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The Wishing Well

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When Zhenya stepped into the locker room, Stewie was waiting by his stall with a blood pressure cuff.

Zhenya’s heart, still racing from the last drill they’d completed on the ice, strained underneath his chest protector. He yanked his helmet off before dumping his gloves onto his seat. 

“Go through your cooldown,” Stewie said, smacking his gum against his teeth testily, “then I’ll check you off.”

Zhenya was perfunctory in the shower as a habit, but the intensity with which he scrubbed the soap into his body made Olli pause as he entered the showers.

Zhenya just jerked his chin at Olli, a physical what are you looking at? that had Olli turning for the nearest showerhead he could find and minding his own business. Zhenya rapidly lathered at his armpit, his rough fingernails scraping down the tender skin of his inner arm. He’d probably have raised red scratch marks on him when he towelled off. It would be fine. 

Even though Zhenya took the shortest showers on the team—aside from Fehrsy, who seemed to think briefly walking through the shower room counted—Stewie looked impatient when Zhenya emerged. He fidgeted with his watch as Zhenya scrubbed his towel over his hair and then evaluated his clothing options. He reached for his sweatpants first before he diverted himself and grabbed a compressive pair of boxer briefs to tug on underneath. 

He sat in his stall and lifted his elbow obediently toward Stewie. Stewie chomped on his gum louder as he strapped the blood pressure cuff around Zhenya’s damp bicep.

Zhenya looked away from the inflating cuff and caught Hornqvist watching. Hornqvist gave Zhenya a small smile that didn’t reach his eyes before glancing away. Hornqvist had been tentative around Zhenya since arriving in Pittsburgh the last season: he was a shorter, stouter replacement for Nealsy. Hornqvist was jovial—oud and rambunctious and good for a joke—but Zhenya missed the sly looks Nealsy would send his way, and the feeling of Nealsy looping an arm around Zhenya’s shoulders to whisper a filthy joke into his ear. 

Hornqvist was still looking for a way into Zhenya’s good graces, Zhenya suspected, but Hornqvist wasn’t yet comfortable with this, with Stewie measuring Zhenya up.

He wasn’t the only one watching. Zhenya could see Sunshine peering at him again and again, like Zhenya was about to turn into a bat. Pascal thumped Zhenya on the shoulder while Stewie jammed two fingers against Zhenya’s neck and watched the second hand tick on his watch. The whole locker room was moving around Zhenya carefully, sneaking peeks and giving him little smiles when he caught them at it. 

It was addictive, them all knowing. They were thinking about it, about what would happen in—

“Alright,” Stewie said, “you’re cleared for feeding, let’s go.”

They’d hung a zip-up hoodie in his stall, and Zhenya pulled it on over his bare back, not bothering to zip it up. Zhenya’s long strides toward the PT rooms meant Stewie and his short legs had to move twice as fast to keep up. 

The room was all set up, just as it had been when Dr. Vyas had given Zhenya a tour the day before training camp started, both Zhenya’s agent J.P. and Mario following along carefully. J.P.’s face had been flat as Vyas explained the additional modifications to the feeding room they’d made on Zhenya’s behalf. Zhenya couldn’t see much difference in it besides the chair being a bit nicer, he supposed.

Zhenya lingered for a moment, looking over first the IV stand and the large bag of clear fluid that was already hung from it, and then the big, laminated print out affixed to the wall about blood donor rights. 

“Sit down,” Stewie huffed at him, “I need to prep you.”

“You already do?” Zhenya asked, but he sat without protest. It felt like a dentist’s chair, so heavily reclined back that Zhenya groaned when he settled in. 

One of the armrests was held up and away from the body of the chair; Zhenya extended his hand out, and Stewie snapped on a pair of nitrile gloves. He rummaged around in the cabinetry, ripping open a little foil packet and pulling out the cleansing wipe inside. 

When he approached Zhenya, his already extreme brow furrowed even more.

“Take off your shirt, Geno,” Stewie told him, and Zhenya’s face went pink.

He sat up, tugging the zip-up off and balling it in his lap. The plasticky chair was cold at his back, and Zhenya sucked on his tongue as he held out his arm again for Stewie. He wasn’t used to it happening like this. He’d be able to see it now, he realized. A riot of emotion tried to bubble up in his gut before he clamped it down.

Stewie scrubbed at Zhenya’s forearm with the wipe, the smell of alcohol strong in the still room. On Zhenya’s other hand, he clipped a little heart rate monitor onto one of Zhenya’s fingertips. Zhenya was examining the plastic clip as Stewie dropped a stress ball into his still outstretched palm. Zhenya’s long fingers closed around it right before it slipped from his grasp. 

“You’ll want to hang onto that,” Stewie told him, and the door opened again.

Sid’s hair was still damp from the shower. Zhenya was the first thing he sought out in the room, and Zhenya’s heart picked up its pace, the little monitor with his vitals on it displaying Zhenya’s excitement for the entire room. Zhenya pressed his lips up into a forced smile, conscious of the blood flowing up into his neck, his cheeks. He felt obvious and exposed under the fluorescents. 

“Hey, man,” Sid said as he stepped inside. 

“Hi, Sid,” Zhenya murmured. 

Sid’s washed-out complexion looked even worse under the harsh lighting. He was always pale, but this pallor was what Zhenya had trained himself to look for over the last season. Sid was hungry. Sid needed food. 

Sid needed Zhenya. 

Sid greeted Stewie as he stepped into the room, followed by Vyas. The pleased, happy feeling of the team knowing that Zhenya was Sid’s new person was eaten up very quickly by the sterile, cold room and the people spilling into it. One of Vyas’s techs slipped inside just before the door shut. The room was abruptly crowded. 

“How you doing?” Sid asked, drawing Zhenya’s gaze away from where the tech was ruffling through a clipboard full of paper.

“Good,” Zhenya murmured. He tried to settle into their routine of it; Sid liked to ask questions to start, always the same ones. It was different, surrounded by all these people, on a sterile chair in a sterile room.

“You ready?”

“Yes.”

Sid sat on the stool in front of Zhenya’s outstretched arm. Zhenya couldn’t pull his eyes away from the wet curls on Sid’s head, the faint purple bags under his eyes, the barely-blue spidering veins creeping up his neck under his nearly translucent skin. Zhenya didn’t know when he’d last been able to eat, who he’d had access to back in Halifax, or California, or wherever he’d haunted during the summer. 

When Sid had gotten back to Pittsburgh, he’d been half-flushed and healthy looking, and then he’d worked himself to the bone while the team jumped through hoops that J.P. kept laying down. It was unconventional, J.P. had reminded Zhenya— everyone had reminded Zhenya—for a player to be a vampire’s blood donor. There had been paperwork to sign, insurance to wrangle, examinations to complete. 

J.P. had been silently angry at Zhenya the whole summer over it, but he swallowed his displeasure eventually, as Zhenya knew he would. It was too perfect of a solution to pass up. Sid had spent the last several years burning through donors, none of them compatible, none of them with the right kind of blood, whatever it was, that Sid could feed on. 

The discovery of Zhenya’s blood had been an accident. At least, that’s what Sid told everyone. Sid had handled it all with management, with the front office. It had been a mess. Still, Zhenya had emerged triumphant: the team would allow him to be Sid’s donor, provided everything was done properly.

Properly, Zhenya had found, meant cold. Gooseflesh had erupted across his arms and chest. His nipples were stupidly hard. The scrape he’d inflicted on himself burned just a little.

Sid gripped Zhenya’s wrist, and Zhenya held his breath. 

Sid bent his head and lifted Zhenya’s arm, stabilizing Zhenya’s elbow with his free hand. Zhenya’s fingers were tight around the stress ball, his knuckles white. Sid dipped his face lower and took in a delicate sniff. His face wrinkled, and Zhenya had a flash of paranoia—had he not washed himself well enough?—before Sid’s tongue ran over his teeth, under his lip.

When Sid’s mouth opened, his fangs had descended. 

“Geno,” Zhenya heard from his other side, but he was transfixed. He’d never seen it, Sid leaning in for a bite. He’d never had Sid feed from his wrist, and the stretch of Sid’s plush mouth, the tilt of his head, sent Zhenya’s heart skittering around in his chest.

He took in a short breath as Sid’s fangs punctured his skin. 

Sid bent over him, hunched and small-looking. His eyes fluttered closed, his thick eyelashes dark on his cheekbones. His lips pressed against Zhenya’s skin in pulsing little movements to push the blood from Zhenya’s wrist into Sid’s mouth. It felt like a kiss.

Zhenya tried to turn toward him, to see more of this creature-like Sid who was poised over his arm like a dog over a bone, but Sid’s grip on his elbow tightened painfully. Zhenya let out a small sound, and movement from the corners of the room had him looking up.

“Geno,” Dr. Vyas said quietly, “you need to stay calm. Don’t move.”

This was different than it had been when Sid fed on Zhenya in secret. Sid was not this tense, tightly-coiled thing when he was hidden in Zhenya’s hotel room or house. 

Zhenya saw his heart rate jumping on the monitor, and he closed his eyes and gripped his hoodie tightly in his lap, trying to relax with his arm in Sid’s vice-like grip.

