Sasha returns to the locker room, towel snug around his hips, to Willy triumphantly waving a wad of socks in Latts’s face.
All in all, it’s not the worst thing he’s walked in on. Sasha’s an Olympian.
“The other one was in my bag, dumbass,” Willy says, his free hand on his hip. “I was right, say it.” A quick glance around the room confirms to Sasha this makes no more sense in context. He settles onto the bench; the roads are still shit and they lost in overtime, there’s no reason not to watch this play out, whatever it is.
“You found my sock,” Latts says, slowly and evenly. “That doesn’t mean you have sock powers, you fucking pigeon.”
Willy throws the socks into Latts’s armpit. “I paired every sock in our place in five minutes, bro. You’re living in denial.”
On the other side of the room, Brooks raises his eyebrows. “You sort your own socks?” he says. “That’s pretty adult of you, Willy.”
“Shut up, you’re ruining the moment,” Willy whines, flipping off Brooks without taking his eyes off Latts. “Say it, Mike.”
Latts leans back into the wall, his arms folded across his chest. “Nope,” he says, popping the p. “You can’t prove it.”
“Wanna bet?” Willy asks, and fuck, this is gonna be good. Sasha loves his idiot team.
“Why not? It’s free money,” Latts replies easily. “Anyone else want in?” A couple of the guys do come forward at that, sorting out the rules amongst themselves. Sasha politely declines, spouting some poetic bullshit about captains remaining objective, and starts putting his suit back on.
He ends up walking out to the parking lot the same time as Nicky, naturally. “Kids, right?” Sasha jokes, and Nicky scoffs, breath echoing into the winter air.
“You’re no better,” he says. “You just want to laugh at the loser, whoever it is.”
Sasha grins. “Wonder where I learn that?”
Nicky hums, like he’s actually thinking about it. Sasha feels a little like he’s floating out of his shoes, waiting for him to finish off an inside joke, and that’s infinitely dumber than anything Willy and Latts did in the past half-hour. “Must have been someone smart, if they got the great Alex Ovechkin to quit locker room bets.”
“Must have been,” Sasha echoes, obediently, and waves good night.
Two days later, Latts walks into the center of the locker room after practice and slowly unravels a wad of paper. No one other than Sasha and Willy seems to notice, so Latts clears his throat.
“Let the record state,” he says, “that I, Michael Latta, am a--fuck you, Willy, I’m not saying that--have witnessed Tom Wilson’s sock superpowers in action. Anyone who still questions Tom’s powers is welcome to test him.” he pauses, grimacing. “Also, we all owe him like, $2,000 total, American money.”
Chimmer groans. “No fucking way.”
“Way,” Latts says, mournfully. “I bought a six-pack of socks at Target, threw half of them on the highway on the drive back, and Willy found them all.”
“The sock whisperer, at your service,” Willy says, bowing to the rest of the locker room. It’s not at all graceful, which makes it all the better.
A surprising number of them end up bringing lonely socks to to the next skate, forming a little makeshift scrum around Willy when everything’s through. Sasha watches as Willy grabs each sock and rattles off a location within seconds.
“Bottom of the blue laundry basket,” he says, clutching a tiny purple sock.
“Thanks, man, Lyla loves these,” TJ says, completely genuine.
Andre’s next. “It’s in the side pocket of your gear bag. Come on, bro.”
Willy wrinkles his nose at the lumpy sock Kuzma hands him. “There’s no pair for this,” he says, slowly. “Your mom never finished it.”
Kuzma raises his eyebrows, nodding quietly. “Wow.”
It’s fun, easily the best and weirdest thing to ever happen in Sasha’s locker room, but he doesn’t expect the excitement to last more than a week.
He definitely doesn’t expect it to happen again.
Obviously, Latts is next. “Big news, guys,” he announces, a week to the day he bet against Willy’s sock powers. Sasha’s never seen him so cheery in the morning, nearly vibrating with excitement as he gets his gear off. “Tom’s not the only one around here with fabulous secret powers.”
