Falling in love with Kent Parson, Jeff knew, was probably one of the top crimes he could commit against the True North. Jeff was an Alberta boy, and if anyone else on the planet had heard of his tiny hometown of Milk River, it was because they knew it as the town where he was from. And he was pretty proud of representing it, actually; someone needed to step up and show these assholes around him that no, it most definitely wasn’t “practically Montana”.
Still, that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to openly and proudly romance his hockey captain, even if said captain was firmly established as public enemy number one to most of the Canadian hockey world. And if any of Jeff’s countrymen called him a traitor for it, then they didn’t know the true magic of having Kent fall asleep against their shoulder on the team bus and needing to rescue and shut off the iPad he had been clutching as he watched their game tape for the fourth time. He and Kent had a beautiful connection; Jeff would stand by that, and he’d stand by Kent.
Meanwhile, Kent had earned a hefty amount of Canadian ire and outrage during his rookie year alone. By rising above and beyond the capabilities of the good ol’ Canadian boys around him, in the eyes of most hosers he’d robbed them of victories that should have been rightfully theirs. As if it weren’t enough that he was his year’s number one draft pick when many were expecting the top slot to be claimed by Jack Zimmermann, Kent had then gone on to score the golden goal at Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics, securing a gold medal for Team USA and putting supposed hockey savior Crosby to shame.
Finally, in what cemented his fate as the most resented hockey player in Canada, he’d been the major force in carrying the Aces to the playoffs and, once there, scored the Championship-winning goal. It had been Kent Parson, not Canadian favorite Jonathan Toews, who’d lifted the Stanley Cup over his head as he was mobbed by his ecstatic teammates.
And then, as if adding insult to injury, Kent had swept the NHL awards that same year, nabbing the Calder, the Art Ross, the Lindsay, and the Hart, leading to much debate from all true and loyal canucks about which Canadian players deserved them instead. Almost all resentful mapes, it seemed to Jeff, were in near-universal agreement that Kent Parson certainly had not earned a single one of them. And as the years passed and Kent remained a constant contender and frequent winner for both the Ross and the Hart, bitterness toward him across the country only increased, much to Kent’s amusement. Always a contrarian, he’d actually thanked all of Canada in the previous year’s acceptance speech, informing its collective citizens with a wide, beguiling smile that their seething animosity toward him only pushed him harder to make certain that he won again and again.
God, he could be such a smug smartass sometimes. But Jeff loved seeing his confidence show through—Kent really deserved to be happy and proud of himself, plus it was pretty sexy. Not that he’d be spreading that particular tidbit around Alberta anytime soon.
So, dating Kent Parson already rendered Jeff persona non grata to his home country through mere association. But marrying Kent Parson? He’d be banned outright.
Which was why, when he found himself roughly shaken awake from a deep sleep and a marriage certificate from The Little Neon Wedding Chapel jammed in his face, any alcohol-induced haze instantly fled his brain, replaced by panic and adrenaline.
“Holy fuck.” It was just about the only thing Jeff could manage at the moment, too shocked and not awake enough to come up with anything else.
He pulled himself upright on Kent’s very expensive and very cushy couch to try to process this strange new reality. Somehow in the aftermath of their Cup celebration, he’d gotten blackout drunk and then really and truly gotten hitched to his captain.
Like, he’d be lying if he said he hadn’t thought about marrying Kent. There was a pair of rings buried in his sock drawer for a reason, after all. But he couldn’t believe that he’d actually gone through with it. Or that Kent had agreed, honestly.
Staring down at the paper, Jeff checked and double-checked that it was actually his name and Kent’s name listed there. It was. And, he realized, he was wearing Kent’s Cup ring—from their second Cup together, since this year’s rings weren’t ready yet, obviously.
“Yeah.” Already in a snapback even though it was ass o’clock in the morning, Kent shoved a cup of coffee into Jeff’s hand, Jeff’s own Cup ring glinting on his finger. “Fuck.”
Jeff absolutely did not freak out about the whole drunken marriage deal. Freaking out was for amateurs. Even though unexpectedly walking down the aisle with his boyfriend, who he actually loved dearly and deeply and would fight anyone who questioned him about it, at some drive-thru dump was very much cause to freak out. How the hell was he ever supposed to look Bob or Alicia Zimmermann in the eye when a fucking quickie marriage was the best he could for the kid they viewed as a son? Bob was probably going to get both the Pens and the Habs to put a burn notice out on him for this.
