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Nicky finds out very early just how easy it is to fall in love with Alex Ovechkin.

Because the thing is, Alex plays hockey with his heart on his sleeve and he lives his life the same way. When Alex loves someone, he loves them fiercely and unapologetically. Alex’s smiles are as breathtaking as the hugs he gives on ice, and his touch is as electrifying as scoring a goal in the final seconds of overtime.

It’s hard not to fall in love with someone who shines as bright as Alex does, and well, Nicky is only human.

--

“Come to me in Russia,” Alex says when the lockout is officially announced. Not come to Dynamo, not come to Russia - come to me.

Nicky says no because he has to. He needs to at least pretend he has some sort of self-preservation left. He’s twenty-four years old and just as in love with Alex as he was at twenty. He can’t go to Russia, can’t go to Alex, no matter how much he wants to.

Alex calls again. And again. And again. Alex calls every day, always the same request - come to me.

Nicky says yes because he has to. All his self-preservation went out the window the minute that first pass connected with Alex’s for a beauty of a goal and Nicky felt lightning under his skin as all 200-something pounds of Alex slammed into him in celebration.

He’s never really been able to deny Alex anything.

--

Nicky doesn’t want to consider signing with Dynamo as a mistake. Any hockey is good hockey, and hockey with Alex is always the best kind of hockey. It’s not easy, though, coming to a new country where he doesn’t know the language, doesn’t know the people or the culture or the dynamics of the team. He wasn't excited about it the first time, and he's not excited about it now.

At least here, he has Alex.

“You’re okay?” Alex asks their first night on the road. It’s strange, turning over in his bed and not seeing Greenie across from him on the other side of the room.

Nicky’s not sure if everything is okay, but he shrugs, because there’s not much else he can do. “I’m okay. I have hockey, I couldn’t ask for much else.”

“And you have me,” Alex says cheekily with a bright smile.

Nicky rolls his eyes, ignoring the tightness in his chest. “And I have you.”

That first year, back when Washington was also new and scary, he had Alex then too. But it wasn't the same. Looking to his left and seeing Alex on his wing wasn't the same steadying force then as it is now. Here in Moscow, Alex's smile and his arms around Nicky as they celebrate a goal are a reminder of home.

--

It turns out Alex in Moscow is very different from Alex in Washington. Washington treats Alex well, but there are places in Moscow that treat Alex like a king. They get into every club, eat at every restaurant, see every show. When Alex goes out, Nicky follows and he watches as Alex slips into his element.

Nicky’s home is Verizon Center ice. It’s netting a goal off of a flawless play, the adrenaline in his veins from the rush and the overwhelming happiness that comes from being wrapped in Alex’s arms in celebration.

Alex loves Washington, loves his team, but his home is here, in Moscow. There's a looseness in his shoulders when he’s in this city, a different shape to his smile, and Nicky appreciates that he gets to see it.

“Sometimes I don’t want to leave,” Alex admits quietly one night, and Nicky understands the appeal of it, playing for a country he loves, for people who love him as fiercely and unapologetically as he loves everyone around him.

“Would I have to move to Moscow then?” Nicky jokes, and Alex laughs loudly.

“Of course. How could I play without my center?”

Nicky might be Alex’s center, might be one of his best friends, but he won’t ever be much else. While Nicky appreciates seeing Alex in Moscow, what he doesn't appreciate seeing is Alex’s arm around the waist of a pretty blonde or the red in his cheeks when he stumbles out of the bathroom followed by a boy with a pleased smile. It feels like a cross check to the chest every time, a reminder that while Alex loves Nicky fiercely and unapologetically, he doesn't love him the way Nicky loves Alex.

--

They play Metallurg a few weeks after Nicky signs with Dynamo. The game is intense, fast-paced, and they scrape by on a 3-2 win thanks to a truly ugly goal by Alex in the last few minutes of the third.

Nicky’s exhausted, body already starting to ache from battling with Malkin along the half-board. He’s ready to go home, call it a night, but Alex seems to have other ideas. There’s no handshake line, but Nicky watches as Alex skates towards Malkin who’s looking just as sullen as he usually does after a loss. They exchange a few quick words, lots of head-shaking from Malkin and pouting from Alex and then Alex is skating back over to join the rest of the team down the tunnel.

