It was strange not to be starting the season again. It was strange to say goodbye to his team. It was strange to start a day job learning how to teach a class until he took over in the fall.
But strange wasn’t a bad thing. As Aiden said to Kellen, it was “strange in a good way.” Kellen just gave him a dubious smile and told him that if he ever did start to feel unhappy with his choice, that Kellen would be there to talk about it.
But Aiden wasn’t unhappy. Even though he almost didn’t know what to do with himself for the first few months, his chest felt lighter. He felt the same exhilaration he felt when stepping out onto the field as he did when he woke up with Kellen in his arms during the months that he would usually be away for the season.
It left him breathless to have his second dream coming true. It made his heart beat quickly to know that the future he and Kellen had dreamed of was within his grasp. It made his chest swell with pride when he started getting greetings from the students as he adjusted to his new job and life.
It was a change, sure, but for he and Kellen, it was a good one.
“You’re awfully smiley today,” Kellen commented as he set their plates down for dinner, homemade lasagna messily splattered on top.
“Just feeling happy,” Aiden said truthfully. “By the way, this looks as bad as mine would,” he joked.
Kellen rolled his eyes with a smile. “Hey, I tried, but this stuff just doesn’t come out of the pan easy. Good day at school today?”
“As good as the others,” Aiden responded, shrugged. “I don’t know. I… like being the PE teacher. I like being the coach. I like being here. So… I’m happy.”
Kellen leaned over to peck him on the lips. “And that makes me happy,” he said softly.
“It’s not weird that I’m happy doing stuff that’s so… normal?” Aiden asked shyly, searching for the words. He knew what most people thought when they questioned him about his retirement: that he was giving up the best job in the world, for what—to be a PE teacher and high school coach? He knew that it was weird, that he should have hung onto his career for all he was worth, so he couldn’t explain why he was so happy with such a simple existence now.
Kellen seemed to know though, giving him an understanding smile. “Aiden, if you’re happy as you are right now, that’s every person’s goal in life. Happiness isn’t defined by what other people think; it varies from person to person. Some people can be happy with nothing. Others can work the dirtiest jobs in the world and still smile. We can rank jobs in terms of money and hours and perks, but in the end, the job that makes you happy, and the life that makes you happy, is the best one.”
Aiden flushed with a smile. Kellen made it so obvious, so understandable with just a few sentences. “You make me happy too,” Aiden added shyly, smiling with reddening ears.
“Sweet-talker,” Kellen said slyly, giving him a smirk as he messed with his lasagna, obviously trying to determine whether or not it would burn his mouth.
“You sound knowledgeable though,” Aiden commented. “When did you get so wise?”
“Oh, my dear fiancé: I’ve always been at the pinnacle of knowledge,” Kellen joked, unable to keep a straight face. “But you know that I quit school years back. I thought a lot about this kind of stuff back then, about what it was to be happy and what I wanted out of my life. I almost died, and I wanted to do something that I loved. Life is too short to do things that make us unhappy just because we want to conform to other peoples’ standards.”
Aiden wish that he’d learned that lesson as early as Kellen had, but as he sat there with a steaming pile of messy noodles in front of him and a fiancé seated next to him, he figured that he’d come a long way from the guy that was so far in the closet that he could barely see the light outside.
He didn’t tell Kellen that, but he knew the man understood from the expression on his face. Aiden pulled Kellen to him with a gentle hand on his collar, kissing him tenderly on the lips.
He hadn’t yet managed to master the urge to give Kellen a little touch every time the man talked about his accident, as if he wanted to confirm for himself that Kellen really was okay. He didn’t think he’d ever master that urge. Not that it seemed like Kellen minded when he returned the kiss just as sweetly.
Kellen finished their kiss with a peck on the cheek, leaning back calmly. The second he took a bite of his food though he swallowed with difficulty and took a long drink of his water. “Too hot,” he breathed, sticking his tongue out as if that would help.
Aiden chuckled, eating his own food more slowly. They would be married in April. It was just a few weeks away, and god, Aiden couldn’t wait to be married to this beautiful man.
With just a few weeks before the wedding though, that left one thing: bachelor parties. Or well, Kellen had decided to call his “girls’ night” instead. According to him, the girls really knew how to party. Considering the fact that he’d invited Aiden’s mother along though, Aiden wasn’t all too sure how true that would be. Then again, his mother did always have an impressive personality.
