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In The Way You Look At Me Now

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~One~

2015 - Worlds Championship

Everything with Sidney Crosby first starts at Worlds. Claude's there to play for team Canada, Sid is their captain, and Claude is surprisingly okay with that. Everyone expects there to be some rivalry with them, or at least some tension. But, in the back of Claude's mind he thinks that whatever these apparent differences are between them, they can probably stand to put them aside for the remainder of the championship. If Canada had any hope of winning, it would have to be like that, regardless of the different teams they played for in the league. Claude could manage, it wasn't exactly a death sentence to exchange pleasantries with Sid, he could do it.

The thing is, being around Sid during Worlds isn't as bad as Claude thought. For whatever bizarre reason, they click on the ice, there's goals, assists on goals and a decent amount of good passing. Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux mesh well together at Worlds, which for Claude is an entirely new experience. Even the cellys with Sid are more enthusiastic than Claude had thought they'd be, there's a closeness, as well as a warmth that radiates off Sid, burrowing itself deep into Claude's bones. So it's no surprise that they come out on top, clinching the win for gold against Russia 6-1 .

They fucking won.

The gold medal feels heavy around Claude's neck, a weight he's more than happy to carry around with him. He finds himself touching the medal now and again, making sure it's still there, that he's not dreaming it. Claude still tries to wrap his head around this, the win, the way he and Sid played so well together. He would have been happy with silver, if it came down to that, but they had gold. Claude even chances a glance at Sid, who is talking to Jason Spezza, but then his eyes meet Claude's and he smiles, his fingers dancing over his own medal. Having the gold felt like the sweetest victory. They did that. 

"At least buy it dinner first." 

Claude's gaze moves from Sid's then falls on Tyler, as he walks towards him, his eyes watery and a little far away. They'd all gotten kicked into the champagne after the win, spreading themselves throughout the locker room to celebrate, with the faint rhythm of bassy music circulating throughout. Claude knew Tyler would already be on the verge of tipsy, his movements a little jittery like an overexcited puppy, or an overall happy drunk. 

"Just making sure it's real," Claude says, finally letting his hand fall away from the medal. 

"Well it's real dude! Congratulations! We fucking did it!" 

"Fuckin' right we did!" he laughs.

Tyler grins, before deciding to throw his shirtless self at Claude, wrapping his arms around him in a tight hug, breath ghosting on Claude's cheek. 

"You were the best roommate. I'm gonna' miss you," Tyler sighs.

Claude laughs again.

"You're so drunk Segs." 

"Nope, not yet," he protests, popping the 'p'.  

Before Claude even has a chance to chirp him back, Tyler's cupping his face and smacking a kiss right on his lips. It's a little messy, plus Tyler tastes like champagne, but it's short lived, plus Tyler looks proud of himself. Claude snorts at him, fingers curling into the collar of his jersey, as he bumps their foreheads together.

"You are drunk." 

Tyler groans.

"Okay maybe a little, but you deserved more than a hug as a celly." 

"Thank you," Claude chuckles.

He shoves Tyler away playfully, causing him to bump into Taylor Hall, catching him in another famous Seguin hug, before they disappear together. With all of the attention off of him now, Claude turns to find out where he can get some more champagne, only to meet Sid's eyes again. Sid stares back at him, and his face remains stoic, until there's a flicker of something there that's unreadable. To Claude, he thinks it could mean a few things, but the only reason he can think of in that moment is... he saw Tyler kiss him.  

His assumption is fairly solid, given that Sid pushes himself off the wall he was leaning against, then exits through a door on the opposite side of the room. Claude glances around the room briefly, everyone's too focused on downing champagne or singing at the top of their lungs to notice anything. He thinks maybe he could slip out of the room without anyone catching him, Sid should be with them. Yet, he looked anything but ecstatic and Claude wants to follow him, so he does. 

Surprisingly, the hallway Claude steps into is void of people, apart from Sid, of course. Although, he imagines that Sid went this way for a reason, he's fairly certain that not many people use this hallway much either. He exhales a slow breath and walks over to Sid, turns himself to put his back against the wall, then nudges Sid's shoulder gently. Sid looks back at him, flashing a glimmer of a smile, which slowly gets replaced with something Claude can only describe as sadness? 

"Hey." 

Claude grins, but it drops when Sid still looks at him with a distant look in his eyes, swallowed by some bleariness, most likely from the champagne. And god, it somehow makes Claude hurt seeing him like that, he should be on cloud nine right now.

"Hi," he greets. 

He waits a beat for Sid to say something.

"You okay?" 

Sid nods.

"Needed a breather." 

Claude wasn't buying it.

"C'mon, Cros. We're kind of friends now...right?" 

"I'm just a little overwhelmed. We won gold, and I think I drank more champagne than I should have," Sid replies.

Claude snorts.

"We just won gold, I think it's deserved," he points out.

Sid nods and presses his palms against the wall, before crossing his arms loosely across his chest, exhaling a soft breath. 

"So...you and Seguin, eh?" he says.

That draws a laugh out of Claude, his head bumping back on the wall, as he clutches at his ribs. 

"It's Segs, he's had more champagne than all of us. No one noticed, well...except you," Claude states.

"Yeah, sorry." 

Claude rolls his eyes.

"What?" 

Sid shrugs languidly.

"I guess I had it in my head that you two were...y'know." 

There's hesitation in his answer, making him fidget, until he's not even looking at Claude. 

"No Sidney , I don't know." 

"Sleeping together," Sid bites out. 

Claude hums, which causes Sid to flinch.

"Look, Segs is a good looking guy, but he's got a beau waiting for him back in Dallas. He's just too chicken shit to tell him anything," he explains.

For a second he swears Sid breathes a sigh of relief.

"So you didn't like that kiss?" he asks.

"Oh, I did. I like getting kissed by guys on the regular Cros. And if Segs was  dtf  I would be too. You're the only one who knows, actually, scratch that. Besides telling Danny when he was with the Flyers, you're the first person I've told who isn't on my team," Claude mutters.

Sid chokes.

"I-Briere?" 

Claude groans.

"No, De Vito, of course Briere." 

Sid manages a smile.

"So no one else?" 

"Nope, I'm not sure if I'm ready for the fallout of coming out. I'd at least want to be with someone before deciding. I know I'd be supported but then there's a large majority who would get under my skin." 

"Yeah? Me too. Besides Flower, Tanger and Geno, you're the first outside the Penguins to know," Sid sighs.

Claude smiles sadly, then bumps Sid's shoulder again.

"Hey, thanks for telling me. I know it can't be easy," he says.

Sid stares down at the ground, biting his lip.

"It's easy with you," he murmurs.

Suddenly Claude's face feels warm and the hallway feels too small, but he can't help but think that Sid's hiding something. He wants to ask him what's going on, only to have Sid beat him to the punch.

"You played some amazing hockey." 

"Sid…" Claude breathes out.

"I mean it. The way you had control of the puck, your passes to me and the passes I sent to you. We won gold and I- fuck, Claude, you were a beast out there on the ice." 

Claude notices the way Sid's cheeks flush when he's finished, his teeth still worrying at his lip.

"You deserved that kiss from Seguin..." Sid mumbles.

"You keep bringing that up. Jealous or something, Cros?" he teases.

Sid glances at him then, cheeks flushed and his bottom lip is a little red from biting at it, however his eyes tell the story, there is a green eyed monster lingering there. Fuck, he is jealous Claude thinks, exhaling sharply. He looks about ready to run back into the locker room, but Claude puts a hand on his shoulder, near his collarbone and Sid shudders, leaning into the touch.

"If you didn't hate me I'd kiss you for that win..." he whispers, following it with a weak laugh.

Claude swallows thickly.

" Crisse, you can't say things like that to me." 

Sid bites on his lip more, drawing Claude's attention there for a moment.

"Why?" 

Claude shifts until he's standing in front of Sid, keeping some distance between them. 

"Hate is a strong word Sid. I don't hate you, maybe I dislike you, or at least...I did until now. We played some strong hockey eh? And you're making it pretty fucking difficult to not want that kiss." 

One of Sid's hands reaches out without hesitation to skirt over the collar of Claude's jersey, slow and tentative, as it travels down from shoulder to wrist. His fingers brush over the pulse point of Claude's wrist, feeling the way Claude's heart rate spikes at the touch. A smirk plays on his lips, which Claude mirrors, reaching out to press his hand into Sid's hip, pinning him to the wall. 

" Claude.

That all but does it for Claude, before Sid moves first, reeling him in and clutching the front of Claude's jersey as their mouths find each other's, like their passes had. It's not hurried or messy like Tyler's impromptu kiss, no, this...it's heated and just the right amount of passionate that Claude's skin is on fire . Claude's free hand comes up to cup the back of Sid's neck, fingers threading into his hair, before tugging gently. Sid moans low in his throat, prompting him to part his lips, wanting to encourage Claude to give him everything. 

Claude does.

He slides his hand down to rest under Sid's thigh, before pulling it up, slotting his own thigh in between Sid's legs. Sid presses his thigh tight to Claude's waist, just enough to keep Claude close so not to make him feel trapped. Then Claude tempts fate and grazes his teeth on Sid's lip, stifling the whimper he elicits by coaxing him back in. Sid's hands dip under the hem of the jersey, stroking across muscles, which ripple when he gasps shakily. 

" Fuck, Sid," Claude growls.

Sid hushes him.

"Do you want people to hear?" he says.

And fuck, Sid's voice sounds good when it's breathy and slightly husky, so Claude surges forward to kiss him again. This time he glides his tongue into Sid's mouth, brushing over the other's tongue, intent on getting Sid to not be quiet. Sid grants that to him, letting out a choked whimper and giving just as much back, Sid's arms wrapping around him tightly. Sid's hand smooths over Giroux on the back of his jersey, he can feel it, can feel the way Sid takes his time to trace every letter like it means something. 

Claude pulls back to catch his breath, panting out warm air against Sid's mouth, his hand squeezes on Sid's thigh. Sid still has his eyes closed as he swallowed thickly, then opens them, eyelashes fluttering a little. He grins contently, before Claude slowly runs his thumb over Sid's bottom lip, and stares intently at him. Claude leans in to steal another kiss, keeping it chaste, sweet, the way he'd imagined kissing Sid. If anything, he feels slightly dizzy over it, he's not that drunk, so the truth is...Claude wanted to do that. 

" Crisse, " he hisses, because it's all he can say.

Sid tucks his hand under the back of Claude's jersey again, his hand splayed over heated skin, drawing a groan from Claude. 

"Claude, I-" 

The loud bang of a door from the locker room has them jumping apart, but Claude's hand stays put on Sid's hip, thumb stroking over bare skin where he lifted Sid's jersey. They glance at each other, laughing tiredly, as Sid starts to bite down on his lip again. He steps towards Claude and leans in to whisper in his ear, Sid's hand firmly braced on Claude's shoulder. 

"Come to my room later?" Sid suggests.

Claude's mouth twitches up at the corner.

"I think Segs and the others wanted to go to a bar when we're done here." 

Sid's lips ghost over Claude's jaw.

"After that?" 

If Claude was ever prepared for anything, it certainly wasn't to be invited back to Sid's room, not by a long shot. He cups his hand on Sid's jaw, turning his face towards his own, looking into Sid's eyes that look a little more alert.

"You're sure?" 

Sid nods with a shrug, then laces his fingers with Claude's.

"We can just makeout on the couch or whatever ." 

Claude barks a laugh.

"We're not teenagers Sid. Listen, I don't know how long we'll be at the bar. I can't promise that I'll come back with you. But, I'll try to stop by, okay?" he replies.

