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1.

When the doorbell rings, Geno is really hoping it’s the Chinese food he’d ordered. He’d called almost an hour ago, and he’s approaching the irritable side of hunger. It’s compounded by the fact that he really shouldn’t be eating Chinese food at all, and he feels just guilty enough to be grumpy about it.

Instead, it’s Sidney. He’s holding Geno’s Chinese food, and looking judgey, which doesn’t help Geno’s mood at all.

“Steal my food?” he asks, opening the door enough to let Sid in.

“The driver and I got here at the same time. Figured I’d save him the trouble of dealing with your moods.”

Geno scowls as Sid brushes past him. “Not mood, just hungry. Food take too long.”

“It goes faster if you make your own.”

Geno snorts. The only thing Sid makes on his own are pasta and sandwiches. For the rest of it, he raids the Lemieux fridge or lets Nathalie feed him. Sid gives him a look like he knows what Geno is thinking, and Geno just makes his best innocent face. Sid rolls his eyes.

They’ve long since learned to communicate without words, and he knows Sid well enough to tell that something is on his mind. He lets Sid get his thoughts together, bustling around Geno’s kitchen, pulling out two plates—presumptuous of him—getting out silverware and glasses.

There is something strangely satisfying about watching Sid in his space, making himself comfortable, helping himself to Geno’s things. It’s the sort of thing that would make Geno crazy from anyone else, but on Sid it’s just another one of his charming eccentricities. But then, Geno knows he’s biased with it comes to Sid.

Sid opens up the Kung Pao chicken without asking, and starts to spoon it onto both plates.

“Steal my food,” Geno says again, trying to sound grumpier than he feels. The look Sid gives him says that he isn’t succeeding.

“I’m helping you,” Sid says cheekily. “You always order too much.”

“Order enough. You always steal.”

“Do you have any gatorade?”

Geno crosses his arms. “Bring own gatorade.”

“Geno,” Sid says, just a hint of a whine. Geno rolls his eyes. Sid isn’t looking at him, but he thinks he knows anyway. When he passes Sid, he hip checks him lightly, pushing him into the counter.

When he passes Sid a red gatorade, Sid slides Geno one of the plates. It is, Geno notes, more heavily loaded with food than Sid’s own plate. They eat standing at the counter, silently. Geno keeps shooting Sid looks, wondering if Sid will bring up what’s on his mind.

Not that he needs to.

Geno waits until Sid has finished his plate before he says, carefully, “How is move?”

Sid’s shoulders tense minutely, enough that Geno knows he was right.

“Fine.”

Geno jostles their shoulders together, and Sid jostles him back. “Can’t lie, Sid. Bad for Canada.”

That, at least, gets the smile Geno was looking for. Then Sid’s face settles back into the same lines, tight around the mouth and between his eyebrows. Geno wants to smooth his fingers over them, press on each line until it’s gone. Wants to put fingers, hands, mouth to every part of Sid that carries the weight of the world.

He pushes the thought away. It’s not what Sid wants, not what he needs.

“It’s just so empty,” Sid says, absently scraping his fork across his plate, pushing around the last grains of rice.

Geno shrugs. “No furniture.”

Sid scowls. “That’s not what I meant, and you know it.” He grabs his plate and huffs over to the sink. Geno watches his shoulders as he angrily scrubs at the plate.

“I’m have dishwasher,” he says after a moment.

“I know!” Sid snaps.

Geno sighs. It looks like Sid is in a mood of his own. He looks down at his own plate. He still has a few leftover peppers that he had picked around. He scrapes the rest of it into the trash and joins Sid at the sink. There isn’t enough room for them both to wash their dishes together, but after a beat, Sid holds out a hand and Geno puts the plate into it.

He watches silently as Sid methodically applies soap and brush, more vigorously than Geno would. But then, Geno also believes in using the dishwasher.

“Know what you mean. House is big. Empty.” He gestures around at his own house, the cavernous space around him. It had taken him time to get used to it, so different from the comfort and warmth of Gonch’s house. And Mario has four kids. To go from the organized chaos of that house to a silent, empty one would be disorienting for anyone.

And Sid, with his routines and his comforts, is not just anyone.

“Yeah,” Sid says, eyes on the plate. It’s clean. It’s probably as clean as it’s ever been since Geno bought it. Sid keeps scrubbing.

The problem is, Geno doesn’t have a good answer. Sid isn’t like him. Geno likes loud parties and a quiet home. Sid is the opposite. He doesn’t like clubs, doesn’t like the lights and the noise, but he always wants people around when it’s quiet.

It had taken Geno over a year to understand that. He’d written Sid off as anti-social and awkward when Sid had left the bars early, when Sid always went home alone. But it’s been five years now, and he knows Sid better now. Knows that the thought of an empty house, with only his own footsteps to echo off the walls, scares the hell out of Sid.

He watches Sid’s hands on the plate, his strong, capable fingers. He suspects that Sid wants to abandon the whole move and just go back to living in Mario’s attic. He suspects that Sid views that as giving up. And Sidney Crosby, everyone knows, does not give up.

