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My Siberia: A Russian Knitting Circle Story

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Geno expects coming to the US to be a bit more dramatic, all things considered. They give him a bit of media training on how not to trip over himself trying to parse English he has no chance of understanding and an official interpreter. Ilya Kovalchuk sends him a welcome email - how he found out Geno's email address, Geno has no idea - and his first day on US soil, he's introduced to Sergei Gonchar, the guy who'll be his actual interpreter.

He's a little nervous about meeting the team, obviously, but meeting Sidney Crosby doesn't make him more nervous than anyone else. Crosby's just another hockey player.

"Hi," Sidney says when they're introduced, sticking his hand out.

Geno shakes it. His palm is sweaty, but at least they haven't practiced yet.

"He says he's glad to meet you, and hopes you like Pittsburgh," Sergei says. He makes a face and says something back to Sidney, and Sidney rolls his eyes. "Ignore anything he tries to say to you, he's a whining bastard," Sergei adds. Sidney rolls his eyes again; Geno assumes Sergei's repeating what he just told Sidney.

"Tell him it's good to meet him. They know him in the KHL."

Sidney turns red when Sergei repeats it.

"All right, enough mutual complimenting," Sergei says. "We've got the rest of the team and then practice, no time to be lazy."

When Sidney asks him, right before the first game, if he goes out last, it's a question involving a lot of hand-waving and stuttering. Geno wishes Sergei were around to translate, but he's communing with his stick in the corner. So Geno shrugs and plays his trump card.

It takes a second for Sidney to get it. When he does, he barks a laugh, loud and as awkward as everything else Geno's seen Sidney do. "Right," he says, and bumps his helmet against Geno's before following the guys out of the locker room.

After a week, Geno's getting the hang of things, including navigating a world where he doesn't speak the language. He sounds stupid when he uses the few English words he knows, but Sergei's happy to translate for him, and if he's dying to talk then Sergei doesn't shut him down.

Sidney - he's not Geno's favorite person for that first week. He's as awkward as Geno's first impression of him, and on top of that he's painfully young. He laughs along with the guys when they rib him, but he's intense on the ice to the point where Geno would love to be able to get in on the joking, just to relieve some of the pressure of playing with the guy.

As his English gets better - not good enough for the press, but good enough for the locker room - he learns something else: Sidney's not good at people. Colby Armstrong is the only guy who could remotely be called his friend, and when he's not laughing off jibes, he's just kind of standing there, waiting for hockey to start up again.

Geno doesn't feel bad for him, exactly, but it is weird.

He tries not to let observations about Sidney Crosby take up too much of his time, both because he refuses to be that person and because Sidney’s just not that interesting. But the thing is, Sidney likes him; the more English he learns, the more time he ends up spending around Sidney. Talbot approves, if him saying, “You assholes both need more friends” counts as approval. And Sergei approves because it means he has to spend less time being Geno’s translator. “Not that I mind,” Sergei says. “Just, you know, it cramps my style sometimes.”

“You wouldn’t get laid anyway,” Geno says, and ducks the punch Sergei aims at his head.

They hang out alone for the first time right after Colby gets traded. They end up walking out to the parking garage together after practice. Sidney’s despondent, not even looking at Geno, and Geno – he likes the guy, he does. So he says, “Come home. We play game, eat. Better than mope.”

“I have every right to mope,” Sidney says, glaring.

Geno shrugs. “Sure.”

“Fine,” Sidney says grudgingly. “I pick the food.”

Geno ends up regretting that when they order whole wheat, dressingless pitas. But by halfway through the night, Sidney’s smiling a little and giving Geno shit for his English, so he sucks it up for one night.

After that they’re closer friends. It’s after they’re knocked out of the playoffs, practicing back in Russia, that Ilya says mildly, “You and Crosby are friends, yes?”

Geno has to think about it, because it’s Sidney and Sidney doesn’t really do friendship. Sidney coexists with other people while thinking about hockey. But finally he says, “Yes. We’re friends.”

“How’s that working for you?”

Geno shrugs. “It’s fine. Why?”

“No reason,” Ilya says, and lets it drop.

He’s not sure if it’s Ilya’s question or what, but he starts noticing how much he misses Sidney. They text a few times, but it’s an awkward thing when Geno’s English is still iffy and not at all improving by spending the summer in Russia, and anyway, Sidney’s got his own life back there.

He’s not sure how things will be when the summer ends, but that question is answered pretty quickly when Sidney texts him with, “What time do you get in? Me and Max are meeting you guys at the airport.”

It’s a nice gesture. Geno tells Sergei, who snorts and says, “Do you think he realizes he’s not everyone’s mother?”

“That’s a little unfair, don’t you think?” Geno says, even though it’s really kind of not.

“He’s pretty dedicated to being a leader,” Sergei says. They let the matter drop, neither of them saying the obvious: Sidney’s pretty dedicated to being a leader because he lives and breathes hockey.

“Meeting you at the airport?” Ilya says when they let him know. “Really? None of my teammates are meeting me at the airport.”

“Fuck you,” Geno says easily enough. “Sidney’s different.”

That’s the crux of their relationship, really, Geno thinks as they go through customs in Pittsburgh International. Sidney’s different. Sidney’s always been different, and he’s always going to be different.

He doesn’t realize until he sees Sidney and something inside him unknots that the way he is about Sidney is different.

Well, fuck, he thinks as Sidney claps him on the shoulder.

It’s not a big deal, really. Or, well, it is, but it doesn’t matter. Sidney’s not – he mostly has feelings about hockey. Geno’s got a crush, and it’s stupid, but it doesn’t mean anything. Their relationship’s going to stay the same.

It’s halfway through the year – a really damn good year, a year that has them hoping, despite knowing how hard it is to have two deep playoff runs in a row – when they play the Thrashers. Sergei and Geno go to meet up with Ilya afterwards. “You don’t live in the nicest city in the States,” Ilya says by way of greeting, “but the bars are okay.”

Geno snorts. “I like it just fine.”

“You would,” Ilya says. He looks particularly Russian. And cryptic. “How is Sidney?”

“You saw him.”

“I saw him on the ice. It’s a bit different.”

“Not with Sidney,” Geno says, feeling the now-familiar rush of hopeless fondness.

“There it is,” Ilya says quietly.

“Wait, what?”

“Three shots of the most expensive vodka you have,” Sergei says to the bartender. “Geno, Ilya’s here for a reason.”

“Yeah, he has a game,” Geno says.

“Well, yes,” Sergei says. “But we decided someone needs to talk to you about this…attachment of yours.”

Oh, Christ. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says quickly.

“Really? Because Alex does, and he’s maybe as perceptive as the average five-year-old,” Ilya says. “Zhenya, what are you doing?”

“Nothing. Not deliberately,” Geno says. “I don’t – he’s just Sidney.”

“That’s the problem,” Ilya says. “Has the boy ever even dated?”

Geno shakes his head. He’s not totally sure if how miserable he is shows, but when the shots come, Sergei shoves all three of them at him and says to the bartender, “Three more. Thanks.”

“It’s not going to happen,” Geno says, “and I know it. I’ll get over it.”

“Will you, though?” Ilya says, not unkindly. Mostly, Geno thinks, he sounds like a grandma.

“I’m going to try,” he says honestly. “I can’t make promises, but –“

Ilya sighs and claps him on the shoulder. “Do the shots, Evgeni.”

So he does.


It doesn’t really get easier. It gets simpler, in a way; every Russian on the continent knows he’s hung up on Sidney Crosby, and so he has people he could talk to if he decided he really wanted to, which of course he doesn’t. But they’re always there if he changes his mind, and in the meantime, he deals with the fact that he wants to be with Sidney. Sidney, at least, never notices if he gets a little weird, and never changes how he acts towards Geno. Two years go by; Sergei leaves, and not having another Russian on the team makes it even easier to hide how he feels. His stupid thing for Sidney fades to a dull kind of ache mixed in with the enjoyment of being close to someone he cares about. It could, he thinks, be a lot worse.

After awhile, even Ilya seems to assume he’s gotten over it. Which makes sense, Geno thinks; what could be sadder than a multi-millionaire athlete who finally speaks the local language being hung up on the person least likely to care about sex with another human being?

Sidney and Geno don't room together, but some nights on the road they may as well, because they hang out a hell of a lot. Not so much that the guys actively give them shit for it - they're used to it, and groups just kind of naturally happen - but enough that everyone knows Geno is genuinely Sidney’s friend. So Geno's the one they go to when they decide Sidney needs to actually go out, for once.

"Will be fun," Geno says. "Come on, Sid."

Sidney makes one of his many complaining faces and stretches over the bed. "I was going to watch plays! The game tomorrow -"

"Is important. Like other games," Geno says. "We going out, Sidney."

They're in DC, so they head to a bar as far away from Chinatown and the Caps stadium as they can get without actually leaving the city. Sidney's been shoved into a pair of jeans and a shirt that, while it's dark and boring, at least doesn't have the Penguins logo on it.

"Isn't this the wrong city to take me to if you want me to, I don't know, get laid?" Sidney says.

It's probably the most awkward thing he's ever said. Sidney's learned, slowly, how to talk a lot of shit, but talking about sex he turns back into the painfully weird kid he was when Geno first got to Pittsburgh. "Not sex, Sid. Fun. Can have without sex."

"You can have it without being at bars, too."

"Quit whining," Geno says.

"I wouldn't be whining if you hadn't dragged me out."

"Yeah, okay, you guys can kiss and make up while I go get beer," Flower says, rolling his eyes.

Geno would feel bad - Sidney looks so incredibly uncomfortable - if he didn’t think that this is exactly what Sidney needs. Granted, any Russian hockey player's solution to most of the world's problems is going to be alcohol, but still. "An hour. If you still hate it, we go home."

Sidney rolls his eyes. "We?"

Geno shrugs and doesn't elaborate. Whatever reason Sidney gives his actions, it won't be as ridiculous as the truth.

Sidney stops whining after two beers and starts talking again midway through his fourth. It's a good thing Geno's feelings are more or less hidden these days - Ilya would stage an intervention if he knew he was hung up on a lightweight.

"The thing is, I'm really good at hockey," Sidney says, staring at his beer.

Talbot groans. "Oh God, someone knock him out."

"Sid. Shut up," Geno says.

He's as surprised as anyone when Sidney actually does it. He must know he's obnoxious, because he sits back and watches everyone else for the rest of the night. It's weird, but Sidney's always weird. The other guys don't even blink.

Geno - well. He's used to being watched by Sidney, too. That doesn't change the fact that he can feel Sidney’s gaze no matter what he does.

He's flirting with a girl who couldn't care less about hockey, mostly just to distract himself from Sidney's staring, when Flower says, "Yo, Geno, take your boy home."

"Oh God. What he do?"

"Well, nothing," Flower says. "That's kind of the problem. He's just sitting there."

"So is my job to take him back?"

Flower just gives him a look.

"Yeah, yeah. Okay. Sorry," he says to the girl. "Phone number?"

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I'm not going to call you." She pats his arm. "Good luck tomorrow!"

"You owe me," Geno tells Flower, and goes to collect Sidney.

Sidney's quiet until they get in a cab. Then he just stares at his hands and says, "Sorry."

"You were terrible. Never going out with you again," Geno says.

Sidney actually brightens. Geno's pretty sure this is what despair feels like. "Kidding, Sid."

"I was terrible. I'm not fun." He plops his forehead against the window. "I try sometimes."

"More fun when you don't."

Sidney frowns. "Then why did you take me out?"

Geno’s not going to answer that. The guys wanted him to, yeah, but it’s more than that and he’s pretty sure if he talked that would be obvious. "So we should rig Talbot's shower, yes? Only cold water knob turn. Make him squeak."

"Talbot would just not shower. Mattress flip?"

"Takes time."

"We could just watch TV till I pass out," Sidney says.

The other bed will be empty, Geno reminds himself. "Sure."

They sit in silence until they get to the hotel. Sidney's steady on his feet going into the hotel, but the second they get to his room, he flops down on his bed like he weighs a million pounds.

"Shoes off," Geno says, because at some point he turned into his grandmother without noticing.

Sidney toes them off and then scoots up the bed. "TV."

"What am I, mother?" But Geno sits on the other bed and turns the TV on. "What we watch?"

"I don't know, but I really care, so make it something good." Sidney frowns. "That's not funny, is it."


"Hmm, okay." He bops his feet a little.

Geno turns the TV to Comedy Central and decides to act like he's suddenly become very, very interested in animated people in space. Luckily, Sidney falls asleep sooner rather than later, and he can turn the TV off and slip out before any of the guys see him.

Or, almost before. When he gets back to his room, Talbot raises his eyebrows. "Is there something I need to know?"

“No." Geno goes into the bathroom. "Is not big deal. Was just babysitting."

"We all figured you'd quit babysitting him once you knew enough English to get laid."

"Oh, you all need English to get laid? I'm sorry."

"Very funny."

He brushes his teeth and strips down to his boxers. Talbot's already in bed when he gets out, so he doesn't say anything - not about how Talbot pulls enough for both of them, and definitely not about being the guy who babysits Sidney and doesn't even mind all that much.

It's stupid, anyway. They've got a game: his head needs to be on that, not his now years-long thing.

The game the next day is fine. He and Sidney both get goals and they win, though not easily or by enough that Sidney's not going to use the game as a reason for why he should never go out. Neither of them bring up that night for a few weeks, and Geno's not bombarded with Russians via phone or otherwise. For awhile he starts thinking he's more or less safe.

Then they're playing the Caps again and Ovie hits him and yells, "We need to talk about your Crosby problem!" as he skates away. The fact that he's not speaking English and thus hardly anyone understood him isn't exactly helping.

"Ovechkin?" he says to Sergei that night, leaving his cell on speakerphone so he can make dinner. "Are you serious? The entire NHL, and you tell him I'm still into Sidney?"

"Hey, don't look at me. I didn't tell him."

"Fuck the motherland," Geno says, and grabs an energy drink from the fridge.

"It's not so bad," Sergei says after a few quiet moments. "I mean, it could probably be worse."

"How?" Geno says. "Seriously, how?"

"He could be...into girls?"

"He's into hockey," Geno says.

He must sound a lot more depressed than he realizes, because Sergei says, "Ah. Get the vodka out.”

It’s a bad idea, but Geno does it anyway. An indeterminate number of shots later, he's trashed enough to be telling Sergei about how many times he's stared at Sidney's mouth lately. Sergei just sighs and encourages Geno to take another shot .

"I'll miss morning skate tomorrow," he says when Sergei’s insisted he go to bed. His phone is dying anyway.

"It's optional and you'll hate yourself," Sergei says. It's true, and Geno's so drunk he doesn't know if Sergei guessed or if Geno told him, so he hangs up and stumbles off to bed.

The last thing he thinks before he falls asleep is that if Sidney somehow shows up in the morning, Geno will have Sergei's head.


Sidney's not there in the morning, thank God; sometimes he shows up and they drive to practice together, so it's a legitimate worry. Geno showers and eats some toast before he lets himself out. He needs to run some errands and not be cooped up in his house.

Sidney's sitting on the hood of his car. "Oh good, you're out."


"Ended an hour ago." Sidney squints at him. "Wow, you look awful."

Geno unlocks his car. "Thanks, really."

"Hey, I call it like I see it. So."

Geno stares at him; he looks back, guileless. Jesus fuck. Geno sighs. "You drive here?"

"I figured we could go somewhere and you could be hungover and annoyed, and maybe I'd buy you coffee," Sidney says.

The sad thing is, Geno knows he means it in a completely teammates-only kind of way. There's no hoping, because Sidney just doesn't work that way. "Sure," he says, and starts his car.

He almost wrecks them when Sidney says, a few minutes later, "So I got kind of a weird call from Ovechkin this morning. Did you know he has my number?"

"Wasn't me," Geno says.

"No, I know, he says Gonch gave it to him." Sidney sounds like he's talking about the weather. "Anyway. He says you, um."

Geno reminds himself that wrapping the car around a telephone pole would be pretty telling and keeps his eyes on the damn road.

"He says you're dating a Russian girl on OKCupid."

"Wait," Geno says, "what?"

"Yeah. I mean, it's totally fine, you know, I think it's nice, as long as she's not secretly a KGB member who's going to kill you, or something."

"KGB old regime," Geno says. This has Ilya written all over it. He's going to kill - he's not sure yet. Possibly all of them.

"Well, okay, but still."

He almost says he's not dating anyone, but then something completely insane takes hold of him. Instead he finds himself saying, "She not Russian. American. From Boston."

"Oh. Well, that's good, anyway. She's probably not a terrorist."

"She nice girl," Geno says, wondering why the hell he's even still talking. "Cute. Blonde."

"That's good! Have you, um, met her?"

"Not yet. Will, sometime soon."

"Good for you."

Geno pulls into the Starbucks and Sidney says, "I was thinking I'd go in early tomorrow, do some drills to work on endurance. You in?"

Geno closes his eyes very briefly before saying, "Sure."

Sidney orders them both lattes without asking Geno, the way he always does. Geno takes his and they sit down by the window, knees knocking under the unfortunately small table.

"So tell me about her," Sidney says, smiling widely. "Blonde, huh?"

Geno's not that good at describing the people he actually really knows. "Pretty. Funny." He shrugs. "Don't know her much yet."


"Most important thing now, hockey. Girls come after."

"After. Right, sure. I mean, hockey comes first, obviously, hockey has to come first."

Why stop with hockey players? Geno is going to kill every single Russian citizen currently on American soil.

"Why do you think Ovie told me, though?" Sidney says. Geno almost chokes on his own tongue. "I mean, it's obvious you don't want to talk about it."

"No, no, she is nice girl, not ashamed. Just tired, Sidney."

Sidney shakes his head. "Man, Ovie said you were shy. You pick up girls all the time, though."

It's obvious he doesn't actually approve. Geno shrugs. "Can't always play hockey, Sid."

"Be nice if we could, though."

"Sergei is old grandmother," Geno says. "He thinks people want help. I don't. See?"

"Sure," Sidney says, and takes a gulp of his drink. His shoulders relax, like talking about Geno's sex drive is the worst thing imaginable. It probably is. Geno's not sure Sid's ever even hooked up.

"Where you headed?" Sidney says once they're done.

Geno shrugs. "Drive you back home so you can get car."

"And then?"

"No plans."

Sidney looks at him hopefully. Geno sighs. "You work out alone today."

"But tomorrow morning you'll come, right? You said you wanted to."

Geno gets into the car. "I said yes, I mean yes." His legs will be screaming at him by the end of the team practice, but it's probably good for him. He honestly thought he was dedicated to the game before he met Sidney. Well, he knows he's dedicated, but if there's one thing everyone on the team knows, it's that they'll never be Sidney Crosby.

"I'll have to remember that you have a girlfriend," Sidney says, once they've pulled out onto street.


"Well, it's a little different, right? I can't be like oh, that girl's hot, or whatever."

"She not my girlfriend yet."

"Well, yeah, but obviously she will be."


Sidney snorts. "You're a multimillionaire hockey player who's not totally hideous. She's going to date you, Geno."

He says it like he's repeating a sentence someone has told him. He probably is, dubious compliments regarding appearance and all. "Thanks. Means lots, you think that."

"Oh, come on. You know what I mean."

"Is not different, anyway. You don't say, look at hot girl."

"I could."

Now he sounds defensive. Geno shakes his head. "Anyone tell you you're weird?"

"All the time."

He doesn't have to sound so goddamn cheerful about it.

Once he drops Sidney off - and Sidney makes a pointed comment about the value of practice - he heads home. He calls Sergei on the way. "I don't see what the big deal is," Sergei said. "So Alex called him, whatever. You know he's been trying to start a rivalry with Sidney for years and Sidney doesn't even understand it."

"That's because Sidney's...Sidney," Geno says lamely. "The point is, if he does figure it out, where does that leave me?"

"He won't."

"He could!"

"Look, Geno, I'm saying this as a friend. You need help, so we're helping you. He's just not going to come around on his own. You know it, I know it."

"Did it ever occur to you I don't want him to come around?"

"Oh, you want to keep pining after someone too stupid to realize when his friend is panting after him?"

"He's not stupid,” Geno snaps, then grits his teeth in frustration with himself.

He hangs up to the sound of Sergei cackling.

That night passes slowly, but at least it's calmer than a lot of his other nights. He plays his PS3 and wrestles with Jeffrey, and at 10:45 sets his alarm for obnoxiously early and goes to bed.

Unsurprisingly, Sidney's waiting for him in the locker room when he arrives. "How early you get up?"

"I only got here maybe five minutes ago," Sidney says. "So, let's get ready."

Because why change alone when you can do it with a teammate?

When Sidney's given half a chance he'll play coach to the guys on the team. Geno's always a little surprised when Coach doesn't mind - but if he doesn't object, then Geno's not going to tell Sidney no. His advice is good, anyway.

It's a nice morning, relaxed and easy, and when they finish up they've got two hours before the actual skate. "Don't understand how you not dead," Geno says as they head out to the parking garage.

Sidney shrugs. "I didn't spend much time there last night. It's less fun when I'm alone."

"Still more fun than doing something else?"

"Well, obviously," Sidney says. "But when Gonch suggested this -"

"Sergei what?"

"Suggested we practice together a few days ago." Sidney shrugs. "I mean, it's a good idea, I don't know why I didn't think of it before. Anyway. When he suggested it I figured, why not?"

Geno closes his eyes briefly. It's funny, at this point he doesn't even feel much more than resigned. "Why not."

"Right." Sidney jostles him. "So hey, want to go grab some food?"

Someday someone's going to sit him down and explain that it's not normal to spend all day with your linemate. Geno's not going to be the guy who does, though. They go grab food and Geno texts Sergei a death threat or two, and it's good, it's really good. They'll play tomorrow and things will be fine. Normal, even. Because this is normal for them, Geno being vaguely pathetic and dealing with it, and Sidney being oblivious.

And Geno's okay with it, he really is.

The next two weeks pass with no more clumsy attempts to get Sidney to realize his sudden repressed love for Geno, and he couldn't be happier. They lose just one game, win five others, and it's good. Honestly good. When Sidney gets hit and is out for a week with a wrenched wrist, Geno sucks it up, works that much harder, and doesn't mother Sidney.

Or at least, he does for the first two days. Then Sidney's forlorn texts turn into calls.

"Seriously, Geno, I'm not diseased and I'm bored," he says. "Come over, would you?"

"Is not best idea. Am busy, Sid."

"Ugh," Sidney says. "Come on, just a few hours."

Geno doesn't have the English to say "unless you want me doing a frighteningly good impression of my own mother, don't make me come over." Instead he says, "You will whine."

"I will not," Sidney whines.

Geno figures silence is the best teacher. He waits, and then Sidney says, "Okay, fine, I'll whine. Has Talbot shown you the footage of me falling off the couch yet?"

"Me, team, cleaning people, people on street..."

"See? I can be a good sport. Come on, Geno." His voice goes a little quieter. "Please?"

Geno is made of putty, he thinks as he says, "Sure."

Sidney's lying on the couch when he gets there, flipping through Sports Illustrated with his bum wrist held at an awkward angle. He smiles when he sees Geno. "Wait, how'd you get in?"

"Fake rock paint is flaking," Geno says. "What you doing?"

"What? Reading. It's non-strenuous, it's not even hockey related."

"Very funny. Sports Illustrated like you, think you only guy who play hockey. Move."

"What -"

Geno shoves Sidney upright, grabs a pillow, and jams it under Sidney's wrist so it's held at a natural angle. "You want be out more than two days?"

"No, but -"

"Stay still. You watch TV, you eat food someone make, you stay still."

Sidney glares, but he stays still.

"Now," Geno says, and turns on the TV. "I read to you, but Russian too good. Your ears cry."

He's pretty sure Sidney is rolling his eyes. He flips over to Fox and says, "Shoulder hurt?"

"Why would my shoulder hurt?"

"Pain travel. Wrist hurt, hold wrist still, shoulder hurt from holding wrist."

"I guess," Sidney says. He shifts minutely and winces. "Okay, yeah."

"Talbot not take care of plant. You, he can't do." Geno moves behind Sidney and digs his fingers into Sidney's shoulder, exactly like his father taught him. Not that thinking of either of his parents is helping matters right now.

Sidney groans and leans back into it. Geno set his jaw and concentrates on making Sidney relax, working his muscles while Sidney sighs and wiggles.

"Hold still," Geno says finally, when his hand slips and lands at the nape of Sidney's neck.

"It feels good," Sidney says, but he quits moving around quite so much. It's quiet then, with just the TV playing. Geno can hear Sidney breathing, every little minute hitch in his breath that occurs when Geno hits a particular spot or digs in a little harder.

He's stupidly, uselessly hard, and he can't do a damn thing about it.

Finally, Sidney leans forward and says, "Okay, that's good, thanks."

Geno lets out a breath and moves to sit down. "You're really good at that," Sidney says. "Where'd you learn it?"

"Mother taught," he says. He knows he sounds a little hostile, but - well, it's better than the alternative. "You want movie?"


But he can't put anything in before his cell rings. It's Sergei. "Yeah?"

“In a shocking turn of events, I asked Flower to go over to your house and make sure you weren’t dead from alcohol poisoning or some other horrible malady, and guess what! Your heater’s broken! And November in Pittsburgh is too cold, so I had him break in and get Jeffrey out.”

He rolls his eyes. "I can use blankets and a space heater, Sergei. Jeffrey will be fine."

"You could, except when Flower went in to get your clothes, he discovered something that looks like black mold all over your bedroom wall. He called the health department, and it looks like they'll be quarantining your house for a few days while they look at the mold. But I figured, you're at Sidney's! So you can stay with him for a few days."

Geno can barely believe what he’s hearing. "I'm going back to the KHL. Alone."

"Don't be so dramatic."

“You roped Flower into this!”

“He’s an impartial observer. A helper, if you will.” Sergei pauses and then says, "You could just tell him."

"Or not," Geno says, and hangs up.

"Who was that?"

Geno explains, not bothering to look anything but grim. "Oh," Sidney says. "Well, it'll be fun to have you."

"Not your nursemaid."

"Did I ask you to be?"

"If I stay, will be nursemaid."

"You know you're just a year older than me, right?" Sidney stretches, revealing a strip of skin just above his waistline. Geno looks away. "I have a mother. She's great, and she's not you."

"Thank God," Geno says.

"Come on, stay. It's not like I'm not used to people being around."

Like Geno needs a reminder of how horrible at being an adult Sidney is. "Fine, you win."

"So, Xbox?"

"You play Xbox with hurt wrist, I make you wear sling. We watch Bourne Identity."

"You love that movie, not me."

"Yes, is not about hockey so Sidney Crosby hates."

Sidney throws a pillow at him, but he's laughing, and Geno can't help but smile back.


The thing that's easy to forget about Sidney is that he's a good guy. He's got so much shit surrounding him that Geno's surprised he can sleep at night without having nightmares about Bettman, but there's a reason he wears the C. And sometimes even Geno gets hung up and forgets that the guy is legitimately...well, not fun. But good to be around. And then sometimes Sidney will do something classically, hilariously Sidney and he'll remember.

Now is not one of those times.

"Two more days?" Sidney yells. "Two more days?" He flops down on the couch. "Two more days!"

"Sorry," Scott, their trainer, says. He sounds bored - but then, he knows Sidney. "You'll be good to go then, but not before."

Sidney makes a tortured face into the pillow.

"You know, bet mold is gone. Going now," Geno says, making for the door.

"Yeah, sure. I'll see you guys tomorrow." Scott shakes his head as he leaves, shoving Geno out of the way so he can open the door.

"The mold isn't gone, Flower told me this morning something happened to the samples and they're having to get some more. Tuberculosis will keep you out for awhile."

"TB kill people. But if you cry, I leave."

"Okay, yeah, I'm being a dick." Sidney curls his legs up. It's an awkward kind of movement, not at all attractive; Geno looks away anyway. "I'm going to go to the gym later. You want me to bring you back a shake?"

Geno doesn't actually like protein shakes. Then again, no one he knows - aside from Sidney - really does. They mostly tolerate them. "No thanks."

"See you." Sidney stretches out again, favoring his wrist the way he's supposed to. It gives Geno satisfaction to see it.

Then he realizes exactly the kind of conversation they're having and rolls his eyes at himself. "See you," he says, and lets himself out.


Talbot slings an arm around his neck as they're gearing up. “How’s living with the kid going?"

He doesn’t mean it in a pointed sense. Max has no idea how Geno feels. "If black mold not gone by tomorrow, I buy new house."

"You really want to waste all that money? Sidney's going to think you don't like him."

"Quit touching." He shoves him away and says a little louder, "You have rash? Creams for that."

After practice, he heads back to Sidney's. Sidney, to his surprise, is standing outside, talking to his neighbors. Geno nods at them and heads inside.

When Sidney comes back in, Geno's sitting at the kitchen counter. "Did you know my neighbors know who I am?"

"...Live here," Geno said. "You Sidney Crosby. And?"

"No, I mean, they knew I lived here. Weird, right? He's in finance."

Geno closes his eyes briefly. "Fascinating."

"Anyway, he invited me over for dinner." Sidney sounds vaguely brooding now. "It reminded me of living with Mario."

"Gotta move out sometime."

"Plus, they have me over every other Sunday, if there's not a game." Sidney takes a protein shake out of the fridge. "Hey, you should come."

Geno doesn't actually choke on his tongue, because Sidney used to try to drag people home to Mario's all the time. It's very normal, for a year ago. "Maybe."

"I do actually know it's weird, you know. How I act about them most of the time." He takes another drink. Geno watches his throat move for a second, then focuses on the counter top. "Anyway. Practice okay?"

"Is fine. When you back, we celebrate. Sid party, big deal. Crying."

"Hah, hah." Sidney wanders back out to the living room. "Think I'm going to order. You in?"

"Fun stuff?"

"Well." Sidney pauses. "No."






"Um, no."

"Do it," Geno says. "I eat...something."

Sidney ends up ordering from some place specializing in healthy foods. It tastes like cardboard, but Sidney seems happy, so Geno chokes some of it down before he goes to the fridge and tries to make something with more than two grams of fat.

"I didn't know you could cook," Sidney says.

"Is not cook. Is simple."

"Well, okay, but -" Sidney waves his pita demonstratively. A few chunks of (broiled and tasteless) chicken fall out; Geno's the one who picks them up. "You know what I mean."

"In Russia, men cook. Culture says men better chefs."

"Whoa, really?"

Geno can't keep from smiling then. "No."

"Very funny."

Geno turns the burner off, puts the food on a plate, and sits down across from Sidney. They knock knees, and Sidney jostles him comfortably, grinning while he does it in that awkward way of his.

He knows what it looks like, and he knows how it feels, which is why when they go out to the living room to watch some TV, Geno makes sure Sidney's wrist is sitting right and then goes to sit on the armchair across from the couch.

Sidney doesn't notice anything weird, but then, he wouldn't. He's too busy blithely eating candy, oblivious to both his own borderline hypocrisy and Geno's stupid, stupid feelings.


Sidney's return to the locker room is greeted with ribbing about what a wimp he is and no small amount of relief. They've played two games and haven't lost either of them, which is good, but when your captain's missing, you tend to notice even if it's not someone like Sidney. While Talbot's giving Sidney shit, Flower says, "Your house is clean now. Well, it was clean two days ago, but you didn't ask."

Geno scowls. "I was busy."

"Sure thing. So how is living with Sidney? The guys had a bet going that you’d kill him."

No one knows, Geno reminds himself for what feels like the millionth time. "You're not funny."

"Quit fucking around and get your skates on," Jordan says, flicking the back of Geno's head.

Geno sighs and pretends not to notice Sidney laughing it up like he's just won the lottery, just because he's back with the team.

And the thing is, Geno's happier, too. He feels like a tool for it; he played hockey his whole life, did three years in the KHL without needing Sidney Crosby on his line. It's made worse by the fact that he doesn't need him. He just...likes having him there.

They haven't even played a game with Sidney back when Sergei calls him. "You need to do something."

"No, I don't."

"Do you know how many idiotic suggestions I had to field today?" Sergei pauses for dramatic effect and then says, "Alex thinks we should lock you in a closet."

"Oh, God," Geno says before he can stop himself.

"He also thinks we should send flowers from each of you to the other and send anonymous letters under screen names suggesting we are each of you, like, and I quote, in You've Got Mail."

"If you invited me, this wouldn't happen," Geno says. "Also, planting fake mold in my house is already pretty idiotic."

"There was never fake mold there, are you kidding? We don't want to mess with the Health Department. You never checked, and Flower’s always up for a joke." Sergei's tone tells him exactly how pathetic he thinks Geno is.

"I had other things on my mind," Geno says. He goes to let Jeffrey out.

"Like Sidney's -"

"Don't finish that."

"I’ll talk to you later," Sergei says, and hangs up.

Geno's going to go outside and wrestle with Jeffrey, but his doorbell rings.

It's Sidney. "I was bored," he says, and walks past Geno into his house. "What are you doing?"

"Playing with Jeffrey," Geno says when he can formulate words.

"Oh, cool. Let's go." Sidney heads out back, traipsing through Geno's house without taking his shoes off.

Geno sighs, shuts the front door, and follows him. By the time he gets out back, Sidney and Jeffrey are already wrestling. "Geno! Come on!" Sidney says as Jeffrey does his level best to lick every inch of exposed skin.

