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How It Could Be

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Head aching, Sidney groans and presses his face into the pillow. This is the worst he’s felt in a long time and the thought of moving is enough to make him want to die. A hand settles on the base of his neck, fingers digging in and some of the pain immediately ebbs and he settles deeper into the bed with another groan.

It feels so good it takes his mind a moment to catch up with the fact there’s someone in his bed when he distinctly remembers going to bed alone. He’d stripped down after getting back from Philadelphia and face planted in his bed, sprawled across the king mattress and completely dead to the world in seconds.

Sidney jerks from under the soothing touch and rolls over, freezing in place. Ovechkin is looking at him from barely open eyes, a faint smile twisting his lips.

There’s no reason for Ovechkin to be in his bed. He hasn’t even seen him for the last month. “Why the fuck are you in my bed?”

Ovechkin’s grin falls away, turning into a deep frown and he reaches over, fingers skimming along his hair line. “Sid, did you hit head last night?”

Sidney shakes his head as he backs away. This must be some kind of trick the rest of the team is playing on him. He slips out of the bed and moves away though he doesn’t look away. Ovechkin is sitting up now, the sheets and blankets pooled in his hips and this isn’t right, how comfortable he looks in the bed.

Feeling unsure he snatches his phone off the bedside table and ducks out of the room. He makes his way downstairs, the pounding in his head increasing. Stumbling into the living room he stops. There are obvious signs of more than one person, in the pairs of shoes and other odds and ends spread around, things he doesn’t recognize. He looks at the wall, to the pictures there and feels his heart stutter.

There are two, one of them from when they won the Cup, but instead of Geno, its Ovechkin, sweaty and beaming, his gap-toothed smile unmistakable. The other is more recent, of he and Ovechkin in the middle of their families, smiling. Ovechkin’s arm is around his shoulder and he is leaning into Ovechkin, almost imperceptibly but it’s there and he takes a deep breath. None of this feels right, and coupled with his pounding head, is just serving to make him feel even more irritated.

He becomes aware of the way the edges of his phone are digging into his palm and he raises it. He had gotten so distracted by the photos he had completely forgotten what he had come down here to do. Unlocking his phone he taps the contact icon.

Thumbing through his contacts he finds Geno and dials the number, unable to look away from the pictures on the wall. It rings several times, and he doesn’t even give Geno a chance to say anything. “Fucking hilarious. How much did it cost?”

“Sid? Cost what? And why call so early?”

Rubbing at his temple Sidney tightens his fingers around the phone. “How much did you pay to get Ovechkin in my bed? And it’s seven in the morning.”

There’s a long pause and when Geno speaks his voice is heavy with worry. “Is four in morning here Sid. And why I have to pay Sanja to be in bed with you? Did you hit head in game last night?”

“No. Why does everyone keep asking me that? Where the fuck are you that it’s four in the morning? We have a game tomorrow.”

Geno makes a sound. “LA Sid. Let me talk to Sanja.”

Sidney doesn’t want to, but Ovechkin is standing in the doorway, wearing sweats and a Penguins T-shirt, and looking at him expectantly. He holds out the phone and Ovechkin takes it. From there it degenerates into rapid Russian and Ovechkin is watching him, eyes bright and obviously worried.

He turns away, uncomfortable under the scrutiny and finds his eyes again drawn to the pictures. The more he looks at them the less sure he is that they’re fakes. If they are, Geno and the others spent a lot of money to get them done.

“Sidney.” Ovechkin moves to stand next to him and holds out his phone. “Zhenya and I agree. You need to see trainer. Something not right.”

Sidney snatches his phone back, noticing one of them ended the call. “Not right. What the fuck are these pictures?”

Ovechkin frowns. “When we win Cup. Our wedding.”

“What?” The team must have pooled their resources and got someone who is good at Photoshop because there is no way in hell the pictures on the wall are real. He never would have married Ovechkin, has only just lately been able to talk to the man without wanting to roll his eyes and he looks at the pictures.

If they are, Geno and the others spent a lot of time looking for someone who is good at these kinds of things. But at the same time if this is joke it is far more involved than they usually get. And he can’t imagine Ovechkin going along with something like this. The other man is still been trying to be friends with him and must know this wouldn’t win him any points in Sidney’s book.

He curls his fingers around his phone until the edges dig in. It gives him something grounding though his stomach still twists at the concerned way Ovechkin is looking at him.
“Why is Geno in LA?” It seems easier to focus on that than the pictures and the way Ovechkin’s face is creased with worry.

Ovechkin frowns. “Capitals play Kings today. You know Sidney.”

At this point Sidney isn’t sure he knows anything, but he still isn’t going to give in. “Who did we play last night?”

“Flyers. You have one goal and assist.” Ovechkin’s gaze is strong, the worry still heavy in his voice. “I have two goals.” He raises his hand like he wants to touch, dropping it when Sidney takes a step back. “Sure you not hit head?”

Sidney nods. The Flyers had been out for him, like they usually are, but he had managed to avoid any serious hits, though they had managed to trap him against the boards a few times. “Positive.” And he had managed a goal and an assist, though one of the goals had come from Jordan and the other from Tanger.

“Sidney.”

He can’t help but look at Ovechkin when he says his name, as the other man always calls him Sid when they run into each other, with a challenging, amused smile. “What?”

“We have review in hour. Promise you talk to staff?”

Worry is written plainly across Ovechkin’s face and Sidney finds himself nodding, though it intensifies the pounding in his head. “Alright. I’m going to go shower.”

He doesn’t give Ovechkin a chance to respond and heads upstairs, with a quick look at the pictures. They look flawless, as real as the other pictures he has at home and it makes something uncomfortable twist in his stomach. Entering his bedroom Sidney closes the door for privacy, before tossing his phone on the foot of the bed. He doesn’t think Ovechkin is going to come check on him, but it makes him feel better.

He has no idea of what he’s looking for, some proof this is all a joke, so he heads for the closet. Pulling the door open he turns on the light on, the pit of his stomach falling even further, if that is even possible. He recognizes his suits, shirts and shoes hanging on one side of the big closet, but the others are alien to him, in colors he would never wear. Opening the dresser on the left side reveals shirts and pants, all things he wouldn’t own, and he takes a deep breath.

Sidney scrubs a hand across his face and steps back. He feels hollow, because there is no way the team is quiet, or coordinated enough to pull something like this off. Exiting the closet he does go into the bathroom to take a shower, not wanting to be a liar, and because he hopes the hot water will make him feel better. It does ease the pounding in his head a little and while he doesn’t feel better, he feels a little steadier.

He takes his time dressing, needing a little more time before he must face Ovechkin again. Once he thinks he can manage to keep it together he heads downstairs. He hears Ovechkin’s voice, and he goes into the kitchen, not surprised to find the other man on the phone. Dropping into the chair he waits for Ovechkin to finish his conversation and he can’t help but wonder who he is talking to, since the conversation is in English.

Ovechkin ends the call and sets his phone on the counter. “Breakfast?”

“I can make some, if you want to take a shower before the review.” Faced once again with Ovechkin’s intensity Sidney finds he isn’t quite as ready to deal with it head on. It must show in his face because Ovechkin gives a sharp nod before striding from the room. Sidney waits for the sound of the door closing upstairs before he unlocks his phone and goes to the Capitals’ roster. Sure enough, Geno’s name is there and Sidney frowns. A quick look at the Penguins’ roster show Ovechkin’s name and Sidney slumps back in the chair. That is beyond the team’s abilities and plants a seed of doubt.

Scrubbing a hand across his face Sidney looks around the kitchen. It looks the same as it did last night when he had a quick snack before heading to bed. He looks back at his phone, sitting on the counter and it suddenly comes to him that maybe this is a weird, lucid dream. It would certainly explain the rosters not being correct, why they’re in his house. He has never seen the inside of Ovechkin’s place and he has had some odd dreams before.

Granted, none of them have involved him being married to a rival captain, and Ovechkin of all people, but he supposes he shouldn’t be surprised. So much of their real lives are tangled together, no matter how much he tries to convince the press and everyone else, they don’t need to be. There is no reason to compare them, but no one can ever seem to help themselves.

Realizing he has spent most of his time thinking, rather than making food Sidney heads to the fridge to find something to eat. He is already a little unnerved by the intensity of Ovechkin’s gaze and he doesn’t know how much more of it he can take. Plus he doesn’t want to have to explain to Ovechkin how he was doubting everything around him rather than eating breakfast.

The contents of his fridge are exactly the same as they were last night and it gives him pause again. He can’t ever recall having a dream this vivid, with this much detail. And none have ever stirred this level of emotion in him. He seems to be waffling between out right annoyance, at this whole situation and an uncomfortable knot of unease. Everything seems too real to be a dream, but there isn’t any other logical explanation for what is going on.

Hoping some food will settle his stomach Sidney scrounges through and finds some fruit and yogurt and eats it while he waits for his toast. He has just finished cleaning up when Ovechkin comes back into the kitchen. Even with what has happened so far it is still jarring to see him wearing a Pittsburgh shirt and Sidney tamps down on the urge to make a snide comment. He doesn’t want to start a fight.

“Better?”

Sidney can tell Ovechkin wants to ask more, and he’s grateful when he doesn’t. He still doesn’t have the words to explain anything, feels off balance and he keeps hoping there will be some sign this is just a very odd dream, but there has been nothing. “I’m fine.”

He can tell from the twist of Ovechkin’s mouth he doesn’t believe it. Instead he gets a sharp nod, and he makes a sweeping gesture towards the hallway. “Need to go.”

Sidney bites back the words on his tongue. He knows exactly how long it takes to get to the practice rink and he doubts it will be any different now. Slipping off the stool he grabs his shoes from the closet and pulls them on, trying not to stare at Ovechkin does the same, before pulling on a hoodie and grabbing keys from the table near the door.

Pulling out another hoodie Sid shrugs it on, glad to find it is his, if the fit is any indication. He reluctantly follows Ovechkin outside and he wishes he could justify taking two cars. He knows he can’t, as it will look odd to the others and the pounding headache from earlier is starting to come back. Taking a deep breath he climbs into the car, pulling the seatbelt across his chest.

The drive to the rink seems to drag on and Sidney feels the tension in the car, like ants crawling across his skin. It feels like Ovechkin keeps stealing looks at him, worried frown still pulling at his mouth and Sidney curls his hands into loose fists. He wants to ask a million different questions, but he can’t seem to articulate them, and he isn’t sure he would like the answer. So instead he settles for staring out the window at the familiar scenery and tries to ignore the pounding in his head and the heavy weight sitting in his stomach.

They get to the practice rink and Sidney’s stomach knots in anticipation. He still can’t bring himself to believe this isn’t some elaborate joke put into place by his team. They’ll get to the rink, everyone will have a good laugh at his expense, Ovechkin will fly back to DC, with a story to tell, at his expense. He’ll get to go home, take the pictures down and everything will be back to normal. The team will expect him to be angry at them for a few weeks and he’ll indulge them until it becomes a waste of energy.

He steals another quick look at Ovechkin, not sure what he’s expecting. The same frown is creasing his face, as it has been since they woke up this morning and Sidney isn’t sure what to think. If this is the joke he thinks it is, the other man is putting a lot of effort into it. By now he would have expected to see some crack in the façade, a sign of the irreverent Ovechkin he knows. Instead there have been worried looks and more than one aborted attempt to reach out and touch him.

Sidney gets out of the car and heads for the building, Ovechkin a few steps behind him. He opens the door, letting Ovechkin go ahead of him. The man might irritate him, but Sidney does have manners, and this is his home, no matter what else is going on. It takes him a moment to catch up with Ovechkin and Sidney can’t help but frown. The other man seems to have more than a passing acquaintance with the facility, as he is headed straight for the video review room.

Frowning Sidney follows and almost walks into him when Ovechkin stops right outside the room. A strong hand curls around his elbow, steadying him and he swallows against the intensity of his eyes. He steps back, needing space between them and Ovechkin’s hand lingers for a moment before falling away. “Have time to talk to trainer.”

The question mark on the end is obvious but Sidney shakes his head. “I will after.” He needs a little more time to get his thoughts together. And he’s hoping as the others start arriving there will be more proof this is a weird dream. Jordan will have green hair and Flower will have grown a third arm and everything will be right.

He’ll wake up and he won’t think about it again, letting it fade away. Entering the screening room he takes his usual seat, surprised when Ovechkin sinks down next to him, close enough their shoulders are touching. He shifts slightly, leaning away and tells himself he’s imaging the quick flash of hurt that flickers across Ovechkin’s face.

A few minutes later he hears voices, and he twists in his seat, away from Ovechkin. He wants to see the look on the others’ faces, the quick flicker of amusement, something that will give them away. Jordan comes in first and he waves, making his way towards them. “Hey Sid, Alex. If I didn’t know better, I would think you two were psychic.”

Sidney looks at Jordan, expecting some tell, all the ones he is familiar with, but there is nothing. Flower flops down next to Jordan, in the row behind them, gaze darting between them. “I keep telling you Jordan, this is what happens when you get married. Some weird link, and you can tell what the other is thinking.” He grins. “Unless the garbage needs to go out. Then no one knows anything.”

Slumping back in his chair Sidney watches as the rest of the team files in, in small groups. They all wave at them, calling out and Sidney feels the knot in his stomach tighten. There is no way the entire team would have been in on the joke. None of them can keep a secret, and it only gets worse the more people know. A number of surprises have been ruined because one person too many knew about it.

Bylsma and the rest of the coaching staff come in and Sidney twists to face the screen, feeling a little nauseous. No one seems to find it odd Ovechkin is here and Flower leans forward to say something to him. Sidney can’t quite make it out, but Ovechkin glances at him, a frown pulling at the corner of his mouth, and he looks away.

Sidney wants to pay more attention to the review, the familiar, soothing glide of people across the ice but he can’t seem to focus, at least not on the screen. He feels painfully aware of Ovechkin next to him, the rise and fall of his chest, the quiet sound of his breathing. And to make it worse there is actual proof on the video, of Ovechkin on the ice, in a Penguin jersey, the number 8 on his back. They seem to be on the ice together a lot and seeing Ovechkin like this, he does have a new appreciation for his skill.

At ice level it is different, some of the subtlety of Ovechkin lost, but like this, on the video, Sidney can see his skill. And whatever other problems he might have with Ovechkin, about his way off the ice, and the way he dresses he can admit, the man can play hockey.

The review feels like it drags on, Bylsma’s voice falling into a drone and Sidney presses hard against his temple. He had thought sitting in the dark, watching something familiar would help, but the intermittent pounding in his head has been steadily getting worse.

“Sidney?”

Ovechkin is leaning towards him, hand resting on his leg and Sidney manages to wave him off. “I’m fine.”

Sidney doesn’t have to look to know Ovechkin is frowning, still worried and he sinks back into his chair. The other man must get the hint, as his hand falls away, but Sidney can still feel the tension in the big body next to him.

Finally, the review ends, and Sidney closes his eyes. He can hear the others filing out of the room and he’s glad they aren’t having practice today. The thought of moving, the piercing shrill of the whistle is enough to make his stomach roil. Jordan and Flower haven’t moved and are talking to Ovechkin, what they’re saying lost in the sound of people leaving the room.

Once it sounds like everyone is gone, Sidney finally sits up. Jordan and Flower are indeed still in the room, watching him and he glances at Ovechkin, wondering what he told them. Instead of asking he stands, heading from the room, the three of them following him like ducklings.

Entering the hallway he stops, wishing there were a way to duck out, but there isn’t. He did agree with Ovechkin about seeing the trainers and he isn’t going to lie. They might not be able to help with the one problem, but they might have a suggestion to help with the fact his head feels like it might explode.

Flower leans towards him. “Are you going to hang out for the optional, or are you going home?”

“Sid need to see the trainers.”

Flower and Jordan look at him, both looking worried. Flower frowns. “Did you take a hit last night I didn’t see?”

Sidney shakes his head, the movement sending a jab of pain through his temple, and he winces. “No. My head just hurts.” He isn’t sure why he doesn’t say what he’s thinking, the accusation that this is all a joke, and he hopes they’ve gotten a good laugh out of it. Instead the looks at Ovechkin, who has taken a step forward and he presses his fingers against his temple. “I’ll be right back.”

He doesn’t give the men a chance to respond and heads for the trainers. One of the doctors is even in and Sidney gladly hops up on the bench, though he can’t help the wince of pain that follows it.

The doctor frowns. “Problems with your head Sidney?”

With a shrug Sidney sighs. “I woke up and it was pounding. The feeling seems to come and go, but everything else feels off too.”

That makes the doctor’s face crease with worry and Sidney suddenly wishes he had just stuck with his head hurting. He can’t think of any way to explain what is going on with Ovechkin and the others and not come off like he is talking about some bizarre fever dream. And he doesn’t want to run the risk of the doctor putting him on IR. Right now hockey is the only normal thing he has going, and he doesn’t want to lose it.

Frowning the doctor leans towards him. “I know you would have seen us if you had taken a hit. Do you think this might be related to any of your previous injuries?”

Sidney manages to remember not to shake his head at the last second. “I doubt it. I just woke up this morning and my head was pounding.”

“Hmm.”

Sidney fights the urge to rolls his eyes at that sound. He has heard it from more doctors than he wants to think about, when they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with his neck. It means they have no idea what might be wrong and they’re going to grasp at straws until they have an answer.

“And everything is okay, between you and Alex?”

That makes him start and he looks at the doctor. “Why would you ask that?”

The doctor smiles, leaning back slightly. “I am married and have been through my fair share of arguments and fights with my lovely wife. Stress can manifest in odd ways, and this might be part of it. Add in the fact you work together in a high pressure arena, and this could just be that. Although, if it doesn’t get any better, don’t hesitate to come back in.”

Sidney nods and stands, not really surprised at the doctor’s decision. He isn’t sure what he was expecting, especially when he can’t explain what is going on, not without coming across as a little weird. Part of him is still trying to hold onto the belief this is just a very odd, lucid dream. The larger part of him though, is starting to believe this might be something else and he isn’t sure what to make of it.

Ovechkin, Flower and Jordan are all waiting for him and Sidney isn’t surprised the other two waited for him to come out. Besides Geno, they’re the two who always worry the most about him and by now, he is used to it. What he isn’t used to, beneath the worry is the hint of something else and his gaze cuts to Ovechkin.

The other man still looks concerned, and Sidney can’t help but wonder what he told Flower and Jordan. If they now know how he woke up this morning, the way he had slunk out of the bed, convinced this is a joke. But it can’t be, because by now Flower at least would have broken, smiled and clapped him on the shoulder, dark eyes filled with humor. Now though, Flower is looking at him like he’s a different person and Sidney doesn’t like it.

“Sidney?”

Sidney stops looking at Flower, gaze sliding to Ovechkin. “I’m okay. The doctor said it is probably just stress related.”

It isn’t hard to tell the others don’t believe him and Sidney can’t find the energy to come up with anything better. Without knowing what Ovechkin told them he doesn’t want to say anything that might cause any further problems. What he really needs now is some quiet, so he can think in peace and try to figure out what is going on.

Ovechkin’s frown doesn’t fade but he pushes away from the wall. “Alright. Then we go home so you can rest.” He looks at Flower and Jordan. “See you tomorrow.”

Sidney manages to say goodbye and he catches up with Ovechkin. The skin between his shoulders feels like it is prickling, and he knows if he turned around his friends would be staring after him, eyes narrowed as they tried to fit his behavior into whatever Ovechkin had told them and he wishes he had asked.

The drive home is long, and Sidney rests his head against the window, the chill glass making him feel better. A dozen times he starts to ask Ovechkin what he said to Flower and Jordan, but each time he closes his mouth, not sure he wants to hear the answer. The only thing he is sure about is that something isn’t right, but he still doesn’t know what.

It isn’t a joke, not with all the evidence, and it isn’t a dream. Everything about it feels too real and he knew if he could gather up the courage to reach over, Ovechkin would be warm and breathing, his concern almost palpable. Which leaves him with nothing, and Sidney isn’t sure what to do about it. He can’t think of any other reason this is happening, and it makes his stomach knot uncomfortably.

Sidney has always prided himself on being as in control of his settings as possible, and this is anything but under control. He is starting to feel like he doesn’t know which way is up and he hates that he doesn’t know what is going on. Ovechkin’s ongoing concern isn’t helping matters, as he would really like the chance to be alone, to try and think his way through this.

The car is barely in park before Sidney has his seatbelt undone and he gets out of the car, ignoring the way the hair on the back of his neck prickles. Ovechkin is watching him and Sidney is going to have to get used to the feeling.

They get inside and Sidney makes a vague motion when Ovechkin looks at him. “I think I’m just going to go, do something.”

Ovechkin nods. “I be in kitchen.”

Sidney heads for the office in the back of the house, not liking the way he feels like an intruder in his own home. Short of having Ovechkin and his things in the house, Sidney knows this is his home, could get around it with his eyes closed, but it doesn’t change the feeling. Like everything else going on, there is an almost palpable feeling that this isn’t his home.

Even the office looks the same, with the desk and filing cabinet against the wall. In the closet there is a small safe and Sidney turns on the light before sinking down to the carpet. Of course, because nothing makes sense, the combination is the same as his and he frowns as he opens it. All of his important papers are in an envelope on the bottom, but there is another one on top.

He opens the clasp on the envelope and reaches in. The paper feels fine against his fingers and he draws it out. Skimming the paper it doesn’t take long to realize it is a marriage license. His signature is at the bottom, with Ovechkin’s on the line next to it and Sidney carefully tucks it away, setting it aside. He might not want to believe it, but it isn’t his and he doesn’t want to damage it. More papers are stacked on the second shelf and Sidney leafs through them, the deed for the house, with both of their names on it, titles for the cars and dozens of other pieces of paper, linking him with Ovechkin.

There are several ring boxes on the top shelf, and he takes them down, heart caught in his throat. The first holds his Championship ring and he runs his hand over the face. This at least is something familiar and he smiles, though he doesn’t really feel it. The second holds another ring and he somehow knows, without having to look at the band it belongs to Ovechkin.

He can’t help though, and he lifts out of the box. It feels the same as his, though the band is bigger, and Ovechkin’s name is engraved on it. He puts it back in the box and sets it next to his before pulling out the third box. This one contains two thick platinum bands, one slightly smaller than the other and he knows these are the wedding rings. He isn’t sure why, but he takes the smaller band out.

It is cool to the touch, and he slips it on his finger, at this point not surprised that it fits perfectly. He flexes his fingers, and the weight feels not quite right. Pulling it off he tucks it into the velvet with the other one and puts everything back into the safe, quietly closing the door. Sidney scrubs a hand across his face. He isn’t sure what he was hoping to find by looking in the safe, but it has just left him feeling more unsettled.

He had wanted to keep denying it, but with proof like this, he can’t. This isn’t an elaborate joke, or some kind of hyper-vivid dream. Somehow, some way, this is real.

“Fuck.” Sidney drops his head back against the wall, wincing at the jolt of pain it sends through his head. He knows this is real, or what passes for it, but he has no idea why or what is going on. Last night he went to bed alone and this morning has been a confusing hell and he just wants to know why.

With a groan he gets to his feet and leaves the office, turning off the light. He thinks about finding Ovechkin, to pump the man for information, but he doesn’t. Even from the hallway he can hear him talking to someone and Sidney doesn’t want to intrude. Instead he finds himself caught by the pictures on the wall. Now that he’s paying more attention, he sees there are more pictures than just the wedding picture and the one from when they won the Cup.

There are several pictures of just he and Ovechkin, on what looks like their wedding as well as during the summer. They’re both smiling and Sidney feels disconnected, seeing pictures where he is obviously happy, but not having any memories to go with them. He picks his way down the hall, taking in more pictures, that include his family as well as Ovechkin’s, everyone smiling. There is even one with Taylor sandwiched between them.

Reaching the end of the hallway Sidney heads upstairs, wanting to lay down. His head is swimming, and he makes it upstairs and into his room. The bed is still a mess of twisted bedding and Sidney twitches is straight before kicking his shoes off and climbing into the bed. He curls on his side, pressing his face into the pillow. He feels better now, and he can’t help but hope maybe if he manages to fall asleep, he’ll wake up and everything will be back to normal.

It can’t hurt to try.

Chapter Text

“Sidney?”

With a groan Sidney rolls over, darkness swirling around him. Blinking hard Ovechkin’s form swims into view, bent over him. He barely manages to bite back a sound of disappointment as he slowly sits up. It had probably been too much to hope anyway. “I’m fine.”

The words don’t sound very convincing, and he doesn’t need to be able to see Ovechkin to know the other man if frowning. “My head hurt, and I wanted to lay down.”

Ovechkin straightens up, though he stays near the bed. “Sure nothing else is wrong?”

Sidney will readily admit he is terrible at anything involving feelings, but he isn’t so dense that he can ignore the undercurrent of worry in Ovechkin’s voice, the way he had seemed a little broken this morning. Whatever is going on here is as much his problem as it is Sidney’s, and he isn’t totally heartless. This Ovechkin and his version of Sidney are obviously in love and happy and he can’t begrudge them that.

There is a little voice in the back of his head that is telling him he should just explain to Ovechkin what is going on, that he isn’t this Sidney, but he doesn’t. He is still trying to wrap his head around it, since he still has no idea why he is here, rather than in his own body and life. And the last thing he wants to do is get Ovechkin’s hopes up about getting the other Sidney back. There must be some way, but Sidney has no idea what it might be
.
Reaching over he turns on the bedside light, blinking against the sudden brightness. Sidney smiles, though he can tell from the look on Ovechkin’s face it isn’t convincing.

“I’m sure. I feel much better.”

The throb has subsided to a dull, intermittent ache and it is better than he has felt since this morning. “I should have told you I was going to lay down.”

Ovechkin nods as he steps back so Sidney can stand. “Would have been good. I worry.”

That makes him feel guilty and he ducks his head. People worrying about him is nothing new, with the way the team treats him when he is injured, but this is something else. There is deeper emotion here. He can tell his actions are wearing on him and it really isn’t fair. “I’ll try to do better.”

Staring at him for a long minute Ovechkin shakes his head. He doesn’t say anything, and it makes Sidney’s stomach twist. An uncomfortable feeling settles over him and he can’t seem to shake the feeling he is somehow going to mess this up and ruin everything.

They continue looking at each other before Ovechkin sighs. “I make lunch, if you want.”

Until this moment Sidney hadn’t realized how hungry he is, and he nods. “That would be good. Thank you.”

He has the feeling this is where he would kiss Ovechkin or skim a hand down his arm in a welcoming touch, but he can’t do it. It is bad enough he is lying to the other man, and he wants to minimize the damage as much as he can. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

With a curt nod and last look Ovechkin leaves the room and Sidney sighs. He takes a minute before standing and he ducks into the bathroom, splashing water on his face when he’s done. Grabbing a hoodie from the closet he shrugs it on as he descends the stairs, surprised to see it is early afternoon. Ovechkin is in the kitchen, with his own lunch and Sidney takes a seat across from him.

The other man’s gaze lingers on him for a minute and Sidney realizes it is because the hoodie he has on is a little big in the shoulders and sleeves. Heat flushes his cheeks, and he ducks his head but doesn’t move to take the hoodie off. He feels bad enough about what is going on without making it worse, so he is going to deal with the awkward feelings welling up in his stomach.

Lunch is quiet and Sidney focuses on the food in front of him, hoping his racing thoughts aren’t showing on his face. At least while he was asleep, he hadn’t been able to think about what was going on and his sleep had been wonderfully dream free.

They finish eating and Sidney reaches across the table, taking Ovechkin’s plate. He sees the other man’s aborted attempt to stop him, and he stands. “I can manage.”

There is a bit of a bite in his voice that Ovechkin sinks back in his chair, a frown pulling at his mouth and Sidney berates himself. He needs to not do anything to ruin this relationship he has been thrust into and he is not doing a good job at it. “Sorry.”

“Is okay Sidney.”

Ovechkin’s voice is low, and Sidney turns back to the sink, feeling terrible. As weird as this is for him, it has to be just as bad for Ovechkin, who is suddenly faced with a spouse who is acting odd and reticent, for no discernible reason. Shoving up the sleeves of the hoodie Sidney rinses the few crumbs from both plates before putting them in the dishwasher. He closes the door, the back of his neck prickling with the way he can feel Ovechkin watching him.

Sighing he turns to look at Ovechkin. The concerned look is back, and it makes the hollow in the pit of his stomach yawn wider, making him feel terrible.

“Look, I know I’m acting weird and I’m sorry.” He scrubs a hand across his face, fighting the urge to fidget. “I just, I’m trying.”

The words sound pathetic, and he wouldn’t blame Ovechkin if he pressed him on the matter. If he was in the other man’s position, he can’t say he would show such reserve and he isn’t sure why Ovechkin is remaining quiet about the matter.

Ovechkin smiles wanly, and it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Is fine Sidney. I understand.”

As simple as the words are, it makes Sidney’s stomach knot, and he scrubs his hands against his thighs. This is going to be hard.

-----

It doesn’t dawn on Sidney until much later, that he has no idea how the night is going to go. He has no good reason to ask Ovechkin to sleep in a different room, and no explanation for why he might seek out another bed. Luckily, the bed is big and while he might not be used to sharing a bed with someone, maybe he’ll be able to shut down his brain long enough for his body to realize sharing a bed is normal. He heads upstairs before Ovechkin, managing a faint smile when the other man looks at him.

As he heads for the stairs, he can’t help but look at the pictures again and he thinks if he ever gets back to where he belongs, he is going to see them every time he closes his eyes. There is something compelling about them, impossible to resist and the one he keeps paying the most attention to is the one of just them on their wedding day.

Tearing his gaze away Sidney makes it upstairs and closes the door. He quickly gets ready for bed, pulling on a T-shirt and shorts before turning out the lights. Crawling into bed he draws the blankets up and it isn’t long before he starts drifting off. After his impromptu nap earlier today, he had expected to have a tough time trying to sleep, but the day’s upheaval has exhausted him more than he thought.

The door opening startles him, sleep falling away, and he feels his heart jump in his throat. Ovechkin moves quietly around the room, disappearing into the bathroom, the door whispering shut. He starts to drift again, less startled when the door opens. His heart does jump again when he feels the blanket lift and the bed dip.

Ovechkin seems to remember this morning and he stays well on his side of the bed.

-----

Sidney stares down at his breakfast, scrambled egg whites, wheat toast and turkey bacon, feeling exhausted. It had taken him time to fall asleep last night after Ovechkin had settled into the bed, though he knows it had taken the other man a long time to fall asleep too. He had looked exhausted when Sidney had seen him awake this morning and it makes him feel a little guilty.

So far, the only good thing about this body change is that the schedule seems to be following the one he knows at home. They have practice today and an early game tomorrow since it’s Sunday.

He quickly eats and puts his dishes in the dishwasher before heading upstairs. Ovechkin passes him on the stairs, worry still heavy in his eyes and Sidney has to look away. He wishes there were something he could do to help alleviate some of his concern, but there isn’t much. Without the knowledge of their relationship there are too many missteps he could make, and he has a feeling everything is already on shaky ice, with the way he has been acting.

Changing, Sidney heads downstairs and he doesn’t say anything when he sees the keys in Ovechkin’s hand. For now he is going to try his best to follow the other man’s lead and hope it makes things even a little bit better. The headache from yesterday is mostly gone, which is the only good thing in the last two days. That, and the idea of practice together, lifts his mood a little bit and the drive to the rink isn’t as bad as it was yesterday.

Except it doesn’t take long for the day to start to get bad. The feeling of disconnect starts as soon as they enter the locker room, since he’s expecting Geno to be there, but instead it is Ovechkin, loud and overwhelming, laughing with the others, though he does seem to settle as they start changing. Sidney averts his gaze, focusing on the steady, reassuring act of getting ready for practice. It gives him a chance to dwell on something he knows so his thoughts don’t scatter in a dozen different ways.

Ignoring the others, he heads for the ice, hoping for a chance to skate a few laps without the others and they must be able to tell, with the way no one follows him. A few minutes later the others come straggling out, but Sidney feels a little better, ready to face what is likely going to be an ugly practice for a variety of reasons.

And it is. The physical isn’t the problem, as Sidney has done this thousands of times and his body seems to react on auto-pilot when he needs it, as his mind races to figure out how he can go around and avoid, since he has never been the type to try and go through people to get to the net. Mental is the problem since no matter what, he can’t seem to keep from looking for Geno and there is always an unpleasant jolt of remembering when he sees Ovechkin. Seeing him in black and gold on the review yesterday had been one thing but in person it feels like he’s been punched in the stomach.

He tries to keep it under control, but he can tell he is failing with the number of looks he is getting from the coaching staff and the rest of the team. Jordan and Flower are watching him, both frowning and it is enough to make him realize Ovechkin probably told them quite a bit about what happened yesterday, and it does make sense. Without Geno here, those two are probably his closest friends, excepting his relationship with Ovechkin.

Bylsma calls a break and Sidney knows it is no little part because of him. His passes with Ovechkin aren’t connecting and he feels like he’s skating through molasses, and he needs to get it together. They play the Islanders tomorrow, who are doing well, and they really need the points from the game. Rather than gathering in a loose group with the others Sidney heads towards the boards. Turning his back to the others he pulls a glove off and scrubs a hand across his face.

This is unforgivable and he needs to get his shit together. Yes, he has no idea what is going on, why he is suddenly in this odd world where he’s married to Ovechkin, but he needs to put the oddness behind him. The team is expecting him to do what he always does, and he wants to do it, but if he can’t put this behind him, he’s going to end up letting them down. He hears skates behind him, and he knows it is Ovechkin without having to look.

Who better to deal with a pouting spouse than the other?

Ovechkin isn’t quite close enough to touch but Sidney can feel his heat even through all the layers they’re both wearing, never mind his sheer physical presence. Silence drags out between them, and Sidney shifts a little, kind of surprised Ovechkin hasn’t tried to fill it with chatter.

There is something about his quiet presence that makes him feel a little better, as weird as that is, and he rolls his shoulders. It must be a sign, because Ovechkin’s hand settles on the back of his neck, fingers pressing in just enough and his mind might not know what is going on, but his body remembers, and it feels like all the tension drains from his body.

Sidney can’t help but tip his head forwards and he sighs. This is just one of those little things he might be fucking up and he doesn’t like it. “I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better.” He isn’t sure if he means at practice, getting over the disconnect of seeing Ovechkin on the ice, or about being married to him, but he means it. He still isn’t sure why he is here, but he can’t be responsible for messing it up. If he ever gets back to where he belongs the guilt will be something he isn’t sure he can live with.

Next to him Ovechkin moves a little closer, until Sidney can feel him against his left side. “Is okay Sidney.”

“But it isn’t.” He glances at the other man, seeing the crease of worry between his eyebrows, and twist of his mouth and Sidney knows he deserves to know what is going on. This secret isn’t doing either of them any favors. He can tell Ovechkin is on the verge of asking what it is, and he shakes his head. He still isn’t ready to tell him, and practice isn’t the time to do it. He has already taken up enough time with this and they need to be on top of it, with the way the Islanders are playing.

He skates back just enough to put pressure on Ovechkin’s hand, and he takes the hint, dropping his hand. Taking a deep breath he looks at Ovechkin and he does feel a little better, though he doesn’t know how long it is going to last. “As soon as I can, I’ll tell you.”

It sounds stupid to him, but Ovechkin nods and Sidney can only imagine how he must be feeling, clinging to something so pathetic.

They move to rejoin the team and the rest of practice goes better.

-----

Sidney stretches and rolls his shoulders, feeling a little looser. Now that practice is behind them, he feels like he is in a better state of mind for tomorrow’s game. He is trying his best to pay more attention to where Ovechkin is, to get used to his presence. Even at home, when they’re in different parts of the house he feels like he knows where Ovechkin always is. It is a weird feeling, and he wonders if this is how his parents feel.

Ovechkin comes into the living room, moving to sit on the couch. He pauses for a moment before dropping into the chair, legs stretched out in front of him. The aborted movement makes Sidney flinch, and he rubs his hands against his thighs. “Do you want me to think about making dinner?”

A quick look through the cupboards and pantry had shown an even divide of the types of food he eats and what he can only assume is Ovechkin’s choice of food. He isn’t sure how they manage dinner on the nights they have dinner at home, but splitting the cooking seems like a logical guess.

Nodding Ovechkin picks at the nubby fabric of the chair he’s sitting in. “If you want.”

Despite the brevity of the words there isn’t any sharpness to them, just a hint of tiredness and Sidney stands. “Okay.” As he passes the chair he reaches out, wanting to repay a little of Ovechkin’s kindness from practice. He presses his hand against his shoulder in a brief touch before heading into the kitchen.

There isn’t much food in the fridge, which isn’t much of a surprise and Sidney knows they’ll have to go shopping soon. They have a few weeks before they head out west on a road trip and they will need food until then. Sidney settles for what he usually cooks, chicken and vegetables and he assumes by now Ovechkin is used to eating like this.

Once everything is in the oven Sidney heads back to the living room. The TV is on, showing the Tampa/Devils game and Sidney sits down where he had been sitting earlier. Neither team is doing well, and he shakes his head as he watches the Devils give up the puck in their own zone. “They should be ashamed.”

Ovechkin makes a sound of assent, not looking away from the TV. Sidney understands his focus, as they play the Devils two days after Tampa, and it won’t hurt anything to have some idea of what they’re coming up with. They shouldn’t have any problems against the Devils, with the fact they’re currently the worst team in the league, but Sidney doesn’t believe in that, and he doubts Ovechkin does either. Too much can happen in a game to make assumptions like that.

The timer on the oven coincides with the start of the second intermission and Sidney stands, though he doesn’t go any further. Normally he eats in the kitchen, but he has no idea how Ovechkin and the other Sidney do things. “Do you-”

Ovechkin smiles slightly and gets to his feet. “I come to kitchen.” He makes a vague gesture towards the TV. “Not like listening to them talk.”

Sidney smiles, understanding his feelings. Normally he mutes the TV, choosing instead to focus on the highlights. He learns more about it that way and isn’t distracted by the analysis. “Okay.”

Pulling the food out of the oven he watches from the corner of the eye as Ovechkin gets plates and silverware, setting them down next to him. It sends a shiver through him, to watch Ovechkin move around his kitchen with such familiarity. He dishes the food on the plates and carries them to the table, setting them down opposite each other.

A few seconds later Ovechkin joins him with the silverware and water and Sidney nods in thanks as he accepts the fork held out. The meal is quiet and so far, this is the only thing that hasn’t felt strained, and he can’t help but remember once Geno told him what the public sees of Ovechkin isn’t always the way he is. This seems to confirm it and Sidney feels the muscles in his back relax as the expected interrogation about what is going on fails to materialize.

After dinner Ovechkin takes the plates and puts them in the dishwasher, shaking his head at Sidney’s offer for help. He waves his hand in the direction of the living room and Sidney takes the hint. Water in hand he goes back to where the third period has just started. It is clear whatever was said in the Tampa locker room had an effect, as the Lightning are playing better than they have all game.

Sidney settles back on the couch and a few seconds later Ovechkin comes in, dropping into the chair. He feels like he might be imagining it, but it seems a little of tension is gone. It is almost like the simple act of dinner has managed to ease some of the friction of the last two days.

Tampa dominates the rest of the game, managing two goals and Ovechkin mutes the TV as it goes back to the booth. He smiles at Sidney. “Good thing not play Tampa soon.”

“Yeah.” Sidney frowns. “If they keep playing like that, they might be a problem later in the season.”

He stretches, rolling his shoulders. Now that they’ve eaten, he’s starting to feel tired and he thinks a good night of sleep will do him good, since they have the early game tomorrow. “I think I’m going to head to bed.”

Ovechkin nods and Sidney heads upstairs. He doesn’t turn on the overhead light, instead opting to turn on the light on his side of the bed. Rather than hurrying through getting ready for bed he takes his time, hoping it will help settle him, give him a chance to reconcile himself with sharing the bed for another night.

Sidney comes out of the bathroom to find Ovechkin gathering the pillows from his side of the bed. He frowns. “What are you doing?”

Ovechkin jerks his head in the direction of the door. “I go sleep in different room.”

Last night had been uncomfortable, mostly because he isn’t used to sharing a bed with anyone, but it hadn’t been his intention to make Ovechkin feel like he has to flee to another room. “You don’t have to. This is your bed as much as it is mine.”

Shaking his head Ovechkin rounds the bed. “Is fine Sidney. Think you might need it.”

There isn’t anything Sidney can say, and he watches as the other man leaves the room. Scrubbing a hand across his face he turns off the light in the bathroom. Now he feels even worse, which he was starting to think wasn’t possible. Crossing to the bed Sidney perches on the edge. He feels like he should go after Ovechkin, to try and convince him to come back to the room but he doesn’t move.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out Ovechkin can tell he is uncomfortable, and he wishes he was better at hiding things. He knows it is one of his issues, that he openly wears his emotions all the time and it has never irritated him more than it does now.

Shedding his shirt Sidney climbs into bed, drawing the sheet up. He rolls onto his back and stares at the ceiling and knows it is going to be a long time before he falls asleep, but for very different reasons than last night.

Guilt is a terrible thing.

Chapter Text

Upon waking, Sidney is glad they have the early game today. The last thing he wants is to have to spend hours worrying about what is going on personally, rather than focusing his energy on the game today. They really do need to beat the Islanders today.

Ovechkin must feel the same way, as he is quiet over breakfast, and together they load everything into the dishwasher, moving with ease around each other. It is a pleasant change after yesterday, but Sidney knows it isn’t going to be enough. Something is going to break, sooner or later.

-----

Sidney tightens his tie and grabs his suit jacket before heading downstairs. He isn’t sure where Ovechkin is in getting ready, since he had come into the room to grab a suit before disappearing back into the room where he spent last night. Slipping his jacket on Sidney tugs the lapels even as he glances back towards the stairs, ready to hunt the other man down. Before he can start look Ovechkin appears, dark tie in hand as he comes down.

“Sorry. Not find tie.” He throws it around his neck and grins at Sidney, though it is subdued. “You drive?”

His keys are already in his pocket and Sidney nods. “I can. You going to finish with your tie?”

Shrugging, Ovechkin herds him towards the door without really touching him. “I do in, car but might be crooked.”

Sidney rolls his eyes. “It better not be. One thing Ovechkin.”

That makes Ovechkin frown, and he nods. “You know everything be right by time we get to arena Sid.”

Nervous energy suffuses Sidney as they drive to the arena and for once it has nothing to do with what is going on. With the impending game he knows he needs to focus on that and hope he has fully shaken off what was going on at practice yesterday. A single trip up tonight might mean the difference and he doesn’t want to be responsible for that.

The spot he normally parks in his empty and it makes something inside Sidney settle, a little bit of normality. It still feels weird to have Ovechkin at his side as they cross the parking lot, but the other man hadn’t lied. His tie is perfect, tucked into his suit jacket.

They’re the first ones to the locker room and Sidney takes his time as he starts to change. He needs this time to focus, to start thinking about the game and how he is going to deal with seeing Ovechkin on the ice with him.

In the stall next to him Ovechkin is quiet, and Sidney can’t help but wonder how the pregame warmup goes between them. He hadn’t thought to ask on the drive over and he isn’t sure he’ll be able to do it, depending on what it is. Once he gets changed, he stands and Ovechkin glances at him. Sidney gestures to the door. “I’m going to go-”

He trails off, not sure what to say and Ovechkin simply nods.

Sidney takes it to mean he isn’t messing anything up and he escapes. This whole situation is weird, and he is dealing with it to the best of his abilities, but he needs to have this. His pregame ritual is important to him and he needs this.

-----

Once he’s had his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and had a chance to warm up on his own Sidney feels much better. Like always the neat routine has him feeling more settled and he feels much better when he heads back down to the locker room. The others have started to show up, a low undercurrent of conversation filling the room and Sidney heads back to his stall to start getting ready of the game.

He shrugs his jersey on, rolling his shoulders to settle the fabric an0d he can’t help it. His gaze slides to Ovechkin. It still feels like a punch to see him wearing those colors, but Sidney can’t let it throw him off. The fact this isn’t the first time is helping though. Shaking his head he grabs his helmet, watching as the others gather their gloves and helmets.

Anticipation trickles down his nerves and Sidney curls his hands into fists. This is good and normal, and he knows what needs to be done. Everything else might be upside down and backwards, but he is good at hockey and they’re going to win this.

He finds his gaze sliding to Ovechkin and he can’t help but smile when he sees the look on the other man’s face. Ovechkin is grinning, his eyes bright, his enthusiasm contagious and Sidney shifts his weight, ready to get on the ice.

-----

The first two shifts of the game are a disaster, and Sidney knows it. Despite practice it still throws him off to see Ovechkin on the ice with him and that split second of hesitation leads to puck being slid from his stick. Luckily, they manage to recover the puck in the neutral zone and he can’t help but berate himself for the mistake. It drags into the second shift and Sidney frowns as he slides down the bench. If this continues going on for the rest of the night he might as well stay off the ice. All he is going to do is be a liability.

“Sidney.”

He turns his head to find Ovechkin watching him and Sidney shakes his head. “I got it.”

Part of him expects Ovechkin to push, but he just shifts, throwing his arm around Sidney’s shoulders. He leans in until their helmets touch. “Not doubt Sidney. Just need to play hockey. Not worry about other things.”

It is a surprising bit of insight and Sidney can’t help but wonder if his unease had been noticeable on the ice. He rolls his shoulders, glad when Ovechkin doesn’t take it as a sign to move his arm. “Yeah.”

They slide down the bench as the third line comes back to the bench and Sidney finds he does feel a little better. Not matter how weird things are, he is a hockey player and he is good at it. He draws back just far enough to tap his head against Ovechkin’s.

It seems ridiculous that something so small could make him feel better, soothes the itch under his skin and he turns his attention back to the ice.

Their next shift is better, and they manage to get a few shots on goal and avoid any turnovers. The rest of the period passes and they don’t score, but neither do the Islanders and Sidney will take it.

The second period starts and it almost feels like the Islanders left during the intermission. They are playing in slow motion and it isn’t long before the puck is on his stick, and he’s aware of Ovechkin and Neal on either side of him. He cuts past one of the forwards, not paying attention to the face and he has to pass to Neal or risk losing the puck.

Sidney edges inside one of the defensemen, watching as the puck slides from Neal, back to Tanger and from there to Ovechkin. He shifts, hoping to leave a clear lane for the puck and he watches as it flies off Ovechkin’s stick. It hits the stick of the goalie before dropping to the ice and Sidney lunges forward, sweeping and hoping.

The crowd erupts and before Sidney can move Ovechkin is slamming into him, arm going around his shoulders and Neal is at his other side. Sidney laughs, glancing at Ovechkin, whose face is lit up with something more than just camaraderie and it causes an uncomfortable lurch in his chest. They break apart, heading back for the bench.

-----

They end up winning the game 3-1 and Sidney grins as he finishes dressing, feeling good. Even the tedious, repetitive questions from the press haven’t been able to ruin his mood. It had even been fun to watch Ovechkin field his own questions, quiet and intense, like he is still running through the game in his head.

Slipping his shoes on Sidney quickly ties them before standing. “Ready to go?”

Ovechkin nods. “Was good game Sid.”

Sidney nods as they head for the door. “Yeah.” It had turned into a good game, and Sidney knows he was lucky his early turnover hadn’t led to a goal. A goal from a mistake like that can be demoralizing and it would have haunted him for the rest of the game.

In his peripheral vision he can see Ovechkin edging closer and he manages to not jump when an arm goes around his shoulder, drawing him in. And he doesn’t pull away. This is likely part of their after-game ritual and despite how odd it feels, he can give this to Ovechkin. It won’t make up for the way he has been acting, but it won’t hurt anything.

