When Geno wakes up, the first thing he notices is that he’s still in his suit.
He’s lying on his stomach and his shirt buttons are pressing hard into his chest, though that’s the least of the wreck his body feels like right now. Geno groans and pulls his arms out from under his pillow, smacking his lips and wondering seriously if something had died in his mouth in the night.
Probably not, but that putrid taste is coupling with the cramped tingling of his muscles and the pounding of his head to form possibly the worst hangover he’s ever had. As he sits up with another groan, Geno puts his hand to his head and thinks, as much as he can stand to, back to last night.
There’s not really much to think about, though. It’s a gaping blur of memory, a scary kind he’s only known in recent years after drinking his weight in vodka and letting the lights and bass of a club wipe the rest of his consciousness away.
It takes Geno a few more moments of grasping to even register that he’s in his hotel room, in Las Vegas, and that he won a bunch of really neat hardware last night. That had all happened sober, he knows—he can remember the feel of the first acceptance speech in his sweaty, shaking hands, can remember the cool metal of the trophies he’d gotten to touch, hold—but it’s the rest of the night that’s gone, no matter how hard he thinks back.
Somehow, he’d gotten back to his hotel room, and a quick pat down of his pockets tells him he didn’t lose anything vitally important (not to mention that he’s alone in his bed, and still in all his clothes). So it could definitely be worse.
Really, the most alarming part of this for Geno is that he’d managed to get blackout drunk in the company of other hockey players, mostly North Americans, who really have nothing on Russians when it comes to drinking. He’s almost impressed, and wishes he could remember who, exactly, had been involved; he can commend them on Twitter.
That all seems a little ambitious right now, however, and Geno decides to concentrate on dragging himself to the bathroom first. He kicks off his shoes, disgusted with his drunk self for not even managing that, and stands on wobbly legs, rubbing at his eyes until the suite starts swimming into fuller focus.
He only manages a few steps before he trips on something that makes a soft, animate sound when his feet connect. It’s enough to make Geno shout and grab on to a nearby armchair to keep from face-planting over whatever living thing is on the floor.
The thing is dressed in less of a suit than Geno—jacket gone and tie crumpled on the floor, feet bare and legs curled up to his chest. “What the fuck?” Geno says, and he repeats that in English when the figure rolls to reveal the squinting, scrunched face of Sidney.
“Geno?” Sidney asks faintly, cupping his hand over the top of his brow against the sunlight beaming in from the open curtains. The room is unfairly, viciously bright, and Geno’s not sure what’s a more important feat to master—shutting those curtains reminding him it’s probably close to midday, or getting the rest of the way to the bathroom.
Figuring out what Sidney’s doing on his floor might take precedent, actually. “Why you here, Sid?” Geno asks, too miserable to figure out if that sounds blunt or rude or whatever.
Sidney keeps squinting, like he doesn’t understand Geno’s words anyway, never mind his tone, and runs a hand through his hair, sticking up everywhere like he’d just ripped his helmet off.
“I—” he says eventually, scrubbing the same hand over his face and dropping his head down on the floor. “I have no idea, actually.”
“Don’t remember?” Geno says, and he feels like laughing out loud when Sidney shakes his head slowly. Getting blackout drunk with a bunch of North American hockey players is one thing; getting blackout drunk with Sidney Crosby, of all people, is something entirely different, and not something Geno had ever imagined would happen without the Stanley Cup involved again.
Laughing would be very painful, though, so Geno just nods and then groans when that also proves to be painful. “Okay,” Geno tells him, and he continues his trek to the bathroom, because if neither of them can remember anything, abusing his bladder isn’t going to help matters.
Peeling out of the jacket layer of his suit and unzipping his fly makes Geno notice the weird piece of wire tied around his right ring finger. After relieving himself and scrubbing his face and hands, brushing his teeth until that hurts, too, Geno sits down on the edge of the giant tub and looks at the wire.
The ends are twisted together to form a tight ring, two pieces braided together, and it’s easily bent when he forces a fingernail underneath and tugs. Geno thinks it might be reformed from a champagne cork wire, and that would actually make sense in conjunction with his hangover. Champagne tends to get him more fucked up than anything, especially good champagne, and though he has no idea why the hell he’d put that on his finger, that’s probably the least of the crazy shit that had gone on last night.
Actually, it’s the least of the crazy shit going on in this hotel room right now. Much crazier is Sid still on his floor when Geno hobbles back out, groaning facedown into the carpet. “I’m going to die,” Sidney says as Geno nears, and Geno rolls his eyes, as much as he can commiserate.
“Lucky,” Geno says. “I still live, and it hurts. Head hurt like bitch.”
“I have no fucking clue what happened last night,” Sidney says, changing tracks in a way that makes Geno’s head pound some more. “What am I even doing here? I have my own suite.”
“Good question.” Geno rips the curtains closed, scowling at them even as they do their job and block out the sun, and then touches his stomach, considering. Though the thought of food makes him want to hurl, he knows he’ll probably feel better with something to soak up whatever leftover alcohol is killing him right now. He wonders if Sidney has any vitamin B on him, but when he turns back, Sidney doesn’t seem to be in any shape to produce any.
He’s still on the floor, and though Geno actually contemplates just joining him and lying there until he stops feeling like death would be a small mercy, he resists. “Get up,” he tells Sidney, and Sidney groans and shakes his head, this time much more minutely.
“Yes. Cannot stay on floor.”
“Why not?” Sidney shifts his head to the side so he can narrow his eyes at Geno, looking betrayed. “Maybe if I lie here long enough, I won’t start thinking about what the fuck I could’ve done last night.” He closes his eyes, putting his hand on his face. “Oh, hell. Too late.”
Geno sighs deeply and heads for the kitchenette area, grabbing two bottles of water and the room service menu. He puts one bottle on the floor and rolls it over to smack Sidney in the side, making him jump. “Drink, get up, don’t think.”
“You’re not the boss of me,” Sidney snaps, and then he sits up quickly, blinking. “Uh. I think I’m still a little drunk.”
Geno has to laugh then, collapsing onto the low sofa and opening the menu on his lap. It hurts, even drinking from the water bottle hurts, but watching Sidney crawl over to the bed and then haul himself up feebly kind of helps, a bit. Geno keeps laughing until Sidney turns on him with a scowl.
“Hey, fuck you. You don’t remember anything either, do you?”
He shakes his head, hiding his grin behind the water bottle. Sidney cracks his own bottle, chugs it until he looks a little green, and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, still scowling.
“So you could’ve done anything, too. You could’ve, I don’t know, gotten a hooker—”
“No hooker here,” Geno says, looking around, before raising an eyebrow at Sidney. “You change job?”
“Shut the hell up, you.”
“Less brain problems in sex job,” Geno says, nodding. “Very smart.”
“Why are you being such a dick?” Sidney moans, lying back on the bed and putting his hands over his face again.
Geno watches him be pitiful for another few moments before it stops feeling fun, and he sighs again. “Is okay, Sid. Not let each other do anything too crazy.”
“How can you say that?” Sidney asks. “You were just as fucked up as I was, and you don’t remember. We could’ve done anything.”
“Not crazy guys,” Geno says, trying to sound as confident in that as possible. He’s only ever gotten drunk with Sidney a few times before, and never this bad, but from those experiences he knows that Sidney’s just a giggly, silly drunk, not boisterous or violent or anything they need to worry about. Geno himself can get kind of broody, depending on the situation, but he doubts there was anything to brood about last night. “We just celebrate, celebrate too much. Is good we together.”
“How did we even wind up at the same party?” Sidney says, and that’s actually a good question—they didn’t sit together at the awards show and only hung out briefly beforehand, Sidney wanting to avoid as much press stuff as possible and Geno attracting reporters like flies.
But though Geno thinks back and tries to piece together an answer, Sidney must consider it rhetorical, because he just keeps going. “And what the hell is this?”
He thrusts out his left hand, and Geno has to lean far over the arm of the sofa and squint to ascertain that Sidney has the same kind of wiring wrapped around his ring finger. “Look like, ah—from cork? Champagne cork? Have one too.”
Champagne is actually the only part of last night that Geno remembers clearly, but that really doesn’t explain the wires on their fingers. Sidney studies it, though, before nodding slowly and thoughtfully. “Yeah, okay. Champagne sounds right. But what the—why did we—”
“Have no idea,” Geno says, but he hastens to make something reasonable up when he can see unnecessary panic stirring on Sidney’s face. “Maybe—luck? New superstition?”
“Superstition?” Sidney echoes, sounding calmer and a bit intrigued, and Geno grins and nods eagerly.
“Yes, remember a bit—both wear those and promise to win Cup together again.” Nothing quite gets Sidney’s mind going like a crazy routine he thinks will aid him in hockey glory, and this is way better than Sidney coming up with terrible, irrational ideas of what these stupid wires mean on his own. “We toast, maybe, and say—Cup together. New season, new start, we do together.”
Sidney is staring at the wire now. “You remember that?”
Geno absolutely does not. “Yes. Coming back a little. See? Not too crazy, just normal hockey crazy.”
“Together,” Sidney says softly, twisting the wire around his finger. “Okay. I can live with that.”
“Good,” Geno says. “Now drink water, wash face, and we get breakfast.”
Sidney snaps his head to the side to look at Geno. “Waffles?”
Hiding his grin with his hand, Geno nods patiently. “Yes, waffles. Good cure.”
“Okay,” Sidney says, and he finishes the water obediently before getting up and trudging to the bathroom while Geno orders the food.
They eat quietly together, pulling out their phones to try and assess any visible reputation damage in spite of Geno’s assurances. There are no frantic calls from either of their agents, nothing from the team or their parents chewing them out, and when Sidney borrows Geno’s laptop and starts clicking around the web, he announces with a relieved sigh that there doesn’t seem to be anything about them on any websites he checks.
Geno pulls the laptop away, eyeing Sidney’s sticky fingers with unmasked distrust, and does his own search, not entirely satisfied with Sidney’s knowledge of internet sources. He doesn’t find anything either, though, and even Twitter turns up clean, which is the biggest relief. Geno takes long, deep gulps of his coffee until he starts to finally relax, and he watches Sidney slump in his seat on the sofa and pat at his stomach.
“I feel halfway human again,” Sidney says, smiling a little, and Geno knocks his mug into Sidney’s glass of orange juice.
“Good. Still look like freak, but waffles can’t make miracle.”
“Ugh, you suck. Whatever.” Sidney waves a hand at him lazily, the one with the wire on it, too satisfied to truly chirp back. Geno smiles into his coffee, pleased.
They split up when Sidney heads back to his own suite, in the same hotel but on a different floor. Most of the missing pieces of Sidney’s clothes are lost to them both, but they find his shoes in the pot of a fake plant in the corner of the kitchenette, at least, sharing skeptical looks and deciding not to speculate.
A little while later, they meet up again in the lobby, both packed and changed into more hangover-appropriate clothes, and Sidney is wearing a hat and sunglasses, his usual incognito stuff. “Back to LA,” Sidney says, and Geno claps him on the shoulder.
“Florida for me.”
“Good. Catch something big, yeah?”
“I catch best,”’ Geno promises, and they shake on it. Sidney looks down at Geno’s hand and frowns slightly.
“Hey, you took it off.”
Geno has no idea what he’s talking about until he looks and notices Sidney still wearing the wire on his left hand, clutching the strap of his bag over his shoulder. Geno shrugs, because he’d taken his own wire off to shower and dropped it absently into his toiletry bag, having made up the entire story of its origin. “Just crazy drunk talk, Sid. Not real luck.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Sidney says, but his voice is small, and he’s still frowning. He goes to pull his hand back and Geno holds on, leaning in closer.
“We work hard this summer, work hard next year, and we get real rings. Cup rings.”
“Geno!” Sidney whisper-yells. “That’s jinxing, come on.”
“Jinx not stop us if we work hard enough. Same promise, yes?”
“Yes,” Sidney tells him. His face hardens a bit. “Okay, yeah. Same promise. But don’t talk like that too much, geez.”
“Have good summer, Sidney,” Geno says, and he lets Sidney’s hand go.
Florida means fishing with the sun beating down on his back, he and Sergei bickering about SPF levels and defending their beer choices with their friends. Geno spends his days letting Sergei’s kids climb all over him, luxuriating in Russian cooking seven nights a week as opposed to his regular two or three, and relaxing by the water. It’s not a bad way to start the final leg of the offseason at all.
Sergei has a good laugh about Geno’s odd choice in party partners in Las Vegas, and he laughs even harder at the pictures Geno finds on his phone. There’s only one or two that are recognizably Sidney and Geno, blurred and shaky but clearly the two of them with glassy eyes, pink, happy faces, and huge grins. No pictures actually identify what they’d been doing or with whom, but they’re still funny to go through.
Sending them to Sidney is really the only contact Geno makes with him, and after that it’s just plaintive pleas from Sidney to not put them on Twitter or Facebook. Geno keeps him going for a little while, amusing himself, but he knows how important Sidney’s image is to him, and promises him solemnly that the pictures will never leave his phone.
“They’re cute,” Sergei says when Geno relays Sidney’s panic. “He looks like a real boy. I wish you’d taken videos.”
“He’d murder me in my bed,” Geno says, looking down at one of the pictures and smiling. It looks like Geno took it himself, arm stretched up above them, and Sidney has his head shoved into Geno’s neck to make it in the frame. He’s beaming, hair already mussed up, and Geno is glad that, whatever happened that night, whatever crazy shit they might’ve gotten up to, Sidney looks like he might’ve had fun.
His strange and forgotten night of partying with Sidney soon falls to the back of his mind as sunny days slip by and Geno prepares to head home. He has a good summer of training and conditioning arranged with Kadar, having exchanged ideas and plans and flight details over many enthusiastic emails, and he’s excited about it.
There are plans to make with many friends, too, and Geno is excited about those as well. Going back home for the summer is something he looks forward to all year, even though it can initially be a little weird sometimes.
It’s kind of like stepping over from one world into another, one that he’s infinitely more comfortable with, but still not one that takes up the majority of his life. Geno cherishes these pockets of time because he’ll miss them during the season, even as he sometimes misses the easy camaraderie of being with the team, too. He spends so long syncing up with the guys he plays with, that by the time Geno has to fall back into the patterns of his friends back home, he feels a little stretched thin, and a lot disenchanted with the thought of starting over again.
Sergei and his family provide a good transition period, though, and his time in Florida is spent letting the smell of Nealer’s aftershave fade from his memory, and the methodical, careful image of Sidney taping his stick fall away with it.
Kuni’s laugh sounds like something he’d imagined, though when Geno closes his eyes he can still hear the thud of a perfect pass going tape-to-tape. In Florida, the season he’d just had starts to resemble a dream, ending in a playoffs nightmare and celebrated in ways he doesn’t even remember, and soon he is ready to leave the season behind and go home.
He’s nearly packed and set for the trip when Sidney calls him.
Calls from teammates aren’t exactly an abnormal thing, even in this part of the offseason. Chris, Nealer, and a few of the others had called him plenty to congratulate him and chat inanely, and Geno’s always been cool with that. But though he and Sidney generally stay in touch during the summer, it’s usually in the form of random texts, mostly when Sidney’s bored or something interesting has happened in Geno’s life.
As such, Geno is extremely wary when he answers his phone, expecting the worst. From Sidney’s initial tone, he’s pretty sure he’s about to get it.
“Geno? Hey, Geno.”
Sidney sounds out of breath and teetering on the edge of real panic, and panic starts creeping through Geno’s own insides.
“Sid? You okay?”
“Ah,” Sidney says, though Geno had phrased that question very simply and as clear as he could, the English thick on his tongue. “Um, the thing is—”
“Why you call?” Geno asks, the panic forcing his patience out the window. Sidney coughs a little, then clears his throat and audibly regroups.
“Okay, something happened. I need you to—to come here.”
“What happened?” A hundred possibilities are flying through his head: someone died. Nealer died. Coach Dan got fired. Mario’s sick again. Someone else got traded.
“I can’t—you just need to come here, okay? Are you in Russia yet? Is this the Russia number?”
Sidney’s voice fades a bit, like he’s pulling away to look at his phone, and Geno makes a frustrated noise before calling out, “Sid! Need to tell me what happened.”
“It’s better if I tell you in person,” Sidney says, sounding firm and stubborn and absolutely still panicked. Geno makes himself sit down, his legs like jelly.
“No!” Sidney shouts. “No, God no, and knock on wood, but I still—I just need you to come here, please? I’ll pay for your flight, are you—where are you?”
“Florida,” Geno says automatically, and then he grits his teeth. “Sid, have to tell more. Cannot just drop everything and run when I don’t know—”
“Please, Geno, I don’t know how to—how am I supposed to—”
“Are you hurt?” What suddenly feels like the very worst possibility starts filling his veins with ice, and Geno has to force the next words out, hoarse and terrified. “Sid, you—your head? Do something to your head again? Can’t play?”
Sidney is quiet long enough for Geno’s eyes to close, for his mind to start furiously swearing at whatever deity decided to curse Sidney Crosby with injury. It’s not fair, it’s not right, nobody works harder than Sidney and nobody deserves to go through what he’s gone through, and the thought of him going through it again is—
“I’m okay,” Sidney says slowly. He sounds like he’s lying, but Geno is next to positive that he wouldn’t lie about something like this, so he lets out a shaky breath in relief. “I’m—it’s not that. I just really need you to come out here.”
“Nova Scotia?” Geno asks, feeling exhausted. He reaches for his laptop from where he’d been preparing to pack it up and looks at his calendar. He’ll have to delay his flight for a day or two, and fly home alone, but he thinks he can work it out if he absolutely has to.
“What? No, I’m still in Los Angeles.” Sidney, at least, sounds annoyed the way he usually does when people aren’t understanding him right away. He’ll explain the same play or setup 20 times if he has to, but if he has to repeat a complicated food order or a story he’d been trying to tell, he gets snappish. Geno feels weirdly comforted by the familiarly pissy tone. “You’re in Florida? I can book you a flight right now.”
“Sid,” Geno starts, but he can hear typing and realizes he doesn’t have much say in the matter anymore, short of not showing up on the flight Sidney books. “Not gonna tell me anything?”
“I can’t,” Sidney says again, and the pissy tone is gone; he just sounds desperate again, and Geno sighs. “Please, it’s better if you just—”
“Okay,” Geno says, and a second later he gets a flight itinerary for tomorrow morning in his inbox. “Have to cancel flight home.”
“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”
“Not asking,” Geno points out, but Sidney keeps talking over him.
“Really, this is just—this is something we need to talk about in person. Nobody’s dead, I’m—my head is okay, anything like that is okay, but I really need to—”
“Okay,” Geno says again, a little rough. “See you tomorrow.”
“I’ll pick you up,” Sidney promises, and then he hangs up the phone.
Now there are even more arrangements he has to make: he has to call Kadar and explain as best as he can, which isn’t very well. Luckily, Kadar is the most easygoing trainer Geno has ever met, and he reacts as amiably as he had when Geno had announced he’d be joining him in Russia.
“Yeah bud, your captain needs you, you’ve gotta go,” Kadar says, and then he pauses for a minute. “Hey, should I—is this something I should talk about?”
It takes another minute for Geno to parse that, and then he gets it—Kadar is talking about making the team aware. The thing is, Geno doesn’t know what he should make them aware of, and though Sidney hadn’t mentioned anything about staying quiet, he thinks they should hedge their bets until they know more about what’s going on. That’s a policy the team is generally on board with, anyway.
“Keep mouth shut, Kadarov,” Geno says. Kadar laughs, bright and big, making something loosen in Geno’s chest.
Sergei and Ksenia are less easy to handle, both appalled at the abrupt nature of his change in plans and the fact that he can’t really tell them much about it. “He says jump and you jump?” Sergei asks, aghast. “He’s your captain on the ice and in the room, Zhenya, but it ends there. Maybe I should remind him.”
“He said he needs me,” Geno says, which hadn’t exactly been what Sidney said, but whatever; he’s paraphrased English worse before. “He would never say that to anybody if it wasn’t very important.”
“What could be so important?” Ksenia wonders, and Geno really hasn’t a clue. Sergei is not at all impressed and spends more time trying to talk Geno out of it.
“You cannot just drop your life when you don’t even know why. Let me call him.”
“No.” Geno scowls across the dinner table, trying not to feel like a chastised teenage boy; he has to talk to his mother next, he’ll have enough of that then. “I’m not dropping my life, just—delaying a bit. I will go for a day, see what he needs, if I can fix whatever problem it is, and then go home. It has to be really terrible if he needs me for it, and not any of his close friends.”
“Are we sure it’s not his head?” Sergei asks, and Geno keeps scowling and shakes his head, wanting to be surer of that. “Maybe Crosby’s finally gone crazy.”
“This has been a long time coming, his crazy, and you know it. Are you sure you want to be involved?”
“Don’t be cruel, sweetheart,” Ksenia says, icy tone completely negating the term of endearment. “He’s sane enough to know Zhenya will always help him.”
“I am a good friend,” Geno adds pointedly, and he chooses not to comment on Sergei’s huff of utter disbelief.
Though he’s agreed to head out to Los Angeles blindly, Geno takes some more stabs at defogging the situation, texting around to team members and friends he’s sure Sidney had talked to before him.
The returns aren’t exactly satisfying, however; Flower and Tanger have barely heard from him, citing his being in “crazy intense training mode”. Duper has apparently been checking in on Sidney through Matt Duchene, presumably who he spends all his time with out there, and Duchene hadn’t reported anything unusual or out of the ordinary lately.
Jordy’s heard as much from Sidney as Geno has, even less now with that random, panicked phone call, and Max just laughs really hard when Geno asks him, “Know anything weird going on with Sid?”
“Anything?” Max repeats. “Do you have time for me to recite a list?”
“I mean in last few days—something wrong with him.”
“There’s a lot wrong with him,” Max says, but now he sounds interested, and Geno is already figuring out ways he can get the hell out of this conversation he’d stupidly started. “Nothing he’s told me about, though. You think he’s in trouble?”
“No,” Geno says firmly, regretting opening his stupid mouth.
Max is off and running anyway. “Oh boy, he’s in trouble. What did he do? Is it a girl finally? Oh my God, did he get someone pregnant?”
“No!” Geno says. He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Nothing—I just check on him. Don’t say things, no rumor, Talbot.”
“Just checking on him? What, on the way to Moscow, just making sure the captain’s all tucked in?” Max is delighted, and Geno knows the only way to get out of this is to hang up.
“Say nothing. Goodbye.”
“You better tell—” Max yells as Geno disconnects.
That night, as he says goodbye to the kids and withstands their disappointment that he’s not flying home with them, Geno thinks about Max’s suggestions. Maybe it is a girl. That’s not high on Geno’s list of known Sidney Crosby issues, but that doesn’t mean those issues don’t exist. It just means that Sidney’s never talked about them with Geno.
“We were supposed to play cards on the plane,” Natalie tells him accusingly. She gives him the cold shoulder until he tickles the forgiveness out of her, promising to join them soon and play cards whenever she wants.
Did he get someone pregnant? Geno thinks as he tucks Natalie in and turns on her nightlight. That’s something else that hadn’t even crossed his mind, and he truly hopes Sidney isn’t summoning him across the country to deal with a baby. They’re friends, but they’re not that friendly, and though Geno likes kids, he tells himself firmly he’ll be on the next plane out of LAX if he shows up to find a screaming infant in Sidney’s arms.
Well. Maybe not the next plane. As he gets into bed and starts drifting off, Geno thinks of the shaky, panicked sound of Sidney’s voice on the phone, and can imagine the lost expression on his face. Infant or no, Geno doesn’t think he can just abandon Sidney like that, even if they’re not that friendly.
Sidney is alone when he picks Geno up at the airport. Geno tries to be subtle about first looking Sidney over for signs of whatever issue he’d dragged Geno out here to solve, and about checking the backseat of Sidney’s rental SUV for a car seat or toys, but it’s really pointless anyway. Sidney pays no attention to him, just nods curtly at him when they meet at the gate and says nothing except, “My car’s that one.”
He looks tired, like he hasn’t slept in days, but otherwise healthy and—bulky, particularly around the upper body. Geno would resent the obvious head start Sidney’s gotten on summer training in any other circumstances, feeling lazy and inadequate, but he knows that Sidney had gone so long unable to train in any way that nothing in the world would keep him from it now.
Geno swallows hard, wondering if something bad enough actually could, and his stomach fills with dread.
The car ride is mostly silent. Geno tries to initiate small talk a few times, looking to segue into what the hell he’s doing here, but when Sidney just nods or ignores him completely, Geno gives up on politeness. “Why you bring me here?” Geno says.
Sidney’s hands tighten on the steering wheel, and his face is carefully, carefully blank in a way that makes Geno truly worried. That face is the one Sidney puts on when they’re down by four heading into the third and they’re playing like utter shit, like Sidney wants to tell the team that they’re playing like utter shit but is forcing himself to be the normal, unflappable, even-keeled captain he always is.
“Sid?” Geno says, more gently. “What happened?”
“Not here,” Sidney says, shaking his head. “I—it’s better if I just show you.”
