Nolan feels too big for his body, out of place where he's sitting in Claude Giroux's shiny kitchen, holding Claude Giroux's tiny baby, trying not to spill juice on what is definitely Ryanne Giroux's fancy dishtowel. The team have been home for less than twenty-four hours, but Nolan has been in Philly for two days already. The team will be getting ready to play a game tomorrow, while Nolan gets ready to watch from the press box. He tries not to think about that, like he tried not to think about how guilty he had felt when Claude had pulled him into a too-tight hug earlier, had whispered "god, you really scared the shit out of me, kid." Claude is standing over the stove, now, stirring some soup that Nolan just knows is going to taste like socks, despite the assurances that it'll be both good and good for him. Nolan can't chew very well right now, and canned soups tended to have shit that was on Nolan's magenta or orange trigger list, so here he is. Claude insisted that he had a good recipe for French bone broth, but Nolan has been watching him this whole time, and he is pretty sure Claude has just dumped the entire contents of his spice drawer into some hot water and called it good. Nolan thinks he saw him put dried orange peel in it. Fuck, he's really going to have to eat that, isn't he? God, the things Nolan does for his captain. Uck.
Nolan looks down at Gavin, who is playing with the strings of Nolan's hoodie, and tries to come up with a way to tell Claude the truth. He keeps telling himself that he needs to just have some balls and tell him, but he's struggling with it. Cause, see, the thing is, nobody had any idea what had actually happened out there that day. Everybody, even the trainers and doctors, were under the impression that the migraine had only come after Nolan had gotten his jaw busted. Nolan knows that Claude had yelled at Jakub for it, had jumped to Nolan's defense like the great captain he is, as if poor Jakub hadn't felt guilty enough. Nolan had heard whispers of "should have known better, has been playing long enough to know, what a rookie mistake." Nolan hated himself every time someone spoke about the accident as if Jakub had done anything wrong. Jakub had looked so small and miserable when he'd come to see Nolan in the trainer's room after he'd woken up, had apologized way too many times for something that wasn't even his fault. Nolan is torn, is the problem. If he admits that the only reason his face and Jakub's stick collided is because he'd been trying to do what he had literally signed papers saying he'd never do because it was a liability, he has no idea how AV and Chuck will react. He can't just say "oh, actually, I wasn't going after the puck like everyone thinks, because I was actually on the ice with a migraine, which is, like, a totally fineable offence, and I literally had my eyes closed at the time so didn't even know the puck was there, isn't that funny?" He's already out for at least two games as it is, and Nolan doesn't want to push that. He just can't stand the knowledge that when Jakub had stepped on the ice to finish the game later that night, the few Flyers fans in attendance had booed him. Flyers fans didn't even like Nolan most of the time, what the fuck. It was Nolan's fault.
"Don't let him put that in his mouth." Claude says, jerking Nolan out of his thoughts suddenly. Nolan looks down to see that Gavin had managed to extract Nolan's cellphone from his hoodie pocket when he was distracted. Fuck. When did babies get so dexterous?
"Shit, little thief." Nolan mumbles, snatching the phone from Gavin's little hands and setting it down on the island next to him. Nolan can barely open his mouth thanks to his bruised jaw, lisps a little around his four missing teeth and swollen tongue, so he knows he can barely be understood, so Claude can, like, stop with the pinched dad face, okay? Gavin isn't gonna pick up the bad word Nolan just said.
"The soup is almost ready." Claude says, tossing a kitchen towel over his shoulder, acting as if he looks like he has any idea what he's doing with that soup. "If that's still why you're pretending you're here."
"I literally can not wait for your soup." Nolan says, staring intently down at the top of Gavin's little head.
"Clearly, since when I offered to text you the recipe, you showed up at my door instead." Claude says, leaning across the island so he's in Nolan's personal space.
Nolan doesn't say anything to that, just keeps looking down at Gavin. Nolan has one hand on the baby, holding the little guy against his stomach to keep him from falling, while the other tangles nervously around the hem of his hoodie. Nolan has, obviously, been like, aware that Gavin is small. He just doesn't get to hold him very often, doesn't get to see how his hand spans the entirety of his torso. He's so small. Jesus, how do babies handle being that little? Nolan is pretty sure he was never that little. Sure as hell guys like Zdeno Chara were never fucking hand-sized. Nolan had never really thought about the concept of kids, too much. Like, maybe abstractly, as a super far off in the future kind of thing. He had been around kids, obviously, not just Katie. All of his team mates who had kids brought them around enough that Nolan got, like, used to children. He still remembers the first time he'd held Gavin, though. Had looked wide eyed at Ryanne as she deposited the little guy into Nolan's arms, like she trusted him with her literal child. It was insane. He'd looked down at his little face, not even that cute back then because, hey, newborn. Still, Nolan had looked at him and thought, oh, okay, that's why people make these. Gavin wasn't even remotely Nolan's, Claude doesn't even call him Gavin's uncle the way he does with guys like Jakub and Wayne. Still though, Nolan let's Gavin wrap his little fist around his thumb, and knows he would burn cities for this baby. Can't imagine if something ever happened to him. God, if he ever got sick. Ever needed a breathing tube and a nurse. Nolan forces himself to stop that train of thought.