The parking lot is empty, save them and Sidney doesn’t pull away until they get to the car. He unlocks the doors and looks at Ovechkin. He’s played with Ovechkin at All-Star before, but that is a different creature entirely. Then it is more about fun, and not wanting to get hurt in the lead up to the end of the season.

This though, had been Ovechkin, playing for the win and points and it had been something to witness. And some might see it as cheating, but if he ever gets back to where he belongs, he is planning on putting this information to work when they play the Capitals.

They get home and as awful realization settles in Sidney’s stomach as he gets out of the car. Ovechkin’s arm around his shoulders at the arena had been one thing, but he has no idea what other after game activities this Sidney and Ovechkin get up to. Something must show in his face because Ovechkin rounds the car and places a chaste kiss on his cheek before heading to the house.

Sidney follows him and not for the first time wishes he had some idea of why this was happening.

-----

Two days later they play Boston and Sidney spends most of the day worrying that he is going to have a repeat of what happened with the Islanders. Practice goes well, like his mind is getting used to Ovechkin being on the ice with him and he can’t decide if that is a good or bad thing. Despite thinking about how he ended up here in most of his downtime, he is still no closer to an answer.

-----

There are a few hiccups in their game against Boston, though none of them are Sidney’s fault. They end up losing, but only because Boston manages to score the game winning goal late in the third period. He would have much preferred the win, but Sidney knows they made Boston fight for every goal, and for right now, he is going to take it as a victory.

Better though, is the fact that he didn’t have a single issue related to having Ovechkin on the ice with him. There had been a couple of moments when had been forced to refocus, but if he can keep up the way he played tonight, it shouldn’t be a problem.

He yawns as they get out of the car and Ovechkin looks at him. “Remember to pack, then can take nap.”

Sidney frowns as he heads towards the house. “Why am I packing?” He had been so intent on not making any mistakes tonight he had spent all of his time focusing on the game, not giving himself time to worry about anything else.

Ovechkin rolls his eyes as he unlocks the door. “Have review tomorrow then go to Carolina. Florida and Tampa.”

“I forgot. Okay.” Sidney toes his shoes off, kicking them into the closet. “I guess we’ll just finish whatever we have in the fridge, so nothing spoils while we’re gone.”

Dropping his keys on the table Ovechkin nods. “Just chicken and veggies. Even milk almost gone, but not want to get more until we back.”

“Easy enough.” Sidney arches his back, wincing at the knot at the small of his back. “I’ll start dinner and then pack.”

Ovechkin tosses his own shoes into the closet. “I go pack now.”

He steps around Sidney, clearly making sure not to touch him and it makes Sidney feel like someone stabbed him with a knife made of guilt. It had never been his intention to make Ovechkin feel unwelcome in his home but that seems to be something else he has failed at.

With a heavy sigh Sidney goes into the kitchen to see what kind of meal he can make with what they have left over in the fridge.

----

Sidney only goes upstairs after Ovechkin comes down, laden with a garment bag as well as a suitcase. The light in the bedroom is still on and Sidney stops when he sees his own luggage sitting neatly at the end of the bed and he feels an uncomfortable twist in his chest, which makes him feel worse than he already does.

These little gestures are obviously something Ovechkin and this Sidney have developed over the course of their relationship and Sidney feels like a jackass for intruding, though it wasn’t his fault. If he could figure out how, or what he needed to do so he could go home, he would do it in a heartbeat. Being here is only causing problems and he isn’t liking the way it makes him feel.

Shaking his head to chase away the unpleasant thoughts Sid enters the closet. Even it seems to reflect what he is intruding in. His side is meticulously organized, while there is some organization to Ovechkin’s side, though it seems to lean more towards chaos. He takes his time packing, not ready to go back down and face Ovechkin.

No matter what his team thinks, he isn’t as hopeless as they like to think and wouldn’t take a genius to see the way Ovechkin has been acting lately. He looks tired and every time Sid steals a look, his mouth is set in a thin line, the faint wrinkles at the corners of his eyes more visible. Sidney doesn’t want to say it, but there are times Ovechkin seems downright miserable and that just makes him feel worse. He doesn’t want this but he can’t think of a way to ask help from anyone.

Jordan and Flower have made it obvious they still think he is acting weird, even though neither of them have come out and said it. Just the way they look at him sometimes is enough and it is even worse when they look between, he and Ovechkin, like they expect a shouting match to break out at any time.

Sidney zips his bag closed and stops. He knows he has been up here for a while; longer than it should have taken to pack his bag and suits and he is sure Ovechkin is equally aware of it. He is back to trying to avoid being in the same room with the other man and he sighs, dropping onto the bed, watching as his bag falls to the floor.

He had never thought it would be easy to deal with this, trying to be a Sidney he doesn’t know, but he hadn’t imagined it would be this hard. It isn’t just because he doesn’t have any idea about the quirks of this Sidney, but because of Ovechkin. He really does feel terrible about this whole thing, how Ovechkin must feel like he needs to tread lightly in his own house, but that seems to be the only thing he has been successful in doing so far.

Scrubbing a hand across his face Sidney gets to his feet, picking up his suitcase and garment bag. He heads downstairs, placing them next to Ovechkin’s before heading into the kitchen. The other man is staring at his phone, a frown pulling at his mouth and Sidney feels guilty all over again. When Ovechkin looks up Sidney doesn’t meet his eyes, instead looking at the timer on the oven. “Do you want something to drink?”

Ovechkin sets his phone screen down on the table. “Water be fine Sidney.”

Getting two bottles of water Sidney sets one down near Ovechkin’s elbow before rounding the table to sit across from him. He curls his hand around the bottle, thumb dragging against the bottom of the label. “You had a good game.”

That makes Ovechkin smile slightly, though it doesn’t last long and Sidney stares at his bottle. He didn’t say it to try and make nice. Ovechkin had been spot-on in the game today, with a goal, an assist and several hits, one of which had led to a goal, when they had recovered the puck. It had been exhilarating to witness and Sidney can admit Ovechkin is a great player, even if their playing styles are so different. And Sidney is enjoying playing with him in a more serious way than All-Star is.

The timer on the oven goes off and Sidney gets the food out of the oven and dishes it up without giving Ovechkin a chance to get out of the chair. He sets the plates down, with silverware and they eat in quiet. After dinner Ovechkin takes the dishes and Sidney lets him clean up. By now he has figured out they share a division of labor when it comes to things like this, and it works for him.

Settling in the chair in the living room Sidney turns on the TV in time to catch the start of the Flyers/Devils game. Neither team is doing well, but Sidney is holding out for the Devils to win. A few minutes later Ovechkin joins him, making a face when he sees who is playing.

“Will be boring game.”

“Probably, but I’ll never say no to a chance to see the Flyers lose.” Sidney slants a look at him. “We can find something else to watch.”

Flopping his hand in a wave Ovechkin settles on the couch. “Is fine. Easier than finding movie.”

The game is off to a slow start and Sidney sets the remote on the table and this is okay. He has gotten the impression this is another one of their traditions, watching games together, and he likes it. Though he is sure they do it differently, pressed together on the big couch. And it isn’t hard to imagine Ovechkin trying to distract Sidney from the game, and he has a feeling it succeeds more often than not.

Sidney shakes his head, banishing the thought from his head. It isn’t something he wants to think deeply about.

-----

Sidney is up before Ovechkin, and he takes all of their bags out to the car. Going back inside he starts breakfast, and it isn’t much longer before Ovechkin comes in, dressed, though he looks like he had a rough night and Sidney feels for him. It had taken a long time for him to fall asleep too, and he has a feeling they were both for the same reason. The only time he isn’t thinking about what is going on is when they’re on the ice, or in review. Any other time his thoughts are dominated by his situation, and it is exhausting to keep thinking in circles, with no clear way to resolve it.

He hands Ovechkin a plate and gets a nod of thanks in return. Breakfast is as quiet as dinner was and afterwards Sidney double checks the fridge for any perishables while Ovechkin finishes the dishes. With a last sweep through the house Sidney double checks to make sure he has his keys and wallet. “We good to go?”

“Already take bags out?” Ovechkin shrugs his jacket on and zips it up before grabbing his keys.

Sidney nods. “Yeah. I figured I might as well, since I didn’t have anything else to do this morning.”

“Thanks.” Jingling his keys Ovechkin cants his head towards the door. “You drive or me?”

Patting himself down to make sure he actually has everything Sidney slips his shoes on. “Doesn’t matter.”

It hadn’t been that hard to relinquish driving all the time and Ovechkin isn’t a bad driver, though there are times Sidney thinks he goes a little faster than necessary. “Alright. Let’s go.”

----

The review had been enlightening and Sidney can hear the others talking about, which is good. That is exactly the point of this and Sidney knows he saw a couple of things he can try to improve on as they head to Carolina today. He glances at Ovechkin, who is clearly thinking about the review. Carolina has been on a streak lately and they’re going to need all the tricks and skill they can muster to hold them off.

Sidney can’t help the twist of apprehension boiling up his stomach as they head towards the plane. Ovechkin is lagging behind him, talking quietly with Jordan and Sidney ignores whatever Flower is saying. Once again, he feels like he has fallen into water with no hope of reaching the surface. This is yet something else he has no idea what to expect and he doesn’t want to make it worse. He already feels like he is being eaten alive with guilt and he hates it.

Flower nudges him with a frown. “You aren’t going to puke, are you?”

“No, why?”

Shrugging, Flower jerks his head back towards Ovechkin and Jordan. “Because you look kind of sick. It seems like it has since that day when you went to see the trainer about your head. We would have noticed it even if Alex hadn’t said anything. You still seem off.”

There have been a few things Sidney hasn’t managed to get used to yet, and the Alex thing is one of them. It still gives him whiplash when he hears it and there are days it feels like his neck is never going to recover. He has managed to get to the point where he can manage Ovi without tripping over it, but even that is enough to get him looks from the others and he knows it is something else that is giving him away.

Sidney adjusts his bag, using the movement to stall having to answer. He should have known Flower would be the one to say something. Flower is far more perceptive than the team gives him credit for and Sidney knows it is part of what makes him such a good goalie. “I’m trying. I just don’t know.”

So far, he’s been lucky that none of this has been negatively impacting his and Ovechkin’s playing, but it might only be a matter of time. Professionals or not, there is a point where separating personal from professional is going to bleed over and the rest of the team doesn’t deserve to lose because they can’t keep it together. It is another reason Sidney knows he needs to say something, but he can’t seem to find the will to say it.

He still hasn’t found a way to say it that doesn’t sound like a bad plot for a science fiction movie and if he wasn’t living it right now, he wouldn’t believe anyone who told him this story either.

Flower claps him on the shoulder. “I know, I’m just letting you know, it feels like the parents are fighting.”

Sidney is sure that is one of Flower’s running jokes and he can’t help but make a face. “Don’t. I would like to think my children would have more manners than any of you have.”

Grinning Flower cuts in front of him to get on the stairs first. “They probably will, but face it, that’s a low bar with us.”

The act of storing his bag is oddly soothing, the controlled chaos around him and Sidney doesn’t think much about until Ovechkin brushes behind him. Flower’s conversation had distracted him from this worry but with just a look Ovechkin settles a few rows back with Jordan.

His thoughts must show on his face, because Flower drags him down and he just barely manages to avoid landing in Flower’s lap.

Flower shoves him over with a laugh. “That was one thing you made it very clear to Alex, when you started dating, that it wasn’t going to interfere with your superstitions, quirks and weirdness.” He shakes his head. “That’s how I knew it was loooove.”

Sidney gives into the urge and smacks Flower, grinning when he yelps in mock injury. “Knock it off. It isn’t funny.”

Flower fumbles with his seatbelt. “Your love life is always funny to me Sidney; I just don’t tell Alex that.”

A ready response doesn’t jump to mind, so Sidney doesn’t even try, instead settling in for the flight.

-----

The thought doesn’t occur to Sidney until they enter the room that rooming arrangements probably include him sharing a room with Ovechkin and it appears he is right. A single king-sized bed dominates the room, an ugly, abstract painting hanging over the headboard. It is a carbon copy of every other room he has ever stayed in and Sidney sighs. He slants a look at Ovechkin, who is staring at the bed, probably trying to figure out where he can spend the night. They haven’t shared a bed since the first night and he isn’t going to sacrifice Ovechkin so he can have the bed to himself. He is an adult and needs to stop being selfish. Setting his suitcase down he hangs his garment bag up and looks at Ovechkin.

“Which side do you want?”

Ovechkin’s eyes go wide with surprise before narrowing and Sidney has the feeling his question might just be another hint, he isn’t who he should be. He waits, feeling like his stomach is twisting into a knot as the other man looks at him with a considering gaze and he tries to organize his thoughts. The silence drags out until Ovechkin looks away, setting his suitcase down.

He inclines his head towards the bed. “Left, like always Sidney.”

Sidney nods, turning away though he has a feeling Ovechkin caught the flash of embarrassment on his face. Just from being at home he should have been able to figure out what side of the bed was Ovechkin’s, and this is likely just another hint to the other man something isn’t right. “Okay.”

He rolls his shoulders and looks back at Ovechkin, who is wearing the expression that has become so familiar, the one where he knows something is off, but he isn’t quite ready to ask any questions. By now Sidney knows he should be used to seeing it, but he isn’t, and it makes him feel guilty every time he sees it.

He doesn’t want to be here, and if he could figure out how to go home, he would, so everything was back to normal.

“I guess we should get ready for practice.”

With a last look at him Ovechkin nods.

-----

Sidney drops onto the bed and doesn’t bother to hide his yawn. Between the early morning, review, flight, practice and dinner, he feels like he could sleep for the next twelve hours. Normally it wouldn’t be this bad but adding in the tension he can’t seem to shake just makes it worse. He feels like he is moving in slow motion anytime he isn’t on the ice, and he flops back on the bed.

Ovechkin had stayed downstairs, caught in a conversation with Tanger, Flower and Neal, one Sidney left because he had a feeling it was going to end up going in a weird conversation. During dinner it had crossed Sidney’s mind now might be the time to talk to Ovechkin about what is going on. They’re in a neutral area and won’t have to worry about seeing this room again, or the negative emotions attached to it.

At the same time though, Sidney doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize how they play on this road trip. They need to be in top form for the next three games and he feels a conversation like this might be too much keep separate from the game. No matter how good they are at compartmentalizing having to look at each other on the ice is going to throw them off and they really can’t afford it.

Flopping back on the bed Sidney stares at the ceiling. He had known it wouldn’t be easy to try and pull off being this Sidney, or that he would end up so emotionally tangled up in it. In addition to the sheer stress of being here, and trying to hide the fact he has no idea what is going on, his emotions are in a knot. No matter what is going on he feels guilty and even that is enough to make him feel slow.

And no matter how hard he thinks about it, Sidney still has no idea how, or why this switch happened.

He has no idea how long he has before Ovechkin comes back up to the room and he slips off the bed to get ready to sleep. His thoughts continue to swirl as he changes and brushes his teeth and even after he lays down.

By the time Ovechkin comes into the room Sidney is mostly asleep and he wakes a little as he listens to the other man move quietly around the room, which is only lit by the dimmed light coming from the bathroom. Sidney stretches, curling his toes against the sheet, and he drifts back to sleep to the quiet sound of the light in the bathroom being turned off.

He feels a light touch on his feet and doesn’t pull away, just settles deeper into the bed. There is a cool breeze against his back that is quickly replaced by warmth and surprisingly it doesn’t take Sidney long to fall asleep.

-----

When he wakes up Sidney knows he doesn’t quite have to get up and he stretches, though he carefully remains on his side of the bed. No light leaks in around the curtains and he keeps his eyes closed, listening to the sound of Ovechkin breathing. Sidney is surprised with how easy it was to fall asleep last night and he feels good. He had worried about it last night, not wanting it to affect his play today and it seems like he had no reason to worry.

He thinks about getting up, but it seems like a waste, so he settles back in and dozes back off.

-----

There is no awkwardness the next morning, for which Sidney is grateful. He and Ovechkin move smoothly around each other as they get ready to head to the rink for the practice before the game. When they meet up with the rest of the team Sidney is glad to see none of them seem to have stayed up too late or done anything else stupid.

Practice goes well, everything connecting smoothly, no missed steps when he sees Ovechkin on the ice. Sidney doesn’t really believe in luck, but a little part of him can’t help but believe this means the game is going to go well for them.

-----

Except it doesn’t. From the moment the puck hits the ice everything that could go wrong does, and the entire team looks like they are standing still while Carolina skates circles around them. Anger sits hot under Sidney’s skin as he watches the referees call a penalty on the third line for something that was clearly Carolina’s fault. He knows the refs are supposed to be impartial, but right now it feels like they have a grudge against them and are going to do everything they can to make them hurt. They’re only halfway through the first period and this is the third penalty called against them.

Next to him Ovechkin is leaning forward, shoulders hunched as he clutches at his stick, body tight with anger. He is as upset about what is going on and Sidney knows it is a good thing Bylsma is doing all the yelling for them, or he and Ovechkin might end up in the box on their next shift.

-----

The second period starts better, and they manage an ugly goal off a rebound Sidney manages to poke in the net, but nothing else happens. He spends more time in the defensive zone, trying to clear the puck than trying to score and he gets slammed into the board, not hard enough to injure him, just to irritate him even more.

Ovechkin is trying to make something happen, laying hits on anyone he can. Sidney does manage to recover the puck on one such play, though it does get stripped from him and it ends up turning into nothing.

-----
By the third period the entire team knows this isn’t going to go their way. Carolina has kept them from scoring, save the one in the second period and at this point it is a grind to the end of the game. Sidney feels like a failure, since he hasn’t been able to make anything happen, though he knows the rest of the team feels the same. Today hasn’t been a good day for any of them and Sidney can only hope this horrible game for all of them means their next two games end up being better.

Sidney doesn’t think he has ever been so relieved to get off the ice and he removes his helmet and heads towards the locker room. There is no chatter behind him, just heavy silence and Sidney knows it is going to be a quiet flight to Tampa. He knows the team well enough to suspect everyone of them is going to be going over their every move on the flight, to figure out where it went wrong.

His thoughts are already headed in that direction and a quick glance over his shoulder shows Ovechkin is likely already there. His brows are drawn together, mouth twisted in a frown, and it isn’t hard to imagine his thoughts. Carolina hasn’t been playing that well lately and this should have been, if not an easy win, a win.

But it hadn’t been, and they had looked like a bunch of men who looked like they had no idea how to play hockey. It had been disappointing and painful, and it needs to not happen again. Too many losses like this and they’ll be on the outside of the playoffs looking in and wondering why things went so wrong.

The locker room stays quiet while they change, and Sidney can’t stop playing the game on repeat. Looking back there are so many things he would have done differently and maybe it would have been enough to change the outcome of the game. He knows dwelling in the past isn’t really going to do him any good, but the sting of the loss is still fresh enough he wants to think about it, to figure out how he can do better next time.

Ovechkin catches up with him as he exits the locker room ahead of the others and Sidney can’t help but tense. He has no idea what to expect after a terribly bad game, and there is no other word for what this one was. A quick look shows the other man is watching him, as though gauging whether whatever he is planning will be welcome.

As they approach the doors, he must decide it isn’t worth it as he shakes his head. The small gesture is enough to make the rock in Sidney’s stomach roll uncomfortably and he looks away.

Being on the bus is like being surrounded by zombies as everyone remains focused on their failings and Sidney is glad to leave Carolina behind. The next time they’ll meet will be at home and after today, Carolina had better be careful.

The silence continues as they get on the plane and Sidney drops into his seat next to Flower, who is staring at the back of the chair in front of him frowning. If he didn’t know better Sidney would worry about the seat bursting into flames, but no matter how much Flower tries, he hasn’t developed that skill yet. He can’t offer any words of support, as he knows Flower takes their losses hard, so he settles for patting him on the shoulder, like he has dozens of times now.

Chapter Text

Stretching Sidney glances at his watch and frowns. They’ve been on the plane for a little over an hour and this is the first time since he got here his thoughts haven’t immediately turned to his predicament and he manages a wry laugh. Flower turns to look at him with a questioning look and Sidney shakes it off. Laughter is hardly appropriate, with the way the game had gone, but he can’t help it.

With a last look Flower goes back to sullenly staring at the seat in front of them and Sidney slumps down. Now though, the thought is in his head, he can’t shake it. Squeezing his eyes shut he takes a deep breath. No matter how much he tries to go back to thinking about the game it all seems to swirl back into how none of this is right.

-----

By the time they get to the hotel in Tampa, Sidney is ready to just call it a day. Between this morning and the way his thoughts have been running all he wants to do is fall face down in the bed and not move until they have practice tomorrow morning. He isn’t even hungry, despite the fact it is well after lunch and almost dinner, but he needs to eat something.

When he and Ovechkin get to their room, they hang their bags up and put the suitcases across from the bed. Sidney rolls his shoulders. “Do you want to get something to eat?”

“Be good.” Ovechkin sounds just as worn out as Sidney feels and they head back out.

Flower and Jordan are already in the hallway and by unspoken agreement they head for the elevator. No one feels like talking, which is fine with Sidney. He still wants to pretend today never happened and it clear the others feel the same way. Others have had the same idea and the hotel restaurant is mostly full of Penguins. Sidney returns a few waves before they settle at a table in the corner of the room.

Ovechkin drops into the chair next to him with a heavy sigh, legs stretched out under the table against his. For a fleeting second Sidney thinks about pulling away, but he doesn’t. It isn’t that big of a deal, in the grand scheme of things and if he doesn’t think too much about it, he finds it comforting, like a hand on the shoulder.

They do manage some lagging conversation over their food, though it never goes back to the game. By the time they finish eating Sidney feels a little better, physically at least. There seems to be a little more life in the others, as conversation has picked up at all the other tables as well, a dull hum of voices filling the room.

Jordan leans back in his chair, arms stretched wide. “I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to smother myself and sleep for the rest of the night.”

“Sounds good.” Flower shoves back from the table, looking between Sidney and Ovechkin. “Since I’m sure these two are ready to dump us for some time alone.”

Sidney shifts, glaring at him. “Which is none of your business.” From the look that passes between the two men, this is likely a regular conversation, with the same responses every time. He thinks it might be some kind of test, given how closely they’ve been watching him

With a grin Flower pats them both on the shoulder before he and Jordan wander out of the restaurant, stopping to chat with a few of the other tables.

Leaning forward Sidney grabs his glass of water and drains it. He isn’t quite ready to go back up to the room and if Ovechkin’s sprawl next to him is any indication, neither is he. Their legs are still touching under the table and Sidney finds it still isn’t bothering him. Exhaustion is dragging at him and he thinks that is part of it.

They linger a little longer, waving off any dessert from the waiter. Sidney is a split second late in getting his credit card out and he can’t help but roll his eyes at the smug, triumphant look on Ovechkin’s face when he hands his card over. “I could have gotten it.”

Ovechkin shrugs. “You pay last time Sid. Can get next.”

Once Ovechkin has his card back Sidney stands, not quite able to stifle his yawn. “I think Jordan has the right of it. I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be good for.” Since sitting down at dinner, it feels like his exhaustion has been clawing at him, and it had been hard to keep from yawning through the entire meal.

“Agree.” Ovechkin looks drained, eyes hooded.

Sidney leads the way through the tables, aware of Ovechkin behind him. The hallway is quite a bit cooler and Sidney scrubs a hand across his face. “That game fucking sucked.”

He isn’t sure why he brought it up, or why he suddenly wants to talk about it. He thinks maybe it is because he is hoping Ovechkin will have a different perspective on what went wrong, something he can’t see. For him it keeps boiling down to how it was his fault, that he couldn’t make anything happen.

Ovechkin sighs and glances at him with a knowing look and Sidney can tell from the look this is something that has happened before. This Sidney and Ovechkin have likely spent hours going over failed games and those they’ve won, trying to do better for themselves and the team.

“Not connect Sidney.” Ovechkin stretches, pushing his hands up towards the ceiling as they head for the elevator. “On the ice, but not there.”

Jabbing at the call button Sidney sighs. He had noticed it too, the way the entire team had seemed to be moving individually, none of them thinking about the bigger picture. The disconnect had been really obvious on the passing game, when so few of their passes had connected, leading towards several turnovers.

The elevator is empty and they stand on separate sides, Ovechkin hitting the button for their floor. Sidney scuffs the toe of his shoe against the floor, exhaustion tugging at him. “We can’t afford to do that against Tampa. We have to be on our game.”

With a poorly stifled yawn Ovechkin nods. “Need to work on tomorrow at practice. If not connect, nothing happen.”

It is a simple version of what went wrong today, but Ovechkin is right. If they can’t make the connections they need, the game is going to go the same way it did today.

Soft light fills their room, since Sidney left one of bedside lamps on before they went down to dinner. Sinking down on the bed he toes his shoes off and kicks them off to the side so he won’t trip over them. They have practice a little later tomorrow, to give them a chance to recover from today and Sidney is going to take advantage of it.

He is too tired to even be able to muster up anxiety about sharing a bed with Ovechkin and he flops back. There is a faint hint of a laugh from the other man and he flaps a hand at him in answer. Even indignation is beyond him and he feels wrung out. He listens to the quiet sounds of Ovechkin moving around the room, not quite sure what he is doing.

A few minutes later he becomes aware of Ovechkin standing next to him. A hand lands on his knee, fingers pressing lightly and he doesn’t move.

“Not a good way to sleep Sidney.”

Sidney stretches, feeling Ovechkin’s hand slip away. “I know Ovechkin. I’m working on it.”

Even without looking he can feel Ovechkin tense, step away and Sidney knows this is something else. He pushes up on his elbows to find the other man watching him, with that same considering gaze, like he is on the verge of discovering what is going on. Ovechkin isn’t stupid and Sidney is still waiting for the other shoe to drop, to be called out for his behavior.

Time stretches out between them as they look at each other and Sidney finally can’t take it. He breaks eye contact, fingers rubbing against the fabric of the comforter. He still isn’t sure what he said, but he knows he just broke what ever tentative truce they’ve been in for most of the day.

Ovechkin heaves a sigh, scrubbing a hand over his face and Sidney wants to ask what he is thinking. Instead, he slides off the bed, edging around him to go into the bathroom so he can get ready for bed. When he gets done Ovechkin is perched on the bed, phone in hand. He looks up at Sidney before going back to his phone.

The ever-present knot in his stomach tightens and Sidney changes for bed, not bothered by Ovechkin’s continued presence. At this point the other man knows his body as well as his own and it seems ridiculous to waste energy on the worry. By the time he flips back the bedding Ovechkin is on his feet and in the bathroom and Sidney settles into the bed.

He waits until Ovechkin is near the bed before he turns off the light and it doesn’t take long before the day catches up with him.

-----

Practice feels worse than usual, but Sidney knows they needed it, and so do the others. Everyone is at their best, passes are connecting and they’re playing miles better than they did against Carolina. They feel like a new team and they need to carry this momentum into the game with Tampa.

Even the atmosphere in the locker room after practice is better, with called out jokes and loud conversations. The only people who seem exempt from the good mood are he and Ovechkin. They seem to be caught in a shared loop of misery and Sidney wants it to end. Ripping more tape from his socks he wads it up.

The first thing that had crossed his mind when he woke up this morning, backed by the warmth of Ovechkin in the bed had been that maybe when they get back to Pittsburgh, he’ll be ready to tell the other man what is going on. With every passing day the knot of guilt has been twisting tighter and he doesn’t like the way it is making him feel.

That thought had quickly drifted away as he had started to wake up more. He still wants to tell Ovechkin, owns him that much, with the way things have been pulled tight between them. But he can’t help the belief it will be enough to break the barrier between personal and professional and Sidney doesn’t want that. They still need to keep pushing forward.

Tugging his socks off he can’t help the quick look at Ovechkin he takes and it makes his shoulders fall. Ovechkin is stripping out of his gear with sharp tugs, frowning and it is enough that the others are noticing, looking away like if they ignore it, his attitude will improve.

Sidney sighs and continues to take his own gear off, wondering where he his courage has gotten off to. It seems ridiculous that he can get on the ice with large men, some of who would like to do him bodily harm, and dodge them with ease, but he can’t seem to talk to Ovechkin about what is going on.

-----

That night their game against Tampa is a far cry from the way they had started against Carolina. From the beginning they manage to get and keep the puck and he and Ovechkin nearly score a goal in the first minute of the game. The second and third lines are just as strong and as much as Sidney doesn’t want to tempt fate, he thinks they might win this game.

On their second shift Ovechkin hits the goal post, the puck taking a crazy bounce and Sidney nearly gets his stick on it. He would have, if not for the sudden, hard shove against his shoulders and he goes down. Off to his right there is a sudden scuffle with raised voices and it doesn’t take him long to catch Ovechkin’s, though he isn’t sure if he’s yelling at the ref, or whoever shoved him.

It is enough motivation to get him to his feet and he shakes off Tanger’s worried hand. He ducks around two of Tampa’s players and around the ref, sliding between him and Ovechkin. Resting a hand on Ovechkin’s chest he shoves, though it doesn’t do much good. The other man is dug in, his eyes snapping with anger. “Hey Ovi!”

Ovechkin ignores him, still yelling and Sidney twists, planting his shoulder into his chest and shoving. Things are going well right now and the last thing they need is a penalty because Ovechkin is worked up. It works, startling Ovechkin and he drops his gaze to Sidney.

Sidney doesn’t give him a chance to speak, just pokes him hard in the center of his chest. “Enough Ovechkin. I’m fine and it isn’t worth it.”

He is half expecting an argument, but Ovechkin just gives a curt nod as they head to the face off circle.

The second line manages to get a goal and they go into the first intermission with the only goal of the game and Sidney hopes the second period goes even better.

-----

Tampa is playing a little better in the second period, though it isn’t enough and Sidney is glad they got that first goal. Tanger manages to score another goal on a power play from a hooking penalty and the rest of the second period passes without any further goals for either team, though they nearly score on Tampa several times.

-----

Sidney gets lucky at the beginning of the third period when a rebound at the front of the net comes his way. He manages to get his stick on it and he flicks it towards the net, though with the shoving, he isn’t sure it even went in. A few seconds later Ovechkin is pressing against him, arm around his shoulders as the others crowd him back against the boards and Sidney knows the puck went in.

The others break away, heading for the bench and Sidney slants a look at Ovechkin. There is an expectant look on his face, like Sidney is supposed to say or do something for just the two of them in this moment and he has nothing. He dips his head, not wanting to see the look of disappointment on Ovechkin’s face, but he can still feel it with the way they’re pressed together and he pulls away.

The rest of the game is uneventful, with Jordan scoring another goal late in the period. Sidney heads back to the locker room, the elation of winning the game tempered with what had transpired between he and Ovechkin on the ice. Since then, they haven’t interacted, short of their shifts on the ice and it hurts Sidney more than it should.

He might not want to be here, but he also doesn’t want to ruin things and he can’t shake the feeling he is doing just that. Even when Ovechkin isn’t around it feels like something between them is going to snap and Sidney still isn’t sure how the other man has held on to his patience for so long.

He gets out of his gear and gets dressed, studiously not looking at Ovechkin next to him. The good mood from the game is filling the room, and once again the two of them are caught in their own problems. Laughing and jokes fill the room, which Sidney is fine with. It means the others aren’t paying attention to them and Sidney doesn’t have to field any questions. Even Flower and Jordan are caught up in the victory.

Shrugging his suit jacket on Sidney sighs. They’re staying the night before heading down for their game against the Panthers and he wishes they weren’t. After the way things have gone today, excluding the game, the thought of spending the night in close proximity with Ovechkin isn’t a good one and neither of them can crash in another room without questions being asked.

And Sidney doesn’t want to have to answer those types of questions.

-----

The moment they get into their room Sidney toes his shoes off and strips out of his suit jacket and shirt. He feels alternately wired and exhausted and he can’t shake the feeling the question is coming. The back of his neck had prickled the entire ride back to the hotel and he hadn’t needed to turn around to know what was going on. Ovechkin, still trying to put together the pieces of what was going on, why he was acting like a stranger.

Sidney scrubs at his face. “That was a better game.” He isn’t sure why he is trying to engage Ovechkin when retreat feels like a better idea. But he didn’t get to where he is by giving up, and if noting else he is going to stick with it.

Ovechkin nods, moving slowly as he removes his own jacket. “Play like team.”

There is an undertone of something in Ovechkin’s voice, an edge like he is talking about more than just the game, is trying to get him to spill what is going on. It seems like a perfect moment and Sidney shifts his weight as he reaches up to remove his tie. “Now we just need to do it again for Florida.”

A pinched look crosses Ovechkin’s face and he shakes his head. “We be fine Sidney.”

All Sidney can do is nod and he bites at the inside of his cheek. He still isn’t sure why he can’t manage to muster up the courage to tell Ovechkin what is going on. There isn’t anything to lose and he has a feeling what he might say is the last thing the other man needs to put the pieces together. Maybe if he knows, between the two of them they’ll be able to figure how to put things to rights.

Instead, he drops his head and goes into the bathroom to get ready for bed. When he exits the bathroom, it feels like the atmosphere in the room has increased, making the hair on the back of his neck prickle and it is an uncomfortable feeling. In the last two weeks or so he hadn’t thought the tension between them could get any worse, but he was wrong.

Ovechkin is studiously not looking at him, instead on his phone and Sidney takes the opportunity to slip into the bed. He draws the sheet up and presses his face into the pillow. The day is still dragging at him but sleep eludes him as he listens to the sounds of Ovechkin getting ready for bed.

The light goes out and the bed dips as Ovechkin climbs in and even with the distance between them on the king bed, Sidney can feel the tension in the big body.

-----

Sidney’s first thought out waking is that he’s glad they don’t have a game today. He feels heavy and he knows it is as much because of yesterday’s game as the tension after they had gotten back to their room. It feels like he had spent half the night tossing and turning and he feels like he hasn’t gotten any sleep. He tries to rub the grit from his eyes and he gives up, getting out of bed.

Cold water splashed on his face doesn’t make him feel any better and he looks at himself in the mirror. He doesn’t look any different, same mouth and nose. There might be a few greys in his hair, though he can’t tell because of the light and he is going to blame those squarely on being married to Ovechkin. Scrubbing a hand across his face he decides a shower might be what he needs to feel more human.

-----

The tension follows them downstairs and Flower immediately catches onto it. Sidney always forgets how perceptive he can be and this is one of those times he wishes he was a little dense. He shakes his head as he drops into the seat on the bus like they have for years.

Flower though, never one to let something go, darts a look over his shoulder before leaning into Sidney. “Are you sure? You and Alex have had your little issues, but this seems like something different.”

Sidney groans, dropping his head back. “Yes. We’ll figure it out.”

-----

When they get to Sunshine, Florida, it is anything but sunshine for he and Ovechkin. Practice is terrible for both of them. None of their passes connect and it feels like they’re playing on two different plains. It gets a little better when the lines get mixed up, but it is bad enough even the coaching staff have noticed.

Sidney has the feeling the staff is reluctant to talk to either of them, for fear whatever is causing their problem is personal in nature. He has felt Bylsma watching both of them and this is exactly why Sidney has been reluctant to come clean to Ovechkin about what is going on. They haven’t even talked about it and their play is already suffering.

Pulling his glove off Sidney scrubs a hand across his face. He needs to get his shit together. A quick look at Ovechkin shows his thoughts are running in the same direction, if the angry look on his face is any indication.

-----

They end up winning the game against the Panthers, though he and Ovechkin don’t have much to do with it. Despite their best attempts, the funk of the day before seems to cling to them both. Neither of them is responsible for any turnovers, and they both manage to knock the puck off the bars a few times, but that is about the extent of their contribution.

The locker room is jubilant, their loss to Carolina almost forgotten and Sidney is glad the rest of the team is enjoying it, but he can’t. Now that the game is over the adrenaline and purpose has been drained away to be replaced with the knot of tension in the pit of his stomach that doesn’t seem to ever go away and the prickle of unease.

Ovechkin seems caught in his own thoughts, a frown creasing his face and Sidney isn’t sure how long this can go on. Either he is finally going to find the courage to say something, or Ovechkin is going to demand to know what is going on and then he will have to come up with an answer. He isn’t sure why Ovechkin has been so indirect in trying to figure out what is going on.

He finishes getting dressed and is glad they’re headed back home tonight. The thought of spending another night in the hotel room with him, mired in tension makes him feel a little nauseous. At least at home avoiding each other is easier and it will give Sidney a chance to think.

-----

By the time they land in Pittsburgh Sidney feels hollow and drawn. He tried to sleep on the flight, all to no avail. His thoughts had kept spiraling, going over the same things again and again, which had only served to frustrate him further. Around him the plane had been eerily quiet, leaving him feeling isolated, not that it mattered.

There isn’t any one here he can explain the situation too, not without a lot of looks and questions. Flower and Jordan are still keeping an eye on him, and if any of the others have noticed how off he has been, no one has voiced it where he can hear it.

Flower levels a worried look at him as they get off the plane and Sidney shakes his head. This is something else, that he isn’t going to be able to put off for much longer. Eventually Flower is going to try and solve his problem, like he has so many times before and Sidney doesn’t have an answer.

The drive home is quick and quiet and Sidney unlocks the front door, stepping aside so Ovechkin can follow him in. Locking the door behind him he tiredly lifts his bags and heads up stairs, the other man following him. At the top of the stairs, they part ways and Sidney enters the bedroom, dropping everything to the floor to be dealt with tomorrow.

He strips down and collapses on the bed, stretching out. After the last week of sharing a bed with Ovechkin while they were on the road it feels weird to have the whole thing to himself, but he doesn’t let it bother him.

-----

Light is streaming in the room and Sidney groans, turning his head enough to look at the clock on the bedside table. It is much later than he would normally have slept and he sits up. His skin feels scummy, from the long flight and the fact the room is a little warmer than he finds comfortable. The open door of the bathroom beckons and he decides a shower will solve at least some of his problems.

He takes longer in the shower than he usually does, but the heat makes him feel a little better, washing away the lingering physical pain and some of the tension. Today is a free day, with review and practice tomorrow. It leaves Sidney with nothing really important to do today, short of going shopping. With the way he and Ovechkin cleaned out the fridge before they left, there isn’t much to eat.

He pulls on a worn Penguins shirt and a pair of shorts before drying his hair. When he moves the towel Ovechkin is in the doorway.

He jerks his head towards the stairs. “Zhenya in living room. Want to talk to you.”

Sidney scrubs the towel over his head one more time before hanging it up. “Thanks.” He slips around Ovechkin and heads downstairs. He enters the living room, freezing when he sees Geno, mouth falling open. Now that he thinks about it, he never really gave any thought to what team Geno was on after looking at the roster the first day, and he can’t help but laugh. With everything going on, he hadn’t remembered what Ovechkin had said about Geno ending up in Washington.

Geno turns and frowns. “Sid, what so funny?”

Shaking his head Sidney drops onto the couch. “Nothing.” He thinks he could tell Geno about his problem. Geno has been his best friend for years, and he has the feeling that hasn’t changed any. It would explain why Geno hadn’t questioned his call, but he keeps quiet. Geno is as much Ovechkin’s friend, and he doubts Geno keeps anything from him. “Did you win your game?”

Geno nods, eyes narrowed as he sits in one of the chairs. “Yes, but worry about you. Why you ask if I pay Sanja to be in bed? And why call him Ovechkin? Not do that in years, unless mad at him.”

Hand curling into a fist Sid looks at Geno, at a loss for words. In the last few days, he hasn’t really thought about this, how he was going to try and explain his phone call to Geno. He stares for a few seconds before blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. “It was a joke.”

The moment the words leave his mouth he grimaces, because not only was it a lie, it was a bad one. So bad Geno is frowning and Sidney knows it isn’t believable. He swallows hard and he wants to tell him the truth, feels it welling up but he bites back on it. Shaking his head, Sidney sighs. “I just haven’t felt right for the last few weeks.”

Concern flickers across Geno’s face and Sidney holds a hand up to halt anything he might say. “I didn’t hit my head and I already saw the team doctor. He said it was probably just stress.”

He knows Geno well enough to be able to read his face and he can tell Geno doesn’t believe it either. Sidney has never been a good liar and he has a feeling he isn’t going to be able to keep up this charade for very long. Everyone can already tell he is acting funny and it is going to only be a matter of time before someone corners him and he isn’t sure he is going to be able to keep from spilling it all. “I promise Geno, I’m trying to work it out.”

Geno looks skeptical, and Sidney can’t blame him. He has no idea how to make this work out when he still has no idea what the actual problem is. And he can’t ask anyone for help, not without them thinking he has taken a hit to the head. Add in the fact he is already handling this badly and he isn’t sure the Sidney who belongs here is going to have any credibility left, if he ever makes it back.

Shaking his head Geno glances to where Ovechkin is probably lurking and it makes Sidney’s stomach knot. Honesty would go a long way towards making this better, and maybe Ovechkin would have some idea but the idea doesn’t go any further. He is still trying to figure out how to tell him, but at this point Ovechkin might believe anything he says, if only because it would be some kind of answer for the last few weeks.

There are days he thinks he is doing better at hiding what is actually going on. It isn’t such a surprise to see Ovechkin in the house or on the ice. He doesn’t reflexively pull away when the other man reaches out to touch him and it makes him feel a little better. But there are other times, he catches Ovechkin frowning in his direction, or Jordan and Flower against the boards, watching him like they think he might be an alien and he knows they’re on to him.

He rubs his hands together. “Really Geno. I’m working on it.”

Geno sighs, shaking his head. “Am worried Sidney. Sanja worry too.”

That feels like a knife being stuck in him and twisted and Sidney doesn’t like the feeling. He might not love Ovechkin, but he doesn’t deserve any of this and he knows this needs to end. “If I can’t deal with it in a few weeks, I’ll get some help.”

“Is all we want.” Geno smiles, though Sidney can tell it is forced. “Sanja, I leave.”

Ovechkin appears from around the corner and Sidney can tell he was listening to everything, if the look on his face is any indication. He looks even more worried than he has for the last few weeks, which is something Sidney didn’t know was possible.

Jerking his head towards the door Ovechkin looks at Sidney. “I walk Zhenya to door.”

Sidney knows it is so they can talk about him but he doesn’t care. They have likely been talking about how weird he has been acting since the first day and he can’t blame Ovechkin. With Geno being friends with both of them, he is in the position to understand both sides of it. He slumps back against the couch and squeezes his eyes shut.

He should have known Geno would show up eventually. The worry in his voice had almost been palpable and Sidney doesn’t like lying to him any more than he does lying to Ovechkin. They both deserved better and Sidney hates that he can’t manage to be honest.

He doesn’t check the time, but it feels like Ovechkin is outside with Geno for a long time. The sound of the front door opening startles him a little and he sits up as the other man comes into the living room. He can’t be sure, but it looks like Ovechkin feels a little more grounded, some of the tightness from around his eyes gone.

Sitting up is harder than it should be and Sidney sighs. “I’m glad Geno came.”

Ovechkin nods, stretching. “Wish he stay longer, but have practice later.”

Sidney gets to his feet. “I’m going to go shopping, since we’re going to be home for long enough to need food in the house. Do you want me to get anything special?”

The tension creeps back into Ovechkin’s face. “Am good Sidney. You know what we need.”

With the return of the unease between them, Sidney is only too glad to get out of the house. He knows in the long run it isn’t going to solve anything, but it will be a little bit of a reprieve.

The store is quiet, which Sidney is grateful for. As much as he doesn’t like shopping, he does like being methodical about it, which is hard to do when the store is crowded. He isn’t in the store long, with his list on hand, when he realizes he is being even more methodical about shopping than normal, and he knows exactly why. As long as he is at the store he doesn’t have to be at home, the weight of Ovechkin’s worry and suspicion pressing against him.

By the time he heads for the check stands, there are a few things in his cart he never would have gotten if he was where he belonged. But he had noticed them in one of the cupboards at home and Ovechkin will be pleased to see them, if nothing else. It is a pathetic offering, but Sidney doesn’t have anything else.

Sidney has barely put the car in park before Ovechkin is coming outside. When he opens the back door to get the groceries, he looks at Sidney with obvious surprise and it takes Sidney a second to catch up. There are a lot of bags and he doesn’t think he had actually bought so much. Taking some of the bags Ovechkin is holding out to him he shrugs. “I didn’t think I had gotten so much.”

“Will be okay Sidney. Be home for a little bit.”

Between the two of them, they do manage to get everything into the house and kitchen. Sidney doesn’t say anything as they work on putting the groceries away, though he does catch the quick, surprised looks Ovechkin levels his way when he finds some of the things Sidney bought. It is enough to give him a flicker of happiness, fleeting though it is.

-----

Sidney rolls his shoulders and reaches back to tug at his jersey. It is caught up on something and he can’t get it low enough to fasten the fight strap. With a fond look Ovechkin reaches over and tugs it down. “Anything else?”

“No.” Sidney gets the strap done up and finishes tugging his jersey down. “Thanks.”

Tonight, they play the Devils and while Sidney hates to run on luck, they shouldn’t have a problem with them. The Devils have lost ten games running and are currently last in the league. If they don’t manage to win, they’ll be the laughing stock of the league and will deserve all the ridicule they get.

-----

All Sidney wants is to take a shower. The sweat between his shoulders is starting to dry and it itches. He rolls his shoulders, though it doesn’t do any good as he waits for the reporters to bear down on him. This is one thing that is no different from what he is supposed to do, which is reassuring. It means he can fall back on his usual responses and it won’t cause any problems.

What does catch him off guard is the first question.

“How do you feel about Ovechkin’s performance tonight?”

Sidney pauses. He had been expecting a question about his own lack of presence on the ice. He hadn’t caused any turnovers, but he hadn’t managed to do much of anything, save an assist on one of Ovechkin’s goals.

“Ovechkin had a great game.” It isn’t a lie. The other man had managed two goals and assist, as well as one massive hit that had stripped the Devils of the puck. “If I had managed to play half as well as Ovechkin did, it would have been a more decisive game.”

From a gap in the reporters Sidney can see Flower, who is staring at him, eyes narrowed. Sidney isn’t sure what he did, but he has a feeling he is going to hear about it as soon as the reporters are gone.

He fields a few more questions, the rest of which are mundane and easy to answer. The last reporter finally clears the room. Before Sidney can move, a half dressed Flower is bearing down on him, hair drying in spikes. Flower glances around, as though looking for eavesdroppers, but most everyone else is in the shower or paying no attention.

“Alright, seriously, what the fuck is going on with you two?”

Sidney frowns. “What?”

Flower shakes his head. “You and Alex. I can’t even remember the last time you called him Ovechkin. If you’re lucky, no one is going to pay attention to that. Knowing your luck, someone is going to think you two are getting a divorce. Rumors are going to start swirling.”

“No.” Sidney grabs the hem of his undershirt and jerks it over his head. “No divorce, no break up. I just slipped up.” His thoughts spiral back to what Geno had said when he was here and Sidney knows he should have paid attention. Flower has already been suspicious and now it is just going to be worse.

Flower looks skeptical, but he steps back, heading back to his stall.

“Fuck.” If he didn’t already, Sidney can feel the walls pressing in. The truth is going to come out sooner or later. All because he couldn’t even remember a small detail, like remembering to call Ovechkin, Alex.

Shaking his head, more than a little disgusted with himself, Sidney heads for the showers.

Chapter Text

Sidney’s phone rings and he picks it up, surprised to see Taylor’s name on the screen. They usually talk once every couple of weeks and he knows he talked to her before he ended up here. He answers the call. “Hey.”

“Don’t hey me. What is wrong with you?”

Frowning Sidney leans back against the counter. Ovechkin is gone and he feels a little less like he has to guard his words. No matter what, Taylor is his sister. “What do you mean?”

