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It started off fairly simply. After practice one day, Brooks stopped beside Sidney's stall and asked if everything was okay. He glanced sidelong at Geno as he asked, and Sidney might not have been the greatest at picking up on social cues, but even he could figure out that Brooks meant okay with him and Geno.

Sidney frowned, but nodded. "We're fine," he said. Because they would be. Practice had gone well and Sidney was pretty sure that the problems they'd been having in the last few games would be fixed by tomorrow night. Sidney wasn't quite sure what had happened other than just a slump hitting both him and Geno at the same time, but it was something they were working through.

It sucked that they'd both hit one at the same time; more often when one of them would have a rough stretch, the other would be there to pick up the slack, skate a little faster and shoot a little harder until the goals and points came regardless. Sidney hated slumps, naturally, but this one seemed like it was starting to fade. If today's practice was anything to go by, the next game should show if things were turning around.

Sidney was a little relieved that Brooks had mentioned it; no one had commented much on their recent slump at all, acting like it wasn't even happening. Or, more likely, acting like talking about it would somehow make things worse. That was ridiculous. Sidney wasn't a rookie, wouldn't fall apart at the accusation that he wasn't playing up to par, especially when he clearly wasn't. Knowing that Orpik was concerned reassured him that they weren't going to let Sidney or Geno get away with not working hard enough to fix things and break their slump.

