If Nolan is really honest, Nico doesn’t speak about Switzerland all the time like Nolan always says he does. He bombarded him with pictures from the lake and all his hikes in the mountains the last two summers. He texts Nolan that he should really try rostis and fondue . He tells Nolan that he misses home, sometimes, during their quiet phonecalls at night.
Nico loves his country, that, Nolan knows.
Nolan’s not really tired of listening to Nico rant about his homeland. He can still pretend he does. That seems like a fairly good reason to say yes when Nico casually tells him he should come around for a week during the summer, see what it’s all about.
Back when they first met, Nico was so nice to him Nolan had a little trouble figuring him out. They'd been set up to be against one another, medias going on with the endless debate of whether one or the other would go 1st overall. It didn’t really make sense for the two of them to become friends, and yet, Nico came up to him with that shy smile and his little german accent, and things just worked .
Nolan takes a plane in the early afternoon and it takes him three planes and fifteen hours to finally touch ground in Geneva. With the time difference it’s been over a whole day since he left his house in Winnipeg and he feels gross, tired, ready to punch the next kid who will scream in his ears about his lost toy or his annoying sister.
Thankfully he only has his carry-on with him and customs is not too much of a bother. Soon enough, he’s outside of the international area and facing Nico, bright smile on his face when he moves forward to wrap Nolan in a big hug and takes Nolan’s bag from his shoulder, the true gentleman.
When Nico steps back, Nolan takes a second to study him. He’s just in shorts and a t-shirt, cap snapped backwards on his head. He built a tan since the last selfie he sent Nolan and it doesn’t feel like there is any tense lines in his body. He looks— good, happy . Summer home is truly a good look on him. In theory, Nolan already knew but, it’s kind of nice to actually see.
“Come on big boy, time to find out about all the beauty. How were your flights ?” Nico takes him out of his reverie. For his defense, Nolan barely slept.
“Not made for tall people,” he mumbles back.
“Like you couldn’t afford to offer yourself first class tickets,” Nico shoots with the hint of a laugh.
“Whatever,” Nolan shrugs before following Nico out, pulling his sunglasses on and quickly getting into Nico’s car without a grimace. Nico’s still smiling, Nolan can probably give him one smile back.
They stop by Starbucks on their way out and Nico places Nolan’s favourite order without having to ask him for it. It surprises Nolan for a second but he recovers quickly. Good for Nico if he wants to busy his brain with that kind of information, Nolan won’t complain.
It’s a short drive to the lake house and Nolan looks outside the whole time, take in the trees and the style of the houses and listens to Nico as he tells him about his summers there with his grandparents and his cousins when he was a kid.
The cabin’s bigger than Nolan anticipated. The first floor opens on a big open living room with a kitchen on one corner, a fireplace on the left side and a big patio door letting all the sun in.
“The master bedroom is downstairs but there is another bathroom and three bedrooms upstairs. I wanted to have something big enough to be able to have friends and family over,” Nico explains while they make their way to the big windows and step outside on the patio where Nolan discovers the most beautiful view over the lake.
Nolan does notice Nico’s proud smile when he catches Nolan’s face, probably a little awed at the beauty of it all. “Not bad,” he says with a corner smile of his own and Nico just lightly shoves him before getting back inside.
“Time difference is a real bitch when you do the trip that way, it’s best if you don’t sleep now or you’ll be all fucked-up later and awake all night. It’s better if we keep you busy for a while. Wanna go for a swim ?”
Nolan— would probably kill for a shower and a bed right about now. He can still be smart about it. The lake does look really nice from here.
That’s why he ends up on his swimsuit waist-deep inside the water a mere quarter of hour later. The water’s a little cold but the air is warm. Nico’s car had said it was 28 degrees and Nolan can’t remember how to translate it to Farenheits but it doesn’t really matter, the sun hot enough to hit his back pleasantly.
Nico tells him about the first part of his summer and Nolan talks about his sisters and his parents, how nice it is to have a break from them even if he absolutely adored being able to spend consecutive weeks with them.
They laze around in and out, laying on their towels under a tree, Nico poking him in the ribs every few minutes to make sure Nolan’s not falling asleep.
They do make it until the end of the afternoon, finally moving up to the house when Nolan’s stomach makes itself heard, earning him a big chuckle from Nico.
Nolan almost falls asleep under the shower, eyes staying close a few seconds too long, but he eventually makes it down the stairs in his fresh pair of shorts, welcomed down by the smell of Nico heating up vegetables on the stove.
“There is a grill outside that I promise we’ll put to good use but I had stuff left over from lunch, figured it would be easier for tonight.”
Nolan fills in the quicker in Nico’s voice and yeah, when he checks his phone it does tell him that it's still a little early for dinner but he considers it a miracle he’s still on his knees right now and he didn’t eat much on the plane so he’s pretty happy with that decision.
They eat on the patio, air a little fresher and sun still high in the school. There’s not one sound around them besides their own voices and it’s exactly the kind of quiet Nolan was after.
“There are fresh bottles of water in the fridge and a bunch of stuff to eat in the kitchen closets. Don’t hesitate to look around. I’ll probably be down there for a little more and then you can knock on my door any time,” Nico tells hips with too much of a serious face when they’re done and Nolan’s eyes have started closing themselves against his will again.
“You know I’m not a kid, right ? I’m older than you bud, I’m the baby-sitter here,” Nolan chirps back. It earns him an earnest laugh from the other man.
“Just being a good host,” Nico shrugs and oh god, Europeans . “Now come on, don’t fall asleep on that chair or your back will want to murder me tomorrow.”