“Don’t play stupid with me Sidney! Alex called me days ago, worried about the way you were acting. He said you practically jumped out of the bed, among other things. Confused is the best way he could describe it to me.”

It isn’t hard to imagine the way Taylor looks, her cheeks likely flushed with emotion, her hair rumpled. Sidney knows he has been acting weird, it just never occurred to him that Ovechkin would call her. “I, just, the stress has been getting to me.”

Taylor makes a rough sound. “I know it wasn’t that. Alex knows exactly how you act when you’re stressed and from everything he’s told me, that isn’t how you’re acting.” Her voice drops, heavy with emotion. “Sid, he sounded like I’ve never heard Alex sound before, even the last time you had a concussion. It made me worry, that the man who has loved you for the last three years, says you’re confused. I keep thinking you must be a different Sidney, because nothing Alex said makes sense about what is going on.”

Sidney can’t help the harsh laugh that leaves his mouth. Leave it to Taylor to figure it out, just from what Ovechkin has passed on over the phone. He slides down against the cupboard, voice abandoning him.

“Sidney, are you okay?”

He can hear the edge of panic in his sister’s words and Sidney swallows hard. “Yeah. I just, I don’t feel like the same person.”

He feels the knot in his stomach loosen slightly and he tips his head back against the cupboard door. It feels good to have said it, even if Taylor doesn’t know how true the words are. “Nothing seems right.”

Silence drags on for a few seconds before Taylor speaks again. “You need to tell Alex that Sidney. I think he thinks he’s done something wrong, with the way you’ve been acting. That’s not anyway to treat him, not when he loves you and you love him.”

Sidney isn’t sure what is it about what Taylor’s words but everything that has been going on suddenly crystallizes and he knows what happened, and why and he can’t help his groan of dismay. “Oh. I can’t believe it.” He doesn’t want to, but he has to focus on Taylor’s voice in his ear, the concern and question.

“Sidney, answer me or I’m coming down there.”

Dragging his thoughts back into order takes a few seconds and Sidney takes a deep breath. “I’m fine.” He scrubs at his face, thoughts racing. “I promise Taylor, I’ll explain later, and I promise I’ll do better. I just need some time to think.”

“Okay Sidney, but I really don’t want to get another call from Alex like that. It was enough to ruin my day and I’ve been worrying since then.” Her voice goes soft. “I still love you, even when you’re being an idiot.”

Sidney laughs, feeling better despite the sudden realization from a few minutes ago. “Thanks.”

He ends the call and sets his phone down next to his hip. The floor is cold against his toes and he curls his feet against the feeling, using it to ground him. He squeezes his eyes shut, thinking about what had gotten him into this mess.

The morning before the game against the Flyers he had broken tradition and let Jordan, Flower and a bemused Geno drag him to a fortune teller in downtown Pittsburgh. He had argued the whole time about how it had been a waste of time and wasn’t real. The others, used to it had ignored him and shoved him into the fortune teller’s little store.

It had been dark, with large pillar candles on pedestals providing most of the light. A round table had filled the middle of the floor with a purple paisley tablecloth covering it, heavy gold fringe and tassels hanging from the edges. A woman of indeterminate age had been sitting behind the table, dark hair loose around her shoulders.

She had smiled when Flower had shoved Sidney forward before throwing an arm around his shoulders. Flower had leaned in with a grin. “We need to know what is going on with his future. We’re starting to worry he’s going to die alone with just his rings for company.”

Sidney had rolled his eyes, not sure why Flower was so worried about his personal life. He had tried, (not very hard) to date and it had all ended not well. Balancing personal and hockey has never come easy to him and he isn’t sure how the rest of the team manages it, which is why he had given up. There would be enough time after his career was over and he wasn’t in any hurry.

The woman’s smile had spread and she had drawn out a deck of cards. In a flurry she had shuffled them before offering them in a neat fan for him. Sidney hadn’t wanted to, but Flower had nudged him forward, Jordan and Geno watching from the side with rapt attention.

Not wanting to seem like a spoilsport he had drawn the cards, handing them back without looking. The woman had accepted the cards and laid them out in a pattern. Smiling she had flipped each of them over, studying them each without speaking. Sidney had found himself watching, interested in spite of himself. Despite his own superstitions, which were valid, he didn’t believe in anything like this, but he had respect for a person who but so much effort into their career and this woman was good at it.

She finally finished with the cards. Resting her hands on the table she smiled up at him. She tapped the center card, which was a heart. “Don’t worry, you’ll find love soon.” Her smile widened as she leaned forward. “And it will come from an unexpected direction.”

Not wanting to seem rude Sidney had just nodded. There was no way the woman was right, as there wasn’t a single perspective love interest on the horizon. He hadn’t been seeing anyone in months and he certainly didn’t have time to try. The denial was on the tip of his tongue when Jordan grabbed him, dragging him towards the door while Flower bent his head to talk to the woman. He had paid her before following them outside.

Flower had grinned at him. “See Sidney, everything will work out.”

It hadn’t been worth the argument so Sidney had ignored it and not thought about it again as they had gotten ready to play the Flyers. They had won, he had gone to bed and woken up to Ovechkin in his bed.

It all seems too ridiculous to be true, that the fortune teller had been responsible for this, but right now, Sidney can’t come up with a better explanation. Sidney presses the heel of his hands against his eyes, hoping it will help clear his thoughts and it doesn’t do anything besides make his head ache a little. The floor is uncomfortable, but he doesn’t move, using it to ground his thoughts. Which just circle back to the fortune teller and he laughs, though it isn’t funny.

The fact Ovechkin is a man isn’t the problem. Sidney came to terms with his interest in the male form years ago, accepted it just another part of what makes him Sidney Crosby. And it has never really been a problem since hockey is more important. The problem lies in the fact it is Alexander Ovechkin sitting across from him. As he’s gotten older, he has had less problems with Ovechkin, the way he lives and plays hockey, and he has even gotten to enjoy talking to him at All-Star and the other times they run into each other throughout the season.

But the idea of falling in love with Ovechkin is a different story and if Sidney has to do that to go home, he might be stuck here for the rest of his life.

He is vaguely aware of the sound of the front door opening and he knows he should get up of the floor, because this will be a red flag if nothing else, but he can’t seem to muster the energy to move. So, he stays on the floor, leaning against the cabinets as he waits for Ovechkin to find him.

“Sidney?”

For a minute he thinks about not responding but it feels cruel. With everything going on the last thing he needs to do is worry him more. Being on the floor is going to be bad enough. “I’m in here.”

Ovechkin comes into the kitchen, eyes widening when he sees Sidney on the floor. He crosses to him in three long strides and sinks to his knees, reaching out. His hand stops just shy of Sidney’s shoulder and they look at each other for long minutes. “Sidney.”

Sidney scrubs at his face, stomach twisting uncomfortably at the broken look on Ovechkin’s face, the quiet pain in his voice. This has been going on long enough and he needs to come clean, rather than causing any more problems, and he hopes his silence hasn’t ruined anything. “Look, if you promise not to interrupt me, I’ll tell you what is going on. I don’t think if I stop, I’ll be able to keep going. Just hear me out and then you can decide if I’m being truthful.”

Ovechkin nods, dropping his hand. “I can do that.”

Shifting his weight Sidney takes a minute to try and order his thoughts. He wants to look away from the other man but he finds himself pinned by Ovechkin’s gaze. Taking a deep breath he curls his hands into loose fists against his knees. “I’m not your Sidney.”

True to his word Ovechkin doesn’t speak, though surprise flits across his face and Sidney continues. “The night before I woke up here, we played the Flyers. Earlier that day Flower, Jordan and Geno hauled me to a fortune teller.” He doesn’t want to tell Ovechkin what the fortune teller said about finding love, doesn’t want to confuse matters further. Ovechkin loves the Sidney here and Sidney isn’t going to ruin that. “She did a card reading and the next day I woke up here. That’s why I reacted the way I did. I had gone to bed alone and woke up here.”

Even though Sidney knows it is the truth, saying it out loud makes it sound impossible and he can understand why everyone thinks he has been acting weird. If he had told anyone else this, they likely would have hustled him to the team doctors. He rubs a hand against his thigh. “I should have been honest from the beginning, but I was convinced this was some kind of weird dream or something else. It felt surreal. And then today I was talking to Taylor and well-” He makes a vague gesture, not sure what else there is to say.

Ovechkin slowly nods, though he doesn’t say anything, and Sidney isn’t sure if that is a good thing or not. He fights the urge to fidgets and settles for pressing his fingers against his thigh. “I didn’t mean for it to go like this but I couldn’t find a way to make it sound plausible.” He barks a laugh. “I still think it sounds like something from a bad movie, but it is the truth.”

With everything in the open now he can only hope Ovechkin believes him. Sidney has no idea how the Sidney here is, what differences his marriage to Ovechkin have wrought, but he hopes it isn’t any kind of joke like this. The silence continues to drag out and Sidney fights the urge to prod. He asked for silence, which Ovechkin provided, and it only seems fair to give him a chance to digest what he just said.

“Sidney.” Shaking his head Ovechkin reaches over, fingers curling warmly over Sidney’s knee.

This if the first time Ovechkin has touched him outside of a game in the last few weeks and Sidney feels heat suffuse his body, though there is nothing sexual about it. The touch is reassuring, and he shifts, wanting to press into it but he doesn’t move, needing to know what Ovechkin thinks. At this point he wouldn’t blame the other man if he left and never came back.

His worry must show on his face because Ovechkin shakes his head and leans forward. He smiles slightly, fingers pressing like fire into his skin. “Sidney. Not take me long to figure out you not my Sidney.”

That is news to Sidney, and he leans back against the cupboard though he doesn’t move away from Ovechkin’s touch. “How?”

Ovechkin smiles warmly. “Not hard Sid. First, not call me Sasha. Also, act more like my Sid before we start dating. If not so weird, would have been cute, seeing you like that again.”

Heat floods Sidney’s cheeks and he ducks his head. “It is not cute. I should have told you sooner.”

Shrugging Ovechkin lets his hand fall from his knee. “You have reason to make decision. I not judge you for it, though would have been good to know.”

“You’re not mad?” Sidney isn’t sure how he would react if the situation were reversed, but he knows he would be more than a little irritated if his partner kept something like this from him. Although this situation is so weird, Sidney hopes this is a one time thing.

With another shrug Ovechkin gets to his feet and offers his hand to Sidney. “Being mad not solve anything. You here, my Sidney not and we try to fix it.”

This isn’t the kind of outcome Sidney was expecting and he accepts Ovechkin’s hand, letting the other man pull him to his feet. He had prepared himself for anger, disbelief, and derision but not this. This easy acceptance is almost as disconcerting as waking up in bed next to Ovechkin had been. “I’m sorry.”

Ovechkin smiles and it is much easier than Sidney has seen since he got here. “Is fine Sidney. Just have to find way to get my Sidney back and you home.” He looks at Sidney. “Have one idea though.”

“Oh?” Sidney has no idea what the other man might be thinking, but now that everything is out in the air, he is open to suggestions. He is still trying to not think too much about what the fortune teller had said about finding love, because just no. The Sidney here and Ovechkin have their own relationship and he doesn’t want to be part of it. There must be another way.

Ovechkin nods. “Maybe call me Alex. Others notice when you yell Ovechkin and makes them curious.” He grins. “Not use last name in long time.”

That makes Sidney remember what Geno had told him when they spoke, his slip up with the reporters and he sighs. He should have paid more attention to that and if he had remembered maybe, it would have deflected some of the worried looks, he is still getting from the rest of the team. “Alright, though I’m not going to make any promises.” He glances away from Ovechkin’s questioning look. “You and I don’t talk much where I’m from and I don’t think I’ve ever called him Alex.”

Ovechkin rolls his eyes and holds his hands up. “Sidney, always make things harder.” He smiles. “I’m sure he not care if you call him Alex. Might make a new friend.”

Sidney bites back on what he wants to say, that he doesn’t really want to be friends with Ovechkin and the fact they’re slightly more than acquaintances works fine for him. He doesn’t want to do anything to alienate him, not when Ovechkin might be the answer to getting home, without having to fall in love. “I’ll keep that in mind when I get back.”

An idea suddenly comes to him and Sidney steps back from the other man. “I just had a thought. I’m going to run a quick errand and then I’ll be back.”

Alex looks at him with a faint frown. “Okay. Are not going to run away?”

“No.” He manages a smile. “I just realized that if there is a fortune teller where I came from, maybe the same one is here. And maybe she’ll be able to help us figure this out quicker, so everything can go back to normal.”

Alex nods. “Is not bad idea. Call me if she there.”

“I will.” Feeling better Sidney darts around Alex and heads upstairs. He quickly changes, thoughts racing. Now that he has an idea, he can’t help the wellspring of hope pooling in the pit of his stomach. It stands to reason the fortune teller should exist in this universe, since everyone else seems to have a doppelganger here.

He grabs his wallet and heads downstairs, barely waving to Alex as he heads out the front door. Since Flower had driven when they had gone to the fortune teller Sidney doesn’t know the exact address, but he remembers the street and the building. There had also been a large neon sign in the window, big and bright enough it would catch his attention during the day. He knows if he can just find it maybe everything will go back to normal.

It feels like it takes hours for him to get downtown, and Sidney is glad the shop had been on one of the quieter side streets. He can cover more ground if he can stay in his car and this way he doesn’t have to worry about as much traffic as he tries to look between the parked cars for the bright sign.

After the first two blocks Sidney tamps down on a welling sense of failure. There are awnings and signs protruding from the walls. Signs printed on the glass are prevalent and he evens sees a few neon signs, though most of them are beer signs and none of them are as big as the one the fortune teller had been displaying. He doesn’t give up though, as he has never been the type to roll over and die and he isn’t going to start now.

After the tenth block, Sidney knows he is out of luck. None of these buildings look familiar and they didn’t go this far. An empty parking spot looms and Sidney pulls into it. Putting the car in park he pulls his phone out and immediately hits the internet. It still feels a little funny to think about a fortune teller being behind this swap, but it is the only thing he has.

When he searches fortune tellers in Pittsburgh dozens of hits pop up, with phone numbers and addresses, but none of them match the street he remembers being on. As he scrolls through the results, a feeling of doom sweeps over him and he is starting to feel like this was a fruitless venture, not that he was holding out much hope to begin with. Sidney supposes he could talk to one of the other fortune tellers, but that makes his stomach roil uncomfortably. He still can’t believe Alex accepted what he told him and he isn’t sure he has it him to try and convince someone else.

He knows part of it is because of the history between he and other man and he is still grateful it went so well. Right now it is the only thing he has to hold on to, as odd as it sounds and he huffs a laugh. Giving up on the fortune teller angle he tosses his phone into the passenger seat and pulls back into traffic.

He thinks about taking the long way home, to give himself more time to think, but he decides against it. Despite the fact Alex had seemed understanding of his mission there had been a flicker of continued worry on his face and Sidney doesn’t want to give him more to worry about. At this rate, if nothing gets better, Sidney has the feeling Alex is going to come out of this experience with more than a few new grey hairs.

He can avoid aiding that process as much as possible.

The feeling follows him all the way home and Sidney drags his feet up the stairs to the house. He hadn’t really expected to find the fortune teller, to have an easy out of this situation, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Without any help, there seems to be only one way to go home and Sidney isn’t sure if he’s up for it. And no matter what, he isn’t going to tell Alex that. The other man is in love with his Sidney who usually inhabits this body and Sidney isn’t going to expect the same for him.

He is barely in the door when Alex appears, with a kitchen towel in hand and Sidney can tell from Alex’s frown, that the look on his face says it all.

“No luck?”

Sidney shakes his head, tossing his keys and wallet on the small table near the closet. “Nope. There was nothing. I mean there are plenty of fortune tellers, but none of them are the place where Flower and the others dragged me.”

He presses his hands against his eyes. “Fuck.”

The word doesn’t even encompass everything he is feeling, the irritation and feeling of almost hopelessness. He is going to be stuck here, in a world that is not quite like his own, married to a man who should be with his husband, but is instead stuck with him.

Alex is suddenly at his side, arm going around his shoulders to pull him in and Sidney can’t even muster the energy to pull away or say anything. His body evidently remembers being in this position, because he finds himself leaning into Alex. “I don’t think you’re ever going to get your Sidney back.”

“Will figure it out Sidney.” Alex’s fingers stroke against his shoulder. “At least I have a Sid here.”

Sidney manages a laugh at that, and it does make him feel a little better, but with the way he has felt the last few days, he is going to take it as a good thing. “I’m going to keep working on it.”

Alex steps back with a smile, lightly flicking Sidney with the towel. “Is good, but remember, play Boston in two days. Need to think about that.”

Nodding Sidney drops his hand. “I know.”

Right now, there is nothing else that can be done and he feels a million times lighter, now that Alex knows what is going on. This is the first time since he woke up here it feels like the rock in his chest is gone and he looks at Alex. “Do you want some help with dishes and dinner?”

A pleased look flickers across Alex’s face and he nods. “Will take less time.”

“Okay.”

Doing dishes isn’t something Sidney enjoys, but it is somewhat less terrible to be working with Alex to get them done. He isn’t sure if it is because of the division or labor, or if it is because right now everything feels right, like it hasn’t since this all started.

Sidney knows even though everything is out on the open, this isn’t the end. He still doesn’t belong here, and he owes it to Alex, after causing so many problems, to do his best to try and get this Sidney back. Without the fortune teller here, he has no idea how he is going to do it, but impossible isn’t a word he really likes to use.

Putting the last plate into the dishwasher, Sidney steps around Alex to get to the fridge so he can start dinner. “I’m not going to make any promises.”

Alex glances at him as he hangs up the towel he had been using to dry some of the dishes. “About?”

Sidney gets out some of the chicken he bought yesterday. “Remembering to call you Alex. Like I said, the Ovechkin where I’m from and I don’t spend a lot of time together. I don’t think I’ve ever called him anything besides Ovi, or Ovechkin, depending on the situation.”

Alex grins, wide and open, eyes bright. “I still think you call him Alex when get back. Might be a good surprise.”

Nodding Sidney turns his attention back to the chicken, trying to ignore the warm prickle in his chest. It had never really occurred to him until now, seeing Alex’s grin like that, how much this had to have been taking a toll on him. He might not be best friends with him in his own place, but he has spent enough time around him, at All-Star and various other events to know he is vivacious, outgoing and in love with life.

It had never crossed his mind, until now, how much this must have weighed on Alex. Now that he is thinking of it, he can’t ever remember seeing the other man grin like this. Oh, there have been small smiles, flickers of warmth, like Alex was trying to remind him of what was between them. But more often had been the frowns, that had creased his face with concern and made Sidney feel like an ass.

Sidney cuts the chicken breast in half and glances at Alex, who is still watching him, with an expectant smile and he shakes his head. “Maybe. When I get home, I’ll try it.”

Alex’s grin widens and he turns to get the vegetables out.

Chapter Text

Sidney looks up from taping his socks just in time to see Flower bearing down on him like a warship under full sail. He barely manages to sit up before the other man is dropping onto the bench next to him, eyes narrowed as he looks him over. It takes all his strength to not flinch under Flower’s gaze and Sidney squeezes the roll of tape in his hand. He has a feeling he knows what is coming but he has to be patient.

Flower finally sits back. “So, you finally figured it out.”

“What is IT?”

Flower shoves at him and Sidney has to catch himself as he ignores the way the others are looking at them. He leans in so he won’t be overheard, with the way conversation has dropped off as the others look at them. “Whatever the hell was going on between you and Alex. I passed him in the hallway and he looked like he did when he finally got you to agree to go on a date with him.”

Sidney resumes taping his socks, knowing if he meets Flower’s gaze right now, he is going to end up spilling everything. “Oh yeah, that. Alex and I finally sat down and had a talk last night.” It feels odd to call him Alex, and Sidney hopes it sounded natural, rather than as stilted as it felt to say it.

“Oh yeah, that.” Flower’s voice is heavy with sarcasm. “I swear Sidney, the fact you got married some days is a wonder, with the fact you have all the emotional depth of a puddle.” He shoves at Sidney again, but his relieved smile takes all the sting out of it. “I’m glad. I didn’t want to have to pick a favorite, though most days, that is you.”

Rolling his eyes Sidney glances at him. “Stop being a pain in the ass and get ready for practice.”

Cackling, Flower slides from the bench and heads to his stall, leaving Sidney to shake his head and wonder why he is friends with any of his teammates.

-----

Sidney feels like he must be imagining it, but practice is smooth and wonderful. There is no lingering feeling of disassociation when he looks at Alex and the light feeling follows him through the day. It is enough to make him wish he had gotten the courage to speak up sooner. He still can’t quite believe Alex was so understanding about this, but he isn’t going to complain about it. He is too grateful for the easy acceptance.

Bylsma calls a break and Sidney skates to the board. Alex immediately sidles up to him and from the way Jordan rolls his eyes, and the fond smiles from the others, this is usual. A few seconds later Alex’s arm is around his shoulders and Sidney sighs. “Really?”

Alex grins. “Like being close Sid.”

He knows a fight he isn’t going to win, so Sidney just settles his weight and resists the urge to nudge Alex away with his stick. Mostly because he is hoping the flush on his cheeks will be lost under that from exertion. He is going to take this as a sign Alex really has accepted what is going on and it kindles a warmth in him that feels like it has been missing since this all started.

The rest of practice is just as good and Sidney feels like a new person, as stupid as it sounds. Yes, he is no closer to going home, but Alex knows the truth and isn’t mad, has been supportive about it. Now, they don’t have to worry about the tension between them bleeding into the game and Sidney feels like they can take on any of the other teams with ease.

He has still gotten a few looks from Flower, but those seem to be backed with a fond smile and Jordan seems to have completely forgotten. Even the others seem to have relaxed and this feels like the best practice they’ve had in a long time.

In the locker room Sidney lets the good mood wash over him, though he doesn’t join in. Not because this isn’t his team, but because he is still riding on the high of knowing that, while he might not be going home any time soon, Alex at least knows now and he isn’t alone in this. It is amazing how something that simple is enough to make him feel better, but it does.

Once he is out of the shower and dressed, he looks at Alex, whose still wet hair is sticking up in weird curls and licks. “Do we have anything else to do today?”

Alex shakes his head as he pulls his shoes on. “Are good.” He tightens the laces on one of his shoes before looking at Sidney. “Could do lunch.”

Sidney has the feeling Alex doesn’t mean make lunch, which is fine by him. Even with splitting the cooking Sidney is tired of having to cook and a person can really only eat so much of their own cooking before it gets to be boring. And he has the inkling this might be another ritual of theirs and it seems easier to accept now. “Sounds good.”

Flower grins knowingly as they leave and Sidney makes a point of not looking at him. He doesn’t encourage his Flower in this kind of behavior and he isn’t going to do it here either.

They get out to the parking lot and Alex holds a hand out of the keys, since Sidney had driven. He hands them over, though doesn’t release them right away. “Am I going to regret this?”

Alex grins as he gently tugs, just enough to get the keys from Sidney. “No. You like where I pick.”

That doesn’t seem reassuring but Sidney decides to let it go. Obviously, Alex isn’t going to try and kill him, and it might be fun.

Alex’s pick turns out to be burgers and Sidney wants to be mad, but he can’t. It smells amazing and he really can’t remember the last time he gave in to something like this. They take seats at a table near the window and Sidney pulls his drink closer. “Are you going to tell Geno?”

Alex looks at him. “Want Zhenya to know?”

Sidney shrugs, not quite sure. On one hand it seems fair, since Geno has been worrying about him since this started, and also because he has been supporting Alex. But at the same time Sidney doesn’t know how he’ll take it, because Sidney is living it, and he is still having a hard time believing this is all happening because of a fortune teller. He shrugs again. “You can tell him if you want.”

The words aren’t very convincing and Alex must feel the same way, as he shakes his head slightly with a warm smile. “I not tell Zhenya. Just say you feel better when he ask.”

“Alright.” Sidney isn’t sure why Alex is doing it, when Geno is both of their friends, but he appreciates it. Telling Alex the truth had been hard enough, and he isn’t sure he is ready to tell the story again. It feels like the words have already slipped away and while it still occupies his thoughts, it doesn’t feel as urgent as it had. Yes, he still wants to go home, but some how it seems like the wait will be a little better, all because one person knows what is going on.

Silence settles between them, and Sidney lets it wash over him. It still feels unreal how easy things feel between he and Alex and it makes him regret not speaking up earlier. So much of this bad feeling could have been completely ignored if he had just found his courage sooner.

“I’m sorry.”

The words seem to come from him without his will, quick enough to startle Alex who looks at him, his confusion obvious.

Sidney leans forward, wanting more privacy despite the fact the tables around them are empty. “For not being upfront when this started. I know it was hard.” The heavy weight of guilt settles back in his stomach and he would be all to glad to never have this feeling again. It won’t be that easy though, and he knows it will stay with him until he gets home, and even than might continue to linger.

Alex reaches across the table to rest a hand over his forearm, pressing lightly and Sidney stares at the big hand and broad fingers for a moment before he remembers this is normal. No one here is going to say anything, because they’re married and everyone knows it. “Sidney, really is fine. Wish you tell me sooner but not change that now.”

He curls his fingers into a loose hold, thumb moving in short strokes. “We figure out together. Until then, we have a good time.” He smiles, his gaze warm and he doesn’t move, hand still heavy on Sidney’s arm.

It seems impossible, that Alex’s good mood is infectious but it feels like it. The knot of guilt is starting to go away, eased by the open, steady way Alex is looking at him, like none of this is his fault, and Sidney knows it isn’t, but he can’t help it. Like this though, sitting by the big windows and faced with a smiling Alex, it is easier to pretend this isn’t on him.

Sidney doesn’t get a chance to say anything else, as their waiter shows up with their food and it makes him glad he let Alex pick the place. Just by looking at the burger he can tell he is going to regret his decision later, but for right now he has every intention of enjoying it.

-----

The sun feels good on his face and Sidney tips his head to enjoy it as he and Alex walk back to the car. They had ended up lingering over lunch and it had felt odd. He doesn’t usually eat out, unless his teammates drag him, or they take their time eating after a game when they’re out of town. This had felt different, and it isn’t hard to imagine Alex and his Sidney doing this regularly, stealing what little time they can outside games and practice and road trips to do little things like this.

Alex bumps him as they walk and Sidney glances at him to find the other man smiling. It isn’t hard to figure out he did it on purpose and he pushes back, though it really doesn’t do much good, Alex just grinning but not moving. “So, how often do you do this?”

He isn’t sure why he asked. Even with Alex knowing, it still feels like maybe he should keep a line between what is going on and his relationship with this Sidney, but his curiosity is piqued. Up until now he had never really thought about how they spent their time outside the game, between practice and travel and games.

Shrugging, Alex glances at him. “Try to do once a month.” He makes a face. “Sometimes not happen at all.” Gently nudging Sidney he grins. “I let you pick next time.”

“Okay.” It feels funny to agree, when it could be weeks before they manage to carve out time to do something like this again, never mind the fact by then he might have managed to find a way home, and he won’t get to do this again. Sidney rubs his hands together, doing his best to ignore the faint prickle of disappointment at the thought.

-----

Even being at home together is easier and when they get back to the house Sidney can’t help but wander over to the pictures. The pull of them feels magnetic and he knows he has looked at them every day since he woke up here, like the pictures will somehow give him an answer to what is going on. Like always, his gaze goes to the one of he, Alex and Taylor and it dawns on him he hasn’t reached out to her after the last call and he is probably lucky she isn’t at the front door demanding answers.

He glances at Alex, who is standing in the doorway, watching him with a fond smile. “You talk to Taylor a lot.”

Alex shrugs, still smiling. “Is sister. Taylor important to you, so important to me.”

Sidney has the feeling if he were to look more closely at the contacts in his phone, that Mikhail and Alex’s parents are probably saved there, and it only makes sense. He pulls his phone out, tipping it towards the other man. “I need to call Taylor. She was part of the reason I finally told you, though it shouldn’t have taken that.”

The ugly twist of guilt is back and it must show on his face, because Alex’s smile is falling away and he closes the distance between them. This time there is no hesitation and he reaches out, hand curling over the back of Sidney’s neck, fingers pressing in slightly.

Alex’s touch is oddly grounding and Sidney takes a deep breath. “Sorry.”

“Is okay.” Alex squeezes gently before letting go of him and he taps Sidney’s phone. “Call Taylor before she call and yell at us both. Going to tell her?”

Telling his sister the truth had never crossed his mind and Sidney shakes his head. For some reason he doesn’t want her to know anymore than he wants Geno to know. “No. I think it will be better if we didn’t tell her. It might be better if it just stays between the two of us.”

Alex nods and Sidney steps back, calling Taylor. He has no idea about her schedule and thinks it is likely he’ll get to leave a message, rather than talk to her.

The phone only rings twice and Taylor must have been sitting on it because Sidney doesn’t manage to say anything before Taylor is speaking. “Sidney, you better be calling because you talked to Alex.”

He rolls his eyes and this must have happened before, as Alex, who has only moved far enough away to lean against the wall, arms folded across his chest, is smiling. “Yes, I talked to Alex and everything is fine.”

Silence drags out for a few seconds and Sidney waits, knowing it isn’t going to be enough for Taylor. When she gets as upset as she was the last time they talked, it isn’t something she lets go of easily and it is going to take more than just his word to convince her of it.

“I want to talk to Alex.”

Sidney hands the phone over and Alex takes it. He doesn’t get to say much, relegated to mostly one- word answers as Taylor grills him and Sidney understands why she is being thorough. It hadn’t been hard to tell she had been bothered by what had been going on between he and Alex. He can only hope Alex can convince her everything is okay, because if she comes down here, Sidney isn’t sure he will be able to keep from telling her the truth.

“Are good Taylor. Talk to Sid again.”

The last thing he wants is to talk to Taylor again, but he’ll never hear the end of it if he ends the call, so Sidney lifts the phone back up, glaring at Alex who just grins and shrugs. “See, everything is fine.”

Taylor huffs and it isn’t hard for Sidney to imagine the look of irritation on her face. “For now. If I hear you get weird again, I’m going to show up on your doorstep until you or Alex let me in, and I won’t leave until I get a straight answer.”

Sidney knows she will do just that, and he doesn’t want it. “You won’t hear anything from us. Everything is fine.” It feels weird to say, with the fact things are still all mixed up, but with the steady way Alex is looking at him, in support, it doesn’t feel quite like the lie it would have been the last time he talked to Taylor.

“Okay. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Alright. Bye.” Sidney ends the call and looks at the screen for a moment before glancing at Alex, who still looks amused at his expense. “You probably shouldn’t look so smug. She is your sister-in-law.”

That makes Alex look a little less cocky, and it makes Sidney feel better as he laughs and goes into the living room.

Chapter Text

The game with Boston is brutal and Sidney makes his way to the locker room at the end of the first period, not sure he is going to survive the game. It feels like every time he steps on the ice Boston is mobbing him, keeping him away from the puck and not giving him any space. Alex is having a little more luck only because most of the Boston players don’t want to get close enough to risk any physical contact with him.

With a groan Sidney strips his helmet off before dropping to the bench. Alex drops next to him, his frustration so strong Sidney can almost feel it buzzing against his skin. He doesn’t have any words, so he settles for leaning into the other man, hoping it will help.

It gets him a quick upturn of Alex’s mouth, but that fades away when Bylsma comes into the locker room.

-----

Jordan manages to score in the second period, off a wild bounce in front of the net and Sidney will take it. Boston is still riding him and he has no idea how many hits he has managed to avoid, though he has been slammed into the boards a number of times and even with his pads, he knows he is going to be sore tomorrow.

So far, they’ve managed to avoid drawing any penalties, but Sidney knows it will only be a matter of time. By now the entire team is frustrated, emotion on the bench running high. He and Alex slide down as the third line hits the ice and Sidney nudges Alex.

The other man looks at him and Sidney shakes his head. He is frustrated by this whole game, but for some reason it seems to be hitting Alex worse. There hasn’t been a moment of stillness from Alex the entire time they’ve been on the bench and Sidney knows his energy isn’t limitless, as much as it seems that way some times. “Don’t do anything stupid.”

Alex nods, though Sidney isn’t sure if he should take the agreement at face value, with the way Alex’s eyes have gone narrow as he watches what is going on with the game.

-----

By the third period they still have the only goal in the game and Sidney wants to keep it that way. The entire team is exhausted, moving just a little slower, and the only reason Boston hasn’t scored is because they’re feeling it too. Sidney hates games like this, the long grinds where neither team has the upper hand. They always seem to take longer and it always feels like it takes days to recover from them.

He goes to the boards, reaching for the puck. His stick barely touches it when someone slams him into the boards and he twists, trying to get his elbow into the person, for shock more than anything. The move doesn’t work, but in a bit of luck, the puck gets knocked closer to him.

There is no way he can get his stick to the puck, so he settles for kicking it loose, watching as it curves around the boards. Alex manages to pick it up, and sudden Sidney isn’t so important. He sucks in a breath as he shoves back, hoping to get somewhere Alex can maybe reach him. That isn’t going to happen with the way Lucic is sitting on him and Sidney watches as Tanger ends up with the puck.

Above them the last minute of the game begins to tick away and Sidney hopes Tanger is smart enough to just hang onto it. If the puck gets loose Boston might manage to score a goal and Sidney doesn’t think any of them have enough energy for overtime. Right now, he feels like he could sleep on the ice if he had to, and he doubts any of the others feel different.

Mercifully the game finally ends and Sidney heads back for the bench, the rest of the team trailing behind him. He is exhausted and all he wants to do is shower so he can rinse off the sweat, maybe eat something and then sleep for the next sixteen hours.

First though, he has to get through the task of answering the usual, boring questions from the press and he wishes he could avoid it. He glances at Alex as the other man comes up next to him, looking exhausted. “Do you wan to talk to the press, instead of me?”

Alex grins tiredly and shakes his head, bumping him. “Out of luck Sid. No one care what anyone say but you.”

Sidney finds that hard to believe, as Alex is magnetic, while he has never really been offended the few times Flower has compared him to a plank. “That doesn’t seem fair.”

Grin widening Alex reaches up to tap the A on his jersey. “Not C, so am safe.” He nudges him. “Have fun.”

Sighing, Sidney reaches back to unfasten the strap on his jersey. There are few things he hates about being captain, and this is one of them. As far as he is concerned having to talk to the press doesn’t serve a point and all they really do is keep him from getting home.

At least tonight the press seems to agree with him and there are only a few questions. All of the are painfully familiar, and his rote responses are enough to get them to leave.

Most of the team is gone by the time Sidney makes it to the shower and he can’t help but laugh at Alex. The other man is sitting in front of his stall, tie hanging loosely around his neck and Sidney has a feeling if he doesn’t make his shower quick, he is going to have to wake Alex up so they can go home.

He keeps his shower short, only because he is ready to go home and he has every intention of taking a shower tomorrow morning. The locker room is empty now, save Alex and Sidney quickly dresses, shoving his tie in a pocket. Tying his shoes he nudges Alex, who blinks at him slowly before getting up with a groan.

Sidney feels the same way, like his entire body is made of wood, tight and unresponsive and practice tomorrow, no matter how light is going to be hell. The thought is enough to make him groan and he does, which garners him a worried look from Alex. He waves it off. “I’m just thinking about how terrible practice is going to be.”

That gets a spark of life from Alex and he closes the distance between them, arm going around his shoulder to draw him in as they head for the parking lot. “Is good news! Only have review tomorrow. Bylsma say have enough tonight to take tomorrow off.”

Relief rushes though Sidney and he leans against Alex. “Good. I’m not sure I can remember how to skate. What time is review?”

Alex pushes the door open, dragging Sidney through. “One.”

Which means Sidney could sleep for the next twelve hours if he wanted too. He is so lost in the thought of getting that much sleep he misses Alex pulling the keys from his pocket, since he drove and before he can think to say anything he is standing on the passenger side, looking at Alex, who is grinning.

“I’m not sure I should be letting you drive, with the way you looked a few minutes ago.”

Jingling the keys Alex makes a face. “Get us home safe Sidney. Then snack and sleep.”

Both of those seem like good ideas and Sidney gives up, sliding into the car.

They get home in one piece and Sidney is already thinking about what is in the fridge for a snack. There are some left over chicken breasts from yesterday and he slants a look at Alex as he waits for him to unlock the door. “We could make chicken sandwiches.”

A tired nod is all the response he gets and Sidney kicks his shoes into the closet before heading to the kitchen, leaving Alex to lock the doors and close up for the night. He leaves the light low, preferring the dimness after spending so long under the bright lights at the arena. Kneeling in front of the fridge Sidney stares at the collection of bottles in the door and lower shelf, condiments with questionable dates he doesn’t check, but still uses.

It dawns on him that he has no idea what Alex might want on his sandwich so he just pulls out the usual, figuring if he gets it wrong, Alex can get out what he wants. There is even some lettuce left that still looks decent and Sidney grabs it, as well as the chicken and some cheese.

The tomato on the counter still looks reasonable and he is slicing it when Alex comes in, looking at everything on the counter with an amused look and Sidney shrugs. “I realized when I was getting stuff out, I had no idea what you liked, so I just went with the basics.”

Alex joins him, hand resting briefly on his shoulder before he pulls away to get the wheat bread from the cupboard above them. “Is enough Sidney. Am not planning on making amazing sandwich.”

Sidney sets the tomato aside and opens the container with the chicken so he can cut into a size made easier for a sandwich. “We deserve it after tonight.”

He can’t help but steal glances at Alex as the other man makes their sandwiches, and Sidney can tell which sandwich is his. It is enough to twist the lingering feeling of guilt he doesn’t think will ever really go away and he can’t help but laugh wryly as he starts cleaning up while Alex finishes the sandwiches. Feeling guilty about a sandwich seems a little ridiculous, but it is just another thing to add to the list.

Taking the plate Alex holds out to him, he leans back against the counter, Alex mimicking him and they eat in silence, the dim light making it feel inviting and just a little intimate. After they finish Sidney pulls the plate from Alex’s hand and rinses it before tucking everything into the dishwasher.

He turns to find Alex watching him with a faint smile and it is enough to kindle a hint of warmth in the pit of his stomach, only because it makes him happy to know Alex isn’t completely miserable. Waving towards the doorway he reaches over to turn off the light, plunging them into darkness. “Come on. The last thing I want after today is to sleep in the kitchen.”

“Not sure ever want to move again, but follow you Sidney.”

Sidney rolls his eyes but doesn’t say anything and smiles. Even the Alex from where he belongs teases him when he thinks he can get away with it and Sidney thinks this is just something else usual for them. “Good night, Alex.”

“Night Sidney.”

-----

Sidney has no idea what time it is, just that he slept later than he has in some time, and he feels good. He had been so tired last night there hadn’t been time for his thoughts to wander and even with the fact his body still feels a little heavy, it isn’t as bad as he had been fearing. Not quite ready to get up, he stretches taking up the whole bed. He stays that way for a long time, enjoying it and not thinking about anything.

At least until he realizes that even with the sandwich last night, he wants something else to eat, never mind the sudden pressure from his bladder. He ends up taking a shower, washing away the residue of sleep before heading downstairs. The house is quiet and if not for the pictures on the wall which he looks at, like always, he could almost believe he was the only person living here. All of Alex’s belonging strewn around have simply become things that are supposed to be there and he doesn’t even pay attention to them.

Entering the kitchen Sidney leaves the lights off. There is enough light coming in for him to make breakfast and he settles for something light. It seems silly to worry about making more when he has no idea when Alex is getting up, and he is more than capable of feeding himself. He takes a bite of his toast and it takes him a moment to place a name to the weird, uncomfortable feeling uncurling in his chest.

This is the first morning he can think of since he woke up here, that he and Alex haven’t had breakfast together. Even when the tension had been so bad, he had barely been able to look at Alex for guilt, they had still eaten together, and Sidney feels silly for not realizing it has become part of his ingrained habit.

Finishing his breakfast, he puts the plate in the dishwasher and sighs. It is only 9, and he has plenty of time to kill before review, but he isn’t sure what to do with himself. They have plenty of food, as the team has a few weeks before they head out on another road trip, the house is clean and laundry isn’t an issue.

Sidney briefly thinks about going back up to nap for a little longer, but it seems like a waste of time, so instead he heads towards the living room. He nearly collides with Alex, only a quick sidestep saving him and he smiles. “Morning.”

Alex’s response isn’t quite a word, and he moves further out of the way, thinking Alex might feel better after some food. Sidney settles on the far end of the couch and turns on the TV. Normally he does a better job checking scores of games from their division and conference but doing it last night had totally slipped his mind. The coverage from last night’s games starts and he mutes the sound, ignoring the closed captioning that comes up across the bottom of the screen.

He prefers watching the highlights without listening to the analysis, feeling like it gives him a better grasp of what happened. The only thing he learns in highlights of two games from the west, is that whatever was going on last night seems to have been league wide. Both of those games had been grinds and even watching the highlights, he can tell the games had been slow.

The sound of Alex moving around in the kitchen reaches him and Sidney shakes his head, smiling when he hears something hit the floor, followed by muttered curses he knows well from Geno. A few minutes later Alex comes into the living room.

With a heavy groan Alex drops on the couch opposite him. “Not our game Sid. Going to be bad enough in review.”

Sidney nods and changes the channel, not in any hurry to relive last night’s game either. His body still feels heavy and it is going to be painful to watch again. At least during the game adrenaline and thinking about the next shift had been enough to keep him moving. With the grind last night was, Sidney thinks it might be possible he is going to fall asleep during the review.

Whatever channel Sidney put it on is showing a bad movie but he can’t seem to summon up the energy to pick up the remote to change it. He steals a quick look at Alex, who looks like he is fighting to stay awake despite the fact he hasn’t been up that long. It also makes Sidney realize this is the first time since this started that Alex has shared the couch with him.

The moment Alex had realized something was wrong he had started sitting in the chair near the couch, watching him like he expected Sidney to grow a head at any moment. This is much better and Sidney sinks back into the couch, letting the movie wash over him.

-----

By the time they have to leave to get to the review, Sidney isn’t sure he can move. His body feels like it weighs tons and Alex looks like he is ready to just give up and let the couch eat him. Turning off the TV Sidney gets to his feet and moves to stand in front of Alex. “Come on.”

Alex waves a lazy hand, looking at him with barely opens eyes. “Is fine Sid. Can tell me what said when get home.”

“Good try, but that isn’t going to happen. If I have to sit through it, so do you.” Reaching out Sidney grabs Alex’s hand. He feels his pulse jump, as this is the first time he has initiated contact, as up until now he has been letting Alex lead, not wanting to seem forward or upset the truce they’ve fallen into.

Alex just looks at their joined hands before standing, close enough to trap their hands between them. “Will be boring.”

“I know.” Sidney pulls his hand away. “But we signed up for this.”

Alex’s snort of disbelief says volumes and Sidney can’t help but smile.

-----

The review is exactly as bad as Sidney was expecting it to be, and he keeps wishing for it to be over. Alex is slumped down in his chair so far Sidney is afraid he is going to fall to the floor, Flower looks like he is about to start drooling, and Sidney can’t be sure, but he thinks he has heard Jordan snore a few times. From around him have come whispered complaints and more than a few nudges to keep people awake.

Even Bylsma and the coaching staff seem to be suffering, if the way they’re droning is any indication. The already slow game seems to be even slower on tape and the slow movement of the puck is enough to make him sleepy, rather than catch his attention.

He badly stifles a yawn which gets him a knowing look from Alex, and he shrugs. He never said this was going to be fun, but he underestimated how much it was going to suck.

Finally, after what seems like decades, the review comes to an end. It is met with thankful groans and Bylsma rolls his eyes but smiles. “I know, it was painful, but I’m hoping we all took something out of it.”

Right now, the only thing Sidney knows he took out of it is that last night’s game was quite possibly the most tedious, painful game he has ever had.

“Practice tomorrow, at the usual time.”

That is a dismissal and Sidney stands, Alex springing up next to him. It is late enough in the day Sidney is hungry, but the last thing he wants to do is take the time to cook anything. He glances at Alex as they head towards the outside. “Do you just want to order something to take home for dinner?”

Alex nods, waving at Jordan. “Be good. Not really want to cook.”

“I’ll drive while you order?” Sidney can tell from the way Alex looks at him, the other man can tell what he is thinking, but he doesn’t let it bother him. It seems silly to have him order, when he has no idea what Alex will want and really, he is just being efficient.

Alex rolls his eyes and smiles as he nudges Sidney. “Going to have to learn sometime Sid.”

“I know.” Sidney unlocks the car, feeling odd. He isn’t sure why he had so readily agreed with Alex. Nothing has changed, he still wants to get home, to get the right Sidney here, so Alex can go on with his life but it is one little thing, that will make things easier. If he knows the other man’s preferences better he won’t have to worry about any slip ups that might make people suspicious again. There is also the added benefit that it might give him a chance to do things for Alex, to make up for the weeks he threw both their lives into disarray and everything that came with that.

So he’ll start tonight and pay attention to what Alex orders.

-----

“Play Capitals tomorrow.”

Alex’s words come out of nowhere and Sidney looks at him for a minute before he realizes he is expected to answer. “Oh, yeah Geno.” He scratches at his forearm. “Then they must be getting to town tonight.”

Alex nods slowly, like he is waiting for Sidney to catch up and he rolls his eyes, trying to figure out what he is missing. As much as Alex seems to have taken having him here in stride, there have been a few of these little trips up where Sidney feels like he knows the answer, but it is just out of reach. “We might be sitting here all night if you’re expecting a response.”

“Go out to dinner with Zhenya tonight?”

Sidney doesn’t respond right away, not sure. He wants to see Geno, but he is the only person besides Alex who could tell something wasn’t right. Part of him would much rather just see Geno on the ice tomorrow, when they’ll have less time to interact, but he has a sense it isn’t that easy. He turns so he can get a better look at Alex, who is on the far end of the couch. “Is it something we would normally do?”

Alex nods as he stretches, toes curling against the floor. “Is. Maybe get out of it, but Zhenya still worry about you.”

That is something Sidney already knows. He has gotten several questioning texts from Geno and he has settled for answering all of them with some version of ‘I’m okay and feeling much better.’ Every time Geno had responded in the positive, but Sidney is fairly sure it hasn’t been enough to change Geno’s mind. Not when Geno has called at least weekly to talk to Alex and Alex hasn’t left the room for any of the calls. Every conversation has been in Russian, but Sidney has been able to tell from the cadence of Alex’s voice he has been doing his best to convince Geno everything had been a misunderstanding.

“Okay, since I think it will make him suspicious if we decide to call it off.” Sidney scrubs a hand across his face. “He isn’t likely to ask me any questions I won’t know the answer to, will he?”

That makes Alex sit up, a concerned look flashing across his face, like the thought of Geno asking questions had never crossed his mind. He remains quiet for a moment before shaking his head. “Should not. Think Zhenya more worried about you, than think you someone else.”

Sidney nods. He hates deceiving Geno this way, but it is better for all of them. This is complicated enough without adding anyone else to the secret.

On his side of the couch Alex shifts, a furtive look on his face and Sidney catches it. He leans towards him. “Okay, what was that look?”

Alex rears back, eyes wide in an attempt to look innocent but Sidney knows better. He knows what he saw and he can tell from the reaction, Alex isn’t sure it is something he wants to hear. The rest of the day is wide open though, until dinner tonight and he has no problem waiting until Alex decides to spill.

The stalemate doesn’t last long and Alex deflates, slumping back in the couch. “Zhenya expect us wear rings. Always do.”

Sidney settles back into his corner, stomach flipping at the thought. He knows they’re married, but even with the pictures, up until now it had really been an abstract idea. It had been a part of everything, though easy to ignore, but this is something different. He can almost imagine the weight of the ring on his finger, just barely managing to avoid looking. “We could always tell him I misplaced it.”