Tugging at the bag's strap on his shoulder, Sidney gave Brooks a nod and headed out of the dressing room. He'd grab some lunch, then spend the afternoon studying some tape. Tonight he and Geno could get together for dinner, discuss Garon's weaknesses and watch the Lightning's game from last Friday again. Garon had blocked every shot but the one goal; if Tampa's goalie was on a hot streak it would just be even more imperative that he and Geno be playing their best.

~~~

After the game Sidney didn't bother to hide his frustration. He'd scored with Geno's assist, but the Penguins' two goals hadn't been enough to win the game. Everyone was talking about Garon's glove like it was the hottest thing on ice -- and it was, Sidney had to agree that the Tampa Bay goalie was playing like he was practically on fire. It didn't change the fact Sidney hated to lose. The fact he and Geno had finally started connecting helped some; he'd felt better on the ice tonight than he had in the last two weeks. He looked over, caught Geno's eye and got a small, rueful smile in return. Geno didn't look happy, especially, but Sidney could hardly blame him. Losing sucked, even so early in the season and Sidney didn't expect anyone to brush off the loss before even hitting the showers. Sidney gave Geno a nod and turned back to tearing the tape from his socks.

On his way out of the arena, Sidney found Geno hovering in the hallway. Sidney just looked at him, exhausted and not up for whatever post-game consolation anyone might have planned. When Sidney caught up to him, the other man asked, "Come over for dinner?" His voice was pitched soft, and if it hadn't been so late Sidney would have said yes.

He shook his head. He didn't try to explain and Geno didn't press for an excuse; one of the things he liked about Geno was how he took Sidney at his word and didn't push him for more than Sidney was able to give.

"Tomorrow?" Geno asked and Sidney couldn't tell if there was a hopeful tone to it, or if Geno was simply asking as a formality. Geno was just as likely to show up on Sidney's doorstep with food as he was to show up and drag Sidney out by the elbow, depending on Geno's mood to eat in or dine out.

Sidney couldn't tell if this was a question or a warning, but he shrugged. "Maybe?" He was irritated and wanted to be left alone to process the game and he knew tomorrow he'd be busy, watching the tape and trying to figure out where they'd broken down. Geno nodded at him, frowning slightly. Sidney knew he should probably say yes, or invite Geno over to watch tape with him, but all he wanted to do was get home and go to bed so he could try again tomorrow to make things better.

He felt Geno's touch on his arm and Sidney just clutched at his bag. "See you at skate on Thursday," he offered, because he had no idea what else to say and he'd been told, over and over, it was rude to simply walk away when he thought a conversation was over.

"Yes," Geno said, and as Sidney walked off, Geno didn't follow. A few steps down the hall he passed Coach Bylsma and Sidney exchanged a nod with him. Sidney almost stopped when he saw the concerned look on Dan's face, but he was too tired and annoyed to bother with it then. He was grateful when Dan just let him go; tomorrow would be soon enough to go over the game and figure out everything that had gone wrong.

The next day Sidney was sitting in the film room, cueing up the second period, when Dan walked in. Sidney paused the tape, waiting for the coach to settle in. This was good; Sidney had some notes already he wanted to discuss. But instead of sitting down with his notebook, Dan just stood there, looking concerned.

After long enough that Sidney wondered if he was supposed to ask what was wrong, or something, Dan finally said, "Sidney, you know that if.. there was something you wanted... Well, it wouldn't cause any problems. Within the organization."

Sidney stared at him. "Okay?"

Bylsma gave him a sort of half-smile, like he could tell just exactly how much Sidney had no clue what he was talking about. "I've discussed it with the rest of the staff, and I know Mario is okay with...whatever might happen."

"Are you trading someone?" Sidney yelped. He hadn't heard any rumors about anyone in the Penguins' organization being up for trade, but what else was Dan talking about?

"No, no. We're not currently in talks," Dan said quickly. "I'm talking...personally. If there's something you...want to do."

That didn't make any more sense. Sidney waited to see if he was going to explain, if maybe Mario was harping on the coaching staff again to stop letting Sidney spend all his free time in the film room. He had other hobbies, but none of them mattered in the middle of a season when he wasn't playing his best. "Everything's fine," he ventured, because other than hockey, everything was fine and it seemed like Bylsma was waiting for some kind of response.

Dan looked only somewhat reassured. "So, if there's anything I can do to help, let me know. You and Geno are both important to the team and we...want..everything to work out." He still looked and sounded uncomfortable, but at least finally they were talking about something Sidney could understand.

He and Geno were getting better, but clearly they weren't there yet. Last night's game had shown that; one goal and five missed chances in the first period alone didn't necessarily mean their slump was over. "I'm working on it," Sidney said. "We're getting there."

Dan looked relieved. "Good, good. Well, if you...think talking about...anything would help, let me know. Or, uh, you know you can always talk to Mario, of course."

"Yes, of course." Sidney had mostly stopped talking to Mario about trying to analyze their hockey games during periods like these, because Mario's advice was generally to stop worrying about it and let things work themselves out. But Dan was nodding and smiling at him like they'd had a good, if difficult, talk and Sidney couldn't really recall when talking about hockey was difficult.

Sidney made a mental note to call Mario later and see if Sidney could come over and discuss their recent play. Maybe Mario would have have seen something Sidney hadn't. Another point of view was often useful, especially from someone as good at the game as Mario.

"So, second period?" Dan said, and now he was sitting down, pulling a notepad out of his pocket.

"Do you want to start with first period?" Sidney asked, because he didn't mind going over the film again. He'd be going over the whole thing several times anyhow, eventually.

"No, no, Tony and Todd and I will be going over the whole game this afternoon." He waved at Sidney to start the playback. Sidney just pressed play and began taking more notes.

~~~

Sidney was over at Geno's place watching the other man make sandwiches and trying not to get in the way when his phone rang. He reached over to steal a carrot stick and got his hand slapped for his trouble as he answered his cell.

"Hey, Sid, you really sucked against the Bruins," Colby said, without even a hello or how are you.

"Thank you, I'm aware of that," Sidney said, scowling. He saw Geno grin at him and he stole another carrot stick.

"Seriously, you're not, like, suffering brain damage from last year or anything?" Colby sounded like he was teasing, and Sidney was very tempted to say yes, he was, that they'd been trying to keep it a secret.

He was pretty sure that if he did, regardless of if Colby fell for it, Colby would only get his revenge later and it would be ten times worse than anything Sidney could ever hope to dream up. "Did you call me up just to complain about our game?"

"Yes," Colby laughed. "Seriously, we need to Bruins to lose and I was hoping you guys could pull it off at least three times this season. Don't let me down, okay?"

