There was a soft knock on the door and Sid startled, reaching for the remote and pausing the game he was reviewing. He turned, surprised to see Ben there. He looked at his watch.
“You’re home early, kiddo,” Sid said, waving him over. Ben shuffled in, still wearing his school uniform. “I thought you were going to call me to pick you up.”
“Mr. Graham drove me home.” Ben shoved his hands in his pockets, not looking at Sid. “Is G here tonight?”
“No, he’s staying at his house. Are you okay?”
Ben let out a heavy sigh and came over to Sid’s recliner. He climbed in, settling himself along Sid’s side and Sid gathered him close. It was a tight fit, much easier when Ben was 7 and not 14, but Sid was never going to say no if his kid needed a cuddle.
“What’s up?” asked Sid gently, brushing back Ben’s hair and pressing a kiss to his forehead.
Ben turned his face into Sid’s shoulder and dug his fingers into Sid’s side. He shook his head, not speaking.
“Hey,” Sid murmured, rubbing his back. Gwen, Ben’s nanny, had mentioned he’d been really quiet and moody lately. Maybe he was finally going to talk about it. “It’s okay. Whatever it is, it’s okay. I love you and will always love you. You know that, right?”
Ben nodded against Sid’s shoulder. “Okay then. Nothing you tell me is going to change that. You could tell me that you want to paint yourself green and change your name to broccoli and I would support you and find the best green paint out there and file the name change tomorrow.”
“Oh my god, Dad,” Ben groaned and lifted his head to look at him. “Really?”
Sid shrugged. “It’s true. You want to tell me what’s going on? Gwen says you’ve been moping around for a few weeks and I know you’ve been doing it when I’ve been home too.”
Ben dropped his head to Sid’s shoulder again with a heavy sigh. “How did you know you were gay?”
“Oh, wow.” Sid stared at the paused screen of the TV, Rick Nash’s stick frozen mid-air on a slapshot. This wasn’t what he had been expecting. He hadn’t dated much when Ben was young between Sid being so young himself and the pressure of being such a big star, but he had been honest with Ben about who he liked. And then he and Geno had got their shit together when Ben was ten.
If Sid was being honest with himself, he’d wondered about Ben. He knew better then to project stereotypes onto his son having grown up as a gay jock himself. Ben didn’t play sports, only skated for fun, and was much more interested in science and math. He’d always been very tactile and Sid encouraged him to be free with his feelings and emotions in a way he never had been. They had grown up together really.
Ben squirmed against him a little and Sid looked back down at him. “Hey,” he said softly. “I didn’t really know for sure until I was older than you. And I didn’t really let myself believe it which is how you happened. So I don’t recommend dating a really nice girl when you’re playing junior hockey in Quebec and getting her pregnant when you both are 16 in an attempt to prove you’re not gay. The resulting kid is the best thing ever, but it’s really not the best way.”
Ben let out a wet huff and Sid let him pretend that he wasn’t crying. He pulled him even closer, practically draped on top of Sid now, like he used to when he was three and couldn’t sleep.
“Do boys turn you on?” asked Sid softly, when Ben’s tears petered out and he was limp in Sid’s arms. “Are they who you think about when you jerk off?”
Ben nodded and wiped his nose against Sid’s shirt. Sid wrinkled his nose, but it wasn’t like Ben hadn’t been doing that for the past 14 years.
“Do you think about girls at all?”
Ben shook his head and he lifted his head to look at Sid. “Are you mad?”
“Mad? Why would I be mad?” Sid asked incredulously. He felt dangerously close to crying himself, wondering what he did to make his son think he’d be mad that he was gay too.
Ben shrugged a little. “People will say you made me gay.”
“That’s not how it works,” Sid said gently, trying so hard to keep his tone light and even. Troy’s voice flashed in his head, reminding Sid that people were going to say things no matter what if they found out he was gay and raising a son, but they didn’t matter. “No one can make you gay. You and I were born gay. Anyone who says otherwise is an idiot.”
