The Man I Love

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Growing With Each Other

Aiden couldn’t keep his eyes off his husband. He had no idea why he was having a particularly hard time tearing his eyes away that day, but if Kellen minded his staring, he didn’t say anything. Kellen just went on humming while he looked at the recipe on his phone, checking the pictures against how his dish was currently turning out.

“I… think it’s coming out okay?” Kellen said, although it sounded more like a question.

“They’re noodles with a mix of cheeses on the inside and sauce on top. I don’t think you could do any wrong here, Kellen,” Aiden mused with a smile.

Kellen chuckled, bending over to check the oven. Without looking up, he asked, “How’s my ass looking today?”

Evidently, he knew Aiden was staring instead of putting his grades on the online gradebook like he was supposed to be doing. “Good as always,” Aiden quipped in response. He’d really come a long way; his ears didn’t even go red at being caught.

Kellen chuckled, turning around and leaning forward on the other side of the counter. He touched Aiden’s chin lightly. “And might I ask why all the staring today?”

Aiden shrugged. “I don’t know. You’re distracting today. Well, I mean you’re always on my mind, but I just can’t stop staring today.”

Kellen gave him a fond look. “Well then, I’d be more than happy to put on a little show for you to watch later.”

“A show, huh?” Aiden asked curiously, raising his eyebrows.

“Like that one time that you did…” Kellen made a gesture to indicate what he meant.

Aiden hummed. “Oh, like that time. You sure?”

“You sure that you can get through dinner without imagining it?” Kellen chuckled.

He could already feel heat in his gut, but he’d gotten to be a master at keeping himself under control. “Stop looking so great and I’ll be fine,” Aiden joked, earning himself a kiss on the cheek.

Aiden might have had trouble concentrating that day, but he could at least look like he was working when Skylar and Orrin came down. Both kids were twelve now. Honestly, it threw Aiden off sometimes to see how much the two of them had aged.

“Hey dad, hey papa,” Skylar said cheerily, her black hair swishing in her ponytail. “Can Orrin stay for dinner?”

“Did your parents okay it, Orrin?” Aiden asked.

The boy nodded. He was the spitting image of Isaac at that age, sporting the same blonde hair with a few of Lyla’s features mixed in. His calm attitude was a far cry from both of his parents, although he did have a penchant for clever comments when he put his mind to it. “Sure did, Uncle Aiden. Thanks for letting me stay.”

“You’re always welcome, Orrin,” Kellen said with a smile, looking at the food again. “I think it’ll be like another hour though, so you guys can go and kick the ball around outside if you want. Violet and Thea are upstairs doing homework.”

Skylar and Orrin shared a serious look though, Skylar nudging him. Aiden raised his eyebrows, wondering what could possibly have the two of them looking so somber. He looked to Kellen, who shook his head and shrugged, just as confused.

Finally, Orrin nodded, an unnerved look on his face. Skylar cleared her throat. “Well, I’ll just be upstairs. With my sisters. Who won’t come down until dinner. So, you’ll be alone.” With that, she raced up the stairs, leaving Aiden and Kellen staring after her.

“She’s not very subtle, is she?” Kellen commented in the silence.

“Not really,” Orrin deadpanned. “Um, but actually, I uh… had a question for you guys.”

He sounded too serious for this to be a casual talk, prompting Aiden to share another look with Kellen. Aiden closed his laptop and set his papers aside, patting the barstool beside him. “Take a seat. Ask us anything.”

Orrin sat stiffly, uncomfortably. He took a deep breath and asked, “Uncle Aiden, how did you know you were gay? And when?”

Aiden blinked. That hadn’t quite been what he was expecting. Still, he answered, “Well, I was around like twelve when I started noticing other boys. I thought it was weird though, and I felt so bad every time I caught myself looking at boys. I guess I was around fifteen when I thought about it seriously, and sixteen when I really accepted myself. That’s when I met your Uncle Kellen.”