It earns him a smile from Sid, it's enough, and god, he feels gone on Sid's smile. 

"We should go back," Claude sighs.

"Yeah I-I'll go first," Sid says, even though he's still holding tight on Claude's hand.

Some weird, buzzed part of Claude's mind makes him think I could marry you right now. Yet, with reluctance, Claude pushes it aside, because he knows nothing will come of this. They'll both go their separate ways, to Philly and Pittsburgh...to forget.

"Wait." 

He stops Sid before he leaves, pulls him back and kisses him deeply, just once, just to remember. 

Claude thinks that'll be the last time he ever kisses Sid.


~Two~

2016 - Off season 

Claude's never good at sticking to things he says he won't do. 

Which is why he finds himself in Nova Scotia, in mid-August, sitting in a rental car, on the driveway at Sid's house. It's the off season, he could be anywhere, but this was the last place he expected to be. Claude had flights booked and everything before he knew what he was doing, now he was here, to see Sid. A thousand thoughts prevented him from sleeping on the plane, he was exhausted, wondering how the hell to proceed. He settled for getting out of the car for starters, retrieving the duffel bag he'd packed in haste, unsure of how long he'd be in Canada. Claude owed Flower big time for giving him Sid's address, allowing him a decent amount of shovel talk, handed to him in a string of French. 

"What the fuck am I doing here?" he asks, to nobody but himself.

With a long suffering sigh, Claude grabs his duffel bag and gets out of the car, before making his way to the front door. The night they won gold in Prague, Claude hadn't gone to Sid's room after they went to the bar. Tyler had gotten him to do far many shots, so he ended up going back to their room, crashing out on his bed until the morning. Claude didn't get a chance to say goodbye to Sid the way he wanted, they'd met for breakfast and did some sightseeing, but they had other stragglers tagging along. He wondered for days after if he should've just grabbed Sid, taken him somewhere out of the public eye, then kissed him breathless. A million questions go through his head in that short space of time to the door. Will Sid be happy to see him? Will Sid be angry? What if this was all for nothing? Should Claude just...run?

"Hey Claude." 

Apparently whatever gods there were, they weren't going to grant Claude's chance at fleeing, Claude's worries be damned. 

" Salut, " Claude replies.

Sid smiles faintly.

"You just going to stand there like an idiot, or are you coming in?" 

Claude squints at Sid's casualness, as he moves closer to the front door.

"You don't look surprised to see me." 

"Flower warned me this morning," Sid says.

Claude scowls.

" Merde, he said he wouldn't say anything." 

Sid let's out one of his usual honking laughs.

"Claude, if anything that is said to Flower is in regards to me, he'll tell me," he states.

"You two really are good friends, eh?" Claude questions.

"One of my best friends." 

Claude's head tilts slightly.

"I thought Malkin was your best friend?" he counters.

"I can have more than one best friend, asshole. C'mon, let's go inside." 

Claude follows Sid inside and closes the door behind him, his duffel bag still slung over his shoulder. But as soon as Sid turns to face him again, he drops it, in favour of hugging Sid warmly. Sid is stunned for a moment, before he wraps his arms around Claude, pulling him closer to him, their bodies pressed together. Claude sighs softly.

"It's good to see you." 

"You too," Sid responds, as he strokes Claude's back. 

They stay in each other's arms for a few minutes, soaking in the chance to be close again. Even a year after they last saw each other, they ease into a sense of familiarity, like it had only been months. Claude did text Sid after Worlds, and sometimes Sid would text back, but it was never to discuss Prague or them. Unfortunately, Sid's the first one to pull away, still appearing a little taken aback. 

"So, uh, do you want a beer?" he offers.

"Yeah, that'd be great." 

Sid directs him through to the kitchen, where Claude dumps his duffel bag on one of the chairs by the counter, before reaching over to unzip it. 

"Congrats on the win by the way." 

Sid's gaze meets Claude's while he stands with the fridge doors open, his eyes soft and somewhat sympathetic. 

"Thanks. Sorry you guys didn't make it." 

Claude shrugs, his attention drifting away from his bag.

"I moped for awhile, but then I thought there'll be other times. You played good by the way, I watched the final," he admits.

Sid's eyes widen.

"You what?

"I watched the final?" Claude repeats.

There's a pause, before Sid bursts out laughing.

"Claude...you watched a game with the Penguins in it. I'm impressed," Sid teases.

Claude snorts.

"Shut up, I mainly watched it to see you." 

Sid's laughter dies down, as his cheeks flush.

"Oh," he says.

Claude flashes him a grin.

"You were on fire. Couldn't keep my eyes off of you." 

If Sid was going to be an ass about him watching the game, then Claude was going to reap all the benefits. It works because Sid turns back to the fridge, the blush deepening and spreading to the tips of his ears. 

"Well, thanks for watching it?" 

"Just promise you'll watch us if we ever make a final,” Claude chides.

Sid snorts.

“If I did it’d be to see you.”

Claude’s grin widens.

“Fair’s fair Cros,” he replies.

Silence falls around them as easy as talking does, before Claude's attention focuses back on his bag. He rifles through it and pulls out a medium sized box, then places it on the counter, just in time for Sid to slide a beer over to him. Sid raises a brow at him, his eyes locked on the box, that happens to have his name scrawled across it. 

"Uh, what's that?" he asks.

For maybe about the third or fourth time in his adult life, Claude feels embarrassed as he pushes the box towards Sid, so that he doesn't hesitate further.

"I um- fuck ...happy birthday. Sorry it's late."

" Claude . You didn't have to," Sid utters, a little too quietly.

"I know, but I got you something anyway." 

Sid proceeds to slide the lid off the box, move the tissue paper beside, then peer inside. His face goes through a thousand emotions, before settling on one that can only be described as a ' what the fuck' look. Claude smirks at him like it's Christmas, as Sid pulls the bright orange jersey out of the box, squinting at it judgmentally. 

"Really Claude?" 

Claude elicits a loud laugh. 

"I thought you'd like it!" he protests.

"It's hideous, Giroux." 

"Turn it over," Claude says, with a bit of fondness in his expression.

When Sid does, he sees Claude's name and number on the back, making him squint again.

"Is this one of your jerseys?" he mutters.

Claude's cheeks grow warm.

"One I used to wear. Don't worry, I washed it. It was a dumb idea, I can take it back." 

"No, I'm keeping it. But I'm not wearing it. Maybe I'll sell it," Sid drawls.

"Asshole," Claude chirps.

Sid snickers.

"Fuck you." 

Claude smiles, but it's short lived as he starts to worry his lip between his teeth.

"I got something else anyway, it's in the bottom of the box," he mumbles.

Again, Sid shifts more tissue paper out of the way, grabs a smaller box and opens the lid. 

"Before you say anything, I know it looks cheesy as hell. But we played great during Worlds, so I got a 28 on a chain, for you to wear during games. And I-" 

Claude reaches under the collar of his shirt to fish out a chain with the 87 hanging on it. 

"...I thought it might give us luck." 

Sid holds the chain in his hand, but he glances over at Claude, while idly running his thumb over Claude's number. 

"You think so?" 

Claude nods.

"I do," he answers.

"Put it on for me. Please?" 

Claude's on his feet before Sid even finishes speaking, circling around until he's behind Sid, who hands the chain over his shoulder to him. Claude unclasps the chain and places it around Sid's neck, knuckles brushing lightly over smooth skin. Sid sucks in a breath, but otherwise remains still while Claude secures the chain, his breath ghosting on the nape of Sid's neck. Claude's hands drop to Sid's shoulders and down some, before Sid turns around.

"Why are you here?" he inquires, like it's an interview question.

Claude sighs shakily.

"Can we talk outside? I think I need some air." 

“Sure, I was out on the dock before you got here anyway,” Sid says, tilting his head towards the door leading out to the porch.

While they made their way along the dock, Claude fidgeted with the hem of his shirt, as he tried to push down the nervousness that started rearing its ugly head. He wasn't sure what it was about being around Sid that made him nervous. Maybe fear, a fear that whatever he says or does it's not going to be the right thing. Claude really doesn't have much faith in himself, he's even told himself that in moments where he is alone. 

"Do you want to sit?" 

Claude turns to Sid, not realising they'd made it to the end of the dock now, where two deck chairs were placed. Sid had obviously brought another over when he found out about Claude's visit, god, Claude was still pissed at Marc-Andre for that. Nevertheless, it was still a nice gesture, adding to the multitude of things that Claude found himself liking about Sid. 

"I-" 

Sid's brow furrows and his eyes are filled with concern.

"Claude? What's wrong? You look like you want to throw up." 

He did feel a little queasy, not with nausea per say, but...butterflies? Fuck , I'm like a teenager with a high school crush Claude thought. His palms were sweaty, causing his beer to slide slightly in his hand, before he squeezed it tight. What he was about to say...it could go two ways, good or bad, and Claude isn't sure he's prepared if it swings towards bad. Worlds has changed how Claude sees Sid, so part of him hopes Sid also feels that way too. It worries him so much, he doesn't notice he's shaking, until Sid places his hand on Claude's arm.

"Hey, breathe, " he soothes. 

Sid squeezes Claude's arm in a comforting manner, as Claude takes a few slow, deep breaths, his grip loosening on the neck of his beer. The shaking begins to settle and Claude realises he's doing this because Sid has a way of making him feel fearless, he's seeing Sid as well... Sid.

"I-uh, shit-" Claude pauses, then rubbed his hand on the back of his neck. "I can't stop thinking about Prague," he admits, not meeting Sid's eyes.

"Claude," Sid interjects.

"Let me finish, please?" 

Sid nods and Claude sighs.

"I just...spending time with you at Worlds really put some shit into perspective. This rivalry we're or were supposed to have, maybe I was keen on it back then, but I'm not now. I wasn't during Worlds and I wasn't going to revert back to it either. Something changed, and it turned into me not being able to stop thinking about the kiss to-" 

Claude meets Sid's gaze then.

"...to not being able to stop thinking about you, " he whispers.

Sid's mouth drops open in surprise.

"I'm sorry I didn't stop by your room that night. I wanted to, but Segs got me so fucking wasted we just went back to ours and crashed. You have no idea how much i wanted to see you. Then the next morning when we went sightseeing, I- fuck, I wanted to grab you and take you somewhere private so I could kiss you again. It's been a year and I still want that," Claude rambles, while biting down on his bottom lip.

"I waited for you..." 

Claude clenched his jaw, before he closed his eyes. Of course Sid waited for him.

" Désolé. "

Sid shifts so he's standing in front of Claude, Sid's fingers grazing the scar on his wrist.

"Don't be. Would it be too much to say the feeling is mutual?"  

Claude's eyes open to meet Sid's again.

"What?" 

"As unbelievable as it sounds, I'm sayin' I missed you, Claude," Sid confesses.

Claude says nothing and leans in to kiss Sid. It's not like the first one, where it was filled with heat and want, no, this one is tender, maybe even a little intimate. It feels right , so Claude wraps his arm low around Sid's waist, drawing him closer until they're chest to chest. The bottle in Sid's hand slips from his grasp, clatters to the dock, before the remaining contents spill out between the gaps in the timber. Sid pulls back when he hears it fall, but Claude stops him, his hand tightening lightly on Sid’s hip.

“Leave it,” he mumbles, before kissing the corner of Sid’s mouth.

Sid rests a hand on Claude’s forearm and moves in to kiss him chastely, before Claude tilts Sid's head back to deepen it, stroking his thumb over some stubble on Sid's jaw. He breathes out sharply when he pulls away for air, head tilted forward to put his forehead against Sid's. 

"Sid," Claude sighs, softly.

