Travis stares at the stained ceiling of his office, and questions every single one of his life decisions. When Travis was eighteen years old and left his life behind to move to America for school, he had thought it was going to be great. Philadelphia was decent enough after he got used to it, and school had been mostly survivable. He'd taken a double load his first year, to get through the prerequisites as fast as possible and get into the nursing program before his financial aide ran out. He'd still needed to work, though, had gotten a job as a caregiver in a memory care facility a lot bigger and fancier than the one he is at now. It had been good, and Travis had fallen in love with the work, with senior care in general, and with every single little old lady with Parkinson's in the world. He'd watched the hospice workers come in and out and thought that was what he wanted to do. Then he finished school, got his license, and started to work. He'd been the youngest nurse at Vista Hospice, had taken a lot of pride in it. For two years he told himself he was finally where he needed to be. Had believed it, too, for a while. Then one day he got a new patient, a man who had been emergency-admitted to Blanchet Gardens following a stroke. Travis had come a few times, gotten him set up, gone over the end of life kit with the med techs, and as he always did, tried to force himself to distance. He had done a pretty good job of it, actually. The guy's wife had been an absolute nightmare to deal with, and the patient himself couldn't talk, so Travis didn't have a chance to get too into his feelings about it before the guy died two weeks later. Travis had already been on his way to do a check-in when it happened, had walked onto the unit just in time to see one of the caregivers rush out of the room and towards the med tech's station. The med tech, Jak, a skinny woman who wore a hijab, had just followed Travis into the room, looked at the guy and said, completely monotone, "oh yeah, that's sure as shit a dead dude" and startled a laugh out of Travis despite the situation. Now that Jak works for Travis, he realizes that's just how she is, but at the time, he'd felt like it meant something, some kind of sign for him.
The next time after that day that Travis got a call about Katie Park and he felt his heart sink into his stomach in fear, he realized the difference between what he was doing, and what he wanted to be doing. Very little living happens in hospice patients. Being with someone at the end of their life was something that Travis had found meaningful, something he took pride in being a part of. When he thought back to his time as a caregiver, about how he got to watch people actually live out the end of their lives, he realized what he was missing, what was keeping him from being really happy. It was like with Katie, the sweet little girl who just wanted to grow up and play hockey, who didn't even know that was never going to happen. She had a lot of life she wanted to live, but wasn't ever going to be able to. Nothing Travis did could change that. In long term care, maybe he could change something, at least a little bit. He could change medications, order PT, help someone feel better and live longer. He could actually watch people live, instead of just watching them die. He'd sat next to Katie's bed that day, listening to her talk about how she was going to marry Nolan Patrick when she grew up, and he realized he'd made the wrong choice somewhere. He put in his notice later that night, had found out about Make A Wish shortly after. Everything in him had wanted to say no when he'd been asked to accompany her. He had been so angry that it was even happening, that they were risking Katie's life for some dumbass hockey bros. He had been about to say no, until Katie had looked up at him and rasped "you have to come too, so then we can ice skate together" and his resolve had crumbled to dust.
Now Travis is here. Sitting in his cramped office with it's stained carpet and weird smell, trying not to look over at the window to the unit where the guy from room 8 has been trying to bust out for twenty minutes. Every once in a while the little whoop-whoop alarm that indicates someone is trying to push the door without putting in the code to disengage the lock goes off, and Travis hears Jak yell from deeper into the unit. Travis snorts a quiet laugh to himself, knows that a good boss would reprimand her for shouting "knock that shit off, old man" at a patient. Room 8 just responded "kiss my ass, candy striper" back, though, so Travis figured he could handle himself. As long as she didn't do it in front of a DPH auditor or a family visitor, Travis just let her be. The patients all loved her anyway. Not like Travis. He hasn't been around long enough for him to stick into any of their minds, so he's always a new person. A new person with too many questions and a wound care kit full of shit that hurt. He'd been bitten twice just this morning, trying to change the bandage on room 16's leg. Jak had laughed maniacally at that, said "yeah, you tell him, missy," and done nothing to help Travis in any way.
