By the time Kent gets back to his building, his breathing is mostly back within normal limits, though his heart is still pumping like he just ran a marathon. When he steps out of the elevator to the penthouse floor, he's unpleasantly surprised to find Swoops already standing at his door, pounding on it.
“Parser! Hey, are you in there?”
“What the fuck are you doing here?” Kent demands flatly.
“Parse. Thank god. I was looking for you, I called you—“
“What are you doing here, Swoops.” Kent repeats, pushing past him to unlock his door.
“I was worried about you.” He says.
“Why?” Kent asks, putting on his best smile. It feels like it might split his face open. “I’m fine.”
Swoops does not appear convinced. “You didn’t seem like it at the bar. You don't seem like it now.”
“Well, I am. So maybe mind your own business and don't show up at my home unannounced."
"Don't be a jerk, Parse. I just wanted to make sure you were ok. The thing with Jack--"
Kent manages to maintain his smile but can't keep his voice from shaking when he said "I don't want to fucking talk about Jack."
"You never do."
"So maybe take a hint."
"Parse, I-- can I come in?"
"I'd rather you not. I'm tired."
"Kent. I'm your friend. I'm just trying to help. You're clearly upset."
"And you can't help. So just leave. Please." The two best things in his life, Hockey and Davy, are ruined, and Kent doesn't know how long he can keep it together.
Swoops wavers, makes a small step away from the door, before saying. "No. We always do this, me and Scraps. We let you have your way when you don't want to talk, because we don't want to push you, but enough's enough. I don't think leaving you alone is gonna help anything. I think we need to talk."
"Are you serious? You're picking today to do this?"
"I think it has to be today. Should have been a long time ago."
"For fucks sake- fine. Come in."
Swoops follows him inside as he goes directly to his bar and pours himself a sloppy half glass of whisky, taking the bottle with him when he sits down on the couch. He's breathing hard again. He puts his head in his hands.
"C'mon, Parse." Swoops says "Talk to me."
"Why should I?" Kent demands, sounding like a petulant child even to himself. " For real, Swoops, go home. I don't know why you think you're here, but you don't know anything."
"Maybe cause you never fucking tell us anything."
"Has it not occured to you that maybe there's a reason for that?"
"Of course it's occurred to me, Kent!" Swoops snaps, losing his patience. "Why the fuck do you think I'm here? I'm not an idiot and you're not as subtle as you think you are."
"What does that mean?" Kent demands.
"It means I know, okay? And I don't care if you're-- y'know. Whatever."
Kent finally looks at him. "If I'm whatever?" he repeats incredulously, his throat dry. "I'm supposed to believe you don't care when you can't even fucking say it?"
Swoops looks exasperated. "Jesus Christ. Fine. I don't care if you're-- you're--"
"If I'm what?"
"If you're gay!" Swoops finally blurts out. "I don't care if you're gay, Kent. Fuck."
Kent deflates, all the anger draining out of him and leaving him suddenly exhausted. He takes a gulp of whisky.
"Are you?" Swoops asks gently. "Gay?"
"It seems like you already know the answer to that." Kent says.
"I can't know for sure unless you tell me."
Kent is silent, the words catching his throat like barbed wire, unwilling to be released even when Kent is trying to finally let them.
"Seems like you're the one having trouble saying it." Swoops says, and for some reason, that hurts.
"I'm gay, Troy." Kent says finally. "I've known it forever. Are you happy now?"
"How can I be happy when you have that look on your face?"
"Does everyone else know?" Kent asks.
You're not as subtle as you think you are. Did the whole team known already? Is that why this season had been so hard? Were they just talking behind his back, waiting to get rid of him? Kent has known for a long time that he's standing on a rotting platform, but has it already fallen out from beneath him, without him even noticing?
"I don't think so." Swoops answers. "As far as I can tell, no one on the team suspects."
"Not even Scraps?"
Swoops laughs. "Definitely not Scraps. You know him. He worships you, but he's not exactly the most observant."
"No kidding. What about you then, what gave me away?” he wonders.
"Nothing in particular. I mean, even I wasn't 100 percent sure, until tonight. I just noticed after a while that even though you talk about this girl or that girl, we never see them. You flirt with girls at bars but never go home with them. You all but lose your mind whenever anyone mentions Jack Zimmermann. Not to mention you've clearly been in some kind of relationship for a good while, but you deny it to anyone that asks."