Kellen gave him a look between sympathetic and warm, placing his hand over Aiden’s. Aiden smiled at him and turned back to Orrin. “As for how I knew I was gay… I don’t know. Guys were just more attractive to me. I honestly couldn’t figure out what your dad and Uncle Ian saw in the girls they brought home.”

Orrin nodded, a look of concentration on his face. He looked back up to Kellen. “And you, Uncle Kellen? When did you know you were bisexual?”

Kellen hummed, resting his chin in his palm. “I knew when I was pretty young. I guess eleven? When other boys started noticing girls, I was noticing everyone. Puberty was a very interesting time,” he recalled, making Aiden chuckle at his tone.

Orrin nodded again, going quiet. Aiden looked to Kellen, wondering if he was right about the reason why Orrin was asking them about this.

Kellen must have been thinking the same thing. Cautiously, he asked, “Orrin? Do you mind if we ask you why you’d like to know? You don’t need to tell us if you don’t want to.”

Orrin sat there for a minute, fiddling with his hands. He bit his lip, looking away and back. “I…” he started, opening and closing his mouth a few times. He was clearly having a hard time getting the words out. “I… um…” He inhaled, taking a deep breath. “I think I might be bisexual,” he said in one breath. He exhaled, as if a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders.

Aiden understood the feeling. He pulled Orrin into his side. “That was really brave of you to say, Orrin,” he said surely.

Kellen nodded, reaching over to ruffle Orrin’s hair. “We know how hard that was, but we’re proud of you.”

“I, um… I might not be though. I really don’t know,” Orrin said in confusion, frowning.

“That’s okay,” Kellen reassured him. “It takes time to understand yourself, Orrin. You might figure out that you’re straight, or gay, or something else entirely. We’ll all still love you anyway.”

Orrin swallowed. “But… wouldn’t that make me like a fraud or something? To say I’m bi and then just decide I’m straight?”

Kellen shook his head. “Not at all. It takes a lot of bravery to be willing to explore who you are. If you discover that you’re not bi, then you’re not bi. You’re young, Orrin; you don’t need to know right now.”

Orrin nodded, taking a few breaths. He looked more relaxed, even if his shoulders were still tense. “So, um… if I am bisexual or something… when would I, er, tell mom and dad?”

“That’s up to you,” Aiden said to him. “Uncle Kellen told his mom when he was thirteen. I only told my family when I was twenty-four,” he murmured. It still sounded strange to his own ears that he came out so late when it had all turned out so well.

“And everything was okay?” Orrin asked, looking between the two of them. “I mean, I guess it was since you still talk to everyone, but…”

Kellen hummed in interest. “My mom had a hard time at first. She told me I was young, confused, and just trying to get back at her. But Orrin, you’d have to understand that my mom and I didn’t have a very good relationship. She accepted me pretty quickly, and my sisters, even though they were like six and four, would absolutely not stop bugging my mom until she softened up.” He chuckled at the memory.

Orrin cracked a smile. “Well, I told Skylar. You saw how she was. I told Riley actually too. I made him promise not to tell anyone. He asked me why it was a big deal if I liked guys anyway, since you guys are great together and you’re both guys.” He smiled to himself, rubbing his arms awkwardly.

Aiden met Kellen’s eyes, a smile on his face. It felt good to know that they played a part in helping Riley be so open-minded, although Nikki had reacted the same way years ago. His brothers had really raised some good kids.

Orrin turned to Aiden. “And dad and Uncle Ian and everyone were okay when you told them?”

Aiden nodded. “Your grandpa Jacob needed a little time, but he warmed up to Uncle Kellen quickly enough. Did you know that your grandma Tessa actually knew that I was gay ever since I was seventeen? She caught me with Uncle Kellen.”

Orrin raised his eyebrows, making a face. “That must have been so embarrassing,” he said in amazement.

Kellen chuckled. “Only when he found out that she knew.”

Aiden rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “Orrin, I waited a long time to come out because I was scared. I was scared of what everyone would think, what would happen with baseball, and I guess scared of really being myself. But it was silly of me to be scared. Uncle Kellen may tease your dad, but your parents love him, and me too.”