“What was that about?” Nicky asks, and Alex smiles one of those sucker-punch smiles of his.

“Want to go out tonight?”

Nicky doesn’t, at all, but he says yes anyway.

--

It turns out going out means going out with Malkin. Alex picks a club that he knows will let them jump to the front of the line and walk in without the cover charge, and the first round of shots Alex brings back to their table is free courtesy of Alex’s game-winning-goal.

Nicky has no idea how he ends up on the same side of the table as Malkin who’s at least looking a bit more relaxed since the end of the game, but they’re both there, bumping elbows as they take the first shot of crystal-clear vodka. It’s one thing that Nicky still hasn’t gotten used to, and the drink burns as it goes down his throat and settles raw and sharp in his stomach.

The second shot goes down easier.

The third shot barely burns at all.

The fourth shot is nothing.

--

“Want to dance?” Alex asks somewhere between that second and third shot, and Nicky shakes his head. He’s not drunk enough for that. Yet.

Beside Nicky, Malkin laughs, and Alex pouts at them both.

“Sorry we too boring for you, Sasha,” Malkin says, his English thick and syrupy slow. Nicky knows Malkin’s only using it for his benefit.

“Bringing different friends next time,” Alex says, and it’s completely unconvincing. This whole thing will play out the exact same way it always does - Alex will ask Nicky to join him, and Nicky will agree without hesitation, because that’s just what Nicky does.

Alex does leave them, though, squeezing Nicky’s shoulder as he heads towards the mob of bodies moving in rhythm to the pounding techno of the club. It’ll probably only take a few minutes for some beautiful guy or girl to materialize out of nowhere for Alex to dance with, leaving Nicky to watch enviously with too much vodka running through his veins.

“Want another drink?” Malkin asks, and Nicky startles a little, tearing his eyes away from Alex’s retreating back. He’d forgotten Malkin was there.

They have a day off tomorrow, so Nicky shrugs. As Malkin heads to the bar, Nicky looks back to see if he can find Alex again, but he’s gone, lost somewhere on the vast expanse of the dancefloor.

--

Somewhere between that third and the fourth shot, Malkin becomes Geno.

Alex is still lost somewhere in the club, but Geno stays by Nicky’s side, continuing to sit on the same side of their small table. It’s the first time they’ve spent so much time on their own without Alex or thick layers of pads and protective gear between them. Surprisingly, Nicky doesn’t mind.

It’s easy to talk hockey and share stories about teammates and mutual colleagues. Geno is funny and sweet and his eyes soften when he shows Nicky pictures of Sergei Gonchar’s young girls. It’s easy to forget that there’s more to someone than what Nicky sees on the ice.

“Zhenya plays too much with heart sometimes, not enough with head,” Alex had said one night after a heavy loss to the Pens. It was back when both Alex and Geno were too stubborn to talk out their differences, instead publicly sorting out their problems with cheap shots on the ice that did neither of them any good.

“And you don’t?” Nicky had scoffed as the bus rolled through Pittsburgh. He was exhausted, body sore and mood dampened by the loss. Greenie was already passed out beside him, head pillowed on his shoulder. Across the aisle, Alex sat, uncharacteristically somber and sullen beside a quiet Sasha.

Alex shook his head, shoulders tense in the way they always were back then whenever Geno came up. “I do, but - not the same.”

Nicky hadn’t understood then, just shrugged it off, leaving Alex alone with his thoughts. He gets it now though. Alex plays with all his heart, giving everything he has night after night, sharing his love and passion with whoever watches him on the ice. But Geno lives with his heart pinned to his chest, beating strong and proud for everyone to see. For Geno, what’s important is having his heart there, front and center and on display, a reminder that his love is not just something he shares, it’s a part of who he is.

“I’m didn’t even want to come out,” Geno says mournfully, looking into the dance floor like he’s trying to spot Alex also when conversation comes to a lull. “Sasha terrible host. Make me come then not even stay to talk.”

Nicky laughs. “I didn’t want to come either, but it’s impossible to say no to him.”

