The Boy I Knew

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Made to Move

Aiden never told anyone why he took a break from practice the day after he’d met Kellen. His dad thought he was sick and his mom gave him a concerned frown, but somehow, it felt wrong to share that memory from the day before. Kellen had been so kind to him, making him feel comfortable after only about five minutes talking to him. Aiden worried that if he said something about it, someone would tear that memory from him.

It was stupid, yes, and he knew it was stupid, but he decided to keep that talk with Kellen to himself. Considering that he hadn’t told anyone, he didn’t know why he expected anything to change during normal school hours.

Aiden found himself scanning the room for Kellen that day in English class. His stomach was in knots. He sighed at the spike of nervous pain shot through him. His anxiety could have manifested in any number of ways, but why did it have to be as stomach pain? Aiden was only sixteen and he was already thinking life was too hard.

Just as his stomach twisted again, he saw the other boy walk in. For a second, Aiden felt his heart jump. But Kellen didn’t even look in his direction before he sat down casually and leaned back in his desk.

Aiden felt himself deflate. He wasn’t too proud to admit that he was pouting, although he didn’t know why it mattered to him so much. He’d only formally met Kellen yesterday. They ran in completely different circles. There was no reason to expect anything.

Besides, Aiden had his teammates, who sat around him and started talking loudly. Aiden joined in as always, resisting the urge to look to Kellen every few seconds. It was a lot harder than he would have thought. Honestly, he’d paid so much attention to Kellen during class that day that his notes looked like chicken scratch.

Apparently, Kellen had been thinking about him too. That afternoon when Aiden started on his way home, he passed the baseball field instead of stepping in. He would take a break today. Just for today, but… one day was alright.

“Aw, I’m so proud of you,” Kellen’s voice said suddenly.

Aiden almost jumped about a foot in the air. “What the hell are you doing just sitting there?”

Kellen was sitting atop an old crate with a book in his lap. “I miscalculated,” he admitted sheepishly. “Normally, you’re here practicing, so I watch you in a non-creepy way in between chapters. But then I convinced you to take a break.” He shrugged wistfully. “While I’m totally proud of you, now I don’t know what to do.”

Aiden felt his heart calm from the sudden fright. He smiled slightly. “You could go home too.”

Kellen hummed, but didn’t elaborate on why he didn’t want to. “Oh!” he said suddenly, reaching in his backpack for his notebook. “You looked a little disappointed with your notes after class. Here, take a few pictures of mine.”

He held it out kindly, but all Aiden could ask was, “You were looking at me?”

Kellen tilted his head like he found the question odd, but the smile didn’t leave his face. “Considering that you were looking at me every ten seconds, I don’t think I have any reason to feel guilty here.”

Aiden hated that his ears got red at being caught staring. He’d established that he liked guys by this point, but he still wasn’t brave enough to do anything about it. He felt his stomach twist in fear as he tried to stammer out some kind of answer.

Kellen gave him a calm smile. “It’s okay, Aiden. I mean, I’m not that great-looking, but I have been told that I have some great charisma.” He laughed at his own bad joke, but it did the trick and broke whatever tension Aiden was feeling.

Aiden sighed, his shoulders slumping in relief. “Why would you say you’re not good-looking?”

“I don’t stand out,” Kellen said simply. Aiden had thought the same thing when they met the day before, but he hadn’t known that Kellen had thought that about himself. It didn’t sound like Kellen was being self-deprecating though; it was more like he was stating a fact.

Kellen shook the notebook. “So… you want to take pictures of it or am I holding this up for my own sake?”

“Don’t be a smart mouth,” he mumbled, before berating himself. “Ugh, I sounded like my mom for a second.” He still grabbed the notebook, much to Kellen’s amusement.

Kellen’s bark of laughter was more like a puppy’s tiny ruff this time. “I’m the sarcastic type. Sorry about that; I hope you know I’m joking around.” His voice was uncharacteristically serious this time. The tone plus his piercing eyes made it impossible to look away.

Aiden felt his stomach twist again, but he ignored the pang of anxiety. “I know,” he said softly. “I, uh, I don’t know you that well, but you seem like a good guy. Good enough to help me with my notes.” He tried to make a joke, but it was very clear that Kellen was the funny one here.

