Jack slides into the car with a huff, casting a weary eye at his overnight bag on the passenger seat. Excited as he is to see Eric, he’s really wishing he hadn’t agreed to drive out to Samwell for Epikegster II: Winter Kegstravaganza.
It’s been wonderful having their relationship out in the open with the other guys in the Haus, and he’s enjoyed not having to sneak out in the morning after spending the night. But today’s team visit to spread Christmas cheer to Hasbro Children’s Hospital has used up all of Jack’s social interaction points for the day, and all he really wants to do is go spend a quiet night back at the apartment with Bittle.
But Samwell is out for Winter Break, and Rans and Holster are throwing one more kegster before everyone heads home for the holidays. Bits had offered to skip the party and take the train to Providence to spend the night with Jack before he flies out in the morning, but Eric is already missing too many college experiences on Jack’s behalf, and Jack doesn’t want him to have to wrestle all his holiday luggage on the train. So here he is, tired and not particularly excited to see even his closest friends, getting ready to make a 40 minute drive after a long day. All so he can snuggle his boyfriend in a tiny, uncomfortable bed one more time before he drives Eric to the airport in the morning and they are separated by 1,200 miles for what should be their first Christmas together.
He takes a moment to lean back on the headrest, close his eyes and breathe. His phone vibrates with an incoming message, probably Bits wondering about the plan for tonight.
How’d it go, hon? Text me when you’re on your way?
It’s amazing how even a short text from Bittle can make Jack smile.
Went well. Just got to the car, heading out now.
Can’t wait to see you sweetheart. XOXO
Jack puts his phone on the charger, allows himself one last sigh before shaking it off and turning on the car. He pulls up one of the driving playlists Bits made for him and pulls out of the hospital parkade into the early dark of New England December.
Jack spends the rest of the drive in a mixture of happy daydreaming about future holidays where he and Eric won’t have to be apart, and exasperation over the fact that he’d like to spend this Christmas with Bitty. But with Coach and Suzanne still in the dark about Bitty’s sexuality — let alone his relationship with Jack — that’s not really an option. Maybe next year , Jack thinks, trying to put himself in a better mood as he finds a parking spot and makes the quick walk to the Haus.
The door is open and the party's just getting started, so Jack pushes through the door without knocking.
“Jack! Dude! Glad you could make it,” Ransom greets him from the living room where he’s setting up the keg. “This is gonna be epic .”
“Can’t wait,” Jack says dryly, clapping Ransom in a handshake-hug combo. “Bits around?”
“Kitchen, where else?” Ransom says with a knowing smile. He leans in a little closer to whisper. “Go get your boy. I can keep everyone out for a few.”
“Thanks Rans,” Jack says, feeling his face stretch into a huge smile.
Jack makes his way into the kitchen, where he’s greeted by the sight of Bitty’s pert little butt bending over Betsy Jr. He’s got earbuds in and is singing along under his breath, and it’s all Jack can do not to stride over and grab Bits from behind, pressing right up into that perfect ass. But past experience — and near kitchen disaster — has proved that surprising Bits over an open oven is a terrible idea, so he restrains himself until Bitty has the door closed. He comes up from behind and presses himself into his boyfriend, planting kisses on his neck. Bitty melts into him, grabbing Jack’s hands and pulling them around himself for a moment before turning around in Jack’s arms to greet him with a soft kiss.
“Hi honey,” Bits says, “Missed you.”
“Mmm, missed you too,” Jack says, resting his head on Bitty’s.
“You alright sweetheart? You seem tuckered out,” Bitty says, stroking Jack’s hair. “Do you want to go upstairs and just be alone for a bit?”
That offer certainly sounds tempting, but with Bitty leaving tomorrow and having to act like they aren’t a couple once the party gets into full swing, Jack’s not going to pass up a single moment with Eric.
“No, I just want to be with you. Chatter at me while I help you frost all these cookies?”
“‘Course lover, whatever you need. Pull up a stool there at the counter and it’ll be just like when you lived here.”
