Bitty glances up from the kitchen - that’s a new voice - just in time to see Shitty fling himself across the room at a tall brunette girl. “Hils! Fucking shit, man, so great to see you! You didn’t say you were coming!”
She hugs him hard and thumps him on the back, laughing. “Had the weekend free,” she explains, pulling back and grinning at him. “Thought I’d see what you were up to. You’ve got a game this weekend, right?”
“Fuck yeah, Harvard, on Sunday. Should be good. Man, I’m so glad you’re here - c’mon, I’ll introduce you to the guys. We’ll rage tonight, it’ll be ‘swawesome.”
Bitty turns his focus back to the pie (blackberry, they’re in season and it’s Jack’s favorite), making sure that the lattice he’s making is even. Shitty bursts into the kitchen, his arm around the new girl.
“Bits! Hils, this is Bitty, he’s the tits, he like, fucking generates pies or some shit, ‘swawesome. Bits, this is my sister Hilary - I told you about her, right? She was at the Olympics this year! And she was there last time, she’s the shit.”
“Nice to meet you,” Bitty says, holding out his and automatically. Hilary gives him a cheerful grin and pulls him into a bro-hug, thumping him on the back hard enough that it knocks the breath out of him.
“You too,” she says when she lets him go, and waves to him as Shitty hauls her out of the kitchen, already hollering for Ransom and Holster. Bitty turns back to his pie and sighs. If there’s going to be a party tonight, he’s going to need more butter.
As promised, they do rage that night. Shitty somehow managed to pull together enough alcohol to set the Haus afloat on very short notice and there’s a crowd of people swirling around in the first floor, arguing about what video games to play and whether or not the music sucks. There’s also an epic game of beer pong going on - Ransom and Holster are ruling the table as usual, taking on all comers. Holster sinks his last shot and whoops, bumping chests with Ransom as Johnson and his partner take their drinks. “Who’s next?” Ransom calls, scanning the room. Bitty’s leaning up against the wall with a beer in his hand, just watching - he’s no great shakes at beer pong - and Ransom’s eyes land on him. “Bits!” he shouts. “C’mon, pick a partner and play.”
“Uh, I don’t. . .” he starts, before feeling a heavy, unfamiliar arm drop around his shoulders.
“I’ll be his partner,” Hilary says, and Ransom and Holster share identical shark grins.
“Excellent,” Ransom says.
“Fresh meat,” Holster agrees, and Bitty looks up at her worriedly.
“I’m not any good at beer pong,” he says, half in apology, half in warning. “And they’re really good, so - “
Hilary’s smile is bright and cheerful but it has a dangerous edge to it. “Don’t worry about it,” she says breezily. “I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
“First throw’s yours,” Holster says, gesturing at the table. Bitty glances over at Hilary to see whether she wants it but she gestures at him to go ahead, so he picks up the ball and manages to actually get it into one of Ransom and Holster’s cups.
“Atta boy,” Hilary says, as Ransom drinks. Bitty turns a little red - he’s unfairly prone to blushing, especially when he’s been drinking.
The game continues, and it turns out that Hilary is seriously amazing at beer pong. Like, to the point where, despite Bitty’s occasional fuck-ups, they’re actually winning. Ransom is leaning on Holster, squinting at the table.
“Bro,” he says, in tones as hushed as they ever get at a party. “Bro, I think she might be better than you.”
“Shut the fuck up,” Holster says, but he misses his next shot and groans. “Rans, why ya gotta do this to me?”
“Suck it up,” Hilary advises, taking the next shot and sinking it expertly. Bitty watches her with something approaching awe. He’s never seen anyone beat Ransom and Holster at beer pong before.
They do win - no thanks to Bitty - and at some point Shitty comes over to cheer Hilary on. She grins at him in thanks as he hands her a beer and takes a long drink. “What else ya got?” she asks, which is how Bitty finds himself doing a kegster, “As a demonstration!” Shitty had said, grinning. “Besides, you scored last game, you’re still up.”
He takes a break from the party after that to find the bathroom, and comes back to find that not only has Jack decided to grace the party with his presence, he’s actually talking to someone. Talking to Hilary, in fact, with an actual expression on his face. He’s using hand gestures.
