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            Jack has a secret. About two months ago, he was idly searching for gay porn online when he came across a website for a young guy, only a little younger than himself, who charges ten bucks a month for various videos of himself jerking off and putting things in his ass so he can pay for school. He never shows his face, but something about his body made Jack seize up in interest, and so he pays to watch this faceless person jack off, and sometimes Jack will get himself off, too, and it’s the biggest secret he’s ever had, bigger than his sexuality, which is a convoluted mess even to himself.

            So he does this regularly. The guy—he goes by Rich Daisy, which is awful, he knows, but the guy knows it and warns not to judge on his profile, he just took part of his middle name and his first pet’s name like you’re supposed to do. There’s something charming about the site and almost sweet, which is kind of a turn-on considering how dirty it all really is.

            Then, one lonely Saturday night after a game against the Bolts, he sees that there is a live stream. It’s an extra $25 and will last for one hour, and in that hour Rich Daisy will do anything you ask of him (within reason).

            Jack has his credit card number memorized, so he pays the $25 and goes into what looks like a chatroom, where it asks him for the handle he’d like to use. It takes nearly five minutes to figure out which one would be good, something he’ll remember but also not something anyone can find him by. He settles for JLinCanada and signs in.

            He’s a little early. There are already two other people in the chat, and then two more show up. The participants are talking to one another back and forth, and there’s a sense that they know one another and have done this together before. One of them even asks the other how the new nephew is. It’s strange, seeing these men—people?—talking to one another like friends while waiting for a guy to show up on screen and beat off for money.

            While he waits, Jack looks over some of the more recent pictures Rich Daisy has posted. God, his dick is fucking gorgeous, good sized in length but crazy thick, cut in a way that still surprises Jack, who is not used to cut dicks. His mouth wants to play over that blunt head, dip his tongue into the slit. By the time Jack returns to the chat, there are twenty people there, waiting for their golden boy to show up.

            Suddenly there’s movement, and then he’s there, artfully hiding his face like he does in every video, and holy God he’s wearing these ridiculously tiny red shorts and has a wireless keyboard he’s keeping near him. He is very compact and tightly built—not broad-shouldered and thick, like Jack’s usual preference, but lithe and narrow, with boyish hips and pert pink nipples, and only a light dusting of golden hair in the middle of his chest.

            As if sensing their god is near, fifty people suddenly flood into the chatroom all at once, clogging up the chat feed and slowing down the connection by just enough to annoy Jack.

            And that’s when he sees it in the chat box: RichDaisy is typing.

            Jack’s heart pounds hard when the words appear: Hey, y’all! Welcome to my live stream! :3 It seems like we’ve got a lot of new faces here, so let’s go over the rules!

            He’s so…chipper and friendly, and the “y’all” has Jack wondering what he sounds like. All he’s ever heard from Rich have been breathy gasps and moans from the videos, where he doesn’t speak at all.

            The rules of the chat seem to be pretty simple, and everyone in the chat is polite and friendly and calling out things like TAKE OFF YOUR UNDERWEAR, and Rich Daisy responds with lots of smileys and winky faces. (Those tiny red shorts are…a problem for Jack, and he almost doesn’t want them to come off for how great they’re working him up.) He says he’ll do anything he’s asked, but he won’t show his face, he won’t reveal anything so personal that he can be found, and he has the right to say no without any explanation.

            Jack continues to stay silent in the chat. He isn’t an active participant and doesn’t intend to be. But someone has to be reading his mind, because the first question he sees is: hey buddy u wanna tell us hello in that pretty voice of urs??

            Jack tenses up, his back taut with anticipation. Rich chuckles. “Y’all cannot be paying me to just talk to you, right?”

            Oh. Oh. That voice is drawling southern milk and honey, sweet and warm and fond, and Jack can hear the smile in his voice, the satisfaction at being asked to speak. He basks in the sound of that voice for several long, pleasurable moments.

            And then things begin to heat up. The chat is explosive—men talking back and forth to one another, daring Rich to do all sorts of things. He denies some of them—“Y’all, please! You’re making me blush!”—but acquiesces to others, like sliding his long, pretty fingers up and down his half-hard cock, still trapped in those ridiculous red shorts.

            All in all, Jack spends a whole hour with fifty-six other people, watching as Rich Daisy gets himself off three times in total, plays extensively with his nipples, and in one unbelievable display of beauty turns around onto his knees, presents his gloriously tight ass, and fingers himself until he comes. Jack never once sees his face, not even a glimpse.

            Everyone is jovial and in good spirits as it becomes clear that the chat is finishing up. They say they’ll see each other next week, and Jack realizes that this happens every Saturday night. This is how Rich Daisy spends his Saturday nights. And Jack would like to spend them with him when he doesn’t have a game. He’s not sure if that makes him pathetic or not, but his sated dick doesn’t much care in that moment.

 

 

            Slowly but surely, this becomes an integral part of his very strict routine. He looks forward to it on Saturdays and finds himself frustrated, once, when he has an afternoon game that goes into OT. He’s never been frustrated with hockey before. And still, months into it and pushing toward December, he signs in on Saturday nights when he’s able and doesn’t say a word as Rich Daisy graces them all with his magnetizing presence.

            Until, it seems, Rich Daisy notices.

            “I’ve got a bone to pick with one of y’all,” he says, voice dreamy as he slowly strokes a hand up and down his hardening cock. He’s glistening with oil, a request from one of the other men—a newbie, Jack is not pleased to see. There are a hundred people in the chat now. Rich has kicked three of them out already for being disrespectful.  “One of y’all,” he continues, “has been coming here for months and months now, and you haven’t even said hi to me yet. That’s rude, you know.”

            Jack swallows hard. His heart feels like it will explode in his chest.

            “Mr. Canada,” Rich says, and Jack is trapped by the way those lovely long fingers touch a pert, pinkened nipple. “I’m talking to you. JLinCanada? How come you been so rude to me, boy? Can’t even say a friendly hello?”

            The teasing in the chat makes Jack smile a little. With shaking fingers, he types out a simple phrase: Hi. I’m shy.

            They all jump on him after that, some of them straight up hitting on Jack, asking why he’s so shy, what’s he wearing. Rich Daisy seems delighted. He laughs, and by the angle of his chin Jack can see that he’s reading his screen. “You’re shy? But we’re friends.”

            Jack takes a long moment before responding: Doesn’t mean I’m not shy.

            Rich’s voice is very soft and persuasive when he speaks. “Is there something you want me to do for you, Canuck?” and oh, Jack’s toes tingle with the promise of that voice. “What can I do just for you, shy little Canuck?”

            If Jack’s honest with himself, there’s really one thing he wants to know in that moment more than anything, so he types it out and braces for the jeers: What color are your eyes? You can tell me that.

            There’s a pause as Rich reads his screen, then he laughs again. “You’re a romantic thing, aren’t you? I meant, what can I do to myself just for you? But if that’s all you want, my eyes are dark brown, like maple syrup. You like maple syrup, right?”

            Jack wipes sweaty hands on his sheets: I love maple syrup.

