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Hear the Thunder

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There are things in life that hit like a hurricane. There’s a long, slow build up, a knowledge of what’s to come, waiting and wondering when and if it’ll hit, so when the thunder finally crashes, it’s almost a relief that it’s finally here, even as it leaves devastation in its wake.

Other things in life hit like a lightning bolt from a clear sky—a sudden, unforeseen strike, and then nothing is the same.

Geno’s had both in his life. The sudden hit of a season-ending injury; the slow determination that he was going to come to play in the US. He’s not sure which he prefers. He thinks generally, he prefers neither, because he’s happy with how things are. 

This time, the lightning strike is Jen coming down to practice and calling Sid over.

Geno doesn’t think much of it. None of them do. Sid usually takes practice time as sacrosanct, but they all know that sometimes shit comes up, and also Geno secretly thinks that sometimes she accosts them—well, mainly him—at practice because she knows where he is then and he can’t run away. But Sid has more obligations than the rest of them, and so him stopping at the corner of the ice to talk to Jen while the rest of them run drills isn’t unheard of. Geno barely watches it; he’s busy with his own practice.

Except—well, Geno’s been aware of Sid for what feels like his whole life, in the corner of his eye, as a feeling on the ice. So maybe he notices as Sid goes tense, as he turns from the easy, focused-but-having-fun Sid that he is at practice to crisis management Sid. To Sid bracing for a blow. He says something, low and intense to Jen, and it’s hard to tell through his pads but he’s definitely holding himself taut.

“Be right back,” Geno tells Horny, who nods idly in the middle of his passing drills, and skates over to Sid and Jen.

“He’s safe, though, right?” Sid’s saying, and Jen nods.

“Safe, but we won’t be able to stop it—” Jen stops as Geno comes up. “We should take this somewhere else.”

Sid glances at Geno. His helmet’s still on, so it’s harder to see his eyes, but he’s guarded. Sid isn’t guarded with him. They’re partners. They have been for years. Sid’s the captain, yeah, but he and Geno lead together. Sid doesn’t keep secrets from Geno.

“Yeah,” Sid agrees, still looking at Geno, and there’s a look in his eyes Geno doesn’t like. It’s how he looks when he sees the series going down the drain, and he knows he’s losing something.

“Sid—” Geno starts. But Sid shakes his head.

“I’ll tell you later. Can you let coach know there was an emergency?”

“Of course,” Geno agrees automatically. “Emergency? I can help, Sid—”

“G.” Sid’s already mostly off the ice, following Jen, but he turns back, and his gloved hand is on Geno’s forearm. “I need you here. I’ve got to go, but—”

“I’m in charge now, yes, I know.” Sid’s arm feels heavy. His gaze feels heavy. “Sure you’re okay?”

Sid shakes his head again. “It’s—I—look, I’ll find you after practice. We can talk.”

“Okay…” Geno agrees, but that feels like a lie. Geno’s not used to Sid lying.

Still, Sid smiles at Geno, and in that second—in that second all of Sid’s attention is on him, not on wherever else he is, whatever emergency is happening. He’s never been able to resist that feeling, of knowing that Sid is entirely focused on him. It lights something in him—has since he barely knew English but knew that he and Sid were in this together. “Thanks, G,” Sid says, and then he’s off.

Geno goes back to practice. Coach is definitely not happy, but he’s not going to scratch Sid for tomorrow and they all know it. Geno gets some questions, and Tanger corners him to demand what’s happening, but Geno really doesn’t know anything so he can’t say, and they all know he wouldn’t anyway. It’s not like Sid has any secrets from the team, but if he did, Geno would keep them.

“I’m an A too,” Tanger argues, even as Geno insists again he doesn’t know anything. “If you guys are making a power grab—”

“We don’t need power grab,” Geno scoffs, then keeps going before Tanger can protest. “I don’t know what’s happening, Tanger. Stop asking.” He skates away before Tanger can reply, or before he starts pushing on how it’s nagging at Geno that he doesn’t know. Geno’s not sure he can keep that off his face. The last time Sid didn’t tell him something was—the concussion, maybe, when Geno had had to poke and prod at him just to tell him what the doctor really said or how he really felt, during those long hours together with Geno laid up on the couch and Sid finally thrown against something hard work couldn’t counter. They’d been fine then, Geno thinks. The two of them, taking care of each other.

More than fine, really. That had been—Geno had thought, on those long days, Sid with his head in Geno’s lap listening to him read because he couldn’t do anything else, the way Sid would smile up at him. How when Geno’s fingers tangled half-unconscious in his hair, he had leaned into it.

Geno had thought it was leading somewhere. And then the lockout had happened, and when Geno came back Sid was all smiles and friend and team, and he didn’t rest his head on Geno’s shoulder anymore, and—the moment had passed, clearly; if Sid had wanted it to be something he would have kept pushing at it. Which was what it was. But now Sid isn’t telling him something again, and Geno’s not happy.

Still, if Geno couldn’t put everything aside and focus on hockey, he wouldn’t be where he was, so he finishes off practice. He doesn’t stay late, though; he needs to find Sid and demand answers. Not that he thinks he’ll need to demand them; Sid will tell him. He thinks.

Sid knows when practice gets out, so Geno picks up his phone as he strips out of his pads, expecting a text telling him where he is.

Instead, there’s an alert from Deadspin. He hears the sound of locker room noise picking up, confused loud chatter. He forces himself to translate.

Crosby’s Biggest Secret! The headline reads, and Geno clicks.

The article starts with a picture. Sid, clearly over a summer given his weight and the fact that it’s Canada and it looks warm, on the doorstep of a house; there’s a woman in the doorway, as tall as he is and pretty in a girl next door sort of way, with dark skin and hair, and Sid is handing her a child—a boy, maybe five or six, with dark curly hair and dark skin and wearing a red shirt.

It’s—maybe it’s nothing. Sid hangs out with kids all the time. Sid has plenty of friends, who have children. Geno could pull up plenty on various teammates’ social media in a few seconds.

Except—For years, Crosby has been famously quiet about his personal life. But now sources close to Crosby have confirmed that the secretive star has been keeping an even bigger secret than we thought! Meet the heir to his hockey throne—a son!

Geno almost drops his phone.

He’s late, because he’s still not a very fast reader in English. The locker room’s buzzing.

“So, is it true?” Connor asks.

Tanger snorts. “Sid, keep a secret like this? We’d have seen it all over his face. The man can’t look at a child without melting.”

“This picture looks pretty real,” Phil points out.

“Yeah,” Jake agrees, holding the phone close to his face. “It’s a creepy enough shot.”

“Yeah, but everyone knows ‘sources’ doesn’t mean anything,” Rusty argues.

Geno carefully changes apps. He can see Sid’s tense body, the expression on his face. Sid wouldn’t lie. But. Where are you? He texts Sid.

“Or it could be, like, the mom.”

“Why would the mom say something now?”

In the offices. Go to the training room B?

Ten minutes, Geno agrees, and puts his phone down.

“No point in wondering,” Geno breaks in. “We find out soon enough.”

Tanger’s gaze snaps to him. “You don’t think it’s real, do you?” he demands.

Geno strips off his underarmor, which gives him time to figure out what to say. He doesn’t. There have always been rumors about Sid, because he’s been so reclusive. Sid wouldn’t lie to them. They’re partners. Sid tells him everything. That’s how they work.

“We wait to ask Sid,” he says, when he emerges, and goes to take the quickest shower of his life.

It’s actually seven minutes later when he shows up to the training room, and so Sid isn’t there yet. He’s dealing with shutting it down, Geno tells himself. It’s a big rumor and he and Jen will need to figure out if it’s the sort of thing he should make a statement about. It’s got him busy. He’s probably calling his parents to make sure they know. Maybe he’s laughing about it with Taylor. If Tanger thought it wasn’t true, it probably wasn’t—Sid would have told Tanger at least. Tanger and Geno.

Geno unlocks his phone again. The image is still there. He can’t see the kid’s face—and it’s hard to tell with children anyway, who they look like—but the woman is pretty. He doesn’t know if she’s Sid’s type or not— as long as Geno’s known him, he’s only had a few significant others, and none for very long. The team’s only met one or two. It had always been one of those things that Geno was quietly, fiercely proud of; that the team was enough for Sid. That he didn’t need anything more than them, even if Geno did know that was unhealthy. But it had meant something, that Sid had never been lonely, when he’d had them. But now it means Geno doesn’t know if she’s the sort of woman Sid would date. Would have a child with. Would keep secret from the people who were supposed to be his partners.

There’s a knock on the door. “Geno?”

Geno takes a breath. Puts his phone away. “Yeah.”

The door opens, and Sid comes in, and Geno doesn’t have to ask. It’s there in how Sid moved, tense and drawn and he looks worried like he had when they’d heard about Olli’s cancer and a thousand other things that Geno can’t name but that he’s known Sid too long to miss. Maybe he’d known the instant it had come out and he remembered Sid on the ice, shifting into his crisis mode.

“Is true, then.”

Sid closes the door behind him slowly, then turns and faces Geno head on, like he faces everyone coming at him. His chin is up, and his face is drawn but there’s no hesitation in it. “Yes.”

Known, but he hadn’t wanted to, because—

“How long?”

“Andy’s five,” Sid replies, still even. 

Five. Five years—six, really, five plus nine month. Six years, which meant—the concussion. The concussion, the lock out, and had Sid—did Sid know, when he was there with Geno? When he’d smiled at Geno like he was the only thing that mattered in the world?

And even if he hadn’t, he’d known the next year, and the next. Known when they’d won the cup together, twice over. Known every time they’d been at dinner together, arguing plays with their knees brushing under the table; known every time Sid had gotten drunk and ended up listing into Geno’s side, gigging and happy. Known as they led this team together, shoulder to shoulder, pushing each other but always in lockstep. As Geno thought he knew everything about Sid.

“Did you think I’m tell someone?” Geno asks, because that’s all there is to say. That’s what matters. “We don’t keep secrets, Sid.”

Sid falters a little, at that. It makes Geno feel a little better, to see Sid shaken. “No, that’s not—of course I didn’t think you’d tell.”

“You didn’t tell, thought.”

“No, it was—I didn’t tell anyone, okay? No one knew. Just my family and Jack, because he was there that summer, but no one else. I couldn’t. If I told anyone, then everyone would know.”

“League can keep a secret,” Geno points out. They both know the open secrets of the league. They both are open secrets of the league. 

But Sid shakes his head. “I couldn’t risk it. It’s one thing when it’s just me, but, with Andy…”

“You could still have told us.” Sid know who Geno meant by us—the people in the inner circle. Then he adds, because he can’t help it, “You could have told me.”

Sid almost smiles. “At first, I couldn’t tell anyone. Not when Erika and I were still figuring out how it was going to work. And then—” he cuts himself off. “Then, I was—it’s… it was complicated, yeah? I couldn’t say.”

“Could have.”

Sid’s jaw sets. “Maybe. But I didn’t. Are you mad?”

Geno doesn’t know what he is. Everything he thought he knew is broken. “No.”

“You are mad.”

“Not mad. I don’t know what I am.” Geno shakes his head, to try to clear it. It’s true. Sid lied. Sid lied for years, and he’s dodging why, and Geno can’t help but fill things in—because he had a life he didn’t need the other Pens in. Didn’t need Geno in. Because he had a son and the mother of his child, and what was Geno in comparison to that? Geno shouldn’t have been anything. Sid’s priorities were in the right place. But—he lied. “Have a plan?”

“We should talk about you being mad,” Sid pushes. “It’s understandable, I can—”

“Not mad,” Geno snaps. He can’t deal with figuring out what he is right now. “What is plan?”

Sid’s jaw is set like he clearly isn’t letting it go—like Sid’s let something go in his life—but he nods. “Andy and Erika are coming down for now, staying here. It’ll be easier on us all if we’re in one place.”

“Can just do that? Pick up and move?” Is Sid just supporting them? For a second, Geno’s view of the woman shifts—maybe she took advantage of Sid and his responsibility. Maybe she’s one of those women some of the older guys warn you about, who’ll blackmail and extort, and Geno knows it’s a gross thought to have but part of him can’t help it and—

“Erika’s a graphic designer, she works from home anyway. She might have to fly back to Toronto sometimes, but it’ll be fine.” Sid shrugs. “She’s not happy about it, but she gets it.”

Geno’s view shifts again. A creative type. He can’t imagine Sid with someone creative, someone who might not understand his routines and need for order. Geno loves Sid, but he is maybe the farthest thing from an artist Geno’s ever known, unless you count what he does with a puck, which Geno might but he understands most other people wouldn’t. Still, opposites attract, Geno supposes. Even Sid can surprise him. He lied, after all.

“And—Andy? Is he in school?”

“That’s the hard part.” Sid drums his fingers against his legs. “He just started kindergarten, and it’s not great to disrupt him, but it’s the best we can do. I don’t want him alone, going through whatever’s going to happen.”

“Think something’s going to happen?” Geno asks. “What, you big star, so everyone going to mob him? He learn how to sign autographs?” He’s a kid. He’s a kid, and he’s got his mom. He doesn’t need Sid too. Or Sid can go visit him. It’s another not nice thought, but Geno’s never claimed to be a good person. He knows what to expect, when guys get married and have kids. Geno doesn’t—usually, he has warning, before he loses someone.

Sid shrugs, but his eyes are serious. “Kids can be cruel.”

And now Geno feels like an asshole for that too, even if he does think Sid’s being ridiculous. Everyone knows that Sid knows how cruel kids can be. He’s talked to Geno about it a little, in bits and pieces. Geno wouldn’t wish that on anyone, least of all Sid’s son. Even if it’s going to change things.

“No one dare be cruel to Sidney Crosby’s son here,” Geno says, firmly. “Sid—you going to have to talk to team.” At least there he’s on firmer ground. This is what they do together. This can’t break, even if everything else does.

Sid nods. “I’ll talk to them before practice tomorrow. What were people saying, after practice?”

“No one sure. Tanger think is not true. I say you tell. You need to say something today,” Geno adds, because it’s true. “Maybe not much, but send text. People going to be asking.”

“I can just—”

“Sid,” Geno cuts him off. “You already lied. Longer team not sure, more they think you don’t trust them.”

Sid makes a face, but he nods. “Okay. I’ll send a text confirming and saying I’ll say more at practice. Good enough?”

“Yes.” Good enough would have been never lying. Good enough would have been this not happening. Good enough would be Geno figuring out what he felt about this. “What you want me to say, when people ask?”

Sid rubs at his temples. He looks tired, Geno can’t help but notice, and part of him is viciously pleased and the other part wants to figure out how to help shoulder the burden. “That it’s true, but nothing else. We’re going to put out a statement about it, and I’m doing an interview in the next few days—I’m trying to convince Erika to do it with me, we’ll see.”

“Sid.” It occurs to Geno suddenly. Sid’s never worn a ring, but a lot of guys don’t around the rink. “Are you married?”

“What? No.”

“You not marry mother of your child!” It’s a relief. It’s a disappointment in Sid. It’s shock, because Sid’s always done everything he’s supposed to.

Sid’s face does something that Geno can’t interpret. “No,” he says, shortly. Like he talks to media. “We decided getting married was unnecessary.”

“Unnecessary?”

“Unnecessary,” Sid agrees. Something buzzes, and Sid reaches for his pocket. “It’s Erika, I’ve got to take this.”

Of course he does. Geno nods, and pushes past him to get to the door. “G.” Geno pauses. “Do you think I don’t trust you?”

Geno turns back. Sid’s got the buzzing phone in his hand, where a huge part of Sid’s life that Geno hasn’t known about for years is calling. Someone so important to Sid. But he still looks like Sid, with his serious face that Geno knows can shift right into laughter and his big eyes and cheekbones and stung lips. Geno knows that face so well. He thought he knew everything behind it, too.

He shrugs. “I think two headed monster doesn’t have to share a brain,” he says. Sid opens his mouth to say something, but Geno cuts him off. “Have to answer phone, Sid.”

Sid gives him a glare like it’s not over, but he hits accept. “Hey, Erika. Sorry, I was talking to Geno. You’ve talked to your parents?” he says, and Geno leaves him to it.

///

The text comes an hour later, a short, It’s true, I’ll explain more tomorrow. Feel free to confirm if people ask, but please be discrete to the group chat. The group chat just about explodes after that—plenty of demands for answers and chirping and speculation that Sid doesn’t respond to. Geno doesn’t reply either. If Sid wants it shut down, he can do it himself. Or he can get Tanger to do it; Tanger hasn’t said anything yet either even though Horny threw some shade at him for being so sure it wasn’t true.

Instead, Geno forces himself to be normal. He works out. He runs errands. He does all the things he’d normally do, and still when he falls into bed that night, he can only think of Sid with his son and his mother, curled up on a bed reading stories like the perfect family.

///

It’s easier, once he’s slept on it. Not the fact of Sid’s son, or the lies, but knowing what to do. They’re a team. Whatever Sid did or didn’t do, they’re a team, and they’ve got a job to do, and he and Sid need to be united to do that. He’s led the team with Sid when he’s been furious at him before, he can do it now.

So he heads to practice determined to do that. Understandably, everyone’s there early; usually Sid’s one of the first, but today everyone is there but him, getting changed and clearly talking about him.

“You really didn’t know?” Brass asks Geno, as they get changed. “It’s a big secret.”

Geno shrugs. “Guess Sid good at keeping secrets, too.” That’s not being united, but he’s not undercutting Sid, it’s okay. “But everyone allowed to have private life. Sid need more than most.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Brass glances over to where Tanger’s getting changed. He’s not taking part in the good natured banter, even though usually he’s the first to get involved when someone does something potentially stupid. “I had always heard that Sid was private.”

“He is.” Just not with them. Not with Geno. “Usually just because his life so boring, though.”

Brass snorts, and so does Schultzy, who overhears them.

“Guess we can’t say that any more,” he says.

“I have to say, I didn’t think it would be Sid,” Horny agrees. “If someone was going to have a secret love child, I always thought it would be Geno.”

“Always?” Hags asks, as Geno demands,

“Me?”

“We don’t know what you get up to in Russia,” Horny explains, which doesn’t answer Hags question either.

“I’m get up to nothing!”

“Well that’s disappointing, then,” Knuckles puts in. “I—”

He stops, because Sid’s come in, and everyone else goes quiet.

Sid’s clearly been here a while; he’s in his under armor and has the harried look of someone who’s been in meetings. Probably still talking with Jen. “Hey, guys,” he says calmly, walking over to his stall. “Have a good evening?”

No one says anything. It’s tenser than it should be, at a practice before a game. The Islanders are good this year. They can’t go out there like this. “Very good,” Geno says loudly. “Nothing interesting happen at all.”

Sid’s smile flashes at him, just a quick little thing that’s always made Geno want to stand up straighter. “Yeah, pretty boring—”

“Sid!” Phil interrupts. “Seriously? What the hell.”

Sid’s smile fades, and he takes a breath, looking around. He’s always been able to hold the room silent, and it’s no different now, all of them watching him. Geno leans back against his stall, crosses his arms. United front, he reminds himself. 

“It’s mainly what I said,” Sid says, sure and steady as he’s ever been. “My son’s name is Andrew, he’s five years old. He’s been living in Toronto with his mother. Now he’s going to be here for a while. I know you’re confused and surprised, and I’m sorry about that. Any questions?”

“Why didn’t you tell anyone?” Muzz asks.

“Did you tell anyone?” Olli adds.

“It was need to know only,” Sid replies to them both. “It felt safer, for—”

Tanger gets up, not bothering to be quiet, turns, and walks out of the room. The bang of the door behind him echoes.

Sid’s eyes flick to the door. Geno pushes up off the wall, meets Sid’s eyes. Sid tips his chin, all the acknowledgement Geno needs. Sid needs to stay here and deal with everyone else. Geno can handle Tanger. Maybe it’s better. Tanger’s anger cuts.

He finds him not far away, leaning against a wall partway down the tunnel. “Don’t start,” Tanger snaps, when he hears Geno coming. Then, “Are you okay with this?”

“Don’t think there’s much to be okay with.”

“Don’t bullshit. Aren’t you mad?”

Sid had asked him that too, about a day ago; Geno still doesn’t have an answer for that. He thinks so. He’s just not sure at who. He thinks he’s mad at everyone. At Sid, for not saying; at Sid’s son and his mother, for existing; at the universe, for making this happen; at Tanger, for getting mad and making Geno have to calm him down instead of being mad himself.

“Yes,” Geno snaps back. “I’m mad. But still have to play hockey.”

“I’ll play fucking hockey,” Tanger retorts. “But—god damn it, G. He was supposed to be our friend.”

“Sid is our friend,” Geno says immediately. It’s instinct, to defend Sid.

“He’s been shitty at showing it then.”

“It is his kid. He gets to decide—”

“Fuck off!” Tanger yells. “Look, I get you’ve got whatever thing you two have, but—you know who else is five?” It connects for Geno a second before he says it. “Alex.”

Geno doesn’t have much to say to that. He doesn’t have a son, doesn’t get it. And Tanger is right; what he and Sid have is different than what Sid and Tanger has. He wonders if Sid has talked to Flower yet.

“Still your captain,” is what he decides. “You can’t just walk out.”

“He fucking—”

“You put this on.” Geno taps the A on Tanger’s jersey, harder than he needs to, probably. “You wear this, means that you need to set an example. We follow Sid. We lead team.”

Tanger looks ready to shove at Geno, so Geno sets himself, gets ready to shove back. Geno’s worn the A for 12 years. He knows what to do here.

“Fine,” Tanger says at last. “I’ll play. I’ll be good. But—he lied, G.”

“I know.” Geno takes a deep breath. “I know, and—he has son?”

“Right?” Tanger throws his hands in the air. “Sid?” His eyes narrow. “Are you okay?”

Geno shrugs again. “We lead, right? In this together.”

Tanger just looks at him for a long moment, and they’ve been playing together as long as Geno has with Sid. Tanger knows him too. “He should have told you.”

“He should have told us,” Geno agrees, and settles against the wall next to Tanger.

The rest of the team comes out a minute later. The tension seems cut; whatever Sid said, it must have worked, because Phil’s jostling him like he normally would. Sid slows when they pass Tanger, pauses. “Are we good?” Sid asks.

“No.” Tanger’s voice is tight. “But I’ll be good.”

“Tanger, I know you’re mad, and maybe betrayed, but—”

“You don’t know,” Tanger snaps, and pushes off the wall. “I’ll be on the ice.” He pushes past Sid. Sid watches him go, his gaze tight, then he looks back at Geno.

Geno nods. Sid shrugs and bites at his lip, and heads out to the ice, Geno a pace behind him. 

And that’s that. They practice, and it’s fine; they go home to nap and it’s fine, they come back to the rink for an early-ish game and it’s fine. Geno maybe plays a little more aggressive than usual, Tanger certainly does, and Sid plays like he has something to prove that doesn’t make Geno any less aggressive, but nothing’s changed about their hockey.

They win, off some gorgeous saves by Muzz and a garbage goal by Phil, and Geno is tired and not in a great mood despite the win but Sid decides they’re going out and Geno means to say no, because he’s not sure he should be around Sid and alcohol right now, but somehow he still ends up in a bar with Sid pressed against him in the booth, rehashing the game with Dumo until Dumo finally gets fed up and goes to find reinforcements.

Sid leans back, which means that his head is resting on Geno’s arm where he’d draped it over the back of the booth. He’s not drunk—neither of them are—but he is flushed and pleased with the win, and for the first time since the news broke, he looks happy.