“Well hopefully not just like,” Jack says with a leer, gripping Bitty’s ass in both hands and hauling him onto the counter for a kiss. They make out for a few minutes, Bitty wrapping his legs around to pull Jack in close. But soon the sound system is firing up and they can hear the Haus filling with people, so it’s time to move into the “just friends” mode that gets harder every time they have to put their relationship back in the closet.
Jack plops down at the counter, grabbing one of the bags and piping royal icing onto the little hockey players and sticks Bitty has spent the day cranking out for the party. Bitty starts chatting about his day, and Jack lets the gentle sound wash over him. He can feel himself relaxing with every lilt of Bitty’s accent, and he gets into a rhythm frosting, stealing a cookie for himself every now and then. As always he is struck by just how good a baker Bitty is. Even simple gingerbread cookies — something Jack has never had particularly strong feelings about one way or another — cause a delicious explosion with every bite.
“ Those Instagram pics of ya’ll at the hospital were adorable ” Bitty says. “ That little munchkin you were reading to was just the cutest thing! It made my heart melt. ”
“It was fun,” Jack says, smiling at the memory of the little boy who had crawled into Jack’s lap and begged him to read The Polar Express . “He was a cutie. Reminded me of you in those baby photos your mom showed me.”
“Charmer,” Bitty says, sticking his tongue out at Jack. “I’m still never forgiving you both for going through those old albums.”
Bitty shifts to chatter about all the baking he plans to do with his mother while he’s home, and Jack let’s the sound wash over him, filling him with warmth and contentment. He lets his mind wander back to the afternoon at the hospital and the warm weight of Drew — or “Dwew,” as he introduced himself — in his lap, snuggling into Jack’s chest and laying his little blond head on Jack’s shoulder. His big brown eyes filled with wonder as Jack read, and he kept a running commentary on the events of the story, chatting happily about Santa and the reindeer and what he thinks it must really be like at the North Pole.
With the combination of blond locks, brown eyes and bubbly personality Jack couldn’t help but think of Bitty. And he knows it’s early, that they’ve only been dating officially for a few months now, but he can admit to himself that he’d spent quite a few minutes after finishing the book letting himself imagine that it’s a few years in the future and the little boy in his lap is his own — and that he looks just like his daddy, Eric.
And sure, they’ve got a long way to go before something like that can be reality. Eric isn’t even out to his parents yet, and he’s got to finish college. And Jack has the tiny task of figuring out a plan to come out to the world at large before he starts talking marriage and family. But Jack has absolutely no doubt that Bittle is it for him, and while they haven’t talked about it explicitly, Jack’s pretty sure Bits feels the same way. They’re a team, right?
“Bits! You’re up for your kegstand!” Holster yells from the other room, snapping Jack back to the reality of the warm Haus kitchen and the man he hopes is his future husband. Bitty sighs and takes off his apron, hanging it up and coming over to give Jack a quick kiss before they go their separate ways for the evening.
“See you later, honey. Don’t be a stranger all night.”
“I’m just gonna run my stuff upstairs and be right back down,” Jack says, pulling Bitty in for one more kiss. “Go have fun, don’t worry about me. Just shoot me a signal when you’re ready to go upstairs.”
“Mmm, ready now, but I think people are gonna get suspicious if we disappear at 9 p.m.” Bitty says with a coy smile. “Soon though, baby. Can’t wait to get you alone.”
With the taste of gingerbread and Bitty still lingering on his lips, Jack heads upstairs to drop his stuff. He allows himself a few minutes to change out of the Falconers’ jersey he wore to the hospital and into less-conspicuous street clothes. He pulls out his phone and checks the Falc’s group chat, smiling at some of the chirps he’s getting from the hospital visit. He turns over to the SMH group chat, which is already filling with photos from the party downstairs. With a sigh he pulls on an old Samwell hat and heads downstairs to while away the hours until he can escape back here with Eric.