He looks incredibly stupid. Geno shakes his head and joins him.

Jeffrey abandons Sidney for Geno, so Sidney grabs him and rolls them over. He's got dirt flecked on his face, but he doesn't care; he says, "Come on, Geno, you scared of your own dog?" and rolls around to tackle Geno.

Geno reacts right away, of course, punching his gut and sending them toppling over. Jeffrey's used to Geno acting like an idiot, so he woofs a little and then bounds off, leaving Geno and Sidney to wrestle alone.

Geno should back off and he knows it. He's not an idiot; he knows what's going to happen if he keeps it up. But Sidney's laughing that incredibly weird laugh of his, shoving at Geno and doing his level best to flip him over, and Geno can't do the smart thing and walk away.

Or at least, he can't until Sidney laughs and pins him, and Geno arches up against him to try to throw him off, and suddenly Sidney's under him, they're pressed against each other, and Geno's hard and completely fucking humiliated.

Sidney makes an awkward kind of face that Geno's entirely too familiar with. Sidney's not into it; he might not even be totally sure what's going on, in that it might never have happened to him before. Geno rolls off Sidney right away, trying and failing not to show how embarrassed he is.

And Sidney's still just sitting there, looking vaguely confused, propping himself up on his elbows and staring at Geno. Jesus fucking Christ.

"I need go," Geno says, and runs inside. It takes him all of twenty seconds to decide inside's not far away enough and grab his keys, heading out the front at almost a jog.

It's not like he expects Sidney to call him. He's sure Sidney knows what happened in a technical sense, because the guy doesn't actually power down once he's done playing hockey, but that doesn't mean he's going to deal with it in any way that isn't just flat-out denial.

After twenty minutes or so, just walking around and thinking about the levels of discomfort he managed to bring into their relationships gets boring, so he heads back to his house. When he gets inside, Sidney's sitting on the couch, watching SportsCenter.

"I think we should just forget that ever happened," Sidney says. "It's weird, and - weird."

For once, Geno's glad for his limited vocabulary. It gives him an excuse to just say, "Is fine. Natural thing."

Sidney nods. "Sure, yeah." His voice is high and Geno's pretty sure he doesn't think it's natural at all - but he scoots over on the couch and glances up at Geno, and Geno's not going to ignore that peace offering.

They spend the rest of the day just being quiet together. If Sidney thinks any more about the incident, he doesn't tell Geno.


The next day, Sidney and Geno are locked in a closet together.

"Have be kidding," Geno says, staring at the dark spot where he's pretty sure the door is. It's after hours, so there's not even a sliver of light to indicate where they are.

"There are lights in here, right? Janitors need lights." There's a crash as Sidney fumbles around. "Fuck."

"They get us out sometime," Geno says. He's feeling so calm it's bordering on fatalistic.

"I'd like to be able to see before then," Sidney snaps, and continues slapping around on the wall. Geno's about to get up and help him, just to ensure that something disastrous doesn't happen, when Sidney trips over something and lands, flailing, on Geno, sending them both to the floor.

There's a long second of silence, with Sidney's breath on his neck and his hands squashed between them, before Sidney says, "I don't know why my life is so weird lately."

Geno smacks his head back on the floor. After another second, Sidney clambers back up and keeps searching.

He finds it, of course, because Sidney's not likely to give up on anything, and he's even less likely when he's stuck in a small space. Once the light is on, their situation is even more depressing. The storage closet has about a six foot square bit of space in the middle of shelves heaped with cleaning supplies, and Sidney's sulking dead in the middle of it. Geno scoots back against the door. "Is stupid prank."

"I can't practice if I'm in here." Sidney sighs. "I have the worst luck lately."

Geno can't do anything but stare, because - seriously? He gives up. "Sid -"

"So," Sidney says quickly, "we should talk about the Leafs. We're playing them, and we need to be ready."

"They Leafs, Sid," Geno says. "Look. You know how life been weird?"

"I just said that."

Geno sighs. "Yes. Life been weird, Russians - have ideas."

"Anyway," Sidney says, "once we get out, we need to let the maintenance guys know about the locks. Is it even legal for closets to lock from the outside?"


Sidney makes a face. "I don't want to talk about it."

"What you think we talking about?"

"The - with the wrestling. It happens, right? I mean, usually while I'm watching highlight reels, but -"

"Not wrestling. Russians think you, me make good couple," Geno says bluntly. "Say we be together. Make plans."

Sidney's face goes completely blank. "Oh."

"I tell them is ridiculous," Geno says. He feels like he's moving through water, like everything is happening too slowly and is too surreal to possibly be real. "You not even like guys."

"I like hockey," Sidney says. "I mean - hockey guys. And hockey. But also guys."

Geno can't speak.

"Mario knows," he adds.

"Good," Geno finally says. "Is still stupid."

"Do you like guys?"

"Russians know what I like," Geno says.

"Huh." Sidney looks down, drums his fingers on his knee. "Well. Now I know, and you can tell them it's not going to happen."

Geno feels incredibly stupid for the way his stomach sinks. "Course."

"I mean." Sidney pauses. "I just...don't."

That's about as clear as mud. "I see."

Sidney shakes his head. "I just don't do that," he says. "It's not - you're my friend. But I don't do that."

He sounds like he's talking to the press, and Geno would love to be able to, just for once, string together a clever enough sentence to get whatever Sidney's not saying out in the open. But instead he says, "No one say you have to. I not want. Russians too many ideas, get bored away from motherland."

It's an anemic joke, but Sidney smiles. "Awesome, okay. So. Think we can break the door down?"

They manage to, even though Geno's going to be bruised all to hell the next day. Once they're out they stand across from each other, staring awkwardly, until Sidney says, "I'm going to Mario's tonight."

"Good, is good."

"You could come?"

Geno wants to go home, call Ilya, and rip him a new one. But the way Sidney's standing there - he watches highlight reels to get off, Geno thinks helplessly, and he knows he's not going to say no, because Sidney needs less distance in his life, not more.

"Sure," he says. "Give me few minutes. Have to make call."

"I'll be in the car," Sidney says, and practically runs away.

Geno shakes his head and pulls out his phone.

"Geno!” Ilya says. “How're things?"

"He knows," Geno says. "The closet thing worked, you jackass. He knows."

Ilya sighs. "That we wanted to get you two together, or that you're insanely hung up on him?"

Geno completely hates Ilya for how smart he is. "Point being, tell Ovie to return all his romantic comedy DVDs," he says. "It's over."

"Dun dun dun," Ilya says, and hangs up.

Geno feels like he’s gone crazy. He's going to start hanging out at home in fluffy slippers, watching soap operas and talking to Ovie's mom about pierogi recipes.

When he gets out to the car, Sidney's in the driver’s seat, leaning back with his eyes closed and drumming his fingers on his thighs. Geno knocks on the window and lets himself in.

"We're going to stop at my place first," Sidney says. "I need to get dressed."

Sidney's weirdly formal about his Sunday dinners. Geno's just wearing jeans - and like Sidney's read his thoughts, he says, "You're fine. They love you, don't worry."

That's...depressingly gratifying, Geno guesses.

When they get to Mario's, Nathalie is cooking while the girls and Mario hang out in the living room. Sidney's been even stiffer than usual since Geno got in the car, but the second he sees Nathalie he relaxes.

"Go help Mario win at Guitar Hero," Nathalie says. "I'll have dinner on in a few."

"He terrible at it," Geno says.

She swats at him with a spoon. "Then go help him."

Which is how Geno ends up in the Lemieux living room, egging Sidney on while he loses spectacularly to each of the Lemieux girls. They all file out into the dining room when dinner's ready, Sidney trash talking with the girls as easily as he does with the guys. Though with way fewer curse words and insults to their mother, admittedly.

The dinner's nice, and no one says anything about the fact that Geno's tagged along, or how quiet he is. Mario is ridiculously attentive to his family and Sidney's smiling and laughing like earlier didn't even happen.

It's nice, Geno tells himself resolutely. It's just really nice.

After they help Mario and the girls clean up, Sidney drives him home. When he parks in Geno's driveway, he says, "So. See you at practice?"

"We normal," Geno says. "No questions. So yes. See you at practice."

"Right." Sidney nods like Geno's just told him the secret to a perfect season. "We're normal. Totally normal."

He says it again as Geno's shutting the car door. "Very, very normal."


And things do return to normal, is the thing. Geno's used to this stupid longing. It helps that his house becomes mysteriously stocked with all of his favorite foods and he gets a delivery of home-cooked Russian food, granted; he's going to hold this over people's heads for awhile. But Sidney's natural awkwardness absorbs the few weird moments they have, and it's good, mostly.

Then Sidney goes and fucks it all up by showing up at Geno's door and saying, "So wait, you wouldn't have sex with me, right?"

Geno can't make himself speak. Sidney rocks back on his heels and says, "I mean, I think you told me, but I was a little too shocked to, um. Process things."

"I," Geno says, and frowns. "Why?"

"I told you I don't do sex. Have sex." Sidney jams his hands in his pockets. "Right?"

"You could," Geno says. "You big deal. Good looking."

Sidney looks dubious.

"Okay looking," Geno says.

"Okay, fine, whatever," Sidney says. "The point is, I need to have sex, and I can't."


"Can I come in first?"

Geno's pretty sure the answer should be no, but he's not delusional enough to think that he's going to do the smart thing. "Sure."

Sidney nods his thanks and goes inside. Once he's in, he sits on the stairs by the door and says, "I'm tired of not having sex."

Geno crosses his arms, totally incapable of feeling anything but incredibly defensive. "Hire hooker. Pick up girl."

"I told you, girls aren't. They don't...I'm not into them."

"Hire hooker. Pick up boy."

"You're being a dick about this."

It's astonishingly easier to say what needs to be said when Sidney's whining about it. "You not entitled, Sidney."

"You still haven't told me that you don't want to."

He picked a fine time to pick up on nuance. "I -"

And he can't say no. Something that's absolutely fucking important to retaining his sanity, and he just can't get the words across.

"It wouldn't be a big deal," Sidney says. "I mean, we're friends, right? Flower's got, like, ten girls he sleeps with, no strings attached."

"You want ten boys?"

"I just want to not be a virgin, okay?."

He looks pathetic, and all Geno can think is that he's never done anything before. He'd be horrible at it, awkward and fumbling, so why is Geno so turned on? "No," he finally forces himself to say. "Is bad idea."


"We play same line, we friends," Geno says. "No strings is good, but too much risk."

"I wouldn't get weird about it. I love hockey more than anything," Sidney says. "And I've been thinking, I researched it, and we wouldn't have to actually fuck right away, we could -"

"No." Geno holds up a hand, like that's going to help him or something. "No fucking, no handjobs, no blowjobs. We not doing this, Sidney."

Sidney stares at him and swallows, and it hits Geno exactly what he's just said.

Well, then.

"You can go," Geno says, opening up the front door again.

Sidney nods and stands up. He's slumping as he walks over.

And it's Geno's fault for not stepping away, it really is, because if he'd stepped away then Sidney wouldn't have been tone deaf enough to think it was okay to reach out and grip Geno's shoulder.

"Thanks anyway," Sidney says.

Geno opens his mouth to say you're welcome and somehow ends up kissing Sidney instead.

It's not good. He feels profoundly stupid, for one, doing exactly what he's not supposed to, and it's obvious Sidney's confused. He's kissed a few girls before, Geno's seen him, so why - but then, Geno thinks as he pulls back, if he's only kissed girls when Geno's seen, then it's been almost a year. Sidney doesn't get out much.

That last thought is what finally makes him capable of stepping back and saying, "Sorry."

Sidney shakes his head and closes the gap between them again. "That was bad."



Geno gets a sudden premonition: they're going to do this, and it will be awful, and Sidney will insist on trying again. Geno will tell him no, and have his memories, and maybe the knowledge of how bad it was will make it easier for him to let go.

So he nods and touches Sidney's neck, and Sidney takes the last step, determination all over his face.

"Show me how to fix it," Sidney says, and kisses him.

He's still too stiff, but it's not that terrible after a few seconds' adjustment. Sidney catches on quickly, taking his cues from Geno and easing up on the tongue, taking his time. Geno's almost used to it, his stomach has almost eased up enough to enjoy it, when Sidney makes a frustrated noise and presses a little closer, wiggling a hand under Geno's shirt.

Geno pulls back. "We can stop."

"Or," Sidney says, "we could keep going."

It's the way he says it that gets Geno. Cranky, determined, more the team captain who stays late until he's satisfied with his own progress than the kid who's frustrated with his inability to get laid. Sidney’s always so fucking Sidney, no matter what he’s doing.

And that's what decides Geno. He nods once, sharply. "Upstairs."

Sidney nods and goes without looking back. Geno takes a second, one hand on the stair rail, to think about what Sergei's going to say, how much Alex will worry about this deviation from standard romantic comedy material, or whatever insane thing he thinks up. He thinks about the various ways this could go wrong, up to and including the fact that he's going to want to do it again, and isn't going to let himself.

Then he thinks about Sidney upstairs waiting for him.

He shakes his head and goes up.

Sidney's lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling. He's hard, but his hands are folded on his stomach like he could wait all day, and for a second all Geno can do is stare.

"I don't actually watch just highlight reels," Sidney says finally, craning his neck to look up at Geno.

"Really not important," Geno says, and turns around, taking his shirt off.

"You have a really nice back." Sidney sounds perturbed. "I’ve noticed it before."

"Have bad taste," Geno says, turning back around and moving to sit on the bed. "See only hockey players, mind damaged."

"Sure, whatever," Sidney says, and sits up so that he can kiss Geno again.

Geno doesn't know why he's surprised by the way Sidney moves his hands over Geno's skin. Part of him is still catching up to the fact that Sidney wants this to happen, that apparently Sidney's thought about this before. He can't relax, but he does let himself press back against Sidney's hands and, when they pull apart, get Sidney's shirt off.

"Is easy," Geno says. Sidney looks uncomprehending, so he adds, "Not more now. Have time." He scoots back against the headboard, pulling Sidney with him. He's surprised by how easily Sidney straddles his lap, and unsurprised by the way Sidney just looks vaguely uncomprehending once they're there.

"Now we keep going," Geno says, and kisses Sidney again to prove his point.

It's easier, now, to gauge what works for him - the way Sidney presses forward when Geno cups the back of his head, the way he jumps a little when Geno brushes a finger over his nipple. He's rocking his hips a little as they kiss, apparently unconsciously; when Geno moves to kiss his neck and puts a hand on his hip, Sidney stills immediately, biting back a sound.

"Is okay," Geno says, and bites his neck lightly, smiling when Sidney's breath hitches. "Anything is okay, Sid."

"I make noise," Sidney says. "When I'm alone. It's kind of embarrassing, actually."

Jesus, because what Geno really needs is to be more turned on. "Is fine," he says, and kisses Sidney again before he can start talking about what, exactly, he does when he's alone.

It's only a few minutes before Sidney's vague twitching and gyrations settle into a rhythm, pressing forward against Geno as they kiss. He really does make noise, too, moans that are high-pitched and stupid sounding but somehow hot anyway. Of course, then Sidney moves a hand down Geno's chest, nails brushing each of his nipples ridiculously methodically, and it's Geno's turn to make embarrassing noises.

"Good?" Sidney says.

It's an honest question, and Geno nods - then feels like a complete fool when Sidney does it again and Geno's hips thrust up of their own accord.

"Oh, fuck," Sidney says, and for a second Geno thinks he's gone too quickly, but then Sidney rocks back, slowly and deliberately. "I don't think I'd mind," he says, and Geno has to shake his head and kiss him again.

"Can we maybe - pants?" Sidney says breathlessly. Geno nods and pushes Sidney off, a little more roughly than he meant to. Sidney doesn't seem to care, though; by the time Geno's got his jeans and boxers off, he's already naked, back on the bed, and watching Geno like Geno's a play he wants to memorize.

Nakedness is normal, Geno reminds himself. It's something they do every day, it doesn't mean anything - but then Sidney moves close again and, yeah, that's his dick pressing against Geno's stomach.

They keep kissing, Geno sliding lower and lower onto the bed until they're horizontal. Sidney's movements are jerky and uncertain, but they're pretty far from terrible, especially when he hesitantly moves to kiss Geno's neck, moving from just near his ear to his collarbone.

But then Sidney stops and says, "Okay. We can move on now."

Geno has to try very, very hard not to laugh. He's only partially successful. "Is not one thing, then other thing," he says. "No steps."

Sidney looks irritated. "We have to keep going eventually."

"Foreplay boring?"

"Come on."

"We go slow," Geno says, but he gets a hand between them and brushes his knuckles over Sidney's dick.

"Oh God," Sidney whimpers, hips jerking. It shouldn't be sexy, but of course it is; Geno shakes his head at himself and then does it again.

"Can I," Sidney says, and maneuvers awkwardly, trying to wiggle a hand between them.

"Here," Geno says. He pushes Sidney back onto the bed so that he's next to Geno, propped up on one elbow. "Like this."

Sidney's hand is awkward and fumbling, and it's too dry - Geno feels like an idiot when he reaches for the lotion. "Should have thought," he says.

Sidney holds out a hand. Once Geno's squirted the lotion, he goes back to stroking Geno slowly. It's obvious he's new at it; the angle is weird, and he keeps stopping to frown at Geno's dick like it's going to tell him secrets if he glares hard enough. It'd be easier to settle himself in front of Sidney, angle-wise, but then he wouldn't be able to see Sidney's face, and he's self-aware enough to admit that he wants that.

Geno gives him a few minutes to get used to it before he says, "I show," and closes his hand around Sidney's.

Sidney swallows and lets Geno guide him. He's still hard, making restless movements against the bed; Geno kisses him again before he says, "Try again."

This time he gets it right, and Geno's breathing hard and thrusting into Sidney's hand before he gets the willpower to say, "Okay."

Sidney stops right away. "Now what?"

"Is not simple drill. Is like play. Adjust as go on." Geno shrugs and tugs Sidney down, hooking a leg around the back of Sidney's and kissing him again.

Sidney pulls back almost right away. "I wanted -"

"Not coming yet, so you stop," Geno says. "Relax, Sidney."

"I can't."

And it's not funny, it's really not. Except Sidney's glaring at him and he's bright red, and Geno can't help but laugh even as he rolls them over and gets his hand around Sidney's dick.

"It's not funny, you fucking - oh, fuck." He screws his eyes shut and arches off the bed.

He's on the edge because sex is new. Pathetically, Geno's just as bad as Sidney right now, in that the newness of sex with Sidney is enough to keep him turned on. To distract himself, he says, "Hold still," and quits moving his hand.

"Hey," Sidney says, panting a little.

"Hold still," Geno says again, and starts kissing his way down Sidney's body.

"Whoa, whoa, wait, no," Sidney says, scooting back so quickly he doesn't even seem to notice when he knocks into the headboard.

"Slower?" Geno says, sitting back.

"I'm going to embarrass myself," Sidney says, and makes a vaguely constipated-looking face. "More than I already have."

Geno shrugs. "Is fine. New at sex, embarrass self. Normal."

Sidney looks vaguely ill, so Geno says, "Don't worry," and waits. Sidney might be weird, but he's not so weird he'll turn down a blowjob.

Sure enough, Sidney takes about thirty seconds before he says, "Oh, fine, whatever," and slumps back down onto the bed.

Geno takes his time, kissing Sidney's hips and running his hands down Sidney's thighs. When Sidney's gone back to making his stupid noises, Geno gets a hand around Sidney's dick and slowly, deliberately, licks the head.

"Fuck," Sidney says. He sounds like he's been punched.

Geno grins and does it again - then sucks, lightly at first, harder when Sidney scrambles for purchase on the sheets.

"Oh, God," Sidney says in between whines. When he reaches down and grabs Geno's hair, Geno sucks a little harder in approval. He keeps it shallow, his hand getting what his mouth doesn't reach, giving Sidney time to get used to it. He's cataloging every little noise Sidney makes, how his hand feels when it's shaking at the back of Geno's head, how tightly he controls himself so he doesn't thrust into Geno's mouth.

And he's good at it, in his awkward way - clumsy, sure, but endearingly careful, apologizing every time he moves or when he tugs Geno's hair a little too hard. It makes it almost difficult to back off, licking his lips and grinning when Sidney looks murderous.

This time it's Sidney who pulls him down, getting his hand around Geno's dick again. Geno lets him, thrusting lazily. He's only got a few inches on Sidney, but Sidney seems happy to be pinned. Good, Geno thinks stupidly.

Aloud, he says, "Tell what you want."

Sidney's bright red. "No."

Geno waits. He's expecting for Sidney to give in, but Sidney just shakes his head, his mouth set stubbornly.

"Okay," Geno says, when it becomes obvious that Sidney's not going to say anything.

The next second, several things happen. Sidney reaches up for Geno's face, and Geno reaches down for Sidney's dick. Sidney makes a strangled kind of noise -

And then pokes Geno in the eye.

"...ow," Geno says, taking hold of Sidney's wrist and pulling his hand away. His eye waters.

Sidney looks suitably embarrassed. "Sorry."

"Is fine." Geno blinks a few times. "Why?"

"The longer you draw it out, the worse it gets," Sidney says, shrugging.

He's got a point, but it's not like Geno's going to be able to do this again. Geno sighs and gives in to the inevitable, saying, "Okay, we finish," and putting a hand on Sidney's dick.

But Sidney looks sort of disappointed. "Wait, really? But I wanted to try -" He motions downward. "You know. Blowing you."

Geno raises his eyebrows, unable to hide his surprise. "Sure?"

If Sidney had gotten the stubborn look on his face again, Geno would've called it quits. He’s not going to be the guy who makes Sidney prove himself with oral sex. But Sidney keeps his expression clear when he nods.

"Okay," Geno says. They jostle awkwardly, Geno rolling back and Sidney moving on top of him.

"How do I," Sidney says, positioning himself with his head level with Geno's bellybutton. He looks dubious. "How do I - do this?"

Geno's not soft, but he's not exactly on the edge, either. "Hand first," he says. He'd rather demonstrate, but apparently Sidney wants to be instructed, so he keeps his own hand at his side, his left arm under his head.

Apparently Sidney's ridiculously good memory applies to sex, too, because he's more good than bad when he jerks Geno off. It only takes a minute before Geno's hard again; he can't resist the urge to reach down and touch Sidney's face. It's doubly as bad when Sidney turns towards Geno's hand, pressing against it.

Geno forces himself to move away, splaying his hand flat on the bed. "Remember what I do?" When Sidney nods, he says, "Imitate. No teeth, go slow. Don't push self. Is good to take time."

"Sex has got to be better than this," Sidney mutters.

"Quit whining. You want lesson, you get lesson," Geno says. "You think I tell girl, now we do this, now we do that?"

Sidney rolls his eyes. "Whatever," he says, and licks Geno's dick.

Geno closes his eyes. "Good," he says. "That - ow, no, not so tight."

"Sorry," Sidney says, loosening the hand he'd decided to use to claw Geno's thigh with. "Um." He licks again - and then again, looking up at Geno.

"Can use hand," Geno says, touching Sidney's hair very lightly.

"Right," Sidney says, and jerks him off slowly. He puts his mouth down again, sucking tentatively - and then a little harder, moving his hand faster. Geno's about to warn him when he smacks himself in the mouth, jerking back reflexively.

Geno doesn't move his hips to try to follow, but it's a near thing. "Is okay."

"It'd better be," Sidney says, and settles back again. "I'm going to get this."

"Believe you," Geno says, biting back a smile.

"Asshole," Sidney says, but he sounds content enough as he goes back to sucking carefully.

Geno lets himself relax a little, letting himself feel the way Sidney's moving his tongue experimentally, committing the sight of Sidney's lips around his dick while Sidney moves his own hips in tiny increments to memory. It's good - not great, but good, in no small part because it's Sidney. If Geno can't have this again, he's damn well going to remember it. And the slow slide of Sidney’s lips, the way they’re red and shiny, is definitely something that’s going to stick with him.

Sidney keeps pushing himself, sucking harder, moving more quickly, and finally trying to go down just a little too far. He has to back off then, gagging, and Geno doesn't even have a chance to warn him before Sidney's teeth are brushing his dick painfully and he's kicking reflexively.

"Ow," Sidney says, hand moving to the spot on his back that Geno's just dug his heel into. "Sorry, and everything, but ow."

"You try teeth on dick, then complain," Geno says.

"I'll stay in the kiddie pool," Sidney says, and goes back to blowing Geno before Geno has time to process that disturbing mental imagery.

He keeps his feet away from Sidney's body, though, just in case.

He expects Sidney to quit quickly; his jaw should be hurting by now, and Sidney might be able to ignore pain, but he usually doesn't suffer quietly. But when Geno reaches down and says, "Is okay, Sid, we do something else," Sidney just wiggles a little and sucks harder.

He couldn't have done anything hotter if he'd suddenly turned into a veteran porn star. Geno's hand falls on Sidney's head, a little more heavily than he intended. But if the way Sidney redoubles his efforts is any indication, he doesn't care, and Geno - Geno's given up on being a good teacher in favor of fighting not to move.

"Please," he says finally, head spinning, "back off, Sidney, we finish other way, we - please."

He's half expecting Sidney to just keep pushing him, but Sidney eases off slowly instead. Of course, he brushes just the right spot on Geno's balls on his way, and Geno has to grip his own dick and recite the house rules hanging over his grandmother's hearth just to keep from coming.

Sidney's rubbing his jaw and looking pleased with himself. And Jesus, the gyrating on the bed was a clue, but that doesn't prepare Geno for the fact that Sidney's still hard.

"Was good," Geno says. "Now we finish."

"Wait, seriously?"

"What you expect, fireworks? Chorus? Praying?"

Sidney shrugs. "I don't know, something else, I guess."

That galls Geno more than he wants to admit. "Lie back," he says, and before Sidney can move, pushes him back so his feet are pressed against the pillows, his head down on the folded blanket at the foot of the bed. "You learn, good, gold star," he says, wrapping a hand around Sidney's dick. "Now, my turn."

"Jesus, what is even wrong with you, you fucking Russian son of a - oh, God," Sidney says, thrusting up into Geno's hand.

His lips are so red. Geno leans down and kisses him. "Like this," he says against Sidney's lips. "My hand. Just this."

Sidney nods and rocks his hips forward, eyes slipping shut. He's not - it's not like Geno thinks he's watching the best porn in the world, or anything, but somehow this is stupidly hot. No, not somehow. Because it’s Sidney.

"Come on, Geno, please," Sidney says, sliding a hand up Geno's arm to grip his shoulder. It's painful, but Geno doesn't say anything, just kisses Sidney again.

And then Sidney's arching off the bed, crying out, voice cracking in a way that's deeply unsexy and yet something Geno wants to hear again and again.

"Jesus," Sidney says a few seconds later. He shakes his head. "I should probably do you, huh?"

Apparently his mental refractory period barely exists. Geno shakes his head.

"Wait, no?"

"Yes," Geno says quickly. "Ignore head. Yes."

Sidney smiles a little at that, then reaches down. His hand is bent at a weird angle, and so the rhythm's off, but Geno doesn't have the brain power left to correct him. He lets himself stop thinking about giving a damn lesson, leaning down until his forehead is touching the blanket, hips thrusting down against Sidney.

"Jesus," Sidney says quietly.

Geno would never be able to live down coming just then if it was anyone other than Sidney. As it is, his world blanks out, and he's devoutly grateful that Sidney won't even register that as being worth mocking.

When he gets a little awareness back, he registers the fact that he's half on top of Sidney. "Sorry," he says, moving aside.

"It's fine." Sidney looks down at himself. "So sex is messy."

Geno grunts.

"And you're kind of brain-dead."

Geno flaps a hand.

"Should I, you know. Leave?"

The answer should be yes, but Geno reaches out and closes a hand around Sidney's wrist.

"Right. Okay."

He doesn't exactly sound comfortable, though, so Geno gathers together enough energy to say, "We friends, Sidney. Not going to kick you out of bed. Some guys sleep after. I one of them."

"Oh." Bit by bit, Sidney relaxes. "That's fine. I won't, but - can I clean us up? Then I'll leave you alone."

Geno nods, face still pressed into the pillow. He moves onto his back for Sidney's methodical cleaning, then closes his eyes again as Sidney turns on the TV and gets back into bed.

His hand lands awkwardly on the pillow behind Geno's head, fingers brushing Geno's hair. Geno breathes deeply and runs over memories as he falls asleep. He's not going to forgive himself if he forgets anything; when he wakes up, their friendship is going to go back to normal.

The next time he opens his eyes, it's dark and Sidney's watching him.

"You kind of twitch in your sleep," he says.

"Sleep at all?"

Sidney shakes his head. "It's only been a few hours."

Geno nods and tries to process his surroundings. Sidney's put boxers back on, but he's still shirtless. He looks sleepy. He's warm, though they're no longer touching apart from Sidney's ankle against his. "Should go home," he says. "Game tomorrow. Flyers, lots of trouble."

"Morning skate, too." Sidney pauses. "I left my stuff in my car."

That makes Geno look at him again. "That confident? Think a lot of skills of persuasion?"

"Not really. I like to be prepared." Sidney drums his hands on his thigh. "I can go to a guest room."

Geno glances at the clock. It's only eight. "I make dinner," he says, getting up out of bed. He expects Sidney to be embarrassed, but he looks perfectly calm. His usual clueless steamrolling of awkwardness has come back. "You shower, I shower while food cook."

Sidney nods and gets out of bed. Geno's the one who turns red, looking down at the bedsheets like they're the most fascinating things he's ever seen. He leaves without saying anything.

He's being stupid, he thinks as he takes the chicken out of the refrigerator, and he knows it. Sidney said he'd be happy to go home. Geno should send him there. He's almost talked himself up to being the bigger person, saying what needs to be said once Sidney's out of the shower, when his phone rings.

"I ask myself, why would Sidney call me to ask if you have casual sex? The answer, if you think about it, is simple. Canadians aren't known for their subterfuge."

Geno groans. "Sergei."

"They take their virtue pretty seriously, though. I'm sure you can expect a phone call from Colby any day now."

"If I say nothing happened, you won't believe me, will you?"

"Not even a little bit."

Geno puts the chicken in the oven - there's oil and spices on it, Sidney can suck it up and deal - and says, "It was a one-time thing."

"Oh, was it now?"

"You can't think I'm stupid enough to keep going."

"I think Sidney will want to."

"You don't actually know everything."

"Alex tells us he's a virgin."

"What," Geno says flatly, shaking the bagged salad into a bowl.

"I don't know how he found out. Sasha says he talked to Colby at some point. You know how he gets."

Geno does, is the scary part. "Fine. He was. That doesn't mean we're going to keep going. I'm not that stupid."

"You're going to tell him no? Well, color me impressed."

He's devoutly glad Sidney's still in the shower; it means no one's around to see him turn red. "I'm perfectly capable of saying no, thanks."

"Sure you are. So he's free to run off and be thoroughly debauched by someone else. Excellent plan."

"You're baiting me."

"It's working."

"I tried to tell him no, and I failed," Geno says. "But I'm not going to fail again, because it would be unhealthy and stupid."

"Yeah, sure. How many times have you told yourself this?"

Geno curses quietly.

"I'm just saying," Sergei says, tone gentling, "you might want to take a step back. Sidney's not a kid; he could accept you being too emotionally involved."

Geno's saved from having to answer by Sidney yelling, "Geno? I'm done, you can get in."

"I've got to go," Geno says.

"Don't do anything stupid."

"Too late for that," he says, and hangs up.

Sidney's put his clothes back on. They're wrinkled, but Geno's pretty sure Sidney wouldn't put them back on if they weren't clean. "Dinner ready yet?"

"Twenty minutes," Geno says. "You okay, Sid? Regrets, worries?"

"I'm fine." Sidney shrugs. "I mean, weird. But fine."

Geno's going to have to tell him they're not going to do it again. Unless he doesn't actually want to, but Geno knows Sidney, and he profoundly doubts that Sidney's going to let himself be less than perfect.

"Keep eye on dinner, make sure no burning," Geno says, and escapes to the bathroom.

Unfortunately, he's long since practiced the art of showering quickly. Five minutes after he gets in, he's out and toweling his hair dry. When he gets back downstairs, Sidney's sitting at the kitchen bar, drinking an energy drink.

"Hard to sleep," Geno says, plucking it from his hand.

Sidney snatches it back. "Trust me, I'll sleep well tonight."

"You talk to Ovechkin lately?"

"Aside from all his phone calls?" Sidney shrugs. "I think he just calls me when he's bored, or something."

He's not going to get any useful information from Sidney. "Maybe," he says, and pulls the chicken out of the oven.

Sidney perks up. "That looks good."

"Has fat."

"I do sometimes eat things with a fat content, you know. It's healthy." Sidney fiddles with the drink can. "I'll do dishes."

That's way, way too close to domesticity for Geno's peace of mind. "Is no problem."

"Mario always has me help. I'm good at it." Sidney says it like he's making a case for his continued inclusion in the NHL.

Geno sighs. “Fine. We eat, you do dishes."

"And then -"

"We eat, not talk about feelings," Geno interrupts, grabbing the plates. His back is to Sidney, so he can't see Sidney’s expression. Probably for the best.

