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My Loneliness Ain't Killing Me No More

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Kent knows that he doesn’t see his sister enough. She’s the one person in his family who has never given a shit that he’s gay and that’s worth something.

But they don’t have a single thing in common. She’s the kid that their parents really wanted, and Katie stopped wanting anything to do with him as soon as she was old enough to have an opinion. He’s sure she’d have the exact same level of interest in his life if he was straight, but that didn’t make him any less lonely when they were kids. Still, she does agree to have lunch with him when he asks—as long as he arranges to fly to Seattle on a weekend when she isn’t too busy. He figures he’s lucky that she agrees to come to his hotel so they can talk in private.

“You’re not dying, are you?” Katie asks before the room service has even arrived.

“No, I’m not dying,” Kent says.

“I know you didn’t just come to visit.”

“I’d come to visit more if you wanted me to,” Kent says. It’s true no matter how this conversation goes.

“I know. But you know school is killing me. I don’t want you to come when I don’t have time to see you,” Katie says. “I mean, you’re paying for it. You want me to do well, right?”

It’s one of the few secrets they share from their parents. They’d rather have Katie put herself in debt with loans than have Kent pay for it. Katie’s always been the practical one. She’d never ask Kent for the money, but she’s not going to go in debt for no reason if he’s going to offer and Kent has more money than he needs anyway.

“You’ll have straight-As whether I care or not.”

“And you really don’t,” Katie says.

“I care because you care,” Kent says. He does want her to be happy. He just thinks she’d be happier if she had more fun and a B in one or two classes. But she’s not him, so maybe not. Katie rolls her eyes.

“So what’s going on? Just tell me,” Katie says.

Kent sighs. The problem with having nothing in common with her is that sometimes he’s just really not sure how she’ll react to things.

“Okay, but if you don’t want me to do it, I won’t,” Kent says. “And if I do it, it won’t change anything with school for you. I want to pay for it. And you’re always going to be my sister.”

“You’re making absolutely no sense,” Katie says. “Are you like, actually telling mom and dad that you’re disowning them instead of just not answering their e-mails and calls?”

“Kind of,” Kent says.

“Kind of?” Katie looks confused. “I mean, I don’t see the point, but you can do what you want.”

“Jeff’s been wanting me to let his moms officially adopt me for a while. And I think they want to. I think I want to actually do it,” Kent says.

“You’re an adult,” Katie says.

“I know. It’s mostly a formality,” Kent says.

“But it means something to you,” Katie says, surprising him. Kent nods.

“So what do need to ask me for?” Katie asks.

“It would make me not legally related to mom and dad,” Kent explains. “And that would mean I also wouldn’t be legally related to you. Or your kids if you have them. You’d still be my sister in my head, obviously.”

“But not legally,” Katie finishes for him.

“I’ll set up a trust. And make an official will so that if something happens to me---”

“School is still paid for,” Katie says. “Thanks, but try not to die.”

“And because you’re my sister. I’m not doing this to push you away. And I won’t do it if you really don’t want me to,” Kent says. Jeff would hate that he gave her that, but Kent needs to.

“I know,” Katie says after a moment. “I get it.”

“You get it?”

“Okay, I don’t get it. I think it’s kind of dumb to go do all that when you’re an adult and it doesn’t really matter. It’s not like you can’t just make a will and put them all in it exactly like you’re doing for me,” Katie says. “But I’m not you. You think it’s dumb that I care if I don’t get all As. I think it’s dumb you need to be legally adopted when you’re an adult. But I also thought it was dumb you had a roommate when you didn’t need one and I still think it’s dumb that you played hockey with broken fingers. But I know all that stuff is important to you. So, if this is something that’s important to you, then you should do it.”

Kent’s so floored that he doesn’t know what to say. Instead, he just gets up and hugs her.

“And now you’re making it weird,” Katie says, but she hugs him back.

***

Before he flew to Seattle, Kent thought telling Katie was the hard part. Now he has to actually ask Mom and Mama about it, and that’s the hard part.

Logically, he knows they’ll say yes. Legally, there’s no downside for them. They would be adopting someone who is already a millionaire.

But they’ve never actually said too much about it. Jeff pushes and they assure Kent that it’s not that important and they love him no matter what. Kent thinks it’s just because they don’t want to push him before he’s ready.

But there’s still that little voice in his head that says maybe they don’t really want to do it, but they don’t want to say that. Or maybe they think it’s a stupid formality like Katie does.

