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Bloodsucker

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Sid knew he was in trouble when he saw Jen waiting outside the locker room, her eyes slightly narrowed as she peered down the hallway. When she spotted Sid approaching, she gestured him over with the hand holding her cell phone. She didn’t look happy.

“Find me after you shower, please,” she said when he drew near. “You aren’t doing any interviews tonight.”

Sid wasn’t used to anything from Jen but the warm glow of her approval and didn’t enjoy how much he felt like a disobedient six-year-old as she tapped at her phone without looking at him. “Is this about, uh—”

“The hot mic? Yes.” She frowned at her phone. “I need to get in there. Don’t say anything to anyone with a press badge.”

Sid kept his head down and got out of his gear and into the showers as quickly as possible. He didn’t see what the big deal was. He swore on the ice all the time; anyone who was shocked by him dropping the occasional bomb needed to find a new sport to follow. Okay, he had gotten a little more heated than usual tonight, but he could issue an apology and he would even mean it. He didn’t understand what had Jen so upset.

With Sid out of commission, Geno was taking interviews tonight, and he cut a glance sideways at Sid as Sid came back into the locker room. Sid didn’t know what he was thinking, but it probably wasn’t too charitable. Geno only liked to do press after a loss so he could self-flagellate in public.

Sid cooled his heels as the locker room cleared out, waiting for Jen to finish wrangling the reporters. A couple of guys shot him sympathetic looks on their way out. Nobody liked to disappoint Jen.

Finally, Jen came over. “Let’s go.”

She didn’t say anything to him until they were seated in her office with the door closed. Then she sighed and said, “Sid, you called Bertuzzi a bloodsucker.”

“What? No I didn’t,” Sid protested. “I called him a cocksucker.”

“That’s worse,” Jen said. “Don’t tell anyone that.”

As a proud cocksucker himself, Sid just wanted to spread the love around, but he knew better than to say that to Jen.

“You know the league is trying to court the vampire demographic,” she went on. “It’s bad for business to have you dropping slurs on the ice.”

“I’ll apologize,” Sid said. “Heat of the moment.”

Jen shook her head. “The vampires are very touchy. And there’s a lot at stake—”

“At stake,” Sid said, unable to resist.

Jen ignored him. “Fans for eternity, you know. The league really wants them. An apology won’t be enough.”

“So what are you suggesting?”

She folded her hands on top of her desk and raised her eyebrows. “You’re going to be living with Geno for a while.”

“Living with—what? With Geno?” Sid felt his brow furrowing. “Why?”

“I guess the idea is that you can’t be bigoted if you’re in a relationship with a vampire.” She raised her eyes skyward. “This wasn’t my idea.”

“Oh my god,” Sid crowed. “I knew he was a vampire.”

Sid pulled into what he thought was Geno’s driveway and parked in front of the squat brick house. Wide steps led up to an elaborate white portico that spanned the full height of the house. He had never been here before, not once in the decade Geno had lived here. He and Geno were friends, but Geno had never invited him over, and Sid had never asked.

The house looked ordinary enough from the outside, but that made sense since Geno was trying to keep the vampire thing undercover. All of the weird shit would be indoors.

Sid climbed the steps and rang the doorbell. The afternoon light was fading as evening approached. A cold wind whistled through the bare trees and crept down the collar of his coat. He hated January in Pittsburgh.

Geno came to the door in the same sweatpants and hoodie combo he always wore around the hotel. He looked Sid up and down with a baffled expression.

Sid hoisted his duffel bag. “Don’t tell me you forgot. I’m here for the next six to eight weeks.”

Geno scratched his chin. “I think Jen is like, maybe joke.”

“Yeah, well, it’s not a joke. Are you going to invite me in or what? It’s freezing out here.”

Geno shrugged and stepped back to let Sid into the house, then immediately disappeared down a hallway, abandoning Sid in the foyer.

“You gonna show me around?” Sid called, but Geno didn’t answer.

The house was a normal house. Sid poked around the first floor a little, increasingly disappointed as he failed to find any Gothic drapery extinguishing all daylight or elaborately carved wood paneling covering the walls. There was no gallery wall of creepy antique portraits and he didn’t see any bats flapping around in the rafters. The décor was a tacky and sort of incongruous combination of old person and frat boy, with fussy swag curtains but also a bubble hockey table at the end of the unnecessarily wide column-lined hallway leading to the back door. If this was how a vampire lived, Sid wasn’t too impressed.

He found Geno in the kitchen, drinking a mug of tea and clicking around on his laptop. The chair was upholstered in a scrolling floral print that matched the print on the fringed curtains. Geno didn’t acknowledge Sid’s presence, and prickly irritation crept down Sid’s spine. Geno had agreed. He could have said no.

Sid dropped his duffel on the floor with a satisfying thump. “Is there somewhere for me to sleep, or do I get to share the coffin with you.”

Geno snorted. “Coffin,” he muttered, without looking away from his computer. He closed the lid and spun sideways in his chair to face Sid. “Okay, yes Sid, you can have bed. You sleep now? You tired?”

“No.” Sid sighed. “Look, I know this is kind of weird and awkward, and I’m sure you don’t want me hanging around your house. But we said we’d do it, so I want to try to make the best of it and, like—not annoy you too much, I guess.”

Geno’s expression softened. “I know. It’s stupid idea, but.” He shrugged. “We have fun, okay? Watch TV, play video games. Hang out.” He grinned. “You cook for me.”

“You eat food?”

“Sid!” Geno groaned and rolled his eyes dramatically, draping one arm over the back of his chair. “How many times you see me eat? Yes, I eat food!”

