It's definitely not a full moon. Sidney knows, because he was just out taking a walk. He'd looked up at the sky, and the moon was barely there at all, just a sliver. He can't remember if it's a waxing or waning crescent, although it might be printed on his calendar at home –
But that's not the point. The point is, he came into his room after his walk, and Geno was there, only he wasn't playing with Sidney's Xbox, he was standing naked in front of the window. And before Sidney had a chance to ask, "Uh, what are you doing?" Geno turned gray and furry and jumped out the window.
Sidney sits down on the bed to think about this. He's pretty sure it wasn't a hallucination; his head doesn't hurt, the window is still open, and Geno's clothes are still piled on the floor. It seems pretty crazy, though.
Is Geno a werewolf? No, whatever he turned into had gray fur, but it was a lot smaller than a wolf. Too big to be a rabbit or a squirrel, too, so maybe a dog or a cat?
He tries to think of stories he's heard of people who turned into animals. The old neighbor who babysat him and Taylor sometimes when they were kids used to tell them Scottish fairy tales after Sidney finished his homework. Selkies were seals who could turn into women, but didn't they have to leave their skins behind?
Sidney gingerly nudges the pile of clothes with the toe of his sneaker. Phew. No human skin, just a T-shirt and shorts, sandals, watch, necklace. That's a relief.
Okay, so Geno's not like a selkie. He might be like a werewolf, only if he doesn't change at the full moon, then maybe none of the mythology applies. He wishes for a second that they were in Chicago, because Patrick Kane's admitted he likes Twilight, and maybe that would help, but it would be an incredibly surreal conversation.
Vaguely, Sidney remembers overhearing a bit of talk about the Bruins' drunk rookies and catnip, but he's honestly not sure if that's useful information or some kind of sex thing. That's definitely not a conversation he wants to have.
He glances down at his watch. It's just after midnight. How long is Geno going to stay out? If it's like Harry Potter... Okay, well, Professor McGonagall was a cat when she felt like it, right? But there's also the professor with the mustache, who was in his werewolf form until the morning after the full moon and had to be locked up in that house...
No, no, that's silly. Sidney shakes his head like the image that gave him of Geno in chains is a fly buzzing in his face. This isn't Harry Potter, and nobody's going to lock Geno up if Sidney has anything to say about it. Geno would never hurt anybody. He just wouldn't.
Okay, now is probably a good time to think about something else. Anything else. He decides to turn on the TV and channel surf for a while.
At first, Sidney isn't sure if he's still asleep or not. There's a little extra weight on the bed by his right shoulder, and when he opens his eyes the tiniest bit, he sees a pair of bright yellow eyes gazing at him. There's a sort of buzzing feeling, too, but it doesn't stop and start like a phone on vibrate.
Stealthily, Sidney pinches himself in the side. Ow! No, this is real life. There's really a purring cat on his bed. – Geno!
He opens his eyes the rest of the way. "Geno?" he asks softly.
The cat rears up onto its back legs, ears back, then jumps off the bed. Sid hops up and slams the window shut, then turns on the bedside light. For a second, the cat freezes: big, fluffy, and gray, and looking like he thinks Sidney is going to make him into mittens. Then it darts into the bathroom before Sidney can react, and a moment later, Geno walks out with a towel around his waist. "Hi, Sid," he says, not meeting his eyes.
"Whoa," Sidney says.
"I go now," Geno says. He scoops up his stuff and races out of the room. Sidney thinks he sees Flower in the hall before the door closes, which is just great.
He flops back on the bed. So Geno... is a cat sometimes. Geno turns into a cat, jumps out the window, and runs off into the night. That's probably the weirdest thing he's heard yet.
...Of course, it's only probably. Flower could give Geno a run for his money.
The next day, Sidney wakes up bright and early. Once he's shaved and showered and dressed, he goes to Geno and Brooksy's room. He takes a deep breath, centers himself, and knocks.
Geno opens the door almost immediately. He looks suspicious and hungover. "Morning, Sid," he says.
"Morning," Sidney says. "Can I take you out for breakfast?" He gives Geno his best autograph-signing smile.
Geno runs one hand through his hair, making it stand on end. "Okay," he says. "Five minutes."
Sidney leans against the opposite wall and waits. It's only three minutes before Geno opens the door again, this time wearing shoes and a shirt. "We go?" he asks.
"Yeah, let's go." There's a diner down the street from the hotel that makes egg white omelets, so Sidney heads that way.
Once they're seated and the waitress is off with their orders, Sidney looks expectantly at Geno, but he's staring at the paper placemat like the maze is the most fascinating thing he's ever seen. Sidney glances down at it, just in case. Nope. It's pretty simple. "You just have to loop around the palm tree," he says.
"The maze," Sidney says, tapping it. "I... never mind. What's it like?"
Sidney blows his hair off his forehead. Is Geno messing with him? Possibly.
Then Geno starts giggling. Okay, make that "definitely." "You are such an asshole," Sidney says, but he's starting to laugh too.
"You have questions, huh?" Geno says, when the waitress has brought their food and they've managed to stop laughing.
"How does it work?" Sidney asks. "It's not a full moon!"
"Ha!" Geno looks surprised. "No, is not moon."
"Then what is it?" Sidney persists.
Geno furrows his brow and eats some eggs. He chews very thoroughly, then swallows, and says, "I don't know."
"You're kidding me!"
"No! Don't know why." Geno opens his eyes extra-wide, like that will make what he's saying more believable and less completely weird.
"But – has it been happening your whole life?" Sidney has to remind himself to eat his omelet. Food is less fascinating than the fact that Geno is somehow unaware of how a whole big chunk of his life works, but it's still important.
"Yes," Geno says. "Was tiny kitten. Very cute." He demonstrates the tininess by cupping his hands.
