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At first, Sid thought it was a Russian thing. Some of the European players had weird habits, and Sid mostly chalked them up to cultural differences. But Gonch didn’t do any of the stuff Geno did, and neither had Koltsov, before he went back to the Superleague.

Geno was strange in a different way. He didn’t change in the change room: he took his stuff into one of the toilet stalls, and changed there. He never took his shirt off in the dressing room. And he wouldn’t shower with the rest of them. He always lingered, either on the ice after practice or in the dressing room after games, hunched over at his stall and fiddling pointlessly with his gear, until everyone else was finished.

It was pretty weird. Hockey had beaten the modesty out of most of them before the age of ten. Most guys didn’t even care if there were reporters or cameras in the room. Sid had seen everyone on the team naked, except Geno.

He left it alone. Geno’s hockey wasn’t suffering, and that was the most important thing. And the biggest barrier to Geno bonding with the team was his English, not his weird never-nude habits. If Geno was shy about his dick, that was his own business.

“Maybe it’s a religious thing,” Jordy said. “Is Geno religious?”

“Maybe his dick is tiny,” Max said, “and he’s embarrassed.”

“Maybe his dick is huge, and he doesn’t want the rest of you to feel bad,” Sid said. “Leave him alone.”

They all got used to it. Gonch scolded Geno about a lot of things—refusing to speak English, dropping tape on the locker room floor—but he never, as far as Sid could tell, said a word about the nudity stuff. The rest of them took their cue from Gonch. If he didn’t think it was anything to worry about, it probably wasn’t a big deal.

After a while, Sid forgot that it was strange. Early on in Geno's second season, Sykora took Sid aside and said, “Look, what is going on with Malkin,” and it took Sid a moment to even figure out what he was talking about.

Sid shrugged. “That's just how Geno is.”

“Like a routine,” Sykora said, expression still skeptical. “A superstition?”

“Sure,” Sid said. “Something like that.”

+ + +

Geno was his teammate for the first year: a quiet guy, larger than life on the ice, and otherwise not someone who occupied much space in Sid’s internal landscape. But at the start of the second year, when Geno came back from Russia tanned and happy, Sid looked at the gangly length of him, his endless skinny legs in his basketball shorts, and thought: Huh.

He waited a few weeks, but the feeling didn’t go away. Instead, it kept getting stronger. Geno’s English had taken a hit over the summer, but it bounced back pretty quickly, and he wasn’t as shy about using it as he had been the year before. He goofed around during practice with Max and Jordy, and established himself as Flower’s deputy prankster, eager to do Flower’s wicked bidding. But when he wasn’t causing a ruckus, he was watching everything that happened in the locker room with a quiet gaze and a half-smile, like he saw into all of their hearts and was amused by what he found there.

After their first long road trip, in early November, Geno had a long cheerful squabble with Gonch after practice, laughing and making big gestures that involved the entire upper half of his body, and there was no point in waiting any longer. The feeling wasn’t going away.

He went over to Geno after Gonch went off to the change room.

“Let’s go for lunch,” Sid said. “Would you like to?”

“Need shower,” Geno said, watchful, cautious.

“I’ll go shower now, and then I’ll wait for you in here,” Sid offered.

Geno looked at him for a moment longer, and then he smiled. “Okay, lunch.”

There were a lot of lunches after that, and dinners on the road, sometimes, and afternoons on the couch at Geno’s, watching TV with Natalie. They went to the movies a couple of times, and Sid thrilled at the brush of Geno’s fingers against his in the popcorn bucket. They got lost in Montreal on a road trip and had to call Flower to come get them, and Flower’s complaining was totally worth it for the way Geno laughed and laughed and said, “You worst Canadian, Sid.”

He thought that Geno might seem less weird as they got to know each other better, but that didn’t really happen. Geno had some strange habits. He ate a ton of seafood, and Sid liked seafood a lot, but surely there had to be some limit to how much shrimp one person could eat. For one solid week in December, he refused to hang out with Sid at all, without giving any explanation, and was so grumpy at the rink that Max put a baby pacifier in his stall, which was a dick move but also kind of impressive, because nobody else was willing to brave Geno’s temper. But after that one week he was back to normal, like nothing had happened.

Geno was generally kind of secretive about things that didn’t seem to warrant secrecy. They went to dinner one evening, and it was warm in the restaurant, and partway through their meal, Geno put his fork down and squirmed out of his sweater. He was wearing a T-shirt underneath, and the collar pulled aside and revealed a strip of fabric, like the elastic bandages the trainers used.

“Are you hurt?” Sid asked, frowning. Geno hadn’t mentioned anything, and he was usually pretty—well, whiny about his injuries, as long as they weren’t serious. The serious ones, he never said much about.

Geno turned red, and tugged his T-shirt back into place. “No,” he said shortly.

“It sure looks like you’re hurt,” Sid said. “I know you want to play, but you shouldn’t hide injuries, because—”

“Don’t bother,” Geno said, kind of sharp, and Sid blinked at him, taken aback. Geno didn’t usually snap at him like that.

“Sorry,” Geno said, after a moment. His shoulders hunched.

“It’s okay,” Sid said. He kept a close eye on Geno at practice the next day, but Geno really did seem fine, and he decided to let it go.

