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here comes the spark

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June 2016

He woke slowly, in the dark.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience. He felt as if he were swimming through a pool of thick molasses, kicking his way stubbornly up towards the surface of consciousness; it took a long time, and when he finally got there, he sort of wished he hadn’t bothered. His head was throbbing, and his eyes stung, and his entire body felt alarmingly delicate, as if one wrong move might shatter something inside him like glass.

The room was dark, the blackout curtains drawn almost all the way. Only a thin sliver of moonlight shone through the gap—just enough to confirm he hadn’t ended the night in his own hotel room.

Sid sat up, grimacing. He didn’t remember going home with anyone, but he was definitely naked, and from the look of it, so was the woman sleeping next to him. She was lying curled up on her side with her back to him, her long hair trailing over her bare shoulder.

Where had he even met her? Mario had rented out the bar for the Cup party—holy shit, they’d won the fucking Cup—and Sid’s memories were mostly of the guys: Geno slamming his fist on a table, roaring out what must’ve been a Russian drinking song; Kris trying to pour champagne into Sid’s mouth, spilling most of it on the floor. Things got significantly fuzzier after that, though Sid vaguely remembered someone soberer shuttling them back to the hotel.

God: had he met somebody in the hallway? He could only imagine the impression he must have made.

He groped for the overturned alarm clock, knocking something off the bedside table in the process. He fumbled for it in the dark, fingers closing around something small and round, cool to the touch.

It was a diamond ring. Sid held it up to the faint sliver of light, squinting at it.

He froze.

He knew that ring.

He’d helped pick out that ring. Geno had obsessed over it for months, using Sid’s battered old laptop to browse through websites so Anna wouldn’t find any trace of it. Sid had gotten so tired of his dithering that one afternoon—when they were supposed to be reviewing tape, and Geno was too glued to the screen to do much more than grunt in response—Sid had grabbed the laptop, clicked through the six open tabs, and said, That one.

Four days ago, he’d watched Geno slide that ring onto Anna’s finger down at city hall, both of them beaming at each other.

No.

This wasn’t—he hadn’t—

The woman next to him made a sleepy noise. Hardly daring to breathe, Sid leaned over to look at her face, and felt his confusion curdle into horror.

He’d swung his legs over the side of the bed before he realized what he was doing—like his body was already on autopilot, survival instincts kicking in. He forced himself to slow down and breathe: in, out.

It wasn’t necessarily what it looked like. He was naked in Anna’s bed, her wedding ring clenched in his fist, but there was probably a legitimate explanation for it—one that didn’t involve him celebrating the Cup win by sleeping with his best friend’s wife.

He heard a sound from the ensuite; a soft clatter, and then, a moment later, a toilet flushing.

Sid lay quickly back down and closed his eyes, his heart pounding. He heard someone come out, but then there was silence. He slitted his eyes open just a little—just enough to see Geno standing in the light of the bathroom in his boxers, frowning down at his phone.

Relief washed over him.

Geno was here. So he hadn’t—

Geno turned towards the bed. Sid shut his eyes and tried to steady his breathing.

He expected Geno to go to the other side of the bed, where Anna was sleeping, but Geno seemed to hesitate at the foot of the bed. Sid’s eyes were shut tightly, his whole body rigid, waiting for—something. For Geno to shake him awake, maybe, and demand some answers.

But Geno just stood there looking down at him, a silent looming figure in the dark.

Sid nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt Geno’s hand against his face, though he managed to hold himself still. Geno was—stroking his hair, or brushing his hair off his forehead, maybe, the gesture oddly tender.

A moment later, Geno’s hand withdrew. Sid felt the other side of the mattress dip, Geno sliding under the blankets next to Anna.

He opened his eyes, and lay staring at the wall opposite, trying to piece together his hazy memories of the previous night. The game was clear, at least: he remembered lifting the Cup, and felt a surge of uncomplicated joy again at the memory. Then the locker room, and the party after, at the bar—the champagne flowing freely.

They’d left the party together: the three of them spilling out of the hotel elevator, laughing and shushing each other in the hall. Anna had stumbled in her heels, and Sid had caught her, an arm around her waist to steady them both. He remembered—for some reason—the beep of a keycard in the door, and Geno’s hand on the back of his neck: a heavy, familiar weight.

After that things became more confusing, a jumble of images and sensations: Anna crawling over him on the bed, kissing him, both of them giddy and laughing. Geno sprawled out on the sofa watching them, a half-empty bottle of champagne dangling loosely from his hand.

More strongly than anything else, Sid remembered feeling happy—so full of giddy joy his body could hardly contain it, as if the euphoria of the Cup win had spilled out over everything, painting the world in gold.

God, he must have really been fucked up. He covered his face with his hands and tried, without much success, to breathe.

When the room was still and quiet again, Sid got up, and picked his way cautiously through the darkened room. He found his sweatpants, and then groped blindly around until he found someone’s crumpled t-shirt. It was slightly damp, and reeked of champagne, but he pulled it on anyway, and crept towards the door.

Someone in the bed shifted, and Sid panicked for a moment, stumbling over one of Geno’s shoes. But the door was right there, his fingers closing over the handle—and then he was out, blinking against the sudden light of the hallway, the pounding in his temples growing more insistent by the minute.

The hallway was empty, thank god: with any luck, everyone would be sleeping off the previous night for hours yet. Still, he waited till he was safely in his own room, the door deadbolted behind him, before he let out the breath he’d been holding.

Fuck.

*

September 2016

“Sid,” Flower said, snatching the tongs out of his hand. “Take a break from the grill, why don’t you? We’re going to run out of cows at this rate.”

Sid blinked at Flower, wiping sweat out of his eyes. It was hot for early September, the last dying gasp of summer before the city settled into fall. He’d been standing over the grill for a couple hours already—largely because it gave him something to do, slightly out of the way.

“I just want to be sure we have enough,” he said. “You know how Tanger eats.”

“Not even he could handle this much food,” Flower said, glancing at the tray next to the grill. “Come on, join the party. We haven’t seen you in months.”

Sid ignored him and reached for a pack of uncooked sausages. Flower snapped the tongs at his hand, forcing him to withdraw.

“You’re avoiding us,” he said, narrowing his eyes.

“I’m hosting, Flower.”

“Is it Geno?” Flower asked, and everything in Sid went still. It took every ounce of media training in him not to react—to keep his face blank, his breathing even. Flower was still blithely chattering on, looking out over the pool. “It’s the Speedo, isn’t it? Don’t worry, I’ve already fined him. We’ll put it towards a team therapy fund, for the emotional damage he’s caused.”

“It’s not the Speedo,” Sid said, but Flower just patted his arm consolingly.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “You’re safe for now—he’s teaching Kuni’s kids how to do cannonballs. Come on, Sid.”

It was a losing battle. “Fine,” Sid said, casting one last longing look at the grill, and let Flower steer him into the midst of the party.

“Everyone, this is Sidney Crosby,” Flower said. “You may not remember him. It’s been so long since any of us heard from him.”

“Hmm—Sidney?” Kris squinted into the distance. “Not ringing any bells, no.”

“It hasn’t been that long,” Sid protested, though he did feel a little guilty. So maybe he had conveniently lost his phone in the early weeks of the offseason, and had failed to search for it with any real conviction. It was better than staring at it all summer, waiting for a text that wasn’t going to come.

“He doesn’t call,” Flower said, a hand to his heart. “He doesn’t write.

“Oh, leave him alone.” Vero elbowed her husband gently in the ribs. “Sid, how was your summer?”

“Yes, we’re dying to know how many suicides you ran,” Flower said. “Oh Sid, how steep was the incline?”

Sid endured a few minutes of good-natured ribbing before the conversation turned to other topics. Flower had let go of his arm, but he was keeping. a sharp eye on him, like he suspected Sid might make a sudden break for the grill if left unsupervised.

Everyone was in good spirits, laughing and talking, eating together. It was one of Sid’s favorite events of the season, an informal cookout for the veterans held the week before training camp started, when everyone started trickling back into town. Sid had been hosting it for over a decade, a tradition he had never seriously considered breaking until this year.

In the end he’d decided he was being foolish. He couldn’t spend the entire season dodging Geno—sooner rather than later, he would have to face them both.

He was in the kitchen, refiling the ice bucket, when Anna wandered in.

She looked cool and poised, in a loose white top and cutoff shorts that showed off the long tanned stretch of her legs. She was wearing dark sunglasses, but she pushed them up into her hair and smiled at him, a little tentative.

“Hi, Sid,” she said.

“Hey, Anna,” he said, and allowed himself three more seconds of staring into the depths of the freezer before he closed it and turned back to face her. “Can I get you anything?”

She shook her head. “No, it’s okay,” she said. “I see you go inside. I don’t say hi, before.”

“Well,” Sid said awkwardly. He put the ice bucket on the counter, and then regretted it, as it left him nothing to do with his hands. “Hi.”

Anna toyed with the fraying hem of her cutoffs. “It’s good summer?”

“Yeah, uh,” he said. “It was pretty good.”

Actually, he really had spent most of it running suicides: partly as penance, and partly because if he exhausted himself enough during the day he’d fall asleep the second his head hit the pillow. No time to lie awake worrying, or tormenting himself remembering and trying not to remember.

He cleared his throat. “Hey—congrats, by the way. Jen told me about the promotion. Co-producer, eh?”

The smile she gave him now seemed more genuine, less uncertain. “It’s good opportunity,” she said. “I don’t expect so soon, you know?”

“You were practically running the show last year while Megan was out,” Sid said. “I’m not surprised at all.”

“I don’t know,” she said, giving him a sly look. “Maybe I just have good assistant.”

It startled a laugh out of him. He’d been out for seven excruciating weeks the previous season, rehabbing a wrist injury that wouldn’t seem to heal properly. He’d spent the first couple weeks hanging around the rink, bugging the trainers and hassling the guys, until Jim took him aside and told him that he was driving everyone completely insane, and could he please pick up a hobby, now.

It was Anna who found him wandering the halls at loose ends and steered him upstairs to the PensTV studios. At first he wasn’t entrusted with much—mostly holding cue cards and handing over props—but Anna had taken pity on him, and started explaining to him how the rest of it worked. She showed him how to hold the boom mics and set up the lights and compose a semi-decent shot. It was how they’d become friends—real friends, not just the surface-level acquaintance Sid had with a lot of the team wives.

He didn’t know what they were, now.

He picked up the ice bucket. “Well,” he said. “I should probably—”

Anna took a quick step towards him, her fingers closing around his wrist. He stilled, his heart suddenly in his throat.

“Sid,” she said, looking at him. Her expression was serious. “I think we talk, okay? Soon.”

He swallowed.

“Yeah,” he said. “I guess we probably should.”

Anna looked at him for a moment, then slid her sunglasses down over her eyes again.

“Tomorrow, yes?” she said. “We drink wine. Catch up.”

Sid nodded, not looking at her. He felt queasy with dread, but he could admit there was some relief in it, too: an end to months of waiting.

“Sure,” he said. “Yeah. Tomorrow’s good.”

*

The party started winding down around eight, the guys with kids trickling out first, and then the younger guys, off to enjoy their last nights of freedom before camp started. Sid was kept busy saying goodbyes, tracking down misplaced purses and kids’ sandals. He didn’t realize Geno was waiting until he turned around and walked straight into him.

Geno steadied him with a hand on his shoulder. He had a towel wrapped around his waist, but his chest was bare, his necklaces glinting in the late afternoon light. Sid felt a confusing mix of emotions well up in his chest: worry and guilt and dread, but beneath it all the simple, instinctive happiness he always felt at seeing Geno after a long summer apart.

He looked down at the trash bag he was holding, and started to clear the nearest table, to give himself something to do with his hands.

“Hey, G,” he said. “Good summer?”

Geno made a noncommittal noise. “Sid,” he said. “You talk to Anya? You come tomorrow?”

Sid dropped a crumpled napkin into the bag, and then a crushed red Solo cup. “I’ll be there.”

There hadn’t been time to talk the morning after, and Sid hadn’t heard from him since. Geno rarely texted during the offseason—after locker cleanout, he seemed to consider his obligations to the English language fulfilled—but then, they had never parted for the summer on such uncertain terms. Sid had typed out multiple texts in those first few agonizing weeks, but nothing looked right. Sorry I slept with your wife. Sorry I did it while you watched—I thought, for some reason, that was what you both wanted. In the end he had taken Geno’s silence as the hint it probably was.

“Good,” Geno said, and clapped him on the back, sliding his hand down to Sid’s shoulder again. He wasn’t smiling, but he didn’t look angry, either. There was something almost uncertain in his expression, a question Sid didn’t know how to read. After a moment he let go, stepping back.

“It’s good party,” he said. “See you, Sid.”

*

Sid lay awake for a long time that night. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Anna in the kitchen again, smiling at him—and, then, unbidden, his mind began to fill in other images: Anna in his lap, naked from the waist up, leaning in to kiss him. Anna squirming beneath him, breathless and laughing, as he licked a long slow stripe between her breasts.

He rolled over onto his stomach and pressed his face into the pillow, letting out a long shaky breath. All summer he had dreamt of it, and obsessed over it, and tried not to think of it: her skin tacky with champagne, sweet under his tongue. Geno sprawled out on the sofa watching them, dark-eyed and smiling, his fingers wrapped loosely around the neck of the half empty bottle.

His memories of that night were still hazy, but in the intervening months he’d managed to mostly piece the sequence of events together. After the party they had gone back to the hotel, and Geno had opened the door of their room, and at that point Sid had, apparently, lost all inhibitions and all common sense and followed them into the room.

