Of all the things Sid expects to see Geno doing when he walks into his house, it certainly isn’t sitting on his couch knitting.
Sid stops halfway between the entry hall and the living room, iPhone clenched in his hand, and stares at Geno, who apparently hasn’t noticed him come in. Some sort of Russian soap opera is playing on the TV and Jeffrey is sprawled under Geno’s legs as he does something complicated with needles and yarn. As a very pretty woman in a low-cut red dress screams something and smashes a glass into a wall on the screen, Sid takes a breath.
The needles slip in Geno’s hands, yarn going somewhere, and Jeffrey takes the opportunity to get up faster than Sid thought was possible and barrel towards him. Sid carefully scratches him behind the ears, trying not to get drooled on, as Geno curses in Russian for a few seconds and does something with the yarn. Then Geno looks over and apparently realizes Sid was there, because his eyes grow even wider than usual.
“Sid? What you doing over?”
“I,” Sid says after a moment, still stupidly gripping his phone. “I texted you? That I was coming over, I mean.”
“Did not see text,” Geno gets out, looking flustered as he abruptly stands up, bringing the yarn and needles with him.
“I figured,” Sid replies. He knows it’s rude to stare, but he can’t stop looking at the mess of yarn Geno’s holding that looks suspiciously sock-like. “You can knit?”
Geno looks away, cheeks flushing a dull red, and Sid instantly feels bad. “I mean, not that it’s a bad thing! That’s really cool, I mean, you know, that you can do that, I mean,” he babbles, feeling stupider by the second, “I just – why didn’t you say?”
Geno’s face is still a dark red, but he looks back at Sid with half a shrug. “No chance to say. Mama taught me, when young, but didn’t do for a while. Only do in last two years.”
“Oh,” Sid says. Then, after a second of awkward fidgeting, “Why?”
After a moment, Geno shrugs. “Do when too much pressure, or upset. Calms me down.”
Sid ponders that for a second. “Huh. Okay.”
“Okay?” Geno repeats.
“Yeah,” Sid says, and when the tension slides out of Geno’s shoulders, he allows himself to feel a little bit triumphant. “Come on, let’s watch some TV or something.”
“Not wedding dress show. That too terrible,” Geno chirps back, but when Sid settles into the couch, flipping through the channels to find TLC, Geno doesn’t say anything, just sits back against the cushions. After they’ve made it to the commercial break, Sid possibly a little too invested in some Southern belle’s impending meltdown, he looks over to find Geno knitting, the soft click-click of the needles strangely soothing as he turns back to the screen.
The thing is, once he knows Geno knits, Sid doesn’t really expect that fact to ever be brought up again. It’s not like knowing something chirp-worthy, like Nealer’s inability to ever move out of Paulie’s house for good – it’s something small, acknowledged once and not really talked about again.
Thus, when Geno storms into his hotel room after an awful loss with a bag full of yarn and needles, Sid is a little surprised.
“Okay if I stay here?” Geno asks, words short and clipped even as he throws himself down onto the half of the bed Sid isn’t laying on. Sid thinks about putting up a protest, but the expression on Geno’s face – upset, a little angry – makes him stop.
“You okay with this?” Sid asks, gesturing towards the TV, which is showing a rerun of Duck Dynasty, which – Sid does not have a problem, okay, he can stop any time he wants.
“Fine,” Geno says back, still curt, but he settles into the pillows and pulls out a ball of yarn and a pair of needles.
Sid glances over, but it isn’t the same project Geno’d been working on a week ago – this time he has a ball of yarn with multiple colors, going from steely greys to the blue of their third jerseys. As Sid watches, Geno sets up the stitches on one needle, fingers moving quick and sure.
“What are you going to make?” Sid asks, after a second, and Geno glances at him.
“Not sure – maybe scarf,” Geno says, and his voice is a little bit calmer. Sid nods back, feeling the tiniest bit pleased, and turns to the television.
