"Like a bird, Nealsy," Geno says delightedly, and the expression on his face is the first thing about this morning that isn't completely terrible. James isn't totally sure what Geno's doing here. He wasn’t paying a lot of attention to what was going on after he called Pauly in a panic, and Pauly came over, confirmed that he wasn't hallucinating, and started texting people.
"He's always like a bird," Duper says, flicking James in the head, "up here."
James sulks, wings folding around him, as they bicker amiably over his head. He looks hopefully at Sid, who is watching him, but Sid just says, “I wonder if you can play like that?” which isn’t helping at all.
“Refs might notice,” Duper says drily.
“But the screens…” Sid says wistfully, and James flops back on the couch to look sad at Geno because clearly having wings wasn’t enough for one morning: now he has to put up with these assholes too. Geno grins at him, unhelpful.
It’s Sid, however, who remembers that they all have to get to practice – minus James, who doesn’t really fit in a car – and tells Dan something that makes him show up at James’ place in the afternoon. It’s not like he or the doctor who comes along can do much, but he slaps James on the shoulder bracingly and assures him that he’ll probably be back soon. The wings might suddenly vanish. He should keep his chin up.
It’s been six hours and James is losing his mind. He can’t leave the house because they have no way to explain the wings to anyone, he obviously can’t play…
Pauly comes by with a pile of frozen dinners, but then the team is away on a road trip, and James is bored out of his skull. He watches the game anyway, reluctantly at first, then getting more and more into it. His wings flap wildly when Geno scores a beauty; it’s kind of weird.
By the time Geno shows up on the third day, James is also increasingly cranky about the fact that his wings are getting rumpled. He can’t really reach them that well, and the fact that he’s spent most of the past three days flopped tragically on the couch pretending that his wings aren’t crumpled and weird-feeling isn’t helping. It’s not comfortable, like he hasn’t combed his hair, everything all out of place and he can’t work out how to fix it. He can feel the wings and sort of make them move, but straightening the feathers is another level of control he just doesn’t have.
James can’t go to the door, but he shouts “in here!” when Geno lets himself in.
“Look terrible, Lazy,” Geno says, far too cheerful.
“Fuck off,” James says, half into the couch.
Geno sits down beside him and pats his head patronizingly. “Doing okay?” he asks.
“Yeah, whatever, I’m fine.” James mumbles.
Geno looks suspicious. “Not even complain I mess hair. Really okay?”
“What’s the point?” James says sadly. “These fucking wings are a mess anyway.”
“I can fix?” Geno says. If James were sensible, he’d probably think for a second about how unnecessarily enthusiastic Geno sounds, but he’s been uncomfortable for days, okay?
“Never let me at the zoo,” Geno confides gleefully from behind James’ head. “Not the big birds.”
“Did you try?” James asks, horrified, craning to look over his shoulder, but Geno only grins at him, hands buried in feathers.
James doesn’t even know how Geno knows what to do with wings. He seems confident, though, as he runs his fingers through the plumage, carefully aligning feathers, and James has to admit that they seem to be settling into the right places.
When he asks, Geno is happy to tell James many, many things about wing care. James thinks he’s saying that he was talking to someone at a zoo, but it gets a little confused, and James gets lost somewhere between Russian place names and Russian birds.
Geno’s hands on his wings feel good, though. James is more relaxed than he’s been since the wings showed up, even if it still feels unnerving, like he can’t quite tell where Geno’s hands are because he’s the wrong shape now. By the time Geno has to go to practice, James feels amazing. Just liquid, like he got a really good massage.
It doesn’t last. He’s crumpled again by the next morning. He knows he’s whining when he begs Geno to fix it, but everything else is so shitty, he just wants this one fucking thing, and it’s not like Geno doesn’t seem amused by it.