“Whoa,” says Johnson, wandering past him. “That’s an interesting plot twist.”
Bitty turns to go find Shitty and something else to drink. Maybe he’ll switch to water - all that beer from earlier is sitting funny in his stomach.
Saturday morning finds Bitty sprawled on the floor of Ransom and Holster’s attic at the Haus with a headache - instead of switching to water, Shitty had handed him a bottle of vodka and told him that it was the best cure for an upset stomach. He is never listening to Shitty about anything ever again, Bitty vows as he grips the railing on his way down the stairs and into the kitchen to look for breakfast.
After starting the coffee maker and taking stock of the kitchen, he decides on scrambled eggs. Since this is by far and away not the first time this has happened, he cracks seven eggs into a pan and pulls a package of bacon out of the fridge. As soon as the eggs and bacon start cooking he’ll be inundated with hungover hockey players begging for breakfast.
Sure enough, as soon as the scent of bacon starts drifting out of the kitchen, the boys start rolling in. Holster is the first, sitting down at the kitchen table and face-planting on the table immediately, making grumbling noises until Ransom, who followed him downstairs, pours two cups of coffee and slides one across the table to Holster before pouring half of Bitty’s sugar supply into his own cup. Bitty hears the telltale thump of the front door as Rans goes out and picks up the newspaper before coming back in to lean against Holster’s back. Holster doesn’t comment, just grunts his thanks as he takes the newspaper from Ransom and flips through it, pulling out the financial section before handing it back to Ransom, who turns to the comics and starts reading while sipping at his hellaciously sweet coffee. Bitty puts the first round of bacon on a plate and sets it down on the table before going back to the stove and poking at the eggs.
When the eggs are finally done to his specifications and the second round of bacon is sizzling in the pan, he turns around again to take a headcount. There are five sleepy faces blinking up at him from the kitchen table so he grabs some plates and starts dishing up the eggs, keeping an eye on the bacon to make sure it doesn’t burn. Just as he’s about to sit down and start eating, Hilary stumbles into the kitchen, wearing an oversized US Women’s National Hockey Team t-shirt and a pair of boxers Bitty suspects she stole from Shitty, her hair in a messy bun. She yawns.
“Oh hey, breakfast!” she says, sounding sleepy but enthusiastic. “Is there any left?”
“Here you go,” Bitty says, handing her his plate. “I’ll just go ahead and make some more.”
“Thanks,” she says, taking the plate and heading for the table. Halfway there she seems to realize something, and turns back to him. “Dude, is this your breakfast? You don’t have to do that, I can make my own -”
“It’s fine,” Bitty interrupts her, his knuckles whitening as he grips his spatula. “You go ahead and eat, I was cooking anyway - I should make some more anyway, where’s Shitty?”
“He was making noises about food when I came down, he’ll probably be down in a minute,” Hilary says, looking worried. “Seriously, you don’t have to give me your breakfast, like I said - “
“Oh I don’t mind,” Bitty says, smiling brightly at her and ignoring the way his smile feels stiff. Just then, Jack comes into the kitchen, flushed and sweaty from his morning run.
“Morning,” he says, heading straight for the refrigerator and pulling out a protein shake. Bitty takes a moment to appreciate the way Jack’s t-shirt is clinging to his chest and back before turning back to the stove. He can feel the tips of his ears heating up as he cracks more eggs into his pan viciously and ignores the way the bacon’s sizzle has taken on an ominous tone.
“Yo,” Holster says, finally having woken up enough to participate in conversations. “You finish the reading for English yet, man?”
Bitty is still facing the stove, but he can hear Jack’s shrug in his voice. “Nah - it’s only 20 pages and I still have another paper to write this weekend.” His voice changes slightly. “Uh, Hilary - are you coming to watch practice?”
“I was planning on it,” she says, and Bitty clenches his teeth so hard he thinks he hears one crack.
“Something the matter, Bits?” Shitty asks, concerned. He’s standing in the doorway in a pair of blue plaid boxers, and has clearly seen Bitty’s face. He tenses, feeling his shoulders come up around his ears, and then forces himself to relax.
