The Man I Love

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A Life Together

They’d been talking about it for a while. It had been something they’d discussed casually lying in bed together or more seriously when they were fully awake.

Marriage.

Aiden swallowed. He’d been thinking about marrying Kellen for so long now. When they were just kids, they’d talked about it like some sort of pipe dream, in some distant future when Aiden was out and everything worked out between them.

Their relationship hadn’t always been straightforward, but now marriage was a reality. Aiden had been out for years now. He and Kellen had been a couple for six years, spending every off season together with stolen days in between.

And Aiden was tired of waiting. He was tired of having to say goodbye to Kellen and his family every season, of missing all the wonderful things they did when he was gone. Nikki was growing up so fast and Aiden couldn’t deny that he missed the now twelve-year-old. At least he’d been there when Isaac and Lyla had their son Orrin two years ago. The two of them had certainly been grateful enough when Aiden and Kellen had volunteered to babysit.

Through all of that though, he found himself feeling lonely. Aiden couldn’t deny that his first love had been baseball, but more and more, he just wanted to be home. He wanted to marry Kellen. He wanted to have a husband. He wanted a life with Kellen where he didn’t have to leave every year.

And that’s why he was currently sitting on their bed, staring at the ring that he’d bought. Okay, he’d actually bought it months ago. It caught his attention randomly when he’d been exploring one of the cities that he had a game in. Something about the smooth silver and black metal running through the center just reminded him of Kellen so much that he picked it up. How he’d managed to stop himself from proposing the second he got back from that season, he didn’t know.

All Aiden knew was that he wanted to propose to Kellen. The thought sent butterflies through his stomach, making it twist.

Aiden had talked about retiring with Kellen a lot during the past year. They were both 30 now, and what to do with the rest of his life had been on his mind. Kellen had told him that he could play baseball for as long as he wanted, but Aiden was ready to be home now.

He’d even found a job he was looking forward to working as the PE teacher and baseball coach for the local high school. Kellen had helped him study to get the credential for when he did retire, although Aiden hadn’t wanted to tell Kellen what he had decided until he was really sure.

Now he was sure. The final piece of the puzzle was actually getting down on his knee and proposing to the man he loved.

Aiden felt his stomach jump and his heart beat. He shouldn’t still get so nervous when he came to Kellen after so long together, but he didn’t think that there would ever be a day when Kellen didn’t make him feel like a nervous sixteen-year-old again. The thought made him smile fondly as he looked down at that ring in his hands.

This time, Aiden figured that he had a right to feel nervous though. He was going to propose. Any man, or woman, would feel nervous about that, even after years together.

Aiden jumped when he heard the door open and quickly replaced the ring back in his nightstand, shuffling his things around messily.

“Hun, I’m home!” Kellen called.

“Coming,” Aiden called back, joining Kellen in the kitchen.

He smiled at the sight of the brunette shrugging off of his dark jacket, pushing his earmuffs down to his neck. Aiden gave Kellen a quick kiss hello like he did every day. Kellen smiled in response, the soft expression still making Aiden’s knees buckle after so much time spent together.

“Are we still going to Ian’s tonight?” Kellen asked, his nose red from the cold. It was the beginning of December now, so Kellen was preparing for his classes’ holiday recital. Despite all the snow and cold, his students were committed to it. Nikki was certainly excited for it.

“Yeah, I’m all good to go,” Aiden said, even if his thoughts were a million miles away. As it stood, he was sure that he’d probably be staring at Kellen for the entire night.

Kellen smiled toothily. “Okay, just give me a second to clean up and I’ll be ready.”

He was about to trot off, but Aiden put his hands on Kellen’s hips, pulling him closer. Kellen smirked, an interested look in his eye as Aiden asked suggestively, “Mind if I join you?”

“I’m not sure I’ll actually clean myself up if you’re in there with me,” Kellen said lowly. He didn’t exactly look unhappy about that fact.

Aiden kissed up his jaw. “I’ll clean you. And do some other things.” He leaned up to bite Kellen’s ear gently. He could feel Kellen shudder in his arms. As always, pride ballooned in Aiden’s chest for his ability to melt this man in his arms.