They eat at the table. If Sidney's nervous or feeling weird, he doesn't show it; he eats with matter-of-fact efficiency, eating his salad and then his chicken with strategic sips of water taken between them. At the end, he finishes his energy drink and sits back, looking at Geno. "That was good. Thanks."

Geno takes a huge bite of chicken to keep from having to answer. But Sidney, of course, just waits patiently, watching him.

"Never cook complicated things, but mother not here. Not like some Russians."

Sidney looks at him blankly.

"That was Ovechkin joke, Sid."

"Oh. I get it." Sidney smiles.

Geno fucking blushes. God, forget moving back to Russia; Geno's getting a cabin in Greenland and never leaving. "Anyway, is no big deal. You should eat more cooked food, order protein shakes always is bad for you."

"Not according to my trainer."

"Trainer prefers you be robot."

"That's not true. He works with muscle development, making sure my body gets stronger. If I was a robot -"

Geno reaches out without thinking and covers Sidney's mouth with his hand. Sidney instantly goes still, watching him. "Making jokes, Sid," Geno says finally.

"I'm nervous, I guess," Sidney says when Geno takes his hand away. He licks his lips. "It's weird, I didn't think I would be."

"Things back to normal tomorrow," Geno says. "Nervous is useless."

"Tomorrow? What about tonight?"

Sometimes Geno wishes Sidney wasn't smart. "Tonight is normal too."

"The sex was bad."

"Not bad. Awkward, you unsure, but not bad."

Then Sidney gets the determined look on his face that nearly always spells extra time on the ice for Geno. In this context, Geno knows exactly what he's going to say. He called it earlier, even."No, Sid."

"I didn't even -"

"You want go again. You think, you try harder, be better. Is true, practice makes better. You find someone else."

Sidney sits back. "Don't sugarcoat it or anything."

"I want to stay your friend, I can't be guinea pig." Geno speaks slowly, trying to make himself as clear as possible. He hardly ever gets frustrated with his English anymore, but this is one of those times. "You understand, Sid? Too important with us. Friendship what we have."

"We could keep doing it. It wouldn't change things, Geno, it doesn't have to. We already live in each other's pockets."

Geno almost winces from how naïve Sidney sounds. "More reason not to do it."

"Geno." Sidney leans forward again, looking determined. "Look. I want to get better; you' to it, right? If I say I won't get weird -"

It's good for Geno if Sidney thinks Geno's worried about his reaction, except for how Sidney's convinced he can control his every emotion. It's even more complicated because normally, he can. "Answer still no, Sidney."

Sidney shakes his head and leans forward, reaching forward to lay a hand over Geno's wrist. "One more time. Just one. Things can still go back to normal tomorrow, right?"

Geno doesn't want to give in. He doesn't want to prove Sergei and the others right, and he really doesn't want to end up hurting Sidney from his own stupidity. Which is why he almost pulls back.


"One more time," he says. "Then is over, you find other guy."

Sidney nods.

"We finish dinner, hang out. It happens naturally," Geno says. He's not sure if it will make it better or worse to give this thing the semblance of normality, but he's not going to let Sidney think sex is something he should rigidly pencil into his schedule.

"Sure, yeah, whatever you want."

Geno's pretty sure no one would blame him for leaning forward and kissing Sidney just then, so he does.

Sidney smiles a little when Geno leans back. "Finish your dinner. I'm going to go start Halo."

Finishing gives Geno plenty of time to dwell on how spectacularly stupid he's being, but it also means that he has time to brace himself for Sidney trying to kiss him when he gets out to the living room. Sidney doesn't go for it, though; he just nods a greeting and goes back to shooting people on the Xbox.

Geno doesn't know why he's still weirded out. They're friends who have sex; in Sidney's mind, that probably means there's no room or reason for them to be kissing.

Things are okay for the few hours that they play video games. Sidney bemoans Geno's lack of variety in sports drinks and drinks a ridiculous amount of water, so that he's constantly getting up to go to the bathroom. It's a habit all the guys have ribbed him for, and it's ridiculously soothing to Geno now.

"Hey," Sidney says tentatively, once they've wound down and are just hanging out on the couch, watching the NHL Network, "How are we going to do this?"

In answer, Geno picks up his hand and tugs it until Sidney scoots closer, and kisses him.

Sidney's stiff and uncomfortable at first. It makes sense. Geno knows Sidney's never made out on couches or held hands during movies. His life as a teenager was hockey day in and day out. So Geno takes it slow, letting Sidney figure out how to situate himself, neither of them pushing for anything beyond lazy kisses.

Finally Sidney raises his head and says, "This is where you're going to tell me sex isn't a series of steps, isn't it?"

"Yes," Geno says. "But here." He leans back so that he's lying on the couch, barely propped up by some pillows, with Sidney still straddling his lap. "Take shirt off."

Sidney does, and then leans down without asking to kiss Geno again. They're both getting hard, but Geno doesn't feel even the slightest bit of urgency; he's giving himself time to memorize the feel of Sidney's back, the sensation of his weight pressing Geno down into the couch. It's good, and even better is the fact that Sidney seems to agree.

When Sidney tugs at the bottom of his shirt, just barely showing impatience, Geno sits up and lets him pull it off. "I feel like a kid," Sidney says, smiling a little crookedly.

"No one mother here to interrupt," Geno says, pulling Sidney back down.

It's Geno who breaks first. Sidney nips his lip, just hard enough to hurt, and the slow burn gets a lot more urgent.

"You like that," Sidney says.

It's not a question, but Geno slips a hand between them to undo Sidney's jeans and says, "I young, play hockey, get used to pain."

"Right, because everyone who likes hockey also likes pain." Sidney rolls his eyes and gets up, taking his jeans off. "Do yours, too."

Geno's tempted to say no, but the way Sidney's looking at him makes him comply. They're both still wearing boxers when Sidney clambers back onto the couch.

"I could try blowing you again," Sidney says. He slides a hand uncertainly over Geno's chest.

"One more try won't make perfect."

"I know." Sidney shrugs. He's trying to look nonchalant, but he's not looking Geno in the eye. "Just, you know. I could. I liked it.”

Geno's pretty sure he should get a medal for saying, "Stand up." Once Sidney does, Geno gets up and says, "Now sit."

Sidney obeys. His knees are a little apart, his hands dangling between them; Geno kneels, picks up Sidney's hands and sets them on the couch, and pulls at Sidney's boxers until Sidney lifts up and lets him pull them off.

Once he's settled, he pushes Sidney's knees apart and looks up. Sidney's pale and just staring at him.

"No boys do this in bar bathrooms?"

"Oh, come on," he says, "you know the answer to that."

Geno does, and he likes it. He smirks a little and leans forward. "Stay on edge of couch."

"You're doing this just to fuck with me," Sidney says. "Wouldn't a bed be easier?"

"Probably," Geno says. But he's got memories of Sidney in bed already. He leans in, getting a hand around Sidney's dick and jerking him off slowly. Sidney stays still and silent - and then Geno licks the head of his dick, quick and hard, and Sidney makes a quiet whining noise.

"Will be good, no worries," Geno says.

"You've - a lot?"

Geno shrugs. "Not my favorite thing, but not least favorite. Can be fun."

"Jesus." Sidney closes his eyes. "How did I not know you liked guys?"

Because every guy he's been with for years, he'd rather was Sidney. The few guys he fucked were quick one-night stands. Geno just shrugs. "Is not headline news. Relationships too complicated."

"So you're, what, a player?"

"Trying to suck your dick, Sidney. Quit talking," Geno says, and moves his hand down so he can actually start sucking. He goes slowly at first, teasing, moving his tongue and cataloging Sidney's reactions. He's good at staying still - not surprising, considering how much time they both spend doing what trainers tell them. He's noisy - also not surprising, after earlier.

Geno's just okay with giving head most of the time, and it's not like this is any more physically enjoyable than usual, but he's hard anyway. Sidney's going to come soon if he doesn't pull back, though, and Geno's not ready for it to be over that quickly. So he sits back, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and grinning at the ridiculous look on Sidney's face.

"What you think?"

Sidney moves his hand for the first time since Geno put them down, combing his fingers through Geno's hair. "I think...I can't think."

Geno takes a second to enjoy the sight before he says, "Now we go upstairs."

"You made me sit up straight for nothing?"

"Nothing, I see. Blowjob is nothing? Next time -"

Well, fuck, Geno thinks as he snaps his mouth shut. That's awkward.

"Anyway," Sidney says, "I'll...yeah." He stands up, a little wobbly, and heads for the stairs. Geno spares time for a glance at the sky before he follows.

He stops Sidney at the top of the stairs, pressing him up against the wall and kissing him. Sidney goes easily, hands on Geno's hips, rocking against him a little but making no move to keep going.

Which is good, Geno thinks, because -

"Guest room."

Sidney gives him a blank look. "What?"

"Sheets in my room are gross. Unless you want to change them?"

"Fine, whatever." He walks into the closest of the two guest rooms, sitting on the edge of the bed. "You should take your boxers off."

"Fair's fair?"


Geno shrugs and pulls them down. The second he does, Sidney's up again, kissing him and pulling them over to the bed. He's not smooth about it, but they manage not to crash down and take out any major furniture, so Geno's calling it a win.

And now he can stretch Sidney out and kiss him: his stomach, his chest, his arms, not going anywhere specific, just enjoying it. He gets Sidney writhing again, touching Geno but not his own dick, and he keeps it up until he's kissing Sidney's stomach and Sidney whines, "Jesus Christ, Geno, fucking do something."

"Could fuck me," Geno offers offhandedly, sitting up.

Sidney sits up too, so quickly the top of his head clips Geno's chin. "What?"

"You heard."

"I don't -" Sidney actually manages to look pissed. "I don't know how."

"Is the point of this, Sidney. I show you. You worried?"

"Of course not."


Sidney glares.

"Okay." Geno can't keep himself from kissing Sidney again, long and slow. "I get stuff. Stay there."

"I'm fairly certain I'm not going anywhere," Sidney says as Geno leaves.

He grabs the lube and his cell phone, from his room, setting an alarm for tomorrow morning. He puts the phone on the guest room nightstand and gets back on the bed with Sidney. "You do this to self?" Sidney shakes his head. Of course not. "Is simple, more than you think," Geno says. "Just another part of body. Treat well, nothing goes wrong."

"That sound amazingly not hot," Sidney says.

"You'll see," Geno says. He sits back against the wall, spreading his legs. "Give me lube."

Sidney hands it over wordlessly. He hasn't done this to himself in a long time, and Sidney watching him, just him, makes it more awkward than hot. But he spreads his legs anyway, jacking himself a few times before he smears some lube on his fingers. "More better than not enough," he says. "On fingers, on hole."

"Eugh," Sidney says.

It makes Geno smile a little. "One finger at time," he says. He has to stop paying attention to Sidney then, sliding one finger in slowly, keeping his breathing as even as he can. He's done this too many times for the weirdness of the angle to even really register. He fucks himself slowly, more carefully than he would if he were alone; after a few silent, tense minutes he says, "When movement easy, another," and presses a second finger in.

The slow burn resolves itself to something substantial, something that has his breathing kicking up. He gets a hand on his dick again and presses back on his fingers and then forward into his hand, deliberately making every movement easy for Sidney to follow. "This for people who know what they doing," he says. "You do one at a time, I help you."

Sidney's bright red, and Geno realizes he's just referenced a time in the future again. Damn it, no, he can’t think like that. "Three good place to end, opens up enough," he says, and presses a third finger in.

No matter how much he stretches himself, the third finger always burns. He takes it, letting Sidney hear the way his breath hitches, watch the way he jerks himself off a little more quickly to compensate. And it feels good, even with Sidney watching him like he's studying for a test. Or maybe especially because of that.

He takes his hand off his dick and spills a little more lube on himself, letting it drip down carelessly. "Wet is good," he says. His voice is lower than usual, and he stutters over the last word as he presses his fingers in a little harder.

He doesn't want to fuck himself, not with Sidney watching like this; he wants to be able to feel Sidney before he's far enough gone that further pushing just kills his orgasm. So he pulls his fingers out and wipes them on a corner of the sheet before tossing Sidney a condom. "Always cover up."

"I knew that," Sidney says snottily, and rolls the condom on. Geno passes him the lube and watches carefully as Sidney pours it on. He's not shy about getting messy, doesn't try to scrimp on the lube or make squeamish faces as he slicks himself.

"Good," he says. "When you do this, pull fingers, then put dick in, no pausing. Got it?"

Sidney nods.

"Better, make other guy get you ready." Geno shrugs. "But is good. You learning. Now stick it in."

It has the desired effect: Sidney stares at him, baffled. Geno laughs. "Seriously. Stick it in. You want prettier words?"

"No, that's fine," Sidney says quickly. "Um. How do I -" He crawls forward awkwardly, stopping with his dick so close that it smears lube on Geno's thigh.

"Good," Geno says, and slumps down, letting his knees fall open. "Now, Sidney. Slowly."

Sidney nods and guides his dick in, anchoring himself with a hand on Geno's knee. He obeys Geno to the letter, moving ridiculously slowly even as he turns red and he tightens his grip on Geno's knee. Geno takes the slight pain, touching himself a few times but mostly just watching Sidney.

When he's all the way in, Sidney stops and looks at Geno for instruction. Geno's surprised by how tense he sounds when he says, "Okay. Now move."

"How -"

"You need someone to tell you how to skate when you a toddler? Move."

"I mean, I did, and I fell down a lot," Sidney says, but he reaches down and puts his hands on Geno's hips, gripping a little too tight. Slowly, painfully slowly, he pulls out, thrusting minutely.

They both make almost the same noise.

"Is good," Geno says.

"Doesn't it hurt?"

Geno shrugs. "I told you, hurt is okay."

"I don't want to be hurting you, though."

"Sidney." Geno tilts his hips. "Is good hurt. Now keep moving."

The movement draws a sharp breath out of Sidney. He nods and moves, still just barely thrusting, his eyes on Geno's face the whole time. The scrutiny makes Geno look away; he focuses instead on meeting Sidney's thrusts.

"Can move a little more," he says into the quiet.

Sidney looks down then, pulling out a little farther and pressing back in. It's uneven, not enough to really feel good, but Geno gives him time to figure it out. He barely notices that his eyes have slipped shut, he's concentrating so hard, until he reaches for his dick and Sidney gets there first.

"Should I do more?" Sidney says, stroking him slowly.

Geno opens his eyes. Sidney's bright red and Geno wants to start kissing him and never stop. He can’t get over the fact that Sidney's still so tightly controlled, like he's the one who's used to this.

"Yes," he says. "Harder. Move hips more. Can give up control - I tell you if you do too much."

"Okay, right. Sure," Sidney says, and -

Jesus. Geno can't bite back the noise he makes any more than he can hide the thrust of his hips. Sidney moves again, thrusts hard, and Geno meets him. "Good. Is - good," he says, swallowing hard.

Sidney nods - assent rather than affirmation, Geno's pretty sure - and keeps going with the exact same pace. It's hard, inexorable, and from the way Sidney's starting to shake it has to be working for him.

"Change angle," Geno says. "Here." He tilts his hips and Sidney grabs him, holds him at a bit of an angle, and just keeps thrusting. Geno has no idea what he must look like anymore, but he's starting to be too far gone to even care about the way Sidney's staring at him.

And then Sidney thrusts just a bit harder and he's hitting Geno's prostate, and Geno jerks and manages to say, "Good, keep going, good," before he's mostly just writhing and trying not to freak Sidney out by making too much noise.

But Sidney seems to get it, because he gets a hand around Geno's dick. And the angle changes enough that he's not hitting much of anything anymore, but it doesn't even matter; Sidney says, "Geno," and Geno's biting his lip and coming.

He forces his eyes open after. Sidney's shaking, but he's holding still, eyes wide.

"Keep going," Geno says. His voice sounds like he's been shouting. "Finish like this."

So Sidney does, going from a little scared to slack-jawed in - Geno doesn't even know how much time it takes him. He knows that instead of being annoyed or ready for it to be over, he's relishing every uncertain movement. Sidney's fingers on his hips are bruising and he's got his eyes closed, fucking Geno without a care for technique, and Geno doesn't want to be anywhere else.

When Sidney comes, he jerks and whines, same as before; only this time it's Geno's job to support him when he slumps forward, kissing him and letting him ride out the orgasm.

"Jesus," Sidney says quietly, a few seconds after he finishes.

"Pull out slowly," Geno says. "Condom in trash."

Sidney's disgustingly coordinated as he does it, going so far as to scoot to the edge of the bed so he can drop the condom directly in the trash. Geno tries and fails not to wince when he moves - and of course, Sidney's not looking away from him, so he sees. "You're sure you're okay?"

"Will feel it tomorrow," Geno says.

Sidney swallows hard and looks away.

He's still sitting on the edge of the bed, facing half away from Geno. Geno makes himself move enough to tug Sidney's shoulders. "Here."

Sidney lets himself be pushed into lying down. Feeling ridiculous, Geno bends over and kisses him. It's worth it for the way Sidney closes his eyes and tilts his head up, hands skimming carefully over Geno's back.

"See? Didn't break me," Geno says, and settles down next to him.

"You're going to fall asleep."

It's not a question, but Geno nods anyway.

"Okay," Sidney says. "Aren't you kind of, you know - messy?"

"Sure," Geno says, "but so is bed. Will clean in morning."

"We have practice at eleven."

Geno points to his phone. "Is covered. We up at seven." It's only eleven; seven is completely doable.

Sidney nods and closes his eyes. Geno can practically see him ordering himself to go to sleep.

He's hardly ever managed coherency ten minutes after coming, but this time he manages thirteen minutes exactly: the amount of time it takes for Sidney's breathing to even out, for him to be clearly asleep.

Once it's done, Geno rolls over so that his back is to Sidney and succumbs to sleep.

He wakes up a few minutes before his alarm. He's too warm, and it takes him a second to realize why: Sidney's curled up against his back. They're not quite spooning, but one of Sidney's hands is resting on Geno's thigh.

Geno closes his eyes, counts to ten, and gets up.

Sidney opens his eyes almost right away, alert. "What time is it?"

"Almost seven," Geno says.

Sidney nods and stretches, rolling his neck and spreading his legs. When he's done, he hops out of bed, ridiculously energetic. "I can make coffee."

"If you want. I clean up."

"Let me get the bedroom. It’s not like I’m going to stand around doing nothing while you work." Sidney leaves without getting Geno's assent, so Geno figures it would be pretty futile to argue.

He dumps the sheets in the laundry, picks up their scattered clothes, and then goes to take a shower. By the time he's done, the smell of coffee is wafting up the stairs.

Sidney's sitting at the kitchen bar, also in his underwear, eating a protein bar. "I don't actually drink coffee," he says, "but I poured you a mug."

"Thanks." Geno wants to ask what the catch is, but he knows better. He finds out, anyway, when Sidney gets up, pins him against the counter, and kisses him.

"I know, I know," he says when he pulls back. Geno can't speak. "Once we leave, that's it, we don't do it again. But it's nice to be able to do it in the meantime. It's not like I'll have many chances after this."

Geno finally finds his voice. "Can fix you up with nice boy."

"Uh-huh." Sidney steps away and gives Geno his coffee back. "That would be nice, actually. But he'd have to know shit about hockey.”

Geno forces a smile. "You got it."

Sidney goes back to eating his protein bar like nothing's happened.


No one bats an eye when they drive up together. They wouldn't; it's normal. Still, Geno feels like it should be written all over him. The misery hasn't kicked in yet, but he's sure it's just a matter of time.

Sidney and Dupuis are fucking around on the ice before morning skate and Geno's doing his best not to watch when Flower says, “Can I talk to you for a second?”

No good has ever come of that question, but Geno nods.

“I know,” Flower says, nodding over at Sidney.

Geno’s stomach plummets. “You –“

“Yeah,” Flower says.

“Is secret.”

“Fucking duh,” Flower says. “But Gonch tells me Ovechkin would like an update on his favorite soap opera."

It’s a quick enough subject change that Geno’s left blinking like an idiot. "Sidney not get awkward. No changes."

"Now, you see, Gonch tells me it is a complicated situation, and ‘no change’ does not sound very complicated. "


"You Russian bastard. No one else is going to tell me either, will they?"

"No," Geno says, "and we have game. Not wasting time with feelings." He skates away before Flower can formulate a response.

Coach is hard on them with drills that day, but Geno's fine with it. It gives him a reason not to think. When they're done, Coach says, "Bruins in a few hours. Get some rest if you need it, come back ready to play."

"Mind giving me a ride?" Sidney asks as they put their stuff away. "I'm going to go home and take the longest shower in the world."

Geno stiffens, wondering if that's a reference to last night - and then remembers that Sidney already showered, and one of his favorite things to do is revel in how hard he's worked that day. "Sure."

"Where are my - damn it, Flower, give me my bag back!"

Things are normal, Geno tells himself. They really are.

The drive home is awkward, in no small part because of how fucking quiet it is. Sidney seems content to just look out the window, and Geno's busy having a fit in his head, so they just don't talk. Once Geno's dropped Sidney off, he goes about trying to convince himself to stop being such an asshole. It mostly involves a lot of channeling his mother and reminding himself that he’s Russian, and getting hung up on some guy when he has hockey to play is the kind of attitude that led to some of his ancestors dying of exposure when they should have defeated winter through sheer grit alone. He's not totally sure his mother has ever used an argument that wasn't connected to national pride, actually.

It's not exactly inspiring, but it's better than nothing. He feels a hell of a lot more steady by the time he gets back to his place. He makes a late lunch and then takes his usual pre-game nap, waking up just in time to drive back to the Consol.

They're not really nervous, and that's what kills them in the end. It starts off well; Sidney sets Geno up for a fucking gorgeous goal, one that has Geno laughing like an idiot as they all hug. And it's simple - it's just hockey. Playing with Sidney is always just hockey. But then things more or less go to shit, and the Bruins beat them 4-1.

The mood in the locker room afterwards is predictably gloomy. Coach doesn't roast them - it's not his style - but he is disappointed, and that makes everyone quiet. Comrie claps Flower on the shoulder before he leaves, but that's about as much interaction as any of them have.

"See you later," Sidney says quietly, and leaves.

Geno's mother calls as he's getting into his car. "I heard you had a nightmare of a game."

He can't help but groan. "Honestly, it’s early where you are, how -"

"I also heard you're sleeping with that boy you like."

Oh Christ. "Come on, you know his name."

"I do." She sounds like she's planning on making sure Sidney's the worse for it. "That's a horrible plan, Zhenya. What do you think you're going to get out of it?"

He doesn't answer. He knows she'll just keep going.

She doesn't disappoint him. "We had to be tough to survive the regime, you know. We've always been tough. But there's a difference between doing your nation proud and just acting stupid and you, young man, are acting stupid. You think when your father chased after me I became lovesick and cried about it? No! We're Russians!"

"I gave myself this lecture earlier."

"Did it work?"

"Not really." He merges onto the highway. "You're welcome to keep going, though."

"You're not a stupid boy," his mother says, voice softening. "And yet Sergei tells me you're hiding your feelings."

"It's for the best, mother."

"That's not what he tells me."

"He's overinvested in the drama of it all."

"Well, wouldn't you be?"

Geno doesn't think so, actually, but he knows better than to tell her that. "I'm handling it."

"Are you, now."

He sighs. "Just give me a chance, would you?"

And his mother might worry about him, she might harangue him, but she trusts and loves him. So she says, "When we visit, that boy is going to eat my cooking. I don't care if you have to hold him down."

"He's just a friend."

"I won't scare him." She sounds sly, though. "You sound tired. I'll talk to you tomorrow, Zhenya."


He actually does feel better this time; his mother tends to do that to him. He's going to ban Sergei from calling her or something, though. It's bad enough to have half the Russians on this continent invested in his love life.

Not, he reminds himself, that it matters. As far as everyone else is concerned, his and Sidney's relationship has gotten as dramatic as it will ever be.

Sidney calls him obnoxiously early the next morning. "Do you have plans?"

"Finding boy can wait until noon, Sidney."

"Not that," Sidney says impatiently. "Christmas shopping."

Geno groans. "Jesus."

"We don't have to."

"No, no, is fine." Christmas shopping, because apparently Sidney doesn't know how to spend time alone. Or without Geno. "What time you thinking about going out?"


"Is only seven, Sidney. Stores not open yet."

"I know that. We could meet at eight or nine."

Geno can't help but wonder what Sidney was planning on doing if he'd said no. "Nine. I pick you up."

"Great, thanks. I'll see you then." Sidney hangs up.

Geno really needs to learn how to tell Sidney no.

When he shows up at Sidney's house, Sidney is showered and dressed. Geno feels sloppy next to him; he's wearing khakis and a polo shirt. And - "Is a lot of hair gel, Sid."

"People will probably want to take pictures," Sidney says.

"Think you hot shit. Maybe no one recognize you."

Sidney smiles. "Maybe."

Geno looks away, telling himself sternly not to be stupid. "We going to the mall, yes? Things I do for you."

Sidney turns beet red.

"So, mall," Geno says quickly, and escapes to the car.

But when Geno manages not to say things that imply they're still actively having sex, things are completely normal. Sidney treats Christmas pretty much the same way he treats everything having nothing to do with hockey; somehow it's Geno who's more familiar with how North America does Christmas. It means that he gets to watch Sidney be scared of the weird moving Santa figurines and keep him from talking loudly about when he found out Santa wasn't real in front of groups of small children.

But it's Sidney who says, when they've bought some things for their families, "Let's get some hot chocolate, eh?"

Geno glances over at the closest Starbucks. The only tables free are the tiny ones, where their knees will knock together. "Sure."

It's actually warm enough in the mall that Sidney's carrying his coat and Geno's wishing he hadn't put on an undershirt, but the hot chocolate is still good. Their knees do indeed knock under the table, but Sidney ignores it in favor of talking about the Flyers’ depth up front.

They're almost done with the hot chocolate when Sidney says, "So when do we get to see your parents again?"

Geno blinks. "We?"

"Yeah, they're coming out for awhile, right?"

Maybe the entire world is conspiring against him. "Just a little while. She talk to you?"

"No, why would she? I was just thinking, you know, Christmas is a family time."

"Will stay here. Fly parents out soon, after New Year's. Maybe fly up to Ottawa, have Christmas dinner with Sergei."

For a second he thinks Sidney's going to invite him to Christmas and he's going to have to say no, and it'll be ridiculous and awful. Instead Sidney nods. "That makes sense."

The subject is apparently closed; they fall quiet. Sidney's fiddling with his napkin, mostly just staring at the table. When he notices Geno watching, his hand goes still.

Geno's the one who breaks the silence by saying, "You gonna practice today?"

Sidney shrugs. "It's our only day off."

"Is not an answer."

"Probably," Sidney says. He doesn't smile when he says it, doesn't give any indication of self-mocking. But then, he wouldn't. "You?"

"Gonna sleep. We could go out."

It's about as subtle as throwing a boulder in a pond. Sidney says, "Actually, I was thinking about that, and."

Geno braces himself.

"I just think it would be a bad idea."

"Though you wanted someone." Which would be good for them both, Geno forcibly reminds himself.

"I’m playing really well, and my wrist has healed up and…I just don't want to start anything new, you know? I don't want to fuck with my routines."

And Geno's having trouble processing that, actually, because - "So losing virginity, sex with – is not fucking with routine?"

"I didn't say that," Sidney says irritably.

"You did."

"That was different. If I hadn't asked then, you wouldn't have done it, and I was tired of it, okay? It's not like I eat the same thing every day. I can make minor changes. I just don't want a relationship right now."

"You eat same thing. Maybe different flavor sports drink, new kind of candy bar, is all." And sex with Geno was minor. Well, of course, he tells himself irritably.

"That's not the point."

And Geno knows it. "Fine. You don't want boy, we don't get boy."

"Jesus, you don't have to sound mad about it."

Geno's pretty sure they're fighting, and he's absolutely positive he doesn't understand why. "How else I sound?"

"Neutral? It doesn't matter to you either way, except for saving you some work."

If he doesn't shut up, he's going to say something extremely stupid. So he says, "You right. Sorry. Want to go find present for Taylor?"

That makes Sidney perk up. "Yeah, totally. I saw this really great pair of athletic shoes, and she needs a new gym bag." He grabs their cups and goes to throw them away.

By the time they get to Dick's, Sidney has talked himself into buying half the store for Taylor. Geno steers him towards the shoes, a bag, and a few thermals before he says, "Leave some room in house for others, yes?" and goes to the checkout.

The guy at the register recognizes them, but he doesn't say anything but, "Next game will be better," as he's bagging their stuff. Geno appreciates it. This doesn't feel normal, because no part of his childhood involved going to the mall to do Christmas shopping, but it does feel comfortable, and Geno doesn't want to fuck with that.

Things are pretty calm leading up to Christmas, thankfully. They win three in a row and then it's Christmas Eve. Sidney's family is coming into Pittsburgh for Christmas, a few of the guys are flying home, and Geno and Sergei have big plans to call home from Ottawa and then eat out and reminisce. It'll be fun - and more importantly, at no point will it involve Sidney and Geno sharing the holidays, or even being in the same country.

He's not really surprised when they’re out at dinner and Sergei takes a sip of his beer and says, "You and Sidney seem to be doing well."

Geno shrugs. "We went back to being friends. It works."

"He's with his family?"

"They're in Pittsburgh."


Geno puts up with Sergei staring for a few seconds before he says, "You know, someday you're going to meet a girl and I'm going to dog your every step until you propose to her."

"Have I demanded you propose to Sidney? Anyway, everyone will. It's how things are done. We just want you to be happy."

"Every single one of you sounds like my grandmother."

Sergei shrugs. "Remember the feud with Alex? Sasha kept us updated on that. I still don't understand why you had to sleep with him. You know he's completely hapless about that kind of thing."

"We're friends. He sleeps with his friends."

"He's never slept with me."

"Ask Sasha sometime. He's got stories," Geno says.

"But seriously." Sergei sets his drink down and leans forward. "Any idiot can see you're not happy."

"Sidney -"

"Wouldn't notice unless you started crying in the middle of practice, and you know it."

"I don't see why I have to be happy," Geno says irritably. "For God's sake, my mother gave me a lecture on how to buck up and be Russian about it. My ancestors survived Siberia. I'm pretty sure I can survive having a thing for a teammate."

Sergei looks skeptical. "Are you saying Sidney Crosby is your Siberia?"

"No. That would be stupid."

"I think that's what you're saying."

"I think your food is getting cold," Geno says, and that's the end of that.

They hand a victory to Tampa Bay right after Christmas. Geno's not really surprised when Sidney taps his arm and says, "Hey, so, do you maybe want to - I could give you a ride?"

It's a way for Sidney to distract himself, is all. Geno bites the bullet, even knowing Sidney’s driving will make him certain he’s about to die. "Sure.”

Sidney smiles tightly. "I'll drive." Geno follows him wordlessly.

"So," Sidney says when they're sitting at a stoplight, "your parents are coming in soon, right?"

"Yes," Geno says cautiously. Nothing Sidney's ever said in that careful tone has ended well.

"Good. That's good." Sidney tightens his jaw and drums his fingers on the steering wheel. Geno tries not to yell at him to pay attention to the road. "That's, I love your parents. Awesome."

"What this about, Sid?"

"Nothing," Sidney says quickly.

"You know is only one nothing you avoid talking about with me, yes?"

"It's not actually that," Sidney says. "I mean, it is. But it's not."

Geno waits.

"I've just...been wondering, okay?"

Just what Geno needs. "Rethinking plan? Want to get boy?"

"You think that would make me stop thinking about it?"

Sidney doesn't even sound like he's pushing. He just sounds vaguely muddled. "Is because we lost," Geno says finally. "You thinking about other things, thinking about ways to fix life when can’t fix game."

He's expecting Sidney to deny it, not say, "That obvious, huh?"

Geno would answer, but Sidney's just taken a truly insane left-hand turn and he has to make his mental goodbyes.

"I just, I don't know. We're fine."

"Was smart not to keep going. Keep things normal."

"That's the thing. If we're fine now, we'd stay fine if we slept together again, wouldn't we?"

Geno clenches his right hand next to his seat, where Sidney can't see. "Don't know that."

"Well, no." He screeches into Geno's driveway. "But I just...think about it a lot."

He's not looking at Geno, and he's fidgeting, which means he's nervous. Geno sighs. "Sidney."

"I'm not saying we have to try again. I'm not saying that at all."

Except that he is, and Geno wants it, and - fuck it. "We could."

Sidney twists around in his seat to stare at Geno. His seatbelt is cutting into his neck. It looks painful, Geno thinks stupidly. "If you're fucking with me," Sidney says, and seems incapable of continuing.

"You think I would? Seriously, Sid?"

Sidney shakes his head, but after staring into space for a second he huffs a breath and gets out of the car.

For a second Geno thinks about telling him no again, apologizing and locking himself in his house, and possibly calling Alex for some soothing platitudes about the power of love. Or having Ilya talk him down from dramatically ending it all. Instead he follows Sidney up the front walk.

Sidney stands awkwardly aside when he unlocks the door - and then hovers on the threshold when Geno walks inside. Geno sighs. "Come in, Sid."

"We don't have to," Sidney says. "Seriously, man, I can, I don't know. Take some yoga classes, or something."

"Take yoga if want. Probably good for you," Geno says, and grabs Sidney's wrist, tugging him in. Once he's got him inside, he crowds Sidney back against the door.