“Show me what?” Geno tries, but Sidney just shakes his head again.
So Geno kind of resigns himself to something terrible to be found in the sleek stucco condo Sidney parks in front of. He braces himself, listening for the sound of a baby crying or a woman throwing things, and he watches Sidney carefully as they head up the stairs to the front door.
Geno notices that Sidney’s left hand still has that stupid wire wrapped around the ring finger, and he has to force down a hysterical bubble of laughter when he sees it.
Sidney leads them into the condo and lets out a heavy, long-suffering sigh as soon as he’s through the door that has Geno shoving around him to see what he’s sighing at.
Matt Duchene lounging on a couch in just his boxers isn’t exactly what he’d been imagining, but he gives Geno a jovial wave.
“Matt,” Sidney says through gritted teeth, and Matt tears his eyes away from the big flat screen on the wall and blinks wide eyes at them.
“What? It’s our day off, come on.”
“It’s one in the afternoon,” Sidney tells him, dropping his keys onto a small table by the window and gesturing for Geno to have a seat somewhere. Geno sits down in an armchair and eyes a patchy, skinny dog lying by Matt’s couch. He holds out his hand for the dog to sniff and then lick.
Sidney glances towards Geno and then grimaces at Matt. “You could at least get dressed for company.”
“Oh come on, he’s seen worse in locker rooms,” Matt says, but he sits up and holds out his hand for Geno to shake it. “Hi, I’m Matt.”
He is blindingly pale all over, and Geno finds himself worrying about him getting sunburnt out here. Sidney throws up his hands as Matt and Geno shake. “Come on, you guys have met.”
“We’ve played each other, that’s different,” Matt says. “We’re not even friends on Twitter.”
“Sorry,” Geno says, because it sounds like this is something Matt has been concerned about. But Matt lets his hand go and just waves at him, jovial again.
“No big. This is Paisley.” He pets the dog, and Geno pets the dog, too, smiling at him.
“Hi Paisley. I am Geno.”
“Okay,” Sidney says sharply, sounding dangerously close to a freakout. “Can you please put on some clothes and maybe take Paisley out? Geno and I need privacy.”
Matt looks disgruntled, but he must be at least a little used to being bossed around by Sidney, because he gets up without any further argument and disappears down a hallway, Paisley following after him at a leisurely pace. Geno can hear Matt talking faintly to the dog, something about grumpy roommates, and he smiles despite himself, looking up at Sidney slumped against a partition separating the kitchen from the living room.
“Didn’t know you have roommate.”
“Yeah,” Sidney says, rubbing the back of his neck and coloring a little. “It’s just—practical? His friends owns this and left it empty for him and I didn’t want to be stuck in a hotel, so when he offered I thought, why not? Plus Paisley’s a really cool dog and Matt—he’s good company.” He shrugs, like he’s embarrassed about it, and Geno rolls his eyes. It’s no secret that Sidney’s bad at living alone; he doesn’t know why he thinks it’s something to be ashamed of.
“Good. Need company, Sid.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sidney says dismissively, but he has a tiny smile on his face, so Geno keeps smiling, too.
The smile disappears completely when Matt returns, holding a leash now and dressed in shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops, Paisley trotting excitedly at his side. “Anyone want tacos?” Matt asks cheerfully, and he smiles widely when Sidney blurts out, “Yeah, please.” They both look at Geno.
“Like tacos,” Geno says, shrugging, and Matt nods decisively.
“Cool. I’ll go grab some.”
“Get a lot of tacos,” Sidney says. “And make sure they make them fresh. And take the—”
“Yeah, I get it, stay out for a long time,” Matt says, rolling his eyes and throwing a companionable look of disbelief at Geno. “I’ll hit the dog park first.”
“Good,” Sidney says shortly. They kind of lock eyes as Matt walks by on the way to the door, but Sidney’s face remains unchanged, either impassive or clueless, and Matt’s shoulders are slumped a little when he actually gets out the door. “He’s a good kid,” Sidney says in the ensuing quiet, kind of awkward, and Geno just nods for lack of anything else to say.
Then he says, “Sid,” very quietly, and Sidney practically jumps out of his skin. “Tell me.”
“I said I’d show you,” Sidney says, and he disappears down the same hall Matt had gone down, heading into a different door. He returns with a big envelope, and Geno can see it shaking in Sidney’s hands as he walks, his stomach sinking at the sight.
“Nathalie forwards all of my mail from Pittsburgh for me,” Sidney tells him, sitting down on the couch, and he sounds terrible, like a completely different person from the one who’d just been ordering Matt Duchene around or calling him a good kid. “This—this was in the most recent batch.”
He pulls out a piece of thick paper and hands it over to Geno, who takes it carefully in his hand and stares at it.
The first words that register are Certificate of Marriage, and he laughs before he can stop himself, because Max had been almost right. So close.
Sidney looks like Geno had just punched him instead of laughed at him. “What the fuck, it’s not funny!”
“You get marry!” Geno says, and he cups his hand over his mouth until the giggles stop. “Not mean to?”
And now Sidney looks completely furious, white-faced and deadly, so Geno forces the laughter down as far as he can, forcing his face to go straight. “No, I didn’t mean to,” Sidney spits out, nostrils flaring. “And I’m not the only one who didn’t mean to, you fucker. Read the whole thing.”
Geno reads, biting his lip and looking down at the paper. And the second words that register are—his name.
Geno reads them over and over again, but that’s his name, printed in black ink, inches away from Sidney’s name, and his signature scrawled on another line, and—“Joke?” Geno asks, starting to feel angry himself. “Big prank to pull, fly me out here, take picture of face for Flower?”
“I said it wasn’t funny,” Sidney says quietly. Geno can practically hear him grinding his teeth, and his face is very serious. “It’s not a fucking joke, Geno. I wouldn’t joke about something like this, and neither would Flower. We got married.”
“How?” Geno says faintly, and Sidney shoots up from the couch and practically explodes.
“I don’t know! I don’t remember, and neither do you! That night, after the awards ceremony, when we woke up the next day in your suite and we didn’t know what happened? That’s what happened!”
“Impossible,” Geno says, shaking his head and shaking the paper around until Sidney snatches it roughly out of his hand. “Has to be a joke. Someone pranking us, Sid.”
“It’s not a joke,” Sidney tells him. “It’s not, I called up the—the chapel where we got married and they have the whole thing in their records, they mailed us the certificate because we left it there and they faxed a bunch of papers over and—it’s real. It’s fucking real. I have no idea how—”
“No one let two drunk men get marry,” Geno has to argue, because the whole thing still just seems so unfathomable.
“Apparently, they do in Vegas,” Sidney spits back. He’s pinching the bridge of his nose again, face screwed up. “I don’t know—I don’t know why we even thought—”
“Try to remember! You remember, is not real, can’t be real!”
“It is real, and I can’t fucking remember!” Suddenly, Sidney’s staring at him piercingly, eyes bright and hands shaking again. “But you—you remembered the wires. The—the rings, Geno, they were wedding rings, you said you remembered us promising together. Remember?”
He waves his hand in Geno’s face, and it still takes him a while to remember the completely false story he’d totally made up to keep Sidney from freaking out that morning. When he does, he decides it’s probably not the best idea to admit he’d made the whole thing up; Sidney looks about one wrong word away from completely melting down, and Geno would actually like to have the first go at a meltdown today.
“Don’t remember getting marry. Don’t remember rings. If I remember, I say—hey, Sid, remember how crazy, marry! Ha ha, you and me, very crazy, no more champagne for us!” Geno sounds hysterical, he knows, but he thinks that probably complements Sidney’s seriously crazy eyes.
“So you don’t remember anything useful, then?” Sidney says, sounding disgusted, and Geno points at him furiously and opens his mouth to shout that Sidney remembers even less. But he stops himself because firstly, that’s not true, and secondly, they can just go around in circles with that forever.
“No,” Geno says icily, his panic frosting over into quick despair. He just barely manages to leave out and neither do you. “Remember nothing. Why we get—”
“I don’t know!” Sidney shrieks, and then he drops down onto the couch again, clutching the certificate in his two hands and glaring at it like he wants to rip it up. Geno understands the desire, will support it thoroughly and aid in its completion, but before he can reach for it again, Sidney speaks again, still staring. “And that’s not the worst part, either.”
Geno lets out a strangled bark of laughter. “What? We adopt baby, too?”
“No,” Sidney says quietly, and he holds the certificate out towards Geno again. “There were witnesses.”
They spend most of the time before Matt gets back trying to decipher the two witness signatures together. They tug the certificate back and forth between them and snap at each until Geno loses his patience and sits next to Sidney on the couch, leaning in over the sheet of paper.
The signatures are completely illegible to both of them, and the witnesses hadn’t printed their names like Sidney and Geno. Sidney starts speculating on who they could be, which Geno does not actually want to do because it will make them even crazier, but Sidney can never resist anything that might make him crazy, so he goes on and on.
“We have to be logical,” he says. The manic gleam in his eyes is anything but logical, but Geno is in no position to point that out right now. “Who were we with that night?”
“Hockey players,” Geno snaps, and Sidney goes paper white. Geno would feel bad, but he’d warned Sidney that thinking too hard about this would be a bad idea.
“Fine, but—specifically. Who else was at that party?”
Sidney lets out frustrated huff, clenching his fingers over the edges of the certificate and speaking through gritted teeth. “I am trying to figure this out for us, Geno, so you don’t have to be such a fucking asshole about it.”
“Not an asshole,” Geno says, but he feels like an asshole; he’s sure that’s Sidney’s fault somehow. He really can’t help blaming most of this on Sidney, however irrational that is. Geno has partied loads of times without fucking up so colossally. This has to be mostly Sid’s influence, and he can’t actually believe that Sidney would be the bad influence here.
“Look, this signature looks like it has a lot of repeated letters in it. Kind of,” Sidney says, ignoring Geno’s defensive bitching and pointing. “Do you remember lots of repeated letters?”
He’s speaking slowly and patiently, and on one level, Geno knows he’s not actually being condescending—Sidney has never condescended to him, not even as a young kid; he’d cluelessly barrel through a conversation with Geno before he’d condescend to him. But on another level, Geno has to resent that tone of voice, because it means Sidney is trying to keep it together now, and Geno doesn’t think that’s even possible for himself.
“No, don’t meet people, ask to spell their names,” Geno says, and Sidney hurls the certificate onto the floor in front of them in frustration and stands up again.
“Fuck you. Seriously, this sucks, it’s terrible, and it’s terrible that people out there know about it, that at any minute one of these witnesses can talk to the press or post pictures or—and who knows why they haven’t already, right? But you—you’re making it worse, and I didn’t even think that’d be possible.”
Sidney visibly swallows, and Geno has to look away from him, already ashamed. He wants to hold on to his anger, but he knows that it’s misdirected, knows he’s angrier at the situation than he is at Sidney. He can’t yell at the situation.
“This isn’t my fault,” Sidney finishes dully, looking down at the floor, and Geno sighs and wonders when Sidney stumbled onto the art of emotional manipulation. He stands up and takes a few steps toward Sidney, rolling his eyes when Sidney flinches back.
“Sorry, Sid,” Geno says quietly. “I just—I can’t believe.”
“I know,” Sidney says, and he sniffs a little and lets Geno touch his arm, patting at it. “I thought—when I got the paperwork, I thought—at least it was you and not someone totally awful like, I don’t know, Talbot.”
Geno snorts, shaking Sidney’s arm. “Yes. You lucky man.”
“He would—he would fucking take out an ad in the paper,” Sidney says, voice shaking a little, and Geno knows he’s holding back a nervous giggle. It makes him want to smile, though he can’t quite manage that yet.
“Change his name on Twitter and on sweater. Maxime Crosby.”
“Right,” Sidney tells him, and there’s the giggle; it makes Geno feel a bit warmer. Geno squeezes his arm a final time and then lets it go, crossing his arms over his chest and swallowing hard before he speaks.
“What we do, Sid?”
“I called my agent,” Sidney says, brisk and businesslike and relieved, like he’d been waiting for Geno to ask for a game plan all along. “I told him what I knew—which isn’t much, obviously—and he said to contact you and hang tight. He’s gonna figure something out.”
Sidney sounds like he believes with one hundred percent certainty that Pat Brisson will be able to fix this, and Geno envies him that blind faith. “Should call my agent,” Geno says with much less enthusiasm, absolutely dreading the idea, but Sidney shakes his head quickly.
“No need, Pat and Barry were golfing when I got Pat on the phone. They’re both coming by later tonight.” Sidney looks at his watch and winces. “Which means I’ll need to kick Matty out again, ugh. Whatever.”
“Can’t we go to office?” Geno asks, but Sidney shakes his head.
“Pat doesn’t want anyone to know you’re here yet, so we shouldn’t risk being seen. He didn’t want me to go to the airport, but I figured it was the least I could do for you. This is less complicated.”
Matt shows up a few minutes later, as if summoned, and he yells, “Lucy, I’m home!” in an accent. Geno is baffled, not so much by the obvious reference to something he’d never seen (that happens a lot in this country), but by the way Sidney blushes red, glaring at Matt through narrowed eyes.
Matt just beams at him and holds up a bag out of the reach of Paisley’s excited sniffs. “Tacos?”
They eat the tacos sitting around the small kitchen table, dragging in an extra chair from the balcony for Geno. Sidney makes some grossed-out noises at Matt for adding heaps of guacamole to everything he eats, but Matt just grins and easily lets Sidney steal spoonfuls of the stuff shamelessly.
He’s the one that carries the conversation, Sidney seemingly wrapped up in food and Geno not really able to think about anything that doesn’t involve the piece of paper Sidney had shoved into one of his dresser drawers. Matt chirpily asks Geno how long he’s staying, and Geno grunts and pretends not to understand him until Matt starts babbling about their training.
Geno would feel bad about not paying attention or responding, but Sidney really isn’t either, and he’s Matt’s friend, so whatever. Geno eats a few tacos, pets Paisley who’s sitting by his feet like he knows a sucker when he sees one, and tries to conceptualize the fact that he’d apparently gotten drunkenly married to a teammate in Las Vegas. It’s really not one of his best meals in recent memory.
“Pat’s coming by in a little while,” Sidney says suddenly, during what seems like the first moment his mouth isn’t full of food in a long while.
Matt brightens a little. “Oh, cool. We can save him some guac.”
“No, I mean—we need to talk to him alone. I’m sorry.” Sidney truly does sound sorry, sorrier than Geno had expected from him; he’s making eye contact with Matt and everything, frowning deeply. Geno pulls himself out of his anguished head to watch Matt’s shoulders slump a little.
“Oh,” Matt says, and now he’s frowning, too. “Look man, you should tell me what’s going on, you know I won’t—”
“I already told you I can’t,” Sidney says. He sounds tired.
“But I would never say anything, come on! You can’t just keep kicking me out—”
“I’ve kicked you out once, now twice, don’t be a baby.”
That makes Matt’s mouth snap shut abruptly. Geno feels a little guilty, ridiculously. “Fine,” Matt says, rolling his eyes and digging his phone out of shorts pocket. “Whatever, I’ll get out of here. I can probably arrange a pickup game fast enough.” He gives Sidney a triumphant sort of look that goes pretty well with the flash of obvious jealousy that goes over Sidney’s face—Geno knows he’d much rather be at a pickup game than talking to their agents about their crazy accidental marriage, or anything else, really—but Sidney just nods.
“Thanks, Matty,” Sidney says, and then, like he can’t help it: “Don’t overwork yourself.”
“You’re such a lunatic,” Matt says, but he sounds fond, like Flower whenever he chirps Sidney at practice. He gets up and leaves Sidney and Geno to clean up, ruffling Sidney’s hair as he goes in a gesture that makes Geno let out a startled laugh, not expecting that or the pleased expression it gives Sidney.
“What?” Sidney asks, but Geno just shakes his head.
The agents show up as Matt is leaving, converging slightly for Brisson to chat with Matt and greet Paisley warmly. He seems calm and completely unflustered, still dressed in golfing clothes and smelling like expensive cologne. It is Geno’s agent that looks grave, and he barely nods hello to Matt before stepping into the living room.
“Show us,” he says the second the door closes behind Matt, and Sidney whips out a folder full of papers, including the marriage certificate he and Geno had agonized over.
The two agents take a long while to examine the paperwork while Sidney sort of hovers around, asking them if they want anything to eat or drink repeatedly until Geno gets him to sit down and shut up. He puts a hand on Sidney’s knee and then immediately rips it off when Barry raises an eyebrow at them.
“So,” Barry says, and Geno and Sidney both wince. “You don’t remember anything?”
“Nothing,” Sidney says, and Geno nods vigorously. “I thought it—I thought it might come back, you know, if I tried hard enough, but no, nothing, and Geno—not for Geno, either.”
“I try,” Geno puts in firmly. “Nothing, too.”
“Were you on any drugs?” Barry asks plainly, and though he doesn’t look up from the paperwork, Brisson snorts loudly.
Sidney and Geno both shake their heads, but Sidney looks pissed, so Geno is the one to assure him, “No. No drugs, would not—just champagne.”
“I wouldn’t take drugs, are you insane, I just came back from a career-threatening head injury,” Sidney snaps anyway, and Geno resists the urge to slap his hand over his mouth.
“Is it possible that you were drugged without realizing it?” Barry asks, and Sidney freezes beside Geno.
It’s entirely possible, but from the devastated, fearful look on Sidney’s face, Geno knows he has to somehow reassure everyone that that didn’t happen. “No, don’t think so. Know how it feels to be drunk, take drugs—different feeling than we had. Just get really, really drunk, drunk out of face. More drunk than ever.”
“Me too,” Sidney says quietly, and he sounds disgusted with himself. Geno feels his chest clench slightly, and he wants the anger to come back; there’s no place here for pitying either of them.
“I see,” Barry says, and Brisson finally looks up from his paperwork, eyes locking on Sidney and giving him a warm smile.
“Hey, Sid. Stop that. It’s going to be okay, I told you.”
“Yeah,” Sidney sighs, and Geno wants to shove him or maybe hug him until he stops looking like he’d just singlehandedly lost that Flyers series all over again.
“This is not as big of a deal as it seems right now,” Brisson says, very calm and patient. “It’s absolutely fixable. We just need to take our time, lay out our strategy, and tackle this one step at a time.”
“Okay,” Sidney says, and he already sounds a little bit better. Geno feels better, too, and he wonders if the rumors of Pat Brisson being some kind of sorcerer are true.
“Okay,” Brisson echoes. He has a very nice smile, Geno notes. “First thing’s first—who, outside of this room, knows about this, that we’re aware of?”
“No one,” Geno says, and Sidney makes a wordless, wounded noise and points at the marriage certificate.
“There are witness signatures on that, we don’t know who they are, we can’t remember being with anyone else that night and no one has said anything to either of us about it.”
Brisson looks down at the certificate, and his smile gets wry but stays on his face. “Not a problem. I can handle the witnesses.”
“How?” Sidney demands, voice cracking. “We don’t even know who they are!”
“It’s not a problem,” Brisson repeats firmly, and Geno realizes quickly that Brisson must recognize the signatures. They should probably look familiar to him too, then, if they are hockey players, but though he peeks over again, neither ring any bells.
“How can that not be a problem?” Sidney says, getting worked up, and Geno digs a gentle elbow into his side and shushes him before narrowing his eyes at Brisson.
“Who is witness?”
“I assure you that it’s something I can handle,” Brisson says calmly, and he winks at Geno when Sidney drops his face into his hands.
“There are other leaks that need plugging,” Barry puts in. “That will be our top priority right now—handling anyone at the chapel, the hotel, anyone in Vegas who might have seen you guys.”
“It’s a good sign that they’ve kept quiet so far,” Brisson says. Sidney groans a little into his hands, and Brisson rolls his eyes at the top of his head. “We’ll ask that you two work to make sure that there are no new leaks. The information shouldn’t leave the four of us.” He pauses, tilting his head thoughtfully when Sidney snaps his head up and stares. “Okay, point. Five of us, then.”
“Are you sure I should do that?” Sidney asks, frowning hard. “I mean, obviously I have to, right, but—”
“Sidney, if you can’t trust Mario by now, you can’t trust anybody in the world.” Geno’s head is kind of spinning with this, but he feels a sick sort of dread at Mario Lemieux—his boss, not his pseudo-father figure—knowing exactly what kind of colossal fuck-up he’d managed this summer.
Sidney appears to share this sentiment, though, because he dolefully mumbles, “He’s going to be so pissed.”
“Yep,” Brisson chirps; Barry also looks unmoved.
“Okay,” Geno says, feeling impatient and queasy. “How we fix?”
“We’re getting to that,” Barry says. “Over the next few days, Pat and I are going to go around plugging those leaks and covering your tracks. We’re going to ask you two to stay quiet and go about your normal offseason lives, with one caveat—I’ll need you both to stay stateside a little longer, especially you, Evgeni.”
Geno’s stomach sinks, though he’d expected as much. Sidney’s lips are pressed together, and Geno can practically see him stamping down on a tantrum, but he looks at Geno and softens a bit, face suddenly filled with sympathy. Geno nudges his side and looks down at Sidney’s hands folded together in his lap; he’s still wearing that wire, because he is crazy.
“Okay,” Geno says thickly. “Understand.”
“It’s not a problem,” Sidney says, nodding.
Barry nods back. “Good. It will only be for a couple of days, a week at the most. When we’re positive that we have this contained, and that nothing disastrous should happen, you guys can continue your offseason plans.”
“But what about the marriage?” Sidney asks, and Geno is glad he was the one to do it, because he kind of just wants to tug the words out of their agents’ throats.
Barry and Brisson both exchange a look, and even Brisson appears graver, though his smile remains, perpetual and very white. “Well, we have options,” Brisson says. “There are obvious grounds for an annulment, which would be ideal. A divorce would also be pretty simple. The actual act of terminating the marriage isn’t going to be very complicated; it’s a very straightforward process in Pennsylvania.”
“Why would we need to do it in Pennsylvania? Can’t we just do it here?”
Another look is exchanged, and Geno’s bad feeling starts getting worse. “The sensitive issue,” Barry starts carefully, “is the timing of all this. It’s the offseason.”
“Should there be a leak, should these matters of public record become widespread knowledge—and that, Sid, you have to understand that that’s a possibility, and we’ll talk about our contingency plans for that as long as you stop hyperventilating—” Geno thumps quickly at Sidney’s back, his breathing rough and ragged beside him, though a helpless sort of fear has made his blood quicken and his throat tight.
Brisson’s voice seems far away and tinny when it continues. “Taking action to terminate the marriage—already public record, again, you have to accept that—could, in theory, raise the risk of that leak happening. More people are involved. There are paper trails. Annulments and divorces can be very loud, despite every effort otherwise.”
“Should that happen,” Barry says, picking up the thread of Brisson’s point seamlessly. “It would be better to happen during the season, maybe a few weeks into it. If there’s hockey to talk about, hockey to distract everyone—that could make it easier to contain.”
“But what if—” Sidney breaks off, swallowing hard, and Geno is amazed he can even talk; Geno’s own tongue feels like lead. “What if we’re locked out?”
There is a dull, buzzing silence, and then Brisson sighs. “Then it’s even more important to wait for hockey. The media will be looking for anything, any other hint of a narrative to talk about. It’s hard to spin drama out of CBA negotiations, so they’ll look for it elsewhere.”
“So we just—we stay married? Indefinitely?” Sidney’s breathing has gone ragged again, but Geno can’t move to help him this time.
“We don’t know if the lockout’s going to happen. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Brisson sighs again. “Among others.”
“If people find out,” Geno says, and he sounds terrible to his own ears, shell-shocked and devastated. “What we do then?”
“There are measures we can take to stop that from happening,” Barry says quickly, face twisting into one of sympathy and concern. “We’ve laid some out for you already—you go about your normal lives as much as possible, you keep quiet and lie low, you wait this out—and there are even more that Pat and I can take to ensure your privacy and safety.”
“But—you say public record,” Geno says, squeezing his eyes shut. “People can—it can happen.”
“Yes,” Brisson says, gentle but firm. “It can. If it does, we’ll go to Plan B.”
“And what’s that?” Sidney asks, choked out.
Brisson makes eye contact with both of them in turn before he speaks. “We sell it.”
“You’re not going to a hotel,” Sidney says, once Brisson and Barry are gone and they are both hoarse and exhausted. “You can take my room, I’ll take the couch.”
Geno wants to argue. He wants to keep arguing, now possibly just for the sake of arguing, because Plan B is not something he’s ever going to be okay with and he doesn’t like how easily Sidney had folded to it, how quickly he had seemed defeated. Plan B—pretending that he’s been in a relationship with Sidney for years, pretending that he had intended to marry him—isn’t something Geno ever wants to stop arguing against. It’s unfathomable to him, unacceptable. He kind of hates Sidney for accepting it.
But Geno is tired. He is watching Sidney put together sandwiches with shaking hands, and he does not want to be near Sidney right now, but he takes the sandwich Sidney gives him and nods, because he doesn’t have many words left.
They eat in complete silence, the television on but ignored, pointedly not looking at each other. Sidney gets up only to make more sandwiches, and Geno eats until he’s full and then stares down at his empty plate.
