Taylor’s used to Christmas without Sid, and she never likes it, but she gets that he can’t always make it, especially not for three weeks like he did last year. The first thing she checks every year when the Pens schedule comes out is if it’s going to be another year Sid’s not home. She’d been really looking forward to this year, because Sid could actually make it, but he doesn’t, because he stays in Pittsburgh with Geno.
Taylor’s not a baby, and she’s not going to throw a temper tantrum. She doesn’t blame Sid for not wanting to leave his boyfriend with no family on Christmas, because that would be a really shitty move. What pisses her off is that her parents never offered to invite Geno up to Cole Harbour and it pisses her off more that Sid refuses to ask.
“There’s no point when you and I both know they’re gonna say no,” Sid sighs when she calls. Taylor knows he’s right, that their parents and Sid only talk now when they’re talking around Geno, that they’ve all decided that’s safer than actually having a fight about it.
“That’s so dumb,” Taylor says. “What are they going to do, never talk about it and hope you break up? What if you don’t? What if you get married and have kids? Are they still going to pretend that Geno just doesn’t exist?”
“I don’t - it might never happen, I don’t know,” Sid says uncomfortably, and Taylor has the sudden urge to punch her parents. Whatever opinions they have about Sid fucking up his career and basically giving the middle finger to all the hard work all of them have put in isn’t what’s important here. Sid never takes risks, never does anything even a little selfish, and he never dates. If Sid’s finally in love with someone (and he is, if he’s willing to talk about Geno at all), she doesn’t get what her parents’ problem is. Geno’s not a serial killer, he makes Sid happy, and he obviously actually likes Sid for who he is and not because he’s Sidney Crosby. Plus, Mario thinks it’s okay, and if Mario doesn’t have a problem with it, she doesn’t see why her parents should.
Still, Taylor doesn’t want to leave her parents alone on Christmas, and Sid’s got Geno, so she grits her teeth and goes home until December 26, when she flies out to Pittsburgh for the rest of break. Her mom’s mouth is tight around the edges when she drives Taylor to the airport, but whatever, she brought it on herself. And Taylor knows she’s made the right decision when Sid hugs her at the airport, so tight it should feel uncomfortable but so good she doesn’t want to tell him to stop.
“I’m glad you came,” Sid says, and Taylor pulls away to take a good look at him. He looks good - happy, healthy, in good shape - but he looks a little skittish, the way he used to look when he came home from Juniors, like he isn’t quite sure of his place or how welcome he is. He hasn’t looked like that in years.
“I’m glad I came too,” she says.
- - -
Geno’s English is still rough, and his smile looks a little nervous when he waves to her from the doorway, but he gives her a warm, one-armed hug when she comes in, his other arm holding back a straining Jeffrey who wants nothing more than to slobber all over her. He trails shyly behind Sid as Sid shows her their house, only breaking in to ask, over and over, if he can get her anything to eat.
“You can tell him to calm down,” Taylor says, when Geno politely flees back to the kitchen to give her and Sid space. “I already like him just fine.”
“Yeah, well,” Sid blushes a little and scratches the back of his neck. “He’s excited you’re here. He’s been planning dinner ever since I told him you were coming.”
“Oh jeez,” Taylor laughs, collapsing on her bed. “It’s not like I’m a real fancy eater. Did you ever tell him about the one time we tried to cook?”
“Of course not,” Sid says. “I want him to like me.”
Naturally, that means Taylor has to tell Geno about the time Sid set the pasta on fire at dinner, because what kind of sister would she be if she didn’t. Sid doesn’t look nearly as mortified as he should, though, just resigned, like he expected her to bring it up. Or maybe he’s in a blissful food coma, because the stuffed cabbage and homemade rye bread Geno’s made are the best things Taylor has ever eaten, and she doesn’t even like cabbage that much. Geno just looks fondly bemused by the story and bashful at the praise, insisting that it was nothing.
“Sid make dessert,” he says, gesturing to the small plate of chocolate-covered dried apricots. “No help.”
“Wow, Sid,” Taylor says sarcastically. “You melted some chocolate chips. Solid effort.”
“It was hard!” Sid protests. “There was a double boiler! I had to use two pots!”
