It happens like this: Kent is lacing up his skates when Jack Zimmermann steps into the locker room, and when Kent blinks, everything bursts into brilliant colour.
If he hadn’t been sitting, he’s sure he would have fainted.
Jack’s eyes are blue. The Rimouski jerseys are different than he thought they were, and he can’t wrap his mind around how a shift from grey to something Kent thinks is called Technicolour changes the way everything looks.
It changes the way everything feels, too, but Kent doesn’t realize that until later.
It takes three months of skating together, of winning together, of rooming together and eating together before Kent bundles up the courage to kiss Jack.
Jack kisses back, and his hands shake when he runs his fingers through Kent’s hair.
Kent kisses Jack’s mouth as Jack comes over Kent’s hand, and Kent has to bite the words back, has to make sure they don’t fall out of him. The heady affection he feels for Jack sits heavy in his chest.
When Jack looks up at him, Kent says, “Your eyes are so blue.”
Jack shoves Kent away.
Jack has heard his parents talk about it a thousand times over. The way falling in love feels like you’re living for the first time. How, logically, everyone knows a sunset is beautiful. But how nothing can compare to seeing it in full colour the first time. The way the pink and blue and yellow all blend to create something you could never have imagined. And how every single day, it’s new. Different.
Kent finds Jack on the cold tile of their hotel room’s bathroom, a scattering of pills across the floor and his skin a horrible pale.
Kent dials 911 with shaking hands.
It happens halfway through the ambulance ride: Jack’s pulse stops, and the whole world goes grey.
Jack's dad’s favourite weather is when it’s minus five outside and there’s snow on the ground but the sky is clear. When Jack asks why, his dad says, “You have your mother’s eyes, son.”
Jack doesn’t know what that has to do with anything, and he says as much. His dad smiles and says, “Your mother’s eyes look just like the sky.”
For Jack, it happens slowly. The first time he sees Bittle skate, his jersey is a flash of red down the ice. When Jack shakes his head and blinks, everything is normal. Black and white and grey.
The first time Eric sees snow, he laughs. He’s been complaining about the cold for weeks, but it’s still beautiful. His first semester has been tough. Tougher than he was expecting. Ransom and Holster take him outside just as the snow is starting to stick. Eric says, “I’ve never seen snow before.”
Holster says, “Don’t eat the yellow stuff.”
Eric asks, “What yellow stuff?”
Holster looks over Eric’s head at Ransom, who smiles at Eric and shrugs his shoulders.
Johnson gives Jack a sideways glance, and Jack feels on edge. The team eats dinner and everything is normal except for the fact that Jack can’t look away from the brown of Bittle’s eyes, the way his cheeks are slightly pink.
Jack is halfway up the stairs to his room in the Haus when Johnson appears at his side. He says, “Technically, colours are just the way our eyes interpret electromagnetic energy. Radiation waves or whatever.”
Jack says, “What?”
“You ever wonder how Bob Ross has a job?” Johnson asks.
Jack says, “What?”
Johnson says, “I’m gonna give Bittle my dibs.”
Jack says, “Okay.”
Kent shows up at Samwell and he expects something different. Jack’s hands find their way into his hair and Kent gets his hands under Jack’s shirt, but when he looks at Jack’s eyes, there’s no flash of blue into the past.
Eric’s hand knocks into Jack’s as they walk from their lecture hall, and Eric’s heart jumps even though it shouldn’t. They stop at Annie’s, and Jack pays for their coffees.
It’s cold out. Eric only notices that the snow is melting because he can see a little slip of green grass under the crunch of all the white.
Jack’s eyes are blue like an ocean. Jack’s face is covered in flour and he’s laughing, soft and low, and Eric knows his own cheeks are rosey.
When the pie comes out of the oven, Jack says, “It looks good.”
The world’s not black and white. Never has been. Even before Jack fell in love with a pink and yellow boy, he understood: life is hard and it’s scary and it’s not always nice.
It’s a gray scale. And there’s nothing simple about it.
Lardo is drunk and she’s crying and she confesses to Jack that she wants to look at Shitty and be able to see the world in all its colour, but that everything is as dull as always.
Jack says, “His eyes are green. And they’re really beautiful, and they light up when he looks at you.”
She says, “But--”
Jack interrupts her. “Who cares?” He says. “Maybe it doesn’t always work right away. Maybe you gotta be brave enough to see it. Maybe it’s gotta hurt a little. Maybe it’s not even real.”
Lardo tilts her head. “His eyes are green?” She asks.
Jack shrugs, sheepish. He feels his cheeks heat up. “Well,” he says. “I mean. Yeah.”
When Jack kisses Bittle, it feels eventual. When he reaches out to touch his hand to Bittle’s arm, he gets shocked with static. Bittle laughs into Jack’s mouth, and Jack can’t help but smile.
Jack says, “If we keep going, I’m never gonna wanna stop.”
Bittle smiles, and his lips are swollen and pink. Jack blinks and Bittle says, “I think that’d be okay.”
Jack kisses him again, and his eyes fall closed.
Jack signs to Providence, and when he tells Eric, Eric says, “I like their jerseys. Colours’ll suit you.”
Jack kisses him until he’s out of breath.
When the Falcs beat the Aces in the Stanley Cup final, Jack shakes Kent’s hand, and Kent doesn’t look happy, but he looks okay. Jack says, “I’m sorry.”
Kent shrugs. “It was a good series.” He moves ahead in the line.
Before the Aces leave the ice, Kent finds Jack again. Kent says, “Where’s your boy?”
Jack says, “He was in the stands. I don’t know.”
Kent nods. He says, “I wanted to say--” He shakes his head. “Dano--uh, Harbach. His eyes are hazel.”
Bittle graduates, and they spend two weeks in Paris. The locals hate Jack’s accent, and Bittle laughs at Jack’s frustration.
They go to the Louvre and spend long minutes standing in front of Monet’s Water Lilies. Jack’s chest feels heavy, but he isn’t sure why. Jack takes Bittle’s hand in front of a Van Gogh painting. Bittle says, “It musta been horrible, to love someone so much as to be able to paint the way he did, and it still not be enough.”
Jack looks down at Bittle, and Bittle squeezes his hand. Jack says, “You’re enough.”
Bittle smiles. “Your eyes look like the ocean,” he says.
Jack says, “Not like the Starry Night ?”
Bittle says, “Better. Brighter.”