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Steve From Starbucks

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It was a friday night. Only a couple hours after their game against Belmonte and the Foxes were all gathered together. Was it at Eden’s Twilight, you ask? Incorrect. They’re at Starbucks, you fool.

They were all exhausted after the game, as Kevin had sprained his ankle the day before at one of his night practices and was out of this week’s game. It’s ironic that amidst all his preaching about health and taking injuries seriously, he argued vehemently against having to sit the game out. The Foxes took great joy of depriving him of what he wanted, as per usual, and thus, Dan and Neil had to work overtime to keep their offense where it needed to be for a victory.

Regardless of Belmonte’s lack of skill in comparison to the Foxes, the game came a little too close for comfort. The team wanted to relax afterwards, and for some, that didn’t include getting wasted and grinding on strangers in essentially a brightly lit, indescribably loud, box.

The Upperclassmen decided, unanimously and far outweighing Nicky and Aaron’s disagreement, that consuming copious amounts of caffeine and sitting in another brightly lit, albeit less colored and loud, box was a better way to “relax”.

They ordered separately, after a wasted five minutes of trying to get Andrew to memorize all their orders and order everything as one. Between Kevin spending thirty seconds too long arguing with the cashier when they said they did not serve “Irish coffee” (“We sell coffee here, sir, not alcohol.”), and Andrew spending an outrageous amount of money on adding “extras” to his order to ensure it contained enough sugar to send an elephant into a coma, they clogged up the waiting line like nobody’s business.

They sat, taking up a large booth and two tables, after stealing a couple of chairs from others, and set about to their separate conversations. Matt and Dan spent a lot of social energy that Neil couldn’t imagine possessing, trying to incorporate everyone into discussions. Nicky helped them out somewhat, but his contributions were often interrupted with a comment about the other patrons (“Is that guy’s wallet really that massive, or is he just happy to see me?”).

Neil gets bored of it pretty quickly, although sitting in this Starbucks is not much different than how he spends his time at Edens, just with more coffee and less soda, and complains to Andrew about how he can’t wait to get home. He switches the conversation to Russian, as both him and Andrew are studying it together and it’s good to keep up practice like this. Maybe this trip will turn out to be somewhat productive.

Andrew indulges his complaints for a bit, and promptly gets bored himself, and turns the conversation to, too casually, what Andrew would like to do to /him/ when they got home. Neil splutters for the briefest of seconds before deciding to join in the fun. He keeps his tone innocent and anyone else would assume they were talking about the weather, or chemistry, or something equally as boring, based on Andrew’s perpetually bored expression and Neil’s bright tone of voice.

Their conversation gets decidedly more explicit the more it progresses, the two having seemingly made of game of seeing which of them will show a reaction that will tip off the other Foxes first. Neil thinks he might see the tips of Andrew’s ears pinking, but that might be a trick of the lighting. Neil is trying his best, and he thinks he might be succeeding because it is much easier for him to keep a smile than a bored expression, like the one Andrew sports, while breaching such subjects.

Neil jumps and whips his head up in surprise when Nicky suddenly yelps and someone starts coughing profusely. He looks to Nicky first, furrows his eyebrows when he sees his shirt splashed with coffee and follows Nicky’s gaze to a man who’s stood in front of their table, elbow covering his mouth as he attempts to recover from… Whatever just happened.

The man, wearing a light blue button-up and neatly trimmed but mussed up dark hair, starts apologizing profusely to Nicky, his face curiously red in a way that wouldn’t be just from his coughing fit, and rushes off to grab a pile of napkins.

Neil turns to Andrew, confused with this turn of events, and finds Andrew staring the man’s back down with an unimpressed eyebrow raised.

“What just happened?” Matt asks, blinking in surprise, voicing Neil’s question exactly.

Andrew answers, without a care in the world, “I’m guessing that man speaks Russian.”

Neil feels like someone just poured scalding tea over his face, he’s sure it must be as red. He stares at Andrew in disbelief, then back to the man who’s stumbling back to their table holding an armful of napkins in a quantity that far outweighs the amount Nicky actually needs for his shirt.

Neil switches back to German immediately, “Fuck, why didn’t you tell me?”

“I know I come off as omnipotent and all-encompassing to the unintelligent creatures this team consists of, but alas, I was not aware he spoke Russian either.” Andrew leans on his hand, elbow resting on the table and expression blissfully bored and uncaring. Neil only wished he could pull that off.

He wishes he could sink down into his hoodie. “I really want to go home now…”

Andrew tangles his hand in the curly hair at the back of Neil’s head and Neil leans into it, shoulders hunched up as he watches Nicky start a suspiciously animated conversation with the man who just spit on him.

--

Alluding to the previous “Jim from Improv” Nicky brought to the banquet with him, the upperclassmen immediately dub the Russian coffee man “Steve from Starbucks”.

He earned the title after the Foxes kept running into him around campus and occasionally at the Fox tower, despite him not being an athlete, and thus concluded Nicky was the one always bringing him along.

Neil naively assumed that Nicky just made a connection with the stranger because of the weird circumstances under which they met, but he was proven wrong too quickly for his liking.

It started when Neil let himself into the monsters’ room, swinging the keys to Andrew’s car on his pointer finger and calling out in Russian, “I’m heading to the store, I know we’re out of milk, do we need anything else before the week is out?”

He stops abruptly when he hears Nicky gasp and directs his gaze downward to see Steve from Starbucks sitting on one of their bean bag chairs with Nicky taking up the one beside him. Their hastily paused video game confuses Neil until he hears Nicky stage whisper frantically.
“/Steve/, what did he say!?” Nicky was practically bouncing in his seat.

Steve’s forehead wrinkles as he finally put the pieces together as to why he’s here. “He just asked if you guys needed anything from the store.”

Nicky instantly deflates. “/What?/ Why are you so /boring/, Neil?”

--

Andrew makes the mistake only once, when arriving at the court. Neil steps out of the car and bends down to tie his shoelace. Andrew stares for a moment too long at Neil’s ass and says,
“Let’s make this quick.”

Neil responds with usual sarcasm, especially when one is threatening cutting his time on the court short,
“What, you have something important to do when we get back?”

Andrew stares him down when Neil glances back at him.
“Nothing.”

Neil nearly trips over his newly tied shoelaces when he tries to get up. He ducks his head, hoping to hide his red ears, and walks towards the doors quickly. Andrew follows, unaffected, close behind.

Nicky is absolutely positive he finally caught something interesting, but Steve is completely baffled.
“They just talked about what they have to do when they get home, and Andrew said he didn't have anything.”

Nicky is sorely disappointed.

--

A few more weeks go by with the same treatment.

Andrew lounging on the couch,
“Can you pick up some cake on your way back?”

“Sure.”

With Steve translating and Nicky getting impossibly hopeful he’s going to pick up something great.
“Cake! That must be suggestive, right?”

“I… Don’t think so, Nicky.”

 

Neil on the court, impatiently staring at Andrew sitting in the goal.
“Drew, get your ass up and practice with me!”

“Oops, my legs are malfunctioning, better luck next time.”

Nicky is vibrating.
“He said ass!! That’s it!!”

Steve is tired. It’s been like having a full time job as a translator these past weeks, only without the money.
“Sure, that’s it.”

 

Neil thinks it’s time to pick up a new language.