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A Different Kind Of Light

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Sid found Geno’s profile the morning he got back to Pittsburgh.

It was sweltering hot outside and he was cocooned in his den in the air conditioning, sprawled out on the couch with a kale shake and his feet up, messing around on his phone.

He answered a couple of emails from Pat and played a round of Candy Crush, which he was still pretty terrible at. After he got sick of losing, he opened up Grindr, scrolling through a wall of profiles: dick pics, gym selfies, a strange photo of someone’s face that they had filtered to look like a dog.

He hadn’t ever used it in Pittsburgh before. Segs had put it on his phone as mostly a joke after Sid got high on the endorphins of success and backed him against the wall in Prague, rubbing his champagne soaked hair on Segs’ shoulder. Sid hadn’t given much thought to guys before, really, but Segs had gone in for a kiss and it had been good, for all that he had been drunk at the time. Segs’ hands had been rough on his hips, and he’d bitten Sid’s lower lip a puffy, tender red.

He didn’t think to delete it. At some point during the summer, he pulled it up in a fit of boredom and made a profile. The girl from the front office at the rink who he usually hooked up with while he was home was on some cross-country road trip, and, well, it couldn’t hurt.

His profile didn’t say much—he was single, athletic, he liked whiskey and watching baseball. The picture he settled on was one of his torso after some training session in LA—he had felt a little bit stupid stripping off his shirt in front of the body mirror in his condo’s living room, his chest still splotched pink with exertion, but it seemed to work fine.

In Pittsburgh, though, maybe he would need to be a bit more careful. Halifax offered the careful anonymity of just being home. Sure, people knew him, but they’d known him since he was toddling around in pull-ups and no one seemed too interested in airing his dirty laundry.

The selection here was definitely different than in Halifax, skewing younger than he was probably comfortable with at first glance. Nothing was really catching his eye—one guy had a pretty impressive back, cut and thick, but when Sid swiped through his other photos, he was wearing a Penguins snapback in all of them. He wasn’t too keen to open that can of worms.

He got up to rinse his plate off under the tap, and then peeled and ate a banana. When he clicked his phone back open, the scroll had refreshed and a new profile was sitting near the top. The photo was a little blurry, a seriously round ass against a patterned wall. He opened it up, and the description was a little misspelled, but when he swiped over to the next photo, there was no mistaking it—a body he’d seen a thousand times, the slightly pink tan, the rubber bracelet.

He raised his eyebrows, swiping further until he came to the last photo in the set, and when he zoomed in a little, there it was: the necklaces catching the camera’s glare, two crosses, the oval pendant, the thick black cord. The photo was cut off higher this time, just above the subject’s mouth, pulled up in a blinding grin.

He dropped his phone down on the counter, his chest gone tight. Maybe he hadn’t been expecting it, but he couldn’t fool himself that that was anyone else’s smile.

It wasn’t that he had forgotten that Geno was sort of into men. He’d known, generally, for a few years—mostly because Geno liked to get drunk and run his mouth at the bar, half in English and half in Russian while Kuni laughed up a storm.

Sid hadn’t ever given it much consideration, mostly because he hadn’t given men much thought in the first place, beyond a cursory appreciation of a body clearly formed from good training. Looking at someone’s dick across a crowded shower didn’t mean you wanted to suck it, but he sure wanted to more often than not for the past few months—whatever that meant.

And he had looked at Geno, sure. There was a lot to look at: his smooth hands, and his powerful skating stride, and his wide shoulders in those stupid shirts he liked to wear. It felt a little funny to think of Geno as well—an opportunity, now.

And he wondered—had Geno been hooking up on Grindr all along? What kind of guys did he go for? Maybe he would want to go home with that guy in the Penguins hat, turn the hat around, put the guy on his knees.

Or maybe not. Maybe he would want to go home with Sid.

——

Sid met up with Tanger and Geno at a bar downtown—a regular haunt where the bartender smiled at them and fixed their drinks without handing them a menu. Geno was running late as always, but Tanger had a lot of photos of Alex to share—he was firmly a toddler now and full of energy and antics—cute, but a solid handful. Sid was a little thankful for the extra time before he had to face this new version of Geno that had taken root in his head.

“Did he tell you when he was getting here?” Tanger asked, after they finished one round and flagged the bartender for the next. Sid just gave him a look. As if Geno ever really alerted anyone to his ever-changing internal clock.

Geno showed up as they were being seated for dinner, weaving through the tables behind the hostess, sunglasses still on. Sid swallowed a little at how good he looked—shirt stretched tight around his shoulders, his forearms beachy tan where his sleeves were rolled up. Sid took a long drink of his ice water and tried to smile. Surely Geno hadn’t always looked this good.

“Welcome back, my friend,” Tanger said, as Geno dropped down into the booth. “Sleep too long?”

“Funny,” Geno said, and popped his sunglasses into the open collar of his shirt. “Where’s my drink? You order for me?”

Geno pored over the menu for a while, flipping it back and forth like that would help him make a decision, but when the waitress came around he just handed over his menu and rattled off a food order and gestured to Sid’s bottle. “I have same,” he said.

“Do you even know what I’m drinking?” Sid asked, once their waitress was out of earshot.

Geno just shrugged. “You always order this,” he said, and smiled and leaned back in his seat, one arm up on the high seatback behind Tanger’s head. “It’s fine, I like.”

Geno started prodding Tanger about Alex shortly after, egging him on until Tanger pulled out his phone and went through the camera roll again—trips to the beach, learning to swim in the lake by Tanger’s house in Quebec, the lavish playroom they’d spent most of the summer decorating.

Sid sat back and sipped at his beer and watched them—or mostly Geno—who Sid hadn’t been able to stop thinking about since he’d seen him on his phone screen just a few hours before. He was half tempted to think he’d dreamt it. Maybe it was just a coincidence: some guy who just happened to look alike, whose grasp of written English was just enough for him to write a choppy profile bio.

But there he was in the flesh, his necklaces twisted aside, sun-pinked skin peeking through the neck of his undone shirt, his bracelet that he hadn’t taken off for a full four years. Sid looked at his hair all wild and thought how nice it might be to sink his hands into.

Sid wasn’t sure if it was purely curiosity or something more, but the idea of it felt firmly lodged in his brain: him and Geno. It felt a little like he was seeing Geno in some weird new light—this person he knew so well, suddenly colored with a different lens.

It went on like that—Sid trying not to look to suspicious, throwing sideways glances at Geno while they ate, and talked about the season, and gossiped about Kessel coming into town and the excitement of what that all might mean.

By the time they rose to leave, Sid was just this side of tipsy, and keenly aware of the space between their bodies when Geno hugged him goodbye.

“I gotta piss,” Sid said, adding a couple more singles to the tip pile, “but good luck getting home, guys.”

“We wait for you?” Geno asked, because they lived in the same neighborhood and could theoretically share a car back if Sid wanted to. But there was no fucking way. The last thing he needed was Geno’s fat muscular ass on his mind while they sat knee to knee in the back of a cab. Geno always liked to sprawl out, and Sid knew himself. He was a sucker for that kind of easy confidence.

He certainly didn’t need to bring up the fucking elephant in the room when he was half drunk and still a little tired from travelling. He could worry about it again tomorrow. Maybe the curiosity would go away. Geno was just Geno, after all.

“Nah,” Sid said, “I got it.”

——

He kept thinking about it the following day, riding the bike in his garage. He wasn’t sure that trying to hook up with a teammate was the best idea he’d ever had, but it couldn’t be all bad. Someone who knew him that well—all his stupid idiosyncrasies. He wouldn’t have to be thoughtful about his appearance, or embarrassed about the weird way his face scrunched up when he came. Geno would understand his absolute bear of a schedule.

Duper used to joke with him—every time he caught Sid picking up—that he had a girl in every port. He didn’t flatter himself that it was really true, but with Geno it could be: someone to come over and swim naked in his pool, someone to let off some steam with on the road.

The more he thought about it, the more logical it seemed. Geno was recently single after a dramatic offseason breakup. And—well—it had been a few weeks. Sid certainly didn’t need it every day, now, but he’d always run a little hot and he was starting to feel itchy.

The last time he’d been able to hook up was in New York, with some guy who caught his eye across the bathroom sinks in Yankee Stadium. He wasn’t sure of the guy’s intentions at first, but Sid had stood an awkwardly long time at the sink pretending to wash his hands and the guy had pressed a pretty unmistakable hand against Sid’s hip on his way to the exit.

When Sid rounded the corner back to the main concourse, the guy was waiting there—leaning against the concrete with his sunglasses perched on top of his head.

“I got friends to get back to, but—“ the guy said, raising his eyebrows a little and typing away at his phone. When he turned it around and held it out to Sid, it was an empty contact page with Yankee Boy ;) entered where a name would have been.

Sid had spent that night in some walkup Uptown, sweating in the heat with the windows open. The guy had opened the door in just a pair of running shorts, and then unzipped Sid’s jeans and rode him into the couch, all of his long, brown limbs on display. Sid had put him to bed with a pretty impressive bite mark purpling his shoulder and then slipped his shoes on, hailed a cab, and passed out face-down on his comforter at the hotel—dick still sticky in his underwear.

He felt hot just thinking about it, and he hopped off the bike and adjusted himself, his dick a fat, warm line inside his shorts. Maybe he should just go for it; he could invite Geno over tomorrow. A lazy Sunday was as good as any, especially with training camp about to kick into gear.

Sid went into the house to locate his phone and texted Geno. what are you doing tomorrow?

He didn’t expect Geno to respond right away. Probably he was sleeping, passed out on his belly the way he always was in the lounge at the rink. But a typing bubble appeared and shortly after a response: preseason nap ))))

Sid laughed; he wasn’t surprised. wanna come over and help me grill? i’ll let you handle the fire

you feeding me? ok, yes Geno sent. And that was that.

——

Geno showed up in the late hours of the afternoon, by which time Sid had the grill mostly cleaned off and a couple of greasy smears across the side of his shirt. He debated for a moment running upstairs to change, but headed for the door instead. Geno had surely seen worse.

Geno was tall and tan when Sid let him in, wearing oversized sunglasses and those hideous sweat shorts that he loved so much. One of his socks was scrunched down more than the other.

“Food ready?” Geno asked him, toeing off his shoes and striding toward the patio door. Sid grabbed the food and a couple beers from the fridge and followed him out. Geno was such a little shit, sometimes, but Sid had missed him, after a long summer away. His pointed ribbing and his ten thousand emotions had been a cornerstone of Sid’s life for a lot of years now.

“How was your summer?” Sid asked, when they sat down to eat, because they didn’t have a chance to get into it much over dinner the other night with all the shop talk. Geno always had some interesting vacation story to share—maybe he was owner of some Siberian city by now, or a large gathering of exotic whales.

“Oh, you know—“ Geno said, gesticulating with a forkful of food, “I go safari with Anna, tiger let me pet, very soft.” Sid looked him over, the long lines of him, sprawled out on Sid’s deck chair like he owned the place. There was a bit of sauce clinging to the fat curve of his lower lip. It was getting easier and easier for Sid to imagine it, and maybe sometime they’d do it right here, Geno’s legs draped over and around him in his own chair, letting Sid move him as he pleased.

Sid felt his dick taking interest, and he reached down to adjust himself in his jeans. He could feel Geno’s eyes on him for a second, but when he looked up, Geno was absorbed again in his phone, typing away while his bad leg jiggled nervously under the table.

“You fish this summer?” Geno asked, and then looked up from his phone and smirked. “Bet my fish bigger than you.”

Sid was sure that they were—he liked to fish mostly for the silence, the sweltering buzz of lake humidity, endless hours alone with his thoughts and no pressing obligations in sight. Sometimes he even came back entirely empty-handed, but he wasn’t about to let Geno in on that. “You think so?” he said instead.

Geno pulled the photos up on his phone, flipping through them with his head bent toward Sid—groves full of palms, Geno’s bare feet in a deck chair, Gonch’s daughter cheesing for the camera. At the end, he stopped on a series of photos of a sailfish, bloody and shining and at least a meter in length. Sid didn’t really do much deep-sea fishing; he had to admit it was pretty impressive.

Geno went on for a while about his summer, the rest of his fishing excursions, Gonch almost knocking him off the side of the boat. During a lull in the conversation, Geno raised his empty beer bottle and shook it, “I’m get more, you want?”

“Sure,” Sid said, and then because he wasn’t sure that Geno wouldn’t just spend the next ten minutes rooting around his kitchen to find it, “Bottom right drawer in the fridge, there’s a couple kinds, take whatever you want.”

In Geno's absence, Sid considered how to bring it up. Should he just show Geno the profile? Pretend he just thought it was a funny coincidence? Should he be brashly straightforward about his intentions? Maybe Geno would spook.

Well, if he was going to say no he probably would anyway—whether Sid fed it to him slow or went straight for the kill.

And Sid didn’t have any delusions that he was the best-looking guy in any room, but he did okay for himself. Even with an admittedly small sample size, Geno didn’t seem to have too many specifics when it came to the men he went home with. Sid was reasonably certain that he wouldn’t be swinging a total miss.

Even if he was, they were friends. Geno could lob him a hefty fine or bully Sid into paying for captains’ lunches all season and they could call it a day.

Geno returned with two open bottles dangling from one hand. “I see you found the bottle opener,” Sid said.

“On fridge,” Geno said, and dropped himself down into his seat. “Not hard to find.” Geno slid the second bottle across the tabletop, and Sid took it and raised it in cheers and then tipped back and took a long, slow pull. He watched Geno swallow and set his beer down and look out across the yard. This was the moment of truth. He needed to say something before he talked himself out of it.

“So I, um,” Sid said, looking out to wherever Geno had fixed his gaze—somewhere beyond the privacy trees. “I saw your profile on Grindr the other day.”

Geno didn’t say anything at all for a moment, or even move his head. Sid just stared at his profile: his big nose, the generous curve of his lower lip—all of it perfectly still. When he turned, his brow was furrowed in confusion, like maybe he hadn’t heard Sid quite right.

Well, okay fine—Sid would just show him, then. “You know, your uh—” Sid said. He pulled up the app on his phone and refreshed the page and, sure enough, there was Geno’s profile, right at the top of the page. He was zero miles away. “This is you, right?”

He pushed the phone at Geno’s hand, profile pulled up to the photo reel. Geno picked it up and scrolled through, back and forth with his thumb. “Since when you using this, Sid?” Geno asked, still clicking and swiping through Sid’s settings or some other profile or whatever like it was terribly fascinating.

“Since, uh, Prague,” Sid said, scratching a hand through his hair. He leaned forward a bit, curious to see what was keeping Geno so entranced. “What are you looking at?”

“Not looking,” Geno said, but when he pushed the phone back into Sid’s hand, the screen was pulled up to his own profile—that stupid mirror selfie.

It seemed that maybe even Geno was curious, though he was still being a little shifty about it. Sid didn’t want to get his own hopes up too quickly.

“So what you do with this? You hook up?” Geno asked, leaning back in his seat again, one arm crossed over his body.

“Well, I mean, yeah I—” Sid said. Was Geno really asking him whether he used a sex app for sex? “That’s what it’s for.”

“With guy?” Geno asked, and now he was clearly just prodding to get a reaction. He fucking knew it was a gay hookup app.

“Oh, is there some girls section on there that I missed?” Sid asked, and smiled at him, amused.

“Okay, fine,” Geno said, rolling his eyes, “I can’t believe I don’t know this whole time you into guys! We go out and I know you hear me say ‘look at him’ and you don’t ever say.”

Sid was pretty sure that he’d been into guys for a while, but it had never registered for whatever reason. Everything was easy to explain away; there was nothing that couldn’t be excused as appreciation, team bonding, whatever. But a kiss couldn’t really be brushed aside, and certainly not liking it.

“Well I never really thought that I—” Sid said, “and I like women too, anyway, so I didn’t need to think about it, I guess.”

Geno shrugged a shoulder and quirked his mouth up; he knew how it went.

“Actually, I wanted to ask you, um,” Sid started. He wasn’t sure how to phrase it. Was there some perfect script for asking your friend to fuck around with you for the indeterminate future? Well, probably not. “I wanted to ask if you’d be interested, you know, during the season?”

“Interest in what?” Geno asked, “Help you pick up? Don’t know if—”

“No, no—” Sid said. He wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea of Geno wingmanning him, but it sounded decidedly less fun. “No, I mean like—interested in hooking up with me, as friends.”

Geno paused, beer halfway to his mouth, gaping a little. One of his eyebrows slowly crept up toward his hairline like he was letting Sid’s words sink fully in. Sid just watched him mentally triangulating things, willing his own heart rate not to speed up, trying not to think too much about whether Geno would let him down politely or laugh at him or—

“What it’s like, if we do?” Geno asked. He leaned forward with both arms, looking Sid directly in the eye.

Sid wasn’t sure he even knew. “Maybe it’s like—it’s nice to do with someone you know, safe, secret—maybe it’s good to have someone to let off some steam with,” he said, and then, realizing that it probably sounded a little too clinical, added, “And I’m uh, I’m pretty into you.”

Geno kept looking at him, smile turned up a little like he was pleased to have his ego stroked. Sid was happy to help. “You plan to um,” Geno started, and looked around a little like he was searching for the right word, “see people? You know, like open.” He gestured a bit with his hand as if to show Sid what he meant, but Sid understood what he meant.

He thought about it a little—maybe Geno felt like Sid might not be enough on his own, or maybe he just wanted options, an easy out. Sid was pretty lured by the comfortable ease of it, though, the idea that he would just have one person to turn to, one person all year long. Or for however long Geno was willing.

