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сторожевая собака

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One:

The first time Geno got injured, it was right soon after Sid’s own mishap with his appendix (the less said about that, the better). Sid was determined to make up for the disaster that their third date had become and bring Geno the comfort and companionship that he had given Sid with his own stay in the hospital.

If only Geno would stop being a bear about it and let Sid in the house.

“Geno, I’m already here,” sighed Sid into the phone. “Do you want me and your chicken soup to get cold?”

Sid could hear Geno weighing the cost/benefits of not letting Sid in to see him injured versus seeing Sid and eating his soup. Finally, just as his nose was starting to really feel the nip in the air, a long, weary sigh came over the line.

“Fine, Sid. Code to key box is 6460. You can come in.”

Sid grinned in triumph, quickly keying in the code, getting the key, and letting himself in. Taking of his shoes, he set the soup on the table in the foyer as he took of his coat. He looked around, doing a double take as he spotted a tiger. Of course Geno would have a tiger in his entry way. Smiling softly, he shook his head, and went off to find his reluctant boyfriend.

He found Geno in what he thinks he would call a den, ensconced on a recliner, his healing knee wrapped in ace bandages and elevated with a pillow. Geno turned the saddest, most mournful looking puppy dog eyes on Sid, and he was helpless against them.

He leaned over Geno, giving him a soft, lingering kiss, smoothing his hair away from his brow. The lines around Geno’s eyes eased when Sid drew back, his smile the best thing Sid had seen all day.

“Sid, hi.”

Sid grinned. “Hi, yourself.”

After Sid had found his way to the kitchen to warm the soup, they settled in for a long afternoon of bad television and fond smiles. Sid was glad he was more stubborn than Geno this time.

Two:

“Sid, you don’t have to do this.”

“I know, but you’re busy with playoffs, and now that I have a key, I can just pick them up from airport and help them get settled, and you won’t have to worry.”

Sid bit his lip nervously as it was silent on the other end of the line. He hoped he hadn’t overstepped, somewhere, but he really did want to help Geno. Even if it meant meeting his parents without him.

Geno finally let out an explosion of a sigh and said, “Fine. I’ll text you the flight numbers.”

“See, that wasn’t so hard?” Sid grinned. “Now, tell me about the game.”

His smile grew as Geno did just that, filling Sid’s ears with hockey plays and filling his heart with fondness.

~~

Sid tried to calm down as he waited at arrivals for Geno’s parents. He knew he shouldn’t be apprehensive, but he couldn’t help but wonder what they thought of him. Of their son dating a Canadian, who also happened to be a man.

Spotting them through the crowd of passengers, Sid perked up and waved. He held a sign in his hand that he had printed in Russian, as neatly as he could, “Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Malkin.” He thought he managed alright when Geno’s mother broke into a big, warm smile and hurried to him, leaving Geno’s father to lug their bags along behind.

She folded him in her arms in one of the warmest hugs he had ever received outside of his own mother or his sister. He melted into her, just so happy she was happy to see him. He could see where her son got his warmth from.

It wasn’t long until he felt another pair of arms come around them both, Geno’s father joining in on the hug. They broke apart with big smiles, just sort of standing at arm's length, grinning at each other.

Eventually, with the Malkin’s limited English, Sid’s very sparse Russian, and gratuitous charades, they get the luggage loaded into Sid’s SUV and spent most of the drive to Geno’s with smiles still wide on their faces.

Sid tried to beg off, after he helped Mr. Malkin take their bags inside, but Mr. Malkin had already closed the door and was shooing him toward the kitchen.

To which he found Mrs. Malkin already up to her elbows in preparation to cook something. Holding a knife up, she said, very sternly, “You. Come. Eat.”

Sidney wasn’t about to argue with a woman and a commanding presence like that. He gladly let her boss him around the kitchen, learning new words for “chop,” “Stir,” and apparently “Sidyusha” was gifted to him. Geno’s father sat at the table tucked into the kitchen, smiling benevolently away at them, obviously no other place he would rather be.

Eventually, all the food made it to the table, just as Geno arrived home.