Whoop-whoop goes the door alarm, and Travis needs a cigarette.
"Your boy is back." Simone says, blowing smoke out of her nose in a way that is somehow elegant. Travis is a little jealous of how cool she is, sometimes. She turns the phone so Travis can see the game he'd been trying to ignore the sounds of. He only has ten minutes to smoke, he's not going to waste it thinking about the slope of Nolan Patrick's nose, okay. Or Nolan Patrick's pretty wife and admittedly adorable baby. Certainly he's not going to waste any time thinking about how Patrick hadn't responded to any more of Travis' DMs. He hadn't even read them. Travis had fucked up, somewhere, and whatever friendliness he'd earned that made Patrick want to be his Instagram buddy was clearly gone. Which was fine. It's not like Patrick owed him anything, it was fine. Just because Patrick had been nice to Travis, subjectively, it didn't mean anything. It certainly didn't mean that Travis could look at Patrick's stupidly pretty face and feel attraction. Not for a straight hockey player. He knew better.
"Ew." Travis says, glancing down at the phone just long enough to see someone with a big orange 19 on their back step onto the ice and be met with a roaring crowd. Travis couldn't tell if the crowd sounded happy or not, but they were certainly enthusiastic.
"I can't believe you can just casually strike up a conversation with Nolan god damn Patrick out of nowhere, but you can't even get me tickets to a game. You're literally the worst, I should fire you."
"Yeah right, then you'd have to take over the RN duties again." Travis scoffed. Simone and Jak had tried to fill in the roles the RN was supposed to play for a few weeks after they had to fire the one Travis had replaced. She had been really, really bad at her job. Travis had come into months and months of unfiled patient reports, outdated service plans, and a building that was one DPH audit away from being shut down. He'd been working his ass off getting the paperwork to look at least somewhat in compliance, and he hadn't even made a dent in the service plans. The woman in room 3 hadn't had her service plan updated since 2018, and it still listed her very dead husband as her first contact. Lot of good that guy was gonna be in an emergency. Travis already needed a vacation. Somewhere far away from Philly, and the fucking Philadelphia Flyers.
"Oh, look, he got a goal." Simone says, shoving her phone into Travis' face. Travis tries not to look at it, but he still catches a glimpse as the camera closes up on Patrick's face, still purple and swollen in some kind of fishbowl contraption, as he hugs his team mates tight.
Travis pulls on his laces harder than he needs to, lifts his whole foot off the floor with it. It makes a thunking noise as he drops it back down, and Travis is too annoyed to even care. He usually ended up with the rink to himself when he showed up at Skate Time at 10PM on a Wednesday, and that's how he liked it. Tonight there is a group of three boys, a lot younger than Travis, probably in high school, fucking around on the ice in their big dumb hockey skates. Travis wants to ignore them, he really does, but they are extremely loud. Travis doesn't look at them as he steps onto the ice, but he can feel at least one set of eyes follow him as he swizzles to the other side of the rink from them. He'd wanted to practice some axels, since he'd gotten out of form for them, but there is no way in hell he's going to do that with these guys here. Instead he just skates, keeps to one side of the ice and moves in circles, trying to ignore the urge to bring his leg up as he turns. He knows he still moves differently from them, knows it's still obvious that he's not like them.
He remembers the first axel he'd ever properly landed, the joy and pride flooding through his chest for a split second before one of the guys on his brother's pee-wee hockey team had shouted "fucking fairy" across the ice at him. Remembers the way his own brother had laughed, had told Travis "figure skating is for fags, if you don't like it just play hockey like a normal boy" with no sympathy. He thinks about the years spent sharing a rink with hockey teams, even after his brother quit the sport. Remembers how the hockey players had looked at him, before they even knew he was gay. Remembers the verbal attacks, the rare physical ones before they realized Travis could throw a punch better than they could. He thinks about the look on his brother's face a few years later, when Travis came out and his brother clearly got caught thinking about the way he'd talked to Travis about his figure skating since they were kids. He remembers his parents pulling him out of his figure skating, firing his coach, his dad's mutters of "no kid of mine," remembers chucking one of his skates at his dad, the looks of horror on everyone's faces as blood dripped from his shoulder. He'd moved out after that, and never spoke to another hockey player again until the Flyers.