Sid's eyes lock with Claude's, as he lazily strokes his hand up and down the other's arm.

"Yeah?" he murmurs.

Claude takes a deep breath, then slides one hand down to take Sid's hand.

"Are we doing this? You and me?" he questions.

"You want to make this exclusive?" 

Claude confirms it with a nod.

"I'm in it for the long haul, if you are. We can work everything out while I'm here." 

Sid tensed a little.

"The press, they'll start asking questions." 

He visibly relaxed when Claude held him closer to him.

"We'll be careful. We won't give them anything until you're ready. I promise you Sid, we can make this work. Let them believe we became friends during Worlds, that'll keep them on their toes." 

"I don't know, Claude," Sid says, warily.

Claude's hand aimlessly rubbed up and down Sid's side.

"I want this with you Sid. I don't know what the fuck made me want to, but I do. A lot changed between us at Worlds, kissing you was just the start of it. And if you don't want this, I can leave. You just tell me no and I'll grab my bag and go. I won't hate you for it." 

Sid shook his head.

"I want you to stay. I want this ," he assures him.

"You're sure?" Claude asks.

Claude feels like he might burst at the seams, he was prepared for rejection, but he wasn't prepared for affirmation. He wasn't even prepared for the way Sid was looking at him, eyes filled with fondness and affection, his smile brighter than the late afternoon sun. 

"I am." 

"So we're going to do this? You and me, eh Cros?" he drawls.

Sid groans in exasperation.

"If you stop fucking calling me that for a start." 

Claude's laugh echoes across the lake, as he pulls Sid into his arms, burying his face into the crook of Sid's neck. Sid feels warm against him, he feels content and safe to stand there and not let go for awhile, even though he knows he'll have to eventually.

"Are you happy?" 

He asks so cautiously, Sid huffs out a breathy laugh, his hands coming up to grasp the fabric of Claude's shirt gently.

"I am now,” Sid concedes. 

Again, the wild, but not currently buzzed part of Claude's mind has him thinking about one thing, that bizarre image of wanting to marry Sid. Claude's not sure how he can feel like doing something such as that already, but Sid's just different , to Claude he's worth those intermittent thoughts in his head. He wonders what Sid would say if he just dropped down to one knee... yes, Claude would hope.

Claude doesn't try, not yet. 


~Three~

2016 - Preseason 

“How long do you think it takes to fall in love with someone?" 

It's the 2016 preseason, and Claude feels good to be back out on the ice with his team. He's passing the puck back and forth with Coots when he blurts out his question, which earns him a weird look, the puck passing coming to an abrupt halt. 

"Uh, Claude, what the fuck kind of question is that?" Coots scoffs.

"I'm trying to keep the conversation going." 

Coots starts to pass the puck again.

"So the first thing you say is that ?" he laughs.

"It's a good question," Claude protests.

"Okay, I'll bite. Who has caught the attention of our captain? Is she from Philly?" 

"They uh- it's not a she," he mumbles.

There's a brief moment of silence between them, and Claude braces himself for the worst.

"Oh, holy shit. Who's the lucky guy?" 

Claude's face flushes, but he smiles regardless. 

"You can't go around telling anyone that I'm into guys, Coots. I'm ready to be out, but who I'm with, he's not, and I want to respect that." 

"You can't just come out yourself? Without involving him?" Coots questions.

"No. You know how the media is, they'll be on my back like monkeys wanting to know who I'm with, even if I don't tell them. That always makes them start speculating." 

Coots nodded.

"Okay, I won't say anything. Does anyone else know?" he asks.

"Danny. And I think one of the friends of the guy I'm with. He guessed, fuckin' goalies eh?" Claude says.

He immediately regrets it, going by the wide eyed look on Coots' face.

"Fuck, Claude! Is it another player?" 

Fucking fuck everything Claude thinks.

"Keep your voice down," he hisses.

"Well? Is it?" 

Claude sighs and turns to shoot a puck into the empty net, but it hits off the crossbar instead with a resounding 'ping'. He turns back to Coots, brows knitted together, because god damn him and his big mouth, he might have to tell his teammate about Sid. Or he might not. 

"Yes it's another player. And no, he's not on this team. It's really new okay? Stuff happened over the summer, now It's exclusive. That's it." 

Coots looks smug, the asshole.

"Do I get a clue?" he teases.

"No, fuck off." 

"C'mon Claude," Coots groans. 

"What're you two whispering about?" 

Claude officially hates his nosy team, as Schenner and Simmer get involved. 

"It's nothing," he grouses.

"Doesn't look like nothing," Schenner points out.

"Claude was asking me how long I think it takes to fall in love with someone." 

"Coots!" Claude exclaims.

Simmer shrugged. 

"Everyone's different, some people say they feel it after a few months. Others it's longer than that." 

Schenner grins.

"Are you in love Giroux?" 

Claude's not in love, per say, or he may as well be, he's not exactly sure. Given the time between Worlds to when he saw Sid during the off season, it's been almost a year and a half. He's pretty sure he started feeling something deeper for Sid, before he even decided to show up at his house in August. There had been the texts to keep Claude sane, even though they were nothing interesting, but they were enough to let Claude's feelings develop right up until now. So, he's not denying there's something else he feels for Sid other than attraction, but he won't tell the team that. 

"I don't know why I even asked you in the first place." 

"Well, if you ever want to talk about it, we're all here, right?" Simmer interjects.

Schenner confirms that with a nod.

"Sure, you can trust us Claude," he says.

Before he gets the opportunity to answer, Claude's reply is drowned out by a loud laugh from the other end of the ice. He knows that laugh, and turns to glance over his shoulder, staring down the ice where Sid and the other Penguins are training, or in Sid's case, messing around. Sid looks good and Claude can't stop staring, his stomach doing the strange flip flop shit again, like It's butterflies, except this time it gravitates to his chest. 

"No fucking way." 

Coots sidles up to Claude. 

"Are you kidding me? Sidney Crosby?" 

Claude smiles.

"Yeah." 

"Oh my god," Coots breathes out. "Am I living in another world?" he adds.

"Shut up Coots, it's not that bad," Claude grumbles.

Coots leans against Claude.

"I guess, but I thought you hated the guy?" 

"No. Never did, we had our differences and some tension between us, I guess. But it changed," he  says.

"When did this happen?" 

Claude drags the edge of his stick blade across the ice aimlessly. 

"At Worlds. After we won, there was a lot of champagne. Anyway, Segs kissed me and guess who got jealous?" 

Coots snorts.

"Seguin kissed you too? Then Crosby got jealous over it? Damn Claude, you know how to pick them," he chides, nudging his captain's arm.

Claude rolls his eyes.

"I went after Sid when he left the locker room. We talked, and I told him about how I was into guys but I hadn't come out yet, and he told me the same. I don't know, we found common ground? Then he said he wanted to be the one who kissed me since we won gold. He made it really impossible not to want that, so he made a move and we kissed." 

"Shit dude, then what?" Coots answers, as he interrogates Claude further. 

"We didn't see each other after Worlds. We'd talk through text, not a lot though, I know Sid hates it. I think he called me once but we didn't talk about what happened in Prague. And then this year I went to his place during the off season, in Canada. That's where we decided we'd try dating. It feels right? I'm happy around him, I want it to work. But I'm fucking terrified of screwing it up," he explains. 

He feels Coots' hand squeeze his shoulder.

"Do you love him Claude?" 

"I don't know," Claude utters, before he averts his gaze to the ice. 

“You know it’s okay to, even if he doesn’t yet.”

Claude looks up, smiles at Coots, then shoves him gently.

“Thanks.”

He gets a smile and a playful shove from Coots in return.

“Hey so uh, don’t look now, but I think your man wants to talk to you,” he murmurs. 

Claude turns his attention back to the Penguins side of the ice, where sure enough, Sid is looking at him now. He smiles shyly, clearly trying not to look too obvious and Claude’s chest does the fluttery bullshit again, before he flashes him a wide grin. Coots bumps his stick blade against Claude’s lower back, pushing him forward, then lets out a laugh at the scowl he earns. 

“Go talk to him, jeez. Don’t worry I’ve got you covered,” Coots assures him.

“I owe you Coots, just as much as I owe Fleury.”

When Claude turns to skate down to centre ice, Sid extracts himself from a conversation with Geno, Flower and Tanger, and meets Claude halfway. 

“Giroux.”

Claude smiles fondly at Sid.

“Crosby,” he greeted.

Sid smirks and his nose scrunches when he does it, it’s something Claude likes a lot about him.

“Coots knows by the way. And he knows it’s you,” Claude adds.

“Oh, he won’t tell anyone?”

Claude shakes his head.

“No, he won’t.”

“Okay, ‘cause Flower kind of told Geno and Tanger,” Sid sighs.

“Goalies eh?”

“You’re not pissed about it?” he asks.

“I told Danny,” Claude answers.

Sid nods, then glances back at Flower, who was messing around with Tanger. 

“He said how’s your beau and that’s how it all started.”

Claude cracks up, as he slides his arm around Sid’s shoulders, feeling Sid tense for a few seconds, then relax. He leans in to get close to Sid, but still keeps a reasonable distance away, given that there’s fans in the stands. But, they’re probably already asking questions anyway, Claude can see a few out of the corner of his eye, whispering to those beside them. 

"You're going to make people talk." 

Claude's gaze meets Sid's, before he drops his hand down to the 87 on the other's jersey.

"I wish I could kiss you right now," he says.

Sid ducks his head. 

" Claude, " he mutters.

Claude chuckles.

"Good thing we aren't mic'd up huh?" 

"I guess," Sid hums

Sid's smile radiates warmth as it always does, and Claude finds himself staring a little longer than he should be, mulling over his conversation with Coots. He's too busy with his own thoughts to notice Sid bump his hip, throwing him off balance for a brief time. Sid laughs, then holds onto Claude when he throws his arms out toward him, his fingers just catching the edge of Claude's wrist.

"Such an asshole." 

He pokes Sid with the end of his stick, which Sid grabs, before dragging Claude over to him. There's a playfulness in his body language, Claude knows it's risky being like this, but they may as well let everyone think they're friends now, even if they're so much more. So when Sid stops fooling around and sidles up close to Claude, he can sense that Sid's going to ask him something. 

"Come back to my place after the game?" 

"You want me to?" Claude inquires.

"I don't have a game tomorrow." 

Claude raises an eyebrow.

"Me neither," he replies.

And oh. Oh. Claude can see what's happening here.

" Sid ." 

Sid's cheeks get a little flushed, yet he can always blame that on skating around on the ice, because no one would think he was lying. 

"I'll meet you outside the rink, we'll go back together." 

"Just make sure no one sees you eh?" Sid says.

"I'll make sure I'm the last one out." 

Sid grins.

"Letang looks like he wants to charge at me," Claude snorts.

"I did just tell him two days ago that I was dating you. The guy I'm supposed to hate." 

"Yeah, now look at you," he chides, while bumping Sid's shoulder. 

Something flashes across Sid's face briefly, but Claude decides not to point it out, Sid will tell him things when he's ready. And Claude's more than happy to keep that going. 

"I should go back, we'll be playing soon," Sid states.

"I'm still going to kick your ass you know." 

Sid's brow rises at Claude's challenging tone.

"Really? You can try," he taunts.

Claude's smirk is devilish when he looks at Sid. 

"Good luck then." 

Sid slips his fingers into the collar of his jersey to take the chain Claude gave him into his hand, before pressing a kiss to the 28.

"You too." 

He keeps staring at Sid after he leaves to join his team again, even if Geno was now looking at him like he'd pissed in his cereal. Claude also takes the chain out from his jersey, letting his lips brush the 87, before following it with a few murmurs of good luck in French. 

