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I don't even know the words in French

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Sometimes, on days, or nights really, that Jack counts himself especially lucky, Eric manages to come up to providence. These are the nights Jack gets to curl around him, nuzzling into Eric’s neck, covering him with kisses from jawline to shoulder, holding him close as Eric lays with him, with a smile on his face and Jacks hand in his, pleased as punch and content as the cat that got the canary. Sometimes Eric will run his fingers through Jack’s hair as Jack kisses everything he can reach without letting go, and Jack thinks if he could purr like a cat, he would.
Other nights aren’t so lucky. Those are the nights that neither of them have time for more than a goodnight text. Those nights suck.
Often though, Jack and Eric skype before bed, they get to chat, and see each other’s faces, and smiles. It’s not as good as in person, but it’s better than nothing, and for now, it’s enough.
But then, something happens when Tater finds out about how well Eric bakes. What happens first is he asks when he gets to meet Jack’s …girlfriend. Because at that point that’s what he thought. Then he was over at Jack’s and tried some of Eric’s cookies and fell. in. love. He asked if he could get Jack to ask his girlfriend for some of his favorite Russian dessert. When Jack mentioned it, their entire skype conversation got derailed as Eric looked up everything he could find on it. (Jack still thinks Eric was mostly avoiding studying French)
Alexei got the package a few days later. Jack knew because he came into the locker room looking like he thought he’d just met god. He didn’t have any room for doubt either because Alexei walked up, kissed him on the mouth, and said “For the baker. I would take from you but I still have not met.” That required some explanation.
When he was recounting that for Eric, he decided he would only tell the story in French, and would only respond to French from Eric. It seemed like a good idea at first, he would get to tell the story in his first language, and Eric would have to practice. It was a good idea. Until Eric started, haltingly, talking about baking in French. Of course that was the vocabulary he knew the best. Of course that was just about the worst thing for Jack when he couldn’t reach out and pull Eric into his lap.
Jack associated everything to do with baking with Eric, and Eric was home. French, however, was also home. Eric, talking about baking, in French? Jack knew Shitty never expected that gif he had shown him of the cat switching off like a robot when a cheese slice was put on its head to ever come up in Jacks mind again, but that’s what he felt like all of a sudden.
Eric must have noticed, because suddenly he was looking very concerned. “Jack, Est ce que tu vas bien? i te ai appelé pour comme deux minutes ”*
“Ah, sorry. I think we can switch back to English for now.”
“Are you sure, sweetheart? Are you okay? What was that?”
“I... don’t even know the words in French”
The next time it comes up, Jack tells Alexei that his baker would be happy to make him more things if he wants to request them. Alexei insists on paying, when Jack says it would be refused, Alexei says “I give to you cashes, you put in girlfriend’s bag when she visit.” Jack doesn’t correct the term girlfriend. Alexei wants some fancy French thing.
Jack tells Eric, who immediately starts talking about it in French and Jack. Malfunctions. Again. Eric switches back to English, but doesn’t stop talking, it’s like he didn’t notice. Jack hopes he didn’t.
Two days later there’s a new email from Eric, no subject, but an attachment titled “raw538842” with the message “It’s about two hours long. The end is most important, if you want to skip to it.” It’s the unedited footage Eric shot for his videos while he was making Alexei’s fancy French thing. And. “Bonjour, y’all!” It’s. In. French. Fuck.
Eric’s only been studying French almost a year, but Ransom has been helping him study, and of course, Jack speaks to him in French as much as possible, and it’s clearly helped. Eric still has to stop and look up words, and even grammar, often. Still, he’s good enough natural speakers will understand him despite the clear Quebecois influence, but slow enough that subtitles are going to be reasonable once he puts them in. and the disclaimer of “Je suis seulement en train d'apprendre le français, mais je pensais une vidéo sur un dessert français serait plus mignon en français, et une excellente façon d'étudier en même temps! ”** helped explain not only the halting, but also his atrocious accent.
There was something at the end, directed at the viewers asking if it should be a series, and then a warm message at the end, meant just for Jack. And oh. That was. Oh.
When Alexei brought in the desserts the day he got the box, Jack blushed like a madman, because he kept hearing the message at the end of Eric’s video. Alexei requested something Polish the next time, to Jack’s relief.

Eventually Jack’s brain stopped shorting out when Eric spoke French at all, and only shorted out when Eric talked about baking in French. And then Alexei requested something else French from Jack’s “baker girl”. Jack took days to tell Eric, because he could accurately predict his reaction. When he did tell him, it was at the end of a phone call and Jack had headphones on, and he was lying in his bed with the lights off, hugging a pillow like it was going to be some sort of substitute for holding his boyfriend. Eric had to stay quiet because they had both stayed up longer than they meant to, so the French was whispered into his ears, warm and excited and not perfect, but Merde.

