Bitty keeps his eyes closed.
The hand cupping his face is a ghost of a touch, a barely-there pressure, like Jack’s afraid he'll break. In the brief lapse of time when he pulls away, Bitty clutches his phone in one hand and the folds of a graduation robe in the other and hangs in the balance, chin still tipped up, mouth parted, waiting.
He's never wanted to exist inside of one moment, forever, more in his life. So he doesn't open his eyes. Because - Lord - if this is some sort of fever dream, please don't wake him up.
Jack lets out a short, trembling breath and dives back in. Between them, his phone buzzes. He makes no move for it until it goes off a second time, and even then, he breaks the kiss with another sigh - this one, a little frustrated.
Bitty opens his eyes. And somehow, it’s real.
Jack clears his throat. It’s almost funny, because he doesn’t look remotely aware of the fact that he's just knocked Bitty’s entire world off axis. “That's... uh. That's my phone,” he says, and it’s in the same awkward, familiar French-Canadian lilt Bitty’s grown so used to. “I should...”
He trails off, and waits for a response. Doesn't look away. One of his hand’s is on Bitty’s waist, and he’s still out of breath, but Bitty’s positive it isn’t from running across campus anymore.
He thinks, How long have you wanted to do that, Jack Laurent Zimmermann? but barely manages a dazed, “Oh,” in response.
Bitty watches him digs into his pocket for his phone - there are synapses missing somewhere, feels like. A break in transmitting. An inability to connect point A to point B. He knows he hugged Jack goodbye a couple hours ago. He knows Jack ran across campus to find him. He knows Jack is looking at his phone with a vague frown, unhappy with whatever's written on his screen, because it probably means he has to leave the sudden, protective bubble that's become this room.
His hand leaves Bitty’s waist, and gently touches his elbow instead. “I gotta go,” he says.
Bitty sort of feels like he’s going to float off into space. “Okay.”
“I gotta go,” Jack repeats, tucking his phone back into his pocket, only this time he looks at Bitty when he says it. “But I'll text you, okay?”
Bitty nods. He’s not sure he can speak in actual sentences at the moment, so he settles for another, “Okay,” and then Jack’s hands find his.
Jack's hands are in his, and Bitty knows he's awake. The skin on his cheeks feel taut from dried tears, Beyoncé is still blaring - tinny and faraway, pray it won't fade away - from his ear buds, and Bitty is awake, and this is happening, and he's never been so unsure as to what comes next except for one thing -
He moves the same time Jack does, leans up, up, up as far as he can before the heels of his tennis shoes will lift off the hardwood, and kisses Jack, hard. It’s a long moment before it ends.
Tenderly, Jack rests his forehead against Bitty’s and lets his hands fall to his side. He takes a step back, and another, gets to the doorway and says again: “I'll text you,” and there's an undercurrent to it - like he's telling himself to do it just as much as he is promising Bitty that he will.
Bitty stands in the middle of the room and says, faintly, “Okay.”
Then Jack's gone, and Bitty staggers blindly into the seat behind him, staring at the space Jack used to occupy.
In his hand, his phone buzzes.
Jack's name flashes across the notification bar, and for one short, terrifying second, Bitty’s vision wavers and he swears he's going to pass out. Downstairs, the door to the Haus shuts.
Bitty blinks, and he's out of the chair before he even realizes what he's doing.
He tears his way down the stairs, wrenches the front door open, and stands, frozen in the entryway, watching Jack's retreating figure head back the way he came. On cue, Jack turns his head at the sound, notices Bitty, and Bitty doesn't miss this part:
Jack ducks his head as he walks, and he smiles - something small, and private, and entirely new.
And if it's the last thing Bitty sees of him all summer, he'll take it.
Slowly, he shuts the door in front of him and leans back against it with his full weight before he gives up and sinks to the floor of the Haus, knees pulled up to his chest.
His phone buzzes again, repeatedly - a call - and he rips the ear buds out and hits answer without looking.
“Jack,” he says, and he can hear how breathless he sounds.
Bitty looks down at his phone. Lardo’s face peers up at him - a photo of the two of them in the kitchen, in front of Betsy Jr. He puts the phone back up to his ear and hears, “—say Jack? Just left lunch with Shits - I was calling to wish you a safe flight. You left the Haus yet?”
“No,” Bitty says. Then: “Yes. I mean - oh, gosh.”
He thumps his head against his knees.
“Everything alright, Bits?”
“I...” Bitty lifts his head and knocks it back against the door with a wince. “Somethin’... happened. And...”
A breath leaves him in a rush. “I can't talk about it. But... I need to? Because... it really happened.”
“Bitty,” she says his name softly, concerned, and then, a little further away, “Hang on, Shits -”
“Don't,” Bitty says, quick. And then: “I mean - maybe? He'd - it's.” He laughs, and it's only half delirious. “Lardo, think I must've died and got sent to a bizarro world.”
The line falls silent. Then, as careful as Lardo’s ever said anything, she asks, “You finally get that maple-crusted apple pie right?”
“The recipe,” she says, casual as you like. “The one you've been working on for awhile?”
He's about to ask her just what the heck she's talking about when she adds, “Because, bro? Shitty tried to find the recipe after lunch, but it was gone, and when he texted Alicia if she knew where it was, she said the recipe was just off being like, super charming somewhere -”
“Um.” Bitty swallows. “I - well.” He presses the heel of his free hand to his forehead and squeezes his eyes shut. After a tense moment of internal debate, he sighs, “It’s a really good recipe.”
He can hear her smile through the phone.
“Fuckin’ ’swasome, Eric Bittle,” she says.
“I hafta hang up now,” Bitty tells her. “Not ‘cause I'm gonna lie down forever and never get up or anything.”
“Safe flight home, okay?” she says with a small laugh. “Love you to bits, Bits. Congratu-fucking-lations.”
And Bitty - Bitty allows himself a brief moment of weightlessness, of hopefulness. “Love you,” he says, and at their goodbyes, he hangs up.
Lardo’s image blinks once, twice, and then the screen returns to his home page. The inbox icon is still at the top of his notification bar. Bitty pulls his bottom lip in and bites down, drags his thumb down the screen to bring the notification up and taps the message.
Jack Zimmermann 12m ago
I wanted a real goodbye. Have a good summer, Bitty.
Delighted, Bitty covers up a sudden laugh with his hand. With his free one, he types, Why did you send a snail emoji?
Jack Zimmermann 6:09PM
I don't know, I scrolled down and picked the first one I saw.
Jack Zimmermann 6:11PM
Bitty texts back a fond, exasperated, Jack, honestly. and, before he can think about it, throws in a for good measure.
Jack Zimmermann 6:12PM
I like that one.
Bitty's fingers hover over the keyboard after that - there are a million things he wants to say, wants to ask. He wants to talk about this when he can see Jack's face. He wants to kiss Jack again. He wants more than that. He wants to offer a prayer of thanks to Beyoncé, just because it feels like the right thing to do.
Anyway - they have time. To figure out what comes next. They have the whole summer, and then some.
A smile builds slow at the corners of Bitty’s mouth, brick by brick. He feels so full, so alive, just from this. Giddy in a way he’s never been. There's a thrum alight in his veins, in the kick-drum way his heart is beating, and he carries it with him as he opens up another app to type something else.
With trembling hands, Bitty grins wide, and hits send.