Geno cracks his neck and arches his back, working out the tension and stress that has built up over the day.
The last employee- now ex employee- just left; a young woman who kept her eyes on the table in front of her and her hands in her lap as Geno told her that the financial firm she’s been working at for past eight months would be letting her go.
She left quietly, unlike the middle aged man right before lunch who hurled insults at Geno (like he had anything to do with the layoffs personally) and the near retirement age women at two fifteen who asked him what she was supposed to do now through her tears. Geno offered her kind words and talked up the wonders of a part time job (more time for your grandkids, no?) and then gently asked her for her key card.
The president of the company is waiting at the door for Geno with a handshake when he steps out.
“Thank you so much for coming out here,” the president says, still shaking Geno’s hand. “We don’t know-- I don’t know what I would have done without you. We couldn’t help but overhear some of their reactions from the executive offices and well...lets just say none of us would have switched places with you. Not for a million dollars.”
Because you’re a coward, Geno thinks to himself as he withdraws his hand. You want to ruin all these lives but you don’t have the balls to actually let them go when the time comes.
“Is my job,” Geno says, smile still on his face.
“And you’re very good at it. Do you have anymore cards on you? I’d like to refer you and your company to some colleagues of mine. Fortune 500 companies aren’t what they used to be, you know what I mean?”
Geno pats at his jacket until he feels them in the breast pocket. He pulls out a small stack but before he hands them over he pulls them back.
“Do you know a good bar around here? Long day, need to unwind a bit.”
The president presses his lips together for a moment then snaps his fingers. “I think I know a place.”
Seven ends up being the absolute last place he expected a stuffy financial advisor (who had photos of his pearl wearing wife and their tennis sweater wearing children on his desk) to send him.
It’s packed with women in short, shiny dresses and men in button downs that are buttoned down to the middle of their chests. Everyone is sweaty and hot as they dance to the music the DJ is playing. A constant loop of techno and remixed Top 40 that makes Geno’s already tender head pound.
He thinks about turning around and heading back to the hotel but he already paid the cover and the sea of people are forcing him towards the bar like a wave.
The surface of the bar is a little sticky when he leans on it and he’s occasionally jostled from both sides from guys that are arguing about the Steelers defense and the Penguins goalies--already well on their way to hammered.
He waits for ten minutes before a bartender finally makes his way over, wiping at bar with a rag as he goes.
“Sorry,” he says above the noise, “we’re swamped. What can I get for you?”
Geno looks up and his heart thumps harder than the bass of the music.
The bartender is beautiful, all thick black curls and lush lips and hazel eyes. His broad shoulders are testing the limits of the fitted black polo he’s wearing and his biceps show off a deep summer tan.
Geno is speechless until the bartender clears his throat and taps the space in front of him with his hand. “We’re really busy,” he says, “are you gonna order?”
Geno blinks and nods. “Whiskey sour,” he says because it’s the only thing he can think to say. It’s not even his drink.
The bartender nods and ducks down to grab a clean glass from below the bar. He sneaks a look at Geno and leans in towards him.
“Is that all or does your date want something too?”
“Here alone,” Geno answers and the bartender gives him another look, blatant and hot and longing.
The lights above the bar flash red then blue then green then yellow, coloring their whole world.
The bartender nods once then slides his drink over. “Cool.”
The bartenders name is Sid but Geno only learns that once he has him pressed against the wall right outside Sid’s apartment door.
“My name is Sid, by the way,” he says as he fumbles for the keys in his pocket while Geno kisses his neck and digs his fingertips into his hips.
“Nice to meet, I’m Geno, now open door.”
Sid laughs and finally pulls the keys out.
From what Geno can see Sid’s apartment is small but neat and from what he can feel, his bed is just slightly big enough for the both of them.
Geno gets a quick look at the clock on the wall as he lifts his arms so Sid can pull his shirt off.
It’s quarter after two. He has a flight to Boston at six and an appointment with a law firm where he’ll be laying off twenty employees at eight thirty.
He really should be back in his hotel room trying to sleep off the four drinks he had while he was waiting for Sid’s shift to end.
But then Sid leans back and pulls his own shirt off and Geno is met with more skin that he knows what to do with.
He presses a kiss to Sid’s shoulder and vows to drink an extra cup of coffee in the morning. This will be worth it.
