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Triangulation

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“Oh shit,” Sid says, and nearly spits out his beer.

Kris cracks up. “Wait, do that again, I need my camera.”

“Shut up,” Sid moans, wiping his face. Kris really loves drunk Sid. He’s glad that Sid decided his entry being selected for the final competition meant they had to go out, even if he hadn’t expected Sid would have the time. “Did anyone see that?”

Kris looks around the bar. It’s crowded, because it’s a Friday night near the university, but they’re in a corner and no one is looking at them. “Yes, everyone’s watching,” he tells Sid, and dodges as Sid swipes at him. “Oh, come on, you’re not that famous.”

Sid gives him a very skeptical look, still mopping up his spittake. Kris knows he’s thinking of the Whipped Cream Incident, but he’s pretty sure the only reason that was a thing was because Flower had posted the pictures on every flat surface across the university. Kris chuckles, just remembering it, and Sid breaks, rolling his eyes at him. “But—no one saw?” Sid says again, sounding more anxious this time.

That—that’s interesting. Kris isn’t quite as good as Flower at reading Sid’s weird neuroses, but Sid’s not nervous very often. He looks around the bar again. There’s the usual suspects of university kids drinking and dancing: the baseball team has a table that they’d just spent the last hour at as they tried to convince Sid and Kris that baseball was better than hockey, which was clearly bullshit; a group that Kris thinks is a sorority has taken over the other corner of the bar. A group of guys just came in and are trying to push their way through to the bar next to the sorority. Everything is normal, and Sid shouldn’t be nervous.

“What?” Kris demands. “Why?”

“It’s not—”

“Sidney,” Kris repeats, “Tell me, or I tell the team about the—”

“It’s nothing!” Sid says, more of a yelp than anything. “It’s—” There’s a round of laughter, from the new group of guys, and Sid does something that’s half a jerk and half a spasm.

Kris generously doesn’t laugh, and instead gives the guys another look. They’ve got to be around their age—on the older end of university students, for sure—and they’re talking in some language that isn’t English and isn’t French, and laughing loudly and shoving at each other in a way that Kris interprets as team.

Kris eyes them all, but there’s no one jumping out at him. “Which one?”

“What?”

“Which one,” Kris repeats. He knows the signs.

“No one. We were talking about you—do you want another drink? I should get you one, for getting to the final round.”

Sid should, in fact, buy Kris another beer. But chirping Sid is a reward in itself. “Which one?”

Sid sighs. He knows when he’s defeated. Kris spares himself a little pat on the back, because sometimes Sid doesn’t cave, when Kris is the one poking at him. “The—the tall one, there. Geno’s in my Bioethics class. We had this group assignment together.”

They’re all pretty tall, but once Sid says it, Kris knows Sid’s type enough to pick him out. He’s tall and lanky, with a big nose and a bigger smile. He’s also pushing at one of the other guys, hard enough they almost fall over, and laughing at it, which means he’s probably about at Sid’s level of humor too.

“So—go talk to him.”

Sid looks at Kris like he’s gone insane. “What? No.”

“Well, you’re not getting a date spitting your beer out over here.”

“First, fuck you,” Sid tells him, which is fair. Kris still flips him off. “But I can’t do that.”

“It’s easy, though. You get up, and then you move your legs—I know it’s not skating, and it’s a bit more of a waddle for you, so—”

“It’s not that,” Sid whines, like Kris didn’t realize that Sid did in fact know how to walk. “Geno’s just—I can’t, okay? I’m not—it won’t work.”

“Is he gay?” Kris asks. Then, because it’s Sid, “Does he not like hockey?”

“No, he likes hockey,” Sid assures Kris. “And I think he’s gay?” Of course Sid would know about hockey but not the guy he likes’ sexuality.

“Did he check out your ass? Because that’s a good benchmark.”

“I…” Sid trails off, his cheeks going a little red, and Kris crows.

“He did! Bro, go over there! What are you waiting for?”

“He’s not—he wouldn’t be into me.” Kris stares. Sid’s looking down at the bar, his shoulders a little hunched.

“Sid, you’re the captain of the hockey team.”

“Yeah, but he’s just—he’s just—he’s from Russia and his English isn’t great and he’s so smart anyway, and look he’s got all those friends, and he’s really charming and—he’s a grad student, Tanger. He’s in his first year of his PhD. He wouldn’t be into me.”  Sid groans, and drops his head onto his hands on the bar.

Kris blinks again. He really wishes Flower were here. Flower’s always been better at dealing with emotions and shit. Kris was good at fights, and he’s always there for a prank, and if Sid had needed backup he’d be there in a fucking instant, but emotions, not so much. And given that Sid has about the emotional self-awareness of a teaspoon, he’s not hopeful for this conversation. Maybe he can call in Flower. Or Duper—he’s always good at telling Sid not to be an idiot.

“Dude, you’re captain of a NCAA champion hockey team,” Kris observes, trying for gentle. He’s not good at it, but he can try. He knows Sid’s confidence always takes a hit during a point drought, and it’s been three games since he got on the board and two since they won. “You’re just about the most popular guy on campus right now. You’re attractive enough. And,” Kris rushes past the old tinge of envy, “You’ve got your job post-graduation. The Penguins are beating down the door for you, man.” Of course they are, for Sid.

Sid lifts his head, and gives Kris an even look—his captain look. “You’re going to ace the presentation, Tanger. You shouldn’t be nervous. You’ll win,” he says, like there’s no other way it can come out. Like Kris is like him, or even Flower, who’ve never known what it is not to naturally be the best.

Sometimes, Kris remembers why he and Flower had taken a look at the other Freshman on the team, awkward and eager and too good, and decided he should be their friend too.

“We were talking about how you were going to talk to the guy—to Geno,” he says, because he’s not going to just say shit like that. Sid groans again.

“No, we weren’t. I’m not—”

Usually, Flower’s the one who has the need to run Sid’s life for him—Kris likes to let him make his own mistakes. But Flower’s not here, and sometimes needs must. “Yeah, we’re going.”

Kris hops off his stool. Sid lunges, grabs his arm. “No, you’re definitely not going.”

“Why not?” Kris is a little offended. He’s very presentable! He’s a great wingman.

“Because you’re all…” Sid waves at him. “No one ever looks at me when you’re standing there.”

Kris smirks. “Aw, you think I’m pretty?”

“You know you’re pretty.”

“I do. So does my girlfriend.”

“I know, the walls aren’t that thick.”

“Don’t worry.” Kris throws his arm around Sid’s shoulders, partly out of camaraderie, partly because it’s easier to get Sid to move. “We’ll get you to his apartment, so you don’t have to hear. Come on.”

“What? No.”

“Allons-y, mon captaine.” Kris gives him his most determined face. “Don’t you want to reward me for getting to the final round?”

Sid looks at him for a second, then sighs, but it’s not actually that hard to herd Sid over, which means that Sid definitely does want to go. They only get a little bit sidetracked when some guy decides he needs to talk to Sid right that moment about the fantasy league they’re both in, but Kris detangles them from that mainly by glaring at the guy until he goes away. All in all, it’s pretty easy to end up arranged so they’re next to the group of guys, with Sid closer to them. Geno’s only a few feet away, at this point.

“This is stupid,” Sid mutters, and Kris ignores him to give the bartender his best smile. It gets her attention fast.

“Another Dieu de Ciel for me,” he tells her. “And a Blue Moon for my friend.”

Sid makes a face, but they both know that he actually like his fruity beers, even if he pretends he wants something else. “What am I supposed to do here?” he asks. “I—”

“Sidney!” comes a heavily accented voice, and Kris gives Sid an ‘I told you so look’ that he’s not sure Sid catches before he turns to face Geno. “Hi! Not know you here!”

“Oh, um. Yeah,” Sid stammers, and Kris presses his lips together because he doesn’t actually want to fuck this up, even if watching Sid fall to pieces always make him feel a little better, in places he doesn’t like to acknowledge. “We were—hi, Geno.”

Geno’s still smiling down at him. He’s tall, a few inches taller than Kris, but lankier, and his smile isn’t any less goofy up close. Kris doesn’t see much special about him, really, but he guesses he doesn’t have to. Sid’s kind of goofy looking too, they’ll fit. 

“Think you too busy, for come out,” Geno goes on. “Always with games, with meetings.”

“I don’t always get a choice,” Sid tells him, rolling his eyes a little at Kris. Kris elbows him back. He is nowhere near as bad as Flower, he should get some credit here. And anyway, this time at least it had been Sid’s idea.

“Here you go!” the bartender slides two pint glasses over the bar. Kris hands her his credit card, because he doesn’t want to distract Sid and Sid will pay him back anyway. He hands one of the beers to Sid, and takes the other. Geno’s watching them.

“Oh. This is Tanger,” Sid says, jerking a head at Kris. “I think I’ve mentioned him before?”

“Thanks,” Kris tells him, elbowing him again, and holds out the hand not holding the beer. “Kris LeTang,” he tells Geno, drawing himself up a little. This guy’s got Sid tied in knots; he shouldn’t be doing that lightly.

Geno takes his hand. He has a good handshake, though his smile’s evened out a little, when he’s not looking at Sid. “Yes, I know, Sid talks about you. Evgeni Malkin,” he replies, “Can call me Geno, though. Easier for Canadians.”

“I’ll get it right sometime,” Sid mutters, with the determined set to his jaw that means the world doesn’t really have a chance against the will of Sidney Crosby. Geno beams at him.

“Is okay, you try.”

“I will,” Sid insists, very earnest. “I mean, I’m not great at languages, but I managed French—” Kris snorts. Sid glares. “I did!”

“Ask him to speak French sometime,” Kris tells Geno. “It’s painful.”

“Mon français va bien!” Sid tells him, in his god awful accent. Kris holds out a hand.

“Five dollars.”

“Come on, you provoked me!”

“You know the fine.”

Sid pouts, and turns to Geno, who’s been looking at them with something like a smile. “He fines me whenever I speak French,” he tells Geno. “But this time he provoked me, right? I can’t be blamed for that.”

“You know rules, sounds like,” Geno replies, with a mock-thoughtful look on. “Only fair you pay.”

Kris gives Geno a grin. Good. Sid needs people to give him shit and not roll over him. “See? Geno agrees.”

“Tanger…” Kris keeps his hand out, and Sid huffs out a sulky breath but pulls out his wallet to hand over five dollars. “You better buy us booze with that.”

 “I’ll buy me booze,” Kris allows.

Sid pouts, shoves his shoulder, and turns his back. “My accent really isn’t that bad,” he tells Geno, like that makes it true. “I spent years in Montreal, Tanger just likes to give me shit.”

“Not from here, then?” Geno asks. Sid shakes his head, his face lighting up. He doesn’t know he’s landed on Sid’s second favorite topic, only behind hockey.

“No, I’m from the Nova Scotia—” Sid explains, then he’s off and running, about Cole Harbor and the Maritimes and all the fish, Kris assumes, because he doesn’t know what else good you’d say about the Maritimes. Geno seems to find it fascinating, though—or at least, find Sid fascinating, because he’s nodding along, then he starts talking about the place where he grew up in Russia, waxing just as poetic.

Kris leans against the bar a little behind Sid, with his best glower on. If they’re going to flirt in front of him, he’s definitely noting all of this for Flower.