"Hey Claude! C'mon!" Simmer yells.

As Claude follows his team off the ice, he thinks...regardless of who wins tonight, he'll still go home with Sid, and that's what he looks forward to most. 

The Flyers win 5-3

****&****

“Claude, c’mon,” Sid laughs, even as his breath catches in his throat. 

Sid's splayed out on his back on the bed, one arm tucked behind his head and the other resting at his side. The sheet covers him from the waist down, which Claude is hiding under, the lump in the sheet all too obvious. He sighs impatiently, before pulling the sheet back to reveal Claude, hair slightly rumpled. Claude smirks up at Sid and kisses the inside of his thigh, coaxing a soft moan from him. They’d discarded their clothes somewhere in the hallway, except for their underwear, so it's easy for Claude to get at every exposed part of bare skin on Sid.

"Stop messin' around," he complains.

"Who won tonight?" 

Sid sighs.

"You did." 

Claude hums.

"And we made a bet. If we won I'd take my time, if we lost, then I wouldn't." 

"You're-" 

"Say it," Claude encourages, as he kisses Sid's thigh again. 

"You're such an ass," Sid bites out.

Claude grins smugly.

"Promise I'll make you feel good," he says.

Sid bites down on his lip when Claude’s fingers slip under the hem of his underwear, fingers teasing over his cock for a mere second.

“You better,” he hisses.

Claude moves up until he's leaning over Sid, the sheet pooled around his waist, which Sid pushes away with his foot. He smiles, then leans down to kiss Sid softly, parting his lips to swallow the moan Sid lets out, as Claude's tongue glides over his. Sid's hand glides up the curve of Claude's back, before coming to a stop between his shoulder blades, the other resting flush against his chest. He parts his legs to allow Claude more room, something he regrets only a little when Claude grinds his hips down, his cock pressing right on Sid's. 

" Oh my god ." 

Claude's laugh is husky, but pleased. 

"Feel good?" 

Sid throws his head back into the pillows with a gasp after Claude grinds down again. 

"Yeah fuck. Please." 

Claude answers by leaving a trail of kisses down Sid’s chest to his navel, his hand coming back up to tease at a nipple, that Sid responds pliantly to. Sid arches up from the bed as Claude drags his teeth along the dip of Sid’s hip, before biting down roughly. There’s no sweeter sound than those that Claude can bring out of Sid, he knows what Sid wants now, and he’s always eager to satisfy that need. 

“Up.”

Sid lifts his hips without question, half lidded eyes watching Claude work his underwear down his legs and off. Claude follows, underwear thrown carelessly where it lands on something, knocking it over and making Sid laugh. He silences that laugh with a kiss that has Sid’s toes curling, tongue or teeth, it all works for him. They’re bare now, skin to skin, the way Claude likes when he manages to get these moments alone with his boyfriend. 

Boyfriend.  

It’s taken Claude every bit of willpower in himself not to let slip that he has one, let alone that it’s Sidney fucking Crosby. Whenever someone who knows already asks about his boyfriend, Claude fails to stop himself from smiling, or sometimes he has to pinch himself to make sure it’s real.

“Claude, I said stop messin’ around. I don’t care about the stupid bet anymore,” Sid complains.

Claude sighs, but smiles nonetheless at Sid’s insistence.

“You’re so impatient,” he scolds.

Sid’s brow furrows.

“You’re being unfair."

“If you would stop interrupting-” Claude pauses, as he bites down gently on Sid’s neck.

Sid tries to stifle a whine yet fails.

“...maybe we’d get somewhere.”

Claude dips down to kiss Sid again, licking into his mouth somewhat filthily, while he grips his hip tightly. Sid bumps the heel of his foot on the back of Claude’s thigh, causing him to shift forward abruptly. His cock slowly drags over Sid’s and he pulls back to gasp sharply, as Sid moans gutturally, his neck bared to Claude. A few more marks are left forming on his skin, some will fade by the end of the night, but Sid will either need to be quiet, or come up with some wild story for his teammates. Only Flower, Tanger and Geno would know, which was a chaotic trio in itself. 

It hits Sid so suddenly he can’t stop himself from laughing, the kind of laugh that won’t stop. Which is why he doesn’t notice Claude slink lower, before Claude’s hands are on his thighs, spreading them, and his mouth is on his cock. Sid cries out when Claude swallows him down until his cock hits the back of Claude’s throat. Claude moans around him and Sid’s hand surges up to grasp strands of red, twisting them firmly around his fingers, only pushing his dick deeper into Claude’s mouth. 

“Fuck, fuck, fuck ,” he curses.

The first time Claude had ever taken all of Sid, he came quicker than he'd intended. Now, that feeling was encroaching on him again, which was not ideal for Sid in his books. 

" God, slow down." 

His voice sounds wrecked already and Claude loves that he can do that to Sid. But he eases off some, just until the head of Sid's dick sits heavy on his tongue, his thumb idly stroking up the underside. Sid shudders and closes his legs slightly, thighs pressed tight to Claude's shoulders to hold him there. He sighs breathlessly, then strokes his fingers through Claude's hair, before Claude decides to continue. 

Claude grips the side of Sid's thighs as he runs his tongue up from root to tip on Sid's cock, feeling the thick muscles tremble against his hands. He draws back, smiling like he had when they'd won the game, only this was all for Sid. He's got him where he needs him, eyes glazed and his lips red from biting them too much. Sid looks fucking gorgeous that way, which ultimately has Claude changing his mind. He won't go slow anymore, fuck the bet he made. 

There's the snap of a cap, so Sid looks down, and wonders where the fuck Claude hid that lube. He doesn't get time to ask, because Claude already has one finger teasing at his hole, then two, making Sid groan loudly. His head falls back on the pillows and he swallows thickly, as his hand drops to Claude's jaw. Claude steals a glance at him, gaze smouldering with intent, one Sid knows all too well.

"Open your legs." 

Sid edges his legs open and Claude hums.

"That's it, you’re so good for me Sid," he whispers. 

Claude slides his fingers up to apply light pressure on Sid’s perineum, moves them around in slow circles, then presses down firmly. The sensation sends a jolt up Sid’s spine, back bowing while he grinds his hips down for more. 

“Claude, you- ah-

Sid chokes on his words, not only has Claude taken Sid’s cock back into the wet heat of his mouth, but two of Claude’s fingers pushed inside with little to no resistance, right down to the knuckles. The sharp tug on Claude’s hair is enough to spur him further, cheeks hollowed, as he starts bobbing his head with Sid’s hand guiding him with the speed he wants. Every sound Claude lets out around Sid's dick makes him clutch the pillow above his head, his grip tightening each time Claude elicits one moan or groan that sends pleasure jolting through him. 

Claude's tongue expertly works up the underside of Sid's cock again, before he licks over the tip to get the precum that gathers there, his nostrils flaring when Sid yanks his hair, hard. He twists his fingers at an angle inside Sid, barely brushing his prostate, which Sid responds in kind by digging both of his heels into Claude's thighs. Claude knows then that Sid isn't going to last much longer, so he allows a third finger to join the first two, whilst still holding the tip of Sid's cock between his lips. The flush on Sid's face seems to have travelled down to his chest, it's beautiful Claude thinks. Sid, is beautiful.  

"Shit, shit , babe, I'm gonna-" 

It's the first time Sid calls him something other than his name, and Claude feels like he might just burst at the seams. He was going to keep up with his mouth and fingers, but something burns inside Claude, he wants more. He's close to chasing his orgasm too, but he doesn't care how quick it'll be, he wants, no, needs to be closer.  

"Don't move. S'il te plaît.

Sid tries not to whimper pitifully when Claude's mouth and fingers are gone, he just manages not to, yet Claude still hears him. He hangs over Sid, kisses him slow, then reaches into the drawer beside the bed and rifles through it to grab a condom. By then Sid has caught on to what's happening, his hands coming to rest on Claude's shoulders, before dropping to his chest. Claude meets Sid's gaze, even though he's unprepared for the level of affection Sid's got in his eyes, it's a little jarring, in a good way. 

He unceremoniously rips the foil packet open with his teeth, then rolls the condom on swiftly, groaning at how fucking close he is to that edge he seeks. Sid spreads his legs that little bit wider, and Claude swears softly in French, before he grabs Sid's legs to hook them over his shoulders. A surprised gasp is punched right out of Sid, as Claude starts to ease in without stopping, his lips parting around a moan when he bottoms out.

"Fuck, Sid. Holy fuck.

"Move. Now. " Sid growls. 

Claude shifts to bend over Sid, pushing Sid's thighs down further to his chest, as he watches him throw his head back, keening loudly. One day, he'll take Sid apart slowly, but neither of them have that luxury right now. It takes Claude a moment to gather himself, before he starts out at a slow pace, letting Sid adjust, dragging in and out, and driving Sid to want more. 

" Faster. Claude, fuck me, " he begs, through gritted teeth.

Claude almost loses it.

" Mon dieu ," he groans, breathlessly. 

Sid hauls Claude down into a searing kiss, just as Claude snaps his hips, and hits that spot inside him that has Sid biting down harshly on the other man's lip. Claude pulls away with a hiss, then grabs Sid's wrists, pinning them above his head so that he can lean in for another kiss. He begins to fuck Sid in earnest now, hips slamming against Sid's ass, the sound echoing in the room, along with every soft ' uh' Sid pants out. 

Claude’s thrusts become erratic, his hold on Sid’s wrists gripping strong, as he just keeps chasing, chasing, chasing. He tries to kiss Sid, but only gets as far as a chaste one, before he gasps when Sid manages to roll his hips down to meet Claude’s thrusts. The bed bumps a little on the wall and Sid smirks, until Claude rocks back in, fast and deep, leaving him breathless. 

C’mon Sid, come for me,” Claude says.

Sid comes with a shout, Claude’s name heavy on his tongue. He shakes through his orgasm, as strips of cum spill out across his stomach, his throat working to try and catch his breath. Claude grunts, before his hips stutter twice, and he comes with a long, drawn out moan, dropping his head down on Sid’s shoulder. He loosens his grasp on Sid's wrists, then kisses along Sid's jaw, as Sid wraps his arms around Claude and strokes down his back. 

They gradually catch their breath, before Sid gets uncomfortable with Claude's weight on top of him. He shoves at Claude, who protests and continues to lay on Sid, despite the cum starting to dry on Sid's stomach. Sid lies for a few minutes longer, then pushes again, which eventually gets Claude to roll onto the other side of the bed. Claude sighs and gets the condom off, tied, then deposits it in the waste basket near Sid's bed, because of course Sid fucking has one. 

"You're heavy." 

Claude laughs.

"That's not nice when your ass is probably heavier than all of me put together." 

Sid swats at Claude's chest.

"Fuck you."

Claude raises an eyebrow at Sid, earning himself a pillow to the face.

"Shut up," Sid snorts. "I think I'll go clean myself up," he adds, with a grimace. 

Claude bits back another laugh.

"I'll get us something to drink. Meet me in the kitchen?" 

Sid nods and sits up, before cupping the back of Claude's neck

"Yeah. And, thanks, this was great." 

"Huh, you sure have a way with words, Sid," Claude replies, with a grin.

Sid rolls his eyes as he gets off the bed, then heads to the en suite.

"Go. I'll be with you in a minute." 

After Sid closes the door behind him, Claude sits up and stretches, before he lifts his boxers to put them back on. Claude walks out into the hallway, searches around for his jeans and fishes his phone out from the pocket. He decides to forgo a shirt, they'll probably go to sleep after this, so there was no point in dragging his shirt back on when he usually slept shirtless at home. 