Geno gave him that, he thinks viciously. Him and the team. Why did he need anything else?

“Hey,” Sid says, knocking their ankles together. His eyes crinkle in the corner as he smiles up at Geno. “Thanks. I know you aren’t as cool with Andy as you seem, but you backed me up anyway.”

“Is what we do,” Geno tells him, and nudges Sid’s shoulder with his own. Sid smiles, softer.

“Yeah,” he agrees, and Geno’s never known what to do with Sid when he looks like that, like Geno’s everything in the world. Except he isn’t. Because Sid has other people too. “What we do.”

“Think you could lead team on your own?” Geno demands, laughing because he can’t take anything else. “Such a mess. All work, no play.”

“I got us out here tonight!”

“And still, sitting in booth talking to me, not mingling.”

“Fine, we’ll mingle.” Sid gets up, then turns back to Geno. “If that’s what you want.”

“No, I stay here.” Geno’s tired. He doesn’t want to stand up.

“No, you’re getting up too, fair’s fair.” Sid reaches out and gets his hands on Geno’s forearms, then tugs. Despite himself—despite being around professional athletes all his life, despite living basically on top of Sid, despite being no slouch himself—it always does something to him, to see Sid’s strength as he actually manages to move Geno. “Come on.”

“No, I stay here,” Geno argues, and goes limp into the back of the booth. “Make rookies get me drinks.”

“I won’t let them,” Sid warns, grinning, and it’s—Geno won’t get this anymore. The married guys, the ones with kids, they don’t come out as much. Sid will have someone else to bicker with and lean against. He’ll have to go home to his son. Everything will change. Sid will change, he’ll have to; he won’t be Geno’s partner anymore. Fuck everything.

“Fine,” Geno says, suddenly stopping resisting so Sid does tug him to his feet, and Sid wasn’t expecting that so he doesn’t move back in time, and for a second—they’re so close, and Sid’s looking up at Geno with a smile and a dare on his face, and his lips are still red with how much he messes with his mouthguard during the game, and it almost seems like he’s swaying in and Geno could—if Geno could

But Sid has a son at home, or at home still. Sid lied. Geno can’t breathe.

Sid rocks back on his heels, looks away. “Mingling,” he announces, and his hand is still on Geno’s wrist as he strides off to the nearest group of teammates.

Geno resists for form’s sake, but not hard. He gets this for now. No one can take that away.

///

Geno doesn’t see Sid much for the next few days. It’s not unusual, necessarily; Sid’s at practice and games and when Geno scores on the power play Sid’s there, arms wrapped around him and his helmet bumping against Geno’s chin like usual. It’s easy there, on the ice.

Off the ice—even in the locker room, or in the gym, which is usually an extension of the ice—it’s still off balance. Geno and Sid talk about the team and Sid’s present, he’d never say he wasn’t, but he’s harried, and Geno—every time he looks at him, he can’t help but wonder. What isn’t he saying? What else didn’t he say? He still laughs at Sid’s jokes and backs him in the room, and he’s not Tanger, who’s not avoiding Sid so much as he’s pointedly not avoiding Sid, but—but what else had Geno missed?

And Sid’s barely there either, running around figuring out logistics, Geno figures, even if he doesn’t talk to Geno about that either, even if he’d bitched about every other thing he’d done to his house or his life to Geno constantly. Jen puts out a statement confirming and asking for privacy, and Sid tweets it. It gets a rush of retweets and fan flurry that Geno knows Sid is ignoring, but no hockey player isn’t a bit of a masochist so Geno checks some of the tweets.

The fans are mainly confused, from what Geno can tell; he sympathizes. They don’t know how he kept it a secret. They’re excited to see what the boy will look like on the ice. They’re not sure how they feel that Sid didn’t marry the mother. They want pictures of Sid with his son. They don’t want Sid distracted. They want him happy and think this will do it. They think the mother is an opportunist. They think Sid took advantage of her. Like usual, nothing gets clearer looking at the fans’ response. And it doesn’t make Geno feel better.

So he goes out after games, and he hangs out with friends, and he calls his mother—who also somehow heard, which means unless Russian news has started to report on Sidney Crosby’s family life, which Geno doubts, someone tattled. Geno suspects Gonch, but Gonch has been giving him looks like he knows what’s going on in Geno’s head, so Geno’s not going to ask. His mother’s always been fond of Sid even if they’ve never really managed a conversation—she thinks he’s a good influence, thinks he helped steady Geno when he was lost in a new country and that they work well together, which is all true—so she nags him for pictures and sizes and tells him to tell Sid she’s sending a late christening gift and also that next time she’s in the States she is introducing him to proper Russian food. Geno agrees because it’s easier, and doesn’t say anything about what this means for him. About whether Sid will even care.

Then it’s Geno getting a text a Saturday afternoon, and he thinks about not checking it when he sees who it’s from but he knows he’s going to. Want to come over this evening? Sid asks. Geno raises his eyebrows at the phone. Sid’s been too busy for anything, these days.

Geno’s not sure if he wants to deal with Sid right now. He’s tired, and being around Sid—thinking about him—it’s been most exhausting than it has been in a while. Been long day, he replies, cautious. If he knows Sid, he won’t just leave it at that.

Sure enough, his phone buzzes again, a second later. Andy’s getting in.

Geno stares at the phone. Sid wants him there? You sure? He asks. Is first time they see your house—or so Geno assumes—is family thing. Sure you want me there?

Of course, Sid replies, barely a second later. Come at 6?

Geno gets there at 6:30, which they both know is what Sid really meant anyway. Sid yanks the door open when he gets there, before he even has a chance to let himself in.

“Thanks for coming,” he says, half like he means it but also Geno knows he’s constitutionally incapable of not saying shit like that off the ice. “I know you’re still—not happy with me, so—thanks.”

“Of course I come,” Geno tells him, because Sid might not trust Geno, and Geno might have doubts about Sid, but he’s been easy for Sidney since he was a twenty-year-old still growing into his body. “Not think you want, though.”

“I want you to meet Andy,” Sid says, like that’s just a thing people say. Like after keeping him a secret for six years, Sid just wanted Geno to meet his son. The person who was changing everything from their happy equilibrium. That equilibrium had won them three cups. Sid had been happy. Geno had been happy. Geno can’t help but feel—it’s not the kid’s fault, but he is the cause, of this weirdness.

But, “Okay, then I meet. When they get here?”

“Erika texted me when they landed. We decided if I went to the airport, it’d be a thing, so…” Sid waves to the room. He gives up on his shifting back and forth onto the balls of his feet, and starts pacing properly, putting a plate that had been sitting on the counter in the sink, then in the dishwasher; he moves some magazine to a different counter. It’s when he starts fussing with the pictures on the fridge—Taylor in her goalie gear, the team on the bus one day that Dumo had decided he had to snap a picture, Sid with his arms around Flower and Tanger at the All Star Game, Geno and Sid holding the Cup, and one Geno doesn’t recognize, but must be Andy on skates, grinning at the camera—that Geno draws a line. 

“Sid. House already neat, neater than it will be with kid. Stop fuss.”

“I’m not fussing,” Sid protests, moving the picture of the team down two centimeters so it better aligns with the picture of Sid, Tanger, and Flower.

Geno sighs, and reaches out to grab Sid’s wrist—then stops. The mother of Sid’s child is coming soon.

He lets his hand fall, and tries to cover it with a laugh. “Always fuss. Such a mama—” He cuts off again. Sid is a parent. It’s a lot less funny now, how he always acts over the rookies. He’s a dad, but it’s not him and Geno parenting.

If Sid hadn’t noticed his first weirdness—and Sid notices more than he lets on, so Geno’s pretty sure he did—he definitely noticed the second. “It was good I had practice for Andy,” Sid agrees evenly, like he might at some press event and he had to cover for Geno’s bad English. “Raising a kid’s about the same.”

“At least kid not get stuck in bathroom,” Geno replies, and Sid laughs because they both Connor’s never living that down.

“Well, Andy—”

The doorbell rings. Sid freezes.

Geno knows that expression. He’s seen it after bad losses, during point streaks, after that long Cup drought after their first. It’s Sid’s ‘what if they’re right and I’m not enough’ look. His, ‘what if I’m not the best after all?’ look. Once, in the depths of the concussion, it was, ‘what if I never play again?’

Geno’s always hated that look, more than he hates even the fact that he’s losing Sid, that he’s lost him. That maybe he never had him.

“Sid.”

Sid looks up at him. For a second, his face is open, and all the exhaustion and stress of the past few days are there—everything he’s carried. “He probably hates me now, right?” he asks, more bleak than afraid. “I messed up his life, what if he—”

Geno’s been shouldering as much of Sid’s burdens as he can for years now, helping carry the load. “Don’t be idiot,” Geno tells him, hand on his shoulder. Sid’s skin is so warm beneath his. “Not your fault.”

“Isn’t it?” Sid asks, but then the bell rings again, and Sid takes a breath, lifts his chin. Goes into game mode—into his space where he’ll take the hits that come, no matter what they are. That he’ll make it work. “Thanks,” he says again, and moves towards the door so Geno’s hand falls from his shoulder.

Geno trails after him, trying to stay in eyesight, because he’s still masochistic, but not intrude, because he knows it’s not his place.

Sid steels himself, opens the door, then—“Daddy!” comes a cry, and Sid doesn’t stumble as something hits his legs. “Daddy, daddy daddy! I was on a plane!”

“I know, bud!” Sid says, scooping him up easily. “Did you have fun?”

“Yeah! Well, it was weird, but mommy let me look out the windows, and we were so high up! I saw clouds!”

“You did?” Sid asks, and every bit of him has focused on the boy in his arms. “How many?”

“I didn’t count.”

“And were you good for mommy?”

“He was,” agrees a woman, who comes in after him. She’s still looking in her purse, but she glances up when she hits the door. She’s as pretty as she looked in the picture, if more harried; her dark hair is up in a bun with wisps escaping and she’s wearing jeans and a t-shirt that has something on it, and she’s still pretty. She pushes up, kisses Sid on the cheek. “Hi.”

“Hi. Good flight?”

“We survived. Someone was wearing your jersey a few seats away.”

Sid flinches. “Anything happen?”

“Andy pointed out it was his name too. But it was okay.” She sighs. “Where are we going?”

“Daddy!” the boy says, tugging on Sid’s shirt with a chubby fist. “Daddy, mommy says we’re going to live with you now! I’m going to see you every day! Can we go to the park, and see the bridges, and I can go to a game if I’m really good, and meet—”

Sid is beaming. Geno can’t see his face, and he knows that. “Of course. All that.” He leans his head down, so he can press his lips into the boy’s dark hair. “I’m happy to see you, bud.”

“Do I have a room? Does it have bunk beds? I want bunk beds, they’re cool, Jason has bunk beds and he said only babies sleep on the bottom bunk, so I’d sleep on the top bunk.”

Sid looks over the boy’s head at his mother, who gives a tight smile back. “There was some sugar on the plane,” she says.

“No kidding.” Sid turns back to his son. “There are bunk beds. Someone told me that all the cool kids have bunk beds.”

“Can I see!”

“You can. First, want to meet someone?” Sid hitches the boy up more on his hip, and turns, like he knew where Geno was all along. He probably did.

Geno comes into the hall the rest of the way. Behind Sid, he can see Erika’s eyebrows go up, but then it’s just—Sid’s standing in front of him, and Andy’s curled into him, his head resting on Sid’s shoulder and a hand tangled in the front of Sid’s shirt. He doesn’t look much like Sid, to be honest; he’s less stocky, and his skin is darker and his hair curlier, and his cheeks are chubby in the way of children. But he’s got Sid’s eyes, that wideset hazel, and his mouth, and something in the way he looks at Geno is all Sid.

“Geno, this is Andy,” Sid says, and he’s looking at Andy and smiling, and then he turns to Geno, still with that same smile, and Geno’s never seen him smiling like that, not at any of their friends’ kids, not at any of the Little Penguins. Not at anyone. “Andy, can you say hi?”

“Hi!” Andy chirps, and grins, and it’s Sid’s smile too.

“Hi,” Geno breathes. All of his resentment is blown away. How could he have resented him? This is Sid’s son. Of course Geno loves him. “I’m Geno.”

“You play hockey with my dad,” Andy tells him, direct as Sid ever is. “He says you’re the best.”

“He does?” Geno asks, flicking his eyes over to look at Sid. Sid shrugs, but he’s still smiling.

“It’s the truth.”

“You have a big dog, too! And you come from,” Andy frowns, trying to remember. “Somewhere far away! It’s why you talk funny, even though daddy says you’re really smart.”

“He does?” Geno repeats, and this time Sid’s cheeks are a little red. How much does Sid talk about him? To his son?

“Yeah!” Andy confirms. “Russia!” he says, and bounces in Sid’s arms, clearly pleased with himself. “I knew it.”

“You did,” Sid agrees, grinning at him. His cheeks are still red.

“Is best country,” Geno tells Andy. It’s never too early to make sure he gets the right education. “Your dad say Canada, but he wrong.”

“He’s not!” Andy protests, looking horrified at the thought.

“Mama come from Russia, make you food, you see.”

“G, she doesn’t—”

“She already say she will,” Geno assures Sid. “Make best food.”

“Canada’s still the best!” Andy informs him, with Sid’s stubborn expression on his face. “Dad’s captain of Canada.”

Geno snorts. He really wishes he got that on tape.

“Dad once was captain of the Canadian team,” Sid corrects.

“Three times,” Geno corrects him, still not pretending not to laugh. “More if he wanted.”

“Are you Captain Russia?” Andy asks, and Geno’s still in a good enough mood to keep laughing even through Sid’s hissed, “Andy!”

“No, not yet.” It’s an old, constant wound; it doesn’t really bother Geno much anymore, except for when it does.

“You’ve already paid the driver, right Sid?” Erika asks, and Sid turns to her.

“Yeah, I use their service a lot, I have an account.”

“Okay, good. And do I tip?”

“It happens electronically.”

“I can—”

“This is because of me, it’s the least I can do.”

“Fine.” She huffs, turns away from Sid and to Geno. “So you’re Geno. Hi, I’m Erika.”

Geno holds out his hand to shake. Her hand is delicate in his, neatly manicured but with some chipped edges. “Geno Malkin.”

“I’ve heard.” Her gaze flicks over him, efficient, and then she’s looking at Sid again. “Where should we put our bags?”

“I’ll show you.” They trade off Andy in what looks like a practiced motion, then Sid goes down the hall to pick up the suitcases the driver had brought up—there were three of them. How long were they staying?

Sid picks up two, and Geno’s not going to be a dick so he grabs the third even as Erika’s reaching for it. “Is fine, I get.”

“Thanks.” She smiles at him, a little strained. “Sorry, it’s been a long day. Long week.”

Sid makes an agreeing sound, and they exchange a look that Geno can’t interpret.

Then Sid’s past them, down the hall and up the stairs, and Erika follows him and Geno follows Erika, Andy chattering the whole way.   

Sid’s done plenty with the place since the last time Geno had been upstairs, which hasn’t been in a while—usually, it’s a last ditch bathroom if too many people are there. But now the first room they stop in, which was once the guest suite for Sid’s parents, has been cleaned and aired out, and Sid sets down the two suitcases there.

“You’re in here, if that’s okay,” he tells Erika. In here. Not in Sid’s bedroom. Geno’s not wondering about that. “It’s got an en suite, and Andy’ll be right next door and I’m on his other side, so—”

“It’s fine.” She looks around. She doesn’t look exactly pleased—Geno stops himself from bristling, because it’s a perfectly nice room—but she nods. “Where’s Andy’s room?”

“Yeah!” Andy cheers, wriggling out of her arms. As soon as she’s down, he’s off, running towards the door. Sid laughs and jogs after him.

That leaves Geno and Erika alone, which is just weird. Geno doesn’t know what to say to her. What he wants to say to her.

So he just nods, and backs out of the door, to the room next door.

This room, Sid’s completely redone. Geno vaguely remembers a nondescript guest room, but now it’s a kid’s dream room—done in greens and blues, with a bunk bed and bean bags and toys and, because it’s Sid, bins for those toys.

Andy’s running around, touching everything; Sid’s still by the door, and his shoulders are tense as he shifts on his feet. “Do you like it?” he asks. He’s nervous, Geno realizes. He really thinks that this boy who clearly adores him won’t like the place he’s made.

Geno moves before he thinks, nudges Sid’s shoulder with his, like he has every time Sid’s been drawn out like that. Sid looks surprised, but he smiles up at Geno anyway, tight but pleased.

“Is this all mine?” he asks, spinning around.

“All yours,” Sid grins back.

“Sidney.” Erika sighs again, as she walks in. “This is so much.”

“It’s just a room.”

“You didn’t have to do all this.”

Sid crosses his arms. Geno knows that look, and steps neatly out of the way. “Andy gets a place in my home.”

“You’ll spoil him.”

“It’s just things he needs. All the toys are educational, I asked.” Geno rolls his eyes. He’s getting Andy something uneducational as soon as possible.

“It’s more than—”

“Mom, I’m hungry,” Andy whines, and Sid and Erika turn as one to where Andy’s tugging on Erika’s hand. “Can we eat?”

“Of course, honey. Eat, then bedtime, okay?”

“But it’s a special day! I went on a plane! I should get to stay up late!” Andy argues.

“Nope, dinner than bedtime.” Sid scoops Andy up again. “But because it’s a special day, we can have mac and cheese for dinner.”

“Really?” Andy turns to his mother.

“Really,” she confirms. She brushes a lock of Andy’s dark curls out of his eyes, casually leaning into Sid’s space for it. Sid lets her, easy as he is with anyone on the team. With Geno.

“Is Geno staying?” Andy goes on. “I want to hear about his big dog!”

Sid glances at Geno over Andy’s head, clearly asking if he wants to. Geno shrugs. Sid nods back.

“Yes, I stay. If okay with you,” he says to Erika.

Erika’s lips twitch. “I’m not sure you’re the one who should be asking,” she says, which doesn’t really make sense, but Geno takes it as a yes anyway.

On the way down, Sid falls into step with Erika as Andy charges ahead. “I didn’t mean to show you up or anything,” Geno hears Sid say behind him.

“I know.”

“You can redo your room too, if you want. I want you to be comfortable here.”

“Right, that’s going to happen.” Erika sighs. “But thanks.”

“If there’s anything I can do—we can go shopping this weekend, and you can get whatever, or I can ask Nathalie if you want, or—”

“Sid, stop,” she warns, a little sharp, a little wary. “I’ll look around if I want.”

“I know, but—”

Sidney.”

Geno almost hears Sid’s jaw clamp shut, probably on all the things he wants to say, to do. Sid’s never been able to let well enough alone; if Geno knows Sid, he’ll keep going. Keep pushing at it, because this is a problem and Sid needs to fix problems.

But instead, to Geno’s surprise, Sid lets out a breath. “Do you want anything else for dinner?” he asks, even but tense. Geno takes his own breath as Erika starts debating vegetables. Okay. So Sid with Erika isn’t like he is with anyone else. That’s fine. Geno doesn’t need to know all of Sid. He’s fine.

So Geno has dinner with Sidney and his family, eating diet-plan-approved mac and cheese at the table. Andy talks constantly for the first half of dinner, asking questions faster than the adults can answer them, but he’s clearly flagging by the second, so instead Sid and Erika chat about the people they know in Toronto and their plans for tomorrow, and then Sid says something about practice that Geno has a comment on, and they end up talking hockey and the team for a little before Andy almost falls asleep in his plate.

“Bedtime for the world traveler,” Sid announces, getting up.

“I’ll get him ready if you clean?”

“Yeah.” Sid starts gathering dishes while Erika hefts Andy and carries him upstairs. Geno gets up too, hovers a second before gathering more dishes. “Oh, don’t worry, I got it.”

“I help.”

“You have.” Sid’s smiling at him, soft and pleased. “It was—I’m glad you were here.”

“Happy to meet.” It’s easier than saying all of Geno’s feelings, that he’s intruding, that Sid’s smile still feels precious even though he knows it isn’t his, that he’s never seen Sid as part of a unit he isn’t a part of and it hurts. “Andy great kid. Erika seem nice.”

“He’s the best,” Sid agrees, the same easy confidence he says that about the team, about anything he believes. “And yeah,” he adds, “Erika’s great.”

“Too good for you,” Geno teases, because it’s on script and it’s easier to say than anything else, even if Geno’s not sure it’s true. Not sure it could ever be true.

Sid shrugs. “Maybe.” He takes the dishes from Geno, stacks them all together. “I’ll see you at practice tomorrow?”

“Of course. Bringing Andy?”

“Maybe. It might be better for him to settle in more. And it’s an open practice tomorrow. We’ll have to talk it over.”

That makes sense. It definitely makes sense, that Andy’s parents would talk over his life. That they would be partners. That she would know everything about every part of Sid’s life. That he wouldn’t lie to her.

Geno doesn’t let his fists clench. Just nods.

“See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah.” Sid looks like he’s going to go put the dishes away, which Geno takes as a time for him to go so Sid can go help put his son to bed, but then he pauses. “G.”

Geno turns back. Sid’s just holding some dishes, but it looks painfully domestic, and for a second—for a second it’s six years ago, and Geno’s basically living with Sid, and Sid’s cleaning their plates and that evening they’ll go back to the couch and Sid will fuss with propping Geno’s leg up and laugh at his whining and then settle in so that their thighs touch, and Sid will lean his head against Geno’s shoulder and close his eyes and listen with a smile as Geno reads, and Geno will feel like there’s nowhere else in the world he could be.

“Really,” Sid goes on, and it’s now, and after that moment Sid had gotten Erika pregnant, and now she’s upstairs with their son. But Sid’s still looking at Geno, like he’s seeing right through him, and couldn’t ask for anything more but still wants him to be better. “Thanks. You made this so much better.”

 That’s all Geno ever wanted to do for Sid, with Sid, alongside Sid—and he thought he had, but—“See you tomorrow,” he says, and leaves Sid to his family.

///

Andy doesn’t come to practice the next day, or the game after that, against the Flyers, even though somehow it’s disseminated among the team that he’s in Pittsburgh. “You don’t want a good luck charm?”  Horny asks before the game, laughing as he gets changed. They’re still riding high on last year’s success against the Flyers; everyone’s in a good mood.

“I don’t need a good luck charm,” Sid retorts, which gets some cheers. Geno watches as Sid glances to his right. “Right?” he prompts, but Tanger—who would usually be chirping Sid about all his assorted good luck beliefs—is getting changed and talking to Olli next to him, still pointedly not looking at Sid.

Geno doesn’t sigh, because he gets it, he does, but he still doesn’t like it. He inches over to Sid. “Erika say no?” he asks.

Sid shrugs, looking away from Tanger. “They’re still settling in. And…” Sid lowers his voice, so it’s just between him and Geno. The rest of the team is used to them talking like this, and moves around them. “I didn’t want him at a Flyer’s game. You know their fans can get.”

“Think even boo baby?” Geno asks, but his hand twitches around his stick. He’s only met Andy once, but he’d kick anyone’s ass who was mean to him over hockey. That’s just basic decency.

“My kid?” Sid asks rhetorically, with the same casual acceptance and just a hint of pride that he’s occasionally the most reviled player in Philadelphia as he usually has. “Don’t you?”

Geno wants to protest, but. Flyer’s fans. “Other teams been saying things?” he asks instead.

“No, actually.” Sid smiles a little at that, like he always does thinking about the friends he has scattered across the league. “They’ve all been great. Claude was asking if he could meet him, actually.”

