Sidney wakes with the sun, the breeze blowing in through his open windows across his face, and he lies in bed for a few minutes, trying to remember his dream. It was a good one, he knows that, but he can't remember much of it other than the feeling sunlight on his face and a warmth at his back.
Sam wuffles inquisitively when Sidney gets up, poking her nose into his ankle. Sidney bends down to scratch behind her ears and says, "Ready for your walk?"
It's quiet outside, the air fresh with morning dew. Sidney breathes in deep and steady, tilting his face up to the sunlight. Sam strains against her leash when they get close to the edge of Grand Lake, clearly wanting to get free. Sidney kneels to unhook the leash from her collar and lets her run out towards the edge of the lake, a golden blur against the damp grass. He shoves his hands in his pockets and closes his eyes, listening to Sam's happy sniffs and the whisper of breeze through the foliage. Nova Scotia is at its most beautiful in the summer, though he loves it during the winter too, when blankets of snow cover the landscape and only the occasional footprint trail betrays the presence of another human being.
Sam comes running back a few minutes later, a stick in her mouth. She deposits it on the ground before Sidney's feet and looks up at him, tail wagging.
"Okay," Sidney says. "But I have training, so we can’t play too long."
Sam barks and takes off as soon as Sidney throws the stick. He watches her go, smiling, and breathes in steadily.
He feeds Sam once she has run most of her energy out and leaves her to stick her face in her bowl while he makes himself breakfast. He's got her mostly trained out of the bad habits she has picked up while living with his family, namely how she'd just dive right in and send food and water flying everywhere, but he's sure that as soon as he leaves, they'll be right back to spoiling her again.
He eats breakfast at his kitchen counter while skimming the paper he has delivered when he's in town out of a vague sense of making his house feel more lived-in. There isn't anything of note in there, aside from a small piece in the sports section that mentions their training camp, and Sidney tosses it in the bin as he takes his plate to the sink.
The drive from his house to the Civic Centre is one of Sidney's favorites, rivaled only by driving over the Neville Island Bridge in the mornings on his way to practice, when the rising sun lighting up the water of the Ohio River to fiery bright hues. It's peaceful, driving into Halifax, and the quiet – no music, as Duper or Kris will insist on when they’re in his car – is restful. Centering.
There are a few people waiting outside the centre, drooping a little with tiredness. Sidney signs some autographs for them before making his apologies and heading into the facility.
Matt waves to him, asks, "How's it going?" as Sidney takes his seat to start changing into his gear so he can warm up. The old hero worship has mostly faded from his eyes when he talks to Sidney, though sometimes he sees hints of it in Matt's bright smiles after Sidney compliments him.
"All right." Sidney stretches his arm over his chest, pulling out some of the tightness in his shoulder. "You?"
Matt launches into a story about Nate hogging the shower of the apartment they'd rented, bursting into laughter when Nate comes back in and squawks in protest. Nate tries to correct him, talking loudly to drown Matt out, until Marchy arrives, looking tired and cranky, and throws his socks in their faces to shut them up.
After on-ice practice, Sidney does some dry training with Andy, who keeps tsking over the weight Sidney had dropped in April and asking him about what he's eating, is he getting enough protein? Sidney bears it in good grace – he gets worse from his mother every time he eats at home – and heads home afterwards feeling pleasantly tired, the kind that tells him he did good work.
Sidney is in the middle of preparing dinner for himself, having turned down Matt and Nate's offer of going out with them for a Friday night out, when his doorbell rings. He looks up, eyebrows drawing together slightly. He almost never has visitors – most people know that he likes to be left alone during the summer – but sometimes Taylor will show up unannounced, especially now that she can drive. Sam barks once as Sidney heads for the door, and he leans down to scratch her head before wiping his hands off on his jeans.
He opens the door, expecting to see Taylor or Matty or even his mom, maybe coming by to see why he hadn’t come to Sunday dinner, if he’s coming this week. Instead, he finds Geno, a couple of bags at his feet and exhaustion writ in every line of his body and face.
"Hi," Geno says. His accent is thicker than usual, his voice husky and restless. "Can I come in?"
If asked, Sidney would say that he and Geno are friends. It's inevitable, spending as much time together as they do with as many years behind them as they have. Sidney makes a point of getting to know everyone on the team, especially the ones who look to be hanging around for a while. He knows Geno's favorite foods (sushi, especially albacore, and anything his mother cooks) and he knows what Geno is like when he's angry or sad or anxious.
But he knows that about nearly everyone on the team. He knows far more about Flower and Kris and Pascal and Chris than he does about Geno. Which is fine. When Geno was new to the team, Sidney spent more time with him, trying to make him feel at ease despite the language barrier, but that usually manifested in extra time on the ice together or hanging in the trainers' room. They've always gotten along, but Geno has his own set of friends from Gonch and Max and Brooks and Jordy to his Russian friends who come to visit or the ones like Other Max who work in the Penguins organization. So despite their mutual respect – mutual admiration, even – Sidney and Geno have never spent that much time together.
Sometimes Sidney regrets that. He thinks he and Geno could have been great friends if Geno had spoken more English when he arrived in Pittsburgh or if Max hadn't decided that Geno was his pet project. After a certain point, they settled into the friendship they have now: comfortable but not close. Sidney hadn't even realized that Geno knew where his place in Nova Scotia is.
He lets Geno in without asking anything, directing him to one of the guest rooms upstairs before returning to the kitchen and contemplating the chicken on his cutting board. He's sure there will be enough for two, so he doesn't bother getting more out of the fridge and instead continues cooking. Upstairs, Geno makes very little noise aside from the soft thump of his footsteps and then the sound of a door closing.
Geno shuffles downstairs about half an hour later, hair damp and curling over his forehead, his bare feet sticking out from under the hem of his Pens sweatpants. He accepts a plate from Sidney with murmured thanks and follows Sidney outside to the back porch. Sun doesn't set until late in the summer, and it's still quite light outside, the sunlight turning the high grass golden-green.
They eat in silence, both staring out over the lawn that fades into woods. It's the kind of space Sidney misses when he's back in Pittsburgh, open and fresh in a way even the best parks in the city can't reproduce. He isn't sure about Geno; he's seen photos of Magnitogorsk, and it seems more like Pittsburgh than anything else. Maybe that makes it worse.
"I wash," Geno says when they finish eating, whisking the plate out of Sidney's hands before he can protest. "You cook, so I clean."
"You don't have to," Sidney says half-heartedly. Geno raises his eyebrows, mouth inching up on one side. Sidney relents and lets him go. He doesn't particularly like washing the dishes; he's more than happy to let Geno take on the task.
He takes Sam out for her evening walk, out to the water and back so she can do her business beneath some trees and run her excess energy out. He shoves his hands in his pockets while she relieves herself in the tall reeds at the water's edge, staring out at the darkening sky. At the end of every season, Geno talks about how much he’s looking forward to going home, how he can’t wait to see his parents and his brother and his friends. He sends them all photos once or twice a week, usually him giving thumbs-up and a cheesy grin. It must have been something important to bring Geno to him, something truly dire to take Geno away from his friends and family in Russia.
With that in mind, he brings Sam back to the house and searches for Geno. He tries the kitchen first and finds Geno gingerly trying to put the plates back in the cabinet.
"Hey, wait," Sidney says, gently hip-checking Geno aside. He takes the plates from him and doesn't look over at Geno, even when he senses him tensing up. "You must be tired. Go to sleep. Do you want to come train with us in the morning?"
"Maybe," Geno says. He stands still for a moment, then shuffles away. "I tell you tomorrow."
"All right." Sidney turns, leaning against the counter to watch Geno leave. He's round-shouldered, hunched in on himself with none of his usual self-assurance. Sidney worries his lower lip, chewing at the chapped spot before going back to putting the dishes away.
When he finishes, he's left with something of a quandary. He has no desire to break the implied confidence of Geno's presence by telling anyone where he is, but he does want to know if anything has happened. After some thought, he pulls out his phone and texts Brooks and, despite his misgivings, Max and Gonch as well.
Have you heard anything from Geno?
He doesn't expect to hear anything back for a while, but he gets a reply almost immediately from Gonch saying, No he left Russia & did not tell where he went
A moment later, he gets another text from Gonch. Have you heard from him? His parents are worried.
Sidney rubs his hands over his phone's keys and stares sightlessly at the wall. Slowly, he types, I will let you know.
He goes upstairs and carefully peeks in on Geno. Geno is sacked out on the borrowed bed, splayed out on his stomach in a position that can't be good for his back, his face smushed into one of the pillows. Sidney braces his hand against the doorframe, free to take Geno in without fear of being caught out. He looks wan and unhappy, even in sleep. It might be for the best if Sidney told Gonch where Geno was, but if it's nothing more than needing to get his head screwed on straight, Sidney doesn't want to interrupt that process. He – the team – needs Geno to be at his best when the season starts.
Sidney returns to his own room, nearly running into his doorframe in the dark. He slips into bed and lies awake, staring upwards at the ceiling. His phone buzzes, probably with a text. He turns over, mutes it, and then closes his eyes, squeezing hard to attempt to excise the image of Geno sleeping from his mind. The silence of the house presses in, suddenly encumbering where it had formerly been comforting.
From down the hall, Geno makes absolutely no sound at all.
Sidney rises before Geno, which he expects; Geno had a long day of travel, after all, and he's always been one of the later risers on the team, much to Kadar's annoyance. Sidney doesn't wake him, just goes about his daily routine as though nothing is different, though it takes Sam twice as long to get his attention than normal, lost as he is in brooding thought. She butts his knee and barks once, and when he looks down, she runs towards the door.
"Sorry," says Sidney, hastily grabbing his keys from the side table. "You want to go out, don't you?"
She barks again and streaks out the door the moment it's open. He chases after her, door slamming shut behind him, and he spares a moment to hope he hasn't woken Geno before pursuing his erstwhile dog to the edge of the lake. It's the kind of overcast morning they get sometimes in the summer, where it’s gloomy and windy but the clouds burn off by midday. Still, it's cool enough that he isn't inclined to linger, so he lets Sam relieve herself and chase after some imaginary squirrels before herding her back to the house.
The air is thick with the smell of butter when he opens the door. Sidney releases Sam’s collar and follows her and the sound of sizzling to the kitchen, where Geno is standing at the kitchen counter and stirring at a skillet of eggs. He looks up when Sidney clears his throat. His lips twitch minutely upward.
"Thought you leave," he says, barely loud enough to hear over the stove.
"I would have told you." Sidney hovers in the doorway to the kitchen, watching the delicate bones of Geno's hands move as he lifts the skillet from the heat, stirs the eggs, then sets it back down. His hands dwarf the short, slim handle. "You okay?"
"Fine." Geno waves a hand at him imperiously. "Get plates."
Sidney takes down two of the plates and takes them to the dining room table. Geno joins him a moment later, skillet in hand. He sets it down on a hot pad and hands Sidney a fork.
“Take some,” he commands.
"Is there enough?"
Geno raises his shoulder. "Think so."
"I can grab food on the way to the rink if not –"
"Eat the eggs, Sid," Geno says sternly. "I make many."
Sidney lets Geno cover his plate in food. Geno bites his lip in concentration, eyes downcast, as he scoops a huge heap of eggs. "I don't need that much."
"You skinny now." Geno adds more eggs. "Like ghost, my mama say."
