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“You want to do what?”

Bitty did not mean for his voice to screech so much on the final word. If he could take the phrase back he would be the first one to do so, but it was too late for such things. Instead all he could do was continue to blink at Holster, pie filling dripping from the spoon in his hand, as the older blond calmly repeated that he did in fact believe that they should start behaving overtly romantic towards each other in hopes to make the Canadian members of their household jealous.

“If you think that I—I mean Jack and I—Y’all know that I wouldn’t—” his tongue was awkward in his mouth as he attempted to construct a full sentence. He had been so certain that the household was oblivious to the feelings that he had buried into his chest for Jack. In theory there was nothing wrong with Holster knowing, but if Holster knew than did that mean Jack knew? If Jack knew had he been making a fool of himself this entire time? Crossing his arms over his chest, and dripping pie filling further across the floor in the process, Bitty shook his head, “Adam Birkholtz I am sorry to inform you that you have gone batty. I can’t—we can’t— ”

Holster took a step forward. The act earnest though completely innocent, still it made Bitty’s shoulders clench and he stepped back, shocked to find the counter blocking him. They were closer together than they had been before, but his focus now was on the look on his face, there was no guile in that expression. Adam simply wanted what… well Bitty himself thought he wanted – someone he cared about to notice him, “We can’t what Bits?” He raised his arm, inching it towards him, though he pulled it back after a moment. Bitty glanced at the hand, now back at his side, wondering what he had thought he was going to do with it… and if it really would have been so bad if he had gone through with it. A playful grin came across his face, and he ducked his head, “Would kissing me really be that bad? I always thought I was rather handsome.”

Despite the tenseness that had been growing in his shoulders from the moment that Holster had made his surprise suggestion, Bitty found his eyes rolling and a light chuckle to come under his breath. Holster always did have way of making even the most serious of things sound… less so. He reached out the spoon he was holding and batted the end of the taller boy’s nose with it, grinning to himself at the faint smudge it left, “Holster. You know that’s not the problem, or at least not the only problem. How would we even know that they’d notice? It’s a lot of time to waste on a whim, and why who’s to say kissing me wouldn’t really be that bad?”

“Bitty,” Adam’s head cocked to the side slightly, and his eyes narrowed. The expression that crossed his face could not be placed as complete displeasure though it was certainly a cousin of that feeling. It caused Bitty to straight slightly, pulling himself taller, as if he had some hopes of reaching Holster’s height, though before he could ever figure the source of this expression a pair of voiced approached the kitchen, and it was replaced by questioning earnest. They both knew who was coming towards them, “What do you say Bits? Are we going to give it a try?”

It was difficult to twist his head and look passed the shoulder that loomed farther above him; his teeth sunk into his bottom lip as he listened to the sounds of the voices that were coming towards him… them. There was little hope were Jack was concerned. Even if he could make him jealous, it did not change the fact that Jack was…. Jack, and Bitty was Bitty. They had come a long way from where they had started but you…

You didn’t fall for a straight boy. You just didn’t. Nothing good could come from it.

He let out a breath. It felt like a hopeless situation, but there was so much hope in Holster’s gaze that Bitty couldn’t help himself. It was foolish to believe but Holster made him want to try.

Maybe… ?

“All right, but—Holster!” The spoon clacked against the floor as Bitty suddenly found himself on the counter top, his face much closer to the one that had been looming over him moments before. A bright flush was covering his naturally pale cheeks, and the overwhelming flood of emotions he felt was causing him to stutter, “What do you thi—”

His breath was warm, though not unpleasant, as his nose nuzzled against his own. The knot of nerves in his chest quivered. While one hand remained on the counter to support his own weight, the other wrapped itself into the material of Holster’s shirt as the older male whispered, “Play along, Bits.”

It was this soft spoken encouragement that prompted him to lean forward, pressing his lips awkwardly against Holster’s own. For a moment they did little more than lean there, lips touching more than kissing. Then Holster started to move, his large hand gently sliding Bitty across the counter, closer to himself, the small gasp Eric made in response to this gave an easy opening for Adam to cautiously slide his tongue forward, deepening the embrace that had started so stiffly. Wrapped up in the larger male’s arms, it was easy to lose one’s head; Bitty found his feet willingly wrapping around Holster’s waist, his body easily sliding forward and a soft moan-

“Bittle?”

“Holst?!”

The pair broke apart, a soft breath of air coming between them.

“Oh my,” Bitty tried to catch his breath. It took him longer than it would have thought to organized his thoughts and look past Holster to the pair that had entered the room. “Jack. Ransom… um, Hi y’all.”

The laugh that rumbled through Holster’s chest, vibrated through Bittle as well, their body’s still entangled, even as the taller blonde’s attention turned towards the Canucks, “Guess we didn’t see you boys there.”

“Clearly,” Ransom’s eyes darted between the pair, brows furrowing and lips twitching. He turned towards Jack whose face was as unreadable as ever, before a shrug appeared, “Carry on… I guess.”

There was another laugh from Holster, and a resulting shiver down Bitty’s spine. He twitched slightly as Holster turned back on him, Bittle’s nose nuzzling against Holster’s as the other arched an eyebrow at him, “What do you say Bits?”

Bittle ran his tongue over his lip, that knot of nerves that had morphed into something else. It twisted and danced, alive in his stomach, spreading throughout the rest of his body. “I think…” his voice was still breathy, and his hand clenched a little tighter, “They’re… gone.”

“Huh?”

He moved closer, lips grazing Holsters before he pulled back again, cool air spreading between them, a sharp contrast to the warmth that had been spreading through him only a moment before. “Jack, and Ransom. They left.”

