The Man I Love

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Sometimes We Fight

Aiden knew that something was wrong the moment he heard the angry footsteps outside. He looked to the door from his spot on the couch, turning the sound of the baseball game down just as Skylar pushed past Kellen with an angry huff. She didn’t even look at him, stomping up the stairs and slamming the door to her room.

Kellen sighed tiredly, looking over at Aiden with a frown. Aiden patted the spot next to him, silently beckoning his husband to sit next to him.

With a tired shuffle, Kellen locked the door and plopped himself down next to Aiden, leaning on him. Aiden reached up to card his hand through Kellen’s hair comfortingly.

“I’m guessing something went wrong when you went to pick up Skylar?” Aiden prompted gently.

Kellen exhaled. “She’s mad at me. She says that I was being… let’s see, she said, ‘completely embarrassing and treating her like a child.’”

Were you being embarrassing?” Aiden asked straightforwardly.

“Definitely not this time,” Kellen said surely, sitting up seriously.

Aiden patted Kellen’s knee. “Alright, so what happened?”

Kellen crossed his arms. “You know that I was going to pick her up from the park where she and her friends were playing soccer. So, I parked nearby and waited for her. I stood outside so I didn’t fall asleep, but I swear, I only stood there quietly.”

“I believe you,” Aiden said with a little smile. “Come on, keep going.”

“Skylar ran over to me and asked if she could stay for a few more hours because she was really getting along with everyone and wanted to keep playing. I said, ‘Sure, that’s fine, but how long are you thinking?’ And she said she didn’t know and they might be a few more hours.”

Aiden raised an eyebrow. “A whole afternoon and evening playing soccer? That’s more than even I did with baseball.”

Kellen held up a hand. “That’s what I thought! So, I asked, and she said they’d probably walk around after a while and find somewhere to hang out.”

Aiden could see where this was going. “And let me guess: you said you didn’t like the idea of her randomly walking around when it’s getting late. That makes sense to me. She’s only twelve; we never would have let Thea walk around randomly at night when she was twelve. We don’t even let her do that now,” he mused with a thoughtful frown.

“Good to know I’m not the only one who found that odd,” Kellen said, giving him a small smile. “I was quiet about it, I promise, but her friends weren’t too far away. She told me that I was being really embarrassing and that I needed to just be cool and let her go.” Kellen sighed, laying back against the arm of the couch. “You saw how it turned out when I said no.”

Aiden gave him a sympathetic smile, patting his legs. “Feet up,” he commanded. Kellen did so without asking why, letting out a breath of relief when Aiden started giving him a foot massage. “Was I actually embarrassing this time, Aiden?” he mumbled.

“I wouldn’t say so,” Aiden said, kneading his thumbs into the knuckles of his toes. “We need to know that she’s safe and not walking around major streets in the middle of the night.”

His husband nodded thoughtfully. “I guess she’s embarrassed because her friends saw the whole thing,” Kellen mumbled, crossing his arms. “I wasn’t loud and I didn’t yell at her in front of them, but…” He shrugged, frowning.

Aiden continued his massage, pushing in a spot that made the frown melt off Kellen’s face. “I know you didn’t do anything, Kellen. For the record, I agree with you,” he reassured him. “It’s hard, but I’m proud of you.”

Kellen gave him a waning smile. At first, Kellen had a hard time disciplining and saying no to the girls. He had a very real worry of turning out like his mother and doling out unfair punishments or having screaming matches with their girls. Aiden eased him into it, comforting and supporting him through every argument, just like Kellen did for him.

That never made it easier to suffer through the angry looks, slammed doors, and silent treatment in the days in between the start of the argument and the reconciliation though.

“Thank you, honey,” Kellen said, leaning forward to give him a chaste kiss on the lips.

“I’d support you even if you were being super embarrassing, by the way,” Aiden said, pushing his thumbs into a spot on Kellen’s heel that made the tension bleed from the man’s body. “You supported me even when I forgot to be cool and kissed Thea goodbye in front of the boy she liked.”

Kellen hummed happily, stretching out. “I’ll always support you, hun. You’ll always be cool giving me kisses goodbye,” he said playfully. “And this right here: very cool,” he added, gesturing to where Aiden was rubbing his feet.

Aiden chuckled. “Glad I could be of service.” He continued his ministrations for a little while, giving Kellen a chance to relax after an entire day literally spent on his feet. Aiden smiled as Kellen exhaled and closed his eyes, clearly awake, but relaxed.

After a while, Kellen sighed calmly. “This is just what I need to get through dinner tonight,” he said without opening his eyes.

“Well, no matter how mad Skylar is, I’ve got your back,” Aiden said, earning himself a lazy smile. Kellen adjusted himself to give Aiden a kiss before they went to set up dinner.

Dinner was as awkward as Kellen had guessed. Thea and Violet clearly knew what was going on, and stayed quiet as Skylar scarfed down her food in an effort to leave the table faster. “Can I be excused?” she asked angrily about a minute after she sat down.

Aiden answered without even blinking an eye: “No.” At her affronted look, he added, “You chose to eat quickly. Get comfortable for a bit, because you’re not excused.” Aiden felt Kellen’s hand on his thigh, a silent thanks for his support.

“But dad!” she protested.

“No buts,” Aiden said sternly. “Thea, Violet: how was school today?”

Violet was always awkward when one of her sisters was angry—she didn’t do well with tension—but Thea ignored the tension entirely. “Good. Hey, I met a few guys who are thinking of going out for the baseball team, dad.”

“What do you think? Can they make it?” Aiden asked with a smile.

“They’re strong runners from what I’ve seen, but I don’t know how they bat. Felix is kind of shy and lanky; good for pitching. Parker has a lot of energy, so he’d probably be a good outfielder,” she mused, really thinking it through.

