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There was a ten-inch dildo in Geno's stall by the time he got to the rink for practice. At least that answered the question: does everyone know? He should have known he wouldn't get away with it. The tweet had only been on his feed for three hours in the middle of the night, but nothing ever dies on the internet.

Geno scanned the room while closing the final few steps to his stall, searching for the sniggering culprit. He would naturally suspect Flower first for any prank, but this seemed almost beneath him. The dildo stood at attention, stuck to the wooden seat of Geno's stall by a suction cup at the base—an offer to ride it. Flower's jokes were downright elegant compared to this crass display. Besides, Geno hadn't seen his car in the lot, and his pads were still leaning, untouched, against his stall. He probably hadn’t arrived yet.

A slow overview revealed a little over half of the team in their lockers getting dressed. All eyes were down, as though they hadn't noticed the fake dong among them. Amateurs. Geno would have the bad actor by the end of practice and his revenge by the first playoff game in two days.

Geno refused to act prim about it when he reached for the dildo. It took a hefty tug to pull the suction cup loose, but he got it. It came off with a loud pop just as Sid strode through the locker room doors. The noise caught Sid's attention. He blinked at the sight of Geno standing at his stall, his hand full of silicone dick. Sid's face tried to cram too many emotions in at once. His smile got stuck lopsided while the crank for his eyebrows pushed them all the way up. "What's that about?"

"Don't ask," Geno grumbled.

The jumble of Sid’s expressions settled with the guidance from Geno into easy amusement, accepting that this must be a prank. Instead of prying, Sid shrugged it off, still grinning as he journeyed to his locker. Sid was a good man and a good captain. He knew when to keep his nose out.

Nobody else had the same sense.

"Sid, are you serious?" Sheary cried, breaking the suspicious silence of the locker room. "You don't know?"

"Know what?" Sid asked. He plopped down in his stall, eyes bright with interest. He always liked to be in the loop. But faced with actually revealing Geno's dirty secret, Sheary went doe-eyed, glanced over at Geno, and wisely clammed up. Geno thought he had dodged a bullet until Tanger picked up the torch and ran with it.

"Our boy decided to share last night," Tanger said with a soft chuckle.

Geno's skin felt burned by the betrayal. He pulled a sock off his foot and lobbed it across the room. He missed Tanger, but it was enough to make Sid's whole face squinch up with joy. Sid clearly thought the secret was something silly, that they were all just joking around. Geno would give anything to keep him ignorant of the truth.

But Tanger was pulling up his phone—undoubtedly with a screenshot to show Sid. The room was light with boyish joy, sharing in the revelry of their colleague's fuck up. Geno's chest refused to expand enough to draw breath while he watched Tanger scroll, smirking like the devil.

"I can't wait to have team meetings about this," Tanger crowed. "They will bring in an expert to teach us how to use the internet."

Sid's smile was falling, the joy in his eyes sinking into confusion as he searched out Geno across the room.

"Wait," Geno said futilely because Sid would find out. Whether from laughing teammates or waspish managerial staff—he would know.

"Want to tell him, G?" Tanger asked, eyes glinting black in the fluorescent lights.

"No," Geno snapped. Reverting to Russian as a last line of defense, he stood to stalk out. "I'm going to break every one of your sticks."

Just because Sid's knowledge was inevitable didn't mean Geno had to be there to witness it. He made a lot of noise on his way out, slamming through the doors and out into the hallway.

Geno was never going to look at porn online again. Definitely not in the middle of the night while half-drunk after four hours of Call of Duty. And definitely definitely not on Twitter.

What had he been thinking?

Far enough away from the locker room to be out of earshot of any laughter, Geno slowed his steps. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his shorts and glued his eyes to the floor to avoid talking to any of the staff members milling around, preparing for practice. They all knew, too, probably. From the number of texts he woke up to, it seemed like everybody did.

Maybe Geno had gotten a little too comfortable being alone. Since his last girlfriend had left him and his fickle moods behind in search of a stabler life, Geno had become less careful about his internet usage. If she’d still been around, maybe he would have been sneaking videos in an incognito browser nowhere near his actual login. Or maybe he would have been in bed. But since he had no one around to care, no one who might come peek over his shoulder, he hadn't thought twice about jumping down a Twitter rabbit hole of explicit content.

He wasn’t sure exactly when he had accidentally liked an image of a big-chested girl sticking a massive dildo into some skinny guy's ass. His clumsy left hand must have hit it, the danger of scrolling while jerking off. He also wasn’t sure who was watching his account so closely as to notice, but somebody had. And they had not been shy about sharing it around, capturing the moment before Geno could take it back.

Geno slowed to a stop at the mouth of the tunnel and took a moment to squeeze his eyes shut. If he wished hard enough, maybe it would all go away. Maybe he would go back to the locker room and there would be no dildo shoved into the back of his stall with his gloves. He could just concentrate on joining practice, his first in a regular-contact jersey since returning from injury.

When he opened his eyes, a new world failed to dawn. But he did see his original target—Tanger's sticks leaned with all the others in a rack down by the bench. If he couldn't get justice, he could at least have revenge.

Geno compromised on his original plan because breaking all of Tanger's sticks might land him in hot water he couldn't afford with the team. Instead, he only sawed partway through the one farthest left—the one Tanger would pick up absentmindedly on his way to the ice. That way, he would lean on it while waiting for drills and fall on his ass. Then everybody would laugh at him instead of Geno for a few seconds.

At the reminder of his teammates' humor, Geno cringed. He needed to get dressed for practice, which unfortunately meant returning to the crucible of the locker room. He made a slow journey back, giving ample time for the chaos to die down before returning.

To Geno's surprise, he slunk through the doors into a silent room. Most of the guys were dressed in their gear, but their mouths were pressed shut. Nervous eyes darted up to Geno's face only briefly before sinking back to the ground. They looked almost—ashamed. Terrified of what he might find but too curious about his teammates' behavior to avoid it, Geno dared a look at Sid.

Sid's eyebrows were down, forming irritated creases on his forehead like the team was allowing too many breakaways in the playoffs. He looked more than angry—he looked furious. Unlike their other teammates, Sid's eyes came up slowly at the feeling of Geno's stare and stopped without shame. Sid watched him steadily, contemplatively. The anger in Sid's expression resolved into something conspiratorial—a little headshake of disappointment.

It hit Geno in the gut that Sid must have yelled at the team, told them off. It was rare, so rare Geno couldn't pin down the last time Sid had let his anger out on his teammates. If Sid found it distasteful enough to give someone shit for their porn preferences, he might find enough reason to get hot.

And judging by the guilty glances from everyone else, Sid had. Geno lifted his head, shoulders straightening with the weight of the mockery off his back. He tried to convey his thanks in a private grin on his way to his stall, but it wasn't enough. He would need to thank Sid in person, send him flowers and candy and kiss him on both cheeks for the gesture.

Sheary darted a fearful glance toward him when he sat. Geno smirked—captain's on my side, kid. Watch yourself. Sheary didn't just rip his eyes away from Geno. He removed himself from the room entirely, scrambling out the door. Geno could almost muster enough sympathy to feel bad for him, barely more than a baby who had undoubtedly grown up with pictures of Sid on his wall. To have his idol angry at him must be unnerving. Geno refused to feel overly terrible about the gloating part of him that enjoyed Sheary's horror.

Sid followed Sheary out, knocking a glove against Geno's shoulder as he went. "Good to have you back, bud.”

The warmth of Sid's tone thawed every icy part of Geno. He felt giddy with the reminder that he was joining the full practice just in time for the playoffs. He might even play in the first game. With that in mind, he picked up the pace of getting his pads on, eager to get to the ice.

***

Going into the playoffs always felt like a long waterslide. After climbing the season like a ladder, rung by torturous rung, they reached the pinnacle and pushed off. The start of the playoffs to the end felt like a freefall at a head-spinning, unstoppable pace. Even though Geno sat out the first game in what the doctor promised would be the last one he missed for this injury, time raced for him just as if he were on the ice.

With everything happening, Geno didn't get a chance to talk to Sid until the afternoon of the second game, when he finally returned to the lineup. He was on the verge of giving up and saying nothing. After four days, he thought he might have missed the boat on the conversation. But every time he saw the cowed expressions of his teammates, still afraid to tease him for fear of Sid's wrath, he felt a renewed sense that he needed to say something.

The easiest way to corner Sid was to find him before a game when he moved in predictable patterns. Geno knew not only where and when to intercept Sid but also when he would be able to devote his attention to speaking. He knew when Sid would be in a good enough mood to bring up something contentious. All Geno had to do was wait until Sid carried his stick down the tunnel to tape it on the bench and follow him there.

Geno hovered just inside the tunnel, waiting for Sid to notice him before he approached. It didn't take long for Sid's eyes to flick over, for the initial hawkish irritation at the intrusion to smooth into acceptance. Geno knew he was allowed to join Sid here, in his private pregame moments. It was a privilege earned through years of going to war by Sid's side. Even before a playoff game, Geno was welcome to slide into Sid's space.