They’re coming up for the first home game like they always do, and they’re staying a week because Jeff’s Adoption Day is the day before the Aces leave on their first road trip of the year. They’re also meeting Krystle for the first time as a result. At least Kent’s timing will probably take some of the pressure off of Krystle.

Kent: Can you guys come up a day early?
Kent: And maybe don’t tell Jeff I asked you to? I mean, you can tell him you’re coming, but not that I asked. Or just not yet. I just don’t want him to ask me why yet.
Mom: We probably can.
Mama: Is something wrong?
Kent: Not really. I just want to talk to you guys about something.
Mom: And you don’t want to tell Jeff.
Kent: Just not yet. Probably after I talk to you guys about it. Let’s say it’s a possible surprise present for his Adoption Day?
Mama: Fair enough.

Officially, Mom and Mama are staying with Kent because he has more space than Jeff. Unofficially, it’s because Jeff’s significant other isn’t all the way across the country. It’s not like Kent needs the privacy to get laid. Kent talks them into coming when Jeff’s already scheduled a date with Krystle.

“Hon, we weren’t going to ask you right away, but it’s obvious you’re nervous,” Mama says as soon as they get to the house. She pulls him to the couch and directs him to sit down between them. Kent’s glad that he’s holding onto Kit.

“If it’s about Alexei, you know we like him. Especially if your brother likes him. We know he harassed the man enough already,” Mom says.

Kent laughs. They came up and met Alexei on his last trip to Vegas before training camps started. That’s basically the same thing Kent told Alexei when he was nervous about it.

“It’s not about him. I talked to him about it last night, but it’s not really about him,” Kent says.

“Okay,” Mom says.

It helps that they just referred to Jeff as his brother. They’ve been doing that off and on for years.

“It’s about the whole adoption thing. That Jeff wants me to do,” Kent says.

“I know he’s pushy. Is he being extra pushy about it because it’s almost his Adoption Day?” Mom asks. It’s a fair question. Jeff thinks it’s a good argument that if Kent’s officially adopted, he’ll basically have two birthdays to celebrate instead of just one because they’ll celebrate both his Adoption Day and his actual birthday. To be fair, that’s probably a good argument if you like having two birthdays as much as Jeff does.

“No. He’s more distracted by Krystle this year,” Kent says. “It’s me thinking about it. I mean, if you guys actually want to do it. It’s fine if you don’t. I won’t tell him.”

“Oh, sweetheart, yes, of course we want to,” Mama says immediately.

“We just haven’t wanted to push you before you were ready, and we didn’t want you to think it was something you had to do for us to consider you our son,” Mom says. It’s exactly what he thought, but hearing it still makes him tear up.

“Oh baby,” Mama says as they both wrap their arms around him, “we can start the paperwork whenever you want. Jeff’s not lying. We would’ve done it that very first day if you’d been ready. We loved you since the day we met you, just like with him.”

Kent knew he was going to cry, but he was hoping it would be like a few dignified tears. It’s not like anything is actually changing. Except he starts crying, and then it clicks that it’s the first time he’s cried since he was five and also had parents who will just hold him, instead of telling him that he’s too old to be crying like this.

“Jeff’s going to completely freak out. We should video it when you tell him,” Mom says once Kent’s mostly calmed down. It makes Kent laugh which was probably what she was going for.

***

Before he talked to their moms, all Kent worried about was getting Jeff out of the picture so that he could talk to them alone. He didn’t factor in that he’d have to wait until the next day to tell Jeff. There’s still paperwork and a court date, but it’s unlikely a judge would object according to all the research Jeff’s given them. It’s not real yet, but it feels real now that they’ve decided to do it.

Kent: Come over early or I’m telling Mama to cook breakfast without you.
Jeff: What happened to you occupying them so I had time with Krystle?
Kent: That was lie I told to get rid of you. Now I have a surprise for you.
Jeff: WHAT?! You lied to me??
Kent: I can hold off on the surprise until your Adoption Day and we can eat breakfast without you.

It’s a total lie. There’s no way Kent could hold off telling Jeff for a week, but Jeff is a child about getting his presents early, so it works.

“Where is my present?” Jeff says as soon as he gets it the door. “You made me get up early and come over, so you don’t get to wait now.”

Kent laughs.

“It’s not a physical present so I hope you’re not disappointed,” Kent says. He did get Jeff a physical present, but Kent’s pretty sure Jeff will care about this more.

“You made our moms come early and then lied to me about why. I’m assuming it’s good,” Jeff says.

“Let me turn off the stove!” Mama calls from the kitchen.

