Alex gets a call from Geno, who says, "Sid is a child."
"Isn't that why they call him 'Sid the Kid'?"
"No," Geno says. "I mean he's a child. Six, maybe. He can't understand my English like Sid usually can and he won't let me call his mother."
It takes a while, and a photo, before Alex believes that Geno's not joking, and then he says, "I'll get a flight."
Alex flies to Pittsburgh and shows up at Sidney's doorstep, where the door is yanked open by a very frustrated Geno. "It's your turn," he says, and then he leaves.
Alex goes looking for Sid and finds him standing in front of a window, looking out over the backyard.
"Sidney Crosby," he says.
Sid turns and looks at him for a minute before he makes a face. "Ovechkin." He waves at the yard. "Geno said this is my house." He makes another face. It's pretty cute. "I think. But there's no rink."
Alex looks outside, and there isn't.
"I want to play hockey."
"Okay," Alex says. "Then we play hockey."
That doesn't make Sidney look any happier. "I don't have gear that will fit."
"Then we get some. Come on, Sid."
Sid draws himself up to his full height - maybe three and a half feet - and says, "My name is Sidney."
Alex can't help grinning at him. "Come. We get you gear, we play hockey." He calls Geno to get the name of a sports store Sid will like, and to make him arrange ice time.
Sid is very serious - a strange look on his six-year-old face - about trying on skates, and he bites his lip as he looks up at Alex when he finds a pair he likes.
"Those? Yes." Alex nudges Sid. "Put them in the box so we can buy them. Can't wear them out of store."
Sid is just as serious about trying out pads and sticks. Alex doesn't care - he'll buy Sid three of everything if he can't decide - but Sid picks out what he wants, and Alex carries it all for him.
"Need a jersey too," Alex says, before Sid takes the pads off, and he takes Sid to a display. "Sidney Crosby jersey." He grins and pulls one down. Sid puts it on and looks up at him. Alex takes a knee so he's closer to Sid's height. He puts down the sticks - Alex insisted he get more than one in case he breaks them - and skates so he can put both hands on Sid's shoulders. "Look just like Sidney Crosby now."
Sid looks at him all solemn eyes and says, "Can we play hockey now?"
Alex hands over his credit card to pay for everything, and they meet Geno at the rink. The three of them suit up, and Alex, instead of putting on his own jersey out of his gear bag, pulls one of Sid's jerseys on over his pads. "Now we both look like Sidney Crosby!"
Sid makes a face, but doesn't make him change. Geno grabs a bucket of pucks on their way out onto the ice. They warm up for a bit first, skating around so Sid can get a feel for the ice and for what it's like to be on skates as a child, and then Alex dumps out a bunch of pucks and they run drills that Sid takes no less seriously for being six.
Geno must have called Fleury earlier, because he shows up, pads and all, while they're shooting into an empty net. Instead of looking happy about it, Sid's face falls.
"Sid, what is matter? Now we have real practice!"
"It's not a real practice. I can't play like I'm supposed to."
Alex crouches down on the ice so Sid doesn't have to look up at him. "You can still work on muscle memory. You still make the same movements, and when you big again, you will still remember how."
Sid's eyes get big and his lip trembles. "Do you think I'll be big again?"
Alex claps Sid's shoulder, then draws him in for a hug. "You Sidney Crosby. Of course you going to be big again."
Sid rests his head on Alex's shoulder for a moment before he pulls away with a determined air. "I'm not going easy on you because I'm six," he yells across the ice at Fleury.
Fleury's goalie mask keeps them from seeing him laugh, but Alex is pretty sure he does.
They play for a while, shooting against Fleury and trading off who's on Sid's team when they scrimmage. Alex teaches Sid the Russian for "pass," and "I'm open." It's fun, until Sid starts getting frustrated. Then Alex stops play, rounds them all up and says, "Time for showers and lunch!"
Sid scowls at him. "I want to play!"
Alex just shakes his head. "You can't be big, strong hockey player without lunch." When Sid looks like he's still going to protest, Alex picks him up, skates and all, and swings him in a circle that leaves Sid shrieking with laughter.
"Lunch," Alex declares when he puts Sid down.
They go somewhere Geno and Fleury assure him that Sid likes.
"Sid," Alex says when he looks over the menu, "they have milkshakes! What your favorite flavor?"
Sid promptly says, "Chocolate. But it's not healthy." He looks like he really wants a milkshake, but he doesn't include it in the meticulously specific order he gives a stunned looking waitress.
Alex tacks "chocolate milkshake, two straws," onto his order. "We share!"
Sid eats half his sandwich and drinks most of the milkshake.