“I thought maybe you just did that for show,” Sid said. Geno continued rolling his eyes. A smile tugged at Sid’s mouth without his permission. He took a step closer and smacked Geno’s shoulder with the back of his hand. “Knock it off.”

“Okay, I show you house,” Geno said.

He took Sid up the huge, curving staircase to the second floor. At one end of the hallway was a closed door; Geno led Sid to an open door at the other end, down the spotless beige carpet, plush underfoot. Didn’t seem like a great color choice for someone who drank blood, but what did Sid know.

The guest room was as boringly normal as the rest of the house. There was a bed with an ugly paisley bedspread and a nightstand bearing a vase of likely artificial yellow flowers. A framed print on the wall depicted a city street in winter, blanketed with snow. Sid wondered if it was meant to be Moscow.

“You put things,” Geno said, pointing, and Sid obediently set his bag at the foot of the bed. He hadn’t brought that much with him, just the essentials; he could always go home and get more deodorant or whatever. “I show you bathroom, TV, what else? Banya.”

“You have a banya?” Sid asked. He shouldn’t be surprised. Geno had no qualms about splashing out for whatever self-indulgent whim popped into his head.

“It’s best for winter,” Geno said, unruffled.

He showed Sid the hall washroom, stocked with immaculate white towels folded on a shelf above the toilet. There was toothpaste in the medicine cabinet and body wash in the shower.

“You have guests a lot?” Sid asked, looking at the drawer full of individually wrapped bars of soap.

Geno shrugged. “Cleaning lady puts. You can use.”

Sid closed the drawer. Soap was such an ordinary thing to have. Geno was really not living up to his expectations for vampire behavior.

He followed Geno downstairs for the rest of the tour. Geno’s TV was in a room filled with leather recliners with the Penguins logo on the backs, and Sid had to admit those were awesome. Geno showed him the dining room, where the crystal chandelier and seasonal table arrangement, complete with candles and ribbons, would have made Sid’s grandmother proud. Aside from hockey memorabilia, the primary form of decoration in Geno’s house was mirrors of all sorts, at least one in every room. Weren’t vampires allergic to mirrors?

“Nice house,” Sid said, studying a framed photo on the wall depicting the 2009 Cup team. God, they’d been so young then. Or Sid had been young, at least. Who knew how old Geno was.

“Thanks,” Geno said. “It’s quiet.”

“So,” Sid said. He rapped his knuckles on the back of one of the dining chairs. “Dinner?”

Geno brightened. “You cook?”

That was the second time he’d brought it up. “I’m the guest here. Pretty sure you’re supposed to cook for me.”

“No, you my wife now.” Geno grinned. “So you cook for me, like good wife.”

“That’s not—I’m not your—forget it,” Sid said. He didn’t even know where to begin. Fine. “Let’s see what you’ve got in the fridge.”

Geno’s fridge was well-stocked for a man who was desperate for Sid to cook for him. A quick rummage turned up salad greens, yogurt, a bag of apples, two types of sliced cheese, and—inexplicably—vegan sausage. There were no bags or jars of blood that Sid could see, and not even any organ meat.

Maybe Geno had been alive for so long that he had adopted human food customs as like, a quirky experiment to add some variety to his life. Or maybe he was trying to fuck with Sid and had moved all of his blood jars to the basement. Sid wouldn’t put it past him.

He made a salad and some pasta with jarred sauce, not anything remarkable but perfectly satisfying. He and Geno ate at the kitchen table, and Geno ate just like a normal person would, chewing and swallowing and not doing any funny business like trying to furtively spit out bites of food into his napkin.

“Why you stare,” Geno said, narrowing his eyes at Sid.

“I’m not staring,” Sid said.

Geno put his fork down. “You see me eat every day!”

“I didn’t know you were a vampire before, though. I mean, I was pretty sure, but maybe I was wrong, you know?”

“You think I’m vampire? Hmm,” Geno said, and picked up his fork again, like that was all he had to say on the subject.

“You’re so annoying,” Sid said, and Geno just smirked at him, hunched over his plate as he stuffed spaghetti noodles into his mouth. There was no sign of fangs.

Geno went out to run a mysterious errand the next afternoon after practice. “Out,” he said uninformatively when Sid asked where he was going, then went down the stairs to the basement. A minute later, Sid heard the garage door open as Geno peeled out.

He waited long enough to be sure Geno wasn’t going to come right back for a forgotten wallet or something. Then he went upstairs to Geno’s bedroom. The door was open, which was basically an invitation. Sid wasn’t going to snoop too much, so it was fine. He just really wanted to check out the bed situation.

There was a bed, which could have just been for cover, but there wasn’t a casket anywhere Sid could find, not in the walk-in closet or the laundry area outside the ensuite. He checked every other room upstairs—all set up as guest rooms—and went down into the basement to see if Geno had stashed his casket there. There was no coffin in the basement, either, and there wasn’t a spare fridge with blood. Not a single thing about the house suggested that Geno was a vampire. If Sid didn’t already know, he would never guess.

By the time Geno got home, Sid was innocently watching TV in a Penguins recliner. Geno had a McDonald’s bag and stood in the doorway watching Sid’s basketball game and stuffing chicken nuggets in his mouth.

“You can come in and sit, you know,” Sid said.

“College basketball? No.” Geno bit off half of a nugget and chewed with his mouth hugely open, staring at Sid the whole time.

“Give me one of those,” Sid said, holding out his hand, and Geno came over and placed one single nugget on his palm.

