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lives to live through seasons

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Geno’s phone alarm bursts into a pleasant but indiscernible dream, and he groans out and blindly gropes towards his left bedside table for it. He startles when his hand hits something warm and solid and decidedly not the rest of the bed, and then slowly remembers when he lays his hand on the thing: Sidney is here, and Sidney always takes the left side of the bed, which is Geno’s usual side.

That means his phone is on the right side, so Geno turns over and picks it up and sighs at it. It’s not the alarm he would’ve chosen if he’d known Sidney was staying over, because Sidney takes forever to wake up and likes to start out much earlier than Geno. Indeed, he is still and snoring lightly, his face mashed into the pillow when Geno looks over at him.

Geno sighs again, scrubs his hand over his face, and sits up. He starts out just shaking Sidney gently by the shoulder, listening to him mumble and snuffle into the pillow and get used to the idea of maybe considering being awake.

Then he gets out of bed, flipping the covers down and watching Sidney curl up tighter, naked and goosebumped. There is dried lube and come on the backs of his thighs and Geno takes him by the hip, thrilling slightly to remember doing that last night. He shakes him a little less gently now. “Sid. Wake up.”

“Mm,” Sidney mutters. He curls up tighter, hugging himself against the chill, so determined to stay sleeping.

“Sidney. Practice. You stay over again.” Geno tries to sound disapproving, but Sidney has accidentally stayed over at his place enough times over the years they’ve been hooking up that he really couldn’t care less about it anymore. It’s mostly just inconvenient for Sidney, who still never plans for this, has to go home first and grab new clothes and do whatever Sidney things he has to do before practice.

Sidney mumbles some more at him, no more coherently, and he’s starting to shiver. Geno’s cold too, because he doesn’t like to sleep with the heat cranked up, and he wants to get in the shower and have breakfast, but he needs Sidney up and on his way out before he can do any of that guilt free. “Time for wake, Sidney. Have practice.”

He stands at the end of the bed, where Sidney’s feet are still tucked under the blankets, and grabs one foot firmly, shaking it back and forth until Sidney starts to kick at him. “Stop,” Sidney complains, his face scrunching up, but Geno keeps at it until Sidney’s eyes open all the way and he twists onto his back to scowl fully at Geno. “Stop that, come on.”

“Just wake you up,” Geno says sweetly, attempting a smile. It becomes more successful as Sidney struggles upright to glare at him, looking extremely nonthreatening with his bedhead and pillow-creased face. “Gonna be late to practice. Want shower first?”

Sidney yawns widely, looking around until his eyes catch on the clock on Geno’s dresser. He groans, scrubbing a hand over his face and pushing his legs over the side of the bed. He hugs himself and looks accusingly at Geno. “You let me stay over again.”

Geno shrugs. “Not in good head to kick you out. Sorry?”

“You should be,” Sidney gripes, but he doesn’t sound like he means it, just softly grumpy like usual in the mornings. “I need coffee more than I need a shower, and then I need to go.”

“Think you need shower, Sid,” Geno says, nodding at the dried come on Sidney’s stomach, too. Sidney rolls his eyes, scratching at the spot Geno’s indicating, and then he finally pulls himself out of bed, grabbing at the top sheet and tugging it away from the comforter to wrap himself in it with narrowed eyes. The drape of the sheet doesn’t quite hide his more-bowlegged-than-usual walk and Geno finds himself grinning as he follows Sidney into the bathroom.

Geno has three other bathrooms on this floor alone, but his en suite is big enough that he and Sidney can move around it fairly easily, pretty practiced in their morning routines by now. Sidney has a toothbrush here that he refuses to call his—it’s a guest toothbrush, though it never resides in any other bathroom but Geno’s—and he uses all of Geno’s shower products to Geno’s great satisfaction. He takes a weird, inexplicable pleasure in Sidney smelling like him all day, and it’s one he won’t admit to out loud, though he’s pretty shameless in leaning close and breathing in sometimes.

They overlap for a minute in the shower, because Sidney’s still moving too slowly and has therefore dripped shampoo into his eyes. Geno sighs to himself and steps in behind where Sidney’s slumped against the wall with his eyes closed and helps him wash the rest out, tipping Sidney’s head back under the water and carefully rubbing through his hair with his fingers until the water runs clear and Sidney’s eyes slide open from their pained squint.

“Out,” Geno says promptly, slapping Sidney’s bare ass lightly. He smiles when Sidney just twists to lean up and kiss Geno’s chin before stepping out and grabbing a towel.

Sidney’s dressed in yesterday’s clothes and huddled over the coffeemaker by the time Geno makes it downstairs. There’s a heap of scrambled eggs almost cooked in the frying pan, not enough for two, and Sidney nods at it encouragingly and lifts his coffee mug.

“I’m on my way out, I’ll grab something quick at home.”

“Silly,” Geno says, giving the eggs a stir and bumping hips with Sidney when he makes a protesting noise. Sidney never stirs his eggs; he always says the key to cooking a good egg is to just let it be, but Geno doesn’t have the patience for that. Sidney still has a few gulps left of coffee when the eggs are done, so Geno plates quickly, picks up a forkful, and blows on it until it’s cool. “Here.”

“Geno,” Sidney says, looking unimpressed, but he opens his mouth dutifully when Geno holds the fork up to it. Geno alternates feeding himself and Sidney until Sidney’s coffee is done and he’s reaching for his jacket, looking regretful as always but still so fucking stubborn.

“So stupid,” Geno says, snorting when Sidney dodges one last forkful of eggs like a baby trying not to eat his dinner. “Just drive with me. No one say anything.”

“I don’t care about that,” Sidney tells him, shrugging, face open enough that Geno knows he’s not lying. “It’s just—it’s not how we do things.”

“Stupid,” Geno says again, but he knows that that’s a good enough reason for Sidney. Maybe it’s Geno’s fault for starting the tradition—the first time it had happened, Geno had freaked a little when Sidney suggested they go to practice together, still so young and still sure that if anyone on the team knew they were fucking, it would mean big trouble for both of them. Now, the team isn’t really the team; it’s their team, and it would be perfectly fine with anything they were doing.

