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Cleveland. Fucking Cleveland. The bellybutton of Ohio. Of all the places to be snowed in, it had to be Cleveland.

He had been grumpy when the flight attendant had woken him, then annoyed when he was brought up to speed on the cyclone of a winter storm currently ripping Pittsburgh a new asshole, and then he had been irritated when it was explained to him that they were landing in Cleveland to avoid flying into the storm, and now, as he drug himself into the terminal with a carry on in tow, he was downright in a downright pissy mood.

In all honesty, he would've rather risked death by blizzard than land in the true final circle of hell known as Cleveland.

"Come on,Sid!" Geno, who was in too good of a mood to currently be in Sidney's presence, poked him in the side. "Lighten up! Not end of the world. Guys say there is really good bar near the airport, we are going out!"

"Have fun G." Sid had the excitement that a five year old has when they get raisins on Halloween. "I think I'm just gonna go to the hotel, review some film and get some sleep."

"Like hell you are!" Tanger appeared out of nowhere, and slung his arm around Sid's neck, effectively pulling his attention onto him. "I will not let you mope around like a teenager who lost his two month girlfriend just because we lost one game."

"We lost to Calgary,Kris."

"Lots of people have off nights, Sid. It's okay."

"To Calgary." Sidney groaned.

"Hey." Geno objected. "Calgary getting better. Got Johnny Hockey. And Smith. He can be good."

"But we aren't getting any better!" If it was possible, Sid got more annoyed.

We are plateauing. I'm plateauing. I'm not getting better. We're not getting better. Flower was traded. Who's next?

Tanger got quiet. Geno looked at the carpet and then wandered off to talk with Kessel.

When the team reached the outer door, they were separated into cabs, the ones at the head of the line headed for the bar, the ones at the tail heading to the hotel.

Sid made a bee-line for the last cab, but upon opening the door discovered that four trainers had already filled the vehicle.

"Sorry Sid." One of the trainers smiled. "Pretty full in here."

The next one forward was filled with some of the support staff.

Then the next was filled with his married teammates who weren't up for partying. Again, there was no room for Sid.

Sidney felt like the one weird vegan dish at the potluck. Everyone acknowledges his existence, and looks at him apologetically,but just doesn't have "room" for him on their plate.

Opening the next cab, Sid prayed for an empty seat.

He really shouldn't have.

The shotgun seat was empty and Sid slid into the seat gratefully, nearly letting out a sigh of relief. Then he looked behind into the back seat.

"Oh you have to be fucking kidding me," Sid groaned.

In the back seat Maatta, Kessel, and Tanger were all grinning like a kid who just put preparation H in their elderly babysitter's dentures.

"144 Theodore Street, please." Tanger said to the cabbie.

"Oh hell no." Sid made a lunge for the door, but Olli was faster, reaching into the passenger seat and tugging the door shut, then clicking the lock down.

To Sidney it sounded like the closing of a coffin lid.

Kessel snickered and Sidney rolled his eyes.

"Seriously guys? Can't you just let me do this my way?"

"No Sid, you need to get out." Tanger groaned. "Drink a little, or a lot, go dancing, flirt with some girls, maybe go home with one??"

Tanger waggled his eyebrows.

Sid frowned at the thought. The idea of flirting made his stomach seize up and his hands sweat. And the thought of a pretty girl, well, he didn't feel anything there.

When he was younger in high school he never felt any sort of attraction to the girls in his classes, or the ones he met at the handful of parties he attended. At first he thought there was something wrong with him; that he didn't feel any of the emotions that his teammates mentioned in the change room or on the bus.

But then he realized he was just a freshwater fish in a saltwater sea. He wasn't looking for the right kind of person.

Now Sid knows what he's looking for, except he isn't looking for it. With his career and all the rumours the media likes to dredge up whenever news gets a little slow, it would be too risky for him to even flirt with a guy, much less take one back to his hotel room.

