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Woken Up My Heart

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November, 30th, 2016

“You had to wear my jersey,” Sid says after the elevator door closes and a man in a business suit holding an overnight bag gets out on the fifth floor.

He holds his phone between his shoulder and face as he tugs at the knot of his tie with one hand and presses the close door button with the other.

Geno’s laughter sounds loud in his ear and Sid shakes his head.

“Have you watched the post game interviews yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Well you should. They asked about you. They asked about you a lot. I scored two goals tonight and all they wanted to talk about was you.”

“I’m very important Sid, of course they talk about me.”

Sid rolls his eyes and Geno laughs like he can see it, like he knows him so well he can sense that it’s happening.

“They wanted to know if I knew that you were coming tonight. I said you live in New York so it would have been easy for you to get a ticket.”

“Is true. Didn’t have to lie. Know you don’t like that. I wanted to surprise you.”

“Well, it worked. I look up and you’re on the big screen. I almost skated right into Kuni.”

“And then you go and score two goals.”

“All the way in the third period. It could have been three if you let me know you were going to be there tonight.”

Geno hums. “Maybe next time.”

Sid takes a deep breath and leans back against the elevator wall.

He can hear a TV going in the background. Geno is probably showered and warm in sweatpants and one of Sid’s sweatshirts that he’s left behind.

Sid tugs at his tie again and pops open the top button on his shirt.

The door opens on the thirtieth but no one gets in. It’s just another thing delaying him from bed.

The doors slowly close and Geno says “you mad I wear your jersey?”

“I’m not mad.” And he’s not. He’s just….something.

“Have to wear your jersey Sid. You captain. Have to support my team.”

“But this isn’t even your team.” Sid steps close to the door when the elevator comes to a stop on the forty-fifth and rocks back on his heels as they decide to open. He drops his voice to a near whisper as he walks down the hall to his room. “You live in New York. You should be a fan of the Rangers,” he says, pausing as Geno makes a disgusted sound, “the Kings, you spend a lot of time in LA. Or, I don’t know….you’re Russian. You should be cheering for Ovechkin.”

It’s a mistake to say that and he knows it as soon as it leaves his mouth. He takes a deep breath like that’s going to bring it back in but it’s too late.

“You want me to wear Ovechkin jersey?”

He can hear the grin in his voice.

“No,” he says. It’s loud enough that it echos up the hall. He cringes and Geno laughs.

“You want me to go down to Washington and let him score three goals when he sees me?”

He gets his voice under control as he digs through his pocket for his keycard. “No, that’s not what I want at all.”

He’s so busy trying to get the vision of Geno in Capitals red with an 8 stitched across his back out of his mind that he doesn’t notice the quiet hum of a late night talk show or the light coming from beneath the crack of the door.

“If you really want me to, Sid, I’ll go buy his jersey.”

“Stop,” Sid whines as he slides the keycard into the door. He gets it wrong on the first try and has to flip it around and try it again. The mechanisms inside the door click and he pushes it open.

He’s softly shutting it behind him when Geno says, “if you don’t like me wearing your jersey,” and Sid drops his phone because Geno is in his room, kneeling on his bed, lit only by the light of the TV and wearing only Sid’s jersey. “Don’t like.” He repeats and lift up the front hem. He's half hard and when his fingers skirt around the base of his cock he sighs. “Should come over here and take it off me.”

Sid stumbles forward and trips over his feet and Geno laughs as Sid pulls his tie completely over his head. “How'd you even get in here?”

Geno stops laughing and drops the shirt. “We don't have all night, Sid. You waste time on stupid question or you take your pants off?”

Sid shakes himself out of his daze and unbuttons his pants. He's gotten them down to mid thigh when Geno reaches out with grabby hands and Sid steps forward into his arms.

It's their first kiss in three months.

Sid’s been playing and Geno has been on photo shoots in Europe and when Geno pulls back so he can quickly and efficiently unbutton Sid’s shirt Sid says “I missed you,” right as Geno says “I love you.”

“Me too,” they both say and they stop and grin at each other until Sid falls forward and laughs into the side of Geno's neck and Geno wraps his arms around him.

Eventually he manhandles Sid back onto the bed and makes quick work of the rest of his clothes, straddling his hips when he's done.

The fabric of the jersey brushes his thighs and he curls his fingers into it when Geno bends his arms over his head to pull it off.

“What? Want me naked.”

Sid shakes his head and sits up enough so that it's easy to slide a hand around the back of Geno's neck to pull him down for a kiss.

He wraps his other hand around and traces his name and number on his back.

“Maybe tonight you can leave it on?”

Geno smiles into their next kiss.

 

November, 2014

 

Sid’s a half a step ahead of Flower and Tanger as they walk to lunch.

It’s a silent protest of them talking back and forth in French too quick for Sid to keep up. He’s heard his name a few times and Tanger laughs when he looks over his shoulder at him and scowls.

“You guys are dicks,” he tells them but he still opens the door to the deli for them to go in first.

Before they can get in a tall man with a scarf wrapped high around his neck comes barreling out with his phone to his ear and a coffee in his hand.

They clip shoulders and Sid says “sorry,” out of pure instinct and manners and the guys spits something sharp in Russian and keeps walking, not even bothering to look at him from behind his sunglasses.

“What the hell,” Sid says as Flower ducks inside and Tanger stands on the sidewalk staring at the man's back. “Are you coming?”

“That was Evgeni Malkin.”

Sid blinks at him. “Who?”

Tanger throws his head back and groans as he pulls out his phone.

“Evgeni Malkin is maybe one of the most successful male models around. Maybe ever. He's been in Vogue,” he yells as he pushes the phone in front of Sid’s face.

The photo is in black and white and the man- Evgeni, is dressed in a slim fitting suit and is leaning back against a railing on a grand staircase.

There’s a woman a few steps above him. Her hair is cropped close and she’s wearing an identical suit with her hand resting on his shoulder.

Neither one of them are smiling.

“You know I went out and got this suit? I think it looks better on me but whatever.”

“So that’s a big deal, to be in Vogue?”

“Yes, Sid,” he says, his tone letting him know that was a stupid question. “But it’s not just Vogue. It’s everything. He’s modeled for every major fashion designer out there, runway and print.”

“You know a lot about this.”

“Someone has to set a good fashion example on this team.” He looks Sid up and down. “It’s certainly not going to be you.”

“Funny,” Sid says dryly and Tanger knocks his elbow into his side.

“I can’t believe he’s here. Why is he here?”

“I can’t believe he didn’t apologize for running into me.”

Tanger rolls his eyes. “Not everyone is a polite Canadian like you are.”

“You’re Canadian too.”

“It’s different.”

“How?”

“Hey,” Flower sticks his head through the door. “Are we eating today, or what?”

Tanger steps in before Sid, who is still holding the door, and Sid takes one last look down the now empty sidewalk.

“He’s filming a movie,” Tanger loudly announces as they’re eating their food. He hasn’t put the phone down since they ordered. “Everyone is an actor now, apparently. It’s about a boxer. Some indie thing.”

Sid leans over to look at the screen. Evgeni is in a boxing ring with gloves on shirtless and smiling.

“Maybe we’ll bump into him again.”

Sid hums and takes another bite of his sandwich and doesn’t think about it again.

-

He is alone in a Starbucks a week later when he sees Evgeni again.

He’s in one of the oversized leather chairs flipping through papers on his lap while Sid stands off to the side to wait for his coffee.

The barista calls his name and he steps forward quickly even though no heads raise to look in his direction.

There’s no reason for him to hang around and even less of one to sit in the chair diagonal to Evgeni’s when there are plenty of other empty seats but that’s what he does.

Sid pulls out his phone and sips his coffee as he steals little glances at him between answering texts and emails.

He’s almost done with his coffee when Evgeni speaks to him without looking up from the papers.

“You want picture, just ask.”

Sid frowns and looks around. There’s no one else near them. “What are you talking about?”

“You stare. Sometimes means want picture, is okay, you can-.”

“If you saw me looking then you were looking back. How do I know you don’t want my picture?”

Evgeni tips his head to the side. “Why would I want your picture?”

On cue a young boy comes up to him holding a napkin and a marker. His mother hovers nearby with her phone out.

“Mr. Crosby, can you sign this?” Sid smiles and scribbles his autograph then puts his arm around the boy so his mother can snap off a few pics.

“Thank you so much,” she says as her son runs over to her. “We’re so sorry to bother you.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he says, “it’s fine.”

And it is. The boy is smiling and clutching his napkin and it’s really the least he could do.

They head back to their seats and Sid looks at Evgeni, whose mouth has dropped open and his cheeks have turned pink.

Sid simply raises an eyebrow and picks up his coffee.

“You Sidney Crosby.”

Sid nods.

“Sorry, not recognize. Usually only see you on ice with helmet.”

“Understandable.”

Evgeni reaches his hand across the space between their chairs and Sid takes it.

“Evgeni Malkin. Not big deal in Pittsburgh, not compared to you. Okay if not know who I am.”

Sid opens his mouth to tell him that he does know, that his teammate had to tell him but now he knows but Geno keeps going.”

“I’m filming a movie here. First time. Don’t know what to do with myself. Don’t know what to do here.”

“Pittsburgh is great,” Sid says, easily slipping into the voice he uses on rookies brand new to the city.

He tells him about the museums and restaurants he visited when he was just a rookie, too young to drink and too careful to listen to his older teammates when they told him that he would definitely be served.

“You’re the savior of the city,” they’d say, “of course they’re going to serve you alcohol.”

But he hadn’t done anything yet and didn’t like the idea of taking what he hadn’t earned.

There are a handful of different breakfast places that he lists off and an ice cream shop he goes to no matter what the weather is. There’s the incline, which everyone should see at least twice, in the day and then again after the sun goes down so you can see the lights of the city, there’s the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Science Center and a really great ramen place in Squirrel Hill.

Evgeni has taken out his phone and is typing notes and Sid slows down to explain the Cathedral of Learning to him so he can catch up.

“And there are a lot of great parks too.”

“Parks.” Evgeni snorts and juts his chin out towards the front windows and the two feet of snow outside. Flakes are starting to fall.

“They’re nice in the spring. But you won’t be here then.” Sid presses his lips together and looks back to Evgeni. “Do you like football?” Evgeni nods and his phone starts ringing in his hand. He shakes his head and apologizes, slipping into his elegant wool peacoat and turning his collar up to prepare for the cold. It frames his cheekbones and ruffles up the hair on the back of his head.

Sid wants to smooth it out, tuck it back under.

He curls his hand into his fist on the arm of the chair as Evgeni’s phone rings and rings.

“Have to go. Work. Maybe see you around sometime?”

“I’m around.”

Evgeni smiles, crooked and warm, and he breezes out the door, slipping his still ringing phone into his pocket as he goes.

Sid’s chest feels warm and tight even after Evgeni has cleared the view of the window and is out of sight.

-

It’s taken years but Sid’s finally at a point where he doesn’t hate the sound of his alarm in the morning.

But he hates waking up to ringing phone. It’s never anything good and with equal parts annoyance and fear he grabs the buzzing phone off the nightstand.

It's an unknown number and he groans and drops the phone back on the table and rolls over.

It rings a moment later and in a rage he answers it and presses it to the side of his face.

“Listen, I don't know who the fuck-.”

“Sid!”

It's loud and accented and Sid knows this voice.

“Sid,” he takes a deep breath. “Is Evgeni.”

Right.

Hi. Is everything okay?”

“Is fine, why?”

“It's early.”

“Not too early. Not for hockey player. Don't you get up early?”

“Not when I don't have to. There's no practice today.”

“I woke you up? So sorry. Can call back later.”

“I'm up now. How did you get this number?”

“Are you mad?”

“No.” He doesn't think he is. “I'm surprised. I wasn't expecting to hear from you.”

“Go back to Starbucks. Didn't see you.”

“We've been traveling. Haven't been in town.”

“Oh, should have thought. Ask my agent to ask your agent. Easy.”

“Are you okay? You seem like you're out of breath.”

“Out for a run.”

“You go for a run this early in the morning?”

“Have to. Still training for movie. Hate it. Running worst. Anyway, have tickets to the Steelers on Saturday. Want to come? Can you come? Should have checked your schedule,” he says.

“It's fine. I'm here. I think I can go.” Sid doesn't believe that this is actually happening. “You want to go with me?”

“No other friends here. Games not fun without friends.”

“You don't have coworkers to go with?”

“All older, not a lot of fun.”

“And you think I would be?”

Evgeni laughs like he's kidding. “Do you want to go?”

“I….sure?”

“Okay good! Already have tickets, can pick you up.”

“I….okay, that’s fine.”

“Okay, can’t wait, see you soon.”

“Okay.”

Evgeni hangs up and leaves Sid wondering what just happened.

Evgeni has great seats on the 50 yard line but the weather is terrible.

It’s twenty degrees and windy and it’s been steadily snowing since the start of halftime ten minutes ago. There’s a thin layer of snow over the field and on the top of people's hats and shoulders.

Fans are crowded together, huddling for warmth, and Sid leans towards Evgeni whose legs have been bouncing up and down since kick off.

“I thought you would have gotten box seats or something.”

“Wanted to be down here,” he says while his teeth chatter. “More fun.”

“I think they have heaters in the boxes.”

Evgeni cranes his neck and looks up wistfully at them. “Maybe next time. You not cold?”

Sid wiggles his fingers in his insulated gloves and casts a significant look towards Geno’s thin leather gloves.

“You need to dress better.”

Evgeni looks at him, offended, “I dress fine.”

“I mean warmer. Those gloves are garbage for this kind of weather.”

He holds them close to his chest. “Armani, Sid.”

“I’m sure that’s nice but your fingers are going to freeze.” He pulls off his gloves and holds them out to him. The bitter wind bites at his skin. “Take them.” He shakes them a bit when Evgeni doesn’t move. “Please, Evgeni, I’ll be fine.”

He takes his gloves off and Sid shakes his head when he holds them out. “Ugly,” Evgeni says as he pulls Sid’s gloves on. “But very warm. Thank you.”

Sid shoves his hands into his pockets. “No problem. You should get a warmer coat too. Maybe you can get a designer to make you one.”

Evgeni laughs.

“Are the gloves really that bad? I don’t really know fashion.”

“Yeah. I know.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” “Nothing.” But his tongue it stuck between his teeth and his eyes sparkle in the stadium lights. “Google you. See how you dress when you’re not playing. Bad suits, Sid.”

“They are not.”

“Have stylist, right? She not doing you justice.”

“She’s great,” Sid defends. “I just like certain things. I’m picky.”

“You picky about wrong things.”

“It’s not always easy finding things that fit me,” he admits.

“Excuse. Make lots of money. No reason to have bad fitting suits. And how many t-shirts you need, Sid.”

“You know I could just leave?”

Evgeni shakes his head and puts his arm around the back of Sid’s chair holding him in place.

Sid leans back into the warmth.

Evgeni drops Sid back at his place after the game.

He’s had the heat on full blast the whole while but Evgeni’s cheeks and nose are still red from the cold and even though it’s late and he’s tired Sid doesn’t want to get out of the car.

He keeps the engine running so Sid knows he’s not looking to be invited in but it feels like something he should at least offer.

He catches himself the second before he does it. This isn’t a date.

“I had a good time,” he says instead and Evgeni smiles.

“Cold but still fun. We should do it again sometime. Maybe not football,” he says quickly. “Maybe dinner?”

“That would be nice.” He pops the car door open and is hit with a blast of cold air. Evgeni turns the heat up. “Have a good night, Evgeni.”

“Sid, just call me Geno. Accent-,” he tips his hand back and forth. “Hard for some people.”

“I can learn how to say your name the right away.”

“It’s fine. I like it. Kinda like nickname. Hockey name, right?”

“If you're sure. But I mean-.”

“Sid,” he cuts him off with a laugh. “I'm sure. You think too much.”

“Fine. I won't think. Have a good night, Geno.”

He's on his front steps when the car door slams and there are quick footsteps behind him.

“Sid.” He takes the two steps up to his door in one long stride. “Sid,” he says again, stopping right in front of him.

Sid has to tip his head up to look at him. He likes it.

“Gloves,” Geno says and Sid frowns until he looks down and sees them in his hand.

“Keep them. Until you find something warmer.”

“No-.”

“It's fine, I have others. You need them more than I do.”

Geno looks down at the gloves then up at Sid.

“Dinner.” He pulls Sid into a hug and says “soon” into his ear before he’s pulling away and heading back for the car.

-

Dinner happens three days later.

Geno picks him up without telling him where they're going and pulls into the parking lot of one of the more upscale stores in the neighborhood and puts the car in park.

“You know this isn’t the right place.”

Geno pops open his door and steps out onto the sidewalk without saying anything.

Sid watches him for a few moments before he follows.

Geno is already in the store by the time Sid comes in.

He’s hovering over a table of v-neck t-shirts in a variety of colors. The neck is artfully distressed.

“I didn’t eat after practice,” Sid whispers. “Are you going to take long?”

“Why are you whispering?”

“I don’t know. This place seems fancy.”

Geno gives him a bemused look then holds up a lilac shirt to Sid’s chest.

“You like?”

“Not really. But if you do you should get it.”

“Not shopping for me,” he says as he turns his attention to a display of coats. “What do you like in here?” Sid glances around. “I don’t know. Why?”

“Have to have good stuff, Sid. Deserve.” He pats his large hand against the side of Sids face. “Look nice, should dress nice.” He waves at one of the employees, an older gentlemen dressed in a pristine suit with deep red pocket square, who steps forward immediately. He gestures to Sid and says “tell size,” then turns to the man. “Need lots of options. Bring all you have. Meet me in the dressing room.”

He walks off to the back of the store with a graceful gait that Sid cannot look away from. He pauses to run his fingers over the collar of a leather jacket and keeps moving.

“Sir,” the man clears his throat. He has a pad of paper and a pen in his hand.

Sid sighs and starts rattling off his measurements.

Sid is wildly uncomfortable as stands in front of mirror while Geno circles him.

He feels like he's tried on everything in the store.

There are clothes, mostly pants because as Sid had quietly pointed out “pants are hard for me,” in three separate piles around the fitting area.

Sid doesn't want any of it but Geno is firm and persuasive when he said that the deep maroon suit fit him like a glove even without any tailoring.

“I will never wear this,” he said, already itching to get it off.

Geno had stepped behind him, wrapped his arms around him, and tugged on the lapel so it would lie flat and straight.

“Look good. Be stupid not to get.”

“I will never wear this.”

Geno had ignored him and pat his shoulders before saying “we put in maybe pile,” and shoved more clothing into his arms. “Go try on.”

Now he's in gently distressed jeans with holes in the knees- which Sid does not understand- an olive green cashmere sweater and a peacoat in the same shade.

He looks good, he'll admit it, but he doesn't think he looks like himself and it's like Geno can read his mind when he clucks his tongue and cradles his chin in his palm.

“You don't like?”

“I do, it's just…,” he sighs and gestures to the room helplessly. “It's too much. Where would I wear any of this?”

“Anywhere. Is casual.”

Sid tugs at the sleeve of the coat and checks the price tag. “This isn't casual.”

“Casual for you is hockey t-shirt and basketball shorts. This better. You go out sometime with someone you want to impress, you wear this. Wear this when you go on date.”

“I don't date,” he says quickly and he watches Geno's eyebrows raise in the mirror. “I do, it’s just that I haven’t. It’s not fair, I’m so busy and I just-.” He starts to stumble through an explanation and Geno must take pity on him because he interrupts.

“You go out to dinner with me. Don't want to impress?”

“That’s not really the same though.”

“No, but it’s a start.” He turns abruptly towards the employee who has been hovering nearby. “He’ll take everything in that pile and what he has on. Also maroon suit. Should be enough, thanks for help.”

He scoops everything in the pile up and Sid doesn’t even bothering arguing as Geno helps him out of the coat.

It’s a lot of money.

Sid grits his teeth as the amount keeps rising while Geno browses through the small items near the register while he hums along to the music softly playing through the store.

“I hope he at least works on commission,” he whispers when a simple navy blue henley rings up at 74.50.

“Sure he does,” Geno answers as he drops two pairs of brightly colored socks onto the pile. He smiles at the look that Sid gives him and explains “for fun.”

Sid is hungry and cranky by the time they get seated.

They place their order and Sid thinks about the bags and bags of clothes in Geno’s rented Range Rover parked out front.

“You know, I could return everything you just made me buy.”

“Can,” Geno says as he taps the spoon against the side of his mug. “But won’t.”

“It was a lot of money.”

Geno raises his eyes to meet Sid’s. “You have a lot of money. Is okay to buy nice things for yourself sometimes. No one judge.”

Sid has nice things. He has a beautiful home and an expensive car and all the hockey gear he could ever need.

He takes a long sip of water and says “I am going to return the jeans.”

Geno throws his head back and laughs, loud and unashamed and Sid feels like he could never be that free with his emotions in a public space but it still makes him smile.

“Fine, fine, take back jeans but keep everything else. Just to try. You might like.”

Sid starts to get nervous right before their food comes out, the same way he always gets when he takes someone someplace new, like he built up the experience too much and it’s going to be a let down but Geno sighs happily into his seafood udon.

“Is good. Not as good as what I had in Tokyo but still very good,” he says and then spends the next forty five minutes telling Sid stories from his travels.

He’s been everywhere. Tokyo, Milan, Madrid, Copenhagen, Rome. Sid is well traveled but Geno has experiences that expand further than the inside of a hotel room and a hockey rink.

He almost got arrested in London when he was twenty and pretended to not know how to speak English to get out of it and skinny dipped in Santorini where the water really is as blue as it looks in the photographs.

“No wonder you were worried about being bored in Pittsburgh.”

“Not bored,” Geno says as he grabs the bill off the table before Sid can even get a hand out. “Different kind of city. Smaller, quieter.” He pulls out his card and slips it into the pocket of the bill fold before he looks up at Sid. “Still plenty to do.”

There’s only ice left in his glass but Sid still tries to take a drink.

“Little bit sad though, you list off a bunch of fun things to do here but you don’t mention hockey. Don’t want me at your games?”

“I wasn’t sure if you were into hockey.”

“Russian, Sid. Of course like hockey. Knew who you were, didn’t I?” “Just because you know who I am doesn’t mean you like hockey or the Penguins or me.”

Geno’s face pinches. “Who not like you? Stupid.”

“You’re calling entire cities of people stupid.”

Geno lifts one shoulder like he doesn’t care. “You know, this movie almost shoot in Philadelphia. Could be sitting here with Giroux right now. Maybe he keep ripped jeans.”

Sid makes a move to stand up and storm out in faux anger but Geno reaches across the table and wraps his fingers around his wrist.

