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Up With the Birds

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“Dammit,” Sidney says. He hears Geno stirring in the bed behind him and winces, turning away from clicking through emails to watch Geno blink and shift underneath the sheets. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“Not sleeping,” Geno says sleepily, shifting onto his back from where he’d been curled around Sidney’s pillow. He stretches, rolling his shoulders and letting the sheets slide down to reveal his naked hip. Sidney’s eyes are tracing the movement before he can even go through the usual process of berating himself for it and then reminding himself that he’s allowed to do that now, since he and Geno started hooking up.

The smooth, pale skin that the sheet uncovers is an enticing enough image that Sidney has to think for a minute when Geno asks him, “Something wrong?” He arranges the sheets a little, lounging back onto his own pillow with his arms folded behind his neck, and Sidney shakes his head a little dumbly before remembering that yes, actually, there is something wrong, something that Geno’s nakedness cannot fix (so something dire, pretty much).

“It looks like that auction idea Julie threatened us with last season is actually happening,” Sidney says dourly, turning back to the email and frowning deeply at it, wishing that that could make it disappear. “Apparently no one listened to my argument that this is basically legalized prostitution—”

“What?” Geno says thickly, yawning so hard his jaw cracks. Sidney looks back at him, again disconcertingly distracted by the sleepy, warm picture he makes, spread out in Sidney’s bed like he was born to be there. Geno’s eyes are molten and easy, heavy-lidded, and though Sidney’s rational mind is telling him that Geno’s probably just finally crashing after a long day of skating and conditioning, the rest of him is feeling pretty smug over wearing Geno out so thoroughly. He’d been kind of afraid his summer spent apart from Geno might have made him rusty at this whole sex thing, but apparently not, if the force of their mutual orgasms had been any indication.

“Pens PR wants to pimp us out for charity,” Sidney says when he can finally focus on Geno’s blank look. Geno still looks sweetly confused, and Sidney doesn’t know if it’s the sex, the sleepiness, the English, or some combination of all three, but he doesn’t mind nearly as much as he should. “I really don’t want to be sold off to rich cougars or puck bunnies, Geno.”

Cougars?” Geno asks, now looking alarmed, and Sidney sighs a bit and twists back toward his laptop, biting down on a stupid smile.

“It’s a stupid slang thing. It means older women who like younger men.”

Geno chuckles, the bedsprings squeaking as he shifts again. “Cougars eat Sid for breakfast.”

“Exactly!” Sidney says, because Geno may not realize it, but he’s nailed Sidney’s point, whether he’s talking about actual mountain lions or older women or both. “This is going to be terrible.”

“Have to do it?” Geno asks, and Sidney sighs again, clicking through more emails.

“Looks like it.” He’s already gotten several different emails about it, not just from PR; there’s a cheerful memo from Mario’s office encouraging the team to get excited about this, with a personalized postscript to Sidney that reads suck it up and don’t be a brat, Sid.

“Too bad,” Geno says. He sounds like he’s dozing off again, and Sidney should really discourage that. They don’t really do that too often, sleeping together—Sidney likes his space and Geno is something of a cuddler, wrapping himself around the nearest object or person like a boa constrictor, so they’re really not compatible like that. Also, Sidney’s not an expert on this, but he thinks that there are certain rules to this whole hooking up thing, and spooning or whatever probably breaks one or more. Keeping this casual keeps the pressure off, which is something that Geno had agreed was super critical in not making this thing explode in their (and their team’s) faces.

So yeah, he should start kicking Geno out now. Sidney’s already at least a little dressed, hunched in his armchair in worn-out boxer shorts scooped up from the floor and a t-shirt, and he’d been contemplating a shower when he picked up his laptop. But Geno looks comfortable and wrung out, and Sidney has to bite down on more smiles as he watches his head droop down against the pillow and then snap back up quickly, yawning again. He should kick him out, he really should.

He keeps bitching instead. “I wonder if I can get out of this,” Sidney says. “Technically I’m not cleared to play yet, and that’s not going to happen before the season starts—” He’s proud of himself for managing to not to wince when he says it, keeping his face straight, and he hears the bedsprings squeak again. “—and Julie wants this to go down the weekend before opening day. So technically, since I’m not playing, I could—”

“Still on team, Sid,” Geno says, suddenly sounding much more awake. Now Sidney winces. “Still captain.”

“Well,” Sidney says, and he hurries when the bedsprings squeak louder, like Geno’s sitting up straight. “Yeah, okay. I’m still the captain. Ugh.”

“Whiny captain,” Geno says, and Sidney closes his laptop with a snap and looks over again, narrowing his eyes balefully.

“Hey, now.”

Geno just grins at him, sitting up cross-legged in bed, the sheets draped over his lap. Sidney’s eyes drag over the curves of his shoulders, the slanted lines of his torso becoming his waist and hips, and his stupid, cheesy grin, which Sidney should not let him get away with. “I’m not whiny,” Sidney says, moving onto the bed without really thinking about it.

Geno’s grin widens, and he reaches out for Sidney, pulling him to lean against him and kissing his lips. It’s not an apology kiss, not that Sidney was expecting one, but more of an I’m-cute-so-I-can-say-these-things kiss. Sidney huffs and silently disagrees, but kisses back hungrily anyway.

“Whine about cougars,” Geno mumbles, kissing Sidney’s cheek and pushing his hand up the back of his t-shirt. His palm is warm and heavy and Sidney pushes into it on instinct, even as he huffs out an annoyed breath against Geno’s neck.

“With good reason, okay.”

“Okay,” Geno says agreeably, moving his mouth along Sidney’s jaw and nuzzling slowly. Sidney’s fingers flex over Geno’s shoulders, leaning in more, his legs twisted under him and Geno’s hand still stroking up and down his back.

“Seriously, this is going to suck,” Sidney says, and Geno presses their foreheads together for a minute.

“I save you from cougars.” Sidney’s breath hitches slightly when the barest hints of Geno’s teeth nip along the side of his face, and he moves their mouths back together insistently.

They kiss wetly and long enough for Sidney to think about the practicalities of more sex; he still hasn’t showered, after all, and Geno’s still naked, still slick and stretched from before. Trailing his hands down from Geno’s shoulders is an easy decision, and Sidney scratches lightly over his ribs before groping down his lower back and cupping the topmost swell of Geno’s ass.

“The cougars will get me, Geno,” Sidney says lowly, and his brain is only like 40% still involved in this conversation, much more involved in pulling the sheet away and ducking his head down to watch Geno’s dick harden slowly between them.

He thinks Geno’s brain is only like 10% into the conversation, as he leans back and shifts to push his legs out in front of him, pulling Sidney to crawl on top of him and kiss him while spread over his chest. He still manages to somehow force out, “I can bid on Sid?” and then grin like an idiot at his rhyming.

Sidney is not helping matters by grinning like an idiot in return, but whatever. He kisses Geno hard, biting gently on his lower lip and rocking his hips over Geno’s, feeling him get harder against his thigh. He shakes his head and mournfully says, “I don’t think you’re allowed.”