"I don't think so." Sid sighed. "I think I'll just stay in the cab and loop to the hotel after you've gotten out."

Kessel snorted. "No you won't."

Sid raised his eyebrows. "And why not?"

"Well for one thing, Maatta has your wallet."

Kris burst out laughing as Olli lifted up a leather wallet in victory.

Sid frantically tapped his pockets. "That's not mi-" When he came up empty he cursed. "How did you get that?!"

Olli grinned devilishly. "Always close your own doors Sidney."

"Oh you fucker, I'm gonna kill you with my bare han-" Sidney seethed, but was cut off by Tanger.

"Oh hey hey hey, no time for that, we're already here."

And he was correct. The cab had pulled up to a brick building with high windows that Sid could see blue and purplish light flashing in. In his back molars he could feel the vibrations of the music.

A headache was already forming.

"Come on, out ya get."

He hadn't even noticed his three teammates pile out of the cab until they pulled open his door and Kessel reached in to unbuckle his seat belt.

For a second he thought about pulling the car door closed and telling the cabbie to drive, but then remembered his pick pocketed wallet and ergo his lack of cab fare.

With a silent promise to murder them all at practice when they got back to Pittsburgh, Sid, with great strain, pulled himself out of the vehicle.

Olli whooped. "Come on! Let's drink! Let's dance!"

The other two echoed his sentiments and shepherded him into the club, one on each side, as if they were expecting Sid to run.

 

Inside the club, Sid found it hard to see straight. The lights flashed on and off in seemingly random patterns and colours, like they were being run by someone jumping up and down on a trampoline while yelling out colours.

The music was of a similar fashion, if that makes sense. It was loud, with an intense bass that, when Sid concentrated, he could swear, was causing the bottles on the bar shelf to slide back and forth.

All in all, it was the kind of place that made Sid want to take a shot of NyQuil and go take a one way trip to the nearest mattress not infested with bedbugs.

It was the kind of place Geno loved. And Sidney could see that quite clearly from his eccentric dancing close to the DJ as he was drug up to the bar.

"What do you want? A beer? Something stronger?" Tanger asked.

"Water." Sidney responded, like the chloroform rag of fun he was.

Tanger gave Sidney his "are you fucking kidding me" stare and turned to the bartender.

Sid, realizing he probably wasn't getting his request, turned his attention back to the dance floor. Tanger would pick something for him, and he would drink it, then he could leave.

Out on the dance floor, Sid could see Geno dancing with some of the rookies. His mouth was open and his eyes were squished shut, and even though he couldn't hear him, he knew that Geno was laughing. Sid smiled a little. He liked seeing Geno happy. He only wished he could be the reason Geno was smiling. But that couldn't happen. There were too many eyes on him for him to ever stop playing the role of perfect Captain. He couldn't be anything more than Sid the Kid.

God he hated that name.

"Here ya go Señor Stick in the Mud." Tanger disrupted Sid's mooning over Geno and depressing thoughts of his hermit future by stuffing a glass into his hand.

Unsurprisingly, the glass did not contain water. Giving the glass a cautionary sniff, Sid's nose wrinkled.

"What is this?" He asked.

"No clue, club special!" Tanger shrugged and disappeared into the crowd. He turned back and yelled something at Sid, it sounded vaguely like an ingredient list, but the words were lost to the roar of the club.

"Great." Sid swished the orangish yellowish drink around the glass, then sighed and took a drink.

The drink didn't taste the way it smelled. It tasted like lemons, and Sid thought he could enjoy it.

He did.

And then he enjoyed five more.

________________________________

Geno wasn't sure what Sidney was drinking, but he didn't want him to stop. Whatever he had in that glass made his real smile break through his stone face and made him dance. With him.

Sidney Crosby, the man who would've rather cut off his pinky finger with a set of car keys than stepped foot on the dance floor, was laughing and dancing with him. Sidney was pressed up against him, moving and smiling, and grabbing Geno's hands to pull towards himself.

