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You a Natural Everything

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“You a natural everything.”

The words play in Shao’s mind when he’s fucked up.

 (He’s always fucked up.)

When he’s alone in the temple, thinking too hard on all the shit he’s lost, all the shit he’s taken, he thinks of Books. His man, his wordsmith, the one that rides hard for him. Books can make a way out of no way with his words, can clear cloudy air with just a few rhymes.

Books said Shao gave him his superpower, but Shao thinks he’s wrong: he always had the superpower. Shao just woke it up.

That’s what amazing about him and Books; they wake each other up. Shake each other out of the deepest shit. Can’t nothing get him when it’s just the wordsmith and the conductor. The rhymes and rhythm. They magic, together, plain and simple. They magic.

Shao takes another drag of his blunt and sinks further into the couch. He getting soft. Real soft.

Zeke does that to him, too: he feels too loose around him sometimes, almost like silly and shit. He smiles too much around Zeke, lets his guard down too easy.

Zeke have Shao feeling like air—and that’s scary as hell.

There’s this something he feels around Zeke. He had been drinking when he first felt it, so he blamed the liquor. But that something came back when he and Zeke sat close together, when they hugged real tight, whenever they shared blunts or bottles.

It’s a something that makes Shao feel even looser and damn near giddy. It makes him feel like everything.

(Dizzee said something about feeling like everything around that Thor dude. Shao tries not to think about when he starts smoking or drinking too much, too.)

That’s the downside of being Zeke’s natural everything; it makes Shao forget that he ain’t shit in real life. And he gotta remember that if he’s gonna make it.

Fat Annie thinks he a natural everything, too. A natural thief, natural liar, natural runner, natural fucking machine. Natural killer.

When Shao smokes or drinks too much, he ends up thinking on how much he fucking hates that bitch. She ruined the little bit of life he had. She got him doing shit that he can’t even look at himself in the mirror over.

And she always grinning and shit. She grin when she tell him to do something, she grin when she hand him crumbled up bills. She grinned when he pulled the trigger.

Shao’s head hits the wall behind him and cusses at himself. It’s three in the morning and he still up thinking on this mess. He hardly sleeps as it is; he doesn’t need to waste his time thinking about Annie. He gotta see her soon enough anyway, sooner than he’ll see Books.

Books. You a natural everything.

Shao lifts himself from the couch and stumbles over to his bed. He flops down and sighs real heavy. Whatever thoughts that were gonna try to get him before he falls asleep fall away.

The last thing he sees is Book’s goofy ass smile.

**

“SHAO! SHAO! You alive in there, nigga?”

Zeke’s voice rings out in the temple as he stands outside of the door. Any other time, he’d just go up, bust through the door and jump on Shao. But he feels like he can’t for some reason.

Things have been . . . weird with him and Shao, Zeke thinks. Not bad. Just . . . weird. Maybe not even weird. Maybe just different.

When they’re spinning and spitting, everything’s right. It’s natural. When they’re with the rest of the Get Down crew, they’re cool.

It’s just when they’re alone that Zeke feels nervous.

It’s when he’s sitting close to Shao that he feels his something vibrating underneath his skin and his stomach starts fluttering.

Shao and Zeke can sit on the roof or on the hood of the car, and Zeke will start feeling like a little ass kid. He starts laughing at nothing, his fingers start jumping. His body just . . . Zeke doesn’t know what his body starts doing. It’s just a feeling that Zeke can’t put his finger on.

Damn, man. Zeke isn’t normally this confused, especially not about Shao. Things feel much clearer around the conductor. Everything that clouds his mind—the internship, school, Mylene, his family—fades away when Shao starts to spin.

And the words just spring forth, like a geyser shooting water from dry, cracked ground. The words shoot straight into the air, filling the space around him. The lyrics—the music—are bigger than the world.

Zeke and Shao are bigger than the world.

Zeke walks up, but then he stops for a second. What is it? Can’t he just go in? He’s always going forward when it comes to Shao. Move first and worry later.

Zeke’s stomach twists and he suddenly feels flush. It’s odd to think of Shao while standing outside of his door. Shao’s overwhelming him and Zeke hasn’t even heard his voice yet.

Zeke takes a shaky breath and opens the door.

“Ay yo, Shao?” he calls out, expecting to hear some music, Shao’s voice, something.

Instead, he sees Shao sprawled out on the bed. Shao’s legs are wide open, his arms limp against the bed and his head turned to the left. The S necklace is crooked against Shao’s chest. Shao’s lips are parted, and Zeke can see Shao’s two front teeth.

For a moment, Zeke freezes with fear: Shao looks damn near dead. But then he sees the S necklace slowly moving up and down. Shao’s breathing deeply; he’s knocked out.