Even as soon as he says the words Sidney knows they won’t work, and Alex is shaking his head. He is too responsible to lose something as important as his wedding ring and the lack of it might make Geno question him further, which is what they want to avoid.

“I understand if you don’t want me to wear it.” He really does. That ring is a symbol of what is between Alex and his Sidney and he doesn’t blame Alex if he wants that to remain untarnished.

Alex moves closer and pats Sidney’s forearm. “Is fine. Keep Zhenya from asking questions. And my Sidney not care.” He smiles. “He wonder why we be so silly about this.”

Sidney thinks the other him might have something to say about this whole situation, but he isn’t sure what it would be.

-----

“Wait.”

Alex pauses in heading towards the room he has been staying in, where more and more of his clothing has been moving since he started sleeping there. Sidney is ashamed that it took him so much time to notice the movement of clothing but hasn’t said anything about it.

“Sid?”

Sidney shifts his weight. “We aren’t going anywhere that requires a suit, are we?”

Laughing, Alex shakes his head. “Be boring if we did. Just nice shirt and pants.”

Which is still more vague than Sidney likes, but he can work with it. He settles on dark grey pants with a blue shirt and is glad this is all it is. Even with all the reasons he has to wear a suit, he doesn’t enjoy it and this is enough. He finishes getting ready and heads to the living room.

Alex is already there, sitting on the couch as he stares at the ring boxes in his hand. It is enough to stop Sidney in the doorway and he stays quiet. No matter what Alex said earlier, he has the sense this isn’t as easy as the other man would have him believe. He might be Sidney, but not this one, with all the experiences and emotions and they both know it. He is still a stranger about to put on the ring.

Time seems to drag out before Alex finally notices him and he smiles, though Sidney can see the faint hint of a shadow in his eyes, which just confirms his belief that this isn’t as simple as Alex is making it out to be. He closes the distance between them, thoughts racing as he tries to figure out a way to get out of wearing the ring.

Nothing believable comes to mind and he takes the box. He rubs his fingers over the nubby velvet, using it to ground himself before he opens the box. A quick glance shows Alex is watching him, eyes hooded and Sidney carefully pulls the ring free. The metal is cool against his fingers and he turns the platinum band over, taking it in.

Taking a deep breath, he slides it on his finger and carefully closes the box, handing it back to Alex, who sets it on the table next to his. The weight of the ring feels odd and he curls his hand into a loose fist, feeling the smooth band pinch a little against his skin. Alex is watching him and he nods. “We should get going before Geno wonders why we’re late.”

Alex stands, eyes darting to the ring boxes. “He know I give you bad habits.”

“I think it is more that he knows how you are. I just happen to be an innocent in all of this.”

That makes Alex smile, which kindles a warmth in Sidney. He can still catch the lingering sadness in Alex, and he feels attuned to him in a way he can’t recall ever being before. It has to be a lingering side effect of being so aware of Alex’s confusion and worry, the way it had never strayed far from his attention, almost like a prickle of awareness on his skin.

Sidney lets Alex drive, and he manages to not fidget with the ring. He knows he should be getting used to the unfamiliar weight of the ring, but it feels like it is getting heavier with every heartbeat. The temptation becomes too great and he drags his thumb across the metal. Sidney has no idea what he is expecting, but nothing happens, and he relaxes into the seat, tracing the edges of the ring with his thumb.

Alex pulls into a parking lot and Sidney feels his heartbeat pick up, palms suddenly feeling clammy, and he takes a deep breath. He can do this, and signs of anxiety are going to be the first thing Geno picks up on, which will be enough to ruin all his attempts to convince Geno everything is okay.

He gets out of the car and Alex smiles reassuringly over the top. “Will be fine Sidney. No test.”

“There better not be.”

Geno is waiting for them outside and he smiles when he sees them, his dark eyes darting to Sidney. Sidney smiles. “See, I’m fine.” Even with his words Geno’s face is pinched with worry and he has no idea what to say now, if Geno doesn’t believe him.

He catches the way Geno slants a look at Alex and in his peripheral vision he sees Alex nod and Geno finally relaxes slightly.

Geno steps forward to hug him, before doing the same with Alex and he steps back, looking between them. “Start to think you forget me.”

Sidney shakes his head. “It was Alex’s fault.”

Alex makes an affronted sound before catching Sidney and drawing him in close. “Was not.”

Rolling his eyes, like he has witnessed this a million times Geno gestures to the door of the restaurant. Sidney takes the lead, just barely managing to avoid flinching when he feels Alex’s hand settle low on his back. He isn’t sure how this never dawned on him, that he was going to have to deal with Alex’s casual touches.

On the ice it had been different because they all do it, shoving, hands on shoulders among other things, but this is something else. There is an intimacy to this, even with the fact he knows it is for show, Alex trying to convince Geno everything is okay.

As they enter the restaurant Sidney manages to turn just enough so he is leaning into Alex. “You could have warned me. It would have been bad if I had jumped out of my skin.”

Alex looks contrite, glancing over his shoulder as Geno comes in behind them. “Sorry, not think. Habit.”

“It’s okay. It should have crossed my mind.” It might have if he hadn’t been so worried about being able to fool Geno tonight. Even though they’ve gotten through the first encounter, Sidney can’t seem to shake the feeling he is going to do something to slip up. He is sure he isn’t going to forget and call Alex Ovechkin again, but there is bound to be something else. A way he looks at him, some way he touches him when they talk, and it will be a red flag.

Their waiter settles them at a booth in the corner and Sidney isn’t surprised when Alex crowds in, their thighs touching. His arm goes across the back of seat, which makes Sidney rolls his eyes and Geno smiles, a little more of the worry draining away and Sidney will take it as a good thing. Maybe if he keeps acting like he does with Alex where he belongs, tonight won’t be so bad.

Geno looks between them. “Things really okay?”

“Yes.” Sidney nods. “It really was just a case of not feeling right.”

Next to him Alex nods like a bobble head. “Is much better Zhenya. Whole team keep eye on Sidney until he feel better. Everyone make sure he not take any bad hits.”

Which isn’t technically a lie. Sidney had felt like a bug under glass for the longest time and it has just now started getting better, since the truth came out. “It wasn’t long after you came to visit, that things got better.”

“Worry me Sidney. When Sanja say not act right.” Geno doesn’t look worried, just curious, like he wants more detail and Sidney’s thoughts start spinning, trying to figure out something to say if he asks.

Alex shifts next to him, moving his arm just enough so he can touch the back of Sidney’s neck. It makes him shiver and he can’t help but glare at Alex, who just smiles. “Zhenya, is fine. Sid back to normal, is good.”

Sidney watches as Geno nods a final time and smiles.

Before anything else can be said their waiter comes by to take their drink orders and as much as Sidney would like one, he decides to refrain. He knows a single drink wouldn’t be enough to make him say something stupid, but he doesn’t want to run the chance. Luck hasn’t been on his side recently and he doesn’t want to tempt it. They quickly decide what to order for dinner and Sidney can’t help the low twist of worry in his stomach. He believes what Alex said, that Geno isn’t likely to start an inquisition about their past but at the same time he can’t help but worry. This is exactly the kind of thing he gets worked up about, the way even the small things can blow up into bigger problems.

He is relieved when Alex starts the conversation, immediately going to hockey and he knows it is for him. There is no way he can mess up talking about hockey and he glances at Alex, who smiles slightly.

As they continue to talk, taking a break only to order their food, Sidney can feel Geno watching him and he knows, despite everything they’ve said, there is still a little worry there. That concern is part of what makes Geno a good friend, and Sidney appreciates it, even given the circumstances.

-----

It isn’t until they’re done eating that Sidney realizes he has relaxed into Alex. At some point in time, he had given up trying to keep the distance between them, not wanting to give Geno anything that might raise his suspicions again. He shifts, sitting up and his side feels cool. He doesn’t move any further, not quite ready to lose the feeling of intimacy, even though it isn’t really his.

Alex has his wallet out before either of them can move and he hands a card to their waiter, smiling at the annoyed look on Geno’s face. “Can get when we come to Washington.”

Geno looks like he wants to argue, but he settles for mock glaring at Alex. His gaze slides to Sidney. “Still not sure why you marry him.”

That catches him off guard and Sidney tenses up, feeling Alex do the same next to him. There isn’t a chance for him to think of something, so he says the first thing that comes to mind. “It seems to have worked out so far.”

It must have been close to what was expected since Geno grins and Sidney feels all the tension leave Alex before he is leaning into him, hand settling on his knee to squeeze in support before falling away. He glances at his watch, and as much as he is having fun, they need to get going. Tomorrow is going to come quickly enough, and they need to be at their best to deal with the Capitals. He nudges Alex with his elbow, since he can’t out without him moving.

“Alex and I need get going. Any longer and I might think you’re trying to sabotage us for the game tomorrow.”

Geno slides from the booth. “Might have been plan. Never know now.”

They wend their way through the tables and Geno smiles when they get outside. “Have good game tomorrow.”

“Be good for one of us.” Alex grins, waving cheekily at Geno as he turns Sidney in the direction of where they had parked.

The night is cool, but it feels good and Sidney nudges Alex as they walk towards the car, Geno likely in a taxi and headed back to the hotel. He bumps Alex again, this time getting an amused look. “Thank you.”

“For what Sidney?”

Sidney jerks his head back towards the restaurant. “For staying on safe topics. For making sure I didn’t slip up and say something that would get us both in trouble with Geno.”

Alex reaches over and catches Sidney’s wrist, pulling him to a stop. They’re under an awning, warm light spilling over them and the only point of contact between them is warm grip Alex has on him. Sidney stays quiet, not sure what Alex is going to say and not wanting to ruin it with anything.

They look at each other and Sidney feels heat sweep through his body, fighting against the cool air of the night. He wonders how long they’re going to stand like this and Alex’s other hand comes up to curl over the back of his neck, fingers pressing in gently.

“Never worry Sidney.” He smiles, warmly. “I know Sidney never make mistake like that.” His fingers stroke against Sidney’s skin once before he steps back, gently tugging him forward. He glances at Sidney as they walk, keeping his grip light. “Same reason I not worry about my Sidney.”

Sidney can’t help but laugh, warmth curling in the pit of his stomach. “I’m glad you have so much faith in me.”

Alex looks at him, eyes bright. “Always Sidney.”

-----

Sidney pauses as he steps out onto the ice, glad the others all went ahead of him for warmups. This disconnect had never crossed his mind and he can’t help but wonder what it is going to mean for the game. Geno is standing next to the goal, talking to Backstrom and the white jersey isn’t the problem, but the fact he can see the eagle on the sleeve from here.

Alex skates up, gently poking him in the side with the handle of his stick. “Sid?”

He absently bats at the stick. “Nothing serious. I just realized this might be interesting.” Looking at Alex he shrugs, glad there isn’t anyone around them. “I got used to seeing you on the ice but having Geno across from us might be a little weird.”

Alex looks at Geno and then shrugs. He moves closer, gently hip checking him. “What I say last night stand. You not let Zhenya being over there get in head.”

Sidney rolls his shoulders and takes a deep breath, feeling a little more settled. “You’re right. I can do this.”

-----

It helps Sidney to pretend the game is a scrimmage, with Geno on the other team and Sidney settles into the game. The first ten minutes are uneventful, with a lot of back and forth of the puck. Until Washington manages to score on a unlucky bounce off Tanger.

From there the game gets much worse and Sidney feels like they can’t get a grip on the game. Washington doesn’t score again, but the puck never seems to stay on their sticks long, always getting back to the Capitals. Luckily the period ends with just the single goal and it gives Sidney some hope.

The second period starts and they manage to score a goal, more through dumb luck than any real skill from them. And then it continues to go to hell. The one goal is all the luck they manage for the rest of the game. Washington scores a second goal, so it ends up not being a complete blow out, but it doesn’t leave Sidney feeling good about the game.

Having to talk to the press doesn’t make him feel better, as he details their every failing, painfully aware of the way the team feels. None of them feel good about the way today went and talking to the press feels like twisting a knife in the backs of the team.

Escaping to the shower is the best thing about the day and Sidney takes his time, letting the hot water wash away the lingering aches and sweat. By the time he gets out of the shower he feels loose and warm and the locker room is empty, save Alex who looks like he might be asleep sitting up, chin against his chest.

He dresses and sits down to put his shoes on. Slipping them on seems to take all his energy and he just stares down at the laces, idly wondering if he can get out to the car without tripping them. From the corner of his eye, he sees Alex move.

Alex puts an arm around his shoulder, tugging gently and Sidney gives in, leaning into Alex. It feels natural and he closes his eyes. He might not be a team captain here, but Sidney has a pretty good idea Alex knows what he is feeling. The other man’s frustration with the game had been visible, and it had probably just been luck he hadn’t managed to draw a penalty during the game.

“We can’t stay here all night.” They can’t but Sidney is done for the night and he doesn’t think Alex is any better shape.

With a heavy sigh Alex releases Sidney and he stands, watching as Sidney finally bends over to tie his shoes. “Glad we get to go home.”

Sidney finishes tying his shoe and stands. “I agree completely.”

Chapter Text

Sidney yawns and seriously considers taking a nap. They had an early game this morning against the Sabres, and they won, but he is exhausted, and Alex doesn’t look any better. He is at the other side of the couch, eyes barely open and Sidney can’t be sure, but he might have dropped off a few times. They had gotten home and dropped to the couch, and he had moved earlier, only to get them some water.

With another yawn he sits up, thinking maybe it will be enough to wake him up. All it really does, is disturb Alex, who opens his eyes just enough to glare at him. “Sorry.”

Alex waves lazily before sitting up. “Sidney, I been thinking.”

“Okay.” Worry curls in Sidney’s stomach. They had already talked about the game on the drive home, not that there had been much to talk about. It had gone in their favor and the team had played well.

His worry must show because Alex leans over, reaching across the space between them to pat Sidney’s knee. “Is nothing bad. You not find fortune teller others take you to.”

Sidney nods, not sure where this is going. He hasn’t given much thought to the fortune teller lately, mostly because he doesn’t want to think about what it is expected of him to get home. He has been enjoying spending time with Alex, but the thought of falling in love with him still isn’t sitting well with Sidney. It feels like taking advantage of Alex, who has feelings for his Sidney, and is tolerating him because neither of them has a choice. “No, because at this point it feels like it would be too easy.”

Alex smiles. “What if you talk to different fortune teller? Maybe they be able to help.” He pats Sidney’s knee. “Is not that I not enjoy having you here but-”

“No, I understand.” Sidney really does. He can only imagine how Alex has been dealing with this and he really shouldn’t have just given up on the fortune teller angle. If a fortune teller did this to him, one out there might be able to undo it and what he tells them won’t sound like ramblings. “I doubt any of them are open today, but I’ll have time tomorrow before we head in for the review and practice.”

Nodding Alex settles back into the couch, yawning as he does. “I take own car then. No reason for you to come all the way home and then leave again.”

Anything Sidney wants to say are lost in a yawn and the idea of a nap is sounding better and better. “That makes sense. I’ll be able to talk to more of them then, since I have no idea how to pick the fortune teller who might be able to handle something like a body swap.”

Even saying it sounds silly and Sidney sighs, slumping back. “If I can even find one who believes me.”

“Someone believe you Sid. Seem silly to believe can tell fortune of person, but not believe this.” Alex smiles. “I sure you find someone.”

Sidney nods, glad Alex is feeling so confident about his ability to find someone who might be able to help them out. He is still convinced he is going to get laughed out of every spot he is going to visit.

-----

The morning is chilly, and Sidney locks the car before pocketing his keys. It is early enough he actually managed to find a place to park on the street. There are several fortune tellers on the next few blocks and he decided on the drive down it would be easier to walk to them all, rather than trying to find a new spot every time he heads to a new block. He glances at his watch and if he doesn’t take too long at any one spot, he should be able to get through all of the shops around here before practice.

The first one is a bust, still closed, with the curtains drawn behind a small table in the window with a crystal ball on it. It is the only one on the block and he heads to the next, keeping his head down. He had opted to only wear a Penguins hat today, one of his older, battered ones, in the hopes of being able to keep a low profile. His mission is time sensitive, and as much as he likes interacting with fans, he doesn’t want to be slowed down by them.

On the next block, the first shop is the fortune teller and Sidney stops outside the door. The interior is dark, though the open sign is on, the owner clearly visible as she tosses an ornate tablecloth over the small table between two chairs. The walls are covered in heavy brocade tapestries, with large pedestals topped with candles placed around the room.

It is eerily reminiscent of where Flower and the others had taken him, though even from the window Sidney can tell it isn’t the same woman. The room is enough though, to make him think this is a good place to start and he opens the door. A bell above the door sounds and the woman turns to face him with a smile. “Good morning!”

Sidney lets the door close. “Good morning.” He takes a deep breath, trying to order the words in his head. He wants to only have to explain once, since he has a feeling everything will sound weirder if he has to say it more than once. “I have a question and I’m willing to pay for your time.”

The woman pins him with a considering look before nodding. She gestures to the table and sits down. “I’m Cynthia.”

“Thank you.” Sidney sits down, hands curled into fists. Just being here is making him feel awkward and he is sure he looks like a total dweeb. He can’t tell if the woman has any idea who he is, but he hopes what he has to say won’t raise any suspicions. “I have this problem, and I’m hoping you can help.”

Cynthia nods and smiles, her face free of judgement. “That is part of why I got into this, so I can help people. I think everyone just needs a little guidance sometimes.”

He needs more than guidance, but right now Sidney will simply settle for someone who believes what he has to say. “Some of my friends took me to a fortune teller a couple of months ago and she said I would find love soon.”

The attentive look is still on Cynthia’s face and she nods for him to continue.

It should feel easier now that Sidney has part of the story out, but it doesn’t. The knot between his shoulders feels like it has grown and he fights the urge to shift in the chair. For some reason he feels like a kid in front of the principal, waiting for the fallout of being bad. “Well, when I woke up the next morning, I wasn’t where I belonged.”

There is still no sign of disbelief on Cynthia’s face, so Sidney plows on. “I mean, I’m in my body, but not mine. This is the body of the me here. And he’s married and it is really only dumb luck I haven’t ruined his life, but I really haven’t been doing his husband any good. I just need to know if there is anything you can do to help me get home? Before I can do any more damage.”

With a sigh Cynthia sits back, her eyes sweeping over him for a moment before she shakes her head. “I can’t. I haven’t been doing this for more than a year, and I would never ever think of trying to undo what another fortune teller did. Fate is a tricky thing to play with, and whoever did this was bold to try. I don’t suppose you remember her name?”

“No. And I remember where her shop was, but it doesn’t seem to exist here.” Disappointment blooms hot and tight in his chest and Sidney sighs. He knows this was a long shot, but it doesn’t change the way he is feeling. He wants this set right for Alex.

Frowning, Cynthia drums her fingers on the table. “I can’t, but Marilyn might be able to. She always tells me she’s been dabbling in the mystic arts and fortune telling since before I was born.” She smiles at Sidney. “And I can believe it. A lot of people say when she tells their fortune, it tends to come true.”

Sidney nods as Cynthia stands and heads to the small counter at the back of the room. At this point he would probably take advice from a talking fish, since it wouldn’t seem weird, and it might actually help.

Returning to the table Cynthia holds out a piece of paper. “It is just easier to give you the address. Her store is kind of out of the way and none of the signs she has over there really do much good. Marilyn is on the third floor.”

“Thank you.” Sidney stands and takes the piece of paper before getting his wallet out. He pulls a twenty, not sure what she normally charges, but it seems fair given the fact he hasn’t taken up much of her time.

Cynthia rejects the bill with a smile. “Don’t worry about it. You piqued my interest and that is worth more than the money. It will give me something to think about today while I wait for clients. I hope Marilyn can help you.”

Sidney tucks the money back in his wallet, keeping a tight grip on the paper. “Thank you. I appreciate the help.”

Outside Sidney looks at the paper. It takes him a second to decipher the looping address but when he does, he is glad to see it isn’t that far. After Cynthia’s inability to help Sidney isn’t going to get his hopes up again, but maybe for once luck will be on his side, as much as he hates relying on that thought.

The building in question is narrow and Sidney can see why Cynthia gave him the address. As far as he can tell, there isn’t a visible address, save the faint gold lettering on the window above a narrow door. The door leads to an equally narrow set of stairs that are lit by a single bulb protruding from the wall above his head.

With each step the stairs creak in an alarming fashion and Sidney hurries up them, feeling like there might be a monster behind him. When he reaches the third floor there is only one door, painted a vivid red that stands out against the pale paint on the walls. As he gets closer to the door the scent of incense fills the air and the low hum of music he can almost feel in his bones.

Sidney knocks on the door, rather than trying the handle. From inside he can hear the sound of shoes on hardwood and then the door is jerked open. The woman is wearing a vibrant scarf on her head, grey streaked hair falling over it. Whatever she is wearing, Sidney can’t really tell, is covered in massive bright flowers and it looks like she is wearing several pounds of jewelry.

Her eyes widen slightly and Sidney has a feeling she recognizes him but she smiles. “Can I help you?”

Feeling a little off-balance Sidney holds up the piece of paper. “Cynthia said you might be able to help me. I have a problem.”

“Oh, of course.” Marilyn steps back with a sweeping gesture. “Come in and make yourself comfortable. “Would you like anything to drink?”

Shaking his head Sidney looks around the room, a little bewildered by everything in it. There are plants, stacks of books and a table littered with crystals in various sizes. Most of the floor seems to be covered in rugs of various colors and designs and every bit of wall space is utilized, posters and star charts overlapping, as well as some things Sidney can’t identify.

He finally sees the table and two chairs against one wall and sits down. Marilyn is right behind him and she takes the other chair. She smiles again, warm and friendly. “So, what has Cynthia sending you to me so early?”

After talking to Cynthia the story seems to come easier, which is a relief to Sidney. He still thinks he sounds like a reject from a bad movie, but at least he isn’t stumbling over it any more. “Some friends took me to a fortune teller who said I would find love soon. I went to bed and woke up here, in a body and bed that isn’t mine. I just need to find a way to get back home, before I make a bigger mess of everything.”

Sidney can only hope she knows what he is talking about, since he is fairly sure she knows exactly who he is. Which could mean problems if she decides to take this story to someone and sell it for some money, but Sidney knows he has to trust her. If he wants help to sort this out, he has to be truthful about it.

Marilyn looks at him for a long moment. “Give me a few minutes to think. This certainly isn’t an easy one.”

She pushes back from the table and wanders over to the plants. Picking up a watering can she moves through them, taking her time to water each one, feeling the leaves as she does. Once she reached the end of the plants she set the can down, before wandering to the table with the crystals.

Watching as the woman picked up a big, milky crystal Sidney crumpled the piece of paper in his hand, rather than start fidgeting. He didn’t want to seem rude, but it felt like time was slipping away, his anxiety creeping higher as he waited for an answer. With what Cynthia had said, he wasn’t holding out for much, but he needed this, good or bad. This way he would have something to tell Alex.

It looks like Marilyn is rearranging the crystals, and when she turns back to the small table Sidney knows it isn’t good news. She is frowning and she crosses to the table. Sitting down she holds her hands out, palms up. “May I have your hands?”

Her request is quiet and Sidney drops the mangled piece of paper in his lap before resting his hands over hers. Slim fingers close around his wrists and he fights the urge to pull away. She closes her eyes and Sidney doesn’t move, the tension in his shoulders so tight it almost hurts.

After what feels like forever Marilyn opens her eyes and shakes her head. She releases him before pulling her hands back, folding them on the table in front of her. “As much as I would like to, I can’t do anything to help. I’m not sure what the other fortune teller did, but there is nothing I can do. Something like this simply has to come to the conclusion it was intended to. Until you fulfill that, you’ll be here. Fate and fortune are things we try not to mess with. I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”

Sidney can believe she means that, if the soft, sad look on her face is any indication. Feeling numb he reaches for his wallet, but she stops him with a raised hand. “There is no fee. I wasn’t much help and it cost me nothing. And don’t worry, no one will hear about this from me, or Cynthia.”

“Thank you.” Sidney gets to his feet, feeling like there is a gnawing, empty pit in his stomach. This is exactly what he had been fearing to hear, and now he has to explain to Alex, how he is going to be stuck here forever, while the other Sidney languishes in a place he doesn’t belong.

Marilyn stands and follows him to the door. “I really am sorry I can’t help, but these things are delicate and anything I might do could make it worse.” As they reach the door, she lightly touches his shoulder. “I’m going to be unprofessional for a moment, but you and Ovechkin are my grandson’s favorite players.”

“I’ll let him know. Thank you again.” Sidney slowly makes his way down the stairs, though it feels like he is descending down a narrow crack. He hadn’t really been expecting the fortune tellers to help, but even with that, it feels like a blow to know he was right. A quick glance at his phone shows he has only been away from home for a little over an hour, which leaves almost two hours before he has to head to the rink and the last thing he wants to do is go home.

It wasn’t hard to tell that Alex was expecting him to get some kind of answer and Sidney is now in the unenviable position of having to tell him nothing has changed. Not sure what else to do, Sidney heads back to the car and gets in. He pulls into traffic, with no real destination in mind and he some how ends up at Emerald View Park.

Throwing the car in park he turns off the engine and doesn’t move for a few minutes. Slowly the car starts to feel claustrophobic, pressing in on him as much as his thoughts and Sidney can’t do it. He gets out and locks the door before wandering down the path. Dropping onto a bench that overlooks the river Sidney presses his palms against his eyes.

Even with the low expectations he had when he set out this morning, he feels gutted by what Marilyn had told him. He enjoys spending time with Alex, on the ice and off and this time has given him a new appreciation for Alex, one he hopes to take back with him. But the idea of falling in love with Alex, no matter what the fortune teller said, feels wrong and impossible.

Alex is so obviously in love with his Sidney, he can’t help but feel like it would be taking advantage of the man, for selfish reasons. It would be using his own feelings against him, and just the thought makes Sidney feel slimy. This is likely another one of those things he should tell Alex, so he knows the full truth, but it feels embarrassing and Sidney wants to keep it private.

Groaning, he leans against the back of the bench and drops his hands so he can watch the river, even as his thoughts continue to circle.

-----

By the time Sidney gets to the rink most of the team isn’t there and he isn’t surprised when he parks next to Alex’s car. He is sure the other man got here early, in expectation of him being here early, so they can talk about happened with the fortune tellers and he isn’t looking forward to having that conversation. It isn’t hard to imagine the way Alex will seem to withdraw, shoulders falling, eyes closing off and just thinking about it is enough to make Sidney’s chest hurt.

He takes a deep breath before he gets out of the car and heads to the rink. Jordan and Flower are with Alex in the review room as Sidney enters the room and Alex smiles when he sees him. It doesn’t last long, his eyes narrowing as his brows draw together and Sidney is sure his feelings are written across his face.

Alex stands, leaving Flower and Jordan mid-conversation and makes his way over to Sidney. Eyes sharp, Alex backs him against the wall, though there is nothing aggressive to it. His hand curls over Sidney’s hip, pressing lightly. “Sidney?”

Sidney’s thoughts take a moment to catch up, his mind more focused on the heat of Alex’s hand through his pants, the touch familiar in a way Alex hasn’t been with him. He shakes his head, looking around Alex to where Flower and Jordan are watching with poorly hidden curiosity. Cupping his hand around Alex’s elbow he turns his attention back to him. “I’ll tell you when we get home. Now isn’t really the place for this.”

Not when the rest of the team is showing up, giving them looks as they enter the room.
With a last penetrating look Alex nods and steps back, his hand falling away. Sidney lets him go, and follows, trying to ignore the lingering heat of Alex’s hand on his hip.

Sidney has to force himself to focus on the review even though they easily defeated Buffalo. It is that or drive himself crazy trying to figure out how to get home without doing the one thing guaranteed to get him back. Alex is a line of tension next to him and Sidney knows it isn’t because he is focusing on the review, which is dull. It’s because he had done a poor job hiding his disappointment from this morning and Alex is good at reading him.

With practice Sidney can at least throw himself into it, and Alex seems to have the same idea. They move like one person, which in the back of Sidney’s mind is kind of scary. He isn’t sure when it got so easy to read the movement of Alex’s body on the ice, to anticipate where he might be at any given moment. It feels like they’ve been playing together for years and Sidney likes the way it makes them play better.

They take a break and Sidney removes his helmet, setting it on the boards. Alex joins him, but the others seem to be giving them a wide berth, clumping in groups well away from them, which is fine with him. He isn’t really in a bad mood exactly, but the last thing he wants to do is try to be social, even for a few minutes. Alex is more soothing than anything, as he seems to have been caught in the same kind of closed off attitude Sidney is feeling as he doesn’t seem inclined to any kind of conversation.

After practice Sidney simply changes. He can take a shower at home just as well and it will be for the better. Ever since practice ended, he can feel the weight of Alex’s gaze on him, as though the other man is simply trying to read his mind about what happened this morning.

They head outside together and part at their cars. Sidney looks at Alex. “I’ll meet you at home.”

Alex gives a tight nod and Sidney can’t help but reach out, his hand skating down Alex’s arm in a light caress. That makes Alex’s eyes go wide and Sidney wonders if a simple touch like that is something normal, a daily habit between them he just discovered.

He lets his hand drop, as he steps back. “At home.”

Sidney gets home before Alex and he wait outside for a few minutes, until there is no sign of him. Worry curls tight in his stomach and he goes inside. The house feels oddly empty and he walks from room to room, to wound up to settle. Once again, he is a position where he is keeping things from Alex and he doesn’t like it, but he knows this time he can’t tell the truth.

His thoughts from the park haven’t changed any and he doesn’t want to take advantage of Alex. He cares for him in a way he didn’t think was possible when he first arrived here, and this is part of that. He has done enough damage here and at this point he can stop from doing more.

The TV remote is in his hand, when he finally hears Alex and he tosses it on the couch before heading for the front door. He has the door open before Alex is halfway up the stairs, which gets him a startled look.

As though realizing Sidney was worrying, Alex holds up the brown paper bag he is carrying. “Thought might be good to have sweet if bad news.”

Sidney has no idea what is in the bag, but he can smell the sugar when Alex reaches the top of the stairs and he steps back. “I don’t know if it is bad or not.”

Alex shrugs. “Sugar help.” He unrolls the top of the bag and reaches in, withdrawing something to hold out for Sidney.

There is glaze covering the top and dripping down the sides of the flaky pastry. A bit of red peeks out of one corner, likely from a fruit filling but other than that, Sidney has no idea what he is looking at. He takes the pastry and gestures for Alex to follow him into the living room.

He sits on the couch and waits for Alex to get settled with his own pile of sugar in hand before he speaks. “I talked to two fortune tellers today. The first one couldn’t help, but she sent me to another one.”

Alex looks hopeful and it makes Sidney feel worse about what he has to say. “Marilyn, the older fortune teller, told me there is nothing she can do. Whatever is supposed to happen has to happen and then everything will go back to normal.”

Frowning at his pastry Alex picks a bit of the glaze off. “Not know what supposed to happen. Is part of problem.” He looks at Sidney. “Like I say, not happy to have you here, but.”

Sidney sighs. “I’m not offended and I can’t even imagine how this has to feel for you. You woke up one day with me acting weird and then I lied to you until I couldn’t any more.” He adjusts his grip on the pastry so he doesn’t crush it. “Now you’re stuck with me, jumpy and standoffish.”

Alex shrugs. “I already say is fine Sidney.” He smiles and it is warm, but there is a hint of sadness to it. “Is like when we first start dating.”

Which raises so many questions, but Sidney tamps down on the urge to ask. Now isn’t the time to ask and he takes a bite of the pastry. He takes his time chewing, as much so he can get his thoughts in order so as to not say something stupid. “We both knew the fortune tellers might not be able to help out any. There is still a chance this might resolve without us doing anything.”

Alex nods and takes a bite of his own, leaving Sidney to do the same.

-----

“Wait.”

Alex makes a sleepy, interrogative sound from his end of the couch, which Sidney is sure is all he is going to get. Tonight is a night off and neither of them have made any move to do anything productive, including going out with Jordan and a few of the others. Instead, they had settled on opposite sides of the couch, like they have more and more lately.

Now though they’ve both slumped down, their legs tangled in the middle of the big couch. The closeness is oddly comforting and Sidney has been dozing for the last half an hour, his thoughts wandering. By some miracle it hadn’t been about what Marilyn had said, which was nearly a week ago, but slightly more mundane things.

Sidney pushes up on one elbow so he can look at Alex who hasn’t moved, save the slow rise and fall of his chest. “How did you end up going second in the draft and ending up here?”

This time Alex groans and sits up, leaning back against the arm, playful disgust on his face. “Have bad few seasons before draft. Everyone decide they want Zhenya first, so he go to Washington.” He shrugs, with a warm smile Sidney is becoming familiar with, that makes warmth glide under his skin. “Why sudden curiosity Sid?”

Sidney glances at the TV before looking at Alex. “It just occurred to me. Where I’m from, that Ovechkin ended up going the Capitals in the first round and Geno is in Pittsburgh with me.”

Shrugging, Alex nudges Sidney’s thigh with his foot. “Was disappointed at first, but realize Pittsburgh not so bad. Is good team, and get to spend time with you. Best of all, still score more goals than Zhenya, so end up not being so bad.”

His eyes narrow. “Why look at me so funny Sidney?”

Sidney shakes his head. “Sorry, I just don’t think I’ve ever heard Alex Ovechkin ever say anything nice about Pittsburgh in the entire time I’ve known him.”

With a laugh Alex pats Sidney’s shin, his hand lingering. “Somehow, I think not true. Not know that Alex, but think he might have nice things to say about Pens.” He wiggles his eyebrows and leans closer. “Might even have nice things to say about Sidney.”

That seems like a ridiculous idea and Sidney rolls his eyes. Things have gotten better between them as they’ve gotten older, with built mutual respect but Sidney doubts it to goes any further than that. “When I get back, we’ll see if that is the case, but I don’t know.”

Patting Sidney’s leg one last time Alex settles back down. “Never know Sid.”

Sidney moves, carefully slotting his legs between Alex’s and he shakes his head.

Chapter Text

The hit comes out of nowhere and Sidney feels his feet leave the ice. The world turns into a vivid, colorful swirl around him, stick flying from his hand. He lands on the ice, his right arm under him, lungs seizing at the impact, and he squeezes his eyes closed, trying to breath, dimly aware of the fact that at least he didn’t hit his head on the landing.

Once he catches his breath he rolls onto his back, his entire focus on his right arm, which from shoulder to wrist is screaming in pain and the arena is filled with more cheering than boos. Shaking his head, he manages to get to his knees, and he looks around. Jordan is coming towards him, with a frown on his face and towards the center of the ice Alex is arguing with one of the refs while another one escorts Kane to the penalty box.

Jordan stops in front of him, offering a hand. “You okay?”

“I think so.” Sidney takes Jordan’s offered hand with his left, right held protectively against his chest. It doesn’t feel like anything is broken, but he can’t be sure. Gaining his feet, he looks around for his stick, but Tanger is already taking it to the bench. He lets Jordan escort him and he can’t help but look to where Alex is still going at it with one of the refs, his body tight, eyes snapping with anger, all of his gestures sharp.

He wants to keep watching, as he has never seen Alex like this, but he needs to get off the ice. One of the trainers opens the door to the bench and Sidney keeps going, knowing they aren’t going to let him back on the ice without getting checked out.

It feels like the exam takes forever, even though it doesn’t, and Sidney knows it would have been even worse if there had been a hit to his head. Luckily, despite Kane’s best attempt, he had just landed awkwardly on his right arm, which is why everything hurts. The trainer helps him back to the locker room, and then sets an ice pack on his shoulder before disappearing out of the room.

With a sigh Sidney sighs and manages to work both of his skates off, but he doesn’t get any further before the others come filing into the room, Alex in the lead. He manages a wan smile as the other man drops onto the bench next to him. “Hi.”

Alex nods before reaching over, hand barely touching his arm. “Arm okay?”

Sidney nods, surprised at the way he wants to lean into the other man. “Yeah. It’s sore and will probably bruise. I’m not going back on the ice.”

“Would not be good.” Alex reaches up, fingers stroking down the back of Sidney’s neck.

“No.” Sidney can’t help but close his eyes to the sensation. It sends a comforting warmth running through him, one that seems to pool under his skin, and he knows he is imagining it, but it feels like his arm hurts less.

The noise in the locker room changes as Bylsma comes in and starts talking. Sidney feels Alex tense next to him, listening, but the steady sweep of fingers against his neck continues. It feels like it isn’t much longer before Alex is drawing away and Sidney blinks, watching as everyone starts getting ready to go back on the ice.

Alex looks at him, the worry plain on his face and Sidney manages a smile, even as he reaches up to adjust the cold pack on his shoulder. “I’ll be fine.”

That makes Alex frown, but he nods sharply and follows the others out, though Sidney can’t help but notice the way he glances back as he leaves the room.

He stays seated for a little while longer after the others clear out, anticipation creeping under his skin, making it hard to sit still. He knows they’re still ahead, but it could just take one wrong bounce for the Jets to get ahead and momentum swings like that are always difficult, especially when they aren’t at home. He scrubs at his face and leans back, catching at the ice pack as it starts to slide.

After spending another five minutes on the bench, pointlessly trying to imagine how the game might be going Sidney decides he needs to at least do something productive. Dwelling on the game isn’t going to do anything besides make him anxious and he is still going to have to get through one more period.

Now that he is thinking about it, he is starting to realize how uncomfortable and sticky he is. His sweat has long since dried on his skin and now that he isn’t moving and is alone, he can tell how much he stinks. With a sigh he drops the ice pack to the bench.

It makes the ache in his arm worse, but Sidney manages to get out of the rest of his gear, and he takes a shower. The hot water feels wonderful on his arm, and he stands under the pounding water for longer than he usually would.

By the time the next period has ended he is mostly dressed, save his tie, jacket and socks and the ice pack is back on his shoulder. He can tell from the looks on faces and the crackle of energy that they managed to hold onto their lead, and maybe even extend it.

Alex drops down next to him and Sidney shifts. “Still good?”

With a nod Alex closes his eyes. “Yes. Jordy score goal and we not let them score on power-play.”

Sidney frowns and leans in. “Someone didn't draw a penalty because of Kane, did they?” He understands why the team does that, but it is a habit he has tried to break them of. It feels like it always ends up backfiring and it doesn’t make him happy.

As amused smile pulls at Alex’s mouth, though he doesn’t open his eyes. “No. Tanger hook someone trying to get the puck.”

“I did not!”

Sidney looks at Tanger, who looks offended as he glares at Alex.

Tanger glances at Sidney and smiles. “It wasn’t my fault he skated right into my stick.”

He can’t help but laugh as he reaches up to adjust his icepack. “I would have an easier time believing that, if it weren’t your excuse every time, they call you for hooking.”

Tanger grins and shrugs. “I can’t help it. One of these days it might work.”

Sidney rolls his eyes. He has long since lost track of the number of times Tanger has tried to use that as an excuse, and it has never worked. “Try something different next time.”

Before anyone can say anything else Bylsma is in the room and Sidney focuses on what the older man is saying. Even with the fact he isn’t going back on the ice, this is a learning lesson and he has long since learned to take advantage of it.

It feels like no time has passed before Bylsma stops talking and the others start moving, pulling their jerseys back on. Alex gets his on before turning to look at Sidney. He reaches out, fingers skimming across Sidney’s cheek before dropping to the ice pack on his shoulder. He rights the bag before smiling. “Not do anything stupid.”

A smile pulls at his mouth and Sidney shakes his head. “I think I’m supposed to tell you that.” He gestures to the locker room. “There isn’t much trouble I can get in while I’m back here.”

Alex looks skeptical. “Know that not true Sid.”

“Go. I promise I won’t have moved by the time you come back.” He had thought about finding someplace to actually watch the game, but right now he isn’t sure he wants to struggle with getting his shoes on. Even through the numbing of the ice he can feel a steady throb in his arm and just sitting still seems like a good idea, if it keeps the ache in his arm to a minimum.

The last period seems to drag on and Sidney tries not to fidget. One of the trainers had come back not long after the period had started to check on him and replace the ice pack, which had been good. The other hadn’t been of much use and he had been about to dump it anyway.

Finally Sidney catches the sound of voices bouncing down the hallway and even though he can’t hear the exact words, he can tell from the tone and volume they managed to win. It eases some of the tension that had been building in his shoulders, which helps the ache in his arm.

The others start piling into the locker room, pulling gear off as they go and Sidney looks down at his feet. Getting socks and shoes on with one hand is going to be as awkward as trying to do it with two hands and more painful.

Alex glances at him as he drops to the bench. “I get skates off and then help.”

Denial is on the tip of Sidney’s tongue but he just sighs. “That would be great.”

He waits patiently for Alex to loosen his skates and pull them off before moving to kneel in front of him. “Thank you.”

Alex glances up at him as he unrolls the socks. “Is not problem Sid. Want to do this.”

Sidney can tell he is blushing and he ducks his head as he points his toes to make it easier for Alex to get the socks on his feet. He has no idea why something this simple is making him feel like this. The other man is simply being kind and trying to keep up appearances. This is probably something they’ve done for each other dozens of times in their years together and to not do so would cause more problems.

Knotting the lace on his shoe Alex sits back on his heels and smiles. “Am going to shower.”

The ice pack on his shoulder slips and Sidney grabs at it. “Alright. I won’t be going anywhere.”

That gets him a quick smile and Alex starts stripping out of his gear. “Not be hard to find Sid.”

“No, I wouldn’t be.” Closing his eyes Sidney leans back, holding the ice pack to his shoulder. Even with the ice it hurts and he knows it is because it is starting to stiffen up. It makes him glad they’re heading back home tonight, though the plane ride is going to be a special kind of hell. Passing out from exhaustion is usually the only way those seats are comfortable, and they’re even worse with an injury.

He settles for listening to the familiar sounds of the others as they move around the locker room, talking, showering and getting dressed. He isn’t quite dozing when he feels Alex stop next to him. A strong hand curls under his uninjured arm and he responds to the gentle pressure, getting to his feet. The ice pack starts to slide from his arm and he lets it fall to the bench with a wet sound.

Alex is watching him, brows drawn and Sidney dredges up a wan smile. “It feels better and I don’t want to have to deal with that on the plane.”

“Alright Sidney.”

He can tell Alex doesn’t believe him but the other man doesn’t argue. In return Sidney lets Alex keep the light grip on his elbow, and he leans into the support. Now that the adrenaline from his injury is gone and the fact he hasn’t moved much, exhaustion is hitting him hard and just maybe he’ll be able to sleep on the plane.

Time seems to crawl to a standstill as they wait for everyone to get on the bus, wait for gear to be loaded. Sidney keeps his eyes closed, head tipped back as he focuses on his breathing and not the dull, nagging ache that seems to match perfectly with his heartbeat.

Finally, the bus starts moving and Sidney doesn’t even bother to look at his watch. He knows if he does it will feel like no time has passed and he just wants to go home. They finally get to the airport and Sidney is barely on his feet before Alex is there, worry still visible on his face and he doesn’t even try to fight the hand on his elbow.

If he is honest with himself, it feels good, a grounding point against the intermittent stabbing pain from his arm. They pass through security and head out on the tarmac to the plane, Alex never more than a step behind him and Sidney isn’t surprised when Alex lingers until he is safely in his seat, belt across his lap.

A few seconds later Flower is carefully sitting next to him, dark eyes worried. “You going to make it home?”

Sidney sighs but doesn’t look at him. “Why are you trying to make it sound like I might die at any second?

Flower wiggles next to him, like he can’t settle. “Because that hit looked ugly. I didn’t know penguins could fly until I saw that.”

That is enough to rouse Sidney’s ire and he finally opens his eyes so he can glare at his seat mate. “Really? That was fucking pathetic.”

Flower shrugs and shifts, even as he draws his seatbelt across and fastens it. “I know, but it was true. I’m just glad it wasn’t any worse.”

“It feels like it was.” Sidney rests forearm on the armrest, not surprised when Flower doesn’t fight with him. The support helps a little, but it is still going to be a long flight back to Pittsburgh.

More time passes until finally the plane is moving and it isn’t much longer before they are in the sky, Flower twitching and wiggling through the whole process, though he is careful to not bump his arm. Around him the conversations get louder, leaving Sidney with the feeling he isn’t going to get much sleep. He is still exhausted but that is underscored by his arm and with the noise level, sleep seems like a farfetched dream.

The plane levels off, which gives him a good idea of how long until they get home. It is the only good thing about having been to Winnipeg so many times, is he knows how long the flight should take, barring any complications like bad weather.

Sidney glances at Flower as he wriggles out of his seat. “Where are you going?"

Flower grins. “I know not to stand, or sit between a man and his husband.”

Twisting in his seat Sidney sees Alex coming down the aisle, obviously on a mission.

Leaning into Alex, Flower says something with a grin before disappearing back to flop down next to Jordan, who yelps at the sudden intrusion into his space.

Alex lifts the arm between their seats before sitting down and Sidney has a feeling this is something else this Sidney and Alex get up to. It certainly makes sense, in the way Flower was antsy the entire time they settled in and was on his feet the moment the plane leveled out. Feeling a little bemused he lets Alex adjust them, until he is resting against his side, Alex’s arm around his waist, his sore arm carefully cradled against his chest.

He cranes his head just far enough that he can look at Alex. “You can’t tell me you’re expecting to stay like this the whole flight.”

Grinning, Alex moves like he intends to kiss Sidney, but he catches himself, sitting back slightly though he doesn’t move any. “Is not bad. And won’t be awake long.”

Sidney can believe it. Around them the others are finally starting to settle down, worn out by the game and the end of the road trip. Despite the fact he only played for part of the game, he is feeling tired, his eyelids heavy and he is going to at least partially blame the warmth of Alex’s body. “Fine. But tell me if you get uncomfortable.”

Alex’s laugh rumbles through him and the arm around his waist tightens. “Is fine Sidney.”

He can already tell it isn’t something he is going to win, and he gives in, closing his eyes.

-----

A hand on his shoulder and the soft brush of fingers against his neck wakes him up and it takes Sidney a moment to come back to himself. His arm still hurts, and he shifts, feeling Alex’s arm still around him and he moves enough to look at Alex. “Hmm?”

Alex moves, carefully nudging him more upright. “Getting ready to land.”

“Oh.” Sidney stretches, wincing when it pulls at his arm and he can tell Alex noticed it, with the way his eyes go narrow. He straightens his arm, which hurts just as much, as everything has gone stiff while he was asleep.

The plane slowly fills with the sounds of the others starting to wake up and get ready for landing. Sidney gets his seatbelt on as Alex does the same next to him and he grits his teeth. The dull ache in his arm is radiating through him and he wishes he had thought to ask for something for the pain. It almost hurts worse than it did when it happened and he can’t believe he slept through it.

One of the things Sidney hates about pain is the way it seems to make time stretch out, and this is no different. It feels like hours pass before the plane is on the ground and even longer before they can finally disembark. Even without looking at Alex he can tell he isn’t hiding his pain well, as he can almost feel the other man’s look of worry.

He doesn’t even try to argue when Alex pulls his bag away and he follows to the car. Even the ride home feels like it takes forever and he tips his head back against the rest, eyes closed. He is still tired, but now the pain in his arm is more acute, making it hard to think about anything beside the steady throb.

They leave all the lights off when they get home and Alex locks the door before tucking their bags out of the way. Sidney leads the way upstairs, and heads into the bedroom, not bothering to close the door. He kicks his shoes off and before he can get any further Alex is in the room, a bottle of water in one hand, his fingers closed around something in the other.

Sidney gratefully accepts the two pills and swallows them before Alex can even offer the bottle. He takes the bottle and drains half of it before smiling. “Thank you.”