Geno hums in agreement, nursing the cocktail he’d switched to thoughtfully. Nicky takes a second to study his face, his sleepy eyes and full mouth. He’s a lot softer when he’s not staring Nicky down from the opposite end of a faceoff circle.

“Not impossible saying no,” Geno says, finally. “Getting him to listen is what’s impossible.”

Nicky’s not sure he agrees, but he supposes it might be different for Geno who’s known Alex longer, has gone through more with him than Nicky ever will. Nicky wonders if Geno’s ever been in love with Alex, but then they hear a loud, familiar laugh and Geno’s hand tightens around his glass. Nicky reminds himself that Geno’s only human too.

--

Sometime after that fourth shot, Alex reappears at the bar, buying drinks for a girl with long hair and long, long legs. Nicky tries not to stare, but he’s incredibly drunk and it’s hard to keep his eyes off of the press of Alex’s mouth to the girl’s shoulders, the way his hand settles high up her thigh.

Nicky’s stomach is rolling in waves, making him feel sick and sour for a second before he’s suddenly hit with exhaustion instead. He turns his head as Alex starts kissing along the girl’s jaw, but it’s only because of a nudge at his side.

When Geno smiles, it’s nothing like Alex’s smile. Instead of a punch to the gut, it’s soft and sweet, intimate like bopping heads with a goalie after a hard-fought game.

“You wanna dance?” Geno asks, and this time Nicky’s drunk enough to say yes.

The dance floor’s even more crowded than before, and Geno leads Nicky straight to the middle where the crush of bodies is the most dense and it’s hard for them to be seen or at least recognized. Moscow might belong to Alex, but it’s never treated Geno like a stranger, and Nicky knows there are limits to what they can do when there are eyes on them all the time.

With the crowd so thick, it’s easy for Nicky to press against Geno and make it seem like he has no other option. Geno’s all long, lean muscle, and his hand is big and warm where it holds onto Nicky’s hip. Nicky dances with other people often enough, but it’s been a long time since someone’s chest against his back has made him feel so electric.

When Nicky turns his head, Geno’s face is right there, eyelashes long and sweat dripping down his temples. Nicky’s mouth goes unexpectedly dry and he thinks about pulling away, but then there’s a guy with a drink in his hand stumbling into Geno, pressing him and Nicky even closer, and Nicky stays where he is, trying to catch his breath instead.

--

They end up somewhere in the back of the club, away from the crowd and mostly secure from prying eyes. Nicky can still hear the music, can still feel the bass of it reverberating through his chest, matching to the rhythm of his rapidly beating heart.

Geno presses him to the wall, presses against him, presses their mouths together. He’s warm and solid, shoulders broad and mouth hot. Nicky feels engulfed by Geno, his height and his presence and the way he makes heat erupt in Nicky’s belly, slowly consuming him.

Geno kisses hard and dirty, his fingers tangling in Nicky’s hair, his teeth biting and tugging on Nicky’s bottom lip. Nicky groans as Geno slots his thigh between Nicky’s legs, and Nicky grinds down on it, getting some much-needed pressure to his hardening dick.

Nicky’s head is swimming from the vodka and from Geno, Geno and his strength and his plush mouth and his teeth biting marks onto Nicky’s neck. It’s been a long time since Nicky wanted something so bad, because now that Geno’s started touching him, started running a hand underneath his shirt and grinding his hips harder into Nicky’s, Nicky never wants him to stop.

He doesn’t think about the people who could easily glance at their dark corner of the club and spot them. Nicky can hear them still, hear their laughter and their yelling and their excitement, but all he can think about is Geno’s hands on him, Geno’s mouth against his.

“Want you,” Geno mumbles, voice low, gravelly. His breath is hot against Nicky’s skin, and Nicky bites back a moan at the way Geno drags his blunt nails against Nicky’s back.

“Yeah,” Nicky agrees, and it’s enough, enough for Geno to give him a last lingering kiss before grabbing his wrist, tugging him back into the crowd.

Nicky follows, not because it’s what he does, but because he wants to.

--

There’s a lot that Nicky won’t remember about that night.

