Friday nights are the worst part of this job, Bitty thinks as he ties the required half apron around his waist. Normally, he avoids these shifts like the plague, but Dex had called in sick and no one else had been able (or willing, Bitty adds wryly) to cover for him. After all, Dex is the only one who even remotely enjoys working on Fridays; the rest of them would much rather be on the other side of the bar, thank you.
His shift started all of five minutes ago, right at seven, but the bar is already getting crowded and between the warmth pouring through the air vents and the hot press of bodies at the bar and on the dance floor, Bitty has to pause after sliding a man his scotch to roll his sleeves up. Before he can even properly even them out, though, a woman is tapping her long nails against the polished wood and rolling her eyes, the picture of impatience, and Bitty rushes to her service with a forced smile. People come and go like that almost faster than he and Lardo can serve them, and the next time Bitty gets half a second to breathe, he’s startled to realize it’s already one in the morning. No wonder he’s so exhausted.
Thankfully, the crowds have mostly dissipated, feeding into the hipper surrounding bars, so he feels no regret as he shoos Lardo out from behind the bar and reassures her that he can handle the rest of the shift alone and to get back home to that girlfriend of hers. The two had just moved in together, and though Bitty didn’t have much experience with that sort of thing, he could imagine how eager she must be to get home. She goes willingly enough, proving his point, but nods toward a man sitting at the bar Bitty hadn’t noticed before.
As he approaches, it strikes him just how familiar the man looks, although Bitty can’t quite place him. Maybe they’d had a class together in college or something? Just in case, he plasters on his usual easy smile and leans on the bar across from him. “Hey there, sugar. We’re almost closed, but you’ve got time for one last drink if you want it.”
It looks like he’s been nursing a glass of water for a while now, but the man’s bright blue eyes flicker up to Bitty’s face, then down to his name tag and seem to grow even brighter. “Just, euh, an orange-lime relaxer.”
Bitty sets to work, watching the man as he shakes the drink. “You look awfully familiar, you know that? You didn’t happen to go to Samwell by any chance, did you?”
The man hesitates for a moment, so quick Bitty barely registers it, then nods. “I graduated a couple of years ago. I think we had a class together my senior year? Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food.” Maybe it’s the way he sounds hesitant to admit it, or just the soft cadence of his voice, but it clicks.
“Oh! That’s right! You were on the hockey team, weren’t you? Seemed like half the class was just y’all, all rowdy in the back.” Bitty can’t shake the fondness from his voice as he slides the highball over, pressing a lime wedge onto the rim. “I had half a mind to march back there and tell y’all to hush, a time or two.”
The man’s fingers brush Bitty’s as he reaches for the glass. “Right, yeah. That was us. I always wanted to talk to you too, but–” He goes to squeeze the lime wedge over his drink, but it slips between his fingers and launches itself at Bitty, leaving a wet spot on the rolled cuff of his shirt. “Shit, guess I’m not so good at pickup limes, eh?”
The joke earns a fond little smile and eye roll as Bitty dabs at the spot with a napkin. “Well, mister, you’ve certainly won me over. Now drink up and shoo so I can get this place cleaned up, you hear?” But the words held no venom, and he stayed there leaned on the bar chatting until well after close. When Jack finally excused himself (for Bitty’s sake more than his own), he left with the bartender’s number tucked away in his front pocket.