Willy giddily brandishes his phone to show a picture of two poached eggs atop two toast slices that, Sasha admits, look pretty damn good. “Two words: Perfect. Toast.”
Holts snorts. “Are you sure you’re not just growing up?” Nicky asks, voice deceivingly gentle. Sasha bites the inside of his mouth to keep from laughing too loudly.
Latts, the poor kid, looks truly hurt for a moment. “See for yourself,” he says, unzipping his bag to reveal a pre-sliced loaf of wheat bread. Sasha reaches for his phone; there’s no way he’s not getting a video of this. Latts takes a few slices out of the bag and settles them between his hands, pressing them together for a split second before relaxing. Latts holds up the now artfully-browned slices like a circus magician. “Want one, Papa?”
“Sure,” Nicky says, warily, and Latts walks over to present him with the finished toast. Nicky finishes off a piece without dying or grimacing, and Sasha gleefully records all of it.
“You want one too, Cap?” Latts asks, and Sasha shrugs, takes the slice he’s given. It’s really not bad, but he’d be a terrible captain if he didn’t chirp a guy for having, of all things, magic toast powers.
“Delicious,” he says, licking crumbs off the tips of his fingers, “But not very useful, no?”
Latts frowns. “You’re not very useful,” he says. Sasha doesn’t dignify that with a response, and Latts decides to show off to someone else.
Holts stares contemplatively at the slice handed to him. “I always knew your apartment was fucked,” he says.
“Rude, our place is amazing.” Latts folds his arms. “You’re just jealous you’re not a superhero.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Holts says, tossing his hair out of his eyes. It’s starting to be a habit, and Sasha privately thinks it’s hilarious. “It’s gonna be your fault when Burkie shows up with spatulas for arms tomorrow.”
“Don’t jinx me,” Andre says, weakly, as if he actually thinks Holts can do it. Latts can cook something now, so Sasha guesses anything’s possible.
Mojo mutters something in Swedish, obviously to rile Andre up, and Nicky tilts his head back to laugh at both of them. His cheeks are still rosy from practice, the way Sasha’s embarrassed to admit he likes; his jaw’s a perfect, defined line. Sasha’s thought too many times about what it would feel like to drop kisses along that line, drawing a path to Nicky’s shoulder, his collarbone, the spot on his chest where his pendants fall.
Well, almost anything’s possible.
Sasha’s been in love for so long it’s a routine he hardly thinks about - wake up, feed the dogs, don’t touch Nicky too much or too little. Don’t look his way too long; don’t let anyone catch you. It’s like diving in the river in January, and Sasha’s been treading water since 2006. His body’s numb, most of the time.
TJ shows up to the airport glowing--well, figuratively. “I folded a fitted sheet this morning,” he says, giddy. Sasha sees at least three different Capitals gape at him.
“Demonstration,” Willy says, gravely. “Now.”
“Lauren took a video, actually.” TJ reaches down into his duffel and brandishes his phone. There’s no pink sparkles or glaring signs of magic, but it happens, clear as day - TJ folds the cream sheet in his lap into a perfect square, Lyla watching next to him and climbing on top of it when he’s done. Sasha’s not even that baby-crazy, and he sighs watching it.
“Now this,” Chimmer says, voice full of awe, “is an actual superpower.”
Latts whines. “I can make toast with my bare hands .”
“Yeah, and the rest of us can do that with a machine.” Chimmer looks at TJ like he’s--there’s no other way to describe it--seeing the face of God. “This is a game-changer.”
“Nerd,” Latts huffs sorely, but TJ spends the whole flight showing the video to different guys and staffers, each one coming away with a look of wonder in their eyes. TJ’s obviously pleased as punch to be the most useful of their little band of bargain-bin X-Men, which means that, of course, Holts realizes that very night his beers don’t go flat anymore.