Aiden made a face at the thought. He just couldn’t imagine his mother getting wasted, although with Olivia doing the party planning, anything could happen.
He had to admit that the thought made him a little nervous as he watched Kellen dress himself in a slimming button-up that Aiden honestly just wanted to rip off.
“If you keep looking at me like that, I’ll never get out of the house,” Kellen said to him, smiling slyly as he did up the last button.
“Stop looking so beautiful and I’ll stop staring,” Aiden said matter-of-factly.
Kellen hummed happily and kissed him shortly on the lips. “I’m sure I’ll still look great when I’m sweaty and tipsy from herding around drunk women all night,” he said sarcastically.
“I love sweaty and tipsy,” Aiden joked back. “But are you sure you’ll be okay with everyone?”
Kellen nodded reassuringly. “Rory’s too young to drink, and B isn’t a big drinker either. The three of us can keep an eye on Maia, Lyla, Letta, and Tessa. I’m pretty sure your brothers will have a harder time of it than me when their wives get home. From what I’ve heard, they’ve been looking forward to this for a while.”
Aiden cracked a smile. Letta was ecstatic about finally letting loose a little, and Lyla said she just wanted to get wasted for some stress relief. As far as he knew, Maia wanted to rub it in Rory’s face that she was old enough to drink and Rory wasn’t.
Still, he gave Kellen a dubious look. “They already outnumber you though,” he pointed out.
Kellen chuckled at his concern. “Well how about this? I promise to give you and your brothers a call if we’re having any trouble. You’ll be here, right?”
Aiden nodded. His own bachelor party wasn’t for another week. He doubted it would end with himself, his dad, and his brothers blasted drunk though.
Kellen kissed him surely on the lips. “I’ll be out late, hun, but I don’t plan on drinking much. Relax and have a nice night at home. You see enough of me as it is,” he joked.
Aiden stood and pressed his lips to Kellen’s more firmly in response, hard enough that when he pulled back, Kellen had a dazed look on his face. “Have a nice time, baby,” Aiden said with a smile. He patted Kellen’s butt on his way out the door, making Kellen laugh loudly in amusement.
With Kellen gone, the apartment was silent. Aiden had the TV going for a while, alternating between paying attention to that and cleaning up a little. He’d admit that there was something nice about having some alone time, even though it was far too quiet without the sound of Kellen’s dancing and humming somewhere in the apartment.
Aiden picked up one of Kellen’s scattered books at some point, but even though he got more emotionally invested in the story than he thought he would, his eyes still began to droop an hour past midnight. Aiden figured that he should have gotten up to go to bed, but it hadn’t gotten easier to sleep without Kellen beside him.
He had no idea what Kellen and the girls were up to, but as his eyes began to close, he wondered just how crazy their party would be. He didn’t have to wonder anymore when he startled awake on the couch hours later to the sound of voices outside.
For a moment, Aiden’s heart beat nervously. The room was dark, with only the light of the TV illuminating the book still open on his stomach. Glancing at his phone, Aiden raised his eyebrows.
“Four in the morning?” he mumbled drowsily to himself, yawning and stretching. Aiden winced as his back cracked when he moved out of his sitting position and placed the book back on the coffee table. He lowered his feet to the floor, recognizing those voices.
“I got it, I got it!” That was Olivia.
“Yes, yes, you’re doing great, but keys please,” Kellen said in response. “Rory, how did she even get the keys from you?”
“She’s pretty crafty when she’s drunk,” Rory said without missing a beat.
“She’s crafty when she’s sober too.” Aiden raised his eyebrows at B’s tone. The usually shy girl just had to be at least halfway drunk if she was speaking like that.
“Maia, no, I can’t carry you,” Rory said next. There was more fumbling with the keys.
“But Rorrrrrr, I’m tiiiiired,” Maia dragged out. “Kellen, carry me.”
“Alright, up then, come on,” Kellen acquiesced.
Aiden decided to take mercy on them and open the door himself. He wasn’t exactly surprised at the scene in front of him: Maia on Kellen’s back, Kellen looking at him sheepishly, Rory hovering around Olivia and B with concern.
“You were up, hun? Sorry, did we wake you?” Kellen asked apologetically.
