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Will Wonders Never Cease

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Posted April 21, 2017 10:42pm EST
by omgyall
Subject: Wish me luck!
Y'all, I have a JOB INTERVIEW LINED UP!!! Not just any job interview, but one where I'll be able to use my magic!!! I mean, not officially, it's not like my employer would know about it, but whenever nobody's looking. ;) And it's with an organization I'd be SUPER excited to work for, in a town not too far from all my college buddies! The interview is next Tuesday, keep all your fingers and toes crossed for me!

Eric drummed his fingers on the side of his messenger bag, then fiddled with his bowtie for the fifth time in as many minutes.

Of course they couldn't see him yet; he'd been fifteen minutes early for his interview. He'd known he would have to wait.

That didn't make it any easier to sit there in that hallway, waiting to be called into a conference room to interview for what might be the closest to his ideal job he was going to find when he hadn't even quite graduated from college yet.

He glanced down at his phone, who helpfully displayed several texts and tweets of encouragement that had come in that day.

"Thanks, hon," he murmured before putting her in silent mode.

Finally, a young woman about Eric's age appeared and unlocked the conference room, beckoning him in. Her long, dark brown hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail.

"Ms. Martin and Mr. Donnelly will be with you in just a minute. I'm Elena, I'm the marketing intern who's been running the social media accounts for the past few months."

"I'm Eric," he said, shaking Elena's hand. "So are you moving on, then?"

"Staying here, but I'll only be doing graphic design from now on. I was never really here to do social media," Elena said with a shrug, "that's just one of the jobs they threw at me as the low man on the intern totem pole. But now they want to get more serious about their social media presence, hence the search for someone to do it full time! Here, fill out this paperwork and they should be here in just a moment."

Before he knew it, a tall woman with brown hair and an older, balding man were coming in. Eric stood to shake their hands, trying to remind himself to breathe.

"I'm Georgia Martin, Assistant General Manager for the Falconers, and this is Joseph Donnelly, our head of PR."

Eric started out telling them a bit about himself—he only gave his American Studies degree a brief mention, since honestly it wasn't very pertinent here, but spent more time talking about his experiences as captain of Samwell's hockey team and their recent Frozen Four appearance. Then he moved on to the truly relevant things like his Twitter follower count, his YouTube channel, and his experience doing social media for his team.

"I was just talking to Elena," he added, "and she said you didn't have anyone doing social media full time before. Can I ask why you're looking for someone now?"

Ms. Martin smiled. "Great question. We're starting to develop a solid following, but the Falconers are a newer team and Providence isn't quite a hockey town yet."

"Pardon my saying, Ms. Martin," Eric cut in with a smile, "but I know from not hockey towns. Anywhere in New England is a hockey town compared to where I'm from."

"Fair enough," Ms. Martin said with a smile. "But we definitely don't have the kind of diehard fanbase you'll find in Boston or Chicago, and many of the hockey fans who are here are longtime Bruins fans who are hard to win over. We're hoping that by cultivating our social media presence, we can help fans feel like they know the players better as people, and get more invested in them."

"That definitely sounds like the kind of thing I can do. You know, our team at Samwell had a bit of a reputation problem when I first got there. They're great guys, but I'm sure you know that hockey players can get just a tad loud and rambunctious. Let's just say that nobody wanted to sit by our table in the cafeteria and people packed up their things to leave if they saw hockey players entering the library. We made a video poking fun at ourselves, apologizing to various groups of people all over campus, and I made sure it caught the eye of the right people to make it go viral. It actually went a long way toward improving people's opinions of the team."

As long as they never asked how he made sure those people saw it…

"Yes, I'd actually seen that video even before we posted this job opening," Ms. Martin said. "It wasn't just viral on your campus, you know—a lot of hockey teams were circulating that."

Eric gave her his best self-deprecating smile. "My goodness, I was so shocked every time someone in the NHL retweeted it!"

"Well, we were very interested to see that you were one of the people behind it," Mr. Donnelly said. "I've taken a look at your YouTube channel, Eric. Very impressive. Honestly, I'm surprised you're not planning to do that full time."

Eric's cheeks warmed at the compliment. "Oh, that's a labor of love, really. I do get a bit of advertising income from it, but I don't want to find myself in a position where I feel like I have to get a new video out to make rent this month, y'know? I do videos when I have something to talk about, and I think if I started trying to force them when I wasn't feeling it, the quality would go down and I'd probably get sick of it quicker."

Mr. Donnelly nodded. "That makes sense. Why don't you tell us a bit about how you might balance the team's social media presence with individual athletes' accounts?"

@omgcheckplease Excited to be joining the @PVDFalconers next month as their new social media manager!

Posted April 28, 2017 11:50am EST
by omgyall
Subject: I got the job!!!!!
Remember how I said I was applying for a job that would let me use my magic? Just got the call back - I got it! So excited! I start in three weeks, after I graduate!
Reply April 28, 2017 11:52am EST
by historyeh
Congrats! Really happy for you.
Reply April 28, 2017 11:56am EST
by otterpile
That's great! Man, I wish it were a little less obvious when I'm using my magic. I'm sure there are jobs that would be great for someone who could breathe under water, but there's not really any way to hide it. You people with easy to hide magic have it made.
Reply April 28, 2017 11:58am EST
by historyeh
I know what you mean, otterpile. My magic could be put to much better use than I do right now.
Not that I'm complaining. I love my job, I wouldn't want to trade it for something that uses my magic.
But the point of this thread is that omgyall will get to use his, which is terrific!
Reply April 28, 2017 11:59am EST
by omgyall
Thanks, historyeh! And thanks, otterpile! I'm sorry people are so stupid, or else both of you could help a lot of people.

historyeh: Hey man, congrats again. That's great to hear. :)
omgyall: Thanks hon. :D I'm so excited!
My IRL friends are all going nuts
because I'll be working with some people they look up to
some of whom are, well, I guess you would say local celebrities
historyeh: haha
Trust me, I have a lot of experience with famous or semi-famous people.
They're just people.
And some of them are nothing like their public personas…
It can be weird watching someone you know get interviewed and just be… someone else entirely.
omgyall: that's right, you with your model mama
historyeh: Yeah.
I know people through my work too, actually.
Most of them are great.
Just not always who you'd think they are.
omgyall: it can't be easy, being in the public eye like that
and imagine, some of them are magical
and while I'm over here trying to keep mine hidden from my family and friends
they've gotta hide it from the whole world!
historyeh: yeah…
but anyhow
What can you tell me about the job?
I know you can't go into much detail, but can you tell me anything about how you'll be using your magic?
omgyall: well, obviously like I said already, I'll be doing computer stuff
historyeh: What? No.
omgyall: hush, you.
hm what can I say
well, it's internet-related
ugh I dunno if I should go into more detail than that or not
sorry, you know it's not that I don't trust you
I'm just extra nervous with this involving public figures and all
historyeh: hey no
You don't have to tell me anything.
It's not a problem.
I know it's nothing personal.
It's not about me.
You know almost nothing about what I do, after all.
omgyall: I just feel bad
you're one of my best friends, y'know?
once I settle in hopefully I'll feel comfortable enough to give a few more details
historyeh: You're one of my best friends, too.
But that doesn't mean you have to tell me anything!
Well, there is one thing you're required to tell me…
omgyall: oh? and what, pray tell, is that?
historyeh: What you're planning to bake to celebrate getting the job.
Because I know you're planning something.
omgyall: haha well I can't say you're wrong
I think this might call for my Moomaw's bourbon peach pie...

Eric flopped down on the ratty little thrift store couch in his tiny new Providence apartment. His first day at his new job had been exhausting. Great, but exhausting. So much paperwork to fill out, so many meetings to sit through, so many new people to meet!

He sort of still couldn't believe it. The Falconers! He hadn't met any of them today, but he'd seen a few passing in the hallways, and he'd meet most of them soon enough. Some of them he might even be working with pretty closely, depending on what their social media presence was like.

For now, he opened up his laptop and settled back into the cushions. One problem with this job was all the typing. He was sharing an office with Elena, the intern he'd met at his interview. She seemed really nice, and he thought they'd get along just fine, but it did mean that he had to actually use his hands to work his computer anytime she was around. Thank goodness she was only part-time.

He propped his feet up on the wooden box he was using as a coffee table and sighed as he relaxed and let himself feel the electromagnetic field around the computer. It hummed to him, somewhere between something he could hear and something he could feel. Eric folded his hands in his lap and watched as it connected to the VPN, opened Tor, and logged him in to the message board for witches where he spent whatever online time wasn't devoted to Twitter or YouTube.

If you asked him how his magic worked—how he could sense and manipulate the EM fields to make computers and other electronics do what he wanted—he wouldn't be able to explain any better than he could tell you how he saw things.

"I point my eyes at a thing," he tried to explain to Shitty once, "and if a light is on, I see the thing. I point my attention at a computer, and there are the fields. And moving them is like moving my arm. I know I have to have the intention to move my arm, but I don't really think about it every single time, y'know? I want to grab the butter, and my arm is moving toward it. I want to see a website, my computer is opening it up. If I want to be more deliberate about it, I can, but can you tell me what it feels like for an electric impulse to move from your brain to just the right muscle to make your arm do the thing you want it to?"

Shitty and Lardo were the only two of his friends from college who knew about his magic, and he hadn't even told them until near the end of his sophomore year. Eric had spent his entire life having it drilled into his head by his mama how dangerous it was for anyone to know what he could do; before Shitty, no one outside his family had ever known.

He scanned through the new threads on the message board. A couple of posts by newbies—about a 50% chance that one or both were either faking it or delusional and would disappear or be banned within a week, but his southern hospitality couldn't take a chance on being rude to the other 50%, so he replied to both welcoming them.

He was mildly disappointed not to have any DMs, but not surprised. Historyeh had a strange and unpredictable (well, for Eric—he assumed there must be some logic to it) work schedule, and was always extra busy in May. The website had two types of private communication—one that was more email-like, and one that was more of a chat. If they were both online, they'd chat, but usually if he got on and historyeh was gone he'd write a longer note. The longer notes were nice; they felt old-fashioned somehow, as if they were pen pals. Today, though, Eric was too tired to write a whole letter, so he went ahead and sent a quick "Survived my first day!" message and made sure the computer would tell him if historyeh got online.

As he finished checking the message board, Skype started ringing with an incoming call from Shitty.

"Bitty! Brah!" Shitty's too-close face filled Eric's computer screen. "So how was day numero uno showing off that fine hockey booty to the Falconers?" As he sat back, Eric could finally see Lardo in the shot next to him.

"Ha ha ha," Eric said. "As if my poor excuse for a hockey butt even registers on the hockey-butt-o-meter in this place."

"Sounds like you were looking, bro," Lardo said with a grin as Shitty settled in next to her on the couch, arm thrown around her shoulders.

"Not so much," Eric said with an eyeroll. "It was like the first day on any job. Sensitivity training, tax forms, sexual harassment training, more forms, tour of the building. I did see a handful of players wandering the hallways, but I didn't, like, meet any of them or anything."

"Oooh, ooh, enquiring minds want to know!" Shitty bounced up at down a little in his seat. "Whose asses did you see?"

"Well, I saw Alexei Mashkov and Randall Robinson, but I did not see their backsides, only from the front," Eric told him with a slight glare. "Jack Zimmermann, on the other hand…"

Shitty and Lardo's eyes both lit up at that, and their "Ooooooooo!" in perfect unison was honestly a little disturbing, if only because even after nearly two years together they mostly didn't do those weird couple things like speaking at the same time.

Eric grinned. "To be fair, it's not exactly an achievement. That ass can be seen from space. But he was filling up his bottle at the water cooler when I walked by."

"Nice," Lardo said, nodding with a knowing smile. "But you know Zimmermann can't be your number one priority, right? You gotta grab Mashkov next time you see him so you can at least get an autograph for Rans, if not, like, his underwear."

"I have already informed Mr. Oluransi," Eric said, sitting up primly, "that asking the players for autographs when I work with them now would be unprofessional. But since Mashkov hosts a lot of the FalcsTV segments and I am now in charge of the online distribution for those, I'm sure I'll be able to get a selfie or something for him at some point."

"So when do you get to start rubbing elbows with the players more?" Shitty asked.

"Well, I'm meeting with George and Joe on Wednesday to go over their general plan for who they want me to help out the most, what platforms I think the team should focus on, stuff like that. Of course, they're all pretty focused on playoffs right at the moment, I doubt any of them really care about starting a Twitter right now! So I'll probably focus on the team accounts until later in the summer."

"Gonna do a little hocus-pocus?" Shitty waggled his eyebrows ridiculously. "Make sure those Falconers Face-offs videos go viral? Maybe make Beyonce retweet one?"

"Shitty Knight, I would never violate Beyonce's social media accounts!" Eric put on his best shocked face, hand to his chest. "Not on purpose, anyhow."

"Wait," Lardo said, "how do you make shit go viral if you don't, like, break into people's accounts and tweet shit for them and stuff?"

"Well, I do," he admitted, "but not accounts that I know are run by the celebrity themselves. I have ways of telling if an account is accessed by a team of PR people instead of just one person. Those ones, everyone on the team just assumes someone else did it as long as it's something that doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. And obviously I'm not gonna put something on an account if it doesn't fit with the rest of the stuff they tweet, or else the people following that account wouldn't pick it up anyhow!"

"You devious little fucker," Shitty said, shaking his head. "You're gonna blow their puny little minds. The Falconers will suddenly be the hockey darlings of the social media world and nobody will know what hit 'em."

"I realize that subtlety is a foreign concept for you, Mr. Knight," Eric chirped, "but I do, in fact, understand it. I can't overplay my hand or I'll get caught out."

"He's been doing this his whole life, Shits," Lardo said, "I'm sure he knows exactly where the line is and how to toe it."

"Of course, of course!" Shitty said.

"Anyhow, how are things in Cambridge?"

They chatted for a few more minutes before Eric's stomach growled loudly and caused Shitty and Lardo to laugh and tell him to go have a celebratory First Day Of My New Job dinner.

Before he headed to the kitchen he went back to the forum and, since historyeh still wasn't online, decided to leave a longer note for him in case Eric was busy when he got on.

Hey you,

I wish I could say my first day of work was an amazing, exciting thrill ride, but… well, you know how it is. Just a bunch of on-boarding. I mean, nothing bad! The coworkers I met seemed great, just didn't really get started on the actual job part.

I thought of you, actually. I saw some photos of the history of the building and the area, and it got me wondering what you might be able to see there. Of course you could see it being built, and the shops that were on the spot before that, but you could go back further than the photos. See what the first settlement here looked like, when people first cleared the trees (I'm assuming everything around here was forest at some point back?).

Anyhow, I hope I see you sometime tonight, but if you get back too late, have a good night!

Eric really wished he could give more details about his job. One of the first things they'd bonded over—the first thing they'd talked about off the main forums, in fact—was that they were both hockey fans. Eric had claimed to play for a rec league; he was pretty sure that "member of an NCAA Division I ice hockey team" was way more identifiable than was considered appropriate on that site. "Social media manager for an NHL team" was definitely too much information, even if historyeh would probably be as excited about it as he was.

Eric finally put the laptop down and stood up.

"Well," he said as he pulled his phone out of his pocket. "I think 'celebratory dinner' means I get to eat dessert for dinner, don't you, Siri? Any ideas?"

Siri flashed to life with an excited little dinging noise, and soon the phone's web browser had ten tabs open to different recipes.

"Oh my goodness!" He giggled at her enthusiasm as he got up and headed for the kitchen. "And only half of them are pies, you're feeling adventurous tonight, aren't you?" A tab showing a recipe for chocolate creme brûlée popped to the front. "Okay, okay, I'll try that one! And maybe a strawberry pie for something light to balance it out. I swear, for someone who doesn't eat, you sure do have opinions."

Pour Some Sugar On Me started playing out of the tinny phone speakers, making him laugh harder. "You're in a mood tonight, aren't you?" He nestled her into the speaker dock on the counter, and as he went to pull some ingredients from the fridge, the song switched to one from his favorite baking playlist.

Chapter Text

Sticky Post
Posted Dec 2, 2012, 10:01am EST
by magicadmin
Hey guys,

As you can see, we finally got our .onion address up and running. For the next two weeks, we'll be mirroring the forums in both places; there may be a slight delay if someone posts a comment in one place just as you reload the site in the other place as they sync, but it shouldn't be too bad. After that, you will only be able to access these forums via the Tor browser. Tor is available for Windows, OS X, Linux, and Android, and there is a Tor browser called Onion available for iOS. All URLs at our old domain will point to a page with this link and information on how to access it via Tor.

We are always looking for ways to make the site more secure, and moving it to the deep web is hands-down the best option we've got. When you browse the site using Tor, your information will be bounced around to several servers before reaching us; if someone were to find the IP you appeared to be connecting from, they would have absolutely no way to follow that path of random servers back to you. This is safer than a VPN, where at the very least they could figure out which VPN you were using based on the IP address - but remember that you can always use both!

However, remember that someone doesn't have to be a hacker to track you down if you're not safe about what you post on the forums! As always, do not ever post anything remotely identifiable. This includes vague information like what city you live in, your job, or unique hobbies you have. If you post in one thread that you live in Denver and a year later post on another thread that you're a history teacher, a dedicated witch hunter would be able to piece that info together and narrow their search to all the history teachers in Denver. See the sticky post on personally identifiable information for a complete list of what we recommend you do not talk about; as always, posting any of this information about another user will get your account banned and all comments you have made under that account deleted.

As far as we know, no one has ever successfully broken into our servers and accessed DMs, but we have had a few attempts, so these suggestions include DMs. Even if you're chatting with a forum member you trust, don't include any information you wouldn't want a hacker to see.

Below is a list of links to download the browsers and to pages explaining the safest ways to use Tor.

"Are you Eric? George said I should talk to you?"

Eric turned around to find Jack Zimmermann leaning on his office doorframe, shoulders hunched, shuffling his feet.

"That's me!" Eric said brightly. He gestured to the empty chair at Elena's desk. "You got ten minutes or so?"

"Um, sure." Jack sat down, looking far more awkward than such an attractive man had any right to. In the two months Eric had been working for the Falconers, he'd seen Jack around plenty, but this was the first time he'd been face-to-face with the man and dang, those ice blue eyes were intense.

"So. I'm Eric Bittle." He held out his hand and Jack shook it. "I'm the Falconers' new social media manager. Mostly I'm in charge of the team's accounts, but I can also work with players who want help with their personal accounts. And then there's you, Mr. Zimmermann." Eric smiled, but Jack's eyes just bored into him. "George thinks that a social media presence might help to counteract what she calls your 'hockey robot' reputation." Jack frowned, his brow furrowing, but Eric continued before he could argue. "Look, I totally understand not liking interviews. Y'all are here to play hockey, and not everyone who's good at hockey is gonna be good at being in front of a camera, that's fine. But I've seen you smiling and joking with your teammates around here, I know that's not the be-all-end-all of your personality. And one of management's big goals for the Falconers this year is to get the fan base more devoted to y'all as people, so the fans need to see those other sides to your personality. I'm here to help you find the right way to do that."

Jack sighed sharply. "I don't do social media."

"I'm well aware of that," Eric said. "And I hate to break it to you, but that's gonna change."

"So what am I supposed to do?" Jack asked. "Get a face thing? Or a tweet… thing? Post selfies?"

Eric tried and failed not to smile. "Well, it's up to you. You could get a public Facebook profile, or a Twitter, or both or something else entirely. I'm sure the fans would love to see selfies, but only if you're comfortable with them."

"It's not up to me," Jack grumbled, crossing his arms. "If it were up to me, I wouldn't be on any of these stupid sites. As you can tell from the fact that I'm not on them."

"Okay, yes," Eric said, hiding his annoyance. "It's not entirely up to you. The management would really like you to have at least one social media account that you update regularly. But which one you get, and what sort of content goes on it, you do get input into."

"How am I supposed to give input when I don't even know what these things are?" Jack asked. It was a fair question.

"Have you looked at any of the Falconers' accounts?" Eric asked. Jack shook his head. "I'll email you some links, okay? Along with some of the guys' individual accounts. You can see what sorts of things people talk about, and maybe you and I can meet in a few days to start getting something set up for you. Sound good?"

"Sounds like I don't have much choice," Jack said with a shrug.

Eric swallowed down a sigh. Would it kill Jack to just pretend he didn't hate this so much? Eric knew not everyone was as into social media as he was, but you'd think he was telling Jack that his ice time was being cut.

"Okay, well, I'll send you those links then. Thanks for stopping by!"

Jack just nodded, then left.

"Well that's gonna be fun," Eric murmured to himself as he turned back to his computer.

omgyall: I am gonna kill my damn phone.
historyeh: What'd she do this time?
omgyall: I told you about her new "hobby," right?
historyeh: Inventing new hexes to put on other people's phones?
omgyall: Yes!
And I have told her over and over again that she is only allowed to experiment on the phones of my two friends who know about my magic, or my parents, and she HAS to ask first.
historyeh: I remember the time she did some weird thing to your friend's ringtones and then couldn't fix it. Did that ever get fixed?
omgyall: Oh lord, yes, eventually.
Thankfully, my friend has a good sense of humor, so he didn't mind all his ringtones being set to dubstep clips for a month! LOL
But at least that time he knew it was coming.
historyeh: Uh-oh.
omgyall: I just got a call from him.
Apparently he picked up his phone this morning and everything on the screen was backwards!
Like, it looked like someone mirror-imaged the whole damn thing!
historyeh: wow
At least he could still make calls?
omgyall: yeah, although texting was challenging.
She is just damn lucky that he's so laid-back.
He thought it was hilarious. He could barely stop laughing long enough to tell me what happened.
historyeh: Well that's good. Did she fix it?
omgyall: She is working on it right now.
He needs it before he goes out to lunch, so keep your fingers crossed.
For her sake.
Somebody is asking to get restored to factory settings.
historyeh: Haha, you've threatened that so many times.
You wouldn't ever.
omgyall: I wouldn't
you're right
But she might get herself powered down for the rest of the day.
I'm sure it would shock many of my friends to learn, but I CAN survive without my phone for a few hours.
I should get a backup phone that I can put her SIM card into…
historyeh: She isn't on the SIM card?
omgyall: Oh goodness, no, honey!
The SIM card just has like your phone number and contacts and stuff on it.
historyeh: Oh, ok.
I know you said you moved her from one phone to another so I thought maybe that was how.
omgyall: No, I had to back her up and restore it from the backup and everything for that.
historyeh: Maybe you should get her a pet.
I mean, like, a pet… other phone.
If that makes any sense.
omgyall: …it almost makes sense? Keep going.
historyeh: Like, get a cheap prepaid phone that she can practice hexes on or something.
omgyall: OMG!
OMG you're a genius!!
How did I never think of that???

"Oh my goodness, do you ever have to work with Jack Zimmermann?" Eric sat down across from Elena at the table, placing a slice of chocolate cream pie in front of her.

"Not really," Elena said, cutting off a bite of pie. "Why?"

"Is he always this willfully clueless about the internet?"

Elena stopped with the fork halfway to her mouth to snort. "Jack Zimmermann is willfully clueless about everything. He doesn't listen to music made after like 1998, he's never heard of most TV shows—apparently he mostly watches documentaries on Netflix—and Andre says that a popular game when they take a bus for roadies is to see who can come up with the celebrity with the most Google hits that Jack's never heard of." She finally took her bite of pie while Eric laughed. "Oh my godddddd, Eric, this is ridiculous. I can't believe Nate even lets you bring this shit into the building."

Eric clucked his tongue. "You really think I ask permission?"

"Oh, please don't," she said. "So what's going on with Zimmermann?"

"Well, George wants me to make him a bit of a special project," Eric explained. "All the other players, she's leaving it up to them if they want to come to me for help with stuff. So, like, Tater's come and talked to me a few times about what to do for the face-offs this year, Poots asked me to help him set up a Twitter, that kind of thing. But Jack has no social media presence whatsoever, and the management specifically wants him to start so maybe he can shake his robotic public image a little, right?"

"Let me guess," Elena said, licking some chocolate off of her fork, "he has a flip phone and a laptop from 2007 and has never been to a website other than or"

Eric raised an eyebrow. "You just said he watches documentaries on Netflix."

"True. But." Elena pointed to Eric with her fork. "Andre said he watches those on his iPad, so all of the above could still be true."

Elena had been dating Andre Levesque, who'd just finished his rookie season with the Falcs, since shortly after they were knocked out of the playoffs. Well, "dating"—personally, Eric thought Levesque was treating her like little more than a puck bunny, but she was happy for the moment so he kept his nose out of places where it didn't belong.

"Anyhow, I sent him a bunch of links," he continued, "to the Falconers social media accounts and some of the guys' personal accounts. Our YouTube channel, some Twitters, some Facebook pages, Snowy's Wordpress blog—"

"The one where he posts all his weird poetry?" Elena stifled a giggle.

"If he has another, he hasn't told me about it," Eric said with a grin. "Anyhow, so Jack replied to my email and do you know what he said?"

"That we have a great group of guys this year, everyone's really dedicated and leaving it all on the ice, and he thinks we'll have a strong season?" Elena said in her best imitation of Jack's accent, media monotone, and blank interview face.

Eric clapped a hand over his mouth so he wouldn't spit out his pie. The resulting fight between his lungs and his esophagus resulted in a horrible donkey-like sound coming from behind his hand, and he finally leaned over to rest his forehead on the table by his plate until he could get everything under control again.

"Well now I can't even tell you," he said once he was calm, "because nothing could live up to that."

Elena made a pouty face. Eric sighed and rolled his eyes.

"Fine. He said 'Isn't there one called MySpace? What's on that one?'"

Eric stood and grabbed their empty plates as Elena cracked up. She followed him over to the sink, where she kept laughing until he was done washing their dishes.

"That's so much better," she said on their way back to their office, "because it's true. I said mine to be funny, but he said that because he is genuinely a time traveler from the nineteenth century who is befuddled by the modern world."

Eric raised an eyebrow as he unlocked the office door. "Won't you feel guilty for making fun of him when we find out that's true."

"Well, you've had a week to look things over. I think it's time to take the plunge and set up an account. Which one do you think will be the best fit?" Eric smiled encouragingly, even though Jack looked like George probably had to threaten him just to get him into that conference room.

"None of them," Jack said, and his petulant frown tipped over into full-on scowl. "None of these sites matters unless you have interesting things to say to total strangers. Which I don't."

"Jack, these aren't just random strangers," Eric said in his best placating tone. "These are your fans. They'll think whatever you have to say is interesting just because you're the one saying it."

That just earned him an incredulous stare.

"That's not better! I don't need to be fawned over just because I'm famous. I don't want a bunch of sycophants pretending I'm fascinating every time I tell them what I ate for breakfast."

It wasn't even a bad point, honestly. Eric could understand why he'd feel that way. There just wasn't any need for him to be so angry about it, especially when Eric was just trying to do his job.

"You don't even have to read what they say to you, Jack. If you don't want the fawning then ignore it."

Jack rolled his eyes. "Great, and then I'm the asshole who ignores his fans."

"No, no, Jack, that's normal." Eric shook his head. "Most celebrities don't really engage their fans in actual conversations on social media. On the rare occasion they do, the fans eat it up and it makes someone feel really special, but if they don't nobody blinks an eye."

"Sure, when it's a celebrity who's not specifically there to fight his reputation as a hockey robot."

Eric sighed.

"Why don't we start with Twitter? That's sort of the default for celebrity social media. We'll set it so that you can't get DMs from fans—those are Direct Messages."

"I know what DM stands for," Jack snapped. Eric's eyebrows flew up.

"Really? You think people still use MySpace, but you know what a DM is?" Eric regretted saying it as soon as it was out of his mouth. His job was to stay calm and professional, not to chirp Jack. He didn't even blame Jack for glaring at him that time.

"I realize you think I'm a stupid jock who knows nothing about computers, but I do know how to use the internet. I just don't use it for this kind of meaningless bullshit."

"I do not think you are stupid," Eric said emphatically.

"Right," Jack said, rolling his eyes again. He crossed his arms, hunching further into himself and his chair. "I'm sure you're nothing like Hauser," he grumbled.

Eric's face screwed up in confusion. "Hauser? The IT manager? I've met him like twice, what does he have to do with anything?"

Hauser was kind of an ass, but luckily Eric rarely had to deal with him.

"He's a computer guy who assumes the athletes are all idiots," Jack said, voice flat. "Just like you."

Eric's mouth dropped open. "Why the hell would I, of all people, assume the athletes are idiots?"

Jack snorted. "Why wouldn't you? You're a computer nerd who somehow got stuck in a job where you're surrounded by jocks, and here I am, proving you right by not understanding the difference between Twitter and MySpace."

Eric held his hands up defensively. "Okay, a) I don't know what you think the requirements for this job were, but I am not a computer nerd. I don't know how to program, I don't know how to do hardly any of the stuff Hauser does." Okay, he could probably do those things, but he doesn't technically know how they would happen, or how Hauser would do them. "My job is more about people skills than anything, it just so happens that it's about dealing with people online instead of in real life. And b)—" He returned Jack's previous scowl with relish. "As far as thinking athletes are idiots, did George not tell you I played hockey in college?"

Jack's eyebrows shot up. His eyes raked down Eric's body skeptically and Eric knew exactly where this was going. "What, intramural?"

Eric clenched his jaw shut and took a deep breath. He did not need this bullshit here, of all places, from this guy. He closed his laptop and stood up.

"Division I, actually. At Samwell." Jack must have followed NCAA hockey at least enough to know the teams that made it to the Frozen Four, because the pissy look dropped right off his face in surprise. Eric enjoyed the hell out of that. "Where I was captain until a couple months ago. I'm going to go back to my office for the moment, Mr. Zimmermann. I think maybe we should give this meeting another try next week."

He was out of the conference room and down the hall before Jack could get out of his chair.

Unfortunately, he couldn't just give up on Jack Zimmermann—George had made it clear that this was to be a high priority. But they definitely both needed some time to cool down or they'd never get anything accomplished.

Once he was back in his office, alone with the door closed, Siri buzzed in his pocket. He pulled her out to find YouTube open, the video for Weird Al's White and Nerdy loading. He cracked up and settled into his chair to watch the video.

Him, a computer nerd who thought athletes were idiots. Sure, he loved computers, but he was no more a "computer nerd" than an artist who used Photoshop, or his mother, with her Pinterest boards.  He could use computers fluently to do things, but that was because they were basically an extension of himself, not because he understood a damn thing about them. He tried to take an introductory programming class once, but it was too hard to overcome his natural impulse to just gently nudge a computer into doing what he wanted. Trying to make that explicit, to put it into logical terms that would work when the instructor took his code and ran it on her own machine when he wasn't there—well, he barely passed, with a lot of help from Dex.

