He comes to on the ice, which is a good sign all things considered. Chris, the athletic trainer, is hovering above him, asking questions that sound a little distant.
“I’m good, just a little bump. You’ve seen me with worse.”
The team is scattered around him in various practice jerseys, Tanger kneeling by his head looking way too guilty for a hit that could have happened to anyone.
“I’m going to stand now, no one freak out,” Sid says, trying to look convincing as he rolls over and pushes up onto his knees. “I’m totally-“
The sentence cuts off as his face falls back into the ice, saved only by Chris’ arms. Okay, so maybe he’s not totally fine.
Since he met Sidney, Mario has spent about 90% of his free time worrying about him. Nathalie tells him not to, reminds him that Sid hasn’t even been injured that much, but the bleary eyed Crosby laying on the hospital bed in front of him tells a different story.
“Oh, Mario, what are you doing here?” Sidney asks, “I didn’t think you were in the building today.”
“Mr. Lemieux is your emergency contact,” Dr. Manta fills in, pulling out his chart. “I’m going to go check your scans, I’ll be right back. If you feel sick, there’s a bowl next to the bed and some ice water.”
The second the door shuts behind her Sidney is gesturing him over.
“Mario,” he says in a quiet voice, “why are you my emergency contact?”
He’s a little taken aback by that, “Sidney, I’ve always been your contact.” They’d discussed it as soon as he moved in, how he’d be quicker to arrive than anyone in Sidney’s family.
“No, I know,” Sidney says, brushing the explanation off with a wave of his hand, “It’s just, I changed it didn’t it? To my husband?”
And oh. Nathalie was definitely wrong about this one.
“Who? Sidney, you aren’t married, you aren’t even…” Mario trails off there. They’d never really discussed his sexuality, but if he really thinks about it he’d never seen him with anyone of either gender. So it’s completely possible he would have a husband. Except that he doesn’t.
“Geno,” Sidney replies slowly, and Mario’s jaw drops. “Oh shoot, this isn’t where I’m supposed to be, is it?” His face changes to perplexed, but still far too calm. “This has only happened to me once before, and only for a second, but I think my consciousness jumped. To protect my head, maybe? I woke up once in college after a hit my rookie year, but it only lasted a few minutes. Long enough to freak the hell out of my roommate, but not long enough to have a conversation like this.”
“Sidney,” Mario interrupts, sitting gingerly on the bed by his knees, “none of this makes any sense. You’re freaking the hell out of me.”
“This is like a different reality thing, I think. It shouldn’t last long.”
Before Mario can point out how ridiculous this is, Geno bursts in, followed by the quick clicking heels of Dr. Manta.
“Sid,” Geno says, dropping into the chair next to the bed. “I tell you, optional skate means we not go. Let rookies do suicide skates.”
“I’m fine, G,” Sidney responds, setting a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s true, actually,” the doctor affirms, pulling up the scans on the screen in front of them. Mario averts his eyes as they go through images from all of his concussions, remembering the sick feeling he had every other time they met in a hospital for exactly this, until they get to the image from today. “There’s no obvious signs of damage, and if you hadn’t lost consciousness briefly, I wouldn’t be too worried.”
Mario lets out a small sigh of relief, squeezing Sidney’s knee in reassurance.
“As it is,” she continues, “with your history I’d like for you to take it easy for a few days and see me again after the weekend, just to be sure.”
Sidney nods, face falling a little. “So I can’t play?”
“It’s just for a few days. It’s better than the alternative, I’m sure you are aware of that.”
Geno bristles a little at that, shooting a protective glance at Sidney while side-eyeing the doctor.
“Is he good to go then, Dr. Manta?” Mario asks before Geno causes a scene. He’s very familiar with the fierce protectiveness of teammates.
“I gave him a small dose of painkillers to help the headache, so he shouldn’t drive. I’d also recommend someone stay with him just to make sure his symptoms don’t change. I’m not worried about him sleeping, but if he needs to come back here for any reason it’d be best for someone to be there.”
Mario is ready to call in Marc-Andre, or Kris, both of who would be delighted to deal with a doped up Sid, but before he can get a word in edgewise Geno says, “I take Sid. We go home, watch loud movies, play with flashing lights.”
Sidney giggles loudly at that, squeezing Geno’s shoulder. He smiles back at Sid, and Mario has a flicker of hope that this whole alternate-reality NHL player thing will blow over without anyone finding out. But then Dr. Manta says “Mr. Malkin,” in a chastising tone, and Sidney replies instantly with,
“What, am I not allowed to laugh?” to which Geno’s jaw drops and the hope is gone.
“I was talking to Geno,” the doctor says, taken aback.