Our little boy’s all grown up and flirting at bars He texts their group chat. Sid must feel it buzz, but he’s somehow switched to shinny and there’s no diverting him from that. Geno definitely isn’t trying—he’s staring, instead. But he’s still not quite in Sid’s space, except he looks like he’d like to be.

He spends five minutes glowering and trying not to laugh at Sid’s ridiculously unsubtle flirting before Flower finally texts back. It’s a long time, for him. But Kris guesses he’s still at work.

Pics or it didn’t happen. Kris doesn’t want to be a dick and actually take a picture, but he’s not as good as Flower is at subtle angles either.

He taps Sid’s shoulder, interrupting an ode to the pond behind Sid’s house. “Bathroom,” he says quickly. He doesn’t want to actually interrupt. “Watch my drink?”

Sid nods idly. Geno’s gaze flicks to him, and his eyebrows do something weird, but then he’s focused back on Sid.

Kris leaves them to their weird awkward flirting, and goes to the bathrooms. He gets distracted a little—Cath saw a cute dog that she texted him a picture of, which he thinks is going to transition into what’s going to happen on facetime tonight, so he needs to reply to that, and the team group chat’s going about the Habs game.

When that’s done, he heads back towards the bar. It’s cleared out a little, as people start heading to clubs or other parties, and so Kris gets a clear shot of Sid and Geno—and things have definitely progressed since he’s been gone. Sid’s leaning back against the bar and Geno is much closer than he was, doing a looming sort of move that Kris is probably too pretty to pull off but works for him, and given the look Sid’s giving him up through his eyelashes, for Sid too. Kris snaps a picture. He should probably leave them to it, if only he could regain his beer…

Kris is too busy planning a way to extract his beer while leaving Sid to his flirting, and doesn’t see the danger until too late. “Sidney!” one of the baseball bros says, lurching over to him. He’s much drunker than he was. “Sid, you need to come with us, we’re going to a party at the Chis!”

Kris has to give credit to the sheer scorn in Geno’s eyebrows. Sid’s gone bright red, and he’s going to start to stammer, or maybe he’ll say yes because Sid’s bad at saying no to things sometimes.

“Not today,” Kris jumps in, edging between them. The baseball player—Francis, Kris thinks—makes an exaggerated sad face.

“No, you have to come! It’ll be so chill, and you said you were better than me at beer pong, we have to—”

“Nope,” Kris interrupts, herding him away. He doesn’t bother being subtle. “Go on.”

“But—”

Kris stares him down. He starts to droop, but he goes.

When Kris turns back to Sid and Geno, though, it looks like the deed’s been done. Geno’s not in Sid’s space anymore, and he’s looking anywhere but at Sid—he’s looking at Kris more, actually—and Sid’s lips are pressed together as he looks after Francis.

“We could have gone,” Sid says, if a little reluctantly. “You didn’t have to…”

“Sid,” Kris starts, then glances at Geno and switches languages. “Aucun parti n'est plus important que de se faire baiser.”

Sid goes red again. He looks at Geno, then at Kris, then back at Geno, and he’s still red. “I’m not—Are you going to fine me again if I use French?” he demands, and Geno and Kris both laugh, though maybe Kris is harder.

“Is fine, I go,” Geno offers

“No!” Sid yelps. Kris grabs his beer, while he’s here. “I mean, we’ve still got to finish our drinks anyway,” Sid points out, which is more smooth than Kris expected. “Do you need more? I’m already buying his drinks tonight, I can get yours too.”

Geno smiles at Sid. There’s something weird in it, and he looks at Kris again, but then he shrugs. “Yes, thanks,” He says, and Sid grins and then they’re just grinning at each other for way longer than is acceptable.

Kris takes a long drink of his beer. God they’re staring into each other’s eyes now, he tells Flower. Why did you leave me to this?

Another ten minutes of too long looks, Graduation waits for no man, Flower texts back. Are they still staring?

No, now they’re telling each other how good they are in their seminar. Kris sighs. It’s going to be a long night. He switches to Cath’s text.

I think Sid is going to get laid tonight, he tells her. The world is upside down.

Would it help if you got laid too? She replies with a winky face, and Kris laughs and grins at his phone.

He sits there through one more drink, because it’s pretty fun watching the soap opera of Sid trying to flirt—whatever he’s doing, it’s working, because Geno’s utterly ignoring his friends and is just watching Sid. Watching, and teasing, and Kris would probably call it flirting, but it’s not quite all the way there. He doesn’t think there isn’t interest, though.

After that drink, he’s sick of glaring, Flower hasn’t texted back yet, and Cath will be home to be on facetime soon, so “I’m heading,” he tells Sid, and holds up his phone, which Sid knows means Cath’s calling him back.

Sid cuts himself off, looking conflicted. “Oh. I could stay a little…” he trails off, looking at Geno. Kris waits, but he’s not expecting Sid being home. He has photo evidence of just how into Sid Geno is.

But Geno just gives a tight little smile. “Good to see you tonight, Sid,” he says, with a smile and a wave. Sid blinks, and his face flickers quickly past hurt into the pointedly neutral face he wears in front of cameras. Kris starts to glare. Is Geno seriously turning Sid down? “I see you for study on Monday, yeah?”

He is turning Sid down—and without reason, either, and Sid definitely looked hurt. Kris takes a step forward, because you didn’t just get to do that—

But then Sid’s hand lands on his arms. “Tanger,” he murmurs, a warning, and Kris forces it back down. He still glares, though. What the fuck. Like Geno could do better than Sid.

Sid smiles at Geno—a real smile, if not the crinkly eyed one he gets when he’s really happy. “It was great seeing you too. We should hang out again sometime,” he says, then hears himself and keeps going. “I mean—I’ll see you Monday, for sure.”

“Good.” Geno grins at him, then glances at Kris, who is still glaring, and looks guiltily away. Good. He should be guilty. “Um, nice to meet.”

“Yeah, you too,” Tanger agrees. He doesn’t offer to shake hands. Sid makes a sound that is the verbal equivalent to rolling his eyes.

“Well, bye,” he tells Geno, then herds Kris away. Kris throws one last glare at Geno, who’s looking at the bar more despondently than someone who could have been hooking up with Sid has any right to be, then lets Sid chivvy him out the door.

Sid doesn’t talk on the way home, which is unusual in itself. Kris lets him be. He’s still simmering, a little.

They don’t talk until they’re back in their apartment, and splitting off to their rooms. Sid hovers in the hall, and he looks young, suddenly—like he was the kid coming onto the hockey team freshman year, smaller and younger than everyone else, too talented for his own good and friendly like an undersocialized puppy was friendly. Kris is going to punch Geno in the face the next time he sees him. “I thought—it seemed like it was going well,” he says, mystified.

“Yeah.” Kris shrugs, helpless. “Me too.”  He throws an arm around Sid, tugging him into a hug. Sid goes easily. “He’s an idiot, though.”

“He’s really not,” Sid replies, and Kris shakes him once before letting him go to bed.

///

By the time Kris wakes up and wanders into the kitchen, Sid’s already out there, sitting at the table on the phone with one of the apparently infinite number of bros who need to talk to him all the time. He raises a hand at Kris, then gestures at the coffee machine, which already has coffee in it. Kris slugs his shoulder as he passes in thanks. Sid makes a face at him, but then he has to go back to comforting whoever’s on the phone, so Kris escapes a real pout and instead pours himself some coffee and sitting in his usual spot at the table.

They’ve spent more mornings like this than he can count, him and Sid and Flower—Sid and Flower chatting and talking about their days, because Flower’s a morning person and Sid pretends to be, and Kris scrolling through Instagram and trying to wake up. It’s quieter without Flower—most of their lives are—but it’s still easy, and Sid’s voice is a comfortable backdrop.

Kris is mostly done with his coffee, and Sid seems to be getting somewhere in giving the guy on the phone advice about what sounds like car insurance—Kris is pretty sure Sid’s never owned a car in his life—when the doorbell goes.

Kris looks at Sid, raises his coffee. Sid looks back, gestures at his phone. Kris sighs, and gets to his feet.

He opens the front door, is confronted with three bright-eyed faces, and closes it again. “Sid!” he calls over his shoulder. “Your ducklings are here!” Then he opens the door again, and steps aside to let the rookies in. “Kitchen. There’s coffee.”

“Thanks!” Jake chirps. Connor gives him a high five. Olli just gives him a tired smile, because clearly D-men are the sensible ones who understand that this much energy in the mornings is ridiculous.

Kris trails them to the kitchen, where Sid’s hanging up his phone. “Hey guys!” Sid says, as the boys troop in. Then, to Kris, “Why are they mine?”

“Because that’s what you get for adopting rookies.” Rookies, Kris notes, who are now poking into the cupboards, looking for food.

“One of them is yours,” Sid points out, then adds. “Granola bars are above the sink, guys.”

“None of them are mine,” Kris counters. “Just because one’s my partner doesn’t mean he’s my duckling.”

Sid gives him on of his looks, the one he gets when he thinks you’re so wrong he can’t quite comprehend it. “You could take on more mentoring, if you wanted—”

“I don’t,” Kris replies, a little snappish. He’s happy without a letter. He doesn’t need that shit. He’d rather be cool uncle Tanger than have the responsibility.

“You know they all look up to you. You’re perfectly capable of—”

“I know I’m capable, I don’t want to,” Kris is definitely snapping now. Sid blinks at him, clearly confused about why Kris is angry, but he’s not going to back down either because they’re both constitutionally incapable of it. Flower was good at that, at backing them both down without making them feel like either of them were losing, but he’s not here and Kris—

“Sid?” Connor asks. “Where did you say the granola bars are?”

It breaks the tension, and Sid looks to Connor with a smile as Kris goes back to his coffee.

It takes a few minutes for the rookies to get their snacks, then Sid starts gathering them up again.  “Coming?” he asks Kris. “We’re going for an early workout.”

Kris looks into his coffee. He’s tired, and he needs to work on his model and the presentation for the final round. Apparently, winning the competition that gets you a job in Pittsburgh’s best architecture firm means you have to do more than just make a good model, which Kris knows he can do. But—it’s hard to say that, to Sid’s eager face; to know that Sid, even being who he is, still goes and works out. Sometimes it sucks, being Sid’s roommate.

“Yeah, let me just change,” he says, and heads to his room.

The workout probably is good, though he’ll never tell Sid that; it sweats out the last of last night’s beer and gets him energized enough that he might actually do work the rest of the day. The rookies have too much energy, as usual, but they bounce around Sid and Kris can just chirp them and give input when he wants to. He does spend some time with Olli, because D-men have to stick together, that’s no joke. Olli grins at him from where he’s spotting, and Kris smiles back. Maybe Olli’s a little bit his.

Sid takes one look at them after, then shakes his head. “We’re going to the diner before you guys all starve,” he decides, and turns them in that direction. It gets a few whoops from the rookies, and Sid and Kris’s eyes meet behind them.

Sid’s lips quirk up. Kris rolls his eyes, and throws an arm around his shoulder. “Come on, let’s go before your children eat us out of house and home,” he says, and Sid laughs.

“They’re paying for their own food,” he announces, and ignores the disappointed groans all around.