He’ll remember following Geno back to his hotel, but he won’t remember the cab ride over or the confused looks of the driver who clearly recognizes them both.

He’ll remember the intensity, the urgency, the all-consuming want, and the desperation to have Geno in any way he can. He won’t remember Geno’s own need, the way he kisses Nicky hard, bruising imprints of his fingertips into Nicky’s hips.

He’ll remember Geno fucking him into the mattress, Geno’s thick fingers pressing into him, first one, then two, then three, working slowly to open him up until he’s begging for something more. He won’t remember the tender way Geno kisses the inside of his knee, the way he holds Geno’s hand as they fuck, the softness of Geno’s mouth against his own.

He’ll remember the satisfaction afterwards, the looseness in his bones and the way he barely holds any tension in his back or shoulders. He won’t remember the smile on his face as he drifts off, Geno’s arm securely around his waist.

At that moment, with Geno solid against him, Nicky won’t remember how easy it was to fall in love with Alex Ovechkin, but he’ll remember wondering if it’s actually just him that’s too quick to fall in love.

 

--

Nicky regrets lots of things in the morning.

He regrets taking his last shot. He regrets not drinking enough water. He regrets not cleaning up the sticky mess on his stomach or between his thighs. He regrets being bullied into being the little spoon.

Nicky doesn’t regret waking up with Geno pressed against his back, Geno’s nose buried in his hair. It’s surprising, maybe, that he doesn’t regret it, because there are a thousand warning signs in his head screaming that this should be a mistake. But Geno’s warm and his arm is a comforting weight across Nicky’s waist. Nicky’s content just lying in the still of the morning and listening to the sounds of Geno’s rhythmic breathing.

Geno’s grip on him tightens when Nicky starts to squirm a little, and he pulls Nicky back closer to his chest.

Dobroe utro,” Geno mumbles, voice low. Good morning.

“Morning,” Nicky answers.

“Sleep good?” Geno asks, switching to his sleep-thick English.

Nick lets out a content hum in response.

Geno kisses him slow and deep, and it’s different from the urgency of the night before. Nicky lets Geno suck on his bottom lip, lets his hand trail down until it’s wrapping around Nicky’s cock. Nicky gasps softly into Geno’s mouth, aware for the first time of Geno’s obvious morningwood pressing against his ass.

Geno takes his time getting Nicky off, stroking his cock with long, careful pulls and fucking his own cock between Nicky’s thighs. Nicky wishes he could see Geno, but he likes the intimacy of this too, Geno’s whole body against his, one of Geno’s arms wrapped around his chest and the feel of his large hand working Nicky’s cock.

The build-up of the curling heat in Nicky’s belly is slow but steady, and Nicky moans when it unfurls as he comes. Geno continues to stroke him through his orgasm, until Nicky’s reaching the brink of oversensitivity and Geno’s finally coming between his thighs.

Geno’s still breathing heavy when Nicky turns around to look at him. His eyes are heavy-lidded, and there’s a soft smile curling across his face. Nicky kisses him again.

No, he doesn’t regret this at all, and from the way he kisses back, he doesn’t think Geno does either.

--

Saying goodbye to Geno doesn’t feel like a real goodbye, because Nicky knows it’s not.

They’ll see each other again, if not here, then soon in Pittsburgh or back home in Washington. When Nicky leaves him with a kiss, he’s not sure if there’s a promise of more, but there’s a part of him that hopes there is.

Something about the last twelve hours seems unreal, unimaginable. Nicky wonders if maybe Alex isn’t the only one who’s guilty of wearing his heart out on his sleeve.

--

The next time they have practice, Alex smiles at Nicky in the locker room, bumping his shoulder, teasing him about the still dark marks on his neck. Nicky blushes, trying desperately to ignore the way Alex’s attention still makes the wind leave harshly from his lungs.

Nicky finds out very early just how easy it is to fall in love with Alex Ovechkin, and he learns quickly just how hard it is to fall out of love with him too.

Underneath the shock from Alex’s sucker-punch smile, however, is a soft fluttering in Nicky’s belly as he touches the bruise on his neck, remembering the feel of Geno’s mouth on his skin and the sweetness of his grin in the morning.