"It just gets lonely." Nolan tells Claude, instead of bringing up the actual reason he'd come here. It's not a lie, anyway. Nolan mumbles down towards Gavin, instead of looking up at his captain.
"I know, Pat. Getting hurt is terrible, especially when the team is away." Claude says, reaching out and tapping the island in front of Nolan, but not crossing the gap to actually touch him.
"I don't mean now, G. I mean always." Nolan looks at Claude's hand, tracks his eyes up to his shoulder. Doesn't meet his eye though.
"Shit, kid." Claude sighs.
"Being hurt makes it worse, obviously. Going through this alone." Nolan shrugs, sliding his free hand against the top of the island, so that just the tips of his fingers push against the tips of Claude's. Neither of them acknowledge the contact.
"You're not alone, Pat. just because we're not here in Philly doesn't mean you're alone." Claude tells him, his voice taking on that fatherly quality he gets when he's talking to one of the guys, the voice that reminds Nolan just how much Claude actually cares.
"That's not what I mean." Nolan says, tugging Gavin closer against his stomach, for comfort. "You have Ryanne, like, your family. If you get hurt you have someone who loves you. No matter how much the team is there for me it's not the same, I don't have to tell you that."
"You're young, Pat, you'll find," Claude starts, but Nolan cuts him off.
"No, I won't. I can't, you fucking know that." Nolan is harsher than he means to be. He's not angry at Claude, obviously. He knows his captain knows him well enough to know that, at least.
"Things, change, kid. We're trying to make them change. Me and James didn't become You Can Play ambassadors for fun, we actually want things to be different." Claude says, finally breaking the seal and wrapping his hand around Nolan's.
"Shit doesn't just change." Nolan says.
"Really? Cause there was a time when men like Simmer thought the same thing. It wasn't even that long ago that he wouldn't have even been allowed to play in the same rink as us." Claude sounds a little annoyed now, and Nolan wants to shrink into himself. "Now he's probably one of the most beloved guys on my team."
"That's not the point." Nolan says, even though he doesn't really know what the point is anymore. This is why Nolan doesn't like to talk about his feelings, it always gets him in trouble. He should have stuck with his original train of thought, told Claude the truth about the migraine. Then Claude would simply be pissed at him, not acting all emotional and shit.
"Okay, kid. Tell me what the point is, then." Claude says, squeezing Nolan's hand. Nolan remembers, long before he'd met Claude, someone saying that Claude Giroux failed as a captain because he made it personal. Nolan doesn't even remember who had said that, just that they had seemed to think that how fiercely Claude cared about his team mates as people, was somehow a flaw. Nolan hadn't thought much if it then, but it made him mad, now. Claude was the best captain Nolan could have ever asked for because he stuck his nose in everybody's personal business. He gave a shit, not just on the ice, and it made Nolan feel safe in a way he hadn't expected, going into the NHL. Nolan had been a captain, once, had held himself tightly and kept his distance from his guys, had tried to make himself look like he had everything figured out. Claude was nothing like him, and everything a good captain needed to be.
"I'm just tired of going through all of this without someone there who isn't just there because we work together." Nolan says, wiggling his fingers under Claude's until he can hook their pinkies together.
"I promise you, kid, you'll get there. Maybe not openly, maybe not even before you retire, but you will. You're a good man, Patty, you'll find someone." Claude tells him, and Nolan finally looks up at him. Claude is smiling gently, looking at Nolan with a look he's seen him give Gavin before. It makes Nolan's chest swell up with something.
"Doesn't make me less alone right now."
Nolan hates going to actual doctors, outside of the NHL. He wishes getting his teeth knocked out of his skull was something the trainers could just fix in some back room at the Farg. Instead he has to sit in the too-cold waiting room of Dr. Arakawa, DDS, and wait to get his jaw and gums assessed for implants. His jaw still aches under the giant purple bruise that covers most of his chin, and he still has bumps along his tongue where his canines had sliced through it. Nolan pokes the tip of his sore tongue against the empty space at the front of his mouth, and waits.