The diner’s pretty crowded, with all the Sunday morning brunchers, but the hostess likes hockey and Kris’s smile, so they get seated pretty quickly, and then conversation quickly dissolves into yesterday’s NHL game and their own upcoming game. Kris mainly spends it teasing the rookies, because it’s too easy, and Sid, because that’s definitely too easy, especially when he orders the same thing for breakfast that he’s ordered every time they were here for the last three years.

“Are you ever going to try something new?” he asks. Sid looks upward, like he’s asking for patience.

“Are you ever going to stop asking me that?”

“Why don’t you ever change it up?” Connor asks, all innocence, and Kris groans.

“Now you’ve got him started,” he says, as Sid starts into his explanation that’s half nutrition, half superstition, and all bullshit. The rookies are listening with big eyes, because Sid is good at sounding sure and convincing even when he’s spewing utter nonsense, and Kris decides it’ll be funny to see the rookies start in on a diet of chocolate chip pancakes when they aren’t working out as constantly as Sid so he agrees very seriously with everything Sid says.

The conversation goes from there to other sweets, then to the dining halls, the somehow it ends up on how Jake’s girlfriend apparently thinks he’s not romantic enough and wants him to do “romantic shit with her, what does that mean, do I say I love you when I fuck her?”

“No,” Kris jumps in, because this he can help with. Sid gives him a thankful look—they both know neither girlfriends nor being romantic are his wheelhouse—but Kris has got this. “Well, yes. Do that. Why aren’t you already doing that? But also—”

Sid slides away; Kris ignores him to continue his lecture on being a proper boyfriend, because clearly the rookies have no idea and he’s paying this forward, or something.

It’s only when the food comes, and Kris has to stop in his discussion of proper flower-to-fuck up ratio, that he realizes Sid isn’t back yet. He lets the boys workshop flower type ideas, and stretches out of the booth to look for Sid.

He’s not hard to spot—despite constant chirps, Sid’s a big guy. And more importantly, Geno is too, and that’s who Sid’s talking to, over by the counter.

Kris immediately goes tense. He’s still not sure what Geno was playing at last night. But this looks like another good conversation, and Geno says something that makes Sid do his loud laugh, which makes Geno grin proudly. That’s the look of a man who wants to make Sid laugh all the time, it’s pretty clear. Who wants to make Sid laugh, and also to get him out of his sweats.

“Hey, the food’s getting cold, should we get Sid?” Connor asks. He leans over Olli to look out of the booth, following Kris’s gaze. “Who’s that he’s talking to?”

“Does Sid have a boyfriend?” Jake demands, trying to clamber over both Olli and Connor. Kris gives them his most despairing look.

“No,” He says, because he’s not getting them involved in this. Sid doesn’t introduce his boyfriends to the team. He barely even introduced them to Flower and Kris. He likes to have it for himself, he told Kris and Flower once, when they were drunk and Flower and Kris were missing their girlfriends, and Sid was bemoaning his lack of boyfriend, at least until it’s too serious for that.

“It looks boyfriendy,” Jake goes on. “Right?”

“It does,” Olli admits. He gives Kris an apologetic look. “He’s very flirty.”

“Nope,” Kris continues. “Sit down, you three, or I’m bag skating you.”

“You can’t—” Kris raises his eyebrows, and Connor subsides.

“I’ll just—” Sid’s phone, of course, is sitting on the table, “See if he’s coming back,” Kris amends. That’ll get the rookies off his back, and he can either deflect or not. “You three—eat, and don’t break anything.”

They’re still protesting when Kris gets up, but he’s been out to eat with them before.

Geno’s talking about something that sounds sciency when Kris gets to them, and Sid is nodding along, apparently rapt.

“Hey,” Kris says, when Geno stops for breath. They both turn to look at him like they’d forgotten other people existed. Sid’s flushed, as if just talking to Geno’s gotten him excited; Geno Kris can’t read as well, but he definitely doesn’t look happy to be interrupted. “The kids are getting worried,” he tells Sid, after nodding at Geno. He gives Geno a meaningful look, then adds, “est ce que tu reviens, ou as-tu eu une meilleure offre?”

Sid goes a brighter pink. “Oh, um. I was getting brunch with them, sorry,” he tells Geno. Geno looks glum. It makes Sid look glum. “But this sounds so cool—I didn’t know any of that, about the, um biomes? Is that right?”

“Just right!” Sid goes even redder. “Not think you care, you not into science, yes?”

“No—I mean, I’m a poli sci major, but science is so fascinating.”

“Oui, c'est la science que vous trouvez fascinante,” Kris mutters. Sid twitches.

“Anyway,” Sid goes on, like he didn’t just kick Kris’s shins. Geno noticed, though; he’s watching them with his brows furrowed a little. “I should get back, but—I’ll be spending a lot of today in the library, if you wanted to come by and talk about it?”

Kris narrowly avoids smacking Sid’s shoulder in pride. Is this what being a father feels like, when your kid’s all grown up and asking guys on pre-dates?

“Sure you have time?” Geno teases. “Know you very busy.”

“I’ll make time for you,” Sid says, all earnestness, and Geno’s eyes go wide. Kris really wishes he was recording this. He also wishes he didn’t have to be here to see it, because he loves Sid, but this is getting weird.

“I…” Geno gives Kris a quick look. “I see. Maybe.”

Sid deflates a little. Kris gives Geno a look that he hopes make sure he knows that making Sid deflate isn’t acceptable. “Come on, Sid,” Kris puts a hand on Sid’s shoulder. “Your kids have probably broken something by now.”

“I see, when they broke something they’re mine,” Sid retorts.

“They’re always yours.”

“They aren’t,” Sid tells Kris, because as Kris expected, they aren’t letting that go. He gives Geno another one of his best up-through-the-eyelashes looks. “I hope I see you later, Geno!”

“Yeah, I try!” Geno promises. He raises a hand that looks like he’s going to touch Sid, but he drops it at the last second. “Nice to see again, Tanger,” he tells Kris, who nods back.

“You too,” Kris agrees, at precisely the right level of frost for ‘you’re making my best friend sad but also I provisionally think you’d be good together so you should ask him out’.

Then there’s a crash, and a “shit!” that both Kris and Sid recognize, and Sid sighs. “I have to deal with that,” he says, and leaves Geno with a wave.

///

Kris manages to get some homework done at home in between texting Cath and listening to Flower bitch about how he still has weekend work even in the real world, and then he starts to actually put together his presentation. He’s confident in his design, the building is good. But he’s not a presenter. And this one isn’t just for a grade, it’s for a job, and it’s—when he mutters to himself over it in English, he can hear the accent that never bothers him if he could just talk in French, and said out loud his design doesn’t seem like enough, and this would be so much easier if he just had a job already, as he tells Cath at length until she yells at him to just get down to work already.

All in all, it’s a productive day, and Kris works until Sid gets back in the evening in time for roommate dinner. It’s technically Sid’s turn to cook it, but somewhere along the way, since Sid decided they needed roommate dinner because his family used to have big Sunday dinners and he wanted to continue the tradition, it became tradition for everyone who wasn’t cooking to sit around the kitchen and chirp and be generally unhelpful.

It's amusing for a long time, to sit at the table and give Sid shit about how he knows precisely one dish and it’s the most boring meal in existence. At least Kris knows that there’s dessert in the fridge; Sid can’t cook for shit but he takes dessert seriously.

Finally, Sid scrapes the chicken into the saucepan, and then he has nothing left to do but turn to look at Kris. “How’s the presentation going?” he asks.

“Psh.” Kris makes a face. “It’s bullshit.”

“Tanger! It’s not, it’s important skillset for your—”

“Yes, I know.” Kris rolls his eyes, because yes, he knows that. He’d have thought that was obvious. He does know that an architect can’t just sit with their blueprints all day. “I worked on it. It’s fine.”

“And prepped? I know it’s not until next week, but we have the game on Tuesday, so it’s best to get it done early—”

“Sid,” Kris snaps, and Sid presses his lips together but shuts up. It leaves a silence—a silence for Flower to fill, Kris can’t help but think, even now. Sid and he push at each other too much; don’t know how to communicate in the gaps. They both know Kris is nervous and hates it; they both know Sid doesn’t always know when to stop captaining and start just being a friend and doesn’t mean it. But they’ve always had Flower there to translate that—Flower to push Kris the right amount, to help temper Kris’s temper at Sid’s pushing.

Sid pokes at the chicken. Kris fiddles with his phone. When the silence starts to stretch, Kris needs to ask something. “So, did you get to the library?”

“What?” Sid hums. Kris can’t quite read the set of his shoulders; he looks relaxed, but Sid’s good at lying when he wants to be. “Yeah, I mean, I had a bunch of meetings, and Zach needed help with some budgeting stuff, but I was there for a while.”

Kris manages not to roll his eyes again. He has to ration it out for roommate dinner. “Did Geno show up?”

“Oh.” Sid’s cheeks go red. “Yeah, he was there. It was really great, he’s super helpful—he explained this whole thing, about the genetics of—”

“Any hooking up in the stacks?” Kris cuts Sid off, because he doesn’t care about the genetics of anything.

The red deepens. “No, of course—shut up!” he adds, as Kris starts to laugh at Sid’s horrified face. “No, it was just—we just studied, and talked, and he’s—fuck, he’s so great,” Sid concludes, a little like defeat. “He’s so smart and funny and nice and out of—”

“He is not out of your league,” Kris interrupts, because Sid thinking anyone is out of his league is maybe right for some people but definitely not Geno Malkin, or really most other people at this school.

“Well, he seems to think he is.”

Kris sets his phone down. “Did he say that?”

“No.” Sid shrugs, and takes the pasta off of the stove. “No, but he also—I’ve been flirting, and, I mean—it’s been obvious, right? I don’t think I’m subtle.”

“You aren’t.”

“Then he knows, and he hasn’t said anything. And he’s just…well, you saw. He gets weird, sometimes.” Sid starts to fuss with the chicken, so Kris gets up to get plates. Roommate dinner doesn’t reach the point of actually setting a table, but they try to at least sit down at the table instead of the couch. They’ve kept Flower’s rule of no games on at dinner. “Like, this afternoon, it was great, you know? It seemed like he was flirting back. And then I said I had to go for dinner with you, and he got—” Sid cuts himself off with a soft indrawn breath, the continues more quietly. “He got weird at that, and stopped flirting.”

“Well, fuck him,” Kris decides, and hands over his plate for Sid to put the pasta and chicken on it. Sid dishes him up his food, then gives himself some, and they migrate over to the table. It’s quiet again, and the food isn’t good enough for that. “What’s wrong?”

“I…” Sid pokes at the chicken with his fork. He’s got his resigned look on, like when a game’s not going their way and he knows it’s too late to turn it around. “Geno’s into you.”

Kris blinks. “What?”

“It makes sense, about why he’s being weird.” Kris is still staring, but Sid is picking up speed. “He gets weird when you’re around, or when I mention you, and you’re all—” he waves his fork at Kris. “And he’s a flirty guy generally, so that must be why it sometimes seems—but then he stops, and that’s the difference, so—”

“What the fuck?” Kris demands. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

He knows as soon as he’s said it that it’s the wrong thing to say. Anything that gives Sid a possibility of losing will make him dig in his heels. “No it’s not,” Sid retorts, mulish.

