The road trip starts off pretty uneventful. They lose the first game against Anaheim, but beat the Kings soundly. Travis spends time with the boys playing video games in hotel rooms, in the same room as Nolan but on opposite sides, completely different from how they usually are. There’s a tension in the room, like people don’t know how to interact with them when they’re not TK-and-Patty, but they’re mostly managing it. Sometimes Nolan looks like he wants to say something. He’ll sit by Travis or walk over and open his mouth, but as soon as Travis meets his eyes he’ll walk away. Travis wonders if this is their new normal, not knowing how to be around each other, and he does his best to get used to it.
That is, until after their win. They go out to a bar for a little bit, but they have an early flight to San Jose in the morning so most people head back to the hotel early. TK’s part of the first group to head back, tired of Patty hovering around him without actually talking to him. He’s ready to settle in for the night, the satisfaction of two goals thrumming under his skin. He’s so surprised by the knock on his door that he almost drops his phone on his face. He fights his way out of his blanket cocoon and flips the light on before he opens the door.
He doesn’t expect Patty to be on the other side, blush high on his cheeks and looking sheepish, but that’s what he gets.
“Can I come in?” he asks before Travis can say anything. Travis is so surprised that he just steps back and lets Patty in, no hesitation. He doesn’t know what this is about. They don’t normally visit each others’ hotel rooms on the road, but it seems like all the rules have changed nowadays. He follows Nolan into the room and they stand awkwardly a few feet away from each other.
“What’s up?” Travis asks when Nolan doesn’t say anything. Nolan looks nervous, shifting on his feet before he steps forward, closing the distance between them and cupping Travis’s jaw.
“Two goals tonight,” Patty mumbles, looking everywhere but at Travis’s eyes. “Thought you might like a reward.” Oh fuck . Is he serious? It’s only been a few days, but Travis can practically feel himself melting under Nolan’s touch, and all he has is Nolan’s hand on his cheek. He’s easy for it, easy for Patty , and he hates himself for it a little bit.
“Pat,” he breathes, conflicted. Nolan finally meets his eyes, and whatever he sees there has him leaning forward, kissing Travis gentler than he ever has before. It makes Travis’s breath catch, his hands fisting in Nolan’s shirt to keep him close. Nolan strokes a thumb over Travis’s cheek tenderly and Travis has never been kissed like this. He doesn’t know what this is, what to do with it.
He turns it dirtier, opening his mouth for Nolan’s tongue, and gets his hands under Nolan’s shirt. Nolan follows his lead, lets Travis push him back to the bed and down, until Travis rolls over onto his back, pulling Nolan with him. He wants Nolan on top of him, wants to feel his weight so he knows this is real, this is happening. It doesn’t go any further, just the two of them making out for five, ten, fifteen minutes, neither one making a move to take it further. It takes that long for Travis’s brain to come back online and think what the fuck are we doing ? He pushes Nolan away and sits up.
“What the fuck are we doing?” he asks the wall, knowing if he looks at Nolan with his swollen lips and flushed cheeks that he’ll just pull him back in.
“Teeks-” Nolan starts.
“No, Nolan, what the fuck was that?” Travis throws himself off the bed and starts pacing. “What made you think that was a good idea?”
“I miss you,” Nolan says, so quietly that Travis almost doesn’t hear it.
“So fucking text me!” Travis whirls on him, taking in the guilty look on his face. “Ask me to go out for lunch or something! Don’t just show up at my hotel room and kiss me. Unless-” he cuts himself off, the thought coming to him so suddenly and so painfully that it steals his speech. “Unless you don’t miss me at all. Is it the sex? You know I’m good for it and you’re too lazy to try picking up?”
“No!” Now Nolan’s angry, surging to his feet. “You know that’s not it. I fucked things up, I know that, but it was never just about the sex.”
“I want you to leave,” Travis says, quiet but firm. Nolan doesn’t move. “Nolan, leave. You moved out so you could get some fucking space from me, and now you’re gonna give me the same thing.”
“If you want us to stay friends,” Travis cuts him off, “you’ll walk out of this room right now and not try to talk to me again until I decide I’m ready. You’ve got me kinda fucked up, bud, and I asked you to give me time to figure out how to deal with it.” Nolan opens and closes his mouth a few times, storm clouds in his expression, but he finally nods.
