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The Very Essence of Romance Is Uncertanity

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The news comes as a shock to the entire team, but Sidney can't breathe. Dupuis and Jordy both shift closer to him and he feels Jordan's hand land on the small of his back, but it doesn't help. All he can do is stare at Geno and his huge smile and the words ringing through his head, in Geno's voice.

He feels numb as the others get up to congratulate Geno on his marriage, all of them glancing back at him, eyes sad. There are days it feels like the whole Penguin organization knows how he feels about Geno, from Mario to the janitors, but it’s just the team which is more than Sidney can deal with. He doesn’t want their sympathy and he has a feeling he’s going to be getting a lot of it.

Finally Jordan gets up to congratulate Geno leaving, Dupuis sitting next to him. Pascal slowly stands and squeezes his shoulder. “It’ll be okay kid.”

Chest tight Sidney barely manages to nod. He’s been in love with Geno from almost the beginning and has allowed himself, not very often, to imagine what it would be like if Geno knew and returned his feelings. He’s always kept a candle of hope burning, that maybe once Geno would see what the others did, how much Sidney loves him.

Now though the candle is guttering out, leaving him feeling cold and empty.

Sidney stands as Geno gets closer because he’s not going to have this conversation sitting down. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Geno shrugs and looks abashed. “We been talking about it for some time and seemed right. Sanja was there, as-” He trails off.

“Witness.” The help is automatic, and Sidney hates the fact he can even get the word out because this is the last straw, that Ovechkin knew, was invited, and he wasn’t.

He stumbles to his feet, twisting away when Geno reaches out to catch him because there’s no way, he can possibly handle being touched right now.

Geno frowns at him and Sidney shakes his head. “I ca-” He swallows hard. “Congratulations Geno.”

It hurts to say and leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, but Geno doesn’t seem to notice the lack of sincerity in his voice as his smile brightens.

“I’ve got to go.” Sidney needs to get away, can’t be around Geno right now and he grabs his bag and ducks out, feeling Geno’s eyes on his back the entire way.

He tosses his bag in the backseat and leaves before Geno can catch up. The road seems to be shifting around him, the white line on the right creeping closer to his car and it takes Sidney a minute to realize his hands are trembling, making driving straight impossible and he pulls into the parking lot of a grocery store.

Breathing hard he rests his forehead against the curve of the steering wheel. His heart is going a thousand miles a minute and no matter how much he tries to not think about Geno being married it won’t go away and it just makes breathing hurt even more.

Going home would make sense but he can’t be there right now. Instead he goes to the airport and gets a ticket for the next flight to DC because seriously, it isn’t fair that Ovechkin knew, and he didn’t.

-----

When he gets there, he hails a cab and asks for a bar. He doesn’t really care where he ends up as long as they have copious amounts of alcohol. The place he ends up isn’t quite a dive but is worse than he would usually go to in Pittsburgh. Pulling his hat lower he enters the bar and is grateful to see it free of anything Capitals related.

The bartender doesn’t even give him a second look when he asks for a bottle of vodka and Sidney can’t help his snort of laughter at his choice. Here he is trying to get away from Geno and he orders his favourite brand of vodka

He breaks the seal and fills the glass, downing the shot before he can think about it too much. It burns all the way down and he doesn’t wait for the feeling to subside before downing another and then a third and after that he kind of loses track. His feelings and the bar grow fuzzy and Sid settles for staring at the top of the bar, hand curled loosely around his glass.

There’s a hand on his shoulder and he looks up, blinking blearily. The bartender is staring at him, frowning slightly. “Do I need to call you a cab?”

Sitting up makes his head swim and Sidney nods. He’s not so drunk that he can’t work his phone but it’s probably better to let the bartender handle it.

The bartender disappears and comes back a few minutes later. “They said it’ll be about fifteen minutes.”

“Thanks.” Sidney digs out his wallet and tosses a couple of bills on the bar before taking one last shot for the road.

It’s not late enough in the year for it to be terribly cold and Sidney slumps against the side of the bar, hands tucked into the pocket of his hoodie. He keeps his head down, hat shading his face on the off chance any rabid Caps fans wander by and take offense at his presence in their city.

The cab shows up and Sidney jerks the door open and crawls in. He gets his phone out and recites the address on the screen to the cabbie. He’ll never admit to how he got Ovechkin’s address, but it involved some careful tracking down and convincing a couple people that he meant no harm in wanting his rival captain’s address.

Once the cab is underway Sidney leans his head back against the rest and closes his eyes. Even the strobe of the lights through his eyelids is enough to make him a little queasy and he swallows hard.

An indeterminate time later the cab glides to a stop and it takes him a minute to remember where he is. Opening his eyes he looks around to find they’ve stopped in an upscale neighborhood.

The driver is half turned in his seat, the partition between them open. “Up and at ‘em kid. This is your stop.”

Sidney hands some money to the cab driver, doesn’t worry about counting it and gets out of the car, catching at the edge of the door as the ground shifts under his feet. Slamming the door he makes his way up the sidewalk and keeps a death grip on the stair railing.

The world is moving in sickening patterns and Sidney focuses on the door at the top of the stairs, the only stable point around him. He’s had enough alcohol to think this is a good idea and he bangs on Ovechkin’s door. He isn’t leaving until everything is resolved.

The door swings open and he doesn’t give Ovechkin time to say anything, finger digging hard into the other man’s shoulder. “You knew! Why didn’t you tell me?”

It doesn’t matter that he and Alex don’t talk or have any contact beyond games. Ovechkin knew and should have told him.

Alex is obviously confused, and he frowns. “Sidney, what do I know?”

Sidney jabs him again, the alcohol making his thinking fuzzy because he would never in his right mind think about starting any kind of physical violence against Ovechkin any other time. He likes his head where it was but he was at Geno’s wedding and somehow that makes it his fault. “About Geno getting married.”

The confusion melts away, replaced with something Sidney can’t name and before he can act Ovechkin has him by the arm and is pulling him inside. He doesn’t move as the door closes behind him, suddenly unable to move. His plan ended with confronting Ovechkin and now that he’s done it, he has no idea what to do.

The decision is taken out of his hands when he’s herded to the kitchen where Ovechkin pushes him down in a chair. A glass of water appears in front of him and he looks at his host who is staring at him. “Do you have anything stronger?”

“Yes, but I think you have enough. Not walking so straight.”

Sidney snorts. “I’m fine. Besides I’m entitled to get shit faced when I find out the person I lo-” He bites his lower lip because he’s only ever admitted once, out loud that he’s in love with Geno and he isn’t going to give Ovechkin that knowledge.

Shaking his head Ovechkin goes to a cabinet and comes back with a bottle of vodka and two glasses. He fills both before pushing one towards Sidney. “Told Zhenya to tell you. He not understand why.”

Sidney takes a drink, flinching at the burn. “He didn’t understand what?”

Draining his glass Alex refills it before staring at Sidney, eyes intense. “How you feel about him.”

Glass halfway off the table Sidney freezes. There is no possible way Ovechkin can know how he feels about Geno but even through everything going on he can see it in his face and eyes that he knows. Hand tight around his glass he stares at Ovechkin. “How-”

Alex shrugs. “Way you look at Zhenya. I notice, don’t think anyone else sees.”

Sidney groans because if Ovechkin noticed, there is no way his secret is safe. He drains his glass and sets it back down, refilling it to almost the top, ignoring the look Ovechkin is giving him. He’s lost Geno and the last thing he wants to do is remember the day.

-----

The first thing Sidney is aware of when he wakes is that he’s on a couch and the soft blanket over him. Groaning he rubs at his eyes, trying to remember exactly what happened the day before. There was practice and Geno announcing his marriage. A numb feeling and then heading to the airport. A bar barely above a dive somewhere in DC and a cab ride to Ovechkin’s house, followed by good vodka and Alex’s surprisingly quiet, steadying presence as he’d gotten drunk because the man he loves is married.

Pulling the blanket close Sidney slowly sits up. He looks around and is surprised to find his shoes on the floor by the end of the couch and the glass of water and bottle of painkillers on the table next to the couch. Popping the lid he dry swallows two before draining the glass of water and then gets up, glass in hand.

He wanders into the kitchen and stops. There’s an impressive spread of food on the kitchen table and an older, dark haired woman at the stove. She turns to look at him like she has some sixth sense and points to the table with the spoon in her hand.

Sidney nods and sits down because he isn’t stupid enough to get on a mother’s bad side with or without a language barrier. She sets a plate and glass of water in front of him and under her watchful eyes Sidney piles some food on his plate.

It’s not the kind of food he would usually eat but he’s oddly hungry despite the low-grade headache he has, and it really does smell good.

Ten minutes later Ovechkin comes bounding into the kitchen, in sweatpants and a hoodie. He grins at Sidney before going to his mother, kissing her on the top of the head. There’s a quick conversation and then Alex is sitting down across from, piling his own plate with food.

“Next time, we drink in living room. Much easier to get you on couch then.”

Sidney nods as he eats but he doesn’t think there’s going to be a next time. He’s going to go back to Pittsburgh, throw himself even deeper into hockey and ignore the fact that he’s in love with Geno and that Geno is married and it isn’t going to matter anymore.

After they eat, he insists on doing dishes which leads to a rather amusing exchange between mother and son with Alex gently guiding his mother out of the kitchen with every step. He’s surprised when Alex comes back and gets a towel out of the drawer.

Ovechkin rolls his eyes as he drapes the towel over his shoulder and starts to gather up the dirty dishes. “She tell me I better help do dishes or bad things happen.”

It doesn’t take long for them to finishes the dishes and Sidney lets Ovechkin shove him back to the table as he works to put the dishes away. He can’t help but wonder if Ovechkin had his mother come over specifically to make him breakfast and he’s touched by the gesture. He’s never admitted it to anyone but there are times he misses his mother’s cooking and it was nice to get something home made even if he can’t tell his trainer.

Ovechkin disappears and his mother appears in the door. Sid tries not to fidget under her intense regard. He has the feeling she knows something about the situation, and he can’t tell from her expression what she thinks about it. Tatyana shakes her head, a maternal gesture that Sid recognizes from his mom and smiles softly at him before leaving.

He’s got his phone out to call a cab when Alex reappears, dressed for the day. Before he can react, Alex grabs his phone and hits the end call button before shoving the phone back into his hands. “What the hell?”

Alex grins. “Good host takes his guest to airport so he doesn’t have to pay for a cab.”

“I think I can afford a cab Ovechkin.” Standing Sidney pockets his phone.

A hand lands on his shoulder, pushing him away from the kitchen. “I know Sid, but mother insist I give you ride and do not want to be on her bad side.”

Sidney nods and allows Ovechkin to push him towards the garage and the fleet of expensive cars kept there. He slides into the indicated car and while he’s always seen vehicles as a convenience for getting around but as he sinks into the stupidly comfortable seats Sidney can understand the fascination with luxury cars.

He’s heard people talk about Alex’s driving, but he seems to be taking it easy, driving at reasonable speeds and leaving ample room when he passes. Sid is fairly sure Ovechkin is doing it for him and the fact he still feels a little nauseous despite the good food and roughly twelve glasses of water he’s had to drink since waking up.

Sidney is surprised when Alex pulls into the short-term parking rather than dumping him off at the passenger loading zone like he’d been expecting. He watches as he slides the car into park and then the same hand is curling around the back of his neck, thumb following the line of his hair.

He gives into the gentle pressure, lets Alex pull him across the console and closes his eyes when their foreheads touch briefly.

Alex’s hand remains on his neck and Sidney opens his eyes to meet Alex’s gaze. The oddness is heavy again in the clear blue gaze and Alex squeezes his neck once before dropping his hand. He shivers against the loss of warmth.

Alex smiles. “Things get better Sidney.”

Sidney mumbles thanks as he ducks out of the car because no matter what Ovechkin may say, things aren’t going to get better.

-----

That night Sidney is sprawled out on the couch, the TV on low showing highlights from the previous night’s games. His phone is on the couch next to his hip, vibrating periodically and he’s stopped checking it. They’re all from teammates and a couple from Taylor, all asking how he’s doing and the last thing he wants is to have to deal with their sympathy. He flips the TV to some movie he doesn’t really care about and closes his eyes, content to just not think.

He’s half managed to doze off when his phone buzzes again and he jerks a little before settling back. Less than a minute later it goes off again and then a third time and Sid snatches his phone up, thumbing the screen.

The number on the display isn’t one he recognizes, the area code foreign and there’s nothing in the body of the message. The second is just a long line of question marks and it’s the third that reveals the sender of the text: Sid, why you not text back?

Ovechkin. Sidney has no idea how he got his number, but he can’t really get up the energy to care. I was watching a movie. Why?

The answer is quick. Want to make sure you get back okay and not run to Hawaii.

Sidney manages a wan smile. I’m not a teenage girl Ovechkin. I’m not even going to cry myself to sleep tonight.

When his phone doesn’t vibrate right away Sidney goes back to the movie, phone resting on his stomach. He’s almost dropped off again when it goes off and he just barely manages to avoid fumbling it to the floor. Good. Zhenya not worth ruining pillow.

He isn’t sure he agrees with Ovechkin’s assessment about Geno’s worth, but he understands the sentiment and appreciates it. Thanks for the pep talk.

The reply is instantaneous. Anytime Sid.

Chapter Text

Practice the next day is a special kind of hell. Everyone is staring at him, trying to be subtle about it, which they all fail at. Sidney ignores it as best he can and he bites the inside of his cheek when Bylsma calls a halt and Dupuis and Jordan push close, flanking him. Geno edges up behind him and Sid fights the urge to shift away.

Jordan notices his sudden tension and nudges Geno away a little, drawing a confused look from him and Sid focuses on what Bylsma is saying because on the ice nothing but the game matters. Just because he’s heartbroken he isn’t going to let it affect his game any. He’s a professional.

They go back to practice and Sidney manages to avoid thinking about anything but the puck and the ebb and flow of the others around him, the ice under his skates. Breathing hard Sid steps off the ice and half turns when a stick taps his hip.

Geno is behind him, looking a little hang dog and Sid stops. He hates that look on Geno’s face and against his better judgment he asks. “What’s up?”

“Jordy seem angry at me. I do something?”

Sid bites down on the inside of his cheek because he knows the correct answer to that question is not “because you broke my heart.” He knocks Geno on the shin. “Bad day yesterday. He’ll be over it before the game.”

Geno nods and nudges him forward. “Go Sid. Tired and want to sleep.”

It’s been a good practice and Sid feels like they’re in good shape for the game tomorrow against Winnipeg. There’s an undercurrent of good mood in the room and Sidney joins in their ribbing of Neal as the locker room slowly empties around him.

Jordan is usually one of the first people out of the locker room, ready and raring to go but today he’s lingering behind as the others leave, taking his time dressing and getting his stuff together. The unusual behaviour sets Sid on edge and he can’t say he’s surprised when it’s down to just the two of them.

“Sid.”

Yanking the bag closed with more force than necessary Sid looks up to find Jordan standing over him, playing with the strap of his bag. “What?”

Rolling his eyes Jordan drops his bag and sinks on the bench next to Sid, bumping him with his shoulder. “Don’t act like I stole your candy when you weren’t looking. I just wanted to ask if you were okay. You looked really wrecked when Geno told us.”

Sidney digs his hands into his thighs. “Okay isn’t a word I’d use. I’m coping.” It’s still too soon to even pretend he’s okay with the fact Geno’s married and he has no chance, but for the good of the team he needs make every attempt to at least play at being okay.

Jordan ruffles a hand through his hair. “Yesterday I wanted to check on you, but Duper said it would be better to leave you alone.”

“Yeah. I wasn’t particularly good company.” Never mind the fact he was in DC imbibing more vodka than he’d ever had in a month prior and spent the night on Ovechkin’s couch. Those are details he’s planning on taking to the grave with him, though he thinks he should probably send Ovechkin’s mom a card as thanks for feeding him.

And a new bottle of vodka for Ovechkin. He vaguely remembers putting a serious dent in the bottle he’d provided.

Jordan leans into him and Sid doesn’t try to shove him away like he usually would. “You know I’m here if you need me Sid.”

Sid pushes back against Jordan until they’re half supporting each other. “I know Jordy. And I appreciate it.”

Silence falls for a minute and then Jordan bounces to his feet, leaving Sid to nearly fall over. “Okay, enough of this touchy shit. Let’s get something to eat.”

Laughing Sid gets up and grabs Jordan’s bag, throwing it at him. “Fine but you have to buy.”

Jordan huffs when his bag hits his chest. “This is the last time I take you out on a date, you cheap bastard.”

-----

They’ve just beaten Winnipeg and the locker room is buzzing with energy, everyone yelling and joking. Sid can’t help his grin as he strips down. This is the part he likes best besides the game itself, the energy after a win, the electric feeling in the air, bouncing to all of them, making the hair on the nape of his neck stand up.

There’s nothing particularly special about this game, just another two points, but everyone seems louder, the energy in the room is stronger and Sidney shivers at the intensity of it, feeling like everything is okay. The game was great, and despite the fact he barely wants to look at Geno right now, doesn’t want to be reminded, a fact he managed to push that aside on the ice. All his passes to Geno connected and it felt like nothing had changed.

That changes the moment Neal walks out of the showers, hair still dry. “Hey Geno, going out with us tonight?”

Sidney can’t help as his eyes are drawn to where Geno is half dressed, hair standing up at wild angles, smiling bright and wild and his heart clenches hard because it had been a moment like this what seemed like forever ago when he’d realized he was in love with Geno.

Geno shakes his head. “No. I promise Oksana I take her to dinner tonight.”

Cooke laughs. “Welcome to the ball and chain club Geno.”

Geno glances at him and Sidney swallows hard. Geno’s lapses in English are getting further and further apart but idioms still trip him up and it looks like it’s still his job to explain to Geno. “It’s kind of a prison joke, about how now that you’re married you won’t be able to go out because Oksana is like a ball, keeping you trapped.”

Geno’s confusion clears and he laughs. “I not tell Oksana you say that. And I still go out, just say I take her to dinner after win home game after wedding.”

Swallowing hard Sid turns back into his stall and continues stripping. He’s suddenly desperate to get into the shower and away from the others. Especially when he sees Geno slip his ring back on and heart clenching tight Sid heads towards the showers.

The showers are blissfully empty, and Sid cranks the water on until it’s almost too hot to bear. It prickles over his shoulders and the back of his neck when he bows his head, a hand resting against the wall. The elation from the game is falling away, leaving behind the hollow ache that’s been plaguing him for the last couple of days.

He doesn’t move until he’s a little woozy from the heat, his skin feeling hot and stretched uncomfortably tight. Grabbing his soap he scrubs half-heartedly and settles for just running fingers through his hair. The hollow feeling has transmuted into an odd lethargy and all he really wants is to not have to move for the rest of the night.

Most everyone is gone by the time Sid gets back to his stall. Cooke is on the phone, Dupuis looks like he’s asleep on the bench, fully dressed and ready to go and Jordan is packing his bag and glancing at him.

Cooke says goodbye and Sid just kind of nods in his direction as he dresses. Pascal stops next to him on his way out, just as he gets his shirt on and Sidney tenses, expecting the older man to ask him how he feels. Instead, he smiles and drops a hand on his shoulder, squeezing.

“Good game Sid.”

Sid manages a smile. “You too.”

The room is eerily silent with just the two of them and Sidney isn’t surprised at the way Jordan is keeping an eye on him from underneath his towel as he scrubs his hair dry. Doing up his shirt Sidney kind of wants to make a comment about not needing a babysitter but he knows Jordan’s just doing it because he’s that kind of person.

Jordan sidles up to him, towel around his shoulders. “Are you going to come?”

Grabbing his watch Sidney puts it on. He doesn’t really want to, would rather spend the night at home but it’s become tradition to go out after a win and if he doesn’t go it’ll just make the team worry more which is the last thing he wants. “Yeah. I’ll catch up with you guys there.”

“Good.” Jordan bumps him and bounces to his feet, heading back to his stall.

-----

The others are loud around him and Sidney leans back so Flower and Tanger can talk around him. There’s a beer on the table, a gift from Jordan, but it’s warm and mostly full. He didn’t really want the drink, but Jordan had ignored him, like he usually does when they’re off the ice and told the waitress to ignore anything he might say.

It’s wrong to be here without Geno. Sid is so used to having Geno in the seat next to him, his voice, the heat of his rangy body, that now he can’t get comfortable. He feels off-kilter and can tell Jordan is aware of it, if the concerned looks he keeps getting are any indication. The fact the rest of the team is watching him like cats thinking about jumping on a particularly fat mouse isn’t reassuring either.

Sidney appreciates their concern he does, but he’s sick of it. No matter how much they wish things were different it isn’t going to happen, and it would be better for everyone if they focused on their game rather than the fact his love life has died a terrible, painful death.

The night pretty much goes like it usually does. There’s some talk of the game and other teams before shifting to random inane topics, most of which Sidney doesn’t really have any opinion on. He’s more than happy to just let them talk around them, occasionally adding his own thoughts, and just watching the ebb and flow of people around the bar.

Jordan makes good inroads on the bar’s stock, laughing and having a good time but still keeping a weathered eye on him the entire time.

They’ve been there for a couple hours and Sidney can tell the game is finally catching up with them as the conversation starts to fall into fits and spurts as they stare into their drinks.

Tanger glances at Jordan who is sitting with his head tilted back, eyes closed, mouth half open. “Okay, who gets the pleasure of taking Staal home?”

Neal wads up a straw wrapper and tries to get it in Jordan’s mouth but misses. “Not me. I did it last time.”

Sid pushes his beer towards the middle of the table with some of the empty glasses. “I will.”

Shoving his chair back he elbows Jordan who jerks and sits up, blinking hard. “Come on Jordy. I get the dubious pleasure of taking you home.”

Jordan staggers to his feet and drapes an arm around Sidney’s shoulder, leaning into him hard. “Don’t tell anyone Sid, but you’re my favourite.”

Flower rolls his eyes. “That’s not a secret Jordy. We all know you still worship the ground Sid walks on.”

Tangling his fingers in Jordan’s shirt Sid pushes him towards the front door before Jordan can get going on arguing with Flower because they don’t have all night.

Jordan is surprisingly tractable, just leaning against Sidney as they weave through people and obediently climbing in the car when Sid shoves him towards it.

The drive to Jordan’s is quick and Jordan hands him the keys to the door so Sidney doesn’t have to fish for them, which is great because he loves his team, but he doesn’t need to be that close to Jordan ever. He flips on the light in Jordan’s room and kicks a pair of shoes out of the way as they shuffle towards the bed.

Sidney dumps Jordan into his bed. “You are trashed.”

Jordan squints up at him. “Yep. And you look miserable.”

Snorting Sidney runs a hand through his hair. “I feel miserable too and I think that’s something we’re going to have to learn to deal with.”

“Wanna snuggle? You’ll feel better.” Jordan pats the rumpled blankets with a grin.

With a laugh Sidney flicks a blanket over his inebriated teammate. “Thanks for the offer Jordy, but I’ll pass. Blonds aren’t really my thing.”

Turning his face into a pillow Jordan laughs. “I speak better English too.”

Sidney bites the inside of his cheek but doesn’t say anything. Jordan is trashed and a trashed Jordan tends to say stupid things, so Sid isn’t going to hold his words against him. He’ll remember tomorrow and apologize, and Sidney will accept it, knowing he doesn’t mean it. “Go to sleep Jordan. Remember we have optional skate tomorrow afternoon that you said you would be at.”

Jordan groans and drags the blanket over his head. Anything he might have to say is muffled in the pillow and Sidney leaves.

-----

He doesn’t check his phone until he gets home and there’s a single message on it. Thumbing the screen he can’t help but smile at the familiar number. It isn’t much, just a text smiley and the words Good game Sid but it makes his grin widen and a little bubble of happiness wells up.

-----

A shadow falls across his feet and Sidney doesn’t look up from tying his skates. Toes of sneakers edge into his field of view and he rolls his eyes because he knows what’s coming.

“Sid?”

Jordan sounds terrible, voice raspy and Sidney glances up. He doesn’t look much better than he sounds, face pinched and pale with dark circles under his eyes. It’s a mix of being hung over and guilt.

Clearing his throat and grimacing Jordan drops down next to Sidney on the bench. “Sid, I’m really sorry about what I said last night. I didn’t have any fucking right.”

Sidney knots his laces and straightens up, bumping Jordan none too gently. “Jordy, fuck. You don’t really have to apologize. It was the alcohol talking. I didn’t take offense.”

“I know Sid, but it was still a dick move.”

Jordan is running hard on guilt and Sidney sighs. “Fine, it was a dick move. Now make it up to me.”

He’s pleasantly loose and relaxed when he and Jordan finally leave the ice. Everyone else who had shown up is already gone as they shove through the door into the locker room, sticks locking. Jordan cheats and digs an elbow into his side, shoving him into the room.

Spinning Sidney hits him in the shin. “That was cheating.”

Jordan grins, completely unrepentant. “I grew up with three brothers. Of course I cheat.”

“That explains a lot.” Sidney stands his stick up and removes his practice jersey, tossing it aside. Striping off the rest of his gear he takes a quick, hot shower, barely aware of Jordan doing the same thing.

Mostly dressed he takes the time to put up his gear, tossing things in the dirty laundry as he goes. Dodging around Jordan as he comes out of the showers Sidney drops onto the bench to slide his shoes on.

He pops his head out of his hoodie and looks at Jordan who is tying his shoes. “Hey.”

Jordan glances at him and doesn’t quite look like death anymore. “Yeah?”

Sidney shrugs to settle his hoodie. He isn’t entirely sure why he’s thinking about asking Jordan to come with him, but it seems better than being alone with his thoughts and stewing about Geno. “I need to run to a liquor store. Want to tag along?”

Sitting up Jordan fixes him with a questioning look before shrugging, like he doesn’t want to know. “Sure. I’ve got nothing planned for the rest of the day besides napping.”

Rolling his eyes Sid picks up his bag. “Thanks for making it sound like I’m only slightly more interesting than sleeping on your couch all day.”

Jordan grins and shrugs. “You’re far more interesting than a nap, but you won’t help me feel more human.”

“And whose fault is that?”

Bumping into Sid, Jordan grins. “Mine, and it was fucking worth it!”

They head outside and Sidney waits while Jordan tosses his bag in his car before coming over to his. He can tell Jordan wants to ask why he need to go to a liquor store but Jordan is tamping down on his curiosity, though if the look on his face is an indication, he might explode if he doesn’t get some hint of what is going on. Sighing Sidney opens the car door. “I need to get a bottle for someone.”

Jordan’s eyes light up and then he frowns. “Wait, who do you need to get a bottle for? I don’t remember any bets going on lately.”

Rolling his eyes Sidney gets into the car, waiting for Jordan, though he is starting to regret asking him to come along. Now that he has given him a nugget of information, he has the feeling Jordan is going to annoy him with trying to figure out who the bottle is for. “It isn’t for anyone you know.”

At this point a little white lie isn’t going to make anything worse and Jordan subsides into the seat with a petulant look. “Fine.”

Sidney pulls out of the parking lot, heading to a nearby liquor store. Jordan spends the entire time sulking in the seat, though he doesn’t miss the questioning looks the other man levels at him. Maybe if he gets lucky Jordan will think all of this is related to his hangover and he won’t remember any of it.

He pulls into the parking lot and puts the car in park. “Are you going to come in or sit out here and pout?”

Jordan pushes up from his slump. “I am not pouting. I’m trying to think.”

Sidney grins. “You might want to get a better thinking face. You look like a two-year-old about to throw a tantrum.”

He gets out of the car to the sound of Jordan’s affronted sputtering and a few seconds later his friend is trailing behind him as he approaches the liquor store. “Feeling better?”

Reaching around Sidney to open the door Jordan leans toward him. “Fuck you Crosby.”

There is no real rancor in Jordan’s voice and Sidney grins as he enters the store. A kaleidoscope of bottles stand in neat rows on the massive shelves and Sidney looks around. He catches sight of the vodka and he wanders through the displays on the floor, Jordan trailing behind him. Stopping short he can’t help but groan because there are so many different kinds and he’s going to spend hours in here trying to find what he’s looking for.

Arms folded across his chest Jordan looks around the liquor store. “Remind me why we’re here again?”

Sidney doesn’t look away from the wall of vodka in front of them. “I need to get something for someone.” He’s not entirely sure what he’s looking for. He knows what Geno prefers but there’s no way in hell he’s getting that for Ovechkin, even if it’s a safe option.

“So you’re getting a bottle of vodka for someone, who I assume isn’t Geno. You got a Russian friend you’re keeping hidden from us?”

Finally tired of trying to figure out what to get Sidney settles for grabbing something expensive and when he gets a closer look at the bottle it looks kind of like what Ovechkin plied him with that night. “Something like that.” He glances at Jordan. “I don’t suppose you know if there might be a Hallmark around here somewhere?”

Jordan looks at him like he’s going crazy before shaking his head in bemusement. “I’m not even going to ask why but yeah, there’s one around here.”

Chapter Text

The Capitals are going to be in town tonight and Sid isn’t sure how he feels about that. For starters, games with them are always a little chippy, everyone pushing harder than they normally do, feeding off the supposed rivalry between he and Ovechkin, a rivalry Sid is mostly over, and he suspects Ovechkin feels the same way. They’re two separate people who play the game differently and it would really be better for everyone if they would finally accept that point and move on with their lives.

Geno catches him at his stall and Sid shuffles back a half step. It doesn’t hurt as much to be around him now, but it doesn’t mean he’s masochistic enough to want to be close to Geno.

“Sanja and Sasha come to dinner with Oksana and I after game. Thought you might want to come.”

Sidney can think of a lot of things he would rather do than go to dinner with Geno and Oksana and adding Ovechkin and Semin to the mix doesn’t make him want to go anymore. He shakes his head. “I’ll pass. I’m sure the three of you have something to talk about.”

Geno looks upset before smiling. “Okay Sid. Maybe next time.”

Nodding in a way he hopes Geno will take as a half assed promise that he’ll go out next time Sidney pushes all thoughts of anything but the game out of his mind.

-----

There’s knocking on his door and Sid gets off the couch to answer the door. It’s late and everyone on the team knows not to show up on his doorstep unless it’s an emergency. He doesn’t bother to look, just jerks the door open.

“Ovechkin. What are you doing here? And how did you get my address?”

Ovechkin grins, seemingly in a good mood despite the fact they lost. He’s still in his suit though the top buttons of his shirt are undone, and the skinny part of a tie is hanging out of a pocket. “See how you doing. Look good on ice but Zhenya say you not feeling good enough for dinner.”

Sidney can tell he’s been caught in a lie, by the worry in Ovechkin’s eyes and there’s no reason for him to lie. Ovechkin knows the truth and won’t judge him. Sighing Sid moves back, and Ovechkin comes in. “I’m fine but going out to dinner with them isn’t my idea of a good time.”

Ovechkin nods vigorously. “Like Oksana, I do but dinner was terrible. Zhenya and she make faces at each other all night. Sasha kicked Zhenya couple times just so was not so sweet.”

Sidney can’t help but laugh because he can just imagine the look on Geno’s face as he tries to explain his jumpiness, all the while glaring at Semin who probably managed to look innocent. “Okay, I’m kind of sorry I missed that.”

Laughing Ovechkin rests his hand on Sid’s forearm, squeezing. “I’m sorry too. At least if you be there Sasha and I not have been so bored.”

Sidney sighs. “I’m not a source of amusement for you Ovechkin.”

“Of course not!” Ovechkin looks dismayed that he would even suggest such a thing and he steps in, hand sliding up to rest on his shoulder. “Sidney Crosby is rival.” He leans in, lips skimming the line of Sid’s cheek before he draws back, grinning. “And friend.”

Sidney can feel his body flush hot and he jerks back. He’s used to Ovechkin picking at him on the ice but there’s no way in hell he’s going to deal with that in his own home. “Friend, yeah.” Not quite the word he would use to describe their relationship but after the way Ovechkin took care of him when he first found out about Geno, he supposes he’ll let it slide.

Ovechkin glances at his watch. “Need to go before Sasha think you kill me.”

“Okay.” Sidney watches as the other man grins and turns to leave before he remembers the vodka and card. He grabs Ovechkin’s shoulder, hand dropping like he burned it when he turns back to face him. “Hold on. I have something I need to give you.”

Before Ovechkin can say anything, Sid disappears into the kitchen where the bottle of vodka and card have been sitting for two weeks, waiting for him to man up enough to actually get around to figuring out how to get them to DC.

He doesn’t bother with turning on the kitchen light, just grabs the goods and returns to the entrance way, shoving the bottle and card at Ovechkin. “Here.”

Head canted to the side Ovechkin stares at the bottle and card like he expects it to be trapped and Sidney sighs. “Just take them.” He always feels a little awkward about getting things for people, like he might have managed to fuck it up, even for people he’s known forever.

Ovechkin takes the card, turning it over and Sid blushes. “It’s for your mom. As a thank you for making breakfast that day.”

Smiling Ovechkin tucks the card into a pocket. “My mom ask how you are. I say okay.” There’s an unspoken question in his voice and Sidney nods, again wondering how much Ovechkin’s mom knows about the entire disaster.

“I’m okay.” He snorts. “As okay as the circumstances allow.”

With a nod Ovechkin’s gaze drops to the bottle still in Sidney’s hand. “Good. She be happy to hear that.”

Sidney has no idea why Tatyana Ovechkin might care about his happiness, but he appreciates it. Wiggling the bottle he hopes Ovechkin will get the hint. Instead Ovechkin stares at the bottle, frowning. “Just take the damn thing already.”

“Why?”

Sidney rubs at the back of his neck. “Because I feel bad about drinking all your vodka that night.”

Ovechkin shrugs, wrapping his hand around the neck of the bottle and Sidney’s hand. “No reason to feel bad Sid. Don’t mind sharing with friends.”

Nodding Sidney frees his hand from the bottle. It’s twice now that Ovechkin’s called him friend, and he guesses, after what’s happened between them, at least in private, he can accept Ovechkin as a friend. “Okay. Friends.”

Alex’s smile is blinding, and he reaches out, resting his hand on the back of Sidney’s neck, ignoring his flinch, to squeeze once before leaving.

Shaking his head Sidney goes back into the living room and flops on the couch. It really seems odd to be saying Ovechkin is his friend, but at the same time, it isn’t. They’ve been rivals since they entered the league, thanks to commentators and while he’s occasionally annoyed by the Russian’s boisterous zeal for life, both on and off the ice, he also likes it. It helps remind him why they play the game, to be the best and get enjoyment from playing at such a high level.

So, Alex Ovechkin might occasionally annoy the ever-living shit out of him, but in the long run Sidney is okay calling him a friend.

In the privacy of his mind, and never out loud.

-----

Yawning Sid makes his way into the screening room and drops into his normal chair. They aren’t having practice today, which is fine by him. He hadn’t been able to sleep very well last night, and he’s honestly surprised he made it to the rink without endangering any lives, with the way he had been yawning.

He’s the first one there and he leans back in his chair, hands tucked into the pocket of his hoodie.

Jordan comes into the room, hat pulled down low. He drops into the seat next to Sidney and stretches his legs out under the chair in front of him. “Good game last night.”

“You weren’t so bad yourself.”

Laughing Jordan elbows Sidney. “Fuck you, we can’t all be hockey gods.”

Dupuis is next in the room and he sits on Sidney’s other side, leaning into him. “I hope this doesn’t take all day. I promised the kids we could do something.”

Sid shrugs. “You should know better than that.”

Sighing Dupuis slouches down in the seat. “I know, but we beat them so handily I was hoping Bylsma didn’t have much to complain about.”

Dupuis goes on, but Sidney isn’t paying attention because Geno is coming into the room.

Geno frowns when he sees Jordan and Duper on either side of Sid. He makes his way to the row behind Sid and sits down, bumping his knee against the back of Sidney’s chair. “Did not think I was so late.”