A few days later, Justin solves a Sunday crossword in two minutes, and Sasha starts googling obscure viruses. After that proves inconclusive, he slides next to Shea Weber after a whistle in Bridgestone. “Hey, man, your team ever get weird powers?” he asks, leaning in.
Weber looks blankly at Sasha, glances at the ref, and skates away. “Real question!” Sasha shouts after him. Weber doesn’t look back, and Sasha hears Nicky snickering as he skates back to the bench.
“Think the storm did it,” Sasha tells the kids over lunch the next day. Andre got last place in their morning skate shootout contest, so he’s paying.
“Did what?” Willy says through a mouthful of sushi.
Sasha points at him with his chopsticks. “Your powers,” he says. “Snowzilla comes, suddenly everyone’s mutants? Something happened there, no other explanation.”
Latts strokes his chin. “Didn’t the Flash get struck by lightning or something? It’s not totally crazy.”
“But it’s just snow,” Andre says, a little petulantly. He must be a little sore about being left out, Sasha thinks. “If snow gives you powers, how come Ovi’s not Superman?”
“It’s...special snow?” Latts offers up, shrugging. “Maybe it was radioactive.”
“I’m a psychic, man, I don’t care how it happened,” Willy mumbles. “You two’re just mad you’re not part of the cool kids club.”
Sasha stretches his arm across Andre’s back, squeezing his shoulder. “Burkie and I perfect already,” he says, as Andre preens like a sunflower. “We don’t need powers.”
Andre still shows up to the Wild’s visitors locker room unusually glum, though. If anyone else notices, they don’t say anything, but Sasha’s an excellent captain and provides nothing less than the best pep talks. He waits for Andre to get booted out of their pregame two-touch match and then slides next to him, matching his stride. “Everything okay?” he whispers. “You look like…” Sasha waves a hand around in the air. “A tiny raincloud.”
Andre looks up at him and narrows his eyes. “What?”
“Forget my beautiful metaphor,” Sasha says. “You look sad. Can’t look sad when we about to kick ass.”
“Oh, sorry,” Andre says, and in an instant, he seems brighter. “It’s nothing important, you don’t need to worry about it.”
Sasha frowns. “Is obviously not nothing, Burkie. You know you can--”
“Look, fine, a duck talked to me today,” Andre whispers. Sasha’s eyes light up, he can’t help it. “It said, ‘Why don’t you have bread?’ And then a Canadian goose told me it’d peck me to death if I looked at it again.” Andre frowns the tiniest, saddest frown he’s ever seen, and Sasha just deflates. He hasn’t been this disappointed in months, and he reads harlequin novels regularly.
“That’s not so bad,” Sasha says, finally, with as much captainly charisma and confidence as he can muster. “A toaster can do what Latts does, no? Nothing else understands birds.”
“But they're awful.” Andre looks slightly less sullen now, though. “I was hoping for something cooler.”
“Eh.” Sasha ruffles his hair, grinning when Andre ducks out of his reach. “We can’t all be Batman.”
“Batman didn’t have powers”--Sasha sighs dramatically; that’s completely irrelevant--”but, uh, thanks.” Andre smiles. “Don’t tell anyone, okay? I don’t know if I want to yet.”
Sasha crosses his heart. “Of course not.” Andre nods once before jogging back to the two-touch circle, and Sasha decides his work here is done.
He forgets about the whole thing until they’re wandering around Minneapolis after the game. It’s just Sasha and TJ and the kids tonight, looking for a bar that hits the sweet spot between a dive and someplace too respectable for them to go unnoticed. A few blocks into their search, Andre starts giggling, unprompted, next to Willy, and when half their group swivels back to look at him, he mumbles, sheepishly, “Nothing, nothing.” Sasha notices a few pigeons picking at an abandoned sandwich across the street, and then Andre’s shoulders are shaking again. He looks up at Willy, and Willy looks down, baffled. “What?”
Andre wipes his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he says, catching his breath, “That pigeon won’t stop talking about how ugly you are.”