Five minutes later, Sid’s breath has evened out, the last of the game settling out of his shoulders. He can feel Geno pressed up against him, the soft clicking of his needles and occasional small curse as he drops a stitch. When he reaches out with his foot to tap Geno’s calf, Geno hums back at him, and Sid can’t help smiling a little, barely focusing on the screen and not really caring at all.
After that, it’s like the floodgates have been opened. Sid starts to expect the knocks after bad games on the road or at home, especially the ones where they win only by the skin of their teeth. Geno will come into his room or his house with the weight of the day under his skin, angry and curt, settling down next to Sid and pulling out his latest project. An hour later, he’ll have relaxed back against Sid, the sound of his needles blending into the white noise of the television.
Sometimes he’ll show Sid things – how to cast on, the difference between a knit stitch and a purl. Most of it Sid doesn’t understand at all, but he likes the way Geno talks about it, voice tinged with warmth and a bit of homesickness.
Geno likes to switch between projects, going from working on a pair of socks to a hat to what looks like the beginnings of a tea cozy. However, the one Sid sees most often is the grey and blue scarf he started in Sid’s hotel room, slowly growing longer.
“You’re pretty close to being finished, right? Who’s that going to be for?” he asks once, leaning a little into Geno’s shoulder as highlights of the Steelers game play in the background.
“Haven’t decided,” Geno rumbles back.
“Oh,” Sid replies, glancing back at the television in order to ignore the small surge of disappointment.
Geno seems to catch that, however, as he nudges Sid a little with his shoulder. “You like?”
“I,” Sid gets out, feeling flustered, “I mean – you should be able to give that to who ever. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it a lot.”
“Don’t worry, I understand,” Geno replies, a hint of a laugh in his voice. “Sid selfish.”
“I am not,” Sid whines, but Geno just laughs, soft and low, and Sid can’t help giggling in response, just a little, before leaning on Geno further, eyes slowly drifting shut.
He wakes up with his head under a pillow on his couch, Geno apparently having let himself out. Slowly he pulls himself upright, only to see the scarf, now finished, sitting on his coffee table. There’s a note on top reading, I lie – was going to give to Sid anyways )))).
Sid picks up the scarf and holds it to his nose. It’s warm and soft, and he can smell just a hint of Geno’s aftershave, and he kind of wants to bury his face in it.
When he wears it to practice the next day, Geno starts, jumping a little as Sid walks into the locker room, and then grins at him. Sid smiles back, feeling his cheeks pink up a bit, and ignores Duper’s chirp about Sid suddenly gaining some style to carefully unwrap the scarf and get to work on gearing up.
As the weather gets colder, Sid wears what he’s started thinking of as his Geno scarf more and more often to guard against the Pittsburgh chill. Geno still grins at him when he sees it, like he can’t believe Sid’s still wearing it.
Sid can’t really find the words to tell him that wearing the scarf makes him feel more centered, more calm – it’s not like it’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or their handshake before games, but sticking his nose in the stitches and breathing in has become another thing that feels grounding, and maybe a little lucky.
The knitting has insinuated itself into his routine as well. Geno’s kept working on new projects, occasionally completing a tea cozy or a pair of mittens as he leans back next to Sid on the couch or the bed, and Sid’s grown used to letting him in, settling into a comfortable silence while the TV blares and the clicking of Geno’s needles leeches the tension out of both their shoulders. It’s easy and quiet, nothing but the two of them, and there’s no way for Sid to tell Geno that he’s started expecting to see him next to him, that every time their shoulders touch and their feet tangle something warm grows in the pit of his stomach.
It’s something private, and Sid can’t help quietly relishing their shared secret, that he gets to see this part of Geno and keep it just for him.
No one else on the team knows about the knitting, but eventually, everyone’s noticed Sid’s new addition to his wardrobe.
