The Boy I Knew

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A Night In

Aiden knew he looked like a mess. His hair was sticking up, his clothing was rumpled, and he had marks all over his chest. Those marks were thankfully hidden by his t-shirt. The fading ones on his neck weren’t.

That was how Aiden opened his door to his two older brothers a few days after he and Kellen had gotten back together. Aiden flushed at the matching shit-eating grins on their faces.

“Rough night?” Ian joked.

Aiden rolled his eyes, although he knew his ears were red. “Not at all,” he said nonchalantly. He tried not to think back to the feeling of Kellen’s hands on his—

“Yeah, I’m sure,” Isaac said sarcastically, interrupting his thoughts. He looked around curiously. “What, is he still here and that’s why you’re not inviting us in? It’s cold out here, Aiden.”

Aiden had to resist the urge to roll his eyes again, stepping aside. “Kellen’s at work,” he said in response. The other man had left only about ten minutes before. Aiden had been pulling himself out of his warm bed, which didn’t feel as comfortable now without Kellen snuggled in his arms, when the doorbell rang.

“Shouldn’t you both be at work too?” Aiden deadpanned. He shut the door with a shiver, aware that he was only wearing an old t-shirt and some sweats when the cold air hit him.

“It’s early,” Isaac said with a shrug. “Man, Kellen starts his days at the crack of dawn, huh? It’s not even nine yet.”

“What are you doing here?” Aiden asked with his arms crossed, completely ignoring his brother’s comment. “I told you guys that I wouldn’t be around for a few days.” He’d wished that he’d been able to spend more time with Kellen, but while he was off-season now, Kellen had to work every day more or less.

Aiden wasn’t too bothered though. Kellen loved what he did, and Aiden loved seeing him happy. He was only glad that he was the person Kellen chose to return to these past few days.

Ian and Isaac shared a look. “Actually,” Ian started slowly, “Letta and Lyla wanted to know if you and Kellen wanted to have dinner after Nikki’s class on Saturday.”

“And they were weirdly curious about what you guys were up to and what Kellen was like,” Isaac put in with a confused frown.

Aiden huffed with a smile. That sounded like those two. “Nikki’s probably been bugging you about inviting Kellen over too, right?” he guessed teasingly, apparently correctly from the put-out look on Ian’s face.

“You know she already made the connection about him dating you?” Ian said with a fond shake of his head. “’Hey, dad, if Uncle Aiden and Kellen get married, does that mean I can call him my Uncle Kellen?’” he imitated in a higher voice.

Isaac was already laughing while Aiden’s ears reddened at the thought. He wouldn’t say that marriage hadn’t crossed his mind at some point, but he definitely wasn’t ready to go from being broken up to being married in a week. Still, it was cute that Nikki was so attached to Kellen.

“I can ask Kellen if he’s free, but I’m still not getting why you had to come here so early instead of texting or calling?” Aiden asked curiously, staring across at the two of them. When they shared another look, Aiden glared at them. “Spit it out,” he commanded.

The two of them were looking distinctly awkward as Isaac shuffled his feet and Ian rubbed the back of his neck. Ian took a deep breath, the air becoming more serious. “Aiden, we wanted to tell you in person how proud we are of you. It took a lot to come out to us, and well, we wanted you to know that we’re looking forward to spending more time with Kellen too. If you love him, then we want to know him.”

Aiden’s eyes widened as Isaac added, “You’ve never brought anyone home to meet the family, and I mean, we know why now, but we’d like to meet the guy that’s apparently been spending the night here.” He finished with a smirk that was meant to break the serious atmosphere.

Aiden smiled at the two of them. They were overbearing dorks who stuck their noses into his life way too much, but they loved him. Even when he sprang it on them that he was gay, they accepted it right away. They came all this way to tell him how much they wanted to meet the man he loved. It was almost overwhelming. It made Aiden feel lucky to have grown up with brothers like these two, no matter how nosey they happened to be.

“That means a lot, guys,” Aiden said quietly, swallowing whatever emotion was stuck in his throat. He wished Kellen were here right now, since the man had absolutely no problem about breaking tension and inciting physical contact. Aiden was a little more awkward when he reached forward to hug his two brothers, but they hugged him back all the same.

