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Aftermath

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Despite Carl's prattling, Kent almost feels at peace. This was how it was always supposed to happen. Jack was going to win the cup his first year in the league, and then he was going to win the Calder. Of course he was. It was never going to be any other way. Kent is well aware that the only reason he won it his first year in the league is because Jack wasn't in the running.

He takes a sip of his drink and actually finds himself smiling slightly. The image of Jack grinning ear to ear, surrounded by his teammates didn't hurt him, at least not like it used to. It still stings a bit, sure. He never imagined they'd win the Cup separately, but a year after Kent's last desperate appearance at Samwell's kegster, Kent has begun to accept that Jack really did cut him out of his life, and Kent would likely never get closure on whatever they shared in juniors. And watching Jack holding the cup over his head, smiling, Kent is surprised to find himself genuinely happy for him. No one had ever worked harder for it, of that Kent is sure. 

His phone buzzes with a text from Davy. How's the game going? Did the team we really hate win?? 

He smiles and is about to reply when Scraps taps him on the shoulder.

"Uh, hey Parser?" Scraps says, pointing to his phone. "You seen this?" 

"It's on the screens, Scraps." he says, because, newfound zen aside, he's seen all he needs and wants to of Jack for tonight.

"No, look. It's all over social media." Scraps says, passing him the phone, and Kent stops breathing. Because there, on the screen is an image of Jack Zimmermann, on center ice, his arms wrapped around some blonde twink, kissing.

Eric Bittle. His brain supplies. Forward at Samwell, number 15, weak on hits but very fast.

Carl's saying something, but Kent doesn't even hear him because somehow, despite completely cutting him off, Jack has still managed to find a way to punch him in the face from 3000 miles away. 

He catches the end of Carl's comment as he starts to process sound again, something about a parade, getting plenty of laughs out of the team, and Kent gets the gist. It's not the first time he's heard something like that from his teammates, especially Carl, but it hurts in a different way this time. Because now it's not a hypothetical, or about someone's gay cousin, it's about another player. It's about Jack. And it's about him too. There was a part of him that kind of hoped his team would rise to the occasion, if some player somewhere came out, but clearly that was just a fantasy. He expected it so much he's barely even disappointed.

"Go back to your glory days talk, Carly." he hears Swoops say.

 Kent is still staring, knows it's been too long and tries to hand the phone back, but he can't. His hand won't move. His voice won't work. Even if his body was obeying him, he wouldn't know what to do. He'd never prepared for this. He never thought Jack would be this stupid. They'd agreed when they were young: no matter what happened between them, no matter what they felt, their careers came first. Hockey came first. 

But it looks like Jack has found someone he's willing to take the risk for.

Finally his vocal cords unlock and he finds himself laughing, actually laughing. "What the fuck?" he chokes out, and and he's distantly relieved because it sounds like legitimate shock, which, of course, it is. 

"Surprise to you too, huh?" Tads asks. 

"This? Yea." Kent manages, which is both the truth and so close to a lie that it hardly counts.

"I wonder if he's gonna get in trouble." says Juice, a young rookie who's always seemed less prejudiced than the rest, probably due to his age, only nineteen. 

"Nah, I don't think so." Tads says. "The league wants to seem progressive. The way the country is now, it would be bad press for the league and the Falcs if a player was openly punished for being gay. Plus, what are they gonna do? Fire their best player, son of bad bob? I don't think so."

"Plus, look in the background." Scraps says, pointing at his screen again. "His teammates don't seem that surprised. They probably knew already. And there's the manager, Georgia Martin. She doesn't look shocked either." 

Of course not. Jack had to go and play for a team in fucking progressive New England where no ones cares about anyone's sexuality and everyone gets a ribbon for being different while Kent lives in the American Southwest and works for a team where management is run by two of the oldest most racist, homophobic fucks in the world, who went as far as to protest his recommendation for recruiting Dano, a young black kid from Oakland whose been the best new D-man they've had in years, because they thought he'd bring the team "trouble".

Even if word got out about Kent, and he's thought about every scenario that could lead to that many times, he's relatively sure he wouldn't be fired directly. Maybe at the beginning of his career, but now? They can't fire the captain, the guy that brought them to the cup. And yet. It's been an off year. The Aces reputation has improved, but it's still not great, and besides that, it's all down to the team. If the team doesn't accept him, won't work with him, they'll have no choice but to get rid of him. A captain's no use if his team won't listen to him. And yea sure, there's some guys he knows wouldn't make a fuss, would at least be willing to work with him, but there's plenty of others that Kent is willing to bet wouldn't. 

"I mean, maybe he won't get in trouble directly but jeesh. Imagine sharing a locker room with that guy." says Lex, a respected player with almost ten years on the team. "Back in my day, we would have just kicked his ass and been done with it. No one wants to deal with that shit."

"Jesus, Lex." Swoops says. "If he plays a good game, who gives a shit?"

"C'mon Troy, you can't tell me you'd be cool with a guy who goes around staring at your dick all the time." Carl says.

"God, Carly, have you ever met a gay guy in real life?" Dano asks. "You think Jack Zimmermann walks into the locker room like 'whip em out, boys, can't wait to get an eyeful of that dick?'"

That gets a few laughs, and Kent legitimately snorts. A mistake on his part, because Carl turns his way and says "Well, there's only one man we can ask." The smile drops off Kent's face. "You ever catch Jacky boy eyeing the goods?"

"Did I ever catch Jack Zimmermann staring at my dick?" Kent repeats mechanically. 

He can hardly tell the truth, which is: Yea, but only because he caught me staring first. 

It occurs to him that if he says yes, he can turn this all away from him, make Jack the villain. He wouldn't put it past himself, but the words don't come out. "No. Can't say I did."

Carl shrugs. "Well, at least he's discreet about it." 

For some reason that sets Kent's blood fucking boiling. "Well, you'd have nothing to worry about any way, Carly." he says with a smile that feels like it could cut someone. "Nothing there to stare at anyway."

Swoops bursts out laughing, and Lex hits the deck like that's the funniest thing he's ever heard. Carl laughs too, he's always been able to take a joke. Kent doesn't laugh though. He wishes more than anything that barbs wrapped in jokes weren't the most he could do to Carl. He knows exactly how thin the ice he's skating on is, no pun intended. The only thing keeping him from being found out is the pure unadulterated heteronormativity of it all. Now that Jack's thrown this door open, his plausible deniability is out the window. 