“You say yes?” Geno’s tugs on his under armor harder maybe than he needed to. Sid’s mainly gotten over his hatred of Giroux, away from the rink at least, but Geno still doesn’t trust him. Because of years of history and slashing and penalties, not because of how easily he’d slid onto Sid’s power play at Worlds. 

“Andy’s not here, is he? And Claude’s back on a plane right after.” Sid leans over to pull on his pads, and his shirt is really getting ridiculous; so threadbare that Geno can see every line of muscle on Sid’s back, and there are too many to count.

“Anyway,” Sid adds, glancing up. He’s grinning, the smug confident smile that looks best on him, when he knows just what he can do. “He won’t be in any mood to meet my kid after we sweep the floor with them.”

Geno snorts. “Fuck yeah,” he agrees, and knocks Sid’s shoulder with his fist before stepping away. He’s learned some self-preservation skills in the last six years.

It’s a harder game than they expected. The Flyers are hungry, clearly ready for a win after last year, and it’s not like either team ever plays clean against each other. Geno spends plenty of time in the box, but it’s tied at 2 when Big Rig and Couturier get into it. Somehow, Geno ends up paired with Giroux, as the refs all skate over to figure out how much time they’re getting.

“So, Croz is a dad now,” Giroux says. Geno doesn’t know him well, but he doesn’t look like he’s laughing or being mean.

“Been dad for a while,” Geno retorts. He shifts away, but he can’t move yet.

Giroux hums like that was obvious. Geno wonders if he could get away with tripping him now. Maybe the refs wouldn’t notice. “And how are you doing? Liking fatherhood?”

Geno’s too confused to be angry at that. “Sid dad, not me.”

“Yeah, well.” Giroux laughs, too low for anyone else to hear, not entirely happily. “Been there, done that. Not much difference, is it?”

Geno looks closer. Giroux really isn’t smiling. He looks—wistful. Self-mocking. “I’m just saying,” Giroux goes on. The ref’s are close to making a decision. “You don’t like me, I don’t really know you. But if you want to talk about it, give me a call. Croz has my number.”

“Nothing to talk about.”

Giroux laughs again. It’s loud enough this time that Horny, a few meters away, turns to look with a suspicious glare. Geno shakes his head a little, calling him off. “Yeah, sure. Word of advice, though? Talk about it before you get in too deep.” The refs are starting to skate away, and Jamie’s heading to the penalty box with an angry expression. “It sucks a lot worse when you’ve got to get distance from the kids too.”

“What—” But Giroux is skating away—he’s probably on power play, and Geno’s back to the bench for the penalty kill.

Sid’s waiting there, looking impatient and irritated. “That call was bullshit,” he complains, leaning over his IPad to check the replay. “Look! Jamie’s hit was totally clean.”

“Bullshit,” Geno echoes, because it was. Sid looks up, and his eyes narrow.

“What’d Giroux say to you? You can’t let it get to you, G, you know—”

“Not get to me,” Geno retorts, and puts it aside. There’s hockey to play, and Flyers to crush. “Nothing important. Just usual bullshit.”

“He’ll eat that,” Sid tells him, and then the game’s on.

They manage to pull out the game in OT, which is more than anyone had wanted, so despite the win no one’s in a particularly good mood in the locker room. They’re off that evening for Raleigh anyway, and everyone needs to get home, eat something, and get ready to get on the plane.

Geno manages to avoid the media scrum, but Sid as always is caught for longer than anyone else, so Geno’s already mostly dressed when Sid comes back from the showers.

“Hey,” Sid says, wandering over. “Want to come over for dinner?”

Geno needs to get home, needs to do some chores before getting on the plane. He would think Sid would want time with his family. “Need to pack,” he says.

Sid rolls his eyes. “Why don’t you do that before the game?” he complains, like he has for years. Geno sees his point, but also,

“Have better things to do before game. Why not do now?”

“Because what if you remember that you need something—”

“What am I going to forget? Same thing every time. I’m doing this for long time, Sid. Think I know how to pack.”

Sid’s quiet, for a second. A drop of water falls from his hair down his neck, over the muscles of his shoulder, onto his chest, which is still flushed from the heat of the water. “I know,” Sid says, quietly. Almost cautiously. “I’m not saying you would forget something.”

Geno blinks. That sounded like Sidney Crosby backing down, even from stupid bickering in a locker room. “You okay, Sid?” If he’s sick, Geno is immediately tattling and making him stay home. They can spare him this early in the season.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Now Sid’s giving him a weird look. “I just—I trust you to handle yourself, you know that, right?”

“Yeah? I’m not rookie, Sid. Don’t have to fuss over me.”

“I know.” Sid shakes his head. “I just didn’t—anyway. Are you sure you don’t want to stop by? Andy’s been wanting to see you again. He was really impressed by Jeffery.”

Geno really should go home. He shouldn’t let himself be distracted. Sid hasn’t invited him over like this for—well, ever; maybe a few times years ago, before they got old enough that the responsibility of their letters matched their maturity, but definitely not for years. Sid’s watching him with dark, even eyes, and Geno knows what Sid looks like, setting up a play. Usually, he knows Sid’s play—but now, he’s not sure.

He shouldn’t think about matching Crosby grins.

“Fine,” Geno sighs. “I come. You feed me?”

“Yeah, for sure. Just let me get changed.”

“So slow, hold me up so much,” Geno shoots back, and Sid punches him in the arm before he goes back to his stall.

Geno opens his phone while he waits, as the rest of the guys—none of whom had as long a scrum as Sid—clear out. The NHL app has some headlines about the game, some shit from Sid, some shit from Giroux. What did Giroux even mean? The Caps lost, so good riddance, so did Vegas, which Geno is also more pleased about than he should be. He wonders if Flower’s mad as Sid too. That might be why he’s inviting Geno over, to make up for him and Tanger.

“Okay, I’m good. Ready?”

“Ready for so long,” Geno complains, and gets to his feet. Sid just laughs.

Geno follows Sid back to his house, where they’re greeted with a “Daddy! You won!” and what is apparently Andy’s usual method of greeting Sid, which is to throw himself at him and expect to be caught—which Sid does, of course, scooping him up and into the air.

“We did!” he agrees, grinning his ‘we just won’ grin. It’s one of Geno’s favorite expressions on him. “You watch?”

“Yeah! Mommy said I could if I was good.”

“And were you good?”

“So good,” Andy sighs, with all the exasperated world-weariness of a man ten times his age. “So I watched, and I wore my lucky jersey so you won!”

“Start him early on superstitions?” Geno teases, but Andy twists in Sid’s arms and Geno can see that he is, in fact, wearing a Pens jersey with a C. It’s pretty adorable.

“Geno!” Andy yells, and wriggles until Sid puts him down, so he can run over to talk to Geno. Geno crouches down to get to his height. “You were great! I saw you score. You got more points than daddy.”

“I did,” Geno agrees, smirking; Sid groans.

“This time, whatever.” He’s got the set look in his eyes that means next game he’s going to start up with his baseball shit again, or something. Geno’s looking forward to it. “Where’s your mom, Andy?”

Andy shrugs. “She said if I was watching, she was going to do work.”

“And I got work done,” Erika agrees, coming downstairs. She’s in jeans and an over-sized sweatshirt that looks like it’s from a university; it’s definitely not a Pens jersey. Geno knows that some of the WAGs have superstitions about what gear they can wear; maybe that’s it. “You got him?”

“I’m on until we leave.”

“Great. I’ll be in the office. Hi, Geno.” Erika nods to him, then heads back upstairs before Geno can say hi back.

“She not want spend time with you, before leave?”

“She’s got work. We decided I get Andy whenever I’m home, until he starts school and we get someone.” Sid’s moving easily, pushing shoes against the wall and hanging up his jacket. He holds out a hand, and Geno hands his jacket over too, because he knows Sid’s neuroses too well. He doesn’t get how it works with the disaster that is his gear, but he knows it. “So, Andy. What’d you do today?”

“I drew a lot! Come see!”

Andy grabs Geno’s hand in one of his, and sets off towards the living room. Geno has no choice but to follow, even as Sid laughs at him a little. “Look!” Andy announces, and the self-satisfied expression is the same one Sid has after making a pretty play. “Isn’t it great?”

As far as Geno can tell, it’s mainly shapes; he’s not sure what the shapes are exactly.

“That’s awesome, buddy!” Sid enthuses, leaning down. “Isn’t it, G?”

“Best,” Geno agrees, because he knows how to deal with kids. He’s lived with them for years. “Best at drawing.” Andy grins, and Geno grins back. He can’t help reaching out to ruffle Andy’s hair. “Like dad is best at hockey.”

“It’s about hockey! See, it’s daddy, and the goal, and this is you! You’re helping, but daddy’s scoring.”

“That not sound right, I’m score.”

“Not this time. It’s daddy’s turn.”

“Is it?” Geno asks, and glances at Sid.

Sid’s just looking at them, leaning back like he does sometimes at team events—like he’s just happy to be there and watch everyone else be happy, happy that all his ducklings are around him. This smile is softer, though; Geno’s not sure he’s ever seen Sid look like that. Or maybe, sometimes, during those long days—

Then Sid smiles and leans down, and the look is gone. “Want to put it up on the fridge?” Sid suggests, and Andy lights up.

“Really?” he asks, and Sid nods.

“Really. Come on, we can put it up, and then we can make dinner.”

“Mac and cheese?” Andy asks, all big pouty eyes.

“No mac and cheese.”

“Please?”

“No, bud. You know that’s a special treat. It’s a chicken night.”

“Daddy, that’s boring!”

“It’s healthy.”

“Come on, Sid, is boring!” Geno chimes in, giving Sid his best puppy dog face to match Andy’s. Sid rolls his eyes at both of them.

“It’s in your meal plan,” he tells Geno, “And you know you need to eat protein if you want to grow up strong.”

“Psh.” Geno waves his hand. “He barely have to grow at all to be as tall as you.”

“The doctor says I’ll probably be taller than dad,” Andy contributes, and Geno cracks up at the betrayed look on Sid’s face.

“We practice, then,” Geno decides, and picks Andy up to put him on his shoulders. He’s done it in this room with some of the other Pens kids, he knows there’s no height problem; when Sid finally decided on a house tall ceilings were apparently a must. “What it look like, from up there?”

“So tall!”

“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up,” Sid mutters, and picks up the picture from where Andy had left it. “Let me know when you can keep any muscle on.”

“Is okay, Sid.” Geno can’t help but smile at him, at his pout, which is so like his son’s, at the way even now the smile is sparking in the corner of Sid’s eyes, like he can’t stop smiling around Andy. At the feeling of just being here, with Sid and Andy, and how easy it is. “You compact.”

“You’ll pay for that when you put my son down,” Sid tells him, challenge in his eyes, and then leads the way into the kitchen.

Geno follows him, sets Andy down at the counter. He’s been in Sid’s kitchen before, made dinner with him before; they know how to move around each other and what the other needs when. It’s new, having Andy there, asking questions and eventually running off to get some game on Sid’s iPad that he can play at the kitchen table, but it’s nice, like it was in the living room. Nice and easy and—

How’s fatherhood? Giroux had asked, and Geno remembers the stories back then, about Giroux and Briere’s sons. Don’t get attached. Erika’s upstairs—Andy’s mother.

“Everything okay, G?” Sid asks, and Geno shakes his head. This is just a friend helping another friend. Giroux’s a Flyer, Geno shouldn’t listen to him.

“Yeah, is okay,” Geno agrees, and finishes tossing the salad.

///

The roadie isn’t anything out of the ordinary; they beat the Hurricanes, then lose to the Rangers, which sucks, and then they have a night in the hotel before they play the Devils. Sid and Geno both make the rounds, but despite the loss everyone’s revved up and ready, so Geno goes out and gets drinks with Phil and Tanger and Hags while the young guys go out and do something Geno doesn’t want to know about unless he needs to bail them out, in which case he’s making them call Sid anyway because his fame and ability to make authority figures like him ought to be good for something.

Geno knocks on Sid’s door before he goes down, but Sid answers it already in sweat pants. “I’m good,” he says to Geno’s unspoken question. “Just going to skype Andy, then go to bed.”

“Tell him I say hi?”

“I will,” Sid agrees, grinning at Geno. His feet are bare. Geno’s seen him in all states of undress, but there’s something about his bare feet and the Pens shirt that’s a style Geno hasn’t seen for years that makes him seem more like—well, more like he is at home. “You’re his favorite right now, you know. He thinks you’re awesome.”

“I am awesome,” Geno says, and gets a snort from Sid. “Sure? Could come down after.” Sid usually likes to come down and hang out with the guys, especially after a loss. Flower used to joke that Sid was the most extroverted introvert he knew, for all the time he wanted to spend with the team on the road; Geno had always thought it was that Sid was lonely, all alone in his big house. But he wasn’t. He’d had Andy, and Erika, and his secrets.

“Nah, I’ve got to crash,” Sid says, shaking his head, though he does look regretful. “Next time, for sure.”

“For sure,” Geno echoes, and lets the door close.

Because Geno is not twenty-four and dramatic anymore, he doesn’t get morosely drunk. Instead, he drinks a responsible few drinks and only complains about how Sid isn’t there a little.

“He’s got family now, he doesn’t have time for his hockey husband,” Phil teases, after Geno makes maybe too pointed a comment about how lame Sid is for going to sleep.

Tanger snorts. “He had a family before too,” he says, still too sharp.

“You’re still pissy about that?” Hags asks, rolling his eyes. “It’s been like two weeks.”

“It’s been six years,” Tanger retorts, tossing his hair. “Hell, it’s been twelve years. Right, G?”

Geno looks into his drink. “Yeah,” he agrees. He wants to say that there were good reasons, to defend Sid, like he always does. But Sid’s reasons—they made sense, and he understood them, he even understood why not to tell the whole team, but…it was different, him and Sid. Tanger and Sid. Flower and Sid, even. Sid should have told them. “Flower mad too?”

Tanger shrugs. “He’s not pleased, but he’s not here,” he says, which sums it up well. Flower doesn’t have to play on the same team. Flower doesn’t have to sit in his kitchen and watch Sid and his son and wonder if this has been what it’s like for years. Flower doesn’t have to watch Sid and Erika as they hand their son between them and circle easily, and wonder if twelve years of leading a team together means the same.

Of course, Flower probably wouldn’t care about any of that, but the point remains.

“Whatever, is more interesting things to talk about than Sid,” Geno announces, which gets some skeptical looks from everyone else. Whatever, they all know Sid’s boring, and Geno doesn’t talk about him unless someone else brings him up. Usually. “Anyone going to Steelers game next week?”

It diverts them all, and when Geno gets up to bed, he passes out without thinking about Sid down the hall at all.

The game is a bloodbath from the start; the Pens are hungry and come out of the gate hard, and the Devils just don’t manage to get their feet under them. They go into the first intermission up 3, and Sully just sends them back out with a, “keep it up.”

There’s a few minutes left in the second when the hit happens—Sid’s on a breakaway, and then he’s stopped and then his head hits the boards and he’s on the ice and Geno sees red.

“What the—” comes out in Russian as he surges to his feet, but Phil’s hand closes on his jersey, and Tanger and Jake are there anyway, in whoever’s face who’d just hit Sid and standing over him menacingly.

The guy—no one Geno recognizes—backs off with his eyes wide, and then the medics are there and the refs and Geno tugs at Phil’s hand. He needs to get out there. He needs to—

“Stop it,” Phil mutters. He’s staring at Sid like his willpower will make it okay, but he’s not moving. “Tanger’s got it. You know better.”

“Fuck off, I can—”

“Can what?” Phil asks, and Geno doesn’t have an answer.

It doesn’t matter anyway—the medics are helping Sid up, but he’s clearly holding himself wrong—his arm, Geno thinks, as Sid’s hurried past them and down the tunnel. That was definitely his arm.

Geno goes onto the power play boiling, as does everyone else, but the Devils knew what was coming and they kill it, and maybe Geno’s playing stupid, but he doesn’t care, he keeps seeing Sid on the ice and his head.

Sid’s not in the locker room when they go in for intermission. Sully shakes his head a little at Geno, so Geno gets it—bad. Bad enough that he’s not coming back.

No one stops him when he goes down the halls, finding his way towards the medic’s room. It’s crowded when he gets there—or at least, there are two guys there as well as Sid, fussing over him, but Sid looks right over them at Geno. His face is white but set, and his arm is definitely at the wrong angle. Geno has a brief, hysterical thought that maybe they’ll have to cut his under armor off of him, and that shirt’ll finally be gone.

“It’s okay,” Sid says. His voice is steady even if Geno knows what Sid looks like when he’s in pain. “I’m okay. Broken arm. I’m—hospital,” he says, and the medic jumps in. 

“We’re taking him to the hospital to set it. It doesn’t look bad.”

“He drugged?”

“Not yet.”

“He can hear you,” Sid inputs, a hint of the pain getting through his iron will, or maybe just pissiness. “G—”

“I know, we win for you.”

“Yeah, you better not lose it now,” Sid agrees, almost smiling. “No, just—they don’t have Erika’s number on file, and I don’t know when I’ll be okay to call—when it’s over, can you call them? My phone’s in my bag.”

Why don’t they have Erika’s number as his emergency contact? It’s not a thought for now. “For sure,” he agrees, and Sid nods and closes his eyes, tips his head back.

Geno can’t help it—it’s instinct, every time Sid looks like this. He reaches out, threads his fingers through Sid’s hair, sweaty and starting to curl just a little at the ends. “We win. You be good, for doctors.”

Sid opens his eyes again at that, though he tilts his head into Geno’s hand like he did back on those couches in Sid’s house. “You’re telling me that?” he grits out.

Geno refuses to admit hypocrisy. “Be good,” he repeats, and then the medic’s shooing him away.

He relays everything to the team once he gets back to the locker room, makes sure they all know that Sid’s fine, that he was lucid and there were no concussion symptoms—they’re all on edge about that, after Sid and Zach.

Then they’re back on the ice, and Geno settles in to make them pay.

It ends up 7-1, and it’s good but not enough, not even when Greene grabs onto Geno’s hand in the line. “Crosby okay?” he asks, leaning in.

“Will be,” Geno snaps, and shakes his hand too hard before going down the line.

“Sidney’s still at the hospital, but he’ll meet us at the plane,” Sully tells Geno, as they go down the tunnel. “Upper body injury, you know the drill.”

Geno just nods again. He can see Sid hitting the ice, and it’s now and the Winter Classic and the Islanders all at once.

He can’t get out of interviews without Sid there, but the game itself wasn’t that interesting and they’re in New Jersey, so no one cares. Geno makes sure Jake’s getting Sid’s stuff, then take the phone out of Sid’s bag.

He doesn’t actually know Sid’s password, but he also knows Sid, so he tries 1987 and it works. Sid is going to get his phone very stolen one day, Geno thinks fondly; how on earth did he manage to keep a secret for so long?

The thought registers, but then the phone unlocks and Andy’s the lockscreen, smiling up at him, and Geno tries not to be fonder.

Erika’s number is top of Sid’s most recent calls, even above his parents and Taylor. Geno, he can’t help but notice, is far down—and he knows it’s because he hates talking on the phone in English and he’s with Sid most of the time and now is not the time to think about it, but still. He takes a deep breath before he hits call.

It rings a few times, then, “Hi?” comes Erika’s voice. “Sid?”

Geno swallows. “No, is Geno.”

“Oh.” He can hear the tension go into her voice, and straightens instinctively. She’s that kind of person—a bit like Sid, really. The kind of person who makes you listen. “What’s wrong? Is Sidney okay?”

Was she watching? Geno guesses it is late, but still. “Yes, is okay. But got hurt today, during game. Broke arm. Not big deal!” Geno rushes on, before Erika can worry. “Just simple injury. But he want me to call, make sure you not worried.”

“Just a broken arm,” Erika mutters, and adds something in an irritated tone that Geno can’t quite make out, though he thinks he hears “hockey.” He really hates English. “When will he be home?”

“Normal time, he getting on the plane with us.”

“He drove to the rink, but I guess he won’t be able to drive back. Should I plan to pick him up?”

She’s clearly a planner, like Sid; making everything fit into its nice little boxes. Andy’s life is going to be so organized.

Geno looks at the time—it’s already late, and the flight isn’t long but it’ll be very late when they get back. And anyway—maybe Sid will want her there, but Geno knows she hasn’t dealt with an injured Sid before. She doesn’t know how. “No, you don’t need wake Andy. We get him home.”

“Thanks.” She sighs. “Really, thanks for letting me know. I wouldn’t want to wake up to this.”

“Of course. Happy to.” Geno is. He is.

“Was the hit bad? Should Andy not watch it? I don’t like him to see that.”

Geno can barely remember this hit, blurred as it is with all the others. “Probably not,” he admits. “Did you not watch game?”

“No, I don’t like hockey,” Erika says, offhand, and Geno nearly drops the phone. She doesn’t like hockey? How is Sid involved with her? “Keep me updated if anything changes.”

“Yes, I will,” Geno agrees, and lets her hang up with a goodbye. She doesn’t like hockey? It’s not like Geno doesn’t know that Sid is more well-rounded than he lets on and that he has interests other than hockey, but—it seems like a pretty fundamental thing, to be missing.

“Sid in trouble at home?” Phil asks, teasing. Geno makes a face at him.

“Sid in trouble here,” he retorts. “Get injured on stupid play. Thought we done with this.”

“At least his head’s okay,” Tanger points out, and Geno breathes out a quiet knock on wood.

Sidney’s head might be okay, but his mood clearly is not. He gets on the bus pissy, with his arm in a sling against his chest and the stoned but irritated look that means he’ll be out for a while but also he’s on too many drugs to be quite as annoyed about it as usual. He stops to talk to Sully for a minute, then looks around the plane—counting, checking to make sure everyone’s there and okay, which they are, because Geno is doing his damn job—then drops into his usual seat.

They’re going to take off in a minute, and usually that’d mean Geno’d be in his seat in the back, starting the card game, but—he gets up, goes forward in the plane, and shoves at Sid’s knees until he pulls them in enough Geno can get by, to what was once Flower’s seat. “How long?” he asks, because there’s no point beating around the bush.

“A month.” Sid definitely pouts. “Maybe more. Fuck the Devils.”

“Fuck them,” Geno echoes. “How many drugs you on?”

“Not that many.” But Sid trails off, then visibly reins himself back in. “How’s everyone?”

“Fine. We win. Have to show that you not whole team.”

“I’m not the whole team,” Sid objects, and Geno has to smile at him. Sid smiles back, softened by the drugs. “And—you called Erika?”

“Yeah. She say okay. She not like hockey, Sid? Really?”

“I know!” Sid groans, and shifts in his seat like he’s trying to get comfortable as they start to taxi. “I don’t get it. I’ve tried, but she thinks it’s violent.”

“What, she like baseball?” Geno scoffs.

“She’s just not a sports person in general.”

Geno gapes. “And you sleep with her?”

Sid laughs and shoves at him, then swears as that jostles his shoulder. “Oh, fuck off.”

“No, is important! What if she give bad genes to Andy! What if he not like hockey?”

“Andy loves hockey, don’t be stupid.” Sid’s smile shifts again, just thinking about him. “Her genes went to other things, I guess.”

“Hmph.” This is definitely something Geno does not approve of. “Risky.”

