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Tide Out

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They played the Preds for the first time in mid-November. Now that Spaler was in Toronto, the guys let Patric call the shots on where they went after the game, which had been chippy and bruising and satisfying as hell to win. The fact that Patric had tallied two goals didn’t hurt either.

He picked a place he used to go to all the time with Shea, Sutes, and Mike, and within hours, the team was scattered so thoroughly he couldn’t have picked them in the crush if he tried, not with all the dim, neon lights and definitely not with the way his eyelids were starting to feel heavy.

Someone slid into the banquette next to him and he leaned — or perhaps more accurately, slumped — into them. Geno. It had to be Geno. Through the pleasant drowsiness settled over him, Patric recognized the low voice and warm accent, even if it was taking him a little longer than usual to process the words.

“Two goals tonight,” Geno was saying into Patric’s ear. “First star.” He stretched an arm across Patric’s shoulder, shaking him gently. “Why you not look happy?”

His hand was very warm against the sweep of Patric’s shoulder blade. Patric let his eyes fall shut and smiled into his glass as he brought it up to his mouth. “I am happy.”

He made a dissatisfied sound when, without warning, the glass was tugged out of his hand.

Blinking his eyes open slowly, he found himself nose to nose with Flower, who looked deeply unimpressed. “I’m cutting you off,” he said. He looked to the left of Patric and added, “And you too.”

This was followed by a string of vicious-sounding Russian from Patric’s side.

“Yeah, yeah, swear all you want, it’s been ten years and I still have no idea what you just called me. Fucking hell, can you two even walk on your own?”

“Can walk,” Geno said grumpily. “Get off me.”

“Good,” Flower said, stepping back from where he’d been fruitlessly trying to tug Geno up. “You can get him back to the hotel, then.”

Patric was a little unsteady on his feet, but Geno got him poured into a cab and back to the team hotel without incident.

“Just sleep in my room,” he said, leading Patric inside and tossing his keycard on the bedside cabinet. “Your room on coaches’ floor.”

“Good idea,” Patric agreed absently, kicking off his shoes and falling back onto the nearest bed.

“That’s mine,” said Geno, sitting on the mattress by Patric’s hip and leaning over him, fists planted on either side of Patric’s head. “You take other one.”

“Shh. ‘m sleeping.”

“No. No sleeping. You have to —”

It was mostly to get him to stop talking that Patric seized one of his wrists and tugged. He landed half on top of Patric, heavy and warm, blinking like he wasn’t quite sure what had just happened.

Patric had been planning on telling him to sleep, then; if he wanted this bed, they could share. But he was suddenly so close, his mouth shiny and slick from the flavored vodka he’d been drinking earlier. He should pull away, Patric thought indistinctly. There was a very good reason he should pull away, but he couldn’t remember what it was. Geno swallowed audibly into the otherwise silence, so thick it was almost like a physical thing. As Patric watched, his tongue darted out to wet his lower lip, and Patric’s decision-making was so compromised that he couldn’t suppress the impulse to lean up and taste it.

Geno made a soft, startled noise into his mouth and kissed back. They made out, hot and slick and kind of sloppy, their coordination shot, Geno clambering onto the bed and going, easy as anything, when Patric flipped them — put him on his back and stretched out of top of him, bearing down with all of his weight.

It made grounded him a little, made him feel more sober, more present. Geno was in the habit of letting Patric push him around — in two-touch circles; during practice; when they sat next to each other on team buses and planes — and it was uncharacteristic enough that it never failed to send a dark, hot thrill through Patric: like he’d won something. The fact that Geno was letting him get away with it, here, like this, seemed to intensify the feeling fivefold. Blindly, he untucked Geno’s shirt from his slacks and pushed his hand under it, running it up the long line of his back and then back down to the curve of his ass. He squeezed, and inhaled sharply, caught off-guard, when Geno pushed back into the pressure eagerly.

“What do you want?” he asked, drawing back. He could guess, but he wanted to hear it.

“Fuck me,” Geno said clearly, without squirming, without looking away from Patric for a second.

Patric swallowed hard. He raised a hand, pushing his thumb into the plushness of Geno’s lower lip, redder now than it had been before. He’d done that.

“Yeah,” he said, voice gone so hoarse he barely recognized it. He leaned back in, tugging Geno into another kiss and marveling at the way he seemed to melt into it, just like that. “Yes. Anything.”

They woke up the next morning with just forty-five minutes to spare before team breakfast. They shared a wonderfully inefficient shower — sneaking kisses under the spray, Patric mapping out the bruises he’d left on the pale skin of Geno’s hips and pushing his fingers in where he’d worked Geno open last night — before getting dressed.

Geno offered to lend him some of his clothes, but Patric shook his head. “This is fine,” he said, shrugging into the shirt he’d worn to the bar.

In hindsight, it wasn’t the smartest move. When he stepped into the hallway, it was to various teammates doing the same, except none of them were in last night’s clothes and none of them had Geno, freshly-showered and with a purplish mouth-shaped bruise blooming on his neck, stepping out with them.

Without meaning to, Patric caught Sid’s eye while a group of them waited for the elevator. He didn’t mean to do it — had, in fact, been actively trying to avoid it, because he remembered now, with morning and sobriety encroaching on reality, why he should have pulled back last night.

Flower had been the one to explain, in one of Patric’s first weeks on the team. “They’re not together. But they used to be. And now sometimes they fuck? I’ve stopped keeping track, to be honest. They’re complicated.”

Complicated wasn’t together, but Patric still didn’t like to see the carefully blank expression on Sid’s face.

“Morning,” he said, cautious, trying to work out if they were going to have a problem.

But no, this was Sid — always professional, always the captain. “Morning,” Sid replied.

