The team is warned before the camera crew comes in. It's not new having the cameras on them for practice, but the reason is novel enough to have everyone in a bit of a frenzy. Sid skates his usual warm up circles and whacks anyone that's talking more than working. The season's still in its infancy and he's not going to let this bizarre thing mess with their mojo.
"Will you dance with me when you're famous?" Phil asks Geno, chin under his hands, and bats his eyelashes. Geno hip checks him hard enough to knock him off balance.
"Already famous," Geno says. "I know, Leafs player doesn't know what famous is. We teach you." They scuffle in the corner until Sid whacks them, too.
"Skate," he says. Phil, who still cares about Captain's orders, does what he's told. Geno pats Sid's head, knocking his helmet askew, and laughs.
"I dance with you," he says. He grabs Sid's arms and skates him in a messy circle. Sid can't stop himself from laughing, even if he knows he shouldn't encourage Geno's bad behavior.
They do actually manage to get through practice. They're almost finished when a PA taps on the boards and calls out that the professional dancer has arrived. The guys give Geno shit as they filter off of the ice, leaving the rink empty like they were asked. Sid sits on the bench instead of following them. He's curious about the person that's supposedly going to turn Geno's ridiculous flailing into dancing.
The dancer's name is Sharna, according to the person that comes in to fuss at Geno's hair and sweaty face. The makeup girl gives up after a minute, declaring Geno good enough. Sid doesn't know what they expected. Practice is just as physical as a game. Why wouldn't he be sweaty and kind of gross? Plus, Geno looks better without stuff in his hair or cakey makeup that makes hus skin look like plastic.
Sharna is absolutely gorgeous, her bright red hair tied back into a bun and her long legs clearly toned under the cling of her leggings. She's dressed fashionably in a long grey coat and a green checked scarf that makes her hair even more vibrant. She skates shakily onto the ice and hugs Geno as soon as they're close enough, like they're old friends being reunited. Sid prickles at it, but Geno just laughs and picks her up until her skates barely touch the ice. The cameras keep on rolling.
"It's so good to meet you," Sharna says, her voice tinged with a soft Australian accent. She hasn't taken her hand off his arm.
"Nice to meet you, too," Geno says, laughing when Sharna slips on the ice. They do a few circuits around the rink, one of the Pens crew following them since apparently Dancing With the Stars doesn't have a person on the film crew that knows how to skate.
Sid heads to the locker room. As long as it doesn't screw with their game, he doesn't care.
Sid goes to some of Geno's rehearsals. It's- it's awful. There are no other words for it. Sid has seen Geno dance in clubs before, all big movements and flailing arms and little skipping jumps that dislodge the people around him. He's got a sense of rhythm, but Sid is of the firm belief that hockey players can not and should not dance.
Sharna shows up to the dance studio downtown that the show rents in sweats and tank tops, her hair tied up high on her head and face free of makeup. She's still alarmingly beautiful. She's a physical teacher, her hands guiding Geno's body more than her instructions. Geno's always preferred action to words. It's why it had been so easy to click with him in the early days.
"Think about being on the ice," Sharna tries, kicking one of Geno's feet with her own. She's absolutely tiny next to him, but it doesn't seem to bother her at all. She pushes and prods him until she gets him where she wants him and Geno goes along gamely. "Waltzes are graceful. You want to glide."
Sid bites back a snort but Geno still glares at him. Geno plays the most beautiful hockey Sid has ever seen, but graceful he is not. He's ungainly on the ice, hunched over in a way that Sid has never understood, as likely to score from his knees as on his skates. It's like he doesn't know what to do with so much body all at once.
Sid knows what he would do, but that's no one's business but his own.
Geno fumbles his way through the steps, face pinching as he fails and fails again. Sharna waits him out, eyebrows raised and voice even when she corrects him. Geno dwarfs her, even when she puts on sky high heels, but Sharna is clearly, obviously in charge. Sid watches in horror as she twirls, ready for her ankles to snap at any second, but she never falters.
"Is not easy," Geno says from the floor at the end of a run through, arms and legs sprawled wide. Sharna laughs and sits next to him. Sid feels like an intruder, which is stupid. Geno asked him to come.
"You'll get it," Sharna says, patting Geno's thigh where his shorts have ridden up. "Just takes practice." Geno sighs but gets back up. It's the thing Sid likes best about him. He might complain endlessly about it, but Geno works for what he wants until he gets it.
They dance and Sid watches.
A good chunk of the team flies to LA to watch Geno's dancing debut. Sid still doesn't get why Geno decided that dancing on national television was something he needed to do, but he's going to support his friend and razz him about it until he's blue in the face.
Sharna travels with them. The younger guys make asses of themselves trying to get into her pants, but she just coolly brushes them off and goes about her own business. Sid doesn't like her being on the plane with them, even if it's not game day travel. It throws off the balance, makes him feel fidgety whenever he hears her voice or the sharp spike of her laugh. Just because she's on what boils down to a game show doesn't mean she should get the right to be in with them.
"Tone it down," Flower says when he catches Sid checking up on Geno. Sharna's leaning in toward him, showing him something on her tablet. Geno nods along with it, mouth pressed into a thin line in concentration. It's the same look he has when coach draws up a play. "She didn't do anything to you."
"It's just a couple of months," Flower says, steamrolling over whatever argument Sid could give. "Then you get him back. Sharing is caring."
"You have to stop watching Sesame Street with the girls," Sid mutters. Flower flips the bird and pulls out his PSP, apparently done with meddling for the moment. Sid's known him long enough to know he won't get off entirely that easily.
And the thing is, Sharna is really nice. Once the rookies stop looking at her like a piece of meat, she joins them for cards and tells quiet jokes that are actually really funny. When Olli asks her questions about dancing, she answers them as earnestly as Sid answers questions about hockey. There's no reason at all to dislike her, but Sid still clenches his jaw every time she talks to him.
"He like routine," Geno says, not quite quietly enough for Sid not to hear. Sid tenses in his seat, fingers going tight around the case of his phone. "Takes time to warm up." Whatever Sharna says in reply is too soft for Sid to make out.
Sid puts his headphones on and flips through his music library until he doesn't feel like he's in high school again, being whispered about behind his back.
He dodges Geno in the cab line and ignores Flower on the ride over to the studio. Flower sighs a lot, but he keeps himself between Sid and the rest of the team when they're led to their seats and doesn't actually say anything. Sid loves him, just a little.
Sid only recognizes a handful of the so called celebrities. There's a newscaster and a few reality TV people and some kid that apparently plays video games on YouTube. Geno's wearing a white tux in the lineup, massive next to the tiny singer beside him. He looks awkward, shifting in his dress shoes. Last year, someone from the Steelers had been on the show, but Geno's currently the only athlete.
"Okay, but do we think he's really going to get the mirror ball?" Tanger asks, leaning over Flower. Flower flicks his forehead.
"We are here to support him," Flower says. He's gotten somehow more pushy and paternal since having Scarlett. Vero thinks it's charming. The rookies don't. "He wants a stupid dancing trophy, we all want a stupid dancing trophy."
"Will you both shut up?" Sid asks, glancing around. They're stuffed into the seats with everyone else, and he's pretty sure the scowling old woman beside Tanger is the video game kid's mom.
The lights in the building dim and the crowd cheers as the large screen behind the open dance floor plays the opening video the show had shot last week. The music is loud and the crowd outside looks cold, even though Sid knows they're not out there anymore. The video spotlights each dancer and their celebrity, and Sid cheers when he sees Geno doing the cheesy stick handling into dancing thing they'd made him do. It looks just as stupid with all the video editing in place as it had when he'd been in front of a green screen, but Sid's hardwired into thinking everything Geno does is great. He can't help it.
When the lights go back up, they watch the first wave of dancers and clap politely after each video package and performance. Sid tries to remember names and faces, figures he'll probably see them again for the next few weeks and it's only polite, but everything moves so fast. The singer is a woman named Bebe and she dances like she's already a professional. She, Sid decides, is the opponent to keep an eye on.
Geno goes second to last.
"Next up is two time Stanley Cup winner Evgeni Malkin and Sharna Burgess. Some of his teammates are here to show support," Tom Bergeron says on the dance floor. Sid elbows Kuni, who had fallen asleep a couple of songs ago. Kuni makes an embarrassing snorting noise as the cameraman near them turns around. Sid waves, trying not to feel like an idiot as the video package with Geno starts up. Under the screen, Geno shifts in his ugly white tux and pulls Sharna closer to him.
"I'm Evgeni Malkin," Geno on screen says. He's leaned back in the same ugly orange chair that everyone else had been in, Penguins ball cap hiding his bedhead. Tanger sighs. He'd gone through Geno's closet in an attempt to make him look classier or something. Sid's glad Geno ignored him. "I play center for Penguins. We win Stanley Cup in 2009 and last year. Hopefully we win again this year." He laughs, pushing the bill of his cap back. "I try win mirror ball, too. Add to my hardware."
