Disclaimer: Obviously, not my intellectual property. Ngozi Ukazu created the characters and setting.
"It's freezing!" Bitty complains on the walk from Faber to team breakfast.
"Of course it's freezing, brah," says Shitty. "It's December in Massachusetts. Honestly, it's a little concerning that we barely got below freezing in November. Global warming is fucking everything up."
"But it's snowing!" Bitty adds.
"That's actually a good sign for the temperature," Ransom says. "What you really need to worry about is when it's too cold to snow."
"If it's snowing it's already too cold," Bitty retorts.
"Nah, he's serious, bro," Holster says. "You're way more likely to get snow when the temperature is in the twenties than when it's below zero. Snow is definitely a good sign, if you're worried about being cold."
"I always forget how Fahrenheit works," Ransom says, "but he's right, bro."
"Wait, seriously?" Bitty asks. "It gets colder than this? The temperature can go below zero?"
"Chyeah," says Holster.
"Pro tip," says Johnson, walking up behind them, "wear layers. And I don't just mean a sweater over your shirt, either. I mean, get leggings or whatever and wear them under your pants, too. They make fleece-lined leggings. Wear those. And obviously a good coat and gloves and a hat and a scarf, but like. People forget about their legs. Oh! And wool socks are good, too. Better to wear one pair of wool socks than five pairs of socks that aren't wool, both for staying warm and for putting your feet in your shoes."
Ransom squints at Johnson. "Are you wearing leggings right now?"
"Me? Nah," says Johnson, shaking his head. "I'm from Minnesota. I'm used to worse than this. Trust me. But my sister had an eating disorder in high school and it fucked her circulatory system right to hell, and now she's cold like eight months out of the year. One time she put on 13 pairs of socks to try to get warm, and all it did was hurt because of all the elastic. She'd wear leggings under her jeans to school and then come home and put sweatpants on top of the jeans for a third layer. So like, I've watched someone not be able to handle winter, and I figured I'd pass along what I know to our little frog here."
"Eating disorders do that?" Shitty asks.
Johnson shrugs. "Pretty sure. I mean, weight loss and having less fat in general can make you get colder faster, but it wasn't just that, for her. Her fingernails turn blue if she sits still these days, and her entire fingers turn this whitish-yellow. That didn't used to happen."
"Fuck," says Shitty.
"I thought eating disorders mostly just messed up your menstrual cycle," Bitty says before he can stop himself.
Everyone stares at him.
He hears the nervous laughter as if it weren't coming from his own mouth. "Haha—um. Oh dear! Well, wouldn't you know it—I totally forgot that I left a pie baking. In the library. Well, no need to wait for me—y'all go on ahead to breakfast! Um. Bye now!"
He walks into the library as purposefully as he can manage, like he's calm and he belongs there, and then he goes up to the third floor, finds an empty aisle between two shelves, sits down on the floor, takes off his satchel, and rocks back and forth as he begins to hyperventilate. He's done this before—it hasn't even been that long since the last time, best measured in weeks rather than months or years—but this feels different somehow. These boys are his team. And they're going to know.
Honestly, he'd think the boys knew already—realistically, he'd expected them to figure it out within the first week, when he was trying to figure out how it would go, back before he came to Samwell—but he'd forgotten how utterly uninformed most people (especially most male jocks, even at a place as accepting as Samwell) were about all things trans. He's been here for nearly four months and no one has asked him about his scars, even though he was sure, heading into this year, that it would be immediately obvious in the locker room that he'd had top surgery.
But now they're going to find out that he's trans and that he had an eating disorder on the same day. He knows they like him—at least, that they have liked him, though that's without knowing that he's trans and gay and all that—but it's going to be so much information, none of it good, or at least that's how it feels. How will they react? Will they have the first clue what to say? What does he want them to say, anyway?
That's the last thing he manages to think for an indeterminate amount of time. When he comes back to himself, his breathing ragged but no longer as rapid as it's probably been for the past several minutes, he's still on the floor in the library, still alone, and his satchel is still next to him. Okay. That's good.
