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jordan @hockeybutts
so do we know if that zimmerman/falconers thing is legit? #ProvidenceFalconers

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts looks like it. surprised he didn’t go for the aces tho. or the bruins. or, y’know. anyone else.

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts lbr, looks like EVERYONE was after that ass

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts lol, are u surprised? JUST LOOK AT THAT ASS

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts real talk tho this is not the worst team he could’ve signed with. they went to the playoffs last year

jordan @hockeybutts
@howlinginside @hellsqueen ye, but he could’ve signed with a more established team. idk tho. you do you, zimmermann, i guess

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts @howlinginside how pissed will parse be tho. we all know why he went all the way to samwell back in december

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts lmao u think he was poaching?

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside @hockeybutts either that or _goss is right and they are/were fucking

jordan @hockeybutts
@hellsqueen @howlinginside tbh _goss thinks everyone is fucking


The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
We are happy to announce that starting next season, #JackZimmermann will be joining our team. Looking forward to seeing you in Providence!


the ultimate sock (thecocksock) wrote in hockey_gossip

zimms vs technology, part five thousand


he deleted like a minute after it was posted, but, zimmy-boy, the internet is forever, you should know that by now. anyway, pressing questions: WHO IS THE MYSTERY BOY? WHAT IS GOING ON? WHY DOES HE HAVE SUCH CUTE EAR(S)? WHY IS HE SO BLOND? AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, DOES JACK ZIMMERMANN HAVE A TYPE?

tags: adventures in instagram, fail fail fail, jack zimmermann, j.zimms patron saint of hockey butts, please please please ban all hockey players from using social media, technical difficulties please stand by, the ubiquitous kent parson tag


Reply from Anonymous
Lol, oh, Zimms, you never fail to fail <3 that’s what I love about you. You’d think the GM would tell him to keep this under wraps though.

Reply from Anonymous
Don’t you think they did? I mean, the weird composition in the photo and the almost-instant deletion would point to an accidental posting, but I can’t imagine they will be very happy with him anyway. They clearly want him to be the face of the franchise, and they know that nowadays you can’t discount the fangirls, and THEY all want to think they have a chance to fuck him, so they’ll have him bearding in no time at all and shoving all that heteronormativity down our throats. You know they already got rid of all evidence of his relationship with Parse back in the juniors, so they’re gonna sweep this one under the rug, too.

Reply from Anonymous
You know they already got rid of all evidence of his relationship with Parse back in the juniors, so they’re gonna sweep this one under the rug, too.
nonny, was there ever any substantial proof though? like, any concrete evidence aside from the rumor mill? what i’m trying to ask, i guess, is if there was even anything to sweep under the rug to begin with.

Reply from Anonymous
There were some photos of them acting very touchy-feely, and then there was some guy who swore he saw them making out at some party soon before the overdose and then arguing about something, followed by more making out (that’s why there was so much speculation that the overdose was related to their breakup, that Parse broke it off, and Zimms just couldn’t deal so he tried to kill himself—I mean, that’s not entirely impossible, especially given that they really haven’t talked to each other since). There were also some photos, but they were really blurry (though you could see how this COULD be Zimms and Parse), and then suddenly, after Parse went first in the draft, the guy told everyone and their mother that he was wrong and high to boot, and this never happened, and then the photos magically disappeared, too. So yeah, the GM have a history of sweeping things like that under the rug. Which, I have no doubt, will happen here, too, whoever that boy is.

Expand 57 comments


carthage reblogged mylittlecthulhu

that awkward moment when your fandom is being gross again about something horrific that happened to an actual, real person, and you just sit back, horrified and disgusted to be associated with those people

#do we really need to have that discussion again #i’m not even going to vagueblog about this #hockey fandom what is wrong with you #there’s shipping and then there’s this #stop #just #s t o p


Jack gets an Instagram account, because the Falconers PR people tell him they like their players to have online presence, and he prefers it over Twitter, which makes him anxious and jittery in a way he hasn’t really figured out. It’s actually Bitty who sets up the account and posts the first picture, one of Jack’s favorites, snapped on the roof of the Haus one evening, full of purple, and orange, and gold, the clouds backlit by the setting sun.

He captions it, almost goodbye.

It’s bittersweet, just like everything else these days, when time seems to stretch indefinitely just for Jack to discover suddenly that next month, next week, next day, he will be gone for good, that there is no going back. He knows this, he does, but now it seems like everything he does is a series of lasts, and there is something tight and aching in his chest, and sometimes he feels like he does right before a panic attack, like he’s not getting enough air.

Now, sitting on Bitty’s bed, looking at him scrolling through Jack’s photo folder, Jack does his best not to think about the packed boxes sitting in his almost empty room, because if he does, then it will become real.

It’s almost funny. All he ever wanted was to play hockey, to play in the NHL, to win the Cup. This—Samwell, the team, the Haus—was supposed to be just a detour, but now it feels more like a destination he failed to realize he’s already reached.

When Bitty hands him the phone back, he snaps the picture almost without thinking, without looking, and Bitty laughs softly at the failed photo of his ear. Jack saves it anyway.


His apartment in Providence is big, and tastefully furnished, and empty.

After years of living in an old, creaky house filled with people, the silence feels oppressive, and Jack turns the tv on, just to have some background noise to fill the void as does his evening set of push-ups and reheats the Thai take-out leftovers from yesterday.

The guys from the team have invited him to go out with them to a nearby pub, and even though Jack doesn’t feel like going, he hates the emptiness of his apartment even more.

The pub is crowded when he arrives, but not unbearably so, and Holtzy waves him over to their table in the back.

“Zimms, my man, I didn’t think you would actually show,” he says, slapping Jack on the shoulder as he sits down. “What’s your poison? Let me treat you, yeah?”

“I think I’ll stick with water,” Jack says, and an uncomfortable silence follows. Jack knows they know—everybody who’s even marginally interested in hockey knows all about the party boy Zimmermann, the prodigal son, the fucked-up kid who couldn’t quite make it even when he had everything handed to him on a silver platter. The truth is, though—the truth is, they don’t know anything.

“Sure thing, man,” Holtzy says, though, almost without missing a beat. “I’ll just wave over the waitress, mostly because you need to see the rack on her.”

“Unless you’re more of an ass man,” Schumer says, and he has no idea how close he is, and how far off the mark at the same time. “But Holtzy, here, is ready to start composing, like, a fucking sonnet to those tits. It’s tragic, really.”

Jack nurses his glass of water for what is probably a ridiculously long amount of time. He doesn’t talk a lot, mostly listens, drifting in and out of the conversation from time to time. They tease him about it, but it’s mostly gentle chirping, compared to his Samwell teammates. And the thing is—the thing is, Jack likes these guys, and he likes playing hockey with them, but now that the camp is over, he still sometimes looks over his shoulder and expects to see Ransom and Holster on the D-line. Expects to see Bitty on his left.

He’s just about to leave when his phone rings, and when he sees Bitty’s name on the caller ID, he immediately rushes outside to take it. As he walks to the door, he can hear the guys hollering after him.

“Hey,” he says, breathless, once he’s outside, and he leans against the brick wall, closes his eyes for a moment.

“Hey, Jack,” Bitty says on the other end of the line, and there’s something in his voice that Jack just can’t decipher, a strange sort of wistful sadness. “Is this a bad time?”

“No, no, I was just at a bar with some of the guys on the team. I think they’re trying to get the new players to bond with the rest of the team,” Jack answers, feeling for the rough brick with his left hand.

“Oh,” Bitty says in a breathy voice. “I shouldn’t keep you away, then, I can call some other time—”

“No, no, Bittle— Bitty, wait. I’m glad you called,” Jack admits, and he can’t help the smile that escapes. “What’s going on?”

There’s silence on the other end of the line, then, “It’s just, I don’t know. It’s so weird without you here. You and Shitty, I mean. Especially now that most of us are already back and settled in to fix up the Haus before the semester starts. Sometimes I go to knock on your door, and I’m so surprised when I see Nursey instead. And it’s nice to have the frogs at the Haus, but—”

“No, I understand,” Jack says. “Today at practice, I looked to my left, looking for you, and found Holtz instead. It was so strange for a moment. And my apartment is far too big for just one person.”

“Get yourself a cat, Jack Zimmermann,” Bitty tells him, laughing, but it sounds forced, off-beat, like he wanted to say something else but thought better of it.

Jack knows he shouldn’t, but he says it anyway.

“Maybe you could come visit me sometime.” It’s a bad idea, it’s so transparent, so obvious that Jack is cringing at himself on the inside, but he presses on. “I could show you around Providence, get us some ice time, just for the two of us. We could practice checking, would be just like the old times, eh?”

It’s not panic, exactly, which sneaks inside his chest when Bitty doesn’t answer for a moment. It’s not. Jack closes his hand into a fist.

“Yeah, Jack,” Bitty says finally. “I would love that.”

To his right, the door opens, and Schumer sticks his head out, then follows Jack outside.

“Dude, where the fuck have you fucked off to?” he asks.

Jack covers the receiver with his hand and gestures at Patrick silently. Schumer makes kissy noises at Jack’s phone.

“What if this was my dad, you asshole?” Jack asks, laughing quietly, the knot in his chest slowly dissolving.

“Dude, I would, like, gladly make out with Bad Bob Zimmermann. But since it’s not him, finish up this jerk-off session with your girlfriend and come back inside.”

Jack shoves him playfully. “I would say that can be arranged, but, Jesus, you’re disgusting. Go away. And that’s not my girlfriend.”

Schumer gives him a flat look that’s impossible to decipher. “Sure, Zimms, whatever you say.”

Jack breathes in, breathes out, steadies himself. “Sorry,” he says into the phone. “That was my asshole teammate who came looking for me. I should be going back.”

A drunk girl stumbles outside and smiles a lazy, unfocused smile at Jack, then waves. Jack awkwardly waves back.

“Oh, right, goodness,” Bitty says, and there it is again, that off-beat, off-rhythm, off-kilter feeling Jack can’t shake off. “What was I even thinking, you told me you were out with friends. Goodnight, Jack.”

“Goodnight, Bittle. I’ll call you soon, okay?”

After Bitty disconnects, Jack stays out for a moment longer before heading back inside. He breathes deeply, once, twice, three times, shakes his head and flexes his fingers. They don’t tremble. Almost.


Off the Ice With Kurt Collins: Jack Zimmermann

Kurt Collins || September 9, 2015

Hockey prodigy at 18, hockey’s prodigal son at 19—this spring, Jack Zimmermann (25) signed a four-year contract with the Providence Falconers. Now that the new season is almost upon us, Richard Stewart is here to talk Jack Zimmermann, the Zimmermann legacy in hockey, as well as the upcoming season, and the Falconers’ new strategy to win the Cup in our weekly guest column.

KC: I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we have all been watching this season’s new additions to the teams with bated breath, waiting for Jack Zimmermann, now fresh out of college, to sign with a team. There was quite a bit of controversy over his pick of an expansion team such as the Falconers, since everyone expected him to sign with a more established franchise. We know for a fact that the Bruins and the Habs were after him, as well as several other prominent teams with lots of Cup wins under their belts; unlike the Falconers, who went to the playoffs just once—last year.

RS: It’s certainly a strange decision, and as much as I admire the progress the Falconers have made these past few years, they are not Cup material yet. They’re too young, too inexperienced, they simply don’t have the star power to make it to the finish line, if you’ll forgive me mixing my sports metaphors. And if Zimmermann wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, he needs to be smart about it. And this, in my opinion, is not particularly smart.

KC: On the one hand, the Aces were an expansion team, too, when Parson joined them, and they went on to win the Cup after only two years. But, on the other hand, there certainly has been a lot of head-scratching among the hockey journalists over this decision, and while definitely there are many advantages to signing with an expansion team, you’re absolutely right that it can be also to the detriment of a player such as Zimmermann.

RS: I mean, he has to realize that he essentially had his career already cut short by his own actions. He’s not getting those six—almost seven—years back. He’s already twenty-five, and he has no experience in the league, he’s a rookie as far as experience is concerned. For the past four years, he played hockey at a university, on a team which never even reached the NCAA playoffs final. He might have the genes and the skills, but he has no idea what it really means to play in the NHL. That’s the one thing Bob Zimmermann can’t hand to him on a silver platter: the actual experience. I mean, look at it this way: everyone expected him to go first in the draft, back in 2009. Everyone wanted to have Bad Bob Zimmermann’s child prodigy on their team. But the kid just couldn’t take the pressure, and he ended up in rehab instead of wearing the Habs’ jersey. So Kent Parson went first in the draft instead, and two years later he won the Cup with the Aces. And I think Zimmermann knows it, he has to know it, that it could have been him, if he hadn’t crumbled under the pressure. And mind you, you can’t play hockey at this level until you’re forty, it’s just impossible. Even his father retired at thirty-seven, after he’d won the Cup four times with two different teams. So Zimmermann has a decade, maybe less, to win the Cup, and he’s wasting his time with the Falconers for some inexplicable reason. If he’d been smarter about this, he would’ve signed with the Bruins, if he wanted to stay on the East Coast. But if I’m being honest, this decision is just impossible for me to understand.

KC: You’re certainly right that there is a lot of pressure on his shoulders to succeed, and many people are not sure if the Falconers are the best team to help him succeed. They are severely lacking in star power, even though they have many solid, consistent players, but solid and consistent doesn’t win the Cup. So right now it looks like it’s precisely Zimmermann who is their greatest star, and he hasn’t even played one single game in the League yet. It seems really short-sighted of the Falconers to put all their eggs in this particular basket, too, because they have no idea how Zimmermann is going to fare outside of the NCAA. He did well in that environment, and he was, apparently, a good team captain, he was nominated for the Hobey Baker award in his senior year, but this is all in the past. Now he needs to prove himself on the ice in the big leagues. So let’s talk about this. What we know at this point is that Zimmermann is set to play on the first line with Holtz and Schumer, and that he’s going to play in the center, relegating Holtz back to the left wing. From what we have seen, though, there seems to be no bad blood between Zimmermann and Holtz for that reason, and Holtz has been known to mention from time to time that he actually prefers to play on the left wing. He also admitted that he’s actually relieved that Zimmermann is taking his position.

RS: It seems like the Falconers are really going after strengthening their offense, which is understandable, because they always relied on their great defense, but great defense doesn’t score goals, so it’s good that this is their priority. What I don’t particularly understand is putting your rookie at the center—that’s where you need experience and composure. Judging by all the robot jokes, Zimmermann may have the latter, but he definitely lacks the former. What I’m trying to say is, they should consider switching him back with Holtz if this doesn’t work out. And I’m having some serious doubts about this strategy.

KC: I guess only time will tell. The Falconers have talented coaches who have, no doubt, come up with contingency plans for any possible complications that might appear as the season progresses. For now, the camp is over, and it seems like Zimmermann will start his first season in the NHL at the center. But, to leave the topic of the Falconers for a moment, I think that, whenever you mention the name “Zimmermann” in hockey, you are bound to end up talking about the legacy connected with this name. Bob Zimmermann is a true hockey legend, and his career has been the object of envy of even the most accomplished contemporary players. It must be terrifying to try to follow in Bad Bob’s footsteps. I still remember when Newman admitted how terrified he was to take Bob Zimmermann’s position with the Pens after Bob had retired. I can only imagine what it must feel like for his own son.

RS: And then Newman went on to win the Cup with the Pens not once, but twice, so, I guess, it’s just a matter of separating the good from the great. And Mark Newman was certainly one of the great hockey players in recent history. You’re right, it’s hard to live up to the expectations when your own father has four Cup rings under his belt, especially coming back after you’d already sabotaged your own career once, but in the end, those are just excuses used to justify your own shortcomings. You can’t look to other people for comparison, you have to be the best you can be and own your failures as well as your successes.

Read more over at Hockey News Online:


Cory gets Jack Zimmermann assigned as his roommate while they’re on the road. It makes sense—they’re both rookies, technically, Cory fresh off the adrenaline high of the prospect camp, Zimmermann straight out of college, with his degree and his famous name, and a hefty signing bonus. And Cory doesn’t mind, not really, even though Jack is almost seven years older than him, and he has a college degree in History, and calls several hockey legends uncle. So yeah, maybe Jack Zimmermann doesn’t really feel like a rookie, whatever. He’s okay.

Their first game of the season is in Pittsburgh, which is great for Cory, because that’s where his parents live, so he knows they’ll be there in the stands, even if he doesn’t get any actual ice time. Who knows, it’s not like Cory is playing first line or anything.

Jack sits with Patrick Schumer on the bus, and Cory is saddled with a snoring Christiansen, who has like four inches and thirty pounds on him, and Cory is by no means a small guy, so it’s a tight fit, but they manage, for the most part, except for the fact that Christiansen’s legs are huge and they go everywhere when he’s out and dead to the world. When they finally arrive at the hotel, Cory can hear all his joints pop and crack when he stretches.

“I’m never riding with Christiansen again,” he says as they unpack in their hotel room. Jack takes the bed on the left and fishes a book out of his bag. “I have no idea how the fuck they grow them in Sweden, but that’s just unnatural.”

Jack chuckles softly on the other side of the room.

“Your folks coming?” Cory asks, and he tries to not sound too excited, but come on, it’s not every day that you get the chance to meet Bad Bob Zimmermann. “My parents live here in Pittsburgh, so they’ll be here. And my sister. The younger one. The older one lives in California.”

Jack shakes his head as he grabs his phone from the night stand. “No, dad has a charity event, they couldn’t make it. They’ll be there for our first home game, though.” The shrug doesn’t look half as casual as Jack probably thinks it does.

After dinner, Jack’s phone blows up with messages, and when Cory looks up from his game of Candy Crush (so he likes girly games, sue him; it’s all his sister’s fault anyway), he sees Jack smile as he reads through the texts.

“What’s up, Zimms? That your girl texting you?”

Jack abandons his phone for a second. “No, it’s a group chat. My old hockey team. They’re wishing us good luck tomorrow. And arguing. Mostly arguing, I think.”

“The Pens are going down. You can tell your buddies we’re going to kick their fucking asses,” Cory says.


They lose.

Jack scores, but the Pens wipe the floor with them, 5-1. It’s a brutal, brutal game for no apparent reason. Their D-men spend ridiculous amount of time in the penalty box. Holtzy is bleeding from a cut above the eye. Aaronowitz breaks his hand in a fight. It’s fucking embarrassing, is what it is.

Cory doesn’t get any ice time in the end, but his parents greet him all in tears anyway. Kathy just hugs him super tight and ruffles his hair.

“You did good, bro,” she says. “You did the best you could today.”

When he comes back into the locker room to get his bag, Jack is still trying to drown himself in the shower, or at least that’s what it looks like. He’s just standing there, butt-naked, and from the thick fog of steam rising around him, it seems like the water is scalding hot. Cory sure fucking hopes he’s not crying, because he’s not equipped to deal with crying guys, he just never knows what to say.

“Yo, Zimms, good game today,” he says, and Jack doesn’t turn around to look at him.

“Thanks,” he says in a hollow tone.

Back at the hotel, they sit on their respective beds in silence. Cory wasn’t even on the fucking ice, it’s not his fault in any way, but it’s not Jack’s fault, either. He scored their only goal, and it was beautiful, but they sucked sweaty balls as a collective, and that’s what really matters. Jack doesn’t seem to share this point of view. And Cory is not a fucking saint, okay, so maybe he googled the guy once or twice, or fifteen times when the news broke that he signed with the Falconers. So he knows what they say—that he doesn’t handle defeat well, and that he always blames himself for the losses. Captain mentality or some other bullshit.

They’re both startled by the sound of Jack’s phone ringing. Cory is absolutely, one hundred percent certain he’s just going to ignore it and let it go to voicemail or maybe turn the phone all the way off, but Jack takes one look at the caller ID and picks up.

He’s silent for a moment, then says, “No, no, I’m glad you called.”

And this, in Cory’s opinion, is some grade-A bullshit, because he’s never heard Zimms sound so soft and heartfelt. Whoever is on the other end of the line must be really fucking something.

Jack relocates to the bathroom, but the acoustics in this hotel are pretty impressive, so Cory overhears a lot anyway, even though he’s trying his best not to actively eavesdrop.

“No, it’s just— I just didn’t think we would lose this badly. They really, really wanted it, I guess. Or maybe we didn’t want it bad enough,” Jack says, then, after a moment, “The press was gone by the time I left the locker room, Holtzy and Schumer took care of it. There were some reporters loitering outside, but I dodged them. I just— I needed a moment to myself. I hope the PR people are not going to be mad at me for skipping, and I know what dad would say about responsibility, but I just— it was hard, you know? I didn’t think it would hit me this hard.”

There’s some rustling and the sound of a glass being filled with water. This is probably the most Cory has ever heard Jack Zimmermann say in one breath. Now just if he refrained from baring his soul in a shitty hotel bathroom with great acoustics, Cory would really appreciate it.

“No, you don’t have to, really. Bitty, really, it’s not— Okay. Okay, fine,” Jack says after a moment of silence, and then he laughs. Honest to god laughs. It’s quiet, and so fucking genuine. “Chocolate chip. The ones you smuggled into my bag after—” he halts to an abrupt stop. “When I went home for Christmas.”

Another moment of silence, and Cory is this close to just leaving to, like, bring them some ice or something, even though they don’t exactly need ice, when Jack finally says, all touching sincerity and quiet hope, “Thank you. This really means a lot, Bitty. Take care of yourself, and I’ll see you in Providence, eh? I mean, you’re staying, right?”

Cory pretends to be sleeping when Jack comes back into the room. It’s better like that.


The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
Congratulations to #JackZimmermann on his first NHL goal!


Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
So proud I could cry. I’m sending cookies instead. #JackZimmermann #ProvidenceFalconers

Chapter Text

Marie @universallyacclaimed
@KentParsonOfficial did u watch the Falcs vs. Pens game?

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
@universallyacclaimed yeah! My boy Zimms is killing it. Good to have him back.Cant wait to meet him on the ice.


allie and the cat (allieandthecat) wrote in ontd_puck

and he speaks. now with extra homoerotic tension (plus bonus “richard stewart is a dick” weekly psa)

surprise, surprise. parse decides to share his opinion on zimms’ nhl debut and his first goal in the league. he does it, as usual, in a very parse way.

also, richard stewart is a dick. nothing new here. it’s literally a tag.

tags: and none for you kent parson, jack zimmermann, jack zimmermann’s butt is a gift from god, not the least bit homoerotic, richard stewart is a dick


Reply from lachance
Considering how tight-lipped he used to be whenever the subject of Zimms came up in the past, that is pretty unexpected.

Reply from currahee
you think they kissed and made up?

Reply from allieandthecat
well, i sure fucking hope so. anyway, i’m expecting teeeeensioooooon when the falcs finally play the aces.

Reply from lachance
And, oh my god, fuck Richard Stewart. Just. Fuck him. I can’t wait for this absolute asshole to retire.

Reply from carthage
I know, right. I guess we shouldn’t expect anything else, because it’s Richard Stewart, but how does a person who displays such blatant favoritism even have a job anymore. We know Stewart is a Bruins fanboy, but this is getting ridiculous. And I don’t know if anybody posted that guest column with Kurt Collins that came out some time ago to the comm, but, Jesus, I was seething. It’s like he holds a grudge, but I have no idea why. It’s not like Zimmermann ever did anything to him personally, so what the hell is his deal here? Is he pissed because Zimmermann dared to turn the Bruins down? Is that it? And don’t even get me started on the way Collins moderated that discussion, for the given value of “moderated” and “discussion.”

Reply from lachance
Lmao, I know. That was so cringe-worthy. And what the fuck was up with that language? Like? “Sabotaged his own career”? “He couldn’t take the pressure and ended up in rehab”? “Excuses to justify his own shortcomings”? Well, I’m sorry this sport is so shit about the psychological well-being of their players that one of them had a mental fucking breakdown before he even got drafted, because the support network is shit and there’s so much stigma surrounding mental health? And now everyone and their mother is shitting on him because he dared to get clean and completely turn his life around? So horrible, I know. The gall on him. Also, I just read that entire article again and now I’m mad. Again.

Expand 15 comments


Eric runs in the mornings. He takes the route down the frat house row and through the park, over the bridge and into the city. He stops for a smoothie at Superberry, then runs back to the Haus, and he’s usually back long before the others wake up, just in time to make breakfast for the team. Sometimes, before he sets out on his morning run, he goes to knock on Jack’s door to drag him out of bed and into his running clothes only to realize Jack is in Providence.

He thought it would be easier, without Jack here. It’s not.

Eric understands it was just never meant to be. He knows boys like him don’t end up with boys like Jack Zimmermann, and he tries—tries to smother that fluttery feeling in his chest which comes back whenever he thinks about Jack, because this is not good for him, but he doesn’t know how to stop.

How do you un-love someone?—he almost asks on Twitter, then erases the tweet in its entirety before posting it.

He asks Lardo, instead, and she hugs him, and says, “You tell me.”

So Bitty runs every morning, and doesn’t knock on Jack’s—Nursey’s—door, and tries to forget about the hollow, aching feeling in his chest.


The thing about Jack Zimmermann, Cory guesses, is that even when you think you have him all figured out, he does something completely, off-the-fucking-wall ridiculous. Like bring a huge box of cookies to share with the team on their cheat day. There’s a freaking red satin bow and everything. It’s disgustingly cute.

“I know these aren’t really in our diet plan, but I can’t have this many cookies in my apartment, they would spoil before I could eat them all. And they’re good,” he says, and opens the box. Turns out, there are chocolate chip cookies inside. About a hundred of them. The smell almost makes Cory cry.

“Zimms, my boy,” Schumer bats his eyelashes at him, “are you, by any chance, looking for a roommate?”

“Not even if you paid me,” Jack says, and puts the box down. “Not even if the franchise paid me.”

“Zimms, you wound me.” Schumer presses his hand to his chest and poses dramatically, like he thinks he’s freaking Hamlet or something. “I’d make for a wonderful housewife. You should ask Benny, he roomed with me on the road last year.”

“Don’t even bring me into this,” Bergson says. “And man, you’re fucking nasty. Wouldn’t wish you on my worst enemy.”

Schumer flips him off and dives in for the first cookie. He bites in, and the sound he makes next, Cory is positive he’s never heard anywhere outside of porn. Schumer has his eyes closed, looks like he’s just shot his load, and he devours the cookie like he wants to put the Cookie Monster to shame.

“Whoever made this, I need her number,” Schumer says and tries to fish another cookie out of the box, but now everyone is grabbing at them, and okay, this looks fucking ridiculous until Cory bites into the cookie, and now he definitely wants to cry. The way this cookie tastes would make his Nana cry, and his Nana makes most people slightly terrified. She makes Cory slightly terrified, and he’s her favorite grandkid.

“It’s from one of my teammates from Samwell, actually,” Jack explains and rubs his neck with his hand, like he’s embarrassed.

“Dude, no homo or anything, but you should, like, marry this guy,” Aaronowitz says. Jack freezes. It’s just for a second, a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, but the thing is, Cory doesn’t blink. Doesn’t miss the moment of sheer panic on Jack’s face.

He covers it up quickly. “Enjoy the cookies, guys. There’s probably more where that came from,” he says, his voice just slightly off, and begs off the team lunch they were supposed to go out for after practice.

Cory hitches a ride with Simmons back to his apartment—one of the advantages of living in a building overrun with hockey players—and goes back to that moment at the team lounge over and over again in his head, and it’s not like he even feels particularly guilty about it, because that was just fucking bizarre, okay? Unless—


He knows he should leave this alone. He also knows he’s literally incapable of leaving such things alone, because, as Kathy likes to tell him, the thing with Cory is that he starts thinking about it, and then he has no idea how to stop thinking about it, and then he just needs to know, and it’s fucking annoying for everyone involved (her words, not his).

And the thing is, he still remembers that weird phone call from last week, after they lost to the Pens in a rather spectacular manner, and he does remember something about chocolate chip cookies. And there was someone Jack called Bitty, so Cory does the only thing he can, and also, incidentally, the only thing that makes sense in this situation. He googles it.

He really, really tries not to feel like a giant creep when he searches samwell hockey team bitty, and it’s right there, on the first page for everyone to see, so it’s not like he’s violating someone’s privacy or something. Or something. Anyway, there he is, Eric “Bitty” Bittle, captain of the Samwell Men’s Hockey Team. He looks like any of the guys on the team could bench-press him one-handed. He’s also, if Cory is being totally honest with himself, really fucking cute.

And look, it’s not like Cory wants to stereotype people or anything, but it says right there on his profile page that he used to compete as a figure skater before he started playing hockey, and he has Beyoncé listed as one of his interests, and he also, apparently, bakes things on the regular, so it’s really easy to assume certain things.

Eric Bittle, as it turns out, also has a Twitter.

It’s an…enlightening experience to say the least, as far as Jack is concerned. An enlightening experience Cory is never, ever going to share with anyone. Ever. Because he might be morbidly, obsessively curious, but he also likes to think he’s not that much of an asshole. After about twenty minutes spent scrolling, Cory finally forces himself to close the tab, but not before he decides he might just as well be polite about his creeping tendencies.

Cory Smith @CorySmithFalconers
@omgcheckplease just wanted to say, thx for the cookies, from the entire team! they were sooo good!

It takes Bittle just a few seconds to answer, and it’s only then that Cory realizes this might not have been the smartest thing he’s ever done.

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
@CorySmithFalconers Uh, thank you? I have no idea how y’all found my twitter, but I’m glad you liked the cookies. Sending pie next. :)


Jack is doing leg presses when Smithy and Schumer come into the weight room. He looks up for a moment and raises his hand in greeting, then goes back to his set. He’s done with his leg presses by the time they’re both settled in, Schumer on the bench, Smithy spotting, and Jack moves to the elliptical for a light post-workout jog. He can feel every muscle in his body screaming in pain, but it’s good pain, the type which tells him that he’s done his work, that he’s pulling his weight.

They have a home game in two days. His parents come down tomorrow.

Jack has tried to convince them to stay over at his apartment, because he has enough space and the bed for the guest room should be delivered later today, but then he mentioned Bitty, and his mother told him they appreciate the thought but his father had already made reservations at the Hilton. Jack is not entirely sure he believes her.

“Hey, Zimms, anybody coming to cheer on you on Friday?” Schumer asks as he hangs up the weights and switches with Smithy.

“Yeah,” Jack says, slowing down to a complete halt, “my parents and some of my old teammates from Samwell. So let’s play a good game, eh?”

“Sure, man, we’re gonna represent,” Schumer assures him. “By the way, dude, I still kinda want to make out with your dad.”

Jack reaches for his bag and slings it over his shoulder. “In your dreams, Schumer,” he says. “In your dreams.”

There’s a traffic accident on his way home, and it takes him over an hour instead of fifteen minutes to get back to his apartment.

Once he’s inside and showered, he pulls a bag of skinless chicken breasts out of the fridge while his laptop boots up, and chops the meat into small cubes to be steamed for dinner. He skypes with Shitty, waiting for his dinner to be ready—they do this at least once a week, and while looking at Shitty through the grainy filter of his webcam is not the same thing as having him lying on Jack’s bed, pants long forgotten, smoking up or talking strangely insightful shit (or both), it’s better than nothing.

It’s strange, to think that Parse might be his oldest true friend, despite everything that happened, but Shitty is, without a doubt, the best and most trusted friend Jack will ever have. Because Jack has been through a lot with Parse—because it was Parse who found him, after, and it was Parse who called the ambulance and his parents, and who waited for them to fly down from Montreal, white-faced and terrified. But with Parse, everything was always complicated, Jack’s feelings mixed up between friendship and love, and lust. With Shitty, it was always easier to breathe.

“I’m skipping last class to pick them up earlier. It’s mostly bullshit like you wouldn’t believe anyway. Harvard, man. Harvard,” Shitty says. “And, apparently, Bits is not coming back with us?”

Jack looks away for a moment, then says, “Yeah, I invited him for the weekend. It’s just…you know. It is what it is. I just want to show him around Providence, that’s all.”

“You talk to him already?” Shitty asks, and with anyone else, Jack could pretend he has no idea what they’re talking about, but he knows Shitty will call bullshit if he tries.

“Shits, come on,” Jack says with soft admonishment, but he really doesn’t have it in him to be annoyed with Shitty. He knows Shitty is right, that this thing is slowly eating him up from the inside, but—even if it could happen, even if Bitty wanted it to happen—Bitty deserves better than to be his dirty little secret. And Jack is not ready to be the first out player in the NHL.

“Bro,” Shitty says in return. Even this grainy, he looks distinctly unimpressed. “You know I’m not one to meddle where I’m not fucking wanted, and it’s none of my fucking business anyway, so I’m not gonna tell you what to do, but. You know. You deserve to be happy, too.”

“I am happy,” Jack says, but it sounds hollow even to his own ears, like something he just needs to keep telling himself until he finally believes it. “I got us some ice time on Saturday,” he adds after a moment of silence and smiles a small, sheepish smile, looks down at his hands.

The timer on the oven beeps.

“I’ll see you on Friday, yeah?” Jack says as he gets up to plate his dinner. It’s nothing exciting, wild rice and steamed chicken, some romaine lettuce on the side. It’s diet-approved, though, and that’s what matters, especially this soon before a game.

“Give them hell, Zimmermann,” Shitty says through the laptop speakers, his voice echoing around the kitchen. “I’m gonna hug the fuck out of you after.”


“Nervous?” Holtzy asks, and punches Jack playfully in the shoulder as they get into their gear. Jack only shrugs.

“I’ve seen Bad Bob Zimmermann in the stands, you guys. Holy shit.” Smithy bursts into the locker room at full speed, then comes to an abrupt halt when he almost crashes into Bergson. “And there’s, like, a shitload of other people dressed in Jack’s jerseys.”

Schumer pushes at Jack with a wide smile. “Got yourself a little fanclub, Zimms?”

“Must be the guys from school,” Jack says, trying to smile through the tightness in his lips. He breathes in and out, once, twice, closes his eyes for a moment. “Let’s make it worth their while.”

He feels like he’s just repeating himself over and over again, until it sounds hollow and meaningless, but the thing is, he wants them to be proud of him. Wants to give them a reason to.

This, here, is what he’s meant to do. Play the best hockey he can. Prove himself. Win.

That’s what he came to Providence for. There is no other option.


They win.

Jack scores twice and gets two assists earlier in the game, and they beat the Bruins 4-3 in regulation, and when the puck hits the back of the net just seconds before the end of the third period, Schumer and Holtzy, and Aaronowitz pile on top of him, ram him into the boards, and Bergson headbutts Jack, yelling in his ear, and when Jack looks around, the crowd is screaming.

For a moment, Jack can’t hear anything but the ringing in his own ears.

He goes through the press in a daze, the answers rehearsed and almost mechanical, because he’s been doing this for a long, long time, and he could probably do this with his eyes closed, but there’s a part of him that still can’t believe he’s just won his first game in the NHL. That he’s just won the game for his entire team.

Shitty almost tackles him when he finally comes out of the locker room, launches himself at Jack and hugs him tightly, and presses a sloppy, wet kiss into Jack’s cheek.

“I knew you could do it, you beautiful fucker!” he announces to the entire corridor. Bergson looks sharply over his shoulder from where he’s talking to someone who looks like his sister, judging by the family resemblance, then laughs.

“Go for it, Zimms!” he yells. Jack flips him off.

“Good game, son,” his dad says and hugs him once Shitty finally lets go. “That last goal was tremendous.”

His mom kisses his hair, still damp from the shower, and sounds like she wants to cry. “I’m so proud of you, sweetheart,” she tells him in a low whisper. “You have no idea how proud I am.”

Lardo cuffs him over the head, then hugs him until Jack can hardly breathe, and, god, he’s missed her so much. “Knew you had it in you, kiddo,” she says. “You show them, okay? All of them.”

Ransom and Holster go for a celly off the ice, and when they finally let him go, there’s a strange tightness in Jack’s throat that makes it hard to swallow.

And then there’s Bitty. Bitty, who hangs back and looks uncharacteristically self-conscious in Jack’s jersey that’s far too big on him, and seems like he really, really doesn’t want to touch Jack.

“Great game,” he says, focusing his eyes somewhere above Jack’s shoulder. “That was amazing, Jack. I knew you were going to do great.”

Jack swallows.

“Oh my god, Mister Zimmermann, it’s such an honor to meet you,” Smithy says to his right, looking wide-eyed and slightly out of breath. “Such an honor. I’m a huge fan.”

His dad’s answer barely even registers, because Jack can’t take his eyes off Bitty, and maybe it was a mistake, maybe Bitty doesn’t want to be here, maybe Bitty doesn’t want to stay with Jack for the weekend. Maybe he just wants to go with Shitty and the rest of the guys back to Samwell. Jack must have done something wrong, but he has no idea what.

“Yo, Zimms, my man,” Schumer says as he emerges from the locker room. “We’re going out to celebrate. You coming? You can bring your friend if you want.”

Jack looks between Schumer and his dad. They were supposed to go out to dinner, just the four of them.

“I don’t know, I— uh, we had a thing planned for—” he tries to explain, but he doesn’t get to finish.

“You boys go. Your mother and I are going on a date,” his dad announces. “We can do brunch tomorrow.”

“Bittle?” Jack asks, to make sure, and Bitty nods.

“Yeah, sure,” he says. “If y’all really don’t mind.”

“No, dude, come on,” Schumer says, shaking his head, and he bumps his shoulder into Bitty’s arm. “Any friend of Jack’s is a friend of ours, y’know? It’s all good, my man. I’m Schumer, by the way, great to meet you, dude.”


They shake hands.


The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
#JackZimmermann scores the game winner against the Bruins! #2Points2Assists

The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
We have @BobZimmermann in the stands tonight at the TLA, but there’s a new Zimmermann in town #JackZimmermann

Deadspin @Deadspin
.@BobZimmermann: “I have never been more proud. I always knew he’d go on to do great things, and this is just the beginning” #JackZimmermann


the spectral assassin @lachances
@RichardStewartOfficial how does it feel to be so fucking wrong? #JackZimmermann


Cory goes out for the celebratory team beer and, what do you know, finds himself sitting next to the object of his internet stalking habits. It is, frankly, less than ideal, because when Cory introduces himself, Bittle’s eyes widen, and he says, “Your’re the guy who tweeted me about the cookies!”

Schumer must overhear it, because he does a comical double-take and says, “Wait, you’re the cookie guy? Oh my god. Oh my god.

“Please, don’t offer him your hand in marriage,” Benny says. “You’re a disgusting pig who’s just great at fronting. No, but really, Eric, don’t let that innocent smile fool you. He’s a nightmare to live with.”

Bittle—Eric—laughs. “I live in a frat house. Believe me, whatever you’re thinking, I’ve seen worse.”

Holtzy looks like he’s considering something. “You know what,” he says after a moment. “I’m having a really hard time imagining Zimms living in an actual, honest to god frat house. I’m imagining, like, a nine p.m. curfew, lights out and the whole shebang, and the rest of you, guys, sneaking around while Zimms is getting his beauty sleep or whatever. Please, even if it didn’t happen like that, I don’t even want to know,” he declares dramatically. “Just don’t take this away from me.”

When Cory glances up at him, Jack is looking away, laughing, but there’s a slight flush creeping up his neck. Eric just waves his hand. They’ve had a lot to drink—except for Jack, who ordered one beer, and then stuck to water for the rest of the evening—and for such a small guy, Eric can hold his liquor.

“No, it wasn’t really like that,” he says. “But there was a ban on Beyoncé in the shower before ten a.m. Or, you know, singing at all.”

Jack flushes even harder.

“It was one time, Bittle. One time.”

“And there was a lot of early rising, but that was all my fault,” Eric says then, and whatever that’s about, Jack looks straight up exasperated, but also weirdly fond.

“Come on, you know that’s not true,” he says, and it’s so quiet and soft that everyone else misses it. Jesus. Cory feels like the third wheel, and it’s not even a date.

There’s a lot of them, and the table is not that big, so it’s a tight fit, but Cory is not blind, he can see that Jack and Eric sit closer than anyone else, but they’re also not touching, and this—this looks deliberate. Maybe, Cory thinks, it only looks deliberate to him, because he has this nagging suspicion that maybe Jack is…not straight, and that maybe there’s something more here, but it’s not like he can actually ask.

When Jack excuses himself to go to the bathroom, Cory almost wants to go after him, ask him if everything is okay, but then thinks better of it.

Jack comes back after a long moment, waylaid on the way by a drunk girl who asks him to sign her boobs with red lipstick. He offers to sign a napkin instead.


It gets better when they arrive at the bar. Now, at least, Bitty looks at him, not above his shoulder, and when they settle in the booth, he sits next to Jack, so close they’re almost touching. He can feel Bitty’s body heat, their thighs not even half an inch away, and the tight feeling in his chest slowly dissolves.

He buys himself a beer, and another one for Bitty, and then he switches to water, but keeps buying Bitty drinks all night, observes the slight flush on his cheeks and neck that Bitty always gets when he’s drinking. He deserves to have a good time, and his teammates are so nice to him that maybe he won’t regret coming to Providence after all.

It’s stupid, this thing he keeps doing to himself, like he’s a glutton for punishment, but Bitty is his friend, too, and he doesn’t want to lose it. So what if he maybe sits a little too close, and looks at him when Bitty looks the other way more often than he should, and steals food from his plate at breakfast, and touches him, sometimes, without any good reason other than he wants to. He knows there are lines he will never, ever cross, but this—this is innocent enough, that’s what Bitty does with all his closest friends, the touching, the food-sharing, the comfortable intimacy and gentle teasing.

In another life, he could have this, if only Bitty wanted it, too. In another life, he could press his leg against Bitty’s, and he could hold his hand, and not be afraid of the consequences.

(He knows what they say about him, that he’s sabotaged his own career once already, that he’s a mentally ill time bomb ready to explode. He knows they’re waiting for him to do it again. It makes him sick that this, just being who he really is, openly, without fear, could be the end for him. And Jack may be a master of self-destruction, but the thought alone leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.)

The rest of the guys are doing tequila shots, and Bitty downs one, too, bites into the lime wedge and leans against Jack for a brief moment. Jack excuses himself to go to the bathroom.

He looks pale in the cold, sharp light, pale and exhausted, and he knows he’s fucked up, but he doesn’t remember the last time he’s felt it so acutely. He shouldn’t feel like that after a win, he thinks. After all, that’s what he came here to do. Win games. Play hockey.

He calls Kent.

“Hey, asshole. You don’t write, you don’t call,” Kent says when he picks up after the third ring, but Jack knows he’s smiling on the other end of the line.

“I’m calling you now,” Jack says.

“Yeah, I know, man, what the fuck?” Kent laughs, but it’s not the sharp, unkind laugh Jack used to dread. “You should be out, celebrating, not calling me like the total dweeb we both know you are. Great game, by the way. That second goal was a fucking beaut.”

Jack takes a deep breath, then another.

“Kenny—” he says, and it comes out small, pleading.

“Zimms, what’s the matter with you? Are you high?” Kent asks, and Jack can hear the concern in his voice.

“Fuck you, Kent, I’m not high, Jesus,” Jack spits out into the receiver, but he has no real fight left in him. “I’m out, actually. Celebrating.”

“So what’s wrong?” Jack can hear quiet rustling on the other end of the line.

“Nothing,” Jack says through his teeth. “Nothing is fucking wrong, that’s the whole problem. I scored twice, got two assists, I should be feeling great. But I’m not. I don’t.”

“Is the blond guy there? Bittle?” Kent asks. Jack blinks slowly. “I thought I saw him in the stands when they cut to your dad.”

“I—” he manages to get out before Kent interrupts him.

“Come on, Zimms,” he says. “I know you, remember? You’re so fucking transparent.”

“Parse…” Jack says, then stops.

“What do you want, Jack?” Kent asks, and there’s a hint of annoyance in his voice. “To ask for my blessing to fuck him? You don’t need that, not really, because the only obstacle standing in your way is you. If you want this, go after him. That’s the only way to do it.”

This, Jack figures, is as good as he’s going to get from Parse.

“Thanks, Kent,” Jack says. “For picking up, considering how—”

“Well, yeah,” Kent interrupts him, “it wasn’t my finest moment, either. But call me sometime, you asshole, and not only when you’re having your big gay crisis. Again.”

“I will,” Jack assures him. “Thanks.”

When he comes back to the table, the only ones left are Cory and Bitty, while the rest of the guys have ventured outside their booth to buy more drinks or pick up girls. Jack slides back into his place after he signs a napkin for a very drunk girl with a very pronounced French-Canadian accent who wanted him to sign her breasts.

“You should’ve tapped that ass, dude,” Schumer says, appearing next to Jack a moment later. Jack stiffens. Schumer is really, really wasted. “She was, like, totally into you.”

“She was drunk, Schumer,” he says. “And I don’t even know her.”

“Like that’s a prerequisite for fucking.” Schumer shrugs.

“Look at you, such big words even when you’re three sheets to the wind,” Jack chirps to cover up the tightness in his throat.

“Listen, Jackie-boy, so maybe not all of us went to college,” Schumer says, throwing an arm around Jack’s shoulders. “Doesn’t mean we’re fucking dumb.”

“You’re so fucking dumb, though, Schumer,” Bergson says, coming back to the table with a line of shots.

Schumer flips him off.

After thirty minutes and another line of shots, Bitty looks like he’s about to fall asleep next to Jack. Jack touches him gently on the shoulder to shake him awake, and they get ready to leave.

“It was so nice to meet y’all,” Bitty says as they say their goodbyes. He sounds incredibly Southern right now, the way he does right after he comes back from a break. “But now that I do know you, you better promise me y’all are gonna take care of this silly boy.”

Jack can’t help the fondness blooming in his chest.


It’s a longer walk to where Jack has parked his car, and the night air is chilly, brisk, even though it’s not even October yet, so by the time they reach Jack’s Honda, Eric feels much less sleepy and much more sober.

They’re quiet, walking side by side, their arms brushing from time to time, and Eric stuffs his hands into his pockets to keep himself from touching Jack. There are no people in the streets at this hour. He could do this. No one would know.

He feels weirdly unbalanced in a way which has nothing to do with the alcohol, and there’s insistent, restless buzzing under his skin, like a static charge he knows would disappear if he just touched Jack.

It’s a shame the frogs couldn’t be here, he thinks. Poor Chowder and his unexpected angina.

He tells Jack that, and Jack nods.

In the car, Eric looks out the window with his head propped against the glass. Jack is silent behind the wheel, and his iPod is lying unplugged on the backseat.

“Bittle— Eric,” Jack says at last in a serious tone, and Eric jerks his head back to look at him. “Did I do something wrong? The way you acted after the game… Should I be apologizing for something?”

And it sounds so earnest, so heartfelt and so sad that Eric feels like he’s just been punched in the solar plexus. He steels himself for a moment before he can answer, and even then, he’s not sure how to explain it so that Jack really understands.

“You did nothing wrong, Jack,” he says. “Nothing, okay? It was— I just didn’t want people to assume things about you. Because of me. It’s— I know that people see me, and they see also…other things, and I’m fine with this, because it’s not like it isn’t true, but— I just didn’t want it to reflect in any way on you. I know how important your career is to you. I know that you love to play hockey, and I know what it means. So I would never do anything to jeopardize that.”

Jack is silent for a moment, but when Eric looks at him, he’s gripping the gear stick so hard his knuckles have gone white.

“You didn’t have to do that,” he says. “It’s— I know it hasn’t been easy for you, in the past, and I would never ask you to hide.”

Eric looks down at his hands, blinking the tears away.

They don’t speak the rest of the way home.


The apartment is dark and quiet when they come up, and Jack dumps his bag by the door, then turns on the light in the hallway.

It’s surreal, having Bitty here.

He’s wondered, sometimes, what it would be like, to see Bitty in his kitchen every morning, domestic and comfortable, what it would be like to come home to him. Now, for two days, that’s his reality, and Jack doesn’t know if he can handle this.

“Hey, Bittle, you hungry?” he asks as he pads slowly to the kitchen. It’s late, but Bitty has been drinking, and Jack knows that alcohol always makes him hungry. Bitty wanders in after Jack, and Jack can hear him gasp behind his back as he steps into the kitchen and then suddenly stops in the doorway.

“Oh my god, Jack,” he says in a low whisper. “Your kitchen. Oh my god.”

Jack leans against the marble countertop, and when he looks at Bitty, he’s covering his mouth with his hand, staring wide-eyed at the brightly illuminated space.

Back when he went apartment-hunting with his mom, she asked him what he had in mind.

“Something with a nice kitchen,” he said, afraid it was too obvious, too transparent (and maybe Parse was right, maybe he is). His mom just smiled and said, “Of course, sweetheart. We’re going to look for that, then.”

“It’s amazing,” Bitty says, then, “It’s a real shame you’re not really using it, though.”

“Hey,” Jack protests, fake-hurt. “I’ll have you know my cooking skills are perfectly passable.”

“What about your baking skills?” Bitty asks, leaning against the counter next to Jack and hip-checking him gently.

Jack shrugs. “Well, you know. Not bad. I had a great teacher.”

He knows he shouldn’t be doing this, but it’s like he suddenly can’t help himself. It’s just for a moment, he tells himself. Just for a moment. Then Jack is moving away from Bitty, busying himself with filling two glasses with water. He hands one of them to Bitty.

“Drink up, you’ll thank me in the morning,” he says. “So? You want to grab a bite before we turn in for the night?”

“Are you sure your fridge can handle this?” Bitty asks, but he’s smiling. “Is there even anything nice in it? Something other than protein?”

(It really looks like he’s not letting that one go.)

“I have some eggs?” Jack informs him, surveying the contents of his refrigerator. “I could make omelets.”

“Jack Zimmermann,” Bitty says, and Jack knows this tone. “If anyone is going to be making omelets here, it’s going to be me. Now move your perky butt over and let the professional handle this.”

It hits him then, just how much he’s missed it, this quiet, comfortable routine, Jack drinking his morning coffee at the kitchen table while Bitty makes breakfast for the team. It’s like he hasn’t even realized how empty the space of his apartment was, exactly, until it has been finally filled for the first time, and now it’s like a physical ache he can’t make go away.

But the worst thing is—the worst thing is, Bitty looks like he belongs, here, in Jack’s kitchen. In Jack’s life. For the first time in a long time, Jack wants to punch something.

They eat the omelets, talk about nothing in particular.

“Do you think you could visit the Haus sometime? I know you’re really busy, but maybe just for one evening?” Bitty asks. “The tadpoles really want to meet you. They’re so proud to be playing on the same team as the NHL star Jack Zimmermann, you have no idea.”

“Yeah, of course,” Jack says. “Just because I’m here now doesn’t mean that I don’t miss Samwell or the Haus, or all of you. Of course I’ll come visit.”

“Lardo is so sad,” Bitty says then, ducking his head. “It’s so strange, because usually she’s just so full of life and energy, but sometimes she just gets this look, and— You know, with Shitty in Cambridge, they just decided to— They both say this long-distance thing is not for them, so they want to wait until Lardo graduates, but I just— I don’t know, it’s making her unhappy, and it’s not like this kind of thing never works out, you know?”

“I know,” Jack says, carefully measuring his words, “but they need to do this on their own terms. Even if it doesn’t make them happy right now, maybe it’s better in the long run.”

“And the Haus is so…weird without you there,” Bitty admits after a moment. “Like something is missing. And I know things change, and that they have to change, but sometimes I just want to go back to the way it was. Back when we were all together. Happy.”

“Are you? Happy?” Jack asks before he can stop himself, because he needs to know.

Bitty startles. “Of course I’m happy, Jack, why would you even ask that?” he says, but when Jack glances up at him, he just looks so sad, even through the watery smile he’s giving him. “Of course I’m happy. I’m just a giant sap, you know that. But we’re good. The Haus is good. Even if we miss you sometimes.”

If this was a different life, Jack would kiss him then. Maybe in that different life he wouldn’t be a coward.

But it’s not, so Jack only says, “I miss you, guys, too. And I will come to visit, I promise.”

Later, when he dumps his pillow and a thick blanket onto the couch, Bitty gives him a curious look.

“They haven’t delivered the bed for the guest room yet,” Jack explains. “It was supposed to be delivered yesterday, but there was some mix-up, so I’m taking the couch. I’ve changed the sheets already, so go ahead if you want to hit the sack.”

Bitty shakes his head and comes closer, so close that Jack could touch him if he reached out just a little.

“No, come on, Jack, you know I couldn’t,” he says and smiles. “My mama raised me better than that. This is your bed. I’ll take the couch.”

“But it’s uncomfortable,” Jack says, and he knows he’s made a mistake as soon as the words leave his mouth.

Bitty’s face gets this stern look Jack has learned to associate with him scolding the frogs for one thing or another.

“And out of the two of us, I’m not the professional athlete and the NHL star whose body is insured for some ridiculous amounts of money,” he says, “so either I’m taking the couch, or we both share the bed. Come on, Jack, it’s huge, and I have it on good authority I’m actually kind of…compact. We’ll manage.”

“Fine, Bittle, we’ll take the bed,” he manages weakly. If he spends a bit more time getting ready for bed than usual, and if he stands in front of the huge mirror in his bathroom for longer than strictly necessary, well, that’s just between him and the four walls of his apartment.

He makes sure they’re not touching. He lies rigid on the edge of the bed with his eyes closed, willing his heart to stop pounding. Bitty is so close Jack can smell him, and he can hear his soft, rhythmic breathing, and Jack wants him so much it hurts.

But he can’t have this, he can’t, he can’t, he keeps repeating in his head like a mantra, so he just keeps his eyes shut, grits his teeth, and tries to stay absolutely still.

After some time, he can feel Bitty’s hand on his shoulder.

“Jack?” Bitty says, and in the darkness of the room, his voice sounds small and uncertain. “Jack? You’re shaking.”

Jack freezes.

“Sorry, Bittle,” he says, then, and his voice stays even. “I think I need an extra blanket,” he lies.

He doesn’t come back until he’s positive Bitty is already asleep.

Chapter Text


lmao so my friend got fucking wasted yesterday at that one bar the falcs sometimes go to after games and asked jack zimmermann to sign her boobs. he signed a napkin instead lmao that was so awkward oh my god

#hockey #jack zimmermann #honestly she was so fucking wasted #he was so fucking awkward #L M A O


Cory wakes up around ten a.m. and discovers that he is, miraculously, not even that hungover. He lies on his back for a moment, staring at the white ceiling, then reaches for his phone and calls his sister.

It takes her a moment to pick up and Cory thinks his call is about to go to voicemail when Kathy finally answers.

“So, like, hypothetically,” he starts, not bothering with hello or any other pleasantries, because they’re long past that stage in their sibling relationship, “if you thought that one of your teammates is maybe not, uh, you know, entirely straight, how would you, hypothetically, let him know that you know and that you’d have his back in the event that, uh, well, you know, he decided to do something about it, without sounding like a complete tool?”

“Not like that,” Kathy says without missing a beat.

Cory laughs. “Yeah, I know. I figured. But seriously.”

“I love you, bro, but come on, it’s ten a.m. on a Saturday, and you’re calling me out of the fucking blue to ask me for, like, some serious life advice,” she says. “So really? What’s going on?”

Blueberry jumps on the bed to lick Cory’s face—it’s like she doesn’t remember she’s not a puppy anymore, and fuck, Cory loves this ridiculous dog so much. He pats his chest and she crawls all over him, then sighs deeply as she settles down.

“We went out for drinks yesterday, after the game, and one of the guys came with a friend, and, like, I don’t know if it was a friend or a friend friend. But before that I overheard him talking to that guy on the phone, because we were rooming together in Pittsburgh, and he called him after the game, and, just, I don’t know.” Cory shrugs even though Kathy can’t see him. Blueberry gives him an exasperated look. “And then someone made a stupid joke in the locker room, and he just, like, froze. Like he’s been caught.”

For a moment, Kathy is strangely quiet. Then she asks, “Wait, are you talking about Jack Zimmermann?”

Cory has a brief moment of panic, and so, completely without thinking, he blurts out, “You can’t tell anyone, okay?”

He can feel Kathy judging him on the other end of the line.

“Bro, do I need to remind you that I spent five years in the fucking closet while grandma was still alive?” she says, and he’s about to apologize when he realizes she’s laughing at him. “Oh my fucking god, Cory. Go the fuck to sleep.”

“Sorry,” he mumbles. “It’s just so weird, okay? Because I don’t think he knows that I know, or suspect, whatever, and it’s just really awkward, but if I talk to him and he thinks that I’m accusing him of something, and he tells me to fuck off, it’s gonna get even more awkward, you know? So what the fuck do I do?”

Kathy sighs.

“Listen, kiddo, there’s no good way to do this,” she says. “And I know it’s extra hard when you’re playing hockey, because of the locker room mentality and whatnot. So…I don’t know. Maybe just be a good friend, and wait for him to come to you, if he wants to. If he can see that you’re not making dumb jokes about it, that you’re a good guy and a good friend, maybe he’ll understand that he can trust you. And if you’re wrong, well, then nothing happened, right?”

It’s not the answer Cory wants to hear, but he understands that Kathy gets it from the other side, in a way he will never be able to.

“Kiss Blueberry from me, okay?” Kathy says after a moment. “And cuddle the fuck out of her on my behalf.”

“Sometimes I think you love that dog more than me,” Cory says, but he leans in to kiss Blueberry on the top of her head anyway.

“You bet your ass, little bro,” Kathy laughs. “You bet your big hockey butt I do.”


He wakes up with Bitty curled into his side. Jack swallows, breathes steadily through his nose and doesn’t move.

The curtains are closed, but he can see the morning sun shining through, and he knows he should get up, put some distance between him and Bitty, get his body under control. He doesn’t. Instead, he closes his eyes and breathes.

Bitty looks peaceful when he sleeps, and it’s a cliché, but it’s the truth, too.

You are not allowed to kiss him, Jack repeats in his head over and over again. It would be so easy. No one would have to know. But it wouldn’t be fair. To Bitty. To himself.

The digital clock reads 09:08 when Jack looks over to his night stand. He doesn’t usually sleep in this late, but today they have nowhere to be until eleven, and the breakfast place they’re meeting his parents at is just a five-minute walking distance from Jack’s apartment.

It’s not earth-shattering, like he expected, to wake up next to Bitty. In fact, it feels strangely familiar, like they’ve done it countless times before, like it’s just another lazy Saturday morning, like Bitty belongs here. It’s dangerous, Jack knows this, but he can’t help it.

He wants to take a picture—of the two of them, together, in his bed, in his sheets that smell like Bitty now, he wants to post it to his Instagram, he wants everyone to know.

Except there is nothing to know, apart from that tight feeling in Jack’s chest that threatens to suffocate him when he looks down at Bitty, still sleeping next to him.

Jack can feel the exact moment Bitty wakes up, because he freezes, then scrambles to get away.

“Oh my goodness, Jack, I’m so sorry,” he says, and there’s something false in his voice, like he’s putting up a front.

“That’s okay, Bittle,” Jack says, his voice quiet and hoarse. “I used to share with Shitty sometimes, remember? He hogs the covers. And he snores. Did you sleep well?”

Bitty sits up and looks down at his hands, smiles a small, shy smile. “Yeah,” he says.

Jack drinks a protein shake while Bitty showers, and by the time he joins Jack in the kitchen, there are two mugs of coffee on the counter. There’s milk and sugar in Bitty’s, and he closes his eyes for a moment after taking the first sip, smiling around the rim of the mug.

“You make such good coffee,” he says, sounding almost surprised.

Jack shrugs. “It’s the coffee machine, mostly. Mom bought it for me, told me I would be thanking her in no time. So I guess she was right.”

Bitty nudges Jack’s ankle with his foot. “You’re real close, aren’t you? With your mom?”

Jack shrugs again, but he can’t help the smile. “I guess. We’ve grown a lot closer after, you know—” he stutters. “After the overdose. I was home for a long time, coaching peewee, and dad still travels a lot for work, promoting his sponsors and his charities, so he was gone from time to time, but she stayed at home, to keep an eye on me, I guess. They didn’t really trust me to be alone at first, when I came back from rehab.”

It’s a strangely serious topic for light morning conversation, but it also feels right, telling Bitty these things about himself that not many people know.

“I taught her how to skate,” he adds after a moment.

Bitty’s eyes grow wide. “Come on, Jack Zimmermann, you surely must be joking,” he says. “Do you really want to tell me your mom didn’t know how to skate all these years she was married to Bad Bob Zimmermann?”

Jack laughs, takes a sip of coffee. “She was still working when she met my dad, you know, modeling, and she really wasn’t interested in hockey. She was all about football, though. Came from a town with strong football traditions. And then they married, and then she had me, but, I guess, she just didn’t want to have my dad teaching her. I don’t blame her, dad gets really intense on the ice sometimes.”

“A Zimmermann? Intense? On the ice? Impossible,” Bitty chirps, and Jack punches him lightly in the shoulder.

“It was fun, having her around so much,” Jack says then. “She didn’t try to smother me, she was just…there. In case I needed her. It was nice. But you’re really close with your mom, too, right?”

Bitty smiles, but there’s something slightly off about it. “Yeah, she’s one of my best friends, and I know she loves me. But, you know. I still haven’t told her. About me.”

Jack hums quietly, encouraging Bitty to keep going.

“It’s just not much use, you know,” Bitty says. “I’m not even dating, so it’s— And it’s not like I could be out at home anyway.”

It feels like a punch to the gut. Jack doesn’t know everything about Bitty’s dad, but he knows enough. Like the fact that Bitty doesn’t call him dad. Ever. It’s always Coach. When Jack came out to his parents, shaking and on the verge of another panic attack, his father just hugged him and said, “I know, son. It’s okay,” and then he kissed the top of Jack’s head.

“She’s coming down in November for our first home game. I can’t wait to see her,” Bitty says, then pauses, nervous. “Coach is coming, too, this time. Since I’m the captain now, and everything.”

Jack looks him in the eyes. “Bittle,” he says, “you’re going to do great.”


They arrive early at the breakfast place Jack suggested, and the waitress who seats them does a subtle double-take, but doesn’t say anything, just smiles politely and offers them drinks. Hockey cities, Bob thinks, are all the same.

“This place is so nice,” Alicia says, sipping her morning coffee and looking through the menu, even though Bob knows she’s going to order waffles anyway. “It’s so great that Jack seems like he’s settling in okay.”

“I think it’s good that Holtz is here,” Bob comments. “He’s a good player and a solid guy, and Jack seems to like him. It’s always good to have someone friendly to show you around.”

Alicia hums. “And it was so nice of Jack’s teammates from Samwell to show up. I didn’t expect to see so many of them. I know he invited Eric, and I expected to see Knight, of course, but the rest was a pleasant surprise.”

Bob takes a sip of his coffee and looks around, but Jack and Eric are still nowhere to be seen. “He was a good friend and a good captain to them for these past few years,” he says. “And they’re good kids.”

The thing is, Bob wasn’t sure about Samwell at first. He wanted to have Jack closer to home, just in case. But Samwell was a good school, and a relatively small school, and it had a very liberal reputation, which, Bob knew, was also important to Jack.

Jack was adamant about it, though, the way he hadn’t been about anything since that evening when they received a call from a terrified Kent Parson, telling them to fly down, because Jack had overdosed and was still unconscious when the ambulance took him to the hospital.

After he had finally woken up, he just apathetically went along with everything they suggested—the rehab, the therapist, the break from hockey, the coaching job with the local peewee team.

So Samwell it was.

And it was—Bob has to admit—good for Jack. He’s made friends, come out of his shell a bit more, learned how to hold his head high. It was good, to watch him slowly grow into himself.

It’s five past eleven when Jack and Eric finally arrive at the bistro, and for a moment they look so comfortable around each other that it reminds Bob of him and Alicia when they were still young, way back before Jack was born. But then it’s like they remember they’re in public, and Bob and Alicia are here, and they break apart, tense and unsure.

They haven’t talked about this, not really, because Jack doesn’t open up easily, and Bob doesn’t want to pry, but he has built his career on noticing things other people might overlook, and he can recognize what’s right in front of him.

Both him and Alicia adore Eric, though, and Bob thinks he understands why Jack doesn’t do anything about it, knows that when you’re playing hockey, it’s twice as hard for players such as Jack to be themselves, but these are different times, too, different from what was happening back in his day. It wouldn’t be smart to go first, and it wouldn’t be easy, and Bob would advise against it, but if it happened, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

“So how are you liking Providence so far, Eric?” Bob asks once they’re all seated and looking through the menus.

“It’s nice,” Eric says. “I haven’t seen too much of the city yet, but we’re going to walk around a bit after the skate. It was so nice of Jack to invite me, took me completely by surprise.”

Beside Eric, Bob can see Jack stiffen.

“I mean,” Eric continues, “I knew I was going to see the game, but I didn’t know I’d get to stay for the entire weekend. And, Mrs. Zimmermann, may I just tell you that you have excellent taste? The apartment you picked out with Jack is amazing. I almost cried when I saw the kitchen.”

Jack ducks his head and smiles. “Bittle liked the coffee, too,” he says to his mother.

“See? I told you, Jack,” Alicia says and smiles as well. It’s just a little bit smug.

“There used to be an ice-cream parlor by the Prospect Park,” Bob tells them, hit by a sudden memory. “You should go there, if it still exists,” he says, and, before Jack has a chance to protest, he adds jokingly, “You can eat ice-cream once in a while, Jack. It’s not going to kill you, I promise.”

Bob knows the joke has missed the mark almost immediately, because Jack presses his lips into a thin line, and his shoulders tense. He’s better at reading the cues, now, than he was before Jack’s overdose, but sometimes he still says something that, to him, sounds totally innocent and innocuous, but somehow still manages to set Jack off.

It seems like a lot of the time, they are talking slightly past each other, and it’s hard, to be able to make out the meaning from the tense line of Jack’s shoulders and the set of his jaw, but Bob tries.

“We’re gonna just get frozen yogurt, right?” Eric says, elbowing Jack in the ribs, and Jack smiles. “Like the good old times at Superberry. I mean, if we go at all.”

“Sure, Bittle,” Jack says then, and the tension in his shoulders seems to gradually disappear. “We’ll go get froyo.”

The waitress finally delivers their plates, and they talk shop for a while, after Eric admits he got the C this year and is really nervous about his debut as the captain of the Samwell team.

“You have a great D-line, so remember that these guys have your back and use them wisely,” Bob says, because talking hockey is like breathing to him. “How does your first line look now that Jack and Knight graduated?”

“We have Wicks in the center, Einhardt on the right wing, I’m staying on the left,” Eric says, and Bob thinks he remembers both of them. They’re solid players, not amazing, but solid. Good stick-handling, good hands. Speed could use some work.

“I’ve been drilling them on speed,” Eric continues, and Bob can’t help the small smile, “because they tend to be slower on the ice, and I know how to skate really fast, and I think now that they’re playing first line, they’re more willing to put in the hard work.”

“Who are you playing against in the season opener?” Bob asks before diving back into his eggs Benedict.

“Cornell,” Eric informs him. “It’s not a home game, though. We’re playing Brown in November, that’s our home opener.”

“Cornell has a dangerous D-man. Rubens, twenty-six, watch out for him,” Jack says without looking away from his scrambled eggs. “He plays dirty, checks hard. Let Rans and Holster take care of him.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice,” Eric says, and Jack visibly relaxes.

When they say goodbye, Bob hugs Jack in front of his car while their cab is waiting to take them back to the hotel and then to the airport, and says, “I’m proud of you, Jack. You did good.”

He doesn’t mean just the game.


There is no practice on Saturday after a game, and Jack has cleared it with the staff, so when they arrive at the TLA, the ice is brightly lit, and Linda smiles at them when they enter.

“Hey, Jack. Simmons called me, he has the ice booked with Cory Smith at two, but said he doesn’t mind sharing if you’re not done by then,” she informs him.

Jack thanks her as they cross the hallway leading into the locker room, and he keeps glancing at the strangely bulky, heavy bag Bitty is lugging with him.

“What’s in the bag, Bittle?” he asks once they get inside the locker room. “It’s almost as big as you are.”

Bitty gives him a look. “First of all, Jack Zimmermann, I don’t appreciate this kind of disparaging talk about my size,” he says, faux-serious, but Jack knows he’s laughing on the inside. “And second of all,” he reaches into the bag for another pair of skates, even though his own are half-laced already, “if you think I would miss the opportunity to do some serious figure skating, it’s like you don’t know me at all. Do you know when was the last time I had a rink this size just to myself to practice my jumps and spirals?”

Jack stares for a moment. “Uh, some time ago, I guess?”

“Five years ago, during the Regionals. And I had to share with the other skaters anyway,” Bitty says, and Jack thinks about the private rink in their backyard, almost ashamed all of a sudden.

“Why did you quit figure skating?” he asks. He knows Bitty used to compete before he went into hockey, but they never really talked about this.

Bitty shrugs, then laces his skates all the way up. “Coach got a job as the head football coach at a high school in a different town and we had to move, and there were no skating coaches close enough for me to keep training. And I couldn’t stay with Katya, because I’d have to leave home to keep training with her, and we just couldn’t handle that, financially. And, uh, Coach never really liked it. He wanted me to play some contact sport, but I was hopeless at football, and I already knew how to skate, so, you know. Hockey.”

“Do you regret it?” Jack asks.

Bitty raises his head and looks straight at him. “No, Jack,” he says, serious, “I don’t.”

They finish gearing up and step onto the ice, skating shoulder to shoulder as they warm up. For a moment, it’s like nothing has changed, and they’re at the Faber at 6 a.m., and then they’re going to Annie’s after classes, and it’s not going to be a date.

They skate together for a while, play tag on the ice, Jack checks Bitty gently a couple of times and Bitty takes it and skates through it, just like Jack taught him, and they’re laughing, carefree and happy, Bitty’s cheeks slightly pink from exertion, and Jack thinks, I love him.

He’s known that for a long time now, but it’s the first time he lets himself really think the actual words.

And then Bitty is pushing off the ice to put on his figure skates, laces them up quickly and does a few experimental laps, just feeling the ice. Jack stops for a moment to watch him.

“It always feels so strange, to switch mid-skate,” he tells Jack as he rushes past him and takes a sharp turn. “The balance is totally different. Also, toe pick.”

Jack is fairly certain that’s a reference to…something.

After a moment, Bitty slows down a bit and stretches, then catches the blade and extends his leg above his head. Jack’s mouth feels completely dry.

When Bitty starts skating, Jack realizes it must be one of his old routines, because it looks rehearsed and, to his untrained eye, nearly flawless. He knows Bitty is fast, but now his speed has increased even more as he skates backwards just to launch himself in the air with his hands above his head. He lands and, for a moment, Jack thinks he’s going to fall, but he skates away and jumps again, this time extending just one hand.

Jack thinks his face must be burning, and he swallows nervously as he watches Bitty cover the ice in quick, sharp strokes, until he’s finally spinning in the middle of the rink so fast Jack almost gets dizzy just from watching it.

“Oh my goodness,” Bitty pants out once he’s done, finishing with a dramatic pose. “I forgot how difficult those are.”

Jack swallows, not trusting his own voice just yet. “The— The jumps?” he asks at last.

“Yeah.” Bitty skates over and stops in front of Jack. He can feel Bitty’s breath on his neck. “They’re really hard, with your hands above your head. Katya didn’t really want me to do them, but I sort of taught myself. I can’t even do three full rotations, and they’re not perfect, but—”

“Bitty,” Jack says. “That was amazing.”

It’s selfish of him, he supposes, that he’s so happy Bitty was forced to quit figure skating, because he knows he could have gone far, and then maybe he would have never come to Samwell, and he would have never met Jack.

“When I still used to skate at the club,” Bitty says, laughing suddenly, like he’s just remembered something particularly amusing, “some of the other guys would sometimes practice pairs skating with me when their partners couldn’t make it or their injuries were still healing. Because I was so small, you see, so they could easily lift me and throw me. It was a lot of fun. Wanna try?”

“I, uh—” Jack says.

“I mean, without the lifting and the throwing, of course,” Bitty says quickly. “You don’t have the skates for it, or the technique, but I can still teach you a few things. Come on, Jack, it’s gonna be fun. Let me be the teacher for a change, and see how you like them apples.”

Jack laughs, but then Bitty takes his hand, and the laughter dies in his throat.

Bitty explains the basic holds and skating techniques, and Jack’s hockey skates are less than ideal for this, but Bitty firmly grips his hand and pulls him forward, while Jack tries to keep up, and then Bitty changes the hold mid-skate, and it’s clumsy, because, for once, Jack has no idea what to do, but then he finds himself firmly holding Bitty’s waist, and he doesn’t want to let go.

“See, and if we were doing this for real,” Bitty says after a while, slightly out of breath, “you’d do this with your hands, and throw me, and I would jump, just like that.”

He skates away then, gains speed, and launches into the air. When he lands, one leg extended, and then immediately goes into a spin that looks painful and amazing at the same time, Jack hears someone clapping.

He stops so abruptly he almost loses balance.

“Holy fuck, Eric,” Simmons says, stepping onto the ice. “That was some impressive fucking shit.”

Behind Simmons, Cory Smith is not looking at Bitty. He’s looking at Jack.


They leave the rink soon after Jack’s teammates come in, and Eric doesn’t know how to ask Jack if he’s mad at him.

It was supposed to be just some harmless, innocent fun, but Jack’s jaw is tight, and he’s not talking to Eric, and they’re in Jack’s car, going to a late lunch, and Eric just can’t take the silence.

“I’m sorry, okay?” he says, and he hates that his voice sounds so small.

Next to Eric, Jack startles. “What? Why are you apologizing? I’m not mad at you, Bitty. Why would I be mad at you?”

Eric shrugs. “I don’t know, Jack. But you look pretty mad.”

When Eric turns his head to look at him, Jack seems almost sheepish. “I’m not mad at you, Bitty. Sorry, they just— It was unexpected, when they came in. I thought we had more time.”

Eric doesn’t know, exactly, what to do with this answer, but he nods and smiles at Jack, and Jack smiles back while they wait for the light to change.

They go to lunch, and then Jack drives them to the Prospect Park, and they sit on a bench in the autumn sun, eating froyo and soaking in the last warmth of the season, and it’s so nice, Eric wants to stay here forever. In Providence, in Jack’s apartment. In Jack’s bed.

He thinks that maybe—maybe he could ask Jack to kiss him, just once, just so he knows what it feels like, but then it’s evening again, and they’re at home, watching tv on Jack’s couch, and Eric thinks, maybe it’s better this way. Maybe if he doesn’t know what Jack tastes like, it will be easier to let go.

It’s so hard, though, it’s so hard, because they’re sitting buried under one blanket, so close their sides are touching, and Jack is so friendly, and soft, and he smells so nice, and if Eric just turned his head slightly to the right, he could kiss Jack’s neck.

He excuses himself in the middle of their Daredevil marathon and locks himself in the bathroom.

He doesn’t cry, he just breathes, slow, measured breaths, and when he slips back in under the blanket, he feels calmer.

Jack gives him a soft, small smile.

How do you un-love someone?—he asks on Twitter. He doesn’t look at the replies.


Bitty leaves Sunday afternoon. When they say goodbye at the station, it’s Jack who hugs him, because Bitty looks like he did that first night after the game, and when Jack lets go, Bitty’s eyes are red.

“I’m gonna miss you, Jack” he whispers.

“I’ll see you soon, Bitty.” Jack hugs him again. Doesn’t kiss him goodbye. Breathes.


carthage (carthage) wrote in hockey_news


Grainy creepshots of people enjoying a meal together do not constitute hockey news. I can’t believe this even needs to be said.

The post has been now deleted, and the OP has been banned, since it’s not their first time breaking the comm rules. The OP can appeal the ban in three months. The Mods reserve the right to reject the appeal.

tags: (ban) hammer time, this is a mod post

comments disabled

Chapter Text

Their season starts with a three-game roadie in October.

They win in Seattle against the Schooners.

In Ottawa, Jack gets checked into the boards so hard at the end of the second period that they need to help him off the ice. Aaronowitz and Schumer beat the shit out of the asshole who checked him, spend the rest of the game in the penalty box. They lose. Jack isn’t even on the ice when it happens.

The doctors inform Jack that he has suffered a mild concussion, and they tell him he needs to sit out their next game, maybe more. They lose in Toronto, too.

By the time they’re back in Providence, Jack is so angry that he keeps snapping at everyone in the locker room until eventually they give him a wide berth.

He misses Samwell’s first game of the season. They won, Shitty tells him.


One-Time Wonder?

Allan Dale || October 26, 2015

He has been called everything, from child prodigy and hockey genius to Canada’s prodigal son. Today, at 25, Jack Zimmermann is finally realizing his NHL dream. After he signed with the Providence Falconers earlier this year, Zimmermann’s impending NHL debut has been a matter of hot debate in the hockey circles. For Zimmermann, this is his second chance at making it in the big leagues. For the Falconers, slowly climbing through the ranks, it’s a chance to strengthen their team and make it to the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

This, at least, seemed to be the general reasoning behind the decision to sign Zimmermann, who is now, with only a handful of games played in the actual league, the Falconers’ biggest star, at least in name.

But now, with the season underway, it’s finally time to assess whether the Falconers have made a mistake in betting all their cards on one player with what can be described only as ancient—at least as far as hockey is concerned—history of greatness and no actual experience in the league. It’s time to see what’s really there, behind the impassive façade and impressive legacy of the name.

And what is there is—there’s no other way to put it—not that impressive. Since the beginning of the pre-season, the Falconers won only twice, against the Bruins and against the Schooners, and only one of those teams is a real Cup contender. Across all those games, Zimmermann’s statistics are by no means abysmal—he now has three goals and four assists to his name—but they are also by no means as amazing as the amount of money the Falconers paid for Zimmermann would suggest.

His game against the Bruins is a clear standout in this sea of mediocrity, which, in turn, begs the question: is Jack Zimmermann just a one-time wonder? Is he capable of bringing his A-game consistently? And, ultimately, was he worth it?

Read more over at Hockey News Online:


we’re not lost, private, we’re in normandy (currahee) wrote in ontd_puck

more bullshit from hockey news online

okay, so have i missed something, or does hockey news online just have it in for jzimms?

also, can they maybe hire writers (and/or editors) who know what the fuck “to beg the question” actually means?

tags: caw caw the falconers, hockey news online: the cesspool of humanity, jack zimmermann, jack zimmermann’s butt is a gift from god


Reply from lachance
I’m voting yes. The guy was effectively out for two games. He got a fucking concussion, they almost had to carry him off the ice, for fuck’s sake. There was nothing he could’ve done in Ottawa (they were tied when he went down!!!), and blaming him for the loss in Toronto is just fucking ridiculous. He wasn’t even on the ice. Or did he just check himself into the boards and gave himself that concussion so he could avoid playing and could just cash in his big, fat check instead?

Reply from carthage
Oh, yes, I’m loving the subtle hints that he did it for the money. It’s not the first time someone has suggested that he signed with the Falconers because they offered him the biggest paycheck (since they were nowhere near their salary cap when he signed with them, and they had probably much more leeway when it came to their spending). Or that he did it so he could be the biggest star on the team.

Reply from puckbunny
i know right, because nothing screams attention whore like disappearing off the face of the earth for seven years.

Reply from carthage
Also, what is that guy even on? Ancient history of greatness? Zimmermann is only 25, there were guys his age winning the Calder not too long ago. The invasion of the babies is a recent thing, so really, what the hell.


Cory fucking loves children, okay. He has no idea where he gets that from, because he’s the youngest child of three, so it’s not like he was conditioned into getting along with little kids out of necessity, but he just fucking adores them. He wants to have, like, five.

And Cory thinks he faintly remembers checking working with children on the list of preferred PR activities, so when Miranda tells him they want him to do a publicity thing with the kids from the Falconers’ newly-established charity with two other players from the team, he is absolutely beside himself. He expects to have a ton of fun.

What he doesn’t expect is Jack. Holtzy he gets—he has a kid himself, and he snapchats the entire team photos of Lucy whenever he gets the chance. It’s disgustingly cute. Jack, on the other hand—well, Cory hasn’t pegged him as someone who gets along with little children. Turns out, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Okay, so, the thing is, Cory, when he’s with kids, sort of turns into a kid himself. He’s loud and excited, and goes with almost anything, as long as it’s not actually dangerous. Jack, though—Jack is quiet and soft with the kids in a really understated way, and he smiles a lot, and talks to them in a low voice, and he looks completely at ease, teaching the youngest ones how to skate, pulling them gently across the ice, and showing some simple hockey moves to the older ones.

When they take a break for lunch, Cory sits next to Jack and nudges him with his elbow. “Man, I had no idea you were so good with kids,” he says.

Beside him, Jack shrugs, but he smiles, too. “I coached a peewee team, after I came back from rehab. They were good kids. Taught me a lot about patience.”

Cory hums and nods, digging into his whole-wheat pasta, then chews it methodically for a while, promising himself he won’t ask the question he really, really wants to ask. He asks it anyway.

“You ever thought about having kids?”

For a moment, Jack only seems to pay attention to his plate, and the pasta is really not good enough to warrant this sort of interest.

“I guess,” Jack says finally. “But it’s…complicated. And for now, I need to focus on hockey anyway. That’s the priority, what I came here to do. So I don’t know. Maybe, eventually. You?”

“Yeah.” Cory beams. “I want, like, five.”

He wants to ask about the other thing, too, because it’s been bugging him ever since he and Kyle walked in on Jack and Eric skating together, holding hands, and okay, he knows enough about figure skating to know that’s a thing, but also it didn’t really look like a practice thing. And what the fuck would Jack even practice pairs skating for, anyway.

And then there is the other other thing, because, well, Cory might have actually followed Eric on Twitter once he actually met him, and got to know him a little bit, and didn’t basically feel like a massive creep doing this. So he might have followed Eric on Twitter, and he might have read a tweet that was about how to un-love someone, that Cory was positive was sent while Eric was still in Providence.

“I’ve been thinking about inviting my sister over for the weekend after our next game,” he says, testing the waters. “She really misses my dog. More than she misses me, I think.”

Jack laughs.

“But, you know, I think it would be really nice to show her around,” Cory continues. “Like you did for Eric. Seriously, it was so nice to meet him, he’s such a nice guy. You must’ve been really something, back in Samwell. He played on your line, right?”

Jack freezes for a moment, but then he relaxes and smiles again, and it’s so fond Cory almost feels like he’s intruding.

“Not at first, but yeah,” Jack says. “We worked well together. He’s very speedy and can dodge checks like no one else. He’s…different for a hockey player, doesn’t have the height and the bulk, but he’s strong, and he makes his size work for him, not against him. And…and he’s a good friend.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed you guys are pretty close,” Cory says, almost without thinking, and Jack goes rigid, just for a moment, like it’s an involuntary reaction by now. “And, you know, the way you talk about the guys you played with at Samwell, you must really miss them sometimes, right? Seems like you were all pretty tight. I never got to go, obviously, and sometimes I think I’m, like, missing out on some vital life experience shit or something. So how was it, in college?”

Jack chews his pasta for a moment, then shrugs. “It wasn’t— I didn’t think I would go to college, before,” he says. “But then, with everything that happened, it turned out for the best. I’ve made friends for life. I majored in history, and it was really interesting, there are some great teachers at Samwell, who teach amazing courses. And I still got to play hockey.”

“History, huh?” Cory says. “If I’d gone to college, I would’ve majored in, I don’t know, engineering. Or something like that. Like, no offence, but what do you even do with a history degree?”

Jack laughs at that. “By the time I had to choose my major, I knew I’d probably be playing once I graduated. So I didn’t really need to think in practical terms. I just like history.”

“So what’s Eric…you call him Bitty, right?” Cory asks, just to make sure. “So what’s Bitty majoring in?”

“American studies,” Jack says, reaching for his water.

“What the fuck is that?” Cory asks. It’s not like he’s dumb or anything, but he was never really interested in English and history, and all that stuff. He was pretty good at math and science, though.

“It’s like a cultural studies thing,” Jack explains. “A bit of everything, really. History, art, media, film, sociology. Pretty interesting stuff.”

Cory nods, suddenly unsure of how to proceed. He wants to tell Jack that he can tell him things, and that Cory will keep his secrets, because Jack looks like he could use a good talk and a real friend or two in the league, but he doesn’t want to come off as creepy and invasive, since, technically, all of this is none of his fucking business.

But he has no idea what to say, and then they finish their lunch and get back on the ice, and by the time Cory is done with his shower, Jack has already left.


It’s the beginning of November when Georgia invites him for a chat.

“How have you been settling in, Jack?” she asks once they’re both seated comfortably in her office.

Jack’s hair is still damp from the post-workout shower, he’s tired, his whole body aches after he’s almost dropped from exhaustion in the weight room, and he’s been feeling anxious since he woke up that morning for no apparent reason, and so the completely innocent question makes him irrationally twitchy. He squeezes his knee with his hand to stop it from jittering.

“Is there something wrong?” he asks, and he knows it’s the wrong answer from the way Georgia shifts in her chair and looks at him with scrutiny.

“There’s nothing wrong, Jack,” she assures him in her most calming voice. “I just wanted to know if you liked it here. If there was anything we could do for you.”

Jack fiddles with the cup of coffee in his hands, and maybe he should’ve gone with tea, or water, because coffee makes him even more jittery, but it would be rude to change his mind now, so he drinks his coffee and tries to ignore the feeling like he’s too big for his skin.

“I like it here,” he says on autopilot. “It’s been a great opportunity, to play here in Providence, and the team is really coming together, we’re making great progress, and—”

“Jack, cut the crap,” Georgia says. It’s not unkind, but it still makes him startle. “I don’t want the media spiel. I am the media spiel, okay? So cut the crap and tell me what’s really going on.”

“I’m gay.” It comes out before he can even think about it.

The worst thing is, he can’t read Georgia’s face at all. “Okay,” she says in an even voice. “Are you seeing anyone? Is that why you told me? Do you want to make a statement? Do you want me to get you in touch with You Can Play?”

Jack swallows around the heart in his throat. “No. I— No.”

“Okay,” Georgia repeats, and pours him a glass of water, takes the coffee cup out of his shaking hands. He’s never been more grateful for the fact that George seems impossible to rattle. “Jack, is there anything— Do you want to talk to someone about it? We have professionals who—”

“No,” he cuts her off. “I don’t want to see a therapist. I just…I just want to play.”

“Well, then it’s a good thing you’re already doing it,” Georgia says, and then she smiles. “And Jack, whatever you decide to do, just know that you have the management’s support. And if you ever need to talk, just give me a call, okay?”


He comes home late in the afternoon, replaying the conversation with Georgia over and over again in his head. The anxiety from before is back, and Jack does the breathing exercises his therapist taught him, but he still feels uneasy and edgy, restless, and he ends up doing a series of pull-ups, trying to work off the nervous energy.

He calls his mother after dinner, but when she answers, he doesn’t know what to say.

“Jack?” she asks after he’s been silent for a long while, sounding concerned.

“Hey,” he says finally.

It’s a strange feeling, to have so many thoughts in his head and to be unable to voice any of them. He’s sitting in the hallway with his back against the wall, petting his neighbor’s cat who seems to like him enough to visit from time to time. She’s done that often enough in these past few weeks that—after the fifth time the girl who lives across from him came to scoop the kitten up and take her home—they’ve come to an arrangement. Jack tells his mother that, instead of the hundreds of more important things, like I came out to George today or I’m still shaking on the inside.

“Oh, that’s adorable,” his mother says. “You should send us a picture of her.”

“I will, I promise.” Jack picks the kitten up—she’s still so small, she fits into the palm of his hand—and cradles her against his chest, feels her rapid tiny heartbeat thumping against his hand.

Bitty would adore her.

It’s this thought that sends him spinning, frantically trying to catch his breath, and he feels like something is trying to crush his chest.

I love him, mama, he wants to say, but he can’t get the words out, so he just sits with his eyes closed and breathes.

“Jack, sweetheart, please, talk to me,” his mom says on the other end of the line. “Are you okay? Should I come down?”

“No, mama,” Jack says around the tightness in his throat. “I’m fine, just…bad day. I’m not going to, uh, relapse or anything. You don’t have to worry.”

“You’re my baby,” she says. “I always worry.”

They sit in silence for a moment.

“How do you know it’s worth it? To let yourself love someone,” he asks eventually. The kitten is slowly trying to climb up Jack’s shirt, and he pulls her back into his lap.

“You don’t let yourself do anything. You just do,” his mother says. “That’s how you know. You can’t just stop. And if you can’t stop, even though you try, that’s how you know it’s real.”

Jack swallows.

“Okay,” he says. “I— Okay. Thank you.”

“Please, don’t torture yourself over this, Jack, whatever it is,” his mother says. “You deserve to be happy.”

It’s like a refrain that comes back again and again, and again, first with Shitty, then with Parse, and now with his mother. He knows that they mean well, that they care about him, but it doesn’t make it any easier. He knew what he was giving up when he signed with the Falconers, but also, in a way, he felt like he wasn’t giving up anything at all, because there was nothing to give up in the first place, except the quiet longing and the dull ache in his chest.

Now, though—now it just feels like he’s been wrong from the very start.

He sits on the floor for a few minutes after his mother finally disconnects, while the kitten swats at his toes with her paws, then gets up and takes a picture. When he sends it to Bitty, he gets a string of exclamation marks in return.


the spectral assassin (lachance) wrote in ontd_puck

Jack Zimmermann posts a photo of a cat to his Instagram, causes a riot

Here it is (and I am dead).

Parse retaliates.

Why do these white boys insist on killing me like this.

tags: and none for you kent parson, big men with tiny animals will be my undoing, jack zimmermann, skating and crying, the canadian wunderkind, the revenge of the fluff, the softest of bros, this is too adorable my teeth are rotting


Reply from currahee

Reply from carthage
Apparently the cat is not his. It’s his neighbor’s—somebody asked him and he answered that the cat just comes over from time to time.

Reply from currahee
and now i’m sad :( but fuck, parse’s stupid cat instagram continues to give me life, oh my god… that dumb boy and his dumb cat

Reply from lachance
Sometimes I remember that he, in all seriousness, named his cat Kit Purrson, and that he leaves comments as his cat on his own instagram, and suddenly everything is beautiful again.

Expand 13 comments


They destroy the Oilers in November in front of their own audience, and Jack scores his first NHL hat-trick. When the third period is over, and the scoreboard reads 8-1, Jack shakes hands with the Oilers’ captain and then he’s being tackled by Holtzy and Schumer.

“Dude, I’m gonna jack off to that last goal for the next month!” Schumer yells in his ear, and Jack tries to look disgusted, but he laughs despite himself while the crowd cheers, and for a brief moment, he searches the stands, looking for Bitty, before he remembers that Bitty isn’t here to cheer him on, he’s in Samwell.

“That was fucking amazing, man!” Holtzy shouts from the other side, apparently trying to crush Jack’s ribs in his attempt to hug him. “Fucking beautiful!”

As they make their way down the tunnel, the crowd is still so loud it’s almost deafening.

Once in the showers, Jack stands under the warm spray for a long time, letting the water wash over him. He’s happy, and so proud of his team, and this, right here—this is what makes it worth it. It’s nice, he thinks, when the journalists start to ask more about him and less about his father.

When he finally checks his phone, it’s still blowing up with messages, and as he scrolls past the Samwell group chat, he can see Ransom’s text full of exclamation marks, but now he’s looking for something else.

It takes him a moment to find Bitty’s text, buried under dozens of notifications.

that was amazing, it reads, and the lack of capitalization is a testament to how excited Bitty must have been when he sent it. Jack is still staring at the three words when another bubble pops up, and the phone chimes with an incoming message tone.

From: Bitty
I’m so proud of you ♥
(08:33 pm)


The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
Congratulations to #JackZimmermann on his first NHL hat-trick!

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
that’s my boy! #JackZimmermann

Hockey News Online @HockeyNewsOnline
#JackZimmermann scores a hat-trick against @EdmontonOilersNHL

Hockey News Online @HockeyNewsOnline
Zimmermann: “Hockey is not an individual sport. It’s impossible to score goals without the team’s support. We all worked hard for this win.”