His phone has been buzzing with calls from Sergei and Ksenia, and he’d listened to a very accusatory voicemail from Natalie with a broken heart, but he doesn’t know what to say to them yet, so he holds it off until tomorrow.
Sidney puts their plates in the dishwasher, makes up the couch for himself, and when he passes by Geno on the way back from the linen closet, Geno can hear his breathing as careful and measured; he’s counting his own breaths very, very softly. When the front door opens and Matt and Paisley bound in, Sidney’s breathing goes harsh again, and Geno watches him force a smile.
“Whoa,” Matt says, looking at them both, but then he shakes his head and holds up another bag, a mirror of earlier. “Hey, I got milkshakes!”
“Matty,” Sidney says, face kind of crumpling. He takes a milkshake and slings an arm around Matt’s shoulders briefly, shaking him a little, before letting him go and looking at his milkshake like it’s the best thing he’s ever seen in the world.
Geno looks at his own milkshake, and it tastes fine, but it’s not all that great. He still feels hollowed out and awful, and it’s not long before he excuses himself to Sidney’s room, eager to be alone.
He gets as far as changing into sleep clothes and brushing his teeth before Sidney knocks on the door and pokes his head in.
“Sorry,” he says, and Geno shrugs wordlessly. “Just grabbing some clothes. Do you need anything?”
Geno shakes his head, just wanting Sidney to get out. But then he opens his mouth and says, “Sid—” and, to his horror, it’s cresting on a sob.
“I know,” Sidney says quickly. “Believe me, I know.”
“Cannot do Plan B.”
“I know. We probably won’t need to.”
“Jesus, Geno, I know,” Sidney says. He sounds totally wrecked. “Look, we’ll—I get it. We’ll figure out something else, if it comes to that. A Plan C, okay? We’ll do it together, we’ll—together, remember?” He’s looking down at the wire on his ring finger, now revealed to be a wedding band, and Geno shakes his head, both at himself and at Sidney.
The wire is rusty and gross by now, probably turning Sidney’s finger green underneath. “Why you keep wear?” Geno asks, though he’s already pretty sure of the answer.
Sidney flushes a little, hiding his hand under the clothes he has tucked against his front. “I—I’ve had a good summer, before this. Training is going really well. I didn’t want to do anything to mess with that. And I didn’t know it was a—a wedding ring. It can still mean the same thing, though. The same promise.” He chuckles a little. “It’s stupid.”
“Yes,” Geno agrees, but mostly because there was no such promise made at all, and right now he has no desire to ever make such a promise to Sidney. He’s already promised enough without his say-so.
Sidney’s lips kind of press together, but he just nods stiffly.
“Okay. Goodnight, Geno.”
“Night, Sid.” Sidney shuts the door gently behind him.
In bed, which smells like Sidney because it belongs to Sidney, there is nothing for Geno to do but try and calm his racing thoughts and soothe his pounding heart. He tries to listen to the sounds from outside the room: the cicadas chirping in the warm night air, and the sound of highway traffic not far from their street. He can hear the television from the living room, and the sound of Matt and Sidney talking, though not what they’re saying, and after a while, he hears the TV go off and Matt’s bedroom door shut.
Then there is quiet, and Geno is alone, thinking of the wire on Sidney’s finger and the terrors of Plan B. It is a long time before he can fall asleep.
Geno wakes up to the smell of eggs cooking. He rolls over in bed and contemplates just staying there, the very idea of getting up and facing Sidney and his phone full of messages and this whole, awful mess making his stomach turn. But he knows that’s not really an option; they’re supposed to go on with their lives, and wallowing in bed isn’t going to solve anything.
He compromises with himself and takes a long shower before heading down the hall. Sidney and Matt are both squeezed in at the tiny kitchen table again, spooning scrambled eggs onto tortillas and dressed in workout clothes.
Matt grins at Geno with his mouth full, but Sidney just eyes him nervously and takes his time swallowing before speaking. “Hey, there’s—I made eggs for you, too.”
“And there’s hot sauce,” Matt says, pointing at a bottle on the counter. Geno thanks them quietly and makes himself a plate, bypassing the hot sauce for ketchup and trying not to think of the massive breakfast his mother would be forcing on him right now if he were home.
Matt and Sidney had been talking with their heads bent together when Geno walked in, but now they’re quiet, and the air is thick and awkward. Sidney seems determined to look at everything in the room but Geno, which is fair because Geno doesn’t particularly want to look at him, either.
It’s Matt who breaks the silence, startling them both. “So Sid says you’re staying for a bit, that’s cool. Are you gonna train with us?”
Geno opens his mouth to refuse on instinct, but Sidney jumps right in. “You should. I mean, if you want to. Andy won’t mind, and it’ll be good.” He’s still not quite looking at Geno, but he’s at least glancing in his general direction now, and Geno looks back intently. “That’s what you’d be doing at home, anyway, right?”
He’d be doing a lot more than training at home, and much more enjoyably, but Sidney has a point—it will be good, for reasons he doesn’t have to say out loud. Geno is stuck here in LA. He has nothing else to do, nothing to distract him while he waits for Brisson and Barry to return and give them the all-clear.
“Okay,” Geno says. “I train.”
“Cool,” Matt says, and he leans his chair back on its hind legs to reach for the skillet of eggs on the stove, ignoring Sidney’s hissed-out breath of warning. “Eat more, then. We’re doing the run today.”
“Ugh,” Sidney says with feeling, and Geno can’t help smiling into his eggs. Sidney hates running.
Matt lends him clothes that belong to Sidney, wandering through both of their bedrooms and going through Sidney’s dresser with little care as to whose is whose, while Sidney cleans up after them. Geno raises his eyebrows at the fact that Sidney had apparently remade the couch this morning, just as nicely as it had been made up last night, and Sidney flushes deeply red when he sees Geno looking at it and hastily pulls it apart.
“Sorry, I’ll get that out of the way,” Sidney says, clutching the bundle of linens, and Geno just stares at him. He thinks about how he couldn’t have accidentally married a weirder person, and then has to take some deep breaths for a while to keep from laughing hysterically and maybe crying at the same time.
It’s a good day, though, in relative terms (very, very relative, relative perhaps to days where a mass murder occurs). Sidney and Geno talk about exactly nothing except for hockey, strength training, endurance training, the absolute necessity of running and its relevance to hockey (“Trust me, Sid, you wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t relevant,” Andy O’Brien assures him patiently, to the amusement of everyone else).
And that’s if they talk at all; they keep busy enough that they don’t really have to talk, beyond shouted chirps and encouragement that are tossed around between them all. Geno takes it slow at first, easing back into training shape. The wear and tear of their short-lived playoff run is more psychological at this point, evident in how hard Sidney pushes himself and pushes everyone around him, months behind them physically, but Geno can still feel the mild aches all over.
He pushes until they become good aches, satisfying aches of hard work that will linger. It feels good to be in familiar territory with Sidney again, too. They know how to work together, and now that every other aspect of their relationship is terribly uncertain, it feels good to know that this one still exists. That bodes well for the upcoming season, no matter what else happens, and it makes Geno think of the made-up promise he’d made Sidney.
Their peaceful rhythm is broken after they’ve showered and left the practice facility, grabbing takeout on the way home in Sidney’s rental car. Geno offers to run in for the food, repayment for how much Sidney and Matt have been feeding him, and when he returns to the car, Sidney is staring at his phone white-faced and frozen, while Matt plays around with the radio.
Geno doesn’t drop the food in panic, but it’s a close thing.
“What?” he asks Sidney, wary of Matt there but also aware that Sidney could have news that could make Matt finding out about anything all moot anyway. Sidney turns to him and wordlessly holds up his phone, at a loss long enough for Geno to get nervous and angry. “Sid, tell—”
“You need to call home,” Sidney says slowly. “Gonch just called and yelled at me.”
Geno nearly drops the food again, but this time it’s because he’s faint with relief, and he sighs and gets into the backseat of Sidney’s SUV. “Really? What he say?”
“I’m not sure,” Sidney says. “He was asking questions, but I couldn’t exactly answer them, and then he was yelling and I—I hung up.” Geno swallows down a bark of laughter as he passes up the food.
In the passenger seat, Matt has abandoned the radio for the food, and now he’s rolling his eyes at both of them. “Ooh, more secrets. Ooh, drama. Ooh—oh, awesome, you got special sauce! You’re a good man, Geno.”
“Yes,” Geno agrees, and he meets Sidney’s eyes very briefly in the rearview mirror. “I will call Sergei, not bother you again.”
“He didn’t bother me,” Sidney whines, but Geno knows that really he’d scared Sidney, so he decides to leave it alone.
The problem with all this is that he has to call Sergei now, and probably his mother, and probably half a dozen other people who all have questions he can’t answer. He had made a point to email Kadar that morning, feeling guilty about heading out to train with O’Brien and making sure that his arrangements with Kadar could be rescheduled, but the rest of home is still a major minefield. This is not something that anybody will just understand or accept, and he’s not supposed to talk about it anyway.
He has this in mind when he takes his phone into Sidney’s bedroom, leaving Sidney and Matt watching TV with the volume turned pointedly up.
“You are a pest,” Sergei tells him when he answers his phone on the second ring. “A nuisance. It takes Sidney Crosby to get you to pick up your phone?”
“He is my captain,” Geno says, mostly to hear that disgusted, appalled tone in Sergei’s voice when he speaks again. He delivers, completely aghast.
“What does he have you doing out there? Are you being held against your will? He seemed very skittish on the phone with me, very easily spooked. Clearly guilty.”
“He has me training.” Geno thinks about the next questions; he’s not exactly here of his own free will, but that’s not Sidney’s fault, really, and he doesn’t need Sergei calling him again to yell (or worse, Ksenia calling and yelling). “I really can’t say much more.”
There is a very flat silence that buzzes over the phone, and then there is lots of laughter in Sergei’s voice when he says, “I see.”
Five minutes later, Geno has told Sergei everything. He’s managed to get it all out without yelling or shaking his fists at the sky or crying, and he’s pretty proud of that. Geno thinks he might be getting better at handling this, a little.
Then Sergei says, very quietly, “What are you going to do, Zhenya?” and all of Geno’s pride goes to shit, because he wants to curl up in bed with the lights off and the covers drawn and never think about doing anything to do with marriage again.
“I told you the plan,” Geno says, struggling to keep his voice even and calm. “We wait, our agents are working on keeping this quiet, and then we get an annulment a few weeks into the season. Simple.” Geno quite likes Plan A, mostly because the Plan B alternative still makes him want to vomit. He will cling to Plan A as long as he can.
Sergei does not sound very impressed. “So you’re just going to—stay married? To Sidney Crosby?”
“Yes,” Geno says. He bites on his fist to keep from laughing hysterically at the thought. “When the agents come back and tell us everything’s fine, I’m coming home for the summer, maybe longer if the lockout happens. We will not have to do anything that other married people do; we won’t even be in the same country for most of the marriage.”
“I think you’re in shock,” Sergei says, clearly concerned. “What if—”
“Do not think about what could happen,” Geno cuts in, voice pleading. “Please, I can’t think about that. I’ll go crazy. Sid will go crazier. I can handle this as long as it’s just a stupid piece of paper. It will be fine once I’m home.”
“Do you want me to come out there?” Sergei asks, and Geno’s heart clenches, even as he shakes his head.
“No, you’re not supposed to know about this. No one is supposed to know, Sid will kill me.”
“I don’t care about Sid, your life can be completely ruined by this! If you need me, I’m flying out—”
“I don’t need you,” Geno says firmly, and that may or may not be true, but it’s not really pertinent. “And Sid’s life can be ruined by this, too. We should both remember that; he’s doing the best he can.” He realizes as he says it that it’s true, and that he should really consider that more. They’re both doing the best they can to keep it together, and Geno thinks he could probably be doing something to make that easier.
It is this revelation that makes him feel slightly better once he gets off the phone with Sergei, having promised to call regularly and more than that if he needs something. It’s a little easier to go out and face Sidney again, to sit down on the armchair and try to smile over at where Sidney and Matt are sharing the couch and arguing over what movie to watch.
Geno lets them argue and smoothly swipes the remote from the coffee table, sharing a conspiratorial look with Paisley and looking at the TV. “I pick,” Geno says firmly, and while Matt concedes to that quickly and Sidney holds out a little longer, when Geno looks over, Sidney also has something close to an attempted smile on his face.
It’s easier that night to fall asleep, though still weird in Sidney’s bed. Geno listens to the sounds from outside the room and notes that Sidney and Matt might be arguing again; they’re talking loudly and in Matt’s bedroom, and at the end of it someone yells, “Fine!” and a door slams. Geno waits curiously, but the condo falls quiet, and Geno falls asleep.
There are no audible or visible signs of their argument in the morning, though Geno watches them carefully over breakfast. Sidney and Matt pass syrup back and forth between them natural as anything, hands practically blurred as they eat frozen waffles, and Geno kind of enjoys the familiarity of it; it’s a bit like having breakfast with the team again.
The beddings on the couch are twisted up and clearly slept in, not remade and fussed with like yesterday, so Geno hopes that means Sidney is feeling a bit more relaxed, like Geno had resolved to be.
Then Matt says, “So, you two got married?” and Sidney groans very loudly.
Geno blinks, shoving down on the now also familiar panic rising up inside of him, and he narrows his eyes over at Sidney. “Sid. Serious?”
“I’m sorry,” Sidney says, rubbing at his temples. “It just—I don’t know, I had to tell him. It was weird not telling him.”
“Gonna be weird not tell other people,” Geno says as sternly as he can. “Not tell team, can’t tell team.”
“Oh man, I know that. I know that, for sure. I’m not going to tell the team.” Sidney glares balefully over at Matt. “Matt’s not on the team, anyway.”
“Nope,” Matt chirps, grinning over the rim of his glass of orange juice. Sidney just huffs and then looks at Geno with wide, guilty eyes that would make someone crack even if they weren’t as soft as Geno is, really.
“He’s not going to tell anybody, I promise we can trust him.”
“He’s sitting right here, and he promises too,” Matt says, and he looks at Geno seriously. “Really, I promise. What happens in the Love Shack stays in the Love Shack.”
“Please stop calling it that,” Sidney says, head bowed, but it snaps back up when Geno starts laughing as he realizes that Matt’s talking about the condo.
“Love Shack? Yes, so much love here,” Geno says, shaking out a deep belly laugh he hadn’t thought he’d be capable of now.
Matt grins widely at him and waggles his eyebrows. “Well, yeah, this is your honeymoon suite! I’m just third wheelin’ it, man.”
“I’m going to kill you,” Sidney promises, but Geno is laughing too hard to make any such threats.
It turns out to be good that Matt knows, simply because he can joke about it when Sidney and Geno can’t, until they can. He’s quiet around other people, as promised, but he hums a wedding march as Sidney walks to his car, and calls him Mr. Malkin, and hands him a fake flower bouquet in Walmart, telling him to toss it. Geno laughs until he feels sick through all of this, ridiculously grateful that someone can find the absurd humor in this fucked up situation.
He keeps expecting Sidney to freak out—there’s always a limit to how much teasing and joking around Sidney will take in the locker room before he either shuts down or flips—but if anything, he seems relieved. His shoulders relax a little more every time Matt makes a joke, every time Geno laughs at one. At one point, he even jokes back. “Why’d you assume I took Geno’s name? Evgeni Crosby sounds like an okay name.”
Geno doubles over in the backseat of the rental car, practically crying, and he sees Matt beaming at Sidney more brightly than he’s ever seen, shining. “Nah,” Matt says, sounding utterly delighted. “You’re a modern couple, hyphenate that shit.”
“Okay, I can live with that,” Sidney says, and he actually winks at Geno in the rearview. Geno stops laughing long enough to wink back, and it’s been a good day.
Most days after that are pretty good, sunny and full of hard work and good takeout and a few trips to the beach, where Sidney is a fanatic about sunscreen for both Matt and Geno and forgets about his own face. Geno takes great joy in chirping Sidney for his bright red nose that night, when they get some drinks with the rest of the guys they train with at a bar in Santa Monica.
By unspoken rule, Geno and Sidney take it easy, but Matt goes all out with margaritas, ignoring anyone that rips on him and getting happy, silly and loose. He leans over and whispers something in Sidney’s ear that makes the rest of his face go as red as his nose, and Geno is ridiculously curious but lets it go easily enough when Matt rounds on him, shoving a salted glass under his face and giving him a drunkenly stern look.
“Help me finish this,” Matt says, and Geno smiles.
“Think you don’t need help, Matty.”
“No, but I want help.” Geno knows from the past few days in the condo that Matt can be ridiculously stubborn when it comes to small things—like shower-hogging, Sid, or Geno trying to insist that they watch Russian-language movies with subtitles, because if Matt wanted to read something he’d pick up a book, not watch a movie—and it just seems easier now to nod, rolling his eyes, and reach out for the glass.
“No, not here,” Matt says, yanking the glass back. “Out here, come on.”
Geno patiently follows Matt outside onto a patio set up with tables and umbrellas, overlooking the ocean and flooded with hanging lamplight. He looks back but Sidney doesn’t notice, deep in conversation with someone, probably discussing squats or complaining about running or one of his other favorite topics.
He and Matt get a table to themselves and pass the margarita back and forth quietly. Geno takes miniscule sips while Matt peers at him, looking thoughtful and very drunk. Geno smiles back and looks out at the water, until Matt starts talking abruptly.
“So you know I’m leaving soon, right?”
“Yes,” Geno says. “I am leaving, too. Going home.”
“Well, I’m leaving the day after tomorrow,” Matt says. “I mean, it’s really soon.”
“Yes, Matt. Is circled on calendar.”
“Okay. So I’m gonna say this now, because I might forget before I leave.” Matt takes a deep breath and then looks Geno square in the eye. “This accidental marriage thing sucks, yeah?”
Geno thinks about it, because it really does, but he’s been better about not obsessing over how it much it sucks lately. So he shrugs, then nods when Matt just keeps staring at him. “Yes. Sucks. Point?”
“Right, it sucks, it sucks for you and it sucks for Sid and it really, really sucks for me, man, like—you don’t even know—” He breaks off, and Geno has no idea what he’s talking about, but he suspects he’s not going to find out, because Matt just shakes his head roughly and squints. “But that’s not the point.”
“What is point?”
“The point is that it sucks, but—it’s going to be okay.” Geno swallows hard at that, at the naked belief in Matt’s voice.
“Yeah? How you know?”
“You wanna know how I know?” Matt says. “I know because you’re Evgeni Malkin, man. You’re the shit. You can do anything you want, you’re the fucking Hart winner. And that—that guy in there, the crazy guy? The one who flipped the Monopoly board over the other night ‘cause I got Broadway? That lunatic is the best hockey player in the world. He’s my hero. He can do anything, too. So it’s gonna be okay. If you don’t make sure of that, he will.”
Matt nods firmly, very sure. Geno’s throat feels kind of tight, but he nods back, just as firm, and can nearly believe him.
“Thank you, Matty.”
It’s hard to say goodbye to Matt after that, though Geno tells himself he’d be saying goodbye soon anyway. Geno hugs Paisley, hugs Matt, and tries not to feel hopelessly sad watching Sidney do the same thing, hugging Matt extra tight and then clearing his throat and saying, “Yeah, I’ll walk you out.”
“You know I’m gonna see you in Vail, right?” Matt says, letting Sidney walk him through the door with Paisley bounding out ahead of them. “I’m not going to the moon, you’re gonna see me again.”
“Shut up,” Geno hears Sidney say gruffly, and the door closes behind them.
The atmosphere in the condo becomes weird and awkward the way it had been on the first day once Matt is gone. Sidney kind of sulks around for a while, doing laundry and helping Geno switch from Sidney’s room to Matt’s room but saying very little, and Geno rarely ever knows what to say when Sidney’s in a mood. Geno finds himself wishing this wasn’t a day off, missing the distraction of training almost as much as the buffer of Matt.
“Let’s eat on the balcony,” Sidney says at dinnertime, so they take their food out to the balcony and light a few bug lanterns as dusk starts falling around them. There’s not much space but the air is cool and nice on Geno’s face, and it’s less weird to be quiet with each other out here than it is trapped inside the condo together.
“Good idea,” Geno says. Sidney smiles at him, obviously pleased, and Geno has to remind himself that this is Sidney, and Sidney is a fairly simple, easy-to-please person. Praise his various plans or his work ethic, talk about something related to hockey or training or competition, and Sidney’s happy. Sidney is not a complete mystery to him, and so being around him this much should not be so awkward, even in their circumstances.
“Run tomorrow,” Geno tries with a small, teasing grin. Sidney makes a face with his fork in his mouth and answers with his eyes lit up, despite his defensive tone.
“I’m fine with that now, I’m a good runner. It’s even better with the weight vest, and I’m making good time.”
“But you still hate.”
“Yeah,” Sidney says, nodding thoughtfully and shrugging. He looks down at his pasta dish. “It’s just so hard to get started. Once I get going, I’m fine. But don’t you ever have trouble getting going?”
Geno thinks about it, considering. He understands that better in terms of the ice—sometimes he’ll come out during the start of a game feeling like there are weights in his skates, like nothing is clicking yet and it’s not going to click because he’s not good enough. The problem is thinking that too much.
“Yes,” Geno says slowly, and Sidney looks on with interest. “But I just—stop think. Stop think and go, just go.”
“Just go,” Sidney repeats, as if testing out the words. “Yeah. That’s what I wanted to do this summer. Just go. And then—” He breaks off and looks at the wire on his finger. Geno huffs a little and reaches out to poke the wire with the tip of his finger.
“Still go. We not let crazy piece of marry paper ruin season, right?” Sidney shakes his head, eyes wide, like the thought is horrific. Geno smiles at him. “So go. Season start, rest of league better watch out, no matter what, because you go, and you not stop.”
“You too,” Sidney says, and he looks proud. Geno grins and pokes the wire again.
“Yes. I follow you out, remember? You go, I go.”
“I like that,” Sidney says. His eyes are warm and his mouth is turned up in a brilliant smile. Geno doesn’t want to look away from him.
He means it entirely when he says, “Me too.”
It’s only another day before they are called in to Brisson and Barry’s office and assured that everything is okay. They aren’t let in on many details of how many mouths the agents had had to bribe or threaten shut, and though Sidney looks like he wants to demand those details, Geno manages to shush him by waving a hand in his face.
“Can go home now?” Geno asks, and when Brisson smiles at him and nods, even Sidney relaxes completely.
“Okay,” Sidney says, breathing easier. “Yeah, home will be good.”
“Yes it will,” Brisson tells him. “Just try not to worry about anything. Try to forget this even happened. It’ll be easier to be normal and keep it under wraps then.”
“And if the worst happens, we will all be able to handle it,” Barry adds, and Geno still feels horribly sick at that thought, and it’s not conducive to forgetting that this happened. But it’s something that Barry has to say, and he does feel better when Barry goes on to say, “But we’ve made it so that the likelihood of that happening is low. We will continue to do that, and hopefully by the fall, we can have this completely behind us.”
Geno likes the sound of that, and he shakes hands with both men before heading back to the condo with Sidney to arrange flights and send emails.
It’s another day before he’s actually all set to head home, and he and Sidney are ready together, packed into Sidney’s rental and heading to the airport at the same time. The drive is a good one, relaxed and giddy with thoughts of home, of summer really starting, but before Sidney drops Geno off so he can go turn in his rental, he turns to him with a serious frown.
“We never came up with a Plan C.”
“It’s okay,” Geno says, because he almost fully believes that now. He believes in his agent and he believes in Sidney’s agent, who has to be the best at what he does just by nature of representing Sidney.
But Sidney shakes his head. “No, I will come up with one, I promise.”
“Gonna be okay, Sid.”
“I know it will, that’s what I’m telling you. Whatever happens, I’m not gonna let this ruin your life, because that’s not fair.”
Now it’s Geno’s turn to frown. “Not fair to you too.”
Sidney looks frustrated, but he answers calmly. “Right, of course, but—it’s different for me, a little. You know why. And it’s—I’ve always been at risk for something like this, way more than you ever were. I’ve been preparing myself to handle it for a long time.”
“Don’t understand,” Geno says, but Sidney doesn’t look eager to explain further, and he shakes his head.
“It’s okay, it’s not—that’s not important. What I’m saying is that, whatever we have to do, whatever I have to do—we’ll be fine if this crazy thing we did goes public. I promise, okay?”
Geno’s eyes flick involuntarily to the wire around Sidney’s finger, and he can’t help feeling touched by the fierce protectiveness in Sidney’s voice. He pokes at the wire and gives Sidney his warmest grin. “Okay, Sid. I trust you.”
“Good,” Sidney says shortly, but his smile is bright and relieved.
“And I promise too, we be fine, together,” Geno adds, nodding toward the wire. “We promise together, yeah?” They really hadn’t, not to Geno’s memory, but now it doesn’t seem like such a terrible promise to make, married or not.
“Yeah,” Sidney says, and Geno didn’t think it was possible, but his smile goes even brighter. “Together.”
And then it is eight months before Sidney and Geno see each other again.
