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an inherent change

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Travis wasn’t a fated love. He wasn’t love at first sight, soulmates from day one. In fact, the first time Nolan met him, he’d hated him. He hated his gross hair, and stupid beard, and the fact that he ignored all social cues and wouldn’t leave Nolan alone.

But like mold, Travis had grown on him, until he'd forced his way into every facet of Nolan’s life.

And suddenly he didn’t hate him the same. He still wanted to kill him on a daily basis, that would probably never change. He still thought his hair was gross and his beard was stupid - a small voice in the back of his mind that sounded suspiciously like G inserted that he had no room to talk about gross hair and stupid beards, but G didn't have any room to talk either.

He hated the way Travis wouldn’t let Nolan draw into himself, wouldn’t let him drown in his own misery. He hated his lopsided smile, his bright laugh, his warm fucking eyes.

He’d never described eyes as warm before he met Travis, and he hated that.

He’d never known someone like Travis, though. He’d never had someone to fill his cracks the way Travis did.

He’d never loved like this. The sort of all encompassing love that he would have scoffed at two years ago.

He wasn’t pining - he wasn’t - and he’d never breathe a word of it to anyone, let alone Travis. But God if he didn’t wish he could.

-

“Pattycakes, Pattycakes, baker’s man!”

Nolan groaned, but rolled off the sofa to let Travis in before his hollering caused the entire building to call the cops.

“My neighbors must hate you,” Nolan sighed, opening the door. “You never stop yelling.”

“What, you expect me to just knock?" Travis looked offended by the mere thought. "Please, Pat, I thought you knew me better than that. You’ve known me for years. ”

“Unfortunately.” Nolan rolled his eyes and returned to his spot on the sofa.

“Aw, man, you love me,” Travis grinned, following him.

“I hate you," Nolan corrected, stretching out on the couch. Maybe if he took up enough space Travis would let him rest his head in his lap.

Instead of squeezing into the spot Nolan had strategically left, Travis flopped down on top of him, heavier than he had any right to be.

“Come on, say you love me.”

“Get off of me, you disgusting child.” Instead of getting up, Travis just smashed his face into Nolan's neck and blew a raspberry.

“Nope, not until you say you love me.”

That was never happening. 

Travis was smiling down at him, hands on either side of his head. He was too close, he wasn’t close enough. Either way, Nolan was probably being suspiciously still, so he bucked his hips, knocking Travis to the floor. Travis in all of his douchebaggery managed to hook his ankles around Nolan’s leg, pulling him off the couch as well.

“Well, this is comfy,” Travis snickered from underneath him. Nolan felt his face flush, because of course he would land on top of Travis. Because the universe hated him.

Travis was solid underneath him; he was solid and warm, and Patty felt his traitorous blush spread across his cheeks. 

“You gonna get off me, bud?”

“Like you said, pretty comfy.” Because Nolan would always take an excuse to lay on Travis, no matter how flushed he felt himself getting. 

“You’re an oaf, you’re going to suffocate me," Travis whined. He wasn't struggling, though; in fact he'd completely relaxed, like there was nowhere else he'd rather be than underneath Nolan on a dusty floor.

“Better start working out, then.”

“Yeah, yeah,” TK said with a grin. His arms had landed above his head, but he reached one down to run fingers through Patty’s hair; he couldn’t help tilting his head into it, which made Travis laugh lowly. Nolan could feel it vibrate in his chest. “You’re like a big cat, man.”

Nolan just buried his face in Travi’s chest. It’s not weird, he tried to assure himself; just because you’re, like, in love with him doesn’t mean him petting your hair is weird. He does this all the time.

They lay like that for longer than they probably should have, just breathing, until Travis cleared his throat.

“Patty?”

Nolan shifted so his chin was resting on TK’s sternum and hums. “Yeah?”

“If I tell you something, do you promise you won’t hate me?” His voice was soft and he looked at the ceiling, avoiding Nolan’s eyes.

“I’m pretty sure I could never hate you.” It was too honest, maybe. But Travis looked so hesitant, almost afraid. “You know you can tell me anything.”

“Can we -” Travis cleared his throat. “Can we get off the floor, at least?”

“Yeah, of course,” Nolan said, scrambling off TK, like he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life laying on him. 

“Uh…I don’t. I don’t really know how to say this?”

“Take your time.”