He passed the whole first half of the season that way, dating Geno. They didn’t talk about what they were doing. Geno still made out with girls at bars and nightclubs, although it never seemed to go any further than that. Sid tried not to watch, but his eyes wandered back again and again. Geno took it so seriously, even when the girls were doing it mostly as a joke: his eyes closed, his mouth working slow and wet. Every glimpse of tongue made Sid’s gut clench.

He knew he had to go slow with Geno—painfully, agonizingly slow—and he couldn’t have said how he knew, but it was so obvious. Geno was like the deer that came into the yard sometimes, as beautiful as that and just as easily startled. But watching him kiss girls got harder and harder, and finally Sid followed him into the washroom at a club and said, “Maybe you could, uh. Stop.”

Geno raised his eyebrows. His mouth was glossy from the girl he’d been kissing, and stained red from her lipstick.

“I want. If you’re going to kiss someone,” Sid said. “I want it to be me.”

Geno’s expression cracked apart. He glanced at the door, and then grabbed Sid’s shirt and dragged him into the handicapped stall and locked it.

“Someone might need to get in here,” Sid said, and then wished he could rip out his own tongue, because Geno was never going to kiss him now.

But Geno was either used to him or didn’t understand what he had said, because he put his hands on Sid’s shoulders and bent down to kiss him.

Geno’s mouth was tacky with the remaining traces of lipstick, but everything else was perfect. Their lips touched so carefully, and broke apart for a moment, and then came together again. Sid put his arms around Geno’s waist and pressed as close as he could, and Geno sighed a little and parted his lips, exactly what Sid had wanted, and what he had watched so many times: slow wet unhurried kissing, and Geno’s hands running carefully up and down his back.

That was their first kiss, standing beside a toilet in a nightclub in Toronto. Sid wouldn’t have changed a thing.

+ + +

Their second kiss was in Geno’s bedroom, and their third kiss was in Sid’s, and their fourth was a brief, laughing brush of a kiss in the equipment room before morning skate, and Sid stopped keeping track after that. They kissed a lot, whenever they had a chance, but it didn’t go any farther than that. Sid liked sex, and he liked Geno so much—God, he really liked Geno—and he was trying so hard to be patient, but it wasn’t easy to lie sprawled on top of Geno on Geno’s bed and kiss and kiss until they were both hard and panting, and then for Geno to cool things way, way down, his hands gentle on Sid’s hips and his mouth light and soft.

Well, Sid had a right hand, and he knew what to do with it. He upped his masturbation regimen from once a day to twice: before sleep, and also now in the morning, before he left the house. That helped. He didn’t ever want Geno to feel pressured. He would wait as long as it took.

Hopefully it wouldn’t take too long.

A month went by, and then two, and Sid was starting to wonder if they would ever move past the making-out stage, if he would ever get his hands on the big thick cock he could feel pressing against him through Geno’s sweatpants. Then Mario and Nathalie and the kids went out of town for the weekend, and Sid figured it was time for him and Geno to at least have a conversation about it.

On Friday, Geno was doing his usual lollygagging in the dressing room after practice. Sid shoved aside Geno’s ubiquitous bag of baby carrots—nobody else ate in the locker room, Geno was so weird—and sat down on the bench beside him.

“Want to come over tomorrow?” Sid asked. “I’ve got the house to myself.”

Geno’s tongue slid along his lower lip. “You want alone?”

“Yeah,” Sid said, trying to tamp down the hot feeling he got from Geno’s look. They were alone all the time, at least three or four times a week. It shouldn’t have been exciting anymore, but it was, even though Sid knew there was a chance things wouldn’t go well tomorrow, that sex was a line Geno wasn’t willing to cross. Everything had been going so well, and he hoped—well, he hoped.

Geno came over the next day in a good mood and kissed Sid in the foyer, still bundled up in his enormous down coat with his toque pulled down over his eyebrows. It wasn’t even that cold outside: it was March. But the tip of Geno’s nose was cold where it pressed against Sid’s cheek, and Sid laughed and unzipped him out of his coat and said, “Let’s go upstairs. It’s warmer there.”

They went upstairs, and it was warmer, and warmer still in Sid’s bed, nestled close together under the blankets. Sid tried to comb Geno’s hat-hair into order, and then gave up when Geno laughed at him.

“Why you care?” Geno asked. He grabbed Sid’s hands and kissed his fingertips. “Mess up worse.”

“Oh, is that what we’re doing?” Sid asked teasingly, and Geno laughed and rolled onto his back and pulled Sid on top of him.

One benefit of doing nothing but kissing for two months was that they had gotten really, really good at kissing. Geno liked it slow and with a lot of tongue, and he was always so intent about it, clinging to Sid’s back and bringing their mouths together over and over again. He liked when Sid touched his ears as they kissed, and played with his hair.

They were supposed to be talking, but kissing was so good, and Sid lost himself in it for a while. Geno parted his thighs around Sid’s hips and Sid couldn’t resist grinding against him a little, hot friction through two pairs of sweatpants. Geno groaned and tore his mouth away, panting, and then initiated the first step of his cooling-down routine: sliding his hands out from beneath Sid’s shirt, removing that point of contact.