Sidney takes a deep breath. "Shouldn't we talk about this?"

"No," Geno says, and kisses him.

And Sidney just relaxes. Nothing complicated, nothing remotely rehearsed, just Sidney slumping back against the door and kissing him back.

"Here, move back," Sidney says. Geno steps back, and Sidney pushes himself off the door and goes out into the kitchen.

Geno feels like a bit of an idiot as he follows him. Sidney gets a glass of water and drinks it while staring into space; Geno just kind of stands there awkwardly. Finally, Sidney says, "One more time?"

If he says yes, then it'll just be one more time. Sidney will get weirder and weirder, but he'll try to pretend he's completely normal. And eventually, one of them will break and Geno will say yes again.

So Geno just decides to go all in and says, "Smart to wait, let things happen. Will see how things go."

Sidney narrows his eyes, still staring at the wall. "That could work."

"If you plotting strategy -"

"Only a little."

"Any plotting too much."

"People can think ahead, that's normal."

"Stalling normal, yes."

"I'm just thinking things through. I've never done friends with benefits before. It's not sports, I might screw it up."

Not as much as Geno's screwing it up. "Not too complicated. We friends, have sex."

"Right." Sidney puts his glass down and turns to Geno. "Okay, fine. I'm ready. So?"

"First have to relax." Geno closes the space between them and cups the back of his head, bringing their foreheads together. He hopes Sidney doesn't notice that he's gone a little shaky. "Is just sex. Not end of world."

"Right, sure, I know that," Sidney says. He closes his eyes, breathing slowly and deliberately.

It solidifies Geno's suspicion that he was running on sheer determination the last time they did this. Geno kisses him slowly, rubbing circles on the back of his head, making sure Sidney leans into him instead of pulling away. And once again Sidney relaxes - marginally at first, but then more and more, so that when they pull apart he's half-smiling.

"See?" Geno says.

Sidney nods.

"What you want to do?"

"I could try blowing you again."

He looks hopeful. Jesus. "Won't say no to that."

"I didn't think so. I mean, I couldn't have been horrible. Well, not too horrible, I mean, how bad does a blowjob have to be before you can't enjoy it?"

"Might be surprised."

"Yeah, maybe," Sidney says, and kisses Geno again.

He's getting better at it - not that he was bad to begin with, but now that he's less worried, now that what they're doing has a clear definition, he's obviously more comfortable. And careful, too, his hands sliding up and down Geno's back with measured deliberation, messing up Geno's hair and pressing a little harder when Geno moves into the touch.

It's still Geno, though, who moves Sidney back against the wall. Sidney tilts his hips, rocking slowly against Geno, and Geno pretty much dies.

"Good, yeah?" Sidney says.

"Don't need answer, see me being idiot," Geno says, moving to kiss his neck. He can't give him a hickey - and they're not in secondary school anyway - but he can bite lightly, going back to the same spot that made Sidney shiver before. It's ridiculously easy to get Sidney making noise, the rhythm of his hips stuttering as he curls his fingers in Geno's hair.

After a few minutes of it, Geno reaches down and holds Sidney's hips until he stops moving. "Finish too early, miss all fun."

"Yeah, sure." Sidney narrows his eyes at Geno. "Wait, are you -" He reaches down, palming Geno's dick.

Geno's pretty sure the noise he makes is an appropriate answer. Sidney pulls his hand back, looking smug. "So. Bedroom?"

"Bedroom," Geno says.

He's the one who goes first this time, and he's a little surprised when Sidney tugs him in for a kiss before they even get to the room. He goes with it, though, lets Sidney wind him up before he says, "Bedroom, carpet will itch."

"Do people seriously have sex on the floor?"

"People have sex anywhere."

"I'm a fan of beds, is what I'm saying."

"All your experience, beds are best? Makes sense."

"Very funny, asshole." Sidney grins. It's as goofy looking as ever, and it makes Geno kick his bedroom door shut and tug at the hem of Sidney's shirt.

They lie in bed for awhile, shirtless and lazily making out. It's like the time on the couch, only better; Geno has the space to stretch Sidney out and Sidney's relaxed enough to go for what he wants, some of which involves pushing Geno around a little. It's great enough that it takes Geno awhile to realize he's grinding up against Sidney, kissing him a little more urgently.

"Okay, hang on," Sidney says, and fumbles with Geno's belt. Geno whacks his hands away and does it himself, lifting his hips to pull his pants off. Sidney watches him closely, hyper-observant as ever, pulling off his own pants and then settling himself awkwardly near Geno's feet.

"I don't actually know," Sidney says, and tilts his head. "Okay, so."

"Here," Geno says, holding a hand out. Sidney goes with him, nuzzling his neck and breathing deeply. Geno can roll with it. "Again moving down, see?" he says, and pushes Sidney down gently.

Sidney goes. And after that - the thing is, Geno's not even sure if it's good head, if you can call clumsy and enthusiastic legitimately good. But Sidney's enjoying it, thrusting his hips into the mattress even as he blows Geno, and all Geno can do is pet his hair and try not to move too much.

But this time Sidney stays down, even when Geno says, "Move up, Sidney, come in mouth taste awful." He waves a dismissive hand even as he grinds down against the bed, and that's it, Geno's done. He watches Sidney when he comes, fighting to keep his eyes open; Sidney closes his own eyes and swallows like someone told him it was crucial to keeping a winning streak going.

Maybe he thinks it is, Geno thinks, and bites back a laugh.

"It wasn't that bad," Sidney says when he pulls back. "I mean, it's not like I want to eat it, but your dick tastes like, you know. Dick. So whatever."

Geno just shakes his head and kisses him. And Sidney's hard against his leg, shaking the tiniest bit, so he reaches down and jerks him off. He's moving more slowly than he suspects Sidney wants, and he doesn't know him well enough to be sure if that's a good thing or not - but judging by the noises Sidney's making, it's just fine.

"Jesus," Sidney says when he finally comes, his face mashed awkwardly against Geno's neck.

"We change sheets again," Geno says, but he doesn't move.

Sidney snorts. "Right, you're totally going to do laundry right now."

Geno would flip him off, but they're lying too close for that. Instead he smacks Sidney's shoulder.

Sidney stiffens. Geno expects him to move, and he's fine with it, because it's not like he's a stranger to the alien way Sidney approaches touching. But instead he relaxes, muscle by muscle like he's in PT. "We can lie here for awhile."

"You don't want."

"It's cool. Hang on." Sidney wiggles around and grabs Geno's PSP. "There, see? I have something to do."

"You ruin my scores, you pay," Geno says, and closes his eyes.

He wakes up forty-five minutes later. Sidney's on the opposite side of the bed, and he's tucked the blankets up around Geno so much Geno can barely move his arms. It's a weird gesture, and it makes Geno smile in spite of himself.

"I don't know how you're a hockey player, you're so damn lazy," Sidney says.

Geno flips him off this time. "I shower, you order food. Nothing gross," he says, and goes into the bathroom without waiting for a reply.

Sidney stays the night, but goes home to grab his stuff before practice. Before he leaves, he grabs Geno and kisses him, quick and hard. The message is pretty clear: they're doing this again.

Geno spends that night alone; he's pretty pleased with it.

The next night they beat Atlanta and it's fucking great, and Geno's not really surprised when Sidney says, "So. We could go back to my place?"

Geno's tired, but he nods. When they get back to Sidney's house, though, Sidney just wanders into the living room. Geno's left feeling profoundly awkward. "Are we...?"

"We can," Sidney says, "but I mean, we can also just." He shrugs. "Hang. We're still friends."

Still friends, right. Jesus, Geno should have hooked up with someone who isn't Sidney Crosby. "Sure," he says, and sits down.

Sidney mirrors the action. "Mario Kart?"

He's never known Sidney not to be hypercompetitive about this kind of thing, and sure enough, Sidney's first words once they pick up the controllers are, "Sure you're not going to fall asleep, Geno? You're used to being last, it doesn't matter how much it's by, right?"

"Is out of pity. You need something not hockey to win at."

"I'm going to light you up," Sidney says, and hurls himself to the side in reaction to a curve.

He's not horrible, but he's not the greatest ever. The way he throws himself around, fighting to win, is hilarious. Geno doesn't even realize he's smiling until Sidney says crabbily, "What?"

"You bad loser," Geno says, and goes back to trying to kick his ass.

"Fuck off," Sidney says, and restarts the track.

They do the same track three times before Geno says, "Is enough, we do something else." Sidney scowls but acquiesces, getting up to change the game.

But Geno has a better idea, and he crowds behind Sidney, putting his arms around Sidney's waist. "Parents come in two days. Mother cook for you, say you need taking care of."

Sidney's still until Geno brushes his lips against his neck, and then he relaxes. They're going to have to work on touching, Geno thinks absently, or he'll at least have to know when Sidney doesn't want to be touched. Then it hits him what he's thinking and he stiffens and pulls away.

"Hey, wait," Sidney says, turning and pulling him close. And that's it, they're kissing and Geno's gone.

They just exchange handjobs that night. Sidney's weirdly jumpy, and if Geno's being honest with himself, so is he. When they're done, they fall asleep together, not touching. When Geno wakes up in the morning, Sidney's already downstairs.

He thinks it could get comfortable. He hopes it does, anyway.

They have New Year's off, which is a pretty great stroke of luck. Geno's parents are due to get in on New Year's Day, so he's planning on leaving the bar the guys are all going out to a little early. He's about an hour away from putting on jeans and leaving when Oksana calls.

"If you're going to lecture me about Sidney, believe me, I've already heard it."

"Why would I care about your relationship drama?" she says.

"Everyone else seems to."

"Everyone else hasn't dated you, Zhenya."

Geno relaxes. "So?"

And she's off. "Anna's gone off and gotten into art school, and her mother..."

Half an hour later, Geno's contributed a few syllables and Oksana's caught him up on gossip about every person he knows in the country. It's comforting, and he knows it's supposed to be; his mother, or possibly a friend, called her and told her what's going on. He honestly doesn't care, though. Oksana's got his back. She always has.

He's about to tell her about Alex's forays into romance novels when his doorbell rings. It's late enough that he says, "I've got to go."

"Say hi to your boy for me," she says, gently enough that Geno knows that, yeah, someone called her.

"Will do," he says, and hangs up.

He has no idea why he's surprised to see Sidney on his doorstep.

"Happy New Year?" Sidney says, shrugging.

"Not yet," Geno says. "I grab wallet. Come in?"

Sidney bobs his head and comes in. Geno sighs, grabs him, and shakes him gently. "Is what I worried about, Sidney. Being weird."

"I'm not being weird," Sidney says quickly.

"Sure," Geno says. "You want this?"

Sidney makes a face and Geno's honestly not sure if that's a yes or no. He shrugs and goes to get his wallet.

"Wait, hang on," Sidney says, and he's following Geno and tugging the back of his shirt.

And fuck, whatever, Geno doesn't care. He turns and kisses Sidney.

When they pull apart, Sidney says, "So this isn't normal, right?"

"You want stop?"

Sidney makes the same uncertain face, but this time he pairs it with, "No."

"Guys expecting us."

"No, I meant - when I come in, if no one's around, I can kiss you." Sidney shrugs. "We don't have to stop that."

Now Geno feels stupid. "Ah. Well. We go now."

They head out. By the time they get to the bar, Flower's already hitting on two girls who look like they might be related, and Talbot and Dupuis are doing shots. It's great, relaxed, and Geno doesn't bat an eye when Talbot says, "Fuck, Geno, you keep dragging this kid around, you think we want him here?"

"Fuck you, I'm not the one who'll be hitting on the beer bottles before the night's out," Sidney says, sliding in next to Dupuis.

Geno relaxes marginally. This is good. He's going to call his parents after they leave, and Talbot really will make out with an inanimate object. Things will be fine.

Except during the countdown, Sidney somehow slides through the crowd to Geno's side. And it's completely unfair that he suddenly gets good at subtlety right now, just in time to reach down and, unnoticed by anyone around them, squeeze Geno's wrist.

"Happy fucking New Year!" Flower yells.

Geno sighs and bumps against Sidney, sliding a hand to his back. Sidney presses back against it.

Two seconds later they're apart again and Dupuis is shoving beers into Geno's and Sidney's hands. Sidney toasts no one in particular, and Geno watches Sidney's throat as the drink goes down.

Sidney follows him home. It's three AM and Geno's parents will be at the airport in just under twelve hours, and the last thing that Geno needs is Sidney at his house. But Sidney's just drunk enough to be relaxed and a little sloppy. He presses Geno back against the wall right outside the bedroom, kissing him, pushing Geno's hands aside when he tries to touch Sidney. It's a new development, and Geno's extremely okay with it.

"Let me," Sidney says, and drops to his knees.

Geno shakes his head and tugs at the hand Sidney's got on his hip. "Don't have to."

"I want to." Sidney frowns a little. "I, look. I want to. Is that okay?"

Geno has to close his eyes briefly. "Yes. Is okay."

So Sidney just goes for it, simple as that. And when he's done, he gets to his feet right away and manhandles Geno into the bedroom, pushing him down on the bed and straddling him.

Geno's not sure what he's going for - it's not like Sidney doesn't know how he gets after he comes - but he's more than willing to kiss Sidney back, to try to jerk him off and then get his hand pushed away for his troubles. Sidney reaches down to do it himself, one hand on Geno's shoulder for balance, and he's grinding and staring at Geno with a bizarre kind of concentration that Geno's entirely unfamiliar with.

When Sidney comes, it's like something snaps: he leans forward and rests his head on Geno's shoulder, completely boneless. Geno pats his back awkwardly a few times before finally saying, "Okay?"

"I just, I don't know." Sidney lets out a soft breath. "You do a lot of the work."

"You new at this."

"So? I wanted to pick up some of the slack." And with that, Sidney stands up and goes into the bathroom.

Geno shakes his head, stretching out a little. He's awake enough that when Sidney comes out he's going to wipe himself down, but he really does have to sleep. He's not even close to drunk enough to think that meeting his parents at the airport both tired and hungover is a good idea.

"So you'll call me, yeah?" Sidney says when he gets out of the bathroom.

Geno blinks up at him. "I will?"

"Your parents are coming," Sidney says patiently. "I'm not staying over. So you'll call when you want to hang."

Oh. Well. Geno hopes he's not actually showing how disappointed he is; Sidney's got a point. "Sure. Will call."

"Okay." Sidney walks up to the bed, bends down, and kisses Geno briefly. "See you," he says, and leaves.

Geno blinks up at the ceiling. In a way, it's nice to know that the change in their relationship hasn't made Sidney any less of a weird drunk.

His parents arrive the next day. They're staying for a month, so the first thing Geno's mother says when he sees her is, "You didn't bring friends to help you with the luggage?"

"Hello to you too," Geno says dryly.

His mother laughs and hugs him, kissing his cheek. "It's good to see you."

"You, too." Geno hugs his dad, clapping him on the back, and they go off to the baggage claim.

Geno's expecting a million questions about his personal life, because that's just kind of how his parents are - and he's sure his mother calls Sergei and asks for thirdhand news more often than either of them will admit. But they just tell him about their book club and plans for their garden, and it's so easy and comfortable to be able to talk with them that Geno honestly can't stop smiling.

His mom makes dinner that night. It's early, because he's got morning skate the next day, but they have a few drinks. Finally, his mom says, "Now, be honest. What are you doing with that boy?"

Geno can't keep himself from turning bright red.

"She didn't mean it like that, Zhenya," his father says. "But you know how hockey treats people who -"

"It's nothing," Geno says quickly. "We're friends, that's it."

"That's not what Alexander tells us."

"Ovie will tell you anything if you stand still long enough. We're friends," Geno says firmly. "He doesn't think of me that way, and I don't want him to."

His mother clucks her tongue. "Don't lie."

Geno slumps back and groans.

"I don't want the details," his mother says. "That would be a bit much for my heart, I think. But I do want to know where you think your relationship is going. How worried do your father and I need to be?"

Geno looks to his dad, but his dad raises his eyebrows and says, "I'm curious too, son."

"You don't need to be worried," he says finally. "What we're doing, I got us into, and Sidney - he's interested in hockey and that's it."

"Hockey and you," his mother says darkly.


"Yes, yes. Oksana said you sounded lovesick, you know, and I trust her even more than I trust your friends."

"You shouldn't trust any of them," Geno says. "They've constructed a story that has nothing to do with reality. Just -" He can't think of anything else to say. He's lying through his teeth, and he really doesn't want to try to explain friends with benefits to his mother. Not in the least because his mother tends to expose terrifying amounts of experience with debauchery at really inconvenient and embarrassing times.

But his parents do actually know him, and when he falls silent and stares at the table his mother says, "Oh, honey. We'll let it lie for now," and gets him another drink.

While she's up, Geno's father punches his shoulder and says, "Stay strong for Russia."

Geno has got to find drinking buddies who aren't his parents and don't care about Russia or Sidney Crosby.

He and his parents have always been close, but Geno's also always been pretty independent, so it's easy to leave the next day for morning skate. He doesn't have a hangover, but it's a near thing. Still, he's happy enough that he doesn't even care when Flower takes one look at him and says, "Your mom's going to drink you under the table one day."

"Mother could drink anyone under table," Geno says, and goes to suit up.

Sidney nods at him, but mostly he's just quiet. Geno's too tired from last night to give it much thought - especially not once they get on the ice. He's playing pretty much normally, but Sidney's on fire, to the point where after awhile, Coach says, "Tone it down, Sidney, save some for tonight."

Sidney passes hard to Geno and says, looking at Geno, "Got it."

Geno feels like he's missed something, but he's not sure what. So he just keeps playing, ignoring everything about Sidney that's not directly connected to the plays they're running.

When they're ready to go home, Sidney says, "Will your parents be at the game?"

"Not all. This one yes."

"Can we." Sidney pauses. "We're still going to hang, yeah?"

"Parents don't want me around all time. Say I get in way."

"In your own house?"

"You have mother, yes? Mothers like that."

Sidney smiles a little. "Yeah. So. See you at the game."

Geno's mother is going to kill him, he thinks as he reaches out and catches Sidney's shoulder. "Your place. We go back there."

Sidney does a double take, and Geno does his level best to project calm. "If you want," Sidney says finally.

Geno does want. More than - whatever. That's a thought he's had so many times he's starting to bore himself. "Yes."

"Okay. Um." Sidney jangles his keys. "Well, you know which way my car is."

On the way out to the car Sidney keeps up a running commentary on everything he's read or heard about hockey in the past forty-eight hours. It's an impressive amount; even more impressive is the sheer amount of whining Sidney manages to fit into his commentary. But Geno's used to feeling fond of all that by now.

The parking garage has emptied out by the time they get there. Geno makes a split-second decision and crowds Sidney against the car.

"Hey, what, not here," Sidney says, but Geno kisses him and he shuts up.

He makes it slow, easy, with as little urgency as possible. When he pulls back, Sidney's flushed and breathing hard.

"That's - okay, yeah, never mind. Do what you want," Sidney says.

Geno has to kiss him again after that. This time, they're both panting by the end of it.

"We have to go home," Sidney says weakly.

"I blow you there," Geno says. "Make you make noise."

"Your accent's ridiculous and that's not hot." Sidney makes a face, as if to punctuate the point, and gets into the car.

Geno smiles and follows. They barely make it into Sidney's house before they're kissing again, Sidney pressed against his front door, hands fumbling with Geno's belt. Geno would help him, but he's busy kissing Sidney's neck and pushing Sidney's own jeans down.

"Need more practice," Geno says, and drops to his knees.

"Jesus fucking - wait, hang on, I have a question," Sidney says when Geno licks his dick.

Geno stops and looks up at him.

"Tomorrow - we have a day off, and it made me think." Sidney flushes bright red. "Not tomorrow, but when we have another day off, you'll fuck me, yeah? When you're not with your parents."

Well, fuck. "Be awkward if was with."

"Hah, hah, very funny. Answer me."

"Yes," Geno says immediately. "Yes, Sidney."

Sidney nods and puts a hand in Geno's hair. "Okay, good."

Why he needed to ask that right now, Geno doesn't know. He doesn't really care, either; he's got more important things to do.

Sidney's going to have bruises from where Geno's gripping his thighs as he makes Sidney come. Fortunately, they won't be identifiable as anything but a symptom of life lived as a hockey player.


He takes a bad hit and goes down that night. It's nothing huge, but he does have a cut down the left side of his face, starting at his temple and ending just above his jaw. They want to make sure he's not concussed, so he's out for the rest of the game. He doesn't think much of it until Sidney more or less storms in and grabs his jaw.

"Have stitches," Geno says, knocking his hand away.

Sidney doesn't apologize, just examines him. "I'm driving you home," he says finally. "You won't practice tomorrow."

"Probably no concussion, Sidney."

"I don't care," Sidney says. "I cannot even tell you how much I don't care. Okay?"

Geno pulls away. "Is hockey. People hurt."

"And then their teammates help them out, so come on, grab your stuff."

"Parents drive home."

"Then I'll walk you to the car," Sidney says through gritted teeth.

And, okay, Geno's seen Sidney in a temper enough times to know he should shut up and go along with it. So he nods and follows Sidney back to the locker room, grabbing his bag and ducking a few well-placed mother hen comments.

His parents meet them outside the player's area. Sidney goes stiff the second he sees them.

"Sidney," his mother says. "Good to see. Take care of Zhenya?"

"Well, I didn't let him carry his own bag, but he's stubborn."

"Is true. What can do? Is his way," his mother says. She takes the bag from Sidney and claps his shoulder. "You come for dinner. Geno tell you."

"Right." Sidney nods at his dad. "So. I'll see you."

Geno's kind of glad he's distracted by how much his face hurts. It's probably better for all involved.

"Goodbye," his father says.

Sidney nods again, opens his mouth, frowns, closes it, and beats a quick retreat.

"He's an odd boy," Geno's father says.

God. "I'm injured. No prying. Let's just go home."

They do hold off on the prying, actually, until they get home. At which point his mother says, "Are you sure about him, son?"


"He seemed sullen. And you're the opposite of sullen."

"He's not sullen. He's just..." Geno can't actually think of anything to say. "He's just Sidney."

"Well, we know that." His mother clucks her tongue. "Sidney Crosby, honestly."

Geno doesn't really have the energy to do anything but shrug.

"Anyway," his mother says finally, "to bed with you. We'll see about going out for breakfast tomorrow."

Half the places in the city would give her breakfast free, if they knew who she was. Geno's still not sure how the city came to love his parents so much, but he's definitely not complaining. "Yeah, sure, definitely."

"Get upstairs," his mother says, and pats his shoulder. It's about as affectionate as she's going to get. Next up will be chewing him out for being a bad patient, so Geno heads upstairs.

Once he's in his boxers and drowsing off, he lets himself think about how weird Sidney's been lately. It's not like he could have missed it, really, given all the signs. But Sidney's as opaque as ever. For all Geno knows, he's frustrated with his inability to score even more than he already has, or something. It's not really Geno's problem.

Being friends with benefits, Geno reminds himself, does not make it his problem.

He falls asleep thinking about that; if he dreams, he doesn't remember when he wakes up the next morning.

They end up going out to breakfast, and it's nice and easy; Geno tells stories about the games his parents didn't watch, the guys, anything that really comes to mind. It's nice. He talks to his parents all the time, but this is different. He gets to see their reactions to his stories and it's just...really nice. Sometimes he wishes he was like Alex and had just shipped his parents over from Russia.

When they're done with breakfast, they head back to the house. They're about halfway there when Geno looks away from his dad's horrifying driving long enough to see a text from Sidney. Your mom promised to feed me?

He's more than a little surprised; it's not like his mom isn't kind of terrifying, and Sidney has to know she knows about them. But he texts back, if want, she cook tonight.

Great. I'll be there. Thanks.

Geno can't help but wonder if Sidney's feeling as awkward as his texts sound.

"Sidney's coming over for dinner," he tells his mom as they pull into the drive.

"Should I be prepared to grill him about his intentions towards my son?"


"Oh, fine. I won't be too bad." She glares at him. "You deserve a nice boy who loves you."

"I -" Have Sidney, and it has to be enough. Geno just doesn't say anything.

"Oh, my boy," his mother says quietly, and pats his shoulder.

Geno's dad parks without saying anything, but as Geno's getting out, he puts a hand on Geno's arm and says, "If I need to, I still have the skills the army gave me."

Which, honestly, is pretty terrifying.

Sidney shows up fifteen minutes early, wearing a collared shirt and slacks and carrying a birthday cake.

Geno blinks at it. Okay, so it doesn't say happy birthday, but it's got sprinkles and pink flowers.

"It was all they had," Sidney says. "I mean, I was going to bring wine, but I thought it might be kind of insulting?"

"Come," Geno says, standing aside.

Sidney hands him the cake and brushes past him. Geno's left staring at it, trying to process the twisting feeling in his stomach.

His mother greets Sidney with an almost terrifying level of affection, sneaking in a joke about boiling him for dinner in spite of her admittedly broken English. Sidney laughs nervously and takes the drink they offer him, setting it down after barely sipping it.

It's tradition for them to keep their mother company while she cooks, so Sidney and Geno sit at the table with Geno's father, who raises his eyebrows and nods at Sidney. Sidney, to his credit, doesn't look all that terrified.

That could just be because he's working hard at not feeling much, though. Geno knows how he gets when he's nervous.

"We eat cake after," Geno's mother says when she puts the food on.

"It's probably sort of terrible," Sidney says. "I mean, we don't have to, I just...thought I should bring something?"

Geno's mother smiles. "You bring vodka, we throw you out."

"I figured." Sidney laughs, high and nervous.

His mother's made her pelmeni , and Geno gets kind of absorbed in how delicious it is and forgets to monitor Sidney's every movement. And actually, maybe it's a good thing; Sidney relaxes and starts joking around a little, and if it's not comfortable, then it's at least not hideously awkward.

Or at least, it's not that bad until they finish and Geno's mom says, "Sidney, help with dishes."

Geno's tempted to protest, to say something stupid like, "You don't even speak English well, how are you going to threaten him?" But that would just result in an even more embarrassing talk, so Geno leaves with his father.

"He's a good boy," his father says as they're walking to the living room. He sits in Geno's favorite chair, folds his hands over his stomach, and looks at Geno sternly. "But are you good for each other?"

"Not really," Geno says.

"I know you don't want to talk about it, but Zhenya, he -" His father shakes his head. "That boy. He's the most famous hockey player in the league."

Geno's "Fucking hell, I know" must come through in his expression, because his father laughs. "Well, don't worry, your mother will terrify him all you need."

Geno flops down on the couch. They've been making their way through American Idol, so Geno turns that on, and he and his father sit in silence. Geno tries and totally fails not to try to listen to the talking in the kitchen.

When Sidney comes out, he's white as a sheet. Geno fights the urge to apologize, but he's saved by Sidney staring at the screen, looking vaguely constipated, and saying, "Is that American Idol?"

"Is fun," Geno says. "Sit down." But his mother sidles out from behind Sidney and takes the other armchair before Sidney can, leaving the other half of the couch for Sidney.

Sidney's better at people than Geno realized, because he looks at Geno's mom, makes another face, and then sits next to Geno. His posture is stiff again, and from the way he's staring at the screen, Geno's pretty sure he's not paying a bit of attention to the actual TV.

They're not sitting on opposite ends of the couch (seriously, what did his mother say?), but they aren't touching or anything. But after about fifteen minutes of Sidney obsessively jiggling the leg closest to Geno, Geno can't stop himself from putting a hand on his leg and saying, "Okay. Stop."

His leg stills instantly. Sidney glances at him and then returns to staring at the TV. Geno thinks, really hard, about taking his hand off Sidney's leg. He wants to. At any second now, he's going to do it.

Ten minutes later, he's still touching Sidney, and Sidney hasn't pulled away. He's also managed to make eye contact with his mother, who's made it pretty clear that she thinks they should cuddle, or something, and if he pulls away his life won't be worth a nickel.

They start another episode, and Sidney relaxes minutely, shifting a little so that Geno's hand rests more naturally. Geno tightens it a little, glancing at Sidney; to his surprise, Sidney looks over at him.

And the look Sidney's giving him - Geno knows that look. It's the, "Oh God, parents" look. Geno dies a little.

Sidney doesn't lean into the touch any more or anything like that. But he doesn't twitch and he does relax enough to laugh at Geno's mom's jokes.

After the third episode, Sidney glances at the clock and says, "So, I should go," and stands up. He shakes Geno's dad's hand and kisses his mom's cheek, saying, "Thanks for having me."

"Walk him to the door, Zhenya," Geno's mother says.

Sidney raises his eyebrows when Geno stands up. "That formal, eh?"

"Is parents," Geno says with a shrug. "Come on." He motions towards the door.

They walk down the hallway together. Sidney's almost made it to the door when he turns to look at Geno - but he's too close to the stairs and he almost hits his head, so Geno braces a hand on his back and nudges him forward a little.

Which, since Sidney's turned around, actually makes him take a step towards Geno.

"Um," Sidney says, blinking up at him.

Geno takes a step back. "Goodnight."

"Thanks," Sidney says. He glances around Geno; they're far enough down the hall that the living room isn't even visible. So it's completely to be expected, totally and utterly predictable, that Sidney takes another step forward and kisses him, and that Geno can't make himself move away.

It's a brief, sweet kiss. Geno would honestly prefer that it be a hell of a lot longer and dirtier, because that would be easier to understand. Then again, they're sleeping together now; it makes sense that Sidney would decide to do his talking with kisses.

Wait, now that he thinks about it, that doesn't make any goddamn sense. Geno is so out of his depth it's not even funny.

"Goodnight," Sidney says, and grabs his coat. He's avoiding Geno's gaze now, which in Geno's admittedly biased opinion is complete bullshit. But he doesn't have time to say anything, because by the time he gets himself together, Sidney's gone.

"One kiss, a minute in the hallway? Zhenya, you're never going to keep that boy like that," his mother says.

"Not right now, he's upset," his father says.

"He was clearly -"

"We're friends," Geno says firmly. At least he's hyper-aware of just how fucking ridiculous he sounds.

"Oh, of course, how could I have been mistaken." But that's all his mother has to say on the subject, so Geno just lets it drop.

He doesn't totally realize how keyed up he is until his parents go to bed. He's cleaning up the last of the day's trash, throwing cans away and straightening cushions, when he realizes he's acting like a complete lunatic and sends himself up to his room.

When he's stripped down and lying in bed, he lets himself think about the evening. The awkward interlude in the living room, dinner, Sidney showing up on his doorstep - Sidney in general. Sidney kissing him.

Jesus, someday Geno's going to react to stress in ways that don't involve getting hard. Not right now, though. Geno takes a deep breath and slides his hand down his stomach, letting all non Sidney-related thoughts fade away.

It's pretty stupid, this whole obsession. He can't even remember a point of time during which Sidney wasn't someone he jerked off to, once he moved to Pittsburgh, but lately Sidney's been pretty much it. Normally he'd at least pretend to care, but with the stress slowly unwinding in him, he doesn't think he could make himself think about anything else.

He knows he's in trouble because it isn't even a specific fantasy. It's just images of Sidney biting his lip, laughing at something, fuck, even yelling at the refs on the ice. The way he looks when he's sucking Geno off, the stupid noises he makes. The fact that he's going to let Geno fuck him.

Especially that last one. Geno bites his lip and speeds up a little, trying to imagine what his face will look like, how he'll feel. Whether he'll quit thinking long enough to really let go. And, fuck, what Geno's dick will look like going in him, how flushed Sidney will get, the bruises he might get to leave on Sidney's ass.

When he finally comes, it's to that same thought of fucking Sidney into the mattress, watching him come with Geno in him. And he just sort of spirals out, his already-stressed body tensing up even more before he finally relaxes. He wishes Sidney was here so much it feels like a physical blow.

But when he falls asleep a few minutes later, he's as relaxed as he's ever been. He wakes up feeling profoundly refreshed, like he's had two maintenance days plus an hour-long massage. Sidney troubles aside, he kind of wishes his parents were in the States all the time.

Sergei calls him as he's eating breakfast. "Dinner with the parents, really?"

"How did you - never mind."

"If I have to, I'll do something drastic," Sergei says.

"Of that, I have no doubt. Just give us time, okay?"

"Your mother likes him."

"She already liked him."

"Did he really bring a birthday cake?"


"Fine, fine. You behave today, hear me?"

"I'll try." Geno's not sure how sarcastic he's feeling comes through. Then again, he's not sure it would be possible for how sarcastic he's feeling to come through. "I'll talk to you later."

Practice is easier than it's been in awhile. Things just click - with Sidney, yeah, but with everyone else. They're going through drills like they've never been anything but perfect, and Coach looks like he suspects them of some kind of world-ending mischief. When he blows the whistle for the last time and sends them home, Geno's flying high.

"You know, when my parents come, I look aggrieved for weeks. Then again, my mother makes the average angry Russian look like a kitten," Flower says.

"Speaking of kittens, did I tell you we're getting one?" Dupuis says.

"Your kids aren't cute enough for you, eh, you disgusting fucker?"

Cooke throws a balled-up shirt at Flower. "Knock it off. Just because you're too weedy to fuck."

Geno half-seriously contemplates bursting into song or something, he's that content with all the usual bullshit. It's why, when Sidney touches his wrist and says, "Ride home?", he agrees to it.