He should have left them there. He could have gone on to his own room, just three doors down. But he’d had Geno’s hand on the back of his neck, and Anna’s fingers twined in his, and Sid had wanted—well. He had wanted the night to go on forever. For the three of them to live inside that moment always, suspended in the bright golden bubble of his happiness.

What had happened had happened, and now it was time to face the consequences of his decisions. Tomorrow they would—talk about it, whatever that meant. He would do whatever they thought was best, whatever they needed to put it to rest. It would be awful, probably, painful and stilted, but at least it would be over, a chapter decisively closed.

*

He rang the doorbell at seven the next night, a bottle of Anna’s favorite wine in hand. It was too expensive for a casual dinner, a transparent sorry for fucking up gesture, and he’d spent most of the ten-minute drive over regretting his choice. But it seemed worse, somehow, to arrive empty-handed.

Anna opened the door. She was wearing sweatpants and a white tank top, her hair swept up into a messy bun.

“Hello, come in,” she said, smiling, and taking the wine from him. She glanced down at the label, a slight frown creasing her forehead. “Sid—you don’t need to bring.”

Sid shifted uncomfortably. “It’s, uh, for the promotion,” he said, the lie coming to him late. “Congrats again.”

Her expression cleared a little. “Thank you,” she said, looking touched. “Maybe we have? If you like?”

“Oh—uh, no, that’s okay,” Sid said. “You should save it.” He couldn’t imagine they’d want him to stay for long.

In the kitchen they were still cleaning up from dinner. Sid stood awkwardly on the threshold for a moment, before Geno turned from the sink and spotted him.

“Sid,” he said. “Good, okay. You wash, I dry.”

“Sid is guest, not maid,” Anna said tartly, slapping a damp dishtowel against Geno’s chest.

“He likes clean!” Geno protested, and then they were off, bickering in rapidfire Russian.

Anna gave him a glass of wine and sat him at the kitchen table to wait. Sid watched them work, moving around each other in the kitchen with the ease of long familiarity. He’d never managed to retain more than a handful of Russian phrases—an odd mix of bland pleasantries and curses so filthy that Ovechkin had once slapped him on the back and told him he was a credit to Geno’s name—but he’d always liked listening to them talk, liked that they felt comfortable enough in his presence to speak freely with each other. Tonight, though, it felt like a reminder of the distance between them. This was their home: a shared life, a shared language. He was only visiting.

Sid looked away. The kitchen was blazing with light, and the big bay windows caught the glare, turning the glass opaque. He couldn’t see what lay beyond—only their shapes moving in the glass, imposed over the darkness.

Anna came over to him and rested a hand on his shoulder.

“You don’t like?” she asked, glancing at his untouched glass. “You want something else?”

“It’s fine,” Sid said. He felt tense and exhausted, his jaw sore from clenching it unconsciously all day. “Anna, can we just—you said you wanted to talk.”

She looked at him for a moment, and then turned back to the kitchen. “Zhenya, come. Let’s sit.”

Geno came. They sat across the table, looking at him, and Sid looked back, steeling himself for whatever was about to come. He could bear it.

“Sid,” Anna said. She looked at Geno, hesitating for a moment. “You know—after Cup?”

He was wrong; he couldn’t bear it.

“Listen,” he said quickly, looking down at his glass. “It’s not—you guys don’t have to, like. I get it.”

“Get?” Anna said, cautiously.

“I mean, I understand.” Sid picked at an invisible piece of lint on his jeans. “We don’t have to, uh, talk about it. We were drunk, obviously, and—stuff happens. I’m sorry. You can tell me, uh, what you want me to do. Or—or we can just forget about it.”

That was what he hoped for: the best case outcome. Maybe they never had to speak about it again, and Sid would lock away the memories of what had happened, and how it made him feel, in a dark cellar of his brain he would never open again.

Anna glanced at Geno again.

“We talk about, over summer,” she said. “We talk about lots. Sid—we want ask, if you like, maybe we try again.”

He looked up. “What?”

“Maybe you don’t want,” she said, sounding uncertain. “It’s okay.”

“You—I don’t understand.” Sid looked between them. “Is this—you’re messing with me, right?”

Geno cleared his throat. “Sid, you don’t want, it’s not problem.”

Sid gaped at him. “You’re not mad?”

Anna looked confused. “Why we’re mad?”

Sid picked up his wine glass, and then put it down again. Alcohol had gotten him into this mess; it wasn’t likely to lead him out.

“I don’t think I understand,” he said carefully. “When you said—after the Cup. You meant when we, uh. You and me, and then, uh, Geno—”

“Yes,” Anna said. “I know we’re drunk, it’s—fun thing, for big win. Maybe you’re not interest.” She looked hesitant. “Maybe—you see someone, now?”

Sid pushed his wine glass a little further away, like its proximity alone might somehow be clouding his thoughts.

“I’m not,” he said. “Seeing anyone.” Not that it mattered. This was obviously some kind of practical joke. The guys were hiding around a corner somewhere, or something, and he was going to get chirped about this until the end of time.

Anna’s expression was sincere, and a little concerned. She was clearly too good an actor. Sid turned to Geno, who seemed likeliest to crack.

“Okay, G,” he said. “Very funny. So where’s Flower?”

“Flower is not invite,” Geno said, looking a little offended.

“Flower is marry,” Anna said gently, in the tones one might use to speak to a small and agitated child, or a person with a head injury. “To Vero. I don’t think he’s want, ah—what we do, after Cup.”

“Oh my god,” Sid said, because that was an image he didn’t need in his brain. “No, I don’t mean—agh, no. I mean, are you recording this for him, or something? Because this is a pretty shitty prank.”

Geno said something to Anna in Russian. She eyed Sid for a moment, then nodded, standing up.

“Okay, Sid,” she said. “You need think about, it’s okay. We talk later.”

She reached for his hand, and Sid took it, a little confused by the abrupt change in direction. She drew him to his feet.

“I walk you out,” she said, and led him down the hallway, still holding his hand in hers.

At the front door, she turned to face him.

“Sid,” she said quietly. “I don’t know—maybe you confuse, not happy. If you don’t want, we forget. But it’s not prank.”

She looked at him for a long moment, her eyes dark, and then slowly—slow enough that he could’ve stopped her—she went up on her toes and kissed him on the mouth: just a brush of her lips against his, the lightest pressure.

She drew back. Sid’s heart was beating very quickly. He looked at her wordlessly.

“I think about,” Anna said. “In summer.” She touched her fingertips to his mouth, lightly tracing the line of his bottom lip. Sid felt a surge of longing, and fear, and something strange and fluttering: a kind of hope. “Sid—it’s okay, I kiss?”

Sid looked down the hallway. The kitchen light was still on: Geno would be sitting at the table, waiting for her. He swallowed, and nodded, hardly daring to breathe.

Anna slid her hand up to cup the back of his neck. She drew him close, bumping her nose lightly against his. Her breath was warm against his mouth.

“I think about,” she murmured again, and this time when she brought her mouth to his it was slow and lingering: a real kiss.

He had been thinking about it too, all summer: thinking and trying not to, an endless and exhausting cycle. The reality of it was so much more intense than he had remembered. He kissed her back, and her tentativeness melted away: she kissed him hungrily now, shifting up onto her toes, her fingers tugging at the short hairs at the nape of his neck. When she twined her fingers through his hair, pulling hard, Sid made a little sound in the back of his throat, and Anna let out a soft laugh.

“You like?”

He could feel her smiling. “Yeah,” he said, breathless, “yeah, I—” and broke off when she tugged again, sharp enough that he groaned.

“Good,” she said, and then she let go, and slid her hand down to his chest, pushing him away gently. “You think about.”

He felt a little dazed. Her mouth was red and wet from kissing, and he wanted—

“Night, Sid,” Anna said, and opened the door, ushering him out.

*

Sid thought about it.

He thought about it for the rest of the week: four agonizing days, and some nights, too, though he quickly discovered it was far more dangerous to think about it in bed, when his defenses were down and his mind began to drift, guiltily, towards memories of the Cup night. It was safer to contemplate it while he was in the checkout aisle at the hardware store, or skating drills at the still-mostly empty rink, or pedaling away furiously on his bike in the basement, burning off the nervous, jittery energy that was keeping him up at night.

He was going to tell them no. He was a mature and rational adult, and when he considered their proposition with his brain rather than his dick, the choice was obvious. The first time had been a drunken mistake, fueled by champagne and post-Cup win adrenaline. It was an immense relief to learn that neither of them regretted it—that they had both seemingly enjoyed it, enough to want a repeat performance—but he had no intention of pushing his luck. Geno was one of his closest friends, and Anna was essentially his coworker, not to mention a person he liked and respected a great deal. Introducing sex into the equation would only complicate things, and Sid had worked very hard, for a very long time, to eliminate unnecessary complications from his life.

He thought about it for four days, and on the fifth day—the first day of camp—he woke up certain of what he needed to do.

He texted Geno at seven, asking if he wanted a ride to the rink. Anna would be in early, getting the camera crew ready for the first practice. Telling Geno in the car would be easy and casual, and mercifully free of the possibility that Geno might use kissing to persuade him.

There was no response, which wasn’t unusual: Geno hated texting in English only slightly more than he hated mornings, and a lack of response could mean yes or no depending on his mood. Sid worried over it until eight, before deciding it was best not to overstep. Geno had had plenty of time to think, too, and maybe he was already regretting their offer. Maybe if Sid gave both of them a wide berth, everyone would come to their senses without having to discuss it further at all.

He got to the rink early, so he could talk with Sully before the team meeting and welcome the guys as they started trickling in. One of the PensTV camera guys—Nathan, Sid remembered—was hanging out in the atrium next to his camera, scrolling through his phone. When he saw Sid he jumped up.

“Wait, wait,” he said. “Go back out and come in again, yeah? I’m supposed to get a shot of you looking all focused and determined.”

Sid hesitated. There was no sign of Anna yet, and he was eager to escape to the safety of the locker room before she appeared. But Nathan was already ushering him back out the front door.

“Hold this,” he said, handing Sid his half-empty coffee cup. “Looks better if you have something in your hands.”

Sid stood outside the building for a minute, trying to arrange his face into an appropriately determined expression. Then he opened the door and strode in again, more purposefully this time, with Nathan’s coffee in his hand.

“Looking good,” Nathan said. “Now look this way, yeah? Stoic look. Captainly.”

Sid turned his head as instructed, and almost immediately tripped over thin air, sloshing lukewarm coffee all down his front. Anna was standing in the hallway behind Nathan, clipboard in hand, watching him.

“Oh shit,” Nathan said, rushing forward. “Well, the first part looked great. We can definitely use that. Sorry about the shirt, man. ”

Sid looked down at himself. “Uh, it’s okay,” he said. “I’ll grab something from the equipment guys.”

Nathan was still talking to him—something about the best way to lift a stain, as if Sid didn’t own fifteen thousand identical grey Pens shirts—but Sid wasn’t really listening. Anna was smirking at him, just a little, but so knowingly he felt his cheeks flame.

“I’ll just,” he said, and then, nonsensically, “Dana,” and booked it in the opposite direction.

*

Geno rolled in three minutes before the team meeting started, a grey toque pulled low over his forehead. He dropped into the seat next to Sid’s, just like always, and Sid let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding.

“You don’t come get,” Geno said grumpily.

“You didn’t text me back,” Sid pointed out. Geno shot him a betrayed look, slouching down in his chair, and proceeded to ignore him for the rest of the meeting.

It was fine. Everything felt normal and familiar: the same first day routines, enacted by a rotating cast but otherwise essentially unchanged since Sid’s own rookie year. Sullivan gave a speech about the Cup—eliciting cheers from the returning guys—and the new season, before introducing the assistant coaches. Sid listened attentively, doing his best to ignore the way Geno kept shifting restlessly in his chair, jogging his knee up and down, bumping Sid’s leg.

“Pay attention,” he said in an undertone, and Geno scowled.

“It’s always same,” he muttered back. “Same boring talk.” But he did sit up a little straighter.

*

Geno seemed much more awake—and in markedly better spirits—by the time they stepped on the ice. He left Sid alone for the most part; there were too many other tempting targets. He was always in his element at the beginning of camp, pretending to forget the veteran guys’ names (“What, it’s long summer!”) and hamming it up for the PensTV crew, doing ridiculous spin-o-rama passes and blowing kisses at Anna behind the cameras when his team scored in the short intrasquad scrimmage.

Anna usually ignored Geno at work, her expression coolly unimpressed. Sid had always admired and secretly envied her resolve. He’d never been much good at resisting Geno’s outrageous bids for attention.

It was a good first day, and by the end of it Sid was feeling buoyant and optimistic. He’d spent so much of the summer stewing in worry and regret, but the start of a new season always energized him, the future flush with possibility. It had been a quiet offseason, tradewise, the core group remaining largely intact. There was an easy camaraderie in the locker room and a confidence Sid liked. He wouldn’t tempt fate by saying it out loud, but he had a good feeling about the season.

He did his post-practice media and hit the showers. Geno was still in the locker room when he came out, yukking it up with one of the equipment guys. Sid took his time toweling off and getting dressed, and then lurked around his stall for a few minutes, fussing with his gear. Finally, when it became clear Geno wasn’t getting the message, he wandered over, hands shoved into his pockets.

“Hey,” he said. “Uh, sorry to interrupt. Can I borrow Geno for a minute?”

“Sure, Sid,” the guy said, and left them to it. “See you, G.”

