Geno doesn’t look up from his reading when Flower gets up. It’s a long flight from California, he probably has to pee or something. He doesn’t even think about it when Flower sits next to him, because maybe he wants to lean across the aisle and talk to Brooks, how’s Geno supposed to know. It isn’t until Flower pokes his shoulder and goes “yo, G,” that Geno sighs and closes the cover of his e-reader.
“What?” he asks. He doesn’t mean to be snappish, but Sid had learned that Geno had never read any of the Harry Potter books, freaked out, and now Geno’s completely hooked and also more upset than he’d care to admit about Buckbeak getting executed.
“Your boy’s asleep.”
“Okay,” Geno says slowly. That isn’t a surprise, right? It’s a late-night cross-country flight after a long string of road games. Half the plane is asleep.
“He keeps drooling on my shoulder.” Flower twists around and sure enough, Geno can see a small wet-looking splotch.
“He does sometimes,” Geno says. “Push him away.”
“Tried it,” Flower sighs. “He keeps flopping back over. You go deal with it.”
Geno frowns. “Won’t Sid freak out if you not there?” Flower just shrugs, like his captain’s mental distress is a non-issue.
“I got a ring that says I only have to let one person drool on me for the rest of my life,” he says, flashing his left hand smugly. “And no offense, but she’s way hotter than Sid.”
“Jackass,” Geno grumbles, smacking the back of Flower’s head as he edges out of his seat. Sid does look pretty pathetic when Geno makes his way to the front of the plane, though, almost bent in half over the armrest in a position that can’t possibly be comfortable. He wakes up a little when Geno edges into the window seat and lifts the armrest so Sid can settle against his chest more comfortably.
“Geno?” he mumbles, eyes barely open. “What’s wrong?”
“You drool on Flower,” Geno says, stroking Sid’s hair gently and opening his e-reader again. “He tap me in.”
Sid’s forehead crinkles a little, like he wants to protest, but he’s too tired to do much about it.
“Go back to sleep, Sid,”
“‘Kay,” Sid says, nuzzling into Geno’s sweater. Geno’s pretty sure he hears Neal cooing and snapping pictures like a jackass, but a large black dog just kidnapped Ron, and that’s way more important than Neal or the small damp patch he can feel seeping through his sweater.
In a lot of ways, Geno is far more of a Pittsburgher than Sid is. He’s actually been to the Carnegie museums, every Sunday he breaks his diet and has a Yuengling, and Sid’s even seen him drink an Imp and Iron willingly. But most of all, like every native or adoptive Pittsburgher Sid knows, Geno is an obsessive Steelers fan.
Sid’s never really gotten into football - it drags on too long in between every play and there are way too many commercials for his taste. He can appreciate it, because it’s a sport, but he’d prefer basketball or baseball. But Sid lives in a football town (in Steeler Nation, Geno would correct him), and he’s sat through his fair share of games. He knows the rules, he knows the players, he knows their strengths and weaknesses, he knows to root against the Browns and everything they stand for, and he of course knows what a Terrible Towel is. They’re everywhere. Geno has one that he wrings between his hand when he watches, and Sid thinks it’s kind of adorable, like a little kid with a blanket. But the towel is also completely disgusting and reeks of nervous sweat and animal and beer it’s no doubt been used to mop up, so Sid thinks nothing of throwing it in the wash. But when he tells Geno what he’s done with it, Geno goes white and looks at Sid like he just admitted to pushing an old lady in front of an eighteen-wheeler.
“You do what with Terrible Towel?” he asks, voice trembly and barely restrained.
“Uh, washed it,” Sid says. “I had to use, like, a million scoops of oxyclean, it was disgusting. But Tanger was bringing Luc over, I didn’t want him putting that in his mouth.”
“You can’t wash towel during season,” Geno says frantically. “Sid, is bad luck. Gross towel is good luck.”
Sid looks up guiltily from his laptop, because he, of all people, knows better than to mess with any rituals or superstitions. “Maybe... maybe it won’t matter?” he asks hopefully, and Geno just shakes his head and stomps out of the study.
The Steelers lose to the Jets that night, and spectacularly, which Geno spends the next few days telling everyone in whining distance is all Sid’s fault. Kadar’s the only other person who cares about the Steelers enough to think that Sid washing the Terrible Towel is sacrilegious instead of just funny. The rest of the guys have been giving Sid shit for being a bad wife, but when the Steelers drop their next one against the Eagles on a few questionable calls, Kadar makes Sid do suicides until he thinks he’s going to throw up.
“It’s not. Even. On. The Wikipedia. Page.” Sid pants, doubled over. “How. Was I. Supposed to. Know. Not to. Wash it.”
“Pay attention,” Kadar says mercilessly, arms crossed. “You’ve lived here a few years.”
Tanger cackles from where he’s lacing up his skates on the bench, and Sid flips him off, because fuck Tanger, Sid was trying to save his son from getting the bubonic plague or something.
