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Holster first sees Jack play when he's sixteen, on a team trip to Toronto. It's mostly a dumb bonding field trip, but their coach says, "Watch these Canadian boys, they can fuckin' skate," and after spending just a couple minutes crammed onto frozen metal bleachers, watching, Holster thinks, yeah, fair enough. Like everyone else, he knows Bad Bob's son is out there, but he can't tell who until he scores like, right away. Him and that little kid, Parson, Jesus Christ, they're good. Scary good. He tries not to think about it.

 

 

 

Years later, everyone in the USHL knows Jack Zimmermann's name, and everyone knows how he plays, and most know that at seventeen, puberty and his mom's supermodel genes have started doing him a shit-ton of favours, so maybe Holster's admiration veers from the purely technical to something less appropriate. He never mentions this to anyone, but you keep up with these things. Plus, everyone talks about Jack and Kent Parson—which, because they're teenagers, means more rude jokes, jealousy and rumour-milling than anything else—so maybe Holster keeps up with Jack a little more intensely than others.

 

 

 

Holster likes hockey a lot, but he knows he's not NHL material, and he never really planned to be. He picks Samwell for both stated and unstated reasons, and somewhere in between those two is Jack Zimmermann.

 

 

 

This means that he actually meets Jack, which is fine, because he hasn't thought about him in years, but shit, he's grown up. He has the same white-blue eyes, but everything else has dripped away and carved itself out of the puppy fat and big smiles of his youth. He's gotten wide shoulders and chopped off his shaggy hair, and he manages to carry around this aura of complete and utter devastation without even slouching. He never smiles, but, whatever, it's impressive that he's even vertical. And alive.

 

 

 

Holster doesn't remember the first time they talk; it was about team stuff, something simple and cut short. Jack isn't the easiest person to talk to—figuratively and literally, because his accent is way thicker than Holster would have thought for Montreal—and no one will touch him with a ten foot pole, except the guy who insists on being called Shitty, and the first time Holster ever sees Jack smile is while the two of them are roughhousing after practice. He doesn't think Jack likes him much, but he sure as fuck isn't alone in that, and he has Ransom, anyways. He can deal with Jack Zimmermann, of all people, not liking him.

 

 

 

It sounds stupid, but looking back, he can trace when it happened back to a single split second in February. It's cliché, but he's stripping down after a game, and he turns to say something to one of the guys and catches Jack instead, looking, somewhere at his bare torso, then lower, and then his eyes snap to his face and he's alarmed, caught, but focused. Holster knows Jack isn't stupid, and that being fucked up doesn't necessarily make you fragile, and he can't imagine anyone as locked-down as Jack doing anything by accident. So that's the first time that he thinks—maybe?

 

 

Then it's the end of March and the Haus is wet and hot and packed with people, and Holster finally secured dibs from Berger that morning and he's over the fucking moon, five beer deep and thrumming. He ducks into the fridge for a new one and when he stands up, he sees Jack, of all people, leaning against the counter nursing a solo cup of something totally clear. Anyone else and he'd think it's vodka, but in this case, he's pretty sure it's water. Jack looks up at him and, to Holster's absolute amazement, says, "Hey."

"Hey yourself," Holster says, cracking his beer. He thinks about how sad it is that he's shocked that any teammate of his would be talking to him. Theoretically, they should all be friends. "Since when d'you come to these things?"

Jack shrugs. "Johnson said I should, at least once, or something."

"Oh, right, you guys live upstairs, right?" Jack nods and Holster, remembering, beams. "Guess who just got dibs from Berger, roomie?"

Jack almost smiles. "Congratulations."

He could never really believe that Jack lives in the Haus, but he's always been sure Shitty had something to do with it, or maybe he's punishing himself; Jack's a lot of things, but ‘frat star’ has never been one of them. He looks ... good. He always looks good. He's one of the most genuinely awkward bros Holster has ever met and he still manages to be hot, and it's infuriating and tantalizing and he hates it. Sort of. He tracks his eyes over Jack's arms and chest under a white tee and thinks, he'd better be getting laid, at least. His eyes flick to Jack's face. Or not. He'd be in a better mood if he were getting laid.

"Fuckin' right." He leans on the counter next to him. "I'm way too old for another year of dorms, shit. Buncha eighteen-year-olds running around, I feel like ... an old-growth forest. I'm ancient."