“Geno is not into me.”

“It makes sense,” Sid insists. “He goes quiet when you’re around, and he—”

“I don’t know what his deal is, but he is definitely more into you than me.”

Sid snorts, disbelieving. “It’s the only explanation that makes sense.”

“It makes no sense!” Kris waves a forkful of chicken at Sid to drive home his point. “I don’t know what the hell is wrong with him, but he does not look at me like he looks at you.”

“Yes, I know,” Sid agrees, slowly like he’s explaining it to a child, which is Sid’s most irritating way of fighting. “It’s okay, it’s not unusual. I’ll be fine.” He doesn’t sound fine. “It was—he was out of my—”

Kris doesn’t have the words to tell Sid how stupid he’s being, so he throws a napkin at him instead. Sid catches it, because of course he does, and chucks it back. Kris bats it away.

“So, did you ever figure out what Jake should do for his girlfriend?” Sid asks, and Kris lets him change the subject.

They finish dinner and migrate to the living room, where Sid turns on the Leaf’s game and they both get out their computers to pretend to work but really yell at the TV.

“Hey,” Sid says, during a time out, knocking his ankle against Kris’s. “You know, if you want to get feedback on your presentation, I’m always here.”

Kris knocks his ankle back. “I know,” he says. Then the game starts again, and Sid starts ranting about the Leaf’s defense even though he’s wrong about it.

///

Practice goes well, which is usually a good indicator of Sid’s mood, but Kris comes home Monday evening to Sid’s door closed and the light on. He checks the fridge, and the leftover cupcakes from roommate dinner are gone.

Sid say anything to you? He asks Flower, before going to his room. Mondays are his busiest day, with morning practice then a full day of classes and a game tomorrow. He has shit to do, and the presentation is still there in the back of his head.

He gets some reading done and some highlights watching done before Flower texts back. He had the bioethics seminar today.

Normally, Kris wouldn’t be surprised Flower knew about this first—he’s better at texting than Kris and has fewer people to juggle than Sid—but given how long it’s been taking him to reply to texts, Kris kind of is. Went badly?

Could Geno actually be into you? Flower asks, and Kris snorts at his phone.

No. He is definitely into Sid.  

Then tell Sid that because he’s all twisted up

Can’t you?

I’m not there, Flower says, and Kris sighs. That’s the problem, really.

He turns back to his computer, where he’s researching for the presentation. Everything he finds just makes it clear how much he wants this, and he doesn’t want that. If he wants it this much, it’ll be devastating if he doesn’t get it, and he can’t get his hopes up. It’s so competitive, and he’s a good contender but he’s not fooling himself into thinking he’s the best.

And he’s going crazy, so he closes his computer, and goes to knock on Sid’s door.

“What?”

“Come out.”

“I’m busy.”

Kris opens the door anyway. Sid’s hunched over a textbook at his desk, frowning. “Come on, we’re playing some xbox.”

Sid gives him a weak smile. “I can’t, I have to finish this before Wednesday, and I have—”

“I need to be distracted,” Kris says, and Sid sits up. Sid is wonderfully reliable.

“One game,” he warns, and Kris grins.

Five games later, and Sid’s elbow is digging into Kris’s side and he’s thrown himself half in front of Kris because he is a dirty dirty player, and Kris’s hand is over Sid’s face because he’s not any better. “Hah! Take that!” Kris yells, throwing a bomb, and Sid swears.

“No, fuck—bam!” Sid retorts, and Kris has to scramble to deal with Sid’s response.

Kris wins that game, and Sid’s pouting because he’s the world’s worst loser, but Kris feels more like smiling, and he thinks Sid does too, from how he’s trying not to smile and is still swearing. “Another.” he demands.

“You said one game.”

“Fuck off, we’re playing again,” Sid retorts, and Kris laughs and picks up his controller to get back to the menu. Sid picks his phone up off the table while Kris does; knowing Sid, he’s gotten a dozen messages by now, with various friends talking about some game that’s on or needing something. Kris ignores it, until he’s ready to restart and Sid’s looking at his phone with an expression that’s half confusion and half something else.

“What?”

Sid hands the phone over. It’s the end of a message chain with Geno, where Sid had apparently been talking about his new job. Of course you be great, it says. You best. But I miss you next year, so far away. Not see your face every day.

Kris’s eyebrows go up. “He’s thinking ahead.”

“What do I even say to that?” Sid groans. “I mean—that’s flirting, right?”

“I think he might be ready to propose,” Kris agrees. He’s said that sort of shit to Cath, sure, but they’ve been going out for two years and he’s not entirely not ready to propose. “See if he’ll come over. He can play with us.”

“I need to—”

Kris is still holding the phone, conveniently. “Okay, I’ll do it.” He starts to type, and Sid yelps and lunges for the phone. Their scuffle ends with both of them on the floor, but Kris has reach and a few pounds on Sid so he ends up with the phone, sitting on Sid’s stomach as he types out the message. He could really be an asshole here, but he’s on Sid’s side, so instead he just sends, You could see my face now—come over.  

“Tanger, what did you send? Tanger!” Sid whines, and Kris tosses the phone back to him. Sid reads it. “That sounds like a booty call!”

“It is a booty call,” Kris points out. “Unless you don’t want his booty.”

“I do, but he doesn’t want—shit.” The phone buzzes. Kris leans over to look.

Need help with homework? Private lessons?

“Damn,” Kris whistles. Sid’s red again.

“Does that mean he thinks I’m stupid?”

“No, that means he wants to teach you things with his dick.”

“He doesn’t—here.”

Just playing xbox with Tanger. You can prove you’re actually as good as you claim.

Kris shakes his head. Sid’s hopeless. “That’s the least sexy message ever.”

“I’m not—isn’t proving you’re good flirty?” Sid asks, and Kris laughs and ruffles his hair.

“For you, maybe.”

“But, being the best is sexy,” Sid insists, looking honestly confused. “I mean, isn’t that why anyone’s interested in me?”

“So you think you’re the best?” Kris retorts, because the rest of that statement is too much for him to deal with.

Sid goes red again. “No, of course not—but, I mean, it’s what other people say, and that’s—you said it yourself, I’m a champion captain, that’s why I might be in Geno’s league, it’s not like you or—” The phone buzzes. Sid looks at it, and his face falls.

Busy with own work. Have fun.  

“See? He goes weird.” Sid swallows. “It’s fine. It really is.”

Sid doesn’t look fine. “Where does he hang out?” Kris demands.

“Um, I don’t know, he’s at the student union? And the diner, and—no, Tanger, don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

Sid sits up, which throws Kris off him, so he gets up and offers a hand down to pull Sid up. “Don’t do whatever you’re going to do. I’m fine. I don’t need you to fight people for me.”

“I’m not going to fight anyone.”

“That has never been true in your life,” Sid retorts, which is pretty fair, so Kris shrugs. “Kris. Don’t do anything. It’s fine. He’s allowed not to like me.”

“He does like you though,” Kris mutters, but Sid’s still staring him down, full captain face on. Even Kris has a hard time standing up to that, and he’s seen Sid drunk to hell and singing Celine Dion. “Fine. I won’t say anything.”

“Good.” Sid’s smile is definitely not as big as it could be. “I’m going to go to sleep, I think. Get some rest before the game tomorrow.”

It’s barely eleven. Not even Sid goes to be this early. If Kris stops doing this, he’s going to go back to obsessing over the presentation, and that’ll probably end in him talking about pointless stuff to Cath so much that she’ll stop replying to his texts. If Sid goes to bed, he’ll keep thinking that Geno’s not into him and is into Kris instead, which is ludicrous.

“No you aren’t,” Kris decides, and shoves the controller back in his hand. “I’m going to beat you a few more times first.”

He can see Sid acknowledge what Kris is doing to manipulate him, then realize that it’s still going to work. “No you aren’t,” he retorts, and throws himself onto the couch.

///

They lose at home on Tuesday. It’s a shitty loss to come on the back of three other losses, the sort that comes from them just falling apart instead of the other team out playing them. Sid doesn’t put up any points either, which means he ends up going home and sulking in his room, while Kris calls Cath to let her listen to him rant for a while and then put everything in perspective. He gets a text from Flower while he’s on the phone, just an oof and then a you all right? which Kris knows is mostly targeted at him but also at the team in general and Sid specifically.

I’m fine, Kris replies, which is mostly true. He had an all right game, and he got most of his irritation of the rest out talking to Cath. I think Sid’s talking to Duper

I’ll call him too, Flower announces. You ready for your big presentation?

Not you too

Lol. Sid on your case?

I thought with you gone the meddling would be done. You’d think he doesn’t know I can run my own life

Neither of you can run your own lives, Flower tells him, because Flower insists on thinking that about both of them. That’s what I’m here for.

We’re managing without you.

Are you though? Flower retorts, and Kris glares at his phone. They are. They are fed and watered and mostly emotionally stable, even if right now Sid probably isn’t feeling it. But that’s always been Duper’s job, since he was a senior and they were freshmen and he adopted all of them but mostly Sid.

We are. Even ask Sid.

I have been. Is this Geno guy really all that?

Kris lets out a sigh that Flower can probably hear from across the country. I don’t know, I haven’t really talked to him. But Sid thinks so.

Don’t fight him.

Why does everyone think I’m going to fight him?

Flower’s silence is pointed. Kris may have occasionally gotten into the faces of people who have messed with his friends even off the ice. Maybe more often than not that’s Sidney. It’s not like it’s ever unwarranted.

How’s the team doing normally? Flower asks. Are you taking care of my baby goalies?

You know I always take care of my goalies, Kris replies, and they chat about the care and keeping of Muzz until Flower has other stuff to do.

Sid’s clearly still in a mood in the morning; the coffee is on when Kris leaves but Sid’s mug is washed, which he only does when he’s on edge enough that he feels like he needs to do everything right to make up for what he’s doing wrong, or not doing, on the ice. Kris scowls at the empty sink—Sid being in a mood always makes him feel like he’s letting Sid down by not winning him games, even though he knows it’s not on either of them. But Sid carries the team with him, win or lose, and Sid’s the captain because he makes that burden look easy, makes everyone else want to follow.

Kris’ll get him drunk tonight, he decides. He’ll get him drunk enough he’ll stop thinking about the game or Geno. He can rope the team in, maybe some of the other guys who hang around with them. Sid’s always happiest surrounded by people. 

Then Kris realizes he’s going to be late to class, and pours some coffee into a travel mug before booking it across campus.

He manages to sit through all of his microecon class without feeling like he’s utterly at sea and because he’s been procrastinating working on his presentation he has all of his homework done for his afternoon class, so he decides that he gets to celebrate by eating at the student union instead of grabbing something to go.

It’s crowded, because it’s lunchtime, but Kris manages to find a two-person table that he glares everyone away from. He barely has any elbow room, because the tables on either side are pushed so close, but it’s table space and it’s not anywhere where he feels obligated to study or think about yesterday’s game.

Got a table at the union, he texts Sid, just in case, but almost immediately gets back,

I’ve got a lunch meeting. See you tonight.

Kris rolls his eyes at his phone—seriously, who has lunch meetings in college, other than Sid?—and texts Olli and Jake instead, just to check. He’s pretty sure they have afternoon classes, but rookies always take losses hard.

