“The team is doing really well,” Jack told his father over the phone, “Bittle scored twice in our last game and didn’t flinch when Brobsky came at him, but he dodged pretty spectacularly. He’s really improving. It’s made him really happy. He’s switched from singing someone called Sia in the shower to a Rihanna. I like his voice, so normally I wouldn’t mind too much but he gets up so damn early. He’s trying meat pies now, which are good but I like --”
“Son,” Bad Bob cut in, “I think I should meet this boy more than just in passing. Why don’t you bring him with you when you come home for Thanksgiving.” Now, Canadian Thanksgiving fell on the American Columbus this year so they all had the day off from school, still Jack froze at the suggestion.
“Eh, Okay, I’ll invite him.”
Bitty was happy to venture to Canada for the holiday and showed his appreciation for the invitation by making a pie. Bad Bob watch the little blond fly around his kitchen muttering about “this kitchen is so much better than the kitchen at The Haus” with amazement. As much as it was fascinating to watch Eric R. Bittle’s display of serene frenzy it was much more interesting for Bad Bob to watch his son. Jack’s attention was rapt, captivated by the young man whom he must have seen baking dozens of times before, but here was Jack leaning against the wall, nodding when appropriate in Bitty’s constant patter, pulling his lower lip between his teeth and then spitting it back out again when he realized what he was doing, following Bitty’s every move with a tender gleam in his eyes. Bad Bob wondered how long his son had been in love.
Sunday, Bad Bob had a few errands to run before Monday’s holiday and the trek over to his mother’s. He left the boys to their own devices, they said something about checking out the local rink, Bitty making a pie to bring to Thanksgiving, and watching some movies. When Bad Bob came home the two boys were asleep on the couch, Bitty curled into Jack’s side with Jack’s arm thrown protectively around him, pulling him in tight. Bad Bob didn’t have the heart to wake them, instead he pulled the afghan over them and let them sleep. Bad Bob decided it was time to have a talk with his son.
When he finally had that talk with his son, it didn’t go quite as he had planned. They were at his mother’s house after dinner. Bitty was still at the table accepting praise for his pecan pie and Jack had excused himself to go to the bathroom. Bad Bob caught him in the hallway.
“Jack, I just want to say, if you need to tell me anything, about you, that you think you can’t, you can. You’re my son, and you’re not going to stop being my son over this.”
Jack blinked at his dad. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Bad Bob nodded and did his best dignified walk away. Maybe Jack just wasn’t ready to tell his father what was going on in his life, it wasn’t like things between them hadn’t been strained.
It was two weeks after Jack and Bitty returned to school that Jack called his dad to tell him something that made him feel more justified in that awkward stunted conversation they had had. “That conversation that we had, before I left.” Jack paused, choosing his words carefully, “I think I know what you meant now.”
“Oh?” Bad Bob didn’t say anymore. He didn’t want to pressure his son into saying anything.
“I kissed Bittle.” His voice was almost a whisper.
“And how’d that go?” Bad Bob didn’t think Bitty would have rejected Jack but it was possible.
“Well… really well, actually,” Jack was louder now that he hadn’t been outright rejected by his father, “We’re, uh, we’re dating now.”
Bad Bob could hear the smile in Jack’s voice. “Good, that’s good. I’m glad you’re happy. Now,” Jack sighed, “Just don’t let dating a teammate mess with your game.”
“I don’t let anything mess with game.” Jack groused.