly) the last syllable in my name: the “Leed!” in Khalid. My father and his father have been friends since *they* were three-feet tall, so it’s no surprise that when they both had sons, they paired us together and raised us like cousins – maybe even brothers, considering how easily accessible we were to each other. I think that was the goal when both our fathers migrated from Egypt to the US: to be in as close contact as possible. Somehow they managed to find homes on the same street, just a brisk two minute walk from each other, Seth with a somewhat grandiose home, and my father with a smaller half-home, neighboring a friendly but rowdy family that often bangs on the walls for some godforsaken reason. Though there’s a stark difference in the quality of housing, it seems their gap in wealth couldn’t separate them too much. So they practically raised me and Zane together. Our friendship wasn’t really forced upon us, though. We just naturally fell into the roles they expected us to fulfill. And even though we differ in a lot of ways, there’s a bond there that I’ve always known to be unbreakable.

Zane’s parents are an odd couple. His father is a boisterous, beer-bellied, materialistic conspiracy theorist. His mother Rashida is the level-headed one, a bit subdued and sweet and slim-figured. Everyone says opposites attract, and in a way, I can understand how they would function together. Rashida has everything that Seth lacks. Even the differences between Zane and I make things interesting rather than a hindrance. But I don’t know how Rashida tolerates her husband. She’s always been like a mother to me, but Seth is more like an embarrassing uncle that I try to keep at arm’s length. Zane and I always joke that my father and his mother should have been a pair. They would have made more sense, since they share similar qualities and values: dependability, curiosity, liberalism, never wanting to be in the spotlight. But I guess the issue there is that my father is gay.

It should have been obvious to me from a young age. I remember seeing a fair few of my father’s “friends” over the güvenilir illegal bahis siteleri years, but I didn’t understand who they were until I was old enough to have the talk about sex and puberty. He told me flat-out, too, after I asked him if boys can have sex with boys and girls can have sex with girls. I had heard rumors about homosexuality from my peers, but it was all strange (and incorrect) speculation. He figured he’d be honest and upfront with me about it, which was the best way for him to handle it. I think that tactic is what made me so unbothered by his sexuality.

But that kind of openness isn’t universally applied. Seth has always asked “Gamal, my man! When will you settle down and find you a wife?” because he’s too blind to realize that my father has never looked at, dated, or desired a woman when they were growing up. Everyone knows but Seth – even Zane’s mom knows. It’s an unspoken agreement between the four of us that Seth should not be told, because we all know how he gets about particular conservative-American subjects – especially homosexuality. I think he does it just to fit in to what he thinks an American should be and believe, but he’s unreasonable. It hurts me to see my father have to shy away, or hide part of himself, but I understand. No use jeopardizing a lifelong friendship for something as trivial as sexual preference.

I’m just happy the rest of us aren’t like that. I can go to my father for advice, stories, inspiration; Rashida if I need to be nurtured, or if I need advice that’s more practical than what my father’s lofty ideals provide; and Zane, for absolutely anything, including sexual things that might be too uncomfortable for parental figures. It’s nice to feel like I can go to someone with any issue, any bit of joy, any menial detail, and have them accept what I have to offer. Sometimes I wonder if Zane feels the same way, though. Even though we do have a bit of a bromance built up over years of growing up together, going to the same schools, graduating college together, and now renting an apartment together, he’s weird about girls. I always wonder who he’s dating, or fucking, or even just talking to, because he never introduces me to them, never shows me a picture, and never even gives me a name. He talks about who he’s seeing in vague terms, and even though I find it strange that he doesn’t offer up even a semblance of the level of detail that I do, I don’t think he’s lying. I think he’s just private when it comes to these matters. They never seem to last long anyway, so I don’t push it. If he really wanted to tell me, and if it really mattered, he would tell me.

~ ~ ~

“Ali!” my dad exclaims, looking as jovial as I’ve ever seen him.

I just smile, leaning down and hugging him in the doorway. As always when he calls me by that nickname, I’m taken back to my younger years, where I’d spend countless hours in front of the television watching “Aladdin” on repeat. Out of all the animated characters I’d seen up until that point, I thought he was the coolest, since (in proper Disney fashion) he somehow made homelessness look like a thrilling adventure. I wanted to be just like him. “Sorry, Baba,” I say after we kiss cheeks, apologizing for needing him to answer the door. Usually I just let myself in. “I forgot my key.”

“It’s alright,” Baba says, giving me a squeeze before pulling back. Then he turns to Zane and smiles. “Zane, my boy,” he says, opening his arms for a hug. Zane, who’s slightly taller than I am, has to lean down even more to hug my father, but he does so with a smile.

“Hey, Baba G,” he teases before they kiss each other’s cheeks and then pull away.

Baba just laughs. “Come in, boys.”

Immediately, I’m hit with the deliciously sweet aroma of my father’s croissant French toast. I don’t know how he makes it so flavorful without being overwhelming, but any time I sensed breakfast cooking growing up, my mouth watered uncontrollably – Pavlovian-style. “God, I miss that smell.”

“You should visit me more often, then,” Baba says, poking my chest before he chuckles and heads into the kitchen. Zane and I follow, walking past the narrow staircase and through the (in my opinion) overly decorated living room to get into the kitchen and dining space. Baba heads right to the stove as I go to the fridge, grabbing two apples from the bushel. I toss one to Zane and keep one for myself before hovering over my father as he cooks.