“Hi.” Kris looks up. Geno’s standing next to the table, looking a little sheepish, a little determined, and a lot like someone Kris would rather like to punch in the face. “Can I sit? Sorry, but no other place.”

Sid, Kris thinks, would be very mad if Kris did end up punching Geno, or yelling at him, or any of the other things Kris promised he wouldn’t do. That doesn’t mean Kris can’t…talk sharply to him. Very sharply.

“Sure,” Kris replies, smiling with all teeth. “Sit.”

“Thanks.” Geno sits, and sets down the sushi he’d bought. Kris takes a bite of his pasta and gives him his most pointed stare. He wishes Flower were here for this; Flower’s got that unnerving goalie stare to go with Kris’s best ‘I’ll fight you’ look, and they really work best as a team in things like this.

Geno looks at Kris, then back down at his sushi. Kris gives himself a mental pat on the back. Geno still breaks first. “Sorry about game yesterday,” he says.

Kris raises his eyebrows. “Were you there?” Geno nods. “Does Sid know?” That would explain even more about his mood.

But Geno shakes his head. “I’m think I surprise him—he always saying he wants me to come to a game. But then, it went bad…” he shrugs, and gives Kris a look that’s a little apologetic and a little hopeful. “Think it best if he just go home with you, make him feel better.”

That probably was the right call—Sid after a loss can be unpleasant, and he wouldn’t want Geno to see that until there’ve been enough positives to cancel it out. Kris isn’t going to just admit that, though, so he doesn’t say anything. Geno flushes a little. “It not…I’m only come because he’s invite. Wouldn’t otherwise.”

“Do you not like hockey?” If he doesn’t like hockey, Kris isn’t sure what Sid is doing. It’s either true love or a mind swap.

“No, I like! I like lots. Played sometimes, back home.”

“Good.” At least Sid hasn’t been abducted by aliens.

They eat in silence for a few more minutes. It’s not easy to keep glaring while eating, but Kris manages.

Finally, the silence just gets irritating. He’s not fighting, he decides. He’s discussing. Aggressively. “So, you and Sid have been hanging out a lot,” he points out.

Geno gives a nod that looks like it wants to be a lot more enthusiastic than it is. “Yes—I mean, we’re studying together.  He’s good friend.”

Next to them, the table of guys’ volumes pick up. “Did you hear? The hockey team lost, again,” one says. Kris ignores it. Who cares what they think?

“He is,” Kris agrees with Geno. “And he has a lot of good friends himself.”

“I know. He very busy, all the time.” Geno smiles at his plate, a little fond. “He always have meetings. Who has meetings?”

Kris manages not to snort, though it’s nice to hear other people agree. Flower seems to always think that the meetings are just a normal part of being Sid, and no one else really thinks twice about how ridiculous it is.

Two guys at the next to them are talking loudly enough that Kris can’t help but keep overhearing. “Again? Aren’t they supposed to be good?” one of them says. “I thought the captain was hot shit.”

But he’s annoyed at Geno. Sid’s sulking and it’s partly Geno’s fault. “He is very busy. A lot of people want his time.”

“He hasn’t been lately,” the table beside them continues. “The whole team’s been sucking, but he’s so overrated. I don’t know why everyone’s so on his dick all the time.”

Geno looks up at Kris, his brow furrowed. “You know, he love you very much. Talk about you a lot.”

Of course Sid would. Sid’s always liked to talk about his friends, and he clearly doesn’t know how to flirt to save his life. Or his dick, in this case.

“He loves his team,” Kris agrees. “And I—”

“If he doesn’t start winning games, maybe he should go,” the guy says, and that’s enough.

“Excuse me,” Kris tells Geno, and turns to his right. “Do you play hockey?” he demands.

The two guys there look up, clearly surprised. They’re the sort of guys that populate the gym; who work out but clearly haven’t been athletes since they hit college and were probably never any good anyway. “No?” The one on the right—in a blue polo and short cropped brown hair—says, wary.

“And have you ever led a team to a championship?” Kris draws himself up and crosses his arms. It’s more effective on the ice, where he really could just hit someone, but it works here too. “Either of you?”

The other guy, with red hair and thin lips, shakes his head.

“No? Have you ever led a team, maybe?”

“No, but—” Blue polo starts, but Kris cuts him off.

“Have you ever been on a team, even?”

“I was on—”

“Then I don’t know if I trust your hockey analysis. Because it comes from such an expert place.” Kris smiles, mean—the smile Flower once said makes him look like a hunting cat. “And you don’t get to talk about Sid. Unless you’d rather I go find the rest of the team who he’s led through thick and thin and know there’s no better captain in the world to beat you over the head with our two championship cups.”

“I—” Red hair opens his mouth. Kris makes a move like he’s going to get up, and he flinches back. “Let’s go,” he tells blue polo.

Blue polo gives Kris a sidelong look, then one at Geno, then nods. “Whatever. I’m done anyway.”

“Let me know if you want me to introduce you to Big Rig,” Kris calls after them. “He’s not nicknamed ironically.”

That gets a scowl, but it makes Kris feel better. Fuck them. Fuck all of them. Four lost games isn’t the end of the world, and it’s still barely midway through the season. They’re really good, and they’ll pull it back. Sid’ll pull them back if he has anything left in him.

He settles back in his seat. “What was I saying?” he asks Geno.

Geno’s looking at him, a little amused and a little confused and somehow sad. “You care about Sid a lot.”

“Of course.” Kris focuses his best murder stare at Geno. “I’d bury any bodies for him, no questions asked.” He’d make some too, he lets go unsaid, but from the look on Geno’s face, he gets it. “He’s one of the best men I know. Definitely the best captain. No one cares quite like him, about everyone.”

Geno nods. “He…a lot.”

Kris snorts. “He is.” But he adds, because no matter how much fun the shovel talk is he doesn’t want Sid to be sad anymore, “But he’s worth it. It’s not too much.” Then he pauses, amends. “Off the ice. Away from hockey.” 

“He talk a lot, on the bench,” Geno observes. “Can’t need to say all of it.”

Kris lets out a long sigh. “You have no idea.” He narrows his eyes. “So, what do you know about hockey?”

///

Geno, it turns out, is a pretty good guy. He seems like he’d be good for Sid; intense like Sid can be but without Sid’s single-mindedness. He’s definitely too smart for Sid—Kris cut him off as soon as he started talking about his phd thesis idea because he doesn’t get any of that shit. More importantly, he gets hockey. And most importantly, he talks about Sid like his weirdness is charming instead of weird as fuck, and barely even blinks when Kris mentions the hat.  He’s a little weird, maybe, and sometimes when Sid comes up he looks guilty, but Kris figures that’s because he hasn’t asked Sid out yet. Kris tries to drop as many hints as he can that Geno should get on that, but he’s not sure if it works.

Sid’s home when Kris wanders out of his room to get a snack. He’s still got a face on, but he looks less stressed out—he looks freshly showered, so Kris is guessing he’s been working out for just long enough that it hadn’t quite tipped over into overexertion. And maybe called Taylor; he’s got his home smile on.

“Good day?” Sid asks, stepping out of the way so Kris won’t reach over him to get to the cereal.

Kris shrugs. “You?”

“Yeah. Called home.”

“Feel better?”

“Yeah. Talked my games over with dad, and he had some suggestions. So did Taylor.” He smiles, and Kris shakes his head.

“I’d think she’d have suggestions for Muzz.”

“She did that too.” Sid leans against the counter so he can watch as Kris pours cereal into a bowl. “You okay? Yesterday was rough.”

“I’m not the one who sulks.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t get a bail call…” Kris must do something with his face, because Sid’s expression goes exasperated. “What’d you do?”

“Nothing.”

“Tanger.”

“Some guys were talking shit so I talked shit back.” Sid’s still giving him a skeptical look. Kris puts the cereal box away with a little more force than necessary. “Look, ask Geno. He’ll tell you. I just snapped a little.”

“You were with Geno?” Sid’s voice has changed, from captain to something a lot less confident.

“I had an extra seat in the union for lunch and he sat down. I asked if you wanted to come, you were busy,” Kris adds. Sid can’t be annoyed at him for that. “He just needed a seat.”

“Yeah, of course. I was meeting with the athletics board.” Sid nods. He doesn’t look annoyed. He just looks like he got boarded. “Um. Did you guys talk?”

“Yeah. He seems cool. Way cooler than you, anyway.” Sid gives a weak smile. They can both fill in for Flower, adding ‘not like it’s hard.’ “He was at the game yesterday.”

“Oh.” Sid’s face does something complicated, and he slowly shifts his weight. He’s never been good at sitting still. “That’s—oh.” He picks up the cup that’s sitting on the counter, then puts it down again. “You should—Have you told him about Cath yet? Because Geno’s a good guy, you shouldn’t lead him on.”

“Oh my god.” Sid is already starting to scowl when Kris keeps going. “He is definitely not into me.”

“Of course he is,” Sid explains, full of condescension. “It explains everything. He talks to—”

“Except for how he is not into me!” Kris retorts, his voice maybe rising a bit. He’s so sick of this. “He spent half of lunch trying to pretend like he wasn’t asking about you.”

“Then why hasn’t he said anything?” Sid replies, still sounding so easy and reasonable. Kris is actually going to throw his spoon at him. “I’ve given him so many openings. If he’s into—”

“We’re calling Flower,” Kris decides, and Sid starts to reply, then nods.

“Yeah, he knows I’m right.”

Flower doesn’t pick up. They both stare at the phone for a few seconds afterwards.

“I mean…” Sid starts, and looks at the clock on the stove. “I guess he’s at work, still.”

“Sure.” It’s not like they’ve always been joined at the hip. Tanger stares at his phone until it goes to sleep, then yanks his gaze back to his cereal. They both have girlfriends. They aren’t codependent, or at least they haven’t been for years. Flower’s been taking longer to respond to him lately anyway.

Sid’s hand lands heavily on his shoulder. “He’ll call back,” he says, surprisingly gentle. Kris shouldn’t be surprised; Sid’s sharp eyes work off the ice too. Kris just hates this. Hates feeling like this, because he knows Flower’s just a phone call away still, knows that Cath’s in his heart and will always pick up if he needs it, knows that Sid’s right here. But none of that is the same, as Flower leaving. Just leaving, and next year Sid will leave too, off to his great success with everyone else he’s so important to, and Kris is just—god, what if the interview doesn’t go well? What if he’s good, but not good enough?

“Of course he will.” Kris shoves the spoonful of cereal in his mouth.

“I miss him too,” Sid says, so earnest. Kris gives him a bleak smile.

“You can’t understand the special bond between a D-man and his goalie.”

“I know,” Sid agrees immediately. “But—he’ll be here for a long weekend soon, you’ll see him than? And I know he misses you too.”

“You know?”

“He told me,” Sid says frankly, which does sound like something Flower would say. “He’ll tell you, if you ask.”

Kris isn’t just going to ask that. Flower graduated and left. It’s not like it was anyone’s fault. It’s not like Kris didn’t know it was going to happen. And when Sid’s taking it better than him…it means something, probably.