"So," Sidney says when they're pulling out of the parking garage, "your parents, um, they liked me? Your mom?"

"She always like you."

Sidney sighs. "Okay, but it's kind of obvious that she knows something's up."

"She not know specifics, Sidney. I not tell her."

Sidney nods. He's driving insanely well, which Geno knows isn't normal. All he can do is thank whatever higher power made Sidney decide to pay attention to the road. "That's probably for the best. And you're going to fuck me soon, eh?"

It's probably the least sexy thing Geno's ever heard him say, but it makes him inhale sharply anyway. "Yeah. Sometime. Not today - not enough time today."

"No, I didn't think so." Sidney glances at him. "We could hang at my place for a bit?"

"You gonna drive me home, too?"


Geno thinks it over. He'll catch hell from his parents. "Okay," he says.

"Awesome," Sidney says, and takes the next exit.

They're mostly quiet after that. Sidney makes the most careful left-hand turn Geno's ever seen onto his street before he says, "How's your parents staying with you working out?"

"Is good. Love them."

"Staying with Mario was nice because I got my own space," Sidney says meditatively. "You know I know it's not normal, right?"

Geno raises his eyebrows. The situation with Mario isn't one they bring up very often, because Sidney's caught so much flak by the media and no one is ever really sure why he did it to begin with. "Hard to make new home here?"

"It's okay." Sidney parks the car. "Come on."

Sidney's house is as empty as ever. Geno knows Max and Pascal have tried to talk him into hiring an interior decorator, but Sidney keeps insisting he's going to do it himself and then never doing anything. Maybe, Geno thinks helplessly, Sidney will let him help redecorate.

"I was watching CSI," Sidney says. "This morning, I mean."

"Murder before hockey?"

Sidney shrugs.

"Right," Geno says. "So explain CSI to me. I watch other crime shows."

Sidney's actually reasonably enthusiastic, which Geno finds endearing in spite of himself. He explains it, and then they watch an episode, and Geno's sort of bored and Sidney's fidgeting but somehow it still doesn't suck. And it sucks even less when Sidney says, "Come on," and pulls out Red Dead Redemption.

When they've played a level, Geno says, "Should get home. Mother cook, ask me where I spend my time. Kill you if you take too much."

Sidney blanches. "Yeah, okay, we should go."

"Was fun." Geno stands.

"Yeah. Yeah, it was." Sidney marches in front of him, stance bizarrely like they're heading out onto the ice.

Once Geno's put his shoes back on and patted his pocket to make sure he still has his wallet and keys, he opens the door. Sidney's been standing awkwardly in the foyer, just watching him and fiddling with his car keys, but now he takes a step forward and touches Geno's jaw.

"Okay, let's go," he says, and takes the step forward that he needs to be close enough to kiss Geno.

It's not like Geno couldn't avoid it; he's taller than Sidney. It wouldn't have been hard. But he goes with it. It's a sweet kiss - a date kiss, Geno realizes, and somehow that's what makes him pull back.

"Ready?" Sidney says. If he noticed anything weird in Geno's reaction, he doesn't say.

"Yeah, we go," Geno forces himself to say.


Geno's parents have been in Pittsburgh for two weeks, and Geno and Sidney have exchanged three handjobs and more kisses than Geno wants to think about, when they head down to DC to play the Caps.

He's not exactly on the edge of his seat, but it will be good to see Alex and Sasha again. His parents are coming, but they plan to spend a quiet night in the hotel while Geno's out at the Lounge with the guys. It'll be fun, Geno thinks.

So of course Sidney's having a weird night.

He plays like a fucking lunatic, and the Penguins take down the Caps 2-1, with both the Pens' goals being Sidney's. Geno's not going to complain, because it means that he gets to go out without hearing Alex rib him too much, but he does spare a few thoughts to going back to Sidney's room and making sure he's okay.

In the end he doesn't, though, because - well. Handjobs, his parents are here, so many reasons that boil down to the simple fact that they just don't have that kind of relationship.

Instead he lets Alex pick him up in one of his ridiculous cars and drive down to the Lounge. Alex orders vodka for half the room, including an extremely confused and disapproving-looking older couple (who don't turn the drinks down) and a kid who looks maybe sixteen.

"So tell us," Alex says, propping his chin up with his hands, "how are things with you and tiny not-quite-Gretzky?"

"Can you say that in this town?" Geno says.

Sasha rolls his eyes. "He says whatever he wants."

"Point being," Alex says, "I've been waiting for this moment for days."

Honestly, Geno wonders about the guy. "Nothing, really."


"We're the same, okay?" Geno takes a few swallows of his drink and avoids looking at them. "We're...friends."

"With benefits."

Fuck Alex for smirking like that, anyway. Just because the guy sleeps with every single one of his friends and doesn't get hung up on anything not related to his lack of a Stanley Cup.

Some of his annoyance must be coming through, because Alex says contritely, "I'm sorry. But how are your parents? Enjoying Pittsburgh, right?"

"It helps that everyone loves them."

"And Sidney does too?"

"He's not going to stop," Sasha informs him gloomily when Geno glances at him for help.

"My parents are great, Sidney's Sidney, and you're a dick," Geno says.

"After I bought everyone drinks? I'm hurt."

"Come on," Geno says. "You can't possibly be interested in this."

"You'd be surprised," Sasha says. "Yesterday he was trying to get Patrick Kane's number because he heard the guy reads Twilight. I've thought about turning him loose in a high school somewhere, just to get rid of him."

"And who would you talk to then? You'd have to actually make friends."

Sasha rolls his eyes.

"The truth is, I don't know," Geno says, since Alex still hasn't stopped staring at him. "I know what we're doing, but he's weird."

"Sidney's always weird," Alex says dismissively.

"Weirder," Geno says. "He's treating the relationship like - I don't know. He's careful to set up specific times for everything, he controls everything about it. We've barely been together since my parents came here and I miss it, but I don't miss how fucking confused it made me."

Alex sighs. Geno feels a wave of embarrassment coming, so he covers his eyes and slumps a little over the table.

"I'm sorry, it's just, it's so beautiful," Alex says. "I'm sure you'll figure it out eventually. Situations like this always get resolved."

"You watch the wrong kind of movies. What would your mother say?"

But Alex is unperturbed. "That I shouldn't be watching movies at all, because I'm not as good as I can be. Fortunately I know how to have fun."

"Too much fun," Sasha says.

"Anyone ever tell you you're the Eeyore in their lives? I mean, really."

"Anyway," Geno says, "now that the soap opera's over with, we can have fun."

"All the fun you want," Alex says. "I promise not to tell the man undoubtedly waiting up for you how bad you get."

Geno groans and signals for another drink.

He doesn't get trashed, because they have to travel tomorrow and his parents would be disappointed in them. But he does get drunker than he should. It's just so easy here - they could be in any Russian bar, and the drinks are great, and Alex really is one of Geno's better friends. And he doesn't have to think about Sidney, or work with him, or look at him. In a way, hardly seeing him since his parents arrived has just made things even worse, because Sidney's always on his mind.

Geno's tired of thinking about Sidney. He's tired of the idle crush that turned into a pathetic obsession. He's tired of having feelings about things that aren't hockey.

When he voices that last to Alex, though, Alex just toasts him and says, "I agree, you're completely wrong for Sidney."

Geno flips him off and drinks more.

When he gets back to his hotel room, he's just drunk enough to be stumbling a bit. He's quiet, though, and rinses his face and brushes his teeth without incident.

So of course Sidney's lying curled up on the other bed.

Normally Geno rooms with Talbot, which begs the question of how the hell Sidney managed to get Talbot out. By promising his own room, sure, but...fuck, Geno's too drunk to deal with the implications of that right now. Sidney's on his side, his knees tucked up like a little kid, still fully clothed like he wasn't planning on staying. Geno can't even look at him.

He strips down to his boxers instead and climbs into the spare bed, turning off the light Sidney'd left on and taking the side farthest away from Sidney's bed.

Sidney wakes up obnoxiously early. By the time Geno wakes up, he'll realize what he's managed to do and be gone. Geno's sure of it.

Except before Geno even gets a chance to sleep, Sidney says, "You're back." Not sleepily, either. Every word is calm and clear.

Geno hates him a little right now. "Had good night. Less than good surprise here."

"I wasn't actually going to..." Sidney sniffs. "You're drunk."


"With Ovechkin."

It's entirely in character for Sidney to sound that stupid and snappish. "Yes."

"Geno -"

"Trying to sleep," Geno says pointedly. Except that was clearly the wrong thing to do, because Sidney rolls out of bed and grabs Geno's shoulder, pulling until Geno gives in and rolls onto his back.

He doesn't say anything, just stares at Geno with a frustrated look on his face. And Geno knows what Sidney might be thinking, knows how this looks. Whether Sidney thinks he's sleeping with one of the Russians or whether he's just pissed about them going out, it's obvious that he's jealous. But as much as he can't deal with Sidney's attempts at feelings when he's sober, it's that much worse when he's drunk. His mind is running in circles and the only thing he can focus on is the downturn of Sidney's mouth.

Then Sidney licks his lips and opens his mouth to talk, and Geno realizes he's had more than enough and yanks Sidney's wrist hard, toppling him onto the bed. Sidney doesn't go gracefully, but Geno manages to get him flopping over to the other side of the bed anyway, and it's easy after that to crawl on top of him.

"Um," Sidney says, staring up at him.

"Quit being stupid," Geno says, and violates his own rule by kissing him.

Sidney arches up against him immediately, but he doesn't lift his arms and he just barely kisses back. That should be a signal to stop, Geno thinks, but he can't make himself, not unless Sidney tells him to.

"Just quit," Geno says again, and runs a hand down Sidney's body, stopping on his thigh and squeezing a little. "Not interested - went out for talking, drinking. Fun. Understand?"

"It's not that," Sidney says, looking cranky as hell. "Look, it's irresponsible, you -"

Geno kisses him again.

This time Sidney kisses back, and Geno understands immediately why he didn't before. He's fucking pissed. And yeah, Geno thinks fuzzily, it's stupid, but it's also really fucking hot. Hotter than it should be.

"Wait, wait," he says when Sidney pulls back. Sidney blinks and then scowls, the hands Geno doesn't remember him putting on Geno's shoulders tightening to the point of pain.

"Fine," Sidney says, tone brittle, and Geno just...he can't. He shifts his weight so that he's pressing Sidney down a little harder and then kisses him again. When Sidney bites his lip and kisses back hard, he doesn't protest.

Sidney's trying to twist under him, gain some kind of purchase, but Geno's got just enough of a height and weight advantage to keep him pinned. It makes Sidney snarl and press against him harder, twisting his head to drag his teeth across Geno's jaw. It shouldn't be hot - none of this should be hot - but it is, especially when Sidney says, "Seriously, go fuck yourself," and shoves futilely against Geno's shoulder.

"Quiet," Geno says, and kisses him again. Sidney finally gets his hands in Geno's hair and tugs hard enough to bring tears to Geno's eyes. And fuck, Geno's getting hard, moving rhythmically against Sidney as they kiss. He doesn't even realize Sidney's there too until Sidney groans and shudders, hips moving unmistakably.

Geno wants too much; he wants everything and he's not going to get it right now. But he can touch Sidney, untuck his stupid dress shirt and touch his skin, pull away so that he can breathe and kiss Sidney's neck. Which of course makes Sidney tug his hair, saying, "Fuck you, no, come the fuck on, Geno," arching up again and almost throwing Geno off.

So Geno bears down, letting himself bite Sidney's neck, the hand not splayed on Sidney's hip on the bed to give him just enough leverage to thrust down. He feels so stupid, just moving faster and faster and letting Sidney scratch at and bite at him. But he can't get together enough brain cells to make himself care.

Sidney starts whining, making the same stupid gasps Geno turns over in his memory when he's alone. Geno can't keep from smiling a little, and it turns into an outright laugh when Sidney says, "What are you smiling about?"

He sounds so uselessly frustrated. Geno half wishes he could say something comforting, but he's too busy stroking the skin of Sidney's hip, kissing him over and over and doing his level best not to think.

"Let me," Sidney says, his hands curling in fists against Geno's back. Geno shakes his head and lets himself undo Sidney's fly, pushing his pants down just enough to press his palm against Sidney's dick.

It's the wrong angle and Geno moves to the side, leaving a leg over Sidney so that he can't move. Sidney twists his hips and tries to thrust against Geno's hand. The look on his face is so angry and so helpless, and Geno stops being angry for long enough to kiss Sidney a little more gently, leaning back when Sidney tries to make it violent again.

But somehow it's that movement that makes Sidney say, "Wait, no, get off of me."

Geno does immediately, pulling back and trying - probably failing - to hide his surprise. Sidney drags a hand over his head, giving Geno a perplexed look, before stumbling to his feet and into the bathroom.

Geno closes his eyes and fails to banish the image of Sidney, pants undone and shirt untucked and wrinkled to hell, from his mind.

Jerking himself off is a completely horrible idea and Geno knows it, so he just lies there until his dick quits being interested in proceedings. He knows he's drunk when it only takes a few minutes to do the job; Sidney's still in the damn bathroom.

It hits Geno that he could be crying or something, but Geno knows Sidney would flip his shit if interrupted, so he just folds his hands on his stomach and closes his eyes. If he's asleep, he won't have to watch Sidney stumble out, won't have to deal with Sidney's shame.

But when Sidney finally opens the door, he just stands in the doorway, looking over at Geno with a completely unreadable expression. Geno has to look away and stare at the ceiling. "Gonna leave?"

"No," Sidney says. "I don't know why. But - no." He walks over to the bed and sits down on the edge.

Geno should reach out. He should meet Sidney in the middle, help him figure whatever the hell this is out. Instead he just lies very still, trying to not even breathe loudly.

Finally, Sidney lies down next to him. He's still got his socks on and he's buttoned his fly back up, but his shirt is untucked.

He's not hard, and Geno very specifically doesn't wonder if he jerked off in the bathroom.

"Okay," Sidney says. It's half-muttered, like he's trying to convince himself more than anyone else. "Okay."

Geno doesn't jump when Sidney's hand lands on his wrist, when Sidney's left leg presses up against Geno's right, but it's a near thing.

"Going to get cold?" Sidney says.

Geno shakes his head.


So they lie there on top of the covers, barely touching. Geno's staring at the ceiling and he's certain there's no way he'll fall asleep like this, listening to Sidney's shaky breathing and trying not to do something stupid like relaxing and spooking him. But he really is drunk, and he's fucking exhausted, and Sidney's...Sidney's there.

Geno's fallen asleep before another half hour is out.

He's confused when he wakes up. It's just barely getting light outside, which wouldn't be weird except for the fact that Sidney's curled up into Geno's side. His face is sort of squished against Geno's bicep, his fingers jammed under Geno's side.

Also, Geno's hard, but in the face of Sidney trying and totally failing to cuddle, that almost doesn't matter.

"You're awake," Sidney says. Geno hates that he can't tell if he's been lying awake or not.

"Yeah." Geno groans. "Sorry. Last night, sorry."

"Yeah, no, me too," Sidney says quickly. "So."

"So," Geno says, and moves to sit up.

He's not really surprised when Sidney puts a hand on his shoulder. He stays still, waiting, until Sidney says, "We've got an hour or so, and I want, um."

"Gonna have to say it, Sidney."

Sidney sighs and wiggles so that he's upright enough to kiss Geno.

And it's not a surprise, it's really not. It feels good and easy, the polar opposite of last night. Geno's not sure if Sidney will try to push it further and he doesn't really care; he knows this is only a slightly better idea than last night, but he's learning exactly how impossible it is for him to tell Sidney no.

"Here," Sidney says, uncurling himself enough to move over Geno. They're on their sides, and Sidney's acting so fucking careful with Geno that Geno can't help but wonder if something happened last night that he somehow missed.

He's exactly selfish enough to table it for now, bracing a hand on Sidney's back instead. Sidney's breath hitches and he moves a little closer, still careful but not nervous and not even really awkward anymore. They've done this enough for him to be used to it, Geno realizes with a thrill.

"I didn't actually mean to fall asleep. I was going to sleep here, but not before you got back," Sidney says, pulling back and looking Geno in the eye. He looks incredibly stubborn, like if he says it adamantly enough Geno will believe him.

Not that Geno doesn't; he knows Sidney. "Okay."

"Right." Sidney sighs and kisses Geno again.

It's not really sweet, but it's comfortable. Geno knows they've got to talk about their total failure to keep it friendly, but this is just so easy. Too easy.

Time just sort of slips by, and it's not until the sun is shining through the windows that Sidney says, "Okay, it's been an hour."

"To minute?" Geno says before he can stop himself.

Sidney doesn't laugh. Instead he glances at the clock again and says, "Maybe to the five minutes."

Geno shakes his head. "You want shower?"

"Uh, yeah." And Sidney's all awkwardness again, climbing off Geno and hopping to his feet. "Your parents will be here soon, right?"

"Won't be surprised, finding you here."

"That's not the point. I'll be quick."

"Have fun," Geno says, and when Sidney glances back in surprise, he waggles his eyebrows.

Sidney laughs sharply and heads for the shower.

Jesus, Geno's in such fucking trouble.

By the time they've both showered, they've got about half an hour to be in the hotel lobby. Sidney's watching Geno get dressed in a way that makes it incredibly obvious that he has no idea it's remotely strange when Geno's parents knock on the door and say, "Zhenya? Are you ready?"

"Sidney's here too," Geno says, and goes to open the door. "We've got a little bit of time."

"Hello, Sidney," his mother says, looking very deliberately at both Sidney and the single slightly messed-up bed. Geno flushes; at least they didn't get under the covers and make it that much more blatant.

"Hi, um, hello, I, hi," Sidney says. He looks profoundly unimpressed with himself, at least.

"So," Geno says, "continental breakfast, yes?"

"Already ate." His father pats his stomach complacently. He couldn't be more amused if he was actively laughing.

"Am starving," Geno says. When his mother's eyebrows try to make a break for her hairline, he quickly adds in Russian, "From the game, and so I'm going to go eat. Let's go." He grabs his suitcase and heads for the door.

"Did I miss something?" Sidney says forlornly.

"Nothing interesting," his mother says, sounding amused.

Geno keeps walking. Fortunately, they decide to come with him.


The plane ride home is painless, and Geno and Sidney part ways at the airport. Geno tells himself he's glad, especially considering the way the past few days have gone, and he even manages to mostly believe it. His mother cooks them dinner, and things go back to normal.

He and Sidney don't spend any time alone together at all for a week. Geno's pretty okay with it, which is why when he walks into his kitchen and sees Sidney there alone, he does a bit of a spit-take.

"Hey," Sidney says. He's got a carrot stick in hand, which is incongruous enough that for a second it's all Geno can focus on. "Your parents went out."

"Date night, want me to stay home." Geno blinks at him. "You here because?"

Sidney shrugs. "I ordered dinner. Food you'll actually like."

Geno can't help but feel like he's been outmaneuvered again. It wouldn't be weird, except that he's not totally sure Sidney knows why he's beating Geno to the punch.

And the more it happens, the more bizarre it gets.

"Yes," Geno says, because he's been waiting too long and Sidney's starting to look awkward and embarrassed. "Is good, will hang out."

"Okay, yeah," Sidney says.

But he doesn't relax, and it falls to Geno to go over to him and slap his shoulder. "Living room," he says.

Sidney nods, and...fuck it, Geno thinks, and backs him against the counter, kissing him.

Someday he's sure he'll get tired of the way Sidney just settles when Geno kisses him, but today it's perfect. Sidney's hands land on his hip and the back of his neck, holding Geno close. Geno needed a break from all this, he really did, but he can't completely hate the rush of feeling that comes over him when Sidney sighs a little and pulls back, their foreheads resting against one another.

"Right," Sidney says. "I didn't actually come here for that. Not, I mean, it's fine, but that isn't why I came."

But Geno can remember the promise he made perfectly well, and Christ, he wants to fuck Sidney. Not tonight - not with his parents in town. He wants to be able to take time, to wake up with Sidney afterwards. "Soon," he says, and kisses Sidney again, barely more than a peck on the lips.

They end up settling on opposite ends of the couch. Football's on ESPN, and Geno thinks for a second that Sidney's going to request a channel change. Instead Sidney looks over at him and very deliberately stands up and steps sideways, settling back on the couch with his side pressed against Geno's.

Geno feels like a complete tool putting his arm around Sidney, but he does anyway. Sidney's all elbows and too-stiff muscles, and honestly, Geno's expecting him to pull away. He almost jumps when Sidney's hand lands on his thigh.

"We can spend time without this," Sidney says, voice low and almost angry. Geno's pretty sure he's trying to convince himself, so he doesn't say anything.

"You like football?" Geno says.

Sidney shrugs. "I played baseball and soccer and swam and stuff in high school. Did a little football too. It's okay."

Geno didn't exactly miss Sidney deciding to hit a home run after years of not playing baseball. He laughs a little. "Sure."

"I'm good at other things," Sidney says defensively. "I didn't just play hockey."

"No. Played other sports too, yes?"


Geno knows what Sidney's getting at, but he doesn't have the slightest idea how to say what he needs to. "Different experiences good, are who you are. Sports what you like. Is fine."

"I wasn't actually -"

"Hey." Geno covers Sidney's hand on his thigh with his own. "We watch, okay?"

So they do. Sidney doesn't get incredibly absorbed, but he does get invested, to the point where he's cheering when the Steelers score. "Is not important game," Geno points out when Sidney goes stiff next to him.

"Whatever, you know everyone in the city will be cranky if they lose."

Geno can't actually deny that.

When eight thirty rolls around, Sidney says, "Your parents said they'd be back by ten. I should go."

"Is hour and a half. Plenty of time."

"Yeah, but." Sidney takes his hand off Geno's leg and scoots back. Geno immediately misses the warmth. "This was fun. Not doing anything, it was nice."

"Sitting like that is doing something." Geno takes hold of Sidney's arm, tugs him closer again. "You think about what we said? Me fucking you?"

"Why are you bringing that up now?" Sidney says, voice high.

Geno shrugs. "Parents gone soon. House, time to self. I think about it. You?"

"Not much."

He's clearly lying. "Ah. Not important."

"That's not -"

"Is okay." Geno smiles a little mockingly. "Other things important to Sidney Crosby."

"Oh, fuck you," Sidney says, but he doesn't move.

"Parents know, told you. And..." Geno thinks, very carefully, about what he's about to say. Then he says it anyway. "Haven't seen you for a week, Sidney."

Sidney sits forward, and for a second Geno thinks he's going to leave. But he gets up and says, "Whatever we end up doing, it's going to be in your bedroom, because otherwise your parents will come home early and end up killing me."

"Lead way," Geno says, standing behind him.

Geno's expecting a lot of kissing and possibly a handjob, but Sidney starts stripping mechanically the second Geno closes the door. So Geno takes advantage of it, leaning back against the door and watching him.

Sidney's always been hot to him. It's not that he hit his head prior to coming to the States and mistakenly got the idea that Sidney's a centerfold-worthy model. But he's Sidney, and the more Geno knows him, the more into him he is. He loves the fact that Sidney can't move any way but awkwardly off the ice and the way his blush spreads down to his shoulders just as much as he loves Sidney's ass or his mouth.

"Oh, come on, that's not fair," Sidney says, and then he's undressing Geno roughly. Geno feels a little stunned from the focus of Sidney's attention, so he just goes with it. It takes Sidney a few tries to get his pants down, but he nudges Geno forward when he does, and then just kind of doesn't remove his hand. Geno ends up being guided over to the bed and lying down on his back, looking up at Sidney.

"I have no idea where this is going," Sidney says. He's not looking Geno in the eye, but he is looking everywhere else. Geno's uncomfortable with how hot it is. No one admitting they don't know what they're doing should turn him on like this.

"Can touch," Geno says. "It would be nice."

Sidney nods and bends down, running a hand down Geno's arm, stopping at his wrist and then skipping down to his thigh. Geno tries not to do anything stupid, but he winds up moving against Sidney's touch anyway, ridiculously needy. Luckily, Sidney either doesn't notice or doesn't mind. He gets down on the bed, straddling Geno's legs and leaning down to inhale in the curve of Geno's neck.

"Don't smell that great," Geno says - or tries to say, anyway. The joke's ruined by the way his breath hitches.

"Sure, whatever," Sidney says absently, and kisses Geno's neck.

Geno reaches up to return the favor a little, maybe touch Sidney's hair or back. He doesn't know. He's not Sidney; he doesn't plan every minuscule move. But it ends up not mattering, because Sidney catches his arm and moves it back down to the bed.

"Just...let me," Sidney says, and takes away his hand, kissing Geno's bicep instead.

Well, this is interesting. And weird, Geno thinks, staring at the ceiling.

Sidney keeps kissing him. He's not really good at it. He's too goal-oriented, and absently kissing his way over someone's body just isn't something that will ever seem natural coming from him. But somehow, Geno goes from wondering if he's ever going to be allowed to move to waiting for the next kiss, the next touch. It's stupid, and he's going to roll his eyes at himself later, but right now, the way Sidney's fingers skate over his stomach makes him catch his breath.

"Is this even normal?" Sidney says, sounding vaguely perturbed.

Geno knows exactly what he means, and there's no way he's going to answer. Anything he says will spook Sidney. Instead he arches his back a little, making Sidney's fingers slip along his hip.

Sidney watches his face as he moves his fingers, skirting past Geno's dick but never touching it. They've been doing this for long enough now that Geno's hard and not even all that embarrassed about it.

"I could blow you again," Sidney says, his hand sliding along Geno's inner thigh. Geno doesn't bother to bite back his groan. "I'm getting better at it. It would be fun."

There's no way to answer that, so Geno doesn't try.

"Or..." Sidney's hand slips lower, finger pressing lightly against Geno's ass.

Jesus. Geno should say no, he really should, but -

"Fingers," he says. "Just fingers."

Sidney's not at all the kind of dick to make something big out of him enjoying being fingered, thank God. He nods and gets up, grabbing the lube from Geno's drawer and sitting cross-legged on the bed next to Geno.

"Remember how?" Geno says teasingly. Sidney rolls his eyes and leans up to kiss Geno. It's an awkward angle for both of them, and Geno has to close his eyes so the ridiculousness of Sidney sitting like that and getting ready to finger him doesn't make him laugh, but...fuck, just the anticipation is already good. Better when he opens his eyes and Sidney pulls back to uncap the lube, smearing some on his fingers.

He watches Geno carefully as he runs a slick finger over Geno's thigh, his free hand wandering across Geno's chest, nails brushing his nipples and making his stomach jump. He's hard, too, and Geno gets stuck on that, on the way he shuffles from being cross-legged to kneeling, biting his lip when his dick brushes Geno's thigh.

"Let me know if it's uncomfortable," Sidney says, and slowly pushes a finger in.

At first he doesn't use enough pressure, but he catches on quickly and works his finger in. It's uncomfortable in a mild kind of way, not even all that interesting, and Geno's about to suggest Sidney jerk him off instead when Sidney brushes the back of his hand over Geno's dick, just once, and thrusts slowly with his finger.

Geno jumps. He can't help it. He hasn't spent nearly as much time as he wants teasing Sidney, so he has no idea where the hell Sidney picked this up, but if this beginning is any indication then he's in pretty deep trouble right now.

"Good?" Sidney says, trying and failing to sound casual. Geno nods and clenches his fists when Sidney thrusts again. He's touching Geno's thigh again, hand curled on the outside as he moves his finger around. Geno tilts his hips, trying to get a better angle. He's not really surprised when Sidney frowns in warning. "Don't move."

It shouldn't get him off, not being allowed to do anything. Knowing that Sidney's determined to take care of him even though he still doesn't know quite what to do shouldn't feel this fucking good. But it does, and Geno's pretty sure that being on his back, hard, with Sidney's finger up his ass, means he's too far gone for pride to be an issue.

And it feels good, for once, being the person who's not calling the shots.

When he's relaxed and just moving minutely with the rhythm of Sidney's finger, Sidney presses another in. There's more of a stretch this time, more of a burn, and Geno bites his lip and forces himself to stay relaxed. It helps that Sidney's careful, so fucking careful, and Geno would tell himself that it's just because he's never done this before, but the look on Sidney's face points to another reason, too. He loves this.

"Geno," Sidney breathes, crooking his fingers and thrusting a little harder. Geno sighs, relaxing that much more.

Until Sidney touches his dick again, and then he's clenching his jaw and fighting not to move.

"Good?" Sidney says.

He nods, careful not to rock his hips or say anything that will give him away. But he has to be at least a little transparent, because Sidney says, a little smugly, "Good," and strokes a teasing line up Geno's dick as he moves his fingers.

Everything starts to blur together after that. Sidney watching him carefully, moving his fingers with more and more confidence, and never touching Geno enough to do anything but get him that much more painfully turned on all blend together until Geno can't focus on anything but the slowly building feeling at the pit of his stomach. When Sidney adds a third finger and thrusts hard, Geno gives up on pride and cries out, unable to keep himself from rocking into the touch.

"Hold still," Sidney says, sounding more than a little winded. And then he fucking finally wraps his hand around Geno's dick.

"Hold still," Geno manages to get out. He's shaking from the effort not to move, and Sidney's just moving his hands faster, merciless. "Hold still. Sidney -"

"Geno," Sidney says, and fuck, he sounds completely wrecked. That's not even fair. "Geno, you're - "

His fingers bump up against Geno's prostate. Normally it would be a nice addition to an already good feeling, but right now it's more than enough to push him over the edge, hips coming off the bed, his whole body curling in on itself as he comes. Sidney moves with him, ending up half-wrapped around Geno, his fingers still in him as Geno moves mindlessly, every thought wiped away by the strength of the feeling.

"God," he says when he can talk again.

"I have to - sorry, sorry, but -" Sidney takes his fingers out slowly and carefully. Geno realizes just how hard Sidney's holding onto his shoulder as he opens his eyes, just in time to see Sidney wiping his fingers on the sheets and twisting the sheets in his grip as he takes his other hand off Geno's shoulder and gets it on his dick.

"I jerked off," Sidney says on a gasp. His knees fall open and he leans back on his hand, hips moving frantically. "In the hotel room. I couldn't - I was so pissed, and you were there, and God, Geno, you have no idea what you looked like just now."

Geno wants to help, but he can't. He can barely even move. "Just you, Sidney. All for you."

He's not expecting Sidney to stiffen and come, face screwed up in a ridiculous grimace, the arm holding him up shaking with the effort. It might be the hottest thing he's ever seen.

"Fuck," Sidney says a few minutes later. He opens his eyes and blinks up at the ceiling. "Wow. Fuck."

Geno can't repress the shit-eating grin. He also can't move, but hey, it's a trade-off. "That good?"

"Fuck you," Sidney says easily. "We have to get cleaned up."

Geno groans.

"I'll make you coffee," Sidney says. He leans forward, bracing a hand on Geno's chest and kissing him. It's long and slow and Geno almost gets lost in the feeling. "Come on. Bathroom."

"Ugh," Geno says, but he lets Sidney tug him upright and walks with him to the bathroom.

It might be for the best that his parents are coming, he thinks as he gets into the shower. Sidney's splashing water on his face and blinking at himself in the mirror. He's pretty sure they need a buffer after that.

But he's also pretty sure neither of them have serious regrets, which is about as good as this will get.


His last week with his parents is a lot like his first. They're in the middle of February and fourth in the conference, with a hell of a lot of momentum. The day before his parents are set to leave, they play the Kings at home.

They get shut out, four to nil. They can't make a single play happen; they're a complete fucking mess. And Geno knows nights like this happen, but it would be nice if it wasn't the last game of the season his parents will see live.

"I'm sorry you had to watch that," he says the second he sees them.

"It was pretty bad," his mother says. She's entirely too cheerful for Geno's liking. "You really fucked it up out there."


"She's trying to tell you we love you anyway," his father says. He claps him on the shoulder. "But really, have a better game next time."

"I'll do my best," Geno says dryly, and they head home.

Their flight overlaps with his practice, so he loads their luggage into the rental car and kisses them both goodbye. He has the familiar hollow feeling as they drive away; it'll fade within a few days, once he gets used to them being gone again. And in a couple weeks, when they play the Devils, he and Ilya will go out for drinks. That will help a lot all on its own.

After practice he goes home, with the intent to heat up some of his mom's leftovers and possibly watch one of the newer movies they left with him. So he's a little surprised to get a text from Sidney. "You want some company? Platonic."

Sidney would put it like that. But - "Russian moping not fun to watch," he finally says.

Sidney replies almost immediately. "I'll live."

It doesn't escape Geno that this is exactly the kind of move a perfect friend would make. Not for the first time, he wonders if Sidney's been consulting Colby. Or the Internet. "Sure. Come over."

"See you soon."

Sidney's at the door barely a half an hour later. "I was going to bring beer, but then I remembered who'd been staying with you," he says, mouth quirked up like he thinks he's being funny.

And actually, Geno finds it a little funny. Unsurprising, really. "Plenty of alcohol, is true. Watching Russian movie, eating rassolnik. Bad night for American friend."

"I told you, I don't care. Your house has got to be lonely right now."

It is, though Geno suspects Sidney's thinking about his own house more than anything else. "Thank you," he says finally, and heads out to the living room.

"Any time, man." Sidney takes his time going to the living room, wandering through the kitchen and taking an inexplicable turn into the laundry room before making it to the couch. He settles down, slumping a little and pulling his PSP out of his pocket. Jeffrey bounds over to him and settles in next to him, leaving the other half of the couch for Geno.