“Right,” Adam moved a little further away, though his hand was still around Bitty’s waist; the younger boy’s legs were still hooked around him. “Oh. Right.”

“Right,” Eric repeated. Nodding his head slightly, before reluctantly loosening his legs, “I guess we don’t need to…”

Holster stepped back, “No. Nope. We did… what we needed to do.”

“I should,” Bitty pointed to the pie that was half made on the counter across from them.

“Of course. I’ll,” Holster pointed over his shoulder, nodding his head. “Call me when that pie’s ready, huh?”

“Only if you behave.” Bitty cracked a small grin, and Holster stopped at the archway of the Kitchen, returning the expression before nodding and walking away. It was only then that Bitty finally slid off of the counter and pressed a hand to his lips. “Oh my.”

Chapter Text

When?

How?

Ransom shifted the beer from one hand to the other as he walked out of the kitchen, Jack hot on his heels, Holster and Bitty of all people still behind them returning to… god knows what.  The brief glimpse he had gotten of the preshow was not going to fade from his mind any time soon, even if he did not wish to own it any more than he wanted to wonder where that was going.

How?

When?

Holster always had something going on. So did Ransom for that matter. They spent their nights talking about many different things, however exploits, desires and definitely sex appeared more often than not.  Secrets were not a thing that existed between them, no matter what the topic – best friends were not supposed to have secrets; they were supposed to know all the important aspects of your life. They were supposed to know...

That you wanted to stick your tongue down your teammate’s throat!

Ransom switched his beer can yet again, before taking a long swallow from it.  It did not clear the image of Holster with Bitty any more than a glance at Jack’s own dour face had done only a few moments before.

When?

How?

Why didn’t he tell me?

Why didn’t he tell him? Holster told him everything, and he likewise. Surely if he had something for Bitty of all people he would have at least mentioned it wouldn’t he? 

“Did you know?” Ransom leaned against the wall as Jack opened the door to his room, “Did you have any idea that they… they were doing that?”

The door opened with a thud, close to drowning out Jack’s grunted, “No.”

Why did it bother him so much? Neither Holster nor Bittle owed him anything in terms of information about their love lives. Although he and Holster had been teammates and even friends for a number of years, however they did not have the sort of relationship that involved frequent updates on matters of the heart… or organs that resided much lower, but held just as much power. As for Bittle…

Their relationship might have been shorter, though different than his and Holsters, but that did not mean Bittle was required to inform him on every single thing that happened in his life. If he wanted to go around, jumping on counters and being fondled by defensemen then so be it. It was his life and his choice.

It shouldn’t bother Jack at all.

The sound of tin buckling under pressure caused Jack to release the tension he’d been holding in his hand.

It shouldn’t bother him. It shouldn’t. It shouldn’t.

So why did it?

“It’s not like they’re not allowed to do… that.” Had Ransom been talking the entire time? Jack frowned further at his own distraction. “They’re adults; it’s just strange, you know? It feels like only a couple of weeks ago he was making suggestions of who to set Bits up with. And now…”

Ransom fell back into the desk chair, raising his beer to mouth.  Jack grunted, rolling his own beverage about in his hand. Was that the problem? Did he not trust Holster?  That was absurd of course. They were teammates. They were friends. If he would want Bittle to end up with anyone, surely he would want it to be someone that he trusted no matter what. And he did trust Adam no matter what.

Didn’t he?

Bittle was the sort of person who needed a stable relationship. Ransom and Holster could mess around as they pleased, but Bittle had never been like the other guys; there was a delicateness to him that wouldn’t survive casual meaningless sex. There needed to be more to whatever he attached himself to. Holster, as his teammate, would recognize that.

Wouldn’t he?

“And what about the team?  Is it going to change how they play? I guess there aren’t any rules saying they can’t. Are there rules saying they can’t?” Jack grunted and leaned further back into his bed.  As far as he knew, even at Samwell, no one had tried dating a teammate. “I guess it can make them better while they’re together but…”

Ransom shrugged. Jack filled in the rest of his sentence for him.  What would happen when they failed to stay together? Most relationships were doomed to fail – out of the members of their team, Holster and Bitty seemed to be among the most good natured. He’d never seen Bittle enraged at all, and Holster never seemed to hold onto it long. Should things sour between them, surely they would not come to the point of sabotaging the other.

Still, people did strange things when truly upset. 

Jack was graduating soon enough. If they could last even a few months, then the problem would not belong to him personally.  They would not be the team he plays with any longer, though that did not mean they wouldn’t still be his family. They’d be his friends if not his teammates – did he really wish them to suffer simply because he had moved on?

“They’re reasonable people,” Jack paused recalling some of Holster’s more erratic moments, “Mostly. The team will be fine.”

Neither Bittle nor Holster would allow something to become more important than the game, than the team – not even each other. Jack had seen how much both of them valued their time on the ice; they would not squander something like that, no matter how their playing worked out.

Still…

If Jack felt so strongly about that, why was there still a hardness in his chest at the memory of Holster’s large hands on Bittle’s small waist?  If he trusted Holster to take care of Bittle, and he trusted both of them to keep their heads upon the ice, then why did he care so much about what they do?

Across the room, Ransom crushed up the remains of his beer can and let out a sigh, “I mean… it’s just weird, right?”

Jack glanced at the can in is hand that he’d still yet to open. If only opening it would bring the answers to the questions that were brewing in his mind.  He knew that whatever Bittle and Holster wanted to do with or even to each other was none of his business – but it still seemed to be bothering him anyway.

He grunted and allowed his head to drop back into his pillows.