“I was thinking maybe it might be easier just me and you, you know?” he said, and leaned forward and watched Geno’s lips spread into a smile. Sid would take that as a good sign. He was glad that they seemed to be on the same page.

Geno was silent for another moment, mentally triangulating, but the smile hadn’t dropped from his face. “Okay, maybe we do,” Geno said. He took a slow sip of his drink and then set it back on the table, his long fingers running up and down the sweating neck. “But how you know we good together?”

Sid felt himself get a little hot. He certainly wasn’t going to back down from that challenge.

“You asking me to prove it to you?” Sid asked. Geno made a face like that was exactly what he wanted. “C’mon—grab your plate; let’s go inside.”

Sid walked back into the house and dumped his plate in the sink, and then held a hand out for Geno’s—stacking it on top and running the tap over everything for a moment to let it rinse. When he turned back around, Geno was lounging lazily against the island, beer dangling from one hand, his eyes fixed, goading Sid on without words like he was entirely ready to be convinced.

Sid felt his temperature rising. He wasn’t a stranger to that kind of look, dark and considering. Geno was a known flirt and Sid suspected that he mostly did it to get a rise out of people, but, well, the circumstances sure had changed. Geno pressing his buttons in the middle of the locker room after skate was miles away from doing it alone in Sid’s kitchen—especially now that they both knew.

“You ready?” Sid said, because two could play this game.

Geno’s smirked deepened, and he took a long slow pull of his beer, neck tilted up like he knew Sid would watch him swallowing. He was such a little shit, but he wasn’t wrong. “This whole reason you ask me over?” he asked, and wiped at his mouth where a little bit of foam at gathered in the corner of his lips.

“So what if it was,” Sid said, and put a hand on Geno’s hip, just above the waist of his shorts, and pressed up to kiss him.

Geno hesitated for a moment—his lips still. Sid hooked a hand around Geno’s neck to pull him down to a more convenient level, and when Geno slid down a little his legs fell open, snugged up against one of Sid’s thighs. Sid could feel him chubbing up a little through the fabric of his shorts, thick and warm and unrestricted by any underwear.

“Pushy,” Geno mumbled, biting down a little on Sid’s upper lip.

“Oh, shut up,” Sid said. Geno was possibly the pushiest person he knew, trying without much success to bully Sid into any number of things throughout the year. “Not my fault you’re about ten feet tall, c’mere.”

Sid pulled Geno along until his back hit the fridge door, Geno’s socked feet between his spread legs, and got his hands on Geno’s ass, just as thick and round under his hands as it had looked on his phone screen. He dug his fingers in; he wanted to make Geno’s toes curl.

They stood for a while there, trading kisses, Geno squirming a little between Sid’s thighs. Sid felt himself getting more and more riled, the slick press of Geno’s mouth working him into a lather. He was sure that Geno could feel him getting hard; it was starting to be pretty urgent.

But Geno seemed to have other plans, and he put a hand on Sid’s neck and gentled the kiss—slower and slower until their lips were barely grazing. Sid’s heart was still beating overtime.

“That what you wanted to see?” Sid asked, trying to regain his breath.

“Mmm,” Geno said, and dropped his hand and stepped back. “I think is good start.”

Outside, the rest of the food and grill equipment was still strewn about the patio, and they went out to gather it all up after Sid had sorted himself out. Geno surprised him by lingering around after everything was brought in, standing off to the side a little awkwardly while Sid moved the cooked food over into tupperware.

“Want help?” Geno asked, nodding over to the counter and the small stack of dirty plates.

Sid could probably rope him into it, and maybe even into staying longer. Maybe they’d get drunk and mess around in the pool. But Sid felt like Geno still hadn’t given him a clear affirmative, and maybe he shouldn’t push his luck.

“Nah,” Sid said, and added what he hoped was a genial and judgement-free smile, “I’ve got it.”

Geno hesitated for a moment, and then came over and settled his palm flat against Sid’s shoulder. “We meet airport or rink Tuesday?” he asked.

“Airport I think,” Sid said, because he vaguely remembered Jen telling him as much, and Jen’s word was pretty close to law. “I’ll text you if not.”

Geno made his excuses shortly after,—to retreat back to his house—and when Sid saw him out he wrapped Sid up in a hug just like he always did, an easy and familiar affection.

“Nice we’re back,” Geno said into the curve of Sid’s shoulder. “Thanks for dinner, Sid.” And then he released his arms and put on his shoes and disappeared out the door.

Later that night, Sid floated around in the pool and thought about it. It was probably pretty foolish to fuck around with a teammate, but maybe less foolish than getting his ass posted on Deadspin for going home with someone who wanted to brag. Geno wasn’t going to out him, and Geno had been his partner in crime for a decade now. Sid didn’t think there was much that could be done that would permanently rock their relationship at this point.

And, anyway, it had been easy—easier than he’d thought. And Geno was hot, and funny, and even with that pretty embarrassing mirror selfie, Sid hadn’t struck out.

——

By the time Tuesday morning rolled around, Sid hadn’t heard so much as a peep from Geno—not that he’d expected to. Geno was probably sleeping off jet lag, facedown in bed.

Sid got to the plane early. He packed pretty light—just the few things he could fit in his messenger bag, a dress shirt, an extra polo and a change of underwear. He didn’t need to look flashy for these things, and, well—if his slacks were a bit wrinkled from wearing them on the flight, then they could edit it out in post.

Geno showed up in basketball shorts and a shirt that stretched snug across his shoulders and hung loose over his torso. He looked like he was on his way to the gym, or home for a nap; Jen took one sideways look at him and didn’t so much as flinch. If Sid had shown up in Lulus and a rink tee, he was sure that Jen would have checked his temperature on sight. Geno got away with a whole lot, but it had pretty much always been that way.

“You run here?” Sid asked, once Geno got within earshot.

Geno just gave him a look over his sunglasses, hoisted his garment bag over his shoulder, and led the way to the plane stair.

The flight was pretty boring, run-of-the-mill nonsense; and the media junket was much the same. He spent most of the interviews tugging down the hem of his polo shirt, which was definitely tighter around the chest and shoulders than he remembered, but there was nothing to be done.

He didn’t meet up with Geno again until just before dinner, the two of them herded into the back of an elevator by Jen’s clipboard.

“No more interview until next year, Jen,” Geno was saying, prodding to see how far he could push. “So tired.”

“Maybe I can keep them off your back until the season starts,” Jen said, not even looking up from her phone.

“Mmm,” Geno said, and Sid watched him stick his tongue out through the space in his teeth. Sid knew what that look meant; it was always trouble. “Maybe Sid can do for me.”

Sid rolled his eyes. Geno was such a baby about talking to the media, but Sid knew himself. He would give an extra two minutes of bland platitudes each night to keep them off Geno’s back. So what if Geno had been in America for ten years and should probably have enough rote answers memorized for a regular soundbite. He didn’t and probably wouldn’t ever, and that was how it had always been.

They ate dinner in the restaurant at their hotel, just the two of them posted up in a half-moon booth by the bar. Sid hadn’t bothered to change, mostly because he didn’t have anything else to change into, but he was regretting it a little now. The air conditioner was running full blast, and he had goosebumps and hard nipples—the whole nine yards. Geno kept giving him these looks over top of his glass of whiskey. He felt pretty exposed.

Geno didn’t really stop looking at him, even after their food arrived, and Sid figured that it probably had to mean something.

“You meeting any of the guys tonight?” Sid asked. “Or we could move this to the bar—“

Geno paused, fork halfway to his mouth. “Hmm, no—“ he said, “maybe I go to bed soon.”

Sid assumed he might follow it up with some signal—maybe he was just playing it cool and he wanted Sid to follow shortly behind. But he didn’t do anything except flash Sid a half-smile and dive back into his phone, which—was fine. It wasn’t like making out a little meant that it was a sure thing. It had been pretty tempting to think about not having to worry about it—how easy it would be to go to Geno when he was hyped up after a big game or frustrated after a loss.

Certainly no one ever said that fucking around with your teammate was a particularly smart idea, in any case.

——

Sid planned to tuck in with the rest of a book once he got back to his room, but the last hundred pages flew by, and by the time he finished reading the afterword, it was only just after nine. He could probably stand to get the extra few hours of rest, but lately he hadn’t been able to fall asleep any time before midnight. The lingering buzz of the drinks he had at dinner would just leave him staring at the ceiling for a solid hour, probably.

He debated going back down to the bar—he still had his jeans on and Toronto probably wasn’t the worst place to hook up. The hotel they were staying at was pretty swanky. He was probably right to assume that there was a good chance he wouldn’t get recognized in the low light amongst this type of crowd. Maybe.

But he was feeling too lazy, or at least too lazy to tug on his shirt and fix his hair enough to not come off like a total clueless jock and blow his cover. Even if all he did was chat up some rich older woman, let her buy him a drink or two—well—it would be a pain if someone ratted him out.

If only Geno hadn’t been such a fucking mystery, staring at him like he wanted something and then brushing it off like Sid was just imagining things, like they’d just been talking about the weather.

He puttered around the suite to distract himself, changing into his sleep shorts and brushing his teeth. In the bathroom mirror, he noticed a bruise on his ribs from last week’s training starting to purple, and he prodded at it a couple of times, wincing.

Back in bed, his brain wouldn’t quiet, and he scrubbed a hand across his belly, debating between channel surfing or jerking off—either one would put him right to sleep.

He palmed loosely at his dick through his shorts and tried to think about someone who wasn’t Geno, because if Geno was gonna run hot and cold like this, Sid would be wise not to get too invested in it. He was game for whatever Geno wanted from him, but he wasn’t gonna spend the whole season being a fucking creep just because he couldn’t stop thinking about Geno’s big hands on him.

But the fantasies were all tangled up in his head, and that guy in LA who’d let Sid bend him over the guest bathroom sink quickly morphed into Vanessa from the rink, and then into Geno, maybe on his knees in Sid’s kitchen, his mouth fat and red.

All of it got Sid pretty gone, his erection pretty urgent, hot against his hand. He wondered if Geno really had gone to sleep, or if he was up now, touching himself the same way. Hockey players were pretty much all wired to stay up late, and they all had their own ways of winding down from the postgame adrenaline. He and Geno and Max used to pass out together watching action movies late at night, back when they were rookies. Geno was always the first to fall asleep, long limbs hanging awkwardly off the bed. Sid was forced to climb around him on more than one occasion just to see himself back to his own room.

He thought about Geno spread out on his bed in much the same way now, the long slope of his back and ass, legs akimbo. Maybe he’d fallen asleep with his face smashed in a book.

Maybe if Sid was there, Geno would let him settle on top of him and rub against his ass, or fuck between his thighs. Sid could probably get off just like that; he felt like a teenager about it sometimes, how new and novel this whole summer had been. If only he’d been so self-perceptive at nineteen. God, he’d missed out.

He jerked himself quickly, one hand tight around his dick, the other pressing sharp half-moons into his own thigh. It didn’t take him long to come once he got a rhythm going, and when he felt his muscles clenching up, he shoved the sheet out of harm’s way and pressed his dick flat and came all up his stomach. It reached nearly all the way to one of his nipples.

He lay there for a minute, just marinating a little, body slack. When he picked up his phone from the nightstand to check the time, he had a text from Geno that just said you awake?

Jesus Christ. Sid laughed a little, amused but mostly kind of annoyed. Maybe Geno had wanted Sid to follow him to his room, or convince him or push, but Sid wasn’t going to and he couldn’t read Geno’s mind.

He typed out a response and then deleted it, and then opened up the camera on his phone and snapped a picture of the mess of his stomach, dick lying soft against his thigh, come shining a little in the low light of the lamp. Let Geno have a taste of his own medicine.

about to pass out he sent, with the picture alongside, and then he clicked off the lamp and plugged in his phone and rolled over into sleep.

——

There was no return text when he woke up, and Sid felt a little embarrassed that maybe he’d crossed a line, but Geno caught him in the hall after one of his on-ice photo sessions later that day and bent close to his ear. “You tease, Sid,” he said, and then continued on his way.

He was one to talk about being a tease.

They took a flight home that night, and by the time they touched back down in Pittsburgh, it was late enough that Sid couldn’t manage more than a pat to Geno’s shoulder and a lazy wave as they parted ways to their own cars.

“Get some sleep,” Sid said, because they had an informal skate scheduled in the morning, the rhythms of the season beginning anew. He pointedly didn’t think about inviting Geno home with him, or what they could do instead.

The first skate of the year was always decently packed. Sid arrived at UPMC at some unholy hour, and spent the first part of the morning in the lounge, embroiled in an unofficial breakfast meeting with Johnston as the rest of the guys trickled in. By the time he hit the ice, most of the guys were already out there gliding in lazy warmup circles, Duper and Tanger both tying their skates on the bench.

Sid spotted Geno posted up near Kessel, keeping pace and yapping his ear off about something that required a fair number of hand gestures.

“Better go rescue him,” Tanger said, nodding his head to them as Sid opened the bench door. Kessel probably didn’t need rescuing, but Sid knew how Geno could be, overwhelming and gregarious, a little rude. From their scant interactions over text, Sid had a hunch that Kessel was much—quieter, or at least slow to blossom.

“Morning,” Sid said, sliding up alongside them as they passed by his half of the ice. “Hope you’re showing him a good time, G.”

“Always good time,” Geno said, and then shooed him away. “Go, go—you late, legs slow, catch up.”

Sid laughed, flashing Kessel a smile and flicking Geno off as he skated away. The sound of everyone giving each other grief was always a delight, as much a sign of hockey’s return as the cutting of skates against the ice.

Johnston came out a few minutes later to huddle them up at center ice, and the rest of the hour passed much the same—the whole of them working up a sweat, yelling and throwing pucks against the boards. Geno was in rare form, rolling around the rink like a freight train, tapping guys on the ass with his stick until Horny called a penalty on him and muscled him into the box.

It was a new season; a fresh slate. Everyone was pretty excited.

——

Attendance at skate grew steadily over the next couple days, as more of the team got back into town. Sid went to skate each day, and had dinner with a few of the guys—Flower and Kessel and Cullen—and mostly didn’t think about anything but hockey, and training, and the pretty frightening list of phone interviews that Jen kept telling him he needed to start chipping away at.

A few days before camp started, the team joined up for their annual charity golf game in Sewickley. Geno never really played, but the club they held it at was basically in his backyard, and he loved to drive a golf cart around like a menace.

That was where he was when Sid checked in, long legs hanging out the side of one of the carts, sunglasses perched on top of his backwards hat and holding court with Flower and Duper. Flower gave Sid a look over Geno’s head when he spotted him, and then excused himself and trotted over.

“Duper is trying to convince him to play this year,” Flower said, leaning into Sid with his arms crossed.

“Good luck with that,” Sid said.

It was a good afternoon, and most of the guys were pretty decent. Sid had a competition going with Bones for a number of holes, but he kept getting thrown off by Geno, who had dubbed himself their unofficial caddy, and—on more than one occasion—grabbed Sid’s club from his hand and pretended to take a swing.

“Put up or shut up,” Bones shouted at him after one of his attempts, and Geno teed up again, bending over much more than was necessary, making a show of it. Sid just stood back with his arms crossed, trying to look annoyed, but mostly staring at Geno’s ass in his shorts, which were checkered and showing a healthy amount of thigh.

“Hole in one!” Geno yelled, after he’d chucked the ball into the bushes. “Perfect—I win.”

“You up,” he said to Sid, passing the club back and patting Sid on the hip, his hand hot through the thin material of Sid’s shirt. “Try to beat me.”

The afternoon passed quickly, and Sid didn’t win, but he did pretty good for himself, close to his personal best. In the clubhouse afterward, everyone lingered around with the foundation heads and ate from the catering table, a decent array of finger sandwiches and mini desserts.

When one of the front office guys walked off toward the restroom, Geno appeared at Sid’s side, holding a plate piled pretty high with snacks.

“You get sun,” he said, tapping a finger over the bridge of Sid’s nose. Sid turned to the side to look in one of the wall mirrors and wow, yeah—he was pretty pink all across the center of his face. Shit. So much for long-lasting sunblock.

“Any plans after this?” Sid asked. He was frankly a little surprised that Geno hadn’t already made his excuses; he liked to talk, but he hadn’t ever been a terribly big fan of mingling.

“Why? You invite me?” Geno said. He fixed Sid with a particularly direct look. There were at least two large strawberries crammed in his mouth and the words came out garbled around them.

“People can see you doing that, you know,” Sid said. Geno looked ridiculous. Sid had no idea why Geno always insisted on eating as quickly as possible; it wasn’t as if someone was going to take it away from him if he didn’t.

“Shh,” Geno said, after he finished chewing and grabbed a couple more fruit kebabs off of the tray. “Probably just go nap after this—dinner with Max later but I’m tired. Golf hard work.”

Sid rolled his eyes and laughed. Geno had done approximately zero actual golfing. “I’ll see you early on Thursday for photos, then?” Team photo day was always long, and lately it had gotten longer, now that they had started filming what Michelle and Jen liked to call “human interest” pieces. The captains pretty much always had the early slot. Geno hated to wake up and had been showing up for photo day with patchy stubble and at least three cowlicks for years now. Sid didn’t think Geno really cared how his photo turned out—none of them did—but it was pretty funny.

“Can come over,” Geno said.

Sid raised his eyebrows. “To nap?”

“Maybe,” Geno said, but followed it with a one-shouldered shrug, his mouth curling up in a smile, and—oh, well. Sid had been planning to go home and prep a few more veggie options for the week, but that was definitely preferable, if Geno was serious about it.

