1. come on baby, light my fire
He really hadn’t meant to set off the fire alarm.
Only he’d been doing the reading for history class and it’d been super interesting and he’d sort of… forgotten about having put food in the oven. Half an hour of screeching alarms and a fire department intervention later, everyone is still milling about on the sidewalk and bitching about being stuck outside in the dead of winter while the firemen finish up.
Sid shivers, huddling deeper in his threadbare hoodie, and lingers at the edge of the crowd. If he just keeps quiet, there’s no way anyone will find out it’s his fault. Right?
He’s still debating walking two blocks to try and thaw out in a coffee shop when a voice rumbles from behind him.
Sid jumps and turns. “No,” he says instinctively.
The guy raises an eyebrow. He’s tall and gangly and, if memory serves, lives at the end of the hall in a two bed with the loud Russian guy who’s missing a couple teeth. Sid’s pretty sure this guy is Russian too, but he can’t for the life of him think of his name. G-something?
“I’m see your hands shake,” the guy says, grinning. “You always shiver when you warm?”
“Sorry,” Sid admits. “My brain’s not working at full capacity right now.”
The guy steps closer. “Not surprise, it’s too cold to be outside in shirt with holes.” He gives Sid a reproachful look and nudges closer. “Share heat?”
The guy gives off heat like a furnace even through the thick sweater he’s wearing. Sid unapologetically takes him up on the offer. “Thanks.”
“No worries,” the guy says easily. “Make friends with neighbors, always a good plan.”
“We live on opposite sides of the hall,” Sid points out.
“But still on same floor!” The guy smiles. “I am Evgeni.”
“Sidney,” Sid replies, “and can you repeat that because--”
“Call me Geno,” the guy laughs. “Easier for Americans.”
“I’m Canadian,” Sid says, trying (and failing) not to sound sulky. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Should know,” Geno teases. “So polite, must be Canadian.”
Sid rolls his eyes. “Yes, that’s exactly it.”
“Better than me,” Geno continues. “I’m think lots of not polite things right now.” He scowls. “Especially about idiot who start fire alarm.”
Involuntarily, Sid squeaks. Geno pauses and Sid can feel his cheeks flame.
“Was you?” Geno exclaims. “You set off alarm?”
“Shhhh,” Sid hisses. “Do you want the angry mob to find out?”
Geno looks around. The crowd has thinned out considerably, probably in search of warmer places, and the fireman who was keeping the entrance to the building closed seems to be packing up. “I’m think you safe,” he says amusedly. “Everybody gone to drink, probably.”
“You never know,” Sid says darkly. “They could be hiding.”
“I’m protect you,” Geno says magnanimously, winding an arm around Sid’s shoulders. “Keep you safe from angry students.”
“I thought you were pissed at the idiot who set off the alarm?”
“That before I’m know he so cute,” Geno says mischievously and Sid squeaks again.
“I’m great,” Geno counters, and tugs Sid in so they’re tucked together completely. “Come back inside, I’m show you.” He smirks. “And maybe make food, since you can’t be trusted.”
“That’s mean, I can totally cook for myself! You don’t even know me, how would you know?” Sid protests, but he lets himself be towed back into the warm glow of the dorm and doesn’t bother trying to hold back a smile.
2. you’ve been hit by a smooth criminal
The body is in an alley.
Geno sighs. Mondays. He makes a face, picking his way around the heaps of trash. Something in here stinks.
“What have we got?”
Sasha turns smoothly from where he’s crouched next to a body disguised as a pile of useless trash. “John Doe,” he says. “No ID, no wallet and--” he flips the tarp back, “--no face.”
Geno winces. “You sound disturbingly cheerful about that.”
Sasha smirks. “You know I like the interesting ones.”
Geno rolls his eyes and digs out a pair of latex gloves. Sure, Interesting. That’s one word for it.
“M.E. here yet?”
“Stuck in traffic,” Sasha replies. “What do you think?”
Geno crouches down and examines the scene carefully. The body is curled in on itself, seemingly naked and wrapped snugly in tarp. There aren’t any signs of violence, beyond the extensive damage to the face. Most of the skin is charred black, but Geno can still see signs of some brutal knife work in there. “I think this is a body dump,” he says. “And I hope the poor guy was already dead when they went to town on his face.”
