Back against the wall, body turned toward Bittle’s, Jack watches as Bittle unlocks his phone, fingers flying over the screen as he types something Jack can’t quite make out. He’d just finished telling Bittle about the football team and the fire extinguisher—a story he’s practiced and honed for exactly this sort of occasion—and he figures it must have been a success for Bittle to want to immediately share it on Twitter.
Jack shifts, angling toward Bittle more, trying to see what he’s saying. He’s been misquoted before, after all; he just wants to make sure Bittle gets it right, to see Bittle gasp at him in mock horror at Jack’s apparent disbelief in his honesty, eyes gone even wider than usual, cheeks gone pink. Jack leans in, Bittle still typing, and can’t help but smile when Bittle does glance up at him.
“I’m surprised you’re not chirping me for having my nose buried in my phone.”
And he could. He has. There’s nothing stopping him. But he’s at a party and he’s having fun and Bittle doesn’t seem inclined to go anywhere fast and, well, what can it hurt?
Bittle thinks he’s joking at first, when Jack offers to take a selfie with him. He rolls his eyes and laughs down at his phone, a sound that’s come to grow on Jack since the end of his junior year. Bittle’s happiness is infectious, something Jack had found obnoxious to begin with, a truth he’s embarrassed by now. Bittle had simply been…so clearly, wholly himself, and Jack had been…well. He’s not proud of how he acted then. What matters is how he acts now. And now?
Now he wants to see Bittle smile.
Because Bittle’s happiness is infectious and Jack is feeling good and he wants Bittle to feel good and—
In the end, Jack doesn’t know how many they take. A lot, he guesses. At first, it’s because Bittle can’t find the right angle with their respective heights and the lighting and something something. Jack is only partially listening as he watches their faces on the phone’s tiny screen, distracted by the feel of Bittle’s waist beneath his palm and the soft brush of his hair against Jack’s cheek as Jack leans close. They look good together, the two of them. Bittle is grinning and bright-eyed, hair glinting green then blue then purple in the shifting lights near the dance floor. This close, Jack can feel the heat coming off of him, can smell the hint of his shampoo. If it were lighter in the Haus, he’d be able to see the faint dusting of freckles across the curve of Bittle’s cheek.
Bittle mutters and moves against him, nudging Jack with his elbow. “You blinked again! Try to keep your eyes open for this one!”
Jack offers up a half-smile at Bittle’s phone where Bittle’s grinning big. Bittle’s thumb moves over the button and—
Jack laughs, squeezes Bittle’s hip. “Try to keep your eyes open for this one, eh?”
“Hush, you,” Bittle says. He sounds like he’s biting back a laugh, though, and Jack can’t help but grin down at him even as Bittle’s thumb moves over his phone. “Jack. You’re not—You’re not even looking at the camera now.” He sounds a little breathless, but not really annoyed.
“Sorry. I’ll be good.” Jack looks back at the phone, eyes meeting Bittle’s on the screen. “I promise.”
Bittle’s eyes narrow. “Why don’t I believe you?”
Shrugging, Jack feels Bittle shift beneath his palm. Watches as Bittle’s eyes flick from to his own then back on the screen. “I promise.”
“Hmm. We’ll see, Mr. Zimmermann. We’ll see.”
Jack’s not sure what makes him stick his tongue out, but Bittle’s surprised laugh is worth it.
It goes on like that for a while. By the time they’ve taken one Bittle’s happy with, Jack’s become so used to the feel of him, the smell of him, that the distance between them as they lean against the wall feels like miles, Jack hyperaware of all of the places they no longer touch. He wonders if it’s him or the half-cup of beer he’s had or Bittle himself, if this warmth in his chest is familiar or new and, if it’s the former, why he didn’t notice it before.
Shitty is thrilled when they drift out to the porch, grabbing Jack in a headlock that makes Bittle gasp and Jack laugh. He refuses the tub juice and steps up to Lardo’s flip cup challenge. He loses spectacularly and only chirps Bittle a little when it turns out Bittle documented the whole thing on Twitter.
