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How It Could Be

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With a yawn Sidney picks his bag up, glad he and Alex had packed everything last night. When Alex had mentioned the tickets, it seems to have slipped his mind their flight is stupidly early and Sidney knows he should have expected that, given they have to fly out west, to Anaheim for it. But still, a little warning would have been nice.

A quick glance shows Alex isn’t faring any better, stifling his own yawn as he double checks his pockets for his wallet and keys. “You checked all the doors?”

Alex nods as he pulls his keys from his coat pocket. “Twice. We have everything?”

Sidney nods. “Yeah. Gear bags are in the car, I have my keys and wallet, heat is down, nothing perishable left in the fridge, doors are locked.”

He reaches over and flips off the hallway lights, smiling at Alex’s grumble. He steps outside, the early morning air cold against his cheeks. The houses around them are all dark, save porch lights, a silent reminder of how early it is and he steps aside as Alex comes out, locking the door behind them.

They toss their bags into the back, with the gear and Sidney gets in, starting the car. He barely has his seatbelt on before Alex’s hand is on his thigh and he is glad the car is dark enough to hide the blush he can feel creeping up his neck and cheeks. This is the first time Alex has done this since he realized he has the crush and Sidney has been dreading it.

He backs out of the driveway, trying to ignore the weight and heat of Alex’s hand. It isn’t easy, his attention split between his leg and the early morning traffic, and every time they hit a light, he can’t keep his focus on the light. He is sure if he dared to look in a mirror his blush would be evident and he only hopes he can avoid making a fool of himself over the weekend.

Sharing a bed the last few nights has been a special kind of hell, though Sidney has kept on his side of the invisible wall that separates the bed. For a brief moment last night, just before he had finally fallen asleep, there had been a nebulous thought about crossing the distance and curling against Alex’s broad back.

The thought hadn’t lasted long, but it had been enough to shake Sidney when he woke this morning and he had bolted into the bathroom to shower, needing the time alone to clear his thoughts.

And he had been so busy this morning, with all the little details before they left, he had managed to mostly forget about his crush. Until now at least, but he is going to be a little selfish, and take the touch, because there is no way he can ask Alex to move his hand, without making him feel bad or making him curious. Neither of which are things he wants to deal with when they have a long flight back west.

Sidney pulls into a spot in short-term parking and they gather everything up before starting the long hike to the terminal, since it is too early for the shuttles to be running. The only good thing about having to walk is the fact it has been unseasonably warm lately so they aren’t in any danger of freezing off anything important.

Entering the terminal Sidney manages to get a look at his watch. They had eaten a quick breakfast as they had run around the house and he glances at Alex. “Do you want to get a snack before we get through security or are you good? We have just enough time.”

Alex sets his gear bag down to readjust the strap on his other bag. “Am fine until plane. Not do enough to get hungry.”

“Sounds good.” Sidney glances around the terminal to orient himself before heading off, Alex following behind him. It doesn’t take them long to reach security around the set of gates where their flight is leaving from and Sidney sets both his bags on the belt before starting to empty his pockets and anything else into the bin the bored looking TSA agent is holding. He toes off his shoes and drops them on top before passing through the metal detector.

This is one thing he misses about flying on the team plane, how they only have to go through the most basic of safety protocols when they have to fly.

Grabbing his bags, he sets them aside before grabbing everything from the bin. As he is pulling his shoes on, he hears the metal detector go off and he looks up, smiling when he sees Alex looking annoyed. Alex steps backwards, waiting as the TSA agent fiddles with the detector before waving him through again.

It goes off again and Sidney ducks his head, focusing on tying his shoes and trying not to laugh. This time Alex sighs and Sidney gives up on trying not to laugh. He stands, just in time to see Alex back up again and wait patiently as the agent tries to figure out what is going on. A few seconds later he waves Alex through again and he is barely in it when the metal detector goes off a third time.

This time Sidney can’t keep from laughing loud enough for Alex to hear him and he does, which makes Alex look at him, even as the two agents join him. It only takes a few seconds for Alex to show them there isn’t anything on him that might be making the alarm sound and they wave him through. Sidney steps forward to help him with his bag, while Alex gathers up everything else from the tub that went through the X-Ray.

Alex looks at him as he pulls his shoes on. “Was not funny Sid.”

Sidney would believe that, if not for the fact Alex is trying really hard not to laugh and the warmth in his gaze. “It was funny, but I promise I won’t tell anyone else what happened.”

They gather everything up and Sidney lets Alex take the lead as they approach the counter, since he took care of the tickets and everything else. It doesn’t take long before their gear bags are checked and headed for the plane. Adjusting the strap of his bag, where is biting into his shoulder, Sidney heads for the chairs near their gate. He slumps down in one of them, dropping the bag to his feet.

Alex sits down next to him and Sidney stifles a yawn. Around their gate is still relatively quiet, even though more people are arriving and Sidney is sure it is because of the hour. This is a little early even for him and he hopes it will be a quiet flight. He closes his eyes, tipping his head back and it wouldn’t be hard to take a little nap before their flight starts boarding.

He feels Alex nudge him and he rolls his head towards him but doesn’t open his eyes. “Yeah?”

“Might have time to sleep when get to hotel. Zhenya not get there until later and supposed to have dinner with him.”

Sid nods, glad the first night is always just a chance to get caught up with everyone else. He enjoys the All-Star break, but a big part of it is getting to catch up with all the people he only ever seems to see on the ice. There is rarely enough time during games, and no matter what people seem to think, he isn’t so aloof he doesn’t like talking to the other players.

It doesn’t seem like to much more time passes before they start boarding and Sidney follows Alex onto the plane. He knows he looked at their seat numbers, but it seems to have escaped him and if Alex wants to lead, he is more than welcome to it. They stow their bags and settle into their seats and Sidney leans back, stretching his legs out. This however is one thing he likes about flying on his own, is getting to fly First Class and have the extra space.

He and Alex don’t talk as they wait for the rest of the plane to board, though they do wave at a little girl and her brother, who obviously recognize them, if their excited waving is any indication. It feels like it takes forever before the plane is moving and even longer before they are in the air. When the flight attendant offers them beverages he settles for a bottle of water. He still isn’t hungry, though he can’t seem to keep from yawning.

As he yawns for what feels like the fifth time in as many minutes, he feels Alex gently elbow him and he swats at the offending limb. “This is a long flight.”