"You're always texting someone, always busy, you have uh- hickeys and shit every so often. Plus you- well, lately you've just seemed happier, Parse."
"Ha. Great. Awesome." He takes a healthy sip of whisky and pinches the bridge of his nose to try and stave off an incoming headache. "Well don't worry, I went ahead and took care of that tonight."
"What do you mean?"
"I was an asshole and I got dumped."
"Shit, for real? Like permanantly?"
"Sure felt like it. I definitely deserved it. And he deserved better. It's for the best." He's always known his relationship with Davy couldn't last, but it shouldn't have ended like that. Their conversation keeps playing on an awful loop, Davy's expression as Kent's words made their impact, the second before he composed himself, echoes through his mind. Kent hurt him. A lot. Because that's just what he does, he hurts the people he loves, he's never known another way.
Davy deserves better, has always deserved better, and Kent knows it. Maybe now he can stop wasting his time on fuck up hockey players and find someone who can love him openly, completely, instead of torturing him with half-way done commitments.
Despite his calm demeanor, Swoops still blinks at the pronoun. "You sure about that?"
Kent nods, not looking up. "I don't want to talk about it anymore, ok?"
"Okay." he says. "Is that whiskey for friends or are you just gonna drink the whole thing yourself?"
"You want some?"
"Grab a glass."
He does, and takes a seat across from Kent, who pours him a generous portion.
"Its good." He says after a moment.
"Uh- yea." Kent says awkwardly, mostly so they don't sit in silence. "It's fine."
"So." Swoops says after a moment.
"What?" Kent demands.
"You know I have to ask."
"Do you really though?”
Swoops just gives him an unamused glance. “I guess it’s fair to say some of the rumors about you guys weren’t just rumors.”
Kent snorts. “Depends which rumors.” There were all sorts of rumors about them. They were party fiends, they were gay lovers, they were both on steroids, Jacks anxiety problem was a cover up for a drug problem, Kent had something to do with the overdose to get the number one draft pick. That was the worst rumor. “If you mean the ones where we were fucking, those are true.”
Swoops is better at controlling his reaction this time, but still can't quite eliminate his discomfort, a slight shift, an odd flicker of the eye. “That’s it? Cuz the attitude you both have towards each other doesn't exactly scream teenage fling.”
“Are you sure about that? What’s worse than a teenage fling gone bad?”
Swoops just raises an eyebrow at him “So what happened tonight was just, what? The reaction to an old crush? No offense but I don’t buy that, Parse.”
“I thought I was fine tonight.”
“You kept it decently together at the bar, to people who don't really know you, but then you suddenly disappeared, and I don’t know what you were doing but your flannel is covered in dirt.” Kent groans and shoves the shirt off, leaving just his undershirt. “Not to mention that according to you, you went and messed up your relationship. Sounds like you might have been a little upset.”
Kent shakes his head, though it was less a denial of Swoops words than an attempt to shake them away. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Swoops sighs. “If that’s true, than I understand and I won’t push. But Parse? I’m willing to listen, ok?" he says, his tone gentle. "Nothing's changed. I know, and I’m still your friend. You don’t have to keep everything a secret anymore, not if you don't want to.”
They stare at each other for a brief moment, Swoops gaze steady and sincere. Kent has to look away and clear away the lump in his throat before he can speak.
“It was just... it was what I always wanted.” Kent says finally, and it's not what he meant to say at all, but it's true, and it's been bubbling up under his skin all night like acid.
“To kiss him after winning the cup. It was a fantasy I’d always had. That we’d win the cup together and kiss on the ice, and no one would be able to say anything. We’d show them all.” Kent laughs hollowly. “It was a stupid kids stupid fantasy, I always knew that. And then he goes and does it for real. With someone else.”
“Fuck.” Kents voice breaks. His hand comes up to cover his eyes. “I really loved him.”
“I know you didn’t want to talk about it, but I’m going to ask again anyway. What happened with you two?”
Kent sighs. He always asks himself the same question, tries on different answers like puzzle pieces to see which one fits best, but the truth is he’s always known. “He overdosed.” Kent says. “And I was there.”
It was all so complicated but in truth is was just that simple too.
Swoops sits there, leaning over Kent's coffee table, patiently waiting for him to speak again. And now it's like a dam breaking. He starts slow, but then more and more words rush out after, until he's no longer in control.