“Well it’s not like I meant to have a baby with her,” Sid retorts, and he really must be loopy, because that came out easily. Geno had—well, he’d figured, given the secrecy. But still. There’s something mean and vicious in him that’s satisfied with it. Sid hadn’t chosen her. It’s not like he’d chosen Geno either, but the hockey gods had, and they’d chosen to be—this. Sid lets out a breath, and slumps back in his seat. “We’re lucky Andy turned out to be the best.” 

“Yes, very lucky. Have to deal with not-like hockey genes and your genes, almost impossible turn out good as he did.”

Sid smiles. “Shut up, and tell me about the game. What did I miss?”

Geno gives him the play by play until they’re well into the air, and then the drugs and pain are clearly taking affect so he shuts up to let Sidney sleep, pulls out his book.

He reads for a few pages, but Sid’s shifting and tossing, clearly uncomfortable and also clearly going to make his shoulder worse. Geno’s halfway through moving even before he thinks about it, lifting his arm so it can drape over Sid’s shoulders and keep him in place, hold him against Geno’s chest to sleep. Sid apparently doesn’t wake, though he does make a little snuffling sound against Geno’s shirt.

They spend the rest of the flight like that, with Sid pressed against him. No one who walks past them blinks, though Tanger gives judgmental eyebrows that Geno can’t quite interpret. But it’s just—it’s Sid, cuddled close, with his eyelashes feathered on his cheeks and his face flushed. Sid here, trusting Geno enough to falls asleep injured against him. He trusts him this much. So why not—what hadn’t Geno—what did Sid think—

Sid starts to mumble again, and Geno’s hands are somehow in the hair at the nape of his neck, fiddling absently with the strands there. His hair’s getting a little long; it’s almost enough to curl, in that way Sid thinks makes him look young but Geno thinks is charming. Geno thinks a lot about Sid is charming, though, even the things that annoy him.

God. It’d be so easy, like this. If Geno had done something, years ago; if he hadn’t been just that hint too cowardly and had kissed Sid before the moment passed. Geno doesn’t actually think about it often, or he hadn’t. He’d dated. He’d even been mostly in love. But even then, there had been Sid, always there, always next to him and pulling him ahead and pushing them up. He’d been a constant—basically always single, devoted singularly to the team. To them.

Except he hadn’t been. Except he had. Except—Geno won’t wish Andy away, but maybe there’s another world where Sid won’t be going home to a different family, where Geno can kiss the dark hair resting against his shoulder and won’t have to feel like he might be taking someone else’s place sitting like this.

They’re landing when Sid stirs. His head tilts up to look at Geno, and he’s smiling a little dazedly and blinking the sleep from his eyes. “Hey, G,” he says, fond and open, and he must be able to feel the overtime beat of Geno’s heart.

Then Sid clearly figures out where he is, because he stiffens a little, and sits up. Geno carefully lets him slide out from under his arm without hitting his shoulder. “Sorry, that was—I shouldn’t have—”

“Is fine. You tired, drugged.”

“Um. Yeah.” Sid nods, and rubs at his eyes with his hands. “Still, sorry.”

“Stop be so Canadian. I say is fine,” Geno snaps back, getting testy. Sid doesn’t have to make such a big deal about it. Just because Geno’s being an idiot doesn’t mean Sid has to help.

Sid looks ready to keep apologizing forever, because he is too Canadian sometimes—Geno sometimes feels like Sid over-apologizes on the little things because he refuses to on the big things—so Geno just rolls his eyes. “Come on. I drive you home.”

“Are you sure? Erika—”

“I tell Erika she not wake up Andy.”

“I can uber, or it’s convenient for—”

“Sid. You not want me to help?”

Sid flushes. “It’s not that.”

“Then shut up and let me help.” He glares at Sid, dares him to say something when Geno grabs his bag too.

Of course, daring Sid has never been a way to stop him from doing something. “I can at least take the carry on,” he complains, as Geno shoulders both of theirs. “It’s only one arm.”

“Important arm, though.”

“I can carry things with both.”

“Tell me when can write things.”

“I can carry things even when I can’t write!”

“No.”

“Geno!”

“No,” Geno informs him, and herds him off the plane.

///

Sid falls asleep again in the car ride home, but he wakes up as soon as they pull in. The lights are out—it is late, Geno guesses—but Geno still thinks Erika could have waited up for him. Or maybe she trusted Geno to take care of him—but Geno’s just his friend, he’s not…anything.

This time Sid’s too tired to properly argue with him about carrying things, so Geno carries Sid’s stuff up into the house, then, because he knows Sid and what he’ll try to do too well, up the stairs as well.

Sid follows him, after hanging up his coat in the closet and moving the one that’s in the hall into the closet. The whole house is quiet—Erika’s light is off, and of course Andy’s is. Still, Sid hesitates in front of Andy’s door.

“I put in your room,” Geno whispers, and goes on down the hall as Sid eases the door open.

Geno puts the suitcase down in Sid’s room. He hasn’t been here before; it’s a very Sid sort of room, neat with a lot of blues and dark wood and traditional furniture. There are pictures of Andy, of Sid’s family, of the team on the mantel, and Geno smiles at that. That’s Sid, right there.

He doesn’t look at the bed, just puts the bags down. Then—what does he do? He should go home. Sid doesn’t need him for anything more. In the morning, Sid’s family will be there to take care of him.

“Hey.” Sid slips in behind him. He looks calmer, like just seeing his son settled him. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Sid hasn’t come far into the room, and so now they’re just staring at each other. In Sid’s bedroom. Sid probably just wants to go to sleep. “Need help with anything else?”

“Um.” Sid’s face goes red, but his jaw is set. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to get my shirt off,” he admits, and despite his red face his voice is steady.  

Oh. Oh. Sid’s been in a t-shirt he got from somewhere, but—yeah. Of course. Sid needs help with that. Geno can help with that. It’s what they do. Help each other out.

Sid takes another step into the room. He’s still flushed and there’s something tense about him, like he’s ready to take a blow. “If you’re not okay with it, I’m sure I can manage—”

Geno knows Sid too well to fall for that. He can’t have Sid injuring himself more, he justifies. The team needs him better. He’s doing this for the team.

“Don’t be stupid. Know is hard, but try.”

“Fuck you too,” Sid retorts, but he’s smiling, and Geno takes a step closer. Sid’s head tilts back so he can keep eye contact, even as Geno reaches out, hooks his fingers under the sling.

Sid doesn’t move as Geno eases off the sling. There’s that same simmering tension in him, like he gets a moment before a face off, but it’s all contained. Geno’s always been fascinated by that containment, the moments when all of Sid’s strength and energy and drive are pulled in, right before it explodes.

Geno’s fingers are at the bottom of Sid’s t-shirt. It’s accidental when his knuckles brush against the warm skin at Sid’s hips, but it feels like electricity. The house is quiet enough that he can hear Sid’s quick intake of breath, but when Geno manages to meet Sid’s gaze, they’re still even and fixed on him, unmoving. His mouth is just the tiniest bit open.

Geno takes a breath, then starts to pull the shirt up. He’s seen Sid in less than this, he’s become used to it—but it’s different here, in Sid’s bedroom, in the late night quiet, as Geno’s hands drag up Sid’s sides.

“Arm,” Geno murmurs, hoarse despite himself, and Sid holds up his left arm. Geno has to get closer, so that between them they can get it over Sid’s left arm. He can feel the heat of Sid’s body.

Geno doesn’t have to prompt Sid; he ducks his head, so that Geno can get the shirt over his head. Geno’s barely breathing, doesn’t know how—not at the easy trust of the motion, at the sight of Sid’s skin, the muscles underneath clear even in the dim light of the bedroom, the way they’re so close that, when Geno gets the shirt over Sid’s head and Sid looks up and Geno’s still looking down, and Sid’s mouth is still gaping open—

It’s a breath, a moment, frozen in time; Sid’s full lips and his sure eyes and the heat of his body almost pressed against Geno, and in another world, Geno would think—

But it’s this world, and they’d had moments before, and despite them there is a son down the hall and the mother of Sid’s child a door further on, even if Sid looks like—like he wants to be kissed.

Geno carefully eases the shirt over Sid’s cast, and steps back. “There,” he says. He sounds like he’s run a marathon. “Good?”

Sid blinks, and his mouth snaps shut. He’s still red, but the tension is leaking out of him, his shoulders relaxing and his lips twisting. “Yeah. Thanks, G.”

“Of course. I…”

“Yeah, you need to get home,” Sid agrees with what Geno couldn’t quite find the words for. “Get sleep. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Not practicing, Sid.”

“Of course.” Sid waves that away like it’s a given. Geno glares as sternly as he can.

“Skate on home rink count.”

“I know,” Sid sighs, more of a whine. “I’ll be good, I promise.”

“Good.” Geno swallows. If he stays here, with Sid shirtless in his room—he’ll do something stupid. Something he can’t do. A moment’s just a moment, he reminds himself. They had moments before, and then Sid had a child with someone else, and kept it a secret. That makes what he wants pretty clear. “Night, Sid.”

“Night, Geno,” Sid echoes, and Geno doesn’t let himself look back as he leaves the room.

///

Geno does not, in fact, see Sid the next day. Geno’s pretty sure he comes in to see the trainers, but if he stops by practice Geno doesn’t notice him. Geno pointedly goes to hang out with some other friends that evening, because he needs to not be thinking about Erika helping Sid get dressed and undressed.

The next day, he wakes up to three texts, all from Sid, and all sent earlier than he knows Geno would ever wake up on an off day.

Want to come over today? I’ll make you breakfast to pay you back for helping me out.

Or lunch. If that’s when you get this.

If you don’t want to, that’s fine. I just know Andy wants someone to play MarioKart with.

Geno rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling too.  Except—Erika not mind? He forces himself to text.

The dots pop up that mean Sid’s texting back, but it takes a while; he must be doing it one handed. Because it’s Sid, when it comes it’s still letter perfect, as far as Geno and his at best iffy English spelling can tell. Erika says she’ll make omelets. Her omelets are great.

Maybe it’ll be good for him. Seeing Sid and Erika together in their space. It’ll force him to face the facts. Like it had been good for him to come back from Russia to see Sid pull away, and know that the moment had passed. He needs to remind himself of that.

45 minutes

I’ll tell Erika that she should be ready in 2 hours, Sid texts back, and Geno chuckles and drags himself out of bed.

He gets to Sid’s an hour later, thank you very much, and when he opens the door he gets a call of, “kitchen!” without anything that sounds like surprise.

He hangs up his jacket in the closet, though there’s one that looks feminine hanging on the hooks that Sid has even though he can’t stand for any jacket to be there for longer than maybe five minutes, and heads to the kitchen.

This is good for him, he reminds himself, as he steps into the scene. Sid’s sitting at the counter, doing something on an iPad with Andy on his lap; Erika’s cutting something at the kitchen counter.

“Hey.” Sid looks up from the iPad with one of his blinding grins, and it hits Geno through the heart. “Took you long enough.”

“Less than two hours.”

“But more than forty-five minutes.”

“If I get here in forty-five minutes, you yell at me for speeding.”

“You do speed.”

“Is not speeding if I not get caught.”

“That is not how it works!” Sid objects, for probably the hundredth time. “Don’t put bad ideas in Andy’s head.”

“Hmph. I teach good ideas only,” Geno protests. “Right, Andy?”

“Um.” Geno winks, and Andy grins. “Yeah!”

“You are never allowed near my child again,” Sid informs him, in his least convincing voice. 

“If people weren’t being allowed near Andy for teaching them bad ideas, you wouldn’t be here either,” Erika puts in. Geno manages to hide his start. He’d almost forgotten she was there.

Sid snorts. “Neither would you.”

“And that’s a fact.” She smiles at him, then turns to Geno, still smiling. It’s a nice smile. She’s probably nice. “Hi, Geno. Thanks for coming.”

“Thanks for invite.” He runs a hand over his hair. “I not want to intrude.”

“It’s not intruding, trust me. I’ll take any help I can get entertaining these two.” She nods at Sid and Andy, who give near-identical offended looks. “And it was nice of you to call. It did save us some worrying.”

“Of course. Need help?”

“You never offer to help me,” Sid protests, and Geno ruffles his hair as he passes.

“That because you worst in kitchen. Always need be captain, even there.”

“I know, it’s the worst,” Erika agrees, and Sid’s face makes it clear he would be swearing at them if there wasn’t a child in the room. “We aren’t allowed to cook together anymore. Andy gets scared by the yelling.”

“That’s because you’re no better,” Sid tells Erika. Then he turns to Geno, and raises his eyebrows. “You, I wouldn’t know about, because I’ve never tried cooking with you.”

“My leg bad, not my fault!”

Sid harrumphs, even though they both know that it had been good for both of them—Geno wouldn’t have been able to stand long enough to make food himself, and Sid had needed to feel useful, like he was doing something. Sid without a task or a goal is a terrifying, annoying thing.

“It doesn’t take legs to chop.”

“You tell me, don’t dare touch knife, will cut off finger if I do.”

“I did not!” Sid looks down at Andy, who is totally distracted by his game. “Threatening people is bad.”

“Yes, you never do.” Geno rolls his eyes. “Like I say, need help?” he asks Erika again. He is being polite. His mother would be proud.

“You’re helping plenty.” She waves her hand in his direction, which happens to be holding a knife. Maybe she and Sid are suited for each other.

Still, Geno shouldn’t—but he goes over to slide into the chair next to Sid, so he can look at the screen. “What you playing?”

“Daddy can’t play games, so I’m doing it for him,” Andy informs him. He doesn’t look up from the iPad, with true Crosby focus. “Mommy said if I didn’t distract him she was going to yell.”

“Andy!” Erika snaps, as Sid does a bad job hiding a crooked smile.

Andy looks up. “Well you did,” he points out, totally matter of fact. “That’s my job while daddy’s arm hurts. I’ve got to get things when he needs them and distract him. Are you here to help?”

Geno looks at Sid, who’s giving Andy a fond, slightly wry smile—he knows as well as anyone how bad he is at being out—then steals a glance at Erika, who’s chopping vegetables. Isn’t that her job, now she’s here? Isn’t—he’s not part of this family. He’s Sid’s friend. He takes care of Sid on the ice. But here, with Sid’s son and the mother of his child…

Sid looks away from Andy, at Geno. That smile is still in his eyes, and with it something almost hopeful.

“Yes, guess I am,” Geno admits, and leans in to see the game. The only way to do that is to get close enough to Sid that their knees brush.

Andy explains it to him, and then neither Geno nor Sid have ever met a game that couldn’t totally engross them and couldn’t make them competitive, even when they’re technically just helping a five-year-old play it.

“Okay, playtime’s over, time to eat,” Erika says suddenly, putting a plate on the table.

“But I’ve got to beat the level!” Andy whines.

“Time to eat,” she repeats. “You can save and come back.”

“Dad!” Sid looks up and meets Erika’s eyes for a second, then sighs.

“No, mom’s right, bud. Breakfast time. We’ll finish later.” He makes a move like he’s going to lift Andy off his lap, then realizes he can’t, and makes a frustrated face before it settles into the expression that means he’s starting to make plans about how to do it anyway.

Geno shoves Sid’s chair out, picks Andy up, and puts him on the ground. Sometimes you had to cut through Sid’s bullshit, even when Sid’s making a stubborn, I-could-have-done-that face at him.

It leaves Sid and Geno on one side of the table, and Andy and Erika on the other; Geno can’t quite bring himself to move his chair away and Sid doesn’t either.

“What are your plans for today?” Sid asks Erika, as he starts to eat left handed. It’s awkward, and Geno pointedly doesn’t watch, because Sid will notice and get sulky.

“I’ve got the project for the moving company I told you about, and then we’re trying to make a bid for a new project, so I’m putting together some mock ups,” Erika replies.

Sid’s quiet for a second, then, “You know, you can leave the house when you feel stir crazy.”

“I’m fine, Sid.”

“You aren’t, and you don’t need to be. You can go.”

She snorts. “Yeah? Because you can totally handle Andy by yourself one-handed?”

“Geno’s here, he can help.”

“Can he?” A smile flashes.

“Yeah, right, G?”

It’s not like Geno has errands to do, or plenty of commitments. “Yes,” Geno agrees.

“See?” Sid makes another aborted gesture and a frustrated face. “Go out.”

“I’ll take a walk or something,” Erika concedes. “Where else would I go?”

“Coffee shop?” Geno suggests. “Nice place to work.”

Her gaze swings to him. Her gaze is sharp—not mean, just knowing, somehow, like she’s seeing into him. It’s not comfortable, but Geno’s got nothing to hide, really. He knows that when he was first in Pittsburgh and had nothing to do and no one to see on off days, just getting out of the house helped.

“That’s a good idea,” she says. “I could do that.”

“Good.” Sid says it like it’s settled. “We need to take Andy shopping sometime.”

The conversation devolves quickly then, into what Andy needs for kindergarten—that he’s apparently rejoining next week—and Andy informing them all about dinosaurs, which he’s watched a show about this morning and now has all sorts of fun facts about feathers, which he shares enthusiastically. Geno’s actually pretty interested—he’s watched a lot of kids shows in his day, trying to learn English with Gonch’s daughters, and he’s found out some pretty interesting stuff from them.

Once breakfast is done, Sid makes another motion to get up before Geno puts a hand on his shoulder and forces him back down into the chair. “Come on, Andy,” he says instead, because he knows this drill. “We clear. Let’s go.”

“I can—”

“You sit,” Geno informs him, then gives Andy a thumbs up. “We help?”

“Okay.” Andy hops off his chair and carefully hands his plate to Geno.

“You’re a guest, you shouldn’t—”

Geno ignores Sid, and starts clearing plates. Erika smiles at him as she hands him her plate, then gets up. “If you have this, I’m going to work. See you later, honey.” She leans down to kiss Andy’s head, then, as she walks past Sid, runs a hand across his shoulders, an idle comfortable touch, like Geno’s seen with the guys on the team who have been married for ages. “Be good for Geno, Sid.”

Sid flushes a little, but he just rolls his eyes and puts on his best media voice. “I always try my hardest.”

She laughs again, then heads upstairs. Geno places the dishes carefully in the sink and tries to remember that there is a five year old in the room and that he’s heard Sid say shit like that to reporters for years it shouldn’t sound suggestive.

“So, what should we do?” Sid asks, when Geno turns back around. “We could—”

“Watch TV, have lazy day off?” Geno suggests. Sid snorts, like that’s a ridiculous suggestion.

“So I have to do some stuff for Little Penguins sometime today, and I want to watch the tape from the Caps game yesterday, we need to beat them fast, get momentum. And—”

“Want to play floor hockey?” Geno cuts him off by asking Andy, because Sid’s already making him tired.

“We could do a puzzle!” Andy suggests, lighting up. “We got a new one, and dad can do it too! I’ll put in all the pieces for him.”

“Good plan,” Geno agrees, and Sid’s smiling at Andy and at Geno and it’s a lot.

Andy goes and gets the puzzle, and they spread it out over the table, and Andy stands on the chair to look for pieces, his forehead furrowed in concentration. Geno nudges one of the pieces he needs closer.

“Hey.” Sid kicks at Geno’s ankle. “Thanks for coming by.”

“You feed me, is no problem.” Geno has to ask. “Think you just want time with family? Like, when concussion, not want team around for long time.”

“I couldn’t have the team around,” Sid corrects. “And you didn’t count for that anyway.” And then, before Geno can handle that statement, he keeps going. “And I needed a break. Erika and I were seriously going to kill each other.”

“You not spend lots of time together before?”

“Not really. Off season I’m there as much as I can be, but…” But even off-season, Sidney Crosby always has commitments. “And definitely not when I’m injured.”

“She not know how to handle you sulky?”

“I’m not sulky,” Sid protests, but not hard. “It’s—you made a good suggestion, that she go to the coffee shop. She’s going insane, in the house.”

“You only get injured two days ago.”

“She doesn’t know anyone here,” Sid says in an undertone, glancing at Andy, who’s still absorbed by the puzzle. “She’s lonely. I mean, she moved here because it’s easier to handle the media all together and I couldn’t go there, so it made sense, but—I would ask Cath to take her to coffee or something, but with Tanger so mad…” He shakes his head. “I’ve asked some of the other guys to ask their wives. But until then…”

Geno nods. He’s been alone in a strange city before, though Erika speaks the language. “She not want stay, hang out with us?”

Sid snorts again. “We don’t really hang out,” he says, stressing the last words. Which could mean—usually Sid’s pretty straightforward, with anyone but the media, but—Geno’s seen them together, how easily they move around each other. He knows how teams move together. “That’s why I was hoping Cath—I mean, she can be friends with anyone, you know?”

“But Tanger still mad?”

“I mean, he has a right to be.” Sid shrugs. “I still think I did the right thing, but I get that he’s pissed. Especially after the end of last season, he’s primed to feel like we don’t trust him.”

“Bullshit,” Geno says with feeling, then glances at Andy to make sure he’s not listening. He’s not.

“It’s easy to feel.” Sometimes even Geno forgets that Sid’s a good captain not just because of what he can do on the ice, but because those eyes don’t miss things off of it, either. “As long as he doesn’t take it onto the ice, it’s fine.”

“Not fine,” Geno retorts, more heated than he thought. “He your friend.” 

“Well, me telling him that him ghosting me makes him a bad friend won’t exactly make him trust me much. I’m trying to bring him in more on the leadership decisions, that should make sure he knows.”

“Not talking it over?”

“Well, he won’t talk to me, so that’s not going to work.” Sid wrinkles his nose in annoyance. “Flower’s talking to him too. He’ll get over it. Sometimes letting Tanger stew is the best way to handle him.”

“Should let you talk, at least,” Geno mutters. If Tanger’s really managing to shut Sid out when Sid’s determined to talk, it might really be bad. “He even meet Andy yet?”

“If he’s already pissed at me, I’m not letting him meet Andy. I want Andy to really love him, and if Kris is faking it, he’ll know.”

“Wouldn’t be faking,” Geno protests, because Tanger’s got a temper, but he wouldn’t take it out on a kid. And definitely not Sid’s kid.

“Andy’s the reason for all of this. I can’t risk it.” Sid shrugs again. “I’ll keep trying to talk, but he won’t, so I’m showing him that his trust issues aren’t warranted and that should work.”

“You know it’s about trust?” Geno’s anger wasn’t about trust, exactly. It was betrayal, but not—the lie wasn’t the issue, even. Not knowing Sid had been lying had hurt more. “It been thirteen years. Hard to think you don’t trust.”

“It’s what it is,” Sid says. “And, I mean. I did lie for a long time. He’s allowed to be angry.”

 “Well—”

“Why are you defending me?” Sid asks, and twists in his chair so he can really look at Geno. “I thought you’d still be mad too.”

“I’m not mad. I’m here, yes?”

“Yeah, well. Just because you’re a good person and will help me out—”

“Sid. I’m not mad.” Mad isn’t the word. Geno’s still not sure what it is. Jealous? Hurt? Wary? He doesn’t have the word in Russian, and he definitely doesn’t have it in English.

Sid’s gaze doesn’t waver. Neither does Geno’s; he’s had years of practice standing up to Sid’s intense face. “You are, though. Am I—”

“Dad!” Andy interrupts, and bangs on the table. “Dad, we’re doing a puzzle!”

Geno doesn’t swear, because Andy’s right, even if Geno really wanted to hear what Sid thought he might be doing.

Sid doesn’t bring it up, not when they finish the puzzle with Andy, not when Andy wants to play some video game that Sid can’t do one handed so they explain it to Geno and Sid just sits on the couch, doing something on his phone and smiling at Andy every so often as he wipes the floor with Geno, which he shouldn’t be doing because he’s five but apparently he got his gaming skill from someone other than Sid.

