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Always for the First Time

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Il y a
Qu’à me pencher sur le précipice
et de ton absence
J’ai trouvé le secret
De t’aimer
Toujours pour la première fois

Andre Breton, Toujours pour la première fois

I

New York was grey, rain-soaked, and comparatively anonymous. Sidney amused himself with the pre-season novelty of wandering into a hotel through the front door instead of being sneaked through the back. A porter took his bag up to the small room on the fifth floor, and he slipped the room key into his pocket, bought coffee, and then went upstairs to freshen up and change. He’d dithered over the right outfit while packing, wondering if he should buy something new, something utterly exotic and quite unlike himself, like a - like a red shirt. Eventually, though, he went with an old suit, navy blue, something that he already knew Geno liked. A man could only bend so far; Sidney was doubled over with love and fear as it was.

In any case, a game like this, played out partly in public, was risky enough. They didn’t need to attract any extra attention after a summer spent apart. ‘Will Penguins Romance Survive Tough Loss’ was a headline that he had caught himself glancing at, last month, before sensibly closing his browser and avoiding the press. He could spare himself a follow up of ‘Crosby Does Retail Therapy’ on all the sports blogs. Anyhow, there was nothing wrong, at least nothing that couldn’t be fixed, provided they could just sit down and talk about it. If Geno wanted something different, then Sidney could be different. Or at least, he could try. Sidney sat down on the hotel bed that he hoped he wouldn’t sleep in, and contemplated his suit, hanging in a bag off the closet door. Perhaps it might be less selfish, less risky to let go of the whole relationship, but Sidney couldn’t let go, not if he tried. He was in too deep, and he loved every agonizing moment of it. He rubbed at his forehead with one hand, and then put on his suit and his game face and went back downstairs.

In the elevator, Sidney turned on his phone for the first time after his flight that morning and it exploded with notifications. He apologised for the noise to the lady next to him in the elevator, but she only ignored him with a curl of her lip. There were dozens of texts, but only one that mattered - Geno had said, “6 pm, library,” followed by a string of emojis that Sidney was going to pretend not to understand. He blinked at the message in the lobby, chewing his lip, and then intercepted a hotel employee at the reception desk.

“Hi,” said Sidney, and the woman smiled back at him, professional and disinterested. There was not a flicker of recognition in her eyes; it put Sidney at ease immediately. “I was wondering if you could help me out. I’m supposed to meet someone around here at, er, a library?” His voice lifted up questioningly, and he gave her his best helpless smile to boot, and for his troubles he got precise directions to a set of large double doors on the first floor, with embossed brass letters indicating that he had found The Library. Geno had picked it out so naturally this was, despite the name, a bar. It was exactly the sort of slightly pretentious, overwrought, leather-and-velvet affair that Geno loved. There were even a few stray books in it, to make the carnival of kitsch complete. Sidney had lightened up considerably by the time he found Geno, standing beside a long, glossy wooden counter top, looking bored and uncomfortable while a man in a Hawaiian shirt talked at him.

Sidney walked up to them, gently touching Geno’s elbow, and leaned forward to shake the man’s hand. “Holy shit, hi! It’s you!” said the man. “I was just talking to Geno here about the PP -” and Sidney said smoothly, “We were just going to get some drinks, I hope you won’t mind if we excuse ourselves,” and walked away, trusting that Geno would follow. “Rude,” commented Geno, a little admiringly, as Sidney made his way through the mostly-empty bar to a small alcove in the corner. It was private, as private as could be in a place like this. “Sorry, I maybe picked the wrong place -” he continued, but Sidney waved off the apology with a gesture, then handed Geno into the booth and sat across from him. If Geno wanted to do this, by God, they were going to do it and do it right, and for that Sidney needed to be - perhaps, not himself. Maybe a little rude, even. It was strangely liberating. How did people live like this? The urge to go apologize was strong but the desire to stay here with Geno stronger still.

They looked at each other, Geno smirking, but with an edge of meanness, like he was ready to fight at a moment’s notice. Sidney watched him steadily until Geno dropped his gaze, only to look back up sharply when Sidney tapped the table between them with a fingernail. They could either acknowledge that it was foolish for two people who had known each other for ten years to pretend to be strangers in a bar for the sole purpose of getting laid. Or they could keep pretending in the hopes that this would adventure would work for Geno, would be enough for Geno, and by that dint, also for Sidney.

“So,” said Sidney, clearing his throat, and looking at Geno, letting his eyes rest on Geno’s mouth blatantly. “Come here often?”

It nearly worked. For a minute Geno’s mouth opened, his eyes darkened, and he looked at Sid as though he had never seen this side of him before his lips started quivering. Sidney struggled not to laugh, himself because that was an objectively absurd line, but after aggressively avoiding eye contact, and a few deep breaths, they managed to get themselves under control.

“Yeah - yes,” said Geno, his voice thick with the laughter held in his throat. He coughed slightly, and looked at Sid, poking his tongue between his teeth. He looked huge and tan and a little cheeky: an unfairly attractive mess. “You?” he asked Sidney.

“Now and then,” said Sidney, noncommittally. “I hope you didn’t mind my interfering. It looked that guy was - uh - bothering you.”

“No,” said Geno. “I don’t mind. He was bothering me. But I don’t need a rescue.”

“No,” said Sidney. “You don’t look like you need help. But I wanted an excuse - to talk to you.” He managed to inject just the right amount of innuendo into that comment, far over the line of decency but still short of outright sleaze.

“Talk to me?” Geno managed to sound genuinely surprised, though of course it wasn’t genuine. Of course Geno knew that in any room, in any city, Sidney’s attention swung straight to him, attuned like a needle in a compass. Didn’t he? Wasn’t Sidney here, in Geno’s favourite suit, eye-fucking him in a Manhattan bar? He didn’t do this for just anyone. Sidney bit down on his annoyance and said, as smoothly as he could muster, “Yes, you.”

“Okay. Buy me a drink,” said Geno, suddenly agreeable. Sidney held up a hand, casually, keeping his eyes on Geno, and a waiter made his way over to their table. “I want-” began Geno, and Sidney said, “He’ll have the Laphroaig, and so will I. Two fingers each, and no ice, please.” The waiter nodded and left. “Maybe I don’t want that,” said Geno, looking a little put out, and Sidney stretched his legs out under the table, just so they knocked against Geno’s ankles, and said, “Maybe you do.” Geno turned very slightly red, and Sidney watched, fascinated, as the colour spread across Geno’s throat and cheeks.

They looked at each other over the table, and there it was, teetering at the edge. They could either acknowledge how idiotic this pretense was, or lean into it all the way. Looking at Geno, Sidney saw the precise moment at which Geno decided to lean in. Geno slouched, spread his legs a little under the table, hooked one arm behind his head and looked at Sidney through his lashes. It was at once shy and challenging, and so very Geno, his instincts constantly at war within him.