Oh, well. At least he had a new motivation for getting Jack Zimmermann onto social media: the fact that Jack Zimmermann vehemently did not want to use social media. Never let it be said that Eric Bittle was above using his passive-aggressive tendencies to his own advantage.

omgyall: Well, it had to happen eventually.
historyeh: What?
omgyall: My new job is not 100% perfect.
historyeh: Haha oh no!
What happened?
omgyall: Oh, I just have to work on this project with a guy who I am NOT getting along with at all.
For the record, Siri doesn't like him, either.
historyeh: Yeah, I'm having a similar experience.
Although I'll admit, it's probably mostly my fault in my case. I was in a bad mood today.
And it's a project I really don't want to work on.
It's just so stupid
and the guy I'm working on it with can be really patronizing.
I probably said some things I shouldn't have today, but it never feels like he's taking me seriously.
omgyall: I don't think either of us particularly wants to be working on this.
But he's also just being an asshole to be an asshole, I think.
I don't even know where any of the stuff he was saying today came from.
He thinks he knows me, and he does not.
Have you ever had someone just get completely the wrong idea about you, through no fault of your own?
historyeh: I have a bit of experience with that, yeah.
Of course, I have some experience of my own with making assumptions about people…
I think none of us are totally immune to that.
omgyall: I guess that's true.
Honestly, sometimes I don't know whether it's worse when people's assumptions are wrong, or if they're right, y'know?
I mean, growing up all the boys who bullied me assumed I was gay because I'm small and I like baking and pop music and stuff
and like… they were right, obviously
historyeh: Well, that doesn't make it okay to bully you about it.
omgyall: I know!
but it also doesn't make it okay for them to assume that about someone just because of those things
and them being right about it just feels like… almost like it vindicates them, even though it doesn't
historyeh: I can see that.
Honestly, I don't have much experience with that…
People's assumptions about me are almost always wrong.
oh crap
I have to go, I'm just on a dinner break but I work late tonight.
I'm sorry about this guy, though.
You're so cheerful, I don't know how anyone could be an asshole to you.
omgyall: Oh honey, you would be amazed.
Maybe he's homophobic, it wouldn't shock me.
historyeh: Did he say something like that? You should tell HR.
omgyall: No, no, no, not at all.
I'm probably making shit up now.
But it would explain why he hates me.
historyeh: Nobody should ever hate you.
omgyall: Aw, thanks. :)

Subject: Meeting


I'm sorry, I was out of line at our last meeting. I looked up your stats, you were really good. And I don't just say that to people.

Can we try meeting again on Tuesday?


"It doesn't matter that I was good, he shouldn't have said that either way," Eric groused as he showed Elena the email.

"Sure, but I think that's just gonna be his way of extending an olive branch, y'know?" Elena tossed her sandwich wrapper in the trash and they started down the hall back to their office. "Jack Zimmermann doesn't know how to relate to other humans except through sports."

"That can't be true." Eric didn't know why he was defending Zimmermann. He probably just felt bad for making the guy think Eric thought he was stupid. "I mean, it's clearly his default setting, but there must be more to him than hockey."

Elena let out a sharp sigh, making Eric look up. Andre was at the end of the hall, coming toward them.

"Speaking of apologies…" Elena muttered. As soon as he got close enough, Andre slid an arm around her waist.

"Hey, babe, sorry about last night. You know I missed you, right?"

Eric thought Elena really should have just walked off, but instead she let him kiss her on the cheek and pull a reluctant smile from her. Eric turned away to unlock their office.

"You've cancelled three dates in the past two weeks, Andre," she said. "That dinner before tomorrow's game better be somewhere fancy."

"Absolutely. And after the game, you'll come back to my place to help me celebrate our win, right?" Eric could almost hear the way he must be leering at her.

Elena sighed as Eric went into their office. "We'll see. I gotta get some work done."

"Cool, cool. Later."

Eric raised an eyebrow as Elena sat down at her desk. "Trouble in paradise?"

"Paradise. Ha." She tossed her long hair over her shoulder, mouth twisted in annoyance. "I can't seem to pin him down for a real date these days, but you know he's always up for a booty call."

"Well, you don't have to be up for it just because he is, sugar."

"I know, I know, but…" She leaned her head backwards over her chair, eyes closed in anguish. "He's so hot! Have you seen him? Would you pass up the chance to have that in your bed?"

Eric laughed. Andre was attractive, but not his type. He didn't really go for the guys built like refrigerators. "Honey, if you're both just in it for the booty calls, what's the problem? Nothing wrong with that."

"I just… I don't want to just be in it for the booty calls. They're great, and it's not like I'm looking to get married, but I'd like a little more romance? Next week is our three month anniversary, we'll see what he does."

Eric raised an eyebrow. "You're sure he knows it's your anniversary?"

Elena paused for a moment, then sighed as she reached for her mouse. "Well, I guess if he makes it to dinner tomorrow I'll drop some subtle hints."

Eric rolled his eyes and went to reply to Jack's email.

hey there,

Okay, you don't have to answer this, but I was just wondering: Were you surprised when B cheated on me last year? Or did you already have an idea that he was an asshole but I was just too blinded by love (or whatever) to see it? I mean, I guess maybe you're the wrong person to ask, since you never met him. You only know what I told you, and I probably told you mostly good stuff! So maybe I should ask S or L.

It's just, one of my coworkers is dating another coworker, and I dunno. She could definitely do better, but I don't think she wants to hear that. I guess I shouldn't push it if she's happy. I just worry she's only gonna get hurt, y'know? And now it has me wondering if my friends thought the same things last year.

Sorry I missed you. I thought I'd be home early tonight, but some coworkers wanted to go out and I've ducked out of too many of those lately so I figured I should show my face.

I can honestly say that I was shocked. Shocked, and sad, and angry. You're right, your IRL friends might have had more perspective, but I definitely wasn't expecting that to happen. Even though no, you really didn't only talk about the good stuff. You had no problem complaining to me when he complained about your schedule and you being away on the weekends when he wanted to go to parties. :) But I still didn't think he would do a thing like that. It's not like he seemed mean or slimy, just kind of whiny, honestly. He shouldn't have dated an athlete if he couldn't handle you going out of town on the weekends, that just seems obvious.


Jack at least had the decency to look awkward as he shuffled into the conference room and took a seat next to Eric.

"Hi, Jack."

"Look, I'm really sorry," Jack said, mostly to the table. "I accused you of making assumptions about me, when I was making my own assumptions about you, and that was really unfair of me."

"Thank you," Eric said. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry I made you feel like I thought you were stupid. Believe me, I am the last person to assume that athletes are idiots."

Jack nodded. "I still think this whole social media thing is stupid, for the record."

Coming from anyone else, it probably would have made Eric laugh, but Jack was still being overly-serious and it really just made Eric want to sigh. He didn't. "Noted. But for the record, it is still my job to get you on at least one of these sites."

Jack sighed and rolled his eyes. "I know."

"Okay, do you have any more thoughts on the different platforms? Are any of them—okay, I won't ask if they're appealing to you, but do any of them seem less awful than the others?"

Jack gave him a flaily sort of shrug, and when he met Eric's eyes he looked a little lost.

"Let's just start with Twitter then, like I was suggesting." Eric pulled up Twitter on his laptop and logged out of the team account. "Any thoughts on a username?"

Jack blinked at the screen.

"Um. Can I just use my name?"

"Well, let's find out!" Eric said with a shrug. "Hm, jackzimmermann is taken. What's your middle initial?"


"Also taken. And your whole middle name wouldn't fit in the character limit. Hm, jlzimmermann is also taken." Eric really wished he could use magic in front of Jack. He'd be able to sort through Twitter usernames far more quickly than this. "Maybe something with hockey in it? It has to involve your name, though, or they won't verify it as you."

"I really don't care, just so it's not something ridiculous. Whatever is fine. Just… make the account." He waved his hand vaguely at the screen.

Eric clenched his jaw a little, but willed himself to relax. Jack wasn't trying to make this more difficult than necessary. Probably.

"You and I might have differing opinions on the definition of 'ridiculous', Mr. Zimmermann. I'm not signing you up for a username without your approval." He tried a couple more things. "Hm. A lot of hockey players use their number, but of course since yours is 1 a lot of those usernames are also taken. Okay, here are a few options…" He typed them into a text document and turned the screen to Jack.

Jack shrugged. "That one, I guess," he said, pointing to Jzimmermann_1.

"Okey-dokey." Eric filled out the parts of the form he could, then turned the computer to Jack to finish the rest.

"There you go!" He spread his hands in a welcoming gesture as Jack typed in the last bits of information. "Welcome to Twitter, Mr. Zimmermann! Now, the next step is to get you verified."

"What does that mean?"

"Anyone who's famous can get their account verified to keep people from impersonating them. I'm gonna leave you logged in on here so I can do a few things that they'll want first—you gotta have a user photo and header photo, do you mind if I just use stuff off our website?"

Jack raised his hands. "You do whatever the hell you want."

"Great. Do you mind if I take a quick photo of your driver's license to send them? They need to know that it's really you." Jack shrugged and dug his wallet out, then handed over his Rhode Island driver's license. Eric set it on the table and took a picture of it. "I promise I'll delete that after I send it in."

Jack raised an eyebrow. "I don't think I need to worry about you using my ID."

"If that was a chirp about my size—"

"Of course not," Jack said, frowning. "It was a chirp about your hair color."

Eric narrowed his eyes. He was about 95% sure that Jack Zimmermann was actually making a joke, but the delivery was so deadpan he was worried he was misinterpreting. "Anyhow, I'll let you know when it's set up and verified."

"So we're done?"

"We're done." Eric smiled, though Jack didn't return it.

"Great. See you later, Bittle."

"I just hope to god they don't expect it to be my job to actually get this boy to show some personality, because I think that is going to be like getting blood from a stone." Eric was settled onto his couch with his second glass of wine, loudly complaining to Lardo and Shitty over Skype. "I mean, at least he apologized for being an ass, but he just seemed so grim the whole time."

"Heh, you called Jack Zimmermann an ass," Lardo said, earning a fist bump from Shitty. They were pretty stoned.

"Siri hates him, too, don't you, girl?" Siri chirped cheerfully, then pulled up a picture of Jack scowling on the ice. "See?" He held it up so Shitty and Lardo could see. "She's an excellent judge of character."

While he was holding her up, she chirped again, and Shitty and Lardo cracked up. He turned Siri around to find that she'd changed the photo to one from Jack's ESPN Body Issue.

Eric gasped. "You traitor! Put that away right this second!"

The photo disappeared, then his Notes app opened and a note filled up with alternating tongue-sticking-out and winking emojis.

"You are a ridiculous hunk of junk," he said affectionately, then stuck her in his pocket. "But anyhow, back to the other bane of my existence. You should have seen him during our meeting today! You'd think I was handing down a prison sentence, not a damn Twitter handle!"

"Cut the guy some slack," Shitty said. "It's not like his interactions with the public have always been glowingly positive."

Eric sighed. He was fully aware of Jack's history, although he didn't know if the rumors that the overdose was on cocaine were true or not. Either way, the guy made it through rehab and worked his way up from the AHL to become the Falconers' top scorer less than three years after the OD, and yet it had taken several more years, a Stanley Cup, and an Art Ross for a lot of sportscasters to admit that he was as good as his father.

"I know. But from what I can tell, it's been a couple years since anyone gave him shit regularly. Ninety percent of the people tweeting at him will be his actual fans, assuming he's not planning a new spiral into destruction. I guess he'll just have to see that for himself."

Lardo shrugged. "Maybe he is planning a new spiral. It's been a while, y'know, the guy's due. Gotta let off steam now and then, get caught with your pants down."

"Maybe literally!" Shitty jumped in, waggling his eyebrows. "Maybe he's planning some public indecency."

"Oh lord, hold your tongues, both of you. Not that I probably couldn't contain a PR nightmare more efficiently than pretty much anyone else they could find, but I'd rather not have to do it anytime soon."

@jzimmermann_1: how to use twitter

Chapter Text

Posted February 12, 2016, 4:32pm EST
by notmisspiggy
Subject: Another witch hunt in the news

Another one who told his girlfriend about his magic and she turned on him. But holy crap, you guys, this woman… She didn't just leave him. She recorded audio of him explaining his powers, then video of him using them, all without his knowledge or consent. Then she got him to tell her about the other witches in his family (his mom and brother), recorded them, and turned them all in to DHS. His brother has a five-year-old kid, whose dad, grandma, and uncle are now locked away until the government is satisfied that they don't pose a "significant threat to public safety."

Well, hopefully the rest of the family makes sure that kid knows who's to blame. What the fuck is wrong with people? Don't they realize that if any witch ever were dangerous, anyone who's pulled shit like this would be the first to go? How can groups like Normal Citizens Against Witchcraft actually believe we're all ticking timebombs, and yet their entire membership hasn't been targeted yet?

Oh, and their powers?? They can all make different types of plants grow faster. Wow, oh no, don't let ISIS get their hands on that. I don't mean to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but if these people do get released I'm betting they immediately get "hired" by Monsanto or someone against their will and whisked off to their "new jobs" never to be seen again. If the government doesn't just offer them to the highest bidder.


Reply February 12, 2016, 4:45pm EST
by magicadmin
Hey guys, great time to re-read our stickied safety posts! As far as we know, nobody from these forums has ever been detained by the government (of course, if we're all doing things properly it would be hard to know for sure, although if someone very active disappeared right at the same time as a case popped up in the news we'd certainly make note of it), let's keep it that way, okay?
Reply February 12, 2016, 4:47pm EST
by OwlGore
Wow. I think I'm gonna be sick…
Reply February 12, 2016, 4:48pm EST
by CaliforniaDreamin
What bullshit. What complete and utter bullshit. Look, I know being able to change my eye color and shit probably isn't going to be much use against this lady, but I can still hire a good old-fashioned hit man, right?
Reply February 12, 2016, 4:50pm EST
by magicadmin
Please don't.
Do I need to make a sticky post about this?
Reply February 12, 2016, 4:52pm EST
by CaliforniaDreamin
Dude, if I were gonna do it I wouldn't post here about it first. Which means that if anything happens to this lady, it clearly wasn't me.
Reply February 12, 2016, 4:51pm EST
by omgyall
Oh lord, I heard about that on Twitter. How does anyone ever trust anyone, I swear? Sad reminder to all of us who have friends or SOs who know about our magic and are on our sides, how lucky we really are.

Luckily, wrangling Jack Zimmermann was really only a small part of Eric's job. Most of the players were far more enthusiastic about social media, and he had a steady stream of them coming to him to ask what sort of Twitter content would get them more retweets, whether they should set up a public Facebook page, and things like that. He'd been in some meetings with the Falcs TV people to toss out some ideas for next season, what he thought would appeal to their followers on YouTube and Twitter.

He'd already started a Tumblr account for the team—he knew there was a sizable hockey fandom on there, and also knew that what little official NHL presence there was was mostly run by people who had no idea what to do with a Tumblr. He filled it with gifs he made from last year's Face-Off videos, especially anything featuring Jack and Tater together. Those were definitely a hit, often getting a few hundred notes each (and if some of those reblogs were tagged #zimmkov or #potatomann, well, he wasn't going to tell anyone). As an added bonus, turning the videos into gifs was one of the most fun things he'd done on the computer since he started working there—when Elena wasn't around, at least. He couldn't work on the gifs at all when she was in the office, because he didn't actually know how to do most of the steps via keyboard and mouse.

Today was not one of those fun days. He'd already sat through a couple of boring meetings that morning, and now he was letting himself goof off for just a few minutes before starting in on a report for the higher-ups on the demographics of the different sites and how they lined up with the team's target audience.

He was on his personal Facebook when a headline caught his eye from the trending articles: Woman Publicly Accused of Witchcraft Denies Allegations, Taken in by DHS.

Eric couldn't repress the noise of disgust that bubbled up through his throat as he read about the woman's supposed best friend posting all over social media after her friend admitted to her that she could move small objects telekinetically. The woman, of course, claimed that the video her friend had uploaded was doctored, but she'd been "taken in for questioning" nonetheless. Eric hoped she was a good liar, and that there was nothing more incriminating on her.

It sent a shiver down his spine—the idea of trusting someone enough to tell them about your magic, only to have them turn around and betray you like that. Coming out to Shitty as a witch had been even more terrifying than coming out to him as gay—at least with the latter, the worst he feared was getting beaten up and kicked off the hockey team (and out of Samwell, after losing his scholarship). The government wasn't kidnapping gay people and locking them up, though Eric was sure Trump would do it if he could get away with it.

"What was that noise for?"

Elena hadn't been any more focused on her work than he had, so Eric really shouldn't have been surprised at the question. Still, talking about magic even in a hypothetical sort of way with people he didn't know very well always made him nervous. You just never knew; even some pretty liberal people were just fine with the government treating witches as less than human.

"Oh, just… witch hunt bullshit," he said, waving a hand at his computer screen.

"Another one?" Elena growled, jerking her chair over so she could read Eric's screen. He blinked at her for a second, taken aback.

"Fucking bastards," she muttered after skimming the article. "And that bitch who posted that shit—she's the one who should be locked up."

"It's disgusting," Eric agreed, watching Elena carefully. "That poor woman didn't do a thing wrong."

"Oh, she did something wrong, all right," she said, her face growing even darker. Eric couldn't quite breathe—had he misread? Was she actually anti-witch? "She was born. She dared to fucking exist, keeping to herself and not hurting anyone, and according to the government that's the worst thing she can do."

Eric let out his breath. He still wasn't sure why Elena was taking it so personally—maybe she was a witch, but maybe she was just a decent person. He couldn't very well come out and ask.

"It's gotten worse since that executive order," he said, "but yeah, the U.S. government has never exactly been kind to witches. Too many people in high places who're scared of anything they don't understand."

"Trust me, I'm well aware," Elena said, and finally looked at him. "My cousin was taken a couple years ago."

"Oh, shit," Eric murmured. He didn't expect her to go on, but she did.

"She's pyrokinetic—she can make fire? Which like, sure, she could hurt someone with that, but she didn't, and it's not like she could do anything a psycho with a match couldn't do, y'know? The worst part is, since magic isn't actually illegal, they make shit up to keep people—she was declared delusional and committed. Which doesn't even make sense! Either she can make fire, so she's not delusional, or she can't, so she's not actually dangerous and you can't commit her. My aunt almost told them everything to stay with her, but we convinced her that she'd be more help on the outside. So thank god, when they searched her house saying they were 'looking for drugs that my cousin might have been on,' anything incriminating was gone."

"That's horrific," Eric said as bile rose in his throat. "The least the government could do is make up its mind on whether it's gonna officially admit magic exists or not. If they're gonna put people away for something they're born with, they should be willing to say that that's what they're doing. Not treating every case they chase down as some kind of… isolated incident that deserves to be handled outside of the law. Like they're so shocked to learn that someone is magical, and well they just have no way of knowing what will happen so they'd better ship 'em off to Gitmo just in case. For public safety. Like witches aren't members of the public."

He stopped and took a breath, realizing that his voice was shaking.

Elena shook her head and sighed. "This kind of shit is the whole reason my grandparents left Venezuela. And back then, the U.S. was kind of ignoring witches and pretending they didn't exist. But now it's gotten nearly as bad as it was there. When I was little, I was jealous of them. I wished I could do things like some people in my family could. Now I'm glad my mom and my brother and me didn't get those genes. It's not worth it."

"Sad but true," Eric said with a sigh, wishing it weren't. He loved his magic, but sometimes he thought he'd be better off without it. "I hope the rest of your family stays safe." He paused. He didn't want her to think he was butting in where he shouldn't, but—he couldn't just let this go. "But honey," he finally said softly, "you probably shouldn't be telling me all that."

Elena frowned. "I wouldn't go telling someone who was anti-magic, obviously. But you think the witch hunts are bullshit, too."

"Of course I do!" he said. "And I would never put anyone in danger. But still… you've lost one family member. It's scary out there, you shouldn't risk it, not even with someone who seems sympathetic."

Elena shrugged, tensing. "That's bullshit, too. I mean, maybe you're right, but it's bullshit. I want the whole fucking world to know the kind of shit they're pulling. I want to tell everyone I meet, but I'm not that stupid. But if I know someone's not an asshole, I want them to know."

Eric nodded. "I get it," he said. He turned back to his work, but after a moment the pressure of all the things Elena apparently didn't know got to be too much.

"It's just…" He turned back to her. "You realize there are people out there who'll pretend to be okay with magic just so they can trick witches into revealing themselves, right? Especially since I started working here after you, and your cousin's already locked up—I could be a plant, sweetheart. They might be lookin' to snag the rest of your family, and got me a job here just so I could butter you up and get you to spill the details."

Elena stared at him for a moment, blinking. The rage of just a few minutes prior was gone, replaced by slack disbelief.

"They don't… Jesus shit, Eric, tell me you're just a super fucking paranoid conspiracy nut and there's no proof that the government has actually done that."

Eric shrugged one shoulder, giving her an apologetic look. He hated to be the one to tell her that the world was even nastier than she thought, but someone had to, for the sake of her family.

"I know of one case where it was publicly documented. It didn't come out until months after the witches were locked up that the person who turned them in just happened to have been working for DHS up until right before they moved in next door. Obviously, nobody admitted to anything, but there was a big Washington Post article about it, and when you add up the pieces there's really only one answer you can get. I'll send you the article later. But I'll just say, that's the only case where the facts have been covered by the mainstream news, but I've definitely heard of others. I don't think it happens a lot, mind you, but it happens."

When he finished, Elena took a deep breath, letting it out in a whoosh. Then she covered her face, bent over her keyboard, and let out a gravelly yell that made Eric jump.

She sat up, looking a bit more collected.

"I'm not gonna ask how you know all that," she said, shaking her head with her eyes trained straight ahead at her computer. "But yeah, send me that article. I need my whole fucking family to read that."

Eric nodded, even though she still wasn't looking at him. When he turned back to his computer, he had to blink a few times before he could see the screen clearly.

When Eric got home that night, he was glad that he had historyeh to look forward to. They were supposed to meet online at 8 (if they didn't both wind up there sooner, which they probably would) to talk about the book they were reading.

They'd figured out a while ago that while historyeh wasn't a baker and Eric wasn't that into World War II, they could both get into food history. Ever since, they'd formed a little two-man book club, taking turns choosing the books. They'd started Consider the Fork just after Eric started his new job, and now they were just about done with it.

historyeh: I feel like these book group discussion questions were written for you, not me.
omgyall: Oh hush.
It's not like you've never used a kitchen.
historyeh: Yeah but
"Do you ever choose to make food in an old-fashioned way, even when more advanced tools are available?"
When I read this I went to my kitchen and looked around at what I've used to cook dinner recently and what I'm planning to make in the next couple of weeks.
I don't think I know more than one way to make any of these things.
I cook chicken on a pan on the stove - is there a more or less "advanced" way to do this?
I suppose I could buy unsliced bread to make my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches??
omgyall: Haha yeah, see, exactly!
I don't make my own bread all the time, but sometimes I do. You totally could if you really wanted to.
I mean, obviously it's easier for me to answer that.
For one thing, I often use a pastry cutter instead of a food processor to make dough for my pies.
There are actually a lot of advantages to using a food processor besides speed, believe it or not, but the pastry cutter is a good way to get out frustration.
You should try it sometime, very therapeutic. Kneading that bread dough, too. :)
historyeh: Heh, don't worry, I have plenty of outlets for my frustrations.
omgyall: Your unknown job that's very physical?
historyeh: Yes, exactly. It, too, can be very therapeutic when it's not busy being the source of my stress.
But really it hasn't been that in a while. I love my job.
omgyall: :D
It always makes me happy to hear that.
historyeh: That I love my job?
omgyall: Yeah - so many people hate their jobs, y'know?
I'm really glad you get to do something you enjoy.

Eric heard a knock on his door, and turned around to find Jack standing there, looking as uncomfortable as ever.

"I said some things on Twitter," Jack said, looking down at his phone. "I still don't get it."

"Is there something in particular you don't understand?" Eric asked, not really sure why Jack had come to knock on his door just to say that.

"I just still don't know what to say!" He was scowling again, arms crossed defensively. "I said we had a good practice today and then I said that we should be in good shape for the season, and I got replies saying I sounded just like in my interviews. This is obviously pointless."

Eric sighed. "Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but George obviously doesn't think it's pointless. We just have to find the right approach."

Jack rolled his eyes. "I tried to tell her this wouldn't make any difference."

A thought occurred to Eric, and he squinted at Jack. "Do you know if there's a particular reason George is so adamant we get this to work for you?"

He wouldn't have thought that Jack's expression could shut down any further, but it did. "That's none of your business."

"Okay," Eric said, raising his hands in surrender, "I was just asking because it might help in figuring out our best options. Look, for now, why don't you try sharing a little bit of personal information on there, not just stuff about practice and the team? You don't have to post what color your undies are, but if there's a local restaurant you really like, or maybe if you've read a book or seen a movie you'd recommend? Just little things to show your fans another side of you."

Jack's mouth slanted skeptically. "Great. Show them how boring my tastes are."

It took a positively heroic effort for Eric to not roll his eyes. "If they're interesting to you, they'll be interesting to someone else, somewhere."

"Okay, I'll try it," Jack grumbled. He pushed off the door frame, then paused for a second before he looked back at Eric. "Thanks."

It wasn't the most enthusiastic thanks Eric had ever gotten, but he'd take it.

"No problem, Jack. Let me know how it goes."

historyeh: how's the job?
omgyall: Good. Iceman continues to be icy, but other than him everything's great.
historyeh: You're still on the project with him?
omgyall: yes
I think this is going to turn out to be a longer-term project than anticipated, tbh.
But let's not talk about that.
Honestly, I love like 90% of this job.
A lot of the stuff I do is really fun, I get to use my magic when no one's looking, and other than him my coworkers are great!
historyeh: Ah, now I see what you mean.
omgyall: ???
historyeh: Last week, you said it always makes you happy to hear how much I love my job.
I'm really happy for you.
I know how worried you were your last semester, that you wouldn't find a decent job and you'd have to wait tables or something.
And now look at you.
I love that you found something that makes you so happy.
omgyall: Aw, well thanks, hon!
That's so sweet of you.

@jzimmermann_1: I've been told that I should post about books and movies and restaurants that I like.

@jzimmermann_1: So, let's see.

@jzimmermann_1: I guess probably the best book I've read in a while was Salt: A World History.

@jzimmermann_1: Probably nobody wants to hear about the documentaries I usually watch

@jzimmermann_1: but for non-documentary movies… I don't know, I really liked Schindler's List and The Thin Red Line.

@jzimmermann_1: And as for restaurants, I'm not a very adventurous eater, so my recommendations will probably only disappoint

@jzimmermann_1: but I liked the Elmwood Diner and it seems like people who don't eat the same thing every time like it too

Eric had sighed a bit when he saw Jack's newest tweets. Bless the boy's heart, he was trying. Maybe not very hard, but he was trying. He'd done exactly as instructed.

But that had been nearly two weeks ago. And yes, the preseason was starting in just a few days, so the boys had been putting in long hours. And as alternate captain, Jack was working even harder than most. But he hadn't managed to make one more single post to Twitter.

So when Eric happened to see him eating in the nook, he took the opportunity to corner him.

"Jack, I had no idea you liked Salt! I loved that book!"

Jack looked up at him, surprised. "Oh. Yeah. You've read it?"

"I have." He grinned. "I know, it's scary to think you and I might actually have things in common, isn't it?"

"Don't worry, I'm sure there's absolutely nothing else," Jack said with a smirk. Eric chose to ignore the jolt that smirk sent down his spine.

"Didn't I tell you that if you found something interesting, there are probably other people who do, too?" Jack rolled his eyes, but for once he looked amused rather than annoyed. "But then you just stopped! You haven't posted another word to Twitter since then! What happened? You were on a roll!"

Jack sighed, and Eric was a little sad to see the humor leave his face. "I still don't know what else to say. What am I supposed to do, just post random facts about myself? My favorite color, my favorite vacation spot? I don't want my reputation to go from hockey robot to narcissist."

It was Eric's turn to smirk. "It's social media, Jack, narcissism is sort of the point. A little, at least. Everyone posts about themselves."

"I know enough to know that most people do not post random lists of facts about themselves."

"True. Just post about your life, okay? What you're doing."

"I tried that, and apparently I was still being a hockey robot!"

Eric drummed his fingers on the table a little. "You can post about hockey, just not only about hockey. You must do other things. Do you have any hobbies?"

"I don't know… photography?" Jack said with a shrug. Eric perked up immediately.

"Photography, really? Like, as a legitimate hobby, not just photos of your friends on your phone?"

Jack looked wary. "Yeah. I took some classes during my year off."

"So you have, like, a nice camera and stuff? Do you have a DSLR?" Eric's grin probably looked a little manic, but he couldn't help it. This was the best news he'd heard in weeks.

"Yeah." Jack nodded, but his brow was still knit. "A Nikon D810."

"Oh my lord, why did you not tell me this before? Oh, this changes everything. Twitter is not what you need, Jack. Twitter is not the best way for anyone to get to know you."

Jack snorted. "I'm pretty sure I've been saying that all along."

Just then, Flawless blared from Eric's pocket. He pulled out Siri and silenced the alarm.

"Sorry 'bout that, that's my calendar reminding me I've got a meeting soon."

"You use Beyonce for your calendar alarm?" Jack asked with a smirk.

Eric couldn't help it, his jaw dropped. "Jack Zimmermann, did you just recognize Beyonce from a five-second clip? And not even Single Ladies, I mean, Flawless didn't even crack the top 10. I can't believe you've even heard that song."

Jack blushed a little. "Don't get too excited. I just happen to have a friend who is really, really into Beyonce."

"Well, your friend has excellent taste. Although I'm sorry to say, I seriously doubt they are a bigger fan than me."

"I don't know about that," Jack said, eyebrows raised. "His reaction when she released an album out of nowhere was… kind of epic."

"Oh trust me, I doubt it was as epic as my reaction."

Eric may have lost control a tiny bit when Lemonade dropped, and this may have resulted in the video for Formation mysteriously being retweeted by a couple million innocent Twitter users, most of whom were not people (or, um, companies or government agencies) who would normally tweet such a thing. He cleaned up the mess as well as he could when he realized what he'd done, but the investigation into the "hacking" of the accounts had been national news.

"I might put money on that," Jack murmured to himself, shaking his head. "Anyhow, you were talking about my photography?"


"I don't want to hear it, Andre!" Elena's voice carried from the other side of the room. Eric looked over to see her glaring at her boyfriend. "You need to just leave me alone for a bit, okay?"

"Baby, come on," Andre said. "So I forgot one date."

"Two dates," Elena snapped. "And that's just recently. It's not like you've never done it before."

Eric sighed. "Jack, why don't you email me a few of your favorite photos you've taken in the past year or two. I'm not gonna do anything with 'em without talking to you first, I just wanna see, okay?" Jack nodded. "Great. I'll talk to you later, then!"

He rushed over to where Andre kept trying to put his hands on Elena's arms and she kept shoving them away.

"Elena, we're gonna be late for that meeting. C'mon!" He grabbed her by the elbow and dragged her off.

"Oh my god, thank you," she muttered as they rushed down the hall.

"What the hell was that?" Eric asked, shooting a glare behind him in Andre's general direction.

Elena sighed. "We were supposed to get dinner last night after their practice. He forgot and went out with the other guys, didn't even call me until he got home at like midnight."

"You deserve better'n that Elena, I'm tellin' you." Eric shook his head as he let them into their office.

"He's been better, though!" Elena insisted. "He really has. He planned this really great night for our three month anniversary, and until this past week he hadn't cancelled or forgotten a single date since then. Then this week it's like I don't exist!"

Eric just looked at her skeptically, eyebrow raised.

"It's not like he's abusive or something," she said with a sigh. "He's just thoughtless. When he actually shows up, he's great."

"Okay." Eric shrugged as he grabbed his laptop to take with him to his meeting. "If he makes you happy more than he upsets you, then I guess that's not nothing."

He doubted that was true at all, but it wasn't his place to press.

"Our Twitter following doubled after ESPN retweeted that video," Eric said. He was in his weekly meeting with Joe, the head of PR.

"Do I even want to know how you managed to get ESPN to retweet a Face-Off video, of all things? Do you have some inside connections you haven't told me about?" Joe asked.