It is worth it. More than worth it. So worth it he would stay up on a thirty six hour bender for it.
Sweat is drying on his skin but he can’t seem to catch his breath as Sid lays beside him with his leg thrown over his thighs.
“Good?” Sid asks and Geno barks a laugh then reaches for him.
They kiss until the clock on the wall absolutely has to pull him away and he sighs regretfully into Sid’s mouth.
“Have an early flight,” he says softly and Sid kisses him once more before rolling away. “So sorry. Would stay, really--.”
“It’s okay,” Sid says as he waves him off. “You don’t have to explain. I know what this was.”
Geno squeezes Sid’s knee then grabs his dress pants off the floor.
“If I’m ever in Pittsburgh again--.”
Sid smiles and lays his head on his pillow. “You know where to find me.”
Geno has only slept for forty five minutes when he boards his flight.
He looks out the first class window as the plane takes off. The sky is awash of orange and red as the sun peeks over the horizon and Pittsburgh disappears beneath him.
From Boston he goes to Portland then Providence then Nashville then Kansas City.
He fires factory workers and retail associates and school administrators and industrial engineering techs.
There is a bar in every city. Inside the bars are bartenders that look him up and down and invite him back to their place.
Easy. No strings attached. The best way to unwind after a hard day.
They’re all attractive and it’s good, sometimes it’s great, and as he’s leaving he always says the same thing.
If I’m ever in town again...
They all say the same thing.
Look me up.
Come find me.
Give me a call.
Geno agrees and the never thinks about them again.
It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the status quo.
It’s why every single one of those guys is different from Sid.
He hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Sid.
“What is it you do, exactly? If I’m allowed to ask that?”
Geno nods and pats the empty space in bed beside him. Sid tosses the damp face cloth at him and climbs up.
It’s been three months and thirty thousand frequent flyer miles but he’s finally back in Pittsburgh.
An insurance agency needed to lay off a handful of information clerks and after Geno was finished he headed over to Seven to find Sid.
Sid looked up with an easy smile and a smooth “so you remember me?”
An hour later they were back at Sid’s place.
“Not a secret,” Geno says as Sid settles in next to him. His flight to Minneapolis isn’t until eight the next morning. They have a little time. “I work for a human resources firm that specializes in termination assistance,” he says like he’s reading off a script then laughs when Sid narrows his eyes.
“What the hell is that?”
“When companies need to fire someone...they call me.”
“You fire people for a living?” “Fire, layoff, terminate an agreement. Yes.”
“So you just fly around the country firing people?”
“Not just country. Been to London and Paris. Berlin. Lots of places have factories overseas.”
Sid stares at him. “That’s terrible.”
“Is not so bad. It’s good to be there for people when they need help.”
“Don’t people hate you?”
“Sometimes.” He thinks about the man in Sacramento who threw a chair at him and the other in Denver who keyed his rental car. “But most people just want someone to tell them it’s going to be alright. It’s going to be okay.”
“Do you really believe that it’s going to be okay?” “Doesn’t matter what I believe. Only matters that I make them believe that I believe.”
Sid presses his lips into a thin line Geno finds that to be a shame. He reaches out and tugs at his bottom lip until it slides free.
“Better,” he says softly and Sid leans down to kiss him.
Miles and miles and miles and miles.
There are empty hotel rooms and airline lounges and Sid.
They see each other as much as they can but trips to and around Pittsburgh are few and far between. Tonight is only the sixth time they’ve seen each other in eight months.
Sid texted him when his plane touched down (they exchanged numbers after their fourth time) to tell him he wasn’t working and to swing by his place when he had time.
If he wanted to.
Geno wanted to.
He almost can’t believe that Sid is real.
That all this-- this thickly corded muscle and beautiful features—belongs to a bartender in downtown Pittsburgh.
He’d be better suited as an athlete or a model even though Geno knows Sid would laugh him out of bed if he ever suggested either out loud.
Sid opened the door earlier with a grimace on his face and a heavy limp when he stepped back.
“I’m fine,” he said. “Just sore.”
Geno pushed him back into the bedroom, gently, and he’s been trying to work relief into Sid’s overused muscles every since.
“Where is home for you?”