Besides, Jeff realized as he was staring at the marriage certificate, he was really hungry. And he couldn’t hyperventilate and eat at the same time. So, because he was in just his boxer briefs and he always felt weird about being at the table shirtless, he tugged on the shirt Kent tossed at him, and then opted to eat the breakfast Kent had prepared.
Seriously, Kent’s crispy cornmeal and blueberry pancakes were kickass. Whenever Kent and Jeff hosted a team barbecue, Kent usually bitched about how much he hated cooking, but that didn’t change that he knew his way around a frying pan and could whip up a goddamn delicious breakfast.
As Jeff chowed down, he had the unique pleasure of listening to Kent as he defaulted to his routine crisis mode: analyzing the situation to death. Out loud.
“Controlling the narrative is essential,” Kent informed him as he refilled his coffee cup. “If we miss the chance to do that, our careers could be endangered. Our reputations as professionals.”
“You realize, that there are videos of other entire teams, like, getting drunk and taking the Cup to strip clubs and chugging beer out of it like they’re a bunch of dumbass frat boys, right?” Jeff inquired. “I mean, we’re publicly dating. We live together. It’s not going to be a huge shock to anyone that we ended up getting married.”
Kent ignored him.
“The main issue right now is our brands and the Aces brand,” he said, setting a bowl of freshly chopped strawberries besides Jeff’s towering plate of pancakes. “I haven’t been able to find any articles about us, and no one seems to have caught wind of it yet. And I found a receipt from a limo rental place, so at least neither of us were driving drunk.”
“So, no one knows but us, huh?” Jeff chewed his bite of pancake contemplatively.
He’d figured that since the only messages on his phone were Cup-related, either videos of cellies from teammates or congrats from friends and family, that neither of them had announced it online anywhere. Some people would find it unbelievable that Kent hadn’t instantly taken to Insta or Twitter to proclaim their marriage to the world. But those people didn’t know how careful Kent actually was with what he posted on social media, how he considered every photo before posting it, always conscious of crafting and maintaining a specific image.
“Which gives us an advantage,” Kent replied, drumming his fingers on his coffee mug. It had a chuckwalla painted on the side; all of Kent’s dining ware featured various Nevada wildlife and had been purchased from a local artist. “Right now, we have the jump on this situation. So we can fabricate some kind of story that we’ve been planning this whole deal and package it all nice and neat for the media. Learn our stories and stick to them. When I call PR, I’m going to sug—”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Jeff interrupted, feeling his eyebrows climb up high on his forehead. “You haven’t called PR yet?” He squinted at his boyfriend. Husband. “That would have been the first thing you’d’ve done, you being you. And weren’t you just freaking out about our reputations?”
A faint flush rose in Kent’s face, his cheeks going slightly pink beneath his freckles. “I didn’t have the time,” he replied a touch too quickly.
Jeff was not going to let him get away with that lie. “You had time to put on fresh clothes and make a bangin’ breakfast. And since you smell like that cedar tree shower gel, that means you probably showered, too.”
“It’s balsam,” Kent grumbled, moving to refill Jeff’s glass of orange juice, but Jeff slid his glass away.
He didn’t even bother with any kind of remorse when Kent threw him an irritated glance, instead tugging Kent into his lap the moment he set down the juice carton. Kent didn’t even protest, just instantly gave in, slumping wearily against Jeff’s muscular shoulder.
Pulling off Kent’s snapback, Jeff trailed the tips of his fingers through Kent’s golden hair.
“You gonna be honest with me?” Jeff murmured into Kent’s ear, knowing his warm breath would bring Kent to shiver. “You gonna tell me the real reason why you didn’t call PR?”
As expected, Kent shuddered in his arms, curling in closer to Jeff and pressing his face into his neck. For a moment, he didn’t respond and Jeff just embraced him, still playing with his hair. Just like he always did during these moments, he found himself musing about how well they fit together, how easily he could hold Kent in his lap thanks to his muscular form and Kent’s much slimmer, more lithe physique. He liked that; he really liked being able to hold and handle Kent. He was there for Kent to rely on, and he hoped Kent knew that. If there was anything in life Jeff wanted Kent to be certain of, it was that Jeff was there to support him five thousand fucking percent.