Geno didn’t have a coffin; Geno didn’t drink blood, at least not that Sid saw over the next week, even with keeping a careful eye on him at home and at the rink. Geno liked to watch TV in his sweatpants and go to bed early. Wasn’t he supposed to be a creature of the night?

Sid knocked on Jen’s door before practice one morning, and after she answered and invited him inside, he said, “Are you sure Geno’s a vampire?”

“What? Yes.” She frowned at him. “What’s up? Are things going okay? I know living with him isn’t ideal, but since you guys are so close, I thought—”

“Yeah, everything’s fine. Living together, I mean. We’ve been playing a lot of video games. It’s not a problem at all.”

“Well, that’s great,” Jen said.

Sid didn’t know how to explain what was bothering him. “Sorry. Everything’s fine. See you later.”

“Bye, Sid,” Jen said, still looking puzzled.

He ran into Tanger in the lounge. Tanger was eating an omelet. Sid sat down beside him and said, “How do we know Geno’s a vampire?”

Tanger’s eyebrows shot up. “Isn’t he?”

“I mean, allegedly. That’s why I’m staying at his house, right? But how do we know?”

Tanger chewed thoughtfully. “I don’t remember who told me. Flower? But who’d he hear it from?”

“Exactly,” Sid said. “I can’t remember who told me, either. But it was always kind of gossip, right? There wasn’t ever proof. We all just knew.”

Tanger cut off and skewered another piece of omelet. “But he’s so—what’s the word. Aloof?”

“Yeah, but like. Is that because he’s a vampire or because he thinks we’re all boring?”

“There was that one time—you remember? In Florida. When he got so sunburned and missed a game.”

“Yeah,” Sid agreed. “And his boyfriends always have hickeys, like—way too many hickeys. He’s too old to be dishing out that many hickeys.”

“Well, where’s his coffin?”

“Doesn’t have one. He sleeps in a bed.”

“Fuck if I know,” Tanger said, which was about where Sid had ended up, too.

He went home with Geno after practice. They had decided to carpool since it made no sense to take two cars to the practice rink and back home again. Geno’s driving was absolutely appalling, but it gave Sid a good chance to practice his mindfulness.

Geno’s base of operations was his kitchen. He always went straight there when he got home, to plug in his phone and get a can of the sparkling water he drank in alarming quantities. Sid followed him by default and watched him root around in the fridge.

“Lunch?” Geno asked, buried in the crisper drawer.

“Sure, whatever you feel like whipping up,” Sid said. He wasn’t going to let Geno voluntell him to cook again.

Geno shot him a warmly amused look, like he knew exactly what Sid was up to. “Okay, I cook best for you.”

Sid was expecting something out of the freezer, or maybe delivery pizza, but instead, Geno made salmon and potatoes, and even pan-fried some green beans to go along with it. The salmon was a little dry, but still good, and Sid ate hungrily. He usually ate at the rink, but Geno had been in a hurry to get home, as always. Geno talked a big game about how much fun Moscow and Miami were and how many things there were to do, but Sid was realizing he was kind of a homebody.

“Good?” Geno asked, watching Sid shovel potatoes into his mouth.

“Delicious,” Sid mumbled through his mouthful of food.

So maybe Geno wasn’t a vampire. Did it really matter? It seemed like a weird thing to lie about, but whatever. Living with him for a few weeks wasn’t terrible. It was kind of nice, actually, to have someone to eat meals with and hang out watching hockey with. Sid wasn’t mad about it.

“Let’s finish that movie later,” he said. Geno had talked him into watching a Russian action film and it had actually turned out to be pretty awesome, even though Sid didn’t like reading the subtitles.

Geno smiled at him from across the table. “See, I tell you it’s good.”

“Yeah,” Sid said. “You were right.”

Pretending to be Geno’s boyfriend was more weird than unpleasant. Sid couldn’t say he’d never had a stray thought about Geno here and there, and he’d sucked too many dicks to act all bashful about the gay part. He’d never been public about any of his relationships, so nobody expected him to suddenly be smooching on Geno all the time. They held hands in the grocery store a couple of times and that was good enough, in Sid’s opinion. Geno’s hands were big and warm, and he absentmindedly stroked his thumb over the back of Sid’s hand as he studied the cheese display. From the ribbing Sid got at practice the next day, he gathered someone had taken pictures, so, great: he hoped every vampire in the country saw them.

“Pittsburgh vampires I think forgive you soon,” Geno told him. He was half watching a fight and half scrolling through his phone. Sid was tolerating the fight because he liked listening to Geno’s commentary about it, and also inertia had sucked him into the recliner and going upstairs seemed like too much work.

Sid looked up from his own phone. “The Pittsburgh—how do you know?”

“They say,” Geno said, with a vague wave of his hand. “It’s lots of talk. They like you and decide you probably just get mad and don’t mean it. Just hockey fans, though. Other vampires are still mad.”

“Is this—are you in a vampire group chat or something?” Was he a fucking vampire or not? Was there any way to get into a vampire group chat if you weren’t a vampire? Maybe Geno had screwed a vampire and added himself to the chat while the guy was asleep.

“Google Group,” Geno said.

“Jesus Christ, okay,” Sid said.

The only truly awkward part was having to share a hotel room on roadies. Jen said getting two queens was out of the question because someone might talk, which Sid thought was stupid; his parents had been married for a zillion years and slept in separate bedrooms because his dad snored. He lost that argument, though. The first night was super weird because all of the going-to-sleep rituals and feeling Geno’s weight shifting the mattress and listening to his sleep noises were things Sid had experienced, in adulthood, only with lovers. It was just really intimate, and he thought, from the sidelong way Geno looked at him in the morning, that Geno was uncomfortable, too.