“Can stay here tonight,” Geno offers. He’s made the offer before, enough that Sid has practically claimed the room closest to Geno’s as his own.

Sid’s hands go still. “Yeah?”

Geno shrugs. “Practice tomorrow.”

Finally, Sid rinses the plate and sets it to the side. “You can’t be late if I drive you.”

Geno very much doubts that. He grins. “Can try.”

“Just for tonight,” Sid concedes.

They get to the rink 10 minutes before practice starts, which is 20 minutes late for Sid and 10 minutes early for Geno. Geno thinks that means he wins. When he says as much to Sid, Sid scowls and flips him off, which means he agrees. Geno grins.

Sid drops Geno back at his house after practice. There’s a moment of tension just before Geno gets out, where he wonders if he should invite Sid back in, or if Sid will invite himself.

Neither of them says anything, and Geno lets himself out. Sid waves at him from the front seat and Geno rolls his eyes to hide the smile that wants to break open across his face.

2.

Construction on Sid’s house finished almost on a month ago. If they have a few days between games, Sid will bother Geno, Flower and whoever else he can get of the rest of them to help him move boxes. It’s an absurd process that involves carrying cardboard boxes down three sets of Mario’s stairs, trying not to trip over any of the Lemieux kids who aren’t ready to say goodbye, driving about ten feet to cross the street, and dumping everything in the foyer of Sid’s new house.

“You can pay people to do this,” Tanger says. “Like a normal person.”

Flower exchanges a look with Geno. They both know why Sid is doing it this way, and if Tanger gave it a moment’s thought, he’d probably put it together as well. Movers would do it all at once, wouldn’t give Sid the chance to move his stuff over in batches over the course of weeks and months. He needs to ease himself into it.

“I bet you $30 he’s sold the place by Christmas,” Flower mutters.

Geno shakes his head. “I’m not take bad bet.”

 

 

They have an away game in Nashville, which they win, and another in St. Louis that they lose in overtime, so Geno’s not too surprised when he sees a familiar car following him home. He loses sight of Sid after a few minutes, because Sid drives like an old lady, but he’s barely pulled into the garage before Sid’s headlights pull into the driveway. Sid doesn’t even bother with the familiarity of the front door, just follows Geno through the garage door with his gear bag over his shoulder. He doesn’t even seem to realize he’s still carrying it, routine making it a familiar weight for them both.

It’s dark outside, and late enough that they should both be in bed, but there’s no practice tomorrow and it was a hard two days. He waits until Sid drops his gear down in the living room before tossing him a beer.

Sid tips it to him in a silent cheers and pops the top. He takes a long, distracting sip, drawing Geno’s eyes to the long line of his throat.

“This is good,” Sid says accusingly, looking first at Geno then the beer with deep suspicion.

“I’m best at beer,” Geno says, smug.

“Your beer is always, always terrible,” Sid shoots back, which is both rude and patently untrue. Sid has just been ruined by drinking weak alcohol his entire life. “This is good though.”

Geno shrugs, trying not to give away with his face how long he had spent looking for the kind of beer Sid liked. “Admit Russia best.”

Sid makes a face at him, but takes another sip of the beer. “It’s no Canadian beer, but it’s better than the crap you usually drink.”

“Not crap.” He settles down on the opposite side of the couch from Sid, watching him carefully. “Watch tv?”

“Not hockey,” Sid says after a minute.

“Not hockey?” Geno repeats, miming shock. Sid kicks him, and Geno laughs.

In the end, they settle on a nature show, something with sharks and fish and a narrator that talks just a bit too fast for Geno to follow it clearly.

He doesn’t know how much time passes, but when he glances back at Sid, he’s asleep, head tipped back against the back of the couch. The stress lines that Geno despairs of are smoothed out in sleep, and he fights back the urge to press his fingers to the spot where his eyebrows usually draw together.

Instead, he stands and stretches. He takes Sid’s discarded can and throws it away, then turns off the tv. For a moment, he even debates throwing a blanket over Sid and leaving him there. But Sid will gripe about it if Geno leaves him there, and his back will be bothering him and Geno will never hear the end of it.

He leans over and nudges Sid away, a hand on his shoulder.

Sid’s head rolls towards Geno’s arm, and he blinks up at him. “Geno?”

Geno can’t help but smile, can’t help what he knows must be showing on his face, if only Sid were awake enough to notice. “Sleepyhead.” He’d heard Flower says it more than once, usually when chirping Talbo for falling asleep on the plane.

Sid’s head tips just enough to rest the weight of it on Geno’s arm, hair is soft against his skin. He looks like he might go right back to sleep. “Comfy,” he says. Geno’s heart clenches with affection.

“Get up. Can’t sleep on couch.”

“Can too,” Sid replies, but he picks his head off of Geno’s arm and stretches, then rolls carefully off the couch. Geno puts out a hand to steady him, but Sid doesn’t need it.

“Bed time for sleepy Captains.”

Sid flips him off, which makes Geno laugh, delighted with it. Sid grabs his gear bag off the floor and heads for the stairs. On the first stair, he turns back. “Coming?”

