It was Shitty’s plan. He was the only person Jack told after he and Bittle made it official. He was also the only person who had any idea how to get his new team how to stop being so curious about ‘the girl’ he keeps talking to. It was only going to get worse the longer that he danced around the subject, pretending he didn’t have pictures of her on his phone or giving the barest amount of details on the pretend relationship he had with this imaginary woman.
Shitty was also the one who had all of the connections. One of the girls who came out to him during sophomore year was still trying to keep her relationship with a lovely kindergarten teacher secret from her large and very conservative family. It was a mutually beneficial agreement, she got to tell everyone her boyfriend was Jack Zimmermann and he got to have evidence of an actual woman.
“I think I finally got a way to get the guys off my back.” Jack said calmly.
“Well that’s good.” Bitty said. He was humming something and Jack could hear him moving around on the other end of the line. He could practically imagine Eric wandering around his room or his kitchen while holding the phone up against his face with his shoulder. “Wait, you didn’t tell them about me, did you? I mean, it’s fine if you do but I’m just surprised. You said you didn’t want people to know. Are you okay? They’re not being mean to you, are they? I swear if they’re being mean to you I’ll drive over there an-“
“Things are fine. No one is being mean.” Jack said, unable to help the smile that broke across his face. “I just think I figured out how to convince them I have a girl without them digging too deep. I called Shitty, we have it worked out fine.”
Bitty sighed loudly, sounding either relieved or annoyed. “Good. As long as you’re making friends.”
Jack smiled to himself and settled in on his couch, just listening as Bitty talked about workout routines and the pre-season, which pies the frogs liked best and any new recipes he was trying out. He had a nice voice to listen to, always energetic and enthusiastic about everything that captured his attention. It was nice to just lay back on the couch after a long day and let his tired muscles relax and his mind calm down to the sound of his boyfriend’s rambles.
It was relaxing. Jack turned his phone on speaker and nestled against the couch cushions, his eyes drifting closed on their own and Bittle telling him about how he tragically tripped over a misplaced boot and dropped a plate of cookies right onto the ground. By the way he described it Jack would have thought he had accidentally kicked a puppy. Chowder had been the one to tell him it was alright as he cried and helped him clean up the mess.
It was almost like a lullaby, listening to Bitty. It was still early in the day, the sun barely setting, but Jack was exhausted. He only had a split second of realizing it was rude to fall asleep when he was supposed to be listening to his boyfriend, but then he was passed out on the couch and more comfortable than he could ever remember being.
He woke up a few hours later, three hours and forty-seven minutes to be exact because the call was still connected and the timer continued to tick. Eric hadn’t hung up. Jack could hear his faint snoring on the other end of the line, the phone probably lying somewhere close by on his bed. Jack couldn’t believe it, he had a boyfriend who kept the phone on for nearly four hours just because he fell asleep. This was probably the closest they would get to sleeping side-by-side over the next few months while they’re both busy with the season. It wasn’t nearly as good as holding him close, even falling asleep in the back of a pickup truck on the 4th of July was better than being so far apart when they tried to sleep.
Jack ended the call and smiled to himself. He’ll have to pay the idiots phone bill himself if they kept this up. He went to his actual bed this time, curling up under the blankets and holding his pillow close in a desperate desire to cuddle.
He had to wake up early the next morning. The woman Shitty had called showed up with a bag full of clothes and two cups of coffee. They had to get this done before Jack had to get to training. He took a picture of her with his phone, just her lounging around on the couch with her feet up and a book open. She took one of him too. They did that for a few minutes, getting random pictures that would be expected of a lover to have. Jack changed in his room and Suzanne changed in the bathroom so that they could have a variety of pictures in different outfits.
The picture of him and Bittle together was still his background on his phone, but Suzanne was now the lockscreen. If any of his teammates got ahold of his phone they would see her and wouldn’t know the password to see Bitty.
“My brother is going to lose his mind when he finds out you’re my boyfriend. Thanks for the pictures.” She said, smiling as she looked through them. “Try to look more relaxed though. We’re supposed to be seeing each other, you look like you just remembered all the homework you forgot the night before.”
“I don’t have homework anymore.” Jack said. He rubbed a hand over his face and checked the clock. He still had a bit of time before he needed to head out to practice. “Good luck with your family. I hope things between you and the teacher work out.”
“I do too.” Suzanne said. She reached out and gave him a single pat on the shoulder before grabbing her bag and walking towards the door. “Good luck with the whole sports thing. I hope things go alright with you and whoever you’re trying to keep secret. Call me if you need anything, sweet boyfriend.”
Jack hummed in acknowledgment as he stared down at his phone. The pictures looked authentic enough. No one would both to think he staged having a girlfriend when they saw these. Bittle would be just fine back at Samwell, he wouldn’t have to worry about a thing. Jack wouldn’t have to deal with the whole sports world finding out the love of his life was a small, beautiful, perfect boy from Georgia.
There was one picture of Suzanne kissing his cheek that he made the lockscreen on his phone. The team would see it first and immediately know that he did have a girlfriend. They wouldn’t want to dig any deeper than that, but there were more pictures if they did happen to be curious.
Practice went by without any serious issues. They worked well as a team, even though it still felt knew and awkward learning how to cooperate with the new faces around him. It was fine, he would get used to them soon enough. It was different than the Samwell team, when practice was over they all went back to their own homes and their own families. There wasn’t a Haus, no classes to worry about. They were all professionals working together effortlessly on the ice and then going their separate ways at the end of the day.
Jack checked his phone when they went to wash up and change. Bitty had texted him when he woke up to tell him that his snoring still sounded like a batch of excited baby piglets. It was quite the description and it didn’t sound appealing at all but Bittle had added so many hearts around the sentence that Jack didn’t think it could possibly be a bad thing.
“Look at that face! Falling in love Zimmermann?” One of the guys called out to him, reaching out to clap him on the back. Jack quickly pressed the power button on his phone, hiding the texts from view. “Having a personal moment with your girl?”
“Yes.” He said.
The locker room erupted into a series of hoots and cheers, several of the guys huddling around him as if they were going to pry any bit of information out of him. This had gone on for weeks, their curiosity burning hot as they tried to figure out who could get him to smile like that and then never talk about.
“Come on, what’s she like? Long hair, cute smile?” They asked. “She has to be something special if she could get you, rumored hockey robot, to grin from ear to ear like that.”
“No, she’s just a girl.” Jack said. He held his phone close to his chest. He had to keep up his normal behaviors. They would know something was off if he just willingly showed pictures of his ‘girlfriend’ without a fight.
It took just a few more minutes of them prodding him and harassing him for information until he finally showed it to them. They passed around his phone, they didn’t know his password so the texts were safe. When he finally got his phone back they all shook his hand and congratulated him on landing such a gorgeous woman.
It didn’t mean anything, they were just excited to finally know about his supposed girl. They wouldn’t give a shit tomorrow, they’ll move on to something else and harass another player about something they wanted to keep personal. It was just the friendly banter of teammates. Now that they had what they wanted it wouldn’t be an issue.
Jack’s hands were shaking as he held his phone in an iron grip and walked back to his car. This was fine. No one knew about Eric. The two of them would be just fine.