“I was on the couch. You know I don’t sleep well alone,” he said with a little smile.
“Aww,” Rory said in the background. “But wow, Aiden, it’s really late.”
Kellen winced, stepping in with Maia while Rory herded the other two inside. “And you might be wishing you got some actual sleep since these four are going to have to sleep over,” he said cautiously.
“Four? Did you lose three?” Aiden asked, only half joking.
Kellen chuckled, setting Maia down on the couch. “Your mom called your dad to get her. I dropped off Letta and Lyla at their apartments. Both shitfaced, by the way.” He turned back to Aiden with a wry smile.
Looking at him more closely, Aiden could see how exhausted Kellen was, but it looked like a good kind of exhausted. He was smiling to himself, his clothing rumpled, his shoulders drooping, and what looked like tiny sparks of glitter on his cheek. From the way he exhaled, it was clear that he was happy to be home.
“Hey, it’s Aiden!” Olivia said excitedly, rushing over to hug him with her arms around his neck. Aiden choked as she pulled him down closer to her height, practically hanging off of him. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of alcohol that surrounded her.
“Hey, Olivia,” Aiden chuckled, returning her hug.
Olivia stepped back shakily, Kellen behind her right away to make sure she didn’t fall. She looked like an absolute mess, but she was smiling excitedly. “I like you, Aiden,” he slurred. “You’re such a good person.” She was hitting his chest with every word, which didn’t hurt much. “Oh, but you’re not better than my Beatrice,” she felt the need to add, going to hang off of B instead.
Aiden raised his eyebrows at Kellen, who shook his head. “Aiden’s mine anyway, Olivia.” The simple sentence sent a shock of warmth through Aiden’s chest even as Kellen clapped his hands for the girls. “Okay, time for bed.”
“But Kellen, I’m not tired,” Maia slurred. Her eyes were closed though, and she was sitting up and leaning against Rory, who blinked and said, “You literally just said you were tired two minutes ago.”
Maia glared at her sister. “Rory, what kind of sister are you, giving me up like that?”
Rory didn’t answer her. Instead, she turned to Kellen. “Are you this stupid when you’re drunk?”
“Yes,” Kellen answered without hesitation or shame. “Okay, Rory can you share with Maia tonight? You guys can be in the guest room, and I’ll set up B and Olivia in our room.” He paused with a frown. “Uh… wait…”
“We’ll sleep on the couch, Kellen,” Aiden said to him, already anticipating the problem. “I’ll get some pillows.”
Kellen smiled at him gratefully, gently leading B and Olivia to their room, instructing them to please either run to the bathroom if they had to puke or throw up in the bowls that he’d leave for them. Aiden really hoped they listened.
“Maia, you have to get up and walk,” Rory insisted from the couch, barely holding up her sleepy sister. Maia groaned like it was too much work, much to Rory’s annoyance.
Aiden went over to them, leaning down. Maia was draped over Rory’s lap dramatically. “Maia, you want me to carry you?”
Maia just held her arms out for him to pick her up. Aiden chuckled and lifted her princess-style, her head lolling against his chest. Rory huffed in relief and followed them into the guest room. She must have heard it too when Maia mumbled, “You’re my new brother, Aiden. Now I have two.”
“Yes, you do,” Aiden answered, waiting for Rory to pull back the covers before he set her gently on the bed. He took off her little heels while Rory got a bucket for her sister. Maia might have been blasted drunk when she said that, but Aiden still smiled. These two were going to be his sisters too. If they loved him even half as much as they loved Kellen, he would consider himself lucky.
“Thanks for the help, Aiden,” Rory said with a thankful smile. “You picked her up pretty easily though.” She sighed. “I wish Maia was sober. She would already have made a comment about you picking up Kellen.”
Aiden rolled his eyes at the utter truthfulness of that statement. “Did she really drink that much though?”
Rory huffed. “No. She’s an extreme lightweight apparently, just like Kellen. But I’ve got her from here. Um, are you sure you don’t want us on the couch? We’ll fit better than you and my taller brother will.”
“You know that your brother would never make you two sleep on the couch,” Aiden said knowingly, wishing her a goodnight. Or actually a good morning by this point.
He may have said they’d be fine on the couch, but when he went to grab some pillows and a spare comforter, he knew they’d both be aching from the squeeze when they got up. Maybe another pillow would help.