“I think we’ll get Sidney out of here now, pain killers hit him hard,” Mario says, because he really does not want this brought into medical terms, the theoretical implications are enough for now. “Thank you for your help, doctor, Geno will call if anything changes.”
Geno is… confused.
Mario explains some of it in the hallway while they check Sidney out, glossing over most of it and using way to many movie references, but the overall point is pretty clear.
“He fine, but he think we are married?” Geno says slowly.
“I think this is sort of a different Sidney,” Mario tries, wincing a little. “Like he’s not… your Sidney, he’s from somewhere else.”
“If this all true, he is my Sidney,” Geno replies, tongue in cheek.
“Take this seriously, Geno,” Mario chastises.
“But he say this only last a little bit last time. Last less long than concussion, is good, considering.”
Mario shrugs, and Sidney walks out of the room behind them before he can respond.
“Hey, is it still okay if I…” Sid starts, looking nervously at the floor.
“You come with me, no choice,” Geno responds, digging for his keys.
Sidney is silent in the car and sad when they get home. He stays sad even when Geno says he made up the guest bed for him already. Normally he would chalk that part up to Canadian politeness, that maybe Sidney wanted to make up the bed himself, but this is different.
He wakes up early for practice, cooking toast and eggs, making sure to only put one yolk in Sidney’s and not stir them with a fork because ‘they’re nonstick Geno’.
“Morning G,” Sid says sleepily from the doorway while he’s still bent over the skillet. He sidles up to Geno’s side quietly, tucking his forehead in the space between Geno’s shoulder blades.
He tries not to tense up, but Sidney pulls away anyways. “Sorry, I’m sorry, this just felt so normal. Mario told you, right?”
He slips the eggs onto plates and hands Sid one, leading them over to the table before he answers. “You still Sid,” he says carefully, once they’ve sat down.
“Are we like that here?” Sidney asks quietly, still not meeting his eyes.
“No, no, we friends. You have very important relationship,” Sid raises his eyebrows, “hockey.” Geno finishes, smiling around the rim of his mug.
“Okay,” Sidney responds, looking a little less like a startled deer,and that’s that.
Sidney rides with him to practice, but they don’t let him skate. Mario comes to tell everyone they are checking for concussion, and with his past, no one even questions it.
He tells Geno to drive him home afterwards, or “well, wherever I live here, I guess.”
Geno doesn’t comment on that, just drives him quietly to his house. He does think about it, though, later in his bed. How much Sid must have cared about him to switch up his routine even a little. How much he must have cared about Sidney to marry him, to move in with him. He can’t picture settling down with anyone, really, not his semi-serious Russian flings, and definitely not Sidney Crosby.
Sid’s health hasn’t changed since the hit, so they let him practice with the team the next day, limited contact. He plays like Sidney, the passes flicking off of his stick with ease, face set with the patented Crosby determination.
He’s even fine for the game the day after, does his usual handshake with Geno before heading out in front of him, kissing his necklace and shuffling his feet to the national anthem. He gets an assist on one of Tanger’s goals, and cellies with the usual too big smile, hands held high above his head.
Everything is great. They’re winning, Sidney is concussion free and more or less himself, and it’s great. That is until the end of the second.
Geno sees the hit coming out of the corner of his eye while he’s in the trapezoid, Prust charging at him with fierce determination. He should lean into the boards, twist his body to lessen the impact, but the puck is sailing his way so he leans into his stick instead. It’s lower than he thought, Prust’s shoulder connecting above his hips and lurching him forward. His body folds over from the impact, sending him face first at the boards. Geno gets an arm up in front of himself, digs the edge of his skate into the ice to lose some momentum, but he knows how bad it looks as soon as he connects with the glass.
He surveys himself quickly while he pushes up on his knees. The inside of his own forearm gave him a bloody nose, judging by the spots on the ice and his ankle is a little tender from the awkward twist, but his head feels alright. He’s just pulling himself up with a hand from Kessel when he see’s Sidney. He’s on the other side of the goal, fist locked in Prust’s shirt, eyes filled with rage. They both have their helmets off already, and judging by the blood on Sid’s knuckles they were punched off. Geno brushes Kessel off gently, ignoring the shouts from the trainers on the bench to ‘get the fuck over here, don’t be a tough guy’ and skates over to Sid. He catches his wrist in a death grip before it can connect again with Prust’s face. The guy’s already bloodied up, eyebrow split open and dripping blood into the cuts on his lip.
“Sid, no, not worth it. Just lousy hit, I’m fine, stop.”
“You’re bleeding, you’re covered, Jesus, Zhenya,” Sid gasps out, but he lets himself be pushed towards the bench by the combined effort of his team and the refs.
