“Okay,” Bitty says. “Okay, I’m ready.”
His chest still feels a little tight, and Jack has his most serious eyes on, the ones that make Bitty feel exactly like he’s wrapped up in Jack’s arms. It’s how he looked after their first kiss, and after he proposed, and after they decided they were really going to do this. It’s his “this is very important, and I’m here for you, and this is completely your choice” look. The “if the world was ending in ten minutes I’d stay right here” look. Even now, almost a decade after that first kiss, the certainty of it nearly makes Bitty’s knees buckle.
What can he say. He’s a sucker for commitment.
He squeezes Jack’s upper arm, casually appreciative as always of how big it is, and gives his own most serious look right back. “I’m ready,” he repeats.
And so, Bitty’s bout of mild hyperventilation over, they turn back down the hallway of the office park and return to suite 801. He swings the door open for Jack and takes one last look at the words painted on the glass: Alharbi, Hamaker, & Nurse: Obstetrics & Gynecology.
The waiting room is decorated sweetly, with little garlands of hearts hanging from the ceiling, a basket of pink and red Hershey kisses on the check-in desk, and a few mylar balloons that say Dearest and Darling are tied to a white teddy bear tucked behind the receptionist. “Are those yours?” Bitty asks as he waits for her to finish scanning their insurance card.
She’s a middle-aged woman with short, wavy hair, and smiles up at him with twinkly coffee-colored eyes. “Yeah, my wife has a special gift for being sappy. Especially on holidays.”
“Oh, don’t I know how that is,” Bitty says, taking his card and a blue plastic clipboard from her as he bumps Jack with his hip.
“Hey, you don’t even know what I have planned yet!” he says, the early scratchings of crow’s feet appearing around his movie-star blue eyes. “Maybe I totally forgot it was Valentine’s Day.”
“Sweetheart, I saw at least five stray rose petals in the kitchen this morning,” Bitty says mildly, shooing him toward a pair of comfortable-looking chairs. “You’re not subtle.”
“Dr. Nurse will be with you in just a few minutes,” the receptionist says with a little laugh.
They’d selected this practice, and Dr. Nurse in particular, after recommendations from a few of Jack’s teammates. Not only was she apparently the goddess of guiding babies out of wombs, but she had a reputation for being sensitive and discreet with well-known clients. Bitty had fretted endlessly over the decision, but he sees nothing but good signs now: the receptionist, the little homey touches of an office that people actually like to work in, and even the absolutely heavenly chairs in the waiting room.
He and Jack are the only ones here besides two teenage boys, of all things. He feels safe in assuming they aren’t patients, but they slump over the chairs in a familiar way. One has dark, spiky hair, a kind of puppyish way about him, and a distractingly bright Sharks sweatshirt. The other looks a little bit more serious, with striking green eyes; he’s dressed like an artsy recluse, but the two of them goof off like little kids. “Chris, I swear to God, if you get this Charmander and I don’t,” he says, tapping furiously at his screen.
“You’re going to run out of Pokeballs if you keep flinging them around like that,” the spiky one-- Chris-- says authoritatively.
The other boy hands his phone over. “Do it for me, then! Please?”
“Fine, you little baby,” he replies.
Jack is hunched attentively over the paperwork, so Bitty just people-watches. As soon as Chris looks away from his friend at the phone screen, the friend gazes at him with unmistakable teenage ardor, that sunflower look of brain-scrambling love for something unreachable. It’s sweet, and it gives Bitty a semi-nostalgic twinge between the ribs, remembering how deeply in love he’d once been with Hector from fifth-period algebra.
Then Chris tilts the phone up, following the little animal in that app Tater used to be so crazy about, and Bitty sees him recognize Jack. His jaw falls slack and his eyes open wider than Bitty thinks is medically safe, and he flicks his eyes between the phone screen and real-life Jack a couple of times. Holy shit, he mouths, and then he elbows his friend in the ribs.
“Dude, that’s Jack Zimmermann,” he whispers. Bitty can’t actually hear him, but he’s seen Jack get recognized enough times to learn to lip-read that particular phrase.
He really doesn’t mind it. They’d been prepared for things to get somewhat ugly when Jack came out, but at least in Chicago, people cared much more about his scoring streak than they did about his gay wedding. The ones who did care were generally pretty enthused about it, anyway; Jack had been a star player at the last couple of pride parades. And kids are usually delightful. When the other boy, the in-love one, looks up, Bitty gives him a little wave.
Then a man in scrubs opens the frosted-glass door next to the reception area. “Mr. Zimmermann and Mr. Bittle?” he says pleasantly, and Bitty and Jack gather their coats and stand up.