“Fine,” he agrees, but he doesn’t move for a few long seconds. “You’re my best friend. I did what I thought I had to do not to lose that. I’m sorry I fucked it up.” And then he’s gone. Travis throws himself face down on the bed and screams into the pillow.
Say what you want about Patty and his stubbornness, but he does what Travis asks. For the next week he doesn’t try to talk to Travis, doesn’t even look at him. Travis hates himself a little bit for asking for it. He misses Patty like a missing limb, constantly turning to say something to him before he realizes he’s not there. The apartment’s too quiet and he finds himself spending more and more time away from it, hanging out with Sanny more often these days. He has an unpleasant flashback when he walks into Sanny’s apartment one day and sees some cardboard boxes stacked up near the door.
“You moving?” he asks, as casually as he can.
“What?” Sanny asks before he turns around and sees the boxes. “Oh, yeah. My lease is up soon and I wanna find somewhere closer to the rink.”
“I have an extra bedroom,” he says, his mouth moving before he can process it. He must be lonelier than he thought if he’s begging for roommates now. “If you want, I mean.”
“Yeah, that’d be great!” Sanny’s face lights up with a grin. “Your place is nice.”
“You’ll just have to put up with a sucky roommate,” he blurts. “I’ve been told I’m hard to handle.” He doesn’t know why he says that, except that he just wants to talk about it. Whenever he tries to talk to G now, he just pretends like he can’t hear Travis talking, and he can’t go to Haysie about it because he’s Nolan’s roommate . Sanny’s face goes carefully blank as he sits down on the couch.
“You wanna talk about it?” he offers, like he doesn’t care either way, but Travis can see the interest on his face. He knows the whole team has been wondering what happened, why he and Nolan went from attached at the hip to not even looking at each other. He throws himself down next to Sanny with a sigh.
“Nolan moved out without telling me he was going to,” he starts. Sanny’s eyebrows shoot up to his hairline. “He said he needed some space from me because we see each other all the time and it was too much.”
“That doesn’t sound like Patty,” Sanny says. “Guy’s crazy about you. Even when you’re not talking he’s, like, attuned to you or something. Sometimes he leaves like water bottles or protein bars in your stall when you’re in the showers or whatever.”
“That was him?” Travis asks, shocked. He’d just assumed it was G or Sanny leaving their extras for him. Travis feels his breath catch in his throat at the thought of Nolan trying to take care of him without Travis even knowing.
“Can I ask…” Sanny trails off.
“He… I mean, you two have always been… close. Like, really close.” Travis snorts, not surprised that Sanny’s caught onto their relationship. They haven’t exactly been subtle. “I don’t wanna assume…”
“Whatever you’re assuming, you’re probably right,” Travis admits, putting him out of his misery.
“So it’s complicated,” Sanny sums up. “Your… relationship, I mean.”
“Yeah,” Travis sighs. “It’s complicated. He told me he didn’t tell me he was moving out because it wasn’t my business and we were just roommates. And I maybe pushed him into trying to put a label on us and freaked him out.” They sit in silence for a couple minutes before Sanny reaches over and pats him on the shoulder.
“I think you’ll be okay,” Sanny says. “You’re TK-and-Patty. I’m more worried about the bitch stare I’ll get when he finds out I’m moving in with you.” Travis can’t help but laugh.
“Yeah, well, he made his choice and now he has to live with it,” he says. Still, talking about it doesn’t sting as much as it did a week ago. He can see that they both made some mistakes, that he probably pushed Patty too far, forced his feelings on his best friend when he wasn’t ready, or maybe doesn’t feel the same. The thought hurts, but he’s okay with it. Missing him this week has made him realize he’d rather have Patty in his life as his friend than not have him at all.
He waits until he’s home that night, just about to go to bed before he sends the text.
Hey can we talk?
He waits a few minutes for a response that doesn’t come and sighs, hoping Patty’s asleep and not ignoring him. But when he wakes up the next morning, there’s still no response. His stomach drops. But maybe Patty just wants to wait until practice to pull him aside.
Expect when he gets to practice, Patty’s nowhere to be found. He knows he’s being obvious, the way his head whips around toward the door every time it opens, and the disappointment when it’s not Patty. It isn’t until Haysie walks in by himself that Travis really starts to worry. Kev’s eyes land on him right away, and the look on his face is enough to make Travis stand up and cross the room.
“What happened?” he asks.