“Mama, Papa,” said Geno, smiling bigger than Sid had seen from him in a while. He still looked tired, to which Geno’s mother must have agreed to, as she clucked her tongue at him, sounding off a mild sounding reprimand in Russian. He just grinned at her, hugging her close when she got close enough to herd him toward the table. He relented after accepting a peck on his cheek and allowed himself to be led to the table. He smiled at Sid, too, his face open and soft, as he bent down to hug his father, murmuring something to him in Russian.

Geno slid into the chair beside Sid, smoothing his hand across his back, leaving his arm lying along the back of the chair.

“Hi, Sid,” he said. He pressed a kiss into Sid’s hair above his temple. “Thanks for picking up parents.”

Sid smiled back. “Anytime.”

Three:

Geno was in a slump. At first, Sid didn’t really notice, and he felt like such a bad boyfriend when he finally caught on. Sid just was so happy to have Geno back from the Olympic break. It had felt like an eternity, with Geno gone so long, and so far away, during a time when he normally was so close. That, and the fact that they had no communication while he was gone. Summers never felt as lonely for Sid as the Olympic break had been.

Geno, at first, was more quiet and seemed tired all time. Then he stopped texting so much, their facetime sessions becoming non-existent when Geno was on the road...and then Sid caught an post-game interview and he wanted to kick himself.

Geno wasn’t scoring. Geno was trying to score, but the bounces just weren’t happening. Russia hadn’t done well at the Olympics, either, so Sid knew that Geno was taking all of that on himself.

Sid knew what always seemed to cheer himself up: chocolate. And Geno. So really, the best thing he can think of with so little time to plan, was to surprise Geno with some chocolate and himself. But, as he wasn’t really sure what kinds of chocolate that Geno actually want, he kind of went a little crazy at the specialty shop downtown and got a little of everything. It’s not like he was going to let Geno eat all of them alone, by himself, anyway.

Sid made his way to Geno’s house. He knew Geno would be getting back from morning skate soon, so he wanted to be ready. He didn’t really know what Geno would be in the mood for, especially with how he had been feeling, so he tried to keep it simple.

He wrote a note (and let himself get a little sappy) and left it where Geno was sure to see it. Then, he went upstairs to Geno’s bedroom to set things up. He lit some soothing smelling candles, lavender or something, and turned down the bed.

He put the chocolates with a bottle of wine and glasses on the bed side table. Last, he stripped and used Geno’s shower, with all of the shampoo and soaps that he loved to smell on Geno. Then he slipped on his boxer briefs and Geno’s jersey.

He settled into bed to wait.

~~

He wasn’t waiting long. He heard Geno let himself in the house, and listened to Geno as he moved about the house. He tried to picture where he was, tried to remember Geno’s routine when he got home, so he knew when Geno would find him.

He did not miss when Geno got very quiet. Sid hoped he found the note, and he wouldn’t have to go looking for him. Geno’s footsteps came up the stairs, and Sid let out a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding.

Sid looked nervously at the door, fidgeting with the cuffs of Geno’s jersey, catching Geno’s eyes from under his lashes. He felt a little foolish, but not for long, as Geno’s eyes were dark and his smile was soft and warm.

“All for me, Sid?”

“Always for you, G.”

They didn’t do much talking for a while, but when they got around to it, Sid made sure that Geno knew exactly how much he was worth to Sid, and that Sid would always have his back.

A few days later, on their next game against the Red Wings, he scored two goals. Geno was back in fighting form.

When asked about what had helped him get his game back, Geno only answered smugly, “Talked a little bit with friend. He helped me a lot because he understands my problem. I felt much better.”

Four:

When the Pens make the playoffs, Sid tried to be as supportive as possible. When they had first gotten together, Sid kept his presence around Geno scarce, so that he wouldn’t distract him.

He picked up two new clients and opened up more days for the dogs, and even took a house and dog sitting gig for a week. Sid still sent encouraging texts, and would see Geno when he asked for him, but those first three weeks were hell on both of them. Sid just didn’t feel like it was his place, to weezle into Geno’s life and take up his time, unless he invited him there. He felt too needy. And it was the playoffs. Sid definitely did not want to be the cause of anything that would make Geno’s game suffer.

All the tension and hurt feelings on Geno’s side had boiled over into their largest fight to date. In fact, they hadn’t really fought before. There had been squabbles and bickering like a long time couple, but this was serious.

Geno called Sid after they had played a brutal game six in the first round, and Sid couldn’t say no when Geno asked him to come see him the next day.