Nolan, more for show than anything. He does smile when Nico throws a cheerful Good night once Nolan is up and stepping inside.
Once his back hit the mattress, it barely takes him two minutes to fall asleep.
The night before the draft, when Nolan was chilling in his hotel room trying to think about anything but the day which was supposed to shape a good chunk of his life, Nico knocked on his door. He’d been the last person Nolan had expected to see but then he’d said “I just came back from dinner with my parents. I thought my mom was more excited than me but looks like I’m too keyed up to even relax. Want to find a movie to watch with me or something ?” and Nolan had answered by opening his door wider. Maybe he wasn’t supposed to have his biggest competition, the guy who was probably going to steal the 1st place that had been assigned to Nolan for so long, falling asleep on him the night before the draft. Well, it wasn’t like Nolan’s life was following the drawn lines anyway.
Nolan wakes up a little after 6am, disoriented at first until he remembers where he is, why everything is made in wood and why the sheets are softer than his usual.
He debates going back to sleep for a hot minute but quickly realizes that’s not going to happen. He tries to be soft, with all of his 200 pounds self, when he goes down the stairs. He’s too scared to wake up Nico to make coffee but he does grab a fresh Gatorade and slices of brioche that he takes with him to the patio.
After doing the quick maths and realizing it’s not even midnight in Winnipeg, Nolan makes the call to his big sister.
“Oh my god Nols, that sunrise is straight up instagram gold. Where are you ? In a postcard from heaven ?”
Nolan rolls his eyes at Maddy but he can’t help a smug smile. The view behind him is indeed a real sight for sore eyes.
“It’s called Lake Geneva, also Lac Léman or Lago Lemano,” Nolan tries to remember how Nico said the name yesterday but probably butchers it anyway. “It’s close to Geneva and the border with France.”
“Well, that looks pretty romantic, I’m jealous,” Maddy answers and— is she actually pouting ? God .
The romantic word makes Nolan’s cheeks heat up for no reason and he hides himself with a few sips from his Gatorade. “Want me to give you Nico’s number ? I’m sorry that’s not happening.”
Even the rays of sun hitting his screen can’t keep Nolan from noticing Maddy’s eye roll.
“Nico seems like a really nice guy, just not for me. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to get to know him if you play your cards right, though.”
Maybe Nolan should have slept more.
“Are you high ?”
Another eye roll, which : offensive.
“God you’re so stupid. Anyway, you’ll figure it out on your own, now tell me about your plans for the day.”
And no, Nolan is fairly sure he has nothing to figure out but whatever, he can tell his sister about the stuff Nico told him about and Maddy tells him about her trip at the mall with Aimée and it’s all good.
It’s probably been less than 10 minutes since he hung up when Nolan hears the glass doors slide and Nico appears on the patio.
“Oh sorry, did I wake you up ?”
It doesn’t even look like he just got out of bed. There is a cap hiding his hair but his eyes look bright, face rested.
“No don’t worry, the cabin is pretty well isolated and you’re a good guest,” Nico winks at him. “Coffee ?”
i’m not saying you should make the first move today but please don’t waste all the beautiful occasions you’re gonna get
wtf are you talking about mads
like there wasn’t a reason you were so excited to go there for the whole week before your flight
go to sleep
just saying 🤷♀️
They go for a run while it’s still early ( the sun’s not all the way up yet so the temperature is more manageable , Nico says) before getting in Nico’s car to hit the city and run some errands.
They eat close to the new place ( you shouldn’t translate Place Neuve in english, it doesn’t really work , and whatever Nico, Nolan’s french has known better days). Nico does try to make him order on his own and Nolan throws him dagger from behind his sunglasses before mumbling an approximative Bonjour and pointing to something on the menu with a s’il-vous-plait to go with it.
“Stop mocking me, I thought you were supposed to be a good host,” Nolan accuses once the waiter has left and Nico is right in front of him with a smile that barely waver when Nolan knocks lightly on his shin with his foot.
“Stop pretending you’re a princess. You’re too moody for that.”
Nolan doesn’t answer that he could very much be a princess if he wanted to do. He still has some self control so he just rolls his eyes and asks Nico about the big old building they can see from their table.
The food is good and once they’re done, Nico takes them to do a grand tour of Geneva. They walk past some museums, a cathedral, a weird giant chair. Nico buys them ice-cream that they eat while walking through the botanic garden and neither of them get recognized a single time. It’s probably the most touristy Nolan has ever been in his life and he honestly wouldn’t have thought that he could enjoy it so much.
They end their afternoon by dealing with groceries shopping and Nolan start to feel the counter-effect of getting up so early when they’re back at the cabin. He takes quick shower and a nap before calling his parents, earning some oh and others noises of delight when he turns on the video and shares the view from his window with them. He talks with Aimée too, listens to her while she complains about a dumb thing Maddy did the day before, when Nolan was busy flying over the Atlantic.
Walking down the stairs and on to the patio, Nolan is welcomed by the smell of the grill, steaks they bought earlier seasoned and laying on the plate. There’s also a fresh beer being handed over to him and yes, thank you, that’s the kind of evening Nolan can be into.
They eat outside on the patio, watching the sun set over the lake. Nolan’s a little buzzed, the nice easy kind, soft and still aware of everything, and just for a second his mind goes back to what his sister said this morning. It’s hard not to agree that the whole scenery is romantic as fuck. Except it’s Nico by his side, loose and happy, laughing at the memory he’s walking Nolan through. It doesn’t really count.
Or maybe it does and Nolan doesn’t care. He can have romantic evenings with one of his best buddies, whatever.