“I... I never knew what to do. When he got anxious. I didn’t get it. We were the up and coming golden boys of hockey. We were on top of the world. We were... well, I was in love. I don't know about him. I didn’t understand what he was so afraid of, that it wasn’t under his control. I’d just tell him relax, it’s okay. Just take a pill.”
Kent takes a deep, shaky breath, and when he continues, his words come out even and clinical, as if Kent is telling a story he heard about someone else. “When he overdosed, it was just the two of us at his place, hanging out. We both knew we were gonna be drafted, numbers 1 and 2, and we were celebrating. Drinking, being together, just the two of us. At one point I realized he’d been in the bathroom for a long time. I knocked on the door, but he didn’t answer. I started to panic. Finally, I had no choice but to break the door down. Jack was on the floor, he’d thrown up. There was an empty pill bottle next to him. He wasn’t responding, even when I shook him, even when I hit him. That’s when I looked close and I saw he really wasn’t breathing. Not enough, anyway. And that was... it was ironic. I started really panicking, and I was like, wow if Jack feels like this all the time I fucking get it. I’d want to down a bunch of pills too.”
“Do you think... do you think he did it on purpose?” Swoops asks.
Kent takes a sip of whisky, the burn in his throat strangely calming. “I wondered about that a lot. I don’t think so. Jack was under a lot of pressure, but he wasn’t depressed. He was just... he got panic attack’s sometimes, really often, towards the end. And when they happened he’d do anything to stop them.”
“Yea. And I just- I kind of knew what to do. Id seen my mom— well. I knew what to do a little. I called 911. I turned him on his side so he didn’t choke, and then I just waited. Those were the most surreal minutes of my life." Kent swallows, flexes his hands in and out, as if trying to expel the memory, each second feeling like an eternity, the feeling of hopelessness, utter uselessness. “A lot of people don’t know." he says "That I was there, that I saw the whole thing. He knew though, and he never forgave me for it.”
"I don't think I understand." Swoops says gently.
“I know people think that we stopped talking because Jack was angry that I was drafted and started my career and he couldn’t, but I don’t think that was it. I think he wasn’t ready anyway. He always wanted to do the whole college thing. It was the fact that I was there, in his darkest moments, that I saw him like that, that I saw him before, how bad he was doing, and I couldn’t do anything to help him, and I didn't try. I didn’t want to deal with his problems. I let him suffer alone. That’s why he stopped talking to me.”
He can admit now that some of his lack of empathy at the time was anger. That Kent, a nobody from nowhere, had clawed his way out of obscurity, and Jack, with all his advantages, his future ready to be handed to him on a silver platter, seemed so eager to squander it, and had ended up, like countless citizens of Kent's hometown, OD'd on a bathroom floor.
And just like that Kent was spirited away to Las Vegas, number one draft pick. Without friends, without family, and very suddenly, without best friend or boyfriend. Without realizing it, Jack had become everything to him, and without Jack, Kent had nothing. At all. Just hockey. And that was... well. It was survivable. That’s all Kent was willing to give it.
“Parse.” Swoops says softly. “It’s not like you could have done anything, you know that right? You did everything right. You saved his life.”
“I called 911, I hardly saved his life. But yea, I know. Or at least I think I know. " he says, and he finds that he's breathing hard now that he's finished his story. It occurs to him that this is the only time he's ever told it. He can't look at Swoops when he asks, "But how could I have done everything right if in the end he still hates me?”
“Parse, you were both seventeen, you were kids. You were just caught up in normal teenage stuff and then hockey and the spotlight came in and fucked everything up, made it harder than it had to be. I wish... I wish you guys hadn’t had to handle things that way.”
Maybe that was true. Without hockey, Kent could have just been a normal kid, a poor gay teenager in bumfuck Wisconsin with all the problems that came with that. Without the hockey spotlight, maybe Jacks anxiety wouldn’t have been so bad. But Kent could never think of hockey as a bad thing. Hockey was his way out of that life, out of the cycle of poverty and drugs, and the unforgiving nature of small rural towns. It had saved him. “I mean maybe, but it wasn’t hockey that did anything wrong, or the pressure we were under, they weren’t the real problem.”
"Then what is?”
Kent snorts. “I don’t know. Society? The league?” Not quite. “Me?”
“Kent.” Swoops says and he sounds more forceful. “You are not the problem here.”
“Then what is? Cuz it sure as hell seems like it’s me, Swoops. Everything I touch is ruined. My mom, Jack, Davy. All I have left is my career and soon enough thats gonna be ruined too.”