“Who says?” Geno says, his hands going to Sidney’s hips and pushing them into his own. Sidney moans as his covered dick grinds against Geno’s, half-hard and 100% into getting harder. He moans louder when Geno’s hands slide down past the worn waistband of Sidney’s boxers, grabbing two handfuls of his ass and pushing him even more.

“Ah—rules, I guess—Geno—”

“Sid wearing my boxers,” Geno says, and Sidney swears his cock actually jumps at that, heat flaring quick and sharp in his gut. He rocks his hips more, satisfaction pulsing through him as Geno’s dick fills to a hard line against his belly. “Gonna fuck me again, yeah? Can bid on you if want.”

“Christ, Geno,” Sidney says, kissing him hard and then flailing towards the nightstand for the condoms. Geno yanks his boxers down until Sidney can kick them off his legs and he hisses as his dick hits the air, palming it and settling back into the cradle of Geno’s spread thighs. “You’re okay to—again?” Sidney asks, even as he fumbles the condom with shaking fingers, and Geno rolls his eyes and reaches around to grind Sidney into him again.

Both bare from the waist down, their dicks slip against each other and Sidney nearly drops the condom, groaning lowly. Geno wraps his legs around Sidney’s waist, knees pressed hard and insistent at his ribs, and Sidney doesn’t really need the hard kiss he’s pulled into for more confirmation of Geno’s readiness, but of course he doesn’t say no to it.

Geno grunts when Sidney slips two cautious fingers into him, slick from the lube on the nightstand (bought upon Geno’s North American return, already dwindling faster than Sidney had ever thought possible), but he’s ready, and okay; his knees rock inward, a heavy pressure squeezing Sidney.

Sidney murmurs, “Okay,” and kisses him again, open-mouthed and sloppy, happy. He rubs a hand over Geno’s right knee, remembering how careful they had to be with it last year. He feels a gooey rush of affection and gratitude that Geno’s healed now, that though the summer had taken him away from Sidney, it had returned him healthy and ready to lead the team in Sidney’s stead.

And it’s stupid how all of that tangles up in his head while they’re in bed together. He doesn’t think this is supposed to work like that. That stuff doesn’t really have a place here; that’s why they don’t cuddle.

Really, he’s just supposed to get the condom on and push himself in (slowly, watching Geno carefully, tracking the tiny movements and twitches of his face as avidly as he can, and maybe that has no place here either, but Sidney’s not about to make himself stop) and then fuck Geno until they’re both breathless and sweating again. And Sidney does that; he totally does that, loves doing that. He loves watching every thrust play out over Geno’s face, his normally wide-open eyes clenched shut and little moans and Russian mutters escaping his kiss-swollen lips.

Sidney works his hips in a slow, steady rhythm until Geno’s muttering gets louder and more insistent, his eyes forced open to look up at Sidney with imploring want and need. “Sid,” he says croakily, and Sidney obeys the unspoken command immediately, picking up his pace, the muscles in his thighs only straining enough to remind him that his training really isn’t where he wants it to be yet, but not enough to deter him.

Geno kind of hums and reaches up, palming the side of Sidney’s face as Sidney leverages himself forward. Geno’s knees are still a heavy cradle against him and as the want and pleasure starts to build up in his gut, Sidney lets himself close his eyes and lean into Geno’s touch and admit that right now, all that stuff tangled up in his head is totally worth it for this.

It’s still worth it after, slumped together and breathing shaky and high-pitched from getting off. Geno’s sort of melted into the bed again, like he’s still not planning on moving anytime soon, and now Sidney can totally understand the impulse, even if his rational mind is still squawking at him about it. Geno’s arms come around him, holding Sidney sprawled on top of him even though that can’t possibly be comfortable, but for those moments all Sidney can do is lie there and breathe in the smell of Geno’s sweat and sex and not be grossed out yet.

He should totally be grossed out, is the thing. Geno’s come is starting to dry and stick them together, and he really needs to take the condom off, but it’s a good five or ten minutes before he can force himself to move again. Geno’s arms go tight and he mumbles a protest in a sloppy kiss against the side of Sidney’s forehead, but Sidney just kisses him back and shakes his head.

“Shower, c’mon Geno.”

“Sleep,” Geno counters. It’s barely nine at night, but that sounds like the best thing in the world right now, which is why Sidney has to shake his head again and wrench himself out of Geno’s octopus hold.

“Come on, we’re disgusting. You can have first shower?”

Geno peers up at him, looking betrayed, and Sidney tries for his most winning smile. “Shower together?”

Sidney laughs, high and catching in his throat, shaking his head. “My dick is going to fall off, are you nuts?”

Geno looks way too pleased with himself over that, sitting up and sliding over to the edge of the bed. He reaches out and grabs one of Sidney’s wrists in his hand, shaking it and looking imploring. “Not have to do anything. Just—”

“I’m going to get water,” Sidney says, hoping it comes out firm and not snappish, but really. He should be kicking Geno out on his ass, should not be wanting to crawl back into bed with him and curl up together all sticky and gross like they are.

Geno hums in something like dismissal or annoyance, but Sidney hovers enough that he eventually starts dragging himself toward the bathroom, staggering a bit. Sidney pulls on the same boxers again, pointedly not shivering when he considers the fact that they’re apparently Geno’s, or when he feels Geno’s eyes on him, heavy and still somehow suggestive. Sidney ignores every feeling that’s prickling at his skin (like a rash, he tells himself stubbornly) and heads down to his kitchen.

He purposely takes his time getting water, letting the filter run for a while before filling a glass, turning the faucet off, draining the whole glass slowly, and repeating the process exactly the same way. He does it a third time but with a new glass for Geno and then goes back upstairs.

Secretly, Sidney’s relieved that Geno’s already curled back up in his bed, a damp towel on the floor and his wet hair a dark circle against his pillowcase. He hadn’t wanted to come back up and ask Geno to leave (or, worse, ask him to stay) and make it awkward, even though that would have been the right thing to do. This is simpler, really, and it’s easy to shower and go through his nightly routine, to pull on pajama pants after giving Geno’s boxers a hesitant frown, and to climb into bed beside him and curl up on his own side, not touching, but listening to Geno breathe and reminding himself that he doesn’t really approve of this.

The bed is heated with Geno’s shower warmth, and it dips around him, and as much as Sidney doesn’t approve of them sleeping together, he has to admit he likes his bed much better when Geno’s in it.

 

Sidney thinks of what Geno said about the auction, that night as he’s falling asleep next to him, and in the days after, when they go to training camp together or slip into the preseason or get dinner with the guys. Some of his teammates have the same disgruntled reactions to the auction idea as Sidney had had, especially the guys with girlfriends who are way too amused and unoffended by the idea, but a lot of them feel like Geno, sort of shrugging it off or laughing about it like the girlfriends.

Nealer has a competitive glint in his eye when they talk about it over a team dinner, and normally Sidney would appreciate and even encourage that glint, but now it just makes him nervous. “I bet you I go for the most bank out there,” he says, running a hand through his hair and tossing it around, which of course makes everyone laugh loudly at him.