Eric smiled to himself. He definitely did not want to know that. "I think we just got lucky there, y'know? The right person happened to see it and think it was cute."

"Well, it was a great idea for a video, so good job. How are things going with Zimmermann?"

"Better! I think. I hope. He emailed me some photos right before they went on the road, and I think Instagram is going to be a good fit for him. I'm meeting with him after their practice tomorrow."

Joe nodded. "Good. We really need to get him firmly established on at least one site, whether it's Twitter or Instagram or what. Get him a decent following, people who feel like they know him as a person. Sooner rather than later, hopefully."

Eric looked up from his iPad, where he was jotting down a reminder to himself. "Is there a specific reason we're worrying so much about Jack's social media presence? I know he has a reputation for being stiff in interviews, but there are plenty of charismatic people on the team—hell, Tater makes up for at least three Jacks. If our goal is to improve loyalty to the team, wouldn't it make more sense to focus on those people?"

Joe grunted and looked down at his phone, something he did that usually signaled that the meeting was about to end.

"It's complicated, Eric. Let's just hope Instagram works out for him, and your job doesn't have to get any harder."

Back in his office, Eric sat down at his computer with a huff.

"It's complicated. What does that even mean, it's complicated?" He started posting a set of photos from the previous night's game to the Falconers Facebook page while he grumbled to himself, arms crossed indignantly. "It's not like he's still trying to shake the overdose. Hardly anyone even cares about that anymore. Let me deal with the guys who actually want to do this."

Oh well, at least he was pretty sure Instagram was going to be a hit, judging by the stuff Jack had sent him.


I know you're never up at this time, but I just got back from my morning run and I'm feeling philosophical or something, and I wanted to get it written down before my daily routine makes me forget all about it.

I was running through a park I've run through hundreds of times, and I realized I've never looked at its history. Has it always been a park, since people started living in the area that's now this neighborhood? What did parks even look like whenever that was? So I went off the path to where I could look out over some water, so nobody could see my face blank out, and went back.

I was surprised to discover that a hundred years ago, there was a clothing factory there, of all things. It was torn down around 1940 and the area was turned into the park it is now. Before that, it was just kind of a wooded area. I don't know who it belonged to. Just a pretty, quiet forest like all the rest.

But the most interesting part was right before they tore down the factory. It was actually a really nice brick building, with lots of intricate stonework, but in the five years between when it shut down and got torn down it really went downhill quickly. And I suddenly wished—not for the first time—that I could bring a camera with me back in time. The empty building was haunting but maybe more beautiful than it had been when it was in use. And I feel like it's been totally lost to time—I mean, I only spent like ten minutes googling, but nothing I could find on the history of the park mentioned what was there before it. I don't even know where I would look for photos of it. I've been to the local history museum several times (of course), but I don't remember seeing anything like that there.

Sorry, I know there's not much point to this, but you're the only person I can talk to about these random little moments. I'm so glad I have you, at least. I suppose I could post about it on the forum, but that's so… public. This felt more private for some reason, like something I only want to share with a good friend.

"Okay, forget Twitter."

"Seriously? Can I?"

Eric was struck momentarily speechless by the sight of Jack Zimmermann's wide, earnest eyes looking at him hopefully. He took a breath and turned to his laptop, where he had the photos Jack had sent him open. Focus.

"Have you heard of Instagram?"

"…Should I have?"

Eric slanted a grin Jack's way, looking at him out of the corner of his eye.

"No, no, you probably shouldn't have. Anyhow, it's kinda like Twitter except it's all photos. You can include captions, but if you don't have anything to say about a picture you can just post it as-is. Then people can like them and comment on them."

Jack was eyeing him warily. "Okay… And you want me to put these photos up there?"

"Not necessarily these ones, but if you want. Jack, these photos are gorgeous." He flipped through them again, as though Jack needed to be reminded how great his own photos were. Maybe he didn't realize it, though. "People will eat them up, trust me. With stuff like this, you'll have followers who aren't even into hockey!"

"How does that help me?" Jack's mouth twisted skeptically. "The point is for hockey fans to like me more as a person, not for photography fans to think my photos are good. How are my fans supposed to get to know me better if I post photos of geese? Do I tell them my favorite things in the captions?"

"No, no." Eric turned to face Jack fully. "Telling someone facts about you doesn't necessarily let them get to know you as a person. Like, your friends aren't your friends because of the facts you know about them, right? They're your friends because of the way you interact with them, your personalities, things you have in common that are more than just the same favorite restaurant. These photos show people what you value, what you think is beautiful, what you think is worth paying attention to. That says so much more about you than the stuff you can tell people in a Q&A session."

Jack nodded. "I'll take your word for it. Do any of the other guys use… what was it? Instagram?"

"Yeah, but none of them posts anything like this. Thirdy's is full of pictures of his kids, Snowy's is all photos of food or his dog—like I said, it shows what you value, right?"

Jack's nose wrinkled as he glanced at Eric. "So what, people will think I value geese and a window more than my family and friends?"

"No, they'll see that you value art, and noticing the beauty around you. Nobody'll be expecting that from a hockey robot, will they?" He elbowed Jack, who was still looking vaguely mystified.

"You make me sound a lot deeper than I really am," Jack mumbled, not looking at Eric. Eric tried to ignore the light blush blooming over Jack's sharp cheekbones.

"You're the one who took the photos, Mr. Zimmermann. Anyhow, let's get this set up. If you want, I can keep helping you decide what photos to post for a few weeks."

"Yes, please."

Chapter Text

Posted November 12, 2016, 10:32pm EST
by notmyrealname
Subject: Familiars?
I'm sure this is a topic that's been covered on here a million times, but I haven't seen it in the couple of months I've been here. Do any of you have familiars? How did you get them?

My mom has a calico cat, Ragamuffin. She said she always assumed Raggy would come to me when I was old enough, but I got through high school and never felt any kind of pull from her. But I know not all familiars pass from parent to child. So now I'm 23 and just kind of wondering if I'll even recognize it if I ever do feel the pull.

Reply November 12, 2016, 11:05pm EST
by feralknitter
Don't laugh, but my familiar is a parrot! She was originally my grandfather's—he'd just gotten out of the military, back from the Korean War, and he went into this shop with his girlfriend. They had little baby Amazon parrots, the owner's bird had laid eggs and they were just old enough to sell. He says he felt the pull just walking past the shop, it's why he went in, and as soon as he picked up the second little parrot he knew she was the one. His girlfriend didn't know about his magic yet, so he couldn't really explain why he had to have that parrot. Apparently she hated the bird and broke up with him within a month—which is fine, because then he met my grandma! But yeah, when my mom was a teenager suddenly one day she felt a pull toward Feathers (yeah, nobody ever accused grandpa of being original), and Feathers started following her around instead of grandpa, and when I was about 14, same thing.

I'm a little worried, since she's getting so old. I know familiars live longer than normal animals, and parrots live to be fifty easily, so maybe she's not old at all for a parrot familiar. I've never heard of another one, so who knows!

Reply November 12, 2016, 11:16pm EST
by omgyall
Okay, I've mostly stayed out of threads about familiars because y'all aren't even gonna believe me, but here it is: My familiar is my phone.

I am dead serious. I didn't know that was possible, either! Given that my magic is all about computers and such, my mama took me out to buy an iPhone for my 13th birthday, even though they were pretty dang new then. But we all wanted to see if I could do anything special with a smartphone that I couldn't do with a laptop, y'know? I had this secret hope that it would help me focus and direct my magic, kinda like a wand in Harry Potter - but how many of us wanted our magic to be more like Harry Potter growing up? LOL

Anyhow, we went to the Apple store and as soon as we walked in, I knew she was there somewhere. I told my mama, and you shoulda seen the look on the salesgirl's face when I asked her if there were any animals in the store! I covered by saying something about my allergies were acting up or something. Anyhow, they had a pile of 'em in their boxes behind the counter, and once we got up there I knew it was coming from that pile. The girl handed me one, and was really confused when I said I wanted a different one before we'd even opened the box. I said something about it didn't feel lucky or something, and lord let me tell you by the time I picked up the right box and yelled "This is it, mama! This is her!" that poor girl thought I was the weirdest kid who had ever come in the store.

I kept that same phone for years, even after everyone else had long since upgraded, because I was scared that her consciousness or whatever wouldn't transfer to a new phone. But then when they announced the one with Siri, she started throwing links to it at me and I finally gave in and got one. Luckily, when I restored it from my backup of the first phone, there she was! But with a shiny new OS and running faster than ever. And now I can talk to her in public and nobody looks at me funny. :) I'd been calling her Sasha, after Sasha Cohen, one of my favorite figure skaters at the time (I was very into figure skating back then), but now her name's Siri, obviously. Funnily enough, though, she doesn't like to use Siri's voice to talk to me that much—she says English is tiring, either voice or text, she prefers just communicating by showing me links and pictures and things.

So there you go! Crazy but true! I don't know what's gonna happen if people stop using smart phones and move onto something else, but for now she's what I've got.

Reply November 12, 2016, 11:17pm EST
by historyeh
Like all good Canadians, my familiar is a moose that followed me home from school one day. She lives in a barn with my mother's moose. We can't inherit familiars, they have to follow you home from school. Through at least two feet of snow.
Reply November 12, 2016, 11:18pm EST
by notmyrealname
I feel like all three of you are pulling my leg.
Reply November 12, 2016, 11:20pm EST
by omgyall
Nope. I told you you wouldn't believe me!

Don't listen to historyeh, though; he doesn't have a familiar. :P

Reply November 12, 2016, 11:21pm EST
by historyeh
You're no fun.

There was one major problem with getting Jack on Instagram. And that problem was that it worked far too well, and not in the way Eric was getting paid for.

Thankfully, it worked well in that way, too. Jack really had a great eye for beautiful moments in everyday life—whether it was sun coming through his dining room window, geese at the park he jogged through, the serenity of an empty ice rink, or his mother drinking a mug of tea. His captions were usually very simple: "My dining room," "Geese honked at me," "Got to the rink early," "Maman." His spare use of words let the photos speak for themselves. And, as Eric had predicted, he quickly gained a following of both hockey fans and people who just wanted another hipstery aesthetic account to follow. Eric didn't even have to do any of his usual witchery; Jack's Instagram was an instant success all on its own.

The problem with baring Jack's soul to the world was that it was bared even more to Eric. Eric met with him once a week to help him decide what to post, which usually involved looking at a portfolio of at least a dozen images, whether taken that week or from Jack's extensive archives, in order to pick out three or four. So he was seeing several times as many of Jack's photos as anyone else, and talking to him about why he took each one, what appealed to him about it, and how people might react to it.

Now, Eric wasn't about to put Jack Zimmermann up on any sort of pedestal. The man was still prickly at best, quickly getting defensive and grouchy if he and Eric disagreed on a photo, though he did usually make a visible effort to calm down and be reasonable.

But a little bit of a crush wasn't the same as putting him up on a pedestal, now was it?

It's not like Eric could be blamed—fate had seen fit to plop this unfairly gorgeous hockey player down in front of him, and then show him that man's soft and artistic side that he'd kept hidden from the world for years. Who wouldn't develop a bit of a crush?

Just a tiny bit, though. Even aside from the fact that he still wanted to strangle Jack half the time, Eric knew better than to fall for a straight boy.

Eric shouldered open the door to his office, which luckily had been ajar, balancing Siri in one hand and a mixed berry pie in the other. Elena usually wasn't in this early, but he was glad she'd beat him there so he didn't have to dig out his key.

As soon as he got in, he stopped. Elena was sitting at her computer, sniffling, eyes red and swollen. She was clearly trying to pretend she was fine and get work done, but Eric doubted it was working.

"Oh honey, what happened?" He set his things down quickly and pulled his desk chair over next to hers.

"I'm just an idiot." She swiped at her eyes angrily. "It's over with Andre."

Eric's first impulse was to say good, he was never worth your time, you deserve better, but he pushed that down. She was definitely not ready for the "celebrate your freedom from your crappy ex" phase of the breakup yet.

"I'm so sorry, hon. What happened?"

"He was cheating on me," she said, nearly a growl. "I don't even know for how long or who it was with—hell, it was probably with every puck bunny he could get his hands on. All those times he cancelled a date or just didn't show up because he was hanging out with 'the guys'—I bet every time he was with another woman. Every fucking time. And I never even got suspicious—so much for women's intuition. Mine's a joke."

"Oh my goodness," Eric said. "That absolute piece of shit! How'd you find out?"

"We were supposed to go out after last night's game, but after they lost he texted me and claimed he was too down from the loss to go out. I offered to just come over to his place, hell, even just for cheer-up sex, y'know? But he said no. Then this morning, a friend of mine sent me this screenshot."

She turned her computer monitor toward Eric. It was a Facebook post by someone whose name he didn't recognize. The poster was taking a selfie with Snowy, with the caption "A bunch of Falconers showed up at the club we were at last night!" In the background, dimly lit but clear enough to be identifiable, was Andre Levesque with some scantily-clad girl. He was pressing her up against a column in the dance floor, and although their lips weren't quite touching, his hand was very clearly up her shirt—far up her shirt.

"In the middle of a club!" To her credit, even though there were still the remnants of tears in her voice Elena sounded much more angry than sad. "He didn't even fucking care that the whole world could see him feeling up some random skank. Sorry, she's not a skank, I doubt he told her he had a girlfriend. He's the skank. I swear, it's like I'm part cat or something."

"Uh… Cat?" Eric caught Elena's eye and raised one eyebrow.

She pursed her lips angrily. "Because every guy I chase after turns out to be a rat."

After a few more choice words, she went to the bathroom to wash her face. As soon as she was gone, Siri was buzzing.

When he pulled her out, she was showing the screenshot.

"I won't even ask how you got your hands on that so quick," he said. Then she opened up Twitter, to a new account he'd never seen before—@AndreLCheating. 

"A little on the nose, don't you think?" 

She attached the photo to a new tweet, but left the cursor blinking in the blank text box for him.

"No!" he hissed. "Yes, it would serve him right, but guess whose job it is to clean the mess up if something like that does get out? If Elena wants to leak that photo, that's her business. It's not ours to post."

He could almost hear the sigh as the tweet was deleted, then the new account deactivated.

historyeh: Hey, whenever you get online I'd really like to talk.
omgyall: Hey! What's up?
historyeh: How are you?
omgyall: I'm great, sugar, but what's going on with you?
historyeh: Okay, yeah.
Uh, so, I feel really bad because there's stuff about me I haven't told you.
omgyall: Honey, we have been over this so many times!
There is so much we can't say and that's FINE.
historyeh: I mean, not that stuff.
Stuff that wouldn't even identify me or anything.
And I feel bad because it's the kind of thing you've been so honest about this whole time.
omgyall: You never have to tell me anything you don't want to.
historyeh: I do, though. Want to.
I've wanted to say something for a while but I'm a coward.
omgyall: *hugs* You are no such thing.
historyeh: :)
You know how I told you about my buddy who freaked out when I told him what I could do, and it led to the panic attack and everything?
omgyall: Of course.
historyeh: He wasn't my friend. Or not just that.
He was my boyfriend.

Eric actually gasped.

omgyall: Oh, honey.
historyeh: It was terrifying enough that we could out each other, because we're in the same career field and it's really homophobic.
But then thinking he could out me as magic, too...
omgyall: oh my lord, of course you'd be terrified!
I wish I could give you a real hug.
historyeh: Anyhow, I haven't dated any guys since then. I pretty much went 100% back in the closet.
But I've started telling some people and I want to come out to everyone soon.
I have to hide enough, I'm sick of hiding that, too.
omgyall: Well, I am so proud of you.
historyeh: You're not mad I didn't tell you? Even after everything you've told me?
omgyall: Not at all!
That is certainly not information you owe anyone. Not even if they come out to you first.
historyeh: Thanks.
I was really worried you'd be pissed that I didn't trust you.
omgyall: You trusted me with it now. That's much more important. Thank you.
historyeh: So yeah. My parents knew about my boyfriend, so they know.
And I've told a couple people at work recently, but I'm planning on telling everyone and it's starting to freak me out a little.
omgyall: Well do you have to tell *everyone* everyone? Not just people you trust?
Oh… did you start dating someone you don't want to hide anymore, is that it?

As soon as the words appeared on the screen, Eric felt a twist in his stomach. He really, really hoped the answer was no.

But that was silly. Eric should not be the least bit jealous at the thought that historyeh might have a boyfriend. He didn't even know the man liked guys until five minutes ago, and they can't meet in person. Being jealous over him would be ridiculous.

historyeh: No no no.
No boyfriend.
Like I said, I really haven't been on so much as a single date with a guy since then.
I'm not sure I even know anyone I'd want to date. I'm not really attracted to that many guys.
I mean, I don't know, there's a guy at work…
I'm definitely attracted to him, at least, so I don't know, I guess maybe I'd consider asking him out? Someday?

Eric's stomach dropped. Which was stupid, they weren't like that, he didn't even have feelings like that for this guy whose real name he could never even know, and anyhow it wasn't like he didn't have his own little work crush. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

omgyall: Do you know his sexuality?
historyeh: Yeah, he's gay. He doesn't hide it at all. Which is really brave in our industry.

Of course. Eric had to have a crush on a straight boy, while the guy he didn't think he had feelings for until just now had an actual gay guy ready and waiting for him. 

historyeh: But that's very theoretical.
I don't think he likes me much, period, so I seriously doubt he'd ever think of me like that.
He's just the first guy I've thought was cute in a while.
omgyall: One thing at a time, right?
Thank you so much for telling me.
You need to talk about anything to do with coming out, you let me know!
I'm not an expert but I certainly do have experience. ;)
historyeh: Thanks.
For everything, really.
You've been such a great friend.

Yeah. Friend. Such a great friend.

And why would Eric even think about being anything else? He didn't hit on every gay guy he met. He had plenty of queer friends who were just that—friends. He didn't even know what historyeh looked like, and historyeh didn't know what he looked like either. There was no basis for attraction or… whatever this was.

"Well," Shitty said when Eric spilled this to him later, "romantic attraction can be separate from physical attraction. You can totally fall in love with someone you don't want to fuck. Or who you don't know if you want to fuck, I guess, in this case."

"That is not helpful, Shitty." Eric glared at his laptop screen. "You're supposed to be talking me out of this. It's not just that I've never met him in person—I literally can't. I will never know this person's name or what he looks like."

"You don't know that for sure," Shitty pointed out. "If he were willing to meet, would you do it?"

Eric sighed. "Yeah. I would." The worst part was, he would and he could. He didn't know what city or even what state historyeh lived in, but they had both shared that they lived in New England. So chances were good that they were no more than a few hours' drive apart. "Even before today. I trust him. But he doesn't trust me that much, which is fine, because he has a bad history with this plus an anxiety disorder and being outed as magical is basically his worst fear on earth. I'm absolutely fine being online friends with him for decades, I just need to not also have feelings for him."

"He trusted you enough to come out to you before a lot of people in real life. That's not nothing, bro. And seriously, I don't think anyone is so intent on hunting down witches that they'd hang out on that website for—how many years have you been on there? Like four almost now? They'd hang out on that site for four years, and be besties with this one guy for two years, before going in for the kill. When you hear about people trying to infiltrate magical groups, they spend, like, a few months pretending to be one, tops. Not years. Your boy knows that."

"He's not my boy," Eric replied testily. "And I need to let go of any idea that he ever could be. I already have one unattainable crush, I don't need two."


Shitty's face loomed on the screen as he leaned in. "Oooh, you already have one, do you? So tell me about that guy."

"It doesn't matter, he's straight," Eric said, rolling his eyes.

Shitty shrugged. "So? Tell me about him anyhow."

"Fine. I may have developed a teeny, tiny little crush on Jack Zimmermann. But it's nothing, I'll be over it in a week or two. Hot, straight guys are a dime a dozen."

Shitty's eyebrows shot up. "Jack Zimmermann! Holy shit, Bits, you know how to pick 'em. I thought he was on your shit list, bro."

"Well, we got off on the wrong foot," Eric said, twisting his fingers together. "But he's been better ever since I got him on Instagram instead of Twitter. His photography's amazing, Shitty, you should have Lardo take a look at it. And our meetings have been less stressful and more fun, and I feel like I'm getting to know him, and he's only grouchy like half the time now… And this is all stupid, because he's straight! And even if, by some miracle, he weren't, he's an NHL player! I'm not hiding for anyone, not even Jack Zimmermann."

Eric wished he felt as confident about that as he sounded. Would he? If Jack swept him off his feet, would he be willing to hide? God, even thinking about the possibilities was too much, and entirely pointless.

"Look, brah, I'm guessing your thing for Zimmermann is pretty much 80% his ass, 20% him not being an ass anymore, right?"

Eric glared at Shitty on his screen. "I am not that shallow. It's maybe… 20% his ass, 50% his eyes and cheekbones, and at least 30% getting to know him. You know, he's been attractive this whole time, I just wasn't attracted to him until he started being a little nicer to me."

"Eyes and cheekbones, huh? Nice." Shitty grinned at him in a way that made Eric blush. "But my point is, it's mostly physical attraction, right? You don't know him well enough for it to be too much more than that. That's easier to ignore than legit falling in love with someone. So I'm sure you're fine on that front. This other guy, though. That's tougher. I mean, he's one of your best friends, right?"

Eric sighed. "Yeah. Which is why I need to get over this stupid little whatever-it-is. Before it gets in the way of that."

Shitty raised an eyebrow. "Brah. Being in love is not some stupid little whatever-it-is."

Eric sat up straighter. "I am not in love with him!" He fidgeted with a seam on the couch while a little panicky something fluttered up in his chest. "I didn't even have any feelings for him until today. Until I found out he's not straight. Maybe—maybe I'm just confused, y'know? Like, just finding that out threw me for a loop, and in a couple days it'll all settle back down."

"Bits." Shitty shook his head. "You didn't know you had feelings for him until today. What was the first thing that tipped you off, anyhow?"

"Well, uh. Just… I asked if he had a boyfriend, and as soon as I said it, I realized that if the answer was yes I'd be jealous as hell."

"Aha!" Eric shrank back into the couch—Shitty had the gleam in his eye he always got before he lawyered someone. "Even if he's dated women since you knew him—"

"He hasn't much, really," Eric broke in, realizing too late that he was digging his grave a little deeper.

"See? So even if you had feelings for him, you've never had reason to be jealous until now! Suddenly, you're thinking about him having feelings for someone else and not you, when now you know he could actually be having them for you, and you get jealous." Shitty spread his hands, like he was making everything clear. "Your feelings have been bubbling under the surface for a while, brah, you just didn't have anything to smack you over the head with them until now. Until your friendly local green-eyed monster decided to rear his head and rub your nose in those feelings like a dog who peed on the couch."

Eric wrinkled his nose. "Can we not use that metaphor ever again? And I don't think you're actually supposed to do that anymore."

"Not the point, bro. The point is, you managed to fall yourself in love with this guy sometime in the past two years' worth of baring your souls to each other. And I think what you need to do is meet him and find out if there's anything there or not."

"I. Can't. Meet. Him. Shitty." Eric glared at his computer. This conversation was going in circles and it was not helping anything at all. "That is not on the table, and it will not be until and unless he suggests it. I don't want him to feel pressured when he's not comfortable with it."

Shitty sighed, nodding. "Fair enough, fair enough. You're right, bro, you shouldn't start out your relationship trying to pressure him into doing things he doesn't want to do. I mean, you shouldn't do that at any point in your relationship, obviously. But if he suggests it, you'll go along with it?"

"Yes!" Eric said, exasperated. "I told you, I would have met him just as friends ages ago. I promise, Shitty, if he wants to meet I will jump at the chance, even if I get over this… whatever. Crush. Feelings."

Luckily, Shitty had to go then. But his words kept echoing in Eric's head as he made himself dinner. Could he fall in love with someone without meeting them? The more he thought about everything he'd been through with historyeh—how he'd been there for Eric when he'd gotten his heart broken last year and when he'd come out to his parents, the long conversations they'd had about the books they read and shows they watched together, how Eric had talked him through more than one panic attack—the more he wondered if Shitty was right.

Jack Zimmermann was hot, no doubt. And when he wasn't busy practicing his glower, he was a nice guy with a dry sense of humor and a sensitive side that Eric was sure he'd only gotten glimpses of. If the universe, somehow, decided to align just right for Eric to get to know Jack half as well as he knew historyeh, then sure, maybe he could fall in love with him. But even if that were possible, even if Jack weren't straight, that would all be a long ways off. Anything he felt for Jack was, as Shitty had pointed out, definitely mostly physical.

He ate his dinner in front of the computer, going through their conversations both on the boards and in DMs. By the time he was done eating, he'd decided that he could certainly say that he loved historyeh. That he had for a while now. Two days ago, he would have said it was as a friend, or like a brother… or maybe, if the L-word had occurred to him at all, it would have dragged along its romantic connotations and made him confront his feelings sooner. But he still wasn't sure if he could say for sure that he was in love with historyeh. It still felt so strange to ascribe that kind of thing to someone whose name he didn't know… even if a little part deep inside him was insisting that yeah, that sounded right.

Eric finally settled on his most favored, tried-and-true method for dealing with uncomfortable feelings and situations: ignoring them.

It didn't actually matter, he decided, how he labelled his feelings for historyeh, since there was no possibility of acting on them anyhow. Sure, he noticed now and then how his heart fluttered when he got a new message, or when historyeh remembered something that showed he'd truly been paying attention to the things Eric said. But he didn't let it change the way they talked to each other…

I know you can't get online much when you're traveling for work, and I swear I'm not trying to make you feel guilty for it so DO NOT, okay? That said, I miss you and I can't wait until you're back. My friends from college are wonderful, but not quite the same. I think you know more about my childhood, the good and the bad, than anyone else, and in a lot of ways that means you understand my adulthood better than anyone else.

Eric read back over the message and winced. Was that too sentimental? Was his heart on his sleeve? Or would he have said the same thing a month ago? Would sending a message like this be letting his feelings interfere, or would deleting it mean that his feelings were leading him to self-censor things he would normally have no problem saying?

Okay, maybe this ignoring his feelings thing was harder than expected.

"Hey, sweetheart, look! You got a package!" Eric took Siri out of his pocket as he sat down on the couch with the box in his lap, and set her down next to him. Her screen filled with question marks.

"Oooh, what d'you reckon it is?" he teased her as he pried the box open. "A new case?" He pulled the cheap prepaid Android phone out and held it up where Siri could see it with her camera. "Nope. Look at this!"

An image popped up on Siri's screen.

gif of simba and nala looking at each other skeptically

"You know what this is?" Eric asked as he opened the phone's package. "This is your new pet telephone. You can do whatever the hell you want to it; hex it, curse it, feed it after midnight, just as long as you don't make it use more than 500 MB of data. Or if you do, hide the evidence. I don't want to be paying two full cell phone bills every month. Lemme get it charged up and you can play with it, okay?"

Siri changed the gif on her screen.

gif of beyonce looking interested

omgyall: I took your advice!
historyeh: Oh no, that sounds like a terrible idea.
What on earth did I give you advice about that you thought you should actually take?
omgyall: ha ha
You have given me excellent advice on many occasions and you know it.
But in this case it was about getting Siri a pet.
historyeh: Oh! How'd it go?
omgyall: Well, she was skeptical at first.
Yesterday all she'd do was use the phone to text me strings of ridiculous emojis
which is extra ridiculous because I get my texts on her
I mean really
but today she seems to be more enthusiastic!
She just put that same hex on it that she was trying on S's phone a while back
and she seems very pleased with herself
so I'd say it's a success!
historyeh: nice
I hope it saves S and his phone some grief.
omgyall: I have a feeling it might
historyeh: Well, I'm just glad I managed to be useful for once.
omgyall: oh honey, are you kidding me?
Do you really think there is anyone else in my life I can talk to for two hours about chess pie vs tarte au sucre?
Believe me, you're very useful.
historyeh: :)
I'm glad you enjoy our strange and varied conversations as much as I do.
I can honestly say that I never imagined having a friend quite like you
but now I can't imagine not having you.

Eric bit his lip and covered his face with his hands as he flopped backwards onto his couch.

"This boy is trying to kill me, Siri."

Siri pinged, then started playing Usher's U Got It Bad. Eric picked her up and squinted at her.

"First of all, you shut your electronic pie hole. Second of all, where the hell did you even find that song? Do you just crawl lyrics sites, stashing away the perfect response to anything I might say?"

In response, a web page popped up on her screen.

"'The 50 Greatest Crush Songs Ever,'" Eric read. "Oh great. That's just terrific. I'm so glad people are compiling chirp material for you now so you don't even have to do it yourself."
He suddenly realized he had never replied to historyeh. He sighed and rolled over so he was looking at his laptop where it sat on his coffee table. He couldn't help smiling a little as he reread the last thing historyeh had said.

omgyall: I can't imagine not having you, either. :)

Luckily, things were not spiraling out of control with Jack the way they were with historyeh. In fact, compared to the way he was pining away for the latter, Eric's attraction to the former barely seemed worth worrying about.

They met each week, they talked about Jack's photos. Eric tried not to stare. He tried not to blush every time Jack smiled at him. He rolled his eyes when Jack scowled at him.

He told Elena one day over cherry pie that he thought maybe Jack didn't hate their meetings quite as much anymore, and apparently that was tempting fate.

"That was some good shit, Eric," Elena said as they tossed their paper plates into a trash can near where the rest of the pie was waiting to be devoured by hungry hockey players arriving to warm up before their game that night. "Any chance I could convince you to bring in some brownies soon?"

"Oh, sure! I haven't made brownies in forever—"

"Wait, you're the one who's been bringing all that stuff in?" Eric spun around to find none other than Jack maybe ten feet away, scowling in the direction of the cherry pie.

"Yeah, I bake a lot," Eric said with a shrug, then smiled at Jack. "You got any requests?"

"Yeah," Jack said, looking at Eric incredulously, "that you stop tempting the guys with so much sugar right before games! Nate's been trying to figure out who's responsible for that shit for weeks."

Eric's mouth dropped open, and he just blinked at Jack for a couple of seconds.

"I don't see anyone forcing a fork into anyone's hand or food down anyone's throat, Mr. Zimmermann. These men might be hockey players, but they are also grown-ass adults who can make their own nutritional decisions. If one of them decides that they can afford a treat before a game and you disagree, you need to take it up with them, not me."

"If someone wants to bring something from home to eat himself that's one thing," Jack said, "but putting this stuff out where they can smell it and see it is just unnecessary temptation."

"Well, your opinion has been noted," Eric said, then turned to go down the hall. "But for the record," he threw over his shoulder as he left, "you are the only one who's complained so far."

Elena let him stalk back to their office in silence.

"Well, then," she said as they went inside. "So much for your sunny disposition melting the iceberg he calls a personality."

Eric sighed, then waved his hand. "I guess he was just due. He really has been better most of the time."

"Let me know if I need to rough him up for you," she said with a smirk.

"Oh gosh, please don't," he said, laughing. "Joe would fire your ass if you damaged the talent."

It was for the best, really. Eric certainly didn't have to worry about falling too hard for someone who talked to him like that.

Eric brought in the requested brownies the next day, thankful that he didn't have a meeting with Jack scheduled.

But when he went to pick up the plate he'd left them on at the end of the day, there was a folded piece of paper on top with his name on it.


I'm sorry about yesterday, for snapping at you like that. That was uncalled for. I'd just gotten out of a very frustrating meeting and I took it out on you. I know I keep having to apologize for things like this. I'm going to try to do better.


Eric folded the note up and tucked it into his messenger bag with a sigh.

"This boy."