They make lunch—or, Geno makes lunch and Sid back-seat cooks, while Andy colors at the table. Then Sid makes Andy put his coloring away while they eat, even though Andy makes the same irritated face Sid does when someone makes him stop doing hockey. It means he shovels food into his mouth while Sid and Geno chat about practice yesterday and their game before that, and then he’s out of his seat to go back to his picture while Geno’s still describing just why the third line wasn’t quite clicking on turnovers.

“I’ll take a plate up to Erika,” Sid says, when they’ve finally talked about the plans for what Geno—and Sid, when he gets on the ice—can do to help. Geno makes a face and looks at his arm. “Don’t,” Sid warns, before he can protest. “I can do this much, at least.”

“Okay, you take,” Geno agrees. Sid needs a task, he knows; half of managing an injured Sid is making sure he’s never bored. He gets up to start putting things on a plate. “What she want?”

Sid gets up too, to supervise. Which apparently means that he has to stand next to Geno at the counter, leaning in so that he can see. There’s two dishes, so Geno’s not sure what there is to supervise, but it’s easier than occupying Sid otherwise. Even if it means Sid’s close enough that Geno’s elbow bumps his side, that his head is brushing against Geno’s shoulder.

They’ve done this before—Sid’s curious about everything, which means he can be nosy, and it’s not the first time he’s tried to peer over Geno’s shoulder or around him to see what Geno’s doing. Of course, if Geno said that, Sid would point out the number of times where Geno did peer over him, or ended up behind him looking over his shoulder. This time, though, Geno can just think—if Sid leaned in a little more, he’d be resting his cheek against Geno’s arm. If—is this what he did with Erika, the past few days? These past years?

He shifts his weight left, so there’s more room between him and Sid. Sid reacts immediately, because they’ve always been able to read each other’s play, and shifts to the right. “G—”

“Here, take!” Geno holds out the plate.

“No.” Sid pushes the plate aside. “Geno, what’s wrong?”

“I tell you, nothing.”

“That’s bullshit. You don’t usually work so hard not to touch me.”

“I touch all the time.”

Sid huffs out an exasperated breath. “Geno, you were there a minute ago, right?”

“So, I move. Not a big deal.”

“It is, though. You don’t usually do that. What’s wrong?” Sid says it patiently, but Geno knows that implacable patience. Sid’s life is the symbol of being able to get anything if he works at it hard enough, and Sid’s embraced that hard. Sid pushes. It’s what he does. And usually it makes Geno better. But right now—

“Nothing.”

“Stop pretending—”

“Stop pushing!” Geno snaps. Sid actually flinches. Geno doesn’t care. He doesn’t—if Sid pushes, then Geno will have to say all the shit in his head, the jealousy and the bitterness and the confusion and yearning, and he’s not going to do that, not when he’s not sure what Sid’s reaction is going to be. Not being sure about Sid is bad enough. The inkling he has that Sid wouldn’t react like Geno, in his deepest darkest dreams, hopes—that’s enough. Geno likes to compete, and he likes to fight, but he’s not going to play a game he’s fated to lose.

“I just want you to talk.”

“You want talk? Really? You not talk for six years, Sid!”

“And if you’re mad we can talk about it, so then we can fix—”

“Not for fix!” Geno yells back. He glances at the door, where he knows Andy is, and lowers his voice. “Not…” Geno snarls. He doesn’t have the English for this. Stupid fucking language. “Not—not for solve. I say I fine, I fine. Leave it.”

“I—” Geno braces, ready to maybe actually leave if Sid won’t push, but Sid swallows, and something flickers over his face, something like his media face coming on. “Okay.” 

“Okay?” Sid’s never given up on something in his life, not even a petty fight. Geno’s anger is getting subsumed by his confusion. This isn’t Sid. Not Geno’s Sid. “Just—okay?”

“Okay.” Sid’s smile is tight, and he carefully doesn’t touch Geno as he reaches for the plate with his left hand. “I’m going to bring this upstairs.”

“But—” Sidney Crosby with a broken arm is still Sidney Crosby, and Geno’s confused; Sid gets the plate and is a few steps away before Geno figures out the English to object.

Geno hovers in the kitchen for a second. Maybe he should leave. Sid’s gone upstairs to go talk to Erika, who he did talk to for six years. Who’s part of this family that Geno’s intruding on.

But he’s also not just going to leave when they’re maybe mad at each other; he and Sid’s fights only get bad when they don’t yell it out right away. If this even was a fight. Since when did Sid not fight?

So instead, Geno wanders into the living room, where Andy’s drawing on the floor, a red crayon in his hand.  “What you doing?” he asks.

“Drawing.” Andy doesn’t look up. “When daddy gets hurt, I make him a picture every day and send it to him and then he gets better faster. He said.”

Geno smiles despite himself. Crosbyan superstitions, all the way to the next generation. “Want take break? Play ball hockey?” Geno could do with movement.

Andy shakes his head, though. “No, I need to draw. It has to be the best drawing, or it won’t work.”

“Did your dad say that too?”

“No. He says all my pictures make him feel better. But that means the best picture makes him feel best,” Andy concludes, with irrefutable kid logic. He finally does look up, and holds out his crayon. “Do you want to draw? You can make a picture and help daddy feel better too.”

“That very important job,” Geno agrees, and takes the crayon.

Sid comes back down only moments later. Geno can hear his footsteps on the stairs, then a pause—Geno looks back, and Sid’s standing in the doorway to the living room, watching. He’s got an expression Geno can’t quite place, almost bittersweet.

Then he notices Geno watching him, and he blinks and he’s smiling again. “What are we doing?” he asks.

“Drawing! But you can’t see until it’s finished. That’s how we’ll make you feel better.”

Sid freezes from where he was coming over. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Geno agrees. “Need magic to work, Sid. You go do work, we draw and help arm.”

Sid’s mouth twists again, and he wanders as close as he can to Geno’s feet before Andy makes an affronted noise and hides his paper. “If you want to go, you can. I don’t want to—”

Geno kicks at Sid’s ankle with his own. “Hush, am drawing,” He warns. Sid smiles, and knocks his ankle back. Apparently whatever happened upstairs, they’re okay. It doesn’t make Geno feel as good as it should have. Why didn’t Sid keep going?

Geno turns back to his drawing—his best rendition of the team holding the Cup—not thinking about what happened upstairs, and smiling despite himself as Andy hands him a gold crayon.

///

Geno goes home after drawing and then one of the more intense games of Sorry! he’s ever played. His house feels very quiet, after having a five year old running around all afternoon.

It was nice, though. However much it hurt the part of him that mourned him and Sid’s lost moment. Andy’s cute and funny and Geno loves all kids and of course he was going to love Sid’s kid. He’s past thirty, there’s a part of him that wants that—that sees Tanger and Horny and Hags with their kids, and wants.

So it was a nice day, and Geno thinks that’s that.

Except Sid’s seeing the trainers during practice the next day, and afterwards he’s hanging around the locker room checking in with everyone and somehow ends up next to Geno, asking him if he wants to come over, and Geno sees the looks he’s getting from the others, but he still ends up there, and somehow stays the evening, a game on the TV as Andy works through a book, already in PJs, and he and Sid get into the game. Erika looks in at some point, after a particularly nice goal that has both Sid and Geno talking over each other.

“Seriously?” she asks, shaking her head as she leans against the door jamb.

“Seriously what?” Sid asks.

“Watching grown men get this worked up about putting a piece of rubber in a goal will never not be amusing,” she says. Geno makes his most incredulous face at Sid, who nods.

“I know,” he tells Geno. “Trust me. And I’ll never understand how you can just stare at a picture in a museum for ages,” he adds, to Erika.

“God. You’re such a jock.” She says it half fondly, half in disbelief. She turns to Andy. “Don’t listen to anything he says. You’re better than this.”

“No one better than hockey,” Geno mutters. Sid grins, knocks his knee against Geno’s.

“I’ll leave you to it, then.” She pauses. “He shouldn’t stay up too late.”

“Next intermission,” Sid confirms.

“Dad!” Andy perks up to object. “I want to finish the chapter! And the game!”

“You know bedtime’s important,” Sid tells Andy. Geno manages not to smile. It’s the same tone he uses on rookies who are objecting to a diet plan. “Getting enough sleep is the most important part of staying healthy.”

“But—”

“Right, Geno?” Sid adds, and Geno has raised rookies with Sid before. He nods.

“Yes, most important. Otherwise, only end up as tall as dad, not get as tall as me.”

Sid rolls his eyes, though Erika snorts.

“I do want to be as tall as Geno,” Andy agrees seriously.

“You choose good. Make sure can always reach top shelf.”

Sid laughs and shoves at Geno’s shoulder. “If it’s a choice between top shelf and not having to worry about my limbs on the ice, I’ll take my height.”

“Yes, very compact,” Geno agrees.

“Say that again once I’ve got both arms.”

“You need both arms?” Geno retorts, and Sid grins, challenge in his eyes as he straightens. They aren’t twenty anymore, and they’re not actually going to start wrestling now, but they both know that they’ll remember this as soon as they’re back on the ice.

“Please don’t fight in front of the child,” Erika sighs. She leans down, kisses Andy’s forehead. “You, don’t listen to your father’s toxic masculinity, please. Fighting is not the answer.”

“I’ve never said otherwise,” Sid insists.

Erika gives his arm a significant look, then leaves again.

Sid settles back against the couch. “Fighting really isn’t the answer,” he tells Andy. “Even on the ice. You don’t fight.”

“I know, Dad.” Andy says it like he hears it a lot.

Geno leans into Sid, so he can whisper. “Sometimes fight on ice, right answer.”

“No, it’s not,” Sid mutters back, firm and utterly hypocritical, given that Geno’s seen him drop gloves before. Geno’s on Sid’s bad side, so he’s careful as he stays close enough that Andy won’t hear.

“Not what you tell Big Rig.”

“When Andy’s Jamie’s size, we can have another talk.” Sid pauses, then, “And I don’t tell him to get in fights, I—” He stops talking, because there’s a nice play and both he and Geno are distracted.

It’s a few minutes into the game when Geno stretches, because his arms are too long for the couch and he’s worried about Sid’s bad arm too often. So it’s only natural, for his arm to go over the back of the couch. For Sid to turn a little so that his shoulder’s resting against Geno’s chest, so it won’t be jostled.

About ten minutes more that Sid nudges Geno, nods over. Andy’s asleep in his chair, curled up with the book open on his head.

“He so bored by game?” Geno asks, laughing. Sid grins.

“He likes to think he can stay up to the end, every time.” Sid gives the TV screen, where it’s looking like they’re going to go into OT, a wistful look, but gets to his feet. Geno’s arm drops down to his side. “I should get him to bed.”

“Want me carry?” Geno offers.

Sid makes his usual frustrated face, then nods. “Yeah, that’d be great. Thanks.” Softly, he eases the book out of Andy’s hand.

Geno doesn’t reply, just picks Andy up, gently as he knows how. Andy stirs for a second, then turns to nuzzle into Geno’s shirt, his cheek soft and trusting on Geno’s shoulder. Geno’s breath catches. He looks nothing like Sid. He looks everything like Sid. Sid is hovering next to him, a hand on Andy’s back and so close to Geno. Geno can count his eyelashes, as he looks down at his son, a soft expression that the world doesn’t get to see but Geno does on his face.

Sid looks up. He’s so close. His son is between them. They’ve had these moments before, and it’s never happened.

“Bed,” Geno says, and Sid nods and eases back without a change of expression. He leads the way upstairs, opens the door to Andy’s room.

“Just put him down,” Sid tells Geno, tugging back the firetruck sheets on the bed. Geno doesn’t as he’s ordered, laying Andy down on the bed. He doesn’t stir, just shifts a little, his cheeks baby-flushed. Sid pulls the sheets back over him, tucks him in efficiently but gentle. Then he straightens, and doesn’t move.

“God, he’s so big,” Sid breathes, and pushes back a lock of hair from Andy’s forehead. Geno knows what his hand can do, just how soft they are, but his fingers look big and blunt against Andy’s skin. “I swear, he was as big as my hand yesterday.”

Geno doesn’t know. Geno didn’t know him then. Sid had hidden Andy from him, hadn’t let Geno know this most important part of his life.

It’s hard to be mad at Sid, watching Sid stare at Andy like all his medals and cups and trophies mean nothing in the face of his sleeping child.

“Next thing you know, as big as you.”

“Don’t even say that.” Sid shakes his head.

“He be Crosby with his name on Calder,” Geno teases, which as always gets Sid to scowl for a flash of a second. “You old, Sid.”

“You’re older, then,” Sid retorts. “Come on, let’s go.”

He waits until Geno leaves the room, then closes the door quietly. Geno starts back downstairs, but Sid goes the other way—sticks his head into the room that must have been converted into an office.

“Hey, just wanted to let you know—he’s out,” Geno hears Sid say. “We just put him down.”

“One sec,” Erika says; she must be on the phone or something. “Okay, I’ll make sure he brushes his teeth in the morning.”

“Thanks.” Sid lifts his hand off the doorframe, but doesn’t move. “Do you want to come watch the game with us?”

Geno can almost hear Erika’s eyeroll. “I’m good, Sid.”

“You should come hang out, it’ll be good for you to talk with adults here—”

“I’m good,” Erika repeats. “And anyway, we need rest for shopping tomorrow.”

Geno doesn’t bother hiding his laugh as Sid’s shoulders set like they would for a hard game.  “I’m still not sure I should go—if people come up to us, like last time—”

“Andy wants his dad with him,” Erika points out, sharp but not unkind. “He can stand a few photos. It’s better if you’re there, anyway.” She gives a short laugh. “I’m shit at dealing with people like that.”

“Yeah, for sure. Okay.” Sid straightens. “Night, if you’re in bed for the game’s over.” It’s casual, easy. Like they’ve said it a thousand times.

“Night.”

Sid lets the door close, then turns to Geno. He looks a little surprised he’s still there. “You want to stay, finish the game?”

Geno has practice tomorrow then has to get on a plane, but he’d just be finishing the game at home, anyway. “Yes,” he says, and Sid grins at him before herding him downstairs so they don’t miss any more.

///

The team’s on another roadie for the next few days, including Andy’s first day of kindergarten. Sid’s not travelling with them, probably because of that; Sid generally liked to travel with the team when at all possible, but having a kid, it seems, changes that. Geno doesn’t let it bother him.

Anyway, it barely matters, because as usual when Sid is out, Geno’s getting a stream of messages from him. Given that he’s pretty sure Tanger isn’t getting any, it’s at least twice as many as usual, and added into the hockey ones are a few pictures of Andy on his first day, comments on how he’s nervous, though his big grin doesn’t look it.

Geno’s looking at one at team breakfast when the table fills around him. “What’s so great?” Phil asks.

If Sid hadn’t wanted the team to see, he would have said. Sid doesn’t keep secrets from the—well, he did. But Geno’s not letting him keep this one, even if he might want to. Geno turns the phone around, so they can see Andy with his backpack.

“Cute,” Phil declares.

Tanger’s eying Geno, half-suspicious. “You’ve been spending a lot of time over there,” he points out.

“Yes,” Geno agrees, and doesn’t back down from Tanger’s gaze. “Sid need friends, with this.”

“He didn’t.”

“Didn’t think he did,” Geno corrects. They all know how Sid gets. “And now—have to stay in house, and Erika not know many people, so she stay there too, and Andy not have friends yet, so he there too—they need someone else, or else go insane.”

Go?” Horny interjects, which gets laughs all around. Tanger’s still watching Geno. He doesn’t look guilty, exactly, but he does look thoughtful.

After breakfast, Tanger grabs Geno’s sleeve to hold him back. Geno lets him. Without Sid here especially, they need to be on the same page. “So you’re just hanging around because Sid and his family are bored and need occupying?” he asks without preamble.

Geno leans against the table the staff just cleared. “Yes. Why else?”

Tanger’s eyebrows go up. “Geno,” he says, pointed.

Geno can feel himself flush, even as he tries not to. “Told you, they need be entertained. You know Sid, he go crazy if left alone.”

“He’s not alone, though. He has his family.”

“But not friends,” Geno retorts, just as pointed. Tanger shrugs.

“I’m just saying, you’ve forgiven him awfully fast for lying.”

“I’m not forgive. I’m just…he need help,” Geno ends, because that’s the long and short of it.

Tanger’s face gentles into something like sympathy, that Geno really doesn’t like. “Isn’t—what’s her name, Erika?—isn’t she there, to help?”

“Yes.” Yes, she is, but— “He ask me, Tanger. I’m not say no.” They both know that’s just not going to happen.

Tanger tosses his hair, the frustrated motion that Geno’s sometimes half-thought makes him look like a nervous horse. “I just wanted—you told me, we had to work together, even if I’m angry.”

“Yes, is true.”

Tanger nods. “It’s hard to work with someone who broke your heart,” he says, point blank, and Geno freezes. They don’t talk about it. Geno knows that at least some of the guys know how he feels—he spends his life with these people, and if the whole hockey world knows that Geno Malkin would follow Sidney Crosby into fire and back, then the team knows just how deep that goes, and then people like Tanger who have been there since the beginning know even more, saw them during the concussion and saw them after. But they don’t talk about it, not more than an oblique hint sometimes. They’ve never had to, not when Sid’s never really had a relationship, so there’s been nothing for them to tease Geno about.

“He’s not—”

“He has a family, G. One who we weren’t invited into.”

“Is not about invite.” Geno crosses his arms. “Is—is family, yes, but he still need friends. Still ask me over because Erika not like hockey and not know how to deal with him hurt. Still sad that you not talk to him,” he adds, because he wants this off of him, and the way Tanger’s getting too close to the truth. “Still need us, Tanger.” Just maybe not how Geno wanted. Maybe he needs other people more.

“He clearly didn’t think so.”

Sid might think this is a case where Tanger needs to stew for a while, but Geno’s sick of this schism. Sid might be pushy, but sometimes Geno needs to bulldoze. “He think you think he doesn’t trust you, and you mad because of that.”

Tanger snorts, his most judgmental face on. “He does? Good to know how I feel, then.”

“Yes, Sid good at that,” Geno agrees, as judgey. “But—he does trust you, Tanger. Is bullshit he doesn’t tell, but he does trust you. Very sad, you not talking to him. Sad you not know Andy.”

“He should have thought of that six years ago,” Tanger mutters, but Geno can see him soften at that. “Or sometime in the past month.”

“He think because you mad at him, you not want to meet him,” Geno adds, and Tanger’s judgmental eyebrows narrows back into anger.

“Seriously? Fuck him. Of course I want—he’s Sid’s kid.”

“He’s very cute. Him and Alex be great friends.”

Tanger smiles, just a second, before he’s scowling again. “Well, he doesn’t want me to meet him because he knows what’s best, so—”

“Yes, Sid think he captain of feelings too, not big surprise,” Geno cuts him off. “It doesn’t mean he right.”

“No kidding,” Tanger agrees. Then his gaze sharpens, on Geno. “And it doesn’t mean that he’s doing what’s best for you.”

Geno knows. Sid doesn’t mean to hurt Geno, but—sometimes that’s worse. But still, “I’m fine, hang out with Sid and Andy. Is fun.”

Tanger makes another face. “As long as it doesn’t mess us up on the ice.”

“Since when I mess up on ice?” Geno retorts, and Tanger rolls his eyes, and lets him go.

///

Tanger’s right, of course. Geno knows that. He knows that Sid has a family, and he’s seen Sid and Erika and Andy function like one. He knows that it means that the little bubble of partnership and codependence he and Sid have built up over the past thirteen years isn’t what he thought it was. But—it’s hard to remember, when Sid keeps inviting him over. When somehow, he keeps ending up at Sid’s instead of at home. Making food for Sid and Andy and sometimes Erika, when she comes downstairs. Watching movies and TV with them. Making commentary as Sid helps Andy with his homework and teasing back when Sid suggests he can do it, if he wants, even though Geno’s not entirely sure he could do the spelling in English. Sometimes napping there, with Andy watching the TV when Sid has to go out to go to meetings or his many other commitments. Sometimes waking up to Sid’s hand on his face and a smile, telling him that he has food or something to do, and Geno can’t help but smile up at him.

Geno doesn’t mean to end up there, he just—he does, like he and Sid have always moved together, always worked together. Sid calls the play. It’s worked for Geno before. He’s starting to hope it will again.

They have a family skate before American Thanksgiving, despite the complaining by the Canadians that it’s a fake holiday and it shouldn’t be celebrated. That’s one fight Geno’s got no skin in, so he’s always let the Americans and Canadians fight it out and go to whichever dinner he’s invited to, because the food’s always good. Either way, they are in the U.S. so they get pre-American Thanksgiving family skate, in time for Sid to not quite have his cast off but for his arm to be good enough that, as Sid informs Geno, beaming, he can be on the ice if he’s very careful.

Geno shows up alone. He’d been at Sid’s that morning, bribed by Erika’s omelets—which really were pretty amazing—and Andy’s demand that he show him his latest picture, of Geno’s goal in the last game, but then he goes home. There are some things he can’t let himself do, and getting Sid’s son ready to skate is one of them, as both he and his dad are bright-eyed with their enthusiasm.

He shows up late, of course. Sid always shows up early, both because right now he’d probably do anything to get on the ice and because he thinks his captain duties include it, so by the time Geno shows up Sid is finishing directing Erika in tying Andy’s skates. It must have been taking a while; there are already kids and adults on the ice.

“Oh thank god,” Erika says, when she sees Geno putting his bag down. “You can help. Come here and do this before Sid tries to do it one-handed.”

“I have tied skates one-handed,” Sid starts, and Geno cuts him off before that goes anywhere.

“You, not mess up arm more,” he tells Sid, even though he’s kind of intrigued to know how Sid managed it. “You,” he tells Andy. “Sit.”

“I can do it myself,” Andy whines. “Dad taught me.”

“Well then, I check,” Geno informs him, and kneels down to tie the skates on. He ignores Sid’s nitpicking about how tight they are, and finishes quickly. “You good.” He pats Andy’s skate, and sets him on his feet. Then he sits back on his heels. “You need help?” he asks Erika, who’s fussing with Andy’s Crosby jersey.

“Oh, no, I don’t skate.” Geno mouths the words after her, incredulous.

“Wait for me before he goes on the ice,” Sid tells her. He’s got his own skates on, and is very slowly lacing them up one-handed. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see a few of the guys laughing—fondly, but laughing.

“You take forever like that,” Geno chides, and moves over so he can knock Sid’s hand aside and start on Sid’s laces.

He’s done this more times than he can count, lacing up skates, even not his own—helping kids, helping teammates, helping a few boy or girlfriends here or there. He finishes one skate quickly, then makes the mistake of looking up.

Sid’s looking down at him, his teeth digging into his lower lip. It’s—Geno suddenly realizes where he is, that he’s on his knees in front of Sid. Like a knight swearing fealty. Like someone proposing. Like, well—like the things he tries not to let himself think about, because he doesn’t want a broken heart. But would Sid look at him like that, if he slid his hands up Sid’s thighs? Would all of Sid’s focus settle on him, like he was the only thing Sid needed in the world at that moment? Like Geno was enough for him? Geno knows he’d know what Sid would want, because he always does, because they always know each other; he wants to break Sid open, maybe even more viciously than he had before, to know every crack and cranny and make sure he’s not hiding anything else. He wants—

“Daddy, hurry up!” Andy whines, and Geno jerks his gaze back to Sid’s other skate, thinking unsexy thoughts so he doesn’t think about how Sid’s eyes widened when Geno had looked up.