Jack's still looking at him. He's only a few inches shorter than Holster, only a bit smaller, and it's nice. "How old are you?"

"Twenty-one." He realizes that he has no idea how old Jack is. "You?"

"Twenty-two."

"Jeez."

"Yeah."

Holster knows what happened to Jack in the same vague way that everyone does. There was an overdose—on what, no one's completely sure, but there are a few leading guesses—and there was rehab. Then, there was a few years where no one heard anything about him. Then, there was Samwell, and now there's this: him, standing in a kitchen at a frat party, drinking water. Talking to Holster, who's just remembered seeing him play when they were kids. He decides not to freak him out by mentioning it.

"You know Shitty," Jack says, suddenly.

"Uh, we're on the same team."

"I mean, you talk to him. You and Oluransi."

"Ransom?"

"Yeah."

"Yeah. Shitty's a great dude. You guys are buddies, right?"

"For some reason."

"Yeah, right. He's the only dude I've ever seen get a rise out of you, that's reason enough." He wonders, too late: is it bad form to bring up how someone's always in a bad mood? It's been six months and he can count on one hand the number of times he's seen Jack smile for reasons that weren't related to hockey.

"I guess. You're gonna like living here. They're a good group of guys." It sounds like a sound bite. Holster laughs.

"Yeah. It'll be fun if we get Rans in, too, we're trying to convince them to let us split the attic."

"You're joking."

"You wish. We're already scoping out bunk beds."

That gets a laugh out of Jack, and Holster's unreasonably pleased with himself; Jack's got a really genuine laugh, like he's surprised by himself. "We could probably stand to have an extra person around. It's a big place."

"It's kind of a shit hole, but I'm into it."

"Yeah."

There's a lull. Holster isn't sure he's ever stood still for so long at a party before. If this were just one of the boys, he'd ask him to play beer pong, and if it were a potential hook-up, he'd see if he wanted to dance, but Jack might be somewhere in between. When he looks at him again, he's got his eyes on his chest, moving up his throat, and he thinks, wait. He remembers the first time Jack pinged his gaydar. It's happening again. There's a very, very good chance that he's just drunk, turned on and projecting, but if he's wrong, at least they've got two more years to forget about it.

"Uh," he starts. Jack looks up at him. "Do you ... wanna get out of here?"

Jack raises his eyebrows. "Like ..."

"Like grab a few beer and find some shit to get up to?"

He looks down at his cup of water. Holster's sure it's water.

"Like what?" he asks.

"I don't fuckin' know, anything that doesn't involve being sweaty in a smelly kitchen." He opens the fridge and snags someone's six-pack, he doesn't care whose. Jack still looks conflicted. "Bro, when was the last time you actually had fun?" He pauses. "And if you say hockey is fun, I'm gonna end you."

Jack smiles. "You don't think it's fun?"

"Oh my God, come on. We're going."

He's honestly surprised when Jack follows him out.

 

 

 

He passes him a beer when they're down the block and Jack takes it. It's warm-ish for March, almost April, and they're not that cold. Now that they're alone, Holster realizes that he doesn’t have much to say. Everything he knows about Jack, he's heard from other people, which means he probably shouldn't bring any of it up. What'd you go to rehab for? Were you actually fucking Kent Parson? Are you with anyone now?

"Where are we going?" Jack asks. He's got one hand in his pocket, like he's trying to look cool.

"Dunno," Holster says. "It's a big campus. We'll find something."

Jack mumbles. He hopes he doesn't think they're going to find another party, because c'mon, he's met Jack. He's not an asshole.

"Well," Holster says after a swig of beer. "At the very least, I'm sure we can find something to break into." 

Jack doesn't say anything. He's pretty sure he thinks he's kidding until they end up at the aquatic centre.

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah. There's a way in around the back."

"You've done this before?"

"Once." He starts around the side of the building with Jack on his heels. "What good is being six-four if you don't use it to climb through stuff?"

Jack doesn't have anything to say to that. Holster finds the place he can reach by jumping, a flimsy slide-open frosted window that's never shut because nobody can reach it. It takes him a couple tries, but he manages to push it open enough that once he's on the ledge, he can fit through. Jack drops his empty beer can and opens another, watching.

"Are you gonna fit?"

"I did two months ago. I'm not that big.” Jack makes an amused little snort, which is great. "Yeah, yeah, alright. You in or not?"