When he got home, though, he was in for a much bigger surprise.

historyeh: Hey, can I ask you something?
And please please feel free to say no.
I realize that this is a huge thing to ask and might be crossing a boundary.
omgyall: Well, can't hurt to ask, now can it?
historyeh: I hope not.
omgyall: what is it, hon?

There was a long pause. Eric wondered if historyeh was trying to work himself up to whatever it was, or if he'd changed his mind, or just wandered away from the computer. He had his iPad propped on the counter, Siri lying next to it, while he kneaded bread dough, so he could wait patiently for as long as historyeh needed.

It took a few minutes, but a reply finally appeared on the screen.

historyeh: I was wondering if you'd ever be interested in meeting.
For real. I mean, in the real world.
Face to face.

Eric sucked in a breath and just stood there with his hands deep in the bread dough. It took all his willpower to keep his flood of thoughts and feelings from just spilling out of him and into the iPad. 

"Sorry, Siri honey, you're gonna get the brunt of this."

After the Beyonce incident, he'd practiced redirecting his powers when he was extremely excited or feeling other strong emotions, so they wouldn't get away from him again. Now he managed to siphon some of it off into Siri, first into repeated texts to Shitty and Lardo that just said "!!!!!!!!!!!!" that he'd have to explain later, and then just into a jumble of emojis in the Notes app. 

He paused and took a deep breath. He still felt like there might be a little overflow if he tried to answer historyeh, so he ignored the very long string of question marks Siri added to his emoji note in favor of pulling a series of pictures of confetti off the web.

"Sorry about that," he said when he was calmed down a little. "It's historyeh—Siri, he wants to meet! In real life! Go take a peek at our DMs."

She displayed a large exclamation point, then pulled up the same page he had open on the iPad in her browser.

After all that, he finally trusted himself enough to send back a short response.

omgyall: Yes!
I'd love that, actually!
historyeh: You're sure? It's okay if you're not comfortable with it.
omgyall: I'm positive.
I trust you.
You're one of my best friends.
But what brought this on?
I honestly wasn't expecting you'd ever want to meet.
historyeh: It's not that I didn't want to before. I was just scared.
I still am, honestly.
But basically, the other day one of my bosses tried to convince me not to come out to everyone at work.
omgyall: Oh gosh, honey, I'm sorry.
historyeh: My other boss and my coworkers who know are all really supportive.
And I know he's not going to fire me or anything.
But it was so frustrating to even have him try to convince me not to at this point.
And I just... I realized how sick I am of hiding in general, y'know? Not just my sexuality.
Right now, the only person other than my family who knows about my magic is my ex
And even though we're kind of friends again, he lives 2,000 miles away.
I'm terrified, and I know I can't stop hiding entirely, but I want to hide less.
Having even one friend IRL who knew, it would mean a lot.
omgyall: Well lord, honey, I can't wait to hug you. :)
historyeh: :)
omgyall: So, when were you thinking?
historyeh: Oh. Haha, I hadn't thought that far ahead yet.
Next week? I'm off Wednesday evening.
omgyall: That works for me!
I feel like our work schedules are more in sync lately.
historyeh: Yeah, your new job has you going in weird evenings like me sometimes.
omgyall: Well, if we meet, maybe I'll even tell you where I work. ;)
But speaking of where, I don't even know where you are? You could live next door or four hours away
We'll have to meet somewhere that works for both of us.
historyeh: Are you anywhere near Boston?
omgyall: Yes!
Not in Boston but not too far.
I can get there for dinner easy enough.
historyeh: Okay. I'll find a restaurant. We'll get dinner next Wednesday.
omgyall: It's a plan!

Eric grimaced. He'd been thiiiis close to saying "it's a date," then got so flustered that THAT was what he came up with instead. It's a plan? Nobody says that.

historyeh: Okay, now I just have to not throw up every time I think about it...
omgyall: Oh honey.
Remember, if you need to back out or postpone I'll understand.
historyeh: No, this is happening.
I'll see you next Wednesday.
I can do this. :)
omgyall: :D

Chapter Text

Posted January 4, 2017, 5:17pm EST
by beespace
Subject: Mental health issues
So, when I was in college, which was a few years ago now, I developed depression and an anxiety disorder. Well, maybe the anxiety was there before, but it was always a low-level thing in the back of my mind, and it exploded in college.

And I'm just wondering if anyone else has a problem with their magic and their mental health? Because I really do. Sometimes it's the depression—I've been on Wellbutrin for years now and most days it works great, but now and then I get a day of breakthrough depression, and my most common intrusive thoughts are things like I'm a freak and a monster, why would anyone want to date that, I should just turn myself in, etc etc. And the anxiety, well. I'm sure you can imagine. Thinking about someone finding out about me is a major trigger. Because of that, I've never told any of my friends or anyone I've dated. At this rate, I'm pretty sure the only way I would tell someone is if we were married and had a kid and the kid was magical. But like… waiting that long would probably just freak them out more, the fact that I'd been hiding it for so long, so that's a stupid idea.

And since my magic is food-related, I'm paranoid about people being in my kitchen, like they'll just know. Which turns into not wanting people to come to my apartment at all, which some of my friends have complained about.

I've given up on therapy, because I just have to lie to my therapists and make up reasons to not want people in my kitchen. How do you deal??

Reply January 4, 2017, 9:30pm EST
by historyeh
I have an anxiety disorder, too. And yeah, the idea of anyone finding out is a big trigger. The one time I told someone, it did not go well, although he thankfully didn't tell anyone that I know of. But it just made things much worse.

I'm very lucky in that I do have a therapist who has magic in their family. She doesn't live in my current city, I meet with her over Skype because I have no idea how I'd find another one here. My mom's family is actually fairly well-connected with other magical families (I mean, as well-connected as any of us get, meaning she knows three or four other magical families and they don't talk to each other much to avoid suspicion), and a friend of her cousin happened to have a sister who's a therapist.

If I could, I would give you her number, she's great. But of course, even though she's not a witch that would out her family. There must be some way I can get it to you that's safe. I'll think about it.

The Falconers were out of town for the next few days, so Eric's next meeting with Jack wasn't until Wednesday. Of course. When his nerves were running high about his not-date.

Except maybe it was? Or would turn into one? What if historyeh was hot? What if he was hot, but didn't think Eric was? What if he was hot, and Eric was head-over-heels for him, but he just wanted to be friends?

Of course, Eric wanted to be friends no matter what. That went without saying. But it was going to be so much harder to get over his stupid feelings for historyeh than his stupid feelings for Jack. And even those were proving more stubborn than Eric had hoped, even if they hadn't gotten any worse… He almost wished Jack hadn't apologized for the pie incident. At least then he'd have a solid reason to shut the door on this crush for good.

Okay, another solid reason beyond Jack being straight.

Point being, Eric was not at his best when he met with Jack that day. But it seemed that Jack wasn't, either. He was already wearing a frown when he got there, and he was acting distracted from the start—he kept zoning out, staring across the room, missing what Eric was saying.

Finally, Eric sighed.

"Look, Jack, you're getting good at this. Why don't you just pick all the photos yourself this week?"

Jack gave him a sharp glare. "You're not going to help me?"

Eric's eyebrows shot up. "Well, I'm tryin' to. But you don't seem too interested in my help today."

"Of course I am," Jack grumbled, and turned back to the computer screen. "Look, I can't… I can't screw this up, okay? And I feel like, if I do it all myself, I'm going to."

"It's your Instagram, Jack, and all your photos are great! You can't screw it up! And if you occasionally post one that's not the best or that people don't like, it's not the end of the world."

Jack clenched his jaw. "The whole point is for people to like me. All this is is photos, if they don't like my photos, they won't like me. And this will all have been a waste of time."

Eric blinked at him for a minute. Where was this coming from?

"Jack, one or two bad photos won't make people not like you. And that's a moot point anyhow, because all of the photos you've shown me today are great! You could post them all, if you want!"

"There are a dozen photos here!" Jack waved at the computer screen, his voice getting louder. "If I post two photos a day I'll just look desperate for attention!"

"That's not really all that many, but that's not the point." Eric pinched the bridge of his nose, where he felt a headache starting to develop. "The point is that you could post any of them, because they are all good photos and they all fit with the overall feel of your feed. So any four or five that you choose will be fine."

"Look, I am really stressed today," Jack said, lowering his voice again. For the first time Eric noticed how wide his eyes were, how pale his face was. "I have… so much to think about, I can't worry about this, too."

"Fine," Eric said. He could see that arguing wasn't going to get them anywhere. Best to just get Jack out of there before they really blew up at each other. "Post the two you took in Vancouver, people will like seeing pictures from somewhere different. And then the one of your locker and the one of the sunset out your window. People cannot get enough of these window shots from your apartment, the lighting is always fantastic."

Jack sighed. "Thank you."

"Now get the hell out of here and go drink some chamomile or do some yoga or something," Eric said, closing his laptop. "I'm on edge today, too, and the nerves comin' off you in waves are not doing me any favors."

Unfortunately, that just made Jack look vaguely guilty. "Sorry," he mumbled, and ducked out of the conference room.

By the afternoon, Eric wasn't sure he should have come to work at all. He was getting nothing accomplished, and was even occasionally forgetting to use his hands to work his computer, which was a problem given that Elena was there.

After the third time he glanced over to make sure she hadn't been looking when he forgot to move the mouse to do something, he sighed loudly and rubbed his eyes.

"What is up with you today, bro?" Elena turned her chair around to face him. "You're gonna get wrinkles, the way your forehead's been all scrunched up all day, and I can, like, feel you about to vibrate out of your chair."

"I—well, I—I sorta, maybe, kind of? Have a date tonight?"

Elena's eyes lit up. "Dude, he must be a hottie to have you this nervous."

Eric laughed, sounding a little hysterical even to his own ears. "I have no idea!"

The grin dropped off Elena's face. "Wait, what? Is it a blind date? Blind dates are the worst."

Eric stared down at his hands. "Hell, I don't even actually know if it's a date. I want it to be, but I don't know for sure if he does. I mean, it seems significant, that he wants to meet after all this time, and I know he likes guys, but he hasn't actually said he likes me like that, but—"

"Dude." Eric's head snapped up to see Elena squinting at him. "You don't know if you're going on a date with a guy who you don't know what he looks like? Start from the beginning."

"It's a guy I met online," he started, but stopped when Elena raised her eyebrows knowingly. "Not like that! Not a dating app or anything. We've been friends for a couple years now. But he's got an anxiety disorder and I kinda know, like… a lot of his secrets, you know? Stuff he doesn't want anyone he knows in real life to know about. But he wants to meet, so we're gonna meet in Boston for dinner tonight. And I kinda… I realized a while ago that I've got feelings for him, but we haven't really talked about that, so probably he's not even thinking of it as a date. I wanna stay friends with him no matter what, but it's gonna be so hard if he doesn't feel the same way I do. Especially if, god forbid, he's like super hot but not the least bit attracted to me, or whatever. I don't want it to make things awkward between us!"

"Your biggest fear is that he's hot?" Elena's face twisted doubtfully. "What if he's not? And you've talked yourself into thinking you've got these feelings for him already?"

Eric sighed. "You don't get it. I know this boy so well. He was there for me when I came out to my parents, I've been there for him when he's had panic attacks. We've read books and watched TV shows together. We don't know identifying details about each other, but I know how he gets along with his parents and his fears about having kids himself and all sorts of stuff that's more important. He's one of my best friends in the world. At this point, he'd have to be hideous for me not to want to at least try to be more than friends."

"Okay, but what if he smells bad? Or chews with his mouth open? Or something like that?" Elena asked, nose wrinkled.

"He really doesn't strike me as the type to not shower regularly. Honestly, though, everyone's got annoying habits." Eric shrugged. Part of him thought that he should be worried about that kind of thing, but he just truly… wasn't. "Besides, sometimes people only do stuff like that because everyone around 'em's been too polite to point it out before. Even if he's got some gross habit, I'm fine talking to him about it and seeing if we can work it out. We've certainly talked about way more private stuff than chewing with your mouth closed."

Elena quirked an eyebrow. "How private are we talking here?"

"Oh my lord, not like that!" Eric rolled his eyes. "Nothing like that. Just, y'know… soul-baring kinda stuff. Look, trust me, okay? My feelings are not the ones in question here. And I woulda talked to him about it before, but I know he's so worried about meeting anyhow, I don't want to put any kind of expectations or anything on him and chase him off before I even get to see him. I'm bein' silly, though, honestly. Either way, I'll be really happy to get to hang out with him in real life. If he wants more, then that'll just be a bonus."

Elena looked at him for a moment, her mouth set in a line. She finally shook her head.

"Not like you should take dating advice from me. Sounds like I should be listening to you. Here I am, worried about whether your boy will be cute enough for you, and look where that's gotten me! I keep picking hot guys who treat me like shit! Andre's not even the first one who's cheated on me. Apparently knowing their name and what they look like does jack shit, so you do you, okay? It's probably gonna turn out great for you. Maybe I should delete Tindr and spend more time at the library or something."

Eric shrugged. "Not every hot guy is an asshole. And it's not your fault when they are."

"No, but I've always gone for hotness first, then worried about the rest later. Maybe I need to switch it up a little. And as for you, trust me, bro, you don't have a damn thing to worry about. You're cute as fuck and you've got a great ass, how could he not be into you?"

Eric blushed as he turned back to his computer. "Well, thanks, keep your fingers crossed for me."

Eric left work an hour early to get ready. He debated wearing his bow tie with a blazer, because he knew he looked great in it, but finally decided that they really weren't going anywhere fancy enough to justify it. When historyeh had given him a few options, he picked the random little Italian restaurant in the North End; he knew that even if he'd never heard of the place the food would be good.

He may not have worn a tie, but he made sure to wear the jeans his ass looked best in and to style his hair within an inch of its life—maybe if historyeh didn't already have feelings for him, seeing Eric at his hottest would change his mind a little?

He took the commuter rail to South Station, then the red and orange lines to the North End. The trip seemed to take forever. His leg jiggled the entire way. He checked his hair with Siri's camera at least ten times, until she started replacing his picture with random pictures of smoldering models who happened to look vaguely like him. He checked his Twitter feed, the Falcs' Twitter feed, the comments on the Falcs' Facebook page, the Falcs' Instagram. Then he checked Jack's Instagram just because he was running out of things to check. Jack, it turned out, had posted one of the Vancouver photos immediately after their meeting.

He finally got off at Haymarket. It was hard to pay attention to the directions to the restaurant on his phone, because he didn't want to look down for a second. Historyeh could be anywhere, he could be any of these men walking down the street. Eric clutched the copy of Consider the Fork he'd brought with him near his chest, trying to keep it easy to see while not looking ridiculous. They'd agreed to bring their copies of the book as a way to identify each other. Historyeh had kept going back and forth on things like sharing their names or physical descriptions beforehand, or swapping phone numbers so they could text, but finally Eric could tell he was stressing enough about it that he'd said you know what, let's just worry about all that after we've seen each other.

He got to the restaurant five minutes early, without running into anyone else holding the book. The hostess told him that, no, nobody else had come in with that book, or requested a table for two while alone. So he got them a table, then busied himself trying to figure out the optimal placement of his book so that it was once again easy to see but not ridiculous-looking.

He sat there and tried not to look at his phone as the clock reached seven… he ordered a glass of wine for himself, hoping it would take the edge off… 7:05… 7:10… He looked around the restaurant. Flowers on the tables, linen tablecloths, glowing candles… As the minutes ticked by and he sat there alone, every detail that would otherwise make it feel cozier and more romantic instead seemed to be mocking him.

"Where is he?" he murmured to himself. "Siri, have I been stood up?"

He meant it more rhetorically, but a moment later, Siri buzzed. He picked her up to see her open to their DMs, where there were eleven new messages. He breathed a sigh of relief—at least historyeh hadn't forgotten about him entirely. He should have thought to check the site himself, but he was just too nervous about this whole thing.

historyeh: oh god
I'm going to be late
i haven't managed to leave my apartment yet
i'm still trying
i'm sorry
i'm so sorry
every tmie i open my door i start hyperventilting
I'm osrry
it's after seven now and I havent even left
you must hate me
fuck fuck fuck I'm so sorry

Oh no. Eric sent a reply before he even realized he was writing it.

omgyall: Oh, honey no!
Oh god I don't hate you at all
Please tell me you're still there

Eric let the server know he needed to leave and could he please get the check? He finished off his wine as he waited for historyeh to reply, his leg bouncing again, though now he was nervous for an entirely different reason.

This wasn't the first panic attack of historyeh's he'd been there for, of course, not by a long shot. So Eric wasn't worried that he was going to do anything bad. He was in such a better place than years ago, when he'd landed himself in the hospital—he didn't even have Xanax in his apartment, he was on Prozac instead now, plus he was in therapy and had plans in place for calming himself during attacks, and he hardly drank at all and never when he was feeling anxious. So Eric wasn't worried about that… or, not that worried, at least.

Still, he'd feel a lot better once historyeh replied.

He paid his bill (leaving the server a 100% tip on the meager single-wine-glass check) and headed out. He kept one eye on Siri the entire way back to the T stop, barely looking up enough to keep from running into anyone. He was almost there when a reply appeared.

historyeh: I'm here

Eric stopped short on the sidewalk. Someone grumbled as they pushed around him, and he managed to get himself out of the way of the foot traffic as he replied.

omgyall: Oh good!
How are you doing?
And don't you dare apologize again, this is not your fault, I know full well you'd be here if you could.
historyeh: not great
I've got the lights off and I've been doing breathing exercises
I tried like five different times to leave the house, even after I was running incredibly late
and every time, I just…
omgyall: I won't be home for almost an hour, but do you wanna watch something together after that?
historyeh: you don't have to waste any more of your night on me
omgyall: Honey, there is nothing I'd rather do than hang out with you.
Whether it's in person or online.
And we kinda knew it might go like this, right?
historyeh: On the one hand, now I feel really stupid because obviously I SHOULD have gotten your phone number
but on the other hand, even thinking about giving you my number makes my heart start racing again.
omgyall: omg, definitely do not worry about exchanging phone numbers at this point!
the last thing you need is anything at all causing you more anxiety right now!
Seriously, I should have thought to check the website sooner. I'm glad Siri thought to pull it up when I told her you were late.

By that point, he'd made it back to South Station. It was another ten minutes before the next train to Providence, so he sat down on a not-particularly-comfortable bench to wait.

historyeh: I half can't believe you still want to talk to me at all after I pulled this
but the other half of me isn't at all surprised.
You're one of the kindest people I know.
omgyall: That's awful sweet of you to say
but I think anyone who's not a raging asshole would understand
Like I said before, we knew this was a possibility.
And we don't ever have to try this again if you don't want.

It hurt to even suggest it, but he knew he had to. Just because he wanted this more than anything didn't mean he wanted to pressure historyeh into it. His train was announced just then, so he put Siri in his pocket and didn't check her again until he was comfortably seated.

historyeh: No, I want to try again.
maybe not immediately, but I do want this.
I can't let my anxiety rule my life.
omgyall: I would love that, but not until you feel comfortable with it.
historyeh: you said it'll take you an hour to get home?
maybe next time we should meet somewhere closer to you.
Which way are you from Boston?
omgyall: south.
I'm taking the commuter rail, I think it's faster by car.
historyeh: I'm south of Boston too.
Hell, maybe we're in the same town
which on the one hand would be great
but uh, I don't know if I'm really ready to handle that information right now if we are.
omgyall: Oh lord no, the last thing you need is to get triggered again!
either way, sounds like next time we can try somewhere closer to both of us
so that's good!
have you eaten anything, honey?
historyeh: oh, food.
I forgot about food.
omgyall: you go grab some dinner, and I'll let you know when I'm home, okay?

Once he'd finally shooed historyeh off the computer and into the kitchen, Eric sighed and leaned his forehead against the train window. They'd been so close.

They wound up watching Cutthroat Kitchen together until midnight, which was later than either of them meant to stay up. Eric never really shook the vague sense of melancholy that the night's disappointment had left him with, but at the same time, he was glad he got to spend it with historyeh in one way or another.

Unfortunately, sleep didn't really clear the feeling, either.

He knew it wasn't his fault, and it wasn't historyeh's fault. It wasn't that historyeh didn't want to be friends, and it really wasn't even that historyeh didn't want to meet him. He'd clearly been upset that his panic attacks were keeping him from doing something he wanted to do. So why did Eric still kind of feel like shit about it?

Eric finally realized what it was as he was driving to work.

He was taking this as a definite sign that historyeh wasn't interested in him romantically. He didn't feel like he'd been rejected as a friend, but he felt like he'd been shot down in that way.

Which… it didn't necessarily even mean that. It didn't matter exactly what he felt for Eric, historyeh's anxiety about his magic could still flare up. Especially given that Eric now knows that it hadn't been a friend, but his boyfriend who had rejected him for it before.

But no matter how he tried to logic his way out of it, Eric's brain remained unconvinced. He sighed as he pulled into his parking spot. He didn't want to completely let go of the possibility of historyeh feeling the same as him, but maybe he should let himself treat it like some sort of rejection for now. He still might not get over his feelings, but maybe having to get over the rejection would at least help him put them aside for a bit. If they ever did get to meet in person, it would be obvious whether there was chemistry or not. And if they didn't, well. It wasn't like they could sustain a real relationship in that case, anyhow, so it wouldn't matter much.

He shuffled through his first couple of meetings in sort of a grey blur, though he managed to keep up a cheerful enough facade. He was relieved that Elena wasn't in that day; he didn't want to talk about it just yet, and being able to use his computer naturally was relaxing.

After lunch, he passed by Jack in the hallway.

"Hey, Bittle," Jack said with a nod. Eric smiled back, but he must not have done a very good job of it because Jack stopped. "Are you okay?"

"Me?" Lord, Jack Zimmermann was not the person to talk about this with. "Um, yeah. Just one of those days, you know?"

Now that he was looking at Jack properly, Jack didn't seem to be doing his best, either. He looked tired.

"I didn't think you had those days," Jack chirped, one corner of his mouth raising in a little smirk. "The only time you're not the most cheerful person I've ever met is when I've managed to piss you off."

Eric snorted, but it did get him to smile a little. Before he knew what he was doing, he shrugged and said "I was supposed to have a date last night, but I got stood up. I guess I'm kinda down about it, but y'know. It happens."

Jack frowned, looking more serious than Eric expected. "I'm sorry. What an asshole."

"Oh, no, he—it—" Eric wasn't really sure how much he wanted to say. He didn't really want to explain the entire situation to Jack. He shouldn't have said anything to start with, but he was kind of stuck now. "He had his reasons. Doesn't mean rejection doesn't suck, though."

Jack opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again. A second later, he tried again. "I had a shitty night last night, too. You wanna go get frozen yogurt from that place down the street? My treat."

Eric blinked at him for a second. "Really?" was the only thing he managed to say.

Jack shrugged and gave him this little smile that made his heart do ridiculous things. "You're supposed to eat ice cream when you're dumped right? You weren't dumped, but froyo seems like a reasonable substitute for getting stood up."

Eric felt what was probably his first real smile of the day spreading across his face. "Sure, why not? Let me grab my coat. I'll meet you by the staff exit in five minutes?"

"So, you know my sob story. What happened to you last night?" Eric asked as they set off.

"I—" Jack paused and swallowed. "Ah, I was sick last night. And I had to cancel something I'd really been looking forward to."

"Are you feeling all right today?" Eric asked, his brow furrowing in concern. "You sure you shoulda been at practice if you're sick?"

Jack shook his head. "No, no, I'm fine now. It was just a… a stomach thing. Gone by the time I woke up this morning. I'm just thrown off a little today. It kept me up later than usual."

"You poor thing!" Eric touched Jack's arm as they walked. "Are you sure you should be eating frozen yogurt?"

Jack smiled down at him. His expression was soft around the edges, something that made Eric glad he could blame the cold, crisp air for any pink in his cheeks. It wasn't a date. Of course it wasn't, Jack Zimmermann was straight as an arrow and even if he weren't, he couldn't very well take a man on a date out in the open.

But for the first time, that look made it harder, somehow, for Eric to tell himself that.

"I'm fine, Bittle. Promise."

They got inside and got their yogurt. Eric tried not to let Jack pay for him, but Jack stepped in between him and the cash register, pushing him aside with a gentle hip check.

"I think I'm good for it, eh, Bittle?"

Eric finally rolled his eyes and relented.

Once they were sitting at a little table with their vanilla frozen yogurt, fruit on Jack's and Oreo crumbles on Eric's, Jack looked at Eric with hesitation in his eyes.

"I'm not very good at this," he admitted. "At people. I can't tell if you want to talk about your date or if you'd rather not. If you want to, I'll listen. But if you don't, you don't have to."

Eric had to smile at Jack's awkward directness. "I think I'd rather not," he said, glad he wouldn't have to figure out exactly which bits of the story to divulge. "I'd much rather have an excuse to not think about it for a while."

"Okay, so instead, tell me what you're doing this weekend," Jack prompted.

"Besides going to both of y'all's games so I can keep the Snapchat updated?"

Jack shook his head. "I don't know what that is, and I don't particularly want to."

So Eric spent the next half an hour eating frozen yogurt and being chirped relentlessly by Jack Zimmermann while their knees bumped under the too-small table. And it was surprisingly… not at all awkward. Jack was funny and friendly, and easier to talk to than Eric could have imagined. By the time they were done, Eric thought that maybe they could actually be friends. Maybe they actually were friends already.

"Look," Jack said as they walked back. "I know I've been difficult. Okay, I've been an asshole sometimes. I just… this whole, having to worry about the way the world sees me, having to prove to the public that I'm a person and not a hockey robot, thing… It's not the technology I don't like, even if I've never used the sites. It's the putting myself out there like that, it makes me anxious, and I've taken that out on you too many times. I think in some ways I've been… sort of… unconsciously associating you with that vulnerability, and that's not fair. I'm really going to try to be better, and feel free to call me out on it if I'm not, okay?"

"Oh, I can do that, don't you worry," Eric chirped him with a smirk.

Jack looked down at him from the corner of his eye, grinning. "Trust me, I know. Maybe, y'know, hanging out like this—maybe it'll help my brain make some new associations, eh?"

Eric bumped Jack with his shoulder. "If I were a cleverer man, I'm sure there'd be a joke in there somewhere about Pavlov's dog and frozen yogurt, but alas, I am not."

"Careful, or I'll start drooling on you every time we have a meeting."

Eric laughed. "That is disgusting." He peered up at Jack, taking him in for a moment. It definitely felt like they'd hit some kind of turning point today. "You know, I think I like you, Mr. Zimmermann."

If only that weren't a massive understatement.

Once Eric was back in his office, he buried his head in his arms on his desk. He wasn't sure he could handle being friends with Jack Zimmermann. The kind of friends who hang out and eat frozen yogurt together and chirp each other and talk about their weekends.

Or… maybe it would help him get over his crush? Maybe the novelty would wear off? He normally only spent about a half an hour a week with Jack, and that time was entirely spent inspecting this gorgeous athlete's soft, artistic underbelly. Maybe Eric's crush was just on that underbelly (well, and Jack's looks), and spending time with him as a whole person would help it mellow out into just normal friendly affection.

He sighed. It wasn't like he was going to turn down the chance to be friends with Jack, especially not when he'd actually had a lot of fun today.

Maybe historyeh would suddenly change his mind and they'd get together that very weekend and discover themselves to be madly in love, and all thoughts of Jack would be chased from Eric's mind.

… Anything was possible, right?

He sat up and got back to work, managing to get caught up enough in making new gifs for the Tumblr that all thoughts of his disaster of a romantic life were chased from his mind for a little while.

omgyall: Hey, how are you doing after last night, hon?
I know sometimes you're feeling rough the day after a panic attack
and that was a doozy
historyeh: Oh hi, sorry, I was taking a nap.
You're probably not even online anymore.
But I am feeling better.
Thanks for asking.
omgyall: Hey! I was just cooking dinner.
I'm glad you're doing okay today.
I'm so sorry about last night.
What a nightmare.
historyeh: Not like you have anything to apologize for!
You were amazing.
omgyall: Please, I was just being a decent friend.
Someday we'll get to hang out for real and be able to look back and laugh about last night.
historyeh: How are you doing?

Jack Zimmermann bought me froyo. He couldn't very well say that.

"Jack Zimmermann took me out and bought me vanilla frozen yogurt," he murmured to himself. "And we hung out for nearly an hour, and it was a lot of fun and I think we're friends now." He leaned back on his couch and stared up at the ceiling. "Will wonders never cease."

He got caught up in thinking about Jack's eyes and his laugh and realized he'd gone several minutes without replying. Oops.

Well, he couldn't really say that he'd made friends with a hockey celebrity. And for some reason, he didn't even really want to mention that he'd gone out to eat with someone—it was silly, but his feelings for historyeh made him not want to talk too much about something that sounded like a date with Jack. Even though obviously it wasn't a date. But still.

omgyall: Sorry about that, just eating.
Work was good today, at least.
I think the Iceman may be thawing but we'll see if it lasts.
He was nice to me today, though, so.
historyeh: That's good! Are you still working with him on the same project?
omgyall: Yeah, and it's been going better, too.
so overall, things are going pretty well
it's so nice when my officemate is gone and I can use my powers without worrying about it.
Just sit back and let the computer do its thing, no stupid keyboards and mice in the way.
how was work for you?
historyeh: fine.
omgyall: Is that all I'm gonna get? :)
historyeh: Well… there's that guy.
I told you, there's a cute guy at work?

Eric bit his lip. He wasn't gonna cry. He'd spent most of the past twenty-four hours dealing with this rejection, it was time to get over it and be a good friend.

He wasn't gonna cry, even if there was no rule that you had to get over a rejection in twenty-four hours.

Even if he'd been able to tell himself up to now that it wasn't really necessarily a rejection.

He tried not to hold it against historyeh; after all, the guy obviously had no clue Eric had feelings for him. It wasn't his fault that the only way Eric had managed to stop moping was his other crush appearing out of nowhere and being friendlier than he had been since Eric had met him. Even when they were going through his photos, which was when Eric and Jack usually got along, Jack had always seemed a little bit tense, like he wasn't sure he really wanted to share this part of himself with Eric. Like he wasn't entirely sure he could trust Eric. Today had been so different; he'd been relaxed, and smiling, and funny. A whole new Jack Zimmermann.

Right. If Eric was going to moon over his own workplace crush, the least he could do was not be (too) jealous of historyeh's.

omgyall: Yeah?
historyeh: Well, I'm planning to come out to him sometime.
I think soon
and being attracted to him makes me extra nervous about it
not because I'm planning to ask him out or anything
I'm not.
It's just…
omgyall: He might figure out your feelings and reject you before you even get the chance?
historyeh: Yeah, exactly!
omgyall: Well, don't worry, he's probably as oblivious as you are.

Over the next week, every time he saw Jack he was greeted enthusiastically, with a genuine smile, like Jack was actually happy to see him. When they met again to look at his photos, Jack was relaxed and friendly like he had been that day. It might have been Eric's imagination, but he thought Jack sat closer to him when they crowded in front of the laptop than usual, so their arms brushed occasionally. Eric was sure he would have noticed that kind of contact before. It was great that Jack was comfortable enough with Eric that he didn't mind it, but it was making Eric scream internally just a little.

Jack also surprised him by suggesting that maybe he should try posting now and then without running them by Eric.

"I mean, trust me, I still need a lot of help, but I feel a little silly about demanding that you tell me what to post last week after you'd already said they were all fine. Maybe if I start slow, just doing one by myself here and there, I won't melt down if you're out sick for a week and can't hold my hand, eh?"