Their drinks arrived. Geno sipped his, made a face, and sipped again, thoughtfully. Sidney watched him and left his own glass sweating small drops of condensation on the table.

“You wanted to talk,” said Geno. “So. Talk.”

“I didn’t want to talk, I wanted to talk to you.” said Sidney. He smiled a guileless smile at Geno, his body own loose and open, and let his eyes travel from Geno’s face, down to where his shirt collar hung open, revealing smooth, tanned skin, and then back up.

“So talk to me,” shrugged Geno, visibly unimpressed.

“I like your shirt,” said Sidney. He hated that shirt. Geno had probably worn it on purpose. “It looks good on you.” It didn’t.

“Thanks,” said Geno. “It’s my favourite.” He took another slug of the Laphroaig and blanched, but made no attempt to order a different drink for himself.

“I saw you in that shirt across the bar, as I walked in,” said Sidney, “and I thought to myself, that looks like someone - someone I’d - uh - like to get to know better.” A weak effort. He could probably have gone with something more explicit. Sidney squared his shoulders.

Geno eyed him over the table. “What do you do?” he asked. Clearly, he had no intention of making this easy for Sid.

“I’m in advertising,” said Sidney, easily. “Here for work.” They hadn’t talked about this, but Sidney was a planner by nature, and had worked out a backstory on the flight, complete with a googled list of professional qualifications, extended family, hobbies, and pets. Not that he planned to hand over a resume before fucking, but it was the principle of the thing, being prepared. Geno was probably winging it. Sidney wondered what he would come up with.

“I play hockey,” said Geno. “In the NHL.” The little shit. Sidney glared. Two could play at that game.

“Oh, really?” said Sid, sweetly. “I”m not really into hockey, I’m afraid. More of a baseball guy myself. Hockey seems sort of boring and - and violent, to be honest.” Geno looked up, startled, then narrowed his eyes, and raising his glass, swallowed his entire drink. It made him cough, but Sid ignored his desire to reach over and pat Geno on his back, and instead sat there waiting until Geno had recovered himself.

“You alright?” he said carelessly, when Geno had got his breath back. He held up a hand again, wordlessly summoning the waiter, and ordered another of the same drink for Geno when the waiter reappeared. “And a glass of water please,” he added. “I don’t think he’s used to the intensity of Islay malts.” He smiled at the waiter, inviting him into a confidence that left Geno out. The waiter’s eyes widened and he reflexively smiled back at Sidney before leaving. Geno glared. It was mean and quite like poking a bear. More fun than Sidney had expected.

“So what brings you to New York? Isn’t it the off season?” asked Sidney, once the waiter had brought their drinks, and gone.

“Photo shoot, sponsors, press.” said Geno. “But there are too many reporters, too many fans. I don’t like it.”

“No,” said Sidney. “I imagine that it can be pretty stressful. It must feel good, to sit here, at the end of the day, to - uh - relax and have a good drink.” The photo shoot would probably have gone smoother had they given Geno a drink first. Sid made a mental note, then shook off the thought.

“Yes,” said Geno, still a little hoarse. He picked up the fresh glass that the waiter had set down in front of him and tried it again. “It’s nice. I think.” He looked dubiously at the glass in his hand.

Sidney watched him toy with the rim. “Sip it slowly,” he suggested. “Let it rest in your mouth.”

“Bitter,” said Geno, making another face, possibly at Sidney, possibly at the drink, but trying it again.

“But in a good way,” said Sidney, “You should let yourself really taste it, all the flavour on your tongue, and the - the burn in the back of your throat, when you swallow.” Not even a little bit subtle. He watched Geno sputter, finally picking up his own glass. “You’re an athlete, you’re probably used to drinking cheap beer if you drink at all, isn’t that right?”

“Yes,” said Geno, cautiously.

“Well, you’ll learn,” said Sid, and then, leaning hard on his instincts, said, “You’re still young. There’s a whole world out there for you to experience.”

“Yes,” said Geno, but this time a little hesitant, and - Sid’s instincts had never led him wrong yet. “I’m maybe - I'm younger than you?” he asked, looking up at Sid through his lashes, a little defiant, unexpectedly sweet.

“You probably are, but that’s alright,” said Sidney with a calmness that he did not feel. “Would you like me to introduce you to something else, perhaps?” Geno blinked, his mouth falling slightly open, and Sid allowed himself a small smile before continuing, “For instance, something different to drink, maybe something a little - uh - smoother. The Laphroaig is a bit like jumping into the deep end of the pool.” It was a statement designed to provoke Geno’s pride in usual circumstances, but instead this Geno ducked his head and said carefully, to Sid, “Yes, I will like that, thank you.” The flush on his face and neck had spread down to his chest, slightly visible through the open collar of his shirt. “I’m just starting with NHL, I can buy for myself, but I don’t know what’s good.” Geno bit his lip; so this part atleast was a little true, or Geno felt it hit home. Sidney sipped his drink and felt the whiskey spread warmth in his throat and chest and belly.

“One of the pleasures of having money,” he said to Geno, gravely, “is learning to spend it well.” It was a direct quote from Mario, but he was reasonably sure that this particular lecture had been delivered mostly to Sidney in the depths of the Lemieux wine cellar, and never to Geno. He beckoned the waiter over, and ordered Geno the Aberlour to follow. “You’ll like this,” he said, to Geno. “It’s smoother, and has a - less threatening flavour.” The waiter hesitated before he left, and then at Sidney’s raised eyebrow, said, “I apologise, Sir, but the gentleman in the, er, orange shirt across the room appears to be trying to attract your attention.”

Sidney looked over, and sure enough, the Hawaiian shirt guy who had been nagging Geno about the PP was waving them over. By his red sweaty face and the litter of glasses on his table, he appeared to be drunk, and Sidney wanted more than anything to disappear him into the bowels of the earth before he interrupted the sweet, delicate game unfolding between him and Geno. “Thanks,” said Sidney dismissively, and the waiter left.

“Fans,” said Geno, looking as frustrated as Sidney felt. “I’m sorry. Everywhere I go.”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Sidney. “But perhaps, if you would be more comfortable, we could take this somewhere else. Maybe somewhere more private. Somewhere where we wouldn’t be interrupted.”

Geno hesitated again, and then said, “Come up to my room.”

Sidney arranged for the drinks to be sent upstairs to Geno’s room and signed the receipt, with Geno hanging around, looking over his shoulder and carefully avoiding eye contact with the Hawaiian shirt guy yelling ‘Hey’ from a few tables away. “Hey kid!” he called, and Sidney slipped out quickly, flashing the guy a smile and a wave, Geno quick on his heels as they left.

“Sorry,” said Geno again, outside in the corridor. “Website said it’s a private bar for hotel guests only, so I thought, less crowded, more quiet.”

“It’s alright,” said Sidney, and put his hand low and possessive on the dip of Geno’s lower back, right there in the corridor. Geno paused at that, and then leaned back just a little into Sidney’s hand. It was perfect. It was not nearly enough.

