Jack sat five rows from the glass on center ice at Faber, and cheered as Ransom and Holster skated past him. The swish swish swish of blades on ice was always such a familiar sound to Jack’s ears. Now, however, he had a completely different relationship with it. It had become one that provided entertainment -- not anxiety. It was a sound that made him feel proud of his boyfriend and family history -- not full of stress. He was truly enjoying himself as he watched his new friends play with a carefree passion that Jack knew he never had. Jack’s head might have been in the game, but his heart never had been.
When the Dartmouth D-man flubbed the puck into his own skates right near Bitty, Bitty quickly seized the opportunity given, spun and shot the puck which flew straight in between the Dartmouth goalie’s legs.
Jack jumped up and cheered, “There you go, number 15!” as Bitty took a quick celly and then turned to toss a flirty wink Jack’s way.
“That was such a good game, Bits. You’re so fast and have such soft hands. It’s so fun to watch you play.”
The two were walking down Bristol Street, making their way toward the Haus. Bitty was still flushed from the game, glowing from both the exertion and Jack’s compliments.
“Thanks, sweetheart. I’m just glad you saw us win.”
“Winning is nice but isn’t everything,” Jack added quickly. “It’s all about what you learn from both the wins and the losses. You can learn as much from a loss as anything else. Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.’”
Bitty smiled, because he could tell from the sound of Jack’s voice that was about to flip on his history switch. Bitty loved seeing Jack become so animated and alive when talking about things that really interested him.
In the three weeks he and Bitty had been seeing each other, they’d been inseparable -- as much as school, work and hockey would allow. When Bitty was at Bread and Butter, Jack would stop by for coffee and pie. And on the days Bitty was on a roadie, they’d Skype every night. Their texting was nonstop, almost to distraction. But Jack with his laser focus and dedication, always made sure their school responsibilities were met. And who said Jack and Bitty couldn’t study together? A kiss here, a smooch there. It was all good.
Bitty turned to face Jack, dropped his duffle bag and said, “Jack… I was thinking…”
Jack furrowed his brow. “Oh no. What is it?”
Bitty smiled, which made Jack release the breath he had begun holding.
He took Jack’s hands and said, “I was thinking, I could drop off my things at the Haus, and then… I’d pack some stuff and maybe… spend the night at your place?”
Jack’s eyes opened wide. “You… you want to spend the night?”
Bitty leaned up and placed a gentle kiss on Jack’s lips. “Yes.”
“Honey! Of course -- if that’s okay with you, that is. I shouldn’t presume anything.”
“Yes. Yes, you absolutely should spend the night.”
“All right then, it’s settled.” Bitty picked up his bag, placed his other hand in Jack’s and continued to make his way Haus-bound.
Jack’s mind began to race, his pulse quicken. While he and Bitty had certainly kissed, passionately made out even, they had yet to spend the night. Crisse, was his bathroom clean? Did he have decent breakfast fixings? How dirty were his sheets?!
“None of that matters, you know, Professor Zimmermann.”
Jack whipped his head around to look at Bitty, “How did you... ?”
“I know you Jack Laurent. And right now you’re wondering if your apartment is tidy enough, if there’s food in the fridge. You sweet boy. I don’t care about that -- but if you want, we can make a quick pitstop at Stop ‘n Shop and pick up a couple things. I also have a pie back at the Haus.”
Jack smiled and knew he had hit the jackpot with Bitty. Then, he got a second wave of panic as he began to think ahead to what else spending the night would entail. His experience had been limited, to say the least.
There had been some kisses with girls when he 12, some embarrassing aborted drunken fumblings during his freshman year in college, a couple dates here and there with both women and men, and then there had been He Who Shall Not Be Named during his stint in the minors but none of those experiences had been any good. Some had been downright horrific.
By the time they reached the front door of the Haus, Jack was in a cold sweat. Surely Bitty had more experience than Jack. How could he not? He was gorgeous and outgoing. Who wouldn’t want him? Jack sighed, lost in his thought. And dear god, Bitty would have to see him naked!
“Huh? Yes! Sorry, Bits. You were saying?”
Bitty looked at him with concern, “I was just asking if you wanted to wait downstairs or come up to my room?”
“Sure. Yes, I’ll come upstairs.” Jack swallowed thickly and walked inside. Chowder was already sprawled on the putrid green couch taking a nap, recuperating from the game. The rest of the team had gone to Jerry’s for dinner.
Bitty held a finger to his lips, shushed quietly, as they went upstairs.
“You must be famished,” Jack said as he gingerly sat on the corner of Bitty’s bed. “Do you want to go out to eat first? We can maybe catch up with the rest of the team if you’d like.” At this point, Jack was now postponing the inevitable.
“No, I was thinking,” Bitty said as he pulled out a backpack from his closet, “that we’d order some Chinese, or something, to eat at your place. We can call in the order when we leave Stop ‘n Shop. Does Tasty Wok sound good?”
“Uh, good,” Jack said as he absentmindedly began to knead the corner of Bitty’s comforter.