But since then, Sidney’s been adamant, and Geno supposes they’ve been on and off enough over the years that sticking to a routine is pretty comforting, even if it’s annoying, too.

He finishes off the eggs and uses Sidney’s mug for coffee as Sidney winds his scarf around his neck and then pecks Geno on the mouth, chaste at first and then lingering when Geno pulls him in by the scarf. The sweet smile on Sidney’s face when he pulls back is enough to get Geno trailing after him, walking him to the front door with his mug in hand and watching him pause on the front doorstep and take a deep breath.

“Smells like snow,” Sidney says happily, and his eyes are bright and lovely. Geno’s chest feels just a little tight, warm even in the chilly early winter air, and the feeling stays as Sidney gets in his car and drives away, beeping once before he clears the driveway.

Geno sips at his coffee, pulls the sleeves of his sweatshirt down over his hands, and looks up to sniff at the air, trying to smell the snow that Sidney had. Indeed, the sky is metallic and bright, but Geno doesn’t smell anything—it could be rain. Sidney is pretty weird about snow.

He’s about to step back inside and get properly dressed to leave for practice when something in the sky catches his eye, and his stomach turns over in excitement once he realizes what it is.

There is a tiny golden basket floating down through the bright clouds, silver top propeller spinning quickly but gently through the air. Geno is too far below to see what’s in the basket, but he already knows without looking: a tiny baby, a boy or a girl, swaddled in silver and gold blankets and tucked safely in the basket. The basket will land on one of his neighbor’s front steps, and it will keep the baby warm until the lucky, wishful parents step out to find it.

He’s only gotten to see this happen twice in real life. The movies are full of instances like these, of course, and TV too, because there is no better happy ending than watching parents who’d been wishing and hoping for so long to finally find their baby. Geno feels like a little kid watching now, giddy in the cold, wishing that Sidney had stayed just a few more minutes and gotten to see this. Sidney loves babies.

The basket continues its descent, close enough now that Geno can make out the blankets, the silver plate on the side of the basket that will contain the parents’ names. He wonders a little when it doesn’t veer down the road but continues floating straight down, and glances nervously at the trees, but they are immobile; there is no wind to knock the baby off course, and Geno’s pretty sure there’s no wind in the world that could take a wish baby away from its parents. It takes an extraordinary amount of wishing to pull a baby from the sky, and Geno’s mother always says that there is no greater power in the world.

There are more nervous glances around when the basket simply continues downward, straight down now, and Geno swallows hard because if it stays on course, it will land right at his feet.

In a few moments, there is no denying that that’s going to happen, but his stomach still jumps when the basket lands gently on his doorstep. The propeller whirs for another minute more before stilling gently, and then there is silence until the baby in the basket lets out a gurgling coo.

Geno stares, and it takes another coo to get him to bend over and actually look at the baby, just the tip of a little button nose visible and wide dark eyes, blinking up at Geno innocuously. Geno’s heart constricts, and his hand shakes when he shifts the basket a little bit to get a good look at the parent plate.

It takes a few tries for Geno’s name to register, and then it takes some concentration not to start hyperventilating right there. He breathes out harshly, keeping hold of the basket, and he jumps when he feels something wet land on the back of his ducked neck. Geno looks up and realizes it’s the snow that Sidney had smelled, tiny flurries starting to drift from the bright sky, and he looks back down at the baby.

“Shit,” Geno says emphatically, and then he feels completely awful because that is the first word this baby has ever heard.

 

 

There are any number of people that Geno thinks to call once he’s brought the baby inside, but after paging through a dozen hysterical thoughts, he settles on Dan. At first, he’s intending to simply tell him he’ll be late for practice, but he breaks at Dan’s first concerned inquiry: “Is everything okay, Evgeni?”

Dan is the only one who calls him that regularly, and it still sounds ridiculous even though it’s been years. But everything tumbles out anyway, his English feeling clumsy and desperate. “Yes. No? Is—is baby.”

“What baby?” Dan asks patiently.

“Baby come, ah, come to my house. You know, from—is wish baby.” Geno swallows hard, looks down at the tiny, wriggling infant in the basket, fighting with the blankets a little now. “Is mine, maybe accident.”

Dan goes quiet for a moment, and when he speaks again Geno can picture the way he’s probably pinching the bridge of his nose, letting out a low, heavy breath. “Okay. I understand. Stay there for now, someone’s going to come by to help you with this.”

“Okay,” Geno says automatically, and then thinks on that. “Wait. Help how? What do I—what happen?”

“Hang tight, G,” Dan tells him, voice going a little firmer but still gentle. “We’ll figure everything out in a bit. Don’t panic.”

“Not panicking. But want plan.” It’s not often that he defers to the coach for a plan, not since years ago, and it’s usually Sidney coming up with the plans anyway; those are the ones he listens to. But right now Geno feels like the gawky kid that Michel Therrien tried to convert to wing, the one desperate to adjust to North American ice quickly and willing to do whatever it took. Geno will do whatever Dan tells him to right now, because the ice he’s standing on feels very, very thin.

“We’ll have to come up with one together,” Dan says, still so patient and calm. “So just hang tight and give me a little while, okay?”

“Okay,” Geno says, but he doesn’t quite want to get off the phone.

Dan hangs up, though, and Geno has to put down his phone eventually, forcing himself to look into the basket once more. The baby has managed to wrestle one tiny arm free of the blankets, and Geno finds himself caught watching the little hand flex in the air around nothing. Geno’s breathing sounds ragged to his own ears, and his head is screaming at him in protest, but he feels like reaching over slightly and letting the baby’s hand wrap around one of his fingers is suddenly necessary.

The baby coos, squeezes his finger tightly, and Geno’s heart feels like it’s melted into a gooey puddle.

It’s really no time at all before Geno hears a car pulling up in his driveway, though it feels like hours. The baby has let go of his finger to fuss around with the blankets, blowing gurgling spit bubbles and capturing Geno’s entire slightly hysterical attention, and Geno doesn’t feel like he can move even when his front door opens and he hears footsteps nearing them.