Alex grins. “Am not trying to annoy Sidney. Just going to say, is long flight and be okay if you want to take a nap.”

Sidney had honestly been thinking about just that but he isn’t going to give Alex the satisfaction. “Maybe. We haven’t been in the air that long.”

He undoes his seatbelt and tucks his hands in into the pocket on his hoodie, closing his eyes. This part of the plane is still quiet, since everyone is an adult and are either already trying to sleep or involved in whatever they are doing to occupy themselves. He and Alex are far enough towards the front any noise coming from the back isn’t much more than a murmur of sound.

-----

Sidney stretches as he wakes up, a little shiver of pleasure at the feeling running down his back. It takes him a moment to remember where he is, as his brain catches up with his body. A few seconds later he realizes his head is on Alex’s shoulder as the smell of the other man’s soap and aftershave settles in his nose. With a groan he sits up and scrubs a hand across his face. “Sorry.”

Alex shrugs, a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth. “Is okay. You only drool on me little bit.”

That makes Sidney look at Alex’s shoulder, but in the low light he can’t see anything on the dark fabric and decides the other man is just trying to mess with him. He rolls his shoulders. “How long was I asleep?”

Glancing at his watch Alex sinks further into his seat. “Little over two hours. Not sleep last night?”

Sidney shrugs, still a little closer to Alex than he had been before he fell asleep. “Not as well as I thought.” Which isn’t a completely lie, because he has been noticing it seems to take longer to fall asleep since he realized he has a crush on Alex, though when he does finally fall asleep, he sleeps hard.

“This will help though.” No matter what is going on, All-Star always feels like a break and Sidney has been looking forward to it. Yes, he’ll be in close contact with Alex all weekend, but Geno will be there and Sidney is excited to see him. And this will really be the last chance to relax before the push to the end of the season and playoffs, which is something else he doesn’t want to think too much about.

Alex nods. “Will be fun.”

Sidney stretches his legs out, toes curling in his shoes. “It will be.”

-----

The rest of the flight passes and Sidney is ready to be off the plane. Next to him Alex is equally ready, shifting in his seat like he can’t contain his nervous energy and as soon as the seat belt light is off, they are both on their feet. Sidney steps out of the way so Alex can wrestle their bags out of the overhead compartments, since he is the one who wedged them up there.

He takes his bag and nods to the flight attendant as he leads the way off the plane, Alex right behind him. As they make their way through the gate it takes Sidney a moment to orient himself as to where the baggage claim is. This isn’t the first time he has come through this airport, but it isn’t frequent enough for him to remember.

Knowing they have some time to kill before the luggage gets off the plane they take their time, stopping to use the bathroom and getting some water and a snack before taking over one of the small tables near where they got their drinks. Sidney tucks his bag under the table before pulling his phone from his pocket.

There is a message from Geno and he unlocks his phone, and can’t help but laugh when he reads it. At Alex’s questioning look he takes a deep breath, trying to keep his laughing under control. “We’ll be having a late dinner tonight. Geno’s flight is delayed and they aren’t sure yet if they’re going to have to move them to another plane.”

Alex rolls his eyes as he finishes his bottle of water. He screws the lid back on and picks up Sidney’s already empty bottle and stands. “Zhenya always cause problems.” Crossing to where there is a garbage with a recycling bin next to it, he puts the bottles in the recycle bin before rejoining Sidney. “Give us more time to nap before dinner.”

“Yeah.” Sidney pulls his bag from under the table. There is never much going on the first night before All-Star starts, since everyone is flying in and he knows some of the others don’t ever get here until late. Tomorrow there will be a big catered breakfast so everyone can catch up and bull-shit before the Skills Competition starts for the evening. “Though I do feel better after my nap.”

Picking up his own bag Alex grins. “Spot on my shoulder almost dry.”

He doesn’t even resist the urge to roll his eyes at Alex as they continue towards the baggage claim. “I did not drool on you.” Alex laughs, but Sidney ignores him as he weaves through the busy concourse.

By the time they get to the correct baggage carousal for their gear, there is already a crowd of people surrounding it and the conveyor hasn’t even started moving. Sidney hears his phone chime in his pocket, and he gets it out. There is another message from Geno, and he reads it before looking at Alex. “Geno says they have to switch planes, but they’ll be leaving in the next hour.

Alex nods as he sets his bag down between them. “Maybe dinner not be so late after all.”

With a faint whine and creak the baggage carousal starts moving and people immediately push forward even though there isn’t a single bag visible. It continues to move and finally the first bag comes into view, followed by more.

Sidney stands guard over their bags while Alex heads toward the baggage claim conveyor to grab their gear bags. He knows his strengths and trying to worm his way through the gathered crowd to grab their bags isn’t one of them. At most people will ignore him, but Alex is big enough people are going to instinctively move out of his way and they do when he steps forward. People are still passing around him and Sidney moves to stand over Alex’s bag, trying to take up less space, though a few do elbow his bag in their haste to get around him.

After what feels like hours with the press of people around him, Alex finally returns, getting a few dirty looks from the people who don’t like the fact he is taking up more space with their gear bags. Sidney takes his bag before moving from standing over Alex’s bag. “Thanks.”

Alex nods as he bends down to grab his bag. “Our bags were next to each other. Was surprised.”

Adjusting his gear bag Sidney shrugs. “That was lucky. Maybe someone read the tags and decided to be helpful.” He had been half-expecting to end up waiting a long time to get one or both of their bags.

Laughing, Alex joins him as they start trying to carve a path through the still waiting people. “I doubt anyone in Anaheim like us that much Sid.”

Sidney smiles as they part around a family trying to handle two kids and a stroller. “There might be a closet Penguin fan here, too afraid to tell their coworkers, not wanting to get made fun of for liking the Penguins who are on the other side of the country. But probably not.”

“Still better than Ducks, or Kings or Sharks.” Alex slants a look at him, with a bright smile.

That draws a few looks from the crowd around them and Sidney really hopes Alex isn’t going to inadvertently start a riot in the airport. He moves a little closer to the other man and nudges him as well as he can with all the bags between them. “Maybe don’t start a fight in the airport about who the best team is. We’re a little outnumbered here.”