“Yeah, right,” Tanger says, tossing his own hair. Flower and Duper loyally give him thumbs up and therefore the win in the little vanity competition that’s broken out. Sidney leans back in his seat, nursing his beer and staying impartial, as a good captain should (though he’ll personally always give the win to Kris). “Not while I’m on this team.”

“Bring it,” Nealer says, raising his eyebrows dramatically. Sidney sighs, because none of them are even drunk, just really dumb, but now everyone’s getting into it, laying their bets on Neal or Letang and arguing over each other.

Sidney really should discourage such divisive activity on his team; they’re not supposed to be pitted against each other except only to drive each other, and he adds that to the list of Reasons Why This Auction Idea Sucks So Much he’s planning to email Julie, Mario’s wrath be damned. He looks at Brooksie, who would probably agree with him, but he’s still just grumbling that his fiancée won’t defend his honor.

“It’s just so stupid,” Brooks says. “It’s called a bachelor auction, and we’re not even really bachelors. Not eligible ones, at least.”

“Yeah, but if they stuck with that there’d only be like, what, four of us out there, right?” Nealer says, and then he grins smugly at Tanger. “And I would still win.”

“Because I’m taken,” Tanger shoots back, and they start bickering again.

“There’s six of us single,” Sidney says, counting mentally and looking at Geno, who just shrugs at him unhelpfully. Everyone quiets for a second and looks at Sidney like he’d said something really stupid, and just as Sidney is working up to a defensive list of all the confirmed bachelors on the Pens, they start talking again, as if he hadn’t said anything at all.

“I think Sid will win,” Geno says when they just continue to go around in who’s hotter? circles, and Sidney puts his face in his hands and tries to argue that it’s not a game, the only winner is the one who gets out of doing this, but Geno just barrels on shamelessly. “Because I bid for him, and I bid most.”

“Can we do that?” Brooks asks speculatively, and he just narrows his eyes when Sidney squawks, “No!”

Everyone’s looking at him again, quieting down once more, and Sidney huffs a breath out and shakes his head. “We can’t bid on each other. That’s illogical.”

“Yeah, but Erin can bid on me if Geno can bid on—” Brooks starts, and Sidney shakes his head again, looking to Geno and making sure he sounds firm.

“Geno can’t bid on me, that’s the whole point.” That’s why this sucks so much, Sidney thinks, but somehow he doesn’t think that’s going to make it on the list he sends to Julie. He thinks about it, though, as Geno’s eyes crinkle in amusement and he hides most of his smile behind his glass of wine. “Maybe Erin can bid on you, though. I don’t really know.”

“Sweet,” Brooks says, high-fiving Jordy and looking much happier about the whole thing.

Sidney wishes he could feel happier about the whole thing. Geno accuses him of lingering injury crankiness, which is probably mostly true, but even Geno’s solemn and only slightly bemused promise not to bid on Sidney doesn’t make him feel happier. It kind of makes him feel a little hollow, and for a while he kind of wishes he did have someone like Brooks has Erin, someone who actually can save him from cougars in public, someone for whom that’s in their job description as a significant other.

Instead, he has Geno. Well, he doesn’t really have Geno, he just has sex with Geno, and Sidney has to constantly remind himself that that’s not the same thing.

He starts to feel better when a plan forms, though. He may not have someone like Erin to bid on him, but he does have other people, people who would be happy to be embroiled in a nefarious scheme like this, as long as Sidney calls it a nefarious scheme and presents it as such.

So he calls a summit with those he suspects will be totally into helping him out. If they don’t have too much homework.

And once they stop laughing at him, too. Over Skype, Taylor and Stephanie seem to think that the distance between Minnesota and Pennsylvania gives them license to go into full-on hysterics over his predicament. Alexa and Austin, gathered with him in the living room of Sidney’s house and bribed with junk food, are at least able to show some restraint, trying to stifle their giggles into their hands.

“You guys are being bad role models,” Sidney tells the girls whose laughter is ringing out from the speakers of his laptop. “Seriously, it’s not that funny.”

Taylor hiccups, waving vaguely at the camera, while Stephanie leans into her and wheezes, “This is the best thing ever!”

Sidney folds his arms over his chest and looks over at his favorite Lemieux children. “This is what happens to you when you leave home too early, okay? I know, because I did it too. It turns you into a mean, rotten person starved for affection—”

“Sidney!” the girls shriek in unison, still laughing, not sounding nearly as insulted as they should. Sidney briefly considers just closing the laptop, except he’s not entirely sure Taylor won’t tell their mom, and he may have left home too young, but that doesn’t mean he’s immune to his mother’s lectures.

“Can we please be serious?” Sidney asks, calling upon his best captainly tone to wrangle the kids in (his teammates can sometimes bear discomfiting resemblances to teenage girls). Soon, Taylor and Stephanie finally quiet down to giggles while Alexa and Austin look perfectly attentive, perhaps remembering the pop he’d had to go out and buy specifically for them. “Okay,” Sidney says, leaning forward with his hands folded in front of him, looking between the laptop and the couch the kids are sharing. “We need to get the plan straight.”

“I don’t get it,” Austin says immediately. He has Dorito dust all over his mouth and fingers, but he’s taking Sidney seriously enough, and that’s really all he can ask for right now. “Like, what’s so bad about the auction? Dad said it’ll be fun—”

“Fun to watch,” Taylor cuts in, an evil cackle not at all well-hidden in her voice. Sidney wants to know when his little sister learned to cackle and tries not to despair too much about it.

“—and someone will bid on you. Maybe someone hot.” Austin presses his orange lips together thoughtfully, wincing a bit in sympathy. “Do you think no one’s gonna bid on you? ‘Cause you’re famous, you know. That’ll help.”

“You’re not terrible-looking,” Alexa pipes up, much to Sidney’s horror. He shoots his look of horror over at the laptop, silently begging Taylor not to touch that one, but she just says, “Ew!” Sidney’s breath whooshes out of him in relief.

“You’re rich,” Austin says. “Chicks dig that.”

“They’ll be rich too, dummy,” Stephanie calls out, and Sidney drops his head into his hands, wondering why he ever possibly thought this was a good idea. “It’s a charity auction, tickets are probably like a million bucks each.”

“That’s impossible,” Austin snaps, and Sidney has been through enough Lemieux family dinners to know exactly what level of bickering hell this is about to descend into, so he snaps his head up and holds out his hands imploringly.

“Okay, wait. Just back up, please, and hear me out.” The kids all blink at him, curious and wary and just a little mocking, but not laughing or fighting. Yet. “It’s not that I don’t think girls are going to bid on me. I’m actually sure that they are—”

“Wow, ego-maniac much?” Taylor says, and really Sidney should have bet on that. He tosses a glare over at her and soldiers on.

“—and that’s the problem. I don’t want to be bought by some random woman and get stuck going on a date with her—”

“Why?” Austin asks, genuinely thrown.

“You’ll understand when you’re older,” Sidney says tiredly, and somehow that sets Taylor off laughing again. Probably because it’s bullshit, but whatever.

Austin just continues to look baffled and uncomprehending, and Sidney really can’t blame him, but then he brightens and asks, “So wait, can they bid on me instead? Because that would be really cool, I can take the winner to Homecoming!”