Bob calls Jack on Thursday afternoon. When Jack picks up after the third ring and says hello, he sounds slightly out of breath.

“Did I get you in the middle of a workout?” Bob asks.

“Yeah, don’t worry about it, I was practically done already,” Jack says, and Bob can hear him moving around, can hear the sound of a fridge being opened. He’s at home, then.

“Good workout?” Bob asks, just to give Jack some time to cool down and get his breathing under control.

“Yeah, yeah, it was fine,” Jack says, and for some reason, he sounds really guarded for such an innocent question. “Did mom tell you to call?”

This gives Bob a pause.

“No, she never said anything. Why?” It’s hard, sometimes, to talk to Jack. Like he’s always two steps behind and desperately trying to catch up.

On the other end of the line, Jack is silent for a moment, then says, “No reason.” It’s clearly a lie.

“Jack, is everything okay?” he asks, because it’s different between them now, because now Jack knows he doesn’t need to answer yes even if it’s not true. (It’s one of the things their therapist said, after Jack’s overdose. It’s okay not to be okay. Bob tries to remind himself of that when he talks to his son.)

Jack is completely silent for a moment, then says, “I came out to Georgia.”

That takes him by surprise.

“Are you going to—” Bob starts, but Jack cuts him off.

“No,” he says. “I’m not coming out, I know this is not a good time. You don’t have to worry.”

There are many thing Bob worries about, and the mental well-being of his son is higher on his list of priorities than Jack’s career in the NHL. He’s learned his lessons the hard way.

“Listen, Jack, if you think it would be better, if it’s too difficult for you to—” Bob tries to say, but Jack doesn’t let him finish.

“No.” His voice is hard, and Bob knows Jack must be pressing his lips into a thin line, his jaw tense. He has his tells, even if he thinks he’s inscrutable in his anger. “I’m dealing with it. And it’s not like I’m dating anyone.”

He doesn’t know if he should ask, if maybe it would be better if he just left it alone. But it’s been gnawing at him since they came back from Providence.

“What about Eric?”

For a moment, he’s certain Jack has disconnected, because the line goes absolutely dead. Then, after a long moment, Jack says, “I’m not dating Bittle.”

Bob takes a deep breath. “Jack, I’m—”

“Look, it’s not—” Jack interrupts him, exasperated. “I’m dealing with this. It’s fine. Did you want something?”

Bob sighs. At this point, he’s not even sure he should be bringing this up.

The Players’ Tribune wanted me to write an editorial about famous sportsmen whose children have also gone into sports,” he says. “And they wanted me to talk about you as well. About what you’re doing now, your success in the League, but also about your past. And if you don’t want me to do this, Jack, I’m just going to tell them no. But I just wanted to ask you first.”

It takes Jack a long while to answer, and Bob is positive he’s just going to say no. He couldn’t even blame him for saying no, because in the past seven years, Jack’s had his dirty laundry aired by the press more times than anyone should live through, and there are still people who doubt him, who want to see what happened to him only as a personal failing instead of a flaw in the system which, over the years, has failed countless players whose names were unimportant enough to the general public to never cause a real stir. Even with Jack, it was the name that got the attention, not the actual tragedy behind it.

“It’s fine,” Jack says eventually. “It’s not like they don’t know about it already.”

“Jack, are you sure?” Bob asks, because there’s a certain flatness to Jack’s tone that sometimes masks his true feelings. “We don’t have to—”

“No, it’s fine, dad, really,” Jack says. “You can do it, I’m fine with this. I promise.”

“Okay. If you’re sure.”

Jack sighs. “I am. Please, say hello to mama for me.”


jordan @hockeybutts
i legit cried reading this: @ hockey squad

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts jesus christ, bad bob does not fuck around. DRAG THEM

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts holy fuck. that is some truth bomb right there

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts he just kinda shit on richard stewart’s entire life, it’s amazing

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside @hockeybutts i’m still kinda amazed the players’ tribune ran with it. respect

jordan @hockeybutts
@hellsqueen @howlinginside and i fucking KNEW he wasn’t doing coke


The Curse of Legacy


It’s a fact that there are many families in sports that can be considered true sports dynasties, where children, without failing, follow in their parents’ footsteps and go on to achieve great things. But the truth is, for most families of athletes, that’s not the case. In fact, there are many professional athletes, even among my own friends, who sometimes try to encourage their children to seek out their own career path, away from the world of professional sports.

The truth is, it’s hard to be an athlete. And it’s even harder to be at the top, where the expectations are so much higher than you can ever imagine on your way up. The truth is, we—athlete parents—know what it’s like to grit our teeth and skate (or run, or jump, or swim) through the pain, day after day. We know what it’s like to be bedridden for weeks, following serious injuries and surgeries—some of which may turn out to be career-ending. We know what it’s like to constantly fight your own body, which is asked to do impossible things and not give up on a daily basis. We know what it’s like to try to maintain your body weight while your own body is trying to devour itself from the inside, never satisfied with how much you eat, even when you can’t even look at the food on your plate anymore. We know what it’s like to be this close to giving up when you think you can’t make it through another day. And sometimes we want to shield our children from this life, because as amazing as sport can be, it’s also full of tears, and pain, and suffering.

We give up a lot for the things we love. We pour ourselves into what we do, and we do it with passion and dedication, because we love a sport that sometimes doesn’t love us back. And the truth is, it is twice as hard to do all of that when you’re living in somebody else’s shadow while the entire world is watching, waiting to see you fail.

I was lucky to be the first professional athlete in my family. My son doesn’t have that luck. What he does have is more integrity, determination, and strength of character than I could ever wish for.

My son plays hockey. At 25, he’s just started his first season in the NHL, and many have already declared him a failure before he even stepped on the ice. It’s a tough position to be in—to write about your own child when the problems you see are much more systemic and inherently ingrained in the way the sports world operates. I don’t claim to be an expert on every sport ever—I leave that to the sports commentators—so the majority of what I’m going to be writing about will be, unsurprisingly, about hockey.

And the truth is, at 25, my son is just entering his first year in the NHL—seven years too late, as some would say—in part because of the added pressure of being the child of a famous athlete. It’s a universally-known story by now in the sports world and even beyond it, trotted out by the sports commentators at every possible turn when they look for cheap shots and even cheaper drama, but it’s a story that, to a large extent, signifies a serious problem in professional sports which, to this day, has not been sufficiently addressed.

Jack loves hockey—this has never been the issue, as he has always loved hockey and he has always wanted to play hockey professionally. What he didn’t love was that, because of me and my history with the sport, everyone was watching him from the first time he stepped onto the ice to play his first game of hockey. It’s the kind of pressure which I cannot even begin to imagine, and he’s been living with it since he was six years old. At eleven, he had people tell him I was a better player already at this age and he should practice more if he wanted to catch up. At fifteen, he had people placing bets on his contract with the Bruins once he went first in the draft (because he had to go first in the draft, he was Bad Bob Zimmermann’s son, after all). At seventeen, he had people hand him my old tapes to compare vis-à-vis his current progress. At eighteen, he suffered a mental breakdown and overdosed on his anti-anxiety medication.

Of course, it takes more than just the pressure of having a famous father to suffer this kind of breakdown, as mental illness doesn’t differentiate between people, it doesn’t pick and choose, it just happens, and it can happen to anyone, but when there are people waiting to declare you a disappointment once you fail to meet an arbitrary standard of professional progress for a player, it makes the already impossibly hard work you need to do that much harder.

I would like to be able to say that Jack’s case—as hard as it hit my wife and me at the time—was just one of the few. The few we hear about on the news. But that’s not true, because there are countless amazing, talented athletes who don’t have famous enough names to make the news when they find themselves at the end of their tether. And they love the sport they play, but sometimes the sport doesn’t love them back when they need it the most.

A lot has been said about the shameful way in which professional sports approach the issue of the mental well-being of their athletes, about the huge stigma surrounding mental health, and the unwillingness to talk about the fact that in many cases, the athletes are left alone with their problems. And hockey in particular, with its macho posturing and the emphasis on stereotypically defined masculinity, suffers from this particular problem. The players are ashamed to admit that they need help from mental health professionals, they hide their depression and anxiety, they do what they have been taught by the generations who came before them—they grit their teeth and skate through the pain. Sometimes, though, the pain never goes away. Some of them never make it to the NHL. Some of them never make it once they get in. We never hear about the vast majority of those players, but just because we don’t hear about it, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen. With those we do hear about, sometimes it’s because the entire sports world was waiting for it to happen, watching the tragedy in real time like it was a spectacle for the masses. Sometimes, it was because they had a famous name.

The thing is, sport can be a wonderful thing that brings the family together. God knows I’ve played enough one-on-one games with Jack to last me a lifetime, and yet, every time he comes home to visit, I ask him to join me at the rink. On the ice, we have something that’s hard to describe if you’ve never experienced it, and I relish every moment. But I never forget that there is the other, darker side to this picture, what I like to call the curse of legacy, and it is up to us to do away with it, to start evaluating our athletes on the basis of their skills and the amount of hard work they put in, not on the basis of the names they might have inherited from their parents until the fear of never being able to measure up eats them up from the inside.

I do consider myself very lucky, and I do count my blessings, but it needs to be more than that. It needs to become a priority for the sports world to tackle the issue of mental health head-on, otherwise we’re going to continue to lose more than just the young talent.

And to the athlete children of famous athletes—you don’t owe the world anything other than to be yourselves. That’s all that we can ask for.

Chapter Text

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
.@BobZimmermann That was amazing. There are tears in my eyes.

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
. @BobZimmermann heavy stuff, but a great read and an important point. Thanks, Bob.

Hockey Gals @HockeyGals
An extremely important, moving, and thought-provoking article by @BobZimmermann:


The day the article comes out, Jack doesn’t turn his laptop on in the morning, and he doesn’t check his messages. He has practice in the morning, then off-ice conditioning, then lunch with his agent. He runs suicide drills with the rest of the team and practices passes with his linemates, and tries to avoid talking to the other guys, but after practice, once they’re back in the locker room, Cory comes up to Jack and says, “I read your dad’s article in the Tribune. That was some heavy stuff. But it was so good.”

Jack read the article before it went to print only once, but his throat gets tight every time he thinks about it. He knows it’s out in the world now, that other people are reading his father’s words and thinking about Jack, and now they know. It’s at the same time liberating and terrifying.

He still hasn’t called his dad, because he’s not entirely sure that he can trust his voice.

“Thanks,” he says to Cory as he sits down to pull his socks on. “I— I’ll tell him you said that.”

Cory sits next to Jack and nudges Jack’s calf with his knee. “Look, I know it gets fucked up, sometimes, like, I get it,” he says. “There’s nothing normal about our lives, yeah? So, y’know, if you ever want to hang out or something, when it gets like that, just give me a call, okay? I mean, if you want to.”

He looks flustered, like he thinks that maybe they’re not friends, like he thinks that maybe he’s imposing. But it’s not that. It’s just Jack, who doesn’t make friends easily, and who doesn’t let people in too close.

“Shitty, uh, one of the guys from Samwell, shipped me a game console last week, said I needed to remember what it feels like to have my ass kicked in Mario Kart,” Jack says in a rush before Cory manages to stand up. “So if you have the afternoon free—”

He knows Cory lives a few blocks from Jack, renting a place with two other guys from the team, but Jack has never had any of his teammates over at his apartment before. The only people who visited him since he moved in back in June were his parents and Bitty.

“Sure, yeah, I’ll come over,” Cory says, breaking into a smile. “But you should know I’m fucking amazing at Mario Kart. Prepare to get your ass thoroughly kicked.”

Jack can agree to that.


He finally makes the call after lunch. The palm of his hand is clammy and the metal case of his phone slips slightly in his grip as he listens to the ring tone, waiting for his father to answer. He takes a deep breath, then another.

“Jack?” his father asks on the other end of the line, and he sounds almost surprised, like he hasn’t just shaken the foundations of Jack’s world. The thing is, Jack knows that his father loves him and he’s proud of him, even if he can’t sometimes express it, but it’s one thing to know it and hear it when it’s just the three of them, and it’s another thing to realize that now the entire world knows that, too. To have irrefutable proof.

“Congratulations on the article,” he says, his voice slightly choked up despite his efforts to keep it even. “Some of the guys on the team read it, too, and liked it a lot.”

“I’m glad,” his father says, and Jack can imagine the gentle smile on his face.

“And dad?” Jack says, and he hates it that his voice breaks, that it sounds so impossibly young. “Thank you.”

There’s a moment of silence, and then his father says, “I just wrote the truth.”

It punches through something in Jack, over and over again.

“I love you, dad,” it comes out quiet and rushed, almost embarrassed, but it’s genuine, and he doesn’t tell his father that often enough. That he’s grateful, despite everything that happened between them. That he’s thankful they managed to mend their relationship. That they’re still trying to. It’s a process, he knows.

“You too, son. Your mom says hello,” his father says.

“Tell her,” Jack says, and then he takes a deep breath, “tell her I’m better now.”


Cory comes over in the afternoon, bearing pizza and a six-pack. It’s not ideal as far as housewarming gifts go, but he was on kind of a tight schedule.

“I hope you like a shitload of cheese on your pizza,” he says by way of greeting when Jack opens the door.

And look, Cory’s place is pretty nice, even considering he has two hockey players as roommates, but Jack’s apartment is fucking amazing, like it came straight out of some upscale catalogue or some shit, all high ceilings and tasteful furniture, and some sort of modern abstract art on the walls that Cory has less than no idea about but which looks, if he’s being completely honest, pretty fucking bitchin’.

At the same time, though, it looks lived in, it’s not cold and unwelcoming like those perfect apartments in the catalogues. If Kathy saw Jack’s kitchen, she would probably cry.

When he repeats that to Jack out loud, Jack starts to laugh. “Bitty almost did,” he says. “It’s a miracle he didn’t drop everything to bake something right that second. He tends to do that, sometimes. The pie just…happens. It’s not really a bad thing, though.”

“No fucking kidding,” Cory says, depositing the six-pack on the kitchen table. “Honestly, he could be making a fortune. I would be the first in line, until all our nutritionists would start to hate him.”

They eat at the low coffee table in the living room, sitting on the couch with the tv paused in the background. Jack cracks open a beer, and he eats the pizza, and he looks so unusually open and relaxed, so unguarded for once, that Cory can’t help but smile. It’s nice, and surprisingly easy, as it turns out, to hang out with Jack Zimmermann.

He destroys Jack at Mario Kart.

“Man, that was pathetic,” he says, putting the controller down and reaching for another beer. “Oh my fucking god, now I know what your friend meant about you getting your ass kicked.”

Jack laughs quietly. “This is not news, exactly. It’s not like I don’t know I suck at Mario Kart,” he says. “Give me a game of Civ, tough, and watch yourself get pummeled into the ground. Shitty never wants to play with me anymore.”

Cory takes a swig of his beer. “Makes sense, I guess,” he admits. “It’s all about strategy and shit. But, dude, for a hockey player, your eye-hand coordination fucking blows.”

Jack makes a face, but he’s still laughing. “It doesn’t blow where it counts,” he says, then takes a bite of his pizza crust, because he actually likes the crust. What a weirdo.

“So what are you going to do when your sister comes to visit?” Jack asks then. Cory is kind of surprised he even remembered—it’s not like he doesn’t have a lot of important shit to keep track of. Some off-hand remark about Cory’s sister shouldn’t even register. And yet.

“She’s probably gonna drag me to, like, a lesbian bar or something,” Cory says, and out of the corner of his eye, he can see Jack startle, like he didn’t see that coming at all. “Which, whatever, as long as she gets me a drink, I’m good, but don’t you think it’s kinda unfair that she gets to pick up on our night out and I don’t?” he asks, laughing.

He thinks he’s being a bit obvious, but it’s becoming more and more clear that Jack will never talk about this first, and it’s fucking killing Cory over here. The fact that Jack is making himself miserable on purpose but with no good reason doesn’t help, either.

“She’s the guest,” Jack says, shrugging. “Suck it up, Smithy.”

“She’s a terrible wingman is what she is,” Cory laughs.

“You can’t win them all,” Jack says enigmatically, and Cory isn’t totally sure what he means. If he’s even talking about Cory.

“You ever regret not having any siblings?” Cory asks.

Jack pulls his legs up, catches the edge of the coffee table with just his toes, the rest of his feet hanging off. It’s such a weird thing to do, but, oddly, it fits Jack.

“When I was younger, yeah,” Jack says eventually, shrugs with one shoulder. “Then I just got used to it. It’s fine. I have a lot of cousins.”

On tv, ESPN is showing highlights of last week’s Stars vs. Bruins game. Jack mutes the tv, but leaves the game on in the background. It’s not like they haven’t seen it already, and it’s not like they’re paying attention anyway.

“I’m the youngest,” Cory says, “so I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live without siblings.”

Jack doesn’t say anything to that, but the silence, for once, is not uncomfortable.

There’s a painting hanging on the wall to the left, and Cory looks at the red and blue smudges, trying to see a pattern and failing miserably. It looks fucking cool, though, and Cory repeats that to Jack out loud.

“It’s my friend Lardo’s,” Jack says, and he smiles with just the corner of his mouth, small and fond. “She’s an amazing artist. All the pieces I have here are hers.”

“Back from Samwell?” Cory asks.

“Yeah. She’s the team manager,” Jack says, and he sounds so proud. “Probably could make men twice her size cry if she wanted to. And her art is incredible.”

It’s moments like this that almost make Cory regret he never went to college, because, sure, he’s made friends here in Providence, and he has his team, and everything, but sometimes he just thinks about all those people he’ll never get to meet and experiences he’ll never get to have, and he would never give up hockey for anything, because he loves to play, but it’s—well, it’s something to think about.

“Jack, can I ask you something?” Cory says once they go out to the balcony to get some fresh air, his heart beating faster and his hands getting clammy, because if he’s wrong about this, it’s quite possible he’s about to fuck up big time. Jack nods and makes a noncommittal sound as he turns to look at Cory. It’s fucking hard, being scrutinized by Jack like that. “And, like, if you don’t wanna talk about this or if I’m way off, or whatever, you can just tell me to fuck off, and I’ll drop it, or go, or do whatever you want me to do, okay? Just— You look really unhappy, sometimes, and you look like you could use a friend, you know, to talk to about stuff, and I—”

“Cory,” Jack interrupts him, puts a hand on Cory’s shoulder. “What is it?”

Cory takes a deep breath. “Are you…are you gay, Jack?” he asks.

It’s impossible to read anything in Jack’s profile in the darkness.

“Because I thought that there might be something going on with you and Eric, and, like, I know it fucking blows, okay?” Cory presses on, while Jack stays completely still and silent next to him. It’s starting to freak Cory out. It would be better if Jack said something. Hell, it would be better if Jack yelled at him to get the fuck out. “I mean, not me personally, obviously, but I know it’s fucking hard for the guys in the League who feel like they need to hide or whatever. So, you know, I thought you could use a friend. To talk to, when it gets hard, or just to hang out, or whatever. And I know a lot of the guys say horrible shit sometimes, and a lot of it is really fucking homophobic, so I thought maybe it would be better if you knew there’s someone who’s got your back.”

Jack stays silent for a moment, then clears his throat and says, “I— It’s not like that. I’m not dating Bittle.”

His voice sounds hoarse and a bit choked up, and so fucking sad, and, Jesus, what if Jack Zimmermann starts to cry in front of Cory, because of Cory. He’s just not equipped to deal with this.

“Okay, I— Okay, shit, sorry, I shouldn’t have asked,” Cory starts to backpedal, because seriously, what else is he supposed to do here. “I probably should just—”

“But I want to,” Jack says, so quiet Cory almost misses it, and, okay. Holy fuck. This is huge.

“I’m sorry,” Cory says, because he has no idea what else to say.

“It’s not your fault.” Jack shrugs, leaning against the railing. He’s still not looking at Cory. “You have nothing to be sorry about.”

“Look, I’m sorry I asked, okay?” Cory says, because he can’t stand the way Jack looks now. He’s never seen him look so beaten. Not even after a lost game. “I know it’s none of my fucking business, and I shouldn’t have asked. I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking.”

“No, it’s fine,” Jack says, and Cory can see the way he picks at his cuticles with his nails, like it’s a nervous habit he hasn’t quite managed to shake. “This is better. I think I wanted to tell someone, but I just needed an excuse. I told Georgia, some time ago.”

Cory shivers in the cold evening air. Jack must be freezing, because he doesn’t even have a hoodie on, just a long-sleeved plaid shirt.

“Anyone else know?” Cory asks.

“My parents,” Jack says, and it’s not the surprise Cory thought it would be. “Some of the guys from Samwell.”

Cory remembers the tweet. “But not Bitty?” he asks.

Jack shakes his head. “No. Not him.”

And the thing is, historically, Cory has never been good at not asking the questions he really, really wants to ask, and this one? Yeah, he really, really wants to ask.

“Why not?” Because, at least to Cory, it makes no fucking sense.

Jack shrugs again, and Cory slowly starts to hate the gesture.

“That would just complicate things,” Jack says, and Cory is sort of surprised he’s giving him that much, for how little Jack usually speaks. Maybe the darkness helps. “And even if anything could happen between us, it wouldn’t be fair to him. He had to hide for a long time, I couldn’t ask him to do that again.”

Cory shifts against the railing so that he can lean against the wall with his shoulder. “But it makes both of you miserable,” he says, because he’s a simple guy with simple solutions, so sue him. Jack startles.

“Both of us?” he repeats, and he sounds surprised. Jesus fucking Christ.

“Come on, Jack,” Cory says, and he can’t believe this even needs to be said in the first place, “you have to see the way this boy looks at you, like you hung the fucking moon.”

Jack is silent for a long time, just staring ahead at the buildings on the other side of the street, his forearms hanging over the railing.

“It’s not my place to ask that,” he says eventually, but he sounds like he doesn’t believe his own words.

“Just, you know,” Cory says in a faux-casual tone, “you don’t have to be miserable to be an NHL star. No one should be made to feel like that.”

Jack smiles a small, tired smile.

“Thank you,” he says.


carthage (carthage) wrote in hockey_news

Bob Zimmermann’s Players’ Tribune editorial

As probably most of you know, The Players’ Tribune published an op-ed written by Bob Zimmermann earlier today.

If you haven’t read it already, I highly, highly recommend it. It’s not only a very powerful, personal piece of writing, but it’s also the first time that the Zimmermanns talked openly about what really happened to Jack Zimmermann right before the 2009 draft. You can find the article here.

And if you’ve already read it and want to talk about it, please, leave your thoughts in the comments.

tags: medium: the players’ tribune, player: bob zimmermann, player: jack zimmermann


Reply from thegrandarcana
i’m not surprised, to be honest. i know jack was supposed to be this party boy who snorted coke off puckbunnies’ boobs or whatever, but that really didn’t fit in with, well, everything else we know about him. so that part never made sense to me, and now, i guess, i know why. but, jesus, this is freaking heartbreaking. i can’t believe all that time people were dragging him through shit for being irresponsible and immature, he was struggling with crippling anxiety and recovering after a real, legit mental breakdown. oh my god, can you fucking imagine.

Reply from carthage
Yeah, absolutely. And it just confirmed my suspicions, too. It’s just that I could never reconcile that party boy image (that was more of Parse’s thing, I think, in the sense that he genuinely liked—and still likes—to have fun and party from time to time, and for Jack that was just a way to cope with his anxiety) with everything that happened before and after. I suspected he might have had some issues with depression and/or anxiety, so to know that this was, indeed, the case, is fucking heartbreaking.

And, just, this entire article is so good. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must’ve been to write all that, knowing it’s your own son you’re talking about. And what kills me is the sense of guilt in what he writes about himself. Christ. I’m so happy they’re doing better, now.

Reply from lachance
Holy shit, this is so fucking spot on. I read it this morning, because my entire twitter timeline was freaking out about it, and then I read it again after I finally stopped crying, because, fuck, did that hit close to home. And my dad wasn’t even famous, but I still get it so hard, the pressure, and the expectations, and everything. Like, seriously. Holy fuck. Well done, Bad Bob. Well done.

And, just, my heart breaks for this boy. I seriously fucking hope Richard Stewart and the like will finally shut the fuck up about him. Hockey News Online must have had a field day. Oh, to be the fly on that wall.

Reply from currahee
lmao, i know, heads must have been exploding left and right at news online this morning.

Reply from carthage
I’m not holding my breath, though. They really are the Fox News of hockey journalism.

Reply from tous_les_chats
So wait, they waited all these years to say “no, my son wasn’t snorting coke, he was popping pills”? For real? Couldn’t they have just said that while he was in rehab? Wouldn’t it be better for him if the general public didn’t think he was some fucked-up cokehead teenager whose fame went to his head?

Reply from carthage
Oh, come on. He almost died, and I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been for them. I doubt correcting the rumor mill was all that high on their list of priorities. And if they had decided to do that, I’m sure there would’ve been a lot of people who would’ve thought they were just looking to score sympathy points and lying to make Jack look better. So I’m absolutely not surprised they didn’t try to fight the rumors. But now, after almost seven years? Why would they feel the need to lie? What for? So that was no longer a real concern. And I’m really happy (for the given value of “happy,” all things considered) that they finally decided to clear that up.

Expand 47 comments

Reply from offblues
you know what, as much as i appreciate bad bob clearing up jack’s history (and i do, and it was heartbreaking to read), what i really, really appreciate is the fact that he basically called out everyone who is responsible for the sordid state of mental healthcare in sports, and that he pointed out that it really is a systemic problem that can’t be fought on a case by case basis. and i really appreciate that it wasn’t only about sports officials, but also the media, and the audience, and everything. i know he’s bad bob zimmermann, so he can basically say whatever the fuck he wants, because it’s not like he particularly needs to give a shit about sponsorships anymore, he’s fucking loaded, and he doesn’t have anything to lose, but still, he didn’t have to do that, and he did anyway. from what i heard, the tribune wanted him to do something slightly different—it was supposed to be an editorial about sports dynasties and how the athletes in those families work together, how it works when you already have the name but need to work for your own fame, etc., but he just went for it. and you know what? i can applaud that.

Expand 15 comments


Jack always wakes up early, and he sometimes takes pictures of the morning sky before he goes jogging, like it’s not the most cliché thing in the world. He captions them almost without thinking and posts them to his Instagram, thinking about the view from the window in his old room at the Haus.

Sometimes, he looks through his old photos and finds himself looking at one part of his senior project, a picture of Bitty, soft and golden, backlit by the evening sun.


It’s late November when they win 5-4 at home against the Sabres in overtime. Jack scores another hat-trick, and all he can think of is the fact that, no matter what he does on the ice, he’s still going home to an empty apartment.


Jack leaves practice early on Friday—there’s more optional ice time in the afternoon, and for Jack, it has never really been optional, but, just this once, he decides not to attend. He has cleared it with the coaches, and got their permission to skip, just in case.

Once the mandatory practice ends, he showers quickly, changes into his street clothes, and gets into his car, parked in the underground parking lot reserved for the players and staff. There’s a packed overnight bag in his trunk, and he’s booked a hotel room in the city.

It’s not a long drive to Samwell, only forty minutes along the I-95, and the traffic is still light when Jack leaves Providence. He still remembers the first time he’s made that drive, with his mother in the rental car she drove from the airport, looking for an apartment. It felt surreal, then, to leave Samwell in his rearview mirror, knowing that one day soon he would make that drive again, this time never to return. Now, despite everything, it still feels like coming home in a way.

Usually Jack likes to drive, it clears his head and relaxes him in a way he can’t really explain, but this time he’s just left alone with his thoughts, and he tries—tries to think about nothing at all, but his mind keeps reeling, keeps going back to that first morning when he woke up with Bitty next to him, soft and quiet, and warm, and how Jack wanted nothing more than to kiss him.

He’s so, so tired of wanting this and not letting himself have it. By now, it’s like a constant ache in his chest, pain he’s just learned to skate through, but the thing is, Jack has been in pain of some kind for as long as he can remember, and maybe he doesn’t want to hurt any more than he absolutely has to.

The road in front of him is wide and open.


The Haus looks different when Jack parks at the curb, painted over with a fresh coat of dark blue paint, the shutters a startling white. It’s such a small thing, in the grand scheme of things, but it still hits Jack right in the chest—the thought that away from Providence, the world has moved on. That he may have left Samwell, but it doesn’t mean everyone else has put their lives on hold.

He still has the key, but he fiddles with it for a long time, standing on the porch and wondering whether he should use it. This, he thinks, must be what people who come by their old houses must feel like. Like they’re intruders in a place which, to them, still feels familiar.

After a long while, he finally turns the key in the lock and opens the door.

When Jack steps inside, Ransom is destroying some poor freshman at Smash Bros. They don’t see him at first, but then the wooden floor creaks under Jack’s steps, and the freshman turns around. Jack can see the exact moment he recognizes him, because the guy’s eyes go wide.

“Holy fuck, that’s Jack Zimmermann,” the freshman says in a low voice, and Ransom looks over his shoulder, then almost throws the controller on the table and tackles Jack, hugging him until he can hardly breathe.

“Jack! What the fuck are you doing here so early?” he asks, still hugging him. “We thought you wouldn’t make it before the pre-game briefing.” He lets go and takes a step back, with one outstretched hand still gripping Jack’s arm, then looks at him with mock scrutiny. “Jack Laurent Zimmermann, are you slacking off?”

“I’m officially allowed to slack off today,” Jack says. “The coaches even signed my paper slip and everything.”

Ransom bumps him in the arm with his fist, and god, Jack has missed this so much. The closeness, the comfortable camaraderie that comes from years of living in each other’s pockets.

“Where’s—” Jack starts, but Ransom sees right through him and doesn’t even let him finish.

“At Faber. He’s showing his dad around,” he says. “Oh, by the way, this is TJ.” He points to the freckly, aggressively ginger freshman, who’s still staring at them, slightly slack-jawed. “TJ, this is Jack Zimmermann.”

“Yeah, I know,” the guy says, and Jack extends his hand in a greeting. “Tyler. Tyler Johnson,” he adds, shaking Jack’s hand. “It’s…wow. It’s— My sister is gonna freak. She has your poster in her bedroom and everything. Shit, uh, I mean, it’s super nice to meet you.”

He reminds Jack of Cory, in a way, equally young but far more inexperienced.

“You, too,” Jack says. “It’s good to be back here.”

Jack takes a moment to look at the Haus, take note of all that has changed in his absence. The old couch is gone, mostly—as Jack suspects—because Shitty wasn’t there to protest it, and there’s a new tv in the living room, new carpet in the hall. The walls in the common area have been re-painted, and the stairs railing doesn’t peel anymore under a new coat of varnish. It feels like a home, not a frat house, but it isn’t Jack’s home, not anymore.

“Where’s everyone?” Jack asks.

Ransom leads him into the kitchen and tosses Jack a bottle of water. “Holster is out with Chowder, getting beer for the kegster—I mean, you’re staying, right? Nursey and Dex are still in class, Lardo had critique today and might be running a bit late, and Bitty is showing his parents around. I’m hanging with TJ.” The duh goes unspoken.

Jack untwists the cap and takes a drink. “Coaches?”

“Still going over strategy before the briefing, I think. What, you wanna pay them a visit?”

“No,” Jack says, because he knows coach Hall and coach Murray would be happy to see him, but he also knows they’re probably busy and don’t want to be disturbed. “I’ll just come by before the game, say hi.”

“Ready to sign some boobs?” Ransom asks, and he’s laughing, the asshole. Jack groans and rolls his eyes.

“So I guess you heard about that, huh? In my defense, it was only once, and she was really drunk,” Jack says. “And I signed a napkin instead.”

“Only you, Jack. Only you.” Ransom shakes his head and chugs his Gatorade. “So, how’s the League been treating you?”

They stay in the kitchen, and it feels so natural, the way it always has—ever since Bitty took up residence at the Haus, they have all gradually migrated into the kitchen whenever they wanted to talk or hang out, or just sit together in silence, everyone preoccupied with their own affairs. Jack still remembers all the hours he spent in the Haus kitchen in that last year before graduation, working on his laptop or reading a book, or going through his photos, with Bitty baking in the background, the sound of his voice reaching Jack every time he got too lost in his thoughts.

He doesn’t know how to answer Ransom’s question—how to convey everything he wants to tell him without giving too much of himself away to a slightly star-struck kid Jack doesn’t even know and who doesn’t know Jack, how to say it’s been great, but it’s not enough, and it’s hard and sometimes I’m just hurting all over, and I don’t know if I’m ever going to stop, and I thought this was all I ever wanted, but I was wrong, and I miss all of you so much, and I thought I could do this by myself, but maybe I can’t, and maybe I don’t want to, and I just don’t want to be alone and miserable anymore.

“It’s been good,” he says instead. “We really want to make the playoffs again, and the coaches have been working us hard, so I’m tired all the time, but it’s the good kind of tired, and it gets results. So I’ve been doing okay for myself, I think.”

“Says the guy with two hat-tricks under his belt, even though it’s not even December yet. I hope you’re preparing that Calder acceptance speech already, Jack, because I know your public speaking skills suck,” Ransom says as he crushes the empty bottle and moves to throw it away.

“I’m not—” Jack says, “I’m not thinking about that. There’s a lot that can happen.”

There’s pie on the counter, and Jack almost moves to cut himself a slice before he remembers he’s not really at home. No one would mind, he’s sure, but he doesn’t want to assume. Ransom follows the line of Jack’s sight and smiles.

“You want a slice of that?” he asks. “It’s apple, I think, with maple crust on top. I’m sure Bits won’t mind.”

Jack remembers the last time he ate something was before the practice, and suddenly he’s starving. “Yeah, I could eat,” he says. He’s always hungry these days.

Ransom cuts him a huge slice and grabs the coffee pot to pour Jack a cup. Jack feels slightly bad for Tyler, who hovers in the doorway, clearly unsure if he’s welcome to join this conversation, but then Ransom pours a second cup and says, “Hey, TJ, here’s one for you. No pie, though. Not before the game. That’s just for Jack.”

Jack eats slowly, drinks the coffee and talks about the training, and the games, and the guys in the League, and Ransom cuts him another slice of the pie, and Jack is just about to dive in, but then he hears the front door open, and he turns around, hoping, and—

“Jack.” Bitty looks at him, and his voice is soft and quiet, and breathy, like he can’t believe Jack is really here.

Jack puts the fork down and stands up, unsure of what to do. He wants to hug Bitty, wants to kiss him and keep kissing him, wants to touch him, but then he looks away and, behind Bitty, in the hall, there is Suzanne Bittle with a man who must be Bitty’s father. He’s blond and tall, built like a football player who’s retired some time ago and hasn’t been keeping up with his training regimen as rigorously as he used to. Bitty mostly takes after his mother, but Jack can still see the family resemblance.

Suzanne rushes to hug Jack, and she looks so genuinely happy to see him. “Oh my god, Jack, you look so handsome, but you seem so tired,” she says as she stands on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. “I hope you’ve been taking good care of yourself, out there in Providence, all by yourself.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Bittle,” Jack says with a small smile. “I’m fine, I just came here straight from practice.”

“And I don’t think you’ve met my husband before, right?” she asks, and Bitty’s dad comes forward with his hand extended in a greeting.

“Richard Bittle,” he says. His grip is firm and sure, and Jack reciprocates in kind.

“Jack Zimmermann,” he says. “It’s really nice to meet you, Mr. Bittle. I was really sorry we didn’t manage to meet when I came to visit in the summer.”

Next to his mother, Bitty is looking up at his father anxiously, and Jack almost reaches to touch his shoulder in a comforting gesture before he stops himself.

“Nice to meet you too, son,” Coach Bittle says. “Congratulations on your last win. I saw the highlight reels.”

Jack smiles modestly. “Thank you. The team worked hard for that one.”

“Goodness, Jack, I didn’t expect you to be here so early,” Bitty says, strangely flustered for some reason, and Jack takes an aborted step in his direction, then stays put under the watchful gaze of Coach Bittle, who observes Jack with unsettling scrutiny. “Have you even eaten anything after practice?”

“He’s been methodically destroying your pie since the moment he stepped inside the Haus,” Ransom pipes in, and, god, Jack almost forgot they weren’t alone.

“How did you like it?” Bitty asks, and he seems a little more upbeat, at least for the moment. “It’s a new recipe, I’ve tweaked it a little and wanted to try it out, so—”

“It’s amazing,” Jack says, and Bitty’s smile is dazzling. “Come on, Bittle,” Jack chirps gently. “Like you didn’t know that already.”

“Dicky,” Mrs. Bittle says then, reaching for Bitty’s shoulder, and Bitty turns to look at her, “your father and I will go get us some coffee and maybe grab something to eat, and you boys catch up, okay? We’ll see you before the game.”

She kisses his cheek and ushers her husband outside, and then they’re alone, save for Ransom and Tyler, but Jack doesn’t care, he takes a step forward, and then another, and then he’s hugging Bitty, and Bitty is clinging to Jack’s shirt, and Jack’s chest gets tight.

“Congratulations on the hat-trick, Jack,” Bitty says in a low voice once they break apart, but it sounds like maybe he’s saying something completely different.

Jack laughs. “Thanks, Bitty,” he says.


Samwell wins against Brown 3-2, and Bitty takes a hard check in the second period that has Jack at the edge of his seat, but he shakes it off and skates through it, and Jack has never been so proud. Bitty scores a few minutes later off Wicks’ pass, and he already has one assist from earlier in the game, so when the time is up, Chowder and Ransom, and Holster pile up on top of Bitty, dragging him across the ice and into the boards. Jack is out of his seat as soon as the team disappears into the tunnel, and he comes into the locker room just as Nursey comes out of the shower.

“Great game today,” Jack says, and a moment later Chowder’s head appears in the door.

“Jack!” he says, surprised, like he didn’t expect to find Jack in here. “Did you see the way Bitty just took that check in the second? That was amazing.”

“Yeah,” Jack says, and he smiles, looking down at his feet. “Yeah, it was.”

Jack sits on the bench as they chat, waiting for the other players to come out of the showers, because when he looks to the stall where his nametag used to be, there’s now a different name, one he doesn’t recognize.

Bitty finally walks into the locker room a few minutes later, still dripping water from his hair, and he looks up at Jack, smiling.

“Hey, Bitty,” Jack says. “Congratulations. That was a great game.”

Jack can’t be sure in the slightly dimmed light of the locker room, but he thinks Bitty is blushing.

“Thanks, Jack,” he says, then, “Are you— You’re staying for the kegster, right?”

Jack nods. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m staying.”


The party is crowded and loud, and Jack has a bottle of beer in his hand, and he’s taken at least ten selfies with people he doesn’t know at all, but who seem to know him, or at least of him, and he’s even signed a few autographs. He feels strangely uncomfortable with this, here, back at the Haus, because to him, it still feels like home, despite everything, and he’s managed to forget for a moment that he has a life and a professional career outside of Samwell, so the photos and the questions, and the autographs are just a reminder of that.

When it gets too much, he hides in the kitchen, because he doesn’t have a room here to go back to anymore, and it’s quieter, even though there are a few people milling around, looking for food or drinks, but—surprisingly—no Bitty. He’s seen him earlier, right in the middle of this whirlwind of a party, when Ransom and Holster had him doing kegstands, and later, when he was talking to Chowder and handing out pie, but then Jack got distracted when some guy from the lacrosse team—at least that’s who Jack thinks he was—started asking about Jack’s training regimen and the Stars roster, while Jack tried to keep a straight face and nod in all the right places, and Bitty managed to disappear in the meantime.

Jack checks the backyard first, but there are only two couples making out in the dark, and then, after a moment’s consideration, he sneaks upstairs. It’s off-limits to everyone but the inhabitants of the Haus, but Jack feels only a vague sense of guilt. It was his home, too, not too long ago.

He crosses the corridor in a few long strides, trying to keep quiet, until he stands in front of Bitty’s room. Jack hesitates for a moment before he knocks.

“Hey, Bitty, can I come in?” he asks, his voice strangely hoarse.

There’s some rustling on the other side of the door, and for a moment Jack feels mortified, because what if Bitty isn’t alone, what if Jack is intruding on something that’s none of his business, because he left, and he never told Bitty about that hollow ache in his chest, and now he’s lost his chance. But then it all stops, and Jack hears a strangled, “Yeah, come in,” and he can breathe again.

Bitty’s room is completely dark, and Bitty sits at the edge of his bed, facing away from Jack.

“Hey, Jack, did you want something?” he asks, turning slightly so that Jack can see his profile, and his voice still sounds strangely choked up. Jack’s eyes slowly adjust to the dark, and he can make out Bitty’s face now in more detail. “Sorry, I just needed to get away for a moment, clear my head. I’ll be right downstairs if y’all need me.”

“I just wanted to find you,” Jack says, because the darkness makes him brave.

“Jack,” Bitty says, and he sounds like he wants to cry, “can we not do this right now? I’m really sorry, but I just—”

Jack takes a step toward the bed.

“Are you okay?” he asks, and Bitty nods furiously, like he needs to convince himself, too.

“I’m fine, Jack, really, I haven’t even had that much to drink, it’s not—” Bitty shakes his head. “I’m just being silly,” he says, but he doesn’t sound like he means it.

Jack sits beside him on the bed, close enough to feel his body heat but not close enough to touch.

“Can you tell me what’s going on?” he asks.

“It’s nothing,” Bitty assures him, but he still avoids Jack’s eyes. “It’s nothing, really. Just. I’m not even sure. I’m so sorry I disappeared on you, you came all the way here to see us, and I—”

“It’s fine. I know it gets overwhelming sometimes,” Jack says, and Bitty laughs, but it’s strangled and not at all happy.

“Oh my god, you have no idea,” he says, and it sounds so sad and strangely bitter at the same time.

Usually, Jack would back off, but he can clearly see that Bitty is upset about something, and he just wants to help.

“Want to tell me about it?” he asks.

Bitty just laughs again, and he shakes his head, and then he’s quiet for a long, long time. Jack can hear him breathe next to him, and it’s ragged and almost painful to listen to.

“Jack,” Bitty says after a while, and his voice sounds so small, and it cracks just a little bit, “can I ask you something? And, please, just don’t get mad, okay? But do you think you could maybe— Could you maybe kiss me? Just this once? I’m so sorry, I just want to— Just this once. Please?”

Jack freezes with his heart in his throat.

And it would be so easy to turn back now, because no lines have been crossed, but the thing is, he doesn’t want to.

When he leans in to touch Bitty’s face, Bitty still doesn’t look at him, and Jack runs a thumb along the line of his cheekbone, hears the rush of air as Bitty inhales, and then he’s kissing him slowly, gently, parting his lips slightly while Bitty melts under his touch, and it’s everything he’s ever imagined and more, because this time, it’s real.

Bitty doesn’t open his eyes the entire time.

When Jack finally moves away, Bitty stays completely still for a moment, his lips still parted and slick, and red, his eyes still closed.

“Oh,” he says, slowly opening his eyes, and from the hard set of his jaw Jack can see he’s trying not to cry.

“Bitty?” Jack asks, even though he isn’t sure what he’s asking, exactly.

“I’m so sorry I asked,” Bitty says, and he sounds wrecked. “I shouldn’t have.”

Jack swallows slowly. “I wanted to do it,” he admits. “I’ve wanted to do it for a long time.”

Bitty looks up at him in shock. “Jack?”

It’s Jack’s turn to look down at his hands and avoid Bitty’s eyes. “I thought it would just go away. But it hasn’t. And I couldn’t just ask you— You deserve better than to hide.”

“Don’t you think I should have a say in that?” Bitty says quietly, and it’s sad and angry at the same time. “You can’t just decide these things for yourself without asking.”

Jack knows he isn’t the easiest person to be around. To be with. He’s learned that the hard way.

“I’m sorry,” he says, because it’s true, and because he doesn’t know what else to say. “But I do want this. Want you.”

Bitty looks at him, serious. “Even if it means we need to hide?” he asks.

Jack moves his hand to touch the side of Bitty’s neck and his thumb traces the line of his jaw, and it’s so, so easy and so, so hard at the same time to be this close to him. To be allowed to touch.

“It’s not forever,” he says. “It’s just for now, until— But I would understand if you said no,” Jack says, even though it punches right through him. “I know it’s not what you want.”

“It’s not,” Bitty says, and Jack almost chokes on it, suddenly feeling numb and disconnected from everything. “But I want this more.”

Bitty kisses him then, and there’s teeth, and tongue, and it’s desperate and hurried, and hot. Jack can barely keep up, but he chases after Bitty’s mouth and presses his fingers to the back of his neck, and doesn’t let go.

It’s a heady, impossible feeling, and it’s everything Jack has ever wanted. Bitty fists his hand in Jack’s shirt, and they keep kissing as the sounds of the party slowly start to die down. When they part, Bitty looks flushed and he breathes heavily, with his forehead propped against Jack’s shoulder.

“Please, come to Providence for our next game,” Jack whispers, pressing his lips behind Bitty’s ear. It makes him gasp.

“I will. I promise,” Bitty says, breathless, then hesitates for a moment. “And Jack…can we— Do you think we could sleep in my bed, just for tonight? Just sleep, okay? I’ll lock the door, I promise.”

“Of course,” Jack says, and kisses him again, and again, and again.

They sleep until morning.

Chapter Text

Eric wakes up at sunrise and the first thing that goes through his mind is, It wasn’t real.

But then he feels the warmth of Jack’s hand splayed on his stomach, Jack’s body heat seeping through where his chest touches Eric’s back, Jack’s soft breath on Eric’s neck, and for a moment, he’s afraid to move because he wants this moment to last, suspended indefinitely. It’s like one of Jack’s snapshots, the perfect memory of a single moment out of time.

It’s the first time anyone has slept in Eric’s bed with intent, not only because that was the most sensible option, and he has no idea how to deal with it. It’s different from that morning when he woke up in Providence, all tangled up in Jack, because back then, he wasn’t allowed to, it was just an accident, muscle memory he wasn’t supposed to have.

When he finally tries to move, Jack startles awake, and there’s a terrifying fraction of a second when Eric thinks, He’s gonna realize this was a mistake, but Jack just looks at him, sleep-warm and soft, and then he buries his face in the crook of Eric’s neck.

“Morning, Bittle,” he says in a raspy voice, and Eric can feel Jack’s smile against his skin.

“Hey,” Eric says.

He lies on his back for a few minutes, just breathing in sync with Jack.

“I’ll understand if you need to go. Before the others wake up, I mean,” he says then, even though it’s the opposite of what he wants. What he wants is to go downstairs and make Jack French toast, and drink his morning coffee sitting next to Jack at the table with their thighs brushing. He wants to kiss him goodbye before Jack needs to go back to Providence.

“I trust them,” Jack says, and he reaches for Eric’s hand under the covers. “I don’t want to lie. Not to them.”

Eric blinks back tears. “Okay,” he says. “Okay.”

“Are your parents coming?” Jack asks after a moment, then clarifies, “To breakfast, I mean.”

Eric shakes his head. “No, they had to fly back right after the game. Coach has practice in the morning.”

Jack kisses him then, in the place where his jaw meets his neck, and Eric bites his lip. Jack is a good kisser, and he kisses with confidence that betrays experience. Parse, Eric thinks, and a lot of things suddenly start to make sense.

He feels shy all of a sudden and flushes all over when Jack touches his face to pull him in for a soft, brief, close-mouthed kiss.

“What time is it?” Eric asks when they part. It must be still pretty early, because the Haus is quiet, and the sun hasn’t fully reached his room yet. Jack cranes his neck and feels for his phone on the floor, then unlocks the screen.

“Five past seven,” he says. “We can still sleep if you want to.”

Eric shakes his head. “Wouldn’t be able to fall asleep anyway. What time do you need to leave?”

Jack is silent for a moment, like he’s forgotten he needs to get back to Providence.

“In the afternoon, I think. I have the day off, but I’m scheduled for some publicity event with the kids from our charity on Sunday,” he says. “An autograph session, then some ice time and photos. I’ve done it once already, but this time it’s an open event. More people, more cameras, entire families.”

Eric decides to be brave and he shifts to lay his head on Jack’s chest, listens to the way his heartbeat speeds up almost instantly. He feels like there’s impossible lightness inside of him, coming from somewhere in between his ribs.

“Are any other guys from the team gonna be there?” he asks.

“Cory and Holtzy, you met them in Providence. Schumer, I think,” Jack says. “Maybe some other guys, I’m not sure.”

“Yeah, Cory followed me on Twitter,” Eric admits. “He’s nice.”

He can feel Jack take a deep breath, and he hears him swallow slowly. “I told him,” he says. “I mean, he figured it out, and he asked, and I— I told him the truth.”

Eric looks up at Jack. “About you being…bisexual?”

“Gay,” Jack corrects him, and oh. “That, too. But he also figured out about you. About us. He won’t tell anyone, though. He was really nice about it.”

Eric leans in and kisses the underside of Jack’s jaw, feeling the morning stubble against his lips. It makes him hot all over, but he squashes it with practice. It’s too soon, they shouldn’t be rushing this.

“It’s good you have someone who’s got your back out there,” he says, his voice serious. He should know. He went through the majority of his life having no one like that in his corner, except for his mom, but even she doesn’t know the truth about him. Eric knows she would still love him, even if he told her, but this is different. “I know we shouldn’t be telling people about this, but it’s good someone knows.”

Jack exhales slowly. “Georgia does, too. But only about me, not about you.”

Eric nods against Jack’s skin. “I would be okay with it if you told her,” he says. “I mean, if you want to.”

Jack seems to consider it for a moment.

“Maybe,” he says. “I don’t know yet.”

The morning sun finally reaches the window and it filters through the glass in a warm patch of light that spills all over the bed and makes them narrow their eyes against the glare. Jack shifts under the sheets.

“I’m gonna go get the coffee machine going, and you can stay here a little longer, okay?” he says, leaving the bed and leaning down to kiss Eric’s forehead. “Join me in the kitchen in fifteen?”

Eric nods and smiles, then pushes himself up on his hands to steal one last kiss.


When Jack walks into the kitchen, Lardo is already there, quietly putting the dishes away and throwing out the last of the solo cups. There’s a pot of coffee on the counter, and a half-eaten piece of blueberry pie she somehow managed to hide from the horde of people who went through the Haus kitchen the night before.

“Hey,” Jack says, reaching into the cupboard to pull out a mug.

“Hey yourself,” Lardo says, taking a drink from her own mug, and she doesn’t look surprised. “You’re up early. Couldn’t sleep? Or did Bits wake you up?”

Jack shrugs and sits down at the table with the mug warming his hands. “I think I fucked up,” he says, and, when he sees Lardo’s face, he rushes to clarify, “Not last night. Earlier. Before I left. Was he— How was he? After I left for Providence.”

Lardo leans forward on her elbows until her eyes are level with Jack. “You want to hear the truth?”

Jack nods, then takes a sip of coffee. It’s hot and stronger than he’s used to, but he figures the rest of the guys might need it to nurse their inevitable hangovers.

“He was fucking miserable, Jack,” she says, and it’s like a hit straight to the solar plexus. “You know him, he tried not to let it show, but, shit. He would get so sad, sometimes, when he thought no one was looking. We would watch your games, and then he would lock himself in his room for an hour. It was painful to see.”

Jack looks down, stares into his mug and tries to stop himself from imagining what Bitty’s face must have looked like in those moments. He fails hard.

“But you know what I think?” Lardo continues, and doesn’t even wait for Jack to acknowledge her question. “I think it’s a good thing you did what you did. That you took the time to sort your shit out first. I can’t imagine what it would do to him, if you dived in head-first, back before the summer break, and then decided it was too much, that you couldn’t do it. It would fucking crush him.”

“Is that why you and Shitty—” he says before he can stop himself, and this—this makes her startle, but then Lardo just shakes her head.

“No,” she says, “it’s different with us. We know we’re getting there. Just, not yet.”

It’s a complicated thing, this—whatever it is between Shitty and Lardo. Jack tries not to pry.

“I thought it would go away, eventually,” he says then, and the words echo in his head, take him back to the darkness of Bitty’s room, the way Jack’s heart pounded in his chest when he said that. “But it hasn’t. And then my mother said something, and I— I couldn’t just turn it off, it was always there. One of my teammates noticed.” He can hear Lardo inhale sharply. “He was really nice about it, though.”

Lardo ties up the trash bag and pushes it into the corner of the kitchen, where three identical bags are waiting to be taken out. “But you’re not coming out,” she says. It’s not a question.

Jack shakes his head.

“No. I’m not coming out. I’m not saying not ever. But, just…not now.”

Lardo turns back to look at him, and she puts her hands on her hips.

“Listen, Jack,” she says. “You do what you gotta do, okay? This fucking sucks, but I get it. As long as you’re both okay with it.”

Jack takes another drink, and he can feel himself getting hungry. “I wouldn’t say okay, but…” he shrugs with one shoulder, “you know, it is what it is.”

Lardo tops up his mug, then pours another one for herself and goes back to her pie, sitting next to Jack in comfortable silence, dressed in leggings and an oversized t-shirt that Jack is pretty sure belongs—or used to belong—to Shitty.

She’s almost done when Bitty finally comes down to the kitchen. Jack turns around to smile at him and finds him hovering in the doorway, like he’s unsure of what he should do. How much he can do. Jack holds out his hand.

“Hey, come here,” he says, and when Bitty does, Jack pulls him in close, presses a soft kiss to his temple. Bitty blushes. “There’s coffee if you want some, but Lardo beat me to the punch. It’s strong as hell.”

“Which is, incidentally, where I come from,” Lardo says, punching Jack in the arm, and he’s so grateful, because he knows the bad joke is not for his benefit. “Old family recipe, you know.”

It works, because Bitty laughs and steps around the table to pour himself a cup.

“Do you have any set date for the opening yet?” Jack asks Lardo in the meanwhile, because he knows she has a big exhibition coming up, and he hopes he won’t be out of town for the opening, because he wants to be there for her. Possibly buy another piece.

“Third week of December, that’s all I know for now,” Lardo says, sighing heavily. “They’re fucking killing me, Jack. If I can deliver my pieces on time, why can’t they? I swear to god, I’m this close to committing actual murder.”

“Let me know if you want me to come with a shovel,” Jack teases. “Apparently my biceps are pretty solid. Lots of upper body strength.”

Lardo elbows him in the ribs. “Aw, you say the sweetest things, Jack. And I wouldn’t even think of calling anyone else. Except maybe Shitty, because, you know, there’s more room in his trunk. For the bodies.”

Across the table, Bitty takes a sip of his coffee, then asks, “French toast or pancakes? Those are your only options, and I don’t want to hear any complaining,” he adds, looking at Jack.

Jack raises his hands in a gesture of surrender, attempting to look as innocent as possible. “Bittle, you know I would never,” he says, trying not to laugh. “And French toast. Please.”

Jack observes Bitty move around the kitchen, and it’s a comfortable routine he’s seen hundreds of times before, but it still fills him with warmth, the familiarity and the domesticity of it, and he wants to see Bitty in his kitchen in Providence looking comfortable like this, making them pancakes on slow Sunday mornings, dressed in Jack’s clothes.

Jack doesn’t really have to immediately put his empty mug away in the sink, but he still gets up from the table and brushes against Bitty as he moves towards the counter, the tips of Jack’s fingers smoothing over the jut of Bitty’s hip just for a split second. It still makes him startle, and then Jack can see the flush that starts to run down the back of Bitty’s neck.

“Get back to your seat, Jack Zimmermann,” Bitty chides and swats at Jack’s side. Jack returns to the table, smiling to himself.

Once the first batch of French toast starts to cook, the others begin to slowly wander into the kitchen, guided by the smell.

Ransom and Holster are first, and they barely even acknowledge the world at large, let alone Jack, both of them looking a bit green around the gills. Bitty fills two cups with coffee on autopilot and puts them down on the table. At first, he’s only met with low, pained grunts of gratitude, but after a few big gulps, Ransom and Holster start to look a little more alive and a little less like something that was scraped off the sole of someone’s shoe.

Nursey is next—still half asleep, but in a much better state overall—and he raises an eyebrow when he sees Jack at the table but doesn’t comment. Dex joins them a few minutes after that, looking weirdly okay for someone who apparently drank his weight in beer last night.

“Huh,” he says, then, “Hey, Jack.”

Chowder is the last to come in, and he calls out, “Jack!” as soon as he appears in the doorway, his eyes wide. “You’re still here! But where did you—” he starts to say, and then his eyes wander over to Bitty, who very resolutely stays with his back to the door. “Oh.”

They eat breakfast at the table together, just like they used to when he still lived at the Haus, and the only one missing is Shitty, who couldn’t make it this time. Bitty is sitting next to Jack, and their legs are touching under the table, and Jack leans into him, steals a blueberry and a piece of peach from his plate, smiles when Bitty goes after his strawberries in an act of revenge.

A part of Jack wants to take Bitty with him back to Providence—he could drive him back on Sunday evening, and Jack knows Bitty doesn’t have classes on Monday until late afternoon, but maybe, he thinks, maybe it’s too soon, maybe they should take their time, even though it feels like they have wasted so much of it already. But most of all, he hesitates because the thought of being alone with Bitty right now where no one can interrupt them makes him feel slightly overwhelmed and dizzy.

The thing about wanting something so much for so long is that when you’re finally allowed to have it, it sometimes can feel amazing and absolutely terrifying at the same time.

He takes Bitty to Annie’s after breakfast, buys him one of those ridiculous sweet lattes Bitty loves so much, and they sit at their usual small table in the corner, brushing shoulders, and only three people come up to them to ask for an autograph. Jack smiles apologetically at Bitty, because he deserves better than to be disturbed on their first date—Jack hopes he understands now that this is a date, even though Jack can’t kiss him in public—suddenly feeling weirdly self-conscious, his hands clammy and his throat tight.

But Bitty only smiles at him sweetly in return, and his ankle brushes against Jack’s calf under the table, and that amazingly terrifying, overwhelming feeling of lightness in his chest comes back.

They take a long, roundabout route back to the Haus, walking slowly through the red and golden fallen leaves, like they are both trying to delay confronting the fact that in a few hours, Jack needs to go back to Providence, holding hands when they’re sure nobody is watching. When they come in, Holster, Ransom, Nursey, and Lardo are playing some game Jack doesn’t recognize but which involves them balancing their controllers in weird positions and trying to knock them out of each other’s hands while classical music plays in the background.

Chowder is in the kitchen, doing the dishes and dancing slightly off-rhythm to some upbeat song, singing softly under his breath. Dex is keeping him company, working on something on his laptop.

Bitty lets go of Jack’s hand and heads straight for the fridge. “Are you hungry, Jack?”

Jack looks at his watch. It’s almost time for lunch.

“I could eat,” he says and watches as Bitty starts to pull chicken and tomatoes, and broccoli out of the fridge. “Need some help?”

Together, they make a casserole that turns into nothing but a distant memory in less than ten minutes, because they’re in a house full of hungry hockey players, after all, and if Jack steals a kiss that makes Bitty blush all over while they’re dicing tomatoes, well, that’s just a bonus.

By some unspoken agreement that, Jack assumes, has a lot to do with Lardo, they’re left alone after lunch, and once they move upstairs, Jack backs Bitty up against the door to his room and kisses him until they’re both breathless, Bitty pushing up on his tiptoes to reach Jack.

“I’m gonna miss you,” Bitty whispers against Jack’s mouth. “I’ve been missing you for a long time.”

“Me too,” Jack says, then kisses him again, brushes his thumb against Bitty’s cheekbone. “But you’re coming to the game, right? Two weeks is not that long. And you’ll— Will you stay, after? For the weekend?”

Bitty nods with his face hidden in the crook of Jack’s neck, and Jack can feel his breath ghosting over his skin. “Of course I will, Jack,” he says. It’s quiet and soft, and Jack can feel his heart all the way up in his throat.


we’re not lost, private, we’re in normandy (currahee) wrote in ontd_puck

jzimms goes back to samwell, takes about a million selfies with people, actually smiles for once

okay, so apparently jzimms went to samwell’s first home game of the season last friday and then stayed for the after-party. there is approximately a metric shitton of selfies people took with him at the party (or, as they apparently call it, kegster) in the #SamwellKegster2k15 tag on twitter, and, lo and behold, he even smiles in some of them.

there are also a few pictures taken at some café, apparently on saturday? anyway, boy looks a lot more chill in those. that’s good, i was starting to worry about him.

tags: do it for the vine, jack zimmermann, jack zimmermann’s butt is a gift from god, party like it’s 1999, the internet is forever


Reply from lachance
Okay, but how good does he look in those pictures, for real. I’m really digging the plaid with the sleeves rolled up. His forearms are fucking unreal.

Reply from currahee
or, as i like to call it, the canadian lumberjack chic.

Reply from lachance
Whatever it is, I’M DIGGING IT.

Reply from offblues
oh, yeah, i saw those pictures, and i was like, fetch me my fainting couch. i love good forearms (and arms in general), and holy hell, does this boy deliver.

also, someone tweeted that they overheard a conversation at the party, and some guy from samwell thought jay-z was playing for the stars? and he was asking zimms about their roster, training, etc.? apparently the entire convo was hilarious, and zimms’ poker face is a thing of beauty. he answered the questions and everything. oh my god, this boy, i swear.

Reply from thegrandarcana
well, to be fair, he probably has at least the canadian boys on the stars’ roster on speed-dial. so, you know. insider knowledge or something.

Expand 12 comments


Jack comes back from Samwell looking lighter, the constant tightness around his mouth gone for the moment, and Cory doesn’t exactly know what happened while he was there, but he thinks he has a pretty good idea.

They’re playing the Aces at home in two weeks, and they’re doing great on the ice, playing in sync like never before. Jack is fucking amazing, and the rest of the team is so tuned in to whatever he’s doing on the ice, it seems like they’re unstoppable. Until.

Until on Tuesday, at the end of practice, Schumer sprains his wrist, and, with Christiansen still recovering from a nasty tendon injury, the coaches decide to put Cory on Jack’s line. He should be fucking ecstatic. Instead, he hits the worst slump in his entire career, including that time in the juniors when he suddenly hit his growth spurt and had to totally reorient himself on the ice, because his gravity center shifted unexpectedly, and it fucking sucked. This? This sucks even more.

It’s not about Jack—because Jack is phenomenal, and Cory receives his passes without much effort, and they’re working great together timing-wise, considering that this is the first time they’ve ever played on the same line, but then nothing. goes. in. Nothing. Jack scores, and scores, and scores, and Cory can’t even manage one goal. It’s fucking infuriating, and, by the time Saturday rolls in, Cory just wants to break his stick. Preferably over his own useless stupid face.

He doesn’t get it—he doesn’t have the best accuracy in the League or even on the team, but he’s here for a reason, and that reason is, he’s fucking talented and knows how to score goals, so this—this is like a nightmare scenario he didn’t even know was possible. Maybe it’s a mental thing, but, if he’s being totally honest, he doesn’t really feel like it is, and it just leaves him frustrated and unsure of anything, which certainly doesn’t help his case.

What a mess, Jesus fucking Christ. His timing, as always, is completely fucked.

“Smith, you’re done for today, go hit the showers,” Mark says in a stern voice on Saturday, even though practice is nowhere close to finished. To be fair, Cory did almost break his stick just now, slamming it against the boards, but hey, between the boards and his legs, this really was the better option.

Cory spits out his mouth guard and feels like he wants to punch something. He can see Jack shooting him a worried look from the ice.

He almost breaks his knuckles in the showers when he punches the wall, and isn’t that a stupid fucking idea. They already have two wingers out on injuries, they don’t really need a third. Cory feels like he wants to cry, and if he does, well, who’s gonna know when there’s no one else here with him, because no one else is fucking up on a grand enough scale.

He doesn’t really feel like waiting around for Justin and Kyle, but he hitched a ride with them in the morning, because his car is at the shop with a broken alternator. He could take the bus, or, hell, even call a cab, because it’s not like he can’t afford it now, but he still hangs around the locker room until the other guys start to slowly file in, almost an hour later.

Cory lifts his head up, almost ready to go, when Jack’s feet enter his field of vision, and he’s still in his gear, hair damp under the helmet.

“Wanna go practice passes?” he asks, jerking his head in the direction of the rink. “I cleared it with the coaches.”

It’s only when they’re back on the ice that it hits Cory how much older and more seasoned Jack really is, despite his relative lack of experience in the NHL. They pass the puck between them for a long while, and Jack teaches Cory a move they perfected with Bitty, because Cory has the speed for it, and then Jack stops them with a hand on Cory’s shoulder.

“These things happen to all of us at some point,” Jack says in an even voice that screams authority and, right, he used to be team captain, back in the Q, and then later at Samwell. Old habits really die hard, apparently. Cory couldn’t be more fucking grateful for that at the moment. “It’s not anyone’s fault. You’re not doing anything wrong. Something is bound to go in, sooner or later. You just have to skate through it until it does.”

“It’s just—” Cory starts, then stops abruptly, not knowing where to even start. “I feel like I finally got this chance to play first line, at least for a game or two, and I’m fucking it up royally. And we’re playing the Aces, and they won the Cup a few years back, they’re a damn good team, and I wanted to be able to show that I can do it, you know? Like, it felt like it was supposed to be my time to shine, or something. To show them what I’m really made of. But the answer to that particular question is fail, apparently.”

“You can do it, Smith,” Jack says with emphasis, and then he skates back until they’re a few feet apart. “Come on, one-on-one. Let’s go, move it.”

He doesn’t win, but he does get a goal in. It’s just once, at the very end, and the rest of his shots miss more or less horribly, but it still stops the terrible shaking in his chest.

Jack claps him on the arm. “Good game, Cory,” he says. “Sometimes one is all it takes.”

Before Jack has the chance to leave the locker room once they’ve showered and changed into their street clothes, Cory invites him over for dinner.

“It’s the least I can do,” he says when he sees Jack’s hesitation. “You stayed behind to practice passes with me for two hours, we deserve some fucking carbs, okay? And there’s a great place that delivers next to my apartment.”

Jack smiles faintly and nods.

“Okay, great,” Cory says. “Also, I might actually need a ride.”

This time, Jack laughs out loud.


Blueberry comes to greet them once Cory opens the door, tail wagging, and he wants to bend down to kiss her sweet face and let her slobber all over him, but he has his hands full of their take-out.

“Hey, baby girl,” he coos instead, forgetting to be embarrassed by talking like that in front of Jack Zimmermann. “Did you miss me?”

“She’s adorable,” Jack says, putting the take-out containers away on the kitchen table and kneeling to pet her, and what do you know, Blueberry freaking loves Jack. “Bitty would love her.”

The apartment is empty, and Cory remembers that Kyle and Justin were supposed to go out to dinner with their girlfriends, a double date or something. He doesn’t think either of them is coming home tonight.

“So how was Samwell?” Cory asks, faking the casual tone like a pro. “I saw the pictures, the party looked wild.”

Jack stands up and moves to open their bags. “Some guy from the lacrosse team thought I was playing for the Stars. I didn’t exactly correct him.”

Cory laughs as he pulls two glasses out of the cupboard and reaches inside the fridge for the bottle of chilled water, adds some lemon and fresh mint that Justin grows on the windowsill, then looks through the drawer for clean forks.

“You know some guys on the Stars, right?” he asks. “You should text them. They’d probably get a kick out of this.”

“You know what, I actually might,” Jack says as he picks up the plates.

“Jack?” Cory says suddenly, and Jack turns in the doorway, looking over his shoulder. “Thanks. For earlier. That was— I really appreciate it. And, uh, you’re really good at this. Picking people up when they’re down.”

Jack looks strangely awkward for a moment, like he doesn’t know how to take this kind of compliment, but he shakes it off quickly. “We’re teammates. Friends. That’s what friends do for each other, right?” he says.

Cory smiles back at him.

They eat their delicious, delicious creamy carbonara, sitting in the living room and watching the Pens destroy the Flyers, and at the end of the second period, Jack puts his plate away and says, “What you said, earlier, about not being alone and miserable— Thank you. I think I needed to hear it. And I’m…I’m working on it. With Bitty.”

Cory smiles with his entire face until his cheeks hurt. “Oh, man, that’s awesome,” he says.

Jack ducks his head, smiling, and he honest to god blushes.

“Bitty told me you followed him on Twitter,” he says, and, well, maybe it’s time to come clean about his semi-creepy stalking tendencies.

“It was, you know— I wanted to thank him for the cookies,” he says, and, really, it’s not even a lie, technically, “and I remembered you mentioned his name, so I, you know, googled him. Sorry if he thought I was being creepy.”

Jack shakes his head. “No, no, he likes you,” he says, then, “He’s coming to the Aces game next week.”

“That’s great, Jack, really.” Cory beams at him, and, fuck, he didn’t expect to get so fond of Jack Zimmermann when he first met him. Back then, he seemed a bit distant and unapproachable, but now Cory knows it’s mostly a façade, that there’s another Jack behind that seemingly impassive face.

“It’s, you know…” Jack shrugs. “It will be nice to see him again. I like having him over.”

Cory looks at Jack for a moment. “You’re really serious about him, aren’t you?” he asks.

Jack looks down at his hands and smiles. “Yeah. Yeah, I really am.”


jordan @hockeybutts
guys, friendly reminder that kent parson’s espn body issue pics are supposed to hit the net tomorrow #prayercircle

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts this, but also #prayercircle for jzimms on the cover next year. i would buy a hundred

jordan @hockeybutts
@hellsqueen lmao, oh my god, dani, the thirst is real

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts pls, it’s like you don’t know me at all


Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
@CorySmithFalconers Jack tells me you have the cutest dog on earth. I demand pictures!

Cory Smith @CorySmithFalconers
@omgcheckplease her name is blueberry

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
@CorySmithFalconers !!!!!!!!!! OH MY GOD!!!!!!!

Cory Smith @CorySmithFalconers
@omgcheckplease he told me you’d love her :)

Chapter Text

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial YOU’RE WELCOME, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN #ESPN #BodyIssue #gotyourback


Kent Parson Bares All

HOCKEY GALS || NOV 29, 2015

Or: No, Seriously, These Photos Leave Almost Nothing to the Imagination.

Read more over at Hockey Gals:


puckbunny (puckbunny) wrote in ontd_puck

parse gets naked but this time it’s for a good cause so that’s okay

guys, parse’s espn body issue pics are out. and, honestly, whatever i imagined they would be? the reality is SO MUCH BETTER. don’t trust my words, go check them out yourselves. it’s… i have no words.


ETA: and the fucker tweeted about it. “you’re welcome, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN” (!!!), what the fuck. who do you think you are, parse. where do you even fucking get off. how very dare you. i’m so angry rn.

tags: and none for you kent parson, he does what he wants, hockey butts are the best butts, not the least bit homoerotic, rock out with your cock out, skating and crying, something for your spank bank, stop the presses!!!!!, the elusive homoerotic tension, work that booty


Reply from currahee
honestly. HONESTLY. were they like “how do we make this as homoerotic as possible short of getting another dude in there?”

Reply from lachance
I know, I mean, for real, the only thing that would make it more gay would be if he were actually straight-up fellating a dude on the ice. He saw the opportunity and he just fucking went for it. And I can applaud that. Also, boy got ripped.

Reply from offblues
i particularly like the strategic placing of the teddy bear and the popsicle one, but this entire photoshoot is fucking inspired. god bless your little heart, parse.

Expand 56 comments


From: Kent
hey zimms did u like the pictures?
(03:24 pm)

To: Kent
Yeah, they’re good. Nice photoshoot.
And see you in Providence on Friday.
(04:07 pm)

From: Kent
yeah man were gonna represent right?
is bittle coming?
(04:08 pm)

To: Kent
(05:31 pm)


Jack skypes with Shitty once he comes back from practice on Monday, strangely wired and buzzing with nervous energy he can’t seem to shake off. He reheats the potatoes from yesterday and grills himself a steak, tosses some vegetables with vinaigrette and sits in front of the computer, eating, while Shitty reclines on his bed, sans shirt, and—most probably—sans pants. There are legal textbooks strewn all over the bed.

“Is this about Parson?” Shitty asks once Jack tells him about his strange mood. “You’re playing the Aces on Friday, right? And Bits is coming? That must be pretty rough on you, brah, you know, considering.”

Jack shrugs and cuts off a piece of the meat. It’s still slightly pinkish in the middle, the way he likes it best.

“We’ve made up, I think,” he says. “Parse and I, I mean. I called him the last time Bitty came to visit, after the game, from a restroom at the bar. I was sort of freaking out a bit.”

Shitty’s eyebrows go up a bit. “And did he impart any great advice while you were at it?” he asks.

Jack chews his steak methodically, swallows, and washes it down with a mouthful of water, then says, “Yeah, actually. I mean, he figured it out, about Bitty. Told me he saw him next to my dad on tv. I don’t think he was too surprised, especially after last December. Told me to go for it if that was what I really wanted. But it’s, you know. It was strange to hear this from someone I used to—” he stops abruptly, because he has no idea what to say next. Used to fuck? Used to love? It’s both, but it’s also neither, because what they did wasn’t just fucking, but also it wasn’t just love. Even now, after all these years, Jack has no idea how Parse has managed to get under his skin like that and stay, even after all that’s happened. They’re done, they were done the moment Parse went first in the draft while Jack went to rehab, and they will never be what they used to be to each other again, except maybe friends, and Jack—Jack has moved on, but the pull Parse has on him is still there, and so is the confusion which has always accompanied everything that had to do with Kent.

It wasn’t just the fact that Jack went through most of his relationship with Parse in a drug-induced haze. The truth is, he could never explain it, the way everything was always more with Parse, more intense, more immediate, more overwhelming, like a visceral feeling more than anything else. There are moments he only remembers as flashes, like colorful smudges on an overexposed film.

Sometimes Jack thinks he could just go his own way if he really wanted, but the fact is, there will always be a part of him that belongs to Parse.

“Hey,” Shitty says, “he might be an asshole, but he knows you. And whatever happened between you two, if you’re ready to follow your Disney dream and let it go, then I say, fucking go for it. But I’m still ready to gear up, get back on the ice and break his pretty face if you need me to.”

“Thanks, Shitty, but I think I’m gonna take a raincheck on that offer for now,” Jack says, and he smiles.

“Bro, if you ever need me, you know where to find me.”

Jack finishes his steak and puts the fork away. “Thanks, Shits. There’s no one I’d rather be rearranging people’s faces with. I mean, in theory.”

Once Shitty disconnects, Jack is about to close the window when he sees that Bitty is on, and he presses the call button almost without thinking.

Bitty’s face appears on Jack’s screen just a moment later, and he looks surprised. “Jack! Oh, my goodness, I didn’t expect to see you today.” His smile awakens a fluttery feeling in Jack’s chest that makes him almost lightheaded.

Bitty is lying in his bed with his laptop in his lap, and there’s something that punches straight through Jack when he sees how soft and comfortable Bitty looks, and he wants to touch him so much it hurts.

“I missed you,” he says awkwardly, because it’s been only a little more than a week since they last saw each other, and they texted a lot in the meantime, and they’re seeing each other again in a few days. But the truth is, Jack feels the emptiness of his apartment more and more these days, and to know that there is someone who could fill it—who wants to fill it—makes him miss the simplest things, like the feeling of Bitty’s fingers against Jack’s wrist, Bitty’s thigh pressing against Jack’s under the table, the way their legs tangle under the sheets.

“I missed you, too,” Bitty says then, and he makes it sound as easy as breathing.

Jack has no idea what he did to deserve this.

“Can I—” he asks in a rush, the words tumbling out of his mouth, “can I tell my parents? About this? About us?”

Bitty reaches for something which turns out to be a glass of juice. “Of course, Jack, why would you—”

“I’ll make them promise not to tell your parents, okay?” Jack interrupts, because he needs Bitty to know he can trust Jack with this, too. “I’ll explain, tell them to—”

Oh,” Bitty says, like he hasn’t even considered that option, like he’s forgotten Jack’s parents and his mom communicate regularly. “Yeah, yeah, of course you can tell them. And thank you.”

He ducks his head, looking upset, and, logically, Jack knows it’s not because of him, that it’s because Bitty hates the way he needs to hide at home, because he feels like he can’t tell his parents about them while Jack can, but he still whispers a quiet I’m sorry that has Bitty shaking his head, looking straight at Jack. “No, no,” he says. “It’s okay, it’s not your fault. I’d love for your parents to know. I mean, I hope they won’t be disappointed.”

“They adore you,” Jack says, because it’s true, and this—this makes it so much easier, to know that Bitty doesn’t need to do anything to win them over, because they already love him. It used to rub Jack the wrong way, back when his relationship with Bitty was far less friendly, how much his dad seemed to like him, like he was trying to rub more salt into Jack’s slowly healing wounds. He was jealous, in a way, of how easy Bitty made it for everyone to like him. Jack flushes hot with shame every time he thinks about it now.

“Hey, did I interrupt? I mean, are you doing something?” Jack asks then, suddenly realizing that it’s a school night and Bitty probably has better things to do than talk to Jack just because Jack is bored and missing Bitty. “Apart from talking to me.”

“I’ve been looking over some new plays, but I think I’m slowly going cross-eyed, so, officially, I’m on a break right now,” Bitty says, stretching leisurely in his bed, and his t-shirt rides up, revealing a strip of skin. Jack swallows, his mouth suddenly gone dry.

“Want some help with that?” Jack asks and cringes at the way it comes out, like he doesn’t think Bitty can do this on his own, like maybe Jack thinks he doesn’t cut it as the captain. “I mean, only if you want to.”

To his relief, Bitty smiles. “I’ll send them over later, okay? For now, I just want to, you know…” he blushes, “look at you. I missed your face.”

It’s so sweet and so heartfelt, Jack has no idea how to deal with it.

“So what do you want to do when you come to Providence for the weekend?” he asks then, because he knows he’s not the most creative host even at his best—he’s self-aware enough to realize that—and he desperately doesn’t want Bitty to get bored. What he wants is to take him out on a date, but Providence is a hockey town, and they won’t be holding hands walking down the street or sharing dessert at that great restaurant Georgia took him to after he signed. Not if he wants to stay in the closet.

“Can we figure it out once I’m in Providence?” Bitty asks in return. “We’ll see what we’re both in mood for and go from there?”

And the thing is, Jack usually likes to have plans—routine has been one of the pillars of his recovery, and the habit has stayed with him ever since, but he still nods, because he can play it by ear, and Bitty is right, they can figure it out together.

The jitters from before come back at the worst possible time just a moment later, and Bitty must notice it, because he shifts closer to the webcam and asks, “Jack, is everything okay?”

“I’m fine,” Jack says. “Just some nerves before the game on Friday. It’s, you know. We’re playing the Aces.” He leaves the rest unsaid, but Bitty seems to understand—he nods and bites his lip, worrying it for a moment between his teeth.

“You’re gonna be okay, Jack,” he says, reaching out like he wants to touch Jack through the screen, but then he seems to realize what he’s doing, and he starts to laugh softly at himself, almost startled by his gesture. “You are okay. Just remember to breathe.”

Jack can do that. He does.


the drama llama @howlinginside
so what are we expecting from the falcs vs aces game this friday? @hockeybutts @hellsqueen @aleaiacta @tinydancer

jordan @hockeybutts
@howlinginside lots of sexual tension, hopefully

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts @howlinginside if they don’t hug (or fight, or kiss), i demand a refund

alyssa @aleaiacta
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts @howlinginside so my bro MIIIIIGHT have gotten me a ticket to this game

alyssa @aleaiacta
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts @howlinginside IM STILL SCREAMING ON THE INSIDE I LOVE MY BROTHER SO MUCH

jordan @hockeybutts
@aleaiacta @hellsqueen @howlinginside O M G ALYSSA!!! you do realize you’re gonna have to tell us EVERYTHING RIGHT

fight me @hellsqueen
@aleaiacta @hockeybutts @howlinginside i’m so fcking jealous right now alyssa u have no idea

small & deadly @tinydancer
@aleaiacta @hellsqueen @hockeybutts @howlinginside [WALKS STRAIGHT INTO THE SUN]

alyssa @aleaiacta
@tinydancer nooooo, bb, come back! wait, are you in boston rn? bc if you are, i have a second ticket and it’s yours if you want it

small & deadly @tinydancer

small & deadly @tinydancer
@aleaiacta id have to figure out some sleeping arrangements tho bc i don’t want to go back to boston this late

alyssa @aleaiacta
@tinydancer bb, my couch is yours, as is my heart, okay. as long as you don’t mind the cat

small & deadly @tinydancer
@aleaiacta im sorta allergic but i’m gonna CUDDLE THE FUCK OUT OF YOUR CAT ANYWAY

small & deadly @tinydancer
@aleaiacta what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger etc

fight me @hellsqueen
@tinydancer @aleaiacta i believe this is my turn to walk straight into the sun. i fucking hope the reunion is EPIC, for your sake


Bob misses the first call. He’s in a meeting, and he has his phone switched to silent, so it’s only two hours later that he sees Jack’s number on the missed calls list, and when he tries to call back, Jack doesn’t answer. He tries again twenty minutes later, and the call eventually goes to voicemail.

Five minutes later, he calls Alicia from his car.

“Hey, has Jack called you, by any chance?” he asks as soon as she picks up. He’s stuck in traffic, he may just as well make it count.

“I don’t think so, no?” Alicia answers. “Unless he called on the landline and didn’t leave a message, then I might’ve missed it. Why?”

Bob looks at the red Volvo in front of him and tells himself he’s overreacting. He knows he’s overreacting, but there’s that tiny, irrational part of him that dreads unexpected phone calls now.

“I have a missed call from him, tried calling him twice, and he hasn’t picked up.”

“He’s probably still at practice,” Alicia says, and Bob looks at his watch, then puts the car in drive as soon as the red Volvo in front of him starts to slowly move forward. It’s almost two thirty in the afternoon.

“You’re probably right,” he says. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to worry you.”

He can hear Alicia take a deep breath on the other end of the line. “It’s okay to worry sometimes,” she says, and it sounds like something their therapist used to say. “But I’m sure he’s fine.”

“Yeah, I know,” he says. The Volvo in front of him comes to a slow, screeching halt again.

“When are you coming home?” He can hear Alicia moving around the house in the background.

“I’m stuck in a traffic jam at the MUHC, looks it’s gonna be a while,” he says as the Volvo moves again just to hit the brakes a few seconds later.

Alicia laughs. “I told you to take the metro.”

“That’s what I get for not listening to you,” he tells her fondly just as his phone signals an incoming call. It’s Jack. “Hey, listen, Jack’s calling me, I’m going to take this. I’ll talk to you later, okay? Love you.”

He disconnects.

“Dad?” Jack asks as soon as Bob accepts the call. “Is this a bad time?”

“I’m in a traffic jam from hell, but apart from that it’s fine,” Bob tells him. “What’s going on? Sorry I didn’t pick up earlier, by the way, I was in a meeting.”

“No, no, it’s no problem,” Jack says, and he sounds a bit winded, but otherwise okay. “I didn’t think this through, I called you right before practice and then stayed after to run drills with Smith. Sorry.”

There’s a long silence on the other end of the line.

“Jack?” Bob nudges him gently. “Is everything okay?”

Jack inhales, then exhales slowly and says, “I’m seeing Bitty.”

He sounds defensive, like he thinks Bob will disapprove—not of who Jack is, but maybe of the timing, of the circumstances. Of the potential risk to his career.

“I’m happy for you,” Bob says instead.

“I’m not coming out, dad, you don’t have to worry, I know how stupid that would be, especially now, but, just…I wanted you to know,” Jack continues, and it comes out rushed, in one breath, because it seems like he thinks he needs to explain this and reassure Bob he’s somehow not making the biggest mistake in his life by just trying to be happy.

Jack,” Bob repeats with emphasis, “I’m happy for you. Both of you. I’m sure your mother will tell you the same thing.”

Jack is silent for a moment.

“Is Eric coming to the game this Friday?” Bob asks eventually. The string of cars in front of him finally starts to move at a slow, torturous pace, but at least they’re not staying at a complete standstill anymore.

“Yeah, he is,” Jack admits quietly. “I got him the VIP seats, he’s staying for the weekend.”

Bob smiles.

“I’m glad you’re doing better, Jack.”

“You can’t tell his parents,” Jack says almost immediately, like he’s just remembered something, and Bob sighs heavily. “I know both of you talk to his mom regularly. Just…don’t tell them, okay? They don’t know, I mean, about him being gay.”

“Okay,” Bob promises, and adds, “Please, give Eric a big hug from both of us when you see him. And say hi to Kent.”

“I will,” Jack says, and Bob can imagine him nodding solemnly on the other end of the line, then, “I should go now, I just wanted to tell you—”

“Good luck on Friday, son,” Bob says in return. “Give them hell.”


Jack doesn’t exactly avoid Parse as he walks in the direction of their locker room, but he’s silently relieved when he doesn’t run into him.

There’s tension just under his skin, but it’s not that crushing, overwhelming feeling of panic he’s gotten so painfully accustomed to over the years. He knows what he needs to do.

In the locker room, the guys are louder than ever, or maybe that’s just how it seems to Jack, who tries to keep his focus as he puts his gear on and tapes up his stick methodically. He doesn’t try to engage, but this doesn’t stop Holtzy from coming over to slap his hand on Jack’s shoulder and saying, “We’re gonna kick their sorry asses, Zimms, we’re fucking unstoppable. They’re gonna be crying like babies once we’re done with them.”

Next to him, Cory makes eye contact with Jack. He looks slightly terrified to be on the starting roster in a game against a serious Cup contender, but he’s mostly over his slump—his shots are going in more often than not, his timing is great, and Jack likes having him on his line. They work well together—Cory has the speed and the flexibility that reminds Jack of the way Bitty plays, fast and unpredictable, and Jack can do things with Cory on the ice that he can’t do with Schumer or Holtzy, or Christiansen, who are all buff and bigger than Jack, and favor force over agility for the most part.

“You okay?” Jack asks, just to make sure.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m good.” Cory nods earnestly, and he smiles at Jack. “Thanks. Is Eric here?” he asks quietly, his head inclined toward Jack, and they could be going over their strategy, for all their teammates know.

“Yeah, in the VIP section,” Jack admits.

“But not with the families?” Cory asks. Jack shakes his head.

There’s a party at Holtzy’s house after the game, and the invitation Jack received in the email stated, WAGs welcome. He knows Holtzy doesn’t mean anything by it, but it’s only managed to drive the point home that much more clearly.

“No,” Jack says. “Too difficult to explain. People would start asking questions.”

Cory nods. “Yeah, I get it,” he says, then, “Nervous?”

Jack shrugs and puts the tape back on the shelf, checks his stick. “No more than usual,” he says, and he almost, almost means it.

In truth, he can’t wait to get on the ice, to see the puck finally drop. Once he’s out there, once it’s happening, Jack knows there is nothing he can do to stop it—he can only be present and focused, and trying his hardest, the way he always does.

Holtzy squeezes Jack’s shoulder as he passes him by in the tunnel, where they’re all lined up, waiting to skate out onto the ice, and says, “Let’s give them hell, Zimmermann.”

Jack nods.

They go.

For a moment, the lights almost blind him, but when he can see again, Jack looks around to discover that the arena is packed, the Falconers colors flying high, and the crowd cheers as they emerge onto the ice and line up before the start of the game. He can see his name on some of the banners.

He doesn’t really know how to describe what he feels as he faces off against Parse on the ice, their faces only a couple inches apart, his feelings all jumbled up the way they always have been with Kent, and Jack can see the way Parse smirks, but then the puck drops, and Jack is there first, sending it in the direction of Smith, who comes up from behind and somehow avoids the giant D-man coming straight at him, then passes right back to Jack.

When Jack turns with the puck, Parse is already there.

It’s a tough, brutal game played at a breakneck pace, and it’s the best hockey Jack has played in the League to date. They work, like something has finally clicked into place, like they’ve finally found their footing as a team, and they’re seven minutes into the first period when Cory’s wrist shot sends the puck straight into the net, right between the legs of the slightly surprised goalie.

Jack skates up next to Cory and punches him lightly in the arm, smiling. “What did I tell you, Smithy?” he shouts over the crowd’s cheers. A moment later Holtzy and Aaronowitz bump into them, and Aaronowitz is screaming something into Cory’s ear, but when Jack turns around for a moment, he catches Kent’s eye, and Parse salutes him, then mouths, “It’s on.”

Once the game resumes, Jack gets checked into the boards as soon as Holtzy passes him the puck, and thirty seconds later Parse scores off Gluck’s pass. Jack retaliates in the first minute of the second period, putting the puck neatly in the Aces’ net after Cory uses the dangling trick Jack and Bitty had come up with together.

The crowd screams.

Jack usually avoids fighting on the ice, but since he scored that first goal, Parse has been getting all up in his space, and he just keeps pushing, and Jack finally snaps. He squares his shoulders and pushes, and Parse pushes back, and suddenly it’s exhilarating, it’s everything he has ever wanted to have on the ice, and it’s hard, it’s brutal and unforgiving, the way they keep crashing into each other like an ocean that held its tide back for far too long, and Jack is tired and bruised, and he breathes hard around his mouthguard as he slides through the ice to find an opening, and when it’s over and the Falconers win 5-4 in regulation, Kent is suddenly there, right next to Jack, and they finally crash into each other in the middle of the ice one last time and cling to each other, not letting go, desperately trying to catch their breath, their faces inches apart, and it’s an end and a beginning at the same time, the way Parse fists his hands into the back of Jack’s sweaty jersey, the way he loses his cool just for a second, the way Jack shakes against him as they try to stay on their feet.

“It’s good to have you back, Zimms,” Parse whispers with his mouth against Jack’s cheek after a while, and Jack can feel his hot breath on his skin. “About damn time.”


(It’s not until later that Jack finds out that there is a photo of the two of them, desperately clinging to each other in the middle of the ice like the rest of the world doesn’t even exist. The number of times it has been shared is staggering.)


The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
Huge congratulations to the team for the amazing win, and to @CorySmithFalconers for his first goal in the NHL! #FalcsvsAces


Jack takes his time in the showers, scrubs at his skin until it feels almost raw, the tension in his shoulders suddenly gone. He closes his eyes and tips his face up, and lets the water wash over him until he thinks of nothing, calm and focused, and there.

He scored twice, got two assists, the same as Parse, and any other day, it would rub him the wrong way, but he understands the enormity of what has just transpired, back there on the ice. It’s a closure of sorts, something he—they—desperately needed even if Jack hadn’t realized that before. It’s the way things should be, as if the world has finally righted itself, like a tipped-over glass that has regained its balance.

Back in the hallway in front of the locker room, he sees Parse talking to Holtzy, laughing and shooting the shit, his hair still wet from the shower. When Jack comes out, Kent looks up almost instantly and smiles.

“Good game,” he says in a nonchalant tone, looking straight at Jack. “But we’re kicking your asses in Vegas.”

“I’d like to see you try,” Jack says, then smiles back. “Good game, Kent.”

They just look at each other for a few seconds.

“Hey, princesses, once you’re done having your moment, get your asses in gear and move,” Benny says, coming out of the locker room with his bag slung over his shoulder. “Holtzy promised us a shitload of beer, but, as you can see, it’s not fucking here.”

“Oh captain, my captain,” Aaronowitz intones with his hand over his heart as he follows Bergson out. “You say the sweetest things, Holtzy. Parse, you in?”

Parse seems to consider this for a moment, then says, “I usually don’t say no to free booze, but we’re leaving in, like, two hours. Sorry, but no dice.”

“Zimmy-boy?” Bergson looks back at Jack.

Jack shakes his head. “Not today, Benny, sorry,” he begs off. “Next time, I promise.”

“Zimms, you fucker,” Bergson says, frowning at Jack with disapproval, and Jack can see the exact moment he finally gives up. “Okay, fine, but if you don’t come to Schumer’s birthday party, I’m gonna hunt down your sorry Canadian ass.”

Parse laughs. “Please, look at this ass. It’s anything but sorry.”

“Parse, you shut the fuck up,” Aaronowitz orders, pointing a finger at him, mock-serious. “You’re biased. You’ve been tight with Jay-Z here since the Q, your opinion is literally invalid in this locker room. Or, you know, in front of it, whatever.”

