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even after all these years

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The oil in the pot behind Sidney sizzles with heat, onions and garlic browning. The only other sound in the house is the slice of his knife through tomatoes, fresh from his backyard garden. He knows the silence is only temporary so he relishes it while he has it.

He adds the container of ground beef to the pot. The timer's beeping so he flips the sausage in the pan full of water on the next burner over. He resets the timer for 15 minutes and grabs the can opener from the draw next to the stove. He turns back to the kitchen island just as the front door opens and voices spill inside. Sidney sighs happily to himself and starts opening the multiple cans of tomato paste and sauce.

Aiden files into the kitchen first, followed shortly by Geno, both sweaty in their long sleeve shirts and shorts; it's a warm day in March for Pittsburgh and they're taking full advantage of it. Aiden's grumbling at Geno in Russian but he stops by Sidney on his way to the fridge. He gives Sidney a peck on the cheek and a quick, "Hi Daddy," before continuing to talk to Geno. Geno follows him over but stays by Sidney, standing behind him and wrapping his arms around Sidney's waist. Geno bends to give Sidney's neck a kiss.

"How'd shooting practice go?" Sidney asks the two of them.

Aiden sits at the kitchen table and turns to face his parents, fiddling with his bottle of Gatorade. "It went well for me." Aiden says, sending a look towards Geno that Sidney's all too familiar with.

"Oh, no." Sidney steps out of Geno's arms and turns to look back at him.

"What?" Geno asks innocently.

"What neighbor do I have to go apologize to now?" Sidney asks, one hand on his hip.

Geno drops his head but the smirk on his face is the same as always. It still makes Sidney's insides tumble over themselves even forty years after he first saw it. "Mrs. Henderson. But it's her fault."

"How is it her fault?" Sidney's trying not to give in and laugh at his husband but Geno makes it hard sometimes.

"She have window facing our driveway. Not my fault."

"Geno," Sidney tries to chastise, but the smile breaks out over his face.

Aiden laughs from his spot across the room. "At least it wasn't me."

"You rat me out to Sidney, I should go tell her it you who do."

"Dad!" Aiden laughs, shaking his head.

The timer beeps on the stovetop, interrupting their conversation, and Sidney turns his attention back to dinner. He stirs the meat in the pot and lowers the heat before flipping the sausage again. He then adds the three cans of tomato paste to the pot and stirs it in. Finally, he resets the stove timer for 15 minutes.

"I help?" Geno asks.

Sidney shakes his head. "I've pretty much got this covered. You can go relax." Geno gives a kiss to his cheek and leaves the room. Sidney sprinkles salt, pepper, oregano and basil into the pot of meat sauce. "Aiden, you have any homework?"

"Not today. I got it all done in my free period."

Sidney adds the cans of tomato sauce and freshly-diced tomatoes to the pot. "Good. Come stir this?"

"I thought you said you didn't need help?" Aiden says.

"From your father. No homework means you can help."

"Daddy," Aiden whines, but he comes to the stove and grabs the spoon from Sidney's hand. "How long?"

"Until the timer says five minutes left. Then you can cover it and head on up to your room."

"Fine." Aiden grumbles, leaning into the counter with his hip and stirring. He takes out his cell phone and starts playing a game while he waits.

Sidney follows the direction Geno left in, hearing the television in the media room blaring. Sidney recognizes it as one of Geno's Russian shows, so he walks in to sit beside him for the only few minutes of peace they'll have tonight.

"Aiden shoot well." Geno says preemptively, wrapping his arm over Sidney's shoulder and pulling him into his side.

Sidney snuggles in, tilting his head to rest it on Geno's shoulder. "What did you have him work on?"

"Target practice. His shot so strong but he not control very well. Try to get him focus on where he's aim."

"Target practice is how you hit Mrs. Henderson's window?" Sidney asks, skeptical.

"I try show him how he shoot, no control. Just lucky he not do before when she's home."

Sidney laughs, a soft breathy sound. "I'll bring her some flowers in the morning and offer to pay. It'll be okay."

"Not worry about her. Should expect when she move in next door to old hockey players."

There's a crease in Geno's brow when he says it, and Sidney knows he's worried about something. "What's wrong then?" He presses.

Geno sighs and reaches up a hand to scrub at his forehead. "Even after I show, Aiden still not understand how to direct his shot. Been going on a while, you know? I'm just want him to play well."

"He's fourteen, baby. He has time still to figure it out."

"I'm just want him be as good as I'm know he is."

Sidney reaches up one hand and scrubs at Geno's head, too, massaging his fingers into his scalp. Geno sighs and slinks down further into the couch, resting his head back against the cushion and dropping his hand to his lap. "We have to let him decide if hockey is what he wants to do. Just because we've raised him with it and he loves it doesn't mean it's his path, you know?"

Geno nods and stays quiet while Sidney runs his fingers through his mess of gray hair, digging his fingers into different spots to release Geno's tension. It's not until the timer in the kitchen starts beeping that he speaks again. "I'm not want him to not have option. Because he have bad aim he gets pass by. If he not want to do, fine, but I don't want to be because he can't."

