“Move legs,” Geno says as he squeezes Sid’s knee. “Have to pee.”
“We’re almost there. You can’t hold it another five minutes?”
Geno shakes his head and sways into Sid’s space as the train follows the curve in the track.
“Have three cups of coffee this morning because you wake me so early.”
“You said you wanted to spend the day in the city and I said we’d have to get up really early to get a seat on the train. You agreed to this.”
“Yes, that’s why I drink so much coffee.”
“You just have a small bladder,” Sid complains and Geno claps his hands against the side of Sid’s face and tips his chin up.
His voice is a rough whisper when he says “only thing about me that’s small.”
Sid’s face is warm beneath Geno’s palms when Geno leans down to kiss him.
“Move legs,” he whispers and Sid shifts his legs to the side so he can slip past.
Sid watches him walk down the aisle.
“I don’t know why you’re doing this.”
Ethan picks up a polo shirt and folds it perfectly, paying extra attention to the collar so it doesn’t wrinkle. He drops it into the bag on top of the other shirts and pants, all folded the same way.
Sid wants to dip his hand into the bag and fuck them all up.
“You know exactly why I’m doing this. You’re not stupid.”
“I love you,” Sid tells him and Ethan pauses, one of Sid’s sweatshirts clutched in his hand, and gives him a bored look.
“You’re not stupid and you’re not a liar.”
“I’m not lying.”
“You don’t love me. You don’t even like me.”
“What are you talking about? We’ve been together for two years.”
“Yeah, I know,” Ethan says as he folds the sweatshirt up and puts it in the bag. Sid doesn’t say anything even though it’s one of his favorites. “Two years. Two whole years and you’ve spent that entire time being too afraid to call me your boyfriend. You introduce me as your friend. You don’t kiss me in public. You don’t even hold my hand. I’ve never met your parents. Do then even know about me?”
Sid looks down at the bedspread. Ethan was the one that picked it out. If this is it for them he’s going to have to get another one. He’s not going to want to look at it day after day.
“That’s what I thought,” Ethan says in a tone that sounds an awful lot like I’ve wasted my time. “I stopped hiding years ago, Sid. I’m not going through that again.”
“I’m not hiding,” Sid defends. “I’ve just never been comfortable with stuff like that.”
Ethan zips up the bag and pulls it onto his shoulder. “I know,” he says, “and I get it, or at least I think I do.” He leans in and presses a kiss to Sid’s cheek. “I hope someday you find someone you’re comfortable with. Even if it’s just yourself.”
Sid finds him in the pasta aisle.
Geno has a box of angel hair and a box of linguine in his hands and he looks like he can’t decide which one to buy. When he looks up he frowns at Sid’s empty hands.
“Forget peanut butter? Is why we come here.”
“They don’t have the kind I like,” Sid says and then immediately feels stupid. He doesn’t need to use a specific brand anymore. There’s nothing for him to be superstitious about anymore.
“Okay.” Geno nods and puts both boxes back on the shelf. “We’ll go to another store.”
“No, G, we don’t have to do that. I’ll get something different, it’s fine.”
“Not fine,” Geno says as he picks up the basket by his feet. There’s a can of black beans and a bag of apples. Sid has no idea what he’s going to be making with that. “Know how you like things. Just put these back and we’ll go.”
“Geno, it’s fine, really. I can get over it.”
Geno steps up and puts his free hand on the side of Sid’s neck. “Don’t have to.” He kisses Sid’s forehead then backs up. “Give me two minutes,” he says as he digs his car keys out of pocket and drops them in Sid’s hand. “Meet you in the car.”
“He keeps looking at you.”
Sid adds another weight to the leg press machine and sits down on the bench. “Who?”
“The hot new trainer over there that you keep looking at,” Tanger says as he nods across the gym floor.
Sid doesn't need to look. He already knows.
The hot new trainer is on the other side of the gym working a group of middle aged ladies in pastel colored sweatpants through a circuit on the the resistance machines. He has slim calves and long legs and the gym issued t-shirt pulls across his back and shoulders.
“He keeps looking back at you. I’m surprised you haven’t caught each other yet.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sid says as he braces his feet shoulder width apart on the plate. He wiggles them back and forth trying to get it perfect as Tanger scoffs.