Alex shakes his head, and some how manages to gesture to the fact they’re both wearing Penguins hoodies with their numbers on them, as well as they fact they are both carrying bags that are very noticeably hockey gear bags. “Everyone already know who best team is, just not want to admit it.”

Sidney shakes his head as they approach the doors. “I still don’t think we have a very big fanbase here, but I’m not going to try and disagree with you.”

The closer they get to the doors the more it feels like everyone is trying to get into the airport at the same time, all headed towards them. Which is why Sidney is grateful when Alex moves in front of him and starts not quite plowing through the oncoming crowd. Alex apologizes to everyone, except the few rude people who think having a phone conversation in the middle of a crowded area is the best place to do it.

They finally reach the doors, which slide open at their approach and Sidney is actually glad for the slap of dry California heat in the face. Even with the fans and the moving air, with all the people inside it had felt almost stuffy and too crowded. Adjusting his bag Sidney looks at Alex. “It is almost nice out here.”

Alex wrinkles his nose in disgust as he sets his gear bag down. “Is too dry. Temperature is good though.”

It is much warmer here than in Pittsburgh and Sidney is glad he didn’t bring anything heavier than a blazer, and he isn’t even sure he is going to wear that. “Yeah. Going home is going to be a shock.”

There are plenty of taxis lingering, waiting for fares, so it doesn’t take them long to get one flagged down. What does take long, is trying to fit their gear bags into the trunk, which is big but they only manage after Sidney wedges his bag in and holds it at just the right angle so Alex can get his in. Alex’s bag fits in the trunk, but there isn’t much room left for his, so Sidney settles for putting it in the back seat.

He wedges it between he and Alex as he leans forward to give the cab driver the address of their hotel. When Alex sits back, he looks questioningly at the bag but doesn’t say anything for which Sidney is glad. Even after he had woken up on the flight he hadn’t moved away from Alex, though there was plenty of room in the big seats.

Instead, he had chosen to be selfish again, enjoying the feeling of sitting a little too close, the way their thighs had touched, feeling the rise and fall of Alex’s chest against his arm. He knows deep down, this is stupid. He is supposed to be trying to get over his crush on Alex, not falling deeper into it. Which is why he put his bag between them, as a flimsy barrier, though it isn’t going to do much good. Not when he and Alex are going to spending the entire weekend together.

They reach the hotel and Sidney pays the driver while Alex fights with getting their bags out of the trunk. By the time Sidney gets back to help, with his bag slung over his shoulder, Alex has only managed to get his bag out and is fighting with the gear bags. He seems oblivious to Sidney’s presence as he curses in an impressive combination of Russian and English.

Setting his own bag down Sidney steps in. “Here. Let me.” He has to awkwardly wedge himself against Alex’s side as he reaches in to get a grip on his bag. Once he has a good grip on the fabric he pushes down and twists as Alex tugs at his own bag. For a second it feels like they aren’t making any progress and Sid is sure they’re going to have to pay the driver more for taking up his time.

But Alex makes a triumphant sound as his bag finally comes free and Sidney steps out of the way, so he doesn’t get hit. Once Alex is out of the way he grabs his gear and Alex closes the trunk before waving at the driver. Sidney picks his bag up and he glances at Alex as they head towards the front door of the hotel. “Maybe when we go back to the airport, we should rent a moving truck.”

Alex laughs as they approach the front desk. “No need. Just be smarter about it on the way back.”

“I am trying to be smarter about it. Hence, the moving truck.” Sidney leans against the desk as he waits for Alex to check them in, since again, everything is in his name. Across the lobby the elevator doors open and Sidney waves when he sees Cater and Richards get off the elevator. They wave in return before heading down the hallway that has a big sign leading to the hotel’s bar and restaurant.

Finishing with the check in Alex holds out one of the key cards and Sid takes it, tucking it in the back pocket of his jeans, rather than his hoodie pocket. He doesn’t want to demagnetize the strip and have to do the walk of shame to get it redone. “Thanks. What floor are we on?”

“Five.” Alex grabs his bag and falls into step with him as they cross the lobby.

The elevator quickly arrives, and they step in, their gear bags standing upright between them. Sidney hears his phone chime, and he pulls it out. “Geno says he’ll be here in about six hours, assuming nothing else goes wrong.”

Pushing the button for their floor Alex nods. “Hope it not. Is Zhenya’s turn to buy dinner.”

Sidney shakes his head as he leans back against the wall, keeping his gaze forward, rather than looking at the way Alex is lounging in the corner, eyes hooded. “Aren’t you getting a little ahead of yourself? We haven’t even had lunch yet.”

Alex looks at him. “Want lunch?”

Between the snacks they had on the plane, and what they stopped for while waiting for said plane to be unloaded Sidney isn’t hungry and he shakes his head. Which is promptly interrupted by a yawn, which makes Alex smile. “No. But the little sleep I got wasn’t nearly enough.”

And Alex’s earlier suggestion of getting a nap before Geno gets here is a good one, but Sidney isn’t sure how restful it will be.

Not when he can already feel his heartbeat pick up at the thought of laying down with Alex for even just a little bit. Which is exactly the reason falling asleep has been so difficult since realizing just how much his feelings for Alex have changed. The moment they get into bed settling down to sleep feels like the furthest thing from his mind and it takes a long time for him to think about something besides Alex on the other side of the bed.

It makes him feel a little pathetic, but he has yet to figure out how to get the other man out of his system. And it isn’t that he hasn’t been trying, but Alex seems capable of pulling him back in with just a look or smile.

The elevator glides to a stop and Sidney gets off first, glancing back at Alex as he does. “What room?”

“550. Is at end of hallway."

Sidney glances at the plaques opposite the elevator and follows the arrows towards the left. Halfway down the hallway he starts paying attention to the numbers and when he gets to their door he pulls the key card. It takes two swipes before it reads and he shoves the door open, Alex laughing behind him.

The door leads to a seating area, with a large couch and a chair, with a coffee table between them, as well as a closet and the door to the bathroom. Sidney tucks his gear bag in the closet, not wanting to spend the night tripping over it. A partition separates the bed from the seating area and Sidney goes to the far side of the bed. He drops his bag on the floor at the foot of the bed.

The heavy inside curtains are open and he turns, pulling them closed, plunging the room into twilight. Toeing his shoes off he looks at Alex. “I wasn’t kidding about the nap.”