Alex nods, a faint smile on his face. “I think you not ask for anything.”

Embarrassment heats his cheeks and Sidney has a feeling this might be something that happens on a regular basis. There are times he hasn’t asked for anything, wanting to tough out the pain and has ended up regretting it later. Nothing it is gained from trying to be tough, and it has been a while before he has been that stupid.

Together they manage to get his shirt off, Sidney not ending up any worse for the wear and he tosses it in the direction of the bathroom. He glances at Alex, glad the room is mostly dark, with just enough light that he can make out the highlights of Alex’s face. “Stay.”

He freezes, not sure what made him say it, but he doesn’t change his mind, or try to play it off as a joke. Suddenly the need to be close to Alex is under his skin, making heat crawl through him. He wants to blame it on the closeness they shared on the flight but he knows that isn’t it all. Like the last road trip, they had shared a bed, and this time it had been easier.

Even in the darkness he can feel Alex’s gaze on him and he finally nods. “Okay.”

He leaves the room; Sidney knows for his pillows, and he takes the opportunity to change into a T-shirt and shorts. By the time Alex comes back, similarly dressed and bearing his pillows Sidney is already in bed, the sheet and light blanket nicely folded back in invitation. He had debated that touch for an embarrassingly long time before deciding to do it.

Sidney stretches as Alex approaches his side of the bed, making sure not to cross the invisible line. They’ve become good at maintaining the distance, never waking up touching but Sidney has come to miss it when they’re home, the quietness of the bedroom. It almost feels odd to wake up at night when they’re on the road, to be comforted by the Alex’s warmth in the bed with him, the sound of his breathing.

He doesn’t move until Alex is in bed, with his pillows arranged before he stretches his arm out, still careful to stay on his side of the bed. It makes his arm flare with pain, and he winces, but the room is dark enough Alex won’t have seen it. “Night.”

There is a moment of silence, broken by the sound of Alex moving, and Sidney feels a light touch to his arm. “Good night, Sidney.”

His voice is low and warm, and it sends a shiver of something down Sidney’s spine. He presses his face into the pillow, the case cool against his cheeks.

-----

Waking up is a special kind of hell and Sidney can’t help the sound he makes as he rolls, over, carefully stretching his injured arm out. Some time in the last few hours he had put pressure on it, so now in addition to whatever he did to it last night he has to deal with the uncomfortable pins and needles of feeling returning to his arm and hand.

Rolling onto his back he slowly flexes his fingers as he stares up at the ceiling. He has no idea what time it is, just that is early enough he doesn’t have to think about getting up yet. They usually don’t have review until much later in the day, on the nights they fly home, so there is still plenty of time.

Alex evidently doesn’t feel the same way. With a groan he slides out of bed and Sidney listens to the sound of him digging through the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. A few seconds later he is back in the room, rounding to Sidney’s side with a glass of water in hand and more Tylenol. He sits next to Sidney’s hip, holding both out.

Sidney sits up, the blanket falling around his waist. The feeling is back in his arm, but the throb his still there and he frowns. “Thanks.”

Nodding Alex gives him the water and pills. Once his hands are empty, he carefully pushes up the sleeve of Sidney’s shirt, hissing in sympathy. “Is not good Sid.”

Ignoring the light touch Sidney downs the Tylenol and drains the glass. He lowers it, before looking at the bruise decorating his upper arm. It is long and multi colored, dark in the middle as it shades to yellow-green at the edges, following the curve of his bicep and it is little wonder it hurts so bad. As he watches Alex gently touches the worst part of the bruise, light enough to not hurt. “At least it isn’t broken.”

Alex glances at him, thumb sweeping over the edge of the bruise. “Would not be good. You not happy when not get to play.”

“No.” Sidney doesn’t say anything else, caught up in the gentle touch. The few times he’s had injuries that have kept him from playing for weeks and a few time months, had been some of the most miserable times of his life. They had been worse then when the team was in a losing skid, leaving him feeling despondent and worthless. He is sure Alex has experienced that before, himself and with this Sidney and that is the last thing he wants to is have that on top of every thing else.

“I just hope it doesn’t take long to heal.” Sidney already knows he isn’t going to be participating in the next practice. The trainers don’t want him to risk doing any more damage, beyond the bruise and he is okay with that. He glances at the alarm clock, keenly aware of the way Alex is still touching him, like he isn’t quite aware of the slow movement of his hand.

Letting the casual touch continue is tempting, but Sidney knows he can’t give in. No matter what Marilyn said, he is getting out of here without falling in love with Alex. “We should think about breakfast.”

Last night he had been too tired to care about eating something, which is coming back to bite him in the ass. Now he is hungry and sore, a bad combination.

Alex’s hand falls away and he stands. “I go start breakfast.”

Sidney nods. “I’ll be down in a few minutes.

He waits until Alex is out of the room before flopping back so he can continue to stare at the ceiling. It feels like there is a ghost of a touch on his arm and he resists the urge to touch the edge of the bruise. There is absolutely no reason for him to be so out of sorts over what was likely just a reflex on Alex’s part. He has noticed, since he told Alex what was going on, as some of the barriers between them have fallen, that the other man has gotten more demonstrative with him. It had started slowly, quick brushes, like Alex was worried about startling him, like he had when they had gone to dinner with Geno.

Since then, the touches have gotten firmer, lingering longer and Sidney has gotten used to it, can almost predict when they will come. He had known Alex was physical with people he likes, has seen it dozens of times when they’re in close proximity. Something about it feels different though, being the sole focus of such attention. It feels more like a live wire when Alex touches him and Sidney isn’t sure what to do about it.

With a groan he sits up, not wanting to leave Alex down there for any longer. He wasn’t trying to make Alex think he had to handle breakfast on his own.

He is halfway downstairs when he realizes Thanksgiving has come and gone and they’re well on their way to Halloween. After spending so much time in the US during the year, it has become second habit to celebrate both Thanksgivings, and some how this year it had slipped his mind. Sidney knows part of it is because that would have been not long after he ended up here, afloat and without an anchor.

The moment he sets foot in the kitchen Alex points to the toaster and Sidney goes without a fight. He hadn’t expected to do anything more strenuous, even though he could have managed to cook the bacon. “What are we doing for Thanksgiving?”

Alex frowns as he turns the bacon in the pan before he realizes what is going on. “Oh, we miss first one. Is still some time until next one.” He grins. “Halloween come first!”

Sidney sticks bread in the toaster and pushes down the handle before going to the fridge. It takes him a few minutes to find the butter and jam, which makes him want to try and organize it, though he probably won’t. “Yeah, but we don’t have to worry about food and dinner for that. Besides, I think we have a game that night.”

Setting the tongs down Alex picks up a spoon. “Think Flower say something about doing Thanksgiving. Not sure though.” He smiles at Sidney. “Little busy with other things.”

“Which is my fault.” Sidney grabs plates out of the cupboard. “I’ll talk to Flower after the review.” Most of the rest of the team does the same thing he does, celebrating Thanksgiving, since it seems like the thing to do. It never ends up being as grand as he is sure some people manage, but Sidney enjoys it, since it is one of the few days a year he tries not to worry about standings, or the next game.

“And I don’t want to hear about it being too early, but what are we doing for Christmas?” A horrible thought dawns on him and he looks at Alex. “We aren’t going to my parents’ are we?”

Being able to fool his teammates is one thing, since most of them tend not to pay much attention to his personal life. His parents and Taylor are a different story entirely, especially since Taylor already knows something is going on and is going to be on high alert for him to trip up. And he knows he will, only because of the difference between what happened to him here and where he belongs.

Alex shakes his head as he gestures for the plates. “Are not. Last year we go spend time with Zhenya. This year he come up here.”

“Okay.” Dinner with Geno has gone well, and Sidney thinks he can manage to do it for a few days. Alex will cover for him if anything he should know comes up. “I think I can manage that.”

Handing Sidney the loaded plate Alex smiles. “We manage. Zhenya not notice last time.”
With a smile Sidney moves to the table. “I think we got lucky, but by December, Geno will have forgotten.”

Alex joins him before sitting down, handing over the toast Sidney had left behind. “If not, we make him forget. Not be hard.”

Sidney smiles as he starts eating. His arm hurts a little, just from the movement of lifting his fork and he is glad Alex thought to give him drugs again this morning. It has taken some of the edge off, which is doing a lot to improve his mood.

Finishing his breakfast Sidney leans back in his chair, arm resting on the table. “I’m really glad none of you did anything stupid last night.”

Alex’s innocent look is terrible. “Not want to make you upset.”

Which tells Sidney either the team had talked about it when he wasn’t around, or they had somehow managed to do something stupid but not get caught. He looks at Alex. “You know, I’m going to see what ever you did on the review.”

Grinning, Alex eats his last bite of toast and stands, taking Sidney’s plate as he does, before he can protest. “Not do anything Sidney. You just see a good game.”

“You are all terrible.” Sidney stands. “I’m going to go take a shower and then we’ll figure something out to do before we head in for the review.”

Alex flaps a hand in his direction, and by now Sidney knows it as a dismissal. He takes his time in the shower, mostly just letting warm water beat against the bruise on his arm. It helps to take some more the pain from it and there is no harm in it.

When he gets downstairs the kitchen is clean and Alex is no where to be seen. Sidney flops on the couch, turning the TV on. As always, it is on the league channel and he falls into a kind of doze as he watches the highlights of the other games from last night. He is surprised when Alex comes into the living room and he startles a little.

A concerned look crosses Alex’s face and Sidney smiles as he pushes up. “No, I’m fine. I just didn’t realize how tired I was.”

Alex sits down. “Played hard before hit.”

Sidney shrugs. “Not as hard as the rest of you did.”

With a rough, dismissive sound Alex closes the distance between them, hand curling around Sidney’s wrist. He looks at him, face serious. “Is not contest Sidney. You get hurt, we win for you. Is what team do.”

“I know.” Sidney knows exactly how lucky he is to have the team he does, that all pull their weight and can get out of some tough situations, if they need too. “It doesn’t change the fact I feel bad about it.”

Alex’s thumb sweeps across the inside of his arm, leaving a trail of warmth that feels like it burns into his skin. He finds his gaze drawn to the single point of contact between them, time seeming to slow down as he does. For some reason this touch feels deeper, more intense than any of the other touches Alex seems to heap on him, just for the sheer pleasure of it.

The longer Sidney looks, the more he realizes he likes the way Alex’s hand looks on him, the strong, broad fingers, the steady pressure. It makes something twist inside him and he swallows hard.

Alex releases him with a smile, and a last, soft squeeze. “No reason to feel bad Sid.”

Sidney can only nod and he settles back into the couch, hands folded. He watches as Alex takes the remote and changes the channel.

They end up lazing on the couch until they need to leave for the review and Sidney lets Alex pick up his keys without argument. He isn’t so injured he can’t drive, but if it makes Alex feel better to play driver for now, he lets him. It doesn’t hurt anything and he can tell from Alex’s pleased smile, he was right in his guess.

As usual they’re the first ones there, with some time to spare and Sidney glances at Alex. “I’m going to go talk to the doctor.”

Alex nods. “I be here Sid.”

Sidney makes his way through the quiet hallways to where the medical staff have their offices and the small exam room. The door to the doctor’s office is open and the man is at his desk, going through a pile of paperwork in front of him. Sidney knocks on the doorframe.

The doctor smiles when he sees him. “Sidney, good to see you, though I’m sure you don’t feel the same way. How is the arm?”

Sidney steps back so the man can come out of the office. “Sore, though Alex made me take some Tylenol this morning.” The ache is more of a phantom pain than anything right now, but he knows it won’t last long. Bruises like the one on his arm don’t magically stop hurting until they start to fade. He shrugs out of his hoodie and pushes up the sleeve of his shirt so the doctor can get a better look at it.

The man whistles as he pulls on a pair of gloves. “I watched the game and saw you go down, but I wasn’t expecting it to bruise so badly. Even the note the trainer left for me doesn’t do it justice.”

“It didn’t feel good.” Sidney stares at the wall as the doctor carefully traces the margins of the bruise before moving towards the darker center. Despite the man’s attempts to be gentle he flinches a few times as pain radiates up his arm. He moves his arm as the doctor tells him, twists and circles and flexes.

With a final nod the doctor steps back and removes the gloves, tossing them in the small garbage can. “Nasty, but it doesn’t look like there is any deeper damage we have to worry about. I do want you to not attend the next practice, just to give it a chance to heal. We’ll reevaluate after that.”

“Alright.” Sidney pulls his hoodie back on. “Thanks.”

The doctor nods. “Anytime. Though Sidney, one last thing.”

Stopping, Sidney wracks his brain, trying to figure out what it might be. Short of this and when he came in right after everything went bad, he hasn’t had any reason to seek out the medical staff. “Yes?”

“You haven’t been by, but I also know how you can all be. No reoccurring headaches, no feelings like you don’t belong here, or things aren’t right.” Concern is written across the man’s face. “The last time I saw you, you seemed very off balance.”

Sidney shakes his head. He had almost forgotten about that, though he isn’t sure how. “No. It took a little bit, but I feel much better. And everything is good between Alex and I.”

He doesn’t feel the need to add he can’t help but shake the little kernel of guilt that seems to have taken root in his stomach, because that would just raise more questions. That is something he is never going to tell, as it will just make Alex worry.”

The man nods. “Good. No practice, which I’ll follow up with Dan, but other than that I don’t see any reason you won’t be able to play in the next game. If anything changes though, I expect to see you in here.”

With a nod Sidney leaves the office and heads back towards the review room. Alex is leaning against the wall with his phone in hand and he smiles when he sees Sidney. “You could have gone to the review room. I’m not going to get lost.”

Alex shrugs and pockets his phone. “Going to sit long enough. Arm good?”

“Just the bruise, but I was right about not participating in practice tomorrow.” Sidney glances at Alex as the other man falls into step with him. “We should probably think about going shopping after this. I don’t think we have much in the way of food.”

Nodding Alex lets Sidney go ahead of him into the room. “Was not good this morning. Lucky we have enough for breakfast.”

Flower, who is already in his usual seat turns as they come into the room. He grins at Sidney. “I’m glad to see your arm didn’t fall off. I mean, you’re good, but I don’t think you could do much with just one arm.”

The joke is the same kind he could have expected from his own Flower and Sidney rolls his eyes as he drops into the chair in front of him. “As always, I’m thrilled to know how much you care about me.”

Flower leans forward, hands curling over the back of Sidney’s chair. “Only because I don’t want to have to break in a new seat partner. At least with you, I know what to expect.”

With a laugh at the look Alex levels at him, Flower sinks back into his chair. “I’m only saying the truth.”

Sidney twists, ready to break up the mock fight he is sure is coming when Bylsma and the coaching staff start coming into the room, the rest of the team filing in behind them.

The lights go down and the review starts. Sidney sinks back in the chair, arm held across his chest. By the time the video gets to where Kane hit him, Sidney can’t help but wince. He doesn’t remember the hit being that bad, but it looks impressive. Alex shifts, hand curling over his knee, squeezing reassuringly.

His hand lingers as they continue to watch the review and Sidney can’t help the way his thoughts keep wandering, from the play of the puck to the warmth of Alex’s hand. At least until they get to the second period, when he sees the massive hit Alex lands on Kane. It is a clean hit, that is clear, but it sends the other man to the ice, his stick flying out of his hand and well across the rink.

Sidney turns to glare at Alex, who is smiling slightly, gaze still on the big screen. Annoyance prickles under his skin, though it isn’t strong, since it hadn’t caused a penalty and they had won the game. He leans into the other man, the sharp scent of Alex’s soap filling his nose. “You said you didn’t do anything.”

Alex tips his head, so close Sidney’s lips almost brush his cheek. “But not make you upset.”

And Alex has him there, because Sidney really isn’t upset. The hit had been clean and at this point that is really all he can ask for. “No, not really.”

He sits back, so they can finish watching the review, the smell of Alex caught in his nostrils, in counterpoint to the weight of Alex’s hand still on his knee.

-----

Sidney trails after Alex down the aisle. They’re looking at a long stand of home games and the cart if far fuller than it usually is. He is even proud of himself, as he has managed to remember a few of the things Alex likes and had gotten them into the cart, under Alex’s amused gaze.

As they round the end of the aisle Sidney catches up and glances at the cart. “Are you sure we’re going to manage to go through all of this?”

Alex glances down. “We manage. If need can freeze some of it.”

He nods. Even now he still isn’t quite sure how much food the two of them go through in a week and it seems easier to just give into Alex’s knowledge. He isn’t above admitting when he doesn’t know anything, and this is one of those things.

Chapter Text

Approaching the door Sidney can’t help but laugh. Halloween is nearly here and they have exactly one decoration up, and it isn’t even outside for people to enjoy. He isn’t sure where Alex got it from, as it had just appeared on the back of the front door one morning. It is a massive spider, disgusting and hairy with eyes that catch and reflect the light. The legs are so long a few of them drag on the floor and more than once Sidney has nearly caught the legs in the door as he has come in and out.

He hates it and kind of loves it at the same time. If nothing else, it makes him smile every time he sees it, which might have been Alex’s plan all along.

“Are you planning on doing something else with the spider on Halloween?” He enters the living room, where Alex is sprawled on the couch, with his phone in hand, obviously waiting for him.

Alex shakes his head as he shifts to make room for Sidney. “Was not. Think I like the spider for us.” He wiggles his phone at him. “Taylor like.”

“That’s because Taylor is weird.” Sid settles on the couch, but doesn’t get too comfortable. They do have practice in about an hour. “Not to say I don’t like the spider it just is just a little unsettling.” He isn’t sure how he manages to forget about the silly thing, but he does and seeing the dark shape there has startled him once or twice.

Which he isn’t ever going to admit to anyone.

Alex grins. “I put him outside on Halloween, while we at game.”

There is a glimmer in Alex’s eyes that tells Sidney he has some other plans and that whatever candy they put out before they leave might not be claimed. He nudges Alex. “Try not to terrify the neighbors. I would like to be able to continue to live here.”

That puts a little damper on Alex’s grin, but he waves. “Will be fine Sid.”

-----

Turns out having the spider on the outside of the house is even worse than the inside and Sidney looks at it as they get in the car to head to the arena for the game. The bowl of candy is directly under the hanging front legs of the spider and Sidney sighs. “No one is going to touch the candy.”

He is already not looking forward to getting home tonight, when the spider will become a massive, vaguely menacing shadow on the wall, even with the porch light on.

“Brave kids get the candy and share.” Alex glances at Sidney as he pulls his seatbelt on. “Not like spiders?”

Sidney shakes his head. “I don’t mind spiders, but I think anyone in their right mind would be afraid of a spider that size. It would manage to eat pretty much anything it wanted to.”

Alex reaches over and pats Sidney’s thigh. “I save you from spider.”

“Thank you.” The chance of them ever coming across a spider that size is slim, but Sidney appreciates the gesture behind the words. And the way Alex’s hand stays on his thigh as they head towards the arena.

-----

Everything hurts and Sidney slowly makes his way towards the front door, with Alex hovering just to his left side. He had managed to avoid any hits from the Rangers, but that hadn’t prevented them from taking him to the boards at every opportunity. Most of it he hadn’t been able to get away from and he feels like he is lucky to still be on his feet.

He reaches the stairs and makes his way up, picking up the bowl of candy. There are a few pieces left at the bottom of the bowl and he holds it out to Alex.

Alex accepts it as Sidney gets his keys out. “See, not much left.”

A deep shadow near the door catches Sidney’s attention and he turns. Something catches the light from the porch, glittering. The shape is amorphous and unsettling and Sidney stumbles back, only realizing too late it is the stupid spider. He jams the key in the lock and turns it, glancing at Alex, who looks like he is trying hard not to laugh.

“It isn’t that funny.” He shoves the door open, feeling his heartbeat start to return to normal and now he is more annoyed than anything. The spider shouldn’t have surprised him, but with him focusing on other things, it had. He toes his shoes off and kicks them aside, vaguely aware of Alex doing the same behind him.

The hallway is dim, and Sidney doesn’t move when Alex’s hand curls around his wrist, tugging. He turns and Alex steps into him, until they’re chest to chest and he has to tip his head back to look at Alex. His other hand pushes up under the edge of Sidney’s suit jacket, fingers curling under a belt loop. Sidney waits, and even in the poor light, can tell Alex wants to say something.

Alex drags his thumb across skin. “Was not laughing at you Sidney.” He smiles warmly. “More about situation, since you sure kids be scared.”

It sounds like a trite excuse, but Sidney can hear the sincerity in Alex’s voice, and he shakes his head. “I know. I’m more annoyed that I forget about it than anything.” He steps away from Alex, but not far enough to break the gentle hold on his wrist. “I’m thinking about something to eat before I head to bed.”

Alex smiles. “Sound good.” He tips his head towards the mostly empty bowl he had set on the table before grabbing Sidney. “Even have dessert.”

With his free hand Sidney grabs the bowl, Alex following behind him to the kitchen, never breaking contact.

-----

Despite the ache in his body and the fact he is tired from the game, Sidney can’t seem to get comfortable enough to sleep. He rolls onto his back and stretches, taking up more than his fair share of the bed, not that it matters. Alex had shared the bed with him that one night he had asked, before disappearing back to the guest room without a word. Sidney had wanted to ask him to move back into the room, since it seems silly to keep up this separation.

They share a bed on the road with no problems, and Sidney has come to enjoy the closeness. For some reason it has become reassuring to wake up to Alex’s warmth, and his steady even breathing. There are some days it is almost disorienting to wake up alone and more than once he has caught himself reaching out to the other side of the bed. He wants to ask, but he knows it isn’t his right, not in this place. No matter how well things are going between them, it isn’t something he can ask.

He presses the heels of his hands against his eyes and sighs. Being here has never been simple, but he wishes it would stop getting more complicated the longer he is here. Telling Alex was supposed to be the end of it, a gentle slide but Sidney can’t help but feel like he is sliding towards a pit of rocks.

-----

Sidney pats his pockets, relieved to find his keys and looks at Alex. “Do we have everything?”

Alex glances at the bag, where they have stuffed a few bags of rolls as well as a couple of bottles of alcohol. “Think so. Flower not say we need much.”

Nodding Sidney grabs his coat and shrugs it on, before taking the bag, so Alex can do the same. He is glad to know Thanksgiving here is just as hectic as at home. Flower had been coordinating everything with the same cool he shows in goal, but Sidney can’t shake the horrible feeling everyone is going to have brought rolls, leaving them all to exist on bread and alcohol.

He hands the bag back to Alex and opens the door. Snow dusts the ground, and with it a bitter wind. Ducking his head he makes his way to the car, Alex right behind him and Sidney is glad there isn’t much snow on the car. With the wind it would be miserable to clean it off and it already feels like his ears have started to go numb.

They get in the car and Sidney starts it before tucking his hands into the pockets on his coat. “It isn’t even actually winter and it is already this cold.”

Grinning, Alex leans forward to turn up the heater. “Are penguin Sid. Be fine.”

Even though it is Thanksgiving there is quite a bit of traffic and it takes longer to get to Flower’s than Sidney was expecting. They are still the first ones there and he pulls in behind Flower’s car. The wind feels worse here and Sidney hurries to the front door, Alex right behind him. He tries the door, knowing Flower has a policy about letting themselves in, but the knob doesn’t turn and he glances at Alex, who shrugs.

He stabs the doorbell, but he can barely hear the chime from inside the house. Alex presses up against his back and Sidney can feel his warmth even through his wool coat, though it does little against the biting wind. He is just about to ring the bell again, or get his phone out to call when he hears the locks and then Flower is jerking the door open, eyes a little wild.

“Sorry, I have no idea why I locked the door.” He steps back so they can come in. “I made sure there is plenty of room in the closet.”

Sidney smiles as he shrugs out of his coat. Once he has his coat hung up in the closet he takes the bag from Alex, before thrusting it at Flower. “About time. The pile of coats last time was not good.” It had taken the team nearly fifteen minutes to figure out which coat belonged to who.

Flower shrugs as he looks in the bag. “At least I learned my lesson.” He gestures towards the kitchen. “The bird is almost done and everyone is bringing sides, so we’re good there. And all the bar stuff is in the same location, so if you want to get started before the others get here, feel free.”

Alex cups Sidney’s elbow. “Sid?”

Sidney nods. He hasn’t had any alcohol since he got here, so worried about the fact he might slip up and reveal a detail that gets him in trouble. That worry is long gone, at least with the team, who wouldn’t know a lot of the personal details of his relationship with Alex. Even Flower and Jordan haven’t looked at him askance in months and at least now he can stop worrying. Geno and his family are different story, but he has a month before he has to deal with Geno, so he is going to enjoy it until then.

Alex disappears and Sidney follows Flower the rest of the way to the kitchen. There are plates and silverware stacked on one counter, as well as a bunch of serving spoons and big, empty bowls. Sidney isn’t sure where to start and he looks at Flower. “What do we need to do still?”

Flower scrubs a hand through his hair. “Get the table set and we’ll go from there.”

The tablecloth is sitting, folded on one end of the table and Sidney pulls back the chairs crowding the table so he can get it unfolded. Events like this at Flower’s always seem chaotic and he isn’t surprised all these little things aren’t done. Alex comes into the dining room, bearing drinks, but he sets them down on the windowsill and catches the end of the tablecloth to pull it smooth.

Sidney shoves the chairs back under the table, accepting the drink Alex is handing out to him. “Thanks. It would probably help Flower if we moved all the extra stuff in here, while he deals with the kitchen.”

The doorbell rings, followed by the sound of the door opening, and Jordan’s voice. “I brought dessert!”

Sidney takes a drink, unsurprised to find it isn’t too heavy on the alcohol and he glances at Alex, who is looking proud of himself, smiling into his own drink. “Let’s go wrangle the cats.”

-----

Alex’s thigh is pressing against his under the table, since their chairs are so close, they’re almost sitting on each other and Jordan’s elbow is digging into his side and has been for the last five minutes. Sidney shifts, dipping his arm and presses his elbow hard into Jordan’s side. Since he isn’t the biggest guy in the league, he has come up with some tricks to get away from people and regain space.

It works and Jordan yelps, sliding across his chair from Sidney. He glances at him, hand moving to cover his side. “What the hell was that for?”

Sidney shrugs. “Because I have a bruise on my side from the way your elbow was digging in.” He tips his head towards the plate of turkey near Jordan. “May I have the plate?”

Jordan picks up the plate and hands it to Sidney, all the while watching like he is expecting Sidney to go for the throat.

Smiling, Sidney takes the plate and puts a few more small pieces on his plate before moving it so Alex can help himself. He hands the plate across to Tanger, who is looking at the turkey with intense eyes. The table is crowded, not just with food, but with the number of people jammed around it. There are enough of them the room is almost uncomfortably warm and Sidney is glad he wore the shirt he did. If not, he might be too warm like Alex, who has already undone the top two buttons on his shirt and has his sleeves rolled up.

Alex’s knee presses against his under the table and Sidney looks at him. His eyes are hooded, his soft smile intimate given the fact they are surrounded by their teammates and friends. For a brief moment Sidney feels his awareness shrink down to just include them and a sudden boldness sweeps through him. Using the table as cover, not that he needs it, he rests his hand on Alex’s thigh, just above his knee. The find fabric is soft against his fingers, in counterpoint to the heavy muscle and it kindles something in the pit of Sidney’s stomach

He thinks about moving his hand, but none of the other are paying any attention and if Alex’s continued soft, fond look is any indication, he doesn’t care.

Leaving Sidney to do what he wants, and he doesn’t move his hand.

-----

After the warmth of Flower’s, the house feels almost cold and Sidney pulls the blanket from the back of the couch to cover their legs. He and Alex are sprawled on the couch as they usually do now, legs tangled together as they lay at opposite ends.

After helping Flower with most of the clean up, he had kicked them out into the cold, with strict orders to enjoy the rest of the night. They had gotten home and changed, before meeting in the kitchen. Alex had pulled out a few of the beers tucked in the back of the fridge and Sidney had figured why not. They have a light practice tomorrow, since he has a feeling most of them are going to be lucky if they can stand, let alone skate, including the coaching staff.

Sidney looks at his beer, which is almost empty. The TV is on, some movie playing but he has the sound low enough that it is more like a rumble than words. And with the lights mostly off, the room feels close and safe. Warmth pools in his veins and Sidney can’t help but ask the question he has wanted to ask almost from the beginning.

“Why me?” From what Sidney can recall, Alex could be dating or married to any number of other men or women, but had wanted to date and marry him. Sidney isn’t above admitting he can be weird and a little obsessive and it just seems unreal someone as vibrant as Alex would pick him.

He feels Alex shift and he looks, not surprised to find the other man sitting up, watching him with just a hint of a frown. Sidney sits up and leans back against the arm of the couch, suddenly not wanting to be laying down for this.

The silence hangs between them for a few seconds before Alex smiles warmly, his eyes hooded. “Remember playing you in world juniors and how good you be.”

Sidney nods, remembering that, though he hadn’t gotten to play with Alex as long, given the two-year age difference between them. And he hadn’t focused on him much, more concerned with his own game, and that of his teammates.

Alex leans forward. “Get drafted to Penguins and excited to play with Sid the Kid.”

A rude sound he can’t stop escapes him and Sidney glares at Alex, who laughs. Sidney has always hated that name, and he is glad he is finally old enough no one uses it anymore. Not even Flower, who used to tack it on to their every conversation, knowing it was a quick way to rile him up.

Smile widening, Alex moves closer, so he can loosely wrap his hand around Sidney’s ankle through the blanket. “You very welcoming when I come to team, but still seem not alone because have team, but lonely.”

That makes something in Sidney jump in understanding, because he had. Making it to the NHL isn’t easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but for him, going in when everyone had such high expectations made it so much worse. The pressure now isn’t as much as it used to be, now that he has proven himself, but it still weighs heavily. And Alex must feel that too, even though he was drafted second.

Alex’s smile is soft, like he can follow Sidney’s thoughts. “I not like seeing you lonely, so I decide we be friends. It take work, but I not let you push me away.”

Sidney smiles, because it isn’t hard to imagine, the way Alex would sidle up with a smile, eyes bright. The way he would probably put his arm around his shoulder and draw him in, gentle but implacable. And as stubborn as he knows he can be, Sidney is sure he would give in, because there wouldn’t be any harm in being friends with Alex.

Almost without thought Alex’s thumb strokes against his ankle, sending a shiver up Sidney’s spine as he waits for the next part.

“We spend time together and be good friends.” Alex is still smiling, a fond distraction in his gaze. “Decide want to be more than friends, but not sure how, not want to ruin what we have.” He shakes his head. “Flower have New Year party, so I kiss you there.”

He taps his cheek, close to the corner of his mouth. “I hope you take hint.” He squeezes Sidney’s ankle. “Your eyes go wide and you get hint. Start dating and then get married. You not lonely anymore.”

It seems so silly and simple, which doesn’t explain the blaze of warmth that seems to be spreading under his skin, that has nothing to do with the blanket and everything with the warm pressure of Alex’s hand on his leg, like a brand. “Oh.”

That seems like a stupid response to what Alex just told him and Sidney shakes his head, hoping to clear his thoughts. It helps a little and he looks at Alex. “And I bet Flower takes all the credit, since it happened at his party.”

Alex’s nose wrinkles and he heaves a sigh. “Yes, no matter how many times I tell him is not true.”

“Typical.” Sidney doesn’t move and waits, but Alex seems to be intent on maintaining the contact between them, so Sidney stays.

Chapter Text

The house is clean, not that Sidney thinks Geno is going to judge him on that. He knows exactly what it takes and he won’t ever say anything negative. He looks around one last time before something dawns on him and he looks at Alex. “I guess you should move all of your stuff back into the bedroom.”

That gets him a blank look and Sidney can’t help but laugh. “I’m guessing that Geno always stays in the room you’re currently in when he comes to visit, since it has an attached bathroom. And it would be awkward to explain why so much of your stuff is in there, without having to worry about him asking questions about our relationship. The rest of the team might not push too much, but I have a feeling Geno will.”

Realization hits Alex and his eyes go wide. “I not even think of that.” He glances at the clock. “We have just enough time to get room cleaned out and good before you get Zhenya.”

Geno had offered to get a taxi the last time they had talked and Sidney had shot it down. Going to get him isn’t that much of a hardship, but now Sidney is starting to think they might have needed the extra time. He isn’t entirely sure how much of Alex’s wardrobe has moved to the extra room, but he has a feeling it is enough to make the next half an hour hectic.

They hurry towards the room and Sidney flicks on the light. This is the first time he has been in Alex’s room, wanting to give the other man his privacy, though he has glanced through the open door in passing. The room isn’t messy exactly, but there is a lot of clutter and Sidney slants a look at Alex, who might be showing some signs of panic.

He nudges the other man. “And we can’t tell Geno to catch a cab without making it suspicious.” That makes Alex move and he starts gathering up clothing. Sidney ducks around him and starts pulling the blanket and sheets from the bed. He takes it all to the laundry room and throws it in the washer, mind racing as he thinks of all the things they need to do.

Once the washing machine is going Sidney grabs the cleaning supplies before heading back to the room. Alex is still gathering things up and Sidney takes what he has and hands him the bottles. “Bathroom. I’ll keep moving stuff and get the bed made.”

Moving stuff means just throwing it on their bed, where Alex has already started a pile. Sidney keeps throwing stuff on it, glad the room is enough out of the way Geno isn’t going to see the massive heap and wonder what is going on. He already has a lie ready to go, that Alex is going through his massive amount of clothing to get rid of some of it.

By the time he enters the extra room to grab the last armload of stuff Alex is coming out of the bathroom. Sidney scoops up the last armload of stuff. “All good?”

Alex nods, holding up the bottles. “Is good. Already open window to air out room and just need to make the bed.”

“Okay.” Sidney jerks his head towards the door. “Put those back and once I drop this off, I’ll grab bedding.” He glances at the clock on the bedside table. “That will leave us with just enough time to make the bed before I need to get out of here.”

He barely enters the room as he tosses the last of Alex’s clothing on the bed, since most of it is just T-shirts and jeans. With a passing thought, he hopes Alex will get everything put away before bed tonight, so they don’t have to burrow under the mound like cats looking for a warm place to sleep. The linen closet is between the main room and the extra room. Jerking the door open he finds the neatly labelled extra sheets and pulls them down before grabbing pillows and a blanket.

Alex meets him in the doorway, pulling the pillows and blankets from him. “Is good you thought of this. Rather not have to lie to Zhenya any more.”

Sidney drops the sheets on the foot of the bed and finds the fitted one. “So am I.” He slants a look at Alex as he shakes the sheet out. “But then I guess that’s why I’m the one with the C on my jersey.”

Alex’s nose wrinkles but he smiles and shakes his head. “Funny Sidney.” He grabs the far edge of the sheet and tugs slightly. “Are lucky I like you.”

Grinning Sidney tugs back and they quickly get the bed made. Once the sheets are on, Sidney lobs the two pillow cases at Alex’s face, smiling when the other man grabs them. “That is the last thing. I’m going to go, so Geno doesn’t think we abandoned him.” He turns, heading for the door.

“Oh Sid, not forget ring.”

Sidney stops and glances over his shoulder. Alex is watching him and if not for the fact the overhead light isn’t all the way on, Sidney would swear there is a faint flush to his cheeks, a shadow of something in his gaze. “Okay.”

He heads downstairs to the office, trying not to dwell too much on the sudden knot of emotion forming in his chest. Even though it has been weeks since he wore the ring, and just for a few hours, he can’t seem to get the memory of the slight weight out of his head. The phantom feeling of it has caught him off-guard a couple of times and it had almost been a surprise to not see the ring.

Opening the safe Sidney pulls the ring box out and opens it. The sight sends a visceral little thrill through him and he shakes the feeling off as he lifts the smaller ring out. This isn’t his, as much as the days and things seem to be blurring together. Shaking his head, he slips the ring on, fingers flexing and he puts the box where Alex can find it, on the corner of the desk.

Grabbing his coat Sidney shrugs it on and zips it closed, doing his best to fight the urge to look at the ring. At this rate he is going to be late picking up Geno, without giving into some maudlin urge to want something that isn’t his.

Sidney ends up getting caught up in traffic and Geno is already at their appointed meeting spot, bag sitting at his feet, shoulders hunched against the cold. The moment he pulls up, Geno snatches his bag up, jerks the back door open to toss his bag in before practically falling into the front seat.

As Geno gets situated, Sidney turns up the heater. “Sorry, Alex and I got caught cleaning up, and then traffic. I didn’t mean to leave you standing in the cold.”

Geno grins, his cheeks flushed pink with cold. “Is fine Sidney. I not outside too long.”

“That doesn’t matter, since it isn’t that warm.” The cold has settled over Pittsburgh with a vengeance and Sidney can’t believe he left the house without a hat. Even with the heater going his toes are still cold. “We weren’t planning on doing much for dinner tonight.”

Geno shrugs, hands tucked in his coat pockets. “Not expect much. Am just glad to be here.”

Sidney doesn’t have to ask to know what Geno is talking about. The Capitals have been struggling with their last few games, losing most of them and Sidney would want the same thing. To be away from the city for even a little, to try and get his head on straight. “We’re glad to have you, though you might not think that by the time you go home.”

Geno grins, slumping down in the seat. “Sanja’s cooking not kill me yet. Or yours.”

“This might finally be the time.” Sidney pulls into traffic and they immediately come to a standstill as more and more people start trying to leave the airport. Taking a deep breath Sidney squeezes the steering wheel and slants a look at Geno. “Though if it stays like this, we aren’t going to be eating until midnight.”

Geno’s smile is lazy. “Is fine. Can nap until traffic get better.”

The car in front of them moves forward and Sidney pulls up, ignoring the other person impatiently trying to get in, glowering at him through the windshield. “Oh no, you aren’t leaving me alone to deal with this.”

A honk sounds, startling Geno and Sidney waves at him. “Don’t worry. Some guy is just pissed I won’t let him in.” He has been dealing with bigger assholes for years and now it is a lot easier to ignore the self-important people like the man who keeps glaring at him as he creeps towards the car in front of them. It takes another fifteen minutes to finally get out of the airport parking lot and Sidney glances at Geno as he turns towards home. “At this rate it might have just been faster if you drove up here.”

“Yes, but then not get to spend more time with Sidney.” Geno stretches. “Are doing good?”

Sidney nods, knowing this is more than just Geno asking since the last time they saw each other, when they all went out to dinner. No matter how normal he acts, Geno is still going to remember the night he called him and worry. It is the type of person Geno is, especially since it is he and Alex, his closest friends. That little kernel of worry is going to stay there, probably forever and Sidney is sorry he planted it. “Things are great.”

They are, he isn’t lying about that, though he is still no closer to going home. Marilyn might be convinced he is never going to get home without falling for Alex, but he can’t do it. This isn’t his place, his body, his home, his team, his husband. He is an interloper in this body, has almost done more damage than good and he is going to try to get home. There have to be things on the internet that might help, or even the library if he gets that desperate.

Geno nods, watching as Pittsburgh flashes by, oasis of light in the darkness. “Is good. At least something go right.”

By the time they get home it feels like it is even colder and Sidney hunches his shoulders as he heads towards the front door, Geno right behind him. The moment his foot hits the landing the door is swinging open and Alex is gesturing for them to come in. He hurries in, stepping aside so Geno can come in and Alex closes the door and locks it.

Sidney unzips his coat and shrugs it off. “I have a feeling it is going to be cold tomorrow.”

Alex grins as he reaches around Geno to take Sidney’s coat and hang it in the closet. “Be glad not have to go out tomorrow.” He pulls Geno’s coat from his hands. “Start to think you get lost.”

Rubbing his hands together Sidney kicks his shoes off, into the closet. “Traffic. It was horrible at the airport.”

Geno nods as he picks his bag up, before making an undignified sound as Alex pulls him into a hug.

Sidney takes the moment of distraction to pull Geno’s bag away. He heads for the spare room, leaving them standing in the foyer. Even where he belongs, he has never begrudged Geno his relationship with Alex, knowing how much it means to both of them, how it actually predates either of them knowing him.

Entering the room Sid flicks the light on, eyes scouring the room as he does. He trusts Alex to make sure there is nothing left behind to pique Geno’s curiosity, but even the best can make mistakes and Sidney doesn’t want that. Setting the bag on the foot of the bed he makes a quick sweep around the room, even going so far as to checking under the bed for any rogue socks. There is nothing and he turns the light off and goes back to the living room.

Geno is in one of the chairs, the footrest up and he again looks like he is losing the fight to stay awake. Alex is on the couch, looking amused at Geno’s plight and Sidney sits next to him, much closer than he would if not for their friend’s presence. “Are you sure you don’t want to take a nap before dinner? We haven’t even started cooking.”

Alex leans forward. “Can even get you blanket, so you sleep in here. Sid and I go to kitchen.”

With a heavy sigh, Geno struggles to sit upright in the chair. “No. Came here to see Sid and Sanja, though more Sid. Tell me why Pittsburgh do so good when Capitals cannot make goal.”

Sidney wants to say something comforting, for all the good it will do, but before he can, Alex throws an arm around his shoulders, pulling him against his side. He feels his heart race as the other man leans closer, kissing his cheek before looking back at Geno with a wide grin.

“Because Sidney and I are the best!”

He doesn’t think that was the answer Geno was looking for and he elbows Alex, knowing full well he only said it because of Geno’s comment about coming to see him. “You aren’t helping any.”

In response Alex clutches him tighter, his other arm sliding across his chest and Sidney struggles, though it doesn’t take him long to realize he isn’t really going to get loose. From the way Geno is smiling and shaking his head at Alex’s antics this is normal, something he has to put up with when they aren’t in public and Sidney rolls his eyes. It really isn’t bad, being caught against Alex like this.

He chooses to ignore the way his skin feels tight and the way he can feel Alex’s breath against his cheek. “Things will go back to clicking soon. You play Carolina soon and they haven’t been able to win a game in the last three weeks.”

Geno scrubs a hand across his face. “Is true. Might be what we need.”

Sidney wiggles a little, turning his head just enough so he can look at Alex. “Can I go start dinner?”

Alex nods and releases him, though he stands and turns, offering Sidney his hand. “I come help and get Zhenya something to drink.”

Sidney can’t help the way his gaze goes to Alex’s ring, a match to his and he isn’t sure why he didn’t think of this. The rings make everything feel more real and surreal at the same time and he takes Alex’s hand, letting him pull him to his feet and Sidney feels the warmth of Alex’s ring against his skin. He thinks about letting go, but Geno is watching them, again with that fond smile so Sidney doesn’t pull away, letting Alex pull him into the kitchen. It occurs to him, as they get to where Geno can’t see them, that he has no idea what level of PDA he is expecting from them. So far, he has been following Alex’s lead around the team, which at most has been invading his space and touches that linger a little longer than normal. With Geno being a close friend Sidney has a feeling it might be more and he doesn’t want to be surprised if something happens.

As they enter the kitchen he glances over his shoulder, not sure why he does it. It isn’t like Geno is going to be creeping behind them, trying to spy. He goes to the fridge and pulls out the chicken and vegetables for dinner before looking at Alex, who is getting glasses out of the cupboard. “You aren’t going to suddenly kiss me, are you?”

Alex pauses in closing the door and looks at him. “No. Is there reason too?”

Heat sweeps through him and Sidney hopes it isn’t showing on his cheeks as he bends down to grab a cutting board. “No. I was just asking, since I don’t know what to expect. At the restaurant with Geno was one thing, but in the privacy of our house, I thought it might be different.”

Shrugging Alex closes the cupboard and moves the glasses closer to the fridge. “Is not much different. Kiss you, but can keep to cheek.” He adds ice to the glasses before glancing at Sidney. “Want drink?”

Sidney gets the feeling Alex means with alcohol and he nods. Since they’re on their holiday break he can let loose a little. “Thanks.” He finishes cutting the chicken and tosses it in the pan. Washing his hands, he adds all the vegetables and puts it in the oven before setting the timer. “You know, if you make Geno’s drink too strong, he might fall asleep in the chair.”

Alex grins. “Then we put blanket over him and let him sleep. He need it.”

Taking his drink, he follows Alex back out to the living room. He sits on the couch, getting comfortable before Alex settles next to him, legs touching from hip to knee. Again, it is surprisingly easy to lean into Alex and Sidney doesn’t want to think about that. Instead, he turns his attention to Geno, who is frowning at his glass like he can’t decide if he should actually drink it. “Alex is planning on leaving you in the chair if you fall asleep.”

Geno frowns at Alex, but still takes a drink. “Is not nice Sanja. I not let you sleep in chair when I could have.”

Sidney feels Alex stiffen next to him and this feels like something he needs to know. He looks at Alex, who has a horrified look on his face, like this is a story he shouldn’t know and Geno is grinning and Sidney needs this. Leaning forward he bats at Alex’s hand when the other man reaches over to try and quiet him. “Geno, I want to hear this.”

With another drink Geno leans forward. “Is good story Sid. Am not sure how you not hear this, before you marry Sanja.”

Beside him Alex slumps back with a heavy sigh and Sidney reaches over to pat his thigh. “I promise I won’t tell anyone or laugh too hard.”

Setting his drink down Geno grins. “Was after Worlds, before you and Sanja get together. Team go out drinking to make up for fact we not win. We all drink, but have good time, forget we not win.”

Sidney steals a quick look and Alex is smiling, obviously remembering this incident with fondness, even though he had protested it being told. Alex catches him watching and shrugs, making Sidney laugh as he turns his attention back to Geno.

Geno continues. “Sanja have more. Others go back to rooms first, but I stay with Sanja, since we have good time. He drink more and when we go to leave bar, not so steady on feet.”

Alex sits up. “Remember you not be so smooth either Zhenya.”

Shrugging Geno waves a dismissive hand at him. “Walk better than you.” He looks at Sidney. “We cross lobby of hotel and Sanja sit in big chair. He not want to get up, say he comfy. I try, but not get him to move.”

“He seem to fall asleep while I think about how to get him out.” Geno shakes his head. “Think about getting team, but by then, they probably all asleep.”

Sidney shakes his head, trying not to laugh. Geno might be taller than Alex, though not by much and he isn’t sure how he would have moved him, short of tipping the chair and spilling him onto the floor of the lobby. Something which would have drawn the wrong sort of attention and gotten them in trouble.

“Is not funny.”

Alex has his arms folded across his chest, but Sidney sees the smile pulling at the corner of his mouth. He squeezes his thigh, where his hand has been resting this entire time. “It sounds funny.”

“Was funny.” Geno grins at Alex, completely ignoring his rude gesture. “Then I think maybe I leave Sanja in chair. Not as comfy as bed, but good place to sleep. Be warm and someone keep eye on him until he wake up.”

He reaches down to pick up his glass. “Almost go back to elevator before decide not to leave Sanja in chair. Not be a good friend. I shake him awake and get him out of chair. Have to keep him up in elevator, or else he lean and start to fall asleep. I get him in room, on bed, take shoes off and leave him.”

Having seen Alex in the mornings, when he looks barely awake, it isn’t hard to imagine how he looked at the hotel, with a desperate Geno trying to keep him up and moving. Sidney gives up on his poor attempt to not laugh and gives in. Across from him, Geno is grinning and Sidney can tell, just from the way Alex feels next to him, that he isn’t upset with Geno telling the story, as he is smiling and trying to tell Geno what really happened.

Alex gently elbows him and Sidney turns, his cheeks flushing further at the warm way the other man is smiling at him. “Yeah?”

“Just for that, I tell Geno what happen last Thanksgiving.”

Sidney has no idea what happened last Thanksgiving, as he wasn’t here, but Alex seems to have forgotten that in the heat of getting back at him and Sidney is okay with it. No matter the circumstances it seems fair and now that Alex has mentioned it, he wants to know. Any other time he would be mad at someone taking advantage of him for a laugh, but this is Alex, who isn’t doing it to be vindictive. “Go for it.”