The little bell over the door jingles as someone comes in, a woman pushing a stroller, and Nolan can hear her speak in a hush to the receptionist, but he doesn't pay much attention. He pulls his legs out of the way when she passes in front of him, though, not in a bad enough mood to just be rude for no reason. He doesn't think much of it at all until she sits down in the chair right next to him, knocking his elbow off his armrest with hers.
"You could always just rock the Coots' look." she says, and Nolan whips his head around to stare dumbly at Ryanne Giroux as she smiles at him.
"Not even Coots rocks it." Nolan tells her. He doesn't have to ask why or how she's here.
Fucking Claude, man.
Nolan bites down on the little piece of cotton in his mouth, and walks quietly beside Ryanne down the street. His remaining teeth were apparently filthy by dentist standards, and Arakawa had poked and prodded enough to get his gums bleeding pretty steadily. Only to then tell him that the damage to his mouth and jaw was bad enough that he probably couldn't get implants for another month. Nolan would just have to not open his mouth in front of a camera for a while, which he was pretty good at anyway. Nolan doesn't know where Ryanne is taking him, but she'd said something about lunch, and Nolan trusted her judgment as first lady of the Flyers so he's pretty sure she won't, like, make him eat something terrible. Though he doesn't think anything would be as terrible as Claude's so-called soup. Nolan is pretty sure half of what Arakawa had found in his teeth was the dried herbs he'd had to chew his way through just to down a cup of that stuff. Nolan grimaces at the memory, just as his phone buzzes in his pocket.
Hartsy 11:14AM : I can't believe you left me alone with these animals.
Outgoing 11:15AM : You could always come back and chill with me and baby G instead.
Nolan snaps a quick shot of Gavin, snuggled up in his stroller, and sends it along to Carter.
Hartsy 11:17AM : How did Giroux make such a cute baby?
Outgoing 11:17AM : His cute has nothing to do with the cap, trust me.
Carter reads the text but doesn't respond. Nolan isn't bothered by it, knows the guy is probably busy doing whatever bat shit insane goalie shit he does before games. Nolan tucks his phone back into his pocket, and Ryanne bumps him gently in the side with Gavin's stroller, herding him towards the cafe they're passing. It's only a couple blocks from the medical plaza that the dentist was in, seems to be full with people on their early lunch breaks and coffee runs. Nolan just opens the door, lets Ryanne push the stroller in before he follows her.
Eating at a new place is always a fun game. He has a pretty big white board up on the wall in his bedroom, three colorful lists that seem to grow each and every day. Magenta for the foods that will give him a migraine every time no matter what; beef, sugar substitute, gluten, etc. Orange for the foods that would cause a migraine if he had them in excess; chocolate, raw fish, soy, etc. Blue was for non-food triggers; prolonged sun exposure, second hand smoke, the smell of bleach, etc. Remembering every thing on the list at all times and cross-checking menu items was a pain in the ass, so Nolan just usually avoided new places or unknown foods. He knows that Ryanne knows this, though, knows that she has a condensed version of the list herself, for when Nolan comes around for team dinners. Nolan stands behind her as she talks to the person behind the counter, asking them about allergens and cross contamination on Nolan's behalf. He feels soft about it, soft about the idea of someone giving a shit. It just leads to making him feel worse, though, in that deep down lonely spot. Ryanne isn't his person. She's Claude's, cares about Nolan as an extension of her husband.
Nolan looks around the shop so he doesn't have to think about Ryanne Giroux and her big heart. The decorations are pretty mish-mashed, not following any sort of theme besides maybe "pretty". Lots of flowers, dried and living alike, lots of lace and pink and soft looking fabrics. It's cluttered, a little. Shelves taking up all the wall space, filled with little knick knacks and books Nolan is sure people don't actually read. It seems like a popular place, though. There are people around, people in suits with work badges, college kids on their laptops. There is a group of people in one corner wearing scrubs, obviously having walked down from the medical plaza for their break. It's just loud enough to feel crowded, but not obnoxious.
"Are you still testing dairy?" Ryanne asks him, and Nolan shakes his head. Dairy had gone on the metaphorical green list a while ago. "Okay, they've got gluten-free protein bowls, you want to try the vegetable and feta one?" and Nolan nods his head. Shouldn't be too hard to chew. She orders for them all, even getting a little cup of sliced apples for Gavin, sending Nolan off to get them a table. Nolan looks around again, sees that most of the tables are actually full. The one in the back corner though, the people there seem to be standing up to leave. A woman in a weirdly bright yellow suit and a guy in scrubs are picking up their trash as they stand, so Nolan heads that way to get their table as they leave. They look up at him as he approaches, and he feels his stomach do a strange swooshing thing he's never felt before as they all freeze.
