Snow crunched under her tires as Fenlin pulled into the rink’s empty parking lot. It was still dark out and would be for another hour yet, leaving the parking lot lit only by the orange streetlamps reflecting off the uncleared snow. She’d thought she would be the first one there, but to her surprise there was already one car parked by the entrance.
The black beamer had Ferelden plates and her brand-new skating partner sitting in the driver’s seat, browsing his phone. Fenlin pulled into the spot next to it, throwing her old civic into park. The transmission clunked, as it tended to, and Fen yanked on the e-break to make sure the car didn’t accidentally roll down the slight incline of the parking lot.
Turning the car off, she took a deep breath to steady her nerves. This was for a good cause, and it was meant to be fun. Haha… she was so fucked.
A tap at her window made her jump, and she looked over to see Rahlen’s face half covered by a scarf, and a paper tray of coffees in his hand. Fenlin smiled back, nervously before she grabbed her skating bag and opened the door once he’d stepped back.
The winter air bit at her cheeks before she’d even gotten out of the car, and she let out a strangled gasp, tucking her face into her own scarf to keep warm.
“I know, right?” Rahlen said with a laugh, blocking the wind for her as she hopped out of the car and locked the door behind her. “Cold as the abyss and twice as windy. C’mon, let’s see if the rink’s unlocked?”
Fen nodded, eyes watering.
“Here,” he said, handing her one of the coffees from the holder. “I wasn’t sure how you took it so I got cream and sugars on the side.”
Fen blinked in surprise, which was a poor choice. The water of her eyes froze on her lashes, sticking them together. She mumbled a ‘thanks’ through her scarf, taking the coffee and wrapping her hands around the warm cup as they staggered through the snow to the rink’s entrance.
“You been here long?” She asked as they reached the door. She stomped her feet clear of snow, and reached for the door, finding it open. “I thought I was early.” Fenlin paused, glancing up at him with wide eyes. “I AM still early, right? I’m not late?”
“You’re still early,” Rahlen said with a laugh. “Relax. I figured that I’d grab us coffee first, and there wasn’t any line at the local Jimmies so it took less time than I expected. So I stayed in the warm car until someone else showed up. Are you always so stressed out?” He asked, arching an eyebrow at her.
“I’d say no, but that’d be mostly lying,” Fen said, brushing the snow off her coat and hat. “I didn’t really expect to end up paired with you. And, I don’t want to fuck it up for you, or for the show or-” she sighed, taking a sip of the black coffee. Gods it was warm and strong and exactly what she needed right now.
“Hey, it’s just for fun, right? And is that why you were all ‘oh god no why’ when you pulled my name?” Rahlen asked, unwinding his scarf and shaking the snow from it. “Or was that because you have a crush on me?”
Fenlin froze, coffee cup on her lips. What.
“I don’t-” she said, staring at him from the side of her eyes. “Why would you think I did?”
Rahlen seemed just as surprised by her reaction. What had he been expecting? Her to blush and confess her apparent love for him? Ugh. Just because he was handsome and nice-ish?
“Because you avoid me, and you’re always so awkward around me? I mean it’s no big deal, I don’t mind if you-”
“I don’t,” Fen said firmly. “I’m just socially awkward in general, okay? And, you’re practically ice skating royalty, your mom was a hero of mine when I was growing up. I didn’t want her to have a bad opinion of me but after last season it’s too late for that.” She huffed, cheeks and ears red, but at least she could play that off as being cold. “Is that why you brought coffee?” she asked, suddenly wary.
The confusion on Rahlen’s face had shifted to a frown, and he crossed his arms over his chest, the paper tray still in one hand.
“No, I brought coffee because it was cold and early and whenever I do see you, you seem to have a coffee cup glued to your hand. And if it helps, you weren’t that bad last season, you just have a problem with your nerves getting the best of you.” He shook his head, heading down the hallway towards the changing rooms.
“I’ll see you on the ice, Fenlin. Try to leave your crap attitude in the changeroom,” he said over his shoulder. “Even if it’s a defense mechanism, it gets old, fast.”
“Yeah, well… you’re old!” she snapped. That… wasn’t… a good insult. She groaned, clapping a mittened hand to her face. It was wet from snow and she shuddered at the feel of wet wool. Ugh.
“I’m old? You’re what, a year younger than me?” Rahlen said, walking back over towards her. “What is your problem?”
The rink doors blew open before she could answer. A bundled figure that walked through yanking the doors shut behind him. He was taller than Fenlin, but no where near as tall as Rahlen. Yanking off the hat and scarf, the tanned elf grinned at them, looking from one to the other.
“Ah! Such passion, shall we begin then? Your mothers have asked me to help choreograph and coach for the gala. Zevran Arainai, pleasure to meet you both.” The elf bowed, and Fenlin’s brain ticked away until the name registered.
“Oh my gods,” she mumbled. She’d always hoped to work with Arainai, but not like this. Not with a partner she’d just insulted.
“Ah, that is the reaction we wish to draw from the audience, no?” Zevran said. He waggled his hands their direction. “Go change. We have much work to do. By the time I’m done with you, you’ll have hearts melted and tongues wagging. Now go!”