Theo trudged into the great room early one morning near the end of their Hawaiian vacation. Early enough that Zain and Quint had yet to return from their run, amazingly. He found Seb perched on a bar stool in a full lotus pose with his sketchbook open in front of him.
“Mornin’,” Theo mumbled, going around the younger Brat to the coffee pot.
“Hi,” Seb replied, absentminded, as he continued to sketch.
Theo poured coffee and creamer into a mug, sipped it, and blearily went to sit at the table. He squinted at Seb over the rim of the mug, thinking how if he tried to bend himself into such complicated shapes that way, he’d fall off the stool.
As he watched, Seb dropped his pencil and picked a banana off a bunch of them lying on the counter. Then he turned it stem-side down, pinched the end between his fingers, and began to peel it.
Theo’s sleep-fogged brain couldn’t quite grasp this. He frowned. “Seb. What are you doing?”
Looking puzzled, Seb answered with what seemed the obvious: “Peeling a banana?”
“You’re… you’re doing it from the bottom, though.”
Seb glanced down at the half-peeled banana in his hand. “Um. Yeah, it’s easier that way.”
“Huh.” Theo took a longer, contemplative gulp of coffee. “I’ve never seen anyone do that.”
“It’s how monkeys do it,” Seb said, with a little shrug.
Theo was about to say this was fitting, then, given he looked like a monkey in that pose, but at that moment, the front door opened and Zain burst through, crowing “Ha!” over his shoulder. “Beat you!”
Quint followed a second later, slightly out of breath, and narrowed his eyes. The exuberance of his running—now training—partner had a strange power to make him feel both younger and aged beyond his years. “You, my friend,” he said, “need a serious lesson in winning gracefully.”
Zain grinned. He was willing to bet this was one of those times Quint felt tempted to swat him. “Hey, at least I’m not a sore loser, too.”
Seb’s loud snort made clear what he thought of that statement.
“Mostly,” Zain modified. He and Quint both began to take off their sneakers.
Theo, meanwhile, had not let the interruption distract him from his new discovery. “Zain,” he said, curiously, “do you peel your bananas from the top or the bottom?”
Zain glanced at him and then at the bunch of bananas. “Oh, I do it from the top. Seb likes it from the bottom. I do it that way sometimes, but I really prefer…” He paused, a smirk stealing across his lips as he straightened up and continued, “…the top.”
Casually, he turned to lean back against the counter next to Seb, with his elbows supporting part of his weight. “Of course,” he went on, matter-of-fact and fighting his smile down, “it also depends on the size of the banana. If it’s a bit larger, it can be uncomfortable. Seb, for example, has a banana that–”
This was when Seb caught on. His hand shot out and clapped over Zain’s mouth, but the damage was done, as evident by Theo doubling over in his chair with laughter.
Seb turned pink all the way down his neck. “Zain Ayman, do not say another word!” he warned, while Quint calmly removed the coffee mug from Theo’s hand before the Brat could spill more on himself.
Even with Seb’s palm blocking the lower part of his face, Zain’s wide grin was obvious. “I was gonna be complimentary!” he said in a muffled voice.
Seb’s eyebrow went up. Quint, watching it, thought he did a very passable Look.
“Alriiiight,” Zain said, rolling his eyes. “I’ll stop talking about your banana, promise.”
At that, his fiancé let go with only minor trepidation. Really, he should have had more.
Reaching behind himself, Zain plucked another banana from the bunch and quickly peeled it—from the top. Once it was bare, he held the very end in his fingertips and said, “It’s not about how you peel them, anyway. It’s about how you eat them.”
And then, in one smooth motion, he opened his mouth, bent his head, and made the entire fruit vanish.