He’s immediately swept up in the crush of people, and he can’t help but think that it seems like he’s recognized more each time he visits. Luckily the team has his back, and almost as soon as he gets pulled into a selfie or discussion with a random fan, one of the boys is right there to give him an out. He nurses one beer as he makes the rounds, occasionally coming back into Bitty’s orbit, hoping Tater isn’t right about his feelings showing on his face. Even with Bitty across the room, Jack can feel an almost magnetic pull that keeps pulling him to his boyfriend’s side before one of them is pulled away.
“Jack Zimmermann, you fucking beaut! Get over here and give me a kiss.”
“Hey Shits,” Jack says with a laugh, getting pulled into an enthusiastic and rather wet embrace by his best friend. “Lards said you guys were driving out tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I’m dragging her out to the Cape with me for a few days. I figure she’s my best bet to avoid murdering my grandparents. If we’re all speaking to each other by the end of the weekend it will be a Christmas miracle.”
“Wow, she’s spending the whole break with you?”
“Just the first few days. Then I’ll take her back into town so she can make the rounds with her family. I’m gonna tag along but stay back at my place.”
“Attending family events, Shits?” Jack says, raising an eyebrow. “That sounds pretty official. You guys ready to finally admit you’re a couple?”
“Fuck no! Jack, you know I’m not about that traditional-relationship roles bullshit.”
“Whatever dude, you’re totally her boyfriend. You’re a heteronormative tool,” Jack says, pulling Shitty into a headlock. “So proud of you, man.”
The two wrestle and laugh for a bit before Shitty breaks away, looking abashed. They head over to the makeshift bar so Shitty can refill on tub juice, and Jack can grab a water bottle and another cookie. He’s going to have to skate those off next week, but it’s worth it. The karaoke portion of the night has started, and Holster is up on stage belting out “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”
“Bro, is it just me, or is he actually singing that to Ransom .”
“I stopped trying to figure those two out a long time ago,” Jack says. “But now that I think about it, that brunch at Jerry’s did really feel like a triple date.”
“Yeah, and they’re going up to spend Christmas with the Rans fam in Toronto, then heading down to Buffalo for a bit before spending New Year’s Eve at Niagara Falls. That’s some coupley shit, right there.”
“Yeah, nothing says ‘couple’ like spending the holidays together,” Jack can’t resist chirping.
“Fuck you man,” Shitty says, dropping his voice to whisper to Jack. “Just because you and Bits are sharing practically-wedded bliss doesn’t mean you get to judge the rest of us.”
Jack goes a little tense at the reminder that while his friends aren’t even officially dating, they’re free to spend the holidays together. He knows he should be happy for them — and he is — but it rankles that he and Bitty have to be apart when they are the ones who are actually dating and not … doing whatever everyone else is doing.
He feels a gentle hand brush against his hip as Bittle joins them, and it pulls him out of his thoughts and back into the moment.
“That was fantastic Holster,” Bitty says, beaming up at the blond giant who has come over to grab another beer after his performance.
“Thanks, Bits. You gonna get up there?”
“Lord no, I’m not drunk enough and Beyonce doesn’t have a solo Christmas album … yet.”
“Bro, aren’t you Jewish? What’s with all the Christmas shit?” Shitty hops in.
“Dude, it’s MARIAH,” Holster says, chugging his beer. “ If you think that I, as Haus Karaoke Champion, am gonna pass on that, you are fucking nuts. Jack, back me up here.”
“Yeah Shits, it’s Mariah ,” Jack says with a mischievous smile, bumping shoulders with Bitty.
“No judgement dude, it’s all good.”
“Oh man, guys, check out Rans,” Holster says, gesturing with his beer to where Ransom has taken the stage and is crooning “This Christmas” in nothing but a pair of salmon shorts, shutter shades and a Santa snapback. “Bro, I’m gonna come in my pants, that is so hot!” he yells, heading back into the crowd and making his way back to the stage.
“Do they realize how they sound?” Bitty says, causing Jack and Shitty to bust up laughing.
“I dunno Bits, but I vote we haul our asses up to Niagara on New Year’s Eve to see if they kiss at midnight,” Shitty says, slinging his arm around Bitty’s shoulders.