“Yeah,” Sasha says pensively. “I sent Bennett and Kuzya out to canvas, see if anybody saw anything. Doubtful, though.”
“Too neat,” Geno agrees, rising. This looks like a professional job. He can already feel the paperwork piling up on his desk. “Let’s get some guys to dig through the trash here as well, find out what’s causing that stench. Might be a clue.”
Sasha coos. “No sympathy for the rookies, eh, Zhenya?”
Geno shrugs. “You want to help out, be my guest, but I’ve done my time digging through shit like this.”
“A mess like this? No, thank you. I’d rather--”
Later, Geno will idly ponder what it is that Sasha would rather do than sort through piles of actual trash. He’ll never know, though, because they’re interrupted by Bennett, who’s hurrying into the alley. Behind him, Geno can see Kuznetsov towing a pinched-looking man along.
Bennett’s face shines. “We found a witness.” He gestures Kuznetsov closer. “This is Sidney Crosby.”
The guy is of average height, curly brown hair and up close Geno can tell he doesn’t look pinched so much as extremely dubious.
“Mr. Crosby,” he says. “I’m Detective Malkin, this Detective Ovechkin.”
Crosby eyes the two of them. “Hello.”
He doesn’t look like he’d spook easily but Geno makes an effort to keep his tone light and even anyway. “Mr. Crosby, we find body in this alley this morning. You have information, can maybe help?”
Crosby bites his lip. “Really, I don’t think. I mean. It was probably nothing.”
His voice is a little squeaky, but he doesn’t look nervous and he isn’t avoiding eye-contact. Probably telling the truth.
“Why don’t you let us be the judge of that,” Sasha cuts in smoothly. “You can tell us what you saw?”
Crosby hesitates and then shrugs. “Sure, yeah, uh. I was coming home from work--I work the night shift,” he explains at their looks. “My engine’s a couple blocks over. Anyway, I was coming home from work when a truck stopped here? Well--,” he gestures to where the alley meets the streets, “--there. It looked like a moving truck, I thought it was weird, moving stuff at that time of night.”
“When was that?”
Crosby blinks. “Um. 5 AM? Maybe? My shift ended at 4 AM but I took a shower after. I think I left around 4:45 AM and it’s maybe a 10 minute walk, so around 5 AM. Maybe a little earlier.”
Sasha hums thoughtfully. “You see any people?”
“A couple guys, yeah.”
“You can describe?” Geno asks.
Crosby makes a face. “I--I’m not sure. They were big? I think one of them might have been bald? Sorry,” he says apologetically. “It was late and dark, I was tired.”
“No problem,” Sasha says easily. “These men, what did they do?”
“I saw them pull a bunch of stuff from the back of the truck,” Crosby says, “and then I turned around the corner, I don’t know what they did with it. Sorry.”
Geno tries to hide his sigh, but judging from the way Crosby frowns it doesn’t work. He glares when Sasha nudges him in the side. Could be something, Sasha’s expression says without words.
Geno shrugs, trying to convey or this guy is seeing ghosts without actually saying it where Crosby can hear.
Sasha smirks. The afraid I’m right? is practically ringing in Geno’s ears.
He shakes his head minutely, scowling. No and also fuck off.
Sasha gives him a deeply unimpressed look. Giving up on a lead so easily?
Crosby looks between the two of them with an expression that’s half annoyed and half amused. “I can just leave, if you guys want to talk about me using, you know, actual words,” he snarks and Geno almost smiles.
“Apologies,” Sasha says smoothly. “My partner doesn’t like English and my mother taught me it’s rude to speak in a language not everyone present can understand.”
“Fuck off,” Geno says evenly. “Mr. Crosby, I’m think you better come to precinct with us. We need your statement.”
He ignores Sasha’s triumphant noise--and Crosby’s sigh--choosing instead to focus on not stepping into anything nasty on his way back to the car.
3. Love's a hand-me-down brew
The barista eyeballs him when Sid shuffles up to the counter with his most effective puppy dog eyes in place.
“I’m not give you coffee.”
Sid makes an incoherent, slightly pathetic noise. “Please?”
