When Otabek gets off the ice after his early morning solo practice, JJ is always there, leaning over the boards in a red warm-up jacket and grinning at him.
"Morning, Otabek!" he calls and hands Otabek his skate guards, then holds out a flask for Otabek to take.
Otabek always takes the flask, nodding instead of speaking. It's filled with coffee, even though Otabek prefers tea. It's "JJ Style", cream and sugar, even though Otabek prefers it black.
He shrugs into his jacket and drinks the coffee anyway, watching the first ten minutes of JJ's practice, the same way JJ watches the last ten minutes of his.
JJ always warms up with the serpentine, over and over, the least flashy thing Otabek has ever seen him do. Otabek doesn't know why JJ learned figures in the first place and he doesn't ask, just drinks the sweet milky coffee and listens to the scrape of JJ's blades on the ice until the flask is empty.
He leaves it on the bench beside JJ's bag.
When Otabek goes to the gym to train, JJ always heads over with him, arm over Otabek's shoulders while they walk the two blocks from the rink in the summer heat.
JJ puts in headphones while he runs the treadmill, singing along with music no one else can hear. People on other treadmills push their own earbuds deeper and click up the volume, staring at the screens in front of them.
Otabek clicks up his volume too, except for when he turns it down instead, listening to JJ's favourite new song, like karaoke but without the music.
In the weight room, JJ asks Otabek to spot him while he works his arms and Otabek does, looking down at JJ's face, shining with sweat and grimacing as he lifts in a way Otabek is sure is exaggerated.
Then JJ returns the favour, cheering Otabek on like he's his personal trainer. Otabek keeps his face straight, no grimace, no smile. But he's lifting more than he used to.
When JJ invites Otabek to dinner with his family, Otabek tries to think of how to refuse but he can't get the blunt "no" out of his mouth and he can't come up with any other way to say it.
So he ends up at the noisy table with JJ's noisy siblings, holding hands for family prayer before they eat. JJ's fingers wrap firmly around Otabek's and after the bowed heads come up, JJ gives Otabek's hand a squeeze before he lets go.
"Speak English," JJ's mother says, but the kids keep slipping back to French and Otabek is just as happy not to have to talk.
"I'll drive you home," JJ says, two excruciating board games later. He sings along with the music in the car, the same song he's been looping in the gym, and Otabek finds himself humming it too.
When they pull up to Otabek's apartment, JJ turns to him. "Otabek," he says and nothing more, an odd look on his face and a strange feeling in the air between them.
"Thank you for dinner," Otabek says and gets out of the car. In bed, he lies awake, thinking about JJ's hand at the table, JJ's face in the car.
When Otabek gets off the ice in the morning, JJ is hanging over the boards, holding Otabek's skate guards and waving, the flask of coffee resting beside him.
Otabek's heart gives a huge squeezed beat and sweat springs up on his palms inside his gloves. He skates over to JJ and instead of taking the skate guards, he takes JJ's face in his hands and kisses him, one long press of their mouths.
When he pulls back, JJ's face is red and smiling. "Morning, Otabek," he says and leans in for another kiss, dropping Otabek's guards onto the ice and winding his arm around Otabek's neck.
JJ's first serpentine is wobbly but he settles into the next one, looking up for one more wave at Otabek before his face goes serious.
Otabek watches him, sipping at the coffee, and the flask is long empty before he finally turns to go.
Time for beltenebra to suffer instead of me!