He cleared his throat when he stepped back. There was a beat of silence before Aiden remembered, “Didn’t you already meet Kellen though?”

The two of them had the good grace to look guilty. “It’s not like we asked him anything too personal,” Isaac defended. “Besides, now that he’s your boyfriend, we have the green light to ask all of the personal questions we want.”

It was meant to be a joke, but Aiden was sure that Ian and Isaac would regret it. Kellen didn’t embarrass easily, and was more than willing to be blunt about absolutely everything. That’s why Aiden smirked at them. “You can give it your best shot.”

Seeing Kellen goof around with his brothers and pseudo-sisters, and not to mention his niece, wasn’t the only reason why Aiden actually felt excited when Saturday rolled around. He was struck with a sense of pride when he thought about bringing Kellen to meet his siblings as his boyfriend. Kellen was amazing, and Aiden wanted to show him off a little.

Then again, Aiden was a nervous person by nature. His brothers were right when they said that he’d never brought anyone home. He’d seen Ian and Isaac do it with Lyla and Letta, and the women before those two, and he knew that it could sometimes be awkward the first time bringing a new person home.

So, as he waited for Kellen, Olivia, and B to lock up the studio for the night, he felt his stomach turn. He schooled his facial expression so the pain didn’t show when Olivia stepped back into the front room with her ever-present smile.

“Grabbing your niece and then coming back here to pick up your man? Expert boyfriend move,” she complimented with a snarky laugh.

“You think?” Aiden asked with a chuckle, his stomach calming slightly at the casual conversation. Needless to say, Olivia and B had been some of their biggest supporters. Aiden was pretty sure that Olivia’s bone-crushing hugs rivaled his mother’s.

Looking at her, he realized that maybe by now, they were friends. And there was something that Aiden had been meaning to tell her.

Taking a deep breath, Aiden blurted out, “Um, by the way, Kellen told me about how you and B looked out for him. I mean, you were kind of watching to make sure I didn’t break his heart again, so…” He frowned, sure that he was saying this wrong.

Olivia only laughed lightly, the blue streaks in her hair bouncing in time with her shoulders. “Wow, Kellen was right when he said that you get nervous about these things,” she teased. “But I understand, Aiden. You’re glad that B and I are his friends, right?”

Somehow, the woman was able to put his feelings into words for him. Aiden nodded silently, a thankful look on his face. Olivia stepped over, crossing her arms. “Did Kellen tell you about how I met him?”

“Your granddad, right?” Aiden asked. He and Kellen had spent all the time since they’d exchanged numbers sharing stories of the past seven years, so the topic of Olivia and B had come up more than a few times.

Olivia nodded, the look in her eyes like a teacher’s who was glad to hear the right answer. “My granddad hired him to help out here when it was a musical instrument place. Kellen was a little down then. It was right after his accident,” she added with a sad shrug. “Granddad taught Kellen about the business while I finished school, and then, well, then he just gave the whole thing to Kellen. He said that Kellen reminded him of himself when he was a young man.”

Olivia wore a fond smile, her eyes looking past him and into her memories. She refocused on Aiden, patting his arm. “So really, Kellen’s like my brother. We hired B together, and the three of us are like family now. I’m happy we’re all friends too. But you know what makes me happier?”

When Aiden shook his head, Olivia gave him a toothy grin. “Seeing the way that his eyes light up when he looks at you. Kellen’s been lonely for a long time, more so than he’d ever willingly admit. It makes me happy that he’s not lonely with you.”

Olivia didn’t make a big deal about her heartfelt statement. She just smiled calmly, turning to get back to her work. B peeked out from the hallway. “For the record, I agree with all that,” she added without changing her neutral expression much. The blonde stepped in with a cloth that she used to wipe the counters. “Kellen’s a good person. He deserves a person like you,” B said simply. “You may not believe it yet, but you deserve a person like him too.”

Aiden gave her a waning smile. B was a simple, wise woman. She was quiet, but the moments when her intelligence shone through always made Aiden remember that she was more than an excellent ballet teacher.

“Okay, I’ve done everything in the back,” Kellen said as he entered the room easily, clearly not privy to the conversation they’d been having.

“Good, we’re done too,” Olivia said, putting on her coat. “B and I are running to get some cookies.”

