‘In three, two, one…’
Yuri’s foot slips as his concentration snaps and his thin frame slams into the ice with a breathless “oomph!” Falling normally bothers him, but he’s preoccupied: he’d know that voice anywhere. Blinking rapidly to clear the spots from his vision, he looks up toward the entrance. “Otabek,” he croaks, clearing his throat and slowly getting to his feet to glide off the ice. He reaches his boyfriend and puts on his skate guards. “You’re early.”
“You didn’t even get off the ground before you fell, Plisetsky,” the Kazakh notes. “What gives?”
“I was kind of distracted at the last second,” Yuri retorts. “And as I was saying, you weren’t supposed to be here until next week.”
“Yakov said you would be here. I brought you some tea,” Otabek continues, looking the blond teen up and down. “Chai, milk, extra sugar. You look like you could use the spare calories. Are you eating enough?”
“You’re already starting in on that?” the Russian scoffs. “I get enough of that from Viktor and Katsudon. I’d swear, you guys want me to turn into a cow or something.”
“Don’t talk about yourself like that,” Otabek offers Yuri one of the two paper cups in his hands, which Yuri gratefully accepts and takes a cautious sip, burning his tongue. “Seriously, though,” Otabek continues, “you look a bit thin. You sure everything’s okay?”
“I’m fine, Altin,” Yuri huffs. “You never answered my question,” he adds as he sniffs the air between them. “Is that coffee?”
“It is,” the elder man replies. “French roast.”
“What happened to the lap-something tea you’re always drinking?”
“Lapsang Souchong. With a hint of vanilla, preferably. The shop I went to didn’t have it,” Otabek explains with a shrug. “Coffee’s not a bad alternative.”
“Can I try it?” Yuri requests, his voice uncharacteristically shy.
“Can you- what?” Otabek asks, his dark eyes widening, etching a look of confusion across his sharp features.
“Can I try some of your coffee?” Yuri replies a little more forcefully. “I’ve never had coffee before, remember? Yakov would never let me when I was younger.”
Otabek lets out a huff of a laugh. “You want me to defy one of your coach’s rules? No offense, Yura, but I find him more intimidating than you.”
“Yakov won’t really care,” Yuri mutters. “Besides, it’s not like I give a damn what he thinks. He’s not here now, is he?”
“Suit yourself,” Otabek concedes. “I don’t know if you’ll like my coffee, though. I take it black and I know you prefer your drinks on the sweeter side. Anyway, it might stunt your growth.”
“Just let me be the judge of that will you?” Yuri responds taking the cup. “Besides,” he continues, “I’m not that short.” Tentatively, Yuri sniffs at the contents of the cup. “It smells a little pungent.”
“Depends on your palate, I guess,” Otabek shrugs. “You don’t have to try it if you don’t want to,” he says as he reaches for his cup.
“No, I want to try it, dammit!” Yuri exclaims, jerking the coffee closer to his chest, spilling a little out of the top.
Otabek sighs. “Just take a drink then, Yura.” Yuri nods and sniffs the drink in question again. Slowly lifting the container to his lips, he sips the hot beverage with a slurp and scrunches up his face in a grimace.
“You don’t like it?” Otabek inquires.
“It’s not that,” Yuri says. “Does all coffee taste so… so…”
“Bitter?” the taller man offers. “Strong?”
“’Strong’ might be the word.”
“Well, no. I mean, the strength depends on how it’s made and how dark the roast is,” Otabek explains. “And French roast is pretty dark.” Otabek rolls his eyes as Yuri takes another sip. “The taste isn’t going to change, Yura,” he teases lightly.
Yuri sighs and hands the cup back to Otabek. “I don’t really want chai tea,” he mutters, walking over to a nearby trashcan and chucking the still full container. He sighs, as if steeling himself, and turns around and frowns at Otabek. “Let’s go to a coffeehouse.”
“W-wh-what?” Otabek stutters. “Now? What about practice?”
“It's the off season, remember?” Yuri gently reminds his boyfriend with a smile. “That’s why Yakov isn’t here.”
"Only you would practice religiously in your spare time." Otabek sighs in resignation. “Fine, let’s get those skates off of you.”
“Just so we’re clear,” Yuri says, “my skates are the only thing coming off.”
Otabek stops in his tracks. “Really?” he deadpans. Yuri shoots him a smirk and Otabek responds with a huff of a laugh. “I guess I walked into that one.”
“You really did,” Yuri says as he sits down on a bench and leans over to get at the laces on his skates. Otabek kneels in front of him and stops Yuri with his hands. “Let me,” the older man whispers, taking the laces into his hands. Yuri sighs, leans back, and stares down at his boyfriend. “You don’t have a foot fetish do you?” he jokes. Otabek forces a small laugh in response with a shake of his head, and makes quick work of the laces, sliding the skates off one at a time. “Maybe I just like doing things for you,” he replies, taking Yuri’s hands into his own and looking up into Yuri's piercing green eyes.