Geno leaned back in his stall, his thighs splayed wide. He looked up at Sid, his expression faintly amused.

“Sid,” he said. “You want talk?”

The room was deserted. Sid’s mouth felt suddenly dry. He licked his lips, and watched Geno’s eyes track the movement.

“I thought about it,” he said. “What we, uh, discussed. And uh. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Geno considered him for a long moment. Then he stood up, clapping Sid on the shoulder.

“We get lunch,” he said decisively. “Sushi. You buy.”

“What?” Sid said.

“I drive,” Geno said. “You too slow. Let’s go, I’m hungry.”

*

Geno refused to engage further, and turned up the stereo every time Sid tried to bring it up, until finally Sid slumped back in his seat and submitted to Geno’s horrible Russian techno.

There was only one sushi place near the rink, a dinky little strip mall restaurant that Sid privately thought was one or two phone calls away from being shut down by the food safety inspectors. Geno loved it, though, and knew most of the staff by name. He joked around with the elderly waitress as she took them back to Geno’s usual booth, a secluded little table tucked away from the door.

“Two beer,” Geno told her, while Sid examined the autographed Malkin jersey hanging over their table. “Sapporo. Maybe—edamame too. And little shrimp.” He grinned at Sid. “He’s pay.”

“I don’t see why I’m buying,” Sid said when the waitress had left them.

“You owe,” Geno said. “I’m have big talk with you, talk about feelings. It’s big headache for me.”

Sid blanched: that was exactly the opposite of what he’d had in mind.

“We don’t have to talk,” he said. “I already told you. I thought about it and, uh—I don’t we should.”

Geno just looked amused again, like the whole situation was pretty funny, and not something he’d spent the past four days pedaling away his feelings about in an unfinished basement. It was driving Sid a little crazy.

“I don’t even see how it would work,” he said, lowering his voice. “Like, you guys are married. And it’s not like—I mean, people don’t even do stuff like this in real life.”

“No?” Geno said, quirking an eyebrow.

No,” Sid said, and then had to sit back and smile politely, because the waitress had returned with their beers and appetizers. He felt flushed, and had to take a long gulp of water. Geno, meanwhile, seemed totally unruffled, moving things around to make space for the plates, flirting a little with the waitress as he ordered for both of them.

“Sid,” he said, when they were alone again. “You like, when we do? It’s good, with Anya?”

“That’s not—that isn’t relevant,” Sid said, which was a mistake. Geno smirked.

“Sid,” he said, reaching across the table to pat his hand. “It’s okay, I know. You want fuck my hot wife.” He shrugged, like, what can you do?

“Geno,” Sid hissed, looking around to make sure no one was within earshot.

Geno didn’t seem concerned. He popped a piece of shrimp in his mouth and grinned at Sid, chewing with his mouth open.

“Anya want too,” he said. “She’s talk about all summer. Like, oh, Sid so hot, so good with mouth. It’s like, bad for my ego, you know?”

Sid choked on his edamame, and then had a coughing fit. Geno watched him with interest, and a frankly insulting lack of concern.

“You can’t just—you can’t say things like that,” Sid said hoarsely, when he’d recovered the power of speech. “Jesus Christ, G.”

“I don’t say!” Geno said. “Anya say. I’m just tell you. So you make inform decision.”

“I’ve already made an informed decision,” Sid said, a little weakly. “Geno, come on. Think about it. You’re asking me to—to have sex with your wife. While you watch. That’s not—we can’t do that.”

Geno looked at him for a long moment. “Sid,” he said at last, and this time, at least, he sounded serious, no note of teasing in his voice. “If you don’t want, we don’t do. It’s no problem.”

Sid looked away, uncomfortable.

“Even if I—” he said, and then stopped, swallowing. He dug his thumbnail under the damp label of his beer. “G, you’re one of my best friends. I just don’t want to do anything to mess that up.”

There was a pause, and then Geno said, “Sid,” his voice full of some emotion Sid couldn’t identify. Neither of them said anything for a moment, and then Geno cleared his throat, and Sid pretended to be absorbed in studying the drinks menu, and finally, thankfully, the waitress appeared with their sushi to rescue them from themselves.

Geno divided up the food without saying anything, moving the rolls Sid liked best towards him and pouring out little measures of soy sauce for them both. When he was finished, he picked up his chopsticks and looked at Sid.

“Sid,” he said. “Anya say, maybe you think you—do bad, do wrong, first time we try. But you don’t, you know? Yes, okay, maybe we’re little bit drunk, little bit stupid, it’s not plan.” He made a face. “But Sid—it’s good for Anya, good for me. If not good for you, okay, no problem. But don’t say—oh, no, can’t do, if it’s just, you worry you do wrong.”

He clicked his chopsticks together. “Okay,” he said. “Too much talk. Now we eat.”

*

“How would it work,” Sid said, as Geno drove them back to the rink. “Are there rules?”

Geno looked sidelong at him. “Rule?”

“I don’t know. Like, no kissing, or something,” Sid said, and then flushed, because that was prostitutes, he was pretty sure, and he didn’t mean—

Geno didn’t seem to take offense, though he looked at Sid curiously. “You don’t like?”

“No, I do,” Sid said. “I mean, if it’s okay with you guys.”

Geno frowned. “Kiss is okay,” he said. “It’s weird, you don’t kiss. What, you have bad breath?”

“I’m just asking, jeez,” Sid said, rolling his eyes. “Okay, what about—”

“Sid,” Geno groaned. “It’s not hockey. We don’t need, like, strategy. If you want do, we try, see what we like.”

Sid thought about it some more, on the drive home. It still seemed like a bad idea, like there had to be a catch somewhere. He knew he lived a pretty charmed life, but Sid felt reasonably sure that most of what he had, he’d earned—through years and years of backbreaking effort, putting in the work without cutting corners. It felt like cheating, somehow, to take them up on what they were offering—like he was reaping the rewards of someone else’s marriage. Sid hadn’t spent years in patient long-distance courtship. He hadn’t rented any exotic animals, or planned massive fireworks displays, or uprooted his entire professional life so he could live with the person he loved.

But Geno seemed so sure about it, so confident, and Anna did too, and Sid trusted them both.

When he got home he opened his text message thread with the two of them. There were lots of things in it, all of them from last season: a video of a crab that had wandered into their Miami condo during the All Star break. A photo Anna had taken of Sid sleeping curled up on the couch in her office during a late-night editing session, dead to the world. A couple messages from Geno demanding that Sid pick up Chinese food on the way over. Sid scrolled through the thread for a few minutes, looking at the pictures.

There was only one rational choice. And possibly the first time in his life, he wasn’t going to make it.

okay, he typed. I’m in.

*

They were all busy with the start of the season, Anna especially: she was working all the time, and Sid only really saw her when they were doing media bits, shuffling the players through one by one. He worked out with Andy and skated with the team and tried, for his own sanity, not to spend too much time wondering about what would or wouldn’t happen.

It was a few weeks before Geno slid over to him on the bench during morning skate, knocking his shoulder against Sid’s. “Anya say, come for dinner.”

“Uh,” Sid said, trying to read from his expression if this was like—dinner, or dinner.

“Hey,” Kuni complained. “How come I don’t get an invite?”

“Too ugly,” Geno said dismissively. “I see your face, can’t eat, it’s bad time for me.”

He looked at Sid then: confident but maybe, beneath it, a little uncertain, like he wasn’t sure of Sid’s answer.

“Sure,” Sid said. He tried to think about the schedule. “Next week, maybe?”

“No, tonight,” Geno said, and then, with the alacrity of a man determined to flee from further conversation, swung himself over the boards and took off flying down the ice.

Sid was distracted all through the rest of practice, jumpy and nervous enough that Tanger gave him a weird look in line for drills and asked if he was feeling okay. Geno didn’t look his way again. He was absorbed in some kind of heated competition with Phil, the rules of which were unclear to Sid: mostly it seemed to involve a lot of yelling and cheating on drills while the younger guys egged them on.

He wasn’t on media duty, so he was out of the showers and changed before Geno finished. Anna was probably upstairs in her office, and Sid thought about swinging by to confirm, but chickened out at the last minute. He texted her from the parking garage instead, typing out and deleting three versions before settling on: G said dinner tonight?

She texted him back immediately.

it’s date )))

And then, a moment later:

1 or 2?

Sid dropped his phone in his lap

“Holy shit,” he said aloud. He glanced around the parking deck—there was no one in sight—and gingerly picked it up again.

The photos must have been taken in the closet of the master suite. Sid had only seen the inside of it once, when he’d spilled wine on his shirt at a party and gone upstairs to borrow one of Geno’s, but he recognized the full-length mirror and the tile behind her. Anna was facing the mirror, holding her phone just above her shoulder, looking at the screen.

In the first photo she was wearing a cream-colored lingerie set, light against her golden brown skin. The fabric was almost completely sheer. Sid could make out the outlines of her nipples, and the soft shadow of hair between her legs. In the second photo Anna was turned half away from the mirror, looking back over her shoulder, so he could see the delicately woven straps of her rose-pink bra criss-crossing her back. She was wearing a thong in matching pink, a thin strip of lace that showed off the curve of her ass.

I could’ve been in public, he typed.

I see you leave ))

Sid stared at the photos a moment longer.

1, he texted back, and then deleted both pictures, tossing his phone onto the passenger seat. He put his head down on the steering wheel for a moment, drawing in a shuddering breath. God: he was in so far over his head.

*

He wasn’t sure what to wear, and felt kind of stupid for fretting over it. He was over at their place all the time—most of the time in sweatpants and slides, scavenging leftovers out of the fridge and watching tape on the couch with Geno. Finally he decided on dark jeans and a plain navy shirt, which seemed safe enough.

He stopped by the florist’s shop on the way, slipping in a few minutes before closing and lingering at the back, trying to look inconspicuous as he dithered over arrangements. Anna had said it was a date, but maybe that was just a thing you said: cute, jokey.

The one he chose was definitely overkill. He looked at the flowers out of the corner of his eye the whole way over, panicking a little, and at the last moment decided to leave them in the car.

He rang the doorbell. Anna answered it, in a slinky dark blue wrap dress that made his mouth go dry.

“Uh,” Sid said. “I—hang on, I forgot something,” and went back for the bouquet.

The flowers were a hit. Anna made a big show of fussing over them in the kitchen, putting them in a vase.

“Zhenya,” she called to Geno, who shuffled out of his computer room, his big dorky gaming headset around his neck. “Look, Sid give me flowers.”

Geno examined the bouquet with a critical eye. “I give you flower like, every day.”

Anna shot back something in Russian that made him scowl. “Zhenya give because he’s in dog house,” she said to Sid, and looked smug, the way she always did when she remembered an idiom.

They ate dinner in the oddly formal dining room, though first Anna had to push a bunch of assorted controllers and purses off the end of the table to clear space. Getting married hadn’t seemed to incline Geno to tidier living, and half the stuff was Anna’s anyway. It was a stark contrast to Sid’s own gleaming countertops and meticulously organized cabinets, and under other circumstances the mess might’ve driven him crazy. But here he was used to it, liked it even: this evidence of a shared life, the chaos and clutter of a home.

They talked about work, a little. Anna was finishing shooting a series of mini-interviews with the Cup veterans and was keeping busy coordinating a newly scaled-up crew. She had a lot to say about it, and so did Geno, who kept interrupting to complain about the long hours she was working, and how little time it left her to tend to his every need.

“Zhenya is jealous,” Anna told Sid, rolling her eyes. “Soon I’m make the big bucks. Maybe I leave him for hot young guy, I don’t know.”

“You don’t,” Geno scoffed. He leaned back from the table, his arm around the back of her chair. “Where you find?”

Anna said something to him in Russian, and he tipped his head back and laughed. They both seemed so at ease, relaxed and happy. Sid envied them. The last time he’d felt this self-conscious was when he showed up to the GQ shoot his rookie year and discovered they wanted him shirtless, sexy, and confident.

Anna seemed to pick up on it, at least. When they had finished clearing the table, she looked at Sid, and then at Geno, and seemed to decide something

“We go upstairs,” she said. “Zhenya will do dishes.”

*

Geno grumbled, but he left them to it. Sid’s heart was beating faster as he followed Anna up the stairs and into the master bedroom. She turned to him.

“Sid,” she said quietly. “If you don’t want—if it’s just, do favor, for friend—”

She looked worried again, and Sid felt a little pang of guilt.

“Anna, no,” he said. “It’s not that. Sorry. I’m just—nervous, I guess. I’m not really sure how this is supposed to go.”

“Don’t think so much,” Anna said. “How you do, if I’m girl you see in bar?”

Sid hesitated, and her eyes widened in mock surprise.

“Oh, Sid,” she said. “It’s first time for you?”

“No—come on,” Sid said, laughing. “Leave me alone. I know what I’m doing.”

“Mm, how do I know?” she said, smiling up at him.

He touched her waist, drawing her in, and she came easily. She wasn’t that much shorter than he was, but something about the way she held herself, leaning against his chest, made her seem small and sort of fragile in his arms. He knew it was an illusion—he’d seen her lifting in the gym, knew she was all sleek toned muscle—but it was pretty effective. His dick certainly wasn’t smart enough to know the difference.

Her hair was beginning to come loose from its bun. He tucked a stray tendril behind her ear, his fingertips brushing lightly along the curve of her neck.

“How would you do it,” he said. “If I was just some guy.”

Anna considered. “I make you buy drink first,” she said. “Maybe you watch me dance. You want talk to me, but I’m busy.”