            “Good. That’s what my eyes are. Big and dark. Long lashes. Are you thinking about what my eyes look like?”

            Yes. Of course I am.

            “Good. What can I do for you, Canuck? Where do you want me to touch? Tell me what you want.” Rich’s hand goes still on his cock, his chest flushed and still glistening. “Tell me what you want me to do.”

            I don’t know. I’m nervous. You’re putting me on the spot here.

            A low chuckle whispers out of Jack’s speakers. “You’re kinda cute, you know. Just take it easy. Some of the boys here have probably given you some ideas, right? Which ones did you like?”

            Jack wants to throw up he’s so shaky, but he types valiantly: I like it when you

            He hits send before he can finish typing out what he was going to say, then adds: I’m too shy to even type it.

            “Oh, you sweet little thing,” Rich says, his voice all tender in a way that makes Jack want to know what his face looks like when he says it. “Aren’t you precious. Come on. Use your words. Are you French Canadian, by any chance?”

            Oui, Jack types, wanting to make Rich laugh again. It works. Rich laughs, and the comments Jack gets in the chat are starting to make him a little hot under the collar. “Too bad I don’t know French. Canadian French is a little different, isn’t it? I’m curious now, Canuck. I want to know what you sound like when you come. Do you forget your English?”

            Jack fists his dick for several long seconds: Sometimes. It’s been a long time since I did, though.

            “Can I make you forget your English?” The tone is sweet and gentle, but there’s an undercurrent of a challenge there. Onscreen, Rich is stroking his dick again. “I’m wondering if I can.”

            You probably can, Jack types. If anyone can, you can.

            “How? What would I do?”

            Jack swallows, takes a long, deep breath. Work yourself open. He hits the enter button and leans back, heart fluttering in his chest.

            “I see,” he says, and his voice says that yes, he does see, he sees very much. “You like it when my ass is open for you, do you? Do you imagine what it would be like to fuck me?”

            Sometimes, Jack types, scrubbing a hand at his face and feeling ridiculous. Mostly, I think about your cock and what it would feel like in me.

            “Ooh, you’re a bottom, are you?” Delight, he’s utterly delighted.

            Mostly, Jack says. But I haven’t in a long time.

            “Oh, honey, that’s not good. Why haven’t you? I bet you’re gorgeous, aren’t you?”

            Work obligations, he says, because it’s true, and Rich makes the saddest little noise as he slides a beautiful finger right into his tight ass. “Is this making you feel any better? Would you eat me out if you were here?”

            Jack realizes, belatedly, that the chat has gone fairly quiet. It’s…it’s just him and Rich. I would, yes. Gladly.

            “Are you a hungry boy?” A second finger joins the first. Rich’s camera is beautifully clear, and Jack can see every wet inch. Yes, he says. Yeah, I am. “Good. I like to hear that. Are you hard, Canuck?” Yes. “Good. Touching your dick?” Not yet. “Oh no, why not?” Want to make it last. “Your typing is getting a little short, boy. I don’t think it’s gonna last much longer, is it?” I’ve got some pretty good stamina. “Oh, do you?” Yeah. My job’s pretty strenuous. “As you can see, so is mine.”  Câlisse. “Oh my, what does that mean?” It means you’ve got me worked up and speaking French. “Good. Good boy. Can you talk dirty in French?” Oui. “You want to talk dirty for me?” Non. “Why not?” I feel like an exhibitionist. “So do I.” Haha. “No, really. It’s fun. Talk dirty to me, Canuck.” Don’t put me on the spot. “Why not?”

            Rich’s fingers are working deeper now, and Jack can’t help it—he fists his own cock and groans. He can’t type now. He can’t respond. He can only hold his breath as he rides toward the crest of an orgasm. “Canuck, are you still with me?”

            Jack hits a y and nothing else, and when Rich chuckles and says, “You close, boy?” he comes all over himself.

            Not close, he types, one handed and shaking. Done.

            The chat explodes with a  chorus of shit me to and jesus that was amazing can you guys do a joint vid or something and omg i bet the canadian is so hot and fuck rich u gonna come w us yet man bc god.

            Rich’s shoulders tighten visibly on the camera. He rolls onto his back and jacks himself so hard it looks like it hurts, his dick swollen and red and pulsing, and then he’s coming all over his stomach, muscles twitching with release. Jack stares at his screen, biting his lip hard. God. God, this was amazing, and he participated in this, he made this beautiful man come. It was him. It had to be him.

            “I’m spent,” Rich says, after several moments of silence, his chuckles airy and insubstantial. “Y’all wiped me out, damn. Canuck, I hope you’re more vocal like this next week.”

            Jack catches himself before he types out I have a game. Instead, he says: Might not be able to make it. Sorry.

            The chorus of catcalls and boos he gets makes him smile a little. He never expected to be popular in a place like this.

            “I sincerely hope you’ll find the time,” Rich says, sighing. “And with that, y’all, I’m signing off. Be good to one another, and I’ll see y’all next week.”

            The chat starts to peter out as soon as the camera turns off, but Jack can’t really move, so he simply stares at the blank screen, the emptying chatroom, with a sigh.

            That’s when an instant message pops up from RichDaisy: Hey, I hope I didn’t embarrass you over there! :x I just wanted you to have some fun. Was that okay, what I did? I didn’t think to ask permission first, I am so sorry :(

            Jack has to swallow very hard before responding. No, it’s all right. Caught me off-guard, but not in a bad way. I’m just pretty shy, is all.

RichDaisy: I can tell ;) But you did great! Was it fun for you?

JLinCanada: Yeah, it was. I still can’t believe I did that.

RichDaisy: Did what? You’re here like every week almost! :D :D I like seeing you!

JLinCanada: I know you tell that to all the lonely Canadian boys.

            What is he doing, is he flirting with a porn star? What the fuck is wrong with him?

RichDaisy: Not as often as you might think, actually. I wondered why you were always so quiet. Everyone chats it up except you.

JLinCanada: I’m just a quiet person.

RichDaisy: I worried you weren’t having fun :(

JLinCanada: Oh, I’m having fun, believe me.

RichDaisy: I’m glad. Will you talk to me next week? :) :) :)  

JLinCanada: I really can’t make it.

RichDaisy: :’(

JLinCanada: Stop that. It’s a work thing.

RichDaisy: Week after that, then.

JLinCanada: Are you asking me out on a date?

            Oh God, oh, God, oh God. He’s so fucking stupid.

RichDaisy: It’s hard to make me blush when I’m not on camera. You should be proud of yourself for that one :P

JLinCanada: I am, a little.

RichDaisy: I’m serious.

JLinCanada: I should be there, yeah.

RichDaisy: Think about what you want me to do for you.

JLinCanada: You know I’ll take damn near anything, right?

RichDaisy: I know. But I want you to ask for it :3

JLinCanada: Today wasn’t enough?

RichDaisy: Not nearly!

JLinCanada: I’ll try to step up my game, then.

RichDaisy: I never say this—I always want to have some measure of distance between myself and y’all—but I have to know if you’re this charming in person.

            Ugh. Jack exhales in a whoosh, suddenly depressed.