Alex folds back the duvet, leaving the top sheet up. “Not think you were Sidney.” Anything else he was going to say is lost in a yawn and he drops his bag on the floor.

Sidney pulls his phone out and checks the time before setting it on the bedside table. The room is comfortably cool and after a moments thought he sheds his hoodie, tossing it towards his bag. He doesn’t want to wake up hot. “Two hours and then lunch?”

With a nod Alex stretches out, though still careful to remain on his half of the big bed. “Maybe two and a half hours.”

Sidney laughs as he settles into the bed, eyes falling closed. “Two and a half sounds good.”

-----

It actually ends up being closer to three hours when Sidney finally gives in to the fact he needs to pee, is thirsty and hungry. Groaning he rolls out of bed and tends to the first two, before wandering back to the bed. Alex is still dead to the world, a pillow over his head and he reaches over to take the pillow. The other man grumbles and reaches for it, waking up to blink owlishly at him.

Sidney drops the pillow back on his head. “That two and a half hours turned into almost three and now I’m hungry.”

Rounding the bed, he pulls his shoes back on. “I’m going to go grab some ice, so you have some time to get up.”

The response he gets is muffled under the pillow, so Sidney ignores him, grabbing his key and the ice bucket. He finds the ice machine in an alcove near where they got off the elevator and he fills it before heading back to the room. When he opens the door Alex is sitting on the couch, and in front of him, on the table are two boxes that make his heart race as well as plunge to the pit of his stomach. Setting the bucket on the stand under the wall-mounted TV Sidney takes a deep breath as he picks up the box. “I take it people expect to see these?”

Alex nods as he scrubs at his face, trying to hide his yawn, but Sidney sees the ring on his finger. “Only when we not play.”

Opening the box Sidney pulls the ring out and slips it on. He tries not to think about the fact the slight weight of it doesn’t seem like a bad thing anymore and how it almost feels right. Setting the box back down on the table he glances at Alex’s hand, his stomach fluttering when he sees the ring there. He shakes his head, trying to clear his mind, because there is no reason to get excited. None of this means anything.

“Do you want to get lunch in the restaurant, or see if we can find something else?”

Standing, Alex smiles at Sidney as they head for the door. “Maybe something else. I think Zhenya not really want to leave hotel once get here.”

Sidney laughs as the door swings closed behind them. “I can’t say I blame him. I’m just glad we didn’t have any problems with our flight.”

The elevator is empty and Sidney leans against the back wall as Alex pushes the button for the ground floor before moving to stand next to him, close enough their shoulders are touching. Rather than focusing on Alex, Sidney gets his phone out so he can try and find some place to have lunch. Luckily, the hotel is in a busy part of the town, and he tips his screen towards Alex. “All these places are within walking distance.”

Alex shifts and reaches over, not taking his phone but catching his hand and carefully moving it so he can get a better look at the phone. He scans the list before smiling at Sidney and releasing his hand. “Top is fine. Will be a good walk.”

Sidney nods as he glances at the top on the list. It is a café, but he had looked at the menu while scrolling through the list. There are salads and sandwiches that look healthy and enough less healthy stuff to make Alex happy. And it will be nice to get outside and walk to the restaurant, to stretch their legs out after the long flight, taxi ride and impromptu nap.

The elevator glides to a stop and the doors slide open. Someone is standing out there and it takes Sidney a moment to realize it is Quick, from the Kings. The goalies are always a little harder to recognize, given the fact he doesn’t usually see them without their masks. “Hey.”

In return Quick looks between them before shaking his head in resignation. “Of course, you two are here. I should have known.” He steps aside so they can get off the elevator. “Playing you two is the only time I ever regret being a goalie.”

As he enters the elevator, he looks at Alex. “And you, please remember the game is just for fun. I really don’t want to go home with any bruises.”

Sidney laughs at Alex’s shocked look before pulling him in the direction of the front doors. “We aren’t going to make any promises.”

Alex shakes his head. “Are not. Is not any fun if do not win. Even in scrimmage point is to win.”

He sounds like a child who was told he can’t have a cookie and Sidney can’t help but laugh. “Just try not to hit him in the mask with a puck. That might be enough to make him happy.” The lobby is mostly empty, and they make it outside without running into anyone else. Sidney pulls his phone out of his pocket so he can figure out which way they need to go.

He nudges Alex to the right before pocketing his phone again. “It shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes.”

Alex nods and yawns. “Is much nicer here.”

Despite the fact it is early afternoon it still isn’t too warm and Sidney nods. He really likes Pittsburgh, and he better, after all these years there, but there are times he isn’t in love with the weather. The bitter cold gets annoying and the snow and wind can be horrible. But he does enjoy when he gets to go to warmer places when Pittsburgh is terrible, and this is one of those times.

It doesn’t take them long to reach the café, which takes up the corner of a large space on the bottom floor the building. Just inside there is a chalkboard sign telling them to seat themselves and Sidney points to a table near the wall with a chair on either side. Alex nods and they wend their way through the tables to sit down.

A few seconds later their waiter appears, smiling as he sets their menus on the table. “Something to drink?”

Sidney nods. “Water would be fine, please.”

“Water too, please.” Alex picks up the menus, handing one to Sidney. “Is good place Sid.”

Opening the menu Sidney glances at it. “I just went off the reviews.” He does like the ambiance though. The tables aren’t so close it feels crowded and that anyone around them might be listening to their conversation. Whatever music is being played over the speakers tucked around the room is light enough to be unobtrusive and not drown out any conversation they might be trying to have.

Their water reappears, setting down two glasses as well as a pitcher before fading away and Sidney appreciates it. There is a lot on the menu, though it is all well organized and Alex is staring intently at his own menu. Sidney looks at the whole menu, though his attention keeps drifting back to one of the chicken sandwiches and he finally decides on that, not wanting to waste time trying to decide. He sets his menu down, which makes Alex look at him over his own menu.

“Already know?”

Sidney nods and Alex smiles knowingly, before shaking his head as he looks down at his menu. He nudges Alex’s foot under the table, not giving up until Alex looks back up at him. “What was that look supposed to mean?”

Alex doesn’t bother lowering his menu, just peers at him over the top and Sidney can tell he is grinning. “Is not bad Sidney. Just is always chicken sandwich with salad or fruit. I think is cute.”