The first thing Geno feels when he hears about the lockout is dread. Sergei also receives the news like he’d just been informed of a terminal illness, and Geno can’t stand the concerned looks he constantly gets from him and Ksenia. The lockout means more for him than no NHL hockey. It means waiting longer to fix the mess he had gotten himself into in the beginning of the summer, the mess he had managed to mostly forget at home.
But then Geno remembers all of his agent’s advice, remembers how he had managed to salvage a perfectly normal summer out of this shitshow, and decides there is nothing to be done except to continue being normal.
He signs a Metallurg contract with pointed, determined focus, easily bullies Sergei into doing the same, and bans any talk of marriage from their conversation. Here, Geno is not married to Sidney Crosby. Here, he is home and he is a hockey player and he will do his best for his hometown team, and he is happy for the chance to do so.
In the end, the second thing that Geno feels as the lockout drags on is relief. He is happy here, happy in a way that makes his life in America pale unfortunately in contrast, even without considering the marriage. He is proud of the hockey he plays here, likes having more space and a bit more freedom, and enjoys the way he clicks with the men who all speak his language. It is comfortable very quickly, and the longer Geno stays, the happier he gets.
His only contact with Sidney amounts to text updates about the CBA negotiations that he really doesn’t care to hear. It makes him feel guilty, sometimes, to know that Sidney is stuck again, that Geno had told him to just go and now he can’t, and that he’s dealing with the added pressure of the negotiations on top of that feeling. Geno hopes he has managed to successfully put the marriage out of his mind, and the risk of it being publicized.
Geno can’t imagine Sidney withstanding this state of limbo forever, imagines him coiled up like a spring, ready to snap at a moments’ notice. Reporters ask Geno about Sidney’s plans for hockey outside of the NHL, and though Geno doesn’t know any specifics, hadn’t asked, he states his own sound logic: Sidney will not last long without playing. He will not go another whole year without hockey.
He finds out about Brisson’s inquiries into Metallurg through his Russian agent, and he feels totally awful when he’s slightly relieved to hear it’s not going to work out. Geno wants Sidney to play, and he loves playing with Sidney. But bringing Sidney into this world, his world, would be bringing the marriage into it, no matter what kind of awkward peace they had managed to strike up. Sidney is no longer just his teammate.
The guilt gnaws at him, though, throughout the winter, as Sidney goes longer without playing and Geno continues playing, until he finds it superseding the nagging, quiet fear of being found out. It’s not his fault that there’s a lockout, but the other mess, the mess that could turn into a bigger mess than the lockout could ever be—Geno has an equal share of fault in that. He should be shouldering it, feeling it, as Sidney is no doubt shouldering it and everything else.
He tries calling Sidney, but if anything that makes it worse. Sidney is tired and withdrawn on the phone, never a phone person to begin with, and though Geno tries to make him feel better by talking about hockey, the wistfulness that Sidney answers him with just breaks his heart.
“I’m so glad you’re doing so well,” Sidney says, and Geno swallows hard because Sidney means it so much. “I’ve been keeping an eye on your numbers, you know, just—curiosity, and I watch when I can—”
“Sid,” Geno says, feeling wretched, but he doesn’t know what else to do except to sigh, “Thank you. Best captain.”
“You’re a captain now, too,” Sidney says. He sounds so proud that when Geno hangs up, he has to put his head in his hands for a few minutes and take a few steadying breaths.
He doesn’t call Sidney again after that, and he only responds to a few more of his texts.
Geno tries, again, to forget about Sidney, and forget about the marriage, and he is happy, really, to be where he is, to be playing with who he is playing with.
But he goes out with his team and there are women, and Geno cannot forget then. There are always women, and sometimes there are men, and it is one of the things that Geno likes most about being home: he is never lonely, not in any way. Any need can be filled easily and discreetly.
That night, that need is not something he can allow himself to fill. He looks at women, talks to them, talks to men who will know how to be quiet, but nothing can stir him. Geno thinks, instead, of Sidney, and if he is lonely, and just the possibility of it makes Geno feel terrible.
“You’re crazy,” Sergei says when he figures out what’s happening without having to be told. Geno really hates it when he does that. “You were the one who said it was just a piece of paper.”
“It’s not because of that,” Geno says, but now he’s thinking about the piece of paper. He’s looking at his group of friends and imagining what they would think if they ever found out about that piece of paper.
Not much, probably; Geno knows the problem would be everyone else finding out about the piece of paper. Geno’s brand of mild, secret bisexuality is fine in his circle because of who he is and how he goes about it, with the keyword being secret. A public marriage to a man, accidental or not, would be ridiculously shameful. It would be devastating.
That piece of paper can absolutely ruin his life, Geno knows. It very well might someday. Thinking about that with the bitter taste of vodka in the back of his throat makes it easier to resolve not to let it ruin anything else about him. If Sidney is allowing that to happen, well, that part’s not Geno’s fault.
“You’re right,” Geno says to Sergei, finishing his drink and making eye contact with someone beautiful. “I am crazy.”
He takes a woman home, but he doesn’t feel great about it. He doesn’t do it much more after that.
Even so, even with the guilt and the persistent, if stabilized fear, leaving home to return to Pittsburgh when the lockout ends is the hardest thing Geno has ever done. He hates himself for it, hates himself for having to do it, and absolutely dreads the date as it arrives.
He arrives in Pittsburgh exhausted, missing his home and his family like nothing he’s ever missed before. Somehow, more time with them had made it worse; he’d become more entrenched in that life, and it makes his Pittsburgh life feel like a completely different world, like he’s never going to fit into it again.
Geno feels awful for thinking that as soon as he sees his team again, as soon as he into pulled into their arms and slapped on his back and deafened by their yells. Everyone is just so happy, happy to see him and happy to play again, it’s hard not to be caught up in it.
Sidney is the only one that mostly keeps his distance, and that is only weird because Geno is the only one he keeps his distance with. He actually just shakes Geno’s hand for his first greeting, looking shy and uncertain enough that the entire room is staring at him, until Duper grabs the back of Sidney’s neck and shakes him around.
“What the hell kind of welcome is that, Sid?” Duper says. Geno smiles at them a bit stiffly, Sidney’s awkwardness seeping into his own mood and dimming it considerably. Sidney shrugs, rolling his eyes when Duper just shakes him again. “That’s Geno, remember? We like him.”
“He’s all right,” Sidney concedes with a small grin, and though everybody laughs, and Geno laughs with them, Sidney still doesn’t really look at him.
It’s different on the ice, of course. Sidney never shuts up at practices unless one of the coaches are talking, and even then he’s always right on their heels. He talks to Geno as much as he does anyone, sometimes asking him things, sometimes telling him things, and Geno either tunes him out or listens when it’s appropriate, which is also normal. It’s easier to jump right in when things feel normal, and so Geno has to push aside Sidney’s odd, distant locker room behavior to make this feel as normal as possible.
It’s still not that easy, though. Even at practice, there is so much less space here. The first time he sees Cookie chipping the puck into the zone and chasing after it, he has to bite his lip to keep from calling something disparaging out at him.
Dan’s system is unchanged from last year but simpler than what he has gotten used to, tightened up and more controlled, and it is hard to adjust at first. Geno receives multiple warnings from coaches and players about trying to do too much with the puck while he’s carrying it in, and the first turnover he makes off a simple backcheck from Duper has him slamming his stick on the ice, a little harder than he’d meant to.
“Hey,” Sidney says, halfway across the ice and not even part of this drill but ever watchful, as always. “Relax. It’s only day one for you, this is why we have camp.”
“Drama queen,” Nealer hisses as he skates by, grinning widely, and Geno plants his glove in his face and smiles tightly over at Sidney.
“Sorry, I scare Lazy, I know.”
“Not in front of the children,” Sidney says, nodding at their Wilkes-Barre invitees, and Geno feels his smile go a little brighter.
The last conversation he has with Sidney that day has to do with speed and simplicity and defensive responsibility, and it takes place as everyone else is wandering off the ice and horsing around with the rookies. Part of him wants to bring something else up, anything else, to ask about Vail or about Matt or about Sidney’s family, but the second they step into the locker room, Sidney withdraws again.
He laughs at something that Tanger says, flails around when Flower throws a wet, sweaty towel at him, tells Jayson Megna that his shot had impressed him today, and acts completely and utterly normal around everyone except for Geno. It’s obvious, and it only really bothers Geno because it’s so obvious; other people notice. That is not in line with the instructions of subtlety and secrecy that their agents had given them.
For Sidney to go against his agent’s instructions, he must be really weirded out by this whole thing, and thinking of that keeps Geno’s annoyance level down, barely. No one actually comments on Sidney’s weirdness, though they both get a few long looks from Chris and Flower, but Geno doesn’t have the energy to actively do anything about it today. They have time to sort out anything like that; like Sidney said, it’s only day one.
In a few weeks, the marriage issue will be officially over, anyway. This is something Geno has to forcibly remind himself when he catches Sidney just out of the shower and sees that damned wire still around his ring finger. Sidney looks down and walks by him and Geno grits his teeth and keeps going.
“You’ve got nothing to eat in your house,” Nealer tells Geno, like he has any kind of authority over the matter. It’s a true statement, though, and even as Geno protests and claims more truth in his exhaustion, Nealer drags him to Paulie’s house for food.
They order takeout, which is incredibly stupid because Geno could’ve done that at his house, anyway. “Yeah, but you’d do it alone, dumbass,” Nealer says, rolling his eyes so hard that Geno informs him solemnly that he hopes his face gets stuck like that.
He falls asleep in a recliner in Paulie’s media room, where Paulie shakes him gently awake. “I can drive you home, or I have a guestroom made up,” Paulie says softly, and though it takes a while for Geno to blink around and remember where he is, he ultimately shakes his head.
Nealer is sacked out on the couch, snoring loudly with his mouth wide open, and Geno smiles at him and smiles at Paulie. “Have hands full, I can go,” Geno tells him, and thanks Paulie with a hug at the door and leaves.
The rest of training camp passes exactly the same way, except most things get easier. Skating gets easier, and falling back into the rhythm of the team happens faster than Geno thought it would. He deals with the musical chairs routine for his left winger, enjoys skating with some more than others but knows that there’s not enough time to form real line chemistry, and resolves to make do.
Nealer fits back in with him seamlessly, like an extension of his own body on his right side, and when Geno overskates Eric Tangradi for the umpteenth time, he grits his teeth and pushes through, deciding Nealer will have to be enough.
He resolves to make do with Sidney, too, off the ice. Their on-ice chemistry is fine, and Geno revels in power play time because it helps to trust every person he passes to. The results are exciting and indicative of how it would take a complete disaster, on a larger scale even than the accidental marriage, to mess up Sidney and Geno’s play.
Off the ice is an entirely different story, though. Sidney ignores him except for token niceties, and only when they’re around other people. They’re never alone anyway, Sidney avoiding him like he smells bad or something, and Geno deals with as much grace as he can muster, which means a lot of grinding of his teeth and jabs from Nealer’s elbow, warning him that he looks like he’s trying to disintegrate Sidney with his eyes.
“Seriously, what did you do to him over the summer?” Nealer asks him, plying him with beer and wings from Paulie’s kitchen, as if either of those are acceptable bribes.
Geno just shrugs, because the true answer is that he’d married Sidney, but that had seemed okay when they’d last left things off. “Don’t know, but will be normal soon,” Geno says, and he’s almost sure of that; Sidney will stop being weird once they end the marriage. He has to.
It’s strange to figure out that he actually misses Sidney. Before all of this, he and Sidney hadn’t been all that close, and the marriage certainly hadn’t brought them closer together. If anything, Geno feels closer to Matt Duchene as a result of the marriage; sometimes they text.
Even so, Sidney’s complete and total absence from his life off the ice feels like a bigger hole than he ever could’ve imagined. He can’t quite wrap his head around that completely, can’t understand this feeling of missing Sidney when it wasn’t like they were always together before. It just feels like a pointed absence now, an avoidance, purposeful and leaving Geno at fault for something, and Geno hates that feeling.
He’d always liked making Sidney laugh too loudly. He misses that, too, and he feels really weird about it.
He manages it during the Black and Gold game, but it’s not all that special because Sidney’s laughing at everything. He’s exultant, feeding off the crowd and cheering on all the rookies, regardless of whether or not they’re on the white team with him, and he bumps sides with Geno on the bench and hugs him after a goal and something in Geno starts to settle, a little bit. This is the first time Sidney has hugged Geno in a very long time.
It might be foolish to hope that the warmth lasts after the game, and it doesn’t. Sidney doesn’t touch him in the dressing room, barely looks at him, touching and laughing with everybody else. He’s polite when he tells him they had a good game, and he sounds happy, but that’s because he’s talking about a game, and Geno has to swallow hard, because he’s never managed to make Sidney sound that happy, but he thinks he’s come close. He’d like to come close again.
It’s this thought that makes Geno watch Sidney leave the arena, wait a little while for him to get a head start, and then follow him home.
“Geno,” Sidney says when he opens the door, eyebrows raised and eyes wide. He looks caught off guard and annoyed about it, half out of his clothes, and Geno just raises his eyebrows back and stands his ground. “What are you doing here?”
“Come to see husband,” Geno says, and it’s meant to get a rise out of Sidney, to piss him off enough to tantrum his way through whatever problem he has right now. But instead it makes him blush, and Geno can’t look away, fascinated and confused.
“Can you not talk like that?” Sidney asks pleadingly, but he doesn’t look shiftily around for any nosy neighbors or anything. He just looks pained, and that makes Geno feel like a dick, which is incredibly stupid because Geno hasn’t been the one acting like a dick.
“Talk like truth. You forget over summer?” He’s conflicted about hoping the answer is yes; on the one hand, he wants Sidney to have been able to put it out of his mind, as instructed, as Geno had mostly been able to do. But on the other hand, if Sidney had truly managed to forget, then he has another problem with Geno, one that he can’t even fathom.
In any case, he still feels like shit when Sidney lowers his head and says, “No,” with sullen defeat.
“Let me in,” Geno says gently, and he pushes inside just as gently when Sidney doesn’t move.
Sidney just stands around awkwardly while Geno takes off his shoes and his coat and looks around Sidney’s new house. He’s never seen it before, and had always pictured it in his mind as a barren, never-finished design project that Sidney would eventually abandon for safer, Lemieux-guarded harbors again.
But Sidney’s house is finished now, and it’s nice—meticulously thought-out and very Sidney, since the layout bears a strong resemblance to Mario’s guesthouse on a larger scale. The contents are a weird mix of lived-in and still in progress, neat piles of books, DVDs and videogames scattered all over the carpeted living room floor, with one of Sidney’s sweaters thrown over the back of the couch. Sidney eventually follows Geno in on his silent inspection and snatches the sweater away, rolling his eyes when Geno smirks at him.
“I’m still organizing,” he says stubbornly. “This stuff—I have rooms that are supposed to be just for this kind of stuff, but I don’t have enough actual stuff to fill them all, so—listen, shut up. You hired people to do your house, and it looks like you hired the Russian mob, anyway. I did mine all by myself, it was hard.”
Geno holds his stomach while he laughs, leaning on the back of the couch—he recognizes it from Mario’s guesthouse, and the entire room had been designed to match it. He already kind of loves this house just on those grounds.
“I like new house, Sid,” Geno says when he stops laughing. “Nice couch.” He raises a sly eyebrow at Sidney. “Show me rink?”
Sidney scowls at him. “No. You’re just going to make fun of me like Flower.” He drops down onto the couch, still stubbornly scowling and holding the sweater in his hands. “It’s so stupid, sleeping on a rink would be really uncomfortable, no one would do that, not even a synthetic rink.”
Geno grins and sits down on the couch next to him, patting Sidney’s knee lightly. “Yes, poor Sid, Flower make you suffer. Is nice house really, though. After we talk, you give me full tour.” He thinks about his next words, then rolls his eyes inwardly at himself and goes for it. “Should know how husband lives.”
Predictably, Sidney goes red again, though he holds on to his scowl for dear life. “Ugh. Geno.”
“You being weird, so I keep talk about,” Geno tells him plainly. “You be normal, I be normal, too. That’s deal we make.”
Sidney sighs heavily and long-sufferingly. “Yeah okay, normal, but—” He breaks off, frowning deeply, and Geno taps at his knee again.
“You know how be normal, Sid. We do over the summer, in LA. We do okay.”
“It was different,” Sidney says. “Still weird, but different than now. And it was only a few days. I just—I’ve been trying to figure some things out.”
That sounds extremely ominous, and Geno fits on his sternest face. “I say stop thinking, you never listen.”
“I listen,” Sidney protests automatically, and his brow furrows. “And I can’t just stop thinking, that’s impossible.”
“You impossible,” Geno says, entirely serious but probably sounding not nearly harsh enough. It’s kind of impossible to be harsh with Sidney when he’s like this, caught up in his own head and determined to find his own way out of it. For all his talk, Geno can at least understand the feeling. “Maybe I help figure out? Have to talk, though.”
“I don’t know what to say yet,” Sidney says, face suddenly clear and open. Geno stares back at him, patient and wide-eyed, hoping he doesn’t have to draw out the big guns of how they have to do this for the team.
He thinks Sidney can read that from him, though, because he sighs again and tilts his head back against the couch, squinting up at the ceiling. “Okay. I’ll try. It’s like—I’ve been wondering why we did this.”
Geno turns that over in his head a bit, and then shakes his head. “Easy. We drunk.”
“That can’t be the only reason,” Sidney says. “There had to be some kind of rationale, some kind of thought process. I just want to figure out what that was.” He holds his left hand up in front of his face, fingers spread, staring at the wire around his ring finger. Geno barely resists swearing under his breath.
“Drive yourself crazy, Sid. Not remember by now, not remember ever.”
“I know that,” Sidney tells him, frowning again. “But I still think I can figure it out. It’s us, you know? I know us.”
“Crazy,” Geno repeats, but he feels a little better when Sidney just glares at him again. It makes him feel okay saying what he came here to actually say. “Stop being dick.”
Sidney appears to consider that. “Yeah, okay. You’re right, that wasn’t helping anyway.”
Geno thinks he could know Sidney Crosby for the rest of life and still not understand half the things that go on in his head. “Nice saying sorry.”
That gets him a dismissive wave, and then Sidney sits up a little straighter. “Hey, you hungry? Nathalie brought over a casserole. Chicken, I think.” His face and voice are bright, and Geno can’t squash down a grin.
“Okay. Forgive you.”
“Whatever,” Sidney says, and he leads Geno into his kitchen.
Everything is better once the season starts.
Wins are wins, even as it’s clear the team is still working through some adjustments, and it’s good to start out the right way. Geno is in turns frustrated, excited, disappointed and satisfied with his own level of play as the situation on his left wing becomes even more glaringly problematic through games, and it is so easy to remember why he loves this team, warts and all.
Two wins followed by two fairly embarrassing losses are enough to make Sidney’s mouth set in a stubborn, focused line, but he doesn’t pull away from Geno again, and Geno is glad for it. They talk about the Tangradi situation together, sit next to each other for at least one team dinner, and they sketch out the shape of the young season as much as they can.
They also talk about Vail, and the movie Geno had been in, and get into a lengthy argument about whole grain waffles versus regular waffles. Sidney looks embarrassed when he notices the team taking a collective sigh of relief over them hanging out again, but he doesn’t say anything.
Nealer does, though, because of course he does. “I’m glad Mom and Dad stopped fighting,” he says loudly in the dressing room. Sidney’s ears go red and he pretends not to have heard, but Geno has to stop and stare at him as everyone else laughs.
“Who is Mom?”
“Sid,” Nealer says promptly, smiling sweetly. “He’s the nice one. You’re the bully.”
“I bully because you are lazy,” Geno insists, but nobody will back him up on this. Later, when Tangradi accidentally gets in Geno’s way heading to the showers and he jumps away, scurrying off with his head down and mumbling apologies Geno doesn’t quite catch, he wonders if Nealer might have a point.
Neither being nice to Tangradi nor putting the fear of God into him helps improve the situation on left wing, though, and neither does his improved off-ice relationship with Sidney. As such, after being humiliated by the Islanders in their own house, Geno finds himself irrationally blaming Tangradi some more, even though he hadn’t even played, because it’s easy to do that and he’s angry.
He’s sitting around his stupid empty house, which seems so much bigger this year, angrily thinking of ways he can enact subtle revenge on Tangradi, when Sidney shows up. He looks even crazier than Geno objectively is for blaming a rookie for his own shitty play, and Geno swallows hard and lets him inside with appropriate trepidation.
This trepidation rises when Sidney, wild-eyed, says, “I’ve been thinking.”
Geno is genuinely frightened. “Sid. What?”
“We should sit down,” Sidney says. Instead he goes into Geno’s kitchen and helps himself to Gatorade, graciously not commenting on the lack of anything else in his fridge, unlike certain other nosy linemates with really stupid hair he could mention. Then he takes off his shoes and sits on one of Geno’s recliners and drinks half the Gatorade with a crazy-eyed game face on.
Geno watches and is about ninety percent sure that Sidney is going to suggest they rob a bank or assassinate Gary Bettman.
Sidney wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and looks at Geno. “I’ve been thinking about—stuff,” Sidney says, and Geno sighs very heavily, dropping his head into his hands.
“Sid. I swear. Gonna kill you.”
“No, hear me out first,” Sidney says. “Obviously, tonight really sucked. I’d like to not do that again.”
“Happens, Sid,” Geno says, and Sidney nods but his eyes are far away. “Games like that, nothing you or I can do but work harder.” He frowns a little. “You know been tough for me, I work harder but it—”
“Hey, no, I’m not here to have that conversation again,” Sidney says quickly, shaking his head. “I’m not even talking about that. I mean, I am, but also—I’m talking about us.”
Geno frowns harder, genuinely confused. “Us?”
“Yeah, us. You know. What we did in Vegas.”
“Marry?” He has no idea what that has to do with their embarrassment against the Isles, but Sidney is nodding eagerly.
“Right. It’s just—Pat says we should get divorced next week.”
“Yes. Talk to Barry about it.”
“He says a divorce is simpler because it’s been months since we got married, that that might make an annulment harder. He says the papers are in the mail and we should have them by tomorrow. He’ll fly in to help us with the actual filing.”
“Yes, Sid, I hear all this from Barry. What is point?”
“The point is, I—” Sidney takes a deep breath, looking down for a minute, and then looking at Geno with a hard, stubborn gaze that makes Geno frightened again. “I think we should wait a little longer.”
“Like—week?” Geno really doesn’t understand that.
“No, longer than a week. I mean—we should wait until the season’s over.”
“You are crazy,” Geno says, meaning it very completely. “Whole point of wait all summer and autumn and winter was to do during season. Keep quiet, divorce is loud, remember? Why you want to wait?”
“Because I’ve been trying to figure out why we did this,” Sidney says, throwing his hands up in the air as Geno groans. “And I just keep coming back to the rings, and the promise we made—”
“Sid,” Geno says tiredly. He dearly regrets ever lying about that promise, should have known that Sidney would cling to it like a limpet. It’s probably time to clear it all up and come clean, and he doesn’t really care if that tips Sidney over into a psychotic break; he’s clearly close to it anyway. “We never make—”
“No, really, hear me out,” Sidney says. “I just—it has to mean something, no matter what words we said, or how drunk we were. It has to, I need it to mean something. And I think it means—I think it means that we’re committed to the team, to this season. Together, right?”
“No,” Geno tells him firmly, reading the superstition talk in Sidney’s voice right away. “No, it’s—you commit to team with C, with long contract. I commit too, and I say—”
“You said a team needs two stars to win the Stanley Cup,” Sidney says firmly. Geno suppresses another groan, because of course Sidney would bring out his media words against him. “You said you wanted to do it here, with me. You said that, Geno.”
“I mean it. But not have to marry to win Stanley Cup with you, Sid.”
“But we got married!” Sidney’s voice is getting higher, cracking a little, and Geno has to fight not to roll his eyes at him. “We did that already! If we get divorced now, it’s like—we’re breaking that commitment. We’re messing everything up.”
“Not mess everything up. Marry mess everything up.”
“I came up with a Plan C,” Sidney says, and now his voice is shaking a little. Geno shakes his head anyway, because he doesn’t want to hear it; it’s not going to make him agree to this. “I told you, I promised you I wouldn’t let anything bad happen—”
“Not staying marry, Sid,” Geno tells him. “Not risk it. Not for crazy superstition or luck or hockey gods. No, answer is no.”
“Don’t you want it to mean something?” Sidney asks, now sounding desperate. “And it wouldn’t have to—it’s not like we’re really married. It’s symbolic. No one even knows, you can still—you can see other people, I don’t care about that. You can be totally normal except for this one thing—”
“No, Sidney,” Geno says, voice hard and a little harsh. He tries not to think about how many (or few) people he’s seen since marrying Sidney, how that’s managed to mess with his head, and instead thinks about how it will be over very soon, no matter what Sidney says. “Means nothing. We drunk, it was mistake, now we fix it. Not change my mind.”