Sid must look really pathetic collapsed in bed that night, because when Geno crawls in and wraps himself around Sid, he says, “I have way to fix towel.”
“Huh?” Sid asks, lifting his arm off his eyes. He didn’t even use his arms on suicides and they still feel like limp noodles.
“We have to fix luck,” Geno explains patiently. “So we take towel to game, Steelers win, new luck.”
“We as in you and me?” Sid asks. He’s always avoided Steelers games with Geno, and not just because he thinks football’s a dumb sport. He’s never wanted to set foot in Heinz Field since the Winter Classic. Sometimes even seeing the players come out of the tunnel on TV will make Sid have unpleasant, lurching flashbacks to what it felt like to walk down that same tunnel, dazed and concussed, the entire world spinning sickly around him.
“Important game on Sunday against Browns,” Geno says. Sid can’t bring himself to say no to Geno’s wide, pleading eyes, even if the Steelers’ luck winds up costing him his own.
Sid doesn’t get why everyone laughs at him when Geno goes around bragging just as loudly as he whined before that he’s gotten Sid to agree to go to a Steelers game.
“It’s because you’re whipped, man,” Flower says. “How long did he just have to look at you with puppy eyes before you caved?”
“It’s just one afternoon,” Sid says, pointedly ignoring the question on the grounds that the answer is embarrassing. “It can’t be that bad.”
“One afternoon outside in January,” Flower points out, and Sid shrugs. He’d suggested they get box seats, but Geno had insisted that it wasn’t a real game experience unless you were in the stands with everyone else, and Geno was running the show.
“It can’t be that cold,” Sid says. He’s played two Winter Classics. His job is to be on a sheet of ice for hours at a time. He’s from Canada. “I’ll wear a down jacket.” Flower laughs, mimics a whip cracking, and tells Sid to have fun freezing his balls off.
The Sunday of the game is bright and cloudless, the kind of winter day that looks deceptively pleasant until Sid steps outside, and even breathing in the dry air makes his entire body feel like it’s icing over and crackling. His long underwear and down coat aren’t nearly enough. Every inch of his skin that’s exposed to the air stings. He spends most of the first quarter cranky and wishing he’d dressed like Geno, who’s so bundled up he looks like an unrecognizable human marshmallow. Sid’s gone through two or three hot cocoas and and eaten his Primanti sandwich, and he doesn’t feel any better, he just has to pee a lot. By the second quarter, the sun’s starting to set and the wind’s picking up. Sid is so miserably cold that he purposefully dawdles a good fifteen minutes in the bathroom, sticking his hands under the air dryer until he can feel them again. If Geno suggests he gets another hot cocoa to warm up, Sid decides while wincing against the stabbing pain of blood returning to his fingertips, he will be completely justified in punching Geno’s arm hard enough that he’ll actually be able to feel it under all fourteen layers of clothing. But when he comes out from the bathroom, Geno takes one look at his face and laughs.
“Idiot,” he says with a fond smile. “Why you not say you’re so cold?”
“I’m not cold,” Sid says. “I’m from Canada.”
“I am from Siberia and Sid is cold,” Geno replies flippantly. He reaches down for his bag and tugs out his giant fleece Steelers blanket, tossing it over his shoulders like a cape and then holding his arms open for Sid in a clear invitation to cuddle.
“Are you fucking nuts?” Sid asks incredulously. They’re in public. They’ve talked about this, Sid thought they’d agreed about this.
“Everyone does it,” Geno says, jerking his chin behind him, and now that he’s pointed it out, Sid can tell that the entire stadium seems to be huddled together in pairs or groups of every possible configuration. It’s actually kind of weird that Sid lasted so long without huddling. Geno looks so pleased with himself that Sid would almost think that he was the one to put the Terrible Towel in the wash just to have an excuse to tuck Sid practically into his lap in public.
“You twirl when I say twirl,” Geno orders, handing Sid the towel. “Very important job.”
“Okay,” Sid agrees easily. He’ll do whatever Geno asks, because he’s finally, gloriously warm. It’s a little stale and musty when he turns his face into Geno’s Polamalu jersey, but it smells like home and cologne instead of spilled beer and fried food.
“No sleeping,” Geno says severely. “Watch.”
“Okay,” Sid agrees. He does allow himself one shameless kiss on the tiny strip of skin just above the collar of Geno’s jacket before he turns around, though. It’s not - he’s not usually one for PDA, and not just because he isn’t allowed. Even if he could tell everyone he was dating Geno, he’s not sure he would, just because he likes to keep what’s private, private. He doesn’t like the idea of his feelings being put on show to be analyzed or dissected. But just this once, knowing that they’re so bundled up that they’re all but anonymous and that no one’s watching, it’s nice to just be normal, to let himself be Geno’s Sid instead of everyone else’s Sidney Crosby first.
Despite Geno’s orders, Sid doesn’t have much towel-twirling to do until halftime is over. He misses what the announcers say because he’s in the bathroom again (hot cocoa goes straight through you), but when he comes back the third quarter is starting and Geno’s worrying his necklace between his lips the way he does when he’s anxious, a little wild around the eyes.