It says a lot about the events of last few weeks that Sasha and the rest of their going-out group burst out laughing not out of doubt, but because they believe Andre completely. Instead of saying, “What the hell are you talking about” like the rational people they all used to be, Willy asks, “Since when can you talk to pigeons?”
“Uh,” Andre answers, dragging out the vowel. “Since this morning?” He looks like he’s expecting Willy to chirp him, which is fair-- Tom and Latts laughed for at least a minute after Kuzma casually mentioned his chest started aching during rainstorms (Which, admittedly, is and was hilarious). Willy’s quiet so far, though, looking back at Andre with the hint of a smile.
“Oh my god, Burkie, you’re a real Disney princess,” he says. “I mean, that pigeon’s a dick, but that’s still cool, eh?”
Andre blushes. “For what it’s worth, I think Carly’s way uglier than you.”
“I won’t tell him you said that,” Tom says, clutching his heart, and Kuzma gags audibly a few steps ahead.
When they do find a bar, finally, Andre overserves himself on stolen sips of cocktails and ends up leaning on Willy’s shoulder, cheeks as flushed as Snow White herself. Willy takes his role as Andre’s pillow seriously, one hand stroking the nape of Andre’s neck while keeping the rest of his body still, and Sasha feels a pang of something between nostalgia and jealousy.
There’s a group text for the team mutants.
Sasha finds out after morning skate, when he’s settling himself next to Nicky on the locker room bench. They’re playing LA tonight, the first time all season, so the media doesn’t keep Sasha long before they move on to Justin and Richards. He’s planning on getting lunch nearby and figures Nicky’s just as eager to sneak out, once he’s finished packing his duffel. Sasha can wait.
TJ’s on Sasha’s other side, re-taping his stick. “Hey, Ovi,” he says, softly, “You see the video Holts sent out last night?” Sasha opens his mouth to say he hasn’t, but TJ catches himself first. “Oh, shit, that was in the powers group, sorry.” To his credit, he looks genuinely remorseful. “Do you wanna see it?”
Holts has progressed from keeping his beers carbonated to pranking the rest of his family with spilled-over fizz from seemingly benign soda bottles. It’s a fitting power for him in a way Sasha can’t articulate, just like everyone else. He’s not jealous so much as very, very curious.
He and Nicky end up coaxing TJ into a liney lunch. They settle at a table, shedding their coats and picking up the menus, and Sasha respectably waits until after they’ve ordered before pouncing. “Who all in the superpowers group now?” he says.
TJ picks up his phone from its spot next to his silverware and unlocks it. “I mean, I don’t think anyone’s hiding anything,” he says with a chuckle. “Pretty sure it’s still...wow.” He scrolls for a moment, scrunching up his face in concentration. “I think you two and Mojo are the only ones left.”
“Oh, really,” Nicky says, his tone so bland that alarm bells immediately go off in Sasha’s head. “Guess we’re just unlucky.” He doesn’t sound at all upset about it; there’s a hint of a curve to his lips. Sasha files that away for later.
“It’ll happen, don’t worry,” TJ says, voice bright and completely oblivious. “It’s gotta be a team thing, right? Even Richie’s in on it, man.”
Sasha shrugs. “We see.” He maintains, publicly, that he doesn’t need superpowers, but he’s not about to turn them down. TJ gets up to use the bathroom, and Sasha immediately puts his chin in his hands and turns his undivided attention to Nicky. “You’re hiding something,” he says, sunnily.
Nicky wrinkles his nose. “Where’d you get this idea?”
“Nowhere,” Sasha says. “Just know you.” Nicky picks up his water glass and takes a sip, clearly trying to ignore him. “So, what is it? Jealous you not super?” Sasha remembers Andre’s hesitation back in Minneapolis. “Or you got stuck with something boring?”