He pulls his phone out of his bag and is only a little surprised to see a text from Shitty: i want to give you space if you need it, but let me know if you want to talk, brah. got your back.
The whole text is nice, but the part that actually makes Bitty feel better is that Shitty is still calling him "brah." Shitty's a smart guy—Ransom's probably the smartest guy on the team, but Shitty's up there—and he's also majoring in Women's and Gender Studies, which means that if anyone has figured out what Bitty meant earlier, it's most likely Shitty. Well. What Bitty said wasn't exactly subtle, particularly given that the team knows he doesn't have any sisters, so it's possible that Ransom, Holster, and Johnson have worked it out too. But Shitty is the most likely to know out of any of them, and he's still calling Bitty "brah." It's not like Bitty was expecting Shitty to be a jerk about any of this—again, he's majoring in Women's and Gender Studies—but it's a good sign that he's still referring to Bitty in a masculine way. It gives Bitty hope that he won't need to coach Shitty through how to react.
When Bitty's hands have stopped shaking quite so hard, he texts back, talking might be good
annie's? the haus? walking around south quad? comes Shitty's immediate reply.
the haus? Bitty suggests. The less audience he has for this, the better.
got it. meet you there in 15? Shitty texts back.
ok, says Bitty.
When they meet at the Haus, Shitty asks, "Where do you want to do this? You're welcome to use the kitchen, of course, but my room is also an option if you'd rather have more privacy."
"Can we go to your room, then?" Bitty says. It's not like he'll be able to keep this from the other residents of the Haus for long—Jack was the only one who wasn't there earlier, so the rest of them probably already know, and he can't trust all four of them to keep their mouths shut—but he wants to talk to Shitty alone first.
Shitty nods and heads up the stairs; Bitty follows. He's only been upstairs a couple times before, just to use the bathroom during kegsters, so he doesn't know what any of the rooms look like. He's not at all surprised that Shitty has a painting of a marijuana leaf on his wall. Shitty flops onto the bed and Bitty sits down on the desk chair.
"So," Shitty says when Bitty doesn't speak, "we can all forget what happened earlier and everything can go back to normal. I know Ransom and Holster aren't the most discreet guys, but I know how to threaten them so they'll listen. Or we can talk about it, if you want. I just want to make it clear that this is your information and you get to control who knows what. We don't have to discuss anything you don't want to discuss."
"I want to talk about it," Bitty says. "With you, at least. Probably with some of the rest of the team. Maybe not the whole team, and definitely not the rest of campus, but at least a few people. I just . . . don't know where to start."
"I have a suggestion," Shitty says, "if you want one."
"If we're talking about it, I can tell you what I've guessed, and you can tell me whether I'm right or not, and we can go from there."
"Okay. Yeah," says Bitty.
"So, I think you're trans, and also that you've had an eating disorder," Shitty says.
"Yeah." Bitty forces himself to look at Shitty's face, searching for whatever opinions Shitty might be having about this. Shitty doesn't look disgusted or angry or anything, just thoughtful.
"Cool," says Shitty. "I mean, it's not cool that you had an eating disorder—that fucking sucks, bro. But it's cool that you're trans, and I'm glad you trust me with both of those facts about yourself."
This is by far the most painless coming-out experience Bitty's ever had, so he adds, "I'm also gay." He's not sure if he does it because he thinks Shitty will take it well or because he wants to see just how far he can push before Shitty stops accepting him, but either way, it's out there now. For the first time ever.
"Oh! Cool," says Shitty. "Fair warning—I've heard Ransom and Holster talking about setting you up with a girl for Winter Screw. So if you don't want that to happen, you might want to talk to them. Or I can talk to them about it. But, you know. It's a situation that you might want to address."
"Do you think they'll be cool with—you know, all of this?"
"They'd fucking better be," Shitty mutters.
"That's not actually all that reassuring," Bitty replies.