Sidney manages to get it together enough to turn and look at Geno. “You weren’t, these two were just really early.” He knows why they were early, and he really appreciates the fact they don’t seem to mind acting as a buffer.

The rest of the team files in, followed by Bylsma and Sidney turns to face forward.

-----

After they finish the video review Sidney stands and stretches. Jordan and Dupuis had booked it as soon as the lights had come on, not that he blames them. He turns, catching sight of Geno who is watching him. “How was dinner last night?”

Geno shrugs. “Was good. Sasha kicked me and Sanja laughed but had fun.” He smiles. “Oksana sad you didn’t come.”

Sid manages a smile, though it feels fake. “Tell her I’m sorry, but I promise I’ll try to make it up some other time.” He would almost rather take a puck to the foot than have dinner with them, but he needs to at least try to act normal. None of this is Geno’s fault.

Grinning Geno pats him on the shoulder. “I tell her. Have good day Sid.”

Geno leaves and Sidney shakes his head. There are days it’s a good thing Geno is blinded by happiness and Oksana because it means Geno isn’t paying attention to his slide into sad, pathetic heartbreak. Scrubbing a hand across his face Sid heads towards his car. He really needs to think about something besides Geno.

He stretches and gives a passing thought to getting a light workout in before shaking his head. After sitting in the dark for so long all he really wants is a nap and that sounds like an excellent idea.

It’s such an excellent idea that’s exactly what he does.

-----

Sidney isn’t sure what time he wakes up but the first thing he remembers is agreeing to go to dinner with Geno and Oksana. Groaning he rolls onto his back and presses the heels of his hands against his eyes. “Fuck.”

He had regretted it in the first place, but now that he’s had a chance to think about it, his regret is a million times worse. The last thing he wants to do is spend time alone with them. He knows neither of them will do it on purpose, but they’ll be so in love with each other that it will be painful to witness and be around. Groaning again Sidney rolls onto his side. There is no tactful way he’ll be able to back out, not without hurting Geno and Oksana’s feelings, or making Geno suspicious.

His phone is on the bedside table and Sidney reaches over to grab it. He unlocks the screen and opens his messages. Scrolling down to the one from Ovechkin, buried in the mass of texts from his family and team he hesitates, before opening the message. They haven’t texted since the first time Ovechkin initiated the contact and Sidney isn’t sure why he’s thinking about continuing the thread now.

Opening the conversation Sid stares at it for a moment before typing. I’m a fucking idiot. I agreed to go to dinner with Geno and Oksana.

There isn’t a quick response so Sid tosses his phone aside and gets out of bed. He has things he needs to do, since he slept, and he certainly isn’t going to sit around waiting for Ovechkin to respond.

-----

It’s hours later before Sid gets back to his phone and he picks it up. There are several texts, mostly from Taylor and Jordan. He quickly answers the important ones before getting to the one from Ovechkin.

:(. Silly Sid. That bad idea.

Sidney shakes his head. Leave it to Ovechkin to point out the painfully obvious. He sits on the edge of the bed. No shit. I can’t even think of a good way to get out of it.

The phone jumps in his hand and he looks down. Invite me. I keep Zhenya from being too love stupid.

Sidney grins because it’s easy to imagine Geno jumping every time Ovechkin kicks him. It was a welcome image, but there was no way it could happen. I would love to, but no one knows we’ve been talking, so it might be kind of weird.

I just show up. It be like magic.

It would be magic, and Sidney would certainly appreciate having Ovechkin there, to cut the tension he was sure was going to happen, through no fault of anyone but him and his inability to get over his feelings for Geno.

He rubs his thumb over the screen of his screen, looking at the words. Thanks for the offer, but no way to make it work this time.

Flopping back he closes his eyes until the phone vibrates in his hand. He looks at the screen. Sometime Sid. It be fun for us. Night.

Night Ovi.

Sidney sits up and set the phone back on the bedside table. He isn’t sure why, but he’s feeling much better about the whole dinner thing now.

-----

Taking a deep breath Sidney slowly picks up his car keys. He feels anxious, and not in the way he does before a big game. This is something deeper and he takes a deep breath, hoping it will settle him. It doesn’t and he sighs, picking up his phone. A quick look at the clock makes him realize he’s going to be late meeting Geno and Oksana at the restaurant, and he hurries out the front door.

Halfway to the restaurant he’s still regretting agreeing to this and Sidney wishes he had taken Ovechkin up on his offer to come with. It would have raised some questions he doesn’t really want to answer, but at least he would have had someone on his side.

Sidney parks and locks the car before heading to the restaurant. He is a few minutes early, but Geno and Oksana are already standing outside.

Geno smiles. “Hi Sid.”

Managing to dredge up a smile he doesn’t really feel Sidney looks at Oksana. “Sorry I was almost late.”

With a laugh she shakes her head, earrings sparkling in the light from the restaurant. “Is okay Sidney. We just early.” She steps towards him, hand out and this is only the third time he’s spent any amount of time with her.

Ignoring the feeling in his stomach Sidney kisses her cheek before taking her hand, not wanting to come off as rude. “I was afraid I was going to get caught in traffic.”

Geno opens the door and Sidney lets Oksana pull him forward. He is starting to get the feeling this whole thing was her idea and he’s going to do his best to not make this terrible. The last thing he wants is to make either of them think he is reluctant to be here, though he really is. A hollow feeling has settled in the pit of his stomach and he knows this is going to be one of the most awkward dinners he has ever been to.

They get seated immediately, Oksana taking the seat across from him and Sidney swallows hard. She starts asking him questions and Sidney is proud of the fact he’s managing more than one-word answers. A quick look at Geno reveals he’s smiling widely, looking between them and it just makes Sidney feel like an ass. Obviously, Geno wants this dinner to go well, wants Sidney to realize how great Oksana is and it makes Sidney swallow hard. Neither of them deserves this and he turns his attention back to Oksana, focusing on what she is saying. He might not want to be here, but Oksana doesn’t need to know how he feels, and he can at least try to show that his mother raised him with manners.

-----

Sidney loosens his tie as he gets in the car and he puts the key in the ignition but doesn’t get any further. He still feels hollow but now he feels drained on top of it and he feels like he could sleep in his car for the next few hours.

Pulling his phone from his suit jacket Sidney unlocks it and brings up his ongoing conversation with Ovechkin. Part of him still can’t believe the other man has become his confidant and he doesn’t want to do anything to alienate Ovechkin. Which is why he hesitates in sending a message. But at the same time Ovechkin is the only who isn’t treating him like he is broken.

He stares at his phone. “Fuck it.” We had dinner. And it was terrible.

Instead of waiting for a response he tosses his phone into the passenger seat and starts his car. He wants to get home, to get out of his suit so he can pretend the last two hours didn’t happen. Calling the dinner terrible was a lie, because the food had been fantastic and if not for the situation, the company was amazing.

His phone remains dark the entire drive home and Sidney leaves it in the living room when he goes to his room to change. Tossing everything in the corner he pulls on sweatpants and a Penguins T-shirt so old there are several holes in it and the logo is partially worn away from being washed so many times.

Flopping back on the couch he reaches for his phone where he left it on the side table. The message light is blinking, and he unlocks the phone. There is a message from Geno but nothing from Ovechkin and Sidney tamps down on the irrational flare of ire because Ovechkin is under no obligation to respond to his texts in a timely manner. He has no real claim on his time, and he wouldn’t blame the other man if he’s tired listening to him go on about Geno.

After responding to Geno’s text Sidney sets his phone back down and turns on the TV. There must be something on he can think about rather than the fact dinner had been one of the worst experiences ever and that the one person who seems to not pity him for his situation.

Sidney does manage to find something stupid and by the time the movie is over he is completely sure he has no idea what happened and all he can remember is a lot of bright colors and terrible dialogue. Grabbing his phone he glances at the screen, more to check the battery than because he’s expecting any more texts tonight.

But there is one, from Ovechkin and he looks at it as he turns off the TV and light in the living room.

Am sorry Sidney. Next time say no.

The thought has crossed his mind before and Sidney sighs as he heads upstairs. Leaning against the doorframe he manages to get his thoughts together. I might. I don’t know if I can do it again.

This time the response is almost instant. I come next time. Not suffer alone.

That pulls a harsh laugh from Sidney and he still has no idea how this happened, how his only voice of reason in this is Alex Ovechkin. I’m going to hold you to it.

I be there Sid.

Sidney rereads the simple text, warmth pooling in his stomach. It is enough to make him feel a little better about the night and he plugs his phone in before going into the bathroom.

Chapter Text

“Fuck.” Sidney takes his stick from Jordan with the hand that isn’t throbbing, watching as Geno argues with the refs. The asshole who is slashed him is trying to look innocent but is failing, smiling smugly despite the way his mouthguard is hanging from the corner of his mouth. Pain lances up his arm and Sidney turns to look at Jordan, who seems to be escorting him to the bench. “Don’t do anything stupid.”

Jordan grins and there is an edge to it. “Do we ever?”

Sidney can think of a dozen times from just this season, but he doesn’t have time to argue. “Just don’t.”

He catches Bylsma’s gaze and shakes his head. His hand feels numb when it doesn’t hurt, and he doubts he’s going to be going back on the ice. The slash had been lucky, catching between his glove and arm guard, though he hadn’t felt lucky when the slash had caught him, stick dropping from his numb hand.

He dumps his stick and manages to get his helmet off, handing it to one of the equipment people before heading for where the team doctor is. He suffers through a lot of poking and following instructions, wiggling his fingers, touching them and it all hurts, but nothing feels wrong, so the doctor settles for wrapping it and handing him a bag of ice before sending him back to the locker room.

Dropping into his stall Sidney reaches down with his good hand to loosen the laces on his skates. He manages to get them off but doesn’t get any further.

Trying to ignore the throbbing in his wrist the ice is doing little to ease, Sidney stares at the far wall as he waits for the team to get back to the locker room. It was nearly the first intermission when he came back, but the trainers and doctor have been less than forthcoming about how the game is going. The only thing they’ve told him is that he won’t be going back on the ice.

The doctor is certain there isn’t anything seriously wrong with his wrist, but they won’t know for sure until tomorrow so for now he’s been benched for the night. He knows the others aren’t going to let Dallas get away with this, if the anger in Geno and Jordan had been any indication.

It’s good knowing the others are going to take offense at his injury, but he hopes they don’t do anything stupid. They should know better by now, that he would prefer they get their revenge by winning, rather than spending time in the penalty box.

He hears voices and he shifts his gaze to the door where the team troops in. Jordan smiles at him before sitting down. “Don’t worry, we did good.”

Geno nods. “Duper score goal.”

Sidney glances at Dupuis who shrugs and grins. “It only seemed fair after the bullshit they pulled on you. How’s the wrist?”

Holding up his arm to show the elastic bandage around his wrist Sidney shrugs before lowering back to the support of his chest. “Damaged but I’ll survive. I have X-Rays tomorrow.”

Bylsma clears his throat. “Excellent news Sidney, but we still have business to conduct.”

Sidney shifts and leans back, arm cradled against his chest as he listens to Bylsma talk. He focuses on the cadence of the man’s words, taking it all in despite the fact he isn’t going to the ice. It never hurts to pay attention to this kind of stuff because some day it might be helpful.

-----

Flopped on the couch Sidney still has the ice on his wrist though the ache has lessened. The doctors had set him home, certain there wasn’t serious damage, but he’s slated for x-rays in the morning. His phone vibrates on the table and groaning he snatches it up and manages to unlock the screen, feeling less then coordinated.

There’s a text from Ovechkin. Okay?

Texting with one hand is a little beyond his skills after the day he’s had so he gingerly holds his phone with his injured hand, wincing at the twinge it earns him.

Good. Hate to not see you on ice in few weeks.

Sidney smirks because short of serious injury there’s no way in hell he’s going to miss a chance to show Ovechkin up on the ice.

This isn’t enough to keep me from being there.

He knows he should be in bed, exhaustion pulling at him. Between the adrenaline before the game, anger after getting slashed and sitting around for the rest of the game he’s ready to collapse but he’s also feeling a little bored. Why were you watching my game?

The Capitals had tonight off, something he well knows since he checks standings on a regular basis.

Ovechkin’s response is quick. Was feeling tired and Penguin hockey always make me sleepy.

Sidney rolls his eyes and adjusts his grip on his phone, wincing at the flash of pain. I’ll remember that the next time we play you.

Stop texting Sid. Sleep and rest for wrist. Night.

A dozen replies flash through Sid’s mind, but he settles for just saying goodnight. With a groan he gets to his feet and heads for his room, wrist held close to his chest. It aches a little despite the wrapping on it and he takes a few ibuprofen before getting ready for bed.

It takes him a little longer to get ready for bed due to his wrist, but he finally manages. He collapses into bed and draws the sheets up.

-----

Exiting the room he was meeting with the doctors in, Sidney nearly runs into Jordan. He manages to avoid him, turning to put his back to the wall. “You guys done already?”

Jordan nods. “Yeah. Bylsma said he was proud of us for not pulling any unnecessary penalties after they slashed you.” He glances at Sid’s wrist, which is still wrapped. “Bad news?”

“Nope. There isn’t any sign of a fracture, just some soft tissue swelling. I should be good in a couple of days, though they want to keep an eye on it.” Sidney doesn’t mention the slight ache in his wrist right now, because it isn’t that big of a deal.

They head towards the parking lot and Jordan glances at him. “Going to be good for Washington?”

Sidney isn’t sure how or why he’s become come kind of talisman for his team when it comes to the Capitals. They seem to think if he’s in the lineup they can’t lose, though that’s been disproved more times than he can count. He never says anything about it, just lets them believe what they will, well understanding how powerful superstitions can be. “I will be, as long as nothing else happens to me.”

Jordan bumps him as they approach the outside door. “Awesome. When we win this one, they’ll know who the better team is.”

Pushing the door open Sidney rolls his eyes. He really hates when people make sweeping statements like that and he can only hope it doesn’t come back to bite them in the ass.

-----

Entering the visitor locker room Sidney rotates his wrist, waiting for the twinge. There isn’t one, which makes him happy. It’s been some three weeks since the blow to his wrist and it’s been healing well. The doctors had cleared him for play, but he’s got a long list of things to keep track of. They had mentioned residual pain, but so far short of an occasionally twinge there hasn’t been anything.

He heads to his stall, vaguely aware of the rest of the team dispersing behind him. There isn’t much talk going on and he starts to change. He likes the focus his team is showing and hopefully it will carry through to a victory for them.

-----

Sidney is surprised when Ovechkin approaches him on the ice during the warmup and he’s glad none of his teammates are close. He can only imagine what everyone is thinking, because they don’t normally approach each other before the game. “People are going to talk.”

Ovechkin shrugs and leans on his stick. “Say same thing they always say.” He smiles. “Mama wanted me to tell you thank you for card. She hang it on fridge and say what a nice boy Sidney Crosby is. I tell her is lie, but she not listen to me.”

Sidney can’t help but laugh at the hang dog look on Ovechkin’s face, even though he knows he’s doing it for show. “It was the least I could do since she cooked breakfast.” He backs away. “You should probably get back before everyone starts to blow this all out of proportion.”

With a sharp nod Alex turns and heads back to the other side of the ice, deflecting the few teammates who move to talk to him.

Sidney turns his own attention back to his team, shaking his head to clear it. It doesn’t matter that Ovechkin’s mom hung the card he got her on the fridge. He needs to focus on the game.

-----

They just barely lose to the Capitals and he’s a little angry, but it was a good game, so he doesn’t let it bother him too much. Tossing his suit jacket on the extra bed Sidney glances around the room, feeling suddenly trapped. They aren’t going home until tomorrow and the thought of spending all night in his room isn’t very appealing.

He’s sure the others are already down at the hotel bar, but he doesn’t really want to spend time with them either. Loosening his tie he pulls it over his head and tosses it with his suit jacket. He suddenly feels like he has ants crawling under his skin and he makes a decision, not giving himself enough time to second guess it.

Sidney quickly changes, into jeans and a T-shirt. He jerks on a hoodie and hat, glad he somehow managed to pack normal ones, as well as his Penguin branded ones. Grabbing his wallet, he double checks to make sure he has his key card before grabbing his phone off the nightstand. He doubts any of the others will come looking for him, but they would also kill him if he left without his phone.

Once he’s outside he calls a cab and a few minutes later one arrives. Climbing in he gives them Ovechkin’s address. The cab pulls into traffic and Sidney sighs. He isn’t sure why he’s seeking out the other man. Yes, he’s said they’re friends but it’s one thing to say and completely different to show up at his home, uninvited.

He glances down at his phone, thumb sliding across the screen without unlocking it. He really should text, let Ovechkin know he’s on the way, but he doesn’t. If he isn’t home, he’ll just go back to the hotel and try not to think too much.

The cab pulls up in front of the house and Sidney leans forward. “I might be right back.” He hands the driver the fare before sliding out of the car and going up the stairs.

There’s a single light on in one of the windows and he takes a deep breath before ringing the doorbell. He shifts his weight, hands tucked in his pockets as he waits. It’s surprisingly quiet around, save the idling of the cab behind him and he’s about to give up and head back to the cab when the door finally opens.

Ovechkin looks startled for a moment before he grins and grab’s Sidney’s wrist. “Sid! Did not expect to see you so soon!”

Sidney shifts but doesn’t try to free himself from the hand around his wrist. “I can leave if you want.”

Shaking his head Ovechkin tugs. “No, is good to see my friend Sidney Crosby!”

Ovechkin’s enthusiasm is borderline annoying, and Sidney is starting to regret this, but instead he turns and waves at the cab, who immediately takes off. He lets the other man pull him into the house and pulls the door closed behind him.

Once inside Ovechkin releases him, eyes scanning his face. “How is wrist?”

Sid shrugs. “Better. It ended up just being bruising and nothing was seriously injured.” And if it twinges occasionally, he isn’t going to tell anyone.

“Good. Do you want a drink?” Ovechkin is already halfway into the kitchen, looking at Sidney over his shoulder.

Sidney nods, and glances around, trying to relax. This isn’t his first time here and he really shouldn’t be feeling this off balance. Of course, last time he’d had plenty of vodka to lubricate everything so maybe that was the difference. Which reminds him… “No alcohol!”

Ovechkin’s laugh echoes out of the kitchen and he comes back a few minutes later with a bottle of water and what Sid is sure is alcohol in a glass. He hands the bottle to Sid, watching him. “Am glad you are here, but surprised.”

Sidney shrugs as he twists the lid off. He supposes everyone must think he sits and stews about every loss. They do weigh heavily on him, each one barrier to making the playoffs, but he realizes stressing about them isn’t really going to do anything. “It was a good game, and we almost had you.” He sighs. “I just didn’t really want to sit around the hotel or go out with any of the guys.”

Geno’s name hangs in the air between them and Alex gives a sharp nod. “Is okay. We see how other games go.” He grins. “Not that anyone but Capitals matter.”

Sidney rolls his eyes but smiles, feeling more relaxed. This he knows and can deal with. “Tell me that when you’re shaking my hand in the playoffs because we’ve knocked you out.”

Ovechkin waves his hand and rolls his eyes though he’s grinning. “Big talk Sid.”

They settle on opposite sides of the big couch and Ovechkin turns on the obscenely large TV on the wall. He flips it to the NHL channel, just in time to catch the recap of their game.

Even from just the highlights Sid can see several things they did wrong, at least one of which lead to a goal. He makes sure to remember them for when they watch the replay in the next few days. Luckily, their game ends, to be replaced with the Rangers and Tampa Bay and Sidney groans. “Fuck, I’m so tired of the Rangers.”

Ovechkin makes a rude noise. “Agree. Overrated.”

The fall into an easy give and take as they watch the game highlights.

Glancing at his phone Sid sits upright. “Fuck, it’s almost two. I need to get back to the hotel.”

“Okay.” Alex stands and slips on a pair of worn shoes sitting by the couch. “Be faster if I give you ride back.”

Sidney looks at the bottle still in his hand, empty and twisted from when he was playing with it. “Thanks.”

Ovechkin grabs a hoodie and shrugs it on. “Leave bottle Sid. I throw it away when I get back.”

Sidney sets the bottle on the end table next to Ovechkin's long-abandoned glass. He checks the messages on his phone as he follows Ovechkin out of the house. If the illegibility of the texts on his phone from his teammates are any indication, none of them were sober enough to realize he had disappeared not long after they had gotten back to the hotel.

The air outside is cool, and he takes a deep breath. This was more fun than he thought it would be and he’s glad he came. He slips into the passenger seat and buckles his seatbelt. “You know, our next meeting isn’t going to go this way.”

With a grin Ovechkin backs the car out of the driveway. “Same result, but this time I come to your house and we have good time there.”

Sidney smiles as he rests his head back on the headrest. “I guess that’s only fair. We don’t play again until after Christmas though.”

“Then be a Christmas gift, getting to spend time with me.” Ovechkin’s grin is bright despite the lateness of the hour and it’s oddly contagious.

Sid makes a face. “Most people wouldn’t call it a gift, but I suppose I can, for the spirit of the holidays.”

That just makes Ovechkin smile even wider and Sidney shakes his head as he rests his forehead against the window and watches buildings go by. Spending the night with Ovechkin, despite the fact they lost to the Capitals, was a good decision.

They reach the hotel and Ovechkin smoothly pulls to a stop by the front doors.

Sliding out of the car Sidney leans back down so he can see the other man. “Thanks Ovi. It was fun.”

With a lazy grin Ovechkin waves his hand. “Was fun. Bye Sid.”

Sidney closes the door and heads back into the hotel.

-----

Picking up his bag Sidney exits his hotel room and about runs into Jordan. “Morning.”

Jordan peers at him blearily and Sidney tries not to laugh because the other man looks miserable.

Some of the rest of the team is headed his way and most of them look like they had a rough night. It just makes Sidney feel even better about the fact he had skipped going out with them. “Did any of you sleep last night?”

Jordan scrubs a hand across his face. “A few hours.” He leans towards Sidney. “You didn’t answer any of my texts last night.”

Sidney shrugs and starts down the hallway toward the elevators. “I would have been able to read them to reply. Fairly sure the at sign isn’t actually a letter.”

Groaning Jordan follows him into the elevator, along with the others. “It still looks like an A. Where were you last night? Normally you’ll at least tell us to fuck off.”

“I kept myself occupied last night.” Sidney hits the button for the ground floor and slants a look at Jordan who is leering at him. “Fuck no, it wasn’t that. I just didn’t feel like going out.”

Jordan elbows Neal who is listing toward him. “You didn’t miss much. It was a lot of bitching about the game.”

The elevator reaches the ground floor and they all pile out, shambling like the undead. Sidney isn’t sure why he’s being so secretive about his meetings with Ovechkin. He’s allowed to have friends outside of the team, but for some reason he doesn’t want to share. As much as he loves his team, he deserves to have something they don’t know.

Chapter Text

Jordan hops up on the counter. “Are you done hiding?”

Sid reaches into the fridge to check the six-pack Tanger jammed in there earlier. “I’m not hiding.”

Drumming his heels on the cupboard door Jordan laughs at the look it gets him. “Don’t tell me you believe that Sid. No one does. Oksana and Geno got here, you played gracious host for all of five minutes and then ran away.”

Knowing he’s caught Sid straightens up. He likes Oksana, he won’t deny it, but he hates seeing her with Geno, hates being reminded of what will never be. It’s easier to just avoid them on nights like this when the team and their families are around and the fact it is almost Christmas is making it even harder. “Okay, I’m hiding.”

Jordan smiles. “Good boy. You going to man up and go back out there or be a pansy and hide out in here for the rest of the night?”

His decision must show on his face because Jordan laughs before hopping off the counter. “Fine. I’ll send the others in to keep your pathetic ass company.”

True to Jordan’s word the others filter through the kitchen, ostensibly to get more food or something to drink but they all linger. None of them mention the fact he’s hiding out, but he knows they’re all thinking it, from the look in their eyes. He knows he should be out there, being a better host, but he can’t bring himself to do it.

It hurts to see Geno with Oksana, the way he hovers around her, smiling and laughing at anything she says, dotes on her. Geno isn’t ignoring the rest of them, by any stretch, talking and yelling at them, roughhousing if they start it, but he also hasn’t strayed far from her side.

The kitchen empties and Sid takes a breath and grabs a beer. As much as it kills him, Jordan is right. He really does need to stop acting like a spoiled brat. Making his way to the door he looks around, hoping to find Jordan so he can spend the rest of the night with him. Jordan is nowhere to be seen and he can’t help it, but his gaze is drawn to where Geno and Oksana are.

Geno is bending down, listening to something Oksana is saying and then he laughs and replies. Sidney feels his heart clench in his chest. He ducks back into the kitchen and sets his beer down before scrubbing a hand across his face. This is pathetic. He’s a grown man and he’s hiding like a kid scared of the boogey man.

Jordan comes barreling into the kitchen, bottle of beer cradled safely against his chest. “Hey, I was talking to Tanger and saw you venture out of your hidey hole. I was coming back but then you dove back in here.”

“You can say it, I was acting like a coward.”

Jordan leans back against the counter, still holding his beer. He glances around as if he’s expecting someone to be hiding before leaning into Sid, his voice pitched low. “You aren’t a coward Sid. You’ve been in feelings with Geno since pretty much the beginning and had this dropped in your lap. It’s normal to not want to have to deal with seeing them together.”

Sidney sighs, because of course Jordan is right. He smiles wanly as he looks at his friend. “When the hell did you become a therapist?”

With a smirk Jordan holds his arms out. “You know me, I have many talents. Are you ready to at least try to be social again?”

He doesn’t want to, but they are in his house, and this is his team and their families. Picking up his beer he nods. Jordan is right and as much as it kills him, so is Ovechkin. Geno isn’t worth ruing a pillow over or pining himself to death.

The problem is convincing his mind or emotions of that.

-----

His house is empty again, which suits Sidney fine. He loves his team, but he loves his quiet time too. Most of the mess is gone but he grabs a garbage bag to pick up the rest of the garbage. The rest of the night had been better, with Jordan at his side. He had even managed to talk to Geno and Oksana, though it had taken most of his will to not run and hid back in the kitchen.

It isn’t that he like Oksana. He does. She is beautiful, charming, kind and the only thing negative thing Sidney can think to say about her is that she’s married to the man he’s been in love with for years.

Grabbing a napkin Sidney tosses it in the garbage bag. He would much rather leave this for tomorrow, but it gives him something to think about besides how happy Geno looks with Oksana and how much it hurts to see them together.

-----

Yawning Sidney heads out to the mailbox. He isn’t going home for Christmas this year, not with the short turnaround but he and Jordan are going to cook and watch bad movies, so it won’t be a complete bust. Opening the box he draws out a collection of envelopes, most of which are just the right size to contain Christmas cards.

Sidney shuffles through them as he heads into the living room, freezing when he reaches the last card. His name and address are perfectly legible, but the return address is a little bit of a mess and he can almost make it out. Setting down the rest of the cards he opens the envelope and pulls out the card.

He flips it over, nearly choking on a laugh because the most ridiculous penguin, with googly eyes and a glittery Santa hat, is peering up at him. That is enough to give him an idea who the card is from and he opens it, smiling when he sees Ovechkin’s signature across the bottom of the card.

Still laughing Sidney enters the living room and sets the card on the entertainment stand under the TV. The card is silly, with the googly eyes going in two different directions and the glitter catching the light but Sidney loves it. There is no doubt in his mind Ovechkin picked it out just for him because he knew it would make him smile.

Glancing down at the envelope Sidney smooths his fingers across the address in the top right corner. He should have thought of this sooner, but he’s sure he has some old Christmas cards tucked away somewhere, a gift from this mother at some point. If he gets it in the mail now it might not be too late in getting to Washington.

-----

Someone else enters the locker room and Sidney looks up. Neal freezes when he sees Sidney before giving him a sad smile before heading to his stall.

Sidney shakes his head and goes back to taping his socks. He has no idea what’s going, but he doesn’t like it. Everyone seems like they’re on pins and needles around him. He’s been doing better around Geno, not feeling quite as off balance, even though it still hurts. Everything is still good between them on the ice, but he can’t seem to shake the tension that tightens his shoulders when he’s around Geno off the ice.

He hates it because it means things like this, where he gets a pitying look from everyone who comes into the locker room. Each one is like a little bit of glass under his skin and he is annoyed by the whole situation. All he wants is for people to go back to acting like everything is normal, like his feelings hadn’t been ground into the mud.

-----

Sidney stares at the text screen on his phone, Ovechkin’s number on the screen and after a moment’s hesitation he finally finds what he wants to say. This fucking sucks.

Sending the message Sidney sets his phone back into his bag and heads into the shower.

By the time he gets back the locker room is empty which suits him simply fine. After today, the last thing he wants is to be surrounded by his team. It’s been the same way every practice since they found out about Geno. Everyone is treating him like he’s made of glass and he’s can’t articulate how over it he is. They’re hockey players and they need to stop acting like he’s a delicate flower.

He doesn’t check his phone until he’s dressed and there’s a reply from Ovechkin. It’s not much, just a bunch of question marks and he’s so frustrated at everyone he doesn’t even care about the lack of real words. The entire team is acting like I’m made of glass.

The reply is almost instantaneous, and Sidney can’t help but wonder that Ovechkin has nothing better to do today then sit on his phone. Not see strength of Sidney. They only see you hurt. Not want to make hurt worse. Good friends but not know what you need.

It’s a surprising bit of insight from Ovechkin, and he appreciates it. At least someone understands he isn’t going to pieces because he can’t have Geno. He isn’t sure if he’s ever going to convince the team of that, but if today was any indication, they might not care. And since he doesn’t want to air his feelings even though the entire team knows them, he doesn’t think anything is going to change.

He rereads Ovechkin’s response before replying. Thanks.

Pocketing his phone, he heads outside. He’s going to go home and watch some hockey. And not think about Geno or how his team is going to drive him crazy.

-----

He has no idea who would be knocking on his door this late at night but if it’s a teammate they better be bleeding to death from an unfortunate shaving accident because if not he’s going to kill them. Sidney yanks the door open, threat dying on his tongue. Ovechkin is standing there with a stick in hand, bulk of his bag visible over one shoulder. “What are you doing here?”

“You say tired of being glass. I not treat you that way.”

Sidney stares at Ovechkin, not quite sure what to say. There’s no shit eating grin, no humour in Alex’s face. He’s oddly serious, eyes dark and Sidney can’t believe he’s seriously considering getting on the ice with him when he’s pretty much promised not to go easy but at this point Sid would give a finger to just be treated normally by someone who knows what’s going on.

Stepping back, he flings a hand in a vague inward direction. “Come on in. I need ten minutes to get everything together.”

It takes him much less than ten minutes, since all his gear is together. He grabs his stuff and without a word leads Ovechkin back outside and to his car.

The ride to the rink is quiet, save the music coming from the radio. It is by no means an uncomfortable silence, which is fine with Sidney. He’s still trying to wrap his mind about the fact Ovechkin came all this way, just for him. The thought something like this might happen after he sought Ovechkin out that first night never crossed his mind.

They get to the rink and Sidney parks near the front doors. No one else is going to show up, since they had practice this morning. Climbing out of the car he grabs his stuff and waits for Ovechkin as he gets his own stuff out. They head toward the building in silence and Sidney likes it. Even now, he can tell there are still days Jordan wants to talk, only obliquely about how he’s doing with the whole Geno thing.

He unlocks the door and opens it, letting Ovechkin go ahead of him. Relocking the door, he strides past the other man towards the locker rooms. The only light is coming from the security lights, but he’s been here so many times he could probably get around in the dark.

Sidney pushes into the locker room and flips the lights on. He goes to his stall and Ovechkin takes one a few benches down from him.

It’s something Sidney never thought he would do, standing in the dressing room at their practice rink with Alexander Ovechkin as they both change. But then he never imagined Geno would get married without telling him, that he would seek out Ovechkin in a drunken haze or that he would actually start enjoying spending time with the Russian.

So maybe this isn’t the weirdest thing that has ever happened to him to date.

It feels odd to be stepping on to the ice with Ovechkin behind him, but not in a bad way. If anything, it seems right, in a way Sidney can’t put in words. He shakes his head to clear the thought, before going right, wanting to do a few laps to loosen up.

Ovechkin is evidently reading his mind because he goes the other way. They pass and Ovechkin has a smile for him that Sidney can’t help but return. After a few more laps Sidney stops to stretch, not surprised when he sees Ovechkin at the other side of the rink, doing the same thing.

They meet back at center ice and Sidney rolls his shoulders. “What do you want to do?”

The other man shrugs. “Is for you Sidney. What do you want?”

Sidney frowns. He really hadn’t thought about much beyond coming to the rink and getting on the ice. Pulling his glove off he scratches at the back of his neck, keenly aware of the way Ovechkin is watching him. “I guess, I just don’t want to think about anything besides hockey.”

Ovechkin gives a sharp nod. “Can do that.”

Sidney hopes this isn’t going to end badly, for either of them. The last thing he wants to have to do is explain to Bylsma or the rest of the team why he’s out for the season and he’s sure Ovechkin feels the same way.

-----

Sidney flops on his back at the center, the ice cool against his neck. Closing his eyes against the lights overhead he takes a deep breath and lets it out, feeling the tension leave his body and he feels better than he has in weeks, probably since he found out about Geno.

It’s a good thing they don’t have a game for a couple of days because his entire body is sore, like he pulled everything at once, but it doesn’t matter. He hadn’t really been planning on going to the optional practice tomorrow, and especially not now that Alex is here. Ovechkin had kept his promise, pushing him until all Sidney could think about was the puck, his stick and how he was going to get around the other man.

For all his size Ovechkin is fast and while he is by no means a dirty player, he has some tricks up his sleeve Sidney hadn’t been able to compensate for. More than once Ovechkin had managed to strip him of the puck, leaving him off balance and struggling to figure out how it happened even as he races to get the puck. It had felt good and he had stopped thinking about Geno, instead focusing all his energy on Ovechkin and how to get one over on him.

Finally the chill of the ice gets to be too much, and Sidney gets to his feet. Alex is nowhere to be seen on the ice and he turns to find him sitting on the boards, helmet by his hip, watching him. There’s a look on his face, something Sidney can’t put a name to, and he skates over to the boards.

“Do you want to stay the night?” It’s obvious the other man is tired, and Sidney isn’t cruel enough to make him drive home when he has the room and it’s only fair to return the kindness from when he rudely showed up on his doorstep drunk.

Ovechkin nods and hops off the boards. “Would be good. Thanks.”

Sidney gets up and together they skate a few slow laps around the rink to cool down. Working in compatible silence they gather up all the pucks and toss them back into the bucket. Sidney sets the bucket over the boards, where they’ll be out of the way if any of the staff come in.

They make their way back to the locker room, and change. Showers can wait until they get back to his place. The drive home is just as quiet as the one to the rink, but something has changed. Sidney feels more relaxed and he knows it is in no small part due to the man in the passenger seat. With Ovechkin around it seems impossible to think about Geno, which is fine with him. He likes this better when everything feels normal.

He pulls into the driveway and he grabs his stuff, watching as Ovechkin does the same. Waiting he watches as the other man tosses all his gear into his car before pulling out a small overnight bag. It makes him wonder if Ovechkin had been anticipating an offer to stay the night and Sidney is suddenly glad he offered it.

The more time he has spent with Ovechkin the more he’s realized what most people see, the brash loud man is only part of him. He’s also loyal and evidently doesn’t mind driving hours or trying to make a guy who has been whining about a mutual friend, feel better. It makes Sidney feel a little terrible, that he has so badly misjudged Ovechkin over the intervening years.

Leading the way up the stairs to the house he swallows hard. There are suddenly a million different things he wants to say, but nothing seems right. Thank you doesn’t seem enough, not when Ovechkin has so patiently been putting up with his moping and pining and he shouldn’t have been putting this on him to begin with.