“You do a very good job,” Geno agrees, clearing their plates, but he catches Taylor’s eye when Sid’s looking away and pulls an exaggerated long-suffering face, and Taylor has to hide her giggles in her napkin.
Geno loosens up a little after that while they eat Sid’s apricots, which Taylor blames on the wine. But the next day when Geno starts actually cracking jokes in her presence while making her waffles, she realizes it’s probably got less to do with alcohol and more to do with the fact that Geno’s finally getting comfortable, even if she can’t get him to stop cooking.
- - -
“I think?” Sid blinks owlishly. “I mean, they still come to visit all the time, and they sound happy, even if I don’t really get what they’re saying yet? And Geno’s mom hugs me a lot, so.”
“It could be a Russian thing,” Taylor says with mock sympathy. “Butter you up with hugging and then the next thing you know,” she draws a finger across her throat and Sid smiles.
“Exactly,” he says. “I’ve gotta stay alert around here.”
“Russia’s not...” Taylor waves her spoon around vaguely. It’s too early in the morning for her to figure out words. “Accepting and stuff, is it?”
Sid narrows his eyes. “If you’re trying to compare them to Mom and Dad...” he starts, and Taylor rolls her eyes.
“I’m just saying -”
“And I’m saying it doesn’t matter where you’re from, parents are parents, sometimes they have concerns.”
“And ours kind of suck right now,” she says. “Seriously, just tell them to get over themselves about this whole thing.”
“I can’t do that,” Sid says. “They... they did everything for me, Taylor.”
“Yeah, well.” She shrugs, stirring her Honey Nut O’s, “what good is that if they don’t care about you being happy?”
“They think that this isn’t going to make me happy.”
“Yeah, no,” Taylor says acidly, “look how right they’ve turned out to be about that one.”
Sid pinches his lips together and goes back to reading the Post-Gazette, and it’s uncomfortably silent for a few minutes until Geno ambles into the kitchen. He leans over and drops a kiss on Sid’s shoulder, blinks blearily a few times while scrubbing his hand through his hair, and then shakes his head. “Too serious for breakfast,” he decides, stealing the comics and going to pour himself some granola.
Taylor knew there was a reason she liked this guy.
- - -
Sid worries about this, and whenever Taylor brings up Dad not coming to her games she can see Sid’s only barely holding his tongue, but she doesn’t really mind. Sid is the best person in her universe, and as far as she’s concerned, Sid deserves all the attention he already gets and then some. And when she sees what their dad’s overbearing attention has done to Sid - how it’s made him think that no matter what he does he’s never going to be good enough, how he’s incapable of thinking about what he wants and only about what makes other people happy - she’s relieved, actually. She almost feels guilty for feeling so relieved, because maybe if she’d tried to get their dad to love her more, Sid wouldn’t be so fucked up. And so seeing Sid happy with Geno is a relief, it’s proof that Sid didn’t get so messed up he isn’t capable of being happy at all.
He is happy, with Geno. He’s gloriously, ridiculously, walk-around-beaming-all-the-time happy. She wishes her parents could see how happy Sid is, how much more settled he seems in his own skin. She wonders if they still watch games and see how nothing’s changed at all, how Sid’s still as professional as ever. If she didn’t know Sid and Geno were dating, she’d never be able to tell by the way they sit on the bench, completely oblivious to anything but the game. She also wishes she had the words to thank Geno for loving her stupid brother, for thinking all his random OCD habits are cute, for wanting him, weird bits and all, but she’s pretty sure Geno’s under some sort of delusion that he’s the one who lucked out, and far be it from her to ruin that. She’s sure Geno will figure it out once Sid’s nose hair starts growing out of control. And it will - it’s the curse of all Crosby men. Maybe she’ll buy him a trimmer as a late Christmas present, just in case.
- - -
“Natalie and Victoria,” Sid explains to Taylor while they watch Geno sing something off-key and in Russian, dance, and vacuum all at once. “Gonch’s daughters. He was like this before you came, except less dancing and more nervous.”
“Kinda get what you see in him,” Taylor says, sipping her hot chocolate, and Sid turns to her with a horrified look on his face.