Photos and short clips of Geno on the ice play on the screen, both in his Penguins and various Team Russia gear. The video cuts to Sharna and Geno on the ice at their first meeting, hugging and skating in the slow loops around the rink. On the stage, Geno's shifting from foot to foot, his head bowed like he's about to start a game. It's kind of like that, Sid thinks and then immediately shakes out of it. Dancing is nothing like hockey.
"What are you doing?" Sharna asks in the next cut. On the screen, Geno's goofing off, going through his pre-game stretches on the floor of the studio. A pang of affection cuts through Sid quick and sharp as screen Geno rolls onto his side and raises his leg up towards his chest.
"You teach me dancing, maybe I teach you hockey," Geno says from the floor. Sharna laughs and gives Geno a hand up.
A montage of dance practices pop up, Sharna's voice sharp as she corrects Geno's posture. Sid's visible in the back of one, laughing at Geno's grumbling. Flower nudges him and Sid pinches his thigh. When the screen goes black, the house lights pick back up and Geno and Sharna start dancing.
The song is bouncy even though it's slow. Sid's heard it enough over the last few weeks that he finds himself humming along. Geno's visibly stiff and his face keeps doing this thing where it scrunches and then relaxes as he remembers the steps, but they look decent. Way better than the newscaster, at any rate.
Sid's seen the routine over a dozen times now, but it's different with Geno and Sharna in costume. They waltz across the floor in slow, smooth motions, Geno's hand completely dwarfing Sharna's where they're holding on. He trips a little over her dress and Sid winces, but Geno keeps going. There's this little bounce step that Geno's just a little behind for every time and Sid remembers Sharna sighing a lot as they went over.
Geno twirls Sharna as the music swells and then everything cuts off. The crowd claps and Sid and Tanger cheer probably too loudly. Geno smiles sheepishly and hugs Sharna to his side.
They get a fifteen out of thirty, which isn't great, but no one's really there yet except Bebe, who got a twenty-one. Sid zones out a little as the judges talk. He doesn't understand what they're saying for the most part, and Bruno makes him deeply, deeply uncomfortable.
"Not so bad," Flower says, head tilted to the side.
"He'll get better," Sid says with certainty. If Geno wants the stupid disco ball trophy, Geno will get it.
They lose to the fucking Habs. Sid jerks his sweater over his head and takes slow, deep breaths. It's still early in the season and the team hasn't got their footing yet, but a loss is a loss and it prickles under Sid's skin. He runs a hand through his hair and forces himself to calm down.
The excitement of winning the Cup has faded into the background. It's a new season, a new start, and they can't just rest on their laurels. Sid knows they can do it again, knows the potential of every player on the ice with him, but the expectations have gone up. Not winning the Cup was bad. Winning has made everything infinitely more stressful.
The reporters do their usual slog, give the usual post lost questions. One brings up Dancing With the Stars and asks if Sid thinks it's why Geno had only put up one point, and Sid wants to scream. He brushes the question off as politely as possible and smiles for the stupid fucking cameras. When the scrum is over, he ducks into the shower and lets the water ease some of the tension from his shoulders.
Geno's in the locker room when Sid gets out, head leaned back against his stall, eyes closed. He looks wrung out, his mouth pinched at the corners and his shoulders hunched. He's still in his Under Armour, hair slicked back from his face. The few people left in the room are giving him a wide berth, which is probably for the best.
"You think I make mistake doing this, too?" Geno asks as Sid starts gathering his stuff up.
"You're still playing good," Sid says honestly. Sometimes the bounces just don't come. Geno's still putting up points, still making room on the ice. It's not his job to carry the team alone, no matter how much the media seems to think it is. "If it gets too much-" Sid shrugs. It's not like Geno can back out of the commitment, but Sid doesn't think it'll get to that point.
Geno sighs but doesn't bring it up again. Sid waits for him to shower, stretching in his stall to work out some of his leftover energy. They leave together, heads ducked as they exit through the side door. Sid should expect the shock of red hair and gray peacock coat waiting for them at Geno's car, but he still startles. Sharna closes the distance between them and folds Geno into an easy hug, murmuring something soft and soothing against Geno's shoulder. Geno goes limp in her arms.
Sid's shoulders hunch up around his ears. They've known each other for three and a half weeks. Geno shouldn't look so much better when he pulls away. Sid swallows down the guilt at that thought and gives a wave before shooting off towards his own car.
He's got to work on not being a dick, but maybe not tonight.
They win the next two games, which does wonders for team morale. The rhythm of the season is starting to feel familiar again, the last of the summer rust falling away slowly. Sid spends as much time at the rink with the rookies as they'll let him, giving them all the advice he can think of. It's another tradition, another thing to help integrate the new in with the old, and Sid likes seeing the potential blossoming into real quality skill. Usually Geno helps out, but his schedule has become airtight. Sid doesn't see him outside of the rink unless he tags along to dancing practice, too, and making the time for it is hard.
Two months, he thinks as he drives home. Two months of this dancing crap and then things will go back to normal, and Sharna won't be around all the time, and Sid can stop feeling like an asshole for being unsupportive. It might not even be two whole months if Geno gets cut. Sid's stomach turns as soon as the thought comes to him. He's not going to root against Geno. Never.
On Monday, he camps out in front of his TV and turns ABC on. It's not practical to go to LA every time the show shoots, no matter how much Sid wants to be there, but he's not going to not watch after Geno's worked so hard.
Apparently it's Latin Night. Sid settles in with his phone and a snack. Felix, the video game kid, does a salsa in Mario suspenders, which is maybe the highlight of the show. He seems very… high energy in his video package. The girl paired with him doesn't seem phased by it. Sid wonders if dancing is like hockey- roll with whatever weird punches come at you and hope for the best.
Sid only half pays attention to the other dancers, but he does analyze Bebe's cha cha closely. She's in a fluffy black dress that makes her look kind of like she's a bird. She kills it. Sid scowls at his phone and texts Flower for his opinion. Flower doesn't text him back. Sid sits up when Geno's name is announced.
"The rhumba is about being close," Sharna says to Geno in the video package. Geno's sweaty, probably already been working for a while, but he nods anyway. "It's a little sexy. It's a seduction. Don't be afraid to get all up in here." Geno laughs and takes her up on her offer.
The video changes, but Sid's barely paying attention. He's seen Geno with girls before. He's seen Geno with a guy or two, probably when he shouldn't have. And it sucked and Sid's chest always feels bruised when Geno comes back looking pleased and well laid, but Geno never kept them around for longer than one night. Sharna's going to be with them all the time, and Sid doesn't know if he can handle seeing it. He's honest enough with himself to admit that.
That stupid Genghis Khan song that's been on the radio all summer plays as the camera pans towards Geno and Sharna, because the universe has nothing better to do than mock Sid. Geno's in jeans and a half open button down shirt, his chain and pendant swinging against his chest as he chases Sharna across the stage. He's still making those faces every once in awhile, but he seems totally comfortable throwing Sharna around. They look good together, Sid thinks.
He turns the TV off before they get scored. Someone will tell him about it later.
"We should go on Family Feud," Taylor says, her voice distorted around whatever she's eating. Sid's gotten used to the constant sound of crunching, chewing, and swallowing. He imagines she has, too. There's barely enough time in the day to eat as much as they need to. "You and me on the same team? We'd be unstoppable."
"You just want the chance to make Steve Harvey hate his life on national television," Sid replies. He's not wholly comfortable with the stuff his baby sister has picked up in her own locker rooms, but he tries his best to bite his tongue. She's an adult. He shouldn't baby her, no matter how much he really, really wants to
"Oh, come on," Taylor says. "It would be great. Plus, you can't let Geno have all the spotlight. Did you see him last night?" She whistles and Sid winces as the sound cuts straight into his skull. "They clearly know their audience."
"He can keep the spotlight." Sid pokes at his cereal, drowning a bran flake until it falls apart under the curve of his spoon. "I never wanted it in the first place." Taylor sighs.
"You're helplessly boring, Sid," she says. Sid shrugs even though she can't see him. He likes what he likes. Sue him. There's a noise on the end of her line, probably her roommate coming downstairs for breakfast. Taylor says something muffled to Kate and Sid takes the time to refill his coffee. He hears his own name and figures Taylor's explaining his hopelessness.
They talk until Sid's alarm goes off. He says a quick goodbye, ignores her jabs at his levels of boring, and puts his bowl in the dishwasher. They don't talk a lot during the season- not since she became another in a long list of things that made the worst sort of hockey luck- but he's always happy to hear from her. Even if he's, apparently, a joy suck.