“Yeah?” Sid slid his hand into her hair, marveling at how soft it was. She tilted her head back, looking at him. “You’d make me work for it, eh?”

“Yes,” she said. “I’m not easy.”

“I know,” he said, and kissed her.

It felt surreal, to be up here with her while Geno was downstairs, no doubt doing a terrible job with the dishes. It was one thing to do this when they were champagne-drunk, riding the reckless high of their victory. This was different: planned and premeditated.

Anna kissed him again, and loosened his belt, fingers working his jeans open.

“Sit,” she said. He obeyed, and watched, wide-eyed, as she sank to her knees in front of him, looking up at him.

“Anna,” he said, a little awed, and then sucked in a breath when she drew him out. She kissed the head of his dick softly, almost fondly, and went to work.

Her mouth was perfect, soft lush heat that made him groan when she took him deep. He wanted to slide his fingers through her hair, but he settled for grabbing fistfuls of the comforter instead, tugging a little as her dark head bobbed in his lap. It had been a while, and Sid felt a little overwhelmed by sensation, and by the picture Anna made, on her knees for him, coaxing him hard in her mouth. He had to close his eyes for a long moment, breathing shallowly through his nose.

When he opened them again, Geno was standing in the doorway, staring at them.

Surprise jolted through him, and a flicker of guilt: but then there was only arousal, unfurling low and hot in his gut. Geno was still as a statue, but the intensity of his gaze set something alight in Sid, a spark that trembled and flickered down the length of his spine. He had never seen that expression on Geno’s face before: hungry and wholly focused, like a big cat stalking its prey.

Even after they’d discussed it, some part of Sid still hadn’t quite believed that this was something Geno would really like when it came down to it. Everyone had fantasies—things you got off to, maybe a bit guiltily, without needing or even wanting them to be real. Geno had never seemed like the type who’d enjoy sharing. He was bossy, and a bit of a bully, and Sid knew how hotly possessive, how fiercely protective, he could be of the people he loved. He had expected that, when confronted with the messy reality of it, Geno would realize his mistake, and call the whole thing off.

But now, here—there was no denying the heat in Geno’s gaze, or the palpable shift in the atmosphere between them. The air felt charged with it, almost crackling; Sid felt his skin prickle all over, the hair standing up on the back of his neck.

Anna pulled off, wiping delicately at her mouth with the back of her hand. She wrapped her fingers loosely around him and gave him a couple long, slow strokes, watching his face.

“Zhenya,” she said quietly, without glancing over her shoulder, and Geno came into the room, crossing over to settle into the large velvet armchair set near the foot of the bed.

Anna went down on him again. Sid tried to focus on her, on the velvet heat of her mouth, but he couldn’t quite sink back into the feeling, too aware of Geno in his peripheral vision. He wasn’t sure how the fantasy worked for them. Was he supposed to acknowledge him? Did Geno get off on being ignored, or—

She pulled off.

“Sid,” she said, sounding fond and a little exasperated. “I hear you think.”

Sid flushed.

“Sorry,” he said. “Just, uh—do I pretend like Geno’s not here?”

“What, you want talk to him?” Anna arched an eyebrow at him. “Have team meeting? Analyze powerplay?”

Jesus Christ. They were both so annoying, in such similar ways, and it was a little irritating to discover that he liked it on Anna just as much as he did on Geno. Sid wanted rules, and clear directions, and boundaries drawn in flashing neon, and neither of them seemed inclined to give him any of that.

Geno said something in Russian, and Anna laughed.

“He say, we make—how you say? Little picture, on iPad. Zhenya is take high slot.”

“Sid in crease,” Geno said, cracking up. Sid scowled at him until Anna snapped her fingers, drawing his attention back to her.

“Sid,” she said. “You want talk to Zhenya, talk.” She stood up, hooking her finger in the collar of his shirt. “But I don’t want listen. Take off, please.”

Sid hurried to comply, kicking out of his jeans and boxers, stripping off his shirt. They were both watching him with the same focused intensity.

“Should I—” he said awkwardly.

“Bed,” Anna said, and Sid, relieved to have instructions, crawled back onto the mattress, propping himself up against the pillows.

Geno shifted in the armchair. “Anya,” he said, and then something else, his voice low. Anna went over to him, sliding her fingers along his jaw. She tilted his head back with her fingertips, leaning down to kiss him on the mouth, slow and lingering. He reached up and tugged at the sash of her dress, working the knot loose.

Sid watched, his heart pounding, as Anna slipped free of the dress. The fabric slid from her shoulders in a whisper of silk, pooling at her feet. She was facing Geno still, so he saw her in profile first: her dark hair loose now around her slim shoulders, and the soft curve of her breast.

He was holding his breath, he realized, and forced himself to exhale.

It wasn’t like—he knew what she looked like, obviously: he wasn’t blind. And he had seen a lot of her over the years, in spandex workout gear as she jogged with them around the grounds of the house; in skimpy little bikinis that were more string than fabric; in tiny shorts and the oversized Team Russia shirt she slept in, standing in the kitchen stirring her coffee when Sid drove Geno to practice. But somehow her body was a revelation, still—her long tan legs and small soft breasts, the unexpected thatch of dark hair between her legs.

She climbed onto the bed. Sid watched, a little dumbstruck, as she settled over his lap.

“I don’t wear tonight,” she said, gesturing at herself, and it took Sid a minute to understand what she meant: the lingerie, from the photos. “I try. I put on one you like, before, but—” She leaned forward, mouth against his ear, and murmured, “Zhenya like, too.”

The implication sent a little thrill through Sid. He thought about her getting ready for the evening, standing in front of the same mirror where she’d taken the photos. Putting her earrings in, maybe, looking at her reflection—and Geno standing behind her, watching: his hands sliding down over her hips, fingers slipping under the lace.

“That’s—it’s okay,” he said, a little hoarsely, and she gave him a private little smile, and leaned forward to kiss him again.

She kissed him for a long time, long enough that Sid began to feel as if he were melting into the mattress, his limbs gone lax and heavy. Slowly, she began to shift in his lap, rocking a little against him—and then finally she slid up and settled herself firmly down over him, his dick trapped against his belly, as she rubbed herself off against him.

It felt unbelievable, a maddening tease. She was so wet already, sliding slickly along the length of his dick, and was so close to being inside of her: just the slightest shift in the angle and he could slide right into her, hot and bare, a thought that made his dick jerk between their bodies. But Anna seemed wholly focused on her own pleasure, settling into a rhythm that pleased her, her face screwed up a little in concentration. He lay still beneath her, letting her work herself up, stroking her back in long slow caresses until at last he felt her tense, and shudder, her orgasm shivering through her. Everything felt slicker, suddenly, and wetter—god, she’d made a mess of him—and Anna rolled her hips once more, with a lazy little sigh, before sliding off onto the bed beside him.

Geno snorted, and said something in Russian, almost under his breath; Sid thought he caught his own name. Anna looked at him and grinned.

“What did he say?”

Anna turned her face towards him.

“He say, Sid is guest.” She slid a hand between her legs, and began touching herself idly, fingers sliding easily through her own slick. “He say, I’m greedy. But I think you like.”

Sid watched her trace lazy circles around her clit, and swallowed. “Yeah,” he said, his voice rough. “I do.”

She shifted onto her side, looking at him. Then she took his hand in hers, and guided it between her thighs, so he could feel where she was soft and wet and open.

“Sid,” she said. “You want to come?”

“If that, uh,” he said, and had to stop, and clear his throat. “If it’s an option, yeah.”

“I think you fuck me.” She was still holding his hand to her, and now she shifted closer, so that the tips of his fingers were pressing into her. “Zhenya wants.”

Sid was so hard he felt a little lightheaded with it. “God,” he said. “Anna—god. If you want me to, I will.”

Geno got up and went over to the bedside table. He rummaged around in the drawer for a moment, then tossed a condom onto the bed.

Sid’s mouth went dry. He looked up at Geno, and then at her.

“Are you—you’re sure?” he said, and he meant it for both of them.

In answer, Anna rolled onto her back, parting her legs for him. Sid’s gaze was dragged downwards, to where she was hot and swollen and so, so wet for him, and it was too much; it was more than he could resist.

 

She came twice more—once on his cock, her fingers pressed against herself, and once with his mouth on her, two fingers tucked inside her, sucking at her clit until she came on his tongue. She had cried out his name once, and Geno’s twice, and the second time Geno had begun talking to her, in a low intense voice that made Sid’s skin prickle all over.

Afterwards, she was lax and sleepy, and charmingly grumpy, like a lazy cat who was tired of playing and wanted to be left alone. Sid took his time cleaning up in the bathroom, and when he came out Geno was lying on the bed next to her, stroking her hair and murmuring to her.

Sid averted his eyes, feeling more awkward than he had all night. Neither of them seemed to notice he’d returned. He gathered up his clothes as quickly and quietly as he could, and slipped out without saying goodbye.

*

He wasn’t avoiding them exactly. He was just—busy, and maybe a little mixed up, still. It had been intense, and searingly hot, and possibly the most surreal experience of his life, and he wasn’t entirely sure how he was supposed to act around either of them.

Anna gave him a week before she tracked him down in one of the trainers’ rooms, while Sid was getting his shoulder checked out. It was mid-afternoon, long after the rest of the team had cleared out. Sid had maybe lurked a little while longer in the equipment room, to avoid Geno’s slightly judgmental eyebrows.

“Sid,” she said, and Alex, who was digging his elbow into Sid’s shoulder, said, “Hey, Anna. I’m almost done with him.”

“I can come find you,” Sid said.

Anna gave him a you’ve got to be kidding me look. “No, I wait,” she said, and took the chair nearest the door.

Sid’s head was turned towards her, and he couldn’t have moved if he wanted to, not with Alex digging away at his shoulder. So it was okay to look at her, to watch her even, as she sat tapping away at her phone.

She looked kind of tired, like maybe she hadn’t slept well, dark shadows under her eyes. He thought it only made her more striking—less airbrushed, more human. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in real life, and it was insane that he knew now what she looked like naked, what she sounded like when she came.

“All right,” Alex said finally. “How’s that feel?”

Sid sat up and rotated his shoulder a couple times, testing the range of motion. “Good,” he said. “Thanks, man.”

“No problem,” Alex said, and glanced at Anna. “Well—come see me if it gives you any more trouble.”

Sid pretended to be busy rotating his shoulder a couple more times, grimacing a little. Anna humored him, at least until the door clicked shut. Then she put her phone away and fixed him with a sharp look.

“Sid,” she said. “You hide?”

“You found me, didn’t you?”

She gave him a distinctly unimpressed look.

Sid sighed. “Sorry. I guess I just felt a little—weird, that’s all.”

“Sid,” she said, frowning. “You don’t like? Why you don’t say?”

“It’s not that.” He rubbed at the back of his neck. “It’s just—I don’t know. I’m still not sure how this is supposed to work.”

She looked at him, her expression blank. Sid wasn’t falling for it: she could be as bad as Geno, pretending not to understand when she wanted to weasel her way out of talking.

“Anna, come on,” he said. “I haven’t done anything like this before. I wanted to, like—give you guys space, I guess.” He grimaced. “And okay, fine. Maybe I was hiding, a little bit.”

Anna’s expression softened a little. She got up and came over to him, resting her hands lightly, almost tentatively, on his thighs. Sid felt embarrassed, and a little overwhelmed by her closeness: the warmth of her, the familiar muted notes of her perfume.

“Don’t think so much,” she said. “We try, okay? We see. Maybe it’s good. Maybe you don’t like.”

She slid her hands up under the hem of his t-shirt. The cold bite of her wedding ring against his skin made him shiver.

“Pretty sure I’ll like it,” he said, a little hoarsely.

Anna smirked. “You think about?”

Sid huffed out a laugh. “Jesus, Anna, what d’you think?” He pressed his thighs together, just a little, so he could feel the solid warmth of her between them. “I can hardly think about anything else.”

“Me, too,” she said, and then, to his surprise, went a little pink. “Sid—it’s very good, for me.”

“And, uh,” Sid said. “For Geno?”

The corner of Anna’s mouth twitched up. “Yes. He’s very—” She said something in Russian, her smirk deepening. “Passion.”

Sid’s heart beat faster.

“Anna,” he said. “I want—god. Can I kiss you?”

She tilted her face up to him. Sid slid his hands into her hair and kissed her, the way he had been longing to all week. He felt her melt into it, her body going lax against his.

Something gave him pause. Sid drew back, uncertain.

“Is this—how does it work,” he said. “If Geno’s not here.”

Anna licked her lips.

“I tell him tonight,” she said. “We’re in bed, and I say—today I’m in room, all alone, and Sid kiss me.”

Sid could picture it: the two of them curled up in their big bed together, Anna murmuring in Geno’s ear. Geno’s hand between her legs, maybe.

“Yeah?” His voice sounded rough. “What’s he gonna say?”

“He likes.” Anna raked her nails gently up Sid’s sides, making him shiver. “He’s—very excite. He say, Anya, what else, what else. So maybe I tell him. I say, Zhenya—we do other thing, too.”

Sid’s heart beat a little faster. “Like what?”

But Anna just looked at him, and said nothing—maybe a little shy, suddenly, or wanting him to say.

Sid glanced at the clock. It was the quietest part of the afternoon. The trainers would be off on their lunch break, the whole wing deserted.

“Get the door,” he said.

Anna looked at him for a moment, her eyes dark, and then she went over to the door. There was a soft click: the lock sliding into place.