"Hey," Sid greeted, eyes returning to his tape job.

Geno closed the final steps to stand near—though not too near. He was careful. He knew the rules, what parts of Sid's pregame were actually important. It was part of why he was allowed.

"Need white?" Sid asked. Geno had a new stick in his hand, a prop to use as an excuse if someone asked why he was chasing Sid down before a game. He wasn't stalking Sid for a big talk that might derail him mentally during the playoffs. Geno was only joining him for the same purpose—taping his stick.

Geno nodded at the offer. Sid left his tape dangling for a moment to reach for one of the rolls lined up on the boards. Geno took it but didn't immediately start on his stick. Instead, he stood staring at Sid's dexterous fingers as they laid the tape down on the blade, circling around and around.

"Looking for pointers?" Sid asked. His eyes came up to laugh at Geno, crinkled delightfully.

"No, I know how to tape," Geno said, flustered and rolling his eyes away from the elephant in the room. He tucked his stick between his arm and side and picked at the seam of the tape with a fingernail. Staring at his busy hands instead of Sid made him feel safe enough to speak. "I just want to say—thanks."

"For the tape?" Sid asked. "Buddy, you know I love you, but I'd hand anyone a roll. It's no biggie."

"Not tape," Geno said in enough of a huff to make Sid's self-amused grin falter. "You know. I mean, when guys are, like—" Geno chickened out of his mentally prepared speech and shrugged lamely instead. If he could judge by the way the last of the amusement visibly drained out of Sid, replaced by dark irritation, Sid got it.

"They haven't said anything since, right?" Sid said in a carefully controlled voice like a furious parent trying to calmly ascertain the damage before doling out punishment to his naughty children.

"No." They wouldn't dare. Geno still didn't know what Sid had said in the locker room before their final pre-playoff practice, but his teammates had all taken it dead seriously—even Tanger, who usually found Sid more funny than authoritative. "I think you make Sheary cry."

"Good. That was tactless."

"Uh."

"It was a shitty thing to do," Sid corrected with words Geno knew.

"Oh, yes. Shitty. It's okay, though. It's my fault. I’m a little stupid, looking at that. I like this bad tweet and—" Geno ruefully shook his head as he finally got the end of the tape loose. He stood his stick up to carefully place the first strip along the toe.

"You know it's okay, right?" Sid asked after a stretch of silence. Geno's tape was halfway up the blade of his stick by then, so it had been a good thirty seconds.

Geno looked up to gauge Sid's meaning and found Sid leaning on his finished stick, watching Geno pensively.

"The, uh—your preferences," Sid clarified. "You said it was bad. I don't want you to think that."

“No, it’s bad to like on Twitter. I know it's okay to want, like," Geno's face burned so hotly it evaporated the rest of his words before they could leave his mouth. Imagine Sidney Crosby lecturing him on what was okay to want in bed.

"Okay, good. Because, you know, lots of guys like stuff like that. It's nothing bad or—wrong."

Sid mumbled the last part, as though he was starting to feel too embarrassed to say more. If Geno was not mistaken, he was also blushing. It made Geno feel reckless enough to ask, "You?"

Sid's eyes swung to Geno's, just for a moment—a yoyo of attention. His throat clicked with the force of his swallow. "Well, uh—yes and no."

Geno wasn't aware of many people who both did and did not like to get fucked. He couldn't help it. The answer intrigued him. "Yes and no?"

"Uh." Sid coughed, sharp eyes scanning down the length of his stick for nonexistent flaws. "I like it. The, uh—act. But. Well, my partners don't need the device, you know?"

Geno thought about the implication long enough to watch Sid start to squirm under the scrutiny, and then he got it. "Oh! Oh, you're—sorry, I don't know."

Sid shrugged. He looked mortified, which felt like solidarity. "I don't exactly advertise."

"I always want to try," Geno admitted as casually as he could, tearing the tape with his fingers because he couldn't break this sensitive conversation to ask Sid for scissors.

"Try?" Sid asked.

"With, like, real dick. Hard to find someone who can be quiet."

Sid swallowed again and looked Geno over, appraising. Apparently, he liked what he found enough to say, "Not if you know where to look."

"Maybe you show me sometime, huh? Where to look."

"Yeah, maybe."

Geno turned his stick slowly, scrutinizing his tape job, and almost didn't hear Sid's quiet next words.

"Or, you know. I've got a real dick."

Geno's fingers stopped turning the stick when his thoughts cut out like a stalled engine. It froze there, angled so he could study the curve like he did before every game. His eyes refused to tear away.

Sid pressed on, sounding more casual about the offer with every word. "If you just wanted to try it without risking anything. I'm the safest bet around. Never have to worry about me going to the press."

A painful bubble of laughter swelled in Geno's lungs and got trapped in his throat. The very notion that sleeping with Sid would risk nothing felt like an absurdist joke.

"Just say the word, you know. No pressure." Sid finished his inspection of his stick and smiled up at Geno like he was carefree, as though he wasn't offering anything major.

Geno grasped around for something—anything—to say. They had been playing together for years. It's never a good idea to hook up with teammates. They needed to put the team first. Somehow all of that came out in a stammered two words. “It's playoffs."

Sid's grin took on an uncertain quality, becoming even more crooked with his incredulity. "You're one of those guys, eh? No hanky-panky in the playoffs?"

Geno nodded because his mouth wouldn't form the words to lie to Sid. His heart beat with the rhythm of his mind chanting a prayer for Sid to believe him.

"I didn't know that," Sid said, though Geno didn't think the doubt entirely faded from his affable expression. He told himself he was only being paranoid. Sid, the man with a thousand rituals, couldn't possibly cast doubt on somebody else's playoff belief. His knees melted when Sid nodded and continued, "Guess we're learning all kinds of stuff about each other. I get it, man. You do what you gotta do for the games. But—you know. After that. Anytime."

“Sure, maybe,” Geno said as he backed toward the tunnel and retreated down it.

***

The craziest part of Sid offering to fuck him was how casual he acted afterward. Where Geno spent the next week staring at Sid, waiting for him to do something else wholly insane, Sid acted like nothing had ever happened between them. He still laughed with Geno at practice and punched him in the chest before games and passed to him on power plays. He complained with Geno on the plane about how hungry the playoffs made him. He fell asleep during road-trip movie nights. He was Sid—standard, average Sid—and the normality lulled Geno into moments of peace. There were times when he could entirely forget what Sid had offered him.

And then sometimes—he couldn't.

"What?" Phil groused in the stall next to Geno, jerking him out of a good, long stare across the locker room at Sid's white ass. They had won, up 3-1 in the series, and Sid was toweling off exuberantly. His pale butt cheeks were jiggling with the force of his drying. Geno's eyes had landed there and gotten stuck for who knows how long before Phil pulled him away.

Geno jerked his eyes off Sid’s ass and put them on something more appropriate—the floor. "Nothing."

"You're staring a hole in dear leader there."

"No," Geno said forcefully. The vehemence of his protest only raised Phil's eyebrows.

"You guys aren't having problems, right?" Phil asked, side-eyeing Geno suspiciously. He had come from Toronto, where everybody fought. Like a scarred child of divorced parents, he constantly worried about drama rearing up.

"We never have problem," Geno assured him. He and Sid had never fought, at least not more than getting a little overly competitive with each other, which was par for the course of being Sid's friend. Problems between them had been rare, simple, and easy to fix—mostly when Sid inevitably caved into Geno's every whim.

Only, there weren't opposing interests in this. Geno wanted to let Sid fuck him. He just couldn't see past it, what might lie on the other side. They could end up somewhere they didn't like and never be able to return to their easy camaraderie.

The impulsive part of Geno writhed against his mental restraints when Sid turned, drawing Geno's attention back by laughing brightly with Flower across the room. Sid was vigorously scrubbing his hair with the towel, now, his soft dick hanging there for the world to see. For Geno to see.

"You're being fucking weird, man," Phil said. "Do you have a concussion?"

"Don't say," Geno hissed, his attention swerving to address the incredible bad luck of bringing up the C-word in their locker room. Phil grumbled at him, eyes rolling, about not knowing all the rules of their superstitious fucking team yet, and bent to tie his shoes.

The Penguins ousted the Rangers the next game to take the series in five.

Geno sat in the locker room longer than he usually would, basking in the win with a beer in his hand. They typically wouldn't celebrate much after the first round—not when they'd barely accomplished anything yet. But the reversal of their fortune, beating the Rangers who had eliminated them the year prior, felt like a burden lifted. Freed from the embarrassment of an early playoff exit, the Penguins found cause to let loose a little.

Sid plopped down next to Geno and patted him on the thigh. "Good game, G. You played great."