“Did I miss something?” Sid asks.
“They announce that Bengals lose their game,” Geno says breathlessly. “If we win, we win wildcard.”
Sid looks at the scoreboard. “Well, we’re six points ahead,” he says. “So that seems like -”
“No jinxing!” Geno orders, shushing him as he bundles Sid back up and hands him the towel. “Twirl.”
“That’s two field goals!” Sid protests. “Even if they get a touchdown, all the Steelers have to do is score just one field goal, and that’s really easy.” But Geno just makes another shushing noise, eyes focused on the field like he can will the Steelers into the playoffs.
Either Geno’s will, Sid’s obedient towel twirling, or some combination of the two works, Polamalu intercepts and sets the Steelers up for an easy field goal with two minutes left in the third quarter, and it’s over. The Browns whimper along through the fourth and Sid thinks they might even score something, but he misses it. He spends most of it with his head tucked into Geno’s shoulder, cozy in the tiny pocket of warm air, the towel dragging on the grimy stadium floor from his nerveless fingers.
“Good job,” Geno tells Sid when the game’s over and they’re curled up in their seats, waiting for the crowd to thin out before they try to make it to the car.
“Pretty sure I didn’t do anything,” Sid yawns. “I wasn’t even really awake that last quarter.”
“You work hard enough the first three you can sleep the last one,” Geno says, running his blunt, gloved fingers through Sid’s hair. The little bit of Geno’s face Sid can see looks fond and so terribly content that it makes Sid feel reckless enough to tug down Geno’s scarf, pull the blanket higher so no one can see, and kiss Geno in the safety of their little cocoon until they’re the last ones there and he’s warm down to the tips of his toes.
Geno didn’t mean to insinuate himself in Sid’s pre-game routine, really. They weren’t attached at the hip (or wherever else Nealsy liked to insinuate they were attached). They still travelled in their same places - Sid wherever Flower was, Geno usually in the back playing cards or reading - and Geno would still go out after games when Sid wasn’t in the mood, or vice versa. They all but lived together, played together, practiced together, and roomed together on the road. They had plenty they did together.
It had happened completely by accident; Sid had been making his pre-game sandwich when Geno happened to be finishing his toast, and then it had just seemed natural that Sid handed over the jelly when he was done and that they ate together on the floor in the hallway, sides pressed together and silent while they chewed. Sid had finished before Geno, given him an absent, peanut-y kiss, and said “love you” before wandering off to do the rest of his routine. And Geno had thought it was nice, but he hadn’t intended for it to become a thing.
Except the next game when he went into the kitchen for his pre-game snack, it must have been around five again, because two slices of toast were already toasting and the butter was out next to Sid as he prepared his sandwich.
“Why you making my snack?” Geno asked.
“I’m not,” Sid said, “I’m making sure your snack doesn’t hold up my snack.”
“Am I on schedule?” Geno asked, confused, and Sid rolled his eyes.
“We eat together now,” he said, as if that was obvious. “Take your toast out before it burns.”
Geno couldn’t say no to that, because Sid didn’t change his routine for anything, this was the second time Sid had changed it for him, and he was hungry. So he’d made his butter and jelly toast, and he and Sid sat in the hallway again, eating in silence. When Sid finished, he pressed the same quick kiss to the corner of Geno’s mouth, said “love you”, and left.
“You’re gross,” Flower shouted from where he was stretching down the hall. “Put a fucking ring on it, eh?”
“Fuck you, Flower,” Geno said. But he does make sure to time his snack now to 5:05 on the dot. He knows how important routine is to Sid.
Sid had gotten his dog Sam because he was lonely, and because that’s what everyone told him to do - if he wasn’t going to date, get a dog. But once he tried to juggle playing and a puppy, he found he couldn’t handle it. He felt guilty every time he left Sam or when she cried when he went on a road trip. It wasn’t like when the other guys had dogs, he was single and Sam’s entire family, and he was leaving her. He got to the point where he couldn’t even enjoy being around her because he was so panicky that she was miserable, that he was ruining her, that he should care for her better and take her for longer walks and feed her better food. And so even though his mother had reprimanded him that dogs weren’t toys he could get rid of when he was done with them, and gone “oh, Sidney,” when he told her how tight his chest got, looking at Sam sometimes, she’d taken her in.
One of the first things Sid does when he moves into Geno’s house is bring Sam down from Cole Harbour. It’s not that he worries less about being perfect for her, because he always worries about not being good enough for anything, but it’s not an all-encompassing worry when Geno’s around. Geno’s got Jeffrey, and even being half a world away from Geno hasn’t made Jeffrey a bad or unhappy dog, so there’s pretty much nothing Sid can do to fuck Sam up too bad. When he does worry, Geno’s always there to rub his shoulders and tell him he’s doing fine, and that makes everything suddenly seem bearable. Sam seems pretty happy, too, and she gets a lot more exercise with Jeffrey than she ever got with Sid’s parents. It’s a nice little family: Sid and Geno and their dogs. It’s not the kids either of them want so badly, but for now, it’s good.