Patric relaxed. He felt the tension drain out of his shoulders. The only discomfort he felt now stemmed from the slight hangover headache at his temples, and that would be remedied soon enough with breakfast.

He wasn’t expecting it, then, when Sid added, “Nice night?” in a mild voice.

No one else heard. Tanger was on the phone, possibly with his wife, speaking into it in rapid-fire French. Flower and Duper were shoving at each other, arguing about something. Geno was talking happily to Plots in Russian beside him.

Patric felt his face burn. “Yeah,” he said, striving for casual and probably missing the mark by a mile. “It was good.”

Sid nodded once, at what Patric didn’t know, but when the elevator doors swung open and they all stepped forward to get in, he had never felt so grateful to escape a conversation in his life.

It made him skittish, made him unwilling to proposition Geno again, even if he wanted to. He wasn't on Sid's line anymore, sure, but that didn't mean he wanted to fuck with team dynamics or create tension in the locker room. 

It turned out to be a good call, Patric discovered a month later on the day of the Pens Christmas party, which was a lot merrier than last year's, given that a solid quarter of the team wasn't out of commission with the mumps this time 'round. He was sitting with Flower, holding Scarlett while Flower drank his beer and Vero took Estelle to get pictures with Santa, when it occurred to Flower that, an hour into the party, neither Sid nor Geno had arrived.

"Where are they? They're never late for this. Geno hasn't even met Letty yet. He's been bugging me about it for ages."

Like his words were magic, the doors pushed open and Sid and Geno hurried in, their arrival going mostly unnoticed by the families on the ice. Sid was immediately accosted by Jen, who shoved a pair of skates into his hands and pointed towards the camera crew, while Geno made a beeline for the open bar, but in the brief moment between entering and separating, it was clear from where Patric and Flower were sitting that their hands had been loosely intertwined.

"On again," Flower said, sounding torn between exasperation and fondness. And then his brow furrowed, and his eyes darted to Patric, who hurriedly looked down under the pretext of arranging Scarlett more comfortably on his lap. "Hey, are you okay?" Flower asked.

"Of course," Patric said at once. It was good, he decided, that he hadn't pursued anything with Geno. He and Sid were just one of those couples that would never really be over, too bound up in each other's lives for that, and Patric didn't need to get caught up in that kind of drama again. Shea had taught him that much, at least.

"Here," he said, when Geno came over and took the seat next to him. Geno's face lit up and he set his drink down, making delighted faces as Patric handed Scarlett over and went to get himself a drink too.

It was the final day of the year, they were playing a 6 PM game in Detroit, and something was wrong with Geno.

“Maybe it’s food poisoning,” Patric suggested, when Geno returned from the bathroom for the second time that day, clutching his stomach.

“It’s not,” Geno said shortly.

Patric sighed but took care to ensure it was inaudible. Geno had been ill-tempered all day and being his teammate had been an exercise in patience, keeping your head down, and staying the fuck out of his way. Mostly the last one. Poor Benny had the bruises to attest to that.

“How can you be sure?” Flower asked.

“Because I spend every day this week with Sid. He’s not sick, so can’t be food poisoning.”

“You can’t have spent every waking moment together surely,” Kuni insisted.

Sid shrugged, unembarrassed. “Close enough.” They had been nearly inseparable since the Christmas party.

(“Side effect of taking ten years to get their shit together,” Flower had been telling everyone matter-of-factly.)

“So you’re, like, throwing up daily but we’ve ruled out food poisoning,” Sunshine summarized the pre-game locker room conversation. “Hey! Maybe you’re pregnant.”

“He can’t be pregnant,” Sid said. “We’ve been using —“

He broke off. His eyes found Patric across the room and they were very, very wide. It was clear he had realized, as Patric had, that protection or no protection, he and Geno had only been dating for a week, and moreover, the last person Geno had slept with before that happened was —

“Well, shit,” said Sunshine. He was staring at Patric now too. In fact, when Patric hazarded a glance around the visitor’s locker room at the Joe, every eye was turned towards him. Not for the first time, Patric despaired at this team’s tendency to be so up in each other’s business that all of them knew about his and Geno’s drunken hook up. “That’s awkward.”

The possibility convinced Geno to go to Dr. Vyas and ask to be a late-minute scratch.

In warmups, during the game, in intermission — Patric felt dazed through all of it. He was lucky to be a non-factor on the scoreboard; with how out of it he was, it was a miracle he wasn’t on the ice for any of the goals against, unlike Sid, who had been out there for two. It didn’t help that Geno wasn’t in the locker room after the first or second.

Patric’s knees nearly buckled when he came down the runway for the last time that night and there, at the mouth of the tunnel, was Geno, standing with his arms folded over his chest. It was a testament to the bizarreness of the situation that Sid was already with him, having come off the ice first instead of hanging back to be last off like usual. Patric stopped in front of them. He held his breath, trying not to say something like well?

Everyone else was stripping gear, heading to the showers, talking to each other loudly about New Year’s Eve plans, looking forward to the flight back to Pittsburgh, ostensibly ignoring the three of them in some parody of privacy.

It wasn’t enough for Geno, who hunched into his coat. “We should talk,” he said, to both Patric and Sid at once, apparently.

Sid nodded. “When we land?” He looked to Patric.

Patric took a deep breath. “Of course.” 

Sid squared his shoulders and made for his stall.

Patric squeezed Geno’s arm, both because he wanted to offer reassurance and because he needed to make this feel more real for himself. "It'll be okay."

Geno's throat worked as he swallowed. His eyes darted to Sid, who was bent over and unlacing his skates, expression hidden.

"It'll be okay," Patric repeated firmly. He needed to believe that. "We'll work it out, I promise."