Outside, it's cold and a little damp. Fall is teasing into winter, the familiar smell of snow hanging in the air. It'll probably come down in a few days. Sid looks up at the gray sky and smiles. In news surprising to absolutely no one, winter is his favorite time of year.
Flower ambushes him as soon as he's inside. He's half in his pads, waddling around with his legs spread into a bizarre cowboy gait, but it doesn't stop him from herding Sid back out to the hall. Sid protests- he's got to get his gear on before Sully shows up and his skates need sharpened- but Flower ignores him. That's nothing new.
"What are you doing?" Sid asks, batting at Flower's arms. He mostly catches the hard plastic of Flowers shoulder pads.
"Saving you from yourself," Flower says.
Sid looks up just in time to see Sharna stepping into the hall. She'd been in the locker room. A flash of anger hits Sid so hard he feels like he's been punched. Flower glances back over his shoulder and groans. He doesn't let go of Sid's shirt, but he stops shoving. Sharna gives a little wave and a smile before heading towards the exit. She's got Geno's keys in her hand.
"What was she doing in there?" Sid asks, doing his best not to grind his teeth. Flower mutters something under his breath before straightening up. It looks even more ridiculous than the bowlegged stance of before, but Sid's too angry laugh. It's stupid. He knows it is. The guys bring their girlfriends and wives and kids in before practice all the time. It's nothing to be mad about, but he can't for the life of him calm down.
"Sharna asked a few of us to help the week after next," Flower says. "Just a little dancing in the back. She thinks it'll be fun for G, maybe fun for us, too."
Hurt mixes in with the anger for good measure. He doesn't ask who's been invited. He hasn't, and that's all that matters. Not that he wants to be a part of it- Jesus, the stuff people would do with video of pictures of him dancing- but he hadn't even been an afterthought and it stings. Flower shakes his hand in Sid's shirt, his knuckles bumping up against Sid's chest.
"Support, remember?" He lets go and Sid slumps.
"Whatever," he mutters. Flower doesn't block him from going to the locker room again.
Geno's laughing with Kuni and Horny in the corner, his voice echoing off the walls. It makes Sid's skin prickle as he strips down. He takes slow, deep breaths and tries to rationalize himself out of his bad mood. There's hockey to focus on. He can't afford to be distracted by another in the long string of Geno's girls. He'll get over it. He always does.
Being on the ice calms him down. He's heard the robot jokes, knows that people think he lives in a box when he's not playing hockey, and it's not true, obviously, but hockey is a settling in a way that nothing else is. He knows how to make his body do what it's supposed to, knows how to anticipate the puck and read plays. Hockey has simple rules that he knows how to follow. Hockey is easy. Everything else isn't.
Sid stays on the ice after Sully blows the whistle to dismiss them. He doesn't work on anything specific, just messes around with trick shots he'd never use in a real game, letting the soreness of his body and the familiar motions kill the last of his bad mood. He's avoiding the team, avoiding Flower and Geno, and he knows himself well enough to admit it.
Not that it does any good. When he finally drags himself back to the locker room, Geno's sitting in his stall, head tilted back against the wall, still damp from his shower. He's thinner than he should be this early in the season. Every time Sid sees him he's got some sort of protein bar in his hand, desperately fighting the combined stresses of hockey and dancing, but it's not working. Not really. Sid pulls his sweater off quietly. Maybe, if he's lucky, Geno's fallen asleep. It wouldn't be the first time.
"Hey," Geno says as Sid lifts his shoulder pads off. Sid winces. So much for luck.
"Hey." He sits down and tugs the laces of his skates loose. They're fraying a little at the edges and probably need to be replaced.
"Come to LA Sunday?" Geno asks. The bench creaks when he sits up. Sid can see him twisting his hands out of the corner of his eye. "Is big one. Want you to see." Sid swallows and pulls his skates off, moving onto the tape around his socks. He doesn't want to go to LA, doesn't want to watch Geno and Sharna dancing. Geno's getting good. Sid's not surprised.
"I don't know," Sid says, because no isn't a word he still can't say directly to Geno. "Mario's having a thing Sunday. I haven't seen the kids in awhile." The last part is true, at least. "Ask the rest of the guys. Olli's really into the whole dancing thing. Bet he'd love to go."
There's silence for a long while. Sid keeps undressing, head tilted down so he doesn't have to look. Distance is good, he thinks. He's let his stupid crush linger a few years too long. He's almost thirty. It's time to let Geno go and move the fuck on.
"Okay, Sid," Geno says quietly. Sid doesn't watch him get up, doesn't watch him grab his things and go, doesn't say anything about Geno getting a real meal into him sometime tonight. He ducks into the shower before Geno's even gone and tries not to feel like he's doing something stupid.
The Rangers are always a challenge. Lundqvist sets Sid's teeth on edge like no other goalie in the league. He's probably the best, not that Sid will ever mention that to Flower, and he takes a delight in shutting them down like no one else does. Still, it makes the victory of slipping one past him all the sweeter.
It's a hard fought game, but they win it off a slick goal from Rusty, 5-4. Sid taps each of their goal scorers on the head as they pass him by back toward the locker room, only hesitating a little when it's Geno's turn. Geno had gotten them their first through what seemed at the time like sheer willpower. Sid's glove comes down on his helmet briefly before Geno ducks out from under him.
Sid's not surprised to see Sharna waiting outside the locker room after the press have come and gone. She's slumped against the wall, head tilted back and arms crossed over her chest, but she brightens up when Geno goes over to her. Sid ducks his head and turns his phone back on. He's tired, they have an early flight in the morning, and even Flower's wheedling isn't going to get him to leave his room tonight for anything short of a fire.
The bus ride to the hotel is loud, Horny and Tanger leading the team in a rousing rendition of… something. Sid can't really make out the words. But the team is happy so Sid's happy. They're starting to click again, starting to win more than they're losing, and that's the sign of good things to come. He doesn't join in when Flower tries to teach him the words to the song they're singing, but he does clap in all the right places. Positive reinforcement for team building is part of his job description.
As soon as he's in his room, Sid strips out of his suit and into his beaten down pair of road sweats. They're kind of ragged at the hems, kind of long over his feet, but they're soft and worn in and more comfortable than anything else he owns. They'll probably have to be scrapped sooner rather than later, but he's not sharing space anymore. He doesn't have to impress anyone here. He brushes his teeth, sets his alarm, and is just crawling into bed when someone knocks on his door.
"I'm too old for your shit," Sid calls out. It doesn't matter which teammate it is. He wants no part of their post-win fuckery. "We have to be up at six. Go to sleep." There's a moment of silence and then three more sharp knocks. Sid groans and rolls to his feet.
He jerks open the door, mouth open to tell whoever it is to fuck off, but he draws up short when he meets face to face with Sharna. She looks angry, her mouth pinched and her delicate eyebrows drawn together. She doesn't wait for him to ask her in, just brushes by him, the sweet smell of her perfume lingering after her. Sid looks out into the hall, but Geno's not out there. He feels distinctly uncomfortable being alone in his room with Geno's… whatever.
"Sit," Sharna says, pointing to the bed. When Sid doesn't move, she raises her eyebrows and taps her foot. Her heels make her nearly as tall as he is. Sid shuffles over to the bed and sits. He feels like he's a child again, called into the coach's office for being too aggressive with the other kids.
"No," Sharna says, lifting one finger in front of Sidney's face. Her nails are long and painted shiny, metallic gold. "You listen. I don't know what you said to Geno and I don't care. That's your mistake to fix. But you and I are going to fix this-" she waves her finger between Sid's face and her own chest- "now."
"I really have to-"
"Do you know how long I've been dancing?" Sharna asks, cutting him off. Sid's mouth snaps shut. He shakes his head. "Longer than you've played hockey. I love it more than anything else in the world. Do you know what I love best?" Sid shakes his head again. He's being dressed down by a woman half his size and there's nothing at all he can do about it. "Teaching people how to do it. Watching them fall in love with it, too."
Sid nods. He understands that. Seeing kids pick up a stick for the first time, watching them score their first goal or block their first shot- watching their joy- there's nothing else like it. Sharna uncrosses her arms and squats in front of him, the sharp points of her elbows digging into Sid's thighs. It feels like a threat.
"And Geno loves dancing," Sharna says. She grins a little ruefully at Sid's look of skepticism. "Maybe not as much as he loves hockey, but he enjoys it. He wants to show you how good he's getting because he's proud and your opinion matters more than mine or the judges' or the viewers'." Sid starts to shake his head, but Sharna grabs his jaw, her sharp nails pressing into the soft places above the metal plates. Sid freezes. "I am not your relationship counselor. All I'm telling you is to swallow whatever issue you have with me and go watch your friend do something he loves."
Sharna pushes off Sid's thighs to stand, brushing off her jeans. She smoothes back her hair and gives Sid a smile that's more teeth than lip. Sid tries not to feel intimidated, but he's not wholly successful.