Heat is creeping up his neck and across his cheeks and even the air conditioning of the café isn’t going to help. He reaches out to pick up his water, like the glass will hide the stain on his cheeks from Alex. “I like chicken sandwiches.”

The table isn’t very big and Alex reaches over, hand curling over his forearm on the table. He leans forward, gaze warm. “I know. Makes easy to order when I out to get food and not with me.”

Even through the arm of his hoodie, Alex’s hand is warm and Sidney feels his stomach do a little flop. This crush is inconvenient, making him feel this way just because Alex mentioned brining a chicken sandwich home for him, when no such thing has ever happened. They’ve gone out together, or had food delivered, but Alex has never brought food home any of the number of times they haven’t been together, which is rare.

The waiter reappears and Sidney is grateful for the distraction, though Alex doesn’t move his hand, only smiling at him before setting his menu on top of his.

“Ready to order?”

Sidney nods and looks at the waiter. “The grilled chicken sandwich with a salad, please.”

Scribbling his order, the waiter looks at Alex. “And you?”

Alex grins. “Cheeseburger with bacon and fries.”

The waiter nods. “I’ll go put these in.”

Waiting until the waiter disappears Sidney smiles. “I should have known you would go with something like that.”

Gently squeezing Sidney’s arm Alex grins. “Flight make me hungry. And still have time until Zhenya get here and we go to dinner.”

Sidney really wants to look at his arm, take in the way Alex’s fingers curl but he doesn’t give in. He is supposed to be trying to get rid of his crush, not play into it. “What are the plans for after the season?”

It seems unreal to say the words, and to even think about it. When he had woken up that morning, it had never dawned on him he was going to be here this long. He had stupidly assumed this would be an easy fix, but now they are a little over halfway through the season and he knows he has to start thinking about what comes next. Unless something goes drastically wrong, they’re making the playoffs and then either they make it to the final, or they flame out on the way there.

Alex finally moves his hand so he can pick up his water. “My mama and papa come visit for a few weeks. We go visit them last year. After that we plan to go see your parents. Taylor talk about coming to visit, but she not sure yet. Then we spend rest of time at home, before training camp.”

Sidney nods. “That sounds like a good plan.” Except it doesn’t, at least not for him. Even with Alex on his side, he still isn’t entirely sure how well he can fool his parents and Taylor into thinking everything is okay. Not with the fact Taylor already has an inkling something isn’t right and she is probably just waiting for him to slip up, even though he and Alex reassured her everything is the way it should be.

He has a feeling his thoughts about the matter are plain on his face, because Alex smiles softly, foot tapping against his. “Is okay Sidney. Will help with parents if need be. But I know you be okay.”

The other man’s sincerity makes him feel better and Sidney nods. He can only hope if it comes down to it, if he’s still here, that short of his relationship with Alex, his life here hasn’t been too different from what he lived. It might be the only thing that keeps this from blowing up in front of his and Alex’s families. “It will be. We’ve made it this far.”

Anything Alex might say is stopped when the waiter returns with their food. With a smile he sets both plates down before stepping back and disappearing again.

Sidney looks at his plate. The sandwich looks good, the chicken perfectly grilled, with a piece of lettuce and several thick slices of avocado. His side salad looks good too, but he can’t help but look at the mound of fries on Alex’s plate. They are golden brown and he can see the bits of salt clinging to them. Rather than over thinking he reaches over and steals one.

Alex grins and mumbles something that sounds like ‘every time’, but Sidney ignores it in favor of eating the fry. It is hot and crispy and the burst of salt is perfect, but Sidney refuses to show it. Alex is watching him with a look, that he knows Sidney is suddenly regretting his decision to get the salad and not fries.

To cover, Sidney picks up his sandwich and takes a bite. It doesn’t take him long to realize the snack at the airport and breakfast this morning was a long time ago. And he is glad he picked this café. He isn’t sure what the sauce on the sandwich is, but it adds an almost citrus flavor to it all. They stay quiet as they eat, though Alex does apologize when he accidentally kicks him under the table.

Sidney resists the urge to steal another fry, as much as he wants to, and Alex is looking at him like he expects him to try again at any moment. He also resists the urge to make a face at him, though that takes a little more effort. This feels almost like a date, as much as he has to tamp down on that feeling. Thinking that way isn’t going to do him any favors and he needs to stop.

Around them more people come into the café, though it doesn’t get so busy that anyone takes a seat at any of the tables around them. Sidney finishes his sandwich, before pulling his salad closer. “I did do a good job picking, didn’t I.”

Alex rolls his eyes, with a good-natured smile. “Always pick good Sidney. Is why you pick me.”

Sidney can’t really say anything that won’t get him in trouble, so he settles for nodding and focusing on his salad, because he knows what he is thinking is showing on his face. This Sidney was right to take a chance on a relationship with Alex, and Sidney knows if he was in same position, he would do it too. How could he not, when faced with not just Alex’s dedication to the game and the hard work it takes, but also how caring, supportive and understanding he has been in light of the situation they’ve found themselves in.

Which is part of the reason he has this embarrassing crush on Alex.

He stabs at a wedge of tomato with his fork, taking his irritation out on it. His act of aggression gets a look from Alex, but he doesn’t ask.

They finish eating and Sidney refills their glasses before carefully stacking their plates on the edge of the table. Once everything is out of the way he pulls his phone out and glances at it. “Still nothing from Geno.”

Alex grins. “With way Zhenya’s day go, maybe ran into storm and had to go long way.”

Sidney puts his phone away. “I hope not. That might put him in a bad mood for the rest of the weekend.”

Their waiter reappears. “I see you enjoyed your meal. Dessert, maybe? We have several very good pies.”

Alex’s face immediately lights up, and Sidney is tempted too. He is suddenly craving something sweet, and this weekend is something of a vacation. A single piece of pie isn’t going to matter much, in the grand scheme of things, and they still have time to kill. “I think pie would be good.”

“Excellent. We have apple, peach, a mixed berry and chocolate crème.”

Sidney nods. “Mixed berry please.” That at least he knows will be a little tart.

Alex looks thoughtful for a moment. “Apple, please.”

As the waiter leaves, Alex looks at Sidney. “Have back-to-back after All-Star, and then road trip.”

With a groan Sidney scrubs a hand across his face. “I know. And believe me, I’ve been trying not to think about it.” He isn’t worried about the road trip, as much. Lately being on the road hasn’t been a detriment to them, which is odd, given the mostly hostile crowd sounds. The back-to-back games are more of a problem. The last few haven’t gone well, with them losing the second game half the time.

