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River for the Sea

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Travis tells Joel and Morgan the next morning--after he’s talked to Nolan and they’ve agreed that Nolan’s his boyfriend , which, like, hurts Travis’ brain to even think because he loves it so much and is also fucking scared by it. 

He’s so freaked out he can’t look up from the floor to where Joel and Morgan are leaning against the counter eating cereal. They both listen to him as he stumbles through coming out to his third and fourth person ever: “So with Chase the other day it was kind of...hard or whatever, because I guess I’m. Like, I’m with Nolan, and I’m, you know.” 

“Gay?” Joel says easily, and Travis hears Morgan smack him. 

“Thanks for telling us, Teeks,” Morgan says, reaching a hand into Travis’ line of sight, fingers curled in for Travis to fistbump. Travis takes a deep breath and looks up, meeting Morgan’s eyes and bumping his knuckles against Morgan’s, trying not to lose it a little bit as their skin brushes and he thinks about the fact that Morgan knows and he’s still letting Travis touch him. “Nolan seems great, dude. I’m super happy for ya.”

“Yeah he’s way fucking out of your league,” Joel says happily, and then reaches over and yanks Travis into a headlock. “Get it, bud.” 

Even after he heard what Joel and Morgan said to Chase, he can’t fucking believe they’re so chill with it. If Travis had actually thought about dating a guy before he met Nolan, he would’ve figured it’d have to be a secret from every single person in his life.

He wouldn’t have thought he could sit in his living room with his roommates who are also his teammates and cuddle up under his boyfriend’s arm and have Joel and Morgan just be totally fucking normal about it. Wouldn’t have even known how to think about Nolan standing up and stretching after a long movie, his shirt riding up so Travis’ eyes fix on the pale muscles of his stomach, and saying, “Let’s go to bed,” soft and casual; about Travis standing up and following him into the bedroom while Joel and Morgan were right there watching. 

It makes Travis feel happy and relaxed and loved in this way he didn’t even realize he didn’t before. 

What he feels is like one of the pine trees up at this big park with an old-growth forest where Travis’ family used to go camping. There’s all these plaques along the hiking trails talking about how the forest is two or three hundred years old or whatever. The trees are super tall and thin and a lot of them are tilted over like they’re gonna fall, but they’ve been like that for fucking ever, and if you push on them or feel the bark you can tell how strong they are; how deep and steady their roots are. 

That’s how Travis feels, kind of. Like, maybe he’s tipping and maybe all the dirt around his roots is sliding away, but also, like, maybe he’s gonna be fine, because he’s got roots and he’s been through shit and he knows he can handle more, and for the first time in his life he’s finally fucking settled.  




Being nice is not really, like, Nolan’s normal state, but with Travis it’s so easy Nolan’s fucking embarrassing with how soft he is. He does things for Travis without even thinking about it, and then blushes and feels like a dork when Travis smiles at him and says, “Aw buddy, you’re so good to me,” teasing Nolan but also all happy and genuine. 

And Travis does tons of shit for Nolan, too, like basically pushes himself out of his comfort zone every fucking day and makes Nolan laugh all the time and listens to Nolan complain about his students, talking shit about them with Nolan like he fucking knows them. 

Nolan’s supposed to be, like, tough and bitchy and hard to get to know, and being so soft makes him feel a little, like, exposed, but. It also makes Travis smile, and that's basically Nolan's fucking favorite thing now, so he keeps doing shit he thinks will make Travis happy. 

He tries to get him more comfortable with being gay by, like, playing fuck-marry-kill with random celebrities Nolan thinks of, talking about his exes, taking Travis out with Carter and Nick who are, like, the most grossly sweet couple of all time.  

And he tries to make Travis feel smart, because he so fucking is. 

Travis says shit like “Oh, sorry, I’m stupid” all the time, when he says a wrong word or has to ask about something Nolan references, but it’s so easy and casual, mixed in with Travis’ constant stream of jokes and stories and chirps at Nolan, that it takes Nolan a while to realize that Travis actually fucking believes it. 

But once they get together for real Nolan notices it more. Nolan will show Travis one of his poems and Travis will be like, “Jeez you’re way too smart for me,” or Travis will talk about a paper he’s struggling with and Nolan will offer to look and Travis will shake his head. “It probably doesn’t even make sense, you’re just gonna laugh at me,” he told Nolan a few days ago, smiling like he wasn’t saying something so mean about himself. 

