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Catching manic rhapsody

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“Bruh,” Shitty says, and Jack can hear how Truly Disappointed he is before the door is even fully open. “I thought you guys would tell me?”

“Tell you what?” Jack’s wracking his mind, trying to find something that happened recently, something important, something Shitty would be the first person he told.

He and Bitty had sex last night without using a suggestion from the box, and for some reason now it’s sending guilt through Jack’s veins.

“You know what,” Shitty says, thrusting his phone at Jack’s chest, with a huff, and even his mustache looks sad. He’s curled in on himself, shoulders hunched, forehead lined, like he doesn’t even want to pretend he’s okay. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for you guys. But. Come on, I figured I’d know before it happened.”

Jack can’t even really process what Shitty’s saying, because he’s finally got Shitty’s phone held in a way that he can actually see the screen.

“I mean,” Shitty continues. “If it were me and Lardo you’d be the first person I told. And I’d get it if you weren’t telling anybody. But did you even make it to the bottom of the box?”

It’s a picture, pulled up and zoomed in on Shitty’s ridiculous phone. The screen is cracked and a little bit sticky, but the website photo is clear enough.

Jack’s on the screen, wearing aviators and a blue baseball cap, but it’s undeniably him. And he’s leaving a jewelry shop with a small bag clutched in his hands. It’s a bit of a blurry shot—an action shot, Jack would call it, if it weren’t something taken by paparazzi—but there’s no mistaking what Jack’s doing.

The article title, stretched below the photo of him, isn’t helping with the way Jack’s heart is setting a new tempo against his ribcage.

“Is Falconer Captain Jack Zimmermann Finally Tying The Knot?

“Has Bitty seen this?” he asks, and suddenly he’s very sweaty in many places. Hands. Armpits. Temples. The Anxiety Sweats are kicking in and Jack is too busy trying not to drop Shitty’s phone to do much about anything else. He can’t even read the rest of the article, his hands are shaking too much.

Shitty frowns at him, plucking his phone out of Jack’s suddenly slick grip. “I assumed so because you had proposed, but I’m realizing now that’s not the case. I’m feeling a little better about it now.”

“I haven’t asked him yet,” Jack says, hands clutching at nothing, because this was going to be the Biggest Surprise, the Best Surprise, and now some gossip site is going to give the game away. “I was waiting for the perfect moment.”

“You still can,” Shitty says, and the shift in his body, his voice, from disappointed to Exuberantly Optimistic would be jarring if Jack hadn’t known him for so long. “Bitty doesn’t read the tabloids, not anymore. There’s a very small chance he saw this.”

“How did you see it?”

“Lardo forwarded it to me.”

“How did she see it?” Jack’s hallway is feeling very small.

Shitty pushes them both inside, toward the living room, which is thankfully much bigger, and shuts the door behind him. “She keeps tabs on whenever you or Bitty pop up on any unsavory sites. Does damage control. She calls it Damage Con-Trolling. It’s adorable. And terrifying.”

“Do you think—”

Shitty pushes down on Jack’s shoulders until he’s sitting on the couch, and then drops onto the cushion beside him. “I don’t. And I didn’t mean to freak you out, sorry about that. Bitty only reads articles about pop stars, there’s no way he’s seen this. Beyonce would have to have been leaving the store at the same time. You’re good. Breathe with me.”

And Jack does. It’s not an anxiety attack, not a real one anyway, but it hadn’t occurred to Jack before this moment just how much he wants to surprise Bitty. How much he wants to give this to him. Jack’s not one for public gestures, but he wants something Bitty can think back on and smile over every time he looks down at his left hand.

He wants to give Bitty the world, and it’s not cool if the world tells him first.

“You good?” Shitty asks.

Jack nods, glancing over at his gear bag, where the ring has been safely stowed since its purchase. Then he frowns at Shitty. “Why did you think I’d propose to Bitty without telling you?”

“You got a ring without telling me,” Shitty points out.

“I got a ring without telling anybody. Except, apparently, this photojournalist.”

“You’re being kind, they’re a pap rat. Who stalked you to a jewelry shop apparently. Which, I thought you were thinking about getting the ring from your mom’s family?”

“I did—the store was resizing it for me. But that’s not the point. The point is, you already knew I was going to propose to Bitty. You’re the one who put the proposal note at the bottom of the box.”

“That’s fair. But, in my defense, I just thought it would take you guys longer to find it.” He scratches his mustache. “I also figured one of you would crack and tell us first. Besides, if you don’t propose to him, I know for a fact he’s gonna propose to you.”