Kellen didn’t seem to mind in the slightest. He stood up to stretch, wincing slightly. Aiden had to force himself to look at the notebook at his hands when Kellen’s shirt rode up slightly. He had to pretend to be similarly focused on his locker every time all the guys changed in PE.

When Aiden handed the notebook back, an idea popped into his head. Kellen was out here all alone. Aiden wasn’t practicing that day. His teammates had asked him to do something after school, but it was his day off. He was planning on heading home to maybe take a nap or something, but now that he’d met Kellen here…

Aiden didn’t get a chance to get the question out. Kellen gave him a small smile. “You might have the day off, but I sadly have practice today.”

“You do?” Aiden asked, blinking in surprise. He hadn’t pegged Kellen for the sports type. That was because he wasn’t.

“I’m on the dance team,” Kellen said with a wide smile.

“And I have two left feet,” Aiden commented wryly, referring to his nonexistent dance skills.

Kellen only laughed lightly, warmly. “Well if you ever want some help, you know where to find me now.” He gave Aiden another smile before running back to the school, his feet tapping lightly on the ground.

Aiden stood there until Kellen faded from view, smiling to himself when he walked home. Even when his mom gave him those frowns and his dad asked if he was okay, he kept smiling. He didn’t know what it was about Kellen, but it was hard not to.

^^^

Aiden ended up at the dance studio again on Tuesday. He didn’t do it to learn about the ballet class, as much as Olivia would have liked that, but because with his season over until March, he wasn’t too sure what he should do with himself. He’d found a gym where he could train and practice pitching, but it wasn’t like he could be there all day every day. Nor did he want to be. And if he had the free time and Letta and Ian needed his help, Aiden had no objections.

It was only the beginning of December and everyone was still stuck at work until the holidays, so Aiden braved the cold for his niece’s sake. He would admit that the Chinese food next door was pretty good too.

This time when he stepped into the studio, there were more people there. Probably because it was a weekday and kids were coming here after school. A few people cleared out right as Aiden walked in, leaving a little more breathing room. The guy adjusting a few things on some high shelves using a ladder didn’t exactly add to the amount of space they had though.

Aiden rolled his shoulder, feeling tense from the bout of pitching he’d done that morning. The warm air of the studio’s heating did wonders for it, making him sigh in relief as he leaned against the wall to wait for Nikki.

Everything was quiet and calm. Some people were chatting idly. There was a catchy winter song playing softly in the background. Aiden could hear the guy on the ladder shifting things around, humming some kind of tune underneath his breath.

He was about to close his eyes when he heard the guy take a few steps down the plastic rungs. When the guy cursed suddenly, Aiden didn’t know what made him move so fast. Maybe it was because he was standing nearby. He’d barely glanced up at the guy on the ladder, but he’d known the man was there. Aiden moved quickly to put his hands on the man’s hips to stop him from falling off.

The guy sagged against the rungs he was still holding, breathing out in relief. “That could have hurt. Hey thanks,” he said casually.

That voice. That was the voice of the dance teacher that he’d heard on Saturday, the Mr. K from the hip-hop class. The sense of déjà vu hit Aiden again as his eyes widened in realization. There was that voice, soft and warm. His body was thin yet toned from what Aiden could feel. He had brown hair. He was average for the most part, at least from behind.

Then he turned his head and his piercing brown eyes locked onto Aiden’s. Aiden had never forgotten those eyes in all the years they’d spent apart. There was no way he could ever mistake them.

“Kellen…” he breathed out, like the air had been knocked out of him.

Kellen clearly recognized him too from the surprised look on his face. There was a moment of silence between them before Aiden became distinctly aware of the fact that his hands were still on his ex-boyfriend’s hips.

He removed them carefully while Kellen lowered himself down to the floor and turned around. They still hadn’t said anything yet, but it was Kellen who seemed to recover first. “Aiden,” he said softly, fondly.

It clicked. Kellen’s voice was maybe slightly lower, but it was the same. Just like his voice, the rest of him had aged ever so slightly too. But it was still Kellen. Brown hair, deep brown eyes, and lilting smile. He had a headband tied around his head. His features were sharp and somehow alluring like they’d been years ago. Like when they were in high school, he was taller by an inch or two.

“Here for Nikki?” Kellen asked softly, his voice cracking slightly. That was the only indication that he was affected by Aiden’s sudden presence there.

Aiden had to resist the urge to sit to help settle the uncomfortable feeling in his stomach. He could feel it twist awkwardly. “H-how did you know that?”

