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Worth the Passel

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Nolan wasn't allowed in the bubble, for obvious reasons, and he had tried real hard not to be bitter about it.

He had gotten near hourly updates from TK and Hayesie, mostly snitching on each other for doing dumb shit, as if Nolan didn't already know they were dumber than a box of rocks combined.

Nolan pretended to have a migraine to avoid texting back, at least until Kevin sent him a picture of TK, passed out as a possum in what appeared to be the shreds of Kevin's HAHVAHD shirt. The message simply read “looks like your sulking is contagious”, which had been so offensive that Nolan considered throwing his phone out the window.

Nevertheless, he had replied to Travis' next good morning text, which had immediately gotten him a long string of exclamation points and indecipherable emojis.

That had been weeks ago, before the team had defeated the Habs, before the impossible overtime wins against the Isles, before they'd been eliminated.

Nolan had watched the entire painful mess through the throbbing of a low-grade migraine, and when it was done he'd texted TK two words:

Next year.

TK had responded hours later, just saying “not without you” which had made Nolan actually throw his phone across the room.

--

The day after the loss, Nolan has a neurologist appointment, which is just as boring as usual, but he finds himself antsier to get home, for a reason he can't quite pin down.

It hits him when he pulls in the driveway and sees Kevin's car parked in its usual spot for the first time in two months, and Nolan is out of the car and up the front steps so fast he barely remembers to grab his keys out of the ignition.

There are two giant gear bags in the hallway and Nolan nearly trips over them in his haste.

Hayesie is facedown on the couch when Nolan looks in the living room.

“Uh,” Nolan greets him. “Welcome home?”

Hayesie picks up his giant head slowly, like it takes a Herculean effort. He smiles, tiredly, pushing himself upright and then to his feet.

“Hey, Patty,” he says ambling across the room like an affable grizzly bear to wrap Nolan in a hug.

Nolan relaxes against him. “Missed you, bud,” he forces out. Sharing feelings isn't his favorite thing to do, but he figures Kevin could probably use it more now than ever.

Kevin snorts, not meanly, like he knows exactly how hard it was for Nolan to say those words. “I missed you too, bud, ” he answers.

Kevin ends the hug with a hearty slap on the back, that would send a smaller man (TK) stumbling.

“Your boy's upstairs,” Kevin tells him, ignoring Nolan's half-hearted deflections in favor of lying back down.

He takes the stairs two at a time, just to get away from his giant know-it-all roommate.

TK is, in fact, upstairs. He's in Nolan's room, a trail of clothes leading from the door to the bed, where TK is curled around Harrison, the blue stuffed bunny Kevin had lent Nolan to 'help him get well'.

“Hey, bud,” Nolan whispers, heart aching. “Can I come in?”

TK chitters, somehow sounding sad even as a possum, and wedges his face further behind the bunny.

Nolan sighs and kicks off his shoes to curl up next to the world's most tragic marsupial. He barely touches the mattress before TK totally abandons Harrison in favor of scrambling under Nolan's sweatshirt and up his torso to pop his little head out of the neckhole and snuggle under Nolan's chin.

TK is always tactile, but as a possum— and a sad one at that— his clinginess increases exponentially.

Nolan wraps his arms around the blue bunny, sandwiching TK between them, and rolls onto his back.

“I know, buddy,” he whispers, even though he isn't sure he does. Being shut out in game seven isn't the same as not getting to go at all, but it doesn't matter.

TK gnaws on the string of Nolan's hoodie.

“Hey, no,” Nolan protests, trying to tug it away.

TK whines, and Nolan relents. He's always been weak for TK, no matter what form he's in.

Nolan scratches behind TK's little ears, and tries not to feel anything about how TK almost instantly starts struggling to keep his eyes open.

“I didn't bring you fruit,” Nolan confesses. “I didn't know when you were getting back, or if you'd want to–”

He trails off, letting the sentence die with a sigh.

TK abandons the string to mudge his cold little nose against Nolan's chin, then darts his tongue out to lick him.

Nolan recoils, barely managing not to shout. “Ewww,” he complains, scrubbing at the spot with his sleeve. “Don't be gross.”

TK blinks at him serenely with an air about him that says “I have never done anything wrong in my life, and we both know this.”

Nolan rolls his eyes, thinks of the number of times he's had to dig TK out of the trash, and huffs out a breath just to see the way it makes TK bat at his nose, trying to swat away the tickles.

The weight of TK on his chest is familiar and soothing, like one of those weighted blankets Beezer won't shut up about.

“Y'wann' nap?” Nolan mumbles around a yawn. The neurologist always tires him out, but he could probably muster the energy to throw a ball a few times.

TK pats around on Nolan's chest a little bit, which probably means Nolan guessed exactly what he wanted, or that he was very, very wrong and about to get bitten about it. 

“If you wanna nap, you gotta get outta there,” Nolan warns. “I like this hoodie and you're not gonna fuck it up by shifting back inside it.”

TK growls, which is so far from menacing that Nolan narrowly avoids laughing at him, but scrambles out of Nolan's sweatshirt by way of climbing Nolan's face.

Bastard .

In retaliation, Nolan rolls onto his side, dumping TK gracelessly onto the bed and letting Harrison flop on top of him.

TK hisses grumpily, but is easily mollified by Nolan gently smoothing his fur down, from his ears to his tail, over and over, until they both drift off to sleep.