"So how do you not know why it happens by now?"
"I... don't... know," Geno says. "Sometimes, I cat. Sometimes, I punch Sidney Crosby in head."
"Not in the head," Sidney says. "I have a concussion."
"Okay," Geno says agreeably. "Sometimes I punch Sidney Crosby in junk. Better?"
"Yes," Sidney says. "I think." He considers it. "Maybe. Or I could stop asking the same question over and over like you'll change your mind."
Geno nods. "Smart."
They eat quietly for a little while. Sidney drinks some coffee, then asks, "You know before it happens, though, right? Like, you don't just –" He makes a sort of exploding gesture with his fingers. "Surprise! Cat! – out of nowhere, do you?"
Geno looks thoughtful. "Not..." He copies Sidney's exploding-fingers thing. "More like... have to pee. Is time limit."
Sidney thinks about it and decides that makes sense. "So, when you were in my room last night..."
"Was little more like surprise! Cat!" Geno shrugs. "Thought you in Duper's room, not notice I go before I back."
"Oh, okay." That actually sounds like a pretty good plan. It would even have worked, if Sidney hadn't gotten bored with the movie they were watching.
"You scared?" Geno asks.
Sidney stops with his fork halfway to his mouth and blinks. "Scared?" he repeats. "Of what?"
Geno indicates himself. "Turn into cat, jump out window. Little weird, yes?"
"Big weird," Sidney agrees, then snickers. "But we're all big weird around here, eh?"
"Yes," Geno says. "Cat not... too much weird?"
"Pfft." Sidney waves this away. "It doesn't affect your play, does it?"
He looks like he's considering it. "Good ways only, so far. Some days better reflexes, heal faster, easier to find puck."
"Oh, like how cats can track prey because – wait, heal faster?"
Geno looks a little embarrassed. "Not want to mention. Explaining is too hard. Is why Pacioretty back so fast."
Suddenly, Sidney's food doesn't taste good anymore. He pushes the plate over towards the aisle. "Oh. Good for him. Good for you." He grabs his glass of water and drinks the whole thing in one go.
It looks like Geno's about to say something, but just then a little girl in a Long Island Gulls shirt comes over and asks for their autographs. If there's one thing Sidney loves, it's signing autographs for kids. Her name is Allie, and she's usually a forward, but sometimes she plays defense. "That's a good idea," Sid tells her. "It's never too early to learn defensive responsibility, eh?"
She lights up. "That's what my coach says!"
By the time Allie and her parents leave, the waitress has left the receipt, so he decides not to try to pick up the conversation again. They have to get back in time to practice, anyway.
That night, Sidney tosses and turns for a while, but he can't get to sleep. He can't find the right number of blankets, and his pillow is lumpy, and the streetlight outside the window keeps shining in his eyes. Finally, he decides to jerk off as a sleep aid. That's why he packs lotion and tissues, after all.
He lies on his back and squirts some lotion into his hand, then reaches into his shorts. He's not hard yet, but the wet, gentle touch feels good. Lazily, with no real rhythm yet, he strokes himself a few times.
The first step onto the ice, in his mind's eye, sends a rush of pleasure through him. Sure, he's been skating again, even no-contact practicing, but that's nothing compared to what he wants. The anticipation of the game, the slick silver sound of his skates on the ice, makes him shiver all over.
Sidney's pictured it a hundred different ways. This time, speeding up his hand a little, it's an away game at Buffalo. Geno follows him out onto the ice, and they line up in white jerseys for the Star-Spangled Banner and O Canada. He mouths the words, even if that's a dorky thing to do, and then Ryan Miller skates into his net.
He bites his lower lip, teasing himself. He probably won't take the first faceoff in real life, but this is his fantasy, isn't it? The world narrows to the puck in the ref's hand and two stick blades on the ice, and he waits, waits, stretching it out – and there, he strikes, whisking the puck away from Roy.
The groaning noise he makes, picturing it, twisting his wrist, is totally inappropriate for the rink, but Sidney doesn't care. It just feels so good. He can feel it, the rightness of every stride as he pushes himself closer and closer to the edge, the heat curling up in his belly – he slams into the boards, chases down the puck, and sets up in Gretzky's office. This is it, this is –
Deftly, Sidney catches his come with the wad of tissues. No sense getting things messy. He tosses it into the trash and rolls over onto his stomach. Maybe now he'll get some sleep.
Sidney and Geno eat an early breakfast at a diner together the next day, too, and it's nice. Geno gets him, and he gets Geno. They both love hockey, Penguins hockey, more than anything else. So they eat their omelets and their turkey bacon, and they talk about hockey, and it's really... nice. But then it's time to get to the rink so Sidney can get examined again.
Sidney doesn't want the doctors to think he's a pain in the ass. He wants to be the nice, polite young man he was raised to be. It's not like asking them if he's ready yet again will make it so, anyway.
Still, after what feels like the four-hundredth time the doctor checks his balance and eye movements and then sadly shakes his head, all Sidney wants to do is yell. He'd like to shake him by the shoulders and shout, "Make me better! That's your job!", shake him until his teeth rattle and he can't track somebody's finger all over the place without getting a headache.
He wants to ask, "Will I ever play again? Will I ever play the same again?", but what if he doesn't want to know the answer?
No games, still. "Don't rush it," the doctor says. It makes sense, of course. He can't just decide, like Ray Emery did, that he doesn't care if he can't walk when he's 40 as long as he can play hockey now; that's not how concussions work. If he rushes it, he could end up with Swiss cheese for brains – and it won't even be to play his best hockey.
Sidney knows all of this. By now, he feels like he could teach a class on concussions: how they feel, how everyone treats you, the good signs and bad signs, how to be just as good and careful an interview when you're injured as when you're playing your best. He sits on the exam table, swinging his legs, and won't look at the trainer's face.