They bumped into fans again at the elevator and ended up signing autographs, but managed to duck out of too many questions by the time-honoured device of Geno pretending that he didn’t understand what they were saying and Sidney pretending he didn’t know enough Russian to translate. “Sorry, I’m little bit bad English,” Geno said apologetically to them. He ducked out on the floor below his room as a precaution, leading Sidney to the stairwell once the elevator had left.

“Your English is not that bad,” said Sidney, always entertained by this particular charade. “You’re - uh - Russian, right?”

Geno poked his tongue out between his teeth, pausing in the stairwell to turn back and look at Sidney. “It’s bad, but maybe not so bad. I took classes when I came to America. But if everyone knows I understand, then I have to do lots of interviews and I hate interviews. So I say, English so bad, I’m not understand, ask captain, bye, sorry not sorry.” He began climbing the stairs again and Sidney followed. His ass was so round and right there in front of Sidney. God.

“So you dump all the press work on your teammates,” said Sidney, “Nice. I’m sure they love that.” At least this argument was familiar territory for them. It was a testament to how far Sidney was gone on this man, that he found Geno’s smuggest face as hopelessly attractive as his exceptional ass. “They’re very nice, my teammates,” Geno bragged, as he unlocked his door. “Nice to me.”

Sidney stepped in after him, and well, this was the much-debated salon room that Geno had booked, with a small sitting area and a little kitchenette and a view of Manhattan, and a giant white bed looming at them right in the middle. “Nice,” repeated Sidney, struck dumb by thoughts of Geno over those sheets in just a little while more. Geno stepped closer to him, but Sidney waved him over to the couch and went over to the window to give himself space to get a grip. “Sit down,” he said, looking over his shoulder. “Room service should be here soon.” Geno went sulkily, but Sid could make him work for it, too, so they waited in amiable silence, until the drinks had been left on the small coffee table. Sidney poured Geno a generous couple of fingers, and took a bottle of water for himself, back to the big windows.

“With all these fans,” said Sidney, pretending to be contemplative, “it must be difficult for you to go out and just, do normal things, like date, I guess.”

“It’s hard,” agreed Geno. He sipped his new drink. “I like this,” he gestured at the Aberlour that Sidney had poured for him. His cheeks were pink and his body relaxed, a long line on the couch, his feet up on the coffee table. He’d slipped off his shoes and socks shamelessly, and Sidney stood with one hand in his pocket and let his gaze sweep down to Geno’s bared feet, and then back up to where his throat worked convulsively. Geno swallowed, then went on. “Hard to date, because you don’t know if fans, if fans will tell the press stories, like oh, he has a big dick, too big for me.”

Sidney snorted, but didn’t rise to the obvious bait. “So how do you date? If you don’t mind me asking.” He wandered over to the couch and sat down beside Geno. Perhaps a little too close for a stranger. Not close enough for Sidney.

“I don’t,” said Geno. “There’s someone I like,” he added. “But it’s complicated.”

“Tell me,” said Sidney, encouragingly. “I’ve been around a bit. Maybe I can help you with some advice. I promise I’ll be discreet.”

“Maybe I make you sign NDA first,” said Geno, clearly testing the waters. Sidney gave him a dire look and Geno subsided.

“You married? Girlfriend? Boyfriend?” asked Geno. “Afraid not,” said Sidney. He placed his hand beside Geno’s on the couch, mostly to feel it twitch against his own and sipped his water.

“But you date?” asked Geno, ignoring Sidney’s hand. Sidney let the side of his palm rest against Geno’s fingers, and felt them twitch again.

“Sure,” said Sidney. “I’ve dated men and women. I’ve had a couple of relationships, but nothing long lasting. I’m married to my work, I guess.” Geno stiffened at this - and here it was, the trap of playing a role when you wanted to be your truest self, but Sidney decided to ride out and prodded Geno’s side. “Tell me about this person of yours.”

“He’s maybe - he dates more than me. He’s handsome. Many people like him.” said Geno. “I don’t know if he wants -” and then stopped and gulped at his drink. “Sip, don’t gulp,” tried Sid, in as firm a voice as he could manage - and Geno obediently sipped. Sidney suppressed the rush at Geno’s unexpectedly biddable behaviour. This was doing it for him so hard. He had no idea it was a thing for him. It was definitely a thing. How had he not discovered this sooner?

“So you’re afraid your guy might be - what - more experienced?” Sidney asked.

“Yes,” said Geno. He was clearly improvising wildly, because he hadn’t given Sidney anything more than “I want us to meet like we’re strangers,” when they discussed this, but Sidney was on surer ground now. He could see how this was playing out, and was probably a few steps ahead of Geno.

“I’m not virgin,” continued Geno, and Sidney said patronizingly, “Not a virgin,” just to see Geno glare, then visibly force himself to nod, and thank Sidney. “Lots of girls, but maybe I don’t do so much with a guy, and I think, maybe he’s disappointed, if we - you know. But I can’t just go out in bars and pick up. So.”

“Well,” said Sidney, and drained his water, setting it down on the coffee table with a click. “Perhaps I can help with that. If you want. I’d like to - to teach you. Whatever you’d like to know. If that’s something you’d be into.” The answer was obviously going to be yes, but Sidney still found himself holding his breath, waiting to see what Geno would say.

“You?” said Geno, pretending to be shocked. “I don’t even know your name.” But he looked up at Sidney through his lashes, his mouth pink and wet, and turned willingly when Sidney kissed him, muttered his name into Geno’s ear. It felt like winning even though Geno was Sidney's sure thing.

“Zhenya,” said Geno, in Sidney’s ear, tapping his own chest, and at that, Sid paused and drew back because that was Geno’s name for a circle of people to which Sidney did not belong; Russians and his parents and people who were not Sidney but loved Geno anyway. He was so infuriating, creating these intimacies in the middle of some obnoxious hotel room sex adventure, but Sidney could feel Geno’s lips moving across his mouth, swallowing all his objections before he drew back.

“My name is Evgeni, but you call me Zhenya,” he said again, carefully, looking at Sidney straight in the eye. “You teach me,” he added, folding his hand around Sidney’s lapel and tugging Sidney closer. When Geno tacked on a wide-eyed, “Please,” Sidney gave in and said, “Yes, sure, okay, anything you want, Zhenya,” and kissed him hard with everything he had.

II

“Tell me what you like,” said Sidney, quietly, sometime later. Zhenya was mostly below Sidney, all that solid, muscular weight spread over him, and pinning him down onto the couch. It filled Zhenya with a mix of panic and delight, and he let both feelings rush hotly through his body, arching up against Sidney and thrilling at the resistance when Sidney pressed him back down. “I don’t know,” he said, and Sidney hummed and returned to kissing his neck: soft, open-mouthed, sucking bites and licks that made Zhenya shiver and sigh. “You do,” said Zhenya, and then swallowed. “You do what you like, and I -”

“You’ll tell me if you don’t like anything or want to stop,” said Sidney, leaning up from Zhenya and looking down at his face. His mouth was a red, serious line, Zhenya wanted it on his body. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I will tell you.” “Okay,” said Sidney. “I don’t know what I like,” said Zhenya, again, revelling in this feeling of strange innocence, revelling in Sidney smiling down at him, sharp and hungry, and saying 'Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you'. It was exactly what Zhenya needed to hear after all these months apart.