“You talk in your sleep,” Sid told him as they jockeyed for space in the tiny washroom, trying to brush teeth (Geno) and apply deodorant (Sid). “In Russian.”

Geno made some garbled response, foaming at the mouth.

“Gotta sparkle up those fangs,” Sid said. “Keep ‘em shining.”

Geno spat into the sink. “Why you think I have fangs?”

“You’re fucking gaslighting me,” Sid said, then had to explain to Geno what gaslighting meant.

He decided to take a break from worrying about whether Geno was a vampire, because it was making him crazy. That worked great for the next week. Sid knew nothing and needed to know nothing. He had no questions and no curiosity. Geno was whatever. It wasn’t really any of Sid’s business.

They went on a quick road trip to Florida at the beginning of the month. On a scheduled day off in Miami, everyone went to the beach. Geno, in rash guard and shades, spent most of the afternoon lounging under an umbrella, but Sid wasn’t thinking about his behavior anymore so he didn’t notice. Even with those precautions, Geno was pink across the middle of his face when they got back to their hotel room that evening.

“You’ve got a little,” Sid said, gesturing.

Geno went into the washroom and peered into the mirror. He had a reflection, but Sid wasn’t looking. “It’s sunburn?” He made a disapproving noise.

“Must have reflected off the water,” Sid said. “Doesn’t look too bad.”

“Hmm,” Geno said.

The sunburn wasn’t better in the morning. In fact, it was worse, and Geno was grumpy all day, and grumpy on the flight home, even though they beat the Panthers. He let Sid drive his car home from the airport, which was unprecedented. The roads were deserted at that time of the night, but even so, Sid drove more carefully than he would have in his own car. He didn’t want to hear Geno bitching about any imaginary scratches on his Mercedes.

“You doing okay there?” Sid asked as he crossed the river, after twenty minutes of silence from the passenger seat.

“Fine,” Geno said, slumped down with his arms folded. When they got home, he dumped his bags in the entryway and immediately went upstairs without even a brief stop in the kitchen. That was how Sid knew things were dire.

In the morning, Geno had started peeling, strips of skin coming off his nose. He slouched at the breakfast table, picking at his eggs and toast, and coughed several times.

“Sounds like you’re getting sick,” Sid finally said after Geno hacked a few times and then got up to spit in the sink.

“No, it’s fine,” Geno said. He sat back down, picked up his fork, and stuffed several bites of eggs in his mouth in quick succession, as if trying to prove he was just dandy.

Sid smeared more Nutella on his toast. When in Rome. “Maybe you should call the team if you aren’t feeling well.”

“You so annoying,” Geno said, and Sid rolled his eyes fondly and let it go. Geno could be such a bitch when he wasn’t feeling well.

Geno was still coughing that afternoon, and also sniffling, and lying fully reclined with the TV on mute. Sid had been planning to go out for groceries anyway—they were running low on berries and yogurt—so he picked up some zinc tablets while he was there. Couldn’t hurt.

“I’m not sick,” Geno said, when Sid presented him with the box. He was still flat on his back with the TV playing some sitcom Sid didn’t recognize. Who still watched sitcoms?

“You seem pretty sick,” Sid said, casting a meaningful eye at the pile of used tissues on the floor beside the recliner.

Geno shook his head. “No, it’s just I don’t feed for a while, so it’s a little…” He wobbled his hand from side to side.

“Feed? I saw you eat at lunch,” Sid said, and then stopped and narrowed his eyes. “Or do you mean blood? Are you talking about blood?”

“Ugh,” Geno said, and reached for another tissue, which meant Sid was right on the money.

“So you are a vampire,” Sid said. Geno loved doing this twenty questions shit, and it was, okay, kind of funny, but also really obnoxious when Sid wanted a straight answer.

Geno pulled the lever of the recliner to raise himself to a seated position, not unlike a vampire in an old-school horror movie jolting upright in his coffin. “Jen told you it’s true.”

“But then you, like—acted like I was crazy for thinking that. You were just fucking with me this whole time?”

Geno smirked at him, then loudly blew his nose. “Maybe a little. It’s funny.”

“You’re the worst person I know,” Sid said, and walked out of the room so Geno wouldn’t see the dumb smile that kept tugging at his mouth. Then he went back in and said, “Why don’t you just feed from me?”

Geno scoffed and reclined himself again.

Geno had a friend, he claimed: a friend he fed from. This friend was out of town but would return soon, in plenty of time for Geno to feed again before it was truly an emergency.

“We have a game tomorrow,” Sid pointed out. They were eating dinner, Geno accompanied by a box of tissues and a mug of hot tea.

“That’s why I rest,” Geno said. “I stay home today, don’t go out, then tomorrow I play fine.”

“That sounds ridiculous, but sure,” Sid said. He took another bite of pasta instead of asking what was so special about this friend. He didn’t need to be shot down twice in one day.

Geno didn’t want to feed from him: fine. There was probably some reason. Maybe Sid looked like he would taste bad. He wasn’t going to beg. He wasn’t that curious, anyway. Porn was always fake, so it probably wasn’t actually all that amazing to be fed from. Sid was going to let it go.

Geno fell asleep in the recliner after dinner and Sid got to watch him for a while without Geno making smart remarks or telling Sid to knock it off. He looked paler than usual and had dark circles beneath his eyes like he hadn’t slept well in a while. The peeling sunburn on his nose completed the picture of bedraggled exhaustion.