When Nolan played his first game in The Show, there was a text from Nico congratulating him but also asking him how he felt. Same thing after his first goal and well, also after a fair amount of other games. They’d gotten into the habit of texting frequently back when they were prospect and Nolan had kind of thought it would stop after the draft but it never did. Nolan loved his friends and his family and his teammates but in the end, Nico was the one leaving the closest experience to his own right now. So Nico was the one person he truly talked about his feelings with. They admitted their fears to each other, traded tips on how to deal with the pressure, complained about all the shit it felt to bad to say to anyone else. Not to be dramatic but sometimes Nolan wonders how he would have handled his first year in the NHL without it.
The next day, Nolan wakes up at a much more reasonable hour and he has the pleasant surprise to find Nico in the kitchen when he gets down.
Nico’s back is too Nolan, focus on the eggs in his pan. There’s music quietly coming from a small speaker and Nolan can also hear Nico humming along the song, bumping his head with the rhythm. He’s shirtless, muscles of his back in full display, and Nolan doesn’t mean to stare but maybe he does a little of that and then he’s taken aback when Nico turns around, surprise on his face that easily transforms into a smile.
Well, shit .
“Slept well ? You can take the coffee and mugs outside, the rest should be ready soon.”
Nolan follows Nico’s directions and they have their breakfast on the patio. They follow it up with a light work-out outside by the lake. They only have bands and small weights but that’s enough for where they are in the calendar, training camp still pretty far away.
They end up swimming for a while too, racing and shoving each other around until their stomachs make themselves known and they eventually head back.
A shower, lunch, and a nap later, Nolan ends up face to face with a kayak for two people. Uh, well.
“That’s a kayak,” Nico says and Nolan should punch him for his mocking tone.
“No shit,” Nolan rolls his eyes back.
“There is some really cool stuff to see close to here. It’s the perfect weather for it and I’m a good leader, I swear,” Nico half explains half promises. “Don’t worry we’ve got life jackets and you already know the water is not that cold.”
It takes a while, for Nolan to warm up to the idea of getting in this very small thing with Nico, away from the shore. Sure he’s used to boats and he can swim but it feels a little different and a little ridiculous to be afraid of. He pushes through it and eventually, when they get a good rhythm and manage to slide easily over the lake, Nolan relaxes.
They’re taking a break in front of an admittedly pretty neat view, Nolan taking pictures while Nico smiles he’s “I told you so” expression at him, when the snap from TK comes through.
Nolan hesitates for a second and a couple of minutes later there is Nico, hitting him with his paddle and frowning.
“Everything okay ?”
Did he space out for a second ? Shit.
“Yeah, sorry,” he apologizes, almost feeling sorry for the worry he caused on Nico’s face. “TK’s in Philly. He’s having some kind of double date picnic with Coots and his girl.”
Nico’s frown eases a little but Nolan can tell Nico’s still looking at him a little him and he just knows that Nico has questions but there are none of those Nolan want to answer to in a kayak in the middle of a lake, Nico turned at an awkward angle in front of him and with no way to escape.
He pokes Nico back with his paddle.
“Come on, you said there were more stuff to see. This isn’t a five stars service.”
Nico rolls his eyes, truly his favourite habit when he can tell Nolan is full of shit, but then he eventually turns around and start paddling again silently.
Sadly for Nolan, Nico knows him. He’s not as noisy as some members of his team but Nolan expects it when Nico brings up TK once they’re on the shore, putting the kayaks away in their little designated house.
“Travis doesn’t miss you too much ? I bet you pretty much live in each other pockets back in Philly.”
“Sure,” Nolan shrugs. “Honestly TK’s a maniac but he finds someone to give him attention and he’s good. Coots might want to strangle him right now but that’s his fault for accepting to do a fucking picnic with him.” His words might sound meaner that he intended them to. “Anyway, he might as well get used to it, I’m moving at the end of summer.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that,” Nico says and Nolan isn’t sure how to interpret Nico’s tone. It’s not like they tell each other everything anyway.
(or maybe they do, whatever, he’s allowed to have secrets)
“Yeah, that’s pretty recent. You know we got Kevin Hayes from the Jets a few weeks ago ? Was a Rangers before that, tall, plays right wing. He got himself a master contract, bought a house and offered me a room. I said yes, there’s not much more to it.”
And Nico doesn’t need to know that what happened with Travis last season kind of fucked Nolan up and while he still considers Travis his friend, he just-- needs space.
Having Travis by his sides during his rookie year had been good. He definitely had an energy that shouldn’t have meshed so well with Nolan’s but they made it work. They spent a lot of their time hanging out and yeah, it didn’t take long for Nolan to acknowledge that he was attracted to Travis. He already knew he was gay and TK was just there, with his stupid snapbacks and camo shirts, so.
Nolan intended to keep everything buried inside him until the attraction would eventually disappear but then they moved in the same apartment complex and TK spent more nights at Nolan’s place than his own and one day, while they were just chilling on the couch in front of Netflix, TK kissed him. TK kissed him and he straddled Nolan’s lap and Nolan settled his hands on TK’s hips, kissing back.
Becoming fuckbuddies with a teammate had probably been the dumbest decision Nolan took that year. They both knew it wasn’t serious but it still lowkey felt like a heartbreak when Travis started dating a girl in January and they officially got together at the end of the months. Not that Nolan ever had his heart broken before but, yeah, it had felt really shitty and it took a while to feel normal around TK again so, overall stupid experience.
“Didn’t know you were adventurous enough to move in with a stranger,” Nico takes him away from his memories and back to the present.
Nolan laughs. “You think I would be better with you ? Alright, but you’re the one commuting, Philly’s way better than Jersey, no competition.”