He’d thought Geno had thought so too, until the team goes to do their annual charity event at the animal shelter, and he catches Geno in the back room where the kittens are, looking at them with so much longing it breaks Sid’s heart, a little.
“Thinking about Dixi?” he asks quietly, coming to stand next to Geno.
“Remembering when she was baby,” Geno says with a tiny, sad smile. “When I catch her, she fits in one hand. First few weeks, Oksana and I have to give special kitten formula in tiny bottle.” He sighs. “She was good cat.”
“So get another,” Sid suggests.
Geno glances around the room in a familiar motion, checking to make sure they’re alone. “You don’t like cats,” he says in a low voice.
It’s true, Sid’s never really cared much for cats, but that’s because cats never really cared much for him. “But I love you,” he says, because that’s the only thing that matters, in the end. Geno loves cats and he loves Geno, and if Geno wants a cat, they’ll get a cat. And from the way Geno smiles at him and takes his hand, it was exactly the right thing to say.
They don’t adopt a kitten that day, even though it’d make a great story and the PR people would probably love them forever. Geno visits every day for a week, meeting and falling in love with a new kitten there so thoroughly each time that Sid’s pretty sure they’re going to end up like one of the houses on Animal Hoarders. But eventually Geno settles on one, a pale silver girl with a white underbelly and paws, and a tail that fades to black, like she dipped it in ink. She fits in the palm of Geno’s hand when they take her home, just like Dixi did. She’s unbearably cute, and Taylor spends a good hour on Skype with Geno just making baby noises at the kitten, who seems very confused and keeps batting the speakers. Geno names her Marion, after the street the shelter says they found her on. And when she curls up under Sid’s chin and purrs for the first time, even Sid can’t deny that she’s pretty much the greatest kitten ever.
The one problem with Marion - which Sid can’t decide if he loves or hates - is that she thinks she’s a dog. Sid supposes that was inevitable, with Jeffrey and Sam, who both seem to think she’s a very tiny, very socially awkward puppy. They mostly ignore her unless she’s pawing at their tails, which they endure patiently while throwing Sid looks of extremely wounded dignity. But even more than their dogs, Marion follows Sid and Geno everywhere: the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom. She sits on Sid’s feet when he goes to the bathroom and watches him thoughtfully, which is just disconcerting. Geno tries to train her to go outside, but she just sits by the sliding door and makes pitiful mewling sounds, like she can’t figure out why she’s being punished.
“Is not what cats do,” Geno says, looking at her with crossed arms and a puzzled frown. He makes a shooing motion that Marion ignores. “Cats go, chase birds.”
Sid watches Marion scrabble at them through the pane of plexiglass. “I don’t think she knows she’s a cat,” he says.
“Maybe she gets better when she is not baby,” Geno says doubtfully, and then lets Marion back in, picking her up and stroking her between her ears, soothing her until she purrs like a sports car.
But Marion doesn’t get better. She’s the one who cries when Sid and Geno leave on a road trip, not Sam and Jeffrey. She’s the one Geno calls the pet sitter over, fretting as it becomes clearer that the only thing equal to her love of Sid and Geno is her terror of anyone else. She even goes through a week and a half where she turns up her nose at everything but dog kibble, which makes Geno worried enough that he starts making noises about calling the vet.
“Well, she hasn’t started barking, yet,” Sid says, which he thinks is a good joke, but Geno just rolls his eyes and flatly says “hah hah”, though it does make him put the phone down. Sid thinks all of these little idiosyncrasies are harmless and cute, though, until Marion starts nosing her way into their sex life.
Their first off day with no practices - optional or otherwise - comes when they’ve had Marion for three weeks. Sid used to hate off days before he was with Geno, used to try to stuff them full of all the non-hockey obligations he could so at least if he was going to be bored, he’d be bored and busy. But now he tries to keep them clear, because a day with nothing to do but hang out and have a lot of sex with Geno is almost as good as a day with hockey. This time, they have a day off after an afternoon game, so it’s really more like a day and a half, which Sid’s almost giddy over. It’s not that he and Geno don’t have sex a lot, or that it’s not all amazing, but there’s something exciting about breaking their pattern of slick handjobs in the shower or a blowjob at the end of the day to relax. Days off mean getting to make out on the couch like giddy teenagers, or maybe even actually fuck without Sid worrying about messing with his game.
Geno had watched Sid the entire time they were cooking and eating dinner, making flirty eyes or trailing a finger along a stretch of skin, but never actually making a move. Geno likes to take his time, when he can, to watch and tease before he goes in for the kill, and Sid likes to let him. Sid can feel the weight of his stare, hot and promising along the back of his shoulders as he clears their plates and starts on dishes, but he pretends he doesn’t notice, because that’s part of the game, too. He’s just put the saucepan in to soak when he hears Geno come stand behind him. “You want something?” he asks, trying to keep his voice light. Geno doesn’t answer him, just waits until Sid’s turned around before he leans in and kisses Sid so hot and dirty that Sid drops the sponge in his hand and grabs onto Geno’s shirt to stay upright.
