It's January in Quebec City, which is significantly less cold than January in Winnipeg and roughly the same as January in Halifax. Nolan is stupidly nervous, he really shouldn't be. It's basically an all star game, but it's labeled as top prospects. He is possibly the number one prospect in the CHL and possibly all of scouting right now and pressure to play an essentially worthless game is too high. Nico is just excited to play against other people, he's much more easy going and calm during media and such. He's clearly there just to have fun and Nolan feels a spark of jealousy from that. He goes through media an internal nervous wreck and trying to keep calm and collected. He thinks about how he can't wait to get back to his room.
He's rooming with Nico, which isn’t the worst thing. They'd met a few times before, but this would be more intense. Nolan gets to the room first, of course after essentially zooming through interviews and just trying to get everything over with. He picks the bed by the window, which he hopes is okay with Nico (after all first come, first served) and channel surfs the shitty channels the hotel television has. After around an hour Nico shows up looking relaxed in a moose heads polo, fluffy hair, and warm smile. He waves to Nolan and Nolan waves back as he nonchalantly plops onto the same bed as Nolan. Nolan is by far too stressed to even process or care.
“Hi,” Nico said, in an almost happy-go-lucky tone of voice.
“Hey,” Nolan replied in a bland tone.
“Why don't we watch a movie instead of this crap?,” Nico said and chuckled.
Nolan just nodded and gave an awkward smile. Nico flipped his hair out of face and went to dig though his bag. He pulled out “Star Trek: Beyond” and placed it in the definitely passed its time DVD player in the hotel room and crawled back onto the bed.
“Have you seen this one yet?,” Nico asked.
“No, I didn't get a chance to see it theaters,” Nolan replied in his first reply that actually had emotion in it all day.
The movie started and both of them were interested as they could be for being two tired people who did media all day. During the truly incredible scene with Chris Pine as Kirk on a motorcycle Nico just sort of awkwardly fell asleep on top of Nolan. Nolan’s first thought was: “really, during the best part” and then “well shit”. He was to tired to move and Nico clearly seemed to be alert a little bit because he started to cuddle with Nolan. Nolan just went along with it and they were both sleeping on top of each other long before the credits rolled.
Nico was the first to wake up as the sunrise peeked through the blinds. He rubbed his eyes and got out of bed, muttering “shit,” as he realized he slept in his clothes. He noticed Nolan still dead asleep on the bed and was endeared by the way his eyelashes fluttered and his cheeks were still rosy even though he wasn't even awake. Nolan woke up much later, so much later that Nico was practically out the door. He rubbed his eyes and waved goodbye. Nico left his number on the bed and the minute he slammed the door behind him Nolan put it in his phone and texted him.
Buffalo was surprisingly nice in June and wasn't the barren winter wasteland it was made out to be year round. Since the last incident Nico and Nolan exchanged texts and bonded over the excitement and stress of the upcoming draft. Nolan likes to think they flirted a bit, but he'd keep that to himself. They were rooming together in a hotel that looked somewhat out of place for the beaten down city. It was new and full service and contrasted the whole “vibe” of the city. The actual day of the combine was weird. It was a lot of confusion and physical tests and strangers being way up in their faces asking stupid, irrelevant questions. Both of them were nervous and knew that had to fit the expectations the media made out for them and had to deal with arguably more media than anyone else, but it was okay, they had each other.
The combine itself wasn't actually that fun, but it was nice to be around each other and try and make it a fun competition to some extent. They were both so incredibly exhausted by the end of the combine they both just showered and collapsed on the hotel couches for an hour or so. Eventually Nolan got up, crawled into bed, flipped on the tv to HGTV of all things, and grew more tired by the second. Nico quickly followed, plopping next to Nolan on the bed which was unexpected, but not unwanted by either of therm. They pulled the covers over them and they watched “House Hunters: International”, while spooning for a total of five minutes before falling asleep.
The next morning is rough. They're both sore from the combine and neither of them have any desire to leave the bed. “Nolan,” Nico nudges, “We have to get up”. “I don't want to,” Nolan replies as if he were a petulant child. “But we have too,” Nico says and drags it out to be unnecessarily long. “Fine,” Nolan says as he rolls his eyes and begins to roll out of bed. They go through their normal morning routines separately and Nico is ready to head out first, because his flight is earlier than Nolan’s. He hugs Nolan goodbye and whispers “Skype me” into his ear. Nico’s cheeks are even more flushed than they already are and he thinks about how he's really going to miss Nico and he won't even get to see him until the draft.
Chicago is very, very hot in the summer. It seems even hotter when the possibility of being the number one draft pick is on the line, and you know nobody. The whole thing feels like a blur to both Nico and Nolan. It's just bright lights flashing everywhere and no ability to conceptualize what's going on. People are talking, and no one even hears them through the anxiousness and excitement rushing through each draftee’s brain.