Okay. Sid sat up. Geno was sprawled on the bed, flushed and open-mouthed, his dick an obscene bulge in his pants, lovingly outlined by the soft fabric. Sid swallowed, trying to loosen his dry mouth.

“Sid,” Geno complained, holding his arms out. “Kiss more.”

“No,” Sid said. “I mean, we will, but.” God, it was so hard to think with Geno looking at him like that. “Geno, do you think you’ll ever, uh. Want to do more than kissing?”

Geno groaned and put his hands over his eyes, which wasn’t encouraging. Sid felt his heart sink, but he forced himself to wait, for Geno to actually say it.

“Yes, I want,” Geno said. He slid his hands aside, bracketing his temples. There was a look on his face that Sid had never seen before. “I want lots, Sid, I—”

Sid waited for him to go on, but instead Geno floundered up into a sitting position, kicking Sid a few times in the process, and crawled off the bed.

“Geno,” Sid said, stricken. He didn’t want Geno to leave.

“Sorry,” Geno said. He exhaled heavily and ran his hands through his hair, undoing all of the work Sid had done to neaten it. “Sid, I need—think. Okay?”

“Okay,” Sid said cautiously. “Does that mean—”

“Means I think,” Geno said, a little sharp, and then his expression softened and he moved in to cup Sid’s face in his hands. “We talk soon.” He leaned down and kissed Sid’s forehead.

“I’ll walk you out,” Sid said, desperate to extend his time with Geno, because maybe Geno would decide he didn’t want to do this anymore, and thinking about it made Sid feel like his ribcage was crumbling into fine powder. It hadn’t been very long, but he already—well, he cared about Geno a lot. It would hurt a lot if Geno decided it was over.

+ + +

He tried not to worry. If Geno didn’t want to have sex with him, there was nothing Sid could do about it, and worrying about it wouldn’t help. But he was so relieved when Geno smiled at him in the locker room before morning skate, because that meant there was still a chance.

His best-case scenario had been sex, and his worst-case scenario had been Geno breaking up with him, and he hadn’t really thought about any of the in-between states, because there were too many possibilities. But now that they had landed here, with no clear answer, he thought that maybe the uncertainty was worse than a definite ending.

He wasn’t sure how long Geno needed to think, and he was ready to wait for days or even weeks if that was what it took. Months. But Geno texted him the next afternoon after practice: You come now?

Yeah, Sid replied, and was out of the house in under five minutes.

The drive to the Gonchars’ was so familiar by now that Sid didn’t have to devote any mental energy to navigating, which in this case was unfortunate, because it left plenty of space for anxiety to inflate like a hot air balloon. He had no idea what Geno was going to say.

Geno met him at the door, and his expression didn’t do much to reassure Sid. Whenever he read in a book that someone was white as a ghost, he took it as figure of speech, not a literal description. But Geno was pretty pale, like maybe he needed to go lie down.

“Come inside,” Geno said, and he took Sid’s hand; so that was something.

In his room, Geno sat on the bed, and Sid lingered awkwardly, because sitting down next to Geno the way he normally would seemed too intimate now. And Geno didn’t say anything, so—he probably didn’t want Sid to sit.

“Sid, I need show you something,” Geno said. He fiddled with the hem of his T-shirt and stared down at his lap, avoiding eye contact.

“Anything,” Sid said. His stomach felt sour. “You know you can tell me anything, G.”

Geno’s mouth pulled to one side, a wry twist. He reached up to grab the collar of his shirt and pull it over his head.

His torso was wrapped in beige fabric—not an elastic bandage, like Sid had thought. It was crossed over his chest and looped beneath his arms, and pinned at the side of his ribs with a safety pin.

“Okay,” Sid said, trying to figure out what he was supposed to be getting from this.

“Come here,” Geno said. He unpinned the fabric and offered the end to Sid with an expectant look.

Sid moved in and took the cloth from him, automatically obedient to Geno’s wordless command. “You want me to, uh. Unwrap you?”

“Yes,” Geno said. He didn’t look scared anymore. He looked the way he did on the ice: proud, defiant.

Sid carefully unwound the fabric. It was stretchy, and wrapped pretty snugly over Geno’s shoulders and around his ribs. Geno held his arms to the side to give Sid room to work. Sid wasn’t sure what he expected—breasts?—but Geno’s bare chest looked totally normal, his dark nipples and the little patch of wiry hair right between his pecs. Sid ached to touch him.

“I don’t understand,” he said, when he was finished, and the fabric hung loosely from his hands.

On Geno’s back, something moved gently.

“Geno,” Sid breathed.

Geno sat up straight, his chin lifted, and unfolded his—his wings.

“Holy shit,” Sid said. Maybe he needed to lie down.

The wings were beautiful: a pale, soft pink, like the inside of a seashell. Geno held them close to his shoulders, still mostly folded, and watched Sid’s face, shy again now, his own face turned slightly to the side.

“They’re real?” Sid asked.

Geno gave him a dark sidelong look, his lips compressed.

“Okay, dumb question,” Sid said. “Geno, holy shit.”

“You not mad?” Geno asked. “Freak out?”

“I think I’m still too surprised to be freaked out,” Sid said, and Geno huffed at him and—smiled a little, and Sid felt the hard knot of fear in his chest thaw into warm relief. Geno didn’t want to break up with him. Geno wanted to have sex with him. Geno was just afraid of what Sid would think about his wings.

