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Tyson Barrie has a hot boyfriend.

“I do not,” he says mildly.

“Liar,” Nate says.

“Why do you have to say it like that, anyway,” Tyson goes on, ignoring him. “Like, like it would be surprising I could have a hot boyfriend. I'm hot, I could get a hot boyfriend.”

“You are not hot,” Nate says and rolls his eyes because Tyson? Tyson is not hot. “You're cute. Like a puppy.”

“Fuck you, not hot,” Tyson says. “I'm a sexual hurricane.”

“Oh my fucking god,” Nate says. “Give me the fucking bong, you nightmare.”

In the ensuing tussle they knock over the bong and spill bong water all over the floor. Nate does not, however, forget the salient point. Which is that Tyson has a hot boyfriend and is lying about it.

--

There are a number of factors which lead Nate to believe Tyson has a hot boyfriend. They are as follows:
  1. Tyson keeps looking down at his phone and smiling fondly. Who is he smiling at? Nate would certainly like to know.
  2. This one is pretty circumstantial but Tyson has cut his hair. And started using new conditioner or cologne or something. He smells really good lately, is what Nate’s getting at, and looks like he’s putting in more effort. Nate theorizes he is trying to impress his mysterious hot boyfriend.
  3. Finally, Nate saw Tyson getting dropped off to the one class he shares with Nate by a tall, built-ass hot dude and, well. He thought he knew all of Tyson’s smiles, but apparently… apparently he didn’t.

So. The only reasonable conclusion Nate can draw is that Tyson Barrie has a hot boyfriend. He doesn’t really understand why Tyson isn’t just admitting it.

--

Tyson definitely has a hot boyfriend but he's not acting much like someone with a hot boyfriend should act. For instance, Tyson is a literature major, so Nate would assume he would be quoting more poetry or something.

“I'm not dating anyone,” Tyson informs him when he brings it up halfway through Hockey Night, their weekly dive bar tradition. “You weirdo. My focus is on postmodern World War Two literature anyway, no one wants that quoted at them. Unless you think trench foot is romantic.”

“Maybe you could write some poetry,” Nate says thoughtfully. “Not about trench foot.”

“You know I can't rhyme,” Tyson reminds him and toasts the Habs game on the TV with his beer.

“Your boyfriend should appreciate you trying,” Nate says loyally, because Tyson's hot boyfriend should appreciate Tyson trying to write him poetry. Even though now that Tyson mentions it the Great Drunk Rap Battle Debacle of 2011 had definitely proven that Tyson might have the soul of a poet but it extends to dirty limericks and not much else.

“Jesus Christ, Nater,” Tyson says in a completely uncalled for tone of complaint, but then Price makes a legitimately miraculous save and both of them are on their feet screaming and showering nearby tables with their beers.

--

Aside from the whole lying about having a hot boyfriend thing Tyson’s a pretty ideal roommate.

“Tyson’s not dating anyone,” Gabe says to his treadmill.

“I don’t get why he’s lying about it,” Nate whines. He’s kind of out of breath. Gabe’s been running for, like, an hour and barely looks sweaty. Fucking Swedes. “He can talk to me about boys, we’re friends, I’m not not into dudes. It’s not like I wouldn’t be chill about it, y’know?”

“You don’t seem very chill,” Gabe observes.

“I mean, I live with the guy and I haven’t seen this dude he’s dating except for the one time,” Nate continues. “I thought Tyson liked me, this is so fucked up. Why do you think he won’t introduce me to his hot boyfriend?”

“He’s not dating anyone, first of all,” Gabe says. “So that might be why.”

“They can’t have been dating very long,” Nate concludes. “Tyson totally would introduce us, he’s probably just intimidated because my opinion matters so much to him. That’s probably it, right?”

“You’re insane,” Gabe observes with a tone of intrigue.

“Fuck off,” Nate says absently and clicks the speed up another notch. “Hey, spot me on bench after?”

