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“I have done my research, and love
is not a state of being. It is a house
that takes up the whole world.
We can be anywhere
except apart from each other.”
— Clementine von Radics


Sid parks in Geno’s driveway at precisely 8:00 on in the morning with a backseat full of paint.

“Hey,” he says, letting himself in and walking in on Geno scowling at his cereal. He puts a paper cup full of coffee in front of Geno and leans over to kiss the corner of his mouth. “Morning.”

“Ugh,” Geno says, and takes a sip of the coffee Sid brought him. It’s black and strong enough he can feel it in his teeth, and Sid had come prepared with at least three sugar packets for Geno to stir in, just the way he likes. “Why you here so early?”

“I thought we could go to my house today,” Sid says, and at Geno’s raised eyebrows, “not Mario’s - my house.”

“For what?” Geno asks. Sid every so often will get it into his head that it’s time to work on his house, one tiny piece at a time, and drag Geno along for the ride. Since they started dating, Geno’s been to kitchen showrooms and bathroom showrooms and more Home Depots than he can count.

“I wanted to paint my bedroom,” Sid says. “I chose a color and everything.”

“Congratulations,” says Geno. “Hire contractor.”

“No, I want to do it myself,” Sid says earnestly, leaning his elbows on the kitchen island to gaze at Geno with big, imploring eyes. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”

“Fun like hit to head,” Geno mutters into his coffee, too low for Sid to hear. And then, because he’s never been good at denying Sid anything, he says “Fine,” a little louder, getting up and dumping the last dregs of his cereal down the drain. “We drive my car.”

“Are you going to crash the car?” Sid asks suspiciously.

“No,” Geno says. “I like car too much. You, not so sure about.”

“Hey,” Sid says, tone still light and amicable, “I brought you coffee.”

“Yes, yes,” Geno kisses Sid more properly. He tastes like the milky fancy lattes he favors, which Geno swears are not real coffee. “You best boyfriend.”

“For sure,” Sid says, giving Geno’s ass a playful swat. “C’mon, get dressed in something shitty. We’ve got painting to do.”

- - -

Sid always moves through his house reluctantly, like he’s unsure of his welcome there. While Geno starts carrying in tarp and paint buckets, Sid wanders through the rooms, checking in on minute changes and staring despairingly at the empty spaces.

“This is never going to be finished,” he sighs, coming in from the kitchen.

“Nope,” Geno hands Sid a paint bucket and nudges him towards the bedroom, where Sid obligingly starts going.

“I mean, it’s just so much work,” he sighs. “I have to look at lighting fixtures next. What do I know about lighting fixtures?”

“Why you hate house so much?” Geno asks. He’s never gotten Sid’s reluctance to work on it. His house is being built at a much faster clip than he remembers Sid’s ever coming together, and all the decisions he’s made so far he’s made with far less gut-wrenching fretting than Sid’s ever made a decision in his life.

“I don’t hate my house,” Sid says staunchly. “I’m… it’s a process.”

What he means, Geno knows, is it’s not his dream house, the one he’s built in his head where they can live and have a family together, where they don’t count the number of times they spend the night together to make sure it doesn’t raise suspicion and where the world’s just a little more accepting. He believes in the perfect place with the dogs and the cat and the kids in the backyard. That’s a house that might never be, and Sid’s always had a harder time accepting that than Geno. Geno never knows what he can do about that besides be there for Sid as he goes through choosing the lighting fixtures and cabinet pulls as if that’s what makes a house a home, so he claps Sid on the shoulder and says, “come on, that all the paint, we put cloth down now,” and Sid nods and follows him into the bedroom.

- - -

It takes an hour before Sid declares the floor covered enough and another hour to tape off all the window sills and plugs, but finally Geno gets to pry open the paint cans that have been sitting in the middle of the floor, waiting to be used. “Corn...stalk?” Geno reads from the label, stumbling over the l and k mushed together, and Sid shakes his head.

“Cornstalk,” he corrects, saying the last syllable like “stock”, and Geno once again despairs of English. “It’s like... the stem of a corn plant.”

“Why they not say that? Or just call it green?”

“This isn’t even the weirdest color name,” Sid says, and he starts listing them all while they paint - Wispy Green and Sleeping Angel and Aurora Borealis and Parkside Dunes. Geno doesn’t understand half of the words coming out of Sid’s mouth, but he likes listening to Sid talk. Sid isn’t normally the kind of guy who chatters, but he keeps up a steady stream of one-sided conversation about colors and decor while they paint. Sid has a nice voice, the kind Geno likes to get lost in the cadences of like white noise. English isn’t nearly as soothing as Russian, but Sid has a way of rounding out sounds with his Canadian accent that’s pleasing, more pleasing than a normal American accent, or even a sharp Yinzer. Sometimes Geno grunts or answers yes or no questions, but for the most part Sid’s voice is the soundtrack as they work their way steadily around the room with the first coat.