They sat together on the bed, facing each other. Geno folded his wings again to lie flat, curved over his shoulder blades, and Sid didn’t know if that was more comfortable or if Geno was trying not to rub it in Sid’s face.

“Where did they come from?” Sid asked. “How long have you had them?”

“Always,” Geno said. “Whole life.”

“Is this a—a thing?” Sid asked. “Is there, like, a whole secret race of bird people that I don’t know about?”

“No,” Geno said. “Maybe. Don’t know. It’s only me.”

“You don’t know anyone else like you?” Sid asked.

Geno shrugged and shook his head. “Just me.” He picked a few pills off his sweatpants and flicked them onto the bed. He kept his chin tucked down. “Feel like—freak. Have to hide.”

“That’s why you won’t change in front of the team,” Sid said. “That’s why you bind them?”

Geno nodded. “Keep secret. Can’t show.” He hunched his shoulders. “Not good to—to bind. Make, uh. Sore? Not hurt, but.”

“Oh, Geno,” Sid said. He hated that Geno was suffering. “Who else knows?”

“Family,” Geno said. “Gonch and Ksenia. Doctors.”

Sid waited for the list to continue, but that was apparently it. His heart clenched to think of Geno so carefully concealing his secret for so many years—decades. Sid couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live like that, frightened and ashamed, worried all the time that someone might find out. Geno had been so brave to tell him.

“I’m really glad you felt like you could tell me,” Sid said. “I think they’re—really beautiful, G.”

He felt kind of dumb, saying that, but Geno’s shy, pleased smile was so worth it. “It’s why I eat carrot, and shrimp,” Geno said. “For—for color. Have to eat, or it’s not pink.” He flushed and glanced down. “It’s silly, but. I like pink.”

“I like it, too,” Sid said. As he watched, Geno’s wings unfolded again, the tips spreading just past his shoulders. Sid reached out without thinking, and then stopped himself. “Will you—can I touch?”

Geno nodded, and extended one wing toward Sid.

Sid carefully ran his fingers along the top curve of the wing. The feathers felt like any bird’s feathers: stiff but soft. Unfolded, Sid could see that the outer feathers were a rich, pure black, and the underside was black and also a vibrant orangey-pink closer to Geno’s body, much darker than the pale pink on the top. Fascinated, he trailed his fingers down the long feathers of the underside, but flinched back when Geno shivered.

“Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t—does it hurt?”

“It’s okay,” Geno said, but he folded the wings against his back again.

“Geno,” Sid said. “You’ve never, uh. You’ve never had sex with anyone, have you?”

Geno went back to picking at his sweatpants. “No.”

“Not even blowjobs?” Sid asked, because that, at least, didn’t require taking your shirt off.

Geno hesitated, and then he shook his head.

It made sense. If Geno was that worried about someone finding out, he probably didn’t want to take the risk. Or maybe it was easier for him to have none of what he wanted than some of it, like how Sid could never manage to stop after just one piece of candy.

“When you’re ready,” he said. “If you want to. You could have sex with me.”

Geno was still staring down at his lap, but his mouth stretched into a wide grin, like he couldn’t stop himself.

“Not today,” Sid added. “I think we should—but soon. If you want.”

“You still want?” Geno asked. He looked up finally, and the expression on his face hit Sid like a blow to the chest: hungry and scared and hopeful and in every way Sid’s Geno, this brash and brittle person he had come to know. The wings didn’t change anything about the way Sid felt about him.

Slowly, giving Geno plenty of time to move away, Sid leaned in to kiss him.

Geno’s hand curled around the nape of Sid’s neck. Geno’s mouth pressed softly against his.

“You’re perfect,” Sid said, when they broke apart, and Geno smiled at him like the sun sliding out from behind a cloudbank.

+ + +

They avoided each other for a few days. Sid felt a little overwhelmed by what had happened, and he thought Geno probably did, too, from the way Geno kept smiling at him shyly from across the dressing room and then looking away. Their relationship had changed—in a good way, but it was still a change, and Sid needed a little breathing room to let it settle.

He did some internet research on ways for Geno to bind his wings that might be more comfortable. Maybe something like the compression shirts some of the guys wore under their pads. He wasn’t sure Geno would want something with sleeves, so he ordered a few tank tops in different fabrics, and paid for the fast shipping. If Geno didn’t like them, he could always send them back.

The day after the shirts arrived, he slid up to Geno on the ice during practice and said, “You want to go back to my place after?”

Geno ducked his head and smiled down at his skates. “Yes, I come.”

The house was empty as usual in the middle of the day. Sid heated up some leftovers for lunch, and they ate in the kitchen. Geno kept jiggling his knee under the table, making their plates rattle. He wasn’t usually a fidgeter, and Sid couldn’t figure out what was going on until it occurred to him that Geno probably thought they were going to have sex.

He put one hand on Geno’s jolting thigh. “Hey,” he said softly. “We don’t have to do anything, you know.”

“I want,” Geno said, and then admitted, “but—nervous.”

Sid’s heart twisted. “We’ll start small.”