Geno hadn’t even let him get his shoes off before he was in Sid’s space, crowding him against the wall, his arms on either side of Sid’s head.

“You been gone, Sid,” he said with a growl. His mouth set in a deep frown, his brow pinched. “You not want anymore? Not want me?”

His words hit Sid hard. His chest felt like it was pried open. Fuck, no that’s not what he wanted. All of the excuses he told himself sounded selfish.

Had he been helping Geno, really?

“I thought that’s what you wanted,” he said, not wanting to let go of his position just yet.

“Is problem, Sid,” Geno grumbled at him, not letting him move from where Geno had him pressed up against the wall, forced to look at Geno full on, see the stress, the lean planes of his face that the playoffs pull from every player. He faced the fact that his absence may have in fact caused some of the shadows under Geno’s eyes, the set of his mouth. “You took from me, Sid. Not here. Not ask me if what I want. So I think, maybe is me Sid not want.”

Sid was already shaking his head in denial, his body tense. That’s not what he thought!

“I want you! I just didn’t want you to...I just didn’t want to be in the way,” he stumbled over his words, unintentionally giving insight to what he was running from. He didn’t want Geno to wake up and realize that Sid couldn’t do anything, couldn’t give anything to Geno, not the way that Geno did everyday to Sid.

Geno growled low in his throat, cupping his huge hands around Sid’s face. He shook him gently.

“Not ever be in the way, Sid. Need you here, with me.”

The tension finally snapped, and Geno surged forward, still grumbling at Sid, and took his mouth in a rough kiss, licking his way deep into Sid’s mouth. Sid groaned, the tension left him in a rush, and he sagged in Geno’s grip. He thrusted a thigh between Sid’s, pinned him there long enough for him to finish kissing Sid the way he wanted.

After nipping his way down Sid’s neck, then sucked long and hard at his collarbone, he pulled back to take in his mark before hauling Sid up the stairs to his bed.

They didn’t talk about it again, but Sid took some time in the quiet of that night, Geno asleep, wrapped up in his arms, to think about his motives for trying to do what he thought was right, and ended up damaging what they had. He loved Geno, and he had been terrified that Geno hadn’t felt the same.

He would not let Geno think that Sid didn’t love him or not want him again.

~~

Sid had been planning all through March on how to give Geno exactly what he needed to have a successful run for the Stanley Cup.

He didn't change much from their normal routine. They hadn't taken that final step to move in with each other. Sid’s apartment was more convenient for his clients. He usually spent a few nights a week at Geno’s house, especially when he was town.

Geno stayed at Sid’s after an away game. He would let himself in and climb into bed with him in the early hours of the morning. Sid, so used to Geno and his presence in his bed and life, didn’t even wake. When his alarm sounded the next morning, he needed to fight his way from Geno’s octopus arms and warm, happy cocoon.

He planned to see Geno this postseason, but to make sure that they both got what they needed with all the pressure. Sid tried to be more intentional. He asked Geno what he would like to do, and talked through each day Geno, even if they only had a few moments.

Sid took the time to write out little notes to Geno. He recounted his favorite memories of the two of them. He listed all of the things he loved about Geno. He wrote encouraging words and left them in Geno’s pockets of his suit trousers. He texted him funny things he thought of and cute pictures of the dogs.

He didn't want to take all the credit, because he can’t, but everything seemed better this year. Their time together was light and affectionate, even after that horrible game in the first round that pushed them to a game six.

Now, after Geno and the Pens fought through the second round and seven brutal games, Sid wanted to make sure that Geno was able to relax and be ready to take on the Lightning in the third round.

Sid intended to give Geno a way to get away from Pittsburgh for a night, someplace away from the pressure. He couldn’t let go of the thought of recreating their date that never was, when he had been rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. He made a few calls, and called in a favor with a client, and he managed to get a cozy cottage at Seven Springs Resort. Rustic and secluded, Sid felt it was just what they needed to reconnect and fortify for the next challenge to come.

He packed a picnic dinner with chicken he cooked, and Geno’s favorite potato salad from the deli they found that makes it like his grandmother did. He loaded up his SUV and went to pick up Geno. Sid hoped Geno liked the surprise. Geno usually pulled the big romantic gestures. Sid just liked taking care of his people, and Geno was at the top of that list.