“This is something I love him in spite of,” he insists, but he’s blushing, so Taylor just snorts and says, “Liar,” and Sid goes back to watching Geno with a fond little smile while Taylor goes back to her hot cocoa and pretending not to notice.
Geno and Jeffrey greet the Gonchars roughly the same way, which is to say with a lot of noise and excitement and kisses. Victoria and Natalie are both at the age where they’re trying very hard to seem cool and grown up, so they don’t bring toys or anything, but instead sit at the breakfast bar with Sid while Geno makes them sandwiches and the girls fill them in on everything that’s cool in elementary school as well as a detailed outline of who likes who.
“Remember this when you have children,” Sergei’s wife Xenia tells her, watching the four of them fondly. “If you ever want break, find young couple thinking about children and give children to them. They always think you are doing them favors.”
“Sid and Geno aren’t -” Taylor starts, and then realizes with a jolt they probably are. Sid’s always said since he was little that he wanted a big family, and he’s got three and a half years until he’s thirty. (And oh god, when did that happen, she wonders.) It’s going to take that long for him and Geno to get all their business sorted and get to the point where they can have a kid, longer if they want to adopt. “Oh my god,” she says weakly.
“You really that surprised?” Sergei asks her kindly, like she’s one of his daughters and nothing like what sounded like a lot of good-natured abuse he’d been slinging at Geno. “Zhenya has wanted babies since he was a baby. Sid too, I thought.” He turns away before Taylor can respond and yells something at Geno in Russian that sounds like more abuse, and Geno responds in a way that makes Sid say, mildly, “not in front of the children, G.”
“I thought you said you didn’t speak Russian!” Taylor hisses, betrayed.
“Sid being modest,” Geno says, putting a hand on what Taylor hopes is Sid’s knee. “He understand half of what said.”
“A quarter,” Sid demures. “And I don’t speak it, my accent sucks.”
“Half,” Geno repeats firmly, and Sid rolls his eyes but doesn’t argue.
“Don’t look at me like that,” he says to Taylor around his sandwich. “It’s useful.”
“Suck up,” Taylor says, just to make Sid flushed and distracted so she can go back to trying to picture him as a father, trying to picture that the girls telling Geno why Ryan is Totally Cute but Brian is Totally Lame are theirs. It’s scarily easy.
Sid and Geno go out with Sergei and Xenia after the game (Pens win, 4-3 in overtime, on Sid’s assist), and Sid insists Taylor can come, but she bows out. She knows a couples dinner when she sees one, and from the way Geno watches Sid when he hugs her goodnight, it’s going to be very, very couple-y. Which is fine, she and Sid need breaks from each other, and he and Geno need a date night that doesn’t involve a road trip with the entire team. She’s got some reading to do, anyway. Taylor’s just finished bawling over the funeral scene in Looking for Alaska when she hears the front door open and Sid and Geno come up the stairs, murmuring to each other in low voices.
“You look good tonight,” she hears Geno rumble, and she’s about to go tell them to take it to their room when she hears Sid laugh - not his normal, honking laugh, but a lower one that’s more of a gentle huff. She’s never heard Sid laugh like that before.
“Not out here, Taylor can hear us,” he says, like he knows Taylor’s listening.
“Taylor never up this late,” Geno says. There’s a rustle and then what is definitely the sound of making out - Taylor would recognize that anywhere after the first semester of university. She sighs and gets up out of bed, all set to tell them exactly how awake she is, but when she opens the door a crack just to make sure everyone’s clothed, she can’t bring herself to break them up.
Taylor was eight when Sid first left home, and her parents had to start leaving her with a babysitter, which she hated. Not because Jessica from across the street wasn’t nice, but because she wasn’t Sid and Taylor had wanted Sid back. So the first night with Jessica, Taylor snuck out of bed to wait by the bannister for her parents to come back. She fell asleep there, crouched against the railing, and when she’d woken up it was to the door slamming after Jessica left and her parents coming to stand in the hall. They were kissing, and that had been the first time Taylor had seen someone kissing like that outside of movies and not just a quick peck on the lips when her dad came home from work. She’d known it was gross, but her mom had looked so happy leaning against her dad and her dad had looked so much gentler than she’d ever seen him look before. And it was nice to know that her parents loved each other, especially when yesterday Katie had told Taylor that her parents were getting divorced. It made her feel safer knowing that no matter how much was changing and how much she hated it, her parents were sticking together.