Sidney seems to sag in his seat, like a puppet with his strings cut. It’s hard to look at him, but Geno doesn’t let himself look away. This isn’t something he’s going to risk, no matter what plan Sidney thinks he came up with, no matter what promises he wants them to make.
“Geno,” Sidney says quietly, but Geno shakes his head.
“Not going to keep argue. Sign papers, Sid, and do what have to.”
There is something in Sidney’s face that makes Geno think he’s going to keep arguing anyway—something panicked and desperate, reminiscent of last year’s first round with the Flyers. It hurts to look at, but it’s not something Geno is willing to fold against, and he stubbornly stares Sidney down until his face drops.
“Okay,” Sidney says, swallowing hard.
He’s quiet through heading out, and Geno walks him to the door with a hand on his back and fighting the weird urge to hug him and apologize. He’s not going to do either of those things, though; Geno just opens the front door and stares at Sidney when he stops on the threshold, shoulders slumped.
Sidney looks at Geno, lips twisted into a tight, grim smile. “I wasn’t even supposed to go to the awards last year, you know,” Sidney tells him. “I just—I had no reason to.”
“Why you go?”
“Pat thought it would be good for me to show my face, smile a bit, be a little more, ah, gracious? After the playoffs bullshit. I wasn’t going to go, I really didn’t want to, but in the end—I did, right?”
“Right,” Geno says, and he doesn’t add I wish you hadn’t.
“And it was all for nothing,” Sidney says, chuckling bitterly, eyes sharply unhappy. “All of it, the trip, the hangover, fucking—what happened with Matt, and now it’s just going to be over, for nothing.”
“What happen with Matt?” Geno asks, frowning, but Sidney just shakes his head.
“Never mind. Just—goodnight, Geno. I’ll see you at practice tomorrow.”
“See you,” Geno says, and he is just as confused closing the door after Sidney as he was opening it for him.
It is this confusion that keeps him from signing the divorce papers right away when he gets them the next day, though he combs over his translated copies and firmly resolves to sign them soon. It is confusion that lingers, right up until moments before the game against the Rangers on that Thursday, when he and Sidney are preparing to walk out, and they hesitate before their handshake.
For a second, Geno thinks Sidney isn’t going to do it. Geno already has his hand raised, waiting and ready to pitch a fit if Sidney really wants to be stubborn over this. But then Sidney says, very quietly, “I signed them,” and lifts his gloved fist to tap against Geno’s.
When their helmets touch, Geno looks into Sidney’s eyes and sees something hard and determined and willful and also hopelessly sad, and it is like a final puzzle piece snapping into place, fitting perfectly. He can imagine, then, what this season means to Sidney, what lengths he’s willing to go to get the most out of it that he possibly can, and all Geno wants to do then is help him. He wants the most out of it, too, suddenly and fiercely.
“Okay,” Geno says, and he doesn’t quite know it then, but he’s answering what Sidney had suggested the night before last.
“Explain this to me again,” Barry says very slowly and carefully. “Why do you want to wait?”
“For team,” Geno says, but it’s a terrible explanation, one that he doesn’t even fully understand himself.
All he really understands is this: it is the second week of February, the Penguins have won five games in a row, and Geno still hasn’t signed the divorce papers. It’s very likely that Sidney’s crazy is catching, but Geno thinks it’s also his faith that’s catching. Sidney really believes that committing to each other means committing to the team. He really thinks that breaking that commitment could set things out of whack, and the risk of that outweighs the risk of public ridicule should the marriage get out.
“I don’t understand,” Barry says, and then his tone goes a little darker. He switches to his clumsy Russian, very serious. “Evgeni. Is this Sidney’s idea?”
Something tells Geno that he shouldn’t say yes, so he keeps it vague and in English, which is working out well for him in this conversation. “We talk about together.”
“Yes, but—is Sidney doing this because of, ah, feelings?”
“Feelings about hockey,” Geno says, and he can practically hear Barry putting his face in his hands over the phone.
“I’m asking you if Sidney is putting pressure on you to be in a relationship with him.”
Geno lets himself laugh at that. “Relationship? Why Sid want relationship with me?”
He stops laughing abruptly when Barry snaps, “Because Sidney likes men and just happened to accidentally marry one.”
For a second, Geno is sure he’d heard wrong, or that Barry’s Russian had been wrong. “Say again,” Geno says, adding, “English, please,” just to be safe.
But no; in both languages, Barry tells Geno the same thing, and through a haze of shock, there is also a sharp spike of anger. “Why you say that? Why you tell me that about Sidney?”
Barry sounds more confused than ever. “I thought you knew? How did you not that when you married him?”
It’s a good point, but that still doesn’t make it Barry’s place to even talk about it, and Geno tells him this firmly. “Will talk again,” Geno says before he hangs up, but if he has his way, that won’t be for a while. Then he texts Sidney.
Sidney is grocery shopping, which Geno knows from LA is an affair that can take up to three hours if Sidney doesn’t have anything else to do, and this is an off-day. So Geno rolls his eyes and drives to the grocer they both use, pocketing a Sharpie just in case.
He does have to sign stuff, but only a few things. Sidney has prime shopping times mapped out for low store traffic, and he’s easy to find in the produce aisle, comparing oranges to each other with a thoughtful frown. He looks weirded out by seeing Geno there, but he doesn’t tell him to go away, just lets him trail him and his cart and hold back impatient sighs.
Geno does a pretty good job of it, he thinks, except for when Sidney has to buy things that don’t have superstitious brands attached to them. He’s religious about his list but way too slow-going at making decisions, and Geno finds himself throwing things in Sidney’s cart and pushing it pointedly on to the next aisle a few different times.
“You can wait at my house, you know,” Sidney says, looking cranky, as Geno bats a cheaper brand of coffee out of Sidney’s hand and just makes him buy the better stuff. Sidney doesn’t even like coffee that much, so Geno can’t understand why this is such a big production (he makes sure to sneak hot chocolate mix into the cart while Sidney is debating how much sugar he needs). “I’ll tell you where the spare key is.”
“Having fun,” Geno says tightly, and he’s surprised when Sidney laughs, loud and honking and a little startled.
After that it is kind of fun, relative at least to other un-fun things, like root canals or getting beat in a shootout. Geno watches Sidney torture himself with food decisions, like picking the wrong brand of milk will doom their playoff chances forever, and bullies him into adding things that aren’t on the list but necessary, in Geno’s opinion, to every refrigerator.
“The last time I was at your house, the only stuff in the fridge was Nealer’s beer, a jar of horseradish, and baking soda,” Sidney points out, but he doesn’t actually put the pickles back, so Geno shrugs and makes them move on.
He doesn’t say anything of real consequence while they’re shopping, or when he helps Sidney carry in all the groceries and then put them away.
Sidney, for his part, seems content to do the same, ignoring him except to blithely go on about their breakouts and how they can make them cleaner for the upcoming home-and-home. Geno mulls over what exactly he wants to say to Sidney, as he puts away Sidney’s cans and then steps aside to let him rearrange them all. He doesn’t want to say the wrong thing, and that’s going to be tricky in this situation.
He’s still thinking when they finish and Sidney guides him out of the kitchen, still talking about speed through the neutral zone. Geno is led into what looks like a makeshift home office, featuring a wall of mostly empty shelves but for a small, sad collection of sports biographies and history books, a handsome trophy mantle, and a big desk covered with paperwork that Geno peeks at shamelessly.
When Sidney puts himself between the desk and Geno, he looks back at the books and remembers Sidney saying that he doesn’t have enough stuff to fill most rooms and feels a pitying pang. For a moment, he wants to buy Sidney more stuff.
The thought is quickly chased off when Sidney clears his throat and pokes him in the side, making Geno turn and eye the paperwork Sidney is holding out to him. When he takes it and realizes it’s the divorce papers, his stomach squirms a little, and he swallows hard.
“See?” Sidney says, defensive and put-upon. “I signed them, look.”
Geno doesn’t look; he just holds them, chewing his bottom lip.
Sidney sighs a little and says, “I’m going to give them to Pat tonight at dinner, he’ll take care of the filing. Have you given him yours yet? Pat said he didn’t have anything from Barry, so if you have them now I can—”
“Sid,” Geno says. “Why you want to stay marry?”
Sidney barely misses a beat. “Because I don’t want to break the commitment we made to each other to help lead this team to the Cup.”
“What if we not make commitment with marry? What if that’s not why?”
“Why what? Why we got married?” Sidney blinks at him, looking completely thrown. “Why on Earth else would we get married? I mean, I know it was stupid, and I know we were drunk, but I can’t think of any other reason. I wish we hadn’t, but we did, so now I don’t want to mess it up.”
Geno turns that over in his head for a while, before nodding slowly and saying, “Okay,” and giving back the divorce papers.
“Okay?” Sidney repeats, eyes narrowed and not taking them back. “What does that mean?”
So Geno sighs and, though it feels kind of melodramatic and silly, tears the papers in half. It’s hard; there’s a ton of them, and Sidney lets out a loud, harsh breath as Geno struggles. “Really?” he says, and Geno just nods, dropping them unceremoniously onto the desk and then look straight down into Sidney’s eyes.
“Really. But Barry say—when I tell him, he tell me you like men. True?”
Sidney blanches, going pale and looking down, but when he looks up his eyes are fiercely furious. “He said what?”
“He ask me if you put pressure to be in relationship—like real husbands, not for team. I believe you it’s for team, why I rip papers, but—”
“Why the fuck did he think he could say that to you?”
That had mostly been Geno’s reaction, too familiar with his own brand of secret sexuality to be able to tolerate the casualty with which Barry spoke of Sidney’s. But Barry had had a decent thought, too, and it’s the only thing that’s really surprising about the revelation. “He think I already know, and—is good point. Why you not tell me before?”
Sidney looks aghast. “Why would I? How is that any of your business?”
Deep down, Geno kind of feels hurt at that, but mostly he just feels resigned. Sidney has never talked about relationships with him; as far as Geno was ever concerned, Sidney was celibate. Sidney had never volunteered information and, to be fair, Geno had never asked for it, sort of assuming the celibate part.
“We friends, Sid,” Geno says, but that part feels hollow now, argument for the sake of argument. They are friends, were always friends, but now that entire definition feels stretched and pushed out of whack, a bit wrong. “Also I am your husband. Think I should know that you gay?”
“What does one have to do with the other?” Sidney asks, sounding genuinely curious. Geno just groans, feeling an odd mix of frustration and relief. There’s no way that Sidney could completely fake that real disconnect, honest cluelessness. There’s nothing there, nothing even considered on Sidney’s end; it’s so blatant that Geno kind of feels insulted.
“So—you don’t have—no feelings?”
“For you?” Sidney says, and Geno huffs a little at his incredulous tone.
“Yes. For me. Man you marry.” This conversation is starting to feel ridiculous, and Geno feels ridiculous, but he waits, watching Sidney’s face.
“I—no? Sorry? I mean, you’re my teammate, and you’re straight. I’d never think of you like that.”
“Never think about teammate ever?” Geno presses, not touching the second part because it makes him immediately feel hypocritical, and he’s secretly, fiendishly delighted when Sidney blushes.
“I mean—okay, I’ve been attracted to teammates. You’re—not hideous, I guess.” Geno snorts, because Sidney’s blushing harder. “But no, I mean, not seriously.” Sidney pulls a ridiculous face, like he’d just swallowed a lemon. “Not to marry one, if that’s what you’re implying. That’s crazy.”
“You marry teammate, Sid. Not so crazy.”
“But not because of feelings!” Now Sidney looks insulted. “Is that what Barry thinks, that I married you because I have a big gay crush? Ugh, I can’t believe he said that to you.”
“I don’t think,” Geno says. It’s very obvious that Barry was wrong, insultingly obvious. “But he think I already know. Try to look out for me when I tell him I want to wait.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t give him the right to out me,” Sidney says peevishly, and that makes Geno flinch, guilty for no real reason.
“Is not—not big deal. Don’t care who you like.” He watches Sidney’s shoulders slump a little and realized they’d been tensed, nervous—and he immediately feels like an ass for not reassuring Sidney of that straight away. “I like, too.”
“I like both,” Geno says simply, and Sidney stares at him for a long, long while.
Then he bursts out laughing.
“Jesus Christ,” Sidney wheezes out as Geno frowns at him. “Seriously?”
“Because,” Sidney says, and then he laughs for a little while longer and finishes with, “Geno, we got married.” He breaks off into more terrible honks, long and deep enough for them to sound charming, which is always a dangerous side effect of being around Sidney laughing for too long. Geno just folds his arms over his chest and huffs, because he still doesn’t quite get it.
It takes a while for Sidney to stop, and he never actually explains, just leans back on his desk and wipes a hand over his face, body wracking with leftover giggles. “So,” he says at the end of it, a really stupid grin on his face. “You’re—you’re okay with waiting?”
Geno nods, and then, because Sidney is being a dick again, adds, “Yes. For team and for you.” He doesn’t add because you are crazy but he thinks it’s well-implied.
Somehow, Sidney’s grin gets brighter and stupider. Geno thinks if he looks at it long, he’ll start grinning helplessly back, so he looks at Sidney’s shoulder. “Thanks, Geno,” Sidney says, and Geno just grunts at him. “Great, okay, so. This is gonna be a fun dinner with Pat, eh?”
“He tell Barry about you?” Geno asks, and Sidney nods. “Good, so you yell at him.”
Sidney beams at him, and this time Geno can’t help smiling back.
So the first thing that happens after they decide to wait on the divorce is that the Penguins lose, twice, to the Devils.
“Marriage doesn’t make us infallible,” Sidney tells Geno quietly on the way to their cars after the game. Geno watches him twist the wire around on his ring finger, and wonders if Sidney’s gotten tetanus from that thing yet. “It doesn’t work like that. It can’t magically make us better; we make us better.”
“You are expert,” Geno says, and he’s pretty psyched to reach his car then, because he’s really in a mood and he doesn’t want to hear about getting to their game or getting out of his own head or giving it two hundred percent anymore. He wants to go home and have a drink and eat and sleep; he’ll think about somehow getting to their game with a revolving door of dead weight on his left wing another day.
“We’ll be better,” Sidney says assuredly, and he sounds exhausted. Geno waves goodbye to him and gets in his car.
His plan goes fine until it gets to the sleep part, because Nealer busts in to his house in a way that makes Geno dearly regret ever giving him a key. He stomps around Geno’s kitchen, complaining about the lack of food and how Paulie had picked up a girl at the bar tonight, so now he has no one to drown his sorrows in video games with, so Geno sighs and boots up his PS3. He is irrationally, sharply jealous of Paulie.
He finds himself trying to think of the last time he’d done what Paulie did tonight, thinking back on those few and unsatisfying instances back home. That’s still a problem, and it’s something he’s going to have to fix if he’s really going to stay in this thing with Sidney. It’s a bit harder in Pittsburgh, but not impossible; this is another instance where he needs someone (preferably not Sidney, Christ) to tell him to get out of his own head.
“Need to get laid,” Geno tells Nealer, and Nealer huffs a little.
“Yeah, but I hate it after a loss. It makes me feel so whiny.” He grins a little, shaking his head. “That’s probably when Sid likes it best.”
Geno suddenly, pointedly, doesn’t want to think about Sid and sex and what he likes best, but of course then he does. He wonders if Sidney does what Paulie does, if he even can. Geno’s never even considered guys in America, but neither Sidney nor Barry had mentioned anything about girls, and now that Geno knows he has a preference as opposed to a blank slate of sexual apathy, he can’t help wondering how Sidney gets around it.
It would be weird to ask, so he resolves not to, but later than night, when Nealer is snoring downstairs curled up in a blanket Geno’s mom had made, Geno keeps thinking about it. It’s what he’s thinking about when he undresses, tissues by his side and hand slicked up with lotion, wrapped around his dick with his face turned up to the ceiling, eyes fluttering shut.
He thinks, eventually, if this is what Sidney does instead, and that is not a thought he wants in his head when he comes. But it’s there, and that’s what makes Geno firmly tell James the next morning, “Need to get laid, Nealsy.”
James shrugs, slurps up cereal, and says, “Okay. Before we leave for Ottawa, we’ll go out.” He scowls. “Paulie can’t come.”
They go out the next night, and Paulie does come, of course, because apparently the only way to detach either of them from each other’s hip is to have sex with one of them. It kind of makes Geno feel like a third wheel, even as they all try to wingman for each other.
It works, to an extent, in that they can drink and talk to girls, and Geno has always been able to make girls laugh; he certainly doesn’t need James or Paulie to help with that. But it’s not fun, the way it had been when he was younger, or the way it usually is back home. He feels uninspired and dissatisfied, enough that Paulie notices and makes Geno come with him to the bar for more drinks instead of hailing down the waitress.
“I have a friend, from, uh—quilting class, shut up,” Paulie says, and Geno is snickering quietly until Paulie continues. “I could give you her number? She’s cute, I promise, and I know she speaks another language—not Russian, probably, but maybe that means she could learn?”
Geno shakes his head, smiling at Paulie and putting his hand lightly over his arm on the bar. “Thank you, but—don’t need to speak language. Just need—” He waggles his eyebrows, and Paulie laughs, but he looks doubtful.
“Are you sure about that?” Paulie says, and Geno doesn’t answer, because it’s starting to seem that he’s not sure of anything.
He doesn’t go home with anyone that night, just drinks enough that he manages to wrangle a promise of a new quilt from Paulie, totally serious, and goes home alone. Geno tells himself it’s fine, really, and puts his hand down his boxers again, but the last thing he thinks about before he goes to sleep is to wonder when the last time Sidney had sex was.
It’s kind of a problem, but he’s not really willing to call it a problem until the Ottawa trip, when Sergei clasps his arm during warm-ups, leans in close and mutters in his ear: “You’re still married.”
Geno neither confirms nor denies, which is how he’s been dealing with the subject on the phone, cursing the fact that he can’t pretend to forget English with Sergei. “Shh, Sergei. Tangradi has been traded and we are going to beat you. This is a good day.”
“You’re coming home with us for dinner,” Sergei says, and it sounds like a threat. He skates off, and skating backwards, mouths married at Geno until he’s scowling.
They do beat the Sens, which is good, though the Tangradi trade doesn’t magically make his play any better or worse, and neither does Zach Boychuk. Geno’s held off the board and kind of pissy about it when Sergei and Ksenia drive him home, but the girls swarm him and it’s hard to feel pissy under their hugs.
They all eat a ridiculous amount of good food together, and it’s all really great until it starts tasting like homesickness. Geno is able to push that aside through kissing the girls goodnight and trying to subtly gather his things, but Ksenia clamps her fingernails into his arm and makes him sit down at the dining room table again.
“We will have coffee first,” she says, very pleasantly. Geno swallows hard but sits down.
“You’re still married,” is the first thing that Sergei says when he comes in with a steaming percolator, pouring them all mugs of rich, dark coffee and eyeing him sharply. Geno grabs a cookie from a platter and shoves it in his mouth to delay, but Ksenia and Sergei just stare at him until he either has to swallow or spit out the mouthful. He sighs again, but then nods slowly.
“Yes. I ripped up the divorce papers.”
Ksenia lets out a shrill bark of laughter, but Sergei doesn’t look even a little bit amused. “Why in the hell would you—”
“We want to wait until the end of the season,” Geno blurts, though the ‘we’ tastes bad on his tongue, like an almost-truth. “Sid thinks it might, ah, mess things up if we break our commitment—”
“Your drunken Vegas commitment that neither of you remember making?” Sergei says, and when Geno nods a little dumbly, his face goes tight. “I’m calling him.”
“Yes. If he wants to be crazy, fine. Let him be crazy. But he is not dragging you down with him, I won’t let it happen.”
“I think it’s already happened,” Ksenia says thoughtfully. She looks an odd mix of charmed and worried, which Geno thinks is more dangerous than Sergei wanting to call up and terrify Sidney again.
That is, until Sergei says, “Fine, then I will go see him in person.”
“No!” Geno yells, because Sergei is standing up, grabbing up his keys. “Sid is not making me do this! We fought about it, and then he signed the papers. I thought about it after we fought, thought a lot, and I decided for me and for him that I could stand it for a little while longer. It’s a short season. It’s been months. No one’s found out yet. We can hold on.”
Sergei sits down slowly, but his car keys are still in his hand; Geno looks at them as Sergei simply asks, “Why?”
Geno’s not sure he can put it into words, even in their language. He doesn’t know if he can talk about this season and how hard it’s been already, how much trouble he’s having just making his own familiar brand of hockey work now. Nothing is coming easy anymore, nothing feels simple or uncomplicated, but Sidney—Sidney always makes it seem simple. No matter what they’d done over the summer, Sidney is the one who makes Geno’s place on the team always so solid, regardless of how he’s playing. He makes Geno feel like he belongs, like everything he puts into Penguins hockey is worth it.
He can’t say all of that, but he tries to give the cliff notes version, dumbing it down so he doesn’t sound like a psycho. “Something about this year, it feels—like I have to see it through. Last year was amazing for me, it was my best, but it’s harder now. Sid thinks if we commit to this chance we have, we’ll have an even greater chance.”
“Every team thinks they have a great chance, Zhenya,” Sergei says gently. “They don’t marry the chance.” And Geno shakes his head.
“Not every team has Sidney Crosby on it. You don’t see it, but he—this year is different. We almost lost it. He almost lost everything. If I did anything to mess this up for him, I’d never forgive myself.”
“Oh, sweetheart,” Ksenia says, and she reaches over and clasps his hand, warm from her coffee mug. Geno clasps hers back and gives her a small, grim smile, but Sergei’s face is so hard.
“It’s not something you can change,” Geno tells him carefully. “I’m not going to change my mind.”
“You’re an idiot,” Sergei says, and he snorts loudly for good measure. “A complete fool. I don’t know why I’m your friend. Are you at least sleeping with him?”
“No,” Geno bites out, but somehow Sergei looks even more aghast at that.
“Idiot. He has you celibate, too?”
“We’re seeing other people,” Geno says hotly, and Sergei is completely not fooled.
“How many other people are you seeing, then? I was with you for the first eight months you were married, you know.”
Geno stays quiet, because that’s probably the most glaring problem in all this right now, but he doesn’t exactly want to admit that. It’s the dumbest problem possible, one that should be easily fixed as soon as he gets his head out of his ass.
Now Ksenia joins in on insulting his intelligence, but at least they’re not threatening to go after Sidney anymore, so Geno is pretty content to sit there and take it. Games in Ottawa almost always mean something like this, a special brand of caretaking he’s missed since Sergei left, and it feels okay now that they’ve mostly accepted his choice.
Of course, he’s not entirely surprised when Sidney sits down next to him at breakfast the next morning and mumbles, “Gonch left me a crazy voicemail,” from behind a glass of orange juice.
Geno sighs, but it’s not like that was really avoidable. “What he say?” he asks, hating the déjà vu he feels.
Sidney pokes uncomfortably at his eggs, which makes Geno feel shitty; if Sidney’s fork isn’t a blur while he’s eating, he’s pretty bothered. “I’m not sure. A lot of yelling.” He looks around at the table, where most of their teammates are either too sleepy to be listening or listening shamelessly (Flower). Sidney makes a face and mumbles even softer. “I stopped listening when he started talking about, uh, sex. Did you tell him about me?”
“‘Course not,” Geno says quickly, but with Sidney’s face still clouded over, he has to add, “He know about me. Think—stupid things. Don’t worry.”
Sidney very obviously doesn’t stop worrying, until Geno barks, “Eat, Sid, long travel day,” and Sidney makes another face but picks up his fork, this time with food on it. Flower is still studying them with little to no subtlety, but Sidney is fine once he gets into eating, and so Geno is fine mostly ignoring him to steal Kuni’s bacon right from under his sleepy nose.
Things kind of settle over the rest of the short road trip. Winnipeg marks the official end of the Zach Boychuk Experiment, which Geno is mostly glad of because it means he might get through this season without strangling anybody, probably. A few decent shifts with Cookie have earned him an audition on Geno’s line, and it’s not perfect, but there are hints, flashes of something better. With Beau Bennett seeing a chance or two in that spot as well, Geno thinks there might something, some scraps of chemistry he can use to make things work better.
He’s jealous of the first line, the easy way Sid, Duper and Kuni have started clicking. He remembers how that felt last year, and he’s never resented Sidney for anything, any of his ability or his stellar work ethic or his immense talent, but this is something Geno wishes he had again.
“We’re gonna see how the kid does,” Sidney says, nodding towards Bennett scrambling to find his things where Duper has hidden them all over the visitors’ dressing room. “Give him some time, see where he goes. We’re going to make it work.”
“I have to make work,” Geno says, and Sidney doesn’t deny it. He just looks like he’s happy that Geno’s realized that, which is both annoying and satisfying. It sounds so simple when Sidney says it, like it’s absolute fact, pure faith that Geno can do it, and Geno wishes he had half of that faith in himself.
It makes him wonder, again, what else is simple for Sidney, if staying married to Geno was so possible and so necessary to him because it really is that simple. He’s back to wondering about sex, wondering what Sergei said to Sidney about sex, and he feels ridiculous for continuing to think about it, to feel a blush creeping up whenever he considers it, but he knows how Sidney is. Sidney wouldn’t let whatever’s gotten into Geno’s head get into his. He has to have found a way around the issue of hooking up with other people, considering how dumb of an issue it really it.