"I'll see you Sunday," Sharna says. "They're calling for rain. Bring an umbrella." The door snaps closed behind her and Sid's left alone in his room, feeling like he's just survived a hurricane.
Sid shifts in his seat, tugging at the sleeves of his jacket. The studio is warm, but he doesn't want to take his coat off in case the cameras turn his way. He'd tried to con Flower and Tanger into coming with him, but they'd both declined cheerily. Sid had considered just backing out- what was Sharna going to do to him, anyway? Dance angrily at him?- but Geno wants him here. He can't say no to that.
The theme of the night is most important year. Sid watches Felix's video package politely, his face tilted toward the screen, but he can't focus on it. 2009 is going to be Geno's. Or maybe 2016, fresh and right there for the remembering. Sid doesn't understand how the dancers are supposed to translate whole years into something as short and weird as a dance, but he's excited despite himself to see what Geno's going to do.
Felix dances a jive, which makes Sid's feet ache in his dress shoes. He falls during part of it and Sid winces. He hopes, idly, that it doesn't affect his score too much. He kind of likes the kid, which makes no sense at all. He doesn't even watch YouTube for the most part.
For once, Geno's not at the end. Sid squirms in his seat as the stage crew stars changing the sets around. He catches sight of Geno at the edge of the stage, stretching, Sharna a steady presence next to him. She's in a wisp of a red dress, her feet bare and her hair wild around her face. Geno's in Penguins black and gold pants, his chest and feet bare.
"Next, we have Evgeni Malkin, who impressed the judges last week with his sassy rhumba," Tom Bergeron says. Sid wrinkles his nose. Sassy? "Can he keep it up with this week's paso doble? Let's see what his most important year was." The lights dim and Geno's video package begins to play.
"My most important year is 2006," Geno says. The camera shows his profile and for a moment he looks so much older than he is. "Is the year I'm leave Russia to play for NHL. Was not easy. Team in Russia wants to keep me longer when my contract done. They come to my house, tell me I'm owe them more time. They take my passport, stay with my parents, make me think sign new contract is the only thing I can do."
The video cuts to clips of Geno in Metallurg red, skating on ice that's too big. He's so young, his face still round and his body not quite filled all the way out. Sid looks away from the screen to the real Geno, but Geno's standing stock still, head bowed.
"I'm know as soon as I'm sign is mistake," Geno on screen says. "So I tell agent, and he makes plans to get me out of contract, get me to NHL. I'm leave Russia very fast." The video shows a series of clips of Geno on the ice, slowed down and dramatic, his face serious as he shoots at the net. Sid doesn't remember these being shot, doesn't remember Geno being on the ice alone, but they're recent, the fiftieth anniversary patch on his chest bunching and bending as he takes a shot. "No one but agent know where I am. Not parents, not friends. Is only way to get to Pittsburgh. I'm scared teenager, no one to talk to, stay in hotel alone for two days until visa is ready."
Sid can't imagine it, even after all these years. He's heard this story so many times that he could recite it by rote, but seeing Geno's hangdog face blown up and larger than life makes Sid's chest ache. God, he'd already been living with Mario and settling in, living the life he'd always wanted and Geno had been stuck somewhere terrified and alone. Sid remembers the washed out, exhausted boy that had stood on Mario's doorstep and can barely link him to the man he's grown up with.
"I never regret," Geno on the screen says. He gives a weak smile, his eyes pinched at the corners. He might not regret it, but Sid knows that he wishes it had happened differently. The camera switches to Geno and Sharna in the practice room, both of them leaned back against the stairs. Geno looks exhausted, but he's smiling. "I always love Russia. But- Penguins are family, now. NHL is home."
The lights go up and Geno and Sharna take their places center stage. Sid feels like he's intruding as Sharna gives Geno's bicep a gentle squeeze. It's just dancing, it's something for literally the whole world to see, but- Geno looks nervous. Scared, almost, and Sid can't do anything about it. The music starts, and Geno's face shifts, turning hard and determined. This is game day Geno, ready to throw down his gloves and go. It's easier to handle.
It looks like fighting. Every movement is sharp and hard, Geno throwing himself across the stage, his fists clenched and his arms held high and proud over his head. The song is slow, but their movements are quick, their forearms crashing together and Sharna spinning away and storming back in a flurry of motion.
Hate me today, the singer croons over the speakers, his voice raw. Hate me tomorrow. Sid's chest aches as he watches Geno lift Sharna into his arms. She clings to him, her legs wrapped tight around his hips, and Geno carries her easily, even as she arches backward, her hair brushing the ground.
And Sid- it clicks together then. He gets it. He understands why Geno wants to do this. He's always spoken better with his body, always made more sense when he could show rather than tell, and this mess of arms and legs and thrown bodies is a story. It's his story, his struggle, and Sid wants to cry just watching it.
At the end of the song, Geno lets Sharna fall to the floor. She holds onto one of his ankles, dragging the ground after him as he walks away. Sid shoots to his feet as soon as the music cuts off, cheering and shouting like he's on the bench. He feels wrecked on the inside, can only image what Geno's feeling, but he's also so fucking proud it hurts.
Geno's cheeks are wet as he stands to be judged, his arm wrapped tight around Sharna's shoulders. He's standing tall, though, his head held high. The judges all stand, even Len, who has been a hard ass the whole competition. A woman in a suit touches Sid's arm and he nearly jumps out of skin.
"You can go to the green room for the scoring interview," she says, nodding towards the crew only aisle. Sid hesitates and the woman stands there patiently, waiting for him.
"Yeah," Sid says as Carrie Ann begins to talk. "Yeah, alright."
Sid follows the woman through the back halls, hands curled into loose fists in his pockets. There are so many people moving around him, ignoring him entirely as they do whatever they're supposed to do, and the PA is going fast. Sid mumbles apologies every time he bumps into someone, but for the most part, they ignore him. He lets out a breath of relief when he's shuffled off into a side room.
"Hi, Sidney." Julianne Hough holds out the hand not wrapped around a microphone and Sid takes it. He's met her before at events, even before Laich got involved, and he's always liked her, as much as he likes any media person. "It's good to see you."
"Hey. You too." Sid shuffles anxiously as he watches the silent monitor hanging above the cameras. He could, presumably, go talk to the other contestants that are loitering around in the room, but he really, really doesn't want to. This might not have been a great idea.
The room explodes into cheers when Geno walks in with Sharna under his arm. He puffs out his sweaty chest, grinning. He pauses when he sees Sid, but the woman that had led Sid in hurries him over to the yellow tape x on the ground next to Julianne. Sid gives him a weak smile and picks at the lint in his pocket. This was maybe a bad idea. He considers hiding out on the side, but the cameraman is already turning toward them and Julianne's lifting up her microphone.
"That was amazing," she says to Geno. It sounds sincere, but she's said the same thing about almost everyone. Geno grins and ducks his head. "How did it feel? You got a little emotional there at the end."
"Is good," Geno says. He wipes his wrist over his forehead and a smear of glitter stays behind. Sid already knows it'll get transferred to the locker room hundreds of miles away. He's been finding it on his own clothes with no idea of how it's gotten there. "I'm emotional guy. Can't help it."
He's panting a little still and Sid gets distracted by the rise and fall of his chest. There's glitter there, too, mixed in with his sweat, and Sid resolutely turns back to Julianne. Sharna leans around Geno to smile a little. It looks much less frightening than the last time.
"The judges loved it, I loved it," Julianne says. "And we have your teammate here showing his support. That's got to feel great. Sidney, what did you think of Geno's performance?"
"It was-" Sid scrambles for the right words. "It changed how I think about dancing. You did great, G." He doesn't know how to express how good it was. He can't just tap him on the helmet and then praise him later when the words come. Geno smiles brightly though, so maybe he gets it anyway.
Someone behind the camera waves and Julianne directs attention back towards the monitors smoothly. Sid shifts anxiously as he watches the judges table. He feels like he's waiting on the results of a goal challenge. Here, though, he can't argue back if he doesn't like the answer. The judges are smiling, though, and what little Sid had heard on his way up had been positive. Geno's fingers wrap around his wrist, his knuckles pressing into Sid's thigh.
He gets a perfect score.
Sid barely has time to process it, Bruno's weird accent still coming through the speakers, before his feet are off the ground, Geno's arms around him. He laughs, and it's as easy as anything to hug him back and ruffle his hair. They've celebrated so, so many things together, and Sid can't help the stupid laugh that gets squeezed out of him. As soon as Sid's back on the ground, Geno turns and hauls Sharna up, too, spinning her in a quick, messy circle. Her hair smacks Sid in the face, and Julianne has to take a step back to avoid being hit, too, but Sid can't even be annoyed about it.