Nolan wants to tell Travis that he doesn’t give a shit whether he’s smart or not. That he loves Travis for being funny and lively and loving, and that he wouldn’t even care if Travis failed out of all his classes or dropped out of school, as long as Travis was happy. 

But the thing is that Travis isn’t dumb. Like, okay, he’s not as smart as Nolan or as like most of the people that Nolan’s in school with. But Nolan fucking hates most of the people in his program, and being around Travis is like the opposite of being around them, because instead of breaking down every single word someone says or writes, discussing every possible meaning of something, analyzing shit until Nolan wants to pull his hair out, Travis is, just, like, easy. Being with him is simple.  

Nolan knows just telling Travis, “Hey you’re smart and you’re perfect how you are” isn’t just gonna change Travis’ mind about himself when his whole fucked up family have probably spent years making him feel stupid, so he just tries to get Travis talking about the stuff he knows about. Listens to all the things Travis knows, enjoys Travis’ sloppy, easy voice and listens to him talk about the things he loves. 




Travis has known for a long time that he wasn’t as into sex with girls as everyone else, and he always just figured that meant he just wasn’t that into sex. 

But sex with Nolan is so fucking good he thinks about it all the fucking time, constantly wanting to touch Nolan, to get in bed with him, to have Nolan do things to him that he didn’t even realize were supposed to feel good. Just Nolan, like, touching Travis’ fucking nipple is better than most sex Travis has had with girls. 

They start off with just grinding, then doing it with Nolan’s huge hand wrapped around both their dicks. Then they give each other hand jobs, which Travis gets super competitive about, needing to figure out exactly how Nolan likes it, to learn all the places on Nolan’s dick where he likes to be touched.

It’s weird to stare at another guy’s dick and touch it and get turned on by it, the first time, but then after that it’s just so fucking perfect. Travis feels kind of bad for thinking it, but Nolan’s big dick, his whole big body, is so much prettier and hotter and better than all the parts of all the girls Travis has slept with without really even wanting. 

And also so fucking hot is the fact that Nolan is so into Travis’ dick. A week after they first get together, Nolan sucks his cock for the first time, all wet and slow and so fucking easy, like Nolan doesn’t even have to think about it or concentrate or keep himself from choking or whatever. Travis can’t fucking get over the sight of Nolan on his knees on the bed glancing up at Travis, seeming just totally fucking happy to have Travis’ dick in his mouth; totally confident about exactly how to take Travis apart. 

Travis comes so hard he gets loud, and the next morning in the kitchen Joel and Morgan give Nolan all these raised eyebrows and fucking winks while Travis watches and honestly just feels kind of cocky about it. Like, it takes a lot to embarrass Travis, and having his two roommates know that his fucking rocket of a boyfriend is also awesome at sex just makes Travis feel proud. 

Because even though there’s no way in hell he’s ready to tell his team or his random classmates or his fucking family, at least he gets to have someone else see that him and Nolan are perfect together; that Nolan makes him so much fucking happier than anyone else he’s been with. 

The first time Travis tries to suck Nolan’s dick is fucking awful . He can barely take like two fucking inches, gagging and pulling back over and over until Nolan’s telling him to just use his hand because he doesn’t want Travis to do this if he hates it and Travis is feeling like a failure, and by the time Nolan comes in Travis’ palm Travis isn’t even hard and Nolan is all sweet and nice about it and Travis feels like shit for two seconds until Nolan gets down between Travis’ legs and sucks Travis until he's hard again, then until he comes. 

So since Nolan has, like, a perfect dick that seems like it’s always up for Travis, and since he can give Travis tips and also demonstrations, Travis keeps practicing. He’s way fucking better now, even though he still can’t just slide down on Nolan’s cock and fucking deepthroat the way Nolan does, blowing Travis’ mind without even barely trying. 

And practically as good as getting off with Nolan is the way that after they have sex, Nolan will pull Travis’ head onto his chest and ask him to talk about something. 

“You know about salmon runs?” he asks one day, and Travis says yes into his skin and just runs his mouth about fucking salmon mating season while he comes down from his orgasm, happy and rambling. 

Maybe--it’s kind of a dumb thing to think, but maybe Nolan just likes to hear his voice after sex. Or maybe he actually fucking gets off and then immediately wonders about how to read hockey plays or what type of lure Travis thinks is best to use for trout or how to cook catfish or whatever. Either way, Travis will fucking answer any question Nolan asks him, will talk for as long as Nolan wants. 

