WHO The Bittle-Zimmermanns WHERE A shop for lease in Vallo downtown WHEN Valentine's Day (February 14th), evening WHAT Jack has a surprise, and Bitty gushes about linoleum STATUS Complete! WARNINGS No, it's just unadulterated fluff.
No one was going to crown Jack Bittle-Zimmermann the king of romance anytime soon. He remembered dates (thanks to his phone), surprised Bitty a fair amount with things he thought his husband would like, and was good about anniversary gifts. His proposal had been good, from the heart and very them, but he didn’t do poetry and struggled more often than not to put his feelings into words, so in his head, things often fell flat.
This one, he’d planned a little for. Ideally back home he would’ve gotten Bitty backstage tickets to Beyonce - so this was definitely a downgrade - but he would leave that tidbit of information off to not completely self-sabotage. His idea was a big one, and the anxiety was already settled into the pit of his stomach on the worry that it was too much, too overbearing. Too pushy.
He took the shot anyway.
Jack had warned Bitty ahead of time, that he had plans booked off for at least an hour of the day, near dusk. Jack was punctual as he met Bitty outside Rose Apothecary with a rose in hand, dressed in his navy suit, sans tie. “Mr. Bittle-Zimmermann, your escort has arrived.”
Bitty loved surprises. No, correction—Bitty loved surprises from Jack. He had spent the entire day in eager anticipation for whatever Jack had planned. His husband was endlessly considerate and astonishingly thoughtful, his surprises always bearing some deeper meaning that Bitty could never guess before it happened (although he tried.) And today he tried, asked everyone he could think of "do you know what my absolutely adoring husband is up to today?" but no one knew or they were resolutely silent.
In all his dramatics when things were stressful, Bitty was about to die by the time evening started to fall. He couldn't take the waiting, and had baked no less than a dozen cherry heart-shaped pies while he paced a new tread into the floor.
So, of course, he nearly ran up to Jack outside the apothecary, in his own button-down shirt and coat. Bitty's whole face was lighting up as he approached, as he always did when he managed to slip into Jack's orbit. Seeing his husband was always an occasion.
"Honey," Bitty said, gasped really at Jack in a suit. He loved his husband in a suit. His hands came up quickly to run over his lapels appreciatively and tip his head up for a kiss. "My escort looks so good. Where are we going? You have to know that I have just been bursting at the seams trying to guess and I don't know how much longer I am going to last."
Jack met him halfway for the kiss, leaning instinctively to just the right height quick enough to cover up the blush on his cheeks at being complimented. He’d expected Bitty’s excitement and curiosity, and had been excited to see Bitty get so into it. It helped Jack in his own excitement, with how contagious his husband’s enthusiasm was.
“It’s not far,” Jack promised, and slipped his hand into Bitty’s to lead him that way. It really wasn’t far - a block at a fairly casual pace that Jack tried to maintain so they weren’t just running ahead. The location was easy to miss, an empty building in dire need of paint and a little TLC, with just a soft glow coming from inside. There was no sign, but Jack stopped at the glass door anyway and opened for Bitty, gesturing for his husband to go inside.
The inside wasn’t exactly impressive either, a small empty business, save for one small table decorated with an LED candle and covered food, a bottle of champagne - the same they’d had at their wedding - waiting on the edge. “Why try to get a reservation when you can just set up something yourself?”
Bitty's spirits were high. He had quickly taken Jack's hand and tucked it against himself, while simultaneously sliding incredibly close to Jack—for warmth, of course! And because he would unabashedly plaster his body to his husband whenever he could. Bitty wasn't necessarily a possessive person, but his love for Jack was all-consuming that he thought he could pass just how much through osmosis.
But his face did a complicated little dance when they approached the building, the type that tried to hide confusion while still looking incredibly happy. For all his guessing, Bitty did not think "rundown abandoned business front" screamed Valentine's Day. "What are you up to, Jack Bittle-Zimmermann," Bitty said, teasing and suspicious, but went through the door anyway.