It was risky—but no one would come looking for them. He wanted to touch her so badly it made him reckless. He couldn’t remember why it had seemed smarter to stay away. He kissed her again, and slid a hand up the inside of her thigh, up under the hem of her dress. Her panties were damp, the cotton soaked through—just from talking about it, Sid thought, a little dazed: just from thinking about it. He tugged the thin strip of fabric to the side, and felt her draw in a breath.

“Okay?” he said softly, watching her face.

“Yes,” she said, and at the first brush of his fingertips she shivered—a long slow delicious tremor. She leaned into him. “Sid.”

He watched her face, cataloguing her reactions: the soft fluttering of her eyelashes, her quickening breath.

“You’re so wet,” he said softly. “God, Anna. Is this what you came down here for?”

She trembled, breathing out shakily. He slipped two fingers inside her, thumb working tight circles around her clit.

“Yes,” she said. “Please, I want—”

He would’ve liked to draw it out, but he was conscious of where they were. She was pretty worked up already; he could feel her thighs tensing around his wrist.

“Come on,” he said. “You’re so good, you feel so good. Let me feel you come.”

“Sid,” she said, her eyes closed, her brow furrowing. He worked faster, keeping the pressure firm, his fingers inside her. “Yes,” she said, “yes,” and then her breath hitched, and he felt her start to come, clenching down around his fingers.

After it was over, she leaned heavily against him. Sid put his arms around her, drawing her close, careful not to touch her dress.

“You’re okay?” he said after a moment, and she drew back, looking at him.

“Yes,” she said, and then made a face. “Messy.”

Sid ducked his head, contrite. “Sorry,” he said.

“I forgive,” she said, and touched him, cupping him through his shorts.

Sid drew in a shaky breath. “Not, uh. Not right now, okay?”

She gave him a gentle squeeze, then let go.

“How you say,” she said. “Rain check?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I—soon.”

Anna looked at him for a moment. She was a little flushed, still, color high in her cheeks, but otherwise she looked unruffled, as poised and elegant as ever. She smoothed her dress down over her thighs.

“Don’t hide,” she said, and kissed his cheek.

*

He drove home in a daze, his thoughts full of her. By the time he pulled into the garage, though, his head had begun to clear, and he was feeling less sure of himself by the moment.

Anna had said it was fine; Geno himself had said there were no rules. Maybe it really was like that for them—the trust between them strong enough, the parameters of their shared fantasy elastic enough—but Sid couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that he’d crossed a line. Geno hadn’t even been there, and wasn’t that the whole point of this? Wasn’t that what kept this from being—something else, something uglier?

He called Geno twice. The first time it rang through to voicemail. Sid walked through the house, dropping his keys in the foyer, and went up the stairs. He dialed again.

Geno picked up on the fourth ring.

“What, Sid,” he said, annoyed. “I’m sleep.”

“Geno,” Sid said, and for a moment his throat felt too constricted to speak. He sat down on the edge of his bed.

Geno sounded immediately more awake. “Sid, you okay? Something happen?”

“No, no, everything’s—I’m fine,” he said, and swallowed. “I just needed to call you. I, uh. I saw Anna just now, at the rink.”

Geno made a grumpy noise. “You wake up to tell? It’s such big news, can’t wait?”

He swallowed, trying to work up his courage. The silence was long enough that Geno said, more cautiously: “Sid?”

“G,” he said. “I just—I don’t want to overstep. You have to tell me if it's not okay.”

There was a pause at the other end.

“Tell me what happen,” Geno said, and Sid stood up again. It was easier to talk if he was moving, pacing the length of his bedroom like a caged animal.

“I was in the trainer’s room.” He remembered how Anna had said it: I tell him, I’m in room, all alone. “Anna came to find me. Uh, to yell at me, kind of.”

Geno snorted. “Because you hide,” he said, like this was obvious.

“I wasn’t—” Sid said, and then shook his head. “Okay, fine, whatever. I was hiding.”

“And Anya find you.”

Sid nodded, and then remembered that Geno couldn’t see him. “Yeah,” he said. “Alex left—everybody was on their lunch break. So we stayed there and talked, and I—”

He faltered. It was one thing for Anna to tell Geno, as part of whatever game this was between them. He was less sure, suddenly, that Geno would want to hear it from him.

But Geno didn’t seem fazed. “You kiss?”

“Yeah,” Sid said, swallowing. “You said it was okay, and—I really wanted to.”

“You lock door?” Geno asked, a little sharply, and Sid said: “Yeah, of course. We were careful. I knew that’s when everybody leaves.”

“Good, very smart.”

Sid felt warm all over, the praise lighting him up inside. There was a brief pause, and then Geno prompted, “What else, Sid?”

Sid told him, a little haltingly. Geno would hear it from Anna later, in a way he’d probably enjoy much more, but Sid—Sid wanted to be honest with him, above board. When he was finished, Geno was quiet for a moment.

“It’s good, Sid,” he said at last. “I think Anya like. I know she tell me, later.”

Sid breathed out. “And I—it’s okay?”

“Yes,” Geno said. There was a rustling sound, and then he added, “But next time I’m there, maybe I tell you how to do.”

“Yeah,” Sid said, a little shakily. “Because you—you know, right? You know what she likes.”

“I’m best,” Geno agreed. “But it’s okay. I teach you.”

Sid felt hot. He squeezed himself through his sweats. He wasn’t going to jack off on the phone with Geno, for Christ’s sake, but he couldn’t deny it was getting him all worked up—thinking about Anna, talking about her.

“I just want it to be good,” he said. “I want to make it good for her.”

“I know,” Geno said. “You good, Sid.”

His voice was rough with sleep still. He was probably sprawled out in their bed: the bed where Sid had fucked Anna, and Geno had watched. Jesus Christ.

“What do you say to her,” he said suddenly. “When we, uh—you were talking to her, in Russian.”

He could hear Geno breathing into the phone. After a moment he said: “I tell her, it’s so hot,” he said. “I say—it’s turn me on so much, watch her with you. Watch you take care. I see how good you are, how good she feel with you.”

Sid sucked in a breath.

“You come?” Geno asked, and Sid’s heart did a weird stutter in his chest, before he realized Geno meant—with Anna, obviously.

“No,” he said. “I didn’t know if it was okay. I wanted to make sure.”

Geno hummed. “It’s good you ask. Good you call.”

“I should go,” Sid said, his voice a little uneven. “I’ll, uh. See you at practice.”

He ended the call and flung the phone across the bed, rolling over onto his side and shoving his hand down the front of his pants. He closed his eyes and thought about Anna in the trainer’s room again, her underwear soaked for him: trembling against him, clenching down around his fingers. If Geno has been there, he could’ve sat in the chair by the wall, leaning forward to watch, his thighs splayed wide. He would’ve watched Sid take care of her—or showed him, maybe: elbowing him aside, bossy and domineering, showing Sid how to make her moan, how to satisfy her.

He came with a grunt, curling in on himself. The house was dark and still around him, and so silent that afterwards Sid could hear his own heartbeat pounding in his ears.

He lay there for a long time, till he started feeling sticky and uncomfortable, and then he got up to clean himself up, and maybe to see about dinner.

*

“What have we here,” Flower said, and Sid felt a hand on his shoulder, spinning him around to face the locker room.

“What?” he said warily. Flower sounded absolutely gleeful—never a good sign—and the guys in the stalls nearest were starting to perk up in anticipation.

Flower tugged at Sid’s shirt. It was an old shirt, the collar stretched pretty loose, and Sid realized his mistake a second too late.

“Let me guess,” Flower said. “Burned yourself with the curling iron, eh?”

“New birthmark,” Horny suggested from his stall, grinning a little.

“No, wait, he cut himself shaving,” Kuni called, and then turned to the room at large to announce: “Cap got la-aid!”

This was, predictably, greeted with the requisite whooping and hollering, and some catcalling that Sid probably deserved.

He rolled his eyes and submitted to the general mockery, lacing up his skates as the guys elbowed him and called out rude suggestions. He could feel Geno watching him from across the room—and it was a little strange, that Sid knew what that felt like now: the heat of Geno’s gaze, heavy as a hand on the back of his neck.

Geno was all over him during practice, skating up and tapping Sid’s shins with his stick, getting all up in his space in the faceoff circle. He seemed to have more energy than he knew what to do with, and kept breaking away to skate big laps around the rink.

“He’s worse than usual,” Tanger said, as they waited in line for drills.

“What?” Sid said, watching Geno skate past. Tanger rolled his eyes.

“Never mind,” he said. “Tell me about the girl, eh? I thought you stayed in last night.”

“I did,” Sid said distractedly, and Tanger’s eyebrows flew up.

“Gave that to yourself, then?” he said. “Sid, if you’re that hard up—”

Sid flushed. “Funny,” he said, as he scrambled for an excuse. “No, I, uh—I didn’t go out. I met her in the hotel bar.”

It was true, sort of: they had gone down for a drink, the three of them. And then they had gone upstairs, and Anna had crawled up the bed and sat on Sid’s face while Geno sprawled out on the other bed, keeping up a low filthy commentary in Russian that made Anna tremble and gasp.

It was the first time they’d fooled around on the road, after months of snatching evenings here and there between homestand games and travel days. He couldn’t really blame Geno for being keyed up. Sid had felt it, too—the electric thrill of doing this under their teammates’ noses, on the same hotel floor. Anna had let him finish inside her, and Sid had had to bite his lip hard to keep from making a sound when he came, spilling hot into the condom.

He felt flushed all over, remembering it. Jesus, he needed to stop thinking about this in public. A hickey was one thing; if he popped a boner mid-practice he’d have to retire early to escape the chirping.

Tanger was looking at him, his expression skeptical.

“Well,” he said, “good for you, I suppose,” and then, fortunately, they were up.

Sid was last off the ice at morning skate. Geno, for some reason, had lingered just outside the door.

“Hey,” Sid said. “You didn’t have to wait.”

Geno shrugged. He looked at Sid, and frowned.

“Necklace,” he said.

“What?”

Geno reached out and deftly tucked Sid’s chain, which had come loose, back under his sweater.

“Thanks,” Sid said. It came out a little strange: almost breathless.

Geno’s fingers stilled for a moment. He looked at Sid, and then, wordlessly, pressed his thumb against Sid’s pads, just over the place where Anna had sucked a mark onto his skin.

“You welcome,” he said, and went on into the changing room.

*

“All right, buddy,” Nathan said, sticking his head around the studio door. “Ready when you are.”

Sid took a seat in the chair they’d set up for him, squinting a little under the studio lights. Anna was talking with one of the lighting guys behind the camera, a clipboard in hand. She gave him a critical onceover: no funny business.

“Hmm,” she said, handing off the clipboard. She fluffed up his hair with her fingers, breaking the cast of the gel.

“Hey,” Sid said, ducking out of her reach.

“You use too much,” she said sternly, and called Nathan over to powder his nose.

It was a marathon session, all of Sid’s monthly media spots packed into one afternoon. Most of it was easy stuff, the kind of thing he could’ve done in his sleep: smiling, introducing himself, saying a few bland platitudes about the Cup or the team or the importance of the local community.

It was boring work, but easy enough to settle into, and it was fun to watch Anna in work mode, running the show now instead of taking direction. When he had started hanging around the studio, it had startled him a little at first, the difference between the Anna he knew from team events and Anna the professional. He had known her only as Geno’s beautiful and very reserved girlfriend, a woman Geno had seemed determined from the outset to marry or die in the attempt. Here, though, she was clearly in her element: a professional, crisp and confident, issuing brisk instructions to the crew.

She made them shoot the last TV spot three times before she was happy with it, making small adjustments to the lighting and calling out sharp suggestions: “Sid, look alive. Why you smile like that? There’s man with gun, make you say?”

“Jeez,” Sid said, “everyone’s a critic,” but he was laughing, and she got the footage she wanted.

“You drive me home, okay?” she told him, when they’d finished. “I come with Zhenya today but he text, say he go home.”

“Can’t miss his nap,” Sid said.

“Like baby,” she agreed. “Okay, wait, I finish.”

It had snowed earlier in the day, and the cold was so bitter he felt the bite of it even through his sweatshirt and heavy coat. In the car Anna reached over to adjust the heat before Sid could ask, cranking it up to Geno levels and holding her gloved hands over the vents to warm them.

The streets had been plowed, but it was slow going still, cars inching along icy roads in the gathering dark. They talked about her projects for a while: the usual content for the team, and a new Russian-language feature she was working on for the league, which she would produce and host.

“Do you ever miss it?” he asked, slowing to a stop behind a large moving truck. It was starting to snow again, thick wet flakes that clung to the windshield wipers. “Being in front of the camera, I mean.”

“Yes,” Anna said, without hesitation. “I miss—speak Russian, not worry about my English. And, like, it’s nice, you know? Everybody sees you, knows you from TV. Feel very—glamor?”

“Glamorous?”

“Mm,” Anna agreed. “But I like now, too. Maybe it’s not my dream—live in America, work for hockey team. But I like make decision, be boss.” She shrugged. “And it’s good to learn. How to shoot, edit, everything. I know little bit, before, but it’s not my job. So now I know.”

She was looking out the window, watching the line of cars crawling slowly towards the interstate. Sid liked Pittsburgh, and hoped to live there for a long time yet, but even he could admit that the city was dreary in winter. He wondered if it seemed small to her, and dull, after what she’d left behind in Moscow. She traveled with the team sometimes, but he couldn’t imagine the endless parade of hotel rooms and arenas offered much compared to the social life she was used to.

He wondered if she would miss it at all, when they moved back to Russia someday. The thought made him feel strange.

He cleared his throat.