Parse flips him off.

They leave together, Parse to wait for the rest of his team to finish changing, and Jack to get Bitty and go home.

They get accosted by a reporter with a camera crew halfway down the hallway, and Jack has no idea how he even got there, but Parse seems to take it in stride, and when the guy asks him about what it’s like to finally play against Jack in the NHL, he says, “Look, you gotta understand something here. You either want to play with the best, or you want to play against them. I couldn’t get Zimms, here, to agree to come play for us, but I’m glad I can play against him, because, despite all the bullshit you guys like to write about him, he really is one of the best.”

“Jack?” the guy asks, pointing the camera at him.

“I’m just happy to play,” Jack says in return, trying not to narrow his eyes against the glare. “It feels right. Like it was always supposed to be this way, even if it took me a while to get here. So it’s good, to finally be in this position. Now I just want to focus on playing the best hockey I can possibly play.”

Once the reporter is gone, Parse bumps into Jack with his shoulder. “Go, find your boy,” he says, smiling, and it’s not unkind.

“Thanks, Kenny,” Jack says, quiet. “Oh, and dad says hi.”

“Tell him I’m gonna call him next week. I’ll be in Montreal for a thing, we’ll go grab a lunch together or something,” Parse says, and waves Jack off. He goes.


Bitty waits for him by the back entrance that leads to the underground parking lot, bouncing slightly on his heels, his hands in his pockets. He’s strangely quiet when Jack approaches him and smiles softly.

“Great game, Jack,” he says, smiling back, and even though the smile looks so genuine, it’s still such an echo of that first time Bitty visited him, and Jack cannot, for the life of him, figure out what’s wrong.

They walk down to the parking lot in silence and run into Schumer, who’s getting into his car to drive over to Holtzy’s. He must recognize Eric, because he waves at them, and there’s something inside of Jack that clenches painfully with anxiety.

Once they’re in the car, Bitty must notice the rigidity in his movements, because he puts a warm hand on Jack’s forearm in a reassuring gesture. Jack is grateful for the muted lights in the parking lot.

They’ve stopped at an intersection, waiting for the light to change, when Bitty says, his voice quiet but even, “You were in love with him.”

Jack swallows, doesn’t try to pretend he has no idea what Bitty is talking about. Bitty deserves better than that.

“Yeah. Yeah, I was,” he admits. “I’m not anymore.”

Bitty nods. “It’s just…the way you two looked on the ice today,” he says then, and oh. “But I believe you.”

The sincerity of it is like a punch to the stomach.

I love you, Jack wants to say, but he swallows the words down. He covers Bitty’s hand with his own, squeezes his fingers. Bitty turns to him with a smile.


Back at the apartment, they move to the kitchen once Bitty has showered and left his overnight bag in the bedroom. There is some space on the shelves in the closet, and even more space in the drawers, but Jack doesn’t know how to bring it up without being awkward and pushy. He knows what he wants and how serious this is for him, but maybe Bitty wants to go at a slower pace, maybe it’s too much, maybe Jack’s attention feels too overbearing to him, maybe he should be taking a step back.

Bitty pours himself a glass of juice and hops onto the counter, and, god, it’s almost too much to see him like this, looking like he feels completely at home, and this time—this time Jack can reach out and touch him.

“Are you hungry?” he asks, stepping in closer to the counter, running his thumbnail along the outer seam of Bitty’s jeans.

Bitty licks his lips, and Jack is starving, but this makes him forget about hunger for a second.

“Yeah,” he says, cocking his head to the side. “Want me to fix us something to eat?”

Jack shakes his head, comes closer. “No, come on, we can order take-out tonight. Thai? Mexican? Italian? There are a few pretty good places around here that deliver.”

Bitty considers this for a second. “Okay, Thai, then,” he says.

Once Jack makes the call and returns to the kitchen, Bitty is still sitting on the counter, and he bites his lip when he sees Jack come in. Jack swallows.

“Now,” Bitty says then, “are you just gonna stare or are you gonna kiss me?”

Jack crosses the kitchen in three huge strides and almost crashes into Bitty, who moans softly when Jack takes his lower lip between his teeth and sucks on it gently.

“God, Jack,” Bitty says, and it comes out quiet and breathy. Jack kisses him again, softer this time, and then his lips travel down Bitty’s jaw to kiss his neck, the underside of his chin, the sensitive spot behind his ear that makes him gasp. He stays there for a little while, listening to the way Bitty struggles for breath. Bitty’s fingers curl around Jack’s bicep, his other hand gripping the counter so tightly his knuckles have gone white.

He’s flushed all over, and Jack wants to see just how far down his blush goes, and so he reaches for the hem of his white t-shirt, but Bitty stops Jack with a hand on his chest, his fingers closing against the soft fabric, and he’s panting slightly with his forehead propped against Jack’s collarbone, trying to catch his breath.

“Jack?” he asks. “Are you doing this just because of Parse?”

And Jack has been over this strange, complicated relationship he has with Kent enough times to understand what Bitty really means by this. “No, I’m not doing this because of Parse,” he says. “It’s not— I don’t want to come home to Parse. I want to come home to you.”

And it’s too much, too soon, and he feels open and exposed, but he also needs Bitty to understand.

“Okay,” Bitty breathes out slowly against Jack’s skin. “Okay. But can we…can we stop, for now? It’s getting a bit…too much.”

Jack takes a small step back, but his fingers are still tangled with Bitty’s. “Of course,” he says. “Come on, let’s move this to the living room, the food should be here soon.”

Bitty hops off the counter without letting go of Jack’s hand.

Once they’re curled up around each other on the sofa, Jack checks his messages. Among many congratulations and a string of increasingly profane messages on the Samwell group chat, there’s one from his father. It reads:

From: Dad
great job on that second goal.
it was an amazing game, jack.
you deserved that win.
and say hi to eric from us.
(08:14 pm)

“My parents say hi,” he says into Eric’s hair where he’s tucked himself into the crook of Jack’s neck. “I told them, about us.”

Bitty raises his head. “And?” he asks, and it’s equal parts anticipation and hesitation.

“They were glad,” Jack admits. “Mom was really happy, and I think she’s known for a long time, but dad, too. They wanted me to give them your phone number, if you don’t mind.”

“No, of course I don’t mind,” Bitty says, then laughs quietly. “I should’ve known something was up when your dad followed me on Twitter.”

The food finally arrives a few minutes later, and Jack opens the door to find a slightly awed delivery boy who can’t be older than seventeen, maybe eighteen, dressed in a Falconers t-shirt, of all things.

“Can I— Would you—” he stammers as Jack counts out a huge tip. “Could you maybe sign something for me?”

Jack smiles the slightly bland, automatic smile he’s had drilled into him since he was a teenager himself. “Of course,” he says as the delivery guy shrugs off his jacket and takes off the t-shirt for Jack to sign, which leaves him standing in front of Jack’s apartment wearing only a grey henley. “Who do I make it out to?”

“Uh, Scott,” the boy says, trying not to fidget and failing. “Thank you so much, I’m a huge fan,” he adds once Jack gives him his t-shirt and his sharpie back.

“Thank you for your support,” Jack says on autopilot, standing in the doorway with a handful of take-out containers in his arms. It’s not the strangest fan encounter he’s ever had, not by a long shot. It doesn’t even make the top ten.

“It’s a good thing the rest of the guys aren’t here. You wouldn’t hear the end of it,” Bitty says, once Jack comes back in, laughing as he goes to fetch the good chopsticks from the drawer, like he’s already been living here for a while.

Jack remembers that time Holster wanted him to sign his mashed potatoes in the dining hall and smiles.

They eat the Thai and Bitty ropes him into watching reruns of The Good Wife, which he watches religiously, and which Jack actually likes but doesn’t actively keep up with.

Jack has his arm around Bitty, but the touch is light, and Bitty could put more distance between them if he wanted to—Jack, of all people, understands the desperate need to slow down all too well, he’s experienced it often enough in the past, and he’s not going to push.

He offers them drinks, but Bitty just shakes his head and sighs softly into Jack’s side. He looks calm, but Jack can feel his frantic heartbeat against his ribs.

“Hey, everything okay?” he asks, looking down at Bitty, who lifts his head and smiles at Jack with reassurance, then bites into his lower lip and flushes a little.

“Yeah, everything’s good,” he says and buries his face in the crook of Jack’s neck. A moment later, Jack can feel Bitty’s lips against his skin, tentative at first, then more sure, soft and wet, and he swallows painfully around the tightness in his throat, keeps his hands to himself and gives Bitty the space he’s requested, at least until the moment when Bitty climbs a bit clumsily into Jack’s lap, pressing against his chest with his body, asking, “Aren’t you going to touch me?” in a breathy whisper against Jack’s ear.

Jack does, then, his hands on Bitty’s hips, his mouth on Bitty’s neck, open and hot against his skin, and Bitty whimpers softly, curling his fingers around Jack’s shoulder until Jack can feel fingernails sinking into his muscle, even through a layer of clothing.

Jack cups Bitty’s face with the palm of his hand and pulls him in for a kiss, and, god, it’s been so long since he’s done anything like that with another person, it goes straight to his head, makes him feel almost dizzy with it. He’s getting hard in his jeans, and there is no way Bitty doesn’t feel it, pressed so close to Jack. There is no space left between their chests, and Bitty keeps kissing him, sloppy and wet, and it’s the best thing Jack has ever felt.

“Oh my god, oh my god,” Bitty whispers once they part for breath, with his forehead against Jack’s collarbone, and Jack rubs a soothing hand down his back.

“Wanna stop?” he asks, but this time, Bitty shakes his head.

“No, gosh, no,” he says, and when he looks up at Jack, his lips are so, so red. “Jesus, look at you,” he whispers after a moment, breathless, and then he moves in Jack’s lap, and it’s been a long time since Jack came in his pants, but he’s close now. His chest feels like it wants to explode, and he keeps just looking at Bitty in a daze, like he’s the most amazing thing Jack has ever seen.

They should move this to the bedroom, because Bitty deserves better than a quick fuck on the couch in the living room, but they can’t stop kissing, and Bitty keeps grinding into Jack, and it’s the hottest thing he has ever experienced in his life. He can see that Bitty doesn’t have much experience, but he’s so eager and so open, and Jack wants to keep kissing him forever.

“Hey,” Jack says against Bitty’s lips after another long moment in which they keep kissing until they come away breathless, “hey, maybe we should— There’s an actual bed in my bedroom. You know, with a mattress and everything.”

Bitty pulls off him reluctantly, stealing one last kiss as he goes, and when he finally stands up, he looks completely disheveled, his mouth red and his hair in disarray, and there’s a faint bruise on his neck where Jack let his lips linger a moment too long. Bitty licks his lips and pulls on the wide collar of his t-shirt, which hangs off his shoulder, revealing a glimpse of the collarbone, starkly defined against his skin and covered in freckles.

He’s so lovely, it makes Jack almost breathless, and he has no idea what he’s done to deserve this—this boy, looking at Jack like he’s everything he’s ever wanted. It doesn’t happen to him—people usually want Jack the hockey star, or Jack Bob Zimmermann’s son, not Jack.

He takes Bitty’s hand and leads him to the bedroom, their fingers intertwined. Jack’s heart is hammering against his ribs.

Once they’re inside, Bitty sits on the edge of the bed, looking hesitant, but when Jack joins him, he immediately leans in for another kiss. “Please,” he says, and when it almost comes out as a whine, he blushes all over, “please, can you just—”

Jack tugs at the hem of Bitty’s t-shirt, and Bitty lifts his hands over his head, allowing Jack to pull the shirt up and off, and then Jack can see that Bitty’s flush really goes all the way down. He bites down on his lower lip so hard he almost breaks skin.

“Fuck,” he says under his breath, and Bitty flushes even harder, but his hands keep pulling on the fabric of Jack’s henley, and he finally gives in, yanks the shirt over his head and tosses it to the side. Bitty’s hands go immediately to his chest, fingers splayed wide, and he whispers, “Christ. You have no idea how many times I imagined this, with you just on across the hallway. I felt so dirty, oh my god.”

And the very thought—that Bitty thought about Jack like this, that he got off to Jack like this—makes him dizzy. He kisses Bitty’s neck, then moves lower, closes his lips over Bitty’s collarbone, like he wants to taste all the freckles on his skin, and he keeps kissing him, his hands moving up and down Bitty’s sides in a soothing gesture, Bitty’s hands buried in Jack’s hair.

Then Jack goes for the button of Bitty’s jeans, and he can hear his breath hitch, pauses for a moment. Bitty is lying in the middle of Jack’s bed, his skin flushed and his lips parted, and Jack wants to touch him everywhere, but he also needs to be sure.

“Have you ever—” he asks, and Bitty throws an arm across his eyes, then shakes his head, pressing his lips together, like he’s embarrassed about this.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” Jack says in a soft voice, then kisses his collarbone, touches the flat plane of his stomach with the tips of his fingers. “I got you.”

Bitty takes another shaky breath. Jack wants him so much it hurts.

“What do you want?” he asks, leaning over Bitty on his elbow, kissing the underside of his jaw, his fingers working slowly on the buttons of Bitty’s jeans. Once they’re undone, Jack touches him through the fabric of his underwear, a light pressure that still makes him gasp and push into Jack’s hand. Bitty lifts his head from the mattress to press a hot, wet, open-mouthed kiss against Jack’s lips.

Anything, okay, just…anything, god,” he says, his voice wrecked, his breath ragged.

“I want to blow you,” Jack whispers into his ear. He has no way to describe the sound that escapes Bitty’s mouth.

Jack slowly eases off Bitty’s jeans and underwear, runs a hand up and down his thigh and looks down at him, so incredibly, incredibly lovely, then kisses his stomach, leaving a trail of wet, sloppy kisses down to the place where Bitty’s hip meets his thigh.

His hand touches the underside of Bitty’s knee, and Jack gently bends his leg until he can kiss the inside of Bitty’s thigh, from his knee to his groin, feeling the way he trembles under Jack’s mouth.

When he finally closes his lips around Bitty, he can feel the way his entire body seizes up and then goes absolutely still as he tries not to push up into Jack’s mouth. Jack rubs soothing circles into the jut of Bitty’s hip with his thumb as he swallows him down, slowly, breathing evenly through his nose. It’s been a long, long time since he’s done this, but it feels amazing, and when he relaxes his throat and swallows with intent, Bitty pushes his fingers into Jack’s hair, and Jack can feel his desperate grip as Bitty tries to hold on.

It’s the most exhilarating feeling, the way Bitty trembles under Jack, but he’s so, so quiet, and when Jack looks up, he sees that Bitty has one of his hands clasped firmly over his mouth.

“Hey, hey, no,” Jack says, pulling off, his voice rough, his lips slick with spit, and then he gently removes the hand from Bitty’s mouth. “I wanna hear you, okay?”

It’s almost over for him right then and there, because Bitty moans when Jack takes him back into his mouth, and he can hear his breath stutter, his thighs shaking as Jack grips them firmly with his hands and pulls Bitty closer into him, and the sounds he keeps making, quiet and breathy, make Jack hot all over.

When Bitty tries to tug at Jack’s hair, saying, “Jack, Jack, I’m—” he considers pulling off, because he hasn’t done that in an even longer time, but then he thinks fuck it, just as Bitty comes, arching slightly off the bed, his hands gripping the sheets, and Jack swallows, ignoring the faint bitter taste on his tongue, because the sounds Bitty keeps making nearly tip him over the edge.

His own orgasm is almost an afterthought—Jack pulls off his pants and underwear in one move, and he wants to finish himself off with his hand, because it won’t take long now, but then Bitty wraps his fingers around him, kissing Jack’s mouth and tasting himself on Jack’s tongue, and Jack comes all over himself embarrassingly fast, biting into Bitty’s collarbone to keep himself from whimpering, his eyes screwed tightly shut.

They lie there for a moment, breathing heavily, and then Bitty lets out a breathy laugh.

“Oh my god,” he says. “You’re a menace. I don’t think I can even walk right now.”

Jack rolls into Bitty’s side, ignores the mess on his stomach and chest and smiles into Bitty’s skin. “Not bad for a first time, eh?”

“You cannot be chirping me right now, Jack Zimmermann,” Bitty says, still laughing, still slightly out of breath. “This is all your fault.”

Jack pulls himself up to kiss him again. “I’ll gladly take the blame.”

“Want something to drink?” he asks a moment later, getting off the bed to clean up and wash out the last of the bitter aftertaste from his mouth, and Bitty nods weakly.

“A glass of water would be great,” he says. “But I don’t think I can move yet.”

I love you, Jack thinks again, looking over his shoulder in the doorway. When he comes back with a glass of water for Bitty and climbs into the bed next to him, still too hot under the covers, he almost says it, trying it out on the tip of his tongue, but then thinks better of it.

Still, there is another set of keys waiting for Bitty on the kitchen counter. It’s almost the same thing.

This time when they go to sleep, Bitty wraps himself around Jack, who closes his eyes and breathes. And this—this feels like home.

Chapter Text

the spectral assassin (lachance) wrote in ontd_puck

Do you sometimes cry because Kent Parson and Jack Zimmermann? Because I do. Or: reunions on ice and the homoerotic tension

What the fuck even was that. Holy shit.

Also, omg, I’m so glad bb Cory Smith scored. That kid just warms my heart, I’m so happy he gets to show himself from such a good side in such an important game.

But seriously. What the fuck was that even. If there was ever an on-ice equivalent of a desperate fuck with your ex that you sort of hate but still love at the same time, that was it.

If you still haven’t seen it, there is photographic evidence and video footage. And if this photo doesn’t win any awards, I’ll just, I don’t even know, I’ll kick my own ass, I swear. It’s up there with, like, the Wayne Gretzky goodbye at Madison Square Gardens photo.

tags: and none for you kent parson, cory smith is made of sunshine and puppies, jack zimmermann, just touch the butt and think of canada, not the least bit homoerotic, skating and crying, stop the presses!!!!!, the elusive homoerotic tension, well well well what have we here


Reply from offblues
it’s the most historic reunification since germany.

Reply from lachance
I see you there, quoting Queer as Folk, and I appreciate it. It’s not only an A+ reference in general, it’s also extremely appropriate, considering. You know. Everything.

Reply from carthage
What an amazing game in general. Seriously, this was one of the best games I’ve seen in a long while, and they both did spectacularly well. I’m not gonna lie, I straight up started to tear up when they hugged after the game. I’ve been following both of them since the juniors, so it was crushing for me to see Zimmermann leave at the time, and I think this reunion has just been a long time coming. Seriously, I can’t remember the last time something made me this emotional, and this includes last season’s Art Ross-clinching game. I know there was supposedly a lot of bad blood between them, but I’m glad to see that they’ve patched up, if that was indeed the truth.

Reply from offblues
i know, christ, that was so emotional for me, i totally didn’t expect it to affect me the way it did. there was something really final about this, too, you know? like, they finally got to meet on the ice and settle things, only six years too late. and with the way they used to be back in the q, there must have been a lot of unfinished business between them, and they finally got to sort this out. i really liked what parse said in that interview, too, that if you can’t play with the best, you want to play against them? and did you see zimms’ face? he looked so surprised, like he didn’t expect that from parse, and considering how unwilling parse used to be when it came to talking about zimms in the past, i’m kinda not entirely shocked? seems like they got over something, all right. and if the way they played today was any indication of what’s to come now that they got over whatever residual shit was left, they’re going to be destroying the league left and right again, and i am totally here for this. now i just need for parse to win the art ross this year again and for zimms to win the calder, and then maybe for one of them to win the hart or the mark messier, and i’m gonna be all set for the season.

Reply from ithaca
Cory Smith’s number one stan is here! I have arrived and I’m so happy for this boy! I met him once, soon after he was drafted, and he’s just the sweetest guy, I’m so glad he’s doing okay for himself!

But also, okay, what the hell, Zimms. What the hell, Parse. Who do you think you are. That was…intense. I’m sensing reunion fic being written as we speak.

Reply from carthage
Ahem. I might or might not be writing it right now. /shifty eyes

Reply from ithaca
!!!!!!!! This is all I really wanted from life, okay. I can lay my body to rest now. Please, let us know when it’s posted.

Reply from carthage
Considering it’s approaching 3k, and they’re still in the Q, this might take a while. What is conciseness, etc.

Expand 28 comments


alyssa @aleaiacta
I WAS THERE TO WITNESS THIS WITH MY OWN TWO EYES!!! @tinydancer was crying @hockeybutts @hellsqueen @howlinginside

fight me @hellsqueen
@aleaiacta @tinydancer was it as epic as it looked on tv

small & deadly @tinydancer
@hellsqueen @aleaiacta MORE. i’m still shaking

alyssa @aleaiacta
@hellsqueen @tinydancer also! ALSO!!! WE MET PARSE!!!

fight me @hellsqueen
@aleaiacta @tinydancer W HAT

jordan @hockeybutts
@aleaiacta @hellsqueen @tinydancer just fuckk me up. JUST FUCK ME UP IM SO JEALOUS

alyssa @aleaiacta
@hockeybutts @hellsqueen @tinydancer we literally ran into him as he was leaving the arena

alyssa @aleaiacta
@hockeybutts @hellsqueen @tinydancer he is literally the chillest dude on earth. and he told us we should follow his cat on instagram lmao

fight me @hellsqueen
@aleaiacta @hockeybutts @tinydancer THIS FUCKING DWEEB, I SWEAR TO GOD. PARSE YOU COLLOSAL NERD

fight me @hellsqueen
@aleaiacta @hockeybutts @tinydancer honestly, how are ppl so wrong about him? he’s not this smooth dude or w/e, he’s a FUCKING NERD

jordan @hockeybutts
@aleaiacta @hellsqueen @tinydancer no jzimms tho?

alyssa @aleaiacta
@hockeybutts @hellsqueen @tinydancer nope, he was nowhere to be seen

small & deadly @tinydancer
@hockeybutts @aleaiacta @hellsqueen and he doesn’t appear in any of the approx. 5 gazillion pics from the afterparty, either

jordan @hockeybutts
@tinydancer @aleaiacta @hellsqueen THE PLOT THICKENS #andnotonlytheplot #ifyouknowwhatimean



anonymous asked:
hey, so i know you mentioned that before, but could you tell us about how you sort of know jack zimmermann? i mean, if that’s not private or sth

okay, i’ve been going back and forth about this one, bc it’s kinda personal, but sure, why not. buckle up, kids, i’m gonna tell you a story.

so the thing is, i go to samwell—which is something i’d talked about before, so it’s not like this is some brand new information—and what you gotta understand here is that, like, a lot of people at samwell at least know of jack zimmermann. i mean, he’s famous (and he was famous even before he signed with the falconers), and he was on the hockey team, so even though there were some people who were totally uninterested in hockey and didn’t even know who he was, there were also a lot of people who did. also, incidentally, i have a bio class with one of his former teammates (and he’s really fucking cute, btw, great ass, 10/10 would bang).

so i would sometimes see him at some ass o’clock in the morning (don’t even ask me what i was doing up at said ass o’clock in the morning, it still haunts my dreams), running through the quad or walking to faber (that’s the ice rink they train at) with some other player waaay before their practice started, or at the cafeteria with the rest of his team (and boy, are those bros loud). and i know some people have those really weird ideas in their heads when it comes to him, but he was like a really quiet dude, kinda intense, mostly kept to himself, didn’t really have that many friends outside the hockey team. and he seemed really down to earth even though his dad is a freaking millionaire and he could probably literally sleep on money, but he always seemed so not bothered by any of this, you’d never peg him for the “one of the richest people in this school” type, and he wasn’t one of those whose fame went to their heads or sth. so it’s not like we were best buddies or anything, but i saw a lot of him all over the campus and at some parties, bc let me tell you, the hockey team throws some of the wildest parties around, and my friend dated one of their d-men for some time (he wasn’t on the starting roster or anything, but he was on the team).

and then i started working part-time at annie’s (it’s like this cute little café on campus), and he was there, like, all the time his senior year (seriously, when did he even find the time to practice? he always left really, really good tips though, so whatever), so either he really liked the pumpkin spice lattes or he really liked the cute boy he was always coming with.

#anonymous #jack zimmermann #in which abby goes to samwell


Eric wakes up to Jack pressing his head into the crook of Eric’s neck and Jack’s arm pinning him to the bed. He can smell Jack all over himself, sharp and fresh, and it used to be one of those things—those little things which were so, so hard to ignore back when he thought that he could never have this, that he could never have Jack sleeping next to him peacefully, naked and half-hard against Eric’s thigh. Jack always smelled amazing, and Eric always became painfully aware of this especially in those moments when he was well on his way to tipsy, his inhibitions lowered and his self-preservation instinct muted, his fingers itching to reach out and touch. They would be sitting on the Haus porch or on the roof, shotgunning beer with Shitty, and Jack would sit close to Eric, brilliant and intoxicating, and completely unattainable.

Now Eric rolls to the side and clings to Jack, who shifts in his sleep but doesn’t wake up. Eric’s heartbeat speeds up when he remembers last night, and he goes hot all over in an instant, pressing his lips together and closing his eyes to the memory of it, the way Jack looked with his head between Eric’s thighs, the way he seemed to be so into it, the way he came almost instantly when Eric finally got to touch him, like he was too worked up to last and too far gone to care.

He’s fantasized about that a few times—what it would be like to have sex with Jack—when he was feeling particularly miserable and let himself go that far—usually, his self-preservation instinct kicked in before he could cross that line and make himself even more unhappy—but he never expected it to be like that. There’s so much tenderness in Jack, and it still makes Eric dizzy just to think about it. To have all of Jack’s attention turned to him is equal parts exhilarating and overwhelming in the best possible way.

When Eric tries to roll over onto his back, Jack makes a faint sound of protest deep in his throat and tightens his arm around Eric’s waist, burying closer into his side. Eric kisses the line of Jack’s jaw, feels the stubble drag against his skin, and oh my god, he thinks, then lets his hand drop to Jack’s stomach, feel the muscle and the sparse hair, and then his fingers wander lower, past his navel and to the sharp cut of his hipbone. Jack makes a pleased, throaty sound and opens his eyes just a little bit.

“Hey,” he says, his voice still hoarse from sleep.

“Hey yourself,” Eric says and leans down to kiss him lightly on the lips. “This okay?”

Jack stretches under him and blinks a few times, smiles softly. “Mm, more than okay,” he says.

“Jesus, Jack, I—” Eric starts to say, then stops abruptly when he realizes his next words were going to be I love you so much.

It’s not that he isn’t sure. It’s just that this is still so new, and Eric has been living with this knowledge for such a long time, back when he thought all of this would never amount to anything other than a hopeless crush on a straight boy he could never have and who would never want him back, and it’s still almost unthinkable to him that he could actually say it out loud.

When Eric hovers over Jack for a moment without a word, Jack puts his hand on the nape of his neck to pull him in for a kiss, and Eric gets bold, straddles Jack’s hips and grinds down. Jack groans, so Eric does it again, and again, and again, looking at the way Jack stretches to bare the column of his neck and sinks his teeth into his lower lip. He finds a comfortable rhythm after a while, and he never stops kissing Jack, even for a moment, until they’re just breathing into each other, their mouths slack and their eyes half-closed, and it’s slow and slick, and hot, and it feels so good he wants to die. Jack has his hands on Eric’s hips now, and then he slides them lower to grip his ass, press Eric even harder into him as Jack catches Eric’s lower lip between his teeth and sucks on it gently. Eric whimpers.

He really, really wants to go down on Jack, even though he has less than no experience and all he has going for him is the memory of Jack from last night, some porn and sheer enthusiasm, but he’s so close now, and he can hear the way Jack’s breath hitches every time he drags himself upwards, so he just presses his lips against Jack’s neck, wet and open, and grinds down harder until Jack comes all over his chest. Eric follows close behind, and it’s different than last night, less intense and less overwhelmingly all-encompassing, but his head still feels a bit like he’s floating, and his fingers curl around Jack’s shoulders, gripping tightly until his knuckles go white.

“I’m a hot mess,” he declares, laughing, as he rolls off on his back, and Jack moves, too, in one fluid motion, smooth and practiced, until he leans over Eric and kisses his collarbone.

“You’re a hot something, okay,” he says in a low voice, and Eric flushes all over, which is ridiculous, because he’s covered in his own come, and he’s just given Jack a pretty solid orgasm, but it still catches him off-guard.

“Ugh, I need a shower,” he says, wrinkling his nose, but he doesn’t move, still lying on his back, still a little blissed-out, and if it weren’t for the mess on his stomach, he would just burrow under the covers and go back to sleep, tangled up in Jack, surrounded by his smell.

“Go shower, I’ll make coffee,” Jack says as he reaches for tissues and wipes off his chest.

“Okay.” Eric nods. “Then I’m making pancakes.”

When Eric comes out of the bathroom, toweling off his hair, Jack is in the kitchen with his back turned towards the door, and Eric walks over to him to put his arms around his waist and kiss his neck, but he can’t quite reach it from his spot.

“Unfair,” he says, settling for pressing a kiss between Jack’s shoulder blades, and Jack laughs. He’s still half naked, so Eric can admire his back muscles in peace, which he appreciates. Jack has a really, really nice back.

“See anything you like?” Jack teases, turning around, and then Eric can hear the sharp intake of breath as Jack looks at him, and oh, okay, so maybe Jack likes it when Eric is wearing Jack’s clothes. The plaid shirt is too big on him, and he hasn’t even bothered to do the buttons all the way up, but it smells like Jack, and he’s wearing the shortest of short shorts, which he brought on a whim, thinking he probably wouldn’t even have the opportunity to put them on anyway.

Eric sort of wants to steal the shirt—or maybe he could just ask Jack, because it’s getting cold at Samwell, and it would be nice, he thinks, to have something to snuggle into when he’s all alone and missing Jack over the miles stretching between them.

Then he notices the keys. They’re sitting on the kitchen table, with a nice, elegant key chain attached, and Eric knows for a fact they’re not Jack’s. Jack notices him looking, though, and he breaks eye contact almost immediately, glancing to the side.

“Jack?” Eric asks, because it’s so strange, for him to be acting like this all of a sudden.

He licks his lips nervously before saying, “I just— You don’t have to take them if you don’t want to. But, you know, I just wanted you to have them. And I made some space in the closet, so you can leave some of your clothes here. I mean, only if you want to, obviously, it’s not—” It all comes out in a rush, like Jack is tripping over his words, and he looks so, so anxious.

Eric takes a step forward and catches both of Jack’s hands into his, tangles their fingers together. “Of course I want to,” he says quietly, standing on his tiptoes to kiss Jack on the cheek. “Oh my god, Jack, I don’t even know what to say, this is—”

“I just want you here, in this life,” Jack whispers into his hair, interrupting him mid-sentence, and Eric can feel the frantic way Jack’s heart is hammering against his ribs. “I’m sorry I can’t give you more.”

Eric shifts a little so he can look Jack in the eyes. “This is enough,” he says.

Jack smiles down at him, and it’s full of affection and relief.

“But if I’m leaving some of my clothes,” Eric continues, “then I’m stealing one of your hoodies.”

Jack laughs and presses a brief kiss to Eric’s forehead. “Take your pick,” he says.

While Eric starts to prepare the pancake batter and goes through the fridge in search of fresh blueberries he knows must be stashed somewhere, because Jack loves blueberries in his pancakes, Jack finally goes off to shower, and by the time he comes back, the first batch is already cooking. Jack sits at the table in a patch of late autumn sunlight and checks his messages.

“Cory asked if we want to do lunch later, but he also sounds kind of like he’s either still drunk or like he wants to die. I can’t really tell. But mostly he wants food, I think,” he says.

Eric turns around on his heel to look at him. “Jack, please, invite this silly boy over for lunch, and I will make him the quiche of his life,” he says.

Jack smiles, looking down at his phone. Jack is smiling a lot more these days, and it’s amazing to see. It used to be that he almost never laughed.

“Really?” he asks.

“Do you think I’m in the habit of joking about quiche, Jack Zimmermann?” Eric says, faux-serious.

Jack looks up and he makes the least convincing innocent face. “I would never,” he says.


Cory finally gets to Jack’s around one, after he tosses a wad of bills in the direction of the cab driver, not even waiting for the change and shielding his eyes against the sun. His sunglasses are fucking useless, and he paid a lot for them, it’s not some cheap Hot Topic shit, so really, what the hell.

Jack buzzes him in, and Cory feels only faintly sick as he ambles towards an elevator to take him to the third floor. He’s mostly okay now, if he doesn’t move his head around too much and people speak to him in very, very quiet voices, and he’s not sitting in direct sunlight, and there are no strong smells around, especially of food. So yeah, he’s going with mostly okay.

Jack opens the door when Cory leans on the doorbell a little pathetically, and he can see Bitty further inside, wearing a plaid shirt that looks like it’s way too big on him and some really, really short shorts.

“I wanted to bring wine,” Cory starts in lieu of hello, “but then I thought about alcohol and immediately wanted to puke, so, you know, maybe not.”

“Good party?” Jack asks and he smirks as he moves to the side to let Cory in, the asshole.

Cory groans.

“Jesus, Jack, it was fucking wild,” he says. “But also I kinda want to die. I think some of the guys may still be passed out somewhere on Holtzy’s lawn.”

“In this weather?” Jack asks, and Cory can do nothing more than shrug as he walks further into the apartment. The truth is, he knows for a fact that Holtzy peeled all of them off the ground and put them up in his living room for the night. “What about Simmons and Parker?”

“Fucked off with their girlfriends, I guess,” he says and shrugs noncommittally. “I don’t think they wanted to listen to each other going at it like the last time. Mandy gets really loud sometimes, Jesus Christ. Always makes for some pretty awkward morning conversation.”

Bitty just shakes his head. “Oh my goodness, y’all are so weak,” he says, laughing. “None of you boys would ever survive in a frat house. You haven’t lived until you’ve walked in on Ransom and Holster’s hookup in the bathroom at five in the morning by accident.”

Cory does a little double-take, because really. Hookup. As in one girl. Well, probably a girl, he assumes, because who the fuck knows, it’s a liberal college, okay, and it’s one in the afternoon, and they’re talking casually about implied threesomes while he’s hungover as fuck. So whatever, he’s allowed to be a little surprised.

“And they never lived with Shitty,” Jack says, and Bitty cracks up. Cory is mostly confused. “Shotgunning beer at ten in the morning. Regular streaking incidents in the summer. Stashes of weed found in the weirdest places. Good times.”

“Yeah,” Bitty says, and lightly bumps into Jack with his shoulder. “I miss him, too.”

And, well, Cory may be hungover as fuck, but they look so at ease with each other here, inside Jack’s apartment, wearing each other’s clothes, that you’d have to be totally blind not to see it. Jack is smiling, all soft and so fucking fond, and Bitty is freaking beaming, and, holy fuck, so this is what it looks like—the real thing.

They sit Cory down in the kitchen and he stays put, nursing a cup of coffee that smells and tastes heavenly, mostly observing them as he slowly approaches a state of being that feels vaguely human. He even takes off his useless sunglasses, mostly because wearing them inside makes him look like the worst kind of douchebag.

“Hey, by the way, congrats on the goal,” Bitty says, turning around from where he’s chopping leeks at the counter to look at Cory while Jack stands next to him doing something that involves eggs. They look like they’ve done this before, the whole cooking together thing. It looks easy, effortless. Really fucking nice. So perhaps it’s time Cory found himself a girlfriend, because maybe it’s just the residual alcohol poisoning speaking, but he really wants to have what these two have.

“Thanks,” Cory says, smiling weakly. “There’s about three thousand messages from my family on my phone, and I still haven’t gone through all of them. Started right after the game, because my mom would have my ass if I didn’t reply to her, but then we got to Holtzy’s, and, well. Then there were shots.”

Bitty laughs. “After I scored my first goal at Samwell against Yale, they had me doing kegstands, and, boy, that was a hot mess,” he says. “I still have no idea how I got back to my dorm that night. Everything before the first cup of coffee is a blur.”

“You didn’t,” Jack says, and there’s something strange in his voice, like he’s embarrassed or ashamed of something. “Shitty put you up in his room and climbed into my bed at four in the morning.”

Bitty looks at him, and whatever that’s about, Cory can’t even begin to understand it.

“Oh,” Bitty says.

“Either way, I’m never drinking again,” Cory groans into the palms of his hands.

“That’s what we all say,” Bitty says reassuringly as he moves to refill Cory’s cup, god bless his Southern fucking little soul. “Until the next time.”

“There will not be a next time,” Cory says with emphasis, still hiding his face in his hands.

“Not even after y’all win the Cup?” Bitty asks, and when Cory looks up, he can see that Jack is smiling softly.

“Well, maybe then. But only then,” Cory concedes.

“Well, then, Jack,” Bitty says as he hip-checks Jack, “you know what you gotta do.”

Jack turns his head to the side to face Bitty.

“Technically, he’s still underage, and it would be irresponsible for me to encourage such behavior,” he says. “But, uh, you know, the Cup would be nice.”

“Yeah, I bet,” Cory says without thinking. “Your dad has, like, what, three?”

It’s only then that he realizes what he’s just said, and really, what a way to put his fucking foot in his mouth. He knows Jack doesn’t like to talk about his dad, avoids conversation in the locker room whenever it turns to Bad Bob, and Cory gets it, he really, really does (even though he also really, really doesn’t, because he has no idea what it’s like to be the only son of a living legend), it’s just that he’s so fucking dumb when he’s hungover.

So he’s waiting for the inevitable moment where Jack freezes, just for a second, tensing all the way up to his shoulders.

“Four,” Jack says instead, without missing a beat.

Cory whistles through his teeth as he shakes his head, almost incredulous, because, frankly, four is a totally ridiculous number of Cup wins to have, and he regrets that decision immediately.

“Why don’t you, boys, go to the living room while I finish up here?” Bitty says a moment later, filling the round tin with pastry so quickly and efficiently Cory almost goes dizzy just from watching.

He looks away when Jack leans down to press a kiss to Bitty’s neck.

“Okay,” Cory hears him say in a quiet voice.

“I probably shouldn’t be saying this,” Cory starts once they’re in the living room and his headache seems to be getting a little less skull-splitting, heading into the mildly-nauseating territory, and Cory can definitely work with that, “but you guys are so fucking cute together.”

Jack licks his lips and looks down at his hands, smiling. “I’m—” he says, pauses.

“Happy?” Cory ventures, hoping he’s right. Well, he can see that Jack is happy, but it would be nice to have a verbal confirmation.

“Yeah,” Jack says. “Happy.”

“Yeah, you look it,” Cory says. “And don’t take this the wrong way, okay, but when you first came here, you looked like such a miserable fucker.”

“Well, I was,” Jack says, and Cory knows it’s meant to be joking, but also that it isn’t.

Cory bumps his knee into Jack’s then, like a silent reassurance, and Jack bumps back, and it’s all good, except for the fact that Cory still sort of feels like he wants to puke. Like, really low-key, but still.

When he turns his head to the side to look at the sad potted plants on Jack’s balcony, it takes him a moment to register what he’s seeing, and then he blinks slowly, once, twice.

“Okay, please, tell me, because there is a slight possibility that this hangover is worse than I thought and I might be tripping,” he says eventually, “but do you see that cat on your balcony? Jack, you don’t have a cat.”

Jack looks to the side, following Cory’s line of sight, and then honest to god bursts out laughing. He’s still chuckling as he opens the balcony door and scoops the kitten up in his arms, then closes the window behind him.

“It’s my neighbor’s cat, Smithy,” he says, depositing the warm ball of fluff into Cory’s lap. “I told you about her, Jesus.”

Cory groans. “Thank god you don’t have a Twitter,” he says, but the therapy by cat seems to be working. The little thing is purring in Cory’s lap like she’s going for the world record, and, honestly, it’s kind of amazing. “The guys would chirp me forever if you tweeted that.”

“Hey, I can still get Bitty to tweet it for me,” Jack says, and he looks so sly, so satisfied with himself, it’s fucking unfair. “I’m almost positive you’re not the only guy on the team who follows him.”

“Rude, Zimmermann,” Cory says as he snuggles the kitten closer to his chest. “Rude.”

“Jack, don’t be rude,” Bitty chides at the same moment, coming into the living room with the quiche in his oven mitt-clad hands. It smells so sublime Cory forgets he’s supposed to be nauseous and generally hungover. The kitten meows quietly as he puts her gently on the leather couch next to the cushions.

“I’m chirping, Bittle, there’s a difference,” Jack says in return as he stands up to fetch plates and cutlery. Bitty laughs.

They eat at the table—Jack and Bitty are drinking some fancy white wine his parents left him the last time they visited while Cory opts for water, because he can’t think about alcohol right now without feeling like his insides desperately want to become his outsides.

The food looks and smells mind-blowingly good, though, so Cory takes a bite, and it’s better than the best orgasm he’s ever had—the buttery taste of leeks and the creamy feta cheese, and the sharp lemony tang melting on his tongue, and Cory thinks he could propose, if only he were into dick and didn’t like Jack quite so much.

“Jesus,” he says in a weak voice instead, his mouth full, and he can feel his mother looking at him with disapproval all the way from Pittsburgh.

“So how do you like it?” Bitty asks, and Cory barely swallows before announcing, “Dude, this is better than sex.”

“Depends on the kind of sex you’re havin’,” Bitty says then, blushing slightly as he nudges Jack with his elbow, and Cory watches Jack go pink all over as he stares intently into his plate. Cory almost chokes.

“Yeah, but you’re used to your cooking,” Cory argues once he gets his voice back, still sort of shell-shocked over the information that, apparently, Jack is pretty great in the sack. Which he really didn’t need to know, but still. “So, you’re, like, kinda biased.”

Instead of answering, Bitty just smiles his angelic fucking smile that seems to fool everyone, but Cory will not be fooled, not anymore. It’s always the quiet ones, and that goes for fucking both of them, Christ.

They’re lounging on the couch, still full after their lunch, when Bitty looks up from his phone to turn toward Jack and say, “Holster says in the group chat that some girl on Tumblr thinks Rans has a nice ass. And she’s in his bio class. Rans is apparently quietly delighted and has been walking around the Haus in a jockstrap and nothing else all morning. Holster says it’s making him miss Shitty.”

Jack’s eyebrows go up. “How the hell does he even know that?”

“Apparently he’s tracking your tag,” Bitty says, scrolling through his phone, shaking his head from time to time, plainly amused.

“And there are people talking about Rans’ ass in my tag?” Jack still sounds a little skeptical.

Bitty just shrugs, laughing. “I don’t even know what to tell you.”

And it hits him again, this easy domesticity born of actual years of living together under one roof, the quiet intimacy of it, and it makes Cory almost homesick for something he can’t even name.

When they say goodbye, he hugs Bitty.

“You should come by with Jack sometime when he comes down to Samwell,” Bitty says. “See what the whole college experience is about. We’d show you around, kick your ass at beer pong, it would be fun.”

Cory smiles. “Yeah, sure,” he says. “That would be great.”

He texts Jack once he’s in the cab.

To: jack z.
thx again for the lunch!
im so fuckign stoked for u
(04:49 pm)


It’s easier this time, when they say goodbye, but it’s also so much harder.

But Bitty leaves some little parts of himself around the apartment, and he takes some parts of Jack in return, so it’s a fair trade, and when Jack opens his closet, he can see a neat pile of clothes that are far too small to fit him, and he can still smell Bitty on his sheets.

They say goodbye—the proper goodbye—behind closed doors, with Bitty pressed against a wall and Jack crowding his space, lips slick with spit and bitten red, and he might have left a mark on Bitty’s neck, might have rucked up Bitty’s shirt just to touch him one last time, leaving wrinkles in the fabric.

“I’m gonna miss you,” Bitty says.

“I’m gonna miss you, too,” Jack says, with his hand cupping Bitty’s face. “I’ll try to come down for Lardo’s exhibition.”

Bitty nods against his lips when Jack leans in. “Okay,” he says, breathless. “Okay.”

Jack takes him back to the station after that, and they hug as Bitty’s train screeches to a slow halt, and then Jack comes back to his own apartment and stands with his back pressed to the front door for a moment, his eyes closed.

When he reaches for his phone, there is a photo of Bitty, shirtless and laughing, his freckles still visible against his pale skin, and Jack’s stomach twists. He breathes, sends a message.

To: Bitty
I miss you already.
(05:07 pm)

His phone buzzes just a few seconds later.

From: Bitty

(05:07 pm)


It’s Been a Long Time Coming

Arthur Wade

Six years, to be precise. Once upon a time, they were tearing up the juniors, now they are tearing into each other on the ice.

This week’s Falconers vs. Aces game saw one of the most anticipated on-ice reunions of the last few years. Following their phenomenal season in the Quebec Major Junior League, everyone expected Jack Zimmermann (25) and Kent Parson (24) to go first and second, respectively, in the 2009 draft. They were expected to change the face of hockey forever, to completely redefine the game. Their on-ice chemistry was legendary, and their friendship off the ice was presented as the quintessential relationship in the hockey world. They were supposed to take the hockey world by storm. But this dream was realized for only one of them. In the 2009 draft, Kent Parson went first overall and was drafted by the Las Vegas Aces, who were at the time slowly climbing up the ladder in the League. The addition of Parson has changed the team forever, and he led them to their first ever Cup victory just a few years later. It has been hailed by many as the success story of the decade.

But something was missing from Parson’s on-ice performance, despite the multiple awards he has amassed over the years (in addition to winning the Calder in the ‘09/10 season, he is a three-time Art Ross winner, a two-time Hart winner, and a one-time Conn Smythe winner, among others, and one of the most decorated hockey players in the last decade overall). He is a brilliant player, there can be no doubt about it, and his chemistry with his linemates is undeniable, but not all chemistry is created equal. Because what we saw this Friday at the Thomas Lowell Arena in Providence can be described with only one word: electrifying. And if this is just the first sign of the things to come, then we are in for a truly fascinating season. We, here over at Cutting Edge, have not been this excited about hockey for a long time.

Whether they are playing with or against each other, Parson and Zimmermann seem to bring out the best in each other on the ice, and last Friday’s game was a shining example of that. It was, without a doubt, the most interesting game of the season so far, and Parson and Zimmermann took this opportunity to truly shine and inspire their teams to push themselves to the limit and beyond. And it seems to have worked, because, judging by the level of the play, we could have just as well been watching the Stanley Cup playoffs final.

The game, in which the Providence Falconers clinched a 3-4 win in regulation time, after two goals from Zimmermann himself, and one from Cory Smith (18) and David Holtz (29) respectively, ultimately ended in one of the most touching moments we have seen on the ice in recent history. This photo of Parson and Zimmermann clinging to each other after the finished game, taken by the sports photographer Martin Kingsley, almost instantly became hailed as one of the most iconic pictures in sports photography. And it is, indeed, an incredibly rare moment of stillness among chaos captured on film, a historic reunion six years in the making.

According to some, the staff here at Cutting Edge included, it heralds a new era in hockey, and we cannot wait to see what this renewed on-ice relationship slash rivalry will bring. To quote Kent Parson himself, “You either want to play with the best, or you want to play against them.” And this is exactly what is happening here. Now we just need to wait and see. And, if we are right, there will be a lot to see in the upcoming months. There is no doubt about it.

Read more over at Cutting Edge:


jordan @hockeybutts
u know what? i decided i like the guys over at @CuttingEdge after all. the guys at cutting edge can stay.


Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
until next time :) #JackZimmermann

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
So, so proud. #JackZimmermann

Kent Parson favorited your Tweet

Chapter Text

Fic Recs — Hockey RPF
Nonnies, so a few days ago my dash exploded with pictures and gifs of two hockey players hugging each other passionately on the ice after a game and generally eyefucking each other, and I gotta admit, I got a little curious. I’m totally new to this fandom and have only passing knowledge of hockey from, like, ten years back, when my dad was really into it and I would watch some games with him, but now I’m craving fic.

Please, help a nonny out?

I’m totally open to all pairings/teams, but if there’s any fic about the two guys I saw (Parson and Zimmermann, I think?), I would be extremely happy. For Reasons. You know. Such as: they’re both hot as fuck, and that—whatever that was—was intense.

Re: Fic Recs — Hockey RPF
oh, nonny, you are in luck. the guys you’re thinking of, jack zimmermann and kent parson, are one of the fandom juggernauts, even though it’s zimms’ first year in the nhl. but they have a long, complicated history, and fandom eats it up with a fucking spoon, so there’s literally a fuckload of fic about them and it’s a never-ending well of angst. i love it. here are some of my favourites:

i think i’m finally clean by miskatonic
55k, jack/parse, set right before/after the 2009 draft, deals with jack’s overdose (now sort of retconned, in light of the revelations that he was addicted to pills, not coke, but still very good), really, really angsty. miskatonic writes an amazing kent, though, hers is hands down the best characterisation i’ve seen in a fic to date. this fic knows how to pack a punch, possibly my favourite fic in the entire fandom (it’s up there with “you’ll never be what is in your heart” by carthage).

are we out of the woods yet by nodice
8k, jack/parse, set post-draft, jack gets out of rehab, kent comes to visit him in montreal. things happen. don’t be put off by the second person, if that’s not your thing, because nodice executes it flawlessly. possibly one of the greatest explorations of what it must have been like for jack after he got back into the world and discovered it has moved on without him. worth it for the shower scene alone—christ, this was fucking gut-wrenching.

you’ll never be what is in your heart by carthage
27k, jack/parse, set during their time in the juniors. for many people, it is the jack/parse fic. it deals with a lot of unpleasant things, but it approaches those themes in a very respectful manner, and carthage went with anxiety and pill addiction instead of coke addiction even before we knew that was the case, so it’s interesting from that perspective, too. but really, it spans their entire relationship, from the moment they met in the q to the moment parse went first in the draft, and it’s just so complex. i reread this fic regularly, and i’m still in love with it.

and can you kneel before the king and say i’m clean by miskatonic
6k, jack/parse + bob zimmermann. this one is a bit different, because it deals mainly with jack’s relationship with his dad, but it’s all in the context of his relationship with parse. miskatonic is one of those writers who have such a knack for taking background “characters” and fleshing them out, and what she does here with bad bob is just amazing. and i love all the bob+parse interactions, they feel so real and so effortless.

we’re so young but we’re on the road to ruin by atomics
12k, jack/parse, au. jack doesn’t go to rehab and he’s drafted by the habs while parse goes to the aces. parse doesn’t handle the long distance thing very well. jack doesn’t handle the pressure of having to live up to the expectations on his father’s old team very well. i like it because it really focuses on parse for the most part, and how he deals with the long distance relationship, and people usually assume that parse has better coping mechanisms than jack, but here atomics really gets into his head with amazing results.

one day i’d like to say what all the tug-o’-war was for by tier
7k, jack/parse. this is a more recent one, written after parse went to samwell (the college jack graduated from) and attended a party at the hockey team’s house. parse wants to talk to jack, and maybe even do more than just talk, and they have another falling-out. it’s interesting, because it deals with the most recent draft and parse’s feelings on the matter. i really like the idea that parse desperately wanted jack to sign with the aces, so that they could be together again, but jack refused. (it’s a very popular theory in fandom, btw, but we know nothing about what really went down at that party.)

and to finish it off, how about something slightly less angsty:

haven’t you heard what becomes of curious minds by iamnotarobot
5k, jack/parse, 5+1 type of thing. five times jack totally didn’t mean to flirt with parse and one time he totally did. awkward turtle jack zimmermann is my favourite, okay.

also, this fandom has a real penchant for tswift titles, as you might have noticed, for some strange reason (it might be somehow connected with the fact that tswift and parse are buddies irl).

Re: Fic Recs — Hockey RPF
I’m totally seconding all the recs (especially carthage and miskatonic!), and I have a few more:

his hands are in my hair, his clothes are in my room by raina
AKA as hottest porn known to man. It’s 3k of pure PWP goodness with great characterization and a lot of hair-pulling.

Once More, With Feeling by Spectra
Jack visits Kent in Vegas. Feelings and sex ensue.

The nonny above me is right, most of Jack-centric and Kent-centric fic out there is Jack/Kent (though Kent/Justin Dubois is another popular one that I like quite a lot, and so is Kent/Nathan Olsen), but now that Jack has started his first season in the NHL, there’s a smattering of Jack/Cory Smith, because they’re apparently being adorable bros on and off the ice, which makes this nonny very, very happy. There’s less than fifteen stories in the tag right now, but we grow stronger each day, and there are a few standouts already:

oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart by mesmerised
Cory and Jack room together on the road. This leads to feelings. (Basically, Cory has the biggest crush on Jack and pines for 10k, then they kiss.)

well, i've been dreaming ever since i've seen you by ludens
Cory has known he was gay since he was fifteen. He didn’t expect to be dating in the NHL. He certainly didn’t expect to be dating Jack Zimmermann. (In which Cory gets a little swept off his feet by Jack Zimmermann’s blue, blue eyes, and he finds out he’s not the only gay player on his team.)

Re: Fic Recs — Hockey RPF
And, please, don’t forget the one where they’re both kittens and befriend Kit Purrson.

Re: Fic Recs — Hockey RPF


They go on the road in early December, play two games in New York and one in Jersey. The first one is a surprisingly easy 4-0 against the Rangers, and Jack scores twice, assists on both Holtzy’s and Smithy’s goals. It’s a good game, clean and fast, and their offense cuts through the Rangers’ defense like it’s water. Jack takes a hard check in the second and scores three minutes later, a rapid-fire slapshot that makes the Rangers’ goalie take a desperate dive, but Jack can see the way the puck hits the back of the net even before it happens, and he knows there’s no way Belov can save it. Holtzy piles on top of him and kisses Jack’s helmet.

“What a fucking beaut!” he yells into Jack’s ear.

They win, and the entire locker room is full of positive energy as they slowly start to come off the adrenaline high, and Jack goes to press in high spirits.

“Jack, given your consistent scoring streak, do you think you have a shot at winning the Calder this year?” asks one of the reporters—Jack doesn’t even know his name or the news outlet he’s with. “We were hoping to see it play out between you and Kent Parson back in the day, but that obviously didn’t happen. Do you think you can make it this time? There’s some stiff competition out there, obviously, but do you think you have what it takes? And it must be very strange for you, considering most of the other contenders, such as McDavid, are much younger than you.”

Jack grits his teeth and smiles a bland, detached smile. He doesn’t think it looks particularly convincing, but he can’t bring himself to care.

“I’m just here to play the best hockey I can possibly play,” he says, sounding like a broken record even to his own ears. “I’m here to give my all to the team, and to help us reach the playoffs. This is our goal. I’m not really thinking about trophies and awards right now. This is not why I’m here.”

“But considering how highly decorated your father is, there surely must be some friendly family rivalry between you two?” the reporter asks, clearly not giving up.

“No,” Jack says, and it comes out harsher than he intended, his jaw almost locked. He thought they were done with this. That he was done answering these kinds of questions. “We’re different players, with different styles, we don’t really compare each other that much. And, uh, the realities of the game have changed a lot, too, since my dad retired. So no, not really.”

He leaves the presser annoyed and high-strung in a way he didn’t expect when he went in, and he tugs at the knot on his tie, undoes the top button of his dress shirt, almost punches the wall with frustration.

Thankfully, they’re leaving almost immediately for Jersey before they go back to New York for their final away game against the Islanders, and Jack tosses his bag into the baggage compartment of their bus, then climbs the stairs to throw himself onto his seat and get a quick nap in. He puts his earbuds in and scrolls his iPod for the post-game mix Bitty made for him, trying to relax. Cory slumps into his place next to Jack a moment later.

“You good?” he asks, nudging Jack with his elbow.

Jack takes one earbud out. “Yeah, I’m fine,” he says. “Just. I thought I was done with the questions about my dad.”

Cory shrugs. “Hey, you can never weed out all the assholes,” he says. “I really hope you win the Calder, though. You fucking deserve it.”

Jack smiles, then offers Cory the earbud. “It’s not my dad music, I promise,” he assures him, because Cory agrees with Bitty—as well as the rest of the Samwell team—when it comes to Jack’s taste in music, the traitor. “Bitty made this mix for me to help me relax after a game.”

Cory takes the earbud out of Jack’s hand and nods with approval. “Your boy has good taste,” he says quietly.

The lights on the bus are off as they leave the underground parking lot at the arena, and Jack reaches for this phone to check his messages. There’s a congratulatory text from his dad, lots of excited yelling in the Samwell group chat, and a message from Bitty.

From: Bitty
Great game, Jack ♥
(08:15 pm)

Jack types out a quick message in response.

To: Bitty
Thanks, it felt good to win at MSG.
Press was tough, though.
We’re on the bus to Jersey right now.
Skype once we check in?
I just want to see you for a moment.
(09:03 pm)

He’s almost asleep when his phone buzzes again.

From: Bitty
Just call me when you get in.
I’ll be waiting. Say hi to Cory for me.
(09:18 pm)

Jack smiles and puts the phone away. He tries to sleep, but he’s still coming off the adrenaline high, and he finds himself restless and jittery all of a sudden, so he just presses his forehead against the glass and looks out at the city lights passing him by, breathing calmly.

He used to hate travelling at night, but now it calms him down more than anything else, the way he can just sit back in the darkness and blend in with the rest of the world for a while, passively observing as he leaves everything else behind, carrying nothing but himself for a moment. It’s a good feeling, almost liberating in a way.

Maybe it’s because—for the first time in a long time—he feels like he has roots somewhere, that he has a place to come back to. Samwell was a home, too, but Jack always remained painfully aware of how temporary, how transient it really was, that life he’d carved out for himself back there, how he would have to leave that place and that life behind one day. It wasn’t what he wanted—not really, because it meant leaving behind more than a run-down house and a familiar hockey rink—but it was what was always meant to be anyway.

It takes them a little over an hour to get to their hotel and by the time they check in and haul their luggage to their rooms, it’s already past eleven. Jack has no idea if Bitty is still waiting for him or if he’s just gone to sleep, and he feels guilty for keeping him up this late, because Jack knows that Bitty had an early class in the morning. But when he opens his laptop and signs into Skype, Bitty is still available.

“Hey,” Jack says once he connects, and Bitty is already in his bed, dressed in pajama bottoms and Jack’s hoodie.

It does something to Jack, seeing Bitty like this.

“Hey,” Bitty replies, sounding sleepy. “It’s good to see you.”

Jack smiles. “It’s good to see you, too. I missed you.”

On the other bed, Cory pretends to be fascinated by the blurb on the cover of the non-fiction book Jack brought with him on the road.

“Sorry to keep you up so late,” Jack says. “I know you need to be up early tomorrow.”

Bitty stifles a yawn. “It’s okay. I wanted to see you, too,” he says, then asks, “So how was the press?”

Jack shrugs and hunches down closer to the screen.

“It was— Some guy asked me about the Calder, and then it was all about my dad again,” he admits, sighing. “I don’t know, I thought we were past that.”

“I’m sorry,” Bitty says, and it sounds so soft and heartfelt that Jack needs to look away from the screen for a moment. He still has no idea what he did to deserve this boy. “But either way, you deserve to win the Calder.”

Jack chuckles. “That’s what Cory said.”

Bitty immediately perks up at that and says in a louder voice, “Cory, if you can hear this, I want you to know that you have a lifetime supply of peach cobbler just for saying that.”

Cory puts the book away and flings himself onto Jack’s mattress, clinging to Jack’s back and looking at the screen over his shoulder. “You are the best fucking boyfriend ever, and you’re not even my boyfriend,” he says with a wide grin.

“I’m a catch, I know. This boy got so lucky,” Bitty says, laughing, and Jack blushes.

“I really did,” he says quietly.

“Okay,” Cory interrupts, “I’m gonna leave the two of you alone and go look for some junk food or something, but you two have fun.”

“I have no idea what you mean,” Bitty says with a faux-innocent smile. Cory just waves him off.

Once Cory closes the door behind him, Jack lies down, propping himself up on the pillows with the laptop in his lap.

Even though he is usually reserved around people he doesn’t know or like that much, Jack is a very tactile person, and the way he misses Bitty’s touch is like a physical ache deep in his chest. The truth is, he likes to touch and be touched by people close to him, by people he trusts—it grounds him in a way nothing else can, whether it’s his nature or just a habit from years of playing hockey, and to have that taken away from him feels painful in more ways than one.

He knows it’s too soon to be thinking about this, but this, here, what he has with Bitty—this is it for Jack, and he can’t help but make cautious, tentative plans for when Bitty graduates. Plans which involve Bitty in Jack’s life, in Jack’s apartment, in Jack’s bed, their socks mixed up in the laundry and too many baking supplies in Jack’s kitchen. Plans which involve having Bitty close enough to touch.

“Hey, I’ll come visit soon, okay?” Jack says eventually, looking at Bitty, who appears to be half asleep already but trying to look alert anyway. “Even if just for one afternoon. I probably won’t be able to stay the night, but, uh. It’s better than nothing, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, of course,” Bitty assures him, but he looks sad. “Hey, do you know that Chowder finally got his braces off? And that Nursey got a tattoo?” he asks then, but the cheerful tone has a false ring to it. “Our frogs are growing up, it’s so weird. They’re not even frogs anymore, but it also feels like they are, you know? It’s like with parents and their children. They might grow up, but they will always be little kids in their parents’ minds,” he pauses, then says, “Oh my god, Jack, I’m the mom.”

Jack laughs quietly. “This is not news, exactly,” he says. “It’s a good thing they have you, though.”

“I know,” Bitty says. “Someone has to keep this Haus together.”

Jack realizes Bitty probably didn’t mean it like that, but it sounds just painfully honest and open, and sad.

“And you’re doing a great job,” he tells him with a gentle smile.

The truth is, it felt as natural as breathing, once Jack understood what it really meant—the way Bitty had always been the heart of the team, from the very beginning. They all fell into that quiet, familiar routine that somehow always centered around Bitty, and Jack can’t even remember what it had been like before Bitty appeared in the Haus kitchen, before he appeared in Jack’s life.

Jack knows that Bitty has Lardo and Holster, and Ransom, and the frogs, so he’s not alone, but Jack also knows that Bitty is probably shouldering a lot of that weight all by himself, quietly, in silence, the way he’d used to, way back when, before he came to Samwell and got the chance to be himself for once.

“Thanks, Jack,” Bitty says, smiling sweetly at him. Then he tries to stifle another yawn, and Jack looks at his watch. It’s almost quarter to midnight.

“You should go to sleep,” he chides.

“Yeah, and so should you, Mr. Zimmermann,” Bitty says in return, burying his hands further in the sleeves of Jack’s hoodie. “You professional athletes need your rest.”

“Okay, then, you’re right, I really should be going, and so should you” Jack says. “Goodnight. I love you.”

It slips out, and Jack watches Bitty watch him in stunned silence for a moment, and Jack’s heart is racing, his palms sweaty and his throat tight, and then Bitty says, softly, “I love you, too.”

It’s breathless and quiet, but Bitty smiles, this time for real.

“Goodnight, Jack,” he says just as Cory comes back into the room.

“Goodnight. Sleep well,” Jack says and disconnects.

The room goes strangely quiet.

“I thought you said junk food,” Jack says after a moment, when Cory tosses him a granola bar. It has cranberries in it—it’s nice that Cory remembered they’re Jack’s favorite. Jack catches the granola bar with one hand and unwraps it.

“Yeah, well, my conscience got the better of me,” Cory says and shrugs. “Good talk?”

“Yeah,” Jack says, and he can’t stop smiling. “Yeah, you could say that.”


In Jersey, Jack takes a fist to his face in the second period and he’s bleeding all over himself when they get him off the ice to patch him up.

It’s a deep gash just above his left eyebrow. It needs three stitches, and Jack spends the next ten minutes in the locker room while the team doctors fuss over him, then asks Mark to let him back on the ice.

“Sit this one out, Jack,” Mark says. “We got this, there’s no need for you to rip your stitches out right away.”

Jack bristles at that, and he wants to argue, because he can still play, because his team needs him out there, and he goes on to say as much, but Mark just gives him a stern look.

“I said sit down, Jack,” he says. “I’m not gonna risk you re-injuring yourself for no fucking reason, so stop this right now. They can handle it.”

By the end of the third they’re tied 2-2, and Jack is ready to get back out there for overtime, because this is important enough, but Mark just shakes his head.

“Not today, kiddo,” he says.

They win in a shootout, and Jack isn’t even on the ice.

By the time they get back into the locker room, Jack is so frustrated he wants to punch a wall. The entire left side of his face is pulsing with pain, because Jack refused painkillers, and as he showers, he keeps having to angle his face away from the stream of hot water, since he doesn’t want to get the dressing wet.

He begs off the presser this time, and Mark doesn’t press the issue, because he can see that Jack is still in a foul mood, and he can’t imagine what the journalists have to say to him would make him any happier. Instead, Jack walks out of the arena, evading the fans milling in front of the main entrance and feeling like a right asshole, and hops onto the bus waiting for them in the open parking lot behind the venue. There are a few people loitering around, but none of them bother Jack.

The first thing he does once he takes his usual seat by the window is pull out his phone. There’s a message from his father, asking if he’s okay, a string of texts in the group chat, the most recent of which is Ransom asking if it’s going to leave a badass scar (the answer is no, Anika assured him of this as she was stitching Jack up), and three missed calls from Bitty.

Jack calls back immediately.

“Hey,” he says as soon as Bitty picks up.

“Jack, oh my god, are you okay?” Bitty asks, and he sounds almost out of breath. “There was so much blood—”

“No, no, I’m fine,” Jack assures him. “Needed three stitches, not even gonna leave a scar. It looked a lot worse than it actually is.”

Bitty inhales. “Okay,” he says. “But, please, skype me after you check in, okay? Even if just for a moment. I just want to make sure.”

“Okay,” Jack says, rubbing at his non-injured temple.

“It really scared me,” Bitty admits in a small voice a moment later. “I know it comes with the territory and everything, but, I just— There was so much blood.”

Jack winces inwardly.

“Hey, hey,” he says, the last of his frustration slowly seeping out of him, “I’m fine, I’m okay, nothing happened.”

There’s a moment of silence on the other end of the line.

“I know,” Bitty says then, strangely hesitant all of a sudden. “But what if one day something does happen? I’m not— You know they won’t let me in to see you, won’t tell me anything if something happens. Because I’m not family, and I’m not your…anything, officially.”

Jack can feel the headache coming from a mile away, but this—this feels like a sudden punch to the stomach. It’s not like he’s never thought about it—what would happen if something were to happen to him. He knows his parents would keep Bitty informed and in the loop, but what if he got there first.

(Jack knows Parse spent a few hellish hours in the ER while the doctors refused to tell him anything, and he doesn’t want the same for Bitty. Hell, he never wanted that for Parse in the first place.)

“We’ll figure something out, okay?” he says. “I promise.”

“All right,” Bitty says. “I just— I love you, okay, and I worry.”

Jack looks around, but the bus is still empty, apart from the bored driver in the front. “I love you, too,” he whispers into the receiver.

A moment later Aaronowitz’s head appears in front of Jack as he walks up the steps, and he can hear the other guys bickering in the distance.

“I’ll talk to you later, okay?” he says. “We’re moving soon.”

“Okay,” Bitty says. “I’ll be waiting.”


Their last game on the road is a disaster. They’re up 2-0 at the end of the second period, and then they lose 4-2 in regulation. Jack gets blocked left and right by the huge D-men the Islanders sent out against them onto the ice, and nothing, absolutely nothing goes in, and then it’s done, they’re done, and they’ve lost. Jack throws his gloves across the locker room once they leave the ice with their heads down.

The presser is ruthless, and Jack answers the questions through his teeth, his jaw painfully locked.

Cory is quiet and subdued, and once they’re back on the bus to the airport, Jack hands him one of his earbuds without asking. Cory takes it without a word.

Jack tries to sleep on the plane, but he’s too wired, and he ends up watching the movie they’re showing without any real interest. He can’t even tell what it was about the minute the credits start to roll. Something about a heist and dreaming, he thinks.

By the time they touch down at PVD, it’s almost midnight, and Jack is dead on his feet. He takes a cab home and falls asleep in his clothes the minute his head touches the pillow.

He wakes up at three a.m. and looks around groggily, but finds that he can’t go back to sleep, and he ends up tossing and turning for a while before he gives up.

It’s only a little after midnight in Vegas. Jack sends the text, hovering his thumb over the send button just for a moment.

To: Kent
Is there a way to allow someone
to be notified and updated in case of a
medical emergency if they’re not family?
Without designating them as ICE?
(03:17 am)

Parse replies within a few minutes.

From: Kent
i have no idea but isnt this like
some ass o’clock for u zimms?
fuckin christ ur so gone on this boy
(03:22 am)

Jack hesitates only a moment before replying.

To: Kent
I know. I am.
(03:23 am)


Eric closes the Skype window after saying goodbye to Shitty and Jack, and turns to check on the crust for his French silk pie. When he looks back up from the oven and through the window, he can see the first snow of this winter falling slowly to the ground.

The younger frogs are all sitting in the kitchen around the table—TJ is working on his semester project while Jason and Matt are debating the superiority of Community over The Big Bang Theory in hushed voices; the rest of the Haus is quiet and empty, and there’s the smell of pie and the snow falling slowly outside, and Eric can’t help but feel a little nostalgic.

Last year Jack took him out for coffee on the day of the first snow, and they walked together, brushing shoulders, while the snowflakes melted in their hair. Sometimes he wonders if he’d missed some obvious signs—that maybe the coffee dates were actual coffee dates, that the walks they took together were more than just additional exercise, and that the number of pictures Jack took of Eric for his final project wasn’t a coincidence. Maybe Jack knew long before Eric did.

After a while, TJ elbows Matt in the ribs and points to the window.

“Dude,” he says. “It’s snowing.”

The two of them are out the door a minute later, leaving Jason with his sprained ankle in the kitchen to keep Eric company. Eric feeds him leftover grasshopper pie, because Jason gets so miserable and wistful every time he looks out the window at TJ and Matt playing in the softly falling snow. After a moment, though, the sky overhead gets dark and steely gray, and now it starts to snow in earnest, but that doesn’t stop them even for a second.

Eric puts a pan filled with water on the stove and whisks eggs with sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl, then leaves them to heat over the simmering water. Jack texts him in the meantime, sends him another picture of his neighbor’s cat, and Eric smiles, bent slightly over his phone, then taps out a quick reply.

“Look, Jay, ain’t she cute?” he says to Jason, showing him the photo. The kitten has grown a little since Eric last saw her, but she’s still tiny. In the picture, she’s lying on top of Jack’s sheets, playing with the sleeve of his Falconers hoodie.

“So is Zimmermann, like, your boyfriend?” Jason asks, looking up at him.

Eric freezes. He knows what Jack said—that he doesn’t want to lie to the team, that he wants to be as honest with them as possible, but he also knows this is not what Jack meant, not really, because Jack doesn’t know this kid, and Jason knows nothing about Jack, except for his name.

And Eric likes Jason, he really does, because Jason is a nice kid and a good teammate, but Eric can’t help but resent him a little in that moment, for forcing Eric to lie through his teeth in his own kitchen.

“What? Don’t be silly,” he says eventually with his heart in his throat. “Of course he’s not my boyfriend.”

It hurts more than he thought it would, and his throat gets tight. He turns around to check on his pie filling, his knuckles going white as he grips the counter. It’s like he’s seventeen all over again, terrified and trying to convince the quarterback and his two buddies that he really, really doesn’t like Simon like that, praying that they believe him.

It’s different when he lies by omission, but this is the first time he’s said the actual words to someone’s face, the first time he actually lied about it, and he’s aching with it, and he knows he can’t let it show. So he does what he always does—he puts on a brave face and smiles at Jason.

“Want some cocoa to go with the pie?” he asks. Jason half-shrugs, half-nods, so Eric takes this as a yes.

“So if he’s not your boyfriend, then why does he, like, you know,” Jason presses on after a short while. “With the skyping and the photos, and everything.”

“We’re friends, and he was my captain for two years,” Eric answers, and his voice stays even. “Jack sends Shitty pictures all the time, too. And Lardo. And Ransom and Holster, and the older frogs. And we all skype with each other regularly.”

He takes his time pouring the cocoa into three mugs.

“Can you go tell these ridiculous boys to get back inside before they catch their death?” he asks Jason, pointing to Matt and TJ, who are currently in the middle of a snowball fight. “There’ll be pie and cocoa waiting for y’all in the living room when you come back.”

Lardo comes into the kitchen just as Jason closes the front door, and she just takes one look at him, then says, “Oh, Bits.”

Eric’s face almost crumples when he looks at her, soft and wistful, and understanding.

“You heard that?” he asks in a quiet voice and swallows thickly as Lardo comes closer to give him a tight hug. She nods with her head in the crook of Eric’s neck. “It’s just that…I thought the Haus was the only place where I would never have to lie about it, you know? I’m—”

She climbs on her tiptoes and kisses Eric’s forehead where it meets his temple. “I know, kiddo,” she says. “Go talk to him if you want to, I’ll watch your eggs.”

Eric hugs her again. “Thanks, Lardo.”

“Any time, Bits. We’ll get froyo after, yeah?” she asks, as easy as anything. It’s one of the reasons he loves her so much.

Upstairs, Eric closes the door to his room and calls Jack. He picks up after the third ring.

“Hey, did something happen?” he asks, and he sounds confused, because they were talking on Skype less than an hour ago.

“No, nothing happened,” Eric says, curling on his bed with his phone trapped between the pillow and his cheek. “I mean, one of the younger frogs asked if we were together, and, you know. I didn’t think it would be this hard, to lie about it to somebody’s face.”

Jack is silent for a long while.

“I’m sorry,” he says then, his voice hoarse.

Eric closes his eyes. “You have nothing to be sorry about,” he says. “Nothing, okay? It’s hard, but I knew it would be hard, and I don’t regret it. I would never regret it, you hear me, Jack Zimmermann? It’s just— I think it’s because it’s the first time I had to do this, and it just shook me a little. And he just asked about it, you know? I couldn’t even deflect or try to pretend I didn’t know what he was talking about.”

He can hear Jack’s soft, quiet breathing on the other end of the line. “I’m still sorry. You deserve better.”

“Hey,” Eric says then, “I’m not the only one who needs to hide here. We both deserve better, okay? None of this is our fault. This one is not on us, Jack, do you understand? It has never been on us.”

Jack doesn’t say anything for a long time again. “I just wish I could be more brave,” he admits eventually in a quiet voice.

“You’re plenty brave, Jack,” Eric says with emphasis, “and you’re gonna do this at your own pace, all right? It’s okay to need a little time.”

In the end, he returns downstairs to finish his French silk pie. In the end, he goes with Lardo to get froyo and a latte, and then they walk around the campus while snowflakes melt in their hair.

It’s okay.


Two days later, Kent Parson sends him a private message on Twitter. It reads:

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
good luck, youre gonna need it

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
hit me up if the going ever gets rough

Eric frowns at his phone for a moment before he replies. He has no reason to pretend that he doesn’t know what Parson is talking about.

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
He's a different person now.

Parson must have his phone somewhere close at hand, because the reply comes almost instantaneously. Eric has no idea what Parson is doing—he’s aware that Kent has been following him on Twitter for some time, but he doesn’t understand why he’s choosing to contact him directly now.

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
yeah, i guess he is

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
got some first-hand proof of that

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
sorry, i didn’t mean to sound like a douche

Eric shakes his head.

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
Yeah, but you did anyway.

This time, it takes Parse a few minutes to reply.

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
point taken

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
i still care about him though. not like that, not anymore, but, you know

The faint, sharp pain in his chest that appears whenever Eric thinks about the way Jack used to be with Parse—not jealousy, not really, more of a melancholy awareness of the fact that there is some part of Jack that will forever belong only to Parse—is back.

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
He cares about you, too. Even if he doesn’t always show it.

He almost regrets sending that, but Parse replies after a short moment.

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
yeah i know. listen kid, whatever you think is going on or w/e, you’re a good fucking thing for him, ok? and i dont just go around saying that

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
he didnt want to let me love him so you just gotta do it for me, k?

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
anyway, good chat. c u around

Eric sits on his bed for a few minutes after he reads the last message, looking down at his phone, and his throat feels strangely tight.

Then he tweets:

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
Sometimes you have just the strangest conversations that make you look at something from a completely different perspective…

Kent favorites it almost immediately. Eric shakes his head for a moment, smiling.

Then he calls Jack.

Chapter Text

Cory comes into the locker room on Monday before practice, and walks right into the middle of an argument that looks like it has been going on for quite a while.

“She’s not a fat chick, okay?” Jonesy says to Aaronowitz, who’s sprawled obnoxiously on the bench in front of his stall. Jonesy looks kind of annoyed, and there’s a flush high on his cheeks, but there are no objects being thrown yet, so Cory is going to count this one as a plus. “Just because she’s not, like, size zero, doesn’t mean she’s a fat chick.”

And, well, Cory isn’t exactly up to date on Jonesy’s bedroom exploits, so he just dumps his bag to the floor and flops onto the bench next to Jack to start changing. It’s just the usual locker room oversharing he’s been witness to for as long as he’s been on this side of the locker room door on a regular basis, and it’s nothing but white noise at this point.

“Jonesy, let’s face it, she’s a bit chubby, okay,” Aaronowitz presses on, because apparently he doesn’t know how nice it feels to breathe through a straight nose and has no self-preservation instinct to speak of. “Like, not knocking it or anything, but the girl is kinda on the bigger side.”

Cory rolls his eyes and turns to reach for his skates.

Schumer cracks his neck and stretches, then pulls his under armour on, fastens the pads over the fabric. He’s grinning, the little shit, and that almost never bodes well.

“So what, Jonesy, you like them with some meat on them?” he asks, and Jonesy flips him off, throws a roll of tape at Schumer, and it bounces off the pad on his left shoulder, rolls under the stalls. Jonesy curses.

“Duncan Jones, there is nothing wrong with liking bigger women, okay?” Benny chimes in, because apparently the phrase let’s not escalate the situation is not in their vocabulary or, like, their conceptual apparatus or whatever. “Fucking embrace it, dude.”

Jonesy throws his hands up. “Okay, whatever, so maybe she’s a bit chubby, who gives a fuck?” he says, irritated. “What I’m saying is, she’s fucking hot, okay.”

“So how’s the sex?” Christiansen asks, and Jonesy smirks.

“Dude, you would not believe me if I told you,” he says. “It’s like a whole new fucking world for me. Like, seriously fucking mindblowing stuff.”

They high-five for it. Next to Cory, Jack just shakes his head.

“Hey, Zimms, how do you like them?” Benny asks then, and Cory can see the exact moment Jack goes completely still where he’s bent over his knees, putting his skates on.

“I bet he dates, like, models or some shit,” Aaronowitz says. “Just look at this fucking face. The fame and the money probably help, too. Hot chicks dig that stuff. But mostly the face. You’re a beautiful boy, Zimmermann, anyone ever tell you that?”

Benny comes over and bumps Jack slightly in the arm. “Yeah, Zimmy-boy, how come I’ve never seen you with a girl? You shy or something?”

Cory turns slightly to the side and glances at Jack, who is lacing up his skates like his life is depending on it.

“No,” Jack says in a flat tone.

Benny and Aaronowitz laugh. Cory feels like he’s watching a car crash in slow motion. Next to him, Jack’s jaw is locked tight, and his knuckles are white where he’s gripping the laces.

“Come on, Zimms, live a little.” Benny nudges him with his knee. “You need to score to score, y’know what I mean? Let off some steam, man.”

Jack stands up, gets right into Benny’s space, shoulders squared and stiff, like he’s gearing up for a fight.

“Maybe if all of you talked less about fucking and more about strategy,” he says in a cutting tone, “we wouldn’t have lost in New York.”

He knocks into Benny’s shoulder as he moves past him. The rest of the guys are watching the scene in silent shock—Jack usually doesn’t actively go looking for a fight, so to see him like this right now is sort of surprising, at least if you don’t know what’s really going on.

“Jesus, Zimms, what crawled up your ass and died?” Aaronowitz yells after him, but Jack is already out of the locker room, stalking away in the direction of the ice.

Aaronowitz turns to Cory, his eyebrows raised.

“Smithy, my man, are you seeing this shit?” he says, confused.

Cory rolls his eyes and stands up. “Whatever, jackasses,” he says, shaking his head as he follows Jack out of the locker room, “just leave him the fuck alone.”

Practice is tense after that, and Jack looks like he’s close to snapping the entire time. He’s the first one off the ice once Mark tells them to hit the showers. It’s probably the first time this happened since Jack came to Providence—he’s usually reluctant to leave, like he thinks he should be putting in more time or some other bullshit. The truth is, Jack works the hardest out of all of them, and everything he has achieved on this team has been hard-fucking-earned.

Jack is nowhere to be found once Cory comes out of the showers, so Cory sends him a quick text to check if everything is okay but gives Jack his space after that.

Jack texts him back a few minutes later.

From: jack z.
Yeah, everything’s fine.
Sorry for bailing.

(01:03 pm)

“Yo, Smithy, you coming to lunch with us?” Holtzy asks just as Cory is about to leave, and, considering that there is a lot of Gatorade and not much of anything else in their fridge at home, going out for lunch seems like a pretty good idea.

“Yeah, sure, let me just grab my coat,” he says.

It started snowing a few days ago. Winter has always been Cory’s favorite season, and first snow always makes him feel like a little kid all over again—like he should go out and have a snowball fight with someone, maybe build a snowman, lay on his back and make snow angels. When he was a kid, first snow meant it would soon be cold enough to play shinny in his grandparents’ backyard.

They go to a nearby gourmet burger place he’s never been to before and Cory orders something fancy with lots of cheese and caramelized onions that melt on his tongue, and the burger is just right, a little pink inside, and the bun isn’t soggy at all—overall it’s hands-down the best burger Cory has ever had in his life. He really needs to tell his sister about this place next time she comes to visit. Jack and Bitty, too, for the next time Bitty’s in town.

“So, like, what the fuck is Zimms’ deal?” Aaronowitz asks over his monster of a burger. “C’mon, Smithy, spill. We all know you’re, like, the fucking privy council at the Zimmermann court.”

Sometimes Cory really, really doesn’t want to know what goes on in Aaronowitz’s head on a daily basis.

“Yeah, my boy here is right,” Schumer chimes in. “Who pissed in his Cheerios? He got all up in Benny’s business and then bolted right after practice. And we know he can take a fucking joke, so what the fuck is up with that?”

Cory shrugs. “Nothing is up,” he says. “He’s a private dude, okay. And just because we hang out doesn’t mean I know all his secrets or whatever the fuck you think is happening here.”

It’s surprisingly easy to lie when he knows what’s at stake. He doesn’t think the guys would give Jack a hard time if they knew, because they’re mostly decent, if somewhat gross from time to time, but he also knows how to keep his mouth shut and keep a secret when asked.

“Maybe he’s getting some mad pussy on the down-low,” Aaronowitz muses. “Because that much pent up sexual tension is just plain not good for you.”

“Jesus, I didn’t know I signed up for a fucking knitting circle instead of a hockey team,” Cory says, picking at the leftover salad.

“I’ll have you know my cross-stitch is fucking amazing, you asshole,” Benny says, and moves to elbow Cory in the side. Cory ducks at the last moment.

“That’s embroidery, moron,” Holtzy chimes in, and the guys turn to look at him. “What, I’m a dude of many layers. I’ve been places, seen things.”

“Full of shit is what you really are, Holtzy,” Benny laughs. “So full of shit.”

They all laugh and, fortunately, let the subject drop in favor of ribbing the hell out of Holtzy. It’s a good time, all things considered.

Later, when Cory is back at his apartment, dressed comfortably in sweats and watching Friends reruns with a pack of nachos and guacamole he picked up on his way back at the corner store, he remembers he meant to message Bitty on Twitter.

Cory Smith @CorySmithFalconers
found an amazing burger place downtown. we totally should go next time u visit. its fucking poetry, not burgers. i mean, if u even like those

It takes Bitty some time to reply.

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
I’m a Southern boy, okay. We take our meat seriously. ;)

And, what the hell, maybe Cory deserves his turn to be a little obnoxious and heavy on the innuendo.

Cory Smith @CorySmithFalconers
yeah i fucking bet :D

Bitty sends him only a blushing emoji in return.


the spectral assassin (lachance) wrote in ontd_puck

Jack Zimmermann is the softest of soft bros, and BuzzFeed agrees. Kent Parson confirmed for a giant nerd

So recently BuzzFeed, in all its clickbait glory, compiled a list of 10 Best Sportsmen Instagram Accounts, and our two favorite bros are on that list.

Zimms placed fourth (v. respectable if you ask me), and the BuzzFeed editor was pretty impressed with his photos overall. I have no idea if that boy really is a hipster, or if he’s just the most unintentionally hipstery bro of all time, but I gotta say, some of those photos are really pretty and I appreciate the softbro aesthetic. Here are some examples:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

And, surprise, surprise, Parse is on the list, too. Not his regular Instagram account, though, no, that would be too simple. His fucking cat’s Instagram made the top of the list. Because of course it did. Look, he might look like a bad boy, but in truth, Parser is just a giant loser nerd, and I love it. Here are a few choice pictures, let us bask in all their ridiculous glory:

1 | 2 | 3

tags: and none for you kent parson, clickbait hell, instagram THIS, jack zimmermann, the internet is forever, the softest of bros, vote kit purrson 2k16


Reply from offblues
ok, am i the only one who’s really kinda digging zimms’ photos, like, for real? the guy has a pretty good eye for photography.

Reply from carthage
No, you’re definitely not the only one! I think he said it in some interview that he took a photography class his senior year, so I guess that’s partially it, but overall, I agree, he has a good eye for detail and composition. But what I love the most is how absolutely random and aesthetically pleasing those photos are at the same time. Is it raining and does it look pretty? Yeah? Bam, there you go, a photo. Is it snowing so much it starts to look like Narnia? I guess it’s photo time! A cute kitten? Why, yes, this definitely needs to be photographed! It genuinely looks like a list of things he just finds pretty and wants to share with other people. So yeah, I think your post title is nailing it. Jack Zimmermann truly is the softest of bros.

And what I especially love is the fact that the following on his Instagram is like fifty-fifty. Fifty percent rabid hockey fans and fifty percent hipster aesthetic accounts.

Meanwhile, Parson remains deliciously ridiculous. That’s why we love him. You do you, Parse. You do you.

Reply from lachance
Oh, Parse. Whatever the rest of the fandom might think, Kit Purrson will always remain your one true love. The true OTP of my heart.

Reply from currahee
where is the lie tho. this cat is probably the most pampered creature in existence.

Expand 17 comments


Jack calls Lardo on Thursday.

“I’m not gonna make it to the opening,” he says. “I’m really sorry, Lardo. They’re making us do some promo stuff on Saturday, there’s no way I can skip this, the GMs would have my head.”

He promised himself it wouldn’t be like that, back when he first came here—that he wouldn’t be that person who says I can’t make it over and over again, but he also knows that his good intentions are not everything.

“Jack, it’s fine,” Lardo reassures him. “You do what you gotta do, okay? Like, it fucking sucks, and I think we both know it, and that’s enough. That’s life for you, kiddo. I still love your sorry ass. It’s ride or die at this point, y’know? You’re not getting rid of me so easily.”

Jack laughs, swallowing down the bitterness of disappointment. “Yeah, I know. Love you too, Lards.”

“Bits is gonna be so disappointed, though,” Lardo says then, and Jack feels the guilt like a real ache deep in his chest, in the space between his lungs and his heart.

“I know,” he says. “I really wanted to see him, too, before Christmas break. I’m going back to Montreal for Christmas, and Bitty, well. It’s not like he can tell his parents he’s going to be spending Christmas with his boyfriend in Canada.”

Lardo sighs into the phone. “Are you gonna call him, or should I tell him myself?” she asks.

“No, no, I’m gonna call him in a moment,” Jack tells her. “I just wanted you to know first. I’m really, really sorry.”

“I know. Don’t sweat it, okay? It’s cool,” Lardo says. “It’s not like you’re bailing on me on purpose. So, y’know. Go get ‘em.”

They trade goodbyes and Jack disconnects, then brings up Bitty’s number on the speed-dial. Bitty answers after the second ring.

“Hey,” he says. Jack can hear the sounds of the Haus kitchen in the background.

“I—” Jack starts, pauses. Breathes. “I won’t be coming down this weekend. I’m really sorry. They need me in Providence on Saturday, possibly Sunday, too, and there’s no way I can say no.”

“Oh,” Bitty says, in that tone Jack hates so much. Like he’s trying his hardest to keep it together, trying not to let his disappointment show. “Oh, okay. That’s— That’s fine. It’s your job, Jack. I understand.”

“When is your flight home?” Jack asks, racking his brain to come up with a solution, because he can’t stand to hear Bitty sound so sad. “Maybe I could—”

“Monday,” Bitty interrupts him. “I’m flying home on Monday.”

Jack curses under his breath. “I’m so sorry,” he says.

“Jack,” Bitty says after a short moment, “it’s okay. Really. We knew this could happen. It’s fine.”

His tone tells a different story, and Jack can’t remember the last time he felt this shitty about something.

“I’ll miss you,” Jack tells him, because Bitty deserves all of his honesty right now. “I’m missing you right now.”

He can hear Bitty take a deep breath. “God, me too,” he says. “We had our first snow last week over here, and I remembered how last year you took me out to coffee when it first started snowing, and we just took the longest walk around campus, and it was so nice. Was that—” Bitty hesitates. “Did you— Was that a date? That I didn’t know was a date?”

Jack swallows. “I wanted it to be,” he admits.

There’s a moment of silence.

“So how long—” Bitty starts, then pauses.

“I don’t know,” Jack says. “A long time, I guess. I— It didn’t happen all at once. It was just…there, and then I couldn’t even remember how it had been, before.”

This, here, having to call Bitty and tell him they won’t be able to see each other, this is the hard part, but loving him—just loving him, nothing else—has always been the easiest thing in the world, as natural as breathing.

“You’re going to Montreal for Christmas, right?” Bitty asks after a short while.

“Yeah, yeah, I have the twenty-fourth free, and I need to be back on the twenty-seventh, but I’m going.” Jack hesitates for a moment, then adds, “I wish you could come with me.”

Bitty is silent for a few long seconds. “Yeah,” he says then, “yeah, me too.”

Jack wipes his left hand on his jeans, slightly sweaty all of a sudden. “Maybe…maybe next year?” he suggests tentatively. “My parents would love to have you over.”

“That…that would be lovely, Jack,” Bitty says.

They say their goodbyes a moment later and Jack lingers before he finally disconnects. It feels awful, to know that Bitty is sad because of Jack, miles away, in a house full of people who love him but don’t fully understand what it really means to miss someone over the distance stretching between them like that—except maybe for Lardo, but Lardo is graduating this year, and so are Ransom and Holster, and then the Haus as Jack knows it will cease to exist, filled in half with people he doesn’t even know and who don’t know Jack, but only know about him.

He can’t imagine what it must feel like for Bitty, to be so painfully aware of that.


They wrap up early on Saturday.

Jack has a suit in his car that he packed just in case, not really letting himself hope, and it’s still early enough that if he hurries, he’s going to make it on time.

“Do you still need me for something, or—” he asks on his way out, because he knows that’s expected of him, and he won’t leave if they do need him, but Allison from PR tells him he’s free to go, and he’s never been more relieved to get out of the rink.

Jack grabs his bag and is out of the arena in less than a minute. He can hear Holtzy yelling after him as he crosses the hall, but he just waves him off.

The traffic is light, thank god, and maybe Jack drives a little over the speed limit, but when he parks at the curb in front of the Haus, he still has enough time to change before they need to leave.

He uses the key he still keeps attached to his key chain, and when he comes inside, he almost runs into some freshman he only vaguely recognizes. The guy does a little double-take, eyes wide, then whispers, “What the fuck.”

There’s some commotion in the living room, the sound of footsteps.

“Yo, Jason, what are you— Oh, Jack, hi.” Tyler appears in the doorway, along with another frog, looking equally surprised but a little less shell-shocked. Jack gives him a small smile and a nod. “Good to see you again.”