Opening the front door Sidney steps aside so Ovechkin can come in. He closes the door and locks it before tossing his bag in the closet. “You can put your stuff in there for right now.” Shifting his weight, he made a vague motion in the direction of the nearest bathroom. “The bathroom is at the end of the hallway. I’ll get dinner made once I’ve gotten a shower.”

Ovechkin smiles and toes his shoes off, nudging them into the closet. “You good host Sid.”

Sidney watches as he makes his way down the hallway, and he doesn’t feel like a good host. He really isn’t prepared to have anyone else in the house and honestly, they’re both lucky he has food in the fridge. Shaking his head he makes his way to the linen closet to grab a fresh set of sheets before heading to one of the guest rooms.

He jerks the protective cover off the bed and tosses it aside before unfolding the sheets. He has a service come in once a week that takes care of washing all his linens, so at least the sheets are clean. With a minimum of work Sidney manages to get the bed made, pulling a heavy comforter from the closet.

Once he’s happy with the way the bed looks, he exits the room, leaving the bedroom light on and hoping Ovechkin takes the hint about which room is his. He takes a quick shower before dressing in shorts and T-shirt and heading down to make dinner.

Sidney has just gotten the chicken breasts on the indoor grill when he hears Ovechkin come into the kitchen. He turns and immediately frowns. “Did you have to wear that?”

Ovechkin grins and holds his arms wide so the Capitals’ logo on the front of his shirt isn’t obscured. “You don’t like?”

“Not in my house, no.” Sidney leans back against the counter. “There’s water or Gatorade in the fridge if you want some.”

Padding to the fridge he tugs the door open and gets two bottles out. He turns and tosses one to Sidney before leaning back against the wall. “Better?”

Sidney looks down as he twists the lid off his bottle, needing time to think but not able to do it meeting Ovechkin’s intense gaze. He does feel better, most the of the tension he’s been feeling gone and he smiles, raising his head. “I do. Thank you coming all the way up here.”

Ovechkin gives a decisive nod and grins. “I am good friend.”

Smiling Sidney turns and flips the chicken breasts. It’s still odd to think of Ovechkin as his friend, but it isn’t as weird as it used to be. “Yes, you are.”

After dinner Ovechkin washes the dishes, shoving Sidney aside when he tries to help. Once everything is in the drying rack, they head to the living room. He collapses on the couch and Sidney grabs the remote, turning the TV on before sitting on the other end of the couch. Unsurprisingly it’s on the league channel and Sid turns the sound up.

Alex leans over to poke Sid in the bicep. “Does Sidney Crosby do anything that not hockey?”

Sidney slants a look at the other man, though he’s long since gotten over being made fun of for thinking about nothing but hockey. It just isn’t worth the energy to get his hackles up every time someone makes a joke. “I do, but nothing is more important, and especially not this early in the season.”

Ovechkin grins and nods knowingly before settling back to watch the highlights. It doesn’t take long before they are arguing and sniping at each other but there is no malice in it and Sidney starts relaxing into the couch. It feels normal and he glances at Ovechkin, who is staring at the TV, frowning like he doesn’t agree with the call on the ice.

Feeling suddenly like being a brat Sidney gestures to the TV. “That was the right call. It never crossed the line.”

Ovechkin’s head whips around, his eyes going narrow as the looks at Sidney. “Was clear Sid. Puck over the line.”

Sidney, who saw the same thing shakes his head. He isn’t sure why he is disagreeing on something so obvious, but it sends a thrill down his spine, to have Ovechkin staring at him, blue eyes bright despite the dim lighting of the room.

Making a rude sound Ovechkin gestures to the TV. “Puck over line. Not know what they see.”

With a grin Sidney settles back on the couch, not carrying the argument any further. He hears Ovechkin huff and his smile widens as they continue to watch highlights.

-----

Sidney has no idea who yawns first, but it doesn’t take long until they both are. A quick look show that Ovechkin is falling prey to his couch and Sidney finally manages to move. He turns off the TV before getting to his feet. “I will leave you to sleep on the couch.”

He knows Ovechkin got him to the couch when he showed up drunk at his house, but he doubts he could budge the other man even if he wanted to.

With a laugh Ovechkin sweeps his hand over the couch before standing. “Couch is good Sid, but bed is better.”

Turning out the light in the living room Sidney detours to make sure the front door is locked before heading for the stairs. Ovechkin is a quiet presence behind him, and they part at the bottom of the stairs, Sidney glancing over his shoulder. “Night.”

Ovechkin smiles and there is a softness to it Sidney isn’t sure he can place, not in the dimly lit hallway. “Night Sidney.”

With a smile Sidney ducks into his room and closes the door, though he doesn’t make it any further. Leaning back against the door he scrubs a hand across his face, trying to figure out if he is missing something. There had been something in the way Ovechkin had looked at him in the hallway and despite his confusion, a warm feeling runs through his body.

“Fuck.” Pushing away from the door Sidney goes into the bathroom.

-----

Watery light is coming in around the curtains and Sidney groans, rolling over and scrubbing a hand across his face. He yawns and stares at the ceiling and there is a pleasant ache all over and it takes him a moment to realize he feels this way, not from yesterday’s practice but the time he and Ovechkin had spent on the ice.

Laughing he climbs out of bed. He is glad Ovechkin showed up yesterday and the time they had spent on the ice had been some of the most fun he has had in a long time. It almost feels like something changed yesterday while they had been messing around, but he can’t quite put a finger on the feeling. Right now the last thing he wants to do is think about it, when he feels so good.

He takes a few minutes in the bathroom, forgoing a shower before heading downstairs to make breakfast. Stopping in the hallway near the room where Ovechkin is Sidney doesn’t hear any signs of life. Not knowing if the other man has plans for the rest of the day, he heads to the kitchen so he can make breakfast.

Dinner feels like it was hours ago and after the fact Ovechkin took the time to come up here, to help with a problem that isn’t his, the least he can do is provide him with breakfast. It isn’t anything fancy, just what he normally eats, and he is sure the other man will give him a bad time about it, but he doesn’t care. Habit has gotten him this far and he isn’t in any hurry to change.

Sidney is almost done making breakfast when his guest finally appears, hair damp and dressed like he’s ready to go. He tries not to let it show on his face, but he’s disappointed he can’t stay longer. “Leaving already?”

He nods as he comes into the kitchen. “Have practice this afternoon. Better?”

Pausing in stirring the eggs Sidney has to think. Since Ovechkin has gotten here, he’s been more focused on his presence and their time on the ice, how much fun it had been. To be entirely honest, he hasn’t once thought about Geno since the other man got here. He smiles and turns the heat off under the eggs. “Much better. Do you have time to eat?”

With a glance at the clock Ovechkin nods. “Since you go through trouble of cooking.”

They eat in comfortable silence and it gives Sidney a chance to think. He still doesn’t have any idea why Ovechkin has carried this on, when it would have been easy for him to just stop after he dumped Sidney at the airport the first time. Instead their odd relationship has continued, with Ovechkin reaching out to him the second and third times and it had been so easy to accept it.

He has no idea why sharing this whole thing has been so easy with the other man. There never seems to be any judgement from Ovechkin and his support through this has been leaps and bounds better than Jordan’s, which isn’t fair. He knows Jordan is trying, is a good friend, but there is something different about Ovechkin, something stronger but soft.

Sidney knows he’ll never be able to repay Ovechkin for all of this, but he is going to try to find some way.

Ovechkin finishes first and he takes his plate to the sink and quickly washes it before setting it in the drying rack. He moves to stand behind Sidney and rests one hand on the nape of his neck, thumb following the line of his hair. Squeezing gently he moves back. “Going to get my stuff.”

Sidney can’t suppress the shiver that runs down his spine and he finishes breakfast. Rinsing his plate he sets it in the sink as he hears Ovechkin coming down the hallway. He trails after the other man to the door, watching as he gathers his gear out of the front closet. “Thanks for coming. I hadn’t really expected you to show up, especially since you have practice today.”

Ovechkin shoulders his gear and smiles. “Was easy. Friend need help and here I am. Glad you feel better.”

Sidney edges past him to open the front door. “I do. I feel like this is the first time I’ve been able to not pine after Geno.”

Ovechkin wrinkles his nose in disgust, but his eyes are bright with humor. “I tell you Zhenya not worth it.”

Sidney isn’t quite ready to admit that, though it’s been nice to not have to worry about the specter of him looming throughout last night and today. “Thanks Alex.”

His eyes widen in surprise and he steps forward, grinning. “You call me Alex.”

“Of course.”

Alex shakes his head and steps forward slightly. “No. Before now, always Ovechkin or Ovi. This first time you call me Alex.”

It takes Sidney a moment to realize the other man is right and he sighs. He’s been calling him Alex in his head, but this is the first time he’s dared to say it out loud. Shrugging he looks at Alex. “It seems right. I mean, we are friends. But I’m not going to call you Alex in front of others. I don’t want to raise any questions.”

Alex smiles. “Is fine. Rather have you to myself. Bye Sid.”

“Bye Alex.”

Sidney watches as Alex makes his way to his car and he can’t help but smile.

Chapter Text

All-Star is just around the corner and Sidney finishes packing his bag. If he’s entirely honest with himself, he’s ready for the break. The team is in a good position going into the break and as much as he likes his team, he’s ready to be away from them. Granted, Geno is going too, but Alex and others will be there, so he’ll have some kind of buffer.

His phone buzzes and he picks it up, rolling his eyes. Am excited to see you Sid!

You saw me just last week. Sidney isn’t sure why he’s engaging Alex. He knows from here on it’s going to be a long string of texts until he gets to Tampa Bay.

Sure enough, he’s barely set his phone down before it is going off again. With a sigh Sidney picks the phone up, glad he’s done packing. This is going to be bad, and he’ll be glad when he finally gets on the plane and can ignore Alex with an excuse, no matter how flimsy.

But that last week Sidney. Have not seen you this week!

It makes Sidney smile, because he’s looking forward to seeing Alex. There’s something about him that makes everything feel right and he could use a dose of it. This last week has been rough, mostly because the team has been struggling and he can’t help but feel like part of it is his fault. He hasn’t been very productive, since the other teams seem to have it out for him, if the way they keep mobbing him has been any indication.

At this point maybe the long weekend and time with Alex will put everything back on track.

-----

His phone buzzes again for what feels like the millionth time since he got to the airport and Sidney ignores it. He knows it will be Alex again, with something stupid and he doesn’t need it right now.

Geno frowns at him as they head for the gate and their flight. “Not going to answer?”

Sidney shakes his head even as his phone goes off again. He still has Alex saved in his phone as Ovechkin and that is the last thing Geno needs to see. “Nope. I know who it is, and the person in question is a pain in my ass.”

Even Sidney can hear the hint of fondness in his voice and he ducks his head, hoping Geno doesn’t notice. He had meant what he had told Alex, about not wanting others to know about their friendship. Not because he cares what people think, but because he likes having the secret. Alex doesn’t have any expectations about him, takes him as he is and doesn’t push him to be different.

Once he is seated, Geno across the aisle Sidney does take his phone out. Sure enough most of the texts are from Alex and he quickly reads through all of them. Leaning back in his seat he settles for responding to the last text. On the plane, so don’t expect anything. See you soon.

Sidney tucks his phone away before the attendant can glare at him again and he can’t wait to get to Tampa Bay.

-----

Geno’s room is on the same hall as his, but further down and Sidney waves at him as he enters his room. Dropping his bag on the suitcase rack near the wall he looks around, though he isn’t sure what he’s expecting. The room looks like the hundreds of others he has stayed in over the years, though the art above the bed is particularly ugly.

Sidney rubs his hands together, not quite sure what to do. There isn’t anything official going on tonight and he and Geno have plans to join some of the other players for dinner and maybe a drink, but that is hours from now. He barely makes it to the bed when there is a knock on the door and he sighs, reversing course to open the door.

Alex grins at him, arms held wide. “Sidney!”

Before he can say anything, Alex is pulling him into a hug and Sidney slides an arm around his waist, feeling his cheeks heat up. He manages to close the door, but he doesn’t fight to get away, instead leans into Alex, which makes the other man laugh.

Alex draws back enough to kiss him on the cheek before grinning. “Am glad to see you.” He lowers his voice. “Week is very long time.”

Sidney knows he should be used to Alex by now, but warmth spreads through his body at his words. “You’ve gone longer than a week without seeing me before.”

Making a face Alex releases him, though his hand remains curled around his elbow, warm pressure. “But was not friends then Sid. Are friends now.”

If he had known how much of a big deal Alex was going to make them being friends, Sidney might have kept his mouth shut. But at the same time he wouldn’t have because he likes the attention, finds he likes making Alex happy and doing so isn’t a hardship for him.

Alex’s fingers press into his elbow and Sidney looks at him. Bright eyes are watching him, and he resists the urge to look away. “What?”

A thumb sweeps against the inside of his arm. “How was trip?”

It takes Sidney a moment to realize what Alex is asking and he shrugs. Everyone knows he always flies with Geno for All-Star and this is the first time they’ve been alone without the team running interference. “He was across the aisle. It was fine.”

And oddly enough, it had been. He paid any attention to Geno, instead thinking about the weekend ahead and thinking about getting to see Alex again. Huffing a laugh he looks at Alex, because it is amazing how fast he has gotten used to spending time with him, how it feels like they’ve never had the weird animosity between them. “It was great.”

Alex looks at him for a moment longer, like he can’t quite believe what he’s hearing but he doesn’t push. Instead he smiles, squeezing Sidney’s elbow. “Is good.”

On an impulse Sidney rests his hand on Alex’s side. “Do you want to have dinner with Geno and I tonight?”

At the look he gets Sidney shakes his head and laughs. “Not just the two of us. There are going to be others there, but I want to invite you.” He smiles. “If it makes you feel better, you can kick Geno under the table.”

Snorting Alex laughs. “Not tempt me Sidney. We do dinner but I go see some other people. What time dinner?”

Sidney glances at the clock by the bed. “I think we decided on six.”

Alex nods before stepping back. “I see you before six.”

“Alright.” Sidney nods as Alex leaves the room, feeling a little empty, though he isn’t sure why. It isn’t like he has a sole claim on the other man’s time. And despite the busy weekend they’ll likely find a chance to spend some time alone.

-----

Sidney is just pulling his shoes on when there is a knock on the door, and he stands. Alex is just outside, and he is glad he grabbed his wallet before opening the door. “Hey. Did you find everyone you wanted to bother?”

“Yes.” Alex grins as he steps back. “All over hotel but find them.”

A few doors down Geno comes out of his room, pausing and frowning when he sees them standing together. He joins them, looking at Alex. “Sanja.”

Shrugging when Geno looks at him, Sidney heads for the elevator. “It seemed rude to not invite Ovechkin when almost everyone else is going to be there.” It feels odd to be calling him Ovechkin again, but Alex seems amused by it, if his faint smile is anything to go by.

They pile into the elevator, Alex sliding between he and Geno with all the subtlety of a bull and Sidney focuses on the buttons in front of him. Geno and Alex carry on a conversation over him and Sidney pays them no mind.

The elevator seems to stop on every floor, hockey players piling in until Sidney is practically pinned to the buttons, Alex a warm bulk behind him and he manages to look up at the floor indicator. They only have two floors before the bottom, and he can only hope no one else is planning on getting on.

Evidently the last two floors are empty, because they reach the ground floor without any mishaps and Sidney manages to wiggle out ahead of the stampede of men. He steps aside, laughing when Geno and Alex come spilling out, looking like they were both run over. “You both okay?”

Geno mutters something Sidney doesn’t quite catch and Alex glares at some of the disappearing mob. “Next time take stairs.”

Sidney gestures in the direction of the restaurant and they wander down the hallway. He isn’t sure how he ended up between them, but he can tell Geno is frowning slightly, like he’s still trying to figure out why Alex is with them, while Alex is talking, about what Sidney isn’t sure. They enter the restaurant, where a couple other players are already seated at a big table and Sidney drops into one of the empty chairs.

Alex takes a seat next to him while Geno rounds the table to sit across from him. He can tell the other man is still trying to figure out what exactly is going on between he and Alex, but Sidney isn’t going to give him anything.

-----

Sidney leans against the boards next to Alex, tucking his stick between them where Alex’s already is. “Having fun?”

Alex grins. “All-Star always fun.” He gestures between them. “We talk, people think things.”

Rolling his shoulders Sidney looks around the arena. The fans are a wash of color, all clad in jerseys and it feels like there are a million different camera crews trailing around, on the ice and in the boxes. He knows some of them are likely watching the interactions between he and Alex, trying to figure out what is going on between them and he finds he doesn’t care.

Shifting he bumps his shoulder against Alex, their sticks moving between them. “I think, it doesn’t matter. We’re friends, we can talk, and it doesn’t have to mean anything.” He smiles. “After this long, probably about time for our rivalry to die.”

Alex’s smile is bright, and he throws his arm around Sidney’s shoulders, pulling him as close as their pads will allow. “Are smart Sidney.”

“Of course I am.” Sidney grins at Alex and doesn’t pull away as they continue to watch the skill contest.

-----

Even though they end up on the same team every year for All Star, it doesn’t make it any less weird to see Alex on the ice with him. He dodges away from the end of Alex’s stick. “Would you stop being annoying?”

Alex doesn’t respond, but from the look on his face Sidney knows he is in for it. In hindsight it probably would have been better to just ignore his antics, but now Alex knows it annoys him, so he isn’t going to find any peace.

And he doesn’t, as Alex crowds closer to him, still grinning. “Not annoying Sid. Just having fun with you.”

Sidney rolls his eyes. “I think we have different ideas about what is annoying.” He isn’t sure what is taking the referees so long to straighten out, but it doesn’t look like the game is going to start anytime soon so he settles for leaning against the boards.

It doesn’t take long before Alex is next to him and at least he isn’t trying to be irritating, which Sidney is going to take as a win.

-----

The bar is hot and crowded, the music loud and Sidney is glad he knows most of the people present because otherwise he wouldn’t be here. This is the kind of place he usually avoids, but Alex and Geno had been persistent, and he had given in. Their booth has had a revolving seat tonight, with players coming and going as the night has progressed. Geno is gone, but Hall and Toews have taken up residence and they’ve been idly talking.

Alex has disappeared to the bar and Sidney takes a chance to sprawl out on the seat. The other man has been pressed against his side the entire night and he doesn’t mind, though it is nice to have the space to stretch out.

There is a lull in the conversation and Alex is suddenly back, carrying two drinks. He nods to Hall and Toews before sliding in next Sidney, pushing the shot glass towards him.

Sidney doesn’t really want the shot Alex just set in front of him, because he’s had more than enough to drink, but he’s finding it hard to resist. Especially when Alex slides back into the booth, pressed against him at hip and shoulder. “What is it this time?”

Alex shrugs, arm going across Sidney’s shoulders as he pulls him in. “Something good.”

That isn’t reassuring but so far Alex hasn’t brought him anything disgusting and at this point Sidney has had enough to drink he doesn’t care. But Alex has one of his own, the same color and it would be rude to turn it down. He downs the shot, Alex matching him, and he shakes his head. Whatever it was had been citrus and the taste is enough to make his nose burn.

Shoving the glass towards the others on the table Sidney turns to look at Alex. “No more of that.”

With a face Alex sets his own shot glass down, pushing it towards the rest. “No, was bad.” He leans toward Sidney. “Another?”

He knows he really shouldn’t, but this has been fun and one night of too much isn’t going to hurt him. “Okay, but actually get something better this time.”

Waving a dismissive hand at him Alex slides off the seat before disappearing into the press of bodies.

Sidney relaxes back into his seat, tapping his fingers against the table. He feels Toews and Hall watching him from across the table and he glares at them both. He has a good idea what they’re going to ask, but he isn’t going to answer without a question. “You might as well ask.”

“You two seem often chummy all of a sudden.”

Shrugging Sidney rolls his eyes as Alex comes back towards the table, bearing something clear and a lot bigger than their last drink. “We’ve wasted enough energy on animosity over the years. This isn’t going to change anything on the ice, but it won’t kill us to be civil off.”

From the look the two men level at him Sidney can tell neither is happy with his answer, but he doesn’t care. Not when Alex is sliding back into his seat, setting the drinks down as he presses against him. “This one better be good, because it is the last drink.”

The bar is warm around them and Sidney knows part of it is the press of bodies around them, the alcohol and the way Alex has been close all night. Their closeness had drawn looks from everyone all night, but mostly Geno, who has been keeping an eye on them, from a distance and as he came by their table a couple times.

He accepts the drink and takes a sip. The flavor is complex, but it is miles better than the last drink and he nudges Alex. “You should have gotten these earlier.”

Alex shrugs. “Ask bartender what good.”

It isn’t long before they’re left alone at the table and Sidney takes his time finishing his drink. Geno is off in a corner, talking to a few people Sidney can’t identify from here, not that it matters. During All-Star they leave the animosity at home and he has been having fun.

Pushing his glass toward the center of the table Sidney waits while Alex finishes his. With just the two of them at the table it feels like an oasis of quiet and he closes his eyes. A few seconds later he twists away from an elbow and he glares at Alex, who is grinning. “That was fucking rude.”

Alex shrugs, sliding away and Sidney follows him out. “Make sure you not asleep.”

“I wasn’t.” It isn’t quite a lie, but Sidney knows if he had stayed sitting any longer, he would have. He can’t remember the last time he had this much to drink and he feels loose and in a great mood. Alex curls a hand around his elbow, tugging gently and he lets the other man lead him in the direction of the door. He digs his heels in, not that it does much good. “Did we pay?”

Alex laughs and pulls again, Sidney stepping forward. “Yes Sid. Pay when got last drinks.”

Sidney nods. “Okay. I could have helped.”

Alex holds the door open and Sidney steps out, sighing when the cooler air of the hallway touches his cheeks.

Not letting go of Sidney’s elbow Alex pulls him in the direction of the elevator and they cross the lobby in step. “I know Sidney. You get next time.”

Sidney lets Alex pull him toward the elevator and he watches as the other man hits the call button for the elevator. “The next All-Star is a long time away.”

Shrugging Alex herds Sidney into the elevator, which they have to themselves. “Just mean have something to look forward.” He wiggles his eyebrows at Sidney. “We still be friends then.”

Sidney laughs and leans against Alex as they step off the elevator. They’ve both had quite a bit to drink, not that it matters. The weekend is over, and he doesn’t have a game until Tuesday. More than enough time to recover, and it had been fun, sitting and drinking with Alex and the others.

He frowns as he looks at the hallway. “This isn’t my floor.”

Alex shrugs, dragging him down the hall. “Is mine.” He glances at Sidney, a slight smile pulling at his mouth. “Already tired of spending time with me?”

Sidney shakes his head, though it makes the world swim a little and he clutches at Alex’s shoulder. “No.” It had been fun, trapped between Alex and someone he can’t remember now. Alex had been a line of heat down his left side and he had enjoyed it.

Alex manages to open the door to his room, and they stumble in, laughing. They barely make it to the king-sized bed where they collapse.

Sidney manages to stay sitting up, but just barely, while Alex flops back, arms spread. Now that he’s sitting back down Sidney isn’t sure he wants to move, lethargy stealing over him. He glances at Alex, who has his eyes closed, breathing deep and even. “I’m not sure I have the energy to get back to my room.”

Alex doesn’t even open his eyes but pats the bed under his hand. “Is okay Sid. Bed big enough for both.”

The thought to decline crosses his mind for a brief second, but he is tired, drunk and his room is three floors up. Shifting Sidney gets his wallet and phone from his pockets and tosses them on the bedside table. He toes his shoes off and manages to get his belt off. Dropping it on his shoes he grabs Alex’s arm and drops it on his chest. “Don’t hog the bed.”

He slides further up the bed to the sound of Alex’s laughter and grabs one of the pillows. It smells like Alex and he settles in, but he doesn’t try to pull up the blankets. The room is warm enough that’ll it be comfortable enough.

The room plunges into darkness and he feels Alex move behind him.

-----

Sidney has no idea what time it is, just that the room is still dark and that he really needs to pee. He slides from the bed, barely managing it with grace. There’s a muted light in the bathroom, for which he’s glad, because the thought of turning on the lights is enough to make his head hurt. He finishes in the bathroom and makes his way back to the bed, nearly tripping over his shoes.

Biting back a curse he finds his side of the bed and he reaches out in the dark to make sure Alex hasn’t taken his spot. He hits a shoulder and Alex grumbles but moves and Sidney climbs back into the bed. He is almost asleep again when he feels the bed dip and then Alex is gone.

A few seconds later Alex is back again, pressing a hand between his shoulders and Sidney smiles before falling asleep.

-----

Light is shining around the curtains and Sidney groans. He probably needs to get up to think about packing and catching his flight, but he’s warm, comfortable, and disinclined to move. It takes him a moment to realize Alex is against his back, an arm tucked across his waist, leg pressed between his. The position is oddly comfortable, and he closes his eyes. Just before he drifts off, he’s sure he must have imagined the brush of what feels like lips across the back of his neck.

-----

The second time he wakes up, Sidney knows he has to get up and get moving, as much as he doesn’t want to. With reluctance he pries himself free from Alex. He ignores the mutter of protest from the other man and sits up on the edge of the bed. Despite last night, he doesn’t feel terrible, which is a good thing and he lingers for a few seconds before getting to his feet.

It takes him a moment to find his wallet and phone and he pockets both before finding his shoes. He slides them on and picks up his belt, coiling it, since he’s planning on showering when he gets back to his room. Taking a step forward he manages to kick the leg of the bed and is glad he did it with his shoes on.

There’s a sleepy sound from the bed. “Sid?”

Alex’s voice is rough with sleep and Sidney reaches out, getting a hand on his leg. He squeezes. “Hey.”

“Hi. What time?”

Sidney unlocks the screen on his phone, squinting at the brightness. “Um, a little after 9 am. I need to get going, so I can pack and shower. I’ll see you when I can?”

Alex makes a sound of assent. “Is good.

Yawning Sidney leaves Alex’s room and heads for the elevator. Right now, he really wishes his flight were later, because the thought of a little more sleep is a good one. Pushing the call button, he glances at his phone, wincing when he sees the three missed texts from Geno. He’s going to have an answer when he sees his friend, because he and Alex slipped out when Geno was off with a couple of other players.

He makes it up to his room and with a lingering glance at his bed heads into the bathroom. The shower goes a long way to making him feel better and once he’s out, Sidney drains a bottle of water. Dressing he quickly packs everything up. A last look around the room reveals he has everything, and he zips the bag shut.

A knock on the door sounds and he glances at it. “Hold on.” He zips the bag shut before crossing to the door and yanking it open.

Geno is on the other side, looking a little downtrodden. He looks at Sidney. “You no return texts.”

Sidney winces and steps back so Geno can come in. “Yeah, sorry. I left the bar and didn’t think to check my phone.”

Setting his bags down Geno frowns. “Didn’t answer door when I knock.”

Wincing again Sidney sighs. He hadn’t expected Geno to check up on him that closely. And now he’s stuck, because Geno and he both know he would never sleep through someone knocking on the door.

With a sigh he scrubs a hand across his face. “I was with Ovechkin last night. I spent the night in his room.”

There’s a flash of something across Geno’s face that Sidney can’t place, and Geno gives him a confused look. “Thought you not like Sanja.”

Sidney shrugs. “We’ve worked out our differences.” Part of him wants to add that Geno is the reason he sought out Alex originally, but that will raise more questions he doesn’t want to answer. “I thought that would make you happy.”

Geno seems to shake off his funk and nods. “Is good. Never thought would happen.”

Sidney grabs his bags. “Things change.” Maybe someday he’ll tell Geno he was the reason he and Alex are friends now, but that day is a long way off. And it was good to spend so much time with Alex over the weekend. It took his mind off Geno despite his almost constant presence at their side and he feels a little lighter about the situation than he did when they left for Tampa.

“Come on. We need to get to the airport.” Sidney herds Geno out the door and heads to the elevator, aware of the way his friend is staring at his back.

-----

His house is quiet, for which Sidney is grateful. He really enjoys All-Star Weekend, getting to see the other players, the energy and everything that goes with it. Of course, by the time the weekend is over, he’s also over everything else. Locking the front door Sidney heads towards his room, bag over his shoulder.

Sidney dumps it on the bed and unzips it. Digging through it he tosses all the dirty laundry on the floor to be dealt with later. Just as he finishes, he feels his phone vibrate in his coat pocket. He gets it out to see a message from Alex.

He unlocks the screen and opens the message, rolling his eyes when he sees it.

You good to sleep with Sid. Not move much.

Leave it to Alex to make things weird. Sidney thinks about tossing his phone aside without answering but he doesn’t want Alex to think he’s upset about last night. It takes a few seconds of staring at the phone screen before he figures out what to say. Thanks, I guess.

This time Sidney does toss his phone aside because he has other things to do besides wait for Alex to text him back.

Chapter Text

Sidney scrubs a hand through his hair, glancing at the clock. Tonight was their last game against Washington, which they lost, and Alex is going to be here soon. This is the first time he’ll have seen him since All-Star and Sidney can’t believe he has been missing him in the last two months. It seems impossible, but he does, and it makes him laugh.

The doorbell echoes around him and he hurries to the door. Opening the door Sidney can’t help but smile despite the sting of loss, because Alex is smiling brightly, and it is impossible to not respond. “Hey.”

“Hi.” Alex steps into him, bending to brush a kiss to his cheek.

Sidney shivers under the sensation before stepping back so Alex can come in. He watches as Alex kicks his shoes off and removes his hoodie, hanging it in the closet, making himself at home and it sends warmth curling through Sidney. Having Alex here makes him happy and he can’t remember why he ever thought friendship with Alex would be a bad thing. “You had a great game.”

Alex nods, grin bright. “I did.” He curls his hand over the back of Sidney’s neck and squeezes. “You had good game. Team not so much.”

“Yeah.” Sidney knows there isn’t anything he say to defend the way the rest of the team looked tonight. At one point it had been bad enough he hadn’t been able to help but wonder if they had all been replaced by pod people who had never seen a hockey stick in their life. “That was not our best game.”

Alex trails after him into the kitchen, taking the bottle of water he offers. “Was not. Almost feel bad for you.”

Sidney laughs. “You did not.”

Alex grins as he opens his bottle. “I say almost Sidney.”

Leaning back against the counter Sidney looks at Alex. He looks tired, not that is much of a surprise. They all are, as this last push to the playoffs happens, but it doesn’t make this any easier. “So, I was thinking.”

It looks like Alex wants to say something smart, but Sidney shakes his head. “This should probably be the last time we see each other for a while. With the playoffs right around the corner, I think both of our teams deserve it.”

Sidney thinks he must be imagining things, as he can swear there is a flash of hurt across Alex’s face, but it doesn’t last long. Instead Alex nods.

“Is probably good idea.” Alex steps into Sidney, closing the distance between them. “Mean we have fun tonight?”

With a laugh Sidney slides away from Alex, gesturing for him to follow. “Well, we lost to you, so I’m not counting that as fun, but I suppose I can figure out something for us to do.”

-----

Laughing Sidney turns off the movie. He reaches over and pokes Alex, not fighting when Alex catches his hand, fingers curling around his. “That was terrible. I’m not ever letting you pick the movie again.”

Alex’s smile is lazy, and he leans towards Sidney. “Was not bad, or you not laugh.” Without releasing Sidney’s hand he stretches. “Be sad we not get to spend time together Sid.”

Right now Sidney isn’t thrilled he suggested the idea to begin with. Seeing Alex every few weeks is something he has come to enjoy but he isn’t going to change his mind about it. The playoffs are more important for them and their teams. Their friendship will survive a few weeks of not seeing each other and there will be plenty of time after the playoffs are over.

He looks at his hand, Alex’s fingers, square and familiar curled around his. “Maybe at the end of June we’ll be able to do something. Saying something like that almost seems like a curse. By pushing it out so far Sidney is saying one of them will at least make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, and he can only hope he isn’t going to jinx either team.

Alex’s smile doesn’t fade, though it changes, a hint of warmth in it. “Still long time Sidney.”

Sidney rolls his eyes. “I’m not saying we’re totally cutting each other off. You can still text me, but there had better be real words or I’m going to ignore you.” He still doesn’t understand Alex’s fascination with trying to communicate with emojis, but it is annoying.

Alex squeezes his hand. “Is fun Sid.”

“For you, maybe.” Sid curls his hand into a loose fist, trying to recapture the warmth of Alex’s touch. “I shouldn’t have to spend five minutes deciphering what you’re trying to say.”

That makes Alex laugh and he leans toward Sidney again. “Make you think of me.” He glances at the clock and frowns. “Should get back. Sasha worry.”

“Do you want me to take you back to the hotel?”

Shaking his head Alex gets to his feet. “I call taxi. Not want you to fall asleep driving.”

With a laugh Sidney gets to his feet, trailing after the other man. “I’m not so tired I can’t get you back to the hotel and home in one piece. But if you want to spend money, feel free.”

Before he can say anything else Alex catches his shoulders, drawing him in and Sidney lets him, as Alex’s arms slide around his shoulders. He chooses not to think about how easy it is to lean into Alex, arms going around the other man’s waist, fingers curling into the hoodie he’s wearing. Resting his forehead against Alex’s shoulder he closes his eyes, and he really is going to miss this closeness. What they have isn’t the same as what he shares with his teammates and a prickle runs up his back.

It feels like forever they stand like that and Sidney likes it, the way Alex’s arms feel around his shoulders, the strength in him. He hums, because staying like this all night would be easy but Alex needs to get going.

Sidney pulls back from Alex, but he doesn’t drops his hands. “See you in the second round?”

The way things stand, they’ll play Washington in the second round if they both manage to win, and he is looking forward to it. Playoff hockey is a whole different sport and there is always an extra edge to it when they play Washington. He is excited about the prospect of playing them and he finally drops his hands, letting Alex step back.

Alex slips his shoes on, smiling at Sid as he does. “Yes.”

-----

The run to the end of a season is a wild, slippery ride and Sidney is glad when they manage to finish without losing too many games. They don’t slip far in the standings, and neither does Washington, guaranteeing they’ll see each other in the second round and just the thought has electricity running under his skin.

Except they don’t get that far. They play the Islanders in the first round and the first game is a parody of a hockey game. No matter what they do nothing seems to work and they lose the game, 4-1 and the only good thing is that they hadn’t been on home ice. The second game goes better, and they end up heading back home on a high, only to lose again. From there they trade off games and it goes to seven, which they lose in overtime.

Sidney can only stare at their net, the cheers surrounding them almost deafening and the rest of the team looks as broken as he feels. Geno’s face is tight, and Jordan is staring at the ice like he wishes it would break open and swallow them whole.

He feels numb as they line up to shake hands with the Islanders and he knows he speaks to a couple of the other players, but he can’t for the life of him remember any of what he said. The walk to the locker room feels like it takes forever and once he’s seated Sidney can’t find the energy to start removing his gear. He feels like everything weighs hundreds of pounds and he can’t seem to wrap his mind around the fact they’re out of the playoffs.

Just a week ago anything had seemed possible, and even after that first loss the team had been invigorated, ready to take it to the Islanders in the second game. And they had, but the third and fifth games had been a repeat of the first and Sidney had just kept hoping, even as they had changed

Checking his phone Sidney isn’t really surprised to see no one has left a message for him. By now his family knows not to reach out to him after a loss like this, to give him sometime to process it. But he was halfheartedly hoping to have something from Alex, though he can’t really be mad. Washington has the last game in their series tomorrow night, and are in the same situation they were in, with it being game seven.

Alex should be dedicating himself to his team and not worrying about Pittsburgh’s sudden explosion and failure.