“I don’t know if I ever thanked you, by the way,” he said. “For taking me under your wing last year.”

Anna looked at him, frowning. “Wing?”

“Oh,” Sid said. “I just mean—you were really nice to me, when I was out. I know I was driving everybody nuts, but you were always really patient, teaching me how everything worked.”

“Yes, and now you win Emmy,” Anna said, smug, and he laughed.

She smiled too, and then said, a little more seriously: “You do for me, when I come here. It’s hard for me, you know? Zhenya say, ‘Come, come, get passport, we marry, it’s all work out.’” She made a face. “But I’m so nervous. My English—and I leave my job, my friends. When I come, you talk to me at picnic, ask question. You tell me, I need talk to Jen. You introduce, and Jen calls me, ask if I’m interest in job.”

Sid glanced at her, surprised. “I didn’t know that.”

He remembered meeting her, of course: she had been wearing a cocktail dress and heels, looking like she had stepped directly out of a fashion magazine into a decidedly more lowbrow backyard cookout. She had struck him as quiet and reserved, even grave, with a tightness around the eyes he had recognized from Geno’s early years on the team.

When they pulled up in front of the house, Anna put her hand over his.

“Come in,” she said. “For little bit. I don’t see for so long.”

Sid hesitated. He had things to do at home before they flew out in the morning, and the weather wasn’t likely to improve. But it was still pretty early, and she was right: it would be a long trip, their longest stretch away all season.

“All right,” he said. “Just for a little.”

*

Geno was already in bed, shirtless and watching TV, looking rumpled from his nap. When he saw them he groped for the remote, muting the volume.

“Sid,” he said. “I don’t expect.”

“Yeah, well,” Sid said. “Anna’s pretty persuasive.”

Anna had gone to change out of her work clothes. He felt a little uncomfortable, standing there with his hands in his pockets. He looked at the TV. The set was familiar: Sid recognized it as a Russian soap Geno had watched a lot his first couple years on the team, carting his little binder of DVDs from hotel to hotel. Sid had watched it with him sometimes, though he didn’t really follow any of it—the show, or Geno’s halting attempts to translate what was happening. But Geno had clearly loved it, and had always gotten unusually animated, not shy about his English, explaining it to Sid.

“Good show,” he said, and Geno looked at him, surprised, and smiled.

“Yes, you like,” he said.

Anna emerged from the walk-in closet, wearing an oversized sleep t-shirt and cotton underwear, her long legs bare. She pressed herself against Sid’s back, wrapping her arms around his waist.

“Brrr, Sid,” she said, her voice muffled against his shoulder. “So cold, you warm up.” She climbed onto the bed and burrowed under the covers next to Geno, holding back the corner of the duvet for Sid. “Come, come. We watch TV, take nap. Be lazy.”

Sid hesitated, feeling a little off-kilter. He had spent a lot of time in this room, the last few months, but it felt different, somehow, to crawl into the cozy nest of their bed with them, to watch television and nap.

But Anna didn’t seem to think it was weird, and Geno had unmuted the TV again, apparently more interested in the show than whatever the two of them were doing. Besides: what was he going to do instead? It was cold out, and fully dark now, just after four-thirty. He didn’t relish the thought of going back to his empty house alone.

“Sid,” Anna said, lightly chastising, as he crawled into bed next to her. “You are icicle.”

She slid down to face him, running her cold feet up his calves and down again, twining their legs together. She was smiling at him, a little impish. This was different, too—no fancy lingerie, or half-joking porno dialogue, just Anna in her soft, worn t-shirt, like they were waking up together in the morning, or getting ready to sleep.

His heart did a funny little flop in his chest.

Anna slid her hand under the waistband of his sweats, groping him a little, feeling out the shape of him. He was soft, but it wouldn’t take long for him to get interested with Anna like this, warm and close in bed.

“Thought you wanted to nap,” he said.

“Mm,” Anna said. “Maybe you help me sleep.”

Over her shoulder, Geno said something in Russian, sounding grumpy.

“He say, he’s here first,” Anna said. “We don’t kick out.” She squeezed Sid gently through his boxers. “It’s okay?”

It wasn’t that different, was it? Geno on the other side of the bed, Geno in the armchair—it wasn’t like the distance changed what they were doing.

“Sure,” he said, and she made a pleased noise, and kissed him for a while, touching him through his boxers, teasing him. When he was mostly hard, she drew back a little, and said, “I want—like this.”

She rolled over onto her other side, so that she was facing Geno, snuggled back against Sid’s chest.

“So I’m warm,” she said.

She pulled his hand down to rest on her hip, toying with the thin waistband of her panties. He touched her through the fabric for a while, until she lost patience with him and tugged her underwear down herself, kicking them down somewhere to the bottom of the bed.

She was soft and a little wet already. Geno was still watching his show, reacting now and then along with the canned laughs of the studio crowd. Sid watched him in profile: the familiar shape of his big nose, his mouth parted. He wondered, again, at Geno’s casualness about all of this—how indifferent he seemed to the fact that Sid was fingering his wife in their bed right next to him, making her ready to take him inside.

He heard Geno’s voice again on the phone, rough with sleep: I see how good you are, how good she feel with you.

Maybe it wasn’t indifference, but trust.

Anna made an impatient noise, batting at his wrist. “Okay, hurry, I’m ready.”

“Bossy,” Sid said, and Geno huffed out a laugh.

Sid rolled away, fumbling for a condom in the bedside table before he spooned up behind her again. He pushed his sweatpants down just far enough to get his dick out.

She made a soft noise when he finally slid inside. He held himself there for a long moment, his eyes closed, a little tremor running through him. She felt so good around him, soft and warm, and it stunned him, still, that she wanted this from him, that she let him in like this.

The TV went silent again. He felt Geno shifting on the bed, settling onto his side to watch them.

“You don’t know how to do?” he said to Sid, and Sid smiled against the back of Anna’s neck, nosing at the soft wispy hairs there.

“Think it’s coming back to me,” he said, as he drew out and slowly rocked back into her.

The air was hot and close, the piles of blankets trapping in the warmth of their bodies. Geno liked to talk to Anna, usually, but he was quiet now, lying curled up on his side, watching her face. It felt strangely intimate; Sid wasn’t sure he was meant to see. He tried to focus on Anna instead, attuned to the soft little noises she made, the quiet hitch in her breath.

Geno shifted closer. He said something—her name, Sid thought, one of the little nicknames they used with each other. Then he kissed her.

Sid’s hips stuttered a little. Anna sighed into the kiss.

“Zhenya,” she murmured, as Geno slid a hand up under her shirt. Sid couldn’t see what he was doing, but from the way Anna gasped and squirmed he could tell Geno was playing with her nipples—twisting one a little, tugging lightly.

He had never seen Geno touching her like this, but his imagination filled in the details: Geno’s big hand cupping her soft breast, his mouth pressed to her throat. There was no room for Sid to work a hand between their bodies, but Geno could touch her there easily. He could slide his hand down between her legs, feeling out with his fingers where she was open for Sid, stretched wide around him; he could rub her where she was hot and swollen, till she clenched down and cried out and came, trembling, on Sid’s cock.

He was sweating. He realized abruptly that he was closer than he’d thought, teetering on the precipice of his orgasm, about to tip over.

“I’m gonna,” he breathed. “Anna—”

She stretched an arm up over her head, her body shifting, taking him deeper. Geno kissed her throat, the underside of her jaw. Sid could hear the uneven rasp of his breathing.

“Yes,” Anna said, sighing. “Sid. Let me feel.”

He could feel Geno’s gaze on him. He felt feverish, almost, burning up inside. He slid his hand to Anna’s hip, and then higher, fingers splaying wide over her belly. His hand brushed against Geno’s, his big rough hand cupping Anna’s breast, and a spike of arousal jolted through him.

“Shit,” he said, squeezing his eyes shut, his thrusts gone erratic. “Fuck, I’m gonna—”

“Good, Sid,” Geno said, his voice so rough, “fill up, she want feel,” and Sid made a sound like he’d been sucker-punched and came buried deep inside her, pulsing hot into the condom.

Anna groaned, shifting restlessly; Sid had barely gotten his breath back when she was rolling onto her back, his softening dick slipping free. “Zhenya,” she said, needy, “Zhenya, davai,” her legs open for him, and in a flash Geno was on her, kicking down the blankets, hitching her leg up and sliding into her in one smooth push.

Anna groaned and wrapped her legs around her waist, canting her hips up, taking him deeper. Geno fucked her fast and rough, rougher than Sid had ever been with her, and Anna cried out, raking her nails down Geno’s back, every thrust jolting a breathless little sound from her. Geno was talking to her, and whatever he was saying made Anna’s whole body tense and tremble, and then she went rigid for a moment, frozen, and came undone, unraveling in his arms, pleasure breaking over her in long shuddering waves.

Geno kept fucking her through it, his fingers curled tight in her hair, the big muscles in his back flexing as he thrust into her once more, and stilled, and groaned, emptying himself inside her.

Sid lay on the bed beside them, stunned motionless. Geno had collapsed on top of her, shoulders heaving, his body covering hers completely. After a moment Anna lifted her hand and began to touch his hair, lightly, till he lifted his head and kissed her, a slow, unhurried kiss. Then he slid out of her, rolling onto the bed beside her, and Sid couldn’t help himself: he looked down at where Anna’s legs were splayed open still, where Geno’s come was leaking out of her.

He felt—strange, sort of shaky inside. He should get up, probably, and go home, before he overstayed his welcome. He didn’t need to see them kiss tenderly, or watch Anna clean herself up, or listen to them talking to each other softly in their own language. He had played his part.

He got up and stripped the condom off, discarding it in the wastebasket by the bed. Geno’s eyes were already closed, like he had played a good hard twenty minutes and was ready to hibernate again. But Anna stirred, and sat up, drawing her legs up beneath her.

“Sid,” she said, her voice rough, sleepy. “We take nap, eat later. Stay.”

He wanted to. He wanted it more than anything: to spend the rest of the evening in bed with them like this, warm and cozy, fooling around with Anna and watching Geno kiss her. He wanted to get up with them later, and rustle up whatever leftovers they find in the fridge, and watch Geno’s show with the subtitles on: Geno hogging the remote, Anna complaining, enlisting Sid against him.

But they were each other’s. This was their bed, not Sid’s, their home, and when he left it would be the two of them again: a closed circuit, complete in and of itself. That was the fantasy, wasn’t it: someone else coming in—and then, after, leaving.

“Weather’s getting worse,” he said. “I should probably head out.”

“I walk you out,” she said, but he shook his head. He leaned down to kiss her on the mouth, lightly, conscious of Geno beside them. If he closed his eyes he could almost feel rough fingers carding through against his hair, the ghost of a kiss brushed against his temple.

“You stay,” he said. “Be warm,” and then he went out, closing the door softly behind him.

*

The snow stopped sometime in the night, and they were out early the next morning: a long haul from Pittsburgh to Anaheim. Flower got bored somewhere over Oklahoma and went up to join the card game, leaving Sid to watch one of his WWII documentaries.

A few minutes later, Geno dropped down in the seat next to him. He leaned over to look at Sid’s screen.

“Give,” he said, gesturing.

“Really?” Sid said dubiously, but he passed one of his earbuds over. Geno mostly liked movies about aliens who fought other, meaner aliens, or turned into gigantic cars and fought each other. Sure enough, after two minutes of watching an elderly British academic discuss the Normandy landings, Geno said, “You have other movie?”

“You might learn something,” Sid said, and Geno gave him a look, as if to say that was what he was afraid of. Sid rolled his eyes, but he swiped back to his library and let Geno look.

“Okay, we watch,” Geno said, pointing to a Bond film Sid didn’t even remember downloading.

Sid had seen it before; he was only half paying attention. Geno had to lean against him to share the headphones, his shoulder was warm and solid against Sid’s. Geno watched films with a kind of rapt, whole-body attention, totally focused on the screen. Sid could hear the soft steady rasp of his breathing; could feel the way he twitched minutely when a car exploded on the screen.

His mind kept drifting back to the day before. He had fallen asleep the previous night thinking about it: Geno kissing Anna, touching her, as Sid moved inside her, breathing hot against the nape of her neck. His skin prickled again at the memory. They had been so close, cradling Anna between them, taking care of her together. It would’ve easy, effortless even, to close the distance, to lean forward and—

“Oi,” Flower said, looming suddenly over them, and Sid jolted so violently he knocked the iPad into Geno’s lap.

Geno made a displeased noise. “Sid,” he complained.

“Scram,” Flower said. “I want a nap.”

“Sleep on floor,” Geno said grumpily. “I’m watch movie.” But he got up, grousing the whole time, and shouldered past Flower back to the card table.

Sid’s heart was hammering in his chest. Flower, settling in beside him, gave him a weird look.

“What,” he said.

“Nothing,” Sid said, and fumbled for the iPad, righting it. The movie was still playing, the occasional explosion faintly audible through the earphones. He put one back in, and then the other, and stared unseeingly at the screen.

*

They won in Anaheim, then lost to the Kings in a matinee game, squandering a three-goal lead. Sid was in a dark mood afterwards, and retreated to his room to brood alone. He hadn’t been sleeping well, and was looking forward to the early night.

He channel surfed for a bit, before settling on a History Channel documentary he hadn’t seen before. He was just pulling up the room service menu when his phone pinged with an incoming text.

It was from Anna: a photo of her bare legs in the bath, frothy soap bubbles covering most of the water. She had sent it to both of them.

so lonely ((

His phone pinged again. Sid fumbled to switch the volume off.

nobody take care? Geno wrote.