“Yeah, probably. Not sure about the company though,” Nico chirps and Nolan sends an elbow in the general direction of his ribs.
“You’re the one who invited me here for a week,” he shoots back easily. “Are you a secret masochist ? Didn’t know you were hiding your kinks from me, I’m disappointed.”
Nico doesn’t answer immediately and Nolan savors the victory until he turns his head around and notice that Nico is— blushing ? Uh .
“Yeah yeah, stop making me regret this. I can easily put you in the next plane,” Nico mutters.
Nolan opens his mouth and closes it the next second, aborting words like You wouldn’t because you like me too much and No, you would miss me too much . Instead, he hip checks Nico and says “Race you to the cabin ?” before bolting away with a head start.
Nico loses and instead of accusing Nolan of cheating, he says he did it on purpose, to boost Nolan’s ego, you’re welcome.
One afternoon of late November of his rookie year, while he was still recovering from his concussion, Nolan found Nico knocking at his door. I took the Acela. I had practice this morning and I have tomorrow off. I’ll just have to leave early thursday morning to catch our plane for LA. I bought your favourite stuff to eat. And then, because Nolan was too surprised to let Nico go through his front door, can I come in please ? And Nolan’s brain had kicked in and he’d invited Nico in, spending the next 36 hours with him. They couldn’t do much because Nolan’s head was still a mess and he felt like he spent half their time together sleeping anyway. Nico cooked him real meals from scratch and they watched the second season of Stranger Things together. It made Nolan feel better than he had in weeks.
The following day is quite lazy and easy going. It’s Nolan’s third morning in the cabin and he shouldn’t be able to say it feels like they have a routine already except they kind of do.
Breakfast on the patio, run down the path going Easy, short work out by the lake, some swimming, lunch prepared on the grill and eaten outside.
After their nap, Nolan manages to have Nico taking them out to fish.
(I’m warning you, it’s not really my thing, I kind of suck. But you own poles and literally everything else necessary. Yeah, but that’s because my cousin Luca loves to fish. I do go with him sometimes. Okay, so you’ll come with me. I’m your guest. You can’t use that excuse all the time. Watch me.)
Nico doesn’t own a boat (because he’s still on his ELC and already spent a lot on the cabin, which: fair) so they head out to rent one and soon enough, they’re on a new part of the lake, Nolan completely in his element.
Nico spends more time sunbathing than surveilling his pole and Nolan— gets distracted, maybe, a little. He finds his eyes lingering more than they should on Nico’s body and he almost gives himself whiplash when he realizes what he’s doing and turns his head around in a rush, blushing high on his cheeks.
It’s not that it's a bad thing, per se. Being able to recognize that your friends are hot is like a mature person's ability. Nolan’s a grown-up, it’s okay.
It’s just— Switzerland looks really good on Nico, the impression Nolan had at the airport just confirming itself. Nico’s a pretty chill guy most of the time but Nolan has never seen him so relaxed and carefree, the weight of the expectations for him to save the Devils nowhere to be seen.
Nico smiles like this cabin and this lake and Nolan are enough for him to be good and Nolan kind of feels privileged to see it and proud to have the right to be here while it’s happening, and being a part of it, too.
Nolan shoves his realisations away to focus on his fishpole. The last thing he needs is Nico catching him staring and getting all weird and suspicious about it.
That night, they prepare the fish Nolan caught over the grill, watch a movie together on the couch and go to bed early because Nico says they have big plans tomorrow. Nolan listens.
Still not a routine.
After the first Devils-Flyers game in Philly, Nico met Nolan’s parents. Technically, they kind of all saw each other at the draft but it had been quick and the draft had just been— a lot, everywhere, so it didn’t really count. Nolan’s own mother had told him that he should invite Nico to come to dinner with them, if that was doable with his schedule and if he wanted too. Nolan had jokingly asked if they were actually here to see him and not their own son. The answer he’d gotten had been a shrug, a smile and Well, you seem like really good friends, it’d be nice to get to know him . The dinner had been a success, Nico particularly hitting it off with Nolan’s father. At the end of the night, when it had been time for Nolan’s parents to go back to their hotel, his mother had told him that Nico is a sweet kid, I’m glad you got him in your life, and Nolan had been left a little dumbstruck, not sure what to do with the approval he hadn’t asked for.
They don’t wake up before sunrise but it’s a close thing. The sun is still low in the sky when they get out of the cabin, lights all pretty shades of orange and pink over the lake.
“Alright, you can officially say you’ve been in France now,” Nico announces after their 35 minutes drive, talking a spot in a practically empty parking lot.
“Yeah ?” Nolan asks. He hadn’t even realized they had crossed the frontier.
“Yep,” Nico nods, smiling. “Sure it’s nothing like Paris but it’s 10000 times better anyway.”
While they get their stuff from the trunk of the car (read: put on the right shoes, apply sunscreen and get their backpack), Nolan learns that they have about 16 kilometers to go through. It’s supposed to be a little tough but Nico’s done it before and Nolan isn’t exactly inexperienced in hikes, he shouldn’t be in trouble as long as he watches where he puts his feet.
Nolan doesn’t fall. He has one of two scary moments which he puts on the account on not being 100% awake yet but besides that, they move quietly through the paths, surrounded by so much green it’s hard to imagine the agitation of the cities can be found mere kilometers away.
They pass and get passed by a few people but it’s overall a pretty empty and quiet hike. Nico will make comments on what they’re passing, small lesson of geography in the making. Nolan probably won’t remember much once they get back but it’s not really the point.