Geno’s hands still on Sid’s thighs and he looks up. “Home?”
“Yeah, home. Where do you go when you’re not working? Where do you hang your hat?”
Geno laughs. Sid is definitely real and definitely a huge nerd.
He starts moving his hands again and Sid’s head falls back against the pillow. Geno’s smiles at a job well done.
“Feels like I’m always working.”
Sid lifts his head, just barely. “You know what I mean. Where does your mail go? Your bills?”
“Don’t have bills. Company pays for most everything. Food, travel. Can even write off clothing if I have to. Pay cash for other things. Other mail goes to a PO box in New York City. I check it when I’m in town, if I remember.”
“Do you have a place in the city?”
Geno shakes his head. “Stay at the Hilton when I’m there. One on 26th.”
Sid pushes himself up on his elbow and gapes. “Is that your way of saying you don’t have a home?”
“Have home,” Geno says, “Russia-home.”
“When was the last time you were there?” When Geno opens his mouth he hastily adds “for something other than work?”
Geno’s mouth clicks shut as he tries to do the math. Finally he shakes his head.
“Love my job, love to travel. Don’t need a set home. Big house, white picket fence.” He shrugs. “Not important.”
They’re quiet for a moment, the only sound is the ticking of the clock and the traffic on the street.
“Must be hard to have any kind of relationship,” Sid says and Geno shrugs.
“Don’t need that either.”
Sid moves his legs out of Geno’s grasp and Geno thinks that’s it until Sid wraps them around his waist.
“Are you going to fuck me tonight or what?”
Geno laughs and leans over Sid.
“You were the one who said you were sore. Skate for the first time in a long time and overdo it.” He shakes his head as Sid wraps his arms around his neck. “Getting old, Sid.”
“If I’m old you’re even older.”
“Show you old,” Geno warns before he covers Sid’s body with his own.
Geno leaves Sid with a kiss to the back of his neck and a whispered “see you next time.”
Sid blinks sleepily at him and touches the pendant on Geno’s necklace where it’s hanging out of the collar of his shirt.
“Next time,” Sid says and lets him go.
On the plane Geno snaps a picture of the sunrise and sends it to Sid.
He doesn’t get a reply.
Jacksonville manages to be hot and humid even in the dead of winter and Geno feels on fire all over as Seth pushes him harder against the brick wall.
Seth (or Sam or Steve) is on his break and they’ve only made it out into the side alley.
Seth’s kisses are wet and sloppy and his hand is a little sweaty when he shoves it down Geno’s pants. He kisses the underside of Geno’s chin and Geno shoves his hand away.
“Stop,” he says as Seth looks up at him, dazed and dumbfounded. “Can’t. Have to go back to hotel. I have an early flight.”
“Are you serious?” Seth asks as Geno moves away towards the street. “You’re just gonna leave me like this?”
“Hand not broke,” Geno says and steps out into the light of the street lamps.
The AC is on full blast when he walks in. It looks like every other hotel room he’s ever been in but this one makes him ache with loneliness.
He collapses down onto the bed and pulls his phone out of his pocket.
Sid picks up on the second ring.
“Are you in town?”
“No, no,” Geno sighs as he picks at the bedspread. “Florida. So hot here.”
“I thought you liked the heat?”
“It could be worse. There’s a foot and a half of snow here and we’re supposed to get more tomorrow night.”
Right now that sounds wonderful.
“Are you okay?” Sid asks. “You sound funny.”
“Hard day. Some people don’t like it when an immigrant tells them they don’t have job anymore.”
“You know, I usually feel bad for the people you fire but maybe those people had it coming. Do you want to talk about it?”
“Okay...do you want to talk about something else?”
He can hear the smile on Sid’s voice when he answers “yes.”
“What you have on?”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes,” Geno says a he cups himself through his pants.
“Is there something I could say to turn you off?”
“You don’t want?”
“No, I’m just wondering how into me you are.”
“Sid,” Geno says with a sigh, “am most into you.”
Sid’s hair is cut short. There isn’t a curl in sight and barely enough for Geno to run his fingers through when they kiss.
But right now that’s the least of Geno’s worries because Sid is still behind the bar looking nothing like a guy whose shift is supposed to end in less than five minutes.
Sid spots him from across the room and waves before quickly looking back to the customer in front of him.
