Nolan wasn’t dumb. He saw Karly’s Instagram announcement before TK’s text came through. Maybe he was dumb for turning alerts on for her posts but fuck. He was curious. It’s not like anyone was gonna know that maybe he was a little bit more pathetic than curious.
ay bud i got some news for you
He also wasn’t dumb about what he was to TK. He was a convenient body when TK and Karly were fighting or on a break. He was a place for TK to land when he was frustrated on a long, grueling roadie and just needed a release. He was a good fuck to celebrate a win. He was a friend, nothing more.
this little blob is a baby, can u believe it?
It wasn’t TK’s fault that Nolan wanted more. It especially wasn’t TK’s problem. Nolan was never going to tell him, tell anyone. He suspected G knew, from the knowing looks he’d get from across the locker room or across the table at a bar. But G never asked and Nolan was never going to tell.
patty ur gonna be an uncle
But then the hookups stopped. TK stopped cornering Nolan in bars. He stopped following Nolan up to his apartment instead of his own. He stopped with everything but nothing changed. They were still TK and Patty everywhere that it mattered: on the ice, in the locker room.
And now Nolan knew why. And the pain was overwhelming.
They won against the Habs, Nolan went home alone.
They lost against the Leafs, Nolan went home alone.
They won against the Panthers, Nolan went home alone.
They went on a 9 day west coast roadie, TK never knocked.
G’s looks grew more and more concerned but Nolan couldn’t care less. They were doing fine on the ice so what did it fucking matter what their personal lives were like. If Nolan booked it out of the locker room before TK could even get three words in.
From O’Captain G:
Hey Patty. Everyone’s coming over tomorrow to celebrate TK’s big news. Normally I wouldn’t do this but I’m pulling the captain card. Attendance mandatory.
Nolan let out a huge sigh. He could leave TK on read day after fucking day but captain’s orders and all. He sent a quick reply back letting G know he’d be there. Nolan was fine, he could go to G’s, casually avoid TK, make his appearance and get the fuck out of there before anyone could really get a word in to him. It was going to be fine.
It wasn’t fine.
He walks into G’s house and the first thing he sees is TK with his arms around Karly who’s perched delicately on a stool in the kitchen. That’s the first knife to the gut. As he walks in he thinks about going to the other room first. He can see Hayesy and Hartsy talking to Beezer in the living room and even though they’re loud as fuck, he thinks they might be the safer option.
He stupidly goes to the kitchen. And that’s when he sees it. He sees the way TK is looking at Karly. Like she hung the fucking moon. Like he’d do anything for her. She’d say jump and he’d say how high.
TK never looked at Nolan that way. Knife number two.
Not when they were just casually hooking up. Not when Travis was opening Nolan up, one thick finger at a time, while his other hand was intertwined with Nolan’s. Not when he was fucking Nolan. Not after, when they were sprawled out, side by side, on the bed watching some adventure show on tv.
“Patty, you made it!” G yells as he claps him on the back. TK turns towards Nolan and smiles but it’s a small smile.
“Hey bud, glad you could join us,” Travis says as he makes his way to pull Nolan into a hug. There’s no easy way to stop him so Nolan gives in, tries not to melt into TK’s arms.
“Captain’s orders, ya know.” Nolan makes his way to the fridge to grab a beer. If he’s going to stay, he’s going to need more than water to get him through it.
The party is fine, really. TK is thankfully busy getting congratulated by everyone else in attendance so Nolan finds it easy to slink back to the living room and post up by Beezer. He wishes that G would stop giving him fucking sad looks from across the house but G also makes sure that Nolan never runs out of beer so he can’t be that mad at him.
G’s beer delivery means that his original plan fails. Instead of sneaking out after making his rounds, he ends up drunk off his fucking ass. G must overhear him starting to talk about TK to Beezer and decide he’s worth saving because all of the sudden he’s being herded upstairs.
“G, man, if you wanted to get me into bed you didn’t need to get me drunk.” Nolan’s pretty sure he got all the words out but his head is fuzzy and doesn’t feel connected to his mouth.
G snorts and shakes his head. Nolan’s never been upstairs at G’s house before but it’s not like he’s really taking in anything he’s seeing. Suddenly he’s being pushed down onto a bed and G’s pulling his shoes off his feet.
“Chill out Patty. I’m just saving your ass from saying anything stupid. You can crash here, it’s late anyways.”
Nolan can’t even begin to fight G on it because as soon as he scoots himself up the bed and gets his head on a pillow he’s out like a light.
Nolan lets G and Ryanne make him breakfast before he leaves in the morning. He ruffles Gavin’s hair and tickles the baby’s cheek as he sits down at the table.