Kellen’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “Well, your brothers know us well enough. I’m sure they won’t mind if we’re a little late.” He slipped his hand into Aiden’s, pulling him towards the bathroom.

Aiden couldn’t resist turning Kellen around to kiss him messily on the way, unbuttoning his coat with deft fingers as he walked the man backwards toward the bedroom. With a little shove of the dark material, the coat was on the floor, followed by the earmuffs. Aiden ran his warm hands up Kellen’s chest and stomach, enjoying the way Kellen’s breath hitched at the sensation.

Kellen smiled against his lips. He didn’t say anything as he turned around to get the shower going, Aiden plastered to his back and kissing up the back of his neck.

“You’re in a mood tonight,” Kellen commented with a pleased smile, grinding backwards just to make Aiden groan deep in his chest.

“Forgive me if I can’t keep my hands off of my very attractive boyfriend,” Aiden said wryly in between kisses, his hands resting on Kellen’s stomach, moving upwards and taking the man’s shirt with them.

Kellen leaned back against Aiden, a breathy sign escaping him. He pulled his own shirt off after he had a moment to catch his breath. “In the shower, hun,” Kellen commanded with a teasing smile, stripping out of his pants and underwear in a flash.

Aiden followed suit, playfully following Kellen. As he set his eyes on his now wet boyfriend, Aiden thought the years had been kind to them. Not that they were all that old anyway. It was just that some days, when he thought about the fact that he’d met Kellen almost fifteen years ago, Aiden felt overwhelmed at all the time they’d had both together and apart.

They took it slow, despite the fact that they really should have been rushing to get to Ian’s on time. Aiden rubbed soap all over Kellen in a way he knew Kellen loved, kissing Kellen as his hands roamed gently. Kellen hummed against his lips, the smile never fading from his face.

They probably would have spent even more time in the shower if they weren’t already late to Ian’s. From the nonplussed look Isaac gave them when they got there, he obviously knew why they were late though. The only reason he didn’t call them on it was because dinner was starting, and at twelve, Nikki understood enough innuendos to make Ian cringe and Letta sigh.

Truthfully, Aiden wasn’t paying much attention to anyone besides Kellen that night. Normally, he was a little more subtle about his staring, but it was somewhat hard when he was feeling so affectionate.

He knew that just about everyone noticed, although they all had the decency not to tease him about it. At least until after dinner anyway, when Aiden was left with his two brothers. Kellen went with Nikki to do the dishes, while Letta wanted to continue her conversation with Lyla while the latter put Orrin down to sleep.

Kellen patted Aiden’s shoulder as he stood up, taking the heavier dishes from Nikki on their way into the kitchen. Aiden looked after him before his thoughts were interrupted by Ian chopping him lightly on the head.

“Hey!” Aiden complained, disgruntled.

Ian smiled in amusement. “You’ve been looking at Kellen all night,” he commented, crossing his arms smugly.

“Yeah, you’re mooning after him even more than usual, and that’s saying something,” Isaac added bluntly as always. “What, did he do something extra fun and that’s why you were late?”

Aiden rolled his eyes. “If he had, we wouldn’t have been here at all.” He still wasn’t at Kellen’s level of innuendos, but he’d learned how to hold his own after a while. “Actually… I, uh, I’ve been thinking about me and Kellen lately.” Aiden turned to look in the direction of the kitchen, making sure that Kellen wouldn’t walk back in when he said this. “I’m going to ask him to marry me.”

It was quiet for a moment. Both Ian and Isaac stared at him. Aiden knew his ears were red, but there was a smile on his face. So far, he’d only admitted that to himself. It felt good to finally say it out loud.

“Aiden,” Ian said happily, getting up to give him a bear hug. “That’s great!”

Aiden didn’t get a second to breathe when Ian pulled away only to be replaced by Isaac. “Jeez, finally, Aiden.” He patted Aiden on the shoulder as he stepped back, a wide smile gracing his features. “I figured you guys would have gotten married years ago.”

