The Boy I Knew

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Our Future

“I can’t believe she’s been up there all day,” Letta mused, her eyes flicking to the stairs like her excitable daughter would come running down at any moment. She rolled the dice for her turn, moving her piece along the board.

Ian nodded sagely, studying the dice like he could will himself to win. “I’ve never seen her so quiet actually. I checked in on her and she was sitting there with a booklight and a book in her lap. I’m just going to say it, Aiden: I think your boyfriend is magic or something.”

Aiden laughed under his breath. He’d been up with Kellen for hours, and had planned on staying up there for the entire day, but the brunette was insistent that Aiden do something with his family. Nikki took Kellen’s side right away, saying that she would be more than enough to keep him company.

That was about an hour ago, and Nikki was still sitting up there as calmly as she had been in the morning. “She cares about him. It’s cute,” he responded, but he agreed that Kellen was pretty magical, in more ways than one.

“You should go up and check on him,” Lyla said with a smirk as she collected some money from Ian landing on her space. “You’re worried, right?”

Aiden wasn’t surprised that she’d noticed. He’d been trying all day to stop looking at the stairs, or to stop his leg from bouncing, or to sit still. It wasn’t easy, and he wasn’t exactly subtle. “I know that Kellen’s tough, but I wish I could do something more for him.” His shoulders slumped automatically.

Isaac nodded in solidarity, serious for once. Aiden recalled how he’d been there for Lyla after her mother passed. Isaac probably knew a lot about the feeling of helplessness Aiden got when Kellen was stuck in bed with a migraine.

Letta patted his knee. “We do too. Oh, Jacob, I think I get a fifty from that square.”

“Looks like it,” his dad said, acting as the honorary banker. Aiden had teamed up with his mom, who was currently looking to take out everyone with a row of absolute destruction, hotels built up on every square.

“Why don’t you go up then, sweetie?” his mom suggested. “I’ll keep us afloat here, and I’m sure Kellen could use something to eat.”

It was true that it was evening now and Kellen hadn’t eaten since the morning. Aiden had been bringing him water, but Kellen had already thrown up his entire breakfast over the course of the day. He hadn’t wanted to try anything else.

“Maybe just something to drink,” Aiden said, entrusting their money to his mom and skipping around everyone to get up the stairs. They hadn’t gone out that day, but it had been a good day anyway. Calm and quiet, like when they were kids before everyone had friends and work and places to be.

Aiden only wished Kellen could have joined them, but seeing his niece with Kellen wasn’t a bad thing either. When Aiden pushed open the door to his room, he smiled fondly at the sight that greeted him. Nikki was sitting on the bed next to Kellen, watching a video on the computer. She’d decided to hold Kellen’s hand, her two little ones much smaller around his.

She looked up when she noticed Aiden there, but didn’t say anything. Instead, she waved with a smile. Aiden stepped in as quietly as he could, leaning forward to run a hand over Kellen’s forehead and through his hair.

“Hey,” he said quietly.

Kellen only hummed, but reached up weakly to grasp Aiden’s wrist with his free hand. Aiden turned to Nikki and whispered, “You’ve got to make sure you eat dinner in a little while, kiddo.”

“But I don’t want to leave,” she whispered back.

Kellen squeezed her hand weakly. “S’okay, Nic,” he murmured, “you should eat.”

Nikki looked conflicted, but Aiden rushed to reassure her. “How about I stay with Kellen while you go show everyone how good you’re doing and get some food? I promise I’ll take care of him.” He bumped his shoulder lightly against hers.

That got her to smile. “Okay,” she agreed before she gave him a stern expression. “But you’d better do a good job.”

“You have my word,” Aiden said to her. With her bookmark in her book and a quick goodbye to Kellen, Nikki was out the door. Aiden sat closer to Kellen, who breathed out with difficulty and shivered. Aiden went to pull the blanket up on him, but Kellen shook his head and sat up weakly.

“’m not cold,” Kellen slurred. “Just sweaty.”

Aiden frowned at his poor boyfriend, who probably wasn’t feeling too comfortable in his sweat-soaked shirt. “Here, let me help,” Aiden said to him, helping Kellen strip out of his shirt and pulling on one of Aiden’s old ones over him.

“You’re too good to me,” Kellen mumbled, groaning in pain and leaning against Aiden’s shoulder for a moment.

“No way,” Aiden said lightheartedly. He let his fingers dance over Kellen’s spine in a soothing motion, sitting in silence for a while with him.