For a split second, Geno’s vision wavers, and he thinks Sid means—

But then reality reinserts itself, and he follows Sid up the stairs, where Sid goes into the guest room, and Geno goes to the master, alone.

“Night, Geno,” Sid says.

“Good night, Sid.”

The next morning, Sid makes them both breakfast, nudging Geno out of the way when he tries to help.

“Going to burn eggs!”

“I’m not going to burn the eggs,” Sid replies. “You’re getting in the way.”

“Not,” Geno huffs, but he goes to pour him and Sid a glass of orange juice each and wait at the kitchen table.

When Sid puts down a plate, fried eggs and toast for Geno, scrambled eggs and toast for himself, Geno inspects the food carefully, nudging the eggs with his fork.

“Oh, for god’s sake,” Sid says.

“Eggs look little bit burned.”

“They’re not burned!”

“Little bit,” Geno holds up his thumb and index finger about an inch apart, to indicate.

“Are not,” Sid mutters.

Geno hides a smile as he cuts the yolk open. It’s cooked perfectly, runny just enough to scoop with his toast.

“Going to work on house today?” Geno asks.

Sid makes a face. “Yeah, I guess.”

“So excited!” Geno chirps.

“I mean, I should. I need to pick out furniture.”

“Can’t move in without furniture,” Geno agrees.

Sid busies himself with his eggs. “I really just need a bed. Maybe a couch.”

The thought is desperately sad, and Geno puts his food down to just look at him. “Is not a home, Sid.”

Sid shrugs, not meeting his eyes. “I don’t know if it ever will be. I dunno. I know what I wanted it to be, when I bought it. But now it’s done, and it’s—I don’t see I can ever fit in there. It’s so big.”

“Need big house,” Geno says thoughtfully, and Sid looks at him. He can feel a smile curling around his lips, and he can tell that Sid knows exactly what he’s about to say, “for big ass.”

Sid rolls his eyes, but at least he’s smiling. “Weak.”

“And big house for hockey trophies.”

“A whole house, just for the trophies?” Sid asks, playing along.

Geno shrugs. “Sid best.”

Sid ducks his head. “Thanks, G.”

Geno hesitates, because he’s probably going to regret this, but “Want help with furniture?”

It’s worth it, for the way that Sid lights up.

Several hours later, it’s still worth it, but Geno also regrets it, just a little. Sid is, unsurprisingly, as finicky about his furniture as he is about everything else, and has more recommendations for things for Geno’s house than for his own.

“I’m have furniture,” Geno finally snaps, when Sid tries to explain how this particular table set would look great in Geno’s dining room. “Get for own house.”

Sid frowns at the table, which until just now had, apparently, been the world’s most perfect piece of woodwork. “It’s not right for my place.”

Geno wants to tear his hair out. “I’m have table.”

“This table is better though.”

“Then get for you.”

“I don’t want it for me. I want it for you.”

The saleswoman, who has been following them around the hall, just out of range enough to be unobtrusive, steps forward. “You can always return to the dining sets later. Perhaps I could point you in the direction of the beds?”

“Please,” Geno says, before Sid can protest, or try to sell him more stuff he doesn’t need.

As they follow her, Geno shoots a text to the Penguins group chat, which just reads “Save me” Since Sid’s ancient flip phone can’t receive group texts, Geno doesn’t have to worry about him seeing it.

Flower immediately sends back ‘Better you than me’ and Tanger just send him about ten lols in a row. Geno scowls and shoves his phone back into his pocket. His team is useless.

3.

Geno raises his eyebrows when Sid pushes past him, large cardboard box in his arms. “Hi Sid,” he says cordially. “Please come into house. I can take coat?”

“I’m not wearing a coat,” Sid says distractedly, and Geno only regrets that Sid isn’t looking at him to see how expansively he rolls his eyes.

“Get lost?” he asks instead. “Wrong turn on long drive between Mario’s house and new house?”

“Hilarious,” Sid replies. “No, this is for you.”

“For me?” He follows Sid into the living room, watches as Sid drops the box onto the couch. Sid gets very proud over his gifts, and this isn’t what this is. He’s not preening even a little, waiting expectantly for Geno to open it.

“I noticed last time I was here you didn’t have many towels.” Not least because Sid never remembers to put a towel back on the rack, Geno thinks with exasperation. “I brought extra.”

Geno opens the box curiously. It is, indeed, full of towels. He picks one up and gives Sid a look. Sid’s face goes red. “Penguin towels, Sid?”

Sid crosses his arms over his chest, defensive. “It goes with the chairs.”

“Chairs not in bathroom.”

Sid tilts his chin up. “It’s important for the entire house to coordinate, to promote stylistic synergy.”

Geno has no idea what the hell stylistic synergy means, and judging by the way Sid says it, he doesn’t either.  He puts the Penguins towels down and digs deeper into the box. In addition to the branded towels, there are some luxuriously fluffy black towels.

“Oh, you don’t have to—”

Geno pulls out a sheet set from the bottom of the box. He doesn’t say anything, just holds them up and gives Sid a look.