--

If Tyson had his way he’d spend all his time studying or attending vaguely wholesome events with his literature classes and calling his parents on time. Nate considers it his god given responsibility to introduce an element of Pabst-adjacent spontaneity and fun to Tyson’s academic career. Somewhere along the way they’d managed to rack up an impressive seventeen beer pong tourney wins, two conversations with unsympathetic police officers that had not resulted in jail time, and not a single failed class between them.

Tyson is probably Nate’s best friend that isn’t Swedish, and Nate isn’t just saying that because Tyson is currently whiffing his way through a game of pool like he’s never seen a ball in his life.

He walks back to Nate looking completely unconcerned with the disgrace he’d made of himself just now, leaving Erik to line up his shot. Nate hands him his beer even though he doesn’t deserve it.

“You hit balls flying at your face at like 100 miles an hour but you can't hit a ball sitting still on a table with all the time in the world,” Nate marvels. Tyson makes a face at him. He's all blotchy and pink with how drunk he is and it’s a little cute.

“Don't say it like that,” he whines good-naturedly. “Baseball is nothing like pool.”

“You're a miracle, Barrie,” Nate proclaims and throws an arm around Tyson. “Worst pool player I know. You're lucky you're so cute.”

Tyson elbows him and rolls his eyes but he's even pinker. He doesn't move, either. He stays tucked under Nate's arm until it's his turn to whiff the ball with his cue again, which he does with gusto.

It doesn't occur to Nate until he's at the bar later getting them another round that maybe cuddling up on someone that's as boyfriended up as Tyson is could be considered not totally chill. He frowns down at the receipt for their tab. Especially when the boyfriend in question is so hot, and also built. Nate's in pretty great shape himself but like, levels. The guy had been built like a truck.

Well, he decides, and orders a shot of Fireball. Whatever, basically.

--

Nate has known Tyson for three and a bit years, ever since Tyson had set their dorm kitchen on fire trying to make spaghetti. They’ve been bros ever since. In this time Tyson has dated, in order:
  1. Another guy named Tyson.
  2. Gabriel Landeskog for approximately eight hours, in what Nate is pretty sure had been an attempt to win a bet.
  3. A guy eight years older than him. Nate met the guy one time and has only ever heard him referred to as ‘Dunks’. Nate had not been a fan.
  4. That time Tyson got catfished.
  5. Gabe again, but for twelve hours of something analogous to gay-chicken that had taken kind of a weird turn towards the end.
  6. Mysterious, nameless hot boyfriend.

So, like, Nate is not saying he’s upset that Tyson isn’t introducing him to this hot boyfriend. It’s just that like two thirds of Tyson’s frankly disastrous dating history could have been avoided if Tyson had just vetted them with Nate. He’s not sure if he could have helped either Gabe incident but Tyson definitely wouldn’t have dated another Tyson, that’s for fucking sure.

Nate’s worried for his best friend. He doesn’t know why Tyson’s being so fucking weird about it.

--

He’s doing squats while Gabe pretends to spot him but is in reality checking Twitter on his phone when he has an incredibly shitty realization. He drops the bar with a clang, which is luckily only about an inch and a half above the safeties. Gabe jumps and drops his phone and makes an aborted, belated motion like he’s going to try to catch the bar before it crushes Nate’s chest or whatever.

“I could have died,” Nate points out, momentarily distracted from his shitty realization by the chance to lord it over Gabe.

“You didn’t,” Gabe says, but he looks ashamed of himself.

“Could have!” Nate says and points at him because he really could have. “Whatever, anyway. I’ve had a revelation.”

“Oh my god,” Gabe says. “Please tell me this has nothing to do with Tyson.”

“I’m not, like, the best roommate ever,” Nate continues, ignoring Gabe.

“This is absolutely about Tyson,” Gabe says, sounding defeated.

Nate really isn’t the best roommate, is the thing. He’s not great about dishes and sometimes he leaves laundry in the washer and forgets about it. Plus, he once left a bag of trash in the entryway when Tyson was visiting family and just kind of forgot to deal with it until Tyson came back and yelled about it.

