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IVY.

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Being with Travis is, like, objectively nerve-wracking, but a good nerve-wracking; the type that reminds you that you’re alive, the type that has a thrill going up your spine. It’s nerve-wracking, not like the type that makes him go all nauseous like when he was sixteen and he found out some high level scouts were checking his team out and he got so nervous that he threw up and Madison was running her hand down his back. He got a good report so maybe it helped to get it out of his system, he doesn’t dwell on it.

 

Being with TK is like being in a play; TK knows what to say, when to move, what’s too much pressure, what’s not enough pressure, when to sling an arm around his shoulders and when to leave him alone, when to talk so much that Nolan’s ears ring and when to just stay silent. It feels like everyone knows how it’s going to end but Nolan, like he didn’t get a copy of the script.

 

It’s like everyone is ahead of him, waiting for him to catch up, waiting for his migraines to be over so he can join them. When he first realised this was going to be, like, an actual problem , he drove over to TK’s and they watched Gilmore Girls before passing out. And that was like, cool. He had a good time- Well, a good enough time that for a little bit he wasn’t worrying about his future.

 

Sometimes when TK looks at him, it feels like getting a tattoo, like a little buzz that fits underneath his skin. It’s confusing. He wants to hold Travis’ head in his hands and just shake him, like, really aggressively and hope that TK just sort of… shuts up and stops making him feel like his skin is too tight.



i.



Nolan’s fingers tingle and his bottom lip has gone a bright red from sucking it into his mouth to bite down on it, the nerves of his first ever game starting to build until it forms something in his stomach, threatening to ruin this . It’s bubbling inside, threatening to spill out.

 

He laces up his boots a little tighter, uses a little more tape than he usually would, knots his eyebrows a little more, runs his fingers through his hair a little more frequently. 

 

And then Coach comes out, reading the line-up. And his hands are tighter on his stick, this is it, showtime and all that. Claude Gi- G, he should get into the habit of using their actual nicknames, not full names, gives a comforting pat on Nolan’s shoulder as he passes by, because he’s just so captainly like that. He hears the scrapping of skates and then-

 

“Hey,” Nolan looks up to find the owner of the voice and comes face to face with Travis Konecny- TK, he’s shorter than Nolan thought he would be, and his eyes are a little sharper than they are in pictures. He taps his stick handle against Nolan’s chest, right on where his heart is. Nolan doubts Travis noticed that, but Nolan almost fears that TK can see how hard it’s hammering in his ribcage. “You’ll do good. Don’t worry about it, Nolan.”

 

It’s empty words, generic and awfully formal. But, they help. And Nolan mutely nods, letting TK lead their way out.



ii.



It’s after a game, thankfully a win, and the team is in a bar that they probably shouldn’t be in, they could go to a better one, but according to G it has amazing food so they all shuffled in. The bar is fairly crowded and the air is stuffy. Nolan’s not particularly a bar type of guy, but he supposes he’s brushed off enough team gatherings for them to actually think he’s, like, totally anti-social and finally agrees to go with them.

 

The food is fine, he’s not too hungry so maybe that’s why he’s not jumping at the taste. It’s fine. Mostly, he’s tired and wants to go home and watch Gossip Girl and then call his sisters while pretending like he’s never seen the show before and listen to them go on one of their rants about how it's shaped cinema as we know it, Nolan, are you being serious? It’s on Netflix. Watch it immediately.

 

So you could say he’s not exactly feeling the scene. Plus, he’s too baby-faced to get away with the whole ‘I’m so sorry, this is so embarrassing, I forgot my ID ’ thing that other rookies can and so far no one's offered him a drink, so he’s stone-cold sober while everyone else is slowly getting smashed.

 

He’s on his way to the bathroom before someone catches his elbow and yanks him back. TK. “Hey,” Seems like it’s the only way TK knows how to start conversations, his cheeks are slightly flushed. Samsies , Nolan thinks for a moment and then feels embarrassed even though Travis can’t read minds. Right? “I’m heading out, do you wanna come with me? You don’t look like you’re having a good time.”

 

Is he that easy to read? He thought he perfected the whole ‘I'm-really-grouchy-and-mean-don't-talk-to-me ’ bitch face ages ago. Whatever, TK’s right so he’s not going to, like, deny it because that’s stupid and then Travis will think he’s actually anti-social and mean, he’s not, he’s just quiet and straight-faced. So, he nods and lets Travis tug him along by the grip on his elbow.



iii.