The barista, Geno! :) according to his nametag, shakes his head resolutely. “This fifth time you here and it not even lunch yet. I’m make you tea instead.”
“No,” Sid whines, when the guy ducks away and starts doing something with tin cans and a kettle. “I don’t want tea. I want coffee. Preferably dripping right into my veins. Please?”
Hilary, the other barista, snorts. “Yeah, buddy, try coming back when your eyes aren’t bloodshot to hell and your hands aren’t shaking.”
“My hands aren’t shaking,” Sid says quickly.
Hilary smirks. “Yeah? You wanna take them out of your pockets and prove that to me?”
Defeated, Sid slumps. “I swear I’m not usually this bad.”
“I’m sure you can quit whenever you want,” Hilary agrees. She’s not visibly smirking anymore, but Sid swears he can hear it in her tone.
“Midterms are kicking my ass,” he confesses. “This happens every year, you’d think I’d be used to it by now.” He shuffles along the counter at Hilary’s insistence, settling down on a stool.
Geno gives him an unimpressed look. “Should start study earlier.”
“Oh, it’s not the studying that’s the problem,” Sid groans. “It’s the essays. I swear freshman essays get worse every year.”
Comprehension dawns on Hilary’s face. “You’re a teacher?”
“TA,” Sid says mournfully. “Which means I get all the shitty parts of being a student and all the shitty parts of being a lecturer. And no caffeine,” he adds pointedly.
“Should spread intake more,” Geno says serenely. “Then crash not hit you so hard.”
Sid presses his palms to his eyes. “Explain that to me again when I’ve had more than six hours of sleep over three days. I don’t have the brain capacity for it now.”
Geno slides a mug in front of him. It’s steaming and fragrant and Sid wishes it were four espresso shots instead. “Can I really not have any caffeine?”
“Try,” Geno says. “I’m promise it help, is definitely better than more coffee.”
“Coffee would help,” Sid grumbles, but he curls his hands around the mug and inhales deeply. It smells… interesting. Kind of woodsy, but strong and like it has substance, unlike most vaguely-flavoured-water-called-tea Sid has encountered. He takes a sip and--
“Shit,” he breathes, when it more or less kicks him in the face. “What did you put in this?”
“Russian blend,” Geno says smugly from where he’s settled against the counter next to Sid. “Told you it help.”
“Yes, yes, you’re very clever, tell me all your secrets.” Sid’s only half kidding. He wants to clutch the mug to his sleep-deprived body and learn its sneaky, non-caffeine ways.
“No,” Geno says, mock-serious. “Then you make for yourself and not come in anymore. Would be very sad.”
Involuntarily, Sid flushes. “I’m Sidney,” he blurts out, in lieu of something sensible and not embarrassing.
“I know,” Geno replies, smirking. “I’m write your name on half dozen cups you drink every day, Sid.”
Sid hides his face in his mug, hoping he can pull off the red cheeks are the result of hot tea look. Probably not. “I know, but you’ve given me your special tea and you said you want me to keep coming in so I thought it would be nice to introduce myself and oh God, stop looking at me like that, I’m seriously sleep-deprived, it shuts off my brain to mouth filter, shut up.”
“I’m not say anything,” Geno says mildly, but his expression is definitely amused.
“I’m just going to sit here and drink my tea,” Sid says, “and never come here again due to acute embarrassment.”
“Don’t do that,” Hilary interjects from over by the coffee maker. “Geno’d be very sad if he didn’t get to see his cute work crush anymore.”
Geno’s face flames up instantly. “Hilary!”
She cackles, clearly unrepentant. “Now you’re both embarrassed, you can bond!”
Geno thumps his head on the counter. “Hilary worst.”
Sid takes another sip of his tea, tries to form words into a coherent sentence. “Is she. Uh. I mean. Does she--Um.”
Geno turns his head a quarter and eyes Sid. “She not wrong,” he says carefully.
Sid squeaks. “You think I’m cute?”
Geno shrugs. “Incurable condition, doctors say. Can’t be helped.” He looks at Sid slyly.
“Shut up,” Sid says, and elbows Geno in the ribs. He bites his lip. “I, uh. I think--I mean. You’re, um.”
Geno chuckles. “I’m think maybe we need to have talk again after midterms. When Sid has brain back.”