"Do you want to talk to anybody, Sid?" Chris asks. "Dan, Aimee, Geno, Dupuis?"
Sid's about to say no, but then he says, "Sure. If Geno's not doing anything, I mean."
Chris nods and leaves the room. Sid drops his head into his hands, deciding to allow himself exactly 30 seconds of moping before Geno comes in.
He must have been nearby, though, because Sidney could swear it's only been 15 seconds when he feels one of Geno's huge hands pat his shoulder. "Sorry, Sid," Geno says.
Sidney sits up, resisting the sudden urge to lean his head against Geno's big, solid chest. "Not your fault," he says.
"I know," Geno says. He sits down next to Sidney, not quite close enough to touch. "I hurt Sidney Crosby, don't wait for media, crucify me." He spreads his arms out like wings – or, right, a cross.
"Don't be silly," Sid says, batting at his arm. "Nobody's being crucified. Not even Cookie."
"Silly make Sid smile," Geno says, and Sidney realizes he's right.
"Yeah, well," he says. "Uh. Thanks."
Geno pats his shoulder again, with a look on his face that Sidney isn't sure how to read. "Come skate, Sid."
So he does.
After practice, Sidney goes back to Geno's place with him. They sit on the couch and play NHL 12 for a while, and then Dixi wanders out of Geno's bedroom and stretches.
"That looks like it feels really good," Sidney says, watching her dig her claws into the carpet.
"Does," Geno agrees. He stretches and cracks his neck.
"Better than stretching as a human?"
Geno thinks about it. "Different. Cat doesn't play hockey, has more bones in back."
Sidney nods. That sounds familiar, from bio classes back in high school. Dixi bumps her head into his leg and meows, so he reaches down to pet her; then a strange idea pops into his head. "Dixi isn't a werecat, is she?" he asks.
That cracks Geno up. "Dixi!" he gasps. "Ha! Dixi!" He actually slaps his leg a few times, like he's in a cartoon. Dixi pushes her ears back and makes a cross face. "Dixi –" Geno scoops her up and nuzzles her head, still laughing.
"I guess not, then," Sidney says. "Do you want some water?" He gets up and heads for the kitchen.
Geno follows him and puts a hand on his elbow. "No, no, be happy, Sid."
"I'm happy," Sidney says, shaking off Geno's hand and getting out glasses to fill with water.
"Was laughing at idea, not at you," Geno insists. "Is like – is like I say, all along Mario's dog just Taylor in disguise! Wait for right moment, takes years, then jump out!" He covers his mouth with one hand, but it doesn't actually hide that he's laughing.
"That would be pretty funny," Sidney admits.
"Yes," Geno says happily. He clinks his glass against Sidney's and leads him back out to the living room. They sit back down on the couch, with Dixi between them. The silence stretches out, and after a minute, Geno says, "Want to play with cat?"
"Dixi?" Sidney asks.
"Me," Geno says.
"Oh!" He wasn't expecting that. "Sure. That'd be cool."
Geno smiles at him, then does something that looks like the opposite of stretching – and there's a big, fluffy gray cat stepping carefully out of Geno's pants.
Dixi jumps down off the couch and bonks her head into Geno's. He licks her ear, and then she disappears back into the bedroom.
"I guess she wants some alone time, huh?" Sidney says to Geno, who is sitting up on his back legs like a groundhog, putting him almost at Sidney's eye level. "Do you, uh, want me to pet you?" He holds out his hand for Geno to sniff, like he learned to do with animals as a kid.
Geno starts purring before Sidney's hand touches his head. His fur is even softer than it looks. After a moment of petting, he sinks back a little, then springs up into Sidney's lap, planting his front paws on his collarbones, and presses their foreheads together.
Sidney tries to look into his eyes, but they're too close. Whatever cat-Geno sees makes him happy, apparently, because he's purring up a storm. "Hi," Sidney says. He scratches under Geno's chin, which he seems to like. "What's up?"
Geno just purrs more, then rubs his face all over Sid's. Sidney laughs. "What, don't I smell enough like a cat for you?" He did a little research on cat behaviors, so he knows Geno has scent glands on his cat forehead. "This is a compliment, right?"
He meows happily – at least, it sounds happy to Sidney – and licks the end of his nose with his sandpapery tongue. Sidney scritches between Geno's ears. "It must be nice to have someone who knows," he says. "I mean, besides your family, I guess. I bet you miss being a cat with people sometimes."
Cat-Geno pulls back under Sid's hands and stares at him, then sneezes in his face. Sidney blinks. "Thank you?" But Geno just bonks his head into Sid's forehead again. Sid's not sure what it means, but he's okay with it, he's pretty sure.
After a bit, still purring, Geno curls up on Sidney's chest and gently digs his claws into his shirt.
"Comfy?" Sidney asks. Well, he's comfy. Geno's a warm, solid weight, and it's about naptime anyway... Wait, is Geno snoring? Do cats do that?
Maybe he'll ask after their nap.
Sidney doesn't usually dream during his naps, at least not that he remembers, but this time he dreams about his first game back again. Being in the locker room before the game, that feeling of everyone in the room, everyone in the building so excited, is wonderful and painful at the same time, like his heart is growing three sizes and getting squeezed until it's ready to burst.
It plays out in his mind just like always, a new variation on the same theme of a great, well-played game. Only this time, for some reason, Sidney can't stop noticing where Geno is.
In his dream, Sid makes a wrist shot and scores top shelf. He smacks into the boards, cheering, and Geno hugs him so hard they fall to the ice. He's got Geno on top of him, hips pressing against his, whispering, "You score, Sid! You score!"