After another visit to the bathroom to throw up, Kellen laid back down to try and get some rest. He looked miserable, but as miserable as he looked, Nikki still came back up after she’d eaten. She resumed her spot next to Kellen, speaking to him quietly. Aiden saw Kellen crack a slight smile at her efforts before Aiden left to resume their game night.

When he returned a few hours later to get Nikki into bed, he found her already sleeping, leaning on Kellen. Aiden breathed out in relief when he saw Kellen sleeping too. His pain medication must have been working finally, giving him a chance to shut his eyes as he breathed in and out fitfully, resting even if it was clear that his head was killing him.

Aiden didn’t have the heart to move Nikki and potentially wake her or Kellen. He ended up on the couch that night so he didn’t disturb them. Not that he could have fit in that bed anyway. He was smart enough to do the math: a single bed with three people really didn’t add up. At least his dad made it his mission to find comfortable and usable throw pillows over the years, which Aiden appreciated as he sank down into one.

It was completely quiet now, but he couldn’t sleep. Aiden sighed, staring up at the ceiling idly. He supposed he would have to get used to this again, get used to sleeping without Kellen by his side. Maybe it was stupid and sappy to be pouting to himself in the dark about it, but Aiden had been having a hard time getting it off his mind. Kellen had quickly become his everything again and it was hard to imagine not having the other man somewhere close.

In the dark of night, Aiden would admit that he was worried about it. They’d just gotten back together and now he felt like he was saying goodbye to Kellen after only a few months. He took a deep breath.

He was worried about how difficult a long-distance relationship would be, but he wasn’t worried about their relationship itself. They’d spent enough time talking this over for him to feel confident that they would stay strong. He just didn’t know if he could handle it after he’d had a difficult day or when Kellen was having one of his migraines and they couldn’t be there for one another.

The thought sent Aiden into a fitful rest that wasn’t really restful at all until he felt someone nudge him from behind. Aiden probably should have been freaked out when that person squeezed onto the couch behind him, but he already knew it was Kellen from the fluid way he moved and the shape of his body. He would be a little bothered if anyone else in the house crawled onto the couch with him anyway.

“Kellen…?” Aiden mumbled, turning around with difficulty to face the man.

Kellen laughed lowly, tiredly. Aiden could see why when he had gotten turned around. The brunette was pale with dark bags on his eyes, his hair a mess, and still in Aiden’s too-large shirt. He looked like he could pass out right there.

“Stop moving, Aiden. This is even smaller than the bed and I don’t want to fall off,” Kellen said lightly, a smile on his face.

“Speaking of the bed, you’re not there because…?” Aiden prompted.

“Nikki’s sleeping. I moved her to be more comfortable and tucked her in,” Kellen responded like it was obvious.

Aiden kissed him on the forehead. “How’s your head?”

“Better,” Kellen sighed with relief. “Now, go to sleep. And no squirming, I’m tired.”

Aiden did as he was told, or he tried to anyway. He knew Kellen was tired, but he added, “I’m glad you weren’t alone today. Even when I’m away, even if we have to skype for hours in silence while you’re hurting, I still want to be there.” Aiden swallowed the emotion in his throat, tightening his hold on Kellen.

Kellen hummed and leaned up to kiss his throat. “You worry too much, Aiden. But it makes me happy to hear you say that anyway.” He let out a satisfied sigh, already halfway asleep.

Aiden hugged him close. Kellen’s breathing evened out, much more calmly than it had been with his migraine. Aiden fell asleep to the regular rise and fall of Kellen’s chest, Kellen in his arms, which is why he was so confused when he woke and Kellen was no longer there. Aiden was beginning to wish that he was a lighter sleeper so that he could catch Kellen slipping out of bed.

Or off the couch in this case. Aiden heard his back crack when he sat up, wondering why he felt so old when he was only in his twenties. The smell of something heavenly hit his nose, giving him the strength that he needed to make it to the kitchen.

Aiden smirked when he saw Kellen leaning with his elbows on the counter, a mug of tea in his hand. His eyes were closed, but he opened them as if with great effort to look at Aiden. “You’re up early, he said quietly, his voice hoarse.

It was seven in the morning. It made Aiden sad to looked at the green numbers on the microwave, but he was more concerned for Kellen. “Why are you up? You should be sleeping,” Aiden admonished. “And eating. Have you eaten?”

