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“Yo, Bits. This batch is ready for frosting.” Dex sets a tray of freshly-baked donuts on the work table. He wipes his brow with the towel he keeps tucked into his apron and stretches his arms up to the ceiling. “That’s all for today, right?”

“I think so,” Bitty replies, doing a quick mental count. They’ve been selling out of donuts by noon every day, which is honestly fine by him. The perception of scarcity makes people line up down the block for them, and a line is always good for business.

“Good, cause I’ve still got croissants to bake.” Dex turns back to his station.

“We sold out of the chocolate ones quick yesterday. You might wanna—”

“I know,” Dex replies with a sigh. “But we’re out of the good chocolate until the delivery this afternoon, which means there ain’t a damn thing I can do about it. Unless Alice expects me to make them with Hershey’s?”

“Yeah, no, I don’t think so.” Bitty turns to his donuts: time for the magic to happen.

He started at 4:00 am with the first batches of dough, so they’d rise and be ready for Dex to roll them out when he got in at 4:30. That gave Bitty a good hour to whip up a variety of frostings and prepare toppings, and now he’s got just enough time before the shop opens to start putting it all together. Today it’s maple cream frosting topped with bits of crispy bacon, vanilla cream with Fruity Pebbles cereal, and marshmallow cream frosting with chocolate shavings and graham cracker crumbs.

He used up Dex’s stash of good chocolate on that last one, but he’s not telling Dex that.

“You gonna save one of those s’mores donuts for me?”

He turns to see Alice smiling at him. “Of course. Take your pick.”

She pulls one off the tray and takes a bite. Her eyes close as she chews, and she shakes her head. “Bitty, you are a damn genius.”

He grins. “Thanks for letting me try something new.”

“That reminds me,” she says, then pauses to take another bite of donut. “There’s a change in today’s standing order. They want four dozen specialty donuts for their morning meeting. Can you manage that?”

“Whoa, really?” That company has ordered the same set of cookies and muffins every Friday since well before Bitty started working at Atley’s. He’s always found the idea of a roomful of accountants stuffing their faces with starch and sugar kind of amusing, but his donuts are serious business. This an important regular client, too, and a change like this means word of Bitty’s donuts is reaching further than he’d thought. He glances at the time and takes a soothing breath. “Yeah, okay. We can pull a couple dozen from what we were gonna sell up front, and whip up a few dozen more.” He turns to Dex, who is cutting up blocks of butter for the croissants. “Right, Dex?”

Dex rolls his eyes, but nods.

“They’ll need to be delivered by 8:45,” Alice continues. “Can you take them over?”

“Me?” Bitty blinks at her. “What happened to—”

“He quit,” she replies. “We’re short a dishwasher and a delivery boy right now. It’s not far, just a block and a half down the street.”

Bitty stifles a groan. That delivery will take half an hour from his already tight baking schedule, and he still needs to make up for the time lost filling this special order. He’d like to stomp his foot and say he’s a baker, not a delivery boy, but his mama would slap him upside the head if she got even a whiff of him thinking he was too good for something.

He forces a smile. “Yes, ma’am.”

Alice laughs. “Those southern manners, I swear.” She takes another bite of the donut and makes a pleased sound, then heads back toward the front of the bakery.

“Another batch of donut batter, then?” Dex asks. He sounds tired already.

“Better make it two more,” Bitty replies. He glances at the clock: it’s almost 6:00 am. They’ve got enough time for the dough to rise, but just barely. “Let’s get to it.”

*****

Bitty sets the stack of boxes on the counter. “Delivery for” —he pulls the slip of paper from his pocket and glances at it— “Jack Zimmermann.”

“Oh, you’re from Atley’s!” The receptionist squints at him. “You’re not the regular delivery guy.”

“Nope. We’re shorthanded today, so—”

The receptionist doesn’t seem to be listening, though; he’s looking at the screen of his computer while gesturing towards the doorway behind him. “Down the hall, third door on the left. You can leave them on the table.”

“Okay,” Bitty says, then pulls the delivery invoice off the top box. “Can you sign for this?”

The receptionist taps away at the keyboard in front of him. “Mr. Zimmermann will sign for it.”

“Okay, but—”

The phone rings, and the receptionist taps a button on his headset. “Zimmermann Associates, how may I direct your call?” He aims a fake smile at Bitty and nods his head more intently toward the door.

“Yeah, thanks,” Bitty mutters.

The conference room looks dark inside, but the lights come on automatically when Bitty steps through the door. He sets the boxes on the end of the large wooden table and looks around.

He’s a few minutes early, but he’d thought someone would be here to meet him. He looks down at the invoice again. It needs a signature in order to be billed properly, so there’s not much he can do but hope someone shows up soon. He settles in a chair and waits.

And waits. It’s frustrating, because he’s got important things to do, and the fact that this Mr. Zimmermann apparently thinks his time is more valuable than Bitty’s is just rude. He finally gets his phone out and scrolls through Twitter, then Instagram. He’s on the verge of taking a selfie with the portrait of a stern-faced man at the end of the room when a door opens.

Bitty is about to say finally, but then he gets a good look at the man who just walked in.

The man is fucking gorgeous: tall, with dark hair and chiseled features, and probably just a few years older than Bitty. The cut of his tailored suit is perfect, accentuating the lines of his body, and his eyes are a shade of blue Bitty is fairly certain he’s never seen until this very moment.

“Um,” the man says, and Bitty realizes he’s been staring at him for half a minute, while sprawled in an expensive chair in not-very-clean chef whites.

“Right, yes, sorry.” Bitty stands, straightens his clothes, and gestures to the stack of donut boxes. “I’m from Atley’s Bakery. These are the donuts you ordered?”

“Yeah, great.” The man doesn’t look at the donuts; he just stares back at Bitty.

“Do you, uh… should I leave them there, or…?”

“Yeah, that’s… that’s fine.” The man looks as awkward as Bitty feels. “Just… yeah. There is good. Fine.”

They stare at each other for another long moment.

“I need someone to sign the invoice,” Bitty says at last, holding the paper out. “The receptionist said a Mr. Zimmermann would sign?”

“Oh,” the man says, and blinks at him. “That’s me. I’m Jack. Zimmermann.”

“Right.” Bitty hands him the invoice. “Thanks, Mr. Zimmermann.”

“Jack. Please, I… Mr. Zimmermann is my dad.” Jack glances at the portrait at the end of the room, and Bitty turns to look at it properly. He sees the resemblance now.

“Jack. Sure.”

Jack signs the invoice and hands it back to him, then stares at him awkwardly once again.

“Thanks for the business,” Bitty says after a moment. “Enjoy the donuts.”