"The first perfect score of the season," Julianne says when Geno sheepishly goes back to his mark.
"Geno's an overachiever," Sharna says. She rises up onto her toes to press a kiss to his cheek. "I'm proud of him."
Ask soon as the cameraman waves his hand, they're shuffled out of the room. Sid doesn't know where the dancers and contestants actually go when they're not dancing, but he's already getting uncomfortable with the rushing crew all around him. He'd thought the Pens media crew was a lot. It's nothing compared to this. Sharna gives them a little wave and wanders off towards Bebe's dance partner. Sid realizes with a guilty pang that this is the first time he's been on his own with Geno in over a week.
"Didn't think you come," Geno says. It's not accusing, sounds more happy than anything else, but Sid still flinches.
"Sharna, ah." Sid scratches at the back of his neck where his starched collar has rubbed all night. His heart clenches painfully in his chest as he takes a deep breath. Geno deserves to be happy. He deserves to have everything he wants, even if Sid isn't part of that picture. "She talked me into it. I want to be supportive. And, you know, she seems nice. Not that you need me to approve of whoever you date or whatever."
"She's team, Sid." Geno clicks his tongue. It's meant to soothe, but Sid wants to shout. Sharna isn't team. He's team, the Penguins are team. He bites it back and smiles tightly. "Besides, has boyfriend. I not pretty enough for her."
"You're not pretty enough for anyone," Sid says On autopilot. It breaks the lingering tension hovering around them. Geno laughs and wraps his arm around Sid's head, tugging him in for a noogie. He reeks of sweat and his knuckles hurt where they dig into Sid's scalp, but Sid doesn't want to be anywhere else. "This why you stop coming to practices? Think we need alone time?"
"I-" Sid pinches Geno's stomach where it's softest until Geno lets him out of the headlock. He pats at his hair, but it's probably a lost cause. He can feel where it's standing up in the back, the gel sticky on his fingers. Geno's looking at him expectantly,eyebrows raised. "Maybe."
"You jealous?" Geno asks. Sid stares at the tiles of the floor and fidgets with the cuffs of his jacket. He had been. He'd been so jealous it had burned.
"Maybe," he says again. Geno knocks their shoulders together. He's smiling when Sid finally looks up at him. He's got a smear of glitter under his left eye and he's still a little red from dancing.
"Never need to be jealous," Geno says. "You first." He grabs Sid's hands and spins him around in a sloppy circle, just like he had on the ice weeks ago, and Sid's startled into laughing. "Sharna dance with me. She teach me new thing. Is very nice, very pretty. But you're Sid, and Sid is best always."
"Thanks, G," Sid says a little breathlessly. "You're the best, too."
"I know," Geno says, furiously smug in the way that Sid loves best. He rests his arm over Sid's shoulders, dragging him through the crowd of cast and crew. "You have to vote or I never get mirror ball."
"I haven't watched everyone else yet," Sid says. He feels lighter. He's missed this, teasing and getting teased, Geno's casual disregard for personal space. "I think Bebe's got it in the bag."
"I'm telling Sharna," Geno says as he pushes open a door. It's a changing room, just a little hole in the wall with a couch and a rack of costumes and a vanity. Geno flops down on the couch before Sid's even got the door closed all the way and reaches for a pack of makeup removers on the vanity. "You think bag skate is bad, she make you do mooch step. You cry."
"Fuck you, I would not." Sid attempts to fix his hair in the vanity mirror, but he's a little sweaty from being under the lights and his gel has gone sticky. He looks like he's been noogied a few times.
"I almost cry," Geno admits. He scrubs at his face, looks down at the stained makeup remover, and wrinkles his nose. He tosses it towards the trash and grabs for another one. "She gonna kill Flower. Good thing Muzz play so good." Sid winces a little. He's mostly put the whole thing behind him, but-
"Why didn't you ask me to be part of it, too?" Sid asks. Geno blinks at him. His face is pink from all the scrubbing and Sid stares at the raised scar on his cheek, fiddling with the bottles on the vanity. "I mean, I know I'm not a great dancer or whatever, but even I have better rhythm than Flower."
"Think you don't want," Geno says. "You stop coming to practice, don't like Sharna. Why I ask you to do something you don't like?"
"I would have done it if you'd asked," Sid says. He rubs his thumb back and forth over the peeling edge of a label written in French. "You're hard to say no to." Geno snorts.
"You say no all time," he says. He pats the little couch next to him and Sid goes. The couch bends inward when he sits on it, his shoulder bumping into Geno's.
"Not about important stuff," Sid mumbles.
"You want dance with us?" Geno asks. He drops his arm around Sid's shoulders and pulls him in. "We make special spot in dance, just for you."
"Please don't." Sid closes his eyes and pretends they're back home. He doesn't want to think about flying out again so soon. "If you want me to do it, I will. It could be fun?" Geno snorts, his breath hot against the top of Sid's head.
"I'm already tell you I dance with you," Geno says, ruffling Sid's hair back into a giant mess. Sid doesn't bother fighting it. He's warm and content and Geno's laughing at him again, which is an improvement over the last few weeks. "We go to practice together. You see how hard work really done."
"Whatever you say, G," Sid says. He feels like a weight's been lifted from his chest, like he can breathe properly again.
Dancing is hard. Sid digs his thumb into the ball of his foot and groans pathetically at the rush of relief. Olli laughs at him, somehow still standing. Sid ignores him and watches Geno instead. He'd known Geno had been working hard, had seen the effects on his body, but he hadn't thought it would be this bad. He's only doing stuff for thirty seconds. Geno's doing a full minute and a half.
"Flower," Sharna snaps and Sid winces. He'd been a little worried about the five Pens being too rowdy for her to deal with, but she's done more than hold her own. And Geno wasn't kidding about the mooch step thing. "Two minutes." Flower groans and trudges off to the corner. Sid's too tired to make fun of him.
"I never thought I'd get sick of hearing Party Hard," Tanger says, flopping down on the stairs next to Sid. "I was wrong."
Sid doesn't want to admit he's also getting a little sick of it, too. It's been playing on repeat as Sharna teaches them the steps and the lyrics are seared so far into Sid's brain that he doesn't think he can remember anything else. Someone from wardrobe had sent the mockups of their costumes down and Sid keeps picking at the loose threads of the ripped up white t-shirt that apparently had to be flown in.
"No more," Geno says when the song loops back to the beginning. He flops down in front of Sid, kicking his legs up and resting his smelly socked feet on Sid's thighs. "You break me."
"You're a professional athlete," Sharna says, hands on her hips. "You should have more stamina than this." Sid looks up just in time to see Flower visibly biting back his comment about Geno's stamina. Tanger snorts. "Break for lunch, then one more run through. You're almost there." She takes Olli's arm and wanders out of the studio with him. They've bonded over Olli's interest in dancing and Sid's still a little pleased about it. She can kidnap Olli as much as she wants as long as she leaves Geno with him.
"Feed me," Geno whines. He taps his foot against Sid's ribs. "Work so hard."
"Yeah, alright." Sid shoves Geno away and pulls a sweater on over his damp t-shirt. "Anyone else coming?"
"Go on your date," Flower says. He stretches out on the floor and groans in satisfaction. "I'm never moving again." Sid gives him the finger.
They duck out to the Primanti's around the corner and Sid doesn't even feel bad about the two sandwiches he orders. He's fucking starving.
"No wonder you're so skinny," Sid says as he takes his first bite. Geno ignores him, digging into his own sandwich. Grease runs down his jaw and Sid has to resist the urge to reach across the table and wipe it off.
"Everything okay?" Geno asks once he's finished his first sandwich. "Dancing not so bad?" He sounds actually nervous, like Sid's opinion means anything. He thinks about Sharna in his hotel room yelling at him and thinks maybe it does.
"Yeah. It's fun." He shoves his pickle across the table and ignores his throbbing feet. It's only one week. "I don't think I could do a whole run like you are, though."
"I'm best, is true," Geno says. Sid kicks him under the table. He's missed this.
Sid takes a stick to the face in Philly three minutes before the final buzzer. He spits blood onto the ice and Schenn gets four in the box. His teeth ache as he lines up for the faceoff, and he can already feel the fat lip starting up, but he's had worse. They're up by two and Geno's been on fire tonight. The Flyers have been chirping him hard, calling him a fairy and insulting his dancing and hockey both. For once, he's using his anger for the team. It's stunning and beautiful and Sid never wants the game to end.
Schultzy gets one in with four seconds left on the clock, and that's that. 4-2, game over. The violent little swell of pride that always comes with beating the Flyers is even stronger tonight. Geno blows Giroux a kiss on his way past, his grin mean and big and Sid plows straight into him, hugging him. Giroux flips them off and skates away.
After the game, none of the reporters ask about Geno's stint on Dancing With the Stars. Sid is viciously happy about it.