“No,” Sid says quietly, still half hiding behind his tea. “No, I, uh. I don’t think that’ll be necessary.”
Geno’s smile wakes Sid up at least as much as the tea had, and he can’t stop himself from grinning back.
It’s not the coffee he came in here prepared to beg for, but he’ll take it gladly.
4. here comes the sun
The roof, when Geno pushes the access door open, is disappointingly occupied. He makes a face and debates quietly taking off again but the guy perched against the wall looks up before he can make up his mind.
He blinks owlishly, and Geno has a moment to think of the sheer stupidity of falling asleep on top of the roof of your dorm before the guy gestures him over.
“Plenty of room to share.”
Geno briefly considers returning to his room but last he heard, Sasha had been trying to convince Nastya that phone sex was definitely something she was interested in, so ultimately it’s an easy choice.
He picks a spot a fair distance from the other guy, dropping down easlly. “Fall asleep up here?”
“No,” the guy answers after a brief silence. “Just thinking, I guess.”
Geno nods, takes a swig of his bottle. “Is water,” he says pointedly when the guy eyes him. He shakes it in his direction. “You want make sure?”
The guy shrugs. “I just don’t want to be responsible for making sure you don’t choke on your own vomit, to be honest.”
A snort escapes Geno before he can stop it. “Not worry,” he says, tilting his head back to look at the stars. Well, what little of the stars is visible from here, anyway. “I’m not drink for a while.”
A sympathetic noise floats over. “Bad hangover?”
Geno mulls it over for a while. “Yes,” he says eventually. “But mostly bad decisions.”
The guy winces. “Yeah. I know what that’s like.”
Geno cuts him a look. “You not look like you make bad decision in life, ever.”
“Looks can be deceiving,” the guy murmurs. “Or that’s what they say, anyway.”
It’s quiet on the roof. Peaceful, even, if you ignore the rumble of traffic and the occasional shout from the street. It’s the perfect setting to contemplate your problems, which Geno had been sure he wanted to do. Except now he’s up there, the quiet is kind of stifling and Sasha’s admonishment to stop wallowing rings true even more than it had when he’d just been huddling under the covers.
“Geno,” he blurts out after a second. The guy raises his eyebrow and Geno feels a flush rising. “That’s my name. I’m think, if we share custody of roof, should share names too.”
“Sid,” the guy replies slowly, though Geno’s sure it’s amusement and not bewilderment. Well. Pretty sure.
“Nice to meet,” he says. “I’m offer hand, but you too far.”
“You’re the one that went to sit all the way over there.”
“Not know you,” Geno shrugs. “Be weird to cuddle.”
Sid snorts. “I’ll give you that,” he admits.
He looks… not sad, exactly, but not happy either. Geno’s pretty sure the English word is melancholy, and he suddenly discovers a vested interest in forgetting about his own problems by helping Sid with his.
“So,” he starts, carefully scooting closer. “Why you up on roof?”
“Why are you?” Sid counters.
Geno shakes his head. “I’m ask first.”
Sid shrugs. “Wanted to be alone, I guess. My roommate’s great but he’s kind of--,” he wrinkles his nose, “--loud.”
“I’m know what you mean,” Geno commiserates. “My roommate loud also.”
“Maybe we should introduce them.”
Geno shakes his head immediately. “No,” he says, mock-horrified. “One bad enough, two would be making monster!”
“Yeah,” Sid huffs, but Geno’s pleased to note he’s smiling at least a little. “Is that why you’re up here? Escape?”
Yes, Geno thinks, but not really from Sasha. “Can’t sleep,” is what he says. “I’m think maybe watch sun rise. Never see before.”
Sid gives him a skeptical look. “You’ve never seen the sun rise before?”
“No,” Geno says emphatically, “because it’s time when humans are supposed to sleep.”
Sid chuckles. “Well, you picked a good spot for a first try.” He gestures directly opposite from them. “We're facing east so you can see it nicely from here.”
“You do often? Come up here, watch sun rise?” Geno shoots him a look. “You not look that crazy.”
“I’m not,” Sid protests, but he’s fully smiling now, and Geno feels a rush of accomplishment. “And I don’t. Just a few times.” He shrugs. “I like the quiet.”