“Still not telling me where we go?” Geno said as he slid into the passenger’s seat.

“I’m trying for a surprise, here,” Sid said, grinning anyway as he leaned in for a quick kiss. “I hope you like it.”

“With you, always like it, Sid,” Geno replied, his hand finding the back of Sid’s neck, and squeezing a bit before Sid eased out of his drive. “Just as long as directions don’t get us lost this time.”

Sid rolled his eyes and poked at Geno’s belly in retaliation. “Not going to let me live that down, are you.”

“Nope!” Geno grinned through a goofy smile, all teeth, content to sit back and let Sid get them to where they need to go.

When Sid took the turn into the resort, Geno gave Sid a raised eyebrow.

“You’ll see,” Sid said. “Let me go get the key from the main lodge, and then we should be good to go.”

Sid still felt Geno’s eyes on him the whole walk up to the building. He wasn’t sure if Geno’s reaction was good, but he hoped Geno was just keeping himself contained until they were in private.

Geno’s intense quiet followed them as they turned into the winding drive up to the cottage that was off the main resort drive, secluded and quiet, it seemed like just what they needed for the just under two days they had until Geno needed to be back for the team.

Geno’s hooded stare followed Sid as he gave the cooler to Geno to carry and Sid grabbed their bags. The door clicked closed and Geno was all over Sid, his big, lanky body crowding Sid back against the door, his large hands cradling Sid’s jaw carefully in a juxtaposition to how thorough his mouth was devouring Sid’s.

Yeah, Sid knew he did good this time. It’s a good think he packed the food in the cooler though, because it would be a while before they got to it.

Five:

The days following Geno and the Penguin’s win of the Stanley Cup were blurry and exhilarating. Sid made a point not to drink too much, or let Geno party too hard, but the hours still ended up in a haze of joy and euphoria that he never really experienced before. Sid tried to take moments, to just remember the moment.

One moment at the game, surrounded on both sides by Geno’s parents. Another seeing Geno score. Watching him hoist the cup with a roar. Hugging him on the ice, trying to keep all of the emotions to himself, so the whole world wouldn’t know how proud he was of Geno, when Geno wasn’t ready for the whole world to know.

He remembered how Geno looked with champagne and beer soaking his white champion’s shirt, molding it to his body, dripping from his hair to trail down his neck.

He remembered how the Cup felt, warm after changing hands so many times. Geno had kidnapped the trophy, bringing it to his home, to his room, into his bed. Sid couldn’t even begin to be jealous.

Especially waking up the morning after.

Geno and Sid took sometime to find a sleeping position that worked for them. Geno was a stomach sleeper, and loved to sleep in the middle of the mattress, so he had room to stretch those long limbs out.

Sid was a side sleeper. When left in a bed by himself, he tended to curl up around a pillow, and if a dog was around, then around the dog.

After a little trial and error, Geno ended up taking the place of Sid’s pillow. Geno would fall asleep half on his side, almost all the way on his front, with Sid curled around him, molded along his back. Their size difference made Geno’s shoulder perfect for Sid to cuddle up to, one of his arms under his pillow to support his head, the other wrapped snug about Geno’s waist.

The morning after the Cup joined them in bed, Geno was the middle of a Sid and Stanley sandwich.

Sid sighed softly to himself, scooting in as close as he could to Geno, ducking his head down into Geno’s neck to hide from the sun slanting in through the curtains they hadn’t closed all the way the night before. He breathed in Geno’s sleep-warm smell, nuzzling under Geno’s ear to rub his nose along the hinge of his jaw.

He pressed his smile into Geno’s skin when Geno rumbled out a word that could have been English or Russian or both. He decided the only acceptable response was to slide up a bit on his elbow to pepper kisses on the bit of Geno’s face he could reach. When Geno just grunted and made no move to open his eyes, Sid smiled and settled back, moving his hand up to rest over Geno’s heart. Geno’s hand left the Cup and interlocked his fingers with Sid’s.

Sid hummed contentedly, content to bask in the warm sunlight and guard Geno’s sleep a little longer.

One:

Sid sat down hard on the hard plastic chair. All veterinary exam rooms seemed to have them, but this was the first time Sid ever needed to use one. He closed his eyes, trying to catch all that was being said.