So the setting was a little strange, and Bitty supposed being jammed at a crowded restaurant would make it difficult to have privacy and intimacy over a meal. He walked halfway to the table, just enough to see the covered food, the champagne label—Bitty gasped at that. "Sweetheart, you didn't." Bitty was all smiles, switching between looking at the exclusive setup and his husband.
"I do not understand why we are in here, and I just know you have some sneaky little reason, and I want to hear all about it over dinner. Goodness, I didn't even know you were doing all this. How did you get this by me, hmm?" Bitty asked, reaching for Jack again. He wanted another kiss.
Jack followed after Bitty slowly, and shrugged off his jacket to hang it on his chair before reaching out to help Bitty slip out of his. Jack pulled out his husband’s chair for him and snagged a quick cheek kiss, before setting the food in its appropriate places. “I ordered from the cajun place, and they were offering magical enchantments to keep food warm? That seemed perfect.”
He still wasn’t divulging information, but Jack dragged his chair from across the table to sit in the space next to his husband instead. He preferred that, for the chance to slip a hand down to thread through Bitty’s fingers, or to lean in for a kiss easily.
As he settled into the chair, Jack glanced around the empty place before he took to opening his food container. “So, uh-- What do you think? This one is a little small, but there’s a perfect place for a display case over there..” Jack wasn’t usually one for words, but when it came to Bitty, he’d gotten better about that, and getting to hint at where he was going with this conversation gave him a silent thrill.
His hand came up to his chest, genuinely charmed by the lengths in which his husband went for the evening. "Jack," Bitty nearly gasp-cried at the food—chicken fried steak—and while he had opinions about pairing champagne with this Southern comfort meal, all of it washed up in being able to watch his husband bask in his surprise. This was unexpected and Bitty was positively radiant at getting to share this with him.
But his attention drifted over to where Jack was commenting—an area for a display case. Something nudged at the back of his mind, but Bitty was speaking before he even thought it through. "It could definitely use a bit of care. Fresh coat of paint on the walls, patch up those holes in the ceiling, and maybe tear up that flooring over there where there is—oh good Lord, is that heritage brick linoleum?" Bitty had to refrain from getting up from his seat and scoping it out.
"You know my MooMaw had that, impeccably kept in her house. Not a single scuff, but that is in horrible shape! But I suppose if someone wanted to, they could clear out whatever they are calling a storage closet back there, and goodness, they might have the makings of a nice kitchen to..."
Bitty stopped. Paused. Turned, slow. So slow. He stared Jack down for an almost uncomfortably long moment before he said, "Where are we, Mr. Bittle-Zimmermann?"
That had been an information dump that Jack hadn’t expected but relished in. He loved when Bitty went off on tangents with knowledge and passion, watched with true pleasure as his husband worked through every step and even brought up his MooMaw. That was a true test of things.
When eyes were back on him, though, he got a little hot under the collar -- truthfully he always did when Bitty was looking at him with such intensity -- and started fidgeting within thirty seconds. He wanted to still revel in this, but then he wanted to just say it, too.
And Bitty when he was suddenly focused was terrifying and hot all at once, so there was that. “It’s uh- for lease. This place. And if this one doesn’t suit…” He reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a few pieces of paper that had been folded and held them out. “There’s four others within a few miles in the city, most of them are pretty small, the floorplans and square footage are on there-” He’d done his homework, with Shitty’s help, and came prepared.
Jack was sweating, and Bitty was torn between being charmed and suspicious. More of the former than the latter. Whatever Jack had planned, he was worried, but there had never been something that Jack had done that Bitty didn't like—and if he didn't, Bitty was very vocal about his opinions on why.
But Bitty didn't interrupt, because Jack needed to get the words out and for once Bitty was speechless. His attention searched around the wide-open space, to the ceiling and the walls and the linoleum that wasn't really that bad, just in the need of some attention that it didn't get from its previous owners. And in his assessment, Bitty was thinking about how perfectly a display case would look right there.
