The Pens are playing the Canes, 4-3 in the third period, and Sid connects with Stewart's shoulder hard, spinning out to trip backwards over Ward's stick. He lands flat on his back in the net, staring up at the goal camera while Ward yells at him and then there's voices all around, a thousand screamers yanking at his hearing and Ward's backed off, but the overhead lights swing and blur and oh God no, not again...
The air smells like summer, drying earth and cut grass, and when Sid opens his eyes the sunlight splashes down warm and golden through the trees. He's leaning against a tree, and...and his hands are thin, with knobby red knuckles and delicate wrists. He's...wearing someone else's pajamas, and a fuzzy bathrobe that smells like a different person. Sid puts his--not his, not his, not his--hands very carefully on...someone else's knees, and--
Gene went to sleep, seems like he's always tired these days and he can't--he can't stand his mattress it's so soft, but when he wakes up he's strapped to some kind of stretcher, wrapped in heavy padding and sweat and a sharp pain in the back of his head--Jesus, Jesus, please, he's shot, he's dead, he's on the island he never left the island he--
"Sid, Sid, is okay, you fine, you stay," some mush-mouthed devil in a black and white costume tells him, reaching over himself to pat Gene's chest as he's carried off.
Gene lifts his head, realizes he's wearing a helmet, and the motion seems to cause as much ruckus as a fox in a hen house, but before some older gent's pressed him back to the stretcher Gene registers that everyone's dressed the same as the man with his hand pressed to his chest. He shivers; it's cold and there's skates on his feet like a damn kid and--
"What's going on?" Sid asks the old man who came to collect him from the little copse of trees he woke up in.
The old man adjusts his glasses and shakes his head. He's dressed like Sid's grandpa and talks like he's maybe from the South, but more. Sid's never seen a lot of the South, but he's heard the Canes' fans speak. The old man sounds the same, but different, like a television southerner. He smiles, and Sid tries to hide his shakes in the pockets of his--whoever's bathrobe.
"Well, Eugene," the man says, "You know how your mama feels about dilly-dallying the day away, but I thought, since we have the time now...might enjoy ourselves a walk before supper?"
Sid blinks. He nods cautiously, because Jordy once told him that you needed to treat crazy people like they were sane so you wouldn't set them off. Even if he's in another body, it seems like a good plan. The old man smiles back at him, but there's something... His eyes, like he's looking at something so far away, and he's so sad for a moment that Sid feels like apologizing, but--
"Geno," Gene tests out, laying down on cushy table he'd been left on, and the big clown who'd practically been holding his hand grins like a monkey after a banana.
"Yes," he says, touching his hand and pulling away.
Gene wishes he could place the accent, but his head feels wrong and his body feels too thick. This Geno doesn't touch him right, only person who used to grab at him as much was Snafu and he--he never got to be so blatant about it. He never touched him under the eyes of God and man, even if none of this team of costumed reprobates appears to give a damn, leavin' them alone like this. Gene looks down at his body, heavier and hairier, and flexes his hands; the scars are different.
"Them doctors comin' back any time soon?" he asks.
"I--maybe?" Geno says. His hands reach around Gene's head, and Gene is up and off the table and crashing to the floor before he can say boo to a goose, damn skates, who wears these.
"Do not," he pants, hauling himself to his feet by the expedient of hanging off the examination table. "Do not be touching me."
He looks up and Geno is standing, hands raised and his face--well. Gene looks away.
"You know, son," the old man says, swishing a stalk of long grass against his legs as they walk. "I...we have all had our wars."
Sid glances at him, but the old man is looking off across the field, which is probably full of mice. He bites his lips, and shrugs, and the old man pats him on the shoulder, a gentle clasp and a slight shake. They keep walking.
Apparently, this body Gene's wearing like an old suit plays some kind of ice sport, but thankfully, he's out for the rest of the game. That boy who followed him on the stretcher left him alone after an awkward minute or two. Now, Gene's sitting in the locker room, and (after a few false starts, Lord, who came up with this equipment) manages to find himself clean clothes that fit. He drops the mound of padding on the floor and leaves it there.
(And after a little while they both start to relax, to answer to their own names, because the Pens give Gene all the space he needs, but Geno doesn't and it's his first, his first kiss that makes him feel anything but bored, the first time he realizes it's a man, it should have been Snaf, and it's probably been this Geno's Sidney so Gene reminds himself that he is a gentlemen and puts a stop to their canoodling, pleading his headache like a lady. Instead, he steals a bit of comfort, watching the tele-vision that Geno owns with an arm around Geno's waist. And Sid, Sid sits on the lawn in Gene's robe and worries about his team, tries to figure out whether or not he'll be missed, if he's been a worry or a help during the season. Mostly, though, he goes on walks with Gene's father, the sort he never did himself and...it's nice, it's quiet, and no one demands anything of him, no one chases him down a street. It's just...quiet and no pressure but Sid finds himself wanting to share how beautiful the field is behind Gene's home with Geno, and how much this family loves their broken son, even though Gene's mother snaps more than she soothes, and--and--
One day, one quiet morning, the sun peeks through their windows, golden and bright, and they each wake in their own beds, with all their scars in the right places. )