"Maybe you should try harassing someone else," Sidney said, irritated. As if he hadn't tried to beat the Bruins. He hadn't even scored, just gotten two assists, one on Geno's goal and another on Neal's. He'd been spending the entire morning going over the tape, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. He'd felt vaguely off the entire time, feeling like he'd never quite put himself in place, missing Geno's passes by half an inch and half a second.

Geno had finally shown up at Sidney's place, forced him to turn off the TV and dragged him into the kitchen to help make lunch by watching and not actually touching any of the food. Except for the carrots Sidney insisted on stealing, because he liked making Geno scowl and try to stop him.

"I actually called to, you know, see if...well, to see if your brain was still squishy. I wouldn't put it past you to not tell anyone if you were having headaches again."

"I'm fine," Sidney snapped, more irritated by the concern than surprised. "I would never--"

"Lie about an injury in order to stay on the ice?" Colby taunted, and Sidney had to admit he was probably right.

"I am actually fine, Colby."

Geno stopped, knife halfway through the red onion he'd been slicing, and looked up at him, eyes dark with worry. Sidney shook his head and mouthed that Colby was being an idiot, and Geno just looked confused, but slightly less worried. He scowled at Sidney some more and Sidney shook his head; he really was fine. At least, his head hadn't bothered him in months, and he hadn't injured himself and as far as he knew Geno wasn't hiding anything, either.

They just weren't connecting on the ice and everyone could see it. "If you're sure," Colby said. Then, "And Geno? He's...okay?" It sounded weird as Colby asked. Not that he wouldn't show concern for an ex-teammate, but the way he said it made Sidney wonder if Geno really was hiding an injury. Except Sidney had been watching every game, every practice, re-watching tapes and there hadn't been a single incident which could have left anything worse than a bruise.

Sidney scowled at Geno anyhow, and now it was Geno's turn to look innocent and confused. "He's fine, Colby. Neither of us is playing hurt."

As Sidney said it, Geno's eyes went wide in surprise, then he frowned and shook his head, no. Sidney gave him a shrug, because he had no idea what Colby was going on about, either. After a moment of eyeing him, Geno turned back to building the sandwiches and Sidney stepped away from the counter to let him get at the plates.

"That isn't--" Colby said, then stopped. "And Geno's... he's all right?"

"I just said he was," Sidney said, confused and no less irritated.

"Sorry, I just -- we both know you aren't the world's most adept creature at dealing with other human beings," Colby said, his tone teasing but words more serious than Sidney thought they should be. He knew perfectly well bad he was at people, and normally he didn't care when his friends teased him about it. But Colby sounded weird, even for him, and even Sidney's half-assed ability at knowing what the fuck other people meant when they said stuff was telling him there was something going on.

"What are you talking about?" Sidney demanded.

"I just... wanted to see how you were doing. And how Geno was doing. And how the two of you are doing, together." Colby was speaking very pointedly, and it made Sidney want to bang his head against a wall.

Sidney rubbed his forehead. "I appreciate your concern, Colby," he said, feeling exhausted. He'd been working on it, he and Geno had been trying to spend extra time together to see if maybe their chemistry on ice was just off. None of the coaching staff seemed to think there was anything in their game to be overly concerned about, but if Colby was calling him and being concerned, then maybe the coaches were just trying not to put pressure on him so early in the season, or something. He sighed and said, "Things are a bit rough right now but we're working on it."

"Oh, then that's good," Colby said, sounding surprised and pleased. "That's good. If you're sure things are okay, then that's good." Colby was clearly babbling, now, and Sidney wondered if maybe the other man was drunk, or concussed. Either was equally possible. "Just let me know if there's... anything I can do," Colby said, still awkward and hesitant. Sidney didn't know what Colby thought he could do to help him and Geno play better, but Sidney appreciated the sentiment.

Even if he didn't appreciate knowing that everyone could tell they weren't playing well, and calling to harass him about it. "You could tell your teammates to beat the Bruins themselves and stop depending on us to do their work for them," Sidney said. He bit his tongue over chirping Colby for the Canadiens' season record so far. It wasn't Colby's fault he'd ended up on a team that still hadn't managed to find their feet.