“This better. Used to play little bit but had to stop,” he says as Sid sits back down. “Not good for modeling if I get hurt.”

Sid tries and fails to not stare at the scar that’s across his left cheekbone and Geno points to it.

“When I was teenager before I start to model. They say it gives me character. But no more.”

“Do you wish you could still play?”

“Think about it sometimes. Know my mama a lot happier now. Less to worry about. I’m happy.”

You should come skate with me sometime, is right on the tip of his tongue. But he swallows that down and offers a genuine “that’s good,” instead.

-

Sid is unlacing his shoes when Tanger shoves his phone under his nose.

“What the fuck is this about?”

It’s too close and he can’t focus on it until he pushes his hand a half foot away.

It’s him and Geno at the store standing at the register. It looks like it was taken from outside the front windows.

Sid’s body is angled towards him and Geno is smiling, his hand halfway towards the display of socks.

It was stupid to think he could have held Geno a secret forever. Even worse to think that he had to.

“What the fuck?” Tanger repeats and Sid toes off his shoes.

“What?”

“How is it you? How are you the one that gets a personal shopping trip with Evgeni Malkin? Who set this up, I know it wasn’t your idea.”

“It wasn’t. Geno did.”

“Who the fuck is Geno?”

“Geno,” he nods towards the phone. “Malkin.”

“You call him Geno?” Tanger spits out the word.

“He asked me to. He said my accent sounded funny.”

“You’re out there shopping and getting chirped by Evgeni Malkin and I’m not. That’s not fair.”

“You know he’d probably make fun of your accent too.”

“Fuck you, I say his name perfectly. I can’t believe this.” He sits down heavily next to Sid. “Look at all that stuff. Did you really buy all that?”

“I didn’t want to but I had to so we could get out of there and have dinner.”

“You had dinner with him?”

Sid nods and then decides to really lay into it. “We went to a Steelers game together last weekend.”

Tanger crumples back against the stall. “I can’t believe it. That should be me.”

“I heard yelling,” Flower says as he comes into the locker room, “why is there yelling?”

“Sid is friends with a supermodel and I’m not.”

It’s met with a couple of catcalls and whistles along with a chorus of “nice” and “who is she?” and “is she hot?”

“It’s Evgeni Malkin.”

“Oh,” Cole says flatly, like he’s disappointed and Sid feels an odd urge to defend Geno against that.

“Why are you surprised that Sid is friends with him. Sid’s really handsome, he should be friends with a model,” Beau says and the room goes quiet until someone coughs out ‘kiss ass’ and jostles him.

“Thank you, Beau,” Sid says as sincerely as he can.

Beau shoots him a thumbs up and turns to the rest of the room. “I’m just saying we all have eyes, I don’t know why we’re acting like we don’t.”

“Are you going to hang out with him again,” Tanger asks.

“I don’t know.”

“I want to come if you do.”

“You can’t just invite yourself,” Flower says as he steps over Tanger’s splayed legs. “That’s so lame.”

“We don’t have anything planned but he did mention coming to a game sometime.”

Tanger gasps. “Find out when. I want to meet him.”

When Sid gets home he drinks a full glass of water then google's both his and Geno’s name.

He never does this. He never wants to know what people are saying about him and staying off the internet is the easiest way to avoid it but he just has to look.

There are more photos than the one that Tanger showed him and if he hadn’t of freaked out over the one of them at the register he would have seen them at dinner as well.

Geno is talking with his hands with a huge grin on his face and Sid is staring at him like-.

Sid closes out of the window and shuts off his laptop.

He knows how he’s staring him- with warmth and affection and fondness and he knows that it looks like nothing at a passing glance but if someone were to really look…

He doesn’t need that. Not after all this time of being so careful.

He lasts twenty minutes before he’s lying on his couch scrolling through his phone to look at more pictures.

He only typed in Geno’s name this time and he’s been following link after link to see more and more photoshoots and runway shows.

There are videos of him walking the runway in combat boots and billowy black pants topped off with a form fitted jacket with the collar pulled all the way up and another where he’s dressed head to toe in what looks like beige plastic.

He’s completely caught off guard by the next one where Geno’s in nothing but tight black briefs and sunglasses as he walks down the runway.

Sid drops his phone to his chest and takes a deep breath, suddenly feeling like such a sucker for punishment that he’s back to looking a few moments later.

He's in beat up jeans and a white t-shirt, barefoot and walking a dog on the beach for Levi's and then shirtless in leather pants, lounging on a bed with a beautiful woman draped over his lap for Dior.

Armani and Calvin Klein.

It looks like he's done it all.

Sid falls further down the rabbit hole when finds Geno’s Instagram page.

There are pictures of food and sunsets over water and what he’s assuming is backstage at a fashion show, foldable chairs and mirrors and make up brushes everywhere.

Behind the scenes shots at photo shoots with Geno laughing right into the camera when he's supposed to be being serious.

Dogs and cats and birds.

Geno hugging a much shorter older woman from behind with his chin resting on the top of her head. She's smiling and holding his arm and Sid can't read any of the captions but they look so similar it has to be his mother.

He’s three years back in his posts when he sees one of him kissing a tall brunette. The caption is a single read heart and Sid decides that it’s definitely time for him to stop looking.

-

Geno texts him often.

He sends him pictures of the Pittsburgh skyline from the top of the Duquesne Incline and of all the bridges and from the botanical gardens.

Sometimes there are selfies that Sid stares at with a fond smile on his face that have his teammates diving for his phone.

He's always one step ahead and jams it in his pocket before they can get to it.

When he's alone he texts Geno back.

You look like a real tourist now. Hope you're having fun.

Geno texts him back a string of parentheses that Sid assumes are a positive thing.

Sometimes Sid doesn't text him back at all. They're traveling and he's tired and busy and he'll remember it in the middle of the night but he can't will his body up from the hotel mattress.

Geno doesn't seem to mind.

“Know you're busy,” he says when Sid actually gets a chance to call. Duper has gone down to scope out the breakfast buffet at the hotel before practice and Sid has some privacy. “Don't ever have to text me back.”

“Yeah, but I want to,” he says before he can stop himself. “If that's okay.”

He can hear the smile in his voice when Geno says “of course. Can text me first sometime if you want.”

After they hang up Sid takes a picture of the Nashville skyline and sends it to him.

Geno's reply is instantaneous.

Pretty.

Sid pockets his phone, grabs his wallet and the room key and heads downstairs to meet with the team.

-

He goes to visit Geno on set during his next day off.

The address that Geno gives him is for a warehouse on the southside and Sid slips in amid a flurry of activity.

Harried looking college students talking into radios and guys weighed down with sound equipment don’t give him a second look as he awkwardly skirts around the perimeter.

There’s a boxing ring in the middle of the building.

Geno is leaning over the ropes talking to a man in a black coat and black baseball cap.

He’s standing in the middle of the boxing ring, shirtless and sweaty, and when he sees Sid he straightens up and waves him over.

Sid’s halfway to him when he sees the blood dripping from his nose.

“Are you okay? What happened?”

It takes a second for Geno to figure it out but when he does he pulls one of his gloves off and touches his nose.

“Fine. Just make up, see.”

He holds his hand out but it looks exactly like blood to him.

“Big dramatic shot,” Geno says then he drags his eyes up and down Sid’s body. “New clothes. Look great.”

Sid tugs self consciously at the henley and coat. “I don’t hate it, I guess.”

Geno rolls his eyes. “Shirt and coat, Sid. Is no big deal. Let me get cleaned up and then we have lunch, okay?”

“Do you have time?”

Crew members are still scurrying around them.

“Have forty five minutes while they set up for the next shot. Plenty of time.” He ducks between the ropes and hops down. They stand toe to toe and Geno adjusts the collar of his coat before he takes a towel from the PA that has appeared at his side and turns away while wiping at his face.

Sid stands rooted to the spot and watches Geno's bare back as he walks away.

They eat down by the river.

Geno has changed into sweatpants and the sweatshirt he’s thrown on is only zipped up halfway with nothing underneath.

Sid watches the shift of his collarbones that peek out from beneath the fabric as he rolls his shoulders against the back of the bench.

“Are you warm enough?”

Geno nods and spears his fork through a piece of chicken on the top of his salad. “Fine. So hot on set, you know? Hard work. This feels good.” He gives Sid a smile. “You look really good, Sid.”

“You already said that.”

“I know, I know. When are you going to wear the suit?”

“Never.”

Geno throws his head back and groans. “Paid all that money to sit in your closet.”

“You made me buy it. It’s your fault.” He scrapes the last bit of salad out of his container. “What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Filming stops at four tomorrow.”

“You should come to the game, it starts at six.”

Geno nods and reaches for his water bottle. “Can still get tickets?”

“Yeah,” Sid says with a little laugh. “I can still get you tickets. How many do you need?”

“Just one.”

“You don’t want to invite anyone?”

“Everyone here...” He shrugs. “Is like...they all been in movies before. All better than me. Don’t think they like me much.”

“Are you getting bullied,” Sid says seriously and Geno laughs.

“No. No one has said anything to me but I just get the feeling. Better if I go alone.”

“I could get you a couple of seats. Maybe inviting them will help.”

“No, don’t worry. Filming is over in a month anyways.” He sighs. “I’ll be fine. You eat after games?” Sid nods.

“Come over to mine after? I’ll have food for you.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Geno looks at him, surprised. “Really? Change routine like that?”

“It’s after the game, it’s not that big of a deal. Text me your address.”

“Okay. Not fancy like your house. Just little apartment. Don’t get excited.”

“Thanks for warning me,” Sid says and Geno bumps their shoulders together and looks out over the river.

“Have to get jersey.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Whose jersey do I get though,” he teases.

Sid rolls his eyes.

“Have to pick favorite player. Maybe if you impress me I get yours.”

Sid thinks about his name and number across Geno’s back and hopes he can blame the color on his cheeks from the wind coming off the water.

-

It’s a relatively easy win against Carolina.

He has a good night but he’s given three post game interviews this week and he’s able to easily slip out after his shower.

Sid follows his GPS to Geno’s address which ends up being only minutes away from the arena in one of the newer apartment buildings downtown.

He didn’t change back into his suit after the game and he feels under dressed in sweats but no one gives him a second glance after he punches in the access code and strolls through the lobby to the elevators.

Sid’s alone the whole ride up and double checks the apartment number when he steps out into the hallway.

Geno’s apartment is halfway down the hall and Sid stands outside the door staring at it for a moment.

His hand is up and ready to knock when it opens and Geno is standing there smiling.

“Thought I heard something. You stand out there long?”

“No. Not at all. I just got here.”

Geno gives him a skeptical look but steps aside to let him in.

His apartment is small and very warm and a lot nicer than Geno led on and Sid looks around as he unzips his sweatshirt and Geno takes it.

“This is really nice. I think some of the guys stay here when they’re first called up. You could walk to the arena.”

“You drive, right? Not good for Sidney Crosby to be out on the streets so late. Get mobbed by fans.”

“I can hold my own,” he says as Geno herds him into the kitchen.

Geno steps around him and pulls a pan out of the oven.

“Marinate steak,” he says. “Made a salad too, we can put steak on top. Sound good?” Sid nods and Geno sets a knife and a tomato down in front of him on a cutting board. “Chop that. Steak has to rest for a minute.”

Geno tells him they can eat at the kitchen table or on the couch.

Sid hesitates for a moment before he does the polite thing and sits down at the table.

He rolls his eyes when Geno walks right passed him to the couch and gathers his plate and glass of wine and follows.

He has the TV on low to the local news. They cut to the sports reporter who starts off by showing highlights of the game.

Geno seems to be paying more attention to his dinner than to the TV and Sid looks him over.

He’s in a black t-shirt with a Pens cap sitting backwards on his head.

Sid says “you didn’t get a jersey,” and then shoves a forkful of lettuce in his mouth.

“Favorite player just did okay. Jerseys are expensive. Don’t know if they deserve.”

“I had three points.”

Geno doesn’t take his eyes off the television. “Who say you’re my favorite player? So cocky.”

Sid shoves at him then takes another sip of wine.

Geno has ice cream and cookies for dessert and when Sid stands to help Geno bring the dirty dishes into the kitchen he knocks over the magazines Geno had stacked up against the side of the couch.

“Sorry,” Sid says and Geno shakes his head and takes the plates from him.

“So clumsy, Sid,” he says as he leaves Sid to straighten them up again.

There are a couple of Vogues and ESPN magazines and a spiral bound book with Left Hook typed on the front. There are a few post it notes sticking out of the bottom.

“Script,” Geno says. He’s leaning over the back of the couch. “Nervous about tomorrow.”

“You don’t know your lines?”

“No, not that. Sex scene.”

“Oh.” The book feels like it weighs a hundred pounds in his hand.

“Yeah,” Geno says as he comes around the couch and sits down. “Should get up early tomorrow and work out. Lots of nudity.”

“Oh,” Sid says again because he’s an idiot. “I thought you looked great the other day. I mean, from what I saw. It looked good.”

Geno tips his face up towards him and Sid feels his cheeks burn hot.

“What I’m saying is I don’t think you have anything to worry about. You look great. You’re gonna be great.”

A slow smile spreads across Geno’s face. “You really think I look good?”

Sid tosses the script at him. “Shut up. What I’m saying is I wouldn’t be worried about how you look.”

“So just worry about pretending to have sex in front of a bunch of people then?”

Sid winces. “You’ve done… provocative photo shoots before haven’t you? It can’t be that different.”

“Provoc-what?”

“Provocative. Like, racy. Like the one for the Cartier watch. You were almost completely naked for that one and that woman was all over you.”

Geno looks at him with raised eyebrows. “You know my photo shoots?”

“It’s not hard to google.”

“You google me?”

“I didn’t know who you were in the beginning. Tanger seemed so excited about you and I wanted to find out.”

“Should get Tanger’s jersey.”

“He would love that.”

They’re quiet for a moment and then curiosity gets the better of him.

“How do they film those scenes?”

Geno turns his whole body so they’re facing each other.

“Horrible. So awkward. All about angles and timing and there are twenty people in the room with us. Not sexy at all. You know when you watch movie how uncomfortable I am.”

“Hopefully you’re a good enough actor that I won’t be able to tell.”

Geno’s face goes blank.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Maybe not a good actor. Might be terrible.”

“I’m sure that’s not true. I mean, you wouldn’t have gotten the job if you weren’t good, right?”

“Sid,” he says, a little frustrated, “is not like hockey. Not like if I’m not good they send me down. Is Hollywood.” He says, like Sid’s just supposed to know what that means. “People get jobs they don’t deserve all the time.”

“That’s not what’s happening and even if it is, even if it’s terrible at least you tried. You didn’t let fear control you. You took a chance. That’s really respectable. You should feel proud of yourself. There are things that I want to do that I’m too afraid to.”

“Like what?”

“Just things.”

Geno taps his hand against Sid’s knee. “C’mon. You’re Sidney Crosby. Can do anything.”

Sid laughs humorlessly. “Yeah. That’s not really how it works.”

“Then what.” Geno pats his knee again and this time he leaves his hand there, warm palm spread out over his knee.

“What you want to do but can’t?” Geno tips his head to the side and pokes his tongue out to wet his lips. “Can tell me.”

What Sid wants is to cover Geno’s hand with his own and drag it further up his thigh. He wants Geno to lean in and to meet him in the middle and kiss him until their lips are sore and slick.

What Sid wants is unattainable and unimaginable.

It’s terrifying and thrilling to think of and when he feels Geno’s hand move a fraction of an inch up his leg he’s immediately to his feet.

“I should get going. It’s late.”

Geno looks stunned.

“Thank you for dinner. I hope you had fun tonight.”

“Sid.” Geno’s still on the couch rubbing his palms over his knees.

He spins around looking for his sweatshirt and spots it on the hook by the door. It’s hanging next to Geno’s coat like it belongs there and Sid quickly crosses the open space and grabs it.

“Let me know how tomorrow goes, okay?” Geno has gotten himself to his feet and is giving Sid a worried look.

Sid looks down at the ground so he doesn’t have to return it.

“Have a goodnight,” he says and he doesn’t wait for Geno to say anything before he pulls open the door and steps out into the hallway.

The air is ice cold in his lungs and his breath curls out in front of him when gets onto the sidewalk.

He takes one deep breath after another and leans against the side of the building until he’s able to shake whatever he’s feeling off and then he walks to his car and drives home in silence.

In the morning there’s a text from Geno.

Sorry if I make things weird. Handsy sometimes. How I was raised. Forget not everyone like.

It was sent an hour after Sid got home while he was tossing and turning in bed, his phone forgotten on the counter in the kitchen.

Sid scrubs a hand over his face and pockets his phone.

He doesn’t respond until well after morning skate. After he’s taken a nap and eaten lunch and thought long and hard about what he’s going to say back.

Even with all that time and planning the only thing he manages to type out is a pathetic it’s okay.

Then he panics and tries desperately to try to take it back. When he can’t he sends more.

Everything is fine. It was really late and I was tired. Normally I’m more put together. How was today?

Sid’s phone rings a second later and when he picks it up Geno starts speaking immediately. “Oh my god, Sid, so bad. So awkward. Give me sock for my dick.” He sounds miserable and Sid laughs so hard his shoulders shake.

-

They play a grueling schedule going into the holidays.

There’s at least three texts from Geno on his phone each time Sid checks it and he always texts him back.

Geno’s just told him he doesn’t have any plans on Christmas Eve except sweatpants and sleep and Sid is trying to wrap his mind around sitting home alone on a holiday like this.

Flower is having a party and it’s not his place to be inviting a guest to someone else’s house but-

“Sid.”

When he looks up Flower is looking at him expectantly.

Sid holds the screen of his phone against his chest.

“What?”

“What are you doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean the group moved on without you when the walk sign lit up. We fucking left you.”

Sid blinks and looks around. He’s on a street corner in Tampa. Flower is the only person he recognizes.

“Where is everyone else?”

Flower sighs. “At the restaurant. Where the hell have you been?”

“I-.”

“On your phone. Constantly on your phone. Is it your mom? Taylor?” Flower looked concerned. “Something wrong?”

“No. It’s neither of them, everything’s fine. It’s fine.” He dropped the phone into his pocket. “Let’s go eat.”

He starts off across the street alone.

“It’s this way.”

When he turns around Flower is still on the sidewalk pointing to his left.

“You are really out of it.”

“I’m fine. I promise.” He took off ahead of him then called over his shoulder. “Aren’t you hungry, c’mon.”

-

Flower has a Christmas party at his house.

Every inch of it is decorated and packed with their teammates and spouses and children.

It’s warm and loud and he tries to be an engaging team Captain but then Geno sends him a picture of his bare feet propped up on the coffee table with the tv in the background and Sid finds himself in the kitchen texting him back.

A couple of kids run into the kitchen moving so quick he doesn’t even know who they are. Then they run back out Flower comes in laughing until he sees Sid backed into the corner of the counter with his phone in his hand.

“Sidney.”

Sid looks up from the confusing summary of the Hallmark movie Geno is watching. “What?” “Are you going to join the crowd at all tonight? Eat? Drink?”

Sid easily had half a dozen different appetizers and there’s a glass of eggnog by his elbow on the counter.

“I’ve been eating. Those little spinach things are really good.”

“Are you seeing someone,” he asks and Sid jams his phone into his back pocket in a panic.

“No. Why would you ask me that?”

“You’ve been different lately. Happier.”

“I’m happy all the time.”

“Well sure, but different. Just happier. Distracted in a good way,” he rushes to explain when Sid starts to protest. “And you’re always on your phone. A couple of months ago I wasn’t even sure you knew how to work the thing and now you never put it down. I don’t know why you don’t want to tell me, but that’s your business. Always have been. But when you want to talk about it, if you ever want to talk about it, I’m here. That being said, if you want to take off and spend some alone time with whoever you’ve been seeing that’s fine with me. I totally understand.”

“Marc-.”

Sid’s phone buzzes again and they both hear it.

“It’s really not what you think.”

Flower holds up his hands. “Hey man, whatever. Have fun.”

His phone buzzes again and Sid pats his pocket. Flower pats him on the shoulder.

“Go to her.”

-

This time Sid doesn’t need to check his phone for the passcode or for Geno’s apartment number.

He doesn’t hesitate at all when he knocks on the door.

It takes Geno’s few minutes for him to open and when he does he’s rubbing at his eye with one hand and his hair is standing on end.

“Did I wake you up?”

“Fell asleep,” he says, “old. You bring alcohol.”

Sid almost forgot he was holding the half full bottle of rum pilfered from Flower’s place at the sight of a sleepy Geno.

“Rum. They were spiking the eggnog pretty aggressively. I took it for their own good. Do you have eggnog?”

Geno shakes his head and leans a little heavier against the doorframe. “Guess we just drink rum then.”

“You sure you don’t want to tell me to fuck off? I can go.”

Geno answers him by grabbing him by the crook of his elbow and pulling him inside. Most of the lights are off in the living room and Geno doesn’t turn them on before he sits beside Sid on the couch and places two tumblers down on the coffee table.

“Party wasn’t fun?”

“It was but I kept thinking about you sitting here all alone.”

Geno pauses as he unscrews the top of rum.

“No one should be alone on Christmas.”

“Told you I was okay, Sid. Christmas isn’t that big of a deal. Don’t even celebrate now.”

“I know but….” He takes the glass from Geno and slumps back against the couch. He takes a sip for courage before he speaks again. “I almost invited you tonight.”

“Is for teammates.”

Sid keeps the glass close to his lips. “They wouldn’t have cared.”

“Then why didn’t you?”

Sid shrugs and Geno crosses one long leg over the other and pokes at Sid’s knee with his toes.

“It’s stupid.”

“That’s okay. Hear lots of stupid all the time.”

Sid laughs. “Me too.”

“You spend lots of time in Los Angeles?”

“A lot of time around a hockey team,” he explains and it’s Geno’s turn to laugh.

“Fair, that’s fair. Still, should tell me. Never gonna stop asking.”

“You’re worse than the guys on the team.”

Geno smiles proudly.

“I guess I just thought…” Sid trails off because he’s not sure what to say. He doesn’t want to share Geno. He doesn’t want Geno to think the rest of the guys are cooler or more interesting. He doesn’t want them to see the way he looks at Geno or how he acts around him. Flower is far too perceptive. He’d give himself away.

Sid drops his head back against the couch. “They would embarrass me.”

“Oh, c’mon.”

“They would go out of their way to embarrass me. They’d tell you all this shit-.”

“Want to know.”

“You really don’t. There are horror stories from when I was younger.”