Geno could die right now and he wouldn't have a single regret.

Then Sid brought his hands up to Geno's temples. He froze for a moment, and looked into Sidney's eyes, expecting to see him glaring back at him, angry for dragging him out onto the floor, even though Sid had come to him. Instead, he was met with a happy expression and bright eyes that if Geno didn't know better he would've mistaken their gaze for love.

But he knew better. Sidney liked girls. Sidney wasn't like him.

The thought was sobering and it was at that moment he realized his situation. Sid was still dancing, unaware of the turmoil in Geno's insides, but had moved closer and shifted his hands from his temples to the hair, mussing it up and carding through it.

How would this look to a casual bystander?

What if someone took a photo of them?

Sidney would be mortified. It would kill him. He would close in on himself and would never talk to Geno again.

With that thought Geno removed Sidney's hands from his hair. Keeping his grip strong, he pushed, using them as leverage to move Sidney to a distance that was more appropriate for two male friends in their society.

Sidney, apparently, did not like that, and tried to move in even closer than before.

Pushing at Sid again, Geno refused dwell on the irony of this moment.

How many times had he dreamt of being allowed to dance this close to Sidney?

How many times had he gotten inches from telling Sid how he felt, but stopped in fear of ruining their friendship?

And now here he was, Sid basically trying to climb him, and he was pushing him off.

"Sid." Geno tried to meet his captain's eyes. "Sidney."

"What?" Sid speech was a mix of slur and laughter.

"You need to stop. You regret this in morning."

"No I won't, I want this."

I do too. Geno thought helplessly, then looked towards the bar.

Tanger and Rusty were leaning on the bar, watching him and grinning like devils.

Geno didn't really care that they were most definitely laughing at his situation, he was desperate. One of them could take Sidney back to the hotel and most importantly away from Geno.

"Come on Sidney." Geno grasped his hand and pulled him from the dance floor.

"Rust, Letang." Geno said, getting the mens' attention.

"Someone take him to hotel." He motioned to Sidney, who was now hanging off his arm.

Rusty snorted. "I think you've got this G."

"Yeah." Letang added in with a snigger. "I think he'd rather have you take him back."

"No." Geno's eyebrows went together. "No Sid wouldn't want me there."

"You are so blind," Rusty groaned. "Your almost as bad as Sidney sourface."

"What?" Geno had no clue what was going on.

Letang sighed. "Just, just take Sidney back to the hotel, Geno. Judging by how plastered he is, he won't remember this anyway."

Geno looked at Sidney, who was currently leaning on the bar staring at Geno, and realized Tanger was right.

"Fine. Call cab?"

Rusty smiled. "Already on its way."

________________________________

In the cab, Geno encountered a new problem that he had no solution for.

When Sidney was drunk he lost all sense of personal space.

It was like riding in the backseat with a toddler. Sidney could not keep his hands to himself. He was like an octopus; no matter how many times he slid Sid back across the seat to his side, he would slide back to lean against Geno.

He would run his hands through his hair, then let them slide down his temple to rest on his cheek and then he would smile sloppily and mumble something Geno couldn't understand.

Then, Geno, with all the self restraint he had, would hush him and set his hands back in his lap, only for them to end up back in his hair in half a block.

Geno nearly thanked god when the cab made it to the hotel and he could keep Sid at bay.

Herding him into the lobby; Geno was confronted with another problem. Coach was sitting in the lobby reading a newspaper.

Sidney would be mortified if Coach saw him like this, and Geno didn't want to explain this predicament with Sidney practically hanging off him.

With a quick scan of the room, Geno formulated his battle strategy. Well, it wasn't that great of a plan, but Geno was a hockey player, not a military strategist.

Unfortunately, it involved stuffing Sidney behind a potted plant in the entryway and then pulling up the hood of his bunny hug to obscure his face as he speed walked to the front desk.

The concierge who was posted at the desk thankfully seemed unfazed by Geno's flustered appearance, and gave him a slightly strained smile.