Alex and Geno take him home after lunch, and Sid seems fine until they get inside and he figures out they're not going back out, and then his lip trembles. "I want to play hockey."
"Can't play hockey all the time," Alex says. "Time for something else."
Sid says, "I want to play hockey," and keeps repeating it until he's throwing a tantrum, yelling and screaming at both of them.
"We here when you calm down," Alex says, and he pulls Geno away. "Ignore him," Alex says in Russian.
Geno winces at a particularly loud yell. "We can't just leave him."
"He'll stop if he realizes he's not getting what he wants."
"How do you know this?"
"There was a parenting magazine on the plane," Alex admits.
Geno can't handle listening to Sid yell and goes somewhere else in the house. Alex sits at the dining room table and plays games on his phone. Sid does eventually quiet down, and just as Alex is about to go check on him, he comes into the dining room. His face is blotchy and his eyes are still wet.
"I just want to play hockey," he says.
Alex picks Sid up and settles him onto his lap. "I know," he says.
Sid leans into his chest. "I'm not supposed to be little."
"No," Alex says. He cuddles Sid close, and Sid just leans in a little more with a sigh. They sit there for a while, and it's nice. "Is nap time now," Alex says.
Sid's face scrunches up, like he's thinking about throwing another tantrum. "I'm not tired."
"I'm tired," Alex says. "I take nap."
"You know what is fun? Nap on couch. You nap with me?"
Sid nods, so Alex picks him up and gets settled on the couch with Sid sprawled across his chest. Alex is a hockey player; he can take the weight of a six-year-old for a little while.
Sid looks dubiously from where he is to the floor.
"Not going to let you fall," Alex says, and Sid seems to trust him, because he settles down and goes to sleep.
After their nap, Sid goes outside to shoot pucks into a net. Alex and Geno coax him back inside a couple of hours later for dinner and the promise that he can watch a hockey game. Sid has tons of game tape and an obscene number of hockey games on his DVR.
By the time they put Sid to bed, Alex is exhausted, and he collapses into one of Sid's guest rooms.
Of course, Sid wakes him up way too early the next morning, trying to insist on a morning workout. Alex has to have a serious conversation with him about appropriate conditioning and the limits of the body of a six-year-old.
"We play video games," he says. "Is important hockey player skill."
Sid looks dubious, but Geno backs Alex up. "Lot of time not playing hockey."
Sid insists on playing hockey later, of course, but Alex and Geno might have if he hadn't. He gets fretful later, but at Alex's suggestion of a nap, he agrees once he extracts Alex's easily given promise that they can nap on the sofa again.
"No video games," Sid argues the next morning. "I want to play hockey."
Alex doesn't feel like fighting with him, so they go spend the morning at the rink - Sid's getting better at finding Fleury's weak spots, even when Fleury isn't going any easier on Sid than Sid is on him - and Alex and Geno take him home after lunch.
Sid climbs right onto the couch with Alex for a nap and wakes up later still drowsy enough that he doesn't immediately demand to play hockey.
"Movie?" Geno suggests. He goes to Sid's bookshelves and pulls out a DVD. "Mighty Ducks?"
Sid looks up at Alex. "Can we watch it?"
Alex says yes, and Geno puts the DVD in. Sid leans against Alex while they watch, and after a while, Alex scoops him up and pulls him into his lap. Sid doesn't lose the intensity with which he's watching the movie - and critiquing the hockey in it - but he does lean against Alex's chest, and he seems content to sit there and pull apart the movie for a bit after instead of rushing out to shoot pucks in the backyard.
It works for a couple of days, Alex and Geno doing their best to keep a hockey-obsessed six-year-old Sid entertained, fed, and well-rested. Then they keep him out at the rink for too long and Sid melts down into a tantrum that has him screaming at both of them.
It devolves from general complaints until he finally yells, "I hate you! I want my mommy!" Then he bursts into tears.
Alex sits down on the floor, pulls Sid into his lap, and lets him sob into his chest until he falls asleep, and then Alex gets them onto the couch for their usual nap. Sid sleeps longer than usual, leaving Alex to lie awake for a while listening to him breathe.
Alex sits up after Sid wakes up, keeping Sid on his lap. "Do you want to call your mother?"
Sid bites his lip. "I'm not supposed to be like this."
"Is okay, Sid. Do you want to?"
Sid nods against his chest. "Yeah."
"Okay, then we call."
Sid tugs at Alex's sleeve. "Can we Skype?" His eyes are very big and he looks like he might be about to cry again. "I want to see her."