“Going to hear those stories one day,” Geno teases.

“You will never meet the team,” Sid says seriously and Geno kicks at him again.

“I find a way,” he says as he leans forward and grabs the bottle to top off Sid’s glass. “Very nice of you to come visit.” He clinks their glasses together. “To friendship,” he says, “and never letting the other be alone on Christmas even though I don’t celebrate yet. Have to teach you Russian holidays.”

Sid sighs and slumps down on the couch. He’s tired and warm from the rum. “Maybe tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll remember it too well right now.”

“You drunk?”

“Not off of one glass of rum. But I did have some more at Flower’s. But I’m not drunk,” he adds quickly. “I’m just….relaxed.”

“Relaxed is a good look on you.” Geno puts his feet up on the table and balances his glass against his thigh. “Gonna pass out on my couch.”

“I am not,” Sid says and Geno looks at him out of the corner of his eye. “I won’t.”

“Don’t get drool on couch.”

When Sid wakes up A Christmas Story is playing on the TV and Geno is slumped down awkwardly. Sid’s neck hurts just looking at him.

The glass has tipped in his hand and spilled onto the couch and onto the floor.

Sid tries to take it from his hand without waking him but as soon as it’s loose Geno wakes with a start.

“Sorry,” Sid says, “I didn’t want to wake you up but it spilled.”

Geno blinks at him then looks down and swears.

“Gonna lose deposit,” he says as he stands and hurries for the kitchen to get a towel. “It’s late?”

Sid glances down at his watch. It’s twisted around so the face is on the inside of his wrist. “Early,” he says, “really early. I should go.”

“Breakfast,” Geno says as he dabs at the spot on the floor. “You hungry?”

The truth is he really is. He had a handful of small appetizers at Flower’s and then rum on that almost empty stomach. “I could eat.”

“Okay.” Geno stands up and rolls his shoulders. “Let's go.”

Geno takes him to a Russian diner in a part of the city Sid’s never been to before.

The menu is in Russian and Sid nervously studies it while Geno chats with the waitress.

He’s desperate for her to leave so he can quietly ask Geno what is what without embarrassing himself in front of a stranger when Geno reaches over and grabs the menu off the table and hands it to the waitress.

“What-.”

“She says she’ll make you pancakes for your American taste buds.”

“I’m Canadian.”

“You’re not Russian,” Geno says with a smile, “nothing else really matters.”

They have tea instead of coffee and Geno has eggs and some kind of black bread toast.

Sid has a stack of pancakes with honey and jam.

When he looks across the table Geno is softly smiling at him.

“What,” Sid asks around a full mouthful of pancake.

Geno shakes his head and tries to hide the smile behind the rim of his tea cup.

Even so, the moment lingers.

“Did you have a nice Christmas,” Flower asks as he flips the puck up for Sid to catch.

He knows what Flower is really asking judging by the look he’s giving him from behind his mask.

He really doesn’t want to give into him. He knows that will only give him more ammunition to work with but he thinks about Geno’s hooded eyes and sleep worn hair and the way he kept rolling his shoulders as they ate and Sid can’t help himself.

“It was a good day,” he says and Flower swats the back of his thighs with his stick as he skates by.

-

The game against the Caps is brutal and ugly and Sid tries to shake it off as soon as he steps out of the arena and into the night air.

He takes the long way home and on the empty roads he drives well beneath the speed limit as he tries to clear his mind and move onto the next.

He’s watching chicken reheat in the microwave when the doorbell rings and when he opens it Geno is standing on his front steps blowing into his hands.

He smiles wide and drops his hands. “Sid, hi.”

Sid’s stunned. “Hi. Geno, what… It’s late, what are you doing? Everything okay?”

“Fine, fine. Was at the game tonight.” He bounces on his toes like he’s trying to warm himself up and Sid gets over his shock just enough to grab him inside by the front of his coat.

“Come inside, warm up.” He shuts the door and leaves Geno on the mat in the foyer as he heads for the kitchen. “Do you want something to drink?”

When he turns around Geno is still standing where he left him with his hands deep in his front pockets.

“Have to leave, Sid.”

“Oh. You came all the way here just to turn around again?”

“No, have to leave Pittsburgh. Movie all wrapped up and have other jobs lined up so need to go. You go to Jersey next, right? Won’t be here when you get back so wanted to say goodbye in person. Sorry so late. I texted you before game saying I was coming but didn’t hear back.”

“I don’t always check my phone, especially on game days. Shit, you were there tonight. Sorry you had to see that.”

“You play well.”

Sid laughs because they both know that’s not true. “Some night things just don’t go your way.”

Geno hums and nods and spends the next fifteen seconds staring at his feet.

Sid spends that time staring at him and jolts like he’s been caught when Geno looks up.

“Had to come say goodbye. You are a good friend for showing me around and taking me places. Thank you.”

“I didn’t really do anything.”

“For letting me make you buy new clothes.”

“I should be thanked for that, you’re right.” Sid means for it to be funny but Geno doesn’t laugh.

“You gave me hockey back. Hadn’t been to a game in a long time. Was nice.”

“You can go to more games, you know. I don’t need to be playing. Where are you headed to next?”

“Paris.”

“Paris. Not a lot of hockey in Paris.”

“No. Then London and Moscow and Cape Town.”

“Jesus. When do you go home?”

“Travel so much. No home, not really. Sometimes I get back to see parents but, not often.”

“I thought I had it bad. I at least get the summers.”

“Is not so bad. Love what I do. Tiring sometimes, but worth it.”

Sid would say the same thing about hockey.

“Well, if you’re ever back in town you should come see a game.”

Sid holds out his hand and Geno takes it and pulls.

“Okay?” Sid nods even though he’s not sure what he’s agreeing to and Geno pulls him into a tight hug.

Before he can hug back Geno is letting him go and reaching for the door.

Sid watches out the front window as Geno gets in his car and his headlights fade down the drive.

Two days later in the Devil’s locker room Tanger plops down next to him, half undressed and sweaty.

“So when are you hanging out with Evgeni again because-.”

“He’s gone. The movie wrapped and he has more work to do so…”

“I never even got a chance to meet him,” Tanger says as he shakes his head.

“He was at the Capitals game.”

“Seriously? Goddamn it.”

“Yeah,” Sid agrees softly as he heads for the showers.

 

March 2015

 

“I hate it here,” Sid says above the crowd. “I want to go back to the hotel.”

“Sidney,” Tanger throws an arm around his neck and pulls him further into the club. “You are young and single. You need to enjoy this shit while you still have it.”

“I’ll enjoy it on my own time,” he says flatly. “I still want to go.”

“What is the harm of staying for an hour, getting one drink, and talking to someone about something other than hockey?”

“We have a game tomorrow.”

“At 7:30 at night. We'll be ready. We're not talking about throwing a rager, here Sid.”

Sid wrinkles his nose.

“Are you afraid you'll actually have a good time? Go get us some drinks. You're buying as payback for making us all sit here and look at your depressing face. Go.” He pushes Sid toward the bar.. “And flirt with at least five girls on your way to the bar. Respectfully, of course.”

Sid rolls his eyes and squeezes his way through the crowd, smiling apologetically at anyone that tries to stop him as he keeps it moving.

It’s hard to catch the attention of the bartenders.

They’re all so busy and Sid’s never been the kind to draw attention to himself in public for any reason and honestly, fuck his teammates for making him come here anyways. They can wait.

He keeps one arm on the bar, like a placeholder. Most of his body is open to the rest of the club and he tries to squeeze closer to the bar to keep people from bumping into him.

It mostly works but then he’s jostled from behind and he turns to apologize, because he hasn’t reached the point of annoyance to shake off his polite Canadian manners, and comes face to face with Geno.

“I thought it was you,” Geno says. He steps in very close and all Sid can see are dark brown eyes and chapped lips and the hint of stubble across his jaw.

It’s a lot to take in without any warning.

“What are you doing here,” is all Sid can say.

“Live here.”

“Right, of course. I totally forgot.”

“You have game tomorrow, right?”

“Day after. We just got in and some of the guys wanted to go out. God, sorry I didn't tell you. I didn't know where you would be. I never expected to see you here. Thank god, though. My teammates have been on me about not having a good time but I just didn't know who to talk to, I don't really do this kind of thing and shit. I have to find Tanger. He has this weird fashion crush on you.”

Sid tries to step away but Geno has a firm hold on his wrist. “He only one,” he asks, voice loud above the constant beat of the music.

Sid blinks at him. He heard him but he can't understand it.

Geno leans in and Sid can feel his breath on his face when he repeats “he the only one with a crush?”

Sid swallows and shakes his head. “No.”

“You here alone?”

“Yes. No. I mean, I'm with my team but they wouldn't care if I left. They'd encourage it.”

“So can leave?” Geno's thumb circles Sid’s pulse point.

“Yes,” he says. His voice doesn't shake.

 

Geno's apartment is beautiful.

Large and open with a view of the park.

Sid stands in front of the floor to ceiling window and stares out over the expanse of the city. If he looks up he can sees Geno's reflection as he moves around the kitchen, popping open a bottle of wine and pouring two glasses.

He doesn't turn around until Geno is right behind him. He takes the glass then takes the sip.

Geno does the same, his lips shiny when he lowers the glass.

“Was I obvious?” Sid asks. “Was it obvious to you that I liked you the whole time?”

“Did you like me the whole time?”

“I don't know.”

“Then how would I know?”

“I don't know.” He takes a huge drink. It takes him a moment to get it all down. “No one can know. No one does know.”

“No one? Not team?”

Sid shakes his head.

“Parents? Family?”

“Nope. If they do they're not saying. They're okay with me keeping it to myself.”

“Lonely.”

“It's not so bad.” It keeps him safe. “What about you? Anyone know?”

Geno shrugs. “Other guys, you know.”

“Not your family?”

“No.”

“And you're not in a rush to tell them?”

“No. Not just for anybody. Would you be okay, if your parents knew?”

“I'm an adult it's not like….they wouldn't disown me or anything. But the rest of the world can't know.”

“People probably not care too much if they knew about me. Male model like to kiss boys? No big deal.”

“People would care about me. A lot. I don’t trust anyone.”

“You’ve never….”

“I have,” he says, “just…”

It was back in juniors with a boy a year older than him when it could have been written off as dudes helping dudes in an all boy prep school.

Last Sid heard he was playing in Finland, married with a baby on the way.

“I don’t worry about him saying anything.”

“You trust me?”

“You keep my secret and I’ll keep yours.”

Geno puts a hand on his shoulder. “It’s not a secret, Sid. Just nobody’s business. I won’t tell no matter what happens. But nothing has to happen. Just be friends if you want.”

Geno's caught in the glow between the city lights and the lamp that he turned on on the living room and he’s beautiful.

He's smart and funny and kind and Sid never saw him as just a friend.

Sid puts his glass down on the table next to the couch then plucks Geno's from his hand and does the same.

Geno's skin is warm beneath his hands when Sid cups his face and kisses him.

It seems like they trip down the hallway to the bedroom for miles.

Halfway there Sid gets impatient and pushes Geno against the wall and quickly rids him of his button down and the ripped t-shirt beneath it.

It gets stuck around his ears and Sid groans in frustration when he has to slow down and carefully lift the fabric so he can slide it off.

Geno’s hair is a mess and his lips are a deep red and Sid growls in the back of his throat before he kisses him again.

Geno kisses with teeth and tongue and it’s next to impossible for Sid to keep up.

He tries to even the playing field by deftly flicking open the button on Geno’s jeans and it’s no problem at all to unzip the zipper.

Geno breaks their kiss with a sharp intake of breath as Sid cups him and presses the heel of his palm against the base of his dick.

“Sid, fuck.”

“Yeah,” Sid mumbles as he nips at Geno’s bottom lip. “You should.”

Geno rolls his head back against the wall before he comes back to himself and pushes the both of them off the wall.

There's a king sized bed in the middle of the room and the view out the window is just as spectacular as the one in the living room.

He leaves the lights off and gently pushes Sid down by his shoulders then climbs on top, boxing him.

His heart can't keep up with what he's feeling.

There's a lump in his throat he can't push down.

His hands are shaking when Geno reaches for him and links their fingers together, all the confidence he had in the hallway is gone.

“Okay,” Geno asks.

Sid nods. “I like you a lot.”

Geno grips his hands tighter and smiles in the low light. “Like you too.”

Sid wants to cover his face with his hand but Geno won’t let that go.

He settles for closing his eyes.

“You should fuck me. I like that. I want that.”

He feels the press of Geno’s lips against his cheek.

“Next time,” Geno whispers, “okay? Have more time. Can't rush. Make sure it's good.”

Sid almost laughs at the idea of this happening more than once, like this whole thing isn't a glorified one night stand and Geno will forget about as soon as someone more interesting comes along.

He'll take anything he can get and even this, Geno slowly kissing him and running his hands up and down his back pausing to squeeze at his hip, is enough.

He’s a passive participant in getting his own clothes off. He raises his arms as Geno strips the shirt off his body and lifts his hips so he can slide his pants down his legs.

He pushes himself up on his elbows to watch Geno step out of his own jeans and then falls back again as soon as Geno runs a hand up his calve and working his way higher.

He’s overwhelmed by the feeling of Geno’s fingertips against the soft skin of his inner thigh and when he pushes them apart so he can slide between.

Geno jerks him off slowly. His grip is a little too tight and it’s a little too dry but the way Geno kisses him throughout, swallowing down his moans and gasps more than makes up for it.

Sid’s blunt fingernails dig their way into the skin of Geno’s back as he gets closer and closer to coming before Geno backs all the way off.

“Geno,” Sid whines and he can feel the curve of his Geno’s smile against the side of his neck before he kisses there.

He slides slowly down Sid’s body leaving a trail of wet kisses as he goes and keeping a firm hold on the base of his cock.

Sid tries to move his hips but Geno quickly pins him down with his forearm.

He throws a hand towards Geno’s face and pets at the side of his neck.

“Please,” Sid says on a sigh and Geno locks eyes with him before he exhales over the head of Sid’s cock.

Geno only gets the flat of his tongue on him before he’s coming without warning across Geno’s face.

He doesn’t get a moment to bathe in the afterglow before he’s pushing up and wiping at Geno’s face.

“I’m sorry, sorry, I should have warned you but I just… You were...”

Geno kisses Sid’s wrist and Sid pulls him up for a kiss.

Sid uses his come to help guide the way and jerks him off until Geno is panting against Sid’s neck and mumbling low in Russian, words that Sid doesn’t understand but desperately want to.

Sid understands his own name as it tumbles out of Geno’s mouth the second before he comes.

Geno shudders and Sid pats at his hip before Geno lifts his head off Sid’s shoulder and looks at him.

“Like you a lot,” Geno says before he slumps to the side with one arm and leg thrown across Sid.

“Was that good?”

Geno huffs a laugh. “Good, Sid? Couldn’t be better.” His thumb brushes back and forth across Sid’s ribs. “Better than I thought it would be. You like?”

“I don’t even remember the last time I came that hard.”

“Good thing you meet me then.”

“Yeah,” Sid says. “Good thing. I have to go.”

Geno's arm around him goes tight then immediately lifts off his chest and Sid slips out of his grasp.

The first thing he grabs is Geno’s t-shirt and he starts to clean himself up.

Geno scoffs. “Sure, sure, dirty my clothes.”

“Well I can’t use mine.”

“Can take a shower.”

Sid shakes his head and locates and pulls on his boxers.

“I um. This was fun.”

Geno laughs into the bend of his arm. “Fun?”

“I don't know what to say. I don't do this.”

He doesn't know where his pants are. That's going to be a problem.

“I just. Thank you.”

Geno laughs harder and Sid puts his hands on his hips and huffs. “So bad at this. Just stop talking. Stand still and look pretty.”

“I can't stand still. I don't know where my pants are.”

He spins around the room a few times before the pants catch him right in the face.

Geno is leaning back against the one pillow that's managed to stay on the bed and smiling. “Find pants for you. Now you just look pretty.”

He looks so inviting and Sid feels like dropping the pants back onto the floor, stepping out of his boxers and rejoining him on the bed.

“I really do have to go.”

“Is okay. I understand.”

“Thank you, really. I mean that. It's been awhile since I've felt that comfortable with someone. Thank you.”

“Sure, hey, anytime.”

Sid laughs. “Yeah. Right.”

“Can get back to hotel okay? Don’t want to take a shower?”

It’s not an easy offer to turn down. He wants to get out of here and back to the safety of his own hotel room but smelling like Geno’s shampoo is tempting.

“I’ll take one when I get back. The doorman can grab me a cab, right?”

Geno nods. “Larry is good guy. He’ll take care of you.”

Sid quietly finds his shirt and blushes all the way down to his chest when he realizes that Geno hasn’t taken his eyes off him once.

Even though he’s fully dressed and Geno is stark naked, unashamed and relaxed, Sid feels incredibly vulnerable beneath his gaze and he shuffles from foot to foot before he decides to lean over and kiss him goodbye.

He feels awkward about it until Geno puts a hand on his face and kisses him back.

“If you’re ever in Pittsburgh,” Sid says, “text me. Maybe we can hang out, you know, get dinner. Meet the team. Friend stuff.”

“Friends,” Geno repeats with a smile and thankfully doesn’t call Sid out on how lame he’s being. “Should go. Sometimes it’s harder to get cab when it gets late and it’s cold outside. Don’t want you standing out there waiting. Have to be healthy for game.”

Sid kisses him one more time before he walks away.

He locks the door behind him on the way out.

Larry is mid-yawn when Sid steps onto the sidewalk.

“Cab, Sir?”

“Yes, please.”

“It might take a few minutes for me to flag one down. You can wait inside if you’d like.”

Sid shakes his head. “I don’t mind the cold.”

The view out the window of his hotel room is nothing compared to the one at Geno’s but the room is quiet and the bed is tightly made and everything is just where it should be.

It’s familiar in its unfamiliarity and provides instant comfort to his frayed nerves.

He strips in the bathroom and folds his clothes neatly before he turns on the hot water and lets the room fill up with steam.

He stays beneath the shower head until his skin is red and raw and he feels waterlogged.

The mirror is too foggy to see himself clearly but he can just make out the dark bruises on his ribs were Geno’s fingers pressed him against the wall in the hallway.

There’s a mark on his neck from his lips and he can still feel the burn of stubble against his skin.

He should have told Geno to be careful.

He shouldn’t have followed him home at all.

There’s nothing he can do about it now and he quickly dries himself off and flicks off the light.

Even with the curtains drawn the light from the city is still too bright.

He rolls away from the window but it still takes him a long time to fall asleep.

-

It takes approximately two seconds for Tanger to zero in on the marks.

“I bet you’re happy you came out with us after all, huh?”

Sid rolls his eyes at all the chirps and keeps getting dressed.

Flower watches him from across the room and right before they step onto the ice for practice he grabs his arm and holds him back.

“I thought you said you were seeing someone.”

“No, you said I was seeing someone.”

“Sid.”

“It wasn’t like that. I didn’t do anything wrong last night,” he says testily. “Don’t make me feel guilty.”

“I wasn’t trying to. I’m just trying to look out for you. One night stands don’t tend to be your thing. I don’t want to see you get hurt, you know?”

“I’m not going to get hurt. Don’t worry about it. It was a one time thing. It’s done. I’m okay.”

“Okay,” Flower says but he doesn’t sound convinced.

Sid puts a hand on his shoulder and squeezes with his glove. “I’m fine, I’m promise.”

“Okay,” Flower concedes. “I hope you at least had fun.”

“Yeah,” Sid says, smiling for the first time. “A lot of fun.”

“Alright then.” Flower hits him on the back of the thighs with his stick. “Let's get out there.”

-

It’s always nice to be home for a few days.

Sid sits alone in his big empty house with one leg hanging off the edge of his couch with the TV on low.

He’s trying his hardest to take his mind off the string of losses and Geno.

He gets lost in his own mind and doesn’t hear his phone pinging with text messages until the sound of the remote falling off his stomach and hitting the floor jolts him back to focus.

It goes off four more times before he reaches for it.

It’s a bunch of disjointed texts that he doesn’t understand as he scrolls from bottom to top.

You can’t just invite yourself

You have a girlfriend. What would you have done there?

I can’t believe you didn’t invite me.

He doesn’t understand what has everyone so worked up until he scrolls a little further and sees the photo of him and Geno leaving the bar.

It’s a little blurry but there’s no mistaking Geno’s height or his own broad shoulders.

They’re close but they’re not touching or even looking at each other as Geno reaches out to open the door of the taxi.

He panics and in his haste to call Geno he deletes the whole group chat.

Geno’s phone rings twice before he picks up.

“Sid. Hey-.”

“There are pictures of us. Leaving the bar. People know.”

Geno is quiet for a moment and Sid huffs a breath.

“They know we left bar. Nothing else.”

“What else could we be doing?”

“Anything. We're friends. They think we're hanging out or watching tv or going to get food. They don't think we fuck.”

“Shhh.”

“Why shhh? No one can hear me, all alone.”

“I don't know.”

“Don't be paranoid. Someone show you pictures, yes? They think anything of it?”

“No. I don’t know. I deleted the chat.”

“Sid.”

“It was an accident. I didn’t mean to. I just….the team knows I hooked up with someone. I told them.”

Sidney.”

“They were going to see the marks you left. I had to say something. If my team got a hold of this picture then so have other people and then-.”

“Listen, media- very stupid. They see two men together they only think friends. We could live together and they call us roommates. We could hold hands and kiss in the middle of the street and they only ask us about how strong our friendship is. They never really think anything more.”

“I don't want to test that.”

“So then we only hold hands and kiss in private. That's fine.”

“You really think it's okay?”

“This….not the first time I've done this.”

Sid doesn't know what to say to that but he tamps down the jealousy immediately.

“Like you the most though.”

“You don't have to say that.”

“It's true. You're…..you're a lot.”

“Sorry.”

“No, good thing. Best. I want to see you again. Would you want?”

“Yes,” Sid says quickly. “When?”

-

Geno shows up the next night.

He doesn’t even have a bag in his hand when Sid drags him in and pushes him towards the stairs so they can get to his room.

They only get halfway up the stairs before Geno gets his hands down the front of Sid’s sweats and Sid drops to his knees on the seventh step.

Geno wobbles for a moment before he lowers himself down a few steps up and Sid slots himself between his knees and unbuttons his jeans.

“I thought we’d at least get all the way upstairs,” he pants as he yanks the denim down Geno’s thighs.

He presses a kiss above elastic of his boxer briefs and Geno’s hips raise off the stairs.

He throws a hand out towards him and it lands clumsily on the back of his neck. “You think about this a lot?” Sid flicks his eyes up and maintains eye contact as his mouth drifts lower. He breathes hot air over Geno’s dick.