"Sure."

With a quiet hup, Holster jumps up, grabs the ledge and pulls himself mostly through. It's not too hard. He looks down at Jack.

"I can pull you through. Pass me the beer first." Jack hands them to him and Holster sets them on the ledge, then reaches down. "Alright, jump."

Jack does, and gets his feet against the wall of the building, and Holster wraps both hands around his arm. As Jack gets a grip on the ledge, Holster lets him go and jumps back into the building, because the window can't fit them both. Jack maneuvers to sit next to the beer, feet swinging through the window. He surveys the giant pool, lit only by the underwater pot lights this late at night. Everything's soft and dark and blue, warbling with the lapping water.

"No one patrols it?"

"I've never seen anybody," Holster says. "Toss 'em down."

Jack drops the six-pack into his waiting hands. It's a ways to the floor, so he steadies himself, open beer in hand and covered with his other, and leaps, bouncing a little on his sneakers as he lands on the tile.

"It's quiet."

"Eerie, right?" Holster takes a deep breath. "I love the smell of chlorine. Dunno why."

"It's nice." He's sure Jack's just humouring him. He sips his beer and they just stand there for a second, fully clothed, in a pool, and it's weird. He keeps waiting for Jack to ask what they're doing here, and the fact that he doesn't is telling.

He starts walking around the side of the pool to where the bleachers are. "Having fun yet?"

"Sure." Probably sarcastic. He follows him, watching the water, and doesn't bat an eye when Holster kicks his sneakers off. "Do they keep it heated overnight?"

"I think so. It's pretty warm in here." He's not really drunk, but buzzed enough to keep eye contact with Jack as he pulls his shirt off, enough to watch him stare and not say anything about it. Jack sets his beer down and toes his shoes off, steps out of his jeans as Holster gets out of his own, and the muscles in his back pull as he tugs his shirt off. The low light suits him, all shadows, his cut cheekbones, his abs.

Holster's hit with the are-we-aren't-we first-time awkwardness of being two guys standing around in their underwear. He wants to text Ransom. He can see the shape of Jack's dick and ass in his red boxer briefs, both pretty fucking impressive, and he gets this sharp, awful pang of need in his pit of his stomach, so he dives into the pool before Jack notices or has a chance to call him out on it. Not that he thinks he would.

The water's cold but not freezing, clear, like a breath of fresh air. He shouldn't be swimming with his contacts in, but whatever, once won't hurt. He sees how deep he can go and above him, the light warps and swings as Jack jumps in; he can feel the boom of water in his ears. When he comes up, Jack's slicking his hair out of his eyes and his heart thuds hard in his chest. He always looks good, but Christ, he looks great wet.

"Not bad," Jack says, and Holster's pretty sure he's talking about the water.

"I know, right?" He swims away. Jack goes to the ledge to get his beer. "I'm gonna make it my personal mission to make sure you have fun at Samwell. We're gonna be roomies next year. You're gonna be so sick of me."

"Probably," Jack admits. And then, defensive, "I have fun."

"What's your major?"

"History."

"Okay, you are not having fun." He ducks underwater and does a flip. When he comes back up, Jack goes under. He floats on his back until Jack comes up with a splash. "I feel like I don't know anything about you," he says. "Quebec, right?"

Jack puts on his thickest accent. "What gave me away?"

"Smart ass." He swims a few broad strokes towards the far edge. "Do you like 30 Rock?"

"What's that?"

"Wh—a TV show!"

"Oh. No."

"What do you watch?"

"I don't really watch TV."

"What do you mean you don't watch TV?"

"I don't know. If the boys have something on, I'll look, but I don't ... I mean, I watch the games, but that's it."

"You are the weirdest dude I've ever met." He doesn't mean it in a bad way. He dives under and comes back up. Jack's a few yards away, on his back. "What were you like as a kid?"

Jack says, "Fat," without missing a beat, and Holster almost snorts water.

"I do not believe that."

"S'true. What about you?" Jack asks the ceiling.

"I was a stupid little prep. Polo shirts. Sports. Thinking I was smart all the time."

Jack huffs a laugh. "Sounds great."

"I was an idiot. But, I mean, I take pride in knowing my friends were all bigger idiots than me, and they never grew out of it." He looks over at Jack, who has his eyes closed, and he makes a decision. "Joke's on them, though, 'cause I wanted to fuck most of them for the entirety of high school and they never knew."