“He’s okay,” Haysie says, which does nothing to make Travis feel better. “Teeks, he has a migraine. Not a bad one! The trainers just thought it was better if he stayed home and got some rest.” Travis feels like his ears are ringing. A migraine . It’s been, what, 6 or 7 months since he last had one? They both thought that it was over, that the medication was working. They can’t come back now.
“Travis,” G snaps, obviously not the first time he’d said it. He’s standing next to Haysie and Travis has no idea when he got there.
“He’s okay,” Haysie repeats. “I promise. I think it’s just he’s been a little stressed out and that’s probably what caused it.”
Travis blanches. “Oh my god, it’s my fault.”
“Teeks.” Oh, that’s G’s captain voice. Travis snaps to attention like a dog to a whistle. “It’s not your fault, and Haysie says he’s okay. You know Kev wouldn’t have left him alone if he wasn’t.” Travis nods. Haysie was there for Nolan just as much as Travis was during Patty’s absence. If he left Nolan alone, Travis can probably believe that he’s fine. Probably.
“You can come mother-hen him after practice,” Haysie grins. “He’d like that.” Travis takes a deep breath and nods, letting G lead him back to his stall. He doesn’t remember practice at all and rushes through showering and changing. He’s ready to go before Kevin and he fidgets anxiously until Kevin sighs.
“Here,” he says, sliding a key off a key ring and slapping it into Travis’s palm. “Do not lose this.” Travis is out the door before he’s even finished his sentence and he breaks every speed limit on the short drive to Kevin’s place. He hasn’t been here since Patty moved in, but he remembers where the other bedroom is from when he helped Haysie move in. He knocks lightly, but when there’s no response he slips the door open anyway, trying not to let much light in before he closes the door behind him.
He can’t see much before his eyes adjust to the darkness, but there’s a Patty-shaped lump on the bed. Travis moves closer and couches down next to him, reaching out and fiddling with the blanket.
“Go ‘way,” Patty mumbles, eyes still closed tight. Travis’s stomach drops; he probably should’ve figured that Nolan didn’t want him here.
“I will,” he murmurs. “I just wanted to check on you.” Nolan’s eyes fly open and whips his head toward Travis before grimacing, and burying his face against the pillow. “Don’t move, dummy,” Travis scolds him gently, unable to stop himself from reaching out and smoothing Nolan’s hair down.
“Thought you were Kev,” Travis thinks he hears.
“You need anything?” he asks, reluctantly pulling his hand away. It’s hard seeing Nolan like this, pale and in pain. Nolan’s hand comes up and blindly grabs at Travis’s wrist.
“C’mere,” Patty whines, turning his head enough to peek one eye up at Travis. “Stay.”
“Okay,” Travis says, not letting himself stop to think about it. This is something they did all the time, even before they were having sex. Nolan always wants someone to curl up with when he has his migraines and it’s the only time Travis has truly learned how to be quiet and still. He rounds the bed and lays down and Nolan doesn’t hesitate to roll over and bury his face against Travis’s chest. Travis makes sure the blanket is covering them both, then brings a hand up to massage Nolan’s head.
“Missed you,” Nolan mumbles sleepily.
“Missed you too, Pat,” Travis whispers back. He feels Nolan smile and then a few seconds later Nolan’s asleep. It’s been awhile since Travis has done this, but it’s like riding a bike. He closes his eyes and starts relaxing his body one muscle at a time, starting with his toes and counting his breaths. He should do this more often, it’s probably good for him. He focuses on Patty’s breaths and his warmth and how he seems to just fit with Travis like a puzzle piece, and then forces his mind away from that before he gets himself worked up again. Patty’s just his friend, and if that’s all it ever is, Travis will be okay with that.
He opens his eyes when he hears the quiet knock and Haysie peeks his head in. He grins at them before asking, “you good?” Travis gives him a thumbs up and Kev nods, backing out and closing the door. Travis relaxes again, carefully thinking about nothing but syncing his breathing up with Patty’s until he drifts off into sleep.
He wakes up some time later to Nolan’s thumb stroking Travis’s hip where his hand has slipped under Travis’s shirt. He’s still sprawled on Travis’s chest, and overall it’s one of the best ways Travis has ever woken up.
“Pat?” he croaks, blinking down at the top of Nolan’s head in the dark.
“I’m sorry,” Nolan says, quietly but clearly. “For what I said.”
“We can talk about it later.” Travis slips his fingers back into Nolan’s hair and scritches lightly, smiling when Nolan pushes into the touch. “You need to rest.”