Sid shuffles his feet. “I thought, if you’re going to be having guests over, you should have comfier sheets.”

“My sheets not comfy?”

“Well,” Sid says, and then stops.

“Rude,” Geno mutters.

Sid ignores him, just folds all the towels back up and puts them in the box. “It’s for you.”

“I’m think it’s for Sid,” Geno says. “For visiting.”

Sid shrugs,“I was already getting stuff for the house.”

Ah.

Geno sets the sheet set down on the top of the box. “Thank you, Sid.” He wonders if Sid even actually bought anything for the house at all. Last time he and Flower and Jordy had been by, all the boxes had been exactly where they’d been left last time, unpacked in Sid’s foyer. Flower is still keeping his book, and not one person has odds on Sid keeping the house past the end of the season, not even the rookies, who are usually sure money on things like this.

“For sure,” Sid says, as uncomfortable with thanks as he always is. “Want to watch the Caps game when it’s on?”

Watching Caps games, and texting all his opinions to Sasha for him to find after the game, is one of Geno’s favorite things to do in his free time. As far as he can tell, watching any hockey at all, and telling all his opinions to anyone in earshot is one of Sid’s favorite things to do, so it works out. “Maybe I’m have plans,” he says, just to needle Sid.

“You never have plans during a Caps game,” Sid replies, smirking. Geno hates that smirk, hates how good it looks on Sid’s face. Hates how he wants to feel that smirk against his own mouth, wants to give Sid something to be properly smug about. Sid doesn’t wait for Geno to come up with an answer, just brushes past him to the kitchen. “I’ll even make dinner.”

Geno resists making a face. “Your food is boring.”

Sid gives him a look over the fridge door. “You’re turning down free food? You?”

“Is not free, is my food. I already paid.”

Sid waves his hand, like he can’t be bothered with such trivialities. Geno crosses to his side, nudging Sid out of the way to get a better look at the contents of the fridge. He needs to make a food run soon enough, but there’s enough to scrounge together.

Sid doesn’t move past where Geno had put him, and when Geno turns to look at him, he finds that Sid’s face is close to his own. For a moment, his breath catches in his throat and his eyes drop to Sid’s mouth. Sid is looking back at him, but Geno can’t make out his expression. It’s not even like Sid is trying to hide anything, Geno knows what that looks like. He doesn’t know this look.

Then Sid clears his throat and looks back to the fridge. “You need more food.”

“No pasta,” Geno agrees. “So sad.”

Sid snorts. “I eat other things.”

“Yes. Peanut butter and jelly.”

Sid hmphs into the fridge and pulls out a pack of cold cuts and some wilting lettuce. “Where’s your bread?”

Geno resigns himself to his fate and straightens. He takes the barest moment to appreciate the view, then goes to find his last loaf of bread.

4.

When Geno gets back from lunch with Gonch, he finds Sid already stretched out on his couch, giving him a vaguely accusing look.

“Where were you? I wanted to go over some tape.”

Geno sighs. He’d been looking forward to his afternoon nap, he’d eaten more of Ksensia’s cooking than he should have and it was making him drowsy. But there was no putting Sid off when he wanted to go over hockey stuff.

“Which game?” he asks, coming around to the other side of the couch. He picks up Sid’s feet long enough to sit down then returns them to his lap.

“Two nights ago, Hurricanes.”

“We win Hurricanes game,” Geno says, exasperated.

“In a shootout,” Sid replies. “We can do better.”

For Sidney Crosby, enough is never enough. It’s what makes him the best. It is what makes him such a great Captain. It is, often, what makes him a terrible friend.

“Sid,” Geno whines. “Tired.”

Sid looks him over, and raises his eyebrows. “Too much of Ksensia’s cooking?”

“Shut up.”

“I’ll let you pick the movie next time,” Sid offers.

“My house,” Geno grumbles, “my tv.” Sid nudges Geno’s thigh with his foot and Geno curls his hand around Sid’s ankle, stilling him. “Yes, fine. Go over winning game tape.” He rolls his eyes, making sure Sid can see him. “Crazy.”

Sid already has the tape pulled up. Has, apparently, been sitting and waiting for Geno to come back. Geno can see one of the Russian picture books he’d gotten for Victoria on the coffee table, and his heart clenches at the thought of Sid reading through it, carefully sounding out the Russian words.

He has to drag his attention back to the game, when his eyes keep going again and again to the book. Sid could have watched the tape without him. Lunch had run long; if Sid had come here after practice, it would have been a few hours.

But instead, he’d waited for Geno, flipping through a book he couldn’t read to learn a language he would never really need.

Geno realizes he’s absently stroking his thumb over Sid’s ankle, thumb sweeping over the bone. He makes his hand go still with an effort, listens to Sid go over their power play, even manages a comment or two, critiquing his own performance.

The powerplay on screen hasn’t even ended when Sid shifts, subtly pushing his ankle more into Geno’s grip. It could be an accident, but—

Geno moves his hand again, a smooth back and forth, feeling where the hair on Sid’s leg gives way to skin, the protrusion of bone. Sid’s breath hitches, but when he speaks—a comment on Engo’s penalty in the first—his voice is steady.   