Sid said it with a big grin, so close Geno could smell the Bud Lite on his breath. His hand remained on Geno's thigh for a beat before retreating to settle on his own leg. Sid hadn't brushed his hair after a quick post-game shower, letting it air dry while wandering around the locker room. Instead of messy, Sid had the nerve to look tousled and sexy and so good. Geno barely found words to reciprocate and tell Sid he had also played a good series.

Sid's eyes lingered on Geno's face while he took a swig from his bottle, clearly contemplating his next words.

"Doing anything after this?"

Geno shrugged and said nothing. He had no plans, but it felt lame and weirdly final to say that out loud. Judging by Sid's look away, it was a disappointing answer.

"I was thinking about going out," Sid volunteered.

"Sure, maybe whole team—"

"No, just me."

Realization crawled up Geno's back on hundreds of needle-thin legs. Sid was going out to one of those places he knew, a place where he could get with a guy without worrying about his secret getting out.

Sid was looking at Geno, calm and steady with something else mixed in, something hard and challenging. "I'd invite you, but like you said—playoffs."

Until that moment, Geno thought he had gotten away with convincing Sid that he didn't have sex during the playoffs, that it was the only reason for his stumbling rejection of Sid's offer. He saw in the cruel glint of Sid's eyes, the victorious gulp of beer—Sid had never bought it. He had known all along that Geno was full of shit about abstaining for the postseason, and now he was subtly chirping him for it.

Part of Geno wanted to rise to Sid's dare, to go with him to some unmarked club full of sweaty men. He could make out with someone beautiful right in front of Sid—that would show him.

Geno imagined for a second Sid grinding against a guy with cut abs and bulging biceps. His head jerked as though he could physically pull away from the image. "Why you invite me? You need wingman?"

"You know, I didn't think so. But I'm not used to guys running away when I offer."

"I don't run away," Geno scoffed. Sid took a sip of beer and cocked an eyebrow at him in doubt. "You surprise me, that's all."

Sid lowered his beer and contemplated Geno for a long time, then he looked away. "I guess it wouldn't be a surprise if I offered again."

It would be a surprise if Sid offered a hundred times. Every time, a frisson of cold shock would run through Geno's body, sparking his instinct to run away before they ruined everything.

Sid resumed staring at Geno without hope. He expected Geno to retreat again. The closed-off, preemptive disappointment in Sid's eyes glued Geno to his seat against his urge to flee and gave him the false bravado to kick his feet out. He crossed his ankles in a show of getting comfortable, of not running, and watched Sid cock his head with interest.

"You don't want strange guy tonight, huh?" Geno ribbed. Thank god Sid couldn't hear his heart racing, trying to escape solo when his body wouldn't move. "Want ask me instead? Make sense. I'm best."

Sid didn't laugh at Geno's smug boasting. He looked surprised, maybe even overwhelmed. It made Geno glad to see he wasn't the only shakable one between them. "Is that a yes?" Sid asked.

To Geno's astonishment, giddy from the win and deeply unwilling to disappoint Sid, he found himself rising to the challenge. "You don't ask yet. How can I say yes?"

Sid's eyes scanned him for authenticity, searching for the nonexistent gotcha in Geno's demeanor. "You, uh. Want to get out of here? Come to my place?"

Geno shrugged like it didn't matter and cleared his throat so he could say, "Sure."

***

The drive to Sid's house gave Geno ample time alone to second-guess himself. Was he seriously going to jump in Sid's bed and spread his legs for him? How would that even work? Would Sid fuck him with the same mechanical precision with which he played hockey? Or would he make love to him? By the time he pulled into Sid's driveway, Geno honestly couldn't decide which would be worse.

After talking himself out of the car and up the front walk, Geno squared up to the door. He had agreed to this; now it was time to make good. Sid wouldn't hurt him—not physically. They would have sex one time, whatever that would look like, and then go back to whatever semblance of normal they could scrape together afterward.

Sid answered the door seconds after Geno's knock with his hair sticking up like he'd been running his fingers through it. He looked surprised to see Geno, eyes wide.

"What?" Geno asked when Sid didn't move.

"I just—can't believe you're here."

"You think I run away? Your dick not that big. Come on."

Geno pushed past Sid into his house. He was afraid if he didn't move forward, he would do precisely what he had scoffed at—run away and then spend the aftermath pretending not to speak English like he had to get out of interviews in the early years of his NHL career.

"You want in bedroom?" Geno asked, more to fill the silence than out of any genuine concern that Sid might have a designated sex room in his house.

"What's the rush?" Sid asked, joining Geno in the foyer. "Come on. Let's settle in a bit. I'll open a bottle of wine."

Sid said it like a bribe, which sadly worked. Geno liked the idea of more alcohol to kill his nerves before he had to see—and subsequently forget—Sid's orgasm face. He gladly altered his course to follow Sid to the kitchen instead of racing to the bedroom, which he only knew as the room across the hall from the upstairs bathroom. He had never been in it—never had a reason to.

Sid poured each of them a generous glass of wine and levered himself up to sit on the kitchen countertop. It was exactly the sort of barbaric behavior Geno would associate with Sid, rubbing his ass on the expensive granite. He was the world's most charming caveman.

"I'm so happy to be done with the Rangers," Sid said with a cheeky grin like it was some kind of crazy opinion. "Last year was—rough."

"Sure, get out first round."

Sid grimaced at the lash of Geno's words. "It sucked. Let's never let that happen again."

Relaxing into familiar talk of hockey, Geno went to lean back on the counter next to Sid and offered his glass for cheers. "Good idea. We only win."

"Yeah," Sid said with a distant quality to his voice. He touched their glasses together distractedly and drank to future wins before he abruptly changed subjects. "You know—we don't have to do this. You and me. I guess it's kind of a crazy idea, us screwing around."

"Sure, kind of crazy," Geno agreed. He thought he should feel relieved to be offered an exit. Instead, he felt disappointed. "You want go out instead?" He tried to ask it casually, but he couldn't escape a hot flash of jealousy thinking about Sid going to find a different partner for the night. Fortunately, Sid shook his head.

"What if we just throw on a movie and drink this whole bottle?"

It was tempting. Geno felt like a trapped animal staring at an open door. His heart wanted to leap for the escape, but something stopped him. Sid's eyes were downcast, transfixed on his hands swirling the wine around inside the glass. He thought Geno would reject him, take the offer of a friendly movie instead. He hadn't expected Geno to come in the first place.

Geno tapped Sid's knee with his knuckles to drag him out of his braced posture. "Why you want this?"

Thankfully, Sid didn't make any kind of effort to joke around and dodge the question. His sheepish smile took on a vulnerable edge when he spoke. "I mean, you're not really asking why I would want to sleep with you."

Geno shrugged and hoped it got the message across. He wasn't oblivious to why someone would want to take him to bed. He'd never gone home alone from a club unless he wanted to. But those strangers had nothing to lose by screwing him. They risked nothing. Sid, however...

"Sure, you think I'm hot. That's normal." Geno felt puffed up by Sid's snort. Tense as things were, he could still make Sid laugh. "But there's lots hot guys. Why me?"

Sid's shoulders were hunching in defensively. "I guess I just wanted to help out, man. You wanted to try it. I can do the buddies thing pretty easy and stay friends, so—"

"Me too," Geno interjected.

Sid's mouth twitched. He almost smiled but caught it before it fully formed. He didn't believe Geno.

"This why you want movie instead? You think I'm not okay to do it?"

Sid opened his mouth to speak, thought for a few beats, and then said, "There's nothing wrong with having a big heart, G. It's okay."

So, yes.

"Bullshit," Geno said, levering himself away from the counter while balancing his glass of wine. "I can do this if you can. Come on."

Geno didn't wait to see if Sid followed him when he left. He marched through the house, up the stairs, and down the hall to where he knew Sid's bedroom lurked. The door was open, but he stopped at the threshold. Barging in seemed like a step too far.

"Wimping out?" Sid's voice teased from the top of the stairs. Geno gulped back the remainder of his wine and charged into the bedroom.

The bedroom was decorated in soft greys and navy blues—very typically Sid-themed. Geno wasn't surprised to find an artsy painting of a big sailboat on the wall across from the king-sized bed. It was the only room in the house that didn't seem to harbor any hockey paraphernalia, only sparse, nautically-themed decoration.

Geno nearly yanked his hand back when Sid caught it to get his attention, jittery instinct telling him to rip away from the grip. He consciously made himself move toward the pull instead, allowing Sid to bring him close. Sid wrapped his other hand lightly around the back of Geno's neck to guide him in.

Geno hadn't known until that moment what the plan was, if they would be kissing. He wouldn't have guessed that Sid believed in foreplay. This slow approach went against any expectations Geno had formed.

Sid's mouth was soft—not only the texture of his smooth lips but the approach. He kissed Geno like he was coaxing him down off some high ledge. And maybe he was. As Geno sank into the hypnotic movement of their mouths, he felt muscles he hadn't known were tense begin to relax. Only once he had become pliant did Sid release his grip on Geno's hand and settle his palm on his waist instead.