“Oui. Weird.”

Chapter Text

The aroma of freshly baked pie wafting through the halls of the Haus was what drew Holster back towards the kitchen. Definitely.  The fact that Bitty and that kiss kept creeping back into his mind had nothing to do with the fact. Nothing. Holster just wanted pie.  There was nothing wrong with wanting pie. Bitty’s pies were fucking delicious.  Everyone wanted Bitty’s pies. Get over it.

Why did that thought suddenly sound equal parts dirty and annoying?

“Is that a pie I spy on the counter?”  A slow lazy grin crossed Holsters face as he twisted the final corner to enter the kitchen, leaning against the wall. “And here I thought you were going to call me. I’m crushed Bits. I thought we had something.”

 The jump that his voice caused in the smaller boy, resulted in Holster’s grin brightening.  There was something endearing about startling the petite blond. Nearly a senior, Adam had seen a great many people come to the team and graduate in their own time, and not a single one of them had been quite like Bitty. Sure, there had been this one kid who hated the dark (had a near break down when the power went out in Faber once), and there had been a dude who shrieked whenever a dog came near him (Holster may or may not have been guilty of antagonizing that particular teen member once or twice) but even then none of them did it in the way that Bitty did. Everything about him was just so… Bitty

He had known Bitty for a year and a half, why did he feel as if he was noticing these things for the first time?

“And I thought you were going to behave Adam Birkholtz, I guess we were both wrong.”  There was a way that Bitty’s face shifted when he was pleased with himself, that managed to make his glow more vibrant.  Was there an ability to make sass seem as innocent as it was witted? Holster certainly would have said no a year and a half ago, but it wasn’t a year and a half ago was it?

And Bitty might have been able to make anything sound innocent, but Holster had already started to figure out that he wasn’t as all as innocent as he seemed to be.   Moving across the room in a few quick strides, Holster was happily recalling their position from earlier that afternoon.  The differences in their height made it very easy for him to rest his palms on the counter behind them, and tilt his head downward, highlighting his arched eyebrows, “Whatever do you mean, Bits? I have been perfectly behaved.” 

It was pleasing to watch the colour rise in the younger male’s cheeks.  Holster has been around quite a few times, though it seemed to be the nature of the groups he migrated towards that it took a lot more effort to get such colour out of them. Adam was of the opinion that it would have brought the desire to see how dark they could make that blush go into anyone who happened to see it. There was hardly anything special about him and this situation.  Though that hardly made it any less any enjoyable. 

“You-” Adam watched Bitty’s face shift from mildly flustered to more determined, “You know exactly what I mean, Mister.” 

A laugh, low and full, rumbled out from his chest as he ducked his head a little lower, moving slowly, watching as Bitty moved his head back and then closer again, “Oh? Well see, I’m not sure at all, so I think, Bits, you’re going to have to remind me.”

“Remind you?” Bitty did that movement with his head again, further away from him and then closer only a second later.

Holster’s grin shifted towards a smirk, his head bobbing up and down in response, “Remind me, Bits.”

It would have been easy for Holster to crouch forward, closing the distance that still existed between them.  It would be simple, quick, and it would fill all the desires that were lurking in his mind and it would remove any hesitations that existed between them, but it wasn’t what he wanted. It might have been easy but it wasn’t… right. Not this time. Last time, he had closed the distance with very little thought on Bitty or what they were doing. It had all been part of the plan, part of the scheme. This too was part of the plan, surely, of course it was.  How could it be anything but part of the plan?

Bitty ducked a few inches forward and one more inch back.

Holster responded in kind, ducking his head and arching his knees to make the distance easier to bridge, encouraging without pushing.  Bitty crept forward, straightening his back, moving closer, and closer—

“This is the last fucking straw. I fucking mean it.”

For a brief moment they remained as they were, Holster’s nose tickling Bitty’s, Eric’s breath brushing warm against Adam’s skin. The question sparked between them tangible in the shifts of their faces: Do we stay as we are?  Do we keep our hands on each other’s skin? Do we allow our breath to continue to mingle?

Do we give in? Or do we give up?

“Yo! Bits, you will not fucking believe what happened!” By the time that Shitty entered the room, the indignation of his recent scrimmage with the infamous Lax bros coursing through his body, Holster had removed himself from Bitty’s grasp.  Instead he was leaning against the side of the table opposite of where Bitty was cleaning the dishes, picking at the crust of the freshly baked pie, wondering if the faint blush that he could still see glowing in Bitty’s cheeks was as obvious to Shitty as it was to him.

Something about the way that Shitty was digging into his tale of intrigue, insults and shaving cream made Holster think that it wasn’t, though that didn’t bother him much. In fact it brought a slow, lazy smirk to his lips as he broke off a large chunk of pie crust, popped it into his mouth, and just barely ducking out of the way of the dish cloth that came swatting at his head just moments after that action was complete.

“Good Lord, were you raised in a barn. Use a plate.”  The exasperation in Bitty’s face was apparent, though it only encouraged Holster to reach out and break another large chunk of the crust, wiggling his eyebrow as he did so.

“Why don’t you make me?”

There it was, that raise of colour (would he ever be able to find a phrase that did not bring that reaction?) and Holster became quite pleased with the tension that was sparked by such a simple phrase.  Bitty continued to stare at him, the exasperation amplified by the extra lines that appeared on the younger male’s face.   What harm would it really do if he simply inched across the table and pulled him towards him? 

“All right,” Shitty’s hand came down on the table between them, causing Bitty to jump from the table and Holster to twist his head towards Shits, “Will you fuckers, stop with the flirting for five seconds and focus on the important thing: Getting those Lax, Bros back.” 