When he wakes up, Geno's gone. Sidney thinks he's glad about that; otherwise, things might have been weird.
It's when they're at their usual diner in Pittsburgh Friday morning, picking at what's left of their eggs, that Sidney thinks of it. "Why don't you just bite me?" Sidney asks, his fork clattering to his plate.
Geno stares at him. "Screw you, too, Sid," he says after a moment. "What I do?"
"No, not metaphorically." Sidney sighs. "Literally. With your teeth."
"You like biting? I tell fans, give them hint."
"God, you're a pain in the ass. No, I mean –" He makes whiskers with his fingers on either side of his nose.
Finally light dawns on Geno's face, but it falls just as quickly. "Is not – is not contagious, Sid." He starts tearing his toast into bits. "If was, I would bite you long time ago."
"Oh." Well, there goes that idea, Sidney thinks.
"Sorry," Geno says. The worst part is that he really looks like he is.
"It's okay. I'd make a shitty cat anyway, eh?"
Geno laughs. "Very prissy," he says.
"Prissy!" Sidney scowls at him.
"Prissy!" Geno insists, still laughing. He pretends to lick his paw and wash his ears, then sniffs exaggeratedly at his coffee and makes a sour-lemon face. "Not want this food, want other food." He cracks up again. "Let out. No, let back in!"
"You're not funny," Sidney tells him, trying not to laugh, but when Geno slides under the table from laughing so hard at his own joke, Sidney can't help snickering a little. "Okay, get up already, you're gonna get gum in your hair."
Geno scoots back up and ruffles his hair in Sid's direction. "No gum, see?" He grins.
"No gum, good work," Sidney agrees. His head is starting to hurt. Even if he wouldn't enjoy being a cat, he would have let Geno turn him into one anyway just to get rid of these damn headaches. He rubs the back of his neck, hoping that will ease the tension a little.
"Really am sorry, Sid," Geno says softly. "If I could help, I like to."
Sidney doesn't want to look at his face. He tries not to whine when he asks, "Could you take me home?"
They're both silent in the car. When they get back to Sidney's place, he doesn't bother waiting to see if Geno follows him inside, just kicks off his shoes and goes to curl up on the couch, eyes closed. A moment later, he feels a paw patting his knee.
"Mrr?" asks cat-Geno, tilting his head to the side.
"Yeah, come on up," Sidney says, patting the couch cushion next to him. "I'm just, uh, watching the NHL network."
Geno hops up onto the couch, then very carefully pushes the power button on the remote. When Jeremy Roenick's voice blares out of the speakers, Sidney can't help jumping a little.
He looks guiltily at the cat. "Okay, I guess that wasn't a very good lie."
Geno doesn't even dignify that with a response, just pushes his way under Sidney's arm and into his lap, rubbing his head against Sidney's hand like he's trying to pet himself with it. When Sidney takes the hint and starts petting him, he starts purring incredibly loudly.
"You have a weird purr," Sidney informs him. "You don't even sound like a cat, you sound like a bug. What are those called, the loud ones with the shells everywhere? Cicadas!"
Geno hisses and flattens his ears. Sidney laughs. "Okay, you're not a bug. You're much fluffier. Fewer legs."
He's just about settled into feeling slightly less sorry for himself, and scratching behind Geno's ears, when he hears his own name from the TV. Sid gasps in spite of himself and reaches for the remote just as Geno pounces for it, ending up with claws dug deep into Sidney's thigh.
"Ow!" Sidney stands up to knock Geno off his leg, so Geno scrabbles for purchase, which makes Sidney lose his balance – and they both fall over the coffee table with a crash.
When the dust settles, Sidney finds himself on his back on the floor, half under the table, with Geno on top of the half of him that isn't. Human Geno. Naked human Geno. He blinks up at him. "Um. Hi?"
Geno looks horrified. "Sid! You okay? You hit head?" He grabs Sidney's head in both of his hands, feeling for bumps or something, and stares into his eyes.
"I'm fine," Sidney snaps, looking away. "I didn't hit my head, you loser. Get off. ...Me. Get off me."
"...Right," Geno says, turning pink in the face. "I go find pants."
Dumb, dumb, dumb, Sidney thinks. He gets up and dusts himself off, then goes to the kitchen for a Gatorade. He's probably not dehydrated, but you never know. He stands by the sink while he drinks it, then rinses the bottle out and puts it in the recycling bin.
Geno is sitting on the other side of the couch when Sidney comes back, watching the TV like the Geico lizard is going to tell him how to get the puck past Tim Thomas. Sidney shrugs and sits down. No, the commercial isn't dispensing any pearls of wisdom. He's a little disappointed.
"It's okay," Sidney says finally. "I've seen you naked before." He turns and looks at Geno, who is still pinker than usual.
"Not want to give you complex," Geno says. "Is hard for you, hang out with friend so much more impressive in all ways."
Sidney snorts. "It's not that big," he says before he can think better of it.
Geno just laughs, though. "Some growers, some showers. I don't want blind you with magnificence."
"More like blind me with ugliness, you big... pierogi." That wasn't my best chirp ever, Sidney thinks.
"Oh, good chirp, Sid," Geno says. He mimes stabbing himself in the heart. "I hurt, gonna die."
"Probably," Sidney agrees. "I'll send your mom a nice flower arrangement."
They go back to watching TV until the NHL network segments start repeating themselves.
"So, what kind of cat are you?" Sidney asks. "Like, a Maine Coon Cat?"
Geno squawks. "Maine Coon?! No! Siberian Forest Cat!"
"Oh, okay," Sidney says. "So, like, the Russian version of a Maine Coon Cat?" He presses his lips together so he won't smile.
"Maine Coon, North American version of Siberian Forest Cat," Geno says. If he were a cat right now, Sidney's pretty sure his tail would be all puffed up.