“I need my phone,” Mom says because, apparently, she really is going to take a video.

Jeff just looks confused.

“I just needed to talk to them about it without you first,” Kent says once Mom has her phone ready. “I needed them to agree to it without you there.”

“Agree to what?”

“The whole legal adult adoption thing. We’re going to start the process to do it.”

Jeff looks from him to their moms and then just runs at Kent and hugs him, literally picking Kent up off the ground.

“Fucking finally. Who can I tell? Can I tell the guys? Or most of them? I mean, you were already my brother, but now no one can say stupid shit like how we’re like brothers.”

Jeff says all of this without putting him down because he’s a huge freak. Kent laughs and hugs him.

“You can tell the guys in the smaller chat if you put me down,” Kent says.

“Details,” Jeff says, but he does put Kent down. “Can I call the lawyer now so we can get everything started? We’ll have to figure out how to get a court date when we can go to LA.”

“I think maybe we could eat breakfast first,” Mom says.

Jeff actually pouts.

“Then I should get to tell the guys now,” he says.

“You can do that until everything is ready and then put your phone away, so we can have breakfast as a family,” Mama says.

“No takebacks,” Jeff says. “You share all their weird dinner rules with me now.”

“Kent never tries to take his phone out at the table. That’s just you,” Mom says.

“And you’re already the good kid. No fair,” Jeff says, but he’s smiling as he types into his phone.

Swoops: Parse is officially my brother now. My moms are legally adopting him.
Reaper: Doesn’t that mean he’s going to be your brother once the legal shit is done but he’s not yet?
Swoops: Stupid details. He agreed. He can’t take it back now.
Mills: OMG YAY!!
Reaper: Congrats. You’re welcome for sticking you with him six years ago while you bitched about it. :’D
Swoops: WTF? Parse, I did NOT bitch about it.
Reaper: He did. But Mason pouted for 3 weeks when we told him he wasn’t going to be an only child anymore. Swoops liked you a lot sooner than that.
Hooks: TRUTH. In less than a day, he’d told the entire team that he would disown us all if we picked on you.
Parse: Apparently our moms actually did save a screenshot of him telling them I was their new son about 4 hours after he picked me up.
Reaper: Texting them for a copy. I’ll get it framed for the baby shower we are definitely having in honor of your adoption.
Hammer: YEEESSS!!!
Parse: No.
Swoops: YES.
Parse: Mom says put your phone away. It’s time to eat.
Swoops: He’s the good son already. Of fucking course.

***

Scheduling a court date for Kent’s adoption is easier than Kent expected. He tells management that it’s going to happen, and they agree to give both him and Jeff a day off as long as he does what he can to schedule it when they are going to be off anyway. They have a three-day break between home games at the end of November. Kent and Jeff fly to LA after practice on Sunday and get to their moms’ house in time for dinner.

After dinner, they sit down to watch a movie that Kent can’t concentrate on.

“You know you can talk us about how you’re feeling,” Mama says quietly when Jeff leaves to go to the bathroom.

“I don’t even know how I’m feeling,” Kent admits. “I mean, I’m excited and I’m nervous that something will go wrong and…”

Kent stops. Mama takes his hand and squeezes it.

“They have to know,” Kent says. “They were notified. They know when the court date is.”

“We haven’t heard from them,” Mama says.

Kent nods.

“It’s not like I want them to show up,” Kent says. “And I blocked their e-mail, so I don’t know if they’ve sent anything.”

“It’s okay to still kind of wish they cared,” Mama says.

“I guess they really don’t want me,” Kent says. It’s not new information. And he doesn’t even want them to cause problems with the adoption. But maybe he wants his parents to care a little bit that they’re about to not be his parents anymore.

“We can’t guess what they’re thinking,” Mama says. “But what matters is that we want you. We always wanted another kid.”

“I’m pretty sure you were hoping for an actual kid,” Kent says.

“And you taught us that even gay people can have surprise children,” Mom says. Seriously. She’s worse than Bob sometimes.

“You know I had to talk Mama out of driving to Vegas the night that Jeff called us about you. Before he’d even met you and brought you home,” Mom says. “We didn’t want to make too big of a deal out of it to Jeff, but she just kept saying that it didn’t make any sense that you weren’t going home to your parents. Then he texted us the next night and I had to do it all over again. She wanted to bring both of you boys back here until training camp, and I had to convince her that you probably weren’t ready for that.”

“I probably would’ve just gone,” Kent says. She’s not wrong that he would’ve been a little freaked out, but if Jeff had just told him that they were going, he would’ve been too intimidated to argue.