The way Sid and Geno are kissing, easy and gentle, reminds her of that. And when Sid pulls away and rests his cheek against Geno’s shoulder, he looks so much like their mom. Geno is almost like what her dad could have been, if he’d ever made it in hockey, if his ambition hadn’t turned bitter before it all got thrust onto Sid. He can be impatient and competitive but he’s good, and he’s solid, and he’s the kind of guy who would die protecting what he loves. Sometimes Taylor is so busy being angry at her dad that she forgets he’s that kind of guy, too. Sometimes she needs reminding.
So Taylor stays silent and doesn’t move, even when Geno leans down and whispers something in Sid’s ear that is probably dirty, judging by the way Sid giggles and blushes, just watches as Sid takes Geno’s hand and tugs him the rest of the way to their bedroom before firmly shutting the door. Then she shuts her own door, sticks in her earbuds, and cranks the music way, way up.
- - -
“Not kidding when you say she good enough for NHL,” Geno says approvingly to Sid when they call it quits after a few hours.
“Aw, no,” Taylor mumbles, taking a swig of water. “I only look good against Sid.”
“Goalies take longer to mature,” Sid recites dutifully, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and squeezing, and Geno nods.
“Pretty, smart, good goalie - you interested in Russian boys? I know a few your age, like good player like you.”
“She isn’t interested in anyone,”Sid says firmly, stiffening beside her at the same time Taylor says, “I don’t know, how cute are they?”
“Oh, depend what you like,” Geno says, winking at her. “Dark hair? Light?”
“Can you get me Landeskog’s number?” She asks, trying not to giggle as Sid splutters. “Because I would be all over that.”
“Maybe not so smart if you like Swedes more than Russians,” Geno says, clearly having way too much fun winding Sid up.
“If Taylor dates someone - which you are never doing,” Sid says severely, turning to her, and Taylor rolls her eyes, “the last person you are ever dating is a hockey player.”
“Wow, hypocrite much?”
“Most hockey players aren’t like Geno,” Sid says. “Trust me, all most of these guys care about is sex.”
“Yeah, no, I’m sure you and Geno have a totally pure relationship,” Taylor agrees. “I bet that noise I heard last night when you two got in was you guys holding hands really hard.”
Geno chokes on the Gatorade he’s been drinking, but he’s laughing when he stops coughing, as opposed to Sid, who looks torn between embarrassment and a temper tantrum. “Well,” Geno says, when he’s done sputtering. “Sid is hockey player.”
“I can’t believe I wanted you two to meet each other,” Sid says mournfully over both of their giggles, but he’s smiling a little, too.
- - -
“You cheated,” he spits out, absolutely furious, and Geno’s smug smile melts off his face immediately.
“I not cheat,” he insists, “Not my fault you paranoid and bad at game.”
“Brooks told me you count cards,” Sid says, and before Taylor can ask them if they’re serious (because you can’t count cards in rummy, how would that even work), they’re both yelling over each other in two different languages. Taylor shares a long-suffering look with Jeffrey, who scampers into the other room with a grumble, and she’s about to join him a minute later when Sid huffs and goes, “this is why we always have to be on the same team,” and Geno nods his agreement, like in two months they aren’t going to be trying to kick each other’s asses in Sochi, and then it’s like they never fought at all.
The second fight they get in is less of a fight and more of an ongoing disagreement over her. For Christmas, Sid had gotten her a fleece and a new equipment bag, and every time Geno sees her in the fleece (which is a lot, because she really likes it) he gets all huffy.
“Fleece jacket not sister gift,” he says in what sounds like an old, often-had argument. “Taylor a girl, Sid.”
“I know,” Sid says, “that’s why it’s a woman’s fleece.”
“You act like she nothing, not boy or girl!” Geno says, throwing his hands up in the air. “Not scary to be a girl, Sid. You can get girl things!”