"Are you sure?" Sidney asks innocently.
Geno narrows his eyes. "Not nice to make fun," he says, and he jumps up and puts Sid in a headlock.
"Hey, hey!" Sidney flails ineffectively, but Geno lets go immediately anyway. For some reason, that makes Sidney feel kind of sad.
"I show you how much better is Forest Cat," Geno says after a moment, and then Sid has a lap full of giant fluffy cat again. It's kind of nice, how when Geno is a cat, he'll just push Sid around to make himself more comfortable. Cat-Geno is soft and warm, and when he drapes himself around Sid's neck and purrs, it feels really good.
He scratches Geno behind the ears, which makes the cat purr even harder. "Thanks, Geno," he says.
Sidney doesn't mean to make a big deal in his head about Geno accidentally turning human on him yesterday. Literally on him. It was just because he was surprised, it's not like it means anything.
But he can't get it out of his head – not just the sight of Geno naked in his living room, or even just how it felt to have Geno on top of him. Those are easy to explain away. Bodies on top of his feel good, that's just a reflex or something, and naked people outside the locker room are unusual, so of course it sticks in his head.
No, what Sid can't stop thinking about is how it felt to have Geno put his hands in his hair, worrying about him. He's pretty sure that part isn't exactly normal. Especially after that dream the other night.
He sighs and lies back on the bed, with his hands behind his head. It doesn't feel as good as when Geno did it, but he didn't really think it would. Maybe it's like tickling yourself – not that he liked being tickled very much when he was a kid, but still, it's an idea.
The poster of Wayne Gretzky over his bed smiles down at him. "What does this mean?" Sidney asks him. "Am I just... sexually deprived or something, or is it Geno?"
The Great One doesn't answer, of course, but just asking the question out loud helps a little. There's a pretty simple way to figure that out.
Sidney boots up his laptop, logs into his email, and sorts by sender. He's pretty sure every email Jordy, Flower, or Talbot has ever sent him has some kind of porn in it. That should at least be a start.
All in all, it turns out to be an extremely educational morning. Sidney even takes notes. Most of what Jordy sent him involved farm animals, but at least the links helped him find less-horrifying stuff.
What he learns:
- Porn in general gets him a little hard, but most of it stops there. He gets more boners from highlight reels. (That's starred to think about later.)
- Some of the girls are really pretty. The ones he likes best are usually in the indie stuff, where it's almost like it's really just people who want to be having sex in front of a camera. He likes it when they laugh.
- He likes more of the guys than the girls, and he's kind of surprised at how un-surprised he is. They're just... He likes how big they are all over, and how sometimes they just throw each other around to get the positions they want.
- The fact that he likes the sports-themed porn is possibly even less surprising.
- There are a few things he clicks out of right away. Diapers? No. Blindfolds? Also no. Animals? Double no.
- On the other hand, there are a few things that he saves to think about later. Restraints could be fun to watch, at least, and if he can keep track of all the body parts, maybe the threesomes?
- The ones he saves to watch soon are pretty simple, he guesses. They're mostly just two guys, usually with dark hair, doing stuff like blowjobs, and kissing, and handjobs, and more kissing, and anal sex. And kissing.
- He really likes the ones with kissing. Especially when he can sort of squint and tell himself one of the guys looks like Geno.
Sidney looks back up at his Gretzky poster, finally. "Oh, great," he says. "I have a crush on Geno."
Okay. He needs advice from somebody who can actually talk back, , and unless he wants to sort through everything on the internet to figure out what's not a joke, there's really only one person he can ask. At least it's a Saturday. He steels himself and dials his little sister's cell phone number.
"Helloooooooo?" says a weirdly operatic voice. Then, "Hey! Give that –" "No, it's mine now!" "Croz's phone, Katie speaking!"
"Could I speak to Taylor Crosby, please?" Sidney rolls his eyes. High school.
"May I ask who is calling?" Katie asks, then dissolves into giggles. "The caller ID said 'Sid,' dumbass!" yells another voice. "Give it!" "Is this her boooyfriend?" "The entire world knows Sid is her brother."
"Tell her it's her parole officer," Sidney suggests.
"Good one!" says whoever has the phone now. "Hey, Croz! He says he's your parole officer!"
Sidney winces away from his phone as his sister's clatters to the ground. "You throw like a moldy scarecrow!" Taylor hollers. "If you broke my phone, I'll hurt you! Hi, Sid, are you still there?"
"I think so," he says. "How are you?"
"Pretty good, how are you?"
"Not bad. Hey, I wanted to ask you something." Sidney picks up a rubber band and twists it around his fingers. Sometimes he misses phones with cords.
"Is that, like, ask me something, or ask me something?"
"Uh, the second one, I guess." He hopes that doesn't mean something awful in teenage girl language.
"Okay, hang on, I gotta go someplace quieter." He hears a door opening, then sneakers running down stairs. "School's going pretty well. I hate trig, though."
"I don't think anybody likes trig," Sidney says.
"Somebody must, or who would they get to teach it?"
"Maybe that's why it sucks so much, because even the teachers hate it."
"That'd explain it, all right." A door slams. "There we go, I'm in one of the music practice rooms. Soundproofed!"
Sidney blinks. "I'm, uh, I'm not passing you secrets of the revolution or anything, Taylor."
She sighs. "I know that, I just don't want people listening. So. What's up?"
"You're probably going to chirp me for this forever, and I'll deserve it," Sidney begins, stretching out the rubber band a few times.
"Probably," Taylor says unapologetically. "Spit it out."
He screws his eyes shut. "What are you supposed to do if you really like somebody?"
There's a long pause. Just when Sidney is about to ask if they've been disconnected, Taylor says very carefully, "Sidney, are you asking me to tell you about the birds and the bees?"