“I haven’t stopped thinking about this since I left you that night.”

Geno’s fingers tighten in the back of Sid’s hair. “Fuck, Sid.”

Sid hums and carefully peels his underwear down his thighs.

Sid’s name falls out of Geno’s mouth as a gasp as Sid wraps one strong hand around his upper thigh, the other at the base of his cock, and his lips close around the head.

“Fuck,” Geno groans and Sid relaxes his jaw and lets himself slowly slip down his length.

It’s been awhile since he’s done this, but he hasn’t forgotten.

He’s pretty sure the way Geno is twitching his hips and petting at his hair would make him remember anyhow.

“How is your back,” Sid asks as he wipes at his come cooling on Geno’s stomach with Geno’s underwear.

Geno seems boneless, legs stretched out with his heels against the steps and his head tipped all the way back, neck exposed.

Sid gives in and leans up on his knees to kiss it. He gives the tendons a little bite before he pulls away and keeps cleaning Geno up.

“How’s your knees,” Geno slurs before he picks his head up and winces. “Only pair of underwear.”

“You can borrow a pair of mine.”

Geno pinches his ass. “Won’t fit. Way too baggy.”

“Then you’ll have to go without. It’s not a long trip back to New York.”

“Have to go through security scanner.”

“I’m sure they’ve seen worse.”

Geno groans when he pushes himself to his feet and holds a hand out to Sid.

He curls his fingers.

“Come on. Show me bedroom. Still have hours before flight home. Lots more I’d like to do.”

Sid shakes his head and takes his hand.

Geno is careful not to leave a mark this time but he still holds Sid’s wrists against the bed as he kisses up and down his neck.

Sid loses track of time but the next time he can drag his eyes away from Geno’s body there’s sunlight starting to peek through the blinds.

“When is your flight?”

Geno lifts his mouth from Sid’s shoulder and turns to look around the room. “No clock in here.”

“The light messes with my sleep,” Sid explains as he twists beneath Geno’s body to reach for his phone. “It’s 5:43.”

“Flight is at 8.”

Sid’s hands freeze on Geno’s sides. “You need to get to the airport.”

Geno answers by swinging his leg over Sid’s lap and straddling him.

He leans down and kisses the worry off Sid’s lips then lets his hands wander down his chest. He keeps his expression perfectly innocent as his thumb circles around his nipple. Sid arches beneath his touch and can’t believe they’ve only done this a few times but he already knows what gets him going.

“Judge me if I say I get charter flight?” “Did you really?”

Geno nods.

“The crew doesn’t wonder why you’re going to Pittsburgh?”

“Not their job to ask. It’s their job to take my money and fly the plane. You worry?” “No, I guess not. You don’t think they’ll question it if you keep coming back?”

Geno stares down at him. “You want me to come back?”

Sid spreads his hands across the expanse of Geno’s thighs. “I think this is a good arrangement, don’t you? I kind of forgot how good this could be with another person,” he admits and Geno kisses his forehead. Sid digs his thumbs into divot of Geno’s knees. “When we have time we can see each other. No pressure. Casual.”

“Fuck buddies.”

“Friends with benefits,” Sid corrects and Geno rolls his eyes and dips his head down to kiss his neck.

“Even if we can’t see each other in person we could still do this. Could FaceTime, Skype, you could call me. You have hotel room to yourself, right?”

“Do you mean like, phone sex? I’m gonna be so awkward.”

Geno laughs and kisses the base of his throat. “I know.” He kisses right over his heart. “Can’t wait.” His lips ghost over his nipple and Sid immediately shoves his hands through Geno’s hair. Geno flicks his tongue across it and looks up. “Can go again?”

“Yeah,” Sid says, voice breathy. “Give me a minute.”

“Okay,” Geno says then plays dirty and bites down.

-

Sid walks him to the door when his cab shows up.

Before he opens the door Sid holds him by the elbow for one last kiss.

“Until next time,” he says and Geno puts his hands on his face and kisses him back until the cab honks its horn in the driveway.

-

Sid texts him first four days later.

It’s a simple hey that goes unanswered for fifteen minutes.

He paces the floor of his hotel room and worries about being too forward.

When Geno texts him back after minute sixteen it’s a photo of him stripped to the waist with faded bite marks on his chest.

Sid fumbles for the phone and when Geno picks up he sounds out of breath.

“You can’t do that.”

There’s a long pause and some shuffling on Geno’s end. “Do what?”

“You can’t send pictures. Phones get hacked all the time, don’t they?”

“When was the last time a hockey player's phone was hacked?”

“I don’t know. I don’t care. You can’t do that.”

“Okay. Should just have code word then. I text you word and you know what I want.”

Sid takes a deep breath and clears his throat. “What do you want?”

Geno’s breathing is labored and Sid can feel his face heat up. “You home right now?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Want you naked on your bed. Want you under me.”

“I’m on the couch,” he says and Geno laughs.

“Can still get naked on couch.”

Sid tries to get his shirt off with one hand but it gets tangled over his arm. He has to drop the phone to get it all the way off and when he picks it back up again he finds that he’s lost the sudden burst of confidence that he had.

“This is awkward, I’m going to be awkward.”

Geno moans his name. “Fuck.”

“You’re really into this? I didn’t even say anything sexy.”

“Your voice,” he pants and Sid slides a little further down on the couch and palms himself through his jeans. “So close.”

“Already? Slow down, I want to come with you.”

“Sid,” Geno says tensely and Sid unzips his jeans and slips his hand inside.

They come seconds apart barely five minutes later with Sid sideways on the couch and flushed all the way down to his chest.

“Anytime you want to do that,” Sid says as he tries to catch his breath, “just call me. Don’t waste time with a text.”

“Gonna call lots.” Geno sounds blissed out and Sid can hear his smile coming through the line.

“I have a good phone plan,” Sid says and Geno laughs again.

-

“You could not have found that hot,” Sid says as he dabs at the mess on his stomach with the corner of his sheet. His phone is on the pillow beside him where Geno’s still panting through the speaker.

It was a lot of moaning and wishing Geno was here and wishing he could touch him and be touched by him and the whole thing left him feeling wrung out with a flush all the way down his chest.

“Are you okay,” he asks and Geno laughs weakly.

“So good, Sid.”

Sid pushes himself up onto his elbow and takes Geno off speaker. “I can’t believe you find that hot.”

“Find everything you do hot.”

Sid snorts. “Yeah right.”

“Is true. You think I lie to you?”

“I think….” He sighs. It’s hard for him to think anything right now. “Oh god, I don’t know.”

“You like this, right? If you don’t we can stop.”

“I like hearing you.” “Yeah. Be loud for you next time. Can do all the talking if you want.”

“Would you really want to do that?” “What whatever you want. Whatever you like.”

“Maybe next time.”

“When’s next time? When are you free?” “It’s hard to say.” Sid rolls over onto his back and stares up at the ceiling. Thousands of miles away Geno’s doing the same thing. It settles something inside his chest. “It’s going to be crazy with playoffs.”

“So excited for you.”

“It’s not a big deal.”

“What are you talking about? Huge deal. Not every team makes it.”

“It’s a huge deal if we win. Anything else is just….nothing.”

“Have to learn to be proud of yourself for the little things sometime, Sid. Until then I’ll just have to do it for you.”

Sid’s not sure what to say. He’s touched, grateful beyond belief for Geno’s support but he’s not sure how to say that.

“You okay, Sid?”

“I’m fine,” he answers, trying not to sound any different than he did before.

“Good….you want to hear me talk?”

“Again? Already?”

“If you want.”

Sid slouches down in bed and tucks the phone between his ear and shoulder while his hand trails down his stomach. “You better make it good.”

“Make it best,” Geno says and Sid lets his eyes flutter closed.

-

Losing in five games really isn’t much better than losing in four.

It only gives the team a false sense of hope that they can possibly turn things around and when the final horn sounds after sixty minutes of play in Madison Square Garden it’s devastating.

Sid doesn’t want to face the media. He doesn’t want to give interviews or talk about next season or what he has planned over the summer.

But he’s the captain and that’s what he has to do.

So he does and when it’s over he boards the bus and tries to keep his head high.

They get out of the city quick but they carry their defeat with them all the way home.

His phone is filled with messages and missed calls when he finally turns it on.

He calls his mom just to tell her that he’s okay and skims over the rest.

Old friends and family members and a message from Geno.

That’s the only one he listens to.

“Sid, I’m so sorry, saw game. It’s okay though. I don’t….” He pauses for a long moment and Sid finds himself pressing his phone to his ear harder. “Don’t know what to say to make this feel better for you. Call me when you feel like you can, okay? Want to make sure you’re okay. I’m home- I’m in New York,” he amends. “For a few weeks I’m here so can call me anytime. I’m sure to pick up. Please call me.” He stops and Sid can hear him working around a few different words before he finally decides on “take care,” and ends the call.

Sid listens to the message once more before he sets his phone down on the kitchen counter and climbs the stairs to his room.

-

It’s a miracle he remembers where Geno’s apartment is.

Larry is at the door and he smiles pleasantly at Sid when he gets out of the cab.

“Are you here for Mr. Malkin?”

“Do you think he’s here? I probably should have called first but I just….” He threw a few shirts in a bag and booked a flight. “Do you know if he’s here?” “He came back around five. I haven’t seen him leave.” He holds the door open for him and Sid nods in thanks as he passes through.

There’s a moment on the elevator where he thinks maybe he should just turn around and go home but then the doors open and he’s stepping out into the hall.

Geno opens the door and his shoulders drop.

Sid immediately drops his gaze to the floor.

Geno is in sweats and barefoot and he pulls Sid in by the shoulders and shuts the door behind him.

“Sidney. It’s okay. You played so well. I know you’re upset but it’s…...you’re so great. You’re the best. Everyone knows it. It’s just.” He sighs. “Not your year. It’s next year. Next year you win, I know it. I know you’ll win. I just know it.” He cups Sid’s chin in his hand and forces him to look up. “Next year, Sid. Promise.”

Sid nods. “Can you just shut up and fuck me?”

Geno’s lips press into a thin line but he nods. “Yeah. I can do that.”

-

“Okay, I’m ready.”

“You really not.”

Sid grits his teeth. “Geno, I’ve seen your dick, a lot, I know what I can handle-ah!”

Geno twists his fingers and Sid’s whole body goes rigid.

“You have somewhere to be tonight,” Geno asks conversationally, like he’s not seconds away from breaking Sid’s whole world apart.

Sid shakes his head.

Geno runs his free hand up and down Sid’s thigh. “Trying to figure out why you’re in such a hurry to hurt yourself.”

“I’m.” Desperate to feel something other than disappointment. Going to miss you so much over the summer I won’t know what to do with myself. I’m sure I’m falling in love with you and that’s terrifying.

He doesn’t realize there are tears stinging his eyes until one slides down the side of his face and Geno is pulling his fingers out of him with a cluck of his tongue.

“Sidney,” he says softly and Sid’s quick to react, quick to blink the tears away and wrap his hand around Geno’s wrist.

“Please don’t stop,” he begs and spares a thought to the text from Geno that was waiting for him after the game. I’m here if you need me. “I need you.” His voice cracks and Geno leans up to kiss him.

He starts with his lips then both his cheeks and his forehead. Sid squeezes his eyes shut and Geno kisses his eyelids too.

“Hold on, be right back.”

He leans away and comes back with a condom between his fingers and Sid waves him away.

“It’s fine. I know I’m clean.”

Geno stares down at him and Sid stares at the ceiling.

“I trust you,” he adds. “If you say you’re good then it’s fine.”

Geno sits there with the wrapper between his fingers.

“Next time. Let me get tested so I know for sure.”

“You still think there’s going to be a next time,” Sid says softly and Geno jostles his knee, trying to get his attention. Sid refuses to look at him.

“Why wouldn’t there be a next time?”

“Never mind.”

“Sid.”

“Just forget I said it.” He wraps a leg around Geno’s waist. “Just c’mon.”

It seems like it takes forever for Geno to roll the condom on and position himself over Sid.

Sid rolls his hips impatiently, desperate for it, as Geno lines himself up.

Geno seems to have an issue with actually getting himself in and Sid groans in frustration.

“I can flip over,” he says. “Or I can get on top, the angle is better that way. I have more control and-.”

“Sid,” Geno says through gritted teeth. He grabs a pillow and shoved it beneath Sid’s ass.

Sid grips at his biceps and nods. “Okay, yeah, that might work-oh.”

Geno finally gets the tip in and goes still.

“Okay,” Sid breathes. “Come on.”

Sid starts to dig his heels into the small of Geno’s back to urge him on but Geno pushes his leg down.

“Stop,” he says softly and slowly inches his way in.

His toes curl on the bed as he claws at Geno’s back, begging him to go faster and harder and Geno shakes his head, his sweaty hair rubbing against Sid’s temple as he pulls all the way out.

Sid’s about to protest when Geno grabs both of his hands in his own and links their fingers together, palm to palm, and presses Sid’s hands into the mattress by his head.

“Stop,” he says again and Sid looks at him for the first time since he got here. His eyes are soft and concerned and Sid looks away again. Geno gives his hands a squeeze as he kisses the corner of his mouth. “Stop,” he says again, softer this time and pulls one hand away to reach between them to line himself up.

Sid leaves his hand where Geno left it, splayed out next to his head until Geno is all the way in comes back to retake Sid’s hand.

Geno moves in slow, shallow thrusts that make Sid whine and bite at his bottom lip.

“It’s okay,” Geno tells him. “No one can hear.” He presses his forehead against Sid’s. “Can be loud. Let go.”

Sid shakes his head but then Geno changes his position, just slightly, and Sid throws his head back against the pillow and gasps. “There. Right there.” He holds onto Geno’s hands until they start to ache. “Please.” Geno nods and snaps his hips. Sid moans and tries to move his own in a small circle, doing whatever he can to put more pressure on his cock, trapped between Geno’s stomach and his own.

It’s like Geno reads his mind when buries himself deep inside and pulls their hips flush together.

“Good,” he asks, “close, need more?”

“It’s so good,” he babbles, “I’m so close, I just need-.”

“Okay, okay,” Geno says and tries to untangle their hands.

“No,” Sid says sharply and refuses to give Geno’s hand up.

“Have to, Sid.”

“No, don’t let go.”

Geno’s hair is matted down with sweat and his cheeks are rosy and flushed. Sid feels like he’s a mirror image of him but there’s no way he looks half as good as Geno does right now.

Geno’s palm is sweaty against his own as he picks up the pace, going harder and deeper and faster and Geno swallows down Sid’s sob as he comes with a kiss.

Geno’s lips slide away and drag down his neck as he chases his own orgasm.

He comes with a deep groan in the back of his throat with his lips pressed to Sid’s pulse at the hinge of his jaw.

Geno stays just like that until both their breathing has evened out.

 

Geno sleeps soundly next to him. He has his arm across Sid's waist and his leg hooked over Sid’s thighs. His breath his hot against Sid's neck and his hair is tickling his chin.

Sid feels overly warm and smothered but he couldn’t make himself disturb Geno for anything.

Instead he gently runs his fingers through Geno’s hair and watches the city lights outside the window sparkle until the sun starts to come up.

Geno wakes up with a loud yawn and a sleepy kiss to the side of Sid’s face.

“How long are you staying,” he asks and Sid answers by pushing him over onto his back and climbing over him.

“A few days. Is that okay?”

Geno nods. “Stay forever if you want.”

It’s tempting. Staying just like this with Geno naked and spread out beneath him still looking sleep worn and content.

If he could stay just like this in this warm little bubble….

“Just for a few days,” he says then shifts down Geno’s body and wakes him all the way up.

Sid goes back to sleep after breakfast.

Geno lets him.

He closes the blinds and kisses his forehead and tells him he’ll be back in time for dinner and to text if he needs him.

He sleeps right through dinner too.

Geno tries to wake him up but he just rolls over and clutches the pillow tighter to his chest.

The bed dips behind him around midnight and he feels Geno touch his shoulder as a way of saying goodnight.

Sid turns over and pulls him in for a hard kiss.

“So tired, Sid. Long day.”

“We can stop if you want to,” Sid says. He slowly moves his hand down towards the front of Geno’s sweats, giving him plenty of time to stop him.

Instead Geno covers his hand with his own and drags it the rest of the way down and gasps out Sid’s name when Sid gets a hand around him.

It’s a cycle of sleep and sex and just a few days stretches into three and four and on the fifth day he wakes up to Geno standing at the foot of the bed in a heather grey t-shirt with two cups of Starbucks in his hands.

Sid stretches his arms above his head, finger grazing the headboard.

“Gonna stay here and mope forever?”

“No,” Sid says then holds a hand out for one of the cups.

Geno rolls his eyes and gets into the bed beside him. He reaches over Sid and with his long arms sets the cup down on the nightstand just out of Sid’s reach.

He’ll have to get out of bed to get it and he gives Geno an exasperated look as he sips at his own drink.

“Not going to mope, so what are you going to do? Is nice day out.”

Sid wouldn’t know. The curtains haven’t been open since he got here that night. He reaches for Geno’s cup but Geno evades him.

“Tea. You wouldn’t like.”

“You don’t know that.”

Geno simply raises an eyebrow and takes another sip.

Sid pulls the covers up higher.

“Get up, drink your coffee, take shower and we go outside, yes? Need shower, Sid. Been days.”

Sid scoffs, offended. “I took a shower yesterday.”

“No, you interrupt me while I take shower. Had to get out right away so we don’t slip and die.”

“I spend most of my day on the ice. I can stay on my feet.”

Geno leans down and kisses the corner of Sid’s lips. “What I want to do to you…..” he whispers. “Never stay on your feet.”

Sid turns his head and kisses him full on.

Geno leans back briefly to set his cup down and then dives back in, giving control up to Sid easily enough when Sid swings a leg over Geno and straddles his lap.

Sid pushes Geno’s shoulders down against the mountain of pillows and leans against him. As soon as his hands start trailing a path down his chest Geno slides his knee up by Sid’s hip and gets enough momentum to flip them.

Geno kisses him once, twice, then pulls back and laughs at the way Sid wants to follow him.

“Get up, take shower,” he wrinkles his nose, “brush teeth, get dressed.”

Sid curls his fingers around Geno’s forearms. “Or we could just stay here.”

Geno shakes his head. “No. Have something planned, much better than that.”

He swings his legs off the side of the bed and yanks at the covers until they’re pooled at Sid’s feet.

“Better than sex?” Geno nods and grabs his cup before he heads for the door.

“Better. Coffee then shower then breakfast. I’ll make you toast.”

Forty five minutes later Sid’s hair is still damp beneath the black baseball cap on his head and there’s an old cocker spaniel on the bench between him and Geno and a border collie dropping a filthy tennis ball at his feet.

Sid throws it and the dog tears off after it.

“Feeling better,” Geno asks as he pets the spaniel.

“Yeah. Is it weird that we’re sitting in a dog park when neither of us has a dog?”

“No. Dogs make everything better, is a happy place. No one judges.”

“Do you come here a lot?”

Geno shrugs. “Sometimes. Sometimes I’m just walking by and I come in. Wish I could have dog.”

Sid hums. He knows how that feels.

“This is good substitute, though. Don’t like seeing you so sad,” he says, suddenly serious and Sid looks at him.

“Sorry.”

“Okay to see sad about not winning but it’s not easy to see. All I want is to make you feel better and-.”

“You did,” Sid interrupts. “You made me feel a lot better.”

Geno leers at him with his tongue poking against his cheek and Sid shakes his head.

“Not like that, well, not just like that but just being here helped a lot. Usually I just go home.”

“Sad all by yourself?”

“For a little while. I don’t like to bother people with it.”

“Sid.” He raises his hand like he wants to touch him and Sid flinches. They’re in public. Geno jams both his hands beneath his thighs. “Good you come here. But you have to go home soon.”

Sid nods. “But not today. Think you could keep me busy for one more night?”

“Think so. Go out for dinner. I know a place. I’m getting tired of take out.”

“Go out?”

“Very private, very nice. No one care about either of us. You’ll see. Trust me?”

There’s no hesitation in Sid’s answer. “Yes. But I’m buying.”

Geno smiles, warm and easy and kicks the tennis ball back towards Sid so he can throw it.

“If that makes you feel better, Sid, you can always buy.”

The restaurant is quiet and dimly lit and the waitress ignores Sid completely in favor of winking at Geno after he orders the most expensive wine on the menu.

“She likes you,” Sid says blandly as he flips past the pasta and chicken dishes.

“She just wants big tip.”

Sid scoffs. “I bet.”

Geno barks out a laugh and bumps the toe of his shoe against Sid’s shin.

“Can’t blame her,” Sid says. “You’re her type.”

“Everyone’s type. Go home with you though.”

Sid hooks his ankle around Geno’s and leaves it there hidden beneath the tablecloth when the waitress comes back.

They take the subway back to Geno’s apartment.

Sid doesn’t want to waste time waiting on a cab so he follows Geno down the stairs and takes his metrocard after he steps through the turnstiles.

People come and go on their car until it’s just them and two other people.

An older woman with thick glasses who’s doing a crossword puzzle.

A young kid with his head tipped back against the window, sleeping off too much alcohol.

Nobody is paying them any mind so Sid presses his knee tight against Geno’s.

When they get back to Geno’s Sid slowly backs him up against the front door.

“What do you want,” he asks with one hand already pushing between the buttons of his shirt.

“What do I want?”

“Yes. Anything.”

Geno raises his hand to the side of his face and sets his thumb in the middle of Sid’s bottom lip.

In the bedroom Geno sits on the bed and slowly undresses him.

He bats Sid’s hands away when he tries to speed him along and doesn’t let him help as Geno pulls his own shirt over his head or when he stands up and slides his jeans down his thighs.

Sid drops to his knees in front of him but Geno shakes his head and pulls him up by his shoulders.

“You said what I want.”

“You don’t want me to?”

Geno shakes his head and moves back on the bed, pulling Sid with him.

“Want you right there,” he says and kisses him so softly it makes Sid’s heart beat double time.

Geno comes while thrusting into the tight circle of Sid’s hand with their mouths still pressed together.

Sid watches the sunlight dance across Geno’s face.

It’s painfully endearing to see Geno scrunch up his nose and squeeze his eyes even tighter against the light.

Sid actually puts his hand up to block the sun but it’s too late.

Geno’s eyes flutter open and Sid drops his hand softly to the side of his face.

“You been awake long?” His voice is rough with sleep and it makes Sid want to cancel the flight he booked last night while Geno was drooling onto his shoulder.