“I don’t think we’d know even then,” Bitty giggles. He suddenly stops dead, a frustrated pout clouding his face. “DAMN IT! I finally …”
Jack always thought that record scratch thing was an overused trope in Holster’s romcoms, but he’s experiencing it right now as the music ends just as Bitty swears loudly and all eyes turn to their little huddle.
“Er … nevermind. Just forgot I wanted to make another batch of cookies,” Bitty calls to the room, and everyone goes back to their drinks.
“You OK?” Jack whispers to his boyfriend, who is blushing adorably.
“Goodness, yes, just thought of something I shouldn’t blurt out to everyone. I’ll tell you later,” Bitty says, his voice getting breathy. “Speaking of, I’m about ready to make a last check on the kitchen and then plead the need to finish packing so I can call it a night. You gonna join me?”
Jack can only nod, his mouth suddenly dry as Bitty’s hand ghosts over his ass and drifts into the kitchen. Jack knows he needs to wait a few minutes before heading upstairs so those who don’t know about his relationship with Eric won’t get suspicious, but he’s having a hard time dragging his gaze away from that perfect little butt as it makes its retreat.
“You’re drooling, Jackabelle,” he hears, feeling Shitty’s mustache tickle his ear.
“Fuck, Shits, don’t do that!” he yells with a jump before regaining his composure. “Er, sorry. So, uh, hard skate today, I think I’m gonna call it a night.”
“Aw, Jack, are you sneaking upstairs to deflower our favorite little sweet Southern baker?” Shitty leers in a low voice.
“Fuck, no. No one is getting deflowered Shits, we’ve done …” and yeah, Jack walked right into that one. Shitty is laughing and pulling him into a hug.
“Go for it, bro. Have fun. Give me a shout if you wanna hang. I’ve got a lot of reading to do and could use a distraction if you’re around.”
“Sure, Shits. You and Lards should drive down for a game. Great date night,” he says with a smile, fielding one more punch on his shoulder from Shitty as he walks away. He makes a final pass around the room, saying his goodbyes to the team — though most of them know they’ll see him for breakfast — before heading upstairs.
Jack’s expecting Eric to be waiting for him, but when he arrives the room is empty except for Senor Bun, sitting forlornly on the bed. “Yeah bud, I miss him too,” Jack says with a rueful smile as he goes to move the little rabbit into the windowsill, facing him out toward the Christmas lights pouring softly through the window.
He turns to take in the room, slightly more disheveled than usual with Bitty’s two large suitcases spread out on the floor waiting for last-minute items. Jack considers whether to undress now or wait for Bitty, and gets as far as taking off his hat, shoes and socks and is starting to unbutton his shirt when he hears the door open. Bitty slides in and closes the door behind him, locking the door with a “click.”
They pause to look at one another for a moment, Jack finally allowed to give free reign to the the hungry gaze he’s been trying to hide all night, while Eric’s eyes drag down Jack’s body, taking in the skin that’s on display from Jack’s unbuttoned shirt.
“Well, go on ahead, don’t let me stop you,” Bitty says with a coy smile.
“It’s no fun without you,” Jack says, striding across the room to pull Bitty into his arms and kissing him deeply. Bitty’s hands trail up his arms, across his chest and under his shirt, around to his back and down to Jack’s ass.
“Lord, look at you,” Bitty breathes, pulling out of the kiss and continuing to let his hands wander. “Can’t believe you are all mine. I think I must have outed us to every single person at that party with the way I couldn’t stop undressing you with my eyes every time I saw you across the room.”
“How about you just undress me now and we call it good?” Jack says, mouth trailing up Bitty’s throat in the desperate quest to find his mouth again.
“Deal,” Bitty agrees, taking Jack’s mouth with his own hungrily and pressing his body up into Jack’s embrace. Jack reaches around and ducks his hands down to the back of Bitty’s thighs and gives him a squeeze, telling him wordlessly to hop up. Bitty wraps one leg and then the other around Jack’s waist, holding most of his own weight so Jack can cup that perfect, pert little ass in his hands. The curve fits so perfectly in each palm, and Jack gives a deliberate squeeze as he carries Bitty over to the bed.