Alex looks back at Geno. “Sid’s parents and Taylor come down for Thanksgiving. Sid and Taylor work to clean up table and run into each other. Both end up covered in turkey, gravy, potatoes, all over floor. Sidney was big mess and took forever to clean up. Me and Sid’s mama end up finish with dishes while Sid and Taylor clean up.” He slants a look at Sidney. “Sid smell like turkey for days.”

Sidney laughs and shakes his head. “I did not.”

Geno laughs. “Are better ways to get someone else to clean up Sid.”

Shrugging, Sidney takes a drink. “I’m sure I was trying to get back at Taylor for something she did when we were younger.” He nudges Alex. “I’m going to go set the table. Make sure Geno doesn’t fall asleep.”

Alex nods as Geno makes a sound in complaint, but Sidney ignores him. The kitchen is warm and smells good and Sidney takes more time than he needs to put plates and silverware on the table. Being around Geno doesn’t feel as stressful as it did last time, but with him in their home, there are going to be more opportunities to slip up and he needs be wary.

He finishes his drink and refills it with water, taking advantage of the fact there is still plenty of ice left. There isn’t much time left on dinner and he decides to linger in the kitchen, not wanting to have to sit down only to get up a few minutes later so he can get dinner out of the oven.

A few minutes later Alex wanders in, his glass in hand and he smiles at Sidney before going to the fridge. He gets a bottle of water out and shakes it in Sidney’s direction. “Zhenya need some water before he have another drink.”

Sidney laughs. “I’m not sure he should have another drink, but after dinner we’ll see.” He looks at the timer. “You might as well bring him in here, since it won’t be much longer.”

With a grin and nod Alex disappears and Sidney gets out the bread he bought to go with dinner. The loaf is dark and studded with nuts and seeds. He cuts enough slices for the three of them before putting it all on the table. The oven goes off just as Alex comes back into the kitchen, Geno trailing after him and Sidney points at him. “Alex, grab the butter. Geno, sit down before you fall asleep.”

This time Geno goes without arguing, his bottle of water in hand and Sidney pulls the pan with the chicken and vegetables out. Rather than worrying about serving it, he settles for putting in the middle of the table on top of a couple of hot pads. He grabs a serving fork and spoon from the drawer and sets them next to the pan before taking his seat across from Alex.

“Go ahead Geno.”

Geno nods and picks up the fork, spearing one of the pieces of chicken.

------

Sidney takes the last plate from Alex and puts it in the dishwasher. They have long since been done with dinner, though they are just now cleaning up. As they had eaten Sidney had kept the conversation away from the current season, not wanting Geno to dwell on how bad the Capitals are doing right now. Instead, he had gotten Geno to talk about when they had been in Juniors and during Worlds, before he had really known Geno and Alex. Geno had been only too happy to oblige and Sidney had been amused, much to Alex’s consternation.

After dinner he had sent Geno to the living room, ignoring his attempts to help them clean up. There will be more than enough dishes for all three of them tomorrow.

Reaching in front of Alex to get soap for the dishwasher Sidney looks at the other man. “Are you upset Geno told me all those stories?”

Alex smiles as he dries the pan. “No. Are not secret stories. Am sure other teammates tell same stories.” Setting the pan down, he flicks the towel in Sidney’s direction. “Hearing stories make you happy, which make me happy. Is good way to spend Christmas Eve.”

Sidney nods and puts the soap in the dishwasher so he can start it. He enjoys the team Christmas party, which they had done last week and he knows some of the others are doing smaller parties tonight. He and Alex were invited to a few of them, including Flower and Jordan, but they had decided against it, especially with Geno coming up. This is much nicer and Sidney pulls the towel from Alex’s hands, hanging it up to dry. “Come on.”

He reaches over to turn off the lights over the sink, pausing briefly when the light catches the ring on his finger. This is the first time it has caught his attention since he put it on, the slight weight familiar and he curls his hand into a fist before shutting of the light. He can feel Alex watching him after the slight hesitation and he shakes his head. It isn’t something they need to talk about, not at all.

Geno has the TV on, the bright images of some Christmas movie Sidney can’t name on the screen and he looks at his friend. The other man is slumped in the chair, hands folded across his stomach, eyes mere slits as he watches the TV. Sidney laughs and glances at the clock. “You know, it is late enough you could call it a night and I won’t judge you.”

Laughing Alex throws his arm around Sidney’s shoulder. “But I will!”

Sidney shoves at him but all that does is cause Alex to pull him closer. “He will not. Alex has more important things to do.”

Geno laughs and slowly gets to his feet. “Not care what Sanja think, but are right Sidney. Sleep is good idea.”

“Good night, Geno.” Sidney gives in, leaning against Alex as Geno leaves the living room. He stays against Alex’s side for longer than necessary, but it is Christmas Eve and he doesn’t really want to move anyway. He slants a look at Alex. “Do you want to check the doors while I turn the lights off?”

Alex nods, squeezing his shoulder before dropping his arm. “Is good for me.”

Picking up the remote Sidney turns the TV off and sets the remote on the side table so they can find it later. He turns off the overhead light and the one in the hallway, laughing when Alex grumbles as he is suddenly plunged into darkness. He steps aside so Alex can get to the front door and he squirms away when he feels Alex’s hand slide across his side.

The upstairs hallway light is on and Sidney makes his way up the stairs, leaving the light on for Alex. He knows they can both get up and down the stairs without light, but it seems silly to tempt fate. With the way things are going it would be just his luck to have Alex hurt himself on the stairs, and that would be an embarrassing story to tell.

Geno’s door is closed and Sidney switches off the hallway light before turning on the light in their room. He quickly changes into a T-shirt and shorts before going in to the bathroom to brush his teeth. By the time he comes out, Alex has turned off the overhead light in favor of the lamps on either side of their bed.

He smiles at Sidney as he pulls his T-shirt down. “Seemed silly to have light on.”

“Yeah.” Sidney crosses to the bed and flips back the blanket and top sheet as Alex goes into the bathroom. As he does, he sees the ring and he pulls it off and sets it on the side table, well away from the edge. He takes a deep breath and slides into bed before reaching over to turn his light off, leaving his back to the door. Despite the fact he and Alex have been sharing a bed during away games Sidney feels heat sweep through him.

This is different, more intimate, at home in their own bed. On the road there is always the next game, the next win to chase and that has been enough to keep Sidney from thinking about anything else when they are in the hotel. Now he has nothing to think about except the fact they are sharing the bed and he presses his face into the pillow with a sigh.

Anticipation prickles up his spine when he hears the bathroom door open and Sidney shakes his head, not sure why it matters. Nothing it going to happen except sleep and he is okay with that. He manages to stay relaxed when Alex climbs into bed and when the room is plunged into darkness it is even easier to close his eyes.

-----

Sidney has no idea what time it is, other than the fact it is early enough there is no light coming in around the curtains. He shifts, drawing the blanket higher and then Alex’s hand is on his back, sliding up to curl over his shoulder. Behind him he feels Alex move closer, warm breath tickling the nape of his neck.

“Is Christmas Sidney. No reason to be up yet.”

Alex’s thumb is stroking against his shoulder and Sidney doesn’t move, focusing on the slow sweep. “I wasn’t going to get up.” He keeps his voice low, not wanting to break whatever bubble seems to be encasing them.

Alex moves closer, until Sidney can feel his knees against his thighs and then Alex’s forehead is resting against his shoulder, hand gliding down to loosely rest against his hip and Sidney takes a deep breath, and closes his eyes. He knows he isn’t going to sleep again, not when it feels like there is a low-grade current sweeping through him, running between Alex’s hand and forehead. But this is good and comfortable and there is nothing wrong with enjoying it.

-----

This time there is light around the curtains and Sidney knows he needs to get up. He is hungry, among other things and Christmas or no, he isn’t going to lounge around in bed all day. This time when he moves, Alex shows no sign of protesting and Sidney slips from the bed, heading for the bathroom. He takes a quick shower and dresses before going downstairs.

The house is still quiet and he goes into the kitchen, glad he had put socks on. Even through them he can tell the house is a little cool. He flicks back the kitchen curtain, not surprised to see a dusting of snow over the back porch and ground. Before he had gone to get Geno yesterday it had threatened snow a few times, quick flurries of small flakes that hadn’t amounted to much.

Sidney turns on the oven, intending to bake the bacon this morning, for two reasons. It will help warm up the kitchen, at least until the heater realizes how cold it is, and secondly, because he has no idea how much longer Geno and Alex are going to be in bed. There is no reason for him to get them up, since they don’t have much of a plan today.

He and Alex had already talked about not exchanging gifts, which had been a relief for Sidney. Even after the months he has been here, he still has no idea what he would get Alex and he would probably mess it up anyway. They also didn’t have to get a present for Geno, which had been great. He still struggles with his Geno and that is after knowing him for years.

Filling a glass with water Sidney sits at the table as he waits for the oven to finish heating. He undoubtedly has a lot of Christmas texts on his phone he needs to respond to, but he left it plugged in and he doesn’t want to wake Alex.

A few minutes later Geno shambles into the kitchen, hair sticking up and Sidney smiles. “You look like the sleep did you good.”

Geno’s response is a nod as he wanders to the cabinet to get down his own glass. After he fills it, he looks at Sidney. “Where Sanja?”

“Still asleep. I think.” Sidney stretches, arms in front of him and it takes him a moment to realize he left the ring upstairs, right next to his phone. He hopes if Geno notices it that he’ll chalk it up to the fact it is early. “I can start the bacon, if you’re hungry.”

Geno shakes his head and sits down. “Is fine yet.”

Sidney is glad that even though he and Geno are on different teams here, that Geno understands the silence between them doesn’t need to be filled with idle chatter.

Some ten minutes later Alex comes into the kitchen, his hair still damp and he smiles as he holds Sidney’s phone out to him. “Taylor call and want to know why you ignore her.”

Sighing, Sidney takes his phone and sets it on the table, screen down. “Because she’s a brat and she can wait until after we have breakfast.” He glances at Alex. “Would you start the eggs while I get the bacon in the oven? I already have it heated up.”

Alex nods as he sets his phone down next to Sidney’s, before going to the fridge. “My mama and papa say Merry Christmas.”

Sidney nods. “I’m glad they called.” Heat suddenly rushes to his cheeks at the amused look Alex sends his way and he ducks his head. He hadn’t meant for it to come out sounding so married sounding and he is glad Geno seems oblivious to what is going on. Going to the fridge he gets the bacon out and tosses it on the counter before getting a pan. “We’ll have to call my parents later.”

Alex grins. “Later, after breakfast.”

With a laugh Sidney lays the bacon out on the rack on the pan. “Yes, after breakfast.”

Still grinning Alex sidles closer and Sidney doesn’t move, not quite sure what is going to happen, but he can feel Geno watching them. Alex leans a little closer and kisses him on the cheek before drawing back. “Merry Christmas Sid.”

Sidney knows he is blushing and he hopes it is still a normal reaction. “Merry Christmas Alex.”

-----

Sidney stretches and wiggles his toes as he looks at TV. Spending Christmas with Geno evidently means not doing anything serious, which Sidney is enjoying. Right now, they’re watching football, since there is no hockey today, and it is at least something to occupy time, though Sidney isn’t a big football fan. He appreciates the sport for how physical it is, and the players for what they can do, but other than that he finds it boring.

Each quarter seems to take forever and each play nearly as long. He knows they make changes on the fly, but compared to hockey it seems slow and he isn’t sure how anyone watches one or two games, let alone an entire season worth.

He can’t tell, but Geno might have fallen asleep again and Alex is spending as much time on his phone as he is watching the football game. Reaching over he pokes him. “What are you up to?”

Alex grins. “Am talking to Taylor. She want to know all about our exciting Christmas.”

He doesn’t see a problem with the way they are spending this Christmas, but he is sure his sister has opinions. “If she has a problem with it, she can come down here next year and show us how she would do it.”

From the way Alex looks at him Sidney knows it is a dangerous offer but he shrugs. With any luck he won’t have to worry about Taylor running around the house like a holiday dervish next year. He should feel a little bad about leaving this Sidney to deal with it, but he can’t.

“Will tell her. She probably start planning now.”

Sidney nods, leaning back to watch more of the game. Alex is warm against his side, Geno looks more relaxed than he had been at the airport yesterday and both of those things are enough to make Sidney count today as a good Christmas.

-----

Geno has gone back to his room to shower and Sidney wiggles his phone at Alex. “We should probably call my parents, before they think we forgot them too.”

Alex nods and shifts closer. “Is good idea.”

Sidney dials his mom’s number and puts it on speakerphone before balancing it on his leg. It rings three times and he smiles. “Hi mom.”

“Oh Sidney, I was wondering when you were going to call! Your father is here too, but he isn’t much for talking. He lost his voice a little and he sounds like a frog. I take it Alex is there?”

Before Sidney can respond Alex is leaning in. “Hi mama.”

“Hello. Are you two having a good Christmas?”

Sidney leans back, not surprised to feel Alex’s arm across the back of couch. “We aren’t doing much. Geno is here and we’re going to have one of the casseroles you left the last time you were here for dinner.”

Trina laughs. “You two. I’m glad you’re having a good time and that Geno is there. Maybe next year you can come home for the holiday?”

Alex laughs and Sidney resists the urge to elbow him. “I think you should come down here. I already told Taylor she could show us how to do a real Christmas, since she is complaining about our fine plan.”

“You like to live dangerously Sidney. I’ll let you two go, since you have company. Love you both.”

Sidney nods though his mom can’t see it. “Love you too.” He lets Alex reply before ending the call and then he puts his phone aside. Alex’s arm falls onto his shoulder, fingers curling against his arm and Sidney relaxes into the touch. It feels good to sit like this, to not think about anything beyond the warmth of Alex against his side and the hand on his shoulder. He would like to think the Sidney that belongs here wouldn’t begrudge him this little bit of contact.

There is nothing to it, beyond he and Alex being friends with each other. He has really come to like the idea of being friends with Alex. Sighing he turns his head. “We need to go preheat the oven if we want dinner.”

Alex groans. “Maybe we get Zhenya to do it. He already on feet and I am comfortable.”

Sidney wiggles, because he feels the same way but they need to move. “Geno is our guest and we aren’t going to make him help with dinner.” He pauses. “Dishes afterward yes, if he insists.”

He pulls away, not surprised when Alex clings to him for a second before letting him go. “I’ll go.”

-----

Closing the bedroom door Sidney turns. The room is only lit with the bedside lamps, leaving most of the room in deeper shadow and Alex is watching him, not quite frowning but it makes guilt spread heavy through him. Most days Sidney doesn’t really feel guilty anymore, because this is all out of his control, but today it hits him hard. Christmas is supposed to be for family but Alex is here, spending it with an interloper, because the universe evidently has a cruel streak and likes messing with Sidney’s life.

Sidney meets his gaze, staying quiet because he doesn’t want to say the wrong thing. He isn’t ready for the way Alex holds out a hand and he doesn’t give himself time to think, just grabs Alex’s hand and lets the other man pull him closer. They stand chest to chest for a few seconds, their hands awkwardly caught between them and heat runs under his skin as Alex looks at him, eyes hooded.

Alex’s other arm goes around his shoulders, urging him closer and Sidney gives in, arm sliding around the other man. On some level Sidney knows this should be awkward, being this close to Alex without the others around them, but it feels right. Which is why he closes his eyes and tips his head just enough to rest his forehead against Alex’s neck.

Time seems to stretch out, and Alex moves, keeping him close as his hand sweeps up and down his back. Each stroke makes the warmth running through him leap and Sidney takes a deep breath. His pulse is loud in his ears and he can’t shake the feeling Alex knows exactly what he is doing.

He has no idea how long they stay like that but Sidney knows he is never going to forget it, the way Alex’s hand feels on his back, the sharp, heady musk of his soap, the scent tickling his nose, the press of their bodies.

Finally, he feels Alex squeeze his hand before the stroking stops. Sidney lifts his head and steps away, hand falling from the small of Alex’s back, though he doesn’t let go of his hand. Alex’s smile is soft and Sidney isn’t so emotionally blind he can’t see the hint of sadness in the other man’s eyes. He squeezes Alex’s hand before letting go and he steps around him, heading for the bathroom.

Carefully closing the door he takes a deep breath and hopes Alex doesn’t see him going into the bathroom for what it is.

A retreat to try and calm down.

He takes his time getting ready for bed and when he finally opens the door and steps out Alex has changed and is waiting, still smiling.

The obvious happiness makes Sidney feel better and he smiles slightly, feeling some of the weight drop from his shoulders. As he trades places with Alex, he feels the other man’s hand touch his before the door closes between them.

Sidney rolls his shoulders and changes, turning off the light on his side of the bed. Crawling into bed he draws the blankets up and is almost asleep before he hears Alex come out. The room is plunged into darkness and he relaxes further when he feels the slight movement of Alex settling in for the night.

A few minutes later, he is asleep.

-----

The day after Christmas there is no staying in bed and Sidney throws back the blankets and gets up. There is just enough time for him to make breakfast so Geno can eat before he catches his plane back to Washington and they have practice later today. Rounding the bed, he rests his hand on Alex’s foot and gently shakes it until he gets a sign of life from him. “Remember, you’re going to take Geno to the airport. I’m going to go make breakfast.”

He isn’t quite sure what Alex is trying to say, but the sound is close enough to a confirmation Sidney feels comfortable going to take a shower. By the time he comes out of the bathroom Alex is at least upright, though he is leaning against the headboard with his eyes closed and Sidney shakes his head as he gets dressed.

There is no sign of Geno being up yet and Sidney is glad to have the kitchen to himself, for at least a little while. He is still trying to figure out how he feels about what happened last night. It had felt good to lean into Alex, to put his arms around him, to feel the sweep of Alex’s big hand up and down his back. And there had been something different about it last night. Gone were the light friendly touches he has been used too the ones Alex always seems to give him in public. Every nerve ending in his body had felt like it had been on fire and it had left him feeling a little confused and warm.

This time there had been something deliberate about it and Sidney is curious if it was because it was Christmas, or if there had been something else. His curiosity is going to bother him, burrowing under his skin but he knows he isn’t going to ask. He is wary of disrupting what they’ve built and he wants to hold on to the warm memory of last night.

Breakfast is a repeat of yesterday, not that he is expecting any complaints from Geno and Alex. They’ll both be grateful to not have to cook and this is what Sidney gets for being the first one up. He turns the piece of bacon in the pan and turns to find Alex coming into the kitchen. The other man is wearing a long-sleeved Penguins shirt and Sidney knows he is going to cherish this memory if he ever gets home. “I was expecting Geno first.”

Alex smiles as he gets the eggs from the fridge. “Was impossible to go back to sleep without you.”

Sidney rolls his eyes and can’t help but smile. He has gotten good at seeing through Alex’s little stretching of truth and this is one of those. “That would be easier to believe if I hadn’t seen you fall asleep on a plane ten minutes after we level off with me five rows away.”

With a shrug Alex reaches over, hand skating down his arm. “Is different on plane Sidney.”

Heat follows Alex’s touch and Sidney shivers. He wants to step closer to Alex but is stopped when Geno wanders into the kitchen. Instead, he turns his attention to their friend. “I was starting to think we were going to have to dump you out of bed. Breakfast will be done before you leave.”

Geno grins. “Thanks Sidney. Have practice not long after get home and not have time to eat before.”

Alex finishes with the eggs and hands the carton to Geno, who makes a face but puts them back in the fridge. “Will be good breakfast. And then you have good practice and get better.”

Geno’s response is something in quick Russian and Sidney laughs, because he doesn’t know what it is exactly, but he has heard it from Geno before, and Alex more recently.

Alex laughs. “Am not one who need help. Have Sidney.”

As Sidney flips the bacon again he raises his hand when Geno looks at him. “Don’t involve me. This is between the two of you.”

Geno subsides but continues to mock glare at Alex, who just laughs as he starts cooking the eggs.

-----

Sidney watches as Geno pulls his shoes on. “See you in two weeks.” They play the Capitals one more time before the All-Star break and Sidney is ready for both of those things. One, because he always likes playing the Capitals, since the games are always fast-paced and a little tense. Secondly, because All-Star is always fun, a chance to play the game for the sake of the game and not have to worry about the standings. Plus it gives him a chance to catch up with all the players he only sees a few times a year, without animosity.

Geno nods as he straightens up and grabs his bag. He shoves at Alex, who is still trying to get his shoes on. “Going to be late Sanja.”

In return Alex swats at him. “Are not.” He looks at Sid. “Be back as soon as I toss Zhenya out of car.”

Sidney sighs. “No violence.”

As soon as the door closes, shutting out the sound of their bickering, in Russian, Sidney heads to the guestroom. He strips the bedding off and takes it to the laundry room and starts it before heading back to the kitchen. There is very little clean up left over from breakfast and Sidney ignores it in favor of going to the living room. With four hours until practice he has time to kill.

He flops on the couch with his phone in hand and opens the internet. With Alex out of house, even for a little bit, it seems like the perfect time to do some research. Marilyn’s words about not being able to help get him home are never far from his mind, but Sidney really needs an alternative and the internet might just be the place.

At least it might be, if he can find a way to word his search. Calling it a love-spell seems stupid, because he doesn’t love Alex, not in this world, or his own. He has grown fond of him, but he doubts that is the reason he ended up here. After much deliberation he types in body-swap, which just leads to a weird entry on a trope, as well as a list of movies and cartoons with body-swap scenarios.

With a disgusted sound Sidney goes back and looks at the empty query bar. He ends up going through several more searches, including how to get back after a body swap, how to end a body swap and finally, in a moment of desperation, gives in and askes the search bar how to end a love spell. That one includes crystals and bodily fluids and Sidney leaves that behind.

Feeling a little irritated he tosses his phone on the other side of the couch, watching it bounce. He sighs and presses his palms hard against his eyes. “I am not going to fall in love with Alex Ovechkin.”

-----

They get home after practice and Sidney doesn’t complain when Alex pushes him in the direction of the living room. Alex had mumbled something about taking care of dinner in the car and Sidney isn’t going to complain about not having to cook. Instead, he settles on the couch and turns on the TV. No one is playing today, but the network is showing old games so Sidney settles down to watch. It is a game from earlier this season, the Rangers against the Panthers and Sidney pays more attention to the Rangers, since they play them in two days.

Sometime later Alex joins him, sitting on the couch before resting his head on the back of the couch. Not taking his eyes off the TV Sidney reaches over and pats Alex on knee, feeling the same way. Two days of not being on the ice shouldn’t have taken a toll on them, but he feels a little more tired than he usually would.

-

With a yawn Sidney closes the bedroom door and strips his shirt off as Alex heads for the bathroom. Tossing it towards the hamper he grabs the T-shirt he has been sleeping in and has it half on, when he realizes, with Geno gone there is no reason for Alex to share the bed with him. That thought is quickly followed by one that he left the bed in the guest room without bedding and this late there is no reason for Alex to make up the bed when their bed is right here.

He tugs his shirt on and changes into his shorts, going into the bathroom as Alex vacates it. Leaning back against the counter he brushes his teeth, thoughts wandering to the bed situation. Now that he has been sharing a bed with Alex on road trips, he finds he doesn’t mind having to do it at home. The awkwardness of the first few nights has been erased and now, when they are in Pittsburgh Sidney finds himself missing having Alex in the bed. Oddly enough there have been a few nights it has taken him longer to fall asleep without Alex’s steady breathing and the weight of his body on the mattress.

He still feels like a little bit of an ass for chasing Alex from the master bedroom, when he is the one who should have gone to the guest room. While this looks like his house, he has no real claim to it and he hates not doing better by Alex.

Spitting, Sidney rinses his mouth and toothbrush, coming to a decision. He isn’t going to do anything to make Alex feel unwelcome in the master bedroom. If Alex wants to stay, Sidney isn’t going to do anything and if he decides to head back to the guest room, Sidney will respect his decision.

-----

Two days later Sidney can’t help but smile as he makes breakfast. Alex is still upstairs, in their room. His side of the massive closet is back to the way it looked when Sidney got here, all his toiletries are in the bathroom, their apparent disorganization making Sidney itch with the urge to impose some kind of order. He doesn’t though, leaving it all alone.

Honestly, he is glad to have Alex back in the bedroom. It feels right in an odd way, like they’re providing a united front against whatever twist of fate has thrown them together.

-----

Sidney is so focused on the puck on his stick and the oncoming Ranger defenseman that he misses what is going on behind him. It isn’t until he hears the ref’s whistle and boos from the crowd that he realizes he has no idea what is going on. Letting the puck come to a stop he turns, shock freezing him. Alex is on his hands and knees on the ice, head down, his stick a few feet from him.

Boyle is on his back, though he is moving his hands, talking to the ref who is standing over him.

Sidney darts around one of the Rangers, not paying attention to who it is. He goes to his knees next to Alex, one hand on his shoulder and leans down. “Alex.”

He shakes his right hand, his glove dropping to the ice and he reaches down. Fumbling he manages to get the strap of Alex’s helmet loose and he carefully lifts it off. He sets it on the ice and leans in further. “Alex.”

This time Alex shakes his head and he sits back. He glances at Sidney, looking a little dazed and that makes something in Sidney’s chest clench. “Are you okay?”

Alex draws a deep breath and winces a little before nodding. “Am okay Sidney. Just have wind knocked out of me.”

Sidney huffs a sharp laugh and looks over at Boyle again. The other man is sitting up now, his helmet next to him, but he still looks more shaken up than Alex, which is saying something. He glances at Alex, who is looking more alert. “You didn’t hit your head, did you?”

“No.” Alex stretches to grab his stick. “Hit Boyle and landed hard. Am fine.”

Sidney grabs his glove and gets to his feet, waiting for Alex to do the same. “Look, the period is almost over. Do me a favor and get checked out. I believe you, but I would feel better if someone looked at you.”

He can tell Alex is seconds from saying no and he leans in. “For me.”

Alex looks sharply at him for a second before relenting. “Fine.” He picks up his helmet and heads for the bench.

------

Halfway through the intermission Alex comes back into the locker room and Sidney feels relief sweep through him. He can tell by the way Alex is moving, the smile on his face, that he’ll be going back on the ice with them. When Alex sits down in his stall Sidney leans over. “All good?”

Alex nods as he scratches at the back of his neck. “Good. Say I might be sore tomorrow, but no injury.”

Sidney rests his hand on Alex’s thigh, ignoring the way Flower whistles when he sees. “Thank you.”

Smiling, Alex pats Sidney’s hand. “Anytime Sid.”

-----

Champagne isn’t his favorite drink, but Sidney knows he can’t say no, at least not tonight. He has already had two beers, though he has eaten enough food today to make up for the two drinks. Flower’s New Year’s Eve party is in full swing and has been for the last two and a half hours. Sidney is sure he has seen most of the team and their significant others here and has talked to all of them at least twice. There isn’t a single child in attendance, which is a good thing, given the amount of alcohol on hand, and the language.

As much as he loves getting to play in the Winter Classic, he is glad they aren’t playing this year. He has the feeling more than a couple of his teammates are going to be hungover tomorrow. Which is why he takes another drink of his water, in preparation for the champagne he knows will be coming. If he gets lucky, he will only have to drink one flute, which is more than enough in his mind. He had seen the number of bottles Flower had stacked in the fridge and he is kind of curious to know who is going to drink it all.

Alex is suddenly at his side and he smiles at the other man. “I was wondering if you had gotten lost.”

With a grin Alex leans in, close enough Sidney can feel the brush of breath on his cheek. “Was talking to Tanger about something. Glad to see you not move.”

Sidney shrugs. “There doesn’t seem to be a need. Everyone comes by here at some point.” He is equidistant between the table with food and beverages, which is why he has spoken to so many people. With or without Alex next to him people have stopped to chat as they refilled their plates or gotten more drinks.

“Is good idea Sidney.” Alex moves to stand next to him, out of the way and Sidney is glad for his return. He hadn’t quite been anxious when he had been away, but it had been in the back of his mind, that he might trip up and say something to arouse suspicion. Alex is the only one he can speak freely around, and there are times he forgets that.

He glances at his watch, catching sight of his ring as he does. This is another event Alex informed him people would expect to see his ring and he had slipped it on. The weight hadn’t seemed so unfamiliar this time and Sidney can’t decide if that is a good or bad thing. The minute hand on his watch moves a minute closer to midnight and he sighs.

As this week between Christmas and now has sped by, this is one thing Sidney realized he had never expected. Even with the months he has been here, he had half been expecting to be at home for the new year, not here, at a loss how to get home. He slants a look at Alex, eyes tracing the line of the other man’s nose and a shiver runs through him, settling in the pit of his stomach.

The minutes continue to tick by and Sidney is sure the house is getting progressively louder. At ten minutes to midnight people start passing around flutes of champagne and Sidney takes one from Alex. Tiny bubbles climb up the sides of the glass and Sidney focuses on those, instead of the warm press of Alex at his side.

Five minutes before midnight Sidney watches as everyone presses closer to their significant others and he knows what is coming. That tradition of kissing your romantic interest at midnight, going into the new year, like some kind of good luck charm. After all, this is where Alex took his chance with Sidney and it worked out.

Sidney glances at Alex, who is watching him with a faint smile and he is ready for the kiss. There will be expectations from them and he is sure Alex is thinking the same thing, that this year it will be a chaste kiss on the cheek, acceptable for polite company.

Sudden boldness sweeps through Sidney as the last minute starts and he steps into Alex, their chests touching and he tries to ignore the little thrill that he has to tip his head back and stretch up a little to be on Alex’s level. Somewhere he hears some start counting down from ten, a few other voices joining in and he ignores them all in favor of looking at Alex. He looks surprised and as Sidney hears someone say one he leans up, to kiss Alex.

It isn’t much of a kiss, more a brush of lips but it sends electricity running through him and Alex makes a sound, hand curling lightly over his elbow.

“Happy New Year Alex.”

Alex’s fingers stroke against his elbow as the other man gives him a considering look. “Happy New Year Sidney.”

Chapter Text

It is almost one in the morning and even thought the traffic isn’t as bad as it could be Sidney keeps his eyes on the road, hands tight on the steering wheel. It gives him something to think about besides the fact he kissed Alex almost an hour ago and he still isn’t sure why he did it. There had been no real reason to do it, though for that brief moment, it had felt like the right thing to do, which is problematic, at least from his point of view.

He shouldn’t have given into the impulse, but it had burned under his skin and he had caved. Alex had looked surprised when he pulled back, blue eyes bright even in the dimness of Flower’s house and there had been something else in his gaze that Sidney couldn’t read. Alex’s hand had stayed curled around his elbow, touch still gentle but it had been enough to keep him trapped in place, a bare sliver of space between them.

Sidney had felt caught as the other couples had parted around them, with laughs as they had downed their champagne and gone for refills. He and Alex hadn’t moved, watching each other, trying to figure out exactly what had happened. Everything happening around them had seemed unimportant and Sidney had only been dimly aware of the cool slickness of the champagne flute in his hand.

Alex had consumed all of his attention and Sidney shivers at the recollection.
They had only broken apart when a loud, slightly drunk Jordan had come over to wish them a happy New Year. Sidney had appreciated the interruption as much as he had been annoyed, as it had given him a chance to catch his breath, not that it had helped. Even as he smiled at Jordan, Alex had still been looking, holding him captive.

Sidney had downed his champagne, unable to keep from wincing a little at the burn and taste. He had set his flute aside. A few minutes later people had started leaving and Sidney had every intention of staying to help Flower clean up at least some of the mess the others had left. He hadn’t gotten a chance, as the other man had shooed he and Alex out of the house with a wink and grin that was supposed to be lascivious, but just came off ridiculous.

As soon as the door closed behind them, Sidney had been expecting a barrage of questions and he wouldn’t have had a good answer. But instead, he had gotten a long, considering look, with a faint smile and Alex had simply inclined his head towards the car.

The car is finally warming up and Sidney glances at Alex. He is staring out the window as the city flashes by, his hand resting heavy on his thigh. There is no intention behind the touch but Sidney is caught by it. It had seemed almost absent, like Alex had done it through muscle memory and Sidney has kept his mouth shut. He has rocked the boat enough tonight.

They finally get home and Sidney pulls into the driveway, leaving plenty of room between his car and Alex’s. Now that they’re home Sidney can feel the twist of anxiety from earlier coming back, laced with worry. Alex might have stayed quiet while they were at Flower’s house, to keep from causing a scene. Maybe now that they don’t have possible witnesses Alex is going to ask questions and Sidney knows saying it felt right won’t be the right response.

Alex lifts his hand and the spot on his thigh feels like ice, even though the car is still warm. He gets out of the car as the other man does and he can’t help but look over the top at Alex. He isn’t sure what he is expecting, but Alex’s mouth is still pulled up in the same soft smile as before, warm and intimate.

The smile kindles a warmth in him, but the sweep of heat is no match for the chill breeze and Sidney hunches his shoulders and jerks his head towards the house. “Come on. We don’t want to start the new year with frostbite.”

It isn’t much of a joke, but Alex’s smile widens, and he follows Sidney up the driveway to the house. Alex crowds him as he opens the door and they stumble into the house together, Alex’s hand landing on his shoulder. Reaching around Alex he shoves the door closed and locks it before stepping back to shrug his coat off.

He hangs it up and kicks his shoes off before heading for the stairs. They made sure the house was locked up before they left and he doesn’t see any reason to double check the locks. As he heads up stairs he can hear Alex moving around downstairs and he has a feeling the other man is double checking all the doors.

Sidney takes the chance to use the bathroom and change into his shirt and shorts. He responds to a text from Taylor before plugging his phone in and sliding into bed. Yawning he draws the blankets up, the room a little chilly and he closes his eyes. He feels tired, though his brain hasn’t seemed to get the message, since it keeps replaying the barely there kiss, the flash of surprise on Alex’s face and the way Alex’s hand had curled around his elbow.

Retreating to the room feels like a cop-out, a way to not have to face what Alex might have to say. Not that Alex seems inclined to talk about it. There have been two good opportunities, but Alex has kept his peace and Sidney isn’t about to bring it up if Alex doesn’t want to talk about it.

Sidney curls his toes against the sheets and does his best not to think about the last few hours. In theory, it shouldn’t be hard, and it almost works until Alex comes into the room, not quite closing the door behind him. He feels electric as he listens to the quiet sounds of Alex getting ready for bed. The feeling remains right up until Alex settles into the bed, maintaining the careful, unspoken distance they keep between each other in bed.

Only then does Sidney relax enough to fall asleep.

-----

When actual morning hits Sidney presses his face into the pillow. By now he can tell when Alex is truly asleep, as opposed to faking it and right now, Alex is out, a breathing lump on the other side of the bed. Which is fine with Sidney, as it means he can have his minor crisis in peace. He still can’t believe he kissed Alex and now, more than ever, he wishes someone besides Alex knew about him, so he could vent to someone.

Not that he thinks anything he might say would make sense. Everything he is feeling is like a knot centered high in his chest, like it might come pouring out and he takes a deep breath and lifts his head. There isn’t enough light coming in the room that he can make out the details of Alex, but he can follow the line of his body under the blanket, can feel the heat coming off him and it makes him want to stay in bed.

It’s a temptation he refuses to give into, and he gets out of bed, shambling towards the bathroom and shower. After the press of bodies last night, he feels like sticky and a shower will help him wake up a little bit and feel a little more human. Alex hasn’t moved the entire time he was in shower and Sidney leaves him be. There is plenty of time before the Winter Classic starts, and if it comes down to it, he’ll just steal all the blankets to get Alex out of bed.

Sidney grabs his phone and heads downstairs. The idea of making a hot breakfast for himself seems silly, so he ends up just making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich which he takes into the living room. His phone is quiet, probably because everyone is still trying to recover from last night. He turns the TV on, leaving the volume low, as he flips it to the league channel.

The Winter Classic from a few years is showing, in preparation for today’s game and Sidney settles back to watch it. He already knows how the game turns out, but it gives him something to think about besides the looming thoughts of what he did last night, and even when things are bad, he can lose himself in hockey.

Sidney doesn’t move until the start of the third intermission, and he grabs his plate, standing as he does. He turns and nearly runs into Alex, the plate nearly slipping from his fingers. “Shit, sorry.”

Alex shrugs. “Is okay Sidney. Not mean to startle you.”

Shaking his head Sidney smiles slightly, aware of the fact there isn’t much more than a plate’s worth of distance between them. “No, it was my fault. I should have expected you to be up at some time.” He isn’t sure how he missed the sounds of Alex moving around upstairs and the sound of the shower running. Even after he finally told Alex what was going on he has been hyper-aware of where the other man is at all times.

Feeling a little silly he lifts his plate slightly. “I didn’t actually make breakfast. Do you want a sandwich?”

Alex smiles and scratches his nose. “Will eat in little bit.” His gaze slides to the TV. “Not time for game yet?”

“No. We still have an hour and a half I think.” Sidney shifts his weight, still half expecting Alex to ask about last night. He still doesn’t have a good answer, but he will honest any question Alex has honestly, even if it throws a wrench into the equilibrium they have managed to find together.

Alex nods. “Plenty of time to make popcorn.”

Sidney can’t help but smile, because if Alex is thinking about something as simple as popcorn for the game later, he likely isn’t going to spring any uncomfortable questions on him right now. “As long as it doesn’t get all over the living room. Do you want some water, at least?”

The other man hadn’t had as much to drink as some of their teammates last night, but Sidney can’t remember seeing him with much water either. He trusts Alex to know his limits, but it isn’t going to prevent him from worrying. This might not be where he belongs, but he at least owes it to this Sidney to keep an eye on Alex.

Alex nods and stretches as he steps around Sidney. “Would be good. Thanks Sid.”

Heading into the kitchen Sidney rinses his plate and puts it in the dishwasher before grabbing two bottles of water and heading back to the living room. He stops next to the couch and shakes his head with a smile. “Am I supposed to sit on the floor?”

In the short amount of time he was gone, Alex has sprawled across the couch, taking up most of it. Alex grins up at him and pats the sliver of space next to him. “Can share.”

Sidney tosses one of the bottles of water on the couch near Alex’s feet before twisting the lid off the other one. He holds it above Alex, tipping it slightly. At the challenging look from Alex, he shrugs and tips the bottle a little further, water touching the rim. “The couch will dry.”

The stalemate lasts for a few seconds before Alex’s grin widens and he sits up before standing. Sidney has barely gotten the bottle level when Alex shifts his weight and reaches out, arm sliding around Sidney’s waist, tugging gently. The thought of pulling away crosses his mind but he doesn’t, stepping in until their chests are almost touching, the bottle of water mostly forgotten in his hand.

By now Sidney should be used to being this close to Alex. It happens all the time, during games and practice, when they go out with the others, last night. When they’re alone though, Sidney can’t ignore the twist in his stomach that has nothing to do with anxiety, not anymore. He isn’t sure what it is, a warm fondness he never thought would happen.

A fondness he isn’t ready for, because fondness can lead to other things, and he isn’t going to go down that road. He is going to hold onto his hope of finding another way home until he knows for a fact there is no other way. And even then, he might balk, because this isn’t his place and never will be. He wants to be home as much as the other Sidney does, but he can’t do it, not when it means falling in love with a man who is already married.

Alex’s other hand comes up and he taps Sidney in the middle of the forehead with a grin. “Are thinking to hard Sidney.” He kisses him on the cheek before releasing him. “And you have to sit in wet spot on couch.”

Sidney takes his time putting the lid back on the bottle, hoping Alex doesn’t think anything of his focus on such a small task. He has gotten used to all of Alex’s casual touches, it has been impossible not to, with as often as they happen, but the kisses are something different. Alex has only kissed him three times, and each has been enough to make his pulse race and heat fill his cheeks. It makes him feel like a teenager and he isn’t sure he likes.

Once the lid is on the bottle he glances at Alex, who is still watching him. “Then don’t hog the couch.”

Stepping back to grab the bottle from the couch Alex opens it, still grinning. “Not hog. Offer to share.”

Sidney snorts and points at the couch. “Offering that silver was not sharing.” Sharing the couch the way they usually do, legs tangled together with them at either side of the couch, is one thing. What Alex had been offering or suggesting is an intimacy Sidney can’t handle. He doesn’t want the lines in their relationship to blur any more than they already have.

Alex shrugs, still smiling, like he isn’t going to let Sidney ruin his fun. “Is thought that counts.”

He sits back down, patting the cushion. “Sit. Game about to start again.”

Sidney moves to his end of the couch. “We already know how this game turns out.”

Grinning, Alex flicks his lid at Sidney, bouncing it off his shoulder. “Is hockey Sid.”

Sid picks the lid up from where it fell and throws it back at the other man, knowing there is nothing he can say. He would rather watch a slow hockey game than a good game in any other sport.

-----

The first period is almost over, and Sidney fights the urge to yawn, though he smiles when Alex is doing the same thing on his end of the couch. This is the slowest Winter Classic he can remember, and Sidney isn’t sure why. From what he remembers about the year the Penguins played, the entire team had been excited to get to play outside, the energy almost palpable around them. It had been the same with Boston and it had been a tough, but fun game.

So far, only the Rangers have managed to score, and that had been more by accident than design. Both them and the Panthers look like they are skating through something sticky and if Sidney didn’t know better, he would think the teams don’t really care about the game.

The period finally ends, with the puck going over the boards and Alex sighs, standing. “Am going to make popcorn. Might make next period better.”

Sidney nods and stands so he can stretch. “Maybe. There might be a fight.” Under any other circumstance he can’t condone fighting, but this is going to go down in history as the most boring Winter Classic ever, if something doesn’t change.

He watches as Alex leaves the living room and something occurs to him. “Don’t use too much butter!”

All he gets in response is a laugh and Sidney is sure he is going to be avoiding the popcorn, as Alex is likely to melt an entire stick on the popcorn. Rather than sitting back down Sidney walks around the living room, not paying much attention to what is being said about the first period of the game. It had been a poor representation of both teams and Sidney really hopes the rest of the game is better.

There is a crash from the kitchen, and he stops, not sure if Alex needs help. When there is no yell for help or sounds of further destruction he continues his wandering. One problem with the game being so slow is that his thoughts have been wandering, back to last night and he still feels like an idiot for kissing Alex.

Now that he is thinking more clearly, not that he wasn’t last night, Sidney knows no one was really paying attention to them last night. Everyone had brought a date and come midnight they had been solely focused on their partner. No one had been paying attention to them, no one would have noticed if he and Alex had simply shared a handshake. He had kissed Alex because he wanted to, and that isn’t something Sidney is prepared to think about.

He scrubs a hand across his face before moving back to flop on the couch. “I’m an idiot.”

“Is not true Sidney.”

Sidney jerks up right, looking to where Alex is standing in the doorway and smiling. “Aren’t you making popcorn?”

Alex rolls his eyes and smiles. “Am waiting for it to warm.” He leans against the wall, arms folded across his chest. “Are not idiot. Marry me.”

The words to tell Alex this Sidney isn’t an idiot, but he is are on the tip of his tongue, but Sidney doesn’t say them. After getting to know Alex, Sidney isn’t sure he wouldn’t have fallen for him in the same situation. “Okay, I’m not an idiot for that, but I am for other things.”

From the way Alex’s brows draw together, he is getting ready to ask what Sidney is talking about. Luckily, there is a pop from the kitchen and Alex pushes away from the wall with an exasperated sound. Sidney slumps back into the couch, hoping the other man isn’t going to come back and start asking questions.

By the time Alex gets done fighting with making the popcorn the second period is getting ready to start. Sidney accepts the bowl Alex hands him, happy to see the popcorn isn’t melting under a layer of butter. Even the amount of butter on Alex’s bowl looks restrained and Sidney settles back into the couch to watch the game.

Evidently the Rangers realized they were in the Winter Classic, and they score two minutes into the period, leaving the Panthers looking confused.

Alex makes a sound. “We play them Friday. Hope they not do that to us.”

Sidney shakes his head, hand stuck in his popcorn. “We won’t let them.” Their luck with the Rangers has been off and on this year, and Sidney would like this next game to be on. The All-Star break is next week, and he wants to enter the break on a good note. The last thing he wants is for the team to stew over a bad couple of games and have it carry through the break to the next one.

“If Sidney say so, must be true.”

Sidney is seriously tempted to throw his handful of popcorn but resists the urge. He doesn’t want to clean it up, and he isn’t a five-year-old. “Just watch the game.”

Alex laughs.

-----

As the game winds down, with the Rangers up two goals, Sidney realizes Alex has no intention of asking about last night. There have been plenty of opportunities, during the second intermission when they had completely ignored the analysts in favor of having their own good-natured argument about the period, in which Sidney had only been forced to throw a few kernels that hadn’t popped at Alex.

Alex seems content to let what happened at Flower’s house pass without mention and Sidney is grateful. He still isn’t sure why he did it, but he knows the brief moment is going to remain branded in his memory for a very long time.

The game finally ends and Alex reaches over to pick the remote up from where it has been, between them all day. He randomly changes the channel, where some horribly fake looking monster is destroying some town. “Am glad game got better.”

“So am I.” Sidney stretches, arms against his head as he arches his back. “Though it was still one of the most boring Winter Classics I’ve ever seen.”

Nodding, Alex leans down to pick their bowls up from the floor where they had but them earlier. “Want to make dinner or order?”

With a frown Sidney draws his feet up and twists, stretching out on the couch. Today has been a lazy day and he isn’t in a hurry to ruin that. “Why don’t we just order something. I don’t feel like having to cook and do dishes.”

Alex grins. “I pick?”

“You can. I trust you.” That makes Alex’s grin widen and Sidney tries to ignore the little flutter in his stomach. There is no need for it, not when Alex knows him as well as he knows himself. And so far, Alex hasn’t done anything Sidney would call a deal breaker.

Now that Alex is gone, he slides further down on the couch, until he is taking up most of the space. This couch if far more comfortable than the one he has at home, and he closes his eyes, idly wondering if he might be able to find one when he gets home. His couch has seen better days.

A few minutes later he hears Alex come back into the living room and he moves to sit up. Alex’s hand closes around his ankle, thumb tapping against the bump of bone. “Don’t move Sid.” He stays still as Alex lifts his legs before sitting down, lower legs across his thighs and warmth creeps through his body.

On the TV the monster is still rampaging, and Sidney listens to the sounds, trying not to think about the way the heat from Alex’s body is sinking into his body. This is something else he is still trying to understand, how Alex can be so casual about touching him. If their roles were reversed, Sidney knows he wouldn’t handle having his husband replaced by a doppelganger, but every time Alex acts like this, Sidney is once again amazed by it.

He folds his hands across his stomach. “How long on dinner?”

Alex pats his shin. “Almost an hour. They say they busy.”

Sidney isn’t surprised. There are probably a lot of people who don’t want to cook on the first day of the new year. “Sounds good.”

------

Flower edges up to him, with a glimmer in his dark eyes and Sidney knows exactly what is coming. The other man leans against the boards. “Did you and Alex have a good new year?”

Sidney scratches at the back of his neck, where it feels like something is caught in his undershirt. “You know, that is kind of creepy. Did you ask Jordy how his new year went?”

Making a face Flower flaps his hand. “Of course not. He didn’t get together at my house, like you and Alex did. That makes it like an anniversary, and I just wanted to make sure my captain had a good anniversary.”

Eyes narrowed Sidney looks at his friend. “You want something.”

Flower throws his hands up and skates back. “I don’t.” He glances around, like he is expecting Alex to be hovering somewhere nearby. “Please don’t send Alex after me. I’ve taken enough pucks to the face today.”

Sidney can’t help but laugh, because something like that never crossed his mind. He has a great respect for goalies, throwing themselves in front of pucks like that, but just the thought of getting in front of a puck shot by Alex makes him hurt. “I won’t, just try to show a little less interest in our marriage. It is kind of weird.”