5.

“We need more snacks.”

Geno looks over to where Sid is fussing with the food table. The caterer’s only just left, and Sid is already moving the plates around. Geno smacks his hand away when it looks like he’s going to start moving the actual food around on the plate.

“Stop fuss. Don’t touch food with gross hands.”

“I washed them,” Sid protests, but he at least steps back. Geno moves all the plates back, just to mess with him, and beams at the dirty look Sid gives him.

“Go be Captain. Say hi to baby Penguins.” Around this time a year, the hero worship will have started to fade, eclipsed by Sid’s overwheming Sid-ness; his rituals, his awkwardness, his stupid laugh. The way he talks too much about hockey and ducks out of parties too early and has never taken a good photo in his life.

Sid takes the bait, as Geno knew he would, because that is another facet that the legend of Sidney Crosby could never capture: how much he loves his team. His earnest sincerity, his reluctant charm. The Sid who cares about everything a little too much.

Geno has to shake himself out of the thought, pouring himself a generous shot of vodka and tossing it back.

When he lowers the shot glass, Flower is in front of him. Geno swears and almost jumps back into the food table. Flower has the disconcerting ability to just appear , like a cat, or a character in a horror movie. Geno hadn’t even seen him come up.

“What are you doing?”

Geno looks down at his shot glass, then back to Flower’s expression, more serious than the situation warrants. “Drinking?”

Flower rolls his eyes and reaches past Geno to pour himself a glass of wine. “You know what I mean? What are you doing with Sid ?”

Geno’s eyes jump reflexively to where Sid is laughing with Talbo and one of the rookies, who already has a telling flush of alcohol across his cheeks.  Sid’s laughing at something, the sound carrying, and Geno can’t help but smile along with it.

Guiltily, he jerks his gaze back to Flower, who looks back at him, implacable. “Yeah. That.”

“Nothing.” It’s true enough. It’s nothing new . He can’t imagine why Flower is approaching him now , and not when it first became a problem 3 years ago.

“Uh-huh.” Flower jerks his head towards the terrace, and walks off. Geno suspects that if he stays put, Flower will just continue the conversation here, at top volume. Geno suspects this is the kind of conversation he wants to have in private. He follows.

It’s too cold to actually step outside, but Flower stops in a secluded corner, leaning against the wall and fixing Geno with the kind of stare that has struck true fear into the hearts of lesser men across an entire rink. “Sid’s stopped his move out of Mario’s house.”

It takes Geno a moment to follow the thread, because he’d been pretty sure he was about to get a talking to about his inappropriate feelings. “Okay,” he says slowly. “You lose bet?”

Flower scowls. “No, we’re past my date. That’s not my point.”

“I’m think you’re wrong,” Geno says. “Went to Mario’s house yesterday. Sid’s old bedroom is empty. Just bed left.”

Flower’s expression doesn’t change, but there is something triumphant in his face anyway, like Geno has fallen into his trap.

“That’s funny, because I went by his new house, and he’s definitely not living there.”

“So? Sid is not baby. Doesn’t need you to be mama.”

“So,” Flower says, taking a sip that Geno knows for a fact is just for dramatic effect. “If he’s not staying at Mario’s, and he’s definitely not staying at his house, where is he staying?”

“I’m don’t know!” Geno snaps, not sure where this conversation is going, and impatient with it. “Here, sometimes! Maybe other teammates.” He adds, rudely, “Sid doesn’t want your goalie germs. Doesn’t tell you.”

“Not here, sometimes, Geno. Here, always.” Flower puts his glass of wine down, a gesture perfectly chosen both for peak drama and to show Geno he’s serious. “Geno, this party was his idea. He said, come to my place, and we all came here. You didn’t even hesitate. Did you even notice?”

“Of course, notice!” Except, he hadn’t. Not how Flower means. He’d heard the words, understood that it meant he and Sid would be throwing a party, but he hadn’t even realized that Sid had said ‘at my house’ and Geno had known that he meant here. This house.

The house, he is only just now realizing, that the two of them share together. Have been sharing together.

Flower claps him on the shoulder. “Welcome to the conversation, mon ami.”

Geno waves him away, lost in thought. How long has it been, how long since Sid had knocked, or asked permission. How long since Sid spent the night somewhere other than Geno’s spare room. He can’t remember.

“So, I ask again, what are you doing ?” Flower asks, pointed and sharp.

Geno flinches back from the question, and the truth comes out. “I don’t know.”

Flower gives him a solemn look. “Okay.”

“I’m not.” Geno flounders, hating English and hating that, even if he spoke Russian right now, he probably still wouldn’t know what to say. “Now what?”

Flower sighs, and his touch to Geno’s shoulder is comforting this time. “I guess, now you talk to Sid.” He searches Geno’s face. “Be careful, okay?”

Geno scowls. “Always careful, with Sid!”

The smile Flower gives him is almost too delicate to handle, too close to sympathetic. “I know, G. I know you are.” He squeeze Geno’s shoulder again. “Be careful with yourself too though. I don’t want either of you to get hurt in this.” He lets go, and steps back, giving Geno space to breathe.