Apparently they're going to sit there in silence. Geno's not going to complain. He unpauses the movie and picks his bowl back up, letting his concentration slip away from Sidney.

When the movie's over, Sidney says, "I should go. I'm heading to the gym tomorrow morning."

"Before skate?"

"Yeah. I mean, optional skate. I'm taking it easy on the ice." Sidney shrugs. "I'm a little banged up from the game."

Geno narrows his eyes. "Let me see."

"It's no big deal," Sidney says, but he pulls his shirt up. There's a huge, purpling bruise up his left side.

"You get this checked?" Geno says. He doesn't reach out and touch the bruise; he doesn't make this anything but a friendly question.

"Yeah." Sidney doesn't seem nettled by the question. "I iced it. Seriously, it's not a big deal, but I'm not going to kill myself on the ice if I don't have to."

Which is funny, Geno thinks, considering that he's planning on hitting up the gym beforehand. Sometimes he thinks they should be reining Sidney in more than they do. "I come."

"You don't have to," Sidney says.

But he's smiling a little - not like he hoped Geno would say it, but like he's surprised. Geno's not going to back out when he's the cause of that expression. "Am anyway. See you then," he says. He doesn't clap Sidney on the shoulder - it may be no big deal, but Geno's not incautious - but he does squeeze his shoulder lightly, dropping his hand before he can do anything else.

"See you," Sidney says, and leaves.

Geno flops back down on the couch once he's gone. That wasn't a date, he thinks; that was a friendly night. Does Sidney think of everything in compartments? In units? Geno wishes he had a map of what the hell's going on in Sidney's head right now.

Still, the hollow feeling has eased a little. No matter how Sidney's figuring out what to do, he's doing a decent job, and Geno's reaping the benefits. He honestly couldn't ask for anything better.


It's not like his parents leave and he immediately starts thinking about when he can fuck Sidney. It's more that his parents leave and he wonders when they're going to settle into having sex regularly again, and that kind of devolves to him wondering what Sidney will look like when he fucks him.

Which, okay, isn't actually much better.

His only comfort is that apparently, he wasn't the only one with that problem. Three days after Geno's parents leave, Sidney says, "So I was thinking. Your place tonight?"

Geno's pretty sure he's aiming for casual, but the odd twitches of his face and the way he flexes his hands pretty much kill the try. "Sure," he says, his voice as light as possible. He doesn't want Sidney to give himself a coronary over this. "Come over whenever."

"Okay, yeah." Sidney relaxes. "See you then."

That night Sidney blows Geno, carefully and without saying a single thing leading up to it. When he's done, he straddles Geno's lap and lets Geno jerk him off, still completely silent. Geno waits until he's caught his breath to say, "Little weird tonight, Sidney."

"Do you still want to fuck me?" Sidney says, all in a rush.

Geno blinks. "Yes. Of course."

"Oh, good." Sidney relaxes against him.

He's got his eyes closed, so Geno spares a frustrated glance at the ceiling. "Any reason I not want to?"

"I don't know. I can't assume what I want is what you want, though, you know?"

He sounds, once again, like he's repeating something he's memorized by rote. Geno's going to have to hide the next time they play Toronto. "I know. But I want, I always want. Okay?"

"Someday I'm going to want something you think is weird," Sidney says, sounding dubious.

Geno snorts. "You not that special, Sidney."

Sidney sighs and nuzzles his neck. "Yeah, probably not."

They sleep together that night, in the same bed if not actually touching. Geno can feel Sidney's warmth, though, can smell him and hear him breathe. And sure, it's clingy and a bit pathetic, but it sets off a warm glow of contentedness inside him all the same.

They have the next day completely off, which means Sidney wakes up at seven, rather than six, and uses Geno's stationary bike instead of going to the iceplex. By the time Geno wakes up, the other side of the bed is cold and he can smell coffee.

"I mopped your floor," Sidney says as a greeting. "Because I tracked mud all over it when I took Jeffrey out for a walk."

Geno squints. It's got to be about twenty degrees out. "You took Jeffrey out?"

"Don't worry, no one saw me."

Geno winces. "Not what I meant."

"It's important, though. In the bigger scheme of things." Sidney pushes a mug of coffee at him. "So, yeah, mopped your floor."

Geno owns a Swiffer, actually. He hopes Sidney means that, and not that he went out and bought a mop or something. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it." Sidney's watching him closely; it almost feels like the first few times they did this. Luckily, Geno's had plenty of practice at pretending the scrutiny doesn't matter.

"So, you could fuck me today. We don't have practice till tomorrow afternoon," Sidney says.

Geno spits his coffee all over the counter.

"Or we could not," Sidney says, looking down at the coffee with distaste.

Geno grabs a paper towel and cleans it up, taking way longer than he actually needs to give himself space to think. But in the end the only thought he can muster is a resounding yes, so he says, "If you want, we do."

Which sounds a little easier than he was going for, but Sidney just says, "Obviously I want it, or I wouldn't have asked you," and wanders out to the living room.

Geno's going to die young thanks to all this, he's absolutely certain.

The morning is nice and lazy. Talbot calls to see if he wants to go out and Geno endures the chirping when he turns him down, Sidney completely fails at any kind of progress in Call of Duty, and they have the last of Geno's mom's leftovers for lunch.

Then Sidney puts the plate aside and says, "Okay," and kisses Geno.

He's not nervous. It surprises Geno somehow, despite the fact that he knows Sidney's comfortable with him now. He's not confident like he's been in the past few weeks, but he seems okay with it, letting Geno lead and spreading his legs a little more when Geno pulls him closer. It's not like Geno has a virgin kink or something, he really doesn't, but the image of Sidney spreading his legs for Geno like it's the easiest thing in the world makes him break away from the kiss to bury his face in Sidney's neck.

Sidney runs his fingers through Geno's hair, rocking against him slowly. Neither of them is fully hard, but they're on their way, and it feels good enough that Geno pulls away pretty quickly so that he can kiss Sidney again.

It takes them almost an hour to go from the couch to Geno's bed. Geno's leading their actions, but Sidney's dictating the pace, and Geno's pretty sure he's enjoying not being in a hurry.

But eventually they're naked, and Sidney looks Geno in the eye and says, "You ready?"

Geno was ready five seconds after Sidney brought it up, but it seems stupid to mention that right now. He nods instead, rolling off Sidney briefly to grab the lube and a condom.

And, yeah, Sidney watching him and letting his knees fall open is exactly as hot as Geno'd thought it would be.

"Be easier on stomach," Geno says. "Less work for both of us."

"You want to watch me," Sidney says.

It's perceptive. Geno blinks in surprise. "That obvious?"

"I don't know. To me." Sidney shrugs, obviously uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation.

And pretty much the last thing Geno wants is for him to feel uncomfortable, so he kisses his shoulder and pushes his legs a little further apart, sitting between them as he slicks up his fingers.

"Thought about this," he says, trying to sound casual and completely missing his mark. "After you mentioned. Couldn't stop thinking."

"That's, um, great," Sidney says, then catches his breath when Geno slides a finger up the inside of his thigh.

"If hurts, let me know," Geno says. He rests his finger against Sidney's ass, waiting for Sidney's nod of assent before slowly pushing inside.

Choirs of angels don't appear. It's not a ridiculously special moment Geno's going to remember forever. It's just Sidney biting his lip, shifting a little, Geno pressing further in and watching Sidney's face for the slightest sign of discomfort.

"Okay," Sidney says after a minute. His voice is ridiculously level. "More."

Geno nods and pushes in with two fingers. Sidney's shifting a little more, face screwed up like he's about to launch into an explanation of the other team's primary weaknesses. He's starting to work his hands in the sheet, and he's still hard. When Geno's fingers are in completely, he reaches out and jerks Sidney off slowly.

"Oh, fuck," Sidney says, sounding confused - and his hips thrust off the bed, fast and hard enough that Geno almost can't keep up.

"That's..." He's moving again, pressing back against Geno's fingers. Geno wasn't expecting this to be so easy, and he's honestly not sure what to do with it. He's too busy staring like an idiot.

Fortunately, Sidney's nothing if not vocal. "Geno, come on. Keep going. Move, or something."

"Sorry," Geno says, and thrusts his fingers in, careful to move with the aim of stretching, getting Sidney ready. "Was expecting blushing, scared Sidney, not ready and enjoying."

"Oh, so you thought I'd hate it, that makes me feel really confident."

"Thought you'd think is strange," Geno says. He knows he sounds like an idiot, his voice scratchy and distracted, but if Sidney doesn't care then he's not going to. "Is how I felt."

"Whoever did it for you probably wasn't this good at it," Sidney says.

"Flattery get you nowhere," Geno says, curling his fingers and pushing in again. He gets the lube and dribbles a little more on, rubbing his thumb over the head of Sidney's dick and lining up a third finger.

"I looked it up, it's normal to not even stay hard."

Geno frowns. "Wouldn't do that."

"Obviously." Sidney blinks at Geno. "Am I just going to have to keep telling you to keep going?"

"Maybe," Geno says, but he pushes in the third finger obediently.

And Sidney - Sidney spread his legs more so that he has a little leverage, moving his hips just barely, waiting for Geno to keep going. Geno has to close his eyes for a second and take a deep breath before he moves.

He wants to do this again and again. He wants to blow Sidney and finger him, wants to turn him over so Sidney can only press himself against the bed. But right now is about Sidney, so he pushes the thoughts away and says, "Almost ready."

"Like I'm lasagna or something," Sidney bitches, but he seems perfectly happy to lie there and let Geno play with him.

Finally Geno pulls his fingers out and puts the condom on. Sidney watches him lube himself up, leaning back on his elbows.

"Don't say anything about me telling you if it hurts," he says when Geno opens his mouth. "Trust me, I will, and it's been fucking good so far, so let's just keep going, eh?"

Geno really hopes Sidney thinks the goofy smile that breaks out is because of the sex they're having, not how fucking endearing Sidney is right then. "Right," he says, lining himself up. "Focus on feeling. Touch self if you want, is fine, can't do much wrong."

"Right." Sidney nods. "So?"

"Pushy," Geno says, and presses in.

Sidney doesn't make a single sound, but his mouth falls open and he reaches out to close a hand around his dick. He doesn't move it, just holds it there, eyes screwing shut and head falling back against the pillow.

Geno wants to do this every day. He groans and keeps going, waiting for Sidney to tell him to stop, to say something - but he doesn't. Geno stops once he's in, and Sidney just lies there, not moving a muscle.

Finally Geno has to say, "Sidney? Okay?"

"I, hang on." Sidney takes a deep breath. "Yeah. Fuck yeah."

He's going to have bruises on his hips tomorrow from the way Geno's digging his fingers in. Geno can't loosen his grip, though, can't really do anything but say, "Gonna move now," and do exactly that.

It's not easy - he keeps having to think of Russian winters and his grandmother to keep from coming - but it's comfortable, being here with Sidney. He's not embarrassed when he starts making stupid noises, and it's easy to tell when Sidney needs Geno's hand on his dick or for Geno to speed up. Geno wasn't expecting this; he didn't think they'd know each other well enough to make this almost anticlimactically simple.

After awhile, Geno can't keep his thrusts slow and Sidney doesn't want him to; Geno changes angles a little, jerks Sidney off faster, and then it's just a matter of time before Sidney's coming, arching his back, hips coming off the bed. Geno wants this to last forever, but that visual means it's two, maybe three minutes tops before he follows, remembering at the last second not to flop forward and crush Sidney into the mattress.

Or at least, not to crush Sidney; he has to catch himself when he does, in fact, flop forward. He's about to apologize when Sidney knocks his left arm out from under him, and Geno ends up half squashing him anyway.

"Sorry," Sidney says, unrepentant. He's curled up at an odd angle, one that has to be uncomfortable. But he's breathing raggedly and smiling like he's never felt anything better.

"Have to pull out," Geno manages to say. "Will feel weird."

"Go ahead," Sidney says. He makes a face when Geno obeys, but doesn't say anything; when Geno tries to get up after throwing the condom away, though, he grabs Geno's shoulder. "I know we're disgusting, but -"

"Can stay," Geno says immediately.

"It'll probably get weird in, I don't know, fifteen minutes," Sidney says. He's smiling, and Geno's smiling back, completely ridiculous.

"Tell me when to go," Geno says, moving beside Sidney. He lies on his side so he can still see Sidney, not quite touching him.

"Not just yet." Sidney takes a slow, deep breath. "That was...I don't know, I thought it would be weirder. But it was just the two of us."

"You expected someone else?"

"Very funny. You know what I mean."

It's mirroring his earlier thoughts exactly, so yeah, Geno does. "Is best when know someone. Easier to read them, make it good for both."

"I guess," Sidney says. He's turning another thought over in his mind, Geno can tell, but he doesn't voice it and Geno's not going to push him. "You planning on falling asleep?"

"Right after fucking you for first time? Thought we have a party."

"Still not funny."

"Can stay awake," Geno says. "Is easier in middle of day."

"Okay, good." Sidney rolls over and grabs the remote, flipping the TV on. He settles on pulling up the NHL Network. It's the middle of the day, so it's mostly shit from last night, and Geno's already seen most of the segments they're likely to air. Sidney seems interested, though. Geno can't say he's surprised. So Sidney watches the TV, and Geno watches Sidney.

It's actually about twenty minutes before Sidney says, "Okay, I have to move," and goes into the shower.

Geno thinks about following him, making sure he's okay. But they have the rest of the day and the night, and he's pretty sure if he pushes right now, Sidney will clam up. So instead he waits until Sidney's done to shower, and then does the laundry while Sidney's downstairs.

They're completely lazy for the rest of the day. They order takeout, and Sidney makes faces about having that much grease. Geno talks him into eating it with more than a few kisses, not feeling even close to ridiculous enough to stop - and it works.

It's pretty disgusting and Geno gives it maybe a day before he mocks the hell out of himself for it, but he can't make himself care enough to actually stop. Especially not when Sidney says, "I'm going to go to bed. Coming?" at 11.

It's a little late for Sidney and Geno knows it, so he goes along with the implied compromise and follows him up. Sidney doesn't try anything cute; he goes in and does his teeth and then climbs into bed, closing his eyes and lying stiff and still.

Geno shakes his head, not bothering to fight down his smile. He gets in next to Sidney and touches his shoulder. "Awake?"

"Trying not to be," Sidney says.

"Uh-huh," Geno says, and kisses him.

They don't go anywhere with it. Geno pulls back, and Sidney smiles a little and rolls away from Geno, and a few minutes later he's asleep.

It's been a good day.


For a week after, things are as good as they've ever been. They beat the Bruins and the Habs in regulation and the Canucks in overtime, and he and Sidney sleep together twice and spend two other nights hanging out. Sidney's still the person to ask, and he's still careful and methodical, but it's good - better than Geno would've thought it could be.

Their Saturday night is free, so a bunch of them go out. Sidney's as awkward in bars as ever. Talbot's determined to hook him up with someone. Geno's pretty sure it should bother him, but mostly it's just hilarious.

"Look, we can't all be Lothario or whatever," Sidney says, scowling at his beer. "And one-night stands -"

"Spare us the lecture, man, we all know how you feel." Jordan punches Sidney's shoulder. "More for us, anyway."

"Yeah, yeah."

"You okay?" Pascal says quietly when Jordan wanders off to get another beer.

It's the same kind of tone he uses with his kids. Geno smiles a little and nods. "Long day, bit tired."

"At least you won't have to drag Sidney home."

"Maybe if Jordan works a little harder, I have to drive him again." Geno holds up his beer in an ironic salute. "Can't wait."

"Oh, fuck off, Geno," Sidney says, but it's amiable enough.

They're normal, completely normal. And Geno's not even approaching buzzed enough to let any of that happiness show, but it's still there, warming the pit of his stomach as he tries to talk Flower into propositioning the two girls who look like they might be dating.

Geno and Sidney end up taking separate cabs home. Sidney texts him on the way, though. "Breakfast? can be at your place by six."

Geno rolls his eyes. how about brunch. 11.

I'll be hungry before then.

Have toast. Is good for you.

You're not my nutritionist. Then, a few seconds later, Hey. Tonight was good.

Yes. Was nice.

Sidney doesn't answer, and a few minutes later the cab rolls up to Geno's place. He tucks his phone into his pocket and heads inside, glad no one else can see how happy he looks.


When Geno answers the door the next morning, Sidney pushes him inside and kisses him. He smiles a little when he pulls back, easy and open. "Ready?"

"Ready," Geno says.

They go to breakfast at an IHOP, because it's close to Geno's and it's not nice enough that people will think it's weird that they're eating there together. They're playing the Caps tonight, so Sidney talks strategy, opening the conversation with, "We're going to need to match Ovechkin tonight. I know he's your friend, but -"

"Is easy play against friends, Sid. Don't worry." Geno taps his fork on his plate. "You come out with us tonight, yes?"

"It's not like I'll be able to keep up." Sidney stabs the omelet, a little more viciously than necessary.

But navigating Sidney's feelings is becoming way easier for Geno. "You think you have to match Russians drink for drink? How long you been playing hockey?"

"Yeah, yeah." Sidney leans back, relaxing a little. "Okay."

"Good," Geno says. "Now. We talk about big Nashville fight or weather, not strategy. Strategy for practice."

"You're trying to distract me."

"Trying to make you relax. We beat them, okay? We play game on ice, not in heads." Geno pauses to think, trying to fit the words he knows around what he's trying to say. "Is always big deal. Know that. But breakfast can be breakfast, see? Even on big day."

He's not totally sure he succeeds at getting his point across - he'd need a lot better English and more natural tact to be able to tell Sidney to dial it down on a game day - but Sidney squints at him and then nods. "Yeah, okay. So, Nashville."

The rest of the day passes easily enough. They beat the Caps, which Geno can't help but think is for the best for multiple reasons; Alex can hang out with someone who's beaten him, and Sidney really can't.

It's a weird group that night: Alex, Sasha, Sidney, and himself. Alex is all over Sasha just like he always is, and Sidney's giving him the awkward side-eye like they haven't been friendly for years now. Alex keeps dropping references to (one-sided, Geno can only assume) conversations that he and Sidney have had, and Sidney nods and then goes to get another drink.

When he does it for the third time, Alex follows him. Geno shakes his head. "He's stubborn, isn't he?"

"Alex? Stubborn and ridiculous. And too friendly by half." Sasha studies him. "You know everyone's going to know about this by tomorrow."

Geno sighs. "And telling you it's not what it looks like?"

"Won't get you anywhere."

Geno thought as much. "I don't know what to tell you."

"I don't want to be involved in your personal life." Sasha smiles narrowly. "I've got my own. Just, you know. Be aware that people talk."

"I will. I am." Geno nods at Sidney as he comes back. "Took you awhile. We placing bets on you getting lost."

"Funny." Sidney's expression is weird, Geno realizes, pinched and uncertain - and Alex is nowhere to be seen.

From the way Sasha stiffens next to him, he's not the only one who noticed. "Where is Alex?" Sasha says.

"He went to the bathroom." Sidney sits down and forces a smile. It's almost painful to look at. "What'd I miss?"

"Not much," Geno says. "I gonna get some air, Sid, you want come?"

Sidney looks at him, his mouth in a flat line. "No thanks."

Geno forces himself to shrug. Obviously Alex said something stupid and now Sidney's pissed - probably something about Sidney's playing style. It's none of Geno's business, and Sidney obviously wants space.

He only stands outside for a few minutes before coming back in. Sasha and Sidney are talking, and Sidney looks engaged, if not relaxed. It's about hockey, then. But he stiffens and frowns the second Geno comes back over.

"Sidney telling about your first year here," Sasha says.

"Only because you made me," Sidney says. The brittle smile from before has returned.

Geno's not sure if it's one too many beers or what that makes this something he doesn't want to put up with. He doesn't really care. "I getting tired, gonna go," he says. "Say bye to Alex for me."

Sasha's brows are practically in his hairline. "You going too?" he says to Sidney.

Sidney doesn't even look at Geno. "Nah, I'm good."

The only reason Geno doesn't show his frustration is because he's already turned away. "Later," he says over his shoulder, and leaves.

He barely makes it back to his house before Sidney texts him. "Sorry. Alex was a little much. I was a dick."

"Is fine," Geno says, and turns his phone to silent, getting into bed and asleep as quickly as possible. Hopefully, Sidney will be less weird in the morning.

Sidney doesn't call or text the next morning; Geno doesn't see him at all until practice. And it's fine, Geno tells himself. They're not attached at the hip. They've been a little closer the past week, sure, but not talking to each other for twelve hours is perfectly fine. Especially since Sidney's playing brilliantly during practice, having the kind of day that makes the rest of the guys give him shit just because he'd be unbearably annoying if someone didn't.

Geno's watching, so he can tell that Sidney's a little more uncertain than usual. Some of his awkward edges are back, and Geno doesn't crack any jokes that would make Sidney relax.

It's subtle, but it's more than enough to make Geno worry.

There's nothing he can do about it, though, so Geno throws himself into practice and tries to ignore it. When they're done, Sidney showers and leaves quickly, without so much as looking at Geno.

He needs space. Geno knows he does. So he doesn't follow, doesn't even say anything. Instead he insults Flower's mom, pretends not to hear Staaler and Talbot's plans for Lovejoy, and heads home.

It's not like when Sidney's at his house, it explodes in light and laughter. Sidney often alternates between being obnoxious and not saying anything at all. But as he makes dinner, Geno's becoming acutely aware of just how much time he and Sidney have spent together over the past few weeks.

He feels like an idiot. They haven't promised anything; they're just friends. He's blowing this out of proportion. Sidney's gotten weird in the past, about things that have nothing to do with Geno or their friendship. Why should their friendship with benefits be any different?

It's not, he tells himself firmly, and sits down in front of the TV. Things are fine; things will keep being fine. There's no real reason, aside from paranoia and feelings he knows are inappropriately intense, to think otherwise.

When eleven rolls around, he clears up and heads up the stairs for bed. It's good, he tells himself. A little distance is smart. Playoffs are just a few months away, and it's a pretty close conference; they have to keep their heads up right now. That includes not getting tangled up in the ridiculous fucking soap opera of feelings he has for Sidney.


Morning skate the next day is similarly uneventful, but once it's over Sidney says, "Hey, Geno, you heading home till the game?"

Geno shrugs, forcing himself to be casual. "Probably. Take nap."

"Come hang out. I got Netflix on my TV, I'm going to rot my brain."

It's a paper-thin excuse and Geno can tell Sidney knows it, but Geno doesn't call him on it. "Sure," he says, and grabs his bag.

He drives, because he's pretty sure Sidney behind the wheel right now would be an unqualified disaster. Sidney proves him right by fidgeting, sighing, and generally betraying more nervousness than he has since they started this, before finally saying, "This thing. This thing we're doing, it's good, right? It's normal. We're friends who fuck, and that's fine. And normal."

"Said normal twice," Geno says, swallowing hard.

"Ovie said -"

"Listen to Alex, always regret it," Geno says. He doesn't want Sidney to finish what he was saying, doesn't want it with an intensity that surprises even him.

"Maybe, but still."

Geno glances at Sidney. He's staring straight ahead, but he looks determined. Geno's not getting out of this. "What he say?"

"He said this thing with you is the best game he's seen me play since 2009," Sidney says.

Geno's honestly impressed by the sheer amount of bitterness Sidney manages to infuse that sentence with. And fuck, of course Alex would think he has to be the threatening friend. Geno's going to make Sasha put a muzzle on the guy. "Alex is idiot," he says. "Ignore him."

"It's not normal, though, is it?" Sidney's voice is getting higher, more tense. "What we're doing."

"We close friends," Geno says. "Close friends normally don't fuck."

"You could have told me that."

It's hard not to do something ridiculous like laugh hysterically. "You a bit pushy, in beginning. And it works, yes? Why you worried?"

He's expecting a defensive response, but Sidney sighs. "I'll tell you when I figure it out."

Geno doesn't answer. He's not going to push, he tells himself over and over. It won't accomplish a damn thing, so he's not going to do it.

When they get to Sidney's, Sidney hops out of the car before Geno even turns it off. By the time he gets to the front door, Sidney's already inside.

But when he sits down on the couch, careful to give him plenty of space, Sidney scoots over and practically throws himself on Geno. It's the least graceful thing he's ever done.

"I'm not saying I don't want this," Sidney says. He's staring at Geno with ridiculous intensity. "I want this, I just..." He shakes his head and kisses Geno.

This is the point at which Geno should pull back, reassert the fact that what they're doing is supposed to be casual. Geno needs to set boundaries. He needs to keep this sane. He's pretty sure this isn't going anywhere good.

He kisses back.

They don't do anything else, just kiss, Sidney a little desperate and Geno just trying to keep up. When it's time to go, Sidney rolls off him and wipes his mouth, looking so determined it's almost comical.

Geno just does his level best not to do anything that will spook Sidney more, and tries to ignore his conscience telling him that now would be an excellent time to just end it.

"I'll try not to be weird," Sidney says in the car on the way to the game.

Geno shrugs. "Me too."

Sidney snorts, but lets it lie.

They lose that night, 3-2, and the only point either of them registers against Nashville is an ugly power play goal by Sidney in the second. It's frustrating, especially since they're about to go on the road; Geno would like to head out with a victory in hand. No one takes it harder than Sidney, though. He's quieter than usual after a loss, and he heads out alone without even glancing at anyone else.

"You going to talk to him?" Jordan says.

Geno shrugs. "Not much to say. We lose, we travel. He not like."

"He'll scare off every girl in Chicago with that look on his face." It's Jordan's way of saying he's worried; Geno knows he cares about the loss as much as the rest of them.

"I follow him to house, scare him into cheering up?"

"You're funny, man." Jordan claps him on the back. "Better day tomorrow."

"Sure." Geno heads out.

He'd love to spend more time with Sidney, which is exactly why he's not going to. He crashes pretty much as soon as he gets home, waking up early for practice before they head out to Chicago. The game's tomorrow night, so they have plenty of time to decompress and get ready. And Coach isn't the kind of guy to keep them from eating out as a team because of a bad game.

The flight to Chicago isn't exactly long, but he naps during it, his communication with Sidney reduced to a shoulder punch as he's getting on the plane. When they get off, Geno and Talbot head to their room. Max is keeping up a steady stream of talk, both trash-talk and general observations. Geno doesn't have to do much more than laugh at the right places and occasionally supply Talbot with a Russian curse word.

"So you're headed out with us?" Talbot says. "Just the dinner, obviously, we're not looking to catch hell."

Geno nods. "Should be fun."

"As long as there are no wet blankets there. Love that kid, but Sid's been intense lately."

"Has he? Hadn't noticed."

Talbot snorts. "You're as bad as he is sometimes."

"No one as bad as Sidney," Geno says, hoping that will shut down the conversation.

It does, of course; Talbot's not that perceptive. "Whatever, man," he says. "I'm going to go get changed."

Sidney does, in fact, spend the night in. Geno's more than a little relieved. Sidney will review plays and do his other obsessive routines, and tomorrow the team will be back on track. There's no need for him to do a damn thing; Sidney's got this.

But when they get back to the hotel, Sidney's standing outside Geno and Talbot's room. "Hey, Geno, can I talk to you?"


Sidney shakes his head. "Just some stuff for tomorrow. I was going over a few DVDs - " Talbot groans - "and a few things stuck out."

He's lying through his teeth. Geno's pretty sure he's about to fly off the handle, though, so he says, "Sure."

Sidney jerks his head and starts off down the hall. Geno follows, doing his level best not to do - or say - anything stupid.

He's not expecting, when Sidney's bedroom door closes behind him, for Sidney to push him back against the door and rear back to punch him.

He doesn't have time to react, so when Sidney says, "Fuck," and drops his fist, he's still blinking stupidly.

"You fucking...I don't even. I can't." Sidney turns away from him. "You motherfucking asshole."

"What?" Geno manages to say.

"I talked to Ovechkin." Sidney's biting every word off, and he's practically vibrating with suppressed energy. Geno doesn't think he's seen him like this in years. "He wanted to apologize."

"Sidney, I not responsible for what Alex say."

"Oh, okay. Fine, then." Sidney takes a step forward so that they're standing toe to toe. "So when he said he just felt like he had to threaten me because you've fucking loved me for fucking ages, that was just Ovechkin being Ovechkin?"

Everything in Geno comes screaming to a halt.

He has to say yes. He knows he has to say yes. He absolutely, positively has to say yes and make it convincing, because this is happening, and Sidney's pissed as hell, and there's no way out of this except for Geno to suddenly become an excellent liar.

But by the time he gets his shit together, it's too late. Sidney shakes his head, looking disgusted. "You asshole."

Geno can barely string an English sentence together. "Was not – did not want you to know."

"Obviously," Sidney snaps.

And something about the way he says it, the self-righteousness Geno hates in Sidney coming to the forefront, spurs Geno's anger. He knows it's stupid to fight back, but - "You not have right to know everything about me, Sid."

"I'm pretty sure I have the right to know things like that." Sidney shakes his head, taking a few steps back. His fists are still clenched. "You should have told me. You should have."

Geno watches him, the way his jaw works, his gaze darting from right to left and never landing on Geno. "Should I?"

"Fucking yes, you should have. If I'd known -"

"What? No pushing? No asking, one more time, one more time? I tell you at beginning you matter, Russians know what I like. "

It's a low blow and Geno knows it, but part of him enjoys the way Sidney flushes. "It wasn't -"

"Was there. Know what was," Geno says.

"So, what, you think I'm some kind of asshole? That I'm going to just take advantage of your - how long? Were you just going to let this keep going?"

"Was casual." A lie. Geno swallows. "Was good. I thought -"

"Fuck what you thought," Sidney says. "You were supposed to be the one who knew what he was doing."

"You say have to be perfect now? Tall order."

"That's not the point."

"What point? You have point? News to me." Geno needs to stop talking. He needs to stop. Nothing about what he's doing is even approaching okay.

"My point is, this is over. Done. We're fucking done, Geno." Sidney takes another step back, his back brushing against the hotel window curtains. He crosses his arms, and Geno's struck by - he doesn't know. Awareness, the kind that usually comes in the blink of an eye as the puck hits the Pens' net. Except, fuck, this is a hell of a lot more important than a game.

And that's the problem, he thinks, feeling defeated. Whatever Sidney's feeling right now, aside from pissed as hell, he's going to deal with it and shelve it, because Sidney's life is about hockey and that's what he does. If Sidney says they're over, then they're over.

"Sorry," he says, and turns to go.

Sidney says very quietly, "You really, really should have told me."

He might be trying to goad Geno. It might be deliberate. But it doesn't really matter, because Geno goes from angry and tired to flat-out angry in the time it takes to turn around again.

"When?" It's a struggle to stay in English, to force the words out. Geno does it anyway. "I come here, think, Sidney Crosby good player, annoying kid. I learn, I know you, think, Sidney good friend, good guy. Then think, Sidney good guy, likes girls. Like him, push it down. Then Sidney like boys, still push it down. Sidney want - this, still push down. When? When I say, by the way, I care?" Geno takes a step forward, ignoring the way Sidney flinches. "When, Sid?"

Sidney won't look at him. "You should leave."

Geno doesn't want to leave. He wants to punch Sidney, wants to kiss him, push him down and -

"Leave," Sidney says again, firmly.

And so, for the first time in too long, Geno does the right thing: he leaves.

Geno would love to get so blindingly drunk he doesn't even remember his own name, but they have a game tomorrow. A hell of a lot more would have to happen to him for him to throw that away.

Plus, he thinks as he heads back into his and Talbot's room, Sidney won't be getting drunk. He'll be lying in bed fuming at Geno for awhile, and then he'll go to bed at a responsible time.

And Geno will be fucked to hell if he lets Sidney take this better than he does.

He's pretty sure, in a vague way, that it just hasn't sunk in yet. He barely remembers what he says to Talbot when Talbot asks after Sidney. Showering blurs into getting into bed blurs into watching TV until he's sleepy, and yeah, it hasn't sunk in yet. If it had, Geno thinks, time would be moving normally. He'd feel something.

He hopes this pattern holds until after the game. They have four days between Chicago and Toronto; more than enough time to hit rock bottom, Geno thinks. Well, hitting rock bottom and calling Alex to rip him a new one.

But right now he just needs to sleep.

His dreams are as fuzzy as the half hour leading up to them. Sidney's in most of them, smiling and being his usual weird self; a few times, his smile gets ugly and he's yelling again. Geno spends what feels like the whole night reaching and reaching, trying to get to him, to make him react. He's not even sure if he's saying things to Sidney in the dreams, or just thinking them really hard; in the end it doesn't matter. He wakes up alone, with Talbot snoring in the other bed.

He feels like he's demolished half a liquor cabinet. He sits up, mind reeling. The shock's receding, leaving the same nagging sadness he'd felt in the dream. He and Sidney are over. That last time on Sidney's couch, kissing like they had time to finish it after the game - that was it. Never again.

Geno makes a face at himself and goes to brush his teeth.

It's good, he thinks determinedly. He'd been meaning to break it off anyway. Sidney's probably not speaking to him, and he really is going to lay into Alex, but it's still good. He was going to waste his fucking life wanting Sidney. Now he has the opportunity to do something else. Or someone else.