He never goes home with girls, He hasn't had a girlfriend since he started with the Aces (or ever) and he knows some guys are starting to notice. And anyone with two fucking eyes can look at any picture of him with Jack Zimmermann in juniors and know immediately from his dumbstruck expression that Kent was ass over ankles. 

There were rumors before sure, back in juniors, but all those kind of fell to the wayside after Jack overdosed and it became clear that hockey's golden duo was over with. But now that Jack's done this? There's going to be new scrutiny, new questions that Kent doesn't' know how to answer. They weren't exactly as subtle as they should have been at 17. 

One kiss and Jack's ruined him. And Kent wasn't even the one he was kissing.

Kent downs his drink in one gulp, orders a shot.

The group discussion has collapsed into several side conversations, creating a buzz of noise around him. "You good, Parser?" Scraps asks him. 

"Me?" Kent grins. "Never better, Scraps."

"You sure, man? You look kinda--"

"Hot, but effortless about it? I know."

He takes the shot, gets up to go to the bathroom and finds Swoops standing behind him, expression tight. "Hey Parse?" he asks. "Can I uh- Can we talk?" 

Kent thinks he might vomit. He forces his smile to stay in place. "Not now Swoops, my mom's calling me." A lie, and a stupid one at that. Swoops knows his mom's rehab doesn't allow calls to be made this late. 

He walks outside, paces the front of the bar once, twice, before walking into the side alley.

He dials before he can even think about it. For a second Kent considers what he'd say if Jack answers before remembering what a stupid thought that is. Jack hasn't answered his calls in years and tonight is no different.

"What the fuck were you thinking?" he hisses as soon as the phone directs him to leave a message after the beep. "Are you out of your goddamn mind? I know every day is a fucking pride parade over there in Providence but the league doesn't fucking think so. Especially out here. Did you even think about what this would mean for other people, for me? Of course not, that would require you to think about someone other than yourself for once. I mean, I know you hate me, but shit Jack, not even a heads up? They're gonna have questions for the both of us that I'm not-- that I can't-- fuck! Fuck. What am I even doing?" he wonders. "It's not like you care. Fuck." he says again and breaths once, shallowly, steadying himself as best he can before saying. "I'm done embarrassing myself. Congrats on the cup, Zimms." 

He hangs up and immediately pitches over, resting his hands on his knees and breathing hard. He can't draw a full breath, every time he tries his lungs collapse on him. His heart is pounding in his ears.

Distantly, he recognizes he's having a panic attack. He knows intimately what they look like, thanks to Jack.  

He leans back against the wall and waits for it to pass. It does, slowly. He doesn't know how long it actually was, but it feels like forever when his lungs start to obey him again, his heart slows to run instead of a gallop. He's almost disappointed.  He remembers Jack telling him that during a panic attack it really feels like you're going to die, and even though you know you won't, your brain doesn't believe you. He gets that now. With every vital sign in his body betraying him, he had really wondered whether his heart was really about to quit, right here in a dirty alleyway outside a dive bar. It would have been nice, he thinks morbidly, if it had. He would have died a sports hero. He slides down the wall, exhausted. It's not raining now, but it clearly was earlier, the rare Vegas shower, and the wall is wet agaisnt his back. When he stands his shirt comes off damp and dirty. 

He wants a cigarette. He hasn't smoked in years, not since he knew that hockey was going to be a serious thing, at fourteen. But when he was a kid in rural Wisconsin, half his middle school smoked, it was the cool things to do, and Kent had always wanted to be liked. Plus, it was one of the only things he and his mom could do together, though in her infinite motherly wisdom she restricted him to one a day (not that he listened). It's been a full decade since he quit, but sometimes, in his most stressful moments, the habit still tugs at him. 

He thinks about walking to the corner store and buying himself his first cigarette in a decade. He thinks about going back into the bar, facing his team again, and Swoops, who 'wants to talk'. He calls an uber instead.

 -  -  -  -  -  -

"Ken?" Davy says when he answers the door. He's in sweats and a t-shirt, the black shirt contrasting with the gold star of david charm around his neck that he never takes off. He has his reading glasses on, hair a mess and day old stubble on his face, clearly not expecting company. The sight of him calms the clawing in Kent's stomach and throat, but it also feels like something in his chest is ripped open "I didn't know you were coming over today?"

"Sorry." Kent says. "I just- I really wanted to see you."

Davy blinks, takes in Kent's damp and dirty flannel, the look on his face, before asking. "Did something happen?"

"No." Kent says and pulls him in for a kiss. 

Davy makes a surprised sound in the back of his throat, but doesn't pull away, and in fact, pulls Kent into his apartment by his shirt collar. 

"Good to see you, too." Davy says incredulously.

"Mm." Is the only response Kent can give before leaning in to kiss him again.

"Ugh, what the fuck were you doing tonight? Your shirt is filthy." Davy says, wiping dirt back onto Kent's flannel.

"I can fix that." Kent says and strips his shirt off, throwing it across the room and leaning back in for a kiss. Davy indulges him, but only for a moment.

"Ken, are you drunk?" Davy demands. 

"No, why?"

"Because you taste like whiskey and rubbing alcohol."

"I had a few drinks." Kent says, which is a bit of an understatement, but whatever.

"Right." Says Davy. "Ok, well as happy as I am to see you, I really need to work on my thesis tonight."

"Ok, but consider this. You could work on your boring thesis or... you could fuck me instead."

That's what Kent needs. He needs Davys strong arms around him, he needs to be kissed, be consumed, until he can't think about Jack or the Aces, or the three missed calls he has from Swoops.

Davy blinks and then laughs, but Kent can tell he's affected by the flush on his cheeks, barely visible against his tan skin. He seems to fight a brief internal battle before responding. "Ok for real, what's going on?"

"Babe, nothing is going on." 

And now Davy is super suspicious. Kent never uses pet names, not unless they're in bed or he's trying to get Davy to stop talking. He knows it irks Davy too, because it reminds them both that, despite the fact that they spend just as much time at each other's apartment as their own, despite everything they've gone through in the past year, despite the fact that Kent is pretty sure he's in love for the second time in his life, they aren't officially dating. Because of hockey, and because of Kent.

Davy doesn't hold it against him, he knows how important Kent's career is to him, knows how devastating an outing could be to him. But he's also told Kent point blank that he can't be expected to stay forever in a pseudo-relationship with someone that he can't go out in public with, can't introduce to his big and increasingly nosy Argentinean family. 