“Just cookies?” Kellen asked with an amused laugh.

B shrugged. “They make them warm,” she said succinctly, slipping on her own coat too. She reached over to help Olivia with her scarf, and Aiden had a moment where he wondered if those two were dating anyone. He didn’t know if either of them liked women, but they’d be cute together.

Olivia thankfully was not a mind reader as she gave Kellen a quick hug goodbye, waved goodbye to Aiden, and was out the door with B following behind.

“They have so much life,” Aiden said dramatically when the silence surrounded them, chuckling.

“I don’t know what I’d do without them,” Kellen said sincerely, throwing away some papers and trotting to the coat rack.

Aiden felt his stomach flip nervously as he remembered where they were going, pain blooming in his side as his nerves threatened to make dinner impossible. He swallowed those nerves and joined Kellen, holding the other man’s coat out for him. Kellen gave him a sweet smile as thanks.

Kellen was still focusing on doing up his buttons when he said, “Aiden,” in a relaxed tone. He looked up and moved a step closer, placing his hand fleetingly on Aiden’s stomach as if that would help settle it. Even though Aiden hadn’t said anything, it was clear that Kellen knew exactly what was bothering him. “Calm down, honey. If you can handle my two excitable friends, I can certainly handle your brothers.”

Aiden smiled at him, giving him a quick peck on the lips. “I’m sure Nikki’s your biggest advocate anyway.”

“So, really, they have no choice but to like me,” Kellen said jokingly, a wide smile on his face. He gave Aiden a tender look and leaned against him, pressing the lines of their bodies close and linking his arms together around Aiden’s back. “Honey, I’ll be right next to you. And if you do happen to end up feeling sick, I’ll be there. No need to worry,” he said with a gentle expression.

Aiden didn’t answer verbally. He didn’t think that he could express his love and gratefulness with just words. Placing his hands on Kellen’s face, he drew him closer to give him a slow, passionate kiss. Just like the first time they kissed, it felt electric and hot. Aiden had to stop his hands from wandering as Kellen leaned back slightly to give him a smile.

“You kiss me, and you’re the breathless one?” Kellen asked even as he struggled to get his breath back. Aiden felt his heart skip at the flush on his boyfriend’s face.

Aiden smiled at him. “You have a knack for taking my breath away,” he admitted.

“And before we end up naked on my desk, we should probably get going,” Kellen said with a laugh. As he pulled Aiden out by the hand, turning off the lights and locking up, Aiden realized that he felt better. Still nervous, but not like he was going to make himself sick anymore.

He squeezed Kellen’s hand, keeping a tight hold as they walked over to Ian’s. Aiden felt his heart pick up slightly when they got closer, but Kellen didn’t let him stew in his nerves for long. He stopped Aiden to give him a sound kiss on the lips. “That help any?” Kellen asked with a crooked smile.

“I might need more kisses,” Aiden said surely.

Kellen’s laughter rang out for a moment. “I’ll give you all the kisses you want when we leave. Otherwise, we’ll be out here all night.”

Aiden still gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, pulling Kellen up to the front door. He wasn’t all that surprised when Nikki answered it with a wide smile on her face. “Uncle Aiden! Kellen!” She was already bouncing around when Aiden picked her up to give her a kiss on the cheek. The second he set her down, she insisted on getting a hug from Kellen too.

“I saw you a few hours ago, Nic,” Kellen said with amusement as he leaned down to speak to her.

“I know, I know,” she reassured him, “but it’s so cool that you’re dating my Uncle. I already think you’re great, so it’s perfect,” she insisted.

Kellen laughed, consciously trying not to be too loud. Aiden patted Nikki on the head. “Your mom and dad here, Nikki?”

“They’re in the—”

“Nikki, come over here and wash your hands!”

“—kitchen,” Nikki finished. “Coming, mom!” She skipped off with just as much energy as she’d done before. Clearly, a few hours of dancing hadn’t been enough to tired her out. Then again, it didn’t tire Kellen out either. Well, Aiden had always known that Kellen had a lot of stamina.

He nudged Kellen as the man stood back up. “Coat,” he requested, taking it genially from Kellen to place with his over the back a dining chair.