They went upstairs, to Sid’s warm bedroom. Geno perched on the edge of the mattress and pulled off his sweater, and then the shirt he had on underneath. When his hands went to the safety pin on his bindings, Sid stopped him.

“Can I do it?” Sid asked, and Geno nodded and lifted his arms.

The first time, Sid had been too scared to enjoy it, so unsure of what was going on. But this time, he could appreciate the slow reveal of Geno’s bare chest. It was sexy, of course, because Geno was really sexy, but it also felt like he was getting to help Geno in this small way. Now that he knew Geno didn’t like having his wings bound, he felt really good that he got to be the one to do the unwrapping.

When he was finished, he dropped the fabric on the floor and ran his hands over Geno’s shoulders, the red indentations left there by the binding. Geno pulled it tighter than Sid would, if he were the one in charge of the procedure.

Geno’s wings lifted, spread open slightly. Sid could just barely see the darker pink.

“I got you something,” he said. He left Geno there and went across to his dresser, where the box with all of the tank tops was. He brought it to Geno and placed it on his lap. “Maybe one of these will be more comfortable. For your wings.”

Geno sorted through the box. He pulled out one of the shirts and raised it in the air to examine it. Sid watched his face carefully, but he couldn’t tell at all what Geno was thinking.

“Help me wear,” Geno said finally.

He raised his arms above his head, and Sid worked the tank top down over his arms and stretched out the collar to fit over his ears and nose, and carefully drew it down over his wings. It fit snugly, but it was supposed to, and Sid felt pretty sure he had gotten the right size.

“How does that feel?” he asked, and Geno rolled his shoulders and moved his arms around, and flexed his wings inside the shirt.

“Better,” Geno said. “But—it shows?” He craned his neck around, trying to look at his own back.

“Let’s find out,” Sid said, and Geno put his shirt back on, over the tank top, and they went to the full-length mirror on Sid’s closet door so Geno could look at himself. The T-shirt hung smoothly: the tank top held everything in place, and there were no weird lumps.

“You think about,” Geno said. He touched Sid’s cheek. “Buy for me.”

“Well. Yeah,” Sid said. “I mean. You said it makes you sore. So I thought this might be better.”

“It’s better,” Geno said. He slid his hand into Sid’s hair. “Sid,” he murmured, and Sid tipped his face up to accept Geno’s kiss.

The bed wasn’t far. They stumbled toward it, kissing and laughing. Sid made Geno sit on the mattress so he could take off Geno’s shirt and the tank top, because there was no reason for Geno to ever wear a shirt if he didn’t have to. He pressed in between Geno’s legs, kissing him frantically, and he felt Geno getting hard, and maybe this time they wouldn’t stop. Geno kissed him back just as eagerly, and everything was hot and soft, and there was only one virgin in the room but Sid felt every bit as shaky and clueless as he had his very first time.

He pulled back for air, panting, and then stared in amazement. Geno’s wings had unfolded to their full expanse, maybe four feet across, black and pink and orange-red. He blinked up at Sid, looking sort of dazed, his wet mouth hanging open.

“Wow,” Sid managed.

“Sorry,” Geno said. His wings raised and lowered, but they didn’t close. He frowned. “Feel—I don’t know. Feel like need spread.”

“Don’t apologize,” Sid said, “I like it, it’s—part of you. I like seeing them.” He swallowed. Geno hadn’t enjoyed it before, but maybe— “Can I touch them? I’ll be careful.”

“Yes,” Geno said, and drew his wings forward, to give Sid better access. His face was flushed, and Sid felt his own cheeks heat in response. Touching Geno’s wings felt secret and forbidden, and that only made Sid want it more.

He stood there bracketed between Geno’s splayed thighs and cautiously stroked Geno’s wings: gliding his palms along the slender bones at the top, and then down along the soft coverts of the upper wings, following the grain. He had read about wing anatomy, and it was fascinating now to see how it all fit together. He watched Geno’s face for signs of discomfort, but Geno didn’t seem to dislike it. His lips were parted, his eyelids heavy.

“Okay?” Sid asked, and Geno leaned into him and pushed his hot face into Sid’s neck and trembled. His wings folded around Sid, embracing him. He could control them really well, and Sid still found it a little surprising, but—well, Geno didn’t go around flailing his arms into walls and doorways. He’d spent a whole lifetime with wings. Of course he was good at it.

He petted Geno gently. The coverts were so pink and so soft. Geno fluffed the feathers out somehow, so Sid could sink his fingers in and stroke the downy undersides. Geno was really shaking now, and Sid moved his fingertips carefully and gazed down at Geno’s dark head and said, “You’re sure this is okay?”

“Feels good,” Geno said faintly. “Like—” He sat up, and gave Sid a serious look. His face was bright red.

“Oh,” Sid said, delighted. “Like a sex feeling.”

Geno somehow flushed even brighter, and his ears, too, until he was as red as his under wings. “Maybe.”

Sid was so into that. “Lie down. So I can, uh.”

Geno pressed his lips together, and for a second, Sid thought he was going to be stubborn and refuse. But then he shifted onto the bed and lay down on his stomach, and pillowed his head on his folded arms. His wings lifted, then settled again, spread wide to show the stiff dark primary feathers.