With a yawn, Claude meanders into the kitchen, before flicking the switch on the kettle to boil water. He's only been to Sid's house once, after they left Cole Harbour before the start of the preseason, so he vaguely knows where Sid keeps everything in the kitchen. Claude's just grabbing the tea Sid likes, when he feels an arm slide loosely around his waist, then Sid's lips brushing over the skin between his neck and shoulder. 

"Hey, you okay with tea?" he asks.

"Mm, sure." 

Claude taps his hand against Sid's. 

"Getting sleepy?" 

Sid huffs.

"A little, someone did just have mind blowing sex with me," he mutters, into Claude's shoulder.

"Mind blowing, eh?" 

"That's the only way I can describe it right now," Sid says. 

Claude smiles and kisses his forehead, Sid smiles back, then fetches mugs from the cabinet above them. He drops a tea bag into each one, while Claude pours the water in, much like teamwork. Sid takes one mug, blows on it and sips gingerly, letting out a hum of approval. 

"Good?" Claude questions, as he leans against the counter. 

"Yeah, thanks." 

Silence falls over them, and Claude knows that this might happen often, their relationship is new, but Claude's feelings have been nagging at him for the past year and a half. He thinks back to what Coots said to him before the game, that it's okay to be in love with Sid, even if he isn't quite there yet. And as Claude continues to think about it, he thinks he might love Sid, but there's always a part of him that urges him to stay silent about it. Although, it is a surprise to him that Sid's the one to break the silence that surrounds them. 

"Hey, so...I was thinking-" 

Claude lowers his mug after he takes a sip. 

"What is it?" 

"I-I think I'm gonna' tell the team, like, come out to them. And also tell them about us." 

Claude's eyes widen a fraction.

" Ouais?

"Yeah, I want them to know, at least the ones who don't know yet," Sid answers. 

"You trust them not to say anything?" 

"Of course. They're my team first, but like family second," he states, with a sense of pride in his tone. 

Claude smiles at him.

"I've been thinking of telling the rest of the Flyers. Same thing, team first, family second. Only a really weird family," he points out. 

Sid giggle honks.

"I'm glad we can talk about this, y'know?" 

When Sid's hand rests on Claude's chest, it's warm, and that warmth seems to spread all over. It's been a while since Claude has felt anything as close to what he has with Sid, only this time he's not spiralling downward but upward instead. He wants to tell Sid, he keeps telling himself he can just say those words and be done with it, instead he settles for answering Sid's question. 

"It's a good thing to have when you're with someone," Claude confirms, sounding a little robotic as he says it. 

Get a grip Claude he says to himself. 

"I mean, you have to be honest with each other, right?" 

The smile Sid had on his face falters at Claude's added response.

"I-yeah. Definitely," he replies. 

There's something a bit unsettling about the way Sid appears to shut down a little, along with the expression that slowly materialises on his face. Claude wonders if that's how he looked when he wanted to tell Sid that he couldn't stop thinking about Prague, looking like he might throw up at any given moment. 

"Sid." 

Sid's eyes meet Claude's briefly. 

"You were talking about honesty, and I don't think I've been a hundred percent honest with you," Sid says. 

Claude goes rigid and his hand stills over Sid's, that's still pressed comfortably on his chest. Sid worries his lip between his teeth, Claude's tempted to kiss him so he'll stop doing it, but he doesn't. 

"I-um-"  

The longer the silence drags on, the more Claude's heart starts to think, so he braces himself for the worst.

"I love you." 

Claude's breath hitches.

" Quoi? "

Claude doesn't blame himself for losing the will to speak English, because part of him feels like he didn't hear what Sid said.

"I said I-oh for fucks sake. Don't laugh at me okay?" Sid murmurs, before he exhales deeply.  " Je t'aime , Claude," he adds, with his gaze locked firmly on Claude. 

Sid says it so fluently that Claude just stares , he continues to stare until Sid starts to back away, taking two steps back like Claude's stung him or something. 

"Sorry, I thought-" 

"Shut up Sid, crisse , just shut up," Claude whispers, sitting his mug down on the counter.

He takes two steps towards Sid, cups his face in his hands, then kisses him fiercely. 

" Je t'aime aussi ," he breathes out, after pulling away. 

Claude kisses Sid again before he can say anything.

"You had me fucking worried." 

Sid wraps his free hand around Claude's forearm.

"I'm sorry." 

Claude shakes his head and laughs happily.

"How long did it take you to say that fluently?" 

Sid's cheeks go pink.

"I asked Flower, so he kept teaching me during practice until I got it right. Now imagine everyone else catching on and saying 'I love you' in French while they skated past him," Sid explains.

Claude's laughter continues.

"I wouldn't have cared how you said it. I'm just...holy shit, I was freaking out at Coots before tonight's game. He asked if I loved you and I wasn't even sure. Then he said that it'd be okay if I did and you didn't yet. I kept wanting to tell you, now you've said it and-" Claude pauses. "...I'm kind of mad at myself for not saying it first," he adds. 

Sid shrugs. 

"It's not the only thing I did first," he chides, his smile hidden by his mug. 

Claude frowns at him, clearly catching onto Sid's reference of who finished first in the bedroom moments ago, then puts his arm around Sid's shoulder. He draws him close to his chest, as his lips ghosting over his hair, and he kisses Sid's temple. 

"I hate you." 

Sid scoffs at Claude's joking tone, as he wraps his arm around Claude's waist. 

"Liar." 

Claude hums and picks his mug back up.

"You're right."  

Sid tilts his head up, grinning, his eyes looking hopeful.

"I love you," Claude tells him again.

É pouse-moi, he wants to add. 


~Four~

2017 - All Star Weekend  

Claude's at home catching up on the All Star Skills Competition highlights when Sid calls him. It's not unusual, but at the same time it is, after he had told Sid to enjoy himself while he was in LA. Claude misses him, and he kind of wishes he was there with him. They haven't spent as much time together because of the regular season, their schedules were pretty tight, yet they made it work when they could. So Sid's call is a little unexpected, but welcomed nonetheless, and he answers after the third ring.

"Hey you. How's LA?" 

"Claude, there's a photo." 

The colour drains from Claude's face. 

"What?" 

"There's a fucking photo. Of us. Geno sent it to me. Apparently it's only over a few media outlets, but it's going to spread soon enough." 

Sid sounds panicked, and Claude hates to hear him like that, they were careful, or at least, they'd tried to be. Claude gets off the couch, in favour of going into the kitchen to grab a bet from the fridge, the phone tucked up against his ear. 

"Can you send it to me?" he asks.

"Yeah, yeah. Hold on." 

A few minutes later a text comes through from Sid with a link attached, Claude clicks on it and skips past all of the writing to find the photo. 

"There's no way we can pretend that's not us." 

And Sid's right, the photo speaks for itself, there's no way to pretend that someone's done a pretty poor Photoshop job. Claude remembers the moment fondly, though it feels a little sour now, given that their privacy has been invaded. All they did was go out for a walk, after going to lunch together when Sid was in Philly. He stares at himself and Sid in the photo, his arms are around Sid, and they're smiling at each other. It's also fairly obvious that Claude's got the look of someone who's in love, because he is. He would think it was a nice photo if they actually consented to having it taken, so all he feels is a sudden rush of anger. 

"Merde, those fucking fuckers," Claude spits out.

"What the fuck are we going to do? We can't say it's not us. Or that someone made it up. I mean look at how we're looking at each other! It's pretty clear we're together! Jesus christ, we were careful Claude!" 

"Hey, hey...calm down amour . Deep breaths okay?" 

He can hear Sid exhale shakily. 

"This is not what I wanted to call you for. I was already going to call 'cause I wanted to hear your voice." 

"God you're a sap Sid." 

Claude's mouth twitches up at the corner when an idea hits him.

"What are you wearing?" he asks, in a suggestive tone.

Sid elicits one of his classic honking laughs.

"Seriously Claude?"  

"It made you laugh didn't it?" Claude replies.

"Yeah…"  

Sid still sounds upset, Claude hates it, he hates the paparazzi so much. 

"I'm sorry Sid." 

"What? What the hell Claude? Don't tell me you're blaming yourself?" 

He is.

"I am." 

Sid swears several times 

"You're fucking unbelievable. This is not your fault Claude. Our privacy was invaded. Sure, we were in public, but we were far enough away from prying eyes, so how the fuck did they find us?" 

"I don't know. But we need to decide what we're doing before this goes further than that article and whoever else has it," Claude says.

There's a bit of noise in the background, which Claude can only guess is from a bar, that Sid must be standing outside of. He wonders how long Sid paced outside of said bar, before he even decided to call him. 

"We should come out." 

Claude swallows thickly.

"Are you sure? Do you want to? We can talk to people, try and get this thrown aside. I don't want you to feel pressured into this." 

Sid's sigh is long and drawn out, like he's exhausted with it all. 

"Claude, I love you. When I said I wanted this, I meant it. We're in it together. It sucks, this isn't how I planned on it happening, I wanted to announce it in our own way. But I guess you don't get that choice sometimes. I am ready though, I've thought about it a lot. Even if the photo showed up months from now, I'd still be ready to go through this with you." 

Claude blinks at the moisture in his eyes, before scrubbing his hand down his face, sniffing loudly. 

"Should I come to Pittsburgh when you get back from LA?" 

"No, I'll come to Philly. Do you think you can get something organised with the press? We're probably gonna' need to talk to our coaches and such before we do a press release. It'll be short notice, but they'll have to deal with it. I don't want any bullshit." 

"You're going to come to Philly ?" Claude inquires.

"You come to Pittsburgh more often than I go to Philly. I'm doing this for you." 

Claude's heart swells, he loves Sid so much, to the point where it's getting ridiculous how gone for him that he is.

"Okay, I'll get in touch with some PR people, see what they can do. Fuck, I can't believe we're doing this," he wavers.

"We need to be ready for the fallout. I don't know how everyone will react." 

"I don't give a shit what they think. It's not their business to say what they want about our relationship. All that negative bullshit can be ignored. I want to focus on the positives." 

Sid hums thoughtfully.

"It'll be worth it because I'll still have you regardless." 

Claude smiles stupidly.

"You're too good to be true Sid." 

There's a laugh then a long pause. 

"So how did your team take the news?" 

"Better than I thought-" he starts, before stopping to take a swig from his beer. "...Simmer was pissed that I told Coots before him, more than he was that it was you I'm with. Everyone else was fairly positive about it, I think some of them were worried I was going to say that they can't body check you anymore. But I told them I'll still be doing the same. And Jakub was adamant that he's not going to go easy on you just because you're my boyfriend. Some of them looked like they were going to say something but Schenner threatened them with a bag skate if they 'talked shit about their captain'," Claude continues. 

Sid groans.

"Fair is fair Sid." 

"What's that supposed to mean?" 

"Well-" 

Claude's words are cut off when he leans against the counter, only to wince at the dull pain in his hip, that he keeps forgetting is there. 

"Are you okay, babe?" 

"Yeah. Fuck, Ovechkin checked me hard into the boards a couple weeks ago," Claude says.

"He does that a lot." 

"He said if I break your heart he'll break my pretty face," he utters.

Sid chuckles.

"At least he thinks you're pretty." 

"What and you don't?" 

Another thoughtful hum is the response he gets.

"Oh fuck you." 

"Maybe later. Or vice versa, I'm not choosy." 

Claude chokes at how husky Sid's voice becomes.

"We are not discussing that right now," he bites back.

"We won't need to discuss anything if I've got you bent over the counter in your kitchen." 

" Sid, " Claude breathes out, sounding a little scandalised, but interested at the same time.