“You wanna talk about it?” G says as he sits a cup of coffee down in front of Nolan.
Nolan contemplates as he takes a sip of the hot coffee. There’s no way G would understand. He probably wouldn’t be surprised or tell Nolan he’s an idiot. But he definitely wouldn’t get it. He must stay silent for too long because G breaks the silence first.
“It’s okay, you know. If you don’t want to. Just know that I’m just a text away if you ever do want to talk about TK.”
Nolan grunts in reply and quickly downs the pancakes and bacon that Ryanne sits in front of him. He gets the fuck out of there as quick as he can.
Nolan’s never been so happy to see a season end. They were eliminated from the post season a while ago. Normally he’d be disappointed in himself but honestly he knows they didn’t deserve it. They played like shit all season, running away with a few wins but more losses. The home crowd boo’d them more than the visiting teams.
hey patso, can u drive me up to skate?
And fucking hell he wants to say no. Wants to tell TK to get an Uber or ask one of the other guys. But Nolan’s never been good at telling TK no. That’s probably what got him into this situation of being hopelessly in love with his best friend. His best friend who’s now committed to the girl who’s having his baby.
Nolan rubs his eyes and replies with a simple “yes”.
He gets his stuff together and heads down to TK’s apartment. He knocks twice before the door is flung open and TK is hustling out to the hallway.
“Sorry bud. Karly’s car is in the shop and she has an appointment this morning so she needs to take mine.”
“Coffee’s on me, let’s go.”
The first part of their drive is met with silence which is not like TK. Normally he’s fighting Nolan to play different music or he’s telling Nolan about everything he did in the time since they last saw each other. But TK just sits in the passenger seat completely still and completely silent.
That only lasts until they pick up their coffee. Then it’s like a dam inside TK breaks.
“So, haven’t seen much of you lately big guy. Everything okay?”
Nolan grunts and hopes that’s a sufficient reply but of course it's not. And he feels something start to bubble up inside him as TK keeps talking.
“We’re looking for a house, probably near the neighborhood G’s in. Safe streets, big yards.”
“Good schools too. Apparently that’s important to consider when your kid isn’t even born yet.”
Nolan grunts. The feeling bubbles up more and he can feel his chest getting tight. But he keeps his eyes on the road.
“G’s been giving me a shitload of dad advice. It’s too fucking much. Who knew you had to prepare so much for being a fucking dad. I feel like I’ll never be ready for this.”
Nolan turns to look at TK and just shakes his head slightly.
“Pats are you mad at me or something? You’ve barely said anything to me in the last month. You don’t answer any of my texts.” TK asks so quietly that Nolan barely hears him. He’s never heard TK sound so small. For a second he thinks he’s going to break, going to spill every single TK related thought and emotion bouncing around his head.
“Look we’re here.” Nolan throws the car into park and gets the fuck out of there. He can’t do this right now. Maybe TK deserves an explanation but so does he, he thinks.
He gets through practice and his post-skate workout and Travis stays busy chatting with the other guys. He throws Nolan a few hurt glances but doesn’t try to talk to him. Nolan sees TK and G huddled together at one point, G talking to TK but glancing at Nolan and he feels his cheeks burning. He can’t tell what G’s saying but at the end of it TK glances at Nolan and then back to G and nods his head before skating away for his drill.
Nolan waits around in his stall for TK so that he can drive them both home. The locker room is half empty already with most guys heading back home for the day in lieu of going out as a group. They’ve only got three games left and then they can all head their separate ways, tails tucked between their legs.
Nolan’s fucking around on his phone when he feels someone sit down next to him.
“About fucking time-” He starts but when he looks up it’s G, not TK.
“Always a ray of sunshine. TK went to lunch with Kev, said to tell you he’d just have him take him home after.”
“Oh, woulda been nice for him to tell me.”
“Patty, even I could see your death glares pointed at him all day. I told him to give you some space.”
“Fuck you G, you didn’t need-”
“Were you going to do it?” G interrupts. “Were you going to tell him why you’re giving him the cold shoulder.”
“That’s what I thought. Look, kid. I don’t know what was going on between you two but I have my guesses. You don’t wanna talk to me and that’s fine. But here,” G hands Nolan a piece of paper. “Maybe give Danny a call. I think- well it doesn’t matter what I think. Call him or don’t, it’s your choice.”
Nolan looks down at the paper in his hand and thinks.
“Thanks G.” And he heads home for the day.
He puts the paper on his kitchen counter and pointedly ignores it. He could call Danny but what for? He’s only ever talked to Danny in passing, they don’t actually know each other. He leaves the paper there and forgets about it.