Taylor usually flees around the time Geno brings out words that he clearly learned just for that argument. She isn’t sure how she feels about Geno trying to defend her. Part of her wishes that Sid acted like she was a girl, but it’s better than how her dad acts, like he can’t forget she’s a girl and it’s a constant disappointment to him.
It doesn’t really come to a head until one day when Sid has a charity event and she and Geno are alone in the house, and Geno brings out a Tiffany’s catalog and hands it to her with a mischievous grin. “I bring you present,” he says. “Mark what you want, I get Sid to get it.”
“You don’t have to,” Taylor says uncomfortably. “It’s fine. I like this fleece.”
“Oh,” Geno deflates a little. “Sorry. I think - you wear nice jewelery always, have -” he pinches his earlobe. “Ears, you know? I guess Sid right.”
“No,” Taylor assures him, because she can’t stand how deflated Geno looks. “I’d love, I mean, that’s just not what Sid does, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes want, you know, girly things.”
“Then why you not ask?” Geno says. “Be a girl who wants girly things, is not so bad.”
“I don’t get what’s so great about it!” Taylor explodes. “I get cramps once a month and my dad doesn’t think me playing hockey is worth my time because I’m never going to get to play in the NHL!”
Geno watches her soberly. “You think that all being a girl is?”
“It’s all it’s been to me,” Taylor says. She can feel her face getting blotchy and ugly the way it does when she’s about to cry. “So, so Sid doesn’t like to... he just doesn’t do that sort of thing. And that’s okay, I guess. No one in my family does.”
“Hey,” Geno says gently, putting an arm around her, “I not want you to feel sad. I worry... I thought is because Sid always think of you as baby, not want to admit you woman. I youngest too. Just try to look out for you.”
“It’s not your fault,” Taylor mutters, blinking back the hot feeling in her eyes.
“Lots of good things about being girl,” Geno says, squeezing her shoulder. “One of them that you get pretty things, not just useful things. And pretty things nice, yes?”
“Yeah,” Taylor says, taking a deep breath before taking the catalog Geno’s still holding. Tentatively, she leans against him and lets him keep his arm around her. He’s not as solid as Sid, and a little poky around the edges. But he’s still warm and comforting and smells like cologne and Sid and cinnamon, so she takes a deep breath and opens the Tiffany’s catalog. She sets the limit to a thousand dollars, which still feels too high, but she has to compromise between Geno wanting to spoil her and being raised not to be greedy. There isn’t much she needs, anyway. She has the heart locket from her Nana she always wears, and her parents always get her nice earrings for Christmas, the one concession to her being a girl they do make. The stuff she ends up choosing is simple, just a tennis bracelet and a pair of bow earrings that are a bit out of her parent’s normal price range but are too cute not to mark.
She’s still thumbing through the charm bracelet section and marveling at the vast array of them when Sid comes back. He takes one look at Taylor with a jewelry magazine and curled up against Geno, who is not-so-innocently watching some Russian sitcom on his laptop, and narrows his eyes.
“Do I want to know what’s going on here?” He asks.
“Youngest children bond,” Geno says serenely, and Taylor tosses the magazine at Sid, who catches it and then looks at it like it’s cancerous.
“You’re getting me earrings for my birthday,” she says. “Pony up.”
“You two are never allowed to hang out alone again,” Sid grumps, and Geno and Taylor just look at each other and grin.
- - -
“Wow, that’s not any pressure, or anything,” Brook says, taping up her socks.
“And if he needed a teammate to carpool with, couldn’t it have been Letang?” Megan asks, and then at Brook’s dirty look, “What? If he’s bringing a teammate to split the driving with, I vote some eye candy I can scope from the bench.”
“You know Letang’s married, right,” Taylor feels beholden to point out. “To, like, a model. And they have a kid.”
“Whatever,” Megan says, flicking her braid over her shoulder. “I don’t need to marry him. I just want to stare and imagine I’m marrying him.”
Taylor isn’t stressed, though until her mom calls her a few nights before the flight out to Pennsylvania and says, “I thought I’d fly down to see you play at Mercyhurst, sweetie, since it’s so much closer than Minnesota, and since I hardly saw you at winter break.”