Kellen tilted his head with a wry smile. “Her last name is Metzler. And she’s your brother’s kid. Dancing accidents haven’t killed off my deductive reasoning yet,” he said sarcastically.

“R-right,” Aiden stammered out. “I mean not that I thought you were stupid or something. Wait, that’s not…”

Kellen interrupted him with a laugh. “You may have made it to the majors, but you’re still the same old Aiden,” he said fondly, a warm smile on his face. “I’m glad.”

Aiden felt like he was too warm. His stomach was still twisting, but not in a bad way. He worked hard so that it wouldn’t show on his face. He hoped he wasn’t sweating too much under his jacket. Did Kellen notice? He couldn’t tell; Kellen had always been hard to read. Aiden, on the other hand, was an open book.

“You’re not… uh, angry?” Aiden had to ask. Really, he could have left it at a polite “hello, how are you” after all these years, but no, he had to bring up the fact that they broke up after about thirty seconds of talking. Sometimes Aiden hated how his mouth moved without his brain’s permission.

“I never was,” Kellen said under the tune of the music, shifting his feet. “But it’s been a long time, Aiden. I’m glad to see you again.”

Aiden knew that his ears were red, and he knew that Kellen had noticed too. The other man had the grace not to say anything. “I’m glad to see you too,” Aiden responded, clearing his throat when his voice cracked. “Sorry, I guess I’m nervous,” he admitted, giving Kellen an awkward smile.

There was that little bark of laughter again. Like when they were kids, Kellen was the type to laugh with his whole body. It was endearing. “Is your stomach hurting?” Kellen asked. “I have medicine in the back if you need.”

“It’s not that bad,” Aiden said quickly, aware of the heat underneath his collar now.

Kellen had remembered. It wasn’t like Aiden expected the man to forget everything about him the second they broke up, but Kellen was the only one who knew how nervous he used to get. It lit a fire in his chest to know that the man was still concerned for him even after what Aiden did to him. Aiden couldn’t help but to feel like he didn’t deserve it.

“But you work here now?” Aiden asked, reaching for a way to extend this conversation. He’d stopped being awkward around Kellen early on in high school, but upon seeing him again, he wasn’t sure how to act. It felt like all of their history was sitting there in between them as a gap that Aiden didn’t know how to cross.

Kellen smiled widely, bashfully. “I own here, actually.”

Aiden blinked, his face lighting up with a genuine smile. “That’s great, Kellen! You were always so great with dancing. I, uh, can’t believe I didn’t know you were the owner.” He shuffled his feet shyly.

Kellen chuckled to himself. “You would have known if Nikki didn’t call me Mr. K still.” He shook his head fondly. “I told her that Kellen was fine, but she won’t budge on it.”

“But she calls Olivia and the other girl by their names,” Aiden pointed out.

Kellen shrugged. “I don’t know why.” He pouted. “Maybe she doesn’t like me?”

Aiden scoffed. “Are you kidding? She loves this place. All she talks about is how great her hip-hop teacher is in between begging Ian and Letta to let her join your classical dance class.” He was smiling now. He didn’t even realize it, but the tension in his stomach had disappeared. “If she was older, she’d probably beg you to work here.”

Kellen smiled to himself, his cheeks reddening from the praise. He’d always been like that, but it had been a long time since Aiden had seen that bashful expression. Kellen opened his mouth to speak when someone called, “Kellen, some help!”

Aiden turned to see a woman in black yoga pants with her short blonde hair in a low ponytail. He might have put her in the category of stereotypical blonde if it wasn’t for the dark tattoos that he saw peeking out from the skin her clothing didn’t cover. There was one near the base of her neck, a whole bunch on her upper right arm, and one wrapping around her left wrist. Aiden could even see one on her left ankle. He kind of wondered if she had any on her back or chest.

“Oh, sorry about that, B,” Kellen apologized. He turned to Aiden. “I’m helping with the ballet class today. We’re showing them a hip-hop ballet combination.”

Aiden assumed that this was the Beatrice Battle that he’d heard about. He could see why Olivia said that she didn’t look like the usual ballet type as the blonde leaned against the doorframe and took a look at Aiden. Her eyes cut to Kellen for a minute. Kellen gave her a look. Whatever silent conversation they were having, Aiden wasn’t in on it.