Sid's stomach is in knots. He doesn't know how Geno does this every week. Beside him, Flower's playing with the long black hair of his wig, throwing it over his shoulder and smacking it into Olii's face. Sid's scalp itches where his own wig had been meticulously pinned into place, but it takes a firm backseat to everything else.
Christ, he's going to look like such an idiot.
"Breathe," Sharna says. She's in cutoff shorts and a tube top. Sid thinks it says something that even though the rest of them are dressed basically the same, she's not. It doesn't seem fair to her. "You play for thousands of people all the time."
"I know how to do that," Sid says. Sharna laughs and pats his head. Geno, who's in the same jeans and t-shirts as the rest of them, has managed to wiggle out of wearing the wig. It's probably for the best. Sid really, really doesn't want him to get injured by something as stupid as having his vision blocked.
They watch Felix do his tango from the balcony, waving when the cameras pan up to them. Geno keeps bumping his shoulder into Sid's, grinning and tugging at Sid's wig. He's full of energy, giddy to go do his thing and Sid loves him. He doesn't know how he thought he'd be able to get over it. Sid bumps back into Geno's side and forgets about the cameras.
They line up in the hall that leads out onto the stage when Felix is done, and it feels so very much like going out onto the ice that Sid's thrown. Sharna goes over something with Geno again, grabbing his hands and going through the steps that've been giving him trouble all week one last time. Sid can hear the crew changing the set and the soft murmur of the people in the crowd.
"We do great," Geno says when the PA calls them out. He taps his forehead against Sid's, grinning wide, and swats him on the ass as they file out toward the stage.
The lights are so bright that it's hard to see anyone in the audience, but the judging table is still lit. Bruno, who creeps Sid out on a level usually reserved for Pierre, is staring at them like they're steaks. Sid fights the urge to cross his arms over his chest as he gets into position. He can't really hear Tom talking, even though he's not that far away, and he can feel sweat breaking out under his arms and across his forehead. Taylor is never, ever going to let him live this moment down.
After all is said and done, the team's part of the dance flies by. Sid's too focused on not messing up the steps to pay attention to Bruno or the sound of the audience. He barely hears the music, just the steady count to four in his head and Tanger's heavy breathing next to him, and then they're ducking behind the giant set piece made up to look like a concert stage.
He's not winded- he's double shifted way too many times for that- but he's breathless. He wonders if this is how Geno feels after every dance, exhilarated and a little stunned. Flower hugs him, laughing when the hair of his wig goes into Sid's mouth. It tastes like plastic and spit. Sid shoves him away and glares.
"Not so bad!" Flower grins, eyebrows raised. "Maybe I'll do this next year."
"They wouldn't want D-lister like you," Tanger says.
Sid ignores them as they bicker, joining Olli next to the edge of the set piece to catch the end of the dance. Geno's huge and heavy, all muscle, and it's amazing to see him move so fast off the ice, keeping up easily with Sharna. He stumbles a little at the end, tripping over his own feet, but he covers it pretty well, if Sid has any say in it. He cheers and claps when the music shuts off. Geno looks over his shoulder and laughs at all of them, his arm around Sharna's shoulders and his chest heaving. Affection blooms so heavily in Sid's chest that it takes him a moment to remember to head over to the judging table with the rest of the guys.
"That was spectacular," Bruno says, standing up and waving his arm. Len ducks his head, lips pursed and eyes narrowed. Sid wouldn't trade him places if his life depended on it. "Lively! Fun! You must watch your frame, though. Tight! Tight!" He does something weird with his hands that Sid doesn't try to figure out. Beside him, Flower spits out pieces of wig that have gotten caught in his mouth. Serves him right.
"It was such a joyful thing to watch, other than your feet," Len says. Sid bristles and the audience clearly agrees with him because they boo loudly enough to interrupt. Geno's just nodding though, taking in the criticism easily. He does that when Sully rails at him, too. He'll learn from it. "Oh, calm down. You were quite good, but the jive is all about the quick steps and pointed toes and sharp movements, and you were flailing around down there. Tighten it up."
"This was such a great showcase for you," Carrie Ann says, leaning over the desk. "In everything you've been so serious. This was a nice look at your playful side. And your backup dancers!" The crowd claps. Sid keeps himself still through sheer force of will, smiling tightly, even as Flower blows Carrie Ann a kiss. "I agree with Len, you've got to get a little more control, but I believe in you. Great job."
As the team makes their way up to the green room, Geno drops away from Sharna and knocks his shoulder into Sid's. He stinks like sweat and Sid's still got the stupid wig on because he can't figure out how to unpin it, but Sid just bumps back into him. Geno gets twenty-six out of thirty, which is decent. Felix gets sent home at the end of the show, which sucks. Sid kind of liked him.
The plane is quiet. Sid's half asleep, chin knocking into his chest as he dozes. They've got a game tomorrow, thankfully at home, and he knows without a doubt that if they don't dominate on the ice, all of them are going to be given shit for taking a break to dance. He's trying not to worry about it. The Leafs are looking decent this year, but their defence is god awful. He's watched a lot of tape on Matthews and Marner and plans to keep an eye on them, but he's not panicked. The Pens are better, pure and simple.
He looks up when someone sits down next to him. Geno yawns, not bothering to cover it up, and hogs all of the armrest space. Sid sighs, rearranging himself so that Geno's legs won't get cramped. It's all familiar movements, made a little surreal by the dim light and the soft hum of the plane. Sid's scalp still itches from the wig, which had taken forever to get off, and he rubs the back of his head against the seat to try to make it stop.
"Thank you," Geno says once he's finally settled down. "For doing show tonight. I know you not a big fan of silly stuff, but…" He shrugs. "Means a lot to me."
"I don't mind silly stuff if it's with you," Sid says. It's a little overblown, a little awkward, but Sid's half asleep and the quiet space around them feels more like a dream than anything else. Geno grins and carefully lays his hand over Sid's. It's warm, his palm rough against Sid's knuckles. Sid's hand is wider, but Geno's is longer, his fingertips curling in a little. "G?"
"Sharna say she's not relationship counselor," Geno says. He's not quite looking at Sid's face. Sid feels frozen, his heart beating somewhere near his throat. "But she's right about most stuff." Sid thinks about his own little conversation with Sharna and wonders if Geno's was at least less threatening. "She say you jealous. Real jealous, not just play like I'm think."
"You got really close really fast," Sid mumbles. He stares at their hands, both of them still on the armrest. He can feel each twitch of Geno's fingers, can feel the faint beat of Geno's heart where their wrists are pressed together. "And you were gone all the time. I just…" Sid shrugs.
"Why you not say something?" Geno asks. He turns his hand slowly, his little finger tucking up underneath Sid's palm. They're not holding hands, not really, but it's close to it. Sid's a grown man. This shouldn't make him feel so… much.
"I didn't want to get in the way," Sid says. He runs his thumb over the stretched tendons of Geno's wrist. Geno snorts, loud in the stillness, and Sid jumps.
"You always get in the way," Geno says. He leans back into his seat, legs sprawling open. His knee taps against Sid's and he leaves it there. "You want something, you get. Don't matter who you have to punch in face "
"I only did that once," Sid huffs. It hadn't been his proudest moment, but he'd been young and stupid and Seabrook had been crawling on his nerves all day, and Giroux was a familiarly hated face in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whatever, they'd pulled together to win in the end, and that was all that mattered.
"Why you not say something?" Geno asks again.
"I didn't want stuff to get weird," Sid says. He waits for the chirp to come, but Geno stays silent, watching him. "I didn't want you say say thanks, no thanks, you know? We're good the way we are."
"You want just good?" Geno asks. Sid shrugs.
He wants a lot of things. He wants to be the best, wants another Cup before he's out for good, wants the people around him to be happy and healthy. He wants to kiss Geno, wants to curl up into him when everything gets a little too hard, wants to see them go gray and get soft together. He wants a lot, always has, but that doesn't mean he can get it all.
"Maybe I don't want just good," Geno says. Serious doesn't look good on him, never has. "We can be best."
"Yeah?" Sid asks. He feels like he's falling, his stomach turning and his chest going tight around his lungs. Geno squeezes his hand and grins, cheeks puffing up and eyes squinting.
"Everything I'm do best," he says. Sid groans and punches Geno in the thigh with his free hand.
"You're such a dick," he says.
"Shh," Geno says, closing his eyes. The corner of his mouth is still turned up. "Sleeping. I do twice as much work as you. Very tired."
Eventually, he does fall asleep, his hand going loose over Sid's and eventually falling into his lap. Sid looks around the cabin, looks at his teammates and Sharna, curled around the dim glow of her tablet, and very carefully leans his head against Geno's shoulder.