He could hear it, the sound of Sid sucking. It was quieter with Sid so far away, but it still made Zhenya’s mouth wet. His breaths became shallower.

You’re in the rink, he told himself. They are watching you. 

He liked it. 

Sid’s big nose was pressed up against his forearm. Zhenya could feel Sid’s gusting, heavy breaths through the fine hair there. Sid’s grip on Zhenya’s wrist readjusted, and Zhenya made a soft noise. 

Sid’s sucking paused. 

“Sidney?” Vyas asked, and Zhenya hissed as he felt Sid’s fangs retract from his skin. 

“I’m done,” Sid said. His voice was throaty like it always was after a feeding, and as he leaned away from Zhenya’s arm he paused for a second. He watched a small rivulet of blood fall from each of the fang marks gouged into Zhenya’s wrist, and for a moment, his pink tongue teased at his bottom lip.

Sid pushed himself to stand. Zhenya frowned. Sid was supposed to lick the wound shut. He was about to protest when Stewie stepped up with a piece of gauze and dabbed it over the fresh bite marks, wiping away the small traces of blood and then coming in with another alcoholic wipe. 

“How do you feel?” Vyas asked Zhenya. 

“Good?” Zhenya muttered. Sid had a slight flush to his cheeks. Zhenya thought he saw a small blot of redness at the corner of Sid’s wide lips. 

Vyas pestered Zhenya for several minutes as his wrist was wrapped. He asked Zhenya a series of questions that Zhenya distractedly answered, darting looks at his wrist, and then at his jumping vitals on the display, and then at Sid, who was standing a few feet away, carefully watching. 

“The IV will last about a half-hour, and then you can head out for the day,” Vyas said. Zhenya nodded.

When it was only Sid, Stewie, and Zhenya in the room, Stewie turned a questioning gaze onto Sid.

“I just wanted to catch up with Geno,” Sid said with a shrug. His hands were tucked into his pockets. His fangs were tucked back into his skull. 

“Leave him alone, Sid,” Stewie said. His voice was unusually hard. “It’s taxing for the body, you know this. Let him rest.”

“It’s fine,” Zhenya said, but Stewie just kept his arms crossed, and when he turned to Sid, there seemed to be something communicated with just a look. Sid nodded, said a soft goodbye, and turned tail.

Stewie went back to packing the gauze into its drawer. Zhenya leaned his head back against the chair. He kept his hoodie in his lap, concealing how his dick was pressing up against his sweatpants, certainly visible through both layers of fabric Zhenya had pathetically used to try and keep himself contained. Sid feeding still felt good like this, in this cold room with everyone’s eyes on them.

Even so, something had gone wrong. Sid hadn’t taken enough. Sid hadn’t taken nearly enough, and no one had noticed but Zhenya. 

 

Zhenya’s garage door was open when he got home.

“Sid?” Zhenya called out as he walked inside.

“Yeah, hey, sorry,” Sid apologized preemptively. He was in the kitchen, peering at the sparse contents of Zhenya’s fridge. “You need to go grocery shopping, bud.”

Zhenya tossed his to-go container from the arena onto the countertop pointedly. 

“I eat fine,” he said, dumping his keys next to the container and opening a drawer in search of a fork. “You don’t. Why?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sid did a good job of sounding offended, but his happiness at seeing Zhenya was palpable. It lit a small ember in Zhenya’s stomach.

“At arena, you barely drink. Gonna be hungry tomorrow,” Zhenya said, feigning casualness. 

“It’s fine,” Sid said as Zhenya dug into his roasted vegetables. He picked his way through the carrots to get to the broccoli beneath. 

“You never take so little,” Zhenya said through a mouthful. Sid was undeterred. “And Stewie is mad for what? He always hate donors?”

“He’s just stressed.”

“Maybe because you not eat enough.”

“Geno,” Sid sighed, “cool it.”

Zhenya shrugged, a big, exaggerated movement, and scooped his food up. He walked to his media room knowing Sid would follow.

He was secretly pleased Sid had sought him out. It was sort of like how it had been before: just the two of them making sure Sid got fed. 

He wanted to talk to Sid. That had quietly been Zhenya’s favorite part of their illicit feedings, before anyone knew but them. Sid, driving over to Zhenya’s house or slipping into Zhenya’s hotel room on the road, usually with food to put in the fridge for Zhenya afterward, always so damn polite about it.

If Zhenya was still conscious afterward, they’d talk, Zhenya drunkenly trying to follow along with the conversation while woozy from the blood loss. Sid would talk about anything. Zhenya had learned a lot about Taylor’s high school classes that way, or Sid’s thoughts on the latest TV show he’d gotten into. He’d ask Zhenya about everything, from Zhenya’s takes on the Steelers to if he’d seen the dog video Benny had been passing around in the locker room.

Of course, during the offseason, with Zhenya an ocean away back in Russia, that had died off. Zhenya had tried texting Sid once or twice, but the time difference always meant that Zhenya’s late-night, tired messages didn’t get answered until after he’d fallen asleep, and in the morning it was so much harder to look at Sid’s long text messages and try to imagine the same quiet tones of Sid’s voice, deep and raspy after a feeding.

Zhenya sat down heavily in one of the reclining leather chairs and reached for the TV remote. He had feared those conversations were over now, replaced by cold overhead lighting and the feeling of an IV needle being poked into the tender skin of his elbow.

It would have still been worth it, Zhenya reasoned, if it meant that Sid was eating and healthy and there, playing hockey alongside him. This was so much better—Sid trailing in and setting up shop on another chair, immediately reclining it as far back as it could go.

Zhenya briefly considered putting on some war or history program before grimacing at himself and finding whatever basketball game was on. He was a little pathetic, but not so pathetic he’d stoop to that. 

Sid was the sort to make his presence known in the house, wherever he was. His chatter wasn’t muted at all by the sound of the TV. Sid just talked around it as Zhenya ate, commenting on whatever the Clippers were doing—like all five-feet-eleven-inches of him would do it better—and then moving on to his roulette of camp catch-up stories from the team. Zhenya enjoyed the sound of Sid’s voice most of all, and he contented himself with it: things wouldn’t be changing so badly after all.

He was leaning back in his chair, his feet kicked up, to-go container empty on the side table next to him, eyes slipping open only once every few seconds to glimpse the screen, when Sid spoke up louder.

“You still there?”

“Yes,” Zhenya murmured. Barely. He was fading. It was always like this for the first few days of the season: the grind of adjusting to on-ice workouts, the mental energy of keeping up in a room full of English. And even with how little Sid had taken, he had still drank from Zhenya. Zhenya had earned his rest for the evening. 

But—

“You were right.”

Zhenya rolled his head to the side so he could look at Sid. Sid was no longer reclined easily. He was tilted to the edge of his chair, watching Zhenya closely in the flickering light from the TV. His gaze was heavy and landed below Zhenya’s eyes. Below Zhenya’s chin. Zhenya’s tongue felt heavy and sticky like molasses when he spoke.

“About what?”

“I need more,” Sid whispered. “I’m sorry.”

Zhenya’s heart surged.

“Now?” he asked blearily, and Sid started to stand. Zhenya tilted his head back wantingly.

“Upstairs,” Sid said throatily. “Like we used to.”

Zhenya’s bedroom was cold. The window was cracked, the cold October air leaking in. Sometimes it had gone like this, with Zhenya leading Sid upstairs. Other times, Sid had appeared seemingly out of thin air and would linger by Zhenya’s dresser, almost bashful, like he hadn’t just slipped into Zhenya’s house in impossible ways at the witching hour.

“I should have taken more,” Sid said as Zhenya walked to the bed. His nerves were all bundled up and shaky like an anxious animal. “It’s hard, Geno, they just—”

Zhenya was trying so hard to concentrate on what Sid was saying but it was difficult with how much his entire body ached with wanting this. He shoved the pillows against the headboard and reached for the hem of his shirt.

“You take as much as you need,” he said, feeling like he was in a daze.

“Yeah. Yeah, I will,” Sid murmured, and when Zhenya reemerged from under the fabric, Sid was staring at him with an intensity that Zhenya had been craving since the first time he saw it.

It felt dreamlike, like always—the pressure of Sid kneeling on the bed, the way the mattress shifted as he carefully climbed on top of Zhenya, their knees briefly knocking together before Sid planted one of his legs between Zhenya’s thighs. 

This was it, what had been missing from Sid’s careful feeding at the rink. The feeling of Sid boxing Zhenya in, of Zhenya sinking into his mattress and being warmed by Sid’s big body as Sid reached for Zhenya’s jaw.

He was already getting hard.

“I’ll be careful,” Sid whispered as he settled on top of Zhenya. He held himself politely away, his body kept apart from Zhenya’s bare chest and sheet-tangled limbs. “I’ll be so careful, Geno, I won’t take too much. How are you feeling? Are you ready?”

“Yes,” Zhenya murmured. “Okay. You take. All you need this time.”

Sid’s face was mostly shadows as he hovered over Zhenya. His eyes were dark hollows eaten up by the night. His mouth was open just enough for Zhenya to see the peeking tips of his fangs.

“Sid,” Zhenya murmured, and Sid’s hand gently tilted Zhenya’s face up and away.

The bite itself was always quicker than Zhenya expected. Barely a pinch, barely anything at all, and then Sid’s hot mouth pressed against his skin. 