Flower grins, though he keeps the distance between them. “I’ll do my best, but you know how I can be sometimes.”

Sidney sighs, because he does. “Just try.”

-----

Sidney isn’t sure where Alex disappeared to this morning, not that it matters. They have a free day and beyond spending a little time in the gym, Sidney doesn’t really have any plans. Alex had said something about being back in time for dinner and they already have dinner planned, so Sidney isn’t worried.

When he gets to the gym it is mostly empty, save Tanger and Flower, who both wave, but don’t really seem like they want to talk. Sidney takes his time, warming up, stretching and focusing on his body. He doesn’t bother with any weightlifting, not this time, and instead takes to a treadmill. Setting a timer, he starts running, making himself focus on his form and the sound of his pulse in his ears. It would be too easy to let his thoughts circle back to the problem, and honestly, he is tired of thinking about it.

For months it has consumed his thoughts and time, what hockey hasn’t taken up. He wants this resolved as much as Alex does, but there is no easy way. And hard work has never been anything he has shied away from, but this is something entirely different. This involves emotions and he is pretty sure he has caused enough damage on that front.

Flower and Tanger take off long before he gets done and Sidney enjoys the peace. Once he’s done running, he cools down, not wanting to be a laughingstock if he ends up pulling something before practice tomorrow. He takes a shower and changes, throwing his dirty clothing into his bag. He leaves the gym, waving at Duper, who is just coming in.

He is halfway home when he decides he might as well check out a library, to see if he can find anything that might help him out. By now he has almost given up hope and he isn’t sure why he thinks a book might be the thing to help him out. The internet seems far more likely, with the abundance of information, but with the way things are going, maybe his answer is in the last place he might look.

Sidney has to pull over to find out where the nearest library is, which makes him feel a little pathetic. With as long as he has lived in Pittsburgh, he should be able to find something that simple. The parking lot is a little over half full, which is to be expected with the fact it is Wednesday afternoon. Reaching into the backseat Sidney grabs a hat and pulls it down.

He’ll be able to get more done if he doesn’t have to worry about being stopped by people and his hair is going in every direction because of his shower. Crossing to the doors he holds one open for a mother and her two children. The woman smiles warmly at him before herding her kids out and Sidney slips in behind her, the door swinging shut.

Sidney crosses the foyer to the library proper, stopping just inside. It is well lit, with lots of natural light coming in through windows. The big room is quiet and Sidney takes a deep breath. Shelves march off in every direction and Sidney realizes he is in a little over his head. He has no idea what section to look in, though he knows fairy tales aren’t the answer. Nothing about him screams princess and true love’s first kiss isn’t going to be the answer here.

Off to his right Sidney sees a row of computers and he heads in that direction, knowing he might at least be able to find a place in which to start. Luckily no one else is at the computers, so he can do his embarrassing searching in private. It only takes him a few different keywords for Sidney to realize he is going to have to go through a lot of different books in hopes of finding something. Most of the suggestions the computer had given him are various different spell books, books about magic in general as well as a few different books from the New Age section, including one on astral projection.

With a heavy sigh he grabs a piece of scratch paper from next to the computer and scribbles down the authors and titles of the books before following the signs pointing in the direction of the sections he needs. As he goes deeper into the library Sidney starts to notice there aren’t a lot of people looking through this part of the collection.

The sections he needs are wedged in the back corner of the building, and there is a small, scarred table and single chair tucked in a little alcove of the brick wall. With the paper in hand, Sidney starts wandering down the row of books, comparing what he wrote down with the spines of the books. It doesn’t take long before he has a stack of books and he carefully carries them over to the table. He sits down, pulling the top book in front of him and he opens it.

The table of contents is long, and Sidney skims it before jumping to the chapter on spells. It seems like the best place to start, not that he thinks the psychic the others took him to see is really a witch, or psychic, but there has to be something going on. He refuses to believe he is the only person to have something like this happen to him.

Flipping to the spell chapter, Sidney flicks through the pages, and it doesn’t take him long to realize it isn’t going to help. There aren’t any spells in it, but instead it goes over the different kinds of spells and examples of each kind. He sets it aside, and opens the second, almost immediately setting it with the first. All it has is the history of witchcraft, but goes into depth about the horrible things that happened to people who were suspected of being witches.

The third actually has spells, but like the ones on the internet he found, none of them are conveniently labeled ‘How to get back to your own body’. The fourth book is more New Age, but it focuses more on how to live the lifestyle and what it entails. He doesn’t even bother with the astral projection book, setting it with the others. Next is one about psychics, but a quick look at the contents and index doesn’t say anything about alternate universes and sending people there, so he closes it.

By the time Sidney reaches the last book, he can’t help the mix of irritation, resignation and realization twisting into a knot in his stomach. This entire time he has been holding on to the idea and belief, that Marilyn was wrong, and he would be able to get home without having to do the one thing he can’t and doesn’t want to do. Everything seems to be pointing him in that direction though and Sidney is starting to think he is going to have to get used to the idea of staying here.

He doesn’t like the idea, since it isn’t fair to Alex, who is expecting his husband back and Sidney hasn’t quite promised he will get this Sidney back, but he thinks it has been implied. He wants everything to go back to normal, but if he can’t figure this out, it never will. They’ll have to live like this for the rest of their lives, orbiting around each other like roommates. Maybe, eventually, it would come to a divorce, but Sidney can’t handle the thought of being responsible for that.

As much as he knows he isn’t good with emotion, an idiot can see Alex is in love with Sidney, which makes this whole thing worse. Scrubbing a hand across his face Sidney shoves back from the table. Sitting here brooding about it isn’t going to help, not when it hasn’t helped at all over the months.

Collecting his books Sidney carefully stacks them and carries them towards the more occupied parts of the library, hoping for a place to put the books. If he thought there was any chance, he would get the books back on the right place, he would, but he doubts it will happen. Finally, at the end of an aisle he finds a car that has a bright sign that says ‘reshelf’. He takes a moment to nicely put them on the rack, not wanting to make extra work for whoever has to put the books back.

Sidney sighs as he leaves the library, feeling a little worse than he did when he went in. Now he has exhausted all of his avenues for information, for a way home that doesn’t include falling in love, and he doesn’t know anything new. Reaching his car, he slides into the driver’s seat and doesn’t put the keys into the ignition, just drops his head against the headrest.

He has to make a decision. Alex hasn’t been pushing him about how to fix this, though he knows it is never far from the other man’s thoughts, as it isn’t from his. He sees it regularly, in the way Alex watches him sometimes, the faint furrow in his brow when he frowns, though the look never lasts long. When he goes home today, he knows he isn’t going to be able to keep his feelings hidden for long. Not with Alex, who is so good at reading him, even if the memories aren’t the same.

With another sigh Sidney starts the car. He needs a little more time to think, mostly to make sure he gets the words right. This is the second time he is going to have to upend Alex’s life and he really isn’t looking forward to it. Especially when he has the answer to going home, to fall in love with Alex, but he can’t. No matter how much he thinks about it, he keeps seeing it as a betrayal of the other Sidney.

When he gets home Alex’s car still isn’t there and Sidney locks his car before heading inside. He grabs a bottle of water from the kitchen, not really hungry despite the fact he hasn’t had anything to eat this morning. The knot in his stomach, that has mostly been gone since he finally admitted to Alex what was going on, is back with a vengeance.

Settling back on the couch, Sidney wedges the bottle of water between his hip and the back of the couch. He stares up at the ceiling, not for the first time wishing he had someone besides Alex to turn too. Right now, he could really use a different opinion or viewpoint or just another idea. Nothing he has been able to come up with has worked and he can’t go back to Marilyn. He already knows what her answer will be.

When the front door opens, Sidney has no idea how long he has been staring at the cream-colored ceiling, but it is long enough his whole body feels a little stiff. With a groan he sits up and grabs the bottle of water just as Alex appears in the doorway. He is dressed in jeans and a T-shirt and from here Sidney can see the way the hair is curling at Alex’s temples, a sure sign his hair got wet at some point in time. “What were you up too?”

Alex grins. “Help Jordy move furniture. All of it.” Shaking his head, he joins Sidney on the couch. “Not sure why he have so much and all of it heavy.”

Twisting the lid off the bottle Sidney hands it over. “I’m really hoping neither of you injured yourselves?”

Pulling a face, Alex rolls his eyes before taking a drink. He lowers the bottle. “Were carefully Sid. Not want to make captain angry.”

Alex’s voice is light with a laugh and Sidney flicks the cap still in his hand at Alex, bouncing it off his forehead. “I would have been disappointed, since you both know better.”

Switching the bottle to his other hand, Alex wraps his arm around Sidney’s shoulder, pulling him close. “That be worse than angry.”

This close Sidney can smell the lingering remnants of Alex’s aftershave, mostly lost beneath the scent of honest sweat and this is familiar. He leans into Alex. “I’m just glad you two were smart about it.”

“Of course we were.” Alex takes another drink of water before leaning forward to set it on the floor. He squeezes Sidney’s shoulder. “Just come back from gym?”

This would be the perfect time to tell Alex what he found at the library, but he keeps his peace. He still hasn’t found the right words and after everything he has already put Alex through, this needs to be done with finesse and grace. “No. I’ve just been laying on the couch, staring at the ceiling.”

Alex tips his head back to look. “Is not very interesting Sid.” With another squeeze, he releases Sidney and stands. “Am going to take shower. You want me to make dinner tonight?”

Usually they take turns, but if Alex is going to offer to make dinner two nights in a row, Sidney isn’t going to pass up on the offer. “Okay.”

Smiling, Alex heads upstairs.

Sidney picks up Alex’s bottle and screws the lid on, before setting it back down so Alex will see it when he comes back down. Pushing up from the couch he heads to the kitchen for more water.

-----

Putting the last plate in the dishwasher Sidney closes the door and turns. Alex is still at the table, watching him with that little frown that still sometimes haunts Sidney, with as many times as he’s seen it. He has been trying to act normal all day, but he can tell he didn’t do a very good job of it. Sighing, he leans back against he counter, arms folded across his chest. “You might as well ask.”

Alex rests his hands on the table. “Sid, acting like you first did.”

Sid can’t help but draw back in surprise, because he had been expecting a question. But again, for some reason he still isn’t sure of, Alex seems content to let him move on this at his own pace, without pushing. He scrubs a hand across his face before looking at Alex, who is the picture of patience. “I know. Just- I need a few days to figure things out.”

Nodding, Alex pushes away from the table, his frown falling away. He rounds the table and stops in front of Sidney, hands curling around his elbows, thumbs stroking against his skin in a way Sidney finds more than a little distracting. “Take time you need Sid. Am not going to push.”

Sidney nods, still not sure how Alex has been handling this with so much dignity and calm. It is just one more attribute he is sure drew this Sidney to Alex, and after these last few months, Sidney appreciates it as well. “A few days.”

Alex nods again and steps back, his fingers leaving trails of heat on Sidney’s skin. “Come watch Canucks and Kings with me?”

“Yeah.” Sidney fights the urge to chase Alex’s touch on his elbow, instead reaching over to turn off the light over the kitchen sink. He slides against the counter to get free, smiling at Alex. He can only hope the game will be enough to keep his thoughts on hockey and not that he has finally come up against the realization he could be stuck here for a very long time.

-----

“Sidney?”

There aren’t any cars close by, and Sidney takes his eyes off the road to quickly glance at Alex. They’re on their way home from practice and Alex is looking out the window, his hand curled just above Sidney’s knee, fingers lightly pressing in. It hasn’t take Sidney long to realize this touch is more reflex than anything on Alex’s part and he keeps quiet about it. If he’s honest with himself, he likes the touch, finds it grounding. “What’s up?”

Alex turns his head to look at him. “How do you think my Sidney is?”

Sidney doesn’t answer right away, taking the time to find his words. This is another thing he has thought about almost every day, not that he is worried about the other Sidney causing trouble. But this whole situation has likely been just as confusing and disconcerting for him, going to bed with Alex, but waking up alone, unmarried with the man he has been together with for three years in another city, on another team. One thing he is sure of though, is that the other Sidney is probably handling this problem a lot better than he has been.

“I think your Sidney is going fine, given the circumstances.” He slants a quick look at Alex as they get closer to the turn towards the house. “I mean, I’m sure he was confused when he woke up, the way I was, but from everything you’ve said and I’ve picked up from the others, he is resilient.” It feels strange to be talking about himself, but Sidney believes what he is saying. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he was handling this better than I was.”

Traffic comes to a complete stop in front of them and Sidney looks at Alex. “Besides, he has Geno. And my Geno is a lot like Geno here, so at least he has some kind of support. I’m sure he told Geno what was going on.”

Alex nods, though Sidney can tell he is still thinking, and it makes Sidney wonder what is going on between the other Sidney and Alex. They still aren’t moving and from here, he can’t tell what is going on, but it looks like they might be stuck here for a few minutes, which gives him a chance to think, and that has become more and more dangerous lately.

Alex’s hand is still on his leg and he looks down. It sends a shiver down his spine, the spread of his fingers, the heat of his big hand seeping through his pants. He wonders if the other Sidney is trying or has succeeded in making friends with Alex, wanting to recapture even a little bit of closeness to him, even though they don’t have much of a relationship outside of the game. It also makes him wonder how Alex might have reacted to the overtures, given the rocky start to their professional relationship.

Sidney knows if he ever gets home, he wants to keep being friends with Alex. He enjoys spending time with Alex and after these last few months, he doesn’t want to lose that, even if it won’t quite be the same as it is now. The thought is enough to make him a little angry at himself, that he rebuffed Alex’s attempts to be friendly so many times.

Finally, the traffic in front of them starts to creep forward and Sidney slants a quick glance at Alex. “And I know he thinks about you every day.” He knows that for the truth. He might not belong here, but Alex is never far from his thoughts and he isn’t even married to the man.

Alex squeezes his leg and smiles warmly. “Thank you Sid.”

Sidney isn’t sure what to say, so he settles for briefly resting his hand over Alex’s, before returning it to the steering wheel.

Chapter Text

Sidney flicks the puck towards Alex, just as the defenseman reaches him and he shifts, watching as the other man shoots. For a brief second, there is a question if the puck is lost in the press of bodies around the Flyers’ net, but then the referee signals the goal and Sidney laughs, moving to join Alex against the boards as hats rain down on the ice.

He grins as Alex pulls him close and he leans in, so he can be heard over the cheering. “You better slow down or they might start to feel bad about themselves.”

Alex smiles as they follow the edge of the boards towards the bench, watching as the ice crew works on cleaning up the hats that are still coming down. He glances up the clock. “Is only start of second Sid. Have plenty of time to score more.”

Laughing, Sidney can’t help but glance at the Flyer bench, where they are all looking despondent at Alex having already scored three goals. “If it was anyone but the Flyers, that would seem cruel.”

Alex crowds close to him at the boards, arm going around with his shoulder as he rests their helmets together. Even with the thousands of people around them, it feels like a private moment. Alex grins at him. “You score too Sid.”

Sidney huffs a laugh, though he feels frustrated. He’s had four shots on the goal, but short of one that had hit the crossbar, nothing has been close. He knows it is a ridiculous feeling, given the fact he has assists on two of Alex’s goals, and that they are up over the Flyers. That is the important thing in the end, but it doesn’t change the way he feels.

He lets Alex shove him towards the bench and he laughs, pushing back at him when Alex practically sits on his lap. Laughing, Alex slides to the bench, and glances at Sidney, smiling.

Warmth spreads through Sidney, that has nothing to do with the press of bodies on the bench or the game. He drops his head, hoping the heat creeping up his cheeks is still hidden behind the flush from the shift they finished. Even if it isn’t, hopefully Alex will simply attribute it to the game and not him, or anything else. Sidney isn’t even sure what it is, and he turns his attention back to the ice, hoping to forget it.

-----

They spend the rest of the period chasing the Flyers around the ice and keeping their goalie moving. Somehow, they don’t manage to score, but they get a few good shots at goal and keep the puck in the Flyers’ end for most of the period, save a few lucky clears.

Filing from the ice Sidney doesn’t have to look to know Alex is right behind him and that had been an unexpected revelation a few months ago, the sixth sense he seems to have developed involving Alex. No matter, what, he always seems to know where Alex is, at home or on the ice. There are days it feels like a fine thread connects them and right now that knowledge sends a shiver down his back.

Reaching his stall Sidney reaches back to undo the fight strap and he strips off his jersey. The air of the locker room feels blessedly cool against him, even through his remaining layers and he sits down, legs stretched out in front of him.

The locker room is loud as the others talk, stripping down but Sidney is really only aware of Alex, his hair sticking up in sweaty spikes, his eyes bright as the others congratulate him on his hat trick. He knows Alex can score goals, everyone does, but after getting to play with him all this time over the last couple of months, Sidney can appreciate his skill even more. No matter what, Alex seems to have an innate ability to find the net and honestly, there are days Sidney thinks that skill is magic.

“Sid?”

It takes his mind a minute to catch up and Sidney realizes he is staring at the other man. Heat once again crawls up his neck and face, mixing with the heat in his stomach and this time Sidney can’t blame it on the game. Not when it feels like the others have gone oddly quiet and all he can really think about is the way Alex is looking at him, with a fond look and warm smile and Sidney doesn’t want to acknowledge it.

Luckily, before the thought is fully formed, before he has to embrace the reality of it, Bylsma is coming into the locker room, with the rest of the coaching staff and Sidney leans forward, ready to focus on the game.

-----

Without thinking Sidney catches the wild puck with his stick, and he still isn’t sure how it made it through the press of bodies between he and Alex. Muscle memory kicks in and he flicks the puck towards the net. It bounces high off the blocker before tumbling backwards and Sidney isn’t sure if it actually crosses the line, since he can’t see.

Seconds later his questions is answered when Alex skates into him, bearing him back against the boards. Their arms and sticks end up awkwardly trapped between them, but Alex doesn’t seem to care, as he leans in, their helmets knocking together.

“See Sidney, I say you score!”

Sidney has to close his eyes against the hot brush of Alex’s breath over this cheek, to try and not think about the way they are pressed together, even with all the gear in the way. Heat continues to creep up his cheeks, but at least this time he knows the color is lost in exertion and that is the only thing he has to be grateful for.

Because he is starting to realize just what he had been feeling in the locker room, the little curl of heat that seems to have taken root in his chest. His fondness for Alex is still there, but now it feels like it is on fire, and he swallows hard, vaguely aware of the others coming up and the cheers of the crowd. More important is the way he knows Alex is still smiling at him, warm, bright, and proud. Alex might have a hat trick, and now an assist on his goal, but for all that, he is prouder of his single goal and Sidney takes a deep breath, trying to tamp down on his burgeoning panic, because they still have most of a period to go, and he can’t fall apart, not now. Maybe when they get home, and he can find an excuse to get away from Alex for even a few minutes.

Just long enough to try and get his head on straight, to finally acknowledge the creeping thought he can’t seem to shake.

He feels Alex’s free hand curl over the back of his neck, shaking him slightly and Sidney looks at him, feeling that twist of emotion again, that is a mixture of disbelief and warmth. He can see the question in Alex’s gaze, and he smiles. “You were right.”

Alex nods and gently knocks their helmets together. “Of course!”

Sidney can’t help but shake his head as Alex turns and skates back to the bench and he follows him, keeping his eyes fixed on the Ovechkin across the back of Alex’s jersey. He needs to focus on the rest of the game and not the roil of emotion he is doing his best to ignore.

------

The buzzer sounds and Sidney stops the puck, wishing the game wasn’t over. Granted, all they’ve been doing for the last two minutes or so is playing keep away with the Flyers, even though the other team didn’t have a hope of scoring, let alone winning the game.

Tanger comes up behind him, arm going across his shoulders. “If only every game against the Flyers went like this.”

Sidney nods and smiles, because winning a game is always good, but it is always better when they beat the Flyers. “Yeah.”

Alex comes up on his other side and smiles at Kris. “Best defenseman Tanger.”

“You know it!” Tanger grins and drops back to Flower, who is following them towards the bench. “Got a great goalie too.”

Sidney turns in time to watch Flower shove at Tanger, but he is grinning fiercely. “Don’t make Flower’s head any bigger. He won’t be able to get his helmet on.”

Flower makes a rude gesture but points at Sidney and Alex with his stick. “Don’t forget about them, the greatest couple in hockey. With them, we’ve got it all in the bag!”

Sidney can’t help but snort at Flower’s claim, since their last few games before tonight haven’t been good. This was the last game before the All-Star break, so at least they have that going for them, starting on a win. It was what he wanted and at least one thing has gone the right way for him lately.

Alex glances over at him. “What that for?”

He jerks his head back towards Flower and Tanger, who are now arguing about something silly as they head towards the locker room. “Flower. If you and I were that good, we wouldn’t be fighting to get out of this little slump we’ve been in.”

With a nod Alex loops an arm around Sidney’s shoulder and draws him in. It is a little awkward in the narrow confines of the hallway but Sidney leans into him a little, ignoring the flicker of heat in the center of his chest that he can’t blame on the game anymore. Once again, he can’t help but be grateful for Alex, his understanding of the pressure, the way he feels when they lose, even though it is an A and not a C on his jersey.

Sidney hands his stick to Alex, so the other man can put them in the rack as they approach the locker room. Removing his helmet Sidney scrubs a hand through his hair and wishes he could get out of having to talk to the press tonight. He doesn’t want to have to answer the same questions they always ask, though if they ask about Alex and his hat trick, that will be easy. His thoughts have been caught on Alex since his own goal and singing his praises won’t be difficult.

Stripping off his jersey, Sidney tosses it in one of the big laundry bins. At his side Alex grins at him with a knowing look and Sidney makes a face. “One of these days, I’m going to make you go do the interview.”

Alex’s grin disappears for a moment as he peels his jersey off. “Only want to talk to captain Sidney.”

He really wants to make a rude gesture, but he knows the sooner he talks to the press, the sooner he can take a shower, go home, and try not to think about what happened on the ice, which he knows isn’t going to happen. Not when he is going to field questions about Alex’s showing tonight, which means he is going to have to think about the man.

The heat is already blooming in his chest, and he can’t help but glance backward. Alex is grinning as he strips off his gear, voice raised as he says something to Jordan. The quick peek makes his heart jump and Sidney groans as he goes to face the reporters and their repetitive questions.

-

By the time he gets back to the locker room the sweat is drying on his body, leaving him tacky and a little uncomfortable. Roughly half the team is already gone, and the others are in various stages of dress. Alex has already showered, though he seems to have stalled out on getting dressed, in pants with his shirt partially buttoned, his feet bare. He is looking at his phone with a wide smile.

Sidney drops into his stall and starts removing the rest of his gear. “It might be a little chilly if you’re going home like that.”

Alex holds his phone towards him and shakes it. “Am talking to Taylor.”

Groaning, Sidney tosses his gear back towards his stall, until he is just in his under layer. “Great. Should I be worried?”

Alex’s grin widens and Sidney has an idea of what the other man is going to say. Something at his expense, he is sure.

“No. Taylor just say she glad one of us know how to score goals.” Alex smiles. “I tell her Sidney’s goal just at important as mine. Is more important because is Sidney.”

That insidious warmth is back, and Sidney quickly stands, feeling heat creeping up his cheeks. Now, with the fact he is cooled down from the game, he knows the color will show and he can’t handle that right now. He still hasn’t fully admitted what happened on the ice, when Alex had pinned him against, he boards, so excited for his single goal, even though he had three of his own.

“Thanks for defending me.” Sid stands, scrubbing a hand through his hair, which is stiff from sweat. “I’ll make my shower quick.”

Alex shrugs. “Take time. Have Taylor to keep me company and earned it. And always defend you, Sidney.”

“Yeah.” The heat is spreading, sliding under his skin and he beats a hasty retreat into the showers. He has the shower all to himself and he turns the water on hot, hoping it will banish the feeling. Turning his back to the water Sidney bows his head, letting the heat sink into the back of his neck and shoulders. He closes his eyes, wanting to get lost in the steady tattoo of the water, but now his thoughts are racing, but he can’t think about the game in the entirety, but is caught on those two moments.

Alex, with nothing but positive words after scoring a hat trick, smiling and so sincere about his belief he would score. The way he had pressed close after his own paltry goal, so excited, eyes bright, smiling just for him and Sidney takes a deep breath, as warmth that has nothing to do with the shower sweeps through him. He presses the heels of his hands against his eyes because everything is starting to make sense.

The way he has started leaning into Alex at every opportunity, how he finds himself anticipating and wanting the next touch, no matter how fleeting, why he likes laying tangled on the couch with Alex so much. Worse though, is now he has a clear motive for kissing Alex on New Year’s Eve, why it had felt right, why he had given in though he knew he shouldn’t have.

He has a crush on Alexander Ovechkin.

Which is bad enough but is dangerously close to love and Sidney can’t cross that line. He shouldn’t have crossed this one, but Sidney is starting to realize he never had a chance. This crush is something that has been building for the last few months and he has been so caught up in not falling, that he has been oblivious to it happening.

“Fuck.”

The word echoes against the tiles but it doesn’t make Sidney feel any better and he sighs. Part of him wants to throw a tantrum like a two-year old, but it won’t solve any problems, so he resists the urge. Instead, he finishes his shower and drapes a towel over his head before drying off with the other.

Everyone is gone and Sidney is glad to notice Alex is at least dressed now, his tie coiled loosely on the bench next to him. He quickly averts his gaze, focusing on getting dressed and desperately trying not to think about Alex. Which has always been difficult but is even worse now. He keeps wanting to steal looks, like he needs some kind of reminder that Alex is still here. As soon as he finishes dressing, he tosses the towels into the hamper and jams his tie into the pocket on his suit jacket.

Alex has already shown himself to be perceptive and there is no way he isn’t going to notice him acting different. Sidney knows Alex was on to him the moment he jumped out of bed that first morning, never mind all the bad excuses he tried to use.

He slips his shoes on and ties them before standing. “Let’s go home.”

Looping his tie around his neck Alex stands, tucking his phone into his pocket.

Before Sidney can turn, Alex is suddenly in his space, not quite close enough to touch, and he rocks back slightly, not that it matters. Alex is impossible to ignore, and he would know, with as often as he has tried to do it over the year. Once again, he feels caught, pinned by the warmth in the other man’s eyes, which is why he doesn’t move when Alex reaches up.

Alex’s fingers brush against his chin, before catching him in a light grip, and Sidney feels Alex’s thumb touch the underside of his lower lip. The simple touch sends heat roaring through him, and Sidney can’t help the sharp intake of his breath. Around them, the spacious locker room suddenly feels small, leaving Sidney glad they are alone. He wouldn’t be able to explain away the crimson he knows is creeping across his cheeks, making him feel like he is going to spontaneously combust.

Alex smiles softly before closing the distance between them. He kisses Sidney and it isn’t anything more than when he kissed Alex on New Year’s Eve, but Sidney doesn’t remember it feeling like this. Then he had been caught up in his awkwardness, trying to wrap his head around why he had given in. Now, he understands and all he wants is to lean into Alex’s warmth and strength, to touch him.

Instead, he curls his hands into loose fists, knowing if he gives into the temptation, he is going to do something else extraordinarily stupid. Kissing Alex had been the first, but he isn’t going to do it again. Going down that road is just asking to make this situation even worse, and he needs to stop indulging in his feelings.

The other man draws back, though Alex does touch his thumb to the middle of Sidney’s lip before dropping his hand. Sidney just barely manages to avoid chasing the touch with the tip of his tongue, not wanting to seem desperate or creepy. Even with the heat crawling under his skin he feels cold when Alex steps further away and he rolls his shoulders, hoping it will hide the shiver he can’t seem to control.

He follows Alex out of the locker room and towards the door, hands tucked in the pockets of his pants. Like this he can control the urge to touch, nails digging into his skin. Despite the distance between them he can still feel Alex’s heat, and he has a suspicion it is going to haunt him like everything else about Alex has lately.

They remain quiet as they get in the car and Sidney appreciates the face Alex doesn’t feel the need to fill the silence with idle chatter. He doesn’t even seem inclined to talk about the game, which is something they’ve done on drives home before. Sidney draws the seatbelt across his chest, glad that Alex drove tonight. Now that they are in the confined space, Sidney finds his thoughts racing, jumping from how Alex had made him feel during the game, to the realization in the shower then to the brief, bare kiss.

No one thing stays at the forefront for long, making him feel a little adrift and he scrubs his hands hard against his thighs. From the corner of his eye, he catches Alex’s brief look of concern, but he ignores it, staring out the windshield. He still hasn’t found the right time to tell him how his trip to the library was a bust and how the only way to get home is to fall in love. Which is something Sidney still isn’t willing to do, even though now he is a step closer.

Sidney’s thoughts aren’t any closer to being settled by the time they get home, and he heads toward the front door on autopilot, Alex right behind him. They remove their shoes just inside the door and Sidney toes both pairs further into the closet. None of the lights are on and Sidney steps around Alex, feeling a hand slide across his side before falling away.

He makes his way to the kitchen, wanting a bottle of water, like it will do anything to cool the heat still plaguing him. Setting a second bottle on the counter, knowing Alex will be in soon Sidney takes the lid off his bottle and drains most of it, before putting it down. He isn’t really hungry, not with the way his stomach is tied up, but if he doesn’t have at least a snack, he’ll be awake in a few hours.

There is still meat and cheese for sandwiches in the fridge and he is fairly sure there is still at least a partial loaf of bread around. He sets everything on the counter and gets two plates out, knowing Alex will be joining him at some point. Eating a snack in the mostly dark kitchen after home games has become ritual as much as anything else he and Alex do together.

Sidney has his sandwich almost made when Alex comes into the kitchen and he pushes everything towards him, trying his best to focus on his sandwich, but his thoughts are still scrambled, though Alex is part of every one of them. Even more distracting though is the face that the other man has taken the time to at least partially change. He is still wearing his suit pants but has traded his shirt for one of the ubiquitous Penguins shirts they both own.

Which any other time wouldn’t be a problem, but Sidney can’t seem to keep his attention on his sandwich. His eyes keep sliding to the contrast between Alex’s skin and the black shirt, the way even in the semi-dark of the kitchen he can see the swell of Alex’s bicep under the fabric. He really wants to slide his hand under the fabric, to touch, but something like that has never come easy to him and he isn’t supposed to be giving in to a feeling like that.

His sandwich is far less interesting than Alex, so Sidney does his best to focus on each bite, replaying the game in his head. That works as a distraction, until he thinks about each of Alex’s three goals, the excitement on his face, how he pulled Sidney close, wanting to share in the moment.

Remembering it makes the knot still in his stomach twist tighter, the heat that won’t seem to go away prickling under his skin. The kitchen seems warm, and he shifts his weight, wishing he had pushed up the sleeves of his shirt, though he is glad he never put his tie back on. He already feels like he is short of breath and having anything close around his neck wouldn’t help the feeling.

He finishes his sandwich and moves to rinse the plate, but Alex gently catches his wrist. He turns to look at the other man, who is smiling softly.

“Is fine Sidney. I clean up since you got it all out.” He squeezes Sidney’s wrist before letting go.

Sidney nods, carefully setting his plate in the dishwasher. “Thanks.” He thinks Alex can maybe tell he is a little out of sorts, which isn’t a surprise. As he steps around the other man he finally gives in, letting his trail across Alex’s back as he leaves the kitchen.

Their room is lit only by the bedside light Alex must have turned on when he came up here and it is enough for Sidney. He brushes his teeth in the dark, with his back to the mirror, not wanting to look at his reflection. It is a stupid feeling, but he is a little ashamed of himself. For months he has managed to hold off developing any feelings for Alex, beyond fondness, and even that had been impossible to ignore. Alex at home is just as inevitable as Alex on the ice and Sidney knows he is lucky it has take this long.

But no matter how he thinks about it, this is a betrayal of the Sidney who belongs here. He has no right to the Alex here, should have moved back into the guest room after Geno had left after Christmas. There would have been questions from Alex, though he is sure he would have been able to come up with a believable reason for his move. Instead, he had been weak, wanting the closeness he had grown used to on the road trips, the sense of comfort it had brought to him.

He finishes brushing his teeth and performs the rest of his ablutions before going back into the bedroom. Alex isn’t there and Sidney can’t help but think that Alex is giving him space, so he can wrap his head around what happened in the locker room. Sidney appreciates it, but the problem is he can’t figure it out. He has been trying to understand that since before Alex’s hand even left his face, when he had been wondering why Alex had kissed him.

Changing, he slides into bed but leaves the bedside lamp on for Alex. He is exhausted, physically, and more than a little emotionally and all he wants is to sleep. Tomorrow morning is soon enough to try and untangle what happened tonight. Sidney wants that, to tackle it with a clear mind but sleep feels miles away.

No position feels comfortable, and the room seems too warm, despite the fact they keep the temperature in the house down. He tosses the blanket aside and stares at the far wall, his shadow projected against the white paint. Part of him wants to get up and pace the room, until maybe he is dragged under by his exhaustion, but he doesn’t move to get up, just pulls another pillow over his head.

------

Awareness comes back to Sidney all at once and he muffles his groan in a pillow. He has no idea what time he finally fell asleep last night, after somehow managing to quiet his thoughts, and he had slept through Alex coming to bed. Not wanting to wake him, Sidney slips out of the bed and grabs his phone before heading downstairs.

He flops on the couch, drawing the blanket from the back over him to ward off the chill of the house. Leaving the TV off, he stares at the blank screen, his thoughts already feeling like they are going a thousand miles a minute. The brief moment in the locker room feels more vivid than the sixty minutes of the game and Sidney takes a deep breath, curling his hands into fists under the blanket.

If he thinks about it too much, he can remember what it had felt like when Alex had touched his lower lip and it sends a shiver down his back. He knows Alex didn’t kiss him last night because he had a moment when he forgot he isn’t this Sidney. There hasn’t been a moment that Alex hasn’t been painfully aware that he is an imposter and there was no reason for them to kiss. But neither had it been a joke. There had been no humor in Alex’s face when he had kissed him, just warmth and a steadiness Sidney has come to rely on.

Squeezing his eyes shut he slides down on the couch. The easiest thing to do would be to ask Alex why he kissed him, but he can’t imagine doing that. He is curious and he knows he is going to continue to wonder and keep his peace. Alex has been so patient through all of this, hasn’t pushed and still hasn’t asked about his weird behavior the day after he went to the library. At this point Alex is due his own secrets.

He knows it isn’t going to be easy to ignore, not when his mind keeps circling back to the moment. One thing he has gotten good at is denial, and now seems like an excellent time to practice. Drawing the blanket up he makes himself comfortable. The review for last night’s game isn’t until later today, since the All-Star break starts tomorrow, and he might just nap down here for a little bit.

-----

A gentle touch on his cheek wakes him and Sidney blinks, rubbing at his eyes. Alex is standing over him, fresh from the shower, his hair obviously damp and he slowly sits up, the blanket pooling in his lap. “Hey. What time is it?”

Alex glances at the clock on the wall. “Late enough that breakfast is stupid. You want lunch?”

Sidney nods as he loses the fight against yawning. He hadn’t really expected to fall asleep again, not with the way his thoughts had been running, but he must have been more exhausted than he thought. “Yes please.” He tosses the blanket aside. “I’m going to take a quick shower.”

With a nod Alex steps back. “Am thinking I make chicken for sandwiches. And still have plenty of fruit.”

“Sounds good.” Sidney stands, feeling his cheeks heat when he realizes how close he and Alex are standing, not quite touching. He steps back, in what he hopes seems like a natural movement, all the while cursing himself in his mind. This crush is going to make an already awkward situation worse, and he really hopes it ends naturally, sooner rather than later.

Alex is observant and Sidney knows it will only be a matter of time until he realizes what is going on. After all, Alex has the advantage here. He knows all of Sidney’s tells and there is no way he is going to be able to keep Alex from getting suspicious. Which he might already be, with the way he is watching him right now.

Scrubbing a hand through his hair Sidney smiles. “I’m going.”

He can feel Alex turn to watch him as he leaves the living room and he just barely manages to keep from shivering, the heat from his cheeks sweeping through him. Once he gets upstairs, he turns the hot water on, high enough to make his skin prickle, like he can maybe burn away his crush on Alex. The more he thinks about it, the more irritated he comes. He is old enough that having a crush is a little embarrassing, and the fact it is on a married man is a silly. By now he isn’t bothered so much by it being Alex, but the married part is where he is sticking.

He doesn’t want to be a home wrecker.

Not for the first time, Sidney wishes someone besides Alex knew what was going on. He would love to have a second opinion, but he knows how lucky he is that Alex believed the frankly unreal story of what is going on. And anyone he might tell is going to be on Alex’s side, which is fair.

The shower doesn’t help much, and Sidney goes back downstairs. He pokes his head in the living room, but Alex is in the kitchen, and he goes to join him, feeling like a glutton for punishment. Alex is at the counter, working on the fruit and Sidney takes a seat at the table. “You were on fire last night.”

Alex glances back at him with a quick smile before turning his attention back to the fruit and knife in his hand. “Is easy against Flyers. And not happen without you.”

Sidney snorts as he reaches for one of the two bottles of water on the table. “You would do it without me. I’ve seen you do it, have had you do it us on at least one occasion.” That had been an ugly game and he tries not to think about it much, but now Alex has leveled a questioning look in his direction and Sidney knows he is going to tell him about it, without him having to ask.

“It was a few years ago and we were in a slump. No matter what we did, it felt like it was impossible for us to win a game. Then we had to play the Capitals, and you guys were doing the complete opposite of us. You had won ten of your last eleven games and I knew it was going to be a shitty game, and it was. You scored a goal in each period, and it was not good.”

Sidney twists the lid off his bottle. He had gone home that night and spent the entire night on the couch, staring at the wall, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. He had never come to an answer, but it is one of those bad games he can never get out of his head. “You’re great without me.”

He thinks he might be imagining things, but even from where he is sitting, it looks like there is a hint of a blush on Alex’s cheeks. It makes him smile and he takes a drink of his water. “I mean, I hate that game and thinking about it, but I have to say, your three goals were impressive.”

Alex scoops the rest of the fruit into the bowl and puts it in the fridge before setting the knife and cutting board in the sink. He washes his hands, drying them as he leans back against the counter to look at Sidney. “You friends with your Alex?”

Sidney thinks for a moment before shaking his head. “Not really. We get along better now that we’re older than we did at first.”

He can tell by the look on Alex’s face that he is curious, and this is at least one thing Sidney doesn’t see a need to keep secret. “At first, I was annoyed. Everyone in the sport and the league kept trying to compare us, even though there was no real comparison. We were different people, who played the game differently. But no one wanted to see that, just wanted to keep pitting us against each other and that was all any interviewer ever asked us about.”

Sighing, he looks at Alex. “And to be fair, I thought you were kind of annoying. Loud and brash and you didn’t play the game the way I thought it should be played.” He smiles, because Alex is smiling, obviously not upset to be hearing this about the other him. “I never could say you don’t know how to play the game and well. And like I said, as we’ve gotten older, we’ve come to a better understanding, and I like you more than I used to.”

Which is the truth. Now when they’re forced together, for what seems to have become regular interviews and other league events he has found he likes spending time with Alex and actually has come to look forward to it.

Alex grins, wide and bright. “Maybe when you go home, will feel different about your Alex.”

Sidney, his mouth full of water, fights not to choke at the other man’s words. With all his thoughts caught on this Alex and his new, inconvenient crush, he hadn’t thought about what happens if he gets home. He manages to swallow, without further incident and he carefully sets the bottle of water down. If he gets home, he is never telling Alex about his crush, because he has a feeling the other man would never let him hear the end of it.

And hopefully the crush will go away, sooner rather than later. Having a crush on someone he is never going to see again seems like it would make for a miserable time and Sidney doesn’t need that. “If anything, I think I would be more willing to be friends with him.”

“Will make you happy Sid.”

Shaking his head Sid carefully takes another drink of water. He likes that Alex is that confident, but he and the other Alex have a lot of history to work through first. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

The timer on the oven goes off and Alex moves to get the chicken out. He sets the pan on the top of the stove and glances at Sidney. “I get tickets and room for All-Star.”

“Oh shit. Thanks, I completely forgot about that.” In the press of everything going on he had completely forgotten, and he doesn’t like the feeling. Normally, as soon as he knows he got enough votes to go, he takes care of all the logistics, but the last few weeks feel like they have been a whirlwind and he certainly hasn’t been on top of anything.

Alex shrugs as he works at cutting the hot chicken, lifting his fingers every few seconds from the meat. “Is no big deal. You take care of everything last year.”

Sidney knows Alex isn’t trying to make him feel bad, that it is simply an off-hand comment, but it does make him feel horrible. Not that he should, because this is all out of his control and really, this is Flower’s fault. If he had never gone along with his friend’s idea to see the fortune teller, everything would be normal.

Suddenly needing to move he gets up and starts getting everything out of the fridge. That gets him a quick, concerned look from Alex but he ignores it in favor of getting down plates.

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

His alarm seems freakishly loud and Sidney rolls over, reaching for the bedside table. He manages to hit his phone, but it takes a few seconds for his fingers to work enough for him to get a grip on the case and he pulls it close. Squinting against the brightness of the screen he manages to silence the alarm and he sets it back on the table before rolling over to push at Alex’s shoulder. He doubts Alex slept through the alarm, but it never hurts to make sure. Tossing the sheet aside Sidney slips out of bed and heads for the bathroom. He has no intention of taking a shower this morning. He has long since become immune to the smell of a locker room and he’ll need a shower more tonight. Today might be the skills competition, but even standing around in full gear for a long time means ending up warm and sweaty.

He brushes his teeth and splashes water on his face before leaving the bathroom. The light on Alex’s side of the bed is on and Alex is at least partially dressed, though he looks like he would much rather still be in bed. He smiles tiredly at Sidney as he heads towards the bathroom, making heat bloom in his stomach and Sidney does his best to ignore the feeling as he gets dressed. It is far too early to worry about his feelings for Alex.

He finishes dressing as Alex comes out of the bathroom and he slips his shoes on, before grabbing his hoodie, knowing it is going to be a little chilly outside. Patting his pocket to make sure he has one of the room keys he looks at Alex, who is fighting to get his hoodie on. “Do you have your key?”

He thinks Alex nods, but he can’t be sure, given the way the other man is flailing as he tries to straighten out his sleeves. For a moment he thinks about helping Alex, but this is more amusing, so he goes to the closet and pulls their gear bags out. He leans Alex’s bag against the wall as he moves the safety latch and reaches for the handle.

Alex appears next to him, his hair ruffled from the fight with his hoodie and he grabs his bag as he looks at Sidney. “Could have stayed stuck Sidney.”

Sidney smiles as he steps into the hallway. “I knew you could manage to get out on your own.”

That makes Alex visibly brighten and Sidney swallows against the sudden knot in his throat, because that is a good feeling, having that affect on Alex and he needs to not do that again. He is already treading on dangerous ground and he doesn’t want to get any more tangled up with Alex than he is. This odd play acting at a platonic marriage is all he can let himself have.

Geno joins them at the elevator and Sidney focuses on his face. No matter how much longer he is stuck here Sidney doesn’t think he is ever going to get used to seeing his friend in Capitals’ colors. It is disconcerting. “Morning.”

“Morning Sid, Sanja.” Geno presses the call button.

They pile into the elevator and Sidney hits the button for the ground floor. The elevator glides to a stop on the fourth floor and Stamkos pokes his head in, smiling when he sees the three of them. He takes the corner across from Geno, leaning his bag against the wall next to him.

On the third floor they pick up Price, who sighs and smiles ruefully when he sees them. He nudges his bag towards Sidney. “I really shouldn’t be surprised to see the four of you, but I am.”

Sidney hits the door close button “Quick was even less excited to see Alex and I then you are.”

Price looks between he and Alex. “You would understand more if you got in the net and took a shot from him in the face. It is enough to make you wonder what went wrong in your life.”

Alex seems suddenly intrigued by the idea and Sidney elbows him, glad Alex keeps staying close, even though it isn’t doing anything to help the almost constant flutter in the pit of his stomach. “Don’t even think about it.”

The second floor is Perry, who looks exhausted as he nods at all of them before turning to face the doors, his bag leaning against him. When the elevator reaches the lobby Sidney adjusts his bag and holds the door open button. Perry heads out, and it takes Price a minute to wrangle his bag but he manages. Stamkos and Geno follow and Alex steps out, arm across the door to hold it, so Sidney can slip out before the doors slide closed.

Others are already congregating in small groups and Sidney drops his bag to the floor and stands over it. No matter what city they are in, it always feels like the buses to take them to the arena are running late, and this time seems like no exception. “Every time.”

Alex stifles a yawn. “Is part of All-Star. Not be the same without it.”

Sidney rubs at the back of his neck, wincing when he hits a tender spot. “Just once, it would be nice if things went smoothly.”

“Maybe happen.” Moving closer Alex raises his hand, fingers not quite touching the back of his neck. “Want help?”

For a split second he thinks about saying no, but the twinge in his neck is likely to get worse as they day goes on, which is going to put a damper on his enjoyment of All-Star. Plus, Alex is offering, with a warm smile and it isn’t like a little more touching is going to anything to change his feelings. Not with how far in he feels like he is. He nods, turning to give Alex more room.

Alex’s hand settles on the back of his neck, big and warm and Sidney drops his head forward, trying to hide the shiver that runs through him. Fingers brush down the back of his neck and then Alex rubs at the sore spot on his neck, circles with just enough pressure and Sidney squeezes his eyes closed. It almost hurts, but it feels good and he shifts a little closer.

He is only vaguely aware of the conversations around him, Geno’s voice being the most prominent but he can’t seem to focus on any of them. The steady pressure of Alex’s hand and fingers is making his brain short circuit and if not for breathing being an automatic function, Sidney isn’t sure he would even be doing that. And it quickly becomes obvious this is something Alex does on a regular basis, given the perfect pressure and the fact he seems to know exactly where his fingers need to be.

Sidney knows he would be able to stay like this all day, but a shrill yell of buses startles him and he opens his eyes. There is a man dressed in a polo and khakis with a clipboard and NHL lanyard around his neck hurrying around the lobby, pointing in the direction of the doors. With a sigh Sidney bends down to grab his bag. “And here we go.”

Some of the others are a little slower on the uptake and Sidney finds himself towards the head of the pack, with Geno and Alex right behind him. It is a little cool outside, though still warmer than Pittsburgh but Sidney still shivers. The buses are in a neat line, the doors to the storage areas open and Sidney slides his bag in the front bus, before stepping aside so Geno and Alex can do the same as he climbs onto the bus.

The heat is on, and Sidney takes a seat a few rows back, near the window. Geno settles in front of him and Alex drops into the seat next to him. Yawning, Sidney tucks his hands into the pocket of his hoodie and slumps down in the seat, knowing they are still going to be waiting as gear gets loaded and people get on the buses.

From between the seats, Geno looks like he is ready to fall asleep again, his head resting against the glass. Sidney understands the feeling, since it feels like the alarm went off early this morning and it is going to take forever to get the buses loaded. But the thought of putting his head against the cool glass isn’t appealing and he quickly glances at Alex. The other man won’t mind, and it isn’t like anyone is going to think anything of it.

After all, they’re married.

He wiggles a little closer and rests his head on Alex’s shoulder. The movement makes Alex start a little and Sidney glances up at him. “I am not going to drool on you.”

Alex’s laugh is low and Sidney can feel it through his body. “Not sorry Sid.”

Sidney closes his eyes, listening to the sounds of the others getting on the bus and settling down. He has no idea how long it takes before the bus starts moving and he doesn’t open his eyes when it does. There is a steady murmur of voices around them, though no one seems awake enough to cause much of a ruckus. He never really falls asleep, though he does lose track of how long the drive takes.