JLinCanada: Not in the slightest, actually. Most people say I’m grumpy, or like a robot.

RichDaisy: !!!!! No way :o

JLinCanada: Really. I’m focused on my job and I don’t really go out or do things.

RichDaisy: You do me. ;)

JLinCanada: Ha. Haha. You think you’re cute.

RichDaisy: You don’t? o:)

JLinCanada: Don’t flirt with me. I find it very unfair.

RichDaisy: Aww, how come?

JLinCanada: Because I’m in Montréal and you’re probably somewhere down south, right?

RichDaisy: Montreal, huh? ;)

            Shit.

JLinCanada: Yeah. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t spread that around.

RichDaisy: Are you famous, Canuck?

JLinCanada: No.

RichDaisy: The lady doth protest.

JLinCanada: The lady is done with this line of conversation, please.

RichDaisy: Don’t be mad at me :( :( :(

JLinCanada: I’m not. This is just me being awkward. If you think I’m charming, I fooled you.

RichDaisy: Nah. I still think you’re charming. I have to go study, but please tell me it won’t be more than a couple of weeks until I see you again???

JLinCanada: I’ll try, I really will.

RichDaisy: Promise?

JLinCanada: I don’t like promises if I don’t know I can’t keep them.

RichDaisy: Noble of you <3

JLinCanada: I don’t like disappointing people, that’s all.

RichDaisy: Still noble of you. Good night, Canuck <3 <3 <3

JLinCanada: Night.

 

            In the next game against the Bruins, Jack gets a hat trick. The first person he wants to tell is an internet porn star whose face he’s never seen, which depresses him so much he spends the night completely alone and in the dark at his luxury apartment, staring out the window and watching the snow silently drift down.

            He forces himself not to go to Rich’s site for the entire week. He’s away in Calgary that weekend and gets three assists and a goal in their win against the Flames. His week seems to be based around Saturdays, and he’s overeager when the second Saturday rolls around and he’s got nothing to do.

            He signs on. He’s coming late to the conversation because he was too shy to be early. Embarrassingly, he saved his conversation with Rich and has read over it about two dozen times.

            They’re already under way. The chat hits capacity at 130 as soon as Jack appears. He’s shocked by it—he almost missed the chat entirely, almost missed Rich entirely. He swears he won’t be late again next time.

            Rich is already in the middle of what can only be described as a glorious performance on a realistic (and large) dildo—Jack can see the blunt-cut head outlined against his throat and nothing more—as usual, his face is artistically hidden. He’s good. He’s so good. Jack breathes out shakily and undoes his jeans with one hand.

            The chat is madness. It’s so convoluted with men catcalling and begging for Rich’s attention that Jack finds himself staying quiet like before, watching his screen instead. Gorgeous. He relaxes little by little, though the next forty minutes goes by too quickly. Before he’s ready for it, Rich is signing off.

            On a whim, he waits.

            His IM pings.

RichDaisy: I almost thought you weren’t gonna be here :D :D :D

JLinCanada: I was late. Won’t be next time. Didn’t realize there was a chat limit.

RichDaisy: Neither did I. This is getting a little ridic OMG.

            He says OMG. Jack smiles.

JLinCanada: Sad you’re popular as hell?

RichDaisy: I don’t know. Part of me is worried it gets too big. Won’t be anonymous :/

JLinCanada: If you want to stay anonymous, you’ll have to make a decision soon, you know. There’s no way you’ll be able to keep yourself a secret forever. 

            He’s talking to himself as much as he is to Rich.

RichDaisy: Gloomy gloomy. I don’t want to be gloomy. Did you like what you saw tonight? ;)

JLinCanada: I did.

RichDaisy: Did I disappoint?

JLinCanada: Not at all.

RichDaisy: Anything you wish I would’ve done? ;)

            Jack hesitates. Yes, he wants to say. I wish I could’ve seen your face. It’s all he can think about—some lithe young man in his early twenties according to his profile, putting himself through college by jacking off on the internet. His eyes are the color of maple syrup. His hair must be blonde. Beyond that, it’s not enough. Jack wants to know the shape of his mouth and the cut of his jaw. Wants to know if he has chicken pox scars or freckles. Probably freckles, if his shoulders are any indication of the summer sun his skin soaks up. 

RichDaisy: I think there’s something you wanted but you’re too shy to tell me.

JLinCanada: Not shy, exactly.

RichDaisy: Then what?

JLinCanada: Crosses a boundary.

RichDaisy: I don’t really have a ton of those on the internet :P

            His fingers move quickly, before his brain can betray him by being logical.

JLinCanada: I wanted to see your face.

RichDaisy: Ah.

JLinCanada: See? Crosses a boundary. Can’t be anonymous if someone knows what you look like.

RichDaisy: You don’t know my real name.

JLinCanada: Doesn’t matter. Still not anonymous.

RichDaisy: I could show you my face, if you wanted.

            Jack exhales shakily.

JLinCanada: I couldn’t reciprocate that. I can’t show you my face.

RichDaisy: I didn’t ask you to.

JLinCanada: But that’s not fair.

RichDaisy: Why not?

JLinCanada: I don’t know. Just doesn’t feel fair. I can’t ask for something I wouldn’t give.

RichDaisy: You’ve asked me to put my fingers in my ass, stretch myself open. Does that mean you’d do the same to yourself?

JLinCanada: What makes you think I haven’t done that?

RichDaisy: I’ll be honest with you, even though I can get hard on camera and jack off, I’m not usually turned on.

JLinCanada: Oh? That sounds disappointing.

RichDaisy: I am now, though.

            Sometimes Jack gets so nervous he thinks he’s going to puke; this is one of those times.

JLinCanada: Are you?

RichDaisy: I could show you my face.

            The cutesy, flirty little emojis are gone. Jack doesn’t know what that means. He doesn’t know what any of this means. He scrubs a hand over his head, trying to decide what to do. There’s some sort of a step here he’s about to cross, and there won’t be any takebacks. There’s no way Rich watches hockey, right? It doesn’t sound like it. From the little he knows about him, his hobbies include baking and Beyoncé. He would’ve said hockey if he liked hockey. Right? 

JLinCanada: You’re making me very nervous.

RichDaisy: I don’t mean to. I mean, I do, as long as it’s a good kind of nervous.

RichDaisy: You’re making me nervous too.

JLinCanada: I don’t know why. You don’t know anything about me.

RichDaisy: You could tell me a little?

            He hesitates on that for several moments.

JLinCanada: I have dark hair. Blue eyes.

RichDaisy: Yeah?

JLinCanada: Yeah.

RichDaisy: Light or dark blue?

JLinCanada: Light.

RichDaisy: How tall?

            That can’t be too much of a giveaway, right? He could tell him… 

JLinCanada: 6’1”.

RichDaisy: Jesus, you’re a tree.

JLinCanada: Average height in my profession.

            That’s a giveaway, it has to be.

RichDaisy: What, you’re a fucking lumberjack?

            Jack laughs.

JLinCanada: Yeah, sure. Let’s go with that.

JLinCanada: How tall are you?