“So over there, that’s Lake Geneva, which you know about now and right there, in the back, that’s the Mont Blanc,” Nico announces when they take a break after a couple of hours and Nolan find himself in front of a breathtaking view. “This is one of the reasons why this is one of my favourite hikes.”
Nolan uses a moment to just breathe, take in the panorama in front of him, the trees and the mountains, blending in with the lake. The whole thing feels like a bubble stopped in time, for how quiet and a little ethereal everything seems. Nolan turns his head and he sees Nico still focused on the mountains, his smile just as breathtaking as everything else around them. Not thinking, Nolan grabs his phone and snaps a picture of him.
They take pictures together and Nolan decides to post one of them to his insta story. It’s one Nico took so he’s not in it but Nolan’s in Switzerland and people will probably be able to put two and two together. After a short second of reflexion, he finds out that he doesn’t really care.
After that, they keep going for another couple of hours before settling down for lunch. The view is not as pretty as earlier but the crests in front of them have nothing to be ashamed off.
“Not gonna lie, I think I understand why you like it so much here,” Nolan says between two bites of his sandwich.
“Uh,” Nico laughs. “Not much to do with Jersey, eh ? Changes for sure.”
Nolan nods. He hesitates for a second but eventually continues. “Don’t you ever miss it ? I mean, I know the NHL’s what you wanted and it demands sacrifices and everything but, like, you’re probably making more of those than most of us. I’m not sure I’d cope really well if I was so far away from my family.”
For how much he tells his sisters that they are annoying, Nolan’s not sure he could handle only being able to see them a couple of weeks, maybe two months top, in the summer.
Nico takes his time to finish his mouthful, hydrating himself afterwards. Nolan briefly wonders if he’s taking his time to find the good words to answer him.
“It’s— complicated. Like you said, the NHL has always been my dream and I always knew about the consequences, I’m not the only European player out here. I’m close with family and we always manage to find a slot of time to talk, see each other over Skype. I wish I could see them more often but… I’m mostly scared of something happening and not being able to get there soon enough, you know ? I know that’s part of the deal but I’m not sure I could forgive myself if I got here too late.”
Nico smiles but it’s easy to notice that’s it’s a little sad and Nolan feels bad for a second, unsure of what to do while very aware he brought this to himself. Mouth pursed in search of an answer, Nolan balance his leg to knock their knees together where they’re sitting side by side on the grass and Nico’s smile get a little more real.
“Do I get to meet them ? Your parents I mean.” Nolan’s clarification doesn’t seem to help Nico who apparently decided to initially answer with a confused face to Nolan’s question. “I know they’re not here, close to the cabin, but Switzerland is a small country, right ?”
That at least gets a sharp laugh out of Nico. Too big not to be a little mocking. It takes a moment for Nico’s giggling to stop and Nolan would be offended if it wasn’t a little infectious and making him chuckle too. God , what was he thinking.
“Yeah, Switzerland is small compared to Mother Canada over there but they’re still two hours away.”
Nico seems thoughtful for a moment and then he continues. “It’s not that bad, tomorrow’s saturday so they’re not working. We could make it work.”
“Sorry, I don’t want to bother them, it just came up in my mind because you were talking about your family but it’s okay.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll just ask and if they can’t, they can’t, no big deal. I think they’d be quite happy to meet you honestly.”
Nolan nods and then he puts his eyes on the mountains in front of him. They finish their lunch in silence, taking in the view. Nico’s parents probably want to meet all of his friends, nothing Nolan needs to wreck his head around.
Nolan follows Nico’s stats during the season. It’s not something he exclusively does with Nico —he’s a hockey player, being aware of the competition is part of the job— but Nico is one of the only people whose numbers he really cares about. Now, he’s genuinely happy when Nico does good. It hasn’t always been the case. He’ll probably have a hard time eve admitting it but there was this short period of time at the beginning of their rookie year where Nolan was still a little bitter that he didn’t go first overall and he wanted to be better, prove to the Devils that they’d been wrong to pass over him. Now, he definitely regrets ever thinking like that because Nico didn’t deserve it, the opposite really. It hadn’t been a Nico thing though, just Nolan and his ego and his heart still having some trouble digesting his draft year injuries, the what ifs that he needed some time to get past. He worked through it and in the end, that was what mattered the most.
Lunch at Nico’s parents’ house gets arranged for Sunday and on Saturday’s morning, Nico tells Nolan that today, they can do basically what he wants.
Nolan’s legs are a little sore from their hike. He’s used to the physical effort but he’s definitely been running less lately, and on a more horizontal surface. Also there is no one to massage his muscles and it’s a little downside of the off season, to be quite honest.
Nico introduces him to some big inflatable buoys and they spend most of their morning lazing around in the lake. After lunch and the mandatory nap, Nolan manages to rope Nolan into a couple of hours of NHL 19. It kind of feels like a crime not to be outside with this meteo but they do have a small walk before dinner, so Nolan thinks it’s okay.
They watch a couple of episodes of The Umbrella Academy after dinner.
If they shift a little and end up pressed against each other one hour in, well, it’s like gravity or something, nothing to spend time thinking about.
pretty hike, i can’t believe how well nico is treating you, put a ring on him already
okay okay, what are you doing tomorrow?
going to another city to see his parents
wait did you finally confess your feelings and did not tell me about it??
you don’t confess feelings you don’t have
yeah sure, but it’d be okay if you had them, you know that right?
read at 10:14pm
Nolan wakes up to a long text of eyerolls emojis from his big sister because apparently leaving her on read was mean or something. Whatever.