Then Kent leaned back from Jeff to look at him, the sunlight streaming through the window to soften his features and transform his hair into molten gold. To Jeff, it looked like he was some kind of goddamn Adonis.
There was a tired look in Kent’s eyes, which were hazel for the moment. “I didn’t call PR because I didn’t want to immediately start thinking of our marriage as a mistake,” he confessed, dropping his gaze. “I mean, I know it is. We were high off the win and stupid and never would have done it if we both hadn’t drank enough to make Ovi look like an amatuer. But . . . oh, fuck, I don’t know.” He gave a sad shrug, offering Jeff a glum little smile. “With you there on the couch, sacked out in your boxers, and this marriage being a secret for the next five minutes, I really wanted to pretend it was the real deal. Ergo, me playing house.” He gave a sarcastic little wave toward the plate of pancakes, but then he just gave a weary sigh. “You’re right, though. It’s not real. I’ll call PR now.”
“Hey. No. Wait.” Jeff grabbed Kent’s hand before he could reach for his phone. Protectiveness surged through him at Kent’s undisguised sadness, and he squeezed Kent’s fingers tightly, filled with the urge to make things right, to make Kent happy again. “Who says it’s not real? That we have to think of our marriage as a mistake?”
“Oh, Jeff,” Kent said softly. He reached out with the hand Jeff wasn’t grasping, ghosting his fingers across Jeff’s face. Jeff’s skin tingled beneath his touch; he’d already shaved off his playoff beard.
“Always such a romantic,” Kent murmured, his voice low and fond. But then his face hardened a little bit, his tone flattening even though he was speaking louder. “Let’s not kid ourselves, okay? We got married because we were wasted. It never would have happened if we weren’t.”
Jeff cocked an eyebrow at him. “You’re sure about that?” he asked, thinking of the rings he had hidden away.
Kent just shrugged, looking very tired. “Look, we’ve talked about it. But talking about marriage a couple of times as some far-off future thing you kind of want to do someday isn’t exactly solid groundwork for a proposal, is it?”
“We’ll see,” Jeff said, fighting off a grin. Excitement rippled through him as he anticipated what Kent’s face would look like in just a few moments, and he gently nudged Kent off of him. “You just wait here. I’ll be right back.”
In the span of ten seconds, he thundered up the staircase, grabbed Kent’s ring in its box, and then tore back down the stairs. On his way back down, it occurred to him that he could have used the trip to their bedroom to put on pants, but the thought flitted out of his mind as he returned to the kitchen and spotted Kent there, clearing the breakfast dishes and shooing Kit away from licking the leftover syrup on Jeff’s plate. The sunlight was playing on Kent’s face again, dappling and fracturing as he shifted in and out of the path of the rays, the light and shadows intermingling and dancing across his skin with each of his movements. It was as if Kent were art in motion, and the sight took Jeff’s breath away.
When he heard Jeff’s approaching footsteps, Kent glanced up and smiled at him. It was likely just a reflex, since Kent was far from being in a smiling mood, but dammit, Jeff liked that it was automatic, that it was so ingrained in Kent to turn to him happily whenever Jeff walked into the room. And seeing Kent like that, smiling and backlit from the glow of the sun, knowing that he was all Jeff’s? It almost put Jeff beyond words. Just—holy fuck, his boyfriend— husband —truly was gorgeous.
As Jeff came to stand before Kent, his heart was hammering, and he was fairly sure he’d fumble with the box when he tried to open it. But fuck it, he wanted to do this for Kent. He wanted to propose.
So he sank down onto one knee and flipped open the lid to reveal the gleaming gold and diamond ring he’d had commissioned weeks ago, unable to suppress a smile as Kent stared at him, utterly gobsmacked.
“Marry me, Captain Parson,” Jeff invited him. “I may just be a humble D-man unable to match your point streaks, but I love you, I love your cat, and I don’t hold it against you that your taste in music is just whatever pop songs the Billboard Top Forty told you to like. Or that you actually own and wear multiple T-shirts in different colors that say Live, Laugh, Love.”