Sid reached out and touched the scar on Geno’s cheekbone from Dubinsky’s skate. He still remembered that game. From the bench, they hadn’t been able to tell exactly what happened, and they’d all been worried that Geno had lost an eye or something. But he had been fine, and skated back to the bench with blood running down his face, fuming, looking eight feet tall.

Geno was his friend from years of shared work and shared experiences, but Sid had never tried to get to know him on any deeper level because he hadn’t thought Geno would be interested. Vampires kept to themselves and kept their business private. If Geno had sometimes spilled his guts to Sid, like after Sochi, that was only because Sid was available and understood what Geno was going through. Living with Geno these past weeks, though, had peeled away a lot of the mystique. Geno was just some guy. He lived in a house. He laughed at things in movies that weren’t really funny, but Sid liked to watch him laugh.

Sid went upstairs and went to bed. Spending the night in the recliner wouldn’t do Geno any harm.

It didn’t do him any good, either, though; in the morning, his undereye circles looked purple, like bruises. He let Sid drive them to the arena for skate, and fell asleep in the passenger seat on the way home. He didn’t wake up until Sid got out of the car and slammed the driver’s side door shut.

“You can’t play like this,” Sid told him as they climbed the stairs from the garage. “Call Sullivan and tell him you’re out for the evening.”

“No.” Geno paused for a few moments, leaning heavily on the handrail, before he resumed climbing. “It’s fine. I just nap.”

“You said that yesterday,” Sid said, “and now you’re—”

“Stop,” Geno said, more sharply than he ever spoke to Sid. He turned at the top of the stairs, his face screwed up in a rueful grimace. “Sorry. I don’t sleep so well.”

Sid made a frustrated gesture. “Yeah, I’m aware! Why are you being so stubborn about this? I said you could feed from me. Is there some reason that’s a bad idea?”

Geno quirked an eyebrow. “You play tonight, too. You don’t think it’s hard to play after I suck you?”

“Oh my god,” Sid said, because surely Geno knew what he was saying. Geno just looked at him with a serious expression. “Okay. Uh, how much blood are we talking here? Like, a pint? Couple of pints?”

“Too much,” Geno said. “Too much for play. Okay, nap time.” He disappeared up the stairs.

Sid wasn’t tired yet. He had eaten at the arena, so he couldn’t kill time preparing and eating a meal. He went to find his laptop—it had migrated into the dining room—and started Googling to see if Geno was full of shit. No surprise, he was: vampires who fed on a regular basis didn’t take more than a few tablespoons at a time. Geno was pretty hungry, so he’d take more than that, but still not even half a pint. Apparently it was less about the nutrients in the blood and more about the life force of the donor, whatever the fuck that meant. Sounded kind of menacing, but Sid had met more than one of Geno’s meals and they had never seemed any worse for wear.

He walked a few laps down the long central hallway and through the dining room and kitchen, trying to decide what to do. Geno had bought some flowers the last time he was at the grocery store and put them in a vase on the kitchen island, and Sid stopped to touch the petals, soft as velvet. He didn’t want Geno to miss the game.

Well, that decided it.

He went upstairs to Geno’s room. The door was closed, and he knocked and then pushed it open without waiting for a response. Geno was in bed already, the covers pulled up to his chin and a black eye mask covering his eyes. As Sid came into the room, Geno yanked off the mask, sat up, and glared.

“I’m sleeping,” Geno said.

Sid ignored him. “What’s the real reason you won’t drink from me?”

Geno groaned and flopped back onto his pillow. “You still talk about?”

“There’s no reason for you to miss the game tonight if you don’t absolutely have to. That’s stupid. We need you in the lineup.”

“So it’s because hockey,” Geno said, watching him.

“Well—sure. I mean, it’s not Penguins hockey without you, you know?” Encouraged that Geno hadn’t kicked him out yet, Sid came closer, then chickened out and hovered awkwardly beside the bed instead of sitting on the edge like he had originally planned. “I just think it’s dumb to miss a game for no reason.”

Geno looked at him for a moment. Then he patted the edge of the mattress and waited for Sid to sit down. “You know what it’s like if I feed on you?”

“I mean—sort of,” Sid hedged. Most of what he knew came from TV and movies. Or, okay, porn.

Geno sighed heavily. “It’s not, like…” He turned his head aside, looking at something outside the window. “It’s not casual. It’s not for friends.”

“You said you were waiting for your friend. To feed from him.”

Even with Geno’s head turned away, Sid could still see him rolling his eyes. “He’s friend I fuck, Sid.”

“Oh.” Right. Obviously. Sid shifted on the bed, feeling the mattress wobble underneath him. He was definitely regretting coming up here. “Well, that’s—I could squeeze some blood out into a cup or something.”

Geno turned toward him again. His mouth was set in a somber line. He looked to Sid, for the first time, like he could plausibly be hundreds or thousands of years old: world-weary, like he had seen it all before.

“I just want you to feel better,” Sid said.

Geno reached for him and folded his hand over the back of Sid’s. His thumb rubbed over Sid’s knuckles. The touch made Sid’s scalp prickle. Geno’s dark gaze was bright with warm interest as he watched Sid’s face.

“I’m curious,” Sid admitted. “About what it’s like. That’s kind of why I—why I wanted to know so bad if you’re really a vampire. I was kind of disappointed when I thought you weren’t.”

“You think I feed on you if you live here? Like snack?”

Sid laughed. “Yeah. Like I’m your snack drawer.”

“Hmm,” Geno said, his mouth quirking at one corner, fighting a smile. “Sid, I think, like. Maybe we do, and you’re sorry, and you feel different about me. I don’t want to regret.”