RichDaisy: I am NOT 6’1”, if that’s what you’re asking :P

JLinCanada: Then how tall?

RichDaisy: If I stretch real far, I can hit about 5’7”

            Jesus fucking Christ, Jack could break him in half.

JLinCanada: You do not look that short on camera.

RichDaisy: I’m not short!! :(

JLinCanada: You’re pretty short.

RichDaisy: I don’t have to sit here and take this >:|

JLinCanada: What do you want me to do, then?

RichDaisy: You could talk dirty to me in French. I’m hard.

            Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. He’s not paying for this. This is what he’s getting and he’s not paying for it. What does it mean that he’s not paying for this?

JLinCanada: Technically I speak Québécois.

RichDaisy: Hot. Keep going.

JLinCanada: I can’t. You’ve got me all flustered.

RichDaisy: Tell me I’ve got you flustered in Quebecois ;)

JLinCanada: You’ve got me flustered in Québécois.

RichDaisy: Rude. Don’t make me laugh when my dick is this hard.

JLinCanada: You said you’d show me your face?

RichDaisy: I would. Yes.

JLinCanada: What could I do for you?

RichDaisy: Just keeping typing to me. Let me imagine this giant of a dark-haired, blue-eyed lumberjack whispering to me in Canadian French.

            He forces himself not to offer to do a Skype call, but it’s a close thing.

JLinCanada: Am I really making you hard?

RichDaisy: Wanna see?

            He’s quiet, trying to get his heart under control.

JLinCanada: Yes.

            It’s a heart stopping ten seconds of silence. Then a little box appears on his IM, asking if he wants to connect video with RichDaisy. He says yes, but turns his own video off. Suddenly, there he is, sitting cross-legged on his bed, naked, laptop propped up on something so his face and shoulders are in the frame. He’s…beautiful, pale but golden in early winter, with a sweep of blonde hair across his forehead and huge dark eyes. He wasn’t lying when he said he had long eyelashes. The smile on his face is clearly nervous but excited. He waves. “Hi,” he says. “I wish you would give me your name so I knew what to call you.”

            Jack’s fingers are shaking so hard he almost can’t type.

JLinCanada: You called me Canuck before. You can keep doing that. 

            “You won’t give me your name?” His pout is exaggerated, but his lips are plump and full and look very soft.

JLinCanada: It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just that with my job, I need to be anonymous. Even my name is too much.

            “I guess I’ll have to take that.” He leans his chin on his hand, looking at his screen with what Jack can only describe as longing. “I want to see you. Or hear you. But you already said you couldn’t reciprocate, so I’m gonna try not to be all greedy.”

JLinCanada: I would if I could, trust me.

            “I won’t lie, you’ve got me real curious.”

JLinCanada: I thought you were hard?

            “Trying to distract me?”

JLinCanada: Of course.

            His little quip is well received. Rich curls a hand around his cock, but the most Jack can see is the head. He doesn’t care. He’s seen his cock plenty. It’s that gorgeous round little face he wants to keep looking at.

JLinCanada: You are very attractive.

            It’s a moronic thing to say, he knows, but Rich flushes, his cheeks deepening in color. “Well, thank you. I don’t hear that much.”

JLinCanada: Some people just don’t have good taste.

            “You mean most people.”

JLinCanada: Fortunately, I’m not most people.

            “No, you’re not.” He bites his lip. “I’m—I’m close. I want to come. You won’t tell me your name? I can say it for you.”

Well, fuck. That’s a bit of a low blow.

            “I won’t tell anyone, I swear. I know you don’t know me, but I keep my promises.”

            What harm could a first name do? Except that now Rich knows he lives in Montréal, his height, and the fact that his height is average for his profession. It’s not that hard to take a leap to hockey. And with his first name, it’ll be as easy as a quick Google search for “Jack” and “Montréal.”

JLinCanada: My name is Jack.

            “Jack,” he says, his smile crooked. Jack can see his arm working quicker. “Your name is Jack. Not Jacques?”

JLinCanada: I go by Jack. My mom is American.

            “Jack,” he says again, eyes slipping half-closed. “Is your voice deep?

JLinCanada: Yeah.

            “When you come, are you quiet or loud?”

JLinCanada: Very quiet. Silent.

            “That’s a pity.” He’s sounding strained now in a way Jack’s never heard. He realizes with a jolt that everything he’s seen until now has been a performance, a show, and what he’s getting right now is Rich genuinely turned on, genuinely about to come. “I bet I could make you loud.”

JLinCanada: I know you could.

            “Are you touching yourself now?”

            Now he is.

JLinCanada: Now I am.

            “Will you come with me?”

JLinCanada: I can try. Already came twice.

            “Third time’s a charm.”

            Jack huffs a laugh, using the lube in his nightstand to ease his way along his cock. He has trouble typing one-handed.

JLinCanada: yeah

            “My first name is Eric,” he says, eyes slipping shut the rest of the way. His breath is fluttering and soft, his voice thin and sweet. “You can call me Eric, if you want.”

            It is a revelation. Rich doesn’t fit him at all, but Eric…Eric does. He looks like an Eric.

JLinCanada: Eric. Hi.

            Eric laughs quietly before he groans, all soft and low, very unlike his on-screen self. “God, Jack. Jack.”

            Oh, God. Eric. Fuck. Eric.

            This orgasm is a slow wrench from deep inside him. He finds himself groaning quietly, muscles seizing up. All in all, it’s a little pathetic of an orgasm, really, but it’s his third so he can’t be held accountable. This has to be Eric’s fifth or sixth, at least, but he looks much more mussed and sleepy-eyed than he usually does.

            “That was good,” Eric says slowly, and his voice is all kinds softened consonants and drawling molasses.

JLinCanada: Yeah?

            “Yeah. Did you come?”

JLinCanada: I did. It was like a half-orgasm. My body didn’t really have the energy for more.

            He laughs. His laugh is very nice, and sounds different from his usual laugh. This one sounds shy and charmed. “God, I want to know what you look like. Wow. Sorry. I’m embarrassing myself now.”

JLinCanada: What? How?

            “Because! I don’t do this! I’ve had this channel for a year now, and I’ve never, like.” He waves his hand around as if that means something. “I don’t talk one on one to people. I don’t give them my name. What did you do to me?”

            Jack doesn’t respond at first. Then,

JLinCanada: I could say the same thing.

            “Why me?” He leans forward toward his screen, and oh God, there are the freckles. He has freckles.

JLinCanada: Sorry. I got distracted by your freckles.

            “Oh!” He puts a hand to his face. “Ugh, they’re awful. It’s because I didn’t wear enough sunscreen this summer.”

JLinCanada: I think you’re cute.

            “Ugh,” he says again, but he’s smiling. “Answer me. Why me?”

JLinCanada: That’s an embarrassing answer.

            “What? Why?”

JLinCanada: Because. I’m kind of pathetic.

            Eric gives him a look. “The people who frequent my site are not pathetic. Don’t be rude.”

            He hurriedly types out his response, not wanting Eric to think him mean.

JLinCanada: No, no, what I mean is…I’m lonely.

