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Chronic Hiccups

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Honestly, joining in on the whole team zoom call was a bad plan and Nolan knew it. Too much screen time can still be a bit hit and miss, especially if it’s chaotic, and the boys can give him a headache in person anyway. Chaos is precisely the right word to describe this zoom call, although if anyone steps too far out of line G just mutes them. Still, the edge of a headache building at the base of his skull makes him perhaps a little tenser than he might usually be, and he knows that the best way to deal with random unexplained behaviour from immature hockey players, but he’s not making his best decisions today.

“Why the fuck do you all keep calling me Joe?” He breaks eventually.

There’s snorts from various corners, although interestingly not TK, which is unexpected, because usually, if there is pranking of Patty going on, it’s TK at the centre of it.

It’s Sanny (or “Other Travis” as Nolan always mentally labels him) who tells him amidst the snickers, “It’s short for Joe Exotic.”

“And how the fuck am I the Tiger King?” Of course he knows who Joe Freaking Exotic is. He’s as bored during this damn social distancing as anyone else, even if he has Teeks wandering in and out of his apartment like it’s any other day.

“It’s not so much that you’re actually Joe Exotic.” Sanny snorts.

“It’s a comment on your redneck husband,” Ghost adds helpfully.

“Hey!” Travis hadn’t actually looked like he was paying attention, but he was glaring down the camera now.

“Ohhh,” It’s Hartsy who speaks up, “I get it now. Because the Tiger King has a straight redneck husband called Travis…. Just like Patty does!”

“Teeks isn’t…” Nolan trails off uselessly. They always say that he and Travis are like an old married couple.

“Teeks is so your husband.” Sanny grins down the camera at him. “And go ahead and try and deny his redneck roots.”

Nolan waves his hand at the camera. “I’ll let him defend himself.” At least the chirping had been mostly aimed at Trav then, not at him – that explained why Teeks himself hadn’t been the instigator.

TK shrugged, he was slouched down in his couch, his feet up on the coffee table, his phone propped up on his knees, he was chewing on something, although god only knew what. “Eh,” he shrugged, “Not sure I’ve got much to argue on one count.”

Nolan sat back to listen, because honestly, listening to Teeks try and argue how he wasn’t a redneck was sure to be a giggle.

“But I object to the straight part of that.”

There was an awkward moment of silence on the call.

“Did you just come out to us?” G asked, his tone carefully neutral.

TK let out a snort of laughter, “Was I ever in?” He asked, sitting up straight for the first time since the start of the call, “Seriously, I thought you all knew that.”

Sanny shook his head in disbelief, “Patty’s our token gay though.”

Nolan had seen how Giroux was sat, and honestly, he doubted that was the case, but as far as he knew he was the only one out in the team.

“I’ve hooked up with guys on team nights out…” Teeks is staring at them like they’re all idiots.

“Oh wow,” Hartsy is shaking his head, “I honestly just thought you were really good at making friends.”

At that, the phone call dissolves into giggles and chaos. Because on one hand, Teeks is just that good at making friends, on the other hand, Carter Hart is an adorable cinnamon roll.

Patty just lets the laughter of his teammates wash over him however – because even he hadn’t known, and he considers Trav his best friend, and honestly, this is going to take some adjusting to. Not in a homophobic way, of course not, because Nolan’s known he was gay since he was 11. No, this needs some serious mental adjustment because whilst Nolan has known he was gay since he was 11, nothing had prepared him for Travis Konecny waltzing into his life and stealing his heart. He’d spent the first year of their friendship stubbornly putting Teeks into the ‘straight boy’ box in his head, but now Teeks had just broken out of the box in the worlds most casual way.

When he tunes back in, Teeks is now on a rant about how he’s much prettier than Travis from Tiger King, and starts flashing his abs to make his point.

“I’m gonna go.” Nolan blurts out, “Screen time limit and all.” He hits the hang up button before anyone can respond. Fuck. Just fuck.

Of course, what he’d really appreciate is a few hours peace and quiet to try and wrap his head around this, but he gets enough time to put the kettle on for a chamomile tea before Teeks is walking through the door.

“Don’t really get social distancing do you Teeks?” Nolan teases him, it’s his usual greeting these days.

“I’ve told you before Pats, same building. Doesn’t count.” He makes his way carelessly to the fridge and grabs himself a Gatorade. “You knew I was bi right?”

“Er….” Nolan scratches awkwardly at the back of his neck.

“Seriously Patty?”

Nolan can feel his stupid blush staining his cheeks. “I just…” he flails his hand around, not meeting TK’s gaze.

Travis just snorts with laughter and throws himself on the couch, “Your gaydar is shit Pats.” He takes a swig of his gatorade, “What’s for dinner?”