After the never-ending, high-stress, confusing day of the draft they went out to have a by far too relaxed night. They didn't really go to a party. Well, they went to a party to get alcohol to then drink alone in their room. It sounds depressing, but it was anything but. Nolan was pretty sure he managed to get one of the most expensive bottles of champagne the hotel had and he grabbed two glasses, put them on the desk in the hotel, and carefully poured the sparkling drink into the glasses. He brought them over to the couch where Nico was sitting and handed a glass to him. “Shall we do a toast?,” Nico said. “To number one and number two overall,” Nolan said with laughter in his voice. They downed the first glasses in a matter of seconds and ending up drinking the rest of the bottle, straight out of the bottle. Nolan grabbed the vodka and some incredibly cheap looking shot glasses next. They took a few shots, drank a beer each, and then decided they should probably sleep. They were both so buzzed and it was probably a miracle either of them had enough coordination to even get to a bed. Nico somewhat drunkenly and instinctively walks over to the other twin bed and Nolan slurs “comeonover here”. Of course Nico, especially drunk Nico, can't really resist. He crawls into bed next to Nolan as nonchalantly as he did the first time this happened and wraps his arms around him. Nico sloppily tries to go in for a kiss and Nolan with his always blushing cheeks and bloodshot eyes kisses back. They giggle and fall asleep holding hands.
They both wake up around 10:30 the next morning and Nolan is half slumped over Nico’s body and has about zero intention of moving. Nico was stupidly smiling when he pushed Nolan off of him and Nolan just giggled. They were both hungover as hell, so they just stayed in bed cuddling as long as possible.
July in America was by far warmer than July in Canada. The humidity was oppressive, the sun was either always shining, or it was just torrential downpour. It was a very rainy night in Philly when Nico showed up to where Nolan was staying.
It was two in the morning two days before training camp started, luckily Nolan was alone, and thought he went crazy when he heard that knock on the door. He ran down the steps looking like a wreck in nothing but oversized pajama pants and his blonde hair was pretty much all over the place. He looked through the peephole to see Nico basically drenched in his Devils sweatshirt and sweatpants and opened the door. To his surprise, Nico pulled him out and kisses him in the pouring rain with just a few stars peeking through the clouds. Nolan let him in and led him up the stairs to his room.
“Do you need dry clothes?” Nolan asked.
“Yeah,” Nico replied.
Nolan grabbed him his own Brandon Wheat Kings shirt, sweatpants, and boxers. Nico quietly thanked him and he waited for him to crawl into the bed. Nolan thought for a while; he didn't know if Nico was drunk, he didn't know what brought Nico here, he didn't know what drove Nico to kids him, and he hardly knew what drove him to kiss Nico back. He was too tired and his mind was too clouded to think clearly. He got into his own bed next to Nico, melted into his arms, and they slept in by far too much into the next day.
They woke up at around one in the afternoon and neither of them moved until around 1:30. Nolan was the first to get out of bed and make his way downstairs and Nico quickly followed. “Do you want anything?” Nolan asked. “Maybe coffee,” Nico replied. Nolan made them both coffee as if it was something he would do for them every morning. He handed Nico his cup of it and they just sat for a while, no intention of speaking of the events that occurred the previous night. They watched tv on Nolan’s couch and Nolan lied down in Nico’s lap as Nico played with the messy strands of dirty blonde hair. “I like this,” Nolan blurted out of almost nowhere. “Yeah, me too,” Nico said. They stayed like that for a bit, or really hours until Nico ultimately had to go back.
“I should get going, with training camp starting soon and all,” Nico said.
“I'll miss you,” Nolan said as he pressed a kiss to nico’s lips.
nico: hey do u maybe want to spend Christmas at my place since break is so short and jet lag may be the end of us if we go home
nolan: id love that <3
Decembers in America are cold, but have by far less snow than somewhere like Winnipeg. The wind is bitingly cold, the days are darker for much, much longer, and there's not even any snow to compensate. At least it's peak hockey season, the holidays are sooner than just around the corner, and driving is easier than it is in Canada.
Philadelphia, like every big city is excessively decorated for the holidays. From the arenas to the malls to random places downtown, so arriving in the less Christmas-o-fied New Jersey was almost like culture shock to Nolan. He got to Nico’s place and pulled his luggage out of his car and rung the bell. The air was cool and nose was almost as red as his cheeks and his center ice sweatshirt wasn't doing much to protect him from the cold.