Jack opens his eyes. It's obvious, Holster thinks. You don't tell someone you were a jerk in high school, then imply that you have female friends. Girls are smarter than that. And so ...

"Oh," Jack says.

"Yep." Holster dives back under, because what else is there to do? He touches the bottom and tries to fight buoyancy to stay there until his lungs start to burn. He can see Jack's shadow way up at the surface. He knows how he wants this night to end but it seems ridiculous, less because this is Jack Zimmermann, per se, and more because it's just Jack, the stoic team heartthrob who never says a word to anyone. He swims to the surface and chokes for air; Jack laughs at him. He swims all the way to one end, tries to grab onto the ledge and push off like they do on TV, and fucks it up. When he's closer to Jack again, Jack clears his throat.

"Are you and Oluransi ..."

"What, together?"

Jack nods. Holster hums.

"Not really." He flips onto his back and floats. "He's hot though, huh?"

Jack clucks his tongue in response, which is somehow the funniest thing in the world. It's enough of an answer, too, and that's pretty fucking exciting. Holster closes his eyes and floats closer, because there's no way he's reading this wrong. He really, really wants to text Ransom.

Sure enough, Jack swims up and meets him.

He's still got his eyes closed, but he feels Jack's hand touch his back between his shoulder blades, underwater, tentative. His fingers move up his spine to his nape. When he finally speaks, it's quiet.

"What are we doing?"

Holster doesn't want to freak him out by looking at him, so he keeps his eyes closed. "Testing the waters."

It takes him a second. "That was awful."

"Alright, then I'm trying to get it in, is that better?"

He opens his eyes. Jack's looking down at him. His hand closes around the back of his neck. "Yeah."

Holster's pulse spikes. He rights himself in the water and Jack's hand falls away, runs down his wet arm, and Holster can't fucking believe this is happening. He's still slicking his hair back when Jack pushes their mouths together, breath rushing out his nose, and they sink lower in the water when Holster grabs him and kisses back. Jack kisses hungrily, almost unabashedly desperate, and Holster wonders how long it's been since he was with anybody, and how much that has to do with this. Probably a lot. 

Holster's close enough to grab onto the edge of the pool behind Jack's back, and it's easier after that. The feeling of wet skin on skin gives him goosebumps and Jack tastes and smells like chlorine, and his hands are fucking freezing, and none of this feels real. Jack runs the flat of his hand down his abs underwater, then grabs him through his briefs, and that's it.

He says, "Wanna get out?" against his cheek and Jack doesn't say anything, he just grips the edge of the pool ledge behind him and pulls himself up. Holster almost wants to blow him with him sitting on the edge like that, but he's getting cold so he scrambles out, and as soon as they're kissing again, Jack lets himself be eased onto his back, and isn't that something. He would've lost a bet.

He gets his thigh between Jack's and puts his weight on his elbows, rolls his hips down into him, feels his hands clutching at his sides, his ass.

He's about to be polite and say they should go back to his dorm—they could do other stuff here, but sue him, he's greedy—before he remembers the condom in his wallet.

He bites Jack's lip and pulls back. "I've got—"

Jack's pupils are huge. "Get it."

His wet feet slap on the tile. After he fishes the condom out of his wallet, he's two seconds away from grabbing his phone and texting Ransom a string of eggplant emoji, but that would be rude. He definitely thinks about it, though.

He knows he's gonna bruise his knees on the tile, but the thought of spending twenty minutes getting dressed and going somewhere softer is unthinkable. Jack's nails in his back say the same thing. He drags Jack's wet briefs down his legs and sucks the soft skin of his hip.

"Don't repeat this," he says, "but I've sort of wanted to fuck you since I was sixteen."

Jack's laugh manages to be quiet and hysterical at the same time. "You're joking."

"Nah, man. Not that I thought about it much, but I saw you guys play in 2007, or some shit, maybe '08, and like, the way you and—"

Jack goes tense right away. Shit.

"—the way you fuckin' play, God. Seeing you with your helmet off after wasn't bad, either."

"Fuck off," Jack breathes, but it’s light, embarrassed. Holster feels bad for even half-mentioning Kent Parson, and now, having Jack under him probably means the rumours were always true. Shit. Poor fucking guy.