His hand was back to his chest, his heart racing, and his eyes tearing up so fast. "Have you been looking for a bakery space for me, honey?" But even as he asked, Bitty knew what the answer was. Yes, yes, yes.
He grabbed Jack mid-sentence and kissed him. Just absolutely unabashedly smothered him with kisses because Bitty thought he was going to burst. "Oh, my goodness, Jack," Bitty said between kisses. "Let me see the other ones! I want to see what you have been doing under my nose—ahh! sweetheart!" Bitty just had to let out some of his excitement.
Jack let out a low, relieved laugh. Bitty’s joy was usually contagious, it made him smile just as much in return on a daily basis. Even the littlest things could do it, but it gave Jack a thrill to be the one that made that face light up. He was still embarrassed, and his hand came up to rub against the back of his now-flushed neck.
“I just know how you get?” He didn’t want to seem like he was making choices for his husband, and Jack’s nose wrinkled even as he was being kissed. It made for some comical nose bumping. “Obviously it’s your choice. I just know you get overwhelmed, and you have a lot going on already. When you’re given a lot of options you procrastinate and--”
He shrugged lamely, it didn’t feel like enough but Bitty’s response helped alleviate that. “I did some light budgeting on which ones need the most renovations, but I don’t know exactly what you need so they’re just-- rough numbers?”
"I do not procrastinate," Bitty, a notorious procrastinator, said. "This is different!" It wasn't. Bitty did have a lot going on, and expanding the bakery had always been a dream, a plausible one. But he found every reason to not move forward with it—too many orders, the wedding, the randomness of Vallo always seeming to get in the way. Bitty only pushed it off because due dates weren't necessary. This particular stepping stone was just an eventually.
But Jack was making it a soon, and Bitty didn't feel forced into it. He was overwhelmingly touched. "You have no idea how much this means to me," Bitty said, softer, but no less enthusiastic. "You went through all this trouble to find these places and lightly budget, oh honey, sweetheart. This is—" Bitty was touching his chest again, afraid his heart would grow too big and burst out of his chest. And oh no, was that a tear. There were tears, happy tears. Bitty smiled right through them.
"This is you saying you support my dreams. This is you being the most wonderful husband, because you know what I need, even if you say you don't, but you do. Goodness, you mentioned a display case and I might just faint. You know."
Jack grinned through Bitty’s speech and tears, reaching up to brush them away as they fell. Being in love with an incredibly emotional person was something of a roller coaster at times, but he’d never change anything about it. He had always hid a lot of his own feelings, had pushed them aside for the sake of hockey or not displaying emotion when the cameras were on him. It was easier being in the limelight to force a smile than it was to cover something up.
Bitty had made him appreciate it a lot more, though, letting one’s true self shine through.
Jack had also just been cried on by his husband a lot. And heard that “I do not procrastinate” argument more than a few times, so he could laugh against Bitty’s forehead before pressing a kiss and not feel bad about it.
“I love you,” It always sounded so simple coming from Jack’s lips. “It’s easy to do stuff for people you love. I just want you to know that if you do this- if you write a cookbook, open a bakery, take up skateboarding-- I’m here to support you.”
Bitty wasn't actually mad but he could pretend to pout for a second when Jack laughed. But it lasted all of a hot second before he was getting worked up again at the thought of his incredibly supportive husband. Bitty knew how lucky he was, and he wasn't about to waste a second of it. He dragged Jack back in for another kiss.
"Oh, honey, I love you too," Bitty said, bumping noses because he had to eke out every bit of affection he could in every gesture. "You don't need to tell me that! I mean, I love it when you do, I like hearing that you'll support me in whatever I do even skateboarding, good Lord, but I know you do, you've always been there for me when I needed you. And I will always be there to support you through anything. Just doing this was..."