The rubber band snaps and flies across the room. "Oh my god!" he shouts. "No!"
"Oh good," Taylor says. "Because Scarleteen can explain all that way better than I can, and also I don't think Megan would be ready to replace me in time if I had to kill myself out of embarrassment."
"This might actually be more embarrassing," Sidney admits. "I understand, like... anatomy, but I can't Google feelings."
"I mean, you could," Taylor says, "but it probably won't help. What kind of feelings?"
"Like if you want to kiss somebody." Sidney refuses to acknowledge the possibility that his baby sister might want to do anything more than kiss somebody yet. "How do you know if they want to kiss you too? Besides asking. I feel like it would be weird to just ask that out of the blue."
Taylor laughs. "You'd be all like, 'Hello! Yes, it is a lovely day. Do you like Skittles? Also, can I kiss you?'"
"My voice doesn't sound that stupid," Sid insists, laughing.
"Yes, it does. That's exactly how you'd sound."
"Is too! Yeah, and they'd be like, 'Um, maybe, but not while we're standing on an escalator!'" She might say more, but she's giggling too hard for Sidney to make out any words.
"Why are we suddenly on an escalator? Am I trying to proposition somebody in a mall in this idea of yours?"
"I wouldn't put it past you!"
"You're – you're so awful," Sidney says, still laughing. "Be less helpful, why don't you?"
"Sidney, you're not really telling me you've never kissed anybody, are you?" Taylor sounds almost worried.
"No! I mean, well, sort of," Sidney amends. "It's just, it usually happens when we're on a date, and they usually kiss me first."
"Oh, I get you," Taylor says. "So you're doing something that's not a date, with somebody you'd like to date, and you want to know how to make a move without people making more jokes about how our mother was a Roomba and our father was a pitching machine."
"Yes!" Sidney says. "Exactly!"
"Well, if you figure it out, would you let me know? Good luck."
The phone beeps. Sidney stares at it. Did she just hang up? Apparently. Well, that was no help.
Sidney's been doing a really good job of not thinking about – well. Of not thinking, mostly. It's just that sometimes, when he's not quite asleep, he wonders about whether he'll ever be the same again, and it's like this yawning black pit opens up in front of him.
He can't remember wanting to be anything before wanting to be a hockey player. Maybe when he was really little, he wanted to be a dinosaur, but that's not exactly something he can build a future on, is it? There's just hockey. He doesn't want anything but hockey. The idea of losing it is like drowning.
Some nights, he can make himself stop thinking about it. This isn't one of them, though. Sid's pretty sure he's having what Mario calls a "white night" – the kind of night that's all worrying, no sleeping. Anything he tries to think about comes back to hockey, or his brain, or something like that. The sheep jumping over a fence miss and break their necks. The pucks he imagines shooting into his parents' washing machine bounce back and hit him in the head, or he misses, or he tries to count them and the numbers go slip-sliding out of order.
Around 2, he remembers the porn videos he saved for later. Maybe they'll help? He disentangles himself from the sheets, gets out of bed, sits in his desk chair, and opens up his laptop.
None of them really get him going, though, even though they're not boring enough to put him to sleep. The jock videos are the closest. There's one with two guys from a school wrestling team, and they make little growling noises... but they aren't hockey players. They probably can't even skate.
Sidney remembers his notes, then, and thinks maybe some hockey stuff would work better. Hockey fights might be like the wrestling porn, but they might also have somebody getting concussed, so better not. That hockey hugs thing that's going around could work, but really, Sidney would rather see the goals and then the hugs.
So, highlights it is. Youtube's got a ton of those, and it always has more to suggest. He types in "hockey highlights" and scrolls through the list of videos. Bobby Ryan's amazing playoffs goal alone gets him half-hard – those leaps, jeez. There are a few from older guys, like Datsyuk and Selänne, and a few from rookies – Skinner's grin is really contagious. By the time he finds Patrick Kane's spin-o-rama from the other day, he's too hard to care how weird that probably is.
Sidney doesn't even mean to click on Geno's, but somehow he does. And it's – wow. That one goal from the playoffs, the year they won... Sidney remembers watching it with Geno, actually, for some interview, and not being able to say anything but whoa.
He says it again now – "Whoa" – and hits replay. From there, he finds a video that's all just clips of Geno's best goals, and God, it's better than porn, it's Geno.
When he has them practically memorized, Sid gets back into bed and lets the goals play on the insides of his eyelids. He realizes after a minute that he's rubbing against the mattress. Maybe that should be embarrassing? He's not sure, but the friction feels so good. He flexes his hips and grinds against the mattress as Geno scores over and over in his head, and it's so, so good he can't even think.
Sid bites his lip when he comes, so hard it almost bleeds. God, God, Geno, God –
Sidney's not sure about dressing up, or really, going to the Halloween party at all. Maybe he'll go for a little while in regular clothes? He's not much of a party person. Maybe he'll just stay home.
When he tells Geno that, though, Geno acts like Sidney's just shot him in the back. "Sid, no! Come to party, Sid!"
"People will take pictures of me," Sidney says.
"So wear mask! Si-id, come! Have fun!"
"I don't have a mask," Sid says. He glances at his closet, as if it might have been replaced by somebody else's, somebody who goes to costume parties.
"We get you mask! We have fun, Sid," Geno says, and Sidney's resolve crumbles.
"Okay, Geno," he says. "Let's get me a mask."
They end up finding him a gladiator costume; it covers his face except for a slit to see through, which Sid likes, and Geno applauds when he does a little twirl in the aisle.
"Good!" Geno says. "Looks good. Now pay."
"Hey, since when do you give the orders?" Sidney asks over his shoulder, but he's smiling.