“You, too,” Jack says.

“If you’re looking for Bitty,” Tyler says then, “he’s—”


When Jack looks up, Bitty is standing at the top of the stairs, dressed in a grey suit and a red bowtie. They just keep looking at each other for a moment, and then Bitty launches himself down the steps, throws his hands around Jack’s neck and buries his face against Jack’s collarbone.

“Oh my god, Jack, you’re here,” he whispers. “Oh my god.”

Jack has his hands around Bitty’s waist, hugging him tightly, his lips pressed to Bitty’s hair, and he knows what it must look like to the three freshmen standing not even three feet away, and he doesn’t care, not when Bitty is pressing into him, and he can feel his heartbeat against his ribs.

“I’m here, okay, I’m here,” Jack says with a breathy laugh. Bitty still doesn’t let go. “We finished early.”

“God. Jack.” Bitty finally moves away, just a step, just enough to look up at Jack like he’s hung the moon. Jack wants to kiss him so much. “Lardo is gonna be so happy.”

“C’mon, I need to change,” Jack says. “I have a suit in the car, let me just grab my things and I’m gonna be right back. Can I use your room?”

Bitty blushes and looks to the side, away from the frogs. “Yeah, of course,” he says. “Go right ahead, I’m gonna go check up on Chowder. That boy cannot tie a tie to save his life.”

When Jack comes back with his suit and overnight bag, Ransom has joined the frogs downstairs, and he almost crushes Jack in a tight hug the moment he spots him.

“Bro, you always knew how to make an entrance,” he says, “but this might be the new personal best for you. Bits is singing Beyoncé upstairs, and it’s annoying the living shit out of Dex.”

Jack gives Ransom a look. “You’d think he would’ve gotten used to it by now.”

“He has, mostly. But Bits is being, like, aggressively happy right now, and I think it might be a bit much for him,” Ransom laughs. “Okay, hotshot, go get changed. We’re leaving in fifteen. So, y’know, don’t linger.”

Jack takes two steps at a time until he reaches the landing, and then he walks straight down the hall in the direction of Bitty’s room, remembering the last time he’s made that walk, and what happened after.

He’s doing up the buttons on his dress shirt when Bitty comes into the room, and when he turns to look at Jack, his smile is almost blinding.

“I still can’t believe you’re really here,” he says in a stunned voice.

“I missed you,” Jack says simply. “And I really wanted to be here for Lardo.”

Bitty nods, still smiling. “Yeah, she’s gonna be so happy to see you. She’s already at the venue with Shitty, so it’s going to be a surprise.”

When Jack grabs his tie, Bitty comes to stand in front of Jack and bats his hands away. “C’mon, let me,” he says, getting a hold of the fabric and tying it into a neat knot with expert hands. Then he grabs Jack by the nape of his neck and pulls him down for a kiss. “God, I missed you so much.”

Jack kisses back, touching Bitty’s face with his hands, brushing his thumbs along Bitty’s cheekbones.

“Are you staying?” Bitty asks when they break away.

Jack nods. “Yeah,” he says, breathless, “yeah, I’m staying.”

Bitty looks up at him like Jack is everything, and it’s a heady feeling that knocks the air out of Jack’s lungs, and he thinks, I love him over and over again.


Lardo embraces Jack, standing on her tiptoes to reach his neck, then moves away to punch him playfully in the bicep.

“Zimmermann, you little shit,” she says. “You made it.”

“We wrapped up early,” Jack explains. “So I just legged it out of there as soon as they gave me the go ahead and came here. I might be getting some speeding tickets in the mail.”

Lardo laughs while Shitty moves in for a fistbump.

“Brah, I was ready to kill today,” he says. “We had an extracurricular case study group with one of the professors that was supposed to end at three, but apparently listening to some Whiteboy McTrustfund going out on a fucking tangent for twenty minutes straight was more important than respecting our goddamn time. So I had to put the pedal to the metal to get here on time, so to speak.”

Jack laughs quietly and stops himself at the last moment as he almost reaches for Bitty’s hand. The opening a quiet affair, and most of the people milling around probably have less than no idea who Jack is, but they still need to be careful. Bitty must notice, because he turns to Jack and smiles reassuringly.

Jack gets them both a glass of champagne and they walk the floor, looking at the pieces. It’s Lardo’s first exhibition outside of school, and Jack knows it’s a really big deal for her, showing her art to the entire world for the first time. Halfway through the evening, he flags down one of the gallery employees and discreetly arranges to buy one of the paintings he wants for his apartment.

He smiles every time he catches Lardo looking at the red dot next to the painting, beaming.

They walk back to the Haus under the winter night sky, happily buzzed on champagne and pleasantly warm inside. The streets are almost empty, and there is snow everywhere, covering the world in white, and next to Jack, Bitty is laughing, happy and carefree, his cheeks pink from the alcohol and the cold, and this—all of it—makes Jack bold in a way he cannot explain. He reaches out and takes Bitty’s hand, closes his fingers around his palm. It makes Bitty miss a step, and he almost trips, then looks up at Jack like Jack is something infinitely wonderful even when he’s just giving Bitty what he deserves to have every day, nothing more.

In front of them, Shitty has his arm around Lardo’s shoulders and Lardo is leaning into Shitty’s side, and for a moment, everything is just the way it should be.

It’s late when they finally get back to the Haus, but no one is eager to go to bed. Instead, they lounge around the living room with mugs of hot chocolate in their hands, lights dimmed and curtains open. It’s just them now, the younger frogs gone back to their dorms, and Bitty curls into Jack on the loveseat Ransom and Holster liberated from one of the sororities when they wanted to get rid of it. Bitty is warm and soft against Jack’s chest, and Jack has his arms around his waist—it’s perfect in a way that makes Jack’s chest ache, and he presses a chaste kiss to Bitty’s temple, then another one in the place where his neck meets his jaw.

When he looks up, he can see Shitty watching them from the couch with a warm expression in his eyes. Jack gives him a small smile, then brushes a hand up and down Bitty’s arm affectionately, and Bitty cranes his neck to look at Jack.

“Wanna go upstairs?” Jack asks, looking at the way Bitty starts to blink blearily every few seconds.

“Mm, in a moment,” Bitty replies, burrowing his face in the crook of Jack’s neck. “It’s nice.”

They sit in companionable silence for a while longer, until Holster stands up and announces, “I’m beat. Goodnight, guys, I think I’m gonna hit the sack. Lardo, you are the fucking absolute best.”

Ransom follows suit a few minutes later, and the frogs say their goodbyes soon after, which leaves Shitty and Lardo alone with Jack and Bitty in the living room. Lardo is now half-asleep against Shitty’s side, and he sighs as he looks at Jack.

“I’m gonna take her home,” he says, shaking Lardo until she starts to look a little more alert. “See you in the morning, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Jack says. “Night, Shitty. Lardo, you were incredible.”

She comes over, clumsy in a way she usually isn’t, and gives Jack a kiss on the cheek, then leans down to kiss Bitty’s cheek as well.

“I love you, guys, so fucking much,” she says.

A moment later, they can hear the front door close behind Shitty and Lardo, and they’re left completely alone in a dark, quiet Haus.

“Hey,” Bitty says softly, looking up at Jack and pressing a kiss to the underside of his jaw.

“Hey,” Jack says back, smiling. “Ready to go?”

Bitty nods.

Once they’re back in Bitty’s room, Jack almost immediately peels himself out of his crumpled dress shirt and discards the tie. He’s unbuttoning his pants when Bitty pushes his hands away, undoes the button and the zipper, then shoves Jack gently onto the bed and sinks to his knees in front of him. Jack swallows thickly.

“Can I—” Bitty pauses, looking up, and licks his lips.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jack repeats, like it’s a fever, and he can feel it burning him up from the inside, “just come here for a moment, okay?”

He pulls Bitty up and over himself, until Bitty settles in Jack’s lap, his lips hovering just inches over Jack’s face. Jack surges up to kiss him, and it’s sloppy and lazy, and hot, Bitty so soft and warm against Jack, their breathing slowly evening out until they finally breathe in sync. They know each other’s bodies in more than one way—they’ve been aware of each other’s presence for years even when they couldn’t see each other, and it’s so easy to fall into that rhythm that feels more natural than anything else in the world.

Jack kisses Bitty until their lips are red and there is a blush spreading down Bitty’s chest, and then Bitty slides down Jack’s body until he’s kneeling in front of him on the floor. Jack reaches for a throw pillow and passes it to Bitty almost without thinking; Bitty smiles up at Jack, looking a bit nervous, and runs a steadying hand up and down Jack’s thigh.

It’s almost too much when Bitty finally touches Jack, a tentative touch of his lips that grows bolder when Jack can’t stop the strangled sound that escapes his mouth. Bitty takes his time with his mouth wrapped around the head of Jack’s dick, cautious in a way that betrays his lack of experience, but it’s at the same time the best thing Jack has ever felt.

After a moment, Bitty sinks a little lower, his tongue pressed firmly against Jack, and Jack grabs a fistful of sheets to keep himself from moving. One of Bitty’s hands is wrapped around the base of Jack’s dick, the other one curled against Jack’s thigh, and Jack reaches out to cover it with his hand, tangles their fingers together.

When Jack looks down, Bitty looks obscene between his legs, his lips red and wet, and then he catches Jack’s gaze and holds it for a moment. It’s almost over right then and there, and Jack touches Bitty’s face, his cheek, the soft shell of his ear. He can feel the way Bitty’s throat works around him, the way he trembles a little bit with the effort, and Jack bites down on his lip to keep from making too much sound.

“Bitty. Bitty, I’m—” he whispers after a moment, tugging at Bitty’s hair gently until he pulls off and crawls all over Jack to reach his mouth as his hand speeds up until Jack is coming all over both of them, his hands fisted in the sheets and Bitty’s tongue in his mouth.

After that, it takes almost no time at all for Bitty to come with Jack’s hand wrapped firmly around him, and he just breathes against Jack’s mouth, like he forgot he should be kissing him, lost in the rush of endorphins.

Bitty collapses on top of Jack, boneless and pliant, and Jack spends a few minutes just breathing with him before he gently pushes Bitty onto the mattress and stands up to get them something to clean up.

“I love you,” Bitty mumbles sleepily once Jack comes back with a damp washcloth and leans down to deal with the mess on Bitty’s chest and abdomen.

Jack drops the washcloth to the floor once he’s done and climbs into the bed next to Bitty. “I love you, too,” he whispers, pressing his lips against Bitty’s temple, the lightest of kisses.

Jack’s heart is light when he falls asleep.


They say goodbye the next afternoon behind the closed door of Bitty’s room, after they’ve gone for coffee and a walk around the campus, and maybe they didn’t hold hands, but they walked close to each other, shoulders brushing, and they almost managed to forget that Jack had to leave at all.

“Here,” Bitty says after they’ve already exchanged gifts and last parting kisses, pressing a tupperware container into Jack’s hands. “For the road. Just like last year.”

He smiles tentatively, like he’s trying to gauge Jack’s reaction to the memory of that time, but Jack only smiles back at him and accepts the cookies.

“Call me whenever, okay?” he says then, looking down at Bitty. “And I’ll pick you up from the airport, just text me the details.”

Bitty nods, kisses him again, one last time, and then they make their way downstairs.

When Jack looks into the rearview mirror, Bitty is standing on the porch in just his shirt, smiling a sad, wistful smile.

Jack swallows slowly around the tightness in his throat and drives.


He doesn’t go home for Christmas.

He’s at the airport, ready to board, when the snowstorm comes, sudden and furious, and his flight gets delayed once, then a second time. At two a.m. they announce that all flights have been canceled due to weather conditions.

Jack calls his mother.

“Mama,” he says into the phone, waiting for a cab that will probably take forever to get there, the streets covered with a thick layer of snow, traffic almost at a standstill even at this hour. “Mama, I’m not coming. There’s a huge snowstorm and they canceled all flights until Saturday.”

“I know, Jack, I know,” his mom says, her voice rough with sleep, but Jack can still hear the sadness in her tone. “It’s the same here. Take care of yourself, baby, okay? Go home and get some sleep. We’ll skype tomorrow before dinner, all right? Your father says hello.”

Jack feels a pang of guilt. “Sorry for waking you up,” he says. “I should be going, my cab will be here in a moment. Love you, mama. And say hello to dad for me. I’ll call you in the morning, okay?”

Next day, Jack sleeps almost until noon, watches Band of Brothers for the third time because HBO is showing reruns, cleans his apartment.

He spends his first Christmas in Providence completely alone, feeling the oppressive emptiness of his apartment even more than usual, seeping through into his bones until all that’s left is a familiar ache deep inside of him. He tries not to think about it as he eats braised chicken breast with baby carrots and mashed potatoes for dinner, doing his best to ignore the unbearable tightness in his chest.

He calls Bitty around nine, and the first call goes to voicemail, but when Jack tries again, Bitty picks up after a few rings.

“Hey,” he says, and Jack can tell he’s smiling on the other end of the line. “Merry Christmas, Jack. Please, say hello to your parents for me, okay? My mom says hi, too.”

Jack takes a deep breath. “Bitty, I’m not in Montreal.”

He can almost see the way Bitty’s face falls. “What?” Bitty asks. “What do you mean, you’re not in Montreal?”

Jack licks his lips and swallows. “They shut down the airport because of a snowstorm. I didn’t manage to get out in time. I’m still in Providence.”

He can hear the sharp intake of breath. “Jack, are you alone on Christmas? Oh my god, I’m so—”

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” Jack says, even though he doesn’t really feel okay. He feels lonely and miserable, and so, so tired. “I just wanted to hear your voice. It’s nice. It’s enough, okay?” He pauses for a second. “How are you, though? Having a good time?”

Bitty is silent for a moment. “It’s good. A little strange, but good,” he says eventually. “I missed my parents a lot, but there is such a thing as too many people in one house, so it was nice to be able to get away for a moment. I should be going back soon, though, my family is dragging me to church. It’s a thing.”

Jack nods, closing his eyes, even though Bitty can’t see him. “Okay. Okay. Merry Christmas, Bitty. I love you.”

“I love you, too. Please, call me whenever, okay?” Bitty says then. “I can’t promise I’ll be able to take it, but I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Jack reassures him. “Please, tell your parents Merry Christmas for me.”

At midnight, Jack comes out onto the balcony and breathes in the freezing air until it clears his head, until the insistent buzzing just under his skin finally stops, until he doesn’t feel like he’s too big for his own body anymore.

Just a few more days, and it will be another year he’s made it without falling to pieces inside his own head. He knows what it’s like to shake and tremble until you finally shatter, and sometimes he can still feel the echo of that feeling, but now it’s always a little easier to breathe, keep still until it passes.

So Jack breathes and lets it pass over him.

Below him, the world is white and still.

Chapter Text

Eric touches down at T.F. Green Wednesday afternoon. Jack is waiting for him by the baggage claim, looking quietly happy in that understated way Eric has grown to know so well—it hides in Jack’s eyes, in the soft slant of his mouth, the way he holds himself, the gentle slope of his shoulders. Eric loves seeing Jack like this. Happy. Content. It makes him happy in return.

Jack doesn’t hug him but he takes Eric’s bag and leads him to where he’s parked his car.

“I’m so happy to see you,” he whispers as they weave through the crowd, their shoulders touching. It’s just for a fraction of a second, but Jack brushes the back of his hand against Eric’s, the softest of touches that still leaves Eric tingling.

He thought it would go away after a while, the way being this close to Jack made him dizzy and lightheaded, but the feeling is still there, and, god, he loves this ridiculous boy so much.

“So how was Christmas?” Jack asks once they’re in the car, leaving the airport in the rearview mirror. “Apart from having too many people in one house. I’m guessing lots of cousins? Big extended family?”

“You’re guessing right,” Eric says, fiddling with the sound system in the car, going through Jack’s iPod, plugged into the docking station. He’s pleased to discover that Jack has saved all the playlists Eric made for him. “Lord, you have no idea how crazy Christmas with my family is. I love them all to death, but, dear god, are they a lot to handle.”

Jack laughs softly, and Eric catches himself, remembering that Jack didn’t get to spend Christmas with his family. Instead, he spent it alone in his apartment, with Eric hundreds of miles away.

“That sounds nice, though,” Jack says, taking a turn left. There is a lot of snow up here in New England, and it’s always jarring for Eric when he comes back from a visit home, how different the air feels, sharp and icy. He reaches over to turn up the heat, catches the way Jack glances at him before he goes back to looking at the road. “I have a few cousins on my father’s side, but they’re mostly teenagers. So I’m guessing there’s a lot more small children running around your family house.”

Eric looks at Jack, smiling knowingly.

“Jack Zimmermann, do you want to tell me you like small kids better that teenagers?” he asks, meaning to elbow Jack gently, but not wanting to distract him from driving.

“I still remember when I was a teenager,” Jack says, and his voice is teasing, but Eric freezes for a moment when it dawns on him what Jack is really talking about. “Not exactly a period of my life I would like to revisit. But, you know. Small kids are nice. Easy to get along with. That’s why I thought I would hate coaching the peewee team, but it turns out that eleven-twelve is still not too bad.”

Eric can imagine that—the way Jack is with children, gentle and warm, and lovely, and this makes his mind go places he promised himself he would never let himself go.

“My cousins would love you,” he says instead. “They’re all about piggyback rides right now, and I know for a fact that you give excellent piggyback rides. Been there, done that. Literally.”

Eric smiles at the memory, and when he looks over to Jack, he can see that he’s smiling, too. Eric doesn’t remember much of the Spring C after a certain point, but he does remember the feeling of sitting on Jack’s strong, broad shoulders, swaying with the music, feeling warm and content, and so, so sad at the same time, because back then, he still never let himself hope. It was just Jack—Jack, his friend, Jack, his captain, his teammate, his housemate. Jack, his hopeless straight boy crush.

Now, Eric is going to be kissing him at midnight.

“I almost came out to my parents over the break,” he says then, watches as Jack’s hands tighten on the steering wheel. “But then I got interrupted and chickened out. Again.”

He’s frustrated with himself, because, as much as he dreads that conversation, he also wants this to be done and over with. He wants to know—know where he stands, where to go from here. He understands that he shouldn’t be forcing this, that it’s okay to take as much time as he needs, but the ease with which Jack talks to him about his parents—how they asked him to say hello to Eric for them, how they want him to visit them in Montreal, how they text Eric to wish him luck before a game—makes Eric want the same thing for himself, too. For himself and for Jack.

It’s not like his parents don’t like Jack, because they do (his mother adores him, at least, and Coach seems like he has a lot of respect for Jack), but Eric doesn’t pretend it’s not different when they have no idea that the nice Canadian boy who visited over the summer break is sleeping with their only son.

“Hey, you do what you have to do, okay?” Jack says, taking one hand off the steering wheel to touch Eric’s knee in a comforting gesture. “Whatever you’re comfortable with.”

Eric nods.

“I ran into my high school crush yesterday,” he says after a while completely out of the blue, cringing at the memory. Jack looks over at him with curiosity. “It was so awkward, god.”

“Oh?” Jack says, trying for nonchalant and failing a little bit. Eric finds it endearing more than anything else. “Wanna tell me about it?”

Eric shrugs, but starts talking anyway. “His name’s Simon, he’s playing quarterback over at UPenn. Got a full-ride and everything the year before I graduated. It’s just— He was always so nice to me, y’know? Even when other people…weren’t.”

“Not like me,” Jack interrupts, staring straight ahead, and it takes Eric a moment to understand what Jack is talking about.

“Come on, Jack. Water under the bridge,” he says. “And you made it up to me later anyway.”

“I’m still ashamed of the way I acted back then, though,” Jack says, even though Eric forgave him a long time ago. “But you were saying?”

“Well, it wasn’t— I never told him I liked him, obviously,” Eric says, looking down at his lap, picking at his nails, while Jack listens intently, “and nobody knew, I think. Some of the guys on the team gave me a hard time about it, though, even though they couldn’t have known for sure, they just saw that we were, well, maybe not friends exactly, but…friendly. Like, he would talk to me sometimes, and we would walk home together on those days when there was no football practice. So it never really amounted to anything, and then he went to college, and then I went to college, and I haven’t seen him in years, until last year, and then just now. It was, I don’t know…it was really awkward, like, we talked, and he told me he wants to propose to his girlfriend, get married after he graduates. It’d been like all the worst clichés rolled into one. The closeted Southern gay boy with a silly crush on a straight guy. I promised myself then I would never do that again, and then I broke that rule somewhere halfway through freshman year.”

He laughs, self-deprecating and almost embarrassed, his palms sweaty.

Jack looks over at him, and his expression is difficult to decipher. “You mean…you mean me?” he asks.

“Of course I mean you, silly,” Eric chides. “Lord, I was so— I don’t even know. I promised myself I wouldn’t let it happen again, and then it did happen, and I had no idea what to do with it. Because you were, you know, you. Famous, and talented, and way, way out of my league. And straight.”

Jack laughs, and it’s half-amused, half-sad.

“You know what they say about assuming,” he teases.

“Yeah, well, forgive me for having self-preservation instinct,” Eric says, but it has no real bite to it, and Jack smiles. “Not that it worked that well, mind you, but, you know. It’s the thought that counts. And it all worked out in the end.”

“Yeah.” Jack looks away from the road for a moment, and his eyes are so warm. “Yeah, it did.”

“I thought my heart was gonna give out when I asked you to kiss me,” Eric admits in a quiet voice a moment later. “I’ve never been more scared.”

“Not even right before a hard check?” Jack chirps, and Eric laughs despite himself.

“Yeah. Not even then.” He debates for a moment whether to say anything else, but he needs Jack to understand. “I was expecting you to say no. I thought maybe it would be easier, to get over you, if you rejected me to my face. I thought maybe you would leave, and it was just the scariest thought, but I thought I would also be…relieved? In a sense? Because then I’d have proof. But then you didn’t leave, and you kissed me, and— You know that the first thought that went through my head when I woke up that morning was that it wasn’t real? Because I’d wanted that for so long, and I convinced myself it was never meant to be, and it was like my brain was unable to cope with the truth. It sounds so silly, right?”

It’s like he can’t stop, the words pouring out of him until he empties himself of everything he has always wanted to say to Jack but couldn’t.

“No,” Jack says as he pulls into the underground parking lot of his apartment building and maneuvers into his designated parking space, “no, it doesn’t.”

He hauls Eric’s bag out of the trunk and slings the strap over his shoulder before Eric can do anything, and they ride the elevator standing close but not touching. Not until they’re behind closed doors and Jack presses Eric against the wall, then leans in to kiss him.

“Hi,” he says then, his face just inches away from Eric.

“Hi,” Eric says back, sounding breathless.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Jack admits, then kisses him again, brief, gentle. His hand is cupping Eric’s face, and he’s warm against Eric’s chest, hard and soft at the same time.

“Me too.” He smiles up at Jack, who looks at Eric with impossible fondness in his eyes. “Me too.”

They stay like this for a moment, their foreheads touching.

For this short while, it’s like the rest of the world doesn’t exist.


They decide to have a quiet night in on New Year’s Eve, just the two of them. Cory was supposed to join them, but apparently his sister blackmailed him into going out with her and her new girlfriend to some party their friends are throwing in Boston, and Jack knows Cory doesn’t get to see his sister very often during the season, so he just tells him to have a great time and not to worry about the two of them.

It’s perfect, too, in a way, because he knows that once midterms start for Bitty and Jack goes on an exhausting, five-game roadie with the team, and then once the playoffs push starts in earnest, they won’t be seeing a lot of each other either, at least for a couple months. As it is, he gets to have Bitty all to himself until Sunday.

Bitty insists on baking a pie, and soon Jack’s apartment smells like cinnamon and cloves, and it’s warm in a familiar, homey way Jack desperately misses when he’s all alone here.

Jack asks if Bitty needs any help, but he gets told to just sit down and enjoy his spiced chai tea, so he sits at the table, sips his tea, and watches Bitty work. It’s peaceful and familiar, because Jack has been here, in this place, hundreds of times—it was a different kitchen and a different table, but the way his chest got warm and light, full of something he couldn’t quite name, has always been the same.

“Hey, are you going to summer camp this year?” Jack asks as Bitty works on the filling. Bitty looks over his shoulder, momentarily distracted, and his brow furrows a little.

“I don’t know yet,” he says. “Why?”

“I was thinking maybe you could come here for a few weeks in the off-season, maybe a month if you could make it. I mean, only if you want to. But I would…” he trails off for a moment, gathers his courage, “I would love that. To have you here for more than just a few days.”

Bitty smiles, all the way up to his eyes. “I would love that, Jack, goodness. Of course I would.”

Jack wipes his palms on his jeans, then leaves his chair to walk up to Bitty, press a light kiss against his temple. It’s one of those things Jack always carries with him—the way Bitty’s skin feels under his lips, the memory of his smell. It’s familiar, soothing. It’s home.

“Don’t distract me when I’m baking, Jack Zimmermann,” Bitty chides playfully as he slaps Jack’s hand away from where it’s sneaked its way around Bitty’s waist.

“Oh, so I’m distracting?” Jack asks in a low voice as he leans in to kiss the nape of Bitty’s neck.

“Yes, very,” Bitty says with emphasis. “Now behave yourself, mister. I have a pie to bake.”

“And pies are serious business,” Jack says in a deadpan voice.

“You bet your perky hockey butt they are.” Bitty shoos him away, and Jack concedes to hopping onto the part of the counter Bitty isn’t using.

Bitty puts on some upbeat music Jack vaguely recognizes and dances at the counter as he finishes his prep. Jack is about to ask him about the singer when his phone rings and he sees his dad’s name on the caller ID. Bitty immediately turns his iPod off and Jack takes the call, puts his dad on the loudspeaker.

“Jack?” he can hear his father’s voice echoing through the kitchen.

“Hey, dad, you’re on speaker. Behave,” Jack says with a smile, and Bitty chuckles.

“Hello, Mr. Z!” he says as he finishes layering the lattice until it looks picture perfect. The oven is already pre-heated, so he puts the pie in and starts on the clean-up.

“Hello, boys. I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” his dad says, and Jack can see Bitty’s mortified face when he looks up. He laughs.

“No, no, Bitty is just finishing his pie,” Jack says. Next to him, Bitty is putting away the flour and rinsing the cups, even though the dishwasher is right there. Jack tugs at the sleeve of Bitty’s shirt and points to it with his foot, but Bitty just shrugs with a smile, then mouths silently, “I don’t mind.”

“Got any plans for tonight?” his dad says.

“We’re staying in, just the two of us. Cory Smith was supposed to come, but he’s going to Boston with his sister,” Jack explains. “He doesn’t get to see her a lot. You?”

“Oh, you know,” his father says. “The whole nine yards. The charity gala first, then the Favreaus, then over to Stéphane and Danielle’s. Your mother wants me to tell you she’s so jealous of the two of you for getting to stay home.”

“You can always fake food poisoning, maman,” Jack suggests in a very serious tone, and Bitty cracks up. He washes the last of the dishes and dries off with a towel, then comes closer to lean into Jack, who takes one of his hands and kisses his knuckles on impulse.

“So what you’re suggesting is that she should just feed me to the wolves?” His dad chuckles on the other end of the line. “I thought you had my back, son.”

Jack smiles. “You know mama has always been my favorite. No offence.”

“Eric?” he asks next, and Bitty looks up at the phone, surprised. “Any support from my son’s boyfriend?”

“Y’all know it wouldn’t be fair for me to pick sides,” Bitty says, and he laughs into Jack’s collarbone. Jack’s chest feels light as air, the impossible warmth spreading through his ribcage.

“Jack, your father looks so betrayed,” his mom chimes in, having apparently taken control of the phone. “Eric, honey, it’s so good to hear from you.”

“Great to talk to you, too, Mrs. Z,” Bitty says. It’s a concession on his part, Jack knows, because Bitty wouldn’t call Jack’s parents by name even after they’d asked him countless times. He doesn’t know whether that’s some weird Southern hang-up on Bitty’s part or if he just doesn’t realize how much Jack’s parents adore him.

Sometimes Jack thinks he wants to have what they have—to be still so in love with each other even after all these years, and then he looks at Bitty and thinks, yeah, that won’t even be a challenge.

They wish each other a happy New Year just in case they can’t get in touch at midnight, and then his parents disconnect, leaving them alone in the kitchen.

“Wanna go for a walk?” Jack asks, looking out the window at the white world below them. It’s started snowing again. “Once the pie is out of the oven, of course.”

Bitty’s face lights up. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, I’d love that.”


They go out into the slowly falling snow, and Jack remembers that night after Lardo’s exhibition, when he could hold Bitty’s hand out in the open and not be afraid people were going to see. He wants this now, too, wants not to be afraid, wants Bitty to have everything he deserves and more.

They walk close to each other at a slow pace, shoulders brushing, watching people rush past them as they hurry home. It feels almost like they’re invisible to the rest of the crowd, existing in a world of their own, where time passes differently and they can just be, for a moment, before the reality comes crashing in.

Jack takes Bitty to his favorite place at the nearby park, and watches as Bitty looks around in delight. He’s dressed in the warmest winter clothes known to man, and there’s a giant red scarf wrapped around his neck, but the apples of his cheeks are still pink from the cold.

“It’s like Narnia in here,” he says, looking up at the wrought iron lamppost. Jack ducks his head to hide a smile.

“Does this make you Lucy? Small and adorable?” he teases, and Bitty laughs, then gathers a handful of snow between his palms and throws a snowball straight at Jack. It catches him in the shoulder.

Jack retaliates a moment later, gets Bitty straight in the chest, and Bitty shrieks, running away until he almost slips on the iced-over path. Jack catches him at the last possible moment, and this, here—it’s like one of those moments in the movies where the couple look into each other’s eyes, and then they kiss in the slowly falling snow.

Instead, Jack steadies Bitty with a hand around his waist and then lets go, observes as Bitty’s face falls just the tiniest bit. He hates himself for this, for making Bitty feel this way. Like he’s holding him back.

“Hey, Jack,” Bitty says after a moment, as they’re walking through the park in the direction of a cozy café that serves excellent hot chocolate, “thank you.”

Jack startles a little. “What for?” he asks, glancing down at Bitty, who looks a little more subdued now, but also quietly content in a way.

“Just…everything.” Bitty shrugs. They’re completely alone in this part of the park. “You know, this time last year I was just really miserable and so, so in love with you,” he says in a quiet voice, “and I thought I could never have this, but now it’s— I’m really happy, Jack. With you.”

It tugs at something deep inside of Jack, the way Bitty just says it so easily, like it doesn’t mean everything.

“I’m really happy, too,” Jack admits. His throat feels tight, but his chest is once again full of that impossible lightness. “And I’m sorry, I know it must be hard on you, to keep doing it this way. In secret.”

Bitty halts abruptly in front of Jack, forcing him to stop, too. “Please, stop apologizing,” he says. “It was my choice, okay? And I would make that choice again in a heartbeat.”

Jack wants to kiss him so much. Instead, he brushes against Bitty’s arm, touches his fingers to Bitty’s for a fraction of a second.

“Thank you,” Jack says, and smiles. Bitty smiles back.

It’s enough.


Back at Jack’s apartment, Bitty takes his coat off and unwraps the huge scarf as Jack goes to the kitchen to make tea. He’s pulling out the metal tin from the top shelf of the cupboard when Bitty stands in the doorway, leaning against the wall with his hip. His cheeks are still red from the cold and there are snowflakes melting in his hair.

Jack stands with his back to the counter, waiting for the water to boil, and he reaches a hand out to Bitty, beckoning him closer. When Bitty goes, Jack catches the tips of his fingers as soon as he can reach and pulls him closer until they’re touching, Bitty’s cheek pressed into Jack’s chest.

“Hi,” he says when Bitty looks up at him.

“Hi,” Bitty says back, smiling softly. Jack leans down to kiss him, a brief, chaste kiss, barely a press of lips against lips. “I like it when you’re like that,” Bitty says then. “Happy. Smiling. You didn’t do a lot of smiling my freshman year.”

Jack shakes his head. “No, I didn’t. I got better at it, though. That has to count for something, right?” he says then, half-serious, half-joking.

“Yeah,” Bitty says and pushes up on his tiptoes to reach Jack’s mouth, then kisses him sweetly.

They fill the mugs with water and take their tea to the living room, then curl up together on the couch. It’s peaceful and quiet, and just what Jack needs right now, after spending Christmas alone and miserable. He feels better now, and for the first time in a long time, the prospect of a new year starting doesn’t fill him with a vague sense of dread. It used to be harder, thinking about all those days he needed to survive to make it to the next New Year’s Eve, but now he feels like some of the weight on his shoulders has disappeared, making it easier to breathe.

“I told George about us,” he says after a while. Bitty looks like he’s starting to doze off, his head pressed comfortably against Jack’s collarbone, but he immediately opens his eyes and looks up at Jack.

“Oh?” he says, then props himself up on his hands, sitting up straighter. “What did she say?”

“It wasn’t anything official, you know, Georgia is a friend, too,” he explains, tripping over his words, because he needs Bitty to understand that he’s not ready to come out yet. “But she was happy for me. For us.”

Bitty smiles. “That’s nice,” he says.

(Jack still remembers the rush of breath as he said the words, quiet but smiling, too, the way his chest felt too tight and not big enough at the same time, like there was something that wanted to burst through his ribs.

Georgia just looked at him evenly, the corners of her lips turning up. “I’m glad, Jack,” she said. “You look happier. Calmer. And I can’t say I’m particularly surprised.”)

“Apparently I was really obvious about you,” Jack says, laughing quietly. Bitty just gives him a look.

“Clearly not obvious enough,” he says, prodding Jack in the ribs with a finger, a smile on his lips.

Jack squirms away but Bitty follows, so Jack does the only sensible thing and tackles him, until Bitty is on his back on the couch, Jack hovering above him, holding Bitty’s wrists in his hands above Bitty’s head. It’s meant to be playful and silly, but then Jack can hear Bitty’s breath catch as he licks his lips, and his t-shirt rides up, exposing a strip of skin on his stomach, and just like that, it turns into something else entirely.

They make out on the couch for a long while, with Bitty under Jack, Bitty’s hands tangled in Jack’s hair, until they’re both breathing hard, their lips slick with spit. When they part, Bitty makes a small sound in the back of his throat, somewhere between a moan and a whine, then follows Jack up, kisses him lazily one more time. His lips are red and soft, and his eyes are huge in the dim light.

It’s an impulse, but Jack reaches for his phone, then presses a kiss to Bitty’s neck, and takes a picture. He looks at it for a moment, and it’s strange, like looking at his reflection but not quite. It’s almost like the camera lens sees the truth better than he does, and Jack knows that he’s happy with Bitty, but now he can see that he looks happy, too.

Bitty glances at the photo over Jack’s shoulder. “It’s nice,” he says, a little wistful.

“You’re nice,” Jack says, following the curve of Bitty’s jaw with his lips. Bitty laughs against him, and Jack can feel the vibrations all the way down to his chest.

“Oh my god, Jack.” Bitty shakes his head, then leans down to press his forehead to Jack’s shoulder blade, still trembling with laughter.

They end up watching The Cutting Edge once Bitty discovers Jack has never seen it before, and then he insists they need to watch it right this minute, because it’s the greatest silly movie Jack will ever see, and it has both figure skating and hockey, so they both have something to make fun of.

“Look, Jack, that could be us,” Bitty says some time later, dissolving into peals of laughter.

“Your attitude would be way better, though,” Jack retorts, nudging Bitty gently in the thigh with his toes.

Bitty nods thoughtfully. “True.”

It turns out Bitty has been right, though—the movie is fun in a silly, ridiculous way, and Jack finds himself strangely invested despite his earlier misgivings.

“That looks like a stretch,” he comments towards the end of the movie, as the main couple execute a move that shouldn’t be, if Jack knows anything about skating, humanly possible to execute.

Beside him, Bitty nods. “Oh my lord, it really, really is,” he says. “It’s impossible. Doesn’t mean it’s not fun to watch, though.”

They call Shitty once the credits start to roll, and talk for a while until his parents finally find him where he’s hiding from the rest of his family and force him back inside.

“Happy New Year, you crazy kids,” Shitty says by way of goodbye before he disconnects. “Love, live, go fucking nuts. See you on the other side.”

It’s almost midnight, so they open the champagne neither of them particularly likes, but which is still their best option, put their coats on and go out onto the balcony to watch the fireworks. Jack has one hand around Bitty’s waist, and he presses his lips to Bitty’s hair, rocking them gently as the fireworks start to go off. Jack looks at his watch. It’s midnight.

“Happy New Year,” he whispers into Bitty’s ear, and Bitty turns around in Jack’s arms.

“Happy New Year, Jack,” he says, breathless, and Jack leans down to kiss him.

Above them, it’s starting to snow again, and Jack thinks of another night not long ago which he spent on this balcony in the falling snow, feeling like he couldn’t get enough air. Now, when they break apart and Bitty looks up at him like Jack is everything he has ever wanted, his breath catches for an entirely different reason.


Random second-hand celebrity connections
For all your “my sister sold water to Beyoncé once” needs. C’mon, hit me up, I wanna know everything.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
Not really a second-hand connection so much as a first-hand one, but I once took a class with Jack Zimmermann. It was a class on food. Boy is full of surprises.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
Consider this nonny’s interest piqued.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
First of all, nonny, I love you for using this phrase right. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen it misspelled and generally mangled beyond all recognition, I would be able to pay off my student loans by now.

Second of all, the class was a senior history seminar called Women, Food & American Culture (btw, if anyone on the meme goes to Samwell and has a chance to take a class with professor Atley, run, don’t walk, that woman is amazing), it was really, really great, and it was also the last place I would expect to run into a hockey bro, but apparently JZimms has layers or something, because he took the class with one of his teammates, who was a sophomore at the time, but who, I shit you not, bribed his way into the class with baked goods. They always sat together and were acting sort of disgustingly cute.

Zimmermann also took photography his last semester with a friend of mine (there you go, a second-hand connection!), so, you know, layers.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
hey, can i have my random jack zimmermann story, too? bc my brother works at a campus café at samwell and ran into him a lot when he was a senior and went there all the fucking time. and he was always with one of his teammates, so if the history seminar dude was a short, cute blond guy that just screamed gay, then there’s a big chance it’s the same guy.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
It was, but also: not cool. “Screamed gay”? Really? That’s what we’re going with?

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
whatever, i’m calling it like i see it. i saw them once when i came to visit, the guy is a one hundred percent legit twink.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
Sure, do whatever, but you don’t need to be an asshole about this.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
JZimms appears to be a popular object of random encounters, looks like. This one is from way back, but my brother used to play with him on one team back in the Q. Bro never made it to the big leagues, but he still, until this day, maintains that JZimms was the best captain he’s ever had. Also, he once got mad high with Parse. My bro, not Zimms. Good times, apparently.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
Okay, now you HAVE to tell us about high Parse.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
Okay, so I asked my bro, and he says high Parse was just the most hilarious thing ever (they smoked weed, btw). He kept talking in nonsensical movie quotes and there was apparently something about turtles? Some deep philosophical debate? And high Parse is apparently very handsy.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
Okay, this sounds amazing. Hats off to your bro for bringing this true gem to our attention.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
I got one more! From yesterday, actually!

I work at a fancy gelato/café kinda place in Providence and we’re famous for our hot chocolate, which, I kid you not, is hands-down the best hot chocolate you will ever have. It’s thick and dark, and creamy, and fucking delicious. But whatever.

So I’m working the New Year’s Eve shift and not particularly happy about it, and it’s slowly getting dark, there are like three people inside, finishing off their coffee or whatever, and the little bell above the door chimes, and I see Jack fucking Zimmermann come in. He was really nice, tipped well, ordered hot chocolate, because apparently he heard somewhere that we rock and came to check us out. And there was a cute, small, blond guy with him, so make of that what you will. They were really adorable together, though, and not to be tinhatty about it, but they acted really couple-y.

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
Okay, I got no horse in this race, not really, but this is yet another instance of the cute, small, blond guy being mentioned in one breath with JZimms. And people always say they’re acting very couple-y, very touchy-feely. What the fuck is up with that?

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
what, you think the rumors about him and parse are true?

Re: Random second-hand celebrity connections
Look, I don’t know about Parse and I’m not gonna tinhat, this is not _goss, but all I’m saying is, either they’re really good friends or there’s something else going on. /shrug emoji


Jack takes a picture of Bitty just after he’s woken up, still sleep-soft and warm, and Bitty laughs when he sees Jack with his phone, then pulls him in for a lazy kiss.

“You gonna instagram this?” he asks with his lips against Jack’s mouth.

Jack ducks his head. “I wish I could,” he says, then asks, “So what do you wanna do today?”

Bitty looks up at him, the palm of his hand pressed to the side of Jack’s neck, and he can feel Bitty’s thumb running along the underside of his jaw.

“We could go skating,” Bitty muses, pulling Jack in closer. Jack frowns.

“The arena is closed today,” he says, confused, and Bitty laughs quietly.

“There’s a public outdoor rink here, Jack,” he says. “I checked, it’s open today. So? What do you say? Come on, it will be fun.”

And the thing is, Jack knows they shouldn’t. There will be too many people, too many possibilities to slip up, and besides, sometimes Jack thinks that if people just see the way he looks at Bitty, they will know. That it’s written all over him, all over his face, all over the way his body always instinctually looks for Bitty in a crowd, turns towards him like it has a mind of its own.

But he can see that Bitty really wants this, and it’s something that Jack can give him, despite his apprehension, unlike many other things Bitty deserves, so he just nods, then kisses him in the place where his jaw meets his ear.

“Okay, we can go skating,” Jack says.

The rink is not very crowded, but it’s not empty either, and they skate lazily side by side for a while, watching other people but watching each other more, brushing against each other from time to time, until Bitty spots an empty corner of the rink, and then he launches himself into a dizzyingly fast, graceful spin that leaves Jack lightheaded. When Bitty comes to an equally graceful stop, a few people start clapping and Bitty takes a deep bow, one hand on his chest.

Jack can only watch, his throat dry, but then Bitty skates up next to him to gently hip-check Jack, laughs when Jack doesn’t move even half an inch.

“Jack Zimmermann, you’re built like a brick wall,” he says, laughter still in his voice, and Jack wants to take him by the hand and let himself be led around the rink, like they did the last time they went skating together, Bitty’s hand in his, his fingers wrapped around Jack’s wrist.

Bitty skates backwards, putting a little distance between them, his eyes never leaving Jack. Jack’s fingers are itching to reach out and touch him.

Bitty pushes away, gaining speed, then starts to spin again, arms above his head, his face looking up towards the sky, and when he stops, Jack can see that he’s smiling, completely happy and carefree, even if just for a moment. The winter sun illuminates him from behind, making it so that his hair looks like a halo.

Jack swallows.

He takes a picture of Bitty, flushed from exercise and the cold, smiling and lovely, and golden, and he thinks, I love him. He thinks, he loves me, too. It’s still as exhilarating as the first time.

Jack gets recognized as they leave, and he spends a few minutes signing autographs and shaking hands, posing for photos. Bitty keeps to the side, trying to look insignificant and transparent next to Jack, and a new wave of guilt crashes over him. He wants to tell the family in front of him, this is my boyfriend, wants to drag Bitty into the pictures, wants to show the proof of his happiness to the world.

“So what’s bringing you to the rink today?” the father asks as Jack signs his son’s Falconers cap.

“I guess I just don’t do well away from the ice,” Jack says in return, smiling that bland, mechanical smile he’s had drilled into him since he was a teenager, then hands the cap back to the boy and gives him a high five. “Thank you for your support,” he says to the father.

They go to lunch after, and then go back home, tired but content. Jack kisses Bitty the moment the door closes behind them and doesn’t stop until they’re both out of their clothes in Jack’s bedroom, until Bitty gasps under Jack’s touch, until he comes all over Jack’s hand.

He takes a picture of Bitty, half-naked in Jack’s bed, his lips red from kisses and his hair mussed, a faint bruise blooming on the side of his neck.


Jack drives Eric back to Samwell on Sunday afternoon, and when they arrive at the Haus, everyone else is already there, so Jack has no other choice but to stay for a while before driving back to Providence.

Eric is selfishly happy the others roped Jack into staying, because he gets Jack to himself just for a moment longer. He hauls his bag up the stairs while Jack stays in the living room with the rest of the guys and Lardo, and Eric tries not to think about the fact that after today, they probably won’t see each other for the next two months.

He stays in his room for a moment, telling himself that he’s just unpacking before he completely loses the motivation to do it and spends the next two weeks living out of his suitcase, but in reality, he’s stalling, afraid that if he walks down the stairs, it will be all over—these few magical days he would have never even dreamed of having this time last year.

After a while, there’s a knock on his door, and Lardo slips into the room.

“Hey, you okay?” she asks. “Jack is getting worried, I think. You’ve been gone for quite some time.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Eric says, nodding furiously. “I just needed a moment to myself. Before, you know.”

“Oh, kiddo,” Lardo says, and comes closer to hug him. “C’mon, let’s go. Unpacking can wait.”

Once they come downstairs, Jack automatically reaches out to pull Eric next to him, and kisses him softly on the temple. They spend another half an hour catching up, and Ransom and Holster reenact a random encounter with a couple lax bros they had on their way back to the Haus. Eric can feel the way Jack’s chest shakes with quiet laughter against his back.

But then it starts to get dark and Jack glances at his watch, then gets up to leave.

They move to the kitchen to say goodbye while everyone else stays politely in the living room by some unspoken agreement, and Jack presses Eric against the counter, kissing him until they’re both breathless with it, and then Eric throws his arms around Jack’s neck, burying his face in the crook of his shoulder.

“I’m gonna miss you so much,” he says softly into Jack’s skin. He can feel him swallow.

“We’ll skype a lot, okay?” Jack says, pressing a kiss to Eric’s hair. “And if I get a free afternoon— You know I can’t promise you anything, but I’ll visit if I can, okay?”

Eric nods, still not looking up, just breathing Jack in, committing the way he feels against Eric to memory. “Yeah,” he says, “yeah, okay.”

“I love you,” Jack says, his cheek touching the side of Eric’s head, less than an inch away from his ear.

Eric just hugs him tighter. “I love you, too.”

It starts to snow again just as Jack drives away, the light muted grey and dark clouds low on the horizon. Eric looks away after a moment, once the tail lights of Jack’s Honda disappear in the distance, then goes upstairs, locks the door and breathes deeply for a long while.

Then he pulls out his phone and tweets:

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
Goodbyes are always the hardest.

Chapter Text

Flying for the Cup

Clark Bukowsky

Hockey is a sport that is all about the narrative—because the truth is, we all love a good story, and we love a good success story best of all. So it has been with great excitement that we, here over at Cutting Edge, have watched the Falconers slowly grow into themselves this season. After a rocky start in the pre-season and several heavy losses in the first half of the regular season, the Falconers seem to have finally hit their stride, and so far they don’t appear to be slowing down as they continue to tear through the competition on the ice.

Expansion teams can always be very hit or miss in a given season, and the Falconers are a young franchise that is still trying to find their footing in the big leagues, but it seems like things are finally looking up for them. In their admittedly short history, the Falconers went to the playoffs only once—last year, but it looks like they might be gearing up for a repeat performance. Last year, the Falconers bowed out in the second round, but now, with the addition of Jack Zimmermann (25), who plays center for the Falconers, having taken lead of the fist line, a spot previously held by David Holtz (29), the team looks to be better, stronger, faster, and more confident on the ice.

There has been a lot of heated speculation as to whether Zimmermann was worth the number of zeros on his contract, and so far—despite some voices to the contrary—all signs point to an emphatic yes. Zimmermann is not only a pleasure to watch on the ice (currently on a nine-game scoring streak and a serious Calder contender), but he seems to be emerging as a natural leader within a team that desperately needed direction. Despite the fact that the media like to describe Zimmermann as private and quiet, even closed-off, he appears to be an extremely charismatic player, not unlike his father, though at the same time, it is almost impossible to compare them—where Bad Bob Zimmermann was all about sheer strength and power combined with incredible skill, Jack Zimmermann doesn’t seem to be playing that particular game, relying more on his speed and flexibility to let his equally considerable skills shine.

It would be too early to speculate on how far they will go this year, if they qualify, but it wouldn’t be the first time an expansion team went unexpectedly all the way to win the Cup, defying all expectations. It was just a few years ago that the Las Vegas Aces, led by their captain Kent Parson, made history by becoming the youngest team to win the Cup in over four decades. Will the Falconers repeat that success? It is still too early to say, given that they have not clinched their spot in the playoffs yet, but if they continue playing the way they play, we will be cheering them on all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Read more over at Cutting Edge:


fight me @hellsqueen

jordan @hockeybutts
@hellsqueen dani, oh my god, congrats! you got the job!!!

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts i’m still shaking, tbh. i can’t believe this is fucking real. oh my god. PROVIDENCE FALCONERS PR TEAM, HERE I COME

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts i know we, like, joked about this back when i first applied, but HOLY FUCK. THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts DANI, I AM CRYING OVER HERE, I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside @hockeybutts i’ll finally be able to pay off student loans and help my lil sis out with college. it’s raining on my face rn

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside @hockeybutts but also, like, that cover letter was my fucking magnum opus

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hellsqueen when are you moving?

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside i’m starting in two weeks, so now i’m frantically looking at apartment listings and crying

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside mostly bc there’s next to nothing within my price range. it’s either a shithole or the rent is ridic

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside also i already managed to make a total idiot out of myself bc i literally ran into jzimms in the hallway. gr8 job, dani

jordan @hockeybutts
@hellsqueen @howlinginside lmao and how did he react?

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts @howlinginside he was really apologetic about it and i just wanted for the ground to swallow me

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts @howlinginside i’m fucking amazing at first impressions, clearly. he was really nice about it tho

jordan @hockeybutts
@hellsqueen @howlinginside lol, how fucking canadian of him

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts so how many NDAs did you have to sign?

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside @hockeybutts A LOT


Cory steals the last two cups of mango yogurt right from under Schumer’s nose at team breakfast. The hotel they’re staying at in Anaheim for their game against the Ducks is pretty nondescript, even as far as hotels go, but at least the food is nice.

Cory ignores the way Schumer tries to wrestle him for one of the cups and walks back to his seat next to Jack, knocks his knee into Jack’s and passes him the yogurt.

“I had to fight Schumer for it, so you better appreciate it,” he says, and Jack chuckles into his oatmeal.

“I’m pretty sure you can take Schumer no problem,” Jack tells him, pushing the cup next to his coffee mug and elbowing Cory in the side.

“Hey, I heard that!” Schumer says behind their backs, and the rest of the guys at their table crack up. “And fuck you, Smithy, I was there first.”

“Children, children,” Holtzy says in a raised voice, mock-serious, apparently finally deciding that it’s time to embrace all the old man jokes. “Please, play nice.”

Schumer just gives him the finger, sending the guys into another fit of laughter, and this, right here—this is what Cory loves about hockey, about being on a team. It’s like having thirty obnoxious, loud, slightly gross brothers at the same time, and you can’t just fake the kind of easy camaraderie that they have now, the rapport they’ve established both on and off the ice. In short: it’s freaking great.

And Cory knows that this translates into hockey, too—they’ve been on a pretty good streak lately, and what they’re doing right now is—if Cory is being totally honest with himself—pretty fucking inspired. He’s so ready to kick some poultry ass.

He knows the Ducks are a hard team to play against—great on the defense, pretty good on the offense, with a decent goalie, a fucking nightmare to score against in general, so the coaches are going all out on this one, putting all the speedy guys on the ice and hoping for the best. Which means Cory is starting line. Again. It still makes him giddy, and okay, maybe it’s just him, but he thought it would get old after some time; if it does, though, he’s nowhere near that point yet. The fact that Jack is playing like a fucking superstar, and Cory is going to be playing on the line with him, again, is just the cherry on top of the enormous, delicious sundae that has been the second part of their season so far.

They have press straight after breakfast, and Cory gets grilled by two reporters from the Daily about his form, yesterday’s practice, the atmosphere on the team, and everything in between while he’s sweating his balls off in the harsh, unforgiving camera lights, but he still smiles in a way he knows is going to end up looking lopsided on camera and babbles about teamwork and bonding, and all that other crap they want to hear. Suddenly he understands Jack’s unwillingness to deal with the press.

They get a light workout in before lunch; Cory ends up between Jack and Schumer on the bikes and they shoot the shit for a while until Schumer asks, “Hey, Zimms, what the fuck were you doing at the public rink on New Year’s? Pappy sent me some photos he’s seen on Twitter.”

Cory knows Jack spent that entire weekend with Bitty, so whatever Jack was doing, it most definitely involved Eric and is probably none of their fucking business, but Schumer is the biggest gossip on the team if not in the League, and more nosy than Cory thought was humanly possible. And Patrick Cranston, of the Houston Aeros fame, is definitely a close fucking second.

“I had no idea Pappy has been stalking me on the Internet,” Jack says in return, his tone light, but Cory can see that he’s cautious. “And also I had no idea you were even talking to Pappy. Weren’t you supposed to be the greatest rivals the NHL has seen since Parse and me or something?”

Schumer makes a dismissive gesture with his hand, then goes back to pedaling a bit more lazily than he probably should be. “That’s, like, totally overrated,” he says. “Nah, me and Pappy, we’re pals. And I’m guessing so are you and Parse, now, so the NHL is shit out of luck. They’re gonna have to come up with a different story. But seriously, though, Zimms. I know you would probably, like, marry the ice if they made that legal in the state of Rhode Island, but that’s an overkill, even for you.”

Jack looks straight ahead and doesn’t stop even for a second, keeps his rhythm even. “I was out with a friend,” he says.

“Hey, Schumer, what did you do for New Year’s Eve?” Cory butts in, because he knows Schumer is gonna keep pressing if he doesn’t, and he also knows that Jack shouldn’t be dealing with this sort of bullshit just a few hours before an important game. “I haven’t seen anything on your Twitter, and I know you’re a fucking Twitter addict.”

Schumer makes a face. “I lost my phone for two days,” he says. “Which should already tell you a lot about how my New Year’s Eve was going. I can’t remember the last time I woke up with a hangover this huge.”

Cory laughs. “The party at Holtzy’s after our win against the Aces,” he says. “I think I, like, crawled over to Jack’s the next day.”

Schumer winces, most likely at the memory of the morning after. “Oh, yeah, that one,” he says with a groan. “You’re probably right.”

Cory still feels faintly sick every time he thinks about it. “Yeah, thank fucking god for—” he catches himself at the last possible moment, mortified, “for Jack and his, you know, sense of maturity and responsibility. Also his food. Mostly his food, I think.”

“So now I know what I’m really good for,” Jack comments, a small smile on his lips, his shoulders loose, and the need to mentally kick himself or maybe for the ground to open and swallow him slowly leaves Cory as they continue to work out side by side.

“That, and the pretty face,” Schumer laughs. “Possibly also the hot bod, but hey, what do I know, am I right?”

“I don’t know, Schumer,” Benny says, coming over to them to hop onto the bike next to Schumer. “You sure keep talking about Zimms’ assets a lot.”

To Cory’s left, Jack hangs his head between his arms and laughs quietly as he pedals away.

“You’re just jealous, Benny,” Schumer says in return and makes kissy noises until Benny pushes his palm against Schumer’s cheek, shoving his face away.

“Fuck off,” Benny tells him, which is hardly the pinnacle of creativity as far as witty repartee goes, but at least it’s effective, because Schumer shuts up.

They keep at it for a moment, then change to the elliptical while Jack goes to do some core stretches on the mat.

“Public rink, huh?” Cory asks once they’re up in their room, about to go to team lunch.

Jack shrugs and smiles. “Bitty wanted to go skating, and the arena was closed, so…”

Cory puts his feet up, already showered and changed, waiting for Jack to pick a freaking shirt already, but he keeps checking his phone every thirty seconds, smiling whenever he gets a text, which is so unlike that Jack Cory first got to know back in September, so serious and closed-off, and focused on nothing but the game. Cory likes this Jack much better.

(And look, it’s not that he didn’t like him before, it’s just that this Jack is happier, and Cory just wants to see the people he likes happy, okay.)

“It was nice, you know?” Jack tells him, finally letting go of his phone and deciding on a shirt, thank fucking god.

Cory gives him a knowing smile. “Yeah, I bet it was.”


The game, just as Cory predicted, is a fucking nightmare. The D-men are a nightmare, the goalie is a nightmare, and the good people of Anaheim just plain don’t like them very much and do their best to make that openly known at every possible turn.

At the beginning of the third period, the Ducks are up one, but then Jack scores on a power play off Cory’s pass, and then again a few minutes later. A few minutes before the end of the period, Warner manages to push past Aaronowitz and Simmons, and they go into overtime tied 3-3.

The puck drops as Jack faces off with Warner, intense and focused, and the truth is, Warner doesn’t even stand a chance.

They win in overtime, after Holtzy scores off Jack’s pass, sinking the puck in the net top shelf, and they all ram into each other, still breathing rapidly, giddy with adrenaline and endorphins. It was a hard-fucking-earned victory if Cory’s ever seen one, and, in a sense, those are the best ones, the ones that he remembers the most.

The presser is all frenzy after that, and Cory can’t even remember the questions or his answers the moment he leaves the locker room, but he sure fucking hopes there were some good ones, because Cory scored again, and, well, life is kind of beautiful right now, even if their flight to Vegas leaves in less than two hours and they need to rush to get to the airport.

Once they’re on the plane, Jack hands Cory one of his earbuds without asking, and they nap together, listening to the post-game playlist Bitty made for Jack.

And yeah, Cory’s life right now? Well, all thing considered, it’s pretty fucking good.


They touch down in Vegas and despite the late hour, it’s still hot when Jack gets out onto the tarmac. He has no idea how Kent can live here.

He thinks about this sometimes—what would’ve happened if he’d gone first in the draft, back when he was supposed to, how he would have gone to the Aces while Kent stayed in New England, how he would have had to get used to the oppressive heat that sneaks under the skin and lingers, impossible to forget or ignore. How he would never have gone to Samwell and met the people who are now his family. How he would have never met Bitty.

Jack doesn’t believe in fate, but sometimes he wonders if maybe this was what was supposed to happen all along. He’s grateful that it did, despite everything. He’s long past that stage where he just wanted to rewind the clock to before everything fell apart and try again, try harder, even though that was always the crux of his problem—trying harder until he was trying too hard to withstand the pressure of his own mind. He knows better now.

They arrive at the hotel after midnight, and Jack sends a quick text to Bitty once they’re checked in and up in their rooms, then showers, already half-asleep as he soaps and rinses, and falls into his bed, out like a light the minute his head touches the pillow.

Next day they have a morning skate scheduled at the arena, then team lunch, then game in the evening.

Jack manages to find a moment in between the lunch and the game to skype Bitty, who looks tired and worn, stretched too thin by practice and school, and his duties as the captain, and missing Jack. Jack knows the feeling, and he knows what it means to miss someone this much over the miles between them.

“Good luck today,” Bitty tells him, smiling softly. He’s dressed in Jack’s hoodie again, and it makes Jack warm inside, the way Bitty looks comfortable and comforted even when there are still faint shadows under his eyes. “And say hello to Kent for me. You can even wish him luck, but not too much luck, mind you. That’s just for you.”

Jack knows they’ve been talking to each other, Bitty and Parse, and a while ago it would’ve filled him with white-hot panic, but now it’s just another link connecting those two worlds Jack has always balanced in between—the before and the after.

“Okay, I’ll make sure to tell him,” Jack says, then, after a beat, he adds, “I miss you.”

On the other side of the screen, Bitty smiles a small, sad smile. “I miss you, too. I can’t wait for you to get back.”

Jack is about to say, me, too, when there’s a loud banging on his door, and he can hear Schumer yell, “Yo, Zimms, finish jacking off, you sad fuck, and get your ass in gear! We’re leaving in ten!”

“Fuck off, Schumer, I’m not jacking off,” Jack says back. “And I’ll be right down.”

“That’s exactly what someone who’s jacking off would say!” Schumer laughs, and Jack throws a pillow across the room. It hits the door with a dull thud.

Bitty giggles. “Oh my lord. You’re like children over there. Our frogs are more mature.”

Jack is glad he was able to make him laugh.

“I gotta go,” he says, lingering in front of the screen even though he really, really needs to leave now. “I’ll text you after, okay? Love you.”

“Love you, too. Kick Parse’s ass for me, okay?” Bitty says. “But, you know, in a friendly way. We’ll talk after the game.”

They disconnect.


They tie in regulation, again, and it’s 2-2 as they go into overtime, Jack still buzzing with nervous energy but so, so ready to win he can almost taste it, and when he looks at Parse, his face just inches away from Jack’s, he can see that Parse can almost taste it, too. They’re both hungry for it, and it’s just like that first game back in Providence, where everything was suddenly more intense, more alive, more immediate. More.

It’s hard, the pace fast and brutal, emotions running high, and then Jack scores from behind the net, a fast backhand wrap-around that sneaks just right past the goalie almost at the last second, and then it’s over, and they win, again. It’s almost too good to be true, and when he looks up at Parse from where the team is trying to crush him into the boards, Parse is just shaking his head, a bittersweet smile on his lips as he skates past Jack and ruffles his hair.

“So much for kicking your ass in Vegas, huh?” he says, leaning in.

“C’mon, don’t be a sore loser, Parse,” Aaronowitz says as they skate for the tunnel. “We all kicked ass. Some more than others, yeah, but still.”

“You guys okay to go out after press?” Parse asks, undoing his helmet and trying to get his hair under control. It’s plastered all over his forehead, except for that little cowlick he could never get to behave.

Jack looks to Holtzy, who shrugs. “We have curfew at eleven, but sure, we could go out for a quick drink.”

“Yeah, Parser, show us the sights, if you know what I mean,” Schumer says, wagging his eyebrows, and Cory pushes his obnoxious face away.

Parse gives him a look. “Fuck off, Schumer, I’m not taking you to a strip club. Besides, you have, y’know, minors on the team. They’d get their asses carded to hell and back, and who needs that kinda press.”

Schumer whistles. “Jesus, Parse, are you, like, growing up?”

Parse gives him the finger.

“Okay, maybe not so much.”

They part at the locker room entrance, and Jack showers quickly and puts on his street clothes before they let the press in. It’s always an unpleasant experience, but it’s also a necessary evil, and this time around, the questions aren’t too bad. They ask about Parse a lot, but the thing is, talking about Parse is so much easier now that they’ve made up. Yes, he’s excited to be playing against him again. Yes, there’s a lot of great chemistry there. Yes, they’ve played some good hockey today, it’s always great to play against such a great team as the Aces. No, he doesn’t think about the Calder or the Art Ross, he just wants to play the best hockey he can and help his team secure their playoffs spot. Yes, he knows he would be going against Parse for the Art Ross. No, that’s not really his concern right now.

They meet up with Parse and a few other guys from the Aces in front of the arena, and Parse tells them he knows a nice place just fifteen minutes away. They decide to walk.

They get drinks and grab a bite to eat, and they talk about unimportant shit for a while, laughing and chirping each other, comfortable and loose, and still high on adrenaline.

“So how’s married life treating you?” Parse asks when the rest of the guys inevitably wander off in search of a hookup or a new drink, leaving them alone at their table in the corner. Jack looks around, just in case, and Parse touches his knee. Once upon a time, it would’ve been suggestive, making Jack run hot under the collar. Now it’s just comforting.

“Relax,” he says, rolling his eyes. “I’m not fucking stupid. So?”

“It’s good,” Jack says, because it’s true. “I’m happy.”

There’s a shadow of something on Parse’s face, but then he knocks back his drink and smiles, one corner of his mouth curling up higher than the other. It’s such a Parse smile, one that Jack remembers from before, and it’s good, to just be able to be around Kent, the way he could way back when, before everything went to hell and they stopped talking to each other for over four years.

“Yeah, you look happy,” Parse tells him in a voice that’s hard to decipher, but it’s not unkind.

“Bitty asked me to say hello and good luck. A little late for that one, huh?” Jack asks, knocking his knee into Parse’s under the table, and Kent laughs.

“Could’ve told me that before the game, Zimms. Maybe we would’ve won,” he teases.

“Nah, he told me to wish you luck, but not too much luck, so it still stands.” Jack peels the label off his microbrew. “He also told me to kick your ass.”

Parse laughs. “He’s good for you. So, y’know.” He does a little mock-salute. “Good for you.”

Jack is quiet for a moment, thinking about the fact that while Jack has Bitty waiting for him back home, Kent has no one. At least no one Jack knows about, and they might not be as close as they used to be, but Jack likes to think that if Parse was seeing someone and it was serious enough, he would know.

“How are you doing, though?” he asks eventually. “About, you know.”

Parse shrugs. “It’s, like, it is what it is, y’know?” he says in a low voice. “It was easier to hook up before the Cup, when nobody in this city gave a flying fuck about hockey. At least back then I didn’t have to worry that some twink would take a photo of me with his cock down my throat and sell it to fucking TMZ or whatever.”

Jack nods, takes a swig of his beer. It’s nice, tasty, if a little too sweet. “You have other options, though, right?” he asks, because he knows for a fact that Parse likes girls, too. “If it’s too difficult or risky.”

“Yeah, I haven’t been feeling that lately.” Parse plays with the rim of his glass, puts his feet up on the vacated chair. “Like, I know that’s still an option, but, whatever. Not really what I want right now.”

Jack doesn’t say, don’t worry, you’re gonna find someone, or, just give it time, doesn’t offer any of the usual platitudes, because that’s not who they are, six years spent apart or no. Instead, he just nods again and waves the waiter over to order another whisky sour for Kent.

A girl approaches them some time later, and Kent takes a selfie with her, signs her Aces snapback, making small talk the entire time, and the girl is clearly interested, but when Parse says, “Look, I gotta get back, show my boy Zimms around town before he fucks off to New England,” she just smiles, asks Jack for an autograph and a photo, and leaves.

Jack finishes his beer while Parse downs his drink and then they get going. It’s almost eleven, and they need to hurry if they want to make it to the hotel before curfew. He gathers round the rest of the guys, apart from Bergson, who disappeared some time ago and is nowhere to be found. Jack really wouldn’t want to be in his shoes if he gets in late.

Parse hugs Jack before they go, claps him on the back and says, “Don’t be a stranger, yeah?”

“Goes both ways,” Jack says, smiling, and hugs him back.


allie and the cat (allieandthecat) wrote in ontd_puck

rare zimmermann sighting / parse trade speculation

looks like parse and zimms made up for good, because there has been a lot of photographic evidence that they actually hung out together after the game yesterday. it’s nice to see them together like that, and you can see they really used to be good friends and still are (again? w/e), even though the media tried to portray them as this great rivalry, but lbr, if zimms signed with the aces instead of the falconers, they’d give the stars a run for their money when it comes to passionate bromances on and off the ice, and the four of them would have to battle it out cage match-style. (i’d watch that cage match.)

also, idk if you’ve seen this, but it pinged my radar a few days ago, and it’s making rounds now, and it’s just bizarre. like, why would the aces want to even trade parse? where the fuck did that even come from? the article talks about freeing up cap space, etc. but that still doesn’t make sense. you don’t trade your best player just because fuck you, that’s why??? like, has there been anything that would point to this being legit? something from the GMs or whatever? like, this boy is making history left and right, you don’t just trade that kind of talent without a reason? and the article cites “inside sources,” which, okay, i know this can mean fuck-all, but at the same time i’m like, is this some weird psych-out game? what the hell?

tags: aces can get it, and none for you kent parson, caw caw the falconers, it’s bromance with a “bro”, jack zimmermann, not the least bit homoerotic, the elusive homoerotic tension, to trade or not to trade


Reply from carthage
That article is so bizarre, I agree. And literally nobody else is reporting this (except for reporting on that article, hurray for journalism), so I’m inclined to believe that this is just some wild speculation gone viral. There has been literally nothing that would point to the fact that the Aces want to trade Parse. They’re in the middle of a great season, they’re are almost certainly going to the playoffs, Parse is currently leading in points and goals, and at this stage it’s clear he’s going for another Art Ross, and if we know anything about the Aces as a team it’s that they’re gonna get him there. So I wouldn’t worry, it looks like cheap, sensationalist attention-grabbing from some small potatoes who want to make it big but have no idea how to go about it.

Reply from currahee
also, the GMs are so far up parse’s ass, it’s not even funny. i mean, not that he doesn’t deserve this, but the higher-ups definitely know who really went and took that team from mediocre to great. like, i know the boy has an ego, but it’s not without reason, okay.

and i’m so glad they really made up. it warms my regular heart, and it also warms my little shipper heart.

Reply from offblues
zimms has been looking sort of happier lately, don’t you think? i’m really glad to see him like this; i was following him through his stint in the NCAA, and he played really well there, obviously, but now it looks like he just has more fun with it, and he looks more relaxed off the ice, too. i don’t even know why i’m so fucking invested in his well-being, but i guess some things just can’t be helped.


“You know you’re getting the A next year, right?” Benny says as he sits down next to Jack in the seat Cory has vacated a moment earlier to go to the toilet. “And that Holtzy wants you to get the C the year after that?”

They’re on a plane from Houston, licking their wounds after a stupid, unexpected loss, finally going back to Providence, where they have four blessed weeks of homestand before they go on the road again.

Jack shakes his head a little to get rid of the ringing in his ears, then asks, “He’s stepping down as captain?”

Benny shrugs. “Look, it’s Holtzy’s decision, yeah? And I know he wants you to take his place eventually.”

Jack tries to wrap his head around this. There are a lot of good guys on the team—guys with more experience in the league, guys who have been in Providence a lot longer than him. Holtzy has been here since the beginning. It would be the end of an era anyway, but the thing is, Jack doesn’t think he deserves that. They all work hard, and hockey is a team sport. You can’t win games alone. Jack wouldn’t be where he is now without his teammates. It doesn’t feel right, to get this chance before other guys who have done so much for this team over the years.

“I don’t know, Benny,” Jack starts, but Bergson cuts him off with a look.

“You won’t be doing us a fucking favor, okay?” Bergson tells him, and he doesn’t sound angry, exactly. Exasperated, maybe. “Or whatever the fuck you think this is about. We’re asking you. I mean, not asking, not yet. Just…letting you know that we want you there.”

Jack nods, feeling blindsided but also touched, his throat and chest tight.

“You’re doing well for yourself, kid,” Benny says, his hand on Jack’s shoulder. He gets up a moment later. “We just wanted you to know.”

“Okay,” Jack says. “Thanks. No, Benny, seriously. Thanks.”

“Don’t sweat it, Zimms.”

Jack thinks about it all the way back to Providence, and then all the way back to his apartment, half-asleep in the cab as the streetlights pass him by.

It’s late when he finally gets in, but he still has a few minutes before midnight to make it in time, so he boots up his laptop and opens Skype, then calls Bitty.

“Hey,” he says quietly once Bitty appears on his screen, already in bed, looking soft and sleepy. “Happy Valentine’s Day. Sorry I couldn’t be there.”

Bitty smiles, sweet but sad. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Jack,” he says, then really looks at Jack, takes in his pale skin and the shadows under his eyes. Jack has seen himself in the mirror. “Lord, you look dead on your feet, you didn’t have to—”

“But I wanted to,” Jack says. He’s never assigned any particular importance to the day, but he knows it matters to Bitty, who never got to spend Valentine’s Day with anyone, not like that. And this year—this year he’s alone again, while Jack has spent most of the day on a plane, flying across the country. Now, there’s less than forty miles separating them, and it’s worse, somehow, knowing that Bitty is so close and so far away at the same time.

“I’ll be seeing you soon, though, eh?” Jack asks, and Bitty’s face immediately lights up.

“Yeah,” he says with a small smile. “I can’t wait.”

“Me, too,” Jack admits as he takes the laptop to bed and lies down on his side, propping his head up with his hand. “So how was your day?”

“We went out for froyo with Lardo in the afternoon,” Bitty says. “It was nice. I missed you, though. You?”

Jack laughs softly. “I smell like recycled air and my neck is killing me because I gave my pillow to Cory. I think he might’ve strained something during our last game. Oh, and they want to give me the A next season.”

“Oh my goodness, Jack, that’s amazing!” Bitty beams at him from the other side of the screen, and it fills Jack’s chest with golden warmth. “I’m so proud of you. You really deserve that.”

He says it so easily, like it’s so simple, like it’s obvious that this is the way it’s supposed to be, the natural order of things.

“Hey, I love you, you know that, right?” Jack says in return, touching his head to the pillow and regretting that move almost instantly when his eyes immediately fall shut. He opens them again with effort.

Sometimes he thinks he says it too often—I love you. Sometimes he think he doesn’t say it enough.

“Of course. I love you, too.” Bitty takes a deep, shaky breath, then another, and Jack wants to reach out and touch him. “I love you so much.”

“What an amazing coincidence,” Jack says, and Bitty laughs, and it’s the best sound Jack has ever heard.

“Oh my god, go to sleep, Jack Zimmermann. Go,” Bitty says in a tone which leaves no room for protest, the laughter still in his voice. “We’ll talk tomorrow, when we’re both actually conscious.”

And Jack has to admit, this prospect does sound very tempting, mostly because his bed is so nice and soft, and he’s so, so exhausted.

“Okay,” he says. “Sleep well.”

“You, too.” Bitty kisses the tips of his fingers and presses the palm of his hand to the screen. “Goodnight, Jack.”

Jack is smiling as he disconnects.

When he sleeps, he doesn’t dream of anything.


Samwell plays Providence College in late February.

Jack doesn’t have a game that Friday, which is just as well, because they’ve been renting out their arena to the college on game nights while their own rink is under construction after part of the rafters had unexpectedly come down. They’ve been apparently struggling with training space, too, but at least their game schedules don’t overlap much, and they should be back at their own rink by early March.

And it means he gets to see Samwell play on his own turf.

He sneaks in through the back door before the game and runs into coach Hall on his way in.

“Jack,” he says. “It’s so good to see you.”

Jack shakes his hand. “Good to see you, too, coach.”

Hall gives him a scrutinizing look. “You here to watch the game?” he asks.

Jack puts his hands in his pockets and bounces on his heels, then leans against the wall, thrumming with nervous energy for some inexplicable reason.

“Yeah, I was just coming to wish the guys good luck before the game, if that’s okay with you,” he says, looking up at coach Hall, feeling like he’s back in college all over again. Coach Hall has always had that effect on Jack, exuding authority and commanding respect.

“Go ahead, but don’t let that mess with their heads,” Hall tells him, observing Jack above the rim of his glasses. “We’ve got a game to play.”

“Will do, coach.” Jack smiles and pushes himself off the wall, then walks the rest of the hallway to stand in front of the guest locker room.

He walks right into the thick of the regular pre-game commotion. They guys are changing and chirping each other, and for a moment, nobody notices him. Then Chowder turns around and his entire face lights up as he yells, “Jack!”

There’s a few seconds of dead silence before the room erupts into noise, and then everyone is hugging Jack, except for the rookies, who keep respectful distance and still look at Jack with slight awe in their eyes. Wicks gives Jack a pat on the shoulder while Ransom is trying to suffocate him in a hug, Holster hanging off Jack’s other arm, and then there’s Bitty, looking straight at Jack with a small, soft smile. Jack doesn’t look away.

He hugs Bitty in the middle of the locker room for a long time, presses his face into Bitty’s hair and breathes deeply. When they pull apart, he finds the rookies trying not to look like they’re staring and failing.

“Just wanted to come wish you good luck out there tonight,” he says. He’s dressed in his old Samwell sweater, and for a second, he feels like he should be gearing up, too.

“Came to hog all the spotlight, eh, Jack?” Ransom says, elbowing him in the ribs. “Uncool.”

Jack laughs quietly, a soft exhale of air as he looks to the side.

“Okay, I promised coach Hall I’d be quick, but I’ll see you after the game, yeah?”

Jack knows they aren’t going back to Samwell until the next morning, and he hopes the coaches let him take them out somewhere appropriate, where the younger guys on the team can go without getting carded. Bitty already got the permission to go back on his own, and he’s staying for the weekend. Jack has an early morning skate on Saturday, then some optional ice time, but the rest of the weekend is just for Bitty.

“Give them hell,” he says, then leaves the locker room to find his seat.

When he comes into the VIP section, he sees eight of his teammates sitting in the first row. Cory spots him first and waves him over, and Jack goes, dumbfounded. He has no idea what’s going on. Why they’re here. For all that Jack has been going back and forth between Providence and Samwell, those two worlds have never really overlapped. Until today.

“Wasn’t this supposed to be your evening off?” Jack says with amusement as he sits down next to Cory.

“C’mon, Jackie-boy, these are your guys, right? So we came to cheer them on,” Schumer says, then waves at the camera as it cuts to them on the jumbotron.

So maybe Ransom wasn’t that far off the mark about hogging the spotlight. And the thing is, Jack knows that to the outside eye, it must look bizarre, the way most of the Falconers starting roster is here, sitting in the first row of the VIP section to watch an NCAA game, flying Samwell colors.

“Hey, isn’t that your boy Eric out there?” Benny asks as the teams take the ice, and Jack freezes for a moment before he tells himself that Bergson probably didn’t mean anything by it. It’s just an expression. They know Jack is friends with Bitty, that’s all.

“Shit, he’s the captain?” Schumer chimes in, impressed, and he whistles. “So big surprises do come in small packages, huh?”

Jack smiles. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, they do.”


The game is hard, fast and physical, and Jack doesn’t envy the guys on the ice. Samwell might have the speed, but Providence has the muscle. In the few months Jack’s been gone, they’ve apparently acquired a new pair of huge starting D-men who could give even Holster a run for his money. They’re both at least six-four, broad and strong, and they’re not afraid to get physical.

“Looks like they’ve been eating their Wheaties,” Schumer comments as the puck drops for the start of the second period. “Yikes.”

“Yeah, no kidding. I know a team or two who could use a pair like that,” Holtzy says.

“Yeah, like the Flyers,” Benny says, and they high-five for it. Jack laughs.

Bitty goes down thirty seconds later.

It’s not dramatic, there is no slow-motion and time doesn’t stop—one second he’s on his feet, skating straight at the net with the puck, and then he’s down on the ice, and he’s not getting up.

Jack is out of his seat faster than he can think about it, his heart in his throat, and he yells, “Eric!”

He knows the plexiglass muffles his voice, and they probably can’t hear him, but there’s panic rising up in his chest, and he moves to fetch their team doctors, except they aren’t here, because it’s not their game.

Seconds tick by unbearably slow until Bitty finally gets up, and he looks shaken but okay. Coach Murray is on the ice, and they talk with the referee for a moment before Bitty pushes off again, waving. It’s a penalty for Providence, and Samwell scores on a power play. Bitty gets an assist.

Jack sits back down, but he can’t get his hands to stop shaking.

“You okay?” Cory asks, leaning in, and Jack nods, still rattled, willing his heart to stop beating so fast.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m okay. He’s—”

“He’s fine. Nothing happened, okay?” Cory tells him, and it helps Jack calm down. “He’s okay.”

When Jack looks up, some of the guys are glancing at him, but they never say anything.

They get held up once the game ends with a 2-1 win for Samwell, signing autographs and taking pictures, but Jack leaves as soon as the last players disappear down the tunnel. He’s not even here in any official capacity, the fans will have to deal just this once. He reaches the locker room in record time. Inside, coach Hall is leaning over Bitty, checking his eyes.

“I’m fine, coach, really,” Bitty says. “I just got disoriented for a second, but I’m fine. Didn’t hit my head or anything.”

“I still want someone to take a look at you, just in case,” coach Hall insists. “I’ll be right back.”

He passes Jack on his way out, gives him a knowing look and points with his head to Bitty before closing the locker room door behind him.

Jack gets next to Bitty in two seconds straight. “Are you okay?” he asks.

“Yeah, I’m fine, Jack, really,” Bitty says with emphasis. “Nothing happened.”

Jack remembers another game, another split second that meant all the difference between Bitty skating past the opposing team’s defenses and Bitty lying on the ice, not moving.

“He’s all good,” says the medic coach Hall brought with him after examining Bitty, a middle-aged woman Jack doesn’t recognize. “Not a scratch. You got lucky, kiddo.”

After she leaves, Jack corners coach Hall in front of the locker room. “Would you mind if I took them out to celebrate? They’ll be back before curfew, I promise.”

Coach Hall frowns. “I don’t know, Jack,” he says. “That’s a lot of underage boys for just one you. And we’re leaving early in the morning. Bittle is staying with you, right?”

“Yeah, coach. Thanks for letting him,” Jack says, and Hall’s expression softens.

“Look, I was young once, too, hard as it might be to believe,” Hall says, and it dawns on Jack that he knows. Or at least suspects. “And I know you can be trusted. But this is— It’s a lot of responsibility, and there’s a lot of rookies on the team. I don’t want them going unsupervised just to wake up to their drunk photos all over social media.”

Jack bites his tongue and doesn’t say that in that case coach Hall probably didn’t check the social media very carefully after any of the kegsters, because he knows for a fact that ship had sailed a long time ago. Instead he says, “No, I understand. That’s not really what I had in mind, though.”

Coach Hall sighs. “Okay,” he says. “But I want them back before ten.”

“Understood,” Jack says.

He takes them to the gelato place he went with Bitty on New Year’s Eve, and they descend en masse on a slightly terrified waitress, who tries to seat an entire hockey team and take their orders at the same time.

Bitty sits right next to Jack, their thighs touching under the table.

Some of the rookies he hasn’t really had the chance to talk to until now look like they feel a little intimidated by Jack, but Cory has decided to tag along with them, and his presence puts them at ease. Sometimes Jack forgets how young Cory is, how him and the frogs are practically the same age.

It’s nice, getting the chance to finally catch up with them after more than two months, being able to show them some of his favorite places in the city.

At half past nine, they pile into the cabs ready to take them back to their hotel, paid for by Jack in advance. Before they go, he gives Lardo a long hug. She’s so tiny he almost sweeps her off the ground. He’s almost forgotten about that.

“Have fun, kiddo,” she says into Jack’s ear. “Both of you.”


Re: Sports — Hockey
I don’t know if any of you guys follow NCAA hockey, but I do, and just the cutest thing happened yesterday at the Providence vs. Samwell game. The Friars have been playing their games at the TLA this past month and a half, after part of the rafters came down at the Schneider Arena, and yesterday like half of the Falcs starting roster showed up to the game in Samwell colors to cheer on Jack Zimmermann’s old team. Idk, guys, it was so adorable. The Falcs are my cinnamon rolls in the sea of problematic faves.

Re: Sports — Hockey
I didn’t catch the game, but I’m in the Providence area, and a local station was showing highlights, and did you see how Zimms just jumped out of his seat when number 15 got checked hard and wasn’t getting up for a moment? And guess what. He’s small and blond.

Re: Sports — Hockey
i mean, they could be friends.

Re: Sports — Hockey
Yeah, friends who go on dates. Like, lbr, I feel like at this point it’s kinda obvious. Could they be just really good friends? Yeah. Do I think they’re just really good friends? No. But at the same time I’m afraid that people will start hinting at it all over the internet, and I mean outside of fandom spaces, and, like, look, whatever is going on, he doesn’t owe this to anyone. To be out, I mean.

Re: Sports — Hockey
Okay, but can we talk how absolutely adorable the Falcs are? Like, it’s clear that they genuinely like him, and want to support him, and it just warms my heart, because people were writing such mean things about him before the start of the season, and now to see his team just being there to share something that is clearly really important to him, it makes me so happy.

Re: Sports — Hockey
Oh, yeah, totally. And did you notice Zimms was wearing his old Samwell jersey? That was a nice touch.


They stay in for most of the weekend—Jack needs to get up early on Saturday to make it to practice on time, but when he comes back after eleven, Bitty is still asleep, looking lovely and peaceful in Jack’s bed, and Jack undresses quietly, then slips under the covers and kisses the nape of Bitty’s neck.

They have slow, lazy morning sex, Bitty pressed against Jack and making soft, breathy sounds against Jack’s mouth as his hips jerk desperately into Jack’s hand right before he comes.

They cook breakfast together and eat it in Jack’s kitchen, bathed in late winter sunlight.

They go out for lunch to a nice bistro George recommended, because Bitty has been craving clam chowder and they’re supposed to serve the best clam chowder in Providence. They take a walk on their way back, never holding hands but always walking a little bit too close, and Bitty kisses Jack as soon as they get to the apartment.

They watch tv until they’re not watching it at all, absorbed more with the way they breathe next to each other than the tv show running in the background. They always fall into each other so easily, it scares Jack a little, how enormous this thing between them is.

They sleep tangled up in each other, and kiss each other goodnight and good morning like they’ve been doing it for years.

They say goodbye on Sunday behind closed doors, with lips on lips and whispered words, and Jack says, “I’ll see you soon,” and Bitty says, “I’ll miss you,” and then he’s gone, leaving his smell lingering in Jack’s sheets and the ghost of a smile in the corner of Jack’s eye.

Each time, it’s harder for Jack to return to the empty apartment and be alone with his silence.

But he knows—it won’t always be like this.

Chapter Text

Jack wakes up to a voicemail from his agent.

“Don’t turn on the news,” Andrea says. “And, for the love of god, don’t google yourself. Call me when you get this.”

There’s a panic that sets deep within Jack’s chest as he reaches for the laptop, and in the few seconds it takes for it to boot up, he can feel his hands start shaking. He knows he shouldn’t, knows he should just do what Andrea said, but he needs to see.

There are forty-two missed calls on his phone. Over seventy text messages.

He goes on Deadspin first, and there’s his name across the front page, in dark, bold letters. It says, Jack Zimmermann Outed Following Apple Leak.

Jack goes cold all over.

There’s a link to another site, and when he clicks on it, there is a longer article, with some additional evidence pulled from all over the internet, as well as several photos he recognizes. The words on the screen blur in front of his eyes, but Jack still looks at the article. Looks at the pictures. There are only two really incriminating ones. The one in which he kisses Bitty’s neck, and the one with a half-naked Bitty in what is unmistakably Jack’s bed, his own jersey thrown on top of the covers. The ones he knows he deleted off his phone almost as soon as he took them.

In the second photo, Bitty looks debauched, his lips red and tender, his hair in disarray, a fresh hickey on his collarbone.

Jack feels like he wants to throw up.

He has no idea how much time passes while he sits on the cold, white tile, his forehead propped against the toilet seat.

(There’s empty space in his medicine cabinet where his anxiety pills used to be.)

After a while, he gets up and rinses the bitter aftertaste of bile out of his mouth, drinks a glass of water, then calls George.

“I already know,” she says. She’s picked up after the first ring. “It’s not just you. There was a huge security leak at Apple, a lot of high-profile athletes and celebrities had their photos leaked, there’s a lot of nudes, but you’re the only one who’s been outed as a result. We’re dealing with this, I’ve already contacted Andrea. What do you want me to tell the PR team?”

For a moment, the question doesn’t really register. Jack turns it over a few times in his head, desperately trying to make sense of Georgia’s words.

“I—” he starts, closes his mouth. His throat feels dry, and his lips stick together. He swallows.

“Jack? Have you talked to Eric?” Georgia asks, and it’s a moment of white-hot, blinding panic, and Jack thinks he’s going to suffocate.

“No, I— No.” He tries to breathe. “I need to— I need to call him. I— Fuck.”

“Jack,” Georgia interrupts him, repeats his name with emphasis, “the PR team?”

Jack doesn’t take his eyes off the marble countertop in his kitchen. “I’m not going to deny it, if that’s what you’re asking. He’s not— He deserves better than to be my dirty little secret. I’m not— There’s nothing to deny. You know we’re together. That’s not even a question.”

“You know what this means, right?” Georgia asks in a soft voice. “We can deal with this, but you have to be aware of what that means. And that there’s no going back.”

Jack sinks his nails into his palm so hard he almost breaks skin. “I know,” he says, and then, “I’m going to Montreal.”

He can hear Georgia sigh on the other end of the line. “Okay,” she says eventually as Jack books the ticket on his laptop. “We’ll need you to make a statement after the weekend, but go, be with your family while this madness dies down. Just be back before Monday.”

Jack says, “Okay,” and he says, “goodbye,” and he says, “I need to call him.”

His hands still shake when he selects Bitty’s number and presses the phone to his ear, waiting for Bitty to pick up. The space of the four rings it takes Bitty to get to the phone feels like eternity.

“Jack?” he says, and he sounds like he’s been crying. “I’ve seen the news. Are you okay?”

Jack swallows and exhales slowly, trying to find his voice and failing. He doesn’t know if he’s okay. He wants to know if Bitty is.

He admits that out loud, and that’s more than he would’ve done just a year ago, then asks, “Are you? Okay?”

There’s a moment of silence on the other end of the line before Bitty says, “No. Not really.”

Jack feels like he’s been punched. It’s not for the first time since he’s woken up, but this one gets him the hardest, hearing Bitty’s small, breaking voice in his ear.

“Jack, I’m so, so sorry. About everything,” Bitty says, and Jack needs to sit down and breathe for a moment before he can speak again.

“I’m not.”

He still feels like he’s going to be sick every time he thinks about this, how everyone knows now, how everyone can see them now for what they really are, those moments that were never meant for anyone else, but there’s a part of him that always wanted this. Not like this, not this way, because now he feels raw and bare, and vulnerable, and used, but that part—that small part of him that wanted to shout about it from the rooftops, feels relieved. He’s almost sickened with himself for thinking that. Bitty isn’t even out to his parents.

“I’m going to Montreal,” he says then, and he can hear the sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line, then silence.

“Oh,” Bitty says at last, and it hits Jack in that moment, how it must have sounded. He can feel his heart pounding in his ears.

“I booked you a ticket,” Jack tells him and tries to swallow, but his mouth feels like cotton. “Your flight leaves from Logan in three hours. If you want to come, I mean. But I want you to, okay? Please, don’t think that I don’t—”

“Okay,” Bitty says, not even letting him finish, and Jack can breathe again. “Okay, I’ll see you there.”

“Okay,” Jack says. “I love you. See you there.”

“Love you, too.” It comes out small and quiet, and Bitty sounds exhausted. He disconnects a moment later, and Jack goes off to pack, mechanical and absentminded. He can’t stop the queasy feeling in his stomach.

He packs only a small carry-on bag and violates several speed limits trying to get to the airport on time. He goes through security in a daze and rushes to the gate as the final boarding call for his flight displays on the screen in a screaming red.

Kent calls him right before they’re bound to board the plane, and Jack picks up on reflex, but also because it’s Kent.

“Good, I’m glad I caught you,” Parse says as soon as Jack picks up, serious, and it hits Jack right then and there—he’s not the only one with something to lose. Technically, he’s the one who has already lost it, but Kent—Kent’s secret is still safe.

“I’m not going to tell anyone about us, I promise,” he says into his phone in a low voice, turning his back to the mother of three standing a few feet away, who looks too busy to eavesdrop, but Jack just wants to be careful.

He can hear Parse take a sharp breath. “Zimms, do you really think I give a fuck right now?” he asks, incredulous. “I just wanted to check if you were okay. It’s fucked up, what happened.”

Jack feels embarrassment burn on his face. “Sorry,” he says. “And I’m…I’m dealing. I’m going to Montreal, we’re about to board, I’ll call you when I get home, okay? And Kenny? Thanks. You know I would never—”

Parse is silent for a few seconds. “Yeah, I know,” he says. “See you on the other side, yeah? And say hi to your parents for me.”

He disconnects just as they call the passengers to come on board.

Jack has never, in his entire life, been more glad to be flying first class. He can sit by himself, his nondescript dark blue cap pulled low over his face, heart still hammering in his chest. His palms are sweaty, and he wipes them uselessly on his jeans, curls his hands into fists against the fabric.

On the other side of the aisle, there’s a guy reading an article about him on his tablet. Jack can see the picture of Bitty, the one taken in Jack’s bed, and he feels the bile rise up in his throat.

He flags down one of the flight attendants to ask for a glass of water, and she’s too polite and professional to comment, but Jack can see that she recognizes him from the way her eyes widen just the tiniest bit the moment she takes a good look at him. It must have really been all over the news.