“What did the Lax Bros do?” Jack frowned as he walked into the room.

 Ransom who was close on his heels, hardly seemed any less confused by the conversation that they had walked in on. “Who’s flirting?”

Until the moment that Holster caught the small flicker of panic in Bitty’s eyes the moment that the two males they were attempting to bamboozle entered the room with Shitty, it hadn’t occurred to him to question whether they were going to tell Shitty, Lardo, or even the Tadpoles.  It hadn’t been as if he had given this situation a lot of thought before he had come charging into the kitchen to suggest it. To be honest, he had simply seen a plot summary of a tv show similar and couldn’t help but think that given the situation he, and Bitty were in, that it seemed like a plausible solution.

But did you tell the friends you were not trying to dupe that you were fake dating your other friend? What was the protocol on these situations? Was there even one?  

“So are you fuckers in or not?” Shitty’s intense gaze finally drew a blantant “huh” from Holster’s distracted mouth. Which earned the tall blond a sigh, an eye roll and a very determined, “Saturday Night. Lax Bros. Toilet Paper so they know exactly who to blame. Be there or be square.”

Always a captain, Jack gave a sigh and a shake of his head, “Why don’t you just leave them alone?”

“Fuck the Lax team, Jack. It’s in the bylaws. I don’t make the rules. Fuck the Lax Team.

Holster thought Jack muttered something about Shitty having in fact written these supposed bylaws on the wall himself, but Ransom was shrugging his shoulders and stating that he didn’t have anything better to do, and Holster knew that it would be only a matter of minutes before he was expected to say something.  He was sure that they expected him to answer to the affirmative, and under normal circumstance Holster was entirely for messing with the Lax team. There was another plan creeping in his mind, however, so when Ransom turned with a raised eye brow and a questioning “Holst?” he was forced to shake his head.

“Sorry. No can do.”

“Well why the fuck not?”

“Well because I gotta take Bitty on a date this Saturday. Can’t just leave him thinking that all I want to do with him is make on the kitchen counter, can I?”

Chapter Text

“Why are we doing this again?”
Bitty fiddled with his utensils, flipping the knife and the spoon before turning them back again. It wasn’t that he had a problem with the restaurant that Holster had chosen for them, or even with the fact that he was sitting here in his best shirt and pants with Holster of all people. It was simply…

How had that happened? It did not make any sense, not really. Sure they had talked about making Ransom and Jack jealous but… neither of them were here were they? So why exactly were Bitty and Holster?

“What? Am I not good enough for you?” Holster raised his eyebrows over top of the menu that he had in front of his face; despite the offense that he had filled his tone with, Bitty could see that large smile of his poking above the shiny black plastic. It filled his chest with warmth, though that wasn’t new, was it? Holster was… well Holster. He always made you want to smile. “Do you think I should get the chicken or the beef? Would getting both make me fat? I have to look after my girlish figure after all.”

“’Course you are, just… Jack and Ransom ain’t even here. If this is to make them jealous, then where does this fit?” Holster’s gaze was warming Bitty’s cheeks so he focused on the menu item’s instead scanning the names before gaze landing on all the prices, “Ain’t this kind of pricey?”

“I only get the best for my intended thank you very much.”

Bitty had to struggle to hold back a snort, his eyebrow arching, “Intended?”

“All right, not intended then. Honey bunch? Snookums? Love bug?”

Bitty snuck out his leg to give Holster a smart little poke with his foot, rolling his eyes as he did so, “I think Bitty still works.”

“Well that’s unoriginal. One date and you’re already curving my creativity. We’re going to have to talk about this if we’re going to work Bits.”

“Just find something to order.”

The warmth that Holster’s antics produced was familiar; the laughter that appeared because of the words cause Bitty to drop his shoulders, and made it easier to draw his gaze back upwards. They were friends. They were friends and they were having dinner because… that’s what friend’s do. Isn’t it?

“I don’t want to be a bad boyfriend.”

“I… I don’t think you’ll find that on the menu.” He offered his tall date a small smile, an expression that grew wider when Holster flashed him a glimpse of his teeth and a small boom of his laugh.

“We--”

“How are you doing with those menus?”

Bitty flinched slightly as Holster flashed the young woman a charming smile. When a questioning look was sent in his direction, Bitty gave a shrug of his shoulders and a half nod of his head. Truthfully he had barely looked at the menu, far more interested in using it as a distraction than actually reading it, but he could find something while Holster ordered. Of course, those few seconds he thought he had to look over the menu vanished all too fast and he ultimately found himself ordering the first thing that he saw.

You couldn’t go wrong with a good quiche.

Hopefully.

“You want Jack to believe this right?”

Bitty reached for the menu only to remember that it had been taken away, “Well… I mean, I guess yeah.” Bitty was fairly certain he wanted Jack to believe this. Maybe… Kind of….

“Then there’s more than just kissing a few times in the kitchen… though I certainly wouldn’t mind keeping that up.” The wink he received at the end of this comment resulted in a blush in Bitty’s cheeks. “I mean, Jack’s a little obtuse, well very, but Rans lives on the World Wide Web. They may not be here but cameras are, other people who could talk… who knows, maybe The Swallow will name us hottest couple or something.”

Another wink and another blush though it as followed by a laugh, hesitant at first but upon catching a glance of Holster’s face only caused it to grow until they were both laughing and Bitty wasn’t even sure he knew what over. Maybe it didn’t really matter. Maybe all that mattered was the fact that they were laughing. That this wasn’t anything strange or weird. It was just… him and Holster. They’d been friends for a year. What made this so different?