"Ghosts aren't skinny."
"You are," says Geno, which doesn't really make sense. Sidney shakes his head and nudges his knee against Geno's.
"You need to eat too," he points out.
"I eat," says Geno. "You only eat peanut butter and candy."
"I eat very well." Sidney reaches past Geno for the salt and pepper. Geno slaps his hand away.
"No," he says sternly. "Rude. You have not tried yet."
"Fine." Sidney rolls his eyes. "I'll try. Anything else for breakfast?"
"What you have?" Geno shoots back. "Go look in fridge."
Sidney finds a forgotten container of leftover steak his mother had pushed on him in the back of his top shelf and shows it to Geno. Geno nods, approving, and holds out his hand.
"I cut," he says. "Go sit, I bring to you."
"Go," Geno repeats, narrowing his eyes.
Sidney does as he's told. He listens to Geno moving around in the kitchen while he tries the eggs. Geno is humming a song Sidney doesn't recognize to the beat of the knife hitting the cutting board, and a minute later he comes into the dining room with a container full of sliced steak.
"Good?" he asks, pointing at the eggs.
Sidney swallows his mouthful and smiles. "Very good."
Geno nods. "Yes." He sets the steak down before sitting next to Sidney. "I think I stay here today."
"Okay," Sidney says. "Do you need me to show you anything around here?"
"Just sleep, I think," Geno says. "Still tired." He spears several pieces of steak and forks them onto his plate. "How is jaw?"
"It's fine." Sidney reflexively rubs at it, as if he could still feel the break. "Why?"
"Still talk funny." Geno smiles, that little shit-eating smile he gets when he and James pull a prank on one of the rookies. "Not used to new teeth?"
"I talk funny?" Sidney asks, gesturing with his fork at Geno. Geno laughs, low and knowing, like he had expected Sidney to say that.
They eat in silence save for the clinking of their forks. Geno tends to focus when he's eating, staring down fixedly at the plate, and Sidney takes advantage of that to study his face. There are no more hidden clues in the pale yet faintly flushed skin of Geno's cheek or the ever-so-faint lines at the corners of his eyes than there had been the night before. Still, Sidney takes the time to look because he so rarely allows himself to, and because he's worried.
It's probably Sidney's imagination, but it seems to him that every time Geno returns from Russia, he is subtly changed. He always comes back quieter, at least for the first few days. Once he regains his footing in North America, it becomes apparent what he has learned: how to flirt (or at least how to flirt more alluringly than he had before), how to make "your mom" jokes, how to cook (he spent nearly three weeks telling everyone from Tony to Sid to Duper to Dana in great detail how delicious his blinis had been), how to comfort. The Geno who returns is never the same as the one who left, not entirely.
What could have transformed Geno so that he would seek out sanctuary so far from home? Sidney nearly forgets the eggs on his fork, suspended halfway to his mouth, lost in his consideration of the soft curve of Geno's jaw, the faint patch of razor burn along his jaw, until Geno clears his throat, and Sidney has to look down quickly to avoid discovery.
"Going soon?" Geno asks eventually. Only then does Sidney think to check the time and realizes to his dismay that he's running late. Geno laughs as he hurries to clean his plate, shouting, "I do it, Sid!"
"You will?" Sidney asks, breathless, and Geno nods before waving his hands. Shoo. "Thank you."
He squeaks into his parking space three minutes before practice is meant to start. His entrance to the dressing room is met with sarcastic applause (Marchy) and a genuine, "I was afraid you were sick" (Matt). He opens his mouth to offer an explanation and pauses. He is still reluctant to break Geno's trust, even to people who probably wouldn’t think to spread the news of his presence.
"I overslept," he says instead. None of the guys say anything, but Andy at least doesn't buy it, eyebrows going up so high they're in danger of taking off into flight. "Sorry."
"Get ready," is all Andy says, though, and he takes the rest of the guys out to the ice while Sidney changes. Sidney allows himself a moment to rest his head in his hands, drawing his focus in so he won't be distracted, before following them out. He falls into line next to Matt and pushes all thoughts of Geno away for later consideration.
The last time Sidney and Geno spoke at any length was a few days after the disastrous Boston series, both of them exhausted and dejected. Geno hadn't said a whole lot, just apologized over and over for not scoring, even though neither of them had been at their best. Geno kept making excuses for him, saying, "But you have your jaw, I play like shit," and nothing Sidney said had been able to stem the tide of Geno's self-loathing.
Sidney had hoped that Geno would get his head back on straight during the summer. Geno had planned to get away from it all for a bit, travel through Europe with some friends and not just train. Sidney knows how it can be, training immediately after a devastating loss, and has made an effort in the past few years to take some time to enjoy himself before throwing himself back into preparing for the new season. Geno gets lost in his head more than nearly anyone Sidney knows, forgets to put things in perspective and drives himself crazy with plays he should have made, things he should have done differently. It clouds his judgment, damages his self-confidence. He gets angry and snappy, even off-ice, and it takes time for him to cool down and restart.
Sidney had told Geno not to dwell on the playoffs too much, but maybe that's what has brought him to Cole Harbour. Not many people could understand how Geno is feeling, how it eats away at you until you start second-guessing everything you do, both on the ice and off. And sometimes, Sidney knows how it's best to get away from people who know you best and go somewhere new. It's what he had loved about Los Angeles last year, how he could go grocery shopping with Matt and have no one pay him any attention. Of course, if Geno had hoped to keep a low profile, Canada might not have been the wisest choice.
He'll never be able to guess at Geno's thoughts, he realizes partway through the third full day of Geno hardly saying a word to him and keeping to himself in his borrowed room, not without asking him outright. Sidney had stuck around the house after returning from Saturday’s short training session and all through Sunday, skipping out on church and family dinner in the hopes that Geno would finally say why he’s in Sidney’s guest bedroom rather than his apartment in Russia. Sidney doesn't want to ask – can't bring himself to, not when he can tell how on edge Geno is.
Instead he asks small things – "Would you like to come to dinner with me and the guys tonight?" "Are you coming to training today?" "Can I get you anything?" "Have you talked to Gonch?" Geno never says much in reply, sometimes says nothing more than a grunted, "No," before burying himself back in a book or the television show he's watching. He seems to really love terrible reality shows, especially ones related to weddings.
"What's this one about?" Sidney asks on the fourth day, coming back to find Geno on the couch, collar damp with sweat. Geno had said that he planned on going for a run by the lake, maybe taking Sam with him, and the way she's cuddled up to him now, resting her face on his thigh, seems to indicate that she, like so many other animals, has taken a liking to him.
"Wedding dress," Geno says, eyes wide. "So many ugly dress! Have to show Sasha so Masha does not buy something like this." He waves his hand at the screen, where a very thin woman is trying on, yes, a truly awful dress.
"She looks like a cake," Sidney observes. Geno laughs in agreement. "Did you have a good run?"
"Yes. Very beautiful here." Geno strokes his hand over Sam's head, scratching behind her ears. "And you have a good dog. Very sweet."
"Yeah." Sidney tilts his head to the side, considering Geno's profile as Geno stares resolutely at the television. "Hey, Geno – I don't want to – I'm glad you're here and everything, but – if you don't mind my asking, why are you here?"
Geno doesn't answer for a long moment, staring ahead with his lips pressed together the way he does when he's trying to think of a way to phrase his answer to reporters. He lifts his hand from Sam's head and threads his fingers together, nervously wringing them together before saying, "Had to leave Russia. Just for now."
"Are you going to tell anyone where you are?"
"Maybe." Geno rubs his thumb over the back of one of his hands. "Thinking about – things."
"Okay." It's more than Sidney has gotten out of him in three days, so he lets it go. "Would you like to go out somewhere for dinner?"
"Not tonight," Geno says, as he has every night since he arrived. "I cook?"
"No, I can," says Sidney. "Anything in particular you want?"
"Celery, yes, I know." Sidney gets to his feet and stretches up, shoulders burning pleasantly. He glances down; Geno is still staring at the television. "Call if you need anything, okay?"
Geno nods. Sidney watches him for a moment longer, then moves off towards the kitchen. He refills Sam's food and water bowls for when she inevitably follows Geno to dinner, and opens his fridge to start cooking.
He's cutting an onion when Geno comes in, Sam bounding in beside him. She goes straight for her food, of course. Geno, on the other hand, hovers in the doorway, watching Sidney with an intensity that raises the hairs on his neck.
"Sid," Geno says eventually, familiar in its pronunciation and timbre, but with a note of hesitance – a slight quaver – that Sidney has never heard from him before.
Sidney carefully puts the knife down, blade turned away from him, and looks at Geno. "Yes?"
Geno tucks his hands against his ribs, ducking his head shyly. "You're gay, yes?"
Sidney tries not to show his surprise. Geno has never said much to Sidney about his sexuality, just nodded and said, "Okay," when Sidney came out to the team. Some of the other guys – Kris, Jordy, Flower, especially Max – had asked questions, some of them clearly wanting to know if there was anyone to beat up, others of them simply curious. Geno had met one of Sidney's boyfriends, a few years ago now, and had gotten along with him surprisingly well, but that has been the extent of Geno's involvement in Sidney's sexuality.
"Yes," he says. "Is there something you want to ask me?"
"You –" Geno looks away, shifting his weight from foot to foot. "How you know? For sure?"
That, at least, is a familiar question, if one he hasn't had to answer in a while. "I guess – I guess I didn't, for a long time," Sidney says slowly. "I had girls I liked as friends and I used to get that mixed up thinking that's what it was like to have a crush. But when I was older, I never thought about anyone but guys." He hopes Geno knows what he means without him having to pantomime.
"Oh." Geno drags his bare toes along Sidney's floor, still not meeting his eyes. "What is it like?"
"I don't know," Sidney says, barely suppressing a sigh. "What's it like to be straight?"
Geno looks up this time and says, "I don't know."
"Oh," Sidney says, and he stumbles a little as he tries to push away from the counter, has to catch himself against the edge. But Geno – Geno has always had girlfriends, usually Oksana but sometimes Russian girls he met through his friends in Pittsburgh, or once, memorably, Brooks's cousin which had luckily ended on mutually friendly terms. Geno, of everyone Sidney knows, is straight. That's what he always thought.
"Geno?" He steps closer, fighting the urge to shove his hands in his pockets. "Do you need to talk to someone?"
"Talking to you," Geno points out, eyes narrowing.
"I mean like – I don't know, Patrick Burke or someone from You Can Play."
"No," Geno says, very softly. "I don't – I trust you."
Sidney exhales loudly and reaches out to steady himself again. "Oh. Um. Is there a...guy?"
"I think so, yes," Geno says, and now it's like he can't look away from Sidney, dark eyes large and pleading. "I like girls. I love Oksana, yes? But now, I think – maybe not just them."
"Okay," Sidney says encouragingly. "Yeah, that makes sense. Who, uh. Who is it?"
Geno's gaze drops again. Sidney represses the urge to sigh. "Not important."
"Okay," Sidney says again. "If you want to talk to anyone, uh, I can give you the number of some of the people I talked to."
"Thanks." Geno's mouth turns up. "What are you cooking?"