Zhenya let out a breath as Sid started sucking. The sensation made Zhenya’s head spin. The blood loss was part of it, was the reason Sid always insisted on Zhenya laying down, but it was also because of how his gut simmered with feelings he tried to keep locked down. Sid’s hands were placed as they always were: one holding Zhenya’s face away, the other braced on his shoulder, holding him down so Sid could feed.

Zhenya drifted, listening to the sound of Sid’s throat work. He could hear it so much more clearly like this, could feel every movement of Sid’s face and throat. 

It was muffled and quiet, but it was unmistakable: Sid, drawing Zhenya’s blood into his mouth, swallowing it down, taking it for his own. Zhenya was giving Sid sustenance, life, and it made Zhenya feel like he would boil over with midnight feelings, already so close to the surface. He wanted to wrap his arms, his legs around Sid, to pull Sid into his body.

The retraction of Sid’s fangs was the first real flash of pain Zhenya felt. 

Sid’s fangs unhooked from Zhenya’s skin, and the long rub of Sid’s tongue over the wounds tugged a quiet moan from Zhenya’s lips.

“I’m sorry,” Sid whispered. His voice was thick, and his chest pressed against Zhenya’s with every huge inhale he took. “It won’t hurt for much longer, Geno, I—”

Zhenya took in deep breaths to stay awake, trying to focus on the last edge of pain in his throat that Sid’s venom hadn’t yet soothed. He needed to stay conscious. He needed to show Sid that he was strong enough for this, that he wouldn’t fail on Sid like he had at the end of last season, the last time Sid had fed on him before the team found out.

Sid dipped his head low again, and the wet point of his tongue traced along the bitten skin on Zhenya’s neck.

The groan that tumbled from Zhenya’s lips was unmistakable. 

“Shh,” Sid whispered, and Zhenya closed his eyes. “It won’t hurt soon, I promise.”

Zhenya drifted. 

Zhenya slept.

 

The locker room clocked Sid’s improved appearance at their next practice. It was obvious when Sid was being fed; his whole face changed, became softer and warmer, colored something better than the alabaster white it got when he was taxing himself.

“How you liking it with Geno on tap, 87?” Cully laughed. “Does Russian taste better than American?”

“On tap?” Cole asked with a grin that was going nowhere good. Zhenya tightened his laces. “For what?”

The waggle of his eyebrows was obnoxious. It still made Sid laugh from where he was lounging in his pants and chest protector. Zhenya was trying not to look at him too hard. He couldn’t stop himself from cataloguing how Sid’s cheekbones were more rounded, the corners of his eyes relaxed. Sid looked sated—it was a comfort to Zhenya, a little badge of pride he wanted to wear on his jersey.

Their feedings last season had been secret, all sequestered away in hotel rooms or their homes. Every time, Sid had drunk until Zhenya was blinking back stars. The first official feeding they’d had, the first with the Penguins’ permission and blessing and oversight, had been barely a sip in comparison. 

It’s a new season, Zhenya told himself. Perhaps things were different now. Perhaps, with the laughter echoing around the room, things could even be better. Zhenya was still hoping for something special from their public feedings, as clinical as they were. He was Sid’s now, in a way. That meant something. It wasn’t unreasonable to hope that their hockey would flourish too. Their inglorious exit from playoffs the last season had been painful, and the grinding of the team to adapt to their new coach’s system had been even worse. Things changed, maybe for the better, and if these arena feedings—chilly and impersonal—were how they kept Sid fed now… he’d live with it.

Optimism wouldn’t kill him, he figured. 

By the end of practice, he was closer to death than he’d expected. He’d forgotten how grueling Johnston’s demands were. His line had to keep sweeping back into their defensive zone for the puck, crossing the ice again and again to gain possession. Sweat was pouring down Zhenya’s back and he was sticky all over. His legs shook as he tugged his jersey over his head before he was completely down the runway.

After he’d showered, he just leaned back into his stall and closed his eyes. He’d strained a muscle in his chest on a faceoff, and he could feel it pull with each big breath he took in. 

He started fondling his wrist without even thinking about it. He massaged his bare skin—he’d taken off the wrap last evening, and the little pockmarks left by Sid’s fangs had nearly disappeared. Sid’s venom was good for healing, and the bite he’d left on Zhenya’s wrist had been one of his mildest. Still, they were more visible than the ghost of a bite Sid had left on Zhenya’s neck the previous night. Zhenya’s brow furrowed as he sought out the break in his skin on his wrist with his fingernail. He wanted to find it, to feel the little proof of Sid feeding on him. 

It had been a long summer back in Moscow, after nearly a whole season of Sid pressing up close to him, his breath hot on Zhenya’s neck, his grip—

“Hey,” Zhenya heard, and he opened his eyes.

Stewie was in front of him. He looked no happier to see Zhenya than he had last practice. 

“Let me see that,” Stewie said, and it took Zhenya a moment to realize Stewie meant Zhenya’s wrist. He held his hand out to Stewie, palm up, and Stewie peered at Zhenya’s wrist and forearm. 

He rocked back on his heels with a dismissive sound. “If that’s bugging you,” he said, “come to me.”

“Yes,” Zhenya said, pulling his palm back in toward his chest. Stewie gave him one more look-over before going to accost Sunshine about his hip. 

The vacated space in front of Zhenya’s locker was apparently an invitation. Tanger, looking a little sour and determined like he always did, stepped in front of Zhenya.

“Come out with us,” he said. “Flower, Ian, Horny, me, we’re getting food. You should come.”

Zhenya could see Flower watching the conversation from his stall. Zhenya felt a little raw about Flower and Tanger trying to wrangle his socialization habits. He knew he’d been absent from team dinners since Nealsy’s trade. Their inclusion of Hornqvist was a bitter reminder. 

“Should probably call back home to Russia later,” Zhenya tried to hedge. “So tired, it’s like, hard to find time.”

“You can do that anytime. Come out,” Tanger said. His lips were set in a straight line. 

“Rain check,” was all Zhenya said. It was a phrase he’d learned from Nealsy. By the way Tanger’s eyes tightened, he recognized it. 

Zhenya escaped the locker room shortly after that, and on the drive home he contemplated how things had changed—their whole coaching staff gone, Zhenya’s closest friend sent south, their playoff dreams crushed once more under the heel of an unforgiving league. The disappointment in Sochi still curdled Zhenya’s stomach, the black pit at the center of it all.

He felt very, very alone.

 

“No more,” Zhenya huffed as he skated close to Johnston. 

“One more round,” Johnston said. 

He offered it like a barter, which made Zhenya bristle. Johnston seemed like he’d actually let Zhenya argue his way into reducing it, which Zhenya didn’t like at all. He wanted a direct command or to be left to his own devices, and Johnston—with his nervous personality, like a shaky, tiny dog who’d never learned to take lumps from animals twice its size—set Zhenya’s teeth on edge. 

Zhenya swerved angrily away from him, cracking his stick along the boards. The sound drew a few eyes from around the rink, but when Zhenya met Sid’s, he felt confident that Sid had been watching him before he started slamming things around. 

Sid’s eyes were their usual bright hazel because he’d eaten well; when his eyes turned coal-dark, it meant he’d gone too long between feedings. Their warm, amber-like color was like a badge of pride Zhenya wanted to wear. He’d taken care of Sid, just like he’d needed to.

Zhenya made his way over. Johnston was at least giving them a minute to catch their breath before he put them through another grueling zone entry drill. He bumped up against Sid’s shoulder; Sid flattened himself against the boards dramatically in response, but he didn’t grin or smile like he usually did when someone messed with him between drills. 

“Sid?” Zhenya asked.

“Hey,” Sid said, and he glanced away from Zhenya. Zhenya followed his line of sight; Johnston was watching them, his face in its usual concerned-looking resting position.

“How you feel?” Zhenya asked. He wished Sid hadn’t fled his house after feeding like he usually did. Zhenya had woken to a fully stocked fridge, though, so it hadn’t been for nothing. He’d had worse one-night stands. 

“Fine,” Sid said. Zhenya didn’t like what Sid’s expression did: a furrow between his eyebrows, an unhappy parting of his fat lips. 

“Sid?” he asked.

“Hey man, let’s focus on the drill.”

“It’s stupid,” Zhenya said, not too quietly. It was. He was tired as a dog, and he shouldn’t have been playing this defensively in the first place.

“Just… buy in, Geno. We’ll get through it. The defense is doing well with it.”

Zhenya had to disagree. They’d lost their first three games. He was about to say as much when Sid cut him off with a jerk of his chin.

“C’mon,” Sid said. “Let’s follow through.”

He extricated himself from between Zhenya and the glass, taking his place near Johnston. Zhenya kept to the boards and watched Sid’s line sweat through it. Sid was slow on his strides. They all were. Johnston’s commitment to grinding their way into a goal was chipping away at the whole team.

Zhenya suffered through his line’s go at it, and they were mercifully released from the ice. Zhenya was miffed. He’d done nothing to make Sid so wooden, and Sid’s submission to Johnston’s coaching rankled him. He was aggressively washing the shampoo from his hair when he heard wet footsteps approach.

Flower, naked and skinny as a hockey stick, stood behind him. Zhenya’s incredulous look did nothing to shoo him away.

