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You Too Can Play

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It’s unsettlingly quiet in the locker room but for the rushing sound of blood in Geno’s ears, and there’s nothing more he’d like to do than to go back out there and swing a stick at someone.

“First period, guys. Two goals, powerplays, impressive defense. We need to get that momentum back.” Coach Dan lets out a sigh. The second period was a complete nightmare. The Flyers were more brutal than usual, vicious hits everywhere, and their quick succession of goals had disintegrated Penguin’s precious lead down to a negative. Philly’s welcome is the same brand of Penguin-hate as always. And yet. Geno rubs a hand over his face. It rankles at him this time, something about the name-calling and the banners strung out over the perimeter of the rink getting to him now that it’s affecting his game. Even here in the confines of their own locker space his teammates are still giving him a wide berth.

From the other side of the locker room Sid’s face is blank and unreadable, methodically checking the state of his gear – gloves, stick, skates – while he listens. Geno curbs the urge to go over to him and slip a hand over the back of Sid’s neck, fingers kneading through muscle to loosen the tight knot of tension he’s sure to find there. Sid might not welcome the touch right now.

“I’m not saying we don’t fight back as hard as we can. Just less penalties and more focus on putting that puck in the net.” He’s not being singled out by the coach, Geno knows it. They've all been too scattered and frustrated on ice and they’re all guilty one way or another. But it sure feels that way and Geno finds himself responding in kind, can’t help the defensive hunching of his shoulders.

“Is not fair. The way they are to Sid.”

“No, it’s not.” Coach Dan concedes.

“Not sorry. Do it again.” Geno repeats back. This time Sid meets his gaze from across the room and something must have been showing on his face because Sid’s shaking his head at him, a soft expression reaching his eyes like he’s resigned to Geno being Geno. It helps unwind the too-tight feeling on his chest and he can breathe again.

Cooke ruins it anyway.

“Fucking kiss him already. We’re giving you a freebie here. God knows we want you properly motivated.” And Cookie’s smile is too wide for someone with an already split lip.

They had a word for him back home. But “poop-man” or “bastard with face made of shit” doesn't have the same snap to it the original Russian has.

“Fuck you Cookie.”

“Not if the Captain could help it.” Flower pipes up because he’s secretly enjoying making things more awkward for Sid and for Geno by extension, and the rest of the team sniggers. It does its work of lifting the mood in the locker room at least and for that Geno feels just a tiny bit grateful.

Still, this doesn't change his mind about the team being the worst. Why Sid ever thought it had been a good idea to tell them he’ll never know. Sidney had been worried about changing the team dynamics too much but it’s not like Sid’s jumping him on the ice during morning skate. Not that Geno’s bitter about that. No.

Coach Dan gives them some last minute pointers before they’re being herded back onto the ice, focused on recovering the lead they lost and on winning the game. Geno and Sid hang back from the rest of the group, standing so close together their shoulders bump.

Sid turns to him. “Um, do you want to- need me to- I mean, Cooke said you might need proper motivation.” He’s not exactly looking him in the face and Geno wonders if Sid’s aware he’s stuttering and licking his lips distractingly at the same time.

Geno shakes his head. “Sid is here, ’m motivated. Cooke is being asshole.” Geno leans forward, bumping helmets with him and is rewarded with a smile from Sid, watching as that awkward tension seeps out of his shoulders.

“Hey, I wish we could use that in a play. Y’know, the whole kissing thing. That would shit at their momentum. I’m breaking my bones here and the fuckers are focused as fuck.” Cooke says to them when they step off the ice. Sid sort of shorts out and Geno is going to kill Matt Cooke even if his kids are kind of adorable.

 

~~

 

They don’t kiss as a play tactic because they’re down by two and aren’t insane enough to 1.) think it might work, and 2.) out themselves in the middle of playoffs. Also, Cooke and the rest of the team don’t need more encouragement. Fuck, they might take pictures and send them as holiday cards to all of his friends in the league and who knows what Ovie will do the next time he catches up to them? Probably throw a lot of blowjob innuendos and laugh at Sid’s uncomprehending face.