As subject changes go, it's pretty terrible, but Sidney jumps on it eagerly. There's a reason he's never been remotely inclined to tell anyone outside of his family and the Pens organization about his sexuality; he hates discussing it so much that he lets Tanner do the talking with new guys on the team and has never even approached You Can Play about his situation. He's pretty sure they know – his agent has free reign to mention it when relevant – but he doesn't like talking about it any more than he likes talking about how the renovations on his house in Pittsburgh are going or whether he's ever going to get a Twitter.
"You want to help me cut the onions?" Sidney asks, nudging the knife handle in Geno's direction. "It makes my eyes water."
"Wuss," Geno scoffs, taking the knife from him. He gently hip-checks Sidney away from cutting board. "I do."
Sidney lets him take over the chopping and turns to the stove to toss some garlic into the pan. Stir fry is about as complicated as his cooking ever gets, and brown rice is permitted in his diet. He tilts the pan so the oil covers the whole surface, breathing in the sharp, delicious garlic, and thinks, Geno's bisexual. He repeats it to himself until it feels as though he's always known it, and wonders if this is how everyone else felt when he came out to them. Despite it being an open secret amongst his teammates, Sidney has never had anyone come out to him before, not even a family member or a fan in a letter. It's a stranger experience than he might have expected.
Sidney turns to see Geno watching him, anxiously chewing his lip. "Yes?"
"Don't tell." Geno shakes his head. "Not ready yet."
"I wouldn't," Sidney promises. "It's up to you."
"Thanks." Geno lifts the cutting board. "Onion?"
Geno's confession seems to have eased something in him, because he suddenly can't stop talking, telling Sidney all about France and Spain and tanning with his friends and going to clubs. It sounds like a wonderful vacation, and he has taken about a million photos on his phone that he enthusiastically shares. Sidney has questions, of course, but why turn Geno back towards the issue that was clearly troubling him? If Geno wants to talk about sunbathing and meeting penguin statues, so be it.
Geno takes over the dishes again, refusing to let Sidney do them, and mocks Sidney's shorts all in one go, which more than anything else tells him Geno's back in something approaching his normal mood. Sidney shakes his head at Geno's chirps and retreats to the living room to watch whatever's on the History Channel. Of course, Geno disapproves of it once he joins him, saying, "Why you like boring show?" before snagging the remote out of Sidney's hand and flipping back to TLC or wherever it is he had found his wedding dress show. He doesn't seem to like what's on, because he flips a few more channels until he lands on Food Network, which is doing a show on –
"Wedding cakes?" Sidney asks in disbelief. "There's a show about wedding cakes?"
"Shh," Geno says, pressing his finger to Sidney's mouth. "Look how pretty."
Sidney has to admit that, yes, the wedding cakes are very pretty. But, "Are you obsessed with weddings or something?" he asks, because there definitely seems to be a trend here.
"Weddings are nice," Geno says. "Happy, yes? Tell someone you love them and they always know."
"Yeah." Sidney settles back against the couch. "I guess that is kinda nice."
"Ever going to get married?" Geno asks. "It's legal here."
"Probably not until I retire." Sidney looks over at him and smiles. "And I have to meet someone first."
"You will meet someone," Geno says. "Handsome and good at cooking who wash dishes for you."
"Dream guy," Sidney says dryly. Geno bursts laughing, head falling back. Sidney grins and waits for him to stop before asking, "What about you?"
"I get married one day." Geno shrugs, wry tilt to his lips. "But have to be girl in Russia, yes? What if I want to marry boy? My mother cry, my father cry, the government – I don't know, Sid. Maybe when I retire, like you, it will be better."
"I hope so." Sidney nudges his foot against Geno's. "You deserve to have whoever you love." He doesn't share his own fear that his parents, tolerant thus far of his love life, will decide that Sidney marrying a man is too much, that it is too hard to ignore. His father has, on occasion, asked about Sidney's boyfriends in the careful, deliberately trying voice that Sidney hears from people who are more religious than he is and have beliefs they are trying to stifle in favor of acceptance. His mother avoids the topic entirely when she can. He knows, at the bottom of it, that they love him dearly; they just don't always love who he loves.
"Thanks." Geno forces a smile, the one he uses when he's uncomfortable. "Oh, look." He points at the screen, where the cake is in danger of collapsing in the van on the way to the wedding, and Sidney allows himself to be drawn into the clearly manufactured drama, glad to forget about his own worries for a while.
He heads up to bed once the show is over, Geno a half-step behind him. Sidney turns to say goodnight and asks again, "Do you want me to wake you up for training tomorrow?"
Geno hesitates. "I want to skate," he says slowly, "but don't want to see people."
"I can reserve some private rink time," says Sidney. "If you want."
"Please?" Geno sticks out his lower lip and Sidney laughs. "I will be nice."
"As if, Bully," Sidney teases. "Sure. Do you know the way?"
"Have my phone," Geno says. "Thanks, Sid." He bounces on the balls of his feet, leaning in slightly. He pauses, touches Sidney's shoulder so lightly he can hardly feel it, and smiles. "Goodnight."
He ducks into the guest bedroom before Sidney can answer, door quietly clicking shut. Sidney touches the spot Geno had touched and stares at the door for a long moment before turning away.
Geno meets him at the rink after everyone else has left. Some of the guys chirp Sidney for being crazy and obsessed with hockey, but no one is overly curious about why he's staying behind. Which suits Sidney just fine. Geno changes quickly and meets Sidney out on the ice, experimenting with his borrowed stick until he has the feel of it. He looks strange in Sidney's rink, his familiar shape oddly foreign against the Halifax boards rather than those of the Consol or Southpointe. His shot is unchanged, though, as is his smile when he saucers the puck neatly into the net.
Sidney watches Geno go through a series of drills he recognizes as Kadar's design before letting himself get drawn into a game of keep-away. Geno is impressive as always, using his longer limbs to keep Sidney away from the puck with ease. When they practice their face-offs, though, Sidney wins more often than not, prompting Geno to ask, "Can you teach me?"
Sidney checks the time and sees it's well past noon. "Maybe tomorrow?" he suggests. "I haven't eaten lunch."
"Oh!" Geno bites his lip and taps his stick against Sidney's skate. "Sorry, I forget. Want to eat?"
"Sure, let's pick up something on the way back." Sidney waits for Geno to object, as he has for the past few days, and is surprised when Geno nods. "You'll follow me back?"
"Yes." Geno shakes out his arms. "I think I skate around the rink, if you want shower."
Sidney nods and leaves Geno to it, taking the borrowed stick with him to replace with the others. He takes his time in the shower and only gets out when he hears Geno's footsteps in the dressing room. There's an awkward moment where he nearly walks into Geno, both of them doing the side-step to get around each other and only delaying Geno further. He laughs, puts his hands on Sidney's shoulders, and moves him to the side so he can get past. His hands are very warm.
Lunch is consumed on Sidney's back porch, Sam begging hopefully at their knees for scraps. Geno, predictably, is a soft touch once he checks with Sidney to see if it’s okay, and feeds her pieces of chicken, grinning widely down at her. When he finishes eating, Sidney stretches his legs out into the sunshine, muscles pulling with pleasant stress, and tips his head back. He could stay here forever, Sam lying beside him, Geno slowly eating his sandwich on his other side, the sun warm and the sound of the breeze and insects a soothing hum in his ears. He starts to doze, jerking awake at the sound of Geno putting his fork down or pushing his chair back, and eventually succumbs to afternoon lethargy.
Geno wakes him some time later with a hand on his shoulder and a quiet, "You get burned, Sid." Geno has a new appreciation for the horrors of sunburns after last year when a poorly-planned pool day resulted in a startlingly deep red burn across his shoulders and chest.
"I tan," Sidney protests, but he draws his legs in anyway and allows Geno to help him to his feet. Sam licks the back of Sidney's knee before wandering back inside the house.
Geno bullies Sidney into watching more of his terrible shows with him, coaching him through some of his stretches as they do. Sidney complains as Geno pushes down on his back, forcing him closer to his outstretched leg, but can't deny the looseness in his legs when he stands. Geno grins smugly at him and guides him through another stretch, this one for his shoulders. His hands are firm on the back of his biceps; his fingers are so long they can circle the whole way.
Sidney takes Sam out for an evening walk after they eat dinner. Geno tags along, shortening his long strides to match Sidney's pace, periodically throwing a tennis ball he scrounged up from somewhere in Sidney's garage for Sam to fetch. Neither of them says much other than to call to Sam. It's nice. It’s, well, easy. He's missed that, since his last relationship ended more than two years ago. The nicest part of it had always been the moments like this, where they didn't need to talk and could just watch each other, content simply with knowing the other person was there.
He's working up the nerve to ask Geno, again, if he wants to tell anyone he's here – to stop the verging-on-frantic texts he's still getting from Gonch – when Geno turns abruptly to face him. The sun is just behind his head, a slowly dying halo, and the sky is streaked rich orange and red, tendrils of pigment creeping into the darkening blue. For a moment, Geno looks otherworldly, face lit macabrely crimson. Then Sidney blinks and he's Geno again, hardly changed since the day they met on Mario’s front steps
"Sid," Geno says. His fingers work in the hem of his shirt, stretching out the seam. He looks away, towards the house, then down at Sam. "I –" He steps forward, rustling the grass. "Don't –" He can't seem to think of what he wants to say, and instead of continuing, he raises his hands to cup Sidney's face.
Sidney inhales sharply, chest squeezing tight. For a moment he forgets everything but the soft, incremental movements of Geno's fingers against his cheeks. Each minute shift raises chills from his skin. There had been a time, years ago, when he would have welcomed this with shaking hands and eager, clumsy lips. Geno is an easy person to care for, and before Sidney had learned to separate his feelings of admiration from those of infatuation, he had fancied himself in love with Geno. Geno, with his halting English and wide smiles and irrepressible enthusiasm and boundless kindness, had been the perfect kind of unattainable for him – a reason to avoid seeking out someone he could truly love.
It’s been nearly eight years since then, and Sidney is wiser than he was at eighteen, wiser than Geno is now, and even so he can't bring himself to tell Geno no. Not when Geno is looking at him with fear and hope mingling in his face, brow creased and mouth open. What would he have given at eighteen to have someone he could trust like this, someone he could kiss and not be afraid of what they'd say or do? He stays perfectly still, meeting Geno's gaze without hesitation, and waits.
Geno's kiss, when it comes, is softer than he might have guessed, exploratory rather than passionate. He doesn't move his hands from Sidney's jaw, keeps him still so he can kiss Sidney at his leisure, tongue gracing the curve of Sidney's lower lip before slipping inside. Sidney's eyes close unbidden, and he raises his hands to rest against Geno's ribs, falling into the kiss, into the smell and taste and feel of Geno. Beneath Sidney's fingers, Geno's heart beats frantically, sparrow-fast.
A soft sigh into Sidney’s mouth and Geno is pressing closer, close enough that Sidney can feel him growing hard in his jean shorts. Sidney is startled to realize he’s turned on too. It’s been a while since anyone has kissed him, and Geno has the advantage over any pick up options in that he’s familiar. Sidney wants to lay him bare, learn the uncharted landscape of his body, make him smile and sigh like that, like he’s exhaling joy.
Sam noses at their feet curiously and then drops the damp tennis ball on Sidney's ankle. He breaks off the kiss, giggling, and rests his head against Geno's collar as he looks down. "Sorry," he tells her. "We'll pay attention to you now."
"Spoiled dog," Geno remarks, lips brushing the shell of Sidney's ear. He scrapes his teeth along the lobe, kisses the hinge of his jaw. "Can't she tell we busy?"