Zeke feels surprised, but he doesn’t know why. Maybe it’s because he’s not used to Shao looking so peaceful. Shao’s always jumping, full of energy. Whether he’s happy, angry, tense, Shao’s up. Well, Zeke always seems to see him up. Shao’s got to be down sometimes. Everyone is.

Normally, Zeke would throw something at Shao to wake him up. But he doesn’t want to disturb the peace right now. Instead, he walks slowly over to Shao and peers down at him. Shao’s black skin is perfect and the way his lips are parted makes Zeke realize just how full they are.

Whoa. Zeke . . . Zeke’s never taken catalogue of another man’s lips before. That’s Dizzee’s department, he thinks. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s just not Zeke.

Well, it didn’t used to be Zeke.

Because right now, the way Zeke is thinking about Shao’s lips and skin is making his face burn red.

Perfect black skin under perfect moonligiht/Just looking at you got my face burnin’ bright

Shao’s breathing somehow gets even deeper and Zeke finds himself actually staring at Shao’s chest now. It’s like he’s hypnotized.

Watching you breathe, you take up every space my mind/Hold up, I gotta run that back, rewind

“Aye, Shao,” Zeke calls quietly. He reaches down and gently shakes Shao. “Wake up.”

For as gentle as Zeke was, Shao jumps like he’s been slapped. Suddenly, every bit of peace is gone and Shao sits straight up, body tense.

“It’s me, man. Chill out, okay? It’s just me,” Zeke says reassuringly, lifting his hands up.

Shao stares at Zeke hard, blinks and then smiles slowly. And damn, there goes that feeling in Zeke’s stomach again.

“Hey, man,” Shao says, relief in his voice. He hops up from the bed and pulls Zeke into a strong hug. Something flutters in Zeke’s stomach and he suddenly feels nervous.

“How you been? Hadn’t seen you around,” Zeke asks into Shao’s shoulder, his voice muffled.

As Zeke pulls away from the embrace, he feels his hand linger on Shao’s back. Zeke snatches it back, fearing that Shao will notice and think it weird.

Shao does notice though—and he frowns. Shit.

“I’m good,” Shao answers, but his voice sounds a little tight. He’s lying to Zeke, but Zeke won’t call him out right now. “How about you? What you doing up here at this time of night?”

“Time of night? Nigga, it’s like seven in the morning. You been sleeping hard,” Zeke says with a laugh.

Shao frowns and looks for the clock in his room. Then he remembers that he doesn’t have the clock anymore and shrugs.

“I guess I have been,” Shao says a little distantly. But then he realizes something.

“Nigga, it’s seven on a Wednesday. It ain’t summer no more. Shouldn’t yo’ ass be at school?”

This time, it’s Zeke whose voice is tight: “I didn’t feel like being at school today. Rather see what’s up with you.”

That’s not really a lie: he didn’t feel like going to school and would rather see Shao. But it’s not the whole truth and that’s what’s irking Zeke. He feels so weird, even right now, looking Shao in the eye.

Shao knows that it’s weird for Zeke to be here right now.

Shao raises an eyebrow at him. “Okay,” he says skeptically. “So what’s up?”

“Why does something have to be up? Can’t I just come see a friend?”

“Nah, nigga. You lying yo’ ass off right now. What’s going on?”

Zeke laughs, but it’s out of nervousness. “Nothing, man.”

Before Shao can tell him he’s lying again, Zeke cuts him off.

“Let’s go on the roof and chill for a little bit,” Zeke suggests, punching his hand and stepping back a lot. Shao looks him up and down, but then smiles and agrees.

“After you,” Zeke says, nodding out of the door and stepping out of the way so that Shao can go first.

Zeke tries to ignore the look Shao gives him on the way out of the door.

He’s gotta get it together.

**

Something up with this nigga.

Shao hates that Zeke made him walk up first because he trying to figure out what’s up with him. Books ain’t one to not go to school, especially since this his last year of high school.

(Shao thinks? Because otherwise Books would be off somewhere at college. Fuck, Books gonna be off somewhere at college soon.)

The whole time Shao and Zeke walk up to the roof, Shao can hear Zeke muttering to himself. Shao smiles to himself. It’s just like his man to spitting rhymes to himself all the time. Real natural.

But Shao’s the natural everything? Yeah, right.

When they finally get to the roof, Zeke walks right past Shao and sits down. He puts his elbows on his knees and moves his head from side to side. He looks at Shao and starts smiling.

“What you grinning at, man?” Zeke asks.

Shao didn’t even know he was grinning until just now. Getting soft.

“Nothing, man.”

“Now you lying,” Zeke laughs, still jamming to whatever going on in his head.