"Fuck you," Colby said, but he sounded cheerful enough, and he let Sidney go without asking any more odd questions about Sidney's and Geno's health.

Sidney forgot about it for the rest of the day, letting Geno feed them sandwiches and pasta salad before Sidney cajoled -- guilted, rather -- Geno into going for a swim to work off all the food Geno had stuffed them with.

~~~

It was when he got a text message from Gonchar that Sidney realised something was wrong. The message was short, saying only that Sidney needed to take a good hard look at what was going on around him because he was missing something important.

Sidney was surprised, then realised that clearly whatever was wrong must be even worse than he realised if Geno's friends were saying something. They'd beaten the Capitals, but Sidney had only scored one goal and Geno hadn't gotten a single point. Sidney had thought they were getting back into rhythm though, because despite not connecting on every pass, most of their ice time had felt good, like everything was back to normal.

But clearly it wasn't, if Gonchar was harassing Sidney about it. Sidney canceled his morning plans to relax and do some cleaning, and instead went in and parked himself in the film room, notebook and iPad at hand to cross-reference his notes.

Halfway through the second viewing, Sidney got the idea that maybe he was going about this from the wrong angle. He'd been studying the tapes of each game where things hadn't been quite right; maybe he needed to re-watch a game where they'd played their best. He had all his notes from the last three weeks' worth of analyzing things they were doing wrong. Maybe if he compared that to the games they'd done it right, something would finally stand out and he could figure out what needed fixing.

He stopped when it was time to head to practice, then afterwards he made Geno stay behind and work drills with him. He hadn't really seen anything in the tapes so far, but that didn't mean there was nothing to find. Maybe after practice they could grab dinner and they could both head back to Sidney's place and study the tapes together.

Geno was agreeable, of course, even though he made Sidney stop after they'd reviewed only two games. "Too much study makes brains leak out ears," Geno said, grabbing the remote from Sidney's hand and holding it over his head where Sidney couldn't reach it.

"That's extremely childish," Sidney pointed out, and Geno just grinned at him.

"Not my fault you so short," he countered.

Sidney responded the only way he knew would work -- he tackled Geno, eventually driving him to the floor as they wrestled for control of the remote. When Sidney finally came up with it, he aimed it for the television, grinning in triumph.

Geno hit him with a pillow, hard enough to knock Sidney over. "Enough tape for one day," Geno said, looking at him sternly as Sidney gaped at him in outrage. There was something to be said about cheating but he knew from experience that Geno would only pretend not to understand Sidney's English if he tried protesting.

"Fine," Sidney conceded reluctantly. They had actually made some progress, so Sidney was willing to let it go for now. He'd noticed some trends that seemed minor but clearly weren't. He'd talk to Geno about it tomorrow at morning skate. For now he let Geno dig out a movie and Sidney did his best not to talk about the way they'd failed to be their sharpest on some of their passes in the last game.

~~~

The phone call late at night from Ovechkin was, Sidney decided, vodka-induced. It had to have been, because Ovechkin was clearly drunk and the voicemail he'd left hadn't made any more sense the fourth time Sidney listened to it. All he could gather from it was that Geno must have talked to him about the way he and Sidney weren't playing well together.

It bothered Sidney that Geno was that upset by it -- and that he hadn't just come to talk to Sidney. It wasn't like they hadn't had plenty of opportunity. Sidney had been dragging Geno with him to every optional skate and made them work out together, hoping that it would help them get into a better, closer groove. He'd even made them eat all their meals together just to make sure that Geno wasn't doing something like sneaking an extra donut and that that was what was throwing off their game.

At least the Penguins were winning and both he and Geno were getting goals, but they were still missing shots. Too many times Sidney would have to pull up to catch a pass from Geno, or he'd send the puck over to find Geno wasn't quite where Sidney had expected him to be. Twice last night they'd turned the puck over right in the middle of the ice, because clearly they still weren't playing together well enough.