He forgot about the suitcases.
“Shit,” he yells, breaking off the kiss and scrambling to not have them both fall over. Bitty is giggling as he’s dropped to the floor, stumbling a little but recovering his balance, only to turn sober the moment he sees Jack bent over, hands on his knees as he winces in pain.
“Oh honey, are you alright? Where are you hurt?”
“I’m OK, just barked my shin on your luggage,” Jack says rubbing the offended leg. “Guess I’m getting used to the regular layout of this room.”
Bitty’s starting to fuss, and Jack isn’t really hurt, so he tries to think fast to distract his boyfriend before he can go into full-on mother hen mode complete with ice packs, elevated leg and no sex.
“Hey, what were you upset about earlier?”
“Upset? I wasn’t upset, honey, what are you talkin’ about?”
“When you swore really loud and everyone looked at you? You said you’d thought of something you couldn’t say in front of everyone.”
“Oh that,” Bitty says, blushing, “It was just silly. It’s just, well, I realized that I’d never had anyone to kiss for New Year’s Eve, and now I finally have you to kiss and I won’t be with you. Seems unfair that everyone else gets to be with the one they love.”
“Well, better kiss me now to make up for it,” Jack tries to chirp, but it comes out husky, with a melancholy twinge he wasn’t anticipating. He’s almost crying as he pulls Bitty to him again. “Crisse, mon coeur, I’m going to miss you so much.”
“Oh sweetheart, I’m gonna miss you too. So much,” Bitty says his voice breaking too as he wraps his arms around Jack. He lifts his head to kiss Jack softly, lingering before breaking off. “What you do want?”
“Just want you,” Jack whispers, pressing kisses to Bitty’s hair. “Anything, as long as it’s with you, Bits.”
“How about you let me take care of you?” Bitty says, hands stroking across Jack’s chest and playing with the patch of hair between his pecs. “You’ve had a long day, just lay back and let me love on you.”
“Yes, mon coeur, anything,” Jack breathes as Bitty’s hands slide Jack’s already unbuttoned shirt to the floor. Jack leans in to kiss Bitty again and feels gentle pressure guiding him back to the bed. Bitty lays him down on the pillows, leaving Jack half sitting as he presses warm, open kisses down his torso to the waistband of his pants.
Bitty palms Jack’s cock through the denim of his jeans as his mouth pays attention to Jack’s abs, before Bitty’s quick hands find Jack’s fly and work their way inside to pull down his pants and boxers. Jack lifts his hips to help as Bitty slides them off and then returns to kiss Jack, now laying back naked in the pillows, before stepping off the bed and stripping himself with quick, sure movements. Jack loves the sure, efficient way Bitty moves, compact muscle and strength now looming over him again, reaching to the side table to grab supplies before returning to kiss Jack deeply.
“Just relax and tell me to stop if you need me to, OK?” Bitty says, looking deep into Jack’s eyes as he pulls out of the kiss.
“OK, but I won’t need to. I trust you.”
Bitty pulls Jack’s legs apart and scoots his feet up so they are resting on the mattress, Jack’s knees pointing up so Bitty can settle in between. He opens the lube and spreads some on his fingers, rubbing it to warm it a bit while giving Jack a look of utter fondness.
“Lord, you look so good for me sweetheart, all spread out and waiting. I’m gonna make you feel real good. I wanna show you how much I’m gonna miss you while I’m away, and give you something to remember.”
Jack’s hands are trailing down Bitty’s forearms, brushing up against the soft downy hair and making Bitty’s golden flesh break out in goosebumps. Bitty leans down to press a kiss to the head of Jack’s cock as he slides a finger in, and Jack’s hands move to Bitty’s hair and the side of his face, staring at this perfect man who he wants to spend the rest of his life with.
Bitty moves his finger deeper and opens his wet, red mouth, leaning in. Jack is expecting some more open mouthed kisses on his cock, so he’s surprised when Bitty licks up from base to tip and then deep throats him right away. Jack’s head falls back on the pillow with a moan, his hands seeking to cup Bitty’s face again.