“Do you want to play some ‘chel?” Sid suggests, leaning forward. He’s got his intense face on. “Or—I can look over your presentation, if that’s still what you’re nervous about? Or I can—”

“It’s fine,” Kris cuts him off. He’s not ready for Sid to see it. He trusts Sid’s opinion, but not yet. If it’s not up to par, he can’t hear that right now. “I need to work on it more, you can look at it later.”

“Okay.” Sid’s still looking at Kris like he looks at someone who took a bad hit on the ice, worried without knowing quite why. “You know, if you need anything—”

“I know.” Knowing that Sid’s there has never been the problem. “And Geno isn’t into me, he’s into you.”

Sid rolls his eyes even as his face twists. “That doesn’t make sense, though—”

“I’m right!” Kris insists, and tries to take his cereal back to his room before Sid can get another word in. It’s the best way to win arguments with him.

Unfortunately, he underestimated Sid’s commitment to an argument, because Sid follows him back to his room, leaning against the door jamb as Kris sits back down on his bed.

“I know him better than you, though,” he says. “And really, there’s every reason to be into you.”

“Except for how I have a girlfriend. And I’m not you.”

“He doesn’t know you have Cath, though.”

“Try telling him. See how he reacts.” If Kris has to guess, it’ll be with confusion about why he’d care.

“I…” Sid bites at his lip. “I don’t want to make him feel bad, though.”

“So you’ll make me do it?”

Sid makes a face. He doesn’t like having his hypocrisy pointed out. “It’s different.”

“Or you could just ask him out,” Kris suggests, because that’s really the best solution here. “You’re not usually a coward like this.”

“It’s not being a coward,” Sid snaps back. Kris had known that that would get him; Sid’s spent too much of his life being called a diver or a sissy for accusations like that not to land, even if Sid’s pride isn’t usually so easily hit. “I just don’t want to make it weird.”

“You don’t want to be turned down,” Kris fills in.

“I—who wants to be turned down?” Sid demands. “Of course I don’t. And there’s no point in trying if it’s not going to work.”

“You can’t be the best at everything.”

“Trust me, I know.” Sid’s set jaw makes it clear how very little he thinks of that. “But there’s no point setting myself up for failure.”

“Except it’s not going to be failure,” Kris sighs, and shakes his head. Sid looks ready to argue this forever, and he probably is, and Kris is tired and he needs to work on this and trying to convince Sid that he’s not only the best at hockey but also would end up with a pretty okay boyfriend if he just acted is not something Kris feels like spending his time doing. “Sid. I need to work on this.”

“Oh yeah, of course.” Sid steps back. “You know, I mean. Whatever you need.”

“I don’t need anything.”

“Practice makes perfect, so I can—hey!” Sid catches the pillow Kris has thrown at him. “I’m just trying to help. Or, like. If it’s too much, I can—we could figure out some way to get the rookies, or if you wanted to play—”

“I just need to work,” Kris interrupts, before Sid can finish whatever brain break he’s going through. “See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah. Sure.” Sid nods. “Tomorrow.” He raises a hand, then lets it drop, then leaves.

Kris considers following him, figuring out what the hell was wrong with him—but he really does need to finish this, and he can’t think about Sid for that. He needs to finish this. He needs to not be distracted. He needs to get this job. He needs to be enough.

///

Thursday’s practice is a shitshow, unsurprisingly given how they did the day before, and Sid’s got his intense determined face on where he’s pushing them even harder than coach. Then there’s video review, and then Kris has class, and then he skips class to do the practice set for his stats class that he really does need a good grade in, then he gets home and sets up camp in the living room to work on his presentation for a while even though he’s pretty sure he’s limbs are going to give out. Sid’s still not home—he’s always out late Thursdays, because he has some standing dinner date and Kris thinks he got a text about studying with Geno that he really hopes means they’re finally fucking—so the house is quiet.

It wasn’t quiet, before this year. Kris hadn’t been prepared for the difference between three people living here and two. Or maybe he just hadn’t realized how much noise Flower made compared to Sid, or fuck it, maybe he just misses Flower. But it doesn’t matter, because Flower’s in Vegas and next year Sid’ll be in Pittsburgh and Kris’ll be—somewhere. Maybe Pittsburgh, if he does well enough on this interview. 

He can’t look at Powerpoint anymore, so he picks up his phone. Quoi de neuf? he texts. It’s late enough that Flower’s out of work by now. It’s late enough that Flower’s probably at dinner.

Happy hour! Flower texts back. Les jeudis sont aussi pour boire quand vous êtes un professionnel, apparemment! Et toi? Brisé, j'espère?

Non.  Je travaille.

Flower replies with a frowny face. Dis à Sid de t'enlever!

Kris actually snorts at that. Like Sid has the time to go out. Sid n'est pas encore rentré. Il travaille toujours, bien sûr.

Bien sûr, Flower agrees. If Flower were here, they’d go out themselves, or play some video games, or something. But he’s not. Trouver quelqu'un dans l'équipe, puis!

Je suppose. Kris could. He knows some of the freshmen would be game to find a party, at least. But he doesn’t want that. He wants this presentation to be over with. He wants Flower back here so they can get drunk together. He wants Sid home so the three of them can get drunk together and watch a shitty movie and laugh at Sid’s horrible French. He wants to hold Cath and bury his face in her hair and not let go. He wants to know he’s going to Pittsburgh too.  He wants Sid to stop being weird and miserable all the time about Geno. He wants Flower to text back, but there aren’t even the dots there.

He gets up to grab himself an energy drink, but he’s only just gotten to the kitchen when his phone rings, and Cath’s face smiles up at him.

“Eliza is a bitch, and I’m going to cut her,” she says, without any premise. Kris frowns.

“What happened?”

What happened, apparently, is a long story involving Cath’s other housemate’s boyfriend and a blonde wig and Eliza being manipulative, and Kris understands when his place is just to listen to Cath vent and not to go over there and punch someone, no matter if he’d be tempted to. He wanders into his room as Cath talks, lies down on the bed. Just for a second.

///

Kris wakes up to sunlight on his face, an alarm yelling at him, and the distinctly uncomfortable sensation of having worn jeans to bed. His phone is next to him, blaring out its alarm, but when he checks it it just tells him it’s his usual Thursday morning class alarm before dying. 

He must have been tired, damn. He rolls over to plug his phone back in, then drags himself to the bathroom. The last thing he remembers was Cath, having calmed down, starting to tell him about her midterm schedule, but now it’s bright out and he can hear Sid moving around in the kitchen and he still feels like he’s going to die, but a little less so. Is this what it feels like to be Sid all the time?

He jumps in and out of the shower, pulls on enough clothes to go to class in, and then wanders into the kitchen.

“Coffee,” Sid says, gesturing to the coffee machine. Kris grunts and pours himself some. He feels a little better with coffee, but not much. He has so much more to do, fuck. He needs to get this shit done and he doesn’t have time for any of it.

Sid is sitting at the table with one of his disgusting protein shakes in one hand and his phone in the other. Kris doesn’t even know when he got up; Sid’s not a morning person but he likes to pretend he is by getting up earlier than everyone else. Kris still remembers the first time he saw Sid after he’d slept through his alarm—Flower still had the video on his phone for proper blackmail.   

Now, though, Sid’s clearly showered and ready to go to class, or whatever meeting he has today, or maybe the gym, or probably all three, knowing Sid. Kris runs a hand through his still-drying hair.

“When’d you get in last night?” he asks. “How late did Geno keep you out?”

Sid makes a face. “It wasn’t that late, but you’d already gotten to bed.” He takes a long drink of his smoothie. Kris makes a face at that. He understands fitness, but he’s not willing to make that sort of sacrifice. “And we were just studying together,” Sid adds, looking at his phone and not at Kris. It makes Kris think of freshman Sid. It makes Sid look like all the confidence and competence that Sid carries with him has been stripped away. It’s not a good look. “It’s—it’s fine, okay?”

“It doesn’t look fine.”

“I’m not…He doesn’t like me like that, and I’m fine with just being his friend, so it is fine.” Sid nods, then he looks up to meet Kris’s eyes. “The mixed signals must be a translation thing. So yeah, it’s fine.” He smiles, like he does after bad games. “How was your night? I didn’t think you’d already be in bed when I got home.”

“Cath needed to talk something over, then I crashed.”

“Is she okay?” Sid asks, looking concerned. Kris rolls his eyes.

“Yeah, just some roommate drama.”

“Are you sure? I—”

“Of course I’m sure,” Kris retorts, fast. He’s a good fucking boyfriend. Sid doesn’t get to coach him on that.

“I didn’t—yeah, for sure,” Sid cuts himself off, shaking his head. Kris gives him another second to say something, but then he doesn’t even though Kris is pretty sure he wants to, so Kris gives up. Instead, because he has to leave soon, he chugs more of his coffee and goes to the living room to pick up his computer.

It’s open, which he didn’t remember; on top of it there’s a sheet of paper, filled with Sid’s schoolboy neat handwriting.

Kris skims the paper, takes a deep breath, then turns on his heel.

“What the fuck is this?” he demands, throwing the paper down on the table in front of Sid.

“What?” Sid looks at it. “Oh, those are just some suggestion, for your presentation.”

“No fucking kidding.” Kris shakes the paper a little. “Why were you looking at the presentation?”

Sid draws back. He’s clearly caught on that Kris is angry, and just as clearly doesn’t know why. “I just—it was open when I got back, and I figured you meant for me to look at it? We’d talked about me being a second pair of eyes?”

“Yes, when I was done! Not—all this!” All the little feedback and the big, Sid’s careful deconstruction of Kris’s hard work, how he’d make it better because Sid always knows how to be better even when he doesn’t know fuck all about architecture, Sid’s always going to know how to be better than Kris.

“I thought you were done.” Sid’s straightening, his jaw setting like he’s on the ice ready to argue with a ref. “But now you aren’t, and you have time to incorporate it, so it’s fine.”

“It’s not fine! You don’t get to do this. This was—this is not something you get to captain me on, Sid!” Kris throws at him. Sid flinches, just enough for Kris to know he’s struck a nerve, somehow. “I’m sorry if it wasn’t good enough for you, but we can’t all be you, okay? And I’m going to make it better.”

“I’m not—I know you will.” Sid’s back to his reasonable voice, and it just sets Kris off more. It always makes Kris feel like he’s the one being unreasonable, even when Sid’s arguing back. “I’m just helping.”

“Well, stop.” Kris spits, and Sid huffs out a breath and then he’s on his feet too. It feels good, or it feels right, just to have something to fight, instead of Sid’s stupid neutrality.

“Fine, I will. I’ll just let you sit there stewing in your own stress and maybe not winning because you won’t let me—”

“I can’t win on my own?” Kris interrupts. “Good to know. The great Sidney Crosby, he can get his job without breaking a sweat, but me, I need—”

“What do you even mean by that?” Sid cuts him off. “I worked for every fucking thing I have, and you know that, and I’m sorry if you wanted to be captain or something, but—”

“I don’t want to be captain!” Kris shouts.

“Good!” They’re both breathing harshly. Sid takes a breath, composes himself. “Look, I know you’re stressed about the presentation and our record, and that—”

“Oh, I’m stressed?”

Sid ignores him. “And that you’re nervous, but you don’t have to bite off the head of someone trying to help you.”

“I don’t need your help!”

“Well Flower’s not here!” Sid snaps back. “So you’re stuck with me.”