“Oh! Yeah. They come highly recommended.”

Bitty grins. “Thanks. I made them, so. I hope you like them.”

“You made them?” Jack’s expression is one of genuine surprise, which somehow only makes him more beautiful. Lord.

“Yeah. I mean, they’re all my design. I’ve been playing with different flavor combinations and recipes. I’ve been trying to do more sweet and savory combinations, actually, and some complex flavor palettes, stuff like that. People usually expects donuts to just be sugar-bombs, but they can be so much more, and that’s kind of my thing, I guess.” Good lord, he’s rambling now. He presses his lips together to make himself stop.

Jack crosses to the boxes and opens the top one. “These look amazing. Is that… is that bacon?”

“Yeah. Maple frosting with bacon is kind of a personal favorite.”

“Wow.” Jack pulls one from the box and takes a bite. His expression goes from curious to blissed out almost immediately. “Oh my god,” he says through a mouthful of donut.

“That’s what I like to hear,” Bitty says, grinning.

There is noise in the hallway outside, and the sound of people approaching.

“I should go,” Bitty says. “Thanks again.”

He folds the invoice and leaves, a bit more spring in his step than he had before. He loves baking, and he loves watching people enjoy what he bakes. Hot guys practically moaning over something he baked is about as good as it gets.

Hot customers are not something he should be thinking about, of course.

*****

The next Friday morning, Alice looks up at him the moment he walks in. “We got another order from Zimmermann Associates. They want five dozen donuts this time.”

“Wow.” Bitty pulls his coat off and hangs it on a hook by the door. “Dex is gonna love that. He hates making donuts.”

“No he doesn’t,” she replies. “He just likes complaining. You’ll need to deliver them, by 9:15. Apparently the meeting is a little later this morning.”

“I thought you were gonna hire that kid to do deliveries?”

She shakes her head. “He got a better offer, or something. It won’t take you long to run them down the street, will it?”

It won’t, especially now that Bitty knows where to go and who to look for. He has to admit that it won’t be a hardship to see Jack Zimmermann again. “No, ma’am, I can do it.”

Making five dozen for a special order on top of the usual amount is a lot of extra work, but knowing that Jack — er, Mr. Zimmermann — was impressed enough to order even more is kind of inspiring. He’s got some new flavors he’s been thinking of trying out, in fact.

Dex gets in half an hour later, after Bitty has the first two batches of batter mixed and rising. Dex helps him with the third batch, and then it’s time to roll out and cut the donuts. A few hours later, they’ve got most of the morning baking done: muffins, breads, croissants, quiches, and of course, donuts.

Donuts are a specialty of Bitty’s, something he’d brought to the bakery when he started working here. Atley’s had always been known for pastries, cakes, and pies, and Alice hadn’t considered donuts until Bitty had suggested it.

He uses an old family recipe, one long-ago-perfected by his MooMaw, but he’s added his own touches: a subtle blend of cookie spices, locally-sourced buttermilk, and a special yeast that he orders from the Netherlands. The real fun, though, is in playing with interesting toppings: different flavors of glaze and buttercream, sprinkled with whatever strikes his fancy. His creations range from serious to whimsical, from savory to sweet, and all of them are, if he can be so bold — delicious. Long lines form in the mornings for all of Atley’s baked goods, but the donuts are more popular every day.

Jack is waiting for him in the meeting room this time, and he smiles when Bitty walks in.

“Hey,” he says, and lord have mercy — he’s so fucking beautiful.

“Hey, Jack. Ah, Mr. Zimmermann, I mean.” Shit. “Uh, donut delivery.”

“Jack is fine, really.” Jack smiles and takes the boxes from his hands. “They were crazy popular last week. People fought over the extras after the meeting.”

“That’s good to hear.” Bitty holds out the invoice.

“This is probably going to be a regular thing for our Friday meetings. Just to warn you.” He signs the invoice and hands it back to Bitty.

“Yeah, that’s great. Any requests?”

“Requests?”

“I mean,” Bitty says, then scrubs at the back of his neck. “Anything in particular that you want?”

“The maple bacon ones were amazing,” Jack says. “They all were, really.”

“Thanks. But seriously, if there’s anything special you want, let me know. I’m happy to try something new, just for you.” Jack’s eyes widen a little, and Bitty feels his cheeks heat. “I mean, your company is an important client and all so—”

“My dad’s company.”

“I… sorry?”

“It’s my dad’s company,” Jack says, looking down at the floor. His cheeks are red, and so are his lips, and lord, Bitty needs to stop this line of thinking right now. “I just work for him.”

“Yeah, okay.” Bitty can’t imagine working for his own father, but hey — to each their own and all that. “Just, like, let me know?”

“Okay.” Jack looks up at him again, then shoves his hands in his pockets.

Bitty backs toward the door. “Well… bye.”

He cringes as he walks through the door. Bye? Good lord, what is wrong with him?

“Hey, uh—” He turns to see Jack standing in the doorway. “So like… could you do something with apple?”

Bitty smiles at him. “I think I could come up with something.”

*****

“Maple apple cinnamon?” Jack says the following Friday morning. “Oh my god.”

“I’m kind of proud of that one,” Bitty replies, grinning. He’d stewed the apples slowly, infused them with cinnamon, and spooned the compote carefully onto each donut. He’d then drizzled a maple-scented glaze over the top, carefully creating the gridlines of a pie lattice. “I’m glad you like it.”

“I love it,” Jack says through a mouthful of donut. The tips of his ears go slightly red, and it’s adorable.

Christ Almighty, Bitty’s practically in love. It’s pathetic as hell.

“Hey, yo.” The door opens, and a man with an epically hipster mustache peeks through. “Are the donuts here?”

“Yeah,” Jack says, gesturing, and the man is across the room and into the boxes before he can get in another word.

“Bro,” the man says, eyes falling closed as he takes a bite. “These donuts are fucking amazing.”

“Thanks,” Bitty says, and the guy turns to look at him.

“Aw, shit. You’re the donut guy, aren’t you? I’ve heard a lot about you.” He smirks at Jack, who gives him a look that’s almost threatening.

“Yeah, that’s me,” Bitty replies.

“The name’s Knight,” the guy says, holding out his hand. “But all these fuckers call me Shitty. Probs cause I’m from legal.” Jack groans and puts a hand over his eyes, but Mr. Knight — Shitty — winks at Bitty. His grin is infectious, and Bitty can’t help returning it.

“I’m Eric,” he says. “Eric Bittle.”

“Eric, huh?” Shitty glances pointedly at Jack, who looks almost murderous by now. “What do you know? The donut guy’s name is Eric.”

“Shits,” Jacks says, through gritted teeth.