He finishes lacing up Sid’s other skate, then quickly levers himself to his feet.

“You good,” he tells Sid, like he’d told Andy.

Sid moves his foot a little bit, making a considering face. “Well—” Geno raises his eyebrows, and Sid laughs at himself and cuts himself off. “Fine.”

He gets easily to his feet, then reaches down with his good hand to take Andy’s hand. “You ready to get on the ice, bud?”

“Yeah!” Andy tugs, though he doesn’t need to tug hard. Then he pauses. “Is Geno coming on too?”

“Of course. He just needs to get his skates on.”

“I need to see your slapshot,” Geno agrees, ruffling Andy’s hair. “Heard lots about it, want be impressed.”

“Okay. I’m gonna warm up,” Andy informs Geno, and he and Sid tug each other away, Erika shaking her head but laughing as she follows them to the edge of the rink.

Geno pulls out his own skates, and just stares at them for a second, remembering how to breathe.

“That was a cute family moment,” Horny says, coming over with his skates already on. Isabelle’s next to him, holding his hand too. “Was that the Crosby-Malkin clan?”

Geno rolls his eyes. “You rather Sid gets more injured, putting on son’s skates? Not play for longer?”

Horny knocks on wood. “If anyone would, it’d be him.”

“I just looking out for team,” Geno agrees, and shoos Horny away.

He gets his skates on, but he ends up chatting with a few more of the guys and their wives and girlfriends, before he gets to the ice. Sid and Andy are doing laps, Sid skating backwards and Andy pacing him.

There are plenty of people to go talk to. Geno goes to join Sid and Andy, skating up behind them to push Andy gently into Sid.

“Hey!” Andy protests, scowling as Sid catches him. “Geno!”

“Definitely a penalty,” Sid agrees, grinning over Andy’s head.

“Bad call, ref,” Geno protests, and falls into pace with them. There are kids zipping around behind them, and a game starting up on the other side of the rink. “You not want play?” he asks Andy, nodding to them.

Andy looks away, mumbles something.

“Shy,” Sid mouths over his head, slow and big enough that Geno can get it. “It’ll be fun. You like playing.”

“But—they’re going to do the thing.”

“They won’t,” Sid promises. “It’ll be like before.”

“It’s not like before. No one likes me here.” Andy scowls, his smile from before dropping.

“Your classmates like you,” Sid assures him, still skating slowly.

“They’re weird, though. Sometimes they say things about you.” Sid’s face doesn’t flicker, though Geno can see him planning phone calls to the parents. “A dad took a picture of me yesterday.”

Definitely a phone call, Geno thinks. If Sid doesn’t, he’s telling Jen to go do something.

“They won’t here,” Sid tells Andy. “I promise.”

“We used to your dad,” Geno agrees. “We know he boring.”

Andy laughs, but he keeps his hand on Sid’s, and doesn’t do more than steal a look at the game starting as they do another half a lap. They’re about to start their second when,

“Oncle Sid!” Alex Letang skids to a stop next to Sid, almost crashing into him before Sid does some fancy footwork to avoid it. “Bonjour! je ne t'ai pas vu depuis des lustres, j'ai perdu une dent!” He grins, to show a missing tooth, which must have been the point of all the French.

Sid grins, and ruffles his hair, then lets his hand drop to Andy’s head, pressed against his side when Alex came over. He’s still watching, wide-eyed.

 “Wow! Look at that. Did the tooth fairy give you money for it?”

“Oui, un dollar!” Alex nods enthusiastically. He turns to Geno. “A dollar,” he repeats in English, because Tanger’s got him trained to repeat everything in English, both because it’s convenient and also Geno’s pretty sure he enjoys making Geno feel like an idiot. Someday, Geno is teaching every child on this team Russian, so he can gossip with them in front of their parents.

“Yes, I get,” Geno tells him. “Very impressive.”

“Alex, where—” Sid glances up, when Tanger comes over behind his son. Sid’s face goes even, and his hand tightens on Andy’s shoulder, defensive. “Hi, Tanger.”

“Hey, Sid.” Tanger looks at him, then down. “You must be Andy, yes? I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Andy nods, and like with Geno, holds out his hand. “You’re Tanger. Daddy said lots about you, too.” He pauses, thinks, then. “Bonjour,” he adds.

Tanger grins and shakes his hand. “You’re teaching him your awful accent,” he tells Sid, who glares for a second before remembering to be wary and easing out his expression. “Bonjour, Andy,” he says to him, and reels in his son by the collar. “This is Alex. Alex, c'est le fils de l'oncle Sid.”

“Bonjour!” Alex chirps. Andy detaches a hand from Sid’s leg to wave.

“Il ne connaît personne. Pourquoi tu ne m'aides pas?” Tanger suggests, and Sid’s eyes go wide.

“Tanger—”

“Like father like son, yes?” Tanger says. “Crosbys always need such taking care of.” He pushes gently at Alex’s side. “Continue.”

“It’ll be fun,” Sid tells Andy, who gives him a careful look.

“Come on!” Alex says, and reaches out to grab Andy’s other hand. “We can go play! Do you play hockey?”

“Of course I play hockey,” Andy retorts, too confused to be shy. “Better than you.”

“Andy—” Sid warns.

“You aren’t better!” Alex replies, hitting his stick against the ice. “We’ll see. Come on!”

Andy looks up at Sid. Sid nods. “I’ll be right here,” he tells Andy.

Andy nods, his face set and determined, and lets Alex drag him off. Both Sid and Tanger watch the little boys go, Crosby and LeTang names on the back of their jersey.

Then Sid turns to Tanger. “Kris—” he starts, in his, ‘I’m going to fix this or else’ voice.

“I go,” Geno says, and skates away. He doesn’t need to be here for this.

He skates away to go coo over Blanche, who’s trying out skating for the first time in Hag’s arms and looks like she isn’t sure what she thinks about it. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Tanger and Sid talking, their faces serious at first then getting lighter. Alex and Andy have joined the game, and whatever shyness Andy had is gone as he skates, facing off against Shearsy with a determined face a shade off from his father’s.

When Geno looks over again, Tanger’s gone—Geno can see him joining Cath, who’s sitting near the food with their baby in her arms—and Sid’s standing on the outskirts of the game, yelling encouragement and chirps and, because Sid is functionally incapable of turning it off, suggestions. Geno knows he could join the game, but it looks like they’ve gotten even sides, so instead, he goes over to Sid.

“All good?” he asks.

Sid nods. “Better.”

“Good.”

 “Yeah.” Sid looks past Geno, to where Andy’s skating furiously, yelling for a pass from Alex. Geno watches too.

“He having fun,” Geno observes.

“Yeah,” Sid says again, something in him settled with that fact.

Geno keeps watching. Andy’s clearly putting a lot of energy in, and he is having fun, but—but Geno watches him take the shot, watches him skate. He’s seen video of Sid at that age. “He’s not going to be next you,” he says, quiet. Andy looks like he could be a good hockey player—he’s starting early, Sid can get him the best training, he’s got the Crosby drive. But Sid is great because of all that and because of the luck that meant his genetics aligned just right, they all did. And Andy’s—Geno doesn’t see it.

“He’s not,” Sid agrees, far easier than Geno expected. Geno glances at him. The fondness in his expression as he looks at Andy hasn’t changed. “He doesn’t want to be, either. He loves hockey because he loves me, but it’s not what it was for us.”

“You okay with that?” If Geno ever imagined Sid as a dad, it would have been with a pack of hockey kids, another generation of Crosby on the Stanley Cup and Sid playing goalie as a kid shoots puck after puck at him.

Sid shrugs. “If he wants it, someday, I’ll help. But—he’s so smart, G. He’s smarter than I’ve ever been. And he’s so good at drawing, and he loves that. He’ll be great at it.” Sid’s eyes are far away, seeing a future like he’s always been able to—the future he’ll make happen. “He’s going to be the best at whatever he wants, even if it’s not hockey.”

Geno can see it too—college and a doctor or a lawyer or whatever he wants. “He Crosby, of course he will.”

“And he can always play rec league,” Sid adds, and Geno laughs because Sid’s always so Sid.

“Hi, boys.” Erika leans over the edge of the rink on Sid’s other side. She’s got a hot chocolate in her hands, and a University of Toronto toque on over her ears, her cheeks pink with cold. “What are you so serious about?”

“Discussing Andy’s future career,” Sid tells her easily.

“He’s not going to be a hockey player,” she says, almost before Sid’s finished.

“Hockey players so bad?” Geno asks. Sid makes a sound like he’s had this conversation before, and is still not convinced he’s lost the argument.

“I don’t want my son to have brain damage,” she replies.

“We don’t all—”

“How many concussions have you had, Sid?” she cuts him off, then shakes her head. In the game, Andy’s got the puck, and he winds up and hits the puck hard. Muzz lifts his pad just enough that it goes in, and the whole team cheers. “Look, I know you guys love what you do. And it’s impressive. But I’d rather Andy get into a safer profession.”

“So, not firefighter either?” Geno asks, and both Sid and Erika actually shudder. Geno gets it, a bit—he’s not Andy’s dad, but the thought of it isn’t comfortable for him either.

“Dad! Mom! Geno!” Andy’s come barreling over, and he looks ready to throw himself at Sid’s legs so Geno intercepts him, tugging him just a little off-center. “Did you see my goal?”

“Yeah!” Sid says, and holds up his hand. “Great job.”

Andy slaps his palm, then Erika’s, then turns expectantly to Geno. Geno gives him a high-five too. “Very pretty goal,” Geno says. “We put on highlight reel.” He watches Sid flush, just a little. “Already have highlight reel for Andy?” he asks, not trying not to laugh.

“Oh, whatever. His first goal is important.”

“It’s on the same tape as his first steps,” Erika adds, disapproving, and Geno can’t hold his laughter in anymore.

“Shut up,” Sid mutters. Then, louder, to Andy. “Let’s try getting your hands farther apart on the stick, okay? That’ll help control.”

Andy nods, concentrating. “Like this?” he spreads his hands wider.

“Exactly.”

“Do you want something to eat?” Erika asks. Andy shakes his head.

“I’ve got to play, mom,” he says, so matter of fact that all the adults chuckle.

“Okay. Let me know when you’re hungry.”

“I will.”

“Andy!” Alex calls, from the game. “We need to start!”

“Coming!” Andy yells back, and takes off. Sid grins.

“You want play?” It’s stupid question. They both know the answer.

“Soon.” Sid sighs. “Trainers say the cast can come off in a week. I should be back on the ice then.”

“Great!” Geno grins and shoves his good side just a bit. Sid doesn’t move. It’s been a long time since he’s been moved when he doesn’t want to be. “About time. You so lazy.”

Sid snorts, then, “Woo!” he cheers as, Andy makes what is actually a neat little assist to Isabella Hornquist. “Great play!” Andy looks over, and he does a ridiculous little dance that is probably supposed to be a celly, which makes Geno, Sid, and Erika all laugh.

///

A few nights later, Sid gets out a bottle of wine after Andy’s gone to bed. Erika’s out, for once; she’d come downstairs dressed up enough that Sid had commented on how nice she looks, which made her smile, pleased, and Geno mumble his agreement, and told them that she was going out for drinks with Cath and Malin, and then she was gone.

It’s odd, knowing she’s not there. Since her and Andy moved in, she’s always been around, even if it’s just upstairs in her office. And even at the rink, or at lunch, she’s still around—in Geno’s head, there in the back of his mind. The woman Sid would have married. Andy’s mother. The woman who Sid went to instead of taking Geno up on the thing they’d been teetering on.

But now she’s not here, properly not here, and Andy’s asleep, and Sid’s holding out a bottle of wine with a questioning look. “If you want?” he offers, sounding far more diffident than Geno’s ever imagined him sounding. “You can stay over, you don’t have practice in the morning.”

Like Geno was ever going to say anything but yes. He waves an arm. “We celebrating something?”

Sid grins. “My cast is coming off.”

“You back on ice?”

“With a no-contact jersey. I’ll be on it properly soon.”

“Then yes, we celebrate!” Geno makes a face at the wine. “No whiskey?”

“You still have to skate tomorrow.”

“So I skate. Whiskey not stop me.”

“You’re not twenty anymore. I know you get hangovers.”

“Lies.”

Sid snorts. “I always know when you have a hangover.”

“I never not skate because I have,” Geno amends, because that much is true. Maybe he’s getting older, whatever. It doesn’t mean he can’t still drink.

“Yeah, but you’re not very pleasant to be around when you do.” Sid grins again. Clearly, the prospect of getting his cast off has put him into a giddy mood.

“I’m always pleasant,” Geno mutters, even if he knows it’s true. “Give me wine.”

“Be patient,” Sid chides, as he sets two glasses down on the coffee table. Geno has heard him say the exact same thing, in the exact same tone, to Andy.

Geno snorts. “Yes, patience, thing you best at.”

Sid’s smile twists, does something odd. “I can be patient for the important things,” he says, and looks down at the glasses where he’s pouring the wine.

They put on ESPN in the background, highlight reels of old football games, but it’s quiet, a background to Sid’s chatter about the league gossip he’s heard and Geno’s contributions when necessary, even if usually it’s easiest to just let Sid talk. It’s nice, to sit and talk like this, the wine turning them giggly as Sid starts to tell stories about Andy before now.

“I wish I’m know him then,” Geno says, too tipsy to lie about it, as Sid finishes a story about a bookstore mishap where Sid nearly lost him only to find him looking through a book on hockey, which had made Sid so proud.

Sid laughs, and tips his head back on the couch. Geno’s managed to sprawl to take up most of it, so his toes are tucked under Sid’s thighs. It’s comfortable and lazy and makes Geno think of being kids again, when they could put aside the weight of the responsibility they both wore. Sid’s giggling like he had then, loose and careless, his eyes shining and his lips stained red by the wine. Except he’s not that kid anymore, with the coating of baby fat and the remnants of teen lankiness; his toes can feel the weight of Sid’s thighs, the sheer solid strength of him. The sort of strength that you can rely on. That can carry everyone, if they needed it; they’ll never need it, not when Geno’s there to take the half of the load he can. Geno doesn’t look like Sid does, but he can match him, they both know it; can meet him point for point and strength for strength. What would it be like, to feel that? To feel all of Sid’s strength and focus and drive, right on Geno, and—

“I wish you had too,” Sid says, and Geno backtracks to remember the conversation, instead of thinking about what it would be like to bite Sid’s thighs. “I remember, when that happened, I wanted to tell you. Erika didn’t get how funny it was. And Taylor did, but it’s not the same.”

“It was funny.”

“I know!” Sid waves his glass, probably more than he should, but he doesn’t spill it. “I’m glad he likes hockey. Even if he doesn’t end up playing.”

“Of course likes hockey. Loves you.”

“I’m glad he loves me, too.” Sid looks at his glass, then at Geno’s. Geno’s is mostly empty. “Want more?”

“Sure.” Geno holds out his glass. He’s not actually that drunk, he decides. “Why wouldn’t he love you? Everyone love you.” Geno thinks, then adds. “Well, everyone whose team you don’t beat.”

“I’m not a great dad,” Sid says, settling back from pouring Geno more wine. “Until this year, I was never there, or barely at all, and I kept him a secret, and I—”

“You best dad,” Geno interrupts. “Andy love you.”

“You can love bad parents,” Sid argues, because he’s incapable of taking a compliment.

“Well, he doesn’t. He loves best dad, so…be quiet about stupid worries.” Geno pokes Sid in the thigh with his foot for that. Sid’s glass is still on the table, so he catches Geno’s ankle before he can poke it again. It sends heat up Geno’s leg, Sid’s hand on him, the easy way he sets Geno’s leg where he wants it. Geno has defenses against this, usually. Usually, he isn’t tipsy and in this quiet house, with Sid watching him with those bright, intent eyes.

“I definitely haven’t been the best friend, though.” That, Geno can’t deny, and he doesn’t try. Sid sighs. “Tanger yelled at me, a lot. About keeping important secrets, and involving friends in your life, and reciprocity and shit. And he’s right, I know he is. I just…” Sid shakes his head. “It made everything complicated and weird, but I’m not apologizing for Andy. I won’t.”

“Shouldn’t. Shouldn’t ever. Andy is great.”

“Right?” Sid grins at him, bright and open. “Isn’t he? The best kid.”

“For sure.”

Sid lets go of Geno’s ankle to take another drink. “I sometimes wonder, though.”

“Wonder what?”

“What would have happened, if he hadn’t come along.” Sid glances sideways at Geno, and suddenly Geno wonders if he’s actually that drunk, or if this was all part of Sid’s plan. Geno would have known once. Wouldn’t have wondered.

“He not change how we play,” Geno replies, playing dumb.

The glass is on the table again. Sid’s hand is on Geno’s ankle, just resting, not quite rubbing. Geno feels cornered, somehow. Trapped.

“Not about hockey.” Sid’s not pretending not to look at Geno anymore. “About us.”

“Us?”

“Geno—”

“What I’m know about us,” Geno says, straightening, so that he pulls his ankle away. “Is that even if Andy not born, you still sleep with Erika, Sid.”

Sid flushes. “Like you weren’t sleeping with anyone during the lockout?”

Geno had been. They hadn’t said anything, hadn’t even had a tacit understanding. But—it had been perfunctory, almost, at the time. He’d expected to come back and get back on the ice with Sid and to follow through on the lingering touches and the look in Sid’s eyes. Not to Sid being perfectly friendly but not—not what they had been.

“I not have a baby with any of them,” Geno points out.

“But if I hadn’t.” Sid twists in his seat, propping up one leg on the couch cushion. His face is set, eager. Nostalgic.

If he hadn’t—Geno knows what he wanted. Knows what he wants. But Sid did, and now there’s Andy and Erika and the parts of Sid he hadn’t known he didn’t know, when he thought he knew everything about Sid.

“You the one always says, can’t live on what ifs,” Geno tells him, and gets up. “Bathroom.”

He half-expects Sid to argue. To force him to sit down and hash this out. He maybe even wants it; wants them to talk. To say the thing they’ve been not saying for more than half a decade. And if Sid does, then—then Geno does know Sid, because that’s what Sid does, he pushes and he doesn’t wait for things to unfold naturally and he doesn’t run from problems.

But—Sid just nods, and lets him go.

Geno goes to the bathroom, splashes water on his face. When he comes back, they talk about hockey and the team and the league and nothing at all, until they go to bed.

Normally alcohol knocks Geno out, but instead he tosses and turns. It’s not the wine; he’s not tipsy anymore. He thinks that the conversation might have shocked him out of it.

He could have kissed Sid, he thinks. He doesn’t think Sid would have objected, not Sid who was pushing at what they’d been. Or maybe that was just Sid being drunk and nostalgic, thinking about times when things were simpler, even if they hadn’t felt it then. Sid had proposed to Erika, he remembers. Or no—getting married was unnecessary, which meant they had thought about it. Maybe it meant that they were getting everything out of a marriage they needed now. Maybe that second room for Erika was just to give her space, or to give Sid space. Geno wouldn’t have thought Sid would have been okay with that for this long, with a kid—Sid’s a traditionalist, at the heart of him—but what does he know about Sid? Clearly nothing. Or not what he thought he knew, which was everything.

And now he’s thinking himself in circles, and he does have to skate tomorrow, even if not first thing. He gets up, tugs a shirt on over his sweatpants, and goes downstairs. Maybe some water will help.

Except—he gets downstairs, and there are lights on and the sound of someone moving things in the kitchen.

Geno starts going faster. If someone broke in—the kitchen’s not the first place to go, but he knows some fans are crazy.

But when he gets to the kitchen, it’s just Erika, rummaging through drawers. She jumps a little, when he clears his throat.

“Oh! Geno. Sorry. I didn’t know you were still here.”

“I have wine, stay over. Everything okay?”

Erika runs a hand over her hair. It’s a little messy, and her makeup is a little smudged. “Yeah. I just got back and I wanted to heat something up to eat before bed but I can’t find saran wrap to cover it.” She laughs, a little wry.

Geno walks over to the drawer where Sid keeps it—where he’s seen him wrap so many leftovers after team dinners, after take-out meals, after Nathalie sent over meals because she didn’t believe either of them could cook. It’s weird to think that he knows that, and Erika doesn’t.

“Here.”

“Thanks.” Erika takes it and covers a bowl before putting something in the microwave. Geno moves around her to get himself the glass of water. The house is really quiet now, save for the whirring of the microwave working.

Geno’s never been alone with Erika before. She’s been living in Sid’s house for almost a month, but Sid’s always been there, or at least Andy if Sid leaves for a moment. What’s he supposed to say to her?

“Good night?” he asks, because leaving feels awkward, at this point. Especially if she’s drunk, which he doesn’t know her well enough to tell.

“Yeah, it was fun.” She smiles, though not big. Geno hasn’t seen her really smile at anyone other than Andy, he thinks. “Don’t tell Sid that, though. He gave me a lecture about how I had to go because I’d been lonely and needed friends and all that.” Geno snorts despite himself, because he’s been on the receving end of those lectures. “It was good to get out of the house, though.”

“Cath and Malin are great, too.”

“They’re very nice,” Erika agrees. The microwave is still going. “I guess Pittsburgh isn’t all bad.”

“Lots of good things about Pittsburgh,” Geno objects. She laughs.

“You and Sid. You guys have to say that.”

“Yes, but is still true.”

“Maybe, but it’s not Toronto.”

“You not want to move?” Geno asks, sitting down at the counter. He can’t just chug his water at this point.

“It made sense. Sid can’t move, I can, and the media stuff is easier with the Penguin PR team.” She shrugs. “And maybe I’ve been selfish, keeping Andy so far away from him. I can’t blame him for wanting more time. And Andy loves having him around.”

“It not…easier, to have Sid here too?”

She chuckles. “Is anything easier, with Sid?”

Geno blinks. “Yes.” Most things are easier, with Sid around. He can be persnickety, sure, but once you get his routines it’s easy.

She shakes her head at that. “You would think that.” She pauses for a moment, then turns on her stool to look at him. Her gaze is focused, intent. It’s not like Sid’s intent, but it’s still reminiscent of it. Geno can see what Sid saw—sees—in her. “Are you sleeping with him?”

Geno nearly spits out his water. “No!” he yelps. Her gaze doesn’t falter.

“Were you sleeping with him?” 

“No!” Geno repeats again, louder than he should with Andy and Sid asleep. Then, that’s not enough. “No, I’m not sleep with Sid. Ever.” And he knows he shouldn’t, it’s not his business, but he’s lived his life going on the attack, and, “Are you?”

“Well there’s proof I slept with him once.” Erika’s face is utterly deadpan as she says it. Geno doesn’t know what his face does in return, but it makes her laugh, low and throaty. “Not many more times than once, though. Not now.”

“Really? But you—”

“Shockingly, once a guy has gotten you pregnant, you aren’t always ready to jump back into bed with him.” Erika shoots a glance sideways. “Even if it was good.”

Geno has had years of practice not reacting to guys chirping him on the ice. If he flushes this time, it’s not his fault.  “I’m think, you live together…”

“Because it makes sense.” The microwave beeps, she gets up to get what appears to be leftover pasta out of the it. “I’m not going to get a place when I don’t know how long I’ll be here, and Sid has more rooms than he can count and wants to have a chance to be near Andy anyway.” She makes a face into the pasta. “I didn’t know he’d be here all the time, though.”