“Stuck is right,” Kris retorts, and Sid glares again.

“Fine. Go, flunk this interview and go find a job in Vegas or wherever. I won’t help.”

“Good!”

“Good. I hope you have fun humiliating yourself at the presentation! Maybe I’ll ask if I can come watch!”

“I hope you have fun pining over some guy who barely even knows your name!” Kris throws back, and storms out of the room.

He grabs his computer and his phone and shoves them into his backpack, pulls on a sweatshirt, then storms back out. Sid’s still standing at the kitchen table, his face shuttered. That fucking paper of feedback is sitting on the table in front of him still.

Kris still feels like he’s shaking from anger and stress and exhaustion and just—he needs something to hit. He snatches up the paper. “Most of this is bullshit anyway,” he tells Sid. “You’re wrong.”

“I’m not.” Sid’s chin goes back up, and his gaze hardens.

“You are. You don’t always fucking know best. You might be captain and run this school and be the fucking best at everything, but you don’t know this.”

“Why do you always say that?” Sid snaps back. “Am I supposed to be sorry I’m good at hockey?”

“You’re supposed to not be a bitch about it! Stop whining to me about how Geno doesn’t have any reason to like you, or whatever, like your life isn’t charmed!”

“It’s not—do you want all of my shit?” Sid cross his arms over his chest. “Do you want to have everyone fucking watching and waiting all the time and have everyone depending on you and never getting a fucking minute and—”

“Boo hoo, I’m so sorry, you’re too good at everything!”

“Oh, fuck you! You have Cath and Flower and—everyone! What do I have?”

“Yeah, you’ve got nothing,” Kris agrees, throwing out his arms to encompass the whole school that’s on Sid’s dick. He yanks the front door open, and lets it slam behind him as he leaves.

///

Kris doesn’t make it to class. He knows when he’s too angry to concentrate, and this is one of those times. And he can’t go to the gym, because Sid might go there to work out his own anger, so he settles for stalking off to the café to get more coffee.

 He’s just sitting down at a table when his phone starts ringing. Kris barely has to look to know who it is.

“Did he seriously tattle on me?” he demands in French once he’s accepted the call.

“It’s not tattling,” Flower replies, sounding calmer and more awake than he has any right to be. He actually is a morning person. “So do you want to tell me why I got three texts from Sid about nothing at all this morning?”

“Because he doesn’t have anything to say?” Kris snorts. The girl sitting at the table next to him gives him a sidelong look. He glares her down until she goes back to her textbook. “He’s the one who was out of line.”

“What’d he do this time?” Flower asks, with a long-suffering sigh. He gets it.

“He just—there was a full page of notes on my presentation when I woke up this morning. A page!” 

Flower chuckles. “Sounds like Sid.”

“It is, but—he doesn’t—” When Kris says it out loud, it sounds stupid, but Flower doesn’t get it. He’s not here. He’s never quite gotten what it’s like, to be friends with Sid, with him—goalies, always apart from it all. “You’re not here, you don’t get it.”

“Tanger…”

“No, you don’t. You left.” Kris tells him. “You’re a continent away, and you have a new life. You don’t get it.”

“I…” Flower sighs, over the phone, and when he speaks again his voice is uncharacteristically serious. “You know, it’s not easy, being the one who’s left, right? It doesn’t mean I love you any less.”

Kris knows. He does. It just doesn’t always feel like that. “You’ve got a new life, though.”

“Yeah, but…” Flower trails off.

“But?” Kris prompts him.

“But you and Sid have each other,” Flower finishes. “I like it here, it’s good. But it’s not like being with the two of you. Sometimes it’s just easier not to think about that.”

Well, now Kris feels like the asshole. “I miss you too, you know.”

“I know.” He can hear Flower’s smile. “Just don’t go liking any other goalies more than me, okay?”

“I don’t know, Muzz is pretty great,” Kris replies, and laughs despite himself at Flower’s protests.

Flower hangs up after a few more minutes, with promises to that he’s going to check in in no more than 24 hours to make sure everything’s okay, because he’s an interfering asshole when it comes down to it. Kris feels a little steadier. It’s always easier, with Flower, who knows how to defuse him. He still thinks Sid was out of line, and it’s still not—not not fair, because it’s not about being fair, but Sid doesn’t get what it’s like to have to work so hard just to be at his level. Sid works hard, but it’s not the same. It can’t be. And Sid has never even tried to understand that.

Kris opens his computer—and there’s the presentation. It sets off another round of anger shaking through him. It’s good. He knows it isn’t perfect, but it’s good, and he doesn’t need Sid’s captaining to make it better.

Even if—he knows Sid meant well. Sid always means well, is the problem. Sid always means well, even if he does it wrong, and maybe he hadn’t deserved everything Kris threw at him.

“Hey.” Kris looks up—and up. Geno’s standing there, and it’s not like the hovering of a few days ago, awkward and a little diffident. He’s got his arms crossed and he’s trying to take up space now, glowering down at Kris. It is, Kris can admit, from one glowerer to another, pretty good.

Still, “What?” Kris demands. He is not in the mood for this.

Geno glares for another moment, then finally says, “What did you do to Sid?”

Kris has to laugh. “Seriously?”

“Sid, he sounds…” Geno shakes his head, in a motion Kris recognizes as someone not being able to find a word in his second language. “What did you do? If you treating him bad, or—”

Kris is already feeling a little guilty, and angry, and he can remember Sid’s face this morning, the way he’d looked gutted and fighting through it.

“I’m treating him badly?” Kris asks. He doesn’t bother keeping his voice down. “Me? I’m not the one who’s been jerking him around for the past month! Just fucking ask him out already if you want him to stop being fucked up!”

Kris doesn’t know what he expected from that, but it’s not what he gets, which is Geno looking like someone poured a bucket of water on him. He opens and closes his mouth a few times, like he doesn’t remember how to make sound come out. “Me?” he finally gets out. “Me, ask him out?”

Kris rolls his eyes. “No, some other Russian dude who he’s been spending all his time with and flirting with constantly.” What is it with people today?

Geno does the fish mouth thing a few more times. Kris waits, not patiently. “But—” Geno still looks utterly confused. “But—you his boyfriend.”

Kris waits. Then he waits some more, for the punchline—it’s not the first time he, Sid, and Flower have gotten some shit for their friendship. Then he keeps waiting, because Geno doesn’t seem to have a punch line.

“What?” Kris finally asks.

“You—I mean, he—aren’t you?” Geno asks, and he looks honestly confused, and everything clicks into place.

Kris shuts his computer, shoves it into his bag. “What?” Geno asks, looking nervous now. “What—”

“Come on.” Kris pushes at Geno’s shoulder. He’s used to shoving Sid around, who has a few pounds and a lower center of gravity then Geno; Geno goes.

“Where we going?” Geno asks, as Kris keeps herding him along, out of the café. Kris doesn’t bother answering.

Kris opens the door to their apartment, shoves Geno in first, then follows him. Sid’s shoes are still there, so he’s home.

“Sid!” Kris calls. Next to him, Geno is going stiff. He looks like he’s a flight risk, so Kris grabs his wrist, just to make sure.

A door opens, and Sid wanders out of the bedroom. He was clearly working out at home instead of at the gym; he’s in sweatpants, sweating a little as he tugs a shirt on. Geno makes a soft noise, and Kris manages not to chuckle. “Tanger?” Sid asks, “Look, I know we said some shit, but we should talk—” his head pops up out of his shirt, and he sees Geno. “oh.” He freezes. Then his eyes go down, to where Kris is holding on to Geno, then back up to Kris. He’s very pale. “That’s really shitty, LeTang, fuck you too.”

LeTang, Sid really is mad. Kris waves that away. He knows he and Sid should be adults and talk about this, but there are more important things to do. “Look who I found,” he says, shoving Geno forward, in front of him. Geno tries to resist, but Kris is determined. “Geno happened to find me, started threatening me a little bit. Apparently, I’d been mistreating my boyfriend.”

Sid freezes. “Boyfriend?” he echoes. He looks at Geno now, then to Kris, then back to Geno, then to Kris again. “You?”

“Your boyfriend,” Kris fills in helpfully.

“What?” Sid asks, in the exact same tone of voice that Kris had. He looks at Geno again, then meets Kris’s gaze with a skeptical bewilderment Kris understands.

“Well, what I’m supposed to think!” Geno breaks in. He’s gone red, and he looks sulky. “You—you talk about him all the time, and smile so much about him, and he very pretty, and—you!” he goes on, turning to Kris to glare like this is his fault. “You all—touchy, and angry when I’m talk to him, and yell at guys in union!”

Kris pulls out his phone, wakes it up. He shoves the picture into Geno’s face. “For the record, this is Cath, my lovely, amazing girlfriend,” he announces. “Who is much hotter than Sid and also way less work.”

“Screw you,” Sid retorts, but he’s not looking at Kris. He’s looking at Geno.

Geno’s just looking at Sid, too. Kris surreptitiously flips his phone into video mode. This is definitely winning him best man over Flower.

“Did you really think I was going out with Tanger?” Sid asks, quiet. He’s gone from pale to flushed, and now he’s definitely doing the look up through his eyelashes thing.

Geno takes a step forward, like he can’t help it, until he’s right in Sid’s space. Sid’s head tips back so he won’t have to break eye contact. Kris has been on the other side of Sid’s intensity, doing drills; it’s not comfortable. But Geno seems transfixed.

“Made the most sense,” Geno tells him. He’s smiling a little, like he gets the joke too now.

“I wasn’t—I mean, I’m not subtle.” 

“Yes, but—you Sidney Crosby, you best at hockey, and so important at school, and friends with everyone, so think you flirting, too good to be true. Guy like you, he’s not flirt with guy like me.” Geno’s hand goes up to hover over Sid’s arm, like he’s not sure he can touch. Kris is pretty sure he can touch. “Make most sense, you have boyfriend, not really flirting.”

“A guy like you?” Sid echoes, and Kris recognizes the set of his jaw, into one of the times when he’s digging his heels in. “What do you mean? You’re so smart and handsome and you like hockey and—”

“Sid,” Geno cuts him off, fondness in his smile. Kris gives him points for that.

“Well, you are,” Sid insists. Geno shakes his head, chuckling.

“Okay. If you say.”

“I do.” Sid licks at his lips. Kris isn’t sure if it’s intentional or not, but it’s a good move, so he’s pretty sure it’s not. “Um. I was flirting, though. For real. If that’s not obvious.”

“Good. Me too.” Geno’s still just smiling at Sid, and Kris is seriously considering giving one of them a push just to get it going, but then Sid, who could never wait for anything, pushes up and forward and into Geno’s lips.

Geno makes a sound, but then his hands land on Sid’s shoulders, finally, and he’s definitely into this.

Kris cheers, because he’s an asshole. Sid keeps kissing Geno, but does flip him off. Kris makes sure to get that on tape too, before he cuts off the video because it’s getting weird. While he’s on wifi, he sends it to Flower, along with a can you believe he thought Sid was hot enough for me?   

When they finally break apart, they’re both grinning helplessly. Sid looks like he does coming off a good shift, self-satisfied and pleased and already planning about how he could do it again, but better. Geno just looks dazed.