“I have dishes to do,” he says quietly when Geno pulls away, just to be a jerk, and Geno grins.
“And I think I got your shirt wet,” Sid murmurs, even though it’s kind of hard to concentrate when Geno’s running his lips along the shell of his ear.
“Taking it off soon anyway,” Geno says, and then he’s apparently done with playing games, kissing Sid the entire time he drags him up to the bedroom, which Sid wholeheartedly approves of.
They’ve had sex enough by now that it’s easy to read each other, to know when to take off shirts and where to kiss and when to stop teasing, even if they both push that last boundary more than they probably should. But it’s easy to get lost in a floaty, mindless haze, where Sid’s body is acting without his brain fully present, which is where he very happily is until he hears a strange noise from under the bed.
“Geno,” he says, and Geno looks up from where he’s trying to take Sid’s pants off. “I hear something weird.”
“Probably imagination,” Geno says soothingly, and Sid nods, because that makes sense, he wasn’t really thinking clearly anyway. He tugs Geno back up for a kiss, but before they can he hears it again - a distinctly kittenish mewing.
“Marion,” Sid says, and she pops her head out from under the bed, mewing at them again as if she recognizes her name.
“Silly kitten,” Geno chuckles, leaning over to pick her up and cuddle her to his bare chest. “The noises scare you?” Marion purrs and stretches up to headbutt his chin. It’s like some soft-focus photoshoot from a teen girl magazine, Sid thinks while Geno deposits Marion outside their door and closes it, hot shirtless guy with cute kitten.
Geno smiles at him when he turns back around, crawling onto the bed to loom over where Sid’s sprawled out. “What that smile for?” He teases, kissing the corner of it.
Sid could say something ridiculously cheesy like “you”, but he’d much rather kiss Geno, to let his fingers inch under the waistband of Geno’s boxer briefs while Geno fumbles with his belt. Geno’s pulling Sid’s jeans down when Sid hears Marion yowl again. He sighs, frustrated, and turns to get up, but Geno makes a shushing, unhappy noise.
“Ignore her, she go away,” he promises. But she doesn’t, she just gets louder. After about a minute of making out to increasingly desperate squeaking, Sid pulls away and makes a face at Geno.
“I can’t,” he says apologetically. “She’s crying.”
Geno sighs, but he doesn’t look like he disagrees. “We go in the shower?” he suggests finally. “We don’t hear her there.”
It works, and Geno fingers Sid while blowing him, which is great, but the yowling keeps happening. Marion used to sleep on the couch, so Sid and Geno could have as much sex as they wanted before they went to bed. But she’s decided, apparently, that the bed is her territory and that anything that happens there is something she should be present for. Even Sid gets tired of shower sex eventually, and he really, really wants to get fucked on their upcoming off day, which means that he and Geno start putting their foot down and shutting their bedroom door at night. They start gritting their teeth against the yowling and try to stand firm even once Marion decides to start clawing the door to shreds to try to get her way.
Marion’s a hard bargainer, harder than any agent or executive Sid’s ever had to deal with. But eventually they get to the point she lets them have almost exactly one hour of not being studied unnervingly in which to have sex and get in a quick afterglow. At an hour almost on the dot, though, she will come to the door and start clawing, and one of them has to get up and open it, or they’ll have to replace the thing again.
“You know,” Sid yawns, watching Geno pad naked to the door and crack it open enough so Marion can dart in and curl up around Sid’s ankles, “I think this might mean our kids are going to be fucked up.”
“Kids will be great,” Geno insists, settling back under the blankets. “Kids not the same as cats. A lot more crazy.”
“Oh, good,” Sid says dryly, and Geno laughs, drops a kiss to his shoulder.
“Worry about kids later, Sid,” he says. “Right now, family is perfect.”
Sid buries his face in Geno’s chest to hide how wide and silly his smile is. “Yeah,” he says. “Perfect.”
When Geno had told his agent that he wanted to make sure to spend time at and donate a lot of money to several orphanages, the first thing his agent had said was “Are you sure?”
“Of course sure,” Geno had said, mildly offended. “You think is bad idea?”
“No, no,” Barry assured him. “It’s great. It’s amazing, actually. But it’s hard, Geno, seeing those kids and not being able to help.”
Geno had been on enough Pens trips to children’s hospitals to think he could handle it, and for the most part, he was fine. It was harder than visiting kids in hospitals, because those kids had homes to go to when they got better and people who cared that they were sick. But Geno pulled himself together and did it, because that way, at least he would care if the kids in the orphanages were sick. And why shouldn’t he be the one looking out for those kids, when he had more money and time than he knew what to do with?