“What?” Zhenya said.

Flower grinned. It was a little unnerving.

“Geoff has that smoked salmon in the lounge,” Flower told him. “You’ll want to hurry.”

With a curse, Zhenya scrubbed faster at his hair. The salmon always went fast, and if Geoff had salmon, that meant his other main course was the not-sweet-enough roast that Zhenya wanted to avoid at all costs.

Flower made it out of the showers before Zhenya did by some miracle, snapping his towel at Zhenya as he walked by; Zhenya was hot on his heels and rushed through his post-shower routine. He was half-blind, tugging on his shirt as he left the locker room straight for the lounge. 

The big metal chafing dish’s lid was ajar. Zhenya cursed quietly as he peered at the drizzle of oil and herbs inside; the salmon was gone.

“Hey, big guy,” he heard, and Tanger held up one of the to-go boxes Geoff stocked.

Zhenya found himself squirreled away in a corner of the player’s lounge, Flower and Tanger watching as he ate his salmon. Tanger, relegated to the stool with an uneven leg, wobbled as he leaned forward.

“Listen,” he said, “we wanted to talk to you about Sid.”

“Talk to Sid.” Zhenya spoke through a mouthful, digging into the brown rice Tanger had heaped up next to the salmon. 

“No, we needed to talk to you,” Flower said. He was curled over his own empty takeout box, and looked twice the vampire Sid was, with his angular face and sharp eyebrows. “You’re the human here.”

Zhenya was thrown. Of the whole team, few were more comfortable around Sid than Flower and Tanger. He put down his container of food and wiped at his mouth, giving himself a moment to think. 

“Why you worry?” he settled on. “It’s just Sid.”

Tanger was rolling his knuckles on the tabletop. Flower just perched on his seat silently, his face resting on his hands. 

“Because,” Tanger said, “he’s eating you.”

Zhenya failed to stop the flush that began filling his cheeks and neck. He could feel his skin getting hot.

“Eat,” he scoffed. “It’s just blood. He always do, for five years. He gets donor all the time. Why it’s different now?”

Flower, whose hand had migrated up to cover his ugly little mustache, made a sound from behind his fingers. 

“You already do a lot for Sid,” he said. 

“He’s captain,” Zhenya said, and Flower’s face did something complicated behind his hand. The flush on Zhenya’s face grew deeper.

“That doesn’t mean he gets to eat you if he wants.”

“It’s not eat,” Zhenya snapped at Tanger. “Get wrong idea, okay? I can do, so I do. He needs. What, you want him hungry? How he gonna play like that?”

“That new donor, Joseph, I thought he was working out,” Flower said. 

“None of them working,” Zhenya told him, his lips twisting down at the reminder of Joseph. He’d been tall like a basketball player, taller than Zhenya, and he’d lasted two months before Sid stopped being able to latch on. It had been the final straw before Zhenya and Sid had fallen into their back-alley feeding habit.  “Vampires, they picky. Sid very picky. It’s fine.”

“And you’re the only one who he likes?” Tanger asked. Zhenya rounded on him, rawly exposed and prideful.

“Guys?” Sid’s voice was wary, and they all turned to watch Sid leave the locker room. 

He was barefoot, dressed only in a loose pair of sweats and a well-worn team t-shirt that clung to his shoulders. 

Zhenya went redder.

“Is everything okay?” Sid asked, glancing between them. His eyes lingered on Zhenya for a fraction longer than everyone else.

“Fine,” Flower piped up. He uncurled himself from his stool, grabbing his half-full food container and lobbing it into the nearest trash can. “Arguing over the last salmon. Geno called dibs.”

Flower drew Sid away masterfully, looping an arm around Sid’s shoulders and wandering toward the video room with him. Zhenya very abruptly stood, and Tanger wobbled his way off of his chair a second later.

“It’s fine,” Zhenya said harshly.

Tanger, for once, didn’t return fire with fire. Instead, his expression twisted.

“You don’t have to do everything for him, okay?” Tanger said. “He can manage himself without hurting you.”

“It’s not hurt,” Zhenya said, but he felt seen. “Team, everything, it’s all safe.”

Tanger gave him a very small smile. Zhenya fled before Tanger could keep digging and hit Zhenya’s emotional bedrock.

 

It was still early enough in the season for team dinners. Daley and Cole spearheaded the effort, cramming the team into the long extra room at the hofbrauhaus and demanding beer for every player. Zhenya had been squeezed between Benny and Scuds, but the seating chart was ephemeral; players drifted around the table, laughing with each other or doing their best to poke someone’s eye out playing darts along the far wall. 

Zhenya was watching Scuds lose very badly to Sid when the chair to his left was pulled back with a loud squeak. 

He turned to see Hornqvist sit down heavily next to him. Hornqvist had a good smile—it crinkled his eyes, making Zhenya think of the jovial American Santa Claus—and Zhenya found himself smiling back before he could make the decision to.

“Careful,” Hornqvist said, gesturing with the full beer in his hand toward Sid and Scuds. “Sid’s been eyeing you all night. I think he wants to challenge you next.”

Zhenya let out a snort, shaking his head and looking away from the dartboard. 

“I can’t play,” he told Hornqvist. “I don’t want to lose money to Sid.”

“You make more than him,” Hornqvist laughed. “You’d be good for it.”

“No,” Zhenya said, and he smiled into his own tall glass. There was only a sip’s worth of beer left in it. “He already drink me dry, not gonna let him do it to my money too.”

Hornqvist was quiet, and Zhenya looked up from his beer—he hadn’t pegged Hornqvist to be one of the players who was still too uncomfortable to handle jokes about Sid’s vampirism. Hornqvist didn’t look upset, though, or even uncomfortable. A small smile was teasing his cheek up again, and he shook his head slowly.

“You’re a funny guy, Geno,” Hornqvist told him. 

Zhenya shrugged with a single shoulder, but he was pleased. Humor had been his weapon of choice when facing America and the NHL, and it had served him well over the years. 

“Yes,” he said cheekily. “You owe me twenty dollars for joke. I charge if it’s good.”

Nealsy would have twisted Zhenya’s joke immediately into something dirty, which Zhenya would have laughed at to hide the way he would go pink. Hornqvist, though, just tipped his head back and let out an amused, incredulous scoff. 

“Like Sid would let anyone else charge for you. He’s got you locked down.”

Zhenya couldn’t help himself. He glanced over his shoulder, and a frisson shot through his bones when he immediately caught Sid’s gaze. 

Sid was watching him with those dark, dark eyes, not paying a whit of attention to where Benny was lining up his last throw. It had been six days since Sid had pressed Zhenya into his bed and fed. The team claimed Sid didn’t need to feed for almost another week. Zhenya knew better. The hunger was written onto Sid’s body.

Zhenya’s heart thudded unevenly in his chest, and he wondered if Sid could hear it over the commotion of the restaurant and the team. By the way Sid was looking at him, he thought Sid just might be able to.

The evening wore on; Zhenya finished half of another beer before stealing what was left of Benny’s fries. He was licking the salt from his fingers when he saw Knuckles dismissed from the dartboard. Sid pocketed another twenty. 

His eyes trailed back to Zhenya.

Horny noticed, and then Benny, as Zhenya stood and slowly made his way over to Sid. The team had started looking at Zhenya differently when he was Sid and Geno. It was a careful, half-wary observation that tickled along Zhenya’s skin. Sid never looked away from him, and as Zhenya pulled Knuckles’ darts from the board, Sid stepped closer.

“Yeah?” he asked hopefully. Zhenya rarely entertained Sid’s competitiveness outside of the rink. It was a relentless behavior to bear the brunt of. It made Zhenya feel penned in; he liked it too much. 

“No one else play with you,” Zhenya told him. “You take too much money.”

“They’re the ones who lost it,” Sid said. He stepped into Zhenya’s space to yank out one of the darts. The sour-water scent of the rink lingered on him. He was untouched by the grease of the food and the maltiness of the beer. 

Sid’s lips parted. His cheek near Zhenya hollowed for a moment with the deep breath he took.

“What are you betting?” Sid asked.

Zhenya was not very good at darts. He did, however, have liquid courage on his side, so he ripped the last dart from the board and leaned closer to Sid.

“I win, you give me all the money,” Zhenya said. 

“High stakes, okay,” Sid laughed, pleased. “And if I win?”

Zhenya licked his lips.

“Tonight, you come to mine, you drink.”

The surprise on Sid’s face was a bad sign. Fine. Zhenya could adapt.

“Or we go to special room tomorrow, you feed more.”

“Geno,” Sid laughed again, but the sound died in his throat when he realized Zhenya wasn’t joking.

“You hungry,” Zhenya said with a forcefully casual shrug. “It’s been whole week. Need more.”

“You’re on a schedule,” Sid told him. “There’s—there are six more days until—”

“Maybe you still didn’t take enough last time. I notice.” Zhenya fiddled with the darts, pressing the sharp-blunt tip of one against his finger hard enough to dent his skin. “You win, you get.”

“You can’t gamble your blood, Geno,” Sid said. He sounded alarmed. He looked anything but—pale and black-eyed and leaning closer to Zhenya. 

“It’s mine,” Zhenya said haughtily. “I do what I want.”