"You good?" Sid asked against Geno's mouth like they had done anything yet that would require a check-in. Geno was pretty sure he had done more intimate things with Nealer and the Stanley Cup.

"It's fine, don't worry," Geno huffed before shutting Sid up by kissing him again. He could feel the tightness of Sid's smile in the first touch. Maybe Geno's forcefulness amused him, or maybe Sid was just happy that they were continuing. Either way, he started rucking Geno's shirt up where he was touching his waist, progressing things, so Geno couldn't complain. He retaliated with his hands on Sid's belt.

"Eye on the prize, eh?" Sid teased, but he made no effort to stop Geno from unbuckling the belt. After all, it was what they were there for. He ran his hands under Geno's shirt, stroking the skin underneath while Geno worked his zipper open. Sid seemed happy to go along for the ride, but he did huff a surprised exhale when Geno found the waistband of his boxers and dipped his hand inside.

The first touch of a dick other than Geno's own nearly made him recoil with a wave of guilty pleasure. He felt like a naughty child stealing candy from a shop, weighing the wrongness of the act before deciding it was worth it. It was why Geno had felt in such a hurry to get the first touch over with. If he’d given himself enough time to think, the balance of the scales might have tipped. As it was, with his fingers curled awkwardly around Sid's dick in the confines of his trousers, he felt strangely free. He had done it. The candy was stolen and all he had left to do was eat it.

Geno cautiously pumped his hand as best he could and watched Sid's lips part around his breath. He was doing that, making Sid’s eyes flutter closed. He was causing Sid to lick his lower lip and flex his hips forward. Geno couldn’t stop watching Sid’s face react to his touch.

"Let me get this," Sid said, tugging on the hem of Geno's shirt. Geno didn’t want to stop, but the prospect of more excited him into complying. He extracted his hand and lifted his arms to help with removing his shirt. Sid had barely dropped it to the ground before he started on Geno's pants. Apparently, Geno touching his dick had awakened his urgency.

Sid started nudging Geno toward the bed while he pulled at their clothes. By the time they reached it, they were both nude. There was a strange sort of comfort in being naked together, unlike the usual uncertainty involved with stripping in front of someone for the first time. They knew each other's bodies already, at least by sight. But there was newness, too. Geno hardly knew where to put his hands first. He resolved to cup the bulky curve of Sid’s shoulders, then started a journey downward to his chest. He flattened his palm over the swell of Sid’s pec, firm with muscle and nothing like the supple curve of a breast. Sid didn’t have much softness anywhere. He felt like a bundle of muscle, impossibly strong like he could pin Geno down and have his way with him.

The thrilling, terrifying thought blew away when Geno brushed Sid’s ribs and felt him jerk. Sid’s mouth tightened against his, a breath of laughter. Ticklish. It was a good reminder that this wasn’t just any big, strong guy. It was Sid. Whether he could dominate Geno, he wouldn’t. And if he tried, Geno would just tickle him until he couldn’t breathe.

The backs of Geno’s thighs hit the edge of the bed, the end of their journey. Geno broke away to glance over a shoulder, determining the least gangly way of clambering onto the mattress. Before he could make a move, Sid’s hands settled on his hips. One pushed, one pulled, guiding Geno to turn around. Geno complied with the nudging and faced the bed, but before he could get a knee up, the sudden hard grip of Sid’s hands on his hips stopped him. He peered over his shoulder, confused at the stoppage, and found Sid staring down at his ass.

"Eye on prize?" Geno mocked, using Sid's words from earlier.

Sid's eyes ran the journey up Geno's back to his face. He shrugged, looking sheepish but determined. "It's a nice butt."

"I know."

"What did your girlfriend do with this?" Sid asked. Geno could feel Sid’s hot eyes returning to his ass along with his hands, which moved to cup both cheeks. His thumbs stroked along Geno's skin almost tenderly.

"Which one?" Geno asked smugly. He had only ever done pegging with one girl, but he suspected Sid would get riled up thinking about Geno spreading his legs for every skinny blond in his life.

Sid's fingers tightened on his ass, confirming the theory. "Well, Mr. Experience. What did you like best?"

“I like to get fucked.”

When Geno pushed his hips impatiently back, he felt Sid's dick brush against him. To his delight, Sid nudged forward. He spread Geno's cheeks with his thumbs and laid the length of his dick between them. Sid flexed, fucking his ass without being inside. Geno’s dick pulsed so hard he could feel the ache of it in his stomach. His girlfriend had never done this with her toy, but he knew it wouldn’t have had the same effect. He wouldn’t feel lightheaded with how badly he wanted her to stick it in him.

"I can just do it like this if your legs are okay," Sid said. He was sounding a little breathy and, judging by the rigidity of his dick, he was ready to go.

But they had another series in less than a week, and Geno's legs were already feeling a little weary with Sid's weight leaned against him. "Maybe on bed?"

Sid didn't answer verbally but smacked him on the ass in agreement and stepped back. Geno took the freedom to crawl onto the bed and flop down face-first onto a pillow. He watched Sid rummage in a drawer and come up with a bottle of lube.

"Don't fall asleep," Sid teased, knee-walking to him on the bed. Geno didn't think there was any risk of that, not when Sid cupped a hand around one of his ass cheeks again and popped the lube cap with the other.

Sid nudged Geno's thighs apart with his knees and settled between them. Cold liquid dripped down onto Geno's ass hole, and he jumped.

"Use fingers!" Geno demanded. What kind of barbarian didn't warm the lube up first?

"I will—don't worry," Sid said with a smirk in his voice. Before Geno could get annoyed with him for blatantly missing the point, he touched his fingertip against Geno's wet hole, rubbing in circles while he warmed the lube up. When it matched the temperature of his skin, Sid smoothly slipped his finger inside. "There you go. That's not so bad, eh? Warm enough?"

"Shut up," Geno groaned, and Sid chuckled.

Geno's annoyance with Sid's poor lube etiquette didn't last. In no time, he was rocking his dick against the mattress with the motion of Sid's fingers and clutching at the pillow and generally getting lost in the waves of sensation. His girlfriend had fingered him, but not with Sid's bulky, masculine hand. She certainly hadn’t mumbled praising words, but even if she had it wouldn’t have had the same effect. It was the same stream of consciousness Sid’s mouth usually ran on the bench, but instead of a smart shot or a drawn penalty, he was complimenting Geno’s tight hole, his hot body. Geno felt like he could melt away from the heat in the words, the pleasure of Sid’s fingers.

Things only got more intense when Sid eased his fingers away and replaced them with the blunt head of his cock. With a roll of Sid's hips, he nudged his way in.

When he was fully inside, Sid laid down on top of Geno like a pornographic blanket, hips barely moving. His breath was ragged in Geno's ear. His body was firm and heavy—not that he wanted to, but Geno could never pretend it was a girl on top of him.

"Whoo boy," Sid said, breathy, against Geno's neck.

Geno couldn't do much other than jerk a nod in agreement—it was a lot for him, too. He felt tingly with pleasure and full to the brim and weirdly like he might cry for no reason. The little jolts of Sid's movement inside him were like drops of water into the bowl of Geno's pleasure, slowly filling him up.

This part hadn't felt nearly as intense with his girlfriend, either. Geno sincerely hoped it was because her dick was fake and not because he didn't love her. That came with too many implications.

Sid propped himself up on his arms to give himself better leverage, and the drips of pleasure filling Geno up became a stream. He followed Sid's every nudge and adjustment, spreading his thighs apart and pushing his ass up to meet each thrust. The pillow muffled the noises he couldn't seem to help, while the sheets did little more than tease his dick with light friction.

Just when he needed it most, Sid stopped long enough to grip Geno's hips and pull him up onto his knees. Then he reached around and wrapped a big hand around Geno's dick. Geno was glad he hadn't come yet. He didn't know this was a service Sid would offer.

"You want to get off now?" Sid asked, panting. Geno flexed his hips forward in answer, pushing his dick through the circle of Sid's hand.

"Yeah, jerk off."

Geno could feel a drip of Sid's sweat fall on his back when Sid nodded. He removed his hand to wipe it over Geno's ass cheek, slicking up with the excess of lube there, and then renewed his grip to jerk Geno off with purpose. Sid didn't want to tease or draw things out. Geno felt a momentary panic, thinking he would like to slow things down, but he ultimately didn't have the willpower to make Sid stop, not when Sid's hand felt so good.

Geno came with Sid buried so deep inside he could feel the tickle of Sid's balls against his skin. He vaguely noticed Sid cupping his hand to catch the majority of Geno's release—evidence supporting Sid's claims as an expert at hookups. Geno didn't want to think about that, but he was very interested in the next part when Sid pulled out and wrapped his come-covered fingers around his own dick to jerk off onto Geno's back. The hot splatter of his release sprayed up Geno's spine.

In the stillness that followed, Sid patted his ass. "Sorry, I'll get a towel."