"I know you like it when-" 

"Sid! There you are! Why you out here? Stupid. You come inside, have drink. Vodka warm you up!"  

"Oh my god. Go away Ovi, I'm on the phone." 

"With who? You talk to boyfriend? Is Roux? I'm say hi!" 

There's a scuffle, then a hard thud.

"Ow! Sid, so mean. What was that for?"

"That's for checking Claude into the boards and being a pain in the ass." 

"What? Sid we friends. I'm serious. He hurt you, I break pretty face." 

"That's such an empty threat and you know it." 

Claude stifles a laugh by biting down on his knuckles.

"I hear him laugh. You lie to me Sidney Crosby!" 

"Hello Ovechkin." 

Alex mutters something unintelligible.

"You call me Ovi or Alex." 

Claude can’t stop himself from rolling his eyes.

“Fine, Alex.

Alex makes an approving noise.

“Okay, we friends now. I leave you alone. Sid you come back inside, yes?”

“Yeah, yeah. Let me say goodbye to Claude eh?”

“What part of your right mind thought that telling him about us was a good idea?” Claude chides, once Alex’s voice fades.

“You said it’d be fine. Besides, Geno asked if he could tell him, then I asked you if it was okay.”

Right, ” he mumbles.

“He hasn’t said anything to anyone. So that’s a good thing.”

“Never in my life did I think I could trust Alex Ovechkin.”

Sid laughs quietly.

“He’s not so bad. I should probably get going before he comes back out to find me.”

Claude nods, then remembers Sid can’t see him.

“Have fun. Don’t drink too much you have the All Star game tomorrow.”

“I won’t.”

“I’ll text you details about the interview with the media. I think I’m going to go to bed now,” he says.

“Alright, goodnight. Love you.”

“Love you too,” Claude murmurs, with a yawn.

Once Claude disconnects the call, the room plunges into silence again, a sound he’s not overly fond of as of late. He’s got so much to do between now and when he sees Sid next, which will likely be at the interview with the press. Claude won’t admit that he is looking forward to it, he’s worried but also relieved that it’s happening, even if this isn’t how he wants to do it. It’ll be out there to the public, and even though it will cause a shitstorm, Claude’s only got his mind set on Sid and hockey. 

Claude takes a deep breath, then exhales slowly, before he starts pacing back and forth in the kitchen. He wants reporters there that won’t mess around, the ones who will ask the questions they want to ask, then leave them both alone, he hopes . Maybe they’ll do one article for a magazine, with a journalist they are comfortable around, just to sate the appetite of every thirsty media outlet that will salivate over it. But now it's getting late, and Claude still hasn't picked his phone up. 

In the end, he calls Danny. 

****&****

Claude's jittery on the day of the talk with the media, his leg won't stop bouncing up and down with nervousness, and his palms feel sweaty. It took over a week for the PR people to get their shit together and organise it all, because at that time it worked for both of them. As soon as Claude had walked into Wells Fargo, he was ushered to a room, then left there to wait for Sid. He knows Sid will show up soon, his flight ran on time that morning, plus Claude was also keeping track on another flight, making sure it was on time too. 

Nothing seems to settle the knots twisting in Claude's gut, or the rapid pounding of his heart against his chest. A lot of questions face through his mind at once, it feels like the off season visit to Sid's house all over again. He wonders if Sid actually did get on the plane, and if he did... would he actually show up? Claude feels a heaviness in his chest, because that's the last thing he wants, he doesn't want to go this alone, he needs Sid as much as Sid needs him. He also needs to smother his thoughts, so Claude decides to reply to the texts that blew up his phone hours ago. 

The first is from Tyler.

Dude, you and Crosby? Happy for you! Get some bro!!! ;) 

Claude shouldn't have expected anything more from him, it was a typical Tyler response, which he replies to with a thumbs up emoji and some other suggestive ones to add a touch of humour. He scrolls down to see one from Jamie Benn, who Tyler probably told, fucking Seguin, Claude's never telling him anything secretive again. 

Hey man, congrats. Hope it all works out for you! Segs told me, will keep it on the DL don't worry. 

Claude relaxes a little, until of course, one from Alex happens to be next. 

Roux, I'm still mean what I say. You hurt Sid, I'm coming for you ))))))) 

A snort echoes in the room from Claude. 

Stop worrying about me and go ask Backstrom out already :) 

Alex replies quickly.

Who tell you about that!? What you mean!!

Claude sighs. 

Uhh, you two aren't subtle, it's pretty fucking obvious. You're more obvious than Sid and I ever were!

((((((( So mean, like Sid.

More texts come through on Claude's phone after he's opened Tyler's, Jamie's and Alex's.

I really have to go. And for god's sake ask him okay? 

Alex takes awhile to text back. 

I'm call you later, you give me tips.

Whatever, bye Alex.

Good luck! ))))))))

Schenner's is long winding and heartfelt, which leaves Claude a little touched, before he leaves it to reply to later. Coots says he'll take him out for drinks later, then Simmer adds in that Sid should join them. Claude laughs to himself at the thought of asking Sid, yet he thinks he'd agree to go. Jakub and a few of the younger guys send him 'good luck' or 'we've got your back' , but there are a few teammates missing. It hurts only slightly, they can have their opinions, Claude just doesn't want to hear it. 

Geno, Tanger and Hornqvist give him a decent amount of shovel talk, but wish him well regardless. Nate MacKinnon also chimes in to threaten him, in a polite way, somehow. It's strange to get so many messages, especially from players he's never really talked to. How the fuck did they all get his number? He rifles through more, replies when he can, then gets to the final message. It's from Sid, sent five minutes ago. 

I'm here.

As Claude is replying to the message, the door swings open before Sid walks in, looking as nervous and jittery as Claude was. Claude’s gaze snaps up to meet Sid’s, before he’s on his feet, enveloping Sid in his arms. Sid sighs in relief, then buries his face into Claude’s neck.

"Hey, missed you." 

Claude smiles and holds Sid tighter. 

"Missed you too." 

He turns his head to press a kiss on Sid's cheek, before pulling back to kiss him tenderly, his hand cupping the back of Sid's head. 

"Hey you fuckfaces better have your clothes on!" 

Claude grins widely when Sid jumps back, spins himself around at the familiar voice, and notices Flower poking his head inside the room.

"Flower?" 

Flower smiles brightly and steps further into the room.

"You look surprised to see me mon ami ." 

“Because I am! What the hell are you doing here?” Sid asks.

"Claude thought you should have some support," Flower replies.

Sid glances at Claude like he just hung the moon for him, before he goes to Flower, hugging him warmly. 

"Got room for one more?" 

Claude's mouth drops open in shock when someone else steps into the room.

" Danny?

Sid looks over at Claude. 

"I guess we were thinking the same thing. I asked Danny if he could come," he says. 

Claude laughs wetly as Danny walks over to hug him, their soft whispers of French kept solely between them. The last thing he expected was to have Danny there, Sid being with him would have been enough, but to see Danny again, it was a lot for Claude to take in. 

"I can't believe you're here," Claude chokes out.

Danny pulls back, his eyes glistening a little.

"I knew, even before Sid suggested the idea, I knew that you would want me here." 

Claude wipes his eyes with his sleeve.

"Could've warned me," he huffs.

Danny grins and squeezes Claude's shoulder, before he steps back, letting Sid sidle up to him again. 

"You happy?" 

Claude grabs Sid by the lapels of his suit, kissing him firm, but sweetly.

" Merc i." 

Sid's mouth curves up at the corner.

"You're welcome." 

Claude's eyes give Sid a once over.

"You look hot." 

Sid chuckles listlessly. 

"You scrub up pretty good too," he comments.

Claude loops his arm loosely around Sid's waist, before he leans in close.

"I can't wait to take you out of it later," he purrs, as he drops a kiss near the edge of Sid's jaw.

He feels his boyfriend shiver.

"Yeah? I wish you could do it right now," Sid whispers, letting his fingers linger on the top button that's undone on Claude's shirt.

Flower clears his throat.

"Will be time for that later. They just said they're ready for you." 

Claude's heart starts pounding, until Sid entwined their fingers together, his gaze still focused on him.

"Ready?" 

He swallows the lump in his throat.

"Trying to be," Claude says.

Sid kisses him.

"Let's go." 

They're taken into a room smaller than the one they were just in. It's crammed with reporters, who look up when they walk in, immediately making Claude feel nauseous. He half expects Sid to let go of his hand when they do, but he doesn't, it stays. Claude really loves Sid at that moment, because comfort is what he's going to need, for however long their news gets talked about. He can see someone reporters raise their eyebrows at the linked hands, Claude doesn't give them the time of day. He can see Danny and Flower standing to the left side of the reporters, looking like they're ready to fight anyone who asks a dumb question. Claude ducks his head to hide the smile on his face, thankful that he and Sid aren't alone for this. 

When they sit down, Sid's hand moves to his knee, stopping his leg from doing the nervous bouncing again. Claude covers Sid's hand with his own, then looks out at all of reporters, the cameras, their coaches, the PR people and some of the Flyers and Penguins management. It's daunting, but Claude knows once this is all over, he can go home, with Sid. They have a few days before there's more games for them, so they'll probably lock themselves away and just spend time as a couple. Claude would rather be cuddled up in bed with Sid right now, but he's doing this for Sid...for them. 

"Are we ready to start?" 

Claude takes a deep breath and strokes his thumb idly over Sid's wrist. 

"We can start." 

Claude feels Sid shift beside him. 

"So I suppose we all want to know why we're here," one reporter speaks up. 

This is it, this is where it all unfolds, he and Sid are about to come out to the entire league. Claude answers first. 

"We brought you here today to discuss a photo that was exposed in an article, without our permission." 

"By we,  I can interpret that as you and Sidney?" he questions. 

"Yes," Claude answers. 

Another reporter looks up from her notepad at them, Claude's seen her before, he thinks her name is Heather? 

"We were all made aware of this photo before you arrived," she states.

Claude can already feel himself choking.

"What we're trying to announce here is...that Claude and I are in a relationship. And have been for several months now," Sid interjects. 

"So you two are…?" Heather trails off.

Sid looks at him and he nods.

"Gay? Yes, Claude and I are coming out, along with sharing news about our relationship," he adds.

The noise in the room seems to pick up greatly.

"How many months?" 

Claude leans forward slightly.

"Almost six months. We started dating during the off season last year," he says.

"Weren't you and Sid rumoured to hate each other?" 

Claude honestly wants to roll his fucking eyes.

"Sometimes there's things you can bury the hatchet over. Sid and I played some good hockey during Worlds, I think it all changed from there. This ‘rivalry’ was just something you wanted to use to wet your appetite." 

Sid squeezes his knee and Claude looks over at him with a smile.

"So, this photo. It's real?" 

Claude's body tenses.

"Of course it is. There's no way we could ever play it off as fake. It's real, and it's been hard enough that our privacy was invaded. If that didn’t happen we wouldn't be here. I wish we weren’t here, to be honest." 

Claude glances over at Danny, his whole body feels clammy all over and he didn't think he'd be the one to get worked up over this whole shitshow. Danny mouths a few comforting words to him, but his chest still feels tight. 

"I think if any of you want answers you need to take a minute to word your questions better. We won't be staying long, and I'd prefer if you didn't throw in more stress that's already on top of us," Sid says, his tone clipped. 

He can already see the headlines; Claude Giroux has nervous breakdown during interview about his relationship with Sidney Crosby. His stomach churns and twists in knots, until Sid’s hand slides up to rest on the back of his neck, the touch gentle yet so intimate at the same time. Claude’s so thankful to have Sid here to keep him grounded, as he feels his body relax, his hand finding commonplace on Sid’s thigh. 