It feels like déjà vu, in a sense, only last time Jack wasn’t there to deal with the fallout—cut off from any news first at the hospital, then at the nice private facility just north of Montreal that his father paid a small fortune for, he felt like there was a dimmed glass wall between them and the rest of the world.

Now it’s just him, laid bare and open for everyone to see, and he can’t get his hands to stop shaking. He does the breathing exercises his therapist taught him, tries to get his body under control. It helps, but not much.

There’s still a small part of him that is perversely glad this happened—because now it’s done, it’s out of his hands, and the world hasn’t ended, and Jack is still breathing. He’s kept on surviving, somehow, again, and again, and again, and this time is no different.

When they touch down at Trudeau International, his mother is waiting for him at the arrivals terminal, and he falls into her arms, leans down to press his face into the crook of her shoulder and holds on for a moment.

(Earlier, when he called his parents from the car on his way to the airport, he couldn’t help but notice the worry in their voices.

“Just come home, baby,” his mother told him. “It’s gonna be okay.”)

Someone must have notified the press, because there are a bunch of reporters near the main exit, but Jack only pulls his cap lower over his eyes and shoulders his way out without a word, his mother right behind him. The reporters are shouting after him and he can see the flash of cameras, but he pays them no mind.

They walk in silence to where she’s parked her car. It’s drizzling, a typical late March Montreal weather, and Jack can feel the fabric of his hoodie getting wet. Once they’re inside the car, his mother turns to him and puts a hand on his forearm.

“How are you, sweetheart?” she asks. “And, please, don’t lie to me.”

Jack licks his lips and looks away.

“I’ve been better,” he admits.

His mother touches his cheek, gently, and Jack turns back to her.

“Jack, listen to me,” she says with emphasis, her voice thick with emotion. “You’re fine. Everything is going to be fine. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must be for you right now, but, baby, you’re so strong and you’ve made it so far, and you’re gonna be fine.”

Jack swallows around the tightness in his throat.

“Okay, mama,” he says, and she smiles, then puts the car into drive.

“Let’s get you home.”


“You should probably see this,” Lardo says as she walks into Eric’s room at eight a.m. on Friday with her iPad in her hands. Eric blinks blearily, trying to chase away the sleep as he props himself up on his elbows, then sits up when he sees Lardo’s face. She looks pale and serious.

“What’s wrong?” he asks, feeling the way his heart tries to beat its way out of his chest. “Did something happen to—”

He can’t even get the words out.

Lardo hands him the iPad without a word, and for a moment, Eric isn’t sure what he’s really looking at. Then he feels like he’s about to pass out. There’s ringing in his ears, and it’s like the world around him seems to slow down until he feels like he’s surrounded by cotton, everything muted and distant.

“Bits, breathe.” Lardo sits down next to him on the bed and runs a hand up and down his back in a soothing gesture. Eric can’t stop shaking. He feels faintly ill, and it’s just like that day he’d thought about what it would be like to kiss a boy for the first time, his body running a fever, the frantic beating of his heart, not enough air in his lungs.

His parents must have seen this, he thinks, then, Jack.

“Excuse me,” he says to Lardo, uncharacteristically formal, but he can’t find any other words right now, then locks himself in the bathroom and cries until he’s physically exhausted, until he can’t cry anymore and all that’s left are dry, heaving sobs as he tries to calm down. His head hurts.

He needs to call Jack, make sure he’s okay. He needs to call his parents.

(He still hasn’t checked his phone.)

“There are reporters outside the Haus,” Lardo tells him once he comes down to the kitchen. Ransom and Holster are up now, too. The frogs must be already in class, thank god. “Have you talked to Jack? Your parents?”

Eric takes a quivery breath, shakes his head. “Not yet.”

“Bits, you need to call them,” Lardo tells him, gentle but firm.

Eric nods numbly, still reeling on the inside. He swallows. “I know.”

His phone rings a few seconds later. It’s Jack. Eric waits a moment, steeling himself, then picks up.

“Jack?” he says, feeling on the verge of tears again. When he turns around, the others have already left the kitchen.

They talk, and Eric desperately tries to keep it together when Jack tells him he’s going to Montreal, because he understands that Jack wants to be with his family right now, but it still hits Eric like a clean punch straight to the center of his chest. Then Jack tells him about the ticket waiting for him at Logan, and Eric just feels silly and embarrassed for even thinking that in the first place. He knows Jack, knows how serious he’s about—this. About them.

“I need to go pack,” he tells Lardo, Ransom, and Holster as he passes the living room door.

“Pack?” Holster asks, surprised. “Where are you going?”

Eric stops at the foot of the stairs. “Montreal.”

He packs light, trying to stop himself from thinking as he’s stuffing clothes and underwear into his carry-on bag, because he can still feel himself on the verge of panic, and he can’t afford to do that right now.

Lardo’s car is in the shop, so he needs to take a cab to the airport. Ransom and Holster go out with him, making sure to keep the reporters away from Eric while he gets in. Lardo waves at him from the kitchen window.

His flight gets delayed, and he texts Jack, who texts back after a while to tell Eric not to worry and to inform him that his dad is going to be waiting for Eric at Trudeau International. He switches his phone off after that.

He still hasn’t called his parents, almost like he thinks that if he puts it off long enough, the pictures and the articles are going to disappear, and he’s going to wake up in his bed, and everything will be okay. It’s silly and naïve, and he realizes that, but he can’t bring himself to talk to them yet, can’t stand the thought of hearing disappointment in their voices.

He pulls the hood of his red hoodie up over his eyes and puts his earbuds in as he waits for the boarding call, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible. There are people talking about Jack on ESPN on one of the flat screens at the departures lounge.

They finally board the plane an hour and a half after it was scheduled for departure, and Eric sits in first class for the first time in his life, trying not to dread what comes after. There’s a tight knot in his stomach every time he thinks about his parents, but he’s mostly worried about Jack, because he knows Jack had a very good reason for wanting to stay in the closet, and Eric can’t help but feel like he’s encouraged him to be careless—the photos, the public dates, the intimacy people seem to have picked up on. It eats away at him even though he realizes it’s not his fault, not really. Not at all.

Still, it’s a lot, and there’s the bitter taste of panic lingering at the back of his throat. His hands don’t shake, but it’s a near thing.

He must look worse than he’s realized, though, because halfway through the flight, one of the flight attendants comes up to him and asks if everything is okay, offers him a glass of water. Eric smiles faintly and thanks her, then downs the water in a few long gulps. It does little to settle his stomach, but at least his headache seems to be subsiding, and he’s grateful for that, at least.

He bites his nails—a childhood habit he thought he’s broken a long time ago—until his thumb starts to bleed, then stops immediately. His knee bounces as they approach landing.

At Trudeau, Jack’s dad is waiting for him by the baggage claim, and he hugs him before Eric can do anything else, like extend his hand in greeting. Eric blinks rapidly a few times, presses his lips into a thin line to stop himself from doing something completely ridiculous, like bursting into tears again. There are some reporters at the airport here, too, but Jack’s dad firmly puts his hand on Eric’s shoulder and takes his bag.

“Come on, son,” he says. “Let’s get you home.”


third head of the dragon (valyriansteel) wrote in ontd_puck


I mean. Are we really surprised. Are we really.

In case you were pressed for evidence, may I present exhibit A: Kent Parson and, like, Zimms’ entire juniors career.


tags: and none for you kent parson, caw caw the falconers, good job bad bob, jack zimmermann, jack zimmermann’s butt is a gift from god, not the least bit homoerotic, skating and crying, stop the presses!!!!!, the canadian wunderkind, the elusive homoerotic tension, well well well what have we here


Reply from allieandthecat
i’m sorry to be that person, but HE TOTALLY HAS A TYPE

Reply from valyriansteel
Lmao, I know, right? I bet Parse was, like, blowing his mind in the juniors. AMONG OTHER THINGS.

Reply from ithaca
So I did some sleuthing (no worries, nothing creepy, just publicly available info from, like, his instagram and some public twitter accounts and stuff), and it turns out the blond guy’s name is Eric Bittle, and he’s—you better sit down for this—the current captain of the Samwell hockey team. Yep. He also has a baking vlog on yt and he’s too freaking adorable for words, oh my god.

Also, Bad Bob follows him on twitter. And so does Parse. Make of that what you will.

Reply from allieandthecat
jesus, i went to check it out and yeah, some part of it is baking, but the rest? holy fuck, how has no one found this until today? have you SEEN some of those vids? jesus fucking christ, this is like a prime time soap opera. i mean, “NEVER FALL FOR A STRAIGHT BOY”? preceded by ten minutes of gushing about him and zimms BAKING TOGETHER? J E S U S


Reply from puckbunny
how can you write things like that AND NOT LINK US

Reply from allieandthecat
jesus, shit, sorry, i’m still hung up on NEVER FALL FOR A STRAIGHT BOY. here’s the link:

Reply from sigurdsdottir
Guys. Guys. This is the cute, small, blond boy the meme was talking about some time ago. About how he’s always around, how they’re often seen together and how they always seem to be joined at the hip, acting all lovey-dovey on the down-low. THIS IS THE MYSTERY GUY, OH MY GOD.

Expand 139 comments

Reply from carthage
Guys, come on. I hate to be that person, too, but this is just in extremely poor taste. Are you even listening to yourselves. This is not your cracky shippy moment, the guy has just been outed. He had his phone account hacked (along with many other athletes and celebrities—it was supposedly another iCloud leak?), and he had his private photos stolen and plastered all over the internet. He’s a high-profile player working in an extremely homophobic environment, and this, in all probability, is bound to affect his professional career in some way. He’s the first openly gay NHL player (for the given value of “openly”, all things considered). He didn’t want to be out, and it was no one’s fucking business. His privacy has been violated in horrifying ways. Come on. We are not _gossip. We can do better than that. I can’t believe it even needs to be said.

Reply from tous_les_chats
Dude, chill, its fucking done, okay? It’s over with, he’s been outed, and theres nothing he can do to lock himself back in the closet and no amount of us shutting up about it is gonna change that. We’re not the assholes here, so please get off your high horse. This is a fucking ontd community. And, you know, glass houses and all that.

~~stay pressed

Reply from carthage
Look, I’m all about harmless fun and silly gossip, but this is neither harmless nor silly. You know what’s silly? Drunk hockey players posting dumb but ultimately inoffensive shit on twitter and then saying they’d been hacked when they’re getting their asses handed to them. You know what’s harmless? Most of the pranks they play on each other when they’re goofing around and us loling at the outcome. So I don’t know what you’re trying to suggest here, that I’m a hypocrite for saying what I said while I still participate in this comm? How does this situation even compare to the rest of the things we post here? The closest I got were some divorce posts back when Trammer and Volkov announced their divorces/separations, but I think the key word here is “announced.” Zimmermann did not announce shit. Holy fuck, how can you not get that.

Reply from tous_les_chats
Oh my god, listen. This. Fucking. Changes. Nothing. Whether we talk about this or not, Zimms is the first NHL player out of the closet, regardless of the circumstances. Hes gonna get shit from all sides whether we talk about this or not, and he’s probably gonna get the GOD HATES FAGS signs outside the rink before his games whether we talk about this or not. So excuse me for not seeing how us talking about how fucking cute his boyfriend is is so ~horrible~ or whatever.

Reply from thegrandarcana
i wasn’t gonna say anything, but since carthage already brought this up… yeah. i mean, i get that it doesn’t change anything in the grand scheme of things, but it still feels so invasive? and there are different ways to discuss it, i think (as in, i think there’s a legitimate space to discuss this and what it means for the sport, and how those prevalent low-key homophobic attitudes influence players who feel forced to stay in the closet, etc.), and there will probably come a time for squeeing over their total adorableness and whatnot, but i don’t think this time is now, is all i’m saying.

Reply from carthage
Thanks, Pru—I guess I was just scrolling through the comments, going all WHAT??? inside my head, because it would’ve never occurred to me to go about it this way. So it just struck me as very insensitive, especially given the timing. The news broke just a few hours ago. I can’t even imagine what he must be feeling right now (his boyfriend, too).

And what I really, really don’t appreciate in this context are those comments about Kent Parson. Look, there’s been already one hockey player outed this week, I think that’s enough. (Two, technically, since Zimmermann’s boyfriend is on the Samwell team.) So write your RPF to your heart’s content, but for god’s sake, stop with this shit. We all know their history, we all know about the speculation on the nature of their relationship. We really don’t need this right now.

Expand 384 comments

Reply from twistnshout
Lmao, come on. He went to fucking SAMWELL. We all know what they say. One in four, etc.

Reply from offblues
he might’ve gone to samwell, but that doesn’t mean he automatically signed up for having his private life dissected by gossip rags. get some fucking perspective, christ.


jordan @hockeybutts
@ hockey squad _goss was right, I kinda want to die. also, what the fuck, whoever leaked those. what the fuck

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts don’t even talk to me about this, i’ve been dealing with this mess since morning

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts i can’t really say much, but, fuck, what a nightmare

jordan @hockeybutts
@hellsqueen oh my god, dani, i was just thinking about you. are you okay?

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts i’ve been up since five a.m. and i’m on the verge of tears from sheer exhaustion but fine otherwise


wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
jack zimmermann gets hacked and outed in the apple leak, _puck reacts just like you would expect:

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
It’s not often that I agree with carthage, but I think she’s right about this one. They made this post so soon after that particular shitstorm hit the fan (like, what, not even an hour?), it WAS just in plain bad taste, like, holy fuck. But then again, valyriansteel is the OP, so I don’t know what I expected.

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
what’s your beef with carthage? she always struck me as a really nice, decent BNF. especially considering the level of wankiness of the other BNFs in that fandom. and she was into SGA before she started writing hockey RPF, and she had a good reputation in that fandom, too.

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
Shit, okay, I saw her username and somehow mixed her up with carthage_burning. Now that’s a right asshole if I’ve ever seen one.

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
oh, jesus, carthage_burning and her fifty million bans all over the internet. now that takes me back.

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
Oh my god, this is so fucking crass, I don’t even know what to say. I feel really sorry for this guy, and I’m not even into hockey (I’d done some googling though, back when his name first came up on the meme some time ago). First the rehab, now this. Just fucking let him play in peace, holy fuck. I hope he’s okay.

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
yeah, i’m so fucking angry this happened to him. he got so messed up in the juniors (though i really don’t blame him, dealing with mental illness on top of being bad bob zimmermann’s son as well as a hockey prodigy can and will do that to you, i can’t even imagine the amount of pressure), and then he went and turned his whole life around, literally pulled himself up by his bootstraps (as much as i hate this phrase), and put in so much real, hard work to get where he is now, and this is just… jesus fucking christ, i’m so fucking enraged. i know the falcs are known as one of the better teams when it comes to this stuff, but still, this is hockey, this is the fucking NHL, and, “you can play” or not, they still have a massive, massive problem with homophobic behavior. it’s not a fucking coincidence there had been no openly gay players prior to this shitstorm.

i have a lot of feelings about jack zimmermann, but mostly i want to give him a hug

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
i mean, i would be mad if that happened to any player, but with zimms, it’s just, idk, that boy really deserves a break.

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
Has anyone checked in with _goss? Have they imploded yet?

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
Go check out tous_les_chats’ response to carthage though. The OP was stupid to post this, but tlc takes it to another level.

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
wait, isn’t she chatnoirs on ao3? and didn’t she post that horrible, horrible jack/parse fic once upon a time? where, like, parse was implied to be the one solely responsible for landing zimms in rehab (i think he got him addicted to coke or sth?) and was portrayed as borderline abusive (which is horribly ooc on top of being just plain fucking insulting), but she still didn’t think there was anything wrong with that picture and they got together in the end once zimms came back from rehab? and it was true love all around?

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
Yeah, she’s chatnoirs on AO3. And yes, she wrote that fic. I think there was a huge wank about in on the meme when it was first published.

And wasn’t carthage the one who left a very critical comment basically calling tlc on her bullshit when she refused to admit that it WASN’T a happy, functional relationship and the whole thing was toxic as fuck? Because it seems like soooooomeone is holding a grudge.

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
yeah, this has grudge-wanking written all over it, complete with personal attacks and all.

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
Honestly, though, this entire thing leaves such a bad taste in my mouth—and it’s not the first time something like that has happened, obviously, with the leaked photos and everything, but this time around there’s just this whole other layer of awfulness because of this situation with Zimms. I’m deeply, deeply sorry he has to deal with all of this shit now. And it’s extra extra awful, because it’s just totally out of his hands, he had no control over this. And, like, I want to be hopeful, because maybe we have finally progressed as a society and as a species, but on the other hand, it’s hockey, y’know? I know some high-profile players have been talking about this, how the league is ready for a player to come out, how it doesn’t really matter, because it’s all about the performance, but that’s just, like, theory. And practice is a different thing entirely. Idk, maybe they will prove me wrong, and I’m sincerely hoping they will, but either way, ugh. What a mess.

That post was beyond tasteless, too, I agree. There’s a time and a place, y’know? And this definitely was neither the time nor the place.

Re: wank me the wank of your people: the hockey edition
And I obviously wish them all the best, because they look very happy together, but this doesn’t change the fact that the existence of those pictures in public circulation makes me extremely uncomfortable, because they were never meant for public consumption in the first place. They were supposed to be private, and that’s a huge invasion of personal space, and I can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel for both of them, to have their privacy violated like this.


carthage (carthage) wrote in hockey_news


We would like to remind everyone that posting private information about the players’ spouses/partners is forbidden in this comm.

Yes, even if said spouses/partners have public Internet presence. We. Don’t. Care. The players’ private lives are not relevant to this comm. It is not our job to dissect their domestic lives. Violating this rule, especially in light of the recent events, will result in a permanent ban. Folks, just don’t do this. Trust me. Just don’t.

tags: them’s the rules, this is a mod post

comments disabled


Eric comes out to his mother in Bob Zimmermann’s car.

Outside the car windows, the suburbs of Montreal are quickly passing him by, and when he turns his phone back on, Eric discovers that he has several missed calls from his mom. He knows he should call her back, and he intends to do that as soon as they arrive at Jack’s house, but then she calls him again while they’re still driving, and he can’t just not take it.

“I’m so sorry, mama,” he says as soon as he picks up, then presses his lips together to stop his chin from trembling.

His mother is silent for a moment.

“Dicky, do you love this boy?” she asks then, and this, at least—this is a question Eric can answer.

“Yes,” he says, and it comes out quiet and soft.

“Then what are you even apologizing for?” his mom says, her voice thick with emotion, and it’s so warm and genuine Eric doesn’t even know what to do with it.

He tries not to cry, but when he turns his head towards the window, away from Jack’s dad, that’s when the tears start. Suddenly, he doesn’t know how to stop.

“Mama,” he asks, and he hates it that his voice breaks, “does Coach know?”

There’s a moment of silence, and Eric can hear the sharp intake of breath on the other side.

“Sweetheart—” his mom starts, meaning to deflect, and Eric can’t do this right now, he needs to know.

“Mama,” he repeats, “does Coach know?”

He almost misses it, but then he hears the soft, breathy inhale, and he knows his mother is probably crying, too.

“He does, Dicky,” she says.

“Has he seen the pictures?” Eric asks then, because that, for some reason, is even more terrifying. It’s one thing to hear about this on the news or read about it in a newspaper, or hear it from your colleagues at work, but it’s another thing to actually see your half-naked son in another man’s bed.

“Yes,” his mom says.

“How is—” Eric starts, then stops. He has no idea how to ask about this. “How is Coach?”

“He will be okay,” his mom says, but her tone tells a slightly different story. “How are you, honey?”

Eric looks out the window at the unfamiliar streets drowning in rain. “I’m in Montreal, mama. We’ve just landed, Mr. Zimmermann came to pick me up.”

“But what about your classes?” his mother asks after a moment of stunned silence, and there’s real concern in her voice.

“Mama, I couldn’t go to classes anyway,” he explains. “There are reporters outside the Haus. I had to get Holster and Ransom to help me get into the cab, they wouldn’t leave me alone. Don’t worry about the classes, okay? I’m not gonna miss more than two, and I’m sure the professors will understand. It’s gonna be fine.”

“No, no, you’re right, Dicky,” his mom says then, and Eric can imagine her shaking her head on the other end of the line. “But how are you holding up?”

Eric wipes the tears with the back of his hand. “I’m fine, mama. Don’t worry about me, okay, I’m fine. I should be going, though, I think we’re almost there.”

It’s a lie, but he can’t take any more of this right now. His ears are ringing and he can feel his heart in his throat, threatening to suffocate him.

“I love you so much, baby,” his mom says, and the tears are back. “Call me if you need anything, okay?”

“Okay. I love you, too. Please, tell Coach— Please, tell him I’m sorry,” he says, suddenly almost completely out of breath. “I’ll call soon.”

He disconnects, wipes the tears away and drops the phone into his lap.

“I’m so sorry I ruined his life,” he tells Jack’s dad without meeting his eyes, still staring out the window. He regrets the words as soon as they leave his mouth.

“You know you don’t mean that.” Bob’s voice is firm but gentle.

Eric shakes his head, embarrassed. “No, no, I don’t. I’m just—”

He startles when he feels Bob’s hand land gently on his shoulder.

“You didn’t ruin Jack’s life,” he says simply, but there’s so much conviction behind the words that Eric feels stunned for a moment. “You’re the best thing that’s happened to him in a long time.”

Eric has no idea what to say to that.

He tries to breathe, to calm himself down before they arrive at the Zimmermanns’ house, because he knows he must look like a complete mess right now. There’s silence in the car as Bob weaves through the streets with practiced confidence and Eric tries to decipher the French signs and billboards. He understands some of it, but his French is still too rudimentary for him to really be able to communicate in any way.

“We’re really glad you came,” Jack’s dad says after a while, once they get stuck in a traffic jam on their way into the city proper. “I know it’s not under the best of circumstances, but we’re very happy you’re here.”

Eric nods, his throat tight. “How is Jack?” he asks.

Bob shifts in his seat and turns up the heating. It might be late March, but this far up north, the weather is still chilly, and the rain doesn’t help either.

“He’s…blindsided. A little shell-shocked,” he says eventually, carefully picking his words. “Worried about you. About the team. It’s— Some of the reaction from the public hasn’t been…very positive. There’s a lot of good, but there’s a lot of bad, too.”

Eric knows about that. He has read some of the comments, against his better judgment, and wishes he hadn’t done that. It’s nothing he hasn’t seen before, but this time it’s personal, and that makes it worse. Most of the people on his Twitter have been really sweet, at least, and there’s a private message from Cory saying he’s sorry and that he’s keeping his fingers crossed that it all turns out okay, another one from Parse that reads, that’s fucked up, i’m real sorry this is happening to u.

“Eric?” Bob says with emphasis once they’re moving again, driving through the rain-drenched streets, and Eric realizes he must have spaced out, lost inside his own mind for a moment. He looks up at Bob with a questioning look. “I was asking if you were okay. I know it’s been…a lot. But we should be home soon.”

“I’m fine,” he says, for what feels like the thousandth time today. Maybe if he repeats this often enough, he will eventually be able to convince himself. “Really. But thank you for asking.”

He doesn’t know what to do with it—the way Jack’s dad keeps saying home, like it’s Eric’s home, too, the way he called him son earlier, like he belongs here. It’s been nothing but an abstract concept to him up until now, and now that he’s being confronted with this reality, it’s a lot to take in.

When they finally arrive at the house, there are some reporters waiting for them in front of the gate, but once they’re past the fence, it’s like the outside world doesn’t exist, and Eric’s breath catches when he looks at Jack’s house. He doesn’t know what he’s imagined it would be like, exactly, but he certainly never imagined that. When Eric gets out of the car in front of the main entrance, Jack is there, waiting for him, and they fall into each other and don’t let go, Eric’s face pressed into Jack’s chest, and Jack’s arms around his neck.

“Hi. You’re here,” Jack whispers next to Eric’s ear, like he can’t quite believe it.

“Hi,” Eric says back, breathy and soft, and he’s so happy to see him, and so, so sad at the same time. “It’s so good to see you.”

“Come on, boys, let’s get you inside,” Jack’s dad says, coming around the car with Eric’s bag slung over his shoulder. When Eric looks up, he can see Jack’s mom standing in the doorway, and she smiles at him.

“It’s so good to see you, sweetheart,” she says once Jack lets him go and they walk up to the front door, then pulls him into a hug. “We’re so happy to have you here.”

The inside of the house looks even more amazing than the outside, and Eric looks around for a moment, until Jack’s mom closes the front door and says, “Jack, please, show Eric to your room, okay? I’ll get you something to eat.”

They walk up the stairs in silence, but Eric stops once they reach the landing with a hand on Jack’s wrist.

“I’m so, so sorry. About everything,” he says. “Are you okay?”

Jack leans down and kisses him, close-mouthed and brief, just a quick press of lips against lips.

“I’m better now.”

It makes Eric’s head swim.

Jack’s room doesn’t look the way Eric expected either. It’s not impersonal per se, but there’s no trace of Jack from before Samwell—then again, maybe that’s deliberate. It does look lived-in, though, not like one of those empty, cold rooms straight out of upscale home décor catalogues. The walls are light gray, and there’s a huge bed in the middle of the room, a walk-in closet, a big en-suite bathroom. The room feels airy and full of light, not unlike Jack’s bedroom back in Providence.

He drops his bag on the floor by the bed and pulls Jack into another hug, enjoying the way they melt against each other, forgetting for a moment about the knots of worry in their chests, about the weight of the world on their shoulders. Jack presses a kiss to Eric’s hair.

“How was your flight?” he asks as they walk down the stairs.

Eric smiles up at him, but he knows he must look exhausted, because that’s exactly how he feels. “Good,” he says. “It was nice to fly first class. Nobody bothered me, at least, but I’m so tired.”

Jack nods, then takes his hand. “Come on,” he says. “You need to eat something, then you can go get some sleep if you want.”

Downstairs, there are grilled cheese sandwiches waiting for them, and Jack’s mom pours both of them a bowl of fresh tomato and basil soup that smells heavenly and tastes even better. They eat at the kitchen isle in companionable silence, and Eric is grateful for that, because he’s in no state to hold a conversation right now.

“Thank you, Mrs. Zimmermann,” he says after he’s finished, and Jack’s mom shakes her head.

“Alicia, please. You’re family,” she says, like it’s obvious, like it’s the easiest thing in the world.

Eric can only nod in response, his throat tight.


He takes a nap after lunch, and Jack comes up with him to lie next to Eric—they cuddle as he falls asleep, but when he wakes up a few hours later, Jack’s side of the bed is cold and empty. Eric slowly gets out of the bed, splashes his face with cold water and changes, then leaves the room, feeling overheated and slightly queasy, the way he always does when he wakes up from a too-long nap.

Downstairs, Jack and his parents are having a conversation in French.

Eric understands only a few words, the French too rapid-fire and too unlike the French he’s learning at school, but he can hear his name mentioned a few times.

The moment he appears in the kitchen, Alicia looks up and smiles at him. Jack turns around almost immediately, holds out his hand as Eric stands in the middle of the room, unsure of what to do.

“Feeling better?” Jack asks, pulling Eric into his side, and the tenderness of it makes Eric feel embarrassed in front of Jack’s parents. Jack usually doesn’t talk to him like that when there are other people present, but then again, now everything is different.

“A bit, yeah,” Eric admits, and Jack gives him a small, tired smile. “And thank y’all for having me, once again. I really appreciate it.”

Bob claps him on the shoulder. “Don’t even mention it,” he says. “This is your home, too. We’re just glad you could make it.”

Next to Eric, Jack tangles their fingers together.

Alicia makes them coffee, and Eric offers to bake, but they tell him to rest for now and enjoy his drink, and he can bake later if he wants to, but he really shouldn’t feel obligated—Jack smiles at that, because he’s known Eric long enough to know that baking couldn’t be any further from obligation of any kind for him.

“So what are you gonna do?” Eric asks once they’ve relocated to the living room, his feet tucked under Jack’s thighs, one of Jack’s arms draped casually over Eric’s shoulders. They’re alone, but Jack’s parents are in the kitchen, still within hearing distance.

“I need to go back on Sunday evening to give a statement on Monday,” Jack says, then looks at Eric over the rim of his mug. They have blankets, the light is warm and muted, and it feels nice and homey, cozy despite the fact that half of Eric’s house could probably fit into the living room alone. “I’d love it if you could come with me.”

It makes the warmth in Eric’s chest bloom, spreading through his entire body. “For the press conference?” he asks.

“Yeah,” Jack says. “For the press conference. And after. It’s— I really don’t want to do this alone.” Jack pauses for a moment, considering. “No, wait, I’m saying it all wrong. I want to do this with you.”

And, god, Eric loves this ridiculous boy so much.

“I’m scared,” Jack admits after a moment of silence, and it punches all the air out of Eric’s lungs, the sincerity of it, the simplicity of the statement, and he knows that Jack must have come a very long way to even admit it out loud. To admit it to anyone other than his therapist. To admit it to himself. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s also good, in its own way. Eric places the palm of his hand on top of Jack’s trembling fingers.

“I know you are,” he says, his tone stripped of any judgment, just a simple acknowledgment of the fact. “But you’re amazing, and strong, and you’ll get through this. We will get through this, you hear me, Jack Zimmermann?”

Jack takes a deep breath and grasps Eric’s hand in his, squeezes his fingers lightly. They sit in silence for a while, with Eric buried against Jack’s side, until Jack’s parents come into the living room, and then the conversation turns to Samwell, Eric’s vlog, Bob’s brand new Vine account—everything but the grim reality waiting for them outside.

Jack’s mom is just asking Eric for tips for baking cheesecake when Eric’s phone starts ringing. When he takes a look at the caller ID, he can feel blood drain from his face. “It’s my dad,” he says, his throat completely dry. “I should take this.”

“Do you want me to—” Jack starts to say, but Eric just shakes his head. This is something he needs to do alone.

He goes upstairs and presses accept once he’s behind the closed door of Jack’s room.

“Dad?” he says, and it comes out small and pleading, his voice shaking. He never calls Coach dad. “I’m so, so sorry. I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you. That you had to find out like this. Are you…are you mad?”

There’s silence on the other end of the line for a while, but he can hear his father breathing. Eric’s heart is pounding in his throat, and he can’t swallow, his mouth parched.

“I’m not mad, Junior,” Coach says eventually, and his voice is strained, but he’s talking to Eric, and his voice doesn’t sound angry. “I just don’t understand why—”

“There’s nothing to understand,” Eric says, desperately trying to keep it together, “it ain’t like that, it ain’t— I can’t just turn it off, okay? And I love him. And he loves me, too.”

There’s a sharp intake of breath, then silence that stretches until Eric can barely take it. The sound of the frantic hammering of his heart is deafening to his own ears.

“I guess I should’ve known,” Coach says with a sigh, “with the baking, and the figure skating, and the dancing, and— But it ain’t— He ain’t— He’s older than you. And he’s rich.”

It’s like a hit straight to the solar plexus, and Eric almost doubles over, his throat tight and his eyes stinging.

“He’s not using me, if that’s what you’re asking, that’s not—” he tries to explain, the words tumbling out of his mouth, but he’s shaking too much. He walks over to the bed and sits down. “It ain’t like that. He’s not— He’s a good person. And he’s been real good to me, so can you, please, just…just be happy for me? If you can?”

He knows he must sound desperate, but he loves his father, despite everything, and he can’t bear the thought that Coach might shut him out or think ill of Jack. He knows what it’s like to grow up realizing there is no way to take that innocence back, from before he knew, from before it became apparent to him that there was a rift between them they would probably never be able to bridge, not entirely. But he still doesn’t want to lose what’s left.

“Can I…” Coach says at last, “can I talk to him? To your…to Jack.”

It stings, that he can’t bring himself to say boyfriend—not yet, in any case—but he at least calls Jack by his name. That’s—something.

“Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, I’m gonna just call for him to come upstairs. I…thank you.”

He’s about to go look for Jack when his father speaks again.

“Look, Junior,” he says, and it sounds rushed, uncomfortable but sincere, “I might not understand it, and this might not be what I wanted for you, but you’re still my son, you hear me? So you just remember that.”

Eric presses the palm of his hand to his lips to keep the sound in, screws his eyes shut as the tears come.

When he walks out of the room, Jack is loitering in the hallway, not eavesdropping but just there in case Eric needs him, and really, he should’ve been expecting that.

“Coach wants to talk to you,” he says, handing Jack the phone, and he can see Jack swallow nervously.

He waits for Jack leaning against the doorframe, a few paces away to give him some privacy, but he still can’t help but overhear fragments of the conversation.

“Yes, sir,” Jack says in a serious tone. “No, I’m not…Yes…Of course…” Then, after a longer pause, “Yes, I do. I really do.”

There’s so much sincerity and tenderness in Jack’s voice, it makes Eric’s heart clench.

Jack hands him the phone after a while, his palms sweaty, but there’s a small, tentative smile on his lips.

“Coach?” Eric asks as he brings the phone up to his ear.

“You take care of yourself, Junior, okay?” he says, and he still sounds stilted and uncomfortable, but the edge in his voice from earlier is gone. “And that…that boy of yours, too. And call us soon, your mother is worrying about you something fierce.”

“I will, I promise,” Eric says in a choked-up voice, almost faint with relief. They disconnect after that, and Eric lies back down on the bed, covering his face with his hands and breathes.

Jack hovers over him, unsure, until Eric pulls him down, overwhelmed and emotional, but feeling better than he has since he woke up this morning.

It’s not okay, but it’s enough.


Bob wakes up in the middle of the night. By his side, Alicia is sleeping soundly, and he looks at her for a moment, so lovely and peaceful, then quietly slips out of bed to get himself a glass of water.

When he walks into the kitchen, Eric is sitting at the table in complete darkness, save for the moonlight seeping through the window, and he startles when he hears Bob clear his throat.

“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to—” he starts explaining, but Bob just waves him off as his eyes slowly adjust to the dark. He pours himself a glass of water from the fridge, then offers another one to Eric, who takes it with a small, grateful smile.

“Couldn’t sleep?” Bob asks, sitting at the table across from him, not making a move to turn on any lights in case Eric prefers the darkness.

Eric shrugs with one shoulder. “I guess,” he says. “It’s been a long day, and I guess I can’t just get my brain to calm down. Jack’s sleeping, though, and I didn’t want to wake him up with my tossing and turning.”

Bob looks at Eric—he seems better than when he first arrived in Montreal, but still weary. He can’t blame him, though, because even though Bob can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for the two of them right now, he knows how exhausting it is to be scrutinized like that, to feel like there’s nowhere to hide from the prying eyes.

He worries, but he’s so, so proud of Jack, too—it’s been a long and painful road that led him here, to this moment, to this particular place and time, and Bob knows the events of the last twenty-four hours have been hard on Jack, but it’s also a testament to how much better he’s doing now, the way he’s been handling the entire situation. And Bob is so, so glad he has Eric by his side through all of this.

“You’re doing fine,” he says, and it makes Eric look up from where he’s drawing patterns in the condensation on his glass with his index finger. “Both of you. And it’s been so good for Jack, just having you there, knowing that you love him.”

Eric ducks his head, a blush that Bob can hardly see spreading on his cheeks.

“Yeah,” he admits, “I really do. But it’s so unfair to him. I knew he didn’t want that, not yet anyway, and it’s been awful, seeing him like this.”

Bob sighs, rubbing his eyes. “It’s not fair to either of you. But none of this is your fault.”

They sit in comfortable silence for a moment after that, and then there is the sound of steps coming down the stairs and into the kitchen.

“There you are,” Jack says, his voice soft and gentle. When Bob turns around, Jack is looking straight at Eric. “I woke up and you were gone.”

He comes up to Eric and leans down to press a kiss into his hair, and Bob is reminded of the way he used to be with Alicia, back when they were still dating but not married, sometimes living on the opposite sides of the continent for weeks at a time, the way he constantly sought her out, just to make sure she was really there. Now, looking at Jack, he can see the same expression in his eyes whenever he looks at Eric.

“Sorry, didn’t want to wake you up,” Eric says, leaning into Jack, and it warms Bob’s heart, to see them both so at ease with each other. To see Jack like this, happy despite everything that’s been happening around them, in a way he hasn’t been in a very long time.

“Come back to bed?” Jack says then, his hand on the nape of Eric’s neck, and Bob gets up, puts the glass away in the sink, not wanting to intrude.

“Goodnight, boys,” he says. “Sleep well.”

When he turns around in the hallway, he can see them standing in the middle of the kitchen, and Jack leans in to press another kiss to the top of Eric’s head, and Eric laughs quietly, says something to Jack that makes him laugh in return.

Bob goes back to bed, his heart lighter than it has been in years.

Chapter Text

The Zimmermann Curse

Richard Stewart || March 26, 2016

It is true that words can and do have power—it is, after all, why we all read the news every day, and why I still have a job, even in today’s economy—but no deftly crafted editorials can save you from your own mistakes. And it certainly seems like Jack Zimmerman (25) is hell-bent on sabotaging his hockey career, because he’s at it again. Following his untimely overdose five years ago, just as he was gearing up to go first in the 2009 draft and become the NHL sensation we had all been waiting for, he is now entangled in a gay scandal, after the now-infamous data leak at Apple that took place yesterday in the early hours of the morning revealed several photographs obtained from Zimmermann’s phone which portrayed him engaging in sexual relations with other men.

Prior to this incident, there had been no openly homosexual players in the League, and one has to think about how this is going to affect Zimmermann’s career, who, as we can all assume, wants to be known more for the things he does on the ice than the things he does outside the rink, and this indiscretion could not come at a more inopportune time—just as the Falconers are preparing to clinch their spot in the playoffs, when the team’s attention should be focused on the game rather than the private life of their celebrity player.

Historically speaking, openly homosexual athletes have never fared spectacularly well after coming out, so it remains to be seen how Zimmermann deals with the realities of the sport, but it would seem that for now, it’s yet another hurdle in his disaster-laden career, and if so, then maybe it is time to admit that the curse has nothing to do with legacy and all to do with the person.

Read more over at Hockey News Online:


The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
.@HockeyNewsOnline please, hire better journalists. This was utterly uncalled for and unprofessional. Not to mention grounds for a lawsuit.

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
.@HockeyNewsOnline don’t u think it’s time to retire richard stewart?


we’re not lost, private, we’re in normandy (currahee) wrote in ontd_puck

richard stewart fired over the jzimms article

so i guess there’s still some fucking justice in this shitty fucking world, because hockey news online just announced they fired richard stewart over that disgusting jzimms article where he implied it was his fault his phone was hacked in the leak, because if he’d wanted to be discreet, he would’ve never kept those pictures on his phone.

i can’t believe i had to type those exact words with my own two hands in the year of our lord 2016.

the article is down now (thank god), and they were apparently afraid of a lawsuit from the zimmermanns, so that’s why they fired him, to avoid potential litigation, but, by god, i hope they sue their collective asses regardless just for publishing this absolute turd in the first place.

tags: ding dong the witch is dead, hockey news online: the cesspool of humanity, jack zimmermann, richard stewart is a dick


Reply from lachance
God, this blows my mind. It’s not like they’re not complicit in this! They fucking published it!!! They can’t just fire him and wash their hands of this! It was on their shitty fucking website!!! God, I’m enraged.

Reply from carthage
I can’t believe this even got published. That someone looked at it and saw nothing wrong with it, and went, yep, this is fit for public consumption. I think we’ve all known that Richard Stewart should have been forced to retire years ago, because his standards of journalistic integrity have always been next to nonexistent, but this is not only beyond the pale in the moral sense—it’s also factually untrue and could potentially serve as a basis for a libel lawsuit. He makes it sound like Zimmermann had the photographic equivalent of a sex tape on his phone, when this could not be further from the truth (and even if, that is no one’s fucking business!). Good God, what the hell is wrong with that man. In any case, I’m beyond overjoyed he has finally got his comeuppance, but I’m hoping this is going to force Hockey News Online to reevaluate the way they engage in journalism. So yeah, essentially: I hope the Zimmermanns sue the fuck out of them regardless.

Reply from offblues
on the one hand: hallelujah! on the other hand: what the fuck is wrong with people.

Expand 45 comments

Reply from thegrandarcana
that he came up with something this vile and disgusting doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. that he actually got fired for it? that is a true shocker, given who employs him. well, used to employ him. i guess even a broken clock etc.

Expand 9 comments


Jack wakes up early on Saturday and lies still on his back with his eyes closed for a few minutes. Next to him, Bitty is sleeping peacefully, making quiet, soft sounds from time to time.

The sun hasn’t reached the windows of Jack’s room yet, and the light is still dull and grayish, suspended in between night and day. It’s Jack’s favorite time of the day, where he can just be for a moment, forgetting about the world outside.

He debates getting down to the kitchen to get the coffee going—though, knowing his father, that’s already taken care of, because his dad usually gets up even earlier than Jack—but his bed is nice and comfortable, and then there’s Bitty, soft and sleep-warm, and right there, so Jack just moves in closer, wrapping an arm around Bitty’s waist and pulling him in until he settles in the crooks of Jack’s body like he’s always belonged there. It always fills Jack with a secret thrill—the effortless way they fit together.

When Jack moves his hand, he can feel the steady beat of Bitty’s heart.

They lie there like that for a while as their breathing synchronizes and evens out, until Bitty slowly starts to stir. When he opens his eyes and looks up at Jack, smiling softly, Jack leans down to kiss him, chaste at first until Bitty opens his mouth to Jack, makes a quiet sound at the back of his throat.

“Your parents are sleeping just down the hallway,” Bitty whispers against Jack’s lips when they part after a moment, then hides his face in the crook of Jack’s neck.

Jack laughs.

“It’s not like they don’t know we’ve been having sex,” he says.

Bitty looks vaguely mortified. “Oh my god,” he groans into Jack’s shoulder. “I really don’t want to think about your parents thinking about us having sex.”

Jack gently jabs him in the ribs. “I think this works the other way round, too.”

Bitty lets out a startled laugh.

“Oh my god, you’re impossible, Jack Zimmermann,” he says. “This is good, though,” he adds as he snuggles in closer, and, god, he’s always so warm, even here, far away from the Georgia sun. Jack’s feet and hands usually get freezing cold at night—it’s a bad circulation problem, he thinks—but Bitty is always soft and warm, and lovely.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” Jack admits, pressing the side of his face into Bitty’s hair. He takes a deep breath, exhales. “I don’t think I could do this without you.”

Bitty moves away a little to look up at Jack, his face serious. “Hey, hey,” he says, “I’m not going anywhere, okay? I’m right here.”

Jack kisses the top of his head. “I know,” he says. “Thank you.”

Bitty loops his hands around Jack’s arm and leans his cheek against Jack’s chest, breathing calmly for a moment before asking, “Jack? What did Coach say to you?”

Jack swallows slowly and licks his lips. That entire conversation had been stilted and awkward, and Bitty’s dad sounded like he wanted to be literally anywhere else rather than on the phone, talking to Jack, even though he was the one who asked to talk to Jack in the first place. It did sound like he was trying, like he was making an effort, though—it was different from the easy acceptance of Jack’s own father, back when Jack finally forced the words I’m gay past his lips, still dressed in a hospital robe, sitting in a sterile white room with nowhere to hide, but it was better than anger or silence.

“He wanted to know if I was serious about this. About us,” he says eventually. “Wanted to know if I really cared about you. Wanted to understand why.”

Beside him, Bitty shakes his head. “I told him,” he says, angry, “I told him there was nothing to understand, that it’s just the way I’ve always been and I can’t just turn it off or change, or force myself to, I don’t know, make an effort to be different from who I am, and he just—” Bitty sighs heavily. “But he’s…he’s trying, I guess, so that’s a start.”

“Yeah,” Jack says, pulling him in closer. “Yeah, it is.”

They hear the sound of a door opening and closing, then the echo of steps as someone walks down the stairs, and Jack asks, “Breakfast?”

Bitty stretches under the sheets, and Jack can see the stripe of skin as his t-shirt rides up, the fine dusting of barely visible, blond hair past his navel, and he brushes his knuckles against Bitty’s abdomen, hears his breath stutter, then Bitty is batting Jack’s hand away.

“I’m cooking,” he announces in a decisive tone. “I hope your parents like crêpes.”

Jack looks down at Bitty, then sits up, looking around for the t-shirt he took off sometime in the middle of the night.

“You don’t have to do that, it’s not—” he starts to say, but Bitty interrupts him mid-sentence.

“No, I don’t,” he says. “But I want to. And it’s the least I can do to thank your parents.”

Jack wants to tell him that there’s nothing to thank them for, because it’s what families do, but decides to drop it.

“Besides, I’ve been feeding an entire Haus full of hungry hockey players for almost three years now, I think I can manage three people,” Bitty adds, laughing quietly. “Even if two of them are current or former hockey players.”

Bitty gets dressed, but Jack goes down to the kitchen wearing his sleeping pants and a t-shirt. Downstairs, they’re greeted by his mom, still rumpled from sleep and only half-awake, which means she hasn’t had any coffee yet.

“I didn’t expect to see you two up so early,” she says, trying to stifle a yawn as she reaches into the cupboard for a mug. Jack gets there first, because it’s the one with the high shelves, and pulls out four mugs, sets them down on the counter.

“Giants,” his mom says, rolling her eyes at Bitty with a smile. Bitty rolls his eyes in return, sighing heavily, faux-exasperated, but he’s grinning, too.

“Don’t I know it,” he says, then nudges Jack in the side with his elbow. “They’re not so bad, though.”

His mom laughs. “No,” she says, “they’re not so bad.”

“Who’s not so bad?” his dad asks, coming into the kitchen in his workout clothes. He must have been running. The coffee maker is already running, so he swipes one of the mugs off the counter, kissing his wife good morning on his way, then pours himself a cup, stirs in some milk.

“Giant hockey players who had no idea when to stop growing,” she says, and Jack smiles. He’s missed this—the friendly morning bickering, the easiness of the banter, the way his parents just get each other so well.

“Oh, really?” his dad says, then takes a sip of his coffee.

“Yeah, they’re all right.”

Andrea calls Jack just as Bitty offers to make them breakfast, and Jack ducks out of the kitchen to answer. He leans against the wall in the hallway and takes a deep breath before picking up.

“Hello?” he says. “Andrea?”

“Jack, I’m glad I caught you,” she answers, and her tone is much more cheerful than it was just yesterday. “Sorry to bother you so early on a Saturday, but I’m just about to head out for a while and wanted to talk to you before I left. I talked to Georgia yesterday, and the PR team will have a statement prepared for you for your Monday press conference—they can email you the first draft later today, in case you wanted to add or change something. We’re ready for this, so don’t worry, okay? And I’ve been getting a lot of calls about potential sponsorships. And there are several organizations that want you to rep them. You Can Play, obviously, which I think we should go with, but also a few others, I’m emailing you the details as we speak. Oh, and I need you to think about your interviews. If you want to know my opinion, which is what you pay me for, after all, I think you should do at least two—one with a sports news outlet, and one with a more mainstream publication. Plus, if you want to do tv interviews, maybe something local and then national news, if they’re interested. The CBC might be, we should consider this. You’ll have your pick, of course, but think about your preferences, too, and we’ll see what can be arranged. Oh, and will Eric be there for the press conference?”

There’s a moment of silence after she stops talking where Jack is just standing there with his phone pressed to his ear, feeling slightly overwhelmed. He takes a few deep breaths to calm himself.

“He will,” he says, thinking about the fact that Andrea has never even met Bitty, but he’s Eric to her now. It sets his teeth on edge, the casual over-familiarity. “But I don’t want him anywhere near the press. I mean, I’m gonna ask him, but it’s not— He’s been through enough, it’s not fair to him, he didn’t sign up for this.”

“Okay, no press, understood. But you do realize that there’s literally no way for us to control them outside of the press room, right?” Andrea asks bluntly. “Just…be prepared for this, is all I’m saying. They’re gonna wanna talk to him. It’s news.”

Jack is glad to hear the slight hint of distaste in her voice.

“Is that all?” he asks, and he doesn’t mean to sound impatient, but it comes out like that anyway. Jack bites his lip, then adds in a more even tone, “I’m gonna think about it and I’ll get back to you either later today or tomorrow, okay? Tell PR I’m waiting for the statement draft, they can send it over whenever. And Andrea? Thanks. Really.”

“It’s my job to have your best interests at heart, Jack, you don’t need to thank me for it,” Andrea says. “But I appreciate it anyway. I really need to be going now, though, so call me or email me if you need anything else, and I’ll have someone from PR send you over your statement as soon as it’s done.”

They say their goodbyes after that, and Jack goes to rejoin the rest of his family in the kitchen. When he walks in, Bitty is already at the stove, and there’s a familiar, homey smell filling the room. Jack passes Bitty on his way to the coffee pot, and he briefly touches the small of his back, enjoying the way Bitty leans into the touch.

Jack pours himself a generous cup of coffee and leans against the counter next to the stove, stealing glances at Bitty, who moves around with surprising ease, like he’s been doing this for years. It should be more jarring, Jack thinks, to see him in this particular space for the first time, but Bitty just looks like he belongs here, with them.

Jack can see that their parents are watching them, even though they’re trying to pretend otherwise, but he can’t really bring himself to begrudge them that indulgence—it’s not prying or uncomfortable, but rather warm and content, like they’re happy for him and want to see him happy, too. So he just stands next to Bitty, soaking in the warmth and calm, drinking his morning coffee, his mind quiet and at peace for a moment, despite everything.

“Need some help?” he asks after a while, looking at the assortment of pans on the stove, but Bitty just waves him away.

“I got it all under control,” he says. “You just sit your perky butt down and wait.”

“Perky, huh?” Jack chirps, and he hip-checks Bitty as he walks over to the breakfast table. Bitty blushes and Jack smiles with the corner of his mouth—sometimes Bitty is just so, so easy to fluster, and chirping him gently is like a second nature to Jack by now.

Over at the table, his parents are trying to stifle a laugh.

Bitty smacks him on the arm. “Just get over there, Jack Zimmermann, lord.”

They eat breakfast together, sitting in a patch of sunlight, and it’s the first time his parents have gotten to properly taste Bitty’s cooking, so Jack is not really surprised when his mother asks jokingly if they can just keep him forever.

Bitty blushes again and ducks his head, smiling.

Jack goes to work out after breakfast, because he needs to keep up with his conditioning even when he’s away from Providence, and Bitty joins him in the gym room downstairs, partly because their season is still not over as they’re gearing up for the playoffs, and partly because he looks like he just wants to spend time with Jack away from everyone else. They could’ve gone jogging instead, but neither of them thought it would be a good idea, considering. Apparently there are still some reporters loitering outside the front gate.

They work out in comfortable silence, falling into a familiar rhythm Jack still remembers so well back from Samwell.

He’s doing his second set of reps with his dumbbells when Bitty asks in a quiet voice, “Do you think I could stay with you until next Sunday?”

Jack looks up at him where he’s running at a steady pace on the treadmill. Bitty’s face is difficult to decipher.

“Of course, you can stay with me whenever you want,” Jack says, unsure how to proceed, unsure what, exactly, this is really about. “Don’t want to go back yet?”

Bitty is quiet for a moment, then he shakes his head. “It’s just that this—all of this—seems so unreal. I think I just need some time to get used to it before I go back, and I think we both know my grades won’t suffer that much anyway.” He laughs self-deprecatingly as he picks up the pace a bit. “The only thing is,” he adds, looking suddenly dejected, “I’ll be missing practice. Which I can’t really afford to do.”

Jack thinks about it for a minute. “When is your next practice?” he asks.

“Wednesday afternoon,” Bitty says with a sigh. “I mean, there’s one on Monday, too, but I’ve already known I’d missing that one, so it doesn’t count.”

Jack puts the dumbbell away and reaches for his towel, then slowly wipes his face. He has morning practice on Wednesday and then a free skate in the evening, but this shouldn’t be a problem, unless Andrea finds some better ways to occupy his time.

“I can take you back on Wednesday after practice,” he says. “I should be done by eleven, so we could just eat an early lunch and go. I don’t need to be back in Providence until six. And then you can come stay for the weekend. We haven’t done that in a while,” he adds, smiling at Bitty, who smiles back, sweet and hopeful. It punches straight through Jack’s chest, the way Bitty looks at him sometimes. Jack takes a deep breath. “We could go out on a date.”

The thought of facing the world that knows still fills him with cold panic that creeps up his spine and straight into his ribcage, but the prospect of holding Bitty’s hand in public without fear is exhilarating. It’s the quiet, joyous certainty that comes with the knowledge that the worst thing has already happened and he’s come out on the other side mostly unscathed and still breathing.

And the way Bitty smiles at him in that moment—it’s that one thing that drives the cold away.


“What the fuck, dude, did you know about that?” Kyle asks when Cory walks into their kitchen on Saturday morning.

He’s sitting in the breakfast nook like he hadn’t fucked off after their practice on Thursday for more than twenty four consecutive hours with no means of being reached on his phone, probably to visit his girlfriend and fuck like rabbits; now he’s eating scrambled eggs and scrolling through something on his phone in what can only be described as a state of total confusion. Cory isn’t really awake yet, but he doesn’t need to ask what the fuck Kyle is talking about, because he knows.

“That Jack is gay or that he’s been outed?” he asks, maybe a bit more sharply than he intended, but hey, it’s not like he can be exactly blamed for that. “Because the answer to both of those is yes. Where the fuck have you been, dude? I’ve been trying to reach you on your phone since yesterday.”

Kyle just shrugs, and, really, Cory likes the guy, but, Jesus, does he want to punch him right now.

“Wait, you knew about that? Zimms liking dick, I mean, not the other thing,” Kyle clarifies, shoving more eggs into his mouth.

“Yeah,” Cory says, pouring himself a cup of coffee and slumping down in a chair opposite Kyle. Kyle’s eyebrows go up like he’s a cartoon character.

“Shit,” he says, shaking his head in disbelief.


“Shit,” Kyle repeats. “So did you figure it out or…”

“He told me,” Cory answers. “But that’s sort of none of your fucking business. Dude, seriously, where have you been? It’s been madness over here. I’ve never seen the journos afraid of anyone, but they were fucking scared shitless of Georgia. They made one of the interns cry, it’s been crazy. Zimms is in fucking Montreal.”

Kyle scoops up the last of his eggs on his fork and chews for a moment, looking somewhere halfway to thoughtful, which is actually pretty promising, considering that Kyle has no brain-to-mouth filter even on the best of days.

“So, uh,” he says eventually, “we’ve met that guy, right? It’s the short one, with the cookies, yeah? Didn’t he tag along with us to a bar that one time after the game?”

Cory nods. “Yeah,” he says. “Eric. He’s a great dude, we’ve hung out a few times.”

“Shit,” Kyle says again, and Cory leans forward, bracing himself on his elbows as he looks at Kyle.

“Dude, are you gonna have a problem with this or what?” he asks, because he figures it’s hard to beat around the bush while asking someone if they hate gay people. Kyle looks back at him, visibly taken aback.

“What the fuck? No, c’mon, man, what the hell,” he says, and okay, so maybe Cory was a bit quick to jump to conclusions, but also, seriously, Jack doesn’t need that sort of shit right now and Cory doesn’t need it either. “I’m just, like, surprised, y’know? I thought he just didn’t hook up or anything, because, like, he’s always been all about the game and training, and all that stuff, so I figured he just didn’t want to date and kept all of that on the down-low. Not that he was into dudes. But, like, whatever, yeah? This, though?” He gestures to the article on his phone. “This is properly fucked up.”

Cory sighs. “Yeah, you don’t say.”

He goes on a run after breakfast, his jogging playlist keeping him company instead of Kyle, who finished his breakfast and went straight to sleep, which, frankly, has done nothing to disprove Cory’s suspicions about the sex marathon. He takes the route through Prospect Park and by the Roger Williams Memorial, and by the time he’s done with his run, he’s exhausted and gross, and sweating like a fucking pig. He chugs his water and stops by at a bakery to buy himself a pastry for all his effort. It’s his cheat day, he deserves it, okay.

When he comes back home, Kyle is still sleeping and Justin is lounging in the living room, replaying Uncharted for the third time, so Cory just waves hello and goes straight to shower. Then he locks himself in his bedroom and calls Jack.

Jack picks up after a few rings, and he sounds surprisingly okay when he says, “Hello.”

“Hey, how are you doing?” Cory asks. He’s not even sure he should be doing this, but hey, they’re friends, right? And that’s what friends do.

“I’m…better,” Jack says with some hesitation in his voice, but he sounds sincere. “Bitty’s here, too, we’re coming back together tomorrow evening. How are things back home?”

Cory debates for a moment how much to tell Jack, but it hasn’t been that bad, really. Well, apart from some troll comments on the internet and that asshole Richard Stewart, but mostly it’s been just crazy and hectic, because literally no one was expecting this and the entire franchise has been playing an epic game of catch-up since yesterday morning.

He tells Jack just as much, and there’s a huff of unamused laugh on the other end of the line.

“Yeah, I figured,” Jack says with a sigh. “Things have been…busy here, too. Lots of reporters. I haven’t been outside since I arrived. It’s…I don’t know. It’s like I’m nineteen all over again and fresh out of rehab, and suddenly everyone wants to know everything about me and air my dirty laundry all over again. But it’s really different, too. I’m different.” There’s a moment of silence. “I don’t think I could’ve handled this, back then. I don’t think I would—”

It makes Cory go cold all over, the implication behind the words, and, fuck, he’s never been so grateful that Jack is doing better these days as he is right now.

“There’s been a lot of good, too, though,” Cory says quickly, because he’s not gonna let this turn into an awkward silence, seriously, fuck that noise. “I’ve been going on Twitter, reading the feeds. There’s a lot of happy kids, like, y’know, teenagers or whatever, still in the juniors, who were scared shitless to go pro because there were no out players in the league, but now they know they won’t need to go first, even though the way it happened to you was totally fucked up. It’s some seriously heart-warming shit, I’m telling you.”

“That’s…” Jack says, and his voice sounds slightly strangled, “that’s good to know. Look, I really need to be going now, but I’m glad you called. Thanks, Cory. I mean it. I’ll see you on Tuesday, yeah?”

“Monday.” Cory smiles. “Like I wouldn’t come down to support you, c’mon, man, who do you take me for?”

And this—this makes Jack laugh. Cory is counting it as a win.


Shitty calls Jack soon after lunch, sounding frantic in a way that’s so unlike Shitty it almost scares Jack for a second.

“Fuck,” he spits into the receiver, sounding slightly out of breath, “my phone has been on fritz since Wednesday, and I spent the last two days at my dumb fucking internship reading through some bullshit files, because my life is apparently a shitty tv show, and I’ve just checked the news. I’m so sorry, brah, this is beyond fucked up. You holding up okay? Need me to come down? Need me to crack some skulls?”

It’s like a wave of relief washing over Jack, hearing Shitty’s voice in the speaker. He can feel the tight knot between his shoulder blades loosen a little, feel his shoulders lose some of the tension he’s gotten so used to he almost forgot it was there in the first place.

“Shitty, I’m in Montreal,” he says quietly. “And so is Bitty. We’re going back tomorrow evening.”

“I can still come down if you need me to,” Shitty insists. “Bro, this is, like, major stuff. Just say the word.”

Jack laughs softly into the receiver. “Thanks, Shits, but I’m good, really.”

Bitty comes out to the back terrace and sits next to Jack on the huge wooden swing, nudges Jack’s ankle with his foot and knocks their knees together. Jack covers the phone with his hand and mouths, “Shitty.” Bitty nods.

It’s a little cold outside, and to Bitty, it must feel freezing, but the weather is still nice—there hasn’t been any rain today and the sun is out. Back when he came home from rehab, Jack would come out here with a blanket and a hoodie, and sit on the swing for a long time with a book or just with himself for company, undisturbed by anything or anyone. Sometimes he would spent hours here, thinking about everything and nothing at the same time, just breathing and being. Sometimes it felt like trying on a new skin before showing it to the rest of the world.

Predictably, Bitty shivers after a few minutes, and Jack wraps an arm around him, pulling him closer. Shitty is still talking in Jack’s ear, and it’s nice, familiar, the way just the sound of his voice always seems to soothe Jack’s nerves, because with Shitty at his side, suddenly everything seems easier—there are no insurmountable obstacles, there is nothing that can’t be put back together after it falls apart. Jack learned that his freshman year, after Shitty found him shaking, staring off into space feeling like he was going to die, and Shitty kept talking to him until the uncontrollable shaking finally stopped. Jack thinks he will never stop being grateful for having him in his life.

They say their goodbyes after a moment, and Jack puts the phone away calmer than he’s been in a while. Beside him, Bitty shifts closer, pulling the sleeves of his hoodie over his fingers.

“Wanna go back inside?” Jack asks, but Bitty shakes his head.

“This is nice,” he says, then adds after a moment of silence, “Mom called while you were outside. She wanted to know if I’d be coming straight back to Samwell, because she wanted to overnight me a care package. So now she’s overnighting us a care package. Let’s just say stress-baking runs in the family.”

He laughs quietly under his breath, and Jack presses a kiss to his hair. He’s happy that Bitty’s mom cares about him and loves him so much. He can only imagine how hard the prospect of returning home must be for him now, when it’s been that one thing Jack could always rely on—he could always come home, knowing that he would be safe here, no matter what.

It’d been a long, torturous process, to go back to the place where he could believe that, after the overdose, after rehab, but he got there in the end.

But he also knows it’s different for Bitty, because it’s not just about his parents, but the rest of his family, too, his peers, the people he would not call high school friends—that entire community of people Jack got to know very briefly when he’d gone down to Georgia for the Fourth of July. And the worst thing is, he can’t even promise Bitty he’s going to be there with him when he goes home, because he might be on the other side of the country, fighting for the Cup.

“I would never have guessed that, Bittle,” Jack says, elbowing him gently in the ribs.

Bitty smiles.


Eric finally gets to bake in the afternoon, while Jack is on the phone with his agent, and it still feels surreal—listening to Taylor Swift in Bad Bob Zimmermann’s kitchen while the first batch of chocolate-raspberry soufflé is rising evenly in the oven.

When he turns around, Jack’s mom is sitting at the table, and he startles, almost dropping his phone to the ground.

“Oh my,” she laughs, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, but the smell is amazing and I couldn’t stay away.”

Eric smiles as he leans against the counter, glancing down at the scuff marks on his sneakers.

“It’s my mama’s recipe,” he says, then checks the timer. Three more minutes. “When it’s done right, it should just melt on your tongue, but it’s always tricky with an oven you don’t know at all. These should be ready any minute now, so, please, tell me if there’s anything I should change before I put the second batch in the oven.”

He’s babbling, and he realizes he’s babbling, but he feels so strangely nervous all of a sudden, like it’s just hitting him now, the enormity of what happened and the fact that now all that’s left to do is to deal with the fallout. Maybe it’s Jack talking to his agent in the background, Jack’s insistent voice, the odd word Eric manages to catch from time to time, and maybe it’s something else entirely, but it leaves him struggling to catch a breath.

He is not having his first ever proper panic attack in Jack’s parents’ kitchen. He’s not.

“Sweetheart, are you okay?” Jack’s mom asks, and she sounds like she’s talking to Eric from behind a glass wall.

Eric nods weakly, trying to force himself to stop panicking, but he can’t. It’s not like that first morning in the bathroom, where he just cried until he couldn’t cry anymore, or like that feeling of tightness in his throat when his mom called him in the car on his way here, and, god, if that’s how Jack used to feel on a regular basis—Eric can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like.

“Eric?” she says, gentle but firm, and she must have stood up at some point, because she’s next to him, her hand touching him between the shoulder blades, rubbing small circles into his back, and he slowly, slowly comes down until he can breathe again and it doesn’t feel like he’s suffocating anymore.

“I’m fine.” He smiles at her, and he doesn’t even need to look up to do that. They’re pretty much the same height. It’s nice. “It was just a silly moment, really, but I’m fine now, I promise.”

He feels embarrassed, even though, intellectually, he knows there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, but he does what he always does and smiles through it until it fools everyone. Jack’s mom takes a step back, and there’s concern in her eyes that Eric can hardly stand, because he’s fine, really, and she shouldn’t be worrying about him in the first place.

At least the soufflés come out nice, and maybe Eric spends a little more time than strictly necessary dusting them with confectioner’s sugar, but he needs to get his bearings before he can face Jack’s mom again.

She’s sitting patiently at the table, but Eric can see that she’s discreetly watching him for any signs of distress. She—of all people—would know, he guesses.

“So how do you like the soufflé?” he asks once she dives in, wanting to wring his hands but physically stopping himself by gripping the edge of the counter until his knuckles go white.

“It’s delicious,” Jack’s mom says and she licks the spoon, then takes another bite.

“What’s delicious?” Jack’s dad asks as he comes into the kitchen, taking in the scene in front of him. “Is that soufflé?”

“Yes,” Alicia says, “and it’s amazing.”

Jack comes into the kitchen just as Eric is about to take the second batch of soufflés out of the oven and the first batch is nothing but a distant memory, thanks to Jack’s parents. Jack smiles at him, but he looks as tired as Eric feels right now.

“I think I’m gonna go take a nap,” he says, and Jack looks at him with surprise. “Jack, if I’m not up for dinner, can you come wake me up?”

Jack nods, but he still looks confused. “Do you want me to come up with you? Are you feeling okay?”

Eric smiles up at him. “Just a little tired, I guess. I think it’s just catching up to me now.”

He slowly trudges up the stairs, feeling like his legs are made of clay, his eyelids heavy, but when he lies down under the comforter, he finds himself tossing and turning for a long while. He thinks Jack comes into the room for a moment at some point, but he can’t be certain, and when Eric wakes up, it’s already dark outside and the room is empty.


Jack spends the evening emailing back and forth with someone from PR called Dani. She must be new, because Jack doesn’t immediately recognize the name, and he’s pretty sure he knows almost everyone on that team apart from the interns who come and go at a much faster rate.

The statement is good for the most part, there are just a few things Jack wants to add, and they iron it out over the course of the evening, but he’s satisfied with the end result. He’s not a great public speaker, especially under this amount of stress, and the PR people have definitely taken it into account, because what they’ve come up with plays to his strengths—it’s simple and to the point, matter-of-fact without feeling brusque.

Bitty comes upstairs at some point and stands behind Jack, wrapping his hands around Jack’s neck and pressing his face into the crook of Jack’s shoulder.

Jack turns around as much as Bitty’s hands would allow him and tries to take a good look at him—Bitty seemed off earlier, before he went to take a nap, and Jack just wants to make sure that everything is okay.

“Feeling better?” he asks, and he can feel Bitty nod.

“Yeah,” he says eventually, then drops a kiss onto Jack’s shoulder, just a gentle press of lips. He’s always so soft with Jack, so gentle, in a way Jack sometimes can’t reciprocate, but by god, he tries. He knows he still has a lot to make up for—for all those times when he wasn’t soft or gentle with Bitty at all.

Jack turns around in the chair and Bitty climbs into his lap, holds on tight and breathes slow, even breaths, his face once again hidden in the crook of Jack’s neck. Jack’s arms wrap around Bitty’s waist, his hands spanning Bitty’s back, moving in slow, soothing circles with no particular purpose or intent.

“God, I’m being so silly,” Bitty says into Jack’s shoulder, and he sounds frustrated with himself, “and it’s not even like I have any reason to be, anymore, it’s just like all of it is catching up to me all of a sudden, and it’s…it’s a lot.”

Jack shakes his head. “It’s a huge thing. It’s not nothing,” he says. “And it’s…you’re allowed to react.”

It’s what his therapist used to say to him, you’re allowed to react, Jack, you don’t have to be fine all the time. It has taken a lot from him, to learn how to not be fine and be okay with it. He still struggles, sometimes, but he’s been getting better about accepting that fact.

They skype Ransom and Holster once Jack is done, and it turns out it’s not just Ransom and Holster but the frogs, too, and Lardo, and even a stray freshman who just happened to be at the Haus at the time. They’re all sitting in the living room, squished next to each other on the new couch, and the freshman wanders off after the initial hellos, apparently not wanting to intrude, which Jack honestly appreciates, since they’re basically strangers to each other.

Bitty is sitting next to Jack on his bed, their feet tangled together and Jack’s laptop balanced on his thighs.

It’s feels good—to be able to talk to them over the miles that separate them. Apparently there have been reporters coming by the Haus, and they had to break out the garden hose twice when they wouldn’t leave the front lawn, but apparently just the sight of Holster dragging the hose with a determined expression on his face was enough to persuade them to finally leave.

“It’s been better here, I think,” Jack says. “At least we have a gate that actually closes. We haven’t really left the house, though. Just waiting for the storm to pass or something like that.”

Ransom and Holster look at each other, then back to Jack and Bitty. “Yeah, I wouldn’t be counting on that just yet,” Holster says. “There’s been a lot of buzz, everyone here is talking about it, bro. But it’s gotta calm down eventually.”

Jack huffs out a laugh, but there’s no real humor to it. “Yeah,” he says. “Eventually.”

Bitty looks up at him and squeezes his hand. Jack smiles, and it’s genuine this time.

“Bits, how’s Canadian weather been treating you?” Ransom asks. “Freeze any bits off yet?”

Next to Jack, Bitty rolls his eyes, and Jack can feel his deep sigh where Bitty is pressed into his side.

“First of all, that was terrible,” he says in a mock-serious tone, “and second of all, I resent this sort of disparaging talk about my cold resistance. And it’s not that bad over here, actually.”

They talk for a while after that, about nothing in particular, until Jack glances at his watch and discovers it’s already past eleven. They say their goodbyes, and everyone takes their time to let Bitty know they’re missing him and his pies (in that order).

“We’re missing you, too, I guess,” Holster says to Jack after a beat. “I mean, like, we could be persuaded, but Bitty’s got pies. So, you know. Priorities, bro.”

Jack turns his head to the side and laughs into Bitty’s hair, his body shaking a little.

“I miss you, too, guys,” he says. “I’ll be seeing you on Wednesday.”

Jack knows they should start getting ready for bed, but they delay it for as long as they can, knowing that next day, they’re going to have to face the rest of the world, and they want to make this moment last, suspended in the space between two breaths, between the inhale and the exhale, like one of Jack’s photographs, title: the calm before the storm. (It’s not, not really, more like the moment of peace in between one storm and another, but for now, it feels just like it.)

At the end of the day, Bitty is sitting on the bathroom counter by the sink as Jack brushes his teeth. Once he’s done, he leans in close to kiss Bitty, who tastes like mint and smells like verbena, fresh from the shower, his hair still damp and his skin soft to the touch.

Jack’s fingers trail down his bare chest, from the dip between his collarbones down his sternum and his abdomen, and Bitty shivers against Jack, one of his hands gripping Jack’s forearm as he tries to steady himself.

“Jack,” he whispers, low and breathy. Jack kisses him again, and Bitty kisses back, looping his arms around Jack’s neck and pushing up against his chest until there’s no space left between them. He pulls back after a moment, and his cheeks are flushed, his pupils huge in the dim light. “Your parents—”

“—are well-aware we’ve been having sex. C’mon, let me at least suck you off,” he whispers into Bitty’s ear. It’s a craving by now—to feel Bitty fall apart under him, enveloped in his smell and the sensation of skin on skin, his taste, and he’s craving that kind of closeness right now, because he’s never been good with words, but Jack always comes alive with a touch; that’s his language, the one he understands, the one he’s well-versed in.

Bitty seems to consider it for a minute and Jack waits patiently, taking a small step back to give him some space. Then Bitty is pulling him closer.

“Okay,” he says and bites his lower lip, looking up at Jack’s mouth, then slowly releases it, red and shiny with spit, and then he smiles, dirty and bashful at the same time, and, Christ, he’s such a tease.

Jack almost decides to drop to his knees right there, in front of the huge mirror, but the counter is cold and hard, and so is the floor, so he just takes a few steps back and catches the tips of Bitty’s fingertips. Instead of following his momentum, Bitty extends his leg and gently brushes his foot against the front of Jack’s sleeping pants with the most innocent expression on his face, like he thinks he’s fooling anyone.

“C’mon, the bed is right there,” Jack says, and this time Bitty goes with him, lets himself be pushed gently onto the mattress as Jack kneels in front of him, licking his lips.

He kisses the soft, ticklish skin under Bitty’s knee, enjoying the way it makes him squirm, and moves up his thighs before reaching to pull his shorts off. Bitty lifts his hips off the bed to let Jack slip the fabric past his hips and pushes up on his elbows, watching Jack with huge, dark eyes, his blush spreading down his chest.

“God, look at you,” Jack says, glancing up at him as his fingers wrap themselves around Bitty, already half-hard and flushed, and when Jack closes his lips around him, a strangled moan escapes Bitty’s mouth before he can stop it. His elbows buckle under him and he presses one hand to his lips to keep the sounds in.

Jack takes his time, until Bitty is shivering under him and Jack can still hear the small sounds he keeps making at the back of his throat—by now, Jack knows intimately what Bitty likes best, and so he uses his tongue a lot while keeping a steady pace, then takes him in deep and swallows until he’s short of breath and almost, almost choking on it, one hand wrapped firmly around the base of Bitty’s dick, the other one down his own pants, gripping tightly and moving up and down at an erratic, frantic pace until Jack comes first, flushed and overheated, with Bitty’s dick still in his mouth.

Bitty follows him soon after, thighs trembling.

“Unfair,” he says once he regains his breath, as Jack reaches to the nightstand for a tissue to clean himself up. “But also hot.”

Jack blushes and looks down, at the mess of his sleeping pants, at his hand.

“Yeah?” he asks, and when he looks up again, Bitty is once again propped up on his elbows, watching Jack.

“Yeah,” he says. “You’re getting off on me getting off, it doesn’t really get better than that.”

Jack quickly cleans himself up and climbs onto the bed. “Yeah? Maybe I should do that more often, then,” he teases, and Bitty pulls him in for a kiss.

“You could,” he says. “But still, unfair. I didn’t even get to touch you.”

Jack rearranges himself on the bed and when Bitty reluctantly follows suit, shifting closer until he’s nestled comfortably under Jack’s arm, Jack pulls the covers over them and says, “Next time. And, technically, you’re touching me right now.”

Bitty elbows him gently in the ribs. “You’re impossible. It’s a good thing I like you so much.”

Jack smiles. “Yeah. Yeah, it is.”


They leave for the airport in the late afternoon.

Jack’s dad drives them to Trudeau International, and the airport is packed full of people, so they say quick goodbyes and go straight to check-in.

“You’re gonna be fine,” Eric overhears Jack’s dad say to him as they hug in the middle of the terminal. Jack nods, and Eric can see the tightness in his jaw, the raw emotion on his face. “You will survive this, okay? I’ve never been more proud of you.”

“Thanks, dad,” Jack says in a strangled voice, and Eric turns away to give them at least some illusion of privacy. “I’ll call you after we land, okay?”

It takes them ages to go through security, but then they’re done and they slowly wander over to the first-class lounge to wait. Once they’ve found themselves a pair of nice, comfortable seats in the corner, Eric puts his earbuds in but can’t decide on a particular playlist for so long that he just gives up on it altogether, and beside him, Jack is attempting to read a book, but he hasn’t turned a page for the last ten minutes, and it becomes clear that they’re both equally anxious about going home.

They still have over half an hour until their gate opens when Jack finally gives up on his book as well, and he leans gently against Eric in his seat, laces their fingers together. There are people around, stealing glances at them, and maybe some of those people recognize Jack—some of them must recognize him, judging by the way they look at them—and Eric’s heart is hammering against the inner walls of his ribs, his throat tight. It’s such a small, innocent gesture—they’re just holding hands, nothing else—but it’s also huge. And when he looks up at Jack, he only smiles fondly at Eric, even though the palm of his hand is slightly damp, betraying his nervousness.

There’s a headache building slowly in his temples and Eric has no painkillers on hand, so by the time they get to the gate and start boarding the plane, it blossoms into a full-fledged migraine. Eric is not a huge fan of flying in general—he finds the popping sensation in his ears unpleasant, and it always leaves him with a lingering headache—but this time the thought of spending the next hour on the plane is almost too much. Jack must notice this, because he turns to Eric just as they’re about to board the plane, concern in his eyes.

“Hey, you okay?” he asks, and his hand comes up to cup Eric’s cheek, his thumb brushing along the line of the cheekbone almost absentmindedly.

“Migraine,” Eric admits, leaning into the touch. “I get them sometimes. I’m gonna be fine, don’t worry about it.”

He spends most of the flight napping, tucked into Jack’s side, breathing slowly through his nose to fight the faint hint of nausea that sometimes accompanies his migraines, and Jack has one arm around him, his cheek propped on the top of Eric’s head. He feels warm and comfortable, drifting in and out of consciousness until Jack shakes him gently as they approach landing, saying, “Hey, wake up, we’re almost there.”

Then he presses a gentle kiss to Eric’s hair, like they’ve been doing this for years.

Eric’s heart is full to bursting, because it means so much, for Jack to be comfortable to do this in public—the way he does it almost without thinking, like it’s the most natural, easiest thing in the world.

They take a cab back to Jack’s apartment and Eric starts running a bath the moment he crosses the doorstep, then collapses into the bubbles for an hour, letting the tension slowly seep out of his muscles. His headache has subsided a little bit, with the considerable help of painkillers, so he’s content to just lie there for a while with his eyes closed.

Jack knocks on the bathroom door about thirty minutes after Eric has disappeared inside.

“Are you hungry?” he asks from the other side of the door, even though he could easily open it and spare himself the trouble of having to raise his voice. Jack must come to the same conclusion, though, because then he cracks the door slightly ajar and sticks his head in. “And how’s your migraine?”

Eric sits up in the tub, maybe a bit too rapidly, and the water sloshes dangerously close to the rim but doesn’t spill.

“Better,” he says, smiling a little. His eyes feel heavy, but that’s more because of the soothing warmth of the bath rather than any actual tiredness. “And yeah, I could eat.”

“Scrambled eggs?” Jack proposes. “I have some spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers…”

“Yeah.” Eric nods. “Sounds good. Just give me a moment to soak some more, because I’m too comfortable to move right now and not hungry enough yet to find the motivation.”

Jack laughs quietly and closes the door behind him, leaving Eric to soak and think.

He wants to take Jack home with him when he visits Georgia after finals—he knows this time it won’t be for long, because he’ll be spending most of the summer in Providence, but he still wants to go home, even if it’s only for a little while. That’s not all there is to it, though, because it’s almost like he needs to prove something to himself—that he can revisit those places that saw him at his lowest, scared and closeted, and bullied, and that this time, he can do it holding Jack’s hand. It feels a little like leaving a huge part of himself behind, but it’s also something he knows he needs to do, not necessarily to forget about fifteen-year-old Eric Bittle, who thought that maybe he could just fake it for the rest of his life, that he could just marry a girl and be just like everyone else—but to get his closure, his confirmation that sometimes those things you don’t dare dream about really do happen.

He tells Jack about that while they’re eating, feeling strangely vulnerable all of a sudden, as if Jack could see all of his past in his face, like an open book.

“Of course I’ll go to Georgia with you,” Jack says, reaching over to cover Eric’s hand with his. “We’ll have to see about the dates, because I have no idea what my off-season is going to look like, but I want to go there with you. That’s…that’s not even a question.”

Eric smiles and squeezes Jack’s hand.

“Okay,” he says. “Okay, we’re gonna do that, then.”


Sports — Hockey
So Jack Zimmermann is supposed to hold a press conference tomorrow at eleven. I’m really curious how they’re gonna spin this.

Re: Sports — Hockey
do you think there’s anything to spin at this point? i mean—do you really think he’s gonna try to deny it? because i don’t think that’s what’s gonna happen at all.

Re: Sports — Hockey
No, no, that’s not what I meant at all—sorry, it’s late over here and maybe I’m just not making myself clear. I was talking more about the angle when it comes to his “branding,” for lack of a better word. Are they going to be like, “we should focus on the on-ice performance, so, please, respect my privacy and leave me alone,” or are they going with, “I want to be a role model on and off the ice, so I’m going to be the face of the LGBT movement in the league.”

Re: Sports — Hockey
Realistically, do you think they can get away with option number one? Because the pressure on him to become the spokesperson for the lgbt people in the NHL is going to be enormous, and I think the backlash would be unbelievable, if they were to go with it.

I mean, I don’t want to imply that he shouldn’t be allowed just to say, “leave me alone,” because it’s his life and he should be allowed to do with it as he pleases, but, you know, that’s all pretty academic when the reality is that there are currently no other people with his status in the league, and, like it or not, there are just certain things he can’t afford not to do.

Re: Sports — Hockey
yeah, but otoh, he’s a notoriously private person, so i wouldn’t necessarily rule it out. i don’t think he’s gonna go there, but given his record, it wouldn’t be that unexpected, either.


Jack wakes up just before five a.m., feeling a tight knot in his stomach. Next to him, Bitty is sleeping soundly, and Jack considers trying to go back to sleep for a moment, but he knows it won’t work. He can feel a faint wave of nausea wash over him as he slips out of the bed, trying not to wake Bitty, and he sits on the mattress for a moment with his hands braced on his knees, breathing deeply.

He wanders through the apartment, bathed in the dull, gray light of the early morning, bare feet hitting against the cold hardwood floors and kitchen tile. He drinks a glass of water, then spends some time leaning against the sink with his head down. There’s the familiar, insistent buzzing right beneath his skin, and he feels unbalanced, a little dizzy.

He rehearses the statement in his head, even though he’s going to have it on paper in front of him, too, trying to ignore his trembling hands.

He wants to shower, but he doesn’t want to accidentally wake Bitty up with the sound of the running water, so he drinks another glass of water, picks an apple from the fruit bowl on the kitchen table. The crunch he can hear in his ears like a gunshot as he bites into the apple makes his teeth grate.

Jack takes a deep breath, then another, and another. Counts to a hundred and then back. Breathes.

Around seven, Bitty finally starts to stir, and he walks into the kitchen to find Jack sitting at the table with his head in his hands.

“Jack?” he says, his voice quiet and still scratchy from sleep. He walks over to where Jack is sitting and wraps his hands around him, whispers into his ear, “It’s gonna be fine. You’re gonna be fine. I’ll be right there with you, okay?”

Jack slowly raises his head and presses his cheek to the soft cotton of Bitty’s t-shirt, closes his eyes.

“Okay,” he breathes out. “Okay.”

He gets through the rest of the morning in a haze—there’s shower and breakfast, and Bitty does his tie as Jack dresses mechanically, and then he drives them to the arena, because Jack doesn’t trust himself behind the wheel at the moment. They talk, Jack thinks, but he has no idea what about. Banal things—trivial, unimportant, he guesses.

They arrive at the arena, and Cory is there, and so is George, unwavering as always, and she hugs Jack for a long moment, then tells him, “They’re ready for you.”

“I’ll be right here,” Bitty says as he wraps his arms around Jack’s neck and presses his face into the crook of his neck. There are people watching. Jack doesn’t care. He leans down and kisses Bitty, a brief, chaste kiss that lasts less than a heartbeat. Jack knows—his heart is beating like mad in his throat.

When he walks into the press room, it’s like a shot of adrenaline right before a game, and suddenly the haze is gone, and Jack is there, shaking but present.

“Thank you for coming here today,” he says, and his voice doesn’t sound as strangled as he expected. “It’s extremely hard for me to be standing here in front of you today, because this is not how I imagined this conversation when I thought about coming out in the past. This decision, however, has been taken out of my hands by the people who decided to invade my privacy—and the privacy of numerous other athletes and celebrities—and release sensitive personal information regarding my relationship status. There has been a lot of talk about the lack of out gay players in the NHL, about how the League is now ready for a player to come out, how times have changed for the better. Still, until Friday, there have been no out players in the League. We often like to say that it’s only what happens on the ice and in the locker room that matters, but this is not entirely true. How we conduct ourselves off the ice, as professional athletes in the public eye and people who aspire to be role models to children and teenagers—that’s important, too. Who I come home to at the end of the day isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be. I can only hope that for all those players who will come after me, it will be easier, not having to be the first. I also hope that now we can have an honest, open discussion concerning the support network within the League for players who struggle with their sexuality or mental health, since those issues are especially dear to my heart. Also, lastly, I would like to ask you to respect my privacy as well as the privacy of my partner as we adjust to this new situation. Thank you.”

The room erupts in noise as Jack walks out, shaking all over on the inside, and he can hear Georgia say that he will not be taking any questions at this time, then more noise, but as soon as the door closes behind him, there’s silence in the hallway, and Bitty is there, his eyes glassy, and Jack crashes into him, clinging and not letting go.

“You’re so brave,” Bitty whispers into his ear, and Jack buries his face in the crook of his shoulder and breathes slowly, in and out, trying to stop the shaking.

Once they break apart after what feels like a second and an eternity at the same time, George touches his shoulder and squeezes gently, then says, “You did good, Jack. You did good.”

Cory hugs him, smiling.

“You’re fucking amazing,” he tells Jack. It makes his throat tight all over again.

When they finally walk out of the arena and into the spring sun, Jack is holding Bitty’s hand and he doesn’t let go.

Let them see, he thinks.

Chapter Text

Sports: Hockey
So, nonnies, Jack Zimmermann came out earlier today during a press conference. Obviously, given what happened, that was just a formality, but what did you think about his statement?

Re: Sports: Hockey
Good and to the point. The part about having a serious, honest conversation about dealing with being in the closet and/or battling with mental illness was a nice touch, because for once I can believe he means it. I don’t expect much from the league, given their track record, but I think Zimmermann is enough of a household name (not to mention the weight his father’s opinion still holds in this environment) that something might finally change for the better. I know, I know, call me naïve, but whatever. I just need to believe that something good will come out of this, okay.

Re: Sports: Hockey
I liked it, too. But, god, he looked terrified. I mean, I don’t blame him AT ALL, but it was almost painful to watch. And I agree with the anon above me, I really hope SOMETHING good comes out of this whole mess. A+ for the Falconers, though, for how they handled it. I’ve been a long-time hockey fan, but I haven’t really paid much attention to the Falcs so far (sorry, I’m a Caps girl at heart, hometown loyalty and all that). I think I might need to change that now, though.

Re: Sports: Hockey
Yeah, that’s one of those things that really impressed me in this clusterfuck. The Falcs really handled that with class. Well done. And it’s good to know the franchise really supports Zimmermann beyond public declarations—I know someone who works for them, not in PR, but in one of the other departments, and from what I’ve heard, they’re really great about it. I’m not really surprised, though, considering that one of their GMs is married to a woman. While being a woman herself. I don’t imagine she’d want to work in a highly homophobic environment. (And yeah, yeah, I know, the League, responsibility and complicity, but I feel like the Falcs are really one of the greater teams when it comes to stuff like homophobia or racism.)

Re: Sports: Hockey
Yeah, I agree. I mean, there’s nothing lucky about being outed like that, but I still think he had a lot of luck when it comes to his organization’s response. Small graces, silver linings and all that.


Jack walks into the locker room on Tuesday morning like he’s squaring up for a fight.

There’s a moment of silence as he enters, when everyone turns to look at him, and then everything goes back to normal, the guys chatting with each other, joking and laughing as they gear up before practice.

Jack has no idea whether that’s good or bad—some of them seem to keep their distance, especially the guys from the farm team who got called up to help them with the playoffs push, but no one says anything either. And this—the silence, the distance—it’s just another thing Jack has no idea how to read.

He busies himself with his gear, pulls his shirt over his head and reaches for his under armour, fastens his pads. Cory isn’t there yet, and Jack has no idea how the rest of the team reacted to the news—in retrospect, maybe he should’ve asked, because he doesn’t want to get blindsided again.

He’s slowly, meticulously lacing up his skates when he can hear the noise die down a little. He doesn’t look up, but he can hear the sound of footsteps as someone walks up to him.

“So help me understand something here, Zimmy-boy,” Schumer says then, and Jack’s head stays low, his shoulders tense. “All that time, all this prime pussy that was coming your way, it was completely wasted on you? Like, for real, would it really kill you to be a bro and say, ‘I may be a forward, but really I’m a D-man at heart. My buddy Schumer over there, though, he's all about the pussy’? Selfish, Zimms. Selfish and uncool.”

Jack stays where he is, almost overcome with relief, when Holtzy chimes in, asking, “Also, if your boyfriend moves in, do we get pies?”

And just like that, Jack can suddenly breathe again. He laughs, still bent in half over his skates, his shoulders shaking, and Holtzy pats him on the shoulder.

Jack takes a deep breath, then another, then finally looks up.

“Don’t you need to watch your weight in your old age, Holtzy?” he asks, and Holtzy gives him the finger in response. The guys laugh, loud and obnoxious, and then it’s just another early morning in the locker room, like the end of the world never happened or just passed unnoticed. Jack is grateful for that—that he’s here, with this team, with these people who apparently don’t see any difference between that Jack who came to practice on Thursday and that Jack who entered the locker room today as the first openly gay NHL player.

“No, but seriously, you should bring him to practice sometime,” Holtzy says, and Jack can see a few of the guys who met Bitty nod in agreement. “He’s fast as hell, we should convince the coaches to let him gear up and try him against, like, Smithy after the regular practice is over. That might be fun.”

“Yo, Holtzy, be careful,” Benny says from his place on the bench as he lazily laces up his skates, “or Zimms might think you’re trying to make a move on his boy or something.”

Holtzy rolls his eyes. “Please, I like my teeth right where they are.”

Practice is fine—they run drills and practice passes, then finish with a scrimmage, and by the end of it all, Jack is loose in the shoulders and laughing as the puck hits the back of the net and Aaronowitz punches him in the shoulder, happy with the victory.

“Suck it!” he yells to Schumer and Benny across the ice.

The two guys from the farm team—Brooks and Dwyer—keep their distance, throwing glances at Jack every now and again as they clear the ice, and that’s—that’s something Jack expected, that’s what he kept repeating to himself he was ready for until he almost believed it, and at least they’re going to be probably gone come playoffs time, so it’s not like Jack needs to care. He doesn’t know them and they don’t know him, and that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t matter, he tells himself in his head time and time again.

“Zimms, you coming to lunch?” Benny asks as they get out of their gear before showers.

Jack puts down his helmet and removes his pads, then peels himself out of his under armour before answering.

“I’m gonna pass, sorry,” he says, rubbing his hand against the beginnings of a bruise after Christiansen accidentally rammed into him during the scrimmage. “Eric was still asleep when I left, he’s probably gonna want to go somewhere for lunch.”

“Or you can just call him or text him the address if you want to,” Benny says in return, stepping out of his skates. “We’re going to that place with the good burgers, you guys should totally come with.”

Jack smiles as he reaches for his towel, ready to hit the showers.

“Thanks for the offer, guys, but I think we want to go somewhere together, just the two of us today.” He pauses, thinks for a second, then says, “Maybe tomorrow, though? I need to drive him back to Samwell after lunch, so he could come to practice, and then we could all go out to eat?”

“Sweet,” Schumer says, and beside Jack, Cory laughs quietly.

It means a lot—to have their support, their friendship, and the readiness and openness with which they accept Bitty makes something in his chest hurt, makes his throat tight.

He finds that at one point, somewhere down the line, he stopped comparing them to his team at Samwell. And that’s—that’s a good thing, Jack thinks, to be able to finally admit that they’re both very different and both equally important.

The truth is, Jack will never stop being grateful for all the things the Samwell team did for him, but if Jack knows anything, it’s that sometimes you have to stop looking back. There will always be a place for them in the warm corners of Jack’s chest, and he will always keep going back as long as his friends are still there, but now it feels a lot like moving on.

And this—this is a good thing, too.


Jack wakes Eric up with a kiss.

“It’s almost noon, how are you still asleep,” he murmurs into Eric’s ear with mock disbelief as he leans down on his elbows. Jack smells like soap and shampoo, fresh and clean. Eric curls up under the sheets, smiling with his eyes still closed, then stretches like a cat in a patch of sun, hears his joints pop quietly.

“Well, I recall that someone kept me up all night,” he says, finally looking up at Jack, who observes him with so much fondness in his eyes that Eric’s breath catches. Sometimes he thinks he’ll never get used to it, not completely—it’s always going to be that one thing about Jack that catches him off-guard.