"Good evening, how may I help you?"

"Two rooms. Under Sullivan." Geno shifted his eyes over to the couch where his coach was seated and to the fern where Sidney was crouched.

The concierge's smile didn't falter. "Of course." She tapped a few keys on her computer.

"Ah, you are a hockey player? One of the ones whose plane was grounded? Can I have your name?"

Geno took a deep breath, if this woman put together who he was past a hockey player who was halted on a flight home by unfortunate weather, he was going to have considerably more trouble sneaking Sidney upstairs. If she knew him, he could expect beyond a shadow of a doubt that she would recognize Sidney; the crown prince of hockey.

For a moment Geno considered saying his name was Maatta, knowing full well that Olli was still out drinking, but quickly realized saying that could cause more trouble than it would be worth when Olli finally stumbled in.

Resigning himself to his fate, Geno answered.

"Malkin."

The concierge nodded, but showed no recognition. "Ahh yes, Mr.Malkin. Room 253. Let me get you a key."

Geno smiled to her, and then spared a glance at his coach.

No movement.

And Sidney was still dutifully standing behind the plant.

Deciding to test his luck and continue the charade he pulled on his media smile and all the fancy English he hardly ever be bothered with, as the concierge handed him the key card.

"Oh one more thing?" He said to her.

"Of course, what can I do to help?"

"My friend, the one I was out with tonight, left his phone at the bar by accident when he left before me, and now I have it." Geno patted his empty coat pocket, trying to convince the woman his story was true. "I was wondering if you could give me a key to his room to drop it off without having to wake him? He has a terrible time falling back asleep if he wakes up and knocking on his door would keep him up till sunrise."

The concierge paused, obviously a little uncomfortable with the idea of handing over a key to him for another person's hotel room, so Geno piled onto the story. Saying anything to make it impossible for the woman to not sympathize with him.

"I would just give it to him in the morning, but they are planning on splitting the team up between cars leaving at different times if the plane won't be able to take off in the morning, and it doesn't look like it would be able to." Geno motioned to the now consistent cloud of snow that was swirling outside the windows. "And it is unlikely that we will be in the same car, so I won't see him till we get back to Pennsylvania and he needs his phone. You see, his sister is sick, she has cancer, and she isn't doing so well. He is beside himself with worry and is never without his phone in case he needs to rush home. Frankly, I'm amazed he even forgot it drunk. Please, I need to give it to him, he will hate himself if he misses a call from his family about his sister."

The concierge bit her lip and looked down for a second. "That is terribly sad. Can I ask what kind of cancer it is?"

Geno paused, unsure what kind of answer to give. He played it off his indecision as the holding back of tears.

"Leukemia."He said softly, feeling a tad terrible for using such a horrible disease to sneak a drunk Sidney passed their coach to keep his pride intact.

The concierge let out a soft "oh." Then she turned to her computer. "What is your friend's name? I'll get you a key."

"Crosby." Geno said carefully, waiting to have to do damage control if the concierge's eyes lit up.

Thankfully, she only nodded and handed over the key. "I hope you have a good night, Mr.Malkin, my shift is just ending and night staff will soon start, so no one will be at the desk, if you need assistance please call from your room."

Geno nodded and as the woman turned to go into the rooms behind the desk, Geno dashed behind the bush to grab Sidney and hustled him into the elevator.

He pressed the button to close the doors, then glanced down at Sid's room key. 254. The room next to his.

"Taylor doesn't have cancer." Sidney said suddenly.

"What?"

"You lied to that lady." Sid leaned his head on Geno's shoulder.

"Oh uh well..." Geno searched for words.

"Don't worry." Sid laughed into his neck, then, much to Geno's surprise, pressed a kiss under his ear. "I won't tell your Mama."

Geno slid away from Sid, once again thanking god for saving his butt when the elevator doors dinged open just before Sid could open his mouth to question Geno's behaviour. He basically threw himself into the hallway and down the corridor, counting room numbers as Sid toddled behind him.