“Yeah fucking right,” he says. “Go ask him out.”
“You have to get over Ethan, Sid. Cath and I are getting worried.”
“I’m fine. I’m over him.” I might not have even been in love with him to start with. “I’m not asking that guy out.”
“Why not? He’s perfect for you. Look how tall he is, you like big guys right, and look at his ass.”
Sid gives him a dirty look as he pushes against the weight. His legs burn. “That’s a really weird thing for you to say.”
“What? Just because I’m straight and engaged doesn’t mean I’m blind. This is too much weight for you.”
“You remember what your doctor said?”
“Yes, I remember what he said,” Sid snaps as the weights fall. They clang and echo throughout the gym. People stare and Sid’s face burns from more than just exertion.
Tanger draws out the syllables in okay as he takes a ten pound weight off of both sides. “Ask him out or I’ll do it for you.”
“You don’t even know if he’s gay.”
“Well the way he’s watching you is definitely gay.”
Sid shakes his head and swings his legs over the bench so he can stand up. If Tanger won’t let him have the weight he wants then there’s no point. “He’s a trainer. Maybe he’s just admiring my form.”
“Fuck yeah he is,” Tanger says as he slaps his hand against Sid’s ass. Sid bats his hand away as Tanger laughs. “Now he looks jealous. He’s into you.”
“Kris. Stop, please.”
Tanger’s face softens at the mention of his real name. “I’m just trying to help you out, buddy. I was serious when I said you need to get over Ethan.”
“I was serious when I told you that I am over him.”
“You’re a great guy,” Tanger says and Sid looks down at his shoes. “God knows you haven’t had it easy and you deserve someone special.”
Sid scuffs the toe of his sneaker against the floor. “He’s a stranger.”
Tanger smiles softly. “So is everyone until you decide to say hello.”
“Knew I’d find you in boring history section.”
Geno steps up behind him and wraps his arm around his waist. He props his chin on Sid’s shoulder scans the pages of the book in Sid’s hands.
It’s the same thing every time they drop by the use book store a few blocks from Geno’s apartment.
They head in separate directions; Geno seeks out sports biographies and sci-fi thrillers and one time a semi-embarrassing romance novel and Sid checks out the history section.
“It’s not boring,” Sid says as Geno nuzzles the side of his neck. “It’s about World War I.”
Geno fake snores and Sid snaps the book shut and tries to shove Geno off of him.
“Alright, whatever, lets go.”
Geno holds on tighter and kisses the back of his neck. “My boring boyfriend,” he says with a laugh that dies off quickly. He freezes against Sid’s back and when Sid looks around he sees an older man standing at the end of the aisle, watching them. He doesn’t look happy.
Geno unwraps himself from Sid and takes a step back so they’re no longer touching. “Lets go, okay,” he says softly and Sid looks at the man again before he puts his hand in the center of Geno’s chest and slides it up to the back of his neck to drag him down for a kiss.
When he pulls away the man is gone and Geno looks stunned.
“Sid,” Geno says and Sid kisses him again.
“World War I is not boring. Are you ready to go?”
Geno nods and puts his hand on Sid’s lower back to lead him toward the register. “Definitely boring,” he says under his breath and Sid tips his head back and laughs.
“Should be honest with you,” Geno says. “Know who you are.”
Sid stops scooting in his own chair and stares at him over the table. “Well, I hope you do. You agreed to go out with me.”
“No,” Geno says with a laugh, “no, know who you are but also know who you are. Sidney Crosby. Sid the Kid. Next Gretzky.”
Sid’s breath gets caught in his throat. His fingernails cut into his palms.
His voice is weak when he finds it. “How do you know?”
“Didn't know at first,” Geno says like that makes it better. “Look a lot different from eighteen but when you told me your name at the gym I knew I knew it from somewhere.” He looks down at the napkin he’s placed in his lap. “Went home and googled. Then I remembered.”
“My name made it all the way to Russia.”
“You’re amazing, Sid.”