“It’s so cute that you’re a mother hen,” Kellen said with a lazy smile, the affection in his voice obvious. “I’m baking for everyone. Not to worry.” He only sighed tiredly when his stomach growled loudly. “It’s not done yet,” he whined.

Aiden sent him a fond look, stepping over and leaning down to give him a sound kiss on the mouth. Kellen tasted sweet like the tea he preferred, his lips moving lazily against Aiden’s.

Kellen pulled back suddenly, leaving Aiden feeling confused for all of a second before his mother walked in. As soon as she saw Kellen, she wrapped him in a tight hug, peppering him with questions about him sleeping and if his head still hurt and if he wanted her to do anything for him.

“Oh, I see where Aiden gets it from though,” Kellen said after he’d reassured her that he was fine now.

Aiden raised his eyebrows when his dad snorted, covering his mouth as he tried not to laugh. “Sorry,” he apologized, “but Kellen hit it right on the nose.”

His mother rolled her eyes playfully. Aiden almost snorted himself when Kellen said quietly to him, “See, your dad and I are best friends now.”

Nikki was probably more like his new best friend though. When she finally woke up a few hours later to find Aiden staring in confusion at some cooking show with Kellen dozing on his shoulder, she came over to them immediately. Aiden thought something was wrong when she didn’t say anything immediately, but he realized why after a moment.

Nudging Kellen, he said, “Baby, you up?”

Kellen blinked tiredly, but he was certainly awake. He focused on Nikki after a second, giving her a smile. “Hey, Nic.”

“Are you feeling better today?” she asked nervously, wringing her hands together.

“Sure am,” Kellen said kindly. “It was a big help to have you sitting with me. Thanks, Nikki.”

The smile she gave him was bright enough to outshine the sun. She jumped up to give both Aiden and Kellen one-armed hugs, before jumping around full of energy as usual. Aiden had a moment where he wondered what it would be like to have a kid of his own with Kellen. He pushed those thoughts away for now. As Kellen relaxed back into his side, Aiden sighed in satisfaction. He and Kellen had time to figure out those things later.

“So, what are we watching?” Kellen asked as the noise of the house picked up.

“They’re making… I don’t know, chicken cutlets? They look pretty pink to me.”

“You should sign up for the show and let them see how it’s done.”

“Yeah, only if I want to leave right away with my ugly food.”

“Their loss. Your mess of hamburger mac and cheese was delicious.”

Aiden put his arm around Kellen’s shoulders as they snuggled on the couch. The man somehow slept through all the noise when everyone else woke up, breathing easily with his head on Aiden’s chest. Aiden tightened his hold and smiled.

It was Kellen who’d given Aiden the courage to come out. It was Kellen who was always there for him, and who would continue to be there for him no matter where in the country they both were. Aiden considered himself lucky to have a man like this, currently dozing on his chest comfortably.

Running his hand through Kellen’s hair, Aiden watched as the man sighed out in satisfaction. It made Aiden’s heart skip.

“You okay, Aiden?” Kellen murmured. “Your heart’s beating kind of fast.” He moved his hand up on Aiden’s chest, patting it lightly.

“Yeah, I’m good. I’m just… really happy, Kellen,” he said softly.

Kellen leaned up like it took a lot of energy, lazily giving Aiden a kiss on the side of his mouth before laying back on his chest, an arm wrapping around his stomach. “You’re adorable, honey. You make me happy too, just so we’re clear.”

Aiden wrapped his arm tighter around Kellen, who hummed. “Hey, Kellen? I know you’re here with my family, but I want to meet yours too. And I want to celebrate your birthday together, and maybe you can come to one of my games, and I want to do something really romantic together, and—”

Kellen stopped him with a full kiss on his lips, wrapping his arms around Aiden’s neck and almost crawling on top of him. Aiden felt his heart leap at the warm, solid feeling of Kellen’s lips, but Kellen pulled back almost right away. The others were only in the next room after all.

“We’ll do all of that stuff, Aiden. We’ve got time, right?” Kellen asked tenderly, his lips curling into a smile.

Aiden swallowed past the fondness that stuck in his throat. “Yeah, we do.” He grabbed Kellen by the shirt to kiss him again, not caring who saw them. It felt like he really did have all the time in the world when he kissed Kellen like that.

Time wasn’t infinite though, no matter how much Aiden might have wished for these kisses to last forever. But even if Aiden knew time would run out eventually, he hoped to have Kellen by his side until then.

Aiden smiled into their kiss. Whatever future had Kellen in it would be a good one.

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