It's unsustainable and they both know it. Kent is sure both of them think about breaking it off every day, but neither of them ever do. It's awful stalemate that is unsatisfying for the both of them.

"Ok, so you coming to my place unannounced, dirty, drunk, clearly upset, and asking to be fucked is normal? For real, Kenny, what's going on?"

It's something so small, but Kent still feels like he's been slapped. "Do not." Kent says through clenched teeth. "Call me that."

Davy raises his eyebrows. It's hardly the first time Davy has called him that, and though Kent's never liked it, he's never snapped at him for it either. "Woah. Ok. Noted. Is this because of that big game you guys were supposed to watch today? I know it was the cup. Did the wrong team win or something?"

For once, Kent is grateful for Davy's utter ignorance of all things sports. "No. Nothing like that. Jesus, I don't care about hockey that fucking much that I'd show up here and freak out about it."

"First of all, don't lie to me, you live and breath hockey. Second of all, it sounds like you just admitted that you're freaking out."

"The only reason I'm freaking out is I'm too horny to function and my boy- you're psychoanalyzing me instead of fucking me."

Davy laughs, but Kent doesn't miss the subtle flinch when Kent stumbles over his words. "Oh my god, you're such a drama queen. Ken, I have to work on my paper. And I'm not gonna have sex with you when you're drunk anyway."

"I'm not drunk, I promise. Please." He whispers, close as he can get to Davy without kissing him. 

"No, Ken." he says, unmoved.

"Fine." Kent snaps and goes to collect his shirt, stung by the rejection. "I'm going."

"Jesus- Are you seriously mad at me because I won't drop everything and have sex with you?" Davy demands.

"No! No. That's not why- I'm sorry. That's not it. I didn't mean it that way."

"Well explain, cuz you're being super fucking weird right now." 

"My ex came out on live TV." he finally blurts.

"What?" Davy asks, clearly not expecting that answer. "Your ex? The one you told me about, who plays hockey too?"

"The one and only. He fucking won the stanley cup tonight and kissed his boyfriend on center ice."

Davy looks around the room slowly, as if hoping one of his pieces of eclectic furniture will provide him with understanding. "I don't understand. Did he- did he out you?"

"No. He didn't. But he might as well have."

"How so?"

"We were really close in juniors, weirdly close. Anyone with eyes can figure it out."

"Ok. Well, admittedly I don't know all the details, but if he didn't out you directly, I'm sure it's gonna be fine." Davy says in an infuriatingly gentle voice, as if Kent is one of his pre-pubescent students being delusional. "You said it's been like, a year since you last talked, right? And you dated what, as teenagers? It's gonna be fine. This is good, Ken. This is a step forward, for everyone."

Kent snorts. "I fucking doubt it. It doesn't matter. I don't want to talk about it, I just needed a distraction."

"Hm. Well here I am, I guess. A distraction from your ex." Davy says, nonplussed.

"God, that's not what I mean. There's just so much- a lot happened with him and it's really complicated. You don't get it."

"No, I don't. Mostly because you never tell me anything about it. I don't know anything about this guy other than that he exists and he gets your really riled up. If you explain it to me maybe I can understand why this has you so worked up."

"Yea, I'm not gonna do that."

"Why not?"

"Because it's none of your fucking business!" Kent explodes. Because if he talks about Jack out loud for even one second he's pretty sure he'll lose his fucking mind.

Davy's irritated expression goes cold. "None of my business? How is it none of my business? You came here and made it my business. You're my--"

"I'm your what?"

He scowls. "I don't know, Kent. You tell me."

"I'm your nothing, Davy. We're nothing." He doesn't mean to say it, knows he should be working on deescalating this, but he can't. Because it's the truth and he hates that it is.

"Nothing." Davy repeats in a soft, deadly voice. "So I'm just, what? Someone to distract you, entertain you? A quick fuck and a shoulder to cry on?"

"Pretty much, yea."

Davy's expression shuts like a door. "Get out."

"Davy--"

"Get out of my apartment, Kent Parson." 

"Davy, I didn't mean--"

"I don't care if you meant it. You don't get to come into my apartment and be cruel to me. I've dealt with a lot since we met, but this is too fucking much. I'm not your dancing monkey, I won't let you use me however you like and insult me while you do it. I'm done."

"Davy. Baby please--"

"Don't you fucking 'baby' me." He says and for one awful moment it sounds like he's going to cry. But when he looks back at Kent his eyes are dry and furious. "I could not be more serious. Get the fuck out of my apartment. Now. I'm sure there's a million men on grindr who would be more than happy to give you what you want. Go crying to them."

"Maybe I will."

"Good."

"Fine--" Is all he can manage before the door is being slammed in his face.

 

 

Chapter Text

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."

"What?"

"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?"

"Please."

"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.

"Jack."

"Jesus christ."

"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.

“What?” 

“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.” 

“Parse...” 

“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.”

“Shit.”

“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.” 

“Pardon?”

“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."'

"Huh."

"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.

Kent nods.

"Bad?"

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--"

"What?"

"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."

"What's up?"

"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." 

"Thanks."

"Anytime, Parse." he opens to door. "Hey. Don't worry, alright? It's all okay. Things always look different in the morning."

Chapter Text


Kent expects to toss and turn all night without sleep, but before he knows it he's startling awake the next morning at 6am, like he does every day, used to waking for an early practice schedule. 

Swoops is right. He wakes up in his same bed, with Kit curled up next to him as always, but things do feel different. Everything feels somehow less hopeless, as if just seeing that the sun rose again has shown him that life goes on, in many of the same ways it did before, even when everything feels like it's been pulled out from under you. It’s a lesson he’s learned before, but it never fails to surprise him.

His apartment feels different too, lonelier, now that he knows Davy won't be coming back to it. That he'll likely wake up alone for many years to come, if not for the rest of his life. It was always a reality he was prepared for, but somehow, after having someone, it feels so much harder than before. Kent thinks of Davy's warm weight next to him, long drives through the desert talking about nothing, the soft smile he would give Kent when they woke up together and his heart hurts in a way it hasn't for a long time. It paralyzes him for a minute before he's able to get up and start his day.

His phone informs him he has a series of voicemails from his mom, likely she’s heard about Jack by now, but he ignores them. He can't handle the overenthusiastic support she displays every time she's clean right now, as if it makes up for the other moments.