Kellen interrupted his musings as he came back into the living room yawning widely, having removed his rumpled clothes for an old shirt and some sweats. His eyes were lidded and tired, but he was smiling. He kissed Aiden on the cheek.
“Back home safe, just like I promised hun,” Kellen said. He yawned widely again, groaning as he laid down on the couch. He made himself as comfortable as possible, gesturing for Aiden to lie on top of him. “We both know this will be more comfortable with me underneath. I’m taller,” Kellen pointed out with a smirk.
Aiden gave his fiancé a fond smile and positioned himself in Kellen’s arms, being careful not to accidentally lean on Kellen too hard. “Lie flat, baby. You’ll hurt your back hunching.”
Kellen inched down awkwardly underneath Aiden, sighing in relief when his head hit the pillows. Aiden wrapped his arms around the man’s stomach, lying his head on Kellen’s chest. After a beat of silence, Kellen asked, “So, you still think that I’m attractive with glitter on my face?”
Aiden chuckled, Kellen’s heartbeat slowing beneath his ear as the man relaxed. “Definitely. How did that happen?”
Kellen yawned widely, snuggling into the pillow under his head. His voice sounded faraway. It was clear that he was already drifting off. “I’ll tell you later. It was a lot of fun though. Good story. I was right: the girls know how to party.”
Aiden patted his chest, rubbing small designs on out Kellen’s stomach for only about a minute before Kellen’s breathing evened out. He smiled as he felt Kellen’s breath on the top of his head, the man’s chest and stomach rising and falling with each breath. Aiden felt himself drift off too now with Kellen back in his arms.
The only reason Aiden woke so early was because of the sun in the living room. He groaned tiredly, missing the blackout curtains in the bedroom. They were for Kellen’s migraines, but wow they were effective when neither of them had work the next day.
Aiden kept his eyes shut, snuggling into his pillow. No, wait, not his pillow. His arms were wrapped around Kellen’s stomach, his face on the man’s chest. He groaned tiredly, nuzzling into the warm man underneath him. Kellen was still sleeping soundly, his breaths lulling Aiden back to sleep.
It wasn’t the lack of curtains that woke him next time. There was quiet talking in the kitchen. Kellen was groaning unhappily, shifting slightly to look at B, who had been shaking him gently.
“B, I’m sleeping,” Kellen mumbled.
“Your back is also probably killing you,” she said quietly. “Olivia and I are up, so you guys can lay in your bed.”
Kellen shifted again, yawning. “It’s still early. You guys should go back to sleep.”
B shook her head. “There’s been some puking. In the toilet like you asked,” she said with a little smile. “But we’ve been up for a while trying to cook without making any noise.”
“Well, I guess I’m up now too,” Kellen yawned, trying to stretch with Aiden still on top of him. He stiffened slightly. “Ugh, I really am stiff. There’s not enough room to stretch out on this.”
“Aiden on top of you probably doesn’t help,” B commented.
Aiden had to resist the urge to groan in pleasure when he felt Kellen’s fingers in his hair, combing through it lightly. Kellen hummed. “Actually, it’s nice when he’s on top of me.”
“Oh really?” Maia’s voice asked from the opposite site of the couch. Aiden couldn’t see her, but she sounded more or less like a subdued version of her usual self.
Kellen laughed quietly. “I made that pretty easy, I guess. Maia, how are you feeling?”
The younger girl groaned. “Hungover, but Rory forced me to drink like ten glasses of water last night, so it’s really not as bad as it could be.”
“You have no idea how bad it could be,” Rory said quietly from nearby. “That was your first time being drunk. You were really annoying. Do you remember what you said to Aiden?” Maia must have shaken her head, since Rory went on, “You told him that he was your second brother now. He looked happy.”
“I-I don’t remember that!” Maia defended in a whisper-yell.
“Seriously? He picked you up to carry you to the guest room and you told him. Very sweet,” Rory reassured her matter-of-factly. “Did you mean it?”
There was a pause. “Well, of course I did,” Maia admitted lowly. She was probably pouting.
Aiden shifted, now understanding why Kellen hated getting up so early every morning. “Can I get some more sleep then?” he mumbled even as he pulled himself off of Kellen with a tired blink. “My back doesn’t hurt,” he noticed with a frown.