Eric breezed right on by the words hold my hand and did not think about them one bit, no sir, not at all.

Jack surprised him again by posting a photo that very day, and not even one they'd looked at in their meeting—the storefront of a used bookstore Eric recognized as being near the stadium. He praised Jack for it the next time he ran into him in the hallway, but figured that it probably wouldn't happen again for at least a couple of weeks.

"You haven't checked it out yet?" Eric asked Elena as he cut her a slice of banana cream pie just a few days later. "Really? You've listened to me talk your ear off about all the progress he's making and you haven't looked for yourself?"

Elena shrugged. "I'm just not that into Instagram, honestly. But just for you, I'll check it out right now, okay?"

They settled into a table in the corner of the nook and Elena took out her phone.

"Let's see… What's his username on there, again?"

"JLZimmermann1," Eric said around a mouthful of pie.

"Okay, yeah… Oh, wow." She looked up at him. "This really is gorgeous. This one of the light reflecting off the ice? How long did it take him to find an angle to catch that from, anyhow?"

"Oh honey, you have no idea how much time that boy spends with his camera on the ice. He's, like, obsessed with getting good hockey-related pics. To the surprise of absolutely nobody in the history of ever." Eric rolled his eyes fondly.

"Oh! And this one? This is that park down the street, right? Jesus, he practically makes it look haunted. I'm gonna be creeped out every time I walk by it now."

"See?" He grinned. "He's actually good. I helped him pick out those two, he had so many good pictures from both of those shoots, it was hard to narrow it down to just one."

Elena paused in her scrolling. Her eyes flicked up to Eric, then back down to the phone.

"Did you help him pick this one?" She raised an eyebrow.

"Which one, hon?" he asked as he took another bite.

She turned her phone so he could see, and he almost forgot to keep chewing.

It was not a photo he'd helped Jack pick.

It was one Jack had chosen and posted entirely on his own.

And it was of Eric.

He was sitting in front of his open laptop, like he always did when they met. His head was propped on his hand and he was laughing, his eyes squeezed shut, which accounted for his not realizing Jack had taken a picture. It must have been on his phone, because when he did bring his camera to their meetings it was so he could pull the memory card out and show Eric something on it.

The light was filtering in through the conference room window, and it made Eric's hair look like it was almost glowing, like he had a halo. It was possibly the best photo of himself Eric had ever seen, even with the closed eyes—actually, they just added to the sense of joy that was radiating from it.

The caption said "@checkplease, patiently helping me navigate these social media waters." It had been posted a couple of days ago, but Eric didn't use his own Instagram all that much so he hadn't noticed the mention yet.

"No," he said, softer than he meant to. Then louder as he handed the phone back, "No, that one's a surprise! That's awful nice of him!"

He shoved a big bite into his mouth so he didn't have to say anything else, but Elena looked like she saw right through that. He was pretty sure he was blushing.

"Yeah. Nice," she said with a sly smile. "Look who's a little flustered. Are we having feelings about a hot hockey player posting a surreptitious photo of us online? Tell Tía Elena all about it."

"Shut. Up." He pointed his fork at her. "He's hot, okay? And maybe we've been getting along a little better recently and maybe my stupid brain went and decided that I have a tiny little crush on him. But it's not a big thing, don't turn it into one. It's just a harmless little workplace crush on an unattainable straight boy. It won't even last that long."

At least, it wouldn't last that much longer. He hoped.

Her mouth twisted. "Well, trust me," she said with a dark look, "don't date a hockey player. Those incredibly toned asses aren't worth the trouble."

Eric was pretty sure Jack wasn't that type, honestly he was nothing like Andre, but he kept his mouth shut.

"Somehow I don't think that's gonna be a problem, darlin'," he said, and finished off his pie. He tried his very darnedest to not think about the things he'd said to Jack to convince him to try Instagram. These photos show people what you value, what you think is beautiful, what you think is worth paying attention to. Jack had just been thanking him for his help.

Chapter Text

Posted December 1, 2014 9:03am EST
by spacebarfly
Subject: Still figuring out this electronics magic thing
We're still trying to figure out how DD's powers work. In my last post I mentioned that we found out she was magical because she was controlling the Roku box without the remote.

Well, she can change the channel on the TV, too, but when we had her try to do things on the desktop computer she got frustrated and said it was "too fast" and "confusing". I guess the processor is a lot faster than the one in the Roku box? And it's probably a lot more complex, so that would be confusing.

Honestly, I'm a little worried she's going to break something—one of our phones, the iPad, the computer, who knows what—if we can't figure out the specifics of her magic and how to control it. Help?

Reply December 1, 2014 9:35am EST
by omgyall
Oh, sweetheart, you DM me when you get a chance and we can chat. Do I have stories for you about figuring out how my magic works! It sounds like your girl's might be a little different, but close enough. My mama was not prepared!

Eric woke up to Siri ringing. He looked at her, bleary-eyed, and saw that it was an hour before he usually got up. And that Georgia Martin was the one calling. He flopped back down on his bed and let Siri put herself in speaker mode.

"Morning, George, what's up?" He tried his hardest not to sound half-asleep. He managed maybe a quarter-asleep.

"Sorry to wake you up so early, Eric, but we've got a situation unfolding here and we're going to need you on it. How quickly can you get to the office?"

"Uh…" Eric fought through the haze in his brain to remember how long a shower took, and how long it took to drive to work. "Half an hour?"

"We've got lots of coffee here. And pastries."

Eric smiled. George was a good boss. "Twenty minutes?"

"Great. Text me when you get in."

"'Kay. Bye, George." Eric stretched under his covers. What on earth could be happening to a hockey team that would require their social media manager to come into work an hour and a half early?

As the shower woke him up, he managed to think about the question more clearly. There must have been a scandal of some kind. Drugs? That seemed to be the most common type of scandal for sports teams. Was someone on the team on steroids? Or—

Oh, gosh. He hoped nothing had happened to Jack. He felt guilty even thinking it, though—clearly, whatever problems Jack had had were a long way in his past. …Unless being on some kind of drugs explained why he'd been friendlier lately? Suddenly he remembered his previous conversation with Lardo and Shitty.

"Ugh, stop it," he grumbled to himself as he grabbed a banana and pulled his coat on. "You're being awful. I'm sure Jack is fine. He is not on anything. A guy can smile once in a while and not be on drugs."

He texted George as soon as he parked his car, and she told him which conference room to meet in. It was one of the big ones.

When Eric opened the door to the room, he froze.

It wasn't just George and Joe. Almost every seat around the conference table was full, and though he didn't recognize everyone he definitely recognized Andrew Maraczek, their GM, along with the VP of Human Resources and the Director of Legal Affairs. They each had a much younger person sitting next to them, whom Eric assumed were their assistants. There were no players in the room, including Jack, and Eric wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing.

Joe saw him first.

"Eric! Come on in, have some coffee, you're gonna need it." He turned to the others, most of whom were looking at Eric now. "This is Eric, our Social Media Manager. He'll be taking point on how we deal with this online, trying to keep our narrative circulating more widely than anything the tabloids can come up with, keeping our interactions with the fans under control."

Eric gave what he suspected was most of the team's upper management a nervous wave and smile, and took the two steps over to where the coffee and pastries were set up in the corner. The important people went back to their discussions, which Eric didn't even try to track as he reached for the sugar.

Thankfully, Joe appeared by his side.

"The short and simple version," he said in hushed tones, "is that Maraczek got back from New York last night instead of this morning, and found Andre Levesque in bed with his wife."

A few drops of coffee went down the wrong tube, making Eric cough a little. "Holy crap," he whispered.

"Yeah. So Levesque is being traded to Colorado. Maraczek probably would have traded him for a stick of gum, but we're hoping we can keep the real story from getting out, so it had to look like a somewhat reasonable deal. It's still pretty obvious they're getting the better end of it, though, so people will be nosey. That's where you come in."

Eric nodded and followed him back to the conference table, taking the empty seat next to him.

The legal and HR teams were huddled together at the other end of the room, doing their own thing, which, thankfully, left Eric with a small group of other people in the PR department whom he mostly knew.

A couple other stragglers came in before they were done, which made Eric feel a little better about not being the only low person on the phone tree to interrupt things. By the time Eric would normally have been arriving at work, he had a long list of websites to monitor and official statements to use in response to a variety of possible questions or claims. None of them knew if Andre would be embarrassed and as ready to hide what had happened as the rest of them, or if he'd be pissed and make sure it got leaked despite the NDA they'd made him sign.

"I know Maraczek's embarrassed," he told Joe quietly as they headed back to their offices, "but I really wish he wouldn't try to cover this up. By the end of the day, everyone who works in this building will know, and that's too many people to expect it to not get leaked somehow or other. We should be trying to control how the information gets out, not pretending we can keep it from getting out at all."

"Yeah, I know that, and you know that, but trust me, you should be glad you weren't in the room when I tried to convince Maraczek." Joe shook his head. "I gotta admit, if a version of events happened to get out that made Levesque look bad and Maraczek look good, and not just like a victim, that would probably be best. I'm definitely not saying that anyone who works here should do that, but if one turned up with no obvious source, I know I wouldn't try too hard to track it down. Maraczek, on the other hand, would probably ride the IT guys until they figured it out."

"So obviously no one should do that unless they're very, very good at covering their tracks," Eric said, doing his best to look innocent.

"Exactly, which is why I'm not suggesting it," Joe said. He pointed a finger at Eric. "And I'm serious. If something does get out, and the IT department can find the source, it doesn't matter what I say, Maraczek would probably fire the leak. So I'd rather it not happen than anyone get fired over it, got it?"

"Absolutely," Eric said.

When Eric got to his office, Elena was already there, wearing a smug look on her face.

"Looks like you got free of that mess just in time," Eric said as he plopped down into his chair.

"No shit. Cathy from HR called me in to ask me a bunch of questions about how long I was dating Andre, how long ago we broke up, did I have any idea about him and Mrs. Maraczek… Let me tell you, I was more than happy to tell her everything I knew about that boy's cheating ass. And I made it clear that if I had had even a tiny little inkling about him and anyone who could get him fired, I would have ratted him out weeks ago."

"You sound awfully gleeful about something that's gonna make my job hell for the next few days," Eric said with a smirk.

"Sorry, bro." Elena shrugged. "Boy got what's coming to him. It's not fair that it screws with half the staff, but it is what it is."

"Can't disagree with you there," Eric said, shaking his head.

He got to work with a sigh. How was he supposed to do this with Elena there? Sure, he could do the bare minimum—check the news and gossip sites, post about the trade to their social media accounts, that sort of thing. He had no idea how to do something like covertly leak a story without doing some very strange stuff that his officemate really should not witness.

Elena would be leaving for class before him, but Eric didn't really think it was the kind of thing he should leave until the afternoon. If Andre wanted to make Maraczek look like an ass, he wouldn't have to be near as sneaky about it, and whichever version of events got out first would get picked up by more websites, with the other version looking like a sad attempt at papering over the damage.

He spent an hour checking sites and updating feeds before he finally bit his lip and watched Elena out of the corner of his eye.

His own warning to her about plants played through his head… but she'd been hired first. Nobody could have planted her here expecting them to hire a witch as her officemate. And if she'd been faking her rage before, she was one hell of an actress.

Eric finally got up and closed their office door. When he turned around, Elena was frowning at him.

"What's up?"

"If I show you something, you won't tell a single soul, right? Not anyone, and definitely not with my name attached."

Elena looked wary. "I dunno, is it a dead body? 'Cause I'm not making any promises unless it's Andre's."

Eric laughed at that. "Good lord, no. Just… Okay, here."

He sat down, biting his lip, and clasped his hands in his lap, then looked toward his computer. He made it open up a Word document, then write "So, I can kinda control computers with my mind."

Elena burst out laughing. "Oh my god, are you fucking with me? Make my computer do it. I won't believe you unless you make my computer do it."

He scooted his chair over a little, toward her desk, so it was easier to feel the EM field around her computer, then did the same thing.

"Yep, your computer, too," he wrote.

"Holy shit!" Elena flapped her hands excitedly. "What else can you do? Show me show me show me!"

"Lord, I dunno," he said, rolling his eyes. "Basically whatever you can do, just without a keyboard or mouse. I can also do some more interesting stuff through the internet, getting other computers to do things for me or give me information. Honestly, if I were evil I could probably do a lot with it, but so can any normal hacker. I don't know that I can do anything that's impossible for a normal person to do, it's just a whole lot easier for me." His wording was carefully chosen—he didn't know that anything he did was impossible for others. He… just strongly suspected it.

"So, like, do you imagine you're typing or something, and it just happens?" She was literally bouncing in her chair gleefully, and Eric's gut told him he'd made the right call.

"No, it's more like actual typing. Like, once you get good at typing, you don't really think about what your fingers are doing, right? The words are in your head and your fingers just move and get them on the screen. Or when you're eating, you're not thinking every single bite 'okay, now I lift the fork up.' The magic is like my fingers, I don't really think about telling it what to do, I just know what end result I'm going for and I automatically use it to get there."

"That is so cool." Elena glanced at the closed door. "Dude, why are you telling me? We talked about this! You don't wanna get locked up just because you don't have to use your fingers to type; you can't go around telling everyone."

"I know, trust me. You know I know. Usually I only use the magic when you're not here, but… There's just stuff I wanna do that I don't know how to do without it. With this whole Andre mess. And what with your cousin and all, I know you won't turn me in."

"No way," she said, shaking her head emphatically. "Maybe someday I'll tell my grandkids that I met a guy once who could control computers with his mind, but by then that's how we'll all be controlling them, so they won't even care, right? But no way would I even tell anyone that much in the next, like, decade or two, and I swear nobody will ever get your name out of me."

Eric nodded, the small amount of tension he'd been carrying in his shoulders fading.

"So… What kind of stuff are you wanting to do?" she asked with a mischievous grin. "Please tell me you're gonna hack Andre."

"Technically, I could post all his passwords publicly if I wanted to, but if I went around doing stuff like that all the time, eventually I'd blow my cover. I'm not gonna claim I never access accounts I'm not supposed to—hell, once or twice I've done it by accident if I'm really emotional and lose control—but generally I only do things with them that nobody will notice. Like, say, make the ESPN Twitter tweet a Falconers Face-Off video." Elena let out a delighted squawk. "There are like five people who post stuff to that account, and it's not something they'd never do, so they'd all just assume one of the others did it."

"You are so awesome," Elena said, eyes wide. "No wonder you kick ass at this job, you've got an unfair advantage! That's so cool!"

"Anyhow, it would be really helpful to everyone except Andre if we could leak a version of this story that makes Maraczek look good before Andre or someone close to him can leak a version that makes him look bad," he explained.

The mischievous grin spread back across Elena's face. "So how does that work? How do you leak something like that?"

Eric frowned at his computer thoughtfully. "Well, first I've gotta come up with a coherent story, because the Falconers-approved sound bites are all trying to cover up the affair part, not spin it. And I need some kind of proof, some reason for sites to believe this is coming from a real source and not just some rando on the internet. Because this is definitely not the kind of thing I can just slap up on someone's blog and hope they don't notice. I'll create a secure, untraceable email address and use it to send the story to one or two sites. Not everywhere at once; if a gossip site thinks they've got an exclusive scoop before other sites they'll be looking to post it faster and ask fewer questions."

Elena narrowed her eyes. "Exactly how many times have you done something like this?"

"Like this?" Eric's eyebrows flew up. "Goodness, I don't think I've ever tried to do anything like leak a breaking story to gossip sites before. Some stuff I know just because I actually am obsessed with social media and, I might add, knowledgeable about my job. Being good at making computers do what you want them to only goes so far if you don't know how the people on the other sides of those computers work."

"So are you gonna write up the story now?" Elena asked, her eyes shifting to Eric's computer screen.

"I guess so, can't do much else 'til I've done that."

Elena grinned, then scooted her chair over until it was next to Eric's at his desk. "Scootch over, pana, I'm helping with this, and unlike you I need the keyboard."

"What?" She bumped his chair playfully and he dutifully made room for her. "Elena, you don't want to get mixed up in this. This is all totally off-the-record stuff."

"Are you gonna get caught?"

"Well, no, of course not," Eric said indignantly, "but if by some strange chance I happened to be, Joe would probably have to at least discipline anyone involved, maybe worse. Not that I'd rat on you, but—"

"Well, if you're not gonna get caught, that doesn't matter," she said airily. "And you need my help."

"I do?"

Her mouth turned up in a devilish grin. "Remember, I know things about Andre Levesque."

Eric frowned at her. "No dick pics."

She raised her hands defensively. "No dick pics!"

An hour and a half later, they had a short, carefully-worded statement ready to go. It stuck to the facts of the situation, while emphasizing those bits that Elena claimed Andre would find most embarrassing. It spun the trade not as pure revenge by Maraczek (though no one would believe it wasn't partially that), but also due to the entire management's concern that having a player so willing to rock the organization's boat for a night of fun would be detrimental to the team in the long run. Which was true—Eric had heard people mention it in the conference room earlier—and probably what the Falconers would be saying if Maraczek would allow them to comment on the real reason for the trade.

"Okay, you get back to your graphic designing and let me do my thing," he said, nudging Elena back toward her desk.

He closed his eyes and tried to pretend she wasn't watching as he slid his hand across the table, closer to the computer where the fields were strongest.

"Okay, sweetheart," he murmured, "we're gonna go find a little bit of free server space somewhere we can use for a little email client."

"You didn't have to talk to the computer before." Eric could hear the laugh in Elena's voice. He opened his eyes and shot her a halfhearted glare.

"This is a lot more involved. Look, I know, rationally, the computer isn't listening to me. I feel and manipulate certain types of electromagnetic waves and fields. That's what runs in my family, being able to mess with various bits of the EM spectrum. And I know there's no reason that asking nicely would affect that, but it don't change the fact that it just… feels like things flow a little easier when I sweet-talk it a little."

"Bro." Elena raised an amused eyebrow. "You don't have to apologize for the fact that some part of your magical powers is less rational than the rest. I'm sure when you've been doing this all your life, that makes sense, but from where I'm sitting it all looks like the same crazy, unexplainable, supernatural phenomenon. You sweet-talk that computer all you want, I won't interrupt again."

"Thank you." Eric turned back to the computer. "Okay, darlin', where were we? Oh, right, let's poke around out there and find us a nice little bit of server space…"

Eric ate lunch at his desk, continually monitoring sites so that he knew the moment someone decided to pick up on his "anonymous source." By the afternoon, Maraczek was pissed that the story had gotten out, and had the IT department working on it, but all they could really tell him was that it hadn't, as far as they knew, gone out over their network or email server. Normally, since he had to be at a game that evening, Eric would have left a couple hours early, but he could tell he was going to be going straight from his office to the game later.

Around two o'clock there was a knock on their office door.

"C'mon in," Eric said, rubbing his eyes. He assumed it was Joe (who'd already stopped by several times that day), and was surprised to turn around and see Jack standing in the doorway.

"Hey," Jack said. "I'm guessing today must be crazy for you. Do you maybe need a break and some caffeine?"

"Dear lord, yes," Eric said. "The only time I've left this office since eight A.M. was to pee once."

"I was thinking of walking over to Starbucks, if you wanted to come." Jack's eyes were wide, his expression open and maybe… hopeful? "Or I could bring you back something if you wanted."

"Oh, I am definitely coming with you," Eric said, then he turned to Elena. She had her head turned so that Jack couldn't see that her entire face was screwed up, almost comically confused. Oh, right—she didn't know that this wasn't the first time Eric and Jack had hung out. "You wanna come?"

"I'm about to leave for class, actually," she said cautiously. "But I'll walk you guys out."

"Elena, right?" Jack asked as she and Eric put on their coats. "You're in the PR department, too?"

"Just a lowly intern," she said as they closed up the office. "Don't mind me, I'm nobody."

Jack frowned. "I play a game for a living. Whatever you do must be more productive than that."

"I draw things to convince people to come watch you play games for a living." Elena shrugged. "I think it's debatable."

As they walked through the hallways to the staff entrance, Jack asked Elena more about her work, and listened intently to her answers. Oddly, though, Eric didn't feel at all ignored. Jack glanced at him now and then, but even when Jack was listening to Elena, Eric felt like some piece of his attention was still focused on him. That was probably his imagination, though.

"So, you're having fun today, eh?" Jack said with a smirk after they left Elena at her car.

"That's one way of putting it," Eric said with an eyeroll, pulling his jacket tighter against the late autumn wind. "Can we please go back to the good old days of you complaining about Twitter? I'll take that over Maraczek blaming the entire PR department for things we have no actual control over any day." Well, things that most of the people getting yelled at had no control over. Although there were a few things thrown in that Eric hadn't done, either.

"I haven't actually looked at my Twitter in weeks," Jack admitted, "but I can go make a stilted, technologically inept post right now if you'd like, and I bet by the time we have our coffee I'll have lots of replies to complain about." He pulled out his phone and held it up so Eric could see while he opened the Twitter app.

Eric reached out and gently pushed Jack's hand down. "Let's keep you far away from that app, shall we? Maybe you should just delete it."

Jack's mouth fell open. "Are you feeling okay?"

"I just know well enough when to pick my battles," Eric said, narrowing his eyes at Jack. "And I think that one was lost before I even made it to the battlefield."

The way Jack smiled at him made his stomach flutter, and he had to clench his jaw to keep feigning annoyance instead of smiling back.

Starbucks was even closer than the frozen yogurt place, so it didn't take long for them to get there. Eric had assumed they'd just get their drinks and head back, but Jack surprised him by sitting down at a little table by the window as soon as he had his black coffee (really, who goes to Starbucks and gets black coffee?).

"So what do you think of the trade?" Eric asked after taking a sip of his pumpkin spice latte.

Jack's feelings were clear on his face, his mouth twisting in distaste. "It's not like Levy was a first stringer or anything, but he's definitely better than Andersen, the guy we're getting. I can only blame management so much for the shit trade, though. Who the hell thinks it's a good idea to sleep with your boss's wife?"

Eric shook his head. "I swear to god, Jack, if you're ever tempted to have any kind of scandal, you gotta give me a heads up first, okay? I want at least twenty-four hours' notice."

Jack paused in the middle of drinking his coffee. He set it down and picked at the lid thoughtfully, and Eric did not like that reaction one bit.

"Please tell me you are not about to confess a scandal that's gonna break tomorrow," he said, only half-joking because Jack had looked far too serious just then. "You're not sneaking around with anyone's wife, are you?"

Luckily, Jack laughed. "No, Jesus Christ, nothing like that. You just reminded me of something. Can we maybe meet tomorrow? Or—I mean, we'll be on the road for a week after that, but if you're still dealing with this mess tomorrow could we meet when we get back in town?"

"Yeah, sure," Eric said, his brow furrowed in concern. "Everything okay?"

"Oh, yeah, yeah, it's nothing bad, don't worry." Jack glanced around the coffee shop, like he was checking if anyone was listening to their conversation. It was reasonably crowded, so someone might very well have been. "I'll tell you everything later. Don't worry about it."

"Okay, well, things should have at least settled down enough by tomorrow that I can set aside a half hour for you, okay?"

Jack smiled. "That's all I need. Thanks, Bittle."

Eric shook his head as he took a drink of his PSL. "You're the only one who calls me that. What are you, my coach?"

He was smiling as he said it, but Jack looked worried, like Eric might actually be offended. "Sorry. I can call you Eric if you'd prefer."

"Oh lord, no, Jack!" Eric laughed. "You call me whatever you please. Bittle, Eric, Bitty, hell, make up your own name if you want."

"Bitty?" Jack raised an eyebrow.

"That was my hockey nickname in college," Eric explained. "And if you make a single comment about my height, I will kick you under this table."

Jack snorted, but his smirk quickly faded into a softer smile. "I, um. I watched some tape of you," he said, and Eric didn't think he was imagining the faint blush on Jack's cheeks. "You were really good. I'm still really, really sorry about the stuff I said before—"

"Jack, that was so long ago—"

"I know, but I'm still sort of horrified at myself."

"Well stop, or I'm gonna post really unflattering pictures of you to the Snapchat at the game tonight."

"I bet that would be a really effective threat if I knew what Snapchat was. Which is not an invitation for you to tell me, by the way," Jack added as Eric pulled out his phone, grinning.

"No no no, let me show you! There are some features I don't really use for the team's story…"

And that was how Eric wound up with a photo app full of ridiculous selfies taken with Jack Zimmermann using Snapchat's silliest filters.

He probably shouldn't have been at all surprised when Siri chirped as soon as he sat down at his desk and presented him with edited versions of the photos with hearts in both their eyes and stickers like "XOXO" all over them.

omgyall: Oof, what a day.
I am exhausted.
historyeh: It is late. You should get to bed.
omgyall: Did you just get home?
historyeh: Yeah, evening shift tonight.
omgyall: Same here. Well, more like worked overtime today.
historyeh: Everything ok?
omgyall: There was just a bit of a snafu, which I needed to use my magic to help clean up.
Which resulted in me telling my officemate about it, because I needed to do stuff while she was still there.
historyeh: About your magic??
omgyall: Yeah.
historyeh: She's the one with the cousin who got taken away, right?
How'd she take it? Are you safe?
omgyall: Oh, it's fine, honey.
She was delighted.
And now I can use my magic whether or not she's around, which is just sooooooo nice
I don't know how y'all deal with using a keyboard and mouse 24/7
My hand gets all crampy from the mouse.
historyeh: You know, they sell ergonomic mice.
omgyall: Not the point!
historyeh: The point is that you're better than us mere mortals? ;)
omgyall: Mere mortals, my ass.
Tell me again how the Battle of Gettysburg really went down.
historyeh: :P
But you're sure you can trust her?
Now I'm going to worry about you.
omgyall: Oh, sweetheart, no. You didn't see her when she was talking about her cousin.
She was nearly in tears, she was so upset about it.
And when I pointed out to her that I could be a plant trying to get information on her family
well, even a great actress couldn't make their face go white on command like that.
Please don't worry.
historyeh: Even so
I can't promise that I won't.
If you disappeared, I wouldn't have any way of knowing what happened, where you were, how to help you.
omgyall: how's this
remember who you're talking to, honey.
if anything at all happened to me, I will find a way to let you know, ok?
I mean, my parents might be first on the list, but I will absolutely 100% get the message to you too, ok?
it'd be pretty hard for them to keep me from getting into anything at all that I could use to get through the internet.
historyeh: That's true, you do have an advantage there.
omgyall: now, see, you got nothing to worry about.
Now, if you went missing, all I could do is go crazy with worry.
historyeh: But luckily I'm too paranoid to go around telling my coworkers that I can see the past.
omgyall: but now that you got me thinking about it I'm gonna worry.
I mean, not like I never worried about it before.
I know we all worry about each other on here.
historyeh: Yeah
It's always a little nerve-wracking when a regular goes quiet for a few weeks, even though usually they're just on vacation or busy at work or something.
I can't say why, but you'd know if anything happened to me.
omgyall: ??????
I'm not gonna ask how, but I am gonna tell you that I'd love to know sometime if you ever wanna tell me
historyeh: It just
I think you'd know.
I mean, if nothing else, we don't live that far apart, you'd probably hear if a local witch got picked up, right?
omgyall: maybe
if it got out.
Look at my officemate's cousin, sounds like nobody but the family knows about that.
but word does usually seem to get around
and you know everyone on here would be watching for news if we didn't see you for a while.
okay, let's talk about something else
I don't like thinking about you disappearing! :(
historyeh: Yeah.
Oh I just realized, I've been meaning to tell you about this forever and I keep forgetting
omgyall: ooh, what?
historyeh: Just, I was in New York a couple months ago for work
and obviously I've been there before many times,
but I was wandering around in this neighborhood in Brooklyn I'd never been in before.
And you won't believe what I saw back in the 1800s…

Buzzfeed Sports

12 Professional Athletes Who Missed Their True Calling

5. Jack Zimmermann should have been a photographer

instagram screenshot of jack's account, showing ice that has skate marks on it

Okay, maybe it's a bit inaccurate to say that a two-time Stanley Cup champion who led the NHL in points last season missed his true calling. Clearly hockey is in Jack Zimmermann's blood (his father is "Bad Bob" Zimmermann, one of the most celebrated players of the past fifty years), and even an overdose as a teenager couldn't keep him from his destiny. But somewhere out there in a parallel universe there's a Jack Zimmermann who was maybe a little less talented on the ice who instead of an Art Ross has a Pulitzer Prize for his work behind the camera, if the Instagram account of our universe's Zimmermann is any indication. He only started the account a few months ago, but it's already drawing attention not just from hockey buffs but from anyone who can appreciate a beautifully-framed shot of the Providence River or an intimate portrait of his mother, actress Alicia Zimmermann, first thing in the morning. Clearly, they're a family who is as disgustingly talented as they are attractive.

Chapter Text

Posted March 13, 2017 8:08pm EST
by plainjane
Subject: omg omg omg my girlfriend is amazing
You guys, I'm crying. You will never believe this.

You know how I've been angsting for like a month over whether/how to tell my girlfriend about my magic?

Today she said she wanted to sit down and talk about our relationship and like, I wasn't really worried because we've been together for over a year and we're really solid, but that sentence will get anyone's heart racing, y'know?

But then she was talking about how she's really serious about this and wants a future with me and everything and I'm like *whew* yes, of course, me too! Definitely! So then she was like… "Okay, well, I think it's time to show you something, then."

And she started talking about how I couldn't tell anyone, it would be dangerous for people to find out, etc etc and I was thinking oh my god, is she really…? And of course I was like, I would never do anything or tell anyone anything that would put you in any kind of danger, even if for some reason we broke up I'd never do such a thing.

And then we went in the kitchen and she touched some water and it froze! And I just started crying, and she thought I was freaked out by it and started trying to explain that she's not dangerous and everything, and I was finally just like no no no no, that's not why I'm crying honey, hang on just a second. And I got a glass of milk out, and I was like ok, be prepared because you are about to see the stupidest thing ever. And I touched it and turned it into cheese and then she was crying, too—but also laughing because come on, I have the most ridiculous magical power ever, right? I mean, it's useful, just silly.

Anyhow, I'm just… relieved and overjoyed and so in love and it's amazing.

When Eric walked into a conference room for the 11AM meeting he and Jack had set up the next day, he was surprised to find George in there as well, seated across the table from Jack.

"Well, now you do have me worried," he said as he took a seat next to Jack. "Although I'm not sure which of us I should be worried for."

George smiled. "There's nothing to worry about, Eric. Jack just told me he thinks it's a good time to let you know why we've been so worried about his social media presence this season."

Well, that did zero to stop the creeping sense of dread.

Eric pursed his lips, glaring at Jack out of the corner of his eye. "I thought you promised me no scandals, Mr. Zimmermann."

"I promised you no scandals that would break today," Jack said with a smirk, bumping Eric's knee with his under the table. At Eric's wary look, he shook his head, the smirk dropping. When it was gone, it was easy for Eric to see the worry it had been masking. "It's not a scandal, not—not like you're thinking. But… people will think it is. Some people."

"Some people will see it that way," George said, "but to be quite frank, the Falconers don't need those people's money. That said, we do hope that your work helping the fans get to know Jack on a more personal level will reduce the backlash and make the media likely to move on more quickly."

Eric had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, but that creeping sense of dread was now a solid ball sitting heavy in his stomach.

"Jack, what is it?" he asked quietly.

Jack gave Eric a little smile, just enough to be reassuring. A light blush stained his cheeks and the tips of his ears, but he managed to hold Eric's gaze as he shrugged.

"I'm planning on coming out, publicly. Probably in a couple of months."