“Why you want to paint walls?” Geno asks during a lull in Sid’s monologue, and Sid shrugs, focusing extra-hard on the windowsill he’s painting around.

“It’s stupid,” he mumbles. “It’s - whatever, you’ll make fun of me.”

“Won’t,” Geno says. “Swear.”

Sid’s mouth quirks up in a little smile when he turns to look at Geno. “Yeah? On what.”

“Russia,” Geno says solemnly, and that makes Sid laugh, full-throated and honking.

“I - fine,” he says when the laughter’s died down. “It was a stupid thought, but like, I thought if I did something to make the place, you know, mine and not something a contractor threw together…”

“I get,” Geno says. It’s the same reason he wants to build a new house, it’s the idea of permanence, of how anyone can move into a house, but to build something for himself from the ground up, that’s how you grow a home. His English is too clumsy to really get his point across, but Sid gets it, he thinks. “Good idea,” he says, turning back to his painting, “maybe in your new house, we not have sex with you shushing me.” That earns him Sid turning around and giving him a dead arm.

“That’s only when you sleep over Mario’s because it’s polite, you giant asshole,” Sid grumbles, and Geno just grins at him.

“I have priorities,” Geno corrects, ignoring the charge that he’s an asshole, because he knows full well he is.

- - -

Geno’s feeling a little indulgent when Sid sends him out for lunch, so instead of heading to one of the sandwich places around Sewickley he drives down University Boulevard into Pittsburgh and picks up Primanti Brothers, even though he knows their nutritionist will kill them.

“Oh my god,” Sid moans, when Geno comes back, grabbing the bag and giving Geno a swift, hard kiss that makes the extra time Geno’s going to have to do on the bike totally worth it. “You got Primanti Brothers, I love you. Oh, this is so not in our diet.”

“Yes, Sid care so much about diet,” Geno scoffs, taking the bag back long enough to get his pastrami sandwich.

“I should care,” Sid says mournfully, and hesitates for moment before he shrugs and takes a bite of his egg sandwich. The moan he makes around the first bite is vaguely pornographic - the kind of moan it usually takes Geno a long time to kiss and coax out of Sid. Geno would be a bit jealous of the sandwich, but then he sits down next to Sid and bites into his own pastrami, and the noise he makes is extremely similar.

They’re silent through the first halves of their sandwiches, focusing on the dripping coleslaw and the crunch of the fries, but Sid’s a little slower starting on his second half, a little more thoughtful.

“This is good,” he says, eventually, and Geno looks up.

“Sandwich always good,” he says, and Sid shakes his head.

“No, I mean, that’s great,” Sid says, taking another bite and chewing. “Just, spending time with you that’s not about hockey. That’s really good.”

Geno takes Sid’s free hand where it’s resting between them and squeezes. “Is good,” he agrees. “Is best.”

Sid puts down his sandwich and squeezes back. “I wish we had more,” he says.

“More time with no hockey?” Geno asks. “What you do with Sidney Crosby?”

“Stop,” Sid says, even though he’s smiling a little. “You know what I mean. I mean that I… I wish this room could be our room, we’re painting here. I hate that it can’t be.”

“Green not my color,” Geno deflects, and then when Sid looks at him, wholly unamused, “what you want me to say, Sid?”

“Say something that makes it better,” Sid demands, more wistful than bratty.

Geno sighs and thinks for a minute. He never knows what Sid wants to hear from him in these situations, and he’s even less sure of how to comfort Sid in English. “Is not always,” he says finally. “Things get better, yes? Maybe one day, is our room.”

“See?” Sid leans forward and presses a quick kiss to Geno’s cheek. “You knew exactly what to say.”

Geno blushes. “Finish sandwich,” he says gruffly.

“Or,” Sid says, still leaned in close “we’ve got a lot of time to wait before we do the second coat of paint.” His lashes lower, his hand inches up Geno’s thigh, and his breath is hot and smells like coleslaw. Sid has absolutely no game, and Geno should probably laugh at him, but he just wants him instead.

“How much time we have?” he asks, putting his sandwich aside and slipping his hand under Sid’s t-shirt, making Sid shiver into the touch.