“Well, my friends call me Bitty,” Bitty says, then immediately winces. “I mean, not that… you can call me Eric, or—”

“Nah, Bitty’s a good name,” Shitty says. “Names from friends are better than the ones your parents gave you anyway.”

“Please ignore him,” Jack says, staring at the ceiling as if pleading for help from above. “He’s always this annoying.”

“Bruh, who are you annoying now?” A young woman walks past them and heads straight for the donuts. “Ah fuck, is that apple cinnamon?” She pulls out a donut and takes a huge bite that’s comically incongruous with her appearance. She’s tiny, shorter even than Bitty, with short, stylish hair and a tailored suit. A tattoo of a flowering vine peeks out from beneath the collar of her jacket and winds up her neck. “Bro,” she says through a mouthful of donut, and holds her fist up to Shitty.

He bumps it. “You have to meet Bitty here. He’s the donut artist.”

The woman’s eyes widen. “You’re the donut guy?” She and Shitty exchange a glance. “Bro, for serious. These are like the best damn donuts I’ve ever had in my life!”

Bitty grins at the praise. “Thanks, y’all. I really appreciate it. I do have to get back to the bakery, and I know you’ve got a meeting to get to, so.” He gestures toward the door and takes a step back.

“Thanks, Eric.” Jack says, and Bitty looks up. Their gazes lock for a moment, and Bitty feels something flip pleasantly in his belly. He feels warm all over and… shit, he needs to leave.

“Sure, no problem.” He makes himself go before he does anything stupid.

He hears some furious whispering in the meeting room behind him as he walks away, and he tries very hard to pretend it wasn’t directed at him and his very unprofessional behavior.

God, he’s an idiot. He practically stood there and flirted with an important customer, in front of the guy’s co-workers even. They couldn’t have missed it.

When he gets back to the bakery, he makes himself a double shot of espresso, then hides in the supply closet to breathe deeply for a few minutes before getting back to work.

*****

He spends the whole week working on new donut ideas, coming up with combinations and flavors that he thinks people — or, okay, honestly? Jack — will like. He does a salted caramel apple donut, a hazelnut latte donut, a chocolate chile donut, and an Earl Grey tea donut, and the customers seem to love them all.

On Friday morning at 4:00 am, he practically bounces into the bakery to get started. He may have spent a little extra time on his hair that morning, but he’s not going to admit that to anyone. He makes himself a cappuccino, dusts it with a little of the special cocoa they use for chocolate muffins, and leans against the counter, smiling into his cup.

He’d had a dream about Jack the night before, one that left him sweating in his sheets with a hand around himself. He doesn’t usually let himself dwell on crushes like this — after all, he’s got no real evidence that Jack would be interested in him at all. That connection he felt could be just a figment of his imagination, and it’s not like he’s not going to openly flirt and risk losing the company’s business. Still, it feels good to have a crush, especially at this point when it’s a fantasy and he hasn’t got any evidence nothing could ever come of it. He’s allowed to dream.

He gets most of the donuts made before Alice brings a new guy into the kitchen. “Eric, this is Connor, our new dishwasher.”

Connor smiles at Bitty and holds out a fist. “‘Sup, bro?”

He’s dressed in jeans that have clearly seen better days, a t-shirt with a picture of a cat drinking coffee, and a backwards snapback. He can’t be that much younger than Bitty, but just looking at him makes Bitty feel old. He bumps Connor’s fist, feeling a mix of awkward and bewildered. “Hey.”

“Eric is the assistant bakery manager, so you’ll be reporting to him when I’m not around.”

“The boss, got it.” Connor looks around. “Sweet setup.”

“You’ll also be doing deliveries every now and then,” Alice says. “We’ve got one this morning, actually.” She smiles at Bitty. “You’re off the hook, Eric.”

Bitty only barely manages to hide his disappointment. “Oh. Right. I mean, I don’t mind doing it. I mean, it’s Connor’s first day and all, so if you—”

“You are such a team player!” Alice says, patting his shoulder. “I love that about you. But it’s fine. Connor here has a lot of experience with deliveries.” Here Connor makes an exaggerated ‘two thumbs up’ gesture. “Since we can take Dex and Nursey off of dishwashing duty, we’ll be able to get them baking more, and maybe get you back out to front-of-house some again. You’re so good with the regulars, and they’ve been asking about you.”

“Right,” Eric says. “Of course. Nice to meet you, Connor. It’ll be good to have you working with us.” He wipes his hands on his apron and takes a steadying breath. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I need to, um… go check on something.”

Once in the bathroom, he stares at himself in the mirror for a long minute before splashing cold water on his face.

It’s just as well, really. He was reading way too much into the situation.

*****

He’s three hours into the Saturday morning shift when Alice sticks her head in the kitchen.

“Eric, can you come work the front for a while? I’ve got to get that pastry going, and it’s been a madhouse out here.”

“Yeah, sure thing. Give me five minutes.” He gives Nursey instructions on how to finish up the donuts that are left, then takes off his messy apron and hangs it up before heading to the front.

The line is out the door and winding down the street, as usual. The two baristas are working fast, steaming milk and pulling espresso shots. Bitty touches Alice’s shoulder to let her know he’s there, and they smoothly trade places. He smiles at the next customer and asks them what they’d like this morning.

Two minutes in, he looks up and sees a familiar face in the line, just inside the door. It’s Jack, though he looks different than Bitty has ever seen him before. He’s dressed in running gear, wearing a knit hat and gloves, and his cheeks are red, like he’s just run a few miles. He smiles when he catches Bitty’s gaze, and Bitty’s heart does a little dance in his chest.

He’s sure he’s blushing, but dammit, there’s nothing he can do about that now. He turns to the next customer with what’s probably a stupid smile on his face. He keeps looking up, watching Jack gradually get closer, and every time, Jack is smiling back at him. Bitty doesn’t know how he’s going to act normally by the time Jack reaches the counter.

He finally does, and Bitty has to pause a moment to take him in. Bitty’d thought he looked good dressed in a suit, but his thighs in running tights are practically obscene. Bitty has to force his gaze up to Jack’s face, and then higher to his eyes, away from the lips he looks like he’s bitten a lot in the twenty minutes he’s been waiting.

“Hey,” Bitty says, suddenly, stupidly breathless.

“Hey,” Jack says. He may look different today, but he’s just as adorably awkward. “So, ah… we missed you yesterday.”

“Yeah, we finally hired a new delivery guy, so.” Bitty is pretty sure he doesn’t do a good job of hiding the disappointment he feels about that.

“Yeah.” Jack blinks at him like he has no idea what to say, now that he’s here.

“You want a coffee or something?”

