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The Way I Love You

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TK has always thought of himself as a loving person. Meaning that, he’s always wore his heart on his sleeve. Always loved to go all out and make some huge dramatic gesture of affection for his other half. Has always been undeterred by stereotypes and would wax poetically about his feelings all day if he could.

But—

Travis knew he was also a forgetful person. Like, just his lifestyle paired with his personality led to things slipping through the cracks. It was inevitable. And, Travis never meant for it to happen —of course— forgetful people don't intentionally forget things, he always just got caught up.

So, sometimes he’d forget his conditioner on a road trip and have to buy some, sometimes he’d forget to call his mom back, but it was never really a big deal. It was annoying, but not like a disaster.

But this, this was a disaster.

Because Travis forgot something he should never forget. Something so huge, so monumental, so Earth shattering that he’d have to be an idiot to forget it.

But apparently, he was a fucking idiot.

Because he’d done the thing that he swore to himself he’d never do.

He forgot his and Patty’s first anniversary together.

Their anniversary was a big deal. A really big deal, even if Nolan said he didn’t care about things like it, Travis knew the truth. It was huge and Travis had just forgotten it like it was just another day on the calendar.

Nolan sticking by Travis and loving Travis for a whole fucking year was huge. Travis felt fucking lucky to be in Nolan’s presence half the time, he was so in awe of the man he loved. So, to forget something like this, Travis felt like he was letting Pats down in a big way.

They’d been together for an entire year. An entire covid disaster filled year. Survived quarantine, survived the bubble, survived everything that was life post-bubble but still current-covid. Had even managed to start this new season together with all the much needed but stressful as fuck covid procedures.

Travis didn’t want to say it’d been the best year of his life, because who the fuck would say that when you couldn’t even go to a fucking restaurant with your buds anymore, but this past year had been a really good year. Like, he felt bad for even thinking it, since there had been so much universal suffering and so many like personal struggles he also had to face, but it was true.

Life with Nolan was just great.

Which made the situation even worse. He felt like the worst man on Earth for forgetting their one year dating anniversary. Travis already knew that when Patty eventually found out Travis forgot, which was bound to happen like within the hour, he’d just brush it off, shrug it away like it was no big deal, like he didn’t expect Travis to do anything because it’s not like they’re fucking married or anything.

Deep down, Travis knew Nolan would be sad though, and it’d break Travis’ heart even more for Patty to act like he wasn’t. Because, even though Pats liked to pretend he was annoyed by all of Travis’ romantic extravagance, Travis knew that Nol actually like lived for it. No matter how many times Nolan went on and on about how he hated things like that, Travis knew it just wasn’t true.

Travis saw it in the color that dusted the tops of his cheeks and the curve of his smile. As much as his grumpy —but very very adorable— boyfriend tried to hide it, Travis knew Nolan loved getting showered in affection. Loved the grand gestures. Loved all of Travis’ too-honest-too-soon love confessions. Loved the surprise flowers he woke up to. Loved the not-in-the-meal-plan chocolates Travis liked to feed him. Loved the candle lit poorly cooked and horrible tasting dinners.

Nolan loved it all and Travis, on their fucking anniversary, had nothing.

No food. No flowers. No gifts. No nothing.

He was trash and possibly the worst boyfriend in existence.

Fuck.

Like the forgetful and loving person Travis was, he hadn’t even known it was their anniversary today. Last night he’d gone to bed in his hotel room like any other night on the road. He’d watched Patty fall asleep on facetime, and then drifted off to sleep himself when he should have been all out planning.

Instead though, when he was getting ready this morning, a little extra early so they could get rapid tested before their noon game, Travis had gotten a calendar notification on his phone.

“ONE YEAR BABYYYYYYYYY!”

And that’s when it hit Travis. That he’d forgotten one of the most important days ever and was shit out of luck. He cursed his past self for not setting the notification one day fucking earlier —thanks for nothing, dick— and quietly had his internal freak out while sitting on the edge of his bed, head in hands.

