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1. Sidney Crosby: Wolverine-2005

Everyone knows Crosby is a shifter.  But no one knows what, and the speculation runs rampant whoever he’s in the spotlight.  Moose is the most common answer, mostly because reporters think they’re funny and of course Captain Canada would be a moose.

He finds out the truth during his first dinner at Mario’s. Sidney is excited but distracted, and vanishes right before dessert. There is a thump in the bathroom that has Geno half out of his seat, but no one else seems too worried and in a few minutes, an animal Geno recognizes pads out.

“Oh Sid," Mario says with a fond sigh, scooping up the bashful looking wolverine kit and pulling it into his lap before cooing at it in gentle French.  Geno stares for a moment before turning to Sergei.

"Is that Sid?" He whispers in Russian .  "A little wolverine pup?  Heard all sorts of things about Sidney Crosby, secret shifter, but I never imagined this.  Just...transforming like that right after dinner?  Crawling into his captain's lap for petting and affection?"

"Things are very different here, Zhenya," Sergei reminds him .  "North Americans never had the same stigma that we do back home.  It's pretty normal to see a shifted player in the locker room, or even out in the world."

"Can't imagine shifting like this," Geno replies with a little shiver.  There are little clicks on the floor and then Geno feels a little tap on his foot.  Looking down, he sees a soft little fuzzy head, brown with white little stripes, and big doe eyes looking up at him, and even Geno can tell that the expression on Sid's face is a little anxious and hopeful.  Geno lets his hand drop so Sid can give him a little sniff, smiling when Sid gives him a tiny little lick.

Maybe this will be okay.

 

2. Kris Letang: Masked Bowerbird-2007

Something is screaming in the locker room.

Geno can tell it's not a human at least.  Perhaps a bird?  It's a horrible screeching noise but whatever it is it seems that everyone is both expecting it and alarmed in equal measure.  Sergei doesn't seem to be bothered by it too much, and Geno takes his cue from him and heads into the locker room.

Immediately a bird swoops down at him, making Geno duck and throw up his hands to try to protect his face.  Beside him, he sees Sergei snort and shake his head.

"Yes good morning Kristopher it's good to see you," he says with a dry smile, looking up at the disgruntled fire orange and yellow bird sitting on the top of Kris Letang's locker.  Geno can't help but notice the collection of tape balls and fabric scraps artfully displayed as Kris bounces happily as if he's showing off.

"Do this every year?" Geno says in broken English, eyes wide.  Kris is new to the team, but he's not unknown to everyone else, as he's been on a few under 18 teams with some of their new teammates, including Sid, and it's pretty clear from the way people are fondly rolling their eyes and getting on with things.

"Don't know who he's trying to impress," Sid  says with a snort.  "But bird brain demands a bower and a dance I guess.  Gotta prove his worth."  Geno glances at Sergei who translates a bit for him.

" Animal instincts ," Sergei says with a shrug.  " Don't know what kind of bird he is, but apparently it's just an urge he feels at the beginning of the season.  He'll be human by practice ."  The squawking is distracting, but even with the noise Geno sinks into his routine.

And lo and behold, just as Sergei says, right before they get started, a bashful fresh faced Kristopher Letang steps onto the ice.  

 

3. Jordan Staal: Moose-2009

They win.

They got back just the very next year and they won and Geno somehow was awarded the Conn Smythe and everyone is screaming and laughing and Geno has never felt so close to transforming right then and there.  His teammates are sweaty and covered in booze already as Geno is pulled from hug to hug, getting sticky before he’s even gotten to the booze.  He loves them.  He loves them all more brightly than he ever thought he could love anything, and it feels like his heart might just up and burst.

“GENO!!!” He’s greeted with a shout and a face full of champagne, a hat shoved on his head now that he’s done with all the extra press that comes with the Conn Smythe and he’s surrounded by all the people he loves, his team and Geno has never felt his shift so close to his skin before.  He hears an unexpected bellow, looking around urgently only to see a moose with a cap hanging from its head.  It bellows again, making Sid laugh and shake his head.

“Jordy, can you even drink in this form?” Sid says with a grin.  Jordy snuffles, pressing his nose into Sid’s hair and huffing, making Sid giggle his big open laugh.  Sid is rarely this open, and Geno knows that he must be in some amount of pain given that he had to miss the whole last period, but Geno can’t tell he’s anything but glowing just like the rest of them.  Geno feels his heart do something tratorious and fond, which he shoves down as hard as he can before turning towards the rest of his teammates.

 

4. Mario Lemieux: Great Dane-2011

Sid is still concussed.

It hovers over the whole team, even as they try desperately to press on.  The more time that’s passed, the closer they’ve become, and Geno can’t stand to even consider that this might be the end for Sid’s career. He’s going to get better.  He will .