Sidney tugged him up, and over to the bed, pulling the comforter off, and tossing it onto the floor. “Sit,” he said, pointing towards the headboard, and Zhenya went and sat in the middle of the giant white bed, fully dressed and inescapably aroused. He watched as Sidney puttered around the room, taking off his shoes and socks, folding his suit jacket and hanging it over the chair, turning down the light a little, and finally sitting on the bed, facing Zhenya, with a half-smile on his face. “You good?” he asked, and Zhenya could see that he meant it seriously, as a question about Zhenya’s current state, but also his heart. “Great,” said Zhenya, with deep feeling, and with that confirmation, Sidney’s half-smile disappeared, his eyes dark and intent.

Zhenya shifted around as Sidney watched him, his expression giving away nothing. He thumbed at Zhenya’s mouth, prodding till it fell open and then slipped two fingers in, quick and unexpected. Zhenya sucked instinctively at them, which seemed to please Sidney, because he left them there, resting on Zhenya’s tongue, warm and thick and invasive. Zhenya let his eyes fall closed and enjoyed the weight of Sidney’s fingers in his mouth, a precursor to all the good things he wanted and was about to get. Would Sidney let him go down on his knees and suck him? Finger him open with the same wet fingers that were currently in his mouth? There were so many possibilities and all of them appealing.

“You seem experienced enough at this,” noted Sidney, and Zhenya cracked one eye open to glare, but Sidney looked relaxed and calm, the way he did when dealing with the press or fans or sometimes Zhenya himself. Zhenya wanted to ruffle all his feathers, but also wanted this at the same time, Sidney cool and collected while Zhenya fell apart over two fingers on his tongue. Zhenya licked around Sidney’s fingertips, letting them slide all the way out of his mouth and then all the way back down again, maybe a little deeper than was comfortable, till Sidney’s knuckles were pressed against his lips. Sidney let him, for a moment, and then tugged him flat on the bed before sitting astride his hips. He let Zhenya take his entire weight, for once, pinning him down to the bed instead of politely hovering above. It was a lot and it felt good. “Feels good,” said Zhenya, seeing no reason to keep this information to himself. He heard the amusement when Sidney said, “We haven’t even started yet,” but let his eyes slide closed as Sidney bent over and kissed Zhenya again, deeply, so deeply that Zhenya felt down to his bones that he was wanted, had been missed, was loved.

Zhenya lay there and let Sidney cover him and kiss him until he felt like someone had melted him into the mattress. He had wrapped his arms around Sidney, as Sidney slowly stretched out over him, and he wanted to keep them there, but also somehow to touch Sidney’s soft hair and his mouth and maybe cup his generous ass, all at the same time. He couldn’t decide, so he held on instead and let himself be drugged by Sidney’s careful, tender mouth. It was good, it was always great, and this was better, if that could even be possible, and Zhenya should have fantastic ideas like hotel room stranger sex more often. Sidney stopped kissing him to chuckle, and when Zhenya made a small sound of protest, he actually laughed out loud, his belly vibrating against Zhenya’s body.

“What?” asked Zhenya, opening his eyes, and Sidney said words, but Zhenya had no idea what he was saying. He struggled to focus, and then ended up with saying, “Kiss me more,” but Sidney was already sitting up, a sight worthy of the devil, his mouth red and his cheeks red, all in Zhenya’s lap. “Tell me what you’d like to try first,” said Sidney, still sounding amused. Fuck him. “I don’t -” began Zhenya, but Sidney cut him off with an offer - “I could suck you, if you like.” If you closed your eyes and listened, it would sound exactly like he was offering Zhenya a cup of coffee, or telling him it was half-past five, or that the weather was mild. Like it made no difference to him whatsoever. “Yes,” said Zhenya, shivering. “Please.”

“Then, after that, if you want, I could open you up with my fingers. Have you done that before? I have. It feels incredible, you could let me show you.” Sidney was slowly unbuttoning Zhenya’s shirt and baring his chest, pausing to let one hand trail over a nipple, the other, a warm, steady weight over Zhenya’s heart. “Yes, do it,” croaked Zhenya. He was already hard, could feel Sidney hard against him, too. “And then, if you like it, if you’re enjoying it, I could fuck you,” said Sidney, casually tracing over Zhenya’s nipples with a fingertip. “Yes, yes,” said Zhenya, fervently, and then he said, “Please,” again, begging just a little bit as Sidney tugged off Zhenya’s shirt and pants and underwear, and laid him down again. “Easy,” said Sidney. “I’ll give you what you want. Do you have lube? Have you done this before?”

Zhenya pointed mutely to the bedside table, where he had left lube and condoms in a paper bag. Sidney retrieved them, dropped them beside his hip, and sat between Zhenya’s spread legs. “Have you done this before?” he asked again, and Zhenya bit his lip, and then shook his head. Of course he had. But he wanted Sidney like this, careful and uncaring at the same time. A familiar stranger. It was so hot, but Zhenya could never suppress the devil that made mischief inside him. “One time, I try,” he amended. “With a guy on my team. It’s not great.” Sidney’s mouth fell open at that, but he recovered swiftly and said, “Well, whoever it was probably didn’t know what they were doing. I can make it better, for you.”

“You’re some expert?” asked Zhenya, teasingly - a big mistake, because Sidney just smiled, wriggled down, curled over him and sucked him down so deep that Zhenya shouted and grabbed Sidney’s hair and tugged harder than he should have. It lasted less than a few seconds, and Sidney pulled off, pulled Zhenya’s hands out of his hair, and placed them beside Zhenya’s head, on the pillow. “Keep them there,” he said, seriously. “Expert at work. Don’t get in the way, eh?” He went straight back down on Zhenya’s cock again, and Zhenya stretched his arms upwards till his palms were pressed against the headboard, anchoring him in place. Sidney’s mouth was hot and wet and Zhenya was already so hard, just from this. Sidney sucked cock aggressively, in complete contrast to the diffident politeness with which he treated Zhenya and everyone else in day to day life. It was delicious and consuming and one of Zhenya’s favourite things about him.

“Don’t come,” warned Sidney, pulling off again, and Zhenya whined and jerked his hips up to follow Sidney, but Sidney pressed him back down again, working the flat of his tongue against the head of Zhenya’s cock, and it was almost too good to bear, a little too sensitive to feel good, even a little painful, which was perhaps better than pleasure. Zhenya pushed up against Sidney’s hands to make Sidney push him back down again, which he did, after only a second’s hesitation. It felt like amazing, and then Sidney gripped his hips and took him down again, sucking relentlessly with wet, sloppy, throaty sounds.