They finally reach the arena and Sidney sits up, and yawns. “Is the hotel on the other side of town?”

Alex grins as he stretches. He drapes his arm across Sidney’s shoulder, drawing him closer and brushing a kiss to his temple. “It is. Have to get experience of away game.”

Sidney glances down at his rumpled hoodie, trying to ignore the heat from Alex’s simple, absent kiss. “Without the suits, which is fine.”

They all pile out of the bus and Sidney lingers at the back of the crowd, since his gear is buried at the bottom of the cargo area. Once the crowd clears Sid grabs his and Alex’s bags, dragging them out until Alex grabs his and they follow the others towards the arena. The parking lot is empty, as it is too early for the press or fans and they straggle across it, towards the double doors that are standing open.

A short hallway leads to a large room, with tables laden with breakfast. Bags are stacked against the wall and Sidney drops his gear there, Alex and Geno dropping theirs on top, which makes Sidney roll his eyes with fond exasperation.

Sidney loads a plate up with the healthiest options he can find, though he does end up taking a blueberry muffin, because it looks much better than the bran muffins, which are being roundly ignored by everyone. The same groups from the lobby have formed, which isn’t a surprise. It always seems to take a few hours for everybody to forget the team rivalries and remember they are just here to have fun and that nothing that happens this weekend carries over into the season.

-----

Sidney leans back on the bench and wiggles his toes. They’re in kind of a lull as they get reorganized for the next skill competition, but something is taking a little longer. None of the other players seem worried and Sidney rolls his shoulders.

Alex, who has been on the ice bullshitting with Kovalchuk and Eric Staal comes over. Smiling he moves their helmets, so he can lean against the boards. “Look bored.”

Shaking his head Sidney leans forward, hands resting on the edge of the boards. “No. Just ready to move on.” He looks around, but no one is paying attention to them. “This is not my favorite part of All-Star.” He enjoys seeing what the others can do, but the change over from event to event seems to take forever and since he doesn’t participate in every skill, he has a lot of time to sit around and just observe. Which is fine, when there is something going on, but just sitting around like this makes him feel like he is going to go stir-crazy. When he is in full gear he expects to be moving and thinking.

Alex glances over his shoulder, to where there is still some ongoing conversation is going on about what ever is supposed to happen next. “Maybe get moving soon.”

Sidney nods, feeling his neck twinge a little, but it isn’t anything like it had been this morning. “I hope so.”

-----

The air in the hotel lobby is comfortably cool and Sidney is glad to be back. The Skills competition had been fun and he feels oddly exhausted for the fact there was a lot of down time today. And throughout the day everyone had loosened up, until there had been a lot of joking, chirping and mock shoving going around. Tomorrow is bound to be even more exhausting and Sidney is ready to eat and sleep and take a shower.

He glances at Alex. “Do you want to shower and then eat?”

Alex scrubs a hand through his hair, making it stick up. “Make me wish they have room service.” He smiles at Sidney. “I think shower then eat. Not want to clear the restaurant.”

“Yeah.” Now that they are out of the bus, Sidney can tell just how much they smell and he is glad the hotel lobby is mostly empty and he hopes they don’t come across anyone in the elevator. Geno is a few steps behind him. “Geno, shower, then food?”

Geno nods and Sidney hits the call button for the elevator.

-----

It takes Sidney a moment to realize why he is awake and he shivers when he does. The room is uncomfortably cold. After his shower the room had seemed overly warm and Sidney had turned the air conditioner up higher while Alex had been in the shower. When they had come back upstairs, he had neglected to turn it down and now a real penguin would almost be comfortable in here.

Sidney shivers and blindly reaches for the duvet, reluctant to move. His wild groping leaves him with nothing and he has a feeling either he or Alex managed to kick it to the floor sometime before the room got cold. Moving the sheet will mean giving up what little heat he has and despite being cold, he is comfortable.

He rolls over, hoping maybe Alex just stole the duvet but there are no signs of it pooled on or around the other man. And Alex, damn him, seems impervious to the cold, his breathing steady and deep.

There is a lot of room between them and Sidney moves a little closer. Up until now, they’ve been scrupulous about keeping to their sides of the bed, but he doesn’t think Alex would begrudge him a chance to stay warm, and this is much less disruptive than him getting up to find the duvet. And the more sleep he gets now, the less testy he’ll be tomorrow for the game and the following impromptu party they have every year.

He stops when he can feel Alex’s warmth sinking into him, not quite close enough to touch, but there isn’t much space between them. He waits, half expecting Alex to ask him what is going on, but there is no change in Alex’s breathing and Sidney closes his eyes. It takes some time before he feels warm enough to fall asleep, but when he does, it doesn’t take long.

-----

There is an arm across his waist, heavy and warm and Sidney wakes up enough to remember creeping closer to Alex, the room freezing cold. They hadn’t been this close, but Alex seems to have taken it upon himself to close the distance between them. The room is still a little chilly, but he can’t tell anymore as embarrassment sends heat sweeping through him, coupled with the nearness of Alex and Sidney feels like he is going to burst into flames.

It is still early enough there isn’t enough light coming in around the curtains for Sidney to see Alex’s face, but he is sure the other man is smiling. At least it means Alex can’t see the color of his cheeks.

“If want to cuddle Sidney, just have to ask.”

Sidney ducks his head, feeling the softness of Alex’s shirt against his forehead and he can hear the laughter in his voice. “I didn’t want to cuddle. I was freezing.”

Alex makes a sound like he doesn’t believe him, his hand sweeping up and down Sidney’s back, like he isn’t in any hurry to move.

The gentle touch feels good, comforting instead of arousing and Sidney doesn’t want to move. He knows their alarm is going to be going off soon and the rest of the day is going to be hectic. From here they go to the arena so they can have a chance to warm up before having practice. After that they get to sit around and have lunch while the west coast gets to have their practice. Then they get to kill even more time before the actual game.

Sidney curls his hands into loose fists, eyes squeezed shut. He needs to move, but it feels impossible, like Alex’s arm is a band keeping him in place. On some level he feels like he is taking advantage of Alex like this, but the other man is fully aware of who he is, so this is on both of them.

He has no idea how long they stay like that, the only movement between them the rise and fall of their chests and the steady sweep of Alex’s hand. Part of him wants to tip his head back, to press his lips to the underside of Alex’s jaw, but he tamps down on that urge, pressing his fingers into the palms of his hands. It makes him feel like there is nothing beyond the two of them and he startles when the alarm sounds. Alex briefly stills the movement of his hand, before resuming and Sidney would love to not move, but his alarm is really annoying and they do need to get moving.

He carefully wiggles from under Alex’s arm before rolling over and reaching over for his phone. He turns the alarm off before turning on the bedside lamp, making Alex groan. “Sorry. I’m going to go shower.”

Slipping out of the bed he grabs what he is wearing to the arena, as well as his toiletry bag, not wanting to have to go back into the room. He pushes the bathroom door closed and drops everything on the counter before leaning back against the door. Taking a deep breath, he presses the heels of his hands to his eyes until it almost hurts. It makes him feel a little more clearheaded and he sighs.

He is supposed to be avoiding any entanglement, and yet it feels like he is subconsciously sabotaging himself. Last night he should have just gotten up to get the duvet but he had given into his selfish urge to curl closer to Alex, knowing Alex wouldn’t mind. And he hadn’t, if his gentle teasing and the smooth movement of his hand are anything to go by. Those little moments are making it hard for him to stay on the line he is trying and failing to hold between he and Alex.

Shoving away from the door Sidney strips, leaving his clothing piled on the floor. He turns on the shower, the water just barely warm enough to keep him from getting goosebumps. It wakes him up, but it isn’t enough to clear his thoughts and Sidney wishes he could take longer in the shower, but he isn’t sure if Alex wants one and he didn’t set the alarm to give them enough time to be lazy today.

Alex is sitting up, back against the headboard and he smiles warmly at him, obviously not as thrown off by the way they woke up this morning as he is. Sidney smiles back as he dumps his stuff back in his bag, because even feeling annoyed with himself, reacting to Alex’s smile is impossible not to do. “You going to shower?”

“Just quick one.” Tossing the sheet aside Alex climbs out of the bed and stretches.

Once Alex is in the bathroom Sidney takes the time to toss the duvet back up on the bed and straightens out his bag. His fingers brush against the ring box he had tossed in his bag last night, wanting to keep it somewhere safe. He closes his fingers around the box, though he quickly drops it and stands, reminding himself it isn’t actually his, and never will be.

Scrubbing a hand through his hair Sidney grabs his hoodie from where he dropped it last night and pulls it on. As he pops his head through the hole, he glances to the alarm clock on his side of the bed. They have maybe ten minutes before the buses are supposed to be here and he has no idea how much longer Alex is planning on being in the shower.

He gets his answer a few minutes later when Alex comes out of the bathroom, fully dressed, his hair sticking up in damp spikes and he does like Sidney did, just tossing everything on his bag. He grabs his wallet and phone before looking at him.

Sidney shows his own wallet and phone, as well as the room key and Alex nods, heading for the door. The hallway is quiet and they head for the elevator, Sidney keeping an eye out for Geno, not sure if he should worry about texting the other man to make sure he is going to make it. He hits the down button and steps back, hands tucked in his pocket as he waits.

Alex is warm and quiet next to him and it is tempting to inch a little closer. He knows he shouldn’t, but this morning is still fresh in his mind and he has a feeling it is going to haunt him all day. It makes him glad today’s game isn’t for any points, because he isn’t entirely sure he is going to be able to focus on it. He can almost still feel the weight of Alex’s hand on his back and he hates how it feels so much more intimate than any of the dozens of other times Alex has touched him since this started. Being in bed shouldn’t have changed things that much, and to Sidney it feels like it has, at least for him.

Alex however, seems oblivious to the way he is feeling. He is just as close, arm brushing his and Sidney suddenly wishes he was better at talking. Then maybe this wouldn’t be so bad, he would be able to bring himself to ask Alex the one question that is still bothering him, how he can be so calm about this. He wants to, but the words sit heavy on his tongue so he does this best to ignore them, which works about as well as ignoring everything else he has been trying to ignore.

The elevator stops, the doors sliding open and Sidney decides not to worry about Geno. There is a chance he is already downstairs, and even if he isn’t, he won’t be late. He doesn’t think he can ever recall Geno being late. Entering the elevator Sidney takes his spot near the buttons, pushing the one for the first floor.

As usual Alex settles close, leaning back against the wall and Sidney likes it. It fits into his habit of liking things to be the same way, the way Flower sits with him on the plane, Alex a few rows behind them. He likes order in things and he is glad Alex understands that, even with all the chaos around them.

On their way down the elevator fills, and they exchange quiet nods with each other, no one quite awake enough to chat. Sidney waits until everyone is out before he slips off the elevator and the lobby is still mostly empty, like a lot of the other players are waiting until the bitter end to come downstairs. He can’t really blame them, with as long as it took the buses to get here yesterday, but he isn’t the type to do that.

He rolls his shoulders and neck before stretching, arms pushed above his head. From the corner of his eye he catches Alex watching him and he slants a look at him.

Alex grins, knowing he has been caught and he slips a little closer, his voice pitched low when he speaks. “Neck okay?”

Sidney nods. “Yeah. You really helped yesterday.”

A proud smile pulls at Alex’s mouth and he nudges Sidney.

He bumps back and in response Alex tugs him against his side and Sidney leans into him, knowing this is the problem. For all his willpower when it comes to other things, he can’t seem to apply that when it comes to Alex, no matter how hard he tries. The man is like a black hole, implacable and impossible to escape.

Another elevator reaches the lobby, the door opening to disgorge more hockey players, including Geno, who make a beeline for them, frowning slightly as he does. He stops, dark gaze darting between them before settling on Sidney, like he is the responsible one. “Not get me.”

Sidney shrugs, no mean feat given the weight of Alex’s arm across his shoulders. “Sorry. I figured you were already down here, since we were almost a little late getting down here ourselves.”

That makes the look on Geno’s face change, his eyes going wide as his eyebrows jump and Sidney has no basis for it, in either universe, but he can tell Geno took his words the wrong way. He shakes his head, even as Alex laughs next to him and Sidney is kind of tempted to elbow him, even as he feels his cheeks flush. “No! Not for that.”

A couple people are looking towards them, mildly curious about his outburst, but it quickly dies away since no one actually heard anything. Geno is still looking like he doesn’t quite believe him and Sid knows his reaction didn’t help any. He looks down at his feet. “I should have just set the alarm earlier.”

It still sounds like a lame excuse, but he is going to stand by it and Geno just shakes his head, even as Alex’s laugh finally dies away. He feels Alex kiss his temple, the fleeting touch sending a wash of heat through him, even as he relaxes a little and it feels odd. The right thing to do would be pull away, to put a little distance between them, but he can’t seem to make to muster up the will to move and so he doesn’t.

-----

The locker room feel freakishly warm and Sidney strips his jersey off, leaving it hanging from the back by the strap. He leans down and unlaces his skates, wiggling his toes as he ignores the way Alex laughs at him as he drops into his own stall, leaning down to untie his own ridiculous yellow laces. Rolling his shoulders Sidney drops his head forward and takes a deep breath.

This is only the first intermission and he doesn’t feel tired like he would during a normal game. That isn’t to say no one is trying, but they are all being careful, not taking any stupid risks, no hits that might lead to an injury. No one wants to risk being out when every win is going to count the most.

So far they are up two zero. Price has been a wall, the defense has been solid and they have been keeping Quick occupied with what feels like endless shots. So far it has been a good game and he has been having fun. The rest of the team feels the same way, quick chatter filling the room as they strip off their gear to get a breather before the next period.

He feels Alex nudge him and he turns his head. The other man is smiling at him, his hair standing up at all angles and Sidney can’t help but laugh, feeling some of the knot from this morning disappear.

Whatever happened this morning between them didn’t change anything.

-----

The puck rolls off his stick, headed toward the net, but Sidney can’t tell if it is going to go in or not. He can’t really see the net, not with all the bodies in front, a crush of colors and moving limbs and sticks. This is a last ditch shot to try for the win. During the second period the West had managed to score two quick goals, tying the game but then nothing had happened for either team. Most of the third period has passed with dozens of shots on each goal, but no one has managed to score and Sidney knows there isn’t much time left on the clock.

From behind him he hears a yell, and a few seconds later he is trapped against the boards by Alex, his stick awkward between them as the others join in, shoving him harder into the boards as they yell. It takes him a moment to realize the puck did some how manage to make it into the net and he looks up at the scoreboard above center ice.

There are three seconds left on the clock and under East it shows a three, while under West there is a two. He laughs, watching as Alex manages to move enough to get the others off him and moving in the direction of the bench, since the game is over. The west is good, but Sidney knows they aren’t going to score in three seconds, even if the faceoff wouldn’t take that long.

He looks at Alex, who has moved back, but is still close and smiling. “Holy shit. I did not think that was going to go in. I was just hoping I would get lucky.”

“Might have bounce off me. Am not sure, with everyone moving anyway.” Alex skates back. “Know you get it Sid.”

The conviction in Alex’s words makes Sidney warm and he is glad his cheeks are still flushed from the game as he pushes away from the boards to join Alex. “You might not have been, if you had seen what I was shooting at.”

At the bench the whole team is standing and cheering and Sidney takes the appreciation, because he knows the next time any of these people are on the ice together, things are going to be a lot less friendly.

-----

Sidney takes a long drink of his water, feeling better as he does. He sets his glass back down among the many empty glasses, both normal and shot that litter the table. There are also quite a few beer bottles, but those belong to any number of different hockey players and he isn’t sure anyone remembers which bottle belongs to who, except his and Alex’s, which he has carefully kept away from the rest of the mess.

A few of the other tables around the bar are in a same state and Sidney almost feels bad for the servers, but he knows the mess will be made up for in tips. He has ever intention of tipping well to make up for their table and he knows Geno is the same way. Alex tips generously too, but Sidney is starting to think he might have to remind the other man to do it.

He is alone at the table right now, which is fine. His bottle of beer is half empty, and this is the second of the night. There have also been a few shots, that Alex insisted on, but those were long enough ago that he can’t even remember what they tasted like. For the last hour or so he has been going between this beer and his water and he has no intention of drinking anymore. Their flight home tomorrow is later than the flight out was, but he doesn’t want to be hungover for it.

Alex is at one of the other tables right now, laughing with Stamkos, Geno and someone else Sidney can’t see from where he is sitting, not that it matters. The other man has been making his rounds since everyone got here, but every fifteen minutes or so he’ll come back and slide onto the seat with him, close enough he can smell his soap and it sets up a flutter in the pit of Sidney’s stomach he has been doing his hardest to ignore.

Which feels impossible when the flutters settle down just in time for Alex to rejoin him. And as though summoned by his thoughts Alex gets up from where he is and heads towards him, a drink in hand. Sidney isn’t sure how many drinks Alex has had, given he hasn’t been at the table for all of them, but he isn’t going to judge or try to slow him down. Alex is more than capable of taking care of himself and this is the first time Sidney has seen him drink. After the way they have been living since last year, Alex deserves a few drinks.

Alex sits down and moves closer, smiling, his gaze hooded as he does. “Having a good time?” His voice is pitched low, like anyone is close enough to hear them.

“Yeah.” Sidney takes a drink of his beer, hoping it will drown out the feeling of Alex’s thigh pressing against his own. With the game won and, in the past, he doesn’t have anything else to think about but this morning and Alex being this close is making it hard to think about anything else. In fact, he is pretty sure this morning is going to haunt him for the rest of his life. “Are you?”

Alex nods as he finishes his drink and sets it on the table with all the others. “Is good to talk to people not see often. And only have to play one game to see them all.”

Sidney nods. He hasn’t exactly been circulating like Alex, but plenty of the others have come over to share his table for a little while and he has gotten caught in conversations with some others when he has made trips to the bar. “Yeah.”

Smile going soft Alex leans in and presses a kiss to Sidney’s cheek. He glances at the ring on Sidney’s finger before sitting back. “Want another beer?”

The flutter in his stomach feels like it has turned into a tornado and Sidney shakes his head. “No. One of us has to actually be functioning tomorrow so we can get home.”

Making a rude sound Alex reaches over to rub his thumb over Sidney’s ring, his smile having gone a little sad. “I still get to airport Sid. Just sleep on plane if have to.” He draws his thumb up the back of Sidney’s hand, fingers curling loosely around his wrist. With a gentle squeeze he withdraws and stands up. “I be back. I apologize to Quick.”

Sidney manages a laugh, but he thinks it might sound a little strangled. “I’m not sure that is going to work, but you can try.”

Alex shrugs. “It work until next time we play Kings, then he forget I say sorry.”

Taking a deep breath Sidney nods as he watches Alex settle at one of the tables and he reaches for his water. He takes a long drink, feeling disconnected from his body. The flutter in his stomach seems to have taken up residence throughout his body, leaving a faint tremble in his hand and he feels alternately hot and cold. His heart feels like it is racing and he can’t believe such an innocent touch has him feeling like this and Sidney drains his glass.

He sets it down on the table and squeezes his eyes shut, trying to think about anything else.

-----

Laughing, Sidney takes a drink of his water. He has no idea how long Stamkos, Hall and Toews have been at his table, but they’ve been having a good time and it again makes Sidney glad their flight is late tomorrow. Setting his glass down he sees Alex and Geno coming towards the table and the other three men grin and disappear.

Alex is still upright, but he is leaning into Geno, arm across his shoulders and it is clear Alex has moved into the territory of having had enough to drink that he isn’t drunk, but is well into being tipsy. He is smiling, and only seems to be paying attention to him, like Geno isn’t half holding him up.

Sidney slides off the seat and stands up, looking at Alex, who leans towards him. “You were saying about making it to the airport?”

Alex grins and slips from under Geno’s arm to slide his arm across Sidney’s shoulder, drawing him in until they aren’t quite touching. “You make sure I get to airport. Not leave me here.”

Sidney shakes his head and he can’t help but smile, even as he takes a step back because he isn’t sure what Alex is going to do. He can’t quite put a name to the warmth in the other man’s gaze, but he isn’t going to run the risk Alex might do something he has to dodge away from, not with Geno still standing there like a shadow. “No, I wouldn’t do that, if only for the team.”

That makes Geno laugh, and he gets a dirty look from Alex before turning his attention to Sidney. “You want help with Sanja?”

“No. I think I can manage to get my husband back to our room.” And Sidney wants to forever forget his reaction to those simple words, the heat that rushes through him, settling in the pit of his stomach. He shifts his weight, thinking about a nasty game with the Flyers rather than his sudden want to lean into Alex.

Reaching for his wallet he pulls out a few bills and holds them out to Geno. “Would you mind closing our tab? I think the sooner I get Alex in bed, the better.”

Geno waves the money off, tucking his hands into his pockets like he expects Sidney to try and stuff the money in his hands or pockets. “I take care of it all Sid. Make up for dinner the first night.”

The stubborn look on Geno’s face is enough to tell Sidney he isn’t going to win, so he ends up putting one of the bills on the still messy table for the waiter. “Alright. Thanks Geno. If we don’t see you tomorrow, have a safe flight and we’ll see you for the next game.”

Geno nods and smiles. “Yes. Have good night, Sid, Sanja.”

“Night.” Sidney grabs Alex’s arm, tugging him in the direction of the door separating the bar from the rest of the hotel. “Is this the reason you got us a later flight home?”

Alex shakes his head as he pulls his arm free from Sidney’s grip, only to take hold of his hand, twisting their fingers together as they head towards the lobby. “No. Just seem nice to not have two early flights.”

“Then it’s a good thing we have stuff in the freezer for dinner when we get home, because I doubt either of us are going to feel much like actual cooking.” Sid knows he is just talking to fill the air, because it gives him something to think about besides the fact he and Alex are holding hands. “Or we could just order something. That might be even easier.”

Alex’s grin is easy as they wander across the lobby to the elevators. “Whatever you want Sid. After that long of flight, anything taste good.”

Sidney isn’t sure about that, but he doesn’t say anything. He pushes the button for the elevator and all three elevators must be on the upper floors, because they stand there staring at the doors, as the indicators above each elevator door moves, up or down, but never comes any closer to the ground floor. He understands it is a big hotel, but the early morning, game and alcohol is starting to catch up with him and he really just wants to maybe get seven hours of sleep, which might not happen, if he can’t get this morning out of his mind.

Something brushes against his hand, light enough he almost thinks he might be imagining it, until he realizes Alex’s thumb is brushing against his hand in gentle strokes, almost absently as they wait for an elevator. He steals a quick look at Alex, who seems completely unaware of the gentle touch, like it is something so common he doesn’t even have to think about it.

That makes something twist in Sidney’s chest, that settles in his stomach, a feeling of longing and he squeezes his eyes shut, which is bad, because it makes the slow motion of Alex’s thumb more intense and for a brief moment, he can’t help but wonder what it would feel like to have Alex’s hand slide over his flank without the barrier or clothing between them, or curled over his knee, encouraging him to spread his legs as he settles over him.

The elevator dings, startling him and he lets Alex pull him into the empty car. Alex leans against the wall near the buttons, feet apart and he tugs, his gaze warm. Sidney thinks about not moving, but he gives in to the gentle pressure, until he can feel the inside of Alex’s legs against his. With a smile, Alex leans over and pushes the button for their floor, before curling his free hand over Sidney’s hip.

Sidney feels pinned in place, confusion warring with a prickle of arousal he knows he shouldn’t be thinking about, but it is impossible not to. He has no idea what is going on. Alex has always been tactile, but there is an undercurrent here he isn’t sure about. It might be the alcohol, but he isn’t going to let anything happen that they might both end up regretting.

He isn’t sure if they are playing by a new set of rules, but rather than stand here with his arm awkwardly held out of the way of Alex, he wraps his hand around Alex’s wrist, fingers pressing against the soft skin on the inside of his arm. It sends a thrill through him and he shivers, which in turn makes Alex smile. He knows how easy it would easy it would be to lean in and kiss the smile off Alex’s mouth. The kiss from New Year’s is something he thinks about at least once a day, no matter how bad things are and he still can’t believe he actually did that.

Luckily, before he can get the courage up to do something that stupid again the elevator comes to a stop and Sidney reluctantly steps back, Alex’s hand falling from his hip, though he doesn’t let go of his hand. The hallway is empty and when they get to their room Sidney has to reach into his pocket with his other hand to get the keycard, as Alex evidently isn’t in any hurry to let go of his hand. He manages to get the door open with a minimum of fuss, and Alex crowds him through.

The only light in the room is coming from the lamp on his side of the bed, leaving most of it in shadow. Which is good, when Alex lifts his hand and brushes a kiss to his knuckles, because Sidney knows he is bright red, and at least this way he doesn’t have to answer any embarrassing questions. Alex finally releases his hand and goes into the bathroom.

Sidney takes the opportunity to glance at his phone, not surprised to see it is almost two in the morning. He tosses his phone on the foot of the bed before turning to his bag. Digging out his toiletry bag Sidney gets out the bottle of aspirin and the one of Tylenol he carries and tosses them on the bed. The ice bucket is full of water and he sighs. Making sure the key is back in his pocket he grabs the bucket and slips out of the room.

When he gets back, Alex is flopped on his side of the bed, face buried in the pillow, still fully clothed, including his shoes. The duvet and sheet are pooled at the bottom of the bed, which Sidney is grateful for, as he wasn’t looking forward to having to fight with the other man to get the bedding. With an exasperated sigh Sidney sets the bucket down and moves to the bed. He pokes Alex in the side. “Is that how you plan on spending all night like this?”

Alex groans and nods, before turning his head so he can look at Sidney, eyes hooded. “Am not moving again tonight.”

Sidney rolls his eyes and goes to the foot of the bed. He quickly unties Alex’s shoes and tosses them towards where their bags are, but leaves his socks on. “You’re on your own for your belt.” He wants Alex to be comfortable if he’s planning on sleeping like this tonight, but getting his belt is a line Sidney isn’t going to cross.

Heaving a sigh, Alex moves on to his side and undoes the hasp of his belt. He pulls it free from the loops before dropping it to the floor and collapsing back into the bed. “Anything else?”

“I’m sure I can think of something.” Nudging Alex’s belt out of the way so he doesn’t step on it, Sidney retreats back to the ice bucket. He tosses a handful of ice into the cup before filling it with water. He grabs the Tylenol on his way back towards the bed. Handing the glass of water to Alex he gets the lid of the Tylenol and pours two into his hand. “Take these. Might make you feel less miserable tomorrow.”

Alex takes the pills and downs them with a long drink of water. He sets the glass on the bedside table before flopping back onto the bed, eyes half open as he looks up at Sidney.

A shiver runs through him and Sidney looks away, eyes settling on Alex’s left hand, that is curled loosely against the sheets. His wedding ring is dark against the sheets and Sidney knows with his luck lately, the ring will come off in the middle of the night and they’ll have to tear the hotel room apart to find it and run the risk of missing their flight.

Sidney kneels on the edge of the bed, knee against Alex’s hip. He leans over him feels Alex shift and he rests a hand on his back. “I’m just getting your ring so we don’t the lose the damn thing and have to find it in the morning.”

Alex’s response is somewhere between a laugh and a sigh and Sidney takes it for a go-ahead. He leans further, fingers skimming down Alex’s arm and hand until he can get a grip on the ring. Pulling it off he curls his fingers around it so he doesn’t lose it and sits back, until the only point of contact between them is his knee. Even that almost feels like too much and he moves to stand.

His foot is barely on the floor before Alex is moving, hand curling around his wrist, keeping him in place. He looks at Alex, mouth feeling dry at the familiar warmth in his gaze and heat runs through him, settling in the pit of his stomach before running through his limbs like lava. Alex smiles, warm and lazy, squeezing gently, thumb stroking against his skin.

“Love you, Sidney.”

There is a dull roaring in his ears and Sidney swears he can almost feel his heartbeat in his throat. This entire night has felt heavy with what might happen, stoked with Alex’s every return to the table at the bar, the way he had been leaning into him, the touches, the looks. The elevator had been a surprise, but Sidney had been ready to ignore it, like he has everything else. This though, isn’t something he was prepared for and he is going to blame it on alcohol.

He knows the words aren’t for him and he steps back, gently pulling free from Alex’s loose grip. “Go to sleep. You need it.” His voice sounds strangled, but Alex seems unaware of it, with the way he smiles before settling deeper into the bed.

Sidney feels lightheaded as he steps further away from the bed and he nearly trips over the edge of it, preoccupied as he keeps replaying Alex’s words in mind. They had been soft and sincere, heavy with feeling and even just thinking about it makes something bloom hot in his chest. He kneels next to his bag, feeling unsteady and he digs through his bag for the ring boxes.

Finding them he puts Alex’s away before pulling his off and tucking it back into the velvet. He drops both boxes back into the bag and gets to his feet, feeling adrift. His exhaustion is suddenly gone, lost in the wash of adrenaline from Alex’s words, not that he is any hurry to share the bed with Alex. The thought makes him feel uncomfortable in a way he hasn’t since the first morning he woke up.

He moves to the sitting area and sprawls out on the couch, but like he suspected, sleep is the furthest thing from his mind. The ceiling above the couch is as uninteresting as the one above the bed and he closes his eyes. With the quiet in the room, he can hear the steady sound of Alex’s breathing and he sighs.

None of this has been easy, but he has a feeling this might have complicated it more than his crush ever could. Even knowing the words weren’t for him, he can’t shake the way it made him feel and he is going to have to work really hard to not let affect their day-to-day interactions. They’ve worked hard to gain this equilibrium between them and he doesn’t want to lose that. He has come to rely on that and to rely on Alex.

He spends almost an hour staring at the ceiling, until his heart feels like it has settled down and his back starts to ache a little from how uncomfortable the couch is. Only then does he finally give up, knowing he needs to get some sleep. He rolls from the couch and grabs his toothbrush and takes more time than he normally would to brush his teeth and get ready for bed.

Changing into the t-shirt and shorts he has been sleeping in, he grabs the sheet. He flicks it up over Alex, who doesn’t even move and he slides into the bed, his back to the other man. He turns off the light, plunging the room into darkness and he knows it is a long time before he falls asleep.

-----

Sidney has no idea what time he wakes up, since he neglected to set an alarm this morning, figuring he was going to be awake well before they had to be at the airport. He carefully stretches, staying on his side of the bed, not that he thinks Alex is awake. The other man’s breathing is still deep and even and Sidney isn’t in a hurry to wake him.

As nice as it would be to sleep a little more, as last night had been less than restful, his stomach has a different idea. Dinner last night was a long time ago and he sighs as he slides out of bed to get dressed. Making sure he has his key and wallet he ducks into the bathroom to brush his teeth and take care of his other needs, including a shower.

The hallway is quiet and as he makes his way towards the elevator Sidney can’t help but wonder how many people are like Alex, sleeping off last night. There is an older couple on the elevator and Sidney nods politely to them as he joins them and he waits for them to get off in the lobby before he exits the elevator.

Even the lobby feels oddly quiet, and Sidney makes his way to the restaurant. He takes a table near the entrance, on the off-chance Alex comes down, not that he expects it. At this point he is starting to think he is going to have to poke him with his stick to get him moving. He orders breakfast, including a massive triple berry muffin to take up for Alex. He has every intention of letting Alex sleep until they absolutely have to leave to make it on time.

Geno comes strolling in five minutes later and he waves him down. The other man slides into the seat across from him, looking at the other empty chair. “No Sanja?”

Sidney leans back in his chair. “Nope. He’s still sleeping off last night.”

Laughing, Geno stretches. “I stop not long after you two go upstairs.”

Looking around the still mostly empty tables Sidney smiles. “I’m thinking from the look, not everyone was as smart as you and I.”

The waiter swings by to take Geno’s order before disappearing. They start talking, hockey of course and Sidney throws himself into it. Talking hockey is easy and it gives him something to think about besides the way Alex had looked at him, the words, the shivery feeling that had run down his spine even though Alex hadn’t really been talking to him. Even thinking about it is enough to send warmth skittering through him and he pushes the feeling away, focusing on what Geno is saying instead.

-----

Before Sidney can reach for the receipt Geno snatches it from the table. He grins, holding it just out of reach. “I pay Sid.”

Sidney pulls Alex’s muffin a little closer. “You paid last night.”

Geno shrugs. “And you and Sanja pay for dinner second night. Is only fair I get breakfast.”

“Fine.” Sidney isn’t in a hurry to go back upstairs, but there isn’t really a way to drag this out any longer. He needs to make sure Alex is up, so they can think about heading to the airport so they can clear security and still make their flight. Which is all true, but Sidney isn’t ready to face Alex, hadn’t even been able to look at him, even though he knows he was still asleep. He isn’t sure what he is going to say if Alex wants to talk about last night, if he is even going to remember last night.

He doesn’t think Alex was drunk, but he obviously had enough to blur the lines between him and the other Sidney, which is something he had never anticipated. For some foolish reason he had expected that line to stay there, like the invisible wall in the bed. Now though, he is going to have to remember what it was like to hear Alex say those words. Which might be all he remembers from this weekend.

Once Geno has his card back, they stand up and head for doors, Sidney trying not to crush the muffin. As they cross the lobby towards the elevators, one elevator reaches the ground floor, disgorging half a dozen hockey players in varying states of looking really pathetic as they head for the promise of food. Sidney and Geno pile into the empty elevator and Sidney leans back as Geno pushes the button for the fifth floor.

With each second in the elevator as it rises Sidney feels his anxiety rise with it. He wants to start a conversation with Geno, to take his mind off the coming encounter but it feels like it would be forced. Silences like this between them aren’t unusual or uncomfortable and he doesn’t want to seem desperate by breaking it.

When the elevator reaches their floor, they step off and Sidney bumps Geno. “Alex and I will see you in a few weeks for that Sunday game.”

Geno smiles and nods. “Tell Sanja he lazy for not coming to breakfast. Travel safe.”

Sidney smiles. “You too. I hope your flight back isn’t as bad as the one out.”

That makes Geno pull a face, and he points at Sidney. “If it happen, I blame you and never talk to you again.”

Holding the muffin up Sidney shrugs. “I’m sorry. If it happens, I’ll pay for all of our dinners for the next year.”

That makes Geno look mollified and he nods. “I hold you to it. Bye Sid.”

Sidney waves as he heads down the hallway towards their room. The walls seem to stretch out in front of him and Sidney swears he can feel his pulse throughout his body and he takes his time. When he gets to the door it takes him a moment to get the door open with one hand, since he doesn’t want to lose his grip on the muffin.

Their gear bags are sitting neatly in front of the closet, ready to go and Alex’s bag is next to it. Sidney nudges the door closed with his foot and manages a smile when he sees Alex sitting on the couch. His hair is damp, his eyes barely open and he looks exhausted despite the fact Sidney is sure he slept all night, because he was awake for most of it.

Feeling silly, Sidney holds out the muffin. “I brought you breakfast.”

Alex’s smile is grateful and he takes the offering, his fingers brushing against Sidney’s. “Thank you.” He holds up the muffin. “For this, and last night.”

Heat sweeps through Sidney, followed by a wash of cold and he swallows hard and nods, waiting for something else. He has been dreading this since last night and his thoughts start running as he tries to figure out the best thing to say, based on any one of dozens of things Alex might say. What he isn’t ready for is for Alex to peel the paper off the muffin, as he looks at it like it is the best things he has seen all day.

Thankful for the reprieve he looks around the room. Alex has even pulled up the sheets and duvet on the bed. He glances at the other man. “I take it there isn’t much left to do?”

Alex shakes his head as he pulls the muffin apart. “Just your bag. I not want to touch, though I took more Tylenol. All your bath stuff is sitting on counter too.”

“That’s why I left it out, since I figured you might want some this morning when you woke up.” Sidney glances at his phone for the time and then back at Alex, who is focused on the muffin. “I’m going to get packed and then we can get headed to the airport.”

Alex nods as he takes a bite of the muffin.

Sidney ducks into the bathroom, where his stuff is sitting on the counter, and it is dry, like Alex took the time to dry it for him this morning. Alex has all the dirty towels in a tidy heap under the sink and Sidney pulls the shower curtain closed so it can dry properly. He grabs the bottle and checks the tops before tucking them back into his bag. As he keeps putting things back into his bag his fingers brush across the ring boxes and he picks both of them up.

He remembers putting both rings away last night, but there is a niggling thought that he didn’t, and he flips both lids open. Both rings are safely nestled in the velvet, and he closes them before putting them into the inside zipper pocket. He doesn’t want to be responsible for the rings getting damaged or lost.

Standing he makes a quick tour through the room, stepping over Alex’s legs as he does. He believes Alex got everything, but it never hurts to be thorough, and this is something Alex is likely used to. Which seems even more true when Alex completely ignores him in favor of his breakfast.

Once Sidney is sure they aren’t going to leave anything behind he zips his bag shut. He sets it over with Alex’s and the gear bags and turns to look at him. “Ready to go?”

Alex finishes the muffin in one big bite and nods as he crumples up the muffin wrapper before tossing it into the garbage can near the TV. He stands and glances at Sidney. “Need to see Zhenya?”

Sidney hefts his bag before grabbing his gear. “No. I had breakfast with him and I’m supposed to call you lazy for not coming to breakfast.”

Picking his own bags up, Alex makes a rude, dismissive sound. “Zhenya not come to breakfast after drinking less than me.”

“Hey, I’m just the messenger. You can take it up with him the next time we see him.” Sidney moves further down the hall, not wanting to get caught in a wild sweep of Alex’s bag.

Alex grins. “I text him once we in taxi. Remind him about that time.”

Sidney isn’t sure he wants to hear about that time, so he doesn’t say anything. It seems safer when it come to some of the history between Alex and Geno. There still isn’t anyone in the hallway and Sidney pushes the button for the elevator.

It slides to a stop on their floor and the door opens to reveal a family and their five kids, along with bags, which makes for a full elevator. They look at each other for a minute before Sidney smiles. “We’ll just wait for the next one.”

The doors close and Sidney shifts his weight, the strap of his bag digging into his shoulder. He glances up at the indicator above the elevators, watching as each one seems to tick up and down, none of them coming anywhere near the fifth floor. Finally, after it feels like they’ve been standing here for ten minutes the doors open to an empty car.

Dropping the gear bag at his feet Sidney pushes the button for the lobby, eyes drawn to Alex who is standing opposite him, head tipped back against the elevator wall. He still isn’t sure if Alex is actually hungover, but he seems content to stay quiet, which is both good and bad. It means he doesn’t have to field any questions he doesn’t have a good answer to, but it also leaves him alone with his thoughts, which isn’t great either. Too much thinking gets him into trouble, and he is looking at a long flight.

When they get to the lobby Sidney waits while Alex checks them out and then they head outside to get a taxi. It is late enough in the day to be comfortably warm, and Sidney is glad he packed his hoodie in his bag for now. He can get it out for the flight, but for the drive there, it would be too much. Loading the taxi goes much better than it did when they first got here, though Sidney still has to have his bag wedged at his feet.

Traffic is horrible though, and Sid is glad they left the hotel when they did. Otherwise they might miss their flight and the struggle of rebooking their tickets is a headache he doesn’t want to deal with. Especially not when they have late practice tomorrow and they really need it. All-Star doesn’t have the urgency of a normal game and he doesn’t want to be the reason they lose their first game after the break. Not when they need the points.

Alex shifts next to him, and Sidney steals a quick look, feeling his pulse race, expectation sitting hot in his chest. As much as he would rather ignore it, he knows they need to talk about what happened last night, to clear the air between them. He isn’t naïve enough to think what Alex said last night was directed at him in anyway.

It has been very clear from the beginning that Alex is love with this Sidney and Sidney respects that and doesn’t expect it to change. But even thinking about those words makes the little thrill come back and he shakes his head against the feeling, hands curling into loose fists. He has been doing a horrible job trying to ignore his feelings for Alex, and this really isn’t making it any easier.

And he has no idea what he is going to say if Alex askes him about it. He isn’t entirely sure if what he might say is going to come out sounding sincere and he doesn’t want to lie. He has done that more than enough to last him for a lifetime and he hasn’t even told Alex the big thing, how he has to fall in love if they want everything to go back to the way it should be. Even hiding his crush doesn’t seem as bad as that omission and Sidney sighs.

Alex glances at him, eyebrows raised in a quiet question and Sidney shakes his head. In the back of the taxi isn’t the time to get into anything deep, and it seems like Alex feels the same way. He smiles and reaches over to rest his hand on his knee, fingers curling over, thumb tracing the edge of his kneecap. It is like so many of Alex’s other touches, free from any kind of motive, just touching for the sake of touching.

Sidney finds it oddly relaxing, especially against the hum of anxiety under his skin and he manages to sink into the seat. He has a feeling Alex is going to wait until they get home to talk about last night, which Sidney is dreading, but at least it will give him a little bit of a reprieve.

-----

Scrubbing a hand across his face Sidney moves to sit up, but he doesn’t make it far before stopping. Alex is slumped against him, asleep and he doesn’t want to wake him. He had fallen asleep not long after the plane had leveled off, head against the wall, not that Sidney can blame him. Yesterday and last night was a long day, even without the alcohol, though at least Alex actually slept last night. Sidney isn’t sure when he dropped off, but he feels a little better than he had this morning.

He carefully manages to pull his phone out of his pocket, trying not to jostle Alex too much. They still have almost two hours left and Sidney tucks his phone away before closing his eyes. Alex is a warm, comfortable weight against his side, his steady breathing familiar after so many nights of sharing a bed. And there really isn’t any reason to not settle a little closer. He is still tired from not getting restful sleep last night.

-----

Sidney stifles his yawn as Alex pulls the car into traffic as they leave the airport, and he is glad to be on the way home and for the fact they don’t have to set foot in an airport for the next week and a half, thanks to a long stand of home games. While the Anaheim airport had been easy, this had been the complete opposite. They had waited for what felt like forever at the baggage claim for their gear bags, to the point Sidney was starting to think they had gotten lost. Everyone they had come in contact with had been borderline rude and it had felt like everyone had a screaming child, which had been grating after the relative quietness of the plane.

He drops his head against the headrest and turns to look at Alex. It is tempting to reach over and drag his fingers along the line of his jaw, to trace the outline of his nose and he tamps down on the feeling, reminding himself for what feels like the thousandth time that none of this is for him and that he needs to stop.

“We still planning on ordering dinner?”

Alex glances at him with a quick, tired smile. “Really want to cook tonight?”

Even the thought of having to get a fork out of the drawer is unpleasant and Sidney stretches. “Absolutely not. I’m not even sure I’m going to want to cook tomorrow either.”

The traffic ahead of them slows to a stop and Alex takes his hands off the steering wheel so he can stretch. “Shop tomorrow before practice and just have sandwiches. Get fruit and vegetables.”

Sidney nods, already making a list. “We have to shop anyway. I got rid of anything that might go bad while we were gone. Including the last of the bread.” He frowns. “And maybe the milk.”

Alex makes a face as traffic starts moving ahead of them again. “I hope. Was not good last time.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I finished it. It was close dated anyway.” He really hopes he finished it, because sour milk is a horrid scent, and he would rather not have the kitchen smell like it for the rest of the night.

The rest of the drive home passes in quiet save the music from the radio and by the time they get home Sidney feels as anxious as he had this morning when he had gone back up to their room. Once they’re inside Alex can ask him about last night and he knows he won’t be able to lie, that his feelings about the whole thing are going to come through in his words. Strong emotion isn’t something he always deals with well, and he knows if Alex asks about it, he isn’t going to manage to hide anything from Alex.

They pull into the driveway and Sidney gets out of the car so he can stretch, and to put a little more space between them. He glances at Alex over the top of the car. “I guess we might as well leave the gear bags in here.”

Alex nods before yawning. “Yes.” He opens the back door and pulls out both bags. “Am glad to be home.”

Sidney rounds the car, taking his bag from the other man. “So am I. That hotel bed was not good.” The moment the words are out of his mouth he wishes he could take them back. Here he is, worrying about Alex mentioning last night and he does it himself. He waits, expecting Alex to take the opening, but he just smiles and heads towards the house.

Feeling off-center Sidney stares at Alex’s back as he unlocks the front door and opens it before grabbing the mail. A chill breeze sweeps across the driveway and Sidney hurries towards the house and inside, since Alex left the door open for him. He nudges the door closed and bends down to grab Alex’s bag, as he dropped it right inside the door when he came in.

From the kitchen he can hear what sounds like Alex digging through one of the drawers and he heads towards the stairs. “Are you going to order?”

“Yes. Anything you want?”

Sidney shakes his head before he remembers there are several walls between them. “No, whatever you want is fine.” At this point he is just grateful to be home, eating from restaurants he knows and likes. “Don’t worry, I’ll take your bag upstairs so no one trips over it later.”

Alex’s laughter follows him up the stairs and Sidney rolls his eyes as he heads up the stairs. Reaching the top he turns on the hallway light before heading for their room. Their room smells a little musty even though they have only been gone for a few days and he opens the window before dropping both of their bags at the foot of the bed.

Peeling the duvet off the bed he tosses it aside before pulling the sheets off the bed. He isn’t too proud to admit he knows exactly what he is doing. As long as he is up here, Alex can’t ask him any questions about last night. It isn’t helping the buzz of anxiety running under his skin, but he can pretend.

Once the sheets are off the bed Sidney starts going through his bag, tossing all of his dirty clothing in the direction of the pile of sheets. He pulls the ring boxes out and sets them on the bedside table before gathering up everything that needs to be washed. Laundry is one of his least favorite things to do, but he would rather do it today then tomorrow, when they have more important things to do.

Exiting the bedroom he nearly runs into Alex, only his armful of fabric keeping them from close body contact. He quickly sidesteps around the other man, feeling his cheeks flush as he does. “Dinner ordered?”

Alex nods. “Yes. Be about an hour, so I come up to empty bag.”

Sidney holds up the load in his arms, like Alex might have some how missed it. “I was thinking the same thing. Would you make up the bed?”

“Of course Sid.”

“Thanks.” Sidney makes his way down the stairs and to the laundry room.

-----

Dinner is quiet and afterward Sidney loads the dishwasher, still feeling like he is on high alert. Alex is back at the table after putting away the leftovers, since he over ordered, and Sidney can’t help but shake the feeling this is when the other shoe is going to drop. They’re at home, in private and don’t have to worry about anyone eavesdropping.

Drying his hands he hangs the towel back up and turns to look at Alex. Alex smiles at him and Sidney can’t help but smile back. It feels like some power Alex has over him, the ability to ease some of his irritation and it is endearing and a little dangerous. “It was a good All-Star.”

He isn’t sure why he keeps trying to drop hints, when he wants to never talk about it, but maybe if he pokes enough Alex will mention it himself so they can get the conversation out of the way.

Alex leans back in the chair, arms loosely folded across his chest. “It was. Skills was good, and even better that we won game. Nice to see everyone too.”

Sidney nods. “It was.” He does like most of the other players, more so off the ice, then on and it is always good to catch up with them. “And winning was the best part of it.”

“Winning is always good.” Alex gets to his feet and comes to stand next to Sidney. With a smile he kisses his cheek before stepping back. “Am going to bed Sid. Still tired.”

He swears he can still feel the heat of Alex’s lips against his cheek, but Sidney manages to nod. “Okay. I’ll be up a little later.” After the way he slept last night, he could honestly probably could go upstairs with Alex, and fall asleep without spending hours dwelling on last night. With the way things have been going lately, he doesn’t want to test that theory. Better to stay down here and stew then lay in bed next to Alex and stare towards the ceiling, hoping for sleep.

Without Alex in the kitchen it feels oddly quiet, and Sidney pushes away from the counter. The sheets still need to go in the washing machine and the simple chore won’t occupy his thoughts, but at least it means something productive will get done while he wonders why Alex hasn’t mentioned what happened last night.