To his utter displeasure, the Aces PR office calls him and informs him they are dangerously late in drafting a response to the events of last night, particularly considering Jack and Kent's "history", and they need his input. He informs them in no uncertain terms that he does not care what Coach or management i had to say, he wants to Aces response to be positive, no, not neutral, positive, and if coach and management have a problem, they can come to him. Izzy, the young junior PR manager, seems more than happy to comply with this request. She also informs him that several members of his team have tweeted or been recorded saying things that were not particularly pleasant about Jack, though nothing heinous enough as to invoke actual consequences. He takes this with a grain of salt, but is ultimately too tired and unsurprised to feel much of anything about it.   

After that, his routine is unchanged: protein shake, cardio, swim, weights, shower, breakfast, play with Kit. By the time he's done with it all it's 10am, and he's glad he has lunch at noon, just for something to do. 

He arrives at Swoops and Melissa's suburban home (mansion, more accurately) slightly late, bringing, as usual, a 12 pack for sharing. As soon as Melissa answers the door he can tell something's off. Her smile is too brief and doesn't reach her eyes, she kisses him on the cheek but can't meet his gaze. 

"Hey Parse." Is all she says, none of the exuberance he's come to expect from her, no cursing the Falcs for winning the cup, nothing.

"Hey." He says, following her into the house, his heart suddenly beating double time. 

Scraps is already there, having a beer in the kitchen with Swoops, who greets him with a warm smile.

"Yo!" Scraps yells. "There you are. You fucking disappeared last night!"

Kent forces himself to smile. "Yea. Sorry about that. I had something I had to deal with."

"Oh. Everything good?"

"Yea. Yea man, it's all good."

"Cool. So can we fucking talk about what went down last night? That was crazy!"

"It was an amazing goal." Kent responds, being purposely obtuse.

Scraps is oblivious, but Melissa, tossing a salad a few feet away, quirks an eye at him. "Not the goal, man! I mean, it was an awesome goal. I meant the kiss, though." he says, lowering his volume on the word 'kiss', like it's a curse. "That was nuts, wasn't it?"

"I guess."

"You guess? Hey, were you lying to Tads?" he asks Kent. "Did you really not know?"

It's harder, for some reason, to lie to Scraps right now, then it was at the bar last night. Scraps is the ultimate d-man, his trust and faith in Kent has always been unwavering. Kent doesn't know what he'd do if that changed. He can't bring himself to lie and he can't bring himself to tell the truth either. 

Saving him, as usual, Swoops says "Didn't we talk about this enough last night? Why don't we let it be?"

Scraps turns to him, confused. "I mean we talked about it a little in a big group, and Parser was missing."

"All you boys ever want to do is talk about Hockey." Melissa announces loudly. "How about we challenge ourselves to find another topic of conversation for the next two hours? Think we can do it?"

Kent turns to her, suspicious. Melissa can and will discuss hockey for as long as no one stops her. She doesn't look back at him.

They succeed in Mellissa's challenge, but it's a hollow victory. It's the most subdued Sunday lunch they've ever had, compared to their usual baseline of yelling about Hockey and sports politics at 100 decibels. Instead they discuss, in stops and starts, real life politics (boring), Scraps romantic life (as disastrous as Kent's, but straight), and the upcoming winter Olympics trials, which is basically hockey talk, just on an international scale.

He keeps trying to catch Melissa's eye and make a joke, they have a remarkably similar sense of humor, but her eyes stay on the table, and even when Kent lands some solid zingers, she barely cracks a smile. 

His stomach sinks further. He's not surprised Swoops told her. The two of them have always had a close relationship. He wasn't expecting this kind of response from her of all people, but he supposes it just goes to show. He wonders if she'll keep inviting him to lunch or if the invitations will start to dwindle, and eventually stop. 

That might kill me, he thinks. If he loses Mel, and Scraps too, as it's decently likely he will, not to mention Davy, that might actually kill him. Even if Swoops stays by his side, one person isn't enough. And would Swoops even defend him if his own wife rejects him?

I can't go back. he thinks with a sort of desperation that surprises him. I can't go back to how lonely I was after Jack. I can't do it. 

And yet he doesn't know how to stop it. 

Hockey and losing people seem to be the only two things he's ever been good at. Between Davy, Jack, his mother, his anonymous deadbeat father too, all the chances he's been given, and still Kent seems to be totally unable to stop the people he loves from slipping through his fingers.

He tries to Mel's eye, at least get a smile but she avoids his gaze, looks down at her plate stony faced instead. Kent looks down too, and does not speak again until the meal is over.

 

As soon as the plates start being cleared, Kent taps Swoops on the shoulder, and, struggling to keep his voice even says "Can I talk to you?"

"Yea, sure." Swoops says, following him into the hallway. "What's up?"

"I thought you said you weren't gonna tell anyone." he says without pretense. He knows Swoops has trouble keeping anything from Mel, but he really thought his word was worth more. 

"I didn't." Swoops says, frowning.

"So this lunch has been totally normal, everyone acting the same as usual?"

Swoops looks down. "Look. Things are kind of weird today, but I didn't tell anyone, ok?"

"Then how come your wife suddenly can't look me in the eye?" 

"Kent, that's something entirely different, ok?"

"So it's just a coincidence that Mel starts acting weird about me the day after I tell you--"

"Jesus Christ, Parse, not everything is about you!" Swoops snaps and it's so charged and uncharacteristic that Kent stops in his tracks. 

"Woah. Hey man, is... is everything ok?"

"Everything's fine." Swoops says in a clipped tone that makes it clear everything is far from fine.

"For some reason, I don't believe you. Did you guys fight?"

He shakes his head. "No. Everything's just... tense right now."

"Why? What's going on?" Swoops doesn't answer. "C'mon, we're doing a whole thing where we actually talk to each other right?"

Swoops looks at Kent, bites his lip, and Kent is startled because for a second it almost looks like Swoops might cry. "Melissa miscarried last week." he says finally. "Again."

"Oh shit. Oh, Swoops, I'm so sorry." He nods. "Yea. Thanks. It's just- it seemed like it was going well this time but-- The doctors say it's dangerous for her if we try any more." 

"Shit." It seems like all he can say. "I didn't know you guys even wanted a kid."

He shrugs. "We can't wait forever. I'm 30, Mel's 31. It's a good time. We were gonna tell everyone once we were sure it was really happening- but after the first miscarriage, we felt like it would be bad luck to tell anyone. Like we were gonna jinx it. We decided we'd tell everyone once she was far enough along, but it doesn't look like that's ever gonna happen now."