“Neither,” Nicky says, smiling like he thinks he’s won. He spins the plastic straw around the edges of his glass, clearly trying to will the conversation over, and Sasha has an epiphany.
“You already got a power,” he says, “and not going to tell anyone.”
Nicky leans back in his chair, folding his arms; it’s unfair, considering he’s wearing a snug, paper-thin v-neck. “I can neither confirm nor deny that,” he says. That’s all Sasha needs to hear, really. He just knows him.
“Laser eyes,” Sasha whispers to him during warmups. “Is it laser eyes?”
“No,” Nicky says, like the idea offends him. He pretends he’s concentrating intently on his stickhandling exercises.
“Super strength?” Sasha asks. He waggles his eyebrows. “Super stamina?”
Nicky does laugh at that, and Sasha’s veins thrum with warmth. “No,” he repeats, easily, and skates off to practice his shots.
is it flight? Sasha texts him from his bed as he watches a shootout he lost interest in before it even started.
Nicky doesn’t dignify him with a response. Go to sleep.
The truth is, Sasha can’t imagine Nicky with some insignificant unnatural ability. The idea of Nicky being able to tie perfect bows or guess the ending to any book still seems absurd, even after what’s happened to the rest of the team. No, if Nicky’s a mutant, Sasha bets he’s got frost breath, or he reads minds, or he controls the sunrise. Whatever it is, it must be extraordinary, and like the rest of Nicky, Sasha wants to know everything.
They squeeze past the Devils at home and someone, Sasha can’t remember who, convinces nearly the whole team to go out. Nicky’s going, too, and Sasha decides he’s not leaving the bar until he squeezes the truth out of him.
They end up at one of their usual postgame haunts. The hostess takes one look at Sasha and gets them a big, comfortable booth in a corner where they don’t need to shout to be heard. Brooks volunteers to get the first round, but it's really only an excuse for him to pick what they use to toast Dima. He comes back with Fireball shots, because Canadians have the worst fucking taste. Sasha tells him this cheerfully before downing his. Dima gets them all some real shots after that, and then they slow down, get some beers.
Half of them end up on the dance floor, but Sasha just slides in closer to Nicky, filling the spot Mojo left. Nicky’s pretending to ignore him, but that won’t last long. “Hey,” Sasha says, just loud enough for them both to hear. “I was thinking. Maybe you got healing powers, like Deadpool?”
Nicky takes a long sip of his beer, looking at Sasha out of the corner of his eye. His lips are gleaming when he puts the bottle down. “I wish,” he says, dryly. “Trust me, you won’t guess it, Ovi.”
Sasha licks his lips. “That a challenge?”
“No,” Nicky says, laughing incredulously. It’s a familiar sound, a familiar situation. “Look, I’ll show you, but you have to be quiet, okay?”
Sasha is more than capable of this, contrary to popular belief. “Of course,” he says.
Nothing happens for a while. Sasha begins to think Nicky might be fucking with him, which wouldn’t be unprecedented. The quiet’s interrupted by Willy and Andre circling back to the table with their drinks, giggling as they set them down on the table. They say something incomprehensible about the bathroom before shuffling away, and Nicky watches them carefully until they’re out of sight. This must be it.
Sasha leans in until their shoulders touch. “What you do to them?” he whispers.
“Nothing,” Nicky answers, affronted, as he pulls Willy and Andre’s drinks closer. He turns to Sasha and smirks, a slight quirk of the lips just for him, and Sasha’s not really ashamed that it goes straight to his dick. “Well, nothing yet.”
Nicky wraps his hands around both of the beer bottles, still looking straight at Sasha, and tightens his grip for a second before letting go completely. He moves the bottles out of Sasha’s reach when he tries to investigate. “Wait for them to come back,” he says.
The kids emerge as if on cue. Nicky’s slid their drinks back into place. “So, Latts was like, ‘You cannot pull that off,’ and I said, ‘Fuck you, I super can,’ so we drove to Trader Joe’s and--hang on, I need a drink.” Willy picks up his bottle, takes a swig, and then stops, suddenly, narrowing his eyes at Sasha. “Did you switch out my beer?” Sasha holds his hands up, and Willy responds by pouring his beer out into one of the empty shot glasses sprawled across their table.