“Ew, who would bid on you, loser?” Stephanie says, and Sidney groans loudly.

“No, you can’t—no one can bid on you, Austin, I’m sorry.” Then, because Austin looks a bit crestfallen, Sidney pulls a can of Coke from where he’s been guarding them under his chair (he has to watch their sugar intake, Nathalie will kill him if they come home bouncing off the walls) and tosses it over. “But, hey, if you ask someone nicely at school, they’ll probably totally go to Homecoming with you.” He’s pretty sure that asking nicely works, though he hopes Austin doesn’t press him for any more detailed advice on the matter.

“I want you guys to bid on me,” Sidney tells them again, hoping that doesn’t set off another cascade of laughter. Austin’s still too confused, though, and Taylor and Stephanie have their heads bent together, which is never a really good sign, but at least that keeps them quiet.

“But I thought that problem was that you didn’t want people bidding on you?” Austin says, still thoughtful.

“I want you guys to bid on me, because then I won’t have to go on a date with you,” Sidney explains, carefully staying patient. “I’ll give you each a bunch of money to spend, the charity still gets paid, and I don’t have to go on a stupid date with a possibly crazy person.”

“Why do you think they might be crazy?” Austin asks. Sidney grits his teeth, but Stephanie’s already jumping in.

“Because only a crazy person would bid on Sidney, duh!”

“Or Geno,” Taylor adds, beaming at him through the screen. Sidney wills himself to flush hot as his mind races—are Taylor and Geno talking to each other?—and everyone else nods, like that makes a perfect amount of sense.

“I’ll bid on you, Sidney,” Alexa says, and Sidney smiles at her gratefully, feeling warm. “You don’t even have to give me the money, I’ll use my allowance!”

Sidney bites down on a wider smile and shakes his head. “No, that’s okay. You probably don’t have enough to outbid the other women. Thank you, though.”

“Wow Sid, you must really think highly of yourself if you think Alexa can’t afford you,” Taylor says. Sidney sighs, the smile dropping, but the warm feeling doesn’t go away—he knows Taylor’s going to help, once she stops giving him shit.

So is Stephanie, even as she says, “Dad will kill you if you blow all your allowance on Sidney, Lex.” Then she looks at Sidney, frowning a little. “Actually, there’s no way Dad’s going to let us do this.”

“I have a plan for your dad,” Sidney says firmly. He doesn’t mention that the plan is we’re not going to tell him with some added when he yells it’ll be after the fact, and that’s all that matters. “You won’t get in trouble, I promise. You guys just come to the auction—Steph, you and Taylor will be in for the weekend anyway, so it won’t look suspicious, and I already got you tickets. Then just wait for my auction to come up and bid. You can let someone else start the bidding, and I don’t care which of you actually wins, just keep going until no one can bid any higher.”

“Can we use fake names?” Austin asks very seriously.

Sidney shrugs. “Sure, whatever.” People are going to know it’s the Lemieux children and Taylor, and it’s not like any of this is going to be very covert during the auction. He’s just hoping that people will be charmed enough by the teens’ loyalty that they let it go.

“Okay,” Austin says after a few minutes of thoughtful silence, probably spent thinking up a pseudonym. “I’m in, I’ll bid on you.”

“Me too!” Alexa says, and Sidney grins at both of them and tosses them more pop, ignoring the boos from the laptop until he turns and looks at them imploringly.

“Fine,” Stephanie says, sighing heavily and rolling her eyes. “Since you’re that desperate—”

“Taylor has not been a good influence on you,” Sidney says. He’s smiling, though, when he adds, “Thank you, Steph, I mean it. You’re amazing.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Stephanie says, waving him off. “I have to go do homework now, or else I’ll have to tell Mom and Dad that you’re not only making me commit fraud, you’re also making my grades drop.”

“It’s not fraud!” Sidney groans, but Stephanie is laughing and yelling, “Later, losers!” and disappearing from the frame. Sidney looks at Taylor, pulling the laptop closer to him and leaning in, and makes his eyes as wide as possible. “Taylor?”

“Ugh,” Taylor says, wrinkling her nose. “Don’t do that.”

“I really need your help. I’m your brother.

“Stop it, you know I’m going to help you,” Taylor tells him, lips quirking upward. “Stephanie’s right, you are totally desperate. And while it would be way more entertaining to watch a bunch of rich chicks fight over you while you shake like a leaf onstage, I’m actually a good little sister.”

“You’re the best little sister,” Sidney says, not even lying or exaggerating a little bit. Taylor smiles, like she knows that.

They talk until Sidney gently reminds Taylor that if Stephanie has homework, she probably does too, while Alexa and Austin continue to dive into the junk food on the coffee table and complain about Sidney’s taste in video games. He’s just signed off with Taylor when he hears his front door open, making the kids freeze with their hands halfway in the bags of chips.

But it’s just Geno, pulling off his light jacket and grinning big at everyone. Sidney grins helplessly back while Alexa and Austin sigh loudly in relief.

“We have party?” Geno asks, coming over to stand by Sidney’s chair and leaning down to snag a can of Coke. He sits on the arm of the chair, and he’s warm and smells kind of like leaves, and Sidney suspects that if he looks out on his front walkway, the spare leaves that have dropped off his ancient oak will be swept into a pile, even though the person he pays to do yard work isn’t supposed to come until Saturday. Sidney’s stomach squirms a little uneasily to wonder if that’s something a semi-regular—okay, maybe totally regular—hook-up is supposed to do for you, but he thinks it’s definitely something a friend might do for you, especially a friend like Geno, and Sidney and Geno are always friends first, no matter what.

He looks up at Geno, shaking his head and trying to tamp down on the crazy person grin he knows is stretching his lips right now. “Nah, just hanging out.”

“Looks like fun time,” Geno says, looking around at the bribery food scattered across the coffee table with a raised eyebrow. Sidney jabs him in the side with his elbow, which only makes him laugh and tip closer toward Sidney on the chair, and Sidney could point out that there’s an entire empty loveseat that Geno could be sprawled over, but he doesn’t. Instead, he shifts beneath the warm, solid weight of Geno’s body pressed into his side and looks over at where the kids are not at all being subtle about watching them.

“What?” Sidney says, thinking fleetingly about the empty loveseat when Geno’s arm goes around his shoulders. Alexa just smiles brightly at him, and Austin looks thoughtful again, his fingers leaving cheesy prints against his chin as he thinks.

Then Austin says, “Oh!” very loudly and brightens up like Alexa.

“What?” Sidney repeats, no longer feeling like he’s one of the adults in the room. Austin just nods and gives him a big thumbs up.

“No, it’s cool, I get why you need the plan now.”

“Plan?” Geno asks, looking curious, and Sidney just nudges him gently in the side.

“I’ll tell you later. We were going to play video games, right?”

“Yeah, except all your games suck,” Austin says plainly.

Sidney opens his mouth to retort, but Geno stands up, giving Sidney’s shoulder a quick squeeze and heading over to the pile of games the kids have been going through. “This one’s good,” Geno tells them with authority, picking up a box Sidney recognizes with a sinking feeling. “It’s good because Sid terrible at it,” he says. Alexa and Austin pipe up immediately wanting to see Sidney play, and Sidney would totally protest, he really would, except that maybe humiliating himself playing a racing game is like the least that he owes them.