It felt a little like he was eavesdropping, and Sid felt a little guilty about it—but they were texting in English, which was something Geno normally only did under duress. It had to be for his benefit.

A moment later, a video came through. maybe I take care my self, Anna had captioned it.

Sid took one look at the still image and got up to slide the deadbolt closed. He fished his headphones out of his bag and crawled back into bed, his pulse picking up a little in anticipation.

In the clip Anna was sitting cross-legged on their bed, a thick dildo resting on her thigh. Sid watched her stroke it: a long slow caress from base to tip and back down again, her nails trailing lightly along the length of the shaft.

it’s big
I’m little bit nervous

Sid could hear her saying it—her voice teasing, a little wry, making the corny porn dialogue sound like a shared joke. His dick gave an interested twitch.

Three dots appeared under Geno’s name.

need fingers , make ready

Anna: like this?

Sid’s breath caught.

She had three fingers sunk inside herself, up to the second knuckle. She was wet already, glistening with it—maybe it was lube, but he doubted it. Probably she had come already: in the bath maybe, or on the bed, the toy lying beside her. She liked to come once or twice to take the edge off, so that she was all relaxed and soft and open before she put something inside herself.

it’s good, Geno typed. I do better if I’m there

Sid rolled his eyes. He could hear Geno saying that too, cocksure and confident: a lazy, self-assured drawl.

There was no response for a long time—long enough that Sid wondered if the conversation was over, or if they’d switched, maybe, to just the two of them.

His phone pinged again.

In the video, Anna was sitting propped up against the headboard: knees bent, legs open, showing herself to the camera. Her face wasn’t in the frame, but every part of her was so familiar: her long slim legs, her taut belly, the little tuft of close-trimmed hair between her legs.

Sid opened the video up full-size, turning the volume up in his headphones.

She teased herself for a long time first, rubbing the fat head of the dildo up and down her slit till the toy was shining with her slick. Then she set the toy aside for a moment and spread her folds open with two fingers, so he could see how open she was, her folds wet and so pink, her clit swollen. She was quiet, so quiet that he wondered if the video was silent—until finally she began to slowly push inside of herself, and he heard her make a soft familiar noise.

“It’s big,” she said, breathless, and it was: a little shorter than Sid was, but thicker, the fat girth of it splitting her open. She shifted restlessly in the bed, her thighs falling further apart, hips tilting up as she worked the dildo inside herself, inch by slow inch.

“Oh,” she said softly, when it was buried to the hilt inside her, and then she groaned and drew her hand back, smoothing a hand over her belly, so he could see what it looked like—the base of the toy splitting her open, impossibly thick inside her.

“Jesus,” Sid breathed, into the silence of the room.

Slowly, she pulled the toy out a few inches and slid it back in, over and over again, working herself up to a steady rhythm. Even with his headphones in, he felt twitchy and paranoid, like someone passing in the hallway was going to hear the wet slapping sounds and low breathless moans, and somehow know that it was Anna; that Sid was touching himself, watching her fuck herself for—for Geno, and a little bit, maybe, for him.

She was worked up already, and he thought she was close, from the way her stomach jumped a little, her toes curling against the comforter. She must have propped the phone up against something, because the shot stayed steady even as she fucked herself harder with the toy, rougher.

She said something he didn’t catch, low and throaty, and then she gasped and said, "Sid—Sid," not thrusting the toy anymore, but rocking it deep inside herself, grinding the thick base of it against her clit again and again. She made a noise in the back of her throat, her knees knocking together, and he watched her clench down around the toy, gasping, creaming herself on six thick inches of silicone dick.

The video cut off there. Sid started the clip over again, stroking himself with purpose now, and wondered if Geno was doing the same thing further down the hall: jerking off to the sound of Anna fucking herself, Anna saying Sid’s name. He closed his eyes and listened to the sounds Anna was making, his hand moving faster, and opened them again to see a new video had appeared.

Sid clicked on it, and almost choked on his tongue, because holy shit, that was Geno’s dick.

He X’d out of it in a panic, because surely Geno didn’t mean to—it was a mistake, probably: meant for Anna. Geno didn’t seem to notice, though, and Anna texted back ))))))). So—maybe it was okay, if he. Not that he was going to. But—

He sucked in a breath. Nobody had to know.

Geno’s video was shorter, just twenty seconds, and it was clear that he wasn’t especially concerned with the mise-en-scène. The lighting was pretty bad, and the shot wasn’t the steadiest, and none of that really mattered, because Christ, Geno’s dick was huge, and he touched himself with the lazy, show-off confidence Sid would’ve expected if he’d ever thought about Geno jacking off before. He was almost as thick as the toy, and Sid wondered if that was why Anna liked it so much: if it felt like getting fucked by Geno, like sinking slowly down onto his dick.

He shoved his shorts down and started stroking himself again, in time with Geno’s own hand, and when the video ended he kept going. He was leaking, making a mess in his shorts, and he could feel his balls drawing up tight. He fumbled for his phone and clicked Anna’s video again, listened to her panting in his earphones. “Sid,” she moaned, Sid,” and that was it: he was done for.

His phone vibrated a few minutes later. It was a message from Anna, this time sent just to him.

sid you don’t like?

Before he could think about it or talk himself out of it, Sid snapped a photo of his softening dick, the mess on his stomach, and texted it to both of them underneath Geno’s video. He would regret it as soon as the haze of his orgasm dissipated, but fuck it. Sending dick pics to his married teammate probably wouldn’t even crack the top ten list of Very Bad Decisions Sid had made this season.

He couldn’t decide if that made him feel better or worse.

*

He saw Geno across the dining room at breakfast, and his heart started beating so fast he thought he might be having a cardiac event.

“Sid,” Flower said, giving him a weird look. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Sid said, “yeah, fine,” but he booked it out of there pretty fast.

They had a game that night. Sid had his pregame routines to occupy him, but it was harder than usual to lose himself in them. He kept losing count of how many times he’d wrapped his stick, and having to start over again. During two-touch someone kicked the ball his way and Sid whiffed it completely, too distracted covertly looking over at Geno, who was unabashedly freeballing in his shorts.

They shut out the Sharks, six-nothing. He got a goal, and Geno got a fucking hat trick, and watching him from the bench Sid felt so much he was afraid his ribs were going to splinter like toothpicks, from the pressure of everything he was feeling, emotions swelling uncontrollably in his chest. In the showers Geno was across from him, one showerhead down, and Sid couldn’t stop looking at him, at the lazy way Geno soaped up his junk.

He’d never looked at a guy and thought, Yeah, maybe, before. But it was like a dam had broken inside of him, all these crazy thoughts flooding out. He couldn’t stop thinking about it. He knew what Geno looked like hard. Knew how he touched himself, big fingers wrapped around his big fucking dick, jerking himself off to videos of his wife moaning Sid’s name. His legs felt weak, suddenly, with how much he wanted to sink to his knees and let Geno do—anything, whatever he wanted, right there on the grotty awful tile of an away locker room.

They went out, because how could they not, after a game like that. Sid wound up wedged between Tanger and Flower in a circle booth, half listening to them bicker in French. Geno was holding court at one of the long tables. He was arguing with Phil, but he kept looking over at Sid, and every time their eyes met Sid felt like he’d touched a live wire, a hot current sizzling through him.

Flower and Tanger abandoned him to play pool. Sid sat alone in the booth, nursing his second beer, silently willing Geno to come over to him.

It worked. Geno got up and sauntered over to the bar, talking for a minute with the bartender, and then he ambled over to talk with Horny, and then, finally, he was Sid’s: sliding into the booth next to him, closer than he needed to be, bumping their shoulders together.

“Good game,” Sid said. “That last goal—fucking filthy.”

He felt so revved up, like playing hadn’t depleted his reserves at all, just supercharged him. He’d watched Geno’s video twice more that morning and jerked off in the shower, thinking about Geno’s hands, his perpetually chapped lips, the low rumble of his voice saying Good, Sid. He felt like he was sixteen again, unkissed, untouched, vibrating out of his skin with horniness and longing.

“You like?” Geno said, and grinned at him, pressing his thigh against Sid’s under the table. He smelled familiar, like arena soap and aftershave.

“Yeah,” Sid said, a little breathless. “I liked it.”

He looked at Geno’s mouth. Maybe it should’ve panicked him a little, the thought of kissing a guy, but it felt like he’d been building to this weeks now, months: since the beep of a keycard in a hotel room door; since Geno’s hand on the back of his neck.

Longer, maybe.

Geno slung his arm over the low back of the booth. Sid turned in towards him instinctively, their faces so close together. Geno was looking at him.

“Let’s head back,” he said suddenly, and Geno raised an eyebrow.

“You want?”

“Yeah,” Sid said. His palms were sweating. “Yeah, I do.”

*

They took a cab back to the hotel. Geno was looking out the window, and Sid watched him, the shadows shifting across his face. He got out after Sid at the hotel, and they went up together in the elevator, Geno leaning back against the handrail watching the floors tick up.

“You want come in?” Geno said in the hallway, sliding his keycard out of his wallet. “Watch movie?”

Sid followed him in. The door closed behind them. Geno tossed his wallet down on the dresser.

“G,” Sid said, his heart pounding. Geno turned and looked at him, and Sid moved towards him. His fingers were tingling, his whole body alight with nerves. Geno’s eyes were heavy-lidded, and Sid’s gaze snagged on his mouth again, on the jut of his fat bottom lip.

“Sid?” Geno said, his voice a low rumble, and Sid closed the distance between them, fisted Geno’s shirt in his hands, and pulled him down into a kiss.

Geno’s mouth felt just as good against his as he’d been imagining. Sid kissed him hard, a bruising kiss, tugging at his shirt to keep him still, and something inside him slotted into place.

Geno grabbed at his shoulders, and Sid made a noise against his mouth, a choked kind of moan, and closed his eyes—except that suddenly Geno’s hands were pushing instead of pulling, his grip on Sid’s biceps too tight, holding Sid back.

“Sid,” he said, and he sounded—shocked, his voice raw with something Sid couldn’t identify. He was holding him at arm’s length, literally, and Sid’s hand slipped free of Geno’s shirt.

“G,” he said, breathing hard. “G, it’s okay. I want it too.”

“Sid,” Geno repeated, and this time there was something in his voice that made Sid freeze. “Sid, why you do?”

He was looking at Sid, wide-eyed, bewildered.

Sid jerked back, out of Geno’s grip. He felt flushed, agitated. What was wrong with him? Why wasn’t he—

“G, come on,” he said. “I can’t stop—I’ve been thinking about it all day. That video.”

Geno stared at him, uncomprehending. “Video for Anya?”

Sid’s blood ran cold. He took another step back, almost stumbling. Geno didn’t look like he was fucking with him. He looked—shocked, genuinely rattled.

“Sid,” he said. “You kiss.”

“I thought,” Sid said, and then broke off. “I know it’s not what we agreed, when we started. But it’s different now, isn’t it?” He felt shaky, jittery, like he was running high on adrenaline and headed for a crash. “It could be all of us. Together.”

Geno was shaking his head, but Sid just kept talking, faster, louder, like if he could get the words out Geno would understand.

“It’s so good with Anna,” he said. “I love it, G. But it should be both of us. Like the other day. Taking care of her. I want that with you.”

“Sid,” Geno said, and he sounded raw, wrecked. “I’m sorry. I don’t—with guy. I’m not.”

“I’m not either,” Sid said. “I don’t—maybe I am, I don’t know. I never thought about it before. But I’ve been having these—feelings, I guess. I want it with you, too. With both of you. We could try.”

There was an awful silence. Geno looked pale and strained, uncomfortable.

“I’m not,” he said again. “Sid, I’m flatter, but—it’s not same, for me. With guy, I’m not.”

Sid felt something inside him crack: a splintering open.

“Oh,” he said, and looked at the bed, at the wall, anywhere but Geno’s face. He turned, fumbling in his back pocket for his key. He had to get out of here. He was still talking, but he hardly knew what he was saying. “Yeah, okay. I’ll just, uh. I should—”

“Sid,” Geno said, making an abortive move towards him. He sounded a little desperate. “It’s okay. We forget, it’s no problem. We can still do, like before. With Anya.”

Sid felt numb. “G,” he said. “I can’t. I’m not—I think I have feelings for you. For both of you.”

Geno fell silent.

“I’m sorry,” Sid said. “I wish I could just—I wish I could stop. I can’t.”

“Sid,” Geno said again, his expression twisted into something awful, something like pity, and this time he did move towards him. But Sid pulled away, his hand already on the door.

“I’ll see you,” he said, and then, “I’m sorry,” and fled, into the bright, unforgiving light of the hallway.

*

They lost in Vegas—the final stop—and flew home the same night.

The plane was quiet and still, full of exhausted players. Sid slept, but fitfully, startling awake in the darkness.

It was morning when they landed, everyone stumbling bleary-eyed off the plane. He was stuck behind Geno’s Range Rover for most of the drive, and Geno was, for once, doing an uncanny impression of a person who respected traffic laws. But after a while he turned off at his street, heading home to Anna, and Sid drove on home alone.

He left his luggage in the hall and went upstairs to bed, too tired to even change his clothes. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.

He dreamed he was at Rimouski, skating at the Coliseum—or trying to: the ice was awful, slushy and melting fast. The arena was empty, but he knew Geno was somewhere in the stands, watching him; Sid kept catching sight of him and losing him again. The ice was turning to water now, and he kept trudging through it, his skates useless, looking for something—the puck, maybe, or no: something he had dropped, something precious. Anna’s ring.