He startles a little when he sees Dan coming into the kitchen, a little breathless and his jacket dotted with melting snow. “Good morning,” Dan says, like this is any other morning or that it’s totally normal for him to just show up at Geno’s house, and then it’s compounded when he repeats it in his doofy awful Russian, looking straight at the baby. “Oh wow, Geno. Look at that.”

“Yes,” Geno says a little gruffly, squinting up at Dan. “I see.”

“Have you held it yet?” Dan asks, voice filling quickly with baby-induced wonder that sounds familiar and also foreign in this context. When Geno shakes his head numbly, Dan sighs a little and shakes his head. “Well, might as well start now. Come on, we’re going to Southpointe.”

“What?” Geno asks, staring again.

Dan taps his watch, frowning. “We have practice. Tony’s running things for now but we have to show up sometime, and I figured you could get the little guy—or girl, did you even check?—well either way, we can have it looked at by our team. Terry can get you set up with a real pediatrician for later and John can help you with the paperwork—”

“Wait.” Geno swallows hard and looks at the baby for a second, heart thudding wildly in his chest. “I—I keep?”

Now it’s Dan’s turn to stare at him. “Geno, that’s—that’s your baby. You wished for it.”

“Not mean to,” Geno says gruffly, and really it’s true. Accidental babies aren’t unheard of, but Geno had never imagined one could come to him. Everyone always says that there are no unwanted babies, that everyone exists because someone wished them into the world, but Geno had no idea that he wanted one this badly. It just feels baffling right now, like he’s being tricked.

“Okay,” Dan says slowly. “But the baby’s here, and it’s yours. You had to have wished for it, otherwise it wouldn’t be here, and now we have to deal with it.” Geno’s head is still spinning, even though Dan’s voice is perfectly even and reasonable.

It’s that tone that cuts through, that makes Geno look at the baby again and not stop looking this time, his head still spinning but sharp realization hitting like a punch to the chest. The baby in the basket is his. It’s not going to go away, it might be an accident but it’s here because Geno wanted it, wished for it with a power he didn’t even know he possessed, and now he has to handle it.

He’s not sure what he expected out of calling Dan, but it should’ve been this.

And there is a warm, approving light in Dan’s eyes when Geno reaches out and carefully picks the baby up out of the basket, cradling it close and nonetheless feeling like he’s handling a live bomb. Geno should’ve expected that.

 

 

Dan’s thought ahead, displaying an aptitude for planning that sometimes gets lost in the heat of a game but that’s wholly appreciated right now. He produces a car seat for Geno to strap the baby into, a few articles of tiny baby clothes that make Geno’s breath catch a little, and he guides Geno through diapering and dressing the baby but refuses to do it for him.

“You’ll have to learn this,” Dan says, and when Geno turns a wide-eyed look of responsive terror on him, he smiles. “There are people we can hire to help, don’t worry. This is not as uncommon as you think.”

They learn that the baby is a boy when they change him, and Geno is surprised at the surge of sudden happiness he feels, less like his heart is being squeezed and more like a jolt. He has a son and that is objectively great.

“Hi, little one,” he says in Russian when the baby is dressed, and he picks him back up again at his first coo, cradling him very carefully until Dan clears his throat and says they have to go. It’s harder to put the baby down again, but Geno sits next to him in the backseat and keeps peeking in, his delight growing, swirling with the continued panic he has a feeling is going to stay with him for a really long time.

Dan’s not too chatty on the ride, maybe sensing that Geno is starting to get pretty enchanted, and it’s a bit of a shock when they’re at Southpointe already. “We’re really late,” Dan tells him, and when Geno panics in a new way thinking that he’ll have to leave the baby to go practice, Dan just shakes his head and nudges him away from the locker room. “Go on in to Terry, he’ll take care of everything.”

Terry gives the baby a full checkup, not even blinking when Geno presents him and then hovers around staring, feeling equal parts anxious and excited. “Totally healthy,” is Terry’s simple assessment. “A little on the small side, but there’s no reason to think he won’t grow. I can refer you to a real pediatrician, don’t worry.”

“Good,” Geno says. The baby might be the tiniest human Geno has ever seen this close, and in Geno’s hands he looks even tinier, even compared to Terry’s hands; Geno wants him to get bigger so he doesn’t seem quite so breakable.

The baby kicks a little, and Geno cups one tiny, booty-covered foot in his hand and feels his stomach twist as the baby kicks against his palm.

“You know,” Terry says, sounding a bit reluctant, probably aware that Geno is only halfway paying attention to him. “I’m not going to pry, but—”

“What?”

“He’s great, G,” Terry says hastily. “But I did ask you at the beginning of the year if you wanted to go on wish suppressants. Just like I ask you every year, and every time you come back from those children’s hospital visits, and I asked you twice right after Flower’s kid was born and I swear you almost stole her—”

“Not think I need,” Geno says gruffly. He doesn’t miss Terry rolling his eyes, though he still seems gentle.

“I’m just saying, there’s no shame in it.”

“I know,” Geno scoffs, shaking his head and shaking the baby’s foot a little, trying to bite down on a ridiculous smile when the baby lets out a new kind of noise in response, higher than a coo. He’d never really felt ashamed at the thought of taking wish suppressants, not here. In North America, more and more men are taking them nowadays, and while it’s not quite as comfortable back home, Geno partakes in other activities that aren’t quite comfortable back home, either.

And no one on the team had ever given Sidney much shit for taking them for years, and what shit they did give him was like the shit they always gave him: loving and affectionate, like they couldn’t help it. Geno understands that.

It wasn’t about shame at all. He’d honestly never felt the need, had always imagined that his desire to have a kid would come at an appropriate time, once he’d found an appropriate person. He thought it was under control on the merits of practicality, but now that he looks down at his baby and watches him wriggle and blow more spit bubbles, Geno can’t imagine ever not wanting this, at any time, appropriate or not.

“I would suggest taking them now,” Terry tells him gently. “You look like you’re about to summon a storm of babies from the sky. And new parents are always the most vulnerable. Have you heard the term Irish twins?”