Kellen patted his cheek with a smile. There were dark bags under his eyes that Aiden usually only saw after Kellen had been up all night with a migraine. “That’s because you were on top,” he said with a teasing smirk.
“Was it fun? Being on top?” Maia asked with a snort.
“Weak, Maia,” B admonished jokingly.
Rory shook her head. “Seriously, even I could have thought of that. You shouldn’t drink at all; I think you’re losing your wit.” Before Maia could retort, Rory asked Aiden, “Did we wake you? We’re sorry.”
“I was up,” Aiden said with a yawn.
Kellen finally moved from his position, stretching. Aiden’s eyes followed the line of skin on his stomach until he lowered his arms and hauled himself off the couch. He knew at least B had noticed, but she kindly didn’t say anything.
“I’ll make us some food,” Kellen said, patting Aiden’s head as he shuffled to the kitchen.
Aiden felt colder already without Kellen with him. He frowned though, realizing something. “Is Olivia still throwing up?”
B shook her head. “She’s resting in the kitchen. She and Kellen are alike: not good with hangovers.”
Aiden had never seen Olivia so down as she was when she was resting her head on the counter, her cheek on the cold countertop. Her highlighted hair was spread out around her. Even though her head must have been pounding, she still smiled when B entered and rubbed her back.
Over coffee, an incredible amount of eggs, bacon, potatoes, and way too many muffins, cupcakes, and cookies, Aiden got the full story. The girls had taken Kellen to a bar restaurant first, just generally having a good time. They ended up in some dance venue, half the girls already sufficiently drunk, before they went to an ice cream bar. On the way back to a bar, Kellen had to stop Olivia from stripping and jumping in the lake. Apparently, the glitter had come from some guy who hit on all of them, including Kellen and Aiden’s mom. Aiden didn’t know if it upset him more that some guy was hitting on his fiancé or on his mom.
Kellen smeared his cheek with frosting at that part though. “I tried to get the glitter off, but that stuff just gets everywhere. Frosting comes off much easier.” His eyes darkened slightly as he turned away to get back to his food. Aiden would have kissed him against the counter if they didn’t have an audience.
“Yeah, I mean Kellen pushed the guy off his lap right away,” Olivia said in between bites of cupcake. She licked the frosting off her thumb and said to Kellen, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look that panicked. At least not since before you started dating Aiden and you called him ‘honey’ that one time.” Olivia was looking a little more like her usual self with three cups of coffee and tons of sugar coursing through her.
Kellen rolled his eyes, turning to Aiden. “The guy was pretty… forward.” He made a face at the memory. “And drunk. I think he mistook me for a friend of his.”
“Oh, he definitely did,” B added quietly, drinking her coffee. “He must have a huge crush on his actual friend for him to look so broken when you told him you were taken.”
“And for him to then compensate by flirting with the rest of us,” Rory finished.
As much as Aiden didn’t like the image of some random guy flirting with his fiancé, he trusted Kellen. From the sound of it, maybe he should be feeling sorry for the guy who couldn’t admit his feelings for his friend unless he was drunk. Aiden certainly understood the sentiment.
Kellen bumped his hip against Aiden’s as if to ask if he was okay. Aiden only smiled at him, kissing his cheek. “Well, you are an attractive man, so it’s not like I don’t get it. I appreciate the quick shove off your lap though,” Aiden said with a wry smile.
“’Quick’ is one word for it,” Maia said with a teasing tone. “Along with ‘panicked.’”
“Yeah, yeah, so freaking out when strange guys sit on my lap makes me weird,” Kellen deadpanned sarcastically. “You guys looked freaked out too though. Well, Lyla thought it was funny and Letta was flattered. Tessa wasn’t even phased.”
Maia nodded sagely. “Tessa’s a pretty and intelligent woman though, so she’s probably used to it. Aiden, your dad better be treating her right because, just saying, she’d have options.”
Aiden definitely frowned at the thought, raising his eyebrows when Rory made a surprised noise and pulled out two extra phones from her bag. “Oops, I forgot I had these,” she mumbled, making a guilty face.
Kellen explained to Aiden, “Letta was dropping hers constantly, and Lyla was trying to use hers to call literally everyone. We gave them to Rory for safekeeping.”
