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Chirping Daily, Bite Your Thumb

Chapter Text

Today's game, August 29. Flyers vs Islanders

The Isles have legs. That's one thing Philly knows, one thing they have learned so far in this series - and they're all fucking tired and the score is three to one.

They just couldn't get ahead of them. It's two games to one now and the Isles have it. What they have are too many FUCKING legs. Konecny is grinding and shooting for goals later on, but he gets stopped. They all get stopped, and he couldn't even get anything to Sanny, fucking Christ. G stayed leaning hands on knees as he skated round the ice after the buzzer tonight, and the team knows it's bad when their captain does that. He bows under the weight of what they're doing. The weight of their sins, as 'twere, and boy have they got some to atone for. Carter, he went out of the game, was pulled with more than three minutes left in the third period, and even with six men on the ice, no one could score a damn goal! Even the usual good-natured chirps about somebody (usually TK, okay always TK) shooting his shot go wrong.

Konecny hits the door to the dressing room with his body and his fists shoving forward as if he could break something. He wants to. But he tears his helmet off and tells himself to breathe, just breathe. Hears Nolan's counsel in his head, from when his center was still around and good, when nothing in his head was messing him up, no migraine spirals from all the hits. Just breathe, keep breathing, Teeks. You'll get them next time. We'll get them next time.

Yeah, right. Except that Nolan isn't here. You aren't here to get them with me, Patty. Hit them where it hurts, I need you to slam into Beauvillier with your giant ass and send him packing. Konecny slams his helmet, still in his hand, against the side of the stall. No, it's not even his stall. Nothing here is his, not really. Nor his team's. Not a single thing in this bubble is theirs. And it's messing him up, Patty not being here.

Not just that, though. Not alone, anyhow. Isn't a big deal, they just - fit together, he and the big center. He knows where Nolan will be on the ice, and vice versa. He knows that Pats would sit beside him in all his rage right now and manage to cheer him up even though the guy doesn't say much of anything in potential earshot of press. Or anyplace else really. But he says enough to TK and that would fucking get him going here, get him out of his head and feeling better. Damn him for not being here, as the calm to TK's storm.

Except Patty not being here isn't his fault, and neither is the fact that Konecny isn't scoring.

It's him, it's this pandemic, it's the delay of the playoffs for two days because somebody from press or in the league simply had to find a jawn to say about the protesting, about all the hell going on; where people are getting shot and not even in Philly or Chi-town, no - now it's in places far out as bum fuck Wisconsin, and protests are getting people hurt in Oakland because they think they can do something all the way in sunny California; and y'know, that's it, man. Why TK is always moving, always talking on the ice. He saves his rage and jibes over the state of the world, the fact he can't do a fucking thing about people not being good to each other, and in games he hits people hard, no matter who they are. He respects the game, respects the players as he does everyone (except the Pens, screw them, and holy, he's glad they aren't in playoffs this year; if the Pens were the team going to town on 'em instead of the Islanders, he and the boys would never live it down).

But now, right now, the world at large is vastly different, and things are horrible when a guy can't get out of his car without being shot in connection to the color of his skin, or when those required to serve and protect cannot or will not serve and protect. Travis knows hockey, that's what he does. That's good what his team does, and he thinks they're good. They're tough. They fight it out, the way he hopes can happen in the world, and they'd been doing good work, especially earlier this playoff series and at the conclusion of the last section of it. They had found a groove. Yeah, they're good.

Even as he had gone hard chirping the Canadiens ...

Chapter Text

17 August, the late game.

It's probably both a blessing and a curse they don't have any fans in the bubble watching them, because Konecny had gone absolutely nuts with his chirping.

"Hey bud what the fuck do you think you were doing?" The slight winger roars at Suzuki after his goal. Hayes tries to hold onto him, long arm wrapping around Travis' chest. Nolan would've just calmly told him "Yeah Teeks I saw," and the assurance would be enough, the tight jaw, blazing glance Travis's way, how Patty would squeeze his wrist under the edge of his sweater and he'd know that shit ticked him off as much as it did TK. But now, "- did you see him tap Hartsy on the head? What a fucking joke, playing duck duck goose over here!" He wants to pound the piss out of that kid. Rookie or not, he needs to know he can't just disrespect a netminder like that.

"I let him get by me," Carter says, pale features even more so as he looks down at Teeks, skating over. Hayes still remains with arms around Travis's shoulders to keep him from leaping off the bench. Carter's features are twisted up, he's beating hell out of himself for that.

"Carter," Ivan skates over, eyes tracking his goalie as he taps Hart's back with a glove. "It's all right, we will get him."

The goalie rocks his neck back and forth, squeezes some water into his mouth before skating back with a shake of his head at himself. He's going to keep beating himself up for this. Provy skates after as the kid mumbles "...I can't believe I let that happen."

"We still have more games to play, this isn't the last." The thickness of Prov's beard muffling his voice and intensity of his gaze belies the sweet tone he has, he always has, as he encourages Carter. "We will be okay, and I have a feeling TK is going - what is the American expression? To bring the bat to you."

They both glance back at TK who is being restrained by Sanheim for a second as Hayes has to come back on the ice. Both distinctly hear Konecny telling Sanny he's a terrible friend for not letting him drop gloves on Suzuki, and the goaltender shakes his head with a sparkle in his eyes as Provorov laughs and claps him on the shoulder. "He'll get himself a penalty by going to bat for me, but thanks for that, Provy."

The defenseman claps the other on the shoulder. His voice is serious, heavy with something to unpack another time, when a goal hasn't just been scored on them. "Anytime, my friend."

***

But another goal is scored and Suzuki gets an assist on this one. Konecny is about to launch himself into the Canadiens but freezes with everyone else as Coach calls Carter over. He's subbing him out, it's way too early - Carter's heart drops, they can all tell, and TK is swearing again as Ivan, bless him, pauses next to Carter on the ice in front of the Flyers bench.

Their coach leans forward, makes a patting motion with his hands. "I'm going for a challenge, that goal was offsides," he says. "You still have another period left in you, Carter?"

The netminder freezes and then nods sharply. He's not about to go out like this. "Yes sir I do."

"Then get on it, back out on the ice, let's go." He claps for Carter and Ivan nods to the netminder, as if he knows. Carter does too; he pumps his fist and swings around to get back into the crease. He isn't going down like this.

The goal is called no good for offsides, and a roar from the Flyers bench mostly masks Konecny hollering "I'm coming for you, Suzuki!"

There are whoops, eye-rolls and sighs. It's going to be a long game.

August 21st against the Canadiens

Provy is on for Carter even more the following game, practically crouches on top of Hart, braced behind him as the goalie flattens himself to stop a goal attempt. He leans down and pats Carter on the back to let him know he's there.

"Oh Provy, you sure you got him, 'cause I think I can still see some of Hartsy's pads," Konecny cracks. Trying to get his footing with chirps if he can't with goals. Carter, already up and shifting himself to focus on the next face-off now he blocked the puck, waves Travis off. "Attaboy," he says as Provy taps netminder on the back of the leg, his thigh up where he can feel it after splaying out. "Dynamite, Provy! Get some dynamite, should be easy with your look!" TK yells as he gets down the ice.

Suzuki isn't stopped, though, getting a shot past Sanheim.

"Yo Sanny what the hell?!" And then to Farabee as he skates by, all of them slicing back to the neutral zone "Beezer! Come on Beezy I don't think you should be dropping any beats the way you keep dropping my passes, holy -"

"Shut up, T," Farabee says tightly.

Travis snorts. Yeah, okay, he's doing this. He can get under skin, that's what he's here to do since he can't get a good damn look at the net himself. And if they're going to be down by two goals - "Seriously, Beeze, you -"

He is of a sudden struck by a hard shoulder and hears a voice. "Are you kidding me right now? Stop chirping your own team, TK!" The deep roughness of Ivan's tone as he strikes out across the rink next to TK makes him dangerous. Barrelling low, he is, and slams a player with him along the boards after that, knocking his helmet off in the kerfuffle.

"Are you kidding me, buddy? Holy -" Konecny is shocked as there hadn't been a big, direct hit that would make Provorov lose his helmet. He is fired up, and TK goes harder even than before as Ivan cuts his eyes at the bench, biting back the chirping and instead getting into physical plays of his own during the third period. Say what you will about him, but he's backing up his teammates in play when it comes down to it, no matter win or lose.

Chapter Text

August 30, against the Islanders.

It's changed, past few days. They had a game yesterday, back after the protests, after not knowing what to do. Team came out pressing the Islanders, and Travis Konecny is absolutely through with holding back. He goes for someone within first two minutes of the game, and Hayes has to put someone in an armlock to stop a double-team. Big guy hits Travis but he's not backing down, fuck it, and Hartsy isn't in goal tonight so he needs to help.

Elliot makes a stop, and TK gets into it again, with Mayfield this time, still jawing at him whilst being pulled away by the referee. "Go on, get off," he is on fire. Oskar is back in gear, had done warm-ups with them tonight. Oskar Strong indeed, they've all got to be stronger now, with him.

Sanny gets hit and that ticks Travis off as he charges back into the fray, ice spraying with his fire, and he misses Patty even more (even as he snarls to himself to shut up about it not being fair Oskar is here, but not Nolan - don't be a dick, Teeks, because he's happy at least one of his boys is back) yet these damned Isles are still moving, man, holy hell, and he's already been to the box, will be going back again for sure. There has to be a way to stop them, as physical as he'd been last Monday's game...

August 24th

He slams the Isles, gets in their faces, takes chances on goal and very obviously shouts "fuck!" directly after as the camera zooms in on him.

But he cannot help Carter, the shutout of their last game is already a distant and painful memory ... Because in this game though he stopped twenty-eight of thirty-one, still let past three. How the fuckers had gotten four, TK doesn't know, except

"Legs, legs!"

August 30, again.

...The Isles are fast, and they are good.

Even as Brian had sixteen saves, a really solid first period. Then Sean shoots one, low to high on his stick and it's dirty, downright nasty, but a goal is a goal.

Carter is giving everyone taps without missing a beat and Voracek is on the doorstep right off to start period three, chip and charge in. But there is lava in TK's throat, he wishes it were in his belly to sustain him instead, but he's watching Niskanen trying to handle that Clutterbuck cluster fuck bastard, and Nisky swears as he makes a pass to Sanheim "What the FUCK, Sanny, where were you?!"

Konecny expels an echoing, furious cry from the bench where he sits by Carter, who's got a hand on his shoulder, counseling softly "Breathe, Teeks, you need to chill out a little bit." The heaviness of that hand feels like after last game, subsequent to TK running out of his hotel room because he couldn't take himself anymore.