He pockets his phone and leads his team out of the locker room. The flight home is going to be quiet and Sidney knows most of them are going to be spending the next few hours trying to figure out what the hell went wrong.

-----

Scrubbing a hand across his face Sidney rolls over and stares at the ceiling. He hadn’t slept well after they had gotten home, the game running on replay through his head. There had been at least a dozen different things he could have done differently and he’s sure there are more that will come to him as the day goes on.

A flash of light from his phone catches his attention and he reaches over, pulling the charger free as he lifts his phone. Unlocking the phone he sees a text from his mom and Taylor, though he chooses to ignore both, knowing they still aren’t expecting a reply from him. The third is from Alex, and it isn’t more than a frowning face, which makes a wan smile pull at his mouth.

Alex really shouldn’t be worrying about him, not with his game this evening, but at the same time it warms Sidney a little, to know Alex had taken a few seconds to think about him and his plight. He sets his phone on the bed next to him, not responding to the text. The last thing he needs to do right now is distract Alex from his game tonight.

He appreciates the text and he’ll reach out to Alex, later, depending on the outcome of Washington’s game tonight.

But until then he plans on wallowing in disappointment over the way he had played last night.

-----

Sidney pointedly doesn’t turn on the TV for Washington’s game. If he was a good friend, he would watch it, but the hurt is still too raw, and he doesn’t need the reminder. Instead he cooks dinner and makes a list of a few things he needs to do now that the season is over and tries to resist the urge to grab his phone to check the score.

As time continues to pass Sidney eats and after washing his dishes, he does a few of the small chores he had been putting off, cleaning out the fridge and doing a load of laundry. Even the busy work isn’t enough to ease the itch under his skin and he ends up cleaning out the drawers in the master bathroom.

He honestly can’t remember buying half the stuff in the drawers and a disturbing amount of it is out of date. Half a garbage later he feels accomplished and he carries the bag down to add to the kitchen and the garbage there, already waiting to out.

Taking the garbage out Sidney comes back into the house, eyes drawn to the clock on the wall. It takes him a moment to realize Washington’s game should be over, unless they went into overtime and he can’t stand it anymore. Grabbing his phone off the counter where he left it Sidney quickly brings up the games tonight, the knot of tension in his stomach uncurling, in a quick burst.

Washington won, handily and it makes Sidney happy, for Alex if nothing else.

He sends a quick congratulations, knowing he isn’t going to get a response anytime soon. Alex is going to be celebrating with his team, as well he should be. They’ve earned this win and if the Penguins’ failed run against the Islanders is any indication, Washington is going to have their hands full.

Setting his phone back down Sidney heads into the living room.

-----

Except the Islanders seem to have performed some weird magic on Washington too, because they fall in seven games.

Sidney turns the TV off, wishing he hadn’t watched the game. It had been painful from the beginning, with Washington unable to gain any traction against the Islanders. Sidney had felt Alex’s frustration, how could he not when it had been his team two weeks ago, struggling to connect. He picks up his phone and unlocks it but doesn’t go any further.

As much as he wants to, now isn’t the time to reach out to Alex. Not when the wound is so fresh, and he tosses his phone back down. He’ll give it some time and reach out later, maybe tomorrow.

-----

Sidney spends most of the next day in meetings with the team as they talk about everything that went wrong and what to do about next year. It is a painful reminder of how abruptly their season ended, but at the same time it helps bleed out some of the anger. The fact they lost was a failing of the whole team and Sidney knows his teammates well. This will be a call to action for next year, to be better, to make it further and they will.

Leaning back against the wall Sidney pulls his phone out. They’re taking a quick break, for which he’s grateful. It feels like the talking has been going on for hours and at times he has felt like he wanted to scream, because all the talk in the world wasn’t going to change the fact they got knocked out in the first round.

Instead of worrying about what is going to happen when he goes back into the room, he opens his messenger and has to look for Alex’s number, in the dozens of texts he’s gotten from other people over the last few weeks. The last text in their conversation had been the congratulations he had sent, which feels like years ago and the suspicious part of him can’t help but wonder if it somehow was enough to jinx Alex and the Capitals.

Sidney knows he’ll make a mess of it if he tries for a long message, so he types in the first thing that comes to mind.

Hey, that was a rough game and I’m sorry. I’ll be hanging around if you want to come have a pity party with me.

He stares at the text for a long moment before sending it and he drops his head back against the wall. He doubts there will be a response anytime soon, and he isn’t really expecting one. He’s had more time to process the loss, let some of the sting go, but he wants Alex to know their friendship is going to continue, even with the season over.

Jordan comes towards him and Sidney pushes up from the wall. “Ready for more?”

Shaking his head Jordan falls into step next to him. “Figuring out our epic failure, no, not really but it needs to be done.” He nudges Sidney. “You were looking at your phone. Setting up a hot date?”

With a snort Sidney pockets his phone. “Nope. Just reaching out to someone.” That gets him a curious look, but he ignores it. Jordan can wonder all he wants.

-----

By the time they get done for the day it is almost dinner time and Sidney yawns as he heads outside with the rest of the team. There is a little desultory conversation, though no one seems interested in doing anything beyond going home, not that Sidney can blame any of them. They spend all this time together, and they all know any gathering right now will lead to them talking about went wrong.

Right now distance is the best thing for them and Sidney waves at Jordan and Geno as they split up in the parking lot.

Reaching his car Sidney gets his phone out. There is a text from Taylor he quickly responds to, but nothing from Alex and he tamps down on the disappointment that wells up. It has only been a night, and really there is no reason he should be expecting a response so soon.

Instead he jams his phone back into his pocket and heads home.

-----

Sidney has no idea what the hell is going on in the movie he’s watching. He had put it on, hoping it would take his mind off the game the Islanders are playing against the Panthers, of all people. But he has been drifting in and out of paying attention to the movie and he has a feeling it would make a lot more sense if he were high.

A knock on the door startles him into movement and Sidney rolls off the couch, padding to the door. He isn’t expecting any company but at this point he would probably let Death in, as long as it promised some good conversation. Short of talking to his teammates a few times, he hasn’t had much in the way of social contact and it has been a little over a week since he texted Alex and he hasn’t gotten a response yet.

He opens the door, words of greeting dying on his tongue. Alex is standing there with a bag over his shoulder, car parked next to Sidney’s in the driveway. He looks tired and without thinking Sidney reaches out, catching the strap to Alex’s bag, using it to pull him into the house. “Hey.”

Alex glances at him, looking a little unsure. “Is okay?”

Sidney nods, realizing he’s still holding onto Alex’s bag and he tugs, hoping the other man will take the hint. “Of course. I wouldn’t have mentioned it if I didn’t want you to come by.” The bag is suddenly in his hands and he draws it off Alex’s shoulder. He steps back, shouldering the bag as he gestures for Alex to follow him toward the room he stayed in the last time.

He drops the bag just inside the door. “Did you want something to eat?”

Alex shakes his head. “Ate before I came.”

A wave of worry washes through Sidney and he steps closer to Alex. He can’t remember ever seeing him like this and he doesn’t like it. It’s so at odds with the brash, loud Alex he knows, and it hurts. Reaching out he curls his hand over the back of Alex’s neck, in the way Alex has done to him so many times.

He squeezes gently, thumb stroking the side of his neck. “I’m sorry that was such a shitty game.”

Alex looks at him and he huffs. “Was bad.” He scrubs a hand through his hair. “Your game not so good either.”

“Fuck no it wasn’t.” Sidney drops his hand, jerking his head back in the direction of the living room. “Come on. We’ll go find something stupid to watch and not think about how badly we failed.”
There is a ghost of smile on Alex’s face and Sidney will take it as a win. He doesn’t like the shadow clinging to Alex, and he knows there is nothing he can do to banish it completely, but he can try and take away some of the sting.

-----

It is either late or really early and Sidney isn’t quite sure which. All he knows for sure is he and Alex are sprawled on opposite ends of the couch and they’ve watched a lot of bad TV. At some point in time he had checked the score and been unreasonably happy when he saw the Islanders had lost the game. He had told Alex and gotten a sleepy mumble, which he took to be a good thing.

With a groan he sits up, nudging Alex’s leg as he does. “Come on.”

He shoves a little harder, which gets him narrow glare, but he ignores it. “I’m not going to let you bitch because your back is sore from sleeping on the couch. There is a perfectly good bed in the guestroom.”

Stepping back he watches as Alex sits up, scrubbing a hand across his face.

Alex frowns up at him. “Not fair Sidney. Was almost asleep.”

“Go sleep on the bed. You’ll be much happier.” He waits patiently for Alex to stand before herding him toward his room, shutting lights off as he goes. “Night Alex.”

Alex waves at him, shirt already halfway off. “Night.”

Sidney closes the door behind him, checking to make sure the front door is locked before heading upstairs. He doesn’t bother turning on the light in his room and changes in the dark after brushing his teeth. Settling into bed he draws the sheet up, a warm happy feeling spreading over him as he starts to drift to sleep.

He’s glad Alex took him up on his offer.

-----

Stretching Sidney looks up at the ceiling. He doesn’t see any reason to rush out of bed this morning. As near as he can tell there haven’t been any signs of life from Alex and sleep is still tugging at him, with how late he was up last night

He does end up dozing off and when he wakes up the second time, he decides he needs to think about making breakfast. Sidney takes a quick shower before heading downstairs and he’s glad he thought about going grocery shopping and got enough food for the week. The turkey bacon is almost done, and the scrambled eggs are sitting on the back burner, staying warm when Alex comes into the kitchen.

He’s wearing shorts and a worn grey shirt, thankfully not bearing the Capitals’ logo. His hair is sticking up in a several places, but he looks less tired than he did yesterday, which is enough for Sidney.

Sidney points him toward the table. “Breakfast is almost done. And I’m glad you remembered the house rule about other teams.”

Alex grins as he sits at the table, arms folded on the wood. “Not worry Sidney. Pack plenty of Capitals in my bag.”

Groaning Sidney dishes up the food on two plates, adding the toast he had been keeping in the oven to stay warm. “Of course you did.” Not quite on purpose he’s sure. Sidney knows he has dozens of Penguins shirts, from promotions and other things, some that probably haven’t seen the light of day in years and Alex is likely in the same boat he is.

He hands a plate to Alex, setting his own down before he turns to get silverware from the drawer. “I guess I’ll let it pass, this time.”

Alex grins, accepting the fork. “Is nice of you Sidney.”

Pointing his fork at Alex, Sidney drops into his chair. “Just don’t push your luck.”

Alex’s laugh is warm as he gently kicks Sid under the table.

-----

Alex stays for a week and Sidney enjoys it. The watch some movies and play video games, though there is a lot of cheating when they do. They probably drink too much when the Islanders get knocked out by the Panthers and ended up dozing on the couch for most of the night, the empty bottle on the floor.

The next day, a little hungover and sore from the couch they go to the practice rink. Alex had brought his gear down and they mostly just mess around, neither of taking it seriously. It does feel good to be on the ice with no stress, and Sidney can tell Alex feels the same way.

Over the week he has seen the shadow fall from Alex’s face and he’s more like what Sidney is used to and he is glad this helped. He is sure the Semin and the others tried to help Alex, as his team has done with him before, but he feels like it takes something different for them. For he and Alex it isn’t just the fact they didn’t go further, but they carry an added burden of being the captains. And people expect so much more from them, because of their names.

Sidney stands in the doorway as he watches Alex pack. There is a knot in his chest, and it is something he doesn’t want to think about. It has been nice having Alex here, having someone else in the house and he knows by the time the other man leaves he’s going to be turning to him when he isn’t there. Alex zips his bag shut and Sidney sighs. “You didn’t forget anything did you? Because I’m not sending it to you.”

Alex laughs as he lifts his bag, patting the bulging side. “Have it all Sid. And if I forget, I get it next time I here.”

A slow bubble of warmth builds in his stomach at Alex’s assumption their habit from last season is going to continue. Which suits Sidney fine. The brief moratorium he had put into being during the playoffs last year had made him realize how much he has come to enjoy being around Alex, even when he is being annoying. “I guess, if I don’t lose it before you get back here.”

Stopping Alex crowds him back against the doorframe until they’re chest to chest and Sidney tips his head back. The position is familiar and he knows what game Alex is playing, though it is ruined by his faint smile and the lightness in his gaze.

Alex’s grins, bending his head to kiss Sidney’s cheek before he steps back. “You not lose it Sid. Keep it right where you find it for me.”

A few months ago he would have been worried Alex knows him so well but now it doesn’t bother him. “I would, probably in the closet where I wouldn’t have to explain to anyone why I own something so questionable.”

Laughing Alex starts towards the front door, Sidney following him. “Is not questionable. You like what I have.”

Sidney glances at whatever ugly shirt Alex is wearing, and even after looking at it all morning he still has no idea what the design is supposed to be. “I don’t think like is the right word.”

Chapter Text

After that the rest of the summer passes like a blur. Sidney spends a little time at home with his parents, though he doesn’t tell his mom about his friendship with Alex. Part of him still wants to jealously guard what they have, and he knows if he tells her it won’t change anything. But he doesn’t and just carefully edits his stories.

He heads back to Pittsburgh and with all his training and time he spends at the rink it feels like it isn’t long before training camp rolls around. Sidney wishes he had been able to spend more time with Alex, but their schedules had never worked out. There are nearly a dozen videos on his phone though, of things Alex had gotten up to and sent to him and while most of them had made him roll his eyes, Sidney is glad Alex had thought to send them.

In fact there are several times, when he feels stressed or is missing Alex (something he’ll only admit out loud under duress) he watches the videos. Even seeing Alex smiling and having fun is enough to make him feel better and it is kind of embarrassing how often he has watched a few of them.

As training camp goes on, Sidney throws himself into it, like he does every year. But at the same time there is the creeping wish he had been able to see Alex again before camp started He knows Alex’s schedule is like his, with barely any time to breathe, let alone think about anything else. He does manage to send a few texts, though and it might take a few hours, Alex always responds, even if they’re short or something stupid.

The season starts and for the first few games it feels like the loss in the playoffs carries over. They can’t seem to do anything right and the first game they win was a fight the entire time. The small victory is enough to invigorate them and the locker room almost vibrates with their voices and energy and it makes Sidney smile even as he starts to strip his gear off.

Sidney pulls his T-shirt on, tugging at the back where it is rucked up before turning his attention to Geno. His friend has been waiting patiently for him and he hasn’t been ignoring him really, but with the way the locker room emptied out around them Sidney didn’t want to face him half dressed. When the others are around it doesn’t bother him, but with just the two of them left it is a reminder he can’t handle.

“What’s up?” He drops to the bench, pulling his shoes on.

Geno sits next to him, watching as he ties his shoes. “Oksana want to go to dinner with you again. She say she not see enough of you.”

Sidney freezes, laces dangling loosely from his hands. He quickly finishes tying the one shoe, hoping Geno hadn’t noticed his momentary lapse. Honestly, this is something he has been dreading since the first time and he had quietly been hoping Oksana would forget about it. Like usual though, luck doesn’t seem to be on his side, and he sighs before tying his other shoe.

He slowly sits up, glancing at Geno, who is watching him with dark, earnest eyes and Sidney knows he can’t say no, no matter how much he might want to. He doesn’t have it in him to be so cruel, to upset Geno and Oksana, even though the night is going to miserable and he hated it last time. “Okay. When and what time?”

He regrets it before the words leave his mouth, but Geno grins broadly at him, hand coming up to rest on his shoulder. “Seven, Friday. Oksana already make plans.”

Of course she has, and Sidney is stuck. He doesn’t want to upset Oksana, and by extension Geno so he manages to smile and hopes none of what he is really feeling shows on his face. “Same place as last time?”

Smiling Geno nods and stands. “Oksana like it very much. She be glad you agree.” He steps back from Sidney. “See you later.”

“Yeah.” He watches as Geno leaves and he scrubs a hand across his face. It hasn’t even been five minutes and he is already dreading Friday night. Getting through the last dinner had been painful and he doubts this time is going to be better. Even without seeing Geno all summer just being around him is enough to make his heart ache and it doesn’t feel like he managed to move on at all.

Grabbing his hoodie off the bench Sidney freezes when his phone bumps against his thigh. Alex had promised to come with him the next time he went out with Geno and Oksana and this seems like a perfect time to see if he was serious about the offer. Having to explain Alex’s presence to them would be interesting, but having him there could make the night bearable, if not far more enjoyable.

He digs for his phone, cursing as he does. It seems like the pocket on his hoodie has vanished and when he does manage to grab his phone it nearly slips from his fingers. With a lunge he catches the phone before it hits the floor and he unlocks it.

His conversation with Alex is still at the top and he thumbs it open. Oksana wants to do dinner again on Friday.

Rather than waiting for a reply he heads out to his car. He isn’t sure whether Alex is going to be able to make it this weekend, as he has no idea what the Capitals’ schedule looks like. The drive home seems to drag on and he still can’t believe he agreed to go out again. Last time should have been punishment enough, but here he is, stupidly agreeing again just so he doesn’t hurt Geno or Oksana’s feelings.

Sidney drags himself into the house, flopping on the couch as he does. What he needs to do is get up and take a shower but the mere thought of going out for dinner again is sapping his energy and he hopes Alex is going to be able to make it.

He feels his phone vibrate and he pulls it out. The message is from Taylor and he reads it before setting his phone aside. It isn’t something that requires an immediate response and by now she knows not to expect one from him. He waits a few more minutes before giving in and heading for the shower.

The notification light on his phone is blinking when he enters the living room and Sidney pushes the towel from his head as he snatches his phone. He thumbs the screen open, smiling when he sees Alex’s response. Time?

Feeling relived he flops back on the couch. There is no guarantee having Alex around will make the dinner hurt less, but at least he will have someone in his corner. Seven. Can you make it?

Be there. Leave after practice but I make it.

Sidney grins. Thanks. I appreciate it. Just the thought of having Alex here is enough to loosen the knot in his chest and he sighs in relief.

His phone jumps in his hands and Sidney looks at the screen. I promise I be there next time. I not go back on promise.

Warmth spreads through Sidney and he can tell he is grinning like an idiot, but with no witnesses, he doesn’t care. I’ll see you on Friday then.

Alex’s quick response is a smiley face and Sidney sets his phone down on the side table before stretching out on the couch. He already feels better, bolstered by Alex’s promise of saving him from a painful dinner. Now if they could just win a few more games this week he might not feel so bad when Friday rolls around.

-----

Rather than worrying about Friday night Sidney pours all his nervous energy into the game. Practices go well and they manage to win both of their games. The fact they beat the Flyers Thursday night just adds to the team’s elation and Sidney goes home that night, his mind far from the game or dinner tomorrow, but his thoughts settle on Alex.

It feels like years since he has seen him, rather than just a few months but it doesn’t change anything. He is excited to see Alex, even if the situation could be better and he finds he isn’t dreading the thought of dinner quite as much as he thought he would be. It probably won’t be enjoyable by any definition of the word, but he doubts it will be as miserable if last time, not if Alex has anything to say about it.

-----

Friday morning dawns and Sidney rolls out of bed, taking a quick shower before heading in for the video review. A few minutes later Jordan drops into the seat next to him and he elbows him. “Rough night?”

Jordan scrubs a hand across his face. “Had a hard time sleeping.” He peers at Sid. “Are you planning on staying after?”

Stretching his legs out Sidney sinks down in his chair. “I don’t think so.”

That gets him a worried look from Jordan, and he ignores it. He has been known to skip optional skates before and this is one he is going to. Without knowing what time Alex has practice he would rather be home, than leave the other man sitting outside his house for who knows how long. He slants a look at Jordan. “Are you staying?”

Jordan shakes his head, slumping down in his seat. “No. I have a standing date with my couch after this.” He glances at Sid, a faint grin pulling at his mouth. “You must have something great planned if you’re blowing off a skate.”

Sidney rolls his eyes, elbowing Jordan even as Duper drops into the chair next to him. “I swear some days your mind is stuck at thirteen years old. Short of going to dinner with Geno and Oksana tonight, I have no plans.”

He suddenly wishes he had stayed quiet, because now Jordan and Duper are looking at him, before exchanging a worried glance and he sighs. It suddenly occurs to him the last dinner had been kept quiet, for just the reason. “Look, I’ve went out with them once and it wasn’t terrible.”

As usual they can tell he is lying and Duper leans in. “Sid, why didn’t you tell us.”

Sidney shrugs, biting back on what he wants to say. They mean well, but he knows exactly why he didn’t mention it to them. There would have been more looks, the barely hidden pity and he is so over it he wishes none of them had known about his feelings for Geno. It was the exact reason he had reached out to Alex, why he still turns to him when stuff like this happens. Because not once, in all this time has he ever seen pity on Alex’s face.

The room is slowly filling as more of the team comes in and Sidney shakes his head. “I went out, I survived and I’m going to do it again.” He can tell they don’t believe him, and he sighs. “Really, I promise it will be fine and I won’t get mopey.”

If he were going alone, it would be a different story, but Alex is going to be there, and he is very aware of the fact Alex isn’t going to let him wallow in self-pity. In fact he would be surprised if the other man gives him a chance to think about anything but him, if he’s being honest. Alex seems to thrive on being the center of attention even, when they’re alone and he always seems to manage it with a touch or a look, enough to remind Sidney he’s there.

Not that Sidney could ever forget.

Neither of them look like they believe him, but luckily Sid doesn’t have to endure any more questions as Bylsma and the rest of the coaching staff trail into the room. He immerses himself in the videos, focusing on the movement on the ice, noting where everything went wrong, what went right, and it feels like it isn’t long before the lights are coming up.

Duper stands and squeezes his shoulder, not saying anything, which makes sense since Geno is sitting behind them.

Sidney nods, understanding what the older man is trying to tell him and he appreciates it, as much as he wishes everything was back to normal. He doesn’t move as the rest of the team files out of the room, leaving just he and Jordan. Slanting a look at Jordan he sighs. “Look, I appreciate it, but I’ll be fine. I’ve been fine since this started.”

It is a lie, but Jordan is decent enough to not call him on it. “Alright Sid.” He grins. “Let’s get out of here before one of the others manages to wrangle us onto the ice.”

-----

A knock on the door rouses Sid and he makes his way to the door. He yanks it open, grinning when he sees Alex. The other man looks tired, his hair standing up at all angles, but he is smiling, and Sidney can’t say how glad he is to see him. “I really appreciate this.”

Alex holds out his garment bag and Sidney gladly takes it before stepping back. “Are welcome.” He wrinkles his nose in disgust, switching his small bag to his other hand. “Need shower. Left right after practice.”

“Oh yeah. I already have sheets on the bed in your room. Towels are in the bathroom.” He doesn’t follow Alex down the hall to the room, trying to figure out when it became Alex’s room. Over the years he has had any number of teammates crash at his house for a few weeks, but whatever room they’ve occupied has never been their room.

And despite the fact Alex isn’t here much, what with their schedules, the room feels like his. Shaking off the odd feeling Sidney heads to the room and hangs Alex’s garment bag in the closet before going back to the living room.

Alex joins him about ten minutes later, the hair at his temples still damp and he flops on the couch with Sidney, poking him in the thigh with his toes. “I not sure where dinner, so I brought suit.”

Sidney swats at Alex’s foot, pressing closer to the edge of the couch, though the move doesn’t help. “I should have mentioned that. The place Oksana chose definitely calls for a suit.”

Groaning dramatically Alex looks at Sidney. “Is not fair. Burger and T-shirt work for dinner too.”

Alex’s foot is still poking his thigh and Sidney curls his fingers around his ankle, squeezing. “Would you knock it off? And tonight you can mention it to Oksana. I’m sure she would love to know your opinion on her choice for dinner.”

Alex shakes his head. “Am not stupid Sidney. Like Oksana but not going to make her mad.”

“Probably a good idea, if you don’t want Geno after you the next time we play.” Sidney picks up the TV remote with his free hand, his other still pinning Alex’s foot to the couch. Alex seems to have given up on poking him, but he wouldn’t put it beyond him to start up again, especially if he thinks it will get a rise out of him.

Flapping a dismissive hand Alex settles into the couch. “Can take Zhenya. You do good against the Flyers last night.”

Sidney shrugs as he turns the TV to the League channel, where highlights from last night are playing. “Well, I sure as shit wasn’t going to let them win here, not this early in the season.”

“Is okay. We win here when we play.”

He knows Alex is trying to get a rise out of him and Sidney glances at him, not surprised to see him grinning, but there is no malice in it, and he squeezes Alex’s ankle. “So you think.”

They spend the rest of the day lounging on the couch and Sidney makes sandwiches for lunch, that they eat leaning against the kitchen counter next to each other. It is warm and comfortable, and Sidney finds he wouldn’t mind being able to do this more often.

He pulls Alex’s plate from his hands, putting both into the dishwasher and they head back into the living room. Dropping onto the couch he isn’t surprised when Alex settles close, a heat of line against his side.

-----

Sidney glances at his phone, surprised to see how late it is. The last few hours have flown by and he hasn’t spared a single thought for dinner. He taps Alex on the knee, not quite sure when he had dozed off as they had watched an old game. “Hey, we need to think about getting ready for dinner.”

Alex groans and stretches, arms pushing above his head. “Was having good dream Sid.” He opens his eyes slightly, grinning at him. “Beat Penguins.”

Rolling his eyes Sidney slips off the couch before offering his hand to Alex. “Must be a reason it was a dream. I seem to recall we almost beat you the last time we played.”

Alex’s accepts his hand, fingers curling around his, squeezing as he gets to his feet. “Will win next time too. You see.”

“Sure.” He shoves Alex in the direction of his room. “Try not to take too long getting ready. I don’t want to be late.”

Before he can step away Alex catches his wrist, all traces of humor gone from his face. He looks at Sidney for a long moment, thumb moving almost absently against his skin. “Never late for important things Sidney.”

“Okay.” Sidney pulls his hand away, phantom tingles running down his hand from where Alex had touched.

His suit is already out of the closet and he quickly dresses, picking a lavender tie to go with it. Looping his tie over his head he works on knotting it, fingers moving on autopilot, which gives him time to think. Rather than worrying about the upcoming dinner his thoughts drift to Alex and he needs to come up with a better way to thank him for all of this. The first time a bottle of vodka had been okay, but Alex has done so much for him through this all he wants to figure out something more meaningful.

Still thinking he grabs his suit jacket and goes downstairs. Alex is already waiting, in a dark suit and shirt, his tie blue and Sidney shakes his head, swallowing hard. “Okay. Let’s get going.”

-----

He and Alex are standing outside the restaurant and Sidney is kind of surprised Oksana and Geno aren’t here yet. From what he’s gotten from Geno, Oksana likes being punctual and the fact they’re almost ten minutes late seems odd. He glances at his watch again, wondering if the battery died and he hadn’t noticed, but the second hand is still ticking, and he shrugs.

Alex nudges him. “Are sure you got right place?”

“Positive. I do know where we had dinner last time.” Sidney bumps Alex back, catching the other man’s grin. For the first few minutes they were waiting Alex had been patient but as time has passed, he has gotten more antsy, bumping, and pushing against him and if Sidney didn’t know better, he would think he was getting bored. Which means one thing, he is going to bother Sidney to get attention.

Edging closer Alex grabs his arm, twisting his arm just enough to look at the watch, thumb sweeping across the face and brushing against Sidney’s skin. “Are sure time is right?”

“Yes!” Sidney looks at Alex, not moving away, the other man pressed close against his side. “Why aren’t you using your own watch?”

Alex looks at him, eyes bright in the light cascading from the front of the restaurant. “Yours is nicer.”

Sidney doubts his watch is nicer than the sleek, black one Alex is wearing, and he has the feeling the other man is just using it as an excuse to press against his side.

“Sanja?”

Sidney and Alex spin at the same time, almost bumping into each other and he clutches at Alex’s arm, not wanting to fall. Oksana and Geno are coming towards them, both more focused on Alex than Sidney, which he is okay with. He still doesn’t have any idea how he is going to explain Alex’s presence, but maybe he’ll have an idea by the time they decide to question him.

Alex gently pulls away and steps towards Geno and Oksana, his arms held wide. “Zhenya, Oksana!” He hugs them both, whispering something in Oksana’s ear that makes her laugh even as she hits him in the arm.

Stepping back Alex puts on a mock frown. “Are late. Was getting hungry.”

Oksana waves at Geno. “Was his fault. Not find tie.”

Geno looks between them. “Sanja, why you here?”

Sidney has barely gotten his mouth open to respond when Alex’s arm is around his shoulder, pulling him close. He is going to complain, but the next words out of the other man’s mouth stop him dead.

“Am Sidney’s date!”

Silence descends over them and Sidney can feel heat suffusing his cheeks. Geno looks skeptical while Oksana is beaming, looking between them and Sidney swallows hard. His sexuality isn’t a secret to the team, not with them all knowing how he feels about Geno, but the thought Alex would do this had never crossed his mind.

He looks at Alex, who is smiling, his eyes soft and all his words of denial die in his mouth. Alex is doing this for him, is trying to make him feel better and it works. Laughing he looks at Geno and Oksana. “Yes, he’s my date.”

Geno still doesn’t look like he believes it, his brows drawn together, and he frowns when Alex pulls Sidney even closer, Sidney’s arm awkwardly wedged between them. He looks between the two of them like he thinks they’re playing a joke on him before shrugging. “Okay.”

Oksana rolls her eyes at Geno before turning him in the direction of the doors. She smiles at them. “Am glad.” Her gaze slides to Alex. “Sidney is sad.”

Her words stop him in his tracks and Sidney feels like he is stuck in place. Oksana isn’t supposed to notice things like that, and especially not when his feelings for her husband are the reason. He is vaguely aware of Alex’s hand on his shoulder and he clears his throat. “We’ll be right in.”

Oksana nods, though the skeptical look hasn’t fallen from Geno’s face, but they both nod before going inside.

Sidney takes a deep breath and levels a wry look at Alex. “Do you think she would be so understanding if she knew Geno was the reason I’m sad?”

Alex squeezes his shoulder. “Might. She marry him.” He gently shakes Sid before making a disgusted sound. “Not sure why everyone so interested in Zhenya.”

Feeling the knot in his chest loosen up Sidney lets Alex push him towards the door. “I don’t know.” He still has no idea why he fell so hard for Geno, and there are a million different things he could tell Alex but doesn’t. The other man has been so patient and understanding about this for all these months and he isn’t going to burden him anymore by complaining about Geno, not when he feels better about the whole situation.

Geno and Oksana are seated at a table near the front windows and Sidney isn’t surprised when Alex steers him to sit across from Oksana. He smiles as he settles in the chair and it feels far less forced than the last time they had dinner. Alex drops into his own chair, knee pressing against his with how small the table is.

Oksana looks between them, smiling. “Is first date?”

Sidney’s mind is still trying to catch up with the fact Oksana believes Alex, so he doesn’t speak right away. Alex, however, is living this lie for all it is worth as he leans towards her. “Is Sid’s first date ever.”

That gets Sidney moving and he shoves at Alex’s shoulder, pushing him back. He looks at Oksana, hoping the blush on his cheeks isn’t noticeable under the low light bathing their table. “This is not my first date ever.” There have been a few first dates, though none of them have gone far, not with his schedule and the fact no one seems to understand his dedication to the game.

Alex grins at him, patting his hand where it rests on the table before looking back at Oksana. “I teach him how to have good first date.”

Oksana is obviously taken in by Alex and Sidney knows Alex is going to milk this for all it is worth. Slumping back in his seat he kicks Alex’s foot under the table. “I hate you right now.”

Alex curls his hand over Sidney’s, fingers pressing against the palm of his hand. “Do not Sid.” He leans in, their shoulders pressing together. “Am favorite person.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.” Sidney rolls his eyes, trying to ignore the way Alex’s fingers are still pressing against his palm and the accompanying heat settling in his stomach. What Alex is saying is probably true, but he isn’t going to give him the victory of knowing that. It would make him insufferable.

He looks at their hands. “Are you going to let me have my hand back?”

Shrugging Alex grins at him before glancing at Oksana who is still smiling at them both. “Maybe. Is good for date and only need one hand to look at menu.”

Sidney knows he could pull his hand away, but at this it isn’t a fight worth having. Doing so would just cause a scene and he has a feeling Alex isn’t going to let this slide. Undoubtedly letting Alex hold is hand is part of his whole plot to convince Geno and Oksana they’re on a date and he isn’t going to fight this, for now. “Fine, but when dinner actually comes, I’m using both my hands.”

Alex beams at him before looking at Geno, who still looks like he thinks this is all some joke on him and Sidney has a feeling he is going to have to field a lot of questions from Geno the next time they see each other. Though Sidney isn’t sure he is going to have any answers Geno is going to like. He isn’t ready to have to explain to Geno what is going on between he and Alex, not that he thinks he needs to. But Geno has been his friend for years, his other feelings aside and he deserves an answer, even if it isn’t a good one.

Their waiter comes by, dropping off menus with barely a glance at their joined hands and Sidney looks at Alex. A sly look from the other man is what he gets, and he sighs, opening the menu, managing to balance it with one hand. “You are such a pain.”

Oksana giggles and Geno looks pained, but Alex just squeezes his hand again and Sidney ducks his head to the menu. He can tell his cheeks are probably very pink and he has no idea why Alex holding his hand has got him this worked up, but he isn’t going to let Alex know. The moment Alex finds out he is going to run with it, like he has so many other things in the months they’ve been friends.

Sidney orders a beer, hoping to use it to hide the fact he can’t seem to shake the odd feeling fluttering that has settled in his stomach since Alex took his hand. He isn’t sure why it has him so out of sorts, as he should be used to this kind of thing by now.

Geno leans forward, dark gaze darting between them. “Is not joke?”

Alex grins. “Is not joke. Tonight Sidney’s first date.”

Which Geno also knows is bullshit but has also known Alex enough to know arguing with him is pointless and he subsides in his seat. He does glare at Alex and jumps a few seconds later, and Sidney is going to assume he got kicked for his attitude.

They manage to keep the conversation from sliding to hockey, which Sid is sure Oksana appreciates. Especially because most of what Alex says is aimed at him and Sidney is sure his cheeks are going to be stained pink for the rest of this life. He can’t help it, not with the way Alex is still holding his hand despite his subtle attempts to free himself and the warm looks leveled his way all night. Alex looks at him again and warmth blooms in his chest making Sidney duck his head, overwhelmed and feeling a little ridiculous. He is old enough he shouldn’t be this flustered by Alex, but he can’t seem to help it.

When dinner finally does get to the table Alex lets him have his hand back and Sidney hopes that will be the end of it. Alex of course, isn’t going to let things go and presses close, their thighs touching, and Sidney doesn’t flinch as he starts to cut up his chicken. He had been half expecting this and if he’s honest with himself, it gives him something grounding to think about, so his thoughts can’t start thinking about all the things that will never be.

-----

As they exit the restaurant Sidney waves at Geno and Oksana before letting Alex pull him in the direction of where they’re parked. With a smile he looks at Alex. “So, how many times did you end up kicking Geno?”

He had been keeping track of Geno’s twitches, but he had lost track at some point when Oksana had asked him a question. All he knows for sure is Geno had spent most of the night alternately looking lovingly at Oksana and glaring at Alex, who had managed to look innocent despite his shit eating grin.

Alex shrugs and his smile is lazy. “Lost track but was fun.” His smile falls away as he edges closer to Sidney. “Was better?”

Sidney pauses in getting the keys from his pocket and he has to think about how the dinner felt. Last time leaving the restaurant had been a relief, to get away from Geno and Oksana and the reminder of what could never be his. This time though it had been fun, listening to Geno and Alex talk about when they had been on the Russian youth national team together, all the times Geno had jumped when Alex had kicked him, brushing off Oksana’s concern. And not once had he thought about how miserable it should have been.