Zhenya was going to - “Gonna come,” he gasped out, and Sidney pulled off again, looking pleased. “Don’t,” he said again, and thumbed at his own mouth, a little swollen and wet with spit. Zhenya closed his eyes in self-defence. Sidney was running his hands up Zhenya’s legs, from his knees, all the way up to his thighs, drifting to his stomach and back down again, scratching lightly at the wiry hairs trailing over his abdomen. “You’re really hot,” he heard Sidney say, but couldn’t respond, couldn’t do anything but pant. “Hold on a little bit, you’re being so good,” said Sidney, sounding further away, but he had just sat back on his haunches, and was watching Zhenya. When Zhenya felt a little calmer, he said, “Okay, do more,” and Sidney laughed, his eyes crinkling a bit. Zhenya was in love and nothing could contain his feelings for Sidney.

He waited for Sidney to touch his cock again, maybe suck him, because Sidney loved it, loved doing it for Zhenya, but Sidney just continued touching him, soft, drifting strokes. Zhenya felt his erection soften a little, but he was still so turned on by the gentle touches, pinned to the bed by his own hands on the headboard and Sidney’s serious gaze. When he couldn’t take it anymore, Zhenya began to beg again, and Sidney took his hands entirely off Zhenya’s body, which was the opposite of what he wanted. “Shhh, relax, I’ve got you,” said Sidney over his protests and removed his cufflinks and watch, leaning over to drop them on the side table. Zhenya arched briefly and subsided because Sidney came back quickly, kissing him deep and hard.

He sat back down between Zhenya’s thighs and rolled up his sleeves slowly, his eyes on Zhenya, hands working automatically and competently as he watched Zhenya harden again. Zhenya could feel Sidney’s gaze as if it were an actual touch upon his body and he responded, his nipples pebbling, a hot feeling rushing across his face and neck. Sidney’s lips were slightly parted and Zhenya knew that he was appreciating the view, that he looked great lying there with his summer tan and blotchy face and heaving chest. “Sidney,” he said, once, but Sidney shook his head at him so he shut up, and waited until Sidney had picked up the lube and covered two fingers with it and had them pressed against his hole, just gently rubbing and touching.

“Normally, I’d start with one, but you’re so impatient,” said Sidney, conversationally. His thumb pressed lightly against the base of Zhenya’s balls, sending a delicious rush through the entire lower half of his body. “I think you can take two right away,” he continued, maddeningly calm, and followed his words with action, slipping them in and up. It felt strange, a little painful, it always did for a moment, and Sidney let him adjust, using his free hand to press Zhenya’s cock against his belly, touch his balls, his hips, and back down again. “Okay?” he asked, and Zhenya nodded. It wasn’t, but he couldn’t wait any more, wanting that driving pressure inside him.

“Okay,” said Sidney, scooting down and curling over again. He licked Zhenya’s cock, which predictably made Zhenya shout, and then looked up at him. “You can come,” he advised Zhenya, and then got down to the very serious business of sucking Zhenya’s good sense out through his dick. Zhenya yelled, protested, begged a little more, and pushed down on the fingers that Sidney had held steady against his prostate, loving everything about all the things he was feeling and the things Sidney was doing to him. When Sidney pulled his mouth off Zhenya and let his fingers slide out and back in again a few times, firm and insistent, Zhenya came so hard there were actual tears in his eyes, blurring his vision when he could open them again. Sidney was soothing him with soft, gentle touches and words, telling him how good he did and how great it was to see him come, wet and messy all over his own belly. He had two fingers still inside Zhenya, which rode the edge between pain and pleasure still, but Zhenya liked that, probably liked it more than was reasonable. “Take your time,” said Sidney, patiently. “Catch your breath and we’ll get back to it. I’m going to fuck you next, and it’s going to be better.” Zhenya felt like he was about to expire, and who knew, he actually might. No man was made to survive this.

Zhenya could feel the dampness collected at the edge of his eyes, trailing down to his temples. He wanted to brush it off but also to stay exactly like this, with Sidney looking down at him and murmuring soft things like, ‘Was that good?’ and ‘You’re so beautiful, god’ and ‘I’ve never seen anyone like you’. He knew that Sidney didn’t like this himself, was too much of a hedonist to enjoy either the slight pain or the humiliating helplessness of overstimulation, but Zhenya loved it and had missed it. And that seemed to work for Sidney, a sort of call and response, a feedback loop in which Zhenya’s obvious pleasure echoed in Sidney.

“Okay,” he said, at last, languorously arching his back, pushing down against Sidney’s knuckles and simultaneously up with his palms against the headboard. “Okay, you fuck me now.” He tried to part his thighs wider but Sidney knelt up and sat back again heavily, and he was trapped there, pinned under Sidney and on his fingers. “Did you enjoy that?” said Sidney again, levelly, and he was asking, so Zhenya told him so in emphatic terms, answering with his body and his words, showing him how much he loved it.

“Good,” said Sidney and stayed there, as he was. “When you do this with - your person -” he continued, and for a moment, Zhenya was lost - what person, Sidney was Zhenya’s person - but their game came rushing back to him when Sidney reached over and kissed him hard to get his attention. Sidney went on a bit, after that, but Zhenya lost track, enjoying the feeling of pressure inside him while Sidney was seriously lecturing him about affirmative consent and adequate levels of lubrication. It was not the point of this game, but it was so very Sidney. Zhenya was done pretending - he had come and Sidney was going to fuck him, but Sidney was the sort to relentlessly follow through and Zhenya could indulge him in return.

“Listen to me,” said Sidney sharply, and when Zhenya just sighed, he reached down and tugged at one of Zhenya’s nipples, just painful enough to hold his attention. “I am,” protested Zhenya, but Sidney shook his head and withdrew his fingers carefully from Zhenya’s body. “I like,” said Zhenya, outraged, and Sidney said, “Yes, I know, but you asked me to - to fuck you. To teach you. You said so.”

“Okay, good, now I tell you what I like, I like your fingers, now fuck me,” said Zhenya, and Sid, unmoved by the entreaty or the desperation, said calmly, “I will, if you behave. Be - good. Be good for me.” Zhenya stopped wriggling at once and looked up and Sidney through his lashes. “I’m good,” he tried wheedling, the tone that got Sidney to make him pancakes and stay late after practice with him to develop his edgework. “I’m sure you can be good, if you try,” said Sidney, conceding nothing, not a pancake, to Zhenya. He climbed off the bed and stood there, hard and still dressed in his nice blue pants, his shirtsleeves rolled up. “Put your fingers back,” demanded Zhenya, feeling empty and wanting to be filled by Sidney, but Sidney shook his head and just touched him once, a thumb on the tear tracks at his temple.