“So where’d you get that scarf?” Duper asks as Sid walks into the locker room, face prickling from the change in temperature. “Been wearing it an awful lot lately.”
“A friend made it for me,” Sid says after a second, carefully stowing the scarf in his locker before getting to work on the buttons of his coat.
“Is that the newest addition to the routine? A lucky scarf?” Nealer chirps from his stall. “Maybe I need to get one of those. Any chance your friend could make me one?”
“Nope,” Sid says back, lips popping on the “p” before pulling off his sweater. “Get your own.”
“Ugh, Sid, so selfish,” James replies, face in an exaggerated frown. “You can’t share your friend with us? I thought sharing was caring, or – ow, G!”
Sid hadn’t noticed Geno coming in, but the towel whipped at Nealer’s ass certainly announced his presence. “No need to tease, Lazy. Maybe you just jealous because you not have nice scarf,” he says, sounding lofty even as he shoots a wink in Sid’s direction over James’ shoulder.
Nealer pouts back. “Way to be a dick, G, that really fucking hurt,” he grumbles, but then Dan walks into the locker room, and the subject gets dropped.
In retrospect, Sid probably should’ve been prepared for some sort of teasing, or something. However, when he walks into the locker room from game-day practice a week later only to find his scarf – his Geno scarf – missing from his stall, it’s a little blindsiding just how upset he feels.
“Haha,” he says after going through his clothes again, turning to face the rest of the locker room, “very funny. Where the fuck is my scarf?”
James and Beau, who’s apparently finally reached the point where Sid being Sid can’t intimidate him anymore, both snicker, and Duper coughs suspiciously into his fist. However, Sid wasn’t expecting the slightly shifty look on Flower’s face, any more than he was expecting the way his throat is getting a little tight.
“Seriously, guys, this is just stupid,” he says, knowing his voice is coming out in a bit of a whine but not really being able to care. “Where is it?”
“Going to have to find it yourself, Sid,” Nealer calls out, voice singsong, and Sid can’t help scowling at him.
“Thanks, Nealsy. That’s really helpful,” he snaps. Even he’s a little surprised at how he sounds, voice tight and curt.
Apparently Flower thinks so too, because he huffs out a breath. “This isn’t really worth it,” he says, digging around in his goalie pads until he pulls out the scarf. “Here, Sid,” he continues, and lobs it towards Sid.
Unfortunately, Flower’s aim is for shit, and he manages to knock over the one Gatorade bottle with a loose cap and spill it all over the scarf.
Everyone in the locker room freezes, including Sid – except for Geno, who walks in from where he was talking to one of the trainers in the hall, stopping only when he sees Sid staring at the scarf on the floor.
“What going on?”
At the sound of his voice, everyone starts moving again. Paulie, who’s closest, picks up the Gatorade bottle and the scarf and hands the latter over to Sid, who grabs it with suddenly nerveless fingers. Carefully he carries it over to the nearest bathroom, the sound of Nealer explaining what happened barely reaching his ears as he walks out the door.
Over the sink, he wrings out the scarf, trying to get the last of the Gatorade out of the yarn before running it under cold water. It’s only when he hears a coughing noise that he realizes Duper’s standing behind him.
“Sorry, Sid,” Duper says, and he does sound truly apologetic. “We didn’t realize you’d react that badly.”
“I’m fine,” Sid says, but his voice is too high and strained for even him to believe his own words. “It’s fine.”
“It’s not, man,” Duper says, still with the quietly sincere voice that Sid isn’t really used to hearing. “We didn’t know it’d be that important to you.”
Sid doesn’t say anything back, just keeps running the scarf under the tap water before carefully wringing it out again.
After a second, Duper asks, “You going to tell me who you got it from?”
“No one,” Sid replies, words a little too fast. “Just a friend. It’s no big deal.”
“Sure,” Duper says, like he’s doing Sid the favor of letting it go, which, whatever. Sid doesn’t want to deal with this. “I think I’ll let G in, though, it looks like he wants to talk to you.”