It’s one afternoon after practice and Geno can’t bring himself to go home just yet, Sid weighing heavily on his mind.  He’s halfway to Sid’s before he even realizes where he’s going, the drive so ingrained that he can do it without thinking, so he just keeps going. If Sid is having a bad day he can just leave, after all.  He stands nervously at the door to Mario’s for a long moment before ringing the doorbell.  Nathalie comes to the door, giving him a sad smile.

“Sidney isn’t having a great day today, but you can come in if you’re quiet.” Geno nods, slipping off his shoes before heading in.  

The dark room is far too familiar after all these months.  Sid is curled up in the middle of the bed, a huge dog draped over his feet.  The dog is a beautiful regal blue, growling lowly as the door opens and light begins to enter the room.

“Hey, Mario it’s okay,” comes a voice from the blanket nest.  “I can handle a quick visit today.”  Sid’s curly head pops up, and he gives Geno a weak but genuine smile.  Geno can tell he’s having a hard day, face drawn and pale, but somehow it feels so good to see Sid regardless.

“Miss you,” Geno says softly, sitting down on the bed beside Sid.  “Didn’t know you have dog.”

“Oh...umm...that is Mario,” Sid says with a lopsided smile.  “He worries and...well it’s easier when he’s not able to talk to me sometimes.”  Mario gives a snort, moving away as if in protest, and Sid’s smile just grows as he leans over to place a hand on the huge head.  Geno feels a bit like he’s intruding on something private and personal.  Mario has always been a second father to Sid, and Geno only gets glimpses into their relationship, especially now that Mario has finally retired.  But there’s something nice about just being there together, the steady presence of someone who Geno knows loves Sid more than pretty much anyone outside his family unwinding a little bit of the pressure and fear that’s been lodged behind Geno’s sternum as Sid’s injury has gone on and on.  It’s nice to see that Sid is cared for, and not just for his hockey.  When he leaves, he feels much more grounded, already thinking about how he can support Sid in his own way too.

 

5. Conor Sheary: Harlequin Ram-2016

Coach Johnson has been fired and there’s a very angry sheep in the locker room.

“Hey, it’s going to be okay,” Sid soothes, standing against the wall by his locker with his hands up, the sheep eying him angrily.  “I know it’s a tough time right now, but we’ve got this Rusty.  We have to believe.  Sully can turn it around.  We’re good enough.”  Geno watches amazed as the ram seems to completely deflate, trotting over to Sid and bumping into his hand with a gentle nudge.

“Yeah, that’s it,” Sid says, laying a hand on the fluffy black head.  “Can’t play angry forever.”  Conor gives a resigned little bah, pressing into his hand a little more insistently.  Sid laughs, and gives him a good full body scratch like you would a dog.

Geno feels like he’s intruding on something, that he shouldn’t be here, but all he can do is stare.  Sid cares so much, and it always catches Geno by surprise.  Sid was born to be captain, knowing just what every player needs from him, be it this sort of gentle support or the snarky pushes he gives Tanger to help get him out of his own head. And in some other person’s hands, such a skill could feel manipulative, feel fake, but Sid...

But Sid is perfect and Geno is in love with him.

With anyone else this realization would have left Geno cold and scared.  There was no room for someone like him to love a man, and yet here he is.

But loving Sid is like loving air, or ice, or hockey.  It’s been in Geno’s blood for as long as he can really remember.  Geno had known that Sid was going to be important to him all the way back to the awkward kid with Oreos at World Juniors, and falling in love with him was less a fall and more a return to where Geno realizes he’s always been.

Geno quietly ducks out of the locker room, smiling softly to himself.  He has no idea how he didn’t realize he had been falling in love all this time, but it leaves him feeling soft and squishy and grinning like a loon.  Maybe it’s just naive hope, but Geno really thinks there’s something special going on with this team, and with all this love and hope in his heart, what can’t he do?

 

+1.  Geno Malkin: Ovcharka-2017

Geno is tired.

Winning is amazing, and winning back to back even moreso, but as summer wears on, too short after a too short summer the year before, Geno just feels old.  It’s late July, and most of the parties and cup days are over but Geno hasn’t gone back to Russia, instead choosing to linger in Miami and soak up the hot summer sun. His knee still aches, even this long after the season ends, and it makes him wonder about how much longer he’s going to play.

He’s jerked out of his reverie by the sound of his doorbell ringing.  He frowns, as he’s not expecting anyone, and his frown deepens when he sees it’s Sid.  He lets the man up, frowning the whole entire time.

“Not expect visit,” Geno says when he opens the door.  It’s not that Geno isn’t happy to see him, but he’s absolutely shocked that Sid is here.  Sid never comes to Miami, no matter how much Geno begged and pleaded, but for some reason he’s here and Geno is absolutely confused.

“I...I can go if it’s a bad time...” Sid says, face falling.