The pain is Swoops voice is killing him, because Kent can see it perfectly, what an amazing father he would be, how much he would love his child. 

"I mean, we know we can still adopt or do surrogacy, and we probably will. But still. I know how fucking dumb and selfish it sounds but we wanted a kid that was ours. That was our flesh and blood, me and Melissa together."

"It's not selfish. Most people want that."

"I know. It's just been- it's been kind of rough. I can't tell if Mel is mad at me, or just everything. We keep snapping at each other." 

"That happens after you go through some dark shit. You're both angry, and sad. You probably both need time to process. But when it's over, you'll have survived it together, and you'll be closer for it." He says, trying to repeat the sentiments and wisdom of Leah, his short lived therapist from several years back.

"Sometimes people don't get closer because of tragedy." Swoops says. "Sometimes it just pulls you apart. Look at you and Jack."

He knows Swoops doesn't mean it, but the reminder hurts all the same. "Jack and I were terrible for each other." He says. He knows it's true, most of the time.

"Yea, maybe. Mel is-- she's the strongest person I know, but this time was-- It was really bad, physically and mentally. She was in bed for a week. I told her not to do this today, that you and Scraps would survive without lunch for one week, but she insisted, said she wanted to keep going like everything was normal." He shakes his head. "I'm a fucking wreck and she's out here baking lemon squares. I don't know how she's even still standing. She's a goddamn miracle."

"Have you told her that?" Kent asks.

Swoops blinks. "No. I probably should though." he pauses,  then the corner of his mouth quirks up. "It's a shame you're gay, I feel like you'd be really good with women."

Kent snorts. 

"Uh. Hey Parse?" Scraps yells from the other room. "This is your phone on the counter right?"

"Yea. Why?"

"Um. You have a message from Jack Zimmermann."

Kent whips around so fast it hurts his neck. "What?"

He all but runs to the kitchen, Swoops behind him. 

"Oh, are you guys done with your secret meeting now?" Scraps asks bitterly as Kent comes barreling through the doorway.

Kent ignores him and snatches his phone off the counter. Sure enough, there's a notification from facebook, indicating he has one unopened message from one Jack Zimmermann. He blinks at it, shocked, and when it doesn't just disappear into the ether, he says "Holy shit."

He shows the notification to Swoops, half convinced Swoops will tell him there's nothing there. Instead he just nods, like he's reassuring a child. 

"Did you message him?" Swoops asks. "Or is he reaching out?"

"I- I called him." Kent remembers. He'd half blocked the call from his memory in light of everything else that had happened. "I left him an angry voicemail."

"Angry?" Scraps repeats.

"I didn't think he'd actually respond."

He looks at Swoops, the only one who knows exactly what this means, wide eyed and confused, unsure what to do with the first piece of communication Jack Zimmermann has offered him in over a year. Swoops gives him an encouraging nod.

He takes a deep breath, and opens it.

Parse, it reads.

I got your message. I won't pretend I'm sorry about what I did because I'm not, but I am sorry for any problems it might cause you. You may be right, I should have thought more about how this would affect other people, and ideally I should have given you a warning. You may not believe me, but it was completely spontaneous. I know you're probably going to have to answer some of the same questions I am. If there's anything you want me to say publicly, just let me know.

Hope you're well.

Jack

It's short and painfully formal, but it's the nicest contact he'd had with Jack since... god, since the overdose, probably.

"What's it say?" Scraps asks.

Kent ignores him. He taps the box to start to write a reply, but there’s nothing he can imagine saying, not in text. Finally he says, "Um. I'm gonna uh- I'm gonna make a phone call." He steps outside into Swoops considerably sized backyard, finding a corner as far from the house as possible before dialing.

Kent repeats his message over to himself, so he'll be ready to recite it at the beep, but suddenly there's a click, and an achingly familiar voice saying "Hello?"

"Zimms?" He says, his voice hoarse from surprise.

"Yea. Hey, Parse. How are you uh-- how are you doing?" 

Kent smiles without quite meaning to. Jack's awkwardness is somehow still endearing to him. "I'm good, man. Sort of. I don't know. How are you?"

"Good. Really good, actually."

"Yea. I mean, you guys really did that, huh?"

He gives a quiet laugh and Kent can imagine exactly what his face looks like, the furrow between his eyebrows, and it hurts. "Yea. We didn't mean to. It just happened. But I'm glad it did."

"Yea? Is everything, like ok? With the Falcs and the press and everything?"

"It's been really good, actually. I told the team a few months ago. George was kind of mad at me yesterday, but we made a plan, I have a bunch of interviews lined up with reporters we know are good."

"Oh, I'm sure you're excited for that." Jack has always been notoriously reluctant to give press.

"I actually don't mind. Talking to reporters isn't so bad when you don't have to worry about lying all the time. Till then, me and Bits are holed up in Montreal for some privacy."

"Wow. Sounds nice." Kent says flatly.

"It is." Jack says, a bit cool. "Kenny, is there anyone you can talk to about this stuff? On your voicemail you sounded a little..."

"Freaked? Yea, I know, and I'm sorry."

"I was going to say overwhelmed. Being in the position we are with our, well, not being straight, is incredibly stressful. I wouldn't have gotten through it without a support system behind me."

He can feel his heartbeat in his ears as he says "Yea well, I had someone I talked to a long time ago, but not for a while."

"Don't, Parse." Jack says, suddenly cold.

He regrets saying it immediately. "Right. I know. I'm sorry."

"Does anyone know?"

"You. My mom."

"Right. How is she?"

When he and Jack had met, she had been in rehab as well, recovering from her first serious overdose, though in significantly worse facility than the lavish, almost resort-like program Kent has her in now. "She's alright. She uh- she relapsed about six months ago, but she's back in rehab and doing pretty good. We talk more days than not."

"Oh. That's uh- that's good. I'm glad she's ok."

"Yea, me too. How's Bob and Alicia?"

"They're good. Really good."

"Awesome. Um. Say hi for me." Sometimes it hurt as much as losing Jack did, that he lost them too.

"Yea. I will. No one else, Kenny?"

"Well, I told Swoops yesterday. It went well, I guess."

"Yea? That's good. Really good."

Kent takes a moment to collect himself so he doesn't go off at Jack for his fucking patronizing tone.  "Why did you message me, Jack?" Kent demands. "You haven't spoken to me or responded to a single message for what, two years? Why now?"

