Eric Bittle Is A Problem
Eric Bittle is becoming a problem. Not the problem Jack thought he was going to be in the beginning, no, he hasn’t had to worry about Bittle not pulling his weight on the team since pretty much the first time they played together. And certainly not now, when they work so well together on the ice. And off of it, too; it was surprising, but Jack considers Bittle to be one of his greatest friends, even if sometimes it feels like there’s maybe something shimmering around the edges of their relationship, something Jack doesn’t quite understand, it’s good with them, comfortable and fun in a way Jack isn’t used to.
But he’s becoming a problem, worse, a distraction . A menace, really.
The first time it’s a problem, Jack and Shitty had gotten back from a beer run, and Shitty was explaining some essential feminist theory to him as they made their way from the car to the Haus, “And that, my Canadian friend, is why intersectionality is so important. Like, you can’t really understand anything unless you understand all of the realities and identities that inform a person’s existence, my man. I me-” as Jack turns to enter the kitchen, the rest of Shitty’s lesson is lost to a loud thrum in Jack’s ear that he distantly realizes is the rush of his own blood through his veins as he almost fumbles the case of beer and the bag of fancy nuts and chocolates that he thought Eric might appreciate- for his bakin g- and had purchased on a whim.
He manages to save the beer and the bag of goodies, but not to suppress the inelegant “ Buh -” that escapes his slackened mouth. Because Bitty is bent over at the waist, looking into the oven and making a satisfied little hum at the progress of whatever is baking in there, and he’s wearing those shorts, the short, short shorts that barely qualify as such in Jack’s opinion. And the way he’s bending is causing his muscles to tense and bulge, and his butt . Oh, Crisse , his butt is like a work of art and on display right in front of Jack, and he is in so. Much. trouble.
Jack manages to turn his random noise into a reasonable approximation of “B-Bittle,” and to reassemble his face into a generally neutral expression as Bitty stands and turns toward him and Shitty, who now stands next to Jack and thankfully doesn’t mention his near stumble. The late afternoon sun slanting through the window catches in Eric’s hair and he appears to glow for a moment, Jack manages not to choke on his sharply indrawn breath at the sight, because Eric Bittle is beautiful, and Jack is awed that he hadn’t noticed it until now.
“Oh, hi, y’all,” Bitty says brightly, a genuine smile lighting his face and stretching his lips distractingly. “You’re just in time, because this pie is almost done, so if you wanted some, you’ll just have to wait for a few while it settles,” Bitty checks the timer with a brief glance before looking back toward the doorway where Jack is still frozen, he quirks a perfectly shaped blond brow as if to ask what Jack’s problem is, but when he speaks again, he says “Did you two have fun at the store?”
Shitty moves into the kitchen, patting Jack’s shoulder on the way, “It smells swawesome in here, Bits. You’re the best!” Bitty grins and a slightly pink tinge paints his cheeks as he watches Shitty begin to put away his beer and the few other groceries they procured. He looks back at Jack, eyes darting briefly to the bag he is clenching before settling back on his face, a curious little smile on his pink lips. It spurs Jack into action, finally, and he moves into the kitchen holding the bag out like an awkward shield.
“These are for you,” he says, sounding too loud to his own ears, and maybe too loud in general, because Shitty looks over from where he’s stacking beer into the fridge with a strange look on his face that Jack will not analyze later. He continues, careful to regulate his volume this time, “Um, for your baking, I mean. I thought you’d like them,” he amends. Jack can feel his face heating, hopes Bitty doesn’t notice, that he writes it off as the heat from the oven, but when Bitty takes the bag and their fingers brush he feels the flush deepen. It gets worse still when Eric opens the bag and he makes an excited little sound.
“Oh, gosh, Jack, thank you! I know just what to make with these,” Bitty places his hand on Jack’s forearm and squeezes gently, repeating a thank you and grinning at him, his smile is open and fond and it warms Jack in a different way than the hot flush that he knows is painting his face and neck now.
“ Bienvenue ,” Jack says, voice a little too quiet and close now. Bitty smiles at his slip into Quebecois. It’s almost too easy to slip into the quiet of the moment, the little bubble of space around them, warmed by the sunlight through the window. They stay close, looking at each other for what feels like a long time, but realistically can’t be more than a second or two, then the sound of Shitty shutting the the refrigerator door and exclaiming “Shit, Bits, that pie smells fuckin’ delicious! Think it’s done yet,” effectively breaks the moment.
Bitty laughs and turns away from Jack, his fingers trail along Jack’s arm leaving a warm tingle lingering on his skin. The buzzer sounds as Bitty steps away fully, and Jack shakes himself, realizes he’s still holding the case of beer and places it on the counter. Bitty looks at him briefly as he takes the pie from the oven, and Jack feels the confusion rumbling through him play across his face, but Bitty thankfully looks away before he notices.