Visiting orphanages doesn’t get easier the more he does it. It’s hard to get to see the same kids every time he visits, to get attached and still hope not to see them the next time he goes. It’s even harder to watch them grow up, so bright and full of potential, and think that no one wants them. And it’s hard because the older Geno gets, the more he feels like he wants them, that being a father isn’t just something he wants someday, it’s something he’d be ready for if it happened tomorrow.
He has a particular favorite in the Moscow orphanage, a little girl named Kseniya with nut-brown curly hair. She’s five, now, pretty and smart and perfect in every way except for the HIV her mother gave her. She spent twenty minutes that day sitting on his lap, telling him all about the parents who were going to adopt her one day and the beautiful house they would all live in.
“I’ll have a dog and a cat,” she told him solemnly, “and they’ll be my best friends. And a big yard! We’ll all play in a big yard. And I won’t have to share my room with anyone.”
Geno hadn’t been able to tell her he had all that, just waiting for her, that he’d take her there in an instant if only he didn’t have responsibilities to his team and a lie of omission to keep telling the world. So instead he’d kissed Kseniya’s forehead and told her that sounded wonderful, and he was sure that one day, she’d get just that.
There’s a text waiting for him from Sid when he leaves the orphanage, dry-eyed and hollow-feeling inside. Hope it went ok the text reads.
Kseniya wants dog and cat and yard, he writes back, because he knows Sid will understand. If there’s one person who loves kids and wants their house to be full of them one day, it’s Sid.
I’m sorry, Sid writes, and then after a few seconds, Taylor says we should go for it.
College makes Taylor smart, Geno writes back, but he doesn’t have much else to say, so he stares moodily out at the passing streets of Moscow until the cab drops him back at his apartment building.
His phone dings twice with new messages from Sid while he’s letting himself in. I love you a lot, says the first, and the second just says Soon.
Soon is always what Geno says to Sid. When Sid gets frustrated that he can’t just tell everyone he’s living with Geno, or when he has to lie and say he’s single when asked, Geno always hugs him and tells him that soon, they won’t have to do this anymore. When they’re driving back from Tanger’s or Duper’s or some team party where everyone’s kids are running around, Geno always reaches over to hold Sid’s hand and promises soon, and Sid smiles like he believes him. Soon the baby Sid holds and coos nonsense to or the toddler Sid chases around the room will be theirs, and it’ll be so perfect neither of them will want to imagine it could have ever been any other way. Geno knows that and believes in that with his entire heart, it’s just not always easy to remember.
Love you more. Soon)))))) he texts back to Sid, and then decides to go over to Gonch’s to play with Victoria and Natalie, because sometimes soon can’t come soon enough.
Sid’s half-asleep by time Geno comes to bed. He almost wakes up just to tell Geno that he’s never going to fix his jetlag if he keeps staying up this late, but he’s too tired to do anything but roll over and grunt a little when Geno kisses him goodnight.
Geno’s always a bit of a restless sleeper with a propensity to kick, which Sid has trained himself to sleep through, mostly. But that night he won’t settle, tossing and turning so much that even Marion jumps off the bed and goes to sleep on the couch with a disgruntled little mew. Sid gives himself five seconds to mourn for a solid night’s sleep before he turns over and squints at Geno in the low light of the streetlamp. “Wanna tell me what’s bothering you?” he asks.
“Hard summer,” Geno says after a long pause. Sid had figured that one out on his own, just from how often Geno had called or texted or needed to videochat, and how wan and sad he’d looked every time they Skyped. Sid hadn’t known what to do then, and he doesn’t know any better what he’s supposed to do about that now.
“It’s over,” he reminds Geno, reaching over to rub his back.
“Gets harder,” Geno says. “Don’t want to do it every year.”
“Some day -” Sid begins, but Geno shakes his head.
“Tired of it being some day.”
Sid pulls his hand back, feeling like he’s been burned. “Do you... are you breaking up with me?”
“What?” Geno props himself up on his elbow. “No, never.”
“You scared me,” Sid says defensively. He sounds petulant and five years old. His heart is still pounding in terror in his chest.
Geno reaches down and gently runs his thumb along the corner of Sid’s eye, and Sid can’t tell if he’s checking for tears or trying to be soothing. “I think I want us to get married, Sid.”
That doesn’t really do much to calm Sid down. “You think, or -”
“I want to marry you,” Geno says, somewhere between certain and sad.
Sid tugs Geno down low enough to kiss, even though he’s not sure which of them needs the reassurance of it more. “So do I,” he whispers into the tiny space between them. “But you know why we can’t.”