“I’m fine. It’s mostly gone,” Nolan argues. Travis rolls his eyes fondly.
“Pat, I’m not going anywhere. This can wait a few hours.” Nolan doesn’t listen, pushing himself up to turn the bedside light on and planting an arm next to Travis’s head so he can loom over him.
“I think we should do it now,” he counters, “so I can kiss you.” Travis’s mind goes blank and his eyes dart down to Nolan’s stupid chapped lips without his permission, which Patty seems to take as approval. “I’m sorry that I moved out without telling you and I’m really fucking sorry that I was an asshole to you.”
“You’re always an asshole to me,” Travis blurts. Probably not the time for jokes, but it’s too late to take it back.
“I’m trying to apologize, you dick,” Patty snarks back, but he’s fighting back a smile. “Teeks, you… you love me. Like, you’re in love with me.”
“I’ve been thinking about it,” Travis says. “I know I shouldn’t have pressured you like I did and I totally get why you needed some space. And, like, Pats you’re super important to me, even if I wasn’t in love with you and I promise I’ll do my best to get over it and we can go back to being how we were.” Nolan flushes and looks away, mumbling something so low that Travis can’t hear. “You gotta speak up, bud.”
“I said, I don’t want you to.”
“Don’t want me to get over you?” Travis asks, not letting himself get his hopes up. Nolan sits all the way up with a sigh and scoots back so he’s leaning against the headboard so he doesn’t have to look at Travis. Travis copies him, sitting close enough for their shoulders to brush. He wants to break the tense silence, but he knows he needs to give Patty time to figure out what he wants to say.
“I can’t say that I’m in love with you,” Nolan finally says. “I mean, I could be, but I don’t know . I’ve never been in love before.”
“That’s fine,” Travis says. He means it, but it’s a little bittersweet. He doesn’t want Nolan to try to force himself to have feelings just to make Travis happy. “You don’t have to be in love with me.” Patty’s building up to something. He’s getting fidgety and his cheeks are getting pinker by the second. Travis waits.
“I feel like, fucking, selfish or some shit,” he finally says in a rush. “Because I want you to be in love with me and I don’t want you to love anyone else or fuck anyone else or fucking… think about anyone else. And I wanna do fucking soft shit with you like hold your hand and kiss you even if we’re not having sex but I don’t even know what that means. And I lied when I said I needed space from you, because I want, like, the opposite . It’s like I always want more of you and that’s fucking terrifying.”
“Pat,” Travis breathes, doing his best not to just jump Nolan right there. That’s the most romantic shit anyone’s ever said to him. “You don’t have to know what it means. We don’t have to, like, label it.” He reaches over and laces his fingers with Nolan’s. “See? Now we’re just Teeks and Patty, holding hands. Simple.” Nolan cracks a smile and Travis counts it as a win.
“So you’re not pissed at me?” Nolan asks, finally turning his head to look at him.
“I was,” Travis admits. “You really threw me for a loop there, bud. But nah I’m over it. Just don’t pull away from me again, ok? If something’s bothering you just, like, tell me that shit.” Nolan grumbles like Travis just asked him to stick his hand in a pile of shit or something, so Travis takes a chance. He pushes himself up and swings his leg over Patty’s and settles on his lap.
“Hi,” Patty grins. They’re about the same height like this and Travis slips his arms around Nolan’s shoulders.
“You still need to rest,” Travis says, suddenly remembering Patty’s migraine. “How are you feeling? Do you need more meds or water or anything?”
“I’m fine,” Nolan assures him, taking Travis’s face in his big hands. “It wasn’t a bad one. I’ll be fine by tomorrow.”
“But you haven’t had one in awhile.”
“I’ve been a little stressed recently,” Nolan says. “And before you say anything dumb, it’s not your fault. But there’s something you could do to help.”
“What’s that?” Travis asks. Nolan doesn’t answer, but he pulls Travis in and kisses him firmly. It’s soft, Nolan tilting Travis’s head to put him right where he wants him, and Travis relaxes into it. He’s missed this more than he wanted to admit to himself. He presses as close as he can and Nolan’s arms move around his waist, smoothing a hand down Travis’s spine. Travis smiles into the kiss, almost giddy with it, and there’s literally nowhere else he wants to be.
Until the door swings open and Kevin’s voice booms, “glad to see you two have finally made up!”