Bitty pulled out a pair of underwear, socks, a t-shirt, some pajama bottoms, a pair of jeans from his dresser, and then he crawled over to Jack. He deposited himself in the space between Jack’s legs.
“So, I have a confession to make, and now is as good a time as any.”
Bitty blushed and said, “I would like you to meet Señor Bun.” He reached over to the side of the bed and pulled out a worn, and clearly well-loved, stuffed rabbit.
This instantly broke the tension Jack was feeling. He laughed and said, “Lapin!”
“Pardon?” Bitty said, putting his hands on his hips. Señor Buns’ ears flapped to the side as he hung limply next to Bitty.
“Lapin. Rabbit. That’s your rabbit. Your bunny!” Jack leaned over and gave Bitty a hug. “It’s adorable, and so are you.”
“He’s adorable,” Bitty sassily replied. “Wherever I go at night, he goes. So, I just wanted to make the introductions now and get the awkwardness out of the way.”
Bitty held Bun up to his face and pressed a kiss onto his nose.
“I don’t remember ever not having him. One day, I want to give him to my kid.” Bitty shrugged. “One day.”
Jack smiled and inhaled deeply, feeling himself become full of Bittle sunshine. Even on the worst of days, Bitty always brought this sunshine and joy anywhere he went.
Bitty then jumped up and said, “Okay, I’m just getting my toothbrush and then we can skedaddle. All right?”
Jack nodded, “Good!”
He watched Bitty skip out of the room and head to the bathroom. It would be fine, he thought. It would be fine and wonderful and memorable, even if it wasn’t perfect it would still be better than anything else he’d ever had because Bitty was wonderful and perfect. That was all there was to it. How had he managed without this in life?
When Bitty walked back, Jack jumped up and hugged Bitty. He gathered up his courage, once again, and said, “I love you.”
Bitty pulled back, and looked at Jack. “What?”
“I… I love you.”
Bitty’s face lit up as he whispered, “You do?”
Jack nodded, “You don’t have to say it back if you don’t feel it yet. I know it’s soon, believe me I know. You just make me very brave and---”
“I love you too, Jack.”
Jack tilted his head, “You love me, too?”
“Lord, honey. Don’t be so surprised. You’re amazing. I keep saying this to you, because it’s true. I love you, I really do. Right from the beginning, if I’m being honest.”
The two held hands, staring into each other’s eyes until Bitty finally spoke. “How about we forget the grocery store. Let’s just order our food and go home?”
“Sounds perfect,” Jack said.
“I don’t think I can eat another bite,” Bitty said as he placed the container of kung pao chicken he had been resting on his chest onto the coffee table. He was laying across the couch and had his feet in Jack’s lap. The Great British Baking Show played on the television.
“You know, you’re lucky I love you because I’m not sure I’d be able to eat with anyone else’s feet in my lap this close to my food.”
Jack slurped up a lo mein noodle and Bitty groaned.
“Rub my tummy, Jack. I’m soooo full.”
Jack laughed, “Serves you right. How can you be that small and eat that much?”
“I need the protein, Zimmermann. And I am average sized, just so you know!”
Jack laughed and poked at Bitty’s foot. “Okay, let’s clean up.”
“You’re right,” Bitty said. “It’s getting late, and we should get to bed.”
“But we don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow morning, do we?” Jack asked.
Bitty grinned, “I didn’t say anything about sleep, did I?”
Jack stared at Bitty and felt his face burn. “Oh…”
Bitty smiled and sat up, he crawled toward Jack and gave him a soft, slow kiss. Jack sighed.
“But first, a shower! I feel like I smell like Dinner Special Number 35,” Bitty said. “And you taste like noodles.”
Jack chuckled, “No MSG, I hope.”
“Gosh, you’re cute,” Bitty said.
Jack cleared the living room, put the leftovers in the fridge, and washed the dishes. He could hear Bitty’s music playing from the bathroom as Bitty sang along to whatever was on. This felt so right to Jack. All of it; the eating together, the quiet joking, the kisses, the I love yous. It was all so comfortable and easy.
Love had never been easy for Jack. Never. He had always felt either too awkward, or closed off, or out of shape. The painful scrutiny of eyes on him -- whether real or imagined -- was often too much to bear, but with Bitty there was never any of that. He rinsed the last glass, and placed it on the dish rack, then headed over to the bathroom.
“I’m just brushing my teeth,” Jack said.
“Okey doke,” Bitty called back, then he began to sing along to the song currently playing.
“Everywhere I'm looking now, I'm surrounded by your embrace. Baby, I can see your halo. You know you're my saving grace….”
Jack finished brushing, and he realized the weight of the happiness he felt. It was strong and unlike anything he’d ever felt before. Jack felt appreciated and adored for who he was. Who he really was. That was love, wasn’t it? Of course, it was.
“You're everything I need and more. It's written all over your face. Baby, I can feel your halo. Pray it won't fade away…”
Jack began to undress, letting his clothes pool to the bottom of his feet. He stepped out of the pile, then approached the shower and quietly pulled back the curtain and entered.
