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this world doesn't have to end

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He raises his stick to the crowd, like he’s supposed to. The Canadian team claps for them, like they’re supposed to. Geno feels sick to his stomach. Probably like he’s supposed to, all things considered.

The silver medal, heavy around his neck, feels like a consolation prize. He looks at the Canadian lineup, all badly suppressing their excitement and joy out of that weird, irritating need to be polite that they have. Geno doubs his team would have have taken the moment to try and tamp down their smiles while the others got silver. He wouldn’t have, anyway. He wouldn’t have had the thought.

Sidney only keeps his smile small for a moment before it comes bursting back out of him in that way of his, this big goofy grin breaking through like sunshine through the clouds right after a rain. Geno loves that smile, but today he feels like thunderstorms and for once, he doesn’t want to see it.

Sidney isn’t looking at him. Geno isn’t sure if that’s a conscious decision or not. He wouldn’t blame him if it was—if he’d won, he wouldn’t want to be looking at Sid, having a weight of guilt pressing in onto the joy of winning. Sidney loves Geno, and Sidney loves winning, and today he can’t love both.

Geno wants to be happy for him, even knows that he should be, but Sid’s got his Triple Gold, he’s got everything he wanted, he’s got this gold fucking confetti falling all over him. He gets to skate around the ice and raise the trophy in the air and Geno doesn’t have shit.

And they shouldn’t even be at Worlds, anyway, he likes Worlds and he likes playing with Team Russia and he liked winning the gold when that’s happened, but fuck, he wants the NHL, he wants the Cup. He’ll be 29 in a month, and then 30, and then eventually he’ll be too old to play and he’ll have peaked at 23. Fuck.

It’s a depressing thought. Sidney is still smiling, so Geno looks down at his skates and thinks, next year, because what else can you think when you’re always close but never there.

Some of the team starts filing off the ice, and Geno—he knows he’s supposed to stay. The losing team always stays. O Canada is going to play, and Geno is going to watch the team sway in unison and sing along terribly, watch other people put their arms around his Sidney, his partner, his best friend in the goddamn world who just kicked the shit out of him and his country on international ice.

There’s shouting and cheering in the audience, so many Russians who came here, who spent their money and time just to watch them lose in a devastating and humiliating six fucking one.

Scoring the only Russian goal, perhaps unshockingly, does not give him any comfort. “Your goal was good,” people will tell him, like it will make his goal enough.

He’s only vaguely aware of the rest of the guys skating off. He’s been staring at his skates for what feels like a thousand years; he’s very aware of the the silver medal against his chest and it feels a lot like failure. When he looks up again, at the crowd, he sees a million maple leafs and not much else, and when he looks around him on the ice, no one is left but Alex.

And it’s not like he can blame them, his skin is itching for the need and desire to take off his gear, crumple it into a ball, wash this game and this day and this tournament off him and crawl into bed. His body is tired. His heart is broken. And he is so, so ashamed.

Maybe they’re not supposed to stay for the anthem. Geno doesn’t want to. It’s bad enough that he’s lost, bad enough that he has to go home to the house that he lives in with the captain of the winning team.

He doesn’t want to leave, either, doesn’t want to go back to that locker room and hear what his team isn’t quite saying—how maybe if he loved Sidney a little less and Russia a little more, this wouldn’t have happened.

Those jokes have been happening for years, since the first time Geno summoned all his bravery and laced his fingers through Sid’s, since the first time Sid kissed him, since Geno realized that his life and his future aren’t wrapped up in Pittsburgh, they’re wrapped up in him.

Outside of this rink, Geno’s happier than he’s ever been. Surrounded by his country and his team, places and people he loves who just don’t love him anymore, though—that’s harder.

Alex gets it, Alex still loves him, Geno looks up to find him but just sees OVECHKIN 8 disappearing down the tunnel.

“I scored,” he wants to say, wants to yell to the crowds, “I played and I did my best and I wanted to win so badly, I did, I tried.”

He supposes he could yell. The music’s started playing, so it’s not like it would matter if he did. No one could hear him anyway.

He stands up a little straighter, looks at the line of red jerseys and big smiles and gold medals. He’s going to stay for the ceremony, stay through the anthem, and skate off by himself when the ice clears. He is a goddamn professional, and he played his heart out, and he wasn’t good enough. Next year, he thinks, with a bit more conviction.

The locker room won’t feel any better than the ice will—out here, at least, there’s joy. Inside, there will just be every single player’s sadness and disappointment trapped in one confined space, radiating off each other, permeating every crevice, making everything worse. Inside, there will be whispered accusations about how hard Geno tried, or didn’t try, and why.

Out here, at least, there’s Sidney.

Geno looks at him, and their eyes lock for just a moment. Sidney’s smile doesn’t falter, but Geno likes to think he sees something in his eyes, something like an apology, something like love.

Geno’s heart is broken, but Sidney will always stitch it back together. Tomorrow, he’ll be proud of him, and it will be okay.