“Is not so bad,” Geno says, thinking of those long days of 2012. “And you get free babysitter.”

“I think I’d rather pay than have Sid under foot.” She waves her fork. “I don’t know how you do it.”

“Nothing to do.” Sid’s easy, once you get past the intensity and the neuroses. And even those are easy.

“You wouldn’t think so.”

“What that mean?”

“That he’s your best friend,” Erika replies, her head cocked like she’s confused. “What else?”

“Nothing,” Geno mutters.

“I mean, I’m being harsh. I love Sid.” Erika goes on. She’s still watching him, even as she slurps up some pasta. Geno doesn’t react to that statement. He doesn’t.  Other people are allowed to love Sid. “No one I’d rather raise a kid with. He’s great with Andy, he’s got shittons of money, no one’s more responsible than him, he didn’t sue me when my shitbag of an ex-boyfriend decided to go to the press. But god, being here all the time…there’s a reason I said no to marriage.”

“You say no?” Geno echoes. “Sid propose?”

Now Erika looks properly surprised. “Of course Sid proposed,” she tells him, like it’s the most obvious fact in the world. “Did he say otherwise?”

Geno looks away now. Another lie, then? More things Sid wasn’t telling him? He’d thought— “He say you decide it was unnecessary.”

“Oh we did, did we?” Erika snorts. “I mean, I did, so I guess we did. But no. Sid came back up to Toronto once I told him, and we talked, and he said, ‘so we should get married, then.’” She laughs a little, thinking of it.

Geno’s not laughing. Geno’s choking a little, thinking of that Sid—the Sid who’d just spent months with Geno, who Geno had been letting himself dream about at last, saying that to another person. He can picture it, too—earnest and intent, Sid making his plans, already seeing their life stretched out in front of them, believing in it so hard that he could make everyone else believe too. “And you—say no?” Geno gets out. He doesn’t know how.

“Of course.” Erika says it casually. Like this isn’t twisting in Geno. “I’m not much of a romantic, but I want more than someone who proposes like that. Who cares enough to propose with more than that.” Her lips curve, wry and a little pained. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

“And he not come back with romantic movie proposal?” Geno asks, because he does know Sid and what her telling him something like that would do—there’s never been a correction someone Sid respected gave Sid that he didn’t internalize.

Sid proposed. It hurts, but something in it makes Geno feel better—of course Sid proposed. Geno did know him.

“Well, I didn’t say the romance thing.” Erika shrugs. “I told him the truth, though. We’d never work. Just the past month has shown that. He’s too—much, for me. We’re both too high-strung and he just—well, you know. He’s always trying to fix things and do things and push and push and push, and I just—it’s so irritating. I knew that even then.”

“And you tell him that?”

“Sure.” Erika swallows her last bite of pasta. “The only way Sid and I work is that we always tell each other the truth. It makes for a functional partnership.”

Geno winces like he was struck. It’s not—okay, so Sid and Erika aren’t sleeping together. So they’re not together. So she’d turned him down, because she didn’t want the things that made Sid Sid, because she couldn’t see past the utter lack of romance in Sid’s soul. Sid didn’t lie to her. Sid didn’t keep the most important parts of his life from her. She was Sid’s partner.

“Hey.” Erika’s hand is on Geno’s arm now, surprisingly soft. “Sorry. I didn’t mean…”

Geno swallows. It’s not her fault, he reminds himself. It’s easier to be mad at her than at Andy, and his feelings for Sid are too mixed up to settle solely on blame, but—in the isolation of this nighttime kitchen, with Erika smudged and imperfect and looking at him with the sharp edges Geno’s seen of her softened, like she does with Andy, he can’t just think of her as Andy’s mother. As the mother of Sid’s child.

“No, is fine.” Geno gets out. He probably doesn’t sound sincere, because he’s a shitty liar, but saying it counts for something, he thinks. “Is what it is.”

“For what it’s worth, I know he hated lying to you guys.” Erika’s fingers drum against Geno’s arm. “To you, particularly. He talked about it.” Her eyes roll. “All the time.”

Geno knows that eye roll. He’s done that eye roll. “More or less than mess up hockey play?”

“We don’t talk hockey, but I’d guess about the same amount. Does he ever let something die?”

“No,” Geno tells her, and now it’s his turn to laugh. “No, never. Have to learn to ignore.”

“I do! But it doesn’t help. He just—”

“Yap yap yap,” Geno fills in, tapping his thumb and middle finger together like he always does when Sid gets talkative on the bench. Erika grins.

“Exactly!” She moves her hand from Geno’s arm, to run it through her hair. Her foot is dangling from the stool, and she bounces her heel against the leg of the stool. “Thank you, someone understands! Everyone always tells me, no, he’s Sidney Crosby, he never says anything real, what are you talking about?”

“Well, he never say anything interesting,” Geno points out, and Erika giggles into her hand.

It’s another hour before they get to bed, an hour spent mainly discussing Sid’s foibles, but somehow they start talking about Russian art, and how it feels to be alone in Pittsburgh, and Andy’s new kindergarten best friend who they’re all very wary of because it seems like she’s mean to him sometimes.

When Geno finally goes to bed, it might just be because it’s late, but he’s asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow.

///

Geno wakes up with the sun bright on his face. It takes him a second to orient himself—Sid’s house, morning—but then he checks his phone. It’s later than normal, but not so much that he has to rush to get to practice. Sid would have woken him up, if it had been.

He drags himself out of bed, pulls on his sweats and a shirt. He can hear people downstairs, Andy’s higher voice carrying easily. That means there’s probably coffee and food.

Sure enough, when he gets there, Sid and Andy are in the kitchen, Andy seated on the counter as Sid putters around the kitchen, making what he can one-handed, which appears to be cereal.

“Geno!” Andy greets him, louder than Geno would have wanted. “Why are you here? Did you sleep over?”

“Yeah, I sleep over.” Geno ruffles Andy’s hair as the boy grins up at him. “Want to make your parents make me food.”

Normally, that would get a chirp from Sid, something about him mooching, and then Geno would point out just how long he’d lived with the Lemieuxs for exactly that reason. Instead

“Here’s breakfast, bud,” Sid says, putting a bowl of cereal on the table. “Need Geno to help you down?”

“I can do it!” Andy insists, and Geno doesn’t need Sid’s look to stand close, a hand on his back as he hops down. “See, dad?”

“Good job,” Sid tells him, lips pressed together like he’s trying not to smile. “But what have we said about jumping off of things?”

Andy sighs, put upon. “That that’s how I get hurt.” He gives Sid’s arm a look. “You got hurt without jumping.”

“You don’t want to get hurt as much as papa,” Geno puts in. “Then he have to draw pictures for you, and no one wants that.”

Andy laughs as he goes to his chair. Sid shoots Geno a glance, sidelong. “Morning,” he says, oddly cautious. He’s tenser than he was before Geno came into the kitchen, clear in the muscles of his shoulders.

“Morning.” Geno tells him. “You up early.”

“Andy decided he needed breakfast.”

Sid’s still tense. Geno decides this is one of those times that Sid’s being weird and to ignore it. “I decide I need breakfast, Sid,” he whines, and Sid rolls his eyes but chuckles, relaxing.

“If you want more than cereal, you have to do it yourself.”

“Cereal good,” Geno decides, and sits down next to Andy. “Coffee too!”

“You’re the uninjured one,” Sid retorts.

“Yes, but is your home. You be bad host, Sid?” Geno gives him his most innocent look. “That what you teach your son?”

Geno’s innocent look has never worked on Sid, but Sid gets him his coffee anyway.

He’s halfway through breakfast when Erika comes in. She looks worse for wear, even though Geno’s pretty sure she was mostly sober when she went to bed, in a pair of Pens sweatpants, oversized enough they must be Sid’s, and a U of T sweatshirt; she sits down at the table across from Geno, then drops her head onto her hands.

“Late night?” Sid asks. He’s got that tone of voice when he’s trying not to sound judgmental but he really is.

“You don’t get to say anything. They’re your friends.” She lifts her head. “Why are we not twenty anymore? I shouldn’t be hungover from this.”

“Did you eat something before bed? And drink water?”

It’s the sort of thing from Sid that Geno would just ignore, but Erika sighs. “Yes. I’m not an idiot.”

“Just checking.” Sid sets a mug of coffee in front of her. “Have fun?”

“Yeah, it was nice.” She makes a face that less hungover would probably be a smile. “Thanks.”

“I just—”

“I know.”

“Mom, can I have juice?” Erika winces at the shrill sound of Andy’s voice.

“Sure,” Sid says, turning to the fridge. Geno probably should help, but he sort of wants to see how Sid’s planning to manage this.

He gets out the orange juice all right, and a cup, and then sort of looks at them both. Geno doesn’t need to see his face to know he’s trying to figure out the plan.

“Something wrong?” Geno asks, innocent as can be.

“No.”

“Can help, Sid. Give assist on juice pouring.”

“Shut up.”

“Maybe need a hand?”

“Geno,” Sid groans, though Geno knows he’s laughing on the inside.

“Oh my god, I’ll get it, just stop.” Erika shoves to her feet and shoves Sid out of the way to get to the juice.

“Stop what?”

“Don’t even.”

“Stop what?” Sid demands again. He has one hand crossed over his chest like he does when he’s getting ready to dig his heels in, but with his other in his sling, it just looks comical. Geno glances at Erika, who glances back—then they both start laughing.

Sid’s eyes go wide, then they narrow. “Really? Both of you?”

“So much to tease, take two.” Geno tells him. “Now let Erika pour.”

“I can do it,” Sid mutters, as he does what Geno says. Erika raises her eyebrows as Sid sulks his way back to the table. Geno doesn’t know why; Sid always gets sulky when he’s not the best at something. 

Geno pats his head. “Yes, you’re best at juice pouring. Gold medal. Well done.”

“Screw you.” Sid kicks at his calf, but he’s laughing, and all that tension from before is gone. “Did you see Dumo’s text?”

“No, what he say?”

“That he’s closing the fantasy league trades for a while.”

“What? No! Why?”

Erika sighs and gets out her phone as Sid tells Geno about how apparently someone who is definitely not Sid has overwhelmed Dumo with trades.

///

They go on the road after that day, and Sid’s close enough to healed that he goes with them. It’s maybe the first time Geno’s ever seen Sid less than totally excited to be well enough to go on the road; usually it lights him up. He’s still clearly delighted, and it’s good for the team, to have Sid with them—good for Geno, because even injured Sid takes some of the media slack from him, which he’s always pleased about—but now Sid’s part of the contingent that stays back in the hotel to talk to their kids, not the ones that goes out. Which is weird, but Sid’s always been weird, and it’s worth it, to be in the locker room and have Sid there too. Geno’s played plenty without Sid, when Sid’s injured or they aren’t even on the same team, but it’s never quite right.

At least Sid feels the same, he knows; he can tell, by the way Sid grins as Geno tugs him aside, to do their handshake before he goes out for a Columbus game. They don’t need words—their eyes meet, and Geno knows what Sid’s telling him.

After Columbus, it’s up to Toronto. The road trip as a whole has been on and off, and Geno is ready for Sid to be back if only to shock them into consistency, but he really wants to beat Toronto. As becomes clear, in first intermission, when Horny asks, “What’s gotten you into beast mode?” Probably given how much time Geno’s spent in the box tonight.

Geno shrugs. “Want win,” he says, which is…mostly right. Also, he can’t be mad at Andy for changing things, and he can’t be mad at Erika, but he reserves the right to be mad at the entire city of Toronto. It’s a stupid city anyway.

Tanger’s eying him, and he has his judgmental eyebrows on. “It’s not the Leafs’ fault they’re based in Toronto,” he points out.

“What you talking about?” Geno retorts. Screw Tanger too.

“G,” Sid says, coming in with Sully. He’s in his game day suit, and it’s wrong, even if it looks good.

“Is fine.”

“Geno,” Sid repeats, stepping closer, boxing Geno into his stall. In his pads, Geno’s considerably bigger than Sid on all metrics, but Sid’s never cared about shit like that. He meets Geno’s eyes and doesn’t say anything.

“Is fine,” Geno repeats. The room’s swirling around them, giving them space.

“Geno,” Sid says again, even and intent, and god Geno hates him for it, the way he pushes, the way he doesn’t let Geno get away with shit.

“Fine!” Geno snaps. “Fine, I’ll be more careful.”

Sid smiles, and pats at his chest, over the A. “Good. You better win it. People are expecting it of you.”

“People always expect I’m win,” Geno mutters, which gets a laugh from Sid as he moves away, going over to talk to Jake, whose game the last few days has been a little off and needs the encouragement. Geno huffs at his back, and goes to retape his stick.

Sid’s right, of course—Geno might not be happy about it, but he is right, and instead of getting penalties Geno gets a goal and an assist in the next period, so he’ll take it. The Leafs fight until the end, but then Phil gets in a gorgeous goal with twenty seconds left, and they take it.

It does, Geno will admit to himself, feel especially satisfying. Toronto can change everything except this.

Given that it’s Toronto, there’s plenty of media around; Phil gets some for his final goal and because it’s Toronto but of course more crowd around Geno, asking about his two points, about the early penalties.

“What turned your game around?” someone asks.

Geno laughs. “Sid comes down, sets my head on straight,” he tells them, because they all know this narrative. “Tell me better to win then fight.”

“You’ve been leading the team without Crosby for the last month. How’s that been feeling?”

“Is not, lead without Sid. Sid not on ice, but Sid always around.” Geno makes to reach into the stall behind him. “Want see phone, all texts he gives? Basically same as have him talk on bench.”

That gets laughs, because there’s nothing Canadian media loves more than someone chirping Sid. “So it won’t be a change when he gets back?”

“Always better when he’s there,” Geno replies, because that’s obvious. “He captain, he push us. Make all of us better. But we make him proud without him.”

Geno’s strongly considering just cutting off questions soon. “You—”  

“Geno!” comes a yell, and Geno reacts in time to catch the small body that’s thrown himself at Geno. “Geno are you done yet daddy said we had to wait until you were done but I wanted to say hi now.”

“We done,” Geno decides, laughing as the cameras flash and Andy gives him a skeptical look. “What you doing here?”

“I told you people were expecting a win,” Sid tells him, coming through slower. The journalists all turn, as they clearly connect who the kid attacking Geno is.

“I knew you would win,” Andy tells him, matter of fact. “I told everyone.”

“Did you?” Geno asks, grinning. “See, Sid. He believe in me.”

Sid snorts. “He doesn’t know how to calculate PIM.” He turns to the journalists, his face settling into his bland media smile. “I’m not really here, guys. Talk to Jen if you want something.”

“Is that your son?” someone demands anyway. “Can we get a picture of you and him?”

Sid gestures to his arm. “Can’t really hold him, sorry.”

“What’s it like, having a son? Has it changed your perspective?”

“For sure, parenthood changes everything.” Sid looks over their shoulder, probably at Jen. Andy’s noticed the cameras now, and he curls into Geno’s shoulder, away from the cameras.

“A comment on the game today? What changed in the second?”

“Well, we’d lost a little momentum, but Geno got that to change.”

“He said—”

“Okay guys, you’ll get Sidney when he’s back,” Jen says, coming over to herd the journalists away. She gives both Geno and Sid stern looks, clearly displeased that Sid had come in at all and messed up her schedule. Sid shrugs apologetically, gesturing at Andy; Geno just shrugs. At least it cut off his interviews.

“Sorry,” Sid tells Geno anyway, once the journalists are gone. “He didn’t want to wait to congratulate you.”

“Is important, tell me I did well,” Geno agrees. “You been here whole time?” Geno asks Andy.

“Yeah! Mommy said as long as daddy was here we could come visit, so we stayed with grandma and grandpa and I got to play with Xander and see your game!”

“Xander?”

“Grandma and grandpa’s dog. He’s the best.”

“Not better than my dog.”

“Well I haven’t met your dog,” Andy explains, like it’s obvious. “And—”

“Okay, let’s let Geno get changed, then you can hang out,” Sid suggests, reaching out for Andy. With Geno handing him over, Sid can hold him up with his left arm, and Andy is happy enough to be transferred.

“Want to get dessert, Geno? Daddy said if we won we could get dessert, so I would give you extra luck.”

“Daddy said that?” Geno repeats, looking at Sid. Sid never believes they’re going to lose.

Sid grins sheepishly. “I did,” he admits. “There’s this bakery near Erika’s parents…”

“Shameless,” Geno chides.

“Hey, Andy!” Connor comes over, lifts up a hand for a high five. “No love for the rest of us?”

Andy high fives him enthusiastically and starts chattering about how he’d watched the game.

“Hey, Sid,” Phil asks suddenly, quiet enough not to interrupt Andy, but loud enough that the whole locker room hears. “What’s up with your kid’s jersey?”

Geno hadn’t paid attention to it before—he’s seen Andy in his Pens jersey plenty of times, because he wears it whenever he watches a game, as far as Geno can tell.

But now—he looks, and it’s not that jersey. It’s newer. There’s an A on the chest, and on the back—

“He decided that he wanted to wear something for his favorite player on the ice,” Sid explains, casually, like his son isn’t wearing a Malkin jersey. Like the sight of it hasn’t made Geno breathless.

It takes Geno a second just to process the words, then to translate them into English. “He just knows best player,” Geno retorts, and somehow his hand is on Andy’s back, over Geno’s name. Geno’s name, and Sid’s son grinning up at him with Sid’s eyes, matching the glint in Sid’s.

Then Sid smirks at Geno. “Or he thought you needed the luck,” he says, eyes like a challenge and Geno close enough to count his lashes. His son is wearing Geno’s name, like he usually wears Sid’s. Andy chose to wear Geno’s name, like he usually chooses to wear his father’s. Sid’s head tips back to keep contact with Geno, and the challenge is there but something else too, something even and tight like a bowstring pulled taut.

Sid wouldn’t give up his luck—wouldn’t break a superstition—for just anyone. Sid is waiting for something. Sid doesn’t just wait for things, he works for them. If he wanted Geno, he’s had plenty of time to say something.

“Does that mean you have a jersey his size for all of us?” Tanger ask, shoving at Sid’s side until he looks at him. When Sid does, Tanger adds, “Pas ici. Ce n’est pas le moment ni l'endroit.”

Sid sighs, but he nods. “Only for those of you who need the luck, so—yeah, everyone.”

“Boo!” Horny yells, and throws a t-shirt at Sid, who, because he’s got a kid in one hand and a broken arm in the other, has to get hit by it, and doesn’t look pleased.

Geno lets Sid be moved away, but he can’t look anywhere but at the name on Andy’s back. At Sid holding on, and waiting.

///

Geno stays over at Sid’s again, a few nights later—it starts out with a Up! watching which Geno absolutely cries over as Erika and Sid and Andy all make fun of him, then Andy goes to bed and Sid and Geno and Erika watch Tomb Raider, apparently a well-worn choice between them because, as Erika says, it has action for Sid and actual female characters for her, and the English is easy enough for Geno. Then Erika goes to bed too, and Sid and Geno end up watching ESPN highlights until they’re both drifting off, and Geno finds himself falling over onto Sid’s shoulder. It’s only natural, after that, for Sid to herd him upstairs and into the guest bedroom, then tell him goodnight with a pat on Geno’s shoulder that feels heavier than it is, and that same look from before, fond and warm and reined in.

There’s nothing Geno knows that reins Sid in, he thinks, as he falls asleep. And Geno knows Sid better than anyone.

He wakes up the next morning, and stumbles downstairs, to where he can already hear the sounds of breakfast being made.

It’s like something out of a photoshoot, or something the publicity team wishes they could get for a photoshoot—Sid in just a worn pair of Pens sweatpants, probably because putting shirts on with his cast is still hard, the sun sinking into his winter-pale skin, turning him into some sort of marble Greek statue, each muscle carefully sculpted. His hair’s messy and starting to curl, and Geno can only see half his face, but he can see the comfortable curve of his smile as he hums off-key to himself. He’s such a dork, Geno thinks, fond but not surprised. God, Geno loves him.

It’s not a surprise. Geno has known that for years. But he doesn’t let himself think it often. If he doesn’t think it, it doesn’t hurt. 

This time, though—Geno thinks it, and Sid must hear him, because he looks over, smiles. “Morning,” he says, the sun still lighting up his face. “Want some toast?”

“We have jam!” Andy adds from the table, and Geno blinks and can see—can see this every day, has been living this every day. Can see Sid’s smile and Andy’s chatter and the welcome of it. Can see walking over and kissing two sets of dark curls good morning, and maybe tilting Sid’s chin up for a better kiss. It’s so clear. The things he wants. The life he wants.

Geno must have been quiet too long. “Everything okay?” Sid asks, his eyes narrowed as he inspects Geno.

Geno swallows. “Yeah.”

It’s a lie. It’s clearly a lie, and Sid clearly knows it, and Geno can see the words in his tongue, can see Sid ready to fight it out of him, to take this problem and solve it—and then Sid nods, curt.

“Okay,” he says, and doesn’t push.

I told him I couldn’t marry him because he’s always pushing, Erika had said, and when someone told Sid he was doing something wrong he took the instruction and fixed it. If someone told Sid that they couldn’t love him because he pushed, he’d work not to push people he loved. Erika might not have understood that. But Geno did, he realizes, and feels it wash over him like the rumble of thunder. Sid would work not to push against all of his instincts, and maybe it would look like—

“Sid,” Geno says, and catches Sid by his good shoulder, waiting until he looks up at Geno. “Really. Everything good.”

Sid still doesn’t look like he believes him, but he smiles anyway. “Toast?”

“Yes, please,” Geno says, and goes to sit down next to Andy.

It’s an easy morning. Erika’s out for a morning run already, according to Sid; she’s a morning person too, which Geno disapproves of on principle. So it’s just him and Sid and Andy, eating and watching cartoons that are different than the ones Geno had watched with Gonch’s girls when he was trying to learn English but that Sid and Andy have apparently watched enough of that Sid’s extremely invested. Sid, Geno privately thinks, really needs to get back on the ice.

But it’s still nice to watch him, with Andy curled up on the couch between them, as Sid explains what’s happening and who everyone is, not like Geno couldn’t figure it out himself but like Sid explains plays on the ice, like he needs to catch Geno up fast rather than wait for him to read Sid’s mind. Andy chimes in, and he and Sid get into an intense argument about whether someone is a villain or not. They start talking too fast for Geno to really follow, but he doesn’t really try, either. He just watches, and thinks about six years ago, sitting on a couch and having these arguments with Sid, and thinking soon.

Erika comes in after a few episodes, sweaty from her run. “Sid, Cath just texted. We’re going to do a mommy and son playdate, if you’re good with that?”

“Yeah, for sure.” Sid grins as Andy perks up.

“Playdate?”

“Yeah, you can hang out with Alex!” Sid tells him.

“He has jedi swords!” Andy cheers, and leaps off the couch.

“I still need to get ready, give me half an hour,” Erika laughs. “Sid—”

“I’ll get him dressed,” Sid agrees, and turns off the cartoons. “Come on, bud. Let’s get some real clothes on.”

“Yeah, not want to look at half-naked Crosbys,” Geno agrees. Andy makes a face at him, but Sid shoots him a quick, sidelong glance, half-wary. Geno winks. Sid’s cheeks go a little red, but the wariness fades into a considering look, like the face he makes right before someone says he can’t do something.

Geno fiddles on his phone while the Crosbys are upstairs, checking Instagram, yesterday’s scores. He gets up when Andy comes thundering back down the stairs, in jeans and a t-shirt. Sid comes down after him, more slowly. He’s still in just his sweatpants.