Sid shakes his head. It’s a white lie. “I have a flight to catch.”

“When?”

Sid has fifteen minutes until his alarm is supposed to go off. “In a bit. I have to shower.” He rubs his thumb against Geno’s bottom lip. “You should come with me.”

When Geno kisses him beneath the steady stream of the shower it feels a lot like a goodbye.

Sid’s skin is still damp when he pulls his shirt over his head.

Geno has a towel wrapped around his waist and Sid watches a bead of water drip down the center of his back as he stands in front of his closet and decides what to wear.

Sid sighs and runs a hand through his hair. “Do you have big plans this summer?” Geno doesn’t take his eyes off the closet. The water drips below the towel.

“Going home for a little bit. Home, home,” he says with a smile. “Russia. Going to see family maybe work a little.” He shrugs.

“Your birthday is at the end of July, isn’t it?”

Geno looks over his shoulder at him. “I never told you that.”

“I told you I googled you before we met.”

“And you remembered? It’s been months.”

“It seemed important.”

Geno smiles at him. “Yours is August 7th. Easy to remember. Have hockey school, too, right?”

“Yeah.” He thinks about the young ones that spend more time flat on the ice than on their feet and laughs. “I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be fun.”

“Doing anything else fun?”

“A lot of training.”

“I said fun, Sid.”

“I think training is fun.”

Geno rolls his eyes good naturedly. “Of course you do.”

“I have to get better.”

“Sid.” Geno sighs and shakes his head. “You do what makes you happy, okay.”

“I’m happiest when I’m on the ice.”

Geno’s answering smile looks a little sad and Sid turns to zip his bag and heft it over his shoulder.

“I have to get going.”

“Sid.”

“We’re both going to be really busy this summer so I don’t know if we’ll get to talk a lot.”

“Sidney.”

“Call me if you want but you don’t have to feel obligated to.”

Sid.”

“What?”

“Just hope you have a good summer. Have fun.”

“Thanks.”

Awkwardness settles over them and Sid clears his throat.

“I’m gonna miss my flight.”

“Should go then.”

Sid passes by without touching him.

-

Flower is in his house when he gets back to Pittsburgh.

He comes thundering to the door after Sid shuts it cursing in French, much too quick for Sid to keep up.

“What are you doing in my house,” Sid asks as he and Flower explodes.

“Where the fuck have you been?”

“Why are you in my house,” he asks again as he pushes past him and into the kitchen.

“Because you weren’t answering your phone. Because you didn’t tell anyone where you were going. Because we couldn’t fucking find you. Your mom didn’t even know where you were.”

“You called my mom? Why would you call my mom?”

Flower makes a pained sound. “Because we couldn’t fucking find you, you asshole. You cannot just fucking take off after a fucking playoff loss and not tell anyone where you went. Where the fuck were you?”

“Can you please stop yelling?” He opens his fridge and frowns. There’s definitely less beer in it now than when he left.

Flower taps his hand on the counter. “Where were you?”

“I had to get away from everything for a little while.”

“That’s not what I asked you.”

Sid grabs a bottle of beer and pops the top off. Flower frowns at him.

“It’s not even noon.”

Sid shrugs. “I’m fine.”

“Not buying that.”

“You shouldn’t have called my mom.”

“You should have answered your fucking phone.”

“Okay.” He takes another long swig. “Sorry. Next time I will.”

They stare at each other for a moment before Flower breaks the silence with another groan.

“What is up with you? You’ve been acting weird for months now, I want some answers.”

Sid’s head snaps up. “Do you think that’s why we lost?”

“What are you talking about?”

He waves him off and sets the half empty bottle on the counter. He wants another shower and maybe some more sleep. It never feels like it’s enough lately. “It’s nothing. Forget it. I’m fine, you can go home.”

“Sidney, are you okay?”

Sid tries to put on his most reassuring face. “I’m fine, really. Promise. I just needed to get away from hockey for a little while.”

“You needed to get away from hockey,” Flower repeats slowly. “Who are you and what have you done with my captain?”

“You don’t ever need a break sometime?”

“Well yeah, sure, but I’m me and you’re you….this is your whole life.”

“Yeah.” Sid takes a deep breath. “You’re right. Thank you for looking out for me. I really appreciate it but I’m here and in a few days I’m flying home and I’ll see you in September.”

“I feel like you’re kicking me out.”

“You weren’t really supposed to be here in the first place,” Sid says as he puts a hand on Flower’s back and leads him towards the door. “How did you even get in?”

“I have a key. So do Kuni and Duper. You know, for emergencies.”

“How? What emergencies?”

“Emergencies like you not picking up-.”

“My phone.” Sid finishes for him as he opens the front door. “I will never live that down, huh?”

“No way. Almost gave me a heart attack.”

“It won’t happen again.” He drags Flower in for a one armed hug and Flower wraps both arms around him.

“Have a good summer, man. We’ll get ‘em next year.”

-

The first thing his mother does when she sees him is hug him.

Sid wouldn’t expect anything less.

“I’m sorry Marc scared you.”

“Oh.” She pats his back a few times then lets him go. “He didn’t. I trust you. I knew you’d be okay.”

He really loves being home.

He has dinner at his parents house that night and afterwards he follows her into the kitchen to help clean up.

“I know you were safe and you’re an adult but I do wonder where you were all those days.”

“I was with a friend.”

She looks up from the tube of plastic wrap that she’s trying to cover the bowl of leftover salad with. Sid recognizes the look in her eyes and knows he has to shut it down.

“He let me hide out at his place.”

“Oh.” She rips the wrap off and hands him the bowl to put in the fridge. “It was nice of him to do that for you.”

“Yeah,” Sid says, “he’s nice.”

-

He spends his days working out and his nights sitting out on his back deck overlooking the lake.

The air is warm and the sky is clear and the moonlight off the water does nothing to distract him of the memories of the city lights reflecting off Geno’s skin.

He’s sweaty and sore and halfheartedly listening to Nate tell him about the girl he’s into.

“So she has this friend,” Nate says and Sid looks across the table. “I was thinking maybe we could double.”

He frowns at him over his salad. “She has got to be way too young for me.”

“Her friend is twenty three. That’s not terrible.”

“It’s not great.”

“I’m not saying you have to marry her or anything. Just come out for dinner.”

“I don’t think so.”

Nate sighs dramatically sounding exactly like the teenager he still is. “Come on, man. Just do this one thing for me.”

“Like I’ve never done anything for you before. I paid for your lunch.”

“I didn’t ask you to do that. I’m just asking you for one favor. Just dinner. You never do anything.”

“That’s not true,” Sid says defensively.

Nate rolls his eyes. “When was the last time you went out on a date?”

He and Geno went out a month and a half ago.

“See,” Nate says into the silence. “It’ll be fun. I’ll pay.”

Sid takes a deep breath and Nate takes it as a yes.

“Nice. You won’t regret it. Sarah’s really hot.”

-

Sarah is very pretty. Dark hair and dark eyes and she has a great job and loves animals.

She doesn’t sit too close to Sid at dinner and doesn’t push him to talk. She’s flirty, but it’s not overwhelming.

If he were anyone else he’d really be enjoying himself but he can’t shake the thought that he’s going to be leading her on if he gives even an inch back to her.

He excuses himself as soon as he can, while they’re waiting for the dessert to come, and steps out onto the sidewalk to call Geno.

It’s the only thing he can think to do and he knows it’s a long shot that he’ll pick up but maybe just hearing his voice on the away message will help.

He’s tapping his foot against the sidewalk and waiting for his voicemail to pick up when Geno actually answers.

Sid almost drops his phone.

“Sid, you okay?”

“Sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t think I’d get you.”

“You called me.”

“I know, I know, I just didn’t think you’d pick up. I’m glad you did.”

“Everything okay?”

“I’m on a date,” he blurts out and the silence on the other side is deafening. “I don’t know how to end it without being dick.”

Geno laughs. “Not sure you can. Might just have to deal.”

“She’s really nice but, you know. This isn’t going to end well.”

“You can just be friends.”

“I don’t think that’s what she wants.”

“Can always say no.”

“I know. Ugh, why is this so hard? Even if I could openly date I’m not sure I’d want to. I’d be terrible at it. Not worth the stress.”

“It can be. Just have to find the right person.”

“Well it’s not Sara so I’ve got to deal with this. I have to go. They’re bringing dessert.”

“Hopefully that will be good.”

“Doesn’t really matter, Nate’s paying.”

Geno laughs again and Sid smiles. This is the most fun he’s had all night.

“I have to go.”

“Call me, keep me updated. If she throws water at you I want to know.”

“If she throws her drink at me it’ll end up online. You’ll see it then.”

“Hope you stay dry,” he says and Sid really hates to hang up but through the front window he can see the waiter step away from the table and everyone pick up their forks.

“I really gotta go.”

“You already say.”

“But I really mean it this time.”

Geno hums.

“Stop,” Sid says and Geno hums even louder. “I’m hanging up.”

“Call me,” Geno says. “I’ll pick up.”

Sara smiles as he slides back into the booth.

He smiles back and tries not to make it too obvious that he’s more excited about about the cake in front of him and the promise to call Geno than anything else.

Nate pays like he said he would and as they head out into the parking lot Sid starts to sweat in the mid summer heat.

Nate and Emily talk by her car, apparently making plans for a future date and Sid and Sara stand awkwardly side by side.

“So,” he says and she puts her hand up and shakes her head.

“It’s okay, really. I can tell you’re not really feeling it.”

“Oh.”

“I mean, I’m right, right?”

“It’s not you,” he rushes out. She’ll probably never understand how true that is. “You’re really nice and really pretty but-.”

“It’s okay. You don’t have to like, justify it. Sometimes it just isn’t there. Don’t feel guilty about it. I got a free meal and I get to tell everyone that I went out on a date with the Sidney Crosby.” Sid takes a sharp breath in and she quickly adds on, “don’t worry. I won’t actually say anything but it’s nice to think about it.”

“Thanks,” Sid says. He buries his hands in his front pockets. “I hope you have a nice night.”

She gives him a smile and sticks her hand out for Emily to take when she leaves Nate’s side.

“You strike out,” Nate asks him once they’re out of earshot.

Sid elbows him in the ribs. “It was mutual.”

Nate uses his height to his advantage and cuffs Sid around the neck. “That’s what they all say, man.”

He changes into a ratty pair of sweats and pours himself a glass of wine before he settles in to call Geno.

“You alone,” Geno asks.

“Of course I’m alone. I’m in sweats and drinking wine and I’m alone on a Saturday night.”

“Like a housewife, Sid.”

“What?”

“Like Real Housewife. Expensive lounge clothes and wine.”

“My sweatpants have holes in them.”

“Housewife from bad side of town. You were able to shake your date?”

“Actually she shook me.”

“You got rejected?” There’s a small amount of glee in Geno’s voice and it puts Sid on the defensive.

“It was mutual.”

Geno snorts.

“She could tell I wasn’t really feeling it so she said not to worry about not calling her again. It wasn’t a bad night. The dessert was good.”

“Glad it all work out for you. How has the rest of your summer been?”

“I miss you,” Sid says. “I miss you a lot.”

“Miss you, too,” Geno says quietly.

“I shouldn’t have left things the way that I did and it’s totally up to you and I get if you don’t want to but I’ll be back in Pittsburgh at the beginning of September and I was just wondering.”

“Sid,” Geno interrupts. “I can meet you there.”

-

He’s not ashamed to admit that he paces the floor in front of the front door while waiting for Geno’s rental to pull into the drive.

Mainly because there is no one he’d ever admit it to.

Geno texted him saying his plane touched down nearly a half an hour ago and he knows how Geno drives.

He should be here by now.

His impatience is slipping into panic but thankfully a car door slamming calms his frayed nerves.

He opens the front door and anticipation kicks in.

Geno’s in sinfully fitted dress pants and a button down with the sleeves rolled up.

He grabs a bag out of the passenger side and smiles when he sees Sid standing in the doorway.

“Didn’t think there would be traffic this time of day,” he explains as he climbs the front steps. Sid’s fingers itch at his side to touch him. “Sorry it took so long.”

Sid steps to the side to let him in and closes the door.

He leans back against it and Geno stands in front of him.

Cole Harbour is home.

Pittsburgh is home.

But he hasn’t really felt like he was there until Geno walked through the door.

He reaches for Geno’s collar and pulls him in for a kiss.

“I’m glad you’re here,” he says and Geno closes his eyes and kisses him again. “Unpack your bag. I’ll make you some lunch.”

“But-.”

“They’ll be plenty of time for that,” Sid explains and shoves at Geno’s shoulder when he starts to pout. “What do you want for lunch?”

“You,” Geno answers but he’s already turning around and heading for the stairs.

Sid swats his ass as he makes his way to the kitchen.

-

Later, after sandwiches and catching up and handjobs on the couch Geno crawls into bed beside him still wet from the shower.

“Little bit tired,” he says as he rests his forehead on Sid’s shoulder. “Tomorrow morning wake you up with blowjob, promise.”

He’s fading fast and Sid rubs his hand against his back. “How long can you stay,” he asks because they haven’t talked about it. The bag Geno brought with him is packed full and he’s already making himself more than comfortable in Sid’s home.

Geno doesn’t answer and Sid thinks that maybe he’s already asleep but finally he answers on an exhale. “Forever.”

Sid takes a sharp breath. He knows Geno is delirious or half asleep or only joking but there’s a part of him, a part that’s growing bigger everyday that makes him wish it was true.

-

Geno stays and stays.

Sid goes to practice and Geno ventures into the city and every night they come home to each other.

Sid drops a key into Geno’s hand before leaving the first morning and Geno holds Sid’s chin in his other hand when he kisses him goodbye.

Kitchy magnets and Pittsburgh themed knick-knacks find their way around his house and Geno plays innocent when asked about it.

“Need more things, Sid.”

Sid stares at a magnet shaped like a steel mill on his freezer door.

When he looks back at Geno he’s smiling down at the pancakes he’s trying not to burn.

They drop the first game and then the next two and even when they start to win Sid can’t seem to get things going. He can’t buy a goal or even an assist and it seems to stretch on and on game after game.

He doesn’t try to read what’s being written about him but it’s getting hard to ignore.

It’s them saying he might not even get sent to the All Star Game that really sets him off.

It’s so early in the season and he has plenty of time and Geno has been back and forth between New York and Pittsburgh and Los Angeles and when the team invites him out after a 2-1 loss he agrees to go.

He sits in a corner booth and lets the drinks come to him until Kuni cuts him off and Horny has to help him out of the bar and into Flower’s car.

“Why do I have to take him,” Flower gripes.

“Short straw,” Horny says as he pulls the seat belt across his lap.

“I didn’t pull any fucking straw.”

Horny shrugs and pats at Sid’s face. Sid shakes him off and slurs something about being fine.

“If you throw up in there you’re buying me a new car,” Flower says as he shuts the passenger side door and digs his keys out of his pocket.

Sid leans against the window and falls asleep.

Flower lets him sleep until he pulls into Sid’s driveway and sees Geno’s rental.

“Do you have someone visiting you?”

Sid opens his eyes then sits up straight when he sees the car. The seat belt chokes him and Flower laughs.

“Geno.”

“Geno? Who the fuck is-wait. Malkin? That model Tanger is always going on about? What is he doing here?”

“I...he’s.”

“You could have called him to come get you, you know. I could be home by now.” He turns the car off and unclicks his belt. “I have a family you know. Bet they miss me,” he says as he unclicks Sid’s belt too. “Can you walk because I cannot carry you.”

Flower throws his door open and Sid doesn’t move. His brain is fogged up with alcohol and the only thing he can clearly feel is the panic of being found out.

Geno is inside his house and Flower is here and he’s going to know.

Flower pops open the door and Sid takes a deep lungful of cold late November air.

“Marc.” He says because maybe this won’t be as bad if he gets ahead of it. Flower finding out on his own has to be worse than Sid actually saying the words.

Flower is getting impatient and tugging at his arm and Sid wants to dig his heels into the car as he tries to find the words but his front door opens and Geno steps out and the world stops spinning.

Geno’s barefoot and should have a coat on but doesn’t and he’s crossing the distance between them in easy strides.

Flower nods at him but Geno doesn’t look away from Sid, still slumped over in the passenger seat.

“He okay?”

“Captain here can’t hold his liquor. Gonna be in a tough spot in the morning.” He sticks his hand out and Geno blinks at it until he shakes himself and takes it. “I’m Marc. Wish I knew you were here. I would’ve called you to come get him.”

“I didn’t know,” Sid says weakly.

“Last minute thing,” Geno explains. “Sid let’s me crash here sometimes.”

“Sure, sure,” Flower says and thankfully doesn’t question why he would have a last minute reason to be in Pittsburgh. “Can you help me get him out. A hangover is nothing compared to a broken ankle.”

“I can get,” Geno says as he puts an arm around Sid’s shoulder. “Where’s his car?”

“It’s still at the arena. Someone will swing by and pick him up tomorrow. Short straw,” he says blandly and Geno tilts his head. “Don’t worry about it. You got him?”

Sid tries to shake Geno’s arm off but he just holds him tighter. “I got. Thank you for getting him home safe.”

“Of course man, gotta look out for him. Drink lots of water, Cap.”

Once the door closes Sid does manage to dislodge his arm but stumbles so Geno has to catch him.

“Why you drink so much, Sid?”

“Why are you here,” Sid snaps and Geno lets his hand slowly drop from his arm.

“Wanted to surprise you. Been ten days since we’ve seen each other.”

“We’ve gone months.”

Geno rolls his eyes before he turns towards the kitchen. “Come. You need water and Advil. Maybe some toast.”

“I don’t need to be babied.”

“Not babying you. Trying to make sure you can go to practice tomorrow without dying. Trying to help.”

“I don’t need your help.” He sways as he pushes himself off the door and into the kitchen.

Geno has a water bottle cracked open on the counter and he’s tipping a bottle of painkillers into his hand.

He holds the pills out and sighs when Sid doesn’t move to take them so he sets them on the counter next to the bottle.

“Take,” he says. “You hungry? Going to throw up? Just want to go to bed?”

“You really don’t get what just happened here.”

“What?”

“Flower saw you.”

“So what?”

“So,” Sid shouts, much too loud for the headache that’s building behind his eyes. “So he saw you and he going to know that you were here.”

“Don’t see the problem.”

“You don’t see the...you just show up here and talk to Flower-.”

“Not allowed to talk to your friends? Know I’m your dirty little secret-.”

“You’re not,” Sid interrupts but the protest goes nowhere. “It’s not like that.”

“Sure, Sid. Take your pills, drink your water, I’m going to bed. Talk to you in the morning when you’re making sense.”

“Geno.”

He’s ignored and Geno heads up the stairs without ever looking back.

Sid takes the pills Geno set out for him and drinks the whole water bottle in one go.

When he feels like he can take the stairs without falling over he finds his bed empty and one of the guest bedrooms door is closed.

He doesn’t go looking for him. Just takes a shower and brushes his teeth and passes out in his empty bed.

He feels terrible in the morning.

He’s too hot beneath the covers and thirsty and starving but the thought of eating anything makes him nauseous.

Practice is going to be a bear but he swings his legs over the edge of the bed and heads downstairs.

Geno’s at the breakfast table eating cereal.

He doesn't look up when Sid shuffles in.

“Is there coffee?”

Geno chews slowly. “Hungover, Sid. Arms still work. Think you can make it yourself.”

He knows he deserves the brush off so he silently waits for the coffee to percolate before drinking it black out of a Welcome To Pittsburgh mug Geno got from somewhere in the city.

“I’m sorry.”

Geno puts his spoon down and leans back in his chair so he can really look at him. “For what?”

“For everything.” Every single thing. “I’m sorry for what I said to you and how I said it. I was drunk.”

“That’s not an excuse.”

“I know,” Sid says quickly. “I know that. I was upset about how I’ve been playing and what people are starting to say about it.”

“People are bullshit.”

“Yeah. Maybe. But it’s getting to the point where they’re not wrong anymore. And then Flower saw you and I just panicked. I thought he would know. He’d figure it out.”

“It didn’t seem like he did.”

Sid shrugs. “I hope not.”

Geno looks wounded and Sid puts the mug down in favor of reaching for Geno’s hand.

“You’re not my dirty little secret.”

Geno looks down at Sid’s hand covering his own and turns his hand over.

Sid links their fingers together.

“I get it if you want to leave. I’m not very good company right now.”

Geno shifts in his seat and leans in to press a kiss to his forehead.

“Not going anywhere.”

-

No one has a clue that they're together.

Sid hears the word bromance more times than he can count and he smiles through the questions from reporters on the occasions that Geno catches a game in Pittsburgh.

“I can't believe you're friends with Evgeni Malkin,” someone says but what Sid hears is I can't believe Evgeni Malkin would be friends with you.

“You know he's the most interesting thing about you,” someone else tells him and all Sid thinks is he is the best thing about me.

He tells Geno this while they’re curled up on his ridiculous leather couch in LA, too buzzed off not seeing each other for a month to make it to the bedroom.

Sid’s sweaty and still breathing heavily when he says it and Geno lifts his head off his shoulder to stare at him for a moment.

Then he smiles and runs his fingers through the hair around Sid’s ear.

“So romantic tonight.”

“Are you seeing anyone else?”

Geno looks confused and says “who else is there,” and Sid frowns because that’s not an answer.

He's not proud of it but he's been googling Geno while they've been apart.

He's seen photos of him with the same beautiful woman over and over again. They've had lunch and dinner and have ducked into clothing stores with Starbucks in their hands.

Geno pokes at his side.

“I've seen some photographs is all. You and a woman. The two of you are doing what we do out in public and I don't know.” He shrugs and waves his hand towards their entwined bodies. “Do you do this too?”

“Woman?”

“She has red hair,” Sid says flatly and Geno smiles and presses a kiss to his shoulder.

“Her name is Sarah. She's a model too.”

“That doesn't really make me feel better.”

“Nothing happen between us. She has a girlfriend.”

Sid cranes neck to look at him. “Really?”

“Very serious. Going to get married soon. Tell you, media very stupid. Everyone straight. Worse for women sometimes.”

“So you're not seeing anyone else?”

“No, Sid. Not for long time. Not since you. What about you?”

Sid wrinkles his nose and shakes his head. “Just you.” Only you. “How long are you going to be here?”

“Couple of months.”

Sid groans. “Why so long?”

“Movie. Already tell you that.”

“The first one hasn’t even come out.”

“Oh!” He squeezes Sid’s hip and tries to sit up but Sid is a heavy weight on him. “Forgot to tell you. Premier in January at Sundance. Big deal.”

“When in January?”

“Think the 23rd.”