“Nope! Nothing,” he says, and his cheerful tone sounds fake even to himself. “Just-” he turns back to the stove and starts scooping the bacon out of the frying pan. It’s started to burn. “Here, Hilary, would you like some bacon?”
“Sure thing, thanks, bro,” she says, ambling over to the stove and holding out her plate. She looks at the bacon a little uncertainly as Bitty puts it on her plate, then shrugs and takes it back to the table, popping a piece in her mouth as she goes.
“If you say so, bro,” Shitty says, clearly unconvinced, and Bitty turns to him with a smile that feels a little more real.
“Definitely. Here, Shitty, the eggs are done - want some?”
“Keep your stick down, Bittle!”
Bitty grits his teeth, trying to ignore the advice from the stands and concentrate on the play. After it’s over - he almost misses a pass from Shitty but manages to corral it and fire it on net, but Johnson snags it out of the air - Jack skates up to him wearing an angry expression.
“Didn’t you hear Hilary? Keep your stick on the ice!” he snaps, then skates off. Bitty sets his jaw mutinously as he skates back to the red line to reset the drill, ignoring the confused expressions on Ransom and Holster’s faces.
Hilary spends the rest of practice alternately calling out advice and cheering wildly, and Bitty feels himself getting tenser and tenser whenever Jack instructs them to listen to her. It’s not like he’s wrong - Hilary’s good, her suggestions are good, and when he’s able to make himself think rationally Bitty recognizes this - but the whole situation is making something in Bitty’s chest tighten up uncomfortably. He’s never been more grateful to get off the ice, not even when Jack was making him do checking practice.
Ransom and Holster pull him aside in the locker room. “Bits - is something the matter?”
“Yeah, we couldn’t help but notice-”
“You were pretty tense during practice. Everything okay?”
“Fine,” Bitty snaps, changing as quickly as possible. “Everything’s fine.”
“You sure?” Holster doesn’t sound convinced, and Bitty scowls at the two of them. They’re oblivious to basically everything else, why did this have to be the thing they picked up on?
“Positive,” he says, grabbing the rest of his things and fleeing before they can ask him any more questions.
Bitty is attempting to bake away his feelings when Hilary ambles into the kitchen and plops down at the table, peering at him in interest. “Whatcha makin’?” she asks.
Bitty feels his shoulders jump up around his ears and forces himself to relax. “Apple pie,” he says, and it’s reflex more than anything that keeps his tone polite.
“Ooh, that’s my favorite,” she says. “Hey, so - um.”
Bitty turns to look at her, curious. She looks a little awkward. “Uh, Shitty and I were talking, you know, the other day,” she says, and Bitty turns back to his pie crust, letting out a “hmmm” so she thinks he’s listening. “And he might have mentioned that one of his friends was, you know, going through some stuff, and he thought it might help if they could, you know, talk about it. With someone who might, like, have been there, you know?”
“Mmhmm,” Bitty says, trying not to pay any attention. His attention is focused on cutting the apples into the thinnest possible slices, his grip on the knife such that his hand is starting to hurt. He doesn’t like having people in his kitchen while he bakes. Well - not strange people. “That’s nice.”
“Offer’s open, anytime,” she says earnestly as she gets up and heads out of the kitchen. Bitty finishes tossing the apples with the seasoning - he might have put in a couple extra shakes of cinnamon and a lot of extra nutmeg, but it’s Hilary’s favorite, surely she’ll appreciate the extra flavor - and seals up the pie. Once he has it in the oven he leans against the cabinets and resists the urge to bang his head against the counter repeatedly.
The game against Harvard is tight from start to finish - Jack gets a goal in the first but Harvard comes back and ties the game at the beginning of the second and they’re just trading chances after that, with Johnson and the Harvard goalie working hard to keep them tied.
Late in the third, Bitty’s line is in the middle of a change when he catches a pass from Ransom and looks up to see that Harvard is also in the middle of a shift change and there’s no one between him and the net. He swallows hard but takes the puck straight to the net, just like in practice. One of the Harvard d-men comes looming into his peripheral vision and he almost freezes but he can hear one of his teammates behind him shouting for the puck, so he spins away from the incoming check and passes the puck -
- straight to Jack, who drives the net and then lifts the puck just over the Harvard goalie’s left shoulder in a breathtakingly beautiful shot. Jack slams into the boards in celebration and when he turns back around, his face is full of fierce joy, making Bitty’s breath catch strangely even as he skates over to be enveloped in the hug.