"I think you know why now. I just- you sounded... not great on your message, and I know how stressful our position is, and what it's like to be in a bad place, and I thought maybe you should talk to someone, like a professional--"

"Are you goddman serious Jack? You call me for the first time in two fucking years just to tell me I need therapy?" Kent snaps, reaching his limit. "I freaked out a little bit, justifiably, in my opinion, when my ex-boyfriend, hook-up, friend, whatever-- who knows? I sure as fuck don't-- came out on live TV in our super homophobic industry, and as usual, fled to his high tower without a word or a thought for how his actions affect the rest of us." His old resentments come rushing back, the ones from even before the dramatic end of their short-lived romance, Jack's immaculate home, with loving parents, his father's legacy always there to protect him, no matter the scandel. 

Jack's voice comes back tight and cold. "I'm not doing this with you, Kenny."

Kent actually laughs. "You think I don't know that?" he demands. "You think I haven't fucking figured out by now that you're never going to talk to me, that I'm never gonna understand what happened with us? I fucking know that, Jack, I got it already."

Jack sounds pained. "Kenny..."

“You know what? I’m not doing this either. I don’t know why I even tried. You didn't pick up the phone because you were worried about me, you picked up for yourself, to ease you're own fucking conscience."

"Goddamit Parse, I am trying to be civil--"

Kent snorts. "Just because you have a civil tone doesn't mean you're not the asshole here."

"I'm the asshole? Oh please--"

 "Tell the press whatever the fuck you want. " Kent says loudly, cutting through whatever he was about to say. "I don't care. I'll talk to you later. Or I won’t. Whatever.” He hangs up.

He returns to the house, fuming. 

"Hey--" Swoops says tentatively, but immediately Scraps interrupts him and asks "Did you just talk to Jack Zimmermann?"

"You know what?" Kent says. "I'm putting a fucking fine on his name. The next person who mentions Jack Zimmermann has to pay me 10000 dollars." 

Scraps looks bewildered. "What the fuck is going on?"

"What about Jack Zimmermann?" Melissa asks, entering the room with a tray of fresh-baked lemon squares. 

Kent just turns to Swoops. "I accept cash, check, and money order." 

Without another word, he stalks back outside, sitting at the edge of Swoops massive marble lined pool, and strips his socks and shoes to dip his feet in. The feeling of the cool water on his skin calms him, but only a little.

His heart is still racing. Why is it impossible for him and Jack to have a conversation that doesn't devolve into a screaming match, he wonders. Half the time all he wants to do is talk to Jack, but then whenever they do he just wants to fight him. He knows he doesn't still have feelings for Jack, at least not romantically, so how come he can still rile Kent up with one word? And it sure seems like Kent has the same effect on him. It's just... hearing Jack's voice is like pouring salt on a wound. It hurts like the first time all over again, every time, a little, reminding him all over again that, clearly, he never healed from whatever happened between them. He wonders if it feels the same to Jack. Somehow he doubts it.

His last words to Jack haunt him and he hates himself for the text he sends. I didn't mean it about the press. Please don't say anything.

Jack's reply is brusque and immediate. I wouldn't do that. 

The heat of the Las Vegas sun on his back suddenly disappears and he's thrown into shadow, the silhouette of a woman. When he turns, he finds Melissa standing behind him, holding two cans of bud light. 

"Beer?" she offers, holding it out to him.

He nods, and when he takes it from her she sits down by his side, kicking off her sandles to dip her feet in the water as well.

"What's going on with you today, Parse?" she asks. "You've been acting weird all day."

"It's nothing."

"Yea? You sure it's not because my husband went and blabbed with his big mouth?" 

He whips around to face her. "So he did fucking tell you?" he demands.

"Tell me?" Melissa repeats, bewildered. "I thought he told you."

"Told me what? Oh." He says when her anger deflates and leaves her looking smaller than he remembers ever seeing her. "I mean. Yea. He did kind of tell me. I'm so sorry, Mel.”

"It's okay." she says quietly, automatically.

"If you guys need anything, like at all, just say the word."

"We're fine, but thank you. I told him not to say anything, I'm gonna fucking kill him."

"No! It's not like he just told me out of the blue-- I was freaking out." he explains hastily, because she actually looks angry and the last thing he wants is to accidentally make Swoops marital problems worse. 

"You were freaking out?" She narrows her eyes at him. "What exactly was it that you thought Jeff had told me?"

"It was nothing. Just hockey stuff. Don't worry about it."

She raises one strawberry blond eyebrow at him. "'Just hockey stuff?' What, you think my pretty little head doesn't know about hockey?"

He groans. "That's not it. It's just--"

"It's just not about hockey, but you decided to be dismissive instead of saying you didn't want to talk about it."

"It's not- I didn't mean-- fuck. I'm sorry Mel."

She sighs. "It's fine. I'm sorry too. I didn't mean to bite your head off. I'm just-- not in the best place right now."

"Yea, I feel you." He says, then feels bad for comparing her trauma to his freak out. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"No offense, but I'd like to never talk about it again, if that's an option."

"Fair enough."

"Do you want to talk about it?" She asks, but before he can answer she says. "If you don't, don't worry about it. It's not my business anyway."

He looks at her, her hair is loose and messy and there's visible dark circles under her eyes. He can't believe he didn't notice earlier, how thin and frail she looks. It's hard, to see the energy that Melissa normally radiates so suddenly absent. "It's about Jack." he says.

"Jack?" She repeats. "Zimmermann? Are you talking about the kiss?"

He nods. 

"What about it?"

"Just freaked me out, I guess." he says, taking a sip of his beer. "Cuz we used to date." 

It doesn't have quite the bombshell effect he was expecting on her. She just takes a sip of her beer and nods.

"Hello? Me and Jack Zimmermann, lovers in the night?"

"I heard you." She assures.

"What kind of reaction is that then? Did you know?" he asks.

"About you and Jack? No. I had no clue."

"Well you sure don't seem surprised."

"Oh, I'm plenty surprised, it's just sadness blunting my affect." she says, reminding him that she is, in fact, a trained psychologist. "But I'm not particularly shocked that you bat for that team, if that's what you mean."

He gapes at her like a fish for a moment before recovering. "Bat? You could at least use a hockey metaphor."

"What hockey metaphor? You're good at stick handling?"

"Ugh." he groans. "That was awful."

"We'll stick with 'play for the other team'. then. Generic sports metaphor."

"Great. For real, Swoops didn't tell you?"

She shook her head. "Jeff didn't say anything. How long has he known?"

"I told him yesterday."