After begrudgingly accepting a prescription for wish suppressants, Geno gets shuffled along to John, who is happy to help fill out and file all the legal paperwork. It’s as awkward and irritating as it Geno had imagined it would be, especially when John stammers out, “Uh, is there a mom?”

“No,” Geno says tartly. John’s on to the next form before Geno even thinks dimly of Oksana, who he hasn’t spoken to in months, but the thought is fleeting, and he feels satisfied in the knowledge that she has nothing to do with this. It was his name and his name only on the parent plate, and while there is absolutely nothing practical about that right now, he’s weirdly okay with it.

“The last thing is the name for the birth certificate,” John says. He looks and hesitantly meets Geno’s eyes. “Have you thought about that yet?”

Geno hasn’t. And staring at the baby, Geno has no clue what to name him, can think of dozens of different possibilities and none that seem right. He continues having no clue until Kadar pokes his head in to say hi to John, spots the baby, and crows, “Who’s this, Geno?”

“Kolya,” Geno says, because it’s the name that happens to flash through his head at the time. The baby kicks Geno’s palm again and Geno grins at him and a split second later Kolya seems right, good, and it will be worth bullying John into writing out Nikolai Evgenievich Malkin and then working it out in Cyrillic, too. “This Kolya, my son.”

 

 

Geno doesn’t catch any of practice, and he’s sure that Dan understands. The guys don’t until they find Geno in the dressing room waiting to rip the Band-Aid off and show Kolya off at the same time.

They’re all pretty quiet when they see Geno sitting in his stall with Kolya in the car seat next to him, taking up Kuni’s spot. It’s Nealer who breaks the quiet, groaning out loud before asking, “Oh God, where did you get that?”

“Front step,” Geno says simply. Everyone’s staring at him enough that they miss Sidney suddenly pushing past Tanger and grabbing for his gear bag, sifting frantically through before coming up with a bottle of pills and his phone. He stares between both for a second, brow furrowing, and then looks at Geno with a mix of relief and confusion when Geno adds, “Is mine. Wish baby.”

“Jesus,” Nealer says, but he’s overwhelmed pretty quickly by guys congratulating Geno, drifting over to wave at Kolya and make faces at him. Sidney keeps his distance at first, but that is clearly the strangest and most out of character thing he’s ever done in the presence of an infant, so it’s not long before he’s coming over too, having stalled by getting half undressed and wiping himself down.

“Hey,” he says, sounding nervous. Geno wishes they were alone in that moment, wishes he could figure out what the half-panicked and half-awed look on Sidney’s face means, but they’re not and he can’t, and that’s really the least of what he has to figure out this morning.

But Sidney smiles down at Kolya regardless, his face going soft in the way that makes it necessary for him to take the wish suppressants once a day (and Geno knows he’d just double-checked his dosage). “Kolya,” Geno supplies, hoping it sounds apologetic. “Nikolai for real, but—”

“He’s so beautiful,” Sidney says.

He is beautiful, very small like Terry said, and too bald to discern any hair color. Right now he’s making a scrunched face, not very happy-looking but adorable all the same, and Sidney actually puts his hand on his chest for a second before Nealer elbows him to the side to get a good view.

“Is his name really Koala, what the fuck? Ow, Sid, don’t—oh fine, what the heck—”

Sidney keeps his foot stamped down on Nealer’s until he gets his sweaty mop of hair away from Kolya’s car seat, and sharply corrects, “Kolya,” in unison with Geno and Kuni, all of them looking very unimpressed. “Uncle Lazy not very smart,” Geno tells Kolya solemnly. “Never listen.”

It’s the only advice he manages to give Kolya that day; the rest of it passes in a whirlwind of paperwork, doctor visits and meetings with team support staff. A wonderfully helpful and brilliant administrator named Pamela has put together a list of things Geno needs, a list he barely understands and would never think of all on his own, and it feels as though it all happens between handshakes from Shero and Mario, two or three more promises from Dan that he will have all the help he needs.

By the end of the day, Geno has a nanny, a case of doctor-approved formula, a healthy supply of diapers, the cell numbers of every wife on the team, and fistfuls of more lists of things he’ll need to consider. “The agency can send someone over as early as tomorrow,” Pamela tells him kindly. “Will you be okay on your own tonight?”

“Yes,” Geno says confidently. He doesn’t actually sleep that night, though, stepping into his house and realizing how unprepared he is, how he doesn’t really know what to do when Kolya cries or how much he should be sleeping. The first night it feels like it’s either/or, sleeping or crying, and Geno has food and diapers but no crib or toys or anything, really. He should’ve gone shopping, even though there had been no time to go shopping, no time even to call his family yet, which he’ll have to do as soon as possible.

For the moment, though, Geno concentrates on getting through the first night, and then the first morning, feeding Kolya according to the schedule he’d been given and watching him nap in the car seat. He’s waiting for the nanny that will have to look after Kolya during the game tonight, missing the morning skate and thinking seriously about calling his mother and getting it over with, and then the doorbell rings.

It’s not the nanny, who he’ll have to make a key for, but it’s Sidney, who has a key. He also has his hands full of a huge box and is pressing the doorbell with his elbow. “Hi,” Sidney says, and then he makes a gooey face down at Kolya, who Geno has toted along in the car seat because he’s not sure he’s supposed to just leave him sitting alone in the other room yet. “Hi, Kolya. We have stuff for ya.”

“What?” Geno says, because they have a morning skate and it’s a game day, but he lets Sidney in with the big box and then peeks behind him to see Brooksie carrying an even bigger box up Geno’s front walkway with Paulie’s help.

“This is just to start you off,” Sidney calls, putting the box down heavily in the front hallway. Geno stares at it long enough to realize that it might contain a baby carriage, and his throat suddenly feels tight. “Obviously you’ll want to pick out your own stuff, but we figured you wouldn’t have time yet so we thought we’d make a run.”

“James is still at the toy store,” Paulie says, rolling his eyes and setting the bigger box down more gently. “I think he’s going to buy it out, honestly; prepare yourself for as much koala-themed stuff as possible.”