“I was amazing.” When he was young and had his whole life ahead of him. When he was naive enough to think it would all work work out. When his leg wasn’t shattered from a car accident that wasn’t his fault. “Now I’m just…..” He trails off and takes a sip of water. Geno ordered a bottle of wine but he doesn’t feel like drinking. This restaurant is too fancy and his jacket is too tight and this whole thing was a horrible idea. He’s going to kill Tanger. He should never have allowed himself to be pressured into stepping behind Geno in the line for the water fountain at the gym. Geno never would have turned around and they never would have bumped into each other and Sid wouldn’t be sitting here staring down a man who thought it necessary to bring up his past.
Geno looks appropriately apologetic when Sid finally looks up.
Sid fights the urge to roll his eyes. “You don’t even know me.”
“On date.” Geno reaches his hand out like he wants to lay it over Sid’s. Sid pulls his back and drops it to his lap. “Trying to get to know. Would like to.”
Sid nods. Geno is very cute and seems nice and it’s not like Sid has a line around the block of men that are willing to date him.
“How long have you been in Canada?” He asks and Geno smiles, grateful for the second chance.
“That looks nice on you,” Sid says as he steps behind Geno in the dressing room.
Geno fiddles with the collar of the dress shirt smiles at Sid’s reflection in the mirror. “Should I get?”
They’ve been at this for an hour and Sid’s sure Geno has tried on everything in the store. Sid’s been running back and forth grabbing different sizes and putting the rejects back on hangers. It’s wedding season and everyone they know is getting married and Geno was very offended when Sid suggested wearing the same thing to every ceremony.
“I like the purple one too,” Sid says and Geno’s eyebrows raise in the mirror.
“Yeah? Bright color.”
“It looks nice on you.”
“Should get you one in same shade. We can match.”
Sid frowns and Geno laughs as he turns and snags Sid by his elbow and pulls him into his side.
He’s wearing shorts and a threadbare t-shirt and he looks ridiculous next to Geno’s expensive suit but still…
“Look nice together,” Geno says as he rests his cheek on the top of Sid’s head.
“You do, not me.”
Geno rolls his eyes and presses a kiss to his temple.
“I’ll get changed and we’ll go eat.”
“Did you used to play?”
It’s a question that’s been on Sid’s mind ever since Geno brought hockey on their first day.
Tonight is their fourth and he can’t hold it in any longer.
“Little bit.” He steps around a puddle on the sidewalk. “Not like you, though. Wasn’t going to go pro. Good enough to,” he says with his tongue pressing against his cheek. “But wasn’t going to happen.”
Geno tips his head from side to side. “Talk to agent when I was teenager, he tells me what to expect, what’s going to happen. What’s not going to happen. How it’s going to be.” He gives Sid a long look. “He tells me hockey players have pretty girlfriends and then pretty wives and I just….couldn’t. Have to pretend to be someone else in Russia and then have to pretend in America and I couldn’t do that. I gave something up so I could get something back. Big thing, too. Important.”
They slow to a stop in front of Sid’s apartment building.
“I would have pretended if I was still playing,” Sid says. “I would have done anything to keep playing. I would have given up anything.”
“So if you go to the gym one day and you see hot trainer that you like you just…”
“I wouldn’t have said anything.” He jams his hands in his coat pockets and pushes himself up onto the bottom step. For the first time he’s taller than Geno. “Pretty terrible right?”
Geno rocks back on his heels. “Is it terrible I’m happy you’re here now even if no hockey?”
“Maybe. I mean, that was my whole life.”
Geno winces. “Maybe we’re both kind of terrible. Maybe that’s okay?”
This is their fourth date. Sid should move to take it to the next level or cut Geno loose.
“Do you want to come up,” Sid asks. “For coffee or drinks or.” He stops and takes a deep breath. “Whatever.”
Geno puts his foot on the bottom step and pushes himself up. He’s taller again, standing close and looking down with a spark in his eyes.
“Whatever is good.”
All Sid has to say is “Tanger and Cath are wondering if we could-” and Geno is off the couch and finding his shoes.
The rest of the sentence is always babysit or dogsit and Geno is always up for both.
Today it’s Buddha with his sharp puppy teeth and endless energy.
He barks and jumps and twists all the way to the park and as soon as Geno takes off his harness he’s off like a shot and chasing after the other dogs.
“Now he’s happy,” Sid says and Geno laughs.
“Been Happy this whole time. Tanger so boring talking about wedding all day. We’re fun uncles.”