He laughs, feeling sick, and turns away from the mirror.

He gets some shit for how he looks, but nothing serious; Coach doesn't even pull him aside to ask if he's okay. And it's not like Geno wants to be pulled for a fictitious 24-hour bug, so he keeps the fiction up, playing his ass off at morning skate. He and Sidney barely look at each other, but their passes connect; they're decent, if not great. Geno knows the guys are mistaking Sidney's quietness for pre-game determination, and that's good. Once he can make multi-syllable words in English again, they'll be fine.

Flower asks him if he wants to grab lunch out, but he shakes his head and goes back to his room. Maybe Flower won't realize what's going on, and the other guys will think Sidney's rubbed off on him. Maybe if he makes enough fatalistic jokes to himself, he'll get back to normal more quickly.

Probably not, though.

Alex starts texting him about fifteen minutes after morning skate ends. Half an hour and fifteen messages and two missed calls later, Geno turns off his phone.

The game that night is slow and methodically played, and when they come out of it with a win, it doesn't have much to do with Geno or Sidney. Geno knows Coach is worried, but he's not going to say anything when they're off for just a night. And it will be just a night; Geno's going to do his job. He's going to get through the fog surrounding him and get back to normal.

Geno passes up on going out with the guys and heads back to the hotel alone. He's not surprised to find himself trailing Sidney, and doesn't even bother trying to make it less awkward by stopping for a coffee or speeding up and passing him. When they get to the elevators, though, Geno takes the first one and Sidney doesn't get in with him.

That's good, Geno thinks. It's a solid effort on Sidney's part to keep this thing under control, and Geno appreciates it. He really does.

He goes to sleep early, wishing once again that he could get drunk. This time, though, he at least doesn't have dreams he remembers.

When he wakes up in the morning, it's to Talbot saying, "Get your lazy ass out of bed, you Russian monster, we've got places to go."

"Ugh," Geno says, not moving.

"No, but seriously," Talbot says. "Come on, man."

It's seven AM; Geno's slept nine hours. More than enough, but he feels like shit anyway. "Okay, okay," he forces himself to say, sitting up.

"Fuck, you look awful. You want me to -" Talbot frowns. "I don't know, get you something?"

It wasn't for nothing that he told Sidney Talbot couldn't even take care of a plant – and that thought makes the pain spike again, so he says, "Am fine. Will shower. Give me minute."

"Sure thing." Talbot shrugs and goes to his bed, flipping on the TV.

Showering makes him feel a little more human, as does turning his phone back on. Alex has been badgering him nonstop, and there are missed calls from Oksana, his mother, Ilya, and a single one from Sasha. He groans when he sees them, but the familiar annoyance at all of them makes him feel marginally better.

Which, granted, means that he's still miserable as hell. But he has days to call them back and start getting over this. He's going to take advantage of them.

When they touch down in Pittsburgh, he gets out his phone and calls Sasha. He figures he'll be the easiest to deal with.

Sasha answers on the first ring. "If you want to kill him, I'd understand."

"I'm going to call him." His voice still doesn't have much expression, he notes absently; he needs to work on that. "I'm sure he feels bad. It was a good thing. What we were doing was stupid."

"Uh-huh," Sasha says, not sounding convinced. "Well, I'll try to keep him from bugging you more. Call him when you're ready or whatever."

"Thanks," Geno says.

"And..." Sasha sighs. "Look, I don't want to talk about your feelings with you, but if you need to drunk-dial someone or whatever I can just leave the phone on speaker while I go do something else."

Geno surprises himself by snorting a laugh at that. "Right. Okay. I'll talk to you later."

There's no small amount of relief in Sasha's voice when he says, "Yeah, definitely. Bye."

He doesn't want to talk to his parents just yet; they'll make threats both vague and not so vague, and he's not ready to hear that. He goes home and spends an hour sitting in his living room like a complete idiot, trying to think of something to do that doesn't involve getting trashed.

But he keeps drawing a blank, so finally he puts his phone upstairs, out of the way, and breaks out the tequila. He's going to be mixing liquor, he decides grimly, doing eight shots in rapid succession and then pouring himself a glass of vodka.

He lands on the Home Shopping Network purely by chance when he turns on the TV, but the drunker he gets, the better it works as a distraction. He lets himself think about Sidney, drawing one thought out and turning it over in his mind before moving on to another. By the time he's halfway done with the second glass, he's been reduced to thinking about Sidney's expressions - the awkward face he'd pull when he wasn't sure of himself with Geno, the look on his face when he gets a goal, the impossibly bland expression he wears when he's dealing with the media. It's not like Sidney's an expressive person, but somehow Geno's cataloged every minute change, hours and hours of trying not to watch Sidney coming back to haunt him.

The woman on the TV is trying to sell him a lab-created ruby necklace. Geno squints at it and takes another drink.

It's not like Sidney's dead. He'll still see him. Of course, that'll make him miserable, too; but that's okay, because Sidney can go on and be happy. He's had a relationship now, he's had sex, he doesn't need Geno at all, and that's good. Geno's glad. Or at least he will be when he sobers up, probably.

Sidney's probably just fine. Only - no, he wouldn't be just fine. Geno can't pretend to himself that Sidney didn't feel something. He knows Sidney too well for that. They were friends, and Sidney enjoyed the sex, enjoyed being with Geno. But Sidney will sublimate it until it goes away, and in the meantime he'll play excellent hockey and eventually he'll move on to someone else, and Geno...can't even deal with thinking about Sidney with someone else, much less moving on himself.

He is so utterly and completely fucked.

He falls asleep face down on the couch pillow, and wakes up in a puddle of his own drool. It's enough to make him grimace, but not nearly as bad as it could be. The pounding hangover he has feels like a very specific kind of validation.

Once he's had some water and aspirin, he goes upstairs to face his phone. He's a little dizzy still, but it looks like the only people who've kept calling are Oksana and his parents.

He lies down on his bed and calls Oksana back.

"Okay, scale of one to still drunk," she says when she picks up the phone.

Geno groans.

"I thought so. Feel any better?"

"I didn't quit thinking about him, if that's what you mean." He pauses to evaluate. The ache in the pit of his stomach has eased a bit, but that could still be the alcohol talking. "Maybe. I don't know. How did you even -"

"Taking a call from Ilya Kovalchuk while I'm at work was not actually something I ever expected to have to do," she says crisply.

It's a Wednesday, Geno realizes. "Wait, are you at work? Shit, sorry."

"Time zones are a thing, Zhenya. It's almost time for me to be in bed."

"I'm an idiot," he says unnecessarily.

"Well, yeah. Do you want to tell me what actually happened?"

"Ilya summarized?"

"He told me what Ovechkin said, but it's not like he had a bug in the room when you two fought." She pauses. "Probably."

"There's not much to tell," Geno says. "We fought, and it's over."

"He freaked out that bad, huh."

"That's not -"

"Don't lie."

Geno sighs. "Yes. Yes, he freaked out."

"I thought so." She sounds sad; it's fairly obvious she doesn't think much of his chances. Geno can't blame her, since he doesn't either. "I'm sorry."

"It happens."

"Yes, but - never mind." He hears her shift around. She's probably curled up in bed; she spent a lot of nights like that, back when they were still dating, talking to him until she fell asleep.

"Quit it," she says sharply.

He blinks. "I wasn't doing anything."

"You were getting maudlin. And you know as well as I do that we were completely horrible for each other."

It's a good point, but Geno still feels chagrin. "I wouldn't go that far."

"I would. Now. What are you going to do?"

It's too expansive a question for him to wrap his mind around just yet. "What do you mean?"

"Are you going to go out to a club? Mope some more? Shave your head and quit the NHL to be a beekeeper?"

"Very funny." He thinks it over, but draws up a blank. "Keep playing hockey."

"With a broken heart, you mean."

"I'll be fine."

"I just think you should, you know." She sighs. "At least try to find someone else."

"Not yet."

"Well, obviously not yet, but there's a difference between saying you'll be fine and thinking you'll get back in the saddle eventually."

"Mental images, Oksana."

"Oh, come on, you know what I mean." Her voice gentles when she says, "I'm not saying you have to make a decision right now, Zhenya. Just remember, you're not going to have a broken heart forever."

"I know that," he lies. It feels like forever.

"Regardless of what it feels like."

She still knows him too well. "It wasn't me, was it?"

Immediately she turns brisk again. "Of course not. Don't be ridiculous. You think I'd let myself get heartbroken over you? That's self-flattery to the highest degree."

He smiles - barely, but it's still there. "Thank you."

"Hopefully I won't have to do this again anytime soon. Did you know I worked double time because that twit Lara can't do her job? It's not hard. I swear, that girl has more fluff in her head than brains. Dominik says I'm being a little harsh, but what else can I do when I'm at the office until eight or nine correcting her mistakes?"

Geno settles back and lets her talk. Hopefully she'll never have to do this again for a Sidney-related problem, but he's left, once again, feeling profoundly grateful for her.

When she winds down, he says, "I should go. I need a shower."

"I'd imagine so. Call your parents. They're worried."

"I will, I promise. I just needed space."

"Hockey players are so dramatic," she says dismissively. "Call me when you're not ready to cry into your pillow about Sidney Crosby, will you? If I wanted to hear about him nonstop I'd read more NHL news."

"Very funny. I'll talk to you soon."

"You'd better," she says, and hangs up.

Geno takes a deep breath and sits up. The world's stopped spinning, at least, and his headache is manageable. He's going to go to the gym; it's early afternoon, and Sidney will have already come and gone. He'll do a little conditioning, with the hopes of tomorrow's practice going smoothly.

He can handle this. It's nothing even remotely approaching impossible.


He finally calls his parents that night, late enough that it's morning for them. "I am going to fly to Pittsburgh and beat you both," his mother says when she picks the phone up.

"I needed space, Mama."

"And your father needs a legion of carpenters to fix the roof; what's your point?"

He closes his eyes. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Well, of course not. Just tell me, do I need to call in some favors?"

He's never entirely sure if his parents are serious about their threats. "I'll be fine."

"Good. I won't keep you, then." She pauses, then says, "Are you sure things are done? I'd have thought -"

"I'm sure," he says before she can reassure him that Sidney told her he loved Geno or something when she talked to him. "Say hi to Papa for me?"

"Of course. I'll call in a few days, we'll talk about things that don't make you go on a bender."

"It wasn't a bender," Geno says. He hangs up on his mother's laugh.

He picks up the house a bit after that, putting the liquor bottles in the trashcan and straightening up the living room. Sidney hasn't left much at Geno's place, but Geno finds a sock, a pen that's Sidney's based on the picked-off labels, and a game cartridge that he's pretty sure isn't his. He drops them in the junk drawer and forces himself to go to bed in his bedroom, with the TV off.

It's harder not to think about him there, with the lights off and nothing to distract him from the nagging, constant knowledge that he's been an idiot and is paying for it now. It's like having an injury that'll take him off the ice, knowing there's nothing he can do about it, that there's a trajectory he'll have to follow that has nothing to do with what he actually wants. He's been injured enough to know that eventually, he'll be fine; but that's no more a comfort right now than it would be if he was put on LTIR.

He goes to sleep hugging his pillow. It's stupid, he tells himself; it's not like he touched Sidney much when Sidney slept over. He feels lonely anyway.

When he gets into practice the next day, Sidney looks him in the eye and says, "Hey."

Geno blinks and says, "Hey."

Sidney nods and turns away.

It's as obvious to Geno as if Sidney flat-out told him that Sidney's decided they need to be friends again. He's thought up a plan, with stages and actions Sidney needs to perform. Plays. He's probably mapped the whole thing out in his head.

Geno's vaguely sickened by his ability to find that endearing.

Practice is better, though. Geno and Sidney are in contact again, and it's obvious that Coach has noticed and is satisfied with it. They're still not great, but they're both solid. Geno doesn't realize it had been obvious that they were anything else until Staaler says, "You made up, then?"

He blinks at Jordan like an idiot. "Made up?"

Staaler nods over at Sidney. "Dude's been playing like someone stabbed his grandma with a hockey stick, and you've been almost as bad."

"Right." Of course it is. "We fine. Long days, disagreements. No big deal."

Jordan nods. It's exactly the confirmation he was looking for, Geno thinks, and feels like an idiot. "See you," he says, and skates away at Coach's whistle.

He'd like to lay all the credit for fixing things at Sidney's door, but the truth is, he learned to interact with Sidney as a player before he learned to interact with Sidney as a person, and he still has that. When they get to the locker room they don't speak, don't even look at each other, until Sidney claps him on the shoulder and says, "I'll see you later, man," and leaves.

"You kids," Johnson says, shaking his head.

Geno shrugs and heads for the showers.

It's optional skate the next day; they fly out to Toronto the day after. In between making elaborate mental plans to avoid Colby yet again, Geno plays so much NHL 11 and Call of Duty he feels like his brain is falling out and does his level best not to think about Sidney. Shooting little guys on the TV is a pretty effective way of doing it, actually.

Halfway through the day, Alex calls. Geno blinks at his phone for a second before picking up.

"I'm sorry," Alex says immediately.

Geno closes his eyes. "Don't."

"Well -" He makes a frustrated noise. "Fine. Nikolai's been asking after you. He told me to tell you to look him up when you're in Toronto."

"Why didn't he just call me?"

"Would you have answered the phone?"

He's known Nikolai for a long time; then again, they're not that close and he's still screening all his calls. He half expects Ilya to show up on his doorstep if he keeps it up. "No."

"Exactly. So look him up. He'll take you out, help you forget."

"That's not what I want," Geno says sharply.

"Did I say you had to take a nice boy home? Or girl. No, I didn't."

"Fine," Geno says. "Got it. I'll call him. Thank you."

"I really am sorry. Don't yell at me, I'm going to say it - I was an idiot, and I'm sorry."

Alex is rarely serious, much less matter-of-fact, about things that aren't hockey. Geno grits his teeth to keep from saying something he'll regret, and finally manages to say, "Thank you."

"Go out with the guys," Alex says. "Call Sergei, something."

"Sergei will yell at me for feeling sorry for myself."

"Do you know anyone who wouldn't? We're Russian."

It's a disturbingly good point. "I'll see you."

"And now I can let Sasha know I've done the right thing. Excellent. Bye." Alex hangs up.

Geno doesn't actually want to activate the Russian phone tree any more than he already has, so he sends Nikolai an email instead. He doesn't bother waiting around for a response, just keeps playing Call of Duty. A bunch of the guys are out, it's true, and Geno could go with him if he wanted; Sidney almost definitely won't. But he's still barely fit for phone conversations, much less interacting with people. The video games are safer.

Geno honestly wishes he could hate Sidney for turning him into this person, scared and pathetic. But he doesn't have it in him.

Geno makes plans to meet up with Nikolai after the game the next morning. He puts off going to the arena as long as possible, but eventually he has to suck it up and go. Sidney nods to him when they get on the bus, but doesn't try to talk to him, for which Geno is pathetically grateful. He's going to be going along with Sidney's plan to be friends again whether he likes it or not, and he already knows it, but that doesn't mean he wants it to start right away.

Playing Toronto is always a little intense, and tonight's no different. By the end of the game, Sidney's put up a goal and an assist on Geno's own goal, Flower's almost gotten into fights with two different Leafs defensemen, and Colby Armstrong's hit Geno so many times he ends up limping to the bench halfway through the third.

"What'd you do, fuck his mom?" Talbot says.

Geno shrugs.

"Right," Talbot says. "Well, fuck that guy, anyway."

"Uh-huh," Geno says, and leans back, trying to breathe.

The Leafs squeak by with the win, which just adds insult to injury. Geno's feeling more than fucking done in the locker room, and it's obvious everyone else feels the same, so he's surprised when Sidney says quietly, "You're going to hang out with Nikolai?"

Geno frowns a little before nodding.

"Have fun." He screws up his face a little. "I'm sorry about Colby. He thinks he has to defend me."

Geno kind of hates himself for immediately saying, "Does he?"

Sidney shrugs. "We're fine."

That's not an answer, and Geno kind of wants to push Sidney. He would have, if Sidney'd acted like this before they started fucking. But now is different, more different than it's been since he first came to the States, so he looks away and says, "See you."

"I'll make him apologize."

Sidney sounds determined. Geno says, "No need. He mad, is fine. He your friend."

"But -" Sidney shakes his head. "Okay." He turns and leaves.

Geno meets Nickolai at a bar near the hotel. Nickolai takes one look at him and says, "Strongest drink you have," to the bartender.

"It's not that bad," Geno says, sitting down.

"You look ready to fall over. Thank you," he says in English to the bartender. "We'll take a table, yeah? You'll buy food and drown your sorrows."

"Did Ilya -"

"You know the answer to that," Nickolai says, and leads the way to a table.

They spend the night drinking and not talking about much except hockey news. Nickolai seems content to play decent hockey in a town that loves it, and more than willing to trade stories that essentially amount to gossip. He voices the opinion that the NHL needs more Russians more and more emphatically as the night goes on, and it's so normal and such a change from talking about Sidney that Geno finds himself laughing and agreeing.

When they finally call it a night, Geno drunkenly hails a cab back to the hotel. He doesn't realize the order of the rooms might matter until he almost stumbles into Sidney as he's making his way down the hall towards his room.

Sidney's expression is completely unreadable when he says, "Don't forget to drink some water."

Geno's saved from the indignity of saying something embarrassing or trying to start a fight by Sidney letting himself into his own room.

He knows Talbot won't give a fuck if he passes out drunk, but he'll definitely judge himself, so he strips down and gets water before crawling into bed.


When he wakes up in the morning he feels just fine. If he was a pettier person he'd feel vindicated; he wasn't nearly drunk enough for the judging he's pretty sure Sidney's doing. But that would be ridiculous, even by Geno's newly lowered standards, so he shoves the thought down and goes to take a shower.

It's not like he and Sidney had hobbies together, or anything like that. There's no reason, really, to feel at loose ends when they touch down in Pittsburgh. The only thing that's missing is the sex, and when he stops being so down he'd be a horrible lay, he'll fix that part, too.

Of course, that doesn't actually stop him from feeling lonely. That's a moot point, though, because very little would.

He's not really surprised when Sidney sits down next to him on the bus over to the arena. "You're going home?"

"Have morning skate. Need rest," Geno says.

"I figured." Sidney sighs a little. "I'll be hitting up the gym."

"Course you will."

"I mean, you could come."

Geno closes his eyes and counts to ten. "That not how this works, Sid, you know that."

"I do, but -" Sidney makes a frustrated noise. "I'm trying to fix things."

It makes sense, Geno thinks. Things were more casual for Sidney; he's trying to keep them that way. "You know how things were." He's careful to keep it vague, despite knowing no one's listening. "With me. You know I not end like that for me."

"But -"

"Not buts," Geno says. He makes it as gentle as possible. "That all."

Sidney falls silent, turning away from Geno and hunching over his PSP. Geno's glad, he is. It's obvious Sidney's confused. He wouldn't be trying to do this when he knows how broken up Geno is if he'd ever had a breakup before, if he had any kind of experience with ending a relationship. Geno can't really blame Sidney, because it'd be like blaming a little kid for being bad at sharing. He's not going to be that guy.

When he gets home, he uses the elliptical and his shitty set of home weights and doesn't think about Sidney working out his confusion on the exercise equipment at the gym.

He keeps expecting the gut-wrenching sadness to fade, but it doesn't. Four days pass, they play two games and dodge speculation about whether or not they'll be able to make their way to the top of the conference before the playoffs, and Sidney doesn't make another overture. Through it all, Geno's completely miserable.

Sidney's playing solidly, if boringly, proving Geno's hypothesis that it would take an actually world-shaking event to get him off his game. He wishes it couldn't still make him feel hopelessly fond, but thinking nothing was ever going to happen between them didn't kill off how he felt, and he knows there's no reason to assume an end to their relationship would do the job, either.

Geno wakes up two weeks after Sidney had him leave with a splitting headache. It's their first day off in awhile, with nothing but an optional skate that he was planning on going to. He decides against it when he has to squint and fumble his way to the bathroom where the aspirin is.

An hour and two glasses of water later, he's feeling a little better, so he migrates to the living room couch. He hasn't showered and he feels nine levels of disgusting, but Jeffrey's not going to judge him for being gross, so he lies down and watches the Discovery Channel while he eats cereal.

When the doorbell rings the first time, he doesn't answer, but when it rings again five minutes later Jeffrey starts barking like a maniac. After a minute's debate, he groans and goes out to open the door.

Sidney's standing on the doorstep with his hands jammed in his pockets, staring at the ground. He jerks his head up when the door opens.

Jeffrey's come up behind Geno, and before Geno has a chance to say anything, he has to wrestle him back so he doesn't jump on Sidney. And, fuck, Geno's dog missed Sidney; that alone says volumes about how things were going.

It's not until Jeffrey's calmed down that Geno realizes neither of them have said anything. He squints at Sidney - it's insanely sunny, and unlike Sidney's he's not wearing a baseball cap - and opens his mouth.

Sidney shakes his head, takes a step forward, and kisses Geno.

Geno pulls back immediately, pushing Sidney away. There's not a single thing in the world he could do right now that would be stupider. "Need to talk," he says, staring at Sidney.

Sidney licks his lips. "Yeah," he says, and fuck, he sounds completely wrecked. "Yeah, we need - talking." He takes a step forward.

No. No, no, absolutely not, Geno's going to tell him no and he's going to leave. But somehow he's backed into his own house, and Sidney's closed the door, and Geno hasn't raised a single objection when Sidney kisses him again.

It doesn't feel like anything except what it is, a slow slide of lips that has Geno getting so turned on he's dizzy with it. He knows it's going to hurt later, but right now everything's eased and it seems like the simplest thing in the world to kiss Sidney back.

When Sidney breaks away and heads for Geno's bedroom, Geno follows. They have a weird moment in the doorway, where Geno reaches out for Sidney and Sidney shies away; but then Sidney shakes his head, smiling a little bitterly, and leans in to kiss Geno again.

He lets Geno press him down into the bed, hands all over him, pushing his arms over his head and pressing his wrists into the mattress as Geno kisses Sidney's neck, nuzzles his skin and just breathes.

"I want," Sidney says, and arches his back, thrusting just shy of awkwardly.

"No," Geno says. He tugs Sidney's shirt off, then works on his pants, waiting until Sidney's completely naked to say, "Like this," and licking his dick. It would be better if Geno were on his knees, he's pretty sure. It would make more sense, be more demonstrative of what this sex is.

Geno's not stupid enough to think this is anything but goodbye.

Sidney moans a little, holding himself completely still. It's a weird kind of consideration in the light of Geno moving down until he's deep-throating Sidney, pushing away his gag reflex and just waiting for Sidney to break, swallowing around him and reminding himself to breathe.

"Fuck," Sidney says, reaching down to grip Geno's hair. He's tugging hard. It's uncomfortable and exactly the signal Geno wants. He backs off, then goes down again, moving one hand to Sidney's balls, doing as much as possible because Sidney's still not moving.

After awhile the hand in his hair goes from gripping too hard to petting gently, and Geno's jaw is starting to ache and he knows his voice is going to be torn up. But he wants to make Sidney come like this.

Sidney doesn't come, though, doesn't come and doesn't come until finally Geno has to pull back. And - fuck. Sidney's bloodied his lip and he's staring at the ceiling with more intensity than Geno's ever seen from him.

"Sidney, you." Geno doesn't know what to say.

"I want you to fuck me." Sidney sounds dazed. "Just, Geno, please. Fuck me."

Sidney's earlier accusation comes back to hit him: he's supposed to be the one in control, the one who knows what he's doing. If Sidney will hate him for this later, there's no way he's going to do it.

But Sidney presses his hips back in a way Geno knows. Hell, he's the one who watched Sidney get used to this. "Please," Sidney says again, deliberately.

Geno swallows hard and says, "Lube."

Sidney turns over briefly, grabbing it from the drawer, and passes it over. Geno can't avoid the memories crowding for attention; this was so easy last time, so comfortable. Geno wants to smack himself.

When he presses a finger in, Sidney writhes on it, tongue sweeping over the cut on his lip. It shouldn't be hot, and in a lot of ways it's really not, because it's so fucking obvious that Sidney's hurting. But when Geno moves to two fingers and Sidney fails to bite back his moans, Geno responds in spite of himself.

"Okay, okay, go," Sidney says moments after Geno gets his third finger in.

"Have to skate tomorrow," Geno says.

"I'll deal," Sidney snaps, and lifts his head to glare at Geno.

Geno loves him. Stupidly. He shakes his head at himself and rolls the condom on.

He has a second of feeling completely ridiculous as he's thrusting into Sidney, the physical sensations overwhelming him to the point where he almost laughs. But then it passes and it's just him and Sidney, doing their level best to avoid doing anything intelligent about each other.

"God," Sidney says, and pushes back against Geno. "Next - oh fuck." He bites his lip again, hard enough that Geno flinches in sympathy even as he's devoutly grateful that Sidney didn't say what he was thinking.

Next time.

"What you want?" Geno says, making it as gentle as he can.

"I was going to...on top."

Sidney's flushing and he's not even really asking, but Geno can't tell him no even implicitly. He takes stock for a second and then pulls out, rolling onto his back on the other side of the bed. If Sidney wants this, he's going to have to make the move.

And he does. He straddles Geno and lowers himself carefully, watching Geno's face. He's not practiced, and it takes a second of wiggling to get it to actually work, but Geno ends up back inside him, Sidney sitting gingerly on top of him.

"May want to brace self," Geno says when he can force himself to talk.

Sidney nods jerkily and leans forward. Geno meant against the wall, but Sidney's hands land on his shoulders. It's a little uncomfortable. Sidney's not a light guy, and Geno's pretty thoroughly pinned.

He likes it. "Good."

Sidney nods again, like it was a question. Geno doesn't say anything, just waits until Sidney raises himself up a little, closing his eyes and rocking back down.

Geno can't stop himself from reaching up and holding Sidney's hips, guiding him. Sidney swallows hard and moves, the experimental rhythm getting more and more confident. Geno clenches his jaw - it really does hurt, he's going to feel that for awhile - and tries not to thrust too hard, letting Sidney set the pace. Sidney's still hard, and Geno's honestly shocked that he's not asking Geno to touch him or doing it himself. He can't object to anything that prolongs this, though. It feels too good, and it's the last time. He has to remember everything about it.

Sidney's the one who starts losing control first. His rhythm gets erratic and he closes his eyes for the first time since they started, hands moving over Geno's chest. Geno forces himself to watch, takes a hand off Sidney's hip to get it around his dick and jerks him off exactly as quickly as he knows Sidney needs.

"Geno," Sidney says, low and sad.

Geno shakes his head and speeds his hand up. Sidney should come. He's been waiting for forever and Geno knows he's desperate for it. Any second now he's going to, and then it will be over and Geno can go back to trying to move on.

So of course Sidney has to lean forward, kissing Geno desperately, trapping Geno's hand as he comes between them.

He breaks the kiss the second he's done, but it's just to press down onto Geno. Geno wants to object, but it feels too fucking good; when Sidney reaches out to touch his face, tracing a finger down his cheek, Geno's too far gone to pull away.

Sidney doesn't say anything when Geno comes. Geno's panting, his hands slack against his sides, closing his eyes against the feeling and the odd acceptance in Sidney's expression.

He's gotten better at not falling asleep right after sex, so t's entirely a selfish defense mechanism when he keeps his eyes closed as Sidney gets off him. He expects Sidney to leave the house, but he comes back a minute after rolling the condom off Geno.

Geno opens his eyes when he hears him. Sidney's standing there fully clothed with a washcloth, staring at Geno with a confused look on his face.

"Is okay. Can leave," Geno says.

Sidney shakes his head when Geno tries to sit up and pushes him back down, firmly. He frowns then, gaze moving up and down Geno's body, before moving his hand from Geno's shoulder and using it to cover Geno's eyes.

He's efficient cleaning Geno up, and he takes his hand away once he's done. Geno tells himself to open his eyes, to say something - anything. But he doesn't. He lies there, covered in goosebumps from the drying water, waiting until he hears Sidney walk out, down the stairs, and out the front door before he finally opens his eyes and stares at the ceiling.

That's the end of it, then.

He should get up and change the sheets, go for a run, something. Instead he rolls onto his side, curling up and falling asleep.


He feels like a completely pathetic idiot when he wakes up to his phone ringing. He grabs it and squints at the display. Sergei. It's eleven at night and he should probably ignore it, but he's skirting the edge of asshole by screening so many of the guy's calls, so he sighs and answers.

"Finally," Sergei says. "What's this I hear about you sleeping with Crosby again? I'm going to kill that kid."

Geno groans. "It's been six hours."

"Crosby called Colby, who asked Nikolai to pass his threat on to you, who sensibly called me." Sergei sounds brittle. "Geno, what the hell are you doing?"

"It was an accident."

"Oh, right. I know the feeling. The other day I accidentally participated in an orgy. What can I say? I just fell into it."


"I feel bad for you, obviously, but Geno, you've got to stop this."

"I know. Okay? I know." Geno rubs the bridge of his nose. "I was going to."

"You just made it worse for yourself," Sergei says grimly.

Considering that he's been awake for five minutes and he already feels like absolute shit, Geno's forced to agree. "Yeah."

"You need to set things straight with the kid."

"There's no need. We're done."

Sergei's voice softens - not a lot, but enough that he no longer sounds like he actively wants to punch Geno. "Have you even tried talking with him?"

"You've met him, right? He's not going to want to talk."

"You don't know what's going on with him."

"I know him," Geno says grimly.

"Do you really? Because the way I see it -"

"Sergei. I know him. He doesn't want to talk. He doesn't want to deal with - everything. Which is understandable. I'm not going to change his mind by having a heart to heart."

"And you don't want closure."

"What just happened is as close to closure as we're going to come."

He's pretty sure Sergei is shaking his head right now. "He might have changed, Geno. You don't know for sure what's going on in there."

"Maybe, maybe not, but we're done," Geno says flatly.

"You idiot," Sergei says. "Go back to sleep. You'd better be playing like a fucking rock star when I see you day after tomorrow."

"Never a problem when we're playing you," Geno says.

It's a weak joke, but Sergei hangs up on a snort of laughter.

Sidney looks miserable at morning skate the next day, bad enough that Coach tries to send him to get checked over. Sidney being miserable is as old news as Geno himself feeling like shit, so he does his best to ignore it.

Sergei doesn't even call him to see if he wants to hang out; he's waiting at Geno's car after the game. "That's the worst I've ever seen Sidney Crosby play," he says in greeting.

They lost, it's true. Geno's going to get the energy to care at some point. "Yeah."

"Right," Sergei says, "okay, give me the keys and get in the car."

They drive back to Geno's in silence. Sergei doesn't say anything until he's said hi to Jeffrey and grabbed a beer from Geno's fridge. "It'll get easier. I know you've been ridiculously hung up on him since you got here, but trust me. It's not going to be like this forever."

Geno knows that, but hearing it is nice all the same, in an awful way. "Thanks."

Sergei salutes him lazily with his beer and wanders out to the living room.

It's a good, low-key night, the kind of night Geno used to have all the time before he started this thing with Sidney. He's feeling a little better by the end of it, the tight knot in his stomach easing a little.

That night he lets Jeffrey into the bedroom to sleep. It's not like sleeping with Sidney; Jeffrey's better at sharing space. But it's something, at least.


Ilya starts calling Geno every other day, starting the first night after the Ottawa game. They don't play New Jersey for two weeks, but Ilya's keeping closer tabs on him than his own mother would. “You need to resolve this,” Ilya says at one point. “Datsyuk nearly killed Jimmy Howard and that was only over him staying in Detroit. Sooner or later, Alex will decide he’s had enough of your moping and do something drastic.” He pauses. “Or I will.”

“Or you’ll both leave it be,” Geno says, and hangs up.

Honestly, Geno's going to protest the mothering as soon as he can think of a way to do so that doesn't sound completely deranged.

Sidney's not back to normal, but he's close, and so is Geno. They're playing solidly, if unremarkably. He reminds himself that it's a good thing that they click so well on the ice. He doesn't want any rumors of fighting between them to spread.

And things do get better, marginally. Geno still can't really imagine a time when he's not going to want Sidney, but he's getting used to the feeling of loss again. Having sex that last time definitely didn't make things better, but it didn't make them that much worse, either.

They lose against the Devils, which at least isn't as embarrassing this year now that Ilya and the team generally have gotten their shit together. Geno's almost done repeating the same post-loss sound bites when the worst possible thing happens: a reporter shoves a microphone in Geno's face and says, "Some critics are saying your recent fall-off in scoring has to do with a dispute between you and Sidney. Any truth to that?"

Geno literally cannot make English work. Finally he just says, "No," and looks away.

Another reporter takes mercy on him, thank God, and says, "You have a bit of a break before you face the Flyers. Are you planning on changing anything before then?"

"I do what Coach say, so maybe," Geno says. He spots Flower waving at him from the entrance, so he says, "Thanks, guys," and makes his escape.

"Look on the bright side, it's not like you knocked someone up," Flower says. He pats Geno's arm. "Kovalchuk wants to talk to you, he's outside."

Geno greets Ilya with a nod. Ilya takes one look at him and says, "You look like shit. We're not flying back till early afternoon; meet me for breakfast tomorrow."

Ilya's enough of a mothering type that Geno knows he won't be able to get out of it, so he says, "Sure. Where?"