"Oh my god." the woman gasps, lifting her hand and straight up pointing at Nolan. "Holy shit, you're, uh. Wow."
"Hi." the guy says, looking at Nolan in much the same way that Nolan knows he's looking back, like he's the last thing he expected to see today.
"Hey, oh, hi." Nolan says, words tripping over his still-swollen tongue. Fuck, he still has a literal piece of cotton in his mouth, what an idiot.
"You're Nolan Patrick." the woman says, still staring.
"Last time I checked." he shrugs, and it earns him a snort of laughter from her companion.
"You look like shit, bud." Travis says, finally unfreezing and scooping the last napkin off the table. The woman turns and shoots Travis a glare, says something under her breath in not-English.
"Pretty much feel like it, so, yeah." Nolan tells him, watching the way Travis' hands clench and unclench around his empty coffee cup, squashing the paper a bit more each time.
"Are you okay?" Travis asks, stepping around the table and up into Nolan's space. He'd done this last time, too, gotten closer than seemed necessary, even though it made him have to tilt his head back, look up at Nolan.
"I will be." Nolan says, looking down into Travis' face, noticing that he's grown a goatee since they last met. Which is good for Nolan's sanity because it's fucking hideous, makes Travis much less of an absolute fucking rocket and more just normal levels of hot. So, that helps.
"Saw you get taken out in a fucking gurney, my dude." Travis says, eyes scanning Nolan's face like he's trying to assess the damage. He might be, actually. Dude is a fucking nurse after all. Nolan can hears his sister's stupid voice in his head, suddenly. "Hello nurse." Yeah.
"Thought you didn't watch hockey?" Nolan teases. Teases him. Fucking hell, why did he do that? You can't just go around teasing people.
"I don't, she does." Travis gestures to the woman who was at the table with him, and Nolan actually looks at her for the first time. Pretty, black, taller than Travis even though she's in flats. Seems like she might usually be bubbly, if she wasn't so openly flabbergasted by Nolan's presence. She's still just, like, staring at Nolan. Nolan notices the badge hanging on her hip is from the same place as Travis'. Coworker then. Nolan doesn't let himself think, "oh, cool, probably not a girlfriend" like his stupid little brain wants him to. That's, like, totally not relevant.
"I'm a, uh, really big fan." she says, gesturing to Nolan's self. She has an accent, much thicker than his and Travis' own Canadian.
"Thanks." Nolan says, giving her a nod. "You work around here?" he asks Travis.
"Yeah, uh, the facility I was telling you about? It's right across from the medical plaza." Travis says, holding up his badge, which is shiny and new. Blanchet Gardens SCF, Travis Konecny RN, Head of Nursing.
Travis looks like he's about to say something else, but then Ryanne is there, balancing a little basket of food on the handle of Gavin's stroller. Travis looks slowly between her and Nolan, and then down at Gavin. Nolan sees his face do something funny, cross through about ten different emotions before landing on a bright smile down towards the baby.
"Wow. How old is the little guy?" Travis asks Nolan, like he's supposed to remember something like that.
"Eighteen months." Ryanne says. "Say hi, Gavin." she coos, and Gavin lets out a happy little noise and what might pass as the vague sounds of the word hi in response.
"Hey, buddy." Travis says, slipping into baby talk a little bit. Nolan feels light headed all of a sudden, watching this hot ass dude that he like, maybe, kind of, sort of, has a tiny little bit of a crush on, fucking giggle down at his captain's baby. Fucking hell.
"Nolan, take this." Ryanne says, shoving the basket of food into his hands. Nolan grunts in response, cradling the basket to his chest. Why the hell does this place give you food in a basket, instead of on a tray like a normal cafe? Ryanne steps around the stroller, reaches out to start undoing Gavin's seatbelt, or whatever it was that holds babies into strollers.
"He's precious as hell. Or, uh, sorry." Travis winces, but Ryanne just laughs.
"Don't worry. Gavin has already heard plenty of bad words, thanks to Nolan." she tells Travis as she lifts Gavin out of the stroller. "You guys known each other, right?" she gestures between Nolan and Travis.
"Yeah." Nolan says, at he exact same time as Travis says,
"Oh." Nolan says.
The woman in the yellow suit just keeps staring.
"I uh, gotta get back to work." Travis tells them, after a second of painful silence. "It was nice to met you."
Nolan stands there, awkwardly clutching a basket of healthy snacks, and watches as Travis and his coworker walk away.
4 days ago.
npatrick19 : WTF.
3 days ago.
npatrick19 : Seriously?
npatrick19 : Lol k.
t.kon : im not trying to be a dick
t.kon : sorry for being weird
t.kon : gavin is really cute tho. congrats bud.