He couldn’t even run out to get last minute flowers or like some kind of brunch or those chocolate covered fruits and pretzels Patty liked. Hell, they weren’t even in Philly. They were in fucking DC and Travis was trapped in their hotel like a fucking parolee on house arrest.

It was covid protocol. He couldn’t just leave the hotel if he wanted to anymore. He would have had to plan in advance to have anything —flowers, food, whatever— here. Would have had to schedule it or pack it with him.

He’d needed to remember something for once, and he just hadn’t.

So, Nolan was getting nothing.

Travis groaned.

He didn’t think he’d have the strength to even face him today he was so embarrassed about the whole shitty situation and what a fuck up he was. How could he look at Nolan across the locker room and not be reminded of how he’d let him down?

“TK, GET YOUR ASS OUT HERE! IT’S TIME TO GO!” Kevin yelled from outside his door before roughly knocking on it three times.

“AND DON’T FORGET YOUR MASK DIPSHIT.”

Travis rolled his eyes— it was one fucking time. Jesus. He could never live it down.

“COMING!” Travis yelled before flopping back onto his bed with a lengthy sigh.

His life was a nightmare.

If Kevin had to wait a few more minutes in the hall, well, he could fucking deal.

Travis needed to freak out just a little bit longer.

***

Travis didn’t have covid, thank god, and neither did the rest of the team, so they were able to play today. He didn’t think he could take anymore shit news today anyway.

In the locker room, Nolan acted like normal, like today wasn’t anything special, and Travis felt worse just at the sight of him. Travis instinctively knew he must be disappointed.

So, like any mature adult, Travis avoided him. It wasn’t like a smart plan, but it was the only one he could think up right now on short notice. So, in the locker room when they changed and all throughout warm ups Travis kept his distance. It’s not like he even really wanted to, he just felt like he had to.

He didn’t even deserve Patty’s time and attention.

When they’d made their way back into the room after warm ups, Travis could sense people looking at him. His teammates were sending him not so secretive glances and Travis knew he was acting just weird as fuck avoiding Patty like the plague. But, he couldn’t stop himself.

He’d also moved on from being disappointed in himself to fucking pissed and his whole body was vibrating with it. He didn’t think that had gone unnoticed either. Or the fact that he almost ripped off Hart’s head when he accidentally skated too close to Travis during said warm ups. Travis had barked out something stupid, and Hart had apologized because of course he apologized even when he did nothing wrong, and Jake had sent him daggers.

So, the whole thing really wasn’t going all that well.

Travis had tried to calm down, but he was still even more fidgety than normal when they’d gotten back to the room —which was kind of saying something— prompting Provy to come over and put a hand on one of his bouncing knees to still him.

“TK, what the fuck’s wrong with you today?” Provy asked, but he said it in that way that meant he actually cared.

Travis just shook his head in response. He couldn’t even begin to get into it, especially with Nolan right there, so he left it at that.

Provy just heaved a dramatic sigh before walking away. He had more important things to focus on than Travis’ weird behavior, he needed to focus on beating the caps.

So, Travis let his eyes bounce around the room, trying to get them to land on anything that wasn’t Nolan as he waited for everyone to line up for the tunnel. When his gaze accidentally fell on Nolan, Travis felt like even more of an asshole. Nolan was actually showing an expression, which was a pretty big deal, but he looked confused and maybe even a little hurt. Worse yet, was that Travis had been the one to make him feel this way. Travis would rather see his blank defaulting grumpy face any day than the one he was sporting now.

God, he was such shit.

His fucking erratic behavior was making things even worse. He needed to stop being a coward and just face Nolan. It’s not like he was going to leave him over this. Everything would be okay if he just told the truth, but everything wouldn’t be if he continued to act this way.

So, Travis crossed the few feet to Patty’s stall and backed Nolan back into it. He tangled a hand in the long hair he loved so much before placing a kiss of Patty’s temple.

“I’m sorry, Patty,” Travis said, just a whisper between the two of them.

“Are you okay, Trav?” Nolan asked, with genuine concern in his eyes.