“You’re such a sap, Beka,” Yuri snickers. He would never admit it out loud, but he loves seeing this softer side of his boyfriend. Otabek has one of those hard, indifferent exteriors when it comes to dealing with the majority of the world around him, and with Yuri, he lowers his shell just a little. Just enough, Yuri thinks as he smiles to himself. He takes his hands out of Otabek’s and grabs his bag next to him, making to stand up. Otabek lets him and backs away. “I’m going to go change real quick,” Yuri explains, walking away.
Five minutes later, Yuri emerges outside where Otabek is waiting for him with a motorbike. Handing Yuri a second helmet, they both clamber on, Yuri in back with his arms wrapped around Otabek’s waist. “We need to stop by my place to drop off my bag,” he explains. Otabek nods as he starts the bike.
“So, what can I get for you two gentlemen?”
Yuri looks from the smiling barista behind the counter to Otabek, who merely stares back at him. For a moment, the normally self-assured Yuri panics. Yuri knows nothing about coffee, so what the hell is he supposed to order? Otabek chuckles and turns to the man behind the counter and notices his nametag says ‘Misha’. “Yes, Misha, we’d really like to try a few different roasts, if at all possible. However, he’s not well-versed in coffee matters,” he points to Yuri, “So would you mind recommending something?”
“Medium roasts tend to be popular,” the barista offers. “Might I suggest the house blend, to start?”
“Sounds good,” Yuri said, finding his voice. “Do you want more coffee, Beka?” At Yuri’s question, Misha looks from the blond to Otabek expectantly.
“Actually, there’s a kind of tea that I have a hard time finding,” Otabek says thoughtfully. “Would you happen to have Lapsang Souchong?”
“We do carry over one hundred different blends of tea,” remarks the barista. “I’ll have to take a look. If we end up not having it, is there something else I can get for you?”
“Coffee,” Otabek responds. “French roast. Black.” Misha nods and pours Yuri’s coffee into a ceramic cup and hands it to Otabek. “Yura,” Otabek turns to the blond and hands him the cup, “why don’t you go find us a table?”
“There’s also a cream and sugar station, should you decide to go that route,” Misha pops in as Yuri walks away.
Yuri decides to ignore the barista’s suggestion for the moment and takes a seat at a small table next to one of the many windows on the outer wall of the establishment. Hunching over in his seat, he places both hands around the cup, nursing it. The warmth of the beverage seeps through the cup, warming his hands. Yuri smiles to himself and stares into the cup, finding a sense of comfort in the sensation of holding a piping hot cup of coffee: much similar a feeling to a hot cup of tea, he realizes. He could definitely learn to like coffee, if only he could get past his aversion to the taste. “Why am I so determined to like coffee, anyway?” Yuri mutters to himself. It’s not like beverage preference is the foundation for his relationship with Otabek, or anyone for that matter.
“What’s that now, Yura?” Otabek takes the seat across from the blonde.
“I don’t think I like the house roast, Beka.”
“Let me see your cup,” Otabek says, getting to his feet. When Yuri hands him the cup in question, he walks over to a counter bearing all sorts of cups and spoons and containers. Yuri watches his boyfriend as he adds a couple different substances to the dark liquid and stirring it with a small plastic stick. Smirking, Otabek turns around and returns to Yuri, once again offering the cup. “Try this.”
Yuri frowns slightly as he takes the cup and peers into its contents. What used to be a warm chocolate brown has turned into a more cream-like color, similar to that of Yuri’s preferred chai tea with milk and a ridiculous amount of sugar. Bringing the cup closer to his face, he inhales. Unsure of the difference between how the coffee smelled before and now, Yuri realizes that it smells more inviting and less harsh than before. He looks to his companion across the table, who gives him a small smile. Taking this as encouragement, he sips the beverage and swishes the substance in his mouth to gauge the flavor before swallowing. After a moment, he takes another mouthful.
“You like it?” Otabek guesses. Yuri nods with a grin. “Well, that was easy,” Otabek continues in response.
“Easy?” Yuri asks.
“I was expecting to be dragged around to every coffeehouse in the city,” the elder man explains, “maybe even some diners. The fact that you like your first cup of coffee with just a little cream and sugar took a lot of the fun out of it.”
“I guess I like my hot beverages sweet and creamy,” Yuri shrugs. “Do all the different kinds of coffee taste better with cream and sugar?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Otabek admits, fiddling with his own cup of black coffee before taking a drink. “And no, I’m not letting you soil my coffee with condiments.”
“You said getting it right the first time takes some of the fun out of it,” Yuri comments. “We could still go to every coffeehouse and diner in the city. See if cream and sugar are the answers to everything.”
“We don’t know how you’ll respond to that kind of caffeine intake, Yura,” Otabek argues. “We should stop at one for now and save that venture for another day while I’m here.”
“Speaking of which, you never told me why you arrived early,” Yuri accuses.
“Do I need a reason? Maybe I just wanted to wine and dine my boyfriend that much sooner.”
“You’re such a sap, Beka.”
“I love you too, Yura.”