The first time they properly hang out is during a road-trip where the hotel rooms have a slight chill in them and the beds are a chemical clean white. The guys brought their X-Boxes.  Because, yes,  while they may be professional athletes, they’re also secretly twelve and enjoy playing Mario Kart.

 

Nolan’s a fucking wizard at Mario Kart, so when they invite him, he gives a quick nod and goes back to loading food on his plate. He thinks some of the other guys might be nervous around him, which he thinks is stupid because it’s like the whole spider thing; the spider (Nolan) is more afraid of you than you are of it. But, it doesn’t stop the guys from not meeting his eyes or mumbling when they’re around him, especially some of the younger guys.

 

TK seems fine though. He’s latched onto Nolan, as if to say ‘I’m not a vet but this is my rookie ’ and everyone is totally cool with that, letting Travis have someone to talk to for hours. Because, sure, Nolan doesn’t particularly like chatty, talkative people, he doesn’t actually mind when Travis goes on one of his long rants that don’t seem to have a coherent theme, just whatever pops in his head. 

 

The other guys try to be patient and understanding with Travis, they try to pay attention and they try to figure TK out, try figure out what makes him talk for so long about literally nothing. But, after the coolness of TK being able to talk for so long about so many different things with no plot keeping it all together wears off, they get real grouchy about being stuck with him and inevitably tell Travis to shut up.

 

Nolan doesn’t.

 

Nolan finds him interesting. He wants to know what’s going on in Travis’ head, because sometimes he’ll say something, like, actually smart that has Nolan thinking about it for a few hours trying to figure out the answer, and then other times he’ll ask something so stupid that Nolan just wants to cradle Travis’ head in his hands and never let the other man think ever again because it’s clearly doing some brain damage. (His personal favourite: “What animal is Bugs Bunny?”)

 

So, picture this; They’re in a hotel room with only four remotes, so they’re all taking shifts, and Nolan’s leaning back against the headboard, letting the pillows cushion his back while he watches the screen, and then Travis slips beside him.

 

His skin is hot and tanned against Nolan’s pale, cool skin. The difference freaks him out a little because, Jesus , how does TK tan so perfectly. But then Travis is talking about something Lawson said to him so he clicks in and starts paying attention. 

 

Nolan likes Travis’ mouth.



iv.



Going from cramped, men packed hotel rooms to going to Travis’ apartment is easy. It’s like back at the hotels except now they can do whatever they want and not have to worry about, like, room cleaning and noise complaints because the walls are always paper thin. It’s cool. 

 

They order Thai food that’s slightly too spicy and then play COD until Travis finally admits that Nolan’s better than him, then they play Minecraft because a new update came out. It’s slightly obvious that it’s their first time properly hanging out together with how Nolan has to ask where the bathroom is and TK has to ask him his order but it’s not painfully awkward like how Nolan feared. It’s nice, natural.

 

They don’t talk about hockey much but when they do, they play a game of being so aggressively complimentary towards the other person that they have to tap out.

 

(“The way you handle your stick makes me believe in God again.”

“You’re so slick on the ice it makes me hard.") 

 

That sort of stuff. You know, just friendly, bros being bros type of activities.

 

It’s only when Travis recites his Thai order without blinking or he sees that there’s just always a second remote set out or there’s the beer he likes in the fridge, he realises he comes over, like, a lot. And he thinks about saying something to TK about wow we must be joint at the hip, huh? But every time the phrasing sounds wrong. 

 

So he keeps the revolution to himself. 




iv.



When they share a bed for the first time, it’s a hotel system error that they have to put up with. The sheets are cold and they sleep at opposite ends of the bed, as if the distance will take away the tension hanging in the air. It doesn’t, it just makes Nolan want to reach over and wrap his hand around Travis’ wrist, makes him want to tug him closer and soak up his warmth.

 

The second time, they sleep closer, and TK accidentally brushes his hand against Nolan’s thigh. He tenses and then relaxes when Nolan doesn’t react. Nolan’s skin itches.

 

The third time, Nolan turns to face Travis, ignoring the previously established rule of sleeping back to back. He wants to trace his finger along TK’s cheekbone, but his nails are bitten down and he’s already pushing it just by facing him.