Alexei figured out after a while of requests that for some reason when he asked for French things, Zimmboni made a face at him. It was a weird face, but always a few days later it was there, whatever he asked for. Zimmboni never looked at the cash he was handed, so Alexei didn't feel bad giving him more each time, or giving him extra for things he knew were hard work.
Alexei tried to show his appreciation, by talking about what the baker girl had sent, which was always better that he could have imagined. Jack usually was happy to talk with him about the merits of butter over lard, or cream over milk, in baking. But sometimes Alexei asked for a fancy French thing (what, the French made good pastries) and when he showed Jack or tried to talk about it Jack seemed to stop working for a while. He still did fine at practice, but talking was difficult, like Alexei’s English, sometimes not come out right. Not even switching to French helped, mostly if he tried Jack seemed to choke a little.

Alexei didn't know what was happening with the Jack and his girl, but always with French Jack became...weird. Alexei thought it was funny. One day in locker room, conversation give idea.
"Tater, bro" Alexei looks at Snowy. "Bro you gotta take us to this fucking bakery"
"Which bakery, Snowy goalie?"
Snowy moaned around mouthful. "This French one" Zimmboni looks over and chokes, maybe goes little purple. Hmm.
"Ah, I cannot. Is ordered through friend."
Marty reach over Snowy, almost knock him off bench, to get pastry from box. Snowy slapped at him, but as Marty say, box says "to share"
Would have thought sex, the way Marty moaned.
"JeSUS, Tater. Who are you fucking to get these?"
"Not me that's fucking. Is friend's girlfriend." Jack had asked not to tell. Why? Everybody knew he had girlfriend anyway.
"Tell your friend to marry her." Jack coughed "And also never tell the nutritionists because we would all be banned from eating anything ever again."
Snowy nodded, then around mouth of food "And ask if she has any French pastry chef friends she could hook me up with."
Most of team make jokes about if Snowy fat he maybe let in fewer pucks. Jack still not move, still staring at his stall.
Last time Alexei bring baked things from girlfriend, Jack was fine, make jokes with everyone. Forsure it was the French things.
Alexei decides to mostly ask for French things.

Jack has an email on his phone burning a hole in his pocket; it has an attachment labeled "RAW 538853". The message was "two hours."
Again at the end there was a special message for Jack. This went on this way for a while, every time Eric made something French, he would send Jack a video. It was always something new, he would film it for his blog, and send the unedited footage to Jack, with all his mess ups and silliness and the message at the end. Jack never said anything about it and neither did Eric.
This was a lot for Jack, but he could handle it, except when Tater tried to talk to him about whatever Eric had sent him, then all Jack could think of was what Eric had said at the end of the last video, or wonder what he would say this time. By the time Tater walked up to him with a smile on his face, Jack new there would be an email waiting for him.
One day Tater asked for a repeat dessert, and Jack was relieved in the worst way, because Eric wouldn’t make a video for this. Eric didn’t need to put this up on the internet if he’d already done it, so he didn’t have to go the whole day with an email in his pocket that weighed a thousand tones. Doing these videos had improved Eric’s French significantly, he hardly had to look stuff up anymore, even if he did sometimes stumble or hesitate, which was making it worse and worse for Jack. The fluidity with which Eric was starting to speak Jack’s favorite language was heartwarming and surprisingly arousing, but Jack was starting to think he was getting too much of a good thing.
But when Jack got home and finally checked his email for the first time that day he was surprised to see one from Eric, with a video attached. The message in the email was simply “Tried something different, just for you”. Jack couldn’t imagine what Eric could have done, so he put off watching it until he was in bed, just in case. Because the truth was he could imagine so many things Eric could have done, and living with Shitty had never helped that part of his imagination calm down. Jack was not prepared in the least.
The sight that greeted him was Eric in bed, like it was just another one of their skype sessions, Eric started off in French, with a soft, warm, “Bonjour, mon cher”. The entire video was in that soft, warm voice, and in French. Jack had to watch it three times before he realized he would never know what Eric was talking about if he didn’t close his eyes, distracted as he was by the warm voice and the expression on Eric’s face. When he finally did put headphones on and close his eyes, laptop set to the side, he found that this video was….exactly what he should have expected from Eric. It was simply him talking about the process of making this dessert. He talked though what he did differently, what he discovered in making it for the team in between times making it for Tater, what he does and doesn’t like about the process, the dessert in general, this batch. Just anything and everything to do with making a treat for one of Jack’s friends. And it broke Jack’s heart. How anyone could be this loving, this passionate, this kind, baffled him, and how someone like that could chose him? Jack was lost. And even more in love with Eric than before, which he hadn’t known was possible. Jack almost called Eric, but they still hadn’t talked about it. Instead Jack fell asleep with the video playing on repeat.