Jack grabs him around the shoulders and knocks their helmets together. “Great pass, Bittle,” he says, and Bitty’s cheeks, already flushed from the game, grow even redder.
The clock ticks down, slowly, as Harvard tries a last minute rally and Samwell just barely holds them off. And then they’ve won, and Ransom and Holster crash into Bitty in celebration on their way to go tell Johnson good game. He’s grinning from ear to ear when he comes off the ice, and even the sight of Hilary beaming congratulations at all of them from the stands closest to the locker room tunnel doesn’t dim his mood.
“Good game, guys,” she says, coming into the locker room and bumping fists with everyone after they’ve showered and mostly put clothes on. She’s followed by a shorter blonde girl who looks vaguely familiar for some reason. “Oh, hey - this is my girl, Amanda.”
“Nice to meet you all,” Amanda says, waving around at them and smiling. Jack looks completely thunderstruck at the sight of her, which makes Bitty’s stomach tilt alarmingly, but so do Ransom and Holster, which - Bitty had kind of thought that the two of them were teetering on the edge of figuring each other out, so this is strange.
“Amanda Kessel?” Shitty says, and oh - that’s why she looks so familiar, and probably also why everyone else looks so thunderstruck. When they’d been watching the Olympics, Kessel had been a name that came up frequently, no matter whether they were watching the men or the women’s hockey teams. “You’re dating Amanda Kessel?”
Hilary frowns. “Who did you think I was dating, bro?”
“Not Amanda Kessel, that’s for sure,” Shitty mutters, but he goes over to shake her hand, followed closely by the rest of the team, who are all eager to meet her. Bitty hangs back, because he’s not entirely sure that his legs will hold him if he tries to stand up. So that’s what Hilary had been talking about. Well. That certainly changes some things.
Once he’s gotten his feet under him, he head over to shake Amanda’s hand as well. She beams up at him, which is an odd feeling - he’s not used to being taller than people. “That was a beautiful assist, on the last goal,” she says, and Bitty feels his cheeks heating up.
“Thank you, ma’am,” he says, and Amanda laughs in delight.
“Not ma’am, just Amanda,” she says, and when Hilary chimes in with her own praise for the assist Bitty gives her his first real smile since they beat Ransom and Holster at beer pong two nights ago, and she returns it, looking relieved.
“So what changed your mind?” Hilary asks quietly, pulling Bitty aside in the kitchen while the impromptu party carries on in the Haus. It’s not going to be a rager - they had one of those already this weekend, and it’s a school night - but it felt wrong not to celebrate, and so a very low-key party is currently going on. “About me?”
“Uh,” Bitty says, a little flummoxed. “What?”
“For a while there, you hated my guts,” Hilary says, and Bitty looks down at the floor. “Something change your mind?”
“Um.” Bitty bites his lip. “Well. There was this thing, and Jack. . . “
“Ohh, you were jealous,” Hilary says understandingly. “Gotcha. We’re cool now, though, right?”
“Oh yes,” Bitty says, feeling his cheeks heat again. Hilary grins down at him.
“Great! So, just so you know - the offer from yesterday? Still totally open. Here’s my phone number, in case you need it,” she hands him a piece of paper with her number scrawled across it, “and keep me updated on the Ransom and Holster situation, will you? I’d ask Shitty, but he gets all weird about the ‘sanctity of the bro code’ or whatever.”
“Sure thing,” Bitty says, slipping the paper into his pocket just as Jack comes into the kitchen. He gives the two of them a strange look before crossing to the refrigerator and pulling out a water bottle and wandering back out. After he leaves Hilary give Bitty a long, considering look.
“I’m not sure what, exactly, he says about your taste,” she says, “but that ass is to die for. Also, you totally owe me a pie.”
Bitty nods and starts gathering up the correct ingredients. Half an hour later, Amanda finds them in the kitchen gossiping about Ransom, Holster and the Haus ghosts while they wait for Hilary’s apple pie to finish baking.