He feels more than sees or hears Geno’s nod and sigh before kissing Sid lightly. Because they’ve discussed it, of course, even if it was only ever either joking or in vague hypotheticals in an agent’s office. But they have contingency plans for every way someone could possibly find out about them, timelines upon timelines that map out when and how they could come out and that hinge on a million different things happening just so. The marching orders behind every single plan they’ve ever sat down and made with their agents has always been to wait, that some day soon a sign would come and they’d all agree and know that that was it. A tiny, selfish part of Sid wants that day to never come. As frustrating as it is, as badly as he wants kids or to not always be thinking up half-truths to tell the press, he likes having something private that no one knows enough to ask him about. He likes his home with Geno, and he likes living in a gated community where everyone refuses to speak to press out of loyalty, where he can go outside and kiss Geno on the front lawn if he wants, and no one would say or act like they saw a thing. And if they got married, they’d be on the record. The second that record was found, all the privacy and quiet Sid loved so much would be gone. As much as Sid wants summers with Geno and a house full of kids, he doesn’t know if he’s ready to give that quiet up, or how much of it he’d even stand to lose.
“I’ll come train with you and Kadar next summer,” he promises, because that’s been something he’s been thinking about all summer, and it’s as good a time as any to bring it up. “And then we won’t be apart as long.”
He can feel Geno smile, slightly. “Thank you,” he says, giving Sid another soft, quick kiss before he pulls away.
“You don’t really want us to get married,” Sid babbles, trying to forget how guilty he feels that that’s all he can promise. “I mean, our moms would take over and plan everything, and neither of them speak the same language. Then my mom would make me invite all my weird cousins, and who knows what crazy Russian relatives your mom would dig up -” Sid can feel Geno shaking slightly next to him and making little choked noises. He’s pretty sure that’s laughter, and not Geno crying about being in love with such a loser. “-And Max’s suit would probably be visible from space, and he’d definitely hit on Taylor, so we’d obviously have to elope to keep that from happening.”
“Obviously,” Geno agrees.
“And then if we eloped our moms would kill us,” Sid concludes. “Especially yours.”
“For last time,” Geno says with an amused little huff. “My mom is not scary, Sid.”
“You only think that because she’s your mom,” Sid says. “Have you seen her with a butcher knife?”
Geno chuckles and presses a kiss to Sid’s neck. “Go to sleep, crazy,” he says. Sid stays awake a few minutes longer, just to make sure Geno’s okay, but soon Geno’s breathing turns heavy and just shy of snoring, so Sid drifts off too.
That should be the end of that line of thought, but Geno still seems withdrawn and sad the next day, and the day after that, and then it’s a week that Geno’s been moping, and the only good thing Sid can say about that is that Geno’s gameplay hasn’t been impacted at all. But Geno’s dissatisfaction with leaving things the way they’ve always been makes Sid dissatisfied with his insistence they stay that way.
The truth is, Sid’s known that Geno was it for him from the very beginning. If he’s being completely honest with himself, he knew before they were even a them, but he’d never let himself think about it. Thinking only lead to wanting, and wanting Geno but never being able to have him would have hurt too much. If Geno had never felt the same way, Sid would have been fine. Maybe he’d have found someone else who he came close to loving, or he’d have been alone, but either would have been good enough. Sid was picky enough to think he’d never find someone who he could fall in love with at all, and he’d certainly never thought to hope that he’d find someone who loved him back, let alone that that someone would be as amazing as Geno is.
Sid and Geno are usually that couple everyone hates, the one that always insists whatever the other wants is fine. But Sid’s the captain, so he tries to be the one who makes the decisions and puts his foot down. When it comes down to it, though, he’ll always be happiest doing what makes Geno happy. He could push aside all the petty annoyances of not telling anyone he was with Geno because he thought it was what would make Geno happy, but if Geno’s not happy, Sid isn’t happy, and those annoyances don’t seem so petty anymore.
Sid waits until they’re back from a road trip down south before he sits down next to Geno on the couch and clears his throat pointedly. “I’ve been thinking,” Sid says awkwardly when Geno puts down his phone and looks at him. “That, um, this summer, before I come to Russia with you, we should, uh, let people know.” Geno looks confused. “About us,” he clarifies.
“You sure?” Geno asks quietly. He looks so hopeful and so scared that Sid hates himself a little for waiting so long to make his decision.
“It has to be after the season is over,” he says. “I don’t want it interfering with hockey.”
Geno looks more amused than is entirely warranted when he nods and says, “Of course.”
“But, um, yeah,” Sid says, looking down at his hands. “You should go ring shopping and I’ll... I mean, we can’t wear it during games, and we should both buy rings, I think, because I don’t want to deal with wife jokes for the rest of my life, and I don’t know when we’d get married, it’ll probably be a while, but -”
“Sid,” Geno interrupts, taking his hand and squeezing it so Sid looks up. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me, I should have done it sooner.”
Geno smiles, like he agrees but likes Sid too much to tell him so. “Say it now anyway.”
“Really?” Sid laughs, but Geno nods, so Sid leans in close and says, “I want to marry you. And I want to tell everyone.”