“When are you going to teach me your secrets?” I ask, grinning before I take a bite out of my apple.

“Bah,” he says, waving me off. “You’ll never be able to cook no matter how often I teach you.”

“Ouch,” I say, laughing. But it’s a fair accusation. I pride myself on having a number of skills – cooking is not one of them. “What if I hired you to be a personal chef for me and Zane?”

He suddenly turns to me, eyeing me up and down. “Are you eating?”

I can’t help but laugh at Zane smirking in the corner. For some reason, my güvenilir bahis şirketleri father’s biggest concern is that I’ll die from starvation. “Yes, I’m eating.”

He looks at me almost disapprovingly. “You look skinny.”

“I’m not skinny, Baba,” I say, trying to keep my amusement to a minimum.

“Hm,” he says skeptically, giving me a “You don’t know what you’re talking about” sort of look. “You should be more like him,” he says, pointing his spatula towards Zane.

“Or like you?” I tease.

My father grins a bit at my playful joke. He’s a short man with a slightly above-average build, but he always says how he’s been letting himself go lately. So I tease him about that. “Just be happy you’re pretty,” he says to me, and Zane lets out a booming laugh, entertained by our banter. “Another blessing from the gods.”

I shake my head and laugh. How many times have I heard him say “a blessing from the gods?” That’s how he used to talk about me, considering I showed up on his doorstep when I was only a week old. Baba vaguely knows who my mother is – not by name, or by address, or by any other detail about her life besides her physical appearance. He always said she was beautiful, and she was kind to him, and that’s all he knows about her. It was at a low-point in his life, when he was wrestling with all the conflicting thoughts and emotions that come with trying to accept his queer identity. So he drank one night, “befriended” a brothel girl for the evening, told her everything he was grappling with, had his moment of exploration, and that was that. Nine months and some change later, I showed up at his doorstep in a basket with a note attached to my diaper like an Egyptian Harry Potter. Even though I know my father’s intention wasn’t to have a kid, he ensures me that he is happier because of it. And I don’t mind how things ended up. Even not having my real mother with me has never bothered me for longer than a handful of days. Whenever I picture a mother, Rashida’s sweet face is the only face I see.

“Speaking of pretty,” I say, leaning against the counter, “guess who reached out to me again.”

Baba looks at me. “Who?”

“Kyra.”

“Ugh!” he says, looking positively scandalized, and both Zane and I burst out laughing. “Don’t entertain her!”

“I’m not, Baba,” I say through laughs. Kyra and I used to “date” – back when I was a bit of an asshole and strung girls along just for sex, she was adamant on wanting to get married. My father was particularly excited that I actually met another Egyptian girl in college, but when he met her, he did not approve. And I understand why. The girl is a total airhead. Nothing going on upstairs, but she’s disgustingly gorgeous and fucks like a banshee. There’s no way I’d ever marry her, though.

Baba rounds in on Zane when he doesn’t believe me. “He’s not entertaining her, is he?”

Zane, the bastard, shrugs. “He might be.”

He’s joking, but Baba gets this fearful look in his eye. I chuck my half-finished apple hard at Zane’s chest, and he attempts to catch and/or block it, but he’s too busy laughing. “I promise I’m not,” I tell my father.

He sighs heavily. “You’re a grown man now, you can do as you please,” he says rather begrudgingly.

“I’m not gonna marry Kyra,” I insist.

He seems to believe me after the third time. “Good,” he says, turning back to the stove. “What about you, Zane? Going to break my heart like Khalid does?”

Zane chuckles. “Nothing serious on my end, Baba G,” he says.

“I wanna set him up with the lady who does your taxes,” I say to my father.

“Belinda?” he asks, genuinely confused, not catching the fact that I’m joking. “No, no. She’s far too ugly for Zane.”

Again, Zane and I are cackling. My father has a knack for being blunt, even if that means being somewhat rude with his honesty. He doesn’t ever mean it in a negative way though. To him, some people are ugly, and some people are beautiful. Those are just facts. He’s always thought people should stick within their “tier of beauty,” I believe he called it, where everyone is on a separate level of attractiveness, like a floor of a building. Zane belongs towards the top floor. I’ve always thought Zane was more handsome than me. Well… Maybe not necessarily more “handsome,” since we do look pretty different aside from our caramel skin tone, but he is definitely more interesting-looking: bored, half-lidded eyes, with a striking amber color behind the lids; insanely masculine jaw with the light scraggly scruff that somehow doesn’t look unkempt on him; strong, angular facial structure; large, shapely lips; a dusty crop of brown hair… He’s a perfect hybrid of his parents, taking the best of each of their features. He has a face that makes him look raw, whereas I look slightly more polished and clean-cut. My face is clean shaven, my hair is always tidy, and my skin is always smooth because I take damn good care of it. I think those factors alone separate me from Zane, but not in a good or bad way. We’re just different. I kind of like that, too. I never feel like I’m competing with him when we go out together.

“Am I pretty enough for Zane?” I ask teasingly.

Zane just grins at me as my father laughs. “*Pretty* enough? Sure,” he says. “But enough?” He shakes his head. “No.”

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