“Sure,” Sid said. “You wanna head out soon?” He was pretty antsy, now that getting Geno alone and working out this pent-up tension was an actual possibility. Geno had spent the whole of the tournament being an outright tease, flirting and showing off, walking around puffed up, razzing everyone and just—looking like that.

Geno shoved another finger sandwich in his mouth, and then the both of them polished off their plates, said their goodbyes, and left for the parking lot. Sid trailed just behind Geno on the road, speeding a little more than he preferred in order to keep Geno’s bumper in his eye line. Geno didn’t live more than a ten minute drive from the course, but the roads up here were pretty circuitous, turns blocked by rows of leafy trees. Sid didn’t trust himself with directions on the best of days—it was better to tail Geno’s car than to get lost and have to circle back home just to remember his usual route.

“You’re gonna run into a tree one of these days if you keep taking turns like that,” he said through his open window as Geno was climbing out of his car.

“Don’t complain,” Geno said, and then rounded to the garage door and punched the pad to open it. “C’mere.”

Sid rolled up his windows and his open sunroof and climbed out of his car. Geno was leaning against the open garage door, thumbs tucked in his belt loops, his long legs crossed at the ankle. He was trying to look inviting—it was working.

“I can’t believe you,” Sid said, stepping up into Geno’s space and sliding a hand over his waist. “Bending over like that at a team sponsored event? Someone could see you.”

Geno shrugged one shoulder, and popped his sunglasses up on top of his head. “Only person who see is you, Sid—you think they look?”

“It was pretty fucking obvious,” Sid said, and then pulled Geno down into a kiss. Sid used to think that everyone looked—guys were naked probably every day, and it wasn’t like you could just stop. Recent developments taken into account, though—it probably wasn’t true.

He’d certainly always noticed Geno’s legs, which were scrawny and long, and his wide sloping shoulders. He loped around the locker room in his underwear and Sid looked at his ass and thought that it was probably one of the only signs on his body that said he was a hockey player. His glances probably hadn’t always been so innocent and assessing, in hindsight.

They stood there kissing, half in and half out of the garage, for what felt like an hour, but was probably only a few minutes. Geno had clearly gotten on board with things, and his kisses were long and focused, biting at Sid’s upper lip, his tongue licking into Sid’s mouth.

Inside the house, Sid slipped his sneakers off and pressed Geno against the coat rack, his mouth on Geno’s neck, warm from a day’s worth of sun. “We gonna go nap?” Sid asked, smiling, pressing his teeth into Geno’s skin. Geno’s pulse was jumping, running erratic and interested.

“Trying get me into bed?” Geno asked him.

“Maybe I am,” Sid said. He wasn’t going to be ashamed for wanting it—Geno had invited him over, after all.

He followed Geno upstairs. In Geno’s bedroom, there was a bright double window, clothes scattered across the floor, and a big four-poster bed.

Sid was pretty intrigued—you didn’t just have a bed like that unless you planned to use it. Maybe it was just another of Geno’s weird design choices—Sid didn’t want to get too ahead of himself. But he was certainly thinking about it—Geno’s hands hooked around one of the posts, spread out diagonally across the bed. God.

Sid reached down to adjust himself where he was getting hard in his shorts, and when he looked back up at Geno, Geno was staring, mouth dropped open.

Sid popped the button on his shorts, walked over to the bed, and sat down on the edge, only the pads of his feet touching the floor. Geno’s eyes followed him, and he spread his legs wide, settling in. “You just wanna stand there? You want a show?” Sid asked.

Geno scrubbed a hand through his hair, tugging a little, and then walked over until his feet were right between Sid’s spread knees. His eyes tracked up and down from Sid’s lap to his face. Sid just leaned back on his hands, wanting to seem patient, even though he didn’t feel at all patient inside, not when it was the first time. He would let Geno make the next move.

“I get your picture other day,” Geno said, scratching at the back of his neck. “What you think about?”

Sid wasn’t expecting him to pry so much, but, “Lots of things,” he said. Let Geno wonder a little.

“You think about me? About this?” Geno asked, gesturing in a big swath at them both, the room, the bed.

“Mmm, a little,” Sid said, “you wanna give me more to think about?” He brushed a hand up and down his thigh, hoping Geno would get the hint.

Geno didn’t miss a beat, putting one knee and then the other on the bed and settling himself down into Sid’s lap. “I’m give you—“ Geno mumbled, and trailed off as he began to mouth at Sid’s jaw. Sid curled both of his hands around to cradle Geno’s ass, anchoring him up against Sid’s body, both of their erections brushing through the material of their shorts.

Sid loved the feeling of Geno straddling him, probably too tall, his head tucked down to kiss. He was warm everywhere they were pressed together.

After a while, Sid pushed Geno to the side, and muscled him down until he was lying on the bed. “C’mon,” he said, and he nudged at Geno until he was sorted and then climbed on top of him, threading their fingers together and pressing until Geno’s hands were bent lazily next to his head. When he looked down, Geno’s erection was straining, painful under his zipper.

“Keep your hands there,” Sid said, not sure if Geno actually would, and then he reached down and unzipped him, pushing his shorts and underwear down far enough for his dick to flop out.

Geno stayed stock still, breathing wetly through his mouth and looking at Sid over the line of his nose.

Sid felt the room heating up, sweat prickling all down his back. He reached down to pull his shirt over his head and it was damp at the collar.

“You want it?” Sid asked, even though it was clear that Geno did. His dick was already shining, wetness beading at the tip. Sid put a hand on him, smoothing the precome down, pulling back Geno’s foreskin to reveal the dark pink head. Sid jacked him slowly a few times, up and down and back up again, feeling Geno’s dick grow even stiffer in his fist.

Things sped up considerably after that, the world narrowing in focus. Geno’s dick was hot in Sid’s hand and the way he squirmed a little, his shirt inching up his stomach with each shift of movement, was really turning Sid’s crank. He jerked Geno until he started to curse, then released him and tugged his own shorts and briefs down.

“G—hey,” Sid said, pressing forward until he was resting on his hands. Geno’s eyes were still closed, mouth open and drawing in long sips of breath. Geno peeked an eye open; his breathing stilled. “Lube? Lotion?”

Geno flopped an arm out to the side, gesturing a hand to the nightstand. There was only one vaguely lotion-looking thing inside and Sid grabbed it and held it up for Geno to assess. The label was all in Cyrillic and Sid wasn’t about to accidentally put muscle rub or mousse all over someone’s dick.

“This?” Sid asked. Geno nodded.

Sid slicked his own dick and then Geno’s and then tossed the bottle up towards the head of the bed so he wouldn’t accidentally roll over onto it and make a mess. He scooted forward a little so that their dicks were lined up, his thighs squeezing around Geno’s hips. Geno’s dick was lying flushed and shiny against his belly, long and a little curved, and Sid pressed his own down with the flat of his palm until they were flush, and circled his hand around. His fingers didn’t quite touch together on the other side, but they made a good enough tunnel to slip through, tight and wet with lotion as he thrust his hips.

“Hands don’t fit,” Geno said, smug. He’d pressed himself up onto his elbows, staring blatantly at the heads of their dicks sliding together over the top of Sid’s fist.

“You offering to take over?” Sid asked, because Geno’s hands were wide and long and not at all unwelcome.

“No, keep—“ Geno said, “I like.”

Sid could certainly take the coaching. He twisted his hand around the mess of lotion, and jerked them both without flair until Geno started to curse under his breath and came all up his stomach and onto Sid’s dick and hand.

“Good,” Geno said, grinning with a full row of teeth, his arm flung back over his eyes. Sid watched him melt back into the bed, stared at his pinked up neck and his fat lower lip, and stripped his own dick. The mess that Geno had made of him made him think about his last girlfriend, who liked to leave wet trails across Sid’s thigh when she came—he kind of loved the feeling of it, lying there sated, proof of a job well done.

“Need help?” Geno asked, peeking out from under his arm. Sid’s forearm was locking up a little, the muscle straining, but he was so fucking close that it didn’t even—

“Nah, I got this,” Sid said, bitten off, his breath tight, and then he squeezed his eyes shut and came all over Geno’s dick where it lay sticky and soft against his stomach.

He flopped over onto his side, sprawling out a few inches from Geno, their sweaty calves still brushing together at the edge of the bed. After a few minutes of silence in which he thought maybe Geno was actually making good on the promised nap, Geno stirred, swinging himself off the bed and ambling over to grab a dirty bath towel out of the hamper and wipe at his stomach.

“Spot me?” Sid asked, holding out a hand. Geno tossed the towel at him and it landed square on his face.

Once he wiped himself reasonably clean, he tugged all of his clothes back into place and sat on the edge of the bed, scrubbing a hand through his hair. Geno walked back and forth from the room to the ensuite, the tap cutting on and off, brushing his teeth, swapping his shorts for jeans. Sid just watched him, leering appreciatively at his ass when he dropped his shorts, feeling a bit lost about what to say.

He wasn’t sure why. He was pretty used to knowing how to leave—the routine of getting dressed, maybe trading a few lazy kisses, maybe sneaking out the door. But his regular hookups over the years had always existed in solely one box—that easy space occupied by an acquaintance turned something more. Geno was perhaps too many things to Sid, his teammate, his co-captain, his friend of nearly ten whole years. There wasn’t a script for how to proceed here.

“What time is Max coming over?” Sid asked, raising his voice a little over the sound of the running sink.

“Mmm, soon,” Geno said, walking back out into the room, still shirtless and barefoot in his jeans. “I need shower probably—and nap, but you don’t let me.”

“I thought you were kidding, c’mon!” Sid said. Geno just fixed him with a look that said, ‘really?’ and okay, sure—Sid had seen Geno fall asleep during video review, or nap straight through team breakfast. He probably wasn’t ever kidding about wanting to sleep.

“You wear me out,” Geno said, coming over to Sid and putting a cool hand on the curve of his neck. “Is okay, I’m like.” Geno held his gaze for a moment, and Sid’s skin felt burning hot where Geno was touching him, his stomach squirming at the quiet intimacy of it.

Probably it was time to go. If they were going to keep this up, they needed to keep everything status quo, and status quo had always been that Sid hung out with Geno on Geno’s time, at the rink or on the road, but otherwise gave him his space. Geno had always had a rich life that the rest of the team wasn’t terribly privy to, his own personal hobbies and friends, and that was okay. Sid didn’t need to start infringing now, even if the idea of dragging Geno back into bed and just lying around until dinnertime felt pretty appealing at the moment.

The status quo worked; it was fine.

“I better get going,” Sid said. Geno’s hand dropped down from his neck when he rose to stand, hanging a little awkwardly at his side. “See you Thursday, eh?”

He smiled, hoping it didn’t seem as tight and insincere as it felt—this was all supposed to be easy; nothing was supposed to change.

“Okay,” Geno said, and raised his hand to scratch at the back of his neck. “Thursday.”

——

Training camp was always pretty exhausting—getting his legs back under him, chipping away at the pile of media responsibilities, coaches’ meetings, making sure the new guys felt welcome. Preseason conditioning check-ins were more of a formality for him at this point, especially now that Andy was at the helm, but he liked to show up anyway—a good example for the young guys. Even their captain wasn’t allowed to slack off.

He didn’t see Geno much, outside of practice and a few captains’ meetings, where Geno sprawled out wider than was probably necessary in his chair, his leg warm against Sid’s own.

But Geno walked into Stew’s office one morning while Sid was getting his wrist looked at, and he dropped onto one of the benches and began swinging his feet.

“Wrist okay?” Geno asked, peering over curiously. Stew didn’t look up from where he was scraping at Sid’s wrist; Geno had been barging in on other people’s appointments for years. He didn’t like to stick to a timeframe, and mostly bullied Stew into working on his knee whenever he felt like it.

“It’s fine,” Sid said. His wrist had given him trouble for a couple of years now, and even though it was feeling pretty close to 100%, he wasn’t getting any younger. He would probably be stuck scraping and stretching and taping it until he retired, just to be safe.

When Stew was done with Sid, he excused himself to the restroom, and they were left alone. Geno hopped down from the bench he was on and crossed the room to perch next to Sid, his hip bumping against Sid’s shoulder.

“You wanna get dinner later?” Sid asked. Tomorrow was a day off for most of the vets, and Kuni had been floating the idea of going out. Sid figured the invitation was open.

Geno shrugged. “Russian dinner tonight, sorry,” he said, “me and Gonch showing baby around.” Sid didn’t have a good read yet on Plotnikov, who had been sticking pretty close to Geno and Gonch for the duration of camp, but it was nice to see Geno taking over some part of the welcoming duties. There was a lot of turnover this year. Sid didn’t want to neglect anyone, but he only had so much time.

“Maybe I come over after, though,” Geno continued, his eyes a little dark, voice low, “or tomorrow for day off. We relax together.”

“Relax, eh?” Sid said, and put an open hand on Geno’s bare knee, pushing it up under the leg of his shorts.

“Stew is come back soon,” Geno said, but it was clear he didn’t mind, from the way he kept shifting his hips around. Sid figured it was okay to press his luck a little, and he ran the tips of his fingers up and down over the crease of Geno’s groin until he groaned. “Sid,” he said in complaint, and Sid pulled his hand back into his own lap and stood up.

“Text me later?” Sid asked. Geno’s half-chub was pretty obvious in his shorts, but he could deal with it. Sid was late for his session with Andy, and he wasn’t much in the mood to get chewed out. He patted Geno on the leg a couple times. “Good luck with the knee,” he said, and left.

“Worst, Sid,” Geno called, and Sid smiled a little to himself at the sound of Geno’s groan.

——

Geno didn’t text until the following night, when Sid was most of the way through cooking dinner—a tofu and vegetable stir-fry recipe that he found while Googling “quick and easy meals” for Taylor over the summer.

Time to relax? )) it read. Sid wondered what Geno had been doing all day, while Sid had been largely free of responsibility, working out in the basement for a bit, watching TV.

I’m cooking Sid typed with one hand while he stirred the veggies around in the pan. A second later another message popped up: good i come over!. Sid rolled his eyes. If he didn’t know better, he could probably assume that Geno was just trying to weasel his way into a lot of free dinners. Though it wasn’t the worst price to pay.

Geno showed up with a bottle of wine tied up in a grocery bag, wearing a tightly fitted sweatshirt and too much cologne. Sid tried to pretend he didn’t like it, but when Geno bent down in the foyer to kiss him, the smell of it made his stomach twist, the feel of Geno’s sweatshirt soft under Sid’s hand.

“Dinner’s ready?” Geno asked when he pulled back, and then followed Sid into the kitchen, set the wine on the counter, and started rifling through a couple of drawers. “Where you keep?” He mimed twisting with his free hand, and Sid popped open the drawer at his hip and handed over the corkscrew. Geno had clearly reached an agreement with English where he’d decided he had learned enough—there were words he would probably never learn, but it was fine. He and Sid had long ago fallen into a routine of communication. They got by.

Geno poured them some wine and Sid moved the stacks of mail off of the dining room table so they could sit and eat instead of standing over the island like Sid did when he was home alone. It was kind of weird to sit there with just two people, huddled around one corner, their legs brushing under the table as they ate.

“Where’d you get this?” Sid asked, holding up his glass. The wine was good, thick and full-bodied. Living with Mario had certainly expanded his wine palate, if nothing else, and Sid had really grown to enjoy a good red.

“Don’t know,” Geno said, shrugging, “Gonch bring over last week, he leave at my house.”

“Oh, Gonch bought this?” Sid laughed. “No wonder it’s good.” He nudged Geno a little with his elbow, egging him into a laugh. Geno’s bar had always been fairly well stocked, but his taste in wine was pretty indiscriminate and he tended to drink whatever was on offer.

They talked a little shop during dinner—about the new guys, and the upcoming season—but mostly they ate in comfortable silence. After they finished, Geno followed Sid into the kitchen with his plate, and opened the dishwasher to inspect the contents.

“You don’t have to clean up,” Sid said. It was nice that he wanted to, but this was already feeling weirdly similar to a date, even though he hadn’t intended it that way. Maybe they should have eaten in the kitchen. He definitely didn’t need Geno endearing himself to Sid further by offering to tidy up.

Geno shrugged, and slipped his dishes in anyway, and then walked back over to the sink to wash his hands. “Movie?” he asked, smiling.

Sid mostly just wanted to fuck Geno into the couch, but he figured a movie on in the background wouldn’t hurt. Maybe Geno needed a little buttering up.

He let Geno put the movie in, some biopic Sid had seen a million times, and they settled down onto the couch with the wine, Sid against the arm of the couch and Geno sprawled out, one of his feet pressing against Sid’s thigh. A few minutes in, Geno started jabbing through the settings on the remote. “Why there’s no Russian subtitles?” he grumbled. “Stupid.”

Sid just looked at him, his nose scrunched up, and felt terribly fond. “C’mere,” he said, unfolding his legs and patting the cushion between them.

Geno considered him. “Comfy,” he said, but he slithered down a little in his seat and propped his feet up in Sid’s lap, crossed at the ankle.

Sid tried to refocus his attention on the movie, but he was pretty distracted by Geno muttering to himself, and the thought of what they could be doing instead. He started massaging lazily at Geno’s arch and ankle after a while, and Geno started shifting his feet into the touch, pressing them pretty firmly against Sid’s lap. In between the wine and the pressure and the general anticipation of the situation, Sid was feeling pretty affected.

“You’re gonna get me hard if you keep doing that,” Sid said, stilling his hands and looking pointedly at Geno. Geno’s gaze was firmly on the screen, as if he was pretending this was all just happenstance, but Sid could see his smile, small and mischievous, his dimple highlighted in the glow from the TV.