JLinCanada: I’ve been lonely a long time.

JLinCanada: But I have a lot of anxiety and my job sort of consumes my life, so I just got bored one night and was looking for…something.

JLinCanada: I wanted to feel something.

            It’s the most he’s told anyone about himself, he thinks. He hasn’t even brought this up to his therapist.

            Eric’s eyes shift across the screen as he reads. Then he softens all over. Jack would like to wake up next to him and get that look from those eyes. “Oh, honey. Do I help you? To feel something good?”

JLinCanada: Yes, you do. But it’s not enough. Because I can’t have any more than this, and you are not obligated to give it.

            Eric flushes a little more. “I know I’m not obligated, but. I mean, I would…make an exception for you.”

JLinCanada: I can’t. I just can’t. 

            Eric looks down at his lap for a long moment. “Jack, I…can we talk voice to voice? I just. I want to really talk to you.” He hesitates. He looks particularly unsure. “Is that okay?” 

JLinCanada: I want to. I really want to.

            “I’m starting to think you’re probably some high profile guy,” he says carefully, “like maybe a CEO with an estranged wife and kids or something. But I can keep a secret.”

            He’s so surprised by that assumption that his fingers fly across his keyboard.

JLinCanada: What? No, not married, no kids.

            “I can’t possibly find out who you are from your voice, can I?” He sounds so earnest. Jack swallows hard. He looks at the settings on his Skype. “Jack? Are you still with—oh!”

            There’s a click of a few buttons. Eric looks like he’s holding his breath. “Jack?”

            “Hi,” Jack says, quietly.

 

 

            It becomes a regular thing. They talk through Skype, Eric always on video and Jack on audio only. At first it’s once or twice a week, usually after the Saturday sessions that Jack can make, and sometime midweek when Jack has time. But by the time the new year rolls around, they’re talking daily, even if it’s only a few minutes. As his clock changes to 12:01AM on January first, Jack is completely alone, watching tape on his laptop, and is surprised when a video chat request comes through from Eric.

            He takes it, turning his camera off. “Happy new year,” he says softly. Eric is covered in glitter, his eyes glassy as he toots a little horn.

            “Happy new year, Jack! Canadians celebrate new year, right?”

            Jack snorts. “Yeah, of course we do. You look like you had a good new year.”

            “I did! What did you do?”

            Jack snorts again. “What do you think?”

            Eric’s face falls, that stupid mouth of his in a genuine frown. “You’re alone? That’s not fair! It’s the new year!”

            “Where are you, exactly?” The room looks different, more like an office than Eric’s bedroom.

            “I’m actually at my parents’ house. They threw a big party this year. I snuck the laptop up to the study to Skype you.” He’s all red, but Jack can’t tell if that’s because of alcohol or him. It doesn’t matter. He’s pleased either way.

            “You snuck out of a party to Skype me?”

            “Shut up. I don’t like that you’re alone.”

            “I’m fine. I’m just watching tape.” He cuts himself off abruptly. He’d been so careful for the last month.

            Eric hones in on it. Even drunk, he’s got a laser eye out for anything Jack says that could be construed as personal. “Watching tape? What kind of tape? For what?”

            “I plead the fifth.”

            “That’s an American thing! It doesn’t work for Canadians!”

            “I have dual citizenship.”

            “Not fair!”

            “Totally fair. Go back to your party.”

            Eric shoves a hand through his hair, pushing it out of his eyes. It’s curling at the tips, and Jack’s heart is wrecked. “You know, I’ve meant to bring this up before, but you talk like you type. All deadpan.”

            “So you’re saying my voice is flat.”

            “No! I actually really like it. It’s very deep.”

            Ever since they started chatting voice to voice regularly, there hasn’t been much…sex between them. Jack doesn’t mind. He doesn’t think Eric does either. This is better; it’s the connection he wanted the whole time. “I like your accent,” he finds himself saying. Eric ignores that, because he’s mentioned before that he hates his accent even though Jack finds it cute.

            “Tell me something in Québécois. Please.”

            Jack smiles a little, liking the way Eric pronounces it now. “Bonne année.”

            “Oh, what’s that?”

            “Happy new year.”

            Eric rolls his eyes. “Oh, come on. Tell me something better than that.”

            Jack thinks for a long moment. He’s pleased that Eric called; sometimes, the surprise of his name coming up on Skype makes Jack’s heart roll around like a marble in his chest, and his stomach clenches with excitement and nervousness. Eric makes him very nervous, even now, but it’s a good nervous. He wants to keep this nervous.

            So he tells Eric all of this in Québécois, watching his reaction. It’s instantaneous, his eyes going all heavy-lidded and his mouth slackening. Eric has pestered him for Québécois before, but Jack has never given in like this. Not with so many sentences. Not with so much feeling.

            “Jesus,” Eric says in a sigh. “What did you say?”

            “Nothing important. Go enjoy your party, eh?”

            “God, you’re cute.”

            Now he flushes heavily. “Stop that. I have work to do.”

            “I’ll bet you do.” He gives Jack that look he knows Jack likes so much. “Want to work me up a little later?”

            “I’ll probably be asleep.”

            “You won’t wait up for me?”

            “Eh,” Jack says, just to get that horrified reaction he’s getting now. He can’t help but to laugh a little. “I’m teasing.”

            “I hope so.” Eric pauses, looking dreamily into the camera lens. “God, you’re so cute. Will you show me your picture one day?”

            Jack’s quiet for a moment. “Yeah. One day.”

            Eric perks up. “What, really? You mean it?”

            “Yeah, I mean it. I promise. I’m just not ready yet.”

            “That’s okay,” he says quickly, and most of his drunken joy is gone. Now he just looks…happy. Eager. “Wow, I’m—thanks. I’m really excited. I have this picture of you in my head but I just don’t know…”

            “I can send you a baby picture,” Jack says. “I was a really ugly baby.”

            It takes Eric a good minute before he’s done laughing his ass off. “No way!”

            “Yeah. Here.” He sends the picture over via an attachment and waits.

            “Holy shit,” Eric breathes, hand over his mouth. “Oh, bless your little heart. I’ve never seen a baby that ugly in my life.”

            “I told you. I’d like to think that I’ve improved over the years.”

            “I’m sorry, I am just really shocked by this picture, because…I thought all babies were cute in some way. But this is just a whole different level of unattractive.”

            “I’ve changed,” Jack insists.

            Eric gives him that look. “Prove it.”

            Jack sighs. “Soon. I can promise that.”

            “Your soon or my soon?”

            “What’s your soon?”

            “Right now.”

            Jack smiles at him, chest filling with warmth. He is so utterly smitten, and he tells Eric so—in Québécois.

            “What was that?” Eric says, eyes wide and beautiful. “You can’t just talk to me in French and not tell me what it was.”

            “Yes, I can. That’s my prerogative as a bilinguist.”

            “Hot. I forgive you.”

            “Good. Go join your party.”

            “Let me call you back later.”

            “If you like.” He pauses. “I’ll just be watching tape.”

            “Watching tape,” Eric says slowly. “I’m going to Google that and see what I come up with.”