“Yeah, we were starting to take bets on you,” Ian joked, or at least Aiden thought he was joking. He couldn’t tell.

Aiden shook his head fondly at them. “Ha very funny. But hey, don’t say anything, got it?” He tried to be stern, but it was somewhat hard with the hearty smile on his face.

“Wouldn’t dream it of it,” Isaac said, holding his hands up as if in surrender. “When are you going to do it?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know how,” Aiden admitted sheepishly. His ears were red from all the attention.

Ian shrugged. “Just tell him you love him and get on your knee. It’s not like Kellen would say no. You know how much he loves you.”

“Yeah, but don’t—” Isaac started, but he didn’t finish when they heard Nikki’s and Kellen’s footsteps returning.

Aiden didn’t think the three of them had ever rushed to sit back down so quickly, at least not since they’d been kids and were trying not to get into trouble for getting into their Easter candy early.

As she walked in, Kellen following behind, Nikki was saying, “It definitely works like that, Uncle Kellen!” She’d randomly started calling Kellen her uncle years ago, without any explanation whatsoever. When no one corrected her, it stuck. Kellen still smiled every time he heard her say it.

This time, Kellen looked at her dubiously. “Are you sure? That sounds a little too easy.”

“No, no, I’m sure,” Nikki said emphatically while Kellen grabbed the last dishes.

Aiden had no idea what they were talking about, but he did know that Kellen noticed that something was wrong in about two seconds. Honestly, they hadn’t gotten away with the Easter candy when they were kids, and clearly, they hadn’t gotten any better at keeping secrets as adults.

Kellen raised an eyebrow at the expressions the three of them wore, each of them trying not to smile. That in itself might have not been too suspicious if Aiden’s ears weren’t red still and they hadn’t gone conspicuously silent the moment Kellen and Nikki entered the room.

“You okay, hun?” Kellen asked with a concerned frown.

Aiden smiled up at him. “Just fine.”

Kellen didn’t look convinced, frowning. He looked at Ian and Isaac and patted Aiden’s shoulder again. “Well, let me know if you need any help with these two,” he reassured, kissing Aiden’s cheek and rejoining Nikki.

“He says that like you haven’t been dealing with us for the past thirty years,” Isaac mumbled, although he was smiling pleasantly.

“To be fair, Kellen can make you both shut up much more efficiently than I ever could,” Aiden said with a laugh.

Ian joined him. “It was so cute how you always tried your hardest, but when I was sixteen and you were eight, you were definitely not scary.”

“Oh, do you remember that time he jumped on your back when he was mad at you?” Isaac laughed.

Aiden smiled at the vague memory too. He didn’t even remember what he was so mad about, but he did remember that their parents just about killed them for that fight, Isaac included since he cheered them on instead of stopping it. Needless to say, they got rowdy again, but never to that level.

“You’re just lucky that Nikki is nothing like us,” Aiden commented. “I’ll hope for your sake that Orrin isn’t either, Isaac.”

Isaac huffed. “Oh, god, I hope not.” He ran a hand over his face. “I just got a mental image of it.”

Aiden had to give their parents a lot of credit for putting up with the three of them. He hoped that one day his kids would think that about him.

But for that to happen, he needed to marry Kellen first. Which meant asking the man.

The only problem was that Aiden had no idea how to do it. He knew it was supposed to be romantic, but when they went out for dinner or walked home in the snow, he just felt too exposed. Maybe it was some residual fear from being in the closet for so long, but Aiden didn’t want people staring at a private moment between the two of them.

He knew that Ian and Isaac were looking at him curiously when they all went to see the Kick Up Your Heels recital, but Aiden ignored them and focused on the dancing instead. It was just as amazing as every year, with Olivia in her usual crazy dress, Kellen and B dressed up, and Nikki doing harder routines every year. They had a new employee too, a sixteen-year-old kid who’d been in Kellen’s classes for years now. The boy was shyer than B, but Aiden would say that he definitely knew how to move his feet.