So that's how he ends up on the floor of an aquatic centre with Jack Zimmermann's dick down his throat, with him shaking like a fallen leaf and clutching at his shoulder. He wonders if this is the first time he's been with anybody lately, or maybe even since he went to rehab. He's brought to the edge pretty quick, so that sounds about right, or else Holster's better at giving head than he thought he was.

"Stop," Jack gasps, and it's so fucking pretty that the sound of it is going to rattle around in Holster's head for the next few years, every time he looks at Jack. Stop.

He shoves the forgotten condom packet into Holster's hands; it's wet with pool water. Holster tears it open with his teeth and gets his boxers down and Jack watches him, glowing in the blue lights of the pool and the reflection off he water, which is extremely nice. When Holster settles back over him, he kisses him again, and that's even nicer, because it keeps this whole thing out of 'weird no-kissing hook-up' and into something between friends. But, because they aren't really friends, not yet, he gives him one last chance to back out, as he's poised over him, breathing way too hard. "Is this a bad idea?"

Jack looks like he seriously considers it. "No stupider than trespassing."

"True."

When he finally sinks inside him, Jack swears and digs his nails into his arms. The tiled floor fucking sucks, but it's worth it. Jack is quiet, which is in no way surprising, but he kisses a lot, which is. Holster's palms and knees ache and Jack's knees move up higher at his sides, and he bows over him and gets as deep as he can, moving until Jack's breath comes short and his arms wind around his neck, and they'd be sweating if it weren't so cold. Nerves and jittery adrenaline mean it’s quick. Jack shouts when he comes and the echo of the pool makes it seem louder, and the way his body goes tight pushes Holster over the edge, so good it's almost unbearable.

His knees are already killing him but he stays there a moment, with his head on Jack's shoulder, Jack's big arms around his neck. He pulls out and he has no idea what he's supposed to do with the condom in an aquatic centre after hours. He sits on the edge of the pool and hangs his legs into the water, and he can hear Jack trying to catch his breath next to him; he still hasn't sat up.

"You okay?"

Jack waves his hand at him, but doesn't move. He half expects a thumbs up. He's trying to discreetly wash Jack's come off him with pool water—which is gross, obviously, but he doesn't have a whole lot of options—when Jack leaps up, braces himself on the edge of the pool and springs into the water. The splash just narrowly misses Holster.

He says, "Dude, what the fuck," but Jack dives into the deep end, all the way down to the bottom. He's down there so long that Holster gets up and walks over to stand above him. After a few more moments, he pushes off the bottom and surfaces, breathing hard.

"Dude," Holster says again. Jack pushes his sopping hair out of his eyes. "What was that? You were almost dry."

"I dunno." Jack swims to the edge and gets out. "Just. Thinking."

"You're okay? Did I—"

Jack shakes his head. "No. It's—fine. Good."

Holster shrugs. Anyone else, and he'd kiss him. It's not as tense as it could be, but he still doesn't try. He shakes water from his hair and pulls his shirt back on.

"Sorry," Jack says after a moment, not looking at him. "I don't get a chance to ... do this. Often."

"I don't believe that for a fucking second, but sure. What are bros for?"

Jack levels him with a glare that says literally anything else. He tries to drag his jeans on over his wet legs. "I didn't think you'd be, uh ..."

"Please," Holster laughs. "I could write, like, sonnets about the way your ass looks in a jock strap, are you kidding?"

Jack has the decency to blush, which is way more endearing than it should be. "Right."

"Don't tempt me." Holster points the thumb and forefingers of both hands together like a camera aimed at Jack's hips. "That thing is a work of art, seriously, I'm honoured."

This time, Jack laughs, and Holster's immensely proud of himself, almost more proud than he is for fucking him. "Shut up."

"You got it. Let's get the fuck out of here."

 

 

 

Outside, Jack is definitely not shivering.

"Shit," he says, and pushes his wet hair out of his eyes. "We can't ... if we go back to the ..."

"I've got a single," Holster says, and jabs a thumb in the direction of the dorms. "If you want." He fully expects Jack to decline, but he nods curtly, doesn't look at him, and steps up next to him. It makes sense, because there's only so many ways to explain coming home dripping wet and reeking of chlorine.