“Oh! Yeah, I… yeah, a cappuccino. And, uh… a donut too.”

“Didn’t get your fill yesterday?” Bitty winks and hopes it comes off as charming and not ridiculous. Lord, why can’t he get it together?

“No. I mean, yeah, they’re amazing. I just… I was out for a run and I passed the bakery and, well, I thought if you were here, I’d get something.” Jack’s face does something strange then, like he hadn’t meant to say all of that. “Um. I mean, you know. The donuts are amazing.”

Bitty could melt on the spot. He smiles instead. “I’m glad you did. One cappuccino, and a donut. Any particular kind?”

Jack shrugs. “Surprise me.”

Bitty’s smile widens into a grin. “I just might.”

He can’t stand there and talk to Jack much longer without it really holding up the line, but he pulls one of the last chocolate chile donuts from the tray and hands it over.

“On me,” he says.

The tips of Jack’s ears go red, and he looks down. “Wow, okay. Thanks, Eric.”

“Bitty, if you want.”

Jack looks up again, and god almighty, his eyes are blue. “Bitty.”

He walks to the end of the counter to wait for his coffee, then waves as he heads out the door.

Bitty watches him go, lower lip caught between his teeth. Jack’s ass in those running tights — Bitty is going to dream about that tonight for sure.

*****

“Hey Bits,” Ransom says from behind the espresso machine. He nods his head toward the door. “It’s your boy.”

“Not my boy,” Bitty says through gritted teeth.

Holster looks up from where he’s filling a pitcher with non-fat soy to steam. “Yeah, well, he came in over the weekend looking for you.”

“And he looked like somebody kicked his damn puppy when he found out you were off,” Ransom adds. “Just ordered a coffee and left.”

“Oh my god, shut up.” Bitty presses his hands to his suddenly-warm cheeks. “He just likes the donuts.”

“Yeah, no, I think he likes the baker.” Ransom picks up the next cup in line and glances at the order. “You could give the dude your number, you know. Then he wouldn’t have to come here every morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of you.”

Holster puts a hand on his chest and sighs dramatically.

“Y’all,” Bitty says in a warning tone, then looks across the room to Jack. He’s scrolling through something on his phone and probably missed that awkward exchange, to Bitty’s relief. Just as Bitty is about to look away, though, Jack looks up at him, and Bitty feels it down to his toes.

“Excuse me,” the customer standing in front of him says, and Bitty wrenches his gaze back to where it’s supposed to be.

“Just likes the donuts, my ass,” Ransom mutters, snickering.

By the time Jack gets to the counter, Bitty’s so flustered he’s not sure he’ll be able to speak without embarrassing himself.

Jack’s stopped in the bakery nearly every morning for the last couple of weeks, and the idea that he’d maybe been disappointed not to see Bitty on his days off is just… lord. Bitty’s had a lot of inappropriate thoughts about this man lately, is the thing, and for some reason they’re all flooding his mind right now.

“Hi,” he manages when Jack steps forward.

“Hey.” Jack’s sleek wool coat is open in the front, revealing a glimpse of the gorgeous suit he’s wearing underneath. Bitty’s had dreams about sliding that tie off and fastening it around Jack’s wrists, then undoing every one of those shirt buttons with his teeth—

“Did you, uh…” Bitty is absolutely not getting a semi standing here at the counter. “Cappuccino?”

“Yeah,” Jack says, and looks embarrassed. “Boring, I know.”

“You’re not boring,” Bitty says, so earnestly that Jack’s eyes widen. Next to him, he can hear Ransom and Holster whispering furiously. Bitty winces. “I mean, it’s a classic, you know? And you’re, like… a classic. Ah… donut?”

Fuck, could he suck at this any harder?

Suck. Down, boy.

“Ha ha, right. Well, I guess the donut could be a little on the wild side.”

Bitty ducks behind the counter, then comes up with one. He hands it to Jack, folded in wax paper. “Take a bite and tell me what you think.”

Jack’s fingers brush Bitty’s as he does. “It looks like… blueberry?” He takes a bite, his gaze locked with Bitty’s, and makes a sound that’s nearly pornographic.

Bitty is really fucking glad for this apron he’s wearing. “So—” he starts, but his voice didn’t quite work, so he has to swallow and try again. “So what do you think?”

“Definitely blueberry, but intense. And there’s something else, too… bourbon?”

“Yep.” Bitty bites his lip through the grin that’s threatening to take over his face.

The next customer in line clears her throat, and Bitty and Jack exchange guilty looks.

“Sorry,” Jack tells her, then turns back to Bitty. “Can I get another one of these?”

Bitty slides his card through the reader, then flips the screen around for him to sign. He fumbles in his pocket for the card he’d put there this morning and takes a deep breath. “So like, if y’all have any special requests for Friday, just let me know.” He slides the card across the counter. It’s got his name and the bakery’s logo and number on it, and under that he’d hand-written his personal cell number. “Text me or whatever.”

Jack takes it, lips twisting into a smile. He tucks it carefully into his shirt pocket and looks up at Bitty again. “I will.”

Bitty keeps stealing glances at him while he stands to the side, waiting for his cappuccino. Every time he looks, Jack is looking back, his cheeks tinged pink, and smiling like the cat that got the canary. Which would make Bitty a dead bird in this scenario, but whatever. He’s pretty sure he’s not reading this wrong, is what he’s saying.

When Jack finally leaves, coffee and donuts in hand, Bitty has to put his head down on the counter for a moment.

“Slipped him the digits,” Ransom says, grinning. “Slick, bro.”

“Dude was so into Bitty, it wasn’t even subtle.” Holster shakes his head in mock consternation. “I haven’t seen such shameless flirting in ages.”

“Not since that club last weekend,” Ransom retorts.

“Bro,” Holster replies, and they laugh, and as usual, never finish the story.

*****

There’s a series of texts on Bitty’s phone when he leaves the bakery that afternoon.

Hey
I was thinking I owe you for all the free donuts
Maybe we could have dinner?
Oh, this is Jack
Zimmermann
From the bakery
From Zimmermann Associates, not the bakery
Sorry

Bitty grins at his phone and types out a response.

Dinner would be great. Just not too late, I have to be at work at 4am.

The bubbles appear almost immediately, and Bitty’s heart starts beating a little faster as he waits.

Yeah, great. Tonight?

Bitty stops walking and stares down at the phone. It’s just after 2:00 now, and he’s guessing Jack gets off work around 5:00, which only gives him a couple of hours to go home, shower, nap, jerk off, and meet Jack somewhere. He takes a deep breath.

Yeah, okay

He hightails it home, flops back on the bed in his tiny apartment and calls the first person he can think of.