He looks at Alex. “Well, we’re playing the Devils and then the Sabres. Both teams have been struggling, so maybe it won’t be so bad this time.”

“Maybe.”

Alex’s tone of voice says it all and Sidney shrugs. “We’ll just have to pace ourselves and hope they have a bad night.” He nudges Alex under the table. “At least the road trip is just Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg. We could have to make a complete cross-country tour.”

Alex shakes his head, forehead creased in a frown. “No thank you. Am ready for home stand.”

Sidney nudges his water out of the way as the waiter appears with their pie. “So am I.” This late in the season the travel always seems worse, like it takes more out of the team and the away games are a struggle.

As the waiter sets his pie down Sidney is pleased in his choice. The crust is golden brown and he can see the flakes in it. Dark filling spills from the edges, contrasting the plate and he picks up his fork, glancing at Alex as he does. The other man is staring at his plate, maybe regretting his choice of apple and Sidney pulls his plate a little closer. “Don’t even think it.”

A smile tugs at Alex’s mouth and Sidney adjusts his grip on his fork, prepared to defend his pie, if need be. Stealing a fry is one thing, but taking a bite of his pie is different and he waits, knowing how fast Alex can be.

He only relaxes when Alex scoops up some of his own pie and then Sidney starts on his, once he is sure the danger is gone. The pie is as good as his sandwich, which makes him glad he had given in.

They finish their pie and Sidney gets his wallet and card out so he can pay. He shakes his card at Alex when the other man looks at him. “Don’t even. I know you’ve paid for dinner the last few times we’ve ordered; never mind the times you’ve gone grocery shopping without me.”

He hasn’t delved into the financial situation, since it isn’t his business. All he knows is that the house is in both of their names and that is all he needs to know. As the waiter stop by to see if they need anything else Sidney hands his card off before leaning back in the chair. So, the next time you go shopping, I’m coming with, and paying.”

Alex grins, with a sly edge to it and Sidney knows he is going to have to keep an eye on the other man or he is going to slip out of the house on a day off and come back laden with a month’s worth of food, if not more. He taps Alex’s foot under the table. “I’m serious.”

It takes a second, but Alex finally relents. “Yes Sidney. But I not make list when I shop.”

“I’m not going to let that stop me.” Sidney is sure that means he is going to be in for a long trip, as they wander through the aisles for whatever catches Alex’s attention. Honestly, he can still think of worse ways to spend a day.

The waiter reappears, handing back his card and the receipt before disappearing again. Sidney quickly signs the top copy before pocketing the other. He tucks his card back in his wallet and stands. “We might as well enjoy the good weather while we’re here.”

Alex nods and they head back outside, and he follows Sidney when he turns not in the direction of the hotel, but the other way. The weather is still nice, a little warmer than when they went into the café and Sidney does want to enjoy it. He also isn’t in a hurry to go back to the hotel until Geno arrives. Since they took a nap, he feels more awake and he doesn’t want to go back to the hotel to sit around and digest lunch. The hotel undoubtedly has a gym, but he also doesn’t want to just run on a treadmill.

He takes them on a circuitous route through the city around the hotel, only checking his phone occasionally so they don’t get lost. They spend nearly two hours wandering around, stopping to look at the displays in windows, though they don’t actually go into any of the stores. More than once they bump into each other as they walk and Alex always smiles at him. And he can’t help but smile back, and this little walk is starting to feel dangerously like part of the date from the diner. He immediately stamps down on that thought, because thinking like that is going to cause more problems and he doesn’t need any more of those.

As they reach the hotel the door slides open as a family comes piling out and Sidney takes the opportunity to look at his phone. There still isn’t a message from Geno and he is starting to think Alex might have been right about his flight. As the last child comes out, Sidney goes in, Alex just behind him.

After wandering around for so long, the air-conditioning of the hotel feels good and it takes him a minute to focus on the front desk. He sees the gear bag first, tucked out of the way, at the man’s feet and a few seconds later he recognizes the slump of Geno’s shoulders as he leans his elbows on the counter. Elbowing Alex he tips his head towards the desk. “Geno is finally here.”

Smiling, Alex puts his arm across Sidney’s shoulders and pulls him in as they walk towards the desk. “We go help. Is what friends do.”

Sidney thinks at this point Geno might prefer getting to hide in his room for a little bit, but he smiles tiredly at them when they come up. “Rough flight?”

Geno nods before accepting his keys from the clerk at the front desk. “Was not good.”

Squeezing Sidney’s upper arm Alex releases him before bending down to pick up Geno’s gear bag. He smiles at Geno. “Was starting to think you never get here.”

Rather than trying to take Geno’s duffle bag, since he has the strap over his head, Sidney leads the way towards the elevator and stabs at the call button. “To be fair though, Alex made a comment about your plane getting lost in a storm.”

Geno glares at Alex. “Is not funny Sanja. Was horrible.” He turns his attention back to Sidney as they pile into the empty elevator. “Am on fifth floor. 528.”

Putting himself in the corner near the buttons Sidney waits until Alex is next to him, with Geno across the elevator before pushing the button for the fifth floor. “So are we. 550.”

The elevator glides to a stop, the doors opening to no one. Sidney steps out, Alex and Geno following as he heads down the hallway opposite the direction of their room. He stops next to Geno’s room and feels Alex crowd close behind him, almost so close he can feel the rise and fall of his chest, so Geno has room to get to the door. “But no problems once you were in the air?”

Geno yawns as he unlocks the door. “Little bit of bouncing, but nothing bad.” He enters the room, gesturing for them to come in. “Make me wish All-Star where we live.”

The room is set up exactly like theirs and Sidney moves out of the way of the closet as Alex tucks Geno’s gear bag there. Geno tosses his bag on the floor at the foot of the bed, from the couch before collapsing on the couch, taking up the entire length.

Alex takes the chair, leaving him standing and for a second Sidney feels lost. But the chair has wide arms, and he knows the reason for Alex taking the chair and what Geno is expecting to see. He perches on the arm of the chair, managing to not jerk when Alex’s arm goes behind him, hand resting comfortably on his hip. Yes, he has gotten used to Alex’s casual touches, there is no way he hasn’t with the frequency of them, but the intimate ones are still enough to make his heart race. And since they usually only happen when they are alone with Geno, which doesn’t happen often, there is no good way for him to be ready for them.