“You need to get laid,” Nealer says sagely back in Pittsburgh, and though they go out twice more, nothing happens long enough for Geno to finally bite the bullet and start trying to think like Sidney.
Trying to think like Sidney is impossible, though. It’s something he’s been trying to do for years, mostly on the ice, and though he understands how Sidney fundamentally works, Geno just can’t make himself work like that.
To think like Sidney is to think simple, and also to think too much, and so Geno decides the only real thing to do is to ask Sidney for advice. He knows it’s probably going to be the most awkward conversation of his life, and possibly Sid’s, too, but Sidney probably owes him this at least a little bit. They’re married; that’s the most awkward part already.
He texts Sidney to tell him he’s coming over and accepts the disinterested ok as permission, driving over on the first day of their stretch of three off-days in a row, a treat in their hectic schedule.
Sidney’s trying to cook something out of a cookbook when Geno arrives, the book propped up against a bowl of fruit and stained with red sauce from Sidney’s fingers. He is concentrating very hard on whatever it is he’s making, so Geno lets him be for a while, tasting what Sidney tells him to taste and chopping what Sidney tells him to chop.
It turns out to be a baked pasta dish that just makes a lot of mess but tastes really good, and Sidney looks pleased when Geno keeps helping himself to more. “You have to tell Duper it was good,” Sidney demands, and though Geno is nodding dutifully with his mouth full, Sidney presses. “You have to promise you will.”
“Promise,” Geno says solemnly, and his eyes flick to the wire on Sidney’s finger before he can help it. Sidney notices and puts his hand quickly in his lap, narrowing his eyes, and Geno hastens to break the weirdness by dragging the mostly empty serving dish over and instructing Sidney to take a picture of him with it, thumbs up, so he can send it to Duper. “Master Chef Crosby, and now he has proof.”
“Good,” Sidney says, and he’s back to looking smug.
They’re sprawled out on Sidney’s couch, digesting in front of some crime show rerun, when Geno finally works up the nerve to talk about why he’d come here. It’s late enough that Sidney will start kicking him out soon, unless he falls asleep first, and Geno knows if he leaves here without saying anything he’s never going to say anything ever.
So he says, “Sid, I have problem,” and tries not to flinch when Sidney lazily mutes the TV and looks at him directly.
“Finally,” Sidney says, and Geno blinks.
“Is it your wrist or your shoulder?” Sidney asks, sitting up a little straighter and leaning over. “I can’t tell if you’re tightening up or releasing before you’re ready.”
It takes a few seconds before he can figure out what Sidney’s even talking about, and then he sighs. “Not mean my shot, Sid. I tell you I work on it, not hurt.”
“I think something’s hurt, your shot’s been off for a while,” Sidney says stubbornly, and this is a conversation they have had several times now; it’s probably second to the last one that Geno wants to have. “If you let me help, we can figure it out together, you know I can—”
“I know,” Geno says, giving Sidney a smile he hopes doesn’t look harried and desperate. He knows Sidney will help him work on his shot; Sidney spends time before every practice working on his own shot, and now he’s been staying after to help TK, Bennett drifting in with wide eyes from the bench. Geno doesn’t particularly want to join the raggedy band of misfit followers that Sidney has accumulated, but he knows that Sidney is really earnest in offering his help, and means it as no insult. “Is not that problem.”
“If you’re sure,” Sidney says, looking like he doesn’t think Geno’s sure at all. “I mean—just don’t try playing through an injury, not now. It’s way too early for that. And remember—we set the standard, right? You and me? We have to be good examples, and risking ourselves like that is a really, really bad example for—”
“I know,” Geno says again, gritting his teeth. He wonders if Sidney repeats himself so much because the media has trained him that way, and he doesn’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that Sidney seems to truly mean every word of hockey gospel he spews over and over again.
“So what’s the problem?” Sidney asks, and Geno thinks about how to say this without making a total ass of himself.
“It’s problem with—since we marry, I cannot—is hard to—” He’s not going to say have sex, because he’s seen even subtle references to sex send Sidney spluttering and blushing, and also that’s just way too embarrassing. “Hard to be with other people, Sid. How you do?”
Sidney turns beet red, as if missing all of Geno’s attempts to be delicate and tactful. He puts the remote down on the coffee table, sits up straighter, and looks at his carpet very intently. “Oh. Right.”
“Gonch said—” And Geno is actually going to murder Sergei very, very soon, as soon as possible. “He, ah, mentioned something like that in the voicemail, but—”
“How you do it?” Geno asks, teeth still gritted together, his own blush creeping hot over his face. “I mean, is fine for you, see other guys when marry?”
“I—” Sidney starts, pulling a face that makes him look tortured and also constipated. “No, actually, not really. It’s weird.”
“Yes.” The relief Geno feels is ridiculous, but he feels ten pounds lighter. “Very weird. Cannot do it.”
“I know,” Sidney says. His face smooths out a little, and he just looks determined now, the kind of determination that can will hopeless plays into goals. “And, look, as long as we set some ground rules, I’m fine with—you know. We can do that. Like I said, you’re not hideous—”
“What?” Geno says. All the relief is gone in one fell swoop, replaced by his murderous Sergei thoughts.
“—and it’s not like I’ve never thought about it, but not seriously, of course. I told you I thought you were straight. But if this is really a problem, then I want to fix it, so—”
“How you want to fix it?” Geno hisses out, heart pounding a little.
Sidney stares at him for a full minute, steadily going redder until his face is like a tomato. Then he puts his head in his hands and groans, “Oh God, no.”
“No what? No, I not here for sex? Not here for sex with you?” Geno feels and sounds hysterical, he knows, but he thinks it’s completely and utterly justified right now. “You think I just show up, hey Sid, can’t get laid, do husband duty and take care—”
“Gonch said I should—”
“No sex! No sex and is messing up my game, so you just say ‘okay Geno, I do’ and that’s—”
“It’s messing up your game?” Sidney says, strangled. Geno wants to laugh and cry at the same time.
“No! But if I say that, if I come here and say—say to do that, you do? Just like that?” He thinks of something else ridiculous. “Because Gonch say so?”
“If I can help, I want to help,” Sidney tells him, but he looks so, so embarrassed and clearly annoyed about it. “Whatever, you weren’t actually asking that, so it’s not even an issue—”
“So if TK comes, say ‘hey Sid, sick of chest snipes, very tense, help me out of pants’, you such good captain you say—”
“Oh my God, no!” Sidney yelps, looking furious. “No, of course not, but—we’re married. And you said you like both, so. And—it’s my fault we’re still married, right?”
Geno stares, but Sidney looks completely serious, and this is not—this isn’t information he actually knows how to process entirely. “I make choice, too. First I say no, then change mind, so—and still does not mean Sid has to—don’t have to have sex with me, Sid, you are crazy.” He really is wondering if he lives in a universe where he could just head over to Sidney’s house, eat his food—oh God, had Sidney cooked for him with this in mind?—and then ask for stress relief sex. It’s completely baffling.
What’s even more baffling is that Sidney just shrugs. “I mean. It’s not like I wouldn’t get anything out of it.”
He has to take a minute to process that, and it’s a long minute. Now Geno is thinking of what, exactly, Sidney could get out of sex with Geno. He’s thinking about mutual stress relief, Sid’s hand instead of his own on his dick for a nice change of pace. He’s thinking about what kind of face Sidney makes when he comes—it’s probably a really dumb face. He probably squeaks or something.
These are things he’s never given more than a fleeting thought, never considered more than in passing, because—Geno could never have imagined that Sidney would just say yes. It’s crazy, and unsettling, and suddenly discomfortingly arousing. This is not how he thought this night would go at all.
“Should go,” Geno says, when the quiet stretches into awkwardness. Sidney nods, looking very much like he wants the floor to open up and swallow him whole. He stands up so stiffly that it looks like he’s in physical pain, and Geno can’t even look at him anymore, the awkwardness blanketing them both so heavily.
“I’ll walk you out.”
Geno doesn’t want that; he kind of wants to take off running and maybe run the rest of the way to his house, possibly out of the state of Pennsylvania and into Ohio, where he can hole up and pretend this never happened for the next ten years. But he is an adult, so he nods slowly and walks with Sidney to the door, puts on his shoes and his jacket like a very competent adult, and then thanks Sidney for dinner in the doorway.
“Anytime,” Sidney says. His cheeks are red hot, and Geno finds himself staring now, wondering if his skin would be warm to the touch. He doesn’t want to wonder that, had never imagined wondering that, but now—
He can’t stop staring, and that’s the only reason he sees Sidney lick his lips. It’s not sexy, it looks more nervous than anything, but it joins with the way that Sidney’s eyes are downcast and dark and his eyelashes look particularly long, and Geno has never considered—but—Sidney would say yes. They are standing in Sidney’s doorway and Sidney would say yes to him if he asked, and Sidney’s lips look pink and wet and good right now.
Ksenia was right. Sidney has brought Geno down into his crazy.
“Sid,” Geno says slowly, licking his own lips, not sure of any single thought going through his head right now. “Want to try.”
“Try what?” Sidney asks, tipping his face up, eyes clear and bright and curious. He blinks, and Geno watches the flutter of his lashes and, without really thinking about it, reaches out with one palm to cup the side of Sidney’s face. He watches Sidney’s eyes go wide, and feels his breath come out harshly. “Oh.”
The circle that Sidney’s lips form is enticing enough to draw Geno in, gently tipping his face up further and pressing his lips to Sidney’s.
It’s a short, close-mouthed kiss, and though Sidney’s lips move slightly into it, he mostly stays still and lets himself be kissed. Geno brushes his fingers across Sidney’s face and kisses him just a bit harder, and when Sidney responds, a white hot thrill suddenly shoots through Geno, something he hasn’t felt in a long, long time.
When they pull back, Geno doesn’t take his hand off Sidney’s face and just looks at him, studying him carefully. Sidney just looks calm and sort of—happy, and Geno really isn’t prepared for how happy that makes him, how thrilling it all is.
“Still say yes?” Geno asks, and when Sidney nods it’s downright eager, and Geno is totally and completely unequipped to handle that in any other way than kissing Sidney again.
They wind up back on the couch, Geno shedding his things for a longer stay and Sidney kissing him hungrily, like he was just waiting for something like this from Geno. Geno wonders if that’s been true since the Ottawa trip and the phone call from Sergei, or maybe even longer, if Sidney had had this in the back of his mind ever since Geno told him he liked both.
It makes him feel a little foolish for not having considered it, for never understanding that Sidney underneath him like this could feel so good. Sidney’s mouth is hot and demanding on his, breaths punched out of him and lips lush under Geno’s searching tongue. His hands are clever as they roam between them, and he makes a small, delighted noise when one hand wedges between Geno’s legs and feels him growing hard in his pants.
Geno wants to roll his eyes because of course he’s getting hard. Sidney is tugging Geno further on top of him, refusing to detach their mouths but letting Geno push his shirt up and push him back into the couch cushions, straddling Sidney’s hips. Geno gets an elbow in the chest for his troubles when he strokes his fingertips down Sidney’s sides, and they break apart for Sidney to huff out, breathless and wide-eyed and so, so happy.
Geno is happy, too, which might be the most surprising turn of events for this night, considering how he had thought it would go. That gets him back to wondering again, and wondering specifically about his own cluelessness: this had never occurred to him and it is already one of the best decisions he almost never made.
The decision gets better when Sidney reaches down to start fumbling with Geno’s belt, skittering out a shaky laugh when Geno hurries to help him. He leans down and kisses Sidney’s neck, delighting in the way that makes him practically purr, eager hands faltering, but they start up again as Geno kisses up to his jaw, peppering over his flushed cheek.
In another minute, Sidney has a firm handful of Geno, his hand strong and warm and so good that Geno has to shudder against him, eyes sliding shut. Sidney kisses the side of his head and mumbles, “Good?” in a thick, low voice that Geno could never have imagined coming from Sidney Crosby’s throat, and all Geno can do is nod and try not to moan too embarrassingly as Sidney starts to stroke him.
It’s not perfect—Sidney pauses and says, “Let me grab some—” and he surely means lube or lotion, but Geno bites out a harsh, “No,” and that gets Sidney’s hand moving again, faster and harder. His eyes are lit up and interested when Geno looks at him, and so Geno has to kiss him again, hard as Sidney’s hand on him, a little rough to mirror the pace.
It’s not perfect but it’s so fucking good, and Geno’s moans do get embarrassing. Sidney’s mouth goes upturned and smug against Geno’s face as Geno rolls his hips into the handjob, and Geno pulls back to narrow his eyes at him, looking down between them at the obvious bulge in Sidney’s sweats.
Sidney just shrugs, shameless in a way that shouldn’t be but is incredibly arousing to Geno, and tightens his fingers in a circle around the head of Geno’s dick. It sends him bucking forward, cursing Sidney a little bit in English and praising him a little bit in Russian. He’s close, stupid close, but he still grits out, “You want, too, said get out of too—”
“I will,” Sidney says simply, almost soothing, chest heaving beneath Geno. He twists his wrist in just the right way, like he’s already figured Geno out, three or four steps ahead of the play already and ready to finish like always.
Geno comes, gasping and shaking, and when Sidney just jerks him through it, slicking up his own hand, Geno can’t help forcing his eyes open and staring. Sidney looks triumphant, ridiculously satisfied for someone who hasn’t even gotten his yet, and Geno just wants to grab him, wants to shake him apart like he’s just done for Geno.
But Sidney’s already tugged his pants down a bit, wrapped his come-slick hand around his dick and started tugging. He groans but bats Geno’s hand away from him, choking, “Just—watch,” and Geno shudders again but obeys. He hovers over Sidney on his knees, one hand planted on Sidney’s chest, under his rucked up shirt, the other grabbing onto the back of the couch, and he watches Sidney bring himself off with the same determined, single-minded focus he’d done Geno with.
And when Sidney comes, his face looks really, really stupid, scrunched up and red, but also really hot, and Geno really, really hadn’t anticipated that. It makes it necessary to kiss him again, to feel Sidney’s mouth go slack and sweet, and his breathing goes slow and calm as his intensity leaks out with the mess between them.
“Dirty Sid,” Geno whispers into the side of Sidney’s face, and he can feel a lazy smile answering him against his skin.
Sidney just kind of sighs after that, relaxing back into the couch. He lets Geno manhandle his shirt off him and use it to clean them both up, not even bitching about it. It’s easily the most unwound Geno has ever seen Sidney, and he kind of wants to keep him like this, a little cuddly as he moves against Geno, his eyelids slipping to half-mast and his mouth stretching into a yawn as Geno settles slightly next to him, an arm circled around his bare shoulders.
“Glad you say yes,” Geno says quietly, and Sidney hums a bit, pleased. “Not know I could ask.”
“You can always ask,” Sidney says; he sounds like he’s about to pass out. “We’ll figure it out more, some rules, but—you can ask again. I’ll say yes to you.”
“Can ask, too.” That gets him a sweet, lazy kiss on the mouth, and then Sidney’s breathing drops off and he’s still against Geno.
Geno listens to him breath for a little while, seriously considering just arranging them a tad more comfortably and staying here, where Sidney is warm and obviously willing. But he’s a little sure that this is something Sidney wants to figure out more, so he drops an absentminded kiss on Sidney’s forehead and gently slides off the couch, grabbing a fleece blanket from where it’s tossed over the armchair and covering him with it.
He leaves slowly, that thrill returning and lingering as he re-gathers his things and turns off Sidney’s lights for him. He checks Sidney’s thermostat, considers the weird, bubbly excitement in his belly only for a moment, and makes himself leave thinking that Sergei is going to be unbearably, ruthlessly smug about this.
It feels worth it, though, which Geno could never, ever have imagined.
Geno starts to remember the hit a few days after he’d been officially diagnosed with his concussion, sitting home and waiting for more symptoms to show up. When that never happens, Geno thinks he’s in the clear to watch TV, has been in the clear to watch TV, and texts Sidney the good news.
shouldn’t risk it is Sid’s typical downer response, and Geno rolls his eyes and turns up the volume because he is an adult and he can.
bored he winds up texting eventually, to Nealer, Sergei, a few other people he’s comfortable whining to, and Sidney. Most of the responses essentially tell him to deal, Nealer sends hahahaha because he is 12, but Sidney’s text makes Geno sit up straight in his seat.
we’ll have fun when I get back.
Geno and Sidney haven’t actually touched each other since that first night on the couch, not like that. They had practiced together, gone to a movie with Nealer, Paulie, TK and Cookie, suffered through that disgusting loss to the Flyers that had sent them both kind of reeling into their own spaces and not talking, and pretty much lived life very normally.
The hit had happened and Sidney had been concerned, repeated questions that the trainers had asked him already and then checked in on him after the Lightning game, but neither had said a word about the sex, or about doing it again. Geno doesn’t know if this is one of the rules that Sidney had mentioned creating, or if it just means that it had been on Geno’s mind more than Sidney’s, but he’s not going to deny thinking about it if Sidney asks, and he’s not going to deny wanting more.
It’s kind of inexplicable how much he wants more, how his inactive days have been spent thinking of Sidney’s hands and his flushed face. Even more, he is thinking about how little he had gotten to see of Sid, how much more he wants to see, and Geno can’t really understand how he could’ve gone so quickly to wanting so much when he had never even thought about this before.
Now, Sidney’s text seems to have gone straight to his dick, promising and teasing and not at all something he’d ever imagined Sidney insinuating over text, not least to him. Sidney doesn’t even use emoticons. It’s kind of unsettling.
Also unsettling is how much he’s looking forward to Sidney coming back, even as he makes fast steps towards his own return and is allowed back on the ice with Kadar. The road trip winds down, and Geno feels fluttery anticipation humming through him, and he knows it’s only partially about hockey.
Sidney texts to invite himself over the day after the team comes home from Montreal. Geno is texting back a yes before he’s even thought about it, because for all the thinking he’s done about what he and Sidney did together, none of it even came to close to considering refusing him, or not suggesting they do it again.
It’s clear that Sidney’s in a mood when he arrives, though, and he spends the first good chunk of his visit bitching about the Montreal game. Geno listens patiently, contributes sparingly (Sidney mostly looks like he wants to rant, and though Geno is sure he’s ranted to at least three other people in the same manner already, Geno doesn’t really mind being the fourth), and offers the only refreshments he has, so that means Sidney nearly cleans him out of Gatorade.
After Sidney pees twice, insults the tile in Geno’s bathroom three times, and worries about how Dan’s using Despres, he falls quiet and then looks at Geno. “How do you feel?” he asks quietly, oddly serious for someone who must know how close Geno is to coming back.
“Feel good,” Geno says, just as serious. He thinks about reaching across his kitchen table, bypassing the empty Gatorade bottles and taking Sidney’s hand, but he wonders if there’s a rule about that. Just thinking about that makes him feel a little warm, though, and that flash of want makes him brave. Remembering Sidney, eager and happy and satisfied beneath him, makes him even braver, and he lets a sly grin slide over his face. “No symptoms, but—hear of good cure anyway.”
“Yeah?” Sidney asks, and he sounds clueless enough that Geno has a window to back out, if he wants to. He doesn’t want to.
“Yeah, hear blowjob work good.”
Sidney flushes right on cue, and Geno has to marvel at that, how he embarrasses so easily when he clearly knows what he’s doing with Geno, and wants to do it. He’s certainly wanting it again now, his eyes lit up with interest, his tongue swiping over lips and making the request all the more fitting.
“Oh,” Sidney says, and he looks down, pulling a face like he’s thinking. Geno finds himself tensing, waiting for the Sidney of his expectations to come back, the kid he’d never associated with anything sexual whatsoever, but then Sidney grins just as slyly and looks up again. “Yeah, uh—when I had my concussion, those went a long way, you heard right.”
A dozen different thoughts enter Geno’s head at the same time, most of them questions he wants answered very quickly, but Sidney licks his lips again, and just as quickly as it had filled, Geno’s head empties of all but quick, fierce want.
“You say we have fun,” Geno says, and his voice is low. He watches Sidney’s eyes darken, his head nod slowly and tilt to the side.
“Yeah, I kind of promised, didn’t I?”
“Come here,” and there’s a growl to his voice that’s not entirely on purpose. It’s worth it, though, because Sidney practically scrambles to obey, pushing his chair back hard so it scrapes on the marble floor he hates and coming around the table. Normally Geno would wince, chastising Sidney, but Sidney is leaning down and kissing Geno hard, his mouth opening right away and his quick tongue darting in past Geno’s lips.
Geno tries to drag Sidney down into his lap, clutching at his waist, and Sidney goes but only for a moment. “Not in here,” he says when he pulls back, his lips already red. Geno’s staring at them when Sidney continues. “Fucking marble will kill my knees.”
A shudder goes through Geno, and he clutches tighter at Sidney, refusing to lose his warmth as he tries to pull away and lead them out of the kitchen. “Okay,” Geno says thickly, but he keeps Sidney held in his lap. He’s really too heavy for it, and this chair is too small, but Geno means it when he says, “Just kiss for while.”
Sidney smiles, looking surprised, but he just shifts a little in Geno’s hold and says, “Yeah, okay,” and kisses him more.
They kiss for long enough that Geno is surprised with himself, surprised at how much he enjoys this. All the time leading up to Sidney coming back was spent in anticipation, wanting to speed time up and get to the good parts, but now having Sidney here makes him want to slow down and enjoy it. It’s odd to feel this patient, to get to luxuriate in someone like this, and it’s not something that happens often in Pittsburgh. It’s never happened with another man.
Geno’s thighs are numb from seating Sidney’s ass by the time they break for air, but their arms are wound around each other and Sidney feels good and warm against him, breaths quick and eager against Geno’s neck. He looks into Geno’s eyes and he has a dopey sort of smile on his face, one that Geno happily presses kisses against, until Sidney is laughing a little and pushing him back with a hand on his forehead.
“Okay,” he says, voice kind of broken up already. “It’s been a while.”
“Not that long,” Geno says, though he has no conception of how long they’ve been kissing.
“Yeah, but—I want to, Geno,” Sidney tells him, and the words would be enough but, Jesus, the slight whine in his voice also apparently helps, and Geno has to wonder if he’s ever going to be able to hear Sidney talking to a referee again without getting a semi.
“Yes,” Geno says, trying to stand up and stumbling a little when Sidney gets up to let him. “Yes, let’s do.”
Geno feels like he’s on sea legs as Sidney guides him through his own house, shaky from their position but also from the suddenly throbbing, urgent need between his legs. His erection is obvious, sweatpants tented when Sidney sits him down in an armchair, but Sidney just grins at it, looking pleased, flushed like he’s embarrassed again.
Sidney’s graceful about going down to his knees, a move that Geno will be replaying in his mind over and over again for a very long time, and he’s businesslike in taking Geno’s dick out and sort of looking at it. He licks a stripe up his palm and strokes him a few times, like Geno needs any coaxing to get to full hardness, and he shudders under Sidney’s touch, squirming in his seat until Sidney gives him a look.
“Easy,” Sidney says, and Geno wants to scowl at him; this sounds like the beginnings of a bench pep-talk between shifts, when Sidney is saying easy but really means if you take a fucking penalty I will fuck your shit up. “I’ve got you, just relax.”
“Sid,” Geno says, but Sidney ignores him completely and just leans forward to take him into his mouth.
It takes extraordinary willpower and years of sex etiquette not to buck up into Sidney’s mouth, and it’s a close thing. Sidney gives him another look that clearly says go ahead and try it, sharp and bossy, and it combines with his lips stretched around Geno’s dick to form maybe the hottest and most surreal image he’s ever seen. Geno doesn’t try it.
He does reach down to grip Sidney’s hair, gentle until Sidney hums and closes his eyes and starts sucking in earnest, like he’s encouraged, and Geno groans and closes his eyes, too, taking deep, harsh breaths. Sidney takes him deep enough that his nose bumps his own fist, wrapped around the base of Geno’s cock, warm and anchoring, and it’s like everything that was good about the handjob but better, built upon.
Geno rubs his fingers through Sidney’s hair almost absentmindedly, head tipped back in his chair and his stomach rolling with waves of pleasure, tingling up and down his spine and shifting his hips restlessly. Sidney plants a hand flat on his thigh and rubs, soothing and warning, and Geno has to groan again, pressing his fingertips into Sidney’s scalp just to maintain some semblance of control.
Sidney eases off a few times, a little breathless, lips swollen and wet and driving Geno almost as crazy just on sight as working on his dick. When he takes Geno back in, his face is kind of screwed up in concentration, hand rubbing again at Geno’s thigh, and something about that focus drives Geno straight over, barreling towards the edge with a choked out warning that Sidney ignores to swallow him carefully.
He sits back and wipes at his mouth, looking up at Geno with wide eyes. Geno sags in his seat and looks back at Sidney, who doesn’t seem smug like last time but curious, like maybe he’s waiting for a performance review. The thought makes him grin, slow and lazy, and he reaches out and says, “Come here,” again, thicker and lower.