Overall, Sidney would have said they were doing better, scoring more and connecting more often than a month ago and the last two games things had felt better. But then Fleury was tugging him aside and asking how were things with Geno, and Dan was asking if he'd talked to Mario, and Martin and Neal had even locked him and Geno in a janitor's closet, for fuck's sake. Not to mention how the rookies came over one day en masse, hovering in front of his stall stammering something about how they didn't care, it didn't make any difference, they loved being here and loved playing with the Penguins and it didn't matter what anybody said. One of them even started babbling about his cousin who had gotten married the previous summer and how it was finally legal in his home state. Sidney wasn't sure who his cousin was, or how it related to hockey, but he'd made what he'd hoped were appreciative noises and the rookies had wandered off, looking relieved and content.

If the rookies could see something was wrong with their game, then Sidney knew something was very wrong. The trouble was -- he couldn't find it. He made Geno watch the games with him, over and over until Geno snapped and made them stop. After letting Geno enforce a break, Sidney asked him a bunch of questions about their recent games, trying to see if Geno had any ideas about what was wrong and how to fix it. Geno didn't seem to know any more than he did, but he didn't object much when Sidney dragged them back to the rink to work on drills again.

Then one morning in a hotel in Denver, Sidney woke up to find a voicemail on his phone from Ovechkin, accusing him of making Geno sad, or something. Sidney didn't think Ovechkin cared if the Penguins had lost a game against the Avalanche. Neither he nor Geno had gotten a single point in the game and Geno had definitely not been happy about it, but Sidney hadn't felt at the time that they'd had a setback. However, if Geno was calling Ovechkin to discuss it to the point Ovechkin was calling Sidney, then maybe things were worse than Sidney had realized.

Sidney did the only thing he could think of that he hadn't already tried and went over to Mario's. He had to run the gauntlet of greeting the entire family first, answering questions about his sister and parents as if they hadn't spoken to any of them more recently than Sidney. Finally, though, they were in the den alone, and Mario was looking at him like he knew why Sidney had come.

"I can't figure out what's wrong," Sidney blurted out, absently thinking that he should have approached it more slowly, or worked up to it somehow. But it wasn't like Mario didn't know perfectly well how Sidney had conversations, and Mario had never really seemed put off by it.

Mario was frowning at him, now, looking concerned and fatherly. It didn't make Sidney feel at all better, but he sat on the couch and waited. Mario shook his head. "Just to be clear, this is about you and Geno?" he asked, and he sounded all gentle and reassuring, which was freaking Sidney out a little.

Sidney just nodded. "Everything was fine, then it wasn't, and it's weird and I can't figure out what's going on." The game against the Avs there were five missed shots in the second period that Sidney knew they should have had. But despite seeing all the times things didn't work right, he was no closer to figuring out how to fix things. They'd been getting better, he thought, but now Ovechkin was concerned about Geno's happiness.

Neither he nor Geno could find anything to explain the slump in the last two months. There was nothing significantly different from every game before when they'd been playing well. Sidney would have simply ignored it, let it work itself out, except that everyone in the entire league was apparently concerned about it and calling or texting him. Even his sister had asked him if he wanted to talk to her about Geno, and Sidney was pretty sure that normally she wanted Sidney to shut up about him for a change.

Mario sighed a little, looking uncomfortable, but Sidney couldn't find it in himself to be sorry if it meant finally getting a handle on whatever the problem was. Finally Mario said, "Sidney, I hate to be blunt, here, because God knows I didn't like having this conversation with Stephanie or Austin. But...Geno likes you."

Sidney stared at him. "I like him, too."

"No, Sidney. I mean...I think the problem with the way you and Geno are playing lately is because Geno is distracted."

That made even less sense than Mario's first statement. "Distracted by what?"

There was a strange sort of look on Mario's face, like he was smiling and trying not to laugh, but also somehow sad. "By the fact that he likes you."