“Oh,” says Taylor, putting down her bio reading. Her mom must really want to come, if she’s passive-aggressively bringing up Christmas. “You know, um, Sid’s coming to that game.”
“Well, the more the merrier.”
“He’s bringing Geno so they can split the driving,” she says, and her mom goes silent.
“Well why shouldn’t he,” she says finally. “That’s nice. That’ll be fine.”
“We’re all adults, Taylor,” her mom cuts in in a final tone, and that’s that.
Geno isn’t at their first game, but Sid comes in during warmups and Taylor sees him voluntarily hug their mom, so she counts that as a win even bigger than the 6-1 blowout. “Geno needed a nap,” Sid says when he comes to greet her outside the locker room after. He looks like he needs a nap too, and he was the one driving, but he’d probably have to be dying to not come to a game of hers he’d promised to come to. “But we could all go out to dinner after.”
“Sounds good,” Taylor says, braiding her wet hair out of her face so she looks presentable.
“You’re invited too, Mom,” Sid says to their mother, who’s been pretending not to hear the conversation at all.
“Oh, no, I’ll just be in the way,” she says with an anemic smile. “My flight was early, so I could use the sleep, anyway.”
“Mom -” Taylor starts, but Sid puts a gentle, quelling hand on her shoulder, forcing her to swallow all her childish begging and insistence that it’s not fair, that if only her mom could see everything Taylor sees, she’d understand. It’s Sid’s life, she supposes, and if Sid only half-wants their parents in it, that’s just something she’s going to have to get used to.
She and Sid are both silent and moody leaving the rink, but they both light up when they spot Geno standing outside waiting for them. And Taylor, because she can, runs into Geno’s waiting arms and gives him the biggest hug she can manage.
“Hey, pretty girl,” Geno greets her, swinging her up into the air so fast she squeals and pressing a kiss to her cheek. She can see Sid out of the corner of her eye, watching them with so much exasperated fondness he looks like he doesn’t even know what else to do with himself but stand there awkwardly with his fists in his pockets. “Sid text me that you only let one goal in all game.”
“The defense wasn’t covering her at all,” Sid complains. “There was no way she could have blocked it.”
“Ugh,” Taylor groans once Geno’s put her down on the ground. At the time, yeah, she was pissed. She wanted the game to be a shutout, but Sid’s whining makes her not care. “Stop. It was one goal, and we won by five.”
“Yeah, Sid,” Geno says, winking at her. “You stop.”
Dinner is nice, and even if there isn’t a lot to catch up on, Taylor always enjoys hanging out with Sid and Geno and talking. It isn’t until Geno squeezes Sid’s knee under the table and excuses himself to go to the bathroom that she lets herself say, “This kinda sucks.”
Sid’s eyebrows draw together. “What, your chicken parm?”
“No,” Taylor says. Her chicken parm is delicious. “This whole secrecy thing. I mean, it sucks more for you, obviously, but all my teammates are going to be pumping me about my big dinner with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and I want to just tell them it was a normal dinner with my brother and his boyfriend.” Sid blushes, for some reason, and twirls a bit of pasta around his fork.
“Um, you might be able to,” he mutters. “I mean, not now, but like, before you graduate.”
“Woah,” Taylor says, leaning back in her chair. “Really?”
Sid shrugs. “I dunno, it’s really up in the air,” he says, which means yes, totally, and he’s too chickenshit and superstitious to say so. “I mean, we have to get through Sochi first, you know? And then we’d have to see how Cup runs go and stuff. But we both want a big family, and that takes a while.” he shrugs. “I don’t know. We’ve only talked about it a few times.” If Taylor knows her brother, that hasn’t stopped him from making an itemized list of baby names sorted by gender, preference, and nation of origin on a sheet of notebook paper that he’s tucked in his wallet, just in case someone, like, springs a baby on them by surprise.
“That what you and Mom were talking about during the game?”
“No,” Sid frowns. “I mean, she asked how Geno was doing? Which is progress, I guess, but mostly we talked about you.”
“I think you should talk to Mom,” Taylor says. “I mean, if you’re thinking babies.” Sid looks nervous and opens his mouth, but Geno comes back from the bathroom then, and as usual, the second Geno enters a room, Sid loses the thread of any conversation.