Jack smiles then, smug and self-satisfied in a way Eric has rarely seen him, and, god, he’s such a tease sometimes, has the art of chirping Eric without even opening his mouth down to perfection.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Bittle,” he says as he leans down again to kiss Eric on the cheek. “Absolutely. no. idea.” He accentuates each word with a kiss on Eric’s temple, jaw, the corner of his mouth.

Eric catches him at the last moment and tugs at Jack’s flannel until he loses his balance and falls into bed next to Eric—one of his thighs crushes Eric’s ankle a little, and he gets the wind knocked out of him, a quiet oof as he hits the mattress, but then he’s laughing, pulling Eric on top of him, and Eric goes, smiling so hard his cheeks start to hurt.

“For a professional athlete, those are terrible reflexes, lord,” he chirps, prodding Jack between the ribs with his index finger.

“Well, forgive me if I didn’t expect to be tricked like that in my own home. In my own bed,” Jack says as he reaches for Eric, pulling him down by the nape of his neck until they’re so close to each other that Eric can see the faint outlines of Jack’s slowly fading scar over his eyebrow.

“Technically, you were not in bed,” Eric shoots back and kisses Jack before he has a chance to open his mouth.

“Come to practice with me tomorrow,” Jack says after they pull apart, his face still inches from Eric’s, his voice breathy. “The guys wanted me to invite you to lunch today, but I bailed on them. I promised them we’d go tomorrow, though, if you want.”

It’s something he’s thought about a lot these past few days, and he knows it’s something Jack has definitely thought about—because Eric might get to go back to Samwell at the end of it all, but this is Jack’s job, Jack’s life, the one he’s carved out for himself here in Providence, and he’s here to stay, for better or for worse.

“How was it?” Eric asks, sitting up, but Jack stays on his back, staring at the ceiling.

“It was…good,” he says eventually, and Eric can see him swallow, follows the rise and fall of his Adam’s apple with his eyes. “There were two guys from the farm team, who— But the guys were really good about it. They like you a lot.”

Eric laughs softly, then nudges Jack’s calf with his toes. “They like you a lot, too.”

Jack smiles and pushes himself up on his elbows to look at Eric. “I think they might like you better,” he says. “Also, they want to know if they get pies.”

Eric rolls his eyes at Jack. “Who do you take me for, Jack Zimmermann?” he asks, faux-offended. “Of course they get pies.”

They get up after a while and Eric goes to shower while Jack ponders their options for lunch.

“How about that bistro down by the river?” he asks, walking into the bathroom without knocking just as Eric gets out of the shower and reaches for the towel. Jack passes it to him almost automatically before he can grab it from the rack on the opposite wall, comfortable and casual, like it’s been their daily routine for years now.

“The one with the good clam chowder?” Eric asks as he starts toweling off, water dripping from his hair and into his eyes, and he rubs at it with the towel a little too energetically, sending a spray of tiny droplets in all directions.

“Yeah,” Jack says, leaning against the doorframe, watching Eric.

And the truth is, years of figure skating and playing hockey have made Eric quite unashamed, managing to get rid of his modesty inside the locker room due to necessity, but it’s different—knowing that it’s Jack looking.

“Sure, why not,” he says, putting the towel away. He steals a kiss on his way out, leaving Jack in the bathroom, looking amused.

It’s still a little surreal, even after all that time—to open Jack’s closet and find his own clothes inside. Maybe it’s because he’s never spent any substantial time at Jack’s apartment—a few odd days here and there, some weekends, those five days over the winter break. He can’t wait until summer, until he can come here and stay, living with Jack like they used to back at Samwell but also nothing like that, nothing at all, because this time, Eric doesn’t have to wonder what it feels like to kiss Jack and have him kiss back. What it feels like to wake up next to him every morning.

They go out into the shy spring sun that peeks out from behind the clouds from time to time. The bistro is a good distance away, but they decide to walk anyway, enjoying the sun and the wind, the late March warmth that settles deep in their bones.

As soon as they’re out on the street, Jack tangles their fingers together, and Eric’s breath catches again. It means so much to him—just this simple, innocent gesture, holding hands as they walk down the street like any other couple would, and Eric had spent so much of his life hiding—first in Georgia and then when he started dating Jack—that now the knowledge that people can see them holding hands and that’s fine is exhilarating and overwhelming at the same time.

He never thought he would get to have this. He never thought he would get to have this with Jack. Eric knows the last few days had been hellish for him—for both of them, but infinitely more so for Jack—but there’s something about the set of his shoulders that looks looser than Eric has seen him in months, something soft and gentle about the curve of his mouth, and that—that maybe doesn’t make what happened okay, but at least it makes it mean something. Something other than panic rising like bile at the back of the throat, other than quiet shaking that has nothing to do with the cold.

The bistro is pretty packed by the time they finally get there, but the waitress finds them a cozy table in the corner, away from any potential prying eyes, and it’s nice, warm and intimate, and Jack keeps stealing glances at Eric with the fondest expression in his eyes, catches Eric’s hand in his to briefly kiss his knuckles, then looks away, blushing, like he’s flustered by either the gesture itself or the impulse, or both, and it’s—it’s a lot.

The waitress takes their orders—shrimp stir fry for Eric, lobster ravioli for Jack—and they settle in, waiting for their dishes to arrive. They talk while Eric catches up on the group chat, and he ends up reading the funniest texts out loud to Jack, who laughs quietly under his breath.

They take a long lunch, stretching it out as they eat slowly, and then they end up ordering a dessert to share—a caramel apple cobbler that has Eric nodding approvingly as he dives into the delicious, flaky crust. Jack looks silently amused but doesn’t comment, knocking his ankle into Eric’s under the table instead.

Eric takes a picture of their dessert and sends it to the group chat then adds a filter and puts it up on his Instagram as well. It doesn’t even take a full minute for his phone to start blowing up with relentless chirping as the guys simultaneously make fun of them for being so disgustingly mushy and in love (Holster’s words) and lament the tragic lack of pie at the Haus.

“Lord, how did y’all even manage to feed yourselves before I came along?” he asks Jack, who shrugs.

“Cafeteria. Take-out. Frozen meals,” he says, his tone serious, bordering on deadpan. He folds the napkin next to his plate and leans back in his chair a little. “Those were some dark times, Bittle. It was good you showed up when you did.”

And it might have started as a chirp, but by the time he’s finished, Jack’s eyes are soft and his voice is tender, and he’s looking straight at Eric, smiling with just the corner of his mouth. He’s so ridiculous. Eric loves him so much he could kiss him right now.

And the thing is—he could, in theory, but he has no idea if Jack is even into public display of affection; it’s one of those things that never really came up, because there was no reason to bring it up when they had to remember not to let their hands brush against each other too often.

It’s such a cliché, too—kissing at a restaurant over dessert like the rest of the world doesn’t exist, but, by god, Eric thinks he’s entitled to a few of those after all he’s been through to even get to this point.

“What are you thinking about?” Jack asks, snapping Eric out of his reverie, and the soft look on Jack’s face makes him bold.

“Kissing you,” he admits, worrying his lower lip with his teeth almost unconsciously, and he can see the way Jack’s eyes immediately wander to his mouth.

“Why don’t you stop, then?” Jack says, his eyes not leaving Eric’s face even for a moment, and he leans in a little bit. “Thinking about it, I mean.”

The table is small, so all it takes is for Eric to follow Jack’s cue and lean forward until the corners of their lips are touching, and just like that, Eric is kissing Jack Zimmermann in public. He laughs into the kiss, then ducks his head and touches his forehead to Jack’s collarbone, warm inside and flushed across his cheeks. He can’t stop smiling even as Jack’s hand comes to rest on the nape of his neck, his thumb running across the soft line of Eric’s shaved hair.

“Okay?” Jack asks, and Eric nods, moving away. Jack’s hand slips until it’s cupping the underside of Eric’s jaw, brushing against his Adam’s apple.

“More than okay,” he says. “Just, you know. Surreal.”

They pay for their lunch—or rather, Jack pays before Eric can even reach for his wallet—and walk out into the afternoon sun; the clouds are gone, and the weather is gorgeous, warm and sunny, just the faintest breeze coming in from the river, so they decide to walk for a while it’s still early. Jack has some gym time scheduled in the afternoon, and Eric contemplates recording an extra episode of his vlog in Jack’s kitchen while he’s waiting for Jack to come back, maybe trying out the new raspberry chiffon pie recipe his mother added to their Pinterest the day before, but for now they’re just walking together, hands touching and shoulders brushing as they wander along the river. Jack has his camera with him, and he takes pictures of Eric, of the river and the little boats mooring by the riverside, of the trees that just now start to bloom in full.

It’s one of those rare, slow afternoons that stretch almost into infinity, where everyone else around them is rushing somewhere and they move as if in slow-motion, in that little pocket of space where time works differently for a moment.

Before they need to go back, Eric snatches the camera from Jack’s hands and turns it onto him, snaps a picture. In the photo, Jack is smiling, looking beyond camera at something with the softest look in his eyes. Looking at Eric.

It still takes his breath away.


Jack comes back from the gym just in time for dinner, feeling a deep ache settle in his muscles—it’s the good kind, though, the kind that tells him he’s done his work, the kind Jack doesn’t mind at all. He’s gotten used to it over the years that by now it’s nothing more than a familiar echo at the back of his head.

When he comes in, he can hear Bitty’s voice in the kitchen, and he goes to check it out, dropping his gym bag by the door, to find Bitty in front of Jack’s laptop, talking to the camera. Jack hesitates in the doorway, unsure if he should interrupt Bitty, but Bitty pauses, then waves Jack over.

“And look who I found!” he says to the camera, and, oh, so that’s what they’re doing. “Say hi to my viewers, Jack. They’ve been dying to meet you.”

Jack waves awkwardly at the camera, then presses a kiss to Bitty’s hair and says, “Hi,” in a low voice, because this—this is meant just for him.

Bitty flushes and touches his hands to his face. “Oh my god, you’re impossible,” he says, then cuts the recording.

Jack reaches into the fridge for a bottle of Gatorade.

“Look,” Bitty says, turning in his chair to face Jack, “I’m not gonna use it if you don’t want me to, okay?”

Jack contemplates it for a moment, then smiles. “No,” he says, “no, you should use it. They wanted to meet me, right? Your viewers. So that’s okay.”

Bitty’s entire face lights up and he reaches out with his hand to tug at the corner of Jack’s unbuttoned flannel shirt, and Jack goes with the motion, then leans down to let Bitty kiss him.

“I made pasta,” Bitty says once they break apart. “It’s honey lemon chicken, my mom sent me the recipe.”

Jack swallows, only now realizing that he’s actually starving. It’s hard for him to keep his weight up as the season progresses, and spring is always the worst, his body already exhausted beyond all measure and still expected to perform impossible things on a daily basis.

They eat at the kitchen table and Jack devours the pasta on the plate in front of him while Bitty tells him about his impromptu vlog entry.

“I just wanted to let them know I’m alive and okay,” he explains, “and I talked about you on the vlog before, back when you were still at Samwell, so I thought— And, you know, now that I could actually talk about us, I figured, why not, right? I might as well do it in your kitchen. It’s not like— I was gonna run this by you before posting anyway, to make sure you’re okay with it.”

Jack puts the fork down. “I’m okay with it,” he says, then adds, because he needs him to understand, “Bitty, this is as much your space as it is mine, okay? You don’t need to check in with me. I meant it when I gave you the keys.”

Bitty is silent for a moment, looking down at his plate.

“I know,” he says finally, his eyes flickering back to Jack’s face, “it’s just a force of habit, I guess. But I know you meant it, Jack. And I meant it, too.”

Jack knows about the vlog, of course, knows where to find it, too, ever since Bitty showed him a few months ago, and sometimes he gets curious, almost curious enough to go and watch some of the episodes back when Jack was still at Samwell and they were both oblivious to each other’s feelings, but it also feels like an intrusion, like he shouldn’t be poking around that part of Bitty’s life, because it was never meant for him in the first place. It’s not that he’s afraid of what he might find there—a stark reminder, maybe, of those times when Jack thought that Bitty didn’t matter, the memory alone like a punch straight to the gut—it’s just that Jack knows that some things might be out there, for everyone to see, and still feel like the most intimate secret in the entire world.

They clear the table together once they’re done, putting the dishes away in the dishwasher and packing leftovers into Tupperware containers to store for later, and Bitty puts some music on in the background, and it’s nice, familiar. Domestic.

Jack has gotten used to wanting impossible things, but now—now he feels like everything is possible, and he wants to have this life, here, with Bitty, wants to come home to him every day, only he knows that come tomorrow evening, Bitty will be gone, back to Samwell, and somehow the thought is worse than before, because now Jack knows what it feels like to kiss Bitty and hold his hand under the open sky, to come home to him with the knowledge that other people know, too, that this is right where he belongs.

“C’mon, there’s pie,” Bitty says just as Jack is drying his hands with a kitchen towel.

Jack makes them tea while Bitty cuts two pieces of the pie and reaches for the smaller plates, up on the high shelf where he can’t quite get to them unless he stands on his tiptoes and stretches, and Jack laughs quietly as he reaches easily over Bitty to hand him the plates.

Bitty sighs. “Your mom was right. You giants are the worst.”

Jack ruffles his hair and presses his lips to the side of Bitty’s head.

“So should I put them back, or…” he starts to say, and Bitty elbows him in the ribs.

“Eat your pie, Mr. Zimmermann,” he says, then shoos him out of the kitchen. “Go. To the living room, go.”

They sit next to each other on the sofa, and once they’re done eating their pie, Bitty stretches and puts his legs across Jack’s lap, fiddling with his phone while Jack turns on the tv just in time to catch some talking heads discussing his own career on ESPN. It’s like a bucket of cold water right over his head, and he thought he was over it, but apparently not, and it’s almost too much to bear, hearing them go over the events of the past few days in excruciating detail, until Bitty yanks the remote out of Jack’s slack hands and changes the channel to something that’s showing Parks and Rec reruns.

“Hey,” he says, his hand resting in the crook of Jack’s elbow, his thumb running lightly along the crease. “Okay?”

And Jack honestly wants to say yes, because he is okay, but he thought it wouldn’t shake him quite this much, to see it again displayed in front of him like that. It’s done, it’s over with, and he has come out on the other side, and he’s happy, here, with Bitty, so why the fuck do his hands feel so close to trembling, he thinks, stuck in a horrible loop inside his head as he tries to look up at Bitty and fails.

“Hey, hey,” Bitty says in a soft voice and shifts on the couch, then takes Jack’s hands in his and squeezes gently, trying to catch Jack’s gaze. “You don’t need to be okay, all right? We can just—”

He switches the tv off completely, then his hand wanders back to rest against Jack’s palm, warm and solid—and that’s Bitty all over, a solid, warm presence at Jack’s side, something to hold on to that never feels like a crutch.

Jack takes a deep breath, then another one, and another, until he manages a faint smile that feels genuine. “It’s okay,” he says. “I just had a moment of— Sorry.”

Bitty shakes his head, then leans forward to kiss Jack on the temple. “Nothing to be sorry about. Do you want to—”

He points to the tv with his head, and the thing is—sometimes Jack likes the background noise when his head gets like that, something familiar he can pay just minimal attention to, but sometimes he needs the silence more, and right now, he can’t make up his mind.

“This is fine,” he says eventually, and Bitty slowly lets go of Jack’s hands just to lean into his side, his arm around Jack’s waist, thumb drawing idle patterns into the fabric of Jack’s shirt where it stretches over his abdomen. “But maybe some music?”

Bitty reaches for Jack’s laptop and puts some quiet, mellow music on, the volume turned down until it’s just a murmur at the back of Jack’s head. Jack has a book he’s been reading for the past few weeks on and off, and Bitty has his phone, and they sit in companionable silence, breathing in sync, warm and content, until the insistent buzzing inside Jack’s head goes away.

“Thanks,” Jack says in a low voice after a while, kissing the top of Bitty’s head, and Bitty looks up at him, surprise in his eyes.

“What for?” he asks, and Jack swallows.

“Just…for being here,” he says. “It’s…it helps.”

Bitty smiles a sad, small smile. “Oh, Jack,” he says. “Of course I’m here. Where else would I be?”

“No, I know, it’s just—” Jack shakes his head slightly and smiles back. “I just wanted to say it out loud.”

He knows how important it is—to say these things out loud. To make sure the people he cares about know that they matter. It’s another thing he had to re-learn, after rehab, after everything, and this, too, was a long, painful process, too many words stuck inside his throat, too many wasted opportunities and long silences filled with nothing at all. But he’s better now, he is, and so he says all those things out loud, trying to make up for the lost time.

The way Bitty presses into him, buries his face in the crook of Jack’s neck and whispers, “Thank you,” into his skin is worth the slowly dissolving knot of anxiety in his stomach.


They wake up early, just in time to get to Jack’s practice. Bitty grumbles a little as Jack keeps plying him with coffee and prepares two thermal cups for them to drink on their way over.

They grab some oatmeal and Jack drinks his protein shake and eats his granola bar, then reaches into the fruit bowl for an apple and bites into it as he finishes dressing. Bitty looks half-asleep where he’s trying to lace up his sneakers, his hair in slight disarray where he’s run his hand through it earlier.

“Lord, it’s like checking practice all over again,” he says, then goes to fetch his bag.

He has his second pair of skates permanently stowed back at Jack’s apartment now, and there’s another pair of figure skates, hidden deep in Jack’s closet, that Bitty knows nothing about yet, but Jack has seen first-hand how much Bitty misses figure skating, and if Jack can do this for him, if he can make him happy this way—it’s the least he can do.

“You didn’t even complain this much when it was checking practice,” Jack shoots back, slightly more awake now that there’s actual caffeine in his system, and Bitty gives him an unimpressed look.

“That’s because you were my captain then,” Bitty says, rubbing his left eye with the back of his hand and trying to stifle a yawn.

“And what am I now, eh?” Jack asks, putting a slightly smug smile on his face as he leans against the wall in the hallway.

Bitty shakes his head. “God, it’s a good thing you’re cute,” he says, rolling his eyes at Jack, then steps closer until he’s pressing a soft, close-mouthed kiss to the corner of Jack’s lips. “Okay, I’m ready. We can go. But you owe me a large mocha after this.”

Jack bumps their shoulders together as they leave the apartment. “I think I can handle it.”

Jack drives him to the rink and there are a couple other guys are milling around the back entrance when they arrive. Schumer spots them almost immediately and waves at them.

“Yo, Zimms, get your lazy ass over here!” he shouts across the parking lot, then adds with a smile, “Hi, Eric! Fucking great to see you again, man!”

“Oh, I see how it is,” Jack mutters as he comes closer with mock-hurt in his voice, his bag slung over his shoulder, Bitty at his side. Their fingers are tangled together between them.

“Schumer, what the fuck,” Benny says, throwing himself onto Schumer’s back, his hands dangling in front of Schumer’s chest comically. “Don’t start playing favorites, you moron, at least not yet, or that grumpy fucker is gonna get even more grumpy, and we don’t need that shit at practice, come on. Like, obviously Bittle is far too good for his sorry ass, but come on.”

Next to Jack, Bitty giggles. “Oh my god, y’all need to stop,” he says, and when Jack turns his head to look at him, there’s a faint blush across Bitty’s cheeks, but there’s also a mischievous glint in his eyes, so Jack really shouldn’t be surprised when the next words out of his mouth are, “And there’s nothing sorry about that ass.”

Jack groans. Schumer looks like he’s never witnessed anything better in his entire life, and Jack knows the chirping is going to be relentless. He’s just not going to live this one down.

“That’s what Schumer says all the time, too,” Benny chimes in, and next to Jack, Bitty laughs, a bright, clear sound that echoes through the parking lot.

They go inside after that, and Jack leaves in the direction of the locker room while Bitty goes to take a seat in the stands. There are always a few people watching the practice—some photographers, some fans, a number of reporters—and Jack has gotten used to it over time, to being constantly watched on the ice. It’s not a new feeling, by any means, but now it doesn’t make him break out in cold sweat whenever he thinks about the camera lenses pointed at him as he skates slow circles around the rink to warm up.

Bitty waves at him when Jack passes where he’s sitting—first row in the family section, and that thought makes Jack’s heart beat faster in a way that has nothing to do with the speed he’s been picking up.

Jack waves back, smiling. He’s sure he can hear the sound of a camera shutter.

They’re playing a matinee game on Friday, so tomorrow’s practice is closed to the public, strictly pre-game strategy and going over their shifts until they pass out on their way back into the locker room. Samwell is playing as well, and Bitty is supposed to board the train to Providence as soon as they’re done, which should still give Jack plenty of time to come pick him up at the station, unless they go into double overtime and a shootout. They’re playing Columbus, though, and they’ve been struggling with a lot of injuries lately, many of their star players still out of commission and so many players called up from the AHL to fill in the empty positions on the lines, so Jack doesn’t expect them to put up too much of a fight.

The practice goes fairly smoothly, except for the part where Benny loses the puck inside his gear after Jack takes a shot at his net and they spend five minutes trying to fish it out. By the end of it all, Benny is almost doubled-over from laughing, holding onto the posts as he shimmies and shakes, trying to get the puck out, while Schumer has given up on everything, and he’s just leaning against the boards, his face hidden in his gloves and his shoulders shaking from barely suppressed laughter.

“If any of you assholes tweet about this shit, I’m never speaking to you again,” Benny says in a grave voice once the puck has been recovered.

“I think it might be too late for that,” Cory comments, pointing with his head to where Bitty is sitting, his phone already in his hands, fingers tapping away at a breakneck speed. “Bittle’s Twitter game is still on point, Benny, you’re shit out of luck.”

They finish on time, closing the practice with another scrimmage, and once Mark agrees to let them stay behind for a while, Jack slowly skates up to Bitty to let him know. Bitty moves closer to the tunnel entrance and starts lacing up his skates while they guys wind down, playing tag on the ice.

“Y’all really want to do this?” Bitty asks once he steps onto the ice. He’s shaking his head, but he’s also smiling, and he takes a slow lap around the rink to warm up, then picks up his speed and starts on another lap backwards until he turns into a blur in the corner of Jack’s eye. He’s in his hockey skates, but he still moves like a figure skater, all incredible speed and grace that many of them lack on the ice, and the guys are looking at him with silent approval.

He finally comes to a stop in front of Jack, catching the fabric of his sweater for balance, even though Jack is convinced he doesn’t really need it.

“So?” he says, his cheeks slightly pink. “Anyone?”

Cory is the fastest out of all of them, so they make them run laps around the rink and skate in eight-shapes between the nets until they’re both almost completely out of breath, and Cory wheezes as he comes to a stop, his hands braced on his knees as he doubles over.

“I give up, okay,” he says in between deep gasps, his head down. Bitty skates up next to him and pats Cory gently on the back. He’s breathing heavily, but he’s nowhere near Cory’s state. “I fucking give up, oh my god, what the fuck, Bitty, I thought we were friends.”

Bitty laughs, loud and breathy, and Jack skates up to him to ruffle his hair and give him a hug.

“Dude,” Christiansen says when Cory finally looks up, exhausted but grinning, “I bet five bucks on you, you owe me. I, like, believed in you.”

Cory flips him off, still laughing. “Dude, I wouldn’t bet on me, okay,” he says as his breath slowly starts to even out. “So don’t blame me for your shitty decision-making skills.”

“Honestly, though, how are you this fast?” Schumer asks.

“I’m pretty compact, in case y’all haven’t noticed.” Bitty gestures up and down himself, but it’s not impatient or exasperated. “And I did figure skating for over eight years.”

“Yeah, about that,” Schumer says, skating backwards toward the tunnel. “How did you even go from that to hockey?”

And Jack—Jack is curious about the answer, because he knows the way it happened, but he also doesn’t know how much of that Bitty is willing to disclose to people who aren’t his close friends. Who aren’t Jack.

“We moved and I couldn’t train anymore,” Bitty says in a casual tone with a shrug. “And my old coach lived too far for me to commute. But we had a hockey team, so I started playing that instead, and, you know, I think it turned out pretty okay,” he adds looking up at Jack with a sweet, soft smile and nudging him gently with his elbow.

Jack knows his face must be an open book in this moment, when he looks down at Bitty, everything he feels spilling out right there onto the ice, but inside, there’s only impossible lightness.


They go to the burger place again, and Cory hitches a ride with Jack for a change, which is always a great thing when it happens, because Kyle is great at many things, but picking up after himself is not one of them, and that extends to his car, so riding with him usually involves a lot of navigating between empty water bottles and stray equipment in the backseat of his Volvo, which Cory isn’t really a huge fan of. Jack’s car, on the other hand, is always clean and neat, and Cory doesn’t need to worry about crushing any leftovers from an emergency midnight KFC run with his ass.

“Lord, apparently some of the pictures from today’s practice are already online, because Rans and Holster haven’t stopped chirping me for the last ten minutes in the group chat,” Bitty says from where he’s sitting in front of Cory in the passenger’s seat. “No, wait, they’re chirping you, too. That makes me feel a lot better, actually.”

Jack laughs as he stops in front of a traffic light and then he reaches out his hand to ruffle Bitty’s hair.

It’s great to see him like this, considering everything he’s been through in the last week. He looks lighter, somehow, his shoulders less tense and the lines around his mouth less pronounced, and Cory remembers back when Kathy started telling people, how she said it was just exhausting to lie by omission all the time. And yeah, it was different with Jack, because he didn’t get the choice to do this on his own terms, but Cory figures the feeling of relief must be similar.

They arrive at the restaurant a few minutes later and when Jack pulls up into the parking lot, most of the other guys are already there. Even the two farm team guys, who fucked off as soon as practice ended the day before, came to team lunch this time, and Cory noticed that they didn’t look exactly thrilled to have Jack with them in the locker room, keeping their distance the entire time in a way that felt really obvious and equally infuriating, but who the fuck knows, maybe they’re curious after all—about Jack, about Bitty, because to the rest of the team, Bitty is a friendly, familiar face, but to Brooks and Dwyer, he’s just a grainy photo and a newspaper headline.

The burger place is pretty small, though there’s one large table that they usually sit at when they come here for lunch, and by now they’re on a first-name basis with all the servers, but today there’s a new girl who approaches their table with a look of slight terror on her face, and if that’s her first day on the job, then it’s a hell of a way to start.

The girl—Hannah—takes their orders and Cory checks his messages while they’re waiting for the food to arrive. His mother is reminding him to call aunt Louise to wish her happy birthday on Sunday, and there’s a text from Kathy that’s just a photo of an amazing looking piece of cheesecake with the caption: perks of dating a baker. Cory looks over at Jack and Bitty and snorts.

“Yo, Smithy, are you texting the cute girl from PR?” Schumer asks, because of course he does, because he’s a sad fucker with a gossip addiction and he can’t keep his mouth shut to save his life. Cory can feel his cheeks heat up. “You should ask her out, she’s, like, totally into you.”

Cory flips him the bird and says, “No, I’m texting your mom,” and it’s a pathetic fucking chirp as far as chirps go, but Schumer is not the most sophisticated of people even on the best of days so it works and, hey, Cory is gonna take his victories where he can get them.

“What the fuck did I tell you all about talking smack about my mom?” Schumer says, but there’s no real bite to it.

“Dude,” Holtzy chimes in, “you’re all hot and bothered for Zimms’ dad, it’s not like you have room to talk.”

“What?” Cory can hear Bitty say in the silence that follows, then Jack’s quiet, “Oh my god.”

“Yeah,” Benny says, draping an arm over Schumer’s shoulder with the most gleeful grin Cory has ever seen as he turns to Bitty to explain, “our boy Schumer, here, is ready to plant one on Bad Bob Zimmermann. It’s love, okay.”

Bitty giggles, then turns to Jack. “I think your mom might have a thing or two to say about this,” he says, still laughing.

“Look, I’m a lover, not a fighter, I can do both,” Schumer says. “Zimms’ mom is, like, mad hot.”

Benny shoves him just as Jack slowly covers his face with his hands.

“You’re so full of shit,” Bergson says, then shoves him again for good measure. “You drop your gloves every five minutes, you fucker. Not a fighter, my ass. But seriously, though, Smithy, you should text her.”

And okay, so maybe Cory entertained that idea once or twice, or, like, thirteen times, but whatever, it’s not like he’s gonna actually try, because the last time Cory dated anyone was in high school, and he’s actually kinda shy around girls, because, between school and hockey, it’s not exactly like he had a lot of time for socializing, so, seriously, whatever.

Also, that would be unprofessional and, technically, workplace harassment or something, so. It’s not like Cory’s love life (or relative lack thereof) can’t take a few more hits.

There are a few more chirps here and there, but then they finally let it go. Their food arrives a few minutes later, and they dive in, starving enough to stop talking for a short while, and Bitty picks up the conversation in between the bites of his burger. Jack stays mostly silent, but he keeps glancing to his side with a fond expression on his face, and his arm finds its way over to Bitty’s chair, draped casually across the back.

“What time do you need to be back?” Bitty asks, leaning towards Jack once they’re done eating, his voice low but still loud enough to be heard over the restaurant noise.

“Not until six,” Jack says, lowering his voice as well, and he looks like driving Bitty back to Samwell is the last thing he wants to do right now. Cory can’t exactly blame him; he’d hate that, too. “Don’t worry, we have time. No need to rush.”

They sit around for a while, talking about nothing in particular, and then they slowly start to get ready to leave—they pay their tab, which is usually ridiculous, because they really eat a lot, and the guys all hug Bitty on their way out, wishing him good game on Friday. Jack stands a few steps back, but when Cory catches his eye, he can see that he’s genuinely touched, which is equal parts nice and ridiculous, because obviously they like Bitty. Bitty is—and Cory would bet a lot of actual money on this—completely impossible not to like.

He gets it, though, he gets why Jack is so surprised about all of this, because it’s not like Cory is stupid, okay, and all that talk about how the League is ready—that’s one thing, but when you’re on the ice and facing a hard check into the boards and a slur spat in your face, that’s something completely different.

After everyone else is either gone or on their way back, Cory says his goodbyes, too, and when they hug, Bitty whispers into Cory’s ear, “Thanks for having his back.”

Cory swallows thickly. “Don’t even mention it,” he says, because that’s a fucking no-brainer if Cory’s ever heard one, and he gives Bitty one last hug before they pull apart.

“Yeah, but still,” Bitty says, his face serious. “Thanks.”

Cory waves at them as they get into Jack’s car and drive away, then fiddles with his phone for a moment before typing out a short message and sending it as soon as he’s done just in case his brain catches up to what his hands are doing and stops him. He gets a reply just a minute later, and he’s so, so glad none of his teammates are there to witness his little victory dance.


alyssa @aleaiacta
oh noooo, have u seen this I AM DYING OVER HERE @ hockey squad

small & deadly @tinydancer
@aleaiacta are u KIDDING ME, alyssa. are u KIDDING ME. it’s too early for me to be dealing with this

alyssa @aleaiacta
@tinydancer shhhhh, bb, i know. i know.

small & deadly @tinydancer
@aleaiacta no u don’t get it. HE’S SMILING. GOODBYE, I AM SLAIN. but srsly tho, this is everything i wanted after this clusterfuck

small & deadly @tinydancer
@aleaiacta he’s okay. he’s smiling. his cute boyfriend is skating with him after open practice. pls put this picture on my gravestone.

the drama llama @howlinginside
@tinydancer @aleaiacta oh no. oh nooooooo. HE’S OKAY. THEY’RE HAPPY. THIS IS LITERALLY EVERYTHING I WANTED TO KNOW

jordan @hockeybutts
@howlinginside @tinydancer @aleaiacta WHY DID NOBODY @ ME DIRECTLY. i feel so betrayed.

jordan @hockeybutts
@howlinginside @tinydancer @aleaiacta but also good for u, zimms. good for u.


Jack takes Bitty back to Samwell in the early afternoon. They stop by the apartment on their way back to get the rest of Bitty’s things and put his skates away. This time, when they leave, Bitty locks the door with his own key, and this, Jack thinks, is the first time he’s ever seen him use it at all in all the time he’s had it. It feels like a small victory, like he’s managed to finally convince Bitty that this is it for Jack, that Bitty now has another home here. That Jack will always be waiting for him.

There’s not much traffic, and Jack feels almost disappointed when they arrive in front of the Haus forty-five minutes later. There are no reporters waiting for them, but Lardo and Holster are sitting on the front porch, and when they notice Jack’s car, Lardo flings herself down the stairs and across the street, straight into Bitty’s arms.

“Bits!” she says, her voice breathy, as she throws her arms around his neck and buries her face in the crook of his shoulder.

Jack smiles and goes to fetch Bitty’s bag from the trunk. He doesn’t make it even ten steps when Lardo is suddenly there, hugging him so tight that it almost forces all the air out of his lungs.

“You did good, kiddo,” she says into Jack’s chest, and he’s known her long enough to know when she’s trying to hide how emotional she is. “You’re okay.”

It almost floors Jack, the way nothing else has since Friday, and he holds on for a long while as his breathing returns to normal and his eyes stop stinging.

Holster hugs him, too, when they approach the porch, then says, “Bro. Have you seen those pictures of me with the garden hose? I was a big goddamn hero,” and just like that, Jack is laughing, and the weight of the inevitable goodbye gets just a little more bearable.

The Haus is empty apart from the two of them, everyone else either out or in class, and they migrate to the kitchen by some unspoken agreement. Lardo makes coffee while Holster looks for something edible in the fridge and comes up empty-handed.

“I swear to god,” Bitty says, shaking his head, “I leave y’all alone for one weekend. We,” he adds pointedly, looking at Holster, “are going grocery shopping before practice, and I don’t want to hear any complaining.”

They can hear the front door open and close with a loud bang, and Holster calls out, “Rans?”

A moment later, one of the freshmen appears in the kitchen doorway, and he does a little double-take when he sees Jack at the table. “Hi,” he says with a small wave, and Jack remembers that he has met him before—his name is Jason, he thinks. “I, uh, just wanted to see if there’s anything to eat, maybe? Cafeteria is serving spaghetti again. But if I’m interrupting or whatever, I can, uh, I can go.”

Jack opens his mouth to tell him to stay and pay no attention to his presence, but Bitty beats him to it.

“Oh, goodness, Jason, Jack doesn’t bite, okay? Come, sit,” he says. “There’s no food, but we’re going grocery shopping in a moment.”

“I, uh,” Jack interrupts, “I have a car? So if you want, we could go somewhere other than murder Stop and Shop.”

They end up at a nearby Aldi, and Bitty fills the shopping cart up at a terrifying speed, with efficiency that betrays years of experience far above the level of an average college student living on cafeteria food and frozen meals. Holster, Lardo and Jason trail behind them, disappearing from time to time just to go back with their favorite brand of cereal or protein bars. Jack pays for the groceries before the rest can even pull out their wallets, and he can see Bitty give him an exasperated look, but it’s nothing, really, it’s not a big deal at all.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Bitty says in a low voice as they pile into Jack’s Honda, Bitty in the front seat next to Jack.

“It was nothing,” Jack reassures him, but Bitty doesn’t look very convinced.

“It wasn’t nothing, Jack, and you know it.” He shakes his head and reaches for his seatbelt. “But thank you. I’m paying for the groceries this weekend, though.”

Jack nods—he knows better than to fight Bitty on that, and sometimes it makes him so frustrated, because it’s not like Jack is the one with college loans and no stable income, but he gets why Bitty thinks this way, even if he doesn’t always understand it.

Once they’re back at the Haus, they unpack the groceries, and Jack discovers that Bitty has reorganized the cabinets at some point, because when he opens one of them to put away the canned tomatoes, there are only pots and pans inside, and it hits him all over again, the feeling that he’s just a guest here now. It doesn’t sting the way it used to, though.

Ransom and Chowder come back to the Haus before Jack needs to leave, and they chat for a moment, sitting around the kitchen table, warm and content. Some time later, Jack and Bitty slip out of the kitchen and go upstairs to say goodbye. Jack kisses him with his eyes closed, thinking that he’s going to see him again in two days, but he also knows that the delicate equilibrium of these past few days is bound to be disturbed the moment he walks out of the Haus to face the world again; their time together since the news broke spent in an almost dreamlike state, detached from reality. And this—this is the end of it, Jack thinks as he kisses Bitty, who kisses him back, standing on his tiptoes in the middle of his room, his arms around Jack’s neck.

“I’ll see you soon,” Jack whispers against Bitty’s skin, feeling rather than seeing him nod. They’re both delaying and they know it, tangled in each other in a way that makes the rest of the world disappear for a moment, but then comes the moment when they can’t delay anymore, and Jack goes, with one last kiss still tingling on his lips.

Coming back to his empty apartment feels like a punch to the solar plexus—the space that was full of Bitty just a few hours ago now only carries the last remains of his scent, and the bed suddenly feels too big, but Jack knows that it’s just temporary, just for a little while.

Now it feels like there’s more in front of them than there is behind them. And to Jack, who once upon a time thought there was nothing left in front of him anymore, this thought is everything.

Chapter Text

Shitty comes down on Thursday to watch the game, and Eric finds him on the back porch, smoking a joint with Lardo and Nursey. He watches them from the doorway for a moment as they lazily pass the joint between them.

It’s nice outside, the weather sunny and warm—or as warm as it gets in New England this time of year—and Shitty has no jacket on, just a cotton t-shirt, even though Eric still wouldn’t risk leaving his cardigan inside the Haus. It takes him a moment to realize that Shitty is dressed only in his t-shirt because Lardo is wearing his jacket. And sure, they’d done it before countless times while Shitty was still living at the Haus, coming home drunk after parties or smoking up on the roof, easy and natural as breathing, but the way Lardo is leaning into Shitty’s side now, mellow and slightly high already but also content, it looks and feels more intimate and more charged with hidden meaning than all those times before.

After a while, Shitty turns around and grins when he sees Eric.

“Bits!” he calls, leaping to his feet to give Eric a bear hug that lasts for a long, long while. Shitty always gets handsy when he’s high, but never with Lardo—or, he never has, until now. Eric wonders if it was a self-defense mechanism, the same way he didn’t let himself touch Jack too much, afraid that he might never want to stop. “Wanna smoke with us? We can share, we’re fucking nice like that, right, guys?”

Nursey looks over his shoulder. “Speak for yourself,” he says with a lazy grin, no bite to his words.

“Brah. Brah,” Shitty says, his eyes wide and his right hand over his heart. “You wound me. It’s a matter of hospitality, okay. Gotta share the joy.”

Eric waves them off, laughing. “No, no, thanks. But you guys go ahead. I’m just gonna sit here with y’all if you don’t mind.”

They move closer to each other on the stairs to make space for Eric, and he goes to sit next to Shitty. There are three half-empty bottles of beer in front of them on the first step, and Eric thinks he could go for a beer, but he’s comfortable here, and he doesn’t want to get up. A moment later, as if reading his mind, Lardo passes her bottle to him with a quiet, “Here, Bits, drink up.”

He grabs the bottle from her and takes a long swig. It’s a bit flat, a bit too warm, but he’s a college student who lives in a frat house: he’s had worse. They sit in comfortable silence for a moment. Next to Eric, Shitty is leaning back on the stairs, propped up on his elbows, and Lardo has her head on his collarbone, her eyes closed.

“Dude,” Shitty says after a moment tipping his chin up so that he’s looking half at the porch roof, half at the sky, “we should totally, like, go on a road trip this summer. Why the fuck did we not think about this last year?”

“Shits, you have an internship lined up for the summer,” Lardo says, her voice quiet and soft. “You’re gonna have to get your rites of passage fix some other way.”

It’s a strange thing—to think that they’re adults now, and there are some opportunities that had simply passed them by while they weren’t looking, too preoccupied with living the day-to-day life, and now it’s just too late to go back. It’s a little sad in a melancholy, wistful way, like missing something that never happened, and Eric is all too familiar with that feeling.

Shitty is strangely quiet, because usually he can’t seem to stop talking when he’s high, and Eric figures it has a lot to do with the way Lardo’s hand is resting comfortably on his abdomen, and Nursey is usually pretty quiet and laid back when he’s not around Dex, so they stay silent for the most part. Several people come and go in the meantime—Chowder pokes his head out for a moment to say hi to Shitty; Dex comes by with two beers, one of which he casually passes to Nursey, who takes it with a nod and a smile; Jason comes out onto the porch and stops in his tracks when he sees Shitty, then hangs around awkwardly for a moment before going back in—until the sky goes dark and the joint is nothing but a passing memory. Nursey is the first to go; he gets up with more grace than should be humanly possible while high and slightly buzzed, and says, “Okay, that’s it for me. See ya.”

He and Shitty fistbump on his way out. Sometimes Eric forgets they knew each other before, from when they went to Andover together, and he can’t help but wonder from time to time what it would be like if some of his past followed him to Samwell. He knows it’s unlikely—most people he knew back in high school either chose state schools or never went to college; there were a few who went to Berkeley or Stanford, or CalTech, but almost all of them stayed down south.

It’s not something he wants to dwell on, but sometimes he gets this nagging feeling, the sense of realization how different his life in Samwell would be if he felt like needed to watch his back the way he’d needed to back home. Maybe it’s the impending end of the year and the prospect of going back to Georgia that’s making him antsy and unsure of himself, because he came to Samwell to be himself, but before the entire world got to know the real Eric Bittle, he still felt a little like he was two different people, the disconnect getting more and more stark with each visit home—he was Bitty at Samwell and he was Dicky at home, and that first summer when he came back home after his freshman year, he woke up sometimes deeply convinced that Bitty was just a dream, that he was just Dicky, or Eric, or Junior, and nothing else.

It’s different now, for many reasons—most of them obvious, but he’s still uneasy every time he thinks about going back home and finally confronting his fears. He’ll have Jack with him, at least.

“What’re you thinking ‘bout, Bits?” Lardo asks, leaning over Shitty to bump her fist into Eric’s knee.

“End of the year,” he says with a shrug. “Going home.”

“Ah,” Shitty says while Lardo just nods with understanding. “You’re staying with Jack, though, right? He told me over Skype.”

Eric smiles. “Yeah, but I’m still going back to Georgia for a quick spell. It’s gonna be so weird, though, being there after— They all know, now, the people I went to high school with, my family, everyone.”

Lardo reaches out to ruffle his hair. “You’re gonna be okay, kiddo,” she says.

Shitty and Lardo stay around for a while until they, too, go inside. Lardo lives at the Haus now, ever since they got permission to turn the large storage room downstairs into another bedroom, and Dex and Chowder offered to swap with her for Shitty’s old room, so there’s only a quick trip upstairs ahead of them instead of a long walk back to Lardo’s old apartment she used to rent with a few of her art friends.

Shitty slaps Eric on the back as they get up to leave, and Lardo ruffles his hair, and then Eric is left alone on the dimly lit porch, the last of his beer warm and slightly disgusting. He doesn’t want to head back inside yet, so he pulls his phone out of his pocket and scrolls through twitter for a moment, then texts Jack, even though he knows Jack is probably already in bed.

The sound of the door opening and closing behind him almost doesn’t register, and when he hears the quiet sound of steps on the creaky wood, he expects Ransom or Holster, but he finds Jason instead.

“So, you and Jack Zimmermann, huh,” Jason says, shoving his hands into his pockets. He keeps bouncing on the balls of his heels back and forth.

Eric swallows. “Yeah,” he says, then asks, “Wanna sit?”

Jason shrugs, but he sits down next to Eric on the porch steps and buries his hands in the pockets of his hoodie again. He looks like he desperately wants to say something, thrumming with nervous energy, opening and closing his mouth a few times before he finally finds his voice.

“Sorry I asked you about it, that one time,” he says, staring at the scuff marks on his sneakers. “I wasn’t trying to be a dick, I swear.” He pauses for a second, hesitating. “Were the two of you, y’know, back then? Sorry, I didn’t mean to…sorry. You don’t need to answer that.”

Eric shakes his head. “No, that’s okay,” he says. “And yeah, we were.”

Jason nods, but he falls silent for a moment.

“Must’ve been tough,” he says after a long while, and he finally looks at Eric, his face earnest and sincere.

Eric takes a deep breath. “It was.”

The porch light flickers above them for a moment, and they both look up. Eric likes the back porch, likes how private and intimate it feels, the backyard separated from the rest of frat row by a tall hedge, likes how easy it is to escape here just to sit for a moment and breathe. There’s some part of Eric that almost can’t believe that he has just one more year left, and that this time next April, he’ll be getting ready to say goodbye.

It’s a surreal thought, even though he knows that there’s an apartment in Providence waiting for him on the other side, a future with Jack, a life. Still, there’s a part of him that’s always going to miss this place, where he got to be himself for the first time in his life, where he’s made friends and formed relationships that will last long beyond his time at Samwell.

“My brother, like, totally flipped when he found out I’m on the same team that Jack Zimmermann used to be on,” Jason admits after another long pause, startling Eric out of his reverie. “He’s a huge Falconers fan.”

“Oh, right, you’re from Providence,” Eric says, playing with his phone absentmindedly until the screen lights up with a message from Jack, telling him to sleep well.

“Born and bred.” Jason nods enthusiastically. “We used to go to the games sometimes, back when I was in high school. Think they’re gonna make playoffs this year? The Falcs, I mean.”

Eric types out a quick reply, telling Jack to go to sleep already, then says, “Yeah, I mean, it’s almost a done deal. They really deserve it, though, and I’m not saying this just because my boyfriend is on the team.” He smiles. The thrill of saying the word out loud is still there. “They’re a great bunch of guys, y’know, and they worked real hard this year, so. And they’d be going to playoffs second year in a row. That’s gotta count for something, right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jason says, then pauses for a moment, considering. “Hey, Bitty, any chance you could ask Jack for an autograph? For my bro? He would totally freak out.”

“Sure, yeah, I’m sure he’ll be glad to sign something.” Eric looks over to Jason, who stands up after a short while and dusts off his jeans, then shoves his hands into the back pockets.

“Thanks,” he says, “and sorry, again, for all the dumb questions. And, uh, I think it’s great, y’know, you and Jack.”

Eric smiles. “Yeah, it’s okay, really,” he says. “And thanks, Jay.”

They say their goodbyes and Jason goes back to his dorm, leaving Eric completely alone. There’s another message from Jack, and Eric wants to call him, but then he looks at the hour and decides against it. It’s way past his bedtime, anyway, and he’s cold, but he stays out there a while longer, unsure of what’s keeping him there, exactly, but then he remembers those quiet moments spent with Jack in Montreal, out on the huge swing standing on the patio, and maybe it’s like Jack said—maybe Eric needs a minute to simply be just with himself and no one else for a little while, clear his thoughts, breathe.

It’s well after midnight when he finally goes inside and tiptoes up the stairs, where he catches Lardo, dressed in Shitty’s flannel and nothing else, sneaking out to get a glass of water. She looks over at Eric and smiles, and when they hug, Eric whispers, “I’m so happy for you. You guys deserve this.”

“Thanks, Bits,” she says, her face hidden in the crook of his neck. “You do too.”


The Blue Jackets don’t go down easily.

They fight tooth and nail despite their decimated roster, and it looks like both teams are going for a record in the number of stupid penalties, so by the end of the second period everyone is frustrated and almost at their breaking point.

It’s not a pretty game by any means; it feels like a laborious grind more than anything else, and for every time they push, Columbus pushes right back, matching them point for point, power play for power play.

Jack scored and got an assist back in the first period, and he’s ready to get back on the ice to help his team get the points they need when Cory knocks into him as they leave the tunnel.

“Don’t look at the stands,” he says in a low voice, and Jack freezes for a second, then swallows thickly and nods. “Just…don’t look, okay?”

It’s not that he didn’t expect it to happen—he’s read enough comments on the internet to know what some people think about him—but it still catches him off-guard. This rink, this arena—it’s like a second home to him by now, and it feels strangely like a violation of boundaries that cuts straight to the bone.

“They’re just stupid people, okay?” Cory says next to him. “Screw them, they don’t know shit about you. And let’s show them, yeah?”

Jack nods.

He doesn’t look at the signs. He takes the ice, and plays the best hockey of his life, and doesn’t look at the signs.


They don’t go into overtime, instead finishing with a strong two-point lead over Columbus, and Jack still has plenty of time to get showered, get changed and pick Bitty up from the station. He looked up the result online just after he’d come into the locker room to peel himself out of his gear and grab a towel. Samwell won 2-1. They’re going to the ECAC playoffs.

Jack is scrubbing himself down with body wash when Cory comes into the showers and takes the stall next to Jack, adjusting the temperature for a moment before walking under the spray. He had a good game tonight—one assist on Jack’s second goal, then another goal for himself, and Jack can see that Cory is tired but happy, still riding the adrenaline high.

Jack has moved on to his hair when Cory turns to face him and asks, “So, uh, what are you doing this weekend with Bitty?”

Jack scrubs at his scalp some more and slowly starts to rinse out the shampoo. “Don’t know yet, we’ll probably decide on something later. Why?”

Cory fidgets a little when Jack opens one eye to squint at him, looking strangely nervous all of a sudden.

“Um, you know Dani from PR? The new girl? The cute one?” he asks and Jack nods. He still needs to thank her properly for all she’s done for him in the middle of that media whirlwind that was the last week of his life. “So I might have sort of asked her out, but it’s not, like, official or anything, and I was just wondering if you guys maybe wanted to do something together, you know, the four of us? Because maybe I got the wrong idea or whatever, maybe she just wants to, like, hang out or something, and it wouldn’t be so awkward if it weren’t just the two of us.”

Jack rinses the last of the shampoo out of his hair. “Like a double date?” he asks.

“Yeah, something like that,” Cory says. “But, y’know, casual. In case I really read too much into it.”

“Sure. We could do lunch tomorrow?” Jack suggests. “And then you could go somewhere, just the two of you, if it turns out to be a proper date.”

Cory nods and goes back to showering, while Jack steps out and wraps a towel around his hips, his hair dripping water everywhere.

“I’ll text you, okay?” Jack says over his shoulder on his way out. “I need to be leaving in the next fifteen minutes, and I don’t think I’m getting out of doing press today.”

It was a good game for them, so their beat reporters go easy on them—the usual questions about building chemistry, improving their game, going to the playoffs. After the fifteen minutes is almost up and the reporters are mostly done, Jack begs off further small talk with a smile.

“I need to go pick my boyfriend up from the station,” he says and almost wants to leave it at that, but years of PR training have drilled certain things into Jack, so he follows up with, “He couldn’t make it to the game today, because he’s just secured a playoffs spot with the Samwell team earlier today, but I’m sure he’s gonna be happy to hear it was another good win for us.”

It’s a nice sound bite, on top of being actually true, so Jack hopes they won’t be too angry with him for cutting it short.

He makes it to the station with five minutes to spare. There are people milling around on the platform and Jack takes his time to find a spot with a good vantage point, then pulls his toque over his still damp hair and settles in for the wait. The train arrives with a five-minute delay, and it’s only when he sees Bitty hop down onto the platform that he realizes he should’ve brought something to eat and maybe a coffee, because Bitty must be starving after the game.

Jack kisses him out in the open as soon as Bitty falls into his arms, and he’s positive he can hear the click of a camera shutter, but he doesn’t care.

“I’m so proud of you,” he whispers into Bitty’s ear. “I knew you would make it.”

Bitty kisses him again, just a quick press of lips to lips. Jack can feel his smile.

“You didn’t do so bad yourself,” Bitty says when they finally let go of each other. Jack reaches for his bag and hoists it over his shoulder before Bitty has a chance to protest. “I looked it up on the train. By the way, when I was leaving, there was a party of the century going on at the Haus. Shitty came down to watch the game, so. Tub juice. Lord, they’re all gonna be in a world of hurt tomorrow.”

There’s a part of Jack that wants to ask if he’s being selfish with Bitty’s attention—because maybe he wanted to be there with his teammates, celebrating the win, instead of being here with Jack, and Jack shouldn’t assume that just because they’re together, that it entitles him to all of Bitty’s free time, but he doesn’t know how to ask this without sounding ridiculously self-involved.

“Jack?” Bitty asks, looking up at him, and Jack realizes he’s been quiet for a long moment. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s just—” He shakes his head. “You know you could’ve stayed if you wanted to, right? I would’ve understood. It’s not…I know this is important to you, too, you’re the captain, you should be celebrating with the rest of your team.”

Bitty takes Jack’s hand and squeezes it lightly. “I’m here because I want to be here, okay?” he says, his face serious. “And besides, they almost pushed me out the door. Gives them an excuse to have another party after I come back on Sunday.”

Jack laughs, relieved.

“Okay, that does sound like them,” he admits. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Yeah.” Bitty squeezes Jack’s hand again, then tangles their fingers together. “Yeah, me too.”


Jack comes up behind Eric where he’s standing at the counter, fixing them very, very late dinner, and he wraps an arm around Eric’s waist, presses a kiss to the side of Eric’s throat, fingers wandering over his abdomen, pushing the hem of his t-shirt up to sneak underneath and touch the skin. Eric leans into Jack, feels the solid muscle of Jack’s chest against his back as he tips his head to the side to allow Jack better access. He could swat his hands away, tell Jack off jokingly for distracting him, but he doesn’t want to, is the thing.

Instead, Eric pulls out his phone and snaps a photo of the two of them, Jack plastered all over his back, smiling softly.

“You should put it on your Instagram,” Jack says with his lips against the shell of Eric’s ear. Jack’s breath tickles the side of his face, and Eric can feel the warmth that spreads through his chest.

“You should put it on yours,” he suggests, half-joking, only to have Jack look down at him with a strangely serious expression on his face.

“Maybe I should,” Jack says, then kisses up the line of Eric’s throat, behind his ear. “Can you send it to me?”

He instagrams it almost immediately, and when Eric gets his notification, he sees that Jack captioned it with celebrating our wins. It has almost three hundred likes already.

“Oh gosh,” he says, showing it to Jack, who just shrugs with a smile, then ducks his head to kiss under Eric’s jaw.

“Cory wanted me to ask if you’d be up for a double date tomorrow with him and a girl he likes,” Jack says then, just as Eric’s phone starts to blow up with message notifications, which means the group chat has found out about the photo and there’s a lot of chirping in his immediate future. “He’s really nervous about it, and I think he doesn’t want to go alone in case he’s read the signals wrong and it’s not really supposed to be a date.”

Eric laughs quietly. “Bless that boy,” he says, shaking his head. “Of course I’m up for it.”

Jack pulls him closer again, wrapping both arms around Eric’s waist and burying his face in Eric’s hair.

“Mm,” he says. “I was thinking lunch and then coffee? We could go to that place with the hot chocolate, it’s really nice and, uh, romantic.”

Eric leans into the touch, props his head against Jack’s collarbone, leaving his neck exposed, waiting for Jack to take the bait. It doesn’t take long—Jack loves kissing his neck almost as much as Eric loves having his neck kissed. He feels nice, and warm, and loved.

“Oh my god, Jack Zimmermann,” he says as Jack’s lips touch the place where his jaw meets his ear, a little breathless as he laughs through it, “are you a secret romantic? I am shocked.”

“Hey,” Jack says against his skin, and he’s laughing, too. “I can be plenty romantic.”

“Oh, yeah?” Eric teases, turning around in Jack’s arms to look at him. There’s so little space between them now, and all it takes to close it is for Eric to push up onto his tiptoes and press his mouth to Jack’s.

“Yeah,” Jack whispers with his lips against Eric’s skin, pressing him into the counter. “Want me to show you?”

There’s a huge grin of Jack’s face now, like he knows full well how ridiculous and over-the-top he sounds, and Eric giggles into the fabric of his t-shirt.

“Oh, dear lord,” he says. “All right, food first, indecent things later. Sound good?”

“Okay,” Jack says, nodding solemnly, but Eric can see the glint in his eyes. “I can live with that.”


jordan @hockeybutts
oh my god, those absolute FUCKERS, JUST LOOK AT THEM

jordan @hockeybutts

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts lmao, is this a bad time to say that i’m going on a double date with them tomorrow?

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts (god, it’s a good thing this account is private, you know, considering)

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts DUDE! DUDE!!! did the cutie finally ask you out?

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside @hockeybutts he did, but u have no idea how many hints i had to drop, bless him and his cotton socks. i think he’s shy.

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside @hockeybutts but he’s so fucking cute, oh my god

jordan @hockeybutts
@hellsqueen dani what the fuck. what the actual fuck. also does this mean ur gonna be the first to cross “fuck a hockey player” off our list

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts jordan, oh my god. i’m not telling you anything. what i CAN tell you is that zimms and his boyfriend are hella cute together

jordan @hockeybutts


They meet in front of the bistro by the river. They’re a bit late, because Jack couldn’t find any parking spot and they had to drive around for a few minutes before Bitty finally found one just a few hundred yards away from the restaurant, so when they arrive at the door, Cory and Dani are already there, both looking equally nervous.

“Sorry, parking was a nightmare. And, uh, nice to finally meet you in person,” Jack says, putting his keys away and extending his hand to Dani, who shakes it with a smile. “This is my boyfriend, Eric.”

“Hi, it’s great to meet you, too. Both of you,” she says. She has a yellow dress on under the denim jacket, and her hair is done up. Next to her, Cory is looking a little starry-eyed, but then Jack remembers the way his own face would go soft whenever he looked at Bitty, the way it still does, and he honestly has no moral high ground here. “Although I think I ran into you on, like, my first day of work, so. But awesome to finally meet you officially.”

They go inside and the server shows them to their table. It’s right by the window, overlooking the waterfront. The sun is out, and the weather is nice, warm and just a little windy, and there are small boats going up and down the river, some tourists taking photos on the sidewalk by the water.

“So, um, Dani, how do you like Providence so far?” Jack asks once they order their drinks.

Bitty is sitting next to him, their thighs brushing, and Jack touches his forearm lightly, then lets his hand linger, feeling the way Bitty leans into the touch—leans into Jack.

He never expected to find himself making small talk, of all things, because he knows he can come across as awkward with people he doesn’t know very well, but he also knows that Cory really likes this girl, and she was also so helpful to Jack with the statement and the entire press conference that he really wants to make the effort.

“Honestly?” Dani says, reaching for a breadstick. “It’s awesome. This was, like, my dream job, so even though I couldn’t find an apartment in the beginning and there was a lot of running around like a headless chicken involved, I’d be really kicking myself right now if I’d decided to stay in Boston.”

“Thanks, by the way,” Jack says, squeezing Bitty’s hand, and he looks up at Jack with a soft smile. “For all your help with, you know. I really appreciate it.”

She looks flustered, and she tries to tell him she was just doing her job, but still, to Jack, it was much more than that.

They talk some more—Dani asks about Bitty’s vlog and their time at Samwell, and Bitty tells the eat more protein story like it’s still the most hilarious thing that’s ever happened to him while Jack chuckles quietly, looking away to hide his amusement; then Cory whips out pictures of Blueberry, and that’s when Jack knows Dani is an absolute goner, because the two of them spend the next ten minutes pretty much ignoring Jack and Bitty, too engrossed in their conversation to notice.

“Has Shitty called you? Or Lardo?” Bitty asks in a low voice over his shrimp and tomato capellini, and Jack shakes his head, then glances over to Cory and Dani—Cory is leaning over to show her the short videos of Blueberry he has on his phone, the sound turned almost all the way down.

“No, why?” he asks, and he can see Bitty smile out of the corner of his eye.

“I think they finally figured it out,” he says, then takes a sip of his water. “Their thing.”

“Oh,” Jack says. He’s genuinely happy for them—he knows how difficult this past year has been for them, and he understands the push and pull of it, the wanting and the fear; he’s been there, going mad with the need to touch Bitty, to be close to him, to know where they stand, and it’s been exhausting, the uncertainty, the doubt, so he’s glad Shitty and Lardo have finally figured it out for themselves.

“Yeah, Shitty came down for the game, and, well, you know.” Bitty flushes a little and Jack thinks he can imagine the way it happened. “Lord, I can’t believe Lardo is graduating this year. And Ransom, and Holster.”

“You have one year left, right?” Dani asks, rejoining the conversation. “I know I hated it when people asked me that question, but do you know what you’ll be doing once you graduate?”

“Looking for a job in Providence, probably,” Bitty says matter-of-factly, a small smile on his lips, and Jack can feel the way his chest gets tight, but it’s a good feeling. Like he’s full of impossible lightness. He knows they talked about it a few times, agreed on certain things, but to hear Bitty say it like this—like it’s a done deal, a foregone conclusion—it’s something else. It’s a lot.

“Hey, if all else fails, you can always come work for us,” Dani says jokingly. “We like internet-savvy people over at the PR department.”

Bitty laughs brightly. “I’m sure y’all are gonna do just fine without me,” he says. “Not that I’m not flattered, because I am, but, y’know. I don’t think it would be the right fit for me, considering.”

The thing is, it’s not like Jack hasn’t thought about it, but he never brought it up himself, because he knew Bitty would most probably say no. And he understands the reasons, intellectually, even though he doesn’t really agree—but he also understands that Bitty wants to do this on his own terms, prove himself on his own merit, and if there’s anyone who knows all about that, it’s Jack.

“How about your vlog, though?” Cory asks. “It’s pretty popular, right?”

“Well, I went from four hundred followers to over three thousand in the last week, but—” Bitty trails off, and Jack knows what he’s trying not to say. This hasn’t been about him, it’s been about Jack, his name, his status, the fact that there are people who want to know about him, and that extends to knowing about his boyfriend. “We’ll see, I guess. For now I just need to get through playoffs, then the finals, and then I can think about graduating. Lord. Actually, on second thought, I guess I don’t want to think about it, ever.”

He laughs, and so do Cory and Dani, but Jack knows this feeling, understands the desire to stop the passage of time just for a moment, just for a little while, terrified that everything is going to change and that you can never go back.

What he’s learned, though, is that sometimes it’s a good thing, that sometimes moving forward instead of going back or standing still means you end up in a place you couldn’t even begin to imagine.

They finish their lunch and go out into the early afternoon sun. Jack takes Bitty’s hand, tangles their fingers together, and Bitty leans into his side as they walk slowly in the direction of the gelato place. It’s a longer walk, but the weather is nice, and they take advantage of the warmth and the sun, feeling lazy and content as they stroll leisurely under a neat row of trees planted by the river.

They get recognized by a group of girls just as they turn the corner, so Jack and Cory spend a while signing autographs and taking pictures while Bitty and Dani hang back, talking to each other. The girls are nice and chatty—a few of them apparently have season tickets to the Falconers’ games, and they seem so excited to meet Cory and Jack.

“Uh, sorry if it’s weird or something, but that’s your boyfriend, right?” asks one of the girls, pointing to Bitty with her head, and Jack is not sure how he feels about that. How Bitty might feel about that. But then the girl continues, “I’m just asking because I watch his vlog, like, religiously, and I was just wondering if I could take a photo with him. I mean, only if he doesn’t mind, sorry.”

Before Jack has a chance to turn to Bitty, Cory grins and looks over his shoulder, shouting, “Hey, Bitty, you have a fan over here!”

Bitty does a little double-take, and the girl waves at him shyly as he finally comes forward.

“Hi,” she says, fiddling with her phone, “I hope that’s okay, but I, uh, I’m a huge fan of your vlog, and I was wondering if maybe I could get a photo with you?”

Bitty’s eyes are wide with surprise, and he says, “Oh gosh, of course you can get a photo with me. But I gotta warn you that between me and Jack, he has more experience with this sort of thing.”

Jack laughs. “All that selfie practice was bound to pay off sooner or later, eh?” he chirps, elbowing Bitty gently in the side and moving to ruffle his hair. Bitty ducks at the last moment and glares at Jack.

“Don’t you dare, Jack Zimmermann. Don’t you dare,” he says, then reaches for the girl’s phone and snaps a picture. He’s smiling brightly, and Jack knows there are the first faint freckles of the season appearing on his nose and across his cheeks, and they’re probably going to show in the photo.

Suddenly, he just wants to get Bitty alone and take pictures of him in the slanting afternoon light coming in through his bedroom windows, capture the pale skin and the light smattering of freckles, and everything in between—just Bitty, naked under the sheets, and so incredibly lovely.

The girls say goodbye, and Bitty tweets about it, almost tripping over a bump in the pavement in the process. Jack reaches out to steady him with a hand on his elbow, and Bitty laughs softly.

“That’s how I met George, actually,” he says to Cory and Dani, and Jack remembers that moment, the way his heart started pounding in his chest in a way that had nothing to do with the cardio workout, his palms sweaty, two worlds colliding all at once. “I walked straight into her while she was out jogging with Jack, because I had my nose buried in my phone, and I ended up flat on the ground. It was so embarrassing, lord.”

Jack knocks his arm into Bitty’s shoulder. “Always know how to make an entrance, eh? It worked, though. She remembered you.”

Bitty puts the phone away, tucking it into the back pocket of his jeans, and after a few more minutes, they arrive at the gelato place. Most of the tables are occupied, but they find a nice corner in the second room with a round table and four comfortable armchairs.

Bitty gets a hot chocolate and two scoops of raspberry gelato, and the sound that escapes him when he first tastes the ice-cream makes Jack run hot under the collar. Bitty looks obscene—his mouth wrapped around the spoon and licking it clean, his lips pink and wet, his eyes closed, his head slightly thrown back.

Jack licks his lips, following the rise and fall of his Adam’s apple with his eyes.

When Bitty puts the spoon away and turns to look at Jack with the most innocent expression in his eyes, that’s when Jack knows he’s doing this on purpose. It should not be as hot as it is.

On the other side of the table, Dani and Cory are talking quietly and smiling at each other over their cups of hot chocolate, and Dani looks utterly charmed while Cory seems to be slowly getting over his initial shyness, so Jack guesses it is a date, after all, and probably not the last one. Next to him, Bitty’s ankle brushes against Jack’s leg. Jack presses his lips together, and out of the corner of his eye, he can see the corners of Bitty’s mouth turn up in a small, knowing smile.

Jack can feel himself blush.

They spend the rest of the afternoon like this—they eat their dessert, drink their hot chocolate, and Bitty never stops touching Jack. They’re brief, casual touches, blink-and-you-miss-it moments that almost don’t mean anything, except they do, and they’re driving Jack crazy, getting under his skin until it’s just the right side of too much, until he can barely take it. It’s like the thrill right before a game, but better.

They get ready to leave around four, while Dani and Cory decide to stay behind, and when they say goodbye, Cory whispers, “Thanks for doing this,” into Jack’s ear.

“Good luck,” Jack says in a low voice. “And take care.”

“It was so nice to meet you,” Bitty says to Dani, and they hug; then, there’s a slightly awkward moment where Jack has no idea if he should hug her as well, but she just wraps her arms around Jack’s back for a brief moment and lets go—enough to be nice but casual, enough not to make him uncomfortable.

“It was great to meet you, too,” she says. “Both of you.”

They leave the way they came, along the river, holding hands. When Bitty brushes against Jack for the third time, Jack just shakes his head, smiling. “You’re such a tease,” he says.

Bitty laughs, loud and bright. “Oh, sweetheart,” he says, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”


fight me @hellsqueen
two thoughts after today: the cutie is beyond lovely. jack zimmermann is a certified DWEEB.

fight me @hellsqueen
oh, and a third thought: zimms’ boyfriend tells the best stories and is so fucking endearing, oh my god. literal ray of sunshine


The return home late in the afternoon, and as soon as the door closes behind them, Jack reaches for Bitty, pulling him close to kiss him, but Bitty doesn’t go to Jack. Instead, he takes a step back, then another, and turns over his shoulder with a smile, biting into his lower lip.

“See anythin’ you like?” he asks, faux-innocent, dropping one of his shoulders in a flirty pose, like an old pin-up.

Jack’s throat goes dry.

“Maybe,” he says, trailing after Bitty in the direction of the bedroom. He seems playful, teasing and flirting openly the way Jack has never seen him do, and it’s so good to see him like this, unabashed and carefree. The thought that it’s Jack who makes Bitty want to be this way is exhilarating.

Jack can’t remember the last time he laughed so much in bed, and that—that’s a good thing, too.

When they get to the bedroom, Jack reaches for the camera lying on top of the dresser and snaps a picture of Bitty, looking over his shoulder, his shirt half-unbuttoned. Bitty startles when he hears the sound of the camera shutter, then he just smiles wider and licks his lips. He’s all bravado and shameless teasing, but even now there’s a faint blush spreading across his cheeks, like Bitty doesn’t fully understand how incredibly lovely he is.

Bitty turns to him, his fingers playing with the last few buttons of his shirt, and Jack takes another picture, and then another when Bitty turns to the side again, exposing one shoulder, his eyes looking straight at Jack, making it impossible to tear his gaze away.

Jack tries to swallow a few times, but his mouth is completely parched. Bitty slowly takes the shirt off until he’s left in a simple white undershirt, the cotton clinging to his abdomen as he stretches. Jack takes a picture, the click of the camera almost deafening in the complete silence. Bitty freezes for a moment mid-movement as he peels the undershirt off, allowing Jack to snap another photo, his face obscured by the fabric, his abdomen exposed. Jack can see the trail of soft, blond hair disappearing under the waistband of Bitty’s jeans, and he’s hard already, but it’s only a mild discomfort in the face of Bitty stripping at a torturously slow pace in front of him. Bitty doesn’t tell Jack to come any closer, and it’s a clear message, despite the fact that Jack’s hands itch to touch.

It’s been a long, long afternoon filled with seemingly innocent, casual physical contact, and Jack is wound tight from it like a taut string, but he stays back, his hands on the camera, his dick hard in his pants.

Bitty’s eyes flutter shut, and Jack takes another shot, Bitty’s skin golden in the afternoon sun. Jack can see the rapid rise and fall of his chest.

They both stay completely silent through all of it—Bitty takes off the undershirt and tosses it on the bed carelessly, then turns his back to Jack and looks over his shoulder again, naked from the waist up. That’s another picture, snapped almost on instinct, muscle memory and nothing else, because breathing and Bitty are the only things Jack can concentrate on right now.

Bitty’s tongue darts out of his mouth to wet his lower lip and Jack almost loses it.

After a moment, Bitty turns back to Jack, and his hands move to the fly of his jeans. He undoes the button, ducking his head to look at Jack through his eyelashes, and the sound of the shutter almost makes them both startle. Jack can hear Bitty’s rapid breath and the sound of the zipper as he slowly tugs it down.

He shimmies out of his jeans and kicks them to the side, then hooks his thumb in the waistband of his underwear, exposing the slight dip of his hipbone. Jack swallows, takes a photo. Bitty pushes the fabric down a little more, then sits down on the bed and leans back on his elbows, his briefs almost all the way off. Jack can see that Bitty is hard, too.

“Come here, silly,” Bitty says and Jack almost drops the camera.

He goes to sit down on the bed and Bitty climbs into his lap, presses their chests together and grinds down. There’s a moan that escapes Jack’s mouth, and he feels shocked at the way he sounds—rough and hoarse, like he hasn’t spoken in years.

He’s still fully clothed.

Bitty kisses him then, finally, finally, and Jack feels like he could come just from this, from watching Bitty undress in front of him and the hungry press of his lips against Jack’s mouth, but then Bitty is peeling Jack’s shirt off and pulling his t-shirt over his head, working at the buttons of Jack’s jeans, and he presses the flat of his palm to Jack’s dick through the layers of clothing. It’s almost too much.

Jack leans forward, looking for Bitty’s mouth again, his neck, the line of his jaw, the dip of his collarbone. When he pulls back a little, he can see the freckles he expected to find.

Bitty moves to the side for a moment, allowing Jack to take his jeans and underwear all the way off, and then he’s back in his lap, warm and golden, and he wraps his hand around both of them, making Jack gasp into his mouth. It feels so good, even though Bitty’s hand is not quite big enough, and Jack sneaks a hand between them to tangle their fingers together, enjoying the way Bitty whimpers when he feels Jack’s slightly calloused fingers on his skin.

“Oh my god, look at you,” Bitty whispers, his thumb tracing the curve of Jack’s cheekbone, Jack’s senses overwhelmed by his smell.

It’s not desperate, but it’s not slow either, and they both know they won’t see each other for a long time after this, so maybe it’s a little bit of both—drawing out the moment so that they have something to go back to once they’re apart. It’s tender and sweet, with just the slightest hint of rough in the way Bitty grinds into Jack, his teeth leaving faint marks that will be gone by morning. When he goes back to kissing Jack, it’s full of gentleness.

In the end, Jack comes with his mouth slack against Bitty’s lips, and it’s over almost embarrassingly fast, except Bitty follows him soon after, and they both stay still for a moment, after, breathing heavily.

Bitty leans forward to rest his forehead against Jack’s collarbone.

“You’re so pretty when you come,” he says, and Jack ducks his head, flustered.

Sometimes Bitty’s unflinching honesty in those moments is almost too much, and it comes so easily to him, saying all of this to Jack like it’s the most natural thing in the world. The truth is, Jack can’t always find the words to reciprocate that honesty, but he hopes the way his heart is beating frantically under Bitty’s palm tells him all the things Jack can’t bring himself to say, those things which are almost too big to put into words.


Jack drives Eric to Samwell the next day, late in the afternoon. When they arrive at the Haus, Shitty is still there, sprawled on the couch while Lardo is kicking his ass at Mario Kart. Shitty looks like he doesn’t really care that much.

“Are y’all still hungover from the party?” Eric asks, putting his bag down by the stairs and crossing into the living room to sit on the armrest of the couch. “I’ve seen the pictures and, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised. Poor Dex. Is that boy even alive?”

Lardo pauses the game and puts down the controller.

“I think he’s still sleeping,” she says. “Nursey isn’t much better, and the frogs are possibly dying slow, painful deaths. Kids these days,” she adds, shaking her head. “You were a good little frog who could hold his liquor, Bits. Always liked that about you.”

“I don’t know,” Jack says, teasing, “I seem to remember someone losing their shoes at Spring C.”

Eric crosses his arms over his chest. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Zimmermann,” he says in a loud voice, “but one, Spring C was just a hot mess parade for everyone, and two, I wasn’t a frog back then.”

“I’m not sure that’s better, Bits,” Lardo says, laughing.

Eric makes a face.

“Careful, it’s gonna get stuck that way,” Jack says, then lowers his voice to add, “And I’m pretty fond of your face.”

It’s a heady, warm feeling that blooms in Eric’s chest, and he presses his lips together, overcome with a wave of almost unbearable fondness for this wonderful, ridiculous boy standing next to him, this boy who somehow loves him the way Eric loves him back.

Sometimes he still can’t believe that this is his life now.

But the other thing is, they won’t be seeing each other for at least a month after today, maybe more, and if—when—the Falconers go to playoffs, it’s possible that Jack won’t even make it to graduation. It’s not something Eric wants to think about right now, but it’s impossible not to, with Jack so close and the perspective of another long goodbye looming on the horizon.

It’s almost dark outside, and Eric knows Jack realizes that, too.

“I need to go,” Jack says after a while, and they both know he’s been stalling for the last thirty minutes the four of them spent catching up, the game long forgotten.

Eric swallows. “I know,” he says. “I know. Want me to show you out?”

Jack nods, and says goodbye to Shitty and Lardo, and then he and Eric go out on the front porch. It should be getting easier, Eric thinks, saying goodbye. But it doesn’t—instead, there’s a tightness in his chest that sneaks all the way up to his throat, and his eyes are stinging, and he just wants to stop saying goodbye to Jack over and over again.

“I love you,” he whispers wetly into the crook of Jack’s shoulder, “and I’m gonna miss you. And good luck in the playoffs, okay? You’re gonna be great. I’m so proud of you. We’re all so proud of you.”

Jack holds him tighter and presses a kiss to the side of Eric’s head. “Thanks, and you, too. I’ll try to make it to graduation, all right? I love you, too, and I’m gonna miss you, but we’ll be okay.”

He says it with so much conviction, it almost makes it hard to breathe, but Eric does, once, twice, and when he opens his eyes after a long, long while, Jack isn’t there anymore.


Jack makes an appointment with his old therapist in Boston.

It’s raining when he gets there, and it’s almost like a strange sense of déjà vu, a memory from a different time.

He didn’t want to be there, in the beginning, because the thought of baring his soul to yet another person—no matter how highly recommended by his therapist in Montreal—was almost unbearable, and he felt open and exposed like a nerve, raw in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time. He remembers the way his knee kept bouncing furiously as he sat in the green chair in the reception, his hands shaking and his throat dry.

“I haven’t seen you in a while, Jack,” Nadiya says with a gentle smile, and Jack shifts in his seat under her watchful gaze. “Are you doing okay? I heard about what happened. I know it must’ve been hard on you.”

Jack has a lot of things he wants to say, and he tries to make sense of them inside his head before he puts them into words.

“I’m doing good,” he admits, and he smiles, ducking his head to look at his hands. “I’m happy. I’m really happy.”

Nadiya nods. “That’s good, Jack,” she says, leaning forward in her chair to touch Jack’s hand where it’s resting on his knee. “I’m glad.”

Jack looks around the office—it hasn’t changed much since his last visit, but there’s a photo on the desk of Nadiya and another woman, smiling and happy, and Nadiya is wearing a wedding band on her finger now.

“I’m seeing someone,” Jack admits after a short moment of silence. “He’s really good to me, and we’re good for each other, I think. And it’s— I just wanted you to know that I’m doing okay. I’m better now.”

It feels like closure, like coming full circle to that place from which he started this life, here, away from Montreal, away from his past—and he knows he’s made it so far in these past few years, grown into himself in a way he hadn’t been able to before.

“I’m happy for you, Jack,” Nadiya tells him, “I really am.”

Jack licks his lips. “I think I just needed to come here,” he explains. “I don’t really need anything, I just wanted to tell you about all this. Felt like the right thing to do.”

It’s been a long, slow, painful process that brought him here, to this place where he can say all this and mean it—but he does, he does mean it, and he’s okay. That’s the most important thing.

When he walks out of the building after a while, the smell of rain still lingers in the air, and Jack breathes in the fresh, sharp scent of ozone, holds it in his lungs for a moment and exhales, feeling warm, and content, and impossibly light.

Chapter Text

Out on the Ice: Jack Zimmermann Talks Hockey, College, and Being Gay in the NHL

By Edith Cranston
Photographs by Cameron Atkins

April 14, 2016 11:00 am

At only twenty-five, Jack Zimmermann, the son of a hockey legend “Bad” Bob Zimmermann, is already making history, both on and off the ice. In his debut NHL season, he is already a strong contender for both the Calder Memorial Trophy (presented to the most proficient player in his first year in the NHL) and the Art Ross Trophy (presented to the player who leads in the NHL scoring rankings at the end of the regular season), and he has been the rallying force behind the recent successes of the Providence Falconers, who—by the time this interview goes to print—will have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second time in the history of the franchise. Jack Zimmermann is also the first—and so far only—openly gay player in the National Hockey League.

I meet Jack Zimmermann in Providence on a rainy day in April. He walks into the coffee shop five minutes late with an apologetic smile. “Sorry to have kept you waiting,” he says, running a hand through his slightly damp hair. “Our practice ran late.” When he extends his hand in a greeting, his handshake is gentle but firm. He’s tall—taller than I expected when watching him on the television—muscular and broad-shouldered, but there is nothing about him that screams machismo. He’s soft-spoken and quiet, yet still has a way of commanding attention. It should come as no surprise that his team looks up to him to be the leader.

Zimmermann has taken the long way to get to where he is today—there is a lot of struggle and hardship in his past, all of it scrupulously documented and widely publicized by the media—but it seems that his experiences have ultimately served to help him grow into himself and become more sure of himself, more confident in his choices.

When we sit down to talk, he surprises me with his choice of beverage—a peppermint mocha latte—and when he sees my raised eyebrows, he smiles and says, “I usually take my coffee black, but Eric got me addicted to those fancy sweet lattes, and now I get a craving from time to time. And today’s my cheat day.”

Eric—Eric R. Bittle, a student at the Samwell University in Massachusetts—is Zimmermann’s partner. It has been less than two weeks since they were both outed in a security leak following a hacker attack, which exploited a vulnerability in the iCloud storage, resulting in thousands of private photos of celebrities and athletes finding their way onto the Internet. Prior to that incident, there had been no openly gay players in the NHL—an environment that is notorious for its problems with homophobia, racism, and misogyny.

You have a reputation as a very private person who rarely agrees to sit down for an interview, unless it has strictly to do with promoting your team, and who hates doing press in general. Do you still feel this way, or has something changed? And where does this reluctance to talk about yourself come from?
(laughs) When you live with cameras documenting your every step from the age of two, you learn to value your privacy. Also, I don’t really like to talk about myself, because I don’t think that’s what my professional career should be about. I know I say this a lot, but I came to Providence to play hockey, and that’s what I want to focus on—obviously, you also want to promote your team, but that’s different from promoting yourself.

Do you feel like there are certain expectations now, considering you’re at the moment the only openly gay player in the NHL?
I do, and it’s something that I understand. But that’s different, because it’s not really about me—it’s about making the league a more open, accepting environment for everyone, including those gay or bisexual players who will come after me. So there are obviously many initiatives I want to support, and I want to be vocal about my support, but I don’t want to make those efforts only about me, because it’s not fair to those players who still feel like they need to hide.

Let’s talk about this. Obviously, the circumstances of your coming-out were a bit more unorthodox and a lot more dramatic. How did you react to the news? Had you been considering coming out even before the leak? And why do you think there had been no openly gay players in the NHL prior to that incident?
It was a huge violation of privacy. I know what it’s like to have your private life dissected by the public, but it was still hard, mostly because of the media attention. My parents have never been anything but supportive of me, and that helped a lot, but with all the attention from the public, it had been a tough few days. I just want to make one thing clear—what happened was completely unacceptable. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place, not to me, not to anyone else. And, to answer your next question, for me, coming out had been something that I’d wanted to do somewhere down the line, but this is my first year in the NHL, and I want people to focus on my hockey, not my private life.

And the last part of my previous question?
When you play hockey, what you hear is that it’s only what happens on the ice and in the locker room that matters. That it makes no difference who you are. But hockey in general and the NHL in particular still have a huge problem with homophobia, among other things, and it creates a hostile environment for players who know—or suspect—they might not be straight. And no one wants to go first, because, in a sense, it makes you a target. You can’t know for sure what the reaction will be—from general public, from fans, from other players. Fortunately for them, now they won’t have to.

So how has your life changed now that you’re out?
It hasn’t really. Not much, at least. I still do the same things every day—wake up, work out, go to practice, do press, go grocery shopping, talk to my parents. I’ve been contacted by some great organizations which work hard to make the league a more accepting place, so I do a little work with them, as much as my schedule allows. That’s about the only change. And now I can hold hands with my boyfriend in public. That’s nice, too (laughs).

Can we talk about him a little bit?
I honestly wanted to say no, because I feel like that’s a very private part of my life, but Eric said I should go for it if I’m comfortable discussing it. But nothing too personal, please.

The two of you met in college, right? How was it for you, the whole college experience?
It wasn’t really what I envisioned for myself initially, but I can say I’m happy it happened the way it did. I made friends for life at Samwell, and I re-learned what it means to be part of a team, in many different ways. It taught me a lot about responsibility, but it also taught me that it’s okay to let go sometimes and not worry about being perfect and living up to people’s expectations all the time. College—Samwell—was really good for me, and I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t get that experience. And yes, Eric and I met at Samwell. We played on the same team for two years, and we were linemates for some of that time. We also lived together for a year at the Samwell Men’s Hockey Team house.

And how was it, living together?
(laughs) There was a lot of pie.

Eric loves to bake. He just works his magic and pies appear. I learned not to question it.

So you played on a college hockey team and lived in what could be described as a frat house. Were there any other aspects of the college experience that you particularly enjoyed?
I didn’t really party a lot, if that’s what you’re asking, for obvious reasons. But I liked the classes, I liked my major—I majored in History—and I liked the people. And it was good to have some time to figure out what to do with my life. Maybe not find myself, but understand what I really wanted.

And you wanted to play hockey. How was it, finally getting to play in the NHL? And what prompted you to sign with your current team?
Yeah, I wanted to play hockey. Hockey has always been such a huge part of my life, I couldn’t imagine not playing. But I really considered my options, you know? There are many great teams in the league, and there were some which were kind enough to invite me to their prospect camps and extend their invitations to further negotiations, but sometimes, a franchise can be great and still not a good fit for you—for many reasons. I signed with the Falconers because they were a good fit for me, and I was a good fit for them, I guess.

Earlier, you talked a little about certain attitudes within the NHL that you think should change. What sorts of changes do you have in mind?
I think we’ve been avoiding certain discussions about the way the league—and the entire sport, really—operates and the type of environment it creates for a very long time. There’s still a huge stigma when it comes to mental health, and this is something that I have first-hand experience with, so maybe that’s why I want to finally have that discussion so much. But there’s always this enormous pressure to be better, to live up to certain standards, to compare yourself to other people. And some players can’t take that. Some of them have problems with anxiety or depression, or other sorts of mental health issues, and they learn not to talk about it, to just skate through it and pretend like everything is okay. Hockey projects this stereotypical image of a tough guy, and I know many of the players think dealing with anxiety or depression makes them weak. And they don’t want to be seen as weak—they want to win, want to be the best, and they see their mental illness as something that prevents them from achieving that. So they don’t want to admit that they’re struggling, because in their minds, that makes them a failure. And it creates this vicious circle, where everything just builds up until it explodes. (pauses) My heart stopped for two minutes because of that. It was a really rough time for me, and I felt so much pressure that I overmedicated to the point where I overdosed.

There’s also the fact that until now, there have been no openly gay players in the NHL—and it wasn’t really my choice to come out, either. I think a lot of it ties into what I said earlier about being perceived as tough, manly, but there’s also a lot of very casual prejudice that makes it hard on gay or bisexual players in the league. It’s the locker room mentality—there’s a lot of comments, a lot of jokes, and sometimes those comments and jokes are at the expense of, well, us. So we sort of accept this situation and keep our heads down, and don’t engage, because sometimes, for some players, these are their teammates, people they need to be able to work with, people they see every day. I have been really fortunate to have amazing, supportive teammates, but I know that’s not always the case—and sometimes it’s not even conscious prejudice, just certain things which are so ingrained in our society that we don’t even think about them. So I think we really need to have a conversation about how to make the league more open, because otherwise we may potentially lose some amazing talent. And we also owe it to our fans, because they want to see themselves represented on the ice and being respected by the organizations they support. The same goes for all other groups that don’t feel supported by the NHL.

So what should I wish you, apart from all the best to you, personally, and your boyfriend?
A Cup ring would be nice. But I don’t want to jinx it (laughs).



Read more over at GQ Online:


Hockey Gals @HockeyGals
Great interview with #JackZimmermann in the new issue of GQ (available also on their website):

Bob Zimmermann @BobZimmermann
Very honest and extremely brave: #JackZimmermann

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
This is what having real guts looks like: #JZimms


carthage (carthage) wrote in hockey_news

Jack Zimmermann’s GQ interview

So the GQ site dropped the Jack Zimmermann interview earlier than expected, and the interview will be also included in the regular issue which comes out this Friday. In the interview, he discusses not only the most recent events, but also the current state of the NHL and the changes that need to happen in the league to make it a more open, welcoming environment for people who are not straight white males. There are some really good comments, and insights into how the league operates and why that is, so give it a read if you want, I really think it’s worth it.

And, as usual, please, leave your thoughts in the comments.

tags: medium: gq, player: jack zimmermann


Reply from offblues
okay, so i think we’ve all been waiting for this, because it was inevitable that he would do at least one interview with some major publication, and I’m pretty satisfied with what we got. i mean, aside from that typical gq-style editorial introduction, which usually sounds like the interviewer really wants to fuck the person interviewed, it’s a pretty solid article for what it wants to achieve. they went into more detail than i expected, tbh.

Reply from lachances
I’m still stuck on the part where he says that his heart stopped for two minutes. Jesus. How much strength does it even take to come back from something like this. Like, I’ve always had a lot of respect for Zimms, but, fuck me, mate, this is just unreal. Mad, mad respect.

Reply from carthage
Oh, definitely, and I can’t help but admire how he’s really grown into that role of the spokesperson for LGBT and mental health issues in the league. We know he’s a private person, and he’s always used to shy away from media attention, but I think it says a lot about how committed he is to being a good leader and a good role-model that he’s willing to do this anyway. God knows this organization needs all the good role-models it can get. And I guess the famous name doesn’t hurt either, at least in this case. Opens a lot of doors, that’s for sure.

Reply from currahee
well, as fucked up as this entire thing has been, there’s that silver lining, i guess. i mean, the zimmermann name holds a lot of sway, so at least he can really do something about it, and it sure fucking looks like he’s ready to try. good on you, zimms. you’re a good cookie. (your bf would probably agree.)

Expand 14 comments

Reply from thegrandarcana
i also liked that he talked about how college helped him figure things out, which is nice, considering that “college education for players is important” is the next big thing or whatever. i mean, they’ve been pushing that idea pretty hard lately (and not without merit, obviously), and to have a player like zimms come out and say outright that college helped him a lot to get where he is now, and that it helped him to get to a better place—i think it’s important and good for the younger/prospective players to hear.

Reply from hazmatic
Don’t you get the impression that his answers sound really rehearsed and formal? Like, there’s something about them that doesn’t read genuine.

Reply from offblues
have you ever, like, read a newspaper interview, or…

written interview doesn’t sound like regular speech, news at eleven.

Reply from lachances
Don’t engage, bb, they’re a known hater on tumblr.

Expand 43 comments

Reply from thehuntress
I appreciate a lot of things about this interview, but what I really, really appreciate is the fact that he acknowledges the fact that it’s not only about the players, but also about the fans. It’s really refreshing to see someone who really gets that not all fans of hockey are white, straight and male, and who acknowledges that how the league deals with various –isms affects them, too.


They go all the way to the Frozen Four.

They’re in Tampa, exhausted after the trip and feeling the damp heat slowly crawl under their skin. Eric is happy to be away from the chilly New England weather for a moment, but even he has to admit that the humidity doesn’t help at all.

Over a thousand miles away, Jack is scoring his first goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

They have nothing else to do this evening, so they all pile into Lardo’s room and turn on the tv. It takes them a moment to find the channel, but when they finally do, the Falconers are up two and the cameras are cutting to a replay of an amazing wrist shot that sinks the puck right into the Bruins’ net top shelf.

When they finally get a good look at who scored the goal, Eric feels his throat get tight with emotion.

It’s Jack.

A few minutes later, the buzzer sounds the end of the second period, and the room descends into a cacophony of noise. Eric slips out of the room for a moment, undisturbed and unnoticed, and he leans against the wall in the hallway of the hotel they’re staying at, then calls Jack’s number, waits until it goes to voicemail.

“Hi, Jack,” he says into the receiver, smiling. “I just wanted to say congratulations. That goal was amazing. We’re in Tampa for the Frozen Four, the guys are in Lardo’s room and we’re all watching, and we’re all so proud of you.”

There’s some muffled yelling coming from Lardo’s room, and then he can hear Ransom say, “How the fuck do his shots go so wide? Is he blind?”

Eric laughs into the phone. “They’re getting pretty rowdy in there, I think I gotta go calm them down before the coaches take notice. I love you and I’m proud of you. Call me when you get this, okay? Or we can skype if you’re not too tired.”

He’s about to go back in when Lardo comes out into the hallway, apparently looking for him.

“Hey, Bits, everything okay?” she asks, nudging him with her shoulder. “I thought you bailed on us, and that would be extremely not cool. Especially when your boyfriend is out there, making history.”

Eric smiles and tucks the phone inside the pocket of his jeans. “I left him a voicemail. Why is Ransom yelling?”

Lardo shrugs, then leans against the wall next to Eric. “The Bruins are apparently sucking today big time and Ransom is having a hard time with his conflicting loyalties.”

Eric laughs.

“I hope he doesn’t consider rooting against Jack,” he says, “or I’m revoking his pie privileges. Graduation or not.”