“Idiot,” Geno grunts, looking at Kolya so none of them will see the ridiculous wetness in his eyes. Kolya scrunches his tiny face up and Sidney lets out a cooing gasp from behind Geno; Brooksie laughs at him.

“Geez, he’s so cute,” Sidney says, ignoring Brooksie and beaming down at Kolya. “Hey kiddo. We’re gonna put your crib together now.”

“Where d’you want it, G?” Brooksie asks. Geno has to put the car seat down and press his palms into his eyes before he can muster up the will to answer.

“My room now. No—no baby room yet.”

There is a look on Sidney’s face that tells Geno that’s going to change very soon, but Geno is too busy trying not to burst with love for them all to really mind.

For all that Paulie had tried to throw Nealer under the bus, it seems the three of them have bought out every baby store in the area, trooping in with an endless parade of baby stuff that Geno dazedly checks off every list he has. Paulie and Brooksie get started on the crib, calmly bickering over the instructions loud enough that it carries downstairs, while Sidney lays everything else they’d bought for Geno’s inspection, making ridiculous faces at Kolya the whole time.

“Sid,” Geno says, swallowing hard as Sidney reaches in to take Kolya’s hand for the first time. “Is—is so much. You not have to—”

“Of course we didn’t have to,” Sidney says, huffing a little. His face stays lit up, though, and his eyes are so soft. “But this was unexpected, and in other circumstances you’d have planned all this stuff, so we figured we could help out. It’s not a big deal, Geno.”

“Is a big deal. Is biggest deal.” He glances up the stairs, wary of Brooksie and Paulie, and then looks back at Sidney seriously. “I’m not plan at all, I’m—have no idea, nothing. Not think about this, think this could happen, if I do I promise I talk to you or take pills.”

It’s only a little bit of what Geno wants to say, which he feels like happens a lot with Sidney especially. But it’s enough to make Sidney’s face tighten a bit, just for a second, before Kolya squeezes at his finger and blows a spit bubble, and then Sidney’s looking like someone just set a giant piece of chocolate cake down in front of him, happy and simply pleased.

“It happens,” Sidney says. He wiggles his finger and his face practically splits in half with a grin when Kolya stays clamped on, and Geno suddenly has to sit down with the rush of feelings that gives him. Sidney gives him a sharp look. “Have you slept at all?”

Geno thinks about lying, but apparently that’s clear on his face immediately, because Sidney’s grin drops into his stern captain look. “You definitely need to nap. I’ll watch him for a bit, okay?”

Geno knows the mulish set to Sidney’s face, knows there’s very little arguing with him, and is about to agree when an unpleasant thought crosses his mind. “Ugh. Have to call mother first.”

“Yeah, you should definitely do that,” Sidney says, smirking a little. “Make it quick.”

“Should not ask for impossible things,” Geno says. He glares but can’t hold it because Sidney giggles and Kolya gurgles and it’s—none of this was planned, not one part of it, and especially not the way his heart feels right now, full to bursting and well-loved.

 

 

When Geno hangs up the phone, he is more than ready for that nap. His parents will arrive within the week, and from the sounds of things they are likely to stay for a very long time, which is both a terrifying and comforting prospect. It’s one that makes him want to drag Sidney into his bedroom for at least that long, to wrap himself around him and get his fill now, but Paulie and Brooksie are still wrestling with putting together the crib, and he has a baby now.

Geno has a baby now, and he has to take a few shuddering breaths to let that sink in again. The baby in question is still hanging out with Sidney in the living room, now joined by Nealer and what definitely looks like an entire toy store spread out in bags across the floor. Geno moves to sit with them but freezes at Sidney’s glare.

Nap. Now. You’re playing tonight, aren’t you?”

He is, and that’s enough to feel overwhelmed again, to realize that he still has an entire life and job that will have to fit around this huge responsibility that is Kolya. But that same life and job, the people that make it up, have surrounded him and promised him that everything will be fine, that he’s not even a little bit alone, and Geno feels overwhelmed by that in a different way. He sleeps pretty peacefully for a few hours, knowing that.

Nealer wakes him up when it’s time for them to get ready to go to the rink, his hair a ridiculous mess on one side and flattened down on the other. “The nanny got here a few hours ago, so Sid left,” Nealer says, and then he solemnly adds, “It’s a dude.”

“What?” Geno snaps, scrubbing at his eyes and sitting up in the guest bed he’d commandeered for the nap, the one his parents usually use when they come to stay.

“The nanny, they sent a dude nanny. His name is Kyle and Sid grilled him until he absolutely had to leave or fuck up all his game day juju.” Nealer grins a little. “Kyle’s making dinosaur nuggets, he brought a bunch over himself.”

“Great,” Geno says, still not quite ready to comprehend what dinosaur nuggets means yet.

The nanny is indeed a dude named Kyle, though, and Geno finds him in the kitchen with Kolya, feeding him the way the pediatrician had showed Geno to do. He looks barely older than Sunshine and Geno quickly understands why Sidney had grilled him, but he holds Kolya in what seems like the right position and burps him after the bottle’s finished, setting him gently down into a bassinet that must have come from the shopping trip. Geno peeks out the window and notes that everyone’s car except for Nealer’s is gone, and Nealer is obviously sticking around for dinosaur nuggets.

“They have me scheduled to be here for game days and practices,” Kyle tells Geno after he introduces himself, turning back to the nuggets he has cooking in a frying pan. “If you need me for more than that, we’ll work it out.”

“Parents coming soon, so maybe not,” Geno says, and Kyle shrugs as if unbothered.

“Fine. Just keep me posted.”

“Okay.”

It all seems so simple, almost deceptive. Geno gets to sit down next to the bassinet and look in at Kolya, smile down at him and enjoy him for a few moments without that sick, swooping panic going through his stomach. He watches as Kolya struggles to stay awake and then fails, dropping off to sleep with pursed lips and droopy thin eyelids, and Geno leans in to press a very gentle kiss to his forehead and tucks the new baby blanket around him, smoothing out the soft material so the printed bears on it are fully visible. He arranges a small stuffed penguin next to Kolya and glances over at Nealer, sitting on the other side of the table and dipping his stupid nuggets in ketchup.