Sidney goes again, but frowns when Geno leans in to try and kiss him. “I just, you know,” Sidney says, glancing down between them and wiping at his mouth again. His voice is husky and wrecked and yanks a guttural sort of noise from Geno’s own throat, and he shakes his head at Sidney incredulously and leans in once more, this time pushing his mouth against Sidney’s hard.
He licks his own taste from the roof of Sidney’s mouth, shifts him into his lap again with his arms around him, kissing him until Sidney is squirming and moaning a little into it. Geno reaches between them for Sidney’s fly, still kissing him, until he feels Sidney’s hand trying to push him away.
“I can—” Sidney pants out, but Geno leans back to look him in the eye and shake his head again, firmly this time.
“No. Let me.” He’s not going to just watch this time, wants to feel Sidney in his hand, make him as crazy as he’s made Geno. “I want, Sid.”
“Yeah,” Sidney sighs, and then he seems content to bury his face in Geno’s neck and whimper as Geno jerks him off, rocking his hips into it and squeezing his arms around Geno.
When he comes, he moans quietly into Geno’s skin, and Geno presses a kiss to the side of his head and holds him through it. He lets Sidney relax against him, come seeping through Geno’s t-shirt but okay with ignoring it for a bit, until he feels Sidney’s eyelashes fluttering at his pulse point, and Sidney leans back a little.
Geno kisses him softly and tries not to make any verbal protest when Sidney shifts off his lap, stretching a little and perching on the arm of the chair. “Sorry,” he says, grimacing at Geno’s shirt, but Geno just smiles at him and tugs him into one more kiss.
“Will put in wash, is fine. Glad I make you feel good.” Sidney smiles at that, too, flushing a bit. He starts cleaning himself up, tucking himself away and straightening his shirt, glancing at the front door and then back at Geno like he’s unsure of what he’s supposed to do now. He looks sleepy again but also on edge, and Geno wants to tell him he can go if he wants, wants to give him an out if that’s what Sidney needs, but—“Hungry?” he asks instead, and Sidney’s shoulders lose what little tension had started to build there.
“Yeah,” Sidney says, perked up, and Geno cups a hand over his knee and squeezes it indulgently.
“Okay. I change, we get pizza.”
“Cool,” Sidney says, and he settles down in the chair once Geno vacates it, curling up in the spot he’d left and letting his eyes drift shut.
When Geno comes back into the room, Sidney’s eyes snap open and he says, “If you get cleared to play tomorrow, we need to talk about Beau,” and Geno grins and grabs a menu.
Geno is cleared to play the next night, and it’s—it’s fucking good. It’s great. He scores the kind of goal that makes him feel right in his own skin, like everything’s finally working again, and then he gets to watch Sidney follow it up with a killer goal of his own, his eyes bright and burning as he taps Geno’s glove on the bench.
He is glad they talked about Beau, because Beau is good on his wing. He hits harder than Geno had thought he would or could, doesn’t shy away from the corners or the board work that Kuni had specialized in for him, and skates with a speed and strength that Geno appreciates.
Playing with Beau is good, it works and makes Geno feel great about their win, giddy when he follows Sidney home without really thinking about it.
Sidney pulls out a mess of junk food to spread over his coffee table as he and Geno talk over the game again, the TV on low and ignored. The experience is almost surreal—this is easily the most consecutive time he’s spent with Sidney off the ice, but Sidney doesn’t seem to think there’s anything weird about it. He talks to Geno like he would if they were in the locker room or out with the guys, like Geno’s not thinking about getting Sidney naked between every sentence.
It’s only a matter of time before that thought gets voiced. Geno says, “Want you in a bed tonight,” when Sidney drops off in the conversation, tipping M&Ms into his mouth and looking stupidly content. His eyes go wide and dark but he nods almost immediately, adding, “Yeah, that sounds good,” like there’d be any mistaking the eager look on his face.
He gets Sidney naked and in his bed, gets to touch him all over and map out where he’s sensitive, where he likes Geno’s mouth and where he likes Geno’s hands. Geno sucks Sidney off when he’s barely coherent, feels a sharp thrill when he brings Sidney over the edge fast and hard and then can lean up and jerk off over his bare, still heaving chest.
Geno’s barely come down when Sidney grabs at him, telling him he should stay, halfway asleep already but eyes still bright on Geno’s, meaning every word. Geno settles into Sidney’s sheets and curls around him without hesitation, listening to Sidney’s breathing slow down and trying to remember ever feeling this happy about sex before.
For as much as Geno likes it, as much as he likes to think about it, sex isn’t something they get to do that often. They go on the road and at the team dinner celebrating their crazy win against the Flyers, Sidney is giddy and giggly but sure to keep any interaction with Geno platonic. Geno’s not arguing with him.
He likes this but not enough to make it a Thing with the team, to hear Nealer teasing him or Duper threatening him or Flower drawing incorrect conclusions, and anything happening on the road would just invite those kinds of situations to crop up.
Geno’s injured again by the time they return from the road trip. He doesn’t particularly want to hear Sidney talking about his theory that something’s been off with his shoulder all year, so the two mostly keep their distance. It’s not in any pointed way, like in the beginning of the season when Sidney was ignoring him, but the next time they do see each other is to simply exchange handjobs on Sidney’s couch again, not really talking much about hockey.
Geno wants more, pretty much all the time, but he respects that it’s not always practical. Being sidelined again gives him more time to think, anyway, and to realize there are some questions he probably needs to ask Sidney, rules they had never hammered out. He’s reminded of this when Sergei calls to check in on him and asks how Sid is, voice heavy with suggestion.
“He is fine,” Geno says stoically. “We are winning, you know. He likes winning.” He doesn’t ask how Sergei’s AHL team is faring up north, but he thinks the implication is there anyway.
“I’ll bet he does,” Sergei says, and Geno huffs and contemplates just hanging up. “Still married?”
“Yes,” Geno tells him, and that—the Penguins are winning and nobody likes to talk about winning streaks, not out loud anyway. The thing is, they are winning while playing really fucking good hockey, grinding down teams and blowing out teams and shutting out teams. The Penguins are winning and they haven’t stopped winning for a while, and nobody likes to talk about it.
But sometimes, Sidney pulls Geno into his bed, and when they are done they both lie there, and Sidney looks at the wire around his ring finger and smiles, a little. He takes Geno’s hand in his and he says something vague like, “I don’t want—we shouldn’t talk about it, but something’s going on this year. Something really—” Usually he breaks off because Geno’s kissing him, swallowing the words up eagerly.
They don’t have to talk about it, not in Sidney’s bed. Outside the bedroom, they talk about their system, they talk about Beau and about Nealer and what the hell anybody can do about TK, but under the covers they don’t have to talk about what’s going on this year because Geno can feel it.
He’s not playing, and this hasn’t been his year, but with Sidney—Sidney, who talks excitedly about Geno coming back healthier, about the damage he can do when he’s one hundred percent, like he believes in that without question—Geno feels like a huge part of whatever that vague thing is.
Geno starts staying over more often, mostly because Sidney never actually tells him to leave. It’s easy to see now how much Sidney hates being alone in his house, how he’s allowed Geno so easily into his space because there is so much space to fill now. Geno wonders if he could’ve always been here, if his and Sidney’s relationship could have been like this all along, had he ever known Sidney would want it this way.
Waking up to find Sidney cooking breakfast shouldn’t be strange or novel after this summer, but it’s nice in this context. It makes Geno’s stomach feel warm, and when he puts a hand on Sidney’s hip and kisses his cheek gently, he feels even warmer in the face of Sidney’s answering sleepy smile.
“There’s coffee,” Sidney says, voice still a little thick with sleep. Geno pours himself a mug and leans against the counter, watching Sidney concentrate on frying bacon. “This should be ready in a few.”
“I make toast?” Geno says, and though Sidney tells him he doesn’t have to, Geno reaches for Sidney’s bread.
He burns the toast, but Sidney doesn’t seem to mind. “I really can’t figure out that thing either,” he says as he wrenches open the window to air the smoke out. “I left the good one at Mario’s because Chris bought me this one, but I really miss it. I use the toaster oven for waffles.”
“We have waffles?”
“No, I had waffles yesterday.”
“You can eat waffles every day, Sid.”
“Oh shut up,” Sidney says, flushing. Geno grins at him. “I’m making you breakfast, be nice to me.”
“You make all the boys breakfast?” Geno asks as he sits down at the kitchen table. He’s joking, but Sidney flushes harder, setting plates down in front of them and pulling the carton of orange juice out from he has it tucked under his arm.
“Um,” Sidney says, sitting down across from Geno. “Not all of them, no.”
Geno thinks about that, picking up a strip of bacon to munch on while he considers it. He’s never been in a position to eat and hang out with a guy he’s having sex with; that had always seemed like girlfriend things to do. He couldn’t imagine that Sidney had gotten to do those things all too often, and yet, here they both are, having breakfast together. Sidney’s wearing a stretched-out t-shirt, the collar gaping and revealing a fading bite mark just above his collarbone, Geno’s handiwork. None of this is anything he could’ve imagined, but he’s remarkably okay with it.
“Lots of boys?” Geno asks, trying for casual. Sidney narrows his eyes anyway, frowning a bit.
“Why do you care?”
“I mean—you do this before.” He gestures around them, though Sidney keeps squinting. “I never do like this.”
“Oh,” Sidney says after a minute. He still looks a bit uncomfortable, and Geno remembers how he never really volunteers anything like this, mostly just allows Geno to look for it. “Well, yeah, if you mean, like—hooking up. I’ve done that before.” He wrinkles his nose a bit. “I’m kind of bad at it, as you can probably tell. I usually wind up cooking them breakfast.”
“That’s bad?” Geno wonders, and Sidney shrugs.
“It’s not—it’s supposed to be against the rules, right? It’s like relationship stuff, and I’ve mostly been with other hockey players, so it’s not like we could ever have a real relationship.”
“Teammates?” Geno asks, because he sees Sidney’s point, but what they’re doing now feels a bit like a real relationship anyway. Not that he’ll call it that, or had ever even thought about pursuing one of those with a guy before, but still. He thinks being teammates is what’s giving it that edge; Geno has hooked up with women before without it ever getting this comfortable.
Sidney blanches a bit. “Ah, no. Well—you’re the first Penguin, let’s put it that way.” He pulls an even more perturbed face. “And the first accidental marriage, so. I think that’s what makes the rules all screwy, anyway. You’re different.” This time, he manages a crooked sort of grin. “Pain in my ass.”
“Maybe it’s not relationship stuff,” Geno says, digging into his food and thinking about it some more. “Maybe you just like cook breakfast.” Sidney had cooked breakfast every day in LA, smiling hard whenever Matt thanked him, which he did every day too, and—
And then Geno’s brain kind of short circuits as he puts together something he probably should’ve figured out a long time. “Sid.”
“What?” Sidney snaps with his mouth full.
Sidney goes scarlet, which is just typical, and gives him his answer right away. Geno lets his fork drop and finds himself mentally paging through every interaction Sidney and Matt had had, how they’d constantly be in each other’s space, teasing each other and touching each other and—“While I’m there?”
“No!” Sidney says, and he swallows all his food before continuing stubbornly. “I mean, only once while you were there, the first night. After that it was weird. That’s why I had to tell him about us, because—I had to, right? How else was I going to explain why I couldn’t—” He gestures vaguely in a way that Geno takes to mean do it, and Geno’s brain is doing something very strange and violent with the thought, so he has to shake himself a bit and regroup.
“But you—” Something feels wrong about this, and it’s not quite jealousy. It’s mostly that now he’s remembering how Matt looked at Sidney, how they were always around each other, what Matt’s voice sounded like when he talked about Sidney, and he’s hurtling towards a conclusion that sits unpleasantly in his stomach. “Sid,” Geno says, quiet and kind of gentle. “You dump Matty.”
“I did not!” Sidney practically yelps, though he won’t quite meet Geno’s eyes. “We were just hooking up, I told you. He knew that.”
“Wasn’t just hooking up to him,” Geno says. He’s not sure why he’s suddenly so sure of that, except for how familiar the sentiment is, and how utterly, despicably terrifying it is. “Is like us, what we do now, but not marry. Sid, you were boyfriends.”
“We were definitely not boyfriends,” Sidney says hotly. “Wait. Do you think we’re boyfriends?”
“Act like boyfriends,” Geno tells him, and Sidney goes quiet and thoughtful, staring down at his eggs. “I know rules all—screwy? Because husbands, too, and teammates. But you and Matt—Matt care about you, I can see.”
“I cared about him too, but—I swear, Geno, it wasn’t like that. We were fine in Vail?” Sidney says it like a question, and Geno is rolling his eyes until another, mildly unpleasant thought enters his head.
“Hook up in Vail?”
“Uh,” Sidney says, rubbing the back of his neck. “No. I told you, once I found out about you, it was weird to hook up with anyone else, so I didn’t.” He deflates a little. “Matt wanted to, though.”
Geno groans. “Sid, you are asshole.”
“No! I didn’t mean to be! And we’re fine now, we really are, we still talk and we’re going to train together again this summer. I’m thinking of asking Beau to come!”
“Corrupt him too?” Geno asks, and then he remembers what Matt had called the condo. “Bring him to the Love Shack?”
“Shut up,” Sidney says darkly, but Geno is already laughing way too hard to stop.
Once he’s done laughing, Sidney is sulking into his plate, and Geno reaches out with his foot to press it against Sidney’s ankle bone under the table. “If you say is good, is good,” Geno tells him. “Glad you stay friends. But I think maybe you should try think more next time, yes?”
“I told you I’m bad at this,” Sidney says, cheek resting on his palm. Geno smiles at him and kicks at him slightly, smiling harder when Sidney kicks back.
“No. Think you too good at it, that’s the problem.” Sidney colors again at that, looking down, but Geno can tell he looks pleased. He always likes to hear he’s good at something, even things he’s not trying to be good at.
Sidney’s good at being with Geno. He’s good at indulging him and being demanding with him and letting him share space, all things Geno had never imagined he’d want with Sidney before. They don’t mention the word boyfriend again, and though Geno can be practical about it and admit that seems to be where they’ve landed, he also just likes where they’ve landed. He likes that Sidney seems content to just let it be, let it keep working.
Hockey is still working. The Penguins are winning, Geno is working on bringing his shoulder back up to speed, Sidney comes to him pink-cheeked and exultant from every new win, and Geno wraps his arms around him and marvels at how good things are right now.
Sergei thinks he’s disgusting. “You sound like a lovesick fool,” he tells Geno, who cannot even be upset about it. “Are you sure you married him by accident?”
“Yes,” Geno insists. In the back of his mind, there is a deadline to all this, a separation both physical and legal that will have to happen in the summer, and neither of their agents will let them forget that. But he did marry Sidney by accident; he’d married him when he couldn’t even think of Sidney as anything other than his odd but wonderful captain.
He thinks about that separation and tells Sergei, “It’s not really because we’re married,” because it’s not. How he feels about Sidney is a combination of how he feels about sex with him, spending time with him, and about what he’s doing with the Penguins. Geno’s always loved Sidney for leading the Penguins, pouring all of himself into the team. Now it feels like so much more, like Geno’s somehow a bigger part of it.
“Would you be sleeping with him if you weren’t married?” Sergei asks, and Geno doesn’t really want to answer, because the answer would be no. But for the first time, the marriage doesn’t feel like the worst mistake he’s ever made, and he is ridiculously grateful to Sidney for that.
“I’m just glad that I am now,” Geno says honestly, and Sergei sighs, worried. Geno doesn’t blame him, honestly. When he really thinks about this, the implications of it are huge, and the risks may very well come to outweigh the benefits. No one back home excepting Sergei or his parents would be able to understand it all. Geno worries too, but he is so happy that it is hard to keep worrying.
In Sidney’s bed, it is impossible to worry. Sidney’s hands on him are always eager, pushy and needy at the same time. Sometimes Sidney likes to just hold Geno down and make a mess of him, fast and intense with none of Geno’s patience, like his main objective in life is always to make Geno get off. He’s always smug about it after, impossibly and attractively smug, and Geno dreams of fucking the smugness out of him, drawing things out until Sidney is a babbling mess.
His shoulder gets in the way, or at least, Sidney insists it should be in the way. One night he has Geno stretch out in the bed and he massages him slowly, slower than anything he’s ever done to Geno. It’s deep and strong and gentle and when it’s over, Geno has to look at Sidney and wonder how he can miss how they are with each other, how just hooking up is nothing like this.
Sidney says, “Fuck,” a little shakily and kisses Geno just as gently as he’d massaged him.
He’s not one hundred percent when he clears himself to start participating more heavily in Sidney’s bedroom, but he’s close enough, and Sidney is pretty easy to convince after a long, languid makeout session. “We take it easy,” Geno whispers against Sidney’s lips, kissing him firmly one more time before touching his sides and gripping the hem of his shirt. “But I want make you feel good.”
“You always make me feel good,” Sidney says, but he goes the way Geno directs him, stripping out of his clothes and lying naked on his stomach, folding his arms up under a pillow.
For a moment or two, Geno takes his time looking at Sidney, the strong expanse of his back and the healthy swell of his ass. Sidney takes a lot of teasing about his ass, sometimes from Geno himself, but now Geno can’t help feeling kind of obsessed with it. He touches it now, palming it and grabbing two handfuls, groaning at how his hands can’t even span the entirety of it. He likes the way Sidney pushes back into the touch, humming a little into the pillow.
Geno takes more time getting the lube out, rubbing his fingers between Sidney’s cheeks and feeling him twitch and sigh. He likes Sidney like this, relaxed and content to let Geno explore, and the sharpest sound he makes happens when Geno pushes a finger slowly into him.
He gets more vocal as Geno progresses, rocking his hips into the bed and groaning hard when Geno reaches lower to palm his balls, push up and cup his dick. He’s fingering Sidney without true, pointed purpose, not as a means to an end but just to make him feel good, and he thinks it’s working; Sidney is working his hips more and more into the sheets.
Geno leans down to kiss at the small of Sidney’s back, damp with sweat and jerking hard as Geno carefully brushes over his prostate. “Shh,” he whispers against the skin, and Sidney whimpers, twitching ceaselessly. “Got you, Sid.”
“You’re gonna—you’re—” Sidney doesn’t seem to be able to make words work, can only whine out, “Geno,” and reach back blindly, searchingly. Geno kisses him again and quietly asks him what he wants, working three fingers in and out of Sidney and knowing he’s stretched to take more.
“Fuck me,” is the bit out answer he gets, and Geno had been prepared to do that, too.
He gently arranges Sidney to lie on his side, skating his hands across his ribs and reaching around to rub his stomach, feeling him shudder. Geno has to stop touching Sidney to roll the condom on and Sidney tries to reach back, but he settles when Geno’s leg slides between his and spreads them, Geno’s dick nudging at his hole shortly after.
Geno presses in slowly, wrapping Sidney up in his arms and cupping his dick again, stroking it carefully until he’s fully seated. The position doesn’t allow him much movement, but it’s enough to rock in and out of Sidney shallowly, as slow as he wants to, and he kisses the back of Sidney’s neck and fucks him until he’s sighing again. Sidney relaxes into each thrust, mumbling Geno’s name thickly and happily.
There are moments when Sidney tenses up, and his hands twitch towards his cock, but Geno rubs his arms and kisses at the top of his spine, repeating, “Got you, just hold on,” and bringing him back from the edge. Geno can only hold on for himself for a little while longer, Sidney hot and tight around him and too good against him, but he wants to hold out for Sidney.
When he feels his own orgasm building, tight and tingling and unavoidable in the pit of his stomach, Geno reaches around again to grip Sidney’s cock. He nudges one of Sidney’s strong thighs up with his knee and fucks him just a bit deeper, a touch faster, and it is only a few moments before Sidney is tensing up for the last time and then letting go, coming wetly over Geno’s hand and then going boneless. Geno lasts two more hurried thrusts before he’s coming, too, burying his face in Sidney’s hair and groaning thickly.
He lies there for a while after, lazily rubbing over Sidney’s bare hip, and it takes a huge effort to pull out. Sidney makes a small, sleepy noise when does, reaching blindly back again, and Geno pats him gently before he gets rid of the condom. He climbs back onto the bed and leans over Sidney to peer at his face, smiling and kissing his closed eyelids gently until they flutter open, looking annoyed.
“Clean you up?” Geno offers, but Sidney shakes his head and tugs Geno down for a lazy, wet kiss before shoving him back a little, pointedly.
“Just sleep,” Sidney says, and Geno settles down around him and tugs the blankets over them, kissing the back of Sidney’s neck one more time and then doing as he’s told.
The talk of the trades makes Sidney uneasy at first.
“Everything is going really well,” Sidney tells him after a meeting with Ray, a little crestfallen as he and Geno laze around Sidney’s living room. They’re ostensibly organizing the DVD collection, having grown considerably since Geno has taken to bringing his own movies over, but they still don’t have enough to fill Sidney’s “media room”, which he uses to store boxes of complimentary equipment he plans to donate. “I don’t want to mess with anything, and you’re coming back soon.”
“Not going to mess,” Geno says, rubbing a hand over Sidney’s back. “We keep us steady. Some changes good, Sid.”
That helps, apparently, and so does another meeting with Ray, lasting longer and culminating in Sidney smiling into Geno’s shoulder when they meet up again and saying, “Brenden Morrow,” breathlessly. The excitement picks up when Douglas Murray joins them, especially with Morrow fitting well into the lineup already and spiking Nisky and Nealer’s excitement levels, too, and Sidney is close to exploding with happiness as Geno’s return looms nearer.
“I told you,” Sidney says. “There’s something about this year. I’m not the only who feels it.”
“No,” Geno says, and he takes Sidney’s hand and squeezes it. Sidney smiles at him like it’s the confirmation he needs, and Geno pokes at the wire on Sidney’s finger, and can’t wait to come back.
The Iginla trade sends their excitement off the charts. Geno is asleep when it goes down, but Sidney gets woken up by a text from Ray and elbows Geno awake, shaking him and hissing, “Geno! We got Iggy!”
Geno blinks his eyes open and takes a few slow minutes to let the words register. In that span of time, Sidney repeats them about five more times, face split in a huge, radiant grin, hair matted down on one side and sticking up in curly tufts on the other, and when he says, “What?” he feels a little dumb, not all from sleep.
“Iggy,” Sidney repeats, and he’s practically sitting on Geno, vibrating with excitement. “Geno, you’re playing tomorrow and we got Iggy!”
Happiness, gooey and warm and bright, pulses through Geno quickly, and he wraps his arms around Sidney and mutters, “Yay,” in the kisses he presses all over his face. Sidney laughs too loudly in the night, cracked and delighted.
The next night, before the game against the Jets, Sidney and Geno do their handshake, tap their helmets, and Sidney says, “Remember how we promised together?”
For the first time ever, Geno can easily forget that it was a lie, because he believes in it now, wholeheartedly. “Yes. Together.”
It’s a good comeback game.
Geno spends the night at Sidney’s again, trying not to think of how many consecutive nights he’s stayed here now, or to think of what Sergei would say if he knew. He wakes up earlier than Sidney and attempts to cook an actual breakfast, burning things one after the other before he turns, swearing, to the toaster oven and keeps it simple with waffles. By the time Sidney wakes up, he has a stack waiting and the syrup on the table and he’s almost done hiding the mess of his failures.
Sidney sees the mess and grins at him anyway, giving him a quick, sleepy kiss before sitting down at the table. “You’re back,” Sidney says happily, and Geno nods, just as happy.
“Back. Good game with Morrow.”
“Great game with Morrow,” Sidney corrects, and they spend the rest of breakfast going over the game again, talking about what Morrow had done for that line and how well he fit in.
“Do you know what this means to them, to be here with us and making it happen this year?” Sidney asks eventually. Geno nods again, feeling his chest go kind of tight to think about it. “It’s just—I’m glad we—you and I—” He breaks off, struggling, and Geno knows where he’s going so cuts in gently.
“Glad we stay marry, Sid. Even if crazy.”
“I’m glad we promised to do this,” Sidney says firmly, and that makes Geno wince. He can forget that that promise was a lie because it feels real now, and the marriage means whatever they want it to mean now. If it means going after a Cup with guys like Morrow and Iginla, then Geno is glad they got to do it, that whatever they did for the team helped Shero decide to go all in. Geno thinks he’s been promising together for a while now without always saying the words, but he wonders if it’s fair for Sidney to continue thinking that that’s what they did originally.
He’s still thinking about that when Sidney goes off for his light morning workout, kissing Geno on the forehead as he goes. It’s early for Geno and he’s still supposed to be taking it relatively easy on his shoulder, so he cleans up the kitchen and then sits down with his laptop.
Reading through the fallout of the Iginla trade is still funny two days later, but Twitter reminds him a bit unpleasantly of Matt, who had texted him yesterday: IGGY!!!!! Geno had never followed Matt on Twitter, honestly forgot about it, so he decides it’s probably the least he owes him now. No matter what Sidney thinks or says, Matt had gotten shafted over the summer by this accidental marriage, and Geno can’t help feeling a little guilty that it’s worked out so well for him now.