Chapter Text

He would be scoring if Patty was here, TK is sure of it. Not that G and Hayesie and Sanny don't give him ample net opportunities, just. Things are easy with Patty. Have always been. They got each other. Big guy may not show much with face or voice, but damn does he work his ass off and want to win as badly as anything. And also, as with telling Travis to breathe - Nolan could always manage to somehow calm him down. Well, as much as he can be calm, he's got that buzzing sort of personality, always the juice for insults. Guys chirp him for being battery-powered, like the Energizer Bunny or something. Oh yeah, and he's small like that too. Really fucking stellar comment, buds, thanks loads.

Yet Pats would just shake his head slightly or look at him and things were good. He was so good at that. Is so good at that.

But he isn't here, guy has to get himself better of course; per concussion protocol and the damn migraine spiral and Travis cannot simply sit in his room in the bubble moping, because he knows Nolan hates being out as much, if not way more, than Travis misses him being here. It sucks. If he could take all Patty's head problems away, get rid of his migraines he would do it in a heartbeat. But he can't. And besides, he's sitting here sluffing round and that's never been good for the jitters anyway.

If TK spends more than thirty minutes staring at a television screen or something he gets antsy. So he pulls on a white tank and jogging shorts and tennis shoes, hitches his mask behind his ears and heads downstairs in the bubble to the food and exercise court.

He grabs up a basketball - they have to sanitize 'em between and after any group of guys is taking shots or playing games - any time someone is out here chucking the ball around. It's nuts, like everything else during this pandemic, and thus par for the course.

TK gets a ball and starts dribbling back and forth, easy rhythm like he'd used on rec leagues and in the neighborhood when he was a kid. He was always short but fast and made up for his lack of bulkiness and height by being scrappy. Gets up a shot here that's way too ambitious, three-pointer territory way out beyond the paint, but he figures fuck it, he's out here gasping through a mask and going hard even though what the hell does THIS matter?

Ball hits the backboard as he lofts it, dropping through the net, and the swish before that hollow ka-thunking bounce as the ball hits and rolls on the asphalt is so satisfying. TK picks it up and dribbles again, around his legs, between them; stop, catch, go up - and the ball sinks a second time. Probably because of the fact he's out here alone, not playing H.O.R.S.E or anything with anyone. If Hayes or G came out with him things would be different. But he's alone, a little man calling and then sinking big shots as his skin gets glazed with sweat and his chest heaves. He starts moving fast and stretching his legs. Goes for a layup; first one's a little wild and wobbly on arm and knee, but he makes shot after shot, shoots many more and misses only one.

He's going and going until he is gasping and his hair is plastered against his neck. Eyes and muscles burn as his chest heaves. Sniffs, jumps up, and flings the ball - this one striking hard on the backboard and springing. As he lunges for the rebound - misses it just like he's been doing with open shots on the ice, fuck - he can tell there are people watching him. Not sure how long they have been, but there are some guys from other teams, and then Sanny, Nisky, Hayes and Voracek are there, looking over as Konecny spins around. Looks like they were headed to one of the food trucks and stopped. Figures they were probably on their way to grab a bunch of things and take them back up to some of the other guys - G is notoriously finicky when it comes to eating after a loss. Similar to the way Travis is, to be honest. Sometimes he goes for something easy like a Pop-Tart and endures chirping for weeks, which he gives back to everyone on his line because they don't appreciate the majestic taste of Pop-Tarts.

Today, though, there is no chirping. Hayes just steps forward as the ball rolls to a stop on the ground, and the big guy's eyes are soft as he gazes at TK. "Hey," he says gently, like he's trying to soothe, what the shit? "... It's gonna be all right, buddy."

Sanny nods, his tone quiet. Almost as deadpan as Nolan's, but not quite. "We're gonna get them next time, Teeks."

"Yeah," TK bobs his head, wondering what the hell is going on; they're all just standing here, looking at him, staring. Stepping closer, but stop. Seem worried, probably because of the whole COVID-19 thing, gotta stand six feet apart and all that, even as they're next to each other on the bench and the ice. Without masks.

Then he sees Hartsy and Provy coming up too, moving carefully from the other direction, walking close to each other; and TK receives that big-eyed look from Carter as the netminder walks right up to him and clasps his upper arms.

"Travis," Carter says, pulling Konecny into an embrace. "We're here, man. It's okay." And as the shorter man attempts to nod and breathe through his nose in his mask, he buries his face into Carter's shoulder with a single, furious sob. He'd been crying, features glazed and eyes burning not solely with sweat, but tears. No wonder they're all looking at him like that, damn it.

"...I fucked up," Travis gasps. "I've been fucking up this whole series, buds. And Provy, I -" he lifts his eyes to Provorov in a panic, even as he feels pathetic for it. But the defenseman is instantly there to wrap his burly arms around the slight winger and the lanky goaltender.

Hart's neck is so damn long, TK can't help thinking as he buries his face in it, just falls into Carter. Can't stop himself, even though he's sure this is stupid, he's being weak, he shouldn't be fucking bawling because of the fact he's not scoring, even though it's not just that, it's more -

But "It's okay, Teeks," he hears, and "We're in this together, bud."

"We're a team, man. This isn't just on you. We all have to come together and win puck battles and fight to stay in the series," and evidently who else moves is all of them, because they come together and enfold one another in a massive hug now, hands ruffling hair and patting backs and murmuring endearments.

Konecny makes a quip at last about proper social distancing measures as he wipes his eyes before scooping up the basketball, but is grateful.

Needs to remember that feeling for the next game.

Chapter Text

After turning the basketball over in his hands, TK gets asked if he wants to hang it up and come back to the rooms for food and maybe a gaming tournament, because of course somebody brought either playing cards or Mario Kart; he's not clear on which sort of game they're talking because Hayes is more focused on getting food now. He'd been right - it was G who has been asking.

But Carter is still standing close to him, right beside him, really; hand on Travis's elbow, holding gently, thumb rubbing over his skin and Provy's watching from Carter's other side with those wicked eyebrows of his and the beard that makes him seem like he'd just come out of a primordial Forest in order to join civilization. So TK decides to go with them when Hartsy asks if he wants, shrugging "sure why not" and half-hands, half-throws the basketball into the bucket where it'll be taken from in order to be cleaned.

The food is suddenly shoved into everyone's face in piles and bags and it's as if pre-arranged, somehow, they have their marching orders. TK wonders if Coach is going to come hang out, though he would be more like to come in, dispense some words of wisdom and likely yelling about how he's brought teams back from the brink of losses in series before so they'd better get their heads out, and then check out of the room again. Half sure someone will stop them in the hall, saying they can't all honestly be heading to Giroux's - there's no possible way social distancing can happen like that. "We're a team who've been together constantly on the ice, they can fuck off" Konecny mumbles at the thought of it, and he sees a little smile tug up one corner of Hart's mouth.

They get to G, bang on the door and he's already got a few of the other guys in with him, plumping up pillows and all as the captain blinks tiredly at the rest, his French-Canadian tone, already a bit nasal, rises higher as he sighs "...what the fuck, guys?"

Travis wonders the same, but Carter is actually smiling, Hayes explains they've brought food and libations "nobody should be forced to be alone after a loss, even you G, c'mon" and Provorov shoves TK in the middle of his back to get him into the room. Travis trips over the threshold and starts glaring back at Provy, who does a stellar job appearing innocent behind that wild black beard, the bastard.

Apparently there are video games AND cards because someone suggests poker and TK grumbles "someone needs to strip if I'm playing, but you're all too ugly so I don't know" and then it gets so the person ragged on starts as Sanny, with his clear skin and fresh face, "hey buddy take your shirt off" and then Hagg is in, and the old guys get offended they aren't being goaded into stripping.

"Why aren't 'cha askin' me?"

"Have you ever actually seen yourself Hayesy?"

"I'm not even that old, buddy!"

But with that they're chucking cards and "let's go, c'mon let's go then"

An arm-wrestling tournament starts as other guys have arranged pillows in front of the TV so they can play Super Smash Bros ... something. Farabee starts tossing chicken nuggets at Niskanen and someone else puts on music (softly as there had been a ton of chirping about loud sappy eighties power ballads) "C'mon Beezer, we need your tunes!"

Teeks finds himself next to his captain, and he's trying to relax, really he is. Even though he'd been playing like a minor leaguer out there - worse, actually, because people in the minors do sometimes actually score, and he hasn't. His brows are low and he's slouched, almost curled up into himself when G turns to him.

"What's with the face?" He asks. Like it wouldn't be obvious.

TK huffs. What do you think?! he almost asks, but this is his captain and he does actually have a bit of respect. Patty would probably snort and give him a look if he was here, because of course he would know... "It's the loss," he spits out instead, cutting his eyes sideways.

"We've lost before," G says, and wow. Thanks for the insight, Captain Obvious. TK jerks his shoulder.

"Not like this. Not with me not scoring, I haven't even gotten close! I get good looks and passes, but I go up and" Patty's not here and I need him "And I-"

There is a shift from the captain as he crosses his leg to rest one ankle on his knee, turning to face Konecny. "Lemme stop you right there," he holds up his hand and stares into Travis's eyes. "How many times have you used the word 'I' in those sentences? I'm not doing well, I can't score. Well listen, buddy, it's not I. It's WE. We're having a shit time with scoring, getting in front of the puck."

"...Yeah, the Isles are fast," Travis says.

"Yes they are. Damned fast. And some others of us have not been getting goals in postseason for several more years than you. Maybe you should focus on what you know you can do, what to help with. Okay?"

Not yelling at him, just, firm. Saying indirectly what Travis has been hearing, what he could have been paying closer attention to if he wasn't being such a self-absorbed asshat. G hasn't scored in his last three postseasons. He's been here so many times, and he's captain, and he's been here as a captain. Yeah it's different in this bubble for damn sure, but not enough that hearing he is slowing down and not getting goals, and the stats guys and announcers keep wondering how many more seasons he has - that has to weigh on a guy. Even a guy like Giroux.

And TK is just a kid. A dumb kid.

I'm an asshole, the younger player thinks. Whining about not getting goals, because Patrick can't help, but he's out with injury and he'd love to play and really, wow TK has been shitty. He gulps a bit and looks at his captain, thinks on what G is saying, even as he huffs out air, drags a hand through his mussed locks. He can do other things. What has to happen when he isn't scoring, if someone else is open and needs to get to the goal?

Passes.