“That’s our bye week.”

“Sid! Should come to premier with me. Red carpet, very fancy. Dress nice for once. Wear suit I make you buy!”

“Slow down,” Sid says as he sits up. “There is a lot to talk about here.”

“Like what? You have time off.”

“I usually train in Vail.”

“Colorado and Utah are right next to each other. Quick flight.”

“Okay. You want us on a red carpet. Together.”

“As friends,” he says as he puts air quotes around the words. “That’s all they’ll think we are. They already know we’re friends. It’ll be like, a cute funny thing. They won’t think we’re together. Promise.”

Sid presses his lips into a thin line.

Geno pokes at him. “You just don’t want to wear suit.”

“Not that one,” he says and Geno rolls his eyes.

“Don’t have to but let me dress you in nice suit.”

“I have nice suits.”

“Suits that fit. I already talk to you about this. What do you say? Come see my movie, very important to me. Very important to us.” He kisses the side of his neck. “We only met because I was filming it in Pittsburgh.” He kisses the other side and then slides his lips down towards his collarbone and Sid is powerless.

“You fight dirty.”

Geno hums. “Is it working?”

“Yes.”

Geno pulls back. “So you’ll go?”

“Only if you come to Vail with me afterwards.”

Geno’s eyes light up. “You want me to come with you?”

“Yeah. It’ll be some time to ourselves. I rent a nice house, it’s very private. We can relax.”

“Between the training.”

“You could train with us.”

Geno laughs. “Don’t have death wish.”

“What are you talking about? You’re in great shape, you could keep up.”

“Sid, there’s great shape and then there’s you. You’re not human.” He runs his hands lightly over his torso and down his thighs. “Is very good.”

Sid cards his fingers through Geno’s hair. It’s just getting long enough to curl at the ends. “You’ll come with me?”

“Think I have to stay and do press for a little bit afterwards but I’m sure I could get away.”

-

Sid doesn’t have to wear the maroon suit but Geno does wrangle into one that’s more fitted than anyone he’s ever worn before.

“This is way too tight,” Sid says as he tugs at the sleeves.

Geno doesn’t look up from his phone, just reaches out and puts his hand on Sid’s knee.

Sid’s eyes flash to the driver. He doesn’t look away from the road.

“Just because it touches your skin doesn’t mean it’s tight. Means it fits.”

Sid shifts in the seat. “I just worry-.”

“Not too tight around ass. Your ass is very powerful but not powerful enough to break through this fabric.”

“Geno,” Sid hisses and the driver makes eye contact with him in the rear view mirror for a moment before looking away. He seems unbothered.

“Worry too much,” Geno says as he finally looks up from the screen. “You look great, I look great, both look great.” He pats Sid’s knee twice before taking his hand back.

Sid tries not to fidget the rest of the way.

The red carpet is loud and bright and he’s starting to sweat beneath the button down he’s wearing.

Geno does all of the talking and he stands to the side of him, a few steps to the side of him, as he does interview after interview.

He thinks he’s mostly been forgotten about until one reporter asks him who his date is.

Sid freezes and Geno laughs and reaches blindly behind him until he snags Sid’s elbow and hauls him forward.

Sid stumbles into him.

“You know Sidney Crosby.”

The reporter definitely does not know who he is. It’s almost refreshing.

“Sid is my best friend in Pittsburgh. He showed me all the best spots and things to do. Would have been lost without him.”

There’s suddenly a microphone in his face and all the camera turn to him as the reporter asks if he’s excited to see the movie.

“Yeah, of course,” he says, slipping into his postgame media scrum voice. “I know Geno worked really hard on it and it’s something he’s proud of. I’m just here to support him.”

The reporter blinks and Geno slaps him on the back.

“He’s too used to giving hockey interviews. Everything so serious.”

“Take him to a few more red carpets and he’ll fit right in,” the reporter says and then they’re being shuffled down the line by one of Geno’s handlers.

“You’re good at this,” Sid says as they wait for the next line of questions.

“My job,” he says simply as he steps up to the mic once more.

Inside the theater Geno cannot stop bouncing his knee and as soon as the lights go down Sid covers it with his hand.

“Nervous,” Geno says.

“I can tell. Don’t be.”

Geno makes a disapproving noise, like it’s not that easy, but his leg stops bouncing.

Geno doesn’t actually show up until twenty five minutes into the film.

The first part follows a younger version of his character around the dark streets of a small town in Russia, running errands and doing jobs much too big for his small stature to bring home money for his parents.

His mother works as a baker and his father drinks.

When Geno finally comes on screen, in a sweaty tank top streaked with dirt from a long day at work in a mill, Sid can’t help himself and excitedly grabs his hand.

“That’s you,” he whispers and he can see Geno’s smile in the dark.

He is fantastic.

Sid’s not a critic and his own acting skills leave a lot to be desired going by the Christmas videos the organization puts out every year, but when he can tell that Geno is amazing.

He puts so much emotion into every word he says and it’s obvious that he gave it everything he had while training because all the hits and punches look real enough to make Sid wince in sympathy and when he loses that first fight and the camera pans to him in the back of a taxi trying to hold back tears Sid feels like his heart it going to burst.

He’s so caught up in the boxing plot that he doesn’t even see where the story is progressing between him and his costar until Geno presses the back of his hand against Sid’s thigh to get his attention.

“Don’t get jealous,” he whispers.

“What are you talking about,” Sid whispers back but Geno simply juts his chin towards the screen and Sid immediately recognizes what scene this is.

Geno and his costar are kissing and falling back towards the bed and there’s a difference between reading it on paper and seeing it in front of him.

“How soon can we go back to the room,” he asks and Geno doesn’t say anything. Just stares straight ahead and smirks as his character is stripped of his clothes.

There’s applause after the credits roll and when the lights come on Geno stands in front of the crowd with the rest of the cast and director to thank the audience.

“Have a little bit of press,” Geno tells him as the theater starts to empty out. “Then we leave.”

Sid sighs heavily and the look on Geno’s face is so fond he knows that if they were alone right now Geno would be leaning in and brushing a sweet kiss across his forehead.

He settles for squeezing Sid’s shoulder instead, thumb just barely grazing the skin on his neck before he pulls away and joins the rush of media with the rest of the cast.

He waits patiently as Geno smiles through the questions he’s asked until finally he’s breaking away from the crowd and tipping his head towards the exit.

“You sure you can go?”

Geno stops mid-stride. “What, now you don’t want to?”

“I want to. I just want to make sure you’re not going to get in trouble.”

Geno raises an eyebrow then walks right by him, hand bumping against his hip as he goes.

Sid watches him for a moment before he hurries after.

It feels like it takes forever to get back to the hotel with festival traffic and once again it has Sid’s mind racing with what would be happening if they were alone.

If Geno was the one driving he’d be sliding his hand up his thigh then sliding it back down again, repeating the process and slowly driving him crazy.

If there was a partition between the driver and the back seat he’d put it up then make himself comfortable in Geno’s lap and this whole thing would most likely be over before they even got to the hotel.

When they pull up to the curb Sid practically throws his body out the door but Geno lingers in the back of the car, arms casually thrown over the front seat as he talks to the driver.

Sid taps his foot against the sidewalk and makes immature and impatient noises until Geno joins him.

“Took you long enough,” he says as they make their way through the lobby.

It’s busy this time of night. People are drinking at the bar and laughing. No one pays them any attention when Geno puts his hand on the small of his back.

“Was saying goodbye to the driver. Thanking him. Being polite. Think you would understand that.”

“I am going to fuck you into the mattress,” he says as the elevator doors slide open, “and you’re making small talk with the driver to be polite.”

He steps inside and waits for Geno to join him. His eyes are blazing and as soon as the doors close he’s crowding Sid into the corner of the elevator.

“There are probably cameras in here,” Sid says as Geno presses their bodies together.

“You care,” he asks and Sid shakes his head.

He doesn’t care much about anything except for the feeling the cool metal against his back and Geno’s warm body against his front as they kiss.

By the time the elevator stops at their floor their lips are swollen and Sid’s dress shirt is untucked from his pants and Geno’s hair is a mess.

Inside the room Sid walks him over to the bed and pushes him onto it.

He only gives him a moment to adjust before he’s climbing on top and straddling his lap.

“You were amazing,” he says, fingertips digging into Geno’s shoulders as Geno gropes his ass. “You’re incredible.”

“Scared to read reviews,” he admits and Sid takes his face in his hands and kisses him, trying to quiet his doubt.

“I’ll read them for you. They’re gonna be great. Everyone is going to love you.”

“Going to be some bad ones. Always are.”

“Then I’ll find the person who wrote it and-.”

“You’ll what,” Geno asks with a laugh and Sid bites down at the tendon in the side of his neck. The laugh breaks into a choked off moan and Sid smiles against his skin.

“I’ll talk some sense into them. You were great. The movie is great. Anyone who thinks otherwise is crazy.”

Geno flattens his hands his thighs. “You like the whole movie, even sex scene?”

Sid looks away and Geno brings his hands up to his hips.

“That really bother you?”

“I don’t like seeing you with other people.”

“Didn’t mean a thing, Sid,” Geno jokes. “Had to pay me to be interested. Is my job.”

“That just means I have to accept it, not that I have to like it.”

“Have nothing to worry about.”

Sid grinds a little on Geno’s lap feeling how hard he is. “I don’t worry, I just….I could never do that. What did you think about while you were filming it?”

“You.”

Sid stops the roll of his hips. “Really?”

Geno shakes his head and smiles. “No. Very embarrassing if I think of you. Very inappropriate.”

“Even all the way back then?”

“Like you from the first second I saw you.”

“At the Starbucks.”

Geno shakes his head. “Deli, remember? You and Flower and Tanger. We bump into each other.”

“I wasn’t sure you even saw me that day.”

Geno holds his face in his hands. “How could anyone ever miss you? So beautiful.”

They trade kisses until Geno starts making desperate sounds beneath him and when Sid pulls away and stands to get his clothes off Geno groans and throws an arm over his eyes.

“Killing me, Sid.”

“I can’t fuck you with your clothes on. Take them off.”

The expensive suit Geno was wearing ends up in a ball on the floor. Sid’s joins it and he trips over everything when he leaves Geno on the bed so he can dig through their bags looking for the lube.

“Pocket on the inside,” Geno says and Sid nods and yanks the zipper open.

There are two full bottles and a handful of smaller packets.

“You’re really prepared, aren’t you?”

“Have almost whole week together,” Geno says as Sid turns around.

Geno’s spread out on the bed with his knees slightly bent, feet flat on the mattress. One hand is behind his head helping to prop him up so he can look at Sid and the other is between his thighs stroking himself lightly just for relief. He knows nothing is going to start until Sid joins him.

Sid climbs back onto the bed and drops the packet onto Geno’s stomach.

Geno frowns and picks it up. He says “I want you to do it,” at the same time Sid says “I want you to fuck me.”

“You said-.”

“I know. I changed my mind. That okay?”

Geno nods and scrambles up the bed. He pats his thighs and Sid laughs as he sits across them.

“Like this,” Sid says and Geno quickly slicks up his fingers and reaches around him. He lets his head fall forward onto Geno’s shoulder as he slowly slides the first finger inside.

Sid rides him like they have all the time in the world. Slow and careful until his thighs are burning and Geno is a writhing mess beneath him.

He keeps one hand on Geno’s chest for leverage to keep Geno from grabbing a hold of his hips and flipping them.

“Good?”

Geno answers by throwing his head back against the pillow and moaning his name.

Sid wraps both hands around the back of Geno’s neck and pulls him up so he’s sitting snuggly in his lap.

They can’t get any closer than this and Geno holds him tight with his arms around his back.

“Are you close?”

Geno nods and mouths his away across Sid’s collar bone. “You?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Geno lifts his head. “Sid.”

Sid kisses him soundly then pushes him back down on the bed, hand over his heart.

“This is your night,” he says as he grinds down, “I want you to feel good.”

Geno covers Sid’s hand on his chest with one of his own. The other wraps around Sid’s dick and together they come only moments apart.

 

In the morning Sid kisses the back of his neck to say goodbye.

“See you tomorrow,” he says quietly and Geno turns his head on the pillow to look at him.

“Maybe later tonight,” he answers. “I’ll try to get away.”

Sid runs his fingertips down his spine. “Try hard.”

Geno smiles. “Can’t get enough of me.”

“Pretty much,” Sid admits and the smile slips off Geno’s face as he pushes himself up onto his elbow for a kiss, sweet and sleepy.

“I’ll see you later tonight.”

 

Geno knocks on his door at 7:35 and slumps against Sid.

“Missed you.”

It’s been less than twelve hours but Sid can’t point that out because he missed Geno too. He’s been aching with it.

Geno lifts his head and pushes himself upright. Sid takes his bag from his shoulder as he ventures further into the house.

He looks out the back deck at the hot tub and throws Sid a look over his shoulder before continuing on to the living room.

“Use hot tub sometimes,” he says and Sid drops his bag by the stairs before following. “Good for post workout?”

He yawns again and he flops down on the couch and pats the cushion beside him.

“You don’t want to go to bed? You seem tired.”

“Only 7:30. Not old man yet. C’mon, come sit.” He nods towards the tv where the Kings are playing the Habs. “Come and watch game with me.”

Sid lifts Geno’s feet off the couch and slips his shoes off his feet before pulling them onto his lap.

He digs his fingers into the arch of Geno’s foot and Geno’s smiles at him.

“Take such good care. The best. Gonna take good care of you later.”

Sid snorts. “You’re gonna fall asleep in like, five minutes.”

“Am not,” Geno says as he presses the heel of his foot into Sid’s inseam. “Wide awake for you.”

He barely makes it five minutes before falling asleep and snoring softly with his head turned away from the TV.

Sid watches him for a long moment and feels like his heart is about to burst.

He shuts the TV and the light on the end table off and slowly moves down the couch to lay beside him.

The cushions are just wide enough for the both of them but the pillow is a tight fit.

Sid ducks down and tucks his head beneath Geno’s chin.

“Should go to bed,” Geno mumbles as he throws an arm around Sid. “Upstairs.”

“I’m comfortable here. Are you?”

Geno makes an agreeable sound in the back of his throat and sits halfway up to grab the knitted throw off the back of the couch.

He does a half ass job of covering the both of them with it then drops back onto the couch and hauls Sid closer to him.

-

“What are you going to do all day?”

“Lay around.”

“You should come train with us. Meet my friends.”

Geno freezes and looks up at him. “Would I be training with you or meeting your friends?”

Sid takes a moment to try to puzzle that out but he still doesn’t understand. “Training,” he answers slowly and Geno shakes his head.

“Pass.”

“Then you should come out to dinner with us tonight. You can meet Nate.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I’m sure he’d be cool with it. He might bring a couple of his friends along. They’re idiots but they’re nice. You’d probably get along with them really well.”

“You want me there?”

“Yes, Geno. I’m not okay with going out to eat while you’re here alone.”

“Don’t mind. They’re gonna know I’m staying with you.”

“I went to your premiere with you. I don’t think they’re gonna bat an eye about you rooming with me for a few days.”

Sid hooks his fingers into the waist of his sweatpants and pulls.

“Come on. Come have dinner with us. Meet my dumb friends then we can come back here and fuck in front of the fire like we’re in some stupid romance novel.”

“Need bearskin rug,” Geno mumbles and Sid kisses him.

“I’ll see what I can find on my way home. So you’re coming?”

Geno nods and Sid leans over the back of the couch for another kiss.

-

Nate loves Geno right off the bat and once Geno shakes off the nerves with the help of some liquor he makes it clear that the feeling is mutual.

They monopolize the conversation and Sid is content to sit back, eat his dinner, drink his whiskey, and listen to the two of them talk back and forth.

“You have lots of stories about, Sid,” Geno says and Sid shakes his head.

“I have way more about him,” he says as he points his fork at Nate. “He’s a lot younger than me. I have embarrassing teenage stories on him.”

Geno props his chin in his hand and leans in and Nate looks at Sid with wide eyed betrayal.

“Please don’t say anything.”

Sid calmly sips his drink. “Then you don’t say anything.”

“So I don’t get any stories,” Geno says sounding adorably put out.

“I’ll tell you more when we get home.” He drops his hand beneath the table and squeezes his thigh.

Geno freezes with his glass halfway to his lips and shoots a worried look at Nate.

Nate happily hums around a bite of steak.

Geno takes care of the bill and then they all bundle up and step out into the cold.

“You sure you’re okay to drive,” Sid asks Nate as Geno wanders away towards the curb so their uber driver can see them clearly.

“I’m fine. I’m actually gonna go hang out with some of the guys. You sure you two don’t want to come?”

Sid looks over at Geno and finds him looking back. His cheeks are flushed pink and Sid doesn’t know if that’s from the cold or alcohol but he does know he wants to get him back to their rented house and strip him out of all his clothes and chase the flush with his lips.

“We’re old,” Sid says when he can pull his gaze away from him. “I think we’re going to head back.”

“Alright man.” Nate holds his hand out and drags Sid into a one armed hug. “Go be boring.”

“Go drink. Make it easy for me tomorrow.”

“The only way you can beat me is if I’m hungover.”

“You’ll learn to take advantage of anything you can.”

Nate groans. “Geno, please take him home, he’s’ trying to get all wise on me.”

“Tell him to fuck off,” Geno says over his shoulder and Nate laughs.

“How are you both against me?”

“You old news, Sid. Nate and I best friends now.”

“Great,” Sid says dryly as the Uber pulls up to the curb. He steps towards Geno and says quietly to him “guess you don’t care about getting me home then,” as he slides into the waiting SUV.

“Bye Nate,” Geno says loudly and then hurries Sid into his seat and shuts the door.

It’s snowing by the time the car pulls up to the house and Geno basically drags Sid out while Sid is halfway through thanking the driver.

They almost slip on the steps and Geno drapes himself over Sid’s back as he tries to fit the key in the door.

They stumble inside and Geno starts stripping immediately while heading towards the living room and the fireplace.

“Oh.” Sid sets his keys down on the kitchen counter and picks up Geno’s belt from where he dropped it. “Were you serious about the fire thing?”

Geno’s standing there in his boxers and his t-shirt. “Was your idea.”

“I was mostly kidding.”

“Sid.” He props his hands on his hips. “You invite me to frozen wasteland-.”

“Vail is not a wasteland.”

“Four feet of snow out there. It’s your bye week, Sid. You should be on beach somewhere like the rest of your teammates. Could have stayed with me in Miami. Lots of sun. Sand. Warm water. Maybe we take nice boat trip to the Keys. I come here with you so now we are going to have sex in front of this fire. Maybe little fantasy for me.”

“It’s the floor though.”

“Go get blankets off the bed.”

“It’s still the floor.”

“You eat me out on the tile floor of my apartment but hardwood in front of fire isn’t good enough for you?”

“That was spontaneous.”

“Sid. Go get blankets or I start and finish without you.”

“You would never.”

Geno tips his chin up defiantly and strips off his shirt then steps out of his boxers. He raises one eyebrow and sets his hands on his hips and Sid nods.

“I’ll be back with the blankets.”

Sid’s sweaty all over.

Geno’s hands slip against his back as Sid fucks into him slowly.

“Can go faster,” Geno says. “Harder.” He wraps his legs tighter against Sid’s waist and digs his heels into the swell of his ass.

Sid shushes him and continues the slow roll of his hips as he chases the shadows of the flames across his skin.

He whines in the back of his throat and Sid smiles into a kiss before he leans back, hitches Geno’s leg up higher with his fingertips digging in behind his knee and drives into him.

Geno throws his head back into the pile of pillows and Sid leans down to kiss at the long line of his neck.

He changes the pace every few thrusts going slow then fast, short strokes then long ones. He holds his hips flush against Geno’s to give him something to rut against and then he moves back.

Sid smiles as Geno babbles constantly.

“So good, Sid, fuck, always so good, always know what I like, just how I like it. Could do this forever with you,” he says and Sid exhales heavily into the side of Geno’s neck.

His mind is foggy with lust and alcohol and “I love you so much,” tumbles out of his mouth.

Sid lifts his head and stills his hips. The vice grip he has on Geno’s thigh goes slack and Geno’s heel falls to the floor.

The world stops around them and there is nothing but Geno beneath him staring up with wide eyes.

“Sid.” Geno gets a hand on the side of his face and Sid abruptly yanks his head back. Geno lets his hand fall to the blankets. “Sid, it’s okay.”

“I don’t.” He shakes his head. “I didn’t-.”

“You want to keep going or stop?”

It takes Sid a few seconds to understand the question. He wants to drape himself back over Geno’s body, cover every bit of him and make him feel great.

“You want to keep going,” he asks and Geno nods then brings his legs back up around Sid’s waist.

“Keep going,” he says. He presses in with his heel against his lower back and wraps his hand around Sid’s forearm. “Just like you were.”

Sid pulls out and sits back on his knees. “Turn over.”

Geno flicks his eyes to his before he shuts them and takes a deep breath through his nose.

“If you want to,” he adds and a few seconds later Geno’s pushing himself up onto his knees in front of him.

Sid wraps one hand around Geno’s hip and the other on his dick to guide himself in.

“You okay,” he asks when he bottoms out.

“Fine. Move.” He pushes back against him. “Please.”

Geno stays quiet this time. Sid can’t even hear him breathing so he lays a hand between his shoulder blades and hopes that it conveys comfort.

The only sound he makes is a whisper of Sid’s name when he comes.

When Sid follows after a few thrusts later he doesn’t say a thing.

“Do you want to stay here or go up to bed,” Sid asks as he cleans them up. Geno’s face is tipped towards the fire. He doesn’t look away when he answers.

“Just want to sleep.”

“Okay.” Sid leaves the dish towel on the couch and pulls a blanket over them. “I didn’t want to drag all this upstairs anyways.”

Geno sighs and turns onto his side away from Sid. The pendant of his necklace is twisted around and stuck to the nape is his neck. It’s stuck to his skin with dried sweat and Sid peels it free and slides it back around to the front and presses it lightly to the hollow of Geno’s throat.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. His lips brush against Geno’s shoulder and he counts it as a small miracle that he doesn’t shift away from him.

Instead Geno turns over and faces him. They’re almost nose to nose.

“It’s okay,” he says. “Know this isn’t like that. This is just sex, yeah? We spend so much time together this week, I meet your friend, you’ve been drinking. Easy to get confused.”

He knows that Geno is giving him an out but Sid’s never been one to take the easy path.

“This is more than that for me. You’re one of my best friends. You know more about me than anyone else. You’re so important to me and I wish I could but-.”

“It’s okay. Don’t have to say it.” He gives Sid a twisted smile. “Don’t really want to hear it. We can forget it.”