Geno makes his way over slowly, the crowd of people gets thicker by the bar and they all give him dirty looks as he pushes his way closer.
“Geno, hey.” Sid has to shout to be heard and Geno’s winces at the headache that’s forming behind his eyes. “One of the other bartenders called out sick so I have to stay. It’s going to be another three hours at least.”
Geno doesn’t think he’s going to make it three hours here.
“Here,” Sid says and he presses a key into Geno’s hand. “You can go back to my place and wait for me. Get comfortable. There’s leftovers in the fridge if you’re hungry.”
Geno curls his fingers over the keys. “You sure?”
“Yeah, Of course. I’m sorry about all this.”
Someone on the other end of the bar calls for a drink and Sid squeezes Geno’s arm.
“Go ahead. I’ll see you at home.”
Sid’s apartment is warm and familiar and when Geno closes the door behind him something settles in his chest.
Unfortunately, his headache only got worse during the cab ride from the bar and he bypasses the fridge and heads directly to Sid's bedroom. He doesn’t even take his shoes off as he climbs on top of the bed and buries his face in Sid’s pillow.
Geno wakes up when he feels a hand on the middle of his back.
He blinks up at Sid who is kneeling on the bed and frowning down at him.
“You look terrible,” Sid says and Geno recoils.
“Thanks, Sid. Always think you look good even with no hair.” He reaches up to try to grab what he can but Sid moves out of the way. Geno groans and presses his face into Sid’s knee.
“I’ve been busy lately. I wanted it short so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting a cut anytime soon.” Sid slides his hand up to the back of Geno’s neck and then around to his forehead. “You feel warm. Are you sick?”
“No, never sick. Always healthy.”
“Maybe not always,” Sid murmurs. “What time is your flight?”
Geno squeezes his eyes shut and tries to think. “Don’t know,” he says finally and sighs when Sid rubs at his temples.
“You’re definitely sick.”
“You’re definitely wrong.”
“You’re sweating all over my sheets,” Sid says. “I think you need a shower.”
Geno peeks up at him. “You come with me?”
Geno leans against the sink in the bathroom while Sid starts the shower.
The room is spinning just a bit but he’s unconcerned. It just means that when Sid takes his shirt off there are two of him.
“C’mon big guy,” Sid says as he unbuttons Geno’s shirt, “let’s get you in there.”
Geno rests his forehead against Sid shoulder as Sid washes his hair.
Sid’s holding most of his weight and he keeps running his hand gently up and down Geno’s back.
It’s the least sexy shower he’s ever shared with someone but he also never wants it to end.
Eventually their fingers get pruney and Sid gently manhandles him out and rubs a towel over his hair.
“Do you feel better?” Sid asks as he tucks Geno into bed and lays down beside him.
“Little. Still not sick.”
Sid covers Geno’s forehead with his hand again and Geno leans into the touch. “Is is possible you’re just burned out? You work constantly. When was the last time you took a vacation?”
“Went to Cancun.”
“Sophomore year of college.”
“Who has time for vacation? No one vacations.”
“You make time, its important. You must have a ton of frequent flyer miles saved up. Cash them in and go somewhere.”
“Going to make fun of me.”
Sid pokes his side. “I will not.”
“I want to get to ten million miles.”
“Will you be the first one to do it?”
“No. Seventh. But I’m on pace to be youngest one. No one else is close.”
Sid nods slowly. “Do you get something.”
“Executive status for life and I meet chief pilot. Plus my name on a plane.”
Geno pokes him back. “You make fun.”
“I’m not, I think it’s nice you have goals and your name on a plane could really be cool. But you know what else would be cool? Going to Switzerland.”
“That’s where you want to go?”
“I would go anywhere. I’ve pretty much only been here and Cole Harbour. I don’t envy how much you travel but at least you can say you’ve been everywhere.”
Geno closes his eyes and wraps his arm around Sid, pulling him closer. “Everywhere but home.”
The bed is empty when he wakes up and the grey morning light is spilling in through the slats in the blinds. Sid is making noise in the kitchen, clearly trying to keep it down but failing miserably and it’s tempting to pull the covers up and roll over.
But Geno has a flight to catch at some point- he really need to figure out the time- and a hotel room to check out of and four production assistants to fire in Burbank.