“Thank you, James,” Geno says. Nealer shrugs and cranes his neck to look in, grinning with his mouth full but at least waiting to swallow before speaking.

“That little guy in there, the penguin—Sid picked that one out, so thank him.”

Geno’s heart pounds a little and he has to swallow hard before he can say, “Not for toy. For all.”

“For all the toys? I got him a lot, okay, this kid is set up for basically his whole childhood, and I ordered some stuff online too—koalas aren’t really a popular theme for baby stuff here, and if it were up to Sid and the guys it’d be all penguins, so you’re welcome, bud.”

Geno groans and shakes his head, but allows himself to be distracted by the dinosaur nuggets Kyle passes him.

It still seems surreal, all of it, and even more so when he has to leave Kolya to go to Consol and play hockey. “If we win tonight, Kyle’s definitely making those nuggets again,” Nealer tells him on the ride over, but Geno’s mind is far from the nuggets, latched on to Kolya and whether it’s okay to leave him this soon.

It has to be, though, and he feels marginally better about it as he gets dragged into Two-Touch, eats his regular snack and smiles at Sidney eating his own. Geno slips on his gear and thinks about hockey, thinks about how this has been his life for years and will be his life for years, just with—more, now, and in this uniform, on this team, he feels like he can handle that.

When Sidney pats the logo on Geno’s chest during their handshake, Geno stops feeling overwhelmed and starts feeling determined.

 

 

The team kind of backs off once Geno’s parents arrive, but for those first few days his house always has one teammate or five in it, keeping Kolya entertained and checking in on Geno and bringing him food. The only time he’s ever truly alone is at night, and Kolya gets him up every two hours or so, but he has enough help during the day that it’s easy to catch naps. It’s not so bad, Geno decides. It’s all doable.

Every morning, Sidney comes over and cooks breakfast, hangs out with Geno and Kolya until Kyle arrives, and then takes Geno to practice. Geno marvels the first time that this is what it took to get Sidney to go in to practice with him regularly, but he doesn’t say anything about it; around Kolya, Sidney just acts like another one of Geno’s teammates come to spoil him. The way Sidney looks at Kolya is the way he looks at all babies, like he’s five seconds away from snatching him up and running off at all times, and it should alarm Geno, but he just feels hopelessly fond.

On the rides to practice, sometimes Geno will take Sidney’s hand where it rests on the gearshift and rub his thumb over Sidney’s knuckles. Sidney will smile but not look at Geno, and Geno wants to say so much to him—thank you, and to ask him to stay the night but only if he wants to, only on purpose. He doesn’t, though, because this is good too, this is what Geno needs right now.

The breakfasts stop altogether when Geno’s parents get to Pittsburgh, and though Geno is absurdly grateful for his mother and father the first time he gets to sleep through the night, he misses Sidney, too.

Sidney seems to miss Kolya, if his constant barrage of questions about him mean anything. “Can come see him,” Geno says, when it’s been a few weeks and they’ve been on a road trip and he kind of misses Kolya, too.

The problem is that he says that in the dressing room after practice, and therefore invites a troop of Sidney, Tanger and Flower over. Tanger and Flower bring their little ones to formally introduce to Kolya for the first time, and Sidney looks like he’s in baby heaven.

Geno might be tempting fate by picking Kolya up and placing him carefully in Sidney’s arms, but he doesn’t really care. Nor does he care about the ridiculous face his mother pulls when she walks by and sees the way Geno is looking at the circle of Sidney, Tanger and Flower all sitting on the floor in his living room, holding babies.

Nothing on Geno’s face can be as awed and absurd as what’s on Sidney’s face, and Geno can’t help feeling drawn to it. He sits down behind Sidney and scoots close enough that Sidney’s back is leaning against his chest, and he peers over his shoulder at Kolya, whose face is scrunched up in a happy way, and Geno is proud that he can discern that now. He’s grown a little, gained a pound and a half, but he still looks ridiculously tiny in the careful cradle of Sidney’s arms, and especially next to Estelle and Alexander.

“Look at these handsome boys,” Flower says, and he tugs his wriggly daughter in close against him, narrowing his eyes. “Keep them away from my girl.”

Geno clucks, shaking his head and grinning down at Kolya and the single strand of hair that’s finally coming in, still too fine to tell the color of. “Not worry, Kolya marry good Russian girl.”

He feels Sidney stiffen a little against him, and turns to look at his face but gets distracted by the way he’s stroking a gentle finger across Kolya’s chubby red cheek. Geno does that sometimes, too, and he wants to do it now but doesn’t want to take Kolya out of Sidney’s arms.

Sidney winds up making it easy, twisting around to pass Kolya back to him. “Don’t let him marry anyone with goalie genes,” he says, smiling when Flower squawks. “Believe me, those are the worst. I know.”

“You not do so bad,” Geno says, but Sidney’s standing up, which is terrible. “Wait, no. Where you go?”

“I have a meeting,” Sidney says, bending all the way down to kiss each baby goodbye and then straightening up with this heartbreakingly wistful expression on his face. “You’re on your own with the matchmaking.”

“Sid,” Geno says, trying not to whine, but Sidney’s already politely saying goodbye to Geno’s parents, waving at the kids one last time and heading out.

“Thank God for those pills,” Tanger says once Sidney’s gone, frowning after him. “We would have babies raining from the sky right now, all for Sidney.”

Geno looks down at Kolya and imagines not having him, not wanting to have him, and feels abruptly awful. Kolya is amazing even though he doesn’t really do much; sometimes he smiles and Geno’s mother looks at him and says, “He has gas,” but he’s still smiling, and it’s basically the best thing Geno’s ever seen. He wants Sidney to see Kolya smile. He thinks Sidney’s wanted a Kolya for years and still wants one, and he won’t let himself have one for the same reasons Geno was sure he could wait for one: timing.