Konecny looks at his captain, who stares right back as if waiting for the coin to drop. Travis nods, then; features sharpening, eyes bright with determination and realization as he claps Giroux's arm before thinking about it. "I can pass," he says softly, eyes widening as he looks up and curls his fingers, bouncing one leg. Always on the move.

"Yes," nods G, something in his eyes changing, a sparkle forming as he reaches out and nudges TK in return. He pats the younger man on his jiggling knee, glad Travis understood what he was insinuating. What they need. "You can definitely pass, bud."

Chapter Text

August 30th at the last

Elliott is good, he's damn good, but he's not Carter, and Patty still isn't here. And TK feels like crap for thinking this and knows he has to get the puck out, which he does, after having to hang on the bench for the sake of those early penalties. He's passing a lot more though, but the Isles are passing too, and damn they get a beaut of a send-in past Bri which makes the goal even more of a pisser as the puck slides past Niskanen.

G is thinking of what he'd said to Travis for sure as he dives to put in a goal. He's close, so close but not there. They're behind, still. 8:48 to go, Provy is charging, legs pumping to get in front of the puck, to stop another shot. Hagg was doing so well before New York got a breakaway and Travis hangs his mouth open, jaw slack as impotent rage boils within him like poison.

But G knows, he sees; slices over to check on Travis. "You good for this? We're going six." I need you to be good for this, Travis sees the look in Claude's eyes. He has been working his ass off out here and needs them to step up. Provy's nodding from the bench as he comes out, and Travis isn't even chirping when he nods to his captain.

"Yeah, I am. I'm on it, G," and the old man claps him on the arm, so gentle, like Trav could make this better just from words. From trusting his teammates, really, because he does - and Provorov proves that trust is not misplaced with a slapshot like a bullet into goal with a little over one minute remaining in the third. It's three to two, god, they charge around the back of their own net to get another....

Yet it is not enough. The time goes down. Provy got them close, so close - spinning the Flyers were in the widening gyre of almost an elimination game; lashed by the speed of the Islanders. They'd hit hard, but not hard enough. Hayesy was working and G had kept on, Ivan really was a mensch pulling out that goal but still.

Travis is sweating, after the final buzzer. Feels a prickling on the hair and skin of his legs, curling into his muscles the way pain does. His body clenches tight as a spring. Because if they lose the next game, they're gone. They will be going home.

He shakes, spits out one edge of his mouth guard as he shoves himself off the ice and through the tunnel. He cannot sit down in the dressing room, or take a shower; too keyed-up, too just, not able to relax. Doesn't even know if he would be able to with Patty beside him. No, this is bullshit. No, no, no. They're not going to be gone after next game.

He cannot take them being gone.

Chapter Text

September 5, after game 7.

Should have known. He should have known how it was going to shake out, but they just - stopped. Couldn't get going, weren't fucking playing. And this was after he'd gone off, even. He swore to himself that he wasn't going to call Patty. Wasn't going to break into his healing time or whatever and piss and moan about how he can't score a single goal and he's flipping out because they'd really shit the bed last game and god, he doesn't want to go home, he can't, they can't, not like this -

August 31st, off day.

On the last day of August, he'd caved.

Maybe he's heard too much about human rights and protests and people not being good to each other, how the NBA started shitting on other sports for not pulling out the same stops they were. How the damned commercials on voting are even getting through up here, they're in Canada but oh, yeah, the next election for the United States is so important it's getting broadcast up here for the American players. Real fucking stellar, bud. (That said, when asked, he thinks it was said by Pasternak "This isn't a political issue, it's a human rights issue" - if that could be an all-player quote for every team in the league, TK would take it, plaster it on every dressing room and in every newspaper in neon; instead they get to hear about Reaves mouthing off every time anyone starts asking about the protests, because he's the guy who wants to talk to them. For his own image though, not for anything else deep down, the smug bastard).

Anyway, Travis just wants to talk to someone who'll take the piss at him for knowing him, and he wants something nice rather than hell. Wants to catch good hell, he guesses, though the first text he sends isn't indicative:

> Hey bud you hear whats wrong with your gourd yet

Really quick, almost as if he had been waiting for a text

> Yeah, doc said it's cracked from longterm exposure to you

> Oh rough, you mean you wont be coming back then

> Never know, they say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger

> ... Did you seriously just quote kelly clarkson @ me patty

> Fuck you Teeks

> Too bad you cant make me ;)

> You really don't know what to use emojis for do you?

> I know exactly what im doing, thanks much

> Uh huh, right

It takes Travis far too long to find an angry emoticon, so much so that he gives up and calls Patty instead. The phone is ringing for Facetime long enough that TK feels his palms get clammy and for once in his life he thinks something wasn't such a stellar idea, but then as his leg is jittering up and down like crazy Pats accepts a video call and there he is, giant, those sharp features of his appearing emotionless - to anyone who doesn't know him the way TK does, at least. "Hey, bud, how are you?" He asks, and the guy has the nerve to respond

"Never mind me, how're you doing? Been watching the games, and I've gotta say, you don't have too much going on the ice this series, man."

"Fuck you, it's because you're not here, buddy. Just call me the anti Gretzky, might send me back to the minors soon" and he's rewarded with a huffing laugh, Nolan tossing his head back, pressing one arm gentle against his pale angular features.

"...We gonna have to start calling you 'the Lesser One' for something other than lack of height, Teeks?"

"Whoa you're gonna go right for my jugular, holy - I see you with your switch light on right now, fucking nerd," because when Patty shifts his phone screen sideways TK can see the light from his TV and his gaming controller. As well as a giant jug of water and the bottles of meds his boy has to take for migraines. Patty looks sharply at him when Travis clears his throat and speaks softer than ever he does in order to ask "Seriously, though, how're you feeling, Patty?" His gaze flickers deliberately to the medicine bottles and Nolan shifts a shoulder in almost a shrug.

"You checking up on me, tryna be my nursemaid all the way in the bubble, eh?" He's chirping, but his face softens. "Aw, can't believe you care so much. I'm okay, though," he assures.

Travis's heart leaps. "Yeah?" He taps his fingers, leans in to peer at Nolan more closely. "You're not just saying that to me because I'm not there," and can't do anything to help that thought makes his stomach flip and sink, and it's bad enough feeling that helpless about the game, fuck off stomach - "...are ya?"

"No," Pat rolls his eyes. "I got some new meds, two kinds, preventative and for when they get bad. Actually a couple for when they're bad. So yes, I'm okay." His eyes flicker up to lock on TK's, with the slightest focused nod he now gives. If he were here he would rub Travis on the head or slap his shoulder in reassurance. "But you, what's going on with you in the bubble." He speaks it as a statement rather than a question, but his eyes aren't leaving Travis's, and that light colour, the brightness of them is deep enough seems like he could drown - and so Konecny is shifting, his own gaze moving around the phone screen, focusing on the wall behind Nolan and the expanse of his bed, anywhere but into his buddy's eyes. "- C'mon Trav, this is me. I shouldn't have to drag words out of you." The subsequent you never shut up though not verbally stated is implied. And TK feels his chest burning, clenched up like someone's put a hot coal in it and is squeezing his ribcage around, and so thank all that's holy Pats either sees it or he just knows Travis well enough, as he'd just pointed out, to ask a different question. Whatever the reason, he changes tack. "The other guys, how're they doing? Is Oskar back in?"

"Oskar, yeah. He got in gear and skated with us," TK says. He thinks about how Hagg had relaxed so much seeing Oskar come out. "He's - good, he really seems good. Coach says he's going to play, which is -"

"Great," Nolan says as Travis loses his voice a second from a lump in his throat, what the hell, he's psyched that Oskar is back, he is.

"Yeah," he nods rapidly. "Yeah, it is. Robbie's best friend is back in line rotation." And yet mine isn't even here. Feels so dickish to even THINK that, rubbing a hand across his cheeks and mustache angrily, TK manages to blurt out "I miss you, Pat."

Nolan's face softens and if the light was better there might be the sheen of tears in his eyes. As it is, he blinks and replies with quiet, fierce sincerity "Miss you too, Teeksie. Grind out next game for me, okay?"

Travis snorts. "Yeah, buddy. Of course. Not scoring, so what else can I do?"

Chapter Text

September 1st, game 5.

Grinding is what he's doing next game, yeah, but maybe Travis should have told himself, or at least reminded, to lay off the penalties. Seven minutes left in first period and he's in the box.

But he's on a different line this time; usually he'd be with Beezy, Hayes and Nisky, but for whatever reason Coach had put him with Riems and G today (probably from as much frustration as TK has about not scoring, wanted to get something going). And even as he is hornswoggled as to why, he can't fault it because G finally, FINALLY gets his goal. And then Riems gets another, and he doesn't even care that he's been snapping at people and that Barzal is fucking dogging him right now because yes that's it, they're here - take that Isles!

... Apparently they aren't taking it, at least not quietly because TK is behind the net and he's slammed in the back before he can turn, and in a blink Barzal has an arm wrapped around his neck, squeezing. Travis's eyes go huge as all air leaves him. This is after some pretty natty chirps he had been throwing, Laughts for one was nodding and joining in, but he's not on the ice right now and TK is, which exhorts him to be the one who's clawing at the Islanders golden boy as he's squeezing his damn neck -

"Get off him, get off, he can't breathe!"

"Come on, hey -"

Haysey is there, he had just changed shift, and he's pulling on Barzal's arm, trying to tug him away from TK as the linesmen finally show up, just then, when Kev is about to whale on Barzal. Stellar fucking timing. "We're done, we're done!"

And with that at last he's gone, there's a chill and lightness, as opposed to the sinking burning sensation of no air. Travis works to breathe, bending forward, skating down the ice to take a second. He really wants to smack Barzal's smug pretty-boy face, jab him in the gut, get the Isles golden boy off the ice; but chirping him had already gone wrong, enough for Travis to skid over to stand for a second by the bench and take some breaths that Laughts notices. With that Laughton is beckoning "Hey Sanny, get some water for TK. You all good there, beauty?"

Laughts is always calling people beauties, and he's actually more on the positive side with shouts for his team - particularly in contrast to Hayes, good old Kev, who is currently yelling at the linesman "I used to fucking ref!" And "You saw that cheap shot on our guy, right? You're not just gonna overlook that, it was after the whistle, hey!"