“That’s not true at all." Swoops says, sounding vaguely alarmed. They've been through a lot together, but this is the first time Swoops has seen him like this, eaten alive by the fears and self-loathing that, a lot of the time, he barely manages to hold back. He imagines it's probably pretty alarming. "C'mon Kent, you’re the backbone of the team, you’re the captain. You led us to the cup, and trust me, no one has forgotten it. Second of all, the thing with Jack wasn’t your fault, and certainly nothing your mom did was down to you. I don’t know what happened with this Davy guy, but it was going well before tonight, right?”
“'Before tonight' being the key words.”
“What happened? I’m sure it’s fixable.”
“Well, I told him he was nothing to me except a quick fuck.”
Swoops flinches. “Geez, Parse, why’d you do that?”
“Cuz I wanted it to be true.” He thinks he would pay anyone all the insane amount of money in his bank account if it could have meant he could be free of his feelings for Davy, and for Jack.
Swoops clearly doesn’t understand. “What does that mean?”
“It means I never asked for this bullshit. I never wanted to fall in love with Davy, or with Jack. All I ever wanted to do was play hockey.”
“Y’know, I used to feel the same way—
"Frustrated with your sexuality?"
"Ok, maybe not that part. I just mean, back when I was your age, hockey seemed all important, so I get that."
“Don't say that like you're some wise old man. You’re only six years older than me.”
“Yea but I swear knowing you has aged me ten years." Swoops replies easily. "Anyway, I felt like hockey was the only goal that mattered and everything else just a distraction. When we were first married, I almost lost Melissa to the late nights and constant travel. We had one of our biggest fights ever over it. And you know what I learned?”
Kent sighs. “What?”
“You can love hockey all you want but it can’t love you back.”
“Wow, did you get that from a fortune cookie?”
“You’re such a brat sometimes.” Swoops says tolerantly. “You need more than hockey, Parse. You can win all the cups you want but they won’t keep you warm at night and they won't be there for you when you need someone.”
He shakes his head. “If it’s hockey or a relationship I made my choice a long time ago.” He’s never regretted it either. He’s gotten close, on some of his loneliest nights, but he never could actually throw hockey to the sidelines.
He forgets sometimes Jack Zimmerman wasn’t his first love at after all. His first love was always the game.
“I don’t think you have to make that choice anymore. Maybe it was like that at some point,” Swoops acknowledges when Kent gives a derisive snort. “But not anymore. Things are changing. Look at Jack.”
“Oh, everyone in the world is looking at Jack. And soon enough they’ll look at me too. You’re right, I don’t have to make the choice, Jack made it for me.”
“I don’t think thats true. And even if it is, Kent, the Aces have skyrocketed in the ranks since you’ve joined. You won a cup, the Calder. No matter what happens, no one can take that away from you now.”
“You’re right, but no one will care. I won’t be a cup winner or a captain to anyone once word gets out. I’ll just be the fag who has no place in their rink.”
Swoops blinks, the expletive seemingly shocking. "Okay, that is not true. You’re a demon on the ice and everyone knows it. And besides, you seem to have this idea that Jack coming out has somehow made it obvious to everyone that you’re gay, but I really don't think anyone's gonna make that leap.”
It doesn't surprise him that Swoops thinks that. If he's being honest, the people he's afraid could expose him are not the people he knows now. He's been meticulous since arriving in Las Vegas. It's the reporters that covered him and Jack in junior's that scare him, back when he was too young and in love to give a damn. “Why wouldn’t they? Watch one game of us in juniors and tell me it isn’t obvious I wanna blow him right there on the ice.”
Swoops nearly drops his glass. “That was graphic.”
“I’m drunk, sue me.” Part of him is definitely testing Swoops, seeing if how delicate his acceptance was, if he'll run away after one sexual reference.
He doesn't. “First of all, I did watch most of your games in juniors, when we were making the decision to recruit you. Despite what I said earlier, you weren’t as obvious as you seem to think you were. It took me, what? Two years to start even wondering about it. Besides, you have a certain... reputation.”
“A reputation? For what?”
Swoops looks away, uncomfortable, before saying “Not being super tolerant.”