He spends most of the flight back that way, dozing on and off. When they get close to landing, Flower shakes him awake gently, leaned over Geno's chest. He grins a little, soft and fond, and Sid gives him a weak smile back. Flower won't say anything. Not about this. Not until Sid says something first.
It's not surprising at all when Geno tosses the keys to his car to Sharna, too trusting by half, and climbs into the passenger seat of Sid's truck instead. The sky is dark as Sid drives, too dark to be called morning, but too late to really be night anymore. The city is beautiful, the lights forever on, forever leading him up and away and home.
Geno follows him all the way up to Sid's room. He ducks into the bathroom long enough to brush his teeth with a stolen guest toothbrush and is undressed and in Sid's bed before Sid's finished going through his own routine. Sid wants to laugh. After all of his worry, after all of the stress he'd put himself through, all he had to do was ask.
"You take so long," Geno grumbles when Sid crawls under the covers. It's been a long time since he's shared a bed. Everything is a little too warm and Sid's not sure where he should put his hands. Geno's watching him with sleepy eyes, the quilt pulled all the way up to his chin. Sid yelps when Geno puts an icy foot between his calves. "Worse than girl."
"Have you slept with guys before?" Sid asks. He seen Geno make out with guys before, but it had been in the back of dark clubs, with the booze and the music filling up all the spaces where rational thought should be. Geno doesn't seemed bothered by Sid's obvious maleness, but Sid's mostly sure he's also never had a boyfriend in any capacity. Geno settles a big hand on Sid's waist, his thumb tucking up underneath the hem of Sid's shirt.
"Yes," Geno says simply. He tugs on Sid's hip until Sid scoots forward to close the gap between them. "You always worry. Too much worry." Geno leans in and brushes the ghost of a kiss over Sid's lips. It's over before Sid can do anything with it. "Is just us, yes? Is easy."
"You're not easy," Sid says automatically. Geno grins and Sid pinches him. Geno's still laughing a little when Sid kisses him. It's slow and sweet, Geno's lips warm against his. Sid wraps an arm around Geno's back and holds on.
It's over too fast, Sid breaking away to yawn into Geno's bare shoulder. Geno laughs and pats Sid's hip before rolling over. Sid gets stuck staring at Geno's bare back, at the strangely vulnerable skin of his neck and the chain hanging around it. Geno grumbles something too quiet for Sid to hear before reaching back and tugging Sid in closer. Carefully, Sid lays his arm over Geno's waist and tucks their knees together. It leaves his head somewhere in the middle of Geno's back and he presses his forehead to the smooth skin there. Geno smells like soap and the indescribable stale air from the plane.
"Sleep," Geno says again. Sid can feel the rumble of his voice throughout his body. "Sully yell if you bad in practice."
"I'm never bad in practice," Sid says, because he isn't. Geno kicks him. Sid falls asleep easily, curled up tight to Geno's back. He feels weightless.
The Leafs are good. Well. Better than they were last year anyway. Phil's a little cagey on the bench, quieter than usual, but the rest of the team leaves him to it. He's still playing amazing hockey, and that's all Sid asks for. He tries to imagine being traded away, tries to imagine facing off against Geno or checking Tanger and feels a little sick inside.
They're up by two when the first period comes to a close. Marner's had some good looks, but Flower's been big in the net all night. Sid gives him a bump on the way into the locker room and Flower grins. He raises his eyebrow and nods to Sid's neck, where the red rash of beard burn Geno had left there is still a little bright. Sid doesn't blush, he's not a teenager, but he does clamp his hand down over it as he wiggles by. Whatever. It wasn't like they'd done much more than make out a little. Getting Geno up in the morning is still a gargantuan task.
Sid doesn't get distracted when Sully's talking, but he does notice the press of Geno's thigh against his on the bench, familiar as always. He expected something to change, for Geno to pull away in public in order to be closer in private, but Geno's been just as grabby as always. Maybe it would be weirder if Geno wasn't all over him all the time. He doesn't know how he missed it in the first place.
Sid sinks one in past Anderson five seconds into the second period unassisted. He can hear Anderson swearing behind him. He doesn't feel bad about scoring, never has and never will, but he does remember how much it sucked being in the middle of a rebuild. When he skates back to the bench, Geno swats his ass with his stick as he climbs over the boards. Sid grins like an idiot until it's time for his next shift.
Matthews gets a shorthanded goal in the third, but it's not enough for the Leafs to come back. It was an easy win, which doesn't come nearly often enough, and Sid's in a good enough mood that he doesn't mind getting snagged for an interview with Pierre before heading off to the locker room. It's as awkward as usual, but Sid's still smiling when it's over.
Geno's surrounded by media when Sid gets into the room, mumbling his answers half heartedly. He makes a face at Sid, like Sid's going to save him from the absolute horror of talking to the reporters, and Sid cheerfully ignores him. It sounds like good things for a change, words that maybe Geno could stand to hear, and Sid's not going to take that from him. He gets his own crowd of media soon enough anyway.
"You made your dancing debut yesterday," someone says. Sid scrubs at the back of his neck and sighs. He should have known this was coming. "What was that like?"
"It was fun," Sid says, because it had been. "And it's always good to support the guys when I can. Geno's killing it, for sure."
He fields questions about the game, about the upcoming game against the Oilers that's been hyped up to a degree that Sid remembers from his rookie years. He's tired, his body sore and his legs in need of a good stretch, but they won and Geno's hanging around, even though he's already showered and changed. It's a good day, a great day, and Sid's willing to talk.
When the media's been cleared out, Sid rushes through his post-game routine. Geno's not even looking at him, texting someone instead, his head bent over his phone and his mouth open in a wide yawn, but Sid worries about him leaving anyway. Geno blinks sleepily up at him when Sid shoulders his bag. Something in Sid's chest goes tight.
"You take forever," Geno says. He throws an arm over Sid's shoulders and steers them towards the doors, his own bag smacking into Sid's ribs.
"Fuck you, I don't," Sid says. Geno just grins and drags him through the hallway. Sharna's waiting for them, which Sid still isn't super comfortable with, but he's working on it. She grins, her hair a little wild and her eyebrows drawn up.
"I don't care where you go tonight, but we've got a studio booked at eight tomorrow," she says before darting in for a quick hug, ignoring Sid almost entirely. Sid doesn't flinch, but he's close to it. So that's what that feels like. "Good game. See you tomorrow."
"She's subtle," Sid mutters as they make their way to the parking garage, still tucked up under Geno's arm. Walking like this is a little difficult, Geno's not that much taller than him no matter what he tries to say, but Sid likes it anyway. Geno flicks his ear.
"You little bit of a dick," Geno says. "She try to be nice. I tell her you don't like new people in sacred hockey place."
"Fuck you, for real," Sid says. Geno laughs and steals Sid's keys, sliding into the driver's seat before Sid can get them back.
"You so slow," Geno says as Sid climbs onto the passenger seat. Sid doesn't bother answering him. Instead, he closes his eyes and hides his jaw cracking yawn with a hand.
Geno drives to his own house, pulling the Tahoe into the garage and cutting the engine. The clock reads just after eleven. It's still technically early, but all Sid wants to do is curl up in Geno's bed and sleep. He didn't go out much when he was still young enough to have nothing but extra energy, but he kind of wishes he would have. He knows some of the rookies had made plans to go to Carson Street and bar hop, and one day he and Geno should probably throw in some time for team bonding, but Sid feels so far away from all of it that he doesn't particularly want to.
"Come on, old man," Geno says. It sounds fond and Sid has to take a moment to just take it in.
Geno makes them tuna wraps while Sid unloads their bags from the truck, quick and bland food that's just enough to fill the hunger. They eat standing in the kitchen, the quiet peaceful. There's just one more week of the show left, one more week of Geno pushing his body too far and too hard. Sid hopes he'll be able to get back up to weight without the extra strain. He's not gaunt, not by a long shot, but the summer thickness of his chest and shoulders has definitely faded. Sid narrows his eyes, like he can see the musculature under Geno's thin t-shirt, and startles when Geno throws a paper towel at his head.
"You staring," Geno says. "You suddenly have energy to do something about it?" Sid considers it- he likes kissing Geno, which will probably happen tonight anyway, and he's definitely interested in finding out if Geno's as bossy in bed as he is out of it- but the yawn he lets out decides it for him. Geno laughs and tosses their plates into the sink without bothering to rinse them off. The kitchen is going to smell awful in the morning. "Come on. We sleep."
It shouldn't be so easy, but Sid brushes his teeth and swipes a pair of briefs from Geno's dresser and climbs into the soft bed without thinking much about it. Maybe, he thinks as Geno crawls in next to him, everything was leading up to this anyway. Geno lays flat over Sid, heavy and warm. He looks sleepy and content, and when Sid runs a careful hand over the broad span of his back he hums.