“I’m not saying Tyson’s embarrassed to introduce me to his hot boyfriend but, y’know,” Nate says and scuffs his foot against the weight mats.

“I regret knowing you,” Gabe says and shoulders him out of the way to start stacking more weights onto the squat bar. Because he is a dick determined to show Nate up in every area of his life. “Really, MacKinnon. I refuse to be involved in this.”

“Don’t be a dick,” Nate says, sulky. “I’m just saying. It’s… I mean, it wouldn’t be that weird if it bothered me, if Tyson were embarrassed by me. Hypothetically.”

“Nate,” Gabe says, and turns to look at him. “We’re talking about Tyson, here. Tyson Barrie.”

“That’s his full name, yeah,” Nate confirms.

“The Tyson Barrie that got scratched from the qualifier game for the championships because he got injured in a fucking pillow fight in the hotel room the night before.”

“It was a wrestling match,” Nate objects on Tyson’s behalf. “The pillows were incidental.”

“The Tyson Barrie that nearly went on a second date with the girl that catfished him.”

“She was a very sweet girl, Tyson said,” Nate offers weakly because, honestly. He does not fucking know about that one.

“He set the dorm on fire trying to boil water.”

“That’s how we met,” Nate says, and totally fails at not sounding nostalgic.

Gabe knuckles at the bridge of his nose like he has a headache.

“Tyson is not embarrassed by you,” he says at last. “Even though he should be. I refuse to talk about this any longer. Spot me so I don’t die.”

“Whatever,” Nate says and rolls his eyes, even though he does feel better.

--

“Shouldn’t he be bringing you flowers?” he asks Tyson.

Tyson stares at him blankly. He’s clutching a mug of coffee like it’s the only thing keeping him alive and his shirt is almost definitely on backwards. It’s pretty early in the morning, in his defense. Nate’s pretty sure Tyson had still been up tapping away at his graduate thesis when he’d gone to bed at a perfectly reasonable one in the morning.

He’d definitely gotten sleep at some point, at least. There’s a pillow crease across his cheek and his hair is a rumpled disaster. It’s cuter than a box full of kittens.

“Your hot boyfriend,” Nate clarifies. “He should be bringing you flowers or, you like cake, right? Cake.”

Tyson squints at him and then sips his coffee.

“I don’t have a boyfriend,” he lies. He sounds hoarse and sleepy. It’s just endlessly endearing. Nate tucks him under his arm and shakes him a little. Not enough to spill his coffee but like, a little. “I do like cake though.”

“Whatever,” Nate dismisses Tyson’s lie. “I’m just saying, he could be putting in some more effort. Flowers and presents and shit. Bringing you cake. It’s what I would do.”

Tyson sips more coffee.

“Yeah, well,” he says. He sounds kind of… well, actually, Nate has no idea what that tone is. “You’re not my boyfriend.”

Nate has no idea how to respond to that and so he doesn’t. He steals Tyson’s coffee instead. If Tyson’s going to be weird for no reason, Nate is perfectly happy to provide reasons.

Tyson just rolls his eyes at him, though, and makes another mug.

--

Tyson Barrie is many, many things. Nate has compiled a list of the most relevant ones, as follows:
  1. An utter disaster. While not directly related to the situation at hand, it informs all of the following items.
  2. A baseball player. A pretty good one actually, which means he has lots of friends Nate doesn't know because Nate cares too much about Tyson to lie and pretend he gives a shit about baseball. This is, Nate assumes, where Tyson had met his secret hot boyfriend.
  3. Cute as a pile of puppies.
  4. Also hot, if you're into the whole earnest doofus beefcake thing. Whatever.
  5. A liar.

The last one is what’s starting to drive Nate a little bit genuinely batshit. He just can’t stop thinking about how Tyson’s dating someone, someone really hot, and hasn’t introduced Nate to him. And won’t even admit he exists, which is just…

Nate thought they were better friends. It’s really bothering him. The whole thing makes his gut churn when he thinks about it, and he can’t stop thinking about it, so his gut is churning all the time. It’s distracting and he keeps finding himself getting irritable with people for no reason.

