Maddie 12:18PM : Holy shit Lan you actually smiled in an interview!
Maddie 12:19PM : This kid is cute as hell.
Maddie 12:20PM: Helloooo nurse. 🥵
Nolan has spent the past twenty-four hours focused solely on the whole, like, get on a plane, fly to Pittsburgh, play in the fucking playoffs, thing. He'd been busy, okay, so it's really not his fault that he had forgotten. Nolan had forgotten. Shit. Forgotten about the Make A Wish video. Had forgotten about the fact that there had even been a camera, forgot the posing, the fucking interview he'd done standing in the locker room. Forgot Travis saying "I just can not get used to that thing" after the third time the camera had gotten in his face. Fuck, how could Nolan have forgotten something like that? Nolan sits down hard on the shitty hotel couch, staring down at his phone like an idiot. He doesn't know how he feels about Maddie seeing him like that, seeing him with Katie. God, the world seeing him with Katie. He had thought about that day he spent with Katie and Travis pretty much every second of every day since then, but he'd somehow completely forgotten that there was going to be a whole ass Flyers TV Original about it.
Nolan drops his phone on the couch, ignoring his sister's continuing texts, and turns on the hotel's fancy TV. He navigates to YouTube, bounces his knee as he waits impatiently for the homepage to load. It's Ivan's account that's logged in, for some damn reason, and Nolan has to wade through a truly worrying amount of like, survivalist videos, before he finds the episode in Ivan's subscriptions. Flyers TV Original: "Wish Upon A Star." Nolan felt his eyes burn aready. The thumbnail is all of them in the locker room, looking just slightly offside at where someone else had been taking a picture. Katie is sitting in Claude's stall in the shot, not yet wrapped up in her little hat and yellow mittens. Nolan stares blankly at his own face in the thumbnail where he's smiling, wide and genuine, as Katie leans into his space. He feels sick to his stomach as he presses play.
The video opens with Travis, because of fucking course it does. A slowed down shot of him walking down the hallway with Katie in his arms, when they'd first approached the Flyers. The camera pans up from his legs, up to Katie's wide eyes and shy smile. Travis has his face ducked down, looking at something on his smart watch, but Nolan can see how his head is tilted towards Katie, always paying close attention to the kid. The soft music fades out, and Nolan almost startles when he hears his own voice overlaid on the shot.
"I think it's important, to, like, connect with people we might not expect." Nolan says in the video, just as the Travis and Katie on screen reach the Flyers. Nolan is glad the angle is from behind his own shoulder, that the camera hadn't caught his face in that moment. He's pretty sure it would have been obvious how close to pissing his pants he'd been. He watches Katie fist bump Wayne, watches her smile brightly at Claude as he leans in to tell her a joke. Nolan is stuck staring at the way that Travis is looking at her, watching her like she's the best thing he's ever seen. Nolan can relate to that feeling, and it's like a puck to the chest.
The shot changes suddenly, and it's them in the locker room, Claude talking about who-knows-what as Travis holds Katie up so she can brush her fingers against the sweater that's hanging in front of Nolan's stall. Nolan had tugged it down at the end of the day, signed it with a big heart and a smiley face and handed it to Katie as she was leaving. In the video, Nolan is hovering just at the edge of the shot, lingering back as Claude does all the heavy lifting of showing Katie around, pointing things out to her. Nolan watches as Travis smiles softly down at Katie, and he feels his breath catch. Nolan figures that the people at Flyers TV were probably ecstatic when the nurse who showed up turned out to be an absolute fucking rocket, and they realized that people would definitely enjoy watching a too-close shot of his arms flexing under his thin scrubs as he lifted Katie up so she could peak at the gear on top of the stalls. Holy hell. Whoever edited this video is a real piece of shit.
The shot changes again, and it's Travis lowering Katie gently to sit in Claude's stall. Nolan watches him reach up to gently remove the cannula from Katie's nose, talking gently to her as he loops the hose around his neck, turning so his back is to the camera. Nolan remembers Travis saying, a bit awkwardly, that was was going to try and stay out of the shot as much as possible, so he didn't distract from Katie. Like, he had to know, right? That he was distracting. God, he was so sweet, too. It pissed Nolan off a little bit. He watches on screen as Travis steps back, running his fingers through Katie's hair before sliding out of frame. Nolan hadn't caught, at the time, the way Katie had reached out for him as he pulled back.