"I can go to your practice with you if you want," Sid says. He'll be up anyway, will probably be the one to drag Geno out of bed with the promise of tea and breakfast. Geno arches his back when Sid presses into the the tight bunch of his shoulders.
"Last dance is surprise," Geno says. He raises his head and gives Sid a smug grin. "Top secret. You like." He kisses Sid's cheek and rolls onto his back, sprawling out enough that cuddling in close is the only rescue from being shoved off onto the floor.
"I won't tell anyone," Sid says. Who would he tell, anyway? Flower?
"Surprise," Geno says again, and that apparently is that.
The week goes by fast. They win against the Islanders, lose against the Rangers. Sid's got a point streak running, and the rookies have gotten comfortable enough to start giving him shit about his moustache. Sid's game enough about it. He's never going to have a beard like Duper, or even Kuni, but if making fun of him brings the team closer together, he's fine with it.
He doesn't see much of Geno outside of practice or travel. He tries not to think about it- he knows Geno's working hard on his last dance, even though the winning points are already tallied up. He wishes he was still allowed to go to practices, just to see what the fuss is, but Geno won't tell him which studio they're using. As if Sid would just show up.
He's more annoyed than interested when it's finally time for the final show. Most of the team is with him, all of them too big for their section of close-fit seats. Every time Flower moves, his pointy elbow stabs into Sid's stomach. He's got it better than Olli, though, who's stuck between Phil and Horny. Sid's sure that the section they're in would fit the same number of non-hockey sized people, but it doesn't feel that way.
He's impatient through the show opening, impatient through the rounds of former contestants and their partners performing non-judged dances. The theme of the night is famous dances, and Sid recognizes maybe one out of all of them, even with Tom telling the audience where the dances are from. He just wants to get to the end, which is so close he can almost feel it. Flower elbows him when he sighs at the announcement of the newscaster from week one. It doesn't feel accidental.
What seems like ages later, Geno's last video package plays. It's longer than the others had been, showing the highlights of his dances over the season. The improvements he's made over the last two months are startlingly clear. When they get to the team dance, Sid hunches down a little in his chair at the sight of himself. Taylor had sent him so many freeze-framed photos of him in the stupid wig making even stupider faces that he had threatened to block her number.
"It's almost over," Sharna says on the screen, leaned against Geno's shoulder in one of the endless number of studios they've been in.
"We good team," Geno says. This time, Sid doesn't even flinch at it. Geno holds his fist out and Sharna obligingly bumps it.
"How well do you know Tom Cruise movies?" Sharna asks. Geno shrugs.
"Oh, Jesus," Flower mutters. Sid glances over him, but Flower's got one hand over his face, little snorting laughs leaking out past it.
"What?" Sid asks. Flower just shakes his head.
"We've got Risky Business," Sharna says on screen. The name of the movie is familiar, but Sid's pretty sure he's never watched it. Geno looks as confused as Sid feels, but he goes gamely enough when Sharna shoves him off the stairs. The screen flickers off and the lights come up, revealing the living room set on the stage. There's a folded wall with an open doorway at the back of the stage, and a couch, and a coffee table.
"This is gonna be horrifying," Kuni says softly.
There's a familiar guitar riff, and Sharna slides out into the middle of the open door on the stage. The riff again, and Geno follows out after her, ankles twisted like he's doing a sharp stop on the ice. The music and the lights fall away a little as Sid takes them in.
Geno's in his underwear. No, that's not quite right. The underwear he's in now are tight and white, barely visible under the tails of his ugly dress shirt. They're not briefs, thank god, but the legs are definitely shorter than Geno's usual underwear. It makes his legs look even more ridiculously long. Sid stares at the thickness of Geno's thighs and feels his mouth go dry. Christ, no wonder Geno didn't want him to know. Geno's grinning, wide and carefree, but his eyes are hidden behind a pair of sunglasses he'd never own.
They're not wearing shoes, just white socks that slide on the floor and make Sid nervous. There's a lot more of Geno's old flailing present here, all big movements of his arms and legs played out for laughs. There's just so much of him, taking up so much space. Sid's seen every last inch of him over the past decade, doesn't have room left to discover new about Geno's body, but he's never seen Geno kneeling with his knees spread wide on the floor before. Even with the air guitar action happening, Sid's storing this memory up for a rainy day.
"There are going to be so many pictures of this on the internet," Tanger mumbles. Sid punches him in the thigh.
When the music cuts off, Sid's a little uncomfortable in his seat and no fewer than three of his teammates have uploaded clips of Geno to Instagram. Sid can see Geno's chest rising and falling heavily as Tom and the judges talk about… something. Sid's not paying much attention. Geno's pushed his sunglasses up on top of his head, which makes him look kind of douchey, and Sid knows the moment Geno finds him in the crowd by the way his eyes narrow. Sid resists the urge to flip him off, but just barely.
It takes even longer for them to announce the winners. Sid's been texting with Taylor, who's watching at home. The TV has a lag built in, just enough that Taylor keeps yelling at him for spoiling stuff, even though there's nothing to actually spoil. She's also texted him three photos she took of her TV, and apparently the viewers at home got the really good angles.
When it's finally time for the final announcement, Sid sits up straighter in his seat. Flower does, too, but Kuni is definitely snoring again. Geno and Sharna stand under a spotlight, still in their boxer briefs and dress shirts, and Bebe and Derek, in their Big Lebowski robes, are lit up on the other side of the stage. Sid shifts uncomfortably as overly dramatic music fills the studio.
Bebe wins the mirror ball, but it's close. Sid thinks points should have been awarded based on improvement. Bebe clearly already knew how to dance at least a little. Flower's already gearing up into a rant that Olli is nodding along to dutifully, but Geno seems totally unbothered. He sweeps Bebe up into his arms for a bear hug and claps Derek on the shoulder hard enough to rock him on his heels.
Geno and Sharna leave the stage and Bebe talks for awhile. Sid doesn't pay much attention, glancing anxiously up at the balcony where Geno's talking with the livestream people. Geno really doesn't seem upset at all, laughing and still not wearing any pants. He lifts his leg up, probably to show the knot of scars on his knee to the camera, and Sid wonders if he realizes exactly how little those briefs cover of his ass when he's twisted up like that.
It seems like it takes forever for the taping to end. There's extra video package for Bebe, and the professional dancers do a lot of stuff that Sid tries his best to pay attention to. He respects dancing way more than he did before, but it's not all that exciting to watch if Geno isn't doing it. When everything's finally, finally over, Sid separates himself from the team and hangs around the back halls, trying not to look too awkward and out of place. One of the camera crew asks him for an autograph, which he scrawls across the back of a filming schedule, but otherwise he's left alone.
Geno's got shorts and a Pens t-shirt on when he comes down the hall, hat on backwards. He looks like he does all the time, maybe a little shiny from whatever makeup he didn't manage to scrub off, and it's weird to see him bumping fists and laughing with random people that he comes across. He's just so… Geno. There aren't words to describe him.
"Sorry you didn't win," Sid says when Geno reaches him.
"I win Sidney Crosby," Geno says softly, laying his arm over Sid's shoulders. He's smug in a way that should be incredibly unattractive, but Sid still feels a flutter in his chest. He's got the feeling that Geno's only going to get worse, and he has no plans at all to stop it.
"I was thinking," Sid says, shifting anxiously back onto his heels. Geno is warm against his side, radiating excitement. "After the season's over, we could maybe, uh, take dance classes together." He feels dumb now that he's saying it. Geno just spent forever learning how to dance, and even if he wanted to keep doing it, Sid would have to catch up to take the same sort of class and it would eat pretty far into the off season. "I mean. If you want to."
"I'm already tell you, I always dance with you," Geno says. He smacks a kiss against Sid's cheek, his eyes bright and his grin blinding. "We be best. Send Sharna videos. She not so bad judge."
Sid laughs and lets Geno drag him in closer. He can't kiss him here, not with all the cameras and people and team around, but they've got time for that later. Sharna gives them a knowing look as she passes by, her mouth curled up at the corner and her eyebrows raised, and Sid smiles sheepishly at her. He'll send her home with something nice to apologize for being a massive dick.
The team eventually finds them and dog piles Geno, consoling him for his loss and giving him shit for waving his skinny calves in everyone's faces. He takes it all in stride, preening obnoxiously loudly about his scores until their entire group is politely but firmly asked to leave. Sid should probably feel bad about it, maybe apologize for the noise, but if he apologized for every time his boys did something stupid, he wouldn't have time left to play hockey.
It's a long trip back to Pittsburgh, with a longer road trip to Canada in the near distance, but Sid curls up next to Geno on the plane and lets himself enjoy it. Geno's hand is on his thigh and the sounds of his terrible, bass heavy club music is leaking out from his headphones, and Sid can't stop smiling.
It's good. It's all good.