Nolan sits breathless in his stall, eyes closed against the bright lights and loud noises, as Wayne gently undoes the straps of his gear for him. Nolan doesn't have any witches in his head, doesn't even have an aura, he just can't move. It's happened once before, now, and Nolan still doesn't know why. He just feels broken. Can't move, can't breathe, can't focus on anything but the feeling of Wayne's hands tugging at him. Nolan hadn't even had to ask Wayne to help, today, hadn't been going to ask, but Wayne had just stopped halfway through taking off his own gear to drop down in front of Nolan. It's how Wayne was, he paid attention to Nolan. Nolan is absolutely certain that if Wayne had been on his line that day he'd been hit by Jakub, he'd know exactly what had happened. That kind of terrifies Nolan. A lot of things terrify Nolan now days, it's pretty shitty. Wayne coaxes him to lean forward, so he can pull Nolan's chest plate over his head, and Nolan winces when Wayne's knuckles brush against his jaw. Wayne doesn't apologize, probably because he knows Nolan doesn't need him to. Wayne is always quiet when he does this, gentle and light in a way that he isn't any other time. It's easy, sometimes, to forget that Wayne Simmonds is big and scary, when he's kneeling on the cold ground to help Nolan take his sweaty gear off. He's never big and scary to Nolan, he's always just this. This kind and gentle guy. At some point Nolan had realized with horror that Wayne, along with some of his other team mates, knew him. Knew him in a way nobody else did, saw him wholly, in a way only Maddie had ever seemed to manage. It felt cheap to call Wayne his best friend, the team were all his best friends, but Nolan didn't really have the words for it. Especially not now, when his body was betraying him and his mind was swimming with worry.
"You doing okay, lapachka?" Ivan drops into Wayne's empty stall, wafting the scent of lavender with him. Ivan was always the first one out of the showers after a game, always smelled like the fancy shampoo he brought from home, a smell that Nolan liked a lot. Nolan just nods in response to the question, doesn't open his eyes to look over at him.
"Think we can all use a vacation about now, Provy." Wayne grunts, tugging on Nolan's sock garter.
"Let's all go to Hawaii. There is no ice in Hawaii." Ivan hums, reaching over and placing his cold fingers over Nolan's eyes. Ivan always has cold hands, no matter what he did to try and warm them up. Nolan loves him for it.
"Nah, Jamaica." Wayne says, sliding Nolan's shin pad off.
"Cabo." Ivan says.
They keep going, listing all the warm places they can think of. Nolan cracks his eyes open under Ivan's hand. The light peeks through, but it doesn't bother Nolan. He's starting to catch his breath, and he manages to wiggle his toes when Wayne tugs off his sock, so he figures he can start moving his body again. He realizes that now that whatever this is has happened twice, he should probably talk to the trainers about it. Suddenly losing all motor function after a normal game in which he played only 9:57 ice time? Probably not a good thing to become a pattern. Whatever is happening might be connected to his migraines, or might be a whole new problem making itself known in Nolan's stupid, traitorous body. It scares the shit out of Nolan. He knows he has to tell the trainers about it. He has to. That doesn't mean Nolan is going to tell the trainers about it, he's just acknowledging to his own idiot self that he, like, definitely should.
There is a lot of things he should tell people, that he just never does.
Nolan doesn't know why Kevin has to take literally ten fucking years after each game saying bye to every single person he sees, including the fucking Penguins' staff, but he's getting impatient. He's been standing next to Kevin's car for at least five minutes now, his wet hair making him cold in the night air. Annoying. Nolan is tired, and hungry, and very, very bored. Bored enough that he digs his phone out of his pocket.
Outgoing 10:14PM : You want a roommate?
Hartsy 10:15PM : Might be nice. Who?
Outgoing 10:15PM : Me.