All his focus had been on Alex, the way he had leaned into him, the heat of his arm across the back of his chair when they had been talking. The whole thing had almost felt like a date and he shakes his head, looking at Alex who is watching him, obviously waiting for an answer. Dinner had been great, because not once had he thought about Geno in other way than as a friend. “It was much better.”

The parking lot around them is empty and Sidney reaches over, hand sliding down Alex’s arm and he thinks this might be one of the few times he has initiated a touch. Every other time he seems to recall it has been Alex making the connection between them and he doesn’t know why it took this long. Alex is warm and vibrant, and Sidney is so grateful he is here.

“It was great.” Sidney lets his touch linger a little at Alex’s wrist before he steps back. “Come on. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get out of my suit.”

Alex nods, reaching up to tug his tie loose, though he doesn’t fully remove it. He grins at Sidney, eyes raking over him. “But look good in suit Sidney.”

Sidney knows he is blushing but hopes under the parking lot lights it isn’t too noticeable. “That doesn’t mean I want to keep wearing it.”

They pile into the car and Sidney looks at Alex as he does his seatbelt up. There is a thoughtful frown pulling at his mouth and a rush of affection floods Sidney. He isn’t sure why Alex is frowning, but he finds he doesn’t like it. “Thank you.”

His words seem to snap Alex out of his thoughts and he looks at Sidney. “For?”

Sidney makes a vague gesture, encompassing him Alex, and everything around them. “For all of this.” At the confused look Alex gives him Sidney smiles. “You could have just left me standing on the doorstep the first night, told me it wasn’t your problem. Instead you’ve put up with my whining, you’ve kept me company.”

He shakes his head. “I’m sure you probably had something better to do on a Friday night than hold my hand through a date with Geno and Oksana.” And Alex had held his hand through most of the dinner, in one form or another and if he hadn’t been, his arm was across the back of his chair.

Alex laughs, the sound oddly low and intimate in the enclosed space of the car. “Not anything better Sidney. Are my friend and I willing to help.” He smiles. “And was fun.”

It was fun, in a way Sidney isn’t ready to put too much thought into. Instead he settles for starting the car, glancing at Alex again as he does. “I’m not sure Geno would agree, with the number of times you kicked him.”

Shrugging Alex does up his own seatbelt. “Zhenya can take it.”

Sidney pulls out of the parking lot, turning for home. “I just hope you didn’t break anything important on him.”

Their conversation slides to a stop, the only sound between them the quiet music playing because he doesn’t want to listen to hockey. Tonight is supposed to be about the date, not about his feelings or hockey and for once his mind hasn’t jumped to the next game or practice. It seems firmly rooted in the now, Alex’s presence at his side, the faint hint of his cologne in the cool air, the steady sound of his breathing.

Alex’s hand almost absently curls over his knee and a quick look shows his companion is looking out the window as the lights and streets speed by. Sidney doesn’t say anything, not feeling the need to break the silence. It has been a long time since the quiet between them has felt awkward and Sidney wants to enjoy what they have now. They have a few more games before they start a long trip to the west, and he knows the Capitals are going to be doing much the same.

The entire drive home Sidney can’t help but feel like he and Alex are in a bubble. He can’t explain it, but he feels energized and he knows it is all because of Alex. When he’s around he finds his thoughts going less to Geno and more to what they’re doing, anchored in the present and how could he not, when Alex seems to draw all his attention, even when he isn’t trying.

Which is exactly why he keeps glancing at Alex as they head home, warm affection sliding through his blood and when he stood on Alex’s doorstep all those months ago this never crossed his mind.

“Mama never tell you not polite to stare?”

Alex’s voice is warm with good humor, fingers tightening on his knee and Sidney looks back to the road, feeling his cheeks heat again. “I wasn’t staring.” He wasn’t, because that would be rude and he’s driving, but Alex’s profile is captivating, and he shakes his head.

The rest of the drive passes, Alex’s fingers beating a tattoo against his knee and Sidney is almost sad when they get back to his place. He knows it wouldn’t take much to get Alex to touch him, he learned that early, but he bites back on the impulse. Alex has done enough for him without using him for this too.

As they get out of the car, he looks at Alex over the roof, something coming to mind. “You know Oksana is going to expect you to come to more dinners, since you have her convinced we’re dating.”

Alex’s smile is warm as he rounds the car, catching Sidney’s elbow to draw him towards the house. “Is not bad. We have more fun on another date.”

At least if they end on another date with them Sidney will have a better idea of what to expect, not that it means much. Even now Alex is likely thinking of something for the next date and Sidney is sure it will end with his cheeks flushed and wishing he could find a way a sink through his chair into the floor.

Sidney doesn’t worry about turning on any of the lights as they enter the house. He isn’t sure about Alex, but he is more than ready for bed and it seems silly to do. Stepping around Alex he locks the door before glancing at him. Alex is watching him with a soft smile, his eyes hooded and Sidney curls his hands into fists. The air surrounding them almost feels charged and he steps back.

“Tonight meant a lot to me.” His words sounded oddly loud in the quiet and he almost wishes he could take them back, not that he doesn’t mean them. But Alex’s smile softens even further, and he reaches out, fingers gliding down Sidney’s arm, light enough he can barely feel them through his suit jacket.

Alex takes a half step forward, until they are almost touching and his smile changes. “Am glad. Was good date.”

He isn’t sure what is happening, but he settles for smiling back. “It was.”

In a blink, something changes and Alex steps back, his smile bright. “Good night Sid.”

Alex steps around him and Sidney watches as he disappears into him room, the door closing with a click. It is enough to get him moving and he heads up to his room, an unfamiliar feeling spreading warmth through him.

-----

Sidney wakes up to a light touch on his shoulder and he pushes up on one elbow. “What?”

“Is early Sid. Have to go.”

It takes his brain a second to catch up with Alex’s words and with a groan he moves to sit up more fully. “Oh. Give me a second and I’ll walk you to the door.”

A strong hand rests on his shoulder, pushing him back down and he doesn’t fight. “Is fine Sidney. Can find door on my own.”

“I know, that isn’t the point though.” He wants to walk Alex to the door, wants to thank him for coming to dinner. It is the least he can do and even this early in the morning his manners are working.

The bed next to his hip dips and Alex’s hand slides from his shoulder to rest against his throat, thumb sweeping against skin. “Make it up to me later Sid. Besides, you look cozy and hate to make you get out of bed.”

Heat spreads through him from Alex’s gentle touch and Sidney finally relents. “Fine.” He pokes Alex in the side, smiling when he flinches away from the touch. “Thanks for coming. I really appreciate it.”

“Anytime Sidney.”

Alex’s thumb continues to stroke against his neck and Sidney closes his eyes against the gentle touch, tipping his head back. Heat is creeping through his body and there is something between them that feels more intimate than sharing a bed at All-Star had been. He sighs and loses track of time, focusing only on the slow glide of Alex’s touch on his throat.

The sudden loss of Alex’s hand against his throat is enough to make him shiver and he opens his eyes, though the other man is just a deeper shadow in the darkness of the room. “Actually leaving this time?”

In the quiet of the room his voice feels hollow and a little plaintive and he can only hope Alex can’t hear it. He finds himself wishing Alex could stay a longer, his mind skirting around the issue, because he can’t expect Alex to sit on the edge of his bed all night, thumb a brand against his skin.

Alex shifts, but doesn’t stand. “Much rather stay Sidney but have game today.”

Sidney thinks he might be imagining the slight burr in Alex’s voice, the bit of hesitation and he ignores the sweep of warmth through him. He understands, how could he not, that as long as they play it can’t be about them, the team comes first. “Thanks again for coming.”

“Anytime Sidney.”

His hip feels cold the moment Alex stands and Sidney settles back into the bed, listening as Alex leaves the room and makes his way downstairs. He can barely hear the front door closing but he doesn’t move, knowing Alex will have locked the door. Closing his eyes he takes a deep breath and tries to ignore the phantom touch he can still feel on his neck.

-----

The next morning Sidney wakes, well before his alarm is set to go off and he rolls over, settling back into the bed, light blanket drawn high. Without thinking he raises a hand to his throat, fingers grazing the spot Alex had touched the night before. He knows he must be imagining it, but in the dim light he can almost recall what the light touch had felt like.

Huffing in good natured disgust with himself he throws the blanket and sheet back. He is old enough to not act like a teenager and there are more important things to worry about. They have practice today and an early game tomorrow.

-----

Practice goes well, everything connecting, and Sidney feels good when he steps off the ice. Hopefully they’ll be able to carry the momentum from their win against Philadelphia into the game against the Rangers tomorrow. The locker room is loud, everyone in a good mood and Sidney basks in it. These are the best times, when they feel like they could take on everything and he likes seeing the team like this, even after a practice.

He can feel Geno watching him as he changes and Sidney sighs as he shucks off his practice jersey. It isn’t unexpected, and he is honestly surprised Geno let it go this long. He had been expecting to be cornered with questions as soon as he got here but there had been too many people here early, which he is grateful for. He still wants to hold onto Alex as his friend without anyone else knowing, for as long as possible.

The locker room is finally empty, and Sidney pulls his hoodie on, with every intention of taking a shower at home. Right now he just wants to get this over with now. He slips his shoes on but doesn’t bend to do up the laces, instead looking at Geno. “You might as well ask.”

Geno frowns and scrubs a hand across his face. “Why Sanja?”

A million different things come to mind, but Sidney doesn’t say any of them. They would all invite too many questions from Geno and he still isn’t ready to answer. So instead he settles for something that he hopes won’t get him in too much trouble or make Geno want to ask more questions. “I told you at All-Star we were making an attempt to get along.”

“And we have been. I like spending time with him.” It isn’t something Sidney has spent to much time thinking about, but he does. And it isn’t just because of what Alex has been doing for him. He’s sharp and has a head for the game so different from his that there are days Sidney can’t quite see what Alex is trying to show him. Sometimes Sidney is kind of upset they wasted so much time on pointless animosity back in the beginning, but he also can’t help but think maybe their friendship was only something that could have happened with age and some distance between them. He knows he feels more settled than he did when he first entered the league and maybe that is the key to what he and Alex have built.

Geno looks at him like he can’t decide if Sidney’s sudden relationship with Alex is the result of a hit no one saw him take. He opens his mouth like he wants to ask something else, but he ends up shaking his head, hands coming up in defeat. “Okay. Is still weird, but-” He trails off, and with a glance at Sidney he heads for the door, leaving him alone.

For half a second Sidney thinks about calling Geno back, curious what his friend was going to say. He shoves the impulse away because it doesn’t really matter. Geno and Alex are friends and he is sure Geno isn’t disapproving of his friendship with Alex, he just seems a little, baffled by it.

Sidney laughs as he ties his shoes because he feels the same way sometimes. He still isn’t sure how he and Alex became friends, but he is glad they are.

Chapter Text

Sidney yawns, groping for his phone where it is resting on the edge of the side table. It nearly slips into the gap between the table and couch, but he manages to save it at the last second. He and Taylor have been exchanging lazy texts through most of the day and he isn’t sure if his last text is going to get a response.

The notification light is blinking, and he thumbs the screen. Alex’s name appears at the top, making Sidney smile and he opens the message.

It been weeks Sid! Free Tuesday?

The last time he had seen Alex had been the night they had gone to dinner with Geno and Oksana. He has wanted to see Alex, the feeling like an itch under his skin, but it just hasn’t been feasible. Both teams have been running, the trips and ugly games and the only contact they’ve had have been quick texts. And it has to happen now, or he won’t have a chance for another few weeks. In a few days they’re headed west.

He taps a quick message.

Alex’s response is so quick Sidney can’t help but wonder if he is sprawled on his own couch. I come up. Your couch better than mine.

Sidney isn’t sure that statement is true. Granted, he had been hung over and it had been months ago, but from what he recalls Alex’s couch was massive and comfortable. I doubt that, but I’ll be home all day, short of practice that morning. See you then.

Miss you Sidney. See you.

Sidney wants to respond, but he can’t find the right words so he settles for not saying anything. He looks at Alex’s words on the screen and smiles, glad they’ll be able to get together again. It feels like it has been more than a few weeks and he hopes they’ll have a good time. They should, because they usually do.

-----

The first time Alex kisses him Sidney doesn't see it coming. They're sprawled out on his couch, having just gotten done watching Boston stomp the Rangers into the ice, empty take-out containers that had once contained semi-healthy food disposed of already as they watch the analysts talk about the game. Alex's hand rests on his leg, fingers curling over his knee.

By now he's halfway used to Alex's casual touching, a hand on his shoulder or the back of his neck, shoulder bumps and rarely an arm around his shoulders, holding him close when Alex has something to say he doesn't want anyone else to hear. He's used to the touches but there is something different about this one, something intimate that has warmth pooling in the pit of his stomach.

Sidney glances at Alex, half expecting to see him watching as Chara slams one past Lundquist on the power play but instead Alex is staring at him, frowning slightly. Before he can ask if anything is wrong Alex is twisting, free hand coming up. A calloused hand slides over his cheek before cupping the back of his head and Alex leans in, lips just barely brushing over his.

He freezes, hands caught between them his mind immediately jumping to what Geno will think. Until he remembers that Geno is out of reach, but Alex is here, has been here since the beginning, supportive and Sidney doesn't think he could have handled the loss of Geno nearly so well without Alex's stead-fast presence.

Alex must sense his hesitation because he pulls back a little, looking contrite. “Sorry Sid. I not mean to upset you.”

Sidney shakes his head. There's no reason Alex should be apologizing. He isn't upset, can't be because Alex is the only person who isn't and hasn't been treating him like he's an invalid. Somehow Alex has become the one constant in his life besides hockey and he doesn't want to lose that.

He moves without thinking, knows that if he does, he'll over think it and ruin everything. Instead he draws a leg up and twists, sliding into Alex's lap, straddling him. His knees sink into the thick cushions and Sidney rests his hands on strong shoulders and he tells himself it’s just to keep his balance even though he knows the truth, that he just wants to touch.

Alex cants his head back, squarely meeting his gaze, eyes intense under the sweep of his lashes. It's odd after so many years of having to tilt his head back, to be looking down at Alex and Sidney moves, settling a little closer until their chests touch.

Hands rest on his hips, fingers curling just enough to be felt, holding him but not making him feel trapped. Sidney drags his thumb up and down the line of Alex's neck, lingering over the curve of his Adam's apple, feeling the powerful body shift.

He has a feeling this should be awkward, practically in the lap of a man who has been his rival and foil since before he was out of his teens, but it isn't. They've known each other too long for any weirdness between them for which Sidney is grateful as he doesn't think he would be able to do this if not for their shared history.

Sidney leans in and presses a lingering kiss to the corner of Alex's mouth. He kisses him again and doesn't pull away when he says, “I'm not upset Alex.” He can feel Alex's mouth curl in a smile under his and Sidney can't resist the urge to steal another kiss, one Alex responds too and deepens.

A hand slides from his hip, up under his shirt, fingers splayed wide across the small of his back and Sidney presses against Alex. His hands clench uselessly against the softness of the other man's shirt and he moans into the kiss, Alex's hand tracing random patterns against his back. It feels good, like electricity under his skin. He can only imagine what it would feel like if those hands were on another part of his body and he rocks against Alex.

“Sidney.”

There's something different about the way Alex says his name and Sid has to shake his head to clear the fuzz because he's never, ever heard Alex sound this way before. There's an edge to it, something off that sends a shiver down his spine. “What?”

“Need you to be very sure you want this.”

Sidney tries not to laugh. He's straddling him, more than half hard and Alex has the gall to doubt he's sure about this. He leans down and kisses Alex, nipping at his lower lip. “I'm sure.”

Alex hums into the kiss and works a hand between them, fingers gliding over his zipper and Sidney can't help the way his hips jerk into the light touch. It's maddening and Sidney closes his eyes and swallows hard. “I'm really sure.”

Alex's hand cups him and Sidney presses into the touch. “Sure here but not in heart or head.”

Sidney will never admit to the sound he makes when Alex pulls his hand away or the way his hands grasp at Alex's shirt when the other man pushes him from his lap. He watches as Alex gathers up his keys and phone, slipping his shoes on without undoing the laces and follows him to the front door, feeling a little like a lost dog. He's not sure what's going on, but he has the terrible feeling he's missing something important.

Alex stops with a hand on the doorknob, shoulders tight. For a long moment it looks like he's going to stay but he jerks the door open with a rough sound deep in his chest and disappears out into the night.

Catching at the door frame Sid watches as Alex climbs into his rental, confusion hanging heavy on his shoulders. He goes inside the moment Alex's taillights vanish around a corner and goes to his bed but with his thoughts going a thousand miles a minute sleep is a long time and coming and when he does finally fall asleep it's fitful and far from restful.

Chapter Text

Sidney can't figure out a way to ask his question as a text and it will be weeks before he’ll see Alex again, because the Capitals are starting a long home stand even as he and the Pens are headed on a long trip to the west. On the plane he's so distracted by what happened with Alex he gets killed every time and he's seriously considering gagging Flower with one of the blankets because he's tired of the gleeful cackling when his character drops to the dirt again.

Anaheim is an ugly game and they lose, but just barely. The ride back to the hotel is heavy with tension and Sidney rolls his shoulders and can't help but shoulder most of the blame. He'd focused on the game with his entire being but there had been that single, persistent whisper, no matter how much he tried to stifle it, about Alex and what had happened. Normally he's better at compartmentalizing, keeping his personal problems from affecting his play on the ice but since Geno's wedding he’s had a harder time with it.

And now he needs to figure out what the hell is going on with Alex and he's starting to think he has been missing something this entire time. He gets the feeling whatever made Alex kiss him that night isn’t a new feeling for the other man, and he can only wonder how long it has been going on. At no point in their friendship has Sidney felt like Alex was angling for this outcome. He had been courteous and a rock when Sidney hadn’t had anyone else to rely on and Sidney doesn’t want to think about what the last few months would have been like without Alex.

He stretches in the bed and stares at the ceiling. No matter what he can’t seem to think about anything than that night. Through his confusion about Alex’s leaving, it had hurt to see him go and Sidney has missed him the last few weeks. They haven’t exchanged any texts and Sidney hadn’t anticipated missing even those little bits of contact. He has nearly reached out a dozen times, but he always stops, not wanting Alex to think he is trying to ignore what happened between them.

Instead he had been ghosting around the house, realizing how much he misses Alex, even if he isn’t around all that much. This certainly wasn’t what he had been expecting when he had gone to DC. He had thought it would be a onetime thing, fueled by vodka, but now, months later he is glad Alex didn’t let it die, that he accepted the friendship being offered.

Sidney pushes his hands against his eyes with a groan. He still doesn’t know what to think of Alex’s actions, but the one thing he is sure of, is that he misses him. His friendship with Alex has become something warm and steady, a banked fire that will always be there when he needs it and he doesn’t want to lose him. And if he’s entirely honest with himself, which he has been trying to be better at, he has enjoyed being the center of Alex’s attention, the looks and touches and he can’t help but laugh at himself.

All the signs had been there, how Alex felt about him, and he had missed them all.

Groaning again Sidney drops his hands and stares up at the ceiling. “I’m a fucking idiot.”

-----

LA is easy and that night in bed Sidney can't sleep. They'd gone out after the game, the victors and it had been so right, with Geno at his side, laughing and high on adrenaline. Even now, hours after the game Sid's skin still feels too tight, like he might fly apart at the seams, adrenaline keeping him from settling.

He doesn't give it much thought, drops his hand below the blankets, rubbing at his stomach, just above the waistband of the shorts he's wearing. It's stupidly easy to think back to the game, he and Geno on the ice, the look of fierce concentration on Geno's face, brows drawn, over dark eyes. Arousal pools in his stomach and he slides his hand under the elastic, fingers trailing along his cock.

He isn't sure how it happens but suddenly Geno is gone and Alex is in his place, eyes hauntingly blue and Sidney thumbs the head, teasing the slit because suddenly all he can think about is Alex under him on his couch, the feel of the big hands on his skin, the banked hunger of Alex's kiss.

Hand sticky Sidney stares at the ceiling as sudden realization steals his breath away. Now when he thinks about Geno there's no burning need to have, no consuming arousal. It's eased back into the familiar flame of friendship and the rock-solid knowledge of support no matter what. Thinking about Alex though sends a coil of arousal through his sated body, backed by a familiar flare of annoyance but that is normal when dealing with Ovechkin.

“Fuck.” He isn’t so addled by his orgasm that he can’t think straight, and he isn’t sure why this outcome never crossed his mind. Had anyone every made a statement about him developing feelings for Alex Ovechkin beyond friendship, he probably would have laughed at them and walked away. Now though it seems to be a reality and with the gift of hindsight the situation is giving him, he knows it is true.

He has no idea how long it has been, but it all makes sense, the way he was reacting to Alex, the kindle of warmth in his chest when he thought about him. And why he never complained about Alex being in his space, instead leaning into him, thinking for days later about the light touch and the phantom feeling of fingers still on him.

It has been staring him in the face for what feels like months and he was too dense to figure it out.

Sliding out of the bed he enters the dark bathroom and washes his hands before splashing cool water on his face. It makes him feel better, gives him a clarity he has been sorely missing, and he feels like an idiot. Slipping back into the main part of the room he stops at the bed, looking at where his phone is sitting on the beside table. This is something he would rather do in person, but it will be a few weeks before he sees Alex again and he needs the other man to know.

He fumbles for his phone and thumbs the screen, bringing up a text with Alex's number at the top. There's a moment’s hesitation and then he types in I'm sure using auto-complete and sends the message before he has a chance to decide against it.

Dropping his phone on a pillow Sidney heads back to the bathroom for a shower. The screen of his phone is ominously dark when he comes back, and he has to fight the urge to check the screen. It's four in the morning in Washington and Alex is probably still asleep, and if not, he's got other things to do besides respond to his text.

By the time he drifts off there is still no reply and Sidney can't decide if the lack of response is good or bad.

-----

The next morning there's still nothing from Alex and Sidney tucks his phone into his bag and pushes all thoughts of Alex aside. They're headed up to Vancouver, two points they want and need after the loss to Anaheim.

They manage to win, and it is an ugly as fuck win, but Sidney will take it because they earned it. The team is in good spirits as they board the plane and Sid is ten seconds away from elbowing Jordan, who is behind him on the stairs and poking him, in the head when he feels his phone vibrate. Stopping he ignores the hand shoving at his lower back and fumbles his phone out.

Heart caught in the back of his throat Sid unlocks the screen and opens the message. Alex's number streams across the top and underneath is a date and it takes Sid a moment to realize it's the next time they play the Capitals.

The next shove sends him half sprawling over the stairs, and he turns to find Jordan grinning at him.

“Get moving Crosby. I would like to see a bed sometime soon.”

Walking slow just to piss Jordan off Sidney jams his bag in the overhead compartment with Flower's before dropping into the seat next to him.

Flower elbows him. “You look like you're in a better mood.” He half turns in his seat to glance back to where Geno is already settled in. “Finally over him?”

Sidney shrugs, not sure what to say. This isn't a conversation he ever imagined having with any of his teammates and while he's mostly done pining over Geno, he wouldn't go so far as to say that he's completely over him, never mind the sudden new feelings he seems to be harboring for Alex.

His lack of a verbal response seems to be enough for Flower who just nods and sinks back in his seat.

Chapter Text

Over the next two weeks before their game with the Capitals, Sidney channels all his apprehension into the game and it works, leaving him with four goals and five assists in seven games. It leaves most of the team shaking their heads at him with huge grins while some of the call ups, the ones that don't play with him regularly tend to stare at him like he's a hockey god incarnate, sent down to judge everyone else.

He can tell Flower and Jordan are both curious, if the looks they keep leveling him are any indication, though they both keep their peace. It is unexpected and he knows it isn’t a reprieve that will last long. Eventually they’ll cave and he isn’t sure he has an answer that will make them happy, since they usually can both tell when he’s lying. If they corner him, he’s going to crumple like wet cardboard.

The morning of the game against the Capitals, Sidney wakes up and he already feels like there is electricity running under his skin. Part of it is the upcoming game, like always, but this has a sharper edge to it, and he knows it has everything to do with Alex and tonight. He has been thinking about what might happen tonight since the night he texted him and he has to force the thoughts away.

First and foremost he must think about the game.

-----

Which proves easier in theory than practice.

The closer they get to the start of the game the more Sidney feels like he’s going to fly apart. Anticipation is a low fire in the pit of his stomach and Sidney can tell he isn’t hiding it well. Geno, Flower and Jordan have been giving him worried looks since they got to the arena though so far none of them have approached him about it.

When he steps onto the ice Sidney fights to keep from looking for Alex among the press of white-clad bodies. His teammates deserve his full attention and he knows he’ll feel like garbage if he gives them any less than his best. In the end though temptation wins out and he looks to the end. Luckily, Alex has his back to him, but even the sight of his last name is enough to make his heart skip a beat and Sidney hurriedly glances away.

The game is worse, his gaze drifting from the puck to Alex, when he isn’t on the ice and Sidney feels like a traitor. He should be focusing on the game, and he does when he’s on the ice, trying to make something happen for his team. But the moment he is on the bench, he finds his eyes drifting to Alex on every shift. He tells himself it is all so he can better understand the way Alex plays, but he knows it is a weak excuse.

And when he’s on the ice the back of his neck prickles, and a heat that has nothing to do with the game sweeps through him.

-----

They lose, just barely but it was a good game and Sidney can’t be too angry. Their position in the standings isn’t going to slide much and they play the Capitals a few more times, so they have plenty of opportunity to show them who the better team is.

The locker room is buzzing with conversation and Sidney wishes he had the option of ducking out of the press scrum as he doesn’t have much he wants to say about the game. They didn’t play as well as they should have, and he has lost track of how many times he has said that over the years.

Instead Sidney settles for stripping out of his gear and it feels like it takes forever before the last reporter clears out of the room. He doesn’t think there was a single original question in the lot and he envies the guys who don’t have to put up with the media, who can just change and slip out, grinning at his misfortune like the assholes they are.

The shower is mostly deserted, and he makes his quick, not wanting to have to bother when he gets home. Anticipation has been curling in his stomach since the last few minutes of the game and he is more than ready to get away from prying eyes, to go home and be able to enjoy the time with Alex, no matter what happens tonight. He can almost convince himself he would be okay just spending the night on the couch with Alex, like they have dozens of times before, but his mind drifts to the night on the couch before Alex had left and he wants that again.

It doesn’t take much to recall the way Alex had felt under him, the warm drag of fingers across his skin and he wants to know how it ends. He hates not having closure and he knows it was his fault, because of his inability to let something go, but this is different. Geno is happily married, and he knows he’ll never forget his feelings for him, but part of being an adult is moving on, and he thinks he’s ready to do just that.

It only feels right that moving on is going to include Alex. Their relationship has been unusual from the beginning and all his anxiety aside, Sidney is excited to see where they end up. Alex has been so important to him for the last few months it only makes sense for them to continue together.

Around him the locker room is slowly emptying out and Sidney manages vague waves for his teammates as he starts getting dressed. He already knows they’re getting a free day tomorrow, just because of the game tonight, which doesn’t hurt his feelings any. It means more time to spend with Alex, so they can explore this change in their relationship.

He has just gotten his pants on when Jordan throws his hands up in the air. “Alright, I’m out! I will see you losers later.”

Flower perks up from where he’s mostly dressed. “You were on the ice too Staal!”

Jordan grins. “I never said I wasn’t one too!”

Sidney rolls his eyes as he does his belt up. He is surprised everyone seems so happy after the loss, but maybe he shouldn’t be, since it wasn’t like they rolled over and let the Caps skate all over them. They had worked hard, but things just hadn’t quite swung their way.

Jordan bounces out of the locker room, waving as he goes only to reappear a couple seconds later. “Hey Sid, you've got a guest.”

The others turn to stare at him, and Sidney gets up, grabbing his shirt to slip on as he does. He's barely dressed, barefoot in his slacks but anyone who might be asking for him after the press has cleared out has probably seen him in worse states.

Jordan is hovering outside the door with a dorky grin on his face and he inclines his head down the hall. Sid turns and he wishes he could be surprised that it's Alex, but he isn't. This is the logical end to the night, what the last two weeks has been about and Sid swallows against the flare of something in the pit of his stomach.

Alex smiles oddly subdued for the fact they beat the Penguins. “Was good game.”

Sidney nods, feeling a little off kilter. There's something he's missing, and he glances back to where Jordan is trying to blend into the wall and failing miserably. When he sees Sidney looking at him he smiles sheepishly. Sidney steps around Alex, nudging him as he does and is gratified when Alex steps in close, a line of heat down his back.

There's a small alcove in the hallway, pretty much invisible unless you're right on top of it and Sidney turns just in time to have Alex crowd in close. A hand slides under his shirt to rest on his side, fingers stroking over skin and he can't help the little tremor that runs through him at the touch.

Alex's smile is brighter but there's still a little something off. “Very sure?”

Sighing Sidney grabs Alex and drags him close because he is sure. Besides hockey this is the only thing he's been sure about in a while and he has every intention of holding on to it with tooth and nail if necessary. “Positive.”

“Good.” Alex leans in and kisses him, slow and easy before pulling back, though not so far that Sidney’s hands fall from him.

Sidney looks at him. “Are you coming home with me?”

Alex nods, gaze sweeping down the open front of his shirt and Sidney clutches it closed. Not out of embarrassment, because he likes the way Alex is looking at him, the quick prickle of arousal, but he still has to face whoever is left in the locker room. He quickly buttons his shirt up, ignoring the amused look Alex is giving him. “Okay. I just have to finish getting dressed.”

This time Alex’s gaze is more heated, sweeping down him and Sidney shoves him back. “Stop with whatever you’re thinking. There will be plenty of time later.”

He edges past Alex out of the nook, hoping the heat he feels in his cheeks isn’t showing. Someone will comment on it and Jordan, knowing him, will blurt out Alex’s name and Sidney isn’t in the mood to have to deal with the fallout. He has been running on anticipation for the last few weeks and with the end in sight, he doesn’t want anything to hold them up.

Luckily, most of the others have already left while he was talking to Alex, and Sidney quickly finishes dressing. Want hums under his skin and he grabs his jacket before heading out. Alex is nowhere to be seen and Sidney heads for the doors, sure the other man will find him. A few feet later Alex falls into step with him, bag slung over his shoulder and he smiles. “If I hadn’t been able to find you, I was going to make you take a taxi.”

Alex makes a face, bumping against him and even the brief touch is enough to make heat curl through him.

“Not nice Sid.”

They exit the complex and Sidney is glad for the feeling of the cool night air on his cheeks. Alex feels like a fire against his side and the drive home is going to be excruciating. Ever since the game ended all he has been able to think about is this, leaving his skin feeling tight. “It only seems fair, since you beat us.”

Alex catches his elbow, fingers curling intimately around him, thumb stroking and Sidney swallows hard. The parking lot is mostly empty around them, though there is still a chance of stragglers and he can only hope Alex isn’t going to do anything stupid.

With a grin Alex leans in, closing the distance between them. “Are better team.”

Even with the promise of what the night is going to bring Sidney isn’t going to let a comment like that stand without some pushback. He tips his head back to meet Alex’s gaze. “Is that so?”

Alex hums and leans down, not quite close enough to kiss him, but Sid can feel the puff of breath against his cheek. “Is so Sid. When last time you beat us?”

It is something that should easily spring to mind, but Sidney finds he can’t think, not with how close Alex is standing, the way his fingers are still curled around his elbow. He settles for swallowing and meeting his gaze. “The next game.”

His answer startles a laugh from Alex, and he steps back, hand falling from Sidney’s elbow. “We see.”

He shouldn’t have said anything. Alex will never let him live it down if Washington wins again and that isn’t something he wants to live with. He’ll just have to find some way to motivate he and the entire team to a win. Which shouldn’t be too hard, with the way their games against the Caps always seem to go.

Gesturing to his car Sidney unlocks it. “Come on.” His voice sounds off to him and he is sure it must be noticeable, if the slightly smug look Alex is giving him is any indication. He can’t blame him though, since he’s sure Alex knows exactly what he’s doing to him and the feeling is mutual if the way Alex’s eyes are blown and the fact, he can’t stop touching him are any indication.

He watches as Alex tosses his bag in the backseat and they get in the car. The moment he has his seatbelt on he feels Alex’s hand on his thigh, and it is a far cry from the mostly innocent touch the last time they were in his car. He takes a breath, reminds himself he’s used to Alex’s touch, that it isn’t anything to worry about.

But the last time had been weeks ago, before he understood the intent behind the touches, when he had been naïve to Alex’s feelings. And his own, they had been so subtle, the shift to the way he feels about Alex. His friends would likely laugh themselves sick over his inability to recognize his feelings, but he is never going to tell them. His relationship with Alex is none of their business and he plans on keeping it that way if possible.

The drive home feels interminable and Sidney feels like his skin is so tight it might burst. Alex’s hand on his leg is still the only point of contact between them and he isn’t sure he could take more. Just knowing what might happen tonight has him on edge, a warm roll of pleasure sliding just under his skin. Arousal burns in the pit of his stomach, the heat from Alex’s hand stoking it higher and Sidney takes a deep breath as they finally reach the house.

He pulls into the driveway, nearly slamming the car into park and he wants to look at Alex, see if the drive has him as twisted up but he can’t seem to turn his head. The hand on his thigh vanishes, only to curl over the back of his neck, thumb stroking across skin.

“Sidney.”

Alex’s voice is low and compelling, tugging at him and Sidney blindly undoes his seatbelt, turning to face him. His face is half hidden in the shadows, but he can clearly see the want written across Alex’s face and he can’t help but huff a laugh, feeling stupid. How many times over the last few months has Alex looked at him like this and he hasn’t seen it for what it was?

Smiling, as if sensing his thoughts Alex leans over the console between them and Sidney feels his heart catch. He lifts his hand, sliding it under the lapel of Alex’s suit jacket and he wants Alex to kiss him, even though his driveway is hardly the place for something like this.

Alex kisses the corner of his mouth before drawing back, hand falling from his neck. “Car is not place.”

The back of his neck is cool from the loss of touch and Sidney hunches his shoulders against the feeling. “Yeah.” Any other time he would have been more circumspect, even with the lights on the houses around them off, but right now all he can seem to think about is Alex and how much he wants to touch and be touched by him.

Alex is on his heels as they approach the house, a line of fire against his back and Sidney unlocks the front door. He steps aside so Alex can come in before stepping around him to lock the door. The knob to the deadbolt is still in his hand when Alex is suddenly plastered to his back, an arm sliding around his waist.

Lips touch the back of his neck, and he can’t help but shiver, between the fleeting touch and the feel of Alex against his back, the swell of his arousal. “You’re lucky I could skate tonight. I haven’t been able to think about much since then.”

Alex laughs, the sound echoing through Sidney even as he kisses the skin below his ear. “You not only one.”

Sidney takes a deep breath, leaning back against Alex. “Can we start over? Pretend that night never happened?” He knows he’ll never be able to forget it, and it’ll stand as a monument to his stupidity about this relationship, but he wants a clean start. Something not tainted by his being an idiot.

Alex moves back, just enough for Sidney to turn and he smiles, ducking his head to drag his mouth up Sid’s jaw. “Would like very much.”

Sidney curls his hands into fists, wanting to touch and not sure why he is suddenly so unsure, not about their relationship, but about touching Alex. He has been thinking about this for weeks and it isn’t like there is much he might do that would make Alex run in the other direction. Raising his hands he edges them under Alex’s suit jacket, fingers skimming along the leather of his belt.

Alex’s hands glide under his jacket, sending heat washing through him and Sidney swallows hard. This is hardly the first time Alex has touched him with intent and he shouldn’t be feeling this worked up. Especially not with the way he has been thinking about this for weeks now. The feeling is different from memory though and Sidney feels like he might explode.