Aiden took a deep breath. Kellen didn’t rush him, waiting patiently for Aiden to lead them forward and into the kitchen where everyone else was waiting. No one paid attention to them for a second as Lyla shook her head at Isaac. “I totally could have made that! Lasagna is easy.”

Isaac scoffed. “No way. I mean, you could have made it look good, but there’s no way you could have made it like that cooking show. Letta, we need a third-party opinion.”

Letta blinked, looking up from the mashed potatoes that she was stirring. “Well… I don’t think you’re one to talk, Isaac. The last time you tried to make lasagna, you mixed up salt and sugar and we had some very sweet lasagna.” She made a face at the memory. Aiden made the same face; he’d been there for that disaster.

Ian laughed as he messed with the oven, opening and closing the door to check on whatever was inside. “Oh, that was funny. I mean, totally not edible, but the look on everyone’s face when they took the first bite was priceless.”

Aiden and Kellen sat down at the counter, waiting for someone to notice that they were there. Aiden could see Kellen trying not to laugh at the conversation when Isaac rolled his eyes and said, “If your casserole tonight turns out like garbage, I will never stop making fun of you for it.”

“You guys are both bad cooks,” Aiden finally chimed in. “And you should honestly leave it to Letta or stick to simple things.”

“Pizzas are a good option too,” Kellen added lightly. “I like them with pineapples.”

“Hey, me too,” Nikki said from her place at the sink.

“A kiddo of good taste,” Kellen complimented, not looking bothered at all when he saw everyone staring. He tilted his head. “You all know that I’ve met you already, right?”

“Well, yes, but oh, it’s so nice to have you here,” Letta said first, stepping over to give him a brief hug hello. “We’re so sorry about that,” she apologized on behalf of everyone.

“It’s fine,” Kellen said easily. “Definitely not the weirdest conversation I’ve walked into.”

“You’ve walked into weirder?” Lyla asked, eyeing him curiously.

Kellen shrugged. “Olivia likes to learn about things. I came to work one day and she and B were discussing the minotaur and whether he could have beaten a transformer.” He rolled his eyes fondly. “Another time, she and B were pretty invested in something about the emotional meaning of taxidermy.”

“Seriously?” Aiden asked.

Kellen nodded seriously at him, leaning forward slightly. “You haven’t known her long enough, but she can get anyone talking about anything.”

Aiden could believe it. “You probably make it worse, don’t you?”

Kellen smirked. Yeah, he definitely was just as bad as Olivia. Aiden had to wonder about all the conversations B had walked in on over the years. He could only imagine.

Aiden felt his face flush slightly when he felt everyone’s attention on the two of them. Kellen patted his hand to help him relax and turned to the others. “So, let me see if I remember all the names here… Nikki, help me out.”

Ian softened pretty quickly seeing how well Nikki and Kellen got along as Aiden pulled her into his lap. Isaac seemed to appreciate Kellen’s quick wit as they traded comments. Aiden felt better the longer he sat there, basking in the casual conversation with his boyfriend next to him. Ten years ago, he never would have thought something like this was possible. Now he had to hold himself back from kissing Kellen, not even caring that his family would see.

“Two sisters, Kellen? I mean, I’ve got two brothers and that’s bad enough,” Ian joked, earning himself a nudge from Isaac. The two of them were headed to set the table.

Kellen gave Aiden a pat on his knee and got up to join them. Aiden could hear him answer, “Nah, my sisters are great. I’m the oldest in my house though.” Aiden got up to join the brunette and his brothers when Lyla grabbed his wrist.

“Okay, bets are up. I think we’re definitely going to have to order a pizza. I saw Ian making that thing, and there’s way too much sour cream in there,” she said seriously, her cell in her hand as if she was poised to call.

Letta sighed tiredly. “I told him to put less but he insisted that he knew what he was doing. Then again, I do appreciate him trying.” She made a face, privy to all of Ian’s previous efforts at trying.

“So, do we get pizza?” Nikki asked, trying not to sound too excited about it.

Aiden patted her head. “You betting against your dad?”

“Not… against him,” she clarified, “but for pizza.”

Aiden chuckled to himself. “Pineapples on half if we do get one.”