"That's not what I said, bro!" one of the boys shouts, loud enough that Travis can't ignore it, stumbles a little out of his stroke as it disturbs his thought.
"Bullshit, Erik." someone laughs. "You're just pissy because your little boyfriend got scratched."
Travis feels his breath pick up speed, the familiar urge to run off the ice and put as much distance as possible between him and some hockey players sneaking up on him. He just grinds his teeth, forces himself to keep skating and ignore them.
"He's not my boyfriend!" someone, presumably Erik, yells. His voice goes high pitched, a little angry. It's not the disgust that Travis had expected though, something more like embarrassment.
"Of course not, that's why you've got his picture as your lockscreen, bro." someone laughs, and Erik shrieks in annoyance. Travis looks over at them, sees two of them pushing each other around while the other laughs.
"We're just friends, shut the hell up." Erik, who is apparently the tall blonde one, shouts as he manages to topple his buddy onto the ice.
"Erik and Gomez, sitting in a tree," the boy on the ground starts to sing, the other boy joining in with a laugh.
"Fuck you guys, see if I ever tell you anything again." Erik says, red faced and pouty.
Travis looks away, focuses on his breathing, and starts into a waltz eight. Maybe he'll practice his axels after all.
Nolan tumbles into his hotel room way too late at night, sober for the sake of his brain, but a little high on victory and getting two goals tonight. Playoff goals. One of which he'd stolen straight off Kris Letang's tape. He's beside him fucking self with joy. He trips over someone's pants on the floor, whines about it, and crashes into his bed. Something moves under him, and he shifts around enough to see Ivan, stupid flow a mess as he peeks over the blanket to glare at Nolan.
"Why are you in my bed?" Nolan croaks, ignoring the sixteen year old version of himself living in his lizard brain that says hell yeah, Ivan Provorov is in our bed. It would have been a dream come true back then, but now it was just an inconvenience. It's like three in the morning, Nolan just wants to get some sleep.
"Simmer has like eighty people in our room, I need to get some rest." Ivan says, rolling over and tucking himself back against Nolan's pillows like he belongs there.
"Go sleep in Carter's room, he has an empty bed." Nolan says, shoving uselessly at Ivan's back. The bastard doesn't even budge, just pulls Nolan's blankets tighter around his head and sighs like Nolan is the one who is being a pest.
"Tried that, Hartsy threatened to eat me." Ivan grumbles
"Kinky." Kevin pipes up from his side of the room, where he is lounging blissfully in his own bed, by himself, with no Russian interlopers hogging his bedding.
"Gross." Ivan says, wrinkling his nose.
"I don't know, I'd probably let Carter eat me." Nolan says, just to see Ivan's face go even more disgusted. Nolan wouldn't actually touch Carter Hart with a ten foot pole, no matter how good looking the guy is. He was a goalie, ugh. Nolan just knew the image was in Ivan's head now, which was funny as shit.
"Gryaznyy." Ivan repeats himself in Russian, sometimes, for the sake emphasis. It's adorable.
"Carter's pretty cute." Kevin mumbled sleepily. "If I had to pick a dude, you know."
"Wow, man, coldblooded. Nolan is right here." Ivan says, giggling a little.
"I wouldn't let Kevin eat me." Nolan says, finally giving in and just sliding under the covers next to Ivan.
"What? Bullshit, I'm fucking hot." Kevin sniffs.
"Oh, please." Nolan snorts. "Lucky Charms lookin' ass."
"Hey!" Kevin shouts, sending Ivan into a fit of laughter. The sound of his quiet giggling makes Nolan laugh too, and it isn't long before Kevin lets out a snort of laugh of his own.
"Everybody shut up, I'm sleeping." Ivan says, and they all settle pretty quickly.