“Excuse me?” Kent demands. The Aces have never had the best reputation for tolerance and diversity, but Kent has done his best to enforce a zero tolerance for any prejudices, and his team is the most accepting and diverse the Aces have ever been. “I have never allowed any bullshit on my team. I call out racism and sexism as I see it and I don’t allow the players to use things like that against each other. Ok, sometimes players say weird shit about women in the locker room, but Jesus Christ, I’m not a miracle worker.”
“Sure, you’ve been really good about calling everyone out when they need it. Race and cultural relations on the team have never been better, I can say that from experience, and Mel has told me in the past few years she and the other WAGs feel more respected. But when it comes to gay people... “
“What about gay people?”
“Well, with all your efforts in other areas, it’s been noticed that you never say anything when someone makes a, y'know, off color comment. In fact, you usually just laugh.”
“I- yea. Sure. For reasons that should be obvious. Trust me, I don't feel like laughing.”
“I understand now, obviously. But when you first started, I noticed. And now that you’re team captain your silence on the subject has been well... people kind of know you won't care what’s said about that stuff.”
“Oh my god. They think I’m a homophobe?” For some reason, the idea had never occurred to Kent that his silence would, instead of coming off neutral, be interpreted as support, though now it seems obvious.
“I mean. It kind of feels like you are.”
“It sure feels like you’re afraid of being gay.”
Kents eyes flash, meeting Swoops. “Ok, don’t fucking psychoanalyze me, Troy. I don't hate being gay because of being gay. I hate it because the world has made it fucking nightmare to be this way.” Kent snaps, the anger coming from somewhere he didn't even known existed. "And you sure as fuck don’t get to tell me how I feel about my own sexuality.”
Swoops looks shocked. "I- Sorry."
Kent sighs, takes a moment to reign himself in. "No, I'm sorry. You're being really... cool about this. I appreciate it."
He can tell Swoops is getting a certain idea about how he feels about himself, and while it isn't true, he isn't sure what idea to give Swoops in it's place. He doesn't know how he feels about himself. He doesn't know how to explain to someone who has never had been told that he's something wrong, what it was to grow up hiding, to feel every day like he's just one slip up away from everything being torn from him.
He wants to tell Swoops that he isn't ashamed, that he's proud of who he is, but that isn't quite true. And yet it isn't untrue either. In all honesty, he has no idea how he feels about his sexuality. It seems like it changes hour to hour- proud to scared to ashamed to grateful, all of it mushed together until every he can't feel one way about it without feeling any handful of other things, and all of it shoved down into a deep corner of his heart so that he can pretend not to notice it.
"Is there anyone else who knows?"
"My mom. Jack. Davy. Other than that, no. Who would I tell?"
"You could've told me." Swoops says.
"I'm not interested in a guilt trip, but thanks."
"Okay, fine. I do think you could tell some of the guys. Really. I think they'd be cool with it."
"Yea? Carl would be cool with it? Lex? Rusher?" Kent demands.
"First of all, Carl's an ass, but he likes you, and he respects you a hell of a lot. I think he'd be confused and make a few off color jokes, but he wouldn't turn against you. Lex is really ass, but he's about two seconds from retiring and we all know it. Rusher would definitely be behind you."
"In what universe? The guy's ancient and I know for a fact he's a registered republican."
"Yea, sure, he's white and rich, what can you expect? But he's huge on lgbt stuff. His sister's trans."
"What?" Kent says. "Gina? I didn't know that."
"Yea. He doesn't tell a lot of people because, and I quote 'they might say something, and then I'd have to kill them and I'm not interested in going to jail."'
"Yea. And the rookies? Juice, Dano, Bomber, they're good kids, and pretty liberal. They'd definitely support you, they all love you."
"And Coach? Rogers and Lomanski?" Kent demands. The team managers are notoriously prejudiced.
Swoops scowls. "Rogers and Lomanksi are dinosaurs. If they tried to get rid of you, there would be a riot. You wouldn't be the only player who has a problem with them either. They're holding the team back and everyone knows it. Everyone's looking for an excuse to get rid of them, not you. Coach knows you're his teams best player. I won't pretend he's not... well, he's probably not the least homophobic guy in the world, but he's pragmatic, and he lives or dies for the team. He would rather cut his own arm off than cut you from the roster." he pauses before adding. "I don't think it needs to be mentioned, but me and Scraps always have your back"
Kent looks down and nods, unable to look Swoops in the eye. "Ok fine, maybe I wouldn't be immediately fired, but I'm not interested in being a spectacle, Swoops. I want to be remembered for being the best. Not for being the gay player."