Bitty turned around, eyes growing wide. His hands soapy and gathered up near his neck.
“Oh…” he said softly looking down then quickly back up. “Hello.”
“Hello,” Jack replied and slowly got closer to Bitty. He opened his arms, and Bitty slid in as Jack embraced him.
Bitty closed his eyes, and shivered even as the hot water sluiced down his back. Jack simply held him tightly, and just enjoyed the feel of this precious being within his arms. The two stood wordlessly, the only sound from the room coming from the water and Beyoncé.
Bitty cleared his throat and said, “Jack?”
“I’ve… I’ve never done this before.”
Jack opened his eyes, and looked down toward Bitty.
Bitty looked up at Jack, bit his lower lip and shook his head.
Bitty smiled shyly, “I guess I was scared, and there was never really anyone I wanted to do it with before. Until now. All that confidence and bravado earlier, was just an act...”
“We don’t have to do anything, Bits. It’s fine,” Jack said then kissed the top of Bitty’s head.
“No, I want to.” Bitty looked up at Jack, “I want to.”
Jack dipped his head down, as Bitty reached up with a crushing kiss. Hands pushed and pulled. Bodies pressed hotly against each other, grinding and gripping.
“Maybe we should get out of the shower?” Jack gasped.
“Yes. Yes, immediately,” Bitty replied shutting off the water while he still kissed Jack.
Without breaking their kiss, the two stumbled out of the shower as Jack pulled a towel from the towel rack and wrapped it around Bitty.
They managed to make their way to Jack’s bed, as Bitty scooted onto it and Jack flung the towel off to the side. Water droplets splashed gently across the bed.
Jack crawled over Bitty, who looked at Jack with pure admiration.
“God, you’re gorgeous,” Bitty said.
Jack shook his head, “No, you don’t have to ---”
“Jack Laurent Zimmermann! Are you going to ruin my first time for me?”
Jack stopped and looked down at Bitty, “No, but…”
“There is no no.” Bitty sighed, then sat up, gently pushing Jack back onto his knees.
“I love everything about you,” Bitty said.
“Your beautiful eyes,” he said as he pressed a kiss onto each lid as Jack closed them.
“Your broad shoulders.” Another kiss, this time on his shoulders.
“Your strong arms that can carry so many books. That can carry me.” Kiss on each arm.
“This wide chest,” Bitty said as he playfully pulled on Jack’s chest hair. “So manly.”
Bitty slowly dragged his hands downward and continued, “This gorgeous tummy that isn’t a slave to any societal nonsense. It tells me you enjoy life, you live it. I adore it!”
Jack blushed and looked away, but Bitty wouldn’t let that happen. He needed Jack to know, to see what he saw.
“Your powerful legs -- and that ass. Oof! Can I just go on about that ass? You might have stopped playing hockey forever ago, but lord, you kept that hockey butt.”
“You’re so big and tall. You make me feel safe. You’re hot, gorgeous, and adorable. And on top of all that, you’re you. You’re you… so don’t try to convince me you’re not beautiful. Because you are, Jack Laurent Zimmermann. You are.”
The two remained quiet, contemplating one another. Then Jack caressed Bitty’s face, as Bitty leaned in for another kiss. Jack had never felt so wanted and attractive as he did right then and there, naked in front of Eric Bittle.
Jack slowly opened his eyes, and could hear Bitty’s deep and steady breathing as he remained sound asleep. He turned to look at Bitty, who was snuggled against Jack. His arm, stretched across Jack’s chest, his face burrowed into his side. Señor Bun pinned underneath him. He watched Bitty sleep, soundly and so peacefully.
Jack’s face broke into a huge smile as he remembered the events from the night before. The sounds coming from Bitty as Jack had touched and kissed him everywhere. The way the light from the bathroom highlighted Bitty’s body as he lay on his stomach while Jack placed kisses from the back of his neck all the way down to his calves. He recalled Bitty’s face as he came calling Jack’s name again and again, while Jack stroked them both simultaneously.
Just then, Bitty stirred and rolled over onto his back. He gave himself a full body stretch and then turned to face Jack, all sleepy-faced and hair askew. A slow grin spread across Bitty’s face.
“I love you,” he said as he booped Jack’s nose.
“I love you,” Jack said leaning in to kiss Bitty.
“You know what else I love?”
Bitty laughed softly, “Yessss! How did you know?”
Jack propped himself onto his elbow, and placed his head on his hand, “Because I know you, and I love you. Very much.”
Bitty’s eyes swept across Jack’s face. He took in Jack’s gentle expression, the complete vulnerability in his statement, and the openness of it all.
“And I love you, Jack Zimmermann. I really do.”
“Good,” Jack replied. “Because you’re not getting rid of me.”
“Well, that’s convenient.” Bitty replied.
“Because you’re not getting rid of me, either. So I guess we’re stuck with each other.”
Jack smiled, eyes crinkling with joy, “I guess so.”
“Maybe I’ll finally get my Pyrex back,” Bitty replied.
Jack laughed and kissed Bitty once again. It was going to be a great morning.