“Come on,” said Sidney, eventually. “Get up, come over here.” He walked over to the couch, and then past it, pushing the big leather ottoman out of the way. Zhenya wobbled to his feet and made his way to the couch, but Sidney caught him with an arm around his waist and nudged him over to the ottoman instead. Zhenya looked over his shoulder, questioningly, but Sidney handed him a bottle of water and waited while Zhenya sipped slowly. When Zhenya had finished, Sidney placed his hand on Zhenya’s back, low and claiming, and carefully bent him over, pushing and arranging until Zhenya was on his hands and knees on the ottoman, facing the smudged city lights and bright windows in the buildings across the street.

Zhenya swallowed. This was not unexpected - but still. In a building across the road, a man sat in a cubicle on the ninth floor, bright white lights outlining his back as he curved over a desk. In the next window, Zhenya could see a conference room table, a few people sitting around it. The windows in his hotel room stretched from floor to ceiling, a glass box suspended over the city. Any one of those people could look up and see him like this, naked and splayed for Sidney, his back arching under Sidney’s wide hands, his head dropping as Sidney traced a finger down the line of his spine and over his hole, down to brush his balls and then tracing his thighs, his calves, his feet. Every single part of his body was open and exposed to the world, every nerve lit up. “Sid,” said Zhenya once, and then, “Sid,” again.

“Stay like that,” said Sidney. His voice sounded further away, and there was a slight scritching sound. Zhenya raised his head, and realised he could see a little, in the reflected glass: Sidney sitting on the couch behind him, refilling Zhenya’s own glass with whiskey and sipping, putting his mouth where Zhenya’s had just been. “Sidney,” said Zhenya, desperately, and Sidney said nothing, but Zhenya could hear the click as he put his glass down, and then picked it up again. “Stay,” said Sidney, almost absently, his own palm pressing lightly against the front of his slacks and then releasing. "Just like that, exactly how I put you."

Zhenya dropped his neck, arched briefly, and then resettled his legs a little wider, hoping to tempt Sidney into action with a glimpse of how open and wet he was. Sidney got up once, to retrieve the lube and condoms, but otherwise didn’t touch him. Instead he talked, just a little, telling Zhenya how easy it would be for people to see him, how much he must like being on display, his body belonging to everyone on the ice, but only to Sidney. “They can’t touch you,” said Sidney, quietly, so quiet that Zhenya had to strain to hear him. “Only I can, here, in this room. Let them look. Let them take their photographs.” “But you don’t touch!” said Zhenya, and Sidney said, “I can, and I will, and all you have to do is wait for it, that’s all,” which made Zhenya sob a little, his knees stiff and his stomach itchy with dried come, his back aching as he curved into the arch that Sidney had made of him.

When Sidney finally touched him, Zhenya had lost all sense of time. He could have been kneeling there ten minutes or ten hours, he didn’t know. All he could feel was relief as Sidney’s fingers slid back inside him, stretching him, filling him exactly the way he wanted. He pushed back to feel more of Sidney’s solid, thick summer weight against his thighs but Sidney moved with him, gracefully edging out of the way. Two fingers again, this time nice and easy, and then three - a stretch that reawakened Zhenya’s dick abruptly. Sidney had smeared lube all over his ass and balls, everything was wet and slick. Zhenya felt like his entire soul was leaking out of his body and into Sidney’s hands.

“I’m going to fuck you now,” said Sidney, quiet and implacable, and didn’t wait for Zhenya to say anything, just slid right in, in one long, insistent thrust that rocked Zhenya within and without. His hands scrabbled for purchase on the leather, and Sidney waited, letting him adjust, letting him bear down and tighten, until Zhenya gasped out, “Okay, okay, give me,” and Sidney did it again, sliding out and slowly back into him, deep into Zhenya's very core. A few more thrusts and Zhenya was rock hard again, his dick leaking onto the leather and tears gathering in his eyes, everything liquid and molten. “Oh god,” said Zhenya, and Sidney huffed behind him, hauling his hips in and then setting about fucking Zhenya in earnest.

Zhenya tried, he did, but the force of Sidney’s weight behind him, pressing into him, sent his arms buckling until he was tilted like that, head down and ass up, just taking everything that Sidney gave. It was a lot to take, maybe excessive for other people, but not for Zhenya. He liked more than anything this feeling of too much and not enough, and had been lucky enough to find someone who could, and did give him just a little more than he thought he could take. “Come here,” said Sidney, but before Zhenya could lift his head, Sidney had hooked both hands under Zhenya’s arms and hauled him up, pulling him tight and close to Sidney’s chest.

Zhenya tugged weakly at the arm pinning him in place; God, he didn’t even know why he was doing it or what he wanted, but Sidney knew. He held Zhenya against his chest and fucked him, and slipped the fingers of his free hand back into Zhenya’s mouth, exactly the way they had begun. Zhenya sucked and spread and let himself be fucked until Sidney cried out behind him, once and twice, his hips stuttering as he came. “No,” said Zhenya weakly, pushing back, but Sidney gasped and said, “Wait, wait,” and then closed a sticky hand over Zhenya’s dick, tugging firm and steady until Zhenya came over himself a second time, emptied out and filled up again to the brim.

Sidney let Zhenya rest against him for a few moments, and then pulled him off the ottoman, and dragged him, stiff-legged and sticky, over to the couch. Zhenya drifted off for a while, and returned sometime later to find his legs draped over Sidney’s thighs, as Sidney carefully massaged the pins and needles out of them. “Good,” slurred Zhenya, anticipating the question, and Sidney looked at him and smiled, a real smile this time, not the media smile that he’d been getting all evening, and Zhenya said, “You come here, Sid.” Sidney came willingly, tucking Zhenya close against him and kissing at the wet salt and sweat on Zhenya’s forehead. “Gross,” said Zhenya, but he loved it, loved Sidney.

“Come over to the bed,” said Sidney, a little while later, and Zhenya wobbled back and let the sounds of Sidney wash over him, disposing of the condom, draping the comforter over Zhenya, dabbing ineffectually at the ottoman with some paper towels, and a little more effectively at Zhenya with a damp napkin. “Sid, come on,” he mumbled, and Sidney came over to rest an open palm on the side of Zhenya’s face, to drop a kiss on his hair. “You were good,” he said. “You were great, you were perfect. That was so hot. You’re almost asleep already, huh? God, you look so good. You tanned a bit over the summer, eh?” It was like being covered in a blanket of soft words, safe and warm. “Geno,” said Sidney, and Zhenya let himself curl into the warmth of Sidney’s hand and drifted off to sleep.

When he woke, Sidney was gone, and he was alone.

III

Sidney texted Geno about perhaps getting room service for breakfast, but when he went down to use the hotel gym, he found Geno walking towards to the restaurant on the first floor, his Ipad tucked under his arm and a twist to his mouth that made Sidney’s heart beat just a little harder. “You’re eating now? I thought we could eat together,” said Sidney. “I was just, uh, heading to the gym,” he added, belatedly realising that it was probably obvious from his workout clothes. Geno said nothing, eyeing Sidney a little balefully, and Sidney realised with a sinking feeling that this was Geno’s ‘I’m mad at you’ face. Fuck. “I’ll - uh - go up and change, and meet you at the restaurant,” he said hastily, and when Geno nodded jerkily and went, Sidney bolted for the elevator.