“So… basically we’re here because other people are here? And they might talk? And then Ransom and Jack will hear?”

“Now you’ve got it Bits!” Holster enthusiasm was catching, though it wasn’t quite enough to mask the slightly flustered feeling that came across him when he leaned over the table easily placing his face millimeters from Bitty’s own, “So try act like you like me at least a little itty bit.”

Bitty cleared his throat, darting his eyes down towards the table while the heat returned to his face, stronger than it had been moments before. There was no reason to be uncomfortable – he had already told himself all the reasons why this was all perfectly normal several times through out the evening.

There was no reason for his tongue to remain so tied while Holster remained so close to his personal space. No reason that he shouldn’t have been able to look the blond in the eyes an inform him that he liked him just fine, thank you very much.

Just because there was no reason, however, did not mean that his tongue was going to do any of those things anyway.

So Bitty did the next thing that came into his head. Really, with Holster as close as he was, it was almost more logical to lean up and cover his lips with his own.

At the very least Bitty was going to tell himself that since he was already settling back into his seat.

“W-was,” he cleared his throat, taking a small breath before throwing a small but steady smirk onto his face, “Was that convincing enough for you?”

Adam wavered in front of him. Body shifting down towards his seat, and then back up again. Rather enjoying the reaction that he had gotten, Bitty’s gaze lingered heavily upon him until Holster managed to sit himself back down. “That’ll do.”
Another soft cough before a grin flickered to life and Adam’s blue eyes sparked with familiar mischief, “For now anyways.”
***
“I could have paid.”

Bitty looked smaller hunched against the brisk wind that was rushing towards them as they started on their trek back to the Haus. Under another set of circumstances, Holster would have been chirping him for his inability to withstand the cold; in fact such a comment had already been forming in his mind when the younger boy had distracted him with such an audacious comment.

“And have people talking about how I cheaped out on my date? I would be the talk of the campus. The town. The world! My parents would be ashamed. I wouldn’t be able to go home. I would be ruined I say! Ruined! Is that really what you want for me Bits? Really and truly?”

Adam did not actually give Bitty a chance to respond to his accusations; before he had finished speaking he had picked him up and thrown him over his shoulder, spinning both of them around before taking off towards the Haus at a pace much faster than they had before.

“Adam Birkholtz! Put me down!”

“Sorry Bits. I shan’t, no more than shan’t, I simply can’t. It would be entirely uncivil of me to do something as shameful as allowing your blessed little feet to touch the ground.”

“Holster, I swear to – ”

Well, they never did quite figure out what Bitty would swear to, since in that exact moment Holster’s rather large feet hit a chunk of ice, and as anyone in a wintery climate can tell you, it is extremely difficult to continue to hold onto your date, and keep your balance when an unexpected sheet of ice is suddenly underneath you.

Even if you are a hockey player.

Thankfully, Holster seemed to manage to retain some sense of grace – or more likely pure dumb luck – and keep both Bitty and himself standing after a few moments of very precarious wobbling. Bitty did not need to tell him to put him down again; Adam did it on his own, slowly and with a sheepish grin. “I guess, maybe, your blessed feet can take a few steps on their own.”

“Thank you.”

The moment having passed Bitty straightened out his jacket and they continued to walk once more. The silence that fell was not particularly awkward. They were no more than two friends walking along the dark road from the restaurant to their home.

And they were definitely friends.

Not that Holster had ever doubted that. He had classified Bitty as a friend within a few days of him being on the team (even if it had taken them longer than that to find an equilibrium); Adam was the sort of person who considered himself friends with just about everyone that he played on a team with – and even just people that he had spoken to once that one time after class because they had forgotten a pencil or he had accidentally pushed them over while playing a rowdy game of Keep Away (as if Keep Away could be anything but rowdy).

No, Holster had never doubted their friendship; it was just in the quiet moments like these that he wondered if their lying to their friends made them more than friends themselves. Certainly they weren’t in a proper relationship, either of them could see that. It wasn’t as if there were any real feelings beyond a fraternal fondness that any teammate and friend had for each other… but they had gone on a date, fake or not.

So what exactly did that make them?

“You know,” Holster had not expected Bitty’s voice to come up so suddenly, though he did nothing more than turn his head towards the sound of it. “This is my first real date. Well, it isn’t really a real date because we aren’t really dating, but its more than anything else that I’ve been on, since winter screw and all your insane suggestions do not count for anything.”

While Holster was the sort of person who expected just about anything to come from anyone he really did not have any sort of reaction prepared for realizing that he was Bitty’s first date.

And even at that, it hadn’t even been a real one. Or at least not real in the sense that they had planned to go out simply for their own enjoyment… if that’s what is needed to make a date real. Holster didn’t really know. And he didn’t really know what this was either.

Other than Bitty’s first date… ever…

And he was fairly certain that he had not lived up to such a title. There definitely should have been something more than a dinner with a friend you were fake dating to make some other friends jealous so that maybe one day they’ll both be more than friends to both you and the first friend that you were on a date with.

… yeah.

Holster glanced at Bitty for a moment, gaze lingering on his slight features in the glow of the street lights, and then quickly turned forward again.

Nope. He was definitely not going to do anything with that one. Not at all

“Race you back to the Haus! First one to slip on ice, gets a concussion.”

Holster took off, leaving Bitty with nothing to do but follow him.

And beat him.

Of course.

It wasn’t too hard – even off the ice he was still faster than most of his teammates.

