Sid likes to say he's too old to be afraid of anything.
"Fear is a product of unfamiliarity," Sid says all the time, most recently to the rookie in the locker beside him as they prepare for the night's game. He's a call-up from Wilkes-Barre there to fill an injury spot, so new Geno hasn't caught his name yet.
The rookie's knee hasn't stopped bouncing since he sat down, and he's chewing on his thumbnail in anticipation of his first NHL game. Sid smiles at him. "There's nothing to be afraid of."
"Except if you fuck up and we send you back down," Tanger calls across the room, a wicked glint in his dark eyes. He loves tormenting the new guys.
Sid makes an acquiescent face, mildly agreeing with Tanger while he picks up his tape to prepare a stick for the game. The rookie's eyes dart back to Sid's face, seeking comfort or reassurance from the captain. He looks so young, even to twenty-six-year-old Geno. What must he look like to Sid? A baby in compression gear who seems like he's about to lose the contents of his stomach.
"That probably won't happen," Sid says, noticing the rookie's pleading eyes on him. "Just play your game and don't be scared--it doesn't help anything. You'll get used to it in no time."
Sid's dismissal of the rookie's fear isn't unkind. He doesn't mean to be unsympathetic. He's just far too old and experienced to understand. He doesn't remember what it was like to be bombarded by new things, particularly when it comes to hockey. Sid was there at the dawn of the sport when he could only play at night because all the ice was outdoors.
Maybe it's ironic that the rookie does just fine in the game while Sid's teeth wind up scattered all over the ice.
It's a deflected puck, a change in direction so fast not even Sid's reflexes can react, and it catches him in the face. He goes down with a glove against his mouth. Play stops with a sharp whistle. Gonch looks frantic and worried when he slides in beside Sid, gesturing at the trainers to come help.
Sid, by contrast, looks calm. When the trainers arrive, he takes the offer of a towel to put over his leaking mouth before he stands up, hiding the undoubtedly gnarly injury as he skates off. Geno watches him go, helpless to do anything, until he disappears down the tunnel.
On the bench, Geno fears the worst--that they'll be without Sid for a long time. Again. He's not sure how he'll handle that, not sure he can take it this time. Last time was hard enough, and that was when they were just friends and teammates. Now--
In his mind's eye, Geno can suddenly see Sid's wry smile while he shakes his head at him, telling him his worrying won't change anything. Focus on the game, not me.
It's hard, but it's what Sid would want. Geno tries not to fret about it anymore, tries to keep his mind focused on shift changes and pounding the net for goals.
After the game, Geno hovers around the locker room, refusing to head off to the shower until the first word comes in about Sid's condition. He broke his jaw, lost a bunch of teeth, and, yes, worst-case scenario, he has concussion symptoms. Geno drops his head in disappointment at the news.
The last concussion cost Sid most of a year. Trainers and doctors, well versed in human medicine, found that their skills did not translate well to healthcare for vampires. When they could find nothing to speed the process, they had to recommend what the legends recounted--a very long sleep.
"Maybe they'll get me a coffin, eh? Send in a couple virgins," Sid laughed when he was explaining the recommendation to Geno before he disappeared to sleep his concussion off. Seeing Geno's devastated expression, Sid sobered and reached out to touch his shoulder. "It'll be okay. I'll come back good as new. I promise."
Sid said it like he never worried about anything, not even his own health.
Geno worried enough for both of them during the months Sid slept, afraid Sid would come back with the same symptoms, back at square one with no answers. Geno worried about losing Sid entirely if that happened, that Sid might give up on playing hockey, which would take him out of Geno's life.
In his desperation to do something other than sitting around and fretting, Geno took to the internet, searching for ways to fix Sid's head. Most sources agreed with the trainers about hibernation--the ultimate cure-all. Vampires could recover from just about anything with enough sleep.
Geno’s research elaborated on some of what Sid told him before--that when vampires slept, they didn't really sleep the same way a human did. They shut down to basics, turned off everything but the instinct to feed, which was why Sid had to be locked away.