The whole thing needs to get resolved, he decides.

--

“I don’t know why you’re lying to me,” he says as soon as he gets in the door and Tyson jerks upright on the couch. Say Yes to the Dress is playing on the TV and Nate is derailed for a moment before refocusing on the perplexed expression Tyson’s giving him.

“Uh?” Tyson hazards. Nate kicks the door closed behind him.

“It’s a shitty thing to do,” he continues. “I just don’t know why you won’t tell me about your boyfriend. If it’s something I did, you should have just told me.”

Tyson gets to his feet. He’s frowning.

“I’m not dating anyone,” he says, slowly.

“Yes, you are,” Nate says. He feels kind of… sick, that Tyson’s still lying to his face like this.

“I’m not,” Tyson says.

“You are,” Nate insists. “I know you are!”

“You don’t know shit, Nathan MacKinnon,” Tyson says. His face is pale and set and… angry, and Nate realizes way too late that maybe he shouldn’t have gone about this the way he had.

“Tyson,” he says.

“Fuck you,” Tyson says levelly and whirls around and stalks away, slamming his door behind him.

Nate is left in a dark, deserted living room. There’s a sinking feeling in his gut that says he’s fucked up quite a lot.

--

It's amazing how easy it is to avoid someone that lives in the same apartment as you, it turns out. Nate wouldn't believe it, except it's been like a week and the most he's seen of Tyson is a door closing. He’s not sure when Tyson’s leaving the apartment to get to class or if he’s even been sleeping there.

It feels… really shitty.

And what sucks extra hard is that how he’s used to dealing with shitty things is going and whining to Tyson and making him go out to a shitty dive bar or watch Titanic on the couch or something. So, having Tyson be mad at him is- it’s not great. Nate is not handling it great. He’s man enough to admit that.

“I am doing this out of the goodness of my heart,” Gabe informs him. Tyson grumbles at him but in a quiet way, because Gabe is actually being startlingly good about this for the heartless Swedish supermodel Gabe likes to pretend he isn’t.

“I just wish I knew what I did,” he mumbles into the couch cushions. Gabe’s vetoed Titanic and summarily refuses to go out for the night, something about class tomorrow. He’s provided his bong and some tortilla chips, though. “I’d apologize.”

“Maybe,” Gabe says, sounding like he doesn’t want to be as amused as he is, “he got tired of you trying to insist that he has a hot boyfriend when he really doesn’t. Which, by the way, your fixation on the hot part is really weird.”

“I’m not fixated,” Nate whines, although he has to admit he’s been- maybe not obsessed, but a little bit weird about this whole thing. Whatever, he refuses to be shamed by Gabe. “It’s the only thing I know about the guy.”

Gabe turns him over bodily on the couch with apparently zero effort. Nate stares up at him.

Gabe does not look amused any longer.

“Nate,” he says. He doesn’t sound amused either. “Listen to me. Tyson isn’t dating anyone, you moron. Your weird projected jealousy bullshit was cute for a hot second but you’ve hurt his feelings now and you need to own that and deal with your crush on him like a functional human.”

Nate gapes up at him.

“He… really isn’t dating anyone?” he asks at last.

Gabe sits down on the coffee table and puts his head in his hands.

“You’re the dumbest kid I know,” he says, muffled into his palms. Which first of all, he’s only two years older than Nate. Second of all, kind of rude.

“Wait, I don’t have a crush on him,” Nate says a moment later, fully processing what Gabe had said. Gabe lifts his head and, wow, Nate’s never seen him look this serious in his life maybe. It’s kind of like facing down a Norse god.

“Yeah,” he says. “You really do.”

“Oh,” Nate says. “Well, fuck.”

--

Erik answers his door with a friendly grin and Nate manages about three sentences of his story before Erik starts looking really confused. Which, admittedly, Nate is still a little stoned, so maybe he’s not making sense. He repeats himself from the beginning.

Erik looks more confused.