“I… forgot. I’m so sorry,” Travis said. He hid his face in the crook of Nolan’s neck, ashamed.

“Forgot?” Nolan asked, confused. He placed a gloved hand on the back of Travis’ head.

“Yeah,” Travis mumbled into Patty’s neck, wanting to be done with this whole horrible shitty conversation. He hated that he let Pat down. It was even worse they had to talk about it.

“Oh!” Nolan said, after a minute, clearly coming to some realization. “Oh, Trav. It’s f—”

“Time to go boys!” G yelled, interrupting Nolan and their conversation.

Travis stepped back, out of Nolan’s space, and made for the locker room door.

“Let’s fucking go!” Hayes echoed, elbowing Travis as he passed.

“Travis,” Nolan said, trying to get his attention, but he kept on walking. Whatever Patty was going to say could wait. Right now, they had to do their fucking jobs.

***

Saying Travis was on edge would have been putting it lightly. He was fucking ready to explode; skating around like a fucking live bomb ready to blow out there and it fucking showed. He was running his mouth and racking up penalties and finishing his hits.

Yeah, he fucking hated the caps and yeah, he was ready to take all his anger out on them, but he couldn’t shake the fact that all of this was about more than hockey, more than a rivalry, it was about the fact that he was mad at himself for being such a forgetful shit.

Nolan, at least, didn’t seem like he was mad at him. Honestly, Patty seemed more worried through the first than anything else before it had morphed into what seemed to be fond exasperation. Which Travis didn’t get, because, hello, he was actively out here being horrible today.

After getting his second penalty in the third period alone —he was up to three now— G pulled him aside on the bench.

“What the fuck is wrong with you? You need to cut this shit out or you’re gonna cost us the game. Teeks look at me,” G said.

Travis, already feeling worse for wear, barely was able to meet his captain’s eyes, he was so humiliated.

“Whatever is going on right now with you and Patty, you need to leave it off the ice.” G softened his voice before continuing, “It’ll work out, whatever it is. Trust me.”

Travis nodded, he knew better than to fight with G on things. Honestly, Travis was lucky if he got another shift out there today. He was a fucking liability, Travis knew it, even though he’d gotten two assist on their four goals this afternoon. Racking up penalties like that in a tied game was a death wish.

So, with a little over twelve minutes left in the third, Travis started riding the bench. He wasn’t really surprised by it, but it hurt nonetheless. It was what he deserved based on his play, but he didn’t have to like it.

Travis hated to say it, but the whole thing only made him that much more upset. He was ruining everything today: his relationship with Nolan, this game, his fucking career. He felt like he couldn’t get anything right.

So, he sat.

And stewed.

And sat.

And stewed.

And watched the seconds tick off the clock excruciatingly slow.

So, it was with 3:13 left, Travis was absolutely sure, that he saw Tom Wilson deliver a much too high hit to Patty. It was the kind of hit the dirty fucker was known for— dangerous and completely unnecessary. And, as Travis watched Nolan crumble to the ice right before his eyes, he felt a fire ignite in his veins.

It didn’t matter that Patty got up just as quickly as he fell. It didn’t matter that he waved off their teammates with a laugh as he skated to the bench. It didn’t matter that Patty was totally fine, don’t worry Travis, as he returned to the bench.

All Travis could feel was unbridled rage. All he could see was red.

Seething, and way past his wit’s end, Travis hopped over the boards when he saw Wilson back out on the ice for his next shift.

He ignored Vigneault shouting at his back.

He didn’t care what he had to say right now.

He didn’t care that they were riding a one goal lead and he may very well be jeopardizing that.

He didn’t give a single fuck if there were too many men on the ice and he might land back in the box.

All Travis cared about was giving Tom Wilson what he so desperately deserved.

Wilson actually laughed when he saw him coming for him, laughed right in his face and gave him that smug smirk of his.

“Let’s go?” Wilson had asked, with a hint of a laugh and all Travis could really say was “Let’s fucking go.”