“Won’t get hurt,” Geno promises.

Flower gives him a Look, and— when Sid’s laugh carries across the room again, and Geno turns to it before he can stop—he can’t even blame him.   

 

Interlude I.

After Flower says it, Geno can’t stop seeing it. Food Geno hadn’t bought; Sid’s stupidly specific peanut butter next to Geno’s organic butter, Sid’s pasta in the freezer beside Geno’s hidden carton of Rocky Road.

Sid’s pullover is thrown over the back of the couch, even though Geno has told him to just bring it back to his room. Sid’s custom jeans thrown into Geno’s laundry, their sneakers lying side by side in the mudroom. There’s a picture of Sid’s family in the living room, how long has that even been there?

It’s not just Sid’s things either, which would be bad enough. His house has changed. He can point to each single moment, letting Sid bully him into a new sound system, the kitchen appliances they had bought together, a horrible statue that had Geno had pretended to sneak into the house while Sid laughed at him from the living room.

Sid has colonized his apartment, as thoroughly as if he’d planted a flag in the kitchen. Geno hasn’t even looked at Sid’s room—and how telling is it, that it’s Sid’s bedroom, no longer the guest room.

He doesn’t know how to bring it up with Sid—doesn’t even know for sure whether Sid knows what he’s done. Sid, for all his famed observational skills on the ice, is just as blind to these things as Geno is, maybe even worse.

It’s easier not to talk about. They get shut out by Minnesota , of all people, and then lose to the Bruins, both at home, and Geno doesn’t want to broach the topic after a loss. And then they’re winning, and he doesn’t want to risk a winning streak by putting Sid on edge.

Then, they have a week-long homestand, more than he’s going to get for the rest of the season. Now that he knows, he can’t wait it out, can’t keep living in a facsimile of domestic bliss, with Sid completely unaware.

Geno brings it up over breakfast—they’ve fallen into a too-comfortable routine, with Sid making eggs as Geno minds the toast and navigates his $500 coffee machine—and Geno can’t let it go on any longer.

“How’s move go?” he asks, carefully spooning jam into his tea. His hands don’t shake, because he’s made a career—a life—out of steady hands, but he’s already spooned in too much because the alternative would be to look at Sid.

“It’s good! I just have a few more things at Mario’s, and Austen has already started setting up a “man cave” of his own up there.” He puts quotes around the words, which would usually make Geno smile, but his stomach is buzzing with nerves.

“Want help?”

Sid pauses, long enough that Geno looks up at him. Sid looks thoughtful. “I, probably? I should probably start unpacking more.” He laughs. “It feels like I only just started moving, but it’s been half a season already. I’ve hardly even been there!”

Geno waits to see it clicks with him, but it doesn’t. Geno is going to have to spell it out for him.

“Sid,” he starts, and falters. When he looks at Sid again, Sid is looking back, the full force of his attention brought to bear on Geno. “Sid, haven’t been to new house in months.”

Sid laughs, the awkward media sound he makes when he doesn't know what to say. Geno hates to hear it here, in his kitchen. It doesn’t belong here, with the eggs and toast, with Sid’s hair still mussed from sleep. “It hasn't been that long.”

“Has,” Geno replies. And then, because he can’t drag this out any longer. “Sid, you living here.”

He sees Sid start to deny it.  Sees him stop, and think about. Sees him make all the mental checks that Geno had, running through the last time Sid had driven separately, the last time he’d slept somewhere else.

Sid looks around the kitchen, and Geno knows he’s taking in all the hallmarks of his own presence, the flags he’s planted without even knowing it.

“Oh.”

 

Interlude II.

They box up Sid’s room together. It’s even worse than Geno had thought. The room, corner to corner, is entirely Sid’s. His clothes have found their way into the dresser, his extra gear bag is in the closet. The stupid sheets he’d brought are on the bed, and Geno can only manage a half-hearted chirp about it having all been for Sid’s comfort after all.

He buries the other thought, that he would buy Sid a thousand sheets to keep him. It won’t help him to think like that. They have to get Sid moved back into his own home. Geno can’t remember how far they’d gotten, can hardly remember the last time they were over there.

Sid keeps stopping as they pack, staring around like he’s not sure how they got here, how so much of himself is spread over the room.

Geno takes the miniature replica of the Stanley Cup and puts it reverently into a box, carefully packing some of Sid’s t-shirts around it, protecting it from scuffs. He can’t imagine what Sid had been thinking, when he brought this in here.

Sid watches him tuck a sweatshirt into the corner of the box, and Geno can’t read his expression at all.

“Sorry about this,” Sid says after another ten minutes of silence. Geno turns to look at him, carefully folding a t-shirt.

“Is okay,” Geno says, not wanting to hear Sid’s genuine, earnest regret about taking up space in Geno’s life. Space that Geno offers freely, space that he wants to give. When he’s not on the ice, Sid apologizes for every inch of space he takes up. On the ice, Sid is larger than life, takes up more space than should be possible. Sid has never given any indication of wanting to take up Geno’s space.