            Jack…did not think of that. “You do that,” he says instead, and his voice is softer than before. “Talk to you later.”

            “Bye!”

            The video disconnects and Jack returns to his tape, chewing on his nails as he waits impatiently for another call.

 

            It’s nearly two when the video request comes in. Jack answers it.

            “So I Googled ‘watching tape,’” Eric says, and he looks like he’s in a bedroom now—not his own—and dressed in pajamas. Glitter is nowhere to be found on his golden skin. But now his face is very serious, and Jack’s stomach swoops hard. “I found something about NFL coaches first.”

            “Oh?” This is it. He’s going to put it together.

            “But you’re in Montréal, you said. So I’m pretty sure you don’t play football. But you’re six-one, which is average for your profession, and you’re very reluctant to tell me anything about your job, and your name is Jack. So I Googled ‘Jack Montréal sport.’ Do you know what I found?”

            Jack is utterly silent now. He has no idea what to say.

            “Jack,” Eric says, soft, as though he can read his mind. “It’s okay. I promise, promise, promise I won’t tell.”

            “Nobody can know,” he says, and his voice is strained. He feels like he can’t breathe, and not in the good way. Why would this have ended well? He can’t have anything good. “Eric, I—I can’t—”

            “Shh, shh, don’t get upset. It’s okay, I promise you. Please. Just take a breath, okay? Everything’s okay. Honey, please. I just. I’m so—fuck, I’m so happy, I—I’m sorry, I know this is…getting weird, I shouldn’t…”

            He’s never stuttered so much before. Jack’s heart is pounding out of his chest and Eric looks like he’s about to cry. “You’re Jack Zimmermann,” he says, and when he swallows his throat clicks. “And I’m Eric Bittle.”

            “Bittle.”

            “My friends call me Bitty. Because I’m itty bitty, see?” He rubs at his eyes a little, his smile huge in his face. His dimples are extra prominent. “Oh, Jack. I spent like twenty minutes looking at pictures of you. You are gorgeous. Wow.”

            He flushes, hesitating before flipping on his side table light. He turns his video on.

            Eric blinks, then his mouth drops open into a little O. “Jack…”

            “Hi.”

            “Oh my God.”

            He scrubs a hand over his hair. “It’s been a while since I had a haircut,” he says, his way of apologizing. “I get so focused during the season I don’t really have much time for anything else.”

            “You make time for me,” Eric says, and his eyes are moving across his screen like he’s trying to take in everything he sees. “I realize now how hard that must be for you. Professional athletes have it tough.”

            “The million-dollar contracts help.”

            Eric slaps a hand over his face. “Oh my God, you’re a millionaire.”

            “Yeah.” He smiles a little, and the look on Eric’s face is incandescent.

            “Jack. Wow.”

            He doesn’t know what to say, looking down instead at his keyboard. “What?”

            “I just can’t believe I’m looking at you right now. I mean, the pictures were one thing, and that Sports Illustrated special was interesting, but…you are. You’re so beautiful.”

            “Stop.”

            “What?”

            “Now you can see me blushing.”

            Eric laughs and it sounds delighted. “I’m not going to complain. My goodness, I could look at you for days and days.”

            “You saw my baby picture,” he points out, shifting higher up on his bed and pushing pillows around.

            “You weren’t kidding about the massive transformation,” he says, settling against his own pillows now as well. They fall quiet, simply looking at one another. “I’m near Atlanta right now at my parents’ house.”

            Jack’s heart drops right to his fucking feet. “Oh?”

            “Yeah.” Eric licks his lips. “I saw…I may have looked at the team schedule, and I see you’re playing Atlanta on Thursday?”

            “I—I am.”

            “So the town I’m in here is super small,” Eric says, and Jack isn’t sure where he’s going with this yet, “but there is like this one bar that my dad’s friend owns, and I think what I’m going to do is go down there for the game and make them put it on the big TV. I could see you play, right? I mean, you’re the captain. So you play regularly, right?”

            Jack’s smile spreads slowly. “You don’t know anything about hockey, do you?”

            Eric hides his face for a long moment before he peeks through his fingers. “I know who Wayne Gretzky is, I know what a puck is, and I’ve heard of a Zamboni.”

            “Is that it?”

            “Don’t make fun. I’m from the south! I know more about football than I do anything else.”

            “Except baking, right?”

            Instantly Eric is all golden-bright again. “Jack, I am an expert pie baker.”

            “I believe it.”

            “Do you really?” He winks. Jack is so charmed he can’t help the helpless sigh that eases out of his chest.

            “I really, really do.” He hesitates. “Did you…I mean, do you really want to watch the game at a bar?”

            Eric chews on his nail. He’s flushed red again. “Are you offering to get me a ticket?”

            “I could.”

            There’s another long pause. Jack is holding his breath; it looks like Eric may be doing the same. “I want to,” he says slowly, “but I’m feeling very…overwhelmed by what’s happened over the last couple of months, and while I would…very much like to meet you in person, I might have to try next time? If that makes sense?”

            Jack lets out a slow breath. “Yeah, I completely understand. I’m…struggling.”

            “Struggling?”

            “I’m not used to wanting things so much,” he admits, looking down at his keyboard again, because his keyboard is safe; it doesn’t have deep brown eyes. “I don’t want things outside of hockey, and I’ve had a very specific routine for six years now. You’ve changed all that. You scare me, Eric.”

            “You scare me too, Jack.” His voice is a little wobbly. “But I fucking love being scared by you.”

            They fall quiet together again. Jack finally looks up and meets his eyes. He’s never been in love like this before.

            “Jack,” Eric says.

            “Yeah?”

            “You should sleep.”

            It’s five hours past when he should’ve been passed out. “I never stay up this late.”

            “I know you don’t.” His smile is crooked. “Your preferred bedtime according to NHL.com is ‘as soon as the game ends.’”

            Jack smiles at that. Despite his fears, part of him is incredibly relieved. Eric knows who he is. And still clearly likes him. Before he can stop himself, he says, “I really do like you, you know.”

            “I know. Lucky for me, ‘cause I feel the same.”

            “Yeah? Nobody else?”

            “Nobody else. Nobody else at all. Only you.” He tilts his head, eyes starting to droop sleepily. “Will it bother you if I continue my site?”

            “No, actually. Not at all. I really don’t mind.”

            “Because I find that I would mind if the roles were reversed.”

            “Good,” Jack says.

            “Good? Jealousy is good?” His voice is teasing, but Jack can hear the worry.

            “Nobody’s ever been jealous over me before.”

            Eric sighs. “Oh, Jack.”

            They hang up shortly after that, but Jack smiles while he settles into bed.

 

 

            “So,” Eric says. “That thing is called…a what again?”

            “Hat trick,” Jack says, propping his laptop onto his kitchen counter while he pulls takeout from the fridge. “Three goals in one game.”

            “And that’s good.”

            “No.”

            “No?”

            “That’s very good.”

            Eric laughs at that. His voice is more muffled than it usually is; he’s back at his dorm after the holiday break, and there’s a party going on. Jack can hear the music but doesn’t know what it is. He hasn’t yet admitted to Eric just how much he doesn’t know about popular music. “So you’re saying,” he drawls playfully, “that you are a god on the ice.”