“So.” Sid grins at Geno. “I don’t have a boyfriend, it turns out. And I think we should do that again.”

“Yes.” Geno grins back. “Now? Or, I take you out to dinner? Lunch?”

“I have a meeting for lunch,” Sid says, looking properly sad about it. “And we have late practice, but—”

“But you have the house to yourself now until lunch,” Kris interrupts. “And Geno?” He waits until Geno’s looking at him, then gives him the glare that he gives guys on the ice. “You jerk him around again….”

Geno snorts, but his hand’s still on Sid’s shoulder. “I won’t.”

“Good. Because I’ve got a hockey team and about half the school on call.”

“Tanger,” Sid whines, rolling his eyes. “Ignore him,” he tells Geno, “I can take care of myself.”

Kris ignores that, because even if it’s true, it doesn’t really matter. “Tu peux me remercier en ne baisant pas sur le canapé,” he tells Sid instead, who goes bright red as Kris backs out the door.

Kris lets the door shut on Geno’s teasing demands for a translation. In his pocket, his phone buzzes.

!!!! Flower’s sent back. What did you do?

That, Kris thinks, is an entirely unfair sort of accusation.

///

Kris only just stops by the apartment to grab his gear before going to practice, so he doesn’t see Sid, but Sid in the locker room is glowing and he’s got some bruises on his collarbone that Kris doesn’t even have to bring up because Dumo does instead. Sid just laughs and chirps him back, so Kris is assuming that everything went well. Kris hasn’t shared the video with anyone but Flower yet, so he thinks that he deserves a medal.

They walk back from practice together. Sid’s still buzzing off of it, but they’re both quiet, and Kris can see Sid stealing looks at him from out of the corner of his eye. Kris starts counting down.

They make it halfway home, which is longer than Kris expected, when Sid breaks. “We should talk,” he says. Kris nods. Sid makes his responsible captain face, which is ridiculous because they both know that Kris is not the only one of the two of them that is excellent at holding grudges. “I’m sorry if I made you feel like you weren’t good enough, or anything like that. I know you’re good. The presentation is good. I just was trying to help make it better.”

“I know.” Kris runs a hand through his hair. “I was just stressed, and you…it’s not always easy being friends with you, when things I really want come up.”

Sid nods, serious. “I know.” He’s looking right ahead now. Kris is kind of happy about that; he’s not sure he could look Sid in the eye right now either. “I know I’m—I mean, there was you and Flower, and then I tagged along and you guys dealt with all my shit, and in your ideal world Flower wouldn’t be the one who left.” He swallows, and it give Kris time to process that. “I know I’m not I’m not Flower. I can’t be that. But—” Sid swallows. “I am trying. I was trying. To help however I could. Even if you’d rather Flower.”

Kris stops, then grabs Sid’s shoulder so he stops too. “That’s not what I meant.” Sid opens his mouth, probably to argue; Kris shakes him. “Don’t be an idiot. I just meant—you’re a lot to live up to, sometimes.”

Sid presses his lips together. “I don’t mean to be.”

“That’s what makes it worse,” Kris replies, with a chuckle.

“I shouldn’t be, though.” Kris doesn’t know how Geno did it; he’s not even getting all of Sid’s intensity and it’s a lot. “You’re—I wish I could be you, sometimes. You’re just—you’re good and you’re happy and you have Cath and everyone likes you and you know how to talk to people and you don’t have to worry about—I worry about everything.”

“I know,” Kris tells him, because he does. Because he knows everything Sid just said, and he knows that Sid doesn’t really wish he could be Kris, like Kris doesn’t wish he could be Sid either. “You don’t have to worry about me, though.”

“Of course I do,” Sid replies without pause, and Kris snorts. “You’re my—I mean, I know you and Flower are you and Flower, but you guys are my best friends. Even if I’m not yours.”

“Idiot,” Kris says again, and he has to throw an arm over his shoulders at that. “Flower’s my best friend. And so are you.” It’s not the same. Maybe, it’s true, if Kris had to rank them Flower would come first. But he doesn’t, and in his ideal world none of them have to leave. In this not ideal world, hearing Sid say it matters. Hearing Sid say that even if he ends up leaving—even if Kris doesn’t get this job, and it all falls apart, Sid won’t really leave either, matters. “And Flower would say the same, if he were here.”

Sid laughs, and doesn’t move away from Kris. “He’d be pretty proud of us. Using our words and everything, even without him here.”

“We can never tell him,” Kris agrees. “He’d expect it from us all the time.”

Sid makes a ridiculous, wrinkled nose face; Kris laughs and hugs him closer before letting him go so they can keep walking. “You sent him whatever video you took of me and Geno already, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. Just him, not anyone else, though. Why?”

Sid hands over his phone with a sigh, and Kris laughs at the two rows of eggplants emojis.

The light is on when they get back, and it smells like something’s cooking. Kris raises his eyebrows as he takes off his shoes, Sid a beat behind him. “Did you already give Geno a key?” he asks. He really hopes not—he needs to get sleep and get ready for the presentation tomorrow, and he likes Geno but it’s not the same.

Sid shakes his head. He’s a shitty liar, though—something’s up. Kris is about to ask, when someone comes out of the kitchen. Someone he recognizes.

“Hey, babe,” Cath says, smiling at him. Kris blinks at her. He hadn’t—she’s been away so long, and she’s here, and he hadn’t even thought—

“Bonjour,” he mumbles, and then he’s hugging her, and his face is in her hair and it’s been way too long. Cath laughs and hugs him back. “What are you doing here?”

She’s smiling up at him, so lovely always, and Kris never wants to let go. “Sid thought you could use some extra luck, suggested I come down. Someone wouldn’t tell me how stressed he was,” she adds, mock-stern.

Kris keeps his arms around her, but he turns to look. Sid’s almost at his bedroom already. “Sid—”

“Yeah,” Sid agrees, like he gets everything Kris isn’t saying—how much Kris needed this, apparently. How happy he is. How grateful he is that Sid thought of this. That Sid’s worrying about him. “Have fun,” he tells them with a wave, and ducks into his room.

Cath giggles, and reaches up so her hands are behind Kris’s neck. “You’ve got your captain’s orders,” she points out, pressing closer, and Kris laughs back, leaning down to kiss her. Who cares about the presentation. He’s got everything he needs here.

///

“So.”

“So,” Geno agrees.

“Articulate, aren’t they?” Kris asks Sid. Sid rolls his eyes and crosses his arms over his chest, which would be much more intimidating if he wasn’t leaning into Geno’s side and grinning at Flower like he couldn’t help it. Kris doesn’t blame him; he still isn’t quite looking away, afraid every time he does Flower won’t really be here, on their couch, trying to look intimidating and missing by a mile.

“So, you’re Geno,” Flower goes on, ignoring Kris. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Heard a lot about you too,” Geno agrees again, still cool like he isn’t wearing the shirt that’s usually his date shirt and that he hadn’t been very loudly panicking up until the minute Flower walked through the door—and maybe even after, Kris hadn’t noticed because he was too busy hugging Flower.

“Yes, we’ve all heard a lot about each other,” Sid puts in. “Chel?”

“Shush,” Geno tells him, patting his head without looking away. “Am busy.”

Sid huffs, “Oh, fuck you,” he says, scowling. Flower’s lips are twitching—Kris isn’t sure if Geno knows, but he is about ten seconds from breaking.

“You know, I wasn’t very pleased with you,” Flower says. Geno’s eye twitches. Sid stops scowling and leans into Geno, like for support, but he knows Flower too, and his face is suspiciously hidden from Geno’s view.

“No?” Geno asks.

“No,” Flower agrees, still dead pan. “Thinking Tanger was Sid’s boyfriend?” He makes a horrified face, but he’s breaking fast. “Why not me? I’m so much more loveable!”

“Lies!” Kris objects, and kicks out at Flower, already laughing. “No, Sid and I are much better together.”

“Not a chance.” Flower reaches out, grabs Sid’s arm, and tugs. Sid pulls back, but he falls over into Flower anyway, which means he wanted to go anyway, because Flower can’t move Sid if he doesn’t want to be moved. “Come on, look how good we look together!”

“Well he doesn’t talk about you, he talks about me,” Kris argues, and grabs Sid’s other arm. Geno’s watching them like they’ve gone insane, but Kris doesn’t care. It’s easy, with Flower here. The three of them. “You were just a long distance fling at best.”

“Just because I wasn’t here to cuddle,” Flower retorts, and Sid’s laughter mixes with theirs.

“Neither of you are good enough for me,” Sid retorts, and yanks his arms away. He doesn’t move from how he’s sprawled half over Flower, though. “I don’t know why I talk to either of you.”

“He’s right, we’re too good for him,” Kris agrees.

“You’re good for nothing, and I tell Cath and Vero that every day.”

“Sid! I thought we had something special.” Flower argues, ruffling Sid’s hair.

“I’m have something special with Sid,” Geno inserts, and gets an arm around Sid’s waist to tug him back. Sid doesn’t go, just grins at them—at Geno, and Flower and Kris.

“None of you have something special with me,” Sid lies, and Kris shoves him away, back towards Geno, in response.

They do eventually settle down into Chel, and as usual that devolves into a lot of shoving and arguing because Sid will never not be a dirty player and Geno is just as bad, and Kris is absolutely not as bad no matter what Sid and Flower say.

“Fine!” Kris says at last, throwing his controller down. “I’m getting a beer.”

“Me too, please!” Sid requests, shoving at Geno as he gets in a shot.

“I’ll go with you,” Flower puts in, and gets up.

Kris isn’t surprised. Flower’s too much of a meddler to wait to gossip until Geno left, or until Sid got out of their way. “So, they’re good together,” Flower says in French, once they’ve gotten to the kitchen. “I like him. He’s good for Sid.”

Kris glances back at the living room. Sid and Geno are still bickering over the game, but as Kris watches Geno rolls his eyes and presses a kiss to Sid’s forehead. Kris doesn’t have to see Sid’s face to know his expression, half fond and half exasperated that his argument’s been derailed.

“Yeah,” Kris agrees. “He is. They are.”

He opens the fridge, and takes out Sid’s least favorite beer, because Sid deserves that. Flower leans against the counter. “You guys are doing well, too.”

“We’re okay.” Kris gets one of Flower’s favorite beers, that Sid had bought in anticipation for this visit, and hands it to Flower. “You’re okay?”

Flower’s still smiling, because he’s Flower, but it twists a little. “I’m good,” he says, and doesn’t sound like he’s lying. It doesn’t even hurt to hear. Then Flower smiles again, pushing that aside. “So, how annoying are they?”

Kris groans, and Flower laughs.

“What are you two laughing at?” Sid asks, coming in. Geno’s still messing with something in the living room behind him.

Kris and Flower’s eyes meet, and they start laughing again. Sid flushes a little, but he shrugs, shakes his head, and moves past Kris to get to the sink.

Kris grabs his arm, tugs him in. Sid goes easily, even if he’s a big enough guy that him crashing into them isn’t exactly comfortable.

“Hey,” Sid says, quiet but earnest, just a shade off his captain voice. “I love you guys, you know that?”

Kris groans. Flower kisses Sid’s temple loudly. “Yes, Sid, we know,” Kris says, and knows from Sid and Flower’s grins that they both understand.