“I won’t let it be weird.” Sid flipped his hand over so they were holding hands for real. It felt kind of familiar now, after their grocery store pretending. Geno had nice hands. Not clammy. A good size for holding. “I promise. I wouldn’t ever want there to be problems between us.”

“Okay.” Geno sighed. He lay down again, his head nestled in the pillow. “Go change. More comfy. No jeans.”

Sid went down the hall to his room in sort of a daze. He hadn’t thought Geno would give in so easily. He knew more or less what was going to happen, but he didn’t know how it would feel or how he would feel about it, and that was kind of unsettling. He knew Geno wouldn’t ever hurt him, though.

In his room, he switched his jeans for sweatpants. In the mirror, his face looked back at him, the same face it always was.

He went back to Geno’s room and lay down on his back beside Geno, in the narrow space between Geno’s body and the edge of the mattress. Geno turned onto his side and looked at Sid from a foot away. Sid couldn’t read his face at all, which made him feel off-balance because Geno was really expressive and Sid usually had some idea what was going on with him. But right now Geno had everything locked down hard and Sid didn’t have a clue.

“What do I do?” Sid asked.

Geno shifted closer, until he was tucked right up against Sid, his knees against Sid’s leg, his face pressed into the crook of Sid’s neck. He set one hand on Sid’s hip. “Lie still. That’s all.”

Sid swallowed. “Okay.” Not for friends, Geno had said, and no kidding. But Sid would go through with it and make sure they were still friends after.

Geno spent a while nosing around Sid’s neck, nuzzling here and there, testing Sid’s skin with the tip of his tongue. Sid focused on keeping his breathing steady and even, and on not flinching when Geno found a sensitive spot. He didn’t know what Geno was doing—smelling out Sid’s blood? Surely he could bite anywhere and get enough of what he needed.

The room was quiet aside from the sound of Geno’s breathing and the soft hush of the central heating blowing air through the vents. Geno’s hand crept beneath the hem of Sid’s T-shirt and rested there on the skin of his lower belly. Sid closed his eyes.

“Okay,” Geno murmured at last, and Sid felt two sharp points touch his skin and rest there for a moment before sliding in.

It hurt, but no more than getting a shot. Sid had sort of thought Geno would use his fangs as a drinking straw and suck the blood out of him that way, but instead, Geno’s teeth slid out again almost immediately, leaving only the wet heat of his mouth.

Geno gave a soft sigh, the same sort of sound he made when he settled down in bed at night, comfortable beneath the blankets after a long day. This wasn’t so bad; really no more intimate than sharing a bed with Geno or listening to him take a leak with the washroom door open.

Then Geno began to suck, and Sid had to hastily revise his assessment.

Every pull of Geno’s mouth tugged on a hot cord running through Sid’s body, from his neck to his dick and all the way down to the soles of his feet, pouring molten gold through his veins. Geno drank slowly, holding his tongue against Sid’s skin between swallows to keep the blood from flooding out. In the endless moments between one swallow and the next, Sid gripped a fistful of the sheets to keep from moaning. The porn wasn’t lying after all.

Geno made a low noise. His hand moved to grip Sid’s hip, and he pressed closer, draping one foot over Sid’s ankle. Sid wanted to turn toward him, but he was afraid to move and risk dislodging Geno’s mouth. He wanted to reach down and press a hand against his achingly hard dick, but Geno’s arm was in the way, and he would notice what Sid was doing.

As if he could read Sid’s thoughts, Geno slid his own hand down Sid’s body and cupped his dick through his sweatpants. Sid groaned and strained upward into the touch, trying to get some friction without moving too much. Geno’s hand was so big it almost totally covered Sid’s rigid shaft.

“Geno,” Sid said, hearing his voice tremble.

Geno swallowed a mouthful and went still. He didn’t say anything, but Sid could sense him waiting for some further reaction.

“This feels amazing,” Sid said, shocked into raw honesty. He had never thought Geno would touch him this way.

Geno laughed quietly and sucked again. His hand slid farther down to toy with Sid’s balls, massaging and gently tugging through the fabric. Waves of spine-tingling pleasure rolled through Sid’s body, on and on as Geno drank from him and made quiet sounds of enjoyment.

Geno unlatched at last and drew back, licking his lips. His expression was slack and dazed. Sid rolled toward him and reached out to touch Geno’s hair, rumpled at the front. Geno blinked at him, eyelids heavy, and licked his lips again. His mouth looked plump and soft.

“Sid,” Geno said, an edge of uncertainty in his voice making the word a question.

Sid moved his hand to the back of Geno’s head, cupping his skull. He felt like all bets were probably off after someone touched your dick, but he still hesitated for a moment before he leaned in and kissed Geno carefully, tasting his own blood.

Geno scored two goals that night, so Sid counted the experiment as a success.

The two small marks on his throat scabbed over and healed within a couple of days. Soon there was no sign of where Geno had bitten him, but Sid remembered exactly where his mouth had been and could still feel the phantom press of his tongue.

“Can we do it again,” he finally said, when it became apparent that Geno was just going to slink around the house acting cagey and pretend that absolutely nothing noteworthy had happened.

Geno looked up from his single-serve yogurt cup with an expression like Sid’s dog when she got into the trash can despite knowing she wasn’t supposed to. “Do what?”

“You know,” Sid said, waving vaguely at his neck, because at the end of the day, he was as much of a coward as Geno was. His mom used to tell him that if he wasn’t old enough to say it, he wasn’t old enough to do it, and here he was in his thirties and still couldn’t bring himself to say the actual words.