“Don’t you think you’ll get distracted? Given that you both play on different teams.”

Claude frowns.

“No I-” he pauses. “...hockey is hockey. Sid and I being in a relationship isn’t going to affect how we play or how we act towards each other on the ice. Tensions get high and you say some things that all ride off of that. There might still be times where it gets like that, I won’t deny it.  And regardless of what happens in hockey, I’ll still be with Sid. What happens off the ice is our business, not yours,” Claude argues.

“Right, but the fact of the matter-”

Sid shakes his head, then drops his hand to rest over Claude’s once more.

“No the fact of the matter is that I love Claude Giroux, and if you have to print that over a hundred copies of a newspaper or a magazine, then do it. Because I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual.”

It’s Claude’s turn to look at Sid like he hung the moon now, he smiles, beaming at him like nobody else in this room matters except Sid. And when Sid meets his gaze, with a smile as equally as bright as his own, he feels...content.

“It is.”

The rooms falls into a steady stream of chaos, more questions being thrown their way, which Claude shamelessly blocks them out. He can hear Danny and Flower getting mixed into it, their voices calm. But he’s too busy watching Sid, reveling in the way Sid’s eyes soften when he stares back at him, he can see that Sid means everything he has said. Claude never thought he could have anything like this, yet he does. When he finds himself brushing his thumb over Sid’s ring finger one too many times, the chaos settles and-

He thinks it’s time. 


~Five~

2017 - Pre-playoffs

The chilly air in Philadelphia bites at Claude's skin, as he stands outside his house, his back pressed against the side of his car. He knows Sid is likely waiting inside for him, but Claude needs a few minutes to breathe. He's pissed, of course he would be, they were so close to making it to the playoffs until it was swept out from under them. Claude feels like he's let the entire team down, which makes him wonder why he even has the C on his jersey. There's so many questions he doesn't have answers for, and it hurts...it hurts.  

Claude's breath flows out in a puff of white, as he lets out a loud sniff, his hand coming up to wipe angrily at his eyes. They sting, but the tears won't stop, and he so desperately wishes he could rewind to do better. Some of his teammates went out to drown their sorrows at a bar when they got back from New York, Claude joined them, but didn't drink. Instead he comforted Schenner and Coots, who had been sitting on either side of him, already wallowing in disappointment of missing out on a chance at the Stanley Cup. 

He bites down on his lip to stop it from trembling, hands tucked into his jacket pockets, which he clenched tightly. Sid's been quiet since they lost on Sunday, Claude only sent one text to tell him when he'd be back in Philly, unsure of whether Sid saw it or not. But given that there were lights on inside the house, it was pretty much a given, and Claude isn't sure if he wants to see Sid right now. The Penguins are going through to the playoffs again, Claude swore this wasn't going to affect him and Sid, yet the bitterness and envy doesn't seem to stay down. 

Claude pushes away from his car, before walking up to the front door, his keys jingling when he fishes them out of his pocket. Once he unlocks the door, he steps inside, closes the door loudly behind him in frustration, then retreats into the kitchen. He can hear Sid coming out of the bedroom, his footsteps getting closer, while Claude grabs a Gatorade from the fridge. Claude's gaze flickers to Sid standing in the doorway, dressed in a shirt and loose fitting shorts. It's warm inside the house, so Claude shrugs his jacket off, before he tosses it unceremoniously on the counter. 

"Claude." 

He closes his eyes and presses his hands against the counter. 

"Where have you been?" 

"Out," he says.

"I figured since you told me when you'd be home that you might actually be here," Sid replies.

"Why? Did you think I would just come straight home and wallow in self pity? Maybe you thought I would come home to cry on your shoulder, is that it?" Claude snipes.

Sid flinches.

"I was worried," he mumbles.

"I went to a bar with some of the guys okay? You happy? They were hurting, I had Coots on one shoulder and Schenner on the other. I didn't drink. I was just there for them." 

Sid moves away from the doorway towards Claude. 

"Claude, I'm sorry I know-" 

Claude laughs bitterly.

" Don't. Don't you dare say that you know how I feel. You won last year and now you're going through for a possible back to back win. We were so close, so fucking close, and we lost. Crisse , we lost to the fucking Rangers."

Sid tries to meet his gaze, but Claude doesn't allow it.

"I thought we weren't going to let this affect us." 

"That doesn't mean it won't happen," Claude answers. 

"What do you want me to say?" Sid sighs. 

Claude slams the Gatorade down on the counter after taking a drink from it, his head snapping up, as he glares at Sid. 

"Why are you asking me? After the game you-Sid, you never asked me if I was okay! You haven't even asked me how I'm feeling!" he snaps.

Sid reaches out to touch Claude, but he pulls away.

"I wanted to wait until you got here to talk," he reasons.

"That's bullshit! You were too busy running high on the rush of going through to the playoffs! You never called, Sid!" 

Sid gapes at him.

"What the fuck Claude!" 

Claude pushes past Sid to go out into the hallway.

"I thought I could rely on you! I needed you! When I got back to the hotel I didn't even sleep! There's so many questions and I don't have answers for them, because I'm terrified of what those answers will be! I just-" he pauses, to choke back a sob. "...I don't think Schenner will be with us next season," Claude adds, his jaw clenched tight.

"Babe, I'm so sorry." 

Claude's throat works around the lump in his throat. Why can't you say something other than sorry? he thinks.

"Fuck off." 

"Are you fucking kidding me! What do you need Claude? Tell me! I'm here for you!" Sid protests, as he reaches for Claude again.

Claude's hands wrap around Sid's wrists firmly.

"No, you weren't when I needed it. You're only saying it now because im here. So It's a little late for that…" 

He sees the realisation spread across Sid's face, but his chest feels tight, kind of like he's suffocating. Claude's face crumples and he stares back at Sid, he wants to hold him, yet he can't find it in himself to do it. It hurts Sid, it hurts he begs himself to say. He's still so angry with himself, perhaps a little at Sid too, and he knows if he doesn't leave, he'll say something he regrets. So he shoves Sid's hands away, picks up his car keys from the bowl, then heads for the door.

"Where are you going!" 

"For a drive to clear my head!" he yells.

"Claude wait!" 

Claude stops at the door that's now hanging wide open, his fingers gripping the handle, as his head hangs low. He can hear the hitch in Sid's voice, the sound he makes when he's on the verge of crying, one Claude's become too familiar with since dating him. There's something clawing at him to turn and go back, but he can't. 

"Don't Sid. I-I can't even look at you right now…" Claude whispers.

The door closes with a heavy slam, and Claude is gone. 

****&****

“Claude, you can’t leave it like this. I know you’re hurting, but you can’t dump all of that on Sid.”

“He probably hates me right now.”

“You’re being ridiculous, he loves you. He came to Philly to see you even though you didn’t ask him outright. I think that shows you how much he cares about you. Don’t push him away and don’t let him push you away either. You both need to talk this out.”

“You’re getting wise in your old age Danny.”

“Asshole.”

Claude laughs, then leans back in the seat of his car, sighing deeply.

"I love him so much," he breathes out.

"I know you do. That was obvious when you both opened up about your relationship. You couldn't see it, but from an outsider's point of view you looked like you'd do anything to keep him happy." 

"Which is why I need to talk to him…" Claude says.

Danny hums over the line.

"I should go, but remember what I said."  

"I will. Thanks, and uh...say hi to the boys for me eh?" 

"Goodnight Claude."  

"Night Danny." 

Claude ends the call and tips his head back against the headrest, eyes closing as he treats himself to a few minutes of silence, to think. Sid must have gone to bed, because Claude didn't see any lights on when he pulled up, although, he had told Sid not to wait up for him. It still doesn't ease the guilt that Claude's felt for the past few hours, in which all he did was drive around Philly, until he decided to go home. He can't let their argument hang in the air and he knows it. After they came out, Sid had been there with him through the aftermath, to keep themselves focused on the positives. Now it just looked like Claude was running, which was the last thing he wanted. 

It starts to rain heavily, so Claude gets out of the car, hurries to the front door and let's himself inside. He wanders through to the kitchen where a light has been left on for him, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw a magazine on the counter. Claude knows what it is, it's the magazine he and Sid did an article for, the only article they agreed to. They'd found a journalist who kept it professional and didn't pressure them into anything, Claude liked her immediately. It was a simple article, they stuck to the basics of their relationship, with a few fun questions thrown in. But it was the photos that got everybody talking. 

Claude's eyes scan over each one, they're all candid, not posed. He wanted them to be that way, Claude thinks the best photos are the ones where no one knows that there's a camera there. All of his focus was on Sid that day, and it shows in the photos. His favourite is from one of their games, they're at the face-off circle, smiling at each other like they're the only ones there. There's one of Sid leaning over the Flyers bench to kiss Claude during a commercial break, and Claude can't hold back the soft laugh that escapes when he looks at the faces his teammates are pulling in the background. It was all in good fun, it showed the rawness of their relationship, instead of making it something premeditated. 

When he glances at one with them in the studio that the journalist had set up, Sid's laughing and Claude looks pleased with himself, but there's so much love and happiness seeping out of it. It's then that Claude notices two stains on the page, discolouring the backdrop on the photo, both look like tear stains. Claude's heart drops to his stomach, this isn't what he wants, he hates seeing Sid upset, yet it hurts more to think that he's part of the reason why. He really should take Danny's advice, he knows there will be more arguments like this, but when there's a will, there's a way.

Claude makes sure the doors are locked, then turns the light off in the kitchen, before he goes to the bedroom, where the door has been left wide open. Sid's form is illuminated by the moonlight through the gap in the curtains, his back facing Claude, which is not something he usually does. Claude keeps his footsteps quiet, as he strips down to his boxers and finds some sweats to put on. He gently eases himself into bed, leaves his phone sitting on the bedside, then turns towards Sid. When his eyes finally adjust to the dark, Claude's breath catches in his throat. Across Sid's back is his name, while the moonlight just skirts over the edge of the 28, as well as a flicker of orange. He's wearing the jersey he gave him as a joke for his birthday, Sid's wearing it, and it looks good on him. 

"Sid," Claude murmurs softly.

His body shifts closer to press against Sid's back, before he rests a hand on his arm, rubbing up and down it soothingly. 

"You awake?" he asks. 

Sid exhales shakily.

"Yeah." 

Claude wraps his arm around Sid.

"I'm sorry." 

Sid's fingers lace with Claude's, before he brushes a kiss over his knuckles.

"I'm sorry too." 

It's not your fault Claude thinks.

"I shouldn't have yelled at you. None of that was called for, I was disappointed about our loss, and I was upset about Schenner. And I guess I was a little angry that you didn't call, but I shouldn't take that out on you." 

"You're not the only one hurting Claude. I know I didn't call, but there was a lot on my mind." Sid responds, sniffing briefly.

"Talk to me, please," Claude says. 

Sid turns himself around in Claude's arms, bringing them face to face, as he rubs at his eye.

"Rumours going around that Vegas is going to be involved in the expansion draft. They'll be looking for a lot of different players. And...Flower's a possibility for their goaltender," he sighs.

Claude strokes his thumb over Sid's cheek. 

"Oh, Sid..." he whispers.

Sid's eyes well up, but he blinks rapidly.

"I know that this is what happens in hockey. But...what the fuck, he's one of my best friends." 

All Claude can think to do is lean forward and kiss Sid chastely, his fingers languidly running through Sid's hair. When he parts from the kiss, the tears are sliding down Sid's cheeks, as he manages a weak smile.

"You'll still see him Sid. He'll always be with you no matter where either of you go." 

"Is that what it was like with Danny?" 