“Good, I want,” Geno said, and pressed down even further with both heels, rubbing purposefully over Sid’s dick for a few minutes until he was throbbing, rutting his hips up a little into the touch.

“Geno—“ he said. God, it felt really good. “C’mon, come over here.” He’d been patient, letting Geno toy with him a little, but he wasn’t feeling patient anymore—he felt eighteen again, antsy for anything.

Geno relented, and he got up and shucked his jeans off and came over and dropped down into Sid’s lap in just his underwear and his soft sweatshirt, his long fucking legs spread wide over Sid’s thighs. His briefs were bright green and covered in an all-over print of some tropical bird, and Sid slipped his fingers under the leg band to dig them into Geno’s ass.

“Maybe you fuck me,” Geno said, shifting his ass around in Sid’s hands.

“Was this your plan?” Sid asked. He was honestly a little surprised; he’d heard enough locker room chatter about his own body over the years—and even a couple of his girlfriends were pretty keen to roll him over. Geno had a big dick and a cocky sense of humor, but maybe Sid had been wrong to assume. It was pretty thrilling.

“You think I plan? You ask me over!” Geno said, “Oh, Geno—please come over, let’s relax.” He stuck his his hands up and mimed air quotes.

“Fair,” Sid said. It was true that he was being a little forward about it, but Geno seemed not to mind. “Don’t complain to me if your ass hurts on the bike tomorrow, though.”

He hoisted Geno off his lap, pressing him into the center of the couch and leaning over him to give him a lingering kiss. Sid didn’t mind if Geno wanted to do it messy on the couch, but all of his stuff was still upstairs, tucked inside a grocery bag in his sock drawer.

“I’ll be right back,” he said, “don’t move.”

He came back downstairs with lube and a couple of condoms clutched in one hand, and Geno was sunk back into the cushions, his sweatshirt discarded on the table, touching himself lazily over his briefs. The movie was still on in the background, playing some scene where the main character got caught in a thunderstorm—casting Geno’s skin in a blue glow.

Sid hadn’t known the first guy he fucked—just some guy who worked at the local VA Hospital—and the sex had been easy and fun, free of worry, everything about his body new. Geno wasn’t really new to him, but in a way it felt like it—this body he’d seen a million times, the slope of his shoulders, the strong muscle of his forearms, the soft curve of his stomach.

Probably Geno would be forgiving if he fucked it up a bit, but he didn’t want to fuck it up.

“You ready?” Sid asked, and watched Geno sprawl out as he came over and climbed on top. Sid was pretty glad in this moment that he let his decorator talk him into a deeper couch, enough space that they wouldn’t just roll right off.

“Why you still dressed?” Geno complained, tugging at the hem of Sid’s shirt. “Take off.”

“Oh, you don’t like it?” Sid asked, deliberately coy, and reached down to pull it off and drape it over the back of the couch. When his face was uncovered, Geno was just looking up at him, his expression open and hungry, his fingers resting on the button of Sid’s pants.

“You so—“ Geno said, the words dissolving into a groan, and he fumbled a little trying to tug open Sid’s fly. “C’mon, c’mon.”

“Stop being impatient,” Sid said, and reached his own hands down to take over, unzipping himself and shifting around until he could hook both thumbs in his waistband and pull everything down at the same time.

“Come,” Geno said, and coaxed Sid down for a kiss. Sid’s dick twitched a little at being exposed to the cold air of the room, but Geno was hard and warm in his briefs and Sid collapsed onto him, slotting himself between Geno’s dick and the crease of his groin.

They kissed for a while as the movie played in the background, some fight scene that Sid tried to tune out. Sid was getting pretty used to kissing him, the way Geno liked to bite and tangle his hands in Sid’s hair. He wanted to set the pace, and he licked long strokes into Geno’s mouth, slowing the moment down to a crawl.

By the time he fell into a groove, Geno was making low noises into Sid’s mouth, hands roaming the expanse of his back, briefs sweat-damp against his abdomen.

“Put your knees up,” Sid said, because he liked it that way, and he sat up and put a palm on Geno’s bad knee and helped him hold them in place. His ass was a generous curve, distorting the material of his underwear until it looked faded. Sid reached down with his free hand to peel them up Geno’s thighs and off his ankles, and when he looked at Geno’s face his eyes were scrunched shut like he couldn’t bear to watch. “You okay?” he asked.

“It’s good,” Geno said, but he didn’t open his eyes. “Just touch.”

Sid did—fumbling the cap of the lube and slathering his fingers until they were probably too slick. When he rubbed them experimentally up and down the line of Geno’s ass, they slipped around, barely catching on the furl of his hole.

He felt a little bit out of his body, dick so hard he could barely think. The first time he had a guy naked and under him, he had been scared that maybe it wouldn’t do it for him when he was face to face with the real thing. That was the real test, right? Maybe he just liked kissing so much that it didn’t matter. But the thick line of Geno’s dick, the sweaty pink skin of his ass, the strong shape of his upturned legs—all of it was pretty fucking appealing.

He circled his middle finger around Geno’s hole, a little more and a little more until it started to give way. When he pressed it all the way in, Geno let out a long moan.

“Sid,” he said, reaching one of his hands out to touch Sid’s wrist. Sid stilled.

“It’s okay?” Sid asked. Maybe Geno hadn’t wanted him to go in so soon.

“Very okay,” Geno said. His eyes were open now, so fucking dark and staring up at Sid from between his spread thighs. “Put two.”

“Are you sure?” Sid asked, hoping Geno wasn’t just being impatient—stupidly eager to move things along. Geno’s ass was hot and tight around Sid’s finger, and he wasn’t kidding about not wanting Geno to end up sore.

“Yes, stop worry,” Geno said, the same tone he used when hustling Sid around at practice, “I do lots before.”

Sid pulled back and pushed two fingers in and tried not to think about it too hard—Geno on his back or up on his knees, some other guy’s hands leaving marks on his hips, some other guy’s dick filling up his ass. Geno kept making these noises as Sid pushed in, high up in his throat, and if Sid didn’t stop thinking about it he was going to come, like, way too soon.

Thank god that neither of them had the sense to realize this was a possibility a decade ago—eager and inexperienced. Sid wouldn’t have known what to do. He would have come in two fucking seconds and not been able to look Geno in the eye literally ever again.

Not that he was feeling terribly confident about his ability to last now, really—not with Geno noisy and warm, squirming around under his hands, looking at him like that.

“I’m getting, uh—“ Sid warned, because he really wanted to get his dick in Geno’s ass before he blew it.

“Yes, fuck me,” Geno said, dropping his feet flat, legs still bent at the knee. Sid pulled his hand out and fumbled open a condom, pinching himself a little at the base of his dick as he rolled it on and lined up.

“It’s too good for you?” Geno asked, smug as Sid gritted his teeth and slid in. He was fishing; Sid was sure Geno could see it all over his face.

“You know it fucking is,” Sid said tightly, trying to control his breathing, letting himself settle. “C’mon, you know how this feels.”

“Mmm,” Geno hummed, low and appealing. “You let me do to you sometime?”

“Maybe I will,” Sid said, and he started to push in and out in a slow rhythm, trying not to think too much about the delicious friction of Geno’s ass clenching around him, thankful that the condom dulled even a microscopic amount of the pleasure—he fucking needed it.

It wasn’t long before Geno started to push back against him, making so much noise and toying with the head of his own dick. He looked like a particularly dirty dream—his balls pink and drawn up, chest shining with sweat.

“Mmm, keep—“ Geno said, the words reedy. Sid was trying, but even the rubber couldn’t dull the heat, or keep him from watching Geno lose it like this—and this was going to be over way too soon if Geno couldn’t just—

But Geno circled his fingers around his cock and curled in on himself and came, dribbling out over his hand and up to one nipple. God.

Sid followed almost immediately, free of the guilt of coming too quick, leaning his face against one of Geno’s bent knees and filling the condom. He stayed there for a few prolonged moments after, just taking wet breaths into the sweaty skin of Geno’s inner thigh.

“Jesus,” he whispered, only a little to himself. From up against the arm of the couch, Geno laughed.

“You heavy,” Geno complained, and Sid pulled out and untangled their limbs and heaved himself off the couch, tottering off to the kitchen to discard the condom. When he came back to the living room, Geno was sitting up yawning with just his jeans on—his sweatshirt and briefs still somewhere on the floor.

“Wear you out, bud?” Sid asked, feeling more than a little smug at the job well done. He dropped down next to Geno on the couch and leaned into him, laying a quick kiss on his sweaty shoulder.

In front of them, the movie was still going, the soundtrack a low hum. For a few minutes they just sat there together, heart rates slowly returning to baseline, eyes glazing over. Sid rubbed a hand through his own hair and it was wet at the tips, tangled and curly where it was long on top. He snuck a glance over at Geno, and wondered how soon he would make his excuses, or if he would at all. Sid hadn’t really intended for whatever this was to turn into a whole evening, but he would be lying if he said he hadn’t enjoyed it—the easy chatter over dinner, maybe finishing the movie now, sticky and sinking together into the couch.

“You want me turn off?” Geno asked out of the quiet. Sid looked over at him, his open mouth, hair cowlicked around his ear—it was a good face.

“Hmm, no—leave it,” Sid said, and settled further. They watched the rest in relative silence, Geno making small grunts of confusion or acknowledgement, touching all along their sides. By the time the credits rolled, Geno had one long arm spread out across the cushions, Sid’s head pillowed in the crook of his elbow. Sid felt like he could fall asleep right there—and maybe he would.

“Sid—Sid,” Geno said, jostling him a little as he pulled his arm away. When he opened his eyes, Geno was tugging his sweatshirt back over his head, a towering line illuminated in the light from the lamp and the DVD menu.

Sid mustered the energy to get up, and pulled his jeans on and walked Geno to the door. In the doorway, Geno stalled a bit, shifting from foot to foot with his shoes on.

“It’s nice tonight,” Geno said. His eyes looked soft and Sid felt a little caught by them. Probably he was just tired.

“See you at the rink tomorrow?” Sid asked, like it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. He would certainly see Geno at the rink tomorrow—at least fifteen minutes later than he was supposed to be there, wearing sunglasses and a half-hearted grin.

Geno just smiled down at him. “See you, Sid,” Geno said, and he bent down and kissed him—shy like he hadn’t just been naked and ass up—and disappeared through the door.

——

The grind toward the season-opener was always the same, and Sid stuck his nose down and got to work, but this year he felt like maybe he had to do just that little bit extra, keep adjusting. They were playing some pretty defensive hockey, and Sid knew how to defend, how to sit back, but it still felt like he always had more to learn.

He saw Geno at the rink, but not much else. Sid would have to figure out a workaround once the season started—maybe they’d do postgame together, get room service and fuck in the shower. Probably it would be nice to wind down with someone. Sid didn’t always like to go out, and he ended up back in his room more often than he would prefer—stretching out overused muscles and stewing a little.

They lost their final preseason game, on the road in Carolina. The change room at PNC Arena was long and narrow, and when Geno brushed past him on his way to the showers, he slid a hand over the curve of Sid’s hip, just above where he had tied his towel.

“Look good,” Geno said, and Sid bemoaned the fact that they were scheduled to fly directly back home. He was always exhausted after a flight, and he usually couldn’t muster the energy to do anything but drive straight home and pour himself into bed.

It was in Dallas where he finally saw his chance, at a barbecue joint with the team the night before the game. Dumo had recommended it, on orders from a friend, and they’d reserved one of the patios, the whole lot of them gathered around a long table with their sunglasses on, trading chirps and passing around the hot sauce.

He and Geno didn’t tend to sit together at these things—Sid had his seat partners and Geno flitted around and that was that. But Sid had gotten stuck signing for one of the hostesses on the way in and by the time he got outside, only a few spots were left. He wasn’t about to start the season off being a parody of himself by making everyone move.

“Shaking it up, eh, Sid?” Bones said, laughing and nudging him as he climbed in—Bones to his left and Plotnikov to his right. Across the table, Geno was leaning back dubiously far in his seat, boring a hole in Sid through his pitch dark shades. Sid plucked a hand at the hem of his shirt—it was always a little snug this early on in the season, but surely not snug enough to warrant that.

He flashed Geno a quick half-smile. This could be fun.

He was in the bathroom when Geno came in, sidling up to the urinal directly next to him, standing too close and looking at Sid as he pissed.

“I’m not fucking you in here,” Sid said, just to head that right off at the pass. He knew what kind of reckless shit Geno liked to get up to—Sid didn’t want him to get any ideas.

“Why you think I say?” Geno asked, but after Sid washed his hands Geno took Sid’s face between two wet palms and pressed him up against the door and kissed him. His mouth was cool from the drinks, his tongue licking across the line of Sid’s smile. Sid’s heart sped up to a quick clip at the thought that someone could just walk in.

“I’ll go first,” Sid said when they pulled away, and he opened the door and left. There was no way it wouldn’t look suspicious if they came back together. Sid had never really paid attention to that kind of thing, but too many of the vets knew about Geno—at least in theory—and Sid didn’t want to press his luck.

Geno spent the rest of the night on his best behavior, and Sid got roped in to a pretty intense conversation with Horny and Bones about pre-workout supplements and pointedly didn’t respond to any of the glances Geno leveled his way.

Sid was a little surprised when Geno got off on his own floor at the hotel, yawning into his hand and throwing Sid a wave. But it was already going on 10pm and Geno probably needed his sleep.

Sid hung his suit up on the towel rack to steam it and jumped in the shower, and when he climbed into bed, his phone started buzzing, jittering across the nightstand.

He picked it up without looking at the display. “Hello?” he said.

“Know you need rest, but I can’t stop think,” Geno said on the other end, his voice low and rumbly in Sid’s ear. “Thought maybe you be asleep; I just leave message.”

“Think about what?” Sid asked, slipping his underwear off and tossing it to the floor. He knew what he’d been thinking about—soaping himself in the shower and thinking about Geno’s big hands on his face, imagining Geno pressing him into the shower wall. Shower sex was always less successful than he wanted it to be, but it wouldn’t stop him from trying.

“You know, Sid,” Geno mumbled, and Sid heard the telltale rustle of sheets or clothes on the other end, a belt buckle clanking open.

“Are you getting yourself off?” Sid asked, knowing full well the answer. He’d always found phone sex a little awkward, but Geno’s voice was deep, a sucker punch to Sid’s gut, and he would try to make it good. He wanted Geno under him; but this would do.

They got each other off like that, Geno’s stupid fucking moans amplified in his ear, cursing in Russian and babbling on. Sid made him describe what he was doing in painstaking detail and he toyed with his own cock and balls, luxuriating in touching himself just the way he wanted to, biting a sharp dent into his lower lip.

He sent Geno a photo a few minutes after they hung up: his soft dick lying wet against the reddened skin of his abdomen. He thought briefly about inviting Geno over, the two of them curled up on top of the covers in Sid’s hotel bed, sticky and worn out. But that probably wasn’t the kind of thing you did when you were screwing your friend.

He had blurred the lines with plenty of women over the years—passed out in their beds, made them breakfast and ate it together at his kitchen island, bare feet brushing in between their chairs. Vanessa from the rink in Halifax spent an entire summer coming over to his house to swim off his dock.

Sid wasn’t sure why these things seemed so odd now—it wasn’t like he and Geno hadn’t also been friends. Friends ate together, and didn’t care if one of them passed out on the couch after a late night movie. It was stupid of him to draw all of these arbitrary lines in the sand—as if he and Geno somehow weren’t fully grown adults who could navigate the boundary between lovers and friends.

When he went to plug his phone in, he had a text from Geno: an overdramatic photo of his sleepy face, followed by a few fire emojis and a line of z’s.

Sid smiled at it fondly, and then clicked off the light, and turned on his side to go to sleep. He was really overthinking this.

——

They lost against Dallas and Arizona, and then came home and dropped their opener in Pittsburgh—a 3-2 stinger against Montreal. It wasn’t a great start, and by the time they took the ice for morning skate against Ottawa, they were all pretty tense. Sid was trying to project a sense of calm—the rookies didn’t need to start strangling their sticks just halfway through October—but it was hard to muster the sincerity to keep a positive face.

Geno kept giving him looks during his post-skate scrum, walking back and forth from the hall to the change room to his locker for seemingly no actual reason, circling like a particularly concerned hawk. Sid was shaving post-shower when Geno came up behind him, leaning his chin on the warm round of Sid’s shoulder.

“Come over?” Geno asked, smiling at Sid a little through the mirror, his hands wrapping around Sid’s hips. Their reflections made a pretty appealing picture, Geno looming over and around him, Sid’s face half smeared with shaving cream.

Sid looked around quickly, a little nervous for anyone else to see them like this, closer than was strictly necessary. But his scrum had gone on longer than anyone else’s, and the extra five minutes in the shower had apparently been enough time for everyone else to clear out.

“Now?” he asked, settling a little into Geno’s hold, running the razor under the tap and then swiping it once across his upper lip. The rhythms of their game day routines were pretty set in stone at this point: down a shake, talk to reporters, eat lunch, sleep. Sid wasn’t much in the habit of changing.

“Mmm, I make you lunch,” Geno said, “let you sleep.”

Maybe Sid’s routine wasn’t so specific that he couldn’t do it at Geno’s—just this once. He didn’t really have any rules about his game day lunch, and the way Geno was kneading at his hips and staring sweetly at him through the mirror had him crumbling, body and resolve going liquid against his better judgement.

“Sure,” he said after a moment, “but let me finish up, okay?”

Geno smiled and turned Sid’s face in his hand to kiss him, shaving cream smudged from where his fingers dug in to Sid’s jaw. “See you home,” he said, still grinning, and left the way he came.