"What does that have to do with hockey?" Sidney frowned. He'd played well with people he hated, as well as with people he idolized. He'd played poorly with both. His own personal feelings made no difference once he was on the ice, and off the ice it hardly mattered how he felt. Unless he was stuck rooming with someone he hated, which wasn't a problem anymore since Geno was always his roommate now.

Mario was giving him that sad-smile look again. "Sidney, I'm trying to tell you that Geno is in love with you."

For a very long moment, Sidney couldn't even breathe. He stared at Mario, who just watched him, waiting patiently. Words he had never expected to hear coming out of Mario's mouth -- but suddenly everything that people had been saying to him made so much more sense. Ovechkin's threats, certainly made so much more sense. Sidney stood up, abruptly. "I need to go."

Mario just smiled, looking relieved. "I'll let Nathalie know you two are coming to dinner next Sunday," he said, and Sidney just nodded, absently. It wasn't really like she needed the warning, as Sidney had been showing up for dinner on Sunday whenever he was in town, and for the last several months he'd been bringing Geno with him more often than not. It was more likely she'd want a warning if he wasn't showing up for dinner, Sidney thought as he made his way out of the house and got into his car.

He sat behind the wheel for a moment, feeling stunned and not a little bit confused, before he decided that the only thing he could do was go talk to Geno.

~~~

It didn't take him long to get to Geno's place. When Geno opened the door, he looked happy and surprised, but his expression changed almost immediately to worry when he saw Sidney's face. "What's wrong?" he asked, as he stepped back to let Sidney inside.

Sidney turned, crossing his arms, and didn't bother hiding his scowl. "Mario just told me you love me."

Geno looked confused. "Yes? You know this."

"So what is -- oh, God, they've been trying to hook us up." Sidney wanted to hide his face in his hands, or possibly go around and smack everyone over the head with a hockey stick. None of them had been talking about hockey, not even -- no, Brooks probably had been. But everyone else had been trying to gently, subtly tell him that maybe he and Geno should start dating.

Sidney groaned and dropped his head, he felt Geno pat him on the shoulder. "I tell people, Sidney Crosby not good with subtle. No one listen."

"I thought everyone was criticizing our game. Wait, what did you tell Ovechkin?" Sidney popped his head up, giving Geno a glare.

Geno looked abashed. "Nothing, not really. I...get morose and drink, and when he ask what wrong, I say 'Sidney' and he pour more vodka. I not give details."

"He assumed you were pining over me," Sidney said. "Which I-- wait. That means there is something wrong." He narrowed his eyes at Geno, trying to think back over the last few months. If it wasn't about hockey, then there was something else. Everyone had assumed the problem was that Geno was pining for him, but since they'd been together for almost a year, that wasn't--

Sidney counted back. Exactly a year, next month. He'd marked it on his calender, in code of course, but clearly so he wouldn't forget. He hadn't forgotten, either, even if he hadn't quite figured out what to do to observe it. He'd gotten distracted with hockey lately, and hadn't really thought about it much recently. But surely if Geno wanted to make plans, he would have simply said so.

"Is this about our anniversary?" he asked carefully. Geno looked guilty, which meant that it was. Sidney sighed and simply asked, "What is it?"

Geno didn't answer right away, trying to look casual, but if he was getting drunk and being morose with other Russians, chances were it was a pretty big deal. But Sidney could wait as long as necessary, and finally Geno said quietly, "I want to tell people. We together. Love you." He shrugged, like he was ready for Sidney to explain again why it was a bad idea. A distraction from hockey, he'd argued a year ago, a media circus they didn't need. Sidney had still been getting back into the game after his concussion and neck injury, and he'd had more than enough of people asking him about everything when all he'd wanted to do was play hockey. At the time, Geno had agreed readily, saying that being together was more important than who knew.

But now Sidney could count on both hands the names of people who were apparently in favor of it. Dan had even so much as said the organization would support them, so media circus wouldn't work as an excuse to keep things quiet. After a year of actually being together, and the last month of everyone being actively -- and sometimes drunkenly aggressively -- supportive, Sidney found himself thinking if maybe it would be all right to let people know.

