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Bragging Rights

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The week of Bitty’s Food Network premiere, Jack wouldn’t shut the fuck up .

It was endearing, mostly, though it certainly didn’t help Bitty’s anxiety about the show. Sure, it’d tested well and the network seemed optimistic, but he was jumping from popular YouTube channel and blog to a cooking show . He certainly was no Emeril or Gordon Ramsey, with years of restaurant work under their belts. He was just Eric Bittle, internet famous boyfriend of NHL Player, Jack Zimmermann. Who would want to watch him ?

Still, Jack’s support was sweet. Even if he wouldn’t stop talking about it .

They were at a barbeque at Thirdy’s house, the day before the show was set to air. The air was growing a bit cooler as the sun went down, and Bitty had already stolen Jack’s fleece, claiming that, as the smaller boyfriend, he was entitled to any and all clothes stealing. Jack didn’t mind in the slightest, Bitty knew, and his eyes kept flicking to the half inch of Bitty’s shorts that stuck out from under the jacket. Bitty slid his hand into the back pocket of Jack’s jeans and pulled his boyfriend along to chat with Gabby and Carrie.

“Eric!” Gabby said, kissing his cheek as he approached. “This is Paula, my friend from work. Paula, this is Jack, Seb’s teammate, and his boyfriend, Eric.”

Paula shook both of their hands, smiling politely at them as they made their introductions. “So, Eric, what do you do?” She asked, taking a sip of her lemonade.

“Oh, I run a baking vlog, on YouTube,” Bitty said with a shrug. “It’s not as impressive as playing in the NHL, but-”

“He has a show premiering on the Food Network tomorrow,” Jack cut in. “We’re all really proud of him.”

“Food Network? Wow, that’s impressive,” Paula said, eyes widening. “You must be very talented.”

Bitty felt his face heating up. “Oh, no, just luck-”

“Bittle is one of the hardest working people I know,” Jack said, arm tightening around Bitty’s shoulders. “He’s put in a lot time and dedication to get where he is now. Have you tried the mini-pies, yet? Those are his, and they’re the greatest desserts you’ll ever have.”

Paula laughed, bright and loud, and put a hand over her heart. “No, I’ll have to go try one immediately.”

“If there’s any left,” Carrie said, giving Bitty an amused look. “Eric’s baking is always the first to go at parties like this.”

“Oh, stop,” Bitty said, embarrassed. “Not always .”

“How does it feel to be the trophy boyfriend, now, Jack?” Gabby asked with a laugh. “Eric’s going to be beating off admirers with a stick once his show airs.”

“When was the last time the Food Network had someone so cute ?” Carrie added, smirking at Bitty. “He’ll be the sweetheart of all the foodies and soccer moms.”

“What’s the theme of your show, Eric?” Paula asked. “Southern cooking?”

“Lord, I wish,” Bitty said with a chuckle. “No, I’m capitalizing on four years of cooking for college hockey players -- every week I show off a couple recipes that are cheap and easy, ideal for students, working parents, and helpless athletes.” He gave Jack a pointed look, which made the women laugh.

“Why do I need to know how to cook?” Jack asked, pulling Bitty in to kiss his hair. “I have you.”

Across the yard, Bitty heard Tater shout, “ FINE, Zimmboni !” followed by Snowy’s cry of, “ Again ?!”

“You should see what he eats when I’m not here,” Bitty sighed. “Protein shakes and steamed vegetables. It’s heart-breaking.”

Jack grinned against Bitty’s temple. “Sometimes I put Sriracha on the vegetables. Adds flavor.”

Bitty shook his head dramatically “Those two years at Samwell before I knew you broke you irreparably. Steamed. Vegetables. From a frozen baggy! Tragic.”

“Like you didn’t live off of hot-pockets and Oreos during Finals,” Jack chirped. “His show really is great, though. Definitely one of the most accessible shows on the network, and Bits is so charismatic, you feel like your friend is teaching you how to cook, not a stranger on the TV.”

Bitty bit back a smile. “You’re biased, honey.”

“I know you’re too humble to brag, Bittle,” Jack said softly. “So I’m doing it for you. You’ve come so far.”

“Aww,” Gabby cooed. “You two are still so sweet, after all these years together. I thought romance died six months in.”

“Maybe six months into marriage ,” Paula joked. “These two’ve got plenty of time.”

“Maybe,” Jack said mildly. “It was great to meet you Paula, but if you three will excuse us, I have to brag about Bitty to Poots and Guy.”

Bitty barely had time to wave as Jack pulled him across the yard. “Maybe?” Bitty asked, trying to keep his voice level. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Jack looked down at Bitty with a soft smile. “It means I want to marry you one day.”

Bitty’s heart skipped a beat. “You’re just trying to kill me tonight, aren’t you?”

“Nope,” Jack said, leaning down to kiss Bitty’s cheek. “Just show you off. I’m so proud of you and everything you are.”

Sweetheart ,” Bitty murmured. “Thank you. For being so supportive.”

“Of course, Bits,” Jack said, looking incredulous. “You’re following your dream and have worked so hard to get here -- and you always support me, even when I’m a cranky bastard and am gone on roadies and refuse to have sex with you before games-”

Shh ,” Bitty hissed with a surprised laugh. “Jack, people could hear you-”

“But you’ve always supported me and I want to always support you. We’re a team.”

Bitty felt himself melting, as if he was twenty again and Jack had just raced across campus to kiss him for the very first time.

“We certainly are,” he said, pressing a kiss to Jack’s chest. “Now, go show me off to your friends. Really make me blush.”

“Of course, Bits,” Jack said with a wry grin. “It would be my pleasure.”