"Run that all by me again, in order this time." Claude says, clenching his fists around the edge of his kitchen counter hard enough to make his knuckles go white. It's a granite counter, but Nolan swears he can see it about to shift under Claude's weight.
"G, I told you," Nolan starts, fidgeting nervously where he's perched on the island stool. He knows the only reason he isn't being screamed at is because Ryanne and Gavin are asleep upstairs. Small mercies.
"God damn it, Nolan." Claude snaps, which is how he knows he's really in trouble. Nolan. Ouch. "Just, explain it to me. You had your first migraine in months after we did that Make A Wish bullshit, then what?"
Nolan flinches, at that. At Claude calling it bullshit. Travis had thought it was bullshit, too. There is a little part of his dumbass brain stuck on trying to jump over to thoughts of Katie, but he's shutting it down hard. Half the reason he's here in the first place is to avoid having to feel what he's inevitably going to feel when he processes that Katie has died. Easier to come talk to Claude and maybe get himself kicked off the Flyers, than it would be to let himself break down about the best little girl he'd ever met.
"Right." Nolan sighs, staring at Claude's white knuckles. "I had a migraine after standing too close to Travis when he smoked. Ten days later, after the Devils game, my body did this numb thing for the first time. Then three days after that, I had another migraine, during the, uh, the Pens game. Then nothing until tonight, when I went numb again, which makes it ten days after the migraine. So, maybe that's, like, a pattern."
"Un petit imbécile." Claude mutters. Nolan knows just enough French to know when Claude is calling him stupid.
"I'm sorry, G." Nolan says, folding himself over in his chair, trying to make himself as small as he feels. Probably not possible, right now. He feels minuscule. Nolan knows that Claude is pissed about him trying to play through a migraine, but he's definitely, like, way more pissed that Nolan didn't just tell him.
"I know you are. And I can tell that you're also scared shitless about this, which is the only reason I don't have the coaches on the phone right now fining your ass." Claude tells him, finally letting go of the counter so he can step around it, getting up into Nolan's space. He stands there, breathing steady in a way that tells Nolan it's purposeful, that Claude is forcing himself to be calm. Nolan just stares at his chest, bare because it's three in the morning and Claude had been sleeping before Nolan brought this on him. Nolan wishes it were a different situation, so that he could chirp Claude about his pajama pants, which have little croissants all over them.
"I'm sorry." Nolan says again, tipping his head forward and resting it against Claude's sternum. Claude tenses under the contact, like he's thinking of pushing Nolan away. Nolan doesn't think Claude has ever pushed him away before, so it hurts a little, the thought that he might. He lets him stay, though. Any other time Claude would probably bring his hands up, give Nolan a hug. Right now though, he just stands there, lets Nolan hide his face.
"This is what you wanted to tell me, that day you showed up for soup. You pussied out, though, huh?" Claude sighs, and Nolan just nods against his chest. "Alright, câlice. Here's what we're gonna do. First things first, I don't want you driving all the way back home, so you think you can get some sleep in the guest room?"
"Probably not, but it's as good a place as any to cry for a few hours." Nolan shrugs.
"Don't waste your tears on this yet, kid." Claude says.
"I've got plenty of other shit to cry about." Nolan sighs. Katie, and her little yellow mittens. Nolan doesn't tell Claude about her, though. He's not sure why, but he doesn't want to tell anybody about her. The only person he wants to talk to about Katie, is Travis.
"You're going to sleep, okay?" Claude pauses, waits for Nolan to nod. "In the morning we will go in early, talk to AV before practice. We'll do it together, I'll be there with you, okay? And I won't tell him about the migraine during the Penguins game, only because I like you a hell of a lot more than I like him. You tell him everything else, though. Got it?"
"Got it." Nolan says, even though he hates this plan. He doesn't want to talk to AV, damn it. He knows it's more than he deserves though, for Claude to have his back on this. Nolan didn't expect that he'd leave the whole migraine on the ice thing out, but he's grateful.
"Then you're going to get down on your knees and beg Jake to forgive you." Claude says, reaching up to slap a hand down on the back of Nolan's head.
"G, no. Just fire me." Nolan whines, finally lifting his head and looking up at his captain. "He will disembowel me."