The internet sources also brought up something the trainers never mentioned.
At the time, Geno already knew what Sid ate--a varied mix of pig and cow blood. Sid survived just fine on it, still does, but it's a modified diet. To heal quickly, the sources said vampires need to go back to their roots and drink human blood.
Geno never did anything with the information he gathered. Sid came back okay, and after a couple of setbacks, he returned to the ice before Geno ever needed to suggest it.
Three days after the jaw injury, when Geno comes over to visit, Sid breaks the news that he’s made the call to try the same thing again, a months-long sleep to fix his head.
"Worked last time," Sid says with a shrug, slurring around his missing teeth.
Geno runs a thumb over Sid's swollen bottom lip. The teeth will grow back, in time, but for now, there's a huge gap where half of the bottom ones are gone.
Seeing Sid's ruined face, hearing his plan to disappear for another stretch of months, Geno makes up his mind. He's not going to waste his time Googling and hoping, not this time.
"Gonna wait for me?" Sid asks. He's just teasing. There's no grand romance between them, only the occasional hookup--friends with some pretty extensive benefits.
Geno would wait, though, if Sid really asked.
Instead of answering, Geno lays the gentlest kiss on the least bruised part of Sid's mouth and lingers there, knowing it might be his last chance. If Geno goes through with his half-cocked plan, Sid might not forgive him.
Sid's recovery room is in the practice rink, tucked away at the back of the equipment storage area. The team set it up for the last injury, putting it there so that people would be around, watching out for Sid during his hibernation.
It takes almost a week before Geno can get into the facility alone and make his way back to the recovery room. He's never seen Sid in full vampire mode--probably nobody has. Stories on the internet vary widely about what to expect, and Geno suspects most of them are bullshit. He can't imagine Sid with glowing red eyes, chomping at him like a shark. Life is rarely so cartoonish.
But Sid is worried enough about his unconscious self that he insisted on three deadbolts for the door. Geno stares at the locks for a long time before he steps forward to unlock them using the keys he snagged out of Dana's toolbox.
The vampire inside snarls low as the heavy door creaks open.
"Stop," Geno says, even though he has no idea if Sid will obey--most likely not. "Just me."
The growl in the dark cuts off into a low, plaintiff whine, and Geno straightens, surprised that worked. Even in this primal state, Sid seems to recognize him.
Feeling bold from his initial success, Geno closes the door behind him and plunges the windowless room into total darkness. He inches forward.
"Help me," he demands, reaching out, and jumps when a hand wraps around his wrist. It's ice-cold, like a stone in winter. He hisses. "They don't feed you enough," he grouses, following the pull of the granite-cool hand until he can feel Sid's chest against his own. Sid's lips immediately start brushing against his neck. Geno braces for the bite, but it doesn't come. He relaxes slowly and can't help a nervous grin at the rush of surviving something that he maybe shouldn't have. "Hi, Sid."
The vampire makes a noise, a huff of greeting maybe. Sid is in there, somewhere. He's said it before, how it feels to be in this state.
"It's like a dream. How you see a dream, but don't really experience it. It's like that. I can see everything that's happening, but afterward, it mostly just fades away."
Maybe Sid won't even remember this. That would be lucky--if he didn't remember enough to get mad about Geno breaking his rules and coming near him while he sleeps.
"Okay," Geno says, voice shaking with how hard his heart is pounding. He's made up his mind to do this, but having the vampire mouthing at his neck makes it all seem very real and terrifying. He needs Sid to get on with it before he can try to chicken out. "You drink now."
Sid's tongue is cold and soft against Geno's throat. His extended canine teeth are pinpoint pricks against Geno's skin--two of them. Clearly, his fangs weren't among the teeth he lost. Sid tongues at Geno's pulse before he bites.
The initial shock of teeth deep into his vein is the only part that hurts. It's over quickly, and Sid is so gentle with him after. He pets his fingers through Geno's hair and keeps a hand circled around Geno's wrist. He rubs his thumb in soft circles over the pulse point, the thin skin over his inner wrist.