Erika comes down right after them, and there are a few minutes of organized chaos as Sid and Erika move around each other in a practiced dance of getting Andy ready to go outside into the cold. It’s the sort of dance long time teammates do, Geno thinks, and tests that thought like a loose tooth. It doesn’t hurt, not anymore, not really. Not when Andy also calls, “Bye Geno!” as they leave. Not when he can still see Andy with Geno’s name across his back.

Sid wanders back into the living room when they’re gone. For the first time in years, Geno lets himself really look—not just at Sid the hockey player, Sid his teammate, Sid his partner, but at Sid the man. At the swell of his biceps and the cut of his hips where his sweatpants hang low and the curve of his as in them.

Sid must notice Geno watching, but he doesn’t say anything. Instead, he just sits back down on the couch, and picks up the remote. “Anything you want to watch?”

“Ballers?” Geno suggests, and Sid rolls his eyes but selects it on Netflix.

They watch TV—or, Geno watches TV and messes around on his phone, and Sid watches TV and does something on his IPad that might be video review or might be work or might be Candy Crush—until it’s late enough that Geno should maybe go home before practice that afternoon.

“Should go,” Geno points out, getting up.

“Oh, right.” Sid looks surprised, though Geno knows Sid knows what time practice is and exactly when Geno needs to leave to get there, which is at least ten minutes earlier than Geno actually will. “Yeah, sure.”

He trails Geno to the hallway, leaning against the door as Geno puts his shoes back on and telling him the sort of things he usually tells Geno before practice, enough that Geno only half listens as he puts his coat on too.

“Is that all you have?” Sid asks, as Geno’s buttoning the coat.

Geno looks down at himself. “Yes?”

“You’re going to freeze.” Sid turns to the closet, rummaging for a second.

“It not that cold out.”

“You whine when it’s 10 degrees out, come on. We need one of us healthy.” Sid emerges with a scarf, which he steps closer to loop around Geno’s neck.

It brings Sid very close, even if the motion is onehanded—the efficient way he loops it around Geno’s neck once, twice—then seems to realize what he’s doing, and how close they are.

“Oh, sorry,” Sid says, “It’s what I usually do for Andy, it’s instinct now.” He doesn’t sound sorry. He sounds like he has before, pulled taut. Waiting.

Geno looks down at him. He’d lied. He’d lied about Andy. But—but Geno was sure of Sid. He’d been sure of him six years ago, and maybe he’d been right, and he was sure of him now. Maybe he lied. But Geno still knew him.

“Sid,” Geno says, and doesn’t move away. “Why you not tell me, about Andy?”

The tightness doesn’t go away. “I told you, it was a secret.”

“Sid.”

“It was! It was complicated, and I was overwhelmed, and it felt easiest, and—”

“Sidney.” Geno’s hand is on Sid’s shoulder now, the nape of his neck. Sid goes quiet. “For real. Why you not tell me?”

Sid lets out a long, slow breath. “Because—you know why, Geno.”

“If I know, then I not need to ask.”

Sid’s cheeks are a little red now. “Because it was shitty timing, okay? Because we were—on our way somewhere and then I fucked up and we couldn’t go there anymore, and it was humiliating and—”

“Could still have gone there.”

Sid snorts. “I wasn’t going to do that to you, G. We were twenty-five. I wasn’t going to say, hey, Geno, let’s finally do this, and also I have a baby. You wouldn’t have wanted that. It would have messed everything up.”

Geno hums. He’s not sure about that. But of course Sid, who thinks he knows everyone’s emotions, who tries to captain even those, would have thought it. “Okay. Say now.”

“What?”

“Say now.” Geno’s finger brushes against Sid’s cheek, the stubble there. He can feel Sid’s breath catch. His wary eyes, hopeful and not daring to hope. “Say, Geno, let’s finally do this, and also I have kid.”

“Do you—I’m not—” Sid takes a breath. “I know I can be pushy, and I don’t want—you have to want it too, G. I’m not going to hold anything against you, but I can’t—I won’t—push you into this, and Andy loves you too much already, and—”

Geno has had enough of Sid’s talking. He kisses him instead.

For a second, Sid’s mouth keeps making words against Geno’s mouth, like he hasn’t realized what’s happening. 

Then—then Sid makes a sound into Geno’s mouth, and whatever was holding him back snaps. His hands are in Geno’s hair tugging him closer and those lips that Geno’s watched for thirteen years are on his and Sid’s kissing him with all the intensity that Geno’s eve seen on the ice, and Geno, like always, pushes back just as hard, reeling him in with a hand on his hip and they’re good, of course it’s good, how could they not know how to move together?

Geno loses himself in the kiss, in Sid’s lips and his body pressed against Geno’s and his ass, once Geno’s hands get down there. Geno’s been trying not to watch that ass for years. He deserves this time to get his hands on it.

Finally, it’s Sid who breaks away. “Geno—” he starts, and stops. Geno’s seen him after he won a Stanley cup, and he’s not sure he looked better than this, his lips swollen and cheeks flushed and eyes wild.

Geno grins. “Yes.”

“But—”

“Yes, you have kid, we teammates, you complicated. I know that already. I’m know that for years. Not make me want you any less.”

Sid’s eyes snap to his, burning hot. Geno could melt under that gaze.

Then they’re kissing again, and Geno’s melting under that, under the pointed onslaught of Sid’s lips and all the bare skin Geno can feel under his hands, the play of the muscle as Sid surges closer, as he tries onehanded to get at the buttons of Geno’s coat. He’s got clever hands; it’s unbuttoned almost before Geno notices, and Sid’s shoving at the collar.

“Off,” he orders, and Geno chuckles. Sid shivers.

“In hurry, Sid?”

“You’ve got an hour until you absolutely need to leave for practice. So unless you want to wait until after—”

The coat’s on the floor before Sid can finish his sentence, the scarf after it. Geno scrambles to get his shoes off as Sid smirks. “Waited long enough,” Geno decides, and Sid nods, and grabs Geno’s hand to tug him down the hall towards the stairs.

They only get a little distracted on the stairs, mainly because Sid has a goal in mind and so resists being distracted by more than a few kisses and Geno has a nice view going up the stairs and is willing to let Sid’s plan go. Geno’s already tugging off his shirt when they get to Sid’s bedroom, and now it’s Sid’s turn to smirk at him.

“In a hurry, Geno?”

“Yes,” Geno informs him, and shoves so Sid falls back onto the bed. “I’m wait six years for this. And have to deal with month with you walking around without shirt, like—” Sid is definitely smirking now. “That on purpose?”

“I wasn’t going to push,” Sid tells him, eyes glinting up at him like Sid’s won and is very very pleased about it. “But I could…test the waters.”

“Test the waters,” Geno mutters to himself, and climbs onto the bed after Sid so he ends up straddling Sid’s thighs and glaring down at Sid, who’s propped up on one elbow and looking smug. Geno’s never been able to see Sid look like that and not want to do some pushing of his own, to see if he could break it into pieces, get under Sid’s shields and lay him open just for Geno. “I show you, test waters.”

“That doesn’t make—” Shutting Sid up by kissing him is Geno’s new favorite activity. Sid arches up into it, goes to reach up, then makes an irritated noise into Geno’s mouth when he can’t both keep himself propped up and get his hand on Geno. “You couldn’t have waited a week until I had both hands?” Sid says, when Geno moves to bites at his jaw, his neck; to see if those muscles taste as good as they look.

Geno stops what he’s doing to give Sid his most unimpressed look. “No,” he informs him, and goes back to it. Sid makes a breathy little moan when Geno bites under his jaw.

“I—fuck,” Sid swears, and moves his good arm so he falls backwards, then wraps that hand into Geno’s hair to tug him up. “Come here.”

“Bossy, bossy.”

“Surprised?”

“No.” Geno kisses him again, long and deep, and he can feel against his thigh that Sid’s as hard as he is, and now that his hand is free it’s moving fast and frantic over Geno’s back, down to the edge of his sweatpants and tracing the line of them. “Of course captain, even in bed.”

“I—shit!” Sid swears again, as he tries to do something but is stopped by his cast. “Fuck, I would be so much better if I had two hands, I swear.”

Geno rolls his eyes, grabs Sid’s bad wrist, and pulls it away from them and up, pinning it down above Sid’s head. “Keep still.”

“I’m trying—”

“Still,” Geno orders. if Sid huffs out a breath, but nods. “I’m not want to be the one who tells Sully why you out longer.”

Sid winces. “Please don’t talk about Sully in bed.”

“No hockey in bed? Big surprise.”

“Oh, fuck off.” Sid gets his free hand on Geno’s ass, and Geno moans into Sid’s neck. God, Sid’s hands. “I’ll show you no hockey,” he adds, and Geno’s pretty sure that doesn’t make sense either and he’d chirp Sid about it but Sid’s also got his mouth on Geno again and his thigh is rubbing against Geno’s dick and it really doesn’t feel like the time to call Sid on something as irrelevant as making sense.

Geno’s pretty sure they could both get off like this, just rubbing against each other, but he’s been waiting for this for years, and maybe he can’t do everything he wants because of Sid’s arm, but he can do more than this.

He moves his mouth away from where he was sucking a mark on Sid’s chest, which makes Sid make a pouty noise that makes Geno smile. “Keep hand still,” he says again, and before Sid can protest starts kissing his way down Sid’s chest.

“Oh, fuck,” Sid mutters, then, “Geno, shit—”

“Yeah?” Geno looks up. If Geno had thought Sid looked good downstairs, this is something else all together—Sid flushed and a mess from Geno’s hands.

“Yes, please,” Sid groans, and Geno laughs into Sid’s stomach.

“So polite,” he teases, and Sid cuffs his head.

“Get on with it.”

“Hm. Maybe I take time.”

Geno,” Sid whines, and Geno laughs again, and tugs at Sid’s sweatpants.

Sid arches so that Geno can pull his sweats off, and of course he wasn’t wearing anything under them, because he wants to kill Geno.

For a second, Geno just looks. He’s seen Sid naked plenty of times, seen him grow from the boy with baby fat clinging to his bones, seen him playoffs-skinny and post-summer muscled, and none of it has been this—Sid laid out in his bed in the afternoon light, all solid muscle and easy confidence as he watches Geno back, that smugness back in his eyes, and his hard dick, which Geno has spent years not looking at but is right there now and Geno can look.

“Geno.” Sid really is smug now, with an edge of impatience.

Geno runs a hand down Sid’s chest, down to his navel and then right down the trail of hair there, mainly to watch Sid squirm. “Shush. Am busy.”

“I’d rather you be busier.”

“So demanding,” Geno shakes his head, but he wants his mouth on Sid too.

Of course, not even that shuts Sid up—Sid’s not loud but he doesn’t stop talking, Geno’s name and pleas and, of course because he’s Sid, directions, all of which Geno ignores other than the tightness of Sid’s voice and the way he strains against the hand Geno has on his hips, how he keeps his arm against the bed. Geno doesn’t need to hear Sid to know what he needs.

When Sid falls apart, finally, it’s with Geno’s name on his lips and his good hand tangled in Geno’s hair, and Geno’s never seen anything better.

He waits, very patiently, for Sid to open his eyes again, and maybe this is better—Sid smiling warm and open at Geno, his whole body relaxed and his eyes so soft. It’s gorgeous. Geno has been imagining it for years, and it’s so much better than that.

“Shit, G,” Sid breathes, and Geno knows how he feels. His hand’s on his dick because he can’t help it, still between Sid’s legs and watching him come back to himself. “Fuck, come here.”

Sid tugs, and Goes goes, incapable of anything else, other than to kiss Sid when Sid pulls his head down to his. He could get off like this and be happy, his hand on his dick and Sid’s tongue in his mouth and Sid’s massive thigh beneath him.

Except—Sid’s knocking his hand aside, and pulling away from his mouth. “Sid,” Geno groans, his turn to whine.

“If I had both hands, I’d blow you properly,” Sid says, because he definitely wants to kill Geno. Geno moans and drops his head into the crook of Sid’s neck. Sid’s fingers wrap around his dick, and Geno has seen his hands do amazing things and this is not the least of them, how they feel on him, calloused and strong and sure.

Geno manages to look up. Sid’s watching him, and his eyes burn as they focus on Geno, and Geno has to drop his head again, rather than watch Sid as he learns Geno’s body, as he puts all his famed focus into watching what drags Geno apart.

Geno’s saying something, he thinks, probably not in English, but it doesn’t matter; Sid doesn’t need to understand the language to understand him, and he deliberately, surely, takes Geno up and up and up until he comes, mouthing frantically at Sid’s skin.

Sid’s hand strokes at his back as he recovers, until he regains himself enough to roll off of Sid. “If that not proper, not sure I survive you with two hands.”

Sid laughs. He looks very satisfied, even with his hand covered in come; there are red spots on his chest that Geno is pretty sure—hopes—will become bruises soon enough. If they don’t, he’ll just have to add more. “Of course we were going to be great.”

“Of course,” Geno agrees, and then he has to kiss Sid again. Sid leans up into it, until he finally pulls away, and rolls off the bed.

“Where you going?”

“To get a washcloth,” Sid explains. Geno rolls onto his side to watch Sid go. It’s a sight.

Sid gets a washcloth from the bathroom, and throws it at Geno when he comes back. Geno cleans himself up too, then, at Sid’s look, gets up to put the washcloth in the hamper. He gets back into bed after, because he’s still got plenty of afterglow to bask in. 

He feels, more than sees, Sid rolls onto his side so he can look at Geno. “We should talk.”

Geno sighs. “Sid…”

“No, we should.” Geno opens his eyes. Like he expected, Sid’s got his captain face on, determined and ready to power through something unpleasant. “We didn’t, before, and it could have been really bad.”

“Fine.” Geno sighs, and then, because he can, pushes at a lock of Sid’s hair that’s getting near his eyes. Sid leans into it, then shakes his head like he’s clearing it.

“Stop it.”

“Stop what?”

“Geno.”

“Fine, we talk.” Geno gives Sid the look he gives coaches he thinks are giving him bullshit advice. “What there to talk about? We like each other years ago, then you have kid so stupidly decide to lie and we have to stop, now we know still like each other and not have to stop. There. Talked.”

“It’s not that simple. I come with a kid, Geno. I don’t know if he’s going to be living here full time after this year, or what the custody arrangement will be, but Andy’s got to be a huge part of my life. And then there’s the team—we can’t mess that up, and what do we tell them? Do we tell them? And what about Russia? You can’t—”

Geno utilizes his new favorite way to shut Sid up, and kisses him. Sid comes out of it blinking, then shakes his head, like he’s clearing it. “That doesn’t actually solve anything.”

“You worry too much.”

“I worry so you don’t have to.”

That’s pretty true, so Geno sighs. “Fine. I know you have Andy, I love him too. Whatever part of your life he is, I want too. Of course we tell team—Tanger never forgive you if you keep another secret, and team be happy for us, too.”

“Well of course I was going to tell Tanger,” Sid interrupts, like that was obvious. “He’s been telling me to do this for years. Him and Flower and Duper and Army and—well, a lot of people.”

“Okay, so tell everyone.”

“And the league? And Russia? You might be able to get away with something low key, but if we—”

“You want something big, public?” Geno asks, though Sid’s right, and they both know it. That’s a bridge they’ll have to cross someday.

Sid makes a face that makes it clear what he thinks about a public relationship. Geno’s already sort of planning how to horrify him with big gestures, but that’s neither here nor there. “Then we figure it out,” Geno tells him. “What we do, yeah?”

“And you’re okay with Erika?” Sid asks, because of course he knows the tenderest bruise. “She’s Andy’s mom, she’s going to have to be a huge part of our lives too, and I know you aren’t great at sharing, but—”

“Erika and me have understanding.”

“Understanding?” Sid echoes, sounding skeptical. “You really don’t like her.”

“I don’t like her when I’m think you and her together,” Geno admits easily. It’s easy to say on the other side of things.

Sid snorts. “Erika and I? I mean, she’s great, but—she doesn’t like hockey.”

“Yes, I think maybe you go insane.” Geno chuckles. “What you do if she said yes? If you marry to someone who’s not like hockey?”

“I wasn’t thinking about that.” Sid’s serious again, and his gaze is intent on Geno, enough that Geno sobers too. “I was just—she was having my kid, I proposed. It was the right thing to do. It wasn’t…I didn’t, I don’t, feel anything for her like what I feel for you.”

Geno can’t help his grin. He knows that, he knows Sid, but hearing it heals something in him that he’d been carefully trying not to fear. “And what you feel for me?” he asks, rolling over too so he’s facing Sid.

Sid’s got a smile in the corner of his eyes, but his face is still serious. “You know, G.”

“I know,” Geno agrees. “But want to hear you say.”

“Do you? I don’t want to be—if you don’t feel the same—”

“You know how I feel, Sid.” Geno rolls his eyes. “Whole hockey world knows how I feel. Knows I follow you off side of the world, if you ask.”

“That’s hockey,” Sid says, still careful. “Off the rink, I know I can be—”

“No, that you.” If Sid’s going to continue to be stupid, Geno needs a better position. He rolls them both over, so Sid’s on his back again and Geno has his hands on either side of his head, can keep him pinned there. “Sid,” Geno says, trying to be serious despite how much he’s feeling. “I love you, Sid. Love you on ice and off, with kid and without. No surprises.”

Sid’s smile lights up his whole face, could maybe light the world. “Love you too, G,” is all he says, though, because he is not a romantic, this man Geno loves. “I—oh, shit,” he interrupts himself, and pushes Geno off of him to get to his phone. “You need to get to practice?”

“Really?” Geno asks the ceiling, mostly rhetorically. No romance.

“Yes, really, you have to go home to get your gear first too, so—”

“Can be a little late.”

The horror on Sid’s face makes Geno chuckle. “You can’t be late. What if you got scratched? I’ll still be out tomorrow, and we need you—”

“Yes, I know,” Geno sighs, and lets Sid shove him out of bed. “I go, I go!”

He never actually got his pants off, so he just pulls his shirt on, feeling very conscious of Sid’s eyes on him as he does. This is going to make the locker room difficult, he has a feeling.

“Hey, G.” Geno looks back from the door. Sid’s pulled on his pants, but he’s still sitting on the edge of the bed, still rumpled and open and Geno’s. “Come back here after practice.”

Geno grins. Who needs romance when he has this? He can be romantic enough for both of them.

He walks back across the room, leans down to kiss Sid again, deep enough to be a tease to both of them. “You have dinner waiting on table?”

“Only if I hear that you’re very good at practice,” Sid teases back, eyes glinting and so very fond, and Geno’s laughing as he leaves.

///

Geno would never say he likes being down in goals, but there is something incomparably satisfying going into third period down two, and then hearing that goal horn blare—once, Jake off of Sid’s assist. Once, his off of Horny. Then the power play, and he’s down the ice and Sid can’t see him, but they’ve never needed that; he knows where Sid’s going to put it and he’s there, and the horn blares and Sid hits him gleefully, his grin bright as he hugs Geno, then two, three, more bodies hit Geno.

They go down the tunnel still gleeful with the win. Geno’s feeling pretty good about himself, and from the looks Sid keeps throwing him, hot and teasing, Sid’s pleased with him too. Sid might claim that he doesn’t think about hockey in bed, but Geno’s learned better. He’s pretty pleased with Sid too. That was a beauty of a pass.

“Okay, keep it in your pants,” Hags tells him, jostling him from how he’s eying Sid.

“I don’t know, that was a pretty play,” Horny argues, coming up on Geno’s other side. “If it keeps them making those plays, Geno can eyefuck Sid where ever he wants.”

“I’m do what I want anyway,” Geno tells them, and goes to shower before Jen ropes him into media.

He gets out of media, but Sid’s stuck, of course, so Geno gets dressed slowly, dawdling by telling the young guys just how wrong they are in their choice of celebratory bar.

“Are you even coming out?” Conor finally asks.

Geno shoots a glance at Sid. “No, not tonight.”

“When did you get old?” Rusty mutters.

“I’m not old!” Geno protests.

“Sure you are.” Tanger’s arm is over his shoulders, and he’s grinning too. “This is what happens when you decide to adopt some Crosbys.”

“I’m not old,” Geno repeats. Maybe he doesn’t go out as often. But he still goes out. Sometimes. Just not after a game like tonight, where he has other priorities.

Those other priorities take a while, unfortunately, because Sid has more interviews, then he takes a while getting changed because Muzz got pulled and sometimes that means he needs Sid for a little—Sid’s always been good with goalies. Geno takes Jamie, who took some stupid penalties which didn’t help their early deficit, which Geno can empathize with and talk through.

Finally, Sid catches Geno’s eye, and Geno pats Jamie on the shoulder and meets Sid at the locker room door.

“All good?”

“Yeah, he knows stupid. Muzz?”

“It was just an off day.” Sid shrugs, and holds the door open for Geno. “I’m more worried about what happened in the second, PK’s goal—”

They talk the game as they go home, Sid driving because it’s rarely worth the fight to get Sid to let Geno drive. Anyway, now that Sid’s in the car, Geno’s not in a hurry. He’s content to wait and let the need burn in him, watching Sid’s hands on the wheel, Sid’s face as he talks about the video review he wants to do to check if his impression was right. Even if, as usual, it takes them forever to get back to Sid’s.

“Hello,” Sid calls, when they come in.

Erika wanders out of the kitchen. “He’s awake, I told him he could stay up until you got home,” She tells Sid, then, “Hi, Geno.”

“Hi. Good flight?” Geno asks as Sid ducks into the living room. kissing her cheek. It’s been a while since he saw her, since she decided to try Toronto most of the time.

“Not bad. Good game?”

“Not bad,” Geno replies, grinning. She rolls her eyes.

“Tell Sid I’m going to bed,” she tells him. “And that we need to talk about piano lessons tomorrow.”

“I’m tell. Good night.”

“Night.” She waves a hand as she goes upstairs. Geno heads into the living room.

Sid’s got Andy in his arms, the boy’s arms draped around Sid’s neck and his head resting on Sid’s shoulder. He’s in his Crosby jersey—the Malkin one only comes out on special occasions, which Geno’s working on but can’t really be mad about—and has his thumb in his mouth.

“Privyet, Andrusha,” Geno murmurs to him, and kisses his head. Andy smiles up at him, sleepy.

“Hi, Geno. You won!”

“We did. You give us lots of luck.”

“Good,” Andy yawns.

“Now it’s bedtime,” Sid tells him, and Andy’s clearly sleepy because he doesn’t protest. “Say good night to Geno, Andy?”

“Night, Geno,” Andy mumbles, and Geno runs his hand over Andy’s hair.

“Good night. Tomorrow, I want to hear all about school show.” Andy nods into Sid’s neck.

Sid’s watching Geno, then he nods, as if to himself. “Want to come help? You can read his story, if you want.”

Geno’s let Sid have this until now, let Sid set the pace of how he lets Geno into Andy’s life. “You sure, Sid?”

Sid nods. “Then yes,” Geno agrees, and leans over Andy to steal a quick kiss from Sid. Sid smiles into it, nips quickly at Geno’s lip, just so he doesn’t forget how pleased he is with Geno’s goal. But that’s settled in Geno. That’ll be great, later. For right now, all he wants is this—Sid and his family, Sid as his family.

“Good,” Sid says, and Geno can read how much he means it in the certainty in his voice. He doesn’t need Sid to say it to hear the I love you too. He doesn’t need the words to say it back, just has to follow Sid upstairs to put his son to bed.