There is nothing magic about the terminating resistors. They are absolutely required for a CAN bus. They may be called "terminating" resistors, and this is indeed part of their function when the bus is long enough to be a transmission line. However, they also cause a unloaded bus to go to the recessive state, which is a fundamentail assumption the CAN protocol is based on.
Think of CAN as a passively pulled up open collector bus, except that it's implemented as a differential pair (usually). The terminating resistors not only terminate the transmission line, but also act as the pullup resistor. In the differential CAN implementation, they are really pull-together resistors, but logically have the same function as a pullup on a single ended open-collector bus.
Note that the CAN standard does not specify the actual physical bus. For short distances on the same board at the right bit rates, you can implement can as a single-ended passively pulled up bus. Unless you are doing something special, using two CAN transceiver chips to go between only two nodes 3 inches apart on the same board is gross overkill and a waste of money, power, space, and parts.