“I don’t need again so soon,” Geno said, returning his attention to his phone.

“That’s not what I’m talking about.” Sid waited until Geno quit scrolling—Sid could see what he was doing, he was just scrolling quickly through Instagram, not even really looking at the pictures—and looked up at him again. “You let me kiss you.”

“You said you don’t let it be weird,” Geno said.

“Okay, well, redact that,” Sid said. “Let’s make it weird. Let’s do it again. Let’s kiss more. Let’s have sex, okay? That’s what I’m talking about.”

Geno set his yogurt aside. He studied Sid’s face for a moment. “Sid, I’m really old, you know? I don’t want to play. I like boyfriends. It’s nice to feed, but I don’t want to do because you think it’s fun.”

“Boyfriends,” Sid said, his ears ringing. “You would want that? With me?”

Geno went back to rapidly scrolling through his phone. His ears were red. “I think a little, like—I miss you when you move out.”

Sid pulled out a chair and sat down beside him at the table. He put his hand on Geno’s wrist and waited for Geno to quit scrolling and look at him. “I’m going to miss it, too. Being here with you all the time. It’s been really nice. Having company. Hanging out with you.”

“So,” Geno said.

“You’re my favorite person,” Sid said. “That’s where I’m at. Is that enough for you?”

Geno’s guarded expression had dissolved, giving way to an open happiness that made Sid’s stomach flip over. Geno reached over and touched Sid’s neck in the spot where he had bitten, like he remembered it, too, exactly where he had put his mouth and made Sid tremble.

“Yes, it’s enough,” Geno said.

Geno’s bed was unmade, the duvet pushed back to show where he had slept, the fitted sheet wrinkled from his body. His bed looked like something out of a catalog, fluffy white bedding and layered with down pillows. Sid’s heart throbbed with anticipation as Geno closed the door behind them. The memories of Geno’s mouth on his neck still ran hot just beneath his skin.

He stripped down to his boxers this time. There was no pretense about what they were doing. He felt warm all through his body and clear down to the soles of his feet, ready to touch Geno, to be touched, to do what he’d wanted the last time but hadn’t known he could ask for.

He dropped his shirt on the floor and glanced up. Geno hadn’t taken his clothes off yet. He was watching Sid, silent and appreciative, and he didn’t look away or try to pretend he was doing anything other than openly assessing Sid’s body.

Sid wasn’t complaining. He didn’t mind being looked at. Okay, it was making him hard.

“You going to just leave me hanging?” he asked. He knew what Geno’s body looked like, but he wanted to see it anyway.

“No,” Geno said, but he didn’t get naked. Instead, he stepped forward to gently press his fingertips against the side of Sid’s neck in that same place. The touch spiked through Sid and settled deep in the pit of his heart, an intimate, arterial pang. It had meant a lot to him, Geno feeding from him—more than he had thought it would. The way Geno kept touching his neck made him feel like it had meant a lot to Geno, too.

Geno bent to kiss Sid, his body losing the last of its lingering stiffness. His arms circled Sid’s waist, one pressed wide and warm to Sid’s lower back. His thumb swept back and forth in the same steady motion that had become familiar to Sid from holding hands. The scuttlebutt about vampires was that they were ice cold, and Sid had heard more than one locker room joke about what it must be like to fuck an icicle. But Geno wasn’t cold at all.

Geno sighed against Sid’s mouth and opened up and kissed Sid more deeply than he had yet. Sid wondered if Geno could feel how hard his heart was beating, or if he could hear it, rushing so fast beneath Sid’s skin.

“Get in bed,” Geno said, and drew back to pull off his shirt.

They lay down next to each other, like they had last time, only this time Sid turned onto his side to face Geno. Geno’s chest was pressed against his own, closer than Sid had ever thought they would be. Geno touched Sid’s hair and his cheek and then tucked his face against Sid’s neck and started nuzzling like he had before, trailing his lips along the line of Sid’s throat gently enough to make Sid’s entire body prickle, his hands tracing reverently over Sid’s body.

He still had his sweatpants on for some terrible reason, but Sid touched his shoulder and his side and stroked the soft skin of his lower back. Geno took deep breaths through his mouth, sending gentle puffs across Sid’s skin with each exhalation. Sid wondered what he smelled like to Geno, and if he smelled better or worse than chicken nuggets, which as far as he could tell were Geno’s favorite thing to eat. He hoped he could be Geno’s other favorite. Maybe he could even knock chicken nuggets out of the top spot if he worked at it a little.

“Sid,” Geno murmured, sucking an open-mouthed kiss to the base of Sid’s neck, right in the sensitive dip of his collarbone.

“Bite me,” Sid murmured back, tugging at the waistband of Geno’s sweats. He was so warm and floating but he also wanted Geno to hurry up the fuck up and do it already.

Geno’s fangs slid out and pricked at Sid’s neck, not sinking in yet but marking their spot. Geno’s mouth was so hot against his skin. Any lingering concerns that this time wouldn’t live up to the first evaporated fully. Sid was already halfway to the moon.

He clung to Geno’s shoulders as the slow slide of Geno’s teeth penetrated his skin, sending shivers of pleasure running over his scalp and down through his body. When Geno began to suck, the wet heat of his sealed lips lit up every one of Sid’s nerve endings.

They rocked together between drags of Geno’s mouth. Sid was so hard, outrageously hard, and he could feel the warm bulge of Geno’s cock pressed against his thigh as Geno twined their ankles and pressed their hips together. Sid didn’t bother holding back his moans. It felt so good to let them out, and he wanted Geno to know exactly how much he was enjoying this and wanted it. Wanted Geno, wanted everything about Geno, wanted to be with him and sleep beside him and hold his hand in the grocery store for real, like Geno was someone he cherished.