His skates were useless. He couldn’t go any further. He dropped to his knees, the cold seeping into his skin, and began searching, fumbling blindly in the murky water. Geno was watching, somewhere up there, but he wouldn’t show himself; he wouldn’t help. He would only go on watching. The arena lights were on, blinding him. The water was rising. He was alone, and he felt something rending in him, grief cleaving him in two.

He woke. It was early afternoon. He went downstairs, and found Anna at the kitchen table, a mug of tea by her hand, reading a magazine.

*

He almost went back upstairs, to sleep away this nightmare, too. But she looked up and saw him, and then he had no choice but to face it.

“Sid,” she said. “I use key. I’m sorry.”

She sounded stiff, too formal. She knew: he could see it in her face.

“It’s okay,” he said, and went over to the sink, to fill a glass of water. “What are you reading?”

She showed him: a Russian fashion magazine. He looked at it for a moment, and then sat down at the table across from her, a safe distance away.

“Geno told you,” he said.

“Yes,” she said. “Sid, I’m sorry.”

He couldn’t look at her. He looked at the glossy magazine cover instead: a language he couldn’t read.

“It’s not your fault,” he said. “It’s not anybody’s fault. Well—mine, maybe. I’m sorry for ruining it.”

“Sid,” she said quietly. “You don’t ruin.”

He swallowed hard. “I told Geno I can’t, anymore,” he said. “He said we could just—but I can’t. It’s not, um. I hope you understand.”

He was blinking hard. He realized, to his horror, that he was going to cry.

Anna made a soft noise of distress. She moved to the chair nearest him, and took his unresisting hand in hers.

“Sorry,” he said, looking away. “I don’t know why I’m—”

“It’s sad, Sid,” she said, her voice gentle. “It’s—break up. Zhenya cry, today, when he tell. I cry, too.”

“It’s not a breakup.” Sid drew his hand back. “We’re just—we’re not fucking anymore. This isn’t a relationship.”

“No?”

Sid felt a stab of fury, directionless, awful.

“You’re married,” he said. “You and Geno, you’re married. That’s a relationship. This was just—I don’t know, a fantasy. A game. The sex was good, okay? But it was sex. I fucked you, and Geno watched, and then I went home.”

He was speaking quickly, and more sharply than he had ever spoken to her before. She was quiet for a long moment after.

“Sid,” she said at last. Her expression was difficult to read. “It’s—how you feel, when we do?”

He said nothing. Anna glanced at him, and went on, haltingly: “Maybe first time, yes, it’s fantasy. We talk about, in summer, and it’s sexy idea. But Sid, it’s different, when we do. Maybe—it’s not what we expect.”

She took his hand again, and this time she turned it over in hers, and looked down at it, pressing her palm lightly against his.

“You are good friend,” she said slowly. “And maybe, because we do—it’s more, for me. For you, too. I don’t think, when we start. I don’t expect. But it happen, Sid.”

He had spent the last few days in a state of shock and mortification, unable to meet Geno’s eyes, or look his way, or even hear his voice without flinching. The initial shock had begun to wear off on the long flight home, as Sid watched Geno playing cards—looking a little rundown, maybe, worn around the edges—and began to feel the first stirrings of bitterness and resentment. They had picked him because he was convenient, and safe; he had never been special, or important to them, only easy for it, eager to please.

But here in the light of day, with Anna holding his hand in his, he felt that angry certainty begin to dissolve, its grip on his heart slowly loosening. He was embarrassed, and hurt. But he loved them, and he knew they loved him: Anna, and Geno too, even if it wasn’t the way Sid longed to be loved.

This, too, would pass.

When Anna left, Sid walked her to the door. She turned to him, solemn.

“Sid,” she said. “Please. I hope we will still be friends.”

She pronounced it carefully enough that he knew she must have practiced.

“We are,” he said. “We will be, Anna. I just—I might need a little time.”

She touched his face, gently, her hand against his cheek. She looked at him for a long moment.

“I don’t regret,” she said. “I wish—it’s different. But Sid. I’m happy I know you.”

He drew in a breath, and let it out.

“Me too,” he said. “It was good, Anna. I don’t regret it. “

She studied him a moment longer, as if she were memorizing something in his face. Then she went up on her toes and kissed him—slow, and sweet: an ending.

“Goodbye,” Sid said, and Anna looked at him, and pressed his hand wordlessly in hers, and went down the steps into the day.

*

Nothing had changed, and everything had, and the world, somehow, went on.

He flew to Vail for bye-week, then to LA for the All Star weekend, feeling a guilty sense of relief when Geno had to drop out last minute. It was good to hang out with Nate, laughing and bullshitting and drinking a little more than he should’ve. They won the game, and Sid got a text from Anna that night—just a photo of her toes buried in white sand, water lapping at the edges of the frame. He looked at it for a long time before typing back: hope it’s a good vacation.

There was no reply, but he felt a little lighter, after.

Then they were on the road again. They won, and lost, and won again, and they were going to make the playoffs for sure: they were going to make a deep run. Geno was on fire, playing some of the best hockey of his life. On the ice nothing was different, except that Sid was slowly getting used to the new-old way his stomach swooped and dipped when Geno slammed into him after a goal, roaring in his ear. Off the ice things were still awkward—they were both a little uncertain, Sid thought, a little embarrassed—but Geno was trying, and so was he, and in time he knew it would heal.

Four weeks after the conversation in the kitchen, he came out of the changing room after practice to find Anna waiting for him. She was clutching her purse, and she looked nervous but determined, and beautiful, in a way that still made his breath catch.

“We have lunch,” she said. “Okay? You buy.”

It was awkward at first, and a little painful, to be close to her again; the wound pulled a little at the edges, the new skin still tender. But she kept the conversation light and funny, a little teasing, and by the end of it Sid could see the shape their friendship might take: the pieces broken and re-formed into something else, into something stronger, maybe.

*

They made the playoffs. They won, and they won again, and Sid started to feel it in the back of his teeth, in the strain and push and pull of his muscles, every fiber of his being striving to get closer.

They won the Cup.

He was lifting it again, skating a wild, joyful lap around the arena, the crowd so deafening he couldn’t hear himself think. They won the Cup, and Geno was there, sweaty and grinning, pulling Sid into his arms, Sid’s face buried in his neck—and then he was gone again, and they were in the locker room, bottles of champagne popping everywhere, everyone yelling, some of them crying, the whole world bathed in gold.

Anna found him after, outside the locker room; he’d stepped out for a moment to get some air. She wrapped her arms around him from behind, hugging him, and he turned to see her.

“So good,” she said, “Sid—I’m so proud.”

She was smiling at him. He wanted to kiss her, and maybe he would for a long time yet. But he was happy she was here. He was lucky, and so happy, with the people he loved around him, all of them held, for tonight, in the bright golden bubble of his happiness.

“Okay,” she said. “Go to party.”

“You’re not coming?” he said, and she shook her head, and squeezed his hand.

“Sid,” she called after him, as he was going back in. “Maybe you don’t drink so much, okay? Only little bit.”

He laughed. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I learned my lesson.”

*

He stayed at the party late, but he had meant what he said to Anna. He let Tanger pour champagne in someone else’s mouth this time, and watched, laughing, as the team got drunk. He wanted to remember this, to fix every detail of the night in his memory. Three times: but nothing was guaranteed. He knew it might not come again.

He went back to the hotel around one, and rode the elevator up alone, looking at himself in the mirrored walls, flushed and smiling. At the door he scanned his key and heard it beep, the lock clicking softly. He opened it, and went inside.

“Sid,” Geno said, standing up.

Sid looked at him, and at the keycard. “Sorry,” he said. “I must’ve—”

“I borrow, from Jen.” Geno looked worried. “It’s okay?”

“It’s okay,” Sid said. “I just wasn’t expecting it.”

Geno stood there looking at him. Sid had seen him earlier, at the bar, but Geno must have come back at some point and changed. He was in track shorts and a loose grey t-shirt, white socks pulled up too high, and he had a hat shoved over his hair.

“Everything okay, G?” he said.

“You sit?” Geno said, and Sid looked at him, and went over to sit on the edge of the bed. Geno came and sat next to him, a foot between them. He took his hat off, turned it in his hands, and raked his fingers through his hair.

“Sid,” he said, and stopped. Sid turned his head to look at him, in profile.

“Kinda making me nervous, bud,” he said, and Geno turned towards him, and put his hand on Sid’s thigh, and kissed him.

Sid jerked back. “G,” he said, sharply. “Come on, that’s not—it’s not funny.”

Geno was breathing very fast. “Sid,” he said. “I’m not—I don’t, with guy,” and Sid felt a flare of anger, hot and unexpected.

“Yeah,” he said. “I got that. Read that one loud and clear.”

“I don’t before,” Geno said. He tugged on his bottom lip. He looked at Sid, scared but determined. “I don’t know—how to do. I’m not. But I think about, when you say.”

Sid got up abruptly. He needed to put some distance between them.

“G,” he said. “Let’s not—I don’t want to do this tonight, okay? It’s a good night. We can talk about it in the morning.”

“I think about,” Geno said, speaking quickly, like he was afraid Sid would cut him off. “Why I ask you. Why I’m okay with. When Anya talk about, last summer, she say—maybe we find somebody. Pick up, in club. Maybe it’s sexy to try. But I don’t want. I want with you.”

“Because you trusted me,” Sid said. “Because I’m your friend. I’m not going to—go to the press, or whatever.”

“I have other friend,” Geno said. “I don’t want. I don’t think about, all time—have picture, in my head, what it’s like.” He took a deep breath. “Sid, you say—maybe we do together, all of us. I think about, since you say. At first I’m scare. I don’t know how it’s work, I don’t know—it’s new, you know? But I think about, Sid, and I know. My heart, I know. I want take care of Anya, together. I want—take care of you.”

He looked up at Sid then, and his expression was open and vulnerable, laid bare.

“Geno.” Sid’s voice sounded strange. His throat felt scraped raw. “G—”

Geno got up and came over to him. He didn’t touch him yet, just stood close, breathing.

“Please,” he said, quiet. “Sid. Let me take care.”

Sid’s breath caught in his throat. “I can’t do this if it’s just—if it’s only sex,” he said. “Or if we—if we try and then in the morning, you won’t talk to me.”

“I know,” Geno said. “I talk to Anya. Sid—I’m nervous. I don’t know how I do. But I want. I want it’s real.”

Sid breathed out. Geno was looking at him with a soft, tentative expression on his face. He put his hand on the back of Sid’s neck, fingers curling against his nape, and Sid’s heart was in his throat, his whole body yearning for it, for Geno’s mouth on his.

Geno kissed him: slowly, softly. He drew back and looked at Sid. There was no uncertainty in his expression, or disgust, only a new sweetness: strange and familiar, all in one.

“It’s okay?” he said seriously. “I know you don’t like kiss.”

“Oh my god,” Sid said, a bubble of laughter startled out of him, bright and golden. “I said that once, Jesus, you can stop chirping me about it.”

“I chirp always,” Geno said, grinning at him, and Sid was smiling too, unable to help himself, and Geno kissed him again, and again, and said, “Why you’re laughing, I’m so funny?” in a teasing voice, and Sid put his arms around his neck.

“I’m happy,” he said. “I’m just happy.”

*

He woke up slowly, drifting for a long time in the warm hazy space between dreaming and waking. The room was bright around him: someone had flung the curtains wide, early morning sunlight spilling in.

Anna was sitting on the edge of the bed beside him, looking down at him, her expression warm and fond. She was in leggings and an old Pens TV t-shirt, her hair plaited in a loose braid.

He blinked sleepily up at her. “How’d you get in?”

“I steal key from Jen,” she said.

“Jeez,” he said, and yawned. “Security’s pretty lax around here.” He reached up and touched the end of her braid, tugging lightly.

“Okay, tell,” Anna said. “I wait all night, I’m so suspense. How’s it go?”

“You’ll have to ask G,” Sid said, yawning again. He felt sleepy still, but deeply rested, something settled inside him.

“Zhenya,” she said, leaning over, and then something in Russian, sharp and a little wry. “I know he’s pretend to sleep. He’s embarrass.”

“Don’t tease him about it,” Sid said. Anna was right, he was definitely awake, but Sid was feeling strangely and tenderly protective of Geno, with his mussed hair, and his sleep-creased face: an embarrassed lump hiding under the blankets.

“I can tease,” she said. “I have to hear him talk about—three month, Sid. What if I hate, what if I ruin. He’s baby.”

She reached over and ruffled Geno’s hair, and then climbed onto the bed, over Sid, so she could burrow down into the warm hollow between their bodies. Sid shifted to let her in, spooning up against her back so he could see.

“Zhenya,” Anna said quietly, and Geno pulled the comforter down a little, just enough to show his eyes.

“Nyusha,” he said, and Sid wanted to learn their little names, the sweet things they called each other. He hoped he would get the chance.

Anna stroked Geno’s hair, brushing it off of his forehead. She slid her hand down, tenderly cupping his cheek. “I’m right?” she asked, her voice soft, and in answer Geno turned his face into the touch, pressing a kiss to her palm, and Sid felt the joy of it break over him again.

Anna turned over onto her back, nestling down into the space between them. Everything felt fragile, and new, but it was warm in the bed, and early yet. There was nowhere else they needed to be.

She turned her face to Sid, looking at him. He slid his hand over her stomach, just resting it there, feeling the warmth of her through her shirt.

“It’s okay?” she said.

“Yeah,” Sid said, and felt Geno reach out and take his hand, twining their fingers together.