Nico’s parents are a little over two hours away so they hit the road right after breakfast, Nolan behind the wheel for the first time of the week. He doesn’t think about the last text Maddy sent him last night, just focuses on the landscape in front of him and occasionally half sings half mumbles along the songs Nico put on. It’s good.
They arrive just in time for lunch and, Nolan wasn’t exactly stressed out by the whole thing but he was maybe a little apprehensive because he’s not the best with strangers —small talk isn’t exactly one of his skills— and somehow, giving Nico’s parents a bad impression is something he truly wants to avoid.
The meal goes well. Nico’s mom makes him feel at home the way only moms seem to secretly know how to. Nico’s father is more reserved but he reminds Nolan of Nico, the way he pulls back and just observe the scene sometimes.
Nolan’s not good about small talks but he can talk about hockey. He can tell everyone about his sisters and what it was like to grow up in Winnipeg. He can lay back and eat delicious food while he watches Nico literally glowing, playfully chirping his sister, arguing about something dumb with his brother, a smile plastered on his face since the moment they passed the front door.
After lunch, Nico take them on a quick tour of Naters. It’s certainly smaller than Geneva but Nolan likes the architecture. They use one hour to go through a castle which Nico visited pretty much every school year from age 4 through 12. Nico shows him his first rink, his old school, the park where he used to play on the week-ends.
It’s-- nice, to put images to the childhood stories Nico has told him in the past. Nolan thinks he’s pretty glad they came here today.
Towards the end of the afternoon, they join Nico’s brother —Luca— and his friends to play some football ( please tell me you don’t call it soccer, Luca had asked him with almost scary eyes and Nolan had shaken his head, a lie for the better good). His football skills are pretty much limited to two-touch but Nolan has cardio and he can run. Nico chirps him when he falls and does horrible passes but the mood is light and Nolan just rolls his eyes and smile with everyone.
“Well, it was nice to finally get to meet the famous Nolan Patrick,” Luca tells him when the game is finished and Nico is chatting up with his brother’s buddies. “Nico really cares about you, you know ? Don’t put it past me to fly over the Atlantic if you fuck with him.”
And then after a nod, Luca is jogging to join the others.
Uh. What the actual fuck.
“Everything alright ? Luca talks a lot of shit when he’s confident, don’t mind him.” Nico, back at his side, leading Nolan to his car with a hand around his shoulders.
Luca doesn’t say anything more when they have their early dinner and all he gets when they leave is Nico’s mom telling him that she’s glad that he came, to come back whenever he wants and please, drive safe.
This time, Nico’s back behind the wheel and Nolan tries to not linger too much on the friendly threat from earlier. Nico puts on a playlist and they hum together until they get home to fall in bed.
It was, overall, a really nice kind of day.
Sometimes, Nolan wonders what’s going on between Nico and Taylor Hall. He kind of hates himself for even toying with the idea of a maybe something existing. First of all because it’s not his business and second of all because he shouldn’t even care. It’s just— he sees how Nico and Hall are when they play the Devils, hanging together during warm-ups and bending their heads together on the bench during the game. He reads Nico’s texts, telling him what he just did with Hallsy . He listens to Nico, when they’re on the phone and Nico explains to him why Taylor is so cool. It’s like Nolan’s jealous of him, which : ridiculous, of course Nico’s allowed to have other friends. And maybe Nico and Taylor Hall are more than friends and that— Nolan’s not really sure he wants to think about that, so he doesn’t.
For his last full day in Switzerland, Nolan wakes up… jittery. He still has about thirty-six hours before they need to leave for the airport and he knew what he signed up for when he booked his plane tickets but he still feels robbed, like the end of his trip snuck up on him and now he’s not ready to go.
He tries to put him away to not dampen his mood but his name is Nolan Patrick and this is Nico he’s living with, of course he picks up on it. “Hey, I have plans for us tonight but besides that, we’re free until 6pm. Anything you wanna do ?”
The announcement awakens Nolan’s curiosity but he bites his questions back. He’s not a child, he can wait for tonight. Maybe it gets his heart quickening for a second but that’s like, excitement, nothing to worry about.
“Hm, can we go on another hike ? I’m sure you’ve got something shorter and easier than last time to show me until lunch. I think we have enough leftovers to pack something nice to eat out there.”
Nico takes them to a place that indeed follows Nolan’s requirements, the paths less rock filled and the elevation gain pretty much flat. That means they have more people walking with them, the hike more lively.
At one point they meet a couple of kids who seem to be out there with their grand-parents and Nico gets asked for his picture. It’s the first time one of them got recognized since he got here and Nolan almost thinks he hasn’t appreciated it enough.
“Switzerland isn’t really a big hockey country but I do get recognized once in a while, more so Naters and Berne. I have to admit it surprises me all the time when it happens here,” Nico shrugs afterwards.
“Highest ranked Swiss of all time, guess that’s not nothing,” Nolan teases back and he gets an elbow in the ribs for his trouble before they get back on track.
Taking their time and a generous break for lunch, they’re done by 2pm and they hit Geneva for some groceries shopping and Nolan uses the occasion to buy some souvenirs for his family.
When they get home and Nico tells them they have a couple of hours left before having to get ready, Nolan suddenly realizes he had totally forgotten about Nico’s surprise.
“Uh, what’s the dress code here ?” Nolan asks.
“You don’t need a tie but maybe find something else than shorts if you can ?” Nico answers and he looks kind of… Hesitant ? Like Nolan’s supposed to be scared off by a place who need him to wear actual pants.
Nolan nods before getting upstairs.
Sure, he’s been spending his week in shorts and either flip-flops or hiking boots but he did get here wearing white sneakers. He also packed one pair of black jeans just in case and there is a dark blue button-down hiding in the bottom of his suitcase.