Konecny clears his throat, voice rough. "Hayes," he tries, already astounded at his own impulse, so completely antithetical to everything he typically does on the ice and wants to do on the ice. But Kevin is a good guy, and they've got to keep scoring and help Hartsy - they've been called for interference, and he's been in the box, so he's seen, he knows - they all do - the Isles are damn excellent on power plays. Honestly, Kev doesn't need to go to the box for heckling a ref, so "Hayesy," Travis reaches out, skates up to the taller guy, and that long face, round-tipped nose, light eyes face down. "Don't worry about it, buddy." His voice is still cracking and rough as he tries not to think too hard about what would've happened if Barzal had been a little bit more pissed off. "I'm okay."

So many things flicker across Kevin's face then, shock and concern and fury, and then a stubborn acceptance even as he reaches out and grips Travis by the arm. "Right, well, we're going to get them -" and true to those words, as they both strike out slicing across the ice next shift, Hayes steals the puck and saucers it to TK, who recalls his chat with G and wings the puck to Niskanen, who sings it right into the net. WOO!

"Cut cut cut cut cut - !" Their bench is alive and wild now, it's third, Hartsy blocks two shots on goal, and fresh-faced, fresh-legged Hagg ("Attaboy, Robbie!") sets the puck back into the Islander zone.

"Let's go, come on, get there Brauner!" Braun has the puck now, and they're grinding, they're working, they're fighting not to get sent home. Isles are coming back, but Hayesy is staying on, and Carter isn't letting goals rattle him, though those announcing seem to think he would.

It's overtime, the Isles having caught up, and they've had excellent chances. TK isn't letting such chances go, he has been passing, that avowal he'd made to G, talking with Nolan, and sitting in his own head - feels like a mantra pounding through him.

"You want me, you say you want me out of your life - I'm just a dead man walking tonight...," song blaring down from the speakers, echoing across the ice during a face-off seems to mock them, to expect a freeze; to taunt with the idea of going home, but no -

With eight minutes left in overtime, Carter snags the puck off the glass.

Sends it straight to Provorov, and Provy's been doing some clean offensive work, bringing up the puck to pass when he's not beside Carter in the crease.

Right now, he's to the right of the goal, and slaps the puck in, it's deflected off Laughton, who kicks his leg, helping the chunk of rubber into the net and yells "Oh that's it, Provs you beauty!" as he is engulfed by flying tackle hugs from Voracek, Niskanen, and TK, whose heart feels like it's pounding right out of his chest as Provorov with his wild eyebrows and crazy beard comes roaring up to them.

This was it, he'd, they'd all been grinding. Four to three win, and at this rate ...oh man, they've got to keep going. At this rate, he's sure they can force a Game Seven.

Chapter Text

Lifting them all up is the buzzing feeling of euphoria, the kind where everyone is bathed in a sort of glow. They're cheering and clutching each other on the way to the dressing room - pounding on the back; Hayes howls like some sort of massive chicken or wolf or something, flinging himself in a circle, spinning around TK when they finally get off the ice.

Everybody's still pounding on Provy and patting Hart on the back. "You didn't flinch out there, you kept going," G said to their goaltender, pulling the tall boy aside and looking into his eyes. "That's a good job, kid."

"Yaaahoo! Attaboy Hartsy!" TK flings his arms up far as he can, and he sees Carter nodding to their captain before patting his shoulder in congratulation of G getting a goal. Then he's turned and caught the weight of TK, who'd gotten into shoes instead of skates after probably the fastest shower on record and now launches himself off a seat.

"Jeez almighty Teeks," the goalie breathes as the winger in all his warm damp energy isn't exactly easy to catch. He does gentle his hands and arms as he checks Travis's neck and face with a brief touch. "You all good, man?"

"Yeah, course! Why're you - ah that little tussle, nah I'm great." He shrugs, then pounds Carter in the chest. "We pulled it out, bud. We fucking pulled it out."

"It's 'cause of - "

"Provs, ya beauty, and there we go, Riemsy!" Ivan's dark eyes sparkle as he lifts his stick, and van Riemsdyk flushes like a madman as Laughton flings his arms around the both of them.

"And we've got our G man back!" Is roared, but instantly followed by several blurtings about "he never left, he just got us a goal" and "suck on that, Forslund and Jones" because the callers announcing games were acting like G didn't have any gas, he'd not had a goal past three postseasons he's been in; so ought to get gone, they say, you're done here. Go home.

Yet this game and the work proves he isn't done, and no one's ever been more proud of him.

***

Back at the hotel since of course no one can go out drinking or to find a party (as they do typically after such a big win) Carter shuffles a little and says the guys can come to his room if they want, "...Or you can come on next door for the REAL party, boys!" TK chirps. "Grandma Hartsy's gotta head to bed at a reasonable hour!" He'd almost said 'Nana Pats', but that was how he'd chirped his friend before he'd been going to bed earlier to try and stave off head pain, and before they knew his migraines were serious. Besides. Patty isn't here.

It's still a blow, even though they'd talked last night and Pats had wished him luck on the game today. He really wants to tell Nolan about the win, say that yeah he thinks there might've actually been some luck given, but that it went to G ... Really though, they'd done great, stood back up, hit the Isles where it hurts - or tried to. TK is still livid over Barzal getting him, and if he hadn't been sulking he'd have actually noticed the way Sean skated off the ice slow. How he wasn't looking real eager to go back in the game, and he'd been wincing, but trying to hide it.

It's after the win when they're all whooping and hugging and clapping each other on the back when TK goes over to the Arizona boy and receives, in response to his elated embrace, a growl and incredibly not affable "Fuck off, TK."

Whoa. Travis is used to ticking the guys off a bit, used to the fondly rolled eyes and light shoves and chirps zinged back at him after he's done chirping (which is almost never, so it's a sigh and exasperated "shut up!" More than anything else in response to him). But Couturier is actually glaring, actually hissing and kind of curling up, and - oh. Shit. "You're hurt, aren't you Coots?" He asks, and sees that flash in Sean's eyes, the desperate wish not to be.

"I'm - I'll be fine," he's wincing though. "Didn't tell the trainer how bad...," He trails off, clenches a fist.

How bad he feels, Travis realizes. Fuck. He hadn't even realized Sean had gotten hit, which makes him a shitty teammate and a shitty friend, but what's important is that he doesn't play while he's hurt. Travis knows what that does. He's seen it with Nolan going back in too soon. "Well, you've got to," the smallest forward says in that gritty fierce way as he scratches at his mustache a bit. His eyes are almost pleading. And then he says a word that probably none of the Flyers have ever heard from him. "Please, Cootsy. I don't want, can't take another buddy out for who knows how the fuck long after playing too soon on something. You need to get some rest, bud. I'll even, heck I'll tell Coach if you want me, holy -"

Couturier swings an arm at Konecny and he's instantly primed to duck, but all that Sean does is pat him on the side of the face and then grab him sharply by the shoulder. "... Thank you," he speaks quietly, some of the tension going out of him. "I - well I needed to hear that, I guess."

"Sure thing, bud." Travis nods and does his best to smile. "Sometimes ya need a guy to remind ya not to act stupid, eh?"

"Lesson on not to be stubborn from the most stubborn little punk in the league," Coots mutters, but without any ire behind it. He tousles TK's hair, wincing whilst raising his arm, and then blinking as the other nudges him.

"Go on, bud, talk to AV," should let G know first, probably, and it's like Sean registers that thought because he's striding over to Giroux, who's instantly in concerned captain mode rather than celebrating. As Travis watches that happening, he decides he's going to need a drink in his or Hartsy's room.

***

He brings what drinks he can find over - the celebration moves between his and Carter's rooms because TK has games and Carter has a sound system (mostly on account of the amplifier he'd brought, along with his guitar. Does any other team have a goalie with an electric axe? Don't think so. Take that, Islanders and fuck off Pens - thank god they're out or he knows he would be brawling on the ice). But Carter's plucking out chords and then trying to keep the guitar away from the craziest guys - which TK isn't, thank you very much; at least not when it comes to music. He leaves that shit to DJ Beezy and his tunes.

Beezer does end up putting on a playlist, actually, and Carter is talking to Provy, all quiet. Voracek decides he's going to get some "real Czech drinking" going which ends with an insanely violent pillow fight and Hayes yelling "Jakube!" At the ceiling after he'd slid off the bed to be laughed at by Niskanen. Hagg takes pity on him, decent Robbie, and offers one of the less-demolished pillows to Hayesy.

"Someone's gonna want to find him water, too;" those words are apologetic, and TK is diving down the hall to the ice machine and hearing some thumps and slight banging sounds in Carter's room which he passes along the way. It'd been vacated by pretty much everybody, they're all in with TK now (except for the grandpas, and Provy, wherever their almighty final scorer had got to - plus Coots and Sanny; the latter who'd taken a look and decided he was going to help Couturier ice his injury and get to bed).

It's a great party, really, solid atmosphere to let loose as much as they can in the bubble and with game six on day after tomorrow. That fact is going to be a blessing for some of the guys in particular, he snickers. But yeah, he still misses Patty in all the excitement, and can't help texting him whilst leaning in the doorway, surveying the others, his mismatched nutty family. Everyone is here but its most important member.

Hey Pats. Winning just isnt the same without you, bud. Wish you were here.

Chapter Text

Seems like everything that night goes or ends up a little slow.

Technically they're meant to be social distancing whenever not on the ice, and after TK returns to his room, people start exiting (Eddie and Frosty were beating the crap out of each other via video games, so they're probably gonna continue doing that somewhere else). Multiple teammates remain stretched out in piles of blankets both on and off the bed, however. Travis flits around the room; Voracek helps clear up the detritus, Beezer finally turns the music to something less headache inducing, and G and Riemsy help Jakub clean up as TK tosses a pillow down next to Hagg. Robbie had slid to settle on the floor beside where Hayes is collapsed with his body partly on the bed, head and arm hanging next to him, like he'd tried to pull himself onto the mattress and then fallen. Oskar leans with his head on Robert's shoulder, pale features more relaxed than they'd seen them in a while, fast asleep. Travis swallows a lump that suddenly lodges in his throat as Robbie looks at him like he thinks they've got to leave. "Nah bud, you c'n stay wherever's comfortable for ya, alright? Carpet isn't even all that bad here." How swiftly Hagg relaxes is kind of adorable, like a puppy or something, given the go-ahead to rest. He's already in a puppy pile with Oskar.

"Yeah, 's nice. And whoever brought these big beanbags in..."

"You like 'em? Stellar seats, right?"

"Yeah; they're pretty sick."

"Well you're welcome. They're the perfect napping place. Hey, somebody help me with Hayes," TK grunts as he slings one limp arm around his own shoulder and neck, "...gotta put him up on the bed. Wow Hayesy you weigh a ton, buddy, holy -" Voracek jogs out of the bathroom to help, appearing apologetic.