He’s always been this weird combination of antsy and sleepy after sex, but with his head on Nolan’s chest and Nolan just giving him permission to talk about shit Travis actually knows about and not feelings and “how was that?” like his girlfriends always wanted; with Nolan’s big dick and his big body and the way he reads Travis better than the best liney Travis has ever fucking had, the way he’s patient and so good at everything they do and so easy, leading when Travis feels lost and rolling over whenever Travis gets an idea and wants to be in charge for a second; every single part of sex is perfect in a way it’s literally never been. 




Nolan is fucking sick of Josh and Roman and he’s in love with Travis and Joel and Morgan are chill as fuck, so, whatever, he sort of lowkey moves in with Travis. 

Like, he still has tons of shit at his place, like the clothes he never wears and his silverware and stuff, but Travis’ dresser has all of his favorite pants and shirts in it, and Travis’ fridge has his soymilk in it, and Travis’ bed has his blanket on it, because after four nights of sleeping under Travis’ ratty old quilt Nolan told him, “We’re getting you a better blanket” and then just brought his own comforter over when he kept forgetting to go to the store and pick one out for Travis, because, like, why do they need two comforters, anyways. 

Nolan goes to every one of Travis’ home games, now. He hates seeing Travis get knocked into the boards and chirped at by all these huge fucking jocks, and he hates seeing Travis miss shots when Nolan knows he’s stressing out about his pointless streak, but mostly he just loves watching Travis play. 

Travis is always this big presence, alive and moving and loud, but on the ice, it’s like he’s even more of that, and Nolan feels so fucking cheesy but he could just sit in the stands and watch everything he loves about Travis all out there and obvious and loud; could watch him slide around on the ice for fucking forever. 

He was worried that him being there would make Travis, like, stressed out at first: seeing Nolan behind the glass while he was trying to be his no homo hockey self and shit, but Travis always gives him the biggest fucking smile when he spots him, always skates up to him right away in warm-ups and shows off on the ice right in front of him. Nolan rolls his eyes at Travis and blushes so hard it’s embarrassing and feels so--whatever, like, special. 

He knows Travis still isn’t gonna, like, hold hands with Nolan when they walk to lunch, but he beams at Nolan whenever he sees him on campus; he cuddles with Nolan when Joel and Morgan are in the living room with them;  he lets Nolan take him on double dates with Carter and Nick and doesn’t even seem to think about it. So if they’re eating out together and Nolan wants to kiss Travis, he’ll grab Travis’ beer and take a drink, pressing his lips to the cool ridge of the bottle he’s been watching Travis’ mouth touch all night. Travis will watch him, eyes hooded, and Nolan will feel it like a kiss back. 

It’s not, like, everything he wants. It’s not telling his whole family and all his friends that he loves Travis, it’s not watching some girl check Travis out when they’re walking and putting his hand on the curve of Travis’ back all possessive caveman. But it’s Travis, and he’s working so fucking hard, and Nolan gets to be with him, gets to listen to all the shit he knows and all his stupid jokes, gets to feed off Travis’ constant energy and joy and love, and it’s fucking plenty. 




Travis tries to just focus on all the parts of his life that are better with Nolan in it. Usually it works, like when he’s in bed with Nolan or they’re chirping each other in one of their apartments’ tiny kitchens trying to cook something together or when they sit by the lake and fish or walk up and down the creek, barefoot, picking up trash and pointing out toads on the bank. But when he’s spacing out in class or when he’s alone in the shower, he can’t stop thinking about his family. 

He still calls his parents two or three times a week, same as he always has, except for now every time they pick up, he has to brace himself, sweaty and scared. 

But apparently, even though Chase and Travis haven’t talked in almost two months, Chase still hasn’t told them. So Travis just keeps talking to them about hockey and hunting season and class and fish he caught, trying to act normal, trying to soak up everything with them before he stops getting to have it. 

It hurts to realize that his parents don’t really know him anymore--that there’s part of himself that he can’t ever tell them about without losing them. He tries not to think about it, but on the phone with the familiar sound of his mom’s voice telling him stories about the dog he grew up with and the farm he loves; the low, rough tone of his dad’s voice talking about the work he did on one of their blinds and a new type of lure he wants Travis to try out when he comes home, Travis feels like he’s constantly bracing for a hit that he knows is going to knock him on his ass.