“Wait, go back,” he says at last. Nate’s got a bowl of ramen in hand and a beer in the other because Erik is a quality bro. “So, you’re saying you and Tyson aren’t dating?”

Nate chugs his beer.

--

“Do you think me and Tyson are dating?” he blurts as soon as his mom picks up the phone because he is just a little bit crossfaded and has eaten maybe a little too much sodium.

There’s a long, telling pause.

“Honey,” his mom says carefully. “You invited him over for Thanksgiving because his family was on vacation and he was sad that the Americans wouldn’t celebrate the right date.”

Which, Nate had absolutely done that.

“Well, we aren’t,” he says defiantly, because he might be more than a little crossfaded. “We’re not, like, in love.”

His mom bursts out laughing.

“Alright, sweetheart,” she says and then hangs up on him. He’s left staring down at his phone, feeling like he needs a nap and a glass of water and maybe a hug. He just got hung up on by his mom.

He wants a hug from Tyson. He wants to go tell Tyson all about all this ridiculous, weird, fucked-up day and he wants Tyson to laugh at it.

Fuck.

--

So he has a… a crush on Tyson.

Tyson, who isn’t talking to him and probably doesn’t really want to see him right now. Who Nate definitely needs to apologize to.

It’s possible he’s been a massive dumbass.

--

When he gets back to the apartment Tyson is finally home, which Nate knows because when he opens the front door Tyson freezes in the living room like if he just stands still enough Nate won’t notice him. Which, Tyson is shorter than Nate, but not by that much.

Nate stands in the open door and stares at Tyson. Tyson stares back. It is very, very awkward.

So apparently Nate really has been a massive dumbass because he can feel something wound tight and anxious and miserable in him unclench just looking at Tyson’s stupid, adorable face. Like the shitty cold heaviness in the pit of his stomach has finally lifted. Like he can finally relax, even though absolutely nothing has been solved yet and he still hasn’t really apologized.

He is, in fact, an idiot.

“Tyson,” he says and Tyson jumps. Nate closes the door to preemptively cut off the path of escape. He might be a dumbass but he’s a dumbass that knows Tyson’s face when he’s contemplating escaping an awkward situation at a sprint.

“Nate,” Tyson says. It isn’t the most welcoming tone.

There is a long and unpleasant silence. Nate really wishes he’d had some time to think through how to apologize to Tyson, and also that he hadn’t had the second beer with Erik. He’s not not sober, but he’s also… not sober.

“I’m going to drink some water,” he says carefully, because he can feel a sodium headache coming on. “And, um, please don’t sneak out, so I can apologize?”

Tyson blinks.

“Kay,” he says.

Nate goes and gets a glass of water, chugs it, and refills it so he has an excuse to stand for a second staring at his slightly distorted reflection in their mildly filthy microwave. It is not particularly helpful.

“You’re one of the weirdest people I know,” Tyson says from the doorway and Nate jumps and spills water on his pants.

Tyson’s leaning against the doorframe and laughing at him when he looks up from trying to bat off as much of the water as he can. He’s pink and grinning and Nate feels his heart kick in his chest and the bottom drop out of his stomach. He’s staring, he knows he is, and he absolutely can’t help himself.

“I’m sorry,” he blurts. Tyson’s laughter dies and they’re left with just the kitchen and Nate’s wet pants and another slightly uncomfortable silence.

“For?” Tyson says at last. Nate winces. He is sailing in uncharted waters here.

“Calling you a liar,” he ventures, because that’s what he’s most solid on having fucked up on. He’s not sure how to articulate being sorry that the inconvenient feelings he hadn’t even been aware he was having had caused him to be a dick for no reason.

Tyson considers him.

“Apology accepted,” he says at last and the last little bit of weight that’s been sitting in the pit of Nate’s stomach falls away, just like that. He breathes in and it reaches all the way to the bottom of his lungs.

Jesus, he is such a sap.

“I just don’t get, like,” Tyson continues, “why you were so… fixated on me having a boyfriend. Where’d you even get the idea I’d have one?”