In the car, Sid nearly talked himself out of it, turning off the highway onto Blackburn and considering just passing right by. He didn’t want Geno beholden to him for some new superstition if they won tonight’s game, but if he went home he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t just lie in his room with the curtains pulled shut, staring at the ceiling with his thoughts turned way up.

This really wasn’t the kind of stress he needed just four games in.

The front door was unlocked at Geno’s house, and when Sid let himself in he heard Geno in the kitchen, clanging plates around on the counter.

“You want sandwich?” Geno called, when he heard the door click closed.

They ate together at the counter, sandwiches piled high with sliced chicken and tomatoes and a generous layer of spicy mustard.

“We win tonight,” Geno said, as Sid handed over his plate to be rinsed. “Don’t worry.”

“For sure,” Sid said, but he didn’t quite believe it. It was stupid to imagine it, but they were both getting pretty close to thirty—maybe time was finally catching up to them.

Geno herded Sid up to his room, the same one with the big billowy curtains and the four-poster bed. Sid hesitated for a second, standing in the middle of the room. He didn’t like to fall asleep in his jeans, but maybe he would just this once. It wasn’t like he hadn’t fallen asleep with Jack or Duper or his teammates back in the Q, but it felt more somehow—like maybe it was weird if they didn’t have sex beforehand.

“You sleep with clothes on?” Geno asked, when Sid climbed in. He’d only stripped off his zip up, but Geno was nearly naked—in basketball shorts with his chest bare and his hands cold against Sid’s arm.

“Eh, it’s okay—“ Sid said, and then yawned so he wouldn’t have to talk about it.

“Sleep, Sid,” Geno said, and Sid closed his eyes tight and tried.

When he woke up the room was bathed in hazy light and Sid was sweating all over, hair damp against his cheek, Geno curled up like some kind of limpet against Sid’s back. Sid’s head felt heavy, like he’d slept for a thousand years.

Geno’s alarm tinged quietly a minute later, steadily growing in volume until Geno reached an arm out to silence it.

“You gonna get up?” Sid asked, when Geno burrowed in close again and wrapped a big hand around Sid’s hip.

“Maybe no,” Geno said. He shifted his hand around a little, running it up and down the seam of Sid’s jeans. Sid felt his body going rigid. He was pretty fond of a lazy afternoon screw, but they’d have to take a rain check.

“You wanna?” Geno asked, laying a kiss to the back of Sid’s neck. They probably had a good fifteen minutes, and maybe Sid could get Geno on his knees in the shower, but he was feeling itchy. It wasn’t like they were going to carpool. He needed to go home and change and be first to the rink.

“Later,” Sid said, shifting up and out of Geno’s grip. “We don’t have time.” The wet touch of Geno’s mouth felt like a bruise on the back of his neck. A traitorous part of him wanted to lie back down and roll over and let Geno do whatever he wanted. Fuck the rules and fuck the game.

He stopped at his house on the way to the rink, to change and brush his teeth and not think at all about how deeply he had slept, curled up warm in Geno’s giant bed. At the game that night, they shut out the Senators 2-0.

“My bed is lucky,” Geno said to him, falling in step with Sid on the way to their cars. Sid felt himself warm inside, but he pushed the feeling down and looked at Geno with a sideways grin.

“Oh, yeah?” he said, knocking their shoulders together. He could flirt with Geno without remorse—it was fun, easy, uncomplicated. “Well, if you say so.”

——

They won two more games and Sid felt like maybe he could settle a little—the first three games were just a fluke, it was fine, they were building something. After practice one day, Tanger and Flower and Duper took him out for lunch, downtown in the square. It was starting to get colder, but Sid felt like summer lasted longer and longer each year—it was still hovering above 15 degrees, and they took advantage and nabbed a table outside.

A few fans came up to them while they laughed and nursed their drinks, but they were friendly—the dog they had with them happy to be pet and cooed over—and Sid didn’t mind too much being recognized from time to time. The city had given him a lot over the years, and it would never be a hardship.

Halfway through their meal, Sid got a text from Geno: costume okay??? followed by a photo of him in front of the mirror, body long in some overly styled sheriff’s uniform, sunglasses low on his nose, his mouth turned up in a smirk. He looked so fucking hot, and the whole ridiculous look of it was doing more for Sid than he wanted to admit—his hair so messed up Sid wanted to drag his hands through it.

those handcuffs look a little small ;) Sid sent back. They were impractically tiny—clipped to his pants with a carabiner, clearly plastic.

“What are you smiling about?” Tanger asked, trying to peek around the edge of the table where Sid was hiding his phone. Sid locked the screen and pocketed it. Those nosy assholes didn’t need to see a thing.

Sid couldn’t stop thinking about it all through lunch—talking to Duper about his adorable children and trying very hard to keep his concentration on their backyard soccer antics and not Geno—his long legs in those leather pants, the smug look on his face. Sid wanted to drive over to Geno’s house and put him on his knees and watch him smirk like that around Sid’s cock—not a single thought even remotely appropriate for a friendly lunch.

Geno had seen them walk out to lunch together; he knew full well what he was doing.

Sid pulled the photo up again when he got to his car, zooming in on it and committing every painstakingly embarrassing detail to memory.

Geno had sent no less than ten eyeless smilies in reply, followed by what’s your costume??, but Sid had no earthly idea. He hadn’t given it more than a passing thought, and pretty much never did.

not sure yet he said.

Geno started typing almost immediately. party this week! come over, i help you.

Sid had some stuff he wanted to do around the house, but he didn’t feel like arguing—and maybe if he let Geno prod at him for a while, they could go home after and screw.

When he pulled into the driveway, Geno was already waiting—leaning up against his driver’s side door and texting at breakneck speed.

“Follow me,” Geno said, and climbed in. Sid wasn’t sure why they couldn’t have just agreed upon a place beforehand, but he was glad Geno wasn’t offering to drive him. His speeding was pretty atrocious, even after all these years.

They ended up at a store on the other side of town, some Halloween superstore that was only open for a few months of the year. There was a huge spider hanging from the entryway when they came in, its eyes bugging out in warning. Hopefully they could be in and out; he didn’t need anything special.

“What you think is good?” Geno asked, leafing through the racks. “Cop? Caveman? Nerd?”

Sid wasn’t sure that any of those sounded appealing, but no costume ever really had. He tended to go for low maintenance, something he could build out of his own closet. His ability to have a good time at the team party in no way depended on being well dressed.

Sid just shrugged, running his hands along a few items hanging from hooks—some eye patches, a bunch of packages of fake teeth, a really hairy werewolf mask that smelled weird and looked like it would be insanely hot.

After a while, Geno meandered back from one of the other aisles, shoved the pile of clothes in Sid’s arms, and directed him to one of the dressing rooms.

Sid stripped down and inspected what he’d been given—some amalgamation of a fireman’s outfit, breakaway pants, suspenders, and weirdly rubbery lace up boots. He put it all on and snapped a picture—skin goosebumping in the blast of in-store air conditioning. There was no way he was wearing it like this to the team-sponsored party, but he could admit that his body looked, well, pretty okay.

you forgot the shirt he sent along with the photo and Geno sent back a line of winking emojis in return. i’m not wearing this he sent back. It was one hundred percent Geno’s M.O., but he looked straight out of some pretty niche porn; there was no fucking way.

But Geno wore him down—running Sid through a list of alternatives that varied from far too involved to just plain embarrassing until he crumbled, rubbing his temples in defeat.

“I’m definitely wearing a shirt under this,” he told Geno on the way out, bumping their hips together as they walked to their cars. The weather outside was cloudy—the familiar beginning-of-autumn-in-Pittsburgh grey. The parking lot was deserted as expected on a weekday afternoon.

“My loss,” Geno said when they stopped near Sid’s car, biting a smile off around his tongue. Sid popped the trunk and tossed the shopping bag inside, and when he walked around to open the door, Geno rounded to the other side and climbed into the passenger seat.

“Did you forget you drove here?” Sid asked.

“Shh,” Geno said, and he scanned the surroundings through the window and then leaned over and settled a hand on Sid’s arm and kissed him, quick and without tongue. Sid felt his stomach move in one long telltale swoop.

“I’m take Plotnikov out tonight,” Geno explained, his eyes and his voice teeming with apology. “But I want to do.”

Geno squeezed his arm and climbed out of the car, and Sid tried not to think about what that meant, all the easy affections, unconnected to anything more. They were nice, and he and Geno were friends first—who was to say this wasn’t normal?

Sid liked it, but it didn’t have to mean anything.

——

The night of the Halloween party, Sid sent a photo to Tanger while he was getting dressed. does this shirt look okay? he asked, because he’d dug it out of the back of his closet and it was a little too tight, a plain deep blue, gripping his shoulders.

why can i see your nipples?

Sid shifted from side to side in front of the mirror trying to analyze it—could you really see? But he felt pretty stupid. It was just a shirt; it would be dark anyway, and everyone would be drunk enough to forget to care.

He was running uncharacteristically late, and when he showed up, most of the team was already there: the rookies set up in the corner playing flip cup in their wigs and masks, Tanger and Bones trying to get the DJ to change the song.

“Does anyone smell smoke?” Maureen said, coming up behind Sid and pinching his side. She had a wild white wig on, and goggles pushed down over her eyes. Her gloved hand was wrapped around the neck of two beers.

“I’ve never heard that one before,” Sid said, smiling. “Where can I get one of those?”

She helped him find the cooler, and then Sid posted up with his drink and his friends, spending most of the rest of the night watching Dumo and Rusty try to breakdance—and trying and failing not to laugh.

It was a nice reprieve from what was, so far, a weird fucking season. Duper was finally off of IR and the team was stringing together a few wins, but Sid just—he’d scored his first three points against Florida a week back, a goal and a pair of assists. He was trying not to think too hard about it.

Geno spent most of the night trailing around with Plots, who still didn’t know much English and hadn’t had too easy of a time acclimating to the team. Sid watched them a little, wiping the floor with Beau and Perron during beer pong. He was pretty embarrassed to admit just how fucking good he thought Geno looked in that stupid police getup.

Around the time that everything was beginning to wind down, Geno came to find him, swooping in after Kuni and Maureen said their goodbyes.

“Looking good,” Geno said, looking Sid up and down, “wonder who help you pick out.” He grinned at Sid, that goofy million-watt grin, and snapped one of Sid’s suspenders against his chest.

“Some shmuck,” Sid said, and leaned in close enough that he could lower his voice. “Did you drive here? Want a ride home?”

“Plots drive me,” Geno said. Sid just hummed a bit in acknowledgement; it certainly wasn’t a no.

Plots and his girlfriend said their goodbyes shortly thereafter, and Geno begged wanting to stay, and there Sid had his easy excuse. He was just a concerned friend and captain, he and Geno lived nearby to each other, nothing was out of place.

Geno trailed after him when he left, putting a hand on the small of Sid’s back once they were far enough into the parking deck that the stairwell lights were dim. Sid felt the warm press of it like a phantom touch the whole drive home, watching out of the corner of his eye as the orange lamplights flashed across Geno’s upturned face.

“You okay to stay over?” Sid asked, as they hovered together on the front stoop to unlock to the door. “I don’t think I’ll be awake enough to drive you.”

“That’s plan, no?” Geno asked, mouth turned in a little smile. But he hovered in the foyer for a moment, back against the door like he was feeling a little more cautious than he let on. Maybe Sid had overstepped.

“C’mere,” Sid said, slipping a hand through Geno’s belt and tugging him in. “It’s okay if you don’t want to—I can call a car.”

Geno took his sunglasses off, tucking them into his shirt pocket. “I say it’s fine, Sid—“ he said, looking at Sid directly, “don’t fuss.” He ran his hands up and down Sid’s shirt, and he looked confident and sure.

Sid had been so wrapped up in thinking that maybe it was Geno who needed Sid to be cautious, that it was Geno who was unsure.

Maybe it really was Sid who wasn’t sure.

But it wasn’t going to stop him—Geno looked so good and smiled at him so sweetly and Sid wanted to be close to him. He didn’t want to have to analyze it and he certainly didn’t want to have to think about the headache of a season he was having.

“Let’s go upstairs,” Sid said, and smiled in a way that he hoped looked believable. In his room, he backed Geno up against the dresser and wrestled his belt open. Geno swore under his breath when Sid put a hand on him through his underwear.

“Sid,” Geno said, drawing in a quick breath and holding it.

“I’m gonna suck you, okay?” Sid said, looking Geno in the eye, hoping that was enough to convey just how much he wanted to. He really fucking wanted to.

He hadn’t sucked much dick over the summer, maybe once or twice. One guy had been really into it—holding his hands in Sid’s hair during and tracing a thumb around Sid’s mouth after to swipe up the remains of his come. Sid wondered if Geno might be into that. Would he want to come in Sid’s mouth?

Geno touched one hand to Sid’s neck at first, a little unsure, and Sid put his own hand over it to hold it in place as he pulled Geno’s pants down, the handcuffs clanking a little when they hit the floor.

“Keep this on?” Geno asked, thumbing against the collar of Sid’s shirt. Sid wasn’t sure what difference it made. “Don’t wanna make mess.”

Sid got the hint. He’d definitely had an awkward incident his rookie year—he’d come too soon and all over the neck of the girl’s blouse and she’d been thoroughly unimpressed. He didn’t really care about this shirt, but, well—

Once he stripped to the waist, Geno put both hands on him, thumbs at his temples guiding him forward. Geno’s dick was hot through his underwear and then hot and hard in Sid’s mouth, a welcome weight, probably too fucking big for his jaw to handle for very long, but he didn’t care.

He didn’t have to think of anything while Geno’s dick was in his mouth—nothing except the soft slide of Geno’s skin over his tongue and the salty smear over the head. When it started to get a little hard to move his jaw, Sid shifted his mouth from side to side and Geno pressed his thumb into the curve of his jaw and cheek, massaging a little.

“You need stop?” he asked, and sure, it hurt a little, but Sid didn’t want to. He shook his head, rolling his tongue until he could feel the tickle of the hair at the base of Geno’s dick.

“Sid—“ Geno said, and thrust forward a little roughly. Sid didn’t fancy himself an expert, but he was pretty good with his mouth in plenty of other ways, and Geno seemed pretty into it. It didn’t take much longer for Geno to get close, curling his fingers in the hair behind Sid’s ears, mumbling something Sid couldn’t hear.

When Geno came, Sid slid back until just the head was in his mouth, suckling a little until he was spent and then pressing up to stand. They stood there for a moment, lazily exchanging kisses until Geno twisted away.

“Dresser is poking me,” Geno said, hanging his head a little, one hand curled around Sid’s side to keep him from going very far.

“You’ll live,” Sid said, smiling and sliding in close for another kiss. Geno was a big baby about pain pretty much all the time, but Sid found that he mostly felt fond.

Sid felt sleepier the more that they kissed, a bit aroused, worn down from a night out, ankles itchy in his rubber boots. He wanted to get off, but more than that he just wanted to flop into bed and pass out for a good nine hours.

“Mmm, let’s clean up,” he said, tugging at the tails of Geno’s shirt to pull him toward the bathroom.

“You not want?” Geno asked, eyes flicking down to Sid’s dick, which was still half hard in his breakaways.

Sid scrubbed a hand across his hair and face, yawning into his arm. “I’m a little beat,” he said, “c’mon—we can do it in the morning.”

The promise of the morning felt heavy. Sid hadn’t woken up with someone who actually planned to stick around in a long while, but Geno was probably pretty used to it and Sid was trying not to make his nervousness known.

He stripped Geno of his shirt and towed him into the bathroom, brushing their teeth together in front of the mirror, jockeying for space. They looked pretty ridiculous.

After, Sid pushed Geno into bed until he flopped on his back, and then stripped off the rest of his costume and climbed in after. When he pulled the covers up over them, Geno was still looking at him with dark eyes.

“Sure you too sleep?” he asked, one of his hands running a warm line from Sid’s chest to his thigh.

“I’m sure,” Sid said, but he burrowed his face into Geno’s neck, smiling and sucking a wet kiss in the curve.

He listened to Geno fall asleep like that, his breathing and his heartbeat evening out until it was just a soundtrack of rhythm. Afterward, Sid rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling fan rolling around and around, and then he closed his eyes and tried not to think about anything.

——

In the morning, Sid woke up sweaty under too many covers and Geno’s long limbs, and he extracted himself carefully and ambled off to the shower. When he came back in the room, Geno was sitting up against the headboard and rubbing his eyes.

“Sorry,” Sid said, dropping his towel, “I still smelled like ass from the smoke machine last night.” He turned to rifle through the dresser for a pair of clean sweats, but Geno made a noise of protest.

“Come over,” Geno said, impatiently pulling the comforter back and patting the empty spot next to him. “You say tomorrow morning.”

Sid smiled and draped the sweatpants over the lip of the open drawer and climbed onto the bed. “You holding me to it?” he asked, like he hadn’t already planned on it himself.

“I hold you for sure,” Geno said, and put a hand around Sid’s waist and pulled him on top and let him rub off like that, dick snug in the crease of Geno’s hip, Geno’s hands cupping the curve of his ass.

Sid came with his face tucked in Geno’s neck, breathing jerkily and biting down a little as he striped Geno’s abdomen. Afterward, Geno held him there, one hand threading through the wet mess of his hair, mumbling lowly in Russian. Sid was a little curious to know what he was saying, but maybe he didn’t want to know. Maybe Geno was just rattling off a to-do list. It sounded sweet, his voice soft in Sid’s ear.

Geno stuck around for a little after that—loitering around in the kitchen while Sid made breakfast, wearing one of Sid’s hoodies unzipped over his bare chest.