“You’ll need to watch for increased fatigue. She'll have more difficulty breathing as well, but at this point, unless her owner wants to do surgery, all we can do is make her comfortable at home.”

Sid nodded, feeling his chest become tight at the bleak days ahead. He already knew that Pretty’s owner isn't interested on spending any more time - or money - on her.

“There is also the option, perhaps a bit humane int this case, to consider,” the veterinarian continued. “We can schedule a time for Pretty to be put down, if the owner would prefer.”

Sid swallowed hard. He would be the one to ultimately make that decision, as Pretty’s owner left most of these decisions to Sid or his recommendation.

“Thanks, Matt,” Sid said, his voice sounding as tired and hopeless as he felt. “When do you need to know?”

“You have a few days, but it would be best to let us know by Friday, so we can have everything arranged.”

Sid, with his stomach sour and his heart heavy, gathered up his charge and left the office quietly.

~~

Geno knew there was something wrong. Sid felt his eyes on him as they finished a quiet night in, Geno putting his tooth brush away as Sid washed his face. Sid patted his face dry and glanced up just so to catch Geno's eyes in the mirror to his right. He sighed, head hanging and braced himself on the vanity.

He closed his eyes as Geno's arms came around him, his warm, solid body a firm weight at Sid’s back. Geno dropped small, soft kisses up his neck to the corner of his jaw, before he tightened his arms and rested his chin on Sid’s shoulder, bringing their cheeks together.

“What's wrong?”

Sid breathed out a stuttering breath, trying to keep his emotions at bay as he searched for the right words.

“I -” he faltered, clearing his throat. “I told you about Pretty, how she's been not herself? No energy, not interested in treats, more pain?”

Geno nodded, his cheek rubbing against Sid’s. He squeezed his arms tighter around Sid.

“I finally got permission from her owner and brought her to the Vet. It's not good. Pretty has cancer, and it's so advanced that even surgery would just put off the inevitable, even if her owner would want to do it. We scheduled her to be...put down, next Tuesday.”

Geno nuzzled at Sid's neck. “So sorry, Sid.”

“I shouldn't even be this upset,” Sid said, a self deprecating twitch to his mouth. “She's not mine, but -"

“But she still your friend. Still miss her.”

Sid nodded, allowing himself to relax fully into Geno's arms.

“Cancer fucking sucks, G.”

Geno just turned Sid in his arms, and Sid allowed himself to go, practically shoving his face into Geno's chest, his arms closing around Geno, and his hands clutching Geno’s shirt.

Geno rubbed his back, before one of his hands settled warm and grounding at Sid's neck, squeezing a little.

“I know, Sid,” he said, his voice low and grumbling. “Let's go to bed. Maybe better in the morning.”

Sid let himself be herded to bed and held against Geno's solid heat. Eventually sleep came.

~~

Sid thought the hardest part of letting Pretty go is that her owner, Ms. Preston, was unable to come home. Overseas on business for something that can't be rescheduled, Sid was left to handle Pretty’s last days.

Sid stayed in the Preston condo, taking the time to make Pretty comfortable with her favorite things. He facetimed with Ms. Preston every spare moment she had, trying to give both dog and her human as much time together as he could.

It was killing Sid to see them both go through each moment. Pretty was in pain, just going through the day, perking up the most when she heard her human’s voice. Ms. Preston’s very real emotional distress when she spoke with Sid - it all weighed heavily on Sid.

And suddenly, before anyone was really ready, it was time.

~~

Sid walked out of the veterinarian office feeling numb. He had left the doctor finishing a call to Ms. Preston, so that was one hardship he didn't have to endure. Each step he took made him more and more tired, until he felt it down to his bones. This week was one of the most emotionally draining weeks that he’d had in a long time.

Before he could make it to his SUV, a low voice brought him out of his thoughts and his eyes up to meet the warm, concerned eyes of his boyfriend.

“What you need, Sid?”

Sid did not have the words yet, so he just walked up to Geno, pressing his face into Geno's chest, his arms going around Geno's waist, fistfuls of his shirt clenched in his hands, even as Geno's arms closed about his shoulders, holding him close.

“Let's go home.”

Sid could only nod, and be led away.

He already felt comforted, knowing that with Geno with him, he can make it through this, and anything else that may come their way.