“And not sleeping,” Geno grumbles.
“Oh shut up,” Sid swats at him. “And don’t think I didn’t notice you deflecting back there. Can’t sleep, my ass.”
Geno flushes, looks away. “Is not lie,” he says after a few quiet moments. “I’m can’t sleep, because too busy in my head.”
Sid looks sympathetic. “You wanna talk about it?”
No, Geno thinks. Yes, the voice that sounds suspiciously like Sasha in his head counters. “I’m have fight with parents,” he forces himself to say eventually. “They not--” He swallows, looks down at his hands wringing together. “They not happy I’m gay.”
The silence seems to last an age in Geno’s mind. He almost slumps when Sid comes up against him, nudging their shoulders together. “Geno, I’m so sorry.”
His throat is clogged but Geno feels compelled to continue. “Denis, my brother, he say they get over it, just need time to adjust. But I’m can’t forget the way they look at me when I tell them.”
Sid links their arms together and presses in close. “It’s going to be okay,” he says, certainty threaded through his tone. “I’m sure your parents love you, they were probably just surprised. It can be difficult to hear at first, I guess.” He makes a face. “When I told my mom, she told me that I sometimes have weird ideas in my head, but they’re totally fine with it now.”
Geno huffs out a laugh. “Canadian parents much nicer than Russian parents.”
“Bullshit,” Sid says. “And how did you know I’m Canadian?”
Geno taps the scrap of t shirt on Sid’s arm he can reach. “Habs shirt.” He tries to smile. “Plus, you share roof. Sad American never do, but sad Canadian, maybe.”
“I’m not sad,” Sid counters. He sounds amused, but Zhenya can see the cloud settling over his expression.
He elbows Sid gently. “I’m tell you mine.”
Sid looks away. “It’s stupid.”
“I’m be judge of that.”
Sid exhales heavily. “My sister’s playing in her first NWHL game tomorrow and I won't be there.”
“That awesome! And you can’t go? That why you sad?” Geno can sympathize with that.
“Yeah,” Sid says, and then quietly, “but I’m also kind of jealous and I feel guilty about it.”
Oh. “You play?”
There’s a twist of bitterness in Sid’s voice that makes Geno want to hug him close. He nods understandingly instead. “Is okay to be jealous, you know.”
“She’s my sister,” Sid says quietly. “It’s terrible.
“Is not,” Geno counters. “You still cheer, right? Still want for her to play well? Score lots of goals?”
“She’s a goalie,” Sid mutters.
“Stop lots of goals then,” Geno says easily. “Point is, you still care, right? Otherwise you not feel guilty.”
“Then is okay to be little jealous too.” He prods Sid gently. “Seem like smart guy, I’m sure you know how to have more than one emotion.”
“Shut up,” Sid mumbles, but he sounds at least closer to thoughtful than morose.
Geno does, if only because he’s not quite sure what to say after a round of deeply personal confessions with a total stranger. He settles back instead, eyes on the slowly clearing horizon. He’s suddenly glad the sun is almost up and he can go back inside soon. Indian summer or not, mornings are not known for being exceedingly warm.
“Look, Sid,” he nudges. “Sun almost up.”
“I see it,” Sidney answers. His face is clear, and if Geno didn’t know better he’d say Sid was smiling at least a little. He suddenly realizes Sid looks kind of startlingly beautiful, bathed in glowing orange sunlight.
“I’m Biology major,” he says when the sun has risen completely and they’re just leaning against the wall. “Grow up in Magnitogorsk in Russia, but is okay if you not know where it is. I’m have brother named Denis, and my full name is Evgeni Vladimirovich Malkin.”
Sid is staring at him by the time he’s finished the little speech. “You’re deeply strange,” he says, but it kind of sounds like a compliment. “And I’m not even going to try to pronounce that.”
“Probably best idea. Your turn, now.” Geno says.
Geno grins. “Good to know things about someone before get into a car and drive ages to see sister’s hockey game.” Sid squawks and Geno can’t hold back a giggle.
“I told you I can’t go!”
“I have to TA a class,” Sid glares. Then his eyes soften. “But thanks.”
Geno smiles back easily. “For what? Talking or ride?”