He maybe spends more time than usual trying to style his hair but he never does more than rake his hand through them. It’s not exactly complicated to do better.
When he looks at himself one last time in the mirror, Nolan has this fleeting thought that he looks good and he feels happy with himself before he remembers that this is not a date and that it shouldn’t matter anyway.
Joining the living room, Nolan finds Nico with a dark polo shirt and nice jeans, a watch and a necklace he’d never seen before hanging neatly at his wrist and neck. Nico’s wearing leather boots that definitely look nicer than Nolan’s sneakers but overall, Nolan thinks he did okay to fit in whichever theme is mandatory for the place Nico is taking them to.
The restaurant, as it turns out, is an old place on the nicer side of things. It’s not high-end but Nolan understand the no shorts rule and he actually feels good in his outfit, so.
The waiter takes Nico’s name at the entrance and he leads to a small table in a quiet corner. They order wine and just like he once promises, Nico makes them have rostis with Bündnerfleisch (Nico don’t make Nolan order but he does ask him to try to pronounce it and Nolan relents because he’s a good friend and Nico can have a laugh or too, whatever) for entrées.
“Careful there, you drop it, consequences happen,” Nico warns with a smirk once the fondue they’re having as the main course is settled and Nolan is about to dig is first bit of bread in.
Nolan doesn’t even consider himself to be a cheese guy but this, he understand the appeal. He’s gonna have to burn his ass off to eliminate all the carbs he’s currently ingesting but while he’s here with Nico, listening to him tell another one of his youth stories and smiling so much at the memories, Nolan thinks it’s worth it.
They fall silent during dessert, eating their gingerbread quietly. It’s not uncomfortable, Nolan’s good with it. He thinks he sees Nico opening his mouth and immediately closing it once or twice. It makes Nolan look around them, at the couples holding hands above the tables and the families chatting happily together. It’s not a date and yet, Nolan feels like he’s missing out on something.
The uneasy feeling he had woken up with had mostly disappeared during the day and Nolan can practically hear it crawling back into his body, all awkward and annoying, when they pay before leaving (scratch that, when Nico pays after insisting, Nolan doesn’t really fight him).
Nolan keeps quiet on the ride back, heart heavy with a weight which has no right to be here. In less than twenty-four hours, he’ll be on a plane over the Atlantic, on his way back home. It might be childish but Nolan knows there’s a part of him which doesn’t want to leave. He’s just not sure he can examine why .
“Movie ?” Nico offers when they get home. It’s dark outside but it’s not really that late, they still have a couple of hours in front of them before Nolan needs to go to bed for his last night here. He nods easily. “Okay, I let you pick, I’m gonna go change and prepare some snack.”
Nolan changes into more comfortable clothes too and settles on the couch, grabs the remote to turn on the TV. He doesn’t go much farther than Netflix’ menu. He feels too hot and a little apprehensive, just like he used to get before his first games of his rookie year. His mind goes back to his train of thoughts in the car and he doesn’t really manage to go anywhere with it.
Nolan’s brain still running in circles when Nico comes back from the kitchen with one mug of hot cocoa in each of his hands and a bowl filled with popcorn balanced between his forearms. The smell of sugar hits Nolan’s nose when the items are deposited on the coffee table and he finally turns his head, meets Nico’s face, now sitting on the couch with him.
He thinks Nico ask him if he decided on something to watch yet but Nolan doesn’t really hear him. He’s busy looking .
Nolan’s looking at the soft Mooseheads t-shirt hugging Nico’s chest, well worn and a little too high, fabric torn and a little ripped at the collar. The only light is coming from the television but it’s enough for Nolan to see the red patch of skin on Nico’s nose where he forgot to reapply sunscreen when they went on their first hike three days ago. A couple inches lower, there is Nico’s hair, starting to curl on his neck because a couple weeks ago, when asked about it, Nolan said it would be nice if Nico let his hair grow a little more than usual, and that had been enough to convince him.
Nico’s close, his knee knocking against Nolan’s, his expression a little concerned at the lack of answer from him. God , he looks so pretty and Nolan is supposed to get back on a plane in less than twenty-four hours and he just— has to do something.
It takes a couple more seconds of his heartbeat just ringing in his ears and then Nolan is leaning forward, capturing Nico’s lips on a probably too brutal kiss.
Nico makes a small noise in the back of his throat and Nolan thinks that he definitely fucked this up. He backs up only to this time hear a protest and have Nico hauling him back in with a hand behind his neck.
They kiss and Nolan’s hands find Nico’s shoulders, his hair, and it’s all too much and not enough at the same time. He never wants to ever have to take another decision in his life.
Nolan gets maneuvered on top of Nico, knees bracketing his thighs, and they kiss for what feels like forever. Then there are hands against Nolan’s abs, working their way up his chest, taking him out of his shirt.
“You’re so pretty,” Nico says after taking a couple of seconds to take in the view in front of him. He almost sounds in awe and Nolan— he knows how he looks but he also can’t help the blush which burns hard on his cheeks. “You’re literally the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.”
That makes a pretty high-pitched noise come out from Nolan’s throat and he immediately ducks down to capture Nico’s lips in a bruising kiss, effectively shutting him up.
Nolan’s more used to people complimenting his sexual prowess than, like, his actual looks , and he’s not sure how to reciprocate it but it does feel nice, something to study later.
“Come to bed with me ?” Nico whispers against his ear. It sends a shiver down Nolan’s spine and he furiously nods back.
Nico’s so quick to get them up he hits his shins against the coffee table, almost knocking over their forgotten snacks. He manages to carry Nolan around for a couple of steps before letting him down and they have their hands all over each other when they stumble the rest of the way to Nico’s bed.