He looked so good, his sweatpants low on the curve of his ass, and the huge bare expanse of his back. Sid straddled him and sat on his lower back, and smoothed his hands along Geno’s spine. The wings were rooted between Geno’s shoulder blades, and Sid explored the juncture with his fingers, the soft fold where flesh became thin feather-covered skin. Geno tensed beneath him, and Sid froze for a moment, but when Geno didn’t tell him to stop, he smoothed his hands over the broad stretch of Geno’s wings, skimming the feathers with his palms.

“Can you fly?” he asked.

“No,” Geno said. “Too heavy.” He made a soft sound. “If I fly, maybe it’s worth. But it’s no point. Only trouble.”

“I’m sorry,” Sid said. He carefully worked his fingers beneath Geno’s coverts again, and was rewarded with a full-body shudder.

“Sid,” Geno said. He pushed up onto his elbows. “I want—”

“Yeah,” Sid said. He could have spent a lot of time touching Geno’s wings, but there were other things he wanted, too. He swung a leg over and lay down next to Geno. All he could see of Geno’s face was one eye and the top of his cheek, still sweetly flushed. Sid said, “Come here and kiss me.”

Geno scrambled to obey. He rolled over on top of Sid and gazed down at him, dark-eyed, messy-haired, his wings spread and fluttering slightly. “Sid,” he said hoarsely, and Sid drew him down.

Kissing was familiar and so good. Sid cradled Geno between his thighs, and Geno was already so hard, just from having his wings touched. It made Sid feel hot everywhere, the back of his neck and all down the front of his body. He kissed Geno and buried his hands in Geno’s wings and felt Geno’s hips jolt against him.

This was his fantasy: lying in bed with Geno and kissing him until they were both too turned on to think, and then Geno not stopping. Not pulling back, not cooling things down, but letting Sid touch him and push his pants down and watch him come. He wanted that more than anything, and maybe this time, Geno would let him.

Geno was grinding his hips down, kind of uncoordinated, and it felt really good, but Sid didn’t want to come in his pants. He broke away to kiss Geno’s hot face. “G, I want. Let me take off your pants.”

“You too,” Geno said, and they bumped knees and elbows as they stripped down. Sid arched his back and squirmed around to take off his shirt, and when he was naked, he looked up at Geno and saw Geno staring down at him with uncertain wonder.

“Are you nervous?” Sid asked, reaching up to stroke along Geno’s bare arms. There was so much of him, and Sid wanted to learn every inch.

“No,” Geno said, and then his eyes dipped down. “Maybe.”

“It’s just kissing,” Sid said. “With a little extra.” He stretched to fish the lube out of his bedside table, and as Geno watched hungrily, he slicked himself, and then finally, finally got his hand on Geno’s big hard dick. Geno made a shocked noise and shoved forward into Sid’s grasp, and Sid dropped the lube on the bed and tugged Geno down into his arms.

Geno pretty quickly lost the coordination for kissing, and couldn’t do more than pant with his lips brushing Sid’s. Sid found it thrilling. He hadn’t expected any finesse, this first time, and it really turned him on to see Geno losing it.

Geno drew his knees up so that he was half-crouched over Sid, his hips snapping desperately and without any clear rhythm. He buried his face in Sid’s neck and made a high whining sound, frustrated, and Sid decided it was time to take over.

“Hey,” he said. He gripped Geno’s hips, stopping his frantic movements. “Come on.” He guided Geno into the right pattern, a slow grind on the upstroke and then a quick return, slow and then fast, until Geno caught the motion and worked himself against Sid’s belly like that, his slick cock leaking everywhere.

“Ah, ah, oh God,” Geno moaned, and Sid was feeling pretty close to the edge himself, but he forced his eyes open in time to watch Geno’s wings snap straight out and tremble as he came.

Geno slumped onto Sid’s chest, and Sid held him and stroked his hair. They were a mess, but Sid would hold Geno as long as he wanted to stay there. He didn’t even care about his own orgasm. There was plenty of time for that.

Geno stirred after a minute, and lifted his head to give Sid a kiss. “We do again?”

“We can do it as many times as you want,” Sid said.

“Okay, need five minute,” Geno said, and Sid laughed and wrapped his arms around Geno’s neck and kissed him with everything he had to give.

+ + +

He learned a lot about Geno over the next couple of weeks, between travel and games and practice and press. Some of it was sex stuff, like how tight Geno wanted Sid’s hand on his cock, and how focused and intent he got about sucking dick, as serious as he was about kissing. But Sid also learned that Geno’s wings took a lot of care and maintenance, and Geno was shy about it but willing to let Sid help with the combing and oiling, and Sid loved how dazed Geno was afterward, pliant and flushed with pleasure. And he learned a lot about Geno’s childhood and his family, stuff Geno had always avoided talking about before, but now seemed eager to share.

Every time they hung out, Geno was wearing, under his shirt, one of the tank tops Sid had bought him, and it filled Sid with a protective pride, almost unbearably tender. He had done that, he had done something good for Geno.

He let himself start thinking about the summer, and next season. Geno seemed really happy, and Sid was so happy he felt sort of embarrassed about it, like he was approaching some upper limit of joy that would be crass to exceed. He was probably in love.