 

He never winds up actually telling Geno about the plan, despite his earlier promise. It’s not really on purpose, it just happens that way—Alexa and Austin leave after finagling pizza out of him (with the help of Geno’s impossible puppy dog eyes, of course), and Sidney and Geno clean up after them, scrubbing cheese dust out of the carpet with due diligence.

After that, it’s easy enough to get in the shower together, scrubbing one another with the same kind of diligence. Sidney feels perfectly comfortable pushing Geno up against the wet tiles and kissing him hard until they’re both shivering in warm water, and he’s more than okay with Geno fitting Sidney against his front and holding him, jerking him off in slow, languid pulls that make him gasp. All of that’s fine, it’s easy, just as easy as sucking at video games with the youngest Lemieux kids and ordering pizza the way he knows Geno likes without even really thinking about it.

What’s hard is thinking about all of that together, and maybe he’s too busy thinking about that to tell Geno about the plan. Sidney thinks about what they’re supposed to do, as friends and teammates and as people who have sex with each other, and he thinks about what they actually do, and he’s not sure it all really matches up.

Still, thinking like that doesn’t make it any harder to let Geno make him come hard, head dropped back on Geno’s shoulder and his body loose and pliable against the slightly larger one behind him. Geno murmurs in Russian against Sidney’s neck, kissing him there, and he stands there and waits for Sidney to come back to himself, hand pressed steady and bracing against his lower stomach and another arm across his chest.

They stand long enough for Sidney to think that Geno would just stand there forever for him, ignoring his own dick pressed hot and hard against Sidney’s ass, and that’s—Sidney doesn’t know what to do with that, exactly. Or what else to do besides turn in the circle of Geno’s arms and kiss him, hard but shaky, and then fit his hand between them and jerk Geno off with careful, pointed precision.

“Sid,” Geno says, and nothing else in English, just bits and scraps of Russian rasped out into the steamy air surrounding them. Sidney can only imagine what he’s actually saying, and he’s glad that Geno comes fairly quickly, because the things he’s imagining are embarrassing and ill-advised and not even close to what he should be imagining for them.

He’s shaky after, with those imagined words rattling around in the tender parts of his chest, and with Geno’s soft smile and wandering hands and the way he kisses Sidney very gently once they’re both dressed and standing in the bedroom, like he wants to be all proper about it now. Sidney kisses back, he always kisses back, and he wonders if it should be a reflex to kiss your friend and your teammate whenever he wants to, or if that’s another thing they’re doing wrong. It’s almost better to think of it as a reflex, though, than thinking of it something he just wants all the time, always, and maybe he always will.

So he doesn’t tell Geno about the plan. Instead, he kisses him long enough to think that their clothes might actually be a stupid idea, and then long enough to think about how stupid that thought was.

“Maybe you should go home tonight,” Sidney says. He hopes the fact that the words are muttered out against Geno’s kiss-puffed lips doesn’t mean the signals get crossed or mistranslated, but Geno wrenches back and stares at him with those impossibly wide eyes. There is only a small amount of distance between them but right then it seems like much more, and Sidney folds his arms up over his chest and makes himself stare right back at Geno. “I mean, you definitely should. Not maybe.”

“Sid,” Geno says, and it’s such a marked contrast from the way he’d said it in the shower. Now it’s uncertain and maybe a little wounded and it makes Sidney want to flinch right back into Geno’s space and not leave again.

“You’ve been staying over a lot lately,” is all Sidney really has, because he really doesn’t want this to become a thing where he has to remind Geno of what they really are to each other. He shouldn’t have to do that. Geno should know, because he helped set the terms, he had agreed in the beginning, he’d said, “Good idea,” and they’d sealed it with blowjobs.

But Geno is still just looking at him kind of blankly, not really visibly upset, but kind of like he’s being left out of a locker room joke because he doesn’t understand it. Sidney hates that look, hated it back when Geno had first joined the team, or when Gonch had first left and Geno had had no one to immediately look to for catching up. Sidney hates being the cause of that look especially because he understands it all too well, knows exactly the kind of hollow, uneasy feeling it represents.

“I’m not being a dick,” Sidney tells him, but it comes out sounding defensive instead of consoling. “It’s just—we don’t do that, right?” He doesn’t like making it sound like a question, because he should be sure about this, but suddenly he needs to know that Geno’s sure, too.

Geno’s frowning now, and Sidney realizes it’s possible that he has absolutely no idea what Sidney means when he says “that”; Sidney’s not even sure what he means, exactly. “That” is just this vague idea in Sidney’s mind of being coupled, a partnership committed to each other in a different way than their partnership on the ice. A partnership that could completely interfere with that other partnership, and so it’s one that seems entirely impossible.

“You mean sleep together?” Geno finally asks, when it becomes obvious that Sidney’s not offering up anything else.

Sort of, so Sidney nods, and Geno’s brow furrows deeply.

“But you just say—”

“I’m talking about what sleeping together means,” Sidney says, waving a little in the space between them, like that will help at all. Sidney knows that the next words out of Geno’s mouth will undoubtedly be “what does sleeping together mean?” but he speaks quickly to head that off. “And I just think, like, the season’s starting, and we don’t want make things complicated—remember, we always said that, that was like the first thing we said when we started—started this, I guess. So I just think it’d be a good idea if we got back to that, right, back to—” He has no idea what they should get back to, because he can’t actually recall a significant shift in their relationship, just the added factor of sex.

Geno just looks completely lost, and really Sidney can’t blame him—he suddenly feels like he’s the one making this complicated, which makes him flush red. Maybe Geno doesn’t think about this that much; he definitely hasn’t been obsessing over it like Sidney has. But Geno also looks like he’s figured out what a completely lost cause Sidney is for this conversation, and probably in general, and he just nods sort of solemnly, reaching out to briefly clasp Sidney’s wrist where it rests across his other forearm, pressed over his chest.

“Okay. I—understand?” Sidney hears the question there because he’s sure there’s no way that Geno can understand. Geno rubs his thumb over Sidney’s wrist bone and then leans in to kiss him softly, close-mouthed and chaste. “Goodnight, Sidney.”

“Goodnight,” Sidney says, and then he says, “I’ll walk you out,” because he can’t not walk Geno out, that would be weirder to him than this entire conversation has been. Geno looks amused at that, but lets Sidney follow him around the house while he gathers his things and then see him to the door.

“Have good sleep,” Geno tells him in the front doorway, and Sidney kisses him again because yeah, he kind of always wants to do that. Not just when they’re having sex, which should be the only time he wants it, but all the time, and he can’t imagine there ever being a time when he doesn’t want to.

It feels really complicated, and pretty problematic. Sidney hates it.

It still feels complicated and problematic when Sidney sees Geno the next day, showing up at his house this time and clearly throwing him for even more of a loop with takeout breakfast and a determined grin on his face, but whatever. This is a friend thing to do, Sidney knows. Friend things are okay. Teammate things are okay. Sex things are also okay. The problem is when those things all intersect, and how Sidney kind of wants them to intersect.