It hits him there, right at that moment, all over again, that come next year, Lardo, Random, and Holster won’t be there—the team will have a new manager, Dex and Nursey will be their starting D-men, and the Haus will feel empty and lonely without them for the longest time, the way it felt after Jack and Shitty had graduated.

Eric swallows, trying to battle the tightness in his throat and losing.

“Oh, Bits,” Lardo says, and she leans in to kiss his temple. His shaved sides have grown in again. “You’re gonna be fine. You’re all gonna be fine.”

It’s a hard pill to swallow—the thought that after this year is over, there will be more new people moving into the Haus than Eric has ever been witness to. There were the Frogs, sure, and then Lardo, but they’d been already familiar, and there were all the people he’d grown so close to during his freshman year living there already. But now Jack is gone, and Shitty is gone, and soon the attic will be empty, waiting for its new occupants, and Shitty’s—Lardo’s—room will be stripped down to the bare bones of the mattress on the bed and the emptied closet, no easel or painting brush in sight, and Eric will be the oldest of them all, unless Ollie or Wicks get someone’s dibs.

“I can’t believe I’ll be a senior next year,” he says. “I can’t believe you, guys, won’t be there.”

One corner of Lardo’s mouth quirks up in a smile. “We’re gonna skype you so often you’re gonna get sick of us after a month.”

Eric knows she’s moving to Cambridge once she graduates, to work and do her MFA, and live with Shitty. Ransom got into MIT to do a master’s in Biological Engineering. Holster has some NHL scouts after him—he probably won’t be playing outside of the AHL if he signs, at least not right away, but Eric knows he’s still considering it. He knows Providence has made him an offer to sign an entry-level, two-way contract with the Eagles.

Eric already knows he is moving to Providence after he graduates.

And the thing is, if everything goes well, they will be living close enough to visit each other often, and they will still keep in touch and support each other the way they have for years, but it won’t be the same as waking up to the sound of the floor in the attic creaking whenever Ransom and Holster step on the worn floorboards in the corner or getting down to the kitchen just to discover that Lardo is already there, quietly doing the dishes or just reading a book with her feet up in the chair.

It’s a thought he’s slowly getting used to, even if he’s not quite there yet, and now, with the graduation just a few weeks away, it’s been bearing down on him more than usual—the inevitability of growing up.

“C’mon,” Lardo says, “let’s go look for a vending machine before the third period starts. We still have a few minutes. It’s on me. All the grape soda and strawberry Twizzlers you can eat.”

They go down the hallway and then down two floors before they find a vending machine that works, and Lardo tosses a can of soda and a pack of Twizzlers to Eric, then gets herself a small bag of chips.

“I thought you didn’t like chips,” Eric says, because for the past two and a half years, Lardo has always maintained that potato chips are the work of the devil.

Lardo just winks at him conspiratorially.

“Don’t tell anyone this, but I lied,” she says. “I fucking love chips, okay. They’re disgusting and bad for you, and I love them.”

Eric starts to laugh—he laughs and laughs, and he doesn’t stop until his laughter takes on a slightly hysterical edge.

“Does Shitty know?” he asks.

“He found me in the reading room my freshman year, munching on Pringles. He didn’t rat, though.” She shrugs through the giggles. “That’s when I knew we were ride or die.”

As they walk back to the room, they pass two girls in Bolts jerseys, most probably here for the playoffs. They do a little double-take when they see Eric and Lardo, and one of them glances back at them over her shoulder like she’s trying to figure out why they—or maybe just Eric—look so familiar.

It hasn’t happened a lot, but it’s happened, especially in hockey towns, and it’s not even that Eric minds, but he wishes he knew what they were thinking—if they were just curious, or if they were angry. He knows there are a lot of people on the Internet who are angry at him for turning Jack Zimmermann gay. He also knows better than to google himself or read any comment sections, ever, but he doesn’t even need to do that. Some of those people find him on social media easily enough.

There hasn’t been anything scary, not scary enough to tell Jack anyway, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting.

They get back to the room just a few minutes after the third period has started, and they’re greeted by the sight of Shitty in the Skype window of Holster’s laptop, yelling, “Go get that hatty, you beautiful motherfucker!”

On the ice, the referees hesitate for a moment, then signal no goal. Jack punches the boards, shakes his head. Cory skates up to him to clap him on the shoulder and leans in to speak to him.

“What the fuck do you mean no goal?” Holster yells, throwing his hands up, his glasses askew. “Are you fucking blind, do you need me to lend you my glasses? It went in!”

Three minutes later, Marchand gets two minutes for high-sticking and Jack scores on a power play. The room and the arena erupt in noise.

“That’s what I’m talking about!” Shitty shouts through the tinny speakers. “If I could make out with that goddamn beauty of a goal, I fucking would.”

Eric hops onto the second bed, half of which is already occupied by Jason and TJ, and Lardo joins him just a moment later, leaning against the headboard and pressing her toes into Eric’s thigh.

He feels tired, and if this were any other night, he would just go to sleep, especially since they have an early skate tomorrow morning, but Jack is playing his first ever playoff game, and Eric wants to be here for this, even if he can’t be in Providence to hug Jack once he gets off the ice.

Jack takes a hard check into the boards with seven minutes left on the clock, and it’s completely unnecessary, because there’s no way the Bruins can score five goals in seven minutes, but it still happens, and it leaves Jack heaving against the boards, clutching at his side—there’s a moment when Eric stops breathing for a few seconds, his hands clasped in Lardo’s, until Jack pushes off and skates back to center ice while the refs signal a major penalty for the Bruins, then another one for Aaronowitz, who decked the Bruins D-man as soon as he got to him.

“That was a fucking dirty hit and they know it,” Nursey says.

There’s stoppage in play while the refs talk to Jack, and Eric can see Jack nod emphatically, but he also knows Jack is not above playing through an injury if he thinks it’s going to help his team.

Holtzy wins the next face-off for the Falcs, and they try to net another one, but it goes too wide, ricocheting off the pole, with only three minutes to spare. In the end, the Falconers win 6-1, and they disappear into the tunnel happy and loud. They must be euphoric. On the tv, the anchors are talking about Jack, praising his form.

Eric just wants to know if he’s okay.

It’s not until midnight that Jack finally calls.

“Hey,” he says, his voice quiet, “I got your message, thank you. Sorry I couldn’t call earlier, I hope I didn’t wake you up.”

Eric lies down on his pillows, not nearly as nice or fluffy as his own pillow back at the Haus, and nowhere near as amazing as his pillow in Providence, and closes his eyes. He can hear the splashing of water from where Nursey is taking a shower in the bathroom.

“Are you okay?” he asks. “That hit looked bad.”

Jack sighs into the receiver. “My ribs are bruised like hell, but I’ll live. They took me to do an X-ray, because they suspected one of them might be cracked, but fortunately no. Just lots of bruising. How are you, though? Excited for tomorrow?”

“Nervous,” Eric says, “but excited. It’s gonna be weird, playing in the Frozen Four without you. We did so well last year…”

He can hear Jack’s warm laugh on the other end of the line. “You’re gonna do great this year, too. Samwell is a great team, with or without me. Just take it home this year, okay?”

Eric smiles. “We’re gonna try.”


They win.

They go all the way, and they fight, and they win.

Long after the buzzer sounds the end of the game, Eric is still on the ice, crying into Ransom’s jersey, and he’s exhausted, and worn thin, and so, so happy.

“We did it, Bits,” Ransom says, gloves off, his arms wrapped around Eric, and he might be crying as well. “We fucking did it.”

Eric nods, his breath shaky and his vision blurred, and he’s so relieved and so overjoyed, and he wants to call Jack immediately, ask if he’d seen them win. He wants to call his parents.

He lets go of Ransom, who gets tackled by Holster almost immediately, and they cling to each other, laughing and crying. The atmosphere of euphoria is catching.

Eric remembers everything that happens next as a blur—he knows he showers and changes, and does press, and even answers some nice questions about Jack and whether he thinks another title is going to follow now after this one, just to make things even between the two of them.

“I sure hope so,” he answers, laughing.

They go out to celebrate, and once they order, Eric slips outside into the humid, sweltering Florida heat to check his messages. He has three missed calls from Jack, two from his parents, and one from Jack’s dad.

He calls his parents first, and when his mother finally answers, she’s still crying.

“We’re so proud of you, Dicky, your daddy and I,” she says. “So proud. I can’t wait to see you, I just want to give you the biggest hug. I know you’re probably real busy celebrating, so go, be with your teammates. I just wanted to tell you congratulations. And wish Jack good luck from us on his games, okay? Your daddy and I are watching whenever we can.”

Eric nods even though she can’t see him, overcome with another wave of emotion.

“Thanks, mama,” he says. “I love you. And, please, say hi and thank you to Coach for me.”

Once she disconnects, he calls Jack.

“Hey,” Jack says, answering after the second ring. Eric can hear other voices in the background. “Congratulations, I’m so proud of you. I love you so much.”

On the other end of the line, Eric can hear some wolf-whistles and enthusiastic yelling, which means Jack must be out with the team.

“Tell the boys I said hi and good luck,” he says, laughing into the phone quietly. “And thank you. Gosh, I wish I could kiss you right now, I miss you so much.” Eric pauses, worrying his lower lip with his teeth for a moment. “You’re coming to graduation, right?”

He can’t imagine getting through this without Jack being there. It was hard enough last year, when all he wanted was to corner Jack against the kitchen counter and kiss him just one time before he left for good, or maybe just to lock himself in his room upstairs and cry for an hour.

“We have practice in the morning, so I might be late,” Jack says, and Eric breathes with relief. “And I won’t be able to stay the night, we have a game the next day and I need to be there for the morning skate.”

It’s nothing Eric hasn’t expected—he’s already known they wouldn’t get to spend the day after graduation together because of Jack’s schedule, but once he’s done with his finals, he’ll probably be able to go to Providence to watch the Falconers play, if they’re still in the playoffs by that time.

“It’s okay,” he says. “Just be there. That’s all I can ask, okay? That’s enough.”

“I know,” Jack says, and Eric can hear the loud inhale on the other side of the line, “but I still—”

“Jack,” Eric interrupts him, his tone gentle but firm, “you’re doing enough. You’re doing the best you can. You’re enough. Don’t forget it, okay?”

Jack exhales slowly. “Okay. Okay, thank you. I think I just needed to hear you say it. It’s been crazy here, with the playoffs, and I’ve been spending so much time inside my own head… And that’s never a good thing.”

Eric knows it’s a joke, even though just a year ago, it wouldn’t be a joke at all.

“Your dad called me,” he says then. “I still sometimes forget he actually has my number. Should I call him back?”

He can hear some rustling and then the sound of a door opening and closing.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jack says. “He just probably wanted to congratulate you. I’m sure he’ll be happy to talk to you. And congratulate the guys from me, too, okay? I’ll text them on the group chat, and we can skype later, but I just want them to hear it from you first. You were amazing, I’m so proud of all of you. You really deserved it.”

Eric leans against the brick wall of the restaurant. “You deserve it, too,” he says. “I’ll see you soon, okay? I love you.”

He waits for a moment before dialing Bad Bob’s number.

“Hi,” he breathes into the receiver as soon as Jack’s dad picks up. “I hope I didn’t wake you up, but I saw the missed call, and Jack said I should call you back, so—”

“Eric, I’m so glad you called,” Bob says, and Eric can hear the smile in his voice. “That was a tremendous game, congratulations to all of you. Alicia and I are so proud, you really deserved to take that win home.”

He’s getting choked up again, standing in front of a restaurant in a city he doesn’t really know, leaning against the raw brick and talking to Bad Bob Zimmermann about their NCAA championship title. It’s surreal in the best possible way.

“Thank you so much,” he says, trying to get his voice under control. “I’m really— Thank you.”

“I hope we’ll be seeing each other soon,” Bob says then. “Alicia and I are coming down to watch the games if they get to the next round. We’re so, so proud of Jack.”

Eric smiles, looking down at his shoes. “So am I,” he says.


The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
Congratulations to the #SamwellMensHockeyTeam on their victory in the NCAA finals! (@omgcheckplease)

Bob Zimmermann @BobZimmermann
It was a real pleasure to watch this year’s NCAA finals. Huge congratulations to the #SamwellMensHockeyTeam

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
#SamwellMensHockeyTeam rocked it tonight! congrats!!!


It’s raining when Eric wakes up on graduation day. It’s just a light drizzle that brings out the smell of wet soil and foliage, and it stops completely by the time Eric gets down to the kitchen to get a head start on breakfast, so he opens the windows wide and lets the scent of the rain in, breathes deeply and tries to ignore the crushing feeling in his chest.

Shitty is the first one up, and he comes into the kitchen just as Eric finishes mixing blueberries into the pancake batter. He arrived around seven the day before to help Lardo pack, and they spent most of the evening in his old room, packing all of Lardo’s belongings into boxes to be put away into the trunk of Shitty’s car for their trip back to Cambridge. Ransom and Holster have been stripping the attic down to the bare necessities for the last two days, playing loud music and saying very little. Eric has been baking almost non-stop since Sunday.

Ransom’s parents have flown in from Toronto for the ceremony the day before, and they’ve come by the Haus for a quick moment. Holster’s parents are bound to land any minute now. Lardo’s parents couldn’t make it, but her older sister is coming. It feels like the end of an era, in a way Shitty and Jack’s graduation didn’t. Once Lardo, Ransom and Holster are gone, none of the people Eric met when he’d first come to Samwell will be there anymore.

“Coffee?” Eric asks, reaching for the mugs.

“Fuck, yeah,” Shitty says, passing around the table to pour himself a cup. “I’m gonna need this if I’m to survive today. Let me tell you, Bits, even my own graduation didn’t fuck me up this much.”

Eric nods and turns the heat up on the stove to get the pancakes going.

“I know what you mean,” he says. “Goodness, I don’t even want to think about the fact that next year, it’s gonna be me.”

“You know what time Jack is getting here?” Shitty asks once he sits down at the table, nursing his cup of coffee and what looks like an epic headache.

“Around noon, if there’s no traffic,” Eric says, flipping the pancakes almost on autopilot. He’s been doing this for so long he could probably do it with his eyes closed by now. “But he might miss the first part if their practice runs late.”

Shitty makes a non-committal sound and takes a long drink of his coffee, uncharacteristically quiet. It’s like a disease that’s taken over the Haus—everyone is silent and lost in thought, melancholy and nostalgic for something that hasn’t even happened yet.

Eric had been trying to keep their spirits up, but he’s given up on it the moment big boxes started to appear all around the Haus, filled with parts of their shared life.

“How’s Lardo?” he asks, turning away from the stove for a moment.

Shitty shrugs. “Don’t know what to tell you, man,” he says. “She’s…dealing, I guess. It fucking sucks her parents couldn’t be here, but her dad can’t really travel yet. At least her sis is coming. I think Rans and Holster are actually more fucked up about it.”

Eric nods. It’s something he expected, especially considering that this semester, Ransom and Holster stopped hooking up with girls for the most part and started mostly hooking up with each other, the occasional threesome after a particularly successful party notwithstanding.

The younger frogs wander in a few minutes later, just as Eric finishes cooking the first batch of pancakes and starts on the second, and they crowd the table, loud and much, much happier than anyone at the Haus right now.

“Grab some plates and forks for y’all and dive in,” Eric says, reaching into the fridge for what’s left of the blueberries. “There’s gonna be more in just a second.”

Chowder, Nursey, and Dex come down together by the time the frogs are done eating, and they take the vacated seats while the frogs move to the living room with their coffee and an apple each.

They eat mostly in silence, shoveling their food down like it’s the middle of hockey season and they’re starving all the time, no matter how much they eat.

Lardo enters the kitchen just as Eric finishes the second batch of pancakes—there’s enough to feed a small battalion, and Eric has no idea what to do himself now that he has nothing to occupy his hands. He pours her a cup of coffee and hands her the mug; she nabs a pancake off the plate and eats it with her hands, leaning against the fridge.

She’s dressed in an oversized grey t-shirt that may actually belong to Shitty and her hair is a mess.

“I should just fucking shave my head,” she says, running a hand through the loose strands that fall into her eyes.

Shitty grins. “You’d look fucking killer.”

Ransom and Holster are the last to come down, and they take their seats next to Chowder just like they have for the past year, like it’s just another team breakfast, like this huge thing isn’t about to happen to all of them in very different ways.

Eric excuses himself for a moment and goes out on the front porch to get some air. The sky has started to clear and the rain is now nothing but a distant memory and a few shallow puddles left in the cracks in the pavement.

After a few minutes, he pulls out his phone and tweets:

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
Tough morning on graduation day. About to get even tougher. #ClassOf2016

He can hear the door open and close behind him, and when he looks over his shoulder, he sees Holster, standing in the slightly chill morning air in nothing but a loose tank top and a pair of cutoff shorts.

“You okay here, Bits?” he asks, leaning against the railing next to Eric.

“Yeah,” Eric says, nodding. “Are you?”

It startles a laugh out of Holster.

“Providence made me an offer,” he says, seemingly a propos nothing, but Eric understands what he’s really saying. “To sign with the Eagles, possibly move up to the Falcs later.”

“You gonna take it?” Eric asks. He can feel the morning chill on the skin of his bare arms.

Holster shrugs. “Still thinking about it. But yeah, I probably will. And if that doesn’t pan out, there’s always grad school, I guess.” He bumps his elbow into Eric’s arm gently. “We’re gonna be fine, Bits.”

It sounds a bit like Eric is not the only one he’s trying to convince.

The ceremony starts at half past noon. They still have time.

When Eric goes back inside with Holster trailing after him, breakfast is nothing but a distant memory, and there’s an atmosphere of finality in the way Lardo and Ransom are going through the common area one last time in search of things they might have forgotten in the heat of packing.

“Bro,” Ransom says, holding a dvd case out to Holster, “you left your first season of Community here.”

Eric can’t look at this.

He’s always grown attached to people too much, too fast, and it’s been both a blessing and a curse. It’s one of the reasons he just can’t deal with goodbyes.

So he goes up to his room, and he puts some upbeat music on, starts on his morning set of squats until he remembers all those times Rans has done one a.m. squats with him to help him get into shape, and then he needs to stop for a moment, sit down on his bed, pull his knees up to his chin and close his eyes.

Tomorrow, Ollie and Wicks are moving into the attic, and Lardo’s room is going to Jason, who worked hard for his dibs, hauling Lardo’s sculptures between her studio and Kotter, and helping around the Haus.

Come September, they’re going to have a new manager, and Eric can’t imagine going on the road without Lardo, even though he knows they had done that more than once his freshman year, while Lardo was in Kenya.

Eric pulls himself off the bed and starts to dig for clothes. His favorite grey suit has been dry-cleaned, and he considers a few different shirts before settling on a simple white, looks for his red bowtie, takes his dress shoes out of the back of the closet, searches for his knee-high socks. It’s routine enough to be calming, and it manages to take his mind off the inevitability of saying goodbye, if only for a little while.

He lays the clothes out on his bed and he’s about to start changing when there’s knocking on his door, and then Lardo peers into the room.

“Hey, did you need something?” he asks with a smile, and Lardo comes inside, then shuts the door behind her.

“How about a fucking hug?” she asks, all false bravado, and Eric has been there, faking his bravery, so many times that he can recognize all the signs immediately.

He opens his arms and Lardo falls into him, presses her face into the crook of his shoulder and cries.

“Shit, I’m a mess,” she says after a while, wiping her face with the back of her hand, and Eric does the same. “Thanks for doing this, Bits. I’m gonna miss you so fucking much. All of you, but you in particular. I love all of you, but you’ve always been my favorite. We tiny people gotta stick together, right?”

She laughs through the tears, and Eric laughs, too, and then hugs her again for good measure.

“Go, change,” he says once they break apart. “You’ve got a whole world to conquer.”


Jack makes it in time, with five minutes to spare.

Eric is up in his room, getting ready to leave, when there’s the sound of a car door closing, and then he can hear Chowder say, “Jack, hi! We thought you wouldn’t make it!”

He runs down the stairs and kisses Jack in the middle of the hallway.

“You made it,” he whispers against his lips. “I missed you so much.”

Jack looks sharp in his midnight blue suit and his crisp white shirt, and his eyes are so, so blue when he looks down at Eric with a smile. He looks tired but good.

“I missed you, too,” Jack says, pressing a kiss to Eric’s hair.

They stand there for a little while, just breathing each other in. It’s been so long since they last saw each other. Eric has almost forgotten the way Jack smells, sharp and clean, the fresh scent of his cologne.

“Also, your beard itches, oh my god.” Eric scratches the underside of Jack’s jaw like he’s a cat, and Jack laughs. And Eric may complain now, but he’d spent a few restless nights back in his sophomore year imagining what it would be like to feel that beard burn on his inner thighs.

“Congrats on whooping the Pens’ asses in the second round,” Jason says, coming into the hall.

Jack laughs quietly, taking Eric’s hand and tangling their fingers together. “Thanks,” he says.

Eric knows Jack has been nervous about playing the Habs in the conference finals—there’s something to be said about facing your father’s old team and fearing you won’t be able to measure up, and Jack spent a long hour on the phone in the middle of the night a few days ago, explaining all that to Eric in a moment of vulnerable openness that Eric has come to associate with late hours and the comfortable darkness of the night.

“This is, like, surreal,” Jason goes on, leaning against the wall, “that I know someone in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Someone who, y’know, actually knows my name and stuff. My bro is so jealous. We’re from Providence, so it’s, y’know, hometown loyalty and all that.”

“Thanks,” Jack says, almost by rote, “we appreciate it.”

Eric checks the time, and turns to Jack to fix his tie, which got a little crooked when they were saying hello.

“We should be going,” he says, thinking about how that’s it, how there’s no coming back from this. There’s certain finality in the way the Haus front door closes behind them.

They all walk down to the Quad for the commencement ceremony and by the time they get there, most of the seats are taken. They walk down the aisle together, with Jack’s hand on the small of Eric’s back, and Eric can see they turn a few heads—some of those people must recognize Jack, some of them may even know Jack, however vaguely. Everyone at Samwell knows about Jack Zimmermann, the NHL player who got outed.

Jack spots a free row of seats in the front, and they sit down, wait for the ceremony to start. Eric’s heart is hammering in his chest, and Jack is still holding his hand.

“It’s gonna be okay,” he says, leaning in to whisper the words into Eric’s ear. “They’re not gonna just disappear after graduation. I didn’t.”

Eric can barely spot Lardo, Ransom, and Holster in the sea of black robes and hats in front of them.

“I know, but it’s just hard,” he says, squeezing Jack’s hand. “Y’all were the first friends I made at Samwell. My best friends. And now there’s gonna be no one left.”

“I understand,” Jack says, squeezing back. “But we’re gonna be fine. You’re gonna be fine.”

Together, they watch as Lardo, Ransom, and Holster walk up the stage, and Eric tears up, desperately trying to hold it together, but when he glances to the side, Shitty’s eyes are glassy and his lips are pressed together in a thin line.

After, there are hugs and more tears, and Holster’s parents look so proud, and Ransom’s parents are openly crying, and Lardo’s sister just fistbumps her, then gives her the biggest hug that lasts, and lasts, and lasts. By the time they break apart, they’re both crying, too.

They all take the long way back to the Haus, as if by some unspoken agreement, weaving through the crowds of excited Wellies. When Eric reaches back to his memory of last year, he finds that not much has changed, except now he’s holding Jack’s hand as they walk, but the unstoppable tightness in his throat is still there, and he feels off-balance, like he’s just missed a landing on a triple toe.

Once they’re back at the Haus, the routine takes over, and he oversees lunch preparations, makes himself busy to avoid thinking about what comes after. He mostly hides in the kitchen, like it’s a place of comfort to return to again, and again, and again, and he thinks everyone can see how transparent he’s being, but no one calls him on it.

He’s cutting into the pies—peach, apple, blueberry, and rhubarb—when he hears quiet footsteps in the hall, and then someone comes into the kitchen. He doesn’t need to turn around to know it’s Jack.

“Hey,” he says as Jack comes up to him from behind and puts an arm around Eric’s waist, drops a kiss in the place where his neck meets his shoulder.

Jack is out of his dress jacket, the top two buttons of his shirt unbuttoned and the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and in any other situation, Eric would dream of nothing more than to get him alone and get him out of his clothes, but he’s too swept up in everything that’s happening in the backyard, the last few hours of nostalgic freedom before reality comes crashing in.

“Hey,” Jack says, “you okay?”

Eric nods with force, like he’s trying to convince himself, too.

“Yeah, yeah. Would you give me a hand? The plates are—”

Jack bumps into him with a soft smile. “I know where the plates are. Come on, Bittle, keep up.”

Eric laughs despite himself.


It’s the hardest thing, saying goodbye.

It’s the hardest thing, saying goodbye when you know there won’t be any after the summer, when you know you’ll come back to a place so fundamentally changed that it could be a different place altogether.

It’s the hardest thing, saying goodbye when there are cars packed with the last four years of someone’s life, ready to disappear behind the curve of the road in just a few minutes, when there’s still-warm pie in his hands as he tries to give Lardo, Ransom, and Holster a memory of the Haus to take with them.

It’s the hardest thing, saying goodbye when he knows he’ll be coming back to a half-empty house filled with echoes of memories, and laughter, and friendship, and love.

He does it anyway.


The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
Lines for today: Holtz—Zimmermann—Smith, Schumer—Christiansen—Jones, Domashev—Leyta—Mercer, Aaronowitz—Simmons, Parker—Aaltonen, Bergson (G)


They get all the way to the third round.

They tear through the Bruins and fight tooth and nail against the Pens, and they go all the way up to the conference finals.

His parents are here to watch, and there’s something surreal about playing his dad’s old team while he watches from the stands.

At the moment, they’re tied 3-3 for wins. It’s the last game of the conference finals.

The Habs have had a good playoffs run so far, and they’ve been a tough opponent this season, and Jack is at the same excited and worn thin with worry, the old monsters rearing up their heads. It’s the fear of the could have beens, of not quite measuring up against a team that wanted him, that pursued him with singular focus, that wanted him for his skill and his legacy.

Bitty is there, too, sitting next to Jack’s parents with the rest of the families, and as he gets into his gear, Jack thinks about the kiss he sent him off with once they’d arrived at the arena, whispering, “Good luck,” against Jack’s lips.

“Your boy here?” Schumer asks, knocking his knee against Jack’s, and Jack nods.

“He’s sitting with my parents,” he says.

They have two minutes left until they need to leave the locker room.

“Okay, boys,” Holtzy says as they rally around him, “let’s get this fucking show on the road.”

It’s tough, and it’s brutal, and Jack plays through the second and the third period with two broken fingers, and they still lose.

They’re tied at the end of regulation, and they go into overtime, exhausted but not willing to give an inch. Jack has his teeth clenched around his mouthguard and he plays through the pain—he has already four points to his name, two goals and two assists, and he can feel the throbbing pain in his fingers, but he just adjusts his grip on his stick and pushes forward.

They almost, almost make it when Jack sends the puck into the net top shelf glove-side, but the refs call no goal, and the crowd goes crazy around them.

The Habs score two minutes later.

Jack knows the crowd is getting louder, but he can’t hear anything as he skates up to shake hands with the Habs, his head down. He knows Cory tries to say something to him, but he can’t hear the words, nothing but dull ringing in his ears.

He makes it to the showers before he breaks down.

It’s silent, the way his breakdowns always are, and he’s just standing there under the spray of scalding-hot water with his eyes closed and his teeth clenched, his fingers pulsing with sharp pain.

They just lost the playoffs.

He’s shaking.

Realistically, he knows he should be proud they made it this far. They’re a young team, and it’s just their second time in the playoffs, and they made it all the way to conference finals. They almost, almost went to Stanley Cup Finals.

It still burns, bitter like bile, on the back of his tongue.

The doctors give him a splint for his broken fingers, and he goes through press in a daze, answering the questions almost without registering his own answers, and then his father is there, in front of their locker room, and he hugs Jack the minute he steps outside.

“I’m so proud of you,” he whispers, and Jack wants to cry. “You did so well, Jack.”

Once his dad finally lets him go, Jack takes a shaky breath before falling into his mother’s arms.

“Oh, sweetheart,” she says, and she kisses his temple, runs a hand through Jack’s hair, long overdue for a haircut. “You were amazing. I’ve never been so proud.”

And then—then Bitty is there, and he throws his arms around Jack’s neck and kisses him in front of everyone, and some of the disquiet slowly, slowly recedes to the back of Jack’s mind. Their bodies remember each other, and they melt into each other for a long while, like the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

Jack takes a deep breath, then another, his mind clearer than it was back in the showers.

They lost—that’s a fact, and it’s a bitter, bitter pill to swallow, an injury he’s going to nurse through the summer like a broken bone, slowly mending over time.

But he knows—it’s not the end of the world.


The Aces win the Western Conference Final. At three a.m., Jack sends a text.

To: Kent
Give them hell.
(03:01 am)

The answer comes after a few minutes. It reads:

From: Kent
(03:06 am)


The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
Congratulations to the @LasVegasAces on their second Stanley Cup win! Sad we couldn’t be there.


we’re not lost, private, we’re in normandy (currahee) wrote in ontd_puck

the aces take it all (and none for the habs)

so just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past hour or so, the aces just won their second title. holy fuck, what a game. also, holy fuck, parse. who the fuck even gets a hat-trick in game seven of the goddamn stanley cup finals like it’s no big deal, shrugs it off, and then scores again.

unfuckingbelievable. i guess that third (???) art ross happened for a reason.

why am i so angry about this. why is he so attractive to me when he scores. i’m a lesbian, goddamn it.

tags: aces can get it, and none for you kent parson, habs what habs, in the year of our lord stanley 2016, skating and crying, summertime sadness, when will hockey come back


Reply from offblues
lmao, i know the feeling. but i’m still low-key mourning for the game we might have had. parse and zimms, battling it out in the finals. i was so sad when the falcs got eliminated in the conference final, like, goddamn. did you see zimms’ face when they were getting off the ice? no one should ever look that sad.

Reply from currahee
omg, i know, that would’ve been amazing. like, if there was ever my fantasy team matchup for the stanley cup finals, it would be falcs vs. aces. and we were so close. so fucking close. damn you, habs. you’re cute, but damn you.

Reply from carthage
Damn, they deserved that win so much. What an amazing game. And the Aces have been so consistently good the entire season, it was just like a cherry on top of the cake for them. But well-deserved, in my opinion. And Parse definitely deserves the Art Ross win (but we knew that already).

And, I mean, I think we all know Zimmermann is getting the Calder, right? Nothing else makes sense. He’s been so good this season, it’s been amazing to watch him grow into himself as a player.

Expand 34 comments

Reply from lachance
Please, let’s have a moment of silence for the poor Richard Stewart for when Zimms inevitably wins the Calder.

And hell yeah, I’m so happy for the Aces! They really deserved it. Also, I feel you on the Parse situation. Even the blond monstrosity he calls his playoff beard is weirdly attractive. Why. Why do these dumb boys insist on doing this to me.

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From: Kent
see you next year, zimms.
we’re gonna light it up.

(04:06 pm)

To: Kent
Yeah. We will.
I’m glad it was you.

(04:11 pm)

Chapter Text

Summer comes slowly this year, coyly, until it’s suddenly there, sweet and thick like molasses.

Eric almost misses it, too preoccupied with the new people moving into the Haus and packing for the summer break before his last year at Samwell. He’s planning on leaving some of his things at Jack’s place in Providence, and they’re already packed neatly into boxes, waiting for Jack to pick them up tomorrow when he comes to drive Eric to Providence with him.

They’re leaving for Georgia on Thursday.

He called his mother a few days after graduation to finally tell her the news, and she was sad but understanding. He has no idea what Coach had to say about it, but it’s not like they can forbid Eric from going. He’s an adult, he can make his own choices, even if—and that’s still an if—his father doesn’t approve.

Fuck, man, just move it.”

“I’m moving it, what the fuck more do you want me to do?”

Eric can hear voices in the hallway getting closer and more intense, and when he peers out of his room to take a look, there are Ollie and Wicks, trying to haul Ollie’s bed frame up the stairs.

Pivot,” Wicks says, and they both crack up.

“Do y’all need a hand?” he asks. His mother loves to rearrange the furniture from time to time, and while Eric might be a bit on the short side, he’s no stranger to lugging couches and dressers around.

Wicks looks over his shoulder and tries to give Eric a thumbs up, almost dropping the frame in the process.

“We’re all good here, Bits, thanks,” he says.

It still feels strange here without Lardo and Ransom, and Holster, Nursey already gone for the summer, Dex and Chowder about to leave in a few hours. Ollie is driving them to the airport in his old Volkswagen, which used to belong first to his parents, then to his older sister, and which he drove to Samwell last August all the way from Pennsylvania.

There’s something about the atmosphere of these last few days, before summer starts in earnest, that makes Eric strangely nostalgic and anxious at the same time.

Summer used to be a magical time when Eric was younger, and he would spend the long, lazy, sweet days at his MooMaw’s house in the country, baking and picking apples, and swimming in the lake, lying in the sun until the skin on his shoulders and nose started to peel.

Now, summer mostly means saying goodbye, over and over again.

By the time Ollie and Wicks finish hauling their furniture of unknown but suspect origins up the stairs, Eric is completely packed and back in the kitchen, baking goodbye pies for Chowder and Dex. In the meantime, the guys settle in upstairs and Jason moves into Lardo’s old room with the help of his older brother, who drove from Providence to help him move his things from Jason’s freshman dorm.

Eric has his music on, dancing while he glazes the strawberries with some sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon, and pre-bakes his crusts.

He has his back to the door, singing along to Taylor Swift under his breath, when he suddenly feels a hand wrap around his waist and almost drops the spoon he’s holding, completely startled and snapped out of his reverie.

When he turns around, there is Jack, looking down at Eric with a smile.

“Jesus, Jack, you scared the living hell out of me,” Eric says, his heart still pounding, but he can’t tell if it’s just the surprise, or maybe the way Jack is looking at him. “You can’t just sneak up on people like this.”

“You should’ve seen your face,” Jack says, and the corners of his mouth turn up a little more, and this—this is his chirping face. Eric swats him on the arm with a kitchen towel.

“Rude, Mr. Zimmermann,” he says. “Rude.”

Jack takes a step back and Eric follows almost involuntarily, like his body knows.

“I thought I’d surprise you,” Jack explains, then leans down to kiss him, and Eric wraps his arms around Jack’s neck, pushes up on his tiptoes and deeper into the kiss.

“Holy fuck…Jack Zimmermann.”

They startle and break apart, and when Jack moves to look over his shoulder, Eric can see that Jason’s brother is standing in the kitchen doorway, looking flustered and downright stunned. Jack blushes and glances to the side, then walks up to Chris to shake his hand.

“Hi, it’s nice to meet you,” he says, and Eric watches as Chris takes Jack’s hand mechanically, still more than a little star-struck, and oh, right, he’s a huge Falconers fan.

“Hi—fuck, this is so surreal. I’m Chris, Jason’s brother. You know Jason? He’s on the team, I’m helping him move in. Anyway, I’m a huge fan,” Chris says, and it’s in that moment that Jason joins them downstairs.

He straight up groans when he sees the scene unfolding in front of him.

“Oh my god, stop being so embarrassing, Jesus Christ,” Jason says, then adds, “Hi, Jack.”

Eric can’t help but giggle.

“Hey,” Jack says, pushes his hands into the pockets of his jeans and leans against the table. “You settling in okay?”

Eric goes back to his pie filling, and the crusts are ready, so he gets them out of the oven, glancing over his shoulder from time to time with a smile.

“I hated my freshman dorm, so this is, like, amazing in comparison,” Jason says, sitting down by the table. Jack follows suit, and Chris hovers awkwardly for a moment before taking a seat as well. “My roommate snored. And he had his girlfriend over all the time and kept locking me out of my room. I was, like, so ready to be done with that guy.”

It’s amazing how different the place feels all of a sudden with Jack here, like they’ve gone back in time and it’s just another early summer afternoon at the Haus, like nothing has changed at all. Like they’re all still here, instead of being gone for good.

Jack laughs quietly, warm and genuinely amused.

“I had a single my freshman year,” he says. “But I lived across the hall from Shitty, which was almost the same as having a roommate.”

Eric finishes his work on the lattice and puts the pies in the oven, then washes his hands, turns the coffee machine on almost on autopilot.

“Coffee, anyone? Jack?” he asks, reaching for the mugs. He gets four before they even have a chance to acknowledge him, but then Ollie and Wicks run down the stairs to join them in the kitchen, so he gets two more, sets them down on the counter.

Ollie and Wicks both hug Jack and pat him on the back as hard as they can, congratulating him on his playoffs run. Eric can see the way Jack presses his lips together, his jaw tight and his shoulders tense. He knows it’s been hard on Jack, losing so close to the finals, and to his dad’s old team, and it’s still a fresh wound that hasn’t turned into a scar yet.

“Yo, Bits, is there pie, by any chance?” Ollie asks, and Eric reaches into the fridge for the last few pieces of peach cobbler from yesterday.

“There’s more pie in the oven, but y’all need to keep your dirty hands off it,” he announces. “These are for Dex and Chowder, just a little something for the road.”

Rude, Bits,” Ollie says, fake-hurt. “Remember who’s driving their sorry asses to the airport.”

Eric gives him a look over his shoulder. “Remember who offered to drive their sorry asses to the airport in the first place,” he shoots back, then goes back to serving pie.

He waits until the pies are done, mostly hanging back in the kitchen with his cup of coffee, letting the noise wash over him. At some point, he wanders over to the table and leans comfortably against Jack, who loops his arm around Eric’s waist, his thumb running lazily back and forth against the strip of Eric’s skin peeking out between the hem of his tank top and his shorts.

Once it’s time for Dex and Chowder to get going, Eric sends them off with hugs and strawberry pie sealed in Tupperware containers, and then it’s just him and Jack at the Haus, Jason and Chris already gone, and Wicks out to get groceries.

“Do you want to go back today?” Eric asks, leaning against the porch railing. “Or can we stay the night? I mean, we don’t have to, but…it would be nice to have you here for a moment, you know? It’s been so strange, without Lardo, and Ransom, and Holster, and…I don’t know, but I thought it would be…nice, I guess. Like the old times.”

Jack looks at him and takes a step closer, touches Eric’s elbow briefly before settling his hand on the jut of Eric’s hip.

“We can stay,” he says, his voice low and gentle. “We’ll just go in the morning. I wasn’t supposed to come today anyway, but we finished early, so I thought I’d surprise you. There’s no rush, we can wait until tomorrow.”

“Thanks.” Eric pushes up onto his tiptoes to kiss Jack. A couple of lax bros gathered on the front steps of their frat house with beers in their hands wolf-whistle.

“Maybe we should move this inside,” Jack says, but he’s still crowding Eric against the railing, close enough that he can feel the heat of his skin.

“Okay,” Eric says, then steals another kiss. “Come on, there’s pie and beer in the fridge.”

Jack smiles. “I thought we ate the pie.”

Eric only rolls his eyes. “Please, as if I’d let them eat everything without leaving anything aside for you. There is apple pie hidden behind Ollie’s protein shakes.”

They go back inside, and Jack sits down at the kitchen table while Eric plates the pie.

“I probably shouldn’t,” Jack says, but Eric just scoffs—he knows Jack has been keeping up with his off-season conditioning and working with a private trainer hired by the team, spending most of his time at the gym or jogging around Providence. And Eric might not be the buffest of guys at the best of times, but he knows how important it is to build up muscle in anticipation of the new season, because once the pre-season starts, it’s always a struggle to keep a healthy weight.

“How do you want to survive Georgia, then?” Eric asks, laughing, and he puts his hands on his hips for emphasis. “It’s the deep South, Jack. If it ain’t deep-fried, it ain’t food.”

Jack leans over the table on his elbows. “First, I know for a fact that’s not true,” he says. “And second, we’re just gonna run every morning. Do some cardio. It’s not just me who has to keep up with his conditioning.”

Eric bursts out laughing. “Oh, bless your heart,” he says. “Jack, it’s Georgia. In the middle of summer. You don’t run. You hide or you die.”

His mind keeps going back to it—the picture of Jack back at his family house, and if it had been surreal last year, when he came to visit for the Fourth of July, it’s even more surreal now, to imagine Jack in that space which has never belonged to Bitty, only to Eric or Junior, or Dicky. It’s going to be a series of firsts for him—for them—and Eric is at the same time ecstatic and terrified.

“Want to go sit on the back porch?” Jack asks after polishing the last of the pie, startling Eric out of his reverie. Then he grabs two beers from the fridge and twists off the caps, hands one bottle to Eric.

It’s slowly getting dark, but the sun is still barely visible between buildings, the sky full of pink and orange, and purple, and gold. The view is breathtaking, and Eric sits down between Jack’s legs on the porch steps, leaning against his chest and sipping beer as he watches the colors change in front of his eyes.

“We have a summer house in Nova Scotia,” Jack says after a moment of silence, and Eric can feel the deep vibrations of his voice in his chest. It’s nice, comfortable. It feels like home. One of Jack’s arms is wrapped around Eric’s chest, warm and solid. “We could go there for a week after we come back from Georgia. If you want to, I mean.”

Eric twists a little in his place to look up at Jack.

“Wait, isn’t Nova Scotia a totally different part of Canada?” he asks, his brows knit in confusion.

Jack smiles. “It’s not that far,” he says. “And it’s nice there. Quiet. There’s a lake.”

Eric takes a long drink of his beer.

“How do you even have a house in Nova Scotia?” he asks, putting the bottle away on the step to wrap his hands around Jack’s forearm. He can feel the new definition in his muscles there, and it excites that part of him which looks at Jack naked, tangled in the sheets, and wonders how in the world did he get so lucky.

“My parents went there once on vacation, because dad loves fishing, and mom really liked it there,” Jack explains. “Said she was tired of big cities and wanted to get away once in a while.”

“So your dad bought her a house.”

Eric can feel more than see the way Jack shrugs.

“Also, isn’t Nova Scotia, like, Crosby territory? Aren’t you afraid they’re gonna come after you with pitchforks?” Bitty playfully nudges Jack’s knee with his elbow. “Especially after you eliminated the Pens in the playoffs?”

Jack laughs quietly under his breath. It’s a nice, warm sound that sometimes still punches through something in Eric’s chest. He loves it when Jack can be like this—quietly, comfortably happy.

“It is,” Jack says, “but it’s not that bad. Besides, my dad won a Cup with the Pens. And Sid is a friend of the family.”

“Oh, of course he is,” Bitty teases, rolling his eyes, even though Jack can’t actually see him, but he hopes his tone conveys it anyway.

Jack shrugs again.

“We mostly know him through uncle Mario,” he says, “so it’s, you know.”

Eric laughs so hard he almost doubles over.

“Jack, that doesn’t make it better, oh my god.”

It still sometimes takes him by surprise—the extent of Jack’s fame, and the fame and wealth of his family. He’s been to their house, so he knows they cook for themselves and do their own grocery shopping, and he knows how they look first thing in the morning, before they’ve had their coffee, and it’s all so normal and not at all like Eric imagined the lives of rich, famous people. You’d never guess, looking at Jack, that he has more zeros to his name than Eric has ever had in his entire life, and it’s also true of his parents—they don’t flaunt it, the way some people do. Maybe that’s why Eric felt so comfortable with them, back in Montreal.

“So?” Jack prompts, dropping a kiss on Eric’s shoulder.

“I’d love to go to Nova Scotia with you.”


They touch down at Hartsfield-Jackson in the late afternoon. The sweltering heat hits Jack as soon as they leave the plane, hot air dancing just above the tarmac. It’s just like he remembered from last year, and even though he knew to expect it this time, it still takes him a moment to catch his breath, pushed back into his lungs by the overwhelming humidity.

Next to Jack, Bitty looks determined, his jaw set and his shoulders tense, like he’s bracing for a hard check. Jack touches him briefly, trying to get him to relax, and Bitty startles.

“It’s gonna be okay,” Jack says, leaning into Bitty’s side, lacing their fingers together.

Suzanne is waiting for them at the arrivals terminal. Bitty’s father is nowhere to be seen.

“Oh my goodness, boys, you made it!” she says as soon as she spots them in the crowd, and then she’s hugging Bitty, who falls into her arms and doesn’t let go for a long time. Jack stands to the side, not wanting to intrude. Bitty hasn’t seen his family since Christmas, and with everything else that’s happened since, he deserves all the time in the world.

By the time they break apart, Jack can see that they’re both on the verge of tears.

He wants to shake Suzanne’s hand, but before he can even move from his place, she just turns to him, saying, “It’s so nice to see you, Jack, darling,” and then she’s hugging Jack, too, warm and welcoming.

“It’s good to see you too, Mrs. Bittle…uh, Suzanne,” Jack says. “It’s…thank you for having me.”

“Oh, don’t be silly, of course you’re welcome here anytime.”

She sounds so sincere that Jack’s throat gets tight and his chest feels like it’s full of air.

Her car is parked some distance away, and Jack can feel the sweat start soaking through the fabric of his t-shirt where it sticks to his lower back. Bitty seems to be completely unaffected, chatting away with his mom as they walk to the car. He looks more animated, more relaxed. Less scared.

It’s something that Jack at the same time understands perfectly and doesn’t understand at all. For his parents, this has always been a non-issue, except for how it would affect his dreams of playing in the NHL, and even then it has always been more about the outside world and the atmosphere in the league than it has been about Jack himself. It’s one of those things he will never stop being grateful for. But for Bitty—for Bitty this has always been something to hide, something to be afraid of admitting, something to keep in the dark, and Jack understands that there’s a difference between knowing that your son has a boyfriend and seeing him kiss another man in broad daylight.

Jack catches up to them and takes Bitty’s hand, smiles at him when Bitty looks up and grips Jack’s hand tighter, then laces their fingers together.

It’s a little over an hour by car from Atlanta to Madison, and Jack spends that time alternating between looking out the window, making small talk with Suzanne, and sneaking touches to where Bitty is sitting in front of him in the passenger’s seat, which Jack made him take despite Bitty’s protests.

“I know you don’t like driving in the back,” he’d said. “Makes you nauseous.”

“So do y’all have any plans?” Suzanne asks as they leave Covington in the rearview mirror. “Dicky, that ice-cream parlor on Jefferson is open again, if you want to go, and I think Marianne is having a little get-together once her boys come back from college for the summer, but you could invite them over, too. You always liked Simon, and Jake’s a real sweetheart now, he’s grown up a lot these past few years you’ve been gone.”

Jack wonders for a moment if this Simon is the same Simon Bitty told him about—the first serious unrequited crush on a straight boy—but he gets his answer in the way Bitty startles in his seat, looking to his mother with a worried face, then away for a moment, as if to compose himself.

“I guess,” he says eventually, but his voice lacks any real conviction. “We’ll see, mama. We could just hang out, go to the lake. Maybe drive to Savannah and stay overnight. Jack’s real keen on history, and I’m betting he ain’t gone anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line for anything except hockey.”

Jack laughs. “That’s definitely true,” he says. “But anyway, I’d love to go to Savannah.”

Suzanne drives past a blue truck at a high speed and swerves back onto the right lane, then takes a sharp turn. She drives much like Bitty, with confidence that borders on recklessness.

“Well, if you go, you gotta take the car,” she says. “I’ll manage, if it’s just for a day or two.”

When they arrive at the house, Jack goes to get their bags, despite Bitty’s protests, and they come inside, with Bitty leading the way. Jack puts their luggage down by the living room door and looks around—not much has changed since the last time he was here, but there’s new wallpaper in the hall and a huge mirror on the wall opposite the front door that hadn’t been there before. Sometimes he wonders if Bitty experiences the same feeling of simultaneous longing and detachment that Jack feels whenever he visits his family home. It’s at the same time familiar and unfamiliar, a space he could navigate with his eyes closed and a space filled with small, almost insignificant changes that trip him up every time. Maybe it’s just because Jack has lived away from his parents for most of his life—he left for his billet family at fifteen and didn’t go back home for more than a couple of months at a time until the overdose—but it always takes him some time to get used to that familiarity, to fall back into that rhythm, and there are always moments when everything seems just a little off-beat, out of synch, like he’s missed a step walking down the stairs.

It’s one of those things about growing up—the way those spaces of your childhood change almost imperceptibly until suddenly you’re both so different that you don’t quite fit the way you used to.

“Your daddy’s at the grill, Dicky, we’re having steaks for dinner,” Suzanne says, and Bitty leads Jack to the backyard, and he doesn’t let go of Jack’s hand even once they’re outside, in the full view of Coach Bittle. Jack can feel how rapid Bitty’s pulse is, Jack’s thumb brushing the inside of Bitty’s wrist in a calming gesture.

He watches as Bitty and his dad say hello to each other, and Bitty looks a little like he wants to cry, but then Coach hugs him, just a little awkward, like he doesn’t quite know how he’s allowed to react, and says, “Junior. Good to have you home.”

He shakes hands with Jack, a bit stiff and a bit overly formal, but he still says, “Good to see you again, Jack.”

“It’s really nice to see you, too, Mr. Bittle,” Jack says politely, and Bitty’s dad doesn’t correct him the way Suzanne did the first time he hesitated before using her first name, but it’s not like Jack expected anything different. “Thank you for having me.”

“I’ve been watching your games,” Coach Bittle says, flipping the steaks over on the grill and reaching for the marinade. They smell amazing, and suddenly Jack can feel how hungry he really is.

There’s a big table set for the four of them on the patio—roasted and mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, some sort of fresh vegetable salad, snap peas, and a huge pitcher of something that looks like sweet tea.

“Congratulations on making the playoffs,” Coach Bittle continues, preoccupied with the grill but still stealing glances at Jack from time to time. “Y’all got a lot to be proud about this season. I’m sure your father is proud, too.”

Jack smiles, and Bitty takes his hand. Coach’s eyes flicker for a moment to where their fingers are linked together between them in a loose hold, but he says nothing and goes back to watching the steaks.

“He is,” Jack says, and the amazing thing is, that’s the truth and Jack knows it. “My parents say hello, by the way.”

Coach nods. “Thank your parents for…looking after Junior this spring. We appreciate it.”

Suzanne reappears on the patio before Jack has a chance to say anything—that it wasn’t a big deal, that it was natural, that it was just what families do, and Bitty is now a part of his family, too, has been for a long time now, probably longer than Jack consciously realized.

“Dicky, go fetch the glasses, please,” Suzanne says, and that jumpstarts Jack’s memory.

“We brought wine,” he says hastily. “Red, should go nicely with the steak. My father recommended it.”

He wants to go after Bitty to get the wine out of his bag, but Bitty just shouts, “I’m on it!” from the inside of the house, and Jack is left alone with Bitty’s parents.

“We’re so glad you could make it, sweetheart,” Suzanne says with a smile, and Jack smiles back, then ducks his head, suddenly nervous. “We know you’re real busy, even now with the season over, so it’s really nice of you to come down here with Dicky.”

Jack considers whether to talk to them about it—about the fact that he doesn’t intend to take his son away from them, doesn’t want to make Bitty choose how to divide his time and affections, that it’s the last thing on Jack’s mind, but they’ve just gotten here, and maybe it’s too soon to just drop this on them, address the elephant in the room.

Bitty didn’t say much, but the words sad and disappointed painted a clear enough picture. And Jack understands—his own parents learned how to share Jack with the rest of the world early enough that the transition was painless, but it’s a hard thing, letting go, so Jack doesn’t blame Bitty’s parents for having difficulties adjusting.

Bitty comes back with the wine and two sets of glasses, and Jack pours each of them a glass of red while Bitty serves the sweet tea.

They make small talk while they eat, but Jack doesn’t say that much, mostly letting Bitty catch up with his parents, listening to stories he usually has no context for but finds amusing nonetheless, noticing as the soft lilt in Bitty’s voice gets more and more pronounced the more he speaks. Jack knows Bitty tries to hide it, thinks it makes him sound like a hick, but Jack can’t help but find it endearing. It suits Bitty, in a way many things Bitty dislikes about himself do.

Once they’re done, Jack gets up to clear the table, but Suzanne stops him before he even has a chance to grab a plate.

“Oh, no, darling, don’t bother,” she says. “How about you boys go for a walk? The weather is getting real nice and cool now, and when you get back, there’ll be blackberry pie waiting for you.”

Bitty leads Jack upstairs with their luggage, and they leave the bags in Bitty’s room by the bed, get changed and go outside into the slowly falling dusk. The heat from earlier is gone, and there’s the smell of ozone in the air, like it’s about to rain.

It’s mostly quiet in this part of town, almost no people in sight, and Jack takes Bitty’s hand, waits for the moment in which Bitty relaxes and leans into Jack’s side, his head propped against Jack’s shoulder.

“It’s nice here,” Jack says, and Bitty hums wordlessly in agreement. He seems tired but content, the earlier nervousness almost gone, and Jack is happy he gets to see Bitty like this, satisfied and at ease, in this place which holds so many memories, not all of them pleasant, but all of them leading him to this particular moment, Bitty holding hands with Jack in the middle of the street in the soft light of the evening, happy and unafraid.

Jack kisses the top of Bitty’s head, feels the way Bitty’s lips curve into a smile against his bicep.

They meet one of the neighbors on their way back. She’s a blonde, middle-aged woman who waves at Bitty as they walk past her house, and Bitty waves back, squeezing Jack’s hand a little.

“Eric, sweetheart, I haven’t seen you in ages! Jerry told me he saw you get in earlier, but I didn’t want to believe him,” she says with a smile. “I thought we wouldn’t see you at all this year!”

“Hi, Mrs. Cartland,” Bitty says in return. “It’s great to see you, too. And yeah, we just got in earlier today.”

“Your folks must be real pleased to have you back for the summer,” Mrs. Cartland says. Then she looks at Jack, and her eyes widen a little in a way that tells Jack he’s been recognized. “And who’s that handsome young man?”

“Oh, that’s Jack. My boyfriend,” Bitty says, his grip on Jack’s hand tightening. Jack can see the shadow of something on her face, but she’s still smiling, except that it doesn’t quite reach her eyes.

“Oh, I see,” she says at the same time as Jack extends his hand, saying, “Hello, Jack Zimmermann. It’s very nice to meet you.”

She shakes his hand, but her eyes flicker down to where Jack’s fingers are laced with Bitty’s at their sides. She presses her lips into a thin line—it’s just for a fraction of a second, and then she’s smiling again, but Jack catches it anyway. He’s been watching people for those reactions long enough to know them when he sees them.

He can only hope Bitty didn’t notice that.

“Ah, you’re that famous hockey player, aren’t you?” she says, and it’s not unkind, but there’s something in her tone that still rubs Jack the wrong way. “I remember your father, from back when I was young. We don’t really follow hockey around these parts, but everyone knew about him. And you look just like him, goodness gracious. I knew you looked familiar.”

It grates, and not because of the mention of his father, but there’s a bit of a false note to her voice, the way she tries to mask whatever she’s feeling behind a veneer of cheerful exuberance. Jack wants to go. He wants to go, and get back to the house, and he wants to not be standing here, carrying on with this conversation. He wants to say something, but he knows it’s not his place to do so, because he’ll be gone in a few days, but Bitty is going to keep coming back here, with or without Jack, so he keeps silent.

After a short while, they finally get going, and it seems like everything is fine until they reach the front porch and Bitty sits down on the white wooden bench, pulling his knees up under his chin and wrapping his arms around his legs.

Jack takes a seat next to him, runs a soothing hand up and down the column of his spine and feels the way Bitty sighs into the touch, his face hidden.

“I don’t understand,” he says, his voice muffled. “Have you seen the way she— She’s known me since I was a baby, and she— And she was so nice about it. That’s the worst thing.”

“I know,” Jack says, his throat tight, and he wraps an arm around Bitty, kisses the crown of his head. “Sometimes it’s easier when they just hate you.”

Bitty nods with his head still down, and they sit in silence for a while, until Suzanne opens the front door and walks outside. Jack can see the moment she spots Bitty, curled in on himself in his seat, and she looks at Jack with worry and confusion in her eyes. Jack only shakes his head without a word.

“Come on, boys, there’s pie waiting for you in the kitchen,” she says, putting a hand on Jack’s shoulder, “and Dicky, you know what the doctor said, your daddy can’t eat all of it, but that’s what’s gonna happen if you don’t come in.”

She leaves after that, giving Bitty space and time to collect himself. Slowly, he puts his feet down on the ground and looks up at Jack. He doesn’t look like he’s been crying, but it’s a near thing.

“Come on,” he says, and takes Jack’s hand. Jack kisses the side of his head.

“I love you,” he says.

Bitty takes a shaky breath.

“I love you, too.”

They head back inside, and go straight to the kitchen. In the living room, Coach Bittle is watching some football news or maybe reruns—Jack isn’t certain. Suzanne is nowhere to be seen.

“Come on, let’s take a picture,” Jack suggests. “To match the one from last year. You could tweet it, and I could put it onto my Instagram. I’ve been getting some really nice messages about you, there are a lot of people who like to see our photos together, so I thought—”

Bitty kisses him, just a brief press of lips against lips, and then he smiles, bright and radiant, and that’s all Jack wanted to see.

He lets Bitty take the picture, because he’s still much better at selfies than Jack, and then he sends it to Jack’s phone, right after tweeting the picture with the caption: Look who I found. Second year in a row :).

They eat the pie, and then Bitty finds a bag of nachos and a couple of avocados in the fridge, so he makes guacamole, and they relocate to the living room to join Coach Bittle, who offers them beer as he gets up to get himself another one.

Jack declines, but Bitty gets one, and they sit together, curled on the love seat in front of the tv, watching players Jack doesn’t recognize at all, until he realizes it’s not the NFL broadcast—it’s NCAA football.

“Matthews is doing well for himself,” Coach Bittle comments after a while, and even though Jack has no idea what he’s talking about, it must mean something to Bitty, because he turns his head sharply to look at his dad. “The Quakers did good moving him to starting quarterback, he’s a natural.”

“Mama said he’s coming home for the summer real soon?” Bitty half-says, half-asks, and it suddenly clicks in Jack’s brain. Matthews is Simon, the UPenn quarterback.

“Came in earlier this evening, actually,” Coach Bittle says. “While you were out.”

“Oh,” Bitty says, with a look on his face that Jack can’t quite decipher, somewhere halfway between surprised and anxious.

“His brother is getting sized up by the ‘Horns,” Coach Bittle continues. “Just needs to keep his grades up, and they’re gonna give him a full-ride. Boy is a powerhouse.”

“That mean his knee is all better now?” Bitty asks, and Coach Bittle nods.

“Got it fixed this spring. He’ll be playing again by fall.”

It’s a nice moment, a reminder that there exists a life for Bitty outside New England, things about him that Jack doesn’t know, doesn’t get to experience—and he’s fine with this, not knowing absolutely everything about Bitty’s life. It’s healthy, and besides, there are things that Bitty doesn’t know about Jack, either, so it’s only fair he gets to keep some parts of him to himself.

Slowly, Bitty relaxes again next to Jack, and his hand ends up on Jack’s thigh, warm and comfortable, Bitty’s body leaning against Jack’s. It’s getting late, and they’ve been up since early this morning—at some point, Bitty just starts to doze off, curling into Jack on the loveseat.

Coach Bittle clears his throat. “Maybe you should turn in for the night,” he says. “Junior looks beat.”

Jack shakes Bitty gently, and he startles awake, looking up at Jack with bleary eyes. He does look exhausted, like the weight of the day suddenly collapsed onto him between one breath and another.

“You fell asleep,” Jack tells him, and Bitty laughs quietly.

“Oh, silly me,” he says. “I must be more tired than I thought.”

Suzanne walks into the living room just as they’re getting up to leave.

“Dicky, I made the bed in your room for the two of you,” she says, and Jack sees the moment Coach Bittle takes a sharp breath and opens his mouth as if to say something, then thinks better of it.

Later, when he’s brushing his teeth in the upstairs bathroom, Bitty already asleep in his room, Jack hears muffled voices coming from the master bedroom just a few doors down.

“I just think it ain’t appropriate, them sleeping in the same bed,” Coach Bittle says in a hushed voice. “If this was a girl—”

“Oh, honey, they’re both adults,” Suzanne says in return, and Jack doesn’t mean to eavesdrop, he really doesn’t, but he’s stuck in here, toothpaste foam in his mouth and a dry sensation at the back of his throat. “And what do you think happens when they’re both in Providence? Dicky sleeps in the guest room? They’re both grown up, and they can decide these things for themselves. It’s not up to us, so leave it be. And is this about Jack—”

“It’s not,” Coach Bittle says, and he sounds sincere. “You know it ain’t like that. But it’s just—”

“Baby, that’s his home,” Suzanne says with emphasis. “He can’t feel like a guest here. So we can’t treat him like he’s just a guest, and it’s not our place to say what he should and should not be doing anymore. Our little Dicky is all grown up now, and you gotta accept that. They’re gonna be living together come next year.”

There’s the sound of the door closing, and then Jack can’t hear anything apart from the low sound of voices, muffled by the walls, but even those stop after a short moment.

Jack rinses his mouth and goes back to bed. It’s not big like their bed in Providence, so it’s a tight fit, but the way Bitty melts into Jack the moment he lies down next to him is the best feeling in the entire world.

Jack knows that he used to be all sharp edges and hard angles, and he never thought he’d find someone who would just fit right next to him—certainly not as easily, as effortlessly as Bitty does, in all the possible ways.


Jack wakes up a little after seven with the morning sun shining in his face even through the light fabric of the curtains. Next to him, Bitty is still sleeping, but Jack has been getting up early for so long that by now it’s just second nature to him, and he knows he won’t be able to fall back asleep.

He doesn’t like to stay in bed long after he’s woken up, unless Bitty is up, too—otherwise, it reminds him a little too much of that time spent at the hospital, all but chained to his bed, where he would just lie on his back for hours in the small hours of the early morning, staring up at the ceiling with unseeing eyes.

Jack gets up quietly, trying not to disturb Bitty, who only sighs softly and snuggles into his pillow.

When he goes downstairs to get himself a cup of coffee, Coach Bittle is already in the kitchen, and there’s a pot full of coffee on the counter.

“Good morning,” Jack says politely.

For a moment, he wants to say something—something about the conversation he overheard last night, something that would help Coach overcome whatever reservations he might have. Jack knows he’s trying, for Bitty, but he can recognize the hesitation in Coach Bittle’s voice when he talks about the two of them, the hint of awkwardness in how he approaches them when they’re together.

“Coffee?” Coach Bittle asks, reaching for another mug, and Jack nods.


Coach Bittle pours him a cup and hands it to Jack—it’s still steaming hot, and Jack burns his tongue a little with the first sip.

“I’m not the best cook, but Suzanne should be up in a moment to fix us some breakfast,” Coach Bittle says, moving to sit down at the table. Jack stays in his place, leaning against the counter with his mug. “Junior still asleep?”

It’s the most direct he’s been in addressing this thing between Bitty and Jack, the most overt acknowledgment of their relationship Jack has seen from him so far.

“Yeah,” Jack says, takes a drink of his coffee, “he must’ve been exhausted after yesterday. Lots of stress, coming here, after.”

Coach Bittle is a hard man to read, but even Jack can see how taken aback he is by Jack’s admission.

“Listen, son,” he says, and Jack knows it’s not the kind of son his own dad uses when he addresses Bitty, “it’s not that I don’t like you. Or—or this.” He makes a vague gesture.

“But?” Jack prompts, because they might as well get it out in the open, get it over with.

“But it’s a lot to take in. A lot to get used to,” Coach Bittle admits. His face is, once again, completely unreadable. “I ain’t pretending to understand it, but maybe there ain’t nothing to understand, I wouldn’t know. But you know how people are here, you know the things they say. I never wanted this for him.”

Jack bites his lips. “What, for him to be happy? To be himself?” he asks, and it comes out more accusatory than he intended.

Coach Bittle shakes his head. “To grow up afraid.”

Jack bites back all the things at the tip of his tongue, because it sounds so sincere that he just can’t bring himself to say anything cutting about all those years Bitty lived afraid of his own father’s reaction if he’d ever discovered the truth about his son. Maybe he’s judging him too harshly.

“I’m not going to take him away from you, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Jack says, putting the mug down onto the counter and looking Coach Bittle straight in the eyes. “I’m not going to make him choose. But I love him, the same way you love your wife, and you need to accept that.”

Coach Bittle looks away for a moment. “I know,” he says. “And I do. I want Junior to be happy. Even if I sometimes can’t wrap my head around all that.”

Jack nods, and he wants to say something else, but then he hears Bitty say, “Jack, there you are. Goodness, I thought you’d really gone for that run.”

Jack laughs and, to his surprise, Coach Bittle laughs as well.

“Junior, you did warn him about the weather, right?” he says. “We wouldn’t want to be responsible for the death of a top NHL player.”

“Yes, sir,” Bitty says. “More than once, even, but he’s so stubborn, like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Good, good,” Coach Bittle says, a little absent-mindedly, and this time, when Jack reaches for Bitty to kiss him briefly and whisper, “Good morning,” against Bitty’s lips, he doesn’t pretend like he can’t see it.


They go to the lake later that day—Eric takes his mother’s car and packs some lunch for the two of them, a book to read and a few beers, and they drive through the dusty country roads until they reach the rocky little patch of the beach that turns gradually into sand as they wander in further, having left the car in a little makeshift parking lot by the path leading to the lake.

You can’t really fish in this lake, but Eric used to go there to swim when he was younger, and he’s excited to show this place to Jack, even though it’s usually pretty busy this time of year, and they’re bound to run into someone Eric knows.

“It’s nice here,” Jack comments as they spread their blanket on a small patch of grass under a big oak tree. There are only a few other people around at this hour, but Eric knows there will be more soon. One of the girls from last year’s summer camp is there with her mother, and they wave at Eric, smiling cheerfully, but otherwise keep to themselves. Sophie is building a sandcastle next to their blanket, while her mother is reading a book, her face half-obscured by her sunglasses.

Eric takes off his tank top and reaches into his messenger bag for the sunscreen.

“Here,” he says, handing it over to Jack. “If you don’t want to see me burn. I turn into a lobster when I sit out in the sun for too long. And then I start to peel, and let me tell you, that just ain’t pretty.”

Jack laughs. “How did you even survive in this place all these years, then?”

Eric looks over his shoulder with an exaggerated frown. “Rude, Mr. Zimmermann. Rude.”

Jack tips his head forward until his forehead touches the space between Eric’s shoulder blades, and he can feel the way Jack is still shaking with silent laughter. Then he drops a kiss in the place where Eric’s neck meets his shoulder.

The lotion is cold when it touches Eric’s skin, and he startles at the sensation, but Jack’s hands are so nice and strong as they work on his back that Eric relaxes almost immediately, his muscles loosening under Jack’s touch. He loves Jack’s hands, slightly calloused in places from years spent practicing and playing hockey, loves the way they move across his skin, steady and confident in a way they hadn’t been before, familiar and warm, and safe.

It’s been difficult, being back here, in many different ways, but Jack has been with him every step of the way, steadfast and sure, a comforting presence at his side. It’s everything Eric could ever wish for, coming home like this.

“Hey, don’t fall asleep,” Jack whispers in his ear, his breath ghosting over his skin, making Eric shiver.

Eric stretches leisurely and leans against Jack’s chest. “It’s not my fault you have amazing hands,” he says.

“Oh, do I now,” Jack says, and when Eric looks up and over his shoulder, he can see that Jack is grinning.

“God, you’re insufferable.” Eric laughs, and he turns around in Jack’s lap to kiss him, anyone watching be damned. “Forget I said anything, there will be no living with you now.”

When Jack leans forward to kiss him again, Eric ducks out of the way with a teasing smile.

“Who’s being rude now?” Jack asks, and Eric can’t help but laugh.

Jack brought a book with him, something nonfiction, and he’s spread out on the blanket in the shade of the tree, reading. Eric has already dipped his toes in the water once, but he only went in as high as his knees, the water still a bit too cold to swim. In a couple of hours, that should probably change, and if not then, well, it’s not like Eric had never done that before.

Plunging into cold water is a lot like landing a jump—the most intense feeling that lasts just a fraction of a second before it’s over.

For now, though, he stays on the blanket, sitting cross-legged next to Jack, checking his Twitter feed before he runs out of data. Not much is happening, really, either on Twitter or in the group chat, so he snaps a selfie, and then another picture of Jack, lounging in the shade with his book, and he tweets both with the hashtag #homesweethome. A moment later, a notification pops up, letting him know that Parse favorited the tweet.

“Should Stanley Cup winners even get this bored?” he asks, and Jack looks away from his book for a moment, confused. “Parse just favorited my tweet. That I posted literally less than a minute ago.”

Jack shrugs. “He’s addicted to this thing. Just like some other people I know.”

Eric swats him gently on the shoulder. “Oh, hush, you.”

When he gets the next notification, he bursts out laughing.

“What.” Jack nudges Eric’s leg with his toes.

“Cory just tweeted his selfie with Dani, challenging us to up our game,” he explains, still giggling. The photo is adorable, he has to admit, but if it’s war they want, then Eric is more than ready to bring it. He’s an old pro at this, and they’re going down.

He’s about to talk Jack into taking another picture, this time together, when he hears, “Shit, Bittle, you haven’t grown at all.”

He freezes, swallows thickly around the tightness in his throat. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Jack sit up, the book lying forgotten on the blanket.

“Casey,” he says, keeping his voice even and tipping his head up to look Casey Adams in the eye.

He hasn’t changed much since Eric last saw him. He still has the same haircut, wears the same hideous khaki pants. Casey doesn’t play football anymore—his grades weren’t enough to get in, and none of the colleges would offer him a scholarship with his scores—but he still looks huge, his shoulders broad and his arms muscled.

Next to Eric, Jack tenses, shoulders squaring up like he’s about to throw down his gloves. Casey sizes him up unhurriedly, and Eric can feel the way his own heart is trying to beat its way out of his chest.

“That your boyfriend, Bittle?” Casey asks, and something about his tone—flippant, almost dismissive—makes Eric angry.

He takes a deep breath.

“Yes, as a matter of fact,” he says, his words terse and clipped, his tone cold.

Casey nods. “Cool.”

For a moment, Eric is sure he’s heard that wrong.

“Cool?” he asks eventually, incredulous, because Casey Adams once threw his backpack out of a second-floor window, and he called him a pussy on more than one occasion.

“Yeah, cool. It’s like, y’know, whatever,” he says, then takes a better look at Jack. “Oh, shit, you’re that famous dude, Zimmermann, right? I read about you in the papers.”

Jack levels him with an impassive look.

“You and the rest of the world,” he says. If Eric didn’t know him so well, his face might just as well be a mask.

“No, yeah, I know. That shit was fucked, man,” Casey says, and Eric can barely believe what he’s hearing. “Some people are dicks.”

It’s too much. Eric snorts, because that’s just rich, coming from Casey Adams.

Casey, when he turns to Eric, looks embarrassed, of all things, a deep flush high on his cheeks. “Yeah, about that,” he says, scratches the nape of his neck, and Eric has never in his entire life seen him act so uncomfortable. “Sorry I was a dick to you in school. Like, honest, okay?” He pauses for a moment, looks between Jack and Eric. “We cool now?”

Eric nods, still tense.

“We’re cool,” he says, even though it’s not true, not entirely, not when there are two sides of Eric, torn between being pleasantly surprised that people can and do change, after all, and resenting the fact that it’s just now that Casey seems to have found his basic human decency, and not a few years back, when he was making Eric’s life a living hell.

Maybe that makes him a bad person, for being unable to just forgive and forget, but somehow he doesn’t think one I’m sorry erases years of hurt and fear, and helplessness. He cannot unfeel it, cannot forget it—and maybe he shouldn’t. Maybe that’s not the point of forgiving at all.

“Cool. It’s just, y’know, I saw you here, and we ain’t seen each other in forever, so I thought, what the hell, right? Might as well,” Casey says, shrugging, but it doesn’t look even half as casual as Casey would probably want to think it does. “So how’ve you been doing, Bittle? You’re somewhere in New England, right? Still playing hockey?”

“Yeah, I’m in Boston,” Eric says. “And our team just won the NCAA playoffs, actually.”

Next to him, Jack smiles and relaxes just the tiniest bit. Eric is grateful he’s there, ready to support him, but this is something he needs to do on his own, and Jack seems to understand that, how important it is for Eric to be able to do this on his own, to confront that part of himself that always stayed hidden, afraid to be shown to the outside world.

“Oh, shit, man, that’s awesome,” Casey says. “Congrats. Coach must be proud.” He looks at his watch. “Shit, I need to get going, my shift starts in an hour. It was nice seeing ya, yeah? And say hi to Coach for me.”

Casey walks away, and Eric is left feeling weirdly unsettled, like he suddenly stepped into someone else’s life for a moment.

“You okay?” Jack asks, touching his hand to Eric’s knee and squeezing gently.

“Yeah.” Eric nods. “Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry, that was…that was weird.”

Jack moves his hand up a little, until it rests against the inside of Eric’s thigh, warm and comforting.

“Good weird or bad weird?” he asks, and Eric shrugs.

“Just weird, I guess.” He shakes his head, like he’s trying to shake off a persistent thought, the echo of a strange feeling inside of him. “It was…unexpected. Of all the people I thought would change after high school, Casey would definitely be my last pick. We…didn’t like each other much back then.” An understatement. “He was Coach’s favorite after Simon graduated. He had a lot of friends on the team.”

He almost cringes at the memory.

“Were they the ones who—”

Yes.” He blinks a few times. “C’mon, let’s go swim.”

They do lazy laps for a while, the sun beating down on them as soon as they emerge from under the water, and Eric can feel his muscles loosen up, the unbearable tension in his shoulders almost gone now as he cuts through water with practiced moves. He’s almost forgotten how much he misses swimming.

He’s the first one out of the water, and he’s toweling himself off on the blanket when Jack finally gets out as well, his hair plastered to his forehead, his trunks slung low on his hips, the dips of his hipbones peeking out. Eric’s mouth goes dry.

“Do I have something on my face?” Jack asks, reaching for the towel. Eric still can’t help but stare a little—all those hours spent at the gym definitely paid off.

He reaches for Jack, yanks him down by the neck and kisses him on the mouth.

“Now you do,” he says, laughing.

He dozes off after that, his head on Jack’s chest, listening to his heartbeat as he falls asleep. Jack shakes him awake after a while with a soft smile and a kiss to Eric’s forehead.

“I think we should get going soon,” he says as Eric stretches next to him, slightly overheated and hazy from sleeping in the sun for too long. “Your mom wanted us back in time for dinner.”

“Mm,” Eric says, tucking his head into the crook of Jack’s neck and breathing deeply, enveloped in Jack’s warmth and smell. He doesn’t want to move, wants to stay like this forever.

When they finally go, Eric discovers that he feels lighter than he has in years, like he left something behind at that lake, something he’d been carrying with him for so long he almost forgot it was there in the first place. But now it’s gone, and in its place, there’s only incredible lightness filling the spaces between his ribs.


They go to Savannah, and it’s the best Jack has felt in a long time. They stay at a cozy little B&B and have slow morning sex, and wander around the city, holding hands.

They go back on Sunday, carefree and warm, and content. The perspective of going back to Providence on Tuesday seems almost unreal now, like New England exists in a completely different world, like the time has slowed down for them, just for a few days.

They’re on the patio, drinking the craft beers they brought back from Savannah, when the doorbell at the front door rings. Bitty gets up to answer it, but then they hear Suzanne’s voice coming from the hallway through the open terrace door, and another one Jack doesn’t recognize, the low, unintelligible hum of a muffled conversation. After a moment, the voices get closer.

“Ah, there you are, Dicky,” Suzanne says, coming out onto the patio. “You have a guest.”

Behind her, there’s a guy, tall and broad-shouldered, and from the way Bitty almost drops his beer when he looks over his shoulder, Jack guesses it must be Simon.

“Sorry, is this a good time?” he asks, cocking his head a little to the side. “I came by yesterday, but your mom told me you were in Savannah.”

Bitty smiles. “Yeah, yeah, come in,” he says. “Want a beer?”

They guy—Simon—smiles back. “Yeah, sure, I’ll have one. You mind if I get it myself? It’s in the fridge, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Bitty says. “But, Simon, before you go…this is Jack. Jack, this is Simon.”

Simon immediately extends his hand in a greeting and smiles. “Hi, it’s so nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Jack says, and he shakes his hand. Simon has a strong, confident grip.

He looks a little bit like Jack—dark hair, pale skin hidden under the beginnings of a tan, blue eyes. It’s…telling, Jack guesses, that they look so much alike, and, god, it must have been such an unimaginable feeling of déjà vu for Bitty. No wonder he never picked up on any of the signs, and Jack knows for a fact he’d been so, so painfully obvious at times. It was a coping mechanism, he guesses, a way to stop history from repeating itself.

He wonders if Simon is thinking about this, too.

“You’re Jack Zimmermann, right?” Simon asks once he comes back with his beer and takes a seat in one of the garden chairs. “Sorry, I don’t really know much about hockey, but you, uh, made the news. And I heard you guys got to the conference finals this year, that’s awesome.”

“Thanks,” Jack says. “Eric says you play football at UPenn? I didn’t really have time to follow any games, but you got pretty far this season, too, right?”

Simon nods, takes a drink of his beer. “Yeah, almost all the way. It was, y’know—it would’ve been nice to get there, my last year. It is what it is, though.”

Bitty leans forward in his chair, with his elbows on his knees. “You got some NFL scouts after you, though, ain’t ya? Coach mentioned something ‘bout that. And Jake is apparently getting sized up by Texas? I’d say you’re doing pretty darn well for yourselves.”

Jack sits back and relaxes, lets Bitty take control of the conversation—after all, Simon is Bitty’s friend, and he’s still mostly just a name to Jack, now with a face to match.

“Yeah, they’ve been sniffing around,” Simon admits. “Got no serious offers yet, though. But Jake needs to get his knee sorted and keep his grades up, and he’s gonna get the full-ride. What about you, though? I feel like I ain’t seen you in ages.”

Bitty shrugs and smiles, and Jack can just imagine it—Bitty at seventeen, shy and inexperienced, and smitten with this nice boy he knows he can never have. It’s still there, just the faintest traces of it, in the way Bitty cocks his head to the side a little and bites his lower lip, like he doesn’t really know what to do with all that attention and scrutiny.

So maybe Bitty had been transparent, too, in his own way, and it was Jack who never noticed, too busy keeping his own feelings in check.

“I’ve been real good,” Bitty says, and the sincerity in his voice, the way his eyes flicker to Jack, is like a punch to the chest. “We won the title in our division this year, and it’s been, you know, nice in other ways, too.”

This time when he looks over to Jack, Simon notices.

“I read your interview when it first came out,” he says, and Jack startles a little. “About, uh, being out in the NHL. It was really good, and I know a lot of guys, who…well, you know how it is. What your dad wrote in the Players’ Tribune was really good, too.”

“Thanks,” Jack says, and he smiles around the sudden tightness in his throat. “And dad will be glad to hear it, too.”

He excuses himself after a moment to go to the bathroom and get himself another beer. He’s drying his hands when it suddenly hits him that maybe if the guy sitting downstairs had been able to reciprocate Bitty’s feelings, Bitty would have probably never gone to Samwell, and Jack would have never met him. Maybe he wouldn’t get to have this at all.

It’s a scary, scary thought that a while ago would have sent a shiver of panic down Jack’s spine, but now he thinks of the way Bitty’s eyes kept seeking Jack out even while he was talking to Simon, thinks of the way Bitty fits so easily around Jack’s body and Jack’s heart, takes a deep breath and squashes that thought before it can take root.

When he comes back outside with a beer for himself and another one for Bitty, he touches the nape of his neck briefly as he passes him the bottle, feels the buzzed hair under his thumb. Bitty looks up at him with a smile, and Jack presses his lips to the corner of Bitty’s mouth almost without thinking.

“Here,” he says. “I brought you the pumpkin one.”

Simon doesn’t stay long—he drinks his beer, and they talk for a while, but when they offer him another, he declines.

“I should probably be going,” he says as he gets to his feet, “but thanks. And it was real nice to meet you, man.”

Jack smiles. “You, too. Good luck with the NFL scouts.”

“I don’t wanna jinx it, but thanks. Eric, can you walk me out?”

From his seat, Jack has no way of hearing what they’re saying as they stand in the hallway in front of the door, but he can see the way Simon smiles at Bitty and says something, and then he hugs him for a long moment, keeps whispering something to Bitty, who nods with his head pressed against Simon’s chest.

Jack looks away once they break apart, and Bitty rejoins him on the patio, curls against Jack’s side and pushes his face into the crook of Jack’s shoulder. He’s quiet, but he doesn’t seem upset.

“You okay?” Jack asks, just to make sure, and Bitty nods.

“Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, I’m good.”


They leave for the airport early in the morning.

His mom drives them, and Eric can see how she tries not to cry when they say goodbye at the departures terminal. She hugs him for a long, long time, keeps telling him how much she’s going to miss him. When she hugs Jack, she says something to him as well, something that Eric can’t hear, but he sees the way Jack nods, stealing a glance at Eric, and he smiles, soft and warm, and genuine.

They go through security at a torturous pace, the airport packed full of people, and by the time they’re done, the gate is already open.

As they’re getting ready to board, Eric pulls out his phone and types out a tweet. It reads:

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
Saying goodbye to my home in Georgia. Saying hello to my home in Providence.

Chapter Text

the drama llama @howlinginside
OH MY GOD, ARE YOU SEEING THIS @hockeybutts @hellsqueen @aleaiacta @tinydancer

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside i’m at work, what’s up

the drama llama @howlinginside

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside oh shit. oh my god. okay. okay, yeah, i definitely wanna. holy fuck.

small & deadly @tinydancer


Hockey Gals @HockeyGals
Breaking news: @KentParsonOfficial comes out:

The Las Vegas Aces @LasVegasAces
You go, @KentParsonOfficial. Nothing but huge respect for you. We’re so glad and so proud to have your back.

The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
Congratulations to @KentParsonOfficial on his courage to speak up about his experiences. #SlowlyGettingThereNHL

Hockey Gals @HockeyGals
Why it matters that @KentParsonOfficial is the second openly gay player in the NHL:

Bob Zimmermann @BobZimmermann
. @KentParsonOfficial we’re both incredibly proud of you, son.

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
. @KentParsonOfficial Jack and I are so happy for you! I feel like I should overnight you a pie.


we’re not lost, private, we’re in normandy (currahee) wrote in ontd_puck


so as you might have heard, unless you’re living in a social media wasteland, KENT PARSON CAME OUT EARLIER TODAY. IN A FUCKING TWEET.

holy fuck. i still can’t believe i’m really seeing this—not one, but two out NHL players, both on top of the fucking world.

also, does that mean that the rpf/tinhat part of the fandom was right all along? i’m gonna fucking lose it if that’s really the case, oh my god. but, most importantly, good for you, parse. find yourself a nice boy and stop fucking ruining my life with your ridiculous everything. just, like, chill the fuck out and let me live.

eta: i feel like this occasion calls for a new parse tag. sorry not sorry.

tags: aces can get it, he does what he wants, not the least bit homoerotic, skating and crying, stop the presses!!!!!, the elusive homoerotic tension, the softest of bros, u go kent parson, well well well what have we here


Reply from lachance
Hooooooly. That boy knows how to make an impression. But seriously, good for him. And let’s not kid ourselves—this is fucking huge. This is Kent Parson, just coming off his second Stanley Cup win and his fourth Art Ross in seven years (which is, frankly, ridiculous, if you ask me), so there’s no one who’s more on top of the game than him right now.


Reply from carthage
This is absolutely huge. And I’m so glad to see that he got to a place where he felt like he could say this out loud. I can only hope that this will encourage other players to come out, because right now two of the greatest powerhouses in the league are out and absolutely killing it on the ice at the same time. I mean, Parse just won his second Cup and his fourth Art Ross. Zimmermann just won the Calder, and he led his team all the way to the Conference finals. If this doesn’t get things going, I don’t know what will.

Reply from offblues
omg, i did not see that one coming. in retrospect, maybe i should have. but either way, omg. also, good for you, parse, good for you, and bless your little heart.

also, i second your motion, he really should find himself a nice boy and post all the ridiculously cute couple-y pics to his twitter/insta. i live for this shit, okay, the zimmermann & bittle selfies from their vacation are giving me life right now.

Reply from puckbunny
no, but seriously, i just wanna know one thing: were they really fucking in the juniors. pressing questions, okay.

Reply from allieandthecat
my money’s on yes. i mean, come on. idk if you actually remember this, but it was pretty ridic how close they’d been before jzimms overdosed. if the shoe fits…

Expand 74 comments

Reply from currahee
tbh at this point i’m just waiting for some fucking journo to straight up come up to parse and ask him if he and jzimms were fucking.

Reply from thegrandarcana
dude, that already happened, back when zimmermann was outed. some vulture asked parse if he’d been that close with zimmermann, and parse’s answer was a thing of beauty. i can’t find the vid anymore, so maybe it got taken down in the meantime, but basically parse asked the guy if he wanted to know if parse took it up the ass from jack zimmermann, and said that he had a quote for him, and then he essentially told the guy to go fuck himself and left.

Reply from currahee
bless that boy, honestly.

Expand 25 comments



I cannot fucking believe my rpf fandom is having canon ship wars right now. only you, hockey fandom. only you.

#lmao #this is fucking wild #just write whatever the fuck you want oh my god it’s not a hard concept #fic is not real life anyway


The Empire Wanks Back: Hockey
So Kent Parson came out yesterday, and the hockey RPF fandom is already having a bit of a wank, as you can imagine, since now both parts of one of fandom’s juggernauts are out and I think some people don’t really know how to handle a reality in which an RPF ship just became canon. (Well, there’s no official confirmation, but the consensus is that they were fucking in the juniors, and, honestly, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched, tbh, given recent revelations.)

We already had the “is it okay to write Zimmermann/Bittle, given that Bittle is a low-key youtube celebrity and an NCAA hockey player” wank, and the “it’s none of your fucking business” wank, and several other wanks, so now, I guess, it’s time for the Bittle/Zimmermann vs. Parson/Zimmermann ship war, because, apparently, there can be only one or some other bullshit.

Re: The Empire Wanks Back: Hockey
Lmao, this does not surprise me in the slightest. The hockey rpf fandom can be really great if you follow the right people, but boy, oh boy, are some parts of it wanky as hell.

Re: The Empire Wanks Back: Hockey
So just out of curiosity: which side does carthage fall on?

Re: The Empire Wanks Back: Hockey
The sensible side. She’s very non-wanky by default, but she basically said those revelations should have no bearing on the fandom, because we can’t have it both ways—we can’t say that it’s just a fictionalized account based on a fictionalized persona and scream “fuck you, my ship is more canon/less problematic than yours” at the same time, based on what the players choose to disclose or not to disclose to the public.

Re: The Empire Wanks Back: Hockey
Okay, but can we, like, talk about the fact that Kent Parson, the NHL’s top-scoring player and all-around superstar just came out? Because let me tell you, my bro plays hockey (nowhere near the NHL level, but he’s hoping to play in the AHL eventually), and I found him in tears over this yesterday. Turns out, my little bro thinks he might be into guys, and he was so scared to admit it, but he’s been idolizing Parse for years, and this (and the fact that Zimms has been out for a while, and he’s okay—more than okay, even) finally gave him the courage to admit it to himself and to me and my parents.

And I’m sure my bro is not the only case like that—there must be many, many players who want to come out but are still scared, and the fact that there are now two fucking amazing players in the league who are out and playing, and getting trophies, and sponsors, and so much support from their organizations, must mean so much to them.

Sorry, I’m just very emotional about all of this.

Re: The Empire Wanks Back: Hockey
Aw, but that’s so sweet, nonnie! All the best to your brother! :)

And yeah, I’m convinced that this—together with the fact that Zimmermann has been out for a while, and he’s doing so well for himself—is going to have a huge impact on the sports world as a whole, because we’ve had some star athletes come out recently, but not so many in team sports, where there’s the additional pressure of fitting in with one’s team and getting along with other players who might be less than thrilled about having a gay teammate in the locker room with them (I mean, prior to Zimmermann’s outing, NHL had been the only league in the Big Four without an openly gay player, and even then, the Michael Sam phenomenon, anyone?). So the fact that Parson decided to come out (as opposed to having the decision taken away from him, as was the case with Zimmermann) is just super important, imo.

Also, did any of you watch the NHL Awards ceremony? Parse was sitting with Zimmermann and his boyfriend, and I’m just so happy that they made up and they’re all friends again. I don’t even know why, it just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. And I was sooooo happy that Zimmermann won the Calder. Did you see Bad Bob’s face? He was so proud.

Re: The Empire Wanks Back: Hockey
YES! I watched the ceremony and almost cried when they presented him with the Calder, he looked so happy and genuinely touched. And he worked his ass off for this trophy—he deserved that win so, so much. And then he won the Lady Byng and the King Clancy. In his rookie year! That’s seriously amazing, I’m so, so proud of him. (I’m a long-time fan, okay, I followed him all the way through the Juniors and the NCAA, I know what I’m about. And he’s grown so much, it’s unreal.)

Re: The Empire Wanks Back: Hockey
Also, that moment when he leaned down to kiss his boyfriend after the Calder win was beyond cute. And the way he thanked him in his acceptance speeches! Honestly, they look so happy together, I could cry.


Jack makes the call as soon as he finds out.

“Are you okay?” he asks once Kent picks up after the second ring. In the kitchen, Bitty is making breakfast, and the scent of freshly-brewed coffee is filling the apartment.

Kent laughs, low and warm. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, Zimms,” he says. “But thanks for asking. Say hi to Bittle for me, by the way.”

Jack leans against the wall and closes his eyes. “Good,” he says. “Good. I will. Just…Kent, you know you can call me, right? If you need anything.”

There’s a moment of silence on the other end of the line, before Kent says, “Relax, I got it, okay? Thanks for offering, though, and, like, never say never, yeah? But I’m good. All squared away, seriously.”

Jack can hear Bitty humming in the kitchen, singing along in a quiet voice to some song Jack only vaguely recognize.

“See, that’s how I know you’re lying,” he says after a beat, and he can hear the sharp intake of breath on Kent’s end. “I’m not the only one who’s so fucking transparent, Kenny. So just talk to me, okay? We’re friends. That’s what friends are for.”

Kent is silent for a long time, and Jack is starting to get worried. It’s very unlike Kent to be this quiet—usually, he is the loudest person in the room, even when he says nothing, but now the silence feels heavy.

“I don’t know, man,” Kent says eventually. “Like, I’m so fucking relieved I came out, so fucking relieved I don’t have to lie about this anymore, but it’s…I don’t know. It’s a good thing I’m great at getting over people, I guess.”

It doesn’t sting like it would have some time ago, but it does give Jack pause, because last time they spoke about this, Parse had been vague in his answers, but Jack never actually suspected there was someone.

“Maybe you don’t have to,” he says. “Sometimes the worst thing you can do is assume. Been there, done that, and thank god Bitty had more guts than me.”

Kent laughs. “Yeah, thank god for that,” he says. “No, but really, Zimms, I’m gonna deal with this. Thanks, though, seriously.”

“You know you can—” Jack starts to say, but Kent cuts him off.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” he says. “And thanks. For, y’know, everything. And I won’t say anything about…about us, if you don’t want me to, you know that, right?”

Jack thinks about this for a moment—thinks about that summer, heavy with promise and dread, and about everything that came after, the good and the bad, the white of the hospital walls and the freckles on Bitty’s shoulders as he sleeps next to Jack, and how he used to feel terrified but he doesn’t feel so scared now, not anymore, not where it matters.

“I don’t mind,” he says. “If they ask you about this, or— I don’t mind.”

They say their goodbyes after that, and Jack comes into the kitchen just as Bitty finishes plating their omelets.

“Parse says hi,” Jack tells him, as he fills two mugs standing on the countertop with coffee and adds milk and sugar to Bitty’s, then takes both back to the breakfast table to set them down next to the cutlery.

“Lord, it must be awful early in Vegas, I just realized,” Bitty says as he serves their breakfast. “What was that boy even doing up at this hour?”