Geno looks at them with a warm smile. “I hope your flight better than mine. Feel like it never end.”

Sidney shrugs, feeling Alex’s hand flex against his hip. The touch sends a shiver of something through him and he does his best to ignore it. “It was uneventful.”

“Sid take a nap and drool on my shoulder.”

Rolling his eyes he glares down at Alex, who is smiling at him, trying to look innocent and failing miserably. “I did not drool on you.” He glances at Geno, who simply looks amused at their antics. “There is absolutely no proof I drooled on him.”

Alex squeezes his hip, smile taking on a softer edge. “Is fine Sidney. Zhenya, you do better.”

Geno perks up at that, though he doesn’t move from the couch. “Yes. Are doing much better! I not think it ever happen.”

Sidney nods as he wiggles, trying to get more comfortable. The arms of the chair are wide and cushy, though not really with the way he is sitting, trying to keep as much space between he and Alex without making Geno question anything. But it isn’t easy, especially not with the gentle pressure of Alex’s hand on his hip, not really pulling, but insistent.

He shifts, leaning against the back of the chair, curling his body a little towards Alex. He drapes his arm across the back, fingers not quite touching Alex’s shoulder, but the new position means he is even more aware of heat coming off Alex, the still heady smell of his soap. It is almost enough to give him ideas, but he tamps down on that urge, instead focusing on Geno.

At this point hockey is about the only thing that can reliably take his mind off his stupid crush and he can talk about that for hours. “I told you it was going to happen.” So far this year they’ve had a couple of little slides, though nothing like Geno and the Capitals have been going through. Any other time he wouldn’t be trying to reassure the captain of another team, but he can’t help it. Geno is their friend and he keeps thinking about Geno from home.

Geno rolls his eyes, but it is good-natured. “I know Sidney, are always right.”

Alex groans. “Not need to tell him that Zhenya. Flower always tell him same all the time.”

Sidney taps Alex’s shoulder, fingers lingering as the other man looks up at him. “Are you saying I’m not?”

Alex shakes his head, with that same, familiar warm smile Sidney is starting to know so well. “Everyone know captain is always right, Sidney.”

He can’t help but tap Alex’s shoulder again. “I don’t believe that for a minute, but I’m not going to fight about it.”

In response Alex squeezes his hip again, before looking back at Geno, who is watching them.

-----

The three of them have been so busy talking, mostly about the other teams in their division and conference that none of them have been paying attention to the passage of time. Sidney looks out the window, for the first time noticing the darkness and he shifts, reaching for his phone. The movement makes Alex look at him and he curls his hand over Sidney’s knee.

Sidney smiles as he looks at his phone. “Well, it’s almost 7:30. We might want to think about dinner.”

With a long groan Geno sits up and cranes his neck to look around the partition so he can see the window. “I not realize how late it was. Food be good.”

Alex nods as he drops his hand. “Can’t believe we not notice.”

Sidney nods as he gets off the arm of the chair, Alex’s hand sliding from his knee as he moves. “I know.” Even the brief touch on his knee was enough to leave a ghost of warmth, like when Alex had finally moved his hand from his hip, what must have been hours ago. Not that Sidney can complain, since he lost touch of how many times he had managed to brush his fingers across his shoulders, not quite on purpose.

As they reach the door Side glances back at Geno. “Do you have your key?”

Geno pats himself down before triumphantly pulling the keycard from his pocket.

Alex’s laughs as he slides his arm around Sidney’s shoulders, drawing him close and Sidney leans into him, telling himself he is just doing it to keep up the illusion Geno is expecting. Not because of his crush, or that he likes the feeling of Alex next to him without the bulk of their gear between them. Alex kisses his cheek, before smiling at him. “Always being captain Sid.”

Heat flushes his cheeks and with as close as Alex is, there is no way he can not see it. He can only hope the other man assumes it is from the gentle teasing and not because of the kiss. “I am not. I just don’t want Geno to have to try and get back into his room.”

He heads towards the door, pulling Alex with him, Geno following behind him as he laughs. They continue their conversation as they head towards the elevator and they pile into the empty car. Alex crowds him near the wall, arm still around his shoulders and Sidney just rolls his eyes as he hits the button for the ground floor. He knows Alex’s touch at this point is as much to annoy him as to keep Geno in the dark.

The elevator stops in the lobby with just the three of them and Sidney looks at Geno. “Do we just want to hit the restaurant?”

Before Geno can respond he yawns and Alex laughs as he spins Sidney in the direction of the hallway leading to the restaurant. “I think Zhenya not up for much besides food. Might have to leave him at table.”

Geno glares at him and Sidney rolls his eyes, tugging at Alex as he shoves Geno towards the hallway. “We aren’t going to leave you at the table.”

Despite the number of people staying in the hotel who aren’t from the league, the restaurant is still filled mostly by hockey players, in various groupings and Sidney shakes his head as they wait for the hosts to seat them. This is another part of All-Star that never fails to amuse him. The rest of the season everyone in this room would be at each other’s throats, ready to take anyone to the ice but now, for the next three days they’re going to be playing best friends, most of their animosity gone. At least until the game, but even that isn’t bad, since no one wants to risk getting hurt this close to the end of the season.

The host finally arrives and grabs three menus. She smiles at them, obviously recognizing them as they fit into the collection of men already scattered around the tables. “Would you like to sit near any one table? I’ve been trying to accommodate the others.”

Sidney shakes his head. “Anywhere you want to put us is fine.” He knows his reputation among the league, more so than the fans, and it doesn’t bother him. He gets along with the people he wants to, and it isn’t hard to ignore the rest of them.

She seats them in a table near the window and Sidney ducks from under Alex’s arm as she places the menus down, with a promise of being back with water, and that their waiter will be with them shortly. Sidney takes one of the chairs facing the window, so he can watch the ebb and flow of people outside.

Alex takes the chair next to him, though he leaves a little bit of space between them, which Sidney is going to take as a miracle. Every time they are with Geno, the other man seems to make is his single goal to make sure there is no doubt they are happy in their marriage. A goal Sidney understands and while it had been awkward the first time, it is somehow worse now. While he is glad Geno is none the wiser, his own feelings for Alex are making this harder.