“I don’t want to hurt you.”

Geno curls his fingers around Sid’s ear and leans up to kiss his cheek. “Go to sleep. Don’t worry so much, give you more grey hair.”

“I don’t have grey hair.”

Geno scrunches up his face and picks at Sid’s hair with his fingertips “What’s this then?”

Sid shoves him. “Don’t be a dick.”

Geno slowly kisses the indignation off his face then holds him against his chest. “Sleep,” he says and Sid watches the shadows play across Geno’s face until his eyes slip closed.

The fire is still going strong in the morning but the space beside him is empty.

He stretches his arms over his head and arches his back, trying to work out the knots from sleeping on the floor all night.

There’s a clanging from the kitchen and Sid gets himself up.

Geno’s standing over the stove in a thick sweater and damp hair. He has a spatula in one hand a cup of tea in the other.

Everything smells like bacon.

“Where are my clothes?”

Geno barely glances over his shoulder. “Just come in. Seen everything lots.”

“I’m not going in there naked while you’re frying bacon.”

“So much work,” he gripes as he bends down and throws a handful of clothing at Sid.

It’s a mixture of his and Geno’s from the night before and Sid settles on his own boxers and Geno’s button up and pads barefoot into the kitchen to stand beside him.

“I really shouldn’t eat bacon before I go workout.” It sits like a brick in his stomach and Geno gives him a sidelong glance.

“Who says it’s for you,” he says and Sid pinches his hip then keeps his hand there against the soft cashmere of his sweater.. “There’s fruit in the fridge and I’ll make eggs for you. Know you like.”

“Did you go to the store this morning?”

Geno nods and takes another large sip of tea. “Early. Couldn’t sleep.”

“So you got up and went out in the cold to get me fruit.”

“No big deal.”

Sid slips his hand beneath the sweater and Geno tenses for just a moment before he relaxes into the touch.

“The bacon is done, isn’t it?” He kisses right below Geno’s ear then slides his hand to the front of his jeans and taps his finger against the button. “Can you turn it off?”

“Gonna be late, Sid.”

“They can wait. Or we can just be fast.”

Geno sets the spatula down and twists his hips away from him and Sid let’s his hand fall away.

“Hungry,” Geno explains as he pops open the fridge door and pulls out a container of cut up fruit. “When you get back, okay? Shower together. Sound good?”

“Sure,” Sid says dumbly and Geno ducks down and kisses the corner of his mouth. It doesn’t make the obvious brush off feel any better.

“Go rinse off and get changed. Food will be done by the time you come down.”

“Kind of sounds like you’re trying to push me out of the house.”

“Sooner you leave, sooner you come back,” Geno answers with a raised brow and that does make things a little bit better.

-

He turns down an invitation to lunch to head back to the house.

He kicks his shoes off at the door and is working on his coat when he steps into the living room and sees Geno on the couch with an open magazine in his lap.

Geno flips the pages and Sid stands there with his coat in his hands.

“G.”

Geno looks up and turns another page. He smirks when Sid huffs a breath and slaps his hands against his thighs.

“I’ll be upstairs in the shower if you want to join me. You know,” he calls over his shoulder, “like we talked about.”

Sid’s been in the shower for five whole minutes before Geno slides the door open and joins him.

“Took you long enough,” Sid says with wet hands on Geno’s waist.

He needs him to bend down and kiss him because he’s learned from previous showers with Geno that standing on his toes can be a near disaster.

Instead Geno reaches for the shampoo and quickly lathers up Sid’s hair.

“I can do that myself,” Sid whines and Geno responds by wiping a soapy hand over the front of his face.

Sid sputters and Geno laughs.

“Sweaty and gross,” Geno sticks an elbow into Sid’s chest to push him back beneath the spray. He upends the conditioner as Sid runs his hand through his hair. “Should really use this. Make your hair soft.”

Sid shuts his eyes as Geno massages the conditioner into his hair.

He sighs and finally Geno kisses him. It’s soft and gentle and over too soon.

“Rinse that out then come join me.” He pinches Sid’s hip then slips out the door.

Sid doesn’t spend long toweling himself off before he heads into the bedroom.

Geno's on the bed with his his feet flat on the floor.

He’s half hard but doing nothing to speed the process along.

Sid roughly towels off his hair then drops it to the floor in favor of putting both hands on Geno’s shoulders so he can straddle his lap.

He slides his hands up Geno’s neck and tips his head back to kiss him, slowly rolling his hips as he does so.

He doesn’t kiss back like Sid expects him to and after a few moments of trying he pulls away.

“Are you okay,” he asks. “You don’t seem into this and that’s fine. We can just watch a movie instead. Go get something to eat. Anything you want.”

Geno responds by fitting his hands beneath Sid’s thighs and tipping him off his lap.

He tumbles to the bed and Geno is quick to cover his body with his own.

“Want you,” he says and Sid twists his body up to meet him.

 

He falls asleep immediately afterwards and when he opens his eyes the light is just starting to dim outside the window.

The space next to him is empty and Geno’s suitcase is in the middle of the room fully packed.

Sid sits up as Geno comes out of the bathroom with a handful of toiletries.

“You awake.”

“Yeah. What’s going on?”

“Have to go.”

“What? No, we still have three days.”

“Got a call from my agent,” he says as he tucks his shaving kit into the front pocket of his bag. “Have a job for me, last minute. Someone dropped out. Big campaign, would be good for me.”

“Okay,” Sid says slowly. “That’s-.”

Geno looks up at him. “You mad?”

“No. I was gonna say that’s great. You know I’d never keep you back from your career.”

“That’s most important.”

“Yeah. Of course.”

Geno nods and chews at his bottom lip.

“Do you need a ride to the airport?”

Geno shakes his head. “Already called a car.”

“Okay.” Sid’s not sure what else there is to say. “Let me know when your plane lands.”

Geno takes a deep breath then picks up his bag. “Go back to sleep. Call you.”

Sid nods and rests his head back on the pillow and closes his eyes to the sound of Geno’s footsteps going down the stairs.

It’s not until later, after he’s showered and made his breakfast that he realizes that Geno didn’t even kiss him goodbye.

-

It’s impossible to get Geno on the phone after that.

He doesn’t text back until hours later and even then it’s one word answers with zero elaboration.

There are no pictures of dogs he’s seen or sunsets but when Sid gets weak and checks his instagram it’s full of new pictures and videos.

He’s on set in one of them filming in the mirror as someone applies makeup to his face.

In another he’s dancing with a group of people in the middle of a cobblestone street. It’s dark and the street lights cast long shadows on their smiling faces.

His knees squished against an airplane seat and a cat stretched out in a flower box and the Hollywood sign up close.

Geno is everywhere and doing everything and keeping Sid away from it all.

-

They play the Panthers the day before Valentine’s Day and as the team walks around downtown Miami everything feels wrong.

It’s too warm for February and there are twinkly Christmas lights still lining the sidewalk as couples walk by him hand in hand.

The loneliness cuts straight through him in a way he never used to feel. Now that he has someone to miss the pain is sharp and constant and he stops walking in the middle of the sidewalk.

“You guys go on without me.”

Heads swivel towards him.

“What are you talking about,” Tanger asks. “It’s Valentine’s Day. We’re all going to commiserate about being alone together.”

“I don’t really feel well.”

“Is it serious,” Kuni asks and Sid shakes his head.

“I can sleep it off, I’m sure. Go have fun. Don’t drink and don’t stay out too late. Make sure you call your wives before you go to bed.”

Tanger gives him a salute before rejoining the group but Kuni hangs back. “You sure you’re alright?”

“I’m fine. Just need sleep.”

He looks skeptical but nods anyways. “If it keeps up see the doctor. Make sure it’s not something serious.”

“I will, promise.” He points his chin towards the group disappearing down the sidewalk. “They’re leaving you behind.”

Kuni hesitates then turns and hurries after them.

Sid takes a deep breath and pulls out his phone and dials Geno’s number.

It goes straight to voicemail. He wasn’t expecting anything different.

He has no idea what he wants to say but as soon as the prerecorded message ends he can’t stop talking.

“Hey, it’s me. I haven’t heard from you in awhile and I guess I just….I think you’re in Tokyo but those pictures might have been old. I don’t know. You looked good in them.”

He shuffles his feet back on the sidewalk when a crowd of people go by.

“I miss you. I’m thinking about you. I wish you were here. I don’t even know where you are right now, it could be over or it hasn’t even started but anyways, happy Valentine’s Day. Call me or text me or email me. Something. Let me know you’re okay. I’m getting a little worried. I really miss you. You’re just….you’re like my best friend. I don’t know what to do if we’re not talking.”

A couple passes him and Sid stops talking. The guys are holding hands as they casually walk down the street. It’s like nothing matters but the two of them and Sid’s never been more envious.

When he wants something out on the ice he pushes himself harder and he gets it.

But this, that, walking down the street hand in hand with someone he loves seems so far out of reach.

“I miss you. Call me.”

He ends the call and lets his head hang.

-

Geno doesn’t call him back for another three days and when he does he sounds distracted and a little drunk and it’s hard to hear him over the noise in the background.

“Got your message.”

“Which one,” Sid asks.

“Think maybe something’s wrong with my phone,” Geno says and Sid can tell it’s a lie. He’s not even trying to sell it well.

“Where are you?”

“New York.”

“How long have you been there?”

“Uh...couple of weeks.”

“A couple of weeks? You’ve been in New York for a couple of weeks and you haven’t come to see me?”

“Been working,” he snaps. “Can’t always just drop everything to come see you. Doesn’t work like that.”

“I know, but-.”

“But what? Have other things in my life besides you.”

“I know that.” He’s not sure why he’s being attacked like this but he’s desperate for it to stop. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. I miss you.”

Geno says nothing.

“When can we see each other again?”

Geno’s quiet for a long time before he says “not sure. Really busy right now and you’re getting into playoffs soon.”

“It’s February. You don’t have time to see me for the next two months?”

“It’s hard.”

“Why is it hard? It’s never been that way before.”

“Sid.”

His voice is quieter now and the background noise fades away.

“Listen. Don’t know if this is going to work anymore.”

“What does that-.” He cuts himself off and takes a sharp breath in as the realization hits. “Are you breaking up with me?”

“How we supposed to break up if we’re not even together?”

“What do you mean we’re not together?” There are spots forming in front of his eyes and his chest feels heavy. He pulls out one of the kitchen chairs and sits down. “What does that mean?”

“Not like we’re boyfriends or anything.”

“Geno-.”

“When have you ever called me your boyfriend? Even in your head. That’s not what we are so how can we break up? Just think we should stop sleeping together. Can still be friends. Good at being friends.”

“You haven’t answered any of my texts or phone calls for weeks.”

“Will work on being better friend.”

Sid feels off balance and heartbroken. He should have been more careful. He never should have started this. He should have known it would end like this.

“Sidney?”

“I have to go.”

“Okay. Have game on Tuesday, right? Will be watching.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“Want to. Care about you a lot. Want you to do well.”

“Sure. I still have to go.”

“Okay. Talk to you later.”

“If you can find the time,” Sid says bitterly and Geno sighs. “I have to go,” he says again and hangs up before Geno can say anything else.

He stares down at his phone then tosses it onto the other side of the couch and gets up to make dinner.

-

Hockey is, as always, a welcome distraction and pours everything he has into it.

They finish strong, only dropping four games in March and they head into the playoffs feeling like this is their year.

They easily beat the Rangers and it should feel like payback but it’s hard to feel anything when he knows Geno was in New York for two of the games and didn’t reach out to him.

On the flight down to Washington Flower elbows him.

“What?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

Sid rolls his eyes. He’s known him long enough to know what he wants.

“I was seeing someone,” Sid admits quietly and Flower’s eyes go wide. “For awhile. Years. But it’s over now.”

Flower knocks their knees together. “Sid.”

“It wasn’t what I thought it was. I’m fine. It’s been over for a couple of months now.”

“But you’re still sad.”

“I’m getting better. I’ll feel better after we win.”

Flower presses his mouth into a thin line and Sid shakes his head.

“Just say it, I know you want to.”

“Hockey isn’t everything,” Flower says quickly. “It’s not always going to be there.”

“No. But it is right now and we need to win twelve more games so that’s that what I’m going to focus on.”

-

It’s a battle against Washington and again against Tampa.

Sid’s tired and a bit sore but the enthusiasm from the rookies is infectious and it’s the final push that he needs.

He’s jittery before game six, they’re so close, they just need one more and right before he leaves his hotel room he checks his phone one last time.

There are half a dozen missed calls and one text from Geno.

Know you’ll win.

He doesn’t call him back and he’s not expecting to see Geno on the ice later that night after the game while the San Jose crowd still cheers for their home team but that doesn't stop the disappointment he feels.

It feels crazier this time but maybe it’s just because he’s older.

There’s an endless stream of press and the parade and locker clean out and the twinge of worry about who will or won’t be here next season that runs beneath it all.

He shouldn’t have time to think about Geno but he’s always on his mind and when Tanger asks him if he saw the interview, if he knew when he was coming back into town, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

“Some friend you are,” Tanger snorts and leaves Sid to look it up on youtube as soon as he gets a chance.

Geno is on The Late Late Show talking about the new movie and what it was like to shoot it and when it’ll be released.

It’s all things that Sid has heard before. He’s been in bed next to him as he gives phone interviews keeping quiet and seeing how far he could casually slip his hand up Geno’s thigh until he had to bat his hand away.

“It seems like you’ve been working hard for so long,” James says, “are you taking any time off? Doing anything fun over the summer or are you right back to it?”

“Think maybe I spend sometime in Pittsburgh,” Geno glances at the camera. “It’s nice. Spend some time there while shooting and fell in love with it. Find home there. Some things I need to do. Take care of.”

James thanks him and the band starts to play and the video ends and Sid still doesn’t call him.

Sid knows he’s coming back to town, and probably right to him, but it’s still a surprise to see him sitting on his front steps when he gets back from the store.

Geno is in shorts and sandals and sunglasses with his arms wrapped around his knees like he’s trying to make himself look smaller.

There’s a large suitcase sitting next to him.

The bridge of his nose is pink from the sun.

Sid’s feet bump against the bottom step and Geno slides his glasses to the top of his head, messing up his hair.

“You could have gone inside and waited.”

Geno shrugs. It looks anything but casual. “I missed you. Been a little while.”

“Whose fault it that?”

“Would have called first but didn’t think you’d pick up.”

He’s probably right.

“I saw your interview….so.”

“Okay that I’m here?”

“I go home in the summer,” Sid says quickly, “back to Canada. You know that.”

Geno nods. “Can't follow you.”

“No. Especially not right now with the cup. Everyone's going to be watching.”

“So proud of you, Sid.”

“Thanks.”

“I should have been there.”

“Maybe.”

“No. Should have. Is important to you and you're so important to me. Can't believe I missed it. Won't happen again. Next year I'll be there.”

Sid laughs softly then sobers up. “I think you should probably go.”

“Sid-.”

“It’s just too much. I can’t….I think we want different things. I don’t want to just be your friend.”

“What do you want?”

“I love you,” Sid blurts out and Geno’s eyes go wide. But he can’t stop talking. If he does he’s not sure he’ll ever get it out. “I meant it when I said it that night. I love you so much. I didn’t mean for it to happen. We weren’t supposed to be like this but I love you and I was so scared that I was going to screw everything up that I tried to take it back. I was afraid you didn’t feel the same way and it’s okay if you don’t.”

“Sid,” Geno says again as he stands up. He's so much taller standing on the step above Sid and Sid has to crane his neck to look up at him. “You think I don't feel the same way? You are the one good thing. One constant. Always there.” He holds Sids face in his large, warm hands and brings their foreheads together. “Love you so much.”

Sid opens his eyes and can feel Geno's eyelashes against his skin when he does the same.

“Come inside,” Sid says as he links their fingers together.

Geno grabs his bag and presses up against Sids back as he waits for him to open the door.

 

November, 21st 2016

 

Geno reaches out for him and swipes a hand over his back to get his attention.

Sid twists to look at him.

His eyes are barely open.

“You happy like this?” Geno asks and Sid drops the shoe that he's holding.

“What do you mean?”

“Don't…..” He turns and pushes his face into the pillow. “Don't know. English is….can't find words.”

Sid pokes at his shoulder. “Your English is perfect. What do you mean?”

Geno sighs and flips onto his back. He worries his bottom lip between his teeth as Sid plays with the pendent on his necklace. He lays it flat right above his heart.

“Tired. I'm tired.”

He says it so seriously that Sid’s sure they're about to have a real conversation and he settles deeper into the bed but then Geno stretches like a cat and winks at him.

“Do me so good, so tired.”

“Okay, if you're not going to be serious.”

“Am serious,” Geno says with a laugh. “Was great. Best ever. Wear your jersey all the time now.”

Sid jams his foot into his shoe and bends down to lace them. Geno rubs his thumb against the side of his thigh absentmindedly.

There's more to this, Sid’s sure of it, but if he doesn't want to talk right now there's no way for him to make him. He doesn't have the time.

He places his hand over Geno's heart and Geno pinches his hip.

“Should go. But kiss first.”

Sid obliges and with Geno’s warm hand on his face he lingers.

When he pulls away Geno’s is frowning but his hand is still cradling his chin. “A few months you’re going to grow that awful beard. Waste on such a pretty face.”

Sid laughs and bats his hand away. “It’s better than yours,” he says and Geno falls back against the bed. He stretches his arms over his head and Sid’s jersey rides up. Sid wants to crawl back into bed and map the cut of his hips for the rest of his life. “You love it.”

Geno props himself up on his elbow. “Yes. Going to have to love it for a long time. Go all the way.”

“Don’t jinx it.”

“When have I ever?”

Sid ties his shoe and stands. “Point. I really have to go. I’ll see you at home?”

“Pittsburgh,” Geno answers and Sid tips his head to the side.

“Yeah. Home. Where else?”

Geno doesn’t answer, he just says “see you there.”

-

Something’s off with Geno.

He’s always present, showing up for dates when he says he will and he calls and texts back and kisses him hello and goodbye.

But when he tells him he loves him, as he says it the corners of his eyes pull down.

Sid tries to kiss it better. He holds Geno’s face how he knows he likes it and sweeps his tongue into his mouth, just as a tease, before he pulls back.

Geno’s answering smile has more life behind it but his eyes still have a shadow of sadness.

Sid doesn’t think that there’s someone else. Geno doesn’t seem like the cheating type, too devoted to their relationship but he is only human and when he’s alone in Geno’s apartment he starts to look for things that don’t belong to either of them.

A sock he doesn’t recognize or a pair of cufflinks he’s never seen before.

He doesn't find a thing.

Of course he didn’t. Geno would never do that to him but the relief he feels when he sits down on the edge of the bed is palpable.

-

Geno’s been quiet since he stepped through Sid’s front door.

He set the house key in the bowl and kissed Sid hello before turning up the stairs to drop his bag in the bedroom without a word.

Geno sips wine in the kitchen while Sid makes dinner and Sid has to pull even the smallest details out of him.

There was a crying toddler on his flight. He has to start watching what he eats again because he has a photoshoot booked for next month and he’ll be shirtless. His parents are doing well.

After they eat Sid not so subtly herds him into the living room and pushes him down onto the couch.

When he straddles his lap Geno smiles for the first time all evening.

“Talk to me.”

“Like dirty?”

Sid shakes his head and wraps his fingers around his wrists. He can feel his pulse jumping beneath his skin. “Like talk. You've been acting weird lately.”

“Not so good at foreplay.”

Sid drops his full weight onto Geno's lap.

“What’s wrong? You’re worrying me. You’re not happy.”

Geno’s eyes snap up to meet his. “I’m happy.”

“Not how you usually are. Something’s changed. Ever since you surprised me in New York months ago something has been different.”

“Sid-.”

Sid holds him tighter. “I know you, Geno. I know when something's wrong. I just don’t know what it is. I don’t know how to fix it.”

Geno sighs and looks away and Sid shifts to get back in his eyeline.

“C’mon, babe. I remember the last time we didn’t tell each other what we were actually feeling. I don’t want to go through that again.”

Geno swallows thickly. “Always gonna be a secret,” he says softly and tries not to wince when Sid’s hand slips from his face. “It’s been long time. I love you so much.”

“I love you too.”

“Yeah.”

“It’s not yeah. Don’t say that. You sound like you don’t believe it.”

“I believe you.” Geno cups his face. “Believe you.”

“But it’s not enough.”

Geno’s eyes flash up to meet his own. “It’s everything, Sid.”

“But,” Sid prompts and Geno sighs and gently lifts Sid off his lap so he can stand.

“But nothing. I want to think about telling people and you don’t.”

“We can,” Sid says. “Just not right now.”

“When you retire,” Geno snaps, frustration getting the better of him. “A decade from now? That’s a long time. You think about kids?”

“Geno.”

“I know you want them. I do too. Lots of kids. Big family all living together in one house. Hard to do when we have to sneak around.”

“I know. But I can’t-.”

“Know you can’t tell public. Don’t care about that. We never have to tell reporter or stranger or give an interview but my parents are going to want to see grandkid. I want my friends to know. Want to know your friends.”

“You met Nate.”

Geno rolls his eyes. “You, me, and Nate. We’ll be very happy together.”

Sid watches him walk up the stairs. He sits in the silent living room for a moment trying to understand what’s happening before he gives up and takes the stairs two at a time.

Geno’s in the bathroom squeezing toothpaste onto his brush. His hands are shaking.

Sid leans against the doorframe.

Geno takes a deep breath and sets the toothpaste down. “Been looking into adoption.”

Sid pushes himself off the wall and stands beside him. His hand hovers over his back.

“Just reading,” Geno says. “Get some information, meet some people at agencies who could help me. Lots of babies need homes. Tried to fill out an application but….” He trails off and Sid drops his hand lightly to his shoulder. He rubs it up and down his back.

“But what?”

“Don’t know if I should put your name. Don’t even know how to talk to you about this. How do I even bring it up?”

“Would you have ever if I ask you what was wrong?”

Geno shrugs. “Happy most days to wait for you.”

“I don’t want you to do that.”

“What choice do I have? Not leaving you.” He turns so he’s leaning back on the counter. He catches Sid’s hand between his own and looks down at him. “I would ask you to marry me right now if I thought there was even a little chance you would say yes.”

“I want to.”

“I know.” Geno strokes his fingers across the back of his hand. “But can’t. So what can I do?” Sid folds himself against his chest. Geno wraps his arms around his back.

“I’m having everyone over for the Super Bowl. You should come.”

“Team gonna be there?”

