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Finding Our Way

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Eric stumbles backward, collapsing onto the wooden folding chair that was, thankfully, directly behind him. It’s just—he’s not entirely sure the last five minutes truly happened.


As he tries to breathe, slow and steady, the words I’ll text you rings in his ears. Maybe he’s reading into it, but I’ll text you felt like a lot more than just three words. It felt like a promise; a promise that Jack didn’t want to leave, a promise that those kisses wouldn’t be the end of it. A promise that, unbelievably, Jack felt the same way Eric did. The cumulative effect of it all is that he’s so shocked that his thoughts are the equivalent of a blaring siren.


It’s been a matter of seconds since Jack’s disappeared from view when his phone buzzes with a new text. However, it’s a matter of minutes until Eric has the wherewithal to actually read it.


Jack: Don’t forget to eat more protein.


Eric reads the text and then begins to laugh; full, hearty guffaws because Jack Zimmermann is the most ridiculous human being on the planet. It’s a while until Eric calms down enough to reply.


Bitty: :P

Bitty: Only you would have the nerve to kiss the living daylights out of a boy and then tell him to ‘eat more protein’

Bitty: You are ridiculous Mr. Zimmermann


There’s a brief moment of panic once he sends the messages, because is it too soon to already be talking about the kiss(es)? What if he misread what Jack meant by I’ll text you? Relief floods him when Jack texts him back, quicker than Eric would’ve expected he would.


Jack: You should be used to it by now, eh?


Eric responds, deciding to be as equally facetious as Jack.


Bitty: What am I supposed to be used to? Your ridiculous chirping or you kissing me?


He nearly drops his phone when Jack answers.


Jack: I was talking about my chirping. But hopefully you’ll get a chance to get used to the kissing too ;)


At this point, Eric’s pretty sure he’s having some kind of fever dream or vivid hallucination. Or maybe he’s dying, and he’s being given some kind of last fantasy. Because Jack kissed him—and apparently wants to kiss him again. What?!? It’s honestly more than his little gay heart has ever dared to hope for.


Bitty: Good Lord! Are you trying to drive me to an early grave?


Jack: No. I’d like to keep you around for a while longer, eh?

Jack: So I want to talk about what happened. Not just joke about it.


Despite everything said so far, there’s small knot that forms in his chest when that message comes through.


Bitty: Okay…


Jack: In case what I did wasn’t clear enough…I like you.


Eric is glad he’s still sitting down, because reading that would’ve been enough to make his knees give out. As it is, it’s enough to make his face feel like its burning and his heart is fluttering in his chest.


Jack: God, it sounds stupid when you put it that way. Like we’re still in middle school or something.


It’s honestly not that surprising that Jack seems insecure about this. Jack isn’t very sure of himself anywhere not on the ice, and after the kiss, Eric didn’t give Jack the most enthusiastic reaction. Plus it’s been at least five minutes since Jack’s last text, considering he’s been, once again, too shocked to reply. He quickly taps out a text before he lets Jack possibly freak out any more.


Bitty: You’re fine sweetheart. I like you too.

Bitty: Like a lot.


Jack: :)


Bitty can practically hear the sigh of relief through Jack’s text.


Jack: I don’t want to talk about details by text or phone. Will you be able to visit Providence soon?


Bitty frowns. His summer is pretty jam packed, something he did by design, so he wouldn’t have much time to miss Samwell…or Jack; though that’s completely a moot point by now.


Bitty: I have the camp that I’m a counselor at keeping me busy most of June and then there’s 4th of July :(

Bitty: Earliest I could come would be mid-July.


Jack: What if I come to Georgia for 4th of July?


Bitty: Goodness! Mama keeps asking me if you could visit over the summer. She’d be tickled pink if you came for 4th of July.


Jack: Okay. I’ll be there :) 3>


Bitty: It’s <3 Jack :’)

Bitty: You really should just use the emojis I showed you. Remember?

Bitty: But anyway I can’t wait to see you :D

Bitty: <3


“Are you going to pull your nose out of that phone anytime soon?” Alicia asks. Jack is stretched out in the backseat by himself, while his parents are in the front; his dad is driving. Jack only half hears what she says, giving a distracted hum in reply as he sends his text.


Jack: Okay. I’ll be there :) 3>


“Give him a break darling,” Bob chuckles.


“Oh, I’m sorry, is he busy working—what did you call it? The ‘Zimmermann charm’?” Alicia rolls her eyes.


“Yes dear, that’s what I called it. Don’t act like you don’t know what it is,” Bob shakes his head.


“Is this that same old story about how you supposedly ‘charmed’ your way into a date with me?” Alicia quips, fondly exasperated.


“What’s with the air quotes?” Bob questions.


“The only way you charmed me was by being a giant, awkward dork.”


“Ah, but you do admit I charmed you!” Bob says, a little too loudly and perhaps, a little too smugly.


“Yes dear, just not in the way you seem to think,” Alicia replies with a somewhat fondly patronizing tone.


By now, Jack has finished up his conversation with Bitty and has tuned back into his parent’s playful argument.


“So tell me Jack, how did it go?” Bob asks, having noticed (somehow by looking in the rearview mirror) that Jack has pocketed his phone.


“Robert! Give him a minute, for heaven’s sake!” Alicia exclaims.


“Oh please dear, you must be dying to know too,” Bob replies.


“So what if I am? It’s up to Jack to tell us when he’s ready!” Alicia counters.


Jack ducks his head and blushes, a small—okay it’s not small— huge grin spreading across his face.


“It went—it’s good,” Jack mumbles, even though that’s probably an understatement.


“Way to go son,” Bob smiles. He can’t reach, but Jack knows that he’d be patting him on the shoulder if he could.


“Yes, we’re both very happy for you,” Alicia agrees.


“I won’t lie, it’s probably going to be very hard,” Bob sighs, making eye contact with Jack through the rearview mirror. “But don’t think for a second you don’t deserve this.”


Jack nods his head, even though he’s not sure he agrees with Bob. He’s not sure that he deserves this, and he sure as hell doesn’t deserve someone like Bitty. But this—it isn’t about what he deserves. He’s not going to make it about that. This is about what he wants, and God, does he want Bitty. So much that it scares him.


He wants Bitty, and Bitty wants him. This, Jack is almost positive of. To hell with what he thinks he deserves. Jack is taking this shot.


His parents have gone back to their good-natured arguing, and so Jack pulls his phone back out. There are four texts he missed from Bitty while he was talking to his parents.


Bitty: It’s <3 Jack :’)

Bitty: You really should just use the emojis I showed you. Remember?

Bitty: But anyway I can’t wait to see you :D

Bitty: <3


Jack hears the fondly exasperated tone coming through Bitty’s texts, and he smiles. He honestly doesn’t remember anything about how to use emojis, but he can get Bitty to show him later. For now, he just corrects his mistake.


Jack: Can’t wait to see you either <3


Then he proceeds to use his phone to look for (and then immediately purchase) the earliest plane tickets he can find for July 2nd. The day can’t come soon enough.