Geno collapses into the chair across from Alex and pulls one of the menus towards him. Alex grins and picks his own up.

-----

Sidney sets his fork down and smiles. Geno has his elbow planted on the table, propping his head up and his eyes are half-closed. He nudges Alex. “It might be a good thing we finished eating. Geno looks like he is going to fall asleep and land on his plate.”

Geno mumbles in protest but doesn’t move and Alex laughs. “Is okay Zhenya. Sid and I make sure you get to room. Not let you sleep on plate.”

That gets him something like a protest, but Geno is obviously on his last legs.

Movement in his periphery catches his attention and Sidney sees their waiter, hovering as she patiently waits for them to finish their conversation. Leaning back in his seat he gestures towards her. “Sorry. I think we’re done.”

She sweeps forward and takes his plate before reaching for Alex’s plate. “You’re fine. I didn’t want to interrupt. Are you sure I can’t interest you in any dessert?”

Laughing, Alex points at Geno, who is still fighting against falling asleep at the table and is losing. “No. Not want him to land in dessert.”

“Okay. I’ll be back with your bill in a few minutes.”

She disappears and Sidney exchanges a quick look with Alex, not that Geno is paying attention. He is supposed to pay for dinner, since this is the fourth time they’ve been out together, but after the day Geno has had, Sidney isn’t in a hurry to stick him with the bill, no matter how small it is. He manages to get his wallet out, just as the waiter returns and it hands it over without even seeing the bill.

That makes Geno move and he jabs a finger in Sidney’s direction. “Was my turn to pay.”

Sidney shrugs, resisting the urge to elbow Alex, who is getting ready to make a smart comment, if the grin on his face is any indication. “Don’t worry about it. You can get it the next time, and you deserve it, after the day you hand.”

That seems to take the fight out of him and he slumps back in his chair. “Fine. But am paying for the next two times.”

“That’s fine.” Sidney accepts his card back from the waiter and quickly adds a tip before signing the bottom.

Alex smiles as he pushes away from the table. “If you remember. Come Zhenya. Not want to carry you to room.”

With a heavy sigh Geno gets to his feet and Sidney again leads the way through the restaurant. A lot of the tables have emptied out, save a few who are lingering and he isn’t surprised. It is getting late and they have an early morning tomorrow to load the buses so they can get to the arena. The last night will be different, once they don’t have to worry about any events, but for now everyone is going to be on something approaching good behavior.

Making their way across the lobby Sidney jabs the call button and watches as each elevator indicator stops on a different floor. Behind him, Geno and Alex are having a quiet conversation, but he doesn’t pay much attention. If it is anything important, Alex will tell him later.

The elevator on the far left finally reaches the lobby and the door opens on a giggling couple. For whatever reason, the three of them waiting for the elevator makes them laugh even louder and they stumble coming off. Shaking his head Sidney enters, taking up station near the buttons. “I really don’t get people.”

Alex grins as he crowds next to him, despite the size of the elevator. “Only need to get important people Sidney.”

Once Geno is safely on, Sidney pokes the button for the fifth floor. He glances at Geno, who has his eyes closed and doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to him. Taking advantage of how close Alex is, he looks up at him. “You’re important, and I still don’t get you.”

Sidney doesn’t think he’s ever going to understand how Alex has stayed so even keeled about this body swap, and he has spent a lot of time trying to figure out it out. It gives him something else to think about when he can’t stop thinking about his stupid crush.

Geno makes a sound and Sidney looks at him to find the other man looking at them with a faux disgusted look. If the look is any indication, Geno took his words to mean they were flirting and not for what it really meant. He rolls his eyes. “Not need to flirt. Am right here.”

Before Alex can say anything the elevator reaches their floor and Sidney grabs him, shoving him as well as he can towards the door. “Stop trying to pick a fight with him tonight. Save it for the next time we play.”

Geno yawns as he nods and Alex nods, before grinning. “Need us to walk you home Zhenya?”

“Stop it.” Sidney tries to ignore the wash of affection as he shoves at Alex again, for all the good that it does him. “Geno, we’ll see you tomorrow.”

Alex starts moving down the hallway, and Sidney falls in step with him. They reach their room and Alex unlocks the door, stepping aside so he can go in, and Sidney kicks his shoes off. He turns to look at Alex, who is putting the safety latch in place. “Do you want me set the alarm?”

Grinning, Alex nods as he turns to look at Sidney, as he kicks his shoes off and nudges them next to Sidney’s. “Yes. That way I not snooze until almost late to get to arena.”

Sidney doesn’t even bother to respond as he sets his alarm for early. The only time he has ever seen Alex snooze an alarm, or get up late, is the days they don’t have anything to do. Any other time, Alex is always up with, or slightly after him. He tosses his phone on the bed before removing his ring and setting it on the bedside table. “I’m going to shower.”

Now that he isn’t moving and the comfortable silence has settled between them, Sidney realizes how gross he feels. It comes from being on the plane and wandering around in the warmer California air and he gets into his bag, digging out his toiletries and the t-shirt and shorts he sleeps in. Alex is sprawled on the couch, and Sidney is willing to bet he is either texting his brother, or Taylor. It always seems to be one of them when Alex has that particular look on his face.

He runs his shower warm, hoping it will work out the crick in his neck. He can’t be sure, but he thinks it is either from using Alex as a pillow on the flight, or the horrible hotel pillow when they took the nap. The cause doesn’t matter, but it is annoying enough he wants it gone before tomorrow. The water seems to do the trick, his neck feeling much better and he quickly dries of and dresses before brushing his teeth.

Opening the bathroom door Sidney shivers as he steps out. With the air conditioner on the room is almost too cold after his shower, but he ignores it. If they turn the air conditioner down it won’t be long until the room is too stuffy and Sidney would rather be a little chilly than feel like the walls are pressing in. He drops his dirty clothing on the floor near his bag, pausing when he feels Alex brush past him, hand sliding across his lower back.

A few seconds later, Alex is heading into the bathroom and Sidney settles on the bed with his phone. He has one text from Flower and he unlocks his phone. It says ‘Don’t embarrass yourself!!” and Sidney shakes his head. Flower being like this no matter what universe he is in at least constant, which is reassuring. Sidney plugs his phone in to charge before turning off the lamp on his side of the bed.

He slips into bed and is asleep before he hears the shower turn off.