"Please, you spoil Jeffery like a child," Sidney says. He bends to retrieve the tennis ball and throws it back in the direction of the house. "Let's go back inside."
"No," Geno says almost immediately, curling his hands in Sidney's shirt and pulling. "Stay here.”
"We don't have to stop," Sidney says, smiling. "There's plenty of room in my bed, you know."
Geno's eyes widen and he wets his lips. "Oh."
His cheeks heat and he ducks his head. "I don't want to assume, sorry, I just – it seems like you want to try it a little, right? Have you ever been with a man before?"
It's Geno's turn to blush, his expression turning shy. "I try in Moscow. I am careful," he adds, catching Sidney's raised eyebrows. "Just wanted to see, yes? Not, you know, do much."
"What do you want to try?" Sidney asks, tugging Geno back in the direction of the house. "If you haven't done much." He feels awkward even asking, just imagining what Geno might have done in some anonymous club, shirt gaping open over his chest and his jeans ripped at the knees. Had he dirtied his knees on the bathroom floor? Or had he taken his partner for the night to some hotel and used a false name? Sidney can do better than that for him.
“I don’t know. Everything,” Geno says, and Sidney can’t breathe for a moment, imagining what everything encompasses. Geno smirks, as if knowing what he’s thinking, and takes the opportunity his distraction provides to squeeze Sidney’s ass.
Sidney locks Sam out of the bedroom with an apologetic kiss to the top of her head, scratching her head before shooing her downstairs to her bed in the kitchen. He turns towards Geno, who has sat on the end of the bed with his hands folded in his lap, and tries to smile. What ease there had been between them has evaporated, leaving them as near strangers in the stillness of the room. He wants to reach out, but he's loathe to make the first move when Geno is so vulnerable.
He sits next to Geno instead, keeping a careful space between them. "Geno," he starts, and fails to find the words he wants.
Geno saves him by moving his hand from his lap to Sidney's thigh. His hand is wide enough to span the entire width of his leg. His pink nudges towards Sidney's inseam, tracing lightly along the edge. Sidney looks at him, arousal pooling hot in his stomach, and says, "Ready?"
Geno nods, and he kisses Sidney again, pushing his hand to cup Sidney's cock through his shorts. Sidney laughs against his mouth and urges Geno over onto his back instead, throwing his leg over Geno’s hips. He slips his hands beneath Geno's shirt and asks, "Ever done it in a bed before?"
"No," Geno says breathlessly. "Sid –"
"Shh." Sidney pulls up his shirt, exposing Geno's chest inch by inch. He had gotten some color in Europe; his shoulders are lightly freckled, though the tan fades to paleness at his soft stomach. Sidney works the shirt over Geno's head and tosses it aside before bending down to kiss him. He squirms beneath Sidney's touch, trying to get more skin contact, but as soon as Sidney pushes down on his arms, he goes still.
"Let me do this for you," says Sidney. "So you can decide what you like."
"Already know I like jerk off," Geno says, rolling his eyes. "And blowjob. Not different with guys."
"So what do you want to try?" Sidney sits back, resting his hands on Geno's zipper. "You don't want me to blow you?"
"I want blow you," Geno says hopefully and okay, Sidney had not been expecting that. But he isn’t going to say no.
Geno is hesitant at first, kneeling between Sidney's thighs with a thoughtful expression on his face. He lets Sidney's cock rest in his palm, licking his lips again and again. Sidney finds himself fixating on the wet path along his lower lip, the already raw look of his mouth. When Geno seems to be panicking, Sidney touches the underside of Geno's chin, drawing his attention up.
"Take it slow," he says. "Use your hands if you need to. And stop if you –"
"Okay," grumbles Geno. "Shush, no back-seat." He wraps his hand fully around Sidney's cock and lowers his mouth to the tip. Sidney falls back against the pillows and focuses on breathing so he doesn't ruin this for Geno. He's obviously a novice, the questioning movement of his tongue giving him away even if his frequent glances up did not. Even so, it's more than Sidney has had in ages and Geno's eagerness is enough to get him hard and aching.
After a moment, Geno moves Sidney's hand to his hair and looks up again, this time not looking away until Sidney starts to comb his fingers through the strands. Guessing that Geno needs reassurance, Sidney starts talking, even though he has never been good at dirty talk and usually doesn't enjoy it. "That's good. Try relaxing your mouth a little."
He does as Sid suggests and pushes down towards his hand, gagging when he goes too far. He yanks back, eyes streaming and gasping for air and rests his forehead against Sidney's thigh. Sidney pets him and says, "It's fine. Catch your breath." His dick twitches, and he tries hard not to shift; he doesn't want to make Geno feel guilty.
Geno shakes his head and takes Sidney back into his mouth without replying, a freshly determined look on his face. He seems to have learned from Sidney's reactions the first time, going straight for movement of his hand at the base and hot, tight suction at the tip, and even though Sidney hadn't been close before, he finds himself clutching at the sheets with one hand and trying not to push at Geno's head with the other. He has enough presence of mind to gently guide Geno back before he comes, curling up off the pillows and gasping for air. Geno strokes him through it, watching his face closely, and when Sidney collapses back, limp, he lifts his come-stained hand to his rubbed red lips and licks one finger clean.
"Not taste real good," Geno says after a minute, making a face. "Gross."
"I'll buy us some pineapple," Sidney says. He slows his breaths to calm his racing heart before reaching out to Geno. "Come here."
Geno is heavy across Sidney's chest, and his kisses taste like semen now, but he responds beautifully to Sidney's hands, cheeks turning red and his hips moving restlessly for friction. Sidney rubs the back of his neck, underneath Geno's ear and down his jaw, kissing him until Geno starts to relax, melting into Sid and pinning him even more heavily to the mattress. It takes some effort to get his hand on Geno's hip – there's no way of getting it between them comfortably, Sid realizes, and he absolutely does not want to try to make up a reason for why he has a tweaked wrist – and pushes up his thigh so Geno has something to rub off on. Geno moans and buries his face in Sidney's neck, apparently too overwhelmed to kiss, and comes hot against Sidney's inner thigh.
Sidney strokes Geno's back until his weight becomes too much to bear, and then he shoves at him until Geno rolls away. They're both disgusting, but Sidney is too satisfied and relaxed to get up for a shower. Geno seems to feel the same, judging from the blissful tilt to his lips and the slow, inexorable downward slide of his eyelids. Sidney pinches Geno's side and smiles when Geno turns a baleful glare up at him.
"What?" grunts Geno.
"Good?" he asks.
"Yes, you are sex god," mumbles Geno. "Tomorrow, I teach you to cut an onion."
"I can cut an onion."
"Without crying," Geno says. "I show you. Now, sleep." He tugs Sidney down, a scowl pulling his mouth down. "And don't wake me up before nine."
"Yes, Bully," says Sidney and then yelps when Geno smacks his ass in retaliation for the disliked nickname. "Geno!"
"I blow you, be nice," Geno says, turning his face up to grin at him. He kisses Sidney and rubs his nose against Sidney's before lying back against the pillows. "Good night." He leaves one hand on Sidney's thigh, spread wide, like he needs to be touching Sidney.
Oh, Sidney thinks, heart thudding. When he turns, Geno is watching him, expression nakedly fond. Sidney's stomach jumps. He bites his lip before kissing Geno's bare shoulder and tucking himself along Geno's side, closing his eyes. Too late to undo what's been done.
Sidney sleeps restlessly, anxious despite repeatedly reassuring himself that Geno knew what he was doing when he came to Sidney. He doesn't know how it took him so long to catch on to Geno’s attraction? infatuation? with him. It seems obvious now in how careful Geno was around him the first few days, how attentive he has been. Geno has never been one to shy away from sex or people he's interested in. He's direct when picking up girls (and somehow even more direct when Max is around). He throws himself into every relationship with an abandon Sidney frankly envies. Of course he would go straight to the source of his sexual awakening. Why waste time elsewhere?
He repeats this to himself before he sits up in bed, carefully peeling Geno off him. Geno grumbles something Russian and burrows into the mattress. Sidney can't resist tracing his fingers between the moles on Geno's back, drawing an imaginary constellation before tugging the sheets up to cover him and going to wash the now disgusting and crusted come from his skin. He leaves a note for Geno on the bedside table for when he wakes up, inviting him to join him at the rink again if he's interested and asking him to please take Sam out for a walk before he leaves to meet Taylor for breakfast.
She's waiting for him at the little cafe on the north end of the city, absently stirring water and gazing out the window. When she sees him, she gives a shy wave and leans back so he can slide in across from her. "I feel like we haven't seen each other in ages," she says.
"It hasn't even been a week," Sidney points out. Taylor had mandated weekly breakfasts several years back when it became apparent that without a firm appointment, both of them would get sucked into their different summer plans and run out of time to see each other – this week being a prime example of that. "But I know what you mean."
"I ordered you your usual," she says as he starts to go for the menu. "Have you been busy with training? Mom said you were thinking of stopping by on Monday, but you didn't?"
Sidney fights back the flush he can tell is rising to his cheeks. "Something came up," he says. "I'll come to dinner on Sunday."
"You'd better." Taylor pokes at the ice in her cup, biting her lower lip. "Did Mom tell you she's thinking of joining the CWHL board?"
"Really?" His mother has never been one to actively involve herself in their hockey careers despite her interest in them. "Why?"
Taylor looks at him, eyes narrowed. "Come on, Sid."
"Right." Sidney shakes his head. "So, hockey, then?"
"It's all I know how to do," Taylor says, and for a moment, she sounds so much like Sidney did at eighteen that he has to blink at her, wondering how she could have ended up so much like him. "Dad still thinks I should have a backup plan, so I'm going to college. It's not like the CWHL pays or anything."
Sidney shifts uncomfortably. She catches his expression and shakes her head. "Don't," she warns. "I'm not asking for you to feel sorry or anything. It's just the way it is. It'll change."
"I want it to," Sidney says. "You deserve it."
"Shut up," Taylor mumbles, cheeks pinking. She scoots back in her seat as the waitress approaches with their breakfast. She digs in with gusto and the two of them fall silent in favor of eating. It's funny; since he's gotten older and they've had even less time together, Sidney has grown to really value the quiet moments with Taylor. She has become such a fascinating person since he left home that he's frankly amazed they're related.
"You're staring," Taylor says matter-of-factly without looking up.
"I'm really proud of you," Sidney says.
Taylor shakes her head. "You're making it weird, Sid," she tells him, but she's smiling shyly. "I drove past your place the other day," she says, changing the subject abruptly. "Is someone visiting you? There was a rental in your driveway."
Sidney freezes, fork stabbed halfway through a tomato. "What?"
"Well, I think it was a rental, it had a sticker on the back?" Taylor frowns at him. "Sid?"
Sidney swallows. He hates lying to Taylor more than almost anything in the world. She always looks especially heartbroken when he does, and – it's different, with her. He can trust her. "It's Geno."
"Geno?" She looks as surprised as he had felt when Geno showed up at his door. "What's he doing here?"
"He's, uh. Working out some things." Sidney shoves the tomato in his mouth to stifle the urge to blurt out the whole story to her.
"Okay." She still looks surprised, but she lets it go. "You should bring him to dinner on Sunday."
"I don't know if he'd want to," says Sidney. "But I'll ask."