He took the first throw. 

It was low, just outside the inner ring. He turned to Sid, who was still watching him.

“I go again?” Zhenya asked. He was banking on Sid’s inability to throw a game, not even for fun in the back of a trashy beer hall. 

Sid’s nose wrinkled, his face pinched and displeased, and he turned to face the dartboard. 

His dart landed next to Zhenya’s. It was practically even, and just a hair closer to the ring.

Alright, Zhenya thought. This is how you’ll play it.

He threw again. His second dart landed better, in the triple ring under 18, wedged in the corner of the thin red strip.

Sid was gnawing on his lip when Zhenya turned to look at him. Sid’s big eyes were narrowed as he glared at the dartboard, and he took a minute before snapping his throw toward the board.

Sid’s dart slid up against Zhenya’s, and Zhenya barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes. 

He considered lobbing an absolutely shit dart as he stepped up for his last throw. Sid likely wouldn’t have it in him to throw a 4, or worse: miss the board entirely. Zhenya’s own pride was bubbling up in his stomach as he fondled his last dart. He liked this feeling of going toe-to-toe with Sid. He liked the way Sid was watching him, intense as a big cat looking at its prey, just like he was on the ice over a faceoff. 

Zhenya pressed his thumb hard against the end of the dart. He didn’t make a sound as the tip pierced his skin. Sid’s entire body tightened—he froze, his eyes immediately focused down at Zhenya’s hand. 

Sid let out a quiet noise as Zhenya pulled his thumb off of the dart. A little bead of blood welled up on Zhenya’s skin. Sid was singularly focused on him. It was the headiest feeling in the world. 

He lined up and threw. 

“Bull,” he laughed as the dart quivered in the board, embedded deep into the outer green circle of the bullseye. He turned to Sid with a grin. He wanted to see Sid try to meet him, or to best him and hit the red inner core. 

Sid’s eyes darted up, away from Zhenya’s hand. He set his jaw, turned toward the board, and let his dart fly. 

“Three,” Sid said flatly. “You win, buddy.”

Zhenya’s smile slowly slipped off his face. Sid’s dart was set at the outermost edge of the board. He was suddenly very cold. 

“Good game,” Sid said, and Zhenya didn’t have time to react before Sid was pressing a wad of bills into his hand. Sid gave Zhenya a grimace disguised as a smile as he left.

 

Johnston called Zhenya to his office the day after they beat the Stars. 

Zhenya had been summoned as the team finished their video session. He was tired; the video room, with its plush chairs and dark corners, drained him. He wanted to sleep, not watch looping videos of the Panthers in the neutral zone. 

Johnston kept his office sterile. There was nothing to look at inside of it besides the man himself. He sighed, rubbing his hands together before bracing them on his desk. 

“I wanted to talk to you without Sid or the medical staff,” Johnston began, and Zhenya sat up straighter. 

“I still don’t think this is the best move for the team long-term,” Johnston said. “I know why you did it, you’re a good teammate, but the staff have a better handle on Sid’s needs now. They’ve assured me they’re more than capable of transitioning Sid to a proper donor.”

Zhenya bit his tongue; Johnston had only been with the team for a year, and nearly the whole time Zhenya had been providing blood for Sid under the table. Johnston had no idea what it had been like for the last five years, especially early on. 

Sid had been turned during the offseason; a one-off attack in Los Angeles, a moment of crisis that morphed into a rapidly-drawn, unforgivingly strict PR campaign as the team unequivocally said they’d help Sid through this challenging time while still helping him thrive on the ice. 

The ice had never been the problem. Sid’s hockey was as good as ever. It was Sid’s food source that became a sticking point. Everyone knew vampires couldn’t just drink from anyone. Much like Zhenya hated lobster, some vampires hated certain peoples’ blood for reasons only they could understand. 

Sid, of course, had been stubbornly trying to work with the official blood donors the team approved. It seemed like a new one was brought in every few months, and all the guys on the team heard was that it was a delicate process. They’d been powerless to help as Sid grew irritable, paler, hungry-looking.

“He’s picky,” Jen had told Zhenya one night on the team bus as she typed furiously on her iPhone. “None of them are working.”

Zhenya had sat quietly with that knowledge for a few days.

It had been stupid, at first. Things were going poorly for the team. Sid’s production had ground to a halt—he was starving—and Zhenya’s hadn’t looked much better with the defensive style Johnston was trying to force on them. Zhenya had spent a sleepless night watching chintzy vampire romance movies, and he’d gone to bed with a stupid idea. When he’d gotten up for their flight out to Canada the next day, his stupid idea had evolved into a stupid plan. 

The team, on their last leg, had brought bagged blood for Sid to subsist on during their roadtrip. Zhenya knew Sid couldn’t stomach the stuff. Sid was hungry. Zhenya was willing. All it had taken was a post-game lounge in Sid’s hotel room, Zhenya carefully wearing a shirt with a stretched collar, and a long, serious conversation.

Just try, Zhenya had implored. Maybe I’m good.

Neither of them had been prepared for how good Zhenya would be for Sid.

They’d been able to hide it for season; Zhenya massaging away the bite-mark bruises on his neck, Sid sipping on blood bags enough to reasonably fake a meal, Zhenya feigning cold after cold to cover for his exhaustion on the nights where Sid took too much.

It had been one of those nights that it all fell apart. The season had ended, the Penguins ground to dust against the Rangers, and Sid had come for one last feeding before Zhenya flew out to Moscow.

Zhenya hadn’t made it onto that flight.

Sid had demanded they tell the team, and now Zhenya was here, sitting in his coach’s ugly office and listening to the creak of Johnston’s chair as he uncomfortably shifted in his seat.

“But,” Johnston continued, “you’re looking good, Geno.” It was accurate. Zhenya’s game-opening goal the previous night had been a raw show of power. “I think things are better, now that the team is aware about you and Sid.”

Zhenya’s heart did something very stupid in response to Johnston’s words. 

“I think you’re doing just fine. We are trying to keep an eye on Sid, though.” Johnston was chewing on his tongue between words. It was distracting and also a little gross. “We’re still waiting on Sid to elevate his play. Something isn’t clicking, and we might have to reach out to the NHL for another donor match to try and figure out what he needs.”

It wasn’t Zhenya’s blood that was keeping Sid slow; it was Johnston’s horrible vision for the team.

“He has me,” Zhenya said. “It’s good.”

“For now,” Johnston said. 

 

They were playing the Panthers at home when Zhenya went feet-first into the boards.

He had to be helped off of the ice by Cole; the crowd cheered and it rang in his ears as he limped down the runway. By the time the team shuffled into the locker room for the second intermission, he was already seated in his locker, his ankle wrapped in ice.

“Fuck,” Duper remarked to him.

“Fuck you, Pascal,” Zhenya said tiredly.

He watched the rest of the game from the locker room, wrapped in his stiff team hoodie, his ankle slowly freezing off. It was appropriate; he felt cold all over. Stewie had begun putting the calls in as soon as he finished wrapping Zhenya’s ankle. Zhenya’s injury disqualified him from blood donation. Stewie was flustered and upset, his face red.

“I’m going to have to call in favors to get bags this late,” he grunted as the tinny hold music played from his phone. 

Adams had taken Zhenya down, a perfectly legal hit that sent Zhenya to the ice and then into the boards behind the net, bending his foot the wrong way. It was a sprain, bad enough to keep him out for a week, Stewie estimated, but no more. 

Zhenya was still sitting in his locker when the team re-entered after winning in overtime. Sid was flushed from effort, and he swooped in to stand in front of Zhenya, a small smile on his face.

“No,” Stewie called from across the room. “No, absolutely not.”

“What?” Zhenya said, baffled, but Stewie had already abandoned Sunshine, the KT half-applied to his shoulder, to make a break for Sid and Zhenya. 

“I wasn’t—” Sid began, but Stewie just shooed him away from Zhenya. 

“You’re not doing postgame feedings anymore, not when your source is on the team, and he’s off-limits until he’s back on the ice,” Stewie said sternly.

Sid’s face had transformed, his expression growing darker around the edges. 

“I was just coming to check on him,” Sid said, and Stewie rebuffed him with another step back. 

“Take a shower, let him relax,” Stewie insisted.

Sid’s mouth twitched. It was a tiny movement, and Zhenya was startled when he saw a hint of a fang before Sid’s lips fell again.

Sid turned and stalked off to the showers. Stewie whirled to face Zhenya.

“You need to leave him alone after games,” Stewie said, sounding deeply exasperated.

“I don’t do anything!” Zhenya said, offended. “I’m not allowed talk him now?”

“He’s amped. If he’s amped, he’s hungry, and you need to leave him alone,” Stewie insisted. 

Zhenya was fed up, frustrated by Stewie, by his ankle, by how the team had seen Stewie send Sid away from him. Sid was always hungry. 

“Fine,” he snapped. Stewie only returned to Sunshine once he’d glared sternly at Zhenya from behind his bushy eyebrows for another half-minute. 

“It’s for your safety, Geno,” Stewie said before walking away.

 

Zhenya was still down for the count against Dallas two days later. He watched the game from the locker room, unwilling to brave the press box on the chance he got stuck on the elevator with the press themselves, who had gotten bloodthirsty about Zhenya since the team officially listed him as Sid’s donor.