Geno keeps stopping by and unruffling James’ feathers. He mocks James while he does it, bad jokes about birds and angels, including some that Duper definitely already texted him, which only makes James sulky about missing the guys. Geno’s hands are still smooth and steady though, and James is pretty good at letting chirping slide off him when he’s getting what he wants.
James jerks off after the fourth time. It’s not about Geno, obviously. It’s just one of those things that happens. The wings turn out to be really sensitive, and he guesses that’s why he’s awkwardly half-hard when Geno strokes a proprietary hand down his back and announces that he’s done and he has to go to practice.
Besides, jerking off takes his mind off the fact that he can’t go to practice. It’s just sensible.
It almost makes him feel guilty when Geno shows up again the next day and settles down on the couch behind him without even asking, just keeping up his steady stream of jokes about how well the team is doing without James.
“Guys say you only hiding from Mustache Boy,” Geno says, mock-serious.
James can’t help huffing in annoyance, wings drawing in closer around him, even though he knows it’s a joke.
Geno laughs, and pats his side. “Ruining my hard work, Lazy.” His hands are firm as he moves James’ wings back into position, re-ordering his feathers.
Later, James doesn’t think about how big and capable Geno’s hands felt. His wings still feel twitchy when he jacks off, like there are still hands on them, but he’s not thinking about Geno’s hands specifically. That would be weird.
The game the evening after is a good one, and James is happy, except for how he’s stuck in his house, and he can’t play, and it’s almost even more irritating that the Pens are winning, easily, without him. Beer sounds like a good idea at that point, which makes texting everyone sullenly seem like an even better one.
It’s not like anyone’s going to get the messages until after the game, and even then people mostly ignore him. Everyone’s been out of the game before, knows how shitty it is, though he’s not sure how many people actually know what’s going on with him right now. Sid’s a little guilty about not having been to see him again, which is ridiculous, even with how cranky James feels right now. What with trying to explain to Sid that that wasn’t what he meant, and argue with Duper and Pauly who are both mocking him for sulking, James misses Geno’s text that says he’s going to drop by.
Geno shows up with dumplings, and laughs at Pauly’s frozen dinners, and is generally annoying as hell to James’ sulk. He sprawls all over James’ couch, shoves him around, and laughs when James scrunches up his face and complains about the game.
It’s not even like Geno’s the drunk one, just high on the win, and happy to prod James about what he’s been doing with his wings. “Very lazy this week,” Geno crows. “Not even trying to fly!”
James scowls. He’s not that lazy: he’s done all his leg stuff, and it’s not his fault that half his workout routine doesn’t work properly now. “Fuck off,” he starts, but he doesn’t know what he wants to say. He has, actually, tried to fly, but he doesn’t really want to tell Geno how dumb standing in the middle of the room flapping vigorously had made him feel. Jumping off the occasional piece of furniture had been no better, and only acquired him some awkward bruises, which he doesn’t think Geno needs to know about either.
Geno looks at him mournfully. “Wasting it, Nealer. Chance to fly, not even trying?”
“What the hell do you know about it anyway?” James grumbles.
“More than you, can’t even brush own wings,” Geno says serenely, though he ruins it by cackling at his own joke.
“I can’t exactly go outside,” James says. “I really don’t need the cops or the newspapers or whatever, and it’s not like the neighbours won’t see.”
Geno stands abruptly. “It’s dark. You have fence,” he says dismissively, patting James’ arm. James rolls his eyes and Geno pulls at his arm, tugging him out of his chair and into the backyard.
“It’s cold and none of my shirts fit anymore,” James whines, but Geno ignores him.
It’s pretty dark, the light from inside the house faintly illuminating the railing on the deck, though the lawn beyond is indistinct. James reminds himself that he really needs to set up the lights he’s left mouldering in the garage since he moved in, though it’s little more than a well-worn routine at this point, and he’s fairly sure he’s never going to get around to it.
Geno seems pleased anyway. James can’t see his face very well, but he’s waving his arms enthusiastically, and he sounds genuinely excited when he says, “See? Dark enough for flying!”