Taylor watches him for a minute, mouth pursed and her brow slightly furrowed. He can tell she wants to ask more, but he doesn't know how to explain without telling her way more information than he's comfortable with. They've talked a little about his relationships in the past, but he hates talking about sex at the best of times, let alone with his little sister. It still doesn't feel right hiding it from her. He refocuses on eating to distract himself from his guilt, and eventually she stops looking at him as though she’s trying to delve into his mind.
"You should come train with us one day," Sidney tells her later while they're waiting for the check. "We could always use a goalie." He holds up his hand, idea occurring to him. "Wait, you should definitely come. Geno and I were working together yesterday after everyone else left. It would be nice to have someone to shoot against."
"Oh yes, fun," says Taylor dryly. "Being shot on by the two best players in the world."
"You'll never get better without practice," Sidney teases. Taylor whacks him in the shoulder and laughs, bright and unfettered, the kind he loves to draw from her. "Do you want to?"
"Text me and I'll drop by." She lunges for the check before he can take it and stares him down when he tries to take it from her. "I can pay it."
"Shush, I'm paying." She pulls out a couple of bills from her wallet. Sidney watches as she waves down the waitress and pays her. She's got an ease about her that seems new, a refined poise that Sidney definitely didn't have at her age. He thinks he can understand how their parents feel, looking at them and remembering how small they were when they were born. Sometimes when he looks at her all he can see is the tiny, curious-eyed baby that had fit neatly in his child arms, the small toddler that had chased after him while he shrieked for their mom, the nine year old who had cried when he boarded the plane for Pittsburgh for the first time.
"Say hi to Geno for me if I don't get to see him," Taylor says when they part ways. She gives him a quick hug, ducking her head against his chest for a moment before getting in her car. Sidney watches her leave before pulling out of his own space and heading to the rink, smiling to himself.
Geno texts him during training to say he's going for a swim instead of coming by the rink. Sidney wishes he had gotten it in time to warn him that the lake is seriously cold, even in the summer. When he arrives home, Geno is sitting on the couch wrapped in a towel and a sweatshirt and looking highly disgruntled. Sam is licking the water from Geno’s feet and takes no notice when Sidney sits down next to him.
"Cold?" Sidney teases, tugging the towel out of Geno's hands and carefully rubbing it over his dripping hair.
"Very cold," Geno says, leaning into Sidney's ministrations. "Why you not tell me?"
"I didn't get your text until later." Sidney kisses the side of Geno's head, held briefly by a fit of whimsy and fondness. "How long did you last?"
"Five minutes?” Geno laughs and rubs his nose against Sidney’s cheek. “Maybe ten.”
“More than I would,” Sidney admits. “Come on, you should take a shower. We have no idea what lives in that lake.”
“Crazy fish monster, right?” Geno raises his eyebrows at him. “You find it yet?”
“Shut up.” Sidney tugs Geno up. “I didn’t shower at the rink.”
“Oh,” says Geno, and his mouth turns up in a smile. “You stink.”
“Jerk.” Sidney gets up and gestures for Geno to follow him. “I have room for two.”
“Even with your ass?” Geno smacks him right across the back of the thighs, hard enough to sting and send Sidney stumbling forward a step. “Must be huge shower.”
“Limited time offer,” Sidney says. He grins when he hears Geno’s footsteps behind him.
Sidney has just taken off his jeans when Geno comes in, putting his wide hands on Sidney’s hips. Sidney looks over his shoulder and smiles. “Good choice.”
“Mm.” Geno kisses his neck and presses his hips forward against Sidney’s ass. “You always hot after practice.”
“You have weird taste.” Sidney turns around and starts pulling up Geno’s sweatshirt. “Get your clothes off.”
“Yes, Captain,” Geno says, and he drops his towel and swim trunks.
Sidney’s shower is one of the best parts of the house, with its five spouts and plenty of room. The mirror fogs almost instantly once they turn the water on, and the small space fills with steam. Geno backs Sidney up against the tiled wall and runs his hands over his arms. His fingers are cold, and when Sidney pulls Geno flush against him, the rest of his skin is chilled too.
Shower sex is never as exciting as it looks in the movies, particularly with someone as tall as Geno, so Sidney focuses instead on rubbing the tension out of Geno’s arms and lower back. He scrubs him clean until Geno is giggling from the contact and his skin is pink and new-looking. Geno, for his part, seems fixed on massaging his fingers through Sidney’s short hair, and it feels so nice that Sidney nearly dozes off, listing sideways into Geno’s chest and sighing in pleasure. Geno kisses his lax mouth and says, “You are like Dixi.”
Sidney cracks his eyes open. “Your cat?”
“Yes.” Geno rubs his fingers in slow circles behind Sidney’s ears. “She always pretend she not like touch, but when I pet her, she is big slut.”
“Are you calling me a slut?” Sidney asks, amused.
“Touch slut,” Geno says. He kisses the top of Sidney’s head. “Should have known.”
Sidney has to admit Geno has a point. He doesn’t seek out cuddling the way some guys do, but he loves waking up in someone’s arms, and he definitely likes being pampered the way Geno is doing for him right now. He closes his eyes again and drifts as Geno’s hands move down his head to his neck to his shoulders until he’s limp and practically needs to be dragged from the shower. He has the towel around his waist, combing his fingers through his hair, when Geno pounces, kissing him until Sidney is gasping for breath and probably leaving finger imprints in Geno’s shoulders with how hard he’s holding on.
“Sid,” Geno breathes against his cheek. He bows his head, kisses the side of his mouth, then his chin. Sidney wrinkles his nose. “Too bad we just shower.”
“I don’t mind,” Sidney offers, hopeful, but Geno shakes his head.
“No, we go for a walk,” he says imperiously, and he drags Sidney out of the bathroom.
They take Sam with them, letting her bound ahead of them in the grass. Geno keeps his arm around Sidney’s waist, thumb hooked into the waistband of his jeans, the rest of his hand casually groping Sid’s upper thigh and ass. Sidney can’t stop grinning, embarrassed but pleased and very glad that he lives far away from any neighbors. While Sam runs off to do her business in the bushes by the edge of the lake, Geno turns into Sid and smiles down at him, the corners of his eyes crinkling.
“What?” Sidney asks, grinning back.
“I’m happy,” Geno says. He kisses the corner of Sidney’s mouth and tips their foreheads together. Sidney closes his eyes. His cheeks ache from smiling.
“Me too,” he says.
They go back inside with Sam after she has tired herself out, and Sidney starts poking around the kitchen to make dinner. Geno stays at his back, apparently unwilling to stray more than a few inches away from him. Sidney half-heartedly tries to shove him off as he’s peeling an onion, but dissolves into giggles when Geno starts sucking at his neck.
“Geno,” he complains, turning his head. Geno kisses him, easy as anything, and then reaches around Sidney.
“I teach you to cut onion now,” he says. “So you don’t cry.”
“I don’t –”
“Shh.” Geno wraps his long, large hands around Sidney’s. “Like this.”
It’s almost unbearably intimate, Geno breathing instructions in Sidney’s ear as they slice and dice up the onion, first by cutting off the top and then by carefully cutting the flat surface of the onion into squares. “And then,” Geno says, “you turn, like this, so root is here, and –” They push the knife through together, and perfectly diced onion falls to the cutting board.
“Oh,” Sidney says. “That’s so easy.”
“Yes,” Geno agrees. He kisses Sidney’s jaw. “You learn quick.”
“I have good incentive,” Sidney says, raising his eyebrows and twisting around to look at him. “And a good teacher.”
“I only okay,” Geno says. “My mama is best.”
Sidney, who has the same natural bias as any child to his own parents’ cooking, has to admit that Geno is probably right about that. “She taught you?”
“She try, when I am small.” Geno cuts the rest of the onion without moving from Sidney’s back. “But I am bad student.”
“Yeah,” Sidney agrees.
“Hey,” protests Geno. He bites Sidney lightly on the jaw. “Not supposed to say yes.”
“It’s true, though, you are a bad student.” Sidney turns so his back is to the counter, Geno crowded in all around him in that way Sidney loves to distraction. “I’m thinking I should assign you homework.”
“On what?” Geno’s smile goes crooked and flirtatious, voice dropping hoarsely. “Want me to watch tape?”
“Do you think it would help?”
“Could help give me idea,” Geno says. “I get you naked and too many idea to pick one.”
Blood rushes to Sidney’s cheeks. “Geno.”
“What? Is true.” Geno grins and places a smacking kiss on Sidney’s lips. “But later. Now we make dinner.”
“We can take a break,” Sidney says, pulling Geno in by his shirt for a long, self-indulgent kiss. Geno responds instantly, knee slipping between Sidney’s thighs and pinning him further against the counter. Sidney can’t resist the urge to push his hips up, grinding against Geno’s leg. Geno groans into Sidney’s mouth and then yanks back, chest heaving.
“No,” Geno says. He swats Sidney’s chest. “Bad Sid. We have to make dinner.”
“Geno,” Sidney whines, trying to drag him back in. Geno kisses him once before stepping out of reach.
“Only after we eat. Need energy.” He smirks and rubs the heel of his palm against Sidney’s crotch. Sidney glares at him.
“I’m going to kill you,” Sidney promises, voice rough and battered. “You tease.”
“You started,” Geno points out. “I go sit on your couch. You cook.”
“Lazy,” Sidney accuses.
“No, Nealsy not here,” Geno says. Sidney throws a piece of onion at him. Geno snatches it out of the air and pops it into his mouth. “Now my breath tastes bad, no kisses for you,” Geno calls before darting out of the kitchen.
Sidney makes dinner in record time and they eat it, again, out on the porch, chairs squeezed close together this time so their legs are aligned and their elbows bump every time Geno picks up his fork. Sidney’s cheeks ache from smiling, and he keeps laughing and ducking his head every time Geno looks at him. When he finishes eating, he starts to tidy up the dishes, intending to stick them in the dishwasher and then drag Geno upstairs, only to have Geno catch his hand and tug him out towards his back yard.
“Geno,” he protests.
“Shh,” Geno says, picking up a blanket he must have stolen from the garage and has left at the foot of the porch stairs. “This will be nice.”
Sidney allows Geno to urge him onto the blanket and he lies back, hands behind his head as he gazes up at the still-bright sky. “It’s a beautiful day.”
“Yes.” Geno scoots close to him, rests his hand on Sidney’s stomach. God, his hands are so big, Sidney thinks. Geno’s thumb presses against the base of his ribs, a slight pressure when Sidney breathes. His little finger is nearly underneath Sidney’s waistband. Sidney shivers and closes his eyes, imagining what those hands could do – how they would feel inside him, if Geno wanted, if his grip would be as strong on Sid’s hips as it is on his stick, how Geno would look fucking himself on his own fingers, getting read – and then sighs when Geno presses a kiss to the underside of his cheekbone.
“Geno,” he murmurs, not opening his eyes. “We’re outside.”
“You have no neighbors.” Geno starts tugging up Sidney’s shirt. “And it’s nice day.”
“Geno,” Sidney protests weakly. He cracks his eyes open. “Why?”
“You look beautiful here,” Geno says simply. He lowers himself down to kiss Sidney’s chest. “Always, but out here for sure.”