But it’s fine, really, because Geno eats breakfast with him and things are forcibly normal for long enough that it stops feeling forced, that Geno now seems amused as well as bewildered. It’s normal enough that it never really occurs to Sidney to fill Geno in on the plan when they hang out, though he does think about it at night, like remembering something he left off his grocery list.

Sidney lies in his bed, which has started seeming much bigger to him no matter how many times he reminds himself how much he likes his space, and thinks about the auction, thinks about how virulently he despises the thought of dating someone, even for one night, and wishes he could virulently despise the idea of dating Geno forever. And he tells himself that he really doesn’t have to worry about either issue, because he has a plan, and things are normal, and Sidney likes plans and normal.

The plan feels solid enough to him that he’s not even that nervous in the days leading up to the auction. He doesn’t bitch as much about it, which should probably have tipped at least his teammates off that he has something cooked up, but no one really asks, and Sidney feels kind of proud of that. The plan will work best in the heat of the moment, with no one looking out for it, and it really does feel like a nefarious scheme like this.

He sets the kids up with deep pockets, ignoring Taylor’s continued chirping over how much he thinks he’s worth, and he lets PR hire someone to style him for the auction, because whatever, they can’t dress him well enough to make Taylor and the youngest Lemieuxs get outbid, he’s made sure of that. He and Geno are dressed together, and while Geno is endlessly amused by Sidney’s newfound easygoing nature regarding this whole ordeal, Sidney can only pay attention to how ridiculously good Geno looks in his tux.

It’s more than ridiculous, actually—it’s kind of disconcerting. Most hockey players that Sidney has seen, himself included, tend to just look really awkward in tuxedos, and maybe Geno’s not technically an exception, because Sidney’s starting to realize how impossible it is for him to be objective about these things. But Geno’s so tall and lean and as annoying as the fittings are, the suit is fitted to every line of his body in a way that makes Sidney kind of—he feels a bit overwhelmed, staring at Geno in his tux.

Geno’s goofy, slightly self-conscious smile when he catches Sidney looking should probably make him embarrassed, but somehow it just makes the overwhelming feeling worse. This is different than being attracted to Geno when they’re in bed together, or when they’re playing together. This is being attracted to Geno in a place where other people are being encouraged to be attracted to him, and that’s more than disconcerting.

“Sid okay?” Geno asks, and that’s when Sidney figures out he’s actually been glaring at Geno in his tux for the last few minutes. He’s not really glaring at Geno, though; he’s glaring at the people he imagines are going to be looking at Geno when he looks like this.

“Fine,” Sidney says shortly, but he’s really not fine until later, when Geno follows him home from the fitting and then kind of shoves him into a sprawl on the couch and tugs down his pants with very little preamble.

“Cougars gonna be after you in that suit, Sid,” Geno says, and he sounds a little gruff, though maybe he’s just turned on by how obviously and completely Sidney is turned on right now, when they haven’t even done anything. Sidney’s also glaring again, because Sidney’s definitely not going to be the only one the cougars will be after, and anyway, he already has protection against them.

Actually, now would be a good time to bring up the plan, except for how it’s a terrible time, because Geno pulled down Sidney’s pants so he could blow him, and now that’s happening. Sidney shuts up until he realizes that Geno wants him to make noise, and he realizes this because Geno is being a giant fucking tease with his terrible mouth whenever Sidney stays quiet, so he makes noise.

He doesn’t say much of anything coherent at first, but then he whimpers out Geno’s name just once and Geno mouths at exactly the right spot, just under the head of his dick, and then pulls off until Sidney says his name again. He’s kind of growling it, because Geno should not be allowed to tease him at a time like this, but Geno doesn’t mind at all. He also doesn’t mind when Sidney comes with no warning but a particularly loud shout of his name, quick enough that he might be embarrassed about it with a stranger, but not with Geno.

Geno doesn’t mind anything at all, and Sidney knows this because when Geno crawls clumsily up on top of him and kisses him, limbs sort of everywhere and a heavy weight straddling his thighs, he’s pushing his erection against Sidney’s stomach like just that will do it for him.

Maybe that will do it for him, but Sidney can do him one better. He twists and shoves the both of them around until he’s on his back on the couch and Geno’s straddling his chest now, and he opens his mouth and pulls down Geno’s sweats and says, “You can,” and for a second Geno looks like he’s going to just lose it all over Sidney’s face without even doing anything, and Sidney is weirdly disappointed.

But with a shuddering breath, Geno braces himself against the arm of the couch with one hand and uses the other to guide his dick into Sidney’s open mouth, and Sidney feels triumphant, mostly about how Geno didn’t even ask if he was sure.

It’s awkward and uncomfortable and Sidney absolutely hates that he loves Geno on top of him like this, fucking his mouth in small, slow thrusts that really shouldn’t work as well as they seem to, if Geno’s wrecked, sweaty face is anything to go by. Sidney keeps himself relaxed and concentrates on not choking when Geno goes too far, on letting Geno use his mouth the way he pleases, and it’s immensely satisfying when Geno comes as quickly as Sidney had.

It’s really hard to swallow like this, but also his only option, so Sidney does it gamely and then pushes Geno back so he can kiss him. Sidney’d liked that enough that his dick feels like it could be ready to go again pretty soon, maybe in even more creative ways, but in the meantime he just kisses his taste out of Geno’s mouth, exchanging it for Geno’s own.

This would also be a pretty good time to tell Geno about the plan, but the closest he gets is saying, “No cougars,” against Geno’s neck, before kissing him there until he has to remind himself how stupid a hickey would be.

Geno hums back approvingly, and stays wrapped around Sidney tight.

 

So that brings up an unforeseen issue that kind of combines the problems of the auction and this thing with Geno: Sidney really, really doesn’t want to see Geno to date anyone else, even for one night.

There is only time to tell himself how stupid and impractical that issue is, and how it’s not something he can solve in any logical way. This barely helps; he spends enough time in bed at night (the only time he has to himself, with the season so close and the auction even closer) glaring at the ceiling and imagining the auction, shifting around in his too-big bed and unable to stop picturing the scores of hot women that will be jumping to bid on Geno. Suddenly, it’s not cougars he’s afraid of anymore, and he’s not even particularly afraid for himself; Sidney has his plan. Geno has no plan. Geno might even like the auction.

It gets worse the day of the auction, when Sidney is allowed to sneak out and grab a peek at all the attendees, most of which are women dressed in their best and certainly looking it. There are wives and girlfriends, too, and most of the Pens organization, but Sidney can’t help but scowl at everyone in the room before he’s yanked backstage by a PR intern that barely comes up to his shoulder.

“Julie gave me strict instructions to keep an eye on you, Mr. Crosby,” the intern says, eyes narrow and piercing behind her glasses. “I am listening to those instructions because Julie is scary.”

Julie is a cheerful blonde who always wears pumps and never stops smiling. Sidney has to agree about the scary part. “I’m not doing anything. I’m already wearing the stupid tux, see?”