Except.

He looks back to Sid, who has unfolded and then refolded the same shirt twice now, his hands moving absently as he worries at his lower lip. “It’s not okay though,” Sid bursts out, and Geno puts down the book he’d been holding. It’s one of the Game of Thrones books, one that Sid always says he’ll read eventually and then never does.

“Is okay,” he repeats, when Sid doesn’t continue.

“I shouldn’t have—,” Sid cuts himself off. “I didn’t even realize. It was just, easier, you know? I would leave Mario’s with my stuff, and I would mean to take it to the house—” he always says The house, not my house— “but it’s always so empty, so big. It always just made more sense to come here. I didn’t think about it. It’s your house. I shouldn’t have just, just made myself at home here.”

He should, though. Geno doesn’t want him to leave. He doesn’t want to go back to last season, when this house was new and empty and unfamiliar. He likes the house now, with Sid in it. With Sid bugging him to watch some historical drama that Geno only catches half the words of, or stealing Geno’s food, or leaving his clothes all over the living room. Everyday irritations that all separate his friend Sid from hockey legend Sidney Crosby, and just makes Geno love him more.

He doesn’t say any of that, can’t make it make sense in his own language, much less in English. What he and Sid have is no longer as delicate as it felt three years ago, when he finally realized what he felt wasn’t going to fade, but it still doesn’t feel strong enough to withstand the full weight of Geno’s emotions. He doesn’t want to put that on Sid, who already has so many things to carry on his shoulders.

He doesn’t say anything, just helps Sid tape up everything else, trying to imagine that he’s boxing his own feelings up along with Sid’s stuff, putting everything away to be unpacked later.

Everything Sid had brought into this room fits into four boxes. Sid insists that Geno keep the sheets and the towels, gifts, he says.

Geno will probably end up packing them away as well, until the memory of this afternoon has time to fade away.

It takes them two trips, a box each, to take everything out to Sid’s car. Geno offers to go with him to the house, and after a pause, Sid accepts.

Flower had been right. It’s impossible to mistake Sid’s house as a place someone lives in. There isn’t— quite— dust settled over everything, but the air feels stale. The house is cold, and they both leave their shoes on. Their footsteps echo as they move through the house.

“I still don’t have enough furniture,” Sid says. He looks miserable.

“Sid,” Geno says, and finds he doesn’t know how to continue.

“I was so excited when I started building it.” Sid leads Geno up to the master bedroom. He’d gotten a bed, at least, and it looks strangely alien in the large room. There are no sheets on it, the mattress still in the original plastic. “I can’t remember why, now.”

Geno shrugs. “Good to have own space.”

“I guess.”

They walk back down to the foyer together. Sid had said he couldn't imagine himself in this house, and Geno can’t imagine him here either.

“I’m should go,” Geno says, as they stare at one another and neither of them move. Sid seems to be waiting for something. Geno feels like he is too.

“Yeah,” Sid says, and Geno lets out the breath he didn’t know he was holding.

“Okay.” Geno has to turn away. He can’t stay here, in this empty house, with that empty look on Sid’s face.

“The thing is—” Sid’s voice stops him, his hand on the door handle. “The thing is, I don’t really like having my own space.”

Geno doesn’t turn around. Can’t. The feeling in his chest feels too much like hope, and he can’t bear it.

“I always think I do,” Sid continues, and his footsteps echo again as he moves closer. “But when I actually have it…” he trails off. His hand comes to rest on Geno’s shoulder, and Geno turns into him, helpless. “I like it better, living with you.” Sid takes a deep breath, the same looks he’d had before every game 7, scared and determined and so very brave. “I don’t want to leave.”

“I don’t want you to leave,” Geno says, choosing his words carefully.

“So,” Sid trails off, biting his lip uncertainty.

“Want to stay?” Geno offers desperately, the words forcing themselves out.

Sid sighs in what sounds like relief. “I. Yeah. I do.”

“Then stay,” Geno says.

Sid searches his face. “Okay.”

Interlude III.

It doesn’t take that long to pack the four boxes they’d taken here back into Sid’s car, and they grab a few other boxes at random to bring with. Sid’s leg jostles up and down the entire way back to Geno’s, and Geno has to keep his hands clasped in his lap to stop himself from reaching out, from laying his palm on Sid’s broad thigh and—

And what, he doesn’t know.

He thinks about what this means the entire drive back. It’s not long enough. The drive between his house and Sid’s has never been long, but it feels as though he hardly blinks before they’re back. He and Sid grab a box each, and he thinks, slightly hysterically, that he won’t have to work out his arms at all today.

And then they climb the stairs, and Sid pauses outside the guestroom. He’s looking at Geno now, and Geno knows that he’s not going to ask. That Sid feels he’s pushed far enough, and it’s up to Geno to be brave now. He looks to Sid, and he could be brave, for him. When Sid stops, Geno keeps going, past the guest room. He keeps going until he reaches the master, nudging the door open with his hip.

“Geno?”