Nolan rolls his eyes, but he’s grateful, because with that, they’re back to usual.

A few hours later, with his belly full of lasagne and beer, his mouth betrays him. He’d like to blame it on the beer, but to be honest, Teeks always makes him stupid, and the way he’s lounging there in his sweats shouldn’t be attractive, but there’s that sliver of skin visible where his t-shirt has ridden up and the glimpse of tan short circuits Patty’s brain. “Do you bottom?” He blurts out, and then physically clasps a hand over his own mouth to stop himself from speaking more. “Shit.” He realises he should apologise. “Sorry, that was so inappropriate.”

Teeks lets out a snort of laughter, “Sure.” He shrugs, “I mean, only with dudes I trust and all, like it’s not something I’d do on a first date.”

Nolan feels his mouth go dry, what on earth had possessed him to ask that, not only was it utterly inappropriate, but now he has visions of Teeks sliding down onto his cock, and he’s never going to be able to look his friend in the eye again.

Unfortunately, Travis takes him avoiding his gaze to mean something completely different. “Seriously bro, ask me whatever.” He shrugs casually, “Not like we have secrets.”

“Is it like 50/50 guys and girls? Or do you have a preference?” Jesus Christ, it’s like Nolan’s mouth was attached to his dick not his brain. Don’t ask the questions Patty, be cool Patty, oh wait, no.

Travis considers it for a moment, “I think 50/50 on who I think is hot, but relationships with chicks are hard man, so relationships I’d pick a dude over a chick.”

Nolan swears that he’s going to get a tick in his jaw from clenching it so hard. “Huh.” Is all he manages to come out with. At least, that’s all his brain manages to come out with, but his mouth is currently on a suicide mission. “You seeing anyone?”

“Dude!” Teeks looks at him aghast, “I wouldn’t be seeing anyone of any gender without telling you. Like, you’re the first person I’d tell.”

“So no special dude then,” That one did come from his brain, it’s teasing, and more back to their usual lowkey chirping manner.

“Eh,” Travis shrugs at him, “Not like redneck trash hockey players are in huge demand.”

“You’ve got to not listen to the guys when they say shit like that.” Nolan knows that Travis’ self confidence isn’t great at the best of times, and sure, chirping is just part of being a hockey player, but there’s something about the way he says it. “Besides,” he nudges TK’s knee with his own, “If Joe Fucking Exotic can get himself some ass, I’m pretty sure you can too.”

Travis starts to giggle, and there’s the easiness back, all the tension gone from the air, “That’s a low fucking bar dude, like fuck – I hope I’ve got more game than that.”

“I dunno man,” Nolan teases him, “Baby tigers.”

 

All is back to normal for a few days, at least until their next team call, and honestly, why does G insist on doing these, because they seem to exist purely to fuck with Patty’s heart.

“So. I’ve been thinking.” Ghost has his ‘I’m about to be a dick’ voice on, and Patty knows it’s going to be something related to him and Teeks being a couple. Like, fuck. It always is. “TK and Nolpats, you’re both into guys yeah?”

They both shrug, but Nolan can feel where this is going and his pulse is quickening, “If you’re about to ask some really inappropriate questions about how gay sex works, can I please redirect you to google.” He manages in his usual deadpan manner.

“No!” Ghosty rolls his eyes, “I don’t want deets, I was just wandering, because you guys share a room and all, if you’d ever…” he pauses, he doesn’t finish the sentence but his hand gesture is plenty explicit.

“I’ve muted him.” Giroux rolls his eyes, “Because honestly, even if the two of you are fucking, as long as it doesn’t mess up the team, nobody cares.”

“We’re not.” Nolan blurts out as fast as he can. “Let me make that perfectly clear. Just because Teeks and I are both into guys, does not mean we’re into each other.” He frowns for a moment, “And it’s kind of homophobic to assume that all queer men sleep with each other.”

There’s a few nods, and then Teeks adds, “Also, Patty is like, way out of my league.”

Nolan can feel his head spinning, and to his horror he sees some of the other guys in the chat nodding in agreement. “Are you for real?” He blurts out, “I’m out of YOUR league?” His eyes are practically popping out of your head, “Teeks, no-one is out of your league.”

Travis laughs, and runs his hand through his hair, “Eh, dumb redneck jock here remember.”