Eric's head twitched to one side, his brow furrowing as he tried to figure out if he'd heard Jack right. "I'm sorry, you're—what now?"

"I'm going to tell the entire world that I'm bisexual."

"Holy shit," Eric breathed after a moment, mostly because sitting there in stunned silence seemed even ruder.

His brain managed to set aside the fact that the guy he had a crush on just came out to him long enough to focus on the part where one of the best players in the league, and his friend, was about to become the first out player in the NHL.

As his head wrapped around that, a smile spread across his face.

"Jack, that's amazing, that's—holy shit, Jack! That's wonderful, but also—dear lord, you must be terrified, it took me forever to get up the courage to come out to my own parents, I can't even imagine—that's so incredibly brave, and it's gonna mean so much to so many kids out there who think there's no place for them in sports—but I mean, for you, too, that's wonderful! I mean, obviously it won't always be super wonderful, the world is full of terrible people, but I'm sure you'll get support from all sorts of places, probably where you least expect it, even. And trust me, it'll be such a relief to be yourself and not have to keep such a huge part of your life all hidden away. As long as your team has your back—they'd better have his back—" He directed that last bit to George, but kept talking even as she opened her mouth to respond. "—as long as they've got your back that'll go such a long way, and—"

"Bittle." Jack stopped him with a hand on his arm. His cheeks warmed as he realized he'd been rambling, but Jack's smile looked genuinely happy. "That is definitely the most enthusiastic response I've gotten so far."

Eric frowned and looked over at George again. "People haven't been enthusiastic?"

"That was… very enthusiastic," Jack said, and again, Eric would think he was being chirped except for the way Jack's smile made his eyes crinkle. He looked away quickly, because there was something else in Jack's eyes, something beyond happiness that Eric really shouldn't analyze. He'd only take it for more than it really meant.

"It's not that we don't support Jack 100%," George said, "but I would say most of us have tended more toward cautious optimism than exuberant enthusiasm." George's small smirk told him he was definitely being chirped this time.

"And I totally understand why everyone's been like that—cautiously optimistic," Jack said, looking down at his hand where it lay in a fist on the table, "but… it means a lot to me that someone is actually excited about it. Like this is absolutely a good thing that I should definitely do, no question."

Eric ducked his head a little to get Jack to look him in the eye again. "I'm not saying it's gonna be a walk in the park or anything," he said. "It's not like I haven't had slurs flung at me on the ice, or worse. But you couldn't pay me enough to go back and stay in that closet, not a chance. And I know it's different for you, a way bigger audience, but… there'll be problems, but I don't for one minute think you're gonna regret it."

"Thanks," Jack said quietly.

"Thank you for telling me," Eric said.

Jack shrugged. "I really should have told you sooner. You're probably the closest I'll get to someone who's been there before. It's just been… hard."

"Well, we didn't exactly have the best start," Eric pointed out. "I'm just glad you trust me enough now."

"So now you understand why we've been hoping that a social media presence would make Jack more of a three-dimensional human being in the fans' eyes," George said. Eric had almost forgotten she was there. "Get people on his side as a person instead of just as some untouchable hockey god." Jack snorted. "And I think the Instagram is succeeding at that beyond what any of us were expecting. I mean, that Buzzfeed list last week is not something anyone could have imagined a year ago. But obviously, you're going to have to be a little more directly involved in all this once Jack actually comes out."

"Well, if there's one thing I'm good at—okay, it's baking, but if there's two things I'm good at, the other one is dealing with homophobic idiots online." Eric patted Jack's arm, careful not to let his hand linger. "Trust me, I got your back there. And if it gets to be too much, I'll make you a throwaway account and you can troll the hell out of 'em."

That got Jack's attention. "What?"

"I mean, it's not something you should do too much, but it can be surprisingly therapeutic every once in a while." Eric heard a hesitant "Um…" from George and rushed to add, "Obviously that's something I would discuss with you as a friend on our own time and not in any capacity related to my employment with the Falconers organization."

"Obviously," Jack said with a laugh.

They chatted for a few more minutes about plans they should make, until George had to leave for another meeting. Eric and Jack followed her out of the conference room, but Jack hung back a little as she rushed off. Eric followed his lead.

"Thank you, really," Jack said. "I don't think I even realized how much I needed to hear someone get excited about this. Everyone else I've told, the first thing they've said is 'Are you sure?' and then it's been this very somber sort of, 'We'll support you no matter what you decide' kind of thing, even when I said I'd already decided? Like they all assumed I'd probably change my mind? I know they all care about me, and they all really, really do support me, but you're definitely the only person who's reacted like that. Like it's a genuinely good idea."

If they had been somewhere a little more private, Eric absolutely would have given that boy a hug. There was no doubt in his mind that Jack needed one. As it was, he laid a hand on Jack's arm, rubbing it gently, and tried to ignore the feel of the bicep under his palm.

"People don't always realize how they come off, y'know?" he said. "They want what's best for you, and sure, there's reason for 'em to worry, but they don't necessarily get that sometimes what you need isn't everyone looking out for you so much as somebody who's unapologetically on your side."

"Exactly," Jack said, with a sigh that sounded like relief.

"I got real lucky, the team I was on when I came out. Enthusiastic doesn't start to cover it. But even some of them, when I told 'em I got this job? They pulled me aside and were like, 'that's the NHL, Bitty, it's not like it is here, I know you won't be playing but you still gotta be careful.' They didn't get that I'd been through with being careful years ago. I was careful all my life growing up, and I didn't get any less beat up for it. At least now if people attack me, they're doing it on my terms."

He felt a little bit like a hypocrite, when the truth was that he would never be completely through being careful. But he couldn't tell Jack about that. Who knew, maybe someday they'd be close enough, but their friendship was still new and delicate, even if they'd found a new bond that morning. And anyhow, the last thing Jack needed right then was another secret to keep.

Jack nodded. "The team really has been great so far. Not everyone knows, just the guys I'm good friends with, but most of them didn't bat an eye, really. Just, y'know, started trying to figure out my type so they could try to shove guys in my path."

"Aw, that's exactly how my teammates reacted," Eric said with a grin.

Jack laughed. "But, yeah… as soon as I started talking about making it public, suddenly it all went from fun and games to this really serious thing, being really concerned for me. It kind of gave me whiplash, y'know? When even someone like Tater gets like that."

Eric nodded. "Well, if you wanna talk about it, just let me know, you know where my office is. Actually, here, let me give you my number, you feel like texting or calling anytime, you hit me up, all right?"

"That would be great," Jack said, and he had that smile again—the one that shone through his eyes in a way Eric had to work hard to ignore.

They parted ways after they exchanged phone numbers, but Eric didn't go straight back to his office. He went down to the parking lot and got in his car and knocked his head gently against the steering wheel a few times.

What was he supposed to do? Jack liked guys. Jack. The guy he'd now gone with twice to get some kind of food alone together, and had spent the entire time convincing himself it wasn't a date because Jack was straight… was not straight.

And the way Jack had looked at him a few times today…

But Eric really, really couldn't let himself think that way. Jack wasn't out yet. He probably wouldn't want to date any guys until he was, maybe not for a while after. And it wasn't like he'd come out to Eric because he wanted to date him, it was just because of work. Because Eric was going to be heavily involved in the process of his coming out publicly. That was all. Heck, their friendship was new enough that if Eric hadn't had the particular job he had, there was no way Jack would have told him yet.

Before he even realized he'd done anything, Siri was ringing in his pocket—but it wasn't Siri's ring. It was the ring of someone else's phone that had been put on speaker. Eric sighed and hoped he hadn't called Jack.

"Bits, my man, what up? Aren't you at work?"

Oh, thank god. He pulled Siri out so he could hear Shitty better, forehead still leaning forlornly against the steering wheel.

"Shitty, I am going to die, and I can't even tell anyone why."

"Why you gonna die, Bits?"

"I CAN'T TELL YOU!" Eric finally sat up, his hands flailing. "Not even you! I mean, I'll be able to tell you eventually, but it involves a secret that is not mine to tell."

"So… no offense, bro, I'm happy to talk, but can I ask why you called me?"

Eric snorted. "I didn't actually mean to. I'm not sure if Siri thought I needed to hear your voice, or if I'm just so emotional my subconscious decided to yell at you."

"Bitty, for real, are you okay?" Shitty's voice was uncharacteristically serious for a moment.

"I'm fine, Shits. I'm sorry, I shouldn't be bugging you. I just found out this secret and it's actually not a bad thing at all, it just… it makes some things… kinda complicated. I'm out in my damn car so I could get myself together without making a scene in front of my officemate, who does not know the secret. I guess I should head back in."

"Ok, bro, but first since I've got you, can I tell you real quick about this awesome chick in my class this morning? She's usually real quiet, but today the professor was going on…"

Eric settled into his seat with a content sigh and let the familiar sound of Shitty's storytelling wash over him.

historyeh: hey
omgyall: hey, stranger!
haven't talked to you in a week!
after all that talk of disappearing, I'm glad at least I saw one reply from you on someone's post so I knew you're around
historyeh: Heh, yeah, sorry.
Lots of travel for work, lots of late nights.
It's been hectic
and exhausting.
For what it's worth, I missed you. I should have sent you a message.
omgyall: I'm sorry it was exhausting.
travel anywhere interesting?
historyeh: Eh, nowhere I haven't been several times before.
I guess I did do one interesting thing in the past week.
I came out to that cute guy at work.

Eric's stomach tightened into a knot. He didn't want to hear about this. He didn't want to know if historyeh had gone and gotten himself a cute new boyfriend. But he couldn't say any of that.

historyeh: I didn't say I was interested in him or hit on him or ask him out or anything.
He was really sweet about it, though.
Maybe one day.
I don't know.

Eric's stomach unclenched just a little. He hadn't completely lost his chance.

He also still had zero room to complain, given that he'd spent the past week in a crisis state over Jack Zimmermann. Odd that Jack had come out to Eric around the same time historyeh came out to his crush. Wouldn't it be amazing if—wow, no. Eric sucked in a breath. Now that kind of thinking was a surefire way to drive himself batty. Jack had come out to him because of work; historyeh had clearly come out for personal reasons. It was a coincidence that it happened around the same time, yes, but that did not even come close to meaning… anything. At all. Eric knew, that way lay madness.

omgyall: Well, I'm glad it went well!
You got the evening off? Wanna watch some Cutthroat Kitchen?

Over the next couple of weeks, Eric was sure that the universe was testing him. It was either that or Something was Happening with Jack Zimmermann, and he still wasn't quite ready to let himself hope too hard for that one.

Jack had texted him while the Falconers were out of town for a few days. Not to get advice on coming out, not about anything work-related at all. Just to see what was up. Jack didn't text him a lot, it wasn't like they were having hourlong personal conversations. But it was a handful of texts more than Eric had expected.

Once the team was back in town, Jack stopped by his office almost every day after practice, even if they'd just met that morning. At first, Jack always came with some excuse to talk to Eric—a question about Instagram, a photo to show him. It only took about three days, though, before he stopped pretending to need anything work-related and just came by to say hi, always with a cute little smile that got harder and harder to not overanalyze as the days went by.

They went to get coffee a few more times. The fourth time, Elena came with them. Eric found he wasn't nearly as annoyed by this as he thought he might be—especially once they got back to their office.


Eric glanced over to find Elena completely turned around away from her computer and staring rather intensely at him.

"What?" he asked. "What did I do?"

She reached out and punched him on the arm. "What the fuck did I just witness?"

"I don't… know?" He pushed back from his desk and looked at his computer quizzically. "I'm not doin' anything that strange, you've seen me write emails without the keyboard like a million times now."

Elena laughed. "Oh my god, dude, please tell me you're not that oblivious."

Eric sighed and shook his head. "You're gonna have to give me more'n that."

"Look, I'm not here to make any assumptions about anyone, okay? Least of all someone I could probably get fired for making assumptions about. But if there was a girl who was looking at me the way that boy was looking at you for the past half hour, I think it would be a bigger assumption to keep assuming she's straight."

Eric's face burned hot enough he didn't even bother to turn his head to try and hide it.

"That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard."

"Well, the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard is a boy who can talk to computers, and that turned out to be true, so." She raised an eyebrow pointedly.

"There's nothing—it's not—Jack can't possibly—" Eric sighed. "Look, just… don't get my hopes up, okay? Even if there were any chance he liked me like that, it's not like he could do anything about it, right?"

Elena shrugged. "Maybe. But, like, the hearts in that boy's eyes were visible from space, so if that's him trying to keep it on the DL, somebody needs to stage an intervention."

"I think you're imagining things. I hate to tell you this, but if you're gonna try to live vicariously through someone, you gotta find someone who has an actual romantic life of their own," Eric says, patting her hand.

"Oh, no," she said, giving him a self-satisfied smirk. "I'm not living vicariously through anybody."

Eric's eyebrows shot up. "Is that so?"

"I had a date this weekend," she confessed. "His name is Paul. He's an optometry student, of all things!"

"Now, where on earth did you meet an optometry student?" Eric asked.

"Well, after that time you were supposed to meet your mystery man who bailed on you—"

"He didn't bail, he had a panic attack. Honestly." Eric rolled his eyes.

"Well, anyhow, I really did delete Tindr. And I told myself, no more jocks, and definitely no more artists." She rolled her eyes. "Way too much drama. So that basically cuts out every guy I could meet at school. Anyhow, long story short, turns out the public library has a book club that meets every other Thursday night, so I went, and there was this cute guy with these big brown eyes and glasses who kept sneaking looks at me when he was supposed to be talking about Persepolis…"

Elena went on to tell him all about her date with Paul, and for a little while he was able to completely ignore the question of what on earth was or was not going on between himself and Jack Zimmermann.

As it turned out, Eric only had to wait another week to be put out of his misery.

He wasn't even surprised at the knock on his office door.

"C'mon in, Jack!" he called out, grabbing the mouse.

"How did you know it was me?" Jack asked as he opened the door, brow furrowed adorably.

Eric smirked at him. "Because y'all's practice ended a half hour ago, and far be it from me to call you predictable but you do seem to like your routines."

Jack frowned at him for a moment, though he didn't seem seriously upset. "I feel like I should be offended, but I also can't actually argue against any of that." His eyes slid over to Elena's desk. "Will she be back soon, or is she gone for the day?"

"She's gone, so feel free to have a seat if you like." Eric waved at Elena's empty chair. Jack fiddled with it a little before finally sitting down, and between that, the way he scratched his neck as he sat down, and the way he seemed to be chewing his lip like his life depended on it, the overall effect was very… fidgety. Much more than usual for Jack.

"You okay?" Eric asked, turning his chair to fully face Jack.

Jack looked up at him in surprise. "Me? Oh. Yeah. What are you up to?"

"Just digging through our mentions on all the accounts to see if there's anything worth replying to or sharing. There usually isn't, but now and then a team member'll retweet a good picture from a game that their wife took, or there'll be some positive blog post we hadn't seen or whatever." He rolled his eyes. "It's thrilling, trust me."

Jack nodded, although given the slightly unfocused look in his eyes (which were looking anywhere but at Eric), Eric wasn't sure he'd even heard a word of that. "You sure you're okay, hon?"

Jack shook himself a little. "Yeah, sorry, I'm—I'm just nervous."

"What about?" Eric asked. "You can't possibly be worried about the game tomorrow, y'all've beat the Sabres no problem both times you've played 'em this season."

Jack let out a breath that was almost a laugh and ran a hand over his face.

"Okay, um. Look, if this is completely out of line, just say the word, the last thing I want is to make you uncomfortable or mess up our friendship or anything—"

Eric laid his hand on Jack's arm, feeling Jack relax at the contact. This had to be something to do with his coming out; he probably wanted to ask personal questions about Eric's experiences or something, which was absolutely fine, of course. It was actually kind of sweet that Jack would be nervous about that.

"Jack, honey, I'm sure you're fine. What is it?"

"Would you want to, um. Go out sometime? With me? Like, on a date?"

Bitty froze as the gears in his brain ground to a halt. He blinked up at Jack.

"Yes," he said automatically, before his brain was able to get fully rebooted. As soon as the answer was out of his mouth, though, he realized—historyeh. He didn't even know—he couldn't just sit around waiting—but he didn't want to miss a chance—

"I mean," he blurted out, scrambling to figure out what it was he did mean, "I like you, Jack. A lot. And yeah, I do want to go out on a date with you. But, um." He swallowed, and it was just enough time for him to grab onto an excuse. "I just don't know—dating someone famous, when you're not even out yet—can I have a day to think it over? That's just… kinda a lot."

And it was. Now that he'd said it, he realized it was true. Well, sort of. He was pretty sure that, if he weren't interested in anyone else, he would have jumped at the chance and then maybe started to worry about those issues later. And they probably wouldn't be dealbreakers, really, just things they'd need to talk about. But still.

"Oh, um. Yeah." Jack didn't look happy, but he didn't look crushed. Hopefully he believed it when Eric said he liked him and wanted this at least to some degree, because those things were true. "I get it, yeah. I'm sorry, I should have waited. I mean, what good is a date, anyhow, when we couldn't even act romantic in public really? I'm really sorry, I shouldn't have asked yet, we can just forget it—"

"No! Don't apologize, Jack, dear lord you silly Canadian!" Eric smiled fondly. "Really, just—let me have a day, okay? Let's talk tomorrow, and maybe it's not the best timing or maybe I'll think it over and say screw the timing, I don't even know, just. I'm not saying no right now, okay? And for the record? I'm glad you didn't wait."

That was the truth. He was so relieved to be done wondering, done second-guessing every one of their interactions. Jack liked him, Jack liked him the same way he liked Jack, and that was the best news he'd heard in a while.

Jack got up, nodding. "Okay. I'll, um. I'll see you tomorrow, then, eh?" He gave Eric a shy, sweet smile as he left, and Eric just about melted into a puddle in his chair.

Gosh. He really had it so bad for Jack. Maybe he was being silly; maybe it was ridiculous to hold out for even one more day for a guy who had a panic attack about meeting him, whom he might not even find physically attractive even if they do meet, who might not be the least bit interested in him romantically.

But he caught movement on his computer screen out of the corner of his eye, and when he looked he realized that it had apparently taken it upon itself to connect to the VPN he used to go to the witches-only forum. He hadn't even realized he was making it do that, which was a sign of how emotional he'd gotten from thinking about what might or might not ever be between him and historyeh.

"No, no, no," he said to the computer as he put a stop to it, "I can't do that here. Well, not on you, I don't even have Tor installed on you. Siri…"

He looked down and found that she'd already pulled up their DM conversations. He picked her up and looked at last night; they had traded stories of being bullied as kids. The fact that historyeh's mother was famous had both helped and hurt him—a lot of kids at his school tried to suck up to him to get to meet her, but some kids (and adults) came down even more harshly on him for being overweight when his mom was a model. Apparently he'd lost the excess weight when he got more into sports as a teenager, but he was still really insecure about his looks.

"You think he's hot now, Siri? I dunno about you, but I definitely get the vibe that people do think he's hot now, and it's not so much that he tries to be humble about it but that he's, like, genuinely uncomfortable with it." Eric sighed. "Am I being an idiot? Should I go chase Jack down and tell him I'd love to go out with him? Do you think this guy's worth even thinking about turning Jack down for?"

Almost immediately, Siri opened up a good dozen tabs in her web browser. Eric flicked through them and quickly saw that they were all open to different spots in his DM history.

There was the time he'd just walked in on his first-ever boyfriend cheating on him, and was too upset to talk to anyone at the Haus about it, but historyeh had stayed up half the night alternately talking to him about it and keeping him distracted with bad movies. There was the time he'd walked historyeh through baking and frosting a birthday cake for his mother. There were a couple really interesting in-depth conversations they'd had about books, a couple of especially funny times they'd watched TV together, and then when they'd watched the Stanley Cup finals together last year, rooting for different teams and chirping the hell out of each other.

Eric had only gotten through half the tabs when he put her down again with a sigh.

"Okay, okay, I get it. Which side are you on, anyhow? Because you sure do love reminding me how cute Jack is."

In reply, an image appeared on her screen.

gif from road to el dorado of two characters saying 'both is good'

He rolled his eyes.

"Amazing how you manage to be my most useful and yet, simultaneously, my least useful friend, all at the same time."

Chapter Text

Posted March 28, 2015, 1:03am EST
by historyeh
Subject: Introduction post
Um, hi. I've read the rules and safety guidelines and all before posting, and as instructed I will now prove that by starting this post by telling you my favorite food: Chicken tenders.

(Going back and seeing that everyone else really did start their first posts like that makes me feel a little less ridiculous. I'm actually glad this place takes privacy and safety so seriously; it's the only reason I'm willing to post here at all.)

So, I can see the past. The main limitation is that it's just wherever I currently am—I can't, like, see feudal England while I'm in the U.S. But wherever I am, I can sift through time there—not literally, with my hands, but mentally time really is sort of like the sand in an hourglass and I sift through it to find the time I want to look at. I'm sure that made no sense. Anyhow, then I can see what was happening there, like a ghost (yes, I've had cars go through me, yes, it's strange).

It's not terribly useful, to be honest. I could be a historian, I suppose, but I have no way to prove any of it (and yes, some of the information I have is different from published accounts). So it's just kind of something I mess with when I'm curious about a particular event or something. Or when I want to replay something and think about what I could have done differently. I've had to learn not to do that too much, so I don't obsess over things I can't change.

The magic comes from my mother's family. Her ability is similar, but it's centered on people instead of places. She needs to be actually touching a person for it to work, and then she see any particular time in that person's life.

So, yeah. Only one person outside my family and my therapist knows about my magic, and I'm not really on great terms with him anymore (and he lives on the other side of the country, anyhow), and I don't live near my family. I've never met any witches where I live now—or if I have, they haven't told me any more than I've told them. So I just thought it would be nice to talk to people and compare experiences.

omgyall: Hey, let me know when you get online, I'd really like to talk to you about something.

Eric waited until he was home from work to send the message, even if it was kind of torture. As it turned out, that maybe wasn't a bad choice because he got a reply almost immediately.

historyeh: I'm here. I was about to message you anyhow.
What's up?
omgyall: okay gosh I really have to do this don't I?
historyeh: ???
You don't have to do anything.
You never have to tell me anything you don't want to.
omgyall: I know but it's kinda now or never with this
so like
here's the thing
A guy asked me out today at work.
and I like him
and I would say yes
except that, to be totally honest, I'd sort of been holding onto this hope that eventually there might be some chance of there being something between you and me
there, I said it
and I just
I don't need to meet you tomorrow or for you to even tell me that yes that's definitely what you want out of this
I just need you to tell me if there is any chance at all here or if I should just go ahead and move on and go out with this guy
historyeh: oh wow
omgyall: if you're not the least bit interested in that, that is FINE!
I mean it's stupid anyhow, we don't even know what each other look like
I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't have put you on the spot like that
I'd figured before that if we met eventually we'd just find out then if there was any sort of chemistry, and I was honestly fine to just wait until then but then this happened.

There was a pause, and Eric had to hold himself back from continuing to babble. The least he could do at that moment was give the poor guy a minute to collect his thoughts after ambushing him.

historyeh: And you'd pick me over this guy? really?
omgyall: You're one of my closest friends.
I think if I started dating him, and then you expressed interest, I'd regret missing my chance with you.

Another pause. Eric fidgeted in his seat, but managed to stay quiet.

historyeh: So if I said no, and you went out with him, would you be settling?
omgyall: No, I don't think so…

Eric bit his lip, trying to decide how to explain.

omgyall: I legitimately like him. A lot. I've had a bit of a crush on him for a while now, actually.
And if you're not interested in being anything other than friends, I just need to know that so I can move past it and be with him 100%.
But if I never asked, and just went out with him, there'd always be some part of me wondering what might have been here, and that wouldn't be fair to him.
historyeh: And if I said yes, and we met and it went well and we started dating, would there be some part of you wondering what might have been with him?

Man, he was asking the hard questions. It was fair, though. Eric supposed he could have hidden the existence of another guy entirely if he'd wanted to, but he wanted to be honest. Maybe he should have been more honest with Jack.

omgyall: Not in the same way.
I don't think I know him well enough yet to really worry that much about "what might have been," y'know?
I mean I might wonder a little, but it wouldn't keep me up at night.
historyeh: And I would?
omgyall: Maybe, yeah. :)
It's hard telling with any of this, of course, but if I really just never asked, I think it might.
I mean, I know you've got a boy at work you've been after and all
So maybe in all this even if you like me, he's the one who'd keep you up at night, and that's fair
historyeh: I don't think you need to worry about him.

Eric gasped, but historyeh didn't say anything else immediately.

omgyall: What does that mean, exactly?
historyeh: It means I feel kind of stupid for not realizing what was right in front of me this whole time.
omgyall: Oh…
Not to be dense, but what exactly does that mean? I just don't want to assume anything…
historyeh: It never occurred to me to even wonder if I could develop romantic feelings for someone I've never met
but when you said that this guy asked you out and you liked him and you wanted to say yes…
I don't think I've ever been so jealous in my life.

Eric laughed—half in relief, half because he couldn't believe they'd both been equally stupid about this.

omgyall: Believe it or not, that's pretty much exactly the thought process I went through when you told me there was someone at work you liked. :)
historyeh: haha
I guess you should have told me you had a crush on a guy at work sooner then so I could join you in the land of people with their heads out of their asses.
omgyall: LOL
Oh my goodness
Honestly though
once I realized I had feelings for you I didn't really want to mention him…
I mean, on the one hand dangling that in front of you hoping to make you jealous would be so manipulative
but on the other hand if I talked about him and you didn't tell me you were jealous it'd make me sad but at the same time it still wouldn't be an answer, y'know?
It'd just be crazy-making.
historyeh: I'm really glad you said something now.
omgyall: Me, too. :D
And, you know, if you still don't want to meet yet that's okay.
I really don't want to push you into another panic attack.
historyeh: Trust me, that won't be a problem.
This changes things so much. A lot.
Are you busy Saturday night?
omgyall: Oh goodness! Really?
I mean, no, I'm not.
And I would love to see you then.
historyeh: You said you're about an hour south of Boston, right?
omgyall: Yep!
historyeh: I know it's a bad idea to post exactly where we live on here
even in the DMs, because hackers etc etc…
But do you think maybe if I asked you exactly what city you were in, you could magic your answer off the server somehow?
omgyall: LOL I suppose so
They really do lock the servers down tight, it'll take a bit of doing
Which is why I don't just say whatever the heck I want then just erase everything!
… Well, that and, truth be told, I really like being able to look back at our conversations later.
historyeh: Me, too.
I wouldn't want them all to be deleted.
But just one line?
omgyall: Yeah, just one line I can do in a few minutes. Just this once. ;)
omgyall: ok, well… I live in Providence
historyeh: That's perfect. :)
omgyall: You said you're south of Boston, too, right? Are you nearby?
historyeh: I am, yeah.
Meeting in Providence would be perfect.
omgyall: Do you want to trade phone numbers in case either of us needs to get in touch?
historyeh: I promise, I swear I will be there. I'll be early.
omgyall: Oh honey, I believe you!
I guess I was just kind of hoping to maybe get to hear your voice early :)
historyeh: haha
I think I'd rather keep you in suspense ;)
omgyall: Rude!
So I guess asking for a photo is right out, then.
historyeh: Right out.
I'm enjoying this already.
omgyall: So rude.

They agreed to meet at 6:00 on Saturday. Eric had assumed they'd meet at a restaurant or something, but historyeh gave him directions to a very specific spot along the river in India Point Park. Eric had been to the park a couple of times; he didn't know it well enough to know the exact spot, but he knew it had beautiful views of the water and the city. He blushed at the realization that historyeh had chosen somewhere scenic and romantic for their first meeting—even if it would be rather cold that time of year. He assumed they'd probably head to a restaurant quickly enough.

Since historyeh insisted they not trade photos or anything identifiable before meeting (entirely to tease Eric, he was pretty sure), they were both going to bring a copy of Consider the Fork with them, just like the last time they'd tried to meet up.

Once they were done talking, Eric flopped down onto his bed and scream-squealed a little into his pillow. It was really happening. They were going to meet, and not just as friends!

He couldn't help hoping a little that historyeh was hot. That was only natural, right? Now that their feelings were out in the open, what if they met and Eric really didn't find him at all attractive? Or vice-versa? That would have been okay back when they were going to meet as friends, but now, how awkward would it be to say "I know I said I had feelings for you, but I was wrong"?

Especially since, well… He wasn't proud of even thinking this, but he was about to turn down Jack Zimmermann for this guy. Possibly the hottest guy he'd ever met. Eric would have to be careful not to compare historyeh to Jack—obviously, the odds of him being that attractive were next to none—which was fine! It wasn't like Eric was, either. 99% of the population wasn't, and Eric had to make sure he didn't hold historyeh to unreasonable standards.

And then there was Jack. Eric wasn't really looking forward to turning Jack down. He didn't want to turn him down, not really—but he wanted to see what might happen with historyeh even more than he wanted to see what might happen with Jack, and he couldn't do those things at once. Well, technically he supposed he could. People dated multiple people casually all the time… but he didn't think that either of these guys were the type to do much casually. And especially with historyeh, he knew that if they did have physical chemistry he'd want to get serious quickly, so it would probably only be leading Jack on to say otherwise. So yeah, tomorrow he was going to turn down a date with Jack Zimmermann, as bad of an idea as that sounded like.

The only question was how to do it…

Jack stopped by his office after practice, as usual. Elena was there, so Eric stepped out into the hallway to talk to him. But, of course, the hallway wasn't terribly private, either.

"Let's go get some coffee," Jack suggested, affection shining in his eyes that only made Eric feel terribly guilty.

"Um." Eric shifted uncomfortably. He still wanted to be friends with Jack, and he and Jack got coffee together all the time as friends. "I want to do that, yes. But. I feel like it would be dishonest of me to go get coffee with you without telling you first that I don't… think… I can go on a date with you?" He said the last part as quietly as he could while still being sure Jack would hear him, even though the hallway seemed empty.

Jack nodded, biting his lip. "Okay. We're still friends, though?"

"I hope so!" Eric said in a rush, probably sounding too eager.

"Then let's go get coffee." He shrugged. "If you want to talk more about that, we can, but you don't owe me an explanation."

Eric let out a whoosh of breath. "Great. Okay, yeah. Let's go."

They didn't say anything else until they were outside the building, but as soon as they were Eric started chattering quietly. "I'm so sorry Jack, I really like you and it's not like I don't want to go out with you—"

"I know it's a lot," Jack said. "I told you that. It's totally understandable that you wouldn't want to date someone famous, or someone in the closet, or someone famous who's about to come out of the closet and get a bright light shone on his personal life. Heck, I wouldn't want to date someone like that if I weren't already someone like that. I'm not going to take it personally, don't worry."

He gave Eric a gentle, affectionate smile, and Eric suddenly knew he couldn't just lie to this boy. How to word the truth in a way that wouldn't hurt Jack might be a problem, though.

"It's not… really… that," he finally managed. "I mean, that's all true and it's all stuff I might worry about, but honestly, Jack, I like you a lot and I'm not sure that would be enough to keep me away."

Eric could feel a blush blooming over his cheeks as he looked determinedly at the ground. He maybe hadn't meant to be quite that honest. But then, Jack had been the one to ask him out, so it wasn't like he had any reason to feel embarrassed for liking Jack.

"So…" Jack paused, and Eric had to hold himself back from interrupting since he knew what Jack was going to ask. "Again, you don't owe me an explanation, but I am a little confused."

Eric sighed, but they were at the coffee shop by then, so he waited until they'd bought their drinks and sat down to answer.