"Have you ever in your life seen Jake be guilty?" Claude scowls. "He feels like he has to be careful, he barley gets his stick off the ice around the team. You fucked with his head, and you're going to fix it."
Nolan knows there is no getting out of it. He doesn't know what he looks forward to less; telling AV about his bodies new trick of being paralyzed for no reason, or the fact that he's going to get hit in the face by a viking for the second time, this time on purpose.
He says a silent goodbye to the rest of his teeth.
Trainers are familiar to Nolan, but that doesn't mean he'll ever be comfortable around them. He's used to the feeling of hands on him, twisting and prodding and shining lights in his eyes. He's pretty sure they've checked every part of him, short of, like, a cavity search. He's grateful they skip that part, at least. Nolan just sits still and lets the trainer poke at his feet with a little wire, nods his head every time he feels the sensation. He answers ten thousand questions, told them it wore off just like the first time, that he hadn't been paying enough attention to it to really give them a good chart about it. He maps his migraines pretty thoroughly, has a little pocket journal where he marks down triggers and symptoms. He feels a little bad when he hands it over, knowing that it says trigger; high stick to the jaw on his last migraine log. He knows it's not true, and he feels like maybe it's a big deal that he actually didn't have a trigger, that it came out of nowhere for no reason. That scares him, but not as much as the idea of getting suspended for lying to everyone, for breaking a pretty major stipulation on his contract. Everything about this scares him.
"We're going to send you for scans, brain and spine." the trainer tells him, and Nolan just nods. "It's not completely unheard of for feelings of numbness or limits to range of motion to occur with migraines. It usually happens during the episodes, though, so we need to be sure."
"You think there is something wrong with my spine?" Nolan asks, sitting still as the trainer slips his socks and shoes back on for him.
"I just want to rule it out. You wouldn't be the first hockey player to injure his spine, Nolan." the trainer says, fixing Nolan with a look of sympathy that he can tell is fake. Nolan is positive this dude has been practicing the look in a mirror. What was it Travis had said? Can't go around giving a shit about your patients. Yeah, fair enough.
"Can I go do the rest of practice?" Nolan asks, pretending like he doesn't already know the answer.
"You're gonna be off the ice, at least, until those scans come back."
Now for the hard part.
Nolan stands next to Jakub's fancy fucking car, and tries to ignore the way Claude is glaring at him from across the parking lot. It had been easier this morning to just let Claude drive him in, but now he wishes he'd protested, so he didn't have to look at his captain's disappointed face any more today. Nolan knows that the ride back to Claude's house to get Nolan's car is going to be tense.
Oh, shit. Here we go. Game time.
"Patty!" Jakub smiles, opens his arms like he is gonna come in for a hug when he sees Nolan standing there. Nolan doesn't know what AV had told the rest of the team about why Nolan won't be getting on the bus to Pittsburgh with them tomorrow morning, but he can tell that Jakub is happy to see him. God, this is really gonna fucking suck.
"Jake, hey." Nolan lets himself be hugged, tries not to sink into the feeling of Jakub's giant arms squeezing him. It's hard though, because, like, it's Jakub. He gives good hugs. Nolan knows he's about to piss the guy off though, so he can't help but savor this kindness while he still gets it. Jakub lets go too soon.
"Are you okay?" Jakub asks, popping the trunk of his car and throwing his bag in haphazardly, like he doesn't have a care in the world. Nolan glances over at Claude, wondering how much trouble he'll get in if he just turns and bolts. He gets a even colder glare, like Claude can read his mind. Ugh.
"I need to talk to you about something." Nolan says, shuffling his feet awkwardly.
"Coach said you are having head problems." Jakub says, reaching up and tapping his fingers gently against Nolan's temple. "I'm sorry you got to miss games, I know that is terrible." There is something in the voice then, maybe a little bit of guilt, and Nolan feels like the worlds biggest piece of shit.
"Jake, man, it's not your fault. That's not," Nolan breaks off, has like, no fucking idea how to say this.
"Come on, son, your whole chin is still purple and yellow. No teeth." Jakub says gesturing to Nolan's bruised jaw like it's news to him. Nolan knows, okay, has to look at it every day and feel like a fucking monster about it.