Sidney doesn’t know what to say to that, doesn’t really know how to respond except by lifting up his arms and allowing Geno to take his shirt off and throw it God knows where. Geno runs his finger beneath Sidney’s chain before lowering himself to rest his head against his collar. Sidney rests his hand on Geno’s head and scratches at his scalp, still staring up at the sky.
As the sun starts its slow descent, Sidney turns his head and kisses Geno, tilting Geno’s head up to him and reveling in the restless movements of Geno’s fingers against his skin. He wants to keep this moment forever, from the slightly stale taste of Geno’s mouth to the smell of his skin – salt and sweat, faint trace of soap at his neck – to the heat of Geno’s leg against him. He runs his fingers over Geno’s cheek, down to the corner of his mouth.
“I’m going to blow you,” Sidney says when they part for breath. He doesn’t wait for Geno to protest, taking in the way Geno’s eyes widen before wriggling out from beneath him and moving down his body.
“Sid, you don’t have –”
“Shh.” Sidney unbuttons Geno’s jeans and ducks his head to inhale the smell of him. Geno settles a hand in his hair and breathes out, shaky and surprised. Sidney wants to pull that sound from him every day, wants to hear the soft hitch in Geno’s breathing when Sidney touches him.
Geno is quiet, as quiet as he’d been the night before. Sidney has had partners in the past who were extremely, sometimes excessively vocal, and while he appreciates the encouragement, there’s something about Geno’s stillness that turns every sound into a precious object. He drags a groan from Geno’s lips with judicious use of his tongue, pulls a soft, “Sid,” when he adds his hand, and learns that going slowly, bobbing his head to a steady rhythm, will cause Geno to swear in Russian.
“Sid, gonna –” Geno chokes out, squeezing Sidney’s shoulder, and Sidney pulls back onto his knees as Geno comes, spattering his chest and stomach, his whole curling up towards Sid like he’s doing crunches. Geno’s chest heaves and his hand is probably leaving bruises in Sidney’s shoulder, and when he says, “Wow,” he sounds so dazed that Sidney peers into his eyes to be sure he’s all right.
“Geno?” he asks cautiously, tilting his face up.
“Get inside,” Geno says. He rubs his come into Sidney’s skin in slow, thoughtful circles. “I want to try something.”
“Surprise,” Geno says.
The walk up to the bedroom seems interminably long, particularly since Geno won’t let Sidney put his shirt back on and he keeps his hand firmly in Sidney’s back pocket. Geno seems particularly intent on Sidney’s ass, for reason which become apparently when he gets Sidney onto the bed and immediately asks for lube.
“Lube?” Sidney asks.
“I want to try finger,” Geno says. He bites his lip. “Okay?”
“Have you ever done this before?”
“Only for girls. And –” Geno turns a splotchy red. “Try once on me, but it different.”
“Yes.” Sidney points at his nightstand and tries very hard not to imagine Geno in his room, biting his lip to keep from making any sound as he fucked himself on his fingers. “Lube is in there.”
While Geno goes to look, Sidney goes the extra step of shedding his jeans and briefs before pushing a pillow beneath his hips. Geno actually moans when he sees him and fumbles the bottle of lube. “Fuck, Sid.”
“Are you going to do this?” Sidney asks. “Or just look?”
“Look first.” Geno rubs his hands over Sidney’s thighs, down to his ass. “A lot to look at.”
“Ha ha, very funny –” Sidney sucks in a sharp breath as Geno kisses the little hollow at the inside of his knee. “Go slow,” he says. “It’s been a while.”
“Yeah?” Geno reaches back, flails around before he finds the lube bottle again. “Okay.”
Geno is hesitant with his first finger, pressing in bit by bit until he’s two knuckles deep and biting his lip in concentration. Sidney realizes Geno needs guidance when he looks up and starts to provide a steady stream of encouragement – “Slower” and “A bit more” and “add another finger” – until Geno has three fingers in him and Sidney is arching off the bed, wishing it was Geno’s dick instead but suspecting that it might be a lot for one night. He wraps his hand around his own dick, much neglected up until now, and comes with Geno’s mouth on his thigh, his long fingers curling inside him.
Geno kisses him, after, the two of them curling into each other. Sidney stares, blurrily, at the shape of Geno’s nose, his sad, downturned eyes. He has never studied Geno so closely before. He’s uncharted territory, waiting to be discovered, and Sidney wants, suddenly, desperately, to be that person for him. It’s a reckless wish, the kind that he would never allow himself if it weren’t July and if he wasn’t coming off another season of disappointment, if he weren’t so far removed from who he usually is that he may as well be a different person. It’s not as if they could continue – whatever this is once they get back to Pittsburgh.
“Frowning,” Geno says softly. He kisses the furrow of Sidney’s brow. “Stop. Be happy.”
“I am,” Sidney promises. “I will. Sorry.”
Geno kisses his mouth this time. “It’s okay.” Sidney opens his mouth and then sputters as Geno kisses him again. “Tomorrow,” he says when he pulls back. “We train?”
“I’ll ask Taylor if she wants to come, if that’s all right?”
To his relief, Geno smiles. “Sure,” he says. “I love Taylor.”
The number of times Taylor and Geno have met can be counted on one hand, yet despite this, the two of them have an eerie sort of connection that gives Sidney the shudders because Taylor knows way, way too much about him and Geno is merciless when he finds a string to pull. Taylor breaks into a shy smile when she sees Geno at the rink, trundling over in her goalie pads to give him a one-armed hug and then squeaking when he lifts her up. Sidney grins, readjusting his socks while Taylor and Geno exchange hellos and talk about Sidney, his dog, his house, his cooking – “Hey!” Sidney protests when Geno mimes gagging – and how they’re going to kick Sidney’s ass.
“We’re not even playing a game,” Sidney says. Taylor grins at him through her goalie mask and heads off towards the ice to do her warm-up routine. Sidney ducks to tie up his skate and startles when Geno places a hand on the back of his neck. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Geno smiles and kisses the top of Sidney’s head. “Ready for me to beat you?”
“How?” Sidney demands, exasperated. Geno laughs, squeezes his neck, and moves off to change. Sidney watches him go, then goes out to join Taylor on the ice.
He’s idly taking shots at her when Taylor says, seemingly out of the blue, “So why is Geno really here?”
Sidney fans on his next shot and drops his blade back to the ice. “What?”
“He’s not here just to learn how to do face-offs with you,” Taylor says. She knocks one of the pucks out of her net. “I’m not stupid.”
“We don’t have to talk about it now,” she says. “But I know something is going on. And – look, Sid, you can trust me.”
“I know.” Sidney flicks a puck at her. “I do.”
Taylor bats the puck of the air easily and bares her teeth. “More challenging,” she dares him.
Geno and Sidney don’t go easy on her, practicing passing plays from behind the net, showing off for her and for each other. Sidney is annoyed and proud in equal measures by how many of their shots Taylor stops. She’s becoming so good; he hopes one day they’ll get to play at an Olympics together, that the two of them will be, if not on the same team, part of Team Canada together. He’d give anything to play with her, to see her every day and to be a part of her growth and life as a goalie.
Geno taps his ass with his stick. “Hey,” he says. “You show me face-offs?”
“Sure, if Taylor wants to drop the puck for us,” he says, glancing back at her. She shrugs, but skates to center ice agreeably enough to play the role of linesman. Geno grins at Sid as she scoots into position.
He says something in Russian, low and dirty-sounding, the content clear from his tone and the way he looks up at Sidney through his lashes, mouth curling up into a smirk. Sidney flushes instantly, glancing up towards Taylor, who is pretending not to listen. She drops the puck and Geno wins the draw handily, Sidney being too flustered to pay attention properly.
“Cheater,” Sidney accuses when he catches up to Geno, who has streaked off towards the other end of the ice. He checks Geno lightly into the boards. “What did you say?”
“Tell you when we get home,” Geno promises. He bumps his helmeted head against Sidney’s, as if they’re in a game, before skating back to center ice, shouting how Sidney sucks and Taylor better not take any advice from him because he’s terrible. Sidney takes the opportunity to collect his breath, which seems to have vanished all of a sudden.
They grab lunch after they leave the rink, taking it out to the lake where Sidney’s boat is tied up. Taylor is tan on her shoulders, little white lines from her tank top bright on her shoulders, and with her hair up, shorts and flip flops on, she could be any teenager. Sidney wonders if she has a boyfriend, if she would tell him if she did, and is overwhelmed by a sudden wave of fondness for her. He wraps his arm around her shoulder and kisses her temple despite her half-hearted protests, and releases her so she can scowl up at him.
“Sometimes you’re so weird, Sid,” she tells him fondly. She bumps her arm against his and turns back to Geno, who has watched the whole exchange with a vaguely bemused expression. “So how was France? I’ve always wanted to go.”
“Beautiful,” Geno declares. Discussion of Geno’s Europe trip dominates much of the conversation as they sit on the dock and dangle their feet in the water. Sidney has very little to contribute despite Jordy and Max having dragged him to Cannes that one time. Instead, he watches Geno and Taylor, both of them grinning and breathless with laughter as they try to tell each other better and better stories. Taylor eventually gives up after a story about Ovechkin from World Junior involving a chicken and a case of Molson, lifting her hands and saying, “I’m never going to top that.”
“I hope not,” Sidney says. Geno flicks a piece of lettuce at him. “Hey!”
“You’re jealous,” he says, grinning. He sticks the tip of his tongue out, laughing. “We have fun life.”
“She’s my baby sister,” Sidney feels compelled to point out.
“Going to college, yes?” Geno ruffles Taylor’s hair. “She get new stories.”
“Nothing bad,” Taylor says, smiling at Sidney. “I promise.”
“I know, you’re a good kid,” Sidney says. She shoves at him and he laughs, ducking his head. “Sorry.”
“I try to be.” Taylor beams up at him and Geno. “You could learn.”
“I push you in the lake,” Geno warns, reaching out. Taylor shrieks and bats him away, pushing herself up and taking off down the dock. Geno squeezes Sidney’s knee briefly and then chases after her. Sidney watches them play-wrestle, Geno clearly going easy on her, and tidies up the remains of their lunch fastidiously.
“Are you gonna come to dinner on Sunday?” Taylor asks Sidney when they walk back to their cars. “Mom and Dad want to see you.”
“Yeah, I know,” Sidney says. “I’ll come.”
“I’ll be there.” Sidney gives her a hug. “Thanks for hanging with us today.”
“You still haven’t told me why Geno is here,” she points out. “He’s here for you?”
“He doesn’t know anyone else in Cole Harbour, does he?” Sidney asks.
“You know what I mean.” Taylor pokes him in the stomach. “Sid.”
“I’ll tell you about it later,” Sidney says. “If there’s anything to tell.”
“There’s obviously something to tell,” says Taylor. “But I get it.” She gets in her car – Sidney has to restrain the urge to tell her she’s not old enough to drive – and smiles down at him. “See you tomorrow morning, then.”
“Yeah.” Sidney pats her car door and steps back so she can pull out of her parking space. Geno comes to stand next to Sidney, squinting against the sun. They wave farewell together, and as soon as she’s gone, Geno sticks his fingers in Sidney’s jeans pocket.
“Let’s go,” he says.
Sidney barely has the door closed behind him before Geno has him pressed up against it, his hands pushing up Sidney’s shirt. Sidney turns his head so Geno can get at his neck and collar, lets him do as he like. He’s probably leaving a mark, because Geno’s that kind of guy, and normally Sidney would tell him not to, but he isn’t sure how long Geno will be here. He wants to keep him close for as long as possible.