Sidney fits his fingers under Alex’s belt, thoughts scattered in an unfamiliar way. There are things he wants to say but forming words seems beyond him and he settles for brushing a kiss to his chin. It makes Alex laugh, the warm sound rolling through him and like always, Alex seems to be a step ahead of him. He nips to Sidney’s lower lip before kissing him slowly, like they have all the time in the world.

Sidney leans back against the door, drawing Alex with him until they’re crowded together, Alex’s knee nudging between his and he give into the gentle pressure. It sends a jolt up his spine and he groans, clutching at Alex.

Alex breaks the kiss, trailing his lips along Sidney’s jaw. “Are better places for this.”

Sidney nods, a new flush of heat spreading through him. The press of Alex’s arousal against him is distracting and he licks his lips. “Yeah.” This is somehow better than the night on the couch and he can only think it’s because he has a better grasp on the situation, has had a chance to think about Alex’s feelings and the slow change in his own, that have made this possible.

He makes to move but Alex kisses him again, hands tugging at his shirt and Sidney pulls his hands free, working to shrug his jacket off. It takes some creative wiggling, but he gets it off just as Alex gets his shirt free. His hands slide under fabric and Sidney bites at the inside of his cheek to keep from making an embarrassing sound.

Gathering his thoughts takes an effort and Sidney raises his hands, pushing gently at Alex. This isn’t happening here, not when he has a perfectly good bed upstairs. Not that he’s opposed to the idea of something happening in the foyer, where the windows are small, but later.

Alex kisses him one more time before stepping back, hands slipping from under Sidney’s shirt. He grins, reaching up to loosen his tie and remove it, tucking it into the pocket of his suit jacket. His pupils are blown, leaving a thin ring of blue and Sidney raises a hand, struck with the sudden need to touch.

He strokes his hand across Alex’s chest and suddenly feeling bold, pops the first few buttons of his shirt. Slipping his fingers under the fabric he drags him along the collar of the undershirt. Alex’s skin is warm, and he wants to touch more. With his free hand he tugs at his shirt, getting some of the tail free, only stopping when Alex’s hand curls around his wrist.

Alex kisses him again, a bare brush of lips before he edges back, tugging Sidney into following him. “Better place Sidney.” His gaze rakes over him, dark and heady. “Want to look.”

Sidney ducks his head despite the fact Alex likely can’t see the blush staining his cheeks in the darkness of the hallway. Arousal slides down his back, pooling hotly in his groin and he curls his hands into fists to resist the urge to touch Alex or himself, though he isn’t sure which I smore likely right now. He takes a deep breath. “Yeah.”

Stepping forward he half expects Alex to drop his hand, but he doesn’t, thumb stroking against the inside of his arm and it makes Sidney shiver. It seems impossible such an innocuous touch should feel so good but his whole body seems to be rewired to react to Alex’s touch.

They climb the stairs together, the only point of contact the loose grip on his wrist. The door to his bedroom is standing open and Sid leads the way, molten heat running through him. He feels stifled by his clothing despite the fact his shirt is untucked and with his free hand he loosens the knots in his tie. Getting it over his head he tosses it aside into the darkness of the room. His shoes follow and Alex is suddenly against his back again, hand falling to the buckle of his belt in a silent question.

He manages a shaky nod, his breath catching in his throat when Alex works his belt free with one hand, the ends falling apart. Quick fingers tug the button free and Sidney bites back a groan when Alex’s fingers trail down his fly, light and teasing.

Lips touch the skin behind his ear before Alex nips at the point of his jaw, the slight sting giving Sidney something to focus on. He drops his head to Alex’s shoulder. “Are you trying to kill me?”

His voice sounds strangled and how could it not, with the way Alex is against him, his hand still teasing up and down the fly with just enough pressure for him to feel.

Alex trails kisses down his throat, worrying skin enough to leave a mark. His other hand pushes up under his shirt to thumb a nipple and Sidney jerks with a bitten off groan. “No Sidney.”

Another touch makes him twitch and Sidney reached up, quickly unbuttoning his shirt. He rolls his shoulders and Alex takes the hint, stepping back. Sid mourns the closeness, but continues to strip, tossing his clothing aside, not caring where it falls.

He has barely finished stripping when Alex is suddenly in his space, hands gliding up his sides, and Alex catches kisses him, licking into his mouth. Sidney curls his hand over the back of Alex’s neck, tipping his head back, moving slowly, towards the bed.

The edge of the mattress touches his legs and Sidney shifts, tugging and Alex follows him onto the bed. He hadn’t made the bed this morning, nervous energy preventing him from even thinking about it. Alex is a furnace against his front, cock brushing against his with each movement and Sidney feels aflame. He falls back in the bed, Alex settling between his legs, still kissing him and for Sidney this would be good, spending the rest of the night like this.

But Alex seems to have different ideas, as he rocks against him, cock sliding against his hip. Before Sidney can get his hands on the other man Alex shifts, dragging kisses across his collarbone before sliding lower. Hot breath washes over his nipple and Sidney tenses, waiting, but Alex moves on, hands and mouth trailing down his chest and stomach.

He can’t help but twitch when Alex nips at the crest of his hip and he curls his hands into the sheets. It’s that or tangle his fingers into Alex’s hair and right now he doesn’t think he can avoid tugging. His heart feels ready to crawl into his throat as Alex dots a line of kisses along his hip, moving towards his arousal.

Sidney flings his hand out, just barely catching the lamp next to his bed and he’s glad it’s a touch light and they’re so close to the edge of the bed. Warm, golden light feels the room and Sidney’s breath catches in his throat when he feels Alex’s breath ghost against the hard length of his cock, sees his dark head bent low. He swallows hard because he’s starting to realize this is nothing like he imagined.

With a last, teasing brush against his hardness Alex pulls away from him and sits up, not quite touching, though he settles his hands on him, tracing designs on Sid’s side, a thoughtful look on his face. “Show me what you like Sid.”

It certainly isn’t how Sidney was imaging the night going, but it sends a thrill through him and he inclines his head toward the bedside table. “Would you grab the stuff from the drawer?” He feels heat spread across his cheeks and he isn’t sure why he can’t bring himself to say it.

Luckily, Alex seems to be able to read him and leans away, opening the drawer to retrieve a bottle of lubrication. With a grin he drops it next to Sid’s hip and kisses him before kneeling between his spread legs, hands curling over his knees.

Sidney opens the lube, squirting a little onto his fingers. He doesn’t want it to be sloppy, but enough for just a little friction. He curls his hand loosely around his cock, stroking a few times. Eyes falling closed, he tips his head back. Not because he doesn’t want to look at Alex, but because this way he can focus on the heat of him between his legs, the way the fingers curling over his knees feels.

He teases at the head, thumb trailing around the crown and he feels Alex’s hands tighten on his skin. Pleasure curls hot under his skin and he can’t help but wish it were Alex’s hand on him. He has thought about it so many times it seems impossible to believe it is finally happening. Dragging his thumb across the head, he hisses at the sensation and Alex’s fingers tighten briefly on his knees before sliding higher.

The slow movement makes the coil of arousal in his stomach tighten and Sidney shifts, continuing his stroking, fingers gliding over the flare of the head before working back down. The words are on the tip of his tongue, to ask Alex to touch him but he doesn’t. There will be time enough later, because he is growing sure tonight isn’t going to be a one off thing.

Alex’s hands trail higher and the single point of contact shouldn’t be making Sidney feel like this, dripping heat in his veins and he starts working his hand faster, resisting the urge to use his other hand. He wants to drag this out, pinned under Alex’s intense gaze, until he feels like he is going to go to a thousand pieces.

Release slams into him, the feeling unscored by the slow slide of Alex’s touch on his thighs and he settles back into the bed, pleasure burning hot and heavy in his veins. He still doesn’t look at Alex, fingers just barely touching his cock.

The sound of the lube opening is enough to catch Sidney’s attention and he opens his eyes just enough to watch Alex squeeze some onto his fingers, slicking over the head before he closes the distance between them, hips against the inside of his thighs. He can’t help but look down and he knows if not for the fact he just came it would be a hard fight not to, with the way Alex is pressed against him, the way his hand looks curled around his cock.

Alex leans over him, arm braced on the bed, hand working his cock in long strokes, squeezing just under the head at the top of each stroke and he presses his face into the crook of Sid’s neck, breath hot against his throat. He can feel the motion of Alex’s hand, the way his knuckles brush against his lower stomach and Alex comes with a bitten off sound. Wet heat drips on to his lower stomach and Sidney shivers at the sensation.

He loops his arms around Alex’s shoulders, drawing him down, fingers stroking through the hair on the nape of his neck. Zephyrs of pleasure are still trickling through his body and he likes the way Alex feels against him, the weight and steady pressure. Alex makes a sound before catching his mouth in a slow kiss and Sidney rocks against him.

It draws a sound out of Alex, and he pulls back, nipping at Sid’s lower lip. “Is nice but need shower.”

As much as he doesn’t want to, Sidney nods in agreement. He would much rather stay like this, with Alex pressing against him, but he knows he’ll come to regret the decision later. With a sigh he pushes at his shoulder. “Move then.”

Alex grumbles but kisses him again, pulling away. Sidney follows him out of the bed. He turns the bathroom light on, keeping it low and he’s glad he has such a big walk in shower. The water is barely on and warm when Alex crowds him against the tile, cupping his face as he kisses him. Sidney curls his hands around Alex’s biceps, spreading his legs when a knee presses against his.

They stay like that for a long time, trading kisses as warm water cascades down on them. Sidney lets his hands roam, doing all the touching he didn’t earlier. Across Alex’s shoulders and down his back to skate teasingly across his ass before he settles for lacing his fingers across the small of his back, holding him close.

It makes Alex laugh and he nips at Sidney’s lower lip. “Who know Sidney be so clingy.”

Sidney is glad his cheeks are already pink from the heat. “I am not clingy.” He wants to be able to remember this later, for the inevitable times when they don’t see each other for weeks. It is going to hard enough when Alex leaves, this part of their relationship tentative and new.

Alex kisses him again, thumb sweeping across his cheek as he smiles. “Not mind clingy. Like it.”

Before he can say anything else Alex kisses him with slow deliberation, and his thoughts fuzz out, leaving him aware of only Alex, how they fit together and the steady fall of water on his head and shoulders.

He wouldn’t mind keeping this up all night but at this point they’re just wasting water and he’s starting to realize how hungry he is, both thoughts that aren’t very conducive to what is going on. He drops his hands from Alex’s back and gently nudges him. “Clean up.”

The other man draws him into another kiss, slow and deep that very nearly sidetracks him but Sidney manages to not lose his train of thought, too much. He slides away from Alex, reaching blindly to grab shampoo, which he thrusts at Alex like a shield. “There.”

Alex laughs but takes the bottle and Sidney feels his cheeks heat when Alex looks at him, his gaze warm and appreciative. He grabs the body wash and cleans up before trying to trade it with Alex. It doesn’t go as planned, not when Alex curls a hand around his wrist and tugs him in for a kiss, but he can’t fight the exchange much.

He gets out of the shower and grabs a clean towel from the nearby stack, tossing it over his shoulder to Alex, who yelps. He grabs his own towel and quickly dries off, before grabbing another towel for his hair as he wanders into the bedroom.

Sidney finishes scrubbing most of the water out of his hair and he tosses the towel back into the bathroom. “I don’t know about you, but I could use something to eat.”

Alex nods, unabashedly naked as he surveys the mess of their clothing strewn across the bedroom floor. “Yes, but not have anything to wear.” He wiggles his eyebrows at Sidney, in a way that makes Sidney laugh. “I could go get.”

“No!” Sidney yelps, scrambling for a pair of shorts. It would be just his luck for someone to be awake and see a naked man wandering through his house, especially because he isn’t sure all the downstairs curtains are drawn. “I’ll go grab your bag.”

Alex’s laugh follows him downstairs and Sidney finds his bag in the dark, nearly tripping over it. With a curse he grabs the bag and his discarded suit jacket before heading back upstairs. He tries to hand the bag over, but Alex catches his hand, tugging and Sidney goes with it. Alex’s other hand settles on the small of his back, pressing them together.

Sidney leans into the touch, tipping his head back to kiss Alex’s chin and he feels like static is sliding under his skin. He can’t remember ever wanting to be touched this much before by anyone and now he can’t to seem stop moving into every touch like they’re the only thing keeping him alive. But he knows if he stays this close to Alex, they’re never going to make it downstairs to eat and now that he can think straight, he really is hungry.

Taking a deep breath he steps back, though he can’t keep this gaze from wandering. “We really do need to go downstairs.”

Alex pouts but tosses his bag on the bed, jerking the zipper open. He digs out a pair of sweatpants and pulls them on, grinning when Sidney rolls his eyes at the eagle on the hip. “You not like?”

He would much prefer Alex out of them, but he knows if he says it Alex will take him at his word, so he settles for shrugging. “I would prefer if they were on fire, but I guess I’ll survive.”

Alex grins and nudges Sidney towards the door. They head downstairs and Sidney turns on the lights in the kitchen, keeping it low. He’s been home enough for the last few weeks there is real food in his fridge, and they settle for making quick sandwiches.

They eat at the table, their legs entangled, and Sidney keeps his head down, looking at his sandwich. Warmth blooms in his chest and he knows his cheeks are pink, all because of Alex. Even now he can still feel the way Alex’s hands had been curled over his knees, the heat of him between his legs and it will be days, if not longer before he can think about tonight without his cheeks turning pink.

It almost feels like Alex can sense his thoughts and he looks up when he feels a nudge against his knee under the table. Alex’s smile is warm and intimate, sending a different kind of warmth rushing through Sidney, that has nothing to do with what happened earlier tonight. It reminds him of the nights they had spent on the couch together, before Alex had kissed him the first time, but this time he can almost put a name to what he is feeling, the affection he had felt but not wanted to name.

They put the dishes in the dishwasher and Alex’s hand slides across his lower back, making him shiver but Sidney leans into the touch, head tipping back. Alex takes the invitation, cupping his chin with his free hand, and he smiles. “Hi.”

Sidney feels stripped under the intensity of Alex’s gaze and he sighs. “Hi.” He closes his eyes, more than content to just stand like this. With the urgency from earlier gone it is easier for Sidney to focus on Alex’s warmth and the slow stroke of his hand across the small of his back. Without much thought he turns further into Alex, touch gliding along the waistband of his pants.

It almost feels unreal, how easy this change has become and he isn’t sure why he was worried to begin with. He is fairly sure he knows what Alex feels for him, and it warms him. And while he can be stupid about feelings, he doesn’t doubt his own.

The tile under his feet is suddenly cold and goosebumps piling at his skin where he isn’t pressing against Alex. Sidney pulls away from him, staying close enough they’re still touching. “I think we should go back upstairs.”

Alex hums and brushes a kiss to Sidney’s cheek before gently pushing him towards the doorway. “Already Sid?”

A flash of arousal slides through Sidney but he shakes his head. As much as he would like to, the game and the last two hours or so is starting to catch up with him and he has a feeling Alex is feeling the same way, even if he is going to play it off. “That isn’t what I mean, and you know it.”

Grinning Alex follows him from the kitchen and Sidney reaches passed him to turn off the light. They make their way back upstairs, Alex’s hand warm on his back.

Sidney kicks a pair of pants out of the way, not sure who they belong to. He skims out of his shorts, tucking them under the edge of his bed before sinking into the rumpled sheets. Kicking the comforter further towards the foot he watches in appreciation as Alex sheds his pants, sliding into the bed and immediately settling against him.

Laughing Sidney trails his hand down Alex’s back, still amazed that he gets to touch as much as he wants. “You know, this is a big enough bed that you don’t have to be so close.” The words slip out from habit and Alex knows not to take him seriously as he looks at Sidney

“Am going to enjoy Sid. Miss not seeing you.”

Sidney doesn’t laugh, settles for turning into Alex, slotting their bodies together. He shares the sentiment, has grown so used to being around him, even just for a few hours it had felt like there was a hole in his awareness. But he had needed the separation, to be able to understand this change in their relationship, to come to term with the feelings he had been to blind to see as the months had passed. He kisses the soft skin on the underside of Alex’s jaw. “I missed you too.”

He drifts off, oddly soothed by the bare touch of Alex’s fingers against the small of his back.

Chapter Text

Sid worms out from under Alex's arm and grabs his phone, activating the screen as he does. There's a message from Jordan that says Open the front door it's freezing with a time stamp two minutes earlier. Having Jordan over while Alex is here in his bed seems like a terrible idea, but Alex will probably be dead to the world for another three hours at least, leaving him with plenty of time to kick Jordan out.

Sliding from the bed he grabs a pair of sweatpants from the floor and a T-shirt, pulling them on as quietly as possible. On the way out he partially shuts the door, shivering against the slight chill in the air. He nearly trips halfway down the stairs, the hem of his sweatpants tangling on his foot and it takes him a minute to realize he's actually wearing Alex's and he can only hope there's no identifying marks on them because Jordan is peering in the windows on either side of the front door like a creeper.

Sidney unlocks the front door and yanks it open, barely managing to get out of the way as Jordan comes barreling in with a bag from a bakery he tries to avoid and a bag from a local grocery store. “What's with the sudden visit?”

Jordan kicks off his shoes and thrusts the pastry bag at him. “Can't a friend visit?”

Reaching into the bag Sidney pulls out a pastry. “You brought food. That's usually enough to make me question your motives.” He follows Jordan into the kitchen, watching as he gets glasses out of the cupboard before taking several kinds of juice from the bags he'd dumped on the counter. “And its early for you to be up.”

With a shrug Jordan pours a glass of orange juice. “I'm feeling motivated today.”

Any other time Sidney might take that as an excuse, but Jordan is looking at him from behind his glass like he had after they'd found out about Geno and he can't help but wonder what's put him on alert. “Okay, truth time Jordy. Why are you here?”

Jordan's concerned look slips into sheepish. “Duper nominated me. You've been in a way freaky good mood lately and everyone is curious. Bet in the room is that you're over Geno and have taken up with someone that is giving you all the sex you want because you're loose and happy as fuck.”

Sidney snorts. He loves his team he really does but some days he wouldn't mind a little more privacy in his life. “There is someone.” It's all he's giving him because he isn't ready for anyone to know what happened last night and even though Jordan can probably guess at their friendship, after getting him last night but Sidney isn't going to heap this on top of it.

There's a sound from upstairs and they both freeze and then Jordan is staring at him, eyes wide with shock. “Oh holy shit dude. I didn't realize you were entertaining.”

Sidney just nods, hoping like hell it was just the house settling or at worst Alex getting up to use bathroom because he really doesn't think he can handle this.

There's nothing else and Sid slowly starts to relax until he hears the fifth stair creak and because it just seems to be the way his life works seconds later Alex appears in the doorway in a pair of sweatpants and there's no mistaking what happened last night, in the looseness of his body and the self-satisfied smirk twisting his lips.

Jordan is staring at Alex with his mouth hanging open and Sidney doesn't even try to make things better because there is no way in hell he can fix this.

“Holy crap Sid, when I made that joke about English I seriously didn't mean-I mean you two are-”

Alex seems totally okay being shirtless and faced with a confused Staal as he comes into the kitchen, taking a pastry from the bag and pouring a glass of juice. “Morning little Staal.”

That seems to help Jordan get his shit together a little bit. “Ovi.”

It says a lot about Jordan's shock that he isn't getting upset over the little Staal comment when he'd usually be up in arms over the slight. Leaning back against the counter Sid feels disconnected from everything, like this might be a weird dream, but it isn’t, with Alex standing next to him, Jordan’s eyes darting between them like he can’t decide if this real or a hallucination.

Jordan finishes his orange juice and grabs a doughnut from the bag on the counter. “Um, I’m going to go.” He glances at Alex. “Ovi, it was good to see you. Good game last night.”

“I’ll walk you to the door.” Despite the way Jordan is looking at him right now, Sidney hasn’t forgotten the manners his mother drilled into his head. He trails after Jordan, stopping when his friend does. “Jordan.”

Jordan grins and claps him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.” He looks back in the direction of the kitchen, shaking his head. “Not that I think they would believe me anyway. Though, how long has this been going on?”

Sidney shifts his weight. “Well, this is new, but the feelings aren’t, not really. It just took me some time to realize I needed to stop being stupid.”

Shaking his head Jordan pats Sidney’s shoulder again before dropping his hand. “I wouldn’t say sleeping with the captain of a rival team isn’t stupid, but hey, as long as you’re happy, I can’t complain any.”

The look on Jordan’s face is questioning and Sidney nods. “Yeah, it does make me happy. When I first found out about Geno and Oksana, I really didn’t think I would ever get over to it.” He glances towards the kitchen. “But now-“

Jordan stops him with an upheld hand. “Look, Sid, I’m glad you’re happy and all, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around this all and I really know more than I want or need to. So I’m going to go home and try to forget what I saw here. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Thanks for breakfast Jordan.” Sidney closes the door behind him, locking it before heading back into the kitchen.

Alex has corralled the mess and is leaning back against the counter, his pastry in hand. Sidney stops, taking the scene in and he knows it should feel weird, having Alex half dressed in his kitchen, especially after last night, but it isn’t. If anything, it feels warm and right and he smiles. Crossing to Alex he pours himself a glass of juice before leaning against him. It spreads warmth through him and Sidney sighs.

“I’m sorry.”

Shifting Alex’s arm slips around his waist, drawing him closer and when he speaks his voice is quiet, like he doesn’t want to interrupt the bubble they’re living in. “For what Sidney?”

Sidney closes his eyes. “For letting Jordan in. I didn’t think and should have assumed you would rather not have anyone know.” It hadn’t even crossed his mind, since Jordan is good at keeping the important secrets, but he should have talked to Alex before making any decisions.

“I hear voices and come downstairs. If worry I stay upstairs Sid.” Alex bumps him with his hip. “Sasha know. Is problem?”

Sidney shakes his head, since it isn’t even something he has to think about. Sasha might not like him, but he isn’t going to do anything that would endanger Alex in anyway. “No. Though it might give him a reason to try and take me out next time we play.”

Alex laughs and Sidney can’t help but smile as the warm sound echoes through his body. “Sasha think you weird, but not do anything to you. He promise.”

A promise is one thing and Sidney is glad they have a few weeks before he finds out if Sasha’s is going to hold. Not wanting to think about it he glances at Alex. “When do have to leave?”

Alex pushes his fingers under Sidney’s shirt, dragging them along the waistband of the sweatpants. “Early tomorrow.” He kisses Sid’s jaw, fingers dipping under the fabric to stroke along skin. “Not leave after one night.”

Grinning he cranes his head so he can get a better look at the sweatpants Sidney is wearing. A pleased laugh fills the kitchen and he nips at the lobe of Sidney’s ear, holding him close when he shivers. “Like the way you look in my clothes.”

Heat spread up Sidney’s cheeks and he takes a hurried drink of his juice. “It was an accident. They were the first pair I found in the dark.”

Alex’s response is a hum and he set his pastry down, hand curling over Sidney’s hip under the pants. His other hand settles on the back of his thigh, drawing him in and Sidney tips his head back when he feels lips drag along the line of his jaw. After last night he is ready for the promise of more, but there is no way it is happening in his kitchen.

He gets a hand on Alex’s chest and shoves. “Not in the kitchen. I do have people over and I really don’t need that association, especially when my mother comes to visit.” He has every intention of telling his mom about Alex, but in his own time. The last thing he wants to do is explain to her why he can’t come into the kitchen without turning pink.

Alex laughs. “Are no fun Sid.”

“You didn’t have any complaints last night.” Just the mention of last night is enough to make Sidney flush and he ducks away from Alex, grinning when the other man follows him out of the kitchen and up the stairs.

Sidney ducks into the bathroom since he didn’t get a chance to brush his teeth or do anything else with Jordan’s sudden arrival this morning. By the time he gets done Alex is sprawled in the bed, still wearing pants, the hair at his temples damp and he pats the rumpled bedding, grinning at him. “Come Sid.”

Rolling his eyes Sidney approaches the bed, affection running warm though him. He feels like an idiot for not realizing what had been going on. “Really? We’ve been out of bed for maybe half an hour.”

Alex’s stretches, his smile warm and inviting. “I show you good thing about staying in bed.”

Sidney can’t remember the last time he stayed in bed all day, except maybe the last time he had a concussion and he knows it might be dangerous to give into the temptation. But the thought of getting to touch Alex again is strong and he climbs back into the bed, letting Alex manhandle him onto his side.

Alex is immediately in his space, one hand skimming down his back and over his ass and down the back of his thigh. Fingers hook in the back of his knee, tugging and Sidney drapes his thigh over Alex’s hip, until they’re pressed together.

Arousal blooms slow and steady in his body, flaring higher with each stroke of Alex’s hands, across his chest and down his back. Fingers tease at the waistband of his pants and Sidney feels his cock stir in interest and he can’t believe they’re back in bed, but Alex’s fingers are edging under fabric and it makes Sidney’s thoughts short out.

 

-----

It is some time around noon when they finally make it out of bed, not that Sidney is keeping track of such things. He knows he and Alex are lucky to have gotten this much time together and he really isn’t looking forward to when they have to part ways tomorrow. They are sitting on the couch, tangled together, watching highlights from last night’s game and there are a million things he could have done differently.

When the segment on their game ends Sidney groans, head falling onto Alex’s shoulder. “That was bullshit. We should have had a goal there.”

Alex laughs, kissing his temple, arm tightening across his chest. “No.”

Sidney twists so he can better see Alex and is struck by a wave of affection that has him clutching at Alex’s arm. He must go stiff because Alex is leaning into his space, eyes worried and Sidney manages to shake his head. “I’m okay.”

His words must not be very convincing because Alex doesn’t pull away. He takes a deep breath and manages to grab the remote so he can mute the TV. “I just want to say something.”

Alex nods, not pressuring and it warms Sidney. This is how Alex has been from the beginning, giving him time to figure out things on his own and he appreciates it so much. He takes another deep breath and he really wishes this was something he was better at. “I wanted to say more but saying it over text didn’t seem right.”

Seeing the curious look on Alex’s face Sidney waves his hand in the space between them. “This isn’t just something quick between us. I’m not using you as a replacement because of Geno.” He is sure his face must be bright red because he feels like his entire body is on fire. “I had a lot of time to think after you left that night and it made me realize what I had been feeling for a few months, wasn’t about him anymore. It sucked, and I never thought I would say this, but I’m glad you left. I need it to realize what was going on.”

Thinking about Alex leaving that night, the defeated slump of his shoulders is enough to make Sidney cold inside and he can only hope he never has to see that again. He is going to do everything he can to prevent it from happening.

Alex laughs, the sound warm and he cups Sidney’s face. “Sid, not need to tell me.” He silences Sidney with kiss, only pulling back when Sidney looks a little dazed. “I not think any of that.”

He drops one hand to stroke the back of his fingers up and down Sidney’s bicep. “You Sidney Crosby. When you say you sure, I know you sure.”

Sidney can’t help but huff out a laugh, because of course. It isn’t just the Alex knows him so well after their months of friendship, though that is part of it. Everyone knows when he makes a decision that is the end of the matter. He is going to stick with it even if it doesn’t work out for him and he should have known it would come to something like this.

Leaning into Alex he shakes his head. “I should have known. There are days I feel like you know what is going on in my head better than I do.”

Alex’s laugh rumbles through him and Sidney likes the way it feels, coupled with the fingers gliding up and down the nape of his neck. He is coming to realize he always liked it when Alex touched him, even before he realized what it was a prelude to and now, he feels like he can’t get enough. Going back to seeing Alex once every couple of weeks if they’re lucky is going to be difficult.

Fingers tap gently against his forehead and Sidney goes cross-eyed looking up at them. “What?”

Shaking his head Alex taps Sidney’s forehead again. “Worry too much Sid.”

“I do not.” He knows it isn’t true, because he is worrying about how little time they have left together, when the next time they’ll have a chance to see each other, whether or not this is going to influence the rest of the season.

Alex’s look of disbelief is eloquent in its depth and Sidney sighs. “Okay, fine, I am worrying.”

Dropping his hand, Alex drags his thumb across Sidney’s lower lip. “Think and worry too much Sid. Need to be more here.”

Alex’s words are true and Sidney finds it easy to exist in the present when Alex shifts, pressing him into the couch, lips brushing against his mouth.

-----

Sidney hates being right, when things are going to suck, but especially right now. He is sitting on the edge of the bed, watching as Alex wanders around gathering his belongings. Over the course of the last two days Alex’s stuff has become mingled with his and it feels right, though he knows it can’t stay that way. He just wishes they had more time, but Alex needs to leave, so he can make practice later this afternoon, he has his own practice today and he knows they were lucky to have this long.

His thoughts must show on his face because Alex wads another shirt up and tucks it in the bag before sitting on the bed next to him. Their thighs are touching and Sidney leans into him. He doesn’t want to voice his concern, doesn’t want to ask too much, even though he knows Alex will give him what he wants. This is their last few minutes together and he doesn’t want to ruin it with being needy.

Alex bumps him, until he turns his head and he grins. “No need to be sorry Sidney. Maybe team play better next game.”

Sidney huffs a laugh and shoves Alex back, though he doesn’t move far. He knows what he’s trying to do, making him feel better about their impending separation without saying it, and Sidney appreciates it. This is something he’s never been good at and it makes him grateful Alex can figure out what he means or needs without him having to voice it.

“Oh, we will and it’ll be even better because we’ll do it on your home ice.” He gently elbows Alex, laughing when he twists away to avoid it and nearly topples over.

Before he can move Alex is rolling over and pinning him to the bed, a leg thrown across his thighs and Sidney don’t try to move. He could probably budge Alex, if he really wanted too, but he doesn’t so he settles down, hand coming up to stroke down the back of Alex’s neck.

Alex sighs against his throat and kisses the underside of his jaw before sitting back, leg still draped across him. “Come see me after next game?”

Sidney nods, not speaking. He is more focused on Alex against him, the content look on his face and the way he almost seems to be pressing back against his fingers.

It seems to be enough answer from Alex as he steals one last kiss before slipping away from Sidney and off the bed. He grabs his bag, slinging the strap over his shoulder as he holds out a hand. “Walk to door?”

Accepting Alex’s hand Sidney stands, trying to ignore the hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had known this was coming and it shouldn’t be bothering him this much. They were lucky to get this much time together and he knows the distance isn’t going to be a problem. It hasn’t before, was enough to keep their friendship strong and this is so much better. But it doesn’t make it him feel any better about it.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to take you to the airport?”

Alex shakes his head as they reach the bottom of the stairs. “Already call taxi.” He turns to face Sidney, hand coming up to catch his chin. “You take me to airport, we end up on news because I touch.”

He leans in and kisses Sidney, sweet and quick before stepping back. “See you later Sidney.”

“Yeah.” Sidney wants to say more, but the thought of saying an actual goodbye makes his tongue feel heavy so he settles for a wave.

Chapter Text

He spends the next few hours doing some light cleaning, though he avoids his room and the rumpled bed. It leaves him feeling a little ridiculous, like he’s in the throes of his first crush but he wants to hold on to the last few days for just a little longer. By the time he needs to leave for practice he feels a little more settled.

As he gets out of the car at the practice rink, he feels his phone vibrate and he pulls it out. There is a text from Alex and it’s a ridiculous selfie with Alex pouting and underneath it the caption Already miss you.

Despite the absurdity of the picture it makes Sidney feel better and he heads for the doors, tapping a response. Please don’t ever make that face again. It might give me nightmares. He thinks for a moment before adding Miss you.

It seems a little silly to say when they’ve only been separated for a few hours, but it makes him feel better, that Alex seems to be prey to the same feelings he is. Still smiling he tucks his phone away, turning his thoughts to the upcoming practice and what they could work on from their game with Washington.

As usual he is the first person in the locker room and a few minutes later Jordan comes in, stopping to look at him before shaking his head and coming over. “I tried, so hard for three days, but no matter what, I kept thinking about you and Ovi.” At Sidney’s look he raises his hands defensively. “No, not like that, but about the two of you spending time together and it was weird. I can’t figure it out.”

Sidney can’t help but smile. “I’ve been trying to figure it out since the beginning Jordan, and I still don’t know. And I really don’t care.” He isn’t sure he’ll ever be able to explain to anyone his relationship with Alex, how it started but it doesn’t bother him any.

Shrugging Jordan bumps Sidney. “And I don’t care, really. At least this means things won’t be weird around here anymore.”

T-shirt half over his head Sidney looks at him. “What do you mean weird? Things haven’t been weird.”

Rolling his eyes Jordan points at Sidney. “You didn’t notice because you wouldn’t notice weird if it crawled up and bit you in the ass. Things were weird Sid. When you weren’t stealing glances at Geno you were moping around, and it got worse when he and Oksana got married. I hate to tell you, but half the team knew about your feelings for Geno just because of the way you acted.”

Sidney opens his mouth, only to close it because he doesn’t have any way to defend himself. “I know. I’m sorry, it never should have gotten so bad that I relied on you all.”

Jordan makes a rude sound. “Dude, we are your friends and that’s what we’re here for, though you could have been a little less pathetic.” He tosses his shirt into his stall with a considering look. “On the upside, no one is going to know about you and Ovechkin because you aren’t going to be able to make eyes at him while we’re playing.”

Sidney sighs. “Well, Geno already knows, kind of.”

“How does he know, kind of?”

Toeing his shoes off Sidney drops to the bench, glad the others are taking so long to get here. “Alex went to dinner with me the last time I went with Geno and Oksana. He convinced them we were dating at the time and I really didn’t see a need to correct Geno’s assumption that he was telling the truth. So he knows, but not about everything.”

His eyes go wide in horror and he leans towards Sidney. “Wait, please tell me this isn’t going to change how we play the Capitals, because I don’t think I could handle it.”

Sidney shakes his head. “Absolutely not. Just because Alex and I are in a relationship it isn’t going to change that.” It isn’t something he and Alex have talked about and he doesn’t think they need too. Their feelings aside, they first and foremost play hockey on opposing teams and that comes first. They’ve already proven it isn’t enough to ruin their friendship and Sidney doubts it will be enough to derail their romantic relationship.

Flower and Duper pick that moment to come into the locker room and Sidney is grateful for their arrival. It means he doesn’t have to answer any more questions and he can focus on practice.

-----

By the time practice is over Sidney feels better, more balanced and he ignores the looks of his teammates as he leaves the ice. Earlier he had caught Flower watching him like he’d grown a second head, dark eyes narrowed, and it had made him smile. He has been trying, miserably, to convince his team he doesn’t care anymore about Geno.

And now they’re seeing proof of it and have no idea how to handle that.

Half changed he looks to where a half-dressed Flower has Duper trapped in his stall, though both of them are looking at him. He can’t tell what Flower is saying, but Duper is frowning in his direction and Sidney shakes his head as he continues changing.

Not knowing isn’t going to hurt either of them and really, it brings Sidney great enjoyment watching Flower trying to figure out what is going on. In his stall Jordan is badly trying to hide his laughter and Sidney is suddenly glad Jordan knows about Alex.

-----

In the two weeks before they head to Washington, they win five of their six games and Sidney hopes they’ll be able to carry the momentum with them when they head down there. After the last couple of games against the Capitals they need this win, not only for the points it will get them, but as a reminder they’re a team to contend with.

The night before the game Sidney is sprawled on the couch, phone resting next to his hip. He’s been thinking about going to bed but the movie he’s got on is oddly compelling and he hasn’t moved yet. His phone vibrates against his hip and he picks it up.

Over after game?

Warmth slides down his back, pooling in his stomach and Sidney smiles. Over the last few weeks since he last saw Alex, he has thrown himself into the game, more so than usual. It gives him something else to think about besides the hollow somewhere in the middle of his chest. He had known it was going to be like this, but that doesn’t make it any easier to bear and he has been waiting for this game for more than one reason.

He unlocks the screen. Yeah. Once I manage to get away.