When he was 14, Nolan asked his father how he’d known that his mother had been the right person for him. They’d been fishing on the lake and it had surprised his father because that wasn’t the kind of thing Nolan used talked about with anyone. “Got your eyes on a special girl ?” Nolan had blushed and mumbled a “Not really” that his dad had accepted to take for answer. Nolan didn’t have his eyes on any girl while they were what interested his teammates all the time, when they weren’t busy talking about hockey. Nolan couldn’t give a fuck about girls and maybe he felt this kind of thing he couldn’t identify when he was with his very much boy best friend, and he had no idea what to do with that. From the height of his fourteen years of existence, Nolan had had no idea what to do with the big answer his father gave him. “Everybody’s different. Some people will tell you they had love at first sigh, others will tell you it took them a while to figure it out. Me, I didn’t know from the get go. Me and your mom, we dated and I knew I felt good when I was with her and what we had felt like something worth giving a try to. So I gave it a try, worked for it and then, well, marriage, you and your sisters happened. You’ll never be able to be 100% sure of anything, you just have to trust your guts and risk your heart a little. Might not always work but I’m sure you’ll find it worth it one day.”
Nolan wakes up to the annoying feeling of having rays of sunshine hitting him in the face. He curses himself for not closing the curtains when he went to sleep last night until his brain finally catches up. Oh .
Finally opening his eyes, Nolan finds Nico right by his side, looking at him with his head on his hand, elbow to the mattress, a soft smile on his features. Nolan’s vision is still a little blurry but he thinks there is also a blush, light on Nico’s cheeks, the results of getting caught maybe.
“Hi,” Nico says quietly. He sounds so soft Nolan has one second where he thinks maybe he’s still dreaming.
“Hey,” Nolan tries back, voice rough from sleep. “Were you watching me sleep ?”
“Uh,” Nico starts and yeah, the blush intensifies. “Sorry, you’ve finally found out about my psycho nature. You’re not getting out of here alive.”
Nolan answers with a small laugh and then they fall silent, just looking at each other. The images from last night play in Nolan’s mind and he flushes a little at the memories, also realizing he has to deal with the consequences now.
In the daylight, Nico seems a little awkward and sure they’re in his room but he didn’t leave when he woke up while Nolan was probably still sound asleep and he’s still here, unable to stop looking at Nolan— that must mean something. Something good, hopefully.
Nolan sits up, keeping his back to the head of the bed and hugging a pillow between his arms. His heart is catching up to the situation and Nolan thinks he probably needs Nico to take the lead this time.
Which he kind of does, when he brings his right hand forward to tuck a stray strand of hair behind Nolan’s ear and says, “I’m glad you came.”
“I’m glad I did too.”
The answer comes easily and it earns him a big smile from Nico, probably his favourite since he got here, and then Nico is laughing, throwing his head back and shaking it a little from left to right.
“God, if I’d known it was what it’d take, I would have taken you here sooner.”
“That means you don’t regret it ?” Nolan eventually half asks half mumbles against his pillow. When he’s met with silence he levers his eyes up and meets Nico’s frown.
“You do ? Because I’ll be honest with you Nols, I had kind of been hoping for this for a while and, uh—“
“What ?” He voices his thoughts just like that, in lack of something better. Excuse him, he’s still barely awake and not ready to deal with revelations like that.
“Don’t start fishing if you’re just going to be mean. I just— You’re you, we’ve been having all these discussions and you agreed to come to my country and I had to get like, feelings or something. Sorry.”
Nolan actually can’t believe Nico is making them do this before his eyes are even fully opened. He sits up to mirror Nico’s new position, looking him in the eyes.
“Nico, I kissed you, why the fuck would I regret this ? I’m the one who have the right wonder how you feel and think that maybe I was just an easy or pity fuck. You have feelings and you didn’t make the first move ? What the fuck.”
His voice is still rough from sleep and he’s not exactly mad, more bewildered by the turns of events. His tone could even be called borderline soft on the end here. And maybe he punched Nico’s arm too but that was a nice punch.
“Okay now you’re fishing. You know you’re a moody bitch who’s emotions I can barely read even when you’re right in front of me. I love you like that, please don’t change, but I could have read this wrong and fucked us over and that was the last thing I wanted…”
Only Nico Hischier to give him all this when Nolan has barely been awake for a minute. He’s not sure if he first wants to start to point out that Nico :
- can always call him on his bullshit even when they text
- called him a moody bitch, and since when does his swiss prince ass swear like that
- told him he loved him and wow, okay, nice, also, hum, same?
Nolan does things the easy way. He smiles and pushes one hand against Nico’s cheek before leaning in to kiss him. He doesn’t start soft and sweet but Nico takes it, opens his mouth up, lets Nolan pour all his feelings in there.
Nolan has no idea what they are doing but it makes him feel right, settled, and that’s the only thing he’ll care about.
i think you were right
i made the first move, so
i love it when i’m right, congrats
yeah yeah, whatever, i’m probably gonna head home later than i planned
obviously, i’ll tell mom and dad, happy honeymoon
Nolan’s on the patio, leaning against the guardrail and admiring the sunset when Nico joins them, undoubtedly getting on his tiptoes to lean his chin over Nolan’s shoulder, hugging him from behind.
“In a couple of days I’ll have you on tape admitting Switzerland is the most beautiful country in the World.”
“What do I get in exchange ?”
Nico turns his face into the smile Nolan has probably been in love with for a longer time than he knows and Nolan has to lean in.
Maybe Switzerland can have some rights after all.