“Fine,” Sid says back, and he keeps staring down at the sink as the door swings open and then shut again.
Sid looks up and over his shoulder to find Geno looking at him, face concerned.
“Hey Geno,” he manages to get out, before having to look down again.
“Hey,” Geno says back quickly, reaching out to grab at the scarf, “Is okay, yes? I come home with you, show you how to clean before we have game.”
“Okay,” Sid replies, voice quiet, but he lets Geno take the scarf from him, ignoring the feeling of Geno’s fingers brushing his and following Geno out of the bathroom.
Sid drives home in silence, occasionally seeing Geno’s car in his rearview mirror. The radio plays some song about winter cold, and he fidgets, flipping between stations until settling on public radio. When he pulls into his driveway, which still feels a little unfamiliar, he’s finally calmed down a bit, the sick upset feeling in his stomach slowly disappearing.
A few seconds after he opens his front door, Geno gets out of his own car to follow him inside, steering him towards the laundry room with a touch to the elbow.
“Can’t use machine or will felt. Must do by hand,” Geno tells him, walking over to the sink in the corner and stopping the drain. “Where is detergent?”
“Here,” Sid says, grabbing the bottle from the shelf and handing it over. Geno takes it with a nod, humming as he pours some into the sink.
“Give me scarf, I show you how to do,” Geno tells him, and Sid stands next to him, watching as Geno carefully submerges the scarf, making sure it’s soaked before lifting it out and draining the water. “Can’t rub together. Must be gentle, have soft hands,” he says with just a hint of a laugh, and Sid can’t help the giggle that comes out. Geno smiles back at him, eyes crinkling, before turning back to the task at hand.
After they repeat the process a couple times, Geno takes the scarf over to where one of the towels Sid’s forgotten about is laying on top of the folding table, carefully setting it on top before wrapping it up and rolling it. Once he’s squeezed out the water to his satisfaction, he leaves the scarf on the table, throwing the towel on top of the dryer.
“There,” he says as he spreads out the scarf, “see? Is easy. Just must be gentle.”
“Okay,” Sid replies, and when Geno gently pushes him out of the laundry room, he obeys.
They end up in the living room, Sid flipping the TV on as they go. When he tries to sit in the armchair, Geno pulls a face at him, deliberately patting the couch cushion next to him and only letting up when Sid settles down so that they’re touching from shoulder to toe. Once they’re arranged just like normal, Geno reaches for the basket he’s started leaving at Sid’s house and pulls out his latest project, a hat in black and gold.
“So,” Geno asks, after they’ve settled and Sid no longer feels the tension in his back, “why you so upset about scarf?”
“I,” Sid says, feeling a little shocked, “I – because they took it?”
Geno groans, the noise he makes when he feels like he’s not being understood, familiar from the first year where they communicated mostly through nodding and overdramatic hand gestures. “Yes but – is just scarf, yes? Not big deal, always can wash.”
“I mean, yes, but,” Sid stutters, his mouth going faster than his brain, “it’s special, yeah? You gave it to me, and that – it’s, it’s just important.”
Geno makes a small noise, and Sid turns to look at him, only to find Geno staring back. His eyes are big and wide, and his hands have stopped moving. “Important – because I give to you?”
“Yes,” Sid’s stupid, traitorous mouth says, “it is – you’re important to me. That’s why.”
He has to look away then, feeling his cheeks heat up, because shit, that was too many feelings to be revealing – but then Geno makes another noise, this one like he’s choking, and Geno’s hand is on his cheek, making him look back.
“You,” Geno says, looking happy, looking brilliant, “you think I important?”
“Yes,” Sid repeats, something sparking in his stomach, because he might be reading this wrong, but he also might not, because Geno’s expression is open and warm, his eyes fixed on Sid’s face.