Rory shrugged. “The perks of being the sober friend.”
Aiden figured he’d see his brothers at some point that day so they could get their wives’ phones back, but in the meantime, their little group finished breakfast. Olivia and B were tired, so they headed to their apartment a couple of hours later. Maia and Rory stuck around, not needing to return to school or work that day.
The day was quiet. After Olivia and B left, Kellen went to remake the beds and clean up the living room while Aiden did the dishes. Aiden smiled to himself at the domesticity, watching Maia take her schoolwork out to finish at the table, while Rory got on her computer to look up something for work.
By the time he actually had the kitchen cleaned, Aiden realized that it had been a while since he’d seen Kellen. He searched the bedrooms, but only found the man when he made it to the couch.
Aiden smiled fondly. Kellen was stretched out on the couch, apparently having fallen asleep. He was breathing softly, his chest rising and falling with every breath. Aiden stepped over to him quietly and smoothed his hair back. The brunette didn’t even twitch; he was completely out of it.
Still smiling, Aiden grabbed the blanket from the back of the couch and draped it over Kellen, leaving him to get some rest. It wasn’t even half an hour later that Aiden returned after showering to find Maia curled up in the armchair, also sleeping.
He thought that she had to be pretty cramped like that, but he still grabbed another blanket and covered her with it. She snuggled into it, settling back down. At some point, Rory brought her work over to the coffee table, sitting cross-legged on the floor. Aiden turned the TV on low and sat with Kellen’s feet on his lap. The man only shifted before he was back to sleep.
Aiden liked days like this. He was so used to being constantly ready for training that he’d grown used to doing something almost constantly. He still had work now, of course, and he went to the gym to run and use the batting cages, but this, just sitting, relaxing with Kellen and his sisters, was something he could get used to.
Rory ended up texting him after a while—so that they wouldn’t make noise—messaging him about the game he had on. She said she was sad to see him leave baseball since she liked his stats, but reassured him that it was better to have him here. And that she would keep following the stats of his former teammates and team.
Aiden was so comfortable that he didn’t want to move when the doorbell rang, but he also didn’t want the doorbell to ring again and potentially wake Kellen and Maia up. With only slight difficulty, he shifted out from under Kellen’s feet.
As expected, Ian and Isaac were there, both looking similarly tired. Aiden smirked. “Rough night?”
Isaac gave him a deadpan look. “Kellen dropped off Lyla at three in the morning. The last time she puked that much was when she was pregnant with Orrin.” He made a face, probably remembering it.
Ian gave him an understanding look, looking back to Aiden. “Letta said she had fun though, after she threw up anyway. But she couldn’t remember where she left her phone?” He phrased it as a question, clearly hoping he’d come to the right place.
Aiden smirked at them, gesturing for them to come in. “Just be quiet,” he ordered without any heat in his tone.
Both of his brothers looked a little confused, but followed him inside anyway. Aiden was relieved to see Kellen and Maia still asleep while Rory worked. Aiden gave Kellen a fond look. He was the type to shift a lot in his sleep, and now had his arms up over his face as he slept. Aiden walked over to readjust the blanket on him and let him sleep.
“Hey, Rory, they’re looking for the phones,” Aiden said quietly to her.
Rory nodded, standing and running over to the kitchen to grab them. When she returned, she gave the two of them the phones with a flourish. “Don’t worry. I didn’t look at any of the dirty pictures they have on there.”
“What?” Isaac said too loudly, making Aiden glare at him.
Rory laughed. “Wow, Kellen was right: you really are easy to get. If they have pictures on here, of them or you, I haven’t looked.”
Aiden was pretty sure there were pictures somewhere if the looks on his brothers’ faces were any indication, but he didn’t need confirmation. He only joked Rory, “That was a very Maia-like move. I think you’ve gotten her powers.”
“You think?” she chuckled, returning to her work.
His brothers left soon enough. Kellen woke about an hour after that, looking confused and groggy. He didn’t say anything, but only turned himself around so his head was in Aiden’s lap and he was facing the TV. “Explain the pitches to me?” he requested in a scratchy voice, even though he probably knew every pitch by heart with how much Aiden had told him about baseball over the years.
Aiden explained anyway, running his hands through Kellen’s hair and settling in for a day at home with his fiancé and two soon-to-be sisters.