After a moment, B turned to Aiden and said, without changing her fairly emotionless facial expression, “Why don’t you sit in and watch? It’ll just be our demonstration before we let out.”

Aiden hadn’t expected her to address him. He didn’t even know why she’d brought it up, but he hadn’t seen Kellen dance in years. A part of him yearned to see the way the man moved again. “Sure,” he agreed easily. “If that’s okay,” he said to Kellen.

Kellen shrugged again. “Not a problem.”

B led the way, Aiden following behind Kellen. The studio was a lot bigger once they got into the hallway past Olivia’s desk. Aiden saw an office immediately to the left, with a bathroom adjacent to it. The right was filled with multiple doors all made of the same wood as the floor. The dark colors might have made it look small, but for some reason, they didn’t.

Aiden counted three doors before B led him into the open one. Kellen pointed out a chair in the back for Aiden to sit on before he went to join B in the front, their backs in front of the mirrored wall. The class huddled on the opposite side grew quiet as they watched. Aiden returned Nikki’s wave before focusing on the front with the others.

B turned to the class. “Okay, so you’re all learning ballet here, but there’s no rulebook about where you apply your skills. I’ve been learning from my friend Kellen here about how to use ballet in hip-hip, so we’re going to demonstrate a dance of ours to show you the combination.”

Kellen waved to the group casually, a relaxed smile on his face. Aiden thought he looked comfortable up there in front of all these kids’ and teens’ prying eyes.

B ran over to push the button on the phone with the speakers attached, jumping back to stand next to Kellen. Aiden felt his heart pick up in anticipation.

The music started, some poppy song with violin interspersed. Aiden wasn’t paying attention to the music though, not when he saw the way Kellen and B started moving to it. They were in tune, yet with their own moves and roles. The two of them went from a graceful ballet twirl to a sharp fall in seconds. Kellen twisted himself backwards while B flipped right over him. He was even strong enough to lift her when she jumped into his arms without a second thought.

Aiden wasn’t too proud to admit that he had a bit of a jealous moment. The two of them fit so well together, and he already knew that Kellen was bisexual. But he also knew that B was Kellen’s employee, not to mention that whoever Kellen dated was no longer any of Aiden’s business. It hadn’t been for a while now.

That didn’t mean that he couldn’t enjoy the dance though. The way Kellen moved was mesmerizing. It had been like that in high school too: Kellen could draw a crowd with his infectious energy. The difference was that he looked much more confident now. Movements that he’d still been practicing back then were cleaner, crisper, and filled with a personality that could only be Kellen’s.

But some things didn’t change: with every movement, Kellen just looked happy. He was smiling through most of it, that happiness making each move that much livelier.

Aiden found himself smiling along. Kellen said that Aiden hadn’t changed much, but he thought the same was true for Kellen. Kellen still moved like every twist of his body made him happy, like he couldn’t imagine a life that didn’t involve the music rattling in his bones and his feet twisting on the floor.

A sudden ache hit him heavily. Kellen had tried to teach him how to dance a long time ago. They ended up laughing before Aiden did his own lift, holding Kellen against the wall to kiss him.

Aiden had thought about Kellen over the years. He knew that he missed the man, and that he would always wonder if he’d made the right choice breaking up with him. He’d thought his love for his career would outweigh all that though.

But now as he was sitting there watching the man move like he was made for it, a wave of longing threatened to overcome him. He shouldn’t be feeling like that. It wasn’t his business anymore. The thought made Aiden’s heart fall.

The feeling didn’t last for long. It couldn’t, not with the infectious energy Kellen gave out as he twisted high while B went low. He pulled her between his legs like it was nothing, and Aiden couldn’t help but to be impressed. He knew how strong the lithe man could be from personal experience.

When the two of them finished, they were both breathing hard with smiles on their faces. The class clapped at their demonstration as Kellen went to turn off the music and B recommended that they try out Kellen’s hip-hop class if they wanted to learn more varied moves. The two of them would also be holding a joint once-off class together at some point, and would send along emails and update their website and social media sites with the information.

Aiden watched from the back of the room with a fond smile until Nikki stepped over to him, ready to go. He couldn’t resist looking back at Kellen, who gave him a slight wave before returning his attention to a student.

Aiden’s heart jumped. He already knew that Kellen never left his mind entirely when they were apart. All it took was one short conversation after seven years and Aiden was starting to wonder how over Kellen he really was.

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