“Yeah. Everyone. Wives, girlfriends, everyone. And you should come.”

His arms tighten for a moment before they relax. “Okay.”

-

Geno ends up being more nervous than he is.

He changes three times before Sid stops pretending that he doesn’t notice and stops him from going upstairs the fourth time with a hand on his waist.

“You look fine. This team, they don’t clean up that well. You’re pretty much always guaranteed to be the best dressed person in the room.”

“Want them to like me.”

“They already like you. They don’t even know you and they still think that you’re way too cool and interesting to be my friend.”

“Maybe they build me up so much in their minds they meet the real me and they just-.”

Sid quiets him with a kiss. “What do you always say to me? I think too much? You’re thinking too much.”

“Think just the right amount.”

Sid kisses him again until there’s a knock on the door and he squeezes Geno’s hands in support before he steps away.

Tanger slides to a stop in his kitchen when he sees Geno.

Olli runs into him and Dumo shoved him out of the way so he can haul a case of beer onto the counter.

“Sid,” Tanger whispers, “what the fuck?”

“Geno, this is Kris. Kris this is Geno.” He bumps his fist against Tanger’s shoulder. “Don’t be weird.”

“Nice to meet,” Geno says as he holds his hand out. Tanger takes it and stutters out a hello.

“That’s it,” Sid asks. “You’ve been nagging me to meet him for years and that’s all you can say.”

“I have not been nagging,” Tanger spits before he looks up at Geno. “I’m just a fan.”

“Heard lots about you,” Geno says and Tanger turns a bright shade of pink as Flower and Vero walk into the kitchen.

“Hey, Geno,” Flower calls. “Nice to see you again.”

Tanger whips his head around. “You’ve met him? When?”

“Just once,” Geno says but Flower talks right over him.

“Geno and I hang out all the time. We’re best friends. Closer than him and Sid.”

Geno looks at Sid and Sid coughs into his hand.

“Why don’t you all head into the entertainment room, I’ll wait for everyone else to get here.”

Flower throws an arm around Geno’s shoulder to keep him away from Tanger, effectively squeezing him out of the doorway so he has to follow behind him.

They’re kept busy between the game and the team and the beer and the food.

Geno seems to be having a good time, though. Every time Sid looks for him he’s talking to someone new or laughing at something they’ve said.

During the second quarter Geno tucks himself into the corner of the kitchen and talks quietly and seriously to Vero until halftime.

“Everything okay,” Sid asks. In the chaos of halftime no one pays them any mind so Geno gives him a warm smile.

“Everything’s fine. Having lots of fun. More ice in garage, right? Running low.”

“I can go get it.”

Geno pinches his hip then let’s his hand brush against his back as he moves past him.

Sid watches him disappear around the corner and when he looks back Vero is watching him with a small smile.

Sid smiles back and a moment later something breaks in the living room followed immediately by Rusty yelling “I didn’t do it,” and Sid has to leave to deal with that.

 

-

People are slow to file out after the game is over.

Sid makes sure everyone’s okay to drive home while Geno helps clean up.

He’s got a garbage bag full of bottles in his hand when Sid closes the door for the last time.

“I recycle those,” Sid says as he picks up a couple of half empty bottles and brings them to the sink to empty out.

“I know. Very environmentally conscious. Good boy.”

Geno drops the bag to the floor, the bottles clinking together as they settle, and wraps his arms around Sid’s waist from behind.

“So what did you think of everyone?”

“Everyone very nice.”

“They were on their best behavior around someone new. They’re assholes.”

Geno smiles. “You love.”

“Yeah. They’re family at this point.”

Geno lays his head on Sid’s shoulder.

Sid picks up a plate and starts to rinse spinach and artichoke dip off it.

“Was Tanger okay? I swear he was just waiting to embarrass me. What did he tell you?”

“Didn’t tell me anything bad. Vero is very nice.”

“I saw you two talking.” Sid freezes. “Did she tell you something embarrassing because whatever she told you she got second hand from Flower and he embellishes.”

Geno laughs softly and kisses behind his ear. “Didn’t tell me anything. I told her.”

“Told her what?”

“About us.”

Sid drops the plate in the sink as all the blood rushes from his face. He has to hold onto the edge of the counter to steady himself but Geno still has a steady hold on him.

“Geno-.” He turns in his arms and sinks down to the floor. He rests his head on his bent knees and counts the breaths he’s taking, in and out.

Geno gives him time and space and when he finally lifts his head and opens his eyes Geno’s sitting across from him with his back to the cabinets and his palms over his knees.

“Had to,” he says softly. “Secret was eating me alive.”

“Yeah. It’ll do that.”

“She said she won’t tell Flower. She promised me. Won’t even talk to you about it. You never would have known. Should I not have told you?”

“It’s good that you did. That would have been another secret. How’d you get to talking about that?”

“Like to talk about you. It just came up. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“Is it? Tell this big secret about your life without talking to you first.”

“It’s your life too.” He flaps his hands between them. “Our life. If you were going to tell someone she was a good choice. She was okay with it?”

Geno rolls his eyes. “Nicest lady ever, Sid. I promise I will never leave you but if she asked, would be hard to say no to.”

He laughs as Geno pushes himself to his feet and extends a hand.

Sid takes it and is immediately pulled into a tight hug.

“You sure you’re okay,” Geno asks and Sid nods.

“Baby steps,” he says. “This is a start.”

-

He believes what Geno said about Vero keeping this to herself but still, when he sees Flower at the next practice he spends a long time staring at him. Like he’s waiting for him to pull him into a quiet corner of the practice facility and tell him that he knows.

Instead Flower gets a pinched expression on his face and snaps “what are you looking at?”

“Nothing.”

Flower shoves his glove into his face on his way out and Sid is quick to follow.

-

Geno becomes a fixture in the stands at home games.

The camera always finds him and he loves it.

Sid swears Geno spends more time on the big screen in the arena than he does.

It picks up even more during the playoffs.

“Gonna be at every home game and all the important away games,” he says as he pulls Sid’s jersey over his head. “Could come to all the away games too. Told agent to leave me alone until the playoffs are over. Until you win the cup.”

“You really don’t have to do all this. It’s okay if you watched from home. It’s a lot more comfortable here.”

Geno yanks at the material to make sure it’s lying flat then turns and holds Sid’s face in his hands.

“Miss last year. Not making that mistake again.”

He kisses him then swats him on the ass on his way out of the room.

“Let's go,” he calls, “gonna be late.”

During game five against the Blue Jackets Geno ends up on the Pens twitter account pointing to the C on his chest and waving a terrible towel.

Tanger shows it to him in the locker room after the game and Sid brings it up to Geno on the ride home.

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, I do, but I don’t know…”

“You don’t like maybe I wear Jake’s jersey,” Geno answers as Sid pulls into the driveway.

Sid turns the car off and stares at him.

Geno smiles back, lazy and fond with his head tipped back against the headrest. “I mean, has a hat trick. Very good hockey, very young. Lots of potential.”

Sid unclicks his seat belt and swings his body over the center console.

He bumps his head on the ceiling and his hand hits the window and he almost knees Geno right in the dick but Geno gathers him up and his mouth is hot beneath his own.

Sid works his hands between the buttons on Geno’s coat until he feels the jersey beneath his fingertips.

“Nobody else,” he says and Geno runs his hands up Sid’s thighs to haul him closer.

-

Geno is waiting up for him after he comes home from Washington.

Leading the series two nothing and coming back to home ice is an amazing feeling but Geno pressing him against the inside of the door and working his thigh between Sid’s is even better.

“It’s late,” Sid says as he clutches at Geno’s shoulders. He’s a little sore and smells like recycled air from the plane.

Geno lifts his lips from the side of his neck and blinks at him. “You want to stop?”

Sid shakes his head and covers the top of Geno’s head with his hand when he sinks to his knees in front of him.

-

Sid doesn’t see the hit coming but no one ever really does.

The arena is silent as he lies on the ice with Chris Stewart crouched down beside him.

It’s a familiar pain as he skates off the ice, the crowd cheering for him as he goes down the tunnel to get checked out.

He can already tell it’s not going to be good and as the medical team moves around him he thinks about Geno watching in the stands and flinches.

“You okay,” the doctor asks him and Sid nods carefully.

“I’m just ready to go home.”

“You can’t drive yourself.”

“I came with a friend. He can drive.”

The ride home is smooth and quiet and Geno drives at least five miles below the speed limit the whole time.

When they finally get home he kills the engine and lets out a long, shuddering breath before he rests his forehead on the steering wheel.

“I’m okay,” Sid says. It seems to echo in the silent car. “You don’t have to worry like you are.”

“Took you time to get up. Had to watch that.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault, Sid, fuck. Wouldn’t let me see you. I tried to get back there, I was so scared.” He flexes his hands on the steering wheel and Sid can see that they’re shaking. “They wouldn’t let me back. Wouldn’t tell me anything. I almost tell them right there what we are to each other. Don’t know if that would even work. If I was wife or girlfriend, would they have let me through?”

Sid nods. “Or at least told you how I was.”

Geno turns his head to face him. “I had no idea what was happening. Could have taken you to hospital and I wouldn’t have known.”

“I would tell them to tell you.”

“What If you couldn’t? What if it was so bad-.” He squeezes his eyes shut and Sid brushes his knuckles against his cheek.

“It’s not. I’m okay.”

Geno looks up at him with watery eyes and Sid unclicks the seat belt for the both of them. “Let’s get inside. It’s time for bed.”

Inside Geno moves around him like he’s going to break. Like one wrong move will send him crumbling to the floor in a million pieces.

Finally, as they’re brushing their teeth side by side and Geno puts the toothpaste down so slowly it doesn’t even make a sound as it touches the counter Sid gets sick of it and bumps their shoulders together.

“You don’t have to do that.”

Geno sighs and hangs his head. “Don’t know what to do,” he admits and Sid pushes his way between him and and the counter.

“You can start by kissing me.”

Geno lifts his hands like he’s going to touch his face then immediately drops them.

Sid sighs and grabs Geno by the wrists and pulls his hands up to the sides of his face.

Geno’s thumbs stroke against the beard covering his jaw as they kiss.

“You are everything to me,” he says in Russian. “I would throw away everything I have for you.”

Sid kisses Geno’s palm. “I don’t know what that means.”

Geno gives him a soft smile. “I know. It’s okay.” He kisses his temple. “Should go to bed.”

-

When he gets cleared to play Geno says nothing, just stares at him over his cup of tea.

“I’m fine,” Sid says. “I feel fine, the doctors say I’m fine, I’m going to play.”

“Should let the team do this without you. Just one more game.”

“I’m the Captain.”

Geno presses his mouth into a thin line. “Yes. Know that.”

“I’ve been through this before. I know how my body works.”

“That’s the point,” Geno says evenly. “This has happened to you before.”

“So I know how I should be feeling.”

Geno shakes his head. “You’re not understanding.”

“Hockey is a contact sport. There’s always a risk.”

“You don’t get it,” Geno says as he covers his face with his hands. Sid sits down beside him and wraps his fingers around his wrist trying to gently pry his hands free. “You’ll never get what it’s like seeing someone you love like this on the ice and not getting up. Have no idea how hard that is to see and then not knowing until you came out…” He sighs and drops his hands to the table. “Was killing me.”

“I told them to tell you first if something happens.”

Geno rolls his eyes and stands up. He drops his mug into the sink. It sounds like it breaks on impact.

“That way you’ll at least know.”

“That doesn’t make me feel better.”

“This is my job. I can’t stop. I have too much left to do.”

Geno slumps back against the counter, shoulders dropping in defeat. “Always gonna worry about you. That will never stop.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“Nothing.” He pushes himself off the counter and squeezes Sid’s shoulder. “Go get dressed. Can’t be late.”

-

Every time he gets bumped during a play all he can imagine is Geno freaking out in front of the TV or from the stands.

“I’m fine,” Sid tells him from the tarmac in Ottawa.

He tells him again face to face when Geno opens the front door for him.

Geno touches him so softly in their darkened bedroom Sid can barely feel it.

It's a ghost of a touch across his shoulders and back and Geno whispers Sid’s name and love you against his lips when they kiss.

“Can’t wait for this to be over,” Geno admits into the dark.

Sid tightens his arm over Geno’s chest.

“Win these games quick then go back to Canada. Know you’re safe there.”

Sid smiles into his shoulder. “I’ll do what I can.”

-

 

It takes seven against the Senators and six grueling games against the Predators but when the final horn sounds in Nashville and everyone’s family floods the ice Geno’s there lingering behind his parents and sister.

Sid hauls him in for a hug by the front of his shirt.

“Cameras, Sid.”

They’re everywhere. People are taking pictures and filming but Sid holds him tighter. He doesn’t care about that right now.

“Proud of you,” Geno says and lets it mean everything he can’t say right now in case someone overhears.

When Geno disentangles himself Sid can see the tears of happiness welling up in his eyes as he turns him around to face his family.

-

After the press and the parade and the celebratory sex Geno has to leave for a quick photo shoot in the city.

“I have to go to Vegas for the awards show anyways,” Sid says as he tugs at the collar of his shirt to cover the bruise Geno left on his neck.

Geno’s grins at him as he zips up his bag and steps between Sid’s knees. Sid holds onto his hips.

“You thinking about, Flower?”

“Trying not to.”

Geno hums and pats a hand through Sid’s hair, catching the ends around his finger. “Leave your hair like this.”

Sid tips his head back. “I have an appointment to get it cut before I leave for the show.”

Geno groans but drops a kiss to the top of his head anyways. “Break my heart, Sid.” He picks up his bag. “Call me when you land.” He taps his fingers against the door frame. “Everything gonna be okay.”

Sid nods and wishes he believed him.

-

Watching Flower get drafted is one of the hardest things he’s ever done.

He comes out on stage in a new jersey that looks completely wrong and all Sid can do is sit stoically beside Hags in the audience.

“Fuck,” Carl says once they cut to commercial and Sid can only agree.

Backstage Flower is out of the jersey, thankfully, and when they’re away from the crowd that are all dying to get the dramatic goodbye Flower holds out the house key.

Sid keeps his hands in his pockets.

“Keep it. There could be an emergency.”

“Better not be,” he says as he tucks it into his palm. “I’m not five minutes away anymore. But you know you’re one of the only people I’d fly cross country for.”

“Same.”

Flower’s the first to break eye contact when he rubs at his eyes with the back of his hand.

“I wish things were different,” he says, “but you’re in good hands here. I hope you’re happy, really happy. I hope you get everything you deserve.” He taps his hand against Sid’s heart. Over the tie that Geno picked out for him while they were FaceTiming earlier. “You deserve a lot.”

“So do you.”

Flower pulls him into a hug that last and lasts and when he finally decides to pulls away Flowers eyes are red rimmed. He knows his look the same.

“Fuck. I gotta go cry on Hags now. I’ll see you on the ice.”

Sid takes a moment to collect himself before heading back to his room.

The strip sprawls out beneath him as he calls Geno.

It’s so late there he’s not expecting him to answer but when he says hello, rough and sleepy, Sid feels like he could cry at the rush of affection he feels.

“Sid, you okay?”

“I just got back to my room. Sorry it’s so late.”

“Can always call me whenever. You want to talk?”

“Not really.”

“Okay. Watched the award show. You looked good in your suit. Worst actor, though. Horrible in intro. Think maybe Joe have crush on you.”

“Geno?”

“Yeah, Sid.”

“Come home with me?”

“Okay.”

-

It's quiet in Cole Harbour.

Sid hasn't bought his own coffee in the local Tim Hortons in years but generally no one cares about him.

He can move freely.

So can Geno.

It helps that Geno wears nothing but swim trunks and a nondescript baseball cap and doesn't leave Sid’s property.

“Have everything I want,” he says as he wraps his arms around Sid from behind. “Lake. Can fish and swim. You have a boat.” He presses a kiss to the back of his neck and then another right behind his ear. “Big bed upstairs. Happy right here.”

Sid has his parents and sister over on a Saturday.

They have steak and lobster and corn on the cob and Geno and Taylor sit on the same side of the table with their heads bent together talking about god knows what.

He watches them carefully from the kitchen as he grabs another roll of paper towels because Geno is up to his elbows in lobster juice. Geno is listening intently to her as he takes another huge sip of the fruity mixed drink in front of him. Taylor has one just like it. They commandeered the blender and pushed him out of the kitchen before dinner to make them. He has no idea how much alcohol is actually in them but Geno laughs around the straw and throws a hand over his mouth and Taylor yells ewww before laughing herself.

It's the least graceful moment Sid has ever seen him in and he loves him so much.

“Oh good, more towels,” his mother says as she slides open the screen door. She's holding empty cups. “We need more ice too.”

“In the freezer,” He says then busies himself with washing a platter to hide who he was staring at.

It doesn't matter. Trina steps up next to him and peers over his shoulder.

“Geno’s so charming. Left a big impression on all of this when we met him in Nashville.” She smiles. “I like him.”

“Good. That's good. I'm glad.”

She puts a hand on his arm. “I mean I like him for you.”

Suddenly the outside and Geno and Taylor laughing and the metal tongs that his father is holding clanging against the grill seems like it's a million miles away.

“How-.”

“I was putting your laundry away-I know-,” she says with her hand up when Sid starts to interrupt. “I know you told me to leave it but I didn't and I was putting your laundry in your room and I saw his things next to yours.”

Not in the guest room.

“It seemed very…..routine. Like that's how it always is. It's not something new.”

“Mom-.”

She pats his arm. “I like him. I mean it. He's very nice.”

“Mom.”

“He likes you a lot. I can tell.”

Mom.”

What?”

“Does dad know?”

“No. And that's a conversation I will leave for you when you're ready. Are you okay?”

“No.”

“I probably shouldn't have said anything.”

“Probably not.”

“Are you happy?”

“Right now?”

She nods.

“Yes,” Sid says immediately. Nothing has ever been more true.

“Then that's all that matters.”

That's a lie. There are million other things.

“I think we should talk sometime. You and me. Soon.”

“What is there to talk about? I already told you I like him.” She gathers up the ice and the towels and shuts the water off to the sink. “But anytime you want to talk about anything I'm here. Just not on game day.”

Sid laughs.

 

-

 

Geno's in the shower and Sid is standing at the bathroom sink watching the mirror fog up.

He's supposed to join him but he can't make himself move.

His family left hours ago. They're all alone and there are only four people in the whole world that knows that he and Geno are together. It's only one more than this morning but it feels like he just broadcast it to the whole world. Like the moment he steps foot outside his house there will be cameras and reporters and whole bunch of new things for fans that hate him to yell at him when he hits the ice.

The water stops and Geno steps out. He wraps a towel around his waist so he won't drip. His hair is a mess.

Sid can barely make him out in the fogged up mirror.

“Still smell like lobster,” he says. Then he holds his hands out a big smile on his face.

Sid stops him and laces their fingers together.

“My mom knows. About us.”

The smile drops from Geno's face.

“Oh.”

“She saw your stuff in my room.”

“Sid.”

He holds his hand tighter when Geno tries to pull away.

“I can go. Tell her she was wrong. You didn't understand what she meant. She misunderstood. I'll leave now.”

“You're not going anywhere. Not if you don't want to.”

“I don't.”

“Okay.”

“You don't look okay.”

“My mom said the same thing. Basically.”

“Is she...how did she-.”

“She likes you. She thinks we're good together.”

Geno kisses his forehead and works one is his hands loose so he can wrap an arm around him. “We are.”

-

He waits until he knows his father and sister will be out of the house before he heads over.

Then he chickens out and waits his childhood driveway until his mother opens the screen door and waves him in.

“How long were you going to sit out there,” she asks and Sid shrugs. He doesn’t have a good answer.

The house looks almost exactly the same as how he left it.

There have been minor improvements over the years but the round kitchen table with the deep scratch where he set down a pair of skates when he was ten is still there.

Twenty years later is he traces it with his index finger until a plate of oatmeal cookies is set down in front of him.

He still feels like he’s ten.

“I’m assuming it’s serious if you brought him home with you,” she says as she sits down next to him.

Sid picks up a cookie and tells her everything.

-

Geno’s out on the deck when he gets home.

He’s spread out in a lounge chair with sunburn on his shoulders and his phone resting on his chest.

He looks calm and relaxed except for the constant jiggling of his foot that is putting his nerves on full display.

Sid slides the screen door open and Geno slowly turns his head and tips his sunglasses up his face to rest on the top of his head.

“Everything okay?”

Sid pokes at his side and Geno inches over. There’s really not enough space for the two of them but somehow they make it work.

Geno is warm and a little sweaty but Sid folds himself against him as Geno wraps an arm around his shoulder.

“We talked for a long time,” he says.

“And everything is okay,” Geno repeats.

Sid bends his arm back and links their fingers together. He turns his head breathes in the scent of sun and sweat and Geno’s aftershave.

He could stay like this forever.

“Everything’s great.”

-

Geno’s in the shower and Sid’s sitting against the headboard when he decides to call Flower.

He listens to the phone ring in his ear and Geno’s elbows knocking against the side of the shower and he knows he’s not making a mistake.

Geno deserves this. They both do.

“You miss me already,” Flower says instead of a hello. He’s still trying to be upbeat about this and Sid’s thankful for it. “Sid?”

“I have to talk to you- I have to tell you something.”

“Sid.”

“It’s nothing bad. It’s great actually. It’s the best. It’s about Geno.”

“Okay?”

The truth slips right out of him, easy as anything. “I'm in love with him.”

All Flower says is “huh.”

“Marc.”

“What? Give me a second to process.”

“What is there to process,” he says defensively. “I'm in love with him.”

“That's not- you know that's not what I mean. I mean let me think about this thing I didn't know about one of my best friends that I've known for the past twelve years and have seen face to face more days than not.”

“I wasn't in love with him twelve years ago.”

“How long?”

“Two and a half years. Three if you count from when we first met. I pretty much knew it was going to be him all the way back then.

“Huh.”

“Jesus, Flower.”

“Does he love you back?”

“Yes. I said it first.”

“What does- Christ, Sidney, not everything is a competition.”

“I won though.”

“Are you happy?”

“Yes.” He has a third cup and more chances for a fourth. He's healthy and his family is great and he has someone who loves him back.

The bathroom door opens and steam follows Geno out. His hair is damp and sticking up all over the place from attempting to dry it.

He’s wearing a Pens shirt and boxers and he has ratty slippers on his feet.

Geno tips his head to the side when he sees he’s on the phone then climbs onto the bed beside him, the mattress dipping beneath his weight.

Sid settles his hand against the curve of his cheek. His skin is soft and warm from the shower.

“I’m really happy.”

“Then yeah,” Flower says in his ear, “you won.”