What happens is the Flyers don’t score again for the first five minutes of the period. The Penguins don’t either but it doesn't feel as fraught with tension as before. Geno figures it out when he steps back onto the bench and sees Sid start his own shift. There’s a tightness to his shoulders and along the curve of his spine when he skates. It’s the kind that comes from intense focus and not from frustration. Geno has seen this enough to know that Sid is in the zone, that Sid has a plan, and that they are going to win.

Two powerplays and one elbowing incident later (and Geno is not going to come rushing out to center ice because Sidney Crosby is a grown-ass man, and he can trip that bastard later anyway) they tie the game. Ten seconds before the third period ends, Geno himself clinches their win with a slap shot.

He’s hugged by Neal first because he’s the closest and he ends up getting squished against the boards by an overenthusiastic Kunitz. Then there’s Sidney, hopping with one foot on the ice and the other still stuck behind the bench. It’s ridiculous how he finds the unlikely clumsiness of it charming, so Geno isn’t as prepared when Sid comes speeding towards him and almost bowls him over on the ice.

“That was amazing!”

“Careful or you break head again.” Geno laughs as he steadies himself on Sid’s arm. He’s holding on much tighter than necessary, really wants to hug the air out of Sidney’s lungs. It hadn't been easy, this game tonight, on him nor on Sid who’s been called names one too many times and it’s hitting too close to home.

Sid is wearing that expression of intense concentration on his face again, which is strange since the game’s definitely over. Geno realizes he might have been staring too much and mumbling to himself like a crazy person and starts to pull away.

“Hey, Geno.” Sid catches him midway. “I think-“ Then he stops again, wetting his chapped lips. Their teammates are already lining up for the handshakes and they really should get going with that. Geno could only take so much booing from the crowd even though they’ve won.

“Stop me if you don’t like this.” Sid says, glove-less hands sliding up Geno’s shoulders. He’s flooded with thoughts of warmth when Sid’s hand touches the side of his face and then Geno’s brain catches up with what’s actually happening. He doesn't know if he’s speaking in Russian or if his thoughts just aren’t filtering themselves in English properly but he’s pretty sure he’s warning Sidney off, saying “Not here, Sid, not here."

Geno doesn’t actually move away. Like everything Sid does on ice Geno can’t help himself but follow his lead. So in front of the booing crowd with the “Cindy” banners, in front of all the Flyers, of Max Talbot standing some odd feet away looking both perplexed and probably pissing his pants at not being in on this before he left the team, Geno meets Sid halfway in a kiss. It’s a soft lingering press of lips, a chaste one if nothing else. It’s not the most comfortable one they’ve had what with Geno’s mouthguard still on. Geno leans into it anyway, letting Sid lick his lower lip. A mostly chaste kiss, then.

“We worry about what’s happening on the ice, our team, how soon we’re winning the Stanley cup again. We worry about hockey. Never about this, Geno. “ Sidney says with all the conviction of being a captain, and of course he would come to equate relationship talks with locker-room pep talk. It’s further proof how far gone Geno is when he’s more flattered than annoyed he’s being treated like a serious hockey game.

“Yes. Okay.”

“So. I don’t know how this works most of the time but you can, right? Geno, you can-“ And he gestures between them, and oh gods, someone is surely filming this. This is going into the highlights reel, Geno thinks hysterically. Sid isn't allowed to have relationship talks again because he does them very publicly. On ice. And yes, they’re out. Very much out at this point it’s ridiculous the media isn't swarming them.

This isn't Geno’s idea of coming out. He doesn't know what he had in mind exactly. Probably somewhere not in Philadelphia and definitely not in front of the fucking Flyers. Then it sinks in, Sid reaching out for his hand, fingers tangling with his. It’s fine. It’s going to be fine. He can touch Sidney right now.

“Sid, got it. Shut up. Shake hands first.” Geno says and drags him over to the handshake line. He’s pretty much deaf at this point with all the noise the whole center is making and he sees more than hears his fellow Penguins chirping at him. The Flyers’ coach, Laviolette, comes up and offers his congratulations, Geno not really sure if he meant it for the win or for what just happened ten seconds ago. Sidney takes it as the former anyway, shaking hands, and then beaming back at Geno like he’s the greatest center the hockey gods had given him.

Maybe he is. It feels like it with Sid by his side. Geno squeezes Sid’s hand and smiles back.

 

The End.