"When I know best, I give orders," Geno says. Sid's really glad he's already on his way to the checkout line so Geno can't see him blush.
Once he's paid, they get back in Geno's car. Sid assumes Geno's going to drop him off at home, but they're headed the wrong way for that.
"Where are we going?" he asks, when Geno doesn't turn around.
"Party," Geno says.
"But we're early!"
Geno pats his knee reassuringly. "We go early, help set up, say 'Hi, everybody!', then can leave." It sounds like he's planned this all out.
"Maybe." Geno laughs.
The party really isn't that bad, it turns out. It's nice to have the big helmet on, because that way people don't try to have long conversations with him, and he's not tempted to eat too much that's bad for him. And one of the only people who insists on getting a picture with him is Geno, who hands over his phone for the picture and then types into it furiously.
"What are you doing?" Sid asks, craning his neck to see.
Geno covers the phone with one hand. "Twitter," he says. "Look later."
So, once Sidney gets a ride home from Jordy a while later, that's what he does. He doesn't really understand Twitter, and it doesn't help that most of Geno's tweets are in Russian, but up at the top where the newest tweets are is the picture of the two of them. Looking at it, Sidney notices two things: one, how tightly he was apparently gripping Geno's shoulder (he hopes it didn't hurt), and two, how much he was smiling. The eyeholes of the mask are big enough to show his cheeks making his eyes crinkle up.
His phone beeps, signaling a text message. It's Taylor: did u have a good time @ ur party
Picture on Geno's Twitter, he texts back.
A few minutes later, she texts him: wow, u had a RLY good time! yay happy halloween
Huh. Sidney guesses he really did have a good time, now that he thinks about it.
That night, Sidney dreams about his first game back again, the same way he has for what feels like ages now. He gets to the locker room, and all the guys are slapping him on the back and giving him side-hugs, like always.
And then there's Geno. He's standing there in a towel, looking down at Sidney, not making a move to pat his shoulder or anything.
"Are you glad I'm back?" dream-Sidney asks him.
Geno smiles and opens his mouth like he's going to say something, but what comes out is a meow.
"No, no," Sid says. "That's not right. You're not a cat."
Then, suddenly, Sid is sitting on Geno's couch instead of the bench, and Geno is on his lap, rubbing his face all over Sid's chest and throat. It's just like what he does when he's a cat, but he isn't a cat, he's a person. He's still purring, though.
"Wait, what are you doing?" Sid asks. "This is confusing."
Now they're on the ice, skating a drill, except that Geno is a cat, wearing a tiny helmet and four little skates. "Is you and me, Sid," cat-Geno shouts from the blue line. "Is always you and me."
Sid wakes up with a hard-on. He's confused and embarrassed, and he doesn't know what to do. Finally, he gets up and takes a cold shower, then goes over to the rec room in the main part of the house to watch a movie.
He channel-surfs for a while, then stops on something called The Losers that doesn't look too complicated. When the group of guys trying to get their lives back – the Losers, he guesses – are waiting in the cemetery for the girl from the new Star Trek, he hears footsteps.
Mario comes in, rubbing his eyes. "Sid? Is everything all right?"
"I think so," Sidney says. "I had a weird dream."
Mario sits on the arm of the couch. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Maybe. I don't know." Sid looks at the TV, then back at Mario. "Would you mind hanging out for a while?"
"Not at all. Want some popcorn or something?"
"No thanks. I'm good."
Mario settles in on the other side of the couch, and they watch the movie in companionable silence for a while. After the part where Pooch makes Clay and Roque apologize to each other, Mario says, "Idris Elba is a good-looking guy, eh?"
Sid jumps. "What?" But Mario is looking at the TV, not glaring at Sid like he's caught him. "I, uh..."
"That Cougar guy, too," Mario continues. "And he seems like he'd make a better boyfriend than Roque."
Now Sid just stares at him. This is almost as weird as his dream.
"I mean, with all this..." Mario waves one hand towards the screen. "But a guy like Cougar would be there for you." He glances at Sid.
"He's probably not very good at hockey," Sidney says quickly. Then he pauses for a second before adding, "And... I think he's kind of out of my league." His heart is pounding. He really hopes he's understanding Mario right.
Mario laughs. "Maybe," he says. "But hey, shoot for the stars, right?" He reaches out and punches Sid's shoulder.
"Right," Sid says, smiling.
When he wakes up, it's Halloween morning, and Sidney tells his Gretzky poster, "I'm going to make a plan. I can do this." The Great One smiles down at him as he grabs a new piece of paper and a pencil, then takes a deep breath and starts to write. He begins with "I am nervous about the future." Under that, he writes, "I have concussion problems" and "I have a crush on Geno," with arrows pointing to each of those from the top line.
There's a prayer Sid vaguely remembers from the basement of a church he went to a few times when he was a kid: something about knowing the difference between things you can and can't change, and changing what you can, and accepting what you can't. He circles the concussion thing and writes ACCEPT next to it, because worrying won't fix his head. It might even make it worse. Then he circles the Geno thing and writes DO SOMETHING. Like... woo him? Do people say that?
...Anyway. He waves that thought away and starts making a list of what Geno might like:
- Catnip mice?
- Russian food?
- Maybe a date?
Sidney purses his lips. He's not really sure how dates go, when they aren't set up for him by well-meaning teammates who do pretty much everything but dress him. They involve food, usually, and sometimes a movie, which –
Huh. Well. It's actually not that different from what he and Geno do a lot of nights anyway. Or... what they're planning to do that night, even.
Maybe he'll go find a pet store later, though.
Sid has all his plans in mind that night, but when they're watching Mighty Ducks 3 on demand and Geno is laughing at more of the jokes than he did the last time, they all fly out of his head. Sidney imagines them vanishing in the distance in a perfect Flying V formation, and he blurts out, "I just really want to make out with you."