“Sorry can’t stay,” Geno said while they ate, shoveling eggs into his mouth, “Max bringing Milanka over after lunch.”

“It’s fine,” Sid said—and it was probably for the best, anyway. He had a phone interview to do around dinnertime, but his schedule was otherwise wide open. Breakfast could easily turn into screwing around all day, training together, falling asleep watching TV. Asking Geno to stay over again was probably not in his best interest, most especially because a part of him really wanted to.

He drove Geno home shortly after in his borrowed clothes, most of his costume folded up in a grocery bag. When Sid pulled into Geno’s long, winding driveway, Geno lingered in the car for a few minutes with the engine idling.

“Road trip soon,” Geno said, and smiled at Sid and put his hand on Sid’s hand over the gear shift. “Maybe you help me sleep in hotels too.”

His hair looked silly, all tufted up in cowlicks around his head. Sid wanted to reach out and smooth it down, but that was probably a little weird.

“Yeah,” Sid said, “maybe I will.”

——

In the last game before the road trip—a win against Buffalo—Geno was on fire, swooping around the offensive zone all night, scoring a wicked goal on the power play to break their abysmal cold streak. Sid still wasn’t feeling particularly settled, but even he picked up a couple of points in the first, pressing to create something.

He smiled at Geno across the locker room that night, just before the media filed in for their nightly scrum. Geno was stripped to the waist, his compression shorts clinging wet to his legs, and he scrunched his face up and let Horny squirt water over it, and then grinned back in Sid’s direction, wide and blinding.

They flew to Toronto the next afternoon after practice and Sid slept the entirety of the hour flight, curled up next to Flower, sweatshirt draped over his eyes. Geno caught up with him on their way to the bus, hand on Sid’s shoulder to slow him down.

“You going out tonight?” he asked. He had his giant sunglasses pushed up on top of his head, squinting into the glare of the late afternoon sun.

“Probably not,” Sid said. He usually liked to show his face for team dinners, but they didn’t really have a consensus for tonight and Sid was still feeling pretty sore down one side of his ribs. “I might turn in early.”

“I text you later, okay?” Geno said, and his hand squeezed a few times against Sid’s neck and then dropped back down to his side. “Maybe you still awake.”

Sid was only kind of awake when Geno texted, slumped halfway down the headboard, scrolling through game tape on his tablet.

you up??? i have treat for you

Sid rolled his eyes and smiled as he responded. He was pretty sure that the ‘treat’ was going to be something decidedly unfit for public consumption—but when he opened the door, Geno was holding a small paper box in his hands.

“Kuni says you like,” Geno said, sitting on the edge of the bed and popping the lid. Inside was a single banana chocolate chip cupcake, the same one he’d bought for himself an embarrassing number of times over the years. Kuni would probably never stop razzing him about it, but they were really fucking good.

“You told him this was for me?” Sid asked, unsure how Geno had somehow gotten away with telling their teammates he was planning to bring Sid sweets at well past ten o’clock at night.

“No,” Geno said. “We at dinner nearby and when we pass he’s like ‘Sid always make me go in here’ and so I say we have to try—he tells me this your favorite flavor, I tell him I’m too full to eat now, but I buy and try later.”

Sid laughed; he was stupidly enamored by the gesture and Geno’s antics. “Definitely don’t tell him you gave this to me,” he said, but he reached into the box to pull the cupcake out. It smelled just as good as he remembered.

He peeled the wrapper off and set it on his bare thigh, and then dug his thumb under the rim of the cupcake top, twisting until he could pop the bottom off and stack it atop the smear of banana icing—the perfect sandwich.

He ate most of it that way, each bite so good he wasn’t even mad about the extra time he would put in on the bike tomorrow to work it off. When there was one bite left, he held it out toward Geno. “You want this?” he asked, a little muffled around what was left to swallow.

Geno just looked back at him with a confused look on his face, his brow a little crooked, lips pressed together like he was trying not to laugh. Sid wasn’t sure what was so funny. Did he have something on his face?

“Why you eat like that?” Geno asked, offended, but he took the offered piece and shoved it in his mouth. “So weird, Sid.”

He clearly didn’t think it was that weird, because he was still smiling. “You get all the stuff in every bite this way,” Sid explained. It was clearly the best method. He hated getting way too much icing at first and then ending up with just dry cake for the last couple of bites. He was just optimizing.

Geno’s smile grew wider, and he shoved at Sid’s shoulder until he fell back on the bed, climbing on top of him, the cupcake wrapper trapped between their thighs.

“You’re gonna make a mess,” Sid said, only weakly protesting. Geno looked at him for a long moment, and then reached down to pluck the wrapper out, crumpled it in his hand, and tossed it on the nightstand. When he climbed back on top of Sid, he was still wearing all of his clothes, coat and shoes and all. “Are you planning on sleeping in that?” Sid asked, tugging at his sleeve.

Sid watched, unmoving, as Geno stood up and stripped, tripping over his own feet trying to pull off his boots, throwing his coat and his pants and the rest of his clothes in the direction of the door. Sid really liked watching him, the long soft lines of his body, the shape of his ass when he pulled down his underwear.

Sid had never really thought he had a type, but Geno was really doing it for him; he was pretty addicted.

Even after the sugar boost, he was still feeling pretty drowsy, and he mostly let Geno have his way—sinking himself back into the duvet and letting Geno palm him and ruck up his shirt and suck on his stomach. Geno seemed pretty into it; Sid was happy to indulge.

“When you let me fuck you?” Geno asked, his hand up under the leg Sid’s underwear, running fingers under the curve of Sid’s ass.

“Not tonight,” Sid said, “game tomorrow, I’m already banged up.” But he let Geno finger him, jacking lazily at his own dick with his legs bent at the knee. It always felt like a lot, even with just a few fingers; he chalked it up to relative inexperience, but maybe he would never get used to it. Geno was particularly aggressive about it, sliding in and out, aided a bit by some lotion from Sid’s toiletry kit. The curl of his fingers against Sid’s prostate was pretty filthy.

Sid came like that, Geno knuckle deep in him, his own fingers wrapped tight around the head of his dick—pushing the foreskin down just enough for his come to dribble out across his stomach.

“So hot, Sid,” Geno said, staring at him with wide, dark eyes, cursing to himself in Russian, a few choice words that Sid knew. He barely blinked while he got himself off, pulling his hand out and swiping it across Sid’s stomach, smearing the wet mess of it down his dick, jacking himself fast and tight until he came across Sid’s softening cock and balls.

“I was right about you making a mess, eh?” Sid said, wiping his sweaty forehead against Geno’s shoulder when Geno flopped down next to him.

“Not only me,” Geno said. He reached out to thread a hand through Sid’s hair, and tilted his head back and leaned down to kiss him, lazily and full of tongue. Sid felt himself get a little lost in it, licking into Geno’s mouth, Geno’s hand holding him around the back of his neck. His nails were scratching a little through the long hair at Sid’s nape and it felt so fucking good that Sid’s body kept trying to sink back into the sensation.

“This has been really nice,” Sid said, pulling back. “With you, I mean.” Geno’s gaze softened and Sid watched him, looking up and down between his spit-shiny mouth and his dark dark eyes. A thick curl of hair had fallen down onto his forehead; Sid couldn’t resist the urge to reach out and swipe it away.

Geno was pretty funny, sharp and a little mean, but Sid hadn’t expected this—this overwhelmingly tender side of him. Sid thought that maybe he should feel put off by it. Certainly none of the other friends he’d screwed around with had ever treated him like this. But he found that he didn’t mind, and maybe he liked it more, even. This side of Geno that few got to see, a little private, easily bruised.

Sid kind of loved it; their own stupid little secret thing. He hoped that Geno felt the same.

“C’mon,” Sid said, and twisted away from Geno’s hold, patting a sweaty hand on Geno’s chest as he sat up, “it’s late, let’s go to bed.”

——

The trip continued much the same. They shut out Toronto the next afternoon and then flew to Vancouver for an extended stay—a blissful three days of practice and bonding between games. Sid always enjoyed these trips, and it was pretty nice to have one this early in the season—spending valuable time together doing the stupid touristy things they always did, shoring up a common drive to get their season on track, hopefully for good.

Dumo convinced some of the older guys to let him plan the team meals, and they ended up at a fusion seafood place one afternoon that was pretty fucking good. Sid got the impression that Dumo cared a lot more about food than any of the rest of them put together, which was perfectly fine, as far as Sid’s appetite was concerned.

Sid tried to get Geno to come along with him and Fehr and Tishy to the Maritime Museum, but Geno wouldn’t be swayed, not even when Sid slid a hand inside the back of his sweats to fondle his ass. He took a number of discreet photos with his cell phone during the tour, including one of a giant stuffed polar bear that he texted to Geno with the caption: your friends are here—you’re missing out ;).

Geno responded to him as they were leaving, a pretty terrible photo of himself from below, sticking out his tongue with his eyes closed, an ice cream cone in his free hand. hmmm no you miss he wrote, and followed it up with at least five ice cream emojis and a peach. Sid looked at it for a long moment and then saved it—a little guiltily—to his phone.

Most of the vets met up later at some pub in Gastown, where they could push a few bar tables together on the second floor balcony and loiter around and drink. Geno was sitting against the wall with Horny, but when he saw Sid walk in, he rose from his seat and beckoned him over with an enthusiastic wave of his hand.

“Sit, sit!” Geno said, patting his hand on the seat. Sid felt a little awkward about it—he could stand just fine—but Geno was well on his way to drunk and wouldn’t be swayed.

“He owe you a favor, cap?” Horny asked, once Sid slid onto the stool. He was looking at Sid like he was just barely containing laughter. Sid just grabbed a handful of peanuts from the bowl in front of him and shrugged his shoulders, as if to say ‘oh, you know how Geno is.’

The problem was that he did know how Geno was, and it certainly didn’t involve being so public with his attentions—putting a hand on Sid’s hip absentmindedly while he talked to Fehr, leaning his body on Sid’s shoulders and reaching over him to steal handfuls of popcorn and sips of Kuni’s beer. Had it always been this way? No one seemed to blink; maybe Sid just hadn’t noticed at all.

“I’m gonna roll this idiot home,” Sid announced to the table, once Geno got drunk and gregarious enough to start dancing, trying and failing to spin Bones around while everyone yelled obscenities at them and Duper filmed them with his phone.

“We’ll see if he lets me fine him for this later,” Duper said, a hand on Sid’s shoulder as he lifted himself from his seat.

Sid snorted a laugh. There was no fucking way.

Geno leaned heavily on him as Sid bullied him past the throng of people on the first floor and out onto the sidewalk. One of the door guys tried to stop them for an autograph, and Sid hoped that the look he gave was appropriately apologetic.

“Sorry, man,” he said, gesturing a hand to Geno who had one long arm draped over Sid’s shoulders. He didn’t like to say no, but, well.

It took twice as long as it should have to walk back to the hotel, winding the streets, a little cold without his jacket, a late night breeze from the Pacific blowing through. Their floor was deserted when they stepped out of the elevator.

“Gimme your room key,” Sid said, elbowing Geno until he dug through his pockets and deposited his entire wallet in Sid’s palm. “You’re gonna regret this at practice tomorrow,” he said once they got inside the room. Geno deposited himself on the bed, leaning back on his hands and laughing a little.

“Mmm, maybe you go easy on me,” Geno said, and he leered at Sid with dark eyes, spreading his knees wide like he wanted Sid to come stand between them. He only looked a little ridiculous—his smile listing drunkenly to the side, his bangs a mess against his forehead. Sid was still pretty tempted.

“Fat chance, buddy,” Sid said, and then he walked into the bathroom and took a leak and scrubbed at his face, listening to Geno humming to himself from beyond the bathroom door. He filled a paper cup with water and rooted through Geno’s toiletry case, sifting through the medicine bottles trying to decipher based on pill shape alone.

“Find me your painkillers,” he said, dropping the whole case on Geno’s lap. He wasn’t sure why Geno hadn’t switched over to readily available American medications by this point, or how he even got any of this past customs, but whatever.

Geno pulled a bottle out and popped a few in his mouth, washing them down with water from the paper cup. Sid watched his throat move while he undressed, and then crawled into bed after Geno flopped on his back, reaching an arm over him to turn off the light.

“What was up with you tonight?” Sid asked into the dark.

“Hmm?” Geno mumbled, face half smashed into his pillow, “what you mean, what’s up?” Sid watched him shift around until they were facing each other, his eyes little pinpoints of light in the pitch black of the room.

Sid thought about it for a moment, that weird swirling in his gut, discomfort or contentment, maybe both. He was probably overthinking it. Geno flirted with everyone, happy to touch and roughhouse with the lot of them. Sid wasn’t even sure what he was scared of. That someone would know that he liked it?

“Never mind,” Sid said. “This is working for you, right? What we’re doing?”

Geno’s eyes narrowed, his brow scrunching up. He suddenly looked much more sober. “Why you don’t think it works for me?”

“I don’t know,” Sid said. He rubbed a hand up and down the bone of Geno’s forearm. He felt so relaxed lately, and the light of Geno’s attention had been the best distraction from every other stupid thing in his life. But Geno gave a lot of people his attention; Sid hoped a little that whatever he’d been given was—special, more. “It’s been good—for me, it’s been a nice break from everything that’s going on, you know?”

Geno laughed a little, voice rough from shouting all night. “I tell you if I don’t like, okay?” he said, and then pressed the cold tips of his fingers against Sid’s chest. “I know you captain, but I know how tell you no.”

Sid opened his mouth to speak, but Geno put his hand over it. “No, shh—sleep,” he said.

——

Sid felt pretty good the next day, settled. He went down to the lobby Starbucks and grabbed a coffee and left it on Geno’s nightstand, and then snuck back to his own room, barely touched, the sheets still tucked neatly under the mattress from the day before.

He went to the arena and rode the bike on autopilot. It was early and he was the only one in the weight room, the music and the fans turned down low. Maybe he would ask Geno to grab dinner with him tonight, if he didn’t want to go back after practice and fall straight into bed. It was easy to think about hanging out with him and it felt like all he wanted to do lately—the sex was good, he was fun and sweet and liked to push Sid’s buttons. All of it was a distraction, much easier to plan around than Duper’s blood clots, or his line that wouldn’t work, or the one goal he’d barely scored, a whole month into the season.

Geno wanted to get sushi at dinner, because he always did, but the fish was always pretty good in Vancouver. He let Geno order for the both of them, an alarming amount of hand rolls and sashimi. Waiters never really got over how much a table of athletes needed to eat.

They were seated by the window and it was nice. They had a view of the bay and the ocean stretching out beyond, and the sake Geno insisted on was good, and the conversation was better. Geno knew better than to ask Sid about his game, but he prattled on for a while about Max’s daughter’s latest milestones, and the vacation his parents were taking to Spain, and how excited he was for Gonch to come stay with him, even if it was just for part of the year.

“You wanna head out?” Sid asked, long after the check had been signed, both of them just sitting back and talking, lazily sipping their water. “I think Flower said he had a group of guys doing dinner and drinks, we could probably catch—“

“Let’s go back,” Geno said, shaking his head. He wasn’t usually one to turn down a night out. It made Sid feel pretty special to think that he was worth that much of Geno’s undivided attention. Sid was glad this hadn’t blown up in their faces; it had made them better friends.

They argued in the elevator about whose room to head to, and they ended up in Sid’s mostly by process of elimination. There was no way the cleaning staff wouldn’t notice if he didn’t sleep there two nights in a row. They were already being pretty stupid by staying over like this, but the team had a whole wing of one floor blocked off, and Geno’s room was just across the hall. It felt like a convenient excuse.

Geno went back to his room for a few minutes to change and came back in his sweatpants while Sid was trying to figure out the remote for the TV. They settled in to watch a movie that quickly turned into making out, Sid’s hand down the front of Geno’s pants while Geno watched the screen with one open eye.

“Are you ever gonna let me actually watch?” Sid asked after he got Geno off. Geno just smirked at him, leaning smugly against a stack of pillows, wiping at himself with a tissue.

“You watch if you want,” Geno said, and shrugged his shoulders and twisted his mouth, “I don’t need touch you, it’s okay.” It took Sid a moment to realize that he wasn’t serious, and by then Geno’s mouth was a tightly held line, his eyes shining, seconds away from bursting out laughing.

“You’re such a dick,” Sid said, and he grabbed a pillow from behind his own back and shoved it at Geno’s face and then followed it down grinning ear to ear.

——

They beat Vancouver soundly, up 3-0 by midway through the third, and Vancouver tried to rally but couldn’t come back. Sid even scored a goal—his second of the season—a redirected pass from Kessel in front of the net. It felt pretty good to hear the buzz of the goal horn, and better still to see Geno’s smiling face on the bench after, leaning in close to bump their shoulders together.

“You do good, Sid,” he said, and Sid felt a little like he was floating, buoyed by the praise. Geno was largely their best player on the ice right now, trying desperately to hold the team up through all of their dysfunction. It wasn’t nothing.

The good feelings didn’t last long. In Edmonton, Duper was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons, and Sid spent the whole game with a sick feeling swirling around in his chest. He’d had to hear about it from Tanger, who pulled him aside while he was making his sandwich and spoke to him quick and softly, half in French. Sid’s stomach tightened up so much that he could barely choke down his sandwich, each bite like lead when he swallowed.

Geno kept watching him on the bench, seemingly aware that something was up. He dropped down into Kuni’s empty stall during intermission and put a hand on Sid’s thigh over his pants and tried to say something, but Sid could barely think. How had he missed it? Surely there had been signs.