Still, Taylor keeps thinking about the conversation for the rest of dinner and after Sid and Geno drop her off at her hotel room and go to the next floor up for their own, because it’s one thing to abstractly know Sid’s contemplating kids, and it’s another to hear him say it. “You look serious,” Brook says when Taylor lets herself in, clicking off the TV. “Something happen at dinner?”
“I’d make a good aunt, right?” Taylor asks.
“Oh my god,” Brook’s eyes get huge. “Your brother is having a baby?”
“Not yet,” Taylor says, making a shushing motion. “He’s just... talking about it. I dunno, it’s complicated. I’m cool with it but my parents, uh, aren’t.”
“I thought he was single,” Brook says, hugging her pillow. “Oh my god, Croz, you have to tell me everything.”
“He’s been with someone for a while.” Taylor tugs her PJs out of her bag. “That’s all I can tell you.”
“He’s good at stealth dating,” Brook says, staring at the ceiling obligingly while Taylor changes, like she’s got any modesty left after years of locker rooms. “This girl must be the shit. I mean, not only is it crazy that he’s doing something your parents don’t approve of, but I’ve known him since he came around at Shattuck, and I still can’t imagine him in a relationship with anything but hockey.”
“Yeah, well, you should see them together,” Taylor says, not bothering to correct the pronouns. “They’re really great and I approve and all, but it’s kinda weird.”
“Is that why you were in Pittsburgh this Christmas?” Brook asks.
“Yeah, and why Sid and my mom are all awkward around each other. They, like, don’t talk about it. Or talk in person at all.”
“No wonder you’re so nervous,” Brook says. “That sucks. I take back any time I wished I was Sidney Crosby’s sister.”
“God,” Taylor snorts, “you don’t even fucking know the half of it.”
- - -
It’s a good thing Kes wins the faceoff, because for a good minute or two Taylor can’t stop staring at Geno, the opposite of a morning person, making polite conversation with her mom around Sid. Sid frowns when he catches her staring and gestures sharply for her to pay attention, and Taylor wishes, not for the first time, that it were possible to flip someone off in goalie gloves.
The first period is too back-and-forth for Taylor to pay much more attention to her mom’s reaction to Geno, and ends knotted at one. The Gophers wake up the second period, though, and spend most of it fruitlessly chipping at Mercyhurst’s defense, which is making up for a seriously shaky goalie. Taylor spends the period alternating between restlessly bored and wishing she could hear what Sid is whispering to her mom, what Geno every so often interjects, or at least that her mom would have a facial expression for Taylor to go off of.
The third’s more eventful, and Taylor squeaks it out with a 3-2 finish and a few highlight-reel saves. Sid must have said something big to their mom, because she’s oddly detached when she hugs Taylor goodbye after and tells her good job, like she’s going through the motions but her mind’s a million miles away. Sid looks a little contrite behind her shoulder, too. Geno just looks half-asleep and is still mainlining coffee.
“What’d you do to her?” Taylor hisses at Sid, who shrugs and blushes.
“Told her about -” he glances around, even though they’ve lingered long enough taking pictures with all of Taylor’s teammates that the area outside the locker room is long deserted. “You know, what you told me to tell her about.”
Taylor punches his arm, which he rubs reflexively even though there’s no way it hurt. “Wow, way to take away from my win, jackass.”
“Your mom nice,” Geno interrupts before they can descend into a squabble. “I tell Sid, but he not listen. Worry for nothing.” Sid shoots Geno a look that’s so adoringly exasperated that Taylor’s pretty sure if they weren’t alone, Sid and Geno’s secret would be out a lot sooner than Sid planned.
“You two are ridiculous,” she says, hugging Sid. “And this is why you should always listen to me.”
“I love you, brat,” Sid says, He squeezes her a little tighter than usual before handing her off to Geno, who hugs her and whispers, “Play like that, NHL draft you.”
“Maybe,” Taylor allows. It’s not something she normally lets herself think about, but with Sid and Geno standing there smiling at her she feels like maybe it’s something she could start to hope for.