As he waits for an answer Sidney picks up the remote and turns the TV off. The move doesn’t seem as compelling now and he tosses the remote aside. Padding to the front door he makes sure it is locked before checking the other door. His phone jumps in his hand again and he ignores it until he makes it upstairs.

He gets ready for bed rather than answering Alex’s text right away. Both teams have been so busy there hasn’t been much time for anything beyond short texts and quick responses and he wants to get a chance to savor this exchange. It is a poor substitute for getting to spend time with Alex but at this point it’s all he can get, and he is going to take advantage of it.

Plugging his phone in he gets into bed before looking at the screen.

I be waiting. Night Sidney.

He smiles. Night. See you tomorrow.

-----

Yawning Sidney pays the cab driver before heading up the stairs to Alex’s house. He had meant to be here sooner, but it had taken him some time to shake the rest of the team, all of them wanting him to come to the hotel bar with them. They had managed to beat Washington tonight, but it had been an ugly, chippy game with a lot of penalties on both sides, though they had managed to capitalize on it better than the Capitals had.

Sidney knocks on the door and a few seconds later it swings open, to reveal Alex, who looks as tired as he feels, and it wouldn’t surprise him to find Alex had been asleep until he knocked on the door. His hair is sticking up and he has a sleepy look on his face, like he just woke up. He smiles, reaching out to curl a hand around his wrist and Sidney follows the light pressure, kicking the door closed behind him.
“Hi.”

“Sid.” Alex draws him in, arm going around his waist and Sidney steps into him, letting Alex turn them both to lean against the wall.

There is absolutely nothing sexual about it and Sidney doesn’t mind. The weeks leading up to this game had been ugly, mostly away games and he feels like he could sleep for a few days. He knows the Capitals have been dealing with much the same and it seems like Alex feels the same way he does. Sighing he tucks his face against Alex’s throat, feeling the thrum of his pulse against the tip of his nose. “I told you we were a better team.”

Alex laughs, hand stroking up and down Sidney’s back. “Got lucky.”

Sidney shakes his head, nose dragging across skin and he closes his eyes. If not for Alex and the wall he doesn’t think he would be upright and his thoughts start to wander, about how best to get he and Alex to a bed.

Before he can think of anything to say a hand curls over the back of his neck, squeezing gently and Alex takes a step backward, drawing Sidney with him. “Bed this way Sid.”

Sidney takes a stumbling step forward, catching at Alex’s arm and he follows him through the dark house, up a flight of stairs and to the dimly lit room in the back. He kicks his shoes off and starts stripping. His shirt if halfway off before he realizes this is the first time he’s ever been in Alex’s own room, will have ever slept in his bed and not a hotel bed.

Alex turns, clad only in his shorts and even in the low light Sidney can make out his frown. “Sidney?”

Shaking his head Sidney finishes removing his shirt and tosses it in the general direction of his shoes. “I’ve never slept in your actual bed.” It makes him feel guilty, about how Alex has always came to Pittsburgh and he resolves to do a better job at trying to come down here.”

With a smile Alex shrugs and holds out a hand. “Is good bed. Maybe Christmas.”

It sounds like an offhand invitation, but Sidney can see the question on Alex’s face, and he nods. He already knows there isn’t going to be enough time to go home to see his parents and Taylor, but if he plans it correctly, he’ll be able to spend some time with Alex during the short holiday they get. “I would like that.”

Alex beams, wiggling his fingers and Sidney quickly slips out of his pants. The bed is rumpled, the duvet thrown haphazardly aside and almost on the floor, which makes Sidney think he was right about Alex being in bed. He grabs the duvet, pulling it back onto the bed as he settles into the sheets, pulling one of the pillows closer.

Dragging the duvet up, as the room feels a little chilly, he watches as Alex closes the door before turning off the lights. He laughs, trying to stifle it when he hears Alex curse as he trips over some item of clothing on the floor. The bed dips and Alex is suddenly against him, hand sliding across his stomach.

“Not funny Sid.”

Sidney turns into Alex, drawing the duvet up over his shoulders. “It wouldn’t have been if you’d hurt yourself, but it was. The clothing hasn’t been on the floor that long.”

Humming Alex nuzzles at the line of Sidney’s jaw before kissing him, hand sliding to rest on the crest of his hip. “Was problem. Am glad you here.”

Eyes drifting closed Sidney moves closer to Alex. He knows they won’t stay this way for long, but it feels nice, the warm familiar press of their bodies and the slow sweep of a thumb against his hip. Now that he is in bed the game and the last week is catching up with him and between his exhaustion and the banked fire of Alex against him, he slowly falls asleep.

-----

The last thing Sidney wants to do is move, even though he knows it isn’t an option. He needs to get back to the hotel before they leave, and he can’t expect Jordan to cover for him if he’s late. If he has to keep Sidney’s secret, he’ll collapse like a badly made sandcastle and that isn’t something Sidney wants to risk. Alex is still soundly asleep next to him, arm curled in the space between them.

Sidney fights down the urge to touch but doesn’t. There is no reason Alex shouldn’t get to enjoy sleeping in and he slowly slides from the bed, barely lifting the duvet. Weak sunlight streams in around the drawn curtains and Sidney manages to dress though he leaves his shoes off, like it will make a difference in his ability to sneak around.

He makes it downstairs without any issues and ducks into the kitchen, heading for the fridge. Right inside the door he finds a few bottles of water and he takes one, knowing Alex won’t mind. Twisting the lid off he takes a long drink before getting his phone out. He calls a taxi and leans back against the counter, content to wait in the warmth.

Five minute later Alex shambles into the kitchen, hair in a mad riot. He levels a sleepy, upset look at Sidney before shuffling over to lean against him. “Not wake me.”

Sidney shrugs. “I didn’t see a reason for us to both be up at such an awful hour.” He gently elbows Alex. “I was going to text you when I got to the hotel. I wouldn’t have left without saying goodbye.”

Alex shakes his head, smiling faintly. “Take nap after you leave. Have time before review.”

“Alright.” Sidney pushes back against the other man until they are leaning against each other. “You can keep me company until my taxi gets here.”

Silence falls between them and Sidney rests his head on Alex’s shoulder, eyes falling shut. He would love nothing more than to crawl back into bed and curl against him, but he can’t. It feels like seconds later that he hears a car outside and he straightens up, bending to slip his shoes on. He glances up at Alex as he ties the laces. “Going to walk me to the door?”

Grinning Alex follows him, only to catch his elbow just as they reach the door and Sidney turns with a questioning look. Alex’s fingers stroke against his arm. “Christmas?”

There is an almost hesitance to the single word and Sidney nods, reaching up to run his fingers down the familiar, crooked shape of Alex’s nose. He presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth before stepping back. “I would love too. I’ll see you then.”

“Bye Sidney.”

There is something in the way Alex says his name that makes something inside him squirm with pleasure and Sidney smiles. “Bye.”

The drive back to the hotel gives him time to think and he knows he is probably smiling like a smitten idiot, but the driver isn’t paying any attention to him and Sidney finds he doesn’t care. He enjoys spending time with Alex and he beyond playing hockey he can’t remember ever being this happy. It still feels odd, when he had been so miserable this time last year, but the change in his feeling has no little part to do with Alex.

He gets back to the hotel in time for a quick shower and he takes advantage of that fact, making sure he isn’t wearing anything the team saw him in yesterday. Exiting his room he nearly trips over Geno, Jordan and Flower who all look tired.

Flower glances at him as they head to the elevator, a frown pulling at his face. “You look awful well rested.”

Sidney shrugs, hoping he isn’t blushing as he remembers how nice it had felt to fall asleep next to Alex, the warmth and satisfaction of waking next to him. “I slept alright.”

Next to him Jordan makes a sound and Sidney glares at him, even as Flower turns to look at Jordan, dark brows drawn together. With a panicked expression on his face Jordan’s eyes dart between Sidney and Flower before he decides Sidney is a bigger problem. “Sorry, I choked on spit.”

Flower frowns, like he doesn’t believe Jordan, but he evidently decides he doesn’t care much because he shrugs.

As they wait for the elevator Sidney can feel Geno watching him, undoubtedly wanting to ask him where he spent the night and he clutches at his bag, hoping he doesn’t. He doubts he’ll be able to come up with a convincing lie on the spot and he can’t rely on Jordan or the others will turn on him for answers. The elevator dings and they pile in, Sidney tucking himself against the wall. In his peripheral vision he can see Geno edging closer and he shakes his head.

Geno takes the hint, sighing as he moves closer to Jordan and Flower. It makes Sidney feel bad, as alienating Geno is the last thing he wants, but he isn’t sure he’s ready to talk about Alex with him. It was hard enough trying to explain it to Jordan, how he feels for Alex and sure as hell isn’t ready to talk about it with the person he until very recently was in love with.

They spill out into the lobby, where some of the others are milling around and Sidney takes advantage of the press to duck between Jordan and Duper.

Chapter Text

Exiting the airport Sidney zips his coat up and draws his hat further down over his ears. There is snow on the ground, and he isn’t sure, but he thinks it might be colder here than it was in Pittsburgh. At least when he left, he could feel his face, but the air here is stinging his cheeks and he hopes it doesn’t take long to get a taxi.

Luckily there are a few loitering around, hoping to pick up a late holiday traveler and it isn’t long before he is in the back of a taxi, feeling slowly returning to his fingers. Traffic is terrible and Sidney leans back in the seat, expecting it to be a long trip. It is, with the holiday crush of people heading to parties and last minute shopping and Sidney is glad when they pull up in front of Alex’s house. Paying the cab driver he grabs his bag, wincing as he slides out of the car, the cold biting at his cheeks.

There are lights up in the windows and it makes him laugh as he heads up the stairs to the front door. He has just raised his hand to knock when the door swings open and Alex grins at him, reaching out to catch the strap of his bag.

Sidney laughs, letting Alex pull him inside and he tips his head back as he kicks the door closed behind him. “Hi.”

Alex drags his lips along Sidney’s jaw before catching his mouth in a kiss, hand resting on the back of his neck. He nips at his lower lip before pulling back. “Hello.”

Dropping his bag to the floor Sidney kisses Alex again, catching the faintest hint of alcohol and he pushes his hands up under the garish shirt he’s wearing. He curves his hands over Alex’s sides. “Been celebrating already?”

“Have drink at holiday party.” Alex dips his head to nuzzle at the underside of Sidney’s jaw, lips brushing against the thrum of his pulse. “Then come home and wait. Want drink?”

Alex’s breath tickles against his throat and Sidney nods. He had left directly from their own party, sticking with water, since he was going to be flying. Luckily it hadn’t been anything unusual from him, so no one had called him on it, though his other behaviors might have led to the others suspecting something today, as he hadn’t been able to settle. It had been a struggle to not look at his watch every five minutes and he had had done his best to mingle with the team. He had stayed for two hours before leaving, Jordan leering at him as he had left, though he hadn’t talked to anyone about his plans.

Even his mother was in the dark, though she had probably suspected his reason for not coming home, if the warmth in her voice had been any indication when he had called to talk to her. The words had been on the tip of his tongue to tell her, as she had probably been aware of his feelings for Geno before he had ever known himself. In the end he hadn’t though, not quite sure how to broach the subject.

He steps back from Alex, reaching between them to unzip his coat. It is barely off his shoulders before Alex is taking it and tossing it aside, his bag falling to the floor with it. Sidney glances at him. “Really?”

With an unrepentant grin Alex kisses him, tugging him toward the kitchen. “No one here to get mad. Just us.”

The kitchen is dimly lit but still looks warm and Sidney watches as Alex gets down two big mugs before going to a slow cooker on the counter. Carefully moving Alex fills both mugs before turning to hold one out to him.

He has no idea what Alex hands him, but it is warm and smells pleasantly of tea, cherry and just a faint hint of lemon. Taking a drink he smiles, because it is just the right amount of sweet and it would be easy to drink all of it. He takes another drink, noticing the way Alex is watching him, waiting for signs of his approval.

Alex nods and grins as he fills a cup for himself before putting the lid back on the slow cooker. “Mama make before she leave. Want to make sure you like it.”

Sidney curls his hand around the mug. “It is really good. Do you think if I asked nicely, she would give me the recipe?”

Laughing Alex catches Sid’s mouth in a quick kiss before steering him back in the direction of the living room. “Yes. Mama still think you nice boy.”

Sidney sinks down on the big couch and toes his shoes off, pushing them aside. He moves his mug to the other hand and edges closer to Alex. They could probably fit three more people on the couch with them, but it seems pointless to pretend they aren’t going to end up pressed together at some point in the next few hours. “I am nice.”

Alex snorts into his mug, eyes bright above the rim and Sidney can’t help but grin. This is something he’s glad hasn’t changed between them, the back and forth that is filled with warmth. “You think so.”

Taking another drink Sidney leans towards Alex. “Your mom says I’m nice. Are you saying you don’t think your mom is right?”

Eyes widening Alex reaches over, curling his hand over the back of Sidney’s neck, fingers pressing warmly into his skin. “If mama know you better, she not think so, but she still like you.” He closes the distance between them, dragging his lips along the line of Sidney’s jaw. “Not as much as I do.”

Sidney closes his eyes, tipping his head when Alex nips at the point of his jaw. “Good to know.”

Alex laughs, squeezing his neck before sitting back.

Alex turns the TV on, and they end up watching Christmas movies, some of which Sidney remembers from when he was younger, and it fills him with a nostalgic warmth. It isn’t long before he and Alex are pressed together, elbows bumping as they breath and he likes it, the press and the fact they aren’t talking about hockey. There will be enough time for that later, but right now, inside the warmth of the living room all that matters is them.

He loses track of the number of times he or Alex get up to refill their mugs, and more than once Alex comes back with some cookies. Sidney eats more of them than he cares to think about, though he can excuse it this once, since this Christmas isn’t like any of his others.

At some point their mugs end up abandoned on the floor and Sidney is half sprawled across Alex on the couch, hand curled into his shirt. He has long since stopped paying attention to whatever movie is playing and he doubts Alex is either.

Yawning he presses his forehead into Alex’s shoulder, eyes falling shut. He is already tired, and it would be easy to fall asleep like this, even though he knows he would regret it come tomorrow morning. Alex’s hand pushes up under his shirt, fingers rubbing in a slow circle and he smiles.

“Going to fall asleep on me Sidney.”

Alex’s voice rumbles through him and Side shakes his head. “Am not.” It sounds weak to him and he settles closer to Alex, minutes sliding by in a wash of contentment.

He grumbles when Alex moves under him but he slowly sits up, blinking at Alex who is smiling softly, looking as tired as he feels. “Don’t say you aren’t about to fall asleep too.”

Sliding his hand from under Sidney’s shirt Alex wiggles from under him and stands, offering his hand. “Was long day, waiting for you.”

“I bet it was.” Sidney stands but doesn’t let go of Alex’s hand. It feels so trivial, to be holding hands, but nothing about their relationship has been normal, including this and Sidney finds he likes it. He waits as Alex turns off the TV and rolls his eyes when Alex leaves the mugs on the floor.

Exiting the living room Sidney suddenly remembers his bag, abandoned near the front door and he looks at Alex. “Give me a second.” He grabs his bag, following Alex upstairs to his room, laughing when the other man catches his hand again, like he needs help finding his way through the dark house.

Alex flips a switch, warm light filling the room and he drags Sidney close, hand sliding across the small of his back. “Am glad you came.”

Sidney tucks his face against Alex’s neck, fingers hooking under the waistband of his pants. “So am I.” It had been a growing anticipation under his skin, almost from the moment he had agreed the last time he had been here. A day hadn’t passed when he hadn’t thought of it even in passing and just thinking about it had helped on the days nothing had seemed to go his way.

When he had woken this morning the anticipation had been more like an itch and Sidney was glad the flight from Pittsburgh to DC was so short. Sitting still had been a fight and he isn’t sure the formidable matriarch in the seat next to him would have glared at him if he had disrupted her reading during the flight. He had managed to focus on their last game, which they had lost, just barely, going over what he could have done differently, and it had worked.

Alex’s fingers drag down his back. “Going to sleep like this?”

“No.” Sidney draws back, shivering as he pulls back. “But you keep distracting me.”

In answer Alex kisses him, slow and sweet before smiling. “Is not hard Sidney.”

Sidney shoves at him, grinning as his cheeks turn pink. “Shut up.” It sounds juvenile, but Alex grins and he ducks his head, pulling his shirt off. Alex’s fingers skate across his stomach and he bats at his hand, Alex laughing as he sheds his own shirt, tossing it aside.

He digs his toiletry bag out and ducks into the bathroom, closing the door in Alex’s face and he smiles when he hears him mutter on the other side. It doesn’t take him long to get ready for bed and he leaves his bag on the counter, tucked out of the way as he leaves the bathroom, turning the light off as he does.

Alex is already in bed and Sidney slips into the cool sheets, tucking his feet against Alex’s calves as he draws the blankets up. He feels Alex move behind him and the room is plunged into darkness. A few seconds later Alex’s hand trails across his shoulders before falling away, though he can still feel the trail of heat and he smiles.

-----

The room is still dark when Sidney wakes up and he has no idea what time it is, not that it matters. It’s Christmas and with nothing pressing today, he’s planning on taking advantage of the day off and Alex’s presence. Rolling over he tucks himself against Alex’s back, hand splayed between his shoulders and Sidney closes his eyes.

Parts of this still feel unreal, him in Alex’s bed, touching as much as he wants. Even now, with the last few months he can’t imagine being anywhere else, despite the fact it never feels like they have enough time together. It feels like Alex’s touch has been burned into his skin and it is almost embarrassing how easily he can recall the sound of his voice, the way he feels when Alex presses close with a teasing grin.

He drifts back to sleep.

-----

When he wakes a second time watery light is filtering around the curtains and he groans, pressing his face into the pillow. He isn’t tired, but today is Christmas and there isn’t a good reason to get out of bed. Especially not with the way Alex is pressed against his back, hand dragging designs across his stomach that are soothing rather than arousing and Sidney lifts his head from the pillow. “Morning.”

Lips brush across his shoulders. “Morning Sid.”

Alex doesn’t seem any more inclined to getting out of bed than Sidney is, which is fine with him. This is the one day a year he doesn’t feel guilty about not getting up early and now he has more reason to enjoy it than usual. He closes his eyes again, content to just drift, basking in the warm glide of Alex’s fingers on his stomach.

He isn’t sure which one of them moves first but he turns, smiling at Alex’s appalling bedhead and the brightness of his eyes, hidden under the dark fan of his lashes. “I don’t know about you, but I could do with something to eat.”

Nodding Alex presses another kiss to his shoulder before pulling away. He rakes a hand through his hair, which does nothing to improve the spikes. “You take this bathroom. I use other one.”

Sidney stretches, not leaving the bed until Alex has disappeared out of the room. He heads into the bathroom with his toiletry bag, smiling when he sees clean towels sitting next to the shower. Alex had likely set them there last night and it makes warmth bloom in his chest. Such little domestic things shouldn’t make him feel this way, but he likes it.

He keeps his shower quick, though it is hard, with the way the water pounds on his shoulders and it feels like he would be able to fall asleep. Getting out he quickly dries off before dressing and it is with a grin, he purposefully grabs one of the millions of Penguins shirts he owns and packed on purpose. He isn’t above a little pettiness.

Padding down to the kitchen Sidney smiles when he sees Alex pulling containers out of the fridge, and the huge amount still neatly stocked on the shelves. “Holy shit.”

Alex turns to look at Sidney, his nose wrinkling in disgust when he sees the Pittsburgh shirt he’s wearing. “Mama make sure we have plenty of food.”

“I would say so.” Sidney stops behind Alex, hand sliding up his back to curl against his shoulder as he takes a closer look at the contents of the fridge. “And now you know how I feel every time you wear a Capitals’ shirt in my house.”

With a sigh Alex sets another container on the counter and closes the door. He half turns and catches Sidney’s other arm, dragging him close. Glancing down at the penguin across the front he shakes his head, his hand coming up to curl under Sidney’s chin. He tips his head back, pressing a quick kiss to the corner of Sidney’s mouth. “Give you shirt to wear. Have lots.” He kisses him again. “Still like you in my clothes.”

Heat pools in Sidney at the thought, but he smiles and shakes his head. “Nope. If I have to deal with Capitals in my house, you can deal with the penguin.”

Alex mutters something Sidney can’t make out, but he can tell from the smile it isn’t anything bad. Instead he turns his attention to all the containers Alex has pulled out of the fridge. “Are we eating all this?”

“No. Have breakfast tomorrow too.” Alex looks at Sid and smiles. “But is Christmas. Is time to eat good food.”

Sidney knows he is likely going to regret this for a few days, but he recalls Tatyana’s food being delicious and he has always been a good guest. “Alright. What do you need me to do?”

Alex points at a stack of containers. “Need to go in pans to reheat. Pans next to stove.”

It takes some looking, because there are several cabinets next to the stove, but Sidney manages to find the pots in question. Getting three out he opens the containers and dumps them in before turning the heat on low under all of them. He glances at Alex who is still sorting through containers, prying off lids and setting them aside.

Finding what he is looking for Alex puts a few of the containers back in the fridge. He grins at Sidney. “Only take few minutes to heat everything up.”

Without further direction Sidney finds spoons and sticks with his appointed task of heating the food on the stove. He can’t name any of what he’s looking at, but the smells rising are delicious and he can’t wait to try it all.

Still stirring he watches as Alex sticks containers in the microwave before bustling through the cabinets to get plates as well as silverware and glasses. Each time the microwave goes off Alex rushes back over, to stir or put a new container in and it makes Sidney laugh. Once he is sure the food on the stove is hot, nearly burning his finger when he tests it, Sidney moves the pans to the table, making sure a potholder is under each one.
Before he can offer to help move the rest of the food Alex thrusts serving spoons into his hands and shoves him in the direction of the table. “Are you sure you don’t need any help?”

“Yes. No, juice from fridge then good.”

Sidney does as he is told, filling their glasses before putting the juice away. He tries to help Alex again but gets shoved towards the table for his trouble, and he can take a hint, no matter what his teammates might think. Sitting down he pulls Alex’s chair out for him, as he’s burdened with three precariously balanced containers.

Alex manages to slide them onto the table, and he darts away for a loaf of bread before dropping into the seat next to Sidney. Resting a hand on the back of Sidney’s chair he leans over to kiss the corner of his mouth before smiling. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas.”

Everything tastes as good as it smells, and Sidney is going to have to find a way to thank Tatyana for this. It’s obvious she spent a lot of time preparing and making all the food and she deserves recognition for it. Sidney eats more than he normally would, and he knows he might regret it later, but it would be worse to let such good food go to waste.

After they finish eating, he ignores Alex’s protests about cleaning up and they wash dishes side by side, not speaking. Once everything is clean, he lets Alex pull him into the living room and they collapse back on the big couch. Alex turns the TV on, bypassing the Christmas movies and he finds an old game, though not one of theirs.

Sidney gladly leans into him and they spend most of the game sniping at each other, disagreeing about every play just for the fun of it. The first game turns into a second and they continue, Sidney refusing to agree, even when he knows he really should. But it is worth it, for the way Alex’s whole focus is on him, like if he thinks hard enough Sidney will join his side.

Sometime after noon Sidney is struck with the sudden urge to move and he slides from the couch. Rather than answering Alex’s questioning look he heads upstairs to change into actual clothing and Alex follows, with a bemused look, changing as Sidney waits patiently in the doorway to his room.

It is still bitterly cold but they go outside, wandering around the big yard, leaving footprints in the crunchy snow and Sidney smiles when Alex bumps into him. They don’t go inside until his cheeks are numb from the cold and as soon as they enter the house Alex crowds him against the wall, mouth dragging a trail of fire along his jaw and Sidney curls his hands into the hem of Alex’s coat.

He slides his hands up, finding skin and Alex yelps, pulling back with a betrayed look and Sidney can’t help but laugh. “Sorry.”

“Are not.” Alex nips at his lower lip before dislodging Sidney’s hands. “Can think of better way to warm up.”

The promise is his voice, the way Alex is looking at him makes Sidney shiver and he shakes his head. “Later.”

Alex huffs but steals another kiss before moving back to shed his coat and kick off his snow crusted shoes. Sidney does the same, fingers tingling as they warm up and they go into the kitchen.

Rather than eating lunch they settle for snacking and Sidney isn’t sure when, but he knows he falls asleep against Alex’s side. When he wakes later it is fully dark outside and he is hungry. He nudges Alex, who also had fallen asleep sometime. Alex wakes up and Sidney leans in to kiss him.

Fingers curl over the back of his neck, tipping his head and Sidney lets Alex take control of the kiss. It stays easy and light, until Sidney draws back, laughing when the other man tries to reel him in. “Food first.”

“Is good.” Fingers dragging down Sidney’s neck Alex slides from the couch, pulling Sidney behind him.

For dinner they break into the other half of what Tatyana made for them and all of it was as delicious as breakfast. Once they’re done eating, they repeat the morning, cleaning up and Sidney even wipes down both counters, much to Alex’s amusement. Before he can go any further Alex grabs his wrist, tugging gently. “Is fine Sidney.”

They end watching another Christmas movie, though Sidney isn’t paying any more attention to this one than he has any of the others. In his defense though, it is hard to focus when Alex’s fingers are dragging up and down his side. It should be ticklish but instead the slow movement has a curl of arousal uncoiling in his stomach with every brush.

He wiggles, not sure whether he wants to move closer or slide away but he decides on moving closer. Alex’s grin is warm, and he leans in to kiss him, not surprised when Alex pulls him into his lap, knees digging into the big couch and a bolt of lust kindles a fire in him. The last time they had been like this everything had almost fallen apart, and Sidney wants to replace that memory.

Alex seems to feel the same, if the way his hands push under his shirt is any indication and Sidney rests his hands on Alex’s shoulders. He drags his thumbs up and down the line of his throat before ducking his head to kiss him.

-----

Sidney isn’t quite sure when they moved upstairs but he stretches, body heavy with satisfaction and he rolls onto his stomach. Alex’s hand trails down his back, over his ass and down his thigh before trailing up his other leg and Sidney lifts his head from the pillow to look at him. “There is no way.”

Laughing Alex dots kisses across the line of his shoulder before settling close, hand sliding under Sidney. “No. Just like to touch.”

Which is something Sidney has come to appreciate since this started. Beyond camaraderie on the ice, he has never been one for much touching, but Alex has touched him since the beginning, as though getting him used to the idea, and it has worked. Now it seems like they’re always touching, even if it just shoulders and Sidney likes it.

Stretching again, Alex’s hand warm against his side Sidney closes his eyes.

-----

Alex is downstairs cleaning up from breakfast and Sidney flips on the room light. His bag is still in the corner of the room, where he kicked it Christmas morning and across the top is a haphazardly folded grey shirt. He frowns as he approaches the bag, knowing he didn’t pack anything grey. As he gets closer there is a hint of red on the shirt and Sidney smiles.

Kneeling he folds the shirt a little more carefully before tucking into his bag. He follows it with his bag of toiletries and zips it just, lifting the bag and heading downstairs.

Alex is at the bottom of the stairs and he smiles when he sees Sidney, eyes darting to his bag. As Sidney reaches the last stair Alex leans towards him. “Have everything?”

Not wanting to give up the game Sidney pats his bag. “I do, since we aren’t going to see each other until All-Star and I would hate to leave anything here.” Even though All-Star is only a few weeks away Sidney knows there is no chance either of them are going to be able to escape to see each other. Their schedules are stacked, and Pittsburgh is on a road trip while Washington gets to stay home.

Making a face Alex wraps his fingers around Sidney’s elbow, tugging until he steps down. Alex’s other hand comes up, fingers gliding down the back of his neck and Sidney shivers, eyes falling shut. The last two days have been great and like last time, adjusting to going back to not being able to reach out and touch is going to take a little to get used to.

Alex kisses him, licking into his mouth and Sidney presses closer, free hand curling into the front of his sweatshirt, rumpling the Capitals’ logo. The last two days have been enjoyable, and Sidney knows he’s going to think fondly of this Christmas for a long time to come. He pulls back, hand coming up to drag his fingers under Alex’s jaw and he can’t help but laugh at the look on his face. “I would much rather continue, but I also have a flight to catch.”

Alex frowns and kisses him hard before nodding. His frown falls away and grinning, he pulls Sidney’s bag from him, slinging the strap over his shoulder. “Okay.”

Sidney shakes his head, smiling at Alex’s shift in mood as they leave the house. Cold wind stings his cheeks and he hurries to get into the car.

The drive to the airport is quiet, which is fine with Sidney. Alex’s hand is warm on his thigh and he wants to be able to remember it clearly, the time they had spent together, the loud arguments over the few old games they had watched and waking up in the same bed with Alex. It hadn’t felt as odd as he had thought it would and he had liked waking up next to him, a shiver running up his back.
Alex pulls the car into a drop off spot and puts it in park before undoing his seatbelt so he can turn to look at Sidney.

Sidney smiles, though he knows it probably looks a little forced. “I had a great time and tell your mom thank you. All of the food was great.”

Nodding Alex reaches over, hand curling over the back of his neck and Sidney gives into the gentle pressure, leaning in. He closes his eyes when their foreheads touch and he huffs a laugh, because this is the exact way things had ended the first time he had ever come to see Alex and it seems fitting this time together ends like this.

Knowing he still needs to get through security Sidney pulls back, neck cool when Alex’s hand falls away. He tamps down on the urge to kiss Alex, as now isn’t the time but he settles for dragging his thumb down the line of his nose. “I’ll see you at All-Star.”

With a grin Alex leans in. “Not soon enough.”

Sidney feels the same way, but he isn’t going to voice it. “You’ll survive.”

Getting out of the car Sidney ducks his head against the wind and doesn’t look back.

-----

His house feels empty, lacking any of the even slight decorations Alex had put up and Sidney drops his bag on the bed. It seems like a silly thing to worry about, but Alex’s house had been warm and inviting in a way his never seems to manage unless Alex is here and Sidney snorts. Alex seems to have wormed his way into every aspect of his life and he is okay with it. He heads upstairs, leaving most of the lights off as he does.

Opening the bag Sidney reaches in for the clothing he didn’t wear, because he overpacked, when his fingers hit something square. He frowns as he draws the item out, knowing he hadn’t packed anything hard, or square in his bags. It turns out to be a plain black box, but it bears more than a passing resemblance to a jeweler’s box and it makes his breath catch in his throat. He has no idea what to expect, not with Alex involved and he swallows.

Curiosity curls in his stomach and he drums his fingers against the top. With the way it was tucked into his bag, assuring he wouldn’t find it until he got home, the box’s presence in his bag was in no way an accident on Alex’s part. And he has the feeling the shirt on top was as much a diversion as a callback to Alex liking him in his clothing.

Sidney glances at his bag, where the shirt is spilling from the opening and now, he can see the 8 on the sleeve, as well as the edge of a wing and it makes him smile. He looks back at the box still cradled in his hands and with his heartbeat loud in his ears he slowly lifts the lid.

A heavy platinum chain catches his gaze first and he follows the links to the bottom. He can’t help the surprised sound he makes when he reaches the bottom and he’s glad no one is here to witness him, because he’s sure he looks like an idiot. At the base of the loop, also in platinum is an intricate ‘87’, both numbers highlighted with black.

Feeling unsteady, warmth running through him Sidney carefully removes the chain, holding it up until the numbers dangle in front of him. He catches the numbers, sliding his thumb over the front and he frowns when he realizes the back feels odd against his hand, not smooth like he was expecting.

Eyes narrowed Sidney turns the pendant over, heart catching in his throat and he feels a little lightheaded. The back of the 8 is raised and gold in color and Sidney drags his thumb over it, unable to keep from smiling. Since he started spending time with Alex, he has come to realize one thing about the other man. Alex never does anything important without careful deliberation and Sidney is sure this was done with months of thinking on his part.

This is Alex’s way of reminding him how he feels even with the distance between them and Sidney is floored by it. Hand closing around the pendant, chain falling over his fist he scrabbles for his phone and unlocks the screen. He opens the conversation with Alex and manages to type out thank you.

It feels like a sad response to such a gift, but he can’t seem to make his mind formulate anything else. His thoughts feel scattered and if he had ever doubted Alex’s feelings for him before, he doesn’t now. Uncurling his fingers he drags his thumb over the pendant, the uneven feel of it making him feel grounded. He fumbles the latch open and gets it on, tucking the pendant under his shirt and it is already warm from his touch.

The 8 settles against his chest, a welcome weight and Sidney glances at his phone.

On his phone the light flashes and he picks it back up.

Are most welcome Sidney

Chapter Text

It doesn’t take long before the chain and pendant from Alex become like a part of him. Sidney even likes the way it feels against his skin, slightly off balance because of the double sided 8.

Which is why he doesn’t think about it when he heads to practice two weeks later. So far no one on the team has seen it, which doesn’t bother him. Frankly it isn’t anyone’s business which is why he jerks back when Flower is suddenly in his space, dark eyes narrowed as he looks at the pendant and Sidney is glad the chain isn’t twisted, because trying to explain away the golden 8 on the back would be a nightmare.

Shaking his head Flower pulls back with a grin. “Really Crosby, your own number? If you love it so much, why don’t you get it tattooed on your ass, so it’ll always be with you.”

Years ago something like this might have made Sidney angry, but he’s matured, and he knows Flower is only saying it because this is how their relationship is. He reaches out, flicking the other man in the year, grinning when Flower yelps and raises a protective hand. “You’re just jealous no one likes you or your number.”

Jordan laughs, subsiding when Flower frowns at him and Sidney watches as Flower stomps back to his stall, before flopping on the bench like a teenager throwing a tantrum.

With a laugh Sidney grabs a shirt and shrugs it on, fingers brushing over the chain and he can’t help but smile.

-----

Feeling tired and beaten Sidney takes a shower. Practice had been especially brutal today and right now he doesn’t feel like he’s ever going to recover. He lets the hot water beat on his shoulders until he feels likes he can move again and even then, he lingers a few minutes longer, until his skin feels too tight. Less drawn out Sidney exits the shower and grabs a towel. Drying his hair he wanders into his room, the air almost too cool against his damp skin.

Wandering to the dresser Sid opens the drawer and pulls on a pair of shorts. He has no plans for the rest of today besides recovering from practice and he doesn’t see any reason to

His shirt from Alex is tucked in a drawer with his socks, away from any of his other shirts. It would be too easy to mistake it for one of his in a hurry and this is much safer. He withdraws the shirt from the drawer, where it has been since Christmas and shakes it out. A slow curl of heat blooms in his chest and Sidney isn’t sure if its because this is Alex’s shirt or the odd idea of wearing a piece of clothing from another team.

Rather than dwelling on the thought Sidney pulls the shirt on. He rolls his shoulders to settle the fabric and it feels so different, bigger across the chest and shoulders than he is used to, but he likes the way it feels. And he can tell from the softness this shirt isn’t new but is one Alex has owned for years. He drags his fingers over the 8 on the arm, the warm feeling slithering through him and Sidney knows he has it bad.

-----

All-Star finally comes around, for which Sidney is grateful, and not just because it means he gets to see Alex for a few days. The last two weeks have been a living hell, with them losing more of their games than they’ve won, and nothing seems to be working. They’ve changed lines what feels like a dozen different times and even in practice they’ve been tripping over each other like none of them know how to skate. It has led to a lot of frustration and snapping and Sidney just wants it to end.

They can’t play well if they’re all tied up in knots and Sidney is hoping this break will give him and the others a chance to unwind and figure out what has been going wrong.

His phone jumps where he has it on the table and he ignores it, knowing it is Geno. They’re driving to the airport together and he can’t help but laugh as he snatches his bag up. It seems strange, that this time last year he was still so wrapped up in Geno he couldn’t tell up from down and now he can be around him without hating his life.

Sidney gets into the car and Geno looks exactly like he feels, worn down and frustrated. “Maybe after this we’ll be able to work it out.”