But he had been too busy: cocooned in Geno’s orbit, basking in the light of his time and attentions. How long had he been looking after Geno in the locker room, drifting toward him in the lounge, instead of just keeping an eye on the team and doing his fucking job?

He was still running hot in the change room after the game, stripping off his gear and his base layers, everything drenched in sweat. He showered in complete silence, facing away from everyone, the tap just cold enough that he thought it might calm him down.

Geno was waiting for him when he got out, leaning over in his stall and fiddling with his phone.

“Tanger asks about you,” Geno said, when Sid dropped down roughly into a vacant stall. “I tell him you fine, but I don’t think you fine.”

Sid breathed in and back out. “I don’t wanna talk about it,” he snapped, and then because that was probably a little too harsh he added, “Sorry.” He was trying to calm the fuck down. The bus would leave for the airport in a few minutes and he wasn’t nearly ready to sit next to Flower’s keen eye for the hour they would be in the air.

Duper met them at the airport, bundled up in his coat, hat pulled down low. He smiled at Sid when he stepped off the bus, but the edges of it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

“I’m all clear,” he said, patting Sid on the shoulder like he was giving a pep talk. “Right as rain.”

Sid tried to will the knot in his stomach to unravel, but it wouldn’t. Flower thankfully gave him his space—took one look at him, pulled his eye mask down, and turned toward the window.

They checked in to the hotel just before one in the morning, and when Sid got to his room he tossed his suitcase on the desk chair and stripped out of his clothes and fell into bed.

Sleep didn’t come easy. He turned back and forth on top of the sheet for a while, and then got up to run his hands under the tap in the bathroom and did a couple of slow dynamic stretches before he tried to fall back asleep. In the dark, his thoughts seemed large—he hadn’t known. It was his job to know, to take care of them: his friends, his team.

But it was also his job to be good for them—a leader on the ice—and he hadn’t been able to do even that. How had Geno been able to pull it off? He had been heating up all season, trying to take the team on his back, hold them accountable. And maybe it was taking a while, but he was trying. All Sid was trying to do was forget about his scoring frustrations and find more and more creative ways to get into Geno’s bed.

He let himself wallow for another minute or two before he tugged on his sweatpants and padded down the hall to Geno’s door, safe knowing that most of the team would be dead to the world by now. Maybe Geno would be too, but he would give it a couple knocks and then suck it up and go back to bed.

He waited for a minute after the second knock, leaning against the jamb of the door. He heard the sound of the door chain clicking open, and the electronic buzz of the main lock, and Geno was on the other side in just his basketball shorts, his hair sticking up in a million different directions, a bright red duvet crease across his chest.

“Mmm, why you awake?” Geno asked, furrowing his brow a bit and standing aside so Sid could come into the room. Geno’s suitcase was thrown open, his clothes a mini explosion across the floor.

“How did you manage to make this much of a mess already?” Sid asked, stepping over some briefs and a lone athletic slide to sit down on the edge of the bed.

“Shorts in bottom of bag,” Geno said. “Sid, why you here? It’s late.” He came over to sit down next to Sid, one hand dropped flat on Sid’s thigh, their arms brushing. The skin of Geno’s arm was a little chilled, like he’d been pretty deep into sleep.

Sid thought for a moment: why was he here? He was stressed, certainly, but Geno couldn’t fix Duper’s fucking health problems and Geno couldn’t fix Sid’s bad fucking luck. And maybe this whole thing was the problem, but he didn’t really want to think about any of it right now, and he felt—he needed to get to sleep.

“I don’t know, I—“ he said, scrubbing at the side of his hair where it was matted down from sleeping on the plane, “Duper going to the hospital today just really threw me off, you know? I don’t know—I just wanna get some sleep.”

“Can’t sleep in room?” Geno asked, but his face was touched with a hint of a smile when Sid looked at him, the corner of his mouth pulled up.

“I sleep pretty good with you,” Sid said, which felt a little like an admission of guilt, but he was too tired for that to give him much pause. Geno’s smile grew at that, and he tugged a little at the waistband of Sid’s sweats to get his attention, and motioned to him as he slid up the bed.

“C’mon, okay,” Geno said, and he pulled back the pile of the duvet and repositioned the pillows, “c’mon, it’s late.”

Sid shifted up until his head hit the pillow, and then he listed a bit to the side and let himself lean on Geno’s shoulder. His hand drifted over Geno’s stomach, scratching idly at the sparse patch of hair that disappeared under the waist of his shorts.

He breathed in and out, long sips of breath. Beside him, Geno turned his head to mumble a little into Sid’s neck, something indistinguishable—gibberish or maybe Russian.

In the morning he would feel better. Duper was fine, sleeping not too far down the hall. The team had won three in a row on the road. He needed to trust the process. Everything would turn out okay.

——

In the morning, he woke up sore, his eyes dry from the stale hotel air. Geno was snoring softly next to him, his shaky breaths tickling Sid’s shoulder. Through the curtains, a single harsh beam of sunlight was shining.

All Sid wanted to do was sink further into bed, back into the warmth of Geno’s sleeping body, but he needed to get up and back to his room, take a shower, head to the rink. Nothing sounded less appealing.

And it was clear that it was part of the problem. He still couldn’t really shake it, the thought that maybe he just wasn’t there for his team like he’d always been. Maybe they couldn’t rely on him to jumpstart their offense right now, but they needed him for something. So many of the empty moments of the season had been whiled away in Geno’s easy company. Sid thought it had been helping take the edge off, but it was clear that he was being selfish about it. He needed to be a team player. It needed to stop.

He got up and walked into the en suite and splashed some water on his face and tried not to think about how much he would miss it—how much he would miss Geno, his easy presence filling up all the small, insignificant moments of Sid’s day. When he walked back out to the bedroom, Geno was just starting to stir, half leaned up in bed and rubbing at his eyes.

“Sid?” Geno asked, his voice cottony with sleep. “Why you up?”

Sid felt odd just lingering in the doorway of the bathroom, so he came to sit down on the bed, bouncing a little as the mattress swayed. “Gotta get back before the guys are up—“ he said. “Don’t think there’s a good excuse for me to be roaming the halls like this at half past six, eh?”
He gestured a hand to himself: his bare chest, sweatpants slung low over his stomach. He didn’t make a habit of leaving his room half-naked on the road and he didn’t think anyone was gonna buy it if he started now.

Geno leveled a tired shrug, tugging one side of his mouth up in a smile. “You not need excuse from me,” he said, and reached a hand out and ran his fingers along Sid’s skin, up and down his side. Sid’s first instinct was to lean back into the touch, maybe climb back into bed, screw around a little, distract himself for about five thousand more years—but he couldn’t. He needed to not give into it if he was gonna get over it.

He turned his body toward Geno fully, one leg pulled up on the bed, tucked in close to his body. “Hey, G—listen,” he said, hoping he was schooling his face into some sort of look that meant business, but well, nicely. Geno was team, he would understand. “I was thinking maybe we take a break from this, you know? It’s been a pretty fun distraction, but I think I’m not really giving this season my full attention.” He was certain that he wasn’t. His stats were slipping out of his grasp, whatever defensive strides they were supposed to be taking just felt stalled, he was out of the loop with the goings-on of his team for what felt like somehow the very first time.

Geno’s expression was murky, brows knotted together, mouth hung open like he was thinking of something to say. In the absence of a response, Sid continued on—he wanted to make sure Geno understood. “I’m not blaming you, I just—“ he said, “you know what we always tell the rooks, you know, like—make sure your head is in it—well maybe my head isn’t so in it right now. And the sex is good—it’s great—but we’re just fooling around, so I think it’s better if we cool off.”

Geno didn’t really look anymore like he understood, his face going through a number of expressions that Sid couldn’t really pinpoint. He didn’t seem mad, per se, but maybe he was a little disappointed. It was clear that this was doing something for him too; his season had been on the up and up for weeks now—holding the team together despite everyone else’s failed attempts. And the sex certainly had been good. It was worth missing.

“You get me, right?” Sid asked, when the silence dragged on long enough that he’d begun picking at the seam of his pants to distract himself. “We’re cool?” He reached out to put a hand in the bend of Geno’s arm and it tensed under his palm.

“Of course, yes, cool,” Geno said, “I understand.” The smile on his face was tight, and his voice sounded sleep rough, clipped. Sid had the distinct feeling that he’d said something wrong, but he wasn’t at all sure of what. All he could do was take Geno’s words at face value and hope they were true. Their teammates would be up shortly, ambling downstairs to breakfast or the hotel gym. He really needed to get back to his room.

“I’ll see you at the rink,” Sid said—for lack of something better—and patted Geno’s arm, and got up from the bed and left before he could say anything else.

——

They lost that night, an embarrassing rout, 5-2. During warmup, Geno was his usual self, running through his stretches like clockwork, weaving past Sid in the shooting line, but in the locker room he kept his distance, talking Phil’s ear off by the door. When they went to do their handshake, Sid felt just the slightest moment of hesitation, and Geno’s smile wouldn’t meet his eyes.

Geno was known to be a little emotional, and maybe he just needed a couple days to be sour. Sid had kind of sprung it on him without warning, and maybe that was a bit of a dick move. He could understand.

But Geno’s mood didn’t really improve with time. They’d both been planning on going out with Tanger and Perron during the few days they had off before the next homestand, but when Sid texted Geno to remind him the morning of, he got back a short reply. sorry, busy.

Okay then.

The whole idea of this had been to throw himself back into the season, full-bodied, so he did that. It was easy to go to the rink and spend an hour shooting the shit with Andy while he did his program, toss some pucks around with Flower on the shooting pad, walk by Stew’s office when Geno was getting his elbow looked at and just not walk in.

Duper was back to practice later that week, and playfully nudging aside anyone’s attempts to offer him any amount of serious concern. They had all played through plenty of stupid shit over the years, but Sid had to hope that Duper was serious when he said he had it all under control. Well, now he would know to keep an eye out, at the very least.

They won one game, but then lost the next against Columbus—a frustrating game like all of them were. Afterward, in the locker room, Horny sat next to him and yapped his ear off, on and on about that rat Dubinsky and how they would definitely, no questions asked, win the next one. Geno disappeared from the locker room within five minutes, and from the shower shortly after. And that was what had been his usual thing for years now, but it still felt a little off when he wasn’t waiting for Sid after the game, lingering around with his damp hair dripping onto the collar of his suit.

Clearly Sid had gotten too used to it.

They flew to Newark directly afterward, and Geno didn’t so much as glance at him on his way to the back of the plane. Sid felt a little weird about how much he missed the furtive looks Geno had begun throwing Sid’s way.

Their game in Newark was a shitshow of a shutout—the whole of them just a mess, coughing up turnovers and missing easy passes, overextending themselves at every turn. During the postgame scrum, Sid tried to keep it as short as possible, and afterward he watched the reporters cluster around Geno and heard Geno’s low, harsh tone calling them out—they hadn’t even played like a team.

When their plane landed back in Pittsburgh, barely even 24 hours after they had left, Sid drove home and settled into the couch in his den, watching replays of game tape on his tablet until his head started to swim. He thought that maybe this would make him feel better, the calm methodical analysis of the night’s play, but he kept rewinding one section over and over until all he felt was a little more untethered.

——

He walked into an informal captains’ meeting a couple days later and Geno was already there—the only one in the empty lounge, slumped low in his chair with his hair hidden under a toque.

Sid walked right up and sat down in the chair next to him, spreading himself out like he always did. They could totally do this. Sid was going to pretend like nothing had happened, because it was the truth. If Geno wanted to stick beans up his nose, Sid was prepared to just counter with kindness.

“Hey, G—“ he said, and opened the lid on his coffee and blew roughly over it. It was too damn hot. “How’s your elbow doing?”

Geno regarded him with a blank look. “It’s fine,” he said, shrugging his shoulder, “Stew is help—I don’t need time off.”

“That’s good,” Sid said, and it was good. Geno was the only consistency on this waylaid team right now, and Sid, well, he needed him to help keep everyone afloat. Kuni was running late for some reason, no doubt held up by the kids, and so they sat there together for a few more minutes, crunching awkwardly through conversation.

“What did you end up doing the other day? When we went to dinner?” Sid asked, but Geno’s answer was noncommittal, just a tilt back and forth of his head.

“Just busy,” he said. Sid wasn’t sure what to say in response. Geno didn’t want to talk about his day or his injury, or really anything at all apparently.

“I’m not sure why you’re still mad at me,” Sid said—voice pulled down into a sharp whisper—because he was at a loss for what else to say. Geno just scoffed at him like he was terribly unbelievable somehow. Well, Sid thought Geno was being pretty unbelievable. “C’mon, the point of this was to help the team, Geno—I can’t help the team unless you work with me here.”

Geno slumped down a little further in his chair, blinking at Sid and twisting his mouth around like he was contemplating the palatability of the idea. Kuni, thankfully, chose that moment to walk in. Nothing had ever been so blessedly well timed.

Geno made himself scarce after the meeting, begging off to go talk to Dana about his skates. Sid didn’t really see him other than in passing until the game the following night, and when Geno arrived to the rink he was in good spirits, tossing the soccer ball around like a maniac, curling up over himself with laughter when Sid got it stuck in the rafters.

“Someone better rescue that,” Olli said, looking up warily at where it rested near one of the light ballasts.

“Make Geno do it, he’s a fucking giant,” Bones said, trying to muscle Geno into the center of the circle, with little success. Geno was shaking his head dramatically no.

“Not me! Why doesn’t Sid do?” Geno shouted, flailing his arms a little to dislodge Bones’ grip on him. “Find ladder—make rookies get.”

Geno left for the room, and everyone dispersed to their various routines, and Sid wandered down the back hall to the equipment room, where Jon, one of the equipment guys, was organizing a bin of extra gloves.

“Can you give me a hand?” he asked, and they quickly dislodged the ball—Sid holding balance on the ladder while Jon poked it with the blade of an uncut stick.

“Have a good game, captain,” Jon said after he climbed back down and closed up the ladder, and he patted Sid on the back a couple times and hoisted the ladder and went back to work.

It was a good game. Geno’s mood carried over to the ice, and he was on fire, pitching in on every one of their four goals. He scored a slick goal in the second that made Sid flush to watch him—screaming and throwing his arms up, dominant and wild.

Geno ended up with the Viking helmet, and Sid untaped his wrist and watched as he gallivanted around the room, bare except for his compression shorts and shower slides, the helmet tilting back and forth on his head. His chest was flushed with exertion, pink all the way down, and Sid thought for a moment about pressing his hands to it, and then looked back down and focused on pulling off his skates.

For as jubilant as Geno was with the team, he was icy with Sid in the hallway on the way to the garage, walking just a few feet away, his head buried in his phone.

“You were so good tonight,” Sid said, because he couldn’t help himself.

Geno stopped for only a second, looking up cursorily from his phone. “Thanks,” he said, and then split off in the other direction to walk to his car.

Sid went home and felt a little at a loss, and then thought that he was being pretty stupid. Plenty of his routines had been solidified long before this season, when he’d started inviting Geno over to infiltrate his home and his life.

He made himself a postgame shake, and posted up on the couch in the den with his tablet, scrolling through a few replay videos and checking the other scores from around the league. He had recently convinced the video guys to start emailing him the clips, but they wouldn’t come until the following morning, so he was stuck slow-loading the broadcast replays on the NHL site until his eyes began to cross.

When he tried to go to bed, he felt wired, still pumped up with adrenaline. He thought, a little regretfully, that all he wanted was for Geno to come over and lie on him, long body blanketing him until he fell into sleep. He wasn’t sure why it seemed so hard for his body to remember how to fall asleep alone; he’d been doing it for years, nearly ten whole seasons worth of mostly sleeping in his own bed.

He didn’t want to think about what it meant about him that maybe he didn’t prefer it that way anymore.

——

He was getting pretty sick of not scoring, and when he traipsed out for warmups against Colorado, he left his helmet behind, snug in his stall. And he did it; he got his goal—a slick backhand five-hole past Berra, straight through to the back of the net. It was only his third tally of the season, but it felt really fucking good.

After practice the following day, he went home and did some laundry, and when he was pulling everything out of the dryer, he noticed a few of Geno’s things assorted amongst his clothes: a few pairs of underwear, a warmup shirt with the 71 firmly imprinted in the center of the chest. He wasn’t entirely sure when Geno had found the time to leave them at his place, but the laundry hamper was a bit of a wasteland. It happened.

He took a picture of all of it laid out on top of the dryer and sent it to Geno. these showed up in my hamper—wanna come get them?

can you bring to rink Geno replied, when Sid was in the kitchen making lunch, searing chicken in a pan on the stove.

I’m babysitting the Dupuis kids tonight, I could swing by your place on the way? he typed, one hand on the tongs. It wouldn’t be too much trouble. He had to get on 79 to get to Duper’s and Geno’s was decently well on the way.

A text showed up while he was flipping the chicken over. Sid, stop it said, when he glanced at the screen. Not even a minute later, his phone started buzzing—it was Geno.

“Hello?” he said when he picked up, and he adjusted the burner down a few levels so he wouldn’t get distracted and let it char.

“C’mon Sid,” Geno said, he sounded irritated, tired. “Please stop.” Sid wasn’t sure what he was so bent out of shape about, when he was offering to deliver Geno’s stuff back. Geno didn’t have to lift a finger.

“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be stopping,” Sid said, pacing away from the stove for a second, the phone wedged between his shoulder and ear. “I can just bring it to the rink if you really want, but you can just tell me that.”