Sidney feels like his heart grows three sizes too big in his chest. He loves, so much, how much Geno loves their children. He smiles and pats Geno softly on the head. He leans in and presses their lips together. He only pulls back a little to talk, keeping them sharing the same air while he can. "I have to go finish dinner. You stay here and relax a little. Vivie will be home from her friend's house soon and I'll need you to wrangle her into washing up for dinner, okay?"

Geno nods and tilts his chin up to press their lips together again. "Love you."

Sidney pulls back and stands up. He watches Geno while he backs his way to the door. "Love you, too." He says, before turning to head back to the kitchen.

It's an hour later when there's a knock at the front door and Sidney calls out for Geno to get it. He has the pasta cooking on the stovetop and the gravy is just about ready. Sidney's been sitting at the kitchen table for the last twenty minutes, flipping through a hockey magazine he has delivered for the kids. He likes to indulge himself every once in awhile, thinking back to his years of playing.

There's a pitter-patter of little feet hurrying into the kitchen at him and he turns the chair enough for Vivian to jump up into his lap. He smiles at his daughter and catches her so she doesn't fall off.

"Daddy!" She squeals at him.

"Hi, baby!" He hugs her to his chest in greeting. "How was Sophia's house?"

"Good! Her mom let us watch TV after we finished our homework."

"Yeah? Did you get it all done?"

"Uh huh." She nods at him.

Sidney runs his fingers through her loose, blonde curls. "Dinner will be ready soon. Why don't you go find Dad to get washed up, okay?"

Vivian groans but climbs off of his lap anyway, and runs back out to the hallway towards the bathroom. She screams for Geno and Sidney can just barely make out his response to her before the timer for the pasta starts beeping.

Sidney closes the magazine and brings it back to the stack of them on the island. He turns off the timer and goes about preparing each of their plates. Geno still eats like he did in their playing days and truthfully, Sidney doesn't know where he fits it all, still as long and lean as ever. Sidney's own plate size resembles their daughter's more than Geno's these days. He calls out for his family.

Vivian comes running through the house again, Aiden chasing her down the hallway and Geno lightly jogging his way behind just as Sidney sets their plates down at their usual spots around the table. He smiles at his family and continues setting the table, grabbing forks, napkins, and their cups.

Geno joins him at the counter and grabs two of the cups Sidney took out to fill with ice-water from the fridge. Sidney leaves a third on the counter next to him so Geno can fill that one, too, and opens the fridge door to grab the juice on the top shelf for Vivian. He grabs one of Geno's cups for Aiden and gives the kids their drinks as he sits down at his spot at the table.

Geno smiles down at him when he sets Sidney's cup on the table, leaning over to peck him on the lips. Geno's smile is contagious, and Sidney can't wipe it off his face through their entire meal. After dinner, Geno sends Sidney off to put the kids to bed and takes care of the leftovers and packs the dishwasher with their plates and pots.

Sidney doesn't see him again until he's getting ready for bed, Geno already in their bed and leaning back against the headboard. He has the covers pulled up to his waist and a book in his lap, reading glasses hanging off the tip of his nose. Every night it hits Sidney just the same, how little Geno has changed. He's still the same man Sidney fell in love with, breathtakingly beautiful inside and out. He falls into bed beside him and makes sure to get as close as he can.

Geno doesn't move beyond lifting an arm to wrap around Sidney's shoulders. "Everyone asleep?"

"Yeah. Vivie went down easy. I'll have to send her to Sophia's more often," he laughs.

Geno smiles and flips the page in his book one-handedly. "Dinner very good tonight."

"Thank you."

"Love when you cook for us."

"I need to do it more often." Sidney sighs. "It's nice now, with the Pens out of town, but I need to get more time to be home with you guys. I miss it."

"Don't have to work, Sidney. You know that."

"No, I know." He shifts in the bed, tilting his hips further into Geno's body so he can balance his upper-body away. "You know I still need hockey though. I drove you nuts when I left coaching."

Geno smiles, his tongue sticking out between his teeth. "Was so bad, Sid," he teases.

Sidney smiles and smacks at his hand. "Trust me, I remember. Maybe it's time I transition into something with more stable hours though, front office or something."

"You hate. Too late to be GM now, anyway. Too old."

"You're pushing your luck tonight, old man," Sidney laughs. "Come on, we should go to bed. Kids have to be up early for school tomorrow."

Geno closes his book and puts it on the nightstand. He turns off the table light and slides down under the covers and Sidney slides down with him. Sidney keeps his head pillowed on Geno's shoulder with Geno's arm still wrapped around him. "Thank you," Geno whispers, the same as he has every night since they adopted Aiden.

"Thank you," Sidney whispers back. He turns his head and presses a kiss into Geno's shoulder. "I wouldn't have any of this without you."

Geno turns and leaves a kiss in Sidney's hair. "Me, too." He whispers back.

It's the last thing Sidney hears every night before he falls asleep.