"Oh, ok. That makes sense, I guess. He got home late and said he'd been with you, I figured he meant partying. I sure bitched at him for it, looks like I owe him an apology. Does Scrappy know?"

"No."

"Ok. Not that it's any of my business, but I don't think he'll care. Or rather, he'll still love you."

Kent ignores this. "Why aren’t you surprised?" he wonders.

She shrugs. "I never, like, actively thought about it. Just had a feeling, you know?" She pauses before adding. "And us queers have a way of sensing each other, I think."

Kent blinks, processing the statement. "What the fuck? Are you telling me you're a lesbian?" he demands. He's pretty sure if he gets any more surprises, he's going to spontaneously combust. His cardiac output in the past 48 hours has been higher than any game he's ever played. 

She gives him a cold look. "There's more than just gay and straight, you know."

"Shit, sorry. Fuck." He should be well aware of this, having dated Jack. "You're what? Bi?"

She nods. 

He sits back. "Holy shit." he says "Does Swoops know?"

She shook her head. "I didn't think I had a reason to tell him. I was only 22 when we met, I'd never dated a girl- I mean, not seriously. I saw his friends, his team, what kind of circles he runs in. Jeff is an amazing man, a good, kind, man, but he he's also kind of an idiot, especially when he was younger. I loved him. I was scared he'd reject me, so I never gave him the chance. Now that I'm sure he wouldn't it feels like kind of too late to bring it up." 

"Woah." He genuinely doesn't know what to say. It occurs to him she's the only queer person he knows that he didn't sleep with. 

"Woah?"

Kent nods. "Woah." he confirms. "You should tell him." he adds. "I think he wouldn't care."

"After 7 years together?"

"I mean, ok, he might be a little mad. Or confused. But he loves you, Mel. A lot."

She sighs. "I know. I love him too. I... I want to tell him. I do. But now isn't... it's not a good time for either of us."

"I know. But you'll get through it. You and Swoops are the most solid couple I know."

"It doesn't feel like it these days." 

"It's a rough patch. It happens. Listen, I know how it feels when your with the wrong person and the right person. You and Swoops are the right people for each other. Trust me."

"I like to think so." she says. "Was Jack the wrong person?"

He nods. "Yea. Definitely. It took me a while to see, longer than him, but yea. We were terrible for each other. I understand that. And it's not like I want to be with him. But I still can't fucking let go. Why is that?"

"He was your first love right? First heartbreak?" She asks and Kent nods. "That one hurts the most, when it's real. Especially if, well, I don't pretend to know what happened with you two, but it's kind of an open secret in the hockey world that something went south in your relationship after Jack OD'd. Do you mind if I ask what happened?"

Kent is unwilling and unable to explain the whole thing, but he says "I wasn't the boyfriend I should have been. We were both young, and scared. When Jack OD'd and I came to Vegas, he cut me off." He knows too, that it wasn't really the loss of his first love that hurt him, not really, it was the loss of his best friend. 

"Did you ever talk to him about it?"

"Never."

"It's hard to move forward with no closure. You can't close the book on a chapter if you don't understand what happened."

Kent sighs. "I mean, I know youre right. It sucks though."

"Yea. It sucks. What would you want from him?" she asks.

"What?"

"What is it exactly that you want from Jack? What would make you feel okay about what happened between you?"

He blinks at her, the surprise on his face as evident as if she had asked him in fluent latin. 

The answer was he didn't know. It feels too stupid to say, though, that after 3 years of simmering betrayal and anger as Jack continued to not contact him, that he has never once considered what he actually wants Jack to do.

"Do you know?" She finally asks.

He shakes his head, more than a little bewildered. "I- I don't know. I don't know that there's anything he can do." 

The truth is that what he wanted was only for Jack to have written to him when he moved to Vegas, to have received a text or a call telling Kent that he was doing alright after the overdose. He wanted Jack to have told him that Kent meant something to him. But the time for all that was long past, and, Kent realizes with a start, if Jack called him right now, apologized for the whole thing and told him he loved him, it would not appease him. 

What he wanted from Jack is rooted deeply in the past, and has no place in the present, and nothing either he or Jack do at this point in time can fix it. He had been using his constant anger at Jack to keep him present in his life, as if by keeping that raw flame of anger alive, it stopped Jack from fading into the distant shores of people you once loved but had somehow lost. He feels like he’s spent the last three years holding his breath, waiting for Jack to do something in regards to their relationship, getting angrier every second he didn't, and now he can see plainly that there’s nothing coming, that there never had been, and he can finally, finally, exhale. And if it makes him feel empty and alone, then alright. But mostly, it just feels like relief.

"Well it's good to know that too."

"I guess. Fuck."

"Hey Parse."

"Hm?"

"Who was the right person?"

"What?"

"You said you know how it feels to be with the right person."

His mouth opens and closes without a response somehow materializing. He didn’t even noticed himself saying it. 

Finally, he says "I had a boyfriend. Sort of. David. Goes by Davy."

"Lewcowicz?" She asks, a reserve player for the LA Kings, who the Aces play regular friendlys with.

"No. Aguilar. Not a player at all. Middle school english teacher, getting his PhD. Hardly knew anything about hockey before we met."

She digests this. "Had a boyfriend?" she asks finally.

"Until yesterday."

"Oh." She says, and Kent thinks she might actually understand what happened. "And he was the right person?"

"I mean, who knows? Sure felt right."

"I'm sorry."

"Yea. Me too."

"It's been a busy 24 hours for you, huh?"

He snorts. "Tell me about it."

"Are you thinking about coming out? Publicly, I mean, like Jack did?"

"No." he answers immediately.

"Never?"

"If I can help it. At least not while I'm playing." And still, even coming out when he retires would color his whole reputation. He can't stand the thought, that everything he's worked for on the ice could be overshadowed by, of all the stupid things, who he's attracted to. 

"Hm." she says. 

"You don't approve?" he asks. He thinks that's a bit rich from someone who has kept her sexuality from even her husband. 

"It's not about approve or disapprove. It's just... I had been- I'd been talking to a girl when I met Jeff." she says. Kent turns to her, wondering where this is going. He's not sure he's in the mood for a lecture.

