The Man I Love

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Letters From Home

Kellen moved into Aiden’s apartment effortlessly, mostly without either of them even realizing it. When Aiden was home during the off season, Kellen spent almost all of his time there. Aiden didn’t know when it happened, but he started opening his closet to see some of Kellen’s clothing hung up neatly to the side. He would walk into his bedroom to see Kellen’s phone and wallet on the nightstand Aiden had added next to Kellen’s side of the bed. Aiden even put up blackout curtains in the bedroom for when Kellen had a migraine.

Aiden hadn’t even realized that he didn’t think of it as his apartment anymore. Or at least not only his. Not until he was talking to Ian in Kick Up Your Heels, both of them waiting for Nikki to finish her class.

“Are you and Kellen having a night in tonight? I know you go back for the new season in a week,” Ian was saying. He adjusted his jacket, looking dubiously outside at the snow that had descended upon them.

Aiden hummed and nodded. “Yeah, we’ll be back at our place. Kellen’s had a long day today, so we’ll probably have dinner and watch a movie. He’ll fall asleep like he always does,” Aiden chuckled to himself. Even if they went to a theater, Kellen ended up dozing.

When Ian didn’t immediately continue the conversation, Aiden looked to see his brother staring at him with something approaching confusion. “What?” Aiden asked.

Ian raised his eyebrows. “You… have no idea what you said, do you?”

“That Kellen and I are going to hang out tonight?” he tried to clarify unsurely.

“Where?” Ian prompted, just like he used to do when he helped Aiden with his homework and the answer was something obvious.

Aiden frowned. “Uh, I told you. At our place.” He still didn’t get it.

Ian smiled in amusement now, crossing his arms. “And is that Kellen’s apartment or yours?”

That’s when it clicked. Aiden blinked, his mouth opening and closing. He had no idea how it happened, but despite knowing that Kellen still had his apartment, Aiden no longer thought of his own place as solely his own.

Ian patted him on the back in a brotherly fashion, looking up when class let out and Kellen stepped into the side storage room to grab something. Before Kellen could go back to finish up with his remaining students, Ian called out to him, “Hey Kellen! Where are you and Aiden going after this?”

Kellen looked between Ian and Aiden, no doubt wondering why Ian was asking him with Aiden right there, but he still answered, “Just going home. As far as I know…” Despite his confusion, he smiled and stepped away, promising to be back in a second.

Ian laughed to himself. “He’s doing it too. Have you guys not talked about moving in or something?” Ian kept laughing under his breath.

Aiden huffed at his brother’s amusement. “We’ve talked about it, but I guess he just kind of moved in with me without us thinking about it.” The thought didn’t bother him as much as he might have expected it to. Instead, it sent a warm spark into his stomach as he thought about the fact that they really were living together. It had happened suddenly, completely effortlessly, but he and Kellen were sharing his apartment.

He smiled all throughout their simple dinner at, well, at their apartment. Aiden couldn’t stop looking at Kellen as the man told him about his day in between bites of his sandwich, the television playing on the Food Network in the background.

Finally, Aiden asked, “Kellen?”

“Hmm?” Kellen hummed, swallowing.

“Did you…” Aiden started, frowning. No, that wasn’t how he wanted to say it. “I mean…” He winced, not sure how to phrase it. Kellen waited patiently as Aiden got his thoughts together, putting down his food.

“Something the matter, hun?” Kellen asked in concern, putting his hand over Aiden’s.

Aiden cleared his throat. “Um, so you know how you have clothes here, and we do the shopping together, and you’ve been sleeping here for the past month?” When Kellen nodded, evidently just as confused as Aiden had been, Aiden said, “We’re living together.”

Kellen tilted his head in confusion. Aiden could see the moment it dawned on Kellen that, yes, they were really living together, as the man’s eyes widened in recognition. “Huh,” Kellen said, pausing. He took a bite of his food, chewing contemplatively. After a moment, he added, “Well, that makes my life easier.”

It was Aiden’s turn to feel confused as Kellen picked at his sandwich. “To be honest, Aiden, I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I… don’t want to go back to my place.” He paused for a second, clearly thinking about his next words. “When you leave for the season, I don’t want to go back to my place.”