 

The fourth time, TK intertwines their fingers and doesn’t look Nolan in the eyes. That’s fine, Nolan continues watching Animal Planet and doesn’t pull his hand away even when their palms get sweaty.

 

The fifth time, Nolan decides ‘fuck it ’ and swings his leg across TK’s waist. They watch Animal Planet in silence and TK subconsciously runs his fingers down the side of Nolan’s thigh. Nolan’s head is resting on TK’s shoulder while Travis stops himself from running his fingers through Nolan’s hair.

 

They fall into the position naturally now, but the first few times were glances and unsteady hands, holding breaths and hoping they’re not pushing the boundaries too far. They don’t think too much about the second bed anymore.



v.



When Nolan gets diagnosed, they watch Gilmore Girl and then pass out, hands so tightly intertwined their fingertips feel numb. He wants, wants so much. The hockey stick feels natural in his hands but his head won’t let him. It’s official. He’s got something wrong up there, some of the pieces don’t fit together. 

 

TK just nods and lets Nolan eat the ice-cream in the freezer. It’s quiet, and Nolan desperately wishes Travis would start talking about anything, something, just to get his mind off the fact he’s probably not going to play for a while.

 

Instead, TK drives them to a field with tall grass that tickles Nolan’s ankles and they lay down on a big rock. 

 

They don’t talk about Nolan’s diagnosis. Because Nolan doesn’t know how to start and his words get caught in his throat. But, TK gets it, he always gets it. He turns off the lights and leaves water on Nolan’s night table, and makes sure to stock up on ice packs. It’s not the best solution and his head still feels like it's trying to swallow him whole.

 

But it’s a good start. 



vi.



Their first kiss isn’t, like, romantic or anything. It’s no pride and prejudice, it’s not going to be told at a dinner party with laughs and smiles. Nolan got a migraine and TK ran his fingers through his hair and listened to a crime podcast even though he always ended up scared at the end.

 

It’s raining, and Nolan itches to get out, to see people, to do something , but his eyes sting and his chest heaves under the weight of the migraine. It's never pretty or sweet like in the movies; a beautiful girl being sick and her boyfriend taking care of her and she’s all dolled up. No, Nolan looks and feels awful. His skin is slightly damp with sweat and his hair is greasy, his eyes are red rimmed and always looks like he’s on the verge of tears. It’s not, like, sexy or cute or anything. It’s just what it is. 

 

And when his migraine is over, TK’s still there, smiling over at him with that soft smile that makes Nolan wonder how he’s the same Travis Konecny that gets in a fight every time he steps on the ice. 

 

Listen, it’s not like Nolan is bad at emotions, because he’s not, even though Kevin keeps insisting he has the emotional capacity of a mouldy orange (“Delightful imagery, Kev.” Nolan had mocked but only received a happy smile from Kevin back.) Kevin’s wrong. Nolan is actually phenomenal with emotions, he loves them. He’s actually, like, a super big fan of emotions.

 

It’s not like he doesn’t have them. He has lots of them, huge fan, emotions are amazing. He just doesn’t talk about them often, because, like, that’s kind of awkward and he’ll do anything to get out of awkward situations, so if that means he has to sit with his feelings for TK until he dies, he guesses that's what he’s doing.

 

Travis on the other hand, doesn’t know what it’s like to not immediately share a mental check up. (“Hey, guys, feeling ferocious and sexy today.”) So, obviously he’s not just going to let Nolan twiddle his thumbs and not say anything about the obvious romantic and sexual chemistry between them (G’s words).

 

It’s a Thursday and he holds Nolan’s face in his hands, getting his rat face level with Nolan’s. “Tell me if I’m reading this wrong.”

 

And then he kisses him. 

 

Nolan has an out of body experience, he astral projects, he’s no longer present, basically TK has somehow removed Nolan’s soul from his body, that’s how good it is.

 

It’s weirdly soft and gentle in a way Nolan didn’t think Travis knew how to do, and familiar as if they’ve always been like this. And maybe they have, always inching closer and closer and this feels like the next step, this feels right, like they were supposed to do it all along. TK’s mouth is hot and wet and his hands have calluses that feel like they dig into the skin of Nolan’s cheeks but it’s comfortable. He finally regains feeling in his body and immediately kisses back, and boom, that’s it, he’s done, he’s ruined for anyone else because nobody can top this A+ performance Travis is giving.

 

Fuck yes, Nolan’s a huge fan.