Jack smiles, looking down at the plate in front of him.

“It’s been eating at him for a long time,” Jack says. “I went to Samwell. He went to Vegas to play in the NHL. It’s hard to compare, I think, and it must’ve been really lonely for him. He was there, on top of the world, and there was no one there with him. Not really.”

Bitty nods solemnly. “Well, I’m glad he’s better now,” he says, then continues after a short pause, “There was a time when I hated him, you know? For how he left you after the EpiKegster. It took me a while to come around, but I’m glad I did. I know he’s been a huge part of you, a huge part of your life, and I…I’m happy with where we are right now.”

Jack understands the sentiment—it took him a long time to come to terms with everything that had transpired between him and Kent, and it was a slow, hard, exhausting process that took a lot from him and left him feeling hollow at times, but it’s one of those things Jack could never regret.

Next to him, Bitty is slowly sipping his coffee, stretched out comfortably in his chair, and maybe that’s the way it was supposed to be all along, Jack thinks, maybe he had to live through all these things to get here, to a place where he can be happy with someone the way he couldn’t be happy with Kent, even though he’d tried so hard to be.

(And the thing is, he did love Kent—that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that he couldn’t even live inside his own head back then, so how could he live inside of someone else’s heart.)

Jack reaches out his hand to Bitty and tangles their fingers together, and when he squeezes gently, Bitty squeezes back.

They’re leaving for Nova Scotia in two days, and ever since they came back from Georgia, Bitty has been slowly but surely making himself truly at home in Jack’s apartment in a way that doesn’t feel temporary anymore.

So there are clothes in the closet, and toiletries in the bathroom; there are books on the shelves, and several pairs of headphones in various bright colors left on the nightstand; there are socks mixed up in the laundry, and spare electronics chargers strewn around the apartment, and everything else that makes Bitty’s presence in this space real.

Jack posts the photos he takes to his Instagram—pictures of the various corners of his apartment, full of sunlight and Bitty, just to remind himself once summer turns to fall that it’s all just temporary, that they have to make it through one more year until they get to have this forever.

Not so long ago—not even a year back—that thought of forever would paralyze Jack in its enormity and finality, but now it’s just a reminder that it’s possible to live without giving up a part of yourself.

And he wants that for himself and for Bitty—but he wants that for Kent as well.


They’re on their way to the airport when Bitty’s phone pings with a new notification, and he scrolls down for a moment with a frown, then just shakes his head.

“Look,” he says then, and hands Jack the phone.

It turns out that Bitty has Deadspin pulled up on his screen, and there’s a picture of Kent sitting on a hospital bed with his left ankle in a splint.

“What the hell,” Jack says. Kent doesn’t look too worried, so it can’t be bad, but then again, he’s always been good at playing it cool even when the entire world was watching.

“Apparently he sprained his ankle playing basketball with some guys on the local team,” Bitty says, sounding half-concerned, half-amused. “The doctors say it’s not serious and he’s gonna be up and running in no time, but that boy has just the worst timing, I swear to god.”

Jack pulls out his own phone and quickly scrolls down to Kent’s number, presses the call button. Kent picks up after several rings.

“Hey, what’s up,” he says. His voice sounds a bit unfocused, like he’s slightly high on painkillers.

Jack knows that tone well—hockey is a brutal sport, and they used to live in each other’s pockets once upon a time, so Jack had been there when Kent pulled one of his Achilles tendons and spent an entire night with his jaw tight and his hands clenched around his sheets, trying not to cry, drugged up to the gills and still in pain.

“What the hell were you thinking,” Jack says into the phone. He’s not angry, not really. He’s worried. So maybe the doctors are saying it’s nothing, but it’s one of those things where you can never know for sure if it won’t make your ankle give out several months down the line, in the middle of the season.

“Aw, so you do care. How sweet.” Kent laughs into the receiver. “No, but seriously, though, I’m fine, Zimms, I swear.”

“Are you sure?” Jack asks, even though he knows he’s just going to have to take Kent’s word for it.

Kent laughs again, low and quiet. “Yeah, yeah, Olsen is here, babying me. I’m gonna live.”

“If you say so,” Jack tells him, but he laughs under his breath, too. “Bitty says hi, by the way.”

“Have fun in Nova Scotia,” Kent says in return just as the cab slowly rolls into the airport parking lot. “I’m gonna go take another pill and pass out on the couch if it’s all the same to you.”

“Take care of yourself, Kenny,” Jack says, pressing the phone between his cheek and his shoulder as he pays the driver and gets out of the cab.

At their terminal, which is busy and full of people, they get stuck in the check-in queue behind a group of ballerinas, who loudly discuss how much they hate their new instructor.

“Lord, sometimes I miss ballet so much,” Bitty sighs next to Jack, leaning gently on the handle of his suitcase.

“You did ballet?” Jack asks, surprised, but then again, maybe he shouldn’t be. It’s one of those amazing things about Bitty—no matter how well Jack thinks he knows him, there is always something that makes Jack look at him in a slightly different light.

“Yeah, when I was still figure skating,” Bitty says. “I took ballet for two years, same way many other skaters do. It helps a lot. I even looked up some classes when I first came to Samwell, but they were really expensive, and I had hockey to worry about, so—”

Jack knows Bitty doesn’t mean it to sound like a reproach. It’s just that Jack can’t help but feel deeply embarrassed whenever he thinks about the way he acted back then, when Bitty was new to the team and new to Samwell, and new to really being himself. It’s a reflexive reaction, brief but also burning with shame.

“If anything, though,” Bitty continues, interrupting Jack’s train of thought, “it made me so flexible. I’m guessing going back to it now would be torture. Amazing, but still torture.”

Once they’re done with the check-in, they go through security surprisingly fast, which leaves them plenty of time before their plane is scheduled to depart, and they sit in comfortable silence in the departures lounge, leaning against each other.

There’s anticipation buzzing in Jack’s veins, and then it’s like a sudden shot of adrenaline straight to the heart, because it’s been years since he last visited Nova Scotia—he went there for a few weeks with his mother just after he got out of rehab, when the house in Montreal felt too big and too small at the same time, full of memories Jack couldn’t just bury deep inside of himself along with everything else, full of fresh, half-healed wounds.

It was a strange time that Jack remembers only in blurred images, like looking at something through a thick fog—the memory of dawn when he couldn’t sleep at night and waited until sunrise with his knees pulled to his chest, breathing deeply and trying not to die; the way the water in the lake glimmered in the sun; his mother, gentle and smiling, and so, so sad.

He’s always liked the house—old and familiar, and comfortable, hidden from the rest of the world—even though it’s been a reminder of a time in Jack’s life when he was at his lowest, when he thought it would be impossible to go back into the world, when his skin felt like it was new and raw, and too vulnerable to show it in front of other people.

Now, though—now he feels like it’s time to go back, to confront that part of himself Jack had left at that house all those years ago. To make new memories, not to replace those of Jack fresh out of rehab and feeling too big for his own skin, but to see how far he’s come since then, how much happier he is, how much more himself.

It’s a strange thought, to think that it’s been only six years, when it almost feels like it happened more than a lifetime ago.


It’s raining when they touch down in Halifax.

Their rental car is waiting for them in the parking lot by the terminal exit, and Jack helps Bitty put their luggage in the trunk, then sits behind the wheel and straps in before turning the key in the ignition.

“So how far is your house?” Bitty asks as he fastens his own seatbelt, and Jack slowly starts to reverse out of their parking spot.

“Not very far,” Jack says, risking a quick glance to the side to smile at Bitty. “Half an hour, maybe, if there’s no traffic.”

Bitty makes a non-committal, distracted noise and keeps looking out the window at the streets drowning in rain, his chin propped up on his palm, nose pressed against the glass.

“It’s pretty out here,” he says after a short while. “But lord, is it cold.”

Jack laughs quietly under his breath. He can admit, after the Georgia heat and the warm, sunny weather in Providence, the sight of Nova Scotia drenched in rain may take some getting used to, but when he breathes in the air that smells like ozone and wet earth, it feels like home all over again. Like childhood. Like a different life that he almost thinks happened to someone else.

“It should get warmer soon,” he says with a smile, touching Bitty’s thigh briefly. “The lake is really pretty when the sun’s out.”

Bitty covers Jack’s hand with his own before he has a chance to pull it back and squeezes.

“Thanks for bringing me here,” he says, and Jack swallows thickly.

“I came here with my mom after I got out of rehab,” he admits after a beat. Bitty remains silent, but when Jack glances to the side, he can see that he’s observing Jack with an open expression on his face, waiting, letting Jack speak. “I just…I couldn’t go back to Montreal after everything that happened, not at first, so mom packed our bags and we came here for a few weeks. It was…I think it was good for me, the way it happened. I could get back into the world at my own pace, not just all at once. I don’t know if I could’ve handled that, back then.”

He takes a few deep breaths, then continues, “I couldn’t sleep through the night for a long time after I got out, and sometimes I’d just sit on the porch until morning, looking at the stillness of everything. It’s incredible how still the world can be when there’s no one else looking at it. That helped, too. The calm, the quiet. Mom always loved it here, but after we’d returned to Montreal, she didn’t come back for a long time. I think it reminded her of…everything. I haven’t been back since then.”

He can see the moment Bitty’s face changes, and Bitty says, “Oh, Jack,” but there’s no pity in his voice, just quiet acknowledgment of what Jack has been through to get to this place where he can admit all of that out loud.


The house is haunted by memories.

Jack can hear the echoes and he sees the ghosts of his past in every corner. It’s harder than he expected.

“How is everything so clean?” Bitty asks, wandering around the living room area, a little wide-eyed. “I expected to be dusting first thing after we’ve arrived. And summer house, my ass. It’s still bigger and more fancy than my family house, I swear to god.”

Jack laughs softly. “We pay a local family to look after it,” he explains. “I called ahead and told them we’d be coming. There should be some food in the fridge, too, but we can go shopping later if you want. There’s an oven.”

Bitty smiles up at him, and Jack touches the side of his neck, then pulls him in for a kiss. They stay like this for a while, breathing each other in, the sweet smell of Bitty filling Jack’s lungs instead of dust.

“Hey, you okay?” Bitty asks, putting a bit of space between them to look at Jack.

“It’s strange,” Jack admits, “being back. Like I suddenly went back six years but never moved at all at the same time.”

He’s so, so glad to have Bitty here with him. He always makes it easier to breathe.

“I know what you mean,” Bitty says, and wraps his arms around Jack. “When we went back to Georgia, it felt a little like that for me. Like I could see little Dicky if I just turned the right corner.”

Jack nods, his throat tight.

By the time they finish unpacking, the rain has already stopped, and Jack leads Bitty out through the back door and down to the lake. The water is grey and murky, but there is sun peeking out above the tree line in the distance, and the sky slowly starts to turn purple and red.

“Wow,” Bitty says, breathless.

Jack smiles, looking down at his shoes. “Yeah.”

They walk slowly along the shore, holding hands, and Jack takes deep, measured breaths, lets the stillness of the place wash over him until the strange sort of almost wistful anxiety releases the vice-tight grip around his ribs, lost in the sound of Bitty’s voice and the low hum of waves licking at the rocky beach.

By the time they go back to the house, it’s almost dark outside.

The night is unusually cold for this time of year, even Jack has to admit that, and the house hasn’t been lived in for some time, so by the time Bitty starts dinner preparations, Jack already has the fire going in the huge fireplace in the living room.

“It should get warmer soon,” he says, coming into the kitchen. “The heating is on, too, but I thought it would be nice to, you know…”

Bitty turns to him with a wide smile. “Aw, how romantic of you, Mister Zimmermann,” he says, laughing, and it does something to Jack, the sight of Bitty here, in this space which holds so many memories for Jack; the sound of his voice, bright and clear, and happy.

Jack shrugs, smiling back at Bitty. “So maybe I am,” he says, and he takes a step closer. Bitty puts down the spoon. “What of it?”

Bitty’s smile gets even wider, and it goes all the way up to his eyes. “You’re just trying to charm your way into my pants,” he says, feigning admonishment. “And we ain’t even had dinner yet. Now is that the proper way to treat a boy?”

Jack does his best to keep a straight face. “I don’t know,” he says, mock-serious. “Maybe you could show me.”

Jack can see the way Bitty tries to smother a laugh but fails. “Oh my god, Jack, that was so bad,” he laughs, falling into Jack’s arms and tucking his face into the crook of Jack’s neck. “And I’m gonna show you, all right, but first you gotta help me with dinner. C’mon, there are tomatoes waiting to be chopped, and they don’t care you’re a rich and famous hockey player.”

They eat steamed mussels with tomato sauce for dinner, and there’s white wine in the fridge, so they open a bottle and move to the sofa with their glasses once they’re done eating, dirty dishes forgotten for a moment as they curl around each other in comfortable silence, warm, and happy, and content.

After a while, Jack turns his head to the side to kiss the delicate spot just behind Bitty’s ear, then down the column of his neck, and he can hear the soft sigh as Bitty leans into the touch, grasping for Jack’s hand just before he hoists himself up to straddle Jack.

“Hi,” he says, smiling, his face just inches away from Jack’s.

“Hi,” Jack says back, leaning forward to drop another kiss to the underside of Bitty’s jaw while his hands sneak under the hem of his Bitty’s shirt, brushes against the muscles of his abdomen. He can feel Bitty shiver under the touch.

When Bitty makes another soft sound at the back of his throat, Jack withdraws his hand and smiles a little when Bitty protests faintly.

“Oh my god, you’re such a tease, Jack Zimmermann,” he says and grinds down a little. Jack bites his lip to keep himself from making sound.

“Takes one to know one,” he says and watches Bitty make a faux-innocent face.

“You know I would never,” he says, then grinds down again, just this side of not enough to make Jack half-hard and desperate for more.

Jack puts his hands on Bitty’s hips and holds him down for a moment, his own hips jerking up a little to get more friction, and Bitty makes a strangled noise against Jack’s lips.

“What do you want?” Jack asks, his hands wandering up Bitty’s back, fingernails scratching lightly against his skin, not enough to leave marks but hard enough to have Bitty squirming against Jack as his breath gets more rapid.

“This is good,” Bitty says, and he catches the hem of his shirt to pull it up and off, leaving him half-naked in Jack’s lap, his hair mussed slightly. “This is really good,” he repeats, then kisses Jack.

A moment later, Bitty’s fingers find the waistband of Jack’s pants, and he undoes the buttons on Jack’s jeans with quick, practiced moves, then slides his hand inside, touching Jack through the fabric of his underwear.

It’s soft and slow, and tender, but there’s a sense of thrill and urgency beneath all that, and sometimes Jack thinks that he could never get tired of seeing Bitty like this, flushed with arousal and melting under Jack’s touch.

It’s so, so easy to touch Bitty, to melt into him in return, until they’re reduced to the spaces between their inhales and exhales, tangled around each other and close enough to feel each other’s heartbeats.

It’s never been this easy for Jack to touch anyone else.

Jack leaves a trail of sloppy kisses down the line of Bitty’s sternum while his hand reaches for the zipper in his jeans to slowly pull it down; then he brushes the flat of his palm against Bitty’s dick, earning him a strangled moan and a sharp intake of breath.

“God, you’re so—” Jack trails off, touching his forehead to the hard line of Bitty’s clavicle as he watches the muscles in Bitty’s abdomen contract and spasm a little while Jack strokes him slowly, unhurriedly, like he’s trying to make it last.

“Wait, wait,” Bitty says, then moves to stand up, and Jack misses the loss of contact like a physical thing, “I’m just gonna…”

He quickly removes his jeans, and Jack lifts his hips to do the same, then takes his shirt off as well, throwing it to the side in a messy heap.

As soon as Bitty climbs back into Jack’s lap to straddle him, Jack wraps his hand around both of them and sets a slow, torturous rhythm that has Bitty moaning into Jack’s mouth softly. When they break apart and Jack looks up at Bitty’s face, his eyes are still closed, his lips parted, red and shiny with spit, and Jack leans back in, his other hand cradling the back of Bitty’s head, gently pushing him down to meet Jack’s mouth.

“Want me to—” Bitty says quietly against Jack’s lips after a moment, darting his tongue out while he looks down to where Jack’s hand is still stroking both of them at a steady rhythm, and Jack swallows, shakes his head.

“No, no,” he whispers, breathless, “this is good. Just…”

When he comes, it surprises them both, and it’s sudden and intense, a heady, toe-curling experience that sends a shiver down Jack’s spine as he spills over his own hand.

“Oh my god,” Bitty says in a breathy voice, and Jack knows he’s close, too, so he shifts on the couch until Bitty’s back gently hits the brown leather and Jack leans over him on his elbows, still boneless but determined to make it good for Bitty, too.

The moment his lips close around Bitty’s dick, his hips stutter upwards, and, frantically, he whispers, “Sorry, sorry,” when he can feel Jack ease off and take a deep breath to avoid choking. Bitty has one hand tangled in Jack’s hair, not pushing, just gently holding Jack in place, his fingers scratching against Jack’s scalp lightly, and if Jack hadn’t just come, he’d be done right then and there.

Bitty finally comes a moment later, with Jack’s lips still wrapped firmly around him, digging his curled toes into the small of Jack’s back and arching lightly off the couch, the fingers in Jack’s hair closing into a loose fist.

Bitty kisses Jack as soon as he pushes himself back up on his knees, licking into Jack’s mouth to taste himself on Jack’s tongue, sloppy, and wet, and hot.

God,” Bitty says, falling back onto the couch with his arm slung across his face. “My legs feel like jello.”

Jack laughs with his face pressed against the inside of Bitty’s thigh. “Well, I’m definitely not carrying you up the stairs.”

Bitty prods Jack in the meat of his thigh with his big toe. “Ugh, rude,” he says. “It’s all your fault anyway.”

Jack pretends to consider it.

“Well, in that case…” he says in a serious tone.

When Bitty kisses him this time, they’re both laughing.


jordan @hockeybutts
@ god thank you it’s not you know who again this year. nice to see a different team with the #1 draft pick for a change

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hockeybutts lmao remember the look of utter relief on simmons’s face when they announced the lottery results back in spring?

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hockeybutts boy, did that guy dodge a bullet right there. but where will ian davies go though

jordan @hockeybutts
@howlinginside think he’s gonna be drafted in the first round after all?

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hockeybutts they’d be fucking stupid not to, tbh. the question is just WHO.


carthage (carthage) wrote in hockey_news

Parson’s contract extended until 2020, Simmons goes first in the draft, the Falconers draft Ian Davies

So there we have it: all that fear-mongering has been for nothing, because the Aces have extended Kent Parson’s contract until 2020, with a significant bump to his salary, as inside sources report. Remember this? Looks like it was all made up, from start to finish. And, judging by the overall quality of reporting on that site, I’m not particularly surprised.

Anyway, this was to be expected—it would be a supremely idiotic move on the Aces’ part if they were to let Parson go after the season he’s had and his second Cup win.

Also to no one’s surprise, Adam Simmons went first overall in the 2016 draft and he’ll be playing for the Houston Aeros come next season.

We knew that, though. What we didn’t know was what would happen to another of hockey’s rising stars, Ian Davies.

Just to recap: Davies had a lousy season this year, which bumped him down a lot in the draft pick order (otherwise I think he’d be going third or even second), but he’s been hailed as the next coming of Kent Parson (until his last season, that is, where it seemed like he completely lost himself). There are, of course, many parallels—they’re both relatively small and very fast on the ice, so they’re not enforcers by any means. They both played in Rimouski in the juniors and tore through the team’s stats. They both play mainly on the right wing and they’re known for their mean slapshot. So those comparisons are inevitable.

So everybody knew Davies had lots of talent and lots of potential. Literally no one knows what the hell happened to him this last season. He was all set to go in the top five overall in the draft for sure, and he had a very good home opener, and then—well, then no one really knows what happened. He had a terrible season and admitted on numerous occasions that he didn’t expect to be drafted in the first round. As it turns out, though, he has been drafted by the Providence Falconers as their #1 pick. Personally, I think it’s a smart decision, because the Falconers are definitely after strengthening their offense, and Davies has shown himself to be a great forward, despite the lackluster last season. I think, though, that if anything, being on a team like the Falconers is really going to help him find his footing again.

So: thoughts? Opinions? Do you think the Falconers made a smart move in drafting Davies in the first round? How do you think Simmons is going to do on the Aeros? How many Cups is Parse gonna win with the Aces before he gets traded or retires?

tags: event: 2016 nhl draft, player: adam simmons, player: ian davies, player: kent parson


Reply from lachance
God, that Davies situation was so fucking awkward and so weird. Thank god he went in the first round after all. He seems like a really nice kid, and he was all set to go second or third, and then this clusterfuck of a season happened, so it would just fucking crush him to not go in the first round, on top of all that.

Reply from carthage
Yeah, it was just so weird. He started missing shots left and right, started flubbing passes, and he tried and tried, and still nothing went in. It was, in all honesty, painful to watch. His team won the Memorial Cup in the end, but he didn’t really contribute much, and his stats were abysmal for the most part. My heart was breaking for him, so I’m definitely happy he was a first-round pick after all that.

Reply from lachance
Also, I’m really glad he went to a team that’s not really into fucking up their rookies for life.

Reply from offblues
agreed. idk, i don’t want to play the armchair psychologist or anything, but whatever the fuck was happening with davies was definitely mental and not physical, and we know the falconers are all about keeping their players healthy, mentally and physically, and all that jazz, especially with how outspoken jzimms has been about this lately. i’m keeping my fingers crossed for that boy, because he fucking deserves better.


Jack gets an early call the morning of the draft. He fumbles for the buzzing phone and gets up quietly not to wake Bitty, who only makes a soft noise and snuggles more deeply into Jack’s pillow.

“Yeah?” he says once he’s out in the hallway, leaning against the wall, his voice rough from sleep.

“Hey, Zimms.” It’s Holtz, and for a moment Jack thinks that something bad must have happened for him to be calling this early.

“Hey,” he says, throat tight. “Is everything okay? Did something happen?”

Holtzy laughs quietly into the phone, and the knot inside Jack’s stomach slowly dissolves.

“No, no, chill, everything’s fine,” he says. “I just wanted to call ahead to let you know you’re getting the C this year. We voted on that and everything. It’s official, man. Congrats.”

Jack swallows slowly, his hand tightly gripping his phone.

“But you said—” he starts to protest, but Holtzy cuts him off. “You’re the captain.”

“Not anymore,” Holtzy says, and he sounds happy, for whatever reason. “Look, Zimms, I fucking loved being captain, okay? But I really wanted to pass that title on to someone else, and after the season you had? You bet your fucking ass the boys all want you to get the C. Hell, I was the one who suggested it. Seriously, we want you to have it, okay? Yeah, we fucking rallied in the playoffs, and we gave it our all, but you took us there, you feel me?”

“Yeah, I— Yeah.” Jack swallows again and chews on his lip, his heart in his throat, because this is huge. He has no idea what he did to deserve it, or why, exactly, Holtz is doing this. He’s still not sure he really deserves it. He knows it shouldn’t be like this, that this is just not done. Almost unheard of. “I— Thank you. I’m— Just…thank you.”

“So does that mean I can tell the boys you said yes?” Holtzy asks.

Jack lets out a breathy laugh and inhales deeply. “Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, you can tell them I said yes. I…I’m gonna call them all later, but just tell them thank you, okay? This…this means a lot to me.”

“Yeah, no problem,” Holtzy says in return. “I got your back. Captain.”

Jack can hear the smile in his voice.

He goes outside once Holtzy hangs up and sits on the front porch, letting the slightly chilly air and the stillness of the morning wash over him, his knees pulled up to his chest, his eyes closed. And it’s such a déjà vu, such an echo of a picture from the past, but this time, he’s not reassembling himself from broken pieces that don’t seem to fit together.

He takes a deep breath, and another, then calls his father.

“Jack?” he says when he picks up after the third ring, sounding vaguely alarmed, and then Jack remembers it’s still early. “Everything okay?”

Jack swallows. “Dad, I’m getting the C this year,” he says, his throat tight all over again. “Holtz just told me.”

His dad is quiet for a moment, then says, “Oh my god, Jack, I’m so proud. I need to tell your mother immediately. Have they announced it yet? Can I tweet it?”

Jack laughs softly, his chest full of air and light. “You’re just like Bitty, papa,” he says. “I don’t think they made the announcement yet, though. They’ll probably tweet about it from the team account or something.”

On the other end of the line, his father makes a non-committal noise.

“You got in okay yesterday?” he asks after a moment. “Is the house still standing?”

“Yeah, it’s all good,” Jack says, then contemplates his next words for a short while. “It’s good to be back.”

He knows his father will recognize the significance of this—how Jack is better now, how he has finally put all that past him while still letting it be a part of him.

“You heard about Kent?” he asks then. His parents have always loved Parse—sometimes, when he was at his lowest, Jack managed to convince himself they loved him more than Jack, but now he knows that was never true—and they kept in touch even when Jack hadn’t.

“We did,” his dad says. “And we’re really happy for him. It must’ve been hard for him, too, being on his own out there with a secret like that.”

“Yeah,” Jack says, looking straight ahead at the line of trees growing by the side of the path leading to the lake which glimmers faintly in the distance. “Yeah, it was. And I’m happy for him, too. It’s— It’s nice.”

There’s a moment of silence, but it’s not uncomfortable.

“Jack, can I just say something?” his dad asks eventually. “I know you’ve had your differences in the past, Kent and you, and that it hasn’t always been easy between the two of you, but I’m really glad you made up.”

Jack thinks about it—thinks about all those years he spent not talking to Kent, thinks about the things they both said and did to each other, and how maybe they needed that time apart to be able to come to that place where they could be friends again, without the baggage of teenage lust and first loves.

“Yeah,” he says. “Yeah, me too.”


The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
We are proud to announce #JackZimmermann will lead @TheProvidenceFalconers as captain starting next season!

Bob Zimmermann @BobZimmermann
RT: “We are proud to announce #JackZimmermann will lead @TheProvidenceFalconers as captain starting next season!” We couldn’t be more proud.

Kent Parson @KentParsonOfficial
Huge congrats to my bro #JackZimmermann for making captain! See u on the ice soon! #TheProvidenceFalconers

Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
OMG, Y’ALL. I ALMOST CRIED. Congrats to the best captain ever, #JackZimmermann ♥ ♥ ♥


Eric Bittle @omgcheckplease
Things Jack could’ve mentioned before I went outside just in my pajamas: THE FACT THAT SIDNEY CROSBY ACTUALLY LIVES NEXT DOOR


They watch the draft in the living room, curled together on the couch in front of the tv.

Adam Simmons goes first overall, to no one’s surprise, and Jack keeps texting back and forth with Kent, who’s still mostly confined to his apartment and slightly high on painkillers.

Jack watched the recording of the draft—the one he’d missed, lying unconscious in a sterile hospital room—as soon as he got out of rehab, in the middle of the night, with the sound turned almost all the way down to avoid waking his parents, his heart in his throat, the waves of nausea coming and going as he stared at Kent, skin pale and clammy under the harsh lights. He looked like he hadn’t slept in a week.

To someone else, someone who didn’t know him so well, it might have seemed like he was completely fine, and that was what a lot of the coverage of the draft focused on—how Parson kept it together despite the fact that Jack Zimmermann tried to off himself just the night before, how he was calm and collected as he answered questions from the reporters, how he never lost his cool.

To Jack, he looked like a wreck.

The worst thing, though—the worst thing was that Jack couldn’t even feel anything about that fact, back then.

I’m sorry I wasn’t there with you, he sends to Kent in a moment of overwhelming guilt.

It must show on his face, because Bitty turns to him, concerned.

“Hey, you okay?” he asks softly, touching the palm of his hand to Jack’s face, and Jack nods.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m okay,” he says. “Just…memories.”

Oh,” Bitty says.

“No, no, it’s fine,” Jack protests. “I just needed a moment. It’s…you know. Strange, in a way, watching this.”

The Falconers draft Ian Davies in the first round, and he looks half-terrified, half-relieved when he pulls the jersey on over his head. All the usual platitudes tumble out of his mouth, and all the while Jack is left wondering if that would have been him, just a few years back, shaking on the inside and trying not to let it show while his mind waged war with his body.

It’s almost eerie, how much of himself Jack sees in this boy, young and wide-eyed, and scared out of his mind, with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Jack knows what it’s like—to have the entire world watching, waiting to see you fail.

“I’ll be right back,” he says to Bitty, pressing a quick kiss to his temple, then heads out of the living room and into the hallway.

Once the sound of the tv fades out in the distance a little bit, Jack pulls out his phone and scrolls down to find George in his contacts.

She doesn’t answer at first, but then, when he tries again, she picks up after the third ring.

“Jack,” she says, and he can hear the smile in her voice, even though she sounds slightly out of breath, too. “I don’t think I’ve congratulated you yet, so congrats on making captain. What can I do for you?”

“Sorry to bother you on draft night,” Jack says, “but could you get me Ian Davies’ number? I want to congratulate him, too. You know, as the new captain.”

It’s more than that, and they both know it—Jack, because he’s done lying to himself, and George, because she knows him so well. Too well, sometimes.

“Sure,” George says in return. “I’ll text you the number in a sec, okay? Take care, Jack, and see you soon. And Jack? Thanks for doing this.”

Jack waits for a short while until he can hear the quiet sound of an incoming message, and he swipes the screen of his phone, then adds the number to his contacts, presses the call button.

The line is busy the first two times he tries, and he should’ve expected it—Davies has just been drafted, and he must have a lot of people who want to talk to him right now—but when he tries for the third time, the call finally goes through and Davies picks up after a few signals.

“Hello?” Davies’ voice on the other end of the line sounds muffled and uncertain; there is a lot of background noise.

“Hi, it’s Jack Zimmermann,” Jack says, and he hopes he doesn’t sound too awkward. “From the Falconers? I just wanted to congratulate you on the draft, George gave me your number. Congratulations, first round is quite an achievement.”

“Oh my god, hi. Hello,” Davies says, and his voice gets breathless. “It’s, uh, it’s so nice to hear from you, I mean. Wow. Congrats on making captain, by the way. I’ve seen the news. And thank you! I’ve been— It’s been…crazy over here. So, really, thank you. I, uh— It means a lot.”

Jack is hit again with the realization that it could have been him, once upon a time, stammering out awkward thank yous over the phone to someone he had never met but who would have been his captain come September, torn between the desire to cry with relief and hide from the world so that they can never see him fail.

“The Falconers are a good team,” Jack says with emphasis, not entirely sure how to get his point across without sounding presumptuous. He’s seen the signs, though, and he knows the look that accompanied Davies throughout his last season in the juniors, recognizes it all too well for his liking, the fear of failure in his eyes whenever he steps onto the ice. “They take good care of their players, and the guys on the team are really great, too. We’re really happy to have you.”

Jack can hear the moment Davies’ breathing changes, and he knows he’s trying not to cry. It’s another thing Jack is good at recognizing even though he’d rather not be.

“Thank you, really, I—” Davies says, then pauses mid-sentence, takes a deep breath to steady himself.

“I know it can be overwhelming,” Jack says, then quietly laughs under his breath. “Believe me, of all the people, I really know how overwhelming it can be. But it’s gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay. And we can’t wait to see you in Providence. And, if you ever need anything, you have my number. Don’t hesitate to call.”

There’s a moment of silence, then Davies says, “Yeah, yeah, I will. Thanks. You know, for everything.”

Jack stays in the hallway for a moment after they disconnect, leaning against the wall with the phone in his hand, trying to get his heart under control while it’s beating frantically against his ribs like he’s just run five miles.

He knows he’s good at this—being captain. He was a good captain back in the Q, despite everything, and he was a good captain back at Samwell, except that horrible, horrible period after Bitty joined the team and Jack failed him miserably in all the possible ways. He learned how to be better, though, and it was a long, hard process to get back to that place again, but Jack has never been scared of hard work.

After a while, he heads back to the living room and wraps his arms around Bitty, presses another kiss to the top of his head.

“Better now?” Bitty asks, turning his face up to look at Jack.

“Yeah,” Jack says, and he means it. “I’m good.”


The Providence Falconers @TheProvidenceFalconers
Welcome to the family, @IanDaviesNHL! We look forward to seeing you in Providence! #NHLDraft2016


The rain doesn’t let up for the next two days, and they spend Canada Day at the house—Jack’s parents fly in from Montreal for the day, and Eric finds himself in the kitchen for most of the morning and part of the afternoon, baking.

Jack’s mom joins him almost as soon as they arrive, a glass of wine in her hand, while Jack and his dad stay in the living room, discussing the results of the draft.

“So how do you like the house?” she asks, sitting in the breakfast nook and twirling the stem of the glass between her fingers, the wine sloshing against the rim. “It’s one of my favorite places in the entire world.”

Eric smiles from above his raspberry chiffon pie.

“It’s so nice here,” he says. “So quiet. I mean, I lived in rural Georgia most of my life, but it was nowhere near this peaceful. Jack told me you came here with him, after—”

Alicia smiles a sad, wistful smile.

“It was really good for him,” she says. Eric thinks it’s very telling she doesn’t say anything about herself.

Before he can respond, Jack comes into the kitchen and presses a brief kiss to the side of Eric’s head, then reaches into the fridge for a bottle of water.

“Are you talking about me behind my back, maman?” he asks, leaning against the countertop to unscrew the cap.

“Only a little,” she says, and Jack laughs quietly, presses against Eric’s side, warm and solid. “And only good things, I promise. I’m saving your baby pictures for later.”

Jack shakes his head, but Eric can see the flush creeping up his cheeks. He knows Jack used to be incredibly self-conscious about the way he looked as a child, and he also knows it’s one of those things that never really go away, no matter how kind puberty is to you, no matter how many people look over their shoulder when you walk down the street.

“No, no, I’m just joking, baby,” Alicia says, and she must see the same thing in Jack’s face that Eric sees when he looks at him. It’s flattering, in a sense, that he can read Jack almost as well as his own mother can. “I know you don’t like people to see those.”

“I think you were real cute as a baby, don’t listen to what anyone says,” Eric says and climbs onto his tiptoes to kiss Jack on the cheek.

Jack laughs.

They go to dinner at a nice restaurant just outside of Halifax, where the waiters are on a first-name basis with both of Jack’s parents, and they eat delicious seafood until they all feel full to bursting, and then, once the rain stops for a little while, they take a long walk along the waterfront. Alicia and Bob walk in front of them, holding hands, and Jack presses closer to Eric, tangles his fingers together and whispers, “I love you,” into his ear.

“Come on, boys,” Bob says after a while, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk. A boat slowly passes behind them in the distance. “Let’s take a picture.”

Eric pulls out his phone and they take a picture, all four of them in the frame, smiling, their hair swept by the strong, salty wind coming from the sea. They look happy. They look like a family.


Jack’s parents fly back to Montreal late in the evening.

It’s still raining every now and then, but it’s not too cold, so they spend the rest of the day on the porch, wrapped in blankets, sharing a bottle of apple cider between them and chirping Ransom, who keeps posting his increasingly more drunk and indecent pictures with Holster to the group chat.

Jack is quiet beside him, but it’s a good, comfortable quiet. He looks like he’s made peace with this place that saw him at his lowest, trying to put the broken pieces of his life back together, but Eric thinks that was a sign of strength, not of weakness.

“My trainer thinks I should try yoga or pilates in the off-season,” Jack says after a while, his head in Eric’s lap, his eyes half-closed. “I looked at one of the studios he recommended, and they have dance instructors as well. You know, ballet.”

Eric’s heart skips a beat, but he just shakes his head.

“I can’t afford it anyway,” he says. “But thanks for telling me.”

Jack opens his eyes and sits up, and Eric knows where this is going before Jack so much as opens his mouth.

“You know that’s not a problem,” he says, and Eric sighs. “It’s not like we can’t afford it.”

“You can’t pay for everything, Jack,” he says, cupping Jack’s cheek with his hand. “I love you, and I know you just want to make me happy, but you understand why I can’t, right?”

Eric knows if he let him, Jack would probably try to pay off his student loans.

“I know,” Jack says. “I do want to make you happy, though. What if we pay for it together? You’ll pay as much as you can, and I’ll cover the rest.”

Eric kisses the corner of his mouth and smiles up at Jack, who looks at him in anticipation.

“I’ll think about it, okay? But thank you,” he says, and kisses Jack again. “I really love that you’d do that for me.”

They stay out for a while longer, until it gets so late they start to slowly drift off. Inside, Jack presses Eric against the door and kisses him breathless.

“What was that for?” he asks, laughing, once they break apart.

Jack shrugs, “Just…you.”


The morning of the Fourth of July comes sunny and warm, and Eric wakes up early, when the patch of sunlight reaches his face where he’s lying in bed next to Jack.

It feels weird, spending the Fourth of July in Canada, but it feels fitting, too, to be spending it with Jack.

It’s funny, how much can change in just a year, how this time last year Eric was so in love and so, so miserable at the same time, watching the fireworks but watching the profile of Jack’s face even more, desperately wishing to be kissed and knowing he couldn’t have this, ever.

Now he’s waking up with Jack at his side, naked under the sheets and peaceful in his sleep, like he trusts Eric with this intimate moment. It’s still the most amazing thing—knowing that Jack allows himself to be vulnerable around Eric, that he trusts him with the soft parts of himself that he rarely shows to the outside world.

Jack wakes up after some time, slowly, unhurriedly, like he has all the time in the world.

“Hey,” he says, opening his eyes and stretching leisurely, and Eric leans down to kiss the corner of his mouth.

“Hey yourself,” he says with his lips hovering over Jack’s.

They have slow, sweet morning sex, tangled in each other beneath the sheets, and Eric’s heart feels full to bursting with love and gratitude.

“I wanted to kiss you so much last year when we were on that hill, watching fireworks,” he confesses with his face tucked into the crook of Jack’s neck.

“If you had, I would’ve kissed you back,” Jack says, his voice rough from sleep and from where he’s just blown Eric until he almost cried. “I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself.”

Eric presses his lips to Jack’s collarbone. “God, I wanted you so much, and I thought I could never have you.”

“For a long time I thought I should’ve just done that, you know. Kissed you,” Jack admits. “But then Lardo said something about how it was good I waited until I was sure I could handle it, and…she was right, I guess. So I’m sorry I didn’t kiss you last year, but maybe it’s better that I didn’t. Maybe we wouldn’t be here if I had.”

It’s an almost impossible thought, because even though Eric doesn’t believe in fate, it always seemed like the two of them were going towards…something, a place where they could finally meet for good, even if they took different routes to get there. But maybe Jack is right, too, and maybe it happened this way for a reason.

The day is bright and warm when they finally leave the bed to eat breakfast on the patio, with coffee brewed in a little French press, and crêpes, and fresh fruit, and buttery croissants, flaky and delicious.

Jack drives them into the city in their rental car, and he shows Eric around, leads them down narrow streets to places of his childhood, and then they eat the most amazing lunch at a restaurant overlooking the waterfront, sitting in the little open garden while the rest of the world passes them by.

Around three, they both start getting drunk texts from Shitty, followed by a series of increasingly indecent pictures, captioned REVENGE, MOTHERFUCKERS. Lardo appears in some of the pictures, looking progressively more and more amused at Shitty’s antics, until finally they send a photo of the two of them kissing, with Lardo straddling Shitty’s hips, captioned with lots of kissy faces and a line which reads, for r&h.

Ransom and Holster send their own photo a few minutes later, with the caption, challenge accepted!. Neither of them is wearing a shirt.

Eric laughs, tucking his head into Jack’s chest.

“Shall we escalate?” he asks, still giggling.

“Let’s not encourage them,” Jack says, and he’s laughing, too. “I’ve seen enough of them naked to last me a lifetime.”

In the evening, they go back to the house, and they stay outside, chasing the last of the summer warmth. This year, there are no fireworks, but the two of them are lying next to each other in the grass, looking up at the stars, and when Jack leans over Eric to kiss him, it’s almost the same thing.


They leave for Providence on Wednesday.

Jack still remembers the last time he had left this house behind to go back to Montreal and try his hand at being a person again, how he thought he could never come here again. How he thought he would fall apart into tiny pieces all over again, too fragile to touch and be touched.

This time, when he locks the front door behind them, Bitty is right beside him, and he reaches out to hold Jack’s hand in his, warm and solid.

This time, when he takes one last look at the house, back over his shoulder, Jack doesn’t feel fragile anymore.

Chapter Text

Holster signs with the Eagles a week after Jack and Bitty fly back from Nova Scotia.

He meets with the GMs in the morning, and after all the paperwork is signed and submitted, Jack takes Holster out to lunch, Bitty and Cory tagging along. They go to a nice bistro by the river, recommended to them by Dani, and they sit at a table outside, shaded from the July sun by the wide awning.

“Dude, it’s so nice to meet you,” Cory says when he arrives ten minutes late, shaking Holster’s hand. “I’m Cory.”

“Holster. Okay, Adam, technically, but I mostly go by Holster among the hockey folk,” Holster says in return, leaning back in his chair. “So, y’know. Either one is totally cool, bro.”

“You must be really stoked to be still playing after college, right?” Cory takes a seat and starts flipping through the menu, then looks up at Holster again. “Word on the street is you used to be one of the best D-men in the ECAC, dude, that’s fucking awesome.”

“Holster and Ransom were the best,” Bitty says from where he’s sitting next to Jack, running a hand up and down Jack’s forearm absentmindedly, warm fingers ghosting lightly against Jack’s skin. “We’re gonna miss them so much on the team next year, you have no idea. But I’m real glad Holster is here to have Jack’s back again.”

Holster laughs. “Hold your horses, Bits, I might not get called up at all,” he says, but it doesn’t seem like he has a problem with this. Jack knows Holster just loves to play hockey, and he’s happy to play hockey wherever they want him—he’s always had a lot of drive and ambition, but it’s never been the single-minded obsession that characterized Jack’s relationship with hockey for the longest time.

Bitty just rolls his eyes. “Please, of course they’re gonna call you up. They’d be stupid not to.”

Jack smiles, looking at Bitty out of the corner of his eye—Bitty, who looks golden and sun-kissed in the bright light of the day, dressed in little shorts and a tank top, his hair freshly cut, a smattering of freckles across his face and shoulders. Jack gets to look at them every morning, gets to nudge the biggest freckle, settled in the curve of Bitty’s collarbone, with the tip of his nose and press his lips against the spot, and yet he still wants to kiss Bitty all over whenever he looks at him.

He wonders if this feeling is ever going to pass.

And maybe it won’t, maybe it’s one of these feelings that stay with you forever. Maybe that’s how he knows he chose the right person to spend the rest of his life with.

(And that thought should scare him—would scare him, once upon a time. But not anymore.)

“How did your parents take the news, by the way?” Jack asks, and Holster laughs.

“Which, that I’m dating Ransom or that I’m signing with an AHL team?” he asks, and there it is, Jack guesses—they finally made it official. “No, but in all seriousness—dude, my mom cried, okay. She didn’t cry at my graduation. It was surreal. My sisters just asked if I could hook them up with some hot hockey players.”

Beside Jack, Bitty laughs, then nudges Jack in the side with his elbow. “Tell them all the cute ones are already taken,” he says.

“Look, I know what the inside of a hockey locker room looks like, okay,” Holster says, stretching his legs under the table as far as the limited space will allow him. “I’m not hooking any of them up with any hockey players, ever. They can do that all on their own, but I will not be complicit in it, and everything else aside, filicide is apparently frowned upon, so, you know.”

Jack smothers a laugh.

Their lunch arrives soon after that, and the food is amazing, just as Dani promised. They take a slow lunch, enjoying the nice weather and the company, and it’s only then that it hits Jack all over again how much he’s missed Holster. How much he misses all of them, still. It will be good to have Holster here in Providence—it’s a welcome change of pace, and it will be easier for Jack to get re-accustomed to the emptiness of the apartment once Bitty goes back to Samwell for the semester, having Holster here, like a part of home Jack made for himself a long time ago.

They’re almost done with the dessert when Cory’s phone chimes with an incoming message, and he reads it quickly, then huffs out an amused laugh.

“Schumer wants to know,” he says, looking up at Jack, “if you have any idea, and I’m quoting here, when boy wonder is supposed to come down.”

“Who, Davies?” Jack asks, passing half of his panna cotta to Bitty and getting half of his crème brûlée in return. “And if Schumer wanted to ask me, why the hell did he text you?”

Cory gives him a look. “Because he knows that I, unlike you, actually check my messages when I get them and not, like, half an hour later.”

Jack laughs. “Okay, fair enough. I have no idea, though. Next week? The week after that? He texted to ask if I knew any good apartment listings, so I’m guessing he wants to rent something,” he says and stops to think for a moment, then asks, “Holster, don’t you need a roommate?”

Holster polishes off the last of his cheesecake and leans back in his chair, considering. “I mean, I’m not gonna say no? I could rent something by myself, but after living in the Haus for so long, living just on my own would be fucking weird,” he says eventually. “And it’s not like we’re gonna be needing that guest room when Ransom comes to visit, if you catch my drift.”

Jack nods. He’s been wondering about that—if Holster will want to keep that on the down-low once he signs, but it doesn’t seem like that’s a concern for him, and Jack is honestly glad for Holster, because he knows how much it takes from a person without giving anything in return, how hollow it leaves you, lying all the time or at least avoiding telling the truth. As far as Jack is concerned, they could just as well be one and the same thing.

“I’m actually supposed to meet with the realtor tomorrow to look at some apartments,” Holster continues after a moment, then downs the rest of his beer in one go—it’s some fancy microbrew Jack has never tried but that Holster swears by, since, apparently, when he’s not living in a frat house and shotgunning PBR before noon in the reading room while Shitty gets high next to him, Holster is pretty serious about his beer. “So I could take pictures. You got his email, too?”

“Yeah, I do,” Jack says. “So just send me the photos, and I’ll pass them on. Or I could give you the email and you could send them instead, say hi, introduce yourself.”

Holster considers that for a quick moment, then nods. “Sure, yeah, let’s do this,” he says. “I’m so fucking stoked.”

When their server comes by their table a short while later, they order another round of drinks and settle in for the afternoon, intent on catching up. Cory left for Pittsburgh straight after they got knocked out of playoffs, and by the time he came back, Jack had already flown down to Georgia with Bitty, and Jack hasn’t seen Holster since graduation.

“You did juniors, right?” Cory asks after their drinks finally get there a few minutes later, looking at Holster across the table.

“Yeah, yeah, USHL,” Holster says, playing with his beer coaster, “for a few years before I went to college. It was fun, but I knew I wasn’t really NHL material back then, so I decided to get a degree before deciding what to do. And my parents are really into financial stability and, like, respectable careers, so, you know. Econ wasn’t the most inspired route to go, but what’re you gonna do. Not all of us can be fucking hockey prodigies, right, Smithy?”

In anyone else’s mouth, it would sound bitter, but Holster is smiling, content and laid back, like he’s just stating a fact that has no value judgment. It’s always been one of those things Jack liked about him so much, the way he’s always been so easy to be around, so ready to go with the flow but still keep his own ambition intact. For Jack, who back then was still all sharp edges and single-minded focus bordering on obsession, this instinctual ability to find the middle ground without compromising one’s integrity was at the same time something he couldn’t wrap his head around and something he envied Holster a lot. After they became friends for real, it was something Jack couldn’t help but appreciate.

“Wow, seriously? USHL?” Cory asks, leaning his elbows on the edge of the table. “Where did you play?”

“Waterloo,” Holster says. “You?”

“Sioux Falls.”

“Oh, nice,” Holster says. “You guys won the Clark Cup last year, right?”

Cory ducks his head, and it hits Jack all over again, how young he really is. Usually, he doesn’t let it show at all, but there are moments when Jack is painfully reminded of the fact that Cory is not even twenty yet, that he’s shy and humble, and sometimes still half-amazed at the fact that he’s playing in the NHL at all.

“Yeah, we did,” he says after a beat, smiling.

“So it’s like, one down, one to go.” Holster smiles widely in return and puts his hand up to fist-bump Jack, but only—as Jack suspects—because he’s closer.

“Jesus, don’t jinx it, Christ,” Cory says, but he laughs, too.

Next year, Jack thinks. Next year. They’re going to make it happen. They have to.


In the end, Eric signs up for the ballet class.

They go together, and the nice girl at the front desk tells them there are still a few free spots in one of the afternoon classes, then gives Jack a look that makes Eric burst out laughing.

“Oh lord, no, not him,” he says, waving his hand. “Just me.”

“Hey,” Jack protests, feigning hurt, but when Eric looks up at him, he has a soft smile on his face.

Eric tries to imagine it for a moment—Jack in a leotard and ballet shoes, and it only serves to crack him up even more.

“Bless your heart, honey,” he says, touching a hand to Jack’s forearm, “but you’re really not cut out for this.”

The girl—Ashley, her nametag says—tries to smother a laugh and fails.

“Sorry,” she says, “what can I do for you?”

Eric hangs back while Jack and the receptionist iron out the details of Jack’s yoga classes, observing a small group of girls about his age who lounge about on the pea-green sofas in the lobby, eating plain frozen yogurt and complaining loudly about blisters. Dancers, he thinks.

It’s been years since he really let himself miss this—his dance classes, his figure skating. It’s always been there, at the back of his mind, a quiet what-if, but he never really let himself imagine what would have happened if he’d never decided to give it up for hockey.

Maybe he would still have gone to Samwell. Maybe he would never have gone to college at all. Maybe he would never have met Jack, and Lardo, and Shitty, and all these people who have become like a second family to him. Maybe he would have gone on to win medals in the nationals, and maybe he’d be spending his summer on the road, doing exhibition shows instead of waking up curled next to Jack, breathing in the smell of him, comforting and familiar.

And maybe it wouldn’t be bad—maybe it would even be good in a very different way—but it wouldn’t be this.

The girls look over in Eric’s direction, and he gives them a small smile, cocking his head slightly to the side; then their eyes shift to Jack and stay there for a moment, like the girls are trying to figure out why he looks so familiar.

Finally, Jack turns around on his heel and makes his way towards Eric with a smile.

“All done,” he says, wrapping his fingers around Eric’s wrist. “Ready to go?”

They’re about to leave the lobby when one of the girls walks up to Jack and bounces on the balls of her feet, biting her lip.

“Hi, sorry to interrupt, but you’re Jack Zimmermann, right?” she asks, and Jack turns to face her, his polite, fan-ready half-smile on his lips.

“Yeah,” Jack says. “Nice to meet you.”

“Oh, sorry,” the girl says, fidgeting with the strand of hair that slipped out of her tight topknot, “it’s just that my brother played with you in the Q, and then he lost contact after, you know, and I just wanted to come say hi on his behalf. He’s so happy you’ve been doing so well for yourself, and I thought he’d want you to know.”

Jack looks surprised, and maybe a little flustered. “Sorry, I don’t think I remember—”

The girl waves her hand. “No, really, don’t sweat it, we don’t look anything alike. It’s Dustin. Dustin Corbyn.”

“That’s…yeah, I remember him,” Jack says, and the smile turns genuine. Next to him, Eric busies himself with texting, because Ransom and Holster are liveblogging Holster’s first official meeting with Ransom’s parents as his boyfriend, and his Snapchat app is on fire. “How is he doing?” Jack asks, then puts a hand on Eric’s shoulder and adds, “Oh, by the way, this is Eric, my boyfriend.”

The girl smiles. “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m Lindsay,” she says and shakes Eric’s hand, then turns to face Jack again. “And he’s good, he’s good. Got a job coaching the local junior team back home. He’d gone pro for a season, with the Oilers, but then he got his knee busted after his first year, and that was that, so, you know. He’s okay, though.”

Jack puts his hands in his pockets and slumps a little. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he says, and it sounds like more than just a simple platitude. It’s one of those things that are always on your mind once you go pro—that every game can be your last, that career-ending injuries can happen to anyone. Eric knows Jack must be thinking about it, too.

“Yeah. He’s done pretty well for himself, though, so. He’s okay now,” she says. “Anyway, sorry to just butt in like that, I just wanted to say hi. He’s gonna be so stoked when I tell him that I ran into you.”

Jack smiles. “It was really nice to meet you,” he says. “And say hi to your brother for me, okay? It’s great to know he’s doing well.”

They say their goodbyes and leave soon after, and Jack remains strangely silent all the way back to their car.

“It’s so strange,” he says eventually, leaning against the side of the car, keys in his hand, “running into people like this. It’s…I haven’t even really thought about him until now, but— There were all these people I played with, back in Rimouski, and now I have no idea what happened to most of them. There are a few still playing in the league, and there’s Parse, of course, but the rest of them? I have no idea.”

And Eric knows how it feels—to be friends with people and then it’s five, six, seven years later, and you have no idea who they are now and how they’re doing. He’d left a lot of people behind when he quit figure skating, beyond Katya and the rest of the coaches and choreographers—the people he used to train with and see every day, the people who’d seen him in tears and in pain, the people he’d thought would always be in his life, in one way or another.

There were moments when he used to wonder if that would happen with Shitty and Jack, right after they’d graduated, if they would just drift apart until they were nothing more than an amusing anecdote to tell at the Christmas table—yeah, I really did go to school with a famous NHL player; yeah, we lived together at a frat house for a while, can you believe it.

But here they are, more than a year later, and he’s still skyping with Shitty at least once a week, and he gets to wake up next to Jack every day. So maybe it’s not always like this—maybe he’s not always destined to leave people behind.


The Rhode Island Eagles @RhodeIslandEagles
Welcome to the team, reigning NCAA champion #AdamBirkholtz!


jordan @hockeybutts
sooooo idk if you follow falcs’ farm team on twitter, but they just tweeted that they signed one of jzimms’ buddies from college

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hockeybutts which one? i actually followed them a bit, so i’m curious /too lazy to check

jordan @hockeybutts
@howlinginside birkholtz! he’s a d-man, afaik

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hockeybutts oooooh, nice! He’s the huge blond one, right? man, his liney at samwell was WAY HOT. and they were crazy good together

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside @hockeybutts i met him, actually! dude is FUCKING HUGE, and i see big, ripped hockey players every day, so.

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts dani, help a girlfriend out and ask him to set me up with his hot liney from samwell

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside @hockeybutts i’m sorry, i didn’t mean to laugh, i promise, but afaik, they’re sort of a package deal. sorry, girl

the drama llama @howlinginside

fight me @hellsqueen
@howlinginside @hockeybutts lmao, i haven’t but they might have? you never know, right?

the drama llama @howlinginside
@hellsqueen @hockeybutts \o/ \o/ \o/ praise jesus. but also good for him (on both accounts, tbh)

jordan @hockeybutts
@howlinginside @hellsqueen lmao anya the thirst is real ♥ also, do we know if it’s one-way or two-way?

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts @howlinginside two-way! i’d actually love for him to be called up during season, we could use him on the d-line

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts @howlinginside especially if parker won’t be able to skate in time for camp bc of his surgery

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts @howlinginside and idk, i think it’d be cute if jzimms could play again with his old college teammate

jordan @hockeybutts
@hellsqueen @howlinginside also! i’ve been meaning to ask, but do u have any insider info on ian davies? is he gonna make the team?

fight me @hellsqueen
@hockeybutts @howlinginside idk, but i know they REALLY want him in prov and not on the farm team

jordan @hockeybutts
@hellsqueen @howlinginside as they should, tbh. as they should. fingers crossed.


In person, Ian Davies is a pretty cool dude, Cory has to admit.

They meet at the tail end of July, when Davies comes to Providence to go apartment-hunting. The thing with Holster turns out to be a bust, because the apartments he goes to look at are apparently either way too pricey or one step away from a literal dumpster, but the thing is that Cory already lives in a decent apartment with an empty bedroom, since Justin decided to put a fucking ring on it and moved in with his girlfriend, and Cory and Kyle would be looking for a roommate anyway come August.

Then Kyle announces his decision to move out, too, and under different circumstances, Cory would be pretty pissed with him for not telling him earlier, but it actually works out great for everyone involved, because Kyle gets to be with his girlfriend, ring or no ring, and Holster gets to move in, and it still leaves one bedroom free for Davies if he wants it.

Davies, when he finally arrives in Providence, is quiet and shy, and subdued, and, seriously, what the fuck is up with that, Cory thinks, the guy should be over the moon. But then again, he knows about his disaster of a season, and he thinks that maybe it’s the way it was with Jack—he was doing great, and then suddenly he wasn’t, or at least that’s what it looked like to the outside world, when in reality, there was nothing sudden about it at all.

Cory agrees to pick him up at the station, and they drive back to the apartment in relative silence. Cory puts some music on, some obnoxiously cheery and upbeat playlist that Bitty made for him some time ago, and he bops his head to the rhythm, fingers drumming on the steering wheel. He even cleaned the inside of the car specifically for this occasion, because he’d made the terrible mistake of lending it to Kyle, who brought it back relatively unscathed but full of takeout bags and empty Gatorade bottles.

So the car is squeaky clean, and the apartment is spotless for once, and Cory really, really hopes Davies is not, like, deathly allergic to dogs, because if Cory needs to choose between Blueberry and Davies, then Davies, sadly, has to go.

In hindsight, that’s something he probably should’ve asked about earlier.

“Hey, you’re not allergic to dogs or anything, right?” he says as they’re waiting for the light to turn green, and Davies looks up from where he’s staring out the window, motionless.

“What? No. I love dogs,” he says, and he smiles a little.

“Okay, that’s good,” Cory says, breathing a sigh of relief. “Because I have just the cutest little pup, you’re gonna fucking love her, I guarantee you.”

Davies’s smile stays on, and Cory is pretty damn proud of himself, if he may say so himself, because no one who just got drafted in the first round should ever look that fucking defeated.

“What’s her name?” he asks then, and Cory knew that his dog would come in handy like this one day, like a fluffy little ice-breaker made of sunshine and fur that gets absolutely everywhere. Granted, Cory always thought he’d be making moves on a girl, not make awkward small talk with some hockey prodigy, but hey, Blueberry already worked her magic in that department, so it’s all good.

“Blueberry,” Cory says with a wide smile. “I was scared you’d turn out to be, like, mad allergic to dogs or something.”

Davies shakes his head. “No, no, it’s all good,” he says. “And thanks for, you know, doing this. You really didn’t have to.”

Bro,” Cory says, then takes a turn left, takes a glance at Davies, who’s picking at his cuticles like he’s actually nervous. “My roomies just ditched me for their girlfriends, which, like, you know, good for them, yeah? But I got left with a big apartment and big bills, so I’d be looking for someone to live with anyway. So, basically, you’re doing me a favor, okay? And there’s another guy, he’s Jack’s old teammate from school, just signed with the Eagles, he’s gonna live with us, too. I mean, if you decide to take the room. It’s a pretty nice apartment, though, especially for that price. It’s not like Jack’s, because that shit is out of this world pretty, but it’s still pretty neat.”

Davies is quiet for a moment, then looks up at Cory and asks, “What’s he like? Zimmermann, I mean.”

Cory smiles. “He’s a cool guy,” he says. The morning rush is already over, so there’s not much traffic and they should be home pretty soon. “Super private, but not in, like, really standoffish way or anything like that. Really good at hockey.”

They laugh.

“No, but seriously,” Cory continues, “he’s just a cool dude. History nerd, of all things, so, like, you know. Don’t sweat it. He might look intimidating, but he’s just a huge dweeb. He might come by later, actually, so you’re gonna meet him—because you guys haven’t met yet, right? And you’re gonna meet Bitty.”

Davies looks at him, confused. “Bitty?”

“Eric. His boyfriend,” Cory explains, and Davies nods.

“Ah, yeah, right,” he says. “I heard about that. He called me, actually, the night of the draft. Zimmermann, I mean, to congratulate me. That was really nice of him.”

“Told you.” Cory smiles. “He’s a nice dude. Okay, we’re here.”

He parks in the underground garage and they come up together, Davies’s overnight bag slung around his shoulder. When Cory opens the door, Blueberry runs up to greet them immediately, and Cory finds himself with an armful of an overexcited dog—she’s wagging her tail so hard her entire body is shaking and she’s licking Cory all over his face and arms, even though he’s been gone less than an hour.

“Hey, girl,” he says and kisses her head. “Look who’s here. Be good, okay?”

He gets up and looks over his shoulder at Davies, who’s still hovering awkwardly in the doorway, then laughs. “Sorry, she tends to get excited when I come back home. She really loves to be around people.”

Davies smiles, and he gingerly puts his bag down next to his feet, holding onto the strap.

“She’s cute,” he says, then looks around. “And it’s a really nice place.”

“Yeah, for now. Usually there’s more clothes lying on the floor and empty takeout containers and stuff, so, y’know.” Cory shrugs. “But yeah, it ain’t bad for an apartment full of hockey players.”

Davies relaxes visibly, and he puts his bag away, leaving it by the door, next to the neat row of shoes which are usually lying around in one huge, messy heap, but hey, it’s not like Cory’s mother is here to check, so whatever.

“I lived in a billet with two other guys on the team,” Davies says, and yeah, that explains a lot. “There’s not much that surprises me anymore.”

“Holster—I mean, Jack’s buddy from school, Adam—lived in a frat house for the last three years, so I think we’re all, like, equally unfazed by this shit, good to know.” Cory laughs as they move into the kitchen. “He’s out of town, though, getting the rest of his stuff shipped here, so you won’t be meeting him today, but he’s a really cool dude, too. Funny as hell, and his dvd collection is out of this world. Okay, now, you hungry? I could make us some sandwiches or something, to tide us over until Jack and Bits get here for lunch. You okay with going out to eat?”

Davies looks a bit overwhelmed, and okay, maybe Cory has been overdoing it with the hospitality thing, but he’s fucking excited, sue him.

“I, uh, yeah…sure,” Davies says eventually, then bends down to pet Blueberry, who’s been running back and forth between the two of them, her tail still wagging like crazy, and, god, Cory loves this ridiculous dog so much. He should probably take a page out of Parson’s book and make her, like, an Instagram account or something.

“Awesome. Let me show you to your room. I mean, if you want it, of course.”

Davies doesn’t even hesitate when he says, “Yeah. Yeah, I want it.”


Jack and Bitty arrive a couple hours later, and despite everything Cory told him, Davies looks intimidated as hell. Jack is a little awkward but well-meaning in that way Cory has learned to recognize as something that happens whenever Jack meets new people and which passes as soon as they get to know each other a little better, and Bitty is his usual cheerful self. They bring pie, and it’s Cory’s favorite, bless Bitty’s soul.

“It’s a Bitty thing, okay,” Cory explains. “Our team nutritionist is gonna hate him when she finds out.”

They go out to lunch, and Davies is mostly quiet throughout the meal, but his shoulders look much less tense, and he’s mostly watching Jack when he thinks nobody is looking. And Cory gets this, he really does, because they’re both so similar, in a way—played on the same team, had the entire fucking world on their shoulders at eighteen, everyone watching their every step, and yeah, okay, Cory went fifth overall, so he knows what it feels like to be a top draft prospect, but it’d never been like this with him, there had been no Kent Parson comparisons flying around since his first year in the juniors. No fucking shit he struggled so much last season, considering the amount of pressure.

Cory can’t even begin to imagine how it must have felt.

They sit in the cute little open garden in the back, taking advantage of the amazing weather—it’s warm and sunny, and there’s faint wind blowing from the direction of the river, and Dani is snapchatting him increasingly ridiculous snaps of herself at the office, because she’s apparently bored out of her mind and ready to get out of there.

Cory takes a picture of all of them and sends it to Dani, just to have his phone chime with an incoming message literally three seconds later. When he opens the message, it reads:

From: Dani ♥
!!!!!!!!!!!!! can I tweet this to the team account?
(01:21 pm)

He sends an emphatic yes in response and a moment later Bitty is already favoriting the tweet. Davies is still saying very little and throwing glances in Jack’s direction every now and then.

Once they’ve eaten their dessert, Cory goes inside to order more drinks. Bitty follows after him, then leans against the polished wooden counter and says, “They looked like they needed some time alone to talk. Jack called him after the draft, you know? He’s…I think he sees a lot of himself in that boy.”

Cory orders a glass of sparkling water for himself, and then Bitty gets them a pitcher of beer, since he’s over twenty-one, and—between the two of them—the one who won’t actually get in trouble if he gets carded.

“Yeah,” Cory says as Bitty pays for the beer. “I figured as much. It’s, y’know, pretty obvious when you think about it.”

Bitty turns to him and smiles. “He’s gonna be fine,” he says. “It might take him a while, but they’re gonna be fine.”


Jack’s yoga class finishes early on Friday, and he takes a quick shower before he changes into his street clothes and slings the strap of his gym bag over his shoulder on his way out into the lobby. Bitty’s ballet class doesn’t finish until six, so Jack is set to wait until the instructor lets them out in fifteen minutes, and then they’re going for melon smoothies to a nearby place they discovered by accident in the first week after the classes started.

When he walks past the room, the door is set ajar, and he stops for a moment when he catches a glimpse of Bitty, and, for a moment, he almost forgets to breathe. It’s one thing to see him in bed, leaning over Jack, small but strong, muscles tensing and shifting under the skin as he stretches to reach Jack’s mouth, but it’s another thing to see him like this, feet pointed and arms outstretched, the long column of his neck inclined gracefully.

And it hits Jack, right then and there, that maybe, if Bitty had never quit figure skating, Jack would be going back to an empty apartment.

It’s not something he likes to dwell on, but it’s a thought that comes back unbidden, again, and again, and again—how different Jack’s life would be if he’d never met Bitty, how nothing would be the same at all, and it’s a surreal thought, that there could exist a life in which Jack doesn’t get to wake up next to Bitty in the morning, doesn’t find his clothes in the laundry long after he’s gone back to Samwell, leaving only small parts of himself behind until the next time they meet and everything falls back into place like he’s never left.

He trained himself out of doing that—thinking about all the what-ifs—somewhere along the way, until he could look back at that summer when everything fell apart just to fall back into place a few years down the line and not torture himself with all the possibilities of what could have been. It used to eat at him—that crushing weight of failure—and he would watch Kent’s games on his computer on a grainy stream with the sound turned off while his parents watched them downstairs on the big tv in startling high definition and excruciating detail, and think, That could’ve been me. If only he hadn’t been such a colossal fuck-up, if only he hadn’t been so weak, if only he’d sucked it up and went first in the draft, if only, if only, if only.

It doesn’t mean those thoughts don’t haunt him anymore. It’s just that he’s better at letting them go.

He stands there for a moment, looking into the brightly-lit room through the crack in the door, until one of the girls in the class catches his eye and almost misses a step, flustered.

“You’ve been peeking, Mr. Zimmermann,” Bitty says when he joins Jack in the lobby, a wide smile on his face. The girl Jack scared earlier is just a few steps behind him, and Jack smiles apologetically at her over Bitty’s shoulder. “Seen anything you like?”

Jack shifts his gaze back to Bitty and his smile gets bigger, the corners of his mouth curving up.

“Maybe,” he says, leaning faux-casually against the wall.

Bitty laughs, then pushes up to his tiptoes to kiss Jack’s cheek, and Jack can see the way the girl behind Bitty smiles and looks away.

“Come on. Smoothies.”

They take their orders to go, and they walk leisurely back to Jack’s car, parked in front of the studio, to finish off their drinks leaning against the side of the Honda, their arms touching.

“I have a thing tomorrow, with the kids, remember?” Jack says once they’re done, stuffing the empty plastic cup into a paper bag to be thrown away later. “Wanna come with?”

“Can I? I mean, to skate?” Bitty says in return, sucking the last of the smoothie through his straw and making slightly obnoxious noises all the while. God help him, Jack finds it endearing. “Because I’d love to, but only if it’s not a problem for y’all.”

“No, no,” Jack shakes his head, “I’m sure they won’t mind. And besides, kids love you.”

“As if they didn’t love you, too,” Bitty says, elbowing Jack in the side. “You’re great with kids.”

And the thing is, Jack likes children, especially the little ones who can barely keep upright on their skates but are still just so happy to skate, but Jack never wanted to have kids of his own. He doesn’t think he’d be a particularly good father, and he knows Bitty would say otherwise, but it’s not a role Jack would trust himself with—even now, even a few years down the line.

It’s not even a sad realization, a longing for something he couldn’t let himself have (and he knows how that feels, how it tastes on the back of his tongue)—it’s just a fact of life.

He doesn’t mind doing more work with the kids in the Falconers’ youth program, though—it’s fun, and it reminds Jack of that year he spent coaching his peewee team, when, for the first time since the overdose, he felt like he was doing something more than just existing.

“Hey, you okay?” Bitty asks, touching his hand to Jack’s elbow, and that’s when he realizes he’s been completely silent for a long while now.

He focuses his eyes back on Bitty, who looks up at him with concern, his hand resting gently on Jack’s forearm, warm and comforting.

“Yeah,” Jack says, and he leans in to kiss the top of Bitty’s head. “Yeah, I’m all good.”


They get up early the next day, and Jack takes a quick shower while Bitty prepares breakfast, then they switch places. By the time Bitty is out of the shower and toweling off his hair, Jack has already two cups of coffee ready, and he pushes one of them into Bitty’s hands, while Bitty pushes up on his toes to kiss Jack’s cheek with a quiet, “Thank you.”

“You should bring your figure skates with you, too,” Jack suggests around a mouthful of scrambled eggs. “The kids would love it, and I know you’ve been dying to try them on. And there’s always some time for free skating once the official part is over and the cameras are off.”

They finish their breakfast and drink their coffee, and then Jack goes to pack his gear while Bitty grabs a banana and a mason jar of oatmeal for each of them, then joins Jack in the bedroom to change and get his bag.

It feels like they’ve been doing this forever—their mornings have a rhythm now, and the two of them fit around each other in more ways than one, and it’s that kind of easy, quiet domesticity that Jack never really envisioned for himself, once upon a time; yet here he is, wrapped up in a life that feels as natural as breathing.

He knows it will be harder this time, to go back to the way they were before this summer, to go back to texting and calls, and skyping instead of waking up next to each other.

It’s already August, and they have less than two weeks left before Bitty needs to go back to Samwell before the training camp starts.

Jack doesn’t feel in any way prepared for this.

He drives them to the rink, with enough spare time that they don’t have to rush, and as soon as they’re inside, they run into Dani, who’s orchestrating the entire event on behalf of the PR department.

“Oh, good, you’re here,” she says. “Some of the parents arrived a little early, so we’re just playing catch-up for now, but it’s all good on your end. A few guys are already here, I saw Schumer and Bergson, and Cory should come back any minute, I sent him on a coffee run. And, like, I adore kids, but it’s been nuts, so.”

Next to Jack, Bitty smiles and reveals the contents of his bag.

“What’s the policy on baked goods?” he asks, presenting six dozen perfect chocolate chip cookies. Dani looks a little like she’s about to cry.

“I don’t know about the kids, but if they don’t want them, I’m gonna eat all of these,” she says, and takes the Tupperware containers from Bitty. Her phone goes off a second later, and she answers it, pressing the phone between her shoulder and her cheek, then waves them off at the same time as she flags down one of the interns to help her carry the cookies.

They walk together in the direction of the locker rooms, but the only people they see are either lost, confused parents or staff members. Once they reach the locker room door, Jack says, “See you in a bit,” and goes in to change, leaving Bitty to his own devices.

Schumer and Bergson are already inside, half-dressed and laughing about something as they hover over Schumer’s phone.

“Yo, Zimms! Great to see you, cap,” Schumer says, looking up with a huge grin, and he gives Jack a thumbs-up, then, once Jack comes closer, moves in for a fist-bump. “How’ve you been? You don’t write, you don’t call… How’s a guy supposed to take this?”

Jack laughs, then drops his bag in front of his stall. “Oh, I’m sure your wounded ego is gonna recover. And just because I’m not glued to my phone at all times doesn’t mean that I don’t text. Check the team chat, Schumer.”

“Please,” Schumer laughs as he reaches for his socks and slowly, methodically, starts to pull them up, “like I don’t stalk your Instagram. You’ve been cozying it up with boy wonder all summer, no wonder you forgot all about me.”

Behind him Benny laughs. “Schumer, just admit that you’ve got the hots for the entire Zimmermann clan and be done with it. You’re so transparent, man.”

Schumer shrugs. “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

Jack throws one of his gloves at him, and it hits him square in the chest with a dull thud.

“Your reflexes are shit, Schumer,” he says, his face completely serious, but he’s laughing on the inside. “Let’s hope you don’t get your ass kicked today by literal five-year-olds. That would be embarrassing.”

“But also fun to watch,” Bergson chimes in, and Jack can’t help the smile that escapes.

“Can’t argue with that,” he says.

“Hey!” Schumer says, looking between the two of them with a hurt expression on his face. “Rude.”

They skate out together after a while, after Holtzy and Cory finally join them in the locker room, and the kids are already on the ice, wobbling on their skates. Bitty is there, too, in his figure skates, and he’s surrounded by a bunch of small children, who look up at him with quiet amazement as he explains something to them, and Jack smiles, ducking his head, incapable of hiding the fond expression on his face.

They work with the kids for a while after that, mostly just showing them simple moves and checking that they don’t trip on the ice, and the kids look like they’re having fun, skating around the rink and chasing after the puck.

Jack would be lying if he said that he remembers the first time he laced up his skates and got onto the ice, but he remembers many times after that, long before he played his first real game of hockey. Jack at seven, with two of his front teeth missing, messing around with his dad at their private rink with a few of Jack’s friends from school, who didn’t particularly like Jack for Jack, but they did like Jack’s dad and the opportunities for bragging that came with it. Jack at eight, skating in public with a scraped knee that hurt so bad he could barely stand it, but he knew his dad would be disappointed in him if he started crying over such a minor injury. Jack at nine, sweating under his pads, with his heart high up in his throat, aware of all the people watching him and comparing him to his father.

Jack gets interviewed by the Falconers tv team once the official part of the practice is over, and he talks about the importance of supporting young talent and fostering the spirit of sportsmanship in children, and how beneficial the discipline that comes with sport can be, but how it’s important to let kids be kids, too, and not to pressure them to perform at the expense of their well-being.

Once he’s done, he heads back to the ice, where Bitty is skating with the kids and showing them the proper backward crossover technique. Then Bitty takes one of the girls by the hand and guides her slowly around the curve of the rink, while the girl beams up at him, delighted.

In the background, Schumer and Benny are holding hands, trying to imitate Bitty and failing miserably. Jack laughs.

“I’d like to see you try, Zimmermann!” Schumer yells at him across the ice, and Jack can see the way Bitty slowly comes to a stop and looks over his shoulder at Jack with a huge grin.

“Wanna show them?” he asks, as he leaves the girl under the supervision of one of the volunteers and skates towards Jack.

Schumer and Benny are goading them now, as much as they can in the presence of children, anyway, and last year, Jack would’ve just said no, afraid of the ridicule that would come with being seen as anything less that completely graceful on his skates, but now he just takes Bitty’s hand and lets himself be guided along the boards—and he’s not as good as Bitty, obviously, but they practiced this a few times, just messing around on the ice, so he’s definitely not as bad as Schumer or Benny, and when Bitty lets Jack’s hand go and finishes with a graceful spin in an empty corner of the rink, he comes to a halt to loud applause from the parents, while the kids look on, delighted.

Bitty takes a deep bow and skates off to join Jack, who’s leaning against the boards next to Cory and Schumer.

“One day,” he says, hip-checking Jack playfully, “I’m gonna teach you how to do lifts, and then it’s a whole new world for me.”

Beside Jack, Schumer cracks up, pushing himself off the boards. “Okay, this? This I need to see. Who knows, maybe you, like, missed your calling, Zimms. With an ass like this, maybe you should be wearing tight, sparkly outfits on a regular basis, whaddya say?”

Benny skates up to them and throws an arm across Schumer’s shoulders. “Schumer, for a straight guy, you’re incredibly fucking gay sometimes, you know?”

“Screw you,” Schumer says, lowering his voice so that the kids won’t be able to hear them, “I’m just very secure in my masculinity, and admitting that Zimms has a spectacular ass is not gonna make me, like, less of a man or whatever. I mean, look at it.”

Benny reaches out his hand to mess Schumer’s hair up. “There’s also that part where you want to make out with Jay-Z’s dad.”

Schumer sighs, faux put-upon. “Fine, okay, I’ll give you that one. Jesus. You admit one time that maybe you wouldn’t mind planting one on Bad Bob Zimmermann, and suddenly it’s chirping for life.”

Cory just shrugs. “Dude,” he says, “all we’re saying is, if the shoe fits…”

“All right, all right,” Schumer, puts his hands up like he’s finally giving up, “I get it. Dicks.”

They all laugh.

It’s still a little surreal, the knowledge that come pre-season, Jack is going to skate out in front of the crowd with a C on his jersey, surrounded by these guys—these guys, who have been here before him, and who wanted him to lead them for some reason, even though Jack only did what everyone else did, too. They all worked hard, and they all gave it everything they had and then some, and they all made this happen, but somehow, they still thought it was Jack who deserved to be named captain.

He’s still not entirely certain they were right, but he’s going to do everything he can not to let them down. It’s at the same time amazing and terrifying—to be trusted this much by people you care about. To have proof that they care about you in return.

They leave the ice after a while to change and sign some autographs while the children devour Bitty’s cookies. It’s a familiar, easy routine—the kids are pretty tired by now, so they’re not acting incredibly overexcited anymore, and there’s not that many of them, so Jack can actually take his time and talk to them a little bit while he signs their jerseys or posters, and some of them act shy off the ice in a way that they hadn’t before, like without the sweater and the shoulder pads, Jack is suddenly more real.

“Your boyfriend is very pretty,” one of the girls says, looking over her shoulder to where Bitty is standing. She doesn’t look to be more than seven.

Jack ducks his head and smiles. “Yeah, I know,” he says.

The girl gives him a wide, gap-toothed smile. “You’re pretty, too, I guess,” she says, sounding thoughtful in a way only small children can.

Jack smothers a laugh. “Thanks,” he says. “I guess.”

It’s a good feeling, to be back here, at the arena. He remembers the vague feeling of dread that accompanied him when he’d first stepped through the door after he signed—the fear of not being able to quite measure up, the fear of proving everyone who’d written him off as a failure right. But now it’s almost one year later, and he’s still here, after his team went all the way to the conference finals; he’s been named captain of the Providence Falconers, and they have a new season ahead of them, and Jack thinks, It’s gonna be a good one.


we’re not lost, private, we’re in normandy (currahee) wrote in ontd_puck

flying with the falcs event is over, and BOY, HAS IT DELIVERED

photos from the “flying with the falcs” event are up on christine everett’s website, and i’ve been crying over them for the last thirty minutes. who the fuck allowed this. jzimms with little kids. jzimms’s cute BOYFRIEND with little kids. who authorized this. no, seriously, i want names.

tags: caw caw the falconers, cory smith is made of sunshine and puppies, jack zimmermann, jack zimmermann’s butt is a gift from god, skating and crying, the canadian wunderkind, the revenge of the fluff, the softest of bros, this is too adorable my teeth are rotting, when will hockey come back


Reply from lachance

Reply from offblues
oh noooooooooooo…

but also: this is such a nice initiative! i’m loving what they’re doing, and i think it’s great that they’re so invested in supporting young children who want to pursue sports—especially their outreach program which helps kids from less well-off families get quality hockey equipment, which, as we all know, can be expensive as fuck.

Reply from carthage
And I really liked what Zimmermann said in his interview (it’s up on the Falconers’ website!), about the responsibility to make sure this generation of young athletes grows up in a more friendly, more understanding environment, without the constant pressure to achieve. Obviously, it’s sort of utopian, because this sort of change doesn’t happen overnight, but we need those voices who insist that it’s essential if we want to move forward.

And yeah, they’re cute as fuck.

Expand 28 comments


Jack Zimmermann One Year Later: A Recapitulation

Kendra Ashby

It’s been almost a year since Jack Zimmermann first touched the ice at the Thomas Lowell Arena, after signing one of the most widely talked-about contracts in recent memory, and now, with training camp still more than a month away, he returns to the home ice in a slightly different capacity.

Zimmermann, who had been named captain of the Providence Falconers just a few weeks earlier, despite the fact that former captain David Holtz is still on the active roster—a situation so unorthodox it is basically unheard of—has returned to Providence to train before the start of the season, and earlier today, he attended the Flying With the Falcs event, his first official appearance as the captain of the Falconers.

A lot has been said and written about Zimmermann over the last year, and there had been many who doubted his talent, his ability to deal with the pressure of playing in the NHL, or his commitment to playing the best hockey he possibly can instead of just cashing in his check.

And it has not been an easy year for him, either, in many ways, most of which were widely publicized and even more widely discussed, but the facts are these: he had been, for all intents and purposes, one of the driving forces behind the Falconers’ transformation and their huge success in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and he has consistently proved all those who doubted him wrong.

More than just his family name and his father’s hockey legacy, at twenty-six, Zimmermann is ready to lead one of the most promising expansion teams in the League, and he is ready to take the hockey world by storm. He has the talent, and he has the work ethic to make it into the big leagues, but the recent decision to name him captain in only his second year in the NHL points to something else, too—that is, the fact that Zimmermann also has his team’s trust, and that says more than any sports pundit possibly could.

It has been an interesting few years for the NHL, and we have witnessed what could be called the rise of the expansion teams: the Las Vegas Aces—once a minor team that couldn’t fill the seats at their home arena—already have two Stanley Cup wins to their name, and now the Falconers—who had, prior to this year, reached the playoffs only twice, just to be eliminated within the first two rounds—went all the way to the Conference finals. And, with the next season right around the corner, there is one question that seems to be on everybody’s lips: what next? What else can we expect from Jack Zimmermann come October?

Well, if last season is any indication, I think we can safely assume that the correct answer is: a lot.

Read more over at Cutting Edge:


“Do you sometimes think the summer is never going to end, and then the end is suddenly here, and you have no idea how to deal with it?” Eric says into his camera, perched on a stool in Jack’s kitchen, his laptop sitting on the marble countertop.

Jack is out for his off-ice conditioning, and Eric is catching up on his vlog in the meantime, taking advantage of the peace and quiet.

He’s leaving Providence in two days, and it seems almost surreal now, the thought of going back. He’s already started to pack, trying to collect the bits and pieces of the life he’s made here, but he keeps finding traces of his presence all over the space of Jack’s apartment—their apartment—and it’s just another reminder that he belongs here, that it really is home now. That they’re doing something more here beyond just sharing the same space.

“I’m going back to Samwell in two days, and it’s been…hard, thinking of saying goodbye,” he continues, smiling into the camera, but it’s strained, hiding the way his voice keeps getting choked up. “I’m really happy I’ll get to see the boys again, but the thought of graduating is scary. And I don’t really want to think about leaving, either.”

It turned out to be so easy in the end—waking up next to Jack every day, and now that Eric knows how it feels, he can’t help but think that it will always seem like there is too much space in his bed back at the Haus. It’s one of those things that are so easy to get used to when you’re not looking, and then it’s almost like you have always curled up around that person, even when there was nothing next to you but the empty air.

He’s almost done with the vlog entry when he hears the sound of the key being turned in the lock, and then Jack is home, his hair damp with sweat, workout clothes clinging to his back. He walks by the kitchen and moves to kiss Eric, but he just takes a step back, laughing.

“Lord, no,” he says categorically, shaking his head, because he might be stupid in love with this boy, but he still has standards, and proper hygiene is important. “You need a shower. Go,” he pushes Jack in the direction of the bathroom, “I’m gonna fix you something to eat, but I refuse to touch you until you look like a person again.”

Jack rolls his eyes. “Fine.”

By the time Jack is done with the shower, there’s a sandwich waiting for him on the countertop, next to a big cup of coffee and a bottle of Gatorade, because Eric has been familiar with Jack’s post-workout routine for years, long, long before they got together. Long before they were friends—and they have come such a long way since that first practice, first game, first checking practice, the first time Eric’s stomach fluttered when Jack suddenly smiled at him over team breakfast over something completely inconsequential, and Eric thought he was going to be sick. Not this, he thought, not again, not him.

Now, Jack is leaning down to kiss the side of Eric’s neck, touch his lips to the sensitive place just behind the ear.

“Good recording session?” Jack asks, pointing to the camera with his head.

“Yeah, I’m almost done,” he says. “Now all that’s left is editing. Last entry I filmed here for a while.”

He tries to smile, but, judging by the look on Jack’s face, it doesn’t look very convincing.

They sit together at the table, and Jack inhales his sandwich while Eric picks at the leftover pasta salad. Their thighs are pressed together, and Eric can feel the heat radiating off Jacks’s skin where his shorts are riding up, skin touching skin.

He’s going to miss this—the easy domesticity, the rare lazy mornings, the breakfast routine, all those little things he’s grown so accustomed to over these past couple of months. But this time, he knows Jack will be waiting for him when all is said and done, and he will be waiting for Jack in return, and they will keep meeting somewhere along the way, and everything will be okay. They will be okay. They will.


The day before Bitty needs to go back to Samwell, Jack wakes up and takes a picture of Bitty, still half-asleep next to him, the room filled with the bright light of the early morning.

He takes a picture of Bitty when he comes out of the shower, his hair still wet and a towel wrapped around his hips. He looks surprised, like he didn’t expect to find Jack there, ready to commit the moment to more than his memory.

He takes a picture of Bitty from behind, backlit by the sun coming through the kitchen window, his golden hair like halo around his head.

They go grocery shopping after breakfast, and it hits Jack, in the middle of the produce aisle, that he doesn’t really need all that food, because come tomorrow, he’s going to be coming back to an empty apartment. It’s a stupid, inconsequential thought, but it still lands a clean hit right to the center of his chest.

It’s incredible, how Bitty’s presence wrapped itself around Jack, how natural it feels to think about them instead of him, how Jack expects Bitty to be there when he goes to bed and when he wakes up, how he expects to share things with Bitty that he would have never thought to share with anyone before.

He takes a picture of Bitty just as they walk out of the store and into the midday sun—Bitty turns back over his shoulder to say something, and when he smiles, Jack snaps the photo on his phone almost without thinking; it comes out just a little bit blurry, but for a moment, Bitty looks radiant.

Jack has a gym appointment with his trainer before lunch, but then he’s free for the rest of the day, and he takes Bitty out to get froyo; they sit in the grass by the river and eat their frozen yogurt in the afternoon sun, and Jack takes another picture—Bitty lying on his back by the riverside, his striped t-shirt riding up, exposing a strip of skin between the hemline of the shirt and the waistband of his shorts, one of his hands slung over his eyes to shield them from the sun and freckles for days, barely visible in the photo but still there. It’s one of those things Jack will never forget.

They go home after some time, when the sun slowly starts to go down and the sky turns pink and orange. Jack takes a picture of the sunset, then another one of Bitty, walking backwards in front of Jack with a serene expression on his face.

When they arrive back at the apartment, Bitty goes off to pack, and Jack hovers in the doorway, pretending he doesn’t see the way Bitty avoids Jack’s eyes, like he’s afraid Jack is going to see the way he’s trying to hold it together and failing just a little bit.

He wraps his arms around Bitty’s waist and kisses the underside of his jaw, and when Bitty turns around in Jack’s arms, he takes a picture that’s nothing more than the curve of Bitty’s watery smile, and then Jack kisses him, soft and tender, and Bitty pushes up on his toes to kiss back.

Jack takes one last picture of Bitty just before they go to sleep, and it’s a close-up of his face in soft focus, Bitty looking back at Jack behind the lens of the camera with an expression that punches right through Jack, his throat tight.

They go to sleep like this, facing each other, and Bitty presses his face into the crook of Jack’s shoulder, wraps his arms around Jack’s waist and doesn’t let go.


The next morning, Jack drives down the I-95 with Bitty next to him in the passenger’s seat, and it’s a drive he’s made so many times that he could just close his eyes and let muscle memory take over. He knows exactly how long it takes to get from the underground garage in his apartment building to the curb in front of the Haus, but he also knows what is waiting for him at the end of this drive, and he doesn’t want to think about the inevitability of saying goodbye.

Bitty has his upbeat music on, his iPod plugged into Jack’s car sound system, but he looks subdued and melancholy in a way that Jack understands all too well.

Samwell looks exactly the same when Jack finally arrives at the campus, and so does the Haus—the new coat of paint still looking fresh despite the passage of time.

Jack still remembers the feeling of being at home and not at home at the same time when he first came back to the Haus after graduation. Now the ache that he used to feel for this place is dulled, still somewhere at the back of his mind but not overwhelming, not like it once was. It’s not a home anymore, but it’s a place that will always be his, in some sense.

Next to him, Bitty is playing with the strings of his hoodie t-shirt, looking out to the other side of the road, at the front porch and steps leading up to the Haus, and he’s not moving to get out of the car. Jack touches his hand to the nape of Bitty’s neck and slowly strokes his thumb up and down, feeling the softness of Bitty’s buzzed hair under his fingers.

“Come on,” he says. “Let’s go.”

They pull Bitty’s suitcases out of the trunk, and Jack locks the car behind them, then takes one of the bags and reaches to grasp Bitty’s hand. The campus is still relatively quiet, the way it always used to be at the start of the training camp, until it slowly filled with people over the week before the semester began in earnest.

It’s still warm and sunny, but Jack knows how unexpected the beginning of the fall can be in New England—one day it’s still summer, hot and bright, and the next day the trees are drowning in red and gold.

The Haus is quiet when they enter, seemingly deserted, but there’s Nursey’s car parked in front of the building, so at least Bitty won’t be here all alone once Jack goes back to Providence.

“Goodness,” Bitty’s voice comes from the kitchen, and Jack moves to lean against the doorframe, observing the way Bitty surveys the cupboards and the fridge, “what have these boys been feeding themselves?”

And Jack recognizes that tone—it’s one of those things that Bitty does when he thinks nobody will notice, smiling through the sadness, pretending like it’s all good, because, in many ways, Bitty has mastered the art of shielding himself from the hurt, just like Jack did, and they both know everything about playing and pretending, but there has been none of that between them for a long time now, so Jack takes a step, then another, and another, and he catches Bitty by the wrist, pulling him into a hug.

“Hey, hey,” he says, “it’s okay. I’m gonna miss you, too.”

Bitty buries his face into Jack’s chest, his arms wrapped around Jack’s waist.

“I’m missing you right now,” he says quietly.

Jack kisses the top of Bitty’s head and says, “It’s just one more year, and then you won’t have to miss me ever again.”

Bitty laughs, and it comes out slightly choked up, but then he looks up at Jack, his eyes bright.




The Haus is still empty when they say their goodbyes; Eric pushes up onto his toes to kiss Jack, and he wraps his arms around Jack’s neck, and he doesn’t close his eyes.

It feels like he’s been doing this forever, saying goodbye to Jack over and over again, and each time, it gets just a little bit harder; each time, it takes just a little bit more time to grow accustomed to sleeping alone again and waking up in an empty bed.

It’s just one year—just another year full of goodbyes, full of bittersweet kisses and whispered words, and then the distance that separates them will be gone, and they will make a life out of all these little things that, in the end, matter the most. Their clothes mixed up in the laundry and the way Jack smiles when Eric kisses him in the morning. Drinking morning coffee at the kitchen table, their ankles touching, and skyping Jack’s parents in the evening, curled up together on the couch. Grocery shopping and trips up to the house in Nova Scotia.

It will be something. It will be a life.


When Jack comes back to his apartment in Providence, he discovers that he’s been wrong. He remembers the oppressive emptiness of this space he could hardly call home back then, when he first came to live here, how solitary it felt, suffocating, and too big at the same time, but now, as soon as Jack closes the door behind him, it hits him how much of himself Bitty had left behind here, how his scent and his warmth still linger in the corners of the apartment, and now—now it doesn’t feel empty at all.

Jack takes a deep breath, then another, holds it in his lungs for a moment and exhales, then opens his eyes.

He’s here. He’s okay. It’s enough.


In the first year of Jack’s captaincy, two things happen:

In May, Bitty graduates from Samwell and moves to Providence to live with Jack.

In June, the Falconers win the Stanley Cup against the Aces.

There’s also a third thing that happens, quietly and almost imperceptibly, in the still moments between one intake of breath and another:

They live.