Geno took to sex like a—well, like a duck to water. He was curious, inventive, and increasingly willing to boss Sid around in bed. So Sid wasn’t totally surprised when Geno rolled over one day toward the end of the month and said, “Maybe you fuck me.”

They were in Geno’s bed after practice, sort of half-napping, both of them worn down by the season and gearing up for what would hopefully be a deep playoff run. They had already gotten off once, drowsily rubbing off on each other, but Sid could definitely go again, and he was definitely interested in fucking Geno.

But they hadn’t talked about that at all. “You’re sure you want to?” he asked, already captivated by the sly look on Geno’s face, the way his wings lazily stirred the air. Stretched out on his belly, naked and languid, Geno was six feet plus of too much to handle.

“I do lots, with fingers,” Geno said. “I like.”

“Jesus,” Sid said weakly, his head swimming with visions of Geno jerking off, Geno with his fingers in his ass, Geno gasping and groaning.

Geno’s smirk had faded. He looked uncertain now, chewing on his lower lip. “If you don’t want—”

“Of course I do,” Sid said. “Of course I want to. I just want to make sure you—”

Geno rolled his eyes. He folded his wings and turned over onto his back, and drew one knee up to plant his foot on the bed. “We try. Okay?”

Geno had lube, and a condom. He dug them out of the nightstand and left them in easy reach. Sid felt hot and shaky, which was dumb, because he had done this before, not a ton of times but enough that he knew what he was doing. But he had never done it with Geno, and he wanted to make it really good for Geno. It was a lot of pressure.

“Sid, you worry,” Geno said, kissing his cheek as Sid settled on top of him. “Just kiss, but extra.”

Sid hid his smile against Geno’s neck. It was more than a little extra, but Geno had a point: it was just another thing for them to do together, something else they could share—and if Geno liked fingers, there was a good chance he would like Sid’s dick.

He kissed Geno for a while, because that was their habit now. They both liked it, and Sid had spent so many thwarted weeks chastely making out with Geno that he got a thrill now every time Geno didn’t stop him. Knowing he could keep going, that he would get to make Geno come, was almost as good as the sex itself. And feeling Geno grow hard beneath him, hearing the soft noises Geno made, small gasps and cries that got louder as he got more turned on—

“Shh, you have to be quiet,” Sid said, laughing, kissing Geno’s jaw. Geno had the mother-in-law suite, tucked away at the back of the house, but Sid lived in perpetual fear of someone overhearing them, because it was embarrassing. Ksenia, at least, definitely knew what they were up to, but Sid thought they were all better off if she didn’t know the details.

“Don’t make fuss,” Geno said, “fuck me,” and he took Sid’s hand and wrapped it around the lube. He gaze was challenging. He was all fierce loud bravado until he wasn’t, and Sid lived for the moments when Geno showed him the soft parts underneath.

He sat up and squeezed out some lube, and waited for Geno to arrange himself. His hole was small and pink and Sid had seen it before but he hadn’t touched it, and he realized he was holding his breath as he stroked across it with his slicked-up thumb.

But Geno didn’t flinch away, or give any other signs of discomfort. He sighed and wiggled his shoulders against the bed, a gesture Sid was familiar with now, making a comfortable space for his wings.

Sid exhaled and pushed his middle finger inside.

Geno liked fingers. He took two easily, with almost no resistance, and nothing in his face but loose pleasure. Sid searched with his fingertips and knew he had found the right spot when Geno arched his back, his eyes sliding shut.

Sid worked his fingers gently, stroking his thumb over the soft tight skin behind Geno’s balls. He loved watching Geno sprawled out for him across the mattress, his arms above his head, hands clutching a pillow, and his thighs splayed wide, his legs draped loosely over Sid’s lap. He wasn’t hiding anything. His wings were folded, but that was only for comfort, and every other part of his body was open to Sid, his ass and his long legs and his hard dick straining against his belly, twitching slightly every time Sid curled his fingers just right.

“Is this okay?” Sid asked, even though he was pretty sure it was. He pulled his fingers out, and Geno made a noise of protest. “Just adding more lube,” Sid said, and squeezed some more out of the bottle, and pushed back into Geno’s ass with three fingers. That was more of a stretch, and Sid fucked him like that for a while, adding more lube again and working him over until Geno’s thighs jerked each time he moved his fingers.

“Sid,” Geno said, pink clear down his chest.

“You want to come like this?” Sid asked. Geno was so much to look at. Sid hadn’t known sex could be like this, like it wasn’t so much about getting off as about being with Geno, doing this fun and wonderful and heart-pounding thing together.

Geno opened his eyes and raised his head to give Sid an impressive glare. “No. Fuck me.”

Well, that was pretty clear.

Sid slid his fingers out carefully and wiped his hand on the sheet. “How do you want to do it? Maybe we could put you on your hands and knees, for your wings.” He liked being able to watch Geno’s face, but it would also be nice to look at Geno’s wings and touch them, and maybe Geno would like it better that way.

Geno considered. “Next time,” he decided. He looked at Sid for a moment, his eyes soft and dark. “I want, uh. See you face.”

Sid’s stomach twisted with embarrassed pleasure, and he leaned down to kiss Geno to hide his sudden painful blush. He knew Geno had feelings for him, that Geno was probably as invested as Sid was, but he was always laid bare whenever Geno said or did something that reminded Sid he wasn’t in this alone.