Hartsy 10:16PM : No ❤️
Nolan switches over to Instagram, contemplates posting a picture of his cold feet with a rude caption about Kevin making him wait out in the damp parking lot after a long and exhausting game 6 overtime. He decides that them beating the Pens and tying the series is enough to leave him in a slightly good enough mood to not do that, though. The little red dot in the upper right hand finally annoys him into clicking on it. He has 145 requests for DMs from people he doesn't follow, which he's going to ignore. He has a few unread from existing conversations though, so he skims those.
barzal97 : ALMOST WITH THE PATTY HATTY.
barzal97 : nice game baybayy!
Nolan doesn't say anything back, since the message is a few days old anyway, just smiles fondly. He backs out, and looks through the rest. He gets to the bottom of the little list, and his smile drops from his face suddenly. He feels his heart rise into his throat.
t.kon, 8 new messages.
What the fuck? How had Nolan missed that?
4 days ago.
t.kon : im not trying to be a dick
t.kon : sorry for being weird
t.kon : gavin is really cute tho. congrats bud.
3 days ago.
t.kon: i was blackmailed into watching part of your game today.
t.kon: does gavin have a little patrick jersey? that would be cute af
t.kon: i like the fucking diving helmet they have you in lmao
2 days ago.
t.kon: did you know fish have taste buds over their entire body?
t.kon: i wonder what they think humans taste like
t.kon: your profile pic holding that fish like that? he was TASTING you, bro
npatrick19: What the fuck are you talking about?
"You need to tell Claude." Kevin says, out of nowhere, as they're standing in their kitchen eating cold leftovers.
"Tell Claude what?" Nolan asks, glaring at Kevin over his spoonful of egg drop soup.
"Whatever the fuck has been going on with you since the first game in Pittsburgh. " Kevin says, not looking up from his own food. Nolan should have seen this coming. Kevin had been quiet, lately, which was unusual. Nolan should know him well enough by now to know that Kevin being quiet means Kevin wanting to talk. Ugh. Fucking Kevin.
"I don't know what you're talking about." Nolan mumbles, mouth full of egg.
"You had a headache." Kevin says, like that explains everything. He sighs when Nolan just keeps glaring silently. "You had a headache that morning, and then you somehow just run face first into Jakey's stick? Funny coincidence."
"Don't." Nolan growls, slamming his takeout container down on the counter. He doesn't want to talk about this. Shit. He'd been so sure nobody knew, that nobody had noticed. He doesn't give Kevin enough credit, apparently. It had been over a fucking week since that game, though, so he doesn't know why Kevin is bringing this up now.
"Wayne had to undress you tonight, Pat. Something is wrong, and don't blame it on Jake hitting you, cause we both know that's not fucking fair." Kevin says, setting his own container down next to Nolan's, a hell of a lot more gently. "This is older than that hit, I'm not stupid."
And that's the problem, isn't it? Kevin isn't nearly as stupid as Nolan had needed him to be. Seems like Wayne isn't the only one who sees Nolan.
Nolan is laying on the floor, forcing himself to feel his body. Kevin is right, annoyingly. Something is wrong. Nolan hadn't even told Maddie about the migraine that day, had put up with her laughing down the phone line for ten minutes about how funny he had looked getting hit in the face by Jakub. Now he just makes himself listen to his body. It's not telling him shit, though. He feels his head, which is sluggish because it's the middle of the night after a game, but doesn't hurt. Feels his shoulders, the right one a little sore from how many times he'd slammed it into an opposing player tonight. No tightness, no pinching. He feels his spine, the way it's freshly popped from laying on the ground, but there is no pain, no stiffness. He focuses lower than he usually does, makes himself feel his legs. There is a little knot at the base of his left calf, which isn't unusual, doesn't seem connected. He wiggles his fingers, pushes the tips of them against the fluffy rug he has by his bed. They just feel like his fingers, but, like, he doesn't really know what he's looking for, anyway.
Nolan is pulled from his thoughts by his phone. For a second Nolan is scared that Kevin's patience snapped and Claude has been sicced on him. Claude's ringtone is Gee by Girl's Generation, though, a joke which still makes Nolan giggle every time his captain calls him. His phone isn't singing "gee gee gee gee" right now, though, so it's not Claude. Nolan doesn't think he's heard his phone make that noise before, actually. Which makes sense, when he finally picks it up, and he sees that he has a request for a video call on Instagram.