"I'm not kissing you in public," Sidney said.

"Hard enough get Sidney kiss in private," Geno replied, grinning suddenly.

Sidney just shrugged. He never really knew if he should apologize for that still, despite Geno assuring him over and over that it was all right. They did kiss, though not often. They had sex, and while Sidney would readily admit he didn't hate it, the truth was, he still liked hockey better. He liked a lot of things better, like skating with Geno with a puck sailing between them. But he knew that it wasn't fair to never have sex, so he tried to accommodate Geno as often as he could.

Geno had always told him that was all right, and he'd never pushed Sidney for more. After their first six months of dating -- which meant doing everything they'd always done, but also sometimes having sex and sometimes talking about their future together -- Sidney had finally started to believe him. They hadn't even discussed it in months, and Sidney had thought they'd found a good balance between what both of them wanted.

But it seemed Geno still wanted something and Sidney thought he might be okay with giving it to him. "Is this.... Are you sure?" Sidney asked, feeling old doubts poking at him. "If we tell everyone, it'll be harder if we, you know. Break up."

Geno reached out and grabbed his arm, gripping hard for a moment before letting him go. Sidney knew it was Geno's version of hugging him so tightly he wouldn't have been able to breathe, or something, and he knew that Geno still wished he could do that. Once in awhile Sidney let him, usually when they were already in bed. It was just that Sidney didn't like to be touched, even from Geno, and while he tried to give Geno as much physical affection as he could, Sidney knew he was never going to really enjoy receiving it.

It had, Sidney realized, led everyone to believe they weren't actually together when they'd been dating for a year. But apparently everyone could see how Geno felt, and had seen that he wasn't happy. Even if Sidney didn't want to force himself to touch when he didn't want to, perhaps it was time to do more of what he could.

Taking a deep breath, Sidney nodded. "Then we'll tell everyone. You can even have that big party you threatened me with last year," he said, smiling to let Geno know he meant it.

Geno's entire face lit up. "You sure is okay? If you want secret, Sidney, I not care. Love you. Don't need world to know, to know that." But he was smiling wide and he was so clearly happy that it was like a puck to the stomach as Sidney realized that Geno hadn't been.

He loved Geno, and for the last year Geno had been not pushing him, and compromising, and taking whatever Sidney could give him without making demands for more. It wasn't fair, and Sidney was pretty sure it wasn't as big a risk as he'd once been afraid it would be. He nodded. "I'm sure. If you really want to be stuck with me, then I'm willing to tell everyone that I love you." He swallowed, then leaned forward, giving Geno a quick kiss on the lips. He didn't hate it, precisely, but he'd had plenty of long talks with Geno comparing how it felt for each of them which had shown him that he simply wasn't wired the same way.

He did love Geno, though, and he felt somewhat ashamed at not noticing that Geno needed more from him, before now. "We can tell Mario and Nathalie on Sunday, when we go over for dinner."

Geno was still grinning, but he shook his head. "Parents find out we dating for year, we get yelled at. Should pretend just started." He winked, and Sidney laughed.

Then he realized how very, very right Geno was, and he nodded frantically. "We'll start dating on the fourteenth," he said. "So I don't have to learn a new day for our anniversary."

"Sound like good idea," Geno nodded, and he reached out for Sidney's arm, resting his hand there in what they'd agreed counted as a full-body embrace. Sidney leaned towards him a little, putting his hand on Geno's arm as well before pulling back and re-establishing his personal space. Geno let him go without hesitation, his smile never wavering.

"Everyone is supposed to like that stuff when they're in love," Sidney remarked, for not the first time.

Geno just shook his head. Usually he just said it was fine, that he loved Sidney enough he didn't want to make him uncomfortable. But this time he just smiled and said, "Play hockey together. Score goal is sometimes even better than sex."

"But only when we're winning," Sidney retorted, relieved and happy, finally feeling very much like everything was going to be okay.

Geno shrugged. "So, win more." He winked. "Promise not to moan on ice when score goal."

Sidney felt himself flush bright red, and he had a very horrible feeling about their next game.

the end