Geno puts the box down, and after a beat, Sid does the same. “I’m think,” Geno says. “Maybe, move a little? Move in here?” he indicates his own bedroom, with the blanket his grandmother knitted him over the bed and the ridiculous decorations and no Olympic medal, so different from Sid’s. It’s all he has to offer, and he can only hope it’s enough.

“Geno,” Sid says again, and his voice is infinitely tender. Geno can’t look at him. Then Sid’s hand is on his face, and there is a split second where their eyes meet. Then Sid is kissing him, his lips full and lush against Geno’s, his hands warm on Geno’s face.

Geno makes a startled noise, his hands falling to Sid’s hips, pulling him closer.

Sid groans, and his mouth opens under Geno’s, making the kiss deeper, wetter, until Geno feels like he will collapse.

“Bed,” Sid gasps, and steps into Geno. It takes Geno a moment to make the connection, to take a step back, then another. He all but falls down when he feels the bed against the back of his knees, but Sid just follows him.

“Sid.”

“Yeah, fuck,” Sid says, putting a knee up on the bed and climbing up, kneeling with a leg on either side of Geno’s hips. Geno groans, runs his hands up the thick line of Sid’s thighs, the muscles straining against his jeans.

He feels Sid settle his weight onto Geno’s legs, and Geno kisses him back because he can’t do anything else.

“So, is this yes?” he asks, his voice almost breaking as Sid pulls away to kiss down his neck.

“Yes, G. I want to—fuck, I want to live here, with you. I want to sleep in your bedroom and help you host Christmas parties and meet your parents. I want to do everything.”

Geno pulls back when Sid tries to kiss him again, entranced by the flush spreading over Sid’s face, down his neck. “Have met my parents,” he says.

“Not like this,” Sid protests.

“I’m know,” Geno says, giving him a quick kiss, and then pulling back. “I’m want too.”

“Good.” Sid sits back, his full weight on Geno’s thighs, and just beams at him. “Good.”

Geno just smiles back, feeling stupid and giddy and pleased. He could probably spend an entire evening just smiling at one another, except—

“Sid.”

“Yeah?”

“Sid, legs going asleep.”

“Oh, yeah, for sure.”

+1

When the doorbell rings, Geno rolls over in bed, and smacks Sid’s shoulder. “Door.”

“No,” Sid says, curling away from Geno’s hand.

“Sid,” Geno whines. “Door.”

“We’re not expecting anyone.”

“Maybe mail.”

“Then they can leave it.”

The doorbell rings again, and Geno crack an eye open to watch Sid pull the entire pillow over his face. “Maybe important.”

He can just see the curl of a bare shoulder now, and Sid’s voice is muffled when he says “You get it, it’s your house.”

“Is our house.” Geno replies. It’s been over a year since they officially moved in together— as marked by an official team Housewarming party—and the words still give him a happy buzz to say it.

Sid pulls the pillow down enough to give him a baleful look. His hair is a mess of bedhead and his mouth is still red and a bit swollen from last night, and Geno is suddenly very tempted to just let the doorbell keep ringing. “I know what you’re doing,” Sid says.

“Doing what?” Geno says, looking as innocent as he can.

“You think that saying this is our house you’ll make me all, all soft, and I’ll get the door.”

“Not,” Geno says. He leans in, unable to help himself, and kisses first Sid’s shoulder, than his mouth.

“Ugh, get off,” Sid says, but Geno can feel his smile.

The doorbell rings.

“Sid,” Geno says against his mouth.

“I hate you.”

Geno lays back to watch Sid get out of bed, fantastically naked. It’s a great view, and he almost calls Sid back and goes himself, just so that Sid doesn’t have to get dressed.

Sid shoots him another dark look as he leaves the bedroom, pulling his shirt over his head. Geno crosses his hands behind his head and smirks at him. He laughs outright when Sid almost walks into the doorframe, which makes Sid flip him off.

The doorbell rings again before he can hear the door open, and a rumble of voices. When the door doesn’t immediately close again, Geno reluctantly bids goodbye to his plans for the day and pulls on his own sweatpants.

When he stumbles down the stairs to the front door, he sees Flower smirking at him. “Oh, I’m sorry, was I interrupting something?”

Sid has Estelle propped on one hip, and he gives Flower a withering look. Geno makes sure that Estelle isn’t looking at him, then flips Flower off. Flower laughs.

“Thanks again, Sid. We’ll be back later tonight.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Sid says, but all his attention is on Estelle, and anyone within a mile radius would know he doesn’t mind.

“Be good for Uncle Sid,” Flower tells his daughter, swooping to give her a noisy kiss on the cheek. She giggles and flails her little fists, and Geno’s breath catches at the look on Sid’s face.

“Go away, Flower,” Geno says, and closes the door on Flower’s gleeful expression.

“Looks like we got drafted,” Sid says, still watching Estelle. She sticks her fist in her mouth and looks back at him.

“Looks like,” Geno agrees. He puts his arms around Sid’s waist, waiting until Sid looks at him to steal a kiss. “I’m make breakfast.”

“Thanks, G.”

He hears Sid follow him, and wonders how much longer is a good time to wait before suggesting another use for the spare bedroom.