Buddha comes racing back and slams into the back of Geno’s knees with a tennis ball in his mouth. Buddha takes off when he tries to take the ball, playing his own game but there’s a huge black lab that drops his tennis ball at Geno’s feet, wags his tail, and waits.
Ten minutes later Geno is the most popular human at the park, down on one knee petting and snuggling every dog that comes up to him.
Sid sits at one of the picnic tables and watches fondly as Buddha pushes himself to the front and licks Geno’s face before he races off again.
“Which one is yours?”
Sid turns to the young woman who sits down beside him. She has a leash wrapped around one hand and a coffee in the other.
“The golden retriever,” Sid says as he points to Buddha across the park. “The one that’s wrestling with the poodle. He’s not actually mine. We’re dogsitting.”
“Cute,” she says. “Harvey is-oh shit, Harvey, no!”
Harvey must be the impossibly fluffy St. Bernard that has knocked Geno over and is currently sitting on top of him.
She starts to stand, yelling at Harvey the whole time but Sid puts his hand out to stop her.
“No, it’s okay, I promise.”
“It’s not. He doesn’t know his own size, he thinks he’s a lap dog. God, that poor guy.”
“That’s my boyfriend,” Sid says and she looks slightly less alarmed. “He loves it, I swear.”
She slowly sits back down. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. This is probably the best thing that’s happened to him all week,” Sid says with a laugh. Geno is has almost completely disappeared beneath Harvey but Sid can still hear his laugh even from this far away.
“If you’re sure,” the woman says. “Harvey really shouldn't be jumping on people.”
“Probably not but maybe just this one time it’s okay.”
Geno finally wrestles Harvey off and sits up. There’s wood chips sticking to his back and pawprints on his chest and his hair is a mess but his smile is huge.
Sid waves and Geno waves back.
“You said you were dog sitting?” She asks and Sid nods. “You don’t have one of your own yet?”
“Oh no, we’re not-.” He stops and watches Geno brush dirt off the seat of his pants, laughing as a hyperactive beagle winds himself around his legs. “Not yet we don’t. Maybe soon.”
Sid is on his second cup of coffee when Geno comes in wearing his boxers and Sid’s t-shirt.
“Morning,” Geno says, voice rough and sleepy. He squeezes Sid’s shoulder then picks up the mug he left out on the counter for him and pours himself a cup.
Sid watches in horror as Geno adds too much sugar and too much cream and takes a sip.
Geno hums happily and takes a seat across from Sid.
“Do you always sleep so late?”
Geno smiles around the edge of the mug. “Set all my hours at the gym for the afternoon. Best schedule. You like to get up early? Even on weekends?”
“I guess I’m just used to getting up for work. It’s hard to break that.” He frowns as Geno takes another sip.
“Everything okay?” He asks when he sees the look on Sid’s face.
“It’s fine.” Sid looks at the shirt again. It’s loose in the shoulders. “My ex stole my sweatshirt,” he says and Geno frowns then looks down at the shirt.
“Not going to steal. You want me to take it off?”
Sid shakes his head but Geno’s already pulling it up by the collar and over his head, leaving him half naked at the breakfast table.
In the light of day Geno’s skin is pale and dotted with bruises from Sid’s fingertips and lips and teeth.
Sid licks his lips and Geno grins.
“Don’t have to be to work until much later,” Geno says as he scoots his chair closer. “You don’t have to be to work at all, yes?”
Sid nods and reaches for him.
Tanger and Catherine’s wedding is beautiful, because of course it is.
Cath looks gorgeous and Tanger looks handsome and the church is elegant and Alex is adorable.
The whole ceremony is like a fairy tale.
The reception, however, is a mess.
It’s an open bar and a hot summer night and Geno dances like nobody's watching.
Sid is a bit more reserved. He still has his jacket and tie on whereas Geno has ditched both of them so he can have a wider range of motion to dance with Cath’s bridesmaids.
His moves are wild and ridiculous enough that Sid doesn’t feel a bit of jealousy even as Flower and Tanger elbow him and chirp that the ladies are moving in on his man.
“He’s coming home with me,” Sid tells them as he takes another sip of champagne. The alcohol makes his face warm.
“So you guys are next, right?” Flower asks and Sid almost drops the flute.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m just saying….I know you didn’t catch the bouquet or anything but someone’s popping the question soon, aren’t they?”