And it kind of sucks to not be able to talk to his parents about Nolan, too, when Nolan’s, like, the biggest and best part of his life. He told them he broke up with Steph, finally, the week after him and Nolan got together when lying about being with someone else started making Travis feel worse than the idea of telling them he didn’t have a girlfriend anymore, but they still keep asking if he’s dating a new girl, if there’s someone he can bring home during winter break for them to meet. 

He usually talks to them with Nolan in the room, he doesn’t know why--sitting quiet at the other end of the couch, working on his homework, making Travis feel so lucky to have found the perfect fucking person, so patient understanding Travis can’t even wrap his mind around it--and whenever his parents ask about Christmas, Travis’s eyes get stuck on Nolan and he has to tell himself to breathe. There’s one person he wants to bring home every year for the rest of their lives, and there’s no fucking way that can happen.




Joel and Morgan are already gone for Christmas break, but Travis has one more late final and Nolan has a few days left of grading to do, so their flights aren’t until early next week. 

So they’re supposed to be studying and working and shit, but instead, they cram into the shower together and jerk each other off all wet and warm, then get out and eat lunch on the couch in just their underwear, Nolan’s heavy legs hanging over Travis’ lap, Travis running the tips of his fingers over the thick, curly hair on Nolan’s thighs while they eat grilled cheese and half-watch TV in the background. Their thermostat’s broken, so the heat’s always running at eighty-two degrees, so cuddling up on the couch half-naked feels warm and sweaty and summery, even though it’s getting colder outside every day. 

Nolan ends up pulling his laptop onto his chest and apparently getting a little work done while Travis just keeps running his hand over his thigh, higher and higher, watching the bulge in Nolan’s boxer briefs get bigger and just letting his mind blank out and think about nothing but Nolan’s perfect fucking body and all the ways it can make Travis feel good. 

After a long time and after Travis is so hard in his boxers that he has to hold himself back from humping up against the back of Nolan’s thigh, Travis finally just reaches up and cups his palm over Nolan’s dick, silky fabric over hard warmth, and Nolan drops his laptop onto the coffee table and yanks Travis into the bedroom. 


Nolan pulls his mouth off Travis’ with a wet noise and a line of spit connecting them, hefting himself up onto his elbows, which brings his hips down against Travis' and makes Travis’ dick slide into the warm, sweat-slick crease of Nolan's thigh. Travis tips his head back and breathes and Nolan huffs out warm air on Travis’ face as his dick rubs against Travis’ stomach. 

“If you ever wanna fuck me,” Nolan pants, “you can.” He looks away for a second and then meets Travis’ eyes. His hair is long and greasy, hanging down to tickle over Travis’ cheeks. 

Fuck, Travis’ mind fucking melts at Nolan offering something that Travis can’t even imagine being ready to offer so casual and easy, and then it melts even more and all he can think about is just the curve of Nolan’s ass when he bends over, the way his body under the line of his shortest shorts is even paler than the rest of him, how much bigger he is than Travis, how having Nolan’s dick in his mouth was scary and weird but made him feel like him and Nolan were like practically the same fucking person, for a second. 

Nolan blushes after a few seconds of Travis’ open mouth silence. “Like, I just thought, since Joel and Morgan already went home so we don’t have to worry about being quiet.”

Travis licks his lips. “Uh-huh, like, yeah, I’m. Sounds good to me,” he says, his dick, like, actually so hard he can’t think. 

Nolan gives Travis a tiny, pleased smile and then pushes him back, and Travis just watches, brain fucking broken over the way Nolan moves, grabbing the lube off Travis’ nightstand, kicking off his underwear where they’re still hooked around his calf and then sprawling out on Travis’ big bed and hitching his leg up behind his elbow, not an ounce of fucking shame because why the fuck should he have any when he looks like that: naked and pale, that fucking line high up on his huge thighs where his skin goes from white to white, and then his round, perfect, curvy ass. His limbs long and bent all over as he spreads himself out, all these tight angles Travis wants to stick his tongue in.  

“Holy fuck Patty,” Travis says. 


Fingering Patty is a little bit harder than Travis thought it would be, and about five hundred fucking times hotter. 

He’s fingered plenty of girls before, and never felt basically anything about it, but pushing the tip of his pointer finger past the fucking shocking tension and tightness of Nolan’s hole, into the soft warm fucking inside of him, is like. 

Like nothing. It’s it’s own fucking thing and not even in the same league as anything in the world.