Nico opened the door, kissed him, offered him hot chocolate, and helped him carry his luggage up to his room. Like a true gentlemen, Nolan thought. They were both so ecstatic to see each other on that bitter Christmas Eve. They were handsy and flirty in an endearing way. They talked for hours about how their seasons have been since the last time they saw each other and how much they missed each other. They even gave each other the most common gift ever of gift cards, because creativity for two presents is by far too much. Eventually they went upstairs and sat down on Nico’s bed. Nico leaned into Nolan and just started to lazily make out with him. They were stupid and giggly and smiling like two idiots the whole time. They fell asleep watching some Christmas special and woke up just past the crack of dawn on Christmas morning like they were still kids. “Good morning,” Nico said in a very groggy morning voice. “Morning,” Nolan replied, and kissed Nico on the cheek.
There were only two gifts wrapped under Nico’s somewhat pathetic excuse of a tree— it was a tiny little green plastic tree with a devils ornament on it and no topper or lights at all. Nico handed Nolan his gift to open first. “Open it, dumbass,” Nico said. Nolan tore the shiny paper open to find on top of tissue paper was a keychain of Nico’s jersey. He ripped the tissue paper from the box to find an incredibly nice Jacket under it. “I picked it because Reid Duke said yours was patchy,” Nico said. Nolan just rolled his eyes and kissed Nico as a thank you. He then handed Nico his own present. Nico ripped the box open to find a copy of his favorite movie on blu-ray, happy Gilmore and a Nolan Patrick shirsey. He almost blushed as deep as Nolan as he said “thank you”.
“I have one more present for you,” Nico said in a flirty tone of voice.
“What is it?” Nolan asked.
“Do you want to, maybe be my boyfriend?” Nico asked visibly nervous.
“Of course I do and I've wanted to for a long time,” Nolan replied as his cheeks his lit up to a bright pink.
They cuddled for the rest of the day knowing their time together would be short.
January was definitely more like winter than December in the general New Jersey area. There's the gross snow that only sort of sticks, bitingly cold temperatures, and miserable children because it just didn't snow enough for them to miss school.
On the morning of January the thirteenth, Nolan hopped on the team bus both nervous and ecstatic to play in New Jersey. He was excited to see Nico, and mortified to play against him. He managed to basically lie to management so he could stay with Nico, but claimed Nico was a family member and he needed to be there for ‘superstitious’ purposes. Management bought it somehow and Nolan was beyond excited to see his now boyfriend. The hour bus ride felt so, so much longer than usual. There was traffic but it just felt long and boring.
Pre-game media was absolute hell. All Nolan was allowed to talk about was Nico. It was like punishment, because he literally loved Nico and he had to talk about competing against him and if he liked him and if he hated him and the questions all felt cloudy and the same after an hour of being bombarded by Philadelphia and New Jersey reporters alike. Due to all the media the time leading up to the game felt short. Nolan put on his gear and taped his stick and laced his skates as usual and was ready to have a normal game, and a nice night with Nico. The game started and it was a slow moving first period with a Devils goal scored by Taylor Hall in the last two minutes. They were yelled at by coach in the locker room for not being fast enough and not having enough scoring chances set up for them. In the second Nolan scored and they tied it. He felt as if he was on top of the world for that minuscule amount of time. The third rolled around quickly and Nico ended up sniping two goals on Elliot.
Nolan didn't care they lost, it was a tight game, they definitely didn't play the last two periods poorly and at this point he didn't care how media would play it up and fuck with him. He knew Nico was better, he was drafted above him, he scored more goals, but by now Nolan was at peace with it. He changed and went onto the grueling post-game interviews and he even saw Nico out of the corner of his eye.
The first reporter asked: “Do you think Nico Hischier is better than you?” Nolan couldn't help but smile and reply: “At the end of the day he is. He's an incredible player, he can really generate offense well, and he went first overall for a reason”. The next reporter asked “do you think you played well?” Nolan replied to that one with: “I'm thrilled I scored, but I really could have been better. I should've tried to generate more offense and get more chances in.” The rest of media went by quickly and within two hours he was finally at Nico’s house.
They basically ran up to Nico’s room, stripped down to their boxers and crawled into the bed. The bed was almost like a sweet release because they were both so exhausted from practice, media, the game, and of course, more media. Nico moved closer to Nolan and wrapped his arms around his waist and watched Nolan’s cheeks blush harder. He kissed him on the cheek and whispered “I love you” into his ear. Nolan just smiled and fell asleep in Nico’s arms. They woke up just in the nick of time. Nolan had to be on the team bus at one and they woke up just past 11:30. Nolan quickly gathered his belongings and went downstairs as Nico quickly followed.
“I'll miss you so fucking much”, Nico said as he kissed Nolan on the lips.
“I love you Nico. I hope you know what I said last night in media, I really meant it. You're an incredible player and you deserve everything you have. I love you,” Nolan said.
Nico kissed him on his porch in the non-stick snow and it was truly a perfect ending to a perfect stay.