Geno didn't know what Sid might have to be sorry for. Everything they'd done had been hot, as his boneless body could attest. He carefully laid down on his stomach, trying not to ruin Sid's efforts to keep the bed clean while they fucked, and listened to the sink turn on in the bathroom. The water formed a hypnotic white noise, drowning out any half-formed thoughts while he closed his eyes.

Geno jumped awake when Sid touched his back with a warm, wet cloth. Sid cupped a hand around his shoulder, a reassuring squeeze. Geno relaxed while Sid wiped away the mess.

"So? How did I stack up?" Sid asked. His tone was the kind of casual that he draped over his competitiveness, his need to be the best at everything. He acted like he could handle it if he sucked at something, but he couldn't. Fortunately, Geno didn't have to lie.

"So good. I come so hard I can't move."

Sid snorted a laugh and tossed the towel. "Better than a strap-on?"

With the intimidating power of Sid's body behind it—yeah, Sid was so much better than a strap-on. But Geno couldn't inflate his ego like that. He might not play well the rest of the playoffs.

"You want I tell you best dick ever?" Geno asked, peeking to gauge Sid's reaction as he moved to lie down beside him. Sid was watching him, bright-eyed. Hopeful. Geno's ability to mock him evaporated. "Yes, okay. It's best," he admitted, and Sid smiled.

Geno closed his eyes on Sid's self-satisfied joy. Thankfully, Sid didn't seem in any kind of hurry to make Geno move. He was shuffling around and getting under the covers himself. Geno took it as tacit permission to stay and allowed himself to drift off into sleep.

***

Geno woke up alone in Sid's bed with the sunlight streaming in through the windows. It was late in the morning—long past when Geno had planned to extract himself from Sid’s house. He took a shower in Sid's master bath and shamefully crawled into his clothes from the night before. Then he steeled himself and went downstairs.

He found Sid in the kitchen whistling along with the radio on the windowsill like an old man while he poured a cup of coffee. Geno watched him with an upsetting amount of fondness.

In retrospect, Geno supposed this was what he had feared when Sid offered to fuck him. He had worried not that he wouldn't like Sid afterward but that he would like Sid far too much. Spying on him piddling around his kitchen in the soft light, the fear was realized. Geno felt like he could watch Sid curse and pick a piece of eggshell out of a mixing bowl every day forever—except that wasn't the arrangement. Their agreed-upon intimacy had ended last night.

Sid caught sight of him. His blinding smile banished Geno's dark thoughts. "Morning. You hungry?"

"Sure, I'm hungry," Geno said even though he should be leaving. He didn't want to allow his morose thoughts to dwell on what he couldn't have, but he equally didn't want Sid to see him retreating. He had said he could handle this hookup—now it was time to make good. Geno marched across the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee like he belonged there.

"Sore?" Sid asked with a side-eyed smirk.

Geno snorted and didn't dignify him with an answer. He wasn't sore. Sid had been gentle—almost too gentle. Geno briefly wondered if teasing him about it might result in another round, but he immediately decided that was a terrible idea. Sleeping with Sid again would do nothing to coax his feelings out of the deep end.

They ate together in the soft music from the radio. At the first set of commercials, Geno teased Sid about literally listening to a live broadcast.

"You can buy Bluetooth speaker—it's okay. You rich."

Sid took it in stride, grinning and shaking his head. He probably had some reason why he preferred the radio. It supported local broadcasters. He liked the hosts. Maybe just because he was kind of a hipster. But whatever the real reason, Sid seemed happy enough to let Geno imply that he was simply too mentally aged and uncool to know about streaming music.

The teasing put Geno back on even footing. He could remember where he stood with Sid, regain traction on their friendship. He was relieved to see that the path forward would be a fairly easy one, with only his own dumb thoughts to battle. And even those would subside in time.

Sid walked him to the door when it was time to leave and leaned there, looking up at Geno pensively. He took a halting half-step and seemed for a crazy moment like he might be coming in for a kiss. But he stopped. Whatever he had been thinking of doing, he decided against it. Instead, he waved lamely and said, "See you tomorrow."

"See you," Geno replied and slunk away to get into his car. At least they didn't have practice. He could retreat to his house and avoid everyone for the rest of the day. Nobody would ask him why he looked so glum or what he was thinking about. He could just relax.

Which sounded good in theory, except that his biggest distraction lived between his ears. His mind raced on the drive, wondering about Sid's weird moment at the door. Was that a sign? Had Sid wanted him to stay? Was the hookup only a pretense for more?

He shook his head. Sid was straightforward to a fault. If he had wanted more than a one-night thing, he would have used his words and said so. Geno was doing the most dangerous thing of all—spinning hope into speculation.

At home, Geno beelined for his computer to banish his thoughts. With headphones on and Call of Duty fired up, he barely thought about the feel of Sid gripping his hips or kissing him or his big eyes at the door.

That night, Geno watched the Capitals beat the Flyers, clinching their spot against the Penguins in the division final. He tossed the remote with a curse. Not that he had wanted to face the Flyers, but the Caps had been so good all season. If Ovi went on a hot streak or Holtby became a brick wall, there would be no beating them.

Geno picked up his phone, instinctively moving to text Sid, then hesitated. It had only been a day since they slept together, twelve hours since they parted company. Would Sid think he was being needy?

While Geno debated, his phone buzzed. Sid's contact popped up above a text—Looks like it's the Caps.

Geno grinned and shook his head at his own worries. They would have texted each other about the Capitals any other day, so why wouldn't they now?

Instead of showing any fear, Geno sent a string of excited emojis and said—can't wait 2 win.

Sid sent back a smiling emoji of his own. So yeah, they were fine. Everything was fine.

***

Once they started the series with the Caps, Geno was shocked at how easy it was to fall into old routines. Not that he could totally forget that he had slept with Sid, but it became background noise, one of many things less important than eating and napping and practicing, all culminating in each grueling game.

The feeling in the room helped keep Geno's mind on track. Any time he started to drift into daydreams, eyes fixed on Sid's naked body, the buzzing of the boys brought him back. They didn't want to lose this series. They weren’t going to lose this series. Geno had to bring his best game without any distractions because he would be damned if he served as the weak link who made them fail.

They beat the Capitals in six games. Geno couldn't believe it didn't at least take the whole series to put them away, but the Penguins played their hearts out. He felt a strange pride for the young players who had put their bodies on the line standing fearlessly in front of Ovi’s shots and throwing the Caps' physical game right back at them. They were bruised but not broken, and they were far from done with the playoffs.

Beating the Caps on home ice definitely warranted another locker room celebration, this one rowdier than the last. One of the kids fired up the locker room speakers with a mix of raucous music. Some guys were dancing, some talking over the noise—everyone was drinking.

When Sid plopped down beside Geno and patted him on the thigh, he got the weirdest sense of déjà vu. "Good game, G," Sid said, grinning. Geno could smell the light beer on his breath even more this time because of how close he had to lean to be heard over the music.

"You too," Geno called from three inches away. "Really good series."

"It's always good to beat those guys." Sid smiled up to the rim of his bottle and took a long drink. "So. I was thinking about going out."

Geno whipped his head around to gape at Sid. This was more than déjà vu—Sid was repeating their conversation from after the Rangers. Or—was he asking Geno for permission? Was he checking to make sure he was okay to go out without Geno responding jealously now that they'd slept together?

Sid's eyebrows jumped a little, a prompt that resolved the confusion. He wasn't asking if Geno minded him going out. He was turning their hookup into some kind of bizarre good luck charm. Which—on the one hand, yes, they had beaten the Capitals. On the other, Geno didn't love the idea of being used like a boring sandwich in a superstitious routine to win games.

But the nagging little voice of paranoia popped up inside Geno. What if Sid was right? What if they had influenced the tide of their games against the Capitals? They had benefited from some incredibly lucky bounces and held the momentum for much of the series. If Sid was right, if they had created some special magic by sleeping together, they should do everything in their power to hang onto it.

Sid was staring at him, eyes starting to show signs of worry that his come-on might not be welcome. Geno took a swig of his own beer, forced his body to relax, and then leered at Sid. It wasn’t exactly a hardship to play his part. "You can go out if you want, but you won't find best guy."

The worry in Sid's eyes resolved into relief. He knew the game was on. "Oh yeah? Where should I find the best guy?"

Geno snorted. "You have to ask? Maybe I show you again."

Hesitation worked its way onto Sid's face, but it looked unwelcome. Maybe he was reluctantly seeing the possible drawbacks of sleeping together for a second time. "You sure you're up for that? Might not be as long between games this time."

"I tell you before, I can skate just fine. You're, like, so easy. I'm not even sore. Besides, now we have to, right?"

Strangely, Geno’s words seemed to intensify the guilt in Sid’s face. “We don’t have to. If you don’t want to—”

“I do,” Geno said. He didn’t even have to think about it. Wise or not for his long term well being, he wanted to sleep with Sid again.

