Sid’s jaw didn’t hurt, which was pretty great. Actually everything was pretty great. That lingering twinge in his wrist? That massive bruise on his ribs that ached a little every time he breathed? All gone.
Sid blinked his eyes open, which for some reason had been closed. Oh, it was Geno. Sid remembered hearing him….earlier. Sometime. Before Sid got here, wherever here was. “Hi,” Sid said. He looked up at the ceiling. It looked like a hospital ceiling.
Geno’s hands came into view. Sid shied away a little, because who wanted Geno’s giant mitts near their face?
The hands retreated. “How you feel?”
“Good,” Sid said, or tried to. He couldn’t quite finish the word.
“So awful, bleed everywhere. Kuni pick up your teeth.”
“Nn,” Sid said. That was nice of Kuni.
“So awful,” Geno repeated. He was touching Sid, on Sid’s hand. He was holding Sid’s hand. “Sid, you promise you not do again.”
Sid wanted to say he didn’t know about that. After all, he hadn’t meant to do it this time. Saying it would take so many words, though.
“I think we lose you,” Geno said, more softly. “Sid, you marry me, then this never happen.”
Sid blinked at Geno. Probably that made sense. Probably if he didn’t feel so good, it would make sense.
“Sid,” Geno said, insistent, like maybe he’d said it before. “Sid, you marry me, I protect you, okay? You don’t break teeth. Or head.”
That would be nice. “Okay,” Sid said.
Sleep also sounded nice.
Sid had just dumped the banana into the blender for yet another fortified protein shake when a memory floated to the surface. It’d been happening for a week, though the memories were mostly just scraps – exactly what Brooksie had said to Sid as Sid skated off; the nurse with red hair and John Lennon glasses who’d taken his pulse at the hospital.
This one was of Geno, hovering over him and holding his hand.
“What the fuck,” Sid said. Or slurred, rather – he still wasn’t forming words real great.
“So, uh, Geno,” Sid said. Geno looked up from the readout of the exercise bike, which he’d been studying intently since Sid had walked into the gym. “So, I hear we’re getting married?”
Geno turned a little blotchy. “Married?” he said. “You still high, Sid? So high.”
“I mean, yeah,” Sid said. Nor was he ungrateful. He did not want to think about what he’d be feeling right now without the painkillers. “That doesn’t mean I don’t remember. That was like, a deathbed proposal. Without the dying,” he added. He was pretty sure that by whatever point that had been, it was clear he was going to live.
“Just worry about you,” Geno said. The blotches were getting darker.
“And you went from worried to engaged?” Sid asked curiously. “Don’t you think you should ask me out first?” That would be awkward, given that Geno was straight and Sid was, well, not provably un-straight, but still a date seemed like it ought to come first.
“Is stupid, I lose my head, just—” Geno flicked his fingers violently.
Sid had no idea what that gesture meant. “Usually when you lose your head, you slash people. Or cross-check them.”
“You say yes!”
“I was high as a kite,” Sid pointed out. “It’s not even legal, Geno.”
Geno slanted him a mulish glance. “Legal in Canada.”
Okay, that was not the direction Sid was expecting that to go. But Geno was starting to scowl at the bike readout, and Sid didn’t come here planning to antagonize him. “So what, are you breaking our engagement? Is that what this is?”
“Fuck off,” Geno said, though the corner of his mouth had begun to curl.
Even though his jaw wasn’t wired shut, like happened to some guys, Sid’s life pretty much sucked. For one thing, he was hungry all the fucking time. “I can only drink so many protein shakes, you know?”
Tanger and Kuni nodded, sympathetic. “Sucks, man,” Tanger said.
That night, Sid answered his door to find Geno on his doorstep with a round plastic canister. It was tinged purple around the top. “Hi?” Sid said.
Geno pushed the canister into Sid’s hands. It was warm. “Borscht,” Geno said. “You eat hot. Better than protein shake. I get from best Pittsburgh Russian restaurant.”
“It’s okay, you not like.”
“I’m sure it’ll be great,” Sid hastened, before he saw the twinkle in Geno’s eye. “Oh, fuck you.”
“Of course it’s great. Russia soup best.”
“Sure, Geno,” Sid said, but after Geno waved goodbye, Sid went back inside and reheated the soup. It was a little bit sour, and it stained his teeth pink, but it was different, at least. And it was warm, and it went down okay, so he ate most of it before he put the container away in the fridge, feeling pleasantly full for the first time in days.
It occurred to Sid that bringing soup was something that a fiancé would do, if that fiancé’s fiancé had just broken his jaw. Which was a little weird. Did Geno mean it as a joke? Was Sid supposed to laugh about it, one of these days?
Nealer got concussed. For a couple of weeks he was on a strict no-screens, no-lights, no movement diet, and Sid didn’t see him. Finally Nealer felt enough better to come around the locker room for a little while. He spent all of it complaining about Geno coming over, narrating movies that Geno watched on his phone, and eating all Nealer’s beef jerky.
“You not eat! It’s so old, so tough, nobody want to eat. I just help you.”
“That is a bald-faced lie,” Nealer said.
“Did he bring you borscht?” Sid asked, suddenly curious.
Nealer turned to Sid, blinking. “Beets? Gross, dude.”
Geno looked smug. Sid wondered if Geno had proposed to Nealer, too. He didn’t ask.
Sid slowly got to his knees, and then there was a hand on his arm, pulling him up.
“Sid?” Geno said. “Sid, you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Sid said. Reflexively, he eyed the boards he’d just been crushed into. His whole right shoulder was going to be a bruise tomorrow, but still. Relatively speaking, he was fine.
“You hit your head?” Geno pawed over him. “Fuck you, Sid, I say you don’t do this. Marry me and this not happen.”