Sid was kept a careful distance away. Stewie was Zhenya’s most passionate and most unwanted protector, who seemed to think guarding Zhenya like a pile of gold was his most important duty. It wasn’t only Stewie, though; Jen kept Sid busy with the media, which wasn’t atypical until she neatly bogarted Zhenya from the locker room while Sid was mid-scrum as a distraction. 

When they scheduled Zhenya for his physical therapy appointment a full two hours after the team practiced, Zhenya put his bruised foot down.

“You try to keep me away from Sid,” he told Stewie from the door of the trainer’s room.

Stewie was in the back by his computer, surrounded by his piles of paper and stray exercise bands. He frowned at Zhenya.

“Sid’s busy. You’re injured,” he said as he removed himself from behind his desk. “You can’t be his donor if you’re injured.”

“You hover. Always in my way. What, you think he’s gonna attack me?” Zhenya scoffed.

“No,” Stewie said shortly. “I think he started feeding on you in secret, unapproved by me or the medical team, and he kept feeding on you for an entire year before coming clean about it.”

“Who care?” Zhenya asked, stepping closer. “It’s fine now, everybody know, and everybody be weird, around us always.”

“I need you to trust us to handle this,” Stewie said.

“You don’t seem like you want to!” Zhenya snapped.

“Maybe I don’t, yeah?” Stewie met Zhenya’s tone, real anger in his voice. “Maybe I don’t like one of my best players getting fed off of.”

“It’s my choice!”

“Trust me, I know,” Stewie snorted. “Now get on the mat.”

Zhenya wanted to bare his teeth. He wanted to look vampiric and scary like Sid. Instead, he stormily walked to the mat in front of the wall of mirrors, staring at his own neck and wishing—not for the first time—that Sid had left a mark, a twin set of punctures on his neck for Zhenya to admire.

 

Being injured was boring. Being injured and pressured to stay away from Sid was even worse. Zhenya got tired of his computer and TV quickly. He limped listlessly to stare into his once-again-empty fridge before he decided the only solution was bed. He wobbled most of the way to the bathroom, where he sank onto the marble stool cut into the shower stall gratefully. 

The skin around his ankle was still sensitive from his most recent icing. He was a baby about cold, something Denis always teased him for in a way that veered too close to genuinely mean for Zhenya to ever develop a good sense of humor about it. The guys on the team liked to chirp him for showing up to the airport swaddled to hell; Zhenya did a good job of acting like it didn’t bother him. 

This, sitting in the steam-filled room as hot water poured down onto his legs, was one of the best things Zhenya had ever felt. His whole body was warm. It was so easy to miss a good Russian banya during the season, but if Zhenya closed his eyes, tipped his head back and imagined…

The water sluicing down his legs felt like fingers, hands, running up his skin, teasing through the thin dark hair there. The comparatively cool tile against Zhenya’s back made the touch—the water—feel even hotter. Zhenya opened his mouth and took in a long, steam-filled breath. 

The water only came up to his knees. He wanted it to reach higher. It felt like a teasing stroke, tickling over his feet and slipping up his shins just to stop.

It felt like Sid waking Zhenya up for a midnight feeding.

Sid was politer; he’d come late at night, usually slipping into Zhenya’s hotel room in mysterious ways. Sometimes Zhenya was already asleep, and he’d be woken by a quiet, whispered Geno and a gentle tweak of his toes through the thin hotel blankets. 

Zhenya reached down to palm his cock at the thought of Sid’s hot hand running up Zhenya’s leg, over his scarred knee, to his hip and in. 

Their feedings, when done in the darkness like this, were hot and close and exactly what Zhenya craved. He wanted it so badly, he wanted the dazed, light-headed feeling he got when Sid started taking too much too fast. He wanted the smell of Sid’s hair as Sid’s head was tilted in to bite at Zhenya’s throat. He wanted the heat of Sid’s body, so close and yet not close enough. 

If Sid would just lean in fully, if he would kiss at Zhenya’s bleeding neck, if he would run his hands down Zhenya’s body and take his hard cock in hand—then Stewie would have a real reason to be scared of Sid. Zhenya would make Sid feed every day, all hours of the day, just to get close, to feel that. 

Zhenya let out a groan as he rolled his palm over the head of his cock and thought about the flash of Sid’s fangs. He didn’t see them often—usually only a glimpse when Sid leaned in—but he wanted to. 

He wanted to see them. He wondered, if Sid got on his knees, if his warm hands pushed Zhenya’s legs apart, if he leaned in and opened his mouth, Sid’s fangs would be extended as he licked Zhenya’s cock.

“Fuck,” Zhenya whispered, and he tightened his fist around himself.

It was too easy to get himself the rest of the way there. He had pictured it so many times: Sid, dark eyelashes on his cheeks, thick hair curling around Zhenya’s fingers as Zhenya helped move Sid’s mouth up and down his cock.

Zhenya came silently, like he’d trained himself to do as a teenager, panting into the steaming-hot air.

He was slow, his movements tired and gooey as he finished his shower. The pain in his ankle was beginning to radiate, and Zhenya knew sleep would be his best shot at relief. 

Sid was standing by his bed when Zhenya, fully naked, opened the bathroom door.

“Shit!” Zhenya bit out and fumbled to yank the door closed. He didn’t move his foot out of the way fast enough and the sharp edge of the door caught his foot, sparking a new wave of agony from his ankle.

“Geno!” Sid said, and Zhenya finally stumbled back and slammed the door. 

“Fuck, shit, fuck,” Zhenya hissed to himself as he leaned on the countertop, holding his screaming ankle off of the ground. His knee wobbled a bit from the pain.

There was a polite knock on the door.

“You okay? I’m sorry.”

“Give me minute!” Zhenya said snippily, unclenching his jaw. 

He made Sid wait, his hair dripping beads of water down his spine until he grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his waist. When he tugged open the door, he had on his most disdainful expression. 

Sid gave him a tight smile.

“Sorry,” he said as Zhenya limped to his closet. “I didn’t mean to scare you, I just needed to see you before we left for Nashville.”

“Why?” Zhenya asked. His heart was beating fast as he disappeared into his walk-in.

Sid didn’t answer until Zhenya reemerged in his sweats. 

“They’re taking a donor with us to Nashville,” Sid said, and Zhenya’s heart sank.

He had thought, rather foolishly, Sid was there to get one last drink before the team left for their two-game roadie. He shouldn’t have gotten his hopes up. Sid had been careful about feeding even when they’d had to sneak around. Zhenya’s health had been the first thing he would ask about. As much as Stewie had worried, Zhenya had known Sid wouldn’t want to feed until Zhenya was healed.

“They give you bag?” Zhenya asked. 

“Tried to,” Sid murmured. The light from the bathroom was still on and lit half of his face in stark relief; he was half-bright, half-shadows. “It didn’t work, and Stewie said you’re out probably until next week, so...”

Sid shrugged. His one illuminated eye was dark and rested on Zhenya heavily. Zhenya could read the hunger in his gaze. He switched off the bathroom light.

“Donors, usually bad, yes?” Zhenya asked him. Sid made a noncommittal noise.

“They’re bringing in someone new. They said they think he’ll match alright.”

Zhenya took a half-step toward his bed. The movement meant nothing, he convinced himself. Sid’s razor-sharp attention through the mostly-dark room meant nothing too.

“Maybe it’s not good,” Zhenya said. “Maybe before you go, small drink. Just for trip.”

Sid shook his head. “You’re injured.”

“Who’s gonna know?” Zhenya murmured. “No one. You hungry.”

“Geno,” Sid whispered. “C’mon, man. No.”

Zhenya pressed his lips thin, tugging down the corner of his sheets.

“Fine,” he said. “Then you go.”

“I’m sorry, okay?”

“Yes,” Zhenya said, and turned off the last light on his nightstand. The room was plunged into darkness. 

He got into bed. He waited.

“I’ll say hi to Nealsy for you,” Sid murmured, and Zhenya scowled into the darkness. 

 

Zhenya watched the Penguins win in overtime on his TV. It lifted his spirit enough to send a heelish text to Nealsy, just to rankle him. He got back on the ice two days later. It was after his first skating session, as he walked into the P.T. room to get checked over by Stewie, that he saw them prepping the feeding room.

He couldn’t help himself. He walked to the door and peered inside. Stewie was there, alcohol wipes in hand. 

In the chair sat the temporary donor.

He was big, in the way American football players were big. Tall, from the way he stretched along the chair like Zhenya had. Wider than Zhenya. Muscled. Young. 

“Hey,” he said, giving Zhenya a big smile. His dark hair was cropped short, but he had a handsome cut to his jaw. Zhenya hated him very much. “I’m Jason.”

Zhenya just inclined his head—an acknowledgement and not much more. He hoped Jason’s blood sucked.

Stewie jammed his stupid stress ball into Jason’s hand and caught sight of Zhenya. He flapped his hand.

“Go,” he said. “I’ll look at you in a minute.”

Zhenya did not go. He just leveled a look at Jason, whose pleasantly-white smile started wavering.

“I’m back soon,” he said, and after a long, arrogant once-over of Jason, turned away.