Travis shook off his gloves immediately, and as they fell to his side, he reached out and grabbed the collar of Wilson’s jersey with one hand for stability.

Travis threw his first punch but missed, Wilson bobbing away at the last second. Instead of feeling defeated, it only riled Travis up more, especially when he heard Wilson laughing again.

“That all you got, pretty boy?” Wilson said, and Travis could hear the arrogance dripping from his words.

And, like the ticking time bomb Travis had been all day on the ice, he finally fucking exploded. He drew his arm back and just let it happen. Didn’t think about anything but just nailing the fucker over and over and over again. Didn’t stop when he saw the blood dripping from Wilson’s nose. Wasn’t ashamed when he used his size to his advantage and was able to squirm away from any incoming hit. Yeah, Travis got hit plenty in return, but he wasn’t going to go down. Not today. Not unless Wilson was going down on the ice with him.

It took a particularly hard hit to Wilson’s left cheek for the refs to finally intervene.

Travis, for his part, resisted when Jake and Provy actively dragged him away, especially when Wilson was laughing like some kind of maniac and spitting blood just a little too close to Travis for his liking.

But, after being dragged halfway across the rink, Travis stopped resisting. He shook off his teammates, and skated the rest of the way to the bench, his head held high. He knew he was in so much shit, but he couldn’t care less. He’d done what he needed to do, if the stick taps against the Flyers’ bench were any indication. And besides, it was all worth it.

He’d do anything to protect Nolan, and anything to see the smile Nolan was giving him right now.

As Travis approached the bench, Nolan’s wide smile turned into something much more shy. And when Travis hopped the bench right next to him, he could see the blush across Nolan’s cheeks and the roll of his eyes so fucking clearly when he said “I’m fine Teeks,” in a tone that said he was annoyed but Travis knew meant he was secretly pleased.

Travis didn’t care about his penalty minutes or the fact that he was having to go down the tunnel three minutes earlier than the rest of his teammates. The only thing that mattered was that shy smile Travis had seen on his boyfriend’s face.

***

Even though all the covid bullshit had completely fucked with Travis’ day, he was kind of liking the protocols right about now. Mostly, the rule about no press in the locker room. Because, even if there were press in here, Travis didn’t think he’d have been able to hold back.

When Travis had returned to his stall after waving off the trainers, he’d found a bouquet of roses —red and orange because Nolan was an absolute sap— waiting for him that hadn’t been there earlier.

Travis, with bloody and bruised knuckles, plucked the card from the little pointy thing holding it out above the flowers. It read—

Happy one year or whatever.
Yours, Nolan

It was the sweetest thing Nolan had ever done for him and Travis was just about ready to pounce him the second he came into the room. He was too tired to be upset at his own forgetfulness anymore, he just wanted to spend the rest of the day, their day, with the man he loved.

So yeah, Travis was happy the media wasn’t allowed in the room, especially glad when he was backing a sweaty red Patty back into his stall and kissing him breathless.

Right now, Travis didn’t want to hide who he loved.

Right now, all he wanted to do was kiss Nolan senseless, so he did.
“You’re an idiot,” Patty said against Travis’ lips, laughing.

“I know,” Travis said, kissing Patty’s blush.

“You forgot, didn’t you?” Patty asked with that same fond exasperation he’d been wearing on the bench back on his face.

“I’m sorry, Patty. I’ll make it up to you.”

Nolan laughed for real now, surprising Travis. He grabbed one of Travis’ hands and softly kissed his bruised knuckles. “You just about killed a guy for me a few minutes ago, you don’t really need to make it up, Trav.”

Travis ran a finger down the side of Nolan’s jaw before responding, “I’ve always got your back baby, no matter what.”

The blush Travis got in response was enough to make his heart melt, and he was suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling of just how fucking lucky he was.

Unable to resist Pats any longer, Travis leaned in once again. But, to Travis’ utter inconvenience, that was also the exact same moment when he heard G start to yell.

“Six feet, Konecny! Six feet!”

Travis laughed but pushed back, out of Nolan’s space. They had all night to celebrate.