"The hotel has a restaurant."


Ilya grins. "You know it. Get some sleep, Zhenya, you really do look like shit."

Geno rolls his eyes, but he takes his keys out and heads for the parking garage. Ilya's going to be a pain in the ass tomorrow morning, but at least if he gets the full story everyone else Geno knows will leave him alone about it.

They meet at the hotel restaurant at nine the next morning. Ilya smiles at him as he sits down. "You've had a hard go of it."

"Something you've reminded me of each time you call."

"You tell me you and Sidney are fine, but I saw you on the ice yesterday. I've never seen you suck that much before." Ilya's gaze is almost embarrassing in its frankness. "He really did a number on you. You're not even approaching okay."

It gets Geno's hackles up, as he's sure it was meant to. "I'm getting there."

"Sergei told me you won't talk to Sidney."

"There's nothing for me to say."

"Is that a fact?" Ilya shakes his head. "Russians are a proud people, but you know, that doesn't mean you have to live an unhappy life."

"I know it's hard to believe, but this isn't about being Russian."

"No. Apparently it's about being an idiot."

Geno can't think of an appropriate response to that, so he settles on a glare. When the waiter shows up with their food, Geno digs in, hoping Ilya will just let the Sidney issue drop.

He really should have known better. "So you won't talk to him," Ilya says when he's halfway finished with his eggs.

"No," Geno says. "I really won't."

"Hmm." Ilya's eyes narrow and he looks over Geno's shoulder. "Wait, is that Ovechkin?"

Geno turns to look, but all he sees is a couple with two children standing at the entrance to the restaurant. "Where?

"Never mind - I was mistaken. It just looked like him."

"Alex doesn't look like many people."

Ilya shrugs. "I'm bad at faces. Drink your coffee. I promise to leave you alone about Sidney."

Geno obediently takes a sip.

It's good coffee, and by the time he's finished his food he's drained the mug, too. He's still sleepy, though, so he looks around for the waiter, hoping to get a refill.

"You look tired," Ilya says, "and my flight is soon. I'll walk you to your car."

That's a weird consideration to give and Geno knows it, but he can't think of an actual objection to make, so he nods and gets up to leave.

Fuck, he's tired. He doesn't even move away when Ilya puts a hand on his elbow and says, "This way, right?"

"Things are going to work out," Ilya says. Geno blinks hard, trying to focus. They're in the parking lot, and he's feeling woozy. "Here." Ilya opens the car door. "Get in."

Geno's in the car before he realizes he's in the backseat - but when he opens his mouth to protest the arrangement, everything goes dark.


"You have got to be kidding me. You have got to be fucking kidding me. Fuck those motherfuckers, I am going to fucking kill them. You have got to be kidding me."

"Quit whining," Geno says without thinking. But it comes out garbled, and the memory of what just happened shoots through him.

"Oh, good, you're okay." Sidney sounds genuinely relieved. "You were out for a long time."

"What going on?" Geno forces his eyes open. They're both in the backseat; Sidney's curled up against the door like he thinks Geno's going to leap on him. The sun is setting.

Sidney nods at the paper sitting on the seat between them. Geno picks it up and reads it.

"None of your friends will answer your calls. Buying a flight would take longer than driving. Talk to each other." The rest of the page is taken up by Google Maps directions. They're in Massena, New York, apparently.

Geno is going to kill Ilya.

"I'm never taking food given to me by a Russian again," Sidney says darkly.

"He drug you early in morning?"

"He said he had baked goods from Ovechkin's mom. I mean, he did, but he didn't mention the drugs."

At any other point in time, this would be funny. Right now, though, Geno doesn't so much as smile. "Need to get home," he says. "Keys?"

Sidney tosses them to him. Geno opens the door and goes to the driver's seat. "Take eight, maybe nine hours, directions say. I drive half, you drive half."

"Am I exiled to the backseat?" Sidney says waspishly.

Geno doesn't bother to suppress the urge to roll his eyes. "You can walk, yes? You want front seat, get in it." He starts the car.

Sidney almost doesn't do it, but just as Geno's moving to take the car out of park he sighs, hops out, and gets back in next to Geno. Geno's not really surprised when he props his feet up on the dash and crosses his arms, scowling.

"This is so stupid," Sidney says as Geno pulls out of the parking lot. There's a sign for the highway right there; they obviously chose this place deliberately. He can't help but wonder if Ilya's nearby - not that it matters.

"Will be early morning, time we get back," Geno says. "Can call Ilya, tell him he idiot then."

"Waking him up isn't nearly bad enough."

"We get him back," Geno says, then falls silent. He doesn't want to be planning anything with Sidney.

They pass five exit signs and Sidney still doesn't say anything. They're low on gas (it figures Ilya wouldn't even bother filling it up) and Geno's getting hungry; they'll probably have to stop at a restaurant for food, since Geno's pretty sure Sidney's not going to eat gas station food. The worst is the silence, though. Geno's taken a few road trips before, but never with someone who refused to speak to him.

Finally he turns the radio on. Sidney reaches over and turns it off right away.

"I drive, I pick music," Geno says, turning it back on.

"It bugs me."


"So why can't we just..." Sidney waves a hand. "I don't know. Wait until we're home?"

"Will take eight hours if no traffic, Sidney. You want spend eight or nine hours in silence?"

"It's better than listening to music I don't care about."

Geno knows for a fact that Sidney doesn't actually hate much music. He's being cranky and whiny. "Knock it off," Geno says, and turns the radio back on.

Sidney leaves it alone, so after a few more minutes, he turns the volume up. It's just a pop station, nothing special, but it's enough of a distraction that Geno can stop dwelling on Sidney.


"Where are we going?" Sidney says when Geno gets in the exit lane.

"Need gas and food. BP, then Denny's."

"Denny's? It's not breakfast time."

"Is McDonald's too."

"Fine, we'll do Denny's."

That's the extent of his conversation until they've gotten gas and have ordered at the Denny's. Sidney has them cook him a chicken breast with greens, describing the process so painstakingly Geno half expects the waitress to run away. Once he's ordered, he says, "This is horrible. We should have gotten a plane."

"No airports."

"Your friends don't actually have the right to kidnap us. What if one of us called the cops?"

"You gonna tell the cops, oh, arrest Ilya Kovalchuk, he kidnap me? Come on, Sidney."

"I don't -" Sidney sighs. "Okay, fine. But it sucks."

"I not enjoying it either."

"I know." Sidney twists his straw wrapper, curling it into a ball and flicking it to the far corner of the table. "I'm being a dick. Sorry. This isn't your fault."

It sounds dragged out of him, but it's better than nothing, so Geno nods. "Is fine."

They sit in silence until the food comes. When they can finally dig in and really ignore each other, Geno sees the relief he's feeling written all over Sidney's face.

It's dark by the time they head out again. Geno's grateful for it; maybe Sidney will nap.

But five minutes after they've gotten back on the highway, Sidney says, "Does this count as a road trip, do you think?"

"Miserable one, maybe."

"I've never taken a road trip."

Sidney sounds thoughtful. Geno's half sad for him and half completely unsurprised. "Not with family?"

"We mostly traveled for hockey stuff, and we'd fly out. Or drive, but I mean, I had things to concentrate on then."

Of course. "Can buy gas station souvenirs if want."

"I'll pass," Sidney says dryly.

Geno smiles a little. After that, the silence is marginally more comfortable.

They're halfway to Syracuse before Sidney says, "I should apologize for coming over that last time."

Geno blinks. "Apologizing, or just should?"

"I'm apologizing," Sidney says firmly. "It was stupid, and I should have - I really should have known better. I'm sorry."

"Thank you," Geno says.

They go another hour without talking. Geno's mind is full of things he should say, things he ought to say, but knowing Ilya was right and they need to deal with things is different from actually dealing with them. Especially since the most important thing he owes Sidney an apology for is letting the relationship begin at all, and he's honestly not sure if he's actually sorry about that.

Finally he says, "Was not honest with you. Should have said no at beginning."

"You did. I ignored you."

There's enough bitterness there that Geno feels compelled to say, "Said yes eventually. Could have said no, stop asking. We would be okay still."

"This isn't all your fault, and you don't get to pretend like it is," Sidney says. "I was the dick who ignored you, I was the one who flipped out when I found out, I was the one who - whatever. It's done, we're done. That's it."

"Had every right to flip out," Geno forces him to say.

"Probably, but I was still a dick. But it doesn't matter." Sidney's voice turns determined. "You'll get over it and then things will be fine."


"You'll get over it and -"

"Isn't that easy." Geno forces the words out around the knot in the pit of his stomach. He thought Sidney understood, but apparently not. "If it that easy, would have done it already. Not that simple, Sidney. You should know."

"Why would I know?" Sidney says sharply. "I don't know anything about it. That's your issue, not mine."

It's a pity banging his head against the steering wheel would be dangerous. "You never felt something for anyone, ever? No strong feelings? Should know you can't turn it off."

"I never said you'd turn it off, I said you'd get over it. And no. I haven't."

Geno can't think of a single damn thing to say. He knows Sidney approached their thing differently, he does, but - he's being an idiot. "Just drop it."

Sidney's quiet for long enough that Geno almost thinks he's doing what Geno asked. But then he says, "So you can't get over it?"

"Would if could, Sid."

"Why'd you even start, then? Why didn't you say no?"

"Why play hockey?" Geno says. "Is just pain."

"Hockey's different."

"Hockey not more important to me," Geno says firmly. Sidney doesn't reply.

They pass through Syracuse at ten PM. They're a little over halfway back to Pittsburgh. Sidney hasn't made any noises about driving, and Geno's fine with it. He'd like to get back to Pittsburgh without dying.

He's not expecting much of the rest of the drive, but he still feels like he should have been able to guess that Sidney isn't done with their earlier discussion. "I lied."

"About what?"

Sidney sighs and shifts in his seat, kicking the dash. "Can we stop and get a couple Red Bull?"

"Yes. About what, Sidney?"

"Nothing. Forget I said anything."

Geno might not know Sidney as well as he thought, but he still knows when to just drop it. He nods and takes the next exit, parking at a Shell station and waiting while Sidney goes inside.

Sidney comes back out with two Red Bulls, a bag of Combos, and a plastic container of fruit. He passes one Red Bull and the Combos to Geno. "Don't eat and drive."

So Geno opens the bag of Combos and eats a few. He's putting them away when Sidney says, "I don't actually know what caring about someone like that feels like."

"Sidney," Geno says tiredly. "Is fine. I get it." And he doesn't want it to be rubbed in.

"I don't think you do." He's talking more quickly now, drumming his fingers on his thighs. "I don't know what that feels like, and so I didn't know what was going on. And I've thought about it a lot and I'm still not sure. But I'm pretty sure there was something there. Okay? I just...that's why I freaked out."

Geno's pretty sure anything he could manage to say right now would be exactly the wrong thing. He takes a deep breath.

"You could, I don't know, say something," Sidney says.

"Thank you," Geno says.

Sidney's still talking ridiculously quickly. "It's not important. It's really not. I don't know what it was, and it doesn't matter, because I'm not going to be the guy who, I don't know, makes you hurt like that, and we're done, so whatever. But you were honest with me. So."

It's almost Herculean, the effort it takes not to reach over and make Sidney stop tapping his leg. "Is good," he says instead. "Clear the air, make things right. Not gonna be awkward forever."

"But you said -"

"Said won't just get over it. Not things never be okay."

"Oh," Sidney says quietly.

Geno knows he should just let it rest, but he can't stop himself from asking, "How you know you feel something?"

Sidney's hand goes still. "Ovechkin told me," he says a little distantly. "Remember? I was acting like I was playing a game. I figured if I did...I know hockey. I thought if I treated it like hockey, things would be fine."

That's probably the stupidest thing Geno's ever heard. "Oh?"

"Things were fine." Now Sidney sounds pissed. "They were fine, and maybe I would've figured it out. I could have gotten used to having feelings for you. Probably."

"We didn't keep it casual. Our fault, both of us. Should have kept it just friends."

"But we didn't. We were dating."

"Yes," Geno says. "Mostly, yes."

"I liked it."

"Better than not liking it."

"Not for me."

Geno can't stop himself from reaching out then, gripping Sidney's shoulder and finally turning to look at him. He's a little shocked by what he sees: Sidney's white as a sheet, his expression guarded. He looks terrified. "Sidney. Hey, hey." He brushes his thumb over Sidney's collarbone, tugging at his shirt. "Is okay, you know. You can like it, be confused. Is okay."

"I didn't realize how important it was." Sidney shakes his head and meets Geno's gaze. "There's my family, and there's hockey, and there's you. It's not supposed to work like that."

Geno can't make words work, plain and simple. He knows he's staring, and he can't even stop doing that. He's reeling from the magnitude of what Sidney's just told him. "You -"

"Don't make me say it again."

Geno's not sure if it's a request or a threat. He nods. "Right."

"It doesn't matter, anyway. We're done."

That cuts through the fog pretty quickly. "Yes," Geno says. "We get going." He turns away, forcing himself to let go of Sidney.

Sidney doesn't prop his feet up this time. He sits stiffly, his breathing still shallow. Geno keeps his eyes on the road like he's never driven a car before, blinking hard and refusing to let himself say anything stupid.

At one in the morning, Sidney says, "Can we stop for a few hours? I'm just...I need to sleep."

Geno's a little surprised he didn't say anything sooner. They're both exhausted, emotionally and physically, but Sidney had to be the one to make the call; if Geno had said anything, Sidney would've insisted he was fine. "Sure," he says, and takes the next exit, heading for a Days Inn.

They check in. Sidney practically runs to the room, collapsing on the bed with his phone still in his pocket. Geno doesn't tell him to take it out, but he does pointedly set his own phone and keys on the bedside table.

"We can take six hours," Sidney says. "It's optional skate."

"Seven hours then," Geno says, and sets the alarm on his phone.

"Right," Sidney says. He rolls over, away from Geno.

Geno sighs and goes into the bathroom, splashing water on his face. He should brush his teeth, he knows it, but he's exhausted and doesn't want to go down to the front desk and ask for anything. So he lies down, imitating Sidney and moving to the side of the bed that's farthest away from the center of the room.

It's easy to fall asleep. It's less easy to wake up, especially when he realizes it's still dark outside - but Sidney's shaking his shoulder, staring at him in the light of the side lamp.

"What's wrong?" Geno says, squinting up at him.

"I couldn't sleep. I mean, I slept for half an hour, but -" Sidney jerks his right hand in an aborted wave. "It's not getting better for me, either. I've been playing like shit."

It takes Geno longer than it should to process what Sidney's saying. When he realizes, his stomach sinks. "Sorry."

"It's not your fault." Sidney rocks back on his heels. "I did the right thing. Ending things. I wasn't good at all, I needed space. It was the right thing to do."

"Sidney, was sleeping. Get to point."

"We could try, if you wanted. I mean, again. If you want. I wouldn't not want to."

Geno stares. He can't help it. He was expecting - he's not sure. Not this, anything but this.

"Or I could let you get back to sleep," Sidney says, expression falling. He takes a step back.

Geno grabs him before he can go out of reach. He's holding Sidney's wrist too tightly and Sidney flinches, but Geno barely notices and doesn't really care. "Are you serious?" he forces himself to ask.

"Of course I'm serious. Do you really think I'd ask if I wasn't? Not something like that, Geno, you know it."

Sidney's still looking at him like he expects him to say no, and honestly, Geno knows that he should. This has been too fucking dramatic and damaging. If he says no then eventually they'll get back to how they were before.

He sits up, still trying to think of an answer.

"Just think about it," Sidney says, and steps forward, leaning down to brush his lips over Geno's temple.

That's enough. Geno turns his head, curls a hand around the back of Sidney's neck, and pulls him close, closing his eyes. "Yes," he says, and kisses Sidney.

It's long and slow, more careful than he's been with Sidney in a long time. Sidney's moving nervously, his hands twitching a little as they skim over Geno's back. The angle is awkward, and it feels kind of inevitable when Sidney pushes him back against the wall so he can straddle his lap.

"I'm going to assume that's a yes," Sidney says.

"Have to be careful," Geno makes himself say. "Is big deal. Whole thing could go bad."

"It already went bad. You think we could fuck it up more?"

Geno lets his expression speak for him. Sidney laughs a little and kisses Geno again. "Fine. We'll be careful."

Careful. Geno thought he was being careful with Sidney before, and that ended with both of them acting like idiots. They're going to have to talk, and not make stupid assumptions. He's not entirely sure they can.

But having Sidney like this is making something in the pit of his stomach unknot for the first time in weeks. Feeling him, knowing he's going to stay - Geno gave up on denying how he felt about Sidney a long time ago, and he's not going to pretend this isn't one of the most important decisions he's ever made.

Especially not when Sidney pulls back to say, "I feel like I can breathe again."

Geno nods stupidly and kisses Sidney's neck, splaying a hand on the small of his back and squeezing his hip with the other. They're not going to fuck tonight; Geno really is exhausted. But they are going to stay exactly like this.

"Hey," Sidney says, pulling back so that he can put a finger on the bottom of Geno's chin and tip his head up. "I'm sorry."

Geno shrugs. "Were both idiots," he says, and goes back to worrying the skin of Sidney's collarbone, rubbing circles over Sidney's shirt as he does.

Sidney's touching him, too, running his fingers through Geno's hair and holding onto his shoulder almost tight enough to bruise. They should be more desperate, Geno thinks, after everything they went through. But this is good, too.

"I keep thinking," Sidney says. "Are we going to celebrate your birthday? Can we go out to dinner?"

"Birthday is in awhile."

"I know, but like - what do people who are dating do?"

Geno doesn't bother to keep from smiling. "What we did. Maybe with more honesty."

"Honesty, right." Sidney frowns a little. "Colby's going to want to talk to you."

The last thing in the world Geno wants is to know what Colby Armstrong thinks of him. "Oh."

"Yeah." Sidney bits his lip. "On the bright side, Kovalchuk will probably want to talk to me, too."

In the game of making threats, Geno's going to lay bets on Russians any day. It brightens him up a little. "Good." He slumps down, pulling Sidney on top of him and kissing him again.

They just lie there, making out like teenagers, both of them hard but neither moving to do much about it. Geno's happy to drown in the feeling, to finally think about nothing but the way Sidney feels and the movement of his body.

But after awhile Sidney raises his head, squints at the clock, and says, "It's late. We should go to sleep."

Geno takes his hands off him so he can get up. "Yeah."

But to his surprise, Sidney doesn't stand up. He rolls over instead, landing just far enough away from Geno not to be touching, moving around until he's situated with his body turned towards Geno.

"This is good, right?" he says.

Jesus, he looks nervous. Geno ducks in and kisses him, careful to move away afterward. "Is good."

He knows it's ridiculous, but he waits until Sidney goes to sleep before following suit.


He wakes up to Sidney poking him.

"I know, you slept through your alarm, and I want to sleep forever too," Sidney says when Geno looks at him. "But we have to move. Check-out time is soon and I don't want to pay for another night."

"Have the cash, Sid," Geno makes himself say.

Sidney rolls his eyes. "Whatever. Come on." He moves to get out of bed, but he stops first, ducking in and kissing Geno.

Geno has to lie there afterwards for a second, absorbing what's happened, before he rolls his eyes at himself and gets up to shower.

He actually does end up getting a toothbrush from the front desk, both because he's hit the point of being truly gross and because he's going to be kissing Sidney. He's a little weirded out when Sidney just steals the toothbrush instead of getting his own, but it's not like Sidney having strange ideas about personal space is a new concept, so he lets it go.

They don't actually talk for the first hour or so. They've only got another three hours of driving, and Geno's kind of looking forward to getting home and ripping Ilya a new one. He's emotionally exhausted enough that even thinking about this thing with Sidney is a bit much.

But they're both happy, and it's easy to enjoy this kind of silence. Occasionally Sidney will reach over and touch his thigh, tapping it like he would Geno's shoulder during a game.

After almost an hour and a half, he says, "I think Flower knows, by the way."

"He knows. But he a goalie. He won't say anything."

"If we keep it up, people will know."

It's a heavy kind of thing to think about, but Geno knows Sidney's methodically moving through every aspect he can think of about their relationship, and Geno doesn't want to avoid shit Sidney's meeting head-on. So he says, "Probably. Will guess, might be rumors."

"That'll suck."

"We be careful, rumors stay rumors. Maybe locker room guess better than everyone else, but is fine. No one know for sure."

"I guess." Sidney sounds vaguely brooding. He adds quickly, "Not that it matters, because we're doing this anyway."

Geno smiles. "Yes." They are.


The drive isn't actually that long, but Geno's still exhausted by the time they get back to Pittsburgh. "Have to call Ilya and yell," he says, turning onto Sidney's street.

"You could stay, if you want," Sidney says with studied casualness.

Geno needs to go home at some point, he really does. "Yeah."

When they go inside, Sidney makes a beeline for the bathroom. Geno settles into the living room and calls Ilya.

"Before you yell at me, let me remind you, your stubbornness is what pushed us to ask Ovechkin's mother for ideas."

"How are KGB-esque schemes better than romantic comedy scenarios?"

"It worked, didn't it? I can hear it in your voice."

"It's too early to tell," Geno says. "But yeah, maybe."

"I should have left a bug in the car." Ilya sounds thoughtful. "I was going to, but I figured you'd resolve most of your problems in the motel room."

"How'd you know -"

"I have a lot of experience with these things," Ilya says.

That doesn't even make sense, Geno thinks helplessly.

"Anyway, I'll let you go," Ilya says. "Call Sergei, would you? He's been mother henning you from afar. He'll be glad to know we succeeded."

"Fat lot of good your matchmaking did."

"It's turned out okay, you can't actually deny that," Ilya says. "Well, you can, but I thought you were aiming for honesty."

"Yeah, yeah," Geno says, and hangs up.

"Things okay?" Sidney says, coming downstairs.

"Ilya gloating," Geno says. "Idiot."

"We don't actually know this is going to end well." Sidney stops awkwardly in the living room doorway. "I mean, we could still fuck it up."

"Could still fuck it up long as we do this."

"Well, yeah, but -" Sidney shrugs.

"Come here," Geno says. He's tired of talking.

Sidney's actually shy moving over, avoiding Geno's gaze and clearing his throat a little uncomfortably. Geno waits until he's sitting down to kiss him, not bothering to feel embarrassed by how careful it is, how ridiculously gentle.

"I'm fucking exhausted," Sidney says. "We should go upstairs. You can lie down while I blow you."

He looks nervous, like he honestly thinks Geno is going to say no. Geno stands in answer, heading for the stairs.

Geno's half expecting Sidney to collapse as soon as they get upstairs, but Sidney turns around once he's in the bedroom and walks back to Geno, tugging at his shirt. He's avoiding looking at Geno, right up until Geno catches his hands and says, "Wait."

Sidney looks up. He's flushed, his lips red from where he's been biting them. Geno shakes his head and leans in, kissing him.

"Good," Sidney says, and keeps undressing him.

He doesn't talk again until he's kissing his way down Geno's body. "I should have been more careful with this thing."

Geno shakes his head. "Am adult, Sid."

"I know." Sidney tilts his head. "Still." He strokes Geno's hips gently, then leans in and licks Geno's dick.

Geno lets himself make noise, groaning and ignoring how stupid it sounds. Sidney hums his approval, holding Geno's hips down with a light touch, leaning back into Geno's hand when Geno reaches down and cups his head. It's not that great, except it's Sidney and so it's amazing, and fuck, they're going to be able to do this over and over again. There's nothing else Geno wants out of life right now.

But Sidney pulls back before Geno comes. Geno can't hide his surprise or the way his body shakes, arching his back and pressing up against Sidney.

"I wanted to be able to," Sidney says, and kisses him.

Geno feels completely overloaded, his nerve endings shot. He holds Sidney as close as he can, running a hand up and down Sidney's back, moving it down to cup Sidney's ass. Sidney rocks against him, their dicks sliding together as he kisses and bites Geno's neck. "I missed this. Jerked off thinking about it." He doesn't sound like he's trying to be sexy; he sounds confused more than anything else. It's hot anyway.

"I could," Sidney says, and thrusts slowly, deliberately.

Geno nods. Sidney leans over him and grabs the lube, moving a little too quickly to indicate anything but lingering nervousness. Geno wants to tell him to slow down, remind him that they have time, but he loses his ability to talk when Sidney slips a finger inside.

"Jesus, Geno," Sidney says.

He's moving his finger too slowly. "Faster," Geno says, tilting his hips. "Use two."

Sidney obeys, and it's good - fuck, it's good. Geno closes his eyes and moves with him, his left hand braced flat against the bed, right hand fisted in the sheets until Sidney covers it with his own.

"Good?" he says when he's pressed three fingers in. Geno nods and waits.

Sidney fumbles with the condom, laughing a little when it falls on the bed. Geno opens his eyes in time to see Sidney rolling his eyes at himself as he puts the condom on.

It makes him smile, which in turn catches Sidney's eye, turning his own smile into a broad grin. And then they're staring at each other like idiots, Sidney with his dick resting against Geno's hip, their hands pressed against each other on the bed.

"Okay, move, seriously," Geno says, lifting his hips.

Sidney nods and obeys, and the humor fades as quickly as it arrived, buried under everything else Geno's feeling. It's impossibly good - better when Sidney changes angles, and even better when he gets his hand around Geno's dick.

"Fuck, Geno, you have to - I can't keep going. Come on, oh, fuck," Sidney says, and slumps on top of Geno. He shudders when he comes, and he doesn't stop talking, nonsense pouring out of him.

Geno would be annoyed, except Sidney's jerking him off frantically and he can barely think. Geno thrusts into his hand, feeling himself getting closer, so fucking close he can barely stand it - and then Sidney bites his shoulder, fast and hard, and Geno comes all over them both.

Sidney cleans them up, of course, and then lies with Geno as he naps, watching TV. When Geno wakes up, it's to Sidney touching him, combing his fingers through Geno's hair.

"I can do this, right?" he says a little nervously. "I haven't been doing it for long, just, I don't know. I did it once and you liked it, so."

Geno just barely restrains himself from laughing. "Yeah. You can."

"Good." Sidney holds up his phone. "Been texting Colby."


"He's having a barbecue in a few weeks. Wants us to fly up there. I think he scheduled it for when we have time off."

Geno groans.

"Yeah. But we should probably go."


It's not really a question, but Sidney nods in answer. "He knows, and I was right, he wants to have plenty of time to threaten you. It's stupid. I told him it's stupid."

"He didn't say, but Ilya will do same."

"So, so stupid," Sidney says, looking a little pale.

That makes Geno laugh. He leans up, kissing Sidney quickly. "Didn't shower?"

"I did say I'm tired," Sidney says. He looks down at Geno. "And I wiped you up."

"Was awake for that."

"It's fine if you fall asleep. I don't mind."

"Hungry, actually." Geno gets up, enjoying the way Sidney watches him. "Shower, dinner, hanging out. Normal."

"Normal," Sidney says. "Right. You think we can do normal?"

"Some kind of normal," Geno says. "Go shower. I start dinner."

Sidney smiles a little and goes into the bathroom.


The next few weeks are both easy and hard, weird and normal. Adjusting to dating Sidney is harder than Geno would've expected. They have to get used to being honest with each other, and twice in a week Sidney freaks out and goes home alone without even mentioning it to Geno first. Geno needs his space too, though, and he's got to learn how to spell that out for Sidney.

But it's good. It's unbelievably good. They're fucking money in practice and games. Sidney's flying along the ice like he was born to it and Geno's keeping up, which is honestly about as much as he'll ever expect from himself when it comes to Sidney. And when they're done, after partying with the guys and playing like normal, they go home together and trade kisses over video games.

The sex helps, too, even if it does make Geno walk around with a stupid look on his face more often than not. Or maybe especially.

Two weeks after they start things, they play D.C. Geno isn't really surprised when Alex invites Sidney out drinking and pointedly doesn't say anything to Geno. He just hopes they go easy on him.

When Sidney gets back to his room (Talbot won't wonder where Geno is, not yet, and Geno's feeling a little proprietary), he's so drunk he's reeling a little. Alex and Sasha are with him, though, and he smirks when he sees Geno. "Good job, Zhenya. Make sure you keep him this time."

"Fuck you," Geno says.

"Quit talking Russian." Sidney squints at him. "I'm supposed to have you get me water."

Geno helps Sidney to the bed and then closes the door, but not before flipping Alex off. Alex grins and blows a kiss. It's moderately comforting when he sees Sasha roll his eyes behind Alex.

"That was great," Sidney says peaceably. "Well, they threatened me a bunch, but they should. I mean, it's you. I'd threaten me if I was your friend and you were you."

"Gonna regret running mouth tomorrow," Geno says, and goes to get him water.

"Probably not," Sidney says, but he's quiet when Geno hands him the cup. "You have to sleep on the other bed, though."

"Have to get back to room. Talbot will notice."

Sidney frowns. "Make something up."

It's tempting, but if they're going to start doing that regularly then they're going to talk about it when they're both sober. Though - they haven't done it since that one awful night when Sidney broke things off. Talbot's not his mother. He really won't care.

"Fine," he says, and toes off his shoes.

"Well, go get your bag first," Sidney says, like Geno's just done something profoundly stupid.

Geno rolls his eyes, but he swipes Sidney's key card and heads down the hall. Talbot's watching TV; he looks carefully unsurprised when Geno grabs his bag. "Gonna - see you tomorrow," he says awkwardly.

"I don't want to know, man," Talbot says, and very deliberately looks back at the TV.

That's that, then. Geno shoulders his bag and goes back to Sidney's.

By the time he gets there, Sidney's out like a light, snoring a little into his pillow. Geno doesn't bother to hide the fond smile he gets as he pulls the covers up over Sidney.

He has to warm up the other bed on his own, and Sidney's snores really are annoying, but there's nowhere he'd rather be.


A week after that, they're heading to Colby's for a barbecue.

"I'll get to play with Cruise," Sidney says abruptly when they're almost to his house. "I like kids. When they're young, anyway."


"They're easy." Sidney shrugs. "I used to change Cruise's diaper when he needed it, when I came over to Colby's. It's just easy, you know? They cry or scream, and you do things, and then they stop."

It's not really surprising that that's why Sidney likes little kids. Geno laughs a little and pats his knee.

It's not actually warm out - it's only late March in Toronto - but it's just warm enough that they can cook outside. Colby makes noise about what a manly man he is when he stomps out to the porch without a coat on to turn the steaks. Geno's helping Melissa finish up the appetizers, and Sidney's out playing with Cruise, helping him set up a Lego castle. True to his word, he's devoting his single-minded focus to building the best castle ever. Cruise is watching delightedly and occasionally making one of his GI Joes kiss a train. Geno's not sure he gets how that works yet. Then again, he is pretty little.

"Cute, aren't they?" Melissa says.

"He good with him."

"Sidney's a good guy," she says. "Speaking of which." She nods at the porch door. Colby's motioning Geno outside.

Great. Geno jams his hands in his pockets and goes out.

"Let's go for a walk," Colby says when he shuts the porch door behind him. He wanders out into the yard without waiting for Geno to answer.

Geno almost trips over himself to follow. When he catches up, Colby says, "Sidney's a good kid."

He looks incredibly serious, especially considering that Geno saw him tickling Cruise and wrestling with Sidney, laughing his ass off, less than an hour ago. "He is," Geno says finally.

"What I'm saying, man, is - look. He was fucking wrecked the first time you guys split up. You hurt him again, it'll take your freaky KGB friends two weeks to find the first of the many pieces you'll be in, got it?"

It's a weird kind of relief to hear him say that. It means they're really doing this, that the three weeks it's taken Colby to get around to making the threat is a scratch on the surface of how long he and Sidney are going to be doing this thing. "Yeah," Geno says. "Good. He need good friends."

"Trust me, when I met him, he needed a friend. Any friend." Colby snorts. "How he managed with you, I have no idea."

"Hey," Geno says, not really bothered but feeling like he should make some kind of protest.

"You don't have to defend his honor against me." Colby claps him on the shoulder and smiles. It's only a little scary. "Now let's finish the steak before my wife decides she's only got enough of everything else for one, eh?"

After dinner, Melissa takes Sidney and Cruise out to the living room for a movie. Colby puts up a token protest that grilling should mean he gets out of cleanup before he tasks Geno with drying the dishes that won't fit in the dishwasher.

It's easy, companionable. When the movie's done, Geno and Sidney head out, being sure to thank all three Armstrongs for the night. Sidney waits until they're out of the driveway before he says, "So Colby went easy on you, right? I told him to."

"Said I can't break heart," Geno says lightly. "Too bad. Was planning on it."

Sidney laughs, high and dorky as hell. On impulse, Geno pulls over - they're still in the subdivision, so that mostly means just braking - and pulls him in for a kiss.

"Gonna keep doing this," Geno says. He doesn't have the eloquence or even the words, really, for the feeling that's taken up residence everywhere in him, from the pit of his stomach to the tips of his fingers. But looking at Sidney, he's not sure he needs them.

"Well, obviously," Sidney says. He kisses Geno again and then pulls back, licking his lips. "Now step on the gas. We've got practice tomorrow, and I've got to go for a run in the morning. She put, like, half a stick of butter in those beans."

"And then you ate three brownies, Sid. Point?"

"Shut up."

Geno laughs and gets them back on the road. Yeah, they're definitely doing okay.