What the fuck? Instagram can do that?
t.kon requesting video chat.
Oh. Oh, holy fuck.
Nolan sits up quickly, hitting the accept button before he lets himself think about it too much. The screen is split half and half, not like a FaceTime. Nolan sees his own chest on the bottom, a black screen on the top.
"Patrick?" Travis voice comes, slurred.
"Yeah. Uh, what's going on?" Nolan asks, squinting at the screen. He can't tell if Travis' camera is turned off, or if he's just holding his hand over the lens.
"This is stupid." Travis mumbles, seemingly to himself, before sighing. Something rustles against the mic, and suddenly Nolan is greeted with the site of Travis' bare feet. It looks like he's sitting on the edge of a bed, a house slipper sitting just at the edge of the frame.
"What's going on?" Nolan asks again. He feels like his heart is about to beat out of his chest. He has no idea what's going on. He'd tried not to think about Travis recently, and now his head is spinning.
"I gotta, I just." Travis hisses, and the camera flips, showing Nolan his collar. He's wearing a black hoodie, his chin tucked into the neck of it. Nolan can just make out the bottom of his jaw, which is even scruffier than last time Nolan had seen him, like he's making the horrible decision to grown out his goatee.
"Travis." Nolan says, wondering if maybe he passed out while Wayne was undressing him and everything since then has been one long, terrible nightmare. That would certainly explain Kevin.
"You were there, with me, the last time. So, I don't know." Travis isn't making any sense, and the camera starts jumping around like he's shaking. "She fucking loved you, dude. She loved you so much."
Nolan realizes, is horrified to realize, that Travis is crying. He can hear it in his voice, and he can see a tear drop slowly from his chin. It takes him a second to register what Travis is actually saying, but it isn't too hard to figure out what it means once he does. He forces himself not to let it hit him as hard as it tries to, in that moment. Katie. Fucking Katie. Shit.
"Fuck, Travis. Fuck." Nolan says, biting back his own tears. It doesn't seem right, for him to cry while Travis is. It's not his turn, Nolan can break down later.
"She had a picture, of us, you and me. God, this is so fucking stupid." Travis laughs, and it's a terrible sound. Nolan's ears are ringing, and he can feel himself getting breathless, again.
"What happened?" Nolan asks, which just earns him more of that awful laughter.
"This morning. I wasn't there, I don't know." Travis says. "God, I wasn't there. Why wasn't I there?"
"Don't do that to yourself, Travis." Nolan says, his voice breaking halfway through.
"I should have been with her. She wanted me there. She trusted me, and I just, fucking, just, left her alone. Because I couldn't deal. So fucking selfish." Travis sucks in a breath, and it sounds painful to Nolan's ears.
"Why did you call me?" Nolan asks, partially to distract Travis from getting angry at himself, and partially because he just really wants to know.
"You're the only person I know, who knew her, that I can legally talk to." Travis says, and the camera tips up. Nolan wasn't prepared to look at Travis Konecny's face tonight. God, he doesn't know how he's supposed to react. Travis looks like shit, clearly has been crying for a while, awful little goatee, flushed cheeks like maybe he's been drinking his feelings. Still hot enough to make Nolan feel a little weak about it, unfortunately. Nolan shifts his own camera too, so its both their faces. Side by side on the little screen, Nolan takes in how they look together.
"What do you mean, legally?" Nolan asks, watching as Travis sniffles a bit, reaches up to wipe his nose on the sleeve of his hoodie. Gross.
"I'm not even supposed to know, she wasn't my patient anymore. I'm not allowed to stay in touch with families I don't work with." Travis says, eyes flicking up and down like he's looking between himself and Nolan. It's fucking awful for Nolan, to sit here on his bedroom floor and watch Travis watching him. It feels like something he's not allowed to have.
"That's stupid." Nolan says, doesn't know what the fuck else to say.
"HIPAA law." Travis shrugs.