Geno’s face breaks into the brightest, widest grin Sid has ever seen on his face since they won the Stanley Cup. He kisses Sid hard and joyful enough to bowl him over onto the couch, whispering, “I love you, I love you,” in between kisses, and Sid just makes little noises of agreement and kisses back as hard as he can. And while Sid generally tries to avoid having sex on the couch because their guests sit there, he can’t feel too guilty, because the sex they end up having there is definitely in the top ten ever.
Sid asks Flower to come ring shopping with him, because Flower’s probably his oldest friend, and because Flower’s actually done this sort of thing pretty successfully before. Flower makes a few cracks about Sid already putting a Stanley Cup ring on it, but he really does seem honored that Sid asked for his help.
“Are you okay with this?” Sid asks Flower while they’re driving home, the ring heavy and significant-feeling in a small velvet pouch in his pocket.
Flower blinks incredulously at him. “The fuck do you think?” he asks. “And why are you worried about me, anyway?”
“Because.” Sid drums his fingers on the steering wheel awkwardly. “You know this means Geno and I have decided we’re, you know. It’s not going to be a secret any more. Like, not until after the season, obviously. But for a while the press is going to be kind of crazy, probably.”
Flower shrugs inelegantly. “It’s not like we didn't all expect this to happen someday,” he says. “You two have been together for what, two years?”
“Two and a half,” Sid corrects automatically.
“Whatever,” Flower says, waving him off. “You’re the only one who didn’t see this coming, man,” which Sid supposes is true.
Sid isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do with the ring once he has it. Does he just hand it to Geno? Does he need to re-propose? And if he does, does it have to be crazy and elaborate, the way the engagement videos Taylor sometimes e-mails him with a subject like “OH MY GOD SO CUTE” are? Does he have to, like, rent out the CONSOL Center and cover the ice in rose petals? Because that seems weird.
In the end, it doesn’t matter, because Geno comes into the kitchen when Sid’s checking their pet food supply to see if he needs to make a run for more or not and says, “Sid, give me hand.”
“Huh?” Sid asks, putting down the dog food container he was eyeballing.
Geno sighs a little and takes Sid’s left hand. He looks a nervous, like he thinks Sid’s going to pull away, and Sid can’t figure out why until he sees that Geno’s fussing with something in his pocket.
“Really?” he asks. “We’re doing this now?” It’s late Sunday morning and Sid’s still in his pajama pants and ancient, sweat-stained t-shirt. He hasn’t showered yet, his hair’s probably sticking up funny, and he needs to throw in a load of laundry before they leave for Buffalo tonight. It’s about as far from hiring a marching band or skywriting a proposal as you can get.
“I know you have ring in pocket,” Geno says, which is true, Sid always has the ring in his pocket. He needs to be prepared. He opens his mouth to protest, but Geno’s taking a ring out of his pocket and slipping it on Sid’s finger, and he can’t really remember how to speak. He doesn’t even know how he fumbles Geno’s ring out of his own pocket, or how he puts it on Geno’s finger when his hands have started shaking so badly. Their rings don’t match, but Sid didn’t really think they would. Geno’s is smooth all over, thick and modern, and Sid’s is thinner, with the milgrain edging that the salesperson had tried to assure him was “classic” but just hadn’t seemed right for Geno. It seems right for him, though, like it’s something he’s been wearing for years and only just noticed.
Geno lifts Sid’s hand and kisses the finger where the ring is, his lips warm against the cool metal. Sid hasn’t cried in years, not since he got the news of how bad his concussion was, and he was brain damaged at the time, so he doesn’t think that counts. But Geno’s eyes are soft and definitely a little damp, and that’s just unfair. “Thank you,” Sid manages to say, his voice thick and choked-sounding, because he can’t forget his manners. “I, I love it. I love you.”
“I love you too,” Geno says, voice equally wobbly. He takes Sid’s face in his hands and kisses him, chaste and gentle, until the cool metal of the ring has turned warm against Sid’s cheek. Sid buries his face in Geno’s neck when Geno pulls away and squeezes as tightly as he can until his breathing feels more steady.
“We need more cat food?” Geno asks, and Sid lifts his head and blinks at Geno, sure he misheard him.
“Cat food? Dog food? Before we leave for roadtrip?”
Sid can’t help it, he bursts out laughing. “That’s the first thing you ask after you propose?”
“We don’t not leave for Buffalo just because of rings,” Geno says practically, which Sid supposes is true, but it doesn’t make the whole thing less ridiculous.
“Just some dry food for Sam and Jeffrey, but I was going to get it later.”
“No, no, you put in laundry, I do it,” Geno says, giving Sid one last kiss on the top of his head before disentangling himself and reaching for his car keys. He pauses in the doorway, though, and smiles a little. “Still normal, Sid,” he says. “No matter what, we’ll still be normal.”
“There is nothing normal about you,” Sid retorts. But it’s true, he thinks, thumbing his ring as he goes to the laundry room. They’re good, the two of them. And no matter how crazy shit’s about to get, they’ve got their house, they’ve got hockey, and they’ve got each other. They can figure out the rest from there. Right after they kick ass in Buffalo, of course.