"Okay, Katie, you want a couple pictures with the boys?" Andrea's voice asks, just off camera. Katie nods her head slowly, looking up and to the right, where Travis had disappeared out of shot. Nolan watches himself and his team mates step up, crouch down around Katie. Nolan watches Claude hover his hand behind Katie's back, without actually touching her. Nolan remembers how he'd, like, almost completely panicked for a second when Travis had first let go of Katie. He had been so sure she was just gonna topple right over without him, that they'd have to watch her go splat on the locker room floor.
The shot cuts, and it's Claude sitting alone in the locker room, giving an interview.
"Obviously our fans are important to us. And when kids like Katie, who are facing such hardships, choose to share their time with us, it just means so much to all of us." Claude says. He keeps talking, but there is a ringing in Nolan's ears for a second, and he doesn't catch it. Just stares at Claude's face on the giant TV and tries to ignore the way he's having a heard time breathing suddenly, like his nose is plugged up.
The shot cuts again, and it's them on the ice. Fuck, it's Travis on the ice. Nolan is next to Travis and Katie, bouncing a puck as they move slowly towards the goal that Claude and Wayne are messing around in. Nolan watches the way Travis skates, seeing him from this far off angle for the first time. He had never gotten around to asking Travis about the figure skates, about the way he skated, the way he seemed to float on the ice. It was fucking breathtaking. He didn't move like a hockey player, didn't move like any man Nolan had ever skated next to. Nolan can't hear what he says in the video, but he watches Travis tip his head back and laugh, watches Katie tuck her face into the side of his neck as her shoulders bounce up and down. The shot cuts, and then it's Nolan pressed up close to Katie, practically against Travis' back, as he reached out to help her get her little yellow mittens around the hockey stick. Travis had one hand bracing Katie under her bottom, the other hand guiding Katie's hand around Nolan's. Nolan remembers that, the feeling of Travis' warm fingers against the back of his hand.
"You ready for this heat, Simmer?" Nolan in the video calls to Wayne, who is standing between the posts, pretending like he's getting ready to try and block the shot.
"Oh, you know there's no stoppin' the Wayne Train." Wayne calls back, making Travis duck his face into the side of Katie's head. You can't hear it in the video, but Nolan remembers Travis saying "Wayne Train, oh my god" under his breath as he tried to stifle his laughter.
Nolan watches, tears on his cheeks, as the three of them move towards the goal, dribbling the puck gently. Oh. Huh. Wait. When had Nolan started crying? He reaches up, touches his cheeks and feels his fingers come away wet. As soon as he realizes he's crying, it's like his brain just let's go. All of a sudden, he's sobbing. Loudly, painfully. He tries to draw in quick breaths as his shoulders start to shake. He just keeps weeping as he watches himself and Katie score the world's slowest goal on Wayne, hears the too-loud whoop Travis had let out. He watches Travis turn, out of Nolan's arms, and swing gracefully around the back of the net, dropping carefully to one knee in a celly as Katie clings tightly to his neck, a wide, bright smile on her face. Nolan watches himself and Claude drift slowly over, reaching out to pat Travis on the back, since they couldn't do it to Katie herself.
The shot changes, and Nolan is looking at himself, alone in the locker room, hands on his hips but looking the least pissed he's ever looked in front of a camera.
"It's good to make those connections, you know, to let certain people see a little bit more than just what we show on the ice." Nolan in the video is saying, something Nolan in the present hates himself for saying. Watches himself be like, open and honest and hates it. He brings his legs up, hugs his knees to his chest as sobs continue to rush out of him. Nolan watches his idiot past self smile, wants to punch himself as he says "she's an amazing kid, it was really an honor to spend time with her."
The shot changes again, to Wayne and Katie sitting side by side on the bench, Travis standing protectively behind the kid, Wayne opens his mouth to say something to her, and Nolan reaches out and slaps the remote. He has to slap it a couple of times, but he finally hits one of the buttons, and the video disappears as the main menu pops up. Nolan just tips himself to the side, buries his face in the couch cushions, and lets himself keep sobbing. He just can't bring himself to watch any more, to look at Katie's little yellow mittens and wonder if she's even still alive.