“Shit, Bits, I’m not gonna last long if you keep doing that.”
“That’s kinda the point, sweetheart.”
“I know,” Jack says, forcing his head back up so he can see Bitty. “But I’m going to miss you, too. I don’t want to rush.”
“Alright, lover. We can savor it.”
Bitty continues to work Jack open with slow, languid strokes, working on stretching the muscle to give himself room rather than trying to press into Jack’s prostate. He uses his other hand to stroke Jack’s thighs and presses kisses to the inside of his knees. He trades off giving Jack’s cock gentle, firm strokes with kitten licks and gentle suction on the tip, just enough to keep Jack interested but not on the verge of coming. When he’s not using his mouth on Jack he’s murmuring endearments and praise. Jack can’t take his eyes off Bitty, overwhelmed with love and trust. His mind flashes back to other moments like this, moments where he knows that this is love, that this is real and it’s what he wants forever.
“You ready?” Bitty’s low voice washes over Jack as he looks up to meet Jack’s gaze.
“Yeah, come here,” Jack reaches between his legs to pull Bitty up for another kiss. As they break apart he starts to roll over. “You want me to …”
“No, baby. Stay here. I want to be able to see you.”
Jack can only nod as Bitty pulls his legs up and kneels there, giving himself a few strong, efficient strokes to get ready. Jack both loves and hates this position, feeling awkward as his legs flail about, but loving that he can trust Bitty enough to be so vulnerable. Bitty seems to know what he’s thinking, pressing a kiss to his ankle and kissing down his leg to press one more kiss to the inside of Jack’s knee before lining himself up. He plants his left forearm to the side of Jack’s head and uses his right to guide himself in, one long, smooth motion that makes Jack’s toes curl before he opens up even further and let’s Bitty settle inside.
“Good sweetheart?” Bitty says, reaching his other hand up to caress Jack’s cheek, staring into his soul with those deep brown eyes.
“So good, Bits.”
Bitty pushes up onto his hands and begins to move, slowly circling his hips and pushing inside, the angle allowing him to hit Jack’s prostate on every pass. Jack’s head falls back to the pillow again as he closes his eyes for a brief moment, but all he wants to do is watch Bitty.
It’s slow and tender, with a bittersweet tang to the air that affects both of them. They maintain eye contact, not wanting to look away, savoring each thrust and never picking up speed or depth, content to move together quietly. The music from the party drifts in the background, and Bitty is outlined in a pinkish glow from the Christmas lights coming through the window.
Jack lowers his legs and wraps them around Bitty’s waist to pull him closer, trailing his hands up Bitty’s arms to caress his face. Bitty grabs one hand and laces their fingers together, pressing kisses to the back of Jack’s hand and his knuckles. He stills for a moment, using both hands to trail up Jack’s arms and put Jack’s hands up beside his dark hair, the way he does when Jack’s about to be tied up or told not to move. But instead Bitty’s smaller hands lace into Jack’s as his torso presses down, bringing them closer and letting Jack’s cock brush up against both of their stomachs.
“Mmm, I’m close, Jack,” Bitty says, pressing kisses down Jack’s throat. “How do you want this?”
“Stay,” Jack says, pulling his legs tighter so Bitty can’t escape. “Stay here, come inside me. I want to stay close to you.”
“Whatever you want, love,” Bitty says, pulling back one hand and working it between them so he can give Jack’s dick sure, strong strokes in time with the rhythm his hips have set. “Won’t be long now.”
Jack can feel his own orgasm pooling in his gut, and he lets go of Bitty’s other hand, reaching out to wrap one hand around Bitty’s hip to bring him even closer and the other around Bitty’s neck, pulling him in for a deep, searching kiss. Bitty gasps against his mouth and he feels Bitty’s cock pulse inside him as he comes, Bitty continuing to stroke Jack as he pushes through his orgasm. Jack isn’t far behind, arching up into Bitty’s hand as he tries to grind down on his cock. Bitty continues his strokes, adding the bit of twist he knows Jack likes and letting him ride it out.