“You important to me,” Geno says, voice full of sincerity, his palm on Sid’s cheek making Sid’s skin buzz, “You always important.”
In the face of that, Sid can barely manage to ask, “Is this okay?” before he’s leaning in, half terrified and half elated, to carefully brush his lips against Geno’s.
For a second, Sid thinks he got it wrong, because Geno doesn’t move – but then Geno does, his lips parting on a groan as he kisses back. The sparking feeling in Sid’s stomach flares as the hand on his cheek slips to grab at the back of his neck, Geno pulling him closer and stroking his thumb up and down in the place just underneath Sid’s ear. There’s a soft thump as the knitting Geno had been holding falls to the floor, because Geno’s other hand is grabbing onto Sid’s wrist, tugging him until Sid finally moves to straddle Geno’s thighs.
The change in position brings their chests together, the buzzing of Sid’s skin increasing even more as he feels Geno’s chest move underneath his hands. He has to break away for air, and Geno takes the opportunity to start kissing down his neck, whispering his name into his skin as Sid moans.
He manages to pull away just enough so that he can look Geno in the eyes, and what he finds there, the warmth and the happiness and the excitement, makes something jump in his throat.
“Geno,” he gets out, voice sounding broken even though they’ve only kissed for a few minutes, “you –“
“Yes,” Geno says, smiling as his thumb continues to rub up and down Sid’s neck, “I want this, I want you too.”
“Oh,” Sid says, and he can’t not smile, can’t not giggle just a little. “I – yeah.”
“Yeah,” Geno repeats a little teasingly, but he’s smiling too, the crinkly-eyed one that Sid likes best, and for that Sid has to lean in again.
This time, Sid doesn’t pull away, but lets Geno slip his tongue into his mouth and run his hand up and down Sid’s side, shivering a little when Geno’s nails catch against his skin. In retaliation he slips his hands underneath Geno’s shirt, rucking up the hem until he can lay his palms flat on Geno’s chest and feel his pulse under his fingertips. Geno groans at him, pulling away again to lick a stripe up Sid’s neck, then huffing out a laugh when Sid makes a choked noise.
“Cheater,” Sid breathes, but then Geno’s biting at the skin, just enough so Sid feels it but not enough to bruise, and then Sid’s too distracted to say anything else but Geno’s name.
They don’t do much more than make out on the couch, because they do have a game, but when things slow down, Sid’s able to tuck his face into Geno’s neck and smile.
“I’m glad you made me that scarf,” he mumbles into Geno’s skin, and Geno hums back, his hands running up and down Sid’s back.
“Yes, very glad,” Geno replies, and then gently shoves Sid so that they’re sitting side by side again. “Now we watch TV until we leave, yeah?”
“Okay,” Sid hums, pressing a quick kiss against Geno’s neck before tucking his head against Geno’s shoulder, Geno’s arm settling around him, heavy and warm.
On their next road trip, the flight attendants have just announced that they’ve reached ten thousand feet when Sid sees Geno reach into his bag and pull out his knitting needles.
“Wait,” James squawks as he pokes Geno in the shoulder, causing everyone to turn around and stare at the two of them, “were you the one who knit Sid’s scarf?”
“Shh,” Geno replies, holding a finger up to his lips. “Have to concentrate, or else you don’t get hat.”
“I get a hat?” Nealer replies, looking ridiculously excited even as Geno shushes him again. After a second, he asks, sounding even more outraged, “And since when can you knit?”
“What, Nealer, looking to upgrade from Paulie? Cooking isn’t good enough for you anymore?” Duper calls out, and the whole plane devolves into yet another chirpfest targeting Nealer.
Sid glances back at Geno as Nealer fails at defending himself, and Geno shoots him a wink, grinning slightly before turning back to his knitting. Sid smiles back, feeling his cheeks heat a little and not really caring, before settling into his seat and pulling out his Kindle to read a book on military history, the click-click of Geno’s needles as soothing as a heartbeat.