“Because your boyfriend likes it?” Lyla asked with a cat-like smile. Even as she said that, she pulled out Letta’s computer and started building a couple of pizzas. Aiden could see her adding pineapples to one of them for Nikki and Kellen. Looking up at Aiden in between her work, her smile softened. “You guys are sweet together.”

Letta nodded, pulling the probably botched casserole out of the oven and placing it on the stove. She poked at it suspiciously, letting it cool while she turned to Aiden. “We’re glad you felt comfortable enough to bring Kellen over here.” She frowned in the direction the other three had walked off in. “Although I hope they’re not scaring him away in there…”

Aiden would admit that he was curious about whatever they were talking about too. He wasn’t worried though, not about Kellen. “I think Kellen’s much more capable of scaring them than they are of him,” he murmured.

Whatever the others had been discussing, they must have finished. A moment later, Aiden heard Kellen call, “Honey, can you bring another set of utensils?”

“Got it!” Aiden called back. He saw the two girls smile at the pet name, but they were kind enough not to tease him about it.

Nikki didn’t pay attention to the pet name at all, a guilty look on her face instead. “Oops… must have counted wrong.”

“Your Uncle Aiden does finally have someone over. Kellen’s throwing off the numbers,” Lyla said playfully. “Aaaand pizzas are ordered. Let’s see if we need them.”

Aiden was pretty sure that everyone was now betting against Ian as he took the utensils from Letta and stepped over to the others. He was greeted by Ian’s and Isaac’s snickering, Kellen shaking his head at them with an amused smile.

“What’s… going on?” Aiden asked suspiciously.

Kellen gave him a wry smile. “Just your brothers trying to be funny. Thanks, honey.”

Aiden couldn’t resist giving Kellen a quick peck on the check in response to the pet name. Kellen’s casual affection never failed to touch him. Kellen gave him a toothy smile in response, clearly pleased that Aiden felt comfortable enough to be affectionate.

“I’ll go help with the rest of the stuff,” Kellen said politely, nudging Aiden playfully as he stepped around him.

The second he left the room, Isaac started chuckling out loud. Aiden rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. “What?” he deadpanned.

“Okay, I’m not laughing at you, it’s just weird to see you respond so easily to someone calling you ‘honey,’” Isaac commented with an easy smile. “In a good way,” he added genuinely.

“We like Kellen,” Ian said seriously. “It’s good to see that he’s not messing with you.”

Aiden was even more curious about what they’d said to him, but he didn’t get the chance to ask when everyone else returned. As Lyla guessed, the casserole was less than stellar. Aiden wouldn’t say it was bad, but it was definitely too cloying. He wasn’t the only one reaching for his water for the first few bites.

Ian tried his best to get through it to prove to everyone that it was fine, but when the pizza arrived, he ended up abandoning it as quickly as the others. Needless to say, he wasn’t angry at Lyla’s and Letta’s idea of ordering ahead.

Somehow the group of them squeezed together on the couch and armchair for a movie night, Aiden with Kellen on the armchair. With the lights down and the television playing loudly, Aiden was reminded of the few movie dates he and Kellen had been on years ago.

“You doing okay?” he asked Kellen quietly so his family wouldn’t hear.

“I mean, this is a pretty nice position, so I’d say I’m fine,” Kellen murmured. The chair was really only meant to fit one person, but they were out of seating options. Not that Aiden minded. Kellen was halfway on his lap, his legs hanging off the side. Aiden felt relaxed as Kellen’s warmth seeped into him, shifting so that Kellen could lean more comfortably against his chest.

Aiden huffed. “You sure? You sound pretty out of it,” he said, rubbing his hand up Kellen’s back.

Kellen hummed, leaning his head back against Aiden. “I can’t stay awake for movies. I always get too tired if I’m not moving,” he said with a yawn. “It was like that when we were kids too. Remember?”

Aiden hummed in affirmation, running his hand over Kellen’s scalp in response. He could already feel Kellen drifting off against him, his body becoming limp as he relaxed. Aiden loved Kellen like this, when he felt so comfortable that he fell asleep next to him. He kissed Kellen on the head as the man started to drift off.

In the dark of the living room, Aiden let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He wasn’t nervous anymore. He couldn’t be, not with Kellen right next to him and his family always at his back.

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