"It is my fault he is out like that," the Czech fellow says. "I am sorry, Travis."

"Ha, no worries, he'll be slow as he usually is tomorrow," looking down at Hayes' long body now sprawled and stretched across his sheets, TK's mustache fluffs outwards as he laughs. "Skate's gonna be hilarious. Night guys, later Riemsy, G. Anybody know what happened to Provy?" He slaps arms and gets hugs and handshakes as well as waves, and then some mutterings and throat-clearings after the last question that he asks.

"Well let's think for a second, TK," in a deadpan tone worthy of Pats or Sanny, "...who did he leave with?"

"No one, he just walked out after Hartsy went - oh." At the raising eyebrows and whistles and nods, "Oh! Sneaky little Ruskie, how long's that been going on?"

"Oh my god, Teeks. Seriously?"

"Are you that oblivious man?"

"...I mean, who are we talking about, you know how Nolan feels...," A significant glance follows this.

"Ah yeah, yeah. Point taken."

"True."

"Hang on." Travis bristles, his hackles going up as it seems like every guy in here is in a conversation that somehow doesn't include him. "What's all that supposed to mean?!" A text chimes out of his phone and he's instantly going to grab it, gotta be Pats texting back, and then he asks " - And what's it haveta do with Nolan?"

There are sighs, and bowing out. People shaking their heads and waving. "I'm gone."

"You're gonna have to figure this on your own, TK."

"See ya tomorrow, buddy."

"What - you guys are serious? You're not going to explain anything to me? Ugh. Worst friends ever," he growls as G puts a hand on his shoulder sympathetically. "You aren't even going to tell me, as my captain?" He's hedging, and it's a point, because G actually hesitates.

But all he says is "I'm just saying, think about what you love, Travis." All cryptic, like a fortune cookie or something. Or a Jedi. Great.

"Thanks Master Yoda," TK grouses after Giroux. Slamming his door closed, he runs a hand through his hair and is heading to brush his teeth in the bathroom when he hears a little sound from Oskar, who is still sleeping on Hagg on the floor. "Robbie," Travis says. Softly, for him. Hagg groans a bit and tries to shift himself out of a slouch.

"...Yeah, man?" He asks blearily. Half asleep. Perfect.

Travis almost has to grin like the Cheshire cat in triumph, but stops himself. Has to play this nice and easy. Has his phone out to check on what Patty had to say.

Aw thanks, I miss you too Teeksie <3 tell the guys congrats, and I've still got no clue how G gets his goals. Travis laughs, almost throws his head back, only stopping when a groan from Kevin and Oskar snuffling into Robbie's shirt alerts him to the fact of people being asleep. Shit.

"Sorry," he whispers. "But hey, what the hell is everybody saying about Nolan? Or him and me, or whatever, when I was just asking about Provy and Hartsy and their... thing?" Honestly he doesn't even know if they have a thing, or what it is if they do have one. All he knows is Provorov really watches out for Carter on the ice, stays close to him. Protecting him like any stellar d-man would and should, but it's a little more... intense, somehow, what Provy has with Carter. The way he taps his arm or back and it calms Hart down. The way he leans their helmets together and murmurs something, hand on the back of Carter's neck. How focused they are on each other, and how often they're together, quietly, solidly so. Not always on the ice, even.

He's thinking about this so hard, he almost misses Hagg giving an answer.

"... It's kind of like what you have with Patty," Robert says. "Harts and Provy, I mean, they're quiet about it. Don't think you've ever been quiet about anything in your life, TK." When Travis makes a face and draws his brows together, Hagg sighs. "C'mon, it's like... the way your face lights up when you're talking to Pats, how you're always wanting to know how he is. How you guys just, click somehow, and it doesn't really make much sense, but it works, and it's sweet. You know?"

Travis does know. He isn't stupid. "We've got awesome chemistry on the ice," he says. "Patty always knows where to hit me with the puck, and I know who to go after to give him space in the lane for a shot. But he's so fucking quiet yet lets me talk and he never used to smile, man. Remember that? And now, I can get him to smile and it's honestly my favorite thing...no," he leans back, stopping as Hagg quirks his lips at him. "Nah, come on, buddy, it's like - you're like this with Oskar, he's your buddy, and Provy -"

"I'm not talking about anyone but me here, but honestly the way you talk about Pats, it's lot more like how I talk about my girlfriend. How Osk talks about his. Not saying anything about you, o.k.? Just pointing out. The context." He waves one hand, other gently hauling Oskar into a more comfortable position to rest on his chest. He yawns. "You can figure your own things out. Just saying that is probably what the team meant, is all." And then, dropping into almost full sleep, he mumbles "... We've got a bet on when, how long you two...," And with a slight snore he has dropped off to sleep.

When we two what? TK wonders. He's tapping his fingers to his legs and standing, pacing back and forth. Now feels way too jazzed up to sleep. Fuck. He'd still been jazzed from the game, and he knows they're going to be skating some tomorrow to get ready for the next one. He's going to love watching Kevin try to skate, haha. But right now he can't focus on that, on any of it.

Because Hagg and the guys threw something at him. They took what he's feeling, missing Patty, and they see something in it, whatever it is; and it's fine, he just. He's never been solid on feelings. Can't stay in place to really look at them, figure them out. He's always moving, always going, always chirping. That's how he shows affection, too, and recognizes it. He chirps. Isn't the one to sit down and puzzle out feelings. Or even to ask about them.

Nolan would do that. He'd listen, and he doesn't say anything he hasn't deliberated on. Doesn't even do things with his face, like smile, unless he's deliberated on that too. He's a thinker, really in his head. Like, all the damn time. Travis always chirped him for it, saying he was going to get lost up there, but right now he thinks he could use some of that ability Patty has.

Maybe then he could figure this shit out.

But his teammates were all cryptic, thought it would be funny, probably, since he hadn't put two and two together about Carter and Provy. Assholes. It's not his fault! It also isn't his business, but that's never stopped him before...

But it wasn't a big deal before. Teams talk crushes, and girls, and chirp each other about their types and tastes all the time. It gets different, and tricky, he supposes, thinking about somebody liking someone else on the team, never mind actually being with them....

Travis groans. He'd gone into the bathroom and brushed his teeth, and is now staring at himself in the mirror, trying to figure shit out. Do the guys think there's something going with him and Nolan, and if it's like how Carter is with Provy, however Carter is with Provy...? But there isn't, so. That's the bitch. Why are they even saying anything about it, cryptic or not? It isn't like he can just say to Nolan "hey the reason I miss you so much isn't just because of you not being with me on the ice, it's that you're not with me at all anywhere. Period. And I want you to be. With me. Anywhere. Everywhere, I mean. Nolan, I want to be with you." Oh, shit. Shit shit shit.

Throwing off his trousers and shirt and splashing icy water on his face, Travis turns off all the lights and practically runs to jump onto the bed and burrow under the blankets next to Hayesy. He's fast asleep, dead to the world, and he's big and hot as a furnace and TK is cold-natured so he's relieved Kev is so warm, like Nolan. No, don't think about that, don't think about wanting to be in bed with Patty right now instead, and that you wouldn't want him to be asleep.... Oh, god. Travis buries his head underneath his blanket and tries not to whimper because that's stupid and pathetic and it's not going to do anything for him. He's just going to have to - figure out what to do about Nolan. How to do Nolan. What the fuck, stop. He can't stop - he can't believe he's thinking about this all of a sudden. About his best friend. Why, how do feelings DO this? This is why he runs from them, why he's always moving, so they can't just appear and crash down and crush him.

Except in the back of his mind a traitorous little voice whispers that these feelings were always here, ever since he met Nolan and got to know him. He just made himself not think about them. But now the team's words forced him to think about them and - nice, that's really fucking stellar, brain. Thanks for that.

Travis really hopes he can get some sleep, because tomorrow...well after this revelatory experience, he really hopes it doesn't suck.

Chapter Text

Breathe me in, breathe me out...

TK wakes with a gigantic arm thrown across his face.

His dreams had been confusing, swirling sticks and slice of skates on ice and darkness with a looming figure ahead who he never really got to see, and then he was gripped heavily around the face by something - he was thinking, it's like how Barzal had grabbed him last game, and he's panicking til he wakes to find it's only Hayes. It's just his arm. Big man is into cuddling, he always has been. There's a half-soft, half scratching feeling of facial hair rubbing against the back of his neck and he feels the bridge of Kevin's nose pressing in his hair. Gigantic fucker is practically on top of Travis, aggressively cuddling with him, haha - and he wonders what would happen if it wasn't Kevin but Nolan...

"Get the fuck off me," TK moves, rolling his body quickly and curling in on himself with a grunt as he strives fruitlessly to negate the situation happening in his nethers right now. It happens more than enough in the morning just because he's a guy, and it's a thing, but thinking about Patty as he wakes up, of his eyes barely cracking open as his lips part and he whispers out a nearly inaudible 'morning' - like he had those times TK had come over and hung with him during a migraine where Patty was almost crying his head hurt so bad. And he'd just wanted Travis to hold him, press his hands on either side of Patty's head and put his fingertips against the pressure points. Press the pain away. Oh, god.

Konecny had chirped him lightly, asked how he was going to be able to hang on to Nolan's giant head, but he'd really been worried, and thus relieved, that his ministrations seemed to help. That he could release some of Patty's agonizing pain by hanging on to him. He had stroked Pats' hair, fingers pushing through the soft slightly wavy brown strands as Nolan's eyelashes had fluttered closed and he breathed out "thank you". Travis had wanted to say something then, do something about the way he was feeling, lean in to Nolan - but his stomach was swooping up and down like he had before-game butterflies and was simultaneously going to be sick.

Shit. If he needed any MORE proof about the way he feels about Nolan, after the team being all cryptic and ridiculous, fucking assholes - here it was. Here he was. The only positive about this present moment is that Hayes had been asleep the whole course of that conversation last night, so maybe that means he'll act normal about this.

But when Kevin rolls over and groans his good morning, he instantly asks "...did anyone else make really poor decisions last night like I did?"

Hagg, from the floor: "... nothing like Travis asking about Ivan and Carter." Travis hurls a pillow off the side of the bed to cuff Hagg in one sharp movement. "Ow!"

Kevin's eyes widen. "Oh, well did you get to talk to Nolan then, TK?" He asks like it's the natural next step. Like whatever Hart and Provy have going, even though he still doesn't KNOW what they have going, and he's not going to ask, thank you very much - well, he might ask Hartsy if he gets a second, but that's neither here nor there. What matters right now is the fact that Kevin Hayes just asked if he talked to Nolan, what the fuck.