"250...251...252...253!" Geno stopped and turned to Sid, who was resting his head against the wall.

"My room." He pointed at the door. "Your room." He motioned to the room next door. "Good night."

He handed the key to Sidney, who quickly fumbled it and dropped it on the carpet, then bent to pick it up, only to drop it again.

Geno sighed. At this rate Sid would be out here all night. He crouched and retrieved the key himself, opening Sid's door and ushering him in.
"Okay Sid. Bedtime, see you in morning."

Sid sat down on the mattress in a flop and tried to kick off his shoes. Key word: tried.

Groaning, Geno knelt down and undid the laces of the shoes. "Stop. You ruin shoes and then complain to me in morning." He pulled the shoes off.

"Thanks G." Sidney had a sloppy grin on his face and Geno couldn't help but give him a little smile back.

You should probably take his tie off. Geno thought offhandedly. He'll choke himself in his sleep.

"Lean Sid." Geno motioned for Sidney to sit up, then loosened his tie and slid it off over his head.

Sidney, now devoid of his tie, flopped back on the mattress. The mattress made a squeak and Sidney laughed.

"Alright, goodnight Sidney." Geno made for the door.

"Wait!"

"What?" He turned back to Sidney.

"Don't go away, can't you stay?" Sidney pouted and patted the bed.

Geno bit his lip, it was tempting to stay with Sidney, just this once. Sidney was so drunk it would be a miracle that he remembered tonight. He stepped toward the bed, but paused, imagining what would happen in the morning if Sidney woke up to find he wasn't alone, or worse, him finding Geno with his arms around him. Sidney would be horrified.

What if he thinks I took advantage of him? Geno felt sick even thinking about it. Sidney will hate you, and if he doesn't he'll never look you in the eye again. He won't sit with you on flights or on the bus, he'll be so embarrassed, no, he'll be so disgusted that he'll never even touch you again. There is no way you can stay.

"I'm sorry, Sid." Geno glanced around the room. "How about I open adjoining door?"

Sid looked a little hurt, but nodded. "Okay," He tugged the blankets up over himself. "But will you talk to me until I fall asleep?"

"Talk?" Geno frowned. "About what?"

"Nothing, everything, it doesn't even have to be English, I just wanna hear your voice."

"Alright," Geno's heart swelled, but he bit down the feeling.

Stop giving yourself hope. Geno chided. He's just drunk and lonely and without a filter. He doesn't love you, he isn't attracted to you, he just doesn't want to be alone.

"I'll open the doors now."

Geno unlocked the adjoining door opposite the foot of the bed, then went through the hallway into his room to open the door from that side as well. After doing so, he peeked his head into Sid's, hoping that he had dozed off, but found him wide awake looking at him with a little grin.

"Hey G," Sid even gave him a little wave.

"Hey Sid." Geno wasn't actually sure he had ever seen his captain this drunk before, it was eye opening to say the least. "I'm going to change, then I talk, okay?"

Sid nodded.

Inside the washroom, Geno stripped and switched to pajama pants quickly, but spared a glance at himself in the mirror.

He looked like he always did to himself. Dark hair, dark eyes, and a nose that took up a lot of real estate. But he also looked older. With each passing day he realized more and more that he wasn't twenty anymore.

He was in his thirties.

He was in his thirties and he was alone. Back in Russia most everyone he knew that was his age had a wife or husband, and were thinking about having kids. And yet here he was, standing in a hotel washroom, staring at his reflection and convincing himself that the person he has been pining over for years doesn't love him back.

They all said he was living the life that most people dreamed of, and that was true, but sometimes Geno wished he had never touched a hockey stick before. Anything to keep him from living through the agony of his heart being ground into finer particles every time Sidney smiled at him.

Geno wasn't sure he could do this anymore.

"Geno?" Sidney voice was tentative, like he was worried if he spoke too loud Geno would close the door.