And given Sid's smile, he heard the truth in the words. The guilt was fading. "If you’re sure.”

“I already say I am.”

“Meet at my place?"

Geno nodded, and an hour later, he was spread-legged in the middle of Sid's bed with Sid's tongue in his mouth and dick in his ass. The new position left Geno's hands free to play with himself, and every roll of Sid's hips filled him up deliciously.

When Sid came, he went perfectly still. Geno could feel the pulse of his dick from inside his body. The impossibly dirty sensation only ramped him up and tipped him over the edge. He wanted more—everything. He wanted the playoffs to go on forever.

That wish only grew stronger when Sid wrapped an arm around him on the verge of sleep. With Sid's palm over his heart, the ache of want became sharply painful. But he couldn't bring himself to shake the embrace off. Instead, he lay in the darkness and listened to Sid's breath grow long and even, struggling against his own exhaustion to stay in the moment for just a while longer.

***

During the regular season, it was hard to say which of Sid's hockey-related superstitions he actually believed and which were simply because Sid was a creature of habit. But deep into the playoffs, all of them became important. If Sid tripped over a wire in the locker room before a win, you bet he would be tripping over that wire before the next game, even if they weren't in the same locker room. Tiny things became huge things as Sid wound tighter with the passage of games.

Whether Sid had started out genuinely believing that their sleeping together actually changed the outcome of the games was hard to say. But standing on the bench watching the clock count down to their victory in game 7 to win the conference over Tampa, Geno knew there was absolutely no question that they would do it again. A change at this stage, going into the Stanley Cup final, would amount to blasphemy.

So Geno was prepared long before Sid sat next to him, patted his thigh, told him he played well, and suggested going out. He had spent the entire Prince of Wales ceremony debating what he wanted to try next. Nothing too energetic, obviously. Neither of them had the legs to spare for anything strenuous, and they would have to face the Sharks next.

Fortunately, Sid seemed to be on the same page. When Geno arrived at his house, Sid offered him a bottle of water with a sheepish grin. "Not sure I have a lot of gas left, bud."

Geno nodded. "I know. It's okay. Lightning is tough."

"Yeah," Sid agreed before grinning. "But we beat them."

Caught up in Sid's infectious joy and the high of winning, Geno stepped forward to slot their mouths together. They had never kissed outside of Sid's bedroom. He half expected Sid to stop him, to put a hand against his chest with a confused squint. Instead, Sid angled his body and tipped his chin up, curling a hand around the back of Geno's neck to keep the kiss going.

They made a slow journey to the bedroom, too sore and exhausted to be in any kind of rush. They undressed around the growing number of bruises and groaned their way into bed. When Sid had gathered the lube, Geno grasped his wrist and pulled him close to curl around his body, so Sid was spooning him.

"You want it like this?" Sid asked, dropping a kiss on Geno's shoulder. Geno nodded and sighed when Sid popped the cap. He braced for the shock of cold, but it never came. There was a break, and then Sid rubbed two warm, wet fingers between his cheeks. He smirked when Geno looked back. "What? I can learn."

"It's good," Geno said when Sid pushed a finger inside.

Sid fingered him for what felt like a long time. Geno fell into the sensation like a trance, rocking mindlessly back against Sid's hand. When he closed his eyes, he felt weightless and floaty, a dream-like state. He only jolted back into full wakefulness when Sid shifted behind him, lined his cock up, and pushed inside.

Very quickly, Geno realized he could come from the angle of Sid's cock inside him alone. The pressure hit just right, and the slow, relentless rock of Sid's hips set his nerves alight. He wrapped a hand around his dick but didn't jerk himself off. He wanted to see if he could get there.

Sid reached to cup a hand around his balls. "You gonna come for me?"

Geno nodded frantically. He wanted to rub himself off, but he could feel himself just on the edge. "Please," he hissed because other English words seemed far away.

"Yeah, come on my dick. You're almost there. I can feel it," Sid panted, fingers lightly flexing against Geno's balls where they drew tight in preparation. Sid snapped his hips forward, putting his back into it until Geno felt the rush of orgasm.

"Fuck me, Sid. I fucking love—"

Geno clamped his mouth shut on the foolish, orgasmic things his brain wanted to pour out into Sid's ears and focused on milking the last tremors of pleasure out of his dick. Thankfully, Sid didn't even seem to notice. He moved his hand from Geno's balls to his thigh, grasping for leverage to fuck in as deep as he could before he stilled inside him with a groan.

They didn't clean up this time. Apparently, three rounds into the playoffs, Sid no longer cared about dirty sheets. He kept a hand clamped around Geno's chest and dozed off with his soft, sticky dick nestled against Geno's ass.

***

Going into game six in San Jose, Geno had totally converted to the idea that their post-series hookups had brought them some kind of luck. The results were obvious. They were a win away from hoisting the Cup, something that had eluded them for so many years, and it was the only thing they’d changed.

Well. It was either the hookups with Sid or Phil, who had taken to proclaiming himself the Penguins' lucky rabbit foot.

"Ugly rabbit," Geno replied while they got dressed before the game.

"How many beautiful severed feet have you seen, G?" Phil retorted. "I don't have to be pretty. I have to be lucky, and I am."

Geno hoped Phil could see the pure doubt in his face since he couldn’t exactly explain that he knew the real source of their good fortune. "Only luck is you score goals so we not kick you off bus for snore."

"You'll eat those words when we win because of me. You'll all be calling me your good luck charm tonight."

Geno glanced up for assistance from Sid and found him looking back. Sid smiled conspiratorially and winked. With a game in hand if they lost this one, there was no doubt anymore. They knew where the luck came from.

Of course, when the clock ticked down and they won—they actually fucking won—Geno planted a wet smooch on Phil's forehead and called him the luckiest ugly foot in Russian, just in case. He would hate to be wrong and invoke some cosmic punishment on his team.

"I have no idea what you're saying, man," Phil said. He was laughing and clutching at Geno's jersey to keep from toppling over in the mass chaos of their teammates buzzing around them on the ice.

"I say you lucky. Lucky Phil," Geno said in English and made Phil throw back his head with the force of his laugh.

A tug on his jersey caught Geno's attention. He turned and found Sid grinning at him. They'd hugged three times already since winning, but a fourth couldn't hurt anything.

"We did it," Sid said against his ear. Geno didn't say anything, just clung to Sid and swallowed hard when he started to feel choked up. They did it. It was over. Geno felt a sudden, irrational stab of loss, which was ridiculous. He hadn't lost anything—they'd won the Stanley Cup. He was about to skate it around to the reluctant applause of the San Jose crowd. As a team, they were totally, monumentally successful.

But he still had to rip himself away from Sid and retreat before the burning in his eyes grew into anything more embarrassing.

They bathed in champagne and light beer in the locker room, sticky and wet and singing at the top of their lungs. When he held the Cup the first time, Geno had felt viciously satisfied, vindicated that his choice to join the NHL had been the right one. Now, seven years later, he could truly revel in the joy of winning. The fire of needing to prove himself had been doused with age, growing comfortable in his own body and with his choices. He no longer felt that he needed to win for anyone but himself.

They were on the plane back to Pittsburgh when Sid dropped into the seat next to Geno and jolted him awake. "Hey," Sid said with a big grin.

"Hi. Where's Cup?" Last Geno had seen it, Sid had been wrapped around it like a python.

"It fell out," Sid joked. His cheeks were so pink from alcohol and smiling.

Geno leaned over Sid to peek at the seat he would generally occupy. The Cup gleamed from there, buckled in beside Flower.

"Hey, so I was thinking. When we land, I might go out."

Geno sat back in his chair to stare at Sid. They understood each other well enough after going through this a few times that Geno no longer had to work to interpret the meaning. Sid wanted Geno to come over when they landed at four in the morning. He wanted to hook up again, even though there was no next series to win.

"But we win," Geno said, gesturing up to the Stanley Cup.

For a moment, Sid seemed entirely taken aback. His eyes grew wide, and his lips parted. He looked on the verge of retreating, maybe worried he had overstepped his bounds. Geno's heart skipped into a quicker beat, hope coiling up from the depths to drag him down into his feelings.

"You want do just—because? For fun?"

"No," Sid scoffed, eyes cutting away like they did when he attempted to lie. He was never very good at deception. "But—what if we get out in the first round next year? We can't come back in time and do it, you know?"

"Sure," Geno said, suspicion still high that Sid wasn't telling him everything. With the playoffs over, Sid's reliance on routines would plummet into nearly nothing. He would become flexible, fun, summer Sid, not this uptight guy who needed to perform a sex act before bed because they might not win in a year if they didn't.

"Look, I know you're beat," Sid said, backing down with a hard-to-read misery on his face. "You don't have to."

"No," Geno said. Whatever Sid's reason for wanting him to come over, he had swum this far out into deep water. If it was the last time Sid ever offered, he wasn't going to pass it up. "I want. We take one cab."