Once again, Aiden only stared at Kellen though, smiling when he and B did their impromptu routine. Some years they did it outside, while they stayed inside for others. It was always a lot of fun though, especially since Kellen made sure to run his hand up Aiden’s arm in passing every time.

The weather had cooperated for the recital, but Kellen had actually needed to close the studio for the day about a week later when a storm hit them pretty hard overnight. Aiden couldn’t really complain though as he felt the bed dip beside him. A blast of cold air hit him as Kellen snuggled back into the covers.

“Okay, Olivia sent out notifications and emails to all our students so they know not to come in,” Kellen said with a yawn, shivering. He inched closer when Aiden wrapped his arms around him, his eyes still closed.

“So, you get to stay here with me today?” Aiden mumbled, cracking open his eyes with difficulty.

Kellen’s expression was something between guilt and happiness, like he didn’t know which emotion he should pick. “I just took two days off last week for a migraine and now we’re all off again. I feel kind of guilty, although I do like being here with you.” He shivered again, curling in on himself.

Aiden kissed his cheek, running his hand up and down Kellen’s back to try and warm him up. “You deserve a snow day. Most people are preparing to leave for holidays anyway.”

Kellen finally settled into his arms more comfortably, exhaling. “I guess,” he pouted. “’m going back to sleep for now. Should we do something today?”

“Sleep, eat, and relax?” Aiden suggested. “Unless you want to brave the snowstorm.” He smiled when Kellen groaned like even the thought of going outside was simply too much work. In this snow, it really was.

“Sleep,” Kellen whined, nuzzling his nose into Aiden’s neck.

Aiden settled back down himself to the rhythm of Kellen’s even breathing. He’d gotten too used to getting up early to drop back into a deep sleep, but he dozed for a while. When he just couldn’t sleep any longer, he carefully extracted himself from Kellen’s embrace and stepped into the kitchen to make them breakfast.

The day was about as casual as it could get. Breakfast in bed while they watched the Food Network, Kellen still drowsy with the extra sleep he’d had. Aiden watching a ball game on the couch while Kellen read with his feet on his lap. Whatever book he was reading, Aiden guessed it was a good one based on his facial expressions.

As he watched the game on TV though, Aiden smiled to himself. There really was no other feeling like playing professional ball, but he was confident in his decision. Watching from the other side of the TV was where he saw himself now, especially with Kellen there next to him.

The day had just been so exceedingly normal. They ate dinner together, both of them making a mess of the already messy tacos Aiden had put together.

“You have something on your face,” Aiden laughed at Kellen, gesturing to his cheek.

Kellen gave him a look and wiped his mouth. “I didn’t get it? Jeez, hun, help a guy out here.”

Aiden chuckled and wiped off his cheek for him. “Reminds me of that time we tried chocolate sauce in bed instead of whipped cream,” he commented without thinking.

Kellen had to clap a hand over his mouth to stop himself from spitting his food out, choking it down painfully through laughter. Aiden patted his back as he coughed, grabbing his drink from beside him.

“Okay,” Kellen said when he could breathe again, “I’m good. But come on, that was funny. We should do that again.”

“Not if you choke when you remember it,” Aiden said wryly.

“Fine, but I’ll lick something sweet off of you. Doesn’t have to be chocolate,” Kellen commented, smiling mischievously.

Aiden’s ears went red just at the thought. Admittedly, that was a good memory. Even if it resulted in the tragic loss of their sheets.

After dinner, Kellen was wincing when he swallowed. Aiden frowned as he put the dishes in the sink to soak. “Your throat hurts?”

“It’s not that bad,” Kellen said, taking another sip of water.

Aiden gave him a concerned glance. “Well, there are cough drops in my nightstand if you want to try one. It might help.”

Kellen cleared his throat again. “Yeah, I think I’ll try that.” He stepped out to grab them while Aiden finished with the plates and leftovers.

For a second, Aiden didn’t realize it. Then he straightened as if he’d been electrified, panic in his chest. The nightstand. He’d just told Kellen to look in the nightstand. The same nightstand where he was currently keeping the engagement ring.