They don’t make it upstairs; they don’t even make it out of the front hall. Geno blows Sidney right there, hands braced against Sidney’s thighs and inadvertently keeping his knees from giving out. Sidney cups one hand around Geno’s jaw, breathing heavily, and comes across Geno’s lips and in his mouth. Geno swallows, looking curious, and then licks Sidney clean until Sidney has to push him away, skin prickling from overstimulation.
“Get up,” he says, knocking at Geno’s shoulder. “I need to blow you now.”
He means more that it’s tit for tat, but Geno’s eyes go wide and his mouth – still come-stained, Sidney notes, stomach flaring hot with arousal – falls open. “Sid.”
“Come on,” Sidney says, trying to guide him up. “Geno –”
“Can you, um –” Geno wiggles his hand. “Fingers?”
“Oh.” Sidney bites his lip, trying to suppress his grin. “Yeah, okay. Let’s go upstairs.”
Sidney really likes doing this, likes getting a guy beneath him and breaking them down, and there’s something so gorgeous about Geno naked and spread out on his sheets, chest flushed and cock hard and, well, huge against his stomach. Sidney takes the lube from where they’d left it the night before and kneels between Geno’s legs. “Ready? I’ll go slowly.”
“Hurry,” Geno says, because he doesn’t know how to be gracious when he’s impatient. “No slow.”
“Hmm.” Sidney licks his fingers and pours some lube on them. “I don’t think so.”
Geno says something in Russian that’s probably incredibly rude, but he shuts up as soon as Sidney puts his mouth on his dick. Sidney wishes he could use that technique more often. He appreciates the way Geno reacts, coherence vanishing in the face of his arousal. The way Geno twists and whines beneath him, how he breaks out in half choked off curses when Sidney adds a third finger, is intoxicating. Sidney’s jaw aches around his cock, but it’s the kind of pain he enjoys, the kind that means he’s working hard. And the reward – Geno coming in a hot rush, clenching around Sidney’s fingers, gasping like he’s just run a marathon – is more than worth it.
“Fuck,” Geno says when Sidney pulls off, wiping his mouth with the back of his clean hand. He’s sweating a little, his hair sticking to his forehead, and his lip is gnawed raw. “Sid.” He reaches for him, and Sidney lets himself be pulled in for a kiss.
Geno tugs Sidney against his chest and strokes his hair, even as Sidney squirms and protests that he needs to clean up. “Clean up later,” he says. He noses at Sidney’s temple. “Want to stay like this.”
“Geno,” Sidney whines.
“Shh.” Geno wraps his hand around Sidney’s wrist. “Stay.”
Sidney stops moving and allows himself to relax, eyes drifting closed. “Okay.”
Geno’s chest rumbles with a happy growl. Sidney smiles and tucks his cheek against Geno’s collar, intending to just close his eyes for a few minutes –
Sidney wakes alone, but he can hear Geno moving around downstairs, his humming echoing up to him. The bed is still warm where Geno had lain, and Sidney rests there for a few minutes, staring up at his ceiling and reveling in odd comfort of just knowing someone else is there. It’s been a while since he’s had something resembling a relationship – the concussion had put something of a strain on his dating life – and he hadn’t realized how quiet his life had become without someone else around.
The thing is, Sidney’s happy being single. His teammates always try to find him dates when he doesn’t have a boyfriend, and he appreciates the thought. What they don’t seem to realize is that Sidney is perfectly capable of keeping himself company. He has enough outside interests, despite what everyone may think, and enough friends to keep his life from getting too lonely or too boring. And as much as he has liked and loved his past boyfriends, there was always a level of disconnect when it came to his lifestyle. He thinks that’s why so many guys marry girls they’ve known forever; they’ve been together for so long that the strange schedule and habits of a hockey player seem normal.
He had mostly given up on the idea of ever finding someone to settle down with until after he retired, which seemed like the most likely option given how busy he constantly was, not just with hockey but with family and friends and sponsor commitments and interviews. He would feel safer once the chaos of his career was over. People would care less once he was out of the public eye; maybe he wouldn’t have to try so hard to keep his life private. It’s a lot to ask of anyone to put up with his life as it is now, and he’s been hesitant to do so without knowing if the relationship would go anywhere.
Geno, now – Geno isn’t at all what Sidney had ever anticipated for himself, nor is he sure that a relationship is what Geno is looking for. It’s entirely possible Geno is hoping to wean himself off his interest in Sidney, though thinking of that makes Sidney’s heart clench unpleasantly. Geno gets Sidney in a way that not many people do, and they’ve never been very close before, but Sidney would like to be. He’s learning more about Geno every day, seeing the depths of feeling and curiosity and mischievousness within him. It’s fascinating, and intoxicating and overwhelming, too.
Sidney pushes himself up and slips out of bed to wash himself off, hoping to clear his head. He splashes his face with water after washing his hands and rinsing his mouth and looks at his reflection for a while, trying to imagine what Geno sees when he looks at him. Does he see Sidney’s weird nose and girlish lips, his crooked smile? Does he like them? What, he wonders, could have made Geno fall in love with him and brought him all the way around the world to see him?
“Sid!” Geno calls, sing-song, drawing out the i. “I make dinner! Come eat!”
“Coming!” Sidney calls back. He dries off his face and throws on a shirt and sweats before padding down to join Geno to eat.
They clean up together, Geno washing the dishes and passing them to Sidney, who sets them on the dish drainer, both of them dropping scraps to Sam at their feet. She licks Geno’s toes after eating her fill and wanders back towards her bed, wuffling softly. Sidney watches her go, then turns back as Geno nudges him, a soapy plate in his hands.
“Hey, Geno,” Sidney says, taking it. “How long do you think you’re going to be staying here?”
Geno, who until now had been relaxed and loose, stiffens. “Why?”
“I’m not – I’m glad you’re here.” Sidney hastily puts the plate aside and grabs Geno’s elbow, pushing him around so they’re facing each other. “I’m wondering, is all.”
Geno meets his eyes. After a moment, he heaves out a sigh. “I don’t know, Sid. Have to go back to Russia for Olympic camp.”
“That’s soon?” says Sidney.
“Yes.” Geno leans forward and Sidney instinctively wraps his arms around his waist. “Don’t want to go.”
“Yes you do,” Sidney says, rubbing his back. “You want to go so you can beat Canada and laugh at us.”
“I won’t laugh,” Geno protests. “I’m not mean.”
“Bully,” Sidney teases affectionately. Then, “I know you wouldn’t.”
Geno turns his face into Sidney’s neck. “I want to stay with you.”
“We could get you Canadian citizenship.”
“Ha.” Geno slides his arms around Sidney’s shoulders. “I’m afraid in Pittsburgh we not be like this.”
“Together?” When Geno nods, Sidney ventures hesitantly, “Do you want to be?”
Geno squeezes Sidney. “I want you.”
“Okay,” Sidney says, a little hysterically. “Okay. We can work that out.”
Geno kisses Sidney’s neck. “Okay.”
Neither of them is really up for another round of sex, but they do spend several hours making out on the sofa, Sidney wedged between Geno’s legs and his hands halfway up Geno’s shirt. They’re ostensibly watching one of Geno’s reality shows, and Sidney keeps catching bits about the bride’s dress. Geno’s mouth, however, seems much more important than the bridal woes of a girl in Alabama. Sidney thinks his priorities are very much in order.
Saturday is a slow day in the summer, particularly in Halifax, and he has no plans aside from the brief training session Andy and picking up groceries. He doesn’t bring Geno, who insists that it’s the weekend and therefore he gets to sleep in. When he returns home, Geno has only moved from the bed to the couch but otherwise looks much the same as when he left. Sidney tugs the blanket higher over his shoulders and goes outside for a run around the lake, still full of adrenaline from a high-spirited practice.
Geno is up and making lunch with sleepy, slow movements when Sidney gets back. He zeroes in on Sidney’s sweaty chest and flushes, licking his lips. “Not fair,” he complains.
“What?” Sidney wipes his forehead with the hem of his shirt, which has the extra purpose of hiding his smile. “What’s not fair?”
“I tell you I like you sweaty, and this.” Geno gestures at him. “Not fair.”
“What are you going to do about it?” Sidney asks, smirking.
Geno drops the knife he’s using and pushes Sidney out of the kitchen. “Dirty,” he says, voice a low rumble of heat in Sidney’s ear. “Get in bed.”
Geno is much surer in his blowjob skills than before, seemingly having learned what will have Sidney arching up on the bed. He jerks himself off, moaning around Sidney’s cock, and Sidney discovers that Geno likes having his hands in his hair. He pushes Geno off again before he comes, but Geno stays between his legs, mouthing at the tip as Sidney comes. Geno gets himself off, turning his face into Sidney’s leg to stifle his groan. Sidney strokes his hair as Geno shudders and eventually turns his filthy face up to Sidney.
“Shit,” Sidney says breathlessly. He rubs his thumbs over Geno’s cheek. “Geno.”
“We have to shower now,” Geno says morosely. “Can’t eat lunch like this.”
“No,” Sidney agrees, grinning. “Come on.”
They do eventually manage to eat lunch, and they spend the rest of the day on the couch together, flipping channels before eventually settling on a channel showing some animated movie. Neither of them has any strenuous objections to it, which is novel given their strident disagreements over Sidney’s history documentaries (“No Russia history!” Geno complains) and Geno’s reality show addiction. Not that it really matters; before they’ve watched more than five minutes, Sidney is in Geno’s arms and they’re not paying the television any attention at all.
They watch part of the ending, though neither of them understands what’s going on. It’s beautiful, falling stars on the screen illuminating Geno’s face and turning him nearly ethereal in the white-blue light. Sidney takes Geno’s hand in his, lacing their fingers together. Geno doesn’t turn to look at him, but his mouth turns up in a smile, wide and shy.
They go to bed early, Sidney reading one of his history books and Geno reading a novel in Russian, their ankles hooked together beneath the sheets. Geno loses his patience first and plucks the book from Sidney’s hands before tugging Sidney on top of him. Sidney grins, taking off Geno’s much-despised reading glasses and setting them aside.
“Hi,” he says.
“Hello.” Geno tucks his hands into Sidney’s pajama pants, inside his briefs to palm at his ass. “Can I fuck you?”
Sidney licks his lips, mouth going dry. “Yeah?”
“Yeah.” Geno looks at him, waiting.
“Condoms are with the lube,” Sidney says.
He divests himself of clothing and lifts his legs so Geno can kneel between them, getting him wet with lube. Geno’s hands are shaking at first, but then he catches Sidney’s eyes and Sidney smiles at him. Geno relaxes and beams back.
It takes some maneuvering to find a position that works for them, and eventually Sidney just rolls them over so he can straddle Geno’s hips. “Okay?”
“Yes,” Geno says, settling his hands on Sidney’s thighs. “Ready.”
Sidney keeps one hand on the headboard for balance, the other on the pillows beside Geno’s head. He tries not to look at Geno as he sinks down onto his cock, too self-conscious of his own slack mouth and the dazed expression he’s sure is on his face. Geno is big, God, so big and it’s a stretch, but the good kind, the kind that has Sidney working for it. Geno gasps when Sidney is settled fully on him and flails up to grab Sidney’s wrist.