Geno blew out a big huff of breath and then was silent for a moment before he spoke. “You say we should stop, so you need stop,” Geno said, chiding. Sid could hear the tap cutting on and off in the background. “Don’t need make me so crazy like ‘oh, Geno let me come over—oh, Geno you play so good.’”

“All I offered to do was bring your things to you,” Sid said, a little put out about it. He’d thought that Geno was warming to it, that they were going to fall back into their old routine, no problems. “I was just being nice.”

“Well don’t nice, okay?” Geno made a noise of frustration and it crackled through the phone, “You say it’s not serious and we stop, okay, it’s fine, but for me it’s little bit serious.”

Sid plucked at the neck of his shirt nervously; his kitchen was starting to feel a little over-warm. On the stove, the chicken sizzled, and he needed to go and turn off the heat but he felt like he could barely move. Geno had thought it was serious, that they were, what—dating? He wasn’t sure. They’d just been messing around, two good friends having fun—and Geno had seemed game with it, happy and flirtatious, comfortable in Sid’s space. The revelation that maybe it had been more for him felt wholly new.

“So you—you thought we were, uh, together?” Sid asked, because he was genuinely curious. Geno was full of emotions, too large to stay tucked away inside. Sid shouldn’t have been so naive to think he was immune to having them turned on him.

“Ugh, fine, Sid—“ Geno said, “when you say stop, it’s like break up for me—I have, I get feelings and is hard just stop, okay. I need time.”

Sid was quiet for a minute, listening to Geno breathing softly into the speaker, moving the pan off the burner, running a hand through his hair. He knew he had probably sprung the whole thing on Geno a little out of the blue, and he was sorry for it, but he hadn’t known—well, he would give Geno time.

“Okay, yeah, sorry Geno, I’ll—“ he said, and swallowed the knot in his throat, running his greasy hand under the tap, “I’ll bring your stuff to you at skate tomorrow, okay? I’ll put the bag in your stall.”

“Thanks, Sid,” Geno said. And Sid said his thank you and they both said their goodbyes and hung up the phone. Sid blew out a long breath, leaning back against the sink. Geno’s voice had been low, a little reedy like maybe he had been choked up. Sid didn’t want to imagine his face, blotchy and red, and he didn’t want to imagine running the palm of his hand down Geno’s cheek.

But he couldn’t stop.

——

He thought about it over the next few days, what Geno had said. He had feelings, and Sid didn’t know how deep or expansive they were, but he could imagine. Geno hadn’t ever done something halfheartedly—he was two hundred percent in.

Sid had seen how Geno was with the people he dated, loud and gregarious, easy to bend, easy with his affections. Sid hadn’t thought about what they were doing that way, but maybe he was being short-sighted. The lingering scent of Geno’s cologne, his arm long and warm against Sid at the bar, his utter lack of resistance to the shape of Sid’s desires.

Maybe what they were doing hadn’t been nothing. And Sid liked it—not just the distraction from the pitiful woes of the season, which it was, but the space that Geno had come to take up in his life. He liked Geno sleepy at his breakfast bar, or messy and laughing in his hotel room on the road. He liked the emoji messages that Geno sent to him, even if he sometimes had no real idea what Geno was trying to say.

But it felt foreign to him. He’d fallen into bed with a not insignificant number of friends and acquaintances over the years, and he’d had a few long-term girlfriends, but those two worlds had always stayed separate. Screwing around had always been simple, an easy way to blow off steam, but it was clear that this thing with Geno was anything but.

It was a little scary—a summer experiment fueled by some true nonsense at Worlds—and here he was, considering, well, getting emotionally involved with a teammate. Maybe the truth was that he was probably already emotionally involved.

He tried to give Geno his space, as he had asked, and besides the ritual motions of their pregame handshake, Sid mostly left him alone. He tried to tell himself that he was waiting for the right time—that there would be a moment where he would just know Geno was ready to talk—but they lost one game and won the next and flew to Columbus and that moment didn’t come.

In Columbus, they had a short practice, and then an official team dinner at the hotel in the evening to celebrate American Thanksgiving. A number of large tables were set up in one of the banquet rooms, and a long assembly line of holiday favorites: roasted turkey, sweet potatoes, and the lot. There were at least eight pies stacked up near the end. Sid didn’t celebrate, but he was pretty pumped.

Sid sat around with Tanger and Duper and Flower—like he always did—and stuffed himself full and watched Geno from out of the corner of his eye, sitting in between Bones and Olli, gesturing wildly with a speared sweet potato, throwing his head back to laugh at Phil’s jokes.

At some point, Geno got up to get a second helping and circled their table, stopping briefly to lean over Duper and coo dramatically at a video of his family cat. When he handed the phone back to Duper, he caught Sid’s gaze and held it for a moment, and Sid felt caught. He looked really good, hair a little wild from his afternoon nap, towering over them in his sweater that Sid knew from experience was extremely soft. He couldn’t stop thinking about running his hands up under it to circle Geno’s waist, and maybe Geno wasn’t ready yet, but well—Sid was pretty sure he needed to say something soon, before he chickened out.

They rode the elevator up together, a whole group of them piling into the small car until Sid was pretty sure they were exceeding the weight limit. He and Geno were both crammed against the corner, and when everyone filed out, Sid hung back and put a hand to Geno’s elbow to stop him.

“Hey, G—“ he said, and looked up into Geno’s puzzled face. “Can you wait for a sec? I wanna talk to you.”

“Huh? Okay,” Geno said, and walked out into the elevator bay and leaned against the wall. “Well, you ask for talk? Talk.”

“No, I um—“ Sid ran a hand through his hair, scratching nervously through the long parts at the nape of his neck. He wasn’t sure how to broach this. “I need to talk, but we can’t—let’s talk in my room, okay?”

Geno stuffed his hands in his front pockets and looked somehow more skeptical. “I don’t think that’s good idea,” he said, and narrowed his eyes at Sid as if to ask how he had somehow forgotten.

“C’mon,” Sid said, and tried not to whine. He really wanted to just put his foot down, but he was trying to be considerate and defer to the whims of Geno’s needs. But there was no way he was going to spill his guts out here, all over the floor of the Hyatt.

Geno sighed, a long puff of breath that blew all the way to Sid, and rubbed a big hand over his face. Sid just needed to—“It’s about us,” he said, lowering his voice so it was barely above a whisper. This was the last thing he needed the internal CCTV to pick up. “Just let me talk and then I’ll leave you be, okay?”

“Okay,” Geno said, and he didn’t sound entirely convinced, but he followed Sid anyway, down the hall and into his room. Sid went to sit down on the edge of the bed and hoped Geno would too. But Geno sat down at the desk next to Sid’s duffel bag, rolling around in the chair, keeping his distance.

“Listen, I—“ Sid said, and looked up at Geno’s neutral, unreadable face, held tense like he was trying hard to not have a single emotion, good or bad. “I’m sorry, first—for springing it on you in Calgary—that was a dick move.”

He breathed in and then out. That wasn’t the half of it.

“You right, Sid,” Geno said, “was dick move, you sorry already—not sure why you have to take me here to say.” He was picking at the skin on one of his nails, a nervous habit Sid had picked up on over the years. He was so frustrating when he got like this—stubborn and wounded. Even if he didn’t deserve the courtesy, Sid needed him to listen.

“Well I’ve been thinking about what you said,” Sid said, “and I wasn’t completely honest with you, about it just being a nice distraction. I mean it was nice, but—you said you had feelings, and I, well—I think I have feelings.”

Geno just looked back at him, eyes a little unsure, his mouth dropped open, wet and red like he’d been sucking on it. “I not sure I—“ he said, and then stopped.

“You know what I mean, c’mon,” Sid said. He didn’t want to have to spell it out. “I wasn’t kidding about needing to focus on the team more, but well, I—I think maybe it’s okay if I don’t do it alone.”

“You need boyfriend or you need co-captain?” Geno asked, his posture still prickly, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Both?” Sid said, because it was what he wanted, if he was being honest with himself: Geno fired up on the bench and sly and sleepy in Sid’s den. “I think we could try, right?”

Geno didn’t respond right away, and Sid’s chest felt tight. This was why he avoided talking about his feelings. Maybe if Geno rejected him outright he could just hide away in here and pretend to watch some movie on demand until he calmed back down.

But Geno eventually rose from his seat and came over and dropped down to the bed, scooting in until their legs were touching. He put his hand on Sid’s knee. “It’s big thing to try, Sid—“ he said, “when we talk first, you say is just you and me and I think maybe you want more, but—” He stopped for a moment, sucking his lip into his mouth, thinking. “But you say no and it’s so easy for you—maybe we try again and it’s not work, maybe it’s weird, maybe I have to trade.”

“I wouldn’t ask you to do that,” Sid said, because he didn’t think it would come to that. They were adults, and maybe it wouldn’t work, but he wouldn’t let things get that bad between them. “C’mon, G.”

“I don’t know, maybe I’m star for Panthers,” Geno said, and when Sid looked at him his tongue was stuck in his cheek, his eyes crinkled at the edges, happy. “Miami is nice, very warm, I get very tan.”

Sid shoved him a little until he started laughing, soft under his breath like he thought he was very funny. He was so dramatic.

“I’ll kick your ass every year,” Sid said.

“Mmm, maybe no—“ Geno said, and then he turned he face toward Sid again, his eyes serious. “I’m not kid, though—I have feelings, and—maybe I’m still hurt, okay, maybe need little time.”

Sid wanted Geno back in his space and taking up his time as soon as possible, but he could—he could give him that. Maybe it felt far off, but it was true that they had a lot to lose.

“I decide soon,” Geno said, and his thumb felt warm where it rubbed back and forth over Sid’s knee, “but it’s a lot—like, I’m think we serious for while now and then no—and maybe I’m too much emotion for this, but you not so easy get over, Sid.” He bumped his arm against Sid’s shoulder.

“I’m not easy to get over, eh?” Sid asked. He had to admit it was a pretty big boost for his ego. “You know you don’t have to, right? You don’t have to get over me.”

He looked over Geno’s face, the familiar fond lines of it, his pinched mouth inching up into a tentative smile.

Sid sat there, still, unsure of what to do with his hands—whether Geno would be receptive if he reached out, or if he would get up and go back to his room, and they would return to their waiting game. But Geno put his hand on Sid’s neck, and leaned in and kissed him, his thumb running over the rough edge of Sid’s jaw.

They sat there kissing for a few minutes, slow and open-mouthed, the ceiling fan running rhythmically overhead, Sid’s heart beating double-time in his chest. He closed his eyes and imagined they were back in Geno’s foyer, pressed against the coat closet door, tired after a good game, and let himself be kissed and thought that he would let Geno do this however he wanted as long as Sid got to have him in the end.

——

Sid got hurt the next night, a stick right to the back of the neck that would certainly bloom into a nasty bruise. Stew spent the back half of the second period prodding at him, and badgering him over and over about whether he felt any dizziness, and it hurt, he would be sore, but he was fine.

Geno came by the trainer’s room in the intermission and peeked around the door frame. “You okay, Sid?” he asked. He was still in all of his gear, his hair dripping with sweat, red across his cheeks, his helmet held under one arm. Sid wished for a second that Stew was gone, and Geno could walk in and run a wet hand over the hot pink mark at the back of his neck. Sid just smiled at him, fond, and shrugged one shoulder.

“I’ll be back out in a sec,” he said.

They lost the game, after a frustrating interference challenge that didn’t go their way, and Atkinson’s slick game-winner in overtime. Geno found him again while he was in the change room stripping off his leggings, and when Geno stepped in close Sid could feel the wool of Geno’s suit pants brushing up against his bare ass.

“Looks bad,” Geno said, brushing a hand over the back of Sid’s neck and up into his wet hair, “Purple.”

Sid felt like he couldn’t move. He looked around, but only Kuni was still changing—down in the far corner, head bent over his bag. He wasn’t sure what Geno was doing—he needed time, but his generous concern didn’t exactly make it easy. Sid laughed a little, and bit down on his lip to stop himself from just asking Geno to follow him home from the airport later.

“Should ice,” Geno said, and then pulled his hand away.

“Thanks, mom,” Sid said, and pulled up his pants and turned around to laugh at Geno in earnest, pressing a hand in the center of his chest to push him away. “Better get out of here—one of the rookies probably stole your seat on the bus.”

They lost again the night after, tired from the late flight, Sid’s neck and his knees slathered in an extra thick layer of muscle rub that he had to keep reapplying in between periods. Geno scored both of the team’s two goals, a one-man machine bent on lifting them all to some measure of success. But it had been a common refrain all month, and it didn’t seem to be enough.

Sid caught his eye in the parking garage, but Geno looked sleepy in his half-undone suit and he just smiled and waved a hand and otherwise turned to go to his car. Sid wanted to take him home and listen to him complain about the taste of Sid’s postgame shake and press him into the bed, but it would have to wait.

——

They had a full day off before they flew to California, and Sid spent the morning tidying up the kitchen and looking out the window at the backyard. He needed to call the lawn guy to come and gather up the leaves before it snowed—which would probably be pretty soon.

He worked out for a while and then called Taylor, who was coming home for winter break soon and wanted to coordinate. After lunch he sprawled out across the chair in the living room and brought up the video replay from the game against Columbus to keep up with what he’d missed.

i can’t believe you got in a fight he sent to Geno, after he finished watching the second period. you’re lucky they didn’t score.

Geno started typing immediately. I defending you!! he sent, along with two angry emojis and a muscle arm, and then johnson annoys me and sorry I give him bloody nose but he probably deserve

Sid laughed a little. maybe don’t keep it up he replied.

I don’t know you’re okay ((( Geno sent. Sid knew how it felt, the adrenaline of not knowing if one of your teammates was alright, pent up and hot with it. He would text Jack later to apologize for the nose, but well, it felt shamefully good to be on the receiving end of Geno’s base level concern.

You can come over and see if I’m okay he typed back, and then deleted it and then typed it again and sent it, hoping that Geno wouldn’t be irritated that he reached out without a surefire ‘go’.

Geno didn’t respond for a while, and Sid got up to rinse his cup in the sink, and plug his laptop in, and change his shirt. When he picked his phone back up, there was a message there, a picture of Geno’s feet in his stupid saggy socks, hanging off the end of the couch with the television on in the background.

not today, but maybe soon it said.

——

In San Jose, Geno posted a three point game, and Kessel scored a pair and maybe things would work out in time, even though Sid’s own game was still on firmly unsteady ground. He had heard rumblings of discontent from management, and he tried not to get too involved with it, but he got the feeling that something might change soon. He was pretty ready for it.

They flew to LA and had a three-day break, a mini vacation of sorts—practice in the morning, wandering around in the sunshine in the afternoon. Sid spent a little time in LA every year and had plenty of his favorite haunts—it was nice to act as tour guide for the guys who were willing to play along.

The team organized a group beach trip, and Sid played volleyball all afternoon until his serving arm was sore and he felt crisp and dry all across his shoulders. When he tapped out and went to grab some water, he passed by the area that a few of the guys had been congregating in, huddled up under a large beach umbrella. Geno was the only one left, lying diagonally across two beach towels, his sunglasses over his eyes.

“C’mere,” he said, when Sid stepped around his outstretched legs.

Sid stopped, his feet warm in the sand. “I was just going to get a drink,” he said, gesturing to the cooler.

“Do later—“ Geno said, and pushed his sunglasses up on top of his head and sat up a little. “C’mere.” He looked so good, lying there in his small brightly colored swim trunks, his chest bare and still pale in the shade. Sid was trying not to look directly at him.

Sid couldn’t think of an alternate excuse, so he took a deep breath and climbed onto the towel, careful not to step on any of Geno’s long limbs. He sat down cross-legged in the space next to Geno’s head and turned to face him.

“What’s up?” he asked, because he wasn’t sure what Geno needed him for. He’d been trying to keep his distance, mostly. Geno had spent the afternoon happily sleeping in the shade. Everything was fine.

“I want to say to you,” Geno said, and he shifted around until he was sitting up fully, and put a hand high on Sid’s thigh, the side that faced away from anyone’s prying eyes. He looked Sid straight on. “Maybe not so easy, but we can try.”

“You’re not kidding?” Sid asked. He’d been hoping pretty hard, certainly since they’d talked about it, and maybe even before. He pinched a hand against the back of his ankle; he really didn’t want this to be some elaborate dream.

“Not kidding,” Geno said, and he slid his hand around, up Sid’s side to his arm, to his back. He rubbed over the heated skin of Sid’s shoulder blades and Sid winced and shifted away and felt bad about it.

“Sorry, I—“ he said, and squirmed around a little until he could glance over his own shoulder, “I don’t think Kuni sprayed me enough, I’m pretty sure it’s going to burn.”

“Already burn,” Geno said. “Next time you hang in shade with me, I rub lots lotion on you, you fine.” He smiled slyly, one side of his mouth twisted up, and Sid knew what that meant.

“Maybe we don’t do that here,” he said, because people probably didn’t need to see, “but, uh—what are you doing the rest of the day?”

“No plans,” Geno said, shrugging, “Phil tries to get me to dinner with guys, but they pick bad place so I tell them no.” Then he unfolded his limbs and stretched out, showing off the length of his body, leaning back on his arms in that way that made his stomach crinkle up just a little. “Why? You have plan for me?”

Sid looked down at him fondly: his knobby knees, the faded scar on his cheek, his big nose. Sid had missed all of it. He wasn’t sure what the rest of the season would bring, or the season after that. Maybe his scoring would never return, or Geno would get tired of him—maybe none of the things he wanted would work out in the end. But he wanted to try.

Sid smiled at him, lopsided and wide until he could feel it straining his cheek. And then he climbed to his feet and readjusted his hat and extended a hand. “You wanna get out of here?”