“How about the kindest funniest guy alive, like seriously Teeks, I don’t know anyone more thoughtful and kind than you, and then you’re fucking sick on the ice man, plus there’s the whole hockey bod thing which honestly, you rock way better than the rest of us…” Nolan realises with a sinking feeling, that he’s doing that thing again, where apparently his dick tells his mouth what to say without ever getting his brain involved, and worse than that, he’s doing it, on a call, in front of his entire fucking team, and there’s nothing he can do to stop it, his entire face is burning red with embarrassment and still he doesn’t stop “…and don’t even get me started on your shoulders, and you’re always so tan and…” he manages to engage his brain just a little, “Jesus Christ G, can you just mute me for the love of God.” And then he remembers that he can in actual fact just hang up. So he does.

Face burning, he buries his face into the couch cushions and groans. Here lies Nolan Patrick. Died during the Corona Virus outbreak of 2020, not of Corona Virus, but of embarrassment.

___

Meanwhile, on the group chat: silence.

“Well.” It’s Claude who speaks, he is the captain after all.

There’s a few murmurs of stunned assent, all eyes are on Konecny.

“I think,” Giroux continues valiantly, “That Teeks, you should go and uh….”

“Tap that?” Hartsy suggests unhelpfully.

“I was going to suggest checking that Patty’s OK.” Giroux corrects, but then adds with a typical shrug, “But your suggestion probably works also.”

“Uh, yeah.” Teeks can’t seem to make his mouth work. At all. Which seems to have been the opposite problem to the one Pats was having, which is weird, for them. “I’m just gonna…” he gestures vaguely, and hangs up. What IS he just gonna? Just gonna check on Pats, like G suggested, or just gonna tap that, because honestly, he hadn’t realised it was an option before.

___

In retrospect, Nolan realises he should have put the deadbolt on the door. Because of course Teeks has a key to his place. He hears the door open, and resolutely stays where he is, face buried in the couch cushions. He listens, while TK opens the fridge, and then hears him walk over to the lounge, feels him sit down on the floor, just inches from Patty’s face, where it stays, hidden from sight.

“You like me.” It’s not a question it’s a statement.

Nolan risks glancing at TK with just one eye, and to be honest, Travis looks more shook than he is. “Yeah.” He settles on eventually. “I mean. I can, I’ve totally ignored it for years, and I’m very good at ignoring it…” he knows he’s starting to babble, so he buries his face back in the cushion.

“You like me.” TK repeats, like he’s trying to wrap his head around the concept, “Despite me being all…” he gestures down at himself, “All me.” He finishes lamely.

“No.” At that, Nolan sits bolt upright, because his own embarrassment will always come second to needing to bolster TK’s sadly delicate self esteem. “I like you BECAUSE you’re you you fuck-knuckle.”

“Oh.” And then there’s that smile, his quiet smile, the one Nolan loves, not his silly Teeks is clowning around smile, not the laughter, just that quiet happy smile. “I mean, wow.”

“As I say,” Nolan hugs his long legs up to shield himself, “It doesn’t have to mean anything.”

“But…” Travis looks up at him through his fringe, his hair’s a mess as always, not that Patty can really throw stones in that glass house, “You’d fuck me if I asked?” He frowns a little, and then corrects himself, “Or date me if I asked?” The second question is quieter, even more timid and un-teeks-like.

“Teeks,” Patty laughs, “I’d marry you if you fucking asked.” He answers honestly, and then realises what he’s said, and shoves his fist in his mouth.

“You have like, no filter today Pats.”

Nolan whines around his fist, and then takes it out to admit, “You make me stupid.”

At that, Travis grins. “Cool.” He admits. Then, standing up, he changes tactic suddenly, “Can we get take-out for dinner?”

“Uh,” The curve ball throws Nolan a little, “I mean, I don’t see why not?”

“Because I kind of want to cuddle with you right now, here on the couch, but I think once I start I’m not going to want to move for dinner purposes.” Teeks is grinning at him.

“We’re getting take-out.” Nolan blushes, and then, scooching over to the corner of the couch, holds his arms out.

It’s surprisingly familiar, even though they’ve never done it before, Travis curling into his side, letting Nolan wrap his arm around his shoulder and press a soft kiss to the top of his head.

“Awesome.” Teeks sighs happily, and then digs his phone out of his pocket. “I’m just gonna…” he snaps a quick selfie.

“Dude why?” Nolan whinges at him. “Why would you…”

“Teams kind of invested.” Teeks grins up at him, tilting his head up so he’s right in Patty’s face.

Nolan can’t decide if he wants to die of embarrassment when he thinks about it, or punch his irritating best friend for being such a tool, but TK’s face is right there, closer than it’s ever been, his beautiful mouth curved up in a smile, so embarrassment and irritation could be further from his mind as he leans forward, closes the gap, and presses his lips against his irritating best friend’s smile instead.

His irritating best friend, who still has his phone out. So of course, that’s the picture the fucker sends to the team snap chat with #firstkiss emblazoned across it. Christ, Patty’s never going to live this down.