For several heartbeats, Kent just stood there, staring at him, and Jeff’s smile faded a little as he began to wonder if this decision had been the right one after all. But then Kent reached out to run his fingers along craggy surface of the ring box.
“You remembered,” Kent rasped out eventually, a tiny smile starting to curl at one corner of his mouth. “The rock.”
His confidence restored, Jeff smiled back, his eyes briefly flicking to the box carved from two halves of a purple geode. He’d scoffed at the typical velvet box, opting for sentiment over tradition.
When Kent had first arrived in Vegas as a rookie, Jeff had made a point of reaching out to him and showing him a few of the sights, and he could still easily recall the time they’d both stepped into a New Age-y shop during their tour of Fremont Street. While looking over the displays, Kent had gotten a kick out of the various crystals that were supposed to harness the universe’s energy. It had really been the first time Jeff had ever seen him honestly laugh—he’d seemed so serious and withdrawn every time they’d been out with the team.
So, while Kent was distracted, Jeff bought one of the crystals for him—purple quartz for good luck. It wasn’t that Jeff was superstitious; he just wanted Kent to know that he was thinking about him, that he was accepted by the team, that they were rooting for him. He presented it to Kent once they were back on the street.
“Since your first game is in just a couple of days. Not that I think you need luck to help us win,” Jeff had said to him, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jeans self-consciously. He’d wondered what their star rookie would think of his silly little gift but told himself he didn’t actually care.
Then that smile of Kent’s had returned, and Jeff could swear that it transformed his entire face, going from a world-weary cynic to someone immensely younger and more carefree.
“Thanks, man. I’ll treasure this shiny rock for the rest of my life,” Kent had promised, and at the time, Jeff thought he’d been kidding around.
But from that day forward, it had become an in-joke between the two of them to include rocks in both birthday and Christmas presents. It started when they were friends and then continued when they began dating.
So Jeff had been certain to include a similar rock in his proposal. Well. The box rock and the multiple rocks on the ring, that was. A guy like Kent was worth every diamond in the world.
“Yeah, of course,” Jeff said, gazing up at Kent. “How could I forget?”
Kent just shook his head, his eyes looking suspiciously bright. “You’ve really been planning to ask me, then? This is isn’t just a mistake? You really want to marry me?”
Jeff’s own throat felt very tight as he nodded and began to speak, and a sense of certainty surged through him. “There’s no one for me but you, Kent. I’ve been wanting to ask you, but it never seemed to be the right time, not even after we won the Cup. I mean. Er.” He glanced ruefully at their marriage certificate on the table, which Kit was sniffing dubiously. “I guess I did manage to ask you. But I’m asking you again now, without any liquid courage to help me.”
A chuckle emitted from Kent’s throat, but the moisture in his eyes didn’t recede. “Then I’m accepting again, now. Also without liquid courage. For the moment.” He offered Jeff a watery grin. “We might have to break out the Curaçao for a breakfast toast.”
“Molson or bust,” Jeff retorted, rising back up to his feet and kissing Kent firmly.
He loved kissing Kent, he really did. It was like walking out of the shadows on a winter day only to step into a bright patch of sunlight that left his skin tingling from the slow warmth creeping back into his body. And every time their lips met, he could swear that he was being flooded by this strange sense of calming energy. All of his stress melted away as he was inundated by a serene certainty that he could do anything and rise above any obstacle, and that he would do it, all for Kent. Never did he feel so good, like he’d found his place in the world and could never be moved from there, as he did when they were kissing.
But he didn’t just want the kiss; he wanted contact, he wanted Kent to know he was there. So he kept the kiss brief so he could pull Kent into a tight embrace just a few seconds later, stroking his hair again. A surge of pride rippled through him as Kent’s muscles slowly began to uncoil under his touch; he loved being able to take care of Kent, for his boyfriend —husband— to feel safe and relax with him.
Evidently jealous of their hug, Kit wandered over to the edge of the table and butted her head against Jeff’s side several times. Jeff would’ve reached out to pet her, but for now he just wanted to hold Kent.