“What?” Jack looks at him, and Shitty’s always been a bad liar, but this time the open honesty scribbled across his face isn’t what Jack wants to see. “Why would you think that? There isn’t another photo of Bitty leaving a jewelry store, is there?”

“Confidential sources, my dude.” Shitty pats him on the shoulder and swings his legs up over Jack’s lap, pushing him further down into the sofa, grounding him. “But dependable, confidential sources.”

“Shit. That definitely pushes up my timeline. I was gonna wait until summer, maybe when we went back to Madison for the Fourth of July.”

“That’s romantic as fuck, my dude.” Shitty shrugs, and now he’s got an elbow on Jack’s shoulder, cheek resting on his fist. “Who’s to say Bitty isn’t waiting either?”

“It’s January, Shits. Bitty’s not exactly known for his patience.”

“No, but he’s a romantic. He’ll want the perfect moment too. So all you have to do is sabotage anything that looks like a perfect moment. Or hijack it for yourself.”

Jack laughs. “That feels extreme.”

“Do you want to propose first or not?”

“I don’t even know if Bitty’s planning on proposing or not. I’m not going to rush into this. Bitty deserves something perfect and...I don’t know, something beautiful.”

“Confidential, dependable sources, Jack,” Shitty says, wriggling on the couch, heels digging into the cushions beside Jack’s thigh. “You guys have been dating for years. You live together. You believe in the involvement of the government in your love lives. It’s only a matter of time.”

Jack looks down at his hands. “I guess. But I don’t want to propose to him just because I think he’s going to propose to me.”

“Who are you and what have you done with my very competitive, very handsome friend, Jack Zimmermann?”

Jack knocks Shitty’s elbow off his shoulder, but he can’t manage to knock the smile off either of their faces.

“Come on, Shits, I’m not that bad.”

“Yes, you are. I figured you’d be chomping at the bit for the opportunity to propose first. This is a race, Jack, and you’re pretty big on winning races.”

There is an itch under Jack’s skin, and even though Jack really doesn’t want to admit Shitty’s right, he Knows he is. And it wouldn’t be the first time he and Bitty have gotten competitive. Eating him out to the tune of noise complaints jumps to mind, and that gets Jack thinking about Other Things, so, really, Jack’s not in his right mind when he says, “I guess I’ll have to beat him to the proposal then.”

“Atta boy!” Shitty crows, then thumps him on the back. “Now that I have asserted my role as the Greatest Best Friend, a title which I wholeheartedly deserve, I can go back to work. My lunch break ends in like four minutes anyway.”

“Shits, you work on the other side of town.”

“Eh.” Shitty shrugs. “The laws will still be there when I get back. You wanna send me with some baked goods for the road?”

Jack does end up sending him with one of the pies Bitty baked last week, along with a protein bar and a jar of peach jam. It’s not exactly a nutritious lunch, but Jack kind of gave up on feeding Shitty balanced meals after he saw the state of their fridge in Haus 2.0.

Jack shuts the door once he leaves and leans against it for a moment before squaring his shoulders.

He’s got a proposal to plan.


The 25% of the plan he’s actually crafted (18% if he’s being Realistic, but Jack’s feeling rather optimistic today) flies out the window the moment Bitty gets home.

Jack’s just put his clothes back on after a run and shower (two Prime locations for planning) and feels like he should’ve known better than to get dressed.

Because Bitty’s got the brunch box sitting on their coffee table, perched beside it with his hands folded over his knees.

“Hey, bud,” Jack says, eyeing the box and the way Bitty’s shoulders are by his ears. “You alright?”

Bitty sighs. “Just. A rough day at work. I keep telling myself it’s just for a little bit longer, but I guess that’s getting harder to say the longer I have to say it.”

“Did you want to talk about it?” Jack sits down on the couch opposite Bitty, their knees knocking.

Bitty shakes his head. “No. I’d kind of rather have mind-numbingly hot sex with you to remind myself that literally everything else about my life is amazing.”

“And then we can talk after?”

“Jack, if you want to spend the afterglow listening to me bitch about work, I won’t stop you. But we have to do sexy things first. I’m expecting top notch sex.” He pushes the box closer to Jack. “The toppest notch.”

“Toppest notch coming right up.” Jack leans forward and opens the box, pausing to squeeze Bitty’s knee once before snagging a note off the top.

He unfolds it slowly, and he can practically feel Bitty’s impatience start to permeate through the room.

“Hockey gear can be just as useful and unorthodox as baking supplies. Don’t pretend like you haven’t thought about it”

“Huh,” Jack says, and Bitty takes the note from him.