“I can’t just start flying,” James says, and it’s completely true, but he’s pretty sure he’s whining as well.
Geno sighs. “Jump off deck? I don’t know, not trying, Lazy.”
“It’s not that high.”
“Off rail, then?”
James feels like a dumbass, but he climbs up on the deck railing. He’s clumsier than he’d like, unbalanced, which sucks when he knows he could jump it easily if it weren’t dark and he didn’t have these fucking wings. The wings spread themselves automatically as he sways, balancing lightly on the bar, the wood smooth under his feet. He can really feel the breeze like this, ruffling his feathers as he tries an experimental flap. It’s fucking freezing.
“How’s feel?” Geno says eagerly from behind him.
“Like standing on a fence.”
Geno sighs. There’s a pause. James teeters on the rail. The breeze isn’t very strong, but it tugs at his wings, making him work to keep his balance.
His knees crumple as Geno whacks his calf, ruining his balance and sending him toppling forward over the edge of the rail. The wings flap wildly and he lands on his hands and knees on the lawn, much more softly than he’d have expected.
Geno’s outline leans over the rail, backlit by the light from the house. James can hear him smile as he says, “Again?” And, well, it wasn’t that bad.
Geno doesn’t have to knock James off the railing the second time, though he seems prepared to. His hand is warm on James’ calf as James tries to balance himself to make the leap, wings spread wide to test the air like he has any idea what he’s doing here. He gets more air under him than when he was pushed, but it doesn’t prevent him from falling straight down again. The grass is dry and crackly under James’ hands and he breathes out slowly.
Geno calls, “How’d it go?”
There was something there, James thinks. The fall was a lot slower than he’d expected. Less painful. He might actually be able to do this.
Geno laughs when he gets up on the railing again without any prodding this time around.
The fifth or sixth time there’s a moment of perfect balance that sucks all the breath out of him. A feeling of lightness, suspended in the air like he could take off and go higher if he only knew exactly which muscles to move. Sadly, he has no idea which muscles would be the right ones, and in his next breath, he falls again, gliding softly down to the lawn, landing more smoothly on his feet than he has before.
It’s not particularly competent, but it’s a hell of a kick anyway. James wants to laugh as he rushes back up the steps to the deck. His voice is choppy when he grabs Geno’s arm, saying, “Jesus, I almost fucking had it that time.”
He exhales and it comes out as a laugh. Geno joins in, a little bit smug, but James can forgive that in the elation of nearly-flight and the way Geno’s hand runs across his wings as Geno says, “See? Always listen to me. Again?”
James hops back up on the railing, smoother now, more practiced. Geno laughs in delight as he makes another leap, no hesitation this time, just smooth strength.
In the end they work out that James can’t stay aloft for more than a minute or so, and he still can’t do it without jumping off of something. His shoulders feel sore as hell, but it’s exhilarating all the same. James can’t stop laughing, even though the cold’s hitting him now and he’s starting to shiver.
Geno puts a startlingly warm hand on James’ waving arm. “Very cold,” he says disapprovingly, and tugs him inside. James keeps trying to explain how it felt as they go in, but he doesn’t have the words. It was a bit like hockey, when things go right, but he’s not even sure if that makes any sense.
Geno looks fond, and then smug. “Told you,” he says.
The warm air of the house feels hot against James’ goosebumps. He rubs at his arms awkwardly, and cautiously stretches the wings in the kitchen. He makes a face. They’re a little stiff, not too bad, but he’ll definitely feel it tomorrow.
Geno watches him closely. “Okay?” he says.
“Yeah, just stiff,” James says, and Geno smiles a little, reaches for him like they’re just helping each other with a work out, and puts a hand on James’ wing.
They’re always fucking sensitive, but James is so keyed up that he can’t help the noise he makes when Geno’s hands stroke along the curve of his wing just right. He covers it with another hiccupping laugh that’s pure adrenaline. His jaw goes slack as Geno strokes the wing again, and he’s most of the way to hard right there in his kitchen, in sweats that hide nothing.