Kellen met Aiden’s eyes seriously. “I’ve lived in my place for years now. It was where I moved into right after my accident when I came to work for Olivia’s granddad. That’s always been home for me, but lately, when I go back to get something, it’s started to feel more like… a pitstop,” he finished, searching for the word. “I’ve just felt lonely recently when I go back to my place. I look forward to coming here. Maybe it’s because I started to associate it with you coming home, or just because I spend a lot of time here. I don’t know, it reminds me of you.”

Kellen shrugged unapologetically, going back to his sandwich like he hadn’t just made Aiden’s heart go into overdrive.

“I’ll clean out the closet for you,” Aiden said by way of answer, Kellen’s smile brightening the room.

Kellen leaned forward to kiss his cheek. “You think we can finish moving me in the week before you go?” He smiled happily, bringing Aiden in for another kiss that Aiden savored.

The only reason they finished in a few days was because Aiden had the time and Kellen didn’t have as much stuff as he could have. Plus, Ian and Isaac were glad to help, if only because they were nosey.

Isaac brushed snow off a box as he set it at Aiden’s door. “I’m just saying, you guys picked a bad time to move.” He wiped his hand on his jeans.

Aiden rolled his eyes. “I’m leaving in a few days. When else was he supposed to move in?” He picked up the box to put it with the others, setting a small shoebox on top.

“Maybe when it’s spring?” Isaac suggested, nosily poking around the open boxes. He opened the shoebox, rifling around.

Aiden smacked his hand. “Isaac, that’s Kellen’s.”

“What, I can’t know what he has if I’m moving it?” Isaac questioned as Ian stepped in with some kitchen utensils making noise in the box he was holding. It was a good thing Kellen had a lot of this stuff, since Aiden had never bothered with it.

Ian sighed. “Isaac, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way. What if you find some kinky thing they do together? I’ll never hear the end of your complaining.”

Aiden rolled his eyes at Ian’s teasing tone. “Kellen already put that box away himself,” he said, just to hear his brothers whine. No, they didn’t have a dedicated box for that, but those two didn’t need to know that.

Ian predictably groaned at the innuendo, but Isaac was quiet. When Aiden turned, his blonde brother was reading a sheet of paper with his eyebrows knitted and a bothered look on his face.

“Isaac?” Ian asked.

Isaac opened his mouth and closed it. “Aiden… what is this?”

Aiden stepped over to see, unnerved by his brother’s uncharacteristically serious tone. He took the paper in his hands, reading over the blocky handwriting slowly.

I’m so sorry for this. You never think that something like this will happen to you, but it just… did. I don’t know how to explain it, Kell. The headlights were there and then I was here. But then your face was here too. I see you cry for me, Kell, but you don’t have to. I don’t know what will happen, but I’ll be alright. I’ll be watching over you, in everything that you do.

Aiden knitted his eyebrows together, his heart sinking. He had a feeling that he knew what this was as he read on.

You’re so young now, but you’ll get married in the future right? You don’t have to though. Marriage isn’t for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with being alone if that makes you happy. But I’m sure you’ll be with a beautiful woman with how handsome you are even now. Oh, wait, or maybe you’ll be with a man? It’s perfectly alright if you prefer men. Just pick a good one, okay?

Aiden’s eyes strayed to the bottom of the page, and sure enough, he recognized the name printed neatly there: Kyle Konrad.

“These are the letters Kellen’s dad wrote him,” Aiden said softly. He hadn’t read these yet, giving Kellen whatever time he needed to bring them up on his own. Guilt hit him like a truck. He wasn’t supposed to have read that.

Kellen’s footsteps resounded as he shook the snow off his boots, shutting the door behind him with a huff. “It’s freezing. Good god, Aiden, it’s a good thing that you’re warm.” He stopped talking when he noticed that the room was silent. Kellen looked between the three of them curiously.

The only thing Aiden could think to say was, “I’m sorry. We, um, found this.” He brought the letter over to Kellen, who only had to look at it to know what it was.

“O-oh,” Kellen said quietly. “I…” He took a breath, settling on a calm expression. “To be honest, I was trying to get up the courage to show these to you. You distract me, so I sort of forgot,” he ended with a tiny laugh. A second later, he was frowning like he had swallowed something bitter. “I, uh, guess I know how my mom forgot now,” he mumbled, clearly unhappy with himself.

Aiden still felt guilty for having read what he did, but Kellen patted his chest to get his attention. “Aiden, it’s okay. I’d like you to read them, if you want to. That’s my dad, you know? You can get to know him.” He looked to Ian and Isaac with a much sterner expression. “You two, on the other hand, no nosing around my stuff.”