They make it to the dorms and Jack's jumpy as hell until they've got the door shut behind them. Holster's room is a mess. He moves his laptop off the bed and straightens the sheets, and when he turns around, Jack's stripping out of his clothes, damp from his body, and he wonders if he's allowed touch him. There are so many weird boundaries to consider, things he'd do after hooking up with anyone else that he wouldn't dream of doing with Jack; kissing, spooning, compliments. He could go for another round, in all honesty, but Jack looks even more exhausted than usual, so Holster just strips and takes his contacts out as Jack sits on the end of his bed.

"You’ve got contacts."

"Yep. Pretty much blind."

"Jesus. Why don't you ever wear your glasses?"

"I look like a tool."

He blinks, like that'll help him see the peach-and-black Jack-shaped blur any better. He hears something that sounds like a laugh.

It's weird, trying to fall asleep next to someone you've only known as a teammate, and from afar. He's been aware of Jack for so many years, but now they're on a team and this is the first time they've ever really spoken about something other than hockey, and it ended in them fucking and Jack sleeping in his bed. He can't imagine that Jack expected it, either.

Jack turns on his side and Holster hesitates behind him, hand hovering over his shoulder until Jack sighs and grabs it and pulls it over his side. Holster tucks his knees in behind his and settles against him, because there's no way they'd fit shoulder to shoulder. Jack's skin is cold and squeaky from pool water, and his hair's still wet. It takes a while for him to fall asleep.

 

 

 

He wakes up to Jack kissing his throat, and it's disorienting. He forgot to close the blinds and it's way too bright, and as he blinks himself awake, Jack's face comes into view. Holster's glasses are on the nightstand, but Jack's close enough to sort of see. "Morning," he says, easy as anything. Holster wasn't full-on drunk last night, but to be stone cold sober and have this still be a thing is a lot to think about. Jack's eyes in the sun are the bluest fucking thing he's ever seen.

"Morning," he says slowly, "What are you ..."

Jack cuts him off. He's already moving down his body, kicking the sheets back. "Only fair."

He fingers him and sucks him off until his back is arched off the bed and he's shaking and he comes in his mouth, which Jack doesn't have any problem with, so it's definitely not his first time.

 

 

 

The next day after practice, Shitty whistles at him. "Holtzy, please tell me your fucked-up knees are from rug burn."

Everyone cackles. Holster looks down; they're not that bad, only a little bruised. Jack is pointedly not taking part in the commotion, but Holster sees him glance over.

He goes with, "Something like that." Ransom slaps him on the back.

It's sort of a friendly, mutual decision not to do it again. It wasn't bad, but it would get complicated, and it’s probably better that they don’t fuck up the way that they’re able to talk to each other now. Holster’s surprised that he actually likes Jack once he gets to know him, and after a year passes, he feels like the whole thing was some insane fever dream. There are a few drunken nights where he thinks about trying again, when he remembers what it was like, and he's curious if Jack would ever let him, if he tried to kiss him again. Jack changes and grows up, and it seems crazy to think it ever happened, because they see each other every day, but once in a while their eyes meet and there's this unspoken note of recognition, like they're both thinking about it.

 

 

 

Jack graduates, signs with the Falconers and moves to Providence. When he comes to visit one weekend and awkwardly announces that he's staying in Bitty's room, Holster could not be less surprised. He limits himself to a making a single snide comment about a blond hat trick, when no one else can hear, and Jack elbows him in the gut, but he's smiling.

 

 

 

After what feels like a lifetime, it's Holster's turn to graduate, and it's bittersweet. Bitty cries a little. Jack and Shitty manage to visit the weekend after convocation, and they all go out for drinks to celebrate. It's late and Holster's pretty drunk and he's got his thigh right up against Ransom's under the table, and he can't stop smiling. He hasn't seen Jack stop touching Bitty for more than two seconds since he got to Samwell, and they're smiling too, and everything's fucking perfect.

Shitty kisses Jack's cheek and Jack groans and pushes him off. "It's so fucking good to see you, man."

"You too, Shits."

"It's so fucking good."

"I know. Ugh, your moustache is wet, what—"

Shitty slings his arm around him. "It's good, but also, next pitcher's on you."

"Sure." Jack rolls his eyes. 

"Jack, I love you so much."

He is entirely unfazed. "I love you too. Be right back."

He touches Bitty's arm before he leaves, which, even after months of knowing, everyone sniggers at. 