Jack’s eyes have fallen closed through the waves of orgasm, and he opens them to see Bitty, a halo of light behind his blond curls, gazing down at Jack with a look full of love and longing.
“Lord, I love you, Jack,” Bitty says in a tremulous voice, his eyes welling up with tears.
“Oh Bits,” Jack crushes the smaller man to his chest, feeling his throat tighten as well. “I love you too. So much. I can’t even say how much.”
Jack pulls Bitty down to lay beside him, pulling him close so his blond locks rest on Jack’s chest. They lay there for a few minutes, gently stroking one another wherever they can reach and sharing soft, lingering kisses. They are starting to drift, and Jack could just fall asleep but Bits hauls himself up to reach for the baby wipes he keeps in the night stand to clean them both up.
Bits gently wipes them both down and tosses the wipes in the trash can across the room, doing a little victory shimmy when he makes the shot. It’s so cute that Jack can’t resist pulling him in for another kiss. They get up and pull on pajamas, wander to the bathroom to brush their teeth side-by-side, and fall back into bed, Jack pulling Bitty in close to spoon so they can go to sleep.
“I always got homesick,” Jack says. “Before. In the summer, or for Christmas. I thought I was just missing the Haus, or the guys, or hockey. But now … I know it was you, Bits. I was missing you. And it’s going to be so hard to be away from you again.”
“Lord, I’m gonna miss you,” Bitty says, lacing his fingers in the hand Jack has draped around his waist and pulling it up to press gentle kisses to Jack’s knuckles. “It’s gonna be even harder than it was last summer. Why does it feel like it’s so much farther away? We’re that far apart all the time, but for some reason the holiday makes it seem so much worse.”
“Well …” Jack says, an idea starting to take shape in his mind. “How about next year? Why don’t we plan on going to Montreal? I know my parents would love to have us.”
Bitty rolls over, and Jack can see his wrinkled brow in the soft glow of the Christmas lights beaming through the window. “Next year?”
“Yeah. Or, I mean, if you don’t want to do that, I guess we could have both of our parents come to our place. Do you think yours would mind flying up to Providence?”
“Our place?” The wrinkle on Bitty’s brow is even deeper and he’s looking at Jack incredulously. Jack’s quickly realizing that he’s said something wrong, but he’s not sure what and frantically tries to backtrack.
“Or, I mean, they don’t have to. I guess we could switch off every year? Go to Georgia one year, then Montreal the next? We could make that work. Though it will get to be tough eventually, I mean hauling all the gifts there and back is always tough, and I’m sure it will only get harder with the kids … Bits?”
“KIDS?!” Bitty is sitting up in bed now, wide eyed and staring at Jack like he’s grown an extra head. “Jack, what the hell? Are you proposing to me?”
“Um, no? Maybe?” Jack starts to panic as he realizes he may have revealed too much. Who says things like that after only a few months of dating? Did he really mention kids? He can feel his chest start to tighten as he tries to stutter out an answer. “I’m … I don’t know the right way to answer that question.”
Bitty must see the panic in his eyes because he immediately springs into action.
“No, baby, it’s alright,” he says, leaning down to stroke Jack’s hair the way he knows Jack finds soothing. “You just surprised me, that’s all. We haven’t really talked all that much about the future, I didn’t realize you had it well, um … so planned out.”
The contact and Bitty’s soft voice help, and Jack can feel the tightness in his chest abating as fingers comb through his hair. He closes his eyes and tries to let the tension flow out of his body. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to freak you out. But I do. Have it planned out, I mean. Is that … is that OK? Do you — is that where you see this going?”
“Jack. Honey, can you look at me a minute?” Bitty’s voice is still calm and sweet. Jack takes a deep breath and opens his eyes to find Bitty looming over him, looking at him intently. “I admit, I do see my future with you. But I have to graduate and figure out what I’m going to do for a career and, well, marriage and kids and everything just seems like maybe a little much right now. But if you ask me in a couple of years, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna say yes. Heck, I’d probably say yes now, so don’t tempt me.”