"Real talk?" Shitty says. "We haven't had an out queer teammate before. I haven't noticed homophobia or transphobia in the locker room, but also, I'm a cis, straight white dude; there's probably stuff that would go over my head. I can't make promises about other people and how they'll react. There are probably people who will be surprised, if nothing else. Maybe a little awkward. I don't think you'll get worse than that, but I can't be totally sure. What I can say is that I've got your back 100%, and I'm not afraid to kick anyone's ass who needs it. And I'm like 90% sure Jack would make the same promise unprompted, but if he needs some prompting, I can take care of that."
"Thanks," says Bitty quietly. "What about Ransom and Holster, though? They're great, but they're such bros."
"I mean, you're not wrong. But they spend half their time looking out for you. I really don't think this is going to change that."
"Did y'all debrief about me at breakfast?"
"Nah. Well, they started to, a little, but I told them to stuff it."
"Thanks," says Bitty.
"No problem, brah. This degree my father always calls useless has gotta be good for something, you know?"
Bitty takes a deep breath. He really, really wants to avoid talking about this with anyone else for as long as possible (if not, like, forever), but that way lies another panic attack and probably all sorts of other problems, so. He'd better get it over with now. "Are Haus meetings a thing?" he asks.
"Yeah, why?" Shitty replies. "Do you want me to call one?"
"Yeah," says Bitty. "I mean, no, I don't want you to call one, but I think that's the best way to handle this."
"Probably," Shitty agrees. "Proud of you, bro. Do you have class at five p.m.? I'm pretty sure at least one of us is in class from now until then, but we're all free after that."
"I'm free at five."
"Am I including Jack in this?" Shitty asks. "He wasn't there earlier, but there isn't a good time to meet with the rest of us where I can guarantee he'll be gone without directly telling him not to be at the Haus. Which I could do, and I could handle his questions, but—"
"No, include Jack," Bitty interrupts.
Shitty nods and then gets out his phone. "How's this? 'Haus meeting, five p.m., please be there. Everything's fine. No need to worry.'"
"Yeah, that's good," Bitty says.
Shitty nods, taps once more at his phone, and then looks up at Bitty. "You good now, or is there more you want to say?"
"I'm good," Bitty says. "I think I need to bake a pie."
Shitty nods again. "Cool. I've got some homework to work on. Text me if you need me, though. Or just shout. I'll be up here for the next couple hours."
A little before five p.m., Bitty walks over to the Haus. Most of the pie from earlier is still there, so he plates six slices—a small one for Jack, huge ones for Ransom and Holster, and relatively normal-sized ones for himself, Shitty, and Johnson—and takes them to the living room.
Jack is the only person in the living room when Bitty arrives. He's got a textbook and a notebook in his lap, a pen behind his ear, and a highlighter in his hand, and he glances up, looking startled, when Bitty walks in. "Bittle!" he says. "We're about to have a Haus meeting, so I'm not sure if—"
"The meeting is about me," Bitty interrupts.
"What do you mean?" Jack asks.
"Everyone else who lives here . . . got some information about me this morning. And now I'm going to clarify some things. And as long as the rest of the Haus knows, you may as well know too."
"Bittle," Jack says seriously. "You don't owe anyone information about yourself."
Bitty can't help but smile a bit. "I know. Shitty already gave me that speech."
"Well, good," says Jack. "But still. It's important to me that you know that you don't have to do this."
"Goodness," Bitty says. "Where has that spirit been when you've been getting me up at four in the morning to practice checking?"
"I mean, you could quit the team," Jack says.
"Well thanks, Jack," Bitty snaps. "Glad you have that much confidence in me."
"No, Bittle, listen," Jack says, dropping his highlighter onto his textbook so he can drag a hand down his face without drawing on himself. "You have checking issues, yeah? So your options are to work through them or to stop being on the team. There isn't a third option. Sharing information about yourself is different. You can just . . . not. Unless you're injured or something in a way that's going to affect the team or whether you can safely play, I don't need to know your business. And neither do the rest of the guys, though I understand if it's awkward to leave them with unanswered questions. And if that's it, Shitty and I can get them to leave you alone. So I don't want you to feel—"
"Hey Rans, there's pie!" Holster yells over his shoulder as he enters the room.