“Shit…!” Aiden mumbled, tearing away from the sink to run into their bedroom. “Kellen!” he called, entering the bedroom just as he saw Kellen pull out the box.

Aiden’s heart was beating out of his chest as he watched Kellen look at that box with a surprised expression on his face, his eyebrows raised and his mouth slightly open. Neither of them said anything until Aiden swallowed, holding his hand out. Maybe there was no right moment to propose, or maybe this was the perfect moment after a relaxing day spent with the man he loved. What had he really been waiting for anyway?

Kellen gave him the box wordlessly, sitting when Aiden gestured for them both to take a seat on the bed.

Aiden broke the silence. “Before I… um, say what I want to say, I want you to know that, I, uh…”

Kellen took his hand, an understanding expression on his face. He laced their fingers together. “Take your time, Aiden,” he said softly, just like he had the first time they’d been on a date so many years ago.

Those simple words gave Aiden the courage to go on. “I know we’ve been talking about me retiring, and I’ve decided that it’s time. My contract is up and I’m ready to be home. I’ve lived out one dream, and now I want to live out another one,” he said, giving Kellen a smile, remembering the first conversation they’d had about this years ago. “I know you’ll tell me to go as long as I want, but I made this choice for me. For us, too.”

Kellen nodded, smiling softly. He didn’t try to convince Aiden otherwise, respecting his decision. That itself meant a lot to Aiden as he went on, “I also… found a job. At the school. The old baseball coach is retiring at the end of this year, so that’s when I’ll start. I’ll shadow him for a while and make sure everything’s in order before then.”

Kellen touched his cheek with a calm smile. “I’m proud of you, Aiden. You’ll do wonderful, and you deserve a little time off until then.”

Aiden smiled happily, remembering the velvet box in his hand. “There’s also something I want to do before then too.”

That tiny box felt heavier than usual as Aiden slipped off the bed and faced Kellen, getting down on one knee. Kellen looked down at him, his cheeks tinging red, an excited smile making its way across his lips.

Aiden just stared up at him, all his thoughts flying from his mind the moment he met Kellen’s eyes. He’d dreamed of this moment for so long. When he’d been a teenager, this was something he never thought that he’d have. He’d accepted that back then.

And then he met Kellen. Kellen, with his barking too loud laughter and musical footsteps. With his teasing smile and sharp dance steps. Aiden thought he would never see the man again after high school once they’d broken up. He’d thrown himself into baseball. He did everything he had wanted to with his life.

And now, here he was, doing the one thing he’d never thought possible, looking up at his Kellen and immediately forgetting everything he’d been rehearsing in his head for weeks.

Kellen stared down at him in amusement. “So, is this an implied question? Because I have an answer if you want it.”

“I… forgot what I wanted to say,” Aiden admitted sheepishly. “But I just… I love you so much, Kellen. I know I’ve made you wait for these past six years, and even longer than that with high school, but the day I saw you again in the studio, I… can’t explain it. You helped me come out. You helped me be myself and to be even closer with the people I love. You get along with my family and you’re an amazing person and good god, Kellen, I could go on for hours sitting here telling you all the reasons I want to marry you.”

Kellen’s face was definitely red by now. Compliments were his one true weakness, one of the many things Aiden found endearing about him.

“I bought this ring a while ago. You don’t know how many times I wanted to give it to you. I don’t even know why I was so scared, because I love you, Kellen, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” New confidence thrummed through Aiden’s veins as he smiled hopefully, opening the tiny box to revel the ring inside. “I want to wake up with you in the mornings, and go to bed together in the evenings, and adopt kids with you, and hold you when you’re sad, and dance with you when you’re happy. I… want to be your husband.”

He swallowed, finally asking, “Kellen Konrad, will you marry me?”

Kellen was flushed now, a smile as sweet as sugar on his face. He reached out to touch Aiden’s cheek. “Just stay right here for a second, Aiden. Just a second,” he pleaded, his eyebrows twisting apologetically as he jumped off the bed and quickly ran to their closet.