He watches Alexander try and stuff fistfuls of Tanger’s hair in his mouth, smells distinct evidence that has Flower hopping up and holding Estelle out in front of him, and looks down at Kolya wriggling in his arms, kicking his tiny feet against the crook of his elbow. Thinking about timing just feels stupid right now, and maybe that’s because Geno’s spoiled, that this has been too easy because the family he has in the team is too wonderful.

He wants to talk to Sidney about timing, about what he can have and what he already might have.

 

 

Geno talks to his parents first, though, because there have been questions they’ve all been tiptoeing around, from that very first phone call when his mother had harshly asked, “How did this happen like this?”

“I think I have Kolya because I’m ready,” Geno tells them honestly. Kolya has a chubby baby belly, three whole strands of darkening hair now, and he coos whenever Geno walks into the room. “I didn’t know it, but I am.”

His mother rolls her eyes, but the way she pinches his cheek is fond, at least. “Of course you’re ready. We could leave you tomorrow and you would be fine.”

“I’m not that ready,” Geno says hastily. That brings him to the root of what they need to talk about. “But—it’s not just me. I’m not the only one ready.”

His father looks knowing, and his mother probably knows too, but they at least give him the courtesy of asking, “Who?”

“Sid,” Geno says. He sighs a little. “This is definitely his fault. I didn’t even realize.”

“Stupid boy,” his mother says. She’s not yelling or crying, though, which is a good thing. “You always have to do things the hard way.”

Geno shrugs. “Seems pretty simple to me. He’s why I’m ready. It’s—it’s good, with him.” Excepting the labels they’ve never put on this thing, and the breaks they’ve taken to look for something real that Geno now knows is no more than this, it’s always been good with Sidney, and it’s the most solid relationship he’s ever had.

Even so, he can’t help the uncertain tilt to his voice when he asks, “Is it okay?” and he supposes he deserves the subsequent swat to the hand in that case.

“I have a beautiful grandson because of him,” his mother says, and his father says, “He has very good taste in wine, Zhenya. Be quiet back home but don’t let him go.”

It all seems obvious after that, so much so that Geno feels like the stupid boy his mother accused him of being. He had always thought of everything as separate, coming in stages—hockey and working and messing around with Sidney, his relationship with the team and forming bonds for life, and then later a real family of his own, sharply defined and idealized. Somewhere along the way everything had combined, gotten twisted up and sewn together, and that’s where Geno is right now. It’s a nice stage to be in.

He asks Sidney if he can come over one night. “Parents look after Kolya, and we have day off tomorrow,” Geno reminds him, hearing the protests on the tip of Sidney’s tongue. Sidney still seems wary, but he says yes, telling Geno to come by after dinner, and Geno says, “Okay, is date,” and hangs up on Sidney’s wounded noises of confusion.

He’s going over to talk, he really is, but Sidney kisses him in the front doorway, warm against the chill of the outside, and Geno thinks oh yeah, they haven’t done anything like this in months. Sidney slams the door behind him and gets up on his toes, wraps his arms around Geno’s neck and kisses him like he’s starving for it, and any talking goes right out the window in the face of kissing Sidney as thoroughly as possible.

“Okay,” Sidney says when he pulls back, nodding like he’d had a mental timer going. “Come on.”

Sidney guides him through the hallway and up the stairs by his wrist, and Geno follows along kind of stupidly, barely managing to toe off his shoes on the way and keeping his winter coat on. There’s something to Sidney’s walk the Geno at first chalks up to the growing erection he presses against Geno’s hip when they’re in the bedroom and kissing again, but then he moves his hands over Sidney’s ass and chokes when he feels between his cheeks.

Sid,” Geno says, kind of groaning it out. He presses lightly on the plug he can feel through the material of Sidney’s sweatpants, and Sidney goes completely red in the face, dropping his flaming forehead against Geno’s shoulder.

“I figured you didn’t have much time, with the baby and all, so I got ready,” Sidney says, and Geno can feel his brow furrowing against his neck. There are waves of arousal crashing over Geno in quick succession, and he feels a little out of his mind at the thought of just pushing Sidney down and pulling the plug out and fucking him fast and hard and then just leaving, the way Sidney had set him up to.

But then he thinks about that in the context of why he’s here, and what this apparently had sounded like to Sidney—and okay, maybe “I come over tonight, yes?” does sound like booty call language, especially given their history—and it still sounds hot but also wrong. This is not a booty call. This is a “help me raise my kid that I totally have because you made me want a family with you” call, and so far Geno is fucking this up.

“Wait,” Geno says, and Sidney looks up at him, face screwed up and a little crabby and clearly embarrassed. “Is not—is very hot, Sid. So hot. But I can take time, stay over—”

“What? Geno, you’ve got a baby, you can’t just ditch him to go nail your fuck buddy whenever you want—”

“Is not what I want,” Geno says insistently. Having this conversation while Sidney has a plug in his ass and that grumpy, disapproving look on his face is kind of surreal, and will probably seem funny in the morning, but it’s absolutely necessary. “I not want—ditch baby. I think about why I want baby.”

Sidney’s face screws up again. “Huh?”

“I want kid because I want baby with you,” Geno manages slowly, very carefully. “I not know it first, but I see you with Kolya, I think—yes. That’s why. I want family and you want family and I want family with you.”

“Oh,” Sidney says slowly. He looks dazed, still flushed but now maybe not because of what they’d just been doing. He drops down kind of heavily to sit on the bed and then winces, and Geno has to fight not to grin, fight to keep his face open and hopeful.

“You want, too?” Geno asks, and Sidney takes a deep breath.

“Yeah,” Sidney says. His voice breaks a little. “I—yeah. A lot. For a long time now.” He smiles, shaky and rueful. “I had to double my dose of those stupid pills because of you, geez. Of course I want a family with you. But are you—are you sure? You’ve always said you wanted to wait for the right person—”

“You are right person,” Geno says emphatically.

Sidney’s answering grin is shy but so pleased, and it looks like it pains him to add, “But I’m not a good Russian girl.”