            “No, I’m not saying that. But ESPN did.”

            That laugh again. Jack makes it happen a lot now, and he preens a little each time. He shoves his Chinese takeout into the microwave to heat up. As soon as Eric hears the sound of a microwave, he gives Jack a sour look. “I sent you six recipes. What are you heating up in a microwave?”

            “I’m tired,” Jack argues. “Besides, this has protein and carbs, which is all I really need after—”

            “Stop making excuses! Jack! The recipes were easy!”

            “I’m tired,” he insists.

            Eric huffs a sigh but doesn’t retaliate. When he says, “Are you sure you’re tired?” Jack responds like he’s been summoned. He focuses in on the laptop a little more.

            “Don’t you share a dorm with like six other guys?”

            “Five. And I’m alone in the room. The door is locked.”

            “How do you even keep up with your site?”

            “We have an understanding.” Eric’s voice softens. “Are you sure you’re tired?”

            They haven’t gotten off together on video yet. Jack gets too awkward and uncomfortable and has to switch to audio only. “I guess I’m not that tired,” he says.
            “Take me to your bedroom.”

            Jack groans a little, forgetting about his food as he picks up his laptop and carries it into his bedroom.

            “Don’t turn the video off,” Eric says, and his words are coaxing. “Let me see you come for me. You know I’ve wanted it for a while.”

            “I know.”

            “Let me have it?”

            Jack props the laptop on one of his pillows, shifting to get comfortable. His cock is already throbbing in his sweatpants. “I—I’ll try not to, but I get self-conscious about the way I look.”

            “You look gorgeous.”

            “Says you.”

            “I’m the only one who matters.”

            When he looks over at his screen, Bitty’s Samwell University t-shirt is off, and his skin is pinkening as he grows more aroused. It’s his tell. If he’s not pink, he’s not turned on enough. “Jack, take off your shirt.”

            He obeys. He’s good at following directions, as Eric has discovered, and waits for his next instruction. Eric watches him steadily for nearly thirty seconds. Jack simply waits. He knows Eric likes being in charge, since he spends so much of his time being told what to do by strangers.

            “Now your pants.”

            Jack slides out of those easily, wearing nothing underneath.

            “Angle the camera. Let me see your cock.”

            This is the part Jack starts to have trouble with, but Eric’s voice is soothing, smooth as butter. He takes a deep, slow breath, and adjusts the angle of his laptop. He can just see his own little picture in the corner, his body pale against his dark red sheets.

            “Good,” Eric breathes, and Jack watches him, loves the deep flush of his chest. “Touch your fingertips to your cock. Start at the base, slide up. Slow.”

            “Eric…”

            “Please.”

            Jack closes his eyes briefly, biting at his lip as he does as asked, exactly as he understands it.

            “Pull your foreskin down a little. Let me see the head.”

            He does.

            “Press your thumb into the slit. Lightly.”

            He does.

            “How does it feel?”

            “’s okay,” he says, shaky.

            “Just okay?”

            “Wish you were here.”

            “I know, honey. But I can make you come.”

            And he does, even though it takes longer than usual because Jack is so aware of himself and of Eric, but eventually he does, and he keeps the camera on. Eric has already come himself, it seems, when Jack has enough faculties to pay attention, and his skin is still that delicious pink Jack likes so much.

            “I missed it?” he says, disappointed. Eric gives that rich laugh of his that he has only once he’s come with Jack.

            “You’ll see it again, don’t worry. Thank you for keeping the camera on. You—you were amazing. I just…”

            “What?” Jack looks at Eric’s flushed face, falling serious. “What can I do better next time?”

            Eric barks out a laugh. “What?”

            “You…you were going to offer…um. I’m used to criticism about…ah. My performances.”   He winces at the way it sounds. “On the ice, I mean.”

            Eric looks at him with a dreamy expression. “God, you’re so cute.”

            “I’m serious. What were you going to say?”

            “I wish you could let yourself make some noise,” he says at last. “I just want to hear you.”

            “I’ll be able to one day,” Jack says, running a hand through his hair. “I’m just slow. Sorry.”

            There’s a chiding tone in Eric’s voice as he says, “I wasn’t fishing for an apology. I’m just telling you what I’d like. You tell me what you’d like.” His smile widens. “Me eating you out and fucking you.”

            Jack turns off the video just to make Eric laugh.

 

 

            On Valentine’s Day, Jack has an early afternoon game in Tampa that’s televised on NBC. He settles into his hotel room for the evening, after allowing a small celebration with his team. The Habs are doing well, but now that the game is over, Jack is eager to get back to his evening routine.

            He has four messages waiting for him when he gets in, all from Eric’s personal handle, which they use exclusively now.

 

EBittle: Hey!! Nice assist!

EBittle: Oh my God, your ass looks so good on the giant common room TV.

EBittle: This girl in my poli sci class swears she blew you when she was in Philadelphia. I call shenanigans.

EBittle: I think we should talk.

 

            His heart lurches at the last one—it doesn’t sound good. He takes a deep breath and messages Eric back.

 

JLinCanada: Hi, I’m here.

 

            The video request is immediate. Falling back into old habits of self-consciousness, Jack declines the video on his end.

            “Hi!” Eric says, excited. He’s in his dorm room but it’s quiet on his end; everyone must be out partying instead. Eric’s face falls as his eyes search the screen. “Is your video out?”

            “No,” Jack mumbles, running a hand over his still-damp hair. “Your last message made me worried, and I don’t want you to look at my face when you break up with me.”

            Eric’s eyes soften. “That’s not at all what I was going to do, you big idiot. But we can’t break up if we’re not actually together, right? That’s what I wanted to talk about.”

            “What?” He’s never been good with…things.

            “Jack, we’ve been…doing this thing for a few months now. We seem to have a regular schedule. I feel—I mean, I feel like we have a pretty strong connection, don’t you?”

            He nods before he realizes Eric can’t see him. “Yeah, I—yeah, for sure.”

            “I know you care about me, but—I.” His skin is flushed hotly and he runs a hand over his messy blonde hair. “I just…want to be official. Even if it’s only between us.”

            “Are you asking me to be your boyfriend?” He can’t help the smile that creeps into his voice.

            Eric’s eyes go all soft again. “Yeah, I am. If you’ll have me.”

            He turns the video on. “Yeah. Definitely.” He can’t stop smiling.

            “Lord, you’re cute.” Eric’s grin is wide as well before he sobers a little. “I just want you to know that I understand this is only between us. If anyone asks, I’m single. I just.” He hides his face for a moment in his hand. “I just wanted to know I had a boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, that’s all.”

            Jack laughs a little, reclining back on his hotel room pillows. Unlike most of his team, he enjoys being in hotel rooms. It’s like a mini vacation all the time. “I guess I just sort of assumed that that’s what we were doing, you know? I’m sorry I didn’t think to…voice it.”

            “That’s okay. I heard they used to call you Mr. Roboto. I’ll forgive you a little slip like that.”