Tearing himself away from the mirror and the depressive cloud of self-pity he had been basking in, Geno responded.

"Yeah Sid, sorry, one sec."

Pulling the covers off his bed and flicking off his light, he made himself comfortable.

"You good?"

"Yep." He could hear Sidney shifting in bed, snuggling down under the hotel covers.

He wished that he could see him.

"Alright, okay, yeah, so..." Geno had no idea what he was supposed to say.

Should I talk hockey? That's a safe topic. He mused. No, that would make Sidney nervous and then he'd want to plan and discuss and you can't take that shit right now. He bit his lip. What do I talk about?

"G? Is everything alright?"

"Yes!" Geno answered quickly, scrambling for a topic. "Just thinking a little."

How about home?

Yes, home. You can talk about home.

Clearing his throat Geno started talking. "There is lake at home, this giant lake. We call it.." Geno fumbled for the word in English, then decided to go with Russian. "Koldun'ya ved'm. Basically, it means a witch's cauldron. My parents used to tell my brother and I that it was Baba Yaga's cauldron to keep us from swimming in it without one of them around, but in the winter when it froze over we could skate on it whenever we wanted because the cauldron couldn't bubble anymore. It was my favourite place during the winter. You would've loved it. Maybe one day I can take you there."

Geno paused for a second caught up in the imagined memory of skating on his childhood pond with Sidney. Of taking Sidney home to meet his parents. To really, properly, meet them, as their son's significant other, not as their son's teammate. It made his heart ache all over again, imagining possibilities that would never happen.

Across the adjoining door, Geno could hear a few light snores, signalling that Sidney was oblivious to Geno's life crisis and had fallen asleep. Geno didn't know whether he should be disappointed or grateful.

"Sweet dreams Sidney." He whispered with a sigh, rolling onto his side, and fell asleep swiftly.

________________________________

Sidney did not have sweet dreams. Well, actually they weren't that bad until his body began to process the metric fuck-ton of gin he had ingested in the club specials. He had pounded them back like they were kool-aid jammers and he was an unsupervised child at a birthday party. And now his body was taking its well deserved revenge through his dreams.

In the dream he was skating alone on a lake. From all directions all he could see was the perfectly flat ice, there was no shore for what looked to be miles. Moving across the ice felt nearly effortless, like the ice was urging his skates forward and the wind was nudging him along. Naturally, Sidney leaned into the feeling. He loved skating. It was like breathing for him, he couldn't not skate, it would kill him.

Out on this perfect lake, on a perfect day, the rest of the world could be smouldering rubble and Sidney wouldn't care. He was in heaven.

But you see, that's the problem with dreams, they are seldom heavenly for long.

As Sidney skated farther down the lake, marvelling at the lack of soreness in his legs, the ice began to creak. At first he couldn't hear it, but when he finally did, it was too late.

The once sturdy ice shattered like it was fine china and Sidney was an anvil falling from a window. Almost instantly he was submerged head to toe in water a few precious degrees above zero.

The shock of the water pushed the air from his lungs and as Sidney struggled to get his bearings, he realized with a fresh wave of terror that he was sinking.

Stop panicking. Sidney thought in a moment of clarity. Calm down and look up, find the light source; find the hole you fell through.

Sidney looked upwards, scanning for the hole in the ice that moments ago ruined his life, but now will save him.

There was no hole.

The ice looked like it had a minute ago when he had been flying across it;an impenetrable slab.

Fear coursed through Sidney's veins, giving him a bolster of energy to push himself upwards.

Beating his fists against the ice, he screamed for someone, anyone to help him, but as his lungs filled with water he felt his vision fade out.
________________________________

Sidney woke up screaming. The weight of the blankets felt like the oppressive grasp of the water, and he could not free himself from it.

Faintly he heard rushed footsteps and then the opening of a door, then a voice, a voice that sounded to him like a patch of shade on a scorching day.

"Sid?"