Kevin flicks the light on when he gets back to the room, flicks it right back off when he sees Nolan curled up on the couch with red cheeks. He's quiet, shuffling his feet slowly instead of his usual stomping, as he comes to sit down. He perches just on the edge of the seat, his thigh pressed almost to the top of Nolan's head. He's come to know how to handle Nolan when he's like this, a perfect balance of helping Nolan, without babying Nolan. He's good at it. Nolan wants to reach out to him, but that seems stupid. If it were someone else, Ivan or Wayne, he wouldn't hesitate to latch onto them. He doesn't just grab Kevin, though, that's not how they work. He knows Kevin wouldn't mind if Nolan grabbed him, but it's not something he does. He's just being stupid. He's been being that a lot lately.
"One of Provy's witches get'cha?" Kevin asks in a whisper, reaching out gently and brushing the hair out of Nolan's eyes. Nolan is pretty sure it's just so that Kevin can see him better, but the action feels comforting anyway.
"Little one." Nolan tells him, honestly. It's not a migraine, barley even a headache. He'd just cried too much, too long, and he always got a little bit of a headache after a good cry. His mom was the same way, crying just drained them so much, left them dehydrated and empty.
"You gonna be good for the game tonight?" Kevin asks, just gets a scowl in response. "Okay, okay. You need any pills?" Kevin leans over so he can look into Nolan's eyes. Nolan has always thought that Kevin has to have the dumbest face he has ever seen, so open and expressive all the time. Nolan can see the worry in his eyes, the was he's holding his mouth closed tight, like he's afraid it'll run away from him and make too much noise for Nolan's broken head.
"Just the acetaminophen, maybe." Nolan says, closing his eyes so he doesn't have to look at Kevin's giant, earnest face anymore.
"Gotcha. Be right back, Patso."
Nolan takes stock of his body, then, feels his clothes against his skin, the way his phone is digging into his hip where he's laying on it. Feels his shoulders, left one cramped up a little where he's been laying on it for who-knows how long. No tension, no pinching. Focuses on his neck, the way it itches a bit where his hoodie chord is draped across his throat. No tension, no pinching. The base of his skull, which feels normal, no migraine worming in. He leaves his eyes closed, feels no throbbing, no pulsing. Behind his left temple, there is a dull, sustained ache. It doesn't pound with his pulse, doesn't flare and move. It's just there, reminding Nolan that his brain isn't his friend most of the time.
Kevin is quiet when he comes back, the rattling of the pill bottle the only thing that gives him away as he sets it down on the coffee table in front of Nolan. He doesn't say anything else, just brushes a hand against Nolan's hair again, and leaves him to it.
Nolan scowls down at his phone like it, personally, has offended him. He's about to have it snatched out of his hand by staff, about to walk down the tunnel and onto ice for their first playoff game, against the Penguins. He's not even paying attention to what Claude is saying to amp up the team, is just glaring down at his screen.
New DM request.
t.kon: did you mean to follow me??
npatrick19: Is that okay?
t.kon: pretty sure you don't actually want to see the kind of shit i post
npatrick19: Are you a furry or something?
t.kon: or something
Nolan navigates back to Travis' profile, like he thinks something will be different. Nope. There it is. The little "Follow" button. Last night it had said "Requested", but now it had changed back. Nolan may not be the most active person on social media, but he still knew what that meant. Travis had rejected his follow request.
Nolan breaths through his nose, refuses to let himself look as out of breath as he feels, and stares at Sidney Crosby in open volatility. It's not Crosby's fault, but Nolan still wants to fuck him up a little bit, on like, principal or something. Three faceoffs in a minute of play, fucking hell. Nolan doesn't know why he hasn't be swapped for Claude, yet. He had expected to be, his whole line had started towards the bench and everything. They're tired. He's tired, okay. He's been out here for like two fucking minutes, only pausing to do these fucking faceoffs. He can't win one if his vision won't stop swimming, and his vision won't stop swimming if they don't let him off the fucking ice. Jakub and Nic seem just as pissed as Nolan is that they're still out here. Maybe he should just stand out of his stance and slap Crosby across his handsome fucking face, get himself off the ice by heading into the box. At least then he'd get to sit the fuck down.