He even lets them all pull him into the crowd of bodies on the dance floor, Bittle’s fingers wrapped around his wrist. It’s not something he does often—or ever—but there in the Haus surrounded by his friends with Bittle singing loudly as he moves beside him, Jack lets himself enjoy it, dancing and laughing and catching Bittle’s eye every now and then. Bittle’s smile widens, and Jack feels full of light.
They dance, Bittle as graceful here as he is on the ice. Jack isn’t surprised—of course he isn’t, he’s seen Bittle dance before, and he’s seen some of his ice skating—but it’s one thing to know, one thing to witness, and an entirely other thing to be part of it, to be included in Bittle’s perfect rhythm and swinging hips. Jack feels too warm. He tries to blame it on the crowd, but he’s beginning to suspect it’s something else, and when Bittle turns, when Bittle catches Jack’s eye as he looks over his shoulder, arms above his head, Jack knows.
In his chest, Jack’s heart pounds. His palms itch. He reaches for Bittle, hands finding his swaying hips, and steps close, fits their bodies together.
Bittle lets him. Bittle smiles, eyes bottomless through the golden curl of his eyelashes as he looks up at Jack. There’s something about that look that makes Jack feel powerful, alive. He is aware, suddenly, of the blood in his veins and the air in his lungs, of the way his hips tuck against Bittle’s and the way Bittle’s shoulders brush his chest. The way Bittle feels right, there against him, like he belongs.
Judging by the way Bittle doesn’t move away, Jack thinks he agrees.
They don’t leave each other’s orbit the whole night. They talk and they dance and they talk some more. Jack gets used to the feel of Bittle’s hand on his knee when they’re sitting, on his shoulder when they’re standing. He gets used to Bittle’s breath on his cheek and the soft fabric of Bittle’s hoodie beneath his fingers. Jack likes this. He wants this. He doesn’t want the night to end.
He wouldn’t mind if it were a bit more quiet, though, if there were a few—a lot—less people.
“You know,” Bittle says as they slip away from the dancing crowd again, “I’m surprised you’re still down here.”
Jack’s having trouble dragging his eyes away from the hollow of Bittle’s throat, the sheen of sweat he can see just beginning there. He shrugs, forcing himself to meet Bittle’s gaze. “I’ve been having a good time.”
Bittle grins at him. “I’m glad, Jack.”
“But, uh. I should probably start thinking about heading upstairs for, y’know. Bed.”
Bittle’s smile falters a little as he glances down at his phone. “Oh, well, it is getting pretty late. I should probably, y’know—”
Jack nudges him, hip checking Bittle gently. “Let me walk you home.” It’s a dumb thing to say, he knows it’s a dumb thing to say, and yet he can’t stop himself, feels himself flushing even as the words are out.
Bittle doesn’t seem to notice, though. He grins and nods and they make their way upstairs together, leaving the noise of the party below.
The thud of the bass follows them. Jack can feel it in his bones as he walks Bittle to his door. They pause at Bittle’s doorway, and Bittle leans against it, his shoulders back, hips tilted forward. His hair is mussed in soft tufts and his eyes are warm. He looks inviting.
Oh, how Jack wants to be invited.
“See,” Jack says, “I walked you to your door.”
When Bittle laughs, the curl of his lips tug at Jack. “My hero,” Bittle says, “Jack Zimmermann.”
Jack leans forward, shoulder against the door frame. His hands he keeps in his pockets, fingers curled into his palm. He wants to touch. “It was perilous.”
Bittle nods, his eyes big and serious, bottom lip between his teeth. Jack absolutely does not stare when it slips free. “I’m sure.”
“I’d do it again.” Jack leans, pulled forward by Bittle’s gravity.
Bittle smiles. “I’d let you.”
Unable to resist, Jack pulls a hand free, reaches forward, touches Bittle’s cheek. Watches as Bittle’s eyelashes flutter. “I’m glad.”
Bittle’s lips are soft beneath his, damp from where he’s just bitten them. Jack thinks about that sweet curve held against Bittle’s tongue and something within him cracks, breaking open, igniting him. Their lips brush and Jack tilts his head, presses forward with the tip of his own tongue, feels Bittle sigh against him. Lips part and there is nothing but the heat of Bittle’s mouth as he welcomes Jack in, his tongue a slick tease drawing Jack close, closer.