“Bitty? Hey, wow, it’s good to—”

“I have a date with a gorgeous man tonight and I’m completely freaking out. You have to help me.”

“Oh, wow. Okay. Um…”

Chowder! You roomed with me through every dating disaster I had in college. You know what I’m like.”

“Yeah, I know, just… can you hang on a sec? I’m at work and people are staring at me.”

“Oh, shit, I’m so sorry.” Bitty rolls onto his stomach and presses his face in the mattress. “I keep forgetting that you work in, like, an office now.”

“No, it’s fine, just… Give me two minutes and I’ll call you back.”

Bitty lies on the bed and breathes deeply, and waits. The phone rings again.

“All right,” he hears. “Tell me why you’re freaking out.”

“Because I’m 23 years old and have never had a successful relationship in my life and this guy is so hot and so sweet, but what if I just fuck it all up like I usually do? You know I’m a hot mess, like, all the time, and—”

“Slow down, Bitty, just…” Chowder sighs. “Look, it’s just one date, right? You’re adorbs and he’s gonna want to bone you, at least.”

“Oh my lord, did you actually just use the word bone?”

“So think of it as one date for now, maybe with sex, and don’t worry about what comes next.”

“I’m incapable of not worrying about what comes next.”

Chowder chuckles. “I’m trying to help.”

“I know. Ugh.” Bitty rolls onto his back and stares up at the ceiling.

“Glad to hear you’re getting out there, though. Last time we talked, it was all work-work-work, with no time for anything else.”

“Sorry I’ve been a shitty friend. It’s just been so crazy this last year. How are you? How’s… I mean, are you and Farmer still—”

“Yeah,” Chowder says, and Bitty can hear the smile in his voice. “I’ve been thinking about asking her to marry me.”

“Shut the front door, Chris Chow! Are you serious?”

Chowder laughs, and launches into his elaborate proposal plans. It gets Bitty’s mind off his own love life, which helps a lot.

*****

Jack had offered to pick him up, but Bitty’d said he would just meet him at the restaurant. Standard first date back-out plan, which Bitty doesn’t anticipate having to use, but just in case, he wants not to feel beholden for a ride.

Shit, his dating history is really that awful, isn’t it?

Jack looks gorgeous, as always. He’s lost the tie and jacket, but is still wearing the shirt and tailored pants from the suit Bitty’d seen him in earlier. He looks a little frazzled, like he’s just come from work — which, at 6:00, he probably has. Bitty feels underdressed, but he’s still paying off his student loans and making bakery wages, so there’s not much he can do about that. He knows his hair is on point, at least.

Jack’s smile when he sees Bitty is radiant, and Bitty returns it before he even thinks about it. Jack has that effect on him, somehow.

“Hey,” they both say at the same time, and laugh.

“So,” Jack says. “You hungry?”

Bitty’s almost too nervous to eat, but he says, “Sure,” anyway.

They get a table in a quiet corner, and start with glasses of wine, and then it’s just… easy. Bitty tells Jack about college, about studying marketing and culinary management, and then working a series of crappy jobs until he found his way to Atley’s Bakery. Jack tells him about growing up with a father who was wealthy and successful, and the expectations to follow in those footsteps. Bitty tells him about being from Georgia and finding himself in college, being able to be open to his friends and accepted. Jack tells him about being closeted until pretty recently, and that Bitty is the first guy he’s actually asked on a date.

“Really?” Bitty asks, shocked. His brain glosses past the actual confirmation that this is a date, stuck on the idea that someone as gorgeous as Jack hasn’t actually dated much.

“Well, I dated women, but… it never clicked. I guess there was a guy in high school, but it was really just hookups, you know? We were so scared people would find out.”

“Probably why I didn’t date anybody until halfway through college,” Bitty says wryly.

Jack looks surprised now. “Really?”

Bitty shrugs. “So I guess we’re not that different, huh?”

They linger over dessert, and Bitty finally can’t stop himself from yawning.

“I’ve kept you up past your bedtime, eh?”

Bitty nods, a little embarrassed. “I promise I’ll be more fun next time.”

“I’ll look forward to it.”

Jack offers him a ride home, and this time, Bitty accepts it. His car is predictably nice, though not over the top: a sleek black Audi with a gorgeous leather interior. Bitty could sleep on these seats, they’re so soft.

They stop in front of his apartment building. Bitty starts to open the car door, then hesitates, turning back to Jack. “This was fun.”

“Yeah.” Jack’s expression is soft in the dim light.

“Oh lord, we didn’t even talk about donuts!”

Jack huffs a little laugh. “That’s okay. I’m glad you gave me your number, actually. I’ve put on five pounds in the last two weeks trying to work up the nerve to ask you out.”

Bitty laughs, and Jack joins him, and the moment feels electric. Bitty really wants to lean across the console, press his mouth to Jack’s, but he’s not sure how. He’s never been the one to make the first move, and he’s too freaking nervous to try it now.

“So, uh…. thanks for everything. I guess I’ll talk to you soon?”

“Yeah, definitely,” Jack says. They stare at each other another few seconds until it really starts to feel awkward. Bitty bites his lip and turns, makes himself get out of the car. He looks back once he’s got the door of his building unlocked. Jack is watching him with a soft expression, and Bitty raises his hand to wave bye. Jack ducks his head a little and grins, then waves back before finally driving away.

*****

“So how’d it go?” Dex asks as he cuts donuts from the slab of rolled-out dough.

Bitty starts to ask How’d what go?, but one look at the sly smile on Dex’s face tells him not to bother. “How do you know about that?”

“Everybody knows,” Dex replies, which Bitty takes to mean that Ransom and Holster created a text chat for the sole purpose of gossiping about Bitty’s nonexistent love life. Well, maybe not non-existent.

Bitty shakes his head. “Lord, y’all are nosy.”

“And you’re avoiding the question.”

“It was fine.”

“Just fine?”

“It was nice.” Bitty smiles. “We had dinner, we talked. He’s really sweet.”

Dex gives him a hard side-eye. “You didn’t get any, did you?”

Bitty tries his best to look scandalized. “William Poindexter! That is none of your business.”

Dex snorts. “So are you going out with him again?”

“Yeah, I am.” Bitty ducks his head before Dex can see the blush he feels rising on his cheeks.

By opening, everyone knows. Even Alice comes over to give him a hug and tell him she’s got a good feeling about this one.

“You’ve never even met him,” Bitty replies.

“Of course I’ve met him. We’ve been that company’s bakery-on-call for years.” She winks at Bitty. “But he didn’t start coming into the shop until he met you.”

Bitty’s pretty sure his face is going to start hurting if he smiles much more.