Sid’s wearing sweatpants and slippers in front of the open fridge when Geno walks in.
“Hey,” he throws over his shoulder and grabs the orange juice. He puts it on the table next to two plates set with scrambled eggs and bacon. “Your phone was ringing really earlier this morning. It rang and rang and rang so finally I answered it. It was someone named Susan?”
“Bosses receptionist,” Geno says.
“Apparently you missed your flight and but she booked you a new one at eleven forty five. You’ll have to go straight from the airport to the meeting and pray there’s no traffic but you should still make it. Is it okay that I answered your phone,” he asks, looking unsure. “I thought about waking you but I figured if you could sleep through the ringer you really needed some rest. Are you feeling better?”
Geno holds Sid’s face in his hands and kisses him. “Is okay. Feel much better. You cooked?”
“Just a little,” he says quietly. “It’s no big deal.”
“Used to airport food and continental breakfast. No one ever cook for me.”
Sid ducks his head and bumps their hips together. “Sit and eat before it gets cold.”
Geno sits and for the first time with a clear head gets a good look at Sid’s hair. It suits him, he decides. Short enough to show off his cheekbones and the cut of his jaw.
“You’re staring,” Sid says as he breaks off a piece of bacon and pops it in his mouth.
“Like your hair, looks nice. You said you’re too busy for haircuts?”
“I’m surprised you remember that and yeah, I actually started to take a few classes at Pitt. I’m trying to figure out what I want to do.”
“Sid, that’s great,” Geno says with a smile. “Any ideas yet?”
“No. Maybe. But no. I don’t know.” He sounds a little overwhelmed and excited. “I’ve always liked history,” he says with a shrug. “But then I also think about teaching...I don’t know. Is it pathetic? Am I too old?”
“I’m the oldest one in all my classes and I just feel so out of it. Like I shouldn’t be there and I missed my chance.”
“Sid,” Geno says with a sigh as he leans forward and covers Sid’s hand with his own. “Not too old and you didn’t miss your chance. It’s never too late to go back or to figure out what you want to do or start new career.”
“This sounds like one of your speeches you’d give someone you just fired.”
Geno laughs. “Ah, little bit. Is good speech, yes?”
“Yeah, but you don’t actually believe it. You just want me to believe that you believe it.”
Geno squeezes his hand then sits back. “This I believe.”
“I feel like everyone judges me.”
“Probably just amazed at how hot you are. So lucky to be in same class,” he says and Sid rolls his eyes. “I have friend in Philadelphia who went back to school a few years ago. Same age as you are now. He said it was hard sometimes but worth it.”
Sid nods slowly and looks down at his plate. After a moment of silence he asks “this friend in Philadelphia, are you friends with him like you’re friends with me?”
“Sometimes I stay with him if I’m in Philly. Haven’t seen him in months.”
“Because you haven’t been in the city?”
Sid nods and pushes his plate away from him, still mostly untouched. “I have class this afternoon and should really go over some of the readings.” He pushes his chair back and stands.
Geno’s brushed off enough people to know when it’s happening to him. He just doesn’t understand why.
“You can leave the plate on the table, I’ll clean up after I get out of the shower.”
Geno reaches out and grabs Sid’s wrist as he walks by. “Sid.”
Sid stops and looks down at him. “If you see your friend in Philadelphia tell him you have a friend in Pittsburgh that knows what he’s going through.”
Then he pulls his hand away and disappears down the hall to his room.
A moment later the shower starts.
Burbank is a dry heat.
So is Reno and Sedona and Albuquerque but Fargo’s bitter wind hits him like a brick to the face.
“Feel like I’m back in Russia,” he tells the receptionist at the hotel.
She smiles blandly and slides over the keycard.
It’s late, and even later in Pittsburgh but he still sends off a text.
How is school?
He takes a shower and orders room service and as he’s tipping the attendant his phone pings.
Fine, is all that Sid has written but it still feels like a lifeline.
He doesn't understand why Sid is so upset. He said he knew what this was at the very beginning and Geno doesn’t think he gave him any reason to believe that there weren’t other people out there.
They’re not exclusive. They’re not even dating. They’re both free to do whatever they want.
The thought of Sid with anyone else makes his stomach churn.