"Very stupid." Nolan tells him.
"Yeah," Travis sighs. "Yeah, well, I'm stupid."
"You're like nineteen years old and you're a nurse, you gotta be kind of smart." Nolan teases, just to see Travis make any face other than the sad, broken one he's making now. It works, a bit, when Travis scrunches up his nose in annoyance.
"I'm twenty-four, bonehead." Travis says, scratching the side of his nose.
"No way you're older than me." Nolan says.
"Shut up. God, you're a dick, you know? Even for a hockey player." Travis says, and then ruins Nolan's train of thought by flinging himself back to lay down. His hair spreads out on the bed, which Nolan tries not to pay attention to. Fails at that though, like, spectacularly. Travis has black sheets, silky looking. Fuck, what the hell? Nolan should probably stop looking at Travis in his bed, before he looses his mind.
"I'm a nice boy." Nolan says, ignoring the way his throat is dry as he speaks.
"No, you're a hockey player." Travis snorts. "Fucking hate hockey players."
"What did we ever do to you?" Nolan asks, trying not to be obvious as he tracks the movement of Travis' mouth.
"I'm drunk, shut up." Travis says. Nolan is just glad he's not crying anymore.
"I figured. That's not an answer." Nolan tells him.
"Jesus, how much time you got? Any bad shit you can think of, bud, been done to me by hockey players." Travis shifts, tucks his chin back into his hoodie. Nolan has a feeling that this is, like, about to be a way worse conversation than talking about a little girl dying. Maybe he shouldn't have tried to change the subject.
"Travis," Nolan trails off, isn't sure what he can possibly say to that.
"They weren't very nice to me." Travis says. "After they found out that I'm gay."
Nolan went ice fishing, once. His dad had a buddy with a shack for it, and a bunch of them had gone up when Nolan was about eighteen. His dad's friend had a son his age, and Nolan had spent most of the time with him, maybe trying to get a feel for if he and Nolan had anything in common. The guy had dared Nolan to dunk his head into the hole his dad had drilled, and Nolan had been dumb enough to think it would be funny. It was like nothing he'd ever felt, the pain of freezing water flooding into his ears, the fear that even though his entire body was out of the ice, he might drown from the shock. His dad had been so angry, he'd rubbed a towel across Nolan's dumb head hard enough to actually pull some of his hair out. Nolan will never forget the feeling of that, of holding his head under ice. That's how he feels now, suddenly, when Travis says that.
"You mean," Nolan cuts off again, tipping his camera away so Travis can't see whatever is crossing his face. He can feel himself flushing, at the very least.
"I shouldn't have said that." Travis grumbles.
"I'm sorry, Travis." Nolan says, means it. "They didn't," Nolan doesn't know how to ask this. Doesn't think he has a right to, Travis isn't really his friend. Travis is just some guy Nolan has gotten weirdly attached to, for reasons outside his control. A guy who is hot, and sweet, and had called Nolan crying about a dead girl who Nolan hadn't stopped thinking about since he saw her little yellow mittens for the first time. A guy who had just come out to Nolan while drunk. Fuck.
"What?" Travis asks. At some point when Nolan was avoiding looking at Travis he'd dropped his phone, and Nolan is just looking at the nurse's ceiling, now.
"Nothing, I'm sorry." Nolan stops himself from asking, knows that he doesn't need to know. They didn't hurt you, did they? It's none of Nolan's business.
"Whatever. Like I said, I'm drunk. You don't need my whole Dua Lipa New Rules list." Travis sighs.
"I don't know what that means." Nolan says.
"My rules." Travis says, draws the s out like a hiss. "No guys from Jersey, no closet cases, and no fucking hockey players."
That, Nolan really doesn't have an answer for.
Outgoing 2:15AM: Are you awake? I need to talk to you.
Captain My Captain 2:17AM : It can't wait until practice tomorrow?
Outgoing 2:19AM : I can't feel my feet.
Incoming call, Captain My Captain.
Gee gee gee gee baby baby baby
Gee gee gee gee baby baby baby