“Fuck,” he says, one hand wrapped around Nolan’s cock, one finger barely an inch into Nolan, and his eyes just focused on where Nolan’s thighs are spread out and Travis’ fingertip disappears into the shadow of his body.

“Mmm” Nolan says, whiny, and then clenches down on Travis so hard Travis’ cock jerks enough to slap up against his stomach. 

Travis makes the most embarrassing fucking noise, this like high, shivery, “hhhh,” and yeah he doesn’t love his roommates hearing him having sex, but also, like, he’s heard the two of them get noisy with their girls enough times that it’s pretty chill, for the most part, but now he’s fucking glad they’re not here, because no matter how chill they are about this whole fucking thing, they’d give him shit about that sound. 

“Trav,” Nolan whines, bucking his hips up into Travis’ hand and then down into his finger. 

“Yeah,” Travis says, and then takes in a big breath, starts jerking Nolan off again, slow and loose, and presses his finger deeper into him.


He’s already fucking harder than he’s ever been and so just lost in Nolan’s voice and skin and ass and dick that he can’t fucking think, and then, when Nolan rolls over onto his elbows and knees and Travis crawls up behind him and slides on a condom, he gets hit with all his fucking feelings. 

It’s the exact motion he’s done a hundred times before, for all this shitty sex that he’s had, never fucking getting why he didn’t like it. But this time he’s got fucking Nolan, his best friend, patient and strong and bitchy to everyone but nice to Travis and smart and so good at poems, someone he’s fucking in love with curled up in front of him, curve of his spine and pale of his skin and smell of him on the sheets they both sleep on.

He’s pretty sure Nolan would do basically anything he could to make Travis happy, and he knows he’d do anything for Nolan. 

Travis tries to say okay and loses his voice. He takes a breath and closes his eyes, then opens them so he can watch himself push into Nolan’s ass. 


“Oh. Nolan,” Travis says, mouth open and hot against Nolan’s shoulder blade, hands shaking and sliding on Nolan’s ribs. He lets out this sloppy little sound that would make Nolan laugh if he wasn’t feeling, like, fucked in literally every way.

Nolan shivers under Travis, whines, and shifts his hips back against Travis’ where they’re still unmoving, pushed against the flesh of Nolan’s ass. He just--he doesn’t want there to be anything left that he hasn’t done with Travis, doesn’t want a single place on his body that Travis hasn’t touched.

"Nol, I love you,” Travis breathes, lips slipping on Nolan’s skin.

Nolan’s chest does this big heaving thing, tight and then loose, out and then back like a wave, so intense it hurts, and he never wants to stop feeling it.

He opens his mouth to say it back and all he can do is fucking pant, breath hot and damp against his forearms, his whole body burning and sweaty, his ass so full and stretched. He whines again, just noise, and Travis kisses the top of one of Nolan’s shoulders, then the other.

His forehead presses to Nolan’s spine and he takes a big breath, chest pushing tighter to Nolan’s back. His hands slide down Nolan’s sides and settle over his hips, squeezing. “Okay,” he says, sounding shaken. “I got it, okay?”

“Yeah, Trav, you got me,” Nolan mumbles, total fucking nonsense and so fucking what. 


Travis slides almost all the way out, his thighs shaking, knees unsteady where they’re sunk into the mattress, dick wet and so hard it doesn’t look like it should fit inside of Nolan, the head of it holding Nolan open, making his hole red and shiny, and then he pushes back in. 

It’s too fucking much. “Holy, Nolan. Fuck.”

“Yeah,” Nolan says into his forearms, arching his back and shifting his hips backwards, jolting Travis a little deeper inside of him and making them both moan. “You’re good, baby, fuck, good job.” 

Travis shudders and he can’t figure out how to say thank you or, like, “ you’re fucking good,” or whatever, so he just licks the back of Nolan’s neck. Goes as slow as he can and tenses all his muscles so he doesn’t come too fast and angles his hips until Nolan’s being loud and his arms are shaking where he’s trying to hold himself up on his elbows. He unwraps his arms a little and brings one down to grab Nolan’s dick, harder and hotter than Travis would’ve thought someone’s body could, like, be, and brings one hand up to cup over Nolan’s pec, palm pressed over Nolan’s nipple, rubbing at it as Travis loses his breath and his fucking self-control and starts rocking into Nolan hard enough to shift him forward.