"We were- I mean it was nothing serious, we were just flirting. I mean, what I felt for Jeff immediately blew that out of the water, but still. I wondered- I still wonder. Why I ended up with Jeff, in this cookie cutter mansion, instead of where I could have been, with- with someone else. I wonder if I took the cowards way out. Did I know Jeff enough when I chose him over her, or was I just choosing the safest route, the one I knew would keep me protected, in the good graces of the people I love? I remember thinking about choosing the other way. I remember the black hole of fear as I faced everything that came with that. It felt impossible. What I'm saying, Kent, is I know a little bit, what that specific brand of fear feels like, though of course, your fame makes your situation much worse. The relief I felt when I realized I never had to tell anyone was so complete."

Kent wonders, wide eyed, how many people she has ever told this to. He thinks it might be just one. "I am happy,” she continues “well, maybe not right now, but in general, and proud of where I am, who I am, who I'm with. But I wonder every day, all the time, would people still treat me the same if I had chosen differently, how fragile is the love I receive?" she didn't have to say 'just like you're doing'. "So I guess what I'm saying is you can take the choice that's easier, to keep hiding and maybe it will preserve your reputation and career. But don't think for a second it won't haunt you."

He digests this. "I'd rather be haunted than unemployed."

She rolls her eyes. "Please. You wouldn't be unemployed--"

"Yea yea, I know." he cuts in, because he's been over this with Swoops. "I'm catastrophizing, it's what I do."

Mel raises her eyebrows. "Catastrophizing? Wow Parse, that's a big word." she teases.

"Try dating an English teacher. I feel like a caveman every time I open my mouth. Felt. Shit."

"Oh, Kent." she says. "I'm sorry, love."

"Eh, I did it to myself. Besides, nothing was ever gonna work the way things are now." 

"But things are changing now, aren't they? It's not like there's no precedent anymore, we can see now, what happens to Jack. If he gets a positive response, would that sway you at all?"

"I'm not Jack" Kent says flatly. If hockey was wrestling, Kent is fairly sure Jack would be cast as a hero and Kent would be the villain that appears out of the dark to challenge him. The things Jack and Kent are allowed to do are governed by two entirely different set of rules.

She snorts. "No, thank god. No offense to him, but he seems like a pretty boring guy to hang with." Mel says, giving him an affectionate shoulder knock "I'm glad we got you." 

He returns her shoulder knock. "Yea. I'm glad too." 

"How you feeling today?"

"Good fucking question." he says, crushing his empty beer can between his palms, the way he did as a teenager. "Alright, I guess. I feel like I woke up in a parallel universe where everything looks the same, but it;s not . Like the whole world shifted under my feet while I wasn't looking." It's a vaguely familiar feeling, he realizes. He felt much the same the day after Jack's overdose, the feeling of waking up in an unfamiliar world, a strange shadow of the one he'd lived in before.

Mel nods. 

"How about you?" he asks.

She sighs. "God, I don't even know. I want the grief to be over. I'm tired of it." 

He nods, not knowing what to say. He's keenly aware in that moment that he's never lost anyone, not really. His mother sometimes, to drugs, and Jack, and he supposes the father he never knew, but all those people are still alive, at least theoretically. He feels very young suddenly. 24 and untouched by death. 

"It'll end though." Mel continues. "I've been here before, so I know. It's so cliche it's hardly worth saying, but it's true. Life goes on. And unless you're six feet under, you gotta go on too."

"You and your husband keep spouting all this deep life shit. When does all your wisdom appear? Like 27? Do I have like three more years before I understand the grand mysteries of life? Like when does that happen?"

Mel barks a laugh. "Oh, Parse. It happens when everything goes to shit and you have to make sense of it. Newsflash, it's happening right now."

"Huh. I don't feel any wiser."

"Well you sure as hell don't look wise in that fucking snapback."

He laughs. "Fuck off."

"Hey Kent?"

"Hm?"

"I got another piece of wisdom for you."

"Please, enlighten me."

"It's gonna be okay."

"I know." He says and is surprised to find he means it. Maybe he is a little wiser after all.

----

At home, Kent sits on his couch with Kit and indulges his melancholy. He flips through his phone, swiping through pictures of him and Jack from years ago. He's done this so many times he’s stopped feeling anything when he does. His finger hovers over the delete button and thinks he might actually be able to do it this time. He finds he can't. But it's the closest he's ever come, and that means something. 

He realizes he's doing this, thinking about Jack, in an odd inverted version of the reality he's used to, as a way of avoiding what actually would hurt him. He scrolls upwards, to the most recent parts of his life. He doesn't have all that many pictures of Davy, and even less of the two of them together, but even with his caution, there's a few dozen that have accumulated over the past year. He wonders if Davy will do the same thing, sit around and mope about their lost potential, if like Jack, this wound will never close and just ache for years, chafing at the two of them. 

He wonders when he'll get the inevitable text from Davy, telling him to come pick up his stuff. 

He doesn't know exactly why things worked out the way they did, why he and Jack seem unable to let go of their mutual resentment, even when he knows, somewhere deep down, that Jack's phone call indicates some lingering concern for Kent and his welfare. Kent knows he feels the same, the genuine pride and happiness he feels for Jack's win shows him that. 

He can't pretend to understand Jack's reasons for what happened. All he knows is that the more time they didn't speak, the longer they didn't get closure, the more pain it caused, he thinks, to both of them. It may be presumptive, Davy likely never wants to hear his name again, but he decides to make things different this time.  

He pulls up Davy's number and dials. Predictably, it goes to voicemail. 

"Davy..." Kent starts, taking a deep breath. He doesn't even know where to begin. "I know you probably don't want to hear from me, and I understand, but just hear me out for a second, ok? This isn't an attempt to get you back, I promise. I know how bad I fucked up. I just... I can't stand the idea of leaving things as they are right now, with no closure. I should have been more honest with you. I should have told you about my ex and why he gets me so fucked up. To be clear, it's not because I still have feelings for him. Really. I know you've had to put up with a lot since we met, because of my career, and because of, well... me. And I'm sorry for that. Davy, the past year has been... I can't even describe it. God I sound like an idiot. I'm so shit with words. I just-- the last year has been a miracle to me. I can't believe how lucky I was, to be able to be with you like that for as long as I did. It's not something I ever expected to have. I just- I love you. I do. And I'm sorry I never said it till now. And thank you. For everything. If-If you ever want to talk about things, about anything, I'm here. I hope we can. If you want. Just, if you ever want to talk to me again, I'll be here. Okay. That's it. Bye."

Kent hangs up. He doubts he'll get a response, but somehow he feels better than before, even if only slightly. This time, he feels, he's done what he can to correct his mistakes, and it may  not be good enough, but it's all he can do.