Ben put his head back down, shifting again so he could look at the TV. “Can you tell Maman?”
“Sure,” Sid said easily. “But she’s not going to be mad either.”
“I know. I’m not going to see her until spring break though and I don’t want to wait until then and I don’t want to tell her on the phone. So you can do it for me.”
“Okay,” Sid said, stroking a hand through Ben’s hair. “Am I allowed to tell Geno?”
“I figured you would. He’s your boyfriend.” Ben reached for the remote, pressing the play button. Rick Nash’s stick came down and the puck went flying towards the net, stopped by a quick flash of Anderson’s glove.
Sid took the remote back and paused it again. “I wouldn’t tell him if you said not to.”
“You can tell him. Just tell him not to go overboard about it,” Ben sat up, wiggling out of the recliner and getting to his feet. “You know how he gets.”
Sid laughed and nodded. “Yeah, I know. I’ll tell him not to embarrass you.”
Ben snorted at that. “More like embarrass you. I’m going to get something to eat. Can I do my homework in here with you?”
“Yeah, I just have to finish this game,” Sid said easily. “Then I’ll make dinner.”
Ben nodded and took off, dashing out of the den in a clatter, the exact opposite of how he showed up. This was much more how Ben operated the majority of the time and much, much more normal.
Sid pulled out his phone, sending a quick text off to Geno.
Ben just came out to me.
It only took a moment for Geno to respond, Sid’s phone vibrating against his thigh. He paused the film again.
!!!! He okay? You okay?
We’re fine. He told me to tell you not to go overboard about it.
(((( I’m buy him cake.
Cake is fine. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Love you.
Love you too.
Ben came back in, carrying a plate with a sandwich on it and his backpack. He sprawled on the floor to do his work, ignoring the sound of the game as he had so many times before. Growing up at the rink meant the sounds of hockey were white noise to him, something that used to put him to sleep when he was a toddler.
Sid found himself watching Ben work more than the game, wondering how long his son had been thinking about this. He wondered how much he had missed while Ben was working through everything.
He tried to ignore the guilt that sprung up that he wasn’t providing his son with a great example of a gay relationship. He and Geno loved each other, but they didn’t live together. They didn’t spend any time together over the summer. They were both deep in the closet for professional and personal reasons. Ben’s friends didn’t even know Sid was gay, much less that Geno was his boyfriend. He didn’t want Ben to think he had to hide himself.
Do you think I should come out?
??? I come over. You being stupid.
Sid looked at his phone for a long moment and let out a heavy sigh, causing Ben to look over at him questioningly. He waved him off, gesturing at his phone as an explanation before he started typing again.
You don’t have to. I just don’t want him to think he has to hide and all I do is hide. I wouldn’t ask you to do it, but I could.
On my way. Being stupid.
“Geno’s coming over,” Sid said after a moment. “He said I’m being stupid so I think he’s coming over to make sure I stop being stupid.”
Ben turned onto his side to look back at him, his head propped up on his hand. “G’s normally right. Are you freaking out?”
Sid scrunched up his face and wobbled his hand. “Maybe.”
Ben bit his lip, his expression tight. “You’re freaking out because I’m gay?”
“No,” Sid said immediately. “I’m freaking out because I’m not being a good enough gay role model for you. I’m not out. My boyfriend doesn’t live with us. None of your friends know I’m gay, Ben.”
“No one cares. You’re my dad. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean they like you for any reason other than how you play hockey,” Ben said, rolling his eyes. “And I don’t need you to be my role model. I need you to be my dad. I know why you aren’t out. I know why Geno doesn’t live with us. You are being stupid. G’s right.”
Ben flopped onto the floor dramatically. “My name is Sidney Crosby and I’m not the best at being gay. I’ve won the Stanley Cup three times, have two gold medals, and all the hockey awards ever, but I’m bad at being gay because I don’t live with my hot boyfriend. Oh nooooo.”