Geno briefly lost his suction on Sid’s neck when Sid snaked his hand between them and down the front of Geno’s sweats, finding nothing but smooth, bare skin. Sid scraped his nails indulgently through Geno’s pubes and palmed his hard dick, pleased with this evidence that Geno was enjoying their afternoon just as much as Sid was.

“Is this good?” Sid asked anyway, curling his hand around Geno’s cock and exploring the shape of him. Even holding him like that was thrilling.

Geno latched back on and made a noise of assent against Sid’s neck, unwilling to stop his slow nursing. He groaned deep in his chest as Sid stroked him, sending little shocking vibrations through Sid’s skin. He was sure he’d never been this hard in his life.

He wanted to make Geno come more than anything else in the world.

He gasped when Geno found his cock, groping for it through the slit in Sid’s boxers. He was a sticky mess of precome, and Geno’s fist slid around him easily and with delicious friction. Geno wasn’t so much drinking anymore as he was sucking elaborate hickeys into the tender skin of Sid’s neck, over-sensitive and ripe for the taking. Sid had a fleeting thought of the necklaces of marks Geno’s past boyfriends had sported and felt his stomach tighten with a hot, possessive thrill.

“G,” he said, abruptly right there on the edge, closer than he had realized from a brief handjob and some necking. “I’m gonna,” and Geno worked him more firmly, pulling him over.

Every muscle in Sid’s body tightened with bliss. In another moment, he felt the warm evidence of his own orgasm drip down Geno’s knuckles onto his stomach.

His eyelids were heavy, his head fuzzy. He was pretty sure he had just moaned like a harlot.

Geno had unlatched from his neck and was whispering Sid’s name hot into his ear, over and over. Sid realized his fist on Geno’s cock had gone slack and tightened it again, pulling back just enough to see the open-mouthed pleasure on Geno’s face as Sid began jerking him off with long, indulgent strokes. Geno’s dark eyelashes fluttered against his cheek and his bottom lip was stained red with Sid’s blood. Sid had wanted to watch his face as he came, but instead he leaned in to take Geno’s mouth in a deep kiss, tasting copper on Geno’s tongue as Geno came in his hand with a soft cry.

Sid pulled his hand out of Geno’s sweats and wiped it on the sheets before leaning in to drop kisses across Geno’s cheek as Geno caught his breath. He had expected this part to be kind of awkward, because all of their patterns of interaction were based on hockey and video games and didn’t involve touching each other’s dicks. But instead it felt totally natural to be here in Geno’s bed, touching him like a lover.

Geno sighed and shifted forward to press his face against Sid’s neck for a moment, taking a few deep breaths, before moving back again.

“Hi,” he said when he caught Sid watching, his eyes darting away, a little shy.

“Hey, G,” Sid said. He blinked hard to clear his head, which still felt more or less like a helium balloon. He laughed and said, “I think you made me come so hard I lost a few brain cells.”

“Maybe I take a little too much,” Geno admitted sheepishly, his cheeks going pink. Then he pressed his tongue against his bottom teeth like he always did when he thought he was about to make a great joke. “You’re best snack.”

“I do like to be the best,” Sid said, and jabbed his fingers into Geno’s ribs when Geno scoffed, making Geno squirm and let out a sound Sid had never heard him make before, shocked and thrilled.

He let Geno thrash around and yelp for a minute, then rolled on top of him and said, “You feeling good? You feeling like you’re going to win another game for me?”

“Every game I win is for you,” Geno said, earnest enough that Sid had to look away.

“That’s the most romantic thing anyone’s ever said to me,” Sid admitted.

Geno smiled up at him and reached up to touch Sid’s cheek. “It’s easy, then. For me to keep you happy.”

“I think it’s going to be pretty easy,” Sid said.

“Sid, a question not about hockey, if you don’t mind.”

Sid squinted into the lights of all the cell phones filming him. He couldn’t make out who had asked the question, but whatever. He could crank out some generic bullshit in response to literally any question. He was willing to risk it. “Sure, go ahead.”

“How are things going with you and Geno lately?”

Jen, standing nearby, burst out into sharp laughter, then clapped a hand over her mouth and shot Sid a gleeful, apologetic look. Sid tried to glare at her, but her mirth made it hard for him to put a lot of weight behind the expression. He rarely saw Jen lose it while she was working.

“It’s going well,” Sid said placidly, resisting the urge to lift a hand to touch his throat. “The power play, you know, we’re always working on things, trying stuff out, but we converted on both our chances tonight, so I’d say we’re moving in the right direction.”

He knew what had prompted the question, and so would everyone who watched this footage: the enormous, purpling bite mark on his neck. Geno had gotten overly enthusiastic and bitten more than once, and Sid had bled a little beneath the skin. Totally harmless, but it made for an impressive hickey.

“So, about the power play,” MC said, and Sid made a mental note to buy her a really nice bottle of wine.

Geno was waiting for him in the empty change room, having weaseled out of doing any interviews. Sid stopped in the doorway for a few moments to watch him, hair damp, suit jacket open, so handsome and so beloved. Sid would never tell the reporters, but in his opinion, dating a vampire was going great.

Geno glanced up from his phone and spotted Sid, and his face brightened in its familiar way, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “You ready?”

“Just got to get dressed,” Sid said, and dropped his towel to get ready to go home with his bloodsucker.