****
Bittle: how do you feel about things….escalating?
Jack was confused, what a weird text to wake up to. He thought back to their skype conversation last night, Tater had asked for a repeat dessert the last few times, and Jack had told Eric about Tater’s request. Eric had noted it, but he had a…strange expression on his face. Jack hadn’t thought about it at the time. That was the only thing different than normal.
Jack: what do you mean?
Bittle: uhmmm
Jack: Eric?
Jack: I can’t tell you how I feel unless I know what things?
Bittle: I. uh.
Bittle: Th
Bittle: Sorry
Bittle: The videos
Jack’s mind went all sorts of places, namely the same ones he’d gone when Eric had sent him a video on a repeat dessert the first time. Filthy places that made his blood rush away from his brain. Shit, he hadn’t even had his coffee yet, Eric hadn’t said anything yet, and he was. Uh. Eric. Right.
Jack: Escalate how?
Bittle: When uh. When they’re just for you
Bittle: What if I went somewhere a little different with them at the end?
Jack: Where is somewhere different?
Bittle: Oh, sweetheart, are you really going to make me type it out? It’s embarrassing enough, you know
Jack: I don’t know if I understand right. I don’t want to assume.
Bittle: I.. oh. That’s fair. I just. Ah. Somewhere a little less… uhhh a little more…private?
Jack: You’re already in your bed whispering in French to your secret boyfriend how much more private could it be?
Bittle: I don’t appreciate the chirp Mr. Zimmermann
Bittle: But
Bittle: Baking is an awfully innocent topic
Bittle: As far as topics that have to do with sticky substances go
Jack: Bits
Jack: Eric
Jack: Are you
Jack: I. uh. I……..
Jack: I need you to type it out.
Eric didn’t respond for the rest of the day. Jack felt like he had done something wrong except he knew Eric would be telling him he hadn’t. Jack knew Eric was embarrassed, but he couldn't help it, Jack couldn’t let himself assume that Eric had meant what Jack thought he meant. But what else could he mean. Jack threw himself on his bed. He should shower, but he kept thinking about their conversation, and was about to give in when an email chimed through on his computer. It was from Eric. “It’s somehow less embarrassing to say it than to type it” the subject line made Jack’s heart pound.
“I’ve typed the message for this already and I can already tell you it’s a lie.” Eric’s face mostly was hidden in his hands, but what Jack could see was bright red. “Oh lord. It shouldn’t be embarrassing, it’s not like we haven’t …you know. But I just. Lord above sweetheart,” Eric looked up at the camera and Jack had never wanted to hold him more “I don’t know why this is so hard.” Jack hadn’t seen Eric this red in a long time, and he certainly hadn’t been this awkward about anything to do with Jack since they started dating.
“I was just thinking. I know it’s ha- uh. Uhm. Difficult. Sometimes, being away from each other, not being able to be with each other, and I uh. Could. I could do. Something? About that. Uh. It really would be easier to just show you, sweetheart, lord but you wanted the words so uh. I was thinking, uh, sometimes, if you wanted, maybe, uh the videos could get a little sexy? I’ve ne-oh, my word, I’ve never done anything like that, but if you wanted. I’d be willing to try? God I know this is awkward and I know I’m awkward but we have to talk about it, I mean I can’t just thrust it upon yo- oh fuck bad choice of words-”
Jack wasn’t even sure if he’d paused the video as he dialed Eric, hands almost shaking, head spinning.
“Sweetheart?”
“Yes, please.” Jack was surprised at how rough his voice was. He swallowed.
“What? Oh. OH.”
“Bits, Eric, I- merde, I would love- I – you- please”
Eric giggled, “Alright, sweetheart, next time I bake, I’ll keep that in mind.”
They fell asleep still on the phone that night, but they didn’t talk any more about the videos. Jack liked it, though. It added a sense of anticipation to know that something was coming, and to know a little bit about it, but still feel completely in the dark. Normally that would have wound Jack up, it would have sent his anxiety through the roof, but it was Eric, he trusted Eric. Maybe more than either of them realized.
****
Eric was a gift from any and every god that ever existed.
Jack had no other way to describe his boyfriend, except that he was also maybe the devil. All Jack wanted now was to get his hands on Eric and he couldn’t. He didn’t even need to do anything he just wanted to touch him and he wasn’t even on the same side of the country and he loved his boyfriend so much it hurt and his boyfriend was an actual angel. A picture of Eric cuddled up in bed with pie shouldn’t be anything new or interesting. It wasn’t new. But it seized Jacks heart and wouldn’t let go, filling him up with this warm glow that he imagines is what it would feel like to have sunlight injected into his heart. Pure love. And Jack was just a little turned on. Not because of the picture, no the picture wasn’t anything to get that excited over, but the message that went with it. That’s what did it. It wasn’t anything sexy, even, if anyone else knew it had gotten him a little hot under the collar, they wouldn’t understand.