"Of course I talked to Patty, I texted him after the game!" He neglects to inform Kevin just what he'd said, but he's got the nerve to roll his eyes nevertheless, smug bastard.

"Right. Just about the game," he says like it's obviously about something else too, like game chat is just a cover, which pisses Travis off.

"Yes of course the game you fucknut, what else would I be texting him about?"

"Whoah, someone's cranky," Kev raises both open hands and he has the nerve to look shocked and a little sorry with those light green eyes and round nose. No, he's not going to feel bad. "Sorry to touch a nerve, man. I just know you miss him. And it's okay to miss him, you know."

And that's Kevin, his voice gets all soft and he looks honestly concerned as he puts his hand around the back of Travis's neck to pat it. All his anger whooshes right out and TK feels like a dick. "Yeah," he grunts. "I know, Kev. It's just..." it's how MUCH I miss him. I realized it last night and I know I keep pissing and moaning about not having a goal, but - what I really want is Patty, I mean if he was here I wouldn't care about not having goals. Well, that's a lie, I still would care but at least I could give him shots and I'd know he was at full strength again. Things would be good again. Our balance would be back. It's gonna be better with Oskar when he plays, they just need Patty to round out the team, and things will be good again.

So he shoves at Kevin's cheek with a grin. "We just gotta play the shit out of the game tomorrow, bud. Come on, let's get to skate. If you can make it."

He is rewarded by thinking on Hayes' state when the big guy rises, wobbles, and goes green as he puts a hand to his abdominal area which makes a gurgling noise. "Ohhh boy. This'll be -"

"Hilarious," Travis guffaws. Hagg and Oskar pull various concerned and disgusted faces as he adds "You better not puke on the ice!"

Chapter Text

September 5th again.

Kevin didn't end up puking on the ice, which was a plus for him (and for all the rest of them too). But maybe it would have been better if he had, if the ending of the round had been different, if something, anything could have changed it...

Travis feels rolling nausea rising in his stomach cavity, feels as if he could be the person to be sick on the rink even as he sinks his fists into depths of cloth against pads and skin beneath as the final whistle of their final game rings in his ears and matches the burning in his eyes, the roaring fire of fury and helplessness and sickening sorrow that punches into his diaphragm again and again and again, so he's mirroring the feeling with his fists into bodies and he's feeling the bitter tang of loss souring in his gut and rising to coat his tongue; the horrible burning of salt sweat and, alright, tears, fuck off - drips into and fills his eyes; but he sees Carter slumping out of the corner of one.

The goalie is hanging onto the crossbeam as though he cannot, he's unable to stand without it, and fuck these guys, TK thinks. Fuck HIM for putting them in this position, for doing this to Carter, who had been the only person consistently playing tonight, even as the damned Isles got so much past.... They couldn't start plays, hadn't been able to do a damn thing - not like they had last game.

Game Six, September 3rd.

It takes until ten minutes are left in the first period (after everyone's hearts are thumping and up seeing Oskar back on the ice, Robbie beaming at his buddy the whole way after the Islanders started tapping their sticks for Oskar) until Hayes starts a play for TK to take the puck down, crossing it back to Kevin for a slapper right into goal. His light eyes and long face are brighter than a star, than the lights glancing off ice as he beams hugely. "YEAHHH TEEKSIE!" He roars, and everyone piles onto him.

And they have exploded, van-Riemsdyk gets a pass from Voracek and waits, saucing it for a slapshot rather than driving in. His handsome features split into an enormous toothy grin after the goal. Isles try to answer back with attempts right up the centre of goal but Carter is afire, slamming them away; and limber and long, he extends his left leg to stop a second attempt that hits just over the top of his skate.

Oskar is going deep, sending the puck to Sanheim and back to Pitlick, chances are off the pegs and those in the middle are held by the Islanders. Aube-Kubel gets a slashing penalty, and luckily Nisky charges down the ice for Carter. Provy does too, but cannot stop the Islanders from getting a goal, and TK grinds his teeth. He squints down the ice at Anders Lee, isn't going to let the opposing captain get anything else by if he can help it.

Cross-ice passes from Provorov to G precede stealing the puck and a goal from the Isles making it 3 to 2. Coach challenges for goalie interference on Carter, despite the fact no one crowded up on him. Andy Green just got the puck in, and as AV delayed the game someone must go to the box, so it's Nick again.

This is bullshit. Konecny shoves a guy, hard, and goes to grinding even harder "Here ya go, Raffy!" The rookie's eyes are focused as he skids round goal and with a rebound scores to even up 3 to 3! Less than ten minutes are left in the second. But Barzal is so fucking good, he scores right at the end of the period, giving Islanders back the lead. Brassard sends chances in, stealing the puck from everybody, they've got to have less turnovers and more shots on goal next period - god, if they could've held it...

Konecny is so focused on that, on getting to the puck and assisting, he misses - doesn't even see a hit on his own shins and all of his air is gone as Cizikas collides with him in the third. Eyes still on the puck, TK goes airborne, his entire front smashing onto the ice. He stares, eyes enormous and breath gone.

Kevin sets his teeth and in fury slashes Eberle just before Laughts scores. "Let's gooo!" He roars, and it stays four all until Brauner utilizes his brawn a bit too much and provides Islanders with a power play. There is 2:42 left to go, and no thought exists in TK's head except that Mathew Barzal needs to get punched in his pretty scruffy face.

But Carter earns all the love he's ever received by stopping three scoring attempts in seconds.

Chapter Text

Game Six, OT.

"Pageau, get out there, it's your line!" The Islanders coach is not at all amused.

TK goes down, spinning in a circle on his knees and going into the wall. Carter keeps right on making outstanding saves on rebounds from Barzal and Eberle; and then Lessard, who has been getting more physical as the game goes on, slashes Giroux on the side - under his ribs and over his hip. G screeches in pain, the shock of it reverberating around the ice and getting a call.

Provorov gets a save, muscling up next to Carter, looking out for his goalie as always at six minutes. "Nice!" TK calls to Provorov and at three minutes he is forcing chances, trying so desperately for a goal. Sanny is in the box now as Lessard remains in for the Islanders and it's four on four.

There's a tie and the game is going into a second overtime.

Second OT, Game Six.

Alert out of the box, Sanheim helps Pitlick get a steal and shot attempt. It's out of play on Bailey and there's a mass of bodies around the goal as TK gets the puck when it's spit out, sending around the post for Hayes to shoot - everyone is leaping, lying, falling to a hard-won stop for the Isles.

Puck skitters outside and Sanny is trying desperately to get it for G to make a shot and score five minutes in.

Varlamov is making stellar strong saves even with the puck glancing off of Leddy's skate and nearly sliding in goal past the paint. Hayes, Raffl, and TK press around into the zone.

Anthony Beauvillier is working hard on Braun; Clutterbuck is close, jabbing with elbows and slapping with stick. Really ticking people off as Oskar blocks, moves, all energy. Hayesy is sending a lot of passes and working around. There is no rebound, but a strong attempt from Niskanen to Pitlick - little guy is like a gnat in the Islanders' ears. Laughton is hit hard, puck skitters back out. Mayfield charges down the ice, stick breaking.

Provorov shoots and scores with a punch to the air as Raffl gets chucked onto the ice on his back.

They've forced a Game Seven. They've forced a Game Seven and everyone is screaming, throwing their arms around each other; Hayes gets Mike to his feet and the ice has exploded with screams and cheers of elation. TK feels like he could float away on the joy and pride.

***

Game Seven, September 5th.

But they couldn't hold it, couldn't keep going. Lost all of their power in the final game, going up and down the ice with no ways to score. Hayesy isn't on the line with Niskanen or van-Riemsdyk and to top it off -

To top it off, six minutes still in game, Coach calls for an empty net. When Carter is the only guy who's working, he and Provy.

Provorov kept getting to the puck, pulling around and sending it down the ice for offence, but there IS no offence tonight.

TK shakes his head in fury, in disbelief - he fights for goal attempts but can follow through on none, and at the end of the third after the final whistle he loses it. Enough to fling stick and gloves, to clatter onto the ice and fall as far and fast as his heart does.

They shouldn't have gone out like this. Game shouldn't have happened like this.

What the hell are they going to do?

Chapter Text

The ref blows the whistle shrill and loud, and Travis knows his swinging fists are futile. He turns and sees the guys going over to Carter, still wearing his helmet, eyes wide and shocked, full of as much pain as TK feels, and he knows without a doubt "...We didn't play for you, Hartsy," his words and form tumble through the mass of bodies as he skates over to Carter, reaches him at last. Looks up and into the goalie's face "We left you alone out here, bud."

Carter is shaking, even underneath all his padding, TK feels it in the grasp of the netminder's hand. Provy is still standing beside him, offering silent support. "This sucks," the goaltender gasps, and Konecny nods, unable to stop his head from going into Carter's chest a moment. He feels and hears Carter drop his stick and tug off his mitt and glove to put his hands around Travis's shoulders and push lengthy fingers through his hair. Makes the tears that were threatening before attempt to fall even harder and faster now.

"Yeah it's - this is fucking awful," TK responds, feeling a searing agony tear through his chest, stab into his stomach, and roil wildly with the fury and disappointment already ensconced there; not so secret nor so safe.

He hears voices murmuring around him, feels Hagg and Oskar and Nisky, Voracek and Raffl and then someone - probably G, or Coach, he cannot tell through the haze of loss - tells them to get off the ice. "Let's go, come on boys." And it's like a spell has been broken. All turn and wipe their eyes and square their shoulders, heading for the tunnel and the dressing room.

***

Travis gets his shower and packs up his sweater and gear, jamming his baseball cap backwards on his still damp hair, waiting for the comments on his redneck ways, but Pat isn't here to give them, or to casually shuffle his lean body over for TK to rest against his side. Travis could look up into Nolan's focused eyes, his sharp facial features seeming like hatchets of determination. "We'll get it next season," he'd say quietly.

"Don't talk about next season, I'm in pain already, man."

"Yeah, this fucking sucks."

"I'd say we tried our best but -"

"Did you watch the game, we weren't even PLAYING, Pat!"

When TK imagines that, he knows he's going too far in his head and decides to just lean back in his stall and bite the bullet to actually call Patty.

***

The beaut of a man answers on the first ring. "Oh, Teeks. You okay man?"