Orrin swallowed, nodding in understanding. “I know mom and dad will still love me. But… it is scary. I don’t have to say anything until I’m ready, right? You guys won’t say anything?”

“You have our word,” Aiden reassured him.

The last of Orrin’s tension fled him as he let out a breath, allowing himself to smile. “Thanks, guys,” he said, giving Aiden a big hug. Kellen came over to join in, squeezing Orrin tightly before letting go and returning to his place in the kitchen. He grabbed Orrin a cup of water to help him relax, which their nephew accepted gratefully.

Aiden thought that would be it, but as quickly as Orrin had relaxed, he looked nervous all over again about a second later. “Actually… since that went well… I had something else I wanted to ask about.” His face was red now, his pale skin making it that much more obvious as he worried his fingers over the rim of the glass in his hands.

Orrin looked up towards the stairs as if making sure that no one was coming down. He turned back and crossed his arms. “So… the other day…” Orrin covered his face with his hands, a gesture Aiden recognized in himself. “Mom and dad talked to me about…” He made a vague gesture with his hand, cleared his throat, and said quickly, “about, er, sex and stuff.”

Aiden raised his eyebrows in time with Kellen. He hadn’t expected this, but he supposed the timing made sense. He and Kellen had given their own kids the talk when they were twelve, or a little younger.

“Oh,” Kellen said lightly. “I’m just going to guess they gave you the straight version? And you’re curious about the gay version?”

Orrin nodded in embarrassment. Aiden could relate. “I um, figure you guys would know,” Orrin said meekly.

Aiden took a breath. He’d had three of these conversations already; he could do another one. “If you’re curious, we can talk to you about it.”

“Yeah, we gave our girls the lesbian sex talk and the straight one, but we’re better prepared for this one,” Kellen said without any trace of embarrassment at all. It was just like that when they talked to their girls too: Kellen more or less at ease and Aiden trying to be professional about the whole thing.

“You gave them the lesbian sex talk?” Orrin asked with a curious frown.

Kellen shrugged. “To be fair, some of that can be a part of the straight version.”

“If the guy is doing it right,” Aiden murmured lowly.

Kellen cracked a smile, giving Orrin a calmer look. “Olivia and B helped us out with the finer details. We’ll refer the girls to those two should they ever need advice.” He shrugged. “But Orrin, did you want us to explain it to you?”

“I… if you could?” Orrin asked with a wince, not meeting his eyes.

Kellen nodded. “Sure. Well… you know how it works with a woman. We’re talking about the same basic concept here, with some additional steps involved.”

Aiden listened to Kellen explain, adding in when his husband took a breath. Orrin, poor kid, was red-faced the entire time, but Aiden gave him a lot of credit for asking questions and genuinely paying attention. He looked grateful at least to have the glass of water in his hands to mess with when he didn’t quite know where to look.

As Skylar had promised, all three girls stayed upstairs the entire time. She wasn’t subtle, but she was a good cousin and friend.

Orrin let out a breath when they’d finished talking. “I… don’t think I’ll need to know any of this for a while, but, uh, thanks guys.”

“Glad to help, Orrin,” Aiden said kindly. “We’re always here if you have any questions, or just want to come over for dinner.”

“Speaking of which, are you still good to stay for dinner?” Kellen asked. “Your dad’s cooking has come leaps and bounds over the years, but as my husband said earlier: noodles and cheese are hard to beat.”

Orrin seemed to relax at the new conversation topic. He smiled lightly and chuckled. “Sure, that sounds good. I told mom and dad that I’d be here anyway.” He slid off the barstool, wiping his hands on his jeans. “Um, thank you Uncle Aiden, Uncle Kellen. I’m going to go find Skylar.” He trotted off, taking the stairs quickly until he was out of sight.

Kellen hummed in amusement. “Remember when we used to be so awkward about sex?”

Aiden groaned with some residual embarrassment, although he was smiling. “How could I forget? The first time we had sex, I was terrified that I’d hurt you. I wasn’t nearly as nervous when you were on top.”