*****

Their second date is lunch at an intimate bistro on the river. Bitty gets off work a little early and Jack takes a late lunch, and their knees bump under the small table they share. Bitty walks Jack back to his office building afterwards, and they stand there talking another ten minutes, smiling shyly at each other. It’s too public a spot for a kiss, so Bitty doesn’t expect one, but there’s definitely a moment where he and Jack stare a little longingly at each other before Jack reluctantly heads back inside.

Their third date is an early dinner at a pizza spot near Bitty’s apartment. It’s small and noisy, and they share a pitcher of beer and a pizza, and have to sit tightly together in a booth in order to hear each other speak.

“Sorry I have to bail so early,” Bitty says when they’re standing in front of his building an hour later.

“No, it’s fine,” Jack says. “I mean, I’d like to spend more time with you, obviously, but I get it. It’s your job.”

One thing Bitty has learned about Jack in this last week is that he takes work in general very, very seriously. He’s listened intently to all of Bitty’s stories of how hard he worked to get to where he is. He’s even watched some of Bitty’s old YouTube cooking channel that he hasn’t had time to update in years, and he came prepared tonight with questions about it. No one other than Bitty’s parents has ever expressed this much genuine interest in what Bitty wants to do.

“I’m off on Sunday, though, so we could do something later on Saturday night? No self-imposed curfew.”

“Oh, yeah, that’d be great.” Jack smiles at him, his expression so soft that Bitty wants to take a photo of it just so he can look at it later on. And honestly, probably jerk off to it.

That’s the other thing: Jack is sweet and gorgeous and attentive, and the most perfect potential boyfriend Bitty can imagine — but he has yet to make a move. They haven’t kissed, or hugged, or even held hands, and it’s making Bitty slowly go nuts from sexual frustration. Having his thigh pressed against Jack’s all through dinner was practically torture. Even now, Jack is looking at him like he wants to eat Bitty alive, but he’s not doing anything about it.

“So… good night,” Jack says, and takes a step backward. “I’ll text you about Saturday.”

“Great,” Bitty says, and tries not to let his disappointment show. “Yeah. Let’s do that.”

Jack walks away and Bitty opens the door to his building. He stands just inside the foyer, leans back against the door, and groans. He wants, but he’s never good at asking for it, and he’s getting the sense that Jack might be the same way. Lord, if neither of them makes a move, this is going to go on forever.

So, he should probably make a move.

He takes his phone out of his pocket and opens his messages. He stares at the screen for a moment before tapping out a text.

I wish I’d kissed you just now

He deletes it and puts his phone back in his pocket, shaking his head. He needs to say that in person, maybe, when he can actually do something about it.

But he’s had chances to say it in person, even to do it, and he’s frozen up every time. Maybe texting is the best way to tell Jack what he wants.

He types it out again. His thumb hovers a good ten seconds before he finally presses send. He takes a deep breath and settles in to wait.

A second later, his phone buzzes in his hand.

Yeah?

Bitty exhales, slowly. Okay, good. This is good.

Yeah

While he’s being honest, he might as well say more. He types out and sends a few more.

I really want to kiss you
it’s making me crazy how much I want to
I think about kissing you a lot, what it would feel like
If you don’t want to, that’s okay, I just wanted to tell you
Jack?

It’s been almost a minute and Jack has clearly read the texts, but he hasn’t replied. Bitty’s stomach drops. He doesn’t know what this means, if maybe he’s said too much. Maybe he’s—

Bitty’s phone buzzes again.

Open the door

Bitty gasps and turns, and pulls the door open. Jack is standing there, panting like he’s just sprinted a few blocks in his nice shoes. His expression is one of near-desperation.

“Bitty, I—”

Bitty grabs him by the lapels of his coat, pulls him through the door, and kisses him. Jack kicks the door closed behind them and leans against it, pulling Bitty with him, and kisses him back fiercely.

It’s overwhelming and heated and glorious, and when they surface again a few minutes later, Bitty isn’t sure if his feet are even touching the ground anymore. His arms are around Jack’s shoulders, so they might not be.

“Okay, wow,” Bitty says against Jack’s lips. “That was even better than I hoped it would be.”

Jack kisses the corner of Bitty’s mouth, then the tip of his nose. “I thought about kissing you so many times, but I wasn’t sure you wanted me to.”

“Oh, honey,” Bitty says, and feels his grin slide sideways as he looks up. “There are so many things I want you to do.”

Jack groans and presses his face into Bitty’s hair. “God, you’re so… I’m going to have a hard time walking back to my car if you keep saying things like that.”

“I’d really like to invite you up, but I know if I do, I won’t get any sleep tonight.”

“Saturday,” Jack says, and kisses him again.

“Saturday,” Bitty repeats.

He’s not sure how long they stand there and make out against the door, but finally someone else needs to come in the building, and they guiltily break apart.

Bitty heads upstairs in a daze. He’s got two whole days until Saturday, lord help him.

*****

“Bitty, honey,” Alice says when he nearly drops an entire tray of donuts. “You’re a mess this morning!”

“Sorry,” he replies, and set the tray down on the counter. “I’ll get it together.”

“Anything wrong?”

“No, nothing like that. Kinda the opposite, actually.”

Her eyebrows rise at that. “Something good’s got you this wound up?”

He sighs. “I’ll be fine by Monday, I promise.”

“Does this have anything to do with a certain young man who really likes your donuts?”

“Please tell me that wasn’t a euphemism.”

She throws her head back and laughs. “It didn’t even occur to me, but now that you mention it—”

“I’m taking these donuts up front now,” Bitty says, picking up the tray again. “Goodbye.”

By opening, everyone seems to know he’s got a hot date tonight. Ransom and Holster are delighted, and keeping making innuendo-laden comments just loud enough for Bitty to hear. When Bitty takes his mid-morning break, Nursey — who’s been making pastry all morning — presents him with a chocolate croissant shaped like a dick. Bitty rolls his eyes, but he takes a picture of it before eating it. In private.

He makes himself take a nap when he gets home from work, because he’d be useless after 8:00 pm otherwise and he’s hoping to be very much not useless tonight. He showers and gets dressed and tries to stay calm when he finally heads downstairs.

Jack picks him up right on time, and they spend a moment smiling at each other before Bitty gathers up his courage and leans across the console to kiss Jack.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” Jack replies, a little breathless and a lot gorgeous, and lord, Bitty doesn’t know how he’s going to survive this night.