They lose their last three games. He doesn’t think they’ve completely given up but it’s like they’ve lost all connection with each other. Passes go rogue. There are turnovers left and right. And the frustration is gone, replaced with exhaustion.
Locker clean out is quiet. A couple of the younger guys talk about their summer plans. TK doesn’t try to talk to him. It hurts but Nolan chooses to ignore the feeling. It’s not like he’s making an effort to talk to TK. He saw the post from Karly the night before, TK with his arms around her, a set of keys in her hands. They were posed in front of a huge house, their house. Nolan finally turned off the notifications for her posts.
Nolan’s at his apartment, packing up his bags to head back to Winnipeg when he comes across the slip of paper G gave him. He thinks about tossing it but he had downed the last of the beer in his fridge in an effort to empty it and he was feeling a little fuzzy. So he texts Danny.
It’s Nolan Patrick. G gave me your number to talk if i needed. i’m leaving philly in two days but maybe we can get lunch?
He waits for the reply but thankfully it comes quick.
Sure, why don’t you come over to mine for lunch tomorrow? 1pm?
An address follows. He replies with a “yes”. He tries not to think about it too much. It’s just lunch. Danny’s always seemed like an easy going guy. If Nolan chose to chicken out he doesn’t think Danny would push him.
He finishes packing up the things that he’s taking back home with him and finishes off the last beer and takeout container in the fridge. It’s enough beer that he’s asleep on the couch before he has time to be anxious about the next day.
Nolan follows the GPS on his phone to Danny’s house. He parks on the curb in front of the house and sits in the car for a few minutes, talking himself out of just bailing.
He finally forces himself out of the car and up the front steps and rings the doorbell. It doesn’t take Danny long to answer. Nolan takes inventory as he steps into the entryway. Danny is warm and inviting, all soft smiles and hushed welcomes. The house is cozy, lived in. And it doesn’t look like any of the boys are home.
“Nice to see you Nolan, it’s been a while.” Danny ushers Nolan through to the kitchen where lunch is already set out at the bar. He gives a silent thanks that he doesn’t have to awkwardly sit around while Danny makes food. He’s also pleasantly surprised to see that Danny made good, real food, not the diet plan shit he’s used to.
“I got lunch ready when you said you were on your way. Have a seat.”
Nolan doesn’t question why Danny is so quiet. G must have filled him in on why Nolan might be contacting him and fuck that’s kind of a relief. They go through menial small talk subjects: Philly, the weather, baseball. As Nolan is finishing off his lunch and the cold beer Danny got for him he feels the mood shift.
“So Nolan, I know you didn’t want my company just to talk about the Phillies. Claude said he was giving you my number to talk and I assume that means more than this?”
And maybe it’s the calm energy Danny is projecting or maybe it’s the fact that he’s kept everything bottled up for so long or maybe even the fact that Danny is essentially a stranger. Whatever it is, Nolan finally spills. He starts at the beginning. Telling Danny about the way he and TK fell into an easy, deep friendship from the beginning. How they were the perfect balance of give and take, ebb and flow, quiet and loud.
He tells Danny how that shifted into more. The first time after Nolan had a bad game and TK came over with a six pack and they drank on the balcony together. And how in their tipsy state they kissed for the first time. How it just snowballed from there, heated makeout sessions, rushed handjobs, sex.
He tells Danny how it went when TK brought Karly to Philly. He hadn’t even known TK met anyone that summer but there she was, all blonde hair, dainty legs. How he couldn’t even be mad when he met Karly because it was clear that her and TK were great together.
He tells Danny how it went from there. TK and Karly would fight, TK would show up at his door, they’d hookup. TK would leave after and the next day Karly would be back in the picture.
He tells Danny about how he told himself it was fine. It was better to have this little piece of TK than nothing at all.
Then he stops and it’s Danny’s turn. Danny tells him nearly the exact same story but about himself and Claude and Nolan is floored. He knew the rumors but it's not like he was ever going to ask G about it.
“How did you do it? How did you keep being his friend and teammate and all that?” Nolan asks.
“I didn’t,” Danny ducks his head. “When I finally realized that Claude was happy with Ry I left. I got the fuck out of Philly. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but if I hadn’t, I don’t think Claude and I would still be friends.”
Nolan thinks about the conversation with Danny for the rest of the day. He sits on his couch in his apartment and makes his decision., pulls up his agent’s contact information.
Hey man, I’m heading back to Winnipeg tomorrow. Can we talk? I think it’s time to pursue something other than Philly