“Get back with the other bachelors,” the intern snaps, ushering him down a hallway to a room he can’t help calling a holding cell in his head. “And get those hands out of your pockets; I have a stun gun and I’m not afraid to use it.”

Sidney is pretty sure the intern can’t actually use a stun gun on him, but he takes his hands out of his pockets just in case.

Some of his teammates had obviously checked out the attendees, too, because guys like Neal are rubbing their hands together with excitement. James is loudly promising the rest of the team that he can total get the hottest girl in the room to bid the highest for him, and Sidney has no idea how he plans to accomplish that, but Paulie is encouraging him and Tanger is heckling him, so Sidney really can stay out of it. He’s too annoyed, really, to worry about their betting, and Geno is casting sidelong, bemused glances at him.

“Sid all over the place,” Geno says eventually, like he can’t keep quiet about it. “Mad about cougars, then okay, then mad again. Lots of scary people out there? Ugly?”

“No,” Sidney says, because that’s the problem. But Geno just looks like he wants to laugh, and then he does laugh when the intern swoops in out of nowhere and slaps Sidney’s hands out of his pockets.

After he’s settled down, Geno looks like he wants to keep pressing Sidney, but Julie joins them then and promptly shuts the room up with her blinding smile. She sends a number of interns after them with lint-rollers, perkily reading off a list of rules that makes Geno grin widely and wink at Sidney when she gets to, “And no bidding on each other, guys, we want to keep this fair!”

She asks them if they have any preference for order, and half the guys just yelp out that they don’t want to go first. Geno says, “I go last, and Sid right before me, like ice,” and Julie just nods and marks it down, making Sidney wonder if he shouldn’t have had Geno arguing their way out of this thing from the start.

“This isn’t like the ice,” Sidney tells Geno when Julie heads off to calmly referee the arm wrestling match that has broken out between Jordy and Cookie to decide who goes first. “It’s nothing like the ice. No one can win here.”

Geno gives him a comforting pat on the shoulder. “Still. We stick with routine, give us luck?”

“What luck is there to have?” Sidney asks woefully, and Geno just cracks up, bumping him lightly.

“Sidney Crosby not believe in luck? We are all doomed, then.”

“You’re not funny,” Sidney says, except for how Geno is funny. He’s charming, and his smile is cute, and Sidney just kind of wants to rip him out of his tux and can’t stop thinking about all the women who are also going to want that.

u still want help? Austin texts him. lots hot chix, even if not ur thing.

YES Sidney texts back, adding in exclamation points even though he never uses those in texts (Geno uses enough for the both of them).

k Austin answers, which is never a reassuring text to receive, and Sidney has to text Taylor, Stephanie and Alexa individually to make sure they’re all still with the program before he can go back to brooding about the situation with Geno and his devil tuxedo.

Julie tells them they’re all supposed to wait in the holding cell until it’s their turn to head out onstage, but when Jordan gets marched off by a pair of interns, Brooks watches him like he’s shipping off to war and then mutters, “Fuck that,” and leads the team out after him. Sidney shows them the spot backstage where he’d been able to peek out without being seen and they all crowd around with each other, waving off anyone who tries to move them with charming grins and puppy eyes.

They watch as Jordy is introduced by Julie, then led around the stage like he’s part of a dog show. He has his hands in his pockets, Sidney notes bitterly, and no one shocks him with a stun gun, but he’s kind of working that slouchy hands-in-pockets look the way Sidney never manages to, so maybe that’s why. The bidding starts out low, Julie asking for a bid of 50, and Sidney is kind of offended on Jordy’s behalf at first when Flower sees his face and elbows him. “50 thousand, Sid, you idiot.”

“Oh,” Sidney says, and watches the bids climb to well over that.

“I can beat that,” Nealer whispers loudly, puffing his chest out, but Sidney has stopped paying attention to what Jordy finally gets sold for (legalized prostitution, Sidney thinks, when Julie calls out, “Sold!” and congratulates a pretty young woman who hugs an older man excitedly, probably her father). He’s looking out for his plants, spotting the kids sitting at a table with the Lemieuxs, which makes him cringe. He just hopes they all have the nerve to withstand Mario’s inevitable disapproval once they start bidding.

The auction drags them through tense moments, like when they all notice Max out in the audience and sort of suck a collective breath in, then let it out slowly when he firmly and unashamedly bids on and wins a date with Flower. Flower laughs and looks like he wants to hug Max and also curse him out, which is a good kind of normal and enough of a distraction for Sidney that he almost forgets about his inner torment.

Geno catches his small smile and nudges him, smiling too, and Sidney just looks at him almost helplessly and thinks about how badly he wants to keep that smile forever, just for him. He knows, he knows, that he’s not supposed to want that, that this is definitely a case of too many things tangling up in his head and coming out at the worst time, but he’s starting to accept the fact that he can’t really help it. He’s always been able to control things like this, keep them simple and categorized and strictly regulated, and now it’s kind of terrifying that he can’t, but also kind of weirdly freeing.

Thinking that doesn’t solve the problem, though. It really just makes the problem worse. Apparently, Sidney’s brain is good at that.

They roll on, Brooks sold off to his fiancée for a fairly modest sum (apparently no one here is ballsy enough to try to outbid significant others) while Tanger is won by what looks like a family with kids, for a decent amount. Sidney is honestly surprised when Nealer does beat him in terms of price, but then he can’t help but laugh with the rest of the guys when he sees that the highest bidder is a woman that has to be in her 70s.

“Whatever,” Nealer says when he passes them backstage, loosening his tie. “I’m winning and that’s what matters. Old ladies love me, and they have the best stories. Eat that, Tanger.”

“No thanks,” Tanger says, wrinkling his nose.

The guys mostly wander off after their turn is done, meant to pose for pictures with their winners. Some wind up out in the audience eventually, watching and now laughing openly at their teammates as the auction drags and drags, but their heckling actually makes the whole process go considerably faster. Soon, it’s Sidney’s turn, and after Geno insists they do their handshake, he’s blinking in the bright, very hot spotlight of the stage, trying and failing to make eye contact with his table of promised supporters, his hands folded in front of him.

Hands,” Julie hisses at him through a brilliant smile, and Sidney grins at her in a way that he hopes looks murderous, because they’re not in his pockets so no one can say anything. And whatever, the bidding gets going anyway, high enough and really fast so that Sidney starts to sweat.

And then Taylor jumps into the bidding, making a wave of laughter roll through the crowd. “200!” She raises her paddle high into the air.

Julie’s smile stretches across her entire face; Sidney starts feeling nervous that it’s going to split in half. She repeats Taylor’s bid and her number, 90, and accepts a few more bids before Stephanie stands up next, waving the number 89 in the air and just as enthusiastic as Taylor.

There’s more laughter, though if Sidney squints in the light, he can see Mario’s eyes starting to narrow in suspicion, frowning over at Sidney. His suspicions must be confirmed when Austin and Alexa join in with their own paddles and the other bidders drop out good-naturedly, leaving Stephanie with a $400,000 bid on Sidney for the win. She raises her arms in triumph and everyone claps for her, including Sidney, until Julie sinks her nails into his arm to lead him offstage.