“Okay?” Sidney asks, voice coming out choked. He can feel Geno’s tension, and he wants to start riding him properly, push down and feel the drag of his cock inside him, but he isn’t sure Geno’s ready. Geno’s mouth falls open, eyes drifting shut. “Geno?”
“Go,” Geno says, sounding drugged.
So Sidney does, pushing himself up, thighs burning, and fucks himself back down on Geno’s cock. It’s not hard to relearn the rhythm of it, even with Geno seeming too stunned to push back, and the drag of it, the press of Geno’s dick inside of it is enough to get Sid most of the way there. Geno’s hand is tight around his wrist, thumb digging into the flesh just below his wrist bone.
“Sid,” he breathes, voice thick. “Come down here.”
Sidney drops so that he’s pressed to Geno’s chest, lets Geno kiss him hard and messy. Geno comes at that, stiffening beneath Sidney, and Sidney takes the opportunity to get his free hand around his cock and jerk himself off while Geno is still hard inside him. His thighs shake when he comes, and he exhales against Geno’s throat.
They lie in each other’s arms once Sidney pulls himself off Geno and gets rid of the condom. Geno’s chest rises and falls beneath Sidney’s cheek. He rests his hand on Sidney’s elbow. After a long while, he says, “Thank you.”
“Nothing to thank me for,” Sidney says, kissing Geno’s chest. “I enjoyed it too, you know.”
Geno laughs. “Yeah. I better next time.”
“I learn quick,” Geno says. He pulls Sidney in for a brief, sweet kiss. “I get cloth for us.”
They clean up and settle in to sleep, fitting together as if they’ve been doing this for years rather than days. Geno’s breath is warm on the back of Sidney’s neck, his arm casually slung over his side. It’s perfect, the comforting sort of clench that sends Sidney quickly off to sleep on an ordinary night.
Tonight, though, Sidney lies awake. He curls his hand over Geno’s where it’s resting on his stomach and stares into the dark of the room, thinking about the coming year. Thinking about Geno and how they might fit in his bed in Pittsburgh. How Geno’s hand fits perfectly in his.
Sunday morning, Sidney wakes to his phone alarm and gets out of bed to take his shower and dress for church. He has to peel Geno’s octopus arm off him and has nearly made it out when Geno rolls over and squints up at him.
"Where you going?" Geno asks, voice bleary with tiredness. "So early."
"Church," Sidney says. "Go back to sleep." He hesitates. "Or – do you want to come with us?"
Geno looks thoughtful for a moment. Then he buries his face in his pillow. “No, I sleep.”
“All right.” Sidney leans over and presses his lips to Geno’s shoulder. “Don’t sleep too long.”
The rituals of going to church are well ingrained in him by now. He doesn’t go often in Pittsburgh, mostly a function of his busy schedule, but he goes most Sundays when he’s home. He wouldn’t describe himself as particularly religious, though church was a part of his routine as a child. He associates it most with his grandmother, who liked taking him and Taylor and talking to them after the sermon about what it meant. Now that she’s gone, Sidney still likes to go and sit with Taylor, knowing both of them are thinking of her.
He meets his family out front and gives them all hugs and kisses on the cheek. His mother adjusts his tie and his father asks how training is going, and it could be like every other Sunday except Sidney has Geno burned into his skin beneath his neat clothes and he wishes that he could be back with him. Taylor hooks her arm through his as soon as they finish saying hello to their neighbors and some of their family friends, and leads him inside so they can take their seats.
“Hey,” she says when they’re seated. “Geno didn’t want to come?”
“He’s sleeping,” Sidney says.
“Yeah.” Taylor folds her hands into her lap and gazes up at the altar. “I’m happy for you.”
He gives her a sharp look. “What?”
“I know you’re not going to talk about it,” she says. “But you seem really happy, and so does he. It’s nice.”
“I won’t say anything to Mom and Dad.” Taylor makes a face, seemingly unconsciously. “I know they’re still getting used to everything. I mean, they’re trying.”
“I know they are.”
“I think Geno might be even more of an adjustment than just the you and guys thing.” Taylor smiles at him. “Is it serious?”
“It could be,” Sidney allows. “And I’m not talking about this with you anymore.”
“Fair enough.” Taylor leans her head against his shoulder. “Gonna bring him to dinner?”
“If he wants.” Sidney glances up and sees their parents coming towards them. His mother rubs his shoulder as she passes and kisses the top of his head affectionately. He smiles up at her.
“I’m glad you’re here,” she says. He takes her hand and kisses her knuckles fondly. “Are you going to be at dinner tonight?”
“Yes,” Sidney says.
“I’ll make peanut butter cookies,” she says.
“Oh, you don’t have to –”
She gives him an unimpressed look, and he gives in, as she no doubt knew he would. She squeezes his fingers before slipping into the pew past Taylor to take her seat.
After the sermon, they stand outside on the steps to the church, backs warming from the sun as they say hello to the families they know. Sidney smiles, thanks people for their compliments and for their criticism, asks after their families, murmurs polite excuses when they ask if he’s going to settle down soon. This, though familiar, has been his least favorite part of church ever since he was old enough for strangers to know his name. He doesn’t like to think of his life as public domain, and yet, it is.
“You all right?” Taylor asks him after a while, touching his shoulder.
“I think I’m gonna go home.” Sidney hugs her loosely. “See you tonight.”
“Okay.” She squeezes his arm. “I’ll see you tonight.”
Sidney says goodbye to his parents and drives home, trying not to think too much about Geno, lying sleep-rumpled in his bed without him. The house is quiet when he comes in, and at first he thinks maybe Geno went for a walk, before he hears a drawer slam upstairs.
“Geno?” he calls. He follows the sound and finds Geno in the bedroom he hasn’t used in days. His suitcase is on the bed and it’s almost full with clothes. Geno freezes guiltily when he sees Sidney, eyes widening.
“Back early,” Geno says eventually when Sidney fails to find words. “I think you take longer.”
“Were you going to leave without saying goodbye?” Sidney asks. He tries very hard to keep his voice even, but it still wavers. He swallows. “Geno?”
“I not want to say bye,” Geno says quietly. “I think, easier if I leave.”
Geno blinks rapidly, chewing on his lower lip. “Gonna miss you, Sid,” he confesses.
Sidney stumbles forward, into Geno’s chest, and hugs him so tight that Geno huffs in surprise before returning the embrace. “God, Geno.”
“You know why I come here,” Geno says. “For you.”
“Yeah. I know.” Sidney pulls back a little to look up at him. “It won’t be long, you know.”
“Too long.” Geno sighs. “Always too long.” He kisses Sidney before he can say anything in response, and Sidney gives himself over to it, drinking in the smell and taste and feel of Geno against him, the warmth of his body and the chapped skin of his lips. Geno finally pulls away, cheeks flushed, and lifts his hands to Sidney’s face. “I leave you a note on bed. Don’t open until I gone.”
“Okay.” Sidney turns his head to kiss the inside of Geno’s wrist, over the faint blue lines of his veins. “Have a safe flight.”
Geno smiles tremulously and kisses Sidney again, swift and brief. “I go now.”
Sidney walks with him to the front door, reminding himself that it’s irrational to be this upset when it’s been barely over a week. But it’s Geno and it’s been a perfect week, and it hasn’t been nearly enough.
Geno hesitates at the door, lips turned up in a pale imitation of a smile. “I call you.”
“Please,” Sidney says. He holds the door open so Geno can get out the door easily and watches him go to his rented car. Sam, who has come to investigate the commotion, whines pitifully. Sidney scratches the back of her ears. “I know, girl.”
He stands there until the car starts, and then his instincts kick in and he jolts out of the front door, down the walk. “Geno! Geno, wait!”
He catches up just as Geno stops the engine and gets out. “Sid?”
Sidney pulls him down into a kiss, pinning up against the side of his rental car. Geno groans and grabs a handful of Sidney’s ass. Sidney tries to put into the kiss everything he hasn’t been able to say over the last week, everything he’s hoping. Geno gives back as much as he gets, sighing into the kiss and pulling Sidney in as close as possible.
“Not goodbye,” says Geno when they part for breath. “I promise.”
“Not goodbye,” Sidney agrees. He leans his forehead against Geno’s. “See you in September.”
Geno groans and kisses the corner of Sidney’s mouth before wrenching himself away. “Okay. Okay, I go now.”
Sidney holds onto Geno’s hand until he has to close the door and then he forces himself to step away so Geno can pull out of the driveway. He waves, hoping Geno sees it, and watches until Geno’s car turns out of sight.
He returns to the house, steps slow and unsteady. He feeds Sam before going upstairs to look for the note from Geno. It is sitting, as promised, on his pillows, neatly addressed in Geno’s strange handwriting, the curves oddly blocky as though he has never gotten used to writing in Roman characters rather than Cyrillic. Sidney picks it up and turns it over in his hands, considering. After a moment, he rips it open and reads:
Thank you for letting me stay with you. It was the best week of my life.
I don’t want to say goodbye, so I say, I will see you in Pittsburgh.
Я бы проглотил звезды для тебя
Sidney presses the letter to his chest and smiles.
He keeps the letter in his pocket for the rest of the day, even when he drives over to Cole Harbour to have dinner with his family. He can’t bring himself to put it down, this reminder that the last ten days weren’t all in his imagination, that Geno had been there and had left something behind. Taylor greets him at the door when he arrives at his childhood home, looking over his shoulder curiously.
“Geno went home,” he explains, toeing his shoes off inside the door.
“Oh.” Taylor holds out her arm for him to help him balance. “Are you – I mean, it’s okay?”
“Yeah.” Sidney carefully nudges his shoes into line with his family’s. “I’m fine.”
Taylor smiles at him, a little crooked, just like his own. From the kitchen their mother calls, “Sidney, is that you? Could you help me with the salad?”
“Duty calls.” Sidney slips past Taylor into the kitchen. His mom is chopping tomatoes and gives him a distracted kiss when he leans in past her to grab the lettuce. “Hey.”
“Good to have you here, honey.” She bumps her arm against his, never wavering in her neat chopping. “We missed you last week.”
“I got caught up.” Sidney picks up one of the knives and starts chopping the lettuce, precise the way she likes it. Halfway through, his phone buzzes. He pulls it out and sees a message from Geno. On plane (((((((
Sidney sucks in a breath. He sets down his knife and types back, with fingers still damp from the lettuce leaves, Pittsburgh.
After a moment, he gets, ))))) and, two seconds later, September.
Yes, Sidney types back.
“Who are you texting?” his mom asks.
“No one,” Sidney says. “Sorry.” He tucks his phone away. His mom is watching him, eyes slightly narrowed, smile tugging at her lips.
“It isn’t no one,” she says. “But you can tell me about – him when you’re ready.” She reaches over and squeezes his hand. “Go set the table, will you? Your sister is helping Dad with the grill.”
Sidney has to bite his lip against the sudden welling of fondness for his mom. He kisses her hair, breathing in the familiar scent of her Suave shampoo, and takes the plates from their cabinet. He sets the table, shivers when the back door opens and brings with it a gust of wind and the smell of smoke and barbeque, and looks out towards the north. The sun has just started to set to the west, trails of color streaking like splattered paint through the clouds. He imagines, for a moment, Geno looking south at the darkening, brilliant sky; imagines him searching out the horizon for some sign of Sidney; imagines him hoping, wishing, waiting always for Sidney.