Nolan pants so loud, and he’s so tight and close, every inch of his back pressed to every inch of Travis’ chest, his ass squeezing around Travis’ dick, his cock hot and jerking in Travis’ hand, and then he comes, warm over Travis’ fingers, tightening up around Travis’ dick in a way Travis really wasn’t expecting from a guy, and Travis heaves out a sob and comes, too. 


He so doesn’t want to fucking cry after. He just had the best sex of his life and he got to tell Nolan he loves him and he finally fucking knows himself, so he shouldn’t even be thinking about crying. He doesn’t know why he fucking is.

He puts himself together, face on Nolan’s neck, enough to pull out and get rid of the condom and grab a towel and help Nolan clean off. His eyes are sore and his nose is stinging but he blinks fast the whole time and gets through it, and when Nolan, rolled onto his back and smiling, holds out an arm for Travis and lets Travis crawl into him and rest his head on his big chest, Travis feels like he’s got it back together enough that, like, if Nolan will just ask him one of his questions and let Travis talk, he’s pretty sure he can stop being a baby and not fucking embarrass himself.

And then Nolan runs a slow, soft hand down his spine and says, “Where’s your favorite place to fish?” and Travis blinks and blinks and blinks, but it doesn’t stop tears from slipping out down his cheeks and onto Nolan’s skin. 

“Whoa, shit,” Nolan says, hands scrabbling over Travis’ shoulders and hair and neck for a second before settling on his jaw, tilting it up so Travis would be looking at Nolan if his eyes weren’t pressed shut. “Hey, c'mon, what’s wrong?” Nolan says, and a little kiss lands on the curve of bone underneath Travis’ eye, quick and soft.

It’s like, the whole thing. Being gay and in love with Nolan while his whole family is who they are, when he’s supposed to be who he’s supposed to be. The way Nolan accepts every single part of Travis--him loud and annoying, crying and being soft, being gay, and the way his family, who are supposed to love him no matter what, would hate him for it. He knows it for sure already--he’s been telling himself for months that it’s true, and it is. There’s no fucking version of reality where Travis tells them and they’re okay with it, and he knows that, but he still doesn’t know how to deal with it; how he's supposed to be able to tell them. 

“I don’t want to go home,” he tells Nolan. Travis should buck up and do it. He has a ticket bought and his parents are expecting him in four fucking days, and if he doesn’t come there’s probably no way Chase won’t tell them. “I can’t, okay,” he sobs, and Nolan wraps an arm around Travis’ shoulders and muscles him onto his side and down, so his head’s tucked into the shadowed space under Nolan’s chin. 

“You don’t have to, sweetheart,” he says, soft and low. 

Travis lungs tighten and he puts his hands against Nolan’s abs and just barely manages to say, “Okay.” 

He lets himself cry against Nolan, and tries to stop worrying about going home. Tries to just think about how if this is his new home--his mattress and Nolan’s soft blanket and Nolan doing everything he can to make Travis happy, maybe it’s going to be okay. 




Lying in bed with Travis asleep next to him, Nolan realizes he never told Travis “ I love you ” back, even though he could’ve said it to Travis fucking months ago and had it be true. 

He stays up for a while longer even while his eyelids keep trying to close, typing out a poem on his phone, trying to get something down that sounds even a little bit right. He looks over at Travis every five seconds just to see him all peaceful and pretty. 

The poem is fucking embarrassing. They’d hate it in workshop and his sisters would give him so much shit if they ever read it. 

He thinks it’ll make Travis happy.  


Nolan wakes up early and flails his arm out for Travis automatically. It’s how they usually wake up: Nolan flopping his arm heavy on Travis’ chest, Travis huffing awake and yawning blearily over at Nolan, then one of them rolling into the other so they can kiss and wrap their arms around each others’ backs and grind together. 

This morning, Travis’ side of the bed is empty. 

Nolan pulls on sweats and a hoodie. Checks the bathroom and wanders around the apartment and then outside, thinking maybe Travis is by the creek. He finds him right away, though, sitting, elbows on his knees and head in his hands, at the top of the rickety, half rotted stairs outside, the wood dark and damp with dew. 

It’s cold out, maybe a few days away from their first snow of the winter, and Travis is wearing boxers and a t-shirt and nothing else. 

“TK,” Nolan says, reaching down to scratch softly at the top of Travis’ spine. Travis runs a hand through his hair and looks up at Nolan, smiling with just his mouth. He scoots down to sit on the second step from the top.