Claude laughs dryly, as his own tears start to form.

"Yeah, I missed him like crazy. But we still talked, and that was more than enough." 

Sid's aimlessly playing with the chain around Claude's neck, before he stops, then draws Claude in for another kiss.

"I should've called. I know how much you wanted this," Sid drawls, sleepily.

Claude shrugs.

"Still stings, but we tried. We'll try harder next year. Now you just have to kick some ass," he replies, with confidence.  

Sid sputters a laugh.

"You going to wear a Penguins jersey, babe?" he teases.

"Only if it's yours," Claude admits. 

Sid's smile still looks radiant in complete darkness.

"Don't leave like that again eh?" 

Claude sighs.

"Sorry, I really had to clear my head. I wish I could take that whole argument back." 

He feels Sid's hand cup the back of his neck, before their foreheads are being pressed together. 

"It's okay. I'm glad we can talk. You're so important to me Claude, you have no idea." 

Claude's chest does the fluttery business he felt when they were at Worlds. 

"The feeling's mutual." 

They lie in silence for awhile, trading soft kisses and touches when they can, the tension from before gradually flowing away. Claude’s hand settles under the hem of the jersey Sid’s wearing, prompting Sid to grin, as Claude stares back at him. There’s fondness in his eyes, because he constantly thinks about how they got here, and how he got so... lucky.

“What are you thinking about?” Sid questions. 

“Us,” Claude answers.

It’s such an easy response to go to, but what else could Claude say besides the truth? 

“I mean, we’ve been through a lot in such a short time. We’re the first NHL players to come out, and to be in a relationship too. Wasn’t easy when it happened either, but we went through that together. I didn’t expect the reactions we got, the positives outweigh the negatives but I don’t think I could’ve done it without you there,” he adds.

Sid smirks.

“Sounds like you want to have me around for awhile,” he remarks, smugly.

You don’t know the half of it Claude says to himself, as he kisses Sid on his forehead.

“I really do.”

A beat passes before Sid yawns tiredly, his eyes half lidded, while he lazily strokes lines along Claude’s bare chest.

“I’m exhausted.”

A sly grin crosses Claude’s face.

“Hi exhausted, I’m Claude.”

Sid groans.

“I hate you so much.”

Claude snorts faintly.

“Yeah? Show me how much you hate me then,” he challenges.

This time when Sid kisses him it’s eager and hot, his body pressing close to Claude, who playfully squeezes a handful of Sid’s ass. Claude pulls back and moves to Sid’s jaw, then leaves a trail of kisses down his neck, lips ghosting over the collar of Sid’s jersey.

“You look good in orange,” Claude comments.

“You’re lucky I love you enough to wear it,” Sid retorts.

Claude’s eyes brighten against the light from outside, as he steals a brief kiss from Sid.

“You should sleep.”

Sid yawns louder than the first time.

Mm-hm, ” he hums.

“C’mon, turn around.”

Sid complies and puts his back towards Claude, before Claude’s arm slides around his waist.

“Goodnight,” he soothes.

“G’night Claude.”

As soon as Sid drifts off, Claude reaches back to grab his phone, then leans back to snap a photo of Sid’s jersey. He opens up a new message, sends it to several of the other Flyers, before he includes Geno, Tanger, Alex, Flower and Tyler to the mix. Coots and Schenner don’t say much, they simply send an array of eggplant, sweatdrop and peach emojis. Claude doesn’t understand how he’s still friends with them honestly, but everyone else seems to be typing out responses to him. He doesn’t send it to Danny, because he already knew about the jersey, he was kind of involved in obtaining it too. Simmer is the first one to reply with actual words.

Man, I should be worried, but he looks good in orange??

Jakub’s speech bubble appears and disappears several times, until Claude’s phone ‘ pings’ .

????

Claude laughs, just as Geno and Alex respond at the same time. 

(((((( ugly! Traitor to Penguins!

He look better with Caps red! ))))))

Claude’s brows knit together.

That’s a disturbing image.

((((((( make me sad Roux.

Tanger follows.

I’m never speaking to Sid again and you can tell him that!

Liar he thinks.

You don’t mean that :)

Then Tyler chimes in, slower than usual.

Did someone say...#couplegoals

Claude shakes his head with a sigh and responds quickly.

Please don’t say that ever again...

Tyler sends a kissing emoji in return, making Claude roll his eyes. It’s Flower that takes the longest to get involved, everyone else said what they had to say and disappeared, most of them retreating to bed. But when he does, Claude has to bite down on his hand to not burst out laughing.

Tabarnak! Where’s your Penguins spirit Claude?

Maybe I’ll wear a Penguins jersey to support Sid.

I want pictures as evidence.

Claude huffs out a scoff and opens up a new private message to Flower. He’s not sure if what he’s formed with Flower is friendship, but it’s very close to it, there’s chirping all the time. And yet, Claude had put trust in Flower for something important a few months ago, so it was possible that them being friends was already on the horizon. 

Did you get it?

Flower answers with a picture attached.

Is this what you wanted?

Claude stares at the picture for a moment, as a lump gets stuck in his throat.

It’s perfect, thanks Flower.

No problem, ami.

Friend.

That’s scary, you calling me your friend.

Haha, you will get the shovel talk soon, Giroux.

I’m terrified.

Good.

The yawn he lets out drowns out the noise of Sid’s soft snoring, as he bids goodnight to Flower, then deposits his phone back on the bedside table. Claude shuffles back into Sid’s space, puts his chin up on Sid’s shoulder and takes his hand in his own. He glances down at Sid’s hand, thinking about the black and gold box hiding in his duffel bag, because he knows it’s the one place Sid won’t look. Claude thinks about the silver band around Sid's finger and ends up feeling a swooping sensation in his stomach. 

Sometimes it feels like he's living inside a dream, but everything that's happening is too real for that thought. Claude's not sure when the right moment to ask should be. Tomorrow? In a few weeks? Maybe after the playoffs? For a brief minute he hopes that the Penguins go through to the finals, if they did, and if they win, maybe... that would be the perfect time. His mind races at the idea of going out on the ice, seeing Sid celebrating another win, to then get down on one knee, in front of everyone and it's- 

It's perfect…


 

~Plus One~

2017 - Penguins Stanley Cup Win 

They win.

Claude watches the entire game from the Penguins locker room, up until the last few seconds, when Hagelin puts a goal in the empty net. The Pittsburgh Penguins got a back to back win, and Claude was there to witness it all unfold. Sid had no idea he was there, because a few weeks prior to game six in Pittsburgh, Claude told Sid that he wouldn't be able to make it. He made up an excuse that there were a few things he had to do in Philly, even though he didn't like lying to Sid. But if he told him, it'd completely ruin all of his plans that he'd made, following the news that the Penguins were in the finals. And even if the Penguins didn't win, he would still go along with his plan regardless. 

He stands in the tunnel when the clock finally ticks down, before a swarm of black, white and gold come over the bench to the rest of the team on the ice. The crowd is electric, as they're on their feet, their claps and cheers amplifying loudly off the rafters in the arena. Claude hopes he gets to experience that feeling with the Flyers, one day, but for now he feels nothing but joy for Sid. He begins to get nervous, yet excited for what he's about to do, as he's finally ready to do it without so much as a second thought.

There's movement to his left, as Claude is informed that he can go out on the ice now. He's dressed in his jersey from Worlds, a Penguins cap and had also elected to wear his skates out on the ice, the black and gold box tucked safely in the pocket of his jeans. The gift that Flower gave him when he arrived in Pittsburgh, was held firm in his hands as he made his way down the tunnel, until he reaches the ice. When Claude hits the ice, the crowd erupts at his sudden appearance, while he skates over to Sid, who his hugging Flower tightly. Flower must whisper something in his ear, because Sid turns quickly, his eyes widening when he spots him. Claude smiles at him, before coming to an abrupt stop in front of him.

"Claude?" Sid breathes out, heavily.

"Hey you, congratulations."  

"What the hell? You're here!" he exclaims, as he throws his arms around Claude.

"I'm here." 

Claude's arm snakes around Sid's waist, before he kisses Sid's sweaty cheek, which gets the fans going once again. Sid draws back and gives Claude a once over, his eyes wet with fresh tears.

"You said you weren't going to make it." 

"Well, I had some things to plan," Claude replies.

He steals a glance at Flower, who nods at him, which prompts Sid to follow his gaze. 

"What? Claude what's going on?" 

They're starting to get things ready for bringing out the Stanley Cup, but Claude can still see a few cameras trained on them, the fan looking on in anticipation. It's now or never. 

"I have something for you," he says.

He sees Sid's eyes drops to Claude's hands, as he unfurls a team Canada jersey from Worlds, the back of it turned towards Sid. On the back of the jersey is his and Sid's last names, hyphenated, Crosby-Giroux , with Sid's number 87 underneath it. Sid looks up at Claude, as his breathing comes out in short bursts.

"I-I don't understand," he chokes out.

Claude gazes into Sid's eyes, and he knows, no , feels, that yes this is the right moment. As soon as he reaches into his pocket, the screams get louder, and those on Sid's team who don't know about this are yelling as well. Sid wobbles on his skates a little when Claude opens the box, revealing the silver band with 28 and 87 engraved on the sides, his mouth curving into a shaky smile. Claude drops himself down onto one knee, before he takes hold of Sid's hand, and squeezes it gently. 

"I'm not going to make this something long winded, because you've got the Cup to get. But, this is what I've been planning for the past few weeks. And even if you didn't win I still would be proposed to you anyway. Sid, I love you. So, what do you say...will you marry me?" 

Sid opens his mouth, then closes it again, but the crowd appears to speak for him. A chant of ' yes ' circulates through the arena, and Sid is in awe as he glances around at them all, before looking back at Claude. 

"Holy shit Claude! Y eah of course I will..." 

Claude's own eyes start to well up with tears, the relief crashing over him at Sid's answer.

"What you say Sid!" Geno shouts.

Sid laughs wetly and looks at his team, showing off the silver band that Claude slipped into his finger. 

"What else was I gonna say eh?" 

Claude has enough time to get back on his feet before they're ambushed by the team, they're shouts, along with the fans, is a deafening sound. He's squashed against Sid and they both laugh, until Claude moves in for a kiss, which Sid accepts enthusiastically. When they part, Claude looks into Sid's eyes, the beautiful brown he's become so fond of looking right back at him. For a moment he allows himself a chance to block out all that's happening around them, in favour of giving his attention to Sid, his fiance. 

"I love you." 

Sid's smile widens, even as the sweaty mess that he is, he's fucking glowing.   

"I love you too," he sighs, contently.

"Shit, we're engaged, " Claude says, with wide eyes.

"We are babe!" Sid chuckles.

Claude grins stupidly at Sid.

"Where did you even get this anyway?" 

Sid holds up the jersey that's still in his hand and Claude looks over his shoulder, once everyone has dispersed, his eyes landing on Flower. 

"I had some help," he answers.

Sid's smile falls for a second, but appears again when Flower smiles at him too, that smile that's captured so many hearts for years.

"Never trust him, he's always up to something." 

A laugh bubbles out of Claude, before he drops a kiss on Sid's forehead, then skates back a little. 

"Go, you've got the Cup to get." 

Sid looks at him with a bit of sympathy flashing over his face, he knows how much Claude wanted, still wants this. 

"You going to be okay?" Sid asks.

He's going to have to watch Sid get the Conn Smythe, then the Cup, and watch it make its way around the team that isn't his. There is a small bout of disappointment sitting in the pit of his stomach, but other than that, he's glad to be there...for Sid. 

"Of course." 

Claude gives Sid one last, long, lingering kiss before he goes.

"I've got you…"