“You’re lucky you’re cute,” Julie says through gritted white teeth, and she nearly shoves him into the hands of two interns.

He tells the interns that he can wait for his photo op with Stephanie and pushes his way back to his viewing spot to watch Geno’s turn. His palms are sweating, and his heart is beating kind of hard, and Sidney knows it has nothing to do with the relief of getting his own turn over with. That was easy. This is infinitely harder, and Sidney should have known that from the very beginning.

The bidding is fast and furious and it is immediately clear that Geno is going to at least go for higher than Sidney, maybe even higher than Neal. Sidney shoves his hands in his pockets now just to keep from punching the wall like an idiot as a beautiful blonde woman coolly calls out a $300,000 bid, that is immediately outdone by an equally stunning brunette who seems much more tenacious. And it’s not just two women—it’s a lot of women, and Sidney’s stomach clenches along with his fists as he watches Geno’s smile get a bit strained, rubbing the back of his neck and then dropping his arm quickly after a look from Julie.

Sidney’s hand closes around his phone in his pocket and he looks over at the Lemieux table, where Taylor, Austin and Alexa are all watching the bidding carefully and Mario still looks extremely unimpressed. Sidney has his phone out, fingers shakily texting each kid, before he really knows what he’s doing.

Bid on Geno. No limit.

He can see when they get the texts, and they can’t see him, but they perform dutifully, calling out bids with the same enthusiasm as before. The audience doesn’t seem to know how to handle it this time, laughing more uncertainly, though the team is cracking the hell up and Mario looks like he wants to start banging his head against the table or maybe pretend he doesn’t know his kids. Julie’s smile looks dangerously close to shattering, but Geno—Geno is beaming, standing up straighter, and Sidney feels fucking triumphant.

He feels less so when the women keep bidding, honestly getting into it with the kids. Things go tense again, the laughter fading, Julie looking almost nervous. And then the blonde has the most recent bid, an outrageous $700,000, and the kids all look uncertain, glancing at each other. Sidney texts them over and over again, repeating no limit, no limit, no limit and wishing he knew how to send mass texts, but they’re not biting, not a peep, and Sidney really thinks he might punch a wall soon, or maybe throw his phone, or—

Sidney doesn’t think, actually, when he hurries out on stage left and calls, “One million!”

The whole audience goes very, very quiet, and Mario drops his head into his hands with a loud groan that cuts through the quiet like a knife. Then everyone starts laughing, starting with Max and Flower with their big, hooting laughs, while Jordy nearly falls out of his chair, and Tanger and Neal are leaning against each other, practically sobbing. Taylor looks like she wants to start clapping for him like she had for Stephanie, but she just laughs, too, and gives him a big thumbs up.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Crosby, but I can’t count your bid,” Julie says, voice shaking with laughter and possibly repressed rage. Sidney glares at her, mostly because he can’t look at Geno, can feel his face going hot under Geno’s stare.

“Why not?”

“You’re not a registered bidder, and this is against the rules, as I mentioned before.” Someone—Sidney’s fairly certain it’s Brooks and Erin—boos at that, but Julie holds fast, her smile grim and daring him to keep arguing with her.

“But—” But the interns are there, and one of them is the one whose eyes promise him a date with a stun gun very soon, so Sidney sighs and lets himself be led off the stage to the sounds of applause (he’s pretty sure Taylor starts it, and he loves his little sister so much, really).

He finally meets Geno’s eyes, then, finds him beaming even brighter than he had when the kids had started bidding on him, gaze staying locked on Sidney until Sidney’s out of sight. And suddenly Sidney knows that even if the beautiful blonde wins the date with Geno, Geno will still come to Sidney’s house every other night. He’ll still want to shower with him, and fail at video games with him, and drink pop and eat pizza with the kids, and sneak in cuddling when he can. Sidney doesn’t know exactly how he knows that just by how Geno’s looking at him now, because he thinks Geno’s always been looking at him like that, all the time, and Sidney hadn’t realized it before. But he knows now, and it’s still kind of scary, but it’s also really fucking great.

Sidney thinks it’s time he told Geno that he wants all that, too. No matter what that makes them, if it’s too complicated or too risky or—Sidney can’t think about that when he thinks about how much he wants it.

The interns try to wrestle him back to the holding cell, but Sidney manages to make one last dash for his viewing spot, just in time to see Alexa standing up with her paddle raised high, the number 87 proudly displayed above her bright, firm smile.

She calls out an $800,000 bid and Geno says, “Sold,” making everyone laugh. Julie tries to chastise him gently but he just smiles at her and shrugs and she sighs, registers the bid, and then proclaims Alexa the official winner to thunderous applause. Sidney joins in, clapping until his hands sting, until Geno finds him backstage and grabs his hands in his and squeezes, grinning against Sidney’s cheek.

 

“One million,” Geno keeps saying, and his laugh is high and disbelieving, no matter how many times Sidney pokes him viciously to shut him up. “Crazy, Sid.”

“Shut up,” Sidney says. “It’s not that crazy. It’s for a good cause, and—” In his head, he’s saying and you’re worth it, but that’s the kind of thing he never says to Geno. The culmination of everything he feels for Geno can really be summed up as you’re worth more than that, and it’s still hard to get those words unstuck after months of denying them.

But it’s the truth. And honestly, it’s time Geno knew that.

“You’re worth it,” Sidney says firmly, and Geno’s breath kind of catches. He’s immediately reaching for Sidney’s hand, clenching it tight and close between them, obviously wishing they weren’t still in public, waiting for their cars to come around after the auction. They have already withstood Mario’s long-suffering, amused lecture (“I told you not to be a brat, Sid, and I didn’t mean for you to get my brats involved!”) and the chirps from the team and Julie’s cheerful promises of retribution. Now it’s just them, standing outside the hall where the auction had been, except for it’s not just them. If it had been, Sidney would have kissed Geno by now. He always wants to kiss Geno, and now that he’s allowing himself to do it almost whenever he wants, he can’t wait to get started.

“I don’t want you to go on a date with anyone else,” Sidney continues when it’s clear Geno only needs to touch Sidney, not needing to say anything. Geno’s smile goes wry and pleased, and Sidney knows the smile he gives back is big and dopey and really doesn’t care.

“Not Alexa? She win auction.”

“For me,” Sidney says, and he rolls his eyes when Geno just looks like he wants to laugh but is also really happy about it. “Fine, we’ll invite them over for pizza again, that can be the date, but—she won it with my money. That means the date is technically mine.” You’re mine, Sidney thinks, but he thinks that’s something he can say later, something he will definitely want to say later.

“Always yours,” Geno says softly, completely ruining Sidney’s careful construction of control, and Sidney squeezes his hand hard enough to probably hurt and then lets go before he starts panting or something.

“Okay,” Sidney chirps, clapping his hands together heartily. “Let’s do it, then.”

“Date?”

“Yeah. Date.” He grins at Geno, and Geno grins back, and when their cars come around Sidney’s pretty okay with them separating, because now he knows, whatever they are, whatever they’re doing, they’re going to wind up in the same place, together.