“Settling in to practice a little French. Might record a little for you to correct me on”
Jack was trying to not think about it, but that never works quite the way anyone wants it to.
He wouldn’t open the email he knew would be in his inbox. Not till he was back in providence, because if he opened the email, he would watch the video, and while he knew the direction Eric was going, he didn’t know what Eric would do. And he didn’t bother to ask for a single on roadies, and nobody wants that awkwardness. So when that email appeared, it would just have to sit there, burning, until he got home.
So now he was home, he’d had that picture to stare at for two days, but he hadn’t gotten a video. He dropped his bags in the hallway on the way back to his bedroom, intending to shower. He set up his computer first, mostly to put on some music, but also just in case.
Nothing yet.
He got out of the shower and didn’t even bother with a towel before he checked his computer again, refreshing his inbox. Still nothing. He didn’t know what to do. Eventually he decided on a towel around his waist and some food. He sent Eric a selfie, letting him know he was eating.
Eric: Lord, sweetheart.
Jack: What?
Eric: That picture
Eric: It’s so hot
An email chimed through
Eric: I wish I was with you right now
Jack: I do too
Eric: I want to kiss you so much, I want to touch you
Jack: I can’t wait till you can come down again, so that you can
Jack: And I can touch you
Jack: I want to hold you
Eric:   
Eric: I miss you
Eric: Check your email
Email?
Jack: I miss you too
An email had chimed through; Jack looked at it and saw that it was from Eric. Suddenly his food didn’t matter anymore
Jack: Oh
Eric: Oh
Jack: I …
Eric: Watch it.
Jack: Okay
He went back to his room, and opened the email on his computer, finding a video attached. The name was just a string of numbers, but the content was sure to be more than interesting enough to compensate.
It opened on Eric sitting in his bed, just as he had been in the picture, one of Jack’s shirts hanging off one shoulder, eyes warm, hair mussed. He had this gentle smile, and there was some music, low, in the background. Jack mostly couldn’t hear it, even with his headphones on, but it was slow, dragging, something to sink into.
“Bonjour, Jack.” Jack was already struggling to breathe just from the way Eric said his name. Low, sweet, and full of love. Jack was so in love with Eric and he couldn’t believe that Eric was in love with him too, he could hear it, there was no way to deny it. Eric’s voice stayed that way as he spoke to Jack, French flowing in a way that he hadn’t heard from Eric before, and as he stared at Eric’s face, he noticed the blush. Eric was nervous about this, he’d probably written a script so he didn’t stumble. Jack’s heart contracted. So far Eric wasn’t even saying anything sexual and he was already blushing, Jack was so concentrated on the video he didn’t notice he was already breathing a little hard.
Eric kept talking but as he did, he stretched, which pulled the hem of the shirt up, showing off his stomach. He slid his hands up inside his shirt, purposefully exposing his chest and abs, leaning back from the camera to pull the shirt off. Jack’s mouth went dry. Eric grinned right into the camera. Jack was watching, and he was trying to listen but he didn’t know what Eric was saying because all he could think about was that Eric had done this, he had done this for Jack, knowing Jack was going to watch it, knowing Jack was going to react, and Eric had done this. He had decided to put on a performance for Jack, but it wasn’t hurried, it was like dripping, it was like sinking, watching Eric talk to Jack, knowing that Eric had put on this performance for a camera. It felt like the world was slipping through his hands, it was amazing.
Eric said Jack’s name, low again, but it wasn’t so sweet this time, it was warmer, it was heated. Eric was making no secret of how he was affected by what he was doing, hands sliding downward. Jack’s eyes tracking the movement, Jack’s throat trying to swallow and finding itself dry, Jack’s mouth slowly closing as he realized it was hanging open.
“Bitty. Eric.” Jack’s own hoarse whisper surprised him.
He forgot about it as the video continued, pulling him under. His hands ached to hold Eric, but he felt pinned in his chair by his boyfriend’s gaze, by the low voice in his ears, all he could do was hang on for the ride. All he could do was let himself be overwhelmed in the best way, knowing this was for him, knowing he didn’t know how to return this, knowing this gift of a human being was his. It took his breath away.
Jack: I don’t know how to say
Jack: I don’t even know the words in French
Jack: I love you so much
Eric: so that was a good idea then?
Eric: you wouldn’t hate more videos like that?
Jack: you’re going to kill me
Jack: please
Jack’s phone flashed with an incoming call notification, it was Eric. Jack noticed his hands were shaking as he picked up, moving his headphones from his computer to his phone. He still felt stuck to his chair, but that would eventually pass. He fell asleep on the phone with Eric again, talking quietly, loving the amused note in his boyfriend’s sleepy voice as they talked.