Only it’s not beer, it’s water, and Sasha can’t help the ugly laughter that escapes his mouth. Willy’s glowering at him. Nicky’s picking at imaginary lint on his jeans and biting his lip so hard he might draw blood. “Okay, very funny, can I have my real beer back?”
Sasha takes a deep, calming breath. “I drank it,” he lies, mouth barely forming the words before he bursts into giggles again.
Willy shakes his head. “You gonna buy me another one?”
Sasha reaches into his pocket and drops a twenty on the table. “Burkie needs one too,” he says, grinning. Willy scoops up the bill as he heads back to the bar, and Andre follows him dutifully, seemingly nonplussed by the whole episode.
When they’re finally gone, Sasha turns to Nicky, ready to ask him twenty different questions, but Nicky’s smiling smugly and all he can do is laugh. This is the Nicky he loves best, Sasha thinks; cunning and devastating and more than happy to keep that secret from almost everyone. Not Sasha, though--not for a long, long time.
Nicky starts laughing, too, resting his cheek on Sasha’s shoulder, and his heart feels far too big for his chest.
They manage to keep it a secret for another two days. It’s Holts, finally, that puts everything together and rats Nicky out to the team, but not before Sasha’s watched him destroy at least five more beers.
“Reverse Jesus,” TJ says, shaking his head with a smile. “That’s pretty fucking awesome.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Willy sniffs from across the room. “Just wait until he does it to you.” Nicky smiles down at his skates as he unties them.
It turns out Mojo discovered yesterday he can mute people like a TV show, so that leaves Sasha, as almost everyone cheerfully points out, the only normal person left on the team. He’s jealous, sure, in the distant way he wishes he still had all his teeth, but it doesn’t keep him up at night. Sasha’s fine watching the rest of them wreak havoc on each other. He’s not even that bummed about missing the superhero group text.
It’s a quiet morning. Sasha holds his coffee mug in one hand and a fork in the other, shoveling down his breakfast in the middle of his kitchen. It’s too big for how little time he spends in it, but he spends half his life on a plane - it’s nice not to feel crowded. He’s going to relish this homestand while he can.
There’s an optional skate this morning, but Sasha wants more reps after their disappointing Sunday in Chicago. He’s still feeling a little sluggish when he gets behind the wheel, so he turns on the radio and finds one of the local top 40 stations. Sasha’s English is good enough now that the morning talk shows are grating instead of just nonsensical, but any noise is good noise this early.
A song starts playing, finally. The beat isn’t familiar, but Sasha knows the words, somehow, so he sings them. It’s a good thing he’s not carpooling today. When it ends, the DJ starts talking over the outro, and something strange dawns on Sasha as he listens along.
He doesn’t know who sings that song. He doesn’t even know its name. It came out a few days ago, the DJ says, and Sasha hasn’t listened to the radio in over a week.
Is this it? Is this how it happens?
Sasha flips over to one of his other saved stations and suddenly understands the warbly chorus to “Pillowtalk.” He finds a hip-hop station and keeps up with a lightning-speed verse he’s pretty sure he’s never heard. Fuck, he finds one of those weird gospel stations they have in Virginia and knows all their Latin hymns. There’s no other explanation.
Sasha never imagined something like this, but he fucking loves it already.
“Oh hey, Cap--”
"I know you’re always on the night shift, but I can’t stand these nights alone,” Sasha croons into the face of a bemused TJ Oshie.
Sasha decides to help him out. “It happened,” he says, setting down his gear bag. “I know words to all the songs on the radio. I’m superhero.”
Latts narrows his eyes. “How do we know you’re not faking it?” he asks. “You are the only one left.”
“Try me,” Sasha says, folding his arms.