“Oh, Sid,” Geno murmured, kissing him and stroking his hands down Sid’s sides. “You ready? You want?”

“Yeah,” Sid said, and sat up again to fumble with the condom.

When he glanced up after rolling it on, Geno was chewing on his lip again, his eyebrows drawn together—nervous, and Sid ran his hands up Geno’s legs and said, “We don’t—”

“I know, stop say don’t have to,” Geno said. He knocked his knees against Sid’s ribcage and smiled at him. “Come on. Let’s do now,” and he took Sid’s hands and drew him in.

Pressed close together, Sid was overwhelmed by Geno’s warmth and solidity, the smell of his skin. Geno wrapped his arms around Sid’s neck and his legs around Sid’s waist and held him there with no space between them. Sid had to reach down awkwardly to take his dick in hand and guide himself into position, gliding slickly over Geno’s hole.

“Sid,” Geno breathed out, and Sid kissed Geno’s neck and pushed slowly, slowly into the soft hot clutch of Geno’s body.

He paused when he felt resistance, and kissed Geno and stroked his face and hair and waited. Geno clung to him so tightly, his legs squeezing Sid’s hips, and he was breathing heavily and looking up at Sid with his mouth open, and Sid felt so lucky and also terrified to be the only person Geno had ever done this with. It seemed like a huge responsibility.

Geno wriggled beneath him and pushed his hips up, and Sid took that as his sign to keep going. He rocked his hips again, a little deeper, and Geno made a startled noise and relaxed all at once.

Sid laughed quietly and pressed wet kisses to Geno’s neck. “Like that?”

“Good,” Geno said, and Sid pushed all the way in and kissed Geno to muffle the sound he made, high and pleased.

The basic motions of fucking were the same, no matter what, but Sid felt brand-new in every other way, because it was Geno, and Geno was new for him, both sex with Geno and how he felt about it. But this was the easy part, now: lying between Geno’s thighs and kissing him and moving their bodies together.

Geno was pretty noisy in bed, and Sid always appreciated it, but it was especially great now, because he knew when he got the angle right: Geno’s panting breaths turned to moans, and as Sid did his best to keep fucking him at exactly that same pace and depth, his cries only got louder.

“Ohh, Sid, there, there,” Geno gasped, his feet sliding down the backs of Sid’s thighs, his hips lifting to meet each thrust. His hands were buried in Sid’s hair, tugging—maybe harder than Sid liked, but the pain was a distraction he needed, because Geno felt incredible, so tight and hot and also Sid loved him, probably.

“G, Geno,” he whispered, clumsily kissing Geno’s cheek and ear as Geno turned his head to the side, and suddenly Sid was right there, and he couldn’t stop it: he was flushed everywhere and shaking and his hips lost all rhythm, and Geno was saying his name over and over and kissing his face and Sid’s eyes squeezed shut so hard he saw stars.

Well, fuck.

Geno held him and rubbed his back while he came down. He knew he was pretty heavy, and as soon as he could make his limbs cooperate, he carefully pulled out and sat up.

Geno smiled up at him, still flushed and hard. “It’s good?”

“A little too good,” Sid said ruefully. “Sorry. I wanted you to come first.”

Geno scoffed. “Why you’re sorry? It’s good for me.” His expression turned shy. “I like make you come.”

Sid had to lean down and kiss him for that, and then he had to grab at the base of his dick because the condom was trying to slide off, and Geno laughed at him, because he was an asshole.

“You can get yourself off, then,” Sid said, and Geno grinned at him. They both knew he was full of shit.

He dumped the condom in the waste bin under the nightstand, and cleaned himself up a little with a tissue. And then he lay down with Geno again and kissed him and ran his thumb around the rim of Geno’s hole. “Sore?” he asked.

Geno shook his head. “Please,” he said, and Sid pushed three fingers into his ass and delighted in the way Geno arched into it.

“I’ll suck you,” Sid said, “or—”

“Stay, kiss me,” Geno said, and Sid lay mostly on top of him and kissed him and finger-fucked him and listened to Geno jerk himself off. It didn’t take long. Geno got pretty loud, and he tightened around Sid’s fingers so much that Sid couldn’t really do anything but push in and hold, and then Geno gave a sharp cry and spilled over his fist.

Sid kept moving his fingers gently until Geno opened his eyes and smiled, and then he pulled out and cleaned them both off with some tissues, kissing Geno the whole while.

When Sid was done, Geno stretched languidly and turned onto his stomach, and unfolded his wings. The feathers looked a little rumpled from all the rolling around in bed, and Sid anticipated some really enjoyable preening time, and maybe a third round of sex.

“Next time I fuck you,” Geno said, his face mostly buried in a pillow.

“Sure,” Sid said. “We can do that.”

Geno grunted, and extended one hand. Sid eagerly slid in beside him and slung a leg over Geno’s hips. One of Geno’s wings covered him, a soft warm blanket.

“Was it good?” Sid asked. He combed his fingers through the feathers closest to Geno’s body, tidying them back into place. “How did it feel?”

Geno looked at him: half of a face, one eye, part of a smile. “Like flying,” Geno said.