The party was in full swing and Jack was actually enjoying himself.
Jack dumped more cases of water and beer into the giant cooler in his kitchen. Four years of Samwell kegsters had prepared him well for the appetites and drinking habits of professional hockey players. That and Bitty had really outdone himself. He had been prepping all week for the amount of food they would need to feed everyone. It seemed that every time a pie tin emptied another would appear in its place.
“This is a great place you got here, Jack,” Thirdy said, beer in hand and smacking him on the back.
“Yeah, kiddo,” Marty added. “Why didn’t you have us over sooner?”
“Well, it didn’t look like much at first,” Jack said. “Bits has been helping me make it a home.”
Bitty came into the kitchen then, brushing his hand across Jack’s back as he walked past him.
“Which is why this is a belated housewarming,” Bitty said, setting out yet another snack plate. How was there even enough room in his fridge for all this food? “This place finally looked presentable enough for company, and I wanted to meet more of the team!”
“Also, I didn’t want to do this without him,” Jack said. “It wouldn’t have really been a good idea until you knew he was my boyfriend.”
“We thought we were good liars,” Bitty said, resting a hand on Jack’s arm. Jack bent down so Bitty could kiss him on the cheek. “But I’m starting to think we were kidding ourselves.”
“I’m glad it’s all working out then,” Thirdy said. “Because I’m gonna expect way more pies in my life.”
“Yeah, Zimmermann,” Snowy said, inserting himself into the conversation as he fished through the ice in the cooler. He handed a beer to Poots, who had trailed in behind him. “More dinner parties at your place. I’m thinking like a once a month type deal?”
“Once a week?” Poots offered.
“Hey, do not start, ‘cause Bitty will do it,” Jack said.
“Well, Jack, if your friends are asking—”
“They are not asking, they are trying to take advantage of your kindness. And your baking skills.”
“Jack, quit trying to talk him out of it.”
“Yeah, Zimmermann, keep that mouth shut.”
“I get it,” Marty said. “You wanna keep him all to yourself. Is that it? If he’s cooking for us he won’t have time for your game day PB and J’s?”
“Maybe so,” Jack admitted, and everyone laughed. “How did you know about the sandwiches?”
“Tater,” everyone said in perfect unison.
“He won’t shut up about them,” Snowy said. “The other day he was like, ‘If Maltsev made sandwich, he make this sandwich.’”
“Who is talk about me when I’m not around, huh?” Tater threw his arm around Snowy, as Snowy protested and tried to save his beer from spilling. “Snowy, why you don’t love me?”
“Because you keep mauling me like some kind of giant Russian bear.”
Snowy turned around, grabbing Tater’s wrist and trying to pin it behind his back, all while still holding his beer aloft. Tater bent down like he was about to scoop Snowy over his shoulder when Bitty finally intervened, waving a dishtowel at them.
“Boys, BOYS! No roughhousing in my kitchen! Y’all can do that out on the ice, but not in here.”
“Your kitchen, eh?” Jack chirped, nudging Bitty in the side. Bitty’s cheeks colored.
“Oh, you know what I mean.”
“I do,” Jack said, placing a hand on Bitty’s shoulder, rubbing his thumb behind his neck. If he pulled the collar of Bitty’s shirt down just a little he knew he’d be able to see a mark that his mouth had left there earlier. “It is your kitchen.”
“B, please, I only come in here for more pie. Do not kick me out, I do anything.”
“I’ll get you more pie, Tater.” Bitty smiled, fetching his serving knife. “Apple or berry?”
“Both is good.”
Jack watched as Bitty served a couple more slices of pie and then shooed everyone out into the living area. Jack took the opportunity to back Bitty up against the kitchen counter and steal a kiss.
“Jack Laurent Zimmermann, don’t you start something you can’t finish,” Bitty said, though he hooked his finger in the neck of Jack’s shirt, bringing him in a little closer. “What’s gotten into you?”
“I like it when you get bossy.”
“That was not me being bossy.”
Bitty’s indignant pout, his mouth twisted to the side, nose scrunching, had Jack going in for another kiss. Bitty giggled, trying to turn his face away.
“Jack! We have guests! I thought we got everything out of our system earlier.”
“I could never get you out of my system.”
Earlier had been…well, what was turning into a regular afternoon for Jack and Bitty, at least whenever they could spare the time. While pies baked in the oven, Jack had pulled Bitty onto the couch, into his lap, kissing and grabbing and yanking off clothes in a race to beat the kitchen timer. Bitty always knew what Jack wanted, even when Jack didn’t know how to ask. Watching Bitty run back to the kitchen to take out the pies, wearing nothing but oven mitts, was still an image that had been distracting Jack all evening.