He showered quickly and pulled on a clean shirt and trousers, adding, after a little indecision, a soft, cloudy grey sweater that Geno had once brought him from Russia. Oh god, Geno was going to leave him after buying him a sweater and other things because Sidney had somehow managed to fuck this up. Sidney was at once panicking and infuriated, because this had been Geno’s idea, Geno’s plan - so surely if anyone was to blame it was not Sidney. Sidney never wanted to pretend anything other than that he was wholly and entirely Geno’s; he had himself no need for games and imaginings, only an overwhelming imperative to give Geno anything in the world that he asked for. Could a man be blamed for that?

As Sidney left his room, he heard the elevator ding and bolted to catch it. A woman held the door open, and Sidney turned to thank her and found that she was the same one from yesterday who had looked at him disdainfully for his noisy cellphone. “I, er, thank you,” said Sidney, and she nodded politely at him, said, “You’re very welcome, Mr. Crosby,” and swiftly exited when the elevator stopped, her heels clicking on the marble floor. Sidney awkwardly followed her into the restaurant, relieved when she joined a few people at a table on the veranda, leaving Sidney to make his way to Geno in a slightly less stalker-ish fashion.

Geno was halfway through his own breakfast, a pile of scrambled eggs semi-demolished. Sidney turned around to find a waiter to order his own, but moments later his breakfast was unloaded on to the table, everything that he would have chosen for himself, already ordered and plated in front of him. “Geno,” tried Sidney, and Geno sighed, snapped open a newspaper and ignored him as he shoveled eggs into his mouth. Sidney ate his food, chewing slowly and tasting nothing, while Geno contemplated the baseball scores and sipped his coffee, eyeing Sidney thoughtfully over the table. Sidney shifted a little under Geno’s gaze, and then, refusing to be cowed when had done nothing wrong, put his shoulders back and chin up and ate a spoonful of grapefruit with dignity. Geno looked amused, which only served to annoy Sidney further, and Sidney found himself sitting ramrod straight, elbows tucked in and jaw clenched by the time he had retrieved his own coffee.

“Enjoy coffee now,” advised Geno, under his breath, and Sidney finally relaxed a little. He spooned three lumps of sugar into his cup placidly because Geno knew perfectly well that he loved coffee but refused to drink caffeine during the season. Geno was just winding him up, something he only did when he was content with his life and Sidney's. Geno smiled at Sidney, and Sidney smiled back, dizzyingly in love and filled with relief. They were probably going to be photographed exactly like this, grinning like loons at each other over breakfast, but Sidney just didn’t care. Geno seemed to be not-mad after all, so that might have been his ‘I need coffee’ face and not something Sidney had done - but then Geno shifted a little in his seat, and his face did - something.

Stricken, Sidney leaned over and grabbed his hand. “Did I hurt you, last night?” he asked, as softly as he could. “No, Sid,” said Geno, abruptly, looking around, pulling his hand away. He hissed, “Not here, we don’t talk about it here.” The tables around them were empty, people crowding into the sunny veranda while he and Geno lurked in a dark corner booth. Sidney looked around exaggeratedly, and then spooned up some more grapefruit. “How does this work?” he asked Geno, keeping his voice level and calm. “I can fuck you in front of a window so half of Manhattan can see, but I can’t talk about it in an empty restaurant?”

“Shut up, Sid, not here,” said Geno, venomously, and maintained a chilly silence until they had left the breakfast room and made their way up to Geno’s room again. Sidney kept his hands to himself in the corridor, but Geno curled one arm around Sid’s bicep and left it there, letting Sidney open doors and usher him through them, up until they were back in the room. “You don’t hurt me, Sid,” said Geno, once they were inside. He ducked into the bathroom and Sidney put his hands in his pockets, thrumming with relief. The room looked slightly different. Sidney realised guiltily, after some reflection, that housekeeping had been by, and had either cleaned or maybe entirely replaced the ottoman. They might have had to burn it altogether. He flushed, and then thrilled a little at the memory of Geno curving over it, his spine a long line, his generous ass rounded, Sidney’s hand cupping Geno’s balls below. When Geno tapped his shoulder he jumped, and judging by the smirk he encountered, Geno had clocked onto what Sidney was looking at and probably, what he was remembering as well.

Something had shifted outside the restaurant, Geno’s eyes were soft again, and he tucked Sidney against himself, draping himself like a cat or a scarf, nuzzling close. “I missed you,” he breathed into Sidney’s ear, and Sidney let himself catch Geno’s weight and leaned in and said, “I missed you too.” They hadn’t had time for this, between Geno’s flight in and Sidney’s, to just reclaim lost ground after a long off-season apart. Geno felt good in Sidney’s arms, smelling just the way he usually did, faint soap and spicy aftershave. He hugged with his entire body, not just his arms like most people did, and Sidney found himself clinging back because he didn’t want to lose any of this for any period of time again.

“Hey, hey, Sid,” said Geno. “What’s wrong? You don't - didn't - hurt me. Last night was so hot, so perfect, just like I asked.”

“You’re mad at me,” said Sidney, leaning back reluctantly, to look at Geno. His face was open, slightly worried, but not the least angry. “You were mad at me in the restaurant, and Geno - I don’t know what you want. You have to tell me. I missed you so much, and I just need to know what you want - from me.”

“Want you,” said Geno, looking bemused. “I’m not mad. Just need coffee, you know. Wait, you don’t know.” He cleared his throat and then pitched his voice a little higher. “Caffeine is dangerous because it is addictive,” he began, and it took Sidney a moment to realise that Geno was mimicking him. He laughed, mostly out of gladness, but also because it was a reasonably accurate imitation and so was objectively funny. “See, there’s my Sid,” said Geno, poking a finger into Sidney’s cheek and Sidney went along willingly when Geno collapsed onto the neatly made bed, tugging Sidney on top of him and then wriggling until he was comfortable. “You’re so thick every summer, Sid,” said Geno. “I see pictures on twitter, you’re looking so good, so fit.”

Sidney tucked his nose into Geno’s neck and let Geno talk his nonsense, something about Nate McKinnon and Cole Harbour and summer workouts. It was peaceful, strong summer sun beaming down on them through the open windows. The sheets were fresh and Geno was under him, not mad and cheerfully talking at Sidney. All was right with the world; Sidney had tried, and he found he could be exactly what Geno had wanted him to be.

“Sid,” said Geno patiently, and Sidney lifted his head off Geno’s chest, realising that he had drifted off a little. “Third time lucky,” said Geno, sounding amused, and poked Sidney in the ribs. “Siiiiiid,” he said, and Sidney rolled off Geno, keeping one leg draped over Geno’s hips. “Sorry,” he said, “I’m listening now.”