Travis sent him a grateful smile before his eyes dropped back to his lap. He was twisting his fingers nervously, and Nolan couldn’t help himself. He reached for one of TK’s hands, pulling it into his own lap and intertwining their fingers. Whether it was to comfort him or Travis, Nolan wasn’t sure.

“So I should start this by saying this doesn’t change anything.”

Somehow, Nolan didn’t believe him. If he was this worried and frightened to say it, it would obviously change something. He watched Travis worry his bottom lip between his teeth.

“I’m sort of in love with you?” It was said all in one breath, practically a single word, and if Nolan hadn’t seen his lips move he would have thought he’d made it up.

“What?” Nolan choked.

“You heard me. Don’t make me repeat it.” Travis squeezed his eyes closed, like he couldn’t bear to see Nolan’s response.

“You - you love me?” He couldn’t - no. This wasn’t something you could just get. He wasn’t meant to get this, to be allowed this.

“Yeah, Pat.” TK’s laugh was a bitter thing. His eyes were still closed. Their hands were still intertwined on Patty's lap. “If you hate me or never want to talk to me again, I get that.”

“How - how long?”

Finally, Travis opened his eyes. When he made eye contact with Nolan his eyes were tired. “A long time.”

“Oh.”

“Right, so. I’m going to go?” Travis drew his hand back like it was on fire. He smacked both palms against his thighs and sent Nolan a small, crooked smile - but not Nolan’s crooked smile, the one that he hated and loved in equal parts. This was some kind of twisted, ugly thing, that Nolan never wanted to see on Travis’s face ever again. “Text me if you want. Or don’t. Whatever.”

“No,” Nolan shouted, his voice echoing after the quiet of Travis's declaration. He grabbed TK's arm before he could stand and run to the door. “No, don’t -”

“Please, Nolan,” Travis pleaded. “Let me go.”

Nolan would retire from hockey before he’d let Travis go right now. 

He’d never been good with words - he wasn’t sure any words he had in his vocabulary could form the sentences he needed right now. But he had to try. He threw a leg across Travis’s lap and straddled his thighs. He was heavy; Travis wasn’t going anyway.

“Travis just - let me speak.” Travis nodded up at him, eyes wide. Nolan cleared his throat. He could do this.

“You know me.” Travis nodded again because, yeah, of course. No one knew Nolan like he did. “I can't - you know I'm bad with words. But you have to know it’s different with you. That I’m different with you.”

"What does that even mean, Patty?"

"It means -"

He couldn't finish his sentence, so he did the one thing he’d wanted to do for literal months, and leant down to kiss him.

It was soft, hesitant, but Nolan felt in his bones. Both their lips were chapped from being on the ice for hours daily, but that didn’t matter. Trivial things like chapped lips and itchy facial hair didn’t matter, because finally, finally.

“I love you, too,” Nolan said, pulling away. "It means I love you, too."

Travis was rarely speechless, oftentimes overcompensating for insecurity with loud words, but he wasn’t speaking now. He was staring up at Nolan in a manner that could only be described as awestruck.

It struck Nolan in that moment that Travis wasn’t a fool’s hope anymore, something to lock away in his box of ‘never going to happen, so why hurt yourself by hoping for it'.

And sure, maybe it wasn’t fated. Maybe he didn’t fall in love with Travis the first time they met. Maybe it took work, but maybe that only makes it better. 

Because the thing about loving Travis Konecny was that it had changed him. Not inherently, he was still the same man he was before. But he was softer around Travis, brain quieter, and he knew that. No matter how much he sighed about how annoying Travis was, no matter how much he moaned about how he’d never shut the fuck up, he knew that. The small grin he sent to the rest of the guys tended to spread completely across his face when it came to Travis, even when he tried to hide it; the joking punches and shoves were gentler, lasted longer. Just small things, excuses to touch him even for a moment.

But now he could. Now he didn’t have to make an excuse to touch him, didn’t have to act like it was just playing around, didn't have to ease into it by sitting just a little too close on the coach. He would be able to run gentle fingers over his lips, press a kiss to the spot where his neck met his shoulder. He could touch him on purpose.

He could roll his eyes with reluctant fondness and not have to hide the part of him that meant more. 

Because Travis loved him. Travis was in love with him.

He’d kissed Travis Konecny and Travis Konecny kissed back. It was - well. He’d never been good with words, after all.