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Sid's at the cabin on the lake at the edge of his family's land – by himself for some privacy before the insanity that will be the next couple of decades begins. Or so his sisters all gleefully tell him, Taylor included. Sid doesn't mind the upcoming insanity, not really, because it means he'll be playing hockey and that's all that matters.

His family thinks he's a little weird, though Sid argues that he's Canadian, how is it weird to love hockey? He's hardly the first centaur to ever play the game, and not even the first to make it to the NHL.

His foster parents keep telling him it's just that it's only been a couple of generations since everybody found out about centaurs – no longer just the ones who foster colts who are old enough to leave their herd or those who found out by accident. But Taylor, his foster sister, gleefully points out every chance she gets, that Sidney is weird, that nobody loves hockey as much as he does and the fact he can even try to skate on four legs has nothing to do with it. (He can't, despite trying every chance he gets.) His foster sister considers herself to be the foremost expert on Sidney; she's spent summer vacations with Sidney's herd and knows all his sisters and cousins and as such knows more than a few embarrassing toddler stories about him.

Sidney likes to remind her that he knows ALL of her embarrassing toddler stories.

But weird or not, none of it matters anymore because in the Fall he's going to be moving to Pittsburgh and he's going to play professional hockey. He's excited, of course, and he's grateful to the Lemieuxes for inviting him to stay with them (and for the fact he likes them, so maybe his foster parents will stop making noises about moving down there with him just for the first year, Sidney.)

The only bad part is how the media seem poised to scrutinize his every move. He's more or less used to the media by now – he's been one of the best at hockey practically since he started, and the debate has been raging for years about whether or not he ought be allowed to play. But as he's pointed out – over and over – he isn't the first centaur to play in the NHL. Most importantly, there have been lots of centaurs who played hockey and didn't make it to the NHL. Dozens are playing in the minor leagues or overseas because they weren't good enough. For now, the NHL seems content to let him play – even if Sidney's pretty sure it's because they're loving all the attention. Pittsburgh is already selling Crosby jerseys, though he knows that some of the so-called pro-human groups have taken to buying them and burning them.

Which, as Mario pointed out, is still a sale of a jersey.

The one thing he isn't looking forward to is that everyone is waiting for him to meet Alex Ovechkin. There's a huge event planned for their first time, heavily chaperoned by reps from both teams. The media had demanded the chance to film it, but Sidney's and Alex's home herds had objected, threatening to sue and press charges and everything else they could think of to prevent what they said was an invasion of privacy. (Sidney thinks other herds joined in, because some things shouldn't be a media circus. Mostly he doesn't care, because he just wants to play hockey.)

But an arranged meeting is going to happen, and eventually the media is going to catch them together, and Sidney just hopes that they can both agree that hockey is more important. He isn't looking forward to meeting what will be his first full-grown stallion when he's also technically supposed to be an adult. Despite his father's reassurances, and his foster father's advice to just focus on hockey, Sidney doesn't have any idea how it's going to go.

He's sitting on the porch, staring at the lake and thinking about going for a run, when he hears a vehicle driving up the path. He isn't expecting anyone, but it's herd land and therefore anyone showing up would have to have permission to be here. He gets up and heads around to the front of the house, watches as a pickup comes into view. When it stops, somehow he isn't at all surprised to see Alex Ovechkin get out. He's alone, which both reassures Sidney and tells him exactly what this is about.

He tenses as Alex walks over, doesn't relax even when the other stallion stops a decent distance away. Alex gives him a huge grin. "So, I'm thinking, we get this over with now, with nobody around to tell us play nice."

Sidney doesn't answer. He doesn't want to fight – he's never wanted to fight unless it's on the ice. He's perfectly willing to fight Alex on the ice, of course, but those fights are nothing like the battles that grown stallions have. His heart is beating fast and it hits him – if Alex is here for real, for a fight, there's a good chance--

Sidney stops himself. Fights to the death are illegal now. Sidney doesn't even know anyone who's died in a stallion fight, but things might be different in Russia. He's grown up believing that he never really would have to fight for his life against another stallion, but suddenly he's realising how naïve maybe he was.

Alex shakes his head, holds up his hands. "Don't want to fight, Sidney. But – probably we gonna butt heads a lot, didn't want everyone watching while we try to figure out how to play anyway." He frowns a little, like he's thinking over his English and Sidney is half-ready to ask if he wants to discuss it in Greek. Except his grandmothers used to despair of Sidney's language skills; despite his perfect centaur memory, French and Old Greek always seemed to elude him.

He sticks with English to ask, "You came up here to...not fight?"

Alex shrugs. "Maybe we fight a little, shove each other around, argue over whether I'm better than you--"

"Fuck you, you're not better than me," Sidney spits out, and Alex grins, looking delighted.

"So, we argue, maybe play some ball hockey to see who's best, wrestle in all this lovely grass, so we can behave a little when everyone watching." Alex is still grinning, smug and happy and full of – Sidney isn't sure. It's kind of...intriguing? He doesn't exactly know what he thinks of that look on Alex' face.

He does know that playing ball hockey with Alex Ovechkin will lead to fighting, because one-on-one usually means shoving and tripping and grabbing arms. Unless Alex meant ball hockey on all fours, in which case Sidney doesn't have any polo sticks handy.

Alex takes a step forward, hesitates, and Sidney nods. Alex walks forward slowly, not making any quick or threatening movements despite his taunting words. When he gets close enough that Sidney could touch him if he reached out, Alex stops. Then suddenly he laughs and surges in closer, leaning his face in, right up against Sidney.

"What the fuck--" Sidney shoves him back, but he gets a whiff of Alex's cologne – or, maybe, that isn't cologne. Sidney finds himself closing his hand on Alex's shirt and Alex nods, vigorously.

"Or we can do that instead! Much better than fighting. And we confuse everybody when we get along on the ice, hey, even better?"

Sidney laughs, feeling confused and uncertain. One thing he knows. "I'm not going to be nice to you on the ice, Alex."

Alex' smile grows wicked. "Yeah, me neither. Going to beat you every single time we meet! But now – you wanna go inside or stay out here?" He waggles his eyebrows in what looks like a truly hideous effort at being seductive.

"Inside," Sidney says, tugging at him. "Then we can play ball hockey on the lawn and I can show you I'm better."

"In your dreams," Alex replies, but he goes along willingly, into the house and starts shedding clothing before the door even closes behind him.