"Pat," Travis instantly loses it, his voice cracking with tears all over the place. He blames Nolan's gentle tone as he blurts "We fucked ourselves, I threw hands after the final whistle -"

"Yeah I saw that. Answers my question." Hearing Nolan shifting, Travis wishes he could be with his buddy so badly, just sitting on the couch or the bed and playing video games, chucking whatever stupid snack Nolan had at his head. Now Nolan asks, deep tone almost catching, which isn't helping Travis's current situation, because now he can't help feeling like shit for bringing this onto Nolan.

Yet speaking in a steady manner now, as always; even if he freaks relating to something that deals with himself, whenever it's about TK, or the both of them, or the team, Patty is focused and solid. Constantly calm. His tone is gentle and even. "...What can I do?"

Me. Do me. God, he's an idiot even for thinking that. Konecny feels his entire chest seize up, his heart and stomach seeming to lurch at the same time which makes him curl inward and forward, elbows on knees and hands covering his face. Muffling the desire that shoots through him like a slapshot. "Will it be - can I come see you once I get the fuck outta here?" He winces even as he knows he shouldn't feel so needy and pathetic for this, they're buddies, it's totally normal for them to hang out even during the off-season.

Off-season. Thinking that so baldly right now legitimately causes Travis to shake. He bows his head and braces elbows on knees, linking his fingers behind his head for a second before inhaling through his nostrils deeply. This isn't the end of the world. There's an ease to it, actually; recalling one's routine, going to visit a friend after the season is up, win or lose. It's not something big and earth-shattering, surely. Not to Patty.

As is evidenced by Nolan's warmly returned "'Course ya can, buddy. I've basically been quarantining by hanging alone thus far anyhow, so." There is a smile in his voice even as Travis hears a vocal drop, knows it must be so shitty for Nolan, even if his head isn't hurting him too much at the moment, to still be sticking around alone unable to be on the ice and having to hear about his team this way....

But Travis tries to keep things light, or make them lighter as he sniffs and wipes at his face. Doing his best not to allow his voice to tremble. They're going to be okay, after all, they always have next year. Wants to punch himself for that trite thinking, but fuck it, he's going to visit Patty. "That's - well, not great for you being alone but I mean" Smooth, Teeks, well done, dumbass. Travis clears his throat. "I'm, it's gonna be fucking great to see you, I mean." And maybe he can work up his nerves to say something. Yeah, sure. He watches Nisky and Pitlick grab each other in a hug and Kevin is coming over to him.

He feels his heart flutter as Nolan's voice sounds incredibly fond. "You too, Travis. I'll see ya soon, yeah? Love you, man."

His heart feels like it actually stops and there is a roaring in his ears. Did he actually hear that? It's a friendly thing, right, they're buds... Travis just hopes that his tone sounds at least somewhat natural (or if not, that Patty attributes it to the emotion of the loss) when replying "Definitely. Thanks, Pat. I... love you too."

Chapter Text

The guys begin to drag out of the dressing and changing rooms subsequent to taking showers, moving slower than the engine starts on the Konecny family fourwheeler, which is pretty damned slow. Laughtsy is trying to bolster spirits as he moves level with Coots and Raff, and there's a little bit of a flurry when Raffl winces like he's in pain.

"Hey, Mike, what's up beaut?" Arm around the other player's shoulders, Laughton, attempting jollity, inquires and Sean immediately leans his head against Raffl's after registering the ridiculous nature of that query.

"Really, Laughtsy?"

"...Not over that slam Mayfield gave you t' other day, buddy, eh?"

"Fucking Mayfield," the guy had flung Michael on his back on the ice without a stick, a move penalty worthy but uncalled as it was after Provorov shot the goal final whistle in double overtime. But they still need to take care of him; the kid's back is bruised up, and pain of this loss likely isn't helping.

"Hang on, kid, let's get something - Steady Eddie, you got someone with you?"

"I don't," Sean, who'd gone to grab his bag, comes back over and presses Michael's hand. "I should ice my own leg tonight, we can hang and watch something on TV or whatever. C'mon." The unwillingness to be alone after a game (a loss, and such a loss) is manifesting, and TK watches as other guys also make the choice to hang.

"Yo Beezer,"

"What's up Laughts?"

"I got some cards and candy in my room, you in?"

"Say no more, I'll bring popcorn and tunes. Sanny, you in? Frosty, Eddie?"

Travis Sanheim wipes swiftly at his face and eyes, bundled in a hoodie and sweats with stick slung over his shoulder, he rubs his face and clears his throat. "Yeah, alright, boys. I just ...might sit back for a bit." His tone is rough and quiet, but he does step up to them. Looks sweep over to Hayes, Nisky, and G, the latter of whom has been standing totally silent.

Which hits hard, that's their captain and he hasn't got any words.... It's a heavy, loaded silence, and then Coach comes in. TK tries to keep his mouth shut, feels his teeth grinding together as AV stands there and says how tough this is, but that he's proud of them, especially what they've done under the circumstances - he's not going to get all touchy-feely but hopes they know what has been accomplished here, and what they need to do in order to be ready for next season. TK wants to blurt out something about making better challenges, or less, and next year maybe they'll have everybody healthy, but he stops himself. Sees Hagg with his arm around Lindblom, Oskar nodding, Robbie's jaw clenched. Who knows, they may be thinking something similar to what is in his head, but nothing avails saying it aloud. So they nod and shake hands and come in for a final team huddle, and then Konecny sees Carter after they break, the goaltender's stance seeming frozen but also fragile like he's set to crack and collapse in a moment.

"Carter," hauling his bag up high on one shoulder and tugging at his cap, "This isn't your fault, buddy. You were out there playing your ass off today. Just - most of us weren't on. We weren't helping ya." That sentiment curdles deep in TK, making him feel sick, but he knows that it's the truth. Provy comes up and looks at Travis with his dark eyes. "I mean, you were the only one getting in the crease with him, Prov, c'mon," taking off his hat and jerking a hand through his hair, TK bites his lip and drops his arm, hand smacking against his side. "I couldn't get a fucking goal for you boys," he sniffs and trembles.

Eyes stinging, vision blurring as Carter steps up to him. "Ah, Trav," he says, pale skin flushing as he takes hold of the smaller man's shoulders, tugging him into an embrace. The netminder folds himself around TK, thin long body more limber than his height may suggest. "I know, man. But it's nobody's fault unless it's all of ours."

Wise words from a guy a year younger, and Konecny manages to blubber out "What comes outta the mouths of babes..." About Carter and to Provy beside him, which gets TK a shove and a chuckled

"Damn right I'm a babe."

"Hey now, you're not a beauty though."

"Oh what the hell, says who?"

"Come on, I'm the biggest beauty out here," TK has halted his emotion now, only to hear a snort as Carter shares a glance with Provorov and crosses his arms.

"Really? I could've sworn there was a height limit."

"Ow, you're gonna do me like that, when Aube, Frost, and G have only an inch on me? You're cruel, Hartsy. You're fucking cruel," but he's laughing, he can't help it. The loss still hurts, and it's going to keep right on crashing in the more they allude to it. Better to trade and chirp and head back to rooms for the final night together - deal with leaving the bubble tomorrow.

So it isn't too much for him to just get a really hot shower and then bury himself in his pillow for the rest of the night as he hears Carter playing some mournful guitar song through their conjoined wall, right?

***

The next day TK gets up early because he is used to it, not at all because he wants to, and checks the possibility of flights from Ontario to Manitoba. He was serious about visiting Patty, and hopefully Pat is just as serious about letting him stay because with the pandemic precautions only way he'll be set to go home afterwards is if he stays in a fortnight quarantine or gets right back on a plane.

His fingers are shaking but he texts Nolan > hey bud found a plane ticket, still cool if i come? And calls his mom with an immediate explanation that he's fine, or he will be fine, yeah it sucks to have been taken out of the cup run like this, yes he'll be home soon there's just something he needs to do. Or someone but Travis is never going to outwardly admit that, especially not to his MOM, so he tells her to say hey to Dad and Gramps and Chase, and that he'll be back in a couple weeks.

She doesn't ask where he's going. She trusts him, all the crazy stuff he's done in his life notwithstanding. Comes with being a mom, he guesses. She knows him better than he knows himself, because she says to be safe and love you and tell your friend hi from us, okay? And he really wants to ask her which friend she thinks he's going to see, just to prove whether or not the whole 'mothers know everything' adage is right, but at that moment his phone dings and his stomach growls and really he's absolutely raring, so fucking ready to get out of this bubble.

He slides his phone into his jeans without checking it as he does a sweep of the room and stuffs everything into his bag before opening up the door and heading through it. And even though it's early, obscenely early for a day there isn't a game - which hurts to think even after he's had the night to do it - some of the other guys are up. Hayesy and Sanny come out of their rooms for breakfast and get him in a hug. Kev pats him bracingly on the back and leaves his big hand resting there. "Morning, Teeks. You want to get some breakfast man?"

Upon noticing all his gear "C'mon TK, are you actually heading out at the crack of dawn?"

"I mean, come on, what would we be sticking around for? Holy -" with his bag over his shoulder and tuke in one hand, he's standing by Carter's door as he's raised his voice unintentionally, and the goalie sticks his head out, hair mussed from sleep.

"Wass going on? We don't have ice today, why're you up so early?"

"Cahtah Haht," Kevin drawls out the sound which makes Carter roll his eyes even as he doesn't seem fully awake. "- TK's heading out, wasn't even going to stay for breakfast!"

"Well I mean, we gotta leave the bubble soon as possible don't we? And I personally don't think it's a treat after we've lost to stick around and eat powdered fucking eggs," his tone is harsher than he'd meant it to be, and from the looks he's getting this is even shittier than him falling into his bed and moping by his lonesome last night. It's honestly fucking pathetic, and TK knows that; knows he's being a crap teammate right now, but he also doesn't, well cannot apologize quickly enough before a blowzy black head of hair and irate sharp eyes appear over Carter's shoulder.

"You don't care enough to stay with us when we don't want you to feel alone, none of us want to feel alone." Ivan legitimately brings his body flush to Carter's thinner frame as emphasis, and all the guys are looking at him with various expressions of surprise and resignation and even a hint of understanding. But the way Carter automatically seems to lean back into Ivan's chest, the way one muscled hairy arm wraps around the goalie's waist, it all hits Travis and he really wants to get gone.

"I do," he blurts after a moment where he blinks hard and sucks back the prickling manifesting in his eyes. "it's just - I'm going to see Patty." There are smoothed brows and nods and slight sounds of understanding after a little silence. It's Carter and Kev who wrap TK in a hug first.