"Jake, just, give me a second. I have to tell you something, just, be quiet, okay? Until I'm done?" Nolan kicks the ground, looks down at his feet and pointedly not at Jakub. Or at Claude, who he can feel staring at him. Nolan just breaths for a second, and Jakub reaches out, touches Nolan's elbow, cradles it in his hand like Nolan is something fragile. Which, like, honestly, Nolan is pretty god damn fragile right now.
"Okay, Patty." Jakub says, clearly confused but willing to listen. Nolan feels nauseous.
"The morning of the first game in Pittsburgh I, uh, I had a headache." Nolan feels Jakub's hand tense around his elbow, as he keeps talking. "Kevin was with me, brought me some meds, and I thought it got better. I thought it was just a little witch, you know? It came back, though. I was facing off with Crosby, the second to last shift, and it just, came back. Big witch, that time. It was really bad and I, uh, I couldn't see. I was skating blind, so I didn't see the puck, or anything. I didn't even see you. I didn't even know you were there until I ran into your stick. It wasn't your fault, like, at all. None of it, it was all on me."
There is silence, when Nolan is done talking. Jakub's hand is tight around Nolan's elbow, bordering on painful. Nolan doesn't look up from his feet, because he's a coward. He just stands there, let's Jakub's silence stretch out.
"You owe me three thousand dollars." is all Jakub says after a time, letting go of Nolan's elbow.
"What?" Nolan blinks, looks up at Jakub as the man steps out of his space. Jakub's face is purposefully blank.
"What I was fined for hitting you." Jakub tells him. Which Nolan hadn't known about. They fined him for accidentally running into his linemate? What bullshit.
"Yeah, of course." Nolan says, kicking the ground a few more times. "I really am sorry, Jake. I shouldn't have put you in that position."
"Don't be fucking stupid." Jakub sighs. "I'm not angry at you because of the hit. I'm angry because you shouldn't have been out there. It's not just yourself you put in danger when you can't see what you are doing. And what if it hadn't been me, huh? What if someone had hit you on purpose?"
"I know, I just," Nolan feels tears forming, but wants nothing less than to cry right now. He had done way too much crying last night, his eyes still ache from it. Besides, he doesn't want to cry while apologizing to Jakub, that feels cheap.
"Come here, little one." Jakub says, grabbing Nolan roughly by his shoulders, slamming him against his chest. It's pretty violent, as far as hugs go, but Nolan just let's it happen, closes his eyes against the tears that still want to spill. He's reminded, suddenly, that Jakub is a father, is a really good father.
"I'm sorry, Jake. I'm sorry for lying to you." Nolan sniffs, tucks his face into the side of Jakub's unruly hair.
"I don't care, hlupák. But if you ever put yourself at risk like that again, I'll knock you out on purpose, okay?" Jakub kisses Nolan on his temple, then. The left one, right where his migraines always start.
Nolan doesn't look at Claude when he gets into the car, just does up his seat belt and looks out the window at where Jakub is driving away.
"Do you think Ryanne will come with me to get my scans? I hate doing that shit alone." Nolan mumbles.
"I'm sure she will." Claude says, patting Nolan on the thigh gently.
"It's no problem."
"I mean for all of it, Claude. Everything you've done for me."
Claude's hand tightens, briefly, on Nolan's leg.
"Yeah, well, despite my good judgement, I love you, kid."
Nolan still doesn't look at him, but he feels a weight lift off his heart.
t.kon: thought you might want this
npatrick19: She had this on her nightstand?
t.kon: yeah. i told you bud she really loved you
npatrick19: She must have loved you, too.
npatrick19: I'm sorry.
t.kon: fucking shit bro
t.kon: im not handling this very well
npatrick19: Neither am I, and I only met her once. You're fine, Travis.
npatrick19: I think it's pretty normal to not handle something like this well.
t.kon: man shut the hell up
t.kon: jocks aren't allowed to be emotionally intelligent
npatrick19: We're pretty fucking emotional.
npatrick19: Thank you for the picture.
Nolan looks down at the picture. It's nice. Katie looking at Nolan, while Nolan was looking at Travis.
"me and my favorite boys. best day ever!"