Willy pulls out his phone and promptly plays the opening bars to “In Da Club.” Sasha’s a little hurt, to be honest, that Willy thinks this little of his taste, but he recites the lyrics with gusto. Holts starts playing some country nonsense off his phone, and Sasha gets that too, down to the twang.
Holts looks suitably impressed, but Willy shakes his head. “Nah, you could’ve memorized those on the way here,” he says. “We need something we know, for sure, you’ve never heard in your life.” He strokes his chin. “Something you wouldn’t--”
“Way ahead of you,” Andre says, tapping his phone screen vigorously. Something fuzzy starts to play from his speakers, like someone haphazardly turned an old record into an mp3, and Sasha really hasn’t heard this but the words come pouring out of his mouth anyway.
It’s Swedish. It’s some kind of old-timey Swedish dancehall music, like something Nicky’s grandparents would know. Sasha doesn’t understand the words, but he knows them, somehow, anyway. He’s picked up slang from Nicky over the years, but Sasha’s accent always made him double over laughing. Judging from the stunned look on Andre’s face, his accent’s just fine now. Even Willy’s backed down, sitting on one of the benches with his jaw on the goddamn floor.
Sasha looks for Nicky and finds him across the room, both eyebrows raised. He looks surprised in the casual way people do when something’s only mildly shocking, like Steph Curry hitting a half-court three, and Sasha deserves better than that. He shimmies over until he’s right in front of Nicky and gets on his knees, looks up at him from underneath his eyelashes. That does the trick, if the rising blush on Nicky’s cheeks is any indication, but then he abruptly grabs his skates, slides out of Sasha’s path, and disappears without a word. The backs of his ears look red as he leaves, and that’s, well. That’s new.
Sasha turns to Andre. “What’s that song about?” he asks.
Andre wrinkles his nose. “You didn’t understand it? You sounded perfect.”
“I know the words, but I don’t...get them,” Sasha says, shrugging. It’s a good thing the rest of them got useless powers first; this doesn’t sound nearly as ridiculous as it would have a month ago. “What are they?”
Andre scratches the back of his neck. “It’s sort of...a wartime love song? Like, don’t dance with anyone while I’m gone.” He exchanges a look with Mojo before continuing. “But it’s not really about dancing, you know? It’s just a polite way to say…” Andre very briefly makes a rude gesture before Mojo, laughing uproariously, covers his hands.
Sasha laughs, too, but it feels hollow. He glances at the locker room doorway. “So, Backy--”
“Probably got a migraine from your voice,” Brooks chirps. “Welcome to the super club, but, seriously, stop.”
“You just jealous,” Sasha replies, sunnily. Chimmer chirps him for finally finding a power more useless than Latts’s toast hands, and Sasha plays along, watching Nicky from the corner of his eye when he finally comes back. On the ice, they don’t talk about anything but the drills, and Nicky probably breaks his own record with how fast he gets out of the rink.
In retrospect, making eyes at Nicky while singing a song Sasha didn’t understand probably isn’t the brightest thing he’s done in his life.
Sasha gives in and drives to Arlington after lunch and a failed attempt at a nap. He and Nicky have always dealt in uncertainties; they’ve lost plenty in translation. He doesn’t think they can afford that now.
Nicky’s front door is pointedly locked, and he doesn’t answer the doorbell. Sasha sends him an emoji-filled text while looking as pitiful as possible on his doorstep. It takes a few minutes, but Nicky bites.
He looks tired, his Under Armour switched out for plain sweats and a Caps hoodie. “What’s going on?” he asks, voice even like he hasn’t been avoiding Sasha for hours.
“Can I come in?” Nicky looks uncertain, but moves aside to let Sasha in anyway. He leads him into the kitchen and leans against the island, arms folded.
“I wanted to apologize,” Sasha says, quickly. “For earlier. I was screwing around, didn’t understand Swedish. Shouldn’t have messed with you like that.”