Sidney looked up to meet the voice.

"G?" His voice came out strained and on the verge of tears. "Geno."

Geno all but collapsed onto the mattress next to Sidney and pulled him into his arms. Through his t-shirt he could feel Sidney's heart beating as fast as a jackrabbit, and couldn't help but wonder what had thrown his usually calm captain into such a fit.

But he didn't ask, not now, not when Sidney was pressing his face so hard into his chest that Geno was certain it had to be painful for Sidney. Instead of asking he ran his hands up and down Sid's back and spoke in hushed tones.

"It's alright, shh, it's all gone now. Lie back down."

Geno maneuvered Sidney back into a horizontal position and then moved to break free of Sid's grasp.

Sidney only wrapped his arms tighter. He couldn't bear to let go, he couldn't bear to be alone with his own thoughts, the feeling of the water pressing around him.

"No, stay." Sidney tried to meet Geno's eyes to plead. "Please."

Geno paused. Sidney couldn't read his face. It was as if he was involved in some sort of eternal battle, but then his face cleared to an expression that Sidney knew well. Geno was going to say no. His heart clenched and his stomach twisted itself up like a pair of loose headphones in a backpack.

He's rejecting you. Sid thought, still a little at sea from the copious amount of alcohol and the nightmare that came with it . Just like he always does. To him, you are just teammates, nothing more. No matter how much you may beg he'll still leave you alone, because he doesn't love you that way.

"G..." Sid breathed, knowing the weight, knowing the meaning that his next words held, and how easily they could tip the balance of his life. "Just once, just once and I'll never ask again. I want you here."

Geno pulled away, then sighed and put a hand through his hair. "You won't want me here in the morning." He shook his head. "You are just drunk."

Sidney felt his heart shatter. All he could hear was the echoes of Geno's words You are just drunk. An excuse. A way to brush off the suitcase of heartache that Sid had carried with him for literal years. He's just drunk. He doesn't mean what he's saying, he isn't bearing his heart to you, he isn't risking his dearest friendship, his reputation, his livelihood on you. He's. Just. Drunk.

Sidney couldn't take it anymore.

"I'm not just drunk!" Sidney shouted. "I'm in love with you! I have been for years! There's never been anyone else, just you."

Sidney dared to meet Geno's eyes, hoping against all hope to see some sort of reciprocation of his feelings, but he was met only with shock.

And it was with that he broke, his voice suddenly getting very small as he wished that the ground would just swallow him whole.

"But...But I can see that you don't feel the same way." He swallowed hard. "And, and that's okay, I guess. I understand that you don't want anything to do with me. I can talk to coach, see about changing it around so we don't room next to each other anymore, I promise to leave you alone, I won't bother you about anything not related to hockey..." Sidney trailed off, before taking a long inhale. "And if that isn't enough, if you still can't look at me and see your teammate,I'll demand a trade."

For a second Geno had sworn his heart had stopped. Sid asking for a trade? Sidney Crosby, the heir apparent of the Penguins empire, asking to sign that away? For him? Geno couldn't believe his ears, he couldn't believe his eyes when he didn't see even a glimmer of jest in Sid's eyes.

He means every word. Geno thought. He'll leave behind everything if it would give me peace, but him leaving would cleave my heart in two.

"Sidney," Geno said softly, reaching to brush Sid's hair out of his face. "Do not leave. This is your team. I cannot play without you."

Sid didn't move into or away from Geno's touch. "Yes you can."

Geno tipped his chin up so his eyes met his own. "I don't want to."

Sid frowned as he met Geno's eyes. He didn't understand the look in the centre's eyes.

"I want to play with you for a long time. I want to be with you."

"You are sure?"

Geno huffed a laugh. "Been sure for long time. Years."

Sidney nodded. "Okay...Okay...So-so we are doing this? We are going to be together?"

Geno smiled hesitantly. "If you'll have me."

The kiss Sidney planted on his mouth was answer enough.