“Damn Bits!” Holster laughed when he trudged up to The Haus a few seconds after, “Forget off season, just sign up for track.” Bitty’s smile showed a small sense of pride in what he had accomplished. Did Holster find it a little more adorable than humanly fair? If so he wasn’t going to think about it. “I’m out of breath. Why aren’t you out of breath! Where is the justice in this world? Where is the humanity?”

Holster never did get his answer about humanity for before anyone could answer him, one of them slipped on some ice and they suddenly became a tangled mess of limbs, frantically attempting to keep both of them on their feet. They succeeded, but just barely, ending up with Bitty’s back against the Haus and Holsters arms around Bitty.

“Well, if you wanted to get close to me Bits all you had to do was ask.” A husky wobble lurked under Adam’s words as he was suddenly aware of just how much of his body was touching Bitty’s.

“Me?” Was there a shake in Eric’s voice too or had that simply been wishful thinking? What was he even wishful about? It wasn’t as if any of this was supposed to be real. “You were the one who—”

Who.
Who..
Who….

Fell?
Potentially.
Started to lean closer?
Probably.
Closed the gap between them entirely?

Almost definitely.

It was a thrill, how easy it was to fold Bitty’s smaller frame into his own. Of course, his lips were warm, but so was his arms and his torso and the curve of his back as Holster’s hands traced from the bottom to the top of it. Was it legal for someone’s hair to be so soft? It was far too easy to tangle his fingers up in the admittedly short strands – Was Bitty’s head small or where his hands just that big?

Did he even really care?

Holster could never be certain how long that moment would have last if they had been left to their own devices. Air, of course, would always be a necessity, but Adam figured that there were ways around it – there were other places your lips could explore, other expanses of skin he could touch and taste, freeing Bitty’s perfect little lips up to take in the cool evening air, and everyone knows small gasps between gentle movement was really all one needed to keep from getting so lightheaded it stopped being fun. No matter how many years pass between that moment, he could never come up with a proper answer. Would they have pulled apart eventually, or would the team have just found their frozen tangled bodies when they left in the morning?

Holster never could figure it out.

“Just what do you two think you are doing?”

And he’s never quite sure he forgave Shitty for not letting them.

The beam of light from the open door, more than their friend’s loud brought Holster back to reality – and prompted him to take a surprisingly reluctant step away from Bitty. Though it didn’t stop him from running a hand through his hair and tugging his lips up into a smirk, “Can we help you?”

From the way that Shitty’s eyes sparkled as he crossed his arms over his chest, anyone could tell that he had been waiting all night for this moment. Perhaps not the making out on the front stoop, but Holster would wager a bet that that only made it all the better, “Do you have any idea what time it is?! Your mother has been worried sick.”

“Our mother?” Holster caught Bitty’s eye for a moment, before pushing passed Shitty into the house, “And which one of these idiots is our mother again? Jack? Was Jackie worried sick for us?”

Jack, sitting on the couch with Ransom, didn’t give Holster much of a response, but really he hadn’t expected much of one anyway. That wasn’t really Jack’s style. Ransom, on the other hand, was unusually quiet for the commotion that was going on. Adam gave him a brief look out of the corner of his eye and stored that fact away for later.

“Back off Shits,” Lardo was already herding Shitty away from the door, giving Bitty a chance to walk inside. “Give the kids a moment to breath.”

“Kids!” Holster placed a hand over his heart before turning towards Bitty, “How would you like that? We’re kids now.”

“I think you’ve always been a bit of a kid.” The comeback was spoken softly, some of Bitty’s initial awkwardness at the entire situation seeming to come back now that they had a full audience. Why was it even cuter than it had been a few minutes before? Holster really shouldn’t care how much of a flush was still on the younger boys face, or that his hair was still sticking up at some ends.

Holster reached out a hand to flatten it, “Now you’re just trying to hurt me.” Bitty offered a small smile and a shrug, so Holster lowered himself to press a small kiss to his cheek and whisper, “We had to… they might have been watching out the windows. All part of the show, yeah?”

Bitty paused and then nodded. There eyes locked for a moment, and Holster froze – Should he-?

Stepping back slightly, Bitty began to take off his coat, dropping his eyes to the ground and breaking the moment, “I think I’m gunna head to bed y’all. But… thank you, Holster. I had a good time.”

There were some hoots about good times, Shitty muttering something about what he had found on the porch, but Holster merely smiled and leaned down for another kiss. After all, this time they definitely had an audience and was an innocent good night kiss not one was supposed to do at the end of their dates? He wasn’t going to let anyone tell his mother that he didn’t know how to be a gentleman.

“I might just have to show you another then.” Holster grinned as he pulled back, shoving his hands into his jean pockets as he did so, “Good night Bits.”

Adam watched Bitty go up the stairs for a few moments longer, before turning towards the lions that was his friends. Whatever had happened, the show must go on.

Besides. Someone had to shut Shitty up.

Chapter Text

The ball rose into the air, Ransom’s hand coming in and catching it moments before his face did – then he threw it back up again. In the background, Holster was rummaging around in his things, getting dressed for his date.

With Bitty.

Bitty!

It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with Bitty – far from it. If Ransom was inclined to swing in that direction, he was certain that the small southerners charm would be more irresistible than it already was. It was hard not to like Bitty – everyone knew that. But there was a difference between wanting to befriend and protect him and ask him on a date – or stuff your tongue down his throat in the communal kitchen.

There wasn’t a bad difference, but there was a difference – and it was a difference that Holster hadn’t bothered telling him about. Not once. Not ever. Had he done something wrong? Had he said something somewhere along the way that made Holster thing that he would have reacted poorly to this news? Sure… He wasn’t exactly in the best mood about it at the moment, but that had nothing to do with the news itself but the fact that Holster hadn’t told him.