Happy for you, he texts back and stays up waiting for a response that doesn't come.
The snow has begun to thaw by the time he makes it back to Pittsburgh.
He and Sid have texted a few times, all short, perfunctory messages from Sid. All Geno knows is that he’s still taking classes and working at the bar.
Sid’s hair is still short when Geno spots him behind the bar. He’s smiling at a customer and pouring a drink but when he looks up at Geno the smile slowly fades.
He didn’t expect Sid to be overjoyed to see him but he didn’t think he’d look like that.
“I have to talk to you,” Sid says gravely when Geno steps up the bar. “I’m taking a break in fifteen minutes.”
Sid bites his lip and nods. “Fifteen minutes. Outside. I think I need some air.”
It’s a stressful fifteen minutes of waiting but finally Sid comes out of the club with his hands in his jacket pockets and his lips pressed into a thin line.
“You worry me,” Geno says as he puts his hand on Sid’s shoulder. “Are you okay? Are you sick? Something happen with school? Apartment? Family? Are you going back to Canada?”
“Geno,” Sid says on a sigh. “I’m seeing someone.”
Geno drops his weight against the building. He’s standing in a puddle of slush and his fingers are freezing but he didn’t care.
“It’s new and it’s good and I don’t want to screw it up,” Sid says.
It takes a moment for Geno to find his voice. “You didn't say.”
“I would have if you told me you were coming. You didn’t tell me.”
“I wanted it to be a surprise.”
Sid shrugs helplessly. “Surprise,” he says. “I really liked you but I was just another guy to you. It wasn’t anything special.” “That’s not true,” Geno says defensively but Sid pins him with a severe look.
“C’mon, you have guys all over the country. Probably some international ones too. I was just the guy you picked here.”
“You said you knew what this was when we first started.”
“I did. I do. I knew what it was and I was okay with it until I wasn’t. I probably should have stopped it sooner. I wanted it to be more and you don’t and that’s fine.”
“What if I want more?”
Sid looks down at his feet and shakes his head. “You love your job, and that’s great, but I can’t come second to that, I won’t. I want more. Plus Noah is a really great guy…”
Geno flinches. He doesn’t need to know his name.
“You’re a good guy, Geno,” Sid says and he doesn’t need this either. “But this was never going to be more than what it was. Take care of yourself, okay? Don’t work too hard. It’s not everything.”
They don’t touch as Sid slips by him and into the building.
Geno stands outside until he feels numb all over.
He calls the airline and moves his flight up.
Three hours later he’s handing his boarding pass to the man at the gate who smiles at him and thanks him for flying American.
“We hope you enjoy your flight, Mr. Malkin,” he says and Geno nods as he boards the plane.
He leaves the shade down on the window after he settles into his seat. He can’t bring himself to look down at the city, or the man, he’s leaving behind.
In Portland, Oregon Geno fires a man named Richard. Or at least he tries to.
Richard is in his mid-twenties and seems married to his job as a market researcher because there are tears in his eyes as he begs Geno not to let him go.
“I need this job,” Richard says as he wipes at his nose with the sleeve of his hand. Geno winces in disgust. “What am I supposed to do now?”
“There are other opportunities out there,” Geno says as he pulls a tissue out of the box and hands it over. “Think of this job as a stepping stone to your next career.”
“I don’t want a stepping stone,” Richard snaps. He blows nose then crumples the tissue in his hand. “This was it. This job was my life.”
“No,” Geno says softly and then again with a little more force. “No. Not everything. Not your life.”
Richard sniffles. “But-.”
“No. Listen. This is just a job. Is not your whole life, it can’t be. You have boyfriend or girlfriend?”
Richard shakes his head.
“Pet, parents, family, hobby? Find one. Find something. Find something that you love because this, here, is just work. Is going to end someday if they fire you now or keep you for another fifty years. What will happen then?”
“You’ll be alone. You’ll be all alone with nothing but ten million frequent flyer miles to show for it.”
“Ten million-.” Richard pulls a face. “What are you talking about? I hate to fly.”
“I’m talking about you,” Geno says as he throws Richard’s paperwork into his briefcase and snaps it shut. “Take this time to find someone or something. Find yourself. Doesn’t matter, just make sure that you love it because it will be there when the work isn’t.”