“You really want this?” Kent asked again as he clung to Jeff. His voice was low. “You really want me? Even if Canada hates you for the rest of your life for it?” he added, trying for a joke but failing as his voice clogged with tears.
“Kenny,” Jeff said gently, “I’ve never wanted anything more in my life. I’ve wanted to marry you since the day you looked Kris Letang dead in the eye and told him his wife was probably hot for me because she wanted to fuck someone who could actually play defense.”
Kent laughed again at the memory; Jeff could feel the vibrations of Kent’s frame beneath his palms. Even when on the verge of crying, he thought Kent’s laughter sounded beautiful.
“And if Canada wants to hate me for it, then I’ll just submit your Men’s Health photoshoot as an explanation for my actions,” Jeff told him staunchly. “But honestly, I don’t give a damn. I want you, Kent, you and no one else. And if anyone else tries to tell me different, they can try to hash it out with me as we roll by on our float for the Cup Parade.”
Kent pressed his face into Jeff’s shoulder, and if Jeff could feel the shoulder of his shirt growing damp with Kent’s tears, he didn’t say anything. He only tightened his grip on Kent.
They’d still have to call PR, obviously. And then their parents.
But that could wait for a few minutes.
With PR’s approval to reveal a slightly edited version of events that toned down the amount of drinking significantly, Jeff told his parents, Kent told Bob and Alicia, and then they both told the team, withstanding all of the chirping and teasing that ensued. Briggs made them swear to have some kind of formal-ish ceremony later in the summer, reminding Kent of a promise he’d made to his then-toddler daughter that she could be the flower girl if he ever got married. Both Kent and Jeff agreed, Kent under the stipulation that Kit got to be a flower girl, too, leading Jeff to briefly question his choice of spouse, but only temporarily.
As far as announcing the news to the public, Kent and Jeff decided to wait a few weeks. Specifically, Kent wanted to wait until the NHL Awards, where he already would be receiving the Art Ross Trophy and was also in the running for the Hart. Per usual, he was awarded them both, and when he went onstage to his acceptance speech, Jeff was in the audience, grinning in anticipation.
“What can I say?” Kent just gave a cocky shrug, the kind that led Vegas to adore him and Canada to loathe him. “Another year, another Hart, and another Ross. I’ve got my team to thank, of course. All of you are my boys, I love you like a family, and I fully expect you to bring up any children or cats I might have if anything ever happens to me. Make sure my future progeny don’t become Pens fans, because that’s how Bob will try to raise them. Oh, and speaking of Zimmerdad, you and Zimmermom are lovely and lovable people, and I love you both, too. Finally, I’d like to thank my cat and also the large amount of hockey fans who despise me—give yourselves a big pat on the back, since all you haters only make me stronger. And also, much thanks to my husband, Jeff Troy. You chose wisely, Troy boy. Thanks for always being there for me. Out of all my husbands, you’re the best one yet.”
Gasps and murmurs began rustling through the crowd the moment the word “husband” echoed across the room. The audience was so busy absorbing what Kent had said they almost forgot to applaud, and Jeff actually found himself the first one clapping after Kent finished his speech and stepped back from the podium.
As the rest of the crowd kicked in and the applause swelled, Kent looked out over the seats, and Jeff could have sworn that their eyes somehow met through the glare of the spotlights. The beaming, confident smile Kent wore definitely seemed intended for just him and no one else.
Yeah, bitches, you heard right. Ya boi Kenny P got married!!!!
LOL. I generally think there's someone out there for everyone, but you're a bachelor for life if I ever saw one.
@Crosby LOL, jealous much?
But I guess it was too painful for you to watch the NHL Awards this year, huh?
He and Troy finally got hitched.
Which you’d have known. If you’d been nominated for any awards.
You’re in Vegas, right? So is this a fifty-five hour marriage? Are you trying to be like Britney Spears?
Congratulations, Kenny! You’ll have to let me and Tatiana take you and Jeff out to dinner next time you’re in Boston. 🥂🎉🎊
“A good ol’ Ontario boy!” Don Cherry ranted in a special edition of Hockey Night in Canada, commissioned specifically to comment on Jeff and Kent’s marriage. “You got a good ol’ Ontario boy like Jeff Troy, and then he up and goes and marries this Captain America ripoff, Kevin Pearson!”