Zeke’s laughing makes Shao laugh. Shao feels lightheaded and he’s scared for some reason, but he’s also cool. What the fuck is happening right now?

“Shao, you look like you gonna float away. You still high?” Zeke asked, still laughing.

“Shit, are you high? You the one laughing so hard,” Shao tries, but then he starts snickering and interrupts himself.

With Zeke still watching him and laughing, Shao plops down next to him. Their legs touch and Shao feels like his skin is shaking.

“It’s the weed, man, it’s gotta be,” Shao says, but really he’s talking to himself.

“Did you smoke before you went to sleep? You gotta stop doing that shit man,” Zeke tells him, nudging Shao in his side.

Shao’s smile falters a little bit as he looks up at Zeke. “Yeah, I did. But that ain’t it. I just feel light.”

Zeke looks at Shao curiously. “Light like how?”

Shao smiles in embarrassment. “Now you know I’m not good at words.”

“Just try. Light like how?”

Shao sighs and thinks for moment. “Light like . . . light like I don’t work for Annie no more.”

Zeke raises an eyebrow and looks at Shao with surprise.

“I still do, though,” Shao says. “It’s just like . . . if I didn’t work for her, this how I would feel. If she didn’t have me doing . . .. doing all this shit.”

Shao ducks his head. There’s still some stuff he can’t ever tell Books.

Zeke wraps his arm around Shao’s shoulders and pulls him closer. Shao’s stomach drops and he feels that something that he’s been trying to ignore.

“Don’t think about Annie, okay?” Zeke says in Shao’s ear. “Just think about us.”

“What about us?” Shao whispers, refusing to look Zeke. “Us.” It sounds too good to be true.

He feels Zeke start to shake. Then he grips Shao’s shoulder and Shao can’t help but turn around. Zeke is staring at him real hard and it makes Shao feel like he’s gonna fall apart.

“We gonna be bigger than the world, remember?” Zeke says with a small smile on his lips.

Shao and Zeke are so close that Zeke can count each one of Shao’s long eyelashes. And when did they get so long, anyway? When did Shao’s eyes get so deep brown and beautiful?

When did Zeke stop being able to look away?

Fuck man,” Zeke says, startling Shao.

“What?”

Zeke wants to shake his head and says it’s nothing. But he’s lied enough for one morning.

“I gotta tell you. I’ve been feeling weird as hell around you, Shao,” Zeke confesses.

Shao frowns and braces himself: he figured this would come. Zeke feels weird because Shao works for Annie, because he’s always in his space, because Zeke would rather be with Mylene or something.

“I just . . . I feel like a little kid around you,” Zeke continues.

“Why? Because I’m old as hell?”

Zeke laughs and the sound makes it hard for Shao to think straight.

“No, because . . . I don’t know. I just do. You my conductor, right?” Zeke asks, moving his arm to Shao’s neck. Shao’s skin is warm and Zeke needs to feel it against his own.

Shao gulps and Zeke watches his Adam’s apple. “Man, you got me feeling lightheaded,” Shao says with a laugh.

“Is that good?”

Shao looks Zeke in the eye and then at his lips.

“I don’t know,” he says lowly. “I really don’t —”

And maybe Shao was gonna talk himself into the answer, but it really doesn’t matter. Because Books kisses him. Hard.

Zeke bites on Shao’s bottom lip and Shao moans without meaning to.

Next thing Shao feels is the gravel of the rooftop under his back and Books’ weight on him. Zeke kisses him even harder and Shao, for once in his life, likes feeling not in control.

Shao puts his hand under Zeke’s shirt and feels how hot his skin is. Zeke stops kissing Shao and Shao whines.

“You good?” Zeke asks breathlessly. “I know that you sometimes don’t like . . . stuff like this.”

Shao wants to feel embarrassed or something, but he’s just surprised that Zeke knows that. And that Zeke would ask.

“I’m good,” Shao answers, then he smiles. “I should be asking you that, seeing as we on the roof and you on me and all that.”

Zeke looks at Shao for a moment and then barks out a laugh. “Do you wanna go back downstairs?”

Shao runs his hands further up Zeke’s back and watches Zeke turn red.

“Not if you don’t, Books.”

Zeke leans down and starts kissing Shao on his neck. He grinds his hips into Shao’s and that’s what that something is, isn’t it?

In the back of his mind, Shao wonders if this means he’s gay. He wonders if they’re gonna tell the rest of the crew. He wonders if Dizzee will give them some speech about sexuality and how it “flows” or whatever.

But then Zeke sucks on his neck and all Shao can think about is his man.

“I feel like everything,” Shao whispers.

Zeke smiles and kisses Shao softly on the lips.

“You should.”