He was getting so wrapped up in the potential of this being the new bakery, because his husband was thinking about his future that Bitty forgot that there was a whole meal here to eat. "You are going to make it very difficult to top this next year! I had a whole thing planned for when we got home!"
Bitty sounded put out, but he was smiling, hands all over Jack. "Why this one? And don't say you don't know! You could have picked the other ones to set up a dinner at with your Jack Bittle-Zimmermann charm, I just know it, but this one was special."
Jack should’ve reminded his husband that they should be eating, but it was too self-indulgent to get his hands on Bitty, and Jack loved having his hands on Bitty. Pulling him closer, kissing him, dipping his lips down to Bitty’s neck and nibbling, while his husband rambled on and continued through the whole process. It was an everyday event for them, this sort of thing.
The question did pull him back, just a little. He paused in his next kiss, and then flushed deeply, leaning away just enough to look at Bitty and then dodge down again, a little embarrassed. He shouldn’t have been, and Bitty would probably tell him as much, Jack knew that.
So the confession was soft on his lips, with a little laugh accompanying. “This one reminded me of that bakery you took me to in Madison. The one you said was your favorite. It’s the same color on the outside, and- I don’t know.” Jack went in for a deflection, pulling back again to look at Bitty. “What do you have planned at home?”
Jack was very good at distraction techniques. Bitty easily could have forgotten his name if this continued on any longer. But much like how he inevitably caught on to Jack's "tell me about your thesis" text message debacle—roughly around a few thousand words in—Bitty was much faster to notice the blush, the soft embarrassment at answering his question.
Bitty put his hands on Jack, less about getting under his shirt, and more about being a steadying, calming presence. Jack was so often one for him, it was only right that Bitty could be right back. The smile on his face grew ten-fold with the explanation. "Honey, sweetpea, I love this, I love you," Bitty said, again, he would never stop saying that to Jack. "And I love that it reminded you of Madison. It's kind of the perfect size, don't you think?"
He swept Jack's hand into his and squeezed. "I would want the pies to take the show, because what is the point of having a pie shop if you barely have any pies? Do not even get me started on Martha's Pie Shack on I-20. I had such high hopes. They should reconsider naming it Martha's Lie Shack because there is not even a Martha who worked there."
Bitty huffed, a good-natured thing, and kissed Jack. "We have a meal to eat, Mr. Bittle-Zimmermann, and a bakery to plan, so you are just going to have to wait for what's happening at home."
Martha’s Lie Shack had Jack laughing into the next kiss. He remembered the disappointed sighs and instagram stories that had followed that one, he’d even had to talk Bitty off of the hill of leaving a bad Yelp review, but even back then had been confident his boyfriend could do better. “Martha’s Pie Shack has nothing on you--”
Jack looked off towards one of the blank walls and hummed, as his mind went to work. “On… Itty Bitty Bites? Bits of Heaven? Bitty Bakes?” Oh no, his grin took on a decidedly trollish vibe. “Sugar Daddy.”
He probably could’ve went on, and really did think about it, but instead dropped his hands away from Bitty after one last kiss and turned towards his food. It took a lot of effort to pull his hands from Bitty’s body, to not just ignore the desire to throw him over the table in a building they did not own. But he managed, and swallowed heavily and kept his threat directed at his food. “If you don’t eat fast so we can get home, I’m going to think of more.”
Bitty straightened out his shoulders, focusing all his attention on their dinner and not the fact that maybe he could just change plans to move the home surprise to be a here surprise. But he was terrible at pretending he was unaffected by Jack's sweetness, or the fact that he suggested Sugar Daddy. The gasp he let out was coupled with his nose scrunching up.
"You and I are going to have some words about what is an appropriate and inappropriate—" Bitty pointedly put the hand not holding his fork on Jack's thigh, dangerously high. "Name for pie shops, Mr. Bittle-Zimmermann. Besides, I think you're the sugar daddy in this situation."
Taking one tiny bite, Bitty chewed and swallowed, excruciatingly slow. Two could play this game. "And we can't rush perfection."