“Enough,” Sid says before he kisses Geno, hot and challenging, and Geno groans appreciatively as Sid pushes him down onto the rough dropcloth against the hardwood floor, lunch entirely forgotten.

- - -

By time it’s three thirty, Geno’s been painting for going on five hours, he’s tired, and the siren call of Candy Crush is getting a little too insistent to ignore, so he figures he’s entitled to a quick break.

“Geno,” says Sid after thirty minutes, because Geno just needs to beat level 65, he has to, “what are you doing?”

“Bored,” Geno complains, looking up from his phone. “Sore. Don’t want to paint.”

“Oh, come on, we just have to paint this -” he gestures sharply at the other side of the room, obviously forgetting the paintbrush in his hand, because some of the paint flies off and splatters on the arm of Geno’s shirt. “Shit,” Sid says. “Sorry, Geno.”

“Oh, I show you sorry,” Geno says, taking up his small brush and dipping it in paint. He stalks towards Sid, holding it aloft, a blob of paint glistening dangerously at the tip as if just about to fall. Sid catches Geno’s wrist right before he’s about to let it drip onto an upturned cheek.

“Don’t,” he warns.

“You stop me?” Geno asks, looming over Sid and grinning. He likes when they’re like this - likes how much taller than Sid he is, but how that never stops Sid from looking up at him with his chin jutted out bossily, refusing to be cowed. He likes that Sid will hold his wrist tight and push back.

“I’m stopping you right now,” Sid says. He brushes his thumb along the inside of Geno’s wrist, which is cheating when he’s looking at Geno like a challenge. It makes Geno want to drop the paintbrush, sure, but it also makes him want Sid, want to push him against a wall and kiss the fight right out of him, to try to go for a second round. “Come on,” Sid says, looking up at Geno through his eyelashes in an extremely convincing manner. “The sooner you put down the brush and help me finish, the sooner we can go home.”

Geno’s about to agree and paint the fastest second coat of his life when the paint on the brush, precariously clinging to the end of the bristles, finally gives up and plops onto Sid’s cheek.

“Ugh,” Sid says, making a face. He tries to wipe it away with his hand, but he just scrubs it into his skin more.

“Stop,” Geno says, reaching in his pocket for a rag. Obediently, Sid stills, letting Geno lift his chin with one hand and swipe away the paint with the other as gently as he can. “Good,” Geno says when he’s finished, and drops a quick kiss on Sid’s upturned lips, because he can’t not.

“All gone?” Sid asks.

“All gone,” Geno assures him, and picks up his paintbrush to start working again.

- - -

“Room look good,” Geno says, crossing his arms an inspecting their work proudly. He spent his entire off day getting high off paint fumes and his shoulders hurt from reaching in ways he’s not used to, but he feels good about it. The green looks warm in the light that’s coming in the north-facing windows from the sunset, casting long shadows across the floor, and the room already looks more finished, more ready to be lived in.

Sid adjusts his cap on his head and looks around with a much more detailed eye, making sure no tiny spot was missed and everything’s in shape. “We did alright,” he admits.

“I paint best,” Geno says, putting his arm around Sid’s shoulder and squeezing him close. Sid laughs and wraps his arms around Geno’s middle, but he doesn’t try to argue. Instead he smiles up at Geno in a way that makes Geno’s heart do a traitorous stuttering skip, even after so long of being on the receiving end of Sid’s smiles. He doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to having this kind of one directed at him; the soft, contented smile with the crinkled eyes, heavy with warmth. It makes Geno almost want to blush and squirm away, to make some stupid comment like he always used to and effectively break the moment, but he doesn’t do that anymore. Now when Sid looks at him like that Geno leans down to kiss him, nipping lightly at his bottom lip to make Sid let out a contented little hum.

“Thanks for doing this with me,” Sid says, and it’s hard to tell if he’s blushing because he feels happy in that squirmy, almost embarrassing way too, or if it’s a trick of the pink light from the setting sun.

“No problem,” he says. “I happy if you happy.” He squeezes Sid’s shoulder. “You happy, yes?”

Sid nods and looks around the room. “I’m getting there,” he says. “It looks… it looks more like home now.”

“Good,” Geno says. “Then good day. We paint room, I watch your ass while we paint, everyone happy.”

Sid’s definitely blushing when he smacks Geno’s shoulder. “You’re awful,” he says, in the whiny tone he puts on when he doesn’t really mean it.

“Best,” Geno corrects, and Sid smiles again.

“Okay,” he says, leaning in for another kiss. “Best.”