“Really?” Kellen asked curiously.

“I trusted you. You wouldn’t hurt me, and if you did, you’d stop right away,” Aiden said casually. “Come on, Kellen, even back then I knew that.”

Kellen gave him a fond smile. “You’re still such a sweet talker,” he said lowly, his eyes lidded.

“It’s not sweet talking if it’s the truth,” Aiden countered. He could feel his heart skip a beat in his chest. Married and three kids later and Kellen still had the amazing power to make his heart skip and his legs feel like jelly.

“Well then,” Kellen said, holding his gaze. “Do you remember on our first night together, how we kept laughing so much?”

Aiden smiled warmly. “Fondly, yes.”

Kellen reached forward to trace his fingers over Aiden’s cheekbone lightly, just enough to make him shiver at the touch. “What would you say to a trip down memory lane tonight? I’ll be quiet, just like back then.”

“Only if you’re okay with a preview right now,” Aiden said, already getting up off his chair.

“With a prev—mmpf…!”

Aiden interrupted him with a kiss, gently pushing Kellen against the counter. He slotted their bodies together, kissing Kellen passionately. A laugh bubbled up in Kellen’s throat as he kissed Aiden back, running his hands up Aiden’s chest slowly until he let his arms rest lightly on Aiden’s shoulders. Aiden almost groaned at the feeling of his husband’s fingers carding through the hair on the back of his neck, making him shiver at the sensation.

“Making out in the kitchen, huh?” Kellen murmured in between kisses.

Aiden hummed, kissing along his jaw. “Can’t help it. You’re distracting.”

Kellen chuckled again. “Don’t start something we can’t finish,” he said breathily.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Aiden said teasingly. He continued kiss along Kellen’s jaw up until his husband smashed their lips together again, keeping it relatively tame.

They only broke apart when Kellen’s phone dinged. He patted Aiden’s chest. “You, me, in the bedroom tonight?”

“I’ll be there,” Aiden reassured him, stepping away so Kellen could check the oven. Aiden yelled for the kids to come down for dinner and handed them each a plate on their way over to the table. He noticed Kellen staring at him this time, although the other man was much more subtle about it.

They let Orrin stay the night, offering to drive him to school with Skylar, Violet, and Thea in the morning. Once he and all their kids were in bed, or at least settled in their respective rooms for the night, Aiden found himself pressed against the inside of their bedroom door as Kellen kissed him deeply.

Aiden smiled at the sensation, remembering doing exactly this when they were teenagers. Except now, after fifteen years, they could have all the kissing and none of the awkwardness. He relished in that feeling as he reached down to hoist Kellen up, his taller husband wrapping his legs around Aiden’s waist.

“Still able to pick me up too,” Kellen mused, kissing up and down Aiden’s neck and ear.

Aiden shuddered. “Will you still love me when I can’t sweep you off of your feet?” he asked with a fond smile, already knowing the answer.

“Even when the only feet sweeping is when I trip over your cane,” Kellen teased him gently, meeting his eyes. “I love you so much, Aiden.” He touched Aiden’s jaw, rubbing his thumb over his cheekbone.

“I love you too, Kellen,” he said surely, hoisting Kellen up again and earning a laugh in the process.

“Make love to me, hun,” Kellen commanded. “We’re not old yet.”

Aiden stepped forward slowly to set Kellen down on their bed, lifting his shirt to kiss up his stomach and chest. Kellen’s breath hitched with the effort it took to remain quiet, his hands clenching the bedspread underneath him.

Aiden could feel Kellen trying not to laugh when he kissed a ticklish spot, which only made Aiden cover his mouth in an effort not to snort. Kellen started laughing more earnestly, leaning up to kiss Aiden from his cheek to his nose, his jaw, down his neck, and finally on his lips.

It was hard not to laugh in between kisses, that same lighthearted feeling from so many years ago making Aiden’s chest feel light.

He smiled and pulled Kellen closer, muffling their laughter with another sound kiss in the low lights of their room.

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