Jack glances over at his gear bag while Bitty reads, trying to decide which pieces of equipment can be thoroughly cleaned without raising any suspicion. He’s got his away jersey, which has some potential. Bitty looks great in giant shirts. There’s also—

Bitty upends Jack’s gear bag before Jack even realizes he’s moved, and now there’s hockey shit all over the floor. Bitty kneels beside it and roots around, before holding something aloft triumphantly.

“Unorthodox,” Bitty says, then rejoins Jack on the couch and drops the roll of stick tape into his lap. “But I’ve definitely thought about it.”

“Really?” Jack picks up the tape and rolls it between his hands. “This is a little different than the ribbon, bud.”

“Yeah, I know. Just don’t tear my arm hair out.”

Jack laughs and draws Bitty in, because he hasn’t kissed him since he left for work this morning, which is an Actual Crime.

The couch makeout session takes a lot of the tension out of Bitty’s shoulders, and by the time they’ve stood and wandered toward their bedroom—careful not to trip on Jack’s scattered sports equipment—Bitty’s grinning into the kiss.

Jack strips out of his recently acquired clothes and takes his time unwrapping Bitty from his. He kisses Bitty’s sternum as he unbuttons his shirt, traces his teeth over his hip bones as he tugs off Bitty’s slacks. He smooths his palms up Bitty’s arms and gathers his wrists together, holding them above Bitty’s head before dropping his lips back onto Bitty’s again.

And then Bitty’s laid out naked before him, and Jack has to take a second to process that he gets to have this. That for all of Bitty’s terrible days and the times Jack’s Anxiety Brain tries to convince him that he’s not allowed to be happy, there will always be This and Them.

Bitty bites Jack’s lip gently, and Jack smiles before pulling away.

He snags the stick tape off the comforter and looks at it thoughtfully, picking at the end with his thumbnail. “Tape your stick sounds like a euphemism for safe sex.”

Bitty smirks. “Are you gonna tape my stick or what?”

Jack laughs and tears off a strip of tape using his teeth. “Let me know if it’s too tight or if anything starts to hurt.”

“You know I will.” Bitty wriggles a bit on the bed, wrists still held together above his head. His skin is winter pale and smooth, and Jack can’t resist running his palms up Bitty’s arms again. His callouses probably bite against Bitty’s skin, but Bitty just keeps watching him, dark eyes steady and completely still.

Jack carefully wraps the strip of tape around Bitty’s wrists, mindful not to press against his bones or accidentally catch any hair that’ll hurt to peel off later. It’s a loose wrapping, more a reminder than a real restraint, so Jack does another round, then a third. It’ll hold if Bitty tugs, but Jack knows they could get it off quickly and easily if Bitty needed.

“Jack,” Bitty says, and Jack finally looks away from Bitty’s wrists, where the black tape is stark and solid. Bitty’s expression is calm, comprised of trust and open honesty, open adoration, and it makes Jack’s chest warm.

“Bits,” Jack replies, because Bitty’s just staring too, blinking slowly and looking up at Jack’s face like it’s something worth staring at for days, even if they do nothing else.

Bitty smiles, and in the fading sunlight coming through their window, it reminds Jack of the soft things between them, the way the world folds to nothing but the two of them, here.

“I love you,” Jack says, because he could say it every day and it wouldn’t be enough.

Bitty’s grin broadens, and any heaviness lingering in his shoulders disappears, the world made obsolete by the breath between them.

“I love you too,” Bitty says. “I had other thoughts, Jack Zimmermann, but your beautiful face scared them off.”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“You looked at me, Jack, and honestly that’s enough to do that these days.”

“Nice to know we’re never growing out of our honeymoon phase.”

Bitty laughs, shoulders shaking, arms bent above himself. “I don’t think it’s a honeymoon phase if we’ve been together this long.”

Jack hums and now he’s thinking about real honeymoons and the ring in his—

Jack freezes. The ring in his gear bag. The gear bag that Bitty tipped all over the floor.


Jack startles and looks down at Bitty, who’s soft expression has turned concerned.

“It’s nothing,” Jack says, leaning down to press a gentle kiss to Bitty’s lips. But now he can’t stop thinking about it, about Bitty helping him pack everything back up and finding the ring. That’s not the proposal Jack wants, even if it’d win him the race.

“Doesn’t feel like nothing,” Bitty says, tugging at his wrists.

“Just let me take care of something real quick,” Jack says. He presses another lingering kiss on Bitty’s lips, then practically sprints into the living room.