They kiss, and time slows. They kiss, and all Jack can think about is Bittle against him, warm and surprisingly steady, as eager as Jack if the way his fingers have tangled in the hem of Jack’s shirt is anything to go by. There’s the brush of his thumb against Jack’s skin, just above the waistband of his jeans, and Jack shivers, pulling away.
Bittle’s eyes are closed. Jack takes the opportunity to look, to take in delicate smudge of his eyelashes against the tops of his cheeks, the slight lift of his eyebrows. The shine of his slightly parted lips that means he’s been well and truly kissed. The sight of him makes Jack’s heart clench, and he leans in, fits their mouths together again. Kisses Bittle anew. Heat builds low in his stomach as Bittle sighs against him, the hand at Jack’s waist clenching and unclenching in the fabric of his shirt before it lets go and slips, finally, beneath, Bittle’s palm hot and perfect.
It’s too much and not enough. Jack wants to push forward, to press Bittle against the wood of his door and kiss him senseless, to follow him into his room and shut out everyone else until there’s nothing left but the two of them and the slow drag of skin on skin. He wants to take Bittle to his own room and sit and talk and touch and know that tomorrow this will still be something they both want.
He pulls away, and Bittle looks up at him, eyes dark and mouth unbearably pink. Jack misses kissing him already, but he knows he needs to wait. The morning will come soon enough, and Jack wants to be certain before they do anything more than kiss in Bittle’s doorway.
“Jack.” Bittle’s voice is rough, and he swallows. He looks at Jack, unblinking. “I didn’t know you wanted—”
“I do,” he says, and then laughs. He shakes his head. “Sorry. I should, uh, probably let you finish?”
Bittle smiles at him, eyes on Jack’s then following the curve of his cheek, his jaw. His mouth. Jack resists the urge to lick his lips but only barely before Bittle’s gaze returns to his own.
“I didn’t know you wanted—” He swallows again. Against his waist, Jack feels Bittle’s fingers tighten. “This. Me.”
Leaning forward, Jack noses at Bittle’s temple, breathes deep and smells sweat and shampoo and, beneath that, flour and cinnamon. He thinks the last two might be a figment of his imagination, a trick of the mind and Bittle. “I’m a little slow sometimes.”
“That’s okay,” Bittle says, hand smoothing up Jack’s side in a way that makes Jack want to strip his shirt off right there and let Bittle touch whatever he wants. “I’ve been told I’m pretty fast.” There’s a pause, and then Bittle is groaning, hiding his face against Jack’s neck. How Jack hears his next words is beyond him, distracted as he is by the warmth of Bittle’s breath. “Lord. I can’t believe I just said that. Please don’t chirp me.”
Jack laughs, happiness filling him from the toes up. “Me? Chirp you? At a moment like this?”
Bittle groans again, a sound Jack is becoming more and more interested in, and pushes Jack away. “You’re impossible, Mr. Zimmermann.”
He doesn’t go far, hands lingering still. Thighs pressed close. “You like it.”
“I might,” Bittle says, his tone and the arch of his eyebrow belied by the look in his eyes and the way his fingers shift against Jack’s skin.
“Good,” Jack says. “Me, too.”
The expression melts from Bittle’s face, leaving in its wake parted lips and flushed cheeks. Bittle sighs. “Pinch me.”
When Jack obliges, he gets a yelp and a pout. Jack wants to say, You’re not dreaming. He wants to say, Wake up tomorrow and I’ll still want you.
Instead, he kisses Bittle again, a sweet press of lips to lips, and steps away. “We’ll get coffee in the morning, yeah?” he asks, hand on the doorknob to his room. “Annie’s? It’ll be a date.” His heart races at the thought, then settles again. This isn’t new, not really. He and Bittle have been working toward this for longer than he realized. He really is slow.
He’s got the door half-closed when Bittle gasps across the hall. “Is that what those are—Have you—Jack Zimmermann!”
Jack chuckles, smiles at Bittle around the edge of the door. “Good night, Bitty,” he says. “Sleep well.”
If Bittle mumbles something about not falling asleep for a long while, well. Jack can relate.