Nolan sits down on the top step a little gingerly because, whatever, it’s been a long time since he got fucked and Travis’ dick is, like, big . He makes a little, barely even audible hmp noise in the back of his throat as he settles his weight down on the cool wood of the stairs, and Travis somehow hears him, tips his head back onto Nolan’s shoulder to stare up at him, all big-eyed, sincere concern. It’s, like, not even a face Nolan is capable of making, he’s pretty sure.

“Feel okay? Sorry I wasn’t in bed when you woke up, I was gonna come back in in a sec,” Travis says, sounding like he’s trying to sound normal. 

Nolan drops a kiss on Travis’ temple and stretches his legs out on either side of Travis’ body, leaning against his shoulders, looping his arms around Travis’ stomach. Travis’ back is cold and tense when Nolan presses his chest against it. “I’m good,” he says, nudging Travis’ head back down with his nose and then resting his chin on the soft top of Travis’ hair. 

They sit in the quiet for a few minutes, Travis still and silent in this way he basically only ever is when Nolan’s touching him somehow, which is, like, a fucking thrill through Nolan’s system, even after weeks of noticing it over and over. 

“Are you good?” Nolan asks him after it’s been long enough that his bare feet start to get cold, that the only warm part of him is where he’s touching Travis. He tries to sound slow and soft and easy, like anything Travis says is fine, because it fucking is: if Travis is okay or isn’t, if he doesn’t want to have sex like that again, if he decided he wants to go home to his family and not tell them, if he wants Nolan to come home with him and be there for the huge ass shitshow that’ll be, whatever. 

Travis pulls in a big, shaky breath. “Yeah,” he says quietly, sliding his arm out from where it’s pressed against his side with the weight of Nolan’s leg and settling his arm along the top of Nolan’s thigh, elbow at Nolan’s hip and fingers curled around his knee. 

Nolan untangles one arm from Travis and shifts his hips up to pull his phone out of his back pocket. He opens up his poem and slides it into Travis’ hand.

Travis blinks down on lines of stark black font on white, the only way Nolan can think of to try and make Travis feel a little bit of what Travis made him feel last night with just lips on skin and Nolan’s name and three fucking words. 

“Sorry I’m, like, not good at talking like you are, but I wrote this for you last night,” Nolan says.

Travis makes a mumbly noise and brings the phone closer to his face. He reads slow, eyebrows furrowed, the way Nolan’s learned he always does when Nolan shows him a poem. After a few seconds he presses back harder into Nolan’s chest and lets out a big sigh, his shoulders relaxing down against Nolan. 

Nolan squeezes his arms around Travis’ waist. Clenches his jaw and breathes against Travis’ hair and fucking blushes about Travis reading the first love poem Nolan’s written since, like, middle school. 

Travis’ fingers tighten on Nolan’s leg. His thumb rubs across the arc of Nolan’s kneecap. “Patty,” he says, soft. He looks back at Nolan, wobbly smile and wet eyes, and then ducks his head back down, running the pads if his fingers quickly under one eye and sniffling, and looks at the poem again.

Nolan lets out a shaky, heavy breath and rubs his chin against Travis’ hair, getting silky strands of it tangled in the short scruff along his neck. He stares out at the sky, still streaked with purple and yellow from sunrise; the woods below that. A pregnant looking doe wanders out of the treeline to nose at the brown grass, slow and peaceful, and Nolan nudges his jaw against the side of Travis’ head to make him look. Travis drags his eyes up and across the yard, and they breathe and sit together in the cold and watch the deer wander down towards the creek, then dip her head to drink from it. 

Up to your knees in the creek, camouflaged in hunter green and fish scale brown like you can blend into the trees, like you’re not the only fucking thing I ever see. I can’t stop thinking about that first time I saw you out there by the water, throwing up and smiling; strong and funny and beautiful and so fucking brave.

You remind me of the lake back home. Small and shallow so it’s always warm, wild with whitecaps and then smooth and sweet. Teeming with heavy, pretty fish. So sandy on the bottom I could live down there. 

It drives you fucking crazy that there’s no fish in the creek so I’ll go upstream and pour some in for you to catch, reel in and throw back until you’re happy, and if you get hungry I’ll clean one for you. 

We could go live up by the lake. Swim every day in August and skate it in the winter and eat nothing but bluegill, grow out hair out and fucking braid it together, whatever the fuck you want, weirdo.

I just fucking love you.