He had let him walk in on them, walk in like it was some big secret that he couldn’t have been told. Shouldn’t have been told.

And Ransom wanted to know why. He deserved to know why!

It was too bad that every time he opened his mouth to express his annoyance, something nice and passive aggressive came out instead.

“So… how long has this been going on again?”

Thunk. The ball landed into Ransom’s hand. He twisted his head to the side, but Holster was pulling a shirt over his head; not even looking at him.

“Not long.”

Ransom nodded his head, tossing the ball back into the air –Woosh.

“And how long exactly is ‘not long’?”

The shirt over his head, Holster fixed his glasses and turned back to Ransom with a shrug of his shoulders, “You know how these things go. It’s not like I was keeping a timeline, Rans.”

Thunk.

“But if you had to guess?”

Woosh.

“Uh. Like a week?”

Thunk.

“A week?”

Woosh.

“Yeah,” Holster had started pilfering around the piles of his things, likely attempting to locate his wallet. Which he could never find. Ever. Not that Ransom knew him so well he could have predicted his every move without looking. No – it was nothing like that. “Like a week.”

Thunk. Nothing like that at all.

“So.” Woosh. “You’ve been defiling Bittle behind our backs for a week?”

Holster stopped his searching, his back straightening though he did not turn around to look at Ransom. “Defil-Do you have a problem with this, Rans?”

No.
Yes.
Maybe.

Thunk. “No.”

Holster turned his head, not quite able to look Ransom squarely in the eyes, but enough that Ransom could get a look at his face all the same. There was an arched eyebrow, though the rest of his face was blank. “You sure? Its not like you can’t tell me things, Rans. We’re buds right? Best buds.”

Woosh. Then why didn’t you tell me about this? Then why does it feel like I’m on the outside of everything that I used to be on the inside of?

Why does it feel like I did something wrong!

“Of course I’m fine. This fine. Why wouldn’t it be fine?”

Thunk.

Holster’s eyes narrowed as he continued to look at him. Ransom’s grip on the ball tightened and he shifted a little from where he lay on his bunk – in the past he would have been certain that Holster would be able to see right through him, after all that’s what best friends do, but that was back when they told each other everything and were always on the same page. Clearly that wasn’t something that they were doing anymore so why would Holster be able to tell the thoughts that were roaming through his head?

Why wouldn’t he turn around to look for his wallet. “Well good then.”

“Good.” Ransom threw the ball into the air again. “Your wallet’s still in the pocket of your pants from last night.”

Ransom caught the ball. It wasn’t like he knew everything about Holster. Not at all.

He didn’t know why the hell Eric R. Bittle had become such a fascination, and a mystery between them.

And it didn’t bother him. Nope. It didn’t bother him at all. Why would it? It wasn’t like it was any of his business who Holster did not or did not spend his time with.

Not anymore anyway.

***

“What do you think they’re doing?”

The TV was on in front of them, but neither Jack nor Ransom was paying it any attention. Though out of the two of them, Jack was doing a better job of appearing as if he was – though that might have been because Jack’s expression wavered closer to dour than not most of the time anyway.

So when he frowned and shrugged his shoulders in response to Ransom’s question it didn’t seem all that different from any other day, did it? “Not really our business.”

“I guess.” Ransom chewed on the inside of his cheek. “But I mean… don’t you want to know?”

“Not really.” A quick glance in his direction had shown that Jack’s expression still hadn’t changed – Did it ever?

Ransom let out a sigh, and turned his head back to the television, “Guess its just me then.”

“Guess so.”

Ransom returned to chewing on the inside of his lip, shifting his weight so that he could tuck his long legs underneath him, and rest an elbow on the arm of the couch. The couch that Bitty hated. The Bitty who was on a date with Holster. Holster who hadn’t told him that he had wanted to take Bitty on a date in the first place.
--Gah--!

He was going crazy, and all over a stupid date that, as Jack so helpfully pointed out, wasn’t even really any of his business. He need to just take a deep breath, focus on the television and forget about it all together. That’s what he needed to do, and that’s what he would do.

Just… breath in.

And breath out.

Breath in…

Breath ou—

“Well aren’t you two the picture of a crazy night in.” Shitty came bounding over the back of the couch, sitting himself in between the two of them, wrapping an arm around the back of the couch as he did so. “Seriously. You’re going to make me cry with how sad this is. What the fuck are you even watching?”

“Uh—” Ransom blinked at the television, realizing that despite having sat in front of it for the better part of an hour, he did not know the answer to the question that had been asked of him.

Jack, however, seemed to have come up with an answer before Ransom had to, “Television.”

“Well no fucking shit. Thanks for that Jacky boy. Really wasn’t going to have figured that one out myself.”

Jack shrugged his shoulders in response, to which Shitty simply turned his head to arch an eyebrow at Ransom, cocking his head slightly towards Jack with a grin on his face. Normally, Ransom would have had something to say in response, but with his thoughts mild away, all he could salvage was a smile and a shrug of his own.

Thankfully, Shitty was never one to dwell on a certain topic for long…. Unless that topic was Woman’s right… or the Lax Bros… or Women’s rights involving the Lax Bro’s and their toxic masculinity….

So maybe it was more accurate to say that having been friends with him for so long, Shitty was never one to dwell on the topic of Jack and his moods for more than a matter of moments. Besides, in this instance, Shitty had had something else in mind.

“So. Now that we’re alone. Just the three of us all cozy, what the fuck is up with Holster and Bitty?” Shitty turned from Jack to Holster and then back again, “I mean, I think we can all say that we did not see that fucking coming? Did either of you two know?”