He scrolls through his timeline for a bit, rolling his eyes and favoriting a terrible tweet from Bissonnette as he goes. It’s a stupid move because Bissonnette is like a stray dog: if you feed him once he keeps coming back, and it’s only another few minutes before Geno gets a DM from him. Hey stranger!
Geno rolls his eyes again and sends back hello, because he’s always been terrible at refusing to feed stray dogs.
Long time no see. Special friend keeping you busy?? ;)
Geno grins and listens, because he can hear the terrible pop workout mix he’d made Sidney blasting from downstairs, where he’s probably doing his stretches and cursing at Lady Gaga. Yes ))))) also busy winning. know what is like?
Not cool bro! Biz sends, reversing the emoticons to make them sad in a huge stream. Geno is chuckling about it when Biz sends his next message. That’s no way to treat your Best Man. )))))
It’s a few more minutes before he can unfreeze, and Bissonnette is sending him more whiny messages about he’s been neglected, but Geno ignores him to read the Best Man message over and over again. When his mind starts to clear of white noise, he gathers the wherewithal to grab his phone from the counter and scroll through his contacts until he finds Biz Nasty next to a cactus emoji.
He hovers his finger over the call option but stops, considering. Then he gets up and yells, “Sid!” at the top of his lungs, his heart pounding.
It takes a second for the music to shut off and Sidney to come bounding up, wiping sweat away from his forehead with a towel and stopping in front of Geno with wide eyes. “What is it?” Sidney asks, and Geno has no idea what to tell him, no idea how to vocalize the sheer panic going through his head. “What’s wrong?”
“Have to call someone,” Geno says slowly, the English a struggle to keep clear. “Just—listen.”
“Listen, please.” Geno hits the call option and puts it on speaker, just staring at Sidney’s worried, open face as it rings.
Bissonnette picks up laughing. “Oh, so now I get a call! Guilty conscience, eh?”
Sidney is mouthing who until Geno says sharply, “Biz, shut up. What you mean when you say best man?”
He’s not looking at Sidney anymore but he can tell how he reacts by the noise he makes, muffled and strangled and as panicked as Geno feels. Biz laughs some more, but after a minute he must realize how serious Geno is, because he wheezes a bit until the laughter tapers off.
“Yeah, I mean at your wedding? I made your rings, epic best man duty! Hey, your first anniversary is coming up soon, don’t tell me you forgot already!”
Geno closes his eyes, breathing out harshly through his nose, and he hears Sidney drop into a seat on the couch. He doesn’t know what to say now, but luckily Biz has never had that problem.
“I mean, your agent sure as shit hasn’t forgotten, he calls me up reminding me to keep my mouth shut every fucking week—”
“Paul,” Sidney says suddenly, strangled and exhausted.
Biz chirps, “Oh hey, Sid! Wow, what a day I’m having,” but shuts up as soon as Sidney starts talking over him.
“Did you—you were one of the witnesses on the marriage certificate, right? You—you remember the whole thing?”
“Yeah, of course I do,” Biz says, like that’s a terribly stupid question. It’s clear that neither Barry nor Brisson were particularly thorough in explaining to Biz what had gone on that night, or what Sidney and Geno don’t remember, and Geno doesn’t know whether that’s a good thing or not. “But, hey man, you really don’t have to worry about anything. I wouldn’t tell anybody about it, that’s not how I am. You were my captain once, for a little while, I’m not going to screw you—”
“Who was the other witness? Who was, uh, my best man?” Sidney asks, not sounding relieved at all, though Geno feels kind of faint with it. Biz is silent, probably confused, and Geno is about to haltingly explain when Biz speaks again with small, quiet laughter in his voice.
“Um. My date, Sid.”
Sidney explodes into curses, throwing the kind of verbal fit Geno’s only ever seen him have on the ice, and Geno can only stare. On the phone, Biz is laughing and going, “What the fuck, oh my God,” but Geno can’t help him because he has no idea what’s going on, either. Geno can’t remember who Biz’s date to the awards show was, but if Brisson and Barry had been able to get to Biz, obviously they had gotten to whatever random hot girl he’d had on his arm that night, too.
Sidney storms out of the kitchen before Geno can get any answers from him, and Biz is now asking, “Jesus Christ, did I just give Sidney Crosby a heart attack,” and Geno sighs and turns back to his phone.
“We don’t remember wedding, Biz. Not remember a thing from that night. Don’t know why Sid is upset, but—”
“Oh holy shit, man,” Biz says, sounding guilty as hell. “I’m sorry, you should’ve said that way sooner.”
Geno glares at his phone. “Not remember anything, I tell you.”
“No, I mean—it really sucks that you don’t remember, but I have the whole thing on video.”
Geno freezes again, blood running cold. “You—what?”
“Yeah, I—I told Brisson I got rid of it but I thought you’d want to see it someday. I was actually waiting for your anniversary, but I swear that’s all I was going to do with it—okay, maybe I was going to tease you with it a bit, but I’m not fucking crazy, I wouldn’t do anything else with it. I’m really not into getting on Pat Brisson and Mario Lemieux’s bad side, thanks.”
Geno’s head is spinning with all this, but in that moment Sidney comes storming back in towards the front hallway, car keys in his shaking hands and hat jammed onto his head. “Where you going?” Geno demands, crossing the room and grabbing Sidney before he can leave.
“To Philadelphia,” Sidney says, and Geno gapes at him, gripping his hands tightly and trying to force him to focus on his face.
“Why? Sid, we have game, is six hour drive, are you—”
“Because fucking Giroux was the other witness on that marriage certificate, and now I have to kill him before he ruins my life,” Sidney says. His voice is shaking and his eyes are wild and Geno thinks he’s completely serious, as irrational as he’s being. He clamps down on his hold on Sidney, looking right into his eyes until Sidney is trying to flinch away.
“Cannot go to Philly, Sid. Too far, make yourself burnt out for game. Been months, obviously Brisson talk to him so he not say anything.” He leans in closer, pressing his forehead against Sidney, swallowing as Sidney just shakes against him. “Calm down, please.”
“How—how could he know? He can’t know, Geno, how could we let him—”
“You guys were really fucked up,” Biz’s voice calls over from the call, and Geno glares back at the phone again. “I mean, obviously, if you don’t remember, but yeah. It’s not like I was very sober either, or G, but we had a good time, and Geno’s right. Neither of us are going to say anything, you don’t have to worry.”
“That doesn’t make me feel better, Paul,” Sidney snaps over Geno’s shoulder, but Geno shushes him quickly and tugs him closer. After a little while, he can hear Sidney start counting his breaths very quietly, and slowly his breathing evens out so that he seems calmer. When Geno pulls back to look at his face, he is still very pale, and there is a desperate, despairing look in his eyes that Geno doesn’t like at all.
He turns back to the phone with a sigh and scoops it up. “Send video, we call you later,” Geno says, and Biz sounds somber when he agrees and hangs up. Sidney lets out a choked groan and sits down again, looking like his legs won’t hold him up anymore. Geno lets his shoulders slump.
“There’s a video?” Sidney asks a little brokenly, and Geno nods. He’s not sure he wants to watch it, but realizes that he absolutely must, and that Sidney needs to, too. “Does Giroux have a fucking video?”
“I don’t know, Sid.”
“I need—I need to call him,” Sidney says, straightening in his seat. “I need to—to do something, Jesus Christ, how could we be so stupid?”
“We were drunk,” Geno says quietly, and Sidney shakes his head before dropping it into his hands.
“I really thought—I thought we—” And this is about the promise again, because whatever the marriage means to them now, it had once been colossally fucking stupid, and it’s hard to be reminded of it. He’s not sure that Sidney’s ever believed in the stupidity completely, and it hurts to watch it hit him now. “I’m calling him,” Sidney says firmly, and he fumbles for his phone.
First he calls Max, which Geno thinks is just asking for trouble. It takes longer for Sidney to get the phone number out of Max than it does for the actual call to Giroux to take place. Geno listens to Sidney’s side of it, listening as he badgers Giroux with questions over and over again. He asks if Giroux has said anything, if he will say anything, voice going higher and more hysterical as Giroux keeps presumably denying it.
Finally, Geno hears Giroux erupt into shouts that make Sidney wince, and though it’s tinny on Sidney’s older phone, he can hear that the words aren’t entirely in English. Sidney’s shoulder slumps and he drops his head into his hand. His voice is small when he says something in stilted French, and then he says, “Okay, okay, I—”
He winces again, his face screwed up and pained, and his voice is even smaller when he says, “Thank you.” Giroux seems to yell at him some more, and then Sidney sighs and practically mumbles, “And I’m sorry.”
There is clear, pointed silence on the other end, and Geno can understand that; he’s staring at Sidney, wondering if he’s officially lost his mind.
Giroux presumably asks a similar question, because Sidney sighs again and says, “Because I voted for you a bunch of times for NHL13, and that’s—”
He pulls the phone away from his ear as Giroux bursts out laughing and then hangs up, leaving Sidney just frowning at his phone until Geno comes over and take it from him gently. “Could go worse,” Geno says, and Sidney just shrugs listlessly.
The video is in Geno’s inbox a minute later, and Geno pulls his laptop towards them and looks at Sidney, who nods just as listlessly, already looking defeated. He takes a deep breath and opens the video up, pressing play with a shaking finger.
It’s about what he’d expected, not including Giroux standing next to Sidney at the cheap, flowery altar they’re standing under. The video is being shot over Geno’s shoulder from where Biz is presumably standing, so it’s mostly just shots of Sidney, red-faced and giggling, telling Giroux to shut up whenever he laughs.
A few times, Geno leans in and grabs Sidney’s ass, which makes everyone crack up. But he and Sidney don’t even say anything, just laugh a lot and fall into each other when the judge tells them to, mumbling out, “I do,” and “Do,” respectively and then missing each other’s mouths when they kiss. The video fills with catcalls from Biz and slow clapping from Giroux, and it ends quickly; the whole thing may have taken five or six minutes, tops.
It’s almost underwhelming, but not all that unexpected. But Sidney looks completely devastated, confused and lost, and when Geno pushes the laptop away and tries to wrap an arm around his shoulders, Sidney jerks away from him and shakes his head.
“This doesn’t make sense,” Sidney says slowly. “That was—we were just drunk.”
“Yes, Sid,” Geno tells him, very gently. “You know this.”
“No, I knew we were drunk, but I thought—we didn’t even say anything about the team or the Cup,” Sidney says. “You didn’t say anything about re-signing with us or staying together or—”
“You think I say that?” Geno asks sharply, ears pricking at the talk of re-signing. They haven’t talked about that much either, treating it like that boyfriend word, and Geno has been trying to just think of this season, but now it makes sense that that’s been on Sidney’s mind.
“You remembered that we promised together,” Sidney says, ignoring Geno’s question and holding up his left hand, drawing Geno’s gaze immediately to the wire wrapped around his ring finger. Geno thinks about Paul Bissonnette, of all people, having made those rings and feels a little queasy. “You said you remembered that, Geno, that’s what the rings meant, so why would we—”
“I lie, Sid,” Geno says, sharp again and more so than he’d intended. “Lie to keep you from freaking out.”
“What?” Sidney asks breathlessly.
“Sorry. Just—seem easy at the time, but I don’t remember anything. Don’t remember together.”
“So we never—we never promised anything at all? We were just drunk and fucking stupid and—”
“You think I marry you to sign contract with Penguins?” Geno asks him quickly, and Sidney deflates a little, his lips going thin in a way that gives Geno his answer immediately. He asks his next question because he doesn’t really want to, but he needs to. “You—you stay marry so I sign with Penguins?”
There are another few beats of damning silence, and Geno feels cold inside. “I thought you were going to do that anyway,” Sidney says eventually, very quiet, but Geno just feels sick.
“You sleep with me so I sign?” Geno bites out, and now at least Sidney’s face changes, contorting and going red.
“No! God, of course not. I slept with you because I wanted to, because you wanted to, I would never—”
“Do anything for team, Sid,” Geno says bitterly, crossing his arms over his chest, and Sidney’s face twists again.
“Fuck you, Geno. At least I care about the team. At least I—God, it meant fuck all, didn’t it? This whole time we stayed together just for some—some stupid fantasy I had that you actually gave a shit—”
“If you think I don’t care about team, you wrong.”
“You lied to me!” Sidney says, and he stands up clutching his keys again. It sets off an alarm in Geno’s head, pushing past the anger and resentment and making him stand, too, because even if it had been a fantasy—even if Sidney thought it meant something it hadn’t originally, that doesn’t mean it can’t be that now. He can’t lie to himself and think that, whatever motivations Sidney had had, whatever he’d been trying to do, their time together wasn’t good.
“What you doing?”
“I have to get out of here,” Sidney tells him, shaking his head and backing away from Geno. “I have to go home.”
Geno stares at him. “Sid, you are home, this is home.”
“No it’s—” Sidney snaps, and then he stops, looking around. “Fuck. Okay, fine, I’m going to Mario’s, then.”
“Should keep talking,” Geno says quickly, feeling the situation quickly spiraling out of hand. This morning seems so far away, sharing waffles and syrup and Sidney’s lips on his forehead. The idea of losing that is suddenly terrifying, no matter what muck and crap they have to dig through to get it all out in the open and get back to that. “Sid, forget about marriage, what we doing is real, win streak is real, Ray says all in so we all in, should not just—”
“I can’t right now, Geno,” Sidney says. He sounds like he’s going to cry, and that that’s the last thing he wants to do in front of Geno. Geno understands entirely, but he doesn’t want Sidney to go.
“I can’t,” Sidney says again, and he leaves quickly, slamming his front door with a finality that tells Geno it would be foolish to stay and wait.
The next time he sees Sidney is at the rink the next day, after Geno goes to Nealer’s house to sulk on his couch for a day and night while refusing to tell him why. It’s hard to stay sulky in the face of the rest of the team’s excitement for Iggy’s arrival, but he gives it a valiant try. Sidney, for his part, seems to be able to turn it on and off, in a mood whenever he’s around Geno but fine around everybody else, and only Duper seems really worried about him, sharing a look with Geno when he notices him staring from across the locker room.
The next time he talks to Sidney is when they’re dressing for their game, and he looks over and notices with a heart-wrenching turn of his stomach that Sidney, tying his skate laces methodically, isn’t wearing the wire around his ring finger.
“Sid,” Geno says when they’re getting ready to line up. “You not wear wire.”
Sidney glances around and then shakes his head, shrugging a little. “Yeah, it’s just—it was stupid, right? It was getting rusty and gross and it didn’t—we were drunk. You said it months ago, I just didn’t listen.”
Geno feels abruptly awful, and Sidney notices, because he taps their helmets together prematurely. It messes up the order of the handshake, which makes him feel worse, but Sidney’s eyes are wide and clear and locked on Geno’s. “Hey, don’t think about it now, okay? We have a game to think about.” He smiles a little, fake but bright. “Iggy’s here, Geno, Iggy’s playing. Think about that.”
“We talk later,” Geno says thickly, swallowing hard. “Please.”
“Okay,” Sidney says. “After the game, we’ll talk.”
Sidney’s face hardens a little, and his eyes are sad when he says, “Yeah, I promise.”
He leans back, and Geno shakes himself off a little, trying to do what Sidney said and focus on the game. It’s an important one; history is on the line and Iggy is with them, and Geno never likes to think about that, but now it’s a good thing to hold on to, to work towards.
This is the last game they will play in March. They’re playing the Islanders.
Geno’s okay when he gets home from the game. He’s barely shaking, and he doesn’t feel like he wants to get sick anymore. It’s been a while since he’s been in his house, so he goes around opening up windows, checking his phone periodically and ignoring the way he shakes a little harder every time there are no updates.
The update comes from Duper, presumably from Dan, and it’s what sends him into not-okay territory: out of surgery, staying overnight, but will be fine. There are texts after that from Nealer and Paulie and Tanger, a text from a number he doesn’t recognize but that identifies itself as belonging to Iggy, saying excited stuff about the game and asking him for updates on Sid, but Geno ignores them all to hurry up to his bedroom on unsteady legs.
In the bedroom, Geno opens up the door of his closet and starts sifting around the floor, tugging out one of the suitcases he usually uses during the offseason. At the bottom he finds a toiletry bag that contains an empty tube of toothpaste, an old and dry toothbrush, a comb and a rusty razor.
Geno turns all these contents out over his bedspread and sifts through them until his shaking fingers catch on a small metal wire, squished out of ring shape but there. Geno lets out a shaky, choked breath when he picks it up, carefully bends it into a circle and then closes his palm around it.
In his pocket, his phone buzzes with another text from Nealer: want to go visit sid w/ us tomorrow?
I go on my own Geno sends back, and then he turns his phone off.
Geno goes to the hospital early enough that the only person there that he recognizes is Ray, going for coffee outside of Sidney’s room and smiling at him, shaking his hand. “He’s doing fine,” Ray tells him, rubbing a hand on his back. Geno realizes he must look like a complete wreck but really doesn’t care at all. “He’s bored, actually. He can’t talk yet, pretty swollen, but he’s happy to have visitors.”
Geno nods, because he knows that Sidney hates to be alone, especially in strange places. “I’m glad you’re here, Geno. It means a lot. Now go entertain him for a while,” Ray says.
“I will,” Geno says solemnly, but he feels sick with anxiety as he lets himself in Sidney’s room.
Sidney’s dozing off when Geno shuts the door quietly behind him, but his eyes flip open and catch on Geno as he approaches the bed. He immediately looks curious, and a little frustrated; someone had brought him a laptop and it’s sitting on a retractable food tray next to Sidney’s bed. His hands twitch towards it, but Geno steps forward quickly and grabs Sidney’s left hand in his, shushing him when he makes a muffled, pained little noise.
“Let me say first,” Geno says, and Sidney just stares at him, eyes hazy but focused entirely on Geno.
For a moment, Geno has no idea what to say, so he goes with the one thing he’d known he wanted to do since deciding to come here. He takes out the wire ring he’d found and, slowly and very gently, fits it around Sidney’s ring finger, leaning down and kissing it quickly before pulling back. Sidney is staring at him, eyes a little watery now, and Geno looks at him imploringly, cupping his hand again in both of his.
“Please don’t take off, even if—if you mad about lie or mad about bad wedding, please. Keep until someone give you real ring.” He doesn’t add the incredibly sappy, terrible thought in his head that he’d like to be the one to give Sidney a real ring someday; it feels ridiculous and otherworldly and impossible, and also too wonderful.
Sidney starts reaching for the laptop again, drawing it closer with his right hand, and Geno lets his hand got to let him slowly type something out. He turns the laptop to face Geno and Geno reads you kept it?
Geno nods and sniffs a little, but has to be honest. “Not on purpose, but—glad I did, glad I keep.” He looks at Sidney carefully, because this is the important part. “Glad I married you, Sid, even if it was mistake, because—now it means what we want to mean. If it means we together, we—we try for Cup, we lead team and set the standard like always, then I want, with you, for a long time. Want to make new promise with you.”
Sidney’s cheeks are wet, and he brushes at them with his hand and then grimaces a little. Geno leans and gently does it for him, pressing a kiss to Sidney’s forehead until Sidney nudges at him for the laptop, slowly tapping two keys and showing the word to Geno.
Geno chokes out a laugh and kisses Sidney’s forehead again, closing his eyes and breathing him in deeply. Sidney’s moving again, tapping at the laptop until he gently nudges Geno too look, and Geno laughs again breathlessly when he reads the next sentence.
Don’t let me forget this.
“Never,” Geno says. “I promise.”
“I think we still need to get a divorce,” Sidney says.
Geno gives him a small glare, not because of what he’s saying, but because the fact that he’s saying it means he’s slacking on his main job right now.
“Sid,” Geno says sternly, and Sidney grimaces as much as he can, which isn’t much. Weaning off the pain killers means more pain, something neither of them like at all, though it’s been better lately. Sidney’s so close, constantly telling everybody how ready he feels, and constantly frustrated by his doctors disagreeing with him, but Geno likes that they’re being cautious, hates the idea of rushing Sidney back when Geno knows he and the team can take care of things without him. “Think you need to finish shake.”
“I am,” Sidney tells him, but he obediently puts the straw back in his mouth. His eyes are narrowed, though, which means Geno’s about to get an earful about how Sidney never wants another shake again in his life, how he misses real food and how he thought graduating to mashed potatoes and soup would mean he wouldn’t have to deal with all the shakes anymore.
Geno finishes his own breakfast quickly, trying not to enjoy solids too much in front of Sidney, and keeps an eye on Sidney until he finishes his. When they’re both done, and Sidney is sucking in a whistling breath for a lisping rant, Geno says, “Come,” and leaves their dishes to deal with before they leave for practice.
In the living room, Geno sits them both on the couch and wraps an arm around Sidney’s shoulder, kissing his head and rubbing his hand over his stomach. Sidney drops his head against Geno’s chest and mumbles, “I’m still hungry.”
“Too skinny,” Geno says, something he’s been saying way too often. It’s something he’s too aware of when he and Sidney are alone together, when he can touch him and feel how much less of him there is now, no matter how much Sidney assures him he can get the weight back quickly. It brings out something cautious and uncertain in him, which drives Sidney nuts, of course. “More shakes.”
“No,” Sidney moans, peering up at Geno. Geno smiles down at him, though Sidney knows he’s perfectly serious; this is not the first conversation they’ve had like this. “This is why we need to get divorced,” Sidney says bitterly, and Geno laughs out loud.
“No. You hate divorce me. I am best husband.” He rubs his nose down into Sidney’s hair, smiling when Sidney twitches at him, annoyed. “Make best shakes.”
“Ugh,” Sidney says, but he snuggles in deeper to Geno’s hold, which is answer enough.
They are quiet for a little while longer, sitting and enjoying the peace of the morning. Geno is excited about practice, excited about Nealer coming back and Kuni back on their wing and getting ready for Carolina, to end the season on the right note. He wants to prove to Sidney that they’ve got this, that the last two games weren’t representative of the damage they’ll do in the postseason, whether Sid is back by then or not.
After a few moments, Sidney looks back up at him and says, “You know why we really have to, right?” Sidney asks, and Geno nods slowly, a little sad, but not very sad. As long as he can help it, the divorce will be far off, and it will be nothing more than a trick of paperwork.
For now, Geno is way more concerned with what they do until then, and what they’ll have together afterward. “I know. Not worried. We take care of it long time from now. In meantime, I take care of you and team.”
Sidney kisses him, a touch too hard so that Geno has to gentle it, which is they only way he’ll kiss Sidney until he knows he’s fully healed. It might be frustrating for Sidney but Geno is patient; he knows that he and Sidney have plenty of time for harder kisses, hundreds more kisses for as long as they like.
“Come on, Hungry,” Geno whispers, pulling away. “Stop for smoothie on way to practice.”
Sidney groans but moves fast enough once Geno swats at his ass, his favorite part of Sidney because it’s the only part not showing off his new diet.
Practice is good; everybody is excited about the playoffs starting, about the first line flying with Nealer and Kuni reunited with Geno, and about Sidney practicing with them, however limited he is. Iggy’s eyes are constantly crinkled in a smile, Morrow won’t stop pulling Nisky into a headlock, and Beau Bennett doesn’t have a spot on the Carolina game roster, but everybody knows Dan’s looking at him for Game One.
Before everyone separates for their game day routines, Geno quickly grabs everyone’s attention in the room, clearing his throat and feeling himself blush. Neither he nor Sidney are the speech types, and this might be better suited to right before the game, but he wants to say this now, when Sidney is deferring to him and just watching with big, bright eyes.
“Tonight, we say hi to Staalsy again,” Geno says, and a few guys hoot. “But we make statement, too. We tell whoever we get who Penguins are, what we do to them, and we make them scared. We show them that we go all in. Yeah?”
“Yeah!” everyone yells, and Geno beams at them, beams at Sidney, who is beaming helplessly back.
They break off, then, clapping Geno on the back and shoving at him, until Geno and Sidney are left to leave Southpointe together. Their game day routines still don’t entirely overlap, even if Sidney’s not playing, but they have some time at Sidney’s house to forage for as much food as Sidney can eat, and to kiss each other gently one more time.
“Geno,” Sidney says, before Geno leaves. Geno stops to look at him, expecting to be pulled into another kiss, but instead Sidney just looks vaguely uncomfortable, which he never is when it comes to kissing Geno, broken jaw and all.
“I think it’s good we’re going to get the divorce,” Sidney says, voice getting progressively lower. And then he adds, all in a rush, “Because, I mean. Maybe I’ll want to marry you on purpose someday, or something. Without Claude Giroux there.”
Geno swallows hard, his chest and throat suddenly tight. Sidney immediately starts shooing him out, kissing him one last time, but Geno grabs him in a tight hug very quickly.
“Maybe I want too,” he says thickly, and he can feel Sidney’s smile against his neck, even more crooked now than it was before. “First, though,” Geno says when he thinks he can talk without getting too choked up. “We win Stanley Cup together.”
“Geno,” Sidney hisses, digging an elbow into Geno’s ribs. “Watch it with that jinx talk, and get out of here before you curse us more.”
Geno leaves Sidney’s house laughing.