He loses the faceoff, isn't surprised when the puck flies between his feet. He turns, tries to follow it, but honestly can't even see where it went for a second. He scans the ice, sees something glint off to his right. Before he can turn towards it, though, his eye throbs suddenly, and he has to blink harshly. Not now, not fucking now. Nolan grinds his teeth. He spins, looks at the bench. Finally, finally they're being called in. He moves slower than he should be, clenching his fists as he tries to ignore the not so gentle throbbing that has picked up just behind his left eye. He hadn't had an aura, hadn't been around anything that was a blue trigger. It just happened. What the fuck? Bullshit, this is bullshit. The last migraine had been the day he met Katie, triggered by Travis' second hand smoke. That one had made sense, he'd seen it coming. Plus, it had started slow, built up over the night and tapered off easily with the right pills and some rest. This one was just an icepick, driven into his eye for no reason and intensifying rapidly as Nolan tries to blink the black spots out of his vision. Nolan makes it to the bench weakly, basically tips himself into it, grunts at whoever pats his back on their way out. He knows the guys can see that something is wrong, but he also knows they will just assume it's because he was out on the ice too long. Way too fucking long. Nobody should be left on the ice like that, okay, they can't all be Ivan.
Nolan collapses onto the bench, feels Jakub collapse next to him. He spits his mouthguard out, breathing heavily through his mouth. He glances at the little timer they keep on the floor, sees that his line just played around 2:50 ice time. Holy shit. Nolan squeezes his eyes shut, leans against Jakub maybe a little more than appropriate. His eye keeps throbbing, each pulse sending the pain deeper into his skull. Nolan is pissed now. Pissed. He missed playoffs last year, he's not missing them again. Fuck, he should have known. Nolan's eye throbs again, shooting pain all the way back into the base of his skull, and he should have known. The migraine is shooting out from the same exact place he'd had a headache this morning. What a joke. Nolan feels breathless, feels the migraine pulse again, back, back and down into his spine. The lights are so bright, the tint on Nolan's face shield isn't helping at all. Why now, why? He'd been telling Kevin the truth this morning, he'd been fine. His headache had been gone, after a bottle of water. He'd been so sure it was just from crying. This is bullshit.
Suddenly there is a hand on his neck, pulling. Jakub's voice in his ear, and Scott coming towards him from the ice. Shit. Nolan blinks, feels himself going ice-blind, and swings his body weakly onto the ice anyway. He's stupid, stupid. This is a bad idea, he cant do this. He needs to turn around, tell AV what the fuck is going on. He needs to go back, sit in the dark room with the trainers. He knows he can't play like this. He needs to get off the ice. That's what he needs to do, but instead, Nolan pushes off from the wall, following Jakub even though that's not his job. He doesn't know what his job is, anymore, can't think of what he's supposed to do, and he can't see passed the white, white, blinding ice. He closes his eyes, jerks his body to the left, forces himself to not just skate in a straight line after Jakub. He moves in what he's pretty sure is the general direction of the Penguins' goal, and pushes himself. His stick hits the boards and he opens one eye, sees the blurry splotch of yellow sweaters in front of himself and moves that way. White zips by him, but his eyes are unfocused and he can't tell who it is. Fast and lean, probably Sanheim. Nolan pitches towards him, pushes himself forward as his whole head throbs, his vision blacking out for a second as it does.
Jakub's voice comes just a second before Nolan feels something crack against his face. He hears himself cry out as something gives in his mouth, feeling his throat fill instantly with blood. Fuck. In his migraine induced haze he'd never popped his mouthguard back in, it was still sitting on the bench. His eyes fly open in time to see the puck drop onto the ground in front of him. A split second before he see's Jakub, eyes wide with an emotion Nolan can't read, dropping his stick like it's burned him. Oh, that's what that was, Jakub's stick. Nolan spins, the momentum of the hit sending him tailspinning. He hits a wall, hard, slides down it and crumples to a stop on the ice. He lands on his back, the back of his head bouncing off the ice, and he thinks he might be crying out. His brain is screaming, rattled around in his stupid fucking skull by Jakub's stick. He clutches his head, trying to force his fingers up under the helmet to claw at his skull as it pulses, angrier than ever.
"Patty, Pat, shit." Jakub is there, leaning over Nolan. "Why the fuck didn't you get out of the way?"