 

Zhenya flew out to DC with the team, huddled in the back of the plane tossing cards with Tanger. Sully announced his inclusion in the lineup at their practice the next morning, and Zhenya skated a little too close to Sid during one of the warmups. He was a little old to be pissing on his territory, but he didn’t want to see Jason again. Sid didn’t even look satiated. 

During the game itself, Sid played like a starving man. They won the game handily, 3-1, but it was no thanks to the first line. Sid was gassed, and Zhenya was about ready to preen. He knew Stewie wouldn’t let them get away with a postgame feeding, but he was primed to set up a morning session. He was willing to sit under the nasty fluorescents just to see Sid skate with more pep in his step.

They had a game at home against Buffalo the next day; they loaded up onto the buses directly from the arena, their luggage already stored below. 

Zhenya slid into the seat next to Sid with no small amount of relish. He stretched, rolling his neck ridiculously, and turned to look at Sid with a smug smile. 

Sid just watched him. He looked hungry.

Soon, Zhenya thought to himself.

 

When Zhenya stepped into the locker room for morning skate, he was haughty. 

He held his chin high; he wouldn’t get to feed Sid tonight, but it would be soon. Sid was looking ready for it, which meant Jason, as Zhenya expected, wasn’t doing enough. Zhenya was worrying at some tape residue on the lip of his seat when Johnston stepped to the front of the room to read off his morning bulletin. 

Zhenya half-listened; Johnston was boring on a good day, and when Zhenya was waiting to get on the ice with Sid, to bump into him and remind him of what they’d be doing soon, it was intolerable. Johnston droned through an update on the rest of the division, and then a note about their hotel accommodations for Toronto, and then, right before he released them, he glanced over at where Sid was sitting in his stall.

“Jason’s sticking around for Sid in a full-time capacity,” Johnston said. “You’ll see him around in the gym. Be good to him.”

Zhenya stopped picking at the adhesive. 

Sid was tugging his gear on already, looking down at his legs as he yanked his jock up his thighs. Johnston had already fled the room.

Zhenya saw red.

Zhenya spent the first ten minutes of morning skate trying to catch Sid’s eye. When he couldn’t manage it, he bumped Sid hard into the boards.

He got a flash of fang for his troubles. It was slightly worth it.

Zhenya was steaming. He was enraged. He could barely stand to look at Johnson, and he certainly couldn’t stand to look at Sid. When Flower tried to engage with him in the locker room afterwards, Zhenya rudely brushed him off.

He headed right for Johnson’s office once he was dressed. Sid caught him a matter of inches from the door.

“Hi, Sid,” Zhenya snapped. 

“We should talk.”

“Yes,” Zhenya said. “You let them pick new donor. Why?”

“You were injured.”

“I’m good now,” Zhenya fumed. “What, something wrong with me?”

He hadn’t thought there could be. Sid had been too easy to tempt with his blood. The stuff pumping through Zhenya’s veins hadn’t changed—something else had. For a brief moment, Zhenya wondered if Sid had stopped being able to politely ignore the way Zhenya reacted to the feedings. Maybe it had finally crossed a line.

“No, there’s something wrong with me,” Sid said flatly, and Zhenya bit his tongue.

“It’s my production,” Sid said to him, quietly even though they were alone in the hallway. “They think it’s a… it’s something to do with tiring you out, and you’re already working so hard on the ice. If I’m not producing, and I’m taking so much from you, the team will suffer.”

“It’s not blood,” Zhenya told him. “It’s him.” He jerked his head towards Johnston’s door. “You think his system good? No. Tires you out all the time. Makes you most hungry. Doesn’t let you shoot puck, score.”

“The team disagrees,” Sid told him. He looked like he very much did not want to be having this argument. 

“Management disagree,” Zhenya said quietly. “Team, I don’t know. Think maybe they want captain to score.”

“Like I don’t?” Sid asked. 

“Maybe if you tell Johnston he’s shit coach for you, you get what you want,” Zhenya said. “What you want, Sid?”

Sid gnawed on the inside of his mouth. The skin of his cheek puckered under the grip of his teeth, and he eyed Zhenya up in a way that made him still go hot all over. Zhenya wanted Sid to open his mouth and say you. He wanted to be the answer to it all. He wanted to be everything Sid needed.

“I want to win,” he settled on, “and Johnston has a plan. It’s fine. This is better for you, anyway.”

Zhenya left without another word.

 

The donor, Jason, stuck around. Zhenya would catch signs of him around once or twice a week. He didn’t stay underfoot, but even a glimpse of him made the jealous creature in Zhenya’s chest snarl. 

Sid stayed out of Zhenya’s way, and Zhenya missed him like a limb. 

Boarding their flight to Toronto made the ache inside of Zhenya grow more acute. Their trip to Canada last year had been the start of Sid feeding from Zhenya, and for the rest of the season, Zhenya had had Sid, in a way. Not in all the ways he wanted, but in a visceral way that made him feel more alive. 

Now Zhenya laid in his hotel room alone, not waiting for Sid to knock quietly on his door, not waiting to jerk himself off frantically after Sid departed—if he left Zhenya conscious afterward. 

They dominated in each city they visited. Four-nothing in Toronto, three-two in Vancouver, two-one in Edmonton. Zhenya’s line carried them through. Sid skated like he had bags tied around his feet. 

See? Zhenya thought ferociously as he stared a hole into the side of Johnston’s face on the bench. It’s not me. It’s what you’re doing to him, making him play a different game than whatever he’s seeing in his head.

Things came to a head back in Pittsburgh. Markov got too close to Zhenya once, and then twice, and when Zhenya had finally had enough and called Markov’s mother a cow, Markov dropped his gloves. 

Zhenya’s blood dripped down the black of the jersey and onto the crest. The penguin was stained in blotches of deep red as Stewie helped yank the jersey off of Zhenya back in the locker room. His nose was gushing blood.

Zhenya licked a rivulet of it from his lips as Stewie hurried to grab wipes and gauze and whatever else he needed. It was coppery and almost sweet. He hoped it tasted good for Sid. He wanted Sid to taste it again.

He made it back out in time for overtime; it didn’t matter in the end, though. It was Sid, finally, who sniped a puck past Condon in the shootout, and Zhenya watched him smile in the locker room, his teeth sharp, his eyes dark. 

Zhenya dawdled on his way out of the showers. He spent too long in the street locker room, tugging on his sweats slowly, checking his phone, nodding at Flower and Tanger when they left together. 

He waited until Johnston cleared out—until Sid, the rink rat, was alone.

When Zhenya finally poked his nose back into the locker room, it was nearly empty. He could hear Dana putting away the steel in the next room over. The fans were already set up, ready to blast air through the room and clear out the funk of the hockey team.

Their laundry bin was in the middle of the room. Sid was standing over it. 

In his hands, he held a mass of black fabric.

Zhenya held the door, unwilling to let it thump shut. He stepped as close as he dared, and he watched the back of Sid’s neck as Sid, in his ratty gray team t-shirt and a pair of loose shorts, dipped his head and licked at Zhenya’s jersey.

The movement was graceful and not entirely human. It was like an animal licking at water, or a carcass: a smooth pulsing motion. Zhenya could only stare as Sid’s head moved slowly over the jersey, the laps of his tongue slow and savoring. 

There was a wet sound, like Sid’s tongue was pressing the taste of Zhenya’s dried blood deeper into his mouth, or like he was sucking at something, and Zhenya strangled the soft sound that instinctively tried to sigh out of his chest.

Sid froze anyway.

Zhenya let the door slip closed. 

“Geno,” Sid said. His voice rumbled, deep and throaty. 

Zhenya approached him; when he got close enough, Sid turned around, his fists tightly knotted in the jersey, his whole face a clash of contrast: his pale cheeks, his pitch-dark eyes, the dark red stain just barely gracing his lower lip. 

“Sid, you not all good,” Zhenya said quietly, like he was trying to talk to a scared stray cat.

Sid looked shaky, but the stiff way he held his jaw and the intensity of his eyes was anything but frightened. He was angry and coiled tight.

“You need,” Zhenya said, and he glanced over at the door out, towards the P.T. rooms, toward the feeding room.

In the scant seconds he took his eyes off of Sid, Sid pounced. Sid’s fingers clawed into Zhenya’s t-shirt, hauling him down and close, yanking at his collar until they were face-to-face. 

“Stop,” Sid whispered to him. 

“Why you fighting?” Zhenya asked. “You miss. I’m okay. You need.”  

“I don’t need it as bad as you need it,” Sid said. He was so close that Zhenya could smell the arena soap on him. His fangs were fully extended, long and poking at his lower lip. “I’m not supposed to have it.”

“Why?” Zhenya pressed.

“Because I almost killed you last season, and you’ve been pretending it didn’t happen,” Sid whispered. 

“Not almost kill,” Zhenya said, and Sid snapped his teeth at him. It was a very sharp-sounding click. 

“I did,” Sid hissed. His breath was warm against Zhenya’s face. He wanted to lean further into it. He wanted to taste it. “It’s hard for me to moderate when I’m feeding from you. I took so much you couldn’t get out of bed the next day. You missed your flight to Moscow. I just barely stopped myself.”