They have dinner at a restaurant that’s nicer than any place they’ve been before. There aren’t even menus; you just get what they’re cooking that night, all of it on tiny little artistically arranged plates. There are 8 or 9 courses, including two desserts, and Bitty regrets that he can’t enjoy it as much as he probably should, but just… Jack. He’s beautiful sitting there, face lit by a combination of candlelight and the romantic lighting scheme of the room. He’s more animated than Bitty’s ever seen him, like his earlier awkwardness has faded away. He talks about work and a project he’s passionate about, and something his father said that really stuck with him, and a bunch of other stuff, probably, but Bitty gets lost in watching his lips move. He’s not even sure what Jack’s saying at some point; he’s just listening to the rhythm of his voice like it’s a long-forgotten melody, one that stirs up things he hasn’t felt in ages. Jack gestures, and Bitty’s gaze is drawn to his hands, to thoughts of what they’d feel like on his bare skin. He forces himself to look back at Jack’s face again, but gets caught on his lips and thinking about how they’d feel against his throat, his belly, on the inside of his thighs. He doesn’t know how to drag himself back to the moment, to pay attention to what Jack is saying. He’s probably being horribly rude, but he can’t help it.

Jack pauses and gives him a quizzical look. “What?”

“You, you’re…” Bitty presses his fingers against his cheeks and grins. “Sorry, I think I got lost for a minute there.”

“Sorry, I know I was rambling.”

“No, not at all. I just… I like watching you.”

Jack’s eyes widen a little. “Really?”

“And as fun as this dinner has been, I’m kind of looking forward to it being over.”

Jack’s expression falls. “You—”

“Not the date,” Bitty corrects, smiling. “Just, like, the being in a public place part.”

“Oh.” Jack smiles again, then turns in his chair and signals the server.

The tension between them in the car is palpable. Jack reaches across the console and takes Bitty’s hand, twines their fingers together. Bitty traces his thumb against the delicate skin of Jack’s wrist, only barely keeping himself from doing something dumb like pressing the back of Jack’s hand against his dick. Jack’s driving, so that would be a bad idea, but he’s so worked up, he can barely stand it.

They pull into a parking garage, and for a moment, Bitty thinks they’re going to just make out in the car, but Jack opens the door and says, “Come on.”

It’s another moment before Bitty realizes Jack’s taking him to his apartment. Bitty’s never been there before, didn’t even know where Jack lived until now. Jack takes his hand again in the elevator, but they’re not alone, so they don’t do much other than stare at each other during the ride up.

Bitty resists the urge to press himself against Jack’s back as he’s unlocking his door, and after what seems like an eternity of fumbling with keys, they finally walk through into the dark apartment.

Jack turns on a light, and Bitty gapes: the place is gorgeous, expertly decorated, and immaculate. It looks more like a model home than a place where someone actually lives. There’s even a big window looking out over the skyline of the city, like something from one of Bitty’s urban fantasies.

“Wow,” he says.

“Oh, uh… thanks?” In the dim light of his apartment, Jack’s awkwardness seems to have come back. “I can show you around, if you want?” He takes a few steps forward and turns a corner. Bitty follows him into what is one of the most beautiful kitchens he’s ever seen in person.

“Do you cook?” Bitty asks, gaping at the countertops, the cabinets, and dear lord, the oven.

Jack rubs a hand against the back of his neck. “Not really? I mean, I try, but—”

“I’ll cook for you,” Bitty says, still taking it all in.

“Now?”

Bitty turns to look at Jack. “No, not… we just had dinner, for one thing.”

“Oh.” Jack’s cheeks flush a little. “Right. Do you want something to drink?”

He’s nervous, Bitty realizes. It’s freaking adorable. He crosses the kitchen to stand in front of Jack. “Maybe later.”

“Okay.” Jack presses his lips together. “Do you want to, uh…”

Bitty steps even closer, so close they’re almost touching. “To what?”

Jack’s mouth opens, closes again, then opens once more. “See the rest of the apartment?”

Bitty’s eyebrows rise. “I… okay.”

Jack takes his hand and walks him toward the large leather couch in the middle of the living room. He gestures around awkwardly. “So this is… well, you can see what it is.”

“Yeah.” Bitty glances at the huge TV mounted on the wall. “Nice set-up.”

“Oh, yeah, I guess it is.” Jack pauses. “We could watch TV if you want, or—”

“I don’t want to watch TV,” Bitty says, trying hard not to sound as exasperated as he feels. He tugs Jack toward the couch, and sits, pulling Jack down next to him.

“No TV,” Jack says. “Um.”

Bitty stares at him. Jack stares back, looking like the proverbial deer-in-the-headlights.

Bitty bites his lip, hard. He’s going to have to make the first move, isn’t he? He takes a deep breath.

“Are you gonna kiss me or not?”

Jack’s eyes widen. “I was getting there.”

“I’ve only got until Monday morning, you know.” Bitty quirks an eyebrow at him. “Mind if we pick up the pace?”

Jack smiles at that, embarrassed, but sweet, and finally leans in. It’s completely different from their kiss a few days ago — softer, more tentative, almost exploratory. Bitty tries to be patient, but finally he can’t stand it anymore. He pulls away, then swings one leg over Jack and straddles his lap. Jack gasps, and his hands find Bitty’s waist. His fingers slide under Bitty’s shirt, hot and a little rough, like a preview of what might happen if Bitty can get him to relax. Bitty kisses him again, more deeply this time, and slides his hands over Jack’s shoulders, down his chest. He’s been dying to get his hands on Jack, and even through all these clothes, he feels rock-solid and strong. Bitty’s never even seen him in short sleeves, but he can already tell Jack’s arms are amazing.

Bitty shifts closer and grinds down a little, and yeah — Jack’s arms aren’t the only thing that’s big. Jack moans around Bitty’s tongue and his hands slide down to Bitty’s ass, and squeeze. Bitty whimpers into Jack’s mouth at that. He needs them both to be naked, like, yesterday.

“Can we, uh—” he says, and pulls away enough to start unbuttoning Jack’s shirt.

“Yeah, let me—” Jack says, and tugs Bitty’s sweater up. He tries to pull it over Bitty’s head, and almost immediately, it gets stuck.

“Um,” Bitty says, and Jack laughs.

“Just… here, I’ll—”

He tugs and Bitty pulls, and the next thing Bitty knows, he’s on the floor on his ass. He looks up at Jack him shock, then winces, because ow. These nice hardwood floors are, like, hard.

“Shit,” Jack says, and reaches for him. “Are you okay?”

“I think so, yeah.” Bitty lets himself be pulled up onto the couch again. He rubs at his hip where he hit the floor.

“Did I ruin the mood?” Jack asks.

“No, but maybe we should take this somewhere softer,” Bitty replies, smiling. “Wanna continue the tour?”

Jack’s expression shifts into something neutral. “Oh, uh, sure.”

Bitty laughs. “I mean, maybe you could show me someplace we could make out in a little more comfort?”