“No,” Geno says. He shakes his head solemnly and takes off his coat, dropping it on the floor and moving to bend over Sidney on the bed, putting his hands on his shoulder and rubbing him firmly there. “You very bad Canadian boy with plug in his ass for me. And I love you.”

Sidney shudders, and his eyes go darker as he bites his bottom lip. “Well, it’s there for a reason,” and Geno pounces, pushing Sidney onto his back on the bed and crawling over him.

He frames Sidney’s face with his hands and kisses him slowly and deeply. Sidney hums happily into the kiss and opens his mouth, squirming beneath Geno until their hips bump. It feels like it takes barely any movement to get them both going again, but Geno wants to strip them, wants it to be better than this, and okay, he really wants to see that plug.

It’s there when he tugs Sidney’s pants off by the legs, standing up again and lifting Sidney’s legs by holding his feet. Geno eyes the black, flat base of the plug and groans again, watching Sidney flush and flush harder when Geno tells him, “So good. Even if dumb.”

“Hey,” Sidney says breathlessly, kicking a little. “How am I dumb?”

“You think I just fuck and leave,” Geno says, moving in between Sidney’s legs and arranging him with his feet flat on the bed. He presses his thumb against the base, then fits his pointer finger against the other side of it and uses his grip to twist it a little, watching the way that makes Sidney shake and gasp. “Like I not want you so much, always for very long. Maybe I want you over and over again, hm?”

“Geno,” Sidney breathes out, biting his lip when Geno starts tugging the plug out and then fucking it back in slowly. Lube squelches out with it and Geno uses his fingers to wipe stuff it back in, using his ring finger to play with Sidney’s rim, and Sidney’s hips start working into it, his chest heaving with pants.

He keeps fucking Sidney with the plug for a while, until Sidney is red all over and Geno’s dick hurts where it’s straining against the front of his pants. Geno unzips and pulls it out, not missing the way Sidney’s eyes go right to it raptly and he shivers. Sidney’s thighs are pink and a little sweaty and when Geno pushes his t-shirt up his chest and belly is the same, and Geno thinks about how into every bit of Sidney he is, how he wants to see it all and always and, if he has his way, he’ll get to have that always. He feels his dick blurt out precome, watches Sidney writhe into the stretch of the plug, and he pulls it all the way out and drops his pants.

Sidney seems totally unconcerned with the fact that they’re only naked from the waist down, but he only whines a little when Geno pauses to keep stripping them completely before he grabs at the lube on the nightstand and drips some over his cock. Geno presses Sidney’s knee to his chest and Sidney wraps his other leg around Geno’s hip and it’s enough maneuvering that Geno can press into him, slowly but steadily.

There’s no need for slow besides that it’s what Geno wants, and that it’s clearly driving Sidney nuts, his fingers scrabbling against Geno’s back and his chest heaving beneath him as he squirms to take more. Geno gives him all of his cock and pauses when he’s fully seated, looking Sidney in the eye and considering saying something very sappy. But Sidney looks back at him with challenge in his eyes and clenches down, making Geno swear harshly and every thought go out of his head except for how good Sidney feels and how badly he needs to fuck him.

The rhythm Geno sets slowly seems to satisfy Sidney, who starts sighing on every inward thrust. He starts petting Geno’s sweaty neck and only stops when Geno finds his prostate, his thighs seizing and then trembling.

Geno works hard to keep hitting it and loses himself in how good this is pretty fast, unconcerned with the even pace and more concerned with getting Sidney desperate to come again. He feels his own orgasm drawing his balls up tight, building heat in his gut, but it’s Sidney who grabs his own cock first and comes between his two shaking hands, making a noise high in his throat and clenching down again.

Geno pitches forward and grinds his hips into Sidney’s ass, coming hard seconds later and nearly biting his tongue when he shouts out. Sidney pets him weakly again with a now sticky hand, and it’s an immense effort to move away and shift them more comfortably, on their sides and vertical on the bed instead of horizontally across.

Their breathing quiets down as Sidney resumes his petting, running his hand through Geno’s sweaty hair almost aimlessly. “I have an idea,” Sidney says croakily after a bit, and Geno grunts but looks at him, listening.

“We should shower and then go to your place,” Sidney tells him, a small smile forming across his lips. “I’ll make breakfast tomorrow for you and Kolya and your parents.”

“Kolya still eat formula,” Geno says, because his stomach feels warm and gooey.

“Fine. I’ll give him formula. You’ll have to show me how.” Sidney has the gall to look a little worried, which makes Geno laugh.

“You know how. You natural.”

“There’s a lot I don’t know,” Sidney says, and he pokes Geno in the side. “And you, too. There’s tons you don’t know, I bet. You won’t call me dumb anymore, hypocrite.”

“We learn and then know together,” Geno says, and it’s gratifying to see the faux annoyance fall from Sidney’s face, easy as anything, replaced by excitement.

 

 

There’s yellow paint smudged across Sidney’s cheek, but he’s concentrating very hard on crib placement again, so Geno isn’t going to say anything right now.

Kolya is downstairs with Nealer watching him, and Paulie watching Nealer. Geno can hear the cartoon show they’re watching, and can hear Nealer laughing at it, and faintly, like a wind chime, he hears Kolya laughing, too. Laughing is new and Geno’s favorite sound ever.

“Sid,” Geno says, stretching his arms over his head and moving to stand behind Sidney in the center of the new nursery, putting his hands on his hips. “Come on, paint fumes give me headaches. Let’s take break and think about where to put later.”

Sidney drops his head back on Geno’s shoulder and sighs a little. “Okay. But it has to be perfect.”

Geno looks at the fresh buttery yellow walls, and the crib his teammates had built for him covered in plastic and ready to be placed in the spot that Sidney wants, and the white rocking chair also covered in plastic, a Christmas gift from Sidney’s parents. In the hallway are the bags of stuffed toys they’ll have to arrange once the paint is totally dry, the new changing station and bookshelves they’ll have to assemble. And there’s Sidney in the middle of the room, dressed in Geno’s raggedy old clothes and so earnestly determined to perfect this room—Sidney is already the best feature by far.

“Is perfect,” Geno says, and he kisses Sidney’s neck.