Geno’s being really, really thorough. He’s going over what feels like every inch of wing, and James exhales shallowly, trying to be quiet. Geno’s gaze snaps to his face, and James ducks his head, embarrassed and twitchy all at once.
Geno’s hand is still smoothing feathers, and it’s like James can feel it everywhere, like all his attention is on Geno’s hand, and his own dick, and he needs someone to touch him, right now. They’re so close, facing each other, that he doesn’t even need to move to fist his hands in Geno’s sweater, lean in and kiss him. Geno’s hand tightens on his wing, the other one moving to grip James’ arm, and James makes a broken noise into Geno’s mouth.
Geno breaks the kiss, panting and wide-eyed, and James is on the absolute verge of saying something clever like, “shit, the wings made me do it, man,” when Geno puts his hands on James’ shoulders and says, “yes? Okay?”
It is definitely okay. James is in Geno’s space in a second, pushing up against him, crushing their mouths together to kiss him again. He needs touch, contact, and Geno doesn’t seem to mind, pulling him closer with a hand sliding beneath James’ wings to wrap around his hip, and the other tangling in the hair at the back of his neck.
Geno is warm where James is cold, and solid under James’ hands. James shivers against him, oversensitive to the scrape of Geno’s sweater against his bare chest, and their hips rolling together. He’s clinging, mostly, but Geno doesn’t seem to mind, and Geno’s hands are exactly as broad and strong and talented as they felt when Geno was grooming him, and James can’t breathe.
Geno smiles at him when he breaks the kiss, and says, “in kitchen, Nealsy?” with a twist to his mouth.
It takes a moment to register what the hell he’s talking about, and James doesn’t fucking want to wait, but Geno grinning up at him smug and naked from the bed is worth it in the end. He bends over Geno, wings flexing behind him. Geno twists his lips in amusement, and raises a hand to softly touch the feathered canopy above them. “Cool,” he says gruffly.
James is too busy making an embarrassing strangled noise and jerking his hips down against Geno’s to respond. His fingers dig into the muscle of Geno’s shoulders, and Geno hums with satisfaction. He trails his fingers along the feathers again, and James’ dick twitches.
“Good?” Geno says throatily, hands digging deeper.
James collapses against Geno, gasps, “fuck, fuck, yes, it’s good, it’s so good, jesus,” into his neck. Geno tilts his head and James mouths wet kisses to his throat. Geno’s hands are still stroking smooth across his wings, and James thrusts against him, no style, just the desperate desire for touch.
Geno’s hands still as he turns to kiss James, and James can breathe again for a second. He braces himself on one elbow to get a hand between them, wrap it around both their dicks. He mutters, “fuck, don’t stop,” when it seems like Geno might take his hands off James’ wings, and Geno moves them again, slow strokes of his fingertips teasing at the edges of James’ awareness.
James knows he’s not being smooth right now, it’s too much sensation, and he’s shaky with it, the rhythm of his hips off, his hand too fast and too slow. He’s not so much kissing Geno as panting into his mouth, Geno biting at his lower lip, tongues sliding against each other. The noises Geno makes rumble against his chest, and every movement of Geno’s hips makes James’ breath hitch.
He drops his head to Geno’s shoulder when he gets close, mumbles nonsense into Geno’s collarbones, back arched above the two of them, his arm working furiously. He’s been on edge for so long that when he comes it’s sparklers at the edge of his vision and aftershocks that seem to last forever. Geno moves against him and James keeps stroking, less jagged as he comes down from the high, though he twitches when Geno’s hands move slowly against his feathers. Geno goes boneless when he comes, though he clutches hard at James’ wings and knocks the breath out of him.
James rolls to the side, one wing still stretched across Geno as he breathes his way back to himself.