"I'm good, Jack," Bitty says quietly, meeting Jack's eyes. "We can do this. It's okay."
Shitty and Johnson show up only a minute or so after Ransom and Holster, at which point Shitty calls the meeting to order. "You may have noticed an esteemed frog in our midst," Shitty says once Ransom and Holster have stopped poking each other and have actually shut up. "Most of you were present this morning when Bitty made a comment that I, for one, found unexpected. He and I have talked since then and he asked me to call a Haus meeting so he can fill you in on some things. Before I give him the floor, I want to make it very clear that he's not obligated to tell any of us anything he doesn't want to. He doesn't have to answer any of your questions. It's still your responsibility to keep your questions respectful, but even if you phrase something right, that doesn't mean he has to answer you. And he gets to decide whether any of us can tell anyone else about what he's about to say, or whether everything said tonight stays here. Got it?"
"Yeah," the guys mutter.
Bitty pulls his notecards out of his pocket and says, "Sometimes, it's hard to tell friends things that—well, you always knew, but took you . . . some time to come to terms with." He takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, reminds himself that the best way to remove a bandaid is to rip it off as fast as possible, opens his eyes, and says, "I'm trans, I had an eating disorder when I was 14, and also I'm gay."
Jack looks the most startled out of everyone, though Ransom and Holster aren't far behind. Johnson looks just as unruffled as Shitty, which Bitty doesn't know what to do with. He doesn't really have time to think about it, though, because Holster swallows a bite of pie and then asks, "So you said you're trans, and you mentioned menstruating, so does that mean you were, like . . . born a girl?"
Shitty facepalms, the fork in his hand getting pie filling in his flow. The move is effective at conveying frustration but not really very helpful in terms of actually answering the question, so Bitty says, "The term we use is 'assigned female at birth.' I'm a boy. I was always a boy. But that's not what the doctor said when I was born."
Holster still looks a little confused, but he doesn't say anything. Ransom is the one who asks, "So if you're trans and you're also gay, who does that mean you like?"
"I'm a guy. I'm a gay guy. So I like guys," Bitty says.
"We've gotta rethink our Winter Screw plan," Ransom mutters to Holster, who nods.
Then Holster looks at Bitty and says, "Wait, okay. How does all the baking fit in with you having had an eating disorder?"
"It was part of my recovery," Bitty says. "Things got bad my freshman year of high school and I had to go into inpatient treatment, which is why I quit figure skating. It was a huge disruption in my training and I lost a lot of flexibility. I mean, I'd already been losing muscle from how much weight I was losing, but . . . anyway, after that, my therapist and I decided that the figure skating world was putting too much pressure on me in terms of body image. Well, it was also making me dysphoric, but I hadn't put words to that yet. So we decided I needed to get some new hobbies instead of figure skating, and also I needed to build a better relationship with food. So I started baking, and, well, I'm not very good at doing things halfway. I either go all in or don't do them at all. It turned out I liked baking, so I just kind of went all in."
"What does—did you say 'dysphoric'?" Jack asks. When Bitty nods, Jack continues, "What does that mean?"
"Dysphoria—well, gender dysphoria is the full term—is when you feel like your body—well, or the way you're perceived or the clothes you have to wear or whatever—that something is out of step with your true gender, the gender you feel you are inside. So for me, wearing the sparkly figure skating dresses I wore for competitions made me really upset, because it clashed with my knowledge that I'm a boy. My chest also used to make me upset and dysphoric, which was part of why I developed an eating disorder—I wanted to stop having breasts, and I figured that would happen if I got thin enough."
"Wait," Holster says. "We've seen you in the locker room, bro. You definitely don't have boobs."
"Oh, but he has those scars!" Ransom adds. "Is that where—?"
"That is hella invasive," Shitty interrupts.