“Maybe, but we didn’t want to push, and your brother seemed like he was doing okay,” Mama says.

“And he called us almost every day, so we could pretend we weren’t worried because we didn’t have to ask,” Mom says. “Of course, he wanted to respect your privacy, so he tried not to say too much, but we could figure things out.”

“They’re exaggerating. They just feel guilty because I did like ninety percent of the work raising you,” Jeff says as he comes back in.

“That would be more believable if you didn’t text the family group twenty times a day,” Kent says.

“Whatever. If you hated it, we wouldn’t be here. You love it,” Jeff says.

Kent can admit to himself that he never minded Jeff’s pushing for the adoption. It was a constant reminder that someone wanted him even if his real parents didn’t. Or his biological parents. He’s been trying to get used to thinking of Mom and Mama as his real parents.

“Maybe I just wanted you to stop whining,” Kent says instead of agreeing because sometimes it’s more fun to give Jeff a hard time.

***

Kent’s biological parents don’t show up in court to cause problems, so once it’s their turn, the whole legal part of the adoption is over so quickly that it doesn’t seem fair. Years and years of wanting parents that love him, and the judge just signs off on it and sends them on their way.

They fly to Vegas because Jeff and Kent have practice the next day, but they all go back to Kent’s house from the airport. Jeff wanted to celebrate, but it’s Kent’s adoption day, and he’s sure there’s a party happening without his control later. Today, he just wants to feel normal with a normal family. So Mama cooks dinner, and Jeff whines about putting his phone away because he’s texting everyone they know about the party that Kent said he didn’t want. They watch the Falconers’ game together and Jeff chirps him about wanting to watch Alexei’s post-game interview.

Kent has a text from Mama when he hangs up after Skyping with Alexei.

Mama: I know you said you didn’t want to do anything special, but if you could indulge us on one thing before you go to bed, we’d appreciate it.
Kent: Was this your idea or Jeff’s?
Mama: Mine and Mom’s, but your brother will probably be disappointed if we don’t do it.
Kent: Ok.
Mama: Brush your teeth and everything first. ; )

Kent finishes his skin care routine and then goes hunting for his family. They’re in the living room with Jeff already in pajamas. Actual pajamas. Because sometimes Jeff is more of a child than Mills or even Mason. Usually he only wears them on Christmas, so no one believes Kent when he chirps Jeff about it.

“So we had to ask Jeff for permission to give you this, because it’s technically his, but we knew he’d agree,” Mama says and hands him a wrapped rectangle.

“It’s probably good that you’re older. If he was five, he definitely would’ve said no, screamed about it, and then carried it around everywhere for a week in case someone tried to take it,” Mom says as Kent tears off the paper.

It’s a picture book. The kind with thick cardboard pages. It’s a little dirty and worn from what must be years of Jeff carrying it around. It’s called Mama, Mommy, and Me and there’s a picture of two women and a small child on the front. Kent can’t tell if the kid is supposed to be a boy or a girl. That’s probably the point. At some point, someone wrote names on each person with black permanent marker identifying them as Mom, Jeff, and Mama.

“Looks exactly like you,” Kent says to Jeff. Jeff rolls his eyes and shoves him.

“We figured maybe we could read to you just one time when you’re not sick,” Mama says.

“Yeah, sure,” Kent agrees because it’s not like he’s going to tell her no. It won’t even be the first time he’s sort of gotten a bedtime story. Though in the past, it was a normal book and something Mama suggested when he had a concussion and was bored out of his mind because he wasn’t allowed to look at screens.

They relocate to Kent’s room. Jeff climbs onto his bed with him, but Mom and Mama take chairs because they’re not actually five years old and four adults on his bed is too much.

It’s kind of silly, but it’s also nice. When she’s finished, they get tucked in and they both get forehead kisses from each parent.

“You could go sleep in your own bed,” Kent says after Mom and Mama leave, but Jeff, of course, just gets comfortable.

“Why do you have to ruin the slumber party?” Jeff says.

“You’re supposed to be the older brother,” Kent says.

“I’m taking my book back.”

“You are not. You’re not allowed. I’m going to paint over the kid’s hair so it’s blonde.”

“You are not!” Jeff actually sounds distressed, and Kent laughs.

“You’re not,” Jeff says again.

“Okay, I won’t.” Kent turns on his side so he’s facing Jeff. “Thanks. For letting me have your book. You didn’t have to.”

“I wanted to.”