“No, no, not mean that,” Geno says, hating how slow English makes his brain. “Just...ask so much for summer visit and now you show up and not tell.  Little strange for Routine Sid.”  Sid ducks his head with a little blush.

“I just...I wanted to see you,” Sid admits.  “So much is changing and I just...you’ve been the one stable sure thing in my life.  And with the team changing, with getting older and everything...” Sid shoves his hands in his pockets and turns away.  Geno can’t let that stand, and he pulls Sid into a gentle hug.

“Feel it too,” Geno admits. “We old men now Sid.”  Sid gives him a wry smile as he comes inside, clearly more relaxed now that he knows Geno isn’t upset. Geno goes and grabs him a water and they go to sit in the living room, the afternoon sunlight flooding the airy space.

“There’s...there’s also something I need to tell you, something you need to hear directly from me,” Sid says after a pause.  Geno holds his breath, terrified that it’s going to be something bad.  Maybe Sid is dealing with Post Concussion Syndrome again, or is going to retire.

“I’m gay.”  All of Geno’s thoughts screech to a halt.  Sid is gay?  After all this time it feels more surprising and unexpected compared to anything, even shifting and America and the NHL.  Sid, quiet, private Sid.  Geno’s Sid.  Gay?

“Me too,” Geno blurts out, not sure what else to say.  “I mean, like women, but men too.” Sid blinks, a soft smile spreading over his face.

“Thank you for trusting me with that,” Sid says gently.  “I know there’s a lot more at stake for you than for me.”

“Love you forever Sid,” Geno says with a smile of his own, not really quite catching what he said until Sid makes a complicated face at him.

“Ugh English worst ,” Geno huffs, heading over to where Sid was sitting. “Sid...you best friend, yes but...like more, if...if want?”  Sid’s eyes get bigger with every word, licking his lips.  Geno can’t help but follow the way his tongue darts over his plush lips, making them wet and shiny and so so kissable.

“Can I kiss you?” Sid breathes, and Geno can only nod and lean in.

Geno always thought kissing Sid would be like fireworks, like winning the cup, but really it just feels like coming home.  There is a part of Geno that thinks this moment must have been inevitable, written into the stars as surely as their careers together.  Sid’s mouth is warm and a little chapped, kissing with no expectation than the kiss itself, and Geno melts into it.  It’s a lovely push and pull, and when Sid finally pulls away his eyes are bright and his cheeks are flushed and he’s never looked so beautiful, not even with the cup over his head.

“I’ve wanted to do that for a very long time,” Sid breathes, still practically in Geno’s lap.

“Me too,” Geno admits. “Think from very first dinner at Mario’s. Little thing with soft round ears and big brown eyes, lick my hand.  Was gone.”

“I know how much of a sucker you are for a cute animal,” Sid says with a grin.  “I just...you needed to see all of me, shift form included. I know that Russia doesn’t have...the kindest opinions of shifters.”  Sid looks down and Geno feels his heart break for never trusting his best friend or anyone on the team besides Sergei with his own truth.

“I...I shifter too,” Geno says, and Sid pulls away in surprise.

“Now you’re definitely shitting me.  I would have seen your other form by now after all these years.”  Geno feels terrible as he watches the shock and upset wash over Sid’s face, and immediately pulls away.

“Will show,” Geno promises, even though the very idea makes his skin crawl.  “Hide, only tell Seryozha.  Not good at home.  Shifters...hated there.” Sid’s face falls even further, and Geno can’t look at him  anymore.  He slips away to his bedroom, undressing with shaking hands.  Closing his eyes, he lets the change wash over him.  There’s a moment of painful disorientation and then Geno is on 4 paws instead of two.

Geno doesn’t stop being himself when he’s shifted, but things feel really different.  His sense of smell is heightened and his eyesight is a little dull, and when he sees a ball he can’t quite contain himself, but he doesn’t stop being human either.  Sid feels blue and metallic, yet somehow not cold either.  Sid blinks when he sees Geno before a surprised smile spreads over his face.

“Oh my god you’re a teddy bear aren’t you?” Sid says with a grin, reaching out to pat Geno on the head.  Geno gives a little snarl, but his wagging tail gives him away and Sid can only laugh.  Geno is an ovcharka, truly massive for a dog even when not considering how much fur he has, but despite his appearances he’s a softy.  Funny how shifts and human life mirror each other isn’t it?

Sid is smiling widely and Geno can’t help but press close.  His shifted form just enhances Geno’s urge to be close to him, and Geno plops his huge head right in Sid’s lap.

“You wanna come up here?” Sid says warmly, patting the empty space on the couch.  Geno bounds right up, flopping half in Sid’s lap.

“Ooof, of course you’d be even bigger like this,” Sid huffs in fond exasperation.  Geno just gives a pleased little snort, right where he belongs.