“Oh! Right.” Jack stands and holds out his hand, and smiles in a way that makes Bitty’s belly flutter. “Wanna see the bedroom?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

Jack’s bedroom is huge. His bed is big too, but it’s dwarfed by the size of the room itself. Jack stops just inside the door, but Bitty tugs him forward and turns him around, pushes at his chest until he sits on the edge of the bed.

Jack’s eyes are huge in the dim light, and it makes Bitty feel brave. He strips off the shirt he’d worn under his sweater, then unfastens his pants. Jack watches him, hands gripping the bedspread on either side, and Bitty pushes his pants and underwear off all at once. It’s been a long time since he’s been completely naked in front of another person like this, but he doesn’t feel as vulnerable as he’d expected to. The way Jack is looking at him makes him feel sexy, powerful.

He steps forward, knees nudging Jack’s thighs apart, and slides a hand into Jack’s hair. He tugs, tilting Jack’s head back so that he’s looking up at Bitty. “What do you want?”

Jack stares at him for a long moment, like he’s not sure where to begin, then he swallows. “I want to touch you.”

Bitty holds his arms out in a gesture of go ahead, and Jack reaches for him. He pulls Bitty down onto the bed and lays him out on his back, staring down at him.

“You’re wearing an awful lot of clothes,” Bitty says.

“Yeah, sorry.” Jack doesn’t move to take anything off, though. He slides a warm hand over Bitty’s stomach, then lower, wrapping his fingers around Bitty’s erection. He looks up at Bitty when he does it.

Bitty makes an embarrassingly needy sound, and Jack strokes him once before leaning down to kiss him. Jack’s mouth is warm and his hand is a little rough, and barely ten seconds later, Bitty gasps and his hips arch up into Jack’s fist, and—

“Oh,” Jack says, pulling away and looking down at him. “Did you—”

“Oh my god,” Bitty says, and presses his hands over his face. “I am so sorry.” Honestly, Jack hasn’t even taken his shirt off, yet, which is just mortifying.

Jack presses a soft kiss to Bitty’s shoulder, and Bitty can feel his smile. “That was really hot, actually.”

Bitty opens his eyes and sighs. It was quick, but it still made his toes tingle. “The good news is I’ll be able to get it up again pretty soon, so.”

“We’ve got until Monday, right?”

Bitty laughs and pulls Jack down into a kiss. “Can you get naked already?”

Jack does, and Bitty gets to take his time licking all of Jack’s muscles, and then licking him in some places that aren’t technically muscles. Jack makes amazing sounds when Bitty’s mouth is on his dick, so much so that Bitty is completely hard by the time Jack’s panting and struggling to keep his hips still. He straddles Jack’s hips and wraps his wet hand around both their dicks.

“Oh my god,” Jack groans, looking down his body at where Bitty is stroking them together. He reaches for Bitty, pulling him down into a kiss, and Bitty keeps his hand moving until Jack shakes apart beneath them. Bitty comes a minute later, splattering Jack’s chest, and then collapses on him.

Jack wraps his arms around Bitty’s back, holding him close. Bitty presses his face into Jack’s neck and catches his breath.

“So that was good.” Jack kisses Bitty’s temple. “We should definitely do that again.”

Bitty hums against his skin and makes no move to get up. They’re kind of stuck together anyway, so there’s no point in moving until someone’s ready to go get a washcloth.

“I bought a bottle of wine today,” Jack mumbles into his hair. “I was going to open it for us and make it all romantic.”

“Oh. So… when you asked me if I wanted a drink…”

“Yeah.” Jack snuffles a little. “When you said no, it kind of threw me off my game.”

“So what, you were going to seduce me with, like, wine and candles?” Bitty giggles.

“I guess?” Jack sighs. “I just wanted to make it special, and… sorry that was all so awkward. I’m not good at this part.”

“Lucky for you I’m so easy.”

Jack snickers. “Maybe I’m smoother than I thought.”

“So smooth you knocked me off the couch. I’m gonna have a bruise on my ass, you know.”

“Want me to kiss it better?”

Bitty grins. “Well, if you’re offering, I’m not gonna say no.”

*****

It’s rough getting up early on Monday morning after a weekend of having his sleep schedule thrown off, but Bitty’s happy enough that he doesn’t really care.

Dex takes one look at him and rolls his eyes. “Could you glow a little less, maybe?”

Bitty sticks his tongue out and starts the first batch of dough. He’s happy, happier than he can remember being in a long time. He had a great weekend with Jack, and he’s going to see him again tonight when Jack gets off work. He’s going to cook dinner for him, actually, and he’s going to take an overnight bag so that he doesn’t have to go home, only to get up at 3:00. He may not get much sleep, but he’ll figure out how to make it work.

Ransom and Holster give him the expected amount of shit, but they’re clearly happy for him. They’re even happier when Jack shows up in the middle of the morning rush.

Well, maybe not happy so much as utterly delighted.

“Make him a cappuccino,” Bitty says, giving them both a look. “No dicks.”

“Bro, I wasn’t going to,” Holster says, but he winks at Ransom when he says it.

Bitty shakes his head and takes the next customer’s order.

He’s got a special donut all picked out when Jack gets to the counter. “Good morning,” he says.

Jack surprises him by leaning over the counter to kiss him. “Good morning to you.”

Bitty’s cheeks flush red, and he grins. “We still on for 6:00?”

“I might be able to get off a little early, actually.”

“Oh, great,” Bitty says, and they grin at each other until Ransom pointedly clears his throat.

Jack glances over his shoulder at the line. “Sorry, I’ll just… Have a good day, yeah?”

“You too.” Bitty’s pretty sure he’s got hearts in his eyes. The guys will probably give him no end of shit about it, but he doesn’t care.

Jack steps to the right, and Ransom slides him a paper cup with a lid on it, his expression far too innocent.

“Thanks,” Jack says, then smiles at Bitty once more before he turns to go.

Bitty really likes watching him go.

When he checks his phone half an hour later, there’s a text from Jack with a photo of the foam art on his cappuccino. It’s not a dick, like Bitty’d expected, but a set of concentric hearts. Your coworkers are nice, Jack’s written.

Bitty looks up from where he’s sitting in the back of the kitchen, and raises his latte to his lips. Dex and Nursey are arguing over who left the marble counter a mess, and he can hear Alice’s voice coming from the front of the shop, mixed with Holster’s snorting laugh.

Connor walks in, snapback on backwards and jeans as ripped as usual. He nods at Bitty in greeting. “Bro. ‘Sup?”

Bitty smiles and looks down at his phone again.

Yeah, they really are. [heart]

*****

FIN