“I don’t sound like that,” Sid protested, climbing down on the floor next to Ben to tickle him. Ben shrieked and tried to get his fingers under Sid’s ribs, but Sid had stopped letting him win years ago.
Ben screeched as Sid finally got him under the knees and went limp. “I give up! Stop!”
Sid pulled back and looked down at Ben, who was panting for breath, his face red and blotchy from laughing. “You know I’d do anything for you, right?”
Ben nodded up at him. “I know.”
Sid lay down next to him, bumping his shoulder against Ben’s. “Okay, good. I know it hasn’t always been the easiest to be my kid.”
Ben rolled onto his stomach and rested his elbows on Sid’s chest to look at him. “I’m still glad I’m here and not with Maman.”
“I’m just selfish,” Sid admitted, running a hand through Ben’s unruly hair. “I like having you around.”
“I know what the custody arrangements were when I was younger and I know that they’re not the same now. I know that Maman chose college over me and that’s why I spent all my time with you,” Sid opened his mouth to protest, but Ben gave him a look. “Maman told me so don’t argue. You never had to let her back into my life, but you did. And you would let me live with her now if I asked.”
“If you thought you’d be happier there, then of course,” Sid said softly. “I would be sad here without you, but I’d let you go.”
“I don’t want to live in Quebec,” Ben promised him. “I want to live here with you and Geno. This is our home.”
Sid hugged him tightly, pulling him close, glad when Ben hugged him back just as hard. He felt like he’d been through the ringer the last hour between Ben’s confession and his own stupid guilt.
“Always on floor,” Geno grumbled from the doorway before coming over and getting down on the floor gracelessly. “Why always on the floor? Couch is nice.”
Ben looked over at him with a grin. “Because you always complain about it.”
Geno reached over and scuffed a hand over Ben’s head before leaning over to kiss Sid softly. “Hi, Sid. Still being stupid?”
“Nope. Ben took care of it.”
“At least one Crosby smart,” Geno said before pressing a kiss to Ben’s forehead. “Welcome to gay club.”
“Don’t make a fuss,” Ben groaned, rolling off of Sid and sitting up.
“I’m never make fuss,” Geno said, his eyes opened wide with feigned innocence. “Why you say that?”
“You two can argue this out,” Sid said, getting up. Ben had a long list of ways Geno had made a fuss over things in Ben’s life from way before he and Geno had started dating. “I’m going to go make dinner. Make sure to start with losing your first tooth, Ben.”
“No helping!” Geno swatted Sid on the back of his thigh as he walked past them, laughing all the way.
Sid opened the door to the kitchen from the garage, his gear bag bumping against his side and Ben’s trumpet case in his hand. Ben was behind him, chattering away about what they were doing in science that day, neither of them paying much attention.
Sid stopped in his tracks when he looked up and saw his kitchen strewn in rainbows and glitter. Ben bumped into his back and shut up immediately. The gear bag hit the floor with a thump. There was a giant poster of a half-naked man on the refrigerator. A pride flag was draped over the island like a tablecloth.
“Oh you home,” Geno said, coming back into the room, a feather boa around his neck. “I get cake.”
“Few other things. I get you hat,” Geno said with a smile, putting a rainbow crown on Ben’s head and a boa around Sid’s neck. “Is happy gay day.”
“Is that glitter penises?” asked Sid, looking at the countertop. “Where did you find all of this?”
“Gwen help and I’m order some online, don’t worry,” Geno said as he got the cake out and set it on the table in front of Ben. “I’m not tell anyone.”
Ben was bright red, staring at everything in the kitchen and then back at Geno and the cake. “This is a fuss.”
“Love you,” Geno said after a moment, sitting down in the chair next to Ben. “Want you to know how much. Want you to know how proud I am you tell us. I’m not get fuss like this when I tell parents. They cry, be sad. Sid not get fuss. So I want you to have all the fuss, to know we never sad you gay. Always be happy.”
“You are so embarrassing,” Ben said after a moment before leaning over to hug Geno tightly around the neck. “Thank you.”