“You’re welcome,” he says graciously. “And I’m bet I can convince you.”
Sid scrambles up, holds out a hand. “Well,” he says. “You’ve got a couple flights of stairs to try.”
5. isn’t she lovely?
There’s a baby screaming in the produce section.
Sid notices as soon as he rounds the corner, not that it’s particularly hard to miss. A guy is standing next to the crates of carrots and beets, gently rocking the screaming bundle in his arms, murmuring quietly whilst simultaneously trying not to drop the bag of groceries he’s clutching in his other hand. The guy’s face is red and miserable and he looks like he’s two seconds away from howling right along with his kid.
“Here, let me--” Sid grabs the groceries just as the guy loses his precarious grip on the bag, sets it down on the ground gently.
“Thanks,” the guy says. He looks--exhausted actually. His eyes are red-rimmed and the bags under his eyes could give Sid’s when he’s on the night shift a run for their money.
“Don’t worry about it.” He does a double take. “Hey, I know you.”
The guy blinks. “What?”
Sid narrows his eyes. “I think--Don’t you live in my building? 67 Park Street?”
The guy nods slowly. “Yes, I’m there.”
“Yeah,” Sid nods. “I thought so. I’m on the ground floor.” He smiles. “I’m Sidney.”
“Geno,” the guy replies. “Live on top floor. Would shake hand but--,” he jostles his bundle gently.
“You’re fine,” Sid says easily. He nods at the baby. “That’s an impressive set of lungs.”
Geno sags. “She teething,” he says miserably. “I’m try everything, nothing help. And I’m need food or else I eat baby food also tonight so I’m take her with me to store but she not stop crying.”
Sid hums sympathetically. “I, uh. I don’t know much about teething but I’m pretty much done with my groceries.” He hesitates. “I know you, uh, don’t really know me, but if you want, I can hold her while you do the rest of your shopping.”
Geno blinks again and Sid resists the urge to wince. Had that been too weird? They’re more or less strangers and that’s his baby, but he’d looked so tired and miserable and… Shit. Totally too weird.
“You want--,” Geno looks between Sid and the baby, “--hold her? While I’m…” He gestures around the grocery store.
“Yes,” Sid says embarrassedly. “Was that a weird thing to offer? It was, wasn’t it?” He makes a face. “Sorry, I just wanted to help. I swear I’m not trying to steal your baby.”
“No,” Geno says. At least he’s smiling, which means he’s less likely to call the cops. “I’m believe.” He looks down at the baby fondly. “Alyonushka being very difficult, I’m not think anyone want her right now.” He fusses at her and she trails off into sad little wails.
“Sorry,” Sid says again. “I’ll let you get on with things.”
“Wait,” Geno says quickly. “You serious?”
Sid pauses. “Yes?” he says slowly. “I mean. I’m, uh. I’ve got a bunch of little cousins, I’m pretty good with babies.”
“Alya fussy,” Geno says warningly, but he looks like he’s wavering.
Sid grins, holds out his arms a fraction. “Trust me, they can’t be worse than the babies in my family.”
Geno looks dubious but he hands her over carefully. “Her name Alyona,” he says.
Sid gets his first good look and is immediately smitten. She’s just so adorable, with big blue eyes and a button of a nose. She whimpers and huffs a little, and then blinks up at Sid confusedly. “Hello, gorgeous,” he coos.
Alyona keens once and then makes a smacking sound, patting Sid on the chin with the one hand he’s managed to wriggle out of her numerous layers. Next to him Geno breathes a sigh of relief.
“You have baby magic?”
“Told you I’m good with kids,” Sid says smugly. “Your daddy was a non-believer, Alyona. No faith!” He makes a face and she giggles. “I think we better go do groceries, huh? Before you remember your teeth hurt and your dad starts crying too.”
“I’m not start cry,” Geno grumbles, but he picks up his bag and makes for an abandoned cart further down. “I’m call bullshit, is what I’m do. She cry all day and soon as you touch, bam! Done!”
“I guess I’m just lucky,” Sid says serenely.
Geno eyes him. “I’m think I like to keep your luck around.”
Sid flushes slightly, biting his lip. “Let’s get through groceries first, yeah?” He offers, and follows Geno down the cereal aisle.