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Geno skated sheepishly up to the bench.

“Oh my fucking god, Geno, what now?”

Geno settled next to Sid and slanted a glance each way. No one paid much attention. Then he pulled off his left glove and shook it over Sid’s lap, and out of it dropped a finger. Sid had to scramble to catch it, and then he was holding it, which wasn’t much improvement. “Show me,” he said.

Geno held out his hand, showing the gap where his ring finger used to be.

“You’ll have to tell the trainer you pulled something.”

“I’m fine,” Geno said.

“You can’t play like that!”

“Chara play with broken finger. Mine just stay at bench. It’s fine.”

“Oh my god,” Sid said to the rafters.

Kuni leaned around Kessel to ask, “Everything okay?” Geno gave him a stuttery, broken wave. Kuni squinted for a moment, puzzled, until Tanger swung past with the puck on his stick and everyone turned to watch.

-

They arrived at Sid’s house in the wee dark hours of the morning. Sid held out his hand, and Geno dropped the finger into it. Carefully Sid worked the knuckles. They bent, though not easily. The broken end was crusty with dried yellow ooze. “What happened?”

Geno sniffed. “You know when I block Franson’s shot?”

“Fucking—” Sid ran out of words. He shoved Geno in arm. Gently. “You can’t block shots, Geno! Not with your fucking fingers!”

“It’s fine,” Geno said, starting to look mulish. “You put back on, it’s fine.”

“There’s only so many times I can sew you up.”

Geno only jutted his chin towards Sid’s cupped hand.

All the fight went out of Sid. “Fine. Come on.” He got Geno settled under the fluorescent lamp on the kitchen table and laid Geno’s hand out flat. He threaded his curling fishbone needle with the silk thread he kept at hand these days, pre-soaked in whiskey and tears. He set the oozy, crusty end of Geno’s finger against the stump. “Is that okay?”

“It’s good,” Geno said, without looking.

Serve him right if Sid got it on crooked. He picked the needle up with his suturing scissors – an early acquisition, after he’d stabbed himself with the needle a few times. He knew better now. He pressed the finger tight to the break, settled his forearm a little more firmly against the table top and slid the needle into the flesh. Geno was rigid. He didn’t breathe. “Does it hurt?” Sid asked, as he began to stitch.

“What you think?” Geno grumbled, with air a minute old.

Sid put the needle in and out again, over and over, tugging the thread just taut enough after each stitch. One time, when he was repairing a slash on Geno’s wrist, he’d pulled too hard and ripped the thread straight through. Softly, he said, “You have to be more careful.”

Geno snorted. “Can’t play hockey and be careful.”

“But you have to,” Sid said, abandoning his stitching for a moment to look Geno in the eye. “You’re going to run out of skin.”

Geno was silent for a moment, looking at his finger, half-attached. “Have to play hockey, Sid. Why you bring me back, right? For hockey.”

Sid blinked fiercely. He couldn’t sew Geno back together with blurry vision. When he could see clearly, he picked up his needle again.

END