It's warm under the covers, Ivan's body heat sinking into Nolan's skin despite the gap between them. Nolan hadn't bothered to get undressed, still has his hoodie and sweats bunching around his stomach and calves a little uncomfortably. He's tired though, and the feeling of someone laying next to him is a comfort he hasn't felt in a long time. He drifts off to sleep before Kevin even has a chance to start snoring.
Nolan spends breakfast scrolling through his phone with one hand, eating unsweetened oatmeal with the other. He thumbs through his socials lazily, ignoring the DMs piling up. He knows they're probably all just from fans, women telling him he's hot or men telling him he's bad at hockey. He never looks at his DMs, anymore. Doesn't look at his comments either, on the rare occasion he actually posts anything.
Nolan just opens Safari, searches for something he's been thinking about for a few days now. It doesn't take long for him to find what he's looking for, there is only one Blanchet Gardens in all of Pennsylvania. Nolan clicks through to their website, which is pretty simple and kind of outdated looking. Like they had picked a webpage template from 1990 and just stuck with it. Nolan scrolls down the front page, looking at the little picture of a building he vaguely recalls seeing once, skimming over whats written there.
"If you need to find a memory care community in the Philadelphia area, you’re in the right place. Blanchet Gardens Memory Care is a Special Care Facility that feels and functions like a private home, so your loved one feels a sense of belonging as soon as they arrive. With everything from a kind and compassionate care team that provides gentle guidance and reminders throughout the day, to programs designed specifically for seniors living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, you can rest easy knowing your family member will have every opportunity to thrive and blah, blah, blah."
Nolan scrolls back up to the top of the page, clicks on the little menu button. Mission statement, services, daily tours, meet our staff. Bingo. Nolan clicks through to the staff page, waits for it to load on the shitty hotel WiFi that every other guy on the team is currently also using.
The first picture is of the woman Nolan had met that day in the cafe. Dark skin, long box braids piled neatly on top of her head. The picture is from the shoulders up, but Nolan gets the feeling that weird, oddly colored suits is her go to, if the lime green paisley in the picture is any clue. "Simone Clérisseau is our Executive Director. Simone has been working in senior care for over ten years. Starting out as a caregiver, Simone has worked her way up through compassion and hard work. Simone holds a degree in Medical Administration and runs our blah, blah blah."
The next picture is a very large, very grim looking man with pink cheeks and a chef's hat. "Dawson Settle is our Dining Services Manager. With many years of food service under his belt, Dawson had perfected our in-house menu to suit the needs of any special blah, blah, blah."
The next picture is of a woman who looks way too happy for how fried her bleach blond hair is. "Maryalice Sandavol is our Activities Director. Maryalice is blah blah blah."
Finally, the last picture is Travis. It looks recent, if his terrible little goatee is any indication, and he's smiling bright and wide in his purple scrubs. "Travis Konecny is our Resident RN. Travis has years of experience in memory care, and has worked along side us through outpatient hospice for the past two years. Travis heads the nursing department, which consists of our medication aides and caregivers. Travis is the newest member to our team, and has shown great care and commitment to making Blanchet Gardens the perfect home for all who come here."
Nolan looks down at the little picture of Travis, the way his eyes are crinkled up in obvious joy, and feels himself ache in a way that has nothing to do with his busted jaw.
Travis' phone beeps in his bag just as he's about to step out his front door. He's running a little late for work, and he fumbles a bit with his phone in his haste to get it out.
Diana Moore 5:54AM : this is technically a hipaa violation since you don't work here anymore so you didnt hear this from me. she kept asking for you at the end so i feel like you deserve to know. katie park passed away a few hours ago. i just wrapped up postmortem.
Diana Moore 5:54AM : sorry man i know she was your favorite
Diana sent a picture then, a shot of a framed picture on Katie's bedside table. At some point, someone had printed out one of the pictures from the day they met the Flyers. In it Travis sees himself, holding Katie, while she looks up lovingly at Nolan Patrick. In her weak little chicken scratch handwriting, Katie had scrawled across the bottom of the picture in pink glitter gel.
"me and my favorite boys. best day ever!"
Travis feels his phone slip out of his hands and crash to the ground, barley registers the sound of the screen shattering over the ringing in his ears