Sid squinted at him. “What would you do if we were married that you don’t do now?”
“Do something,” Geno said. “Marry me, I show you.”
Sid started to make for the bench. He swung his shoulder, and fuck, bruised did not begin to describe what he was feeling right now. It occurred to Sid that he maybe would like to go sit on a trainer’s table for a minute or two, and that he was fucking tired of feeling like that. “Fine,” he said, heading for the bench door. “Marry me, and make this shit go away, okay?”
“I’m best husband, I show you,” Geno said.
The trainer checked him out and cleared him, but there were only ninety seconds left in the game by then. Sid thumped back up the tunnel just in time to hear the horn sound.
Afterwards, after media and showers and packing up, he cornered Geno in the cafeteria. “Sid!” Geno said, scrambling to his feet. “You okay?”
“Feel like I got mauled by a meat tenderizer,” Sid said, sitting gingerly at Geno’s table. Geno sat across from him, still looking him over. “Otherwise I’m okay. Although, I guess I’m engaged again.”
Geno’s lips pressed together. “You make fun.”
“It is pretty ridiculous,” Sid pointed out. “You worry about someone, so you want to marry them?”
“I get upset, see people hurt.” Geno hunched over his post-everything protein shake. “Want people know they fuck with—with my team, then they fuck with me.”
“I’m sure everyone would be terrified to know they could get you out of the game for five minutes at a time just by messing with me.” Before Geno could respond to that, Sid added, “And seriously, is there some karate chop move or something you’d pull out if we were married that you don’t do now?” If we were married rolled right off his tongue, strung between other words where he couldn’t balk at it. “Are you holding out me?”
“You have to marry me, you want me to put out.”
Sid snorted with surprise, even as the glint in Geno’s eye made Sid flush a little. “You are so full of shit,” he said, to cover, and Geno didn’t even try to deny it.
So Geno proposed to people in times of stress. That was fine. Geno’s feelings were ferocious and unwieldy and sometimes just fucking inconvenient, and there wasn’t a guy on the team who hadn’t figured that out within a couple of weeks of being here.
Sid ignored that flicker of heat in his belly that stirred at odd times, when he thought of Geno offering to put out.
In March, Geno found Sid in the trainer’s room after a game, icing his wrist like he’d been instructed. “What happen?” Geno asked.
“Fell wrong. Jammed it.”
Geno laid his fingers gently along Sid’s arm, north of his wrist. “Stupid.”
“Yeah, well. If I’d married you when you asked, we wouldn’t have had this problem, right?” Sid still didn’t understand the logic, but he’d stopped caring about that part.
“No good,” Geno said with a sigh. “Still not legal in Pittsburgh.”
“Too bad,” Sid said. If he kind of meant it, Geno didn’t need to know.
A week after Henrik Lundqvist ended the Pens’ season in the second round, the news feed on Sid’s phone informed him that the ban on same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania had been struck down. Sid stared at the words for a long time before he put the phone aside.
A month into the new season, Sid pulled Duper aside in the weight room one day, when no one else was there. “You know when Tanger hit you in the spine with that slap shot, and you freaked us all out?”
“Yeah,” Duper said warily.
“And Geno was right there, and he told you to stay down.” That was not a good time. Sid’s pulse picked up a little just thinking about it.
“Did he say anything else?”
Duper’s brow dropped in thought. “Like what? I don’t know if I remember now. He told me not to move, if that’s what you mean.”
“Like.” Sid pulled himself together and asked as casually as he could, “Did he ask you to marry him?”
Duper looked as Sid very carefully. “I would have remembered that. So, no.”
“Right. Okay. That makes sense, since you’re already married.”
“Yeah,” Duper agreed slowly, as if Sid and sense were kilometers apart.
“Cool. Thanks, Duper,” Sid said, and beat a hasty retreat.
He considered asking Beau – Beau was single and had certainly been injured often enough to know – but Sid just. He didn’t. Either way, he didn’t want to know the answer.
In a game in December, Geno blocked a shot with his hand. It was a wrister, a weak one that didn’t have much on it, but Geno still came back to the bench swearing loudly in Russian, with fucking frequently interspersed for good measure. “Okay?” Sid asked, leaning around Horny.
“Fucking hurts,” Geno said, but when Stewie came to look at him, Geno only shook his head.
Sid found him alone in the trainer’s room after the game, sitting on the exam table all alone with an ice pack bent over the heel of his hand. “Just bad bruise,” he said, before Sid could ask.
“Let me see,” Sid said, not sure why, but trying to put enough captain into his voice that Geno wouldn’t ask. Wordlessly, Geno lifted the pack. Underneath it, the meat of his thumb was speckled harshly red. It was nothing Sid hadn’t seen before. He winced anyway. “Ouch.”
Geno laughed without humor. “Yeah.”
As gently as he knew how, Sid took Geno’s hand in his. He brushed his thumb over the darkened skin. His heart was beating too fast. “You know, if you’d just marry me, this wouldn’t happen.” Geno went stock-still. Sid summoned all his courage, and he lifted his head to meet Geno’s eyes. They were very wide. “It’s legal now, you know. In Pittsburgh.”
Geno stared at him, frozen. Finally he mustered a weak, sickly smile and said, “You ask me now? No good, Sid. You not even take me for dinner.”
Sid licked his lips. “I mean. I could do that.”
“Oh.” Geno looked down at their joined hands. His mouth began to curl into something real. “Steak?”
“The best in Pittsburgh,” Sid promised.
“Best,” Geno said. “You have to impress me, and then maybe we get married. Have to see.”
“Watch me,” Sid said.
The night they beat Buffalo and won a playoff spot, after the reporters had gone and all the guys had showered, Sid stood up in the middle of the locker room and cleared his throat. “So, Geno and I have something to say.” Next to him, Geno took his hand.