It’s a mess, his gear everywhere, and at first, he doesn’t see the ring box. There’s a split second of panic, that it rolled under the couch or opened and sent the ring flying toward a heat grate or—

But then Jack spots it, partially hidden by his away jersey, and really, Jack’s heart will give out too soon if he keeps having days like this.

Jack swipes it up off the floor, along with his away jersey, and then tucks both in the zippered side pocket of his bag. Then he’s standing naked in the living room, realizing he left his boyfriend taped up in their bedroom, probably questioning all of his life choices.

So Jack, who may not be great at lying but is great at thinking fast, grabs one of his practice jerseys off the floor too, returning to the bedroom with it sheepishly held between his hands.

Bitty’s still there, but he’s sitting up, concerned frown on his face.

“Sorry, bud,” Jack says, holding up the jersey, like Bitty will immediately understand. “Unorthodox?”

Incredibly, Bitty’s expression immediately clears and he laughs. “More like predictable. You just like seeing me in your number.”

Jack shrugs. “Maybe I do.” And he does, he Really Does, the possessive part of him rising up and aching to see Bitty in blue, the word Zimmermann stretched across his shoulders.

“It’ll be a little hard to get on now,” Bitty says, holding up his bound wrists, but Jack just pushes his shoulders gently until he’s laying back down again, arms over his head.

“Let me worry about that.”

In the end, Jack does have to carefully unwrap Bitty’s wrists to get the jersey on, but it’s Absolutely worth it when he retapes Bitty’s wrists together a little tighter and has him roll onto his stomach. ‘Zimmermann’ is loud on his shoulders, and the bottom of the jersey falls over the swell of his ass. Jack glides a hand over him, pushing the material up until Bitty is bared to him again, and he feels Bitty shiver beneath him.

“You just gonna look?” Bitty asks, looking over his shoulder at Jack, fingers winding in the loose ends of their pillowcases.

“I figured I’d start there,” Jack replies, moving his other hand down Bitty’s thigh, touch soft, reverent. “You picked the tape, I get to take it from here.”

Bitty shrugs, settling into their comforter and Jack’s touch. “You drew the note. Do your thing.”

Jack traces his thumbs closer to Bitty’s hole and says, “Okay.”

And then he doesn’t really say anything else, because his tongue is suddenly Very Busy.

Bitty had been more than impressed with his dirty talk at the rink last week, but Jack knows that he likes using his mouth for other things. Things like licking across the furled skin of Bitty’s hole. Things like scraping his teeth ever so gently around the edge. Things like pushing his tongue inside Bitty and listening to the way his breath hitches dramatically.

“Jack, good Lord!”

Jack hums and pulls back to press an open-mouthed kiss to the inside of Bitty’s shaking thighs. “Yes?”

“Don’t you dare stop,” Bitty gasps, head bowed, even as Jack wraps his arms around Bitty’s thighs and hauls his ass up, giving himself more room to work.

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Bits,” Jack replies, before licking into Bitty like his mouth was made for nothing else. Words don’t always come easy, but this, bringing Bitty to the edge with words he doesn’t have to say out loud, this he can do.

And he does, tongue spearing into Bitty to the tune of “Jack, you’ve got a mouth fulla sin” and “ah, ah, Jack, you—”

Bitty’s hips circle, seeking friction for his cock, which just barely bobs against the bed below him, and Jack would give him the world, but he won’t give him this. It’s probably not fair, but a very selfish part of Jack preens every time Bitty comes from just his cock or just his tongue, and Jack Lives for the feeling of taking Bitty apart in overly stimulating ways.

Jack rubs himself against the mattress as he works, a slow grind at odds with the way Bitty’s rolling his hips desperately back onto Jack’s face. It’s good though, enough to keep the tips of Jack’s fingers on fire, to turn the spark in his stomach into a small flame.

His jaw is just starting to get a little sore when Bitty tenses, head thrown back. Jack can’t see his face, but he knows it’s red, Bitty’s lips probably even more so from biting them. He knows his mouth has gone slack, his eyes screwed shut as he spills onto the bed beneath him.

Sounds spill from Bitty’s lips, curses or prayers or garbled pleasure, and Jack carries him through it, thumbs spreading his cheeks and fingers digging into his hips.

“Jack,” Bitty whines, when he finally stops shaking, and Jack should’ve known even an orgasm couldn’t stop Bitty from being Turned On. “Jack, fuck me.”

“You sure?” Jack asks, reaching for the bedside table drawer. He’s so hard it’s kind of distracting, and he bumps the table twice before he actually gets the drawer open.