Sid grinned, clearly relieved, and clapped him on the thigh. "Great. I'll bring the Cup."

The Cup sat between them in the back seat of the cab like a newborn. Sid kept his arm around it while he chatted with the cabbie. Geno barely paid attention, on the verge of being so tired he couldn't keep his eyes open.

Geno jumped when Sid's hand landed on his where it rested on the seat. He peeked around the Cup and found Sid smiling back. He squeezed Geno's hand once before he pulled away. He was always an affectionate drunk, but Geno's heart wanted so badly to put the pieces together and land somewhere special.

The sky was beginning to lighten when they finally reached Sid's house and dragged themselves and the Cup inside. Sid set it down on the kitchen counter and smiled at it for a second before he turned to Geno and reached out his hand. Geno followed his pull into a kiss and then through the house to the bedroom.

They stripped without fanfare, mechanically shucking off their clothes. Entirely nude, Geno threw himself onto the bed and sank into the softness with a happy moan.

"Starting without me?" Sid teased, joining him under the covers with ginger movements, working around all his sore spots.

They lay on their sides facing each other, kissing lazily in the growing light. The kisses were soft and unfocused to begin with but grew decidedly more so until Sid was basically not moving his mouth at all. Geno drew back and found Sid's eyes closed. He snorted a laugh and nearly woke him but thought better of it. Surely the fates wouldn't begrudge them a few hours of sleep before they fulfilled their carnal obligation.

Instead of trying to rouse Sid, Geno moved to adjust the covers over him, huddled close, and closed his eyes. He felt like he was asleep before his eyelids met.

***

Geno had forgotten how good the sleep was after winning the Stanley Cup. It was the perfect combination of relieved stress and exaltation and total physical exhaustion. His body melted onto the first warm, soft surface it found and practically died. He was surprised he heard Sid wake up. It felt like he could sleep forever.

But he did hear Sid wake up with a groan. It sounded pained enough to rouse Geno and convince him to swim up rather than down into slumber. He pried his dry eyes open—too late remembering his contacts—and blinked a few times until Sid came into focus. He was frowning. When his eyes found Geno, his misery seemed to double.

"Morning," Sid said even though the clock on the wall said it wasn't. It was closer to evening.

“What’s wrong?” Geno asked. His voice sounded raspy from all the yelling in the locker room. “Hangover? You drink a lot?”

“I don’t have a hangover,” Sid said. Geno propped up to raise his eyebrows pointedly, prompting more out of him. “Sorry I passed out on you. I can’t believe I did that.”

Geno shrugged. "It's okay. You’re tired. I don't think I can get it up anyway last night."

“Yeah. Me either, probably.” Sid sounded so regretful. His playoff stress was returning in the lines of his face, creasing his brow and accentuating his scowl. Geno almost felt offended that Sid could look so upset after winning the Cup. He wanted to smooth Sid’s face out like clay and shape it into a smile. Since he couldn’t, he did something impulsive and leaned over to kiss Sid’s frowning mouth.

“Cheer up,” Geno ordered. “We win, remember?”

Sid’s eyes smiled first before it spread over his whole face. “You kissed me.”

Geno wasn’t sure why that was news. They’d been kissing during hookups all playoffs. It was pretty comfortable by now.

But they had never done it after a night of just sleep. Maybe Sid didn’t think it would count anymore if they hooked up again. It would explain his initial upset if he thought they had missed the boat and let their good luck sail away.

Geno resisted the clawing urge to draw back and run away before asking, “You don’t want to?”

“Of course I want to,” Sid said in a whoosh of breath. “I didn’t think you would.”

“I do,” Geno confirmed. He hoped he sounded less eager than he felt, that Sid would believe he only wanted to keep with their winning routine. In his heart, he knew he would have followed Sid home if invited after losing to San Jose just as eagerly as when they won. He could fully admit that he wasn’t just doing this to satisfy the need to scratch that superstitious itch.

Luckily, Sid didn’t scrutinize his motives. Instead, he cupped a hand around the back of Geno’s neck and drew him down to kiss him again.

Whatever the issue had been when Sid woke up, it certainly appeared to be resolved. He crowded against Geno’s body without hesitation. Geno could feel Sid’s arousal growing hot and hard between them. He wormed a hand down and got his hand on Sid.

Sid hummed at the touch and ran his hand from Geno's ass to his thigh, squeezing the muscle there like he wanted to see if it was ripe. When he pulled away from Geno’s mouth, he looked pleased and relaxed. "What if we move this to the shower?”

“What if there’s nice bed right here?” Geno teased, though a shower did sound good. They’d scrubbed down before leaving San Jose, but a plane ride always left him feeling a little grimy.

Sid patted him encouragingly. “Come on. It’ll be worth it.”

Geno groaned and steeled himself to find out how badly his body did not want to move. His hip twinged when he scooted to follow Sid out of bed, and his shoulder complained when he used it to lever himself up, but overall he felt intact. He took a second to rest on the edge of the bed and watch Sid stretch his arms above his head, admiring the playoff-hardened lines of his stomach.

“What are you looking at?” Sid asked, eyes shining with humor when he caught Geno staring. Thankfully, he didn’t wait for Geno to say anything horrifying before he offered a hand to pull him to his feet. Geno’s knees complained with the first few stiff strides, popping and creaking, but by the time he reached the en suite door they were quiet.

Geno looked back in time to see Sid pause at the bedside table to get the lube before following him into the bathroom. Without any sleight of hand, Sid sat the bottle up with the soap when he turned on the shower. Geno’s stomach swooped in anticipation. He’d never seen the appeal of shower sex before, but Sid’s easy confidence that it was a good idea was turning his opinion.

“Hop in,” Sid said when the water was warm enough.

“Not coming?” Geno asked innocently, though Sid’s smirk said he caught the innuendo. His eyes roamed over Geno’s body, watching him step under the water.

“Turn around.”

Geno turned to face the wall, giving Sid a view of his wet backside while he ducked his head into the stream. He barely got his hair wet before he felt Sid enter the shower behind him and cup both hands around his ass. Geno pushed back against the touch, encouraging Sid to keep going, kneading his fingers into the muscle like a massage.

"Your ass is amazing," Sid said. He sounded reverent. “You’re amazing.”

Sid dropped a kiss against Geno’s shoulder after he said it, a small gesture that said he wasn’t entirely focused on Geno’s ass even as his hands continued to knead his cheeks. He pulled them apart and ran his thumb right down the middle, pressing the pad to Geno’s hole. Geno groaned encouragement.

“Don’t worry,” Sid said, nudging at Geno’s legs to spread them apart. “You’re going to like this.”

Then he dropped to his knees. Geno craned back to look, startled at the development. Sid wasted no time spreading Geno’s cheeks and diving in to lick across his hole.

"You crazy," Geno groaned, rolling his head on the tile wall.

"What? We won the Stanley Cup—you don't think that deserves a little treat?"

There was a sluicing sound when Sid's tongue interrupted the flow of water down Geno's crack. This was more than a little treat. It wasn’t long before Geno's legs were shaking with every lick and lewd kiss. He had to push Sid’s hand away when he tried to go for his dick.

“Too much,” Geno said, reaching instead to hand him the lube. Between the words and the gesture, Sid got it. If he played with Geno’s dick, it would be over quick.

“We could keep going,” Sid offered. “I’d get you hard again before I got in you.”

Geno had no doubt that Sid would give it a good effort. He might even succeed. But Geno didn’t want this to be over. He didn’t want to start again. He wanted to have Sid lick him open and come with Sid’s dick inside him. “It’s okay. I want.”

Sid signaled his acquiescence by popping open the lube and working a finger inside Geno between swipes of his tongue. He really seemed to be enjoying himself. It was as though rendering Geno weakened and whimpering from the shocks of pleasure was just as much for his own benefit.

“There you go,” Sid said when he peeled himself off the floor. He slipped his fingers in and out of Geno’s slick hole. When Geno made a noise, he did it again. “That feel good?”

“Dick is better.”

Sid chuckled, but he withdrew his fingers, nestled his dick against Geno's hole, and pushed in with an easy glide. His mouth left a trail of kisses along Geno's wet shoulder. When he was all the way inside, Sid leaned forward and put his hand over Geno's on the wall. Geno moved so their fingers twined together, holding hands while Sid fucked him.

Sid didn’t seem to be in any kind of a hurry to get the job done. He rocked his body in the slow, relentless motion of an oil drill, just enough to keep Geno stupefied against the wall with intensity but not enough to get him off.

When he couldn’t take it anymore, Geno fumbled for the lube and to get a hand around his own dick. He didn’t even get the cap open before Sid took it from him, shushing his attempts to complain.

“It’s okay. Let me. I got you.”

It sounded like Sid wanted so badly to make Geno feel good, he could hardly resist. He sighed when Sid got a slick hand on him and clutched blindly for Sid’s hip to pull his thrusts deep. It wouldn’t take long.

