He thought getting together with Kent after the failure that was his attempt with Jack was a fluke. Like one professional athlete being interested in him? Yeah, he can kind of, sort of believe it, with the fact that they went to college together and especially with things ending the way they did. But another player twice in the row? Now there must’ve been a mistake. Maybe he’s dreaming or maybe Kent’s taken a little too many knocks to the head.
Regardless of his misgivings, Bitty knew better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. He’d take whatever he can get for as long as he can get it, and if he feels more nervous the longer their relationship goes, no one has to know. He’s quite good at pretending everything is fine, if only to continue this fantasy.
Kent, for all that he’s an emotional idiot and can be self-centered like the rest of them, feels quite the opposite really. Why wouldn’t he be head over heels for this gorgeous, kind-hearted boy? It’s crazy enough that Zimms would be the stupid one to let him go. (Kent is still trying to wrap his mind around that fact, but he’s whatever. His loss, Kent’s gain, right?)
More to the point, what does Bitty see in Kent? He’s fucked up. He knows he’s got some mental something or other going on with himself but honestly, he still has his hangups about going to a shrink. He knows it’s a good thing to actively seek help and should work on the stigma his unhelpful mindset latches onto, but he’s got other things to worry about like: 1) playing really good hockey, 2) loving on his boyfriend and his cat, and 3) playing really, really good hockey.
His face is pretty nice, if he does say so himself, and his body is definitely banging. (He doesn’t like to think of what would happen should he retire and let himself go. Would Bitty even be attracted to him anymore? Would they even make it that far into the future?)
There’s not much Kent can offer except maybe showering him gifts as only an NHL player’s salary can provide. He’s got nothing else going for him. Bitty can honestly do so much better, but Kent’s selfish and wants to keep him for as close as he can for as long as he can. He keeps that thought deep in his chest even though he’s pretty sure Bitty can see right through him.
What baffles him though is sometimes he catches Bitty giving him a fond look, which shouldn’t be all that surprising considering Bitty claims to love him. And in the next moment he would be tinged with melancholy. At times, Bitty gets these episodes where he’s quiet and sad. Not at all like his other silences where he’s humming softly to himself or has Spotify playing as he rolls out his energy on a sheet of dough. These silences seem weighed, heavy on both heart and mind. Kent doesn’t know what to do aside from make his presence known. If he needed help, Bitty would reach out, right?
Kent can’t figure it out. Is being with Kent so bad? Is that what’s making him sad?
But Bitty’s always been outspoken if Kent messes up. Never hesitates to do so. What could this possibly be?
This particular silence was different somehow. Bitty had cheerfully greeted him from the kitchen, nothing out of the ordinary. But when Kent walked in to receive his usual kiss, his back had been turned. Kent can see the faint tremor of his shoulders and hear the low rasp of his stifled sobs. Kent’s blood turns cold.
“Baby?” Kent reaches out and Bitty flinches away from him. “What-what did I do wrong? I’m sorry, I’ll fix it. Please just-babe, baby, Bits.”
“It’s not you,” Bitty whispers. Kent stays silent, waiting for him to continue even though all he wants to do is lay himself prostrate at Bitty’s feet in repentance. “It’s me. I don’t. I don’t understand.”
Kent ventures to put a hand on his arm. Bitty doesn’t nudge him or flinch away so he pushes his chances a little more by squeezing at his bicep and rubbing from shoulder to elbow. “What don’t you understand?”
Kent’s heart drops to his stomach. “Us?”
“How we work! How you even like me? Look at me!” He’s wearing a worn apron with oil stains and dish soap bubbles. Kent had never seen something so beautiful in his life.
“I’m no-not like you. You’re a successful NHL player with two Stanley Cups under your belt, but you’re more than that too. You take online math classes for fun. You have a monster of a cat whom you love more than anything in the world. And when you smile I want to burst. Even when you’re cranky in the morning, you’re still beautiful. You’re also kind, kinder than you say you are, kinder than what anyone thinks, but I know! I’m here, I can see how perfect you are even with your imperfections, and I’m? Who am I? I’m nothing. I can’t. I can’t do anything. What can I even do for you?”
Kent feels himself crumbling throughout Bitty’s outpour. Each word pulling brick by brick the foundation of his person. “Oh Bits… Bitty, Bits, babe. No-” He holds the smaller man to him, arms wrapped so tight he’s sure to break bones. “What’s gotten into you? Where’s this coming from?”
“I just feel like you can do so much better,” Bitty chokes out.
“What? No, that’s-” ‘-crazy” he wants to say but even he knows it wouldn’t do to push away his boyfriend’s feelings as temporary insanity. “I’m sorry if I ever made you feel that way.” He clutches Bitty by his arms, raining kisses on his hair, his face, his wrists, his shoulders, and everywhere and anywhere his lips could reach.
“You’re so sweet, you fill my days with happiness.” A kiss on his forehead.
“You’re so strong, you know how to hold me together.” A kiss on his heart.
“You keep me close even when I pull away.” A kiss on both wrists.
“I want this,” Kent whispers into Bitty’s wet cheek, “I want you. I love you. Okay? You’re so important to me.”
Bitty laughs, a painful and choking sound, and cries harder.
“I don’t know how to make you see that you’re everything to me. Before you, I was so alone. And I liked it. Well, maybe not liked it, but I preferred it. I preferred it to anyone I had met, I didn’t let anyone in and it was okay with me. But then you came into my life, and you blindsided me. You came into my life with your baking and your big heart and your sunshine, it’s like-- I had never breathed before but suddenly I was gulping in fresh air.”
Bitty sniffles pitifully but a weak smile pulls at the corner of his mouth.
“Yeah, I’m not poet, babe, but seriously. I’m sorry you feel like that, and I’m sorry if there was anything I did that made you feel that way. But if there’s anything I can do, even if it’s write you a terrible love poem everyday, I’ll do it.”
“Oh my God, your poetry is not that bad, Mr. Parson.” He mockingly smacks Kent on the chest then burrows into his arms. He gives a sigh of contentment and Kent feels the action reverberate right through his rib cage. “Thank you, darling,” he says after a quiet moment. “Sometimes my mind gets unwell and it’s hard to control.”
“You don’t always have to be in control, you know. Feel free to fall. I’ll be here to catch you.”
“I’m starting to see that, honey.”