Jack likes the Falconers so far. They’re good guys. Good hockey guys. They’re not his Samwell team (though some of the guys are quantifiably more skilled) but still they’re good guys and he knows he’ll find his place among them eventually.
Things have worked out pretty well during training and pre-season, but by the time of their first away game he is still holding himself apart.
They’re on the bus, it’s an obscene hour in the morning. Eric is sending him texts about the frogs antics and it’s keeping a smile on his face, despite Wilzie rattling in his seat next to him.
Then Wilzie decides to break into his personal bubble leaning into his personal space. “Who ya keep texting? Your boyfriend?” He’s stretches out the word boyfriend as he chirps, needling, trying to get a rise out of his stoic new teammate.
Jack does not rise to the bait. Instead he says simply. “Yes.”
Wilzie stares at him for a moment mouth agape, “You’re kidding me.”
“No. I’m not.” Jack deadpans. Wilzie continues to stare. “His name is Eric, he goes to Samwell.”
Wilzie laughs. “You have a boyfriend!” He crows. “We all knew you had to have some kind of secret. All reclusive like you are. Madsie thought you were serial killer.”
Unfortunately, Wilzie’ crowing is enough to get the attention of some of the other guys on the bus.
Cox leans over the seats in front of them to ask, “Jack, you gay then?” Jack nods and Cox goes back to his book.
Then Keller is asking from two rows behind, “For real though, you’re gay?”
Jack groans. “Yes. I am gay. I have a boyfriend.”
Then from across the aisle Deener opens his mouth, “So-”
And Reilly himself stands up and shouts. “We heard him the first time! Zimmerman is gay! Now shut up!” He seems to be finished but then he looks directly at Jack, “Your boyfriend is going to have to be vetted.”
Jack releases a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. That could have gone worse and he’s probably in store for some chirping when they’re all more awake, but he feels lighter now that he’s not carrying it around. He hadn’t even known that it weighed anything, but here he is breathing easier. The bus settles down and Jack feels more settled too, more like he could really fit here.
It’s quiet for a time then Wilzie asks, “You said his name is Eric?”
Jack smiles, “Eric, yeah, but the team calls him Bitty. He’s on Samwell’s hockey team.” Wilzie nods and for the first time in a long time, everything feels like it might really work out.