Geno’s very comfortable, and James would be happy to lie here forever, but Geno wrinkles his nose at the mess between them and goes to wipe up. James is yawning his way to sleep when Geno returns, and he’s too tired to argue when Geno kisses him on the nose and says that he has to leave because of skate the next morning. “But, we do again, later?” he adds, grinning.
“For sure,” James says, and yawns, though Geno only laughs.
Sleeping on his front is as uncomfortable as it’s been all week, but at least he’s too tired to care and falls asleep immediately.
James wakes up to the dull white of his ceiling. It’s weirdly unfamiliar, and it’s not until James hauls himself through sitting up that he realises he was sleeping on his back. He grabs wildly at his shoulders, though he can’t quite believe there’s nothing there until he staggers out of bed to blink at himself in the mirror. His hair’s all over the place, there are bags under his eyes, and a weird patch of drool in the corner of his mouth, but he’s definitely wingless.
When he puts it like that, it sounds crazy. He should always have been wingless. It’s definitely the right date when he checks his phone, though, so he probably didn’t dream it. He snoops around his own house for a bit. There’s a single feather caught in the couch cushions, which is sort of reassuring, but also weird as fuck. What there isn’t is food, despite Pauly’s shopping trips, so James heads out to go mooch.
Pauly definitely jumps when James walks into his kitchen, though he covers it quickly and hands James a coffee like it hasn’t been a week. He leans back against the counter and says, “geez, you cut ‘em off yourself then? Get sick of waiting?”
James shrugs. “Gone this morning. No fucking clue what happened.”
Pauly sighs. “You have the weirdest problems.”
James goes into practice early. Dan and the medical staff make him run through every upper body exercise they can think of, but they can’t find anything that’s off enough to keep him from practicing with the team.
James has no idea what to tell the half of the team who don’t seem to know what happened so he shrugs and makes vague noises about shoulders and stomach flu when they ask where the fuck he’s been.
Geno bumps him when they’re changing and says, “how you get rid of” – he looks around furtively and drops his voice – “them?”
“Beats me,” James says. Nothing’s going to ruin his mood now. Even the way he gets chirped for being a little bit rusty when they skate out onto the ice doesn’t matter compared to the thrill of actually doing shit again and being out of his damn house.
He trails Geno home after practice, both because he has no more food in the house, and because he’s really fucking sick of his own living room. Not that Geno’s living room is much different, but it feels less claustrophobic anyway.
Geno threatens him with Russian sitcoms, but they flick through English channels instead, unable to agree on anything, and not really watching anything particularly attentively.
They’re not sitting that close, but Geno’s arms are long and when he rests one along the back of the couch, it’s nearly around James’ shoulders. James glances at Geno who smiles at him, slow and sharp, and there’s a surprising flutter of heat in James’ belly.
“Oh,” he says, and stops. Geno looks politely inquiring, and pulls him a little closer. “I guess I thought- it wasn’t because of the wings then?” It might be the first time he’s said the word aloud all day. Everyone, including himself, has been too weirded out to say it.
Geno snorts. “Yes, always wanted to fuck a bird. Idiot.” He squeezes James’ shoulder. His hand is broad and warm. It doesn’t feel as tingly and new as it did on James’ feathers, but it’s good anyway. “You? Because of wings?”
Uncomfortable memories of jerking off to the echoes of Geno’s hands on him float through James’ head. “Uh,” he says intelligently, “not exactly?” Geno looks worried; James coughs awkwardly. “I mean, no? That part was good, but not why that happened?”
Geno ruffles his hair. “Oh? How good?” he says, the thick innuendo in his voice ruined by the undertone of laughter.
James scowls. “Fuck off,” he says, and leans over to kiss Geno anyway.
The noise Geno makes into his mouth sounds uncomfortably smug, but Geno’s hand is splayed hot against James’ waist and his tongue is a wet flicker against James’ lips, and James is, overall, too distracted to complain.