Then he looks over to the teenage boys-- Chris’s jaw is still on the floor; the other one looks vaguely impressed-- and points a businesslike finger. “Derek, your mom says you should both being doing your homework, and that she can sense you being a nuisance all the way from her office.”
Derek mutters, “sorry,” but Chris, awed, holds his hand up for a fistbump as Jack and Bitty pass. Jack taps it with his own knuckles, and the door doesn’t quite close early enough to muffle the ensuing squeal.
Dr. Nurse is an unflappable blonde woman with an easy smile, and she waits at her office door to shake both of their hands, usher them inside, and close it behind them. “I apologize for the wait,” she says, dropping gracefully into her desk chair. “I hope the boys didn’t bother you too much.”
“Oh, no, not at all. They were delightful,” Bitty assures her. He has, of late, found any and every child within a hundred meters totally charming. “How many kids do you have?”
She beams at him-- the Southern charm really works its magic up here-- and turns one of the frames on her desk around to show herself, perched on a picnic blanket, with a curly-headed kid on each side and a toddler in her lap. “Derek and two girls,” she says. “Mariam’s my oldest, Lulu is the baby. And Chris and Derek have been inseparable for so long that at this point I pretty much have four. It’s actually Derek’s birthday today; they’re waiting for me to get done so we can all go out to dinner.”
Bitty melts at the way she lights up when she looks at that family photo, and he feels that acute, familiar longing for his own. Jack twines their fingers together under the desk as he says, “Oh, that’s wonderful. How old?”
“He’s fifteen, which I can hardly believe,” Dr. Nurse says. “I’m not looking forward to teaching that one to drive, I’ll tell you that much.”
Jack laughs, and Bitty is overwhelmed again by the fact that this is finally happening. The two of them, together against ridiculous odds. If you had told him at fifteen that one day he’d be holding hands with his rumbly-voiced, affectionate, gorgeous husband, having this conversation, he would never have believed it. Hell, if you told him at eighteen, he would have laughed in your face, especially if you told him that husband was the crabbily handsome team captain that made him cry after their third practice.
Bitty is suddenly full of love for every fifteen-year-old that’s ever lived, for the squirrelly former self that had hardly known to hope for this. He can feel a little sting in his cheeks where his desire to smile runs headlong into his desire to burst into tears.
Pull it together, he orders himself.
“All right, enough rambling about my family,” Dr. Nurse says. “Let’s talk about planning yours.”
He does cry as they talk through objectively boring details about surrogates and timing and testing and costs. Twice, actually. Jack manages to carry on the technical part of the conversation himself, and Dr. Nurse just pushes a box of tissues across her desk and smiles indulgently. “I really like you two,” she says as she ushers them out of her office.
Bitty holds back from telling her he loves her.
The boys in the waiting room give them another awestruck wave as they go, and Bitty returns it with a little sniffly laugh.
When they turn into the hallway, Bitty tells himself that he has to make it ten steps. One, two-- okay, that was more of a skip--
“I know the doctor’s office isn’t the sexiest place to go on Valentine’s Day,” Jack says, and Bitty’s resolve breaks.
“Mmph,” Jack says as he is pulled him down for a long, heated, train-of-thought-derailing kiss.
Bitty cups his jawline with one hand and throws the other over his shoulder, for leverage, and he presses as closely as he can along the entire line of Jack’s body. He rubs his thumb over the stubble in the hollow of Jack’s cheek and tilts his head in suggestion. That’s when Jack really gets with the program, opening up to run his tongue across the roof of Bitty’s mouth, reaching down to grab a handful of ass that is frankly inappropriate for a professional setting.
And Bitty had once feared that being together for long enough would dull the edge of all of this, but all time actually did was give Jack a sixth sense for when Bitty was going to jump and wrap his legs around his waist. Jack catches him easily, one hand resting possessively on the back of Bitty’s neck. They don’t even break the kiss. It’s an art form.
After another moment, Bitty pulls back only far enough to say, “You sweet, beautiful, considerate buffoon. This is the sexiest you have ever been.”
Jack’s laugh rumbles through Bitty’s bones. “You ready to raise a family with me, Bits?” he asks, one eyebrow cocked. "Get the kids a rescue dog? Make them wear matching outfits? Annoy them by being disgustingly in love, forever?"
If Jack wasn't holding onto him, he'd probably float up into space. “Keep talking like that, Mr. Zimmermann, and I'll get us both banned from this building."
"You think they'll speak better French than you?" Jack chirps, eyes soft above his broad smile.
Bitty plants a last, forceful kiss on him, smushing their noses together. "Obviously, sweetheart. Now take me home."