“Why you think I’m mad, Sid?” said Geno, gently, cupping a hand around Sidney’s jaw. His fingertips brushed Sidney’s hairline, his thumb resting at the corner of Sidney’s mouth. “I missed you and your giant hands,” said Sidney, and then sighed when Geno drilled a finger into Sidney’s ribs again. “Tell me,” said Geno again, sounding curiously soft and patient.

“I don’t know,” conceded Sidney, reluctantly. “I guess it was, what we did yesterday, I was nervous, and then you seemed, I don’t know. Why wouldn’t you talk about it there?”

“Restaurant is public, Sid,” said Geno. “Don’t want to be on Deadspin. Malkin and Crosby throw eggs in Manhattan restaurant.”

“Malkin throws eggs in Manhattan restaurant while Crosby watches his antics,” corrected Sidney. “How is it any less public than fucking in front of an open window, Geno, come on.”

“Window is not open, Sid,” said Geno, sounding terribly amused. “Not - people can’t see. Is dark from outside. I choose hotels after I do research.”

“What, you mean it’s like tinted glass?” asked Sidney, sitting up. “No way, come on.” He looked closely at the window. It looked deceptively transparent and clear. Was it reflective glass, maybe? Sidney had no idea. “You don’t see from outside, when you come?” asked Geno. “Looks like black glass from outside. We can see, they can’t.” Sidney was dumbfounded. He had steeled himself for nothing?

“What was the point, then?” It came out a little shriller than Sidney had intended; he toned it down. “I mean, I thought you wanted people to see, that’s why you emailed about the window.”

“It’s like - maybe we pretend,” said Geno. He was embarrassed now, Sidney noted, avoiding Sidney’s eye and fidding with the waistband of Sidney’s trousers. “I don’t explain it good; I like maybe, I think maybe people can see. But if they actually see it’s not hot. If they see us fight in restaurant or, they see us fuck, it’s not actually hot.”

Sidney lay down again and gathered Geno close, feeling remorseful. “I think I understand now,” he said softly. He dropped a kiss over Geno’s ear, and then stuck his tongue in, to make Geno wriggle and protest. “You like the idea of it, but you’re a pretty private guy, usually. So it's the idea that's hot, but not actually - ” “Yes,” said Geno, his voice muffled against Sidney’s chest. Sidney considered it, again. Every time he thought he had Geno pinned down, understood, he managed to surprise Sidney. It was like looking into a deep well, or maybe the ocean; who knew what lurked underneath. Sidney lay there, holding on to Geno, thinking about this. Who knew what Geno wanted, in his heart, if it was Sidney, or some wholly different person altogether.

Geno was patient, but never for long; soon he was tonguing at Sidney’s neck, and then mouthing at his shirt, worrying at the buttons. “Don’t start shit now, we’re talking like adults,” said Sidney, tugging his shirt closed. “You licked my ear,” said Geno, sounding put out, but this time Sidney was sure he was just joking. “Come on,” said Sidney. “Talk to me. Was it - what you wanted?”

“Mmmm,” said Geno, “but Sid, I have question. You think people can see us, last night. And still you do?”

“Well,” said Sidney, feeling caught. “You wanted it. I was surprised. You don’t really love being in the news. It felt like there was this side of you I didn’t know at all - and I guess I was surprised. I thought I knew you pretty well. But you wanted it, and well.”

“You don’t like?” asked Geno. “What we do - you don’t like.”

“No, I did. I mean, you're so, god, it was so hot. And if people see - I don’t really care, to be honest,” said Sidney. “I mean, people know we’re dating now. I assume that means they know we have sex from time to time - stop that.” He slipped a hand between Geno’s questing mouth and his shirt, which had managed to come unbuttoned after all. “And Geno - it turned you on so much. You were making these sounds on the phone, when we talked, and I - I just wanted to hear those sounds again. I wanted to - to be the reason you were making those sounds.”

Geno lay quietly in Sidney’s arms and let Sidney think for a little bit. These were all of Sidney’s cards, laid out one by one on the table. If Geno didn’t know before, he certainly knew now that Sidney would do anything, be anything, for him.

“You fuck me so good,” said Geno, finally, but he wasn’t trying to start shit - he was working through something, so Sidney let him talk it out. “You fuck me so good and you like so much. So I want -” he paused here. After a few moments, Sidney said, “You know I’ll do whatever you want, Geno. It’s okay. It’s - you can tell me anything. If you want an ad executive to fuck you in a hotel, that’s fine. I can do that - I can be that for you.”

“Only want you,” said Geno, finally. “It’s just game, Sidney, last night. Always want you. I don’t care if you work in advertising or you hate hockey, or you pretend to be, I don’t know, Flyer,” he sounded more and more incredulous, and okay, maybe Sidney deserved it for two out of three of those. “Just feels safe, you know. I pretend, but it’s you. I can do it with you. Can't do it with anyone else. Just, next time don’t go, afterwards. Stay.”

“Okay,” breathed Sidney. It was him, then. Geno wanted him. They lay like that for a little while, Geno toying at Sidney’s shirt, Sidney enjoying the feel of Geno’s hair tickling his face, the sun warm over the bed. “Geno,” said Sidney, suddenly, too full of everything, unable to contain all the love he felt in his body and heart. It was flooding his bones and he had to just - to say, “Geno, I love you so much.”

“I tell you to call me Zhenya.” Muffled against his chest, tonguing with intent, his voice was thick with laughter. “I’m serious about that. Sid, you call me Zhenya from now.” “Yes, for sure, okay, Zhenya, you can start shit now,” said Sidney joyfully, and let - let Zhenya unbutton his shirt and fasten his mouth right over Sidney’s beating heart.

When they finished, the sun had lengthened its fingers over the room, and Zhenya was dozing across the bed, his head resting against Sidney’s stomach. Sidney kept one hand carding through Zhenya’s hair, gently up and through again, timing it with the rise and fall of his breathing. “Sid,” mumbled Zhenya, and Sidney let his hand slide from Zhenya’s hair to his face. “Hmmm?” he asked, gently tracing the outline of that wide, mobile mouth. “Next time,” said Zhenya, and Sidney waited to see where Zhenya’s fancy would take them next. A decade of experience told Sidney that it was useless to try and hold Zhenya in your fist; like sand, he’d trickle away and the only way to hold on was to open your palm and hope that he would stay cupped there, safe and warm and willing. Sidney had, after years of unsuccessful chasing, figured it out a few months ago, and instead of trying to catch Zhenya, had at long last let himself be caught. He hoped that Zhenya would never let him go again.

“Next time...” said Zhenya again, sleepily, and Sidney sat up and leaned over to gently kiss his face, his hands, his mouth. “Next time,” said Sidney, firmly. Each time was new, each time was a chance to fall in love with the same stranger once again.