Isaac and Ian looked sufficiently cowed, apologizing. Kellen, the good man that he was, simply showed them an old picture of his dad that was in the box Isaac had been rifling through. Aiden could see the way Kellen’s shoulders relaxed when Isaac said that Kellen looked just like his father.

Later that evening, when Kellen was dancing around the kitchen while cooking, Aiden took out the letters again in the safety of their tiny dining area. His heart was beating quickly in his chest. These letters were what Kyle Konrad had dictated for his son just before he passed away. These were the letters that had been in the hospital with him, letters that Kellen had held onto desperately when he read them.

Aiden handled them as carefully as someone might handle a thousand-year-old document, opening each of them with the same reverence he knew Kellen had.

Some of the letters were like the one he read before, talking about what Kellen might be doing in the future. Others were addressed to Kellen at various times of his life, like the one addressed to a 33-year-old Kellen:

You’re 33 today. It’s been a long time then since I’ve seen you then. Do you still think about me? It’s okay if you don’t; I don’t want my son to wallow in grief forever. I want you to be happy in whatever you do, maybe with your own children now. I don’t want you to be sad on your 33rd birthday either, but you’re as old as I am now. I can’t imagine it. I’m sorry I won’t be there to see it.

Aiden swallowed heavily, moving on to another letter. He had to take a deep breath and stop when he got to one that had clear tear stains on it. The apologies and obvious emotion made it hard to keep his eyes dry.

He pressed his hands to his face, swallowing heavily as he wiped away tears. Now he could see why Kellen had broken down when he read these.

Aiden took a deep breath when Kellen walked over with some homemade chicken and pasta, setting a plate down for each of them. He looked ready to say something when he took in Aiden’s probably bloodshot eyes and sniffling nose.

“Oh, Aiden,” he said, running a hand comfortingly through Aiden’s hair. “You read them, huh?”

Aiden leapt to his boyfriend, hugging him tightly. Somehow, Kellen seemed to understand, returning that hug tightly.

“I love you, Kellen,” he said softly, whispering it into the man’s neck.

Kellen hummed. “I know. I love you too, Aiden.”

Aiden didn’t know how long they stayed in each other’s arms. He didn’t want to let go. He only squeezed Kellen more tightly, imagining how painful it must have been for both Kellen and his father. He couldn’t bear the thought of having to say goodbye to the man in front of him, of losing someone he loved this much.

Kellen let his fingers trace up and down Aiden’s spine lovingly, swaying them slightly like they were slow dancing. He wiped Aiden’s cheeks when they separated, a tender smile on his face.

Aiden didn’t think he felt much like eating after that, but moving someone in and getting all of their stuff situated tended to make a person hungry. He flushed when his stomach growled. Kellen only chuckled under his breath.

“Let’s eat, Aiden. Come on, you’ll love what I made.”

Aiden was feeling a little clingy. He knew it was stupid, but he led Kellen to the couch to eat, sitting right next to him.

If Kellen thought it was strange, he didn’t comment on it. He actually wiggled himself even closer, resting his legs over Aiden’s lap. “Okay, so this movie… explain it to me because I still don’t get it,” Kellen said, taking bite of his food.

Aiden smiled and shook his head fondly. “That’s because you’ve been falling asleep at various points throughout it.” He hummed at the flavor in the food as he bit into some himself. Kellen cooked simply, but he did a good job.

“I’ll stay awake this time,” Kellen assured him, not that either of them believed him.

As soon as Kellen finished his food and got settled, Aiden could see him starting to drift off. The man tried valiantly to stay awake, shaking himself whenever his eyes drooped too low, but he didn’t stand a chance when Aiden laid them both out on the couch, adjusting Kellen to lay on top of him.

Aiden smiled down at the man now sleeping atop his stomach, breathing calmly. This was his life now. He had this man that loved him so much, who had just moved in with him.

It was their apartment.

Once again, Aiden’s heart felt too full. He swallowed, snuggling into Kellen’s warm embrace. He didn’t know when he fell asleep, but he did know that when he woke up later, the TV playing some infomercial, Kellen was still resting there. It was warm with Kellen, comfortable.

Aiden knew that his back would probably hurt tomorrow, but he didn’t want to move. He snuggled back into Kellen, drifting off with a contented sigh.

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