Jack was seriously worried that he was starting to associate the smell of pie with the things he and Bitty did to pass the time while they baked. He was going to develop a Pavlovian response soon if he couldn’t control himself.
“C’mon,” Bitty said, sliding out from Jack’s hold and taking him by the hand. “Let’s get back to it.”
Jack and Bitty rejoined the party, Bitty almost immediately having his attention stolen by Gabby, who brought him to a circle of some other wives and girlfriends. Jack found George in the living room, sitting across from Tater and catching him up on the most recent episode of How to Get Away with Murder. Jack sat on the arm of her chair, the conversation turning to recent books they had read when Bitty appeared back at Jack’s side. His face was bright red, eyes wide and panicky as he tugged on Jack’s sleeve.
“Bits, what is it?”
“The couch cushion,” Bitty stage whispered. “Where Tater is sitting.”
Jack glanced over. “What about it?”
“Look at what’s sticking out from under it.”
Jack looked again. And there, between the arm and cushion, was a small patch of red cloth. Barely noticeable in size, but the color stood out against the blue gray of the couch. Jack frowned, before understanding exactly what it was.
“Are those your…?”
“Yes!” Bitty hissed. “I thought I grabbed all our clothes from the living room when I went to toss them in the wash, but somehow I managed to miss my own underwear!”
Jack snorted a barely stifled laugh.
“This is not funny!”
“It’s okay, I’m sure no one will notice.”
“You’ve gotta get ‘em out of here, Jack.”
“Me?” Bitty put his hands on his hips, raising an eyebrow, and Jack shrugged. “I mean. Alright. What’s the game plan?”
“I distract Tater, you pull ‘em out of the couch when no one’s lookin’.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to shove them down further into the couch, get them later?”
“But I’ll know they’re there!”
“Don’t worry, okay? I’ll handle it.” Jack squeezed Bitty’s arm, and Bitty nodded.
“Hey, Tater!” Bitty said, turning to him with a smile. “I think we need a new batch of whipped cream, that bowl is almost out. You wanna help me in the kitchen?”
“Yes!” Tater said, jumping up so fast he nearly knocked over the coffee table. “I make sure it taste good, yes?”
“That’s right,” Bitty said, looking meaningfully at Jack. “Follow me.”
Jack nonchalantly made his way over to the couch, taking Tater’s previously occupied spot while he pretended to listen to the chatter happening around him. When he thought everyone was otherwise engaged, he felt around in the cushions behind him, sliding his hand back and forth until he could feel the elastic waistband between two of his fingers. Jack wiggled his hips lower, slowly stuffing the underwear into the back pocket of his jeans. He would pause, leaning back into the couch whenever someone looked his way, resuming once their eyes wandered past him.
The whole situation was just ridiculous. Slightly hysterical. But if Jack knew how to do anything, it was how to keep a straight face under pressure.
Finally, the briefs were all the way in his back pocket. Jack quietly excused himself from the living room, keeping his hand in his pocket so no one would wonder where the weird lump in the back of his jeans suddenly came from. He had almost made it to the bedroom when Poots cornered him, asking about the schematics of his TV.
“Ah, well,” Jack said, fingers twisting into the fabric in his pocket, face burning. “I couldn’t really say. I just told a guy at the store the dimensions of my entertainment center and went with his suggestion.”
“Yeah, I’ve just been thinking of getting a new one, but sometimes those really HD images skeeve me out, ya know? They’re like…hyper real. Uncanny valley. But maybe I’d get used to it if I bought one. I dunno, what do you—”
“Actually, Poots, you should ask George,” Jack said, moving with his back along the wall the get past him. “She’s always, uh, binging.”
“Oh. Okay, that’s not a bad idea.”
“Yup.” Jack’s brow was now completely damp with sweat. “You do that. Later.”
At last, Jack threw open the bedroom door, tossed the underwear into the corner of the room, and immediately closed the door behind him. When he turned around he saw Bitty approaching him from the end of the hallway.
“Did you do it?”
“Yeah. And with complete discretion, too.”
Bitty wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck, his forehead falling against his chest. Jack put his hands on his waist, kissing the cowlick on the top of his head.
“My hero,” Bitty sighed.
“Tater didn’t suspect a thing. Though he already ate an entire bowl of whipped cream, so I’m just gonna have to make another.”
“Bits, hey.” Jack tilted Bitty’s chin up so warm, dark eyes could look back into his. “Thanks for doing this with me.”
“Oh, honey, of course! It’s my pleasure.”
“Even if I do have to share you with the team now.”
“You don’t have to share me all the time,” Bitty said, the corner of his mouth tugging up into a smile.
“You’re right. I don’t. And you don’t have to share me with them, either.” Jack brushed his thumb across Bitty’s cheekbone, pressed a kiss above his eyebrow. “I’m yours every time.”