Geno came with his eyes tightly shut, panting in the heat. Sid worked him through it, talking the whole time in words Geno could barely make out—embarrassing stuff about how hot he thought Geno was, how much he adored him.

Sid's hands closed on his hips before he pulled out and he used the grip to turn Geno around. He wrapped one hand around the back of Geno’s neck to pull him close and the other around his dick to jerk himself off. They kissed without focus, but Sid didn’t seem to have any desire to break away as he brought himself off.

After he came, Sid said something so softly Geno could barely hear him over the noise of the water. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

Sid smiled and kissed him before he answered. “Staying.”

Geno wasn’t sure he entirely understood, but he appreciated Sid’s dedication to continued kissing. Whatever loopy, orgasmic thing Sid meant could wait while they made out under the rainfall of shower water. It could probably wait for a long time.

***

When they managed to extract themselves from the shower, they made their way downstairs on shaky legs. Geno found his phone on the kitchen counter next to the Stanley Cup and said a prayer before picking it up. The lord did not grant his wish that his texts and messages would be manageable. He glanced through to see that his parents had made it safely back to his house and then put it down again. His friends and family could forgive him some time to decompress before answering.

Geno found Sid grinning down at his own phone, scrolling through just as many messages like he couldn’t wait to handwrite a response to every one. “Anything important?” Geno asked.

“Nah, just congrats and stuff,” Sid said, and held out the phone to show Geno a gif from his sister—a cat doing a happy dance.

“Cute,” Geno said, reaching for the phone. He dumped it on the counter behind him and blocked Sid’s attempt to deke him. “Coffee?”

Sid made a face but moved away from his phone toward the coffee maker. “I guess we better wake up, eh? My family stayed in San Jose last night. It was too late to be flying in, but they’ll be here soon.”

Geno deflated. He could take Sid’s phone away for a while, but he couldn’t monopolize his attention. Soon, Geno would have to go home and be with his own family while Sid answered phone calls from everyone in Canada. They’d have a parade and locker cleanout, but then they would split up for summer. Geno frowned at the Cup while he thought about it. Not that he would give it up, but the Cup was responsible for his feelings. He was only here thinking about this because Sid had to have some crazy superstition.

No. That wasn’t true. He was only here thinking about it because one of his traitorous teammates stuck a dildo to his stall. His anger started to spool up again before he fully embraced the reason for the prank—the tweet. He only had himself to blame.

“Would pancakes be crazy?” Sid asked, oblivious to Geno’s darkening thoughts.

Grateful for the diversion, Geno let his anger out in a soft exhale. “No, pancake sound really good.”

“You’ll stay and eat with me?”

Surely by now Sid knew Geno would do practically anything with him. “Yeah, I help make.”

Sid beamed and made the idea of drifting apart over the summer ache in Geno’s chest. He barely held his tongue from suggesting something crazy while he whisked ingredients into a bowl. What would he even say? Maybe we should hook up in summer? It’s lucky?

Geno side-eyed Sid at the stove preparing a skillet. It might work. Sid had bought into the idea that their post-series hookups had made them win the Stanley Cup. He might buy that they could continue and repeat. After all, even Geno didn’t know the extent to which they had caused their victory. Maybe he would turn out to be right.

He shook himself. No, that would be taking things a step too far. It felt too much like lying, which he couldn’t do. Not to Sid. Besides, he would implode if they continued casually hooking up for a whole season without any hope of more.

Geno had fully convinced himself to drop it and live a morose and Sid-less life before Sid said, “So, how do we want to play this?”

“This?”

“You know. We can’t exactly keep going with the whole hooking up for the playoffs thing, so if you want to keep going we’ll need another story.”

“Story,” Geno echoed.

Sid’s smile seemed all-knowing, but underneath Geno could see a trace of nerves. He was afraid. “Come on. If it was just about the Cup, you would have made me stay up last night. You broke the routine.”

“We still do it. Just late. You don’t think it count?”

When he glanced at Geno, Sid’s complicated nerves-hiding expression grew another layer—guilt.

“You don’t believe,” Geno said, accusing even as the idea dawned on him. “You don’t think we do this to win?”

Sid shrugged, seemed like he might be spooling up an argument, and then visibly deflated. “Not really.”

“Why you keep doing it if you don’t care?”

“I didn’t say—Geno. Of course I care.”

“Why you do it?” Geno demanded.

“I don’t know. You seemed really into it, and I thought you might need a little push. Something to tell you it’s okay to keep seeing me.”

“You trick me!”

Sid opened his mouth and closed it with a grimace. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry. I let it go too far. I guess I just didn’t know how else to approach it.”

“You can just ask me. You ask before like it’s nothing, maybe we hook up. Show me real dick.”

“Buddy, that wasn’t nothing,” Sid said with a barked laugh. “I was up all night kicking myself. Hitting on a teammate—such a rookie move. You were right to shoot me down. That was the smart play. It still stung, though.”

Geno cast his mind back to their conversation after the Rangers, the way Sid had casually thrown it out there that he was going to find someone to hook up with. “Before, when you say you’re going out. You want make me jealous?”

“Ah, I don’t know about that. I guess I wanted you to know you weren’t all I wanted. I wasn’t just harboring some sad crush. I needed you to know I could be cool, that we could still play together.”

Which made perfect sense, if Sid hadn’t followed up by inviting Geno to his house for some postseason boning. “But you ask again.”

“Yeah, well. You left the door open and—maybe it’s a little bit of a sad crush.”

Geno gaped at Sid’s grimacing smile. “Crush.”

Sid shrugged, obviously squirming.

“You really like me.”

“Yeah,” Sid said hopelessly, eyes averted. He was fully prepared to have Geno reject him. The ball was entirely in Geno’s court, leaving him to decide: did he want to turn Sid down? Did he even know what Sid might be offering?

When they had started this whole thing, it had been Sid’s apparently faked ability to keep this loose and casual that made Geno believe they could handle it. As long as one of them could be cool, they would manage to keep their relationship as teammates in good standing. No matter how much Geno liked Sid, he wasn’t sure he would have made the same choices knowing that Sid felt more for him.

Then again, Geno knew better than to hurl too many stones from the windows of his glass house. After all, he had been harboring some pretty big feelings himself without voicing them. How could he blame Sid for doing the same thing?

In the frozen moment while he considered how to respond, Geno’s anger about Sid’s deception cooled. He couldn’t bring himself to tell Sid off and ruin the chance to find a path forward for them.

Geno remembered the mixing bowl in his hand and turned the whisk a couple of times to freshen the batter. He lightly hip checked Sid out of the way and poured out three puddles onto the skillet before speaking. “I don’t want other story,” he said.

“Okay,” Sid said with a devastated nod. “I understand.”

“No, you don’t. I want this story. You and me. Lucky.”

“You want to keep hooking up?” Sid didn’t sound like that made him very happy. Granted, he would probably do it for the sake of the team, but he obviously hoped for more. “Just in the playoffs, or—”

“No, not just playoffs. If we’re hook up like this and it’s lucky, maybe other things is lucky, too,” Geno said, prompting. “You know, like. If you come to Moscow to see me in summer. Skate with me. See my home.”

He watched the light of understanding flip on in Sid’s eyes as he spoke. Relief visibly relaxed his shoulders when he sighed out a long breath. “Moscow’s lucky, eh?”

“I think, yes.”

“Okay, so. Is that it for us? Just the playoffs and a couple weeks in Moscow? That’ll keep the dream alive?”

Geno made a show of considering while he flipped the pancakes. “Maybe not. We go to beach, too. Someplace nice.”

Sid was creeping closer, drawing like a flower toward the enticing warmth of Geno’s words. “Okay, a lucky beach. Got it. How about Canada?”

“Nope,” Geno said, fighting not to smile. “Canada not lucky. Too cold.”

“Sure, because Moscow is never cold.”

“Never.

Sid’s unconstrained laugh pulled Geno’s mouth into a smile. “Okay, I won’t invite you home with me, then. Making out on the lake might ruin everything.”

“Lake?”

“Sure, right next to my place. It’s a deep one. Lots of fish. But if it’s bad luck, I guess you shouldn’t come.”

“I change my mind. Fishing is very lucky.”

“Well, that solves it then,” Sid said with easy humor as he approached to put an arm around Geno. His body sagged against Geno’s side, full of unspoken relief. “We’ll just have to take the boat out every day. Make it a worthwhile trip.”

Geno imagined flipping pancakes in Nova Scotia instead of Pittsburgh with Sid wrapped around him in the morning sun, fueling up for a long trip out on the lake. He envisioned the fiction of their efforts to generate luck expanding to rainy day movie marathons and weekend ski trips and trying every sex act they could think of.

Maybe someday they would even move in together, telling their families and teammates it was just superstition—something they had to do. The dangerous balloon of hope he’d been pushing down all playoffs inflated once more and shot sky-high without his intervention. A glance at Sid’s joyful smile told Geno he didn’t need to push it down anymore.