Aiden blinked. That… hadn’t been the response he’d been hoping for. He wasn’t disappointed, but confused as Kellen ran back into the room.

“Hold on, hold on,” Kellen kept repeating, setting the box that had his dad’s pictures and letters in it on the dresser. He normally treated that box with the utmost care, but this time, he shuffled through it quickly, finally pulling out a similar-looking velvet box of his own.

It was Aiden’s turn to be surprised, his mouth open as Kellen took his place back on the bed, opening the box with a smile. “For the record, I only got this a few months ago. It reminded me of you.” Instead of the silver Aiden had chosen, Kellen had picked out an entirely black ring with one silver swirl wrapped around. Simple yet elegant, just like Kellen himself.

“You’re my guy, Aiden,” Kellen started saying gently. “When we were kids, I always admired how hard you worked. You were so shy, but you listened when I told you about my mom and dad. You’re still a little shy, but you always know how to put a smile on my face. You’re smart, strong, and loving. Plus, it’s so much fun to dance with you, even when you do step on my toes,” he added with his usual chuckle, making Aiden smile even wider.

Kellen cleared his throat, his face actually redder if that was possible. He reached forward to run his hand over Aiden’s cheek, caressing it lovingly. “You can make me feel loved with just the simplest sentence or the smallest gesture. I can’t tell you how happy I am when you kiss me hello, even when I’m a mess. You’re my home, Aiden. You love me unconditionally, just like I love you.”

He leaned forward and kissed Aiden on the cheek slowly, making sure to meet his eyes when he leaned back. “Of course, I’ll marry you, Aiden Metzler. As long as you’ll marry me too,” he finished, holding up the ring to put on Aiden’s finger.

Aiden’s heart was beating happily in his chest. He smiled widely. “I’d love to marry you.”

Kellen’s face was red still as he slipped the ring on Aiden’s finger, Aiden doing the same for him. “Oh, thank god that I got the right size,” Aiden breathed in relief.

Kellen laughed loudly, probably louder than he’d intended. A second later and he was helping Aiden stand and smashing their lips together passionately.

“We’re going to be married,” Kellen mumbled excitedly against his lips.

Aiden could feel him smiling and laughter bubbled up in his chest. “We’re going to be husbands.”

Kellen was laughing happily too, kissing Aiden over and over again with chuckles in between. It reminded Aiden of his first time with Kellen when they were just sixteen, where they laughed the entire time, fumbling around in the dark in his bedroom. His heart was buoyant in his chest as he pulled Kellen closer, trailing his hands down to cup those hips that he loved so much.

“You like it when I dance, don’t you, Aiden?” Kellen asked teasingly. “You remember when I did a lap dance for you?”

Aiden groaned at the memory. “You ask like it’s possible that I could ever forget that.” It made him hot just thinking about it. Kellen surprised him one night by stripping out of his workout clothing rhythmically, slowly getting naked as he rubbed himself against Aiden in all the right places.

Kellen smiled against his neck. “How about an encore for tonight? And then afterward, we can screw each other slowly.”

“Fuck,” Aiden groaned at the way Kellen drew out the word. “I’m not sure I’m patient enough to wait tonight.” He let his fingers trail over Kellen’s hips, lifting his shirt to rub at the smooth skin on his hip bones.

Kellen swallowed, panting. “Well, we have all night. Today was a pretty relaxing day, so we can take as much time as you want.” He kissed up Aiden’s jaw, saying lowly in his ear, “Where do you want to start?”

Aiden didn’t need to answer with words as they tumbled into bed together. When Kellen ran his hands up Aiden’s ribcage, Aiden could feel the cold chill of that ring on his finger. He shivered. He couldn’t keep the smile off his face, even when their lips met.

He was going to get married to this man. They were going to be husbands.

Aiden didn’t know why he had been so worried about proposing in the end. It was Kellen. If there was one thing that Aiden knew, it was that Kellen always had a way of making him feel at ease. Whether they were talking about proposing or retiring or kids, Aiden knew that he didn’t have to be nervous around the man.

And that, that reassurance, made Aiden feel happier than he could imagine.

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