Geno leaves Richard sputtering for more answers in the tiny conference room and blows right by the bosses that are pacing in the hall.
He has changed his flight before he’s even out of the building.
It’s the middle of the night when he lands in Pittsburgh.
He doesn’t book a hotel room, just drags his suitcase behind him as he runs up the four flights of stairs because he doesn’t want to wait for the elevator.
There are pillow lines across Sid’s face and he looks soft and rumpled in his sweats and t-shirt. Geno is hit with a wave of fondness so strong that he has to physically hold himself back from reaching out.
All he does is drop his suitcase when Sid rubs at his left eye with his fist and blinks up at him.
“Geno? What are you doing here?”
“Break up with him,” Geno says and Sid seems to snap all the way awake. “Leave him. You said is was still new so leave before anyone gets hurt. Be with me instead.”
“Is he in there?” Geno asks, horrified at the thought. This new guys, Noah, is spending the evening, sleeping in the same bed he slept in, touching Sid and curling into him and waking up beside him...it’s too much to handle.
“He’s not here,” Sid says and it calms Geno’s broken heart. “Why are you?”
“Make big mistake when I see you last. Didn’t fight at all.”
“There’s nothing to fight for. I think it’s pretty obvious what happened needed to be done. I haven’t changed my mind, I can’t be your friend in Pittsburgh when you have friends in Baltimore and Tampa and Vegas and dozens of other places.”
“It’s not like that. Hasn’t been like that for a long time. It’s only you.”
“It’s me and your job and not in that order and I can’t--.”
Sid eyebrows furrow and then raise as it hits him. “You did what?”
Geno shrugs. “Is just a job. I can find other but I can’t find another you.”
“But you love your job.”
Geno steps closer and puts his hands on Sid’s face. “Love you more. In thirty or forty years I think, what will I have to show for this job? I wasted my whole life up in the air. I come home to nothing. Won’t even have a home. Won’t have anyone who cares for me. Already wasted so long,” he says as he strokes Sid’s cheeks with his thumbs. “Want more and I want more with you.”
“That’s a really big risk you just took.”
“Sometimes when you lose your job you have to take risk. Have to find something new and better. What’s better than you?”
Sid ducks his head but Geno tips his chin back up.
“But what about your ten million miles?” Sid asks.
“It’s okay,” Geno says. “Have better plan for them.”
The plane is somewhere over Germany. He thinks.
Geno turned off the map on the screen in front of him a half an hour ago because the light was beginning to hurt his eyes.
Beside him Sid makes a soft noise in his sleep and presses his face harder into Geno’s shoulder.
Geno smiles shakes his head. He’s given up the window seat to Sid every leg of this trip even though he always falls asleep ten minutes after take off.
They’ve been everywhere this summer. Paris and Madrid and Stockholm and Geneva.
They’ve gone to every museum they could find and Geno stood back and watched as Sid snapped pictures and absorbed as much of it was he could.
“I should makes a mural or something in the back of my classroom or something,” he had said as he flipped back through the photos. “See if I can tie it back to the lesson plan.”
“You just want to brag to your students that you vacationed around Europe.”
“Maybe,” Sid admitted, “just a little.”
Geno kisses the top of his head and listens to him chatter on.
In about an hour they’ll touch down in London and after they check into their hotel they’ll go out to eat.
Sid will say he’s stuffed but he’ll order dessert anyways and pretend to get annoyed when Geno steals a bite.
Then they’ll walk back to the hotel, slowly and hand in hand. They’ll talk about what’s in store for them in the next few days. Where they’ll go and what they’ll see and maybe they’ll start to talk about Dublin and Edinburgh. It’s never too early to plan.
At some point Geno will pull a small box out of his pocket and get down on one knee and hopefully Sid will say yes.
He’s had the ring for months now and the idea of it for even longer- ever since Sid kissed him in the doorway of his apartment then pulled him inside.
The plane hits a small patch of turbulence, just enough to jar Sid awake and he blinks up at Geno.
“Where are we,” he asks sleepily, “how much longer?”
Geno wraps his arm around Sid’s shoulders and tugs him more firmly against his side. “Almost there,” he says quietly. He looks out the window at the sun soaked sky and presses a kiss to the top of Sid’s head. “Almost there.”