Alex gets Sid's laptop, and Sid knows enough to be able to set up the connection to his mom. She takes one look at him on Alex's lap and says, "Sidney!"
"Mommy," Sid says, and he starts to sniffle again. "I'm not supposed to be little."
"No," his mom says. She looks past him. "Is that- Alex Ovechkin?"
"Hello, Mrs. Crosby. Was too hard for Geno alone. I have been helping out."
Sid's mom gets a determined look on her face, and after she talks to Sid for a while, she says, "I'm coming down there."
Sid looks torn between wanting his mom and not wanting to be trouble.
Alex hugs him. "We take good care of you, but mom better."
"I'll send you my flight details," Sid's mom says.
Sid turns around after they close the laptop and hugs Alex for a really long time.
Sid's mom arrives the next day, and she shakes Alex and Geno's hands. "Thank you so much for taking care of him. I know he's a handful at this age."
"Is okay," Geno says. "Still Sid." He ruffles Sid's hair; Sid sticks his tongue out in retaliation.
"We are happy to do it," Alex says. He crouches down and opens his arms for a hug Sid steps right up to give him. "Sid and I are friends now." He squeezes Sid as tight as he can without hurting him, then taps him on the nose. "When you big again, we play on the ice."
"Promise." Alex hugs Sid one more time before he and Geno leave.
The first thing Alex does when he gets home to D.C. is buy a kid-sized Ovechkin jersey and have it shipped to Sid overnight.
He gets a pair of pictures from an unfamiliar number the next day. One is Sid in the jersey scowling. He's smiling in the second, but Alex saves the first one as the picture to go with Sid's name in his phone.
Alex gets a large envelope in the mail, Sid's name and address in the upper left corner. He opens it to find a drawing, two figures in crayon wearing number eighty-seven jerseys and skates, one small and fierce, one with a smile that shows missing teeth. Printed in the most careful letters a six-year-old can make are the words, "Thank you, Alex. Love, Sidney."
It makes Alex want to both laugh and cry. He puts it on the fridge and gets a sharp look from his mother when she sees it.
Alex shrugs, but that's not going to fool his mother.
It's almost a week later that Alex's phone buzzes with a picture message from Geno: Sid himself again, grinning broadly into the camera.
Alex gets on a plane and shows up at Sid's door midafternoon.
Sid looks at him suspiciously, and Alex grins and doesn't wait for Sid to invite him in. "Can still ask for a hug," he says, "even though you are big again."
Sid makes a face.
"I want a hug," Alex says, and Sid doesn't protest when Alex pulls him into one. He even hangs on a little, and Alex squeezes him tighter when he does.
"Travel is very tiring," Alex says when he finally lets Sid go. "Time for a nap."
Sid says, "I'm too big for us to fit on the couch," and then promptly looks like he didn't mean to say that.
"It's okay," Alex says promptly. "Your bed is big enough for both of us."
Sid's face works like he's trying to figure out the right response to that. Before he can come up with anything, Alex takes his arm and tugs him up the stairs.
"This was kind of scary," Sid admits once they're in his bed. "When I was a kid again. It's a pretty big bed."
Alex pulls Sid into something of a hug. Sid's too big to lie on him the way he did when he was a kid, but Alex gets Sid's shoulder and arm draped across him, Sid's head on his chest. "You didn't say. Would not let you be scared."
"Yeah, I know," Sid says, and he falls asleep on Alex.
He blinks sleepily at Alex when he wakes up later, and Alex just smiles at him, then pulls him into a kiss. Sid goes with it for longer than Alex would have guessed before he says, "What?"
"Sidney Crosby," Alex says. "Need to learn to have fun."
Sidney makes a face at him. "Hockey is fun."
Alex grins at him. "Making out now, then hockey, then dinner."
Sid looks like he's going to protest, so Alex kisses him instead, and Sid just kind of sighs into it and they make out for a while.
"Time for hockey," Alex says before they get very far, and they go run drills and race across the ice and slam into each other, each of them in their own jerseys this time.
Sid is happy and smiling after, and Alex bumps his shoulder into Sid's and makes him choose the restaurant for dinner. They end up at a place that's kind of nice, almost romantic. Alex pays for dinner and barely manages to wait until they're back to Sid's and inside before he kisses Sid.
Sid clutches at his shoulders, stops kissing him and presses their foreheads together. "You were," he says. "When I was little. You were great."
Alex cups the back of Sid's head in one hand. "Was easy," he says. "Hockey and hugs, make you happy."
Sid shifts, so he's not so much clutching at Alex as hugging him. Alex hugs him back. They stand there for a while before Sid takes his hand and they go upstairs.