Nicky raises an eyebrow. “You didn’t know what the words meant,” he says, dubious.
“Nope,” Sasha says, cracking a smile that feels more like a grimace. “Just knew how to say them. Some superpower, no?”
“Yeah,” Nicky says, sighing. “Hey, it’s fine, Ovi. You didn’t know what you were saying. It wasn’t real.” There’s a sudden tinge of bitterness in his voice. Sasha’s heard this tone before, but always because of the media or the general unfairness of hockey. It’s never been directed at the possibility of someone flirting with him for a joke, let alone Sasha himself.
There’s a lightness in Sasha’s chest that he hasn’t felt since their first year sharing a line.
“Do you want it to be real?” he asks, gently.
Nicky stiffens. “That isn't what I said.”
“But did you mean that?” Sasha says.
“I meant what I said.” Nicky’s glaring at him now, but they’re almost where they need to be. They’re so close to what Sasha’s been dancing around for most of a decade.
He’s ready. He bites the bullet. “So did I.”
The pure annoyance melts off Nicky’s face. “What?” he says, softly.
“The song,” Sasha says. “Burkie said what it about. I didn't know, but I meant it.” He swallows. “I mean it.”
The room is very, very still for a second. Nicky unfolds his arms, lets them fall to his sides. He draws in a sharp breath. “Get over here, then,” he says, and, finally, his lips curve into a smile. Sasha rushes over like he’s being pulled, like Nicky’s Magneto and he’s a helpless hunk of steel. His hands immediately find their way to Nicky’s hipbones.
“This okay?” he asks.
Nicky shakes his head vigorously. “Not at all,” he says, hand resting on Sasha’s jaw, and he leans up to close the distance between them.
Sasha’s spent the past month seeing the impossible, the downright ridiculous, over and over again. Nothing should surprise him, but Nicky’s hands are gentle on his face and his lips are perfectly soft, and no amount of fantasies could prepare him for this. Sasha sighs against his lips and Nicky doesn’t hesitate to deepen the kiss, his tongue finding its way into Sasha’s mouth as his hands fall into the back pockets of his jeans. It’s fucking amazing, but Sasha prides himself on giving as good as he gets, so he crowds Nicky into the kitchen island, reaching under the hem of his hoodie until he finds bare skin. He rubs circles into the small of his back, content.
Nicky’s the one to finally break for air, giving Sasha’s ass an apologetic squeeze as he leans back. “We should come back to this,” he says. “The kitchen, I mean.”
Sasha groans; there’s too much promise in those words for him to handle right now, half-hard and wrecked. “What you thinking?”
“Upstairs,” he says. “Now.”
“Let’s do it, ride it, my po--”
Nicky shuts him up with a rough kiss, but he doesn’t get off Sasha’s dick, either, so he’ll count it as a win.
Willy adds another layer of tape to the bottom of his stick. “So, no offense, but now that everyone here’s powered up, I think I can say, definitively, that my sock magic is still the best.”
Holts makes no attempt to hide his derisive snort. Latts throws a few extra tape balls at Willy’s head. “We established a long time ago Osh is the most useful, kid,” Chimmer says. Across the room, TJ blushes.
Willy rolls his eyes. “Okay, fine, I can’t compete with that,” he says. Objectively, Sasha completely agrees; now that TJ’s mastered fitted sheets, he’s just waiting for him to bust out some kind of blanket origami. “Second best?” Holts clears his throat, and Willy turns, pleading with his eyes, to Sasha.
“Sorry,” he says, in no way apologetic, “Nicky always best.”
“You disgust me,” Willy whines, but it’s completely worth it for the embarrassed half-smile Nicky shoots Sasha’s way. Mojo mutes Willy when he won’t drop it, and he retaliates by flinging dirty socks in his direction until one hits Brooks and he, only half-joking, threatens to spoil every last thing in his fridge.
Sasha leans back, takes it all in. The new normal’s pretty fucking great.