Geno wants to pull him in and ask how he got his pronunciation so clean, how they got to the point that Sid using that name for him is normal. But the refs are skating over, issuing the fighting majors and a boarding for Prust. Their second powerplay unit heads out while Sid goes to the box and Geno is reluctantly ushered down the hall. He has no concussion, and his nose isn’t broken, so he goes back to the locker room to wait out the last thirty seconds of the second period.
Sidney’s talking to Kunitz when the team walks in, “sorry about the penalty, man, but I’m glad you converted on the five on three.”
“Yeah, Kuni, glad I not smash face into boards for nothing,” Geno chimes in, getting a high five from Fleury and a glare from Sid. “No concussion, no broken bones, stop giving me looks.”
“I don’t know, G, you’re nose looks pretty fucked up,” Beau says.
“Nah, that’s how it always looks,” Tanger offers.
Geno balls up a sock and chucks it at his head.
He scores the game winning goal, unassisted, with 40 seconds left. The teams up and shouting when he skates back. Sidney grabs him from the other side of the boards, yanking him in for a hug. Flower gives him a fond look over Sid’s shoulder, patting both of them on the head. It’s sort of like when they’ve hugged before, except before he’s let go, Sid turns his head to the side, fitting their visors around each other, and presses his lips to Geno’s pulse point.
It’s over before he can process it, Sid’s already ruffling Beau’s hair and hugging Flower. He doesn’t kiss Flower, though. He’s weirdly happy about that.
Sidney’s absolutely buzzing on the car ride home, bouncing so much in his seat that Geno finally has to press a hand down on his shoulder.
Sid doesn’t even notice when they pass his road, says nothing while Geno ushers him through the front door and to the couch, just keeps babbling about how amazing the game was and how great the guys are.
“Keep talking about Kessel so nicely, you make me jealous,” Geno mock-pouts when he brings them both Gatorades and flips on Sports Center.
“Only you,” Sidney sighs happily, letting his body lean on him when Geno flops down on the couch.
An irrational flood of smugness flows through him at that, and he wraps an arm over Sid’s shoulder, returning his grin.
It feels a little weird to leave Sid at the guest room door, a feeling Geno stamps down before it can become anything.
He makes them pancakes the next morning before they drive into practice. “This will mess up my diet plan for a week,” Sid whines, but he’s beaming when he digs in.
Flower’s eyebrows go up past the rim of his toque when they pull into the parking garage together, but he doesn’t talk about anything but the game while they walk into Consol.
He leans into Geno once he’s in his gear, though, and whispers “Sidney is not a fling,” sternly before skating into the net.
Flower’s not the only one, either. One fierce French conversation and Tanger’s skating over to threaten him, too.
“I never hurt him,” Geno says honestly. And it’s true, being close to Sidney is probably helping more than hurting. It’s what he imagines, what he hopes Sidney’s Geno does when times are tough.
They go home separately this time, Sidney with Tanger and Geno by himself.
He tries not to think about what Tanger said to Sid while he cooks lunch, and then he tries not to freak the hell out when his phone lights up with Mario’s number.
“Don’t panic,” Mario starts. Geno wonders for a second if that line ever does anything other than make people panic, and then he continues with, “Sidney is in the hospital, Kris is with him. Early thoughts are appendicitis.”
“He okay?” Geno asks quickly, tucking the phone against his shoulder so he can pull on his boots.
“He’s fine, they’re taking him into surgery know, I’ll let you know when-“
“On my way,” Geno cuts off, hanging up before Mario can protest.
Sidney is bleary-eyed when they let him in from the waiting room, wrapped in hospital blankets with an IV dripping slowly next to him.
“Sid, what year?” He asks quickly, dropping to his knees next to the bed.
“It’s 2015 and I play for the Pittsburgh Penguins,” He responds, a little distantly.
“You married?” Geno asks before he can help himself. He’s distantly aware of Mario excusing himself from the room.
“I dreamt I was,” he responds morosely, brushing absently over where a ring should be.
“What was he like?”
“Not what I expected,” Sid says, and Geno holds his breath, “He was sweet, but motivated me. Pushed me to be my best while making sure I new how much he loved me.”
“Sounds like it was nice,” Geno gasps out.
Sidney meets his eyes, smiling softly, “It was everything.”
The room is quiet for a few long moments, enough time for the nurse to come in and switch out the medication. “Just to help him sleep,” she says to Geno’s questioning look, “you’re welcome to stay until it kicks in.”
Geno waits a few minutes, watching the slow drips of the liquid make Sidney’s eyes drop to half moons.
“What his name?” He asks, somewhat masochistically.
Sid smiles, soft and sleepy, “Zhenya.”