            Groaning, Jack puts his face in his hands. “Don’t remind me. I swear I’ve gotten a little better since then.”

            “Obviously you have, since you’re the captain.”

            “Sometimes I wonder about that. Brendan always seemed like a better fit for the boys.”

            Eric tilts his head. It’s then that Jack realizes that he’s…he’s wearing a Canadiens t-shirt. “What do you mean? Jack, don’t forget, for an hour after I figured out who you were, literally all I did was Google you. Your accomplishments are kind of amazing and I’m still learning about hockey. You’re a phenomenal teammate.”

            “Stop it. I’m blushing.”

            “I know. It’s a good look on you.”

            They flirt casually for a little while after that, then Eric uses that special voice of his and they get each other off. Jack ends up turning off the video at the end, but he lets himself make a small noise in his throat, just for Eric, who is utterly charmed by it and gazes at Jack for nearly ten minutes afterward. Jack almost tells him he loves him, but stops himself.

            “So,” Eric says, as they’re wrapping up their conversation, “you’re playing Boston in mid-March, right?”

            “Yeah. Thursday game, two days off, then back in Montréal.”

            Eric is quiet for a long moment. “Did I ever tell you where Samwell is?”

            Jack’s got that swooshy feeling in his stomach again. “No.”

            “And you didn’t get curious enough to Google?”

            He shrugs, flushing. “No.”

            “I’m forty minutes from Boston.”

            He looks down at his keyboard. For months now, Eric has given him the same feeling in his chest that hockey does, and nothing in his life has ever made Jack feel the way hockey does. “I see.”

            “So…” That voice is teasing.

            “You want a ticket?” He looks up to see the reaction on that round little face.

            “Yes.” Eric smiles. “Yes, I do.”

 

 

            As the weeks go by leading up to mid-March, Jack has learned a lot about Eric Richard Bittle, such as:

 

- He is 22, a junior, and is majoring in American Studies with a concentration in Food Culture

- He would like to own a bakery one day

- His favorite color is blue (“Like your eyes, Mr. Zimmermann.” “Shut up.”)

- He has a stuffed rabbit that he sleeps with every night whose name is Señor Bunny

- His parents don’t know he’s gay, but pretty much the whole school does

- His closest friends on campus are a guy named Shitty (?) and a girl named Lardo (????)

- His favorite artist is Beyoncé

- He often wears short shorts and then sends Jack selfies

- He procrastinates his homework all the time

- He has a complete inability to grow any facial hair at all

- He’s shit at languages

- The first time he had sex was such a disastrous, embarrassing experience he refuses to talk about it

- The first time he had sex was the only time he’s had sex (this distracted Jack for a while)

- He put his first video online of himself jacking off when he was drunk, then someone commented and said he could sell his dick and make some money, so that’s what got him involved in the website—and paid for his first year at Samwell after years in Georgia at community college

- His southern accent increases exponentially based on his level of drunkenness or tiredness

- He completely adores Jack

 

            Shockingly, Jack has given a lot of himself as well, though most of it Eric had probably already discovered from his Wikipedia article and the various links:

 

- He is bilingual, and his first language was Québécois

- He was drafted right out of high school…

- …which he then fucked up when he overdosed on anti-anxiety meds and was in rehab for almost a year

- He still struggles with his anxiety every day, but he has a sponsor, a good therapist he can reach by phone and text as needed, and a healthy dose of medication

- He has not had a panic attack in almost a year

- The Habs organization took a risk with him and signed him less than a year after his release from rehab…

- …and they have not regretted it since

- He does not know pop culture hardly at all (“I cannot fucking believe you have never seen any of The Real Housewives.” “I think I saw that once. Isn’t that the show with the lady?” “Jesus Christ, Jack.”)

- Jack has several nicknames with the press, though his teammates just call him Jack

- Some of these nicknames include “Mr. Roboto,” “The Ice Man,” and “Zimmers.”

- Jack does not like nicknames

- Except when Eric calls him things like “darlin’” and “sweetheart,” those are okay because…

- …he completely adores Eric

 

            They’ve finally moved on to texting and FaceTime, which is a lot more convenient than always taking out his computer. Eric’s texts are charming, and he’s been incredibly understanding and respectful of Jack’s strict routine during the day—he texts Eric once in the morning to say good morning, but will not respond until after either his game or his workouts are done.

            For his effort, Jack often gets half a dozen selfies in that time, most recently one of Eric with his friends Shitty and Lardo.

            “I need to ask you something,” Eric says, when they’re on the phone right before Jack heads to bed. Jack is already settled in for the night with the light off, and if he imagines it as best as he can, it’s almost like Eric is in bed with him.

            “Oh no,” Jack says, deadpan. “Are you breaking up with me again?”

            “Hush, you.”

            “Hey, it made you laugh.”

            “It did.” He pauses. “So I was watching your game today and Shitty and Lardo watched it with me. I had no idea they, you know, really like hockey. They’re Boston fans.”

            “Gross,” Jack says, and Eric laughs again.

            “I was wondering…I know you’re getting me a ticket, and I know this is the first time we’re going to be meeting and it’s supposed to be special, but I won’t lie, I’m really, really nervous about meeting you face to face, so I don’t think we need chaperones or anything like that, but I’m just wondering—”

            “I’ll get three tickets,” Jack interrupts, because if he doesn’t Eric can go on and on for days. “Eric. Of course I’ll get three tickets.”

            There’s another long pause. “I also would like to tell them about you. And us.”

            For a moment, Jack is very nervous by this. The more people that know means the more opportunity there is for it to get out, which he is just not ready for. “You know I’m not ashamed of you, right?” His voice is aggressive and he tries to soften it. “People bother me enough. I like my private life to stay private.”

            “I know, honey. I agree with you completely, you know that, but.” He sighs. “They’ve been trying to set me up with guys on campus because they think I’m lonely. They’re my best friends, and I know that if I told them they would not tell.”

            Jack doesn’t say anything for several seconds. “I trust you. If you trust them, you can tell them.”

            “Really?”

            He laughs. “Yeah. Did you think I’d say no? Eric, I trust your judgment.”

            “Oh, Jack.” It’s all he says, but Jack hears a whole lot more. “You know, when you call me Eric, they’re going to laugh hysterically.”

            “What? Why?”

            “Because they call me Bitty.”

            “Since you’re itty bitty.”

            “Right.” He sighs. “I can’t believe I get to see you in like a week.”

            Jack runs a hand through his hair, exhaling slowly. “I’m gonna end up throwing up.”

            “What! No! Why?”

            “When I get too nervous, I throw up. I think I threw up before every game for two years.”

            Eric laughs at that. “You’re so cute.”

            “You tell me that all the time.”

            “Because it’s always true. You’re just so cute.”

            “I weigh two hundred and ten pounds. Don’t think I’m that cute.”

            “Mmm. Want to tell me more about how you’re built?”

            Jack snorts. “I need to sleep, Bitty.”

            “I can’t figure out if I like you calling me that or not. We should keep trying it.”

            “Night, Bitty.”

            “Night, Jack.”