It seems like they stand there for a long time, with Sid making content noises while he fills up on the first human blood he's had in god-knows how long. Geno almost wishes there was more to it, less standing around getting bored and cold. Of course, that second part might be from blood loss. He wonders how he'll know if he's starting to lose too much.
Geno is just beginning to feel drowsy when Sid stops sucking at his neck. His tongue is warmer than before when it licks over the wound, and Geno leans his head on Sid's shoulder, content to let him do whatever he wants for a long time. His eyelids are drooping when Sid stops licking his neck and starts guiding him. He pulls Geno over to a soft place, a small bed. Sid pulls and pushes and gets Geno down on the mattress. He covers him up with a blanket up to his shoulders before he curls in around him and closes an arm over Geno's body just as he drops into sleep. They don't usually cuddle, but Geno could certainly get used to it.
Geno starts awake to a jolt behind him. The room remains dark, but he can tell by the sluggishness in his limbs he's been out for a while.
"Geno?" Sid says before Geno can rouse himself enough to move. "Oh, god."
Geno groans when Sid turns him on his back and pushes two fingertips onto his neck. "Stop. What you doing?"
"Checking your pulse. I have no idea how much blood--Where's your phone?"
"In locker. Don't want calls. I'm fine. Don't worry."
"Do you feel dizzy? Sick?"
"I'm not dizzy. Not sick. You very polite. I barely even feel when you take."
"Geno," Sid fusses, fingers lightly grazing over the closed wound. "You can't come here. It's locked for a reason."
Geno follows the movement of Sid's hands enough in the dark to catch his wrists. "I don't want..."
He trails off as he realizes he doesn't have the right words for this. He doesn't want Sid off the team while he recovers, but more than that--he doesn't want to lose Sid from his company. Last time nearly broke him--maybe did a little bit. It certainly made him bold enough to kiss Sid when he came back. Now, they're sleeping together every couple of weeks, more than friends, and Geno would do anything not to give that up.
"I don't want you to go," he says with a shrug, the message falling far short of how he feels. "I do this to get you back. For team. For me. For you, too. You don't heal so good drink pig blood. Human blood is better. My blood best."
The tension in Sid's body eases under Geno's grasp. "I know you want to help. I appreciate it, I do. But that was really dangerous. I'm out of my mind when I'm like that. You can't trust me."
"I trust you always."
"You don't understand. I'm like an animal when I'm--I could lash out, break your neck, drain you--"
"No. You so sweet. Like little puppy."
Sid wriggles his hands out of Geno's grasp and lays a palm on Geno's chest. "You scared me to death."
"You never scared," Geno teases, hopeful that he can keep Sid from being furious with him. "That's what you tell rookies."
"It's not funny, G. Waking up, seeing you not moving...I thought I'd really hurt you. Or worse."
Geno sits up carefully, admittedly feeling a little weak. "It's okay. Vampire-Sid like me."
Sid huffs, maybe in disbelief or maybe laughing--Geno can't tell. Geno takes it as a sign of him softening and brings up the question he's dying to ask.
"So--You feel better?"
Shuffling noises indicate Sid scooting back, probably studying Geno with his catlike eyes while Geno can't do the same. When he speaks, it's in a reluctant tone. "Yes. I feel--basically normal."
"Good. So it's good idea."
"No. It was stupid. Reckless," Sid says firmly. "But..." he trails off, softening, "I appreciate what you wanted to do. Helping me."
"You want to again?"
"Not anytime soon. You need to recover."
"But maybe. So you feel better."
Sid doesn't speak again for a long moment. In the dark, his silence is unreadable. Geno holds his breath until Sid says something. "I'll think about it. But not like this again. Not…I will do it next time. When I'm awake, able to stop if you get in trouble."
Geno releases his breath. He knows that means it will be an easy sell. Sid sees the benefits of human blood to aid his healing. Geno will not only be able to convince him to do it again, but he will also speed the process of getting Sid back on the ice. He won't have to spend another year without him. Geno gropes for him in the dark and pulls him close again, this time to kiss him.