Ron McClean had a pained look on his face as he glanced from Don to the camera. “That would actually be Kent Parson, Don. He’s fairly well-known—he was the youngest named captain in the history of the league, and he’s the winner of the Art Ross for eight straight years running. And, uh, we have it on record here that Jeff Troy is actually from the town of Milk River, Alberta. Not Ontario.”
Onscreen, Don waved a hand emphatically. “Well, no wonder! Milk River? That’s practically Montana! Makes sense that he’d go for a jerk like Gaston. But I’m telling you, I’m telling you, that if Troy really wanted to? He coulda got a good ol’ Ontario boy to marry him!”
“You hear that, Troy?” Jazzy called across the private bar Kent had rented out for the evening. “You could’ve married some hoser from Ontario and then been an authentic Canadian. Why’d you have to settle for Parse?”
“Dunno, Jazz,” Kent shot back, sitting up from where he’d been lounging across Jeff’s lap and sending a grin over at Jazzy’s wife. “You’d have to ask Amanda, because it’s obvious to everyone that as far as you’re concerned, she settled.”
A chorus of “Oooh”s and “Oh, damn”s rose up from the various Aces and their spouses. Amanda just tossed back her head and laughed before giving Jazzy a conciliatory kiss as he threw his hands up in defeat.
Jeff chuckled as well. “With lines like those, you should ask Grapes to go on his show so you can debate with him.”
“Why the fuck would I go and spend any time with that geriatric motherfucker when I have an entire summer to spend with you?” Kent replied, settling down with his head on Jeff’s thick thighs again. “You’re so much better to look at. And you can remember my name, which is just a terrific bonus.”
“Good.” Jeff idly lifted one of Kent’s arms and kissed the inside of his wrist just to see him shiver. “Because I’m not going to walk out on you for some blowhard from Ontario, good boy or not.” He kept his voice joking but his expression was earnest, and his grip on Kent’s wrist tightened.
Kent gazed up at him, sheer contentment in his green eyes. “Glad to hear it. Because after all these rocks you bought me, I tend to expect a little bit of commitment from you, you know.”
“Well, you’ve got me,” Jeff murmured to him softly. “Fuck whatever Don Cherry has to say, because you’ve got me more than you’ve ever had anyone else in your life.”
There wasn’t even a shadow of a doubt on Kent’s face. “I’ve never wanted anyone else in my life more than I want you,” he murmured, twisting his hand out of Jeff’s grasp to interweave their fingers, studying the ink that now looped around one of each of them.
They’d opted for matching tattoos wedding ring tattoos, wanting to spare themselves the worry of constantly removing their rings for both practices and games but also still be reminded of each other throughout each moment. They’d wear the rings Jeff bought on nights out and at media events, but now Jeff’s ring finger sported a tattoo with Kent’s initials, and Kent’s finger was circled with Jeff’s.
The tattoos had been Jeff’s idea. He’d wanted to prove to Kent that he more than wanted him, that he would wear Kent’s name for the rest of his life.
“I maintain that they’ll brand you ‘Traitor of the True North’ or something and refuse you service everywhere you go,” Kent remarked now, tapping each of his fingers across the back of Jeff’s palm. “It’s gonna be the new trend in Canada to shun you. ’Specially now that Cherry’s swaying public opinion against you.” His voice was mostly fond, but there was just the barest sliver of worry there, just the slightest hint of insecurity that Jeff might have changed his mind and decided that he didn’t really want Kent after all.
Jeff refused to let him feel that way, not even for another second. “You’re worth being shunned for,” he told him fiercely, grasping Kent’s hand again, giving it a squeeze. “You’re worth everything.”
Kent’s eyes searched his face for a moment, but then he just smiled back at him, with a type of relaxation Jeff wasn’t sure he’d ever seen from him before. He didn’t argue that he wasn’t worth that much, didn’t protest, and instead just gently brought Jeff’s ring finger to his lips and gave the tattoo a kiss.
Jeff was more than happy with that, pressing his fingers into Kent’s lips and letting them linger there, wanting nothing more in that moment than to feel Kent’s warmth beneath his touch.