“I don’t know,” Sid stutters out, “I don’t….I don’t know.”
Flower raises an eyebrow and Tanger spins around to catch Alex who is running at him.
Sid looks away from Flower at Geno who is making his way to their table, pulling at his shirt where it’s sticking to his body.
“Come dance,” he says as he holds his hand out. “Didn’t dance with me at Flower’s wedding, have to dance here.”
“I don’t dance. You were doing great without me.”
“Slow song,” he say as an acoustic melody starts playing over the speakers. “Can only dance with you.”
“Go dance with your boy,” Flower says as he pushes Sid up and Sid rolls his eyes and takes Geno’s hand.
It’s warm and damp and as soon as they’re on the dance floor Geno drapes Sid’s arms around his neck.
“I feel like I’m at prom,” Sid says as they sway together.
“You go to prom?”
Geno holds him a little closer. “Then this is like prom. We find bleachers later, let you feel me up under them.”
Sid laughs and drops his head to Geno’s shoulder.
Catherine is dancing with Alex while Tanger films them.
Flower has Vero.
He has Geno.
“It was a nice wedding,” Sid says and Geno nods.
“Nice wedding,” Geno echos. “But this is the best part.”
In theory going to a hockey game is a great date.
It’s just a minor league. The tickets are cheap for glass seats and Geno buys him a beer and hot dog and if Sid were any other person he’d probably be having a great time.
But it serves as a reminder for everything that he can’t have.
It brings up a million what ifs.
What if he never decided to go out that night? What if he never got in that cab? What if that other car had stopped at the light instead of blowing through it? What if he sat on the passenger side instead of the drivers?
What team would he be on? Would he be the Captain? Would he have a cup? Or two or three?
He can’t get the questions out of his head and as much as he tries to put on a brave face and enjoy himself he just can’t and he knows Geno can tell.
After final buzzer they sit in their seats as the rest of the crowd files out around them. There’s really no need to rush out. They either sit here or they sit in the car and there’s a sad kind of peace watching the Zamboni circle the ice.
“Think maybe I make a mistake,” Geno says quietly. “Thought you would like this. I’m sorry.”
“I had fun,” Sid says and Geno makes a soft noise.
“Don’t have to lie to make me feel better.”
“My ex said something like that when we broke up,” Sid says. Geno tenses beside him. “He broke up with me,” Sid clarifies. “But it was the right thing to do. I told him that I loved him and he told me I wasn’t a liar so I shouldn't say that.”
“You didn’t love him?”
“I don’t know,” Sid says. “I think I was with him because I thought I was supposed to be. Or something like that, I don’t know. I had pretty much accepted never having a relationship until after I was retired and then there was the accident and I was free to do whatever but I couldn’t….I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I think I just jumped into that relationship because I thought I had to. Like I was proving something to myself but it wasn’t good. I wasn’t good. I couldn’t give him what he wanted.” He shrugs and glances over at Geno.
He looks worried and Sid hates it. He wants Geno happy and smiling, always.
Sid reaches for his hand, something he never dreamed about doing with Ethan.
“I really like you,” he says and the corners of Geno’s mouth twitch up. “I like spending time with you. But I also want to go home now.”
“Okay,” Geno nods.
“I want you go go home with me.”
Geno nods again. “I can do that.”
Sid links their fingers together and stands up. “Come on. The traffic might have let up by now.”
When he was young he once asked wouldn’t it be amazing getting up everyday and doing something that you love to do?
He was talking about hockey.
It was always about hockey.
Now, Geno snuffles into his shoulder before he rolls away to shut the alarm off.
He rolls back and presses a kiss to Sid’s lips, off center and sloppy and the best thing that Sid has ever felt.
“Morning,” Geno rumbles as he starts to fall back asleep. His arm is across Sid’s waist and his head on Sid’s pillow.
It’s not about hockey anymore.
It’s about Sid kissing Geno’s forehead and cheek and finally his lips and Geno smiling into it.
It’s Geno kissing him in the grocery store and holding each other’s hands at a hockey game.
It’s going to the humane society to find a dog and dancing at wedding and buying a ring.
Asking a question and telling the truth when they say yes.
It’s getting up and doing something he loves.
With someone he loves.