Nate thinks back to the list of reasons he’d been so sure Tyson had a secret hot boyfriend. They’d seemed very convincing at the time.

“Well,” he says awkwardly, because he’s pretty sure they aren’t going to sound so convincing out loud. “Well, it was a few things. But there was this guy in this truck and he dropped you off to class like, a month ago? And you smiled at him?”

“Ford truck?” Tyson asks after a second. “Green one?”

“Uh,” Nate says. “Yeah.”

“That’s my friend Jamie,” Tyson says and rolls his eyes. He’s kind of smiling, though. “We play baseball together, which you’d know if you paid any attention during the games.”

“Hey, I show up,” Nate objects, because he does.

“And you spend the whole time on Twitter and don’t look at the field at all,” Tyson points out.

“I do when you’re on it,” which Nate realizes as he says is kind of the most obvious things he could say. Because he’s really not lying. He doesn’t give a shit about baseball and couldn’t pick any of Tyson’s teammates out of a lineup, but he has Tyson’s stats pretty much memorized.

Tyson rolls his eyes again, which is starting to become an obnoxious habit of his, but he’s a little pink.

“I’m not dating him,” he says. “I was gonna be late for class and he gave me a ride. That doesn’t explain why you were so obsessed with my, like… hypothetical hot boyfriend.”

“I wouldn’t say obsessed,” Nate hedges. Tyson raises both eyebrows and he continues hastily. “Okay, so, at first I thought it was just because I thought you were lying about it. Which would have been shitty. But obviously you wouldn’t do that!”

Tyson’s eyebrows have not lowered yet and his expression is not promising. It makes Nate’s inside’s cramp up again. This is… not going well.

“But then I talked to Gabe and he said some things about, well, shit I thought must be ridiculous because obviously I’d know, right?” Nate goes on. He’s aware he’s rambling and not making any sense at all. It’s just that Tyson’s face is going more and more blank and it’s making him- he thinks he might be about to start hyperventilating. He’s so out of his depth. “But Gabe said, and then Erik said, and then I called my mom and she laughed at me so, I think. You know.”

“No, Nate,” Tyson says slowly. His voice is very careful. “I don’t know.”

“I think I have a crush on you,” Nate says. “Obviously.”

Silence falls like an anvil to the skull.

“Oh,” Tyson says. “That’s good.”

“It is?” Nate asks, surprised, because in the spectrum of possible reactions he’d managed to construct in the last ten seconds this one hadn’t factored at all. Also, Tyson is walking towards him. And Nate’s never been intimidated by Tyson, not even when Tyson proved he could bench as much as Nate could, but he is- well-

“Yeah,” Tyson says. He’s grinning. He’s also rapidly approaching. He’s also very pink. Cuter than a puppy in a party hat. “Yeah, it’s a really good thing.”

“Really-?” Nate manages and then Tyson is hauling him down by the shirt collar, which is kind of one of the hottest things to ever happen to Nate, and kissing him.

--

“You’re so stupid,” Tyson tells him fondly. River Monsters is playing on the TV and neither of them are watching. Nate is discovering that he already knew Tyson was an excellent cuddler which, thanks, he knows he’s an idiot, but naked cuddles are… ten times better.

“Thanks, babe,” Nate says. He can’t even sound upset, he’s too pleased with himself and life in general. Also, he has a hand on Tyson’s ass, and he challenges anyone in the world to be upset with a handful of that.

“Seriously,” Tyson tells him. He sounds incredibly cheerful. “Can’t believe you didn’t notice how hard I was pining for you, Gabe said it was so obvious astronauts could see it from space.”

“Of course Gabe knew,” Nate mutters into Tyson’s hair and resolves to like, hide all Gabe’s hair products or something. Revenge for not stepping in sooner.

It’s half an episode later that something occurs to him and he nudges Tyson until he makes a sleepy inquiring sound.

“You totally have a hot boyfriend now,” Nate says smugly. Tyson twists to examine him from the vicinity of his chest.

“Well,” he says, considering. “You're okay.”

The carpet ends up doused in bong water again.