Bitty nods, body a dichotomy of post-orgasm bonelessness and strung tight potential. “Please.”

Jack finds the lube and slicks himself up, pausing only to make sure Bitty can take him easily.

Bitty shivers when Jack pushes inside, slow where he was frantic just moments before, marveling in the slick warmth, the way sliding into Bitty is as familiar as coming home, as exciting as the first time it happened.

Bitty arches his back, spreading his thighs so he can push up on his knees, fucking himself back onto Jack.

Jack grunts and grabs Bitty’s hips, steadying his pace, guiding them into a rhythm of slick skin and steady grinding.

“I thought you were letting me do my thing,” Jack gasps, when Bitty shoves back against Jack again, Jack’s squeezing hands on his hips nothing but guiding touch.

“You already did your thing,” Bitty grunts, using his elbows for leverage too, pounding back onto Jack like he wants to take him even deeper, face pink and mouth slack. “Now I get to do mine.”

“Yeah,” Jack says, because he may be bilingual, but words mean nothing in the face of a force like Bitty, “yeah, okay.”

So Jack lets Bitty set the pace, fucking in such a way that Jack wouldn’t believe Bitty had orgasmed moments ago had he not been the one to make him do so. It’s brutal and frenzied and So Ridiculously Hot, that Jack can only find himself thinking that this is what it means to fuck your brains out.

He does have enough functional brain power left to slide one hand from Bitty’s hip to where he’s definitely hard again and start jacking him as best he can. It’s probably not very effective, but Bitty’s already been overstimulated today, so Jack’s hand eye coordination doesn’t have to be spot on.

His orgasm sneaks up on him, a rolling thunderhead cloud that crests the horizon before Jack even realized it was approaching. It rolls through him, and Jack’s thoughts fizzle completely, because this overwhelming release has definitely fucked his brain right out of his body.

Jack rolls onto his side, dragging Bitty with him. He keeps the hand on Bitty’s cock where it is, and winds the other up under the stained jersey Bitty’s wearing, thumbing at a nipple while he drags his mouth over Bitty’s ear.

“C’mon, Bits.”

He slides his hand up and down Bitty’s cock in lazy pulls, until Bitty releases a punched out gasp and comes again, splattering the bottom edge of the practice jersey. He shudders, bound hands gripping the comforter, then sags against Jack, completely spent.

Jack breaths, his heart rabbiting in his chest, body curled around Bitty, and they’re overly warm and more than a little sticky, but it’s worth it, Jack thinks, to feel Bitty’s heart doing the same thing in his own chest.

Bitty wriggles his wrists, attempting to dislodge the tape, and Jack reaches around him to gently peel it away. It’s not as sticky now that they’re both sweaty and sated, but it performed its intended purpose well enough.

Bitty winces only once when the tape catches on a stray hair, but other than that lets Jack move him, bringing one of his wrists up over his shoulder so that Jack can press a gentle kiss to the bone.

Bitty tips his head back, leaning into Jack, and it grazes his ass back against Jack’s cock. Jack hisses, too soon, but wraps his arms around Bitty’s waist, holding him close.

Bitty hums and traces his fingertips along Jack’s forearms. “We gotta clean up the living room.”

“In a minute.”

“Jack, this jersey will stain if we don’t clean it soon.”

“It’s just for practice, I can get a new one.”

“Jack, this is a perfectly good jersey.”

“And it can continue to be a perfectly good jersey on you.”

“It’s wet.”

“So are you.” Jack hitches his leg up between Bitty’s thighs and drags it through the mess he left behind.

“Jack, gross,” Bitty says, but he’s laughing, wiggling in Jack’s grip.

Jack ducks his head and presses lingering kisses to Bitty’s neck, then switches to playful pecks and drops them over Bitty’s face, Bitty’s shoulder, everything he can reach.

“Do not distract me, Jack Zimmermann,” Bitty says, and Jack can feel his smile when he presses his nose against Bitty’s cheek. “Kisses do not get you out of cleaning.”

“The mess will still be there when we get up.”

“And they say I’m the procrastinator.”

“The laundry won’t fail us if we don’t do it.”

“I got my degree, didn’t I?”

Jack hums and presses another kiss to Bitty’s cheek, squeezes him one more time, then rolls out of bed.

Bitty follows, but Jack stops him before he can strip off the jersey.

“We can pick up my stuff, but maybe leave the jersey on?”

Bitty makes a face at him but doesn’t take it off. “Predictable,” he says, walking ahead of Jack out of their bedroom, jersey swaying with his hips. “Absolutely predictable.”