Jack grunted, the smallest shake of his head the only indication that the grunt was supposed to indicate a negative response, Ransom shifted his weight again, bringing his legs back down onto the floor. “Nope. I had no clue.”

“Well shit.” Shitty removed his arms from the back of the couch and leaned forward instead tenting his fingers as he rested his fingers against them. The stupid show that was playing on the television filled the brief silence that his thinking created. “Good for fucking them.”

“Who’s fucking?” Lardo appeared in the room, a piece of pie that Bitty must have left behind, in hand.

Shitty grinned, “Holster and Bits. Presumably. If things go well.”

Ransom chewed on the inside of his cheek, centring his gaze on the television in front of him; Jack gave the slightest grunt, which started to draw Shitty’s attention, but before the comment that was clearly formulating in his mind could make it out of his mouth, there was a sound on the front porch.

“Somebody’s hoooome.” Shitty rotated his head, grinning at each person now hovering around the television before bounding to his feet, “I’m going to go give them a little welcome.”

“Shitty.” Jack’s resigned warning was not out of his mouth as quickly as it regularly came, though Shitty gave it about as much notice as he gave anything else, so he might as well have not said it at all.

“Just what do you two think you are doing?”

Later, Shitty would confess that he had only been hoping to catch them a few moments before they were to enter The Haus themselves. At the time he had figured that he would interrupt a conversation at most – though that was something that Ransom couldn’t know until later, for in that very moment he looked as gleeful over finding the pair tangled up in each other yet again, as Ransom felt his mood darkening over it.

He was still certain that he had no problem with Bitty himself, but wherever his problem came from, Ransom was too preoccupied in it to give the exchange that followed much of his attention. It wasn’t until Bitty was heading upstairs and Holster was throwing himself into the seat that Shitty had vacated to open the door, that Ransom gave anything much attention – and even then, it was only because he thought that perhaps with some witnesses he could finally get some straight answers out of his friend.

“It went well?”

Holster shrugged his shoulders, cranking his neck to look around the room, “Not bad. You know how these things go. Where’s the controller?”

Jack leaned over to pick it up from the table that was basically right in front of Holster. “I’m going to bed.”

Ransom watched the controller bounce in Holsters lap before getting up to his feet himself. He wasn’t going to sit here and have a conversation about… nothing. Since that seemed to be all that Holster wanted to tell him anymore.

***

Face pressed firmly into his pillow, and average size – not small despite what those giant hockey players said – sprawled every which way across his bed, Bitty closed his eyes, drew in a slow careful breath and asked good god what the hell he had gotten himself into – yes, yet again.

The evening had been…

Well.

Successful? Yes.

Enjoyable? He could certainly say so.

Better than any evening he could remember prior? Well, you see, he really did not want to answer that. And he didn’t have to answer that. It wasn’t like anyone was asking him… other than him. And well, he didn’t even really want to know the answer so he was doing himself a favour. After all, he knew himself better than…. Himself?

Lord have mercy.

Groaning, Bitty turned onto his back. He let out a long breath and slowly opened his eyes. This was getting... complicated wasn’t the right word. After all, it wasn’t all that complicated at all – Holster had been over the plan with him a number of times and it was all really perfectly clear. That however didn’t make it feel any less confusing.

Confusing. Yes. That was the word that he wanted. This was getting confusing, and with things got confusing, Bitty really just found it better to—

Rap-ap-ap.

Sitting up quickly, Bitty’s features pulled down into a frown as he stared at his bedroom door. Was someone in this place actually…. Knocking… before just…. Entering? He squinted his eyes. Should he say something? He should probably say something, after all its just rude to leave people standing out in the hallways. But then again, maybe he was simply hearing things. Someone probably just knocked something over. He should just roll back over and pretend that—

Rap-ap-ap.
“Bitt…le?”

Scooching his backside back, Bitty sat up straighter and frowned deeper.

Jack?

“Its open.” Of course its open. Its not like it actually has a lock. Should have just said come in like a nor—

“Bittle?”

Eric shifted his weight, certain that there was some way to position his body that looked less… well just less, but his limbs wouldn’t cooperate. “Yes?”

Jack took a small step forward, leaning to the side so that the left half of his body was completely visible but the half-closed door was still firmly between the two of them. His gaze darted about the room, settling on the mess of clothes that Bitty had left on the floor after deciding what to wear, and then the equally cluttered table of school papers before settling on Bittle himself. Or rather… the headboard a few inches to the left of Bitty.

“I just wanted to as-check,” he shifted his weight, stepping further into the room, and then sliding back behind the door, “That is to say, I just- Holst-Ada-he’s…” Jack bowed his head glaring at his feet as his chest rose, and then fell. Slowly he looked back up, “You don’t… need me to talk to him or anything. You know, as captain or something.”

Bitty jutted his chin to the right, slowly tilting his head towards the right. His eyes squinted slightly, and his mouth slid open as the words rearranged themselves into his head. Had Jack just….

It was Bitty’s turn to clear his throat, ignoring the slight warmth in his check, “Don’t worry yourself – Hols-Ada-He’s been a perfect gentleman.”

“Good.” Jack nodded his head once, his face sliding into a cold blank slate. “Good. Goodnight.”

“Good-” the door closed. “…night.”

Argh!!!

Throwing his hands over his face, Bitty threw himself back down onto his mattress. Was that Jack jealous? Was Jack even capable of being jealous? If that was jealous did Bitty even want that? It felt no different then-then…

Ugh. Confusing.

Pulling his comforter over his head, Bitty closed his eyes and curled himself into a small ball. If he was lucky no one would wake him up until the morning.