“But I’m fine,” Zhenya said. He didn’t like reliving the memory through Sid’s eyes. To Zhenya it had been a quiet day of Sid at his beck and call, attentive and calm as he fetched Zhenya food and Gatorade and protein shakes. It had been blissful, even if he had been confined to his bedroom. 

“Only because I stopped,” Sid snarled. “That’s why the team had to know. Everyone had to know. Being a donor was supposed to protect you, but they don’t fucking like how much I like your blood. They don’t like what I can do to you.”

“I like,” Zhenya said, and Sid feinted forward a half-inch. It looked instinctual, a trigger reflex that made Zhenya’s entire chest cavity echo in excitement as Sid’s torso pressed against his.

“New donor’s no good,” Zhenya murmured to Sid. “I’m good. You use me.”

“It’s not safe,” Sid said.

Zhenya had never, not once in his life, given up what he wanted for the safe option instead.

“It’s for you,” Zhenya said, and he reached up to dig his fingers into Sid's damp, tangled hair and dragged Sid’s face into the crevice of his throat.

Sid’s open mouth pressed against Zhenya’s neck. Zhenya was expecting to feel fangs, but instead he just felt the chapped, soft press of Sid’s lips, and then the wet pressure of Sid’s tongue.

“Oh,” Zhenya sighed, and Sid’s fangs scraped his skin. 

Zhenya clung to Sid’s sturdy frame; Sid’s grip on Zhenya’s shirt loosened so he could curl his arms around Zhenya’s back instead, still keeping him close. Sid made a wet noise as he pulled away before pressing his blood-hot mouth back to Zhenya’s skin. The sensation of his tongue was a soft, teasing probe. His lips and mouth sucked, and Zhenya let out another sound, this one less disguisable. His erection was pressing into Sid’s lower stomach, and Zhenya wanted to rock his hips into it. He wanted Sid to reach down, and to—

“Shit,” Zhenya heard, and he tried to turn his head. His jaw caught on Sid’s temple, but he was still able to see it as Dana stood in the entryway, his eyes wide and on them.

“Sid,” Zhenya croaked, and Sid paused. 

When he lifted his head, he let go of Zhenya entirely. He looked not entirely Sid-like, almost more creature than hockey player, and he slipped from Zhenya’s hold like a shadow. He fled the locker room like a bat out of hell. 

Dana stared at Zhenya.

Zhenya lifted his hand to his neck. It wet with Sid’s saliva. The skin was unbroken. 

“Dana,” Zhenya mumbled, just as Dana said “Geno,” his already high voice a half-pitch higher, confused and concerned.

Perhaps, Zhenya realized for the first time, his voice sounded frightened.

“Is okay,” Zhenya said. He pulled his hand away from his throat and showed Dana his unsullied flesh. “It’s just…”

He didn’t have words to describe it. Adrenaline and lust were still coursing through his system. 

“I go. Don’t tell,” Zhenya warned him. Dana looked lost, and almost certainly like he’d seek out Stewie or someone else. “Sid and me, we need talk. Let us.”

Dana sucked on his teeth, mouth pulled into a flat grimace.

“I just want you to be okay. Both of you,” Dana finally said. “Geno, that—”

“I make sure,” Zhenya interrupted. “I make sure we’re okay.”

The look in Dana's eyes was doubtful. It said, without any words at all, that things hadn’t been okay in the locker room for some time. 

“I make sure,” Zhenya promised, and he left.

 

“You think Sid gonna kill me,” Zhenya said, and Flower’s eyebrows crept higher up on his forehead.

“He said he almost did once, so yes,” Tanger said, and Flower wrinkled his nose.

The bar Zhenya had found them in was not one of Zhenya’s favorites. Zhenya veered towards the sort of bar that was in the movies—gaudy, sports-like, aggressively American. Probably filled with college students. Flower and Tanger, both in long-term relationships, tended toward the calmer kind. It felt too quiet. Zhenya was paranoid that anyone would just lean in and hear them talking about the plight of Sidney Crosby, Vampire. 

“He’s exaggerate,” Zhenya said, using his straw to poke at the ice cubes inside his Long Island iced tea. Tanger had given him a friendly-but-judgemental look when he’d ordered it, but Zhenya needed the vodka and wanted the comfort of the sugar.

“I don’t think so,” Tanger said. His tone was unforgiving.

“What he say?” Zhenya asked, and Tanger and Flower shared a look.Tanger sat back in his seat with a sigh, rubbing a hand over his mouth and chin.

“He sent out a text to the team,” Flower finally said, pushing his half-empty beer away from his folded arms. “Right at the end of last season. He said he’d been feeding from you and he’d gone too far and the team was going to be keeping an eye on it.”

“Whole team?” Zhenya asked with a frown. Flower’s already-thin lips flattened thinner.

“Everyone except you,” Tanger grunted. He had barely touched his drink since Zhenya had shown up at the bar looking for them. “He doesn’t want you thinking of him like that, I think.”

“I don’t,” Zhenya said, and Tanger snorted.

“We know,” he said. “You don’t think of Sid any way but one, and I tried to tell him that. You’ve always been too good at not seeing the changes, after he got turned. You adjusted too easy. I told him you were into vampires. He didn’t like that.”

Tanger flicked his fingernail against his glass. The sound was a quiet ring in Zhenya’s ears. 

“He don’t like that I…?” Zhenya mumbled.

“He doesn’t think he deserves it. Or he thinks you shouldn’t be with a vampire,” Tanger said, and Flower’s face twisted up in reluctant agreement.

“Stupid,” Zhenya said, and Tanger lifted his glass.

“Sid gets stupid around you,” he said. “Always has.”

Zhenya took a long sip of his drink, finishing it off. He waved his hand to catch the eye of the bartender to order another.

He’d need it.

 

Zhenya sat outside Sid’s gate for four minutes until Sid let him in.

He’d never gotten Sid’s gate key. He’d never needed it. He’d only been over to Sid’s new house once or twice, for team events like the Superbowl. Sid had been so quiet about building the house—he’d been ruthlessly chirped by the team for selling his first one—that it didn’t come up very often. He didn’t have people over; he liked to go out and be social, and he loved nothing more than getting invited over. 

Zhenya pressed on the button again and finally the gate opened. 

He parked in the enormous driveway and didn’t even bother locking his car as he walked up to Sid’s front door. Sid at least didn’t make him wait there, too. He pulled open the door as Zhenya stepped up onto his porch.

“What are you—” Sid began, and Zhenya spoke over him loudly.

“You’re afraid.”

Sid blinked at him. He was still in his shorts and ratty shirt. He looked cozy, even though his cheekbones were pressing against his white skin.

Zhenya shooed at him. Sid obeyed and stepped into his house. Zhenya blew past him. 

“Of course I’m afraid,” Sid said, drawing Zhenya up short before Zhenya could make a break for the now-unused kitchen. “I’m taking your blood—”

“Afraid because I’m like it so much,” Zhenya said, and that shut Sid right up.

Zhenya crossed his arms over his chest, trying his best to look imposing. Sid was an intimidating creature at night, even when caught off-guard and fidgeting with the collar of his shirt.

“I’m fine. I play so good right now. It’s not hockey you afraid of. It’s not take too much—you know you stop. You never hurt me. It’s because I like.”

“You shouldn’t like it,” Sid said, drawing back toward the staircase. Zhenya advanced on him.

“Why?” Zhenya demanded. 

“Because I just… take from you,” Sid said as Zhenya invaded his space. “I take, and I use you, and it hurts you even when I try to stop it. I can’t repay that. It’s not fair to you.”

Sid was the fiercest person Zhenya knew, but even more than that, he was the kindest. His vampirism had never been a problem that hurt the team. It only hurt Sid, who turned it inward and went hungry because he thought was taking more than he could give. He was wrong. He gave all of himself to the team, and when they sat alone in Zhenya's house, quiet and enjoying each other's company, he gave all of himself to Zhenya. His laughs, his inane commentary, his precious attention. He'd already given himself to Zhenya hand over fist.

“You repay like this,” Zhenya said, and he closed his hand around the side of Sid’s neck and pulled him in.

 

Waking up in Sidney Crosby’s bed felt very similar to waking up at home. 

Zhenya took in big breaths, closing his eyes against the sunlight that was leaking in from the gap between the curtains. He stretched, and then whined when the shaft of light fell right over his eye, blinding him even through his eyelid. He rolled over, twisting himself deeper into the sheets. 

“What was that for?” Sid asked. 

His voice was quiet and amused. It felt tender, and Zhenya hid his smile into the pillow.

“Get better blinds,” Zhenya murmured. “The sunlight is fucking blinding me.”

“Try English, bud.”

Zhenya lifted his head a bit and cracked an eye open. Sid was rolled over to face him, his hair mussed and wild, his eyes sleepy. Zhenya would open his arteries to see that face. He hadn’t needed to, but he would anyway. That was love.

“Too much sun,” he sighed. “Don’t vampire need dark? What wrong with you?”

“A lot of things, probably.” Sid sounded pleased.

“Good. I fix them all,” Zhenya told him.

Sid pressed his smile into Zhenya’s bare shoulder. The nip he left on Zhenya’s skin lacked fangs, but it raised blood in Zhenya’s cheek. Sid kissed that next, worming his way in closer, covetous in all the monstrous little ways Zhenya wanted.