Joe Ingles stood underneath the water of the shower, not making any effort to clean himself, but just standing there with his eyes closed. The water temperature was already as high as it would go, but he wanted it higher. He needed it higher. He craved the burning sensation on his sensitive white flesh. Not only did he crave it, but he deserved it. If one of his misses had fallen in instead, if he had just played better defense on a single possession, it would all be different right now…
He felt a tentative hand on his shoulder. Opening his eyes, he saw the intense, concern-filled brown eyes of Ricky Rubio. They were obscured by the steaminess of the shower room. “You okay, man?” Ricky asked, his freed hair flowing over his shoulders and getting wet from the splashes off Joe’s body.
“Yeah,” Joe answered instinctively before thinking harder about the question. “No. Maybe. I don’t know.”
“It’s just one game. One regular-season game,” Ricky said softly, patting his teammate’s shoulder.
Joe sighed. “I know, mate. I know.” But Ricky’s gentle demeanor was comforting to him, and he felt his mood improving.
“This is going to sound weird,” Ricky said, averting his eyes to the floor. “But for all the jokes about your flab, you actually have a pretty nice body.” When Joe didn’t respond right away, he added, “Sorry, that was stupid. I shouldn’t have said that.” He stood under a nearby shower head and turned it on, turning his naked body away from his teammate.
“No, don’t apologize,” Joe said. “Here, I’ll say something awkward and we’ll be even. I really like your hair. I wish I could grow mine like that.”
Ricky turned back around. “Thanks, man. Sometimes I don’t know if I like it this way or not.”
“It looks great,” Joe replied earnestly. “I bet the girls love it.”
“Haha, yeah, the girls,” Ricky replied with a forced laugh, looking down at the tiled floor. “I like girls…”
When Ricky looked up again, Joe was standing right in front of him. Their bodies were almost touching. “Do you, though?” he asked softly, the words nearly drowned by the loud splashing of water. Their eyes met, and Joe could see a sudden vulnerability that Ricky had never shown before.
“Hey Ricky! Joe!” came Donovan Mitchell’s voice from the entry to the shower area. “Sorry to break up your love session, but we’re gonna go hit up the concession stands for free leftovers, so if you don’t want to miss out on gallons of nacho cheese sauce, get your clothes back on and join us!”
The moment was broken. Joe turned off his shower and gave one final glance towards Ricky. What was that emotion on his face? Longing? Disappointment? Joe didn’t know.