"There's no reason you can't be both. Kent, can you imagine how much this would mean to young gay kids trying to make a name for themselves as athletes? You and Jack, two of the best players in the game, coming out?"
Kent shakes his head, as if he hasn't thought of this many times before. "Jack can take that honor. I'm no role model."
Swoops roles his eyes. "Oh please. You are and you know it. You jump through hoops so we do as many events with kids as possible. And whenever we do, they love you. You love being a role model."
Kent nods, trying to get up the courage to speak. "Fine, you're right. It's one of the best parts of this job. And if one of those kids called me a faggot? I think it'd kill me, Swoops."
Swoops looks stricken, and it takes a moment before he replies. "I can't promise that wouldn't happen. People say and think all kinds of fucked up think, especially when theyre kids and don't know better. But other kids? They'd call you a hero."
They sit in silence for a moment. "I just wanted to play hockey." Kent repeats lamely. "It's not fair."
Swoops laughs. "Maybe not, but in case you haven't figured it out yet, kid, things rarely turn out the way we want." He looks around Kent's penthouse apartment, decorated with awards, immaculate and minimalist in a way that only the super rich can afford. "And besides, things have already turned out pretty well, don't you think?"
Before he can answer, his phone dings. As soon as the name Davy Aguilar are processed, Kent swipes his phone up like it holds the secret to eternal life.
"Woah." Swoops comments.
"Davy messaged me." Kent says incredulously. "Oh shit, this might be the final break. I can't look at it. You look."
"Are you kidding?"
"Just tell me how bad it is."
Swoops takes the phone obediently and reads. "It's occurred to me that I probably shouldn't have kicked you out like that when you've been drinking. Let me know you got home safe. Seems like a nice guy." Swoops comments.
"He's the nicest person I know." Kent says, grabbing the phone back. His mind flitted through all the ways he could apologize, try to ease the hurt he'd caused, but all of them seemed so trite, so useless.
I'm home safe. Davy, I'm incredibly sorry for what I said. I didn't mean any of it. I was upset and I took it out on you and I know that's no excuse. Please just give me a chance to explain.
Davy replied immediately. To be clear, I just wanted to know you were physically safe. I'm not interested in any other conversation. Don't text me again.
Kent puts his head in his hands.
"He reply?" Swoops asks.
He nods again and takes another gulp of whiskey, draining the glass. He shows Swoops the text, who grimaces.
"Ok, I mean, he's clearly mad. But I don't know, he didn't tell you to go fuck yourself or anything?"
Kent groans. "Just stop, man."
"Alright, sorry. Look. It's been a long night. It's 2 o'clock in the morning--"
"Yea, dude. It's 1:47."
"Holy shit. Time flies when you're having an existential crisis."
"That's what they say. So how about you go bed, and you can figure the rest later. Ok?"
Kent wants to argue, but realizes suddenly that he's completely exhausted. "Okay."
"You alright for now?"
"Yea. I think so."
"Okay. Do you want me to stay over? I can."
Kent shakes his head. "No. Go home to Mel. Tell her I'm sorry for keeping you."
"You know she won't mind. We're kind of-- well. Never mind. You still coming over for lunch tomorrow?"
"Oh shit. Yea, tomorrow's Sunday. I totally forgot. I-yea. Why not."
"Awesome. Mel's making pot roast, it's gonna be amazing...You sure you're ok?" he asks again.
Kent considers the question and finds that, at least at the moment, he actually is. He's exhausted and a little scared and still kind of angry at Jack, and the loss of Davy hurts like hell. But for now, for tonight, he can manage. "Yea." his voice is a little rough when he says "Thanks Swoops. Really. I can't-- Just. Thanks for coming."
Swoops nods. "Of course, Parse. Anything you need, I'm here, you know that?"
Kent doesn't trust himself to speak, so he just nods.
Swoops is nearly out the door, and Kent wants to let him, but he knows the fear will eat him alive so he yells "Swoops! Wait a second."
"You're not gonna tell anybody, right?"
Swoops sounds a little sad when he says. "Of course not, Kent."
"Not even Melissa? Or Scraps?"
"No. Not if you don't want me to. For the record though, neither of them would care."
"Maybe. But I just-- I can't right now."
He really wishes Swoops would stop looking at him that way. "Okay."
"Anytime, Parse." he opens to door. "Hey. Don't worry, alright? It's all okay. Things always look different in the morning."