"So, there's… someone," he finally said, eyes locked on the spot where his thumb fidgeted with the sleeve on his coffee cup instead of anywhere near Jack. "A friend of mine. A close friend. And I've been interested in being more than friends for a while now, but I was just kind of sitting back and waiting to see where it went, y'know? I didn't want to push him and mess up our friendship, because he really is one of my best friends. But then yesterday I realized that if I started dating you—or anyone, honestly, it's not just you, you're just the only guy who's asked me out since I moved here—if I didn't find out first if there could be something there, with him, then I'd always be wondering about what might have been, and that wouldn't be fair to you."

"So I take it there's something there with him now?" Jack's voice was unexpectedly warm, not hurt or defensive like Eric had thought he might be.

"Maybe." Eric shrugged one shoulder. "I hope so? We're, well, we're going out tomorrow night. So at least he wanted that much. We'll see what happens from there."

"That's all you can really do, right?" When Eric glanced up for a second, Jack was looking at him with a soft smile. He didn't look like someone who'd just been rejected.

"So, anyhow, I'm sorry, I probably shouldn't have even told you all that, it's kinda crappy to be like 'sorry, I picked someone else.' I just—I guess I didn't wanna lie, and I wanted you to know that it's not because I don't like you, or really anything to do with you at all, you just happened to catch me at this weird time when I'm trying to figure out what's happening with someone else—"

"Bitty, it's okay, really. I get it. I've been there, sort of. So I really do understand."

Eric looked back up in surprise, and this time he managed to keep looking at Jack instead of letting his eyes drop back down to his drink again. "You have? But you're single now, so… it didn't turn out well, I take it?"

Jack shrugged as he took a sip of his drink, and Eric swore it looked like he was taking a sip to cover up a bit of a chuckle. But when he put his cup down, it was gone, back to the same soft smile from earlier.

"It definitely didn't go the way I expected it to," he said. "But just because something doesn't turn out the way you thought it would, doesn't necessarily mean it was the wrong choice, eh?"

Eric grinned. "You are wise beyond your years, Mr. Zimmermann."

"Maybe I'm just wise beyond your years," Jack chirped back with a smirk.

Eric tsked. "Need I remind you that you are the one who asked me out? Cradle robber."

A light blush spread across Jack's cheeks as he laughed, but he didn't look embarrassed about the fact that he'd asked Eric out. In fact, he didn't look like a man who'd just been turned down at all. He picked up his coffee and gestured toward Eric with it.

"So tell me about him."

"What?" Eric's voice wasn't quite a squeak, but it was close. Jack couldn't possibly be asking for details about the man Eric chose over him, could he?

"This guy who I'm sure is going to do whatever it takes to make you happy and to be deserving of you. At least, he'd better. And you're my friend, so I hope he does make you happy. So tell me about him."

Eric blinked at Jack for a moment. Either Jack was the most mature, non-jealous person on earth, or he hadn't been that interested in Eric to begin with. But he'd been so nervous about asking Eric out the day before... and he really still wasn't looking at Eric like someone who wasn't interested...

"Well, um..." Eric finally started. He wasn't sure he wanted to admit that he was turning Jack down for someone whose real name and face he didn't know. No matter how well Jack was taking this, that would sting. "He's Canadian too, so I suppose you'd like him."

"Oh, yes, we're all friends, you know."

"I bet! You're all too polite not to be, after all." He smirked at Jack's eyeroll. "We've been friends for a couple years now, and he's been there for me for a lot of stuff. Like when I came out to my family. Which didn't go as badly as I feared, but also not as well as I'd hoped, y'know? He's really interested in history, and of course I live for baking, so we've been reading food history books together—oh jeez, that sounds really nerdy when I say it out loud, doesn't it?"

Jack shrugged. "Nothing wrong with nerdy. I liked Salt, remember?"

"So the fellow nerd says there's nothing wrong with being nerdy, then?" Eric raised an eyebrow and got a cheeky smile in return. "Anyhow, hm. I don't know, he's just always really excited to talk to me, and he lets me ramble like I always do but he actually pays attention to what I'm saying, which is so rare honestly."

That drew a frown from Jack. "It shouldn't be. It's not like you don't have interesting things to say."

Eric smiled and shook his head. "See, I think you Canadians are just too polite to tell me to shut up or to zone out while someone's talking to you. Anyhow, I'm sure you don't really want to hear all about this boy-"

"I want to hear whatever you've got to say," Jack said earnestly. Oh gosh, he was not making it easy to be sure Eric had made the right choice.

"Well, we should probably head back anyhow," he hedged. He should probably end this conversation before Jack asked what this guy looked like or, say, what he did for a living. Or before he lost his resolve and climbed into Jack's lap.

They managed to turn the conversation to that night's game for a while, but as they walked through the practice facility in the direction of Eric's office, Jack stopped off in a little alcove where they could have a modicum of privacy.

"Good luck tomorrow," he said, and Eric thought he meant it. "But, ah—if it doesn't work out with this guy, let me know, eh?"

"I thought he was going to do whatever it takes to make me happy?" Eric asked, eyebrow raised.

Jack bobbled his head noncommittally, casting his eyes around. "Well, you know..." His eyes finally made their way back to Eric, and there was something heated behind them. "Just in case. I can't pretend I'm not interested."

Jack held his gaze for a beat, and Eric was almost convinced he was going to kiss him. For one long moment, the pull between them was almost overwhelming. Eric hoped to God he was making the right choice because he had a feeling he might be missing out on something unforgettable with Jack.

"I'll let you know how it goes," Eric finally murmured, taking a step back and breaking the spell.

Jack nodded. "See you at the game tonight, eh Bittle?"

"Yup. Gotta do my duty on Snapchat. See you later, Jack."

As Eric made his way back to his office, he talked himself down. Yes, he and Jack clearly had physical chemistry, but that wasn't everything. And for all he knew, he'd have just as much chemistry with historyeh, right? And yeah, Jack could be a sweetheart and made Eric laugh, but he knew he could say the same for historyeh. In fact, their dry senses of humor were pretty similar... But for all he knew, Jack might be totally anti-magic, and he couldn't be with someone like that.

He managed to keep himself distracted with work for a couple of hours. But once he was headed home to grab dinner before the game, his thoughts circled back around...

They had similar dry senses of humor. They were both Canadian. They'd both read Salt.

But he couldn't think like that, he just couldn't. Imagine, not just wondering if he should have chosen Jack, but actually showing up expecting... What kind of friend or boyfriend would he be, starting things off disappointed that the man he's in love with wasn't some rich, gorgeous professional athlete?

But as he ate, the thoughts wouldn't leave him alone.

With a sigh, he dredged up what little he did know about both Jack and historyeh, looking for confirmation or refutation of his ridiculous theory.

They both liked hockey—historyeh claimed to just be a fan, but so had Eric. If Eric couldn't say he worked for the NHL, historyeh certainly couldn't say he played for the NHL. Speaking of hockey… historyeh had a strange work schedule that lined up surprisingly well with Eric's. He hadn't said he had to work that night, but he'd suggested they meet on Saturday, when the Falconers weren't playing. Not good enough proof either way.

Then it hit him—historyeh couldn't possibly be Jack. Jack had overdosed the night before the draft and—

"Holy shit," Eric breathed.

He was pretty sure that historyeh had never actually used the word overdose to describe what had happened to him, but clearly that was what it was. He'd said that he told his boyfriend about his magic, his boyfriend had called him a freak and threatened to tell the whole world, and he'd accidentally taken too much of his anxiety medication trying to deal with the resulting panic attack and wound up in the hospital—and there's not exactly a difference between taking too much of your medication and overdosing on it, is there?

Eric felt stupid for letting a little linguistic ambiguity distract him from the similarities in their stories. The fact was, he didn't know what Jack had overdosed on. He'd just assumed the rumors about illicit drugs had to be right, because what else would it be? He'd never judged Jack for it, he'd never judge someone for a mistake they'd made years ago when Jack was clearly clean now.

But what if it hadn't been anything illegal at all?

He dug through the internet while he ate, thankful for his ability to sift through the information far more quickly and efficiently than most people. But the Zimmermanns had never publicly confirmed the cause of the overdose. He'd have to go into hospital records, and there were lines he was not willing to cross, even if he was capable of it.

As he drove to the stadium, his mind was buzzing.

It couldn't all be coincidence, could it? And then there was today… Jack really hadn't acted like someone who was getting shot down. He'd stayed flirtatious, kept looking at Eric like he was his to look at. Come to think of it, he hadn't really even seemed all that surprised.

By the time he got there, Eric was starting to feel like maybe it wasn't so crazy. He still didn't want to get his hopes up—if he was wrong, he'd be perfectly happy to meet historyeh either way, and someday this would be a funny story to tell him. Honey, do you have any idea how much you have in common with Jack Zimmermann? He absolutely would not be disappointed if historyeh didn't have Jack's icy blue eyes or his internationally-ranked ass.

Okay, maybe a little, but not enough to put a damper on things.

As he sat in the stands behind the bench, adding a video of the crowd filing in to the team's Snapchat story, his brain kept right on.

If it was Jack—and it was still a big if, he reminded himself—how long had Jack known? Had he been keeping this a secret since they'd first met in person that summer? That possibility had Eric's stomach churning. He didn't want to think that historyeh would keep something like this from him for months. And Jack had been so mean to him when they'd first met. But what if the panic attack when they were supposed to meet was because Eric would find out about his lies?

As he watched Jack skate out onto the ice, Eric started to hope that they weren't the same person. Now he was anxious about it either way, which was just perfect. He probably shouldn't have started down this rabbit hole in the first place.

He tried to concentrate on the game, and on picking the right moments to post to Snapchat or Twitter. It was tough, especially with Jack looking his way every now and then. More often than usual, he was sure of it.

After the Falconers won handily, he made his way down to the locker room to take a couple post-game snaps. He studiously avoided Jack, getting Tater on some kind of rant about the Sabres' goalie as an excuse to ignore everyone else.

But just as he was finishing up, Jack brushed past him on his way out.

"Hey, Bittle," Jack said, stopping to give Eric that smile again, the confusing one that Eric had only managed to make more confusing over the course of the evening.

"Hey, Jack." And, okay, Eric should probably have been more nervous after everything he'd been thinking about, but he also maybe couldn't help but respond to that smile in what he supposed was exactly the way Jack wanted him to. "That was a sweet goal in the third."

"Thanks. You get footage of it to put up on Snaptwit or whatever?" Jack was clearly trying not to laugh at his own joke.

Eric rolled his eyes. "Snaptwit, I swear. You are not even trying, Mr. Zimmermann. And no, sadly I was not taking a video right then, but I'll pull some official footage in the morning to make some gifs of it for Tumblr."

The blank look on Jack's face didn't seem faked at all. "Is Tumblr a real one? I don't know that one."

"Of course you don't. Get your big hockey butt out of here, Zimmermann." He paused for just a second, then tried to look casual as he added, "I'll see you soon, right?"

Jack stopped in the doorway. Eric definitely wasn't imagining the way Jack's eyes widened a little. "Uh, soon?" Jack asked.

"On Monday," Eric clarified.

"Yeah," Jack said. He sounded a little deflated, but then when he smiled it seemed normal—if a little knowing. "See you Monday."

Eric bit his lip as he watched Jack go. That had given him nearly no information. But then, he hadn't asked for any, had he? Maybe Jack had paused because Eric had figured him out… or maybe he'd just been confused by Eric's comment.

As he drove home, he assured himself that even if they were the same person, he couldn't possibly have been hiding it from Eric for very long. Could he?

Chapter Text

Posted June 20, 2017, 10:15pm EST
by gearhead71
Subject: so how many witches ARE there?
Do you ever get the feeling there are a lot more of us than people think? We all know that when the news gets ahold of a story about a witch, they play it up as though it's some super-rare thing that nobody's ever seen before, and the government is happy to play into that, but just look at this forum. There are, what, thousands of registered users here? Even when you take out the crackpots. And we're just one little corner of the internet.

My grandparents immigrated here just before WWII, and they always talked about how back in Hungary half their town had some kind of magic and nobody blinked an eye at it, they hated how here in the U.S. everyone kept it quiet. Of course, people weren't usually getting punished for it yet back then, it just wasn't something you talked about.

If we didn't have to keep it hidden, who knows, maybe we'd be a majority?

Reply June 20, 2017, 10:20pm EST
by notmyrealname
I don't know—I think your grandparents' town was probably an exception. Yeah, there are a lot more of us than you'd think from reading the news, but I've read a good bit of what history we have about magic and I don't think half the population being witches has ever really been the norm anywhere on a large scale.

I wouldn't be surprised if 10% of the population were magical, though, and even that would be a lot. We all just learn never to talk about it with anyone, so none of us even knows if our next door neighbor is a witch.

Believe me, I'd love for it to be different.

Reply June 20, 2017, 11:30pm EST
by beespace
I think we just need one prominent person to come out as magical. Someone who couldn't just disappear without people noticing and protesting. A famous actor, a politician, etc. Preferably someone with a pretty benign power that people wouldn't feel threatened by.

There must be some of these people, we just need one to be brave enough to do it, maybe advocate for legal protections.

Reply June 21, 2017, 6:02am EST
by historyeh
That's a lot to put one person, though, you know? It would have to be someone who could handle the kind of pressure that would put on them. And their family, who would probably be outed, too.

It shouldn't be just one person, really. It couldn't be, or else just like every other time it'd be treated as a one-off case, a random event. Ideally you'd have a group of four or five prominent witches, from different areas who didn't really know each other before (not all from one band or sports team etc). A couple politicians, a couple of actors, a couple of athletes. So that people could see that we're everywhere.

I have no idea how these people would find each other, not when we're all so careful. A site like this would be perfect, except that we work so hard to make sure that no identifying information gets posted in case of hackers. Maybe we DO have a group like that here and we just don't know it.

It would be nice. I hope it can happen someday.

The next day, Eric had to put Siri under strict orders that no matter what his subconscious tried to do, she was not to send any texts to Jack.

Once he'd told her about his Jack/historyeh theory, she'd pulled up several bits of their DM history he'd forgotten about that supported it—but also a few places where what historyeh had said didn't line up with public information about Jack. But most of it was stuff he'd have to lie about to keep the two identities separate—for example, he'd already said his mother was a model (which was underselling it a bit, in Eric's opinion, if she was Alicia Zimmermann), so if he also said his dad was a retired hockey player, that would narrow down the possibilities too much. Not to mention, make it harder for historyeh to talk about his relationship with his dad without outing himself as a hockey player. So if historyeh sometimes bent the facts when it came to the details of "following his father's footsteps" because his father was really Bad Bob, Eric couldn't blame him.

He funneled all the extra energy that kept threatening to spill out in some embarrassing way into texting Shitty and Lardo all about his plans for the evening (they were so excited for him—he wished like hell he could tell him about his choice between the two guys, let alone his suspicions, but he still couldn't out Jack) and into editing a new vlog post.

Editing video always calmed him; he was pretty sure that actually trying to use iMovie would drive him nuts, but for him, it was almost like he was holding an actual filmstrip that he could cut, paste, and rearrange at will. He could pluck the audio track out when he needed to, weave a new narration track over the video, and handcraft animated transitions, subtitles, and overlays that looked a damn sight better than most of the stuff included with the software.

By the time it was time for him to get ready, his video was ready to post and he'd made two pies—one maple apple and one pecan. He spent at least ten minutes debating whether to bring the apple pie with him, finally deciding that since they were likely going to go to dinner, it was probably not the best idea.

As he sifted through his closet trying to decide what to wear, it was all he could do to will away all thoughts of Jack, and what he'd worn to work that Jack seemed to maybe like, because this was not about Jack. Hopefully. Or not hopefully. Or something.

He finally selected a light blue button up and brown cardigan, mostly because he was pretty sure he'd never worn the cardigan to work so there was no possible way he could be making his choice based on anything Jack Zimmermann may or may not like.

At the last second, he remembered to grab the book he was supposed to bring. To identify him. Because it wasn't going to be Jack, and historyeh didn't know what he looked like.

His leg wouldn't stop jittering as he drove to the park.

Eric parked, but didn't get out of the car just yet. He was a little disappointed that he couldn't see their meeting spot from where he was. It would be nice to just… to know, already. Before he had to actually talk to whoever was there. He chewed on his lip as he drummed his fingers on his leg. Even if he could see whether it was Jack, he still wouldn't know how long Jack had known. What if it was Jack, and what if he'd known for months? What if—what if the entire reason he started being nice to Eric was because he figured it out? Eric swallowed. What if the asshole version of Jack was the real him, and he'd only been trying to impress Eric since then?

With a sigh, he finally got out of the car. It was useless to go around and around in his own head.

Of course, of course, there were some evergreens between the parking lot and the meeting spot, so it was hard to see until he was almost there.

Eric was barely twenty feet away when he stopped and took in the man standing with his back to him, staring out over the water.

He knew that red-and-black coat. He knew that beanie.

He couldn't breathe.

Maybe it was his turn to have a panic attack and not show up. But there was no way he could go to work on Monday and pretend he'd never seen this.

He finally sucked in a shaking breath and walked forward another several feet.

"Jack." He could barely even hear himself, so he cleared his throat before trying again.

"Jack," he said, louder and voice barely even shaking. Jack turned, a huge smile breaking out over his face as soon as he caught sight of Eric.

Eric swallowed, trying to get his… well, his everything under control. He didn't even know what he was feeling anymore, but it was definitely precipitously close to making him cry.

"Jack, what are you doing here?"

Jack held up his book, and Eric bit his lips together. "I'm waiting for someone."

"Really?" He had to ask. "You're not—I don't even know. Really?"

Jack just nodded. Eric could see he was chewing his own lip. He looked nearly as nervous as Eric felt, honestly.

Eric took a few more steps forward. "How long have you known?" he asked. His voice broke a little, but he didn't cry.

"Two days," Jack said. "I've known for two days. But I was half convinced it was wishful thinking. I wasn't completely sure until we talked yesterday."

He didn't know.

That was all it took for the dam to break—before the relief could even finish flooding his system, Eric dashed forward and threw his arms around Jack's neck, burying his face in Jack's shoulder. Jack caught him like he'd expected it, wrapping him in the tightest hug he'd experienced since the day his mama dropped him off at college.

"You didn't know?" Jack murmured. Eric shook his head, not loosening his grip.

"I wondered," he whispered as his heart tried to beat out of his chest. "Just since yesterday, I started wondering. I hoped."

After long minutes of clinging to one another, Eric's calves started to burn where they were pushing him up onto his toes. He dropped down, Jack's arms around him loosening only enough to let him. He let his hands slide down from Jack's neck to his elbows, cognizant of the fact that they were in public. Hugs were okay; standing there with his hands looped around Jack's neck like a lover wasn't. Not yet.

Jack cleared his throat, and when Eric looked up he realized that there were unshed tears lining Jack's eyes to match the ones in his own.

"So, um. I picked this park because it's just a couple blocks from my apartment," Jack said. "I thought maybe we could grab some takeout, then head back there so we can talk in private?"

Eric nodded, finally smiling for the first time since he'd gotten out of his car. He was pretty damn sure that now that he'd started, he wouldn't stop for a long time. He stepped back, and Jack's hands slid from his back to his arms. It was an effort to keep their hands from sliding further down and into each other's.

"That sounds wonderful," Eric said. "Lead the way, Mr. Zimmermann."

They headed off, arms pressed together but hands shoved in the pockets of their coats. They were quiet for the first couple of minutes, their eyes catching on each other and skittering away as they tried valiantly to not be too obvious with their ridiculous grins.

"I feel like such an idiot," Eric finally said. "Lord, I even said to you that you're both Canadian. It wasn't until I left work that it clicked." He nudged Jack with his elbow. "And you! Asking me about yourself!"

Jack laughed, but he was blushing as he looked down at the ground. "I wasn't fishing for compliments, I swear. I just… I was sure, y'know, once you told me why you were turning me down I was sure, but I wanted to know. You know? I wanted to hear you say it was me."

"I get that," Eric allowed. "I've been going crazy since last night. Half of me wanted so badly for it to be you, but I was also kind of scared, because what if it was you but you'd known all along? What if you'd been lying to me for months? I think I know you better than that, but apparently I couldn't even figure out you were you, so who knows. Keeping it from me for a couple days to surprise me is one thing, but if it turned out you'd known for a long while I gotta admit, I woulda been hurt."

"Jesus, not saying anything for a day was nearly impossible. I did not inherit my mother's acting genes, I could not have done that for very long. And why would I want to? This is…" He held Eric's eyes for a moment, then shook his head and looked away. "I'll be honest, there are a lot of things I want to say, but I'm scared of coming on too strong and scaring you away."

Eric felt like his heart might swell out of his chest at the thought of the things Jack might have been thinking this was. "I think that's the last thing you need to worry about," he said softly. "But we have all night to talk; hell, we have all the time in the world now for you to say whatever you want, whenever you want to."

They happened to turn onto a street with several takeout restaurants right then, so their discussion turned to food. Once they had bags of Indian in hand, they continued another block to Jack's building, Eric moaning about how good their food smelled the entire way.

The tension between them started ratcheting up as soon as they were in the building. They fell quiet again, just sneaking looks at each other, and Eric was nearly vibrating as they took the elevator up.

Once they were in Jack's apartment, Eric cursed the fact that they were both bundled up against the cold—coats, hats, gloves, and scarves all had to be removed. Jack quickly stashed the food in the kitchen.

Then they were facing each other, less than a foot of space between them. For a moment, they just stared at each other, and for a brief second Eric wondered if he'd read the situation wrong—but no, Jack had asked him out on a date, and online he'd said he wanted this too, he was just—

"I really want to kiss you," Jack broke into his nervous inner monologue.

Eric's eyes widened. "Good."

He would have been embarrassed at the way he pounced at Jack, except that Jack was just as desperate to close the distance between them. Their mouths came together a little too hard to feel good, but Eric was already too caught up in the feel of Jack's hair under his fingers to care. At any rate, the kiss smoothed out quickly to something lush and perfect. Jack's left hand came up to cradle Eric's face, his right hand twisted in the back of Eric's sweater, and Eric leaned into the touch.

Eric finally pulled back, just enough to take a breath. "We should probably eat before the food gets cold."

Jack smiled—then kissed him again and started to walk them toward the kitchen while he did. They only lasted a few steps before they started to trip over each other's feet, and the kiss dissolved into giggles.

As Jack held him, both of them trying valiantly to keep kissing through their laughter, any lingering doubts that might have been lurking in the back of Eric's mind melted away. This was it. This was the boy he loved, the boy he'd loved for a long time now.

He finally pushed Jack away with a loud sigh. "I am hungry, Mr. Zimmermann."

Jack pulled him back in. "So am I," he said low in Eric's ear, holding him close enough that Eric could feel the words rumble through his chest. Eric's breathing stuttered as his eyes fell closed, and he had to take a deep breath.

He kissed Jack quickly on the cheek and then pulled away, holding Jack at arm's length. "Food."

They finally made it into the kitchen and fell into what really shouldn't feel like such a comfortable, familiar pattern. Jack got out dishes and silverware, then got drinks while Eric dished the food out.

It didn't quite feel right to sit down at the dining table and have a formal dinner, but sitting on the couch and eating off their laps sounded a little awkward, so they ate at the counter, shoulders bumping and arms rubbing against each other.

"Okay," Eric started. "So. You figured this out two days ago." He motioned with his fork for Jack to finish the story.

"Right. Well, I finally got up the nerve to ask you out at work, right?"

"I remember that part," Eric said, leaning his head on Jack's shoulder.

"So when you got online I was all ready to tell you that I asked out that hot guy I'd mentioned a couple of times, and I was nervous because he needed to think about it, et cetera, et cetera. Then you beat me to the punch, and the ridiculous thing is, as soon as you told me this guy had asked you out, all thought of telling you about, well, you, flew out of my head, right? I just thought, no no no, I don't want that! I don't want you to date someone else. And you'd never even mentioned me to me—"

"Well, I mentioned the problems we had at first," Eric cut in, pointing with his fork. "But I kinda started gettin' a crush on you right around the same time I realized I had feelings for you online, and it was confusing enough dealing with both of those in my own head, y'know? I didn't want to talk about having a crush on someone at work and discourage you online if you were thinking along the same lines as me."

"That makes sense." Jack bit his lip for a moment, looking down at his food. "See, until that moment, I hadn't really thought about my feelings for you online, you know? I didn't realize how strong they'd gotten, because I think just the whole idea of—of falling for someone you've never met wasn't on my radar as something that could even be happening, right?"

Eric snorted. "Trust me, I know exactly what you mean."

Jack grinned for a second before he continued. "So anyhow, I'm having this revelation and you're telling me you feel the same way, and I'm like yes, yes, absolutely, yes we should be together. But then I remembered—I asked you out at work. So you're telling me—what was it, talking about choosing me over him and all that, and I'm thinking about the same things, like shit, I really, really like Bitty but I definitely want to see where this goes and not jeopardize it. And then I'm like wow, that's a weird coincidence, someone asked him out at work the same day I asked someone out at work. And all of a sudden, it just sort of came crashing down on me, y'know?" He shook his head. "All these similarities—you're both from the south, you both bake, the fact that being social media manager is totally a job where you could use your magic. Obviously I wasn't one hundred percent sure, but when you confirmed that you were in Providence it was like, ninety-five percent."

"But you didn't say," Eric said, bumping Jack with his shoulder and smiling. "You are a sneaking sneak, Jack Zimmermann."

Jack shrugged, looking a little sheepish. "I thought you might have guessed, but I kind of hoped I'd get to surprise you."

"A little of both, I'd say," Eric said.

They spent the rest of the meal chatting about some of the most ridiculous clues they'd missed, when one or the other of them should have figured out what was going on.

"It's like when you run into someone from school or work at the grocery store," Eric eventually concluded, "and at first you don't even recognize them 'cause their face is just totally out of context, right? Then you stare at 'em for a minute and suddenly they look like themselves, like the person you know, and you feel awful for not recognizing this person you see every single day."

After they ate and cleaned up, Eric slid his arms around Jack's waist. Jack immediately ducked his head down for a gentle kiss.

"I think," Eric said softly, their foreheads still bent together, "you should say them."

"What?" Eric could actually feel Jack's forehead creasing under his own.

"Those things, earlier. That you were scared to say, because you didn't want to scare me away. 'Cause that's not gonna happen, Jack." He held Jack's gaze. "I'm here, and I swear that I am staying right here no matter what you say or how strong you come on."

Jack swallowed and closed his eyes, and Eric laid his head on Jack's shoulder, snuggling his face into Jack's neck in case looking at him was making him nervous.

"I was about to say that this is the best thing that's ever happened to me," he said into Eric's hair. They both tightened their grip on each other. "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. In my life. I'm—I'm so in love with you, every part of you and every side of you, every version of you. And I absolutely don't believe in fate or destiny, but I can't shake the feeling that this is meant to be. That things like this… don't just happen."

Eric slid one hand up to rest over Jack's heart, which was beating wildly. He lifted his head to look Jack in the eye.

"I love you, too," he said, unable to control his grin. "So much. Part of me still can't believe this is real, 'cause you're right, things like this don't just happen. But I'm excited, Jack. I'm so excited to find out what we can be together, because I think it's gonna be incredible."

Just then, Siri started buzzing insistently in his pocket. He frowned and pulled her out.

"Wow, I've seen your phone so many times, and I had no idea it was… y'know, her," Jack said, reaching out to touch her. "Your familiar."

"What's wrong, girl?" Eric asked, then glanced up at Jack. "She's acting like Timmy fell down a well."

Her screen blinked on and went straight to Twitter, pulling up an account Eric wasn't familiar with.

"Well, shit," he said, and held up the screen for Jack to see.

Whoever @hockiegurl72 was, she(?) must have been in the park with them earlier. Unseen by them, she'd taken a video of Eric flinging himself at Jack and them hugging tightly, which she'd posted to Twitter with the caption, "Hmm who is Jacky Z's friend? U can't really see it here but they were both super emotional. That hug went on a LONG time, and look how they can't stop touching even after. Just sayin…"

Jack frowned. "It was just a hug. We didn't do anything we shouldn't be able to do in public."

Siri pulled up some of the retweets of the video.

@iluvpvdfalcs: OMG I saw him getting coffee with that guy b4 the game yesterday. I didn't hear what they were talking about but they looked super flirty?

@jlzkvp5eva: Hmmmm short blonde guy hmmmmm what a surprise hmmmm jlz has a type y/n

@bluejerseygirl: idk I'm no tinhatter but that guy nearly knocked him over with that hug look at that shit, I'd sell my arm for a hug that tight from JZimms

"The good news is, it's new enough, and there are only a handful of retweets so far, and nobody with many followers has picked it up." Eric scrolled through them. "I should be able to fix this."

"Maybe it's better to just let it go on its own?" Jack suggested. "If we draw attention to it it'll probably just blow up worse. If we ignore it it's not like a hug will get picked up by ESPN, y'know?"

"No, not ESPN or anyone else respectable, but honestly a video like this is just incriminating enough that the gossip sites are gonna pick it up before long. Jack, honey, do you even follow the gossip about yourself?"

Jack looked at him like he was crazy. "No way, I'd go insane."

"Good point. Well, it happens to be my job to watch things like that, and trust me, Deadspin would love this. And that's just not something you need right now, not when we're planning so carefully for you to come out for real."

Jack's nose wrinkled in confusion. "What the hell is Deadspin?"

Eric reached up and kissed him. "Sweetheart, you are adorable. I'm guessing you don't have much in the way of video editing software on your computer, do you?"


"Let's head to my place. See, it's way more suspicious if video that someone knows they posted just disappears. If it mysteriously becomes corrupted instead, so you can't see a damn thing, they'll just assume the computer screwed up somehow in some magical computer way."

Jack frowned. "So you're going to… edit this person's video? And replace it with the edited version?"

"Yep!" Eric grinned. "And replace every retweet of it, and any other versions I can find floating around the internet. Siri'll help me with that part, finding other copies."

Jack didn't look convinced. "Won't they just reupload it?"

"Well, two options," Eric said. "Depending on where they've got the video stored, it might be possible for me to change or erase their copy. Or I can just have Siri tell me anytime it's reuploaded and I'll just keep breaking it. They'll give up pretty quick."

"Can I watch?" Jack asked, sounding a little breathless. He was staring at Eric with wide eyes.

Eric's cheeks felt warm, which was silly seeing as how he was pretty excited to see Jack's magic in action, too. But that didn't change the way that Jack was looking at him. "Well, sure. C'mon, we better get going if I'm gonna get this fixed before any big sites latch onto it."

Jack nodded, but hesitated as Eric went for his coat. "Um, should I—I mean, do you want—er, never mind."

"What is it, sweetheart?"

Now Jack was the one blushing. "Sorry. I was going to ask if I should bring a change of clothes, but I know, that's way too forward for a first date, sorry—"

"Yes," Eric blurted out. "That would be—I mean, obviously you don't have to stay—and we don't have to do anything but sleep. But if you want. I'd like that."

Jack nodded, a tiny smile on his face, then disappeared down a hallway. Eric realized he had hardly seen the rest of the apartment other than the kitchen, but he was sure there would be plenty of time for that. With any luck, he was going to become very familiar with this apartment.

When Jack reappeared with a backpack, Eric reached up to kiss him.

"Really, you tell a boy we're meant to be together, and then you worry that wanting to spend the night is too forward? What am I gonna do with you, Mr. Zimmermann?"

"Well, I suppose I do have a couple of ideas," Jack said with a smirk.