"You need one, and should pass this on," and somebody whistles - he blames Sanny because he is a terrible friend like that, making TK not want to leave - and then before he knows it the entire team is out here in various stages of wakefulness and dress, hugging him goodbye and rubbing his head and patting him in the back, saying they'll see him. A few of the other guys had planned to head out soon as well, probably after breakfast, so this is a farewell for them too; G gets a little choked up saying that he is so proud of them and will see everybody next season.

"Be ready to kick some ass!" Is the final sentiment ringing through Konecny's head as he eventually retreats down to the lobby to let the front desk people know they can deep clean his room and to thank the staff members he sees for taking care of all of them.

He wipes surreptitiously at the corners of his eyes before checking his mask and readying himself to take a ride to the airport, eventually pulling out his phone to find a message from Pats saying in as exuberant a fashion as he's ever going to get:

> Can't believe you're up this early, buddy. Yeah, come on. Looking forward to seeing you :D

Chapter Text

TK keeps thinking about that happy faced emoticon Patty sent to him for way longer than is necessary.

He gets to the airport and follows all the precautions, gets his temperature checked and his bag scanned, and he's standing near the gate he needs to be at thinking way too damned hard about that excited smile. Probably because Pat is a quiet fellow, not emotionally demonstrative, even getting an actual legitimate prolonged laugh out of him is amazing, so the fact he'd send a smile after saying he's looking forward to see Travis, it's as big a deal as an exclamation point or a friggin heart.

No, calm down, Konecny counsels himself. This is a buddy excited to be seeing another buddy when he hasn't been able to be on the team or in the bubble and he's probably bursting to interact - even though Nolan and bursting are very different in his head, oh, shit - no, for one the connotation is, Nolan isn't one of those chatty guys. He just isn't. And TK talks all the time, he knows it, the entire team knows it. Patty tells any interviewer asking questions that TK talks a lot. But he also says they've gotten to be buddies, they both like hunting and fishing, they've got similar backgrounds, but that doesn't mean anything, Travis tells himself. He needs to get his head on. Well. The right head on. Because if he goes for it fully he's pretty certain he'll be spending time in a hotel in Winnipeg rather than hanging with Pat, as he'd get thrown out, of course he would. Right?

So he isn't going to think about that. He's going to show his ticket and get on the plane and handle the difference of being out of the bubble for the first time in months. He's going to take breaths and be cool and listen to music until he dozes off for a couple hours and shuffles out of the craft with his carry-on to wait for his checked bag. He feels fuzzy and floaty, rubbing his eyes free from sleep and focusing as best he can.

Texts Pat that he's in the baggage area, not thinking a thing, but then he hears a deep-toned voice thrumming with amusement and sees a lean giant personage coming up to him.

"Well look at this, they let anybody in now."

An immediate chuckle burbles out of TK as he replies "...Well it's Manitoba, bud, whaddya expect?" He pauses for the briefest second.

Sharp features light up and long arms reach out to him, and suddenly Travis is dropping his bag and lunging into the arms of his old teammate. Thickset body slams into Nolan's thinner one. Nolan steps back but his arms are around TK and lifting him, and his face is buried in coat and shirt as he chokes out "Patty, I've missed you," and it's okay to lose it like this for just a moment, because his head is fuzzy from sleep and the loss and he's hidden and it's really fucking wonderful to see Nolan -

Feeling long cool arms wrapping around him and hearing that low voice rumbling "Missed you too, Teeks. Happy you're here," along with the brush of lips against his forehead, just before his hairline, recognizable even through the cloth of a mask, well Travis feels as if his heart might actually explode.

Nolan lifts his head then and takes hold of Travis's arms, rubbing them with his palms as he looks into his stockier friend's face, and steps back far enough for Travis to breathe and hopefully get his heart to stop racing, come on, quit it - as his eyes flicker over TK's face and he presses his lips together. "C'mon, let's get your stuff," he speaks softly and ducks to pick up the discarded carry-on. His hand shifts to his friend's back, running up and down as TK nods and wipes at his eyes with the sleeve of his hoodie before clearing his throat and tugging down his ball cap. "You hungry?" Acting as if it isn't a big deal, or even a deal at all, to have his crazy loudmouth teammate being a blubbering mess first second they see each other, and that makes Konecny's chest clench and his face feel hot.

So he jumps at the chance to grab his checked bag off the carousel and drag it over to Nolan. "Yeah," he realizes he's starving. "I can definitely eat."

Everything is tumbling over and over in him as Nolan's looking into his eyes again, and then he has the nerve to laugh. "Yeah, of course you can. I'm not even surprised. Eat everything in the bubble before ya left?"

"Oh fuck off," Travis says, and their ease together surrounds him in a blanket of familiarity. Or rather, it's the comfort of their sticks slapping the ice, electricity of a pass well-sauced, the memories of it all combined with the current weight of Nolan's hand still resting on Travis's shoulder, his fingers curling slightly before he relinquishes his hold as though reluctant. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking. He stays beside his buddy, though, as they turn (still in-sync, even off the ice) and walk to the exit. In step and hopefully ready for anything.

It's a great feeling.

Chapter Text

Nolan gets out his keys and hits the button for his truck to unlock, heaving TK's bag up into the back. Travis is very clearly not watching Nolan's muscles work under his shirt - it's not cold enough to wear a heavy coat (least not for anyone used to the temperature in Winnipeg) and he's ready for a barrage of chirps from Pats were the guy to notice Travis noticing him, that along with the brightness of the sun itself and the slight breeze, the open air outside of the bubble, all exhorts Travis to flip his hat off a moment and tug his hoodie over his head. He feels the wind against his abs as his black tee rides up along with the hoodie, and his hair flies as he pulls his sweatshirt off.

He catches Patty's eye and asks before he can stop himself "...See anything you like?"

Nolan rolls his eyes, a fleeting blush departing his cheeks - from the wind, maybe; it's a lot more open here than in Toronto, not so many skyscrapers in close quarters - here one sees distant trees and mountains and sky. It's all so open and huge - reminiscent of home for Travis, he thinks on the family fields stretching, seemingly endless.

Here there are more trees than at home, though, and the dark green of the forest, muted greys and browns of space and shadows reflect in the grey-green-hazel of Nolan's eyes as he cuts them at Travis and says "Get your ass in the car, Teeks."

TK pouts. "Ya didn't answer, bud, I'm hurt," he says whilst twisting his ball cap and smoothing long hair. Nolan looks at him, leans over, and jerks the hat bill down to the bridge of his nose, covering the top three-fourths of his face.

"There, now I do," he cracks before ducking into the driver's seat and laughing as Konecny flops in the passenger side and lunges after him, shoving sharply after flipping Pats off. Whether he's fighting for play or real, he tangles his fingers in the shirt over Patty's chest and pulls. Pats still laughs, eyes crinkled up, grin wide.

Fuck, he's pretty, TK thinks and has to unclench his fingers lest he do something he'll later regret out of (he tells himself) the series loss and jet lag, very pointedly not thinking about the realizations he had come to before the seventh game. As it is he chirps a lackluster height insult along the lines of "ya fuckin' beanpole" and shoves back into his seat, tugging the seatbelt around his shoulder with a sharp jerk. Something flickers in the other's face but he turns the keys and throws his arm across the seats whilst backing up. "We going to eat somewhere or what?" Konecny feels as if his voice is a growl, well, as much as he can growl with the higher register of his tonality.

"Yeah, hold your horses. I know a place." He is quiet then, palm cupping the steering wheel as he holds his fingers aloft and turns, easily peering through the rear window with turned head.

They pull out of the parking lot and head down road after road to leave the airport behind, hearing thundering throbs of plane engines roar overhead. Konecny looks worriedly at Patrick after a particularly loud engine roars overhead, and his friend's knuckles tighten around the steering wheel. Automatically reaching out and leaning over to do it, Travis puts a hand on his leg. "You okay, Pat?"

A tight nod. "Fine, it's just, loud noises, sometimes...," One hand on the wheel he waves the other briefly, eyes affixed on the surface of the slightly winding road heading out of the metropolis.

"They can trigger your migraines, yeah?" TK nods. "I remember."

Patty nods, air huffing out of his nose as he shoots a small smile Travis's way. "Yeah, I mean. I'm doing pretty good," his voice rumbles to a halt and he's silent again as they trundle down to turn into a parking lot with a metallic low-hung diner crouched like a bright-winged beetle on the nearer side. Nolan gets a hat, as the sun is striking through clouds and TK turns his around so the bill shades his face. Hops down and heads into the place alongside Nolan, though the guy has to stretch his arm and pull the door open for TK to head in.

He could chirp Pat for it, but it's actually absurd to feel his heart jump as his buddy holds the door for him. Holy, he is so gone. This is ridiculous. A smiling lady waves for them to sit wherever they'd like in the dimly-litten space. "Your server will be with you in a mo'," she calls, and Patty takes off his cap before responding with a nod.

"Thanks," he says, and "C'mon Teeks," wrapping a hand around TK's arm and practically dragging him to a booth in the corner even as TK is entranced by the neon-lighted old fashioned jukebox with tubing over top and hundreds of panels that would flip for songs. He's already searching his pockets for change, but stops reluctantly as his stomach rumbles. He's told he can play a song before he leaves, Nolan making the decision to beat it out of there as fast as possible. But his lips twitch in fondness as his shorter friend pouts and slouches into the booth.

TK does shift over immediately to stay directly in his friend's view as Patty sits down across from him, because Konecny notices the brightness of neon flashing in the back, an old 'Open' sign, that, while it looks super cool, is definitely something that could mess with Pat's eyes and give him a headache. And when their server comes up and the jukebox blasts something loud, Travis is up and heading to the bathroom, he says, but once he disappears behind the partition near the restrooms, he asks if the sound in the place can be turned down at all. "It's cool if not, I understand, might be an old system, but my buddy gets really bad headaches, and -"

"Say no more," they're telling him, the big chef with a shoulder tat and earrings points a spatula over and tells his su chef (as he calls them) "hey go turn down the music, honey," without preamble or issue. Gives a little nod to TK as well, saying he's a good friend. Travis shrugs.

It does make him feel a little better though. Less morose, less like he's dragging ass. Like he's actually being a teammate, even though it's after the games. Gets him a little pissed off, too, because if he'd been this focused on all the guys whole series in bubble, maybe they'd still be in the playoffs.

Ah hell. Shoulda coulda.

But, he's here with Nolan now, and that means things are only going to get better.

Maybe he'll even let his best friend in on some... feelings he has, one of these days.