"I mean, yes, generally it's super bad etiquette to ask trans people about their medical history or whether they've had surgery," Bitty says. "But also, y'all see me naked on a regular basis, and frankly I was expecting someone to ask about the scars or just straight-up guess what they were from during, like, week one. So: yes, I've had multiple surgeries to help me feel more at home in my body, gender-wise. That's as much as I'm going to tell you about that, and do not ever ask another trans person that question."
"Got it," says Holster.
"Yeah, sorry," adds Ransom, and he sounds contrite.
"You're good," Bitty sighs. He's not mad at them—it's not like this is the worst reaction he's gotten, not by a long shot—but he is tired of having to explain things.
"Is there anything you want us to know?" Jack asks. "Anything that we should or shouldn't say going forward, any situations we should help you get out of if they come up? And can I ask how much the coaches know, and also whether we're allowed to tell anyone else any of this?"
"The coaches know I'm trans, but not the rest of it," Bitty says. "Going forward—I think eventually I want to be out as gay. I don't feel the need to make a bigger announcement than this, but I'd like to go to Winter Screw with a guy and I don't feel the need to keep that a secret. I don't want to tell more people that I'm trans, but I know that people who know what top surgery scars look like will know what they're looking at if they see me shirtless, so that's something I need to be prepared for, especially at the beginning of next season when we have new people in the locker room. And I don't really want to talk about my eating disorder, or eating disorders in general, though it was helpful to know that they mess with my circulatory system and internal sense of temperature, so thanks for that, Johnson. If any of you notice that I'm not eating for multiple meals in a row, maybe check in, but don't accuse me of anything, because I could just be sick to my stomach or something. I think that covers everything, just about."
"I'll let you know if I have questions directly relevant to hockey," Jack says, "and I'll try to find answers to other questions I might have elsewhere."
"Good point," says Shitty. "That's a good habit to get into in general. If you have a question about transness, see if you can find the answer yourself without asking Bitty."
"Oh, one last thing," Bitty says. "The jokes about my size aren't funny. I hate being this short and sometimes it makes me feel like no one is ever going to take me seriously as a guy. Don't rub it in."
"Gotcha, bro," says Shitty. "And just so we're clear, you're still good with 'bro' and 'dude' and 'he' and 'Bitty' and all that?"
"Yeah," Bitty says, nodding. "Those are good. Really good."
"Cool," says Shitty, shooting him finger guns.
Bitty starts to gather the plates from the coffee table, since everyone has finished their pie (even Jack, which is a victory, although less of a victory given how tiny a slice Bitty gave him), but Johnson says, "I got it, bro," and picks up the plates instead. "I'll wash them. Don't worry about it."
"Thanks," says Bitty.
"Proud of you," Johnson murmurs before heading for the kitchen.
The attention has clearly shifted off of Bitty; Ransom and Holster are turning on the TV and getting out the controllers so they can play a video game, and Jack is gathering his books and writing implements while Shitty talks to him (or possibly at him). Bitty has no place in this scene, so he starts edging toward the doorway, wishing he had the excuse of dishes. As he reaches the door, though, Jack looks up and says, "Bittle? Wait up?"
Bitty tries to keep his breathing even as he nods.
Jack puts his pen and highlighter into their case and then shoves the pencil case, textbook, and notebook into his backpack. He stands, backpack in hand, steps over the coffee table, and joins Bitty at the door before nodding to the hallway.
In the hall, Jack says, "Thank you for trusting us with this. Especially me. You didn't have to do that, and I don't take it lightly. Please do tell me if anyone gives you shit about this, whether they know or not. I want you to be safe here."
"Says the guy who spends every other morning running me into the boards until I faint," Bitty mutters.
"Um," Jack says, at which point Bitty realizes he said that out loud and definitely should not have.
"Sorry," says Bitty. "What I should have said is thank you. I appreciate it."
"Of course, Bittle."
"Jack? Any chance you could call me Bitty?"
"I can try," Jack says.
Bitty nods. "Thanks."
All in all, it's about as good an outcome as he can realistically hope for.