“OK,” Jack says, sighing with relief. “OK. Yeah, I can do that.”
“And you better pull out all the stops. I want to be woo’d, Mr. Zimmermann,” Bitty chirps, ducking down to plant a quick kiss on Jack’s lips.
“I’ll try to remember.”
“Good. Now, in the meantime, it sounds like maybe you had some other things you wanted to talk about?”
“Well, yes. I mean, if that’s OK with you.”
“Honey I’m sure they are probably fine but you are gonna have to tell me what they are.”
“Oh, yeah.” Jack is feeling much better knowing Bitty isn’t angry, but this is still pretty big. He takes a deep breath and screws up his courage. “Maybeyoucouldmoveinwithmeforthesummer?”
“Sweetheart, I’d…” Bitty’s eyes are looking watery again, but Jack is pretty confident it’s a good thing this time around. “Of course. Yes. I’d love to.”
With that positive response Jack feels like he’s on a roll so he might as well keep going. “And after? Obviously you’d need to come back to Samwell for your senior year but I mean after you graduate. If things go well over the summer, would you move in with me? Like, to stay?”
Bitty is beaming down at him now, tears of happiness glistening, about ready to fall. “Jack, yes. Yes, I want to. Oh God, I love you so much.”
“S’wawesome,” Jack says, feeling like his face is going to split apart from his grin.
“You're going to say that at our wedding, aren’t you?” Bitty says drily with an arched eyebrow.
“I signed up for this,” Bitty says, muttering to himself. Jack’s trying to think of a suitable chirp back.
And then Bitty is kissing him again, their teeth clacking together from smiling so wide. Bitty is muttering something about “this boy” that Jack has learned over time is a good thing, and if they weren’t so exhausted they’d be ready for Round 2. But as it is they eventually settle in, snuggling up facing one another. Jack takes Bitty’s free hand and holds it close to his chest, pulling it up to give his own set of knuckle kisses every now and then.
“What about this year?” he says after a moment. “I know we can’t do Christmas together, but what if you came home earlier, in time for New Year’s Eve?”
“Come home,” Bitty murmurs with a smile before chewing his lip thoughtfully. “Hmm. I guess I could use the excuse that I need to stay in condition. I mean we’re right in the middle of the season. But Coach already bought me a round-trip ticket.”
“How about I pay the cost to change the ticket as a Christmas present? We weren’t going to celebrate until you got back anyway, it can count towards your Christmas.”
“Jack, that would be lovely but we agreed no extravagant presents and I know for a fact you already bought me a stand mixer.”
“That was supposed to be a surprise! How did you know?”
“Honey, I know I am shorter than you, but just because I can’t reach the top shelf of the closet doesn’t mean I can’t see what’s up there.”
“Hmm, guess I’ll have to find a new hiding place for your birthday,” Jack says with a soft smile, before turning serious again. “Seriously though, Bits, please let me do this. It’s really a gift for me.”
“How on earth is letting you pay a ridiculous amount of money to change my flight — over the holidays, I might add — a present for you , Jack?”
“Because Bits, like Mariah says — all I want for Christmas is you.”
“Lord, you are such a sap!” Bitty says, slapping him playfully on the chest. “Fine. But you have to promise we can stay snuggled up at home so I can kiss you at midnight on New Year’s Eve.”
Jack reaches over to give Bitty one more kiss, then pulls the smaller man into his arms so they can settle down to sleep. The morning — and their goodbyes — are going to come all too soon.
“Hmm?” Bitty replies sleepily.
“Maybe for the next New Year’s Eve, I could kiss you out and about, where anyone could see.”
“Mmm, I’d like that honey. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, OK? Love you.”
“Je t’aime, mon coeur.”
Bitty’s breathing quickly finds the deep, slow rhythm that means he is sleeping. Jack loves that sound. He starts to drift off himself, and if he happens to be brainstorming baby names as he does, well, it sounds like he and Bits are on the same page.