For a moment, he thinks Geno didn't hear and he's safe, but Geno turns slowly and looks at him. It's a thoughtful look, like he's looking right through Sidney's face and into his head. "Okay, Sid," Geno says finally.
It's the last thing he expected. "What?!"
"We make out," Geno says. He's smiling lopsidedly, and it gives Sidney a weird Pop-Rocks feeling in his stomach. "Yes?"
"It's that easy?" That can't be right.
Geno tilts his head to one side. "Is only kissing, Sid, not rocket surgery." He scoots forward on the couch so their knees are touching.
"Rocket surgery? What does that even mean?" Sidney thinks it might be clearer if he weren't staring at Geno's mouth, but he doesn't really care enough to find out.
"Joke," Geno says. "Is funny because no such thing."
Sidney barely has time to register Geno cupping his face with one hand before Geno's lips are on his. They're a little chapped, but they're soft, and it just feels so good. He presses a little closer and opens his mouth, and that's even better. "Oh," he says.
Geno pulls back. "Okay?"
Sidney only has to think about it for a second. "Yes." He leans in again, and this time Geno gets tongue involved. It's not like he's never kissed anybody before, but – well, it sort of feels like he never has. Maybe it's because he knows Geno better than he's known the other people he –
And Geno makes a sort of growling sound. Sidney's about to ask him what's wrong when he shoves him down by the shoulders. Now Sidney's on his back, and for a second, Geno just hovers over him. Then he drops down onto his elbows, and oh, wow. Geno presses him into the couch and kisses him with tongue and teeth, and all Sidney wants to do is cling to him like they could fuse together.
He thinks hazily that this should feel weird, but it just feels good. Jeez, why haven't they been doing this forever? He's just considering trying to shift so he can rub up against Geno's thigh when – God damn it – Geno's phone rings.
Geno leaps up, looking embarrassed, and starts speaking rapid-fire Russian into the phone. Sidney crosses his arms over his chest and frowns at the ceiling. It's probably his mom or someone else really nice, but right now Sidney wants to punch whoever it is, and he barely even feels bad about it.
After a minute, Geno puts the phone down on the coffee table, and when Sidney looks up, he's staring at him like... like... Well, Sidney isn't sure what it's like, but he likes it. "Hi," he says, pushing himself up on one arm.
"Hi," Geno says, smiling that lopsided smile again.
"Do you want to, uh... come back down here?" Sidney suggests.
"Yes," Geno says. He kneels down next to the couch, takes Sidney's face in his hands, and kisses him. Sidney makes a pleased noise into his mouth and pulls him closer with a hand in his hair. This is awesome. If this could just keep going...
And suddenly something tickles his stomach where his T-shirt rode up. Sidney squawks and sits up, brushing at the spot.
"Sorry, Sid," Geno says. His face looks guilty.
"Oh," Sidney says. "That wasn't a spider."
"No," Geno says. "Just me. Is okay, we not have to."
Sidney has to think about that for a second before the pieces slot into place. "Oh," he says again. "Were you trying to take my, my shirt off?"
Now Geno's blushing. "Was only idea. I sorry."
"No, I, uh... no, I like that idea." Sidney sits up the rest of the way and pulls his shirt off over his head. Then he's not really sure what to do with it, so he holds it in his lap and looks down at Geno again. "Stop laughing at me!"
Geno leans up and kisses him again, but he's still smiling when he pulls back. Sidney scowls at him. "Is good," Geno says. "I like you, Sid."
"I like you too."
Geno rubs his face with one hand, like he's fishing for words. Sidney waits. "Like you," he says again. "Not idea, oh, famous Sidney Crosby. Like my friend, Sid, because... yourself." His ears are bright red.
Sidney puts his hands on either side of Geno's face. His ears feel hot, too. "Wow," he says. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Geno strokes Sid's shoulder, fingertips trailing over the SCM muscle, and kisses him again. Sidney pushes him back.
"No, take your shirt off too." Geno does, and Sidney really wants to kiss him all over, but now this position is awkward. "We could..." He swallows. "Bed?"
"Better for kissing," Geno says, watching Sidney's face as he gets to his feet.
"Yeah," Sidney says. He picks up both of their shirts and folds them on his way into his bedroom.
Sidney wakes up to sunlight streaming through the windows and something fluffy tickling his mouth. "Rabbit rabbit rabbit," he says quickly, then, "Geno, what are you doing?"
Geno plants one front paw right on Sidney's mouth, holding it shut, and flicks his fluffy tail over Sid's right eye. Then he dives under the blankets and stretches out into a human.
"What are you doing?" Sidney asks again. He's not going to get distracted by Geno being all naked and warm and close to him. Definitely not.
"Russian superstition," Geno says. He pushes himself up on one arm so he's looking down at Sidney. The sun behind his head looks like a halo. "Lips itch, means you gonna get kissed."
"Oh." Sidney likes that idea. "And the eye?"
Geno ducks his head for a moment, then looks at Sid again. "Right eye itch, means you gonna be happy."
"Oh," Sidney says again, but this time it comes out sort of choked. He swallows around the lump in his throat. "Do... do you really believe in that stuff?" He sits up and looks past Geno, out the window, so he doesn't have to watch what his face does.
But Geno turns his face with one hand and presses their foreheads together. He does that when he's a cat sometimes, for some mysterious cat-reason; or maybe it's a mysterious Geno-reason. Sidney stares into his eyes for a moment, breathing his breath.
Finally, Geno says, "Believe in you, Sid," and rather than saying "Oh" again, or "Thank you," or "I think I might love you," Sidney just decides to kiss him.
He's pretty sure Geno gets it, though.