Nolan looks up at him, whines weakly as Jakub's face swims into focus. Someone skates to a stop next to his head, showering snow into his eyes. He sees the moment where Jakub realizes that Nolan is clutching his temples, and not at his bloody mouth where he'd just taken a high stick from a fucking viking. Sees the guilt and anger evaporate, replaced by panic. Jakub is yelling louder then, but not at Nolan anymore. Nolan's whole body throbs in pain, and he closes his eyes as there are suddenly way too many hands on him.
Bullshit. This is such bullshit.
Nolan doesn't have time to think of any further expletives before he loses consciousness.
Travis has never followed hockey. Had actively avoided it, to be honest. Which was a feat and half, being from Canada and being an ice skater. Hockey had been shoved in his face constantly as a kid. He'd just done a very good job of ignoring it, until recently. The only reason he even knew the names of the guys on the Flyers was because of Katie. She'd talked so much about them, Claude Giroux this and Nolan Patrick that, wearing down her little voice just so she could tell Travis about how cool Ivan Provorov had been in the last game. She'd been a little bit in love with those guys. Travis had indulged her, had sat and pretended to watch the games with her while he silently counted her respirations and put in endless requests for changes to her care plan. Then, of course, he'd met the infamous Nolan Patrick, had skated with him, had stood around and talked at him for twenty minutes for no other reason than Travis really hadn't wanted to get in his car and drive home. He had then promptly blocked that entire day, the last day he had ever seen Katie Park, from his memory. Travis hadn't thought any more about the Flyers, until he started his job at Blanchet Gardens Memory Care, and the director, who he shared an office with, had a bright orange Flyers mug holding pens on her desk. Simone was an avid hockey fan, followed the Flyers as obsessively as Katie had. Despite that, she was easy to get along with, had become something of Travis' friend in the past few weeks. So this morning, when she'd stormed into the office and screamed at him for not telling her he'd met the fucking Flyers, Travis had been confused for a second. Then he remembered signing a form that gave the Flyers PR people permission to publish a video with his image and name. Simone had watched the video that morning, had recognized Travis and been very angry at him for never mentioning anything. Travis sure as shit wasn't going to tell her that npatrick19 had tried to follow him on Instagram, had responded to his DM's literally split seconds after Travis had sent them, like he'd been waiting for them. Travis resoundingly refused to think any more about Nolan god damn Patrick or his ridiculous high cheekbones than he absolutely had to.
Which is why, when Simone had put on the Flyers game, which was apparently a very important game that Travis was a terrible person for not knowing about, he'd mostly ignored it. It was playing on Simone's phone, which she had propped up under her computer screen. It was quiet enough, wasn't really disturbing Travis too much as he went through the stack of patient chart notes on his desk. It was only when Simone let out a loud curse in French, and then a shocked gasp, that Travis looked up. Simone had her hands clasped over her mouth, eyes wide in shock as she looked at whatever was happening on the little screen. Travis couldn't see from here, but he could hear the commentator's voice.
"He is not getting up from the ice. He's clearly been hurt bad. Oh my god." the guy sounds like he's genuinely concerned. "He doesn't appear to be moving. This looks bad, folks."
"What's going on?" Travis asks, watching Simone shake her head in disbelief.
"Voráček just destroyed Patrick." Simone says, tilting the phone so Travis can see. There is a cluster of people on the rink, standing around where, sure enough, Patrick is laying on the ice on his back with the lower half of his face drenched in blood. One of the medical staff is easing his helmet off his head, and they've got a clamshell stretcher and a gurney waiting. Just like the commentator said, Patrick isn't moving. One of his team mates, too little on the screen for Travis to read his jersey, is crouched down next to him, clutching at his hand where it lays limp on the ice.
"I know hockey is literally the dumbest sport in the world, but it still seems unproductive to destroy your own guy." Travis says, watching as they usher about ten dudes in white jerseys away from Patrick so that they can get the clamshell around him.
"He didn't to it on purpose, enculé." Simone says, the annoyance in her voice overridden by her clear and obvious worry for Patrick.
Travis just watches quietly as they take Patrick off the ice, listens as the commentator talks about how they're going to postpone the game until that night, and tries not to feel any kind of way about it.
He just hopes Katie didn't see that.