Geno’s response is more grunt than word, which is fine with Sidney. He knows Geno feels the same way he does, and he really hopes this weekend will solve their problems.

-----

Sidney manages to sleep a little on the flight to Vancouver and he feels better afterwards. Geno looks a little less dragged out and Sidney wants to take that as a sign this weekend is going to be good for them. They catch a shuttle to the hotel and Sidney relaxes into the seat. He had felt his phone vibrate in his pocket but whatever it is will wait.

In a surprising twist, it doesn’t take long to get to the hotel, and it takes even less time to get checked in. Like last year, his and Geno’s rooms are on the same floor and Sidney follows him to the elevator. “Dinner tonight?”

Stifling a yawn Geno nods. “Yes. Six?”

“Yeah.” Sidney fights the urge to yawn and he is glad his and Geno’s relationship is back on even footing. While he had been pining and trying to avoid his friend this had been strained, the easy way they can communicate with so few words and it is a wonder they didn’t have more problems on the ice.

The elevator glides to a stop on their floor and Sidney follow Geno out. His room is first and Sidney waves as he unlocks the door.

Dumping his bag on the floor to his room Sidney pockets his key and heads for the door. Alex had arrived nearly two hours ago and when his own flight had landed there had been a single text of a room number. It had taken what felt like forever to get his bags and then the drive to the hotel had been another long trip.

Alex’s room is two floors down and the hallways are blissfully empty of people. Sidney leans against the frame and knocks, hoping the other man is in his room and hasn’t wandered off. The door swings open and he nearly falls in, Alex’s sudden grip on his elbow helping to keep him on his feet. Alex pulls him further into the room and Sidney nudges the door closed with his foot before looking at him. “Were you standing there waiting for me?”

“Maybe.” Alex grins, brushing a kiss across the sweep of Sidney’s cheek before drawing him in with a strong arm around his shoulders.

It certainly isn’t the welcome Sidney was expecting, not with the fact they haven’t seen each other since Christmas but he leans into Alex’s solid warmth, and tucks his face against his neck, arm sliding around his waist. This is just as good, and he closes his eyes. It has been almost scary to realize how entangled he has become in Alex, not just since the beginning of their friendship but since the change in their relationship.

He smiles. “Do you want to have dinner with Geno and I tonight?”

Alex makes a sound, hand stroking against his shoulder. “Rather spend night with you, but Zhenya okay too.”

There is a trace of a laugh in Alex’s voice and Sidney smiles, knowing Alex is being difficult because he can. Alex might be upset, on his behalf, that Geno didn’t tell him about Oksana, but he isn’t going to let it interfere with their relationship. He and Geno have too much history without him in it and Sidney doesn’t begrudge them their friendship.

“You like Geno.”

Alex’s fingers press against his arm, other hand gliding along the waistband of his pants, though it seems more in absent thought than a start to anything. “Not as much as you.”

Sidney snorts a laugh. “I sure hope not.” He shakes his head against the thought and leans further into Alex.

A few times they hear voices in the hallway but neither of them move and Sidney knows it would be easy to give in and he pulls away. “Alright. I really need a shower.”

Laughing he shoves at Alex when he wiggles his eyebrows and leers. “Alone, where I don’t have to worry about getting distracted by you. Geno isn’t going to be understanding if we’re late for dinner.”

Alex rolls his eyes but releases Sidney, fingers gliding away in a teasing manner. “Zhenya forgive us. You think he not late for same reason.”

Sidney shakes his head, since that isn’t really something he wants in his head. “I’m not going to think about it. Geno is my friend that is wrong.”

Alex’s look is telling, and Sidney throws his hands up, knowing he shouldn’t have said anything. A few months ago this conversation would have taken a vastly different direction but now, all he feels for Geno is a deep camaraderie, like they had when Geno had first joined the team. There isn’t room for other feelings, not when he is so tangled up in Alex.

“I know.” He steps in, catching Alex’s chin and tugging him into a quick kiss. “I’ll come get you for dinner.”

He grins, sidestepping Alex’s grasping hand. Giving in will be easy if he lets Alex touch him again. And it is tempting, as being close is making it easier to not think about how abysmally the team has been playing lately, he can’t give in. They’ll never make it to dinner.

Alex follows him towards the door and Sidney stays a step ahead of him, pulling the door open because he wants to believe he’ll be safe if there might be witnesses. Glancing over his shoulder Sidney grins at Alex. “I’ll be back around six.”

He laughs at the look on Alex’s face before closing the door and heading for the elevator.

-----

Five minutes before six Sidney knocks on the door to Alex’s room, though he doesn’t fall into the trap from earlier today. He stands well back from the door, smiling when Alex opens it. “Ready?”

Alex nods, stepping out of his room. “Zhenya meet us?”

“Yeah. He fell asleep and didn’t wake up until I called him. He’ll be in the lobby.” Sidney heads for the elevator, Alex just close enough he can feel his heat and he knows he closes the distance a little between them. After last All-Star he doubts anyone is going to be surprised to see them together and he might as well take advantage of it.

The elevator is empty, and they lean against the back wall in silence. Sidney watches as the floors tick by and he leans towards Alex, not quite touching and Alex mimics him with a smile, until there is a whisper of space between them. By some miracle they make it to the lobby alone and Sidney pushes away as it slides to a stop.

Geno turns as the elevator opens and he doesn’t even look surprised as he smiles. “Sanja.”

“Zhenya. Sid say you be lazy.”

Geno bristles but good naturedly shoves at Alex as they join him, and Sidney rolls his eyes. He took a bit of nap after his own shower, and he’s sure Alex probably did the same thing. They’ve all learned by now to take advantage of downtime when they have it and All-Star is the last chance they will have for anything approaching a relaxing weekend.

They settle at a small table in the corner of the restaurant, waving to a few of the other players littering the room, though it looks like most of them have decided to go somewhere else for dinner. Sidney hides his smile behind a menu when he feels Alex take the chair next to him and he sees Geno roll his eyes from across the table.

Here in public, with people they know around, there isn’t much Alex can do in the way of touching, not that Sidney thinks it will be safe. Alex is known for being tactile and there are a million different ways he can touch without displaying their secret and Sidney can only hope for once Alex shows some restraint. He does, right up until Sidney feels Alex’s knee press against his and a quick look reveals Alex grinning as he looks

Across from him Geno rolls his eyes again and mumbles something in Russian. Whatever it is makes Alex laugh.

Feeling left out Sidney elbows Alex even as he manages to kick Geno under the table. “None of that. No telling jokes at my expense when I can’t understand them.”

With a laugh Alex throws his arm around Sidney’s shoulder and leans in, close enough Sidney can feel the warm brush of breath on his cheek. “Is okay Sid. Was not joke.”

There is enough of a laugh in Alex’s voice Sidney can’t be sure but a quick look at Geno shows he is nodding, and Sidney decides to let it go. “Alright.” He plants his elbow in the other man’s chest and shoves, until Alex is back in his own seat. “Stop trying to maul me.”

Alex laughs, and Geno rolls his eyes so hard Sidney is afraid they might fall out of his head. Which would be inconvenient as Geno would be damn hard to replace. They enjoy dinner, which drags on as they finish eating and talk about the rest of the season and their upcoming games.

Sidney glances to the edge of the table, where their waiter had dropped the check at some time, while they were busy talking. Geno and Alex are still talking, and Sidney reaches across Alex, just barely getting his hand on the check. He manages to drag it away from Alex, who tries to pry it from him, and he kicks him under the table. “Give up. I said I would pay, after last year.”

Making an aggrieved sound Alex doesn’t relent. “Was drinks last year Sid. This dinner.”

“And I’m still going to pay. And I’ll pay for any drinks we have.” Sidney can feel Geno watching them and it makes him a little self-conscious, though he isn’t sure why. Geno knows about their relationship and it isn’t like he is judging them for this.”

The tug-of-war goes on for a few seconds before Alex finally gives up. “Are stubborn Sidney.”

Sidney laughs as he gets his wallet out and slides a credit card into the folder before reaching around Alex to set it on the edge of the table. “It is one of my endearing traits.”

Alex snorts in disagreement even as Geno barks a laugh and Sidney ignores them. A few minutes later, as they finish their drinks the waiter reappears to take the folder before disappearing and reappearing. Sid signs the receipt, tucking it away before Alex can grab it. “Would you knock it off?”

Grinning Alex leans towards him, hand sliding across his shoulders as he does. “Know you like me Sid. Not be annoyed with me anymore.”

Sidney pushes back from the table, though it doesn’t do anything to help Alex’s arm across his shoulder and he isn’t sure how he ended up closer to him. “Oh, I can still be annoyed, I just won’t be mean.”

Alex leans in closer and Sidney is glad the restaurant has cleared out. Across from him Geno is watching the goings on with a faint smile and Sidney is tempted to kick him.

He is sure he imagines the ghostly touch of lips across his cheek and he just barely manages to not flinch back. “You are really testing this annoyed thing, aren’t you?

Laughing Alex draws back, squeezing Sid’s shoulder before dropping his hand and standing. “Are not annoyed.”

Oh, Sidney is annoyed, but when it is backed with a wash of fondness and other feelings, he can’t really be mad at Alex, at least not for long. “Ask me again later.”

They trail out of the restaurant and Sidney yawns. It makes him feel better when Geno does the same and even Alex is starting to look like the long day and travel is catching up with him. He would much rather spend more time with them, but Sidney doesn’t think any of them are up for it.

By unspoken agreement they head for the elevator and Sidney stabs at the call button. They stand in silence, like dinner has taken it out of them. Alex slowly edges closer to him, until their shoulders are touching, which makes Sidney smile. He can tell Geno is about five seconds away from making fun of them, but the elevator comes to a stop, doors sliding open.

They pile in, Sidney pushing buttons and the ride up is quiet.

The elevator stops on Alex’s floor and he pushes away from the wall. He nods at Geno before smiling at Sid. “See you.”

“Yeah.” Sidney curls his hands against the sleek walls of the elevator. He knows it would be to step off, following Alex to his room. Geno certainly wouldn’t judge him for it, but Sidney finds himself frozen in place. He isn’t ashamed of their relationship, but it still feels odd to be so open about it in front of Geno, so he stays still as the doors slide closed.

He gets off the elevator first, drawing the key from his pocket as he does. “See you tomorrow.”

Geno nods as he heads for his room further down the hallway.

-----

Sidney leans back against the boards and rubs at the back of his neck. It feels like he slept funny last night, the hotel pillows a little softer than he likes, and he had been hoping the knot would come loose in a hot shower and once he got on the ice. So far it doesn’t feel much better and all the standing around isn’t helping.

With the fact All-Star happens every year one would think they would be more coordinated at keeping things moving, but they aren’t. Sidney isn’t even sure what the hold up is, but a quick look around shows a lot of the other players are getting antsy and they might all be adults, but they also have a lot of energy and there might be some mischief if things don’t get moving.

Alex skates up and looks at him, eyes narrow. “Okay Sid?”

Shaking his head Sidney finches at the movement pulls uncomfortably. “My neck is sore. Nothing has helped.”

For a moment Sidney thinks Alex is going to touch him but Alex restrains himself and leans against the boards, close enough his chest is brushing Sidney’s elbow. “I make it better later.”

Sidney nods. “Alright.” A quick look around shows no one is paying much attention to them, as their outward friendship after all these years doesn’t seem to matter anymore. He slants a look at Alex. “But nothing else is happening, at least not tonight.”

Not with the game tomorrow, but there is always the last night. Never mind the fact this is going to be one of the last times he is going to get to see Alex. Their last few games against each other this year aren’t going to leave much time for seeing each other, since they’ll have to sprint off and they might as well make up for it while they can.

Across the ice someone seems to finally realize there is supposed to be a skills competition going on and Sidney straightens up. “Thank fuck. I was starting to think we were going to be here all day.”

From further down the boards he hears similar grumbles from a few of the others. They all seem to feel the same way and he really hopes they do get moving. It isn’t that he has anything against the skills competition, and he enjoys both participating and watching the others, but he is tired of standing around.

-----

Sidney rolls his eyes as Alex celebrates winning hardest shot and he can’t help it. After knowing Alex for this long it has become a conditioned response when Alex is making a fool of himself. Geno is next to him and he shakes his head. “Sanja odd.”

He can’t help but laugh, which makes Geno level a worried look at him. A few of the other loitering players are also looking at him, but Sidney can’t care. Alex is odd, but for so many reasons Geno and the others don’t know. He’s odd for putting up with Sidney’s pining and having to hear about Geno, for putting up with Sidney trying to adjust to the change in their relationship.

Geno moves closer, a worried look twisting his face and he leans down. “Sid?”

Sidney waves a hand, breathing slowly as he tries to stop laughing. “I’m fine Geno. Really.”

The look on his face isn’t reassured but before he can say anything else Alex comes over. His gaze darts between Geno’s worried face and Sidney’s flushed and he frowns. “Is okay?”

Not giving Geno a chance to respond Sidney reaches over to pat Alex’s on the chest. “Everything is fine.”

Alex’s smile is bright, and it makes Sidney happy to see.

-----

Warmth trickles down his neck, centering on the strong fingers rubbing against his skin and Sidney bites back on what would frankly be an embarrassing groan, given what is going on. Alex is sitting next to him, knee tucked almost in his armpit, fingers gliding up and down his neck. He has no idea what the other man used on his neck, but it smells sharp and herbal and has worked wonders for the knot in his neck.

It almost feels like it was never there, and the warmth has pervaded every part of his body. He feels loose and not quite attached like he’s floating. The only thing keeping him grounded is Alex and he shift his body until Alex’s thigh is pressing into his side. “This is good.”

Even his voice sounds relaxed and Alex laughs, fingers sliding under the collar of his shirt before dragging back up. “Feel better?”

Sidney hums in the affirmative, rubbing his cheek against the pillow. It would be easy to fall asleep like this, but he can’t expect Alex to sit here all night. Before he can say so Alex moves, leaning down to brush a kiss to the curve of his cheek before standing.

He moves to follow but Alex keeps him down with a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Stay down Sidney.”

The way Alex says his name makes Sidney squeeze his eyes shut, heat trickling down his back that has nothing to do with anything sexual. He presses his face into the pillow, breath catching in his throat when he feels Alex pull up the sheet he had shoved out of the way when they first got into his room. Such a gesture shouldn’t make him feel so much but it has been like this since the start, Alex taking care of him in ways he hadn’t realized he needed.

“Good night Alex.” Sid hopes Alex can hear what he’s feeling in his voice. He’s afraid if he tries to articulate everything he is thinking and feeling it will backfire miserably. Instead he lifts his head and Alex looks at him, eyes solemn before he kneels next to the bed.

Gentle fingers glide along his cheek, down to cup his chin before Alex leans in and kisses him, slow and easy and Sidney cants his head, bringing their mouths more fully together. The kiss deepens, stealing his breath and he wants to move closer, but Alex breaks the kiss with a teasing nip at his lower lip.

“Going to hurt neck again Sid.”

His neck feels a million times better than it did earlier today, but Sid knows he shouldn’t do anything to aggravate it further. He subsides into the bed and he must look put out if Alex’s soft laugh is any indication. Alex kisses him one last time before standing.

“Night Sidney.”

Sidney presses his face into the pillow. “Night.”

Fingers slide down his neck, rubbing at the collar of his shirt for a moment before Alex leaves, closing the door quietly behind him.

-----

The conversation in the locker room is low and easy, without the tension that would be there if this was a real game. And while this might be nothing more than an exhibition game, there is conference honor on the line and Sidney knows everyone well enough that the East is going to put up a fight. He looks around and its weird to see so many faces he knows from across the ice sharing the same space with him.

Shaking his head Sidney turns into his stall, grabbing at the hem of his shirt as he does. He has the soft fabric halfway over his head before he realizes he is still wearing the pendant and chain from Alex and heat sweeps through his body. It has come off maybe twice since he put it on, and he didn’t even think before wearing it today. And he isn’t sure why he feels so flustered about Alex knowing he’s wearing it. Surely, he at least suspects the presence of it and Sidney can only blame his feeling on the others in the room.

For him the chain and pendant are a secret for he and Alex, and it doesn’t bother him that the team has seen it because they’re more like family than anything. He quickly finishes removing his shirt, tossing it in the stall before he snatches the other one up. Alex is in the stall next to him and he glances over, carefully keeping his shoulder between them.

Alex’s head pops through his shirt and he smiles. Sidney feels his cheeks heat and he cuts his gaze away, not wanting to get caught. He tugs his own shirt on and focuses on continuing to put his gear on.

-----

Even after all the years he and Alex have been voted on for All-Star, and been on the same team, it still feels odd to be on the ice with him like this. Alex grins at him from his position on the wing and Sidney is glad he’s so good at compartmentalizing. He can’t be sure he would be able to function on the ice with Alex if he wasn’t.

-----

They win the game and Sidney laughs as Alex and Geno crush him between them. A few seconds later the rest of their team is pressing them against the boards, and it doesn’t quite feel right, as this isn’t his team, but it doesn’t change the emotion behind it. A dozen different hands slap at his helmet and he loses track of all the shouts and people talking at once, grounded by the way Alex is pressing close, arm across his shoulders.

It takes a few minutes to untangle the mess and Sidney follows the others to fall in a rough line as they shake hands with the other team. The game was good, and they all managed to avoid injuries, which is even better. As soon as Sid reaches the end of the line Alex is immediately back in his space and he’s still high enough on adrenaline he doesn’t care.

He shoves at Alex, only mildly irritated by how he’s still inches taller like this. “If you played like that all the time, we wouldn’t beat you so much.”

Alex rolls his eyes, shoving back. “Only win last one Sid. Beat you two before that.” He leans in. “Not my fault you so easy to distract.”

“I am not!” His sudden yell, so much louder than the surrounding conversation draws looks from the others and Sid is glad his cheeks are still pink from the game. He turns to glare at Alex who is already skating away, shoulders shaking with laughter and Sidney hurries to follow him.

He isn’t going to let an insult like that slide.

-----

He and Alex have made their obligatory appearance at the bar the last night of All-Star and they’ve each had two drinks. Luckily, no one seems to have noticed or cared that they’ve slipped off for the second year in a row and Sidney leans against Alex as they make their way to the elevator. At this point no one is going to care about their closeness as quiet word of their friendship has spread through the league.

As they enter the elevator Sidney hits the button for Alex’s floor and he leans back against the side as it begins to move. “You know, after tonight it is going to be awhile before we manage to see each other again.” He has already looked at the schedule for the rest of the year, noting all the times he and Alex might be able to get together and it has been woefully short on dates.

They have two more games against the Capitals, one at the very end of the season and he already knows he’s going to place the same ban on visiting during the playoffs. And like last year he knows Alex will agree, though it will be harder than it was last year. Alex has become so ingrained in his life, even more than last year and Sidney really isn’t looking forward to it.

Alex smiles in a way Sidney has only ever seen when they’re together and heat kindles in his stomach. They’re alone on the elevator but he is painfully aware of the cameras in the corner and the kind of trouble it could get them in. So he settles for curling his hands into loose fists. “You aren’t helping any.”

The elevator glides to a stop and they exit, Alex immediately pulling Sidney against his side as they head for his room. He dips his head, lips brushing the curve of Sid’s ear and he laughs when he feels him shiver. “Guess have to make up for it tonight.”

They reach Alex’s room and Sidney doesn’t move away as Alex gropes to get his key out and they almost fall into the room together, Alex pinning him against the wall even as the door swings shut. Sid takes the moment to toe his shoes off, kicking them aside even as Alex kisses him. He gets a hand up, shoving it under his shirt and Alex bites at his lower lip, but takes the hint, pulling away.

Sidney gets his shirt off, dropping it to the floor and he steals another kiss. Alex had spent the entire night plastered to his side, eyes full of promise and Sidney’s skin had felt hot and tight and it had gotten so bad he hadn’t been able to look at him fully. Part of him had wanted to lean in, to tease in turn but he hadn’t, not quite brave enough

He shoves his hands up under Alex’s shirt, stroking at skin, though he stops when he realizes Alex is starting at him. His words die on his lips as Alex is staring at him, or more specifically at his chest and Sid feels warm. He sighs, fingers curling against Alex’s sides. “I’ve taken it off, maybe twice.” He doesn’t add how weird it feels now to be without it. That isn’t something he’s ready to admit to anyone.

His voice sounds loud in the quiet of the room and he tips his head back against the wall. Alex’s hand skims down the chain, pressing slightly and it sends heat racing down Sidney’s back. It never crossed his mind he would be this affected by Alex’s touch and the gift.

Alex closes the distance between them, dragging his mouth up the line of Sidney’s jaw before kissing the skin under his ear. When he speaks his voice is low and heavy with an emotion that makes Sidney swallow hard. “Think about it. What you look like wearing it.” He moves closer, until he’s plastered against Sidney, fingers gently resting against the pendant, pushing until Sidney can feel the unevenness of it against his skin, like a brand.

“Like my number against your skin.”

Sidney had never thought about it like that and it sends a jolt of arousal to the pit of his stomach. He twists against Alex, trying to get friction on his rising erection. It had been bad enough when they first came into the room, but with the way Alex is so close, the gentle way he is continuing to touch the pendant makes the heat in his stomach bloom in slow fashion, spreading through him in little trickles.

Sighing Sidney tips his head as Alex continues to breath against his neck, lips brushing in brief kisses. “I like it. A lot.” He feels his cheeks heat at the admission because he does, has pressed it into his skin on bad days, as a reminder someone else understands what he’s going through, that he has Alex’s support even when they haven’t seen each other in weeks.

Alex takes the hint, working a hand between them. His fingers drag teasingly along the waistband of Sidney’s pants before gliding down the zipper, with just enough pressure to make Sidney arch into the touch. He certainly isn’t opposed to what Alex seems to be thinking, but he has other ideas, though he can’t help but rock into the touch when a big hand cups him through his pants, exerting just the right amount of pressure.

“Fuck!” As much as he would love to continue this, Sidney has other plans, and he pushes at Alex. When he makes a disapproving sound Sidney catches his mouth in a biting kiss before pulling back. “We could do this against the wall, but I think it would be much better in a bed. I really didn’t spend all that time in the shower for it to go to waste.”

He watches as his words work their way through Alex’s mind and his laugh is swallowed in a hard kiss. Alex’s hands settle on his hips, tugging him from the wall and he doesn’t fight, lets Alex shove him back towards the bed even as he works the button of his pants through the hole before tugging the zipper down, glad he already removed his shoes.

They part briefly to finish stripping and Sidney glides his hands up Alex’s flanks in a teasing touch before falling into the bed. Alex follows him seconds later, settling between his spread legs even as he drags his thumb across the damp head of Sidney’s cock and down the length, drawing a broken sound from him. He kisses Sidney as his hand trails lower, sending frissons of heat echoing through his body.
-----

There is a knock on the door and Sidney thinks about not moving. Lassitude is pulling at him, with the way Alex is against him, a heavy arm across the small of his back. Another knock and he closes his eyes, hoping the person will go away. Luck isn’t on his side as the person knocks a third time.

“Sid?”

Sidney groans, because now getting up is no longer an option. Geno is the only person who would know to look for him in Alex’s room and he has been found out. He turns his head, lips touching Alex’s shoulder. “Move, I have to see what Geno wants.”

Alex grumbles but moves his arm just enough for Sid to worm out from under it. Sliding from the bed he grabs his pants and pulls them on, doing up the zipper and button but foregoing the belt. Not matter what Geno has to say Sidney isn’t planning on being clothed long, not with the way Alex is sprawled on the bed, his smile warm and inviting.

Moving around the end of the bed Sidney drags his fingers down the back of Alex’s leg, ending at his heel. He pads to the door and opens it. “Hi.”

Geno rocks back on his heels, dark eyes darting from him to the interior of the room before back to Sidney. His gaze drifts to his chest and Sidney knows he’s looking at the mark Alex left on his skin, that still feels hot and tight despite the fact it was nearly an hour ago.

He shakes his head and Sidney can almost see the moment of realization on Geno’s face, that he and Alex hadn’t quite been lying about their relationship. Sidney certainly has no intention of telling his friend that it has only been in the last few months his and Alex’s relationship has changed. This little stretching of the truth isn’t going to hurt anything.

Shaking his head Geno tucks his hands into his pockets. “Wonder where you and Sanja went.” He looks hangdog and it makes Sidney feel bad because Geno is still his friend.

“Sorry. I was going to tell you, but you were having such a good time talking to the others.”

And Geno had been, laughing and drinking with people from other teams and Sidney hadn’t seen a need to interrupt him. If Geno had needed him, he was smart enough to either text, or obviously realize where he was. This visit is because Geno is curious, and Sidney hopes this is what he wanted, though he still isn’t sure why Geno came looking for him.

Geno smiles brightly and reaches out to clap a hand on Sidney’s shoulder. He squeezes before dropping his hand and stepping back. “Am happy for you Sid.”

Before Sidney can say anything, Geno thrusts his hands into his pockets and starts for the elevator. Feeling confused, he doesn’t move until Geno is on the elevator. The ding of the other arriving on the floor startles Sidney into movement and he closes the door, not wanting to have to explain why he’s shirtless and in Alex’s room.

Not quite sure what he missed, because he knows he missed something, Sidney pads back to the bed. At some point in time Alex had rolled onto his back and Sidney takes the chance to enjoy the sprawl of Alex’s body.

Alex is watching him with hooded eyes and Sidney still feels a little off balance, because it seems to be something Alex knows too. He glances back at the door, Geno’s bright smile, remembering when it hadn’t been that the night they had gone to dinner. Then Geno had seemed uncertain, like he was expecting the worst. And Sidney can’t say why, but everything finally makes sense, and he feels like a moron for not being able to see it. All the signs had been there before, but he hadn’t been able to connect the dots.

Rather than stripping Sidney kneels on the bed and straddles Alex, settling his weight over his thighs. Leaning forward he plants his hands over the other man’s shoulders and looks down at him. “How long?”

Shrugging Alex curls his hands over Sidney’s hips, thumbs stroking between fabric and skin. “Long time.” He laughs. “Zhenya smart and find out. Say I tell you but I not.”

Sidney isn’t mad, can’t be. Not when Alex had been nothing but a friend for the longest time and he shakes his head, with a laugh. “I feel like an idiot.”

Alex shakes his head. “Are not.” He grins. “Just not good at all things.”

Before Sidney can say anything in his defense, not that it would help anything, Alex curls his hand around the pendant and tugs gently. Sidney grins and leans down to kiss him, not complaining when Alex shifts, pressing him into the rumpled bedding.

-----

Sidney wakes to the sound of his alarm and he really wishes he didn’t have to set it. But for some reason Geno had booked them an early flight back and he wants to get a shower in before they leave for the airport. Next to him Alex groans and he reaches out in the dark. His hand lands on Alex’s back and he slides his hand up, following the line of this shoulder. Shifting he leans over Alex, lips brushing against his cheek. “Sorry. I didn’t think I had it on so loud.”

Alex moves, rolling back against him and Sidney can see enough of his face to see his frown. “That not wake me. You move did.”

“Sorry.” Sidney presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “I would much rather stay, but Geno booked our flight for early.”

Alex grumbles gets a hand up, catching the pendant. He rubs his thumb over it for a moment before sliding his hand up the chain to Sid’s neck, palm curling over the back. “Tell Zhenya I kick him next time I see him.”

Sidney laughs, eyes falling shut. “I’m not going to tell him that. You can text him.”

With a heavy sigh he pulls away, feeling Alex’s hand falling away. “I’ll see you when we can.”

Alex flops back into the bed and even with the dark it doesn’t take a genius to know he’s pouting. “Not have time.”

Before he gives into temptation Sidney gets off the bed. “I know.” He already isn’t looking forward to it, but it is the nature of their relationship and the game. “At least we had a good weekend.”

“Yeah.”

Alex’s voice is warm and low, sending a shiver through Sidney and he scrubs a hand through his hair. He has to turn on a bedside light to find his clothing and he laughs when Alex groans, pressing his face into the pillow. Quickly dressing he hopes he isn’t going to run into anyone he knows and that if he does it isn’t obvious what he was up to last night.

With a last, brief touch to the back of Alex’s leg Sidney leaves the room and heads for the elevator.

Chapter Text

“Fuck.” Sidney pats the pocket of his suit pants, relieved when he feels what he’s looking for. His mad dash out of the locker room, half-dressed had drawn looks from his teammates and a knowing smirk from Geno and Jordan, not that he cares. He needs to find Alex before the Capitals leave.

Reaching the visitor’s locker room he slows down, taking a moment to finish buttoning up his shirt. His being here is going to raise questions and he doesn’t need to make it worse by only being half dressed. A few Capitals wander out of the room, and they manage cordial nods, for the fact they lost, and Sidney returns them as he leans back against the wall.

A few minutes later Alex comes out, flanked by Semin and Backstrom. He grins when he sees Sidney, waving his teammates off who both leave, though they both look back over their shoulders at them before putting their heads together.

Sidney doesn’t move until they’ve gone around the corner and he steps into Alex. “Anyone else in there?”

Alex shakes his head, hand gliding down Sidney’s side, hovering briefly at his hip before falling away. “No. We last. Is good to see you.”

“Yeah.” Sidney wishes he were brave enough to close the distance between them, but there is no telling if arena staff is lingering nearby and he isn’t ready for any of this to come to light. The last few weeks have been rough, and he’s been throwing himself into the game, only allowing his thoughts to wander to Alex in the mornings or at night, when he doesn’t have to worry about a million different things.

They’ve kept in touch, but texts and short, sporadic calls are no match for seeing and touching Alex.

Reaching into his pocket Sidney closes his hand around the item in question. He has been thinking since All-Star about this, trying to find some way to show Alex how much he cares for him and wants to continue their relationship. As he has always been terrible at picking gifts, this had been the first thing he had thought of, practical but telling.

He pulls it out and holds it up. It isn’t a Penguins key ring, as that would be a little obvious, but he did manage to find a jaunty waving penguin key chain and he hopes Alex will appreciate the humor in it. From the ring dangles two keys and Sidney will admit, it is gratifying to see Alex struck quiet. He can’t think of any other time it might have happened and he plans on cherishing this moment for the rest of his life. “Just in case you wanted to come by before I got home from practice, so you don’t have to wait.”

Alex’s hand comes up, curling around the keys and his hand and before Sidney can react, he leans in, mouth brushing across his in a fleeting kiss before pulling back. He grins, pulling the key chain and keys from Sidney and holding them up. “Is cute penguin. Not as much as you, but I like.”

Heat spreads across his cheeks and for a moment, Sidney has to think about why he puts up with Alex. It doesn’t take long though, when he sees the warmth in his vivid eyes and his gap-toothed grin that never fails to make him feel something, he isn’t ready to name. “I picked it out for you.” He glances down the hallway. “You better get going, before Semin comes after me for holding you up.”

With a last smile at the keys Alex tucks them into his pocket. “He not. Sasha know I be mad if he do anything to you.” He reaches out hand gliding down Sidney’s arm before he steps back. “Bye Sidney.”

Sidney is sure he’ll never get tired of the way Alex says his name, but he hates this part. “I’ll see you next game.”

Alex nods and turns to leave and Sidney smiles when he sees the way Alex’s hand slips into the pocket where he put the keys.

-----

Coming out of the bathroom Sidney scrubs his hair with a towel as he looks at the bed. Alex is still sprawled across his bed and doesn’t seem to have moved while he was in the shower. He quickly dresses, pulling on a T-Shirt and a pair of shorts before sitting on the bed next to him, fingers resting over the delicate skin on the inside of Alex’s wrist. It is the only point of contact between them, though it is enough to fill the aching hollow in the pit of Sidney’s stomach.

They haven’t seen each other except two games since All-Star, nearly two months ago. Their schedules haven’t allowed for anymore and Sidney had thought it would be easier, with the change in their relationship, with his feelings. But it hasn’t and some days it seems almost worse. Every time he thinks about Alex it makes him feel hollow in a way he doesn’t like. The chain and heavy pendant around his neck help and he’s lost track of the number of times he has pressed it against his chest, just to remind himself he had this.

He drags his fingers up the inside of Alex’s arm, looking for a flicker of something. When he had given Alex the key, so he could come over whenever he wanted, without having to worry about him being home, he had never thought it would have made him feel this way. Today he had come home from practice to find Alex in his bed, staring at the ceiling. All he had gotten was a raised hand in welcome, though Sidney can’t blame him.

The Capitals have been going through a rough patch, having lost four of their last six games. Sidney has watched all of them after the fact, to feel closer to Alex. All the losses have been close, and it doesn’t seem to matter what they try, nothing has been working for them. He hadn’t been expecting to see Alex, but he’s glad he is here, even if the circumstances aren’t the best. And this time he can forgive the fact Alex is wearing a Capitals shirt in his bed.

Trailing his fingers up to the swell of Alex’s bicep Sidney smiles when he sees a twitch from Alex. He isn’t ticklish exactly, but the skin on the inside of his arm is sensitive. Continuing the slow movement of his fingers he shifts, until his thigh is pressing against Alex’s hip. It further eases the knot in his chest, and he can’t believe how much he has become tangled up in the other man. There are days he has a hard time remembering it has been almost two years since he first sought Alex out, more than a little drunk.

Now though he has this, can touch Alex when he wants and it should be scary how much he has come to rely on him, even when they can’t see each other for weeks. His phone is filled with ridiculous texts, pictures and videos from the other man and it makes him feel better to watch them, makes him feel close in way he has come to miss.

Sidney continues to draw random designs over the skin of Alex’s arm, smiling when Alex continues to twitch, a faint smile pulling at his mouth. Alex finally moves, hand curling around Sidney’s wrist, dragging his hand down to rest against his chest. His other hand comes up, sliding under the collar of his shirt and Sidney doesn’t move until fingers draw the chain out, the 87 falling against his chest with a soft touch.

It makes Sidney smile, and he watches as Alex sweeps a thumb across it, pressing just enough he can feel it.

Spreading his fingers across the grey fabric Sidney leans forward. “I didn’t think it was going to be this hard.”

Alex makes a questioning sound and looks at Sid from under the sweep of his lashes. “What hard?”

Sidney drags his thumb in an arm, liking the way Alex’s hand feels curled around his wrist, grounding and familiar. With his free hand he waves between them. “This.”

He feels Alex start to move and he presses him back down. “I don’t mean it in a bad way.” He swallows, not sure how to continue. Feelings aren’t something he has ever been good at and he’ll admit it to anyone who asks, but this is different. He can’t put a word to what he feels for Alex, isn’t sure he knows what he is even feeling. All he knows is he wants this, loves the way Alex feels pressed against him, the quiet nights, so far and few between they get to spend together.

He shakes his head, nerves alight with the way Alex is looking at him. “When I’m not thinking about hockey, I think about you.” Scrubbing his free hand against his thigh he looks at Alex. “It made me happy when I saw you in my bed, that you came here when you were having a bad time.”

Alex moves to sit up and this time Sidney lets him. His fingers slide up the chain to curl under his chin and he looks at Alex, who smiles.

“You mean I as important to you as hockey?”

Sidney knows it would sound stupid if anyone else said it, but he can’t help but smile, leaning into kiss Alex. Anyone who knows him and is smart would take it as a compliment and Alex knows him so well.

He pulls back to look at Alex, taking in his bright eyes and crooked nose and his grin and Sidney nods. “Yeah.”

Alex’s thumb drags across his bottom lip and he presses a kiss to the corner of Sidney’s mouth. “Are both used to hard Sidney. Not be where we are if hard scare us away.”

Sidney can hear the truth in Alex’s words, can finally put a name to the feeling that has been crawling under his skin for months, the warmth, though he doesn’t think he’s ready to say it. Despite the last few months it still feels new and fragile and he has a sense Alex understands, isn’t going to rush him.

So he closes the distance between them and kisses Alex again, leaning against him, arm sliding around his waist.