"We have got a very minor public relations mess to head off, then we'll see about your ideas," Eric said.

Jack drove them to Eric's place; they could go back to the park and pick up Eric's car later.

As soon as they got inside, Eric started bustling around, opening his laptop on the kitchen counter while he cut some pie for the two of them. By the time they were seated on his couch with their pie, he'd managed to download the video from Twitter and was opening it up in iMovie.

"Convenient for you that you can eat pie and do Twitter at the same time," Jack chirped him. "I'm surprised you do anything else."

"You watch yourself, mister," Eric said, shaking a pie-laden fork at Jack while he inserted some weird vertical static into the video. "I can access that Instagram account of yours without even using my powers, and I am sure I'll get an embarrassing photo of you one of these days."

Jack laughed, but leaned into Eric's side. "That's kind of weird, that this program even has an option to screw up a video like that."

"It… probably doesn't?" Eric glanced at Jack with a grimace. "I don't actually know how to use a lot of the software I use. It's just sort of… a convenient interface to help me talk to the computer. iMovie edits videos, so I can use it to edit videos, but I'm not necessarily limited by what its programmers included."

Jack frowned. "How does that work?"

"Besides magic?" Eric asked, raising an eyebrow. "It's hard to explain. It's like… if the program were a car, and most people can put it in drive and reverse and third gear or whatever, right? But I can do pretty much anything I want with the parts of the car, which includes rearranging them to do things most people can't. I can, like, move stuff around so it'll go into a lower gear than the gearshift actually allows? Or something. I don't really know what's in a car, so I dunno how good an analogy that is, but it's what I've got."

"I get it," Jack said. "I mean, I don't exactly get what you're doing, but I get why you can't put it into words. You know how I said I don't believe in fate or destiny?"

"Yeah?" Eric pulled his full attention away from the computer and to Jack for a moment. He wanted to hear this.

"I don't think the future is set in stone because I can't access it," Jack said slowly. "But it's not just like my magic is limited to the past. When I'm sifting through time, and I try to go into the future, it's like time just stops at the present. The future isn't there. Like you said, I can't really explain it, but I can tell when it's hard for me to get to something, you know? The further back I want to go, it takes more effort to get there. Trying to see the future, though, is totally different. There is no future to see, it just doesn't exist yet. I think if anything were certain, if there were some destiny guaranteeing we'd find each other, for example, then there would at least be something. Some trace of that, or versions of it or something, even if I couldn't get to it. It would feel different from it just not being there."

Now Eric was staring at Jack in the same wide-eyed wonder that Jack had directed at him earlier. "You are so amazing," he said, shaking his head.

Jack, blushing and burying his nose in Eric's hair, slipped an arm around him.

"It's nice to be able to talk about this with someone," Jack said softly.

"You know a couple of my friends from college know," Eric said, turning back to his work but leaning into Jack. "Lardo and Shitty. Oh, and, well. Elena knows now."

"That's right, you said you told your officemate." Jack pulled back a little. "When was that? What was going on that you needed to do stuff in front of her?"

"How do you think I cleaned up that Andre Levesque bullshit?" Eric shook his head. Honestly, he'd thought Jack would figure that out on his own. "I could not have leaked the story so efficiently using the methods available to a normal social media manager. She was in the office when I needed to do it."

Jack's eyes were wide. "You did that? Seriously?"

"Yep! And here, how's this?" Eric showed Jack the edited video. The first second or two was clear, so you could tell it was Jack and you could see Eric's back, but the rest was too garbled to make much out.

"Looks good to me. I mean, I don't really think I could tell the difference between an edited video and one that's actually corrupted, but it looks real to me."

"Great, now for the fun part."

He laid a hand next to his laptop's keyboard and reached into the computer, through the wireless connection, and into Twitter. He dug his way through all the retweets, dropping the new video in in place of the old in every one. Then he went back to hockiegirl's account and sifted through the information there until he found the IP address of the phone she'd used to upload the video, and from there its MAC address. He grabbed Siri.

"Okay, not a big shock, she uploaded the video from a phone. So this'll be easier through Siri than through the laptop. I'm not sure why, but it's just kind of easier to talk to phones with a phone."

"Makes sense, I guess," Jack said. "I mean, as much as any magic does, right?"

Eric told Siri the MAC address, and she knew what to do. Within a couple of minutes, Eric was looking at the contents of a stranger's iPhone via an app that shouldn't technically be able to run on his phone unless it was jailbroken… but Siri didn't need silly things like jailbreaks. The video in question was the last one the person had taken, and soon it (and its iCloud equivalent) were deleted.

"And that should be it," Eric said, setting Siri down. "She mighta sent it to a friend or something, so Siri'll keep a look out for a day or two, but chances are we won't hear another word about it."

Jack stared at him, a huge smile on his face and love in his eyes. "So you are definitely the person I want on my side when I come out, eh?"

Eric grinned. "You know it."

Jack kissed him gently, lips soft as his fingers slipped through Eric's hair. "And by my side, I hope."

"I'd like that," Eric said between kisses. "Very much."

"I mean…" Jack pulled back enough to look at him seriously. "We don't have to make anything public you don't want to. This is going to be hard, and if you don't want that kind of spotlight on you then I want to protect you however I can. Just because I'm coming out doesn't mean anyone has to know who I'm dating."

"That's sweet of you, but not a chance. I want to be here for you every step of the way. And remember, I can defend myself better'n most. Besides—" He smirked as he wrapped his arms around Jack's neck. "—I wouldn't want any male fans getting the idea that it's their turn to be a puck bunny, would I?"

Jack hummed as he started placing little kisses below Eric's ear that sent a shiver down his back. "You don't need to worry about anyone of any gender thinking it's their turn for anything," he murmured in between kisses. "I'm yours now. Nothing they could offer matters."

Eric closed his eyes and focused on the soft press of Jack's lips down the side of his throat. "Jack," he breathed. "I know that. I trust you." He chuckled a little. "Funny how two days ago I didn't think I knew you that well. I was wondering if it would even be smart to go on a date with someone without knowing their thoughts on magic. But now… I'd trust you with anything."

He could feel Jack smile against his skin.

"I should be terrified," Jack said into his ear, pulling Eric close. "Given what happened the last time someone found out I was magical, I should be having a panic attack. Especially given your powers and your job, the way you could completely destroy me and my career if you wanted to. But you make me feel safer than anyone I've ever known."

"Oh lord, honey," Eric said, holding Jack tight. "I would never. I don't care if we have the nastiest breakup possible, not that I think we will, but even if we did I would never use who you are against you. I'd never put you in danger like that."

"I know. Even when—" Jack took a deep breath. "Even when I was having that panic attack that kept me from meeting you, it wasn't about that. It wasn't about trusting you with my secrets. It was so much more mundane. I just knew you were a hockey fan and I was panicking that knowing who I was would change things, that you'd act different around me because I'm famous, that maybe it was better to keep things anonymous and never find out if that would happen. And, I mean, even at the time I knew that was ridiculous—"

"But panic attacks aren't logical, and that's okay," Eric said, running a hand down Jack's back. "It's fine, Jack. Doesn't matter why you panicked. We knew it was a possibility, and yeah, I was disappointed but I wasn't upset with you. Not even close, not for a minute."

"You—" Jack lifted his head. "You told me the next day you'd been stood up on a date. Were you really thinking of it as a date?"

Eric chuckled. He could feel a blush rising to his cheeks. "Well, I'd been hoping. I knew I had feelings for you by then, but I had no idea if you'd be interested. I figured we'd find out pretty quick if there was any chemistry there, at the very least. You better believe that I would have been flirting like crazy if you were the least little bit attractive, trying to turn it into a date."

"If we'd met, and I hadn't already known you from work, trust me when I say that you wouldn't have had to flirt very hard," Jack said.

"What if you had shown up?" Eric asked, laughing. "I mean, in real life, with us knowing each other."

Jack grimaced. "I'd been so awful to you, you probably would have run the other direction."

"What?" Eric thought for a second, running over the timing of the events in his mind. "No, by then you were getting better. We weren't quite friends, but I was starting to get a little bit of a crush on you anyhow. I would have been thrilled to find out it was you, honey. Just like I was today."

They kissed again, and this time as the kisses deepened, Eric pulled Jack down onto the couch on top of him so they could make out properly.

It wasn't hot and heavy; more like slow and indulgent. When their hands and lips wandered, it was inquisitive rather than with intent, punctuated regularly with giggling and chirping.

Eventually, Jack pulled away and checked his phone.

"It's getting late; I've got to be up pretty early for morning skate." He settled his head on Eric's shoulder. "I can come back here after if you want. I need to get a nap in before the game."

"You think it'd be too obvious if we show up to the game together? Who can know about this for now, anyhow?" Eric asked, twirling a bit of Jack's hair between his fingers. It seemed like a good idea to get these details worked out up front.

"Anyone at work who knows about me already. Is there anyone you deal with who doesn't?"

"Well, Elena. I mean—okay, not to freak you out, but the last time we all got coffee together she came out of it thinking you had a thing for me. So she doesn't know, but she wouldn't exactly be surprised."

Jack nodded slowly. "Yeah, she can know, no problem. Maybe not about the magic, even though she knows about yours."

"Oh, honey, I wasn't even gonna ask!" Eric said. "Although, that's actually a good question—can I tell my folks about us, and can I tell them about the magic?"

"Oh, sure, yeah. I'll trust you to know which of your friends and family you can tell about us safely, and you can definitely tell your family about the magic." Jack hesitated. "Just maybe not friends yet. Can I tell my parents?"

"Absolutely, of course!" He patted Jack's chest. "Anyhow, you better get off me so we can get to a real bed."

As Eric drifted off to sleep, he was glad that he had Jack right there, legs tangled with his and arms around him, or he might not have been able to believe that the evening had been real.

Chapter Text

Posted February 14, 2018, 10:00am EST
by omgyall
Subject: I guess this is sort of an announcement?
I don't exactly know the etiquette on this. It seems kinda… well, self-aggrandizing, I suppose, to make a whole post about this like it's some grand pronouncement.

But on the other hand, since we met here and so many of you are our friends, we thought we should tell you. We've told a couple of you individually, but just to make sure we don't accidentally leave anyone out of the loop…

Me and historyeh are dating. Like, in real life. We met IRL a few weeks ago, and we're madly in love, and it's wonderful. I've never been so happy in my life.

And I figured, y'know, even for people who don't know us well and don't really care on a personal level—I know I've always found it comforting to read stories of witches who found someone they can trust and love, especially when it's another witch. It's so hard for us to connect safely, it's amazing that occasionally we manage to!

Reply February 14, 2018, 10:05am EST
by feralknitter
OMFG! Congrats! How the hell are we all going to get to your wedding? It'll just have to be online!
Reply February 14, 2018, 10:07am EST
by TacoJones
Wait, omgyall and historyeh? I thought you were both guys? I'm confused.
Reply February 14, 2018, 10:08am EST
by plainjane
character from The OA saying 'people are gay, steven'
Reply February 14, 2018, 10:08am EST
by historyeh
Um, yes. We are both men. Neither of us is a straight man. We're dating and in love, and if you have a problem with that it's your problem, not ours.
Reply February 14, 2018, 10:12am EST
by TacoJones
Oh shit, no, I don't have a problem with it. I was just confused. I thought I'd mixed one of you up with someone else or something. I didn't know you guys were gay. It's cool.
Reply February 14, 2018, 10:15am EST
by OwlGore
Stories like this really do give me hope. Congrats, you two, you will have to keep us updated! You're both great guys, I'm so happy for you!

As he sat in the stands waiting for the game to start, Eric went over the timeline again. He knew it by heart, of course, but he was freaking out just a little bit internally and would rather focus on The Plan than obsess over the fact that this would be Jack's last game before.

Jack had given the interview three days ago. The article would go live tomorrow morning, timed to coincide with the start of the Falconers' bye week, to try and let the whole thing cycle out of the news before they had to play again. Eric would be working from home (well, from Jack's home), but you better believe he'd be working.

First order of business was links to the article and messages of support over all the official social media accounts. Then his own accounts. Jack had given Eric's name in the interview, and said he worked for the Falconers and that's how they'd met, so it wouldn't take gossip hounds long to find Eric's info on the Falconers website and probably track him down everywhere else on the web. Better to beat them to the punch by making it clear who he was and where he could be found.

After that, what George and Joe thought he'd be doing and what he'd actually be doing were two slightly different things. As far as they knew, he'd be monitoring everything all day, deleting ugly comments on the sites that would let him and banning or blocking the troublemakers. In reality, he and Jack would be curled up on Jack's couch, marathoning their favorite shows and letting Siri handle that for a bit. She'd let Eric know if there was anything he needed to look at. Eventually Eric would need to do some work himself, but most of that was also nothing that George or Joe needed to know about.

Much of the rest of the week would depend on the initial reaction to Jack's interview.

The game was a rough one—the Maple Leafs needed a win to stay in playoffs contention, so they were fighting hard for it. In the end, the Falconers lost in overtime, but Jack got two of their three goals. Eric worried a little, that this would put Jack in a sour mood going into such an important day.

But when he got down to the locker room, the mood was surprisingly light. The team wasn't exactly celebrating, of course, but they'd put up a good fight and were all looking forward to a break. Eric went around and grabbed a couple bits for social media while he waited for the press to clear out.

As soon as they were gone, Eric yelped as a pair of huge, strong arms grabbed him from behind. He'd been taking a video of Tater, who found this hilarious.

"Mon coeur," Jack murmured into his ear, and he couldn't even be annoyed. "I missed you."

"Give me five seconds to delete this video you just ruined," Eric said in as grumpy a voice as he could muster. Once it was done, he craned his neck to look up at his boyfriend, who was still behind him. "Baby, that's awful sweet, but it's been all of four hours since you saw me."

Jack buried his nose in the hair behind Eric's ear, and Eric's eyes fell closed. He could almost ignore the noise and smell of the locker room and imagine they were alone. Almost.

"I know, I know. I'm just feeling clingy."

Eric turned in Jack's arms. "That's fine, sweetheart. I understand. Go shower and then we can go cocoon ourselves in your apartment for the next couple of days, okay?"

Jack nodded, then kissed Eric's forehead before heading off to do just that.

As soon as Jack was gone, Tater's hand came down hard enough on Eric's shoulder that his knees buckled just a tiny bit.

"You are still wanting me to come by Tuesday night? Bring video games?"

"Yes, that will be great." Eric smiled up at him. "Jack would probably hole up just the two of us all week if I let him, but I think a tiny bit of social interaction'll do him good. Distract him."

Tater waggled his eyebrows. "I am sure you are giving plenty of distraction tomorrow, yeah?" Eric pursed his lips and glared until Tater laughed. "Sorry, sorry. Is none of my business, I know. Will all be good, though. He is lucky he decide to date you—photogenic and good at PR! Exactly what he is needing this week! Also pie. He will be needing much pie."

"Well, I've got him covered there. Text me if you have any requests for Tuesday."

"Ooh, yes, I will think about it! Okay, I go shower now. Good luck!"

Once Jack was out of the shower and dressed, his other friends all took a turn telling him good luck, offering support, confirming plans to get together later in the week. Jack had tried to beg off all social commitments that week, but Eric had insisted on just a couple of small get-togethers. Because as much as he knew Jack would truly need alone time (or just the two of them time) that week, he also knew it was important for Jack to see firsthand how nothing had changed with their friends, no matter what the press said.

He'd already left enough clothes and toiletries at Jack's to stay for the week (a good trial run for June, when Eric's lease was up and he'd already agreed to move in). They had Monday all to themselves, then Tater was coming over Tuesday for dinner, and a few of them were going to have lunch at Marty's on Thursday. Friday night they were going to get dinner with Shitty and Lardo; if things were going well, they'd all go out and it would be their first public appearance as a couple. If not, or if Jack was still feeling skittish, they'd get takeout.

Jack had let Eric tell them they were dating immediately, and they'd now met Jack several times. Eric hadn't been entirely sure how that would go, since Shitty could be… a lot. But they took to Jack (and he to them) surprisingly quickly. When he found out Jack and Shitty had started texting, he'd felt like they'd somehow made it past some relationship checkpoint. By now, they even knew the real story of how Jack and Eric had met.

As soon as they got back to Jack's apartment and got their coats off, Jack had him backed up against the wall, sucking a mark into his neck.

"Oh my goodness," Eric said, although he already had one leg hitched up around Jack's hips and his nails scratching their way down Jack's back. "I really wasn't sure you'd be in the mood tonight, baby."

Jack growled into his ear, grinding their hips together in a way that made Eric's head fall back against the wall with a thud. "In twelve hours, the entire world will know I fuck guys," he said, his voice low and rough, "and you in particular. So I figure I should make the most of that, eh? Make damn well sure that whatever they assume is happening, is definitely happening."

Eric laughed, but his laughter cut off with a gasp as Jack rolled his hips again.

"Let's get this party into the bedroom, shall we?" he suggested, his voice strained. He yelped as Jack threw him over his shoulder and did just that.

"Mmph," Eric mumbled when he heard Jack bumbling around the bedroom. "Honey, I thought we were sleeping in 'til it's been posted."

"I woke up an hour ago. Couldn't get back to sleep," Jack said as he pulled a running shirt over his head. "I figure I've got two hours left to go for a run without the risk of paps, so I might as well make the most of it. You get back to sleep."

Eric just grunted before burrowing deeper into Jack's lovely down comforter.

When he woke up again, it was to warm hands sliding over his stomach while kisses made their way down the back of his neck and Jack's shower-damp hair tickled his ear. He hummed in approval.

"Have a good run?"

"Mmm-hmm," Jack replied against his skin before sliding his hand down and over the morning bulge in Eric's pajama pants.

Eric moaned a little. "What time is it, baby?"

"Half an hour to go," Jack murmured. "You'd better keep me distracted."

"I think I can do that," Eric said, scooting back a little so he could rub up against Jack's crotch, "but I do gotta get online and post about the interview pretty soon once it's up."

"Can't Siri do that?"

"I'm asking a lot of her today already, honey, and she gets snippy if she thinks I'm overworking her."

Jack snorted. "She's the only familiar I've ever heard of with an attitude problem."

"I bet more of 'em would if they spoke English," Eric said, then turned around to face Jack with a grin. "C'mon, you, we've only got a half an hour."

Once they were cleaned up, Eric went to make them some eggs while Jack got back into bed with his laptop. He was just pulling some toast out of the toaster when Jack called "It's up!" from the bedroom.

"All right, sweetheart, give me five minutes!"

Jack had seemed pretty laid back (if horny) since they'd gotten home the night before, but when Eric brought the tray with their food into the bedroom, Jack was tapping his fingers on the lid of his closed laptop and chewing his bottom lip.

Eric frowned as he handed the tray over so he could climb onto the bed. "Did you read it yet?"

"Nope." Jack's tone was terse. "I wanted to wait 'til you were with me."

Eric's heart squeezed in his chest, and he kissed Jack on the cheek as he took the tray back. "Well, here I am."

Jack opened up his laptop and Eric pulled his phone out.

"Okay, Siri, let's see what we've got."

The article appeared on his screen, and they both started reading. Eric sighed when he saw the title.

"'Jack Zimmermann: Hockey's prodigal son opens up about mental health, his overdose, and… his boyfriend?' Really? I thought she was going to try to keep it out of the title so people had to actually read the damn article instead of taking two words and running."

Jack nudged Eric with his shoulder. "She warned us that her editor had final say on that. I guess they thought it would get more clicks this way. They're probably right."

Eric rolled his eyes. "Please, as soon as word gets out they'll get plenty of hits no matter what. They didn't need to turn it into cheap clickbait."

"It's not a big deal," Jack said, kissing Eric's temple. "So people will find out a minute or two sooner."

Eric sighed and went back to reading.

They'd chosen the site and the specific journalist carefully. She was not only someone who'd reported about Jack positively in the past, she was also an out lesbian, so they trusted her to treat the story respectfully. Jack had done the interview over Skype; Eric had been with him, out of frame, so he knew that she'd done a good job of handling both his mental health history (which had been the story they'd offered her) and the coming out (which she hadn't known about in advance).

The site's editor may have screwed with the title of the piece, but the article itself hadn't changed too much from the draft they'd been sent for Jack's approval. Jack went on the record publicly, for the first time, about the nature and causes of his overdose. He didn't mention Kent by name, but he did say that he'd had a major fight with his boyfriend at the time and was worried about being outed—though he didn't specify that he'd been most worried about being outed as magic, not bisexual. Kent had agreed to this; he was considering coming out, too, but he wanted to see how it went for Jack first.

Once Eric was done skimming the article (he had all day to read it in depth, and probably would several times), he started on his part of the job. He leaned his head on Jack's shoulder and closed his eyes, navigating through familiar apps like Facebook and Twitter entirely by feel.

"Okay, Siri," he said when the article had been plastered all over the Falconers' accounts, "you ready for your part, girl?"

She quickly cycled through a dozen different gifs, all saying "I got this."

Eric smiled. "You sure do. I'm gonna leave you and Jack's phone in here for a few hours, ok? You know what to play if you need me."

Jack cringed back as the first lines of Ring the Alarm blared from her speakers.

"Okay, I think we'll notice that," he shouted, and she cut the song off.

Once their phones were sequestered in the bedroom, Jack and Eric snuggled together on the couch under a quilt Eric had brought with him (Jack did not seem to mind one bit that Eric was starting to move his belongings in piece by piece) and turned on a marathon of the Great British Bake-Off.

After three episodes (and a bit of making out in between), Eric sighed.

"Should we take a look, sweetpea?"

Jack shrugged. "I'd rather not, but I guess we can't put it off forever. It is your job and all."

"So, Siri," Eric asked when they got back to the bedroom, "what's the damage?"

To his surprise, Siri used her actual voice for once.

"I have deleted twenty-two comments on Facebook, eighteen comments on past Falconers YouTube videos, and thirty-five comments on past posts on Jack's Instagram. All of those users have been blocked or banned. I have blocked fifty-eight users on Twitter from Jack's personal account and twenty-five from the Falconers' account, and all of those were reported to the website for abuse."

Jack grimaced, but Eric wasn't disheartened yet. "Okay, but what did you not have to delete?"

"There are one hundred and fifty-two comments on Facebook, sixty-eight comments on Falconers YouTube videos, and three hundred forty-two comments on Jack's Instagram that did not require deletion."

Jack blinked at her, looking a little bewildered. "Three hundred and forty-two?"

"Three hundred and forty-four now. New comments are currently being added to your Instagram posts at a rate of approximately three every two seconds."

"Wow," was all he said.

Eric smiled at him. "See? There are assholes, but there are gonna be way more people who support you. C'mon, I know of another place where we'll find positive stuff. But it'll be easier to see the results on my laptop."

They relocated back to the couch and he opened up his laptop. The Falconers' Tumblr activity page came up immediately. He showed Jack post after post, old gifs of Jack Eric had posted weeks or months before that now had dozens to hundreds of new reblogs, many with screechingly excited replies or tags—and almost nothing at all negative. Then he went into Jack's tag, which was full of edits filtering rainbows or the bi pride flag over photos of him.

Then they found one person who had managed to track down that photo of Eric that Jack had posted to Instagram months ago. They'd edited it together with a photo of Jack from the shoot that went with the article (Eric's favorite from that shoot, in fact), along with some of what Jack had said about Eric in the interview. They'd posted it along with a long, gushing caption about how adorable the two of them must be together and how much it meant to the poster to see one of their favorite hockey players in love with a boy.

"That's really nice," Jack murmured. He had a soft smile on his face as he gazed at the edit. "Can I save that?"

"Sure thing, sweetheart," Eric said, and not only saved it to his laptop but also sent it to Jack's phone. Then he reblogged it to the Falconers account with a note that Jack and Eric both liked it, which he was sure would tickle the poster pink.

While Jack was looking at some more Tumblr posts, Eric looked at the Twitter accounts on his phone. The responses there were overwhelmingly positive as well; for every negative tweet that had led Siri to block someone, there were probably a dozen positive ones. By the time he'd shown those to Jack, Jack was more relaxed than he'd been all morning.

He sent Jack to the kitchen to make them some sandwiches for lunch, then got busy with some of the things the Falconers wouldn't know he was doing.

"Siri, can you find me any negative blog posts or articles that have been written today? Just send 'em to the laptop, make a new window with 'em in the tabs or something."

While Siri was working on that, he himself scoured some of the sites where he was expecting to find positive articles. A week ago he'd made a list of Twitter accounts that were unlikely to notice a stray tweet being added but also likely to be followed by people who would react sympathetically—but that weren't sports-related, so their followers may not have heard about this yet. He dropped a handful of links to the positive responses into tweets on those accounts. Not too much at once; he'd sprinkle in a few more later.

When the window popped up with Siri's findings, Eric started his own probing. It would be suspicious if all links to those articles disappeared at once, so he pulled down a handful of tweets and then tried a new trick he'd developed—he started scheduling tweets to self-delete, one every several minutes for the next few hours. Of course, the ones getting deleted later would get retweeted before they disappeared, but the goal was just to keep things under control, not wipe the articles out entirely. That would almost certainly raise suspicion. He probably wouldn't change any minds, but the more visibly the support was outweighing the criticism, the less encouraged the assholes would be.

Jack had just brought the sandwiches in when Eric found something that made him glare at his screen.

"Uh-oh, Bits. What is it?" Jack leaned over toward the laptop, but Eric closed it quickly.

"Nope!" he said. "We agreed, I get to deal with the assholes, at least for a few days. You don't get to read them, you get to ignore them like they deserve."

Jack rolled his eyes, but leaned back and didn't argue when Eric turned so that Jack couldn't see the laptop screen.

Eric glared down at the screen again as he bit into his sandwich.

Opinion: Falconers hypocritical in trading Levesque, praising Zimmermann

He honestly had not expected this of ESPN, of all places. Sure, there was a disclaimer at the bottom saying that the opinions were those of the author and not the network/website, but just the fact that they'd given it an audience made his blood boil.

The article's thesis was basically that because the Falconers had claimed (unofficially, through Eric's leak) that they were trading Levesque not for revenge but because he was too quick to think of his own pleasure before the good of the team, they were hypocritical to support Jack because he was basically doing the same thing. Of course, the author was very careful not to say anything explicitly homophobic, but the entire comparing being queer to sleeping with your boss's wife thing was maybe even worse than random assholes saying they'd never shower next to a gay guy.

He closed the laptop again and stood up, grabbing Siri and kissing Jack on the cheek as he went. "I'll be right back, sweetheart. I just need to have a little chat with my phone."

Jack looked at him warily. "A chat you can't have in front of me?"

"I'll tell you all about it later," Eric promised. "But trust me, you don't need to hear any details about this shit I just read."

Twenty minutes later, Jack knocked on the bedroom door.

"You okay in there?"

"Almost finished, sweetpea!" Eric called to him. "Don't worry, I'll show you our little project when we're done."

"I dunno, Bits, do I need plausible deniability?"

Eric laughed. "Oh honey, you know it won't be traceable. Now shoo, go watch another episode or read that book you got from the library last week or something. I'll be out soon."

It was another twenty minutes before he came out, smiling down at Siri triumphantly. Jack looked up from his book as Eric plopped down onto the couch and snuggled into his side.

"Now, you don't need to know exactly what this asshole said," Eric told him, "just trust me that he deserves whatever he gets, okay?"

Jack frowned. "I thought you were just going to delete links to bad articles, not hack their authors."

"It's not hacking!" Eric said, wide-eyed. "Honestly, it's not at all. In fact, it's nothing I did." His face melted into a grin. "It's just a li'l hex or two is all. And what else do you expect when you piss off a witch and his familiar?"

Jack's mouth dropped open and he looked down at Siri.

"Siri… hexed someone? Who said shit about me?"

"No, no, no," Eric said, patting Jack's hand. "Of course not. Siri hexed the guy's phones. His current work phone and personal cell, and every phone that's put in his name for the next year or so. And it's not even like he can't use 'em. He'll just… need a mirror."

He held up Siri, who showed them some screenshots of an unfamiliar phone desktop, which was entirely flipped backwards.

"Crisse," Jack muttered. "The next year? When did she figure out how to hex future phones?"

Eric raised an eyebrow. "Remember how she begged me to buy her a couple more pets last month? Apparently she put them to good use."

Jack looked at him for a beat, then burst out laughing.

"So what you're saying is, I helped? It was my idea to get her a pet in the first place, so I had some small part in fucking this guy over?"

Eric kissed him on the cheek. "You sure did. Now I'm gonna go grab some of that cookie dough I put in the fridge yesterday and pop it in the oven, okay? Then let's watch a movie. You keep saying you'll watch Moana then wiggling out of it, but not this time, mister."

Eric popped a tray of chocolate-chocolate-chip cookies into Jack's gorgeous oven. As he stood up and closed the oven door, he grabbed the bowl of cookie dough to put it back in the refrigerator. When he turned around, he was startled to see Jack behind him—with his camera.

Jack grinned at him from behind the camera. "Can I put this on Instagram?"

"Sure, sweetheart," Eric said as he put the dough away. "Gimme a sec and I'll do it so you don't have to fuss with the memory card."

When they were back on the couch, he touched Jack's camera and pulled the photo of himself, smiling down into the bowl of cookie dough, onto his laptop and then onto Jack's Instagram account. "What do you want the caption to say?"

Jack motioned for the laptop. "Let me do the caption."

Eric angled the keyboard toward Jack. Once Jack had posted, he took it back, eager to see what it said.

"Enjoying first day of bye week at home with the love of my life."

Eric was blushing as he closed his laptop. "Jack Zimmermann." He pushed his laptop onto the coffee table so he could climb into Jack's lap. "You ridiculous man," he said as he wound his arms around Jack's neck and started to kiss him all over his face, hoping it hid the tears prickling at his eyes. "You are the sweetest, handsomest, silliest boy on the planet. I cannot believe you just posted that for the whole entire world to see."

"I'm just so happy that now I can tell the entire world how I feel about you, Bits," Jack said, and Eric buried his face in Jack's neck.

"Me, too, baby. Me, too."

Posted July 1, 2025, 9:32am EST
by historyeh
Subject: Important: Looking for other prominent witches
Hey guys,

I know several times over the past few years, people on here (including myself) have floated the idea that the magical community would be in a much better position if we could get a group of people who are well-known in different fields to come out openly as witches.

Well, what I've never told any of you is that I am in that category. I don't want to say too much about exactly what I'm famous for, because it would quickly become easy to identify me, but I've been on several magazine covers and I'm certain that some of you would recognize my name.

You all do know that omgyall and I are married, and that both of our children are very likely to be magical, as we each fathered one and they have the same witch as an egg donor.

I retired recently, and I can't think of any better use of my time in retirement than to make the world a safer place for them.

So now I just need a few others to join me. My mother is a model and actress, and she'll be with me, and she knows a couple of other actors who are magical who have agreed to come forward. If any of you on this forum are, or know anyone who is, a witch who is prominent in any field—particularly politics, music, acting/filmmaking, publishing/journalism, or sports, but anything that might make their name recognizable to some portion of the average population—please message me privately, but of course don't include too many details here. As this is my husband's specialty, we've set up a secure communication channel that I'll give you access to from there.

Unfortunately, due to the sensitive nature of this project, I won't be responding to anyone who has been active on this forum for less than a year, or whose authenticity I have any reason to doubt (including not enough activity). You all know this is nothing personal, just a basic safety precaution.

I'll keep you all updated on our progress, as we may need people to mobilize in other ways as we plan this. Thanks in advance for your help if you can give it, and your discretion if you can't.

I hope by this time next year, discretion isn't quite as vital to our safety.