"Y'all seriously need to grow up," Bitty gripes. He's drunker than everyone but Dex, who's arguing loudly with Nursey at the end of the long table, and it's pretty cute.

"I'll never get over it," Shitty says. "I won't. I actually, physically can't get over it. You are the cutest motherfuckers I have ever, ever seen."

"It's disgusting," Ransom adds, finishing off the rest of the pitcher. "You should be ashamed of yourself."

"You're just jealous."

"Should we be jealous?" Lardo, on Shitty's other side, puts her chin in her palm, too angelic. Shitty mimics her. "How's Jay-Z been treating you, if you know what I mean?"

Bitty groans. "Thank God, I was wondering when we'd have this wildly inappropriate conversation."

Nursey squishes in next to Holster. "Oh, are we finally bugging Bits about his sex life? I'm so here for this."

"No!" Bitty yelps. "Or—yes? I don't—"

Lardo pushes her beer towards him. "Liquid courage, Bits. Give us the goods."

Bitty looks mortified and thrilled at the same time, and Holster can't stop laughing. He finishes the rest of his beer and starts sharing Ransom's.

"C'mon, cough up the deets," Ransom says, waggling his eyebrows. "Is he any good?"

Bitty looks too proud of himself not to answer, and too many beer deep for discretion.

"Yes?" he says from behind his hands. "Yes, obviously? He's so—ugh, I can't even properly articulate how much he ... ugh. It’s overwhelming.”

Holster hears himself speak before he realizes he’s the one doing it.

"Man, I know, right? Does he still do that thing with—" He's halfway through the sentence and a very crude, unmistakable hand gesture before he stops, and by then it's too late. Everyone's slack-jawed. He clears his throat. "Wow. Can't believe I kept that on the down-low for—" He checks his watch. "—four years."

Ransom puts his hands up like he's gonna grab him. "You did. Fucking. Not."

Holster risks a glance at Bitty, who, thank God, is beaming like a kid on Christmas. "You and Jack ..."

He rubs his neck. "Uh. Freshman year. Sorry, Bits."

There's a few long seconds in which everyone is dead silent, not even breathing. And then Shitty laughs so loud it breaks the sound barrier.

"I can not—fucking—believe this!" he howls. "You and—Holtzy, you didn't!”

He can't even bring himself to be embarrassed. "Totally fuckin' did."

The table erupts. Ransom grabs him and shakes his shoulders and babbles how did you not tell me this, where was I, how fucking dare you, I thought we were friends, and everyone's still hooting when Jack comes back with a pitcher.

He squints and sets it down. "What did I ..."

Everyone at the table stops and looks at him with the most shit-eating of grins, except for Holster, who's grimacing, and he instantly gets it.

"You didn't," he croaks.

"I didn't ... mean to?"

Everyone goes nuts, and Jack goes scarlet. He looks at Bitty, horrified, but Bitty's laughing into his hands so hard he can't breathe.

"I—" Jack stutters, "I was in a weird place in sophomore year, I don't—"

"Jack!" Shitty grabs him by both arms. "Jacky—you have to tell me who fucked who! Jack! Did you fuck Holster?"

“Keep your voice down!” Jack hisses, grabbing Shitty’s wrists.

“Are you working your way through the team?” Ransom chirps. “Can I go next?”

Nursey shoves his way across the table. “Uh, Rans, you graduated, so if anyone’s next, it’s me.”

“I’m technically on the team.” Lardo hooks her chin over Shitty’s shoulder and makes kissy faces at Jack. “And, like, the other team, if you swing that way.”

“Does it come with an autograph?”

“Can we take sound bites?”

“Can we have a dibs system for who gets Jack next? Holtzy, how’d you do it?”

“Oh my God, boys, stop,” Bitty laughs. He makes grabby hands at Jack. “Jack, it’s okay, c’mere.”

Jack lets Shitty go and grudgingly sits back down next to Bitty, eyes fixed on Holster the whole time, whom Ransom and Nursey are frantically trying to get to talk. He’d look more convincingly sorry if he could stop grinning. They’re in a back corner of the bar, so Bitty tucks in against Jack’s side.

“I’m really sorry,” Jack says to him. “I didn’t—it was a long time ago, we just ...”

“Jack,” Bitty says, his voice low. “It’s okay.”

Jack de-tenses. Bitty grins against his cheek and gets close enough to whisper, “But, God help you, you are going to tell me everything.”