Out of all their kids, Thea was the one who latched onto baseball. She didn’t like to play herself, but excelled at assessing people’s skills and physical condition. Aiden was proud of her, and even prouder when she showed up someone trying to talk down to her just because she didn’t look like the average sports girl in her cute clothing.

Aiden nodded. “I’ll look forward to seeing them. Do they know that you’re my daughter?”

Thea chuckled to herself. “No. That’s just the best part. So, I’ll probably be at your first practice when you guys start in the spring.”

“It’ll be a while then,” Violet said, growing more comfortable with the easy conversation. “It’s still only September.”

“They can practice inside,” Thea said. “But you’re right, Violet: it’s not as fun inside.”

“I like it inside,” Violet mumbled.

Thea nudged her. “But even you like reading in the sun when the weather’s just right.”

“I guess that’s true,” Violet said to herself, smiling now. Her shoulders relaxed, even as her eyes cut to Skylar, who was glaring at her plate with her arms crossed.

“How about you, Violet? Anything interesting happen today?” Kellen asked lightly, looking better already as Aiden patted his thigh underneath the table.

Violet shrugged. “Books. Actually, papa, can you help me with English after dinner?”

“Sure, Vi,” Kellen said cheerily. “I used to be great with all that.”

“When you weren’t being distracting in class,” Aiden chuckled. “Everyone used to think that you were being dramatic when we did the performances and you fake-fainted in my arms.”

“Wait, what did you do?” Violet asked, her eyes shining. She loved hearing all the stories about them, smiling with each new nugget of information that she learned. Thea thought it was all romantic and funny, and usually Skylar did too, but she was trying hard to seem like she wasn’t paying attention.

Kellen chuckled. “We used to have to perform plays in class for various reasons. You girls know that your dad and I were dating in secret then, so I’d go all out on the plays, fake-fainting included. He caught me every time, so it worked out fine.”

“You never thought I’d actually drop you?” Aiden asked wryly.

“No,” Kellen mumbled as he swallowed a bite. “I would have laughed if you had anyway. It was always so much fun to watch your ears go red.” He chuckled to himself.

Skylar huffed in annoyance, a clear indication that she thought she deserved to leave by now. “Can I be excused?” she repeated.

Kellen let her sit for a second. “Take your plate to the sink and you can go,” he said calmly. When Skylar got up to do it, practically racing over to the sink, Kellen added, “I’d better not hear you throw that plate or you’ll be sitting here to wait to take the rest of them.”

In a classic gesture of passive-aggressiveness, Skylar placed the plate down like it was made of glass and walked by to get to the stairs, completely ignoring them. Aiden heard the door to her room slam again.

“How long do you think she’ll stay mad?” Violet murmured to break the silence.

“She’ll be fine, Vi,” Thea said surely, returning to her food. “I hope she doesn’t slam the door when we’re all sleeping though.”

Aiden cracked a smile at that one, bringing the conversation back to lighter matters. He got Kellen to feel better anyway, helping him relax after Aiden did the dishes and Kellen helped Violet with her homework. By the time they went to bed, they were both calmer, Kellen sleeping soundly with his head pillowed on Aiden’s chest.

His calm didn’t last forever though. Aiden felt his heart drop when he woke in the middle of the night to Kellen groaning in pain, clutching his head.

“Kellen,” Aiden called softly, reaching over to the nightstand to grab his migraine medicine.

“Did I wake you?” Kellen asked through gritted teeth, curling in on himself. After so many years, he still tried to stay quiet so he didn’t wake Aiden in the middle of the night.

Some things would never change, although Aiden wished Kellen would just shake him awake when he was in so much pain.

“I’m going to get you some water to swallow these with,” Aiden said to him, getting out of bed quickly to grab the cup they kept in the bathroom. He helped Kellen sit up and swallow, adjusting himself so he had Kellen’s head in his lap.

Kellen groaned in pain. “Aiden… you should… sleep.”

“If I fall asleep, then I fall asleep. But you know that I can’t just go to bed when you’re hurting so much,” he said softly, touching Kellen’s scalp calmly.

Aiden did end up nodding off after a while, although he woke with a twinge in his back from sitting up all night. The only time Kellen was able to even leave the bed was when he raced to the bathroom to throw up everything that he had for dinner the previous night. Aiden stayed with him for as long as he could before he needed to shower and get ready for work.

He frowned as he sat next to Kellen on the bed, now in his work clothes. “I’ve got to go, Kellen,” he said softly, rubbing his hand up and down the man’s back. “I’ll be back later, but I’ll tell the girls to check on you when you get home. Maybe Olivia can stop by today.”

Kellen pulled himself up with difficulty. “I’ll drink water today, I promise. You go teach kids health,” Kellen said with a smile that looked more like a wince.

Aiden kissed his cheek, pulling the covers up over him to stop his shivering before he stepped downstairs to take the girls to school. He could never quite focus completely on the days that Kellen had his migraines, but he’d learned how to do his job even with his mind half on Kellen for the day. Or for the next few days while Kellen recovered.

Maybe that was why he’d completely forgotten that Skylar had been so mad a few days before, up until she came to him that evening when he was making dinner. “Dad, how’s papa doing?”

Aiden didn’t embarrass her by pointing out that she was so mad at him for the past two days. “He’ll be alright. His head stopped hurting, and he’s just sleeping now.”

“I know,” she murmured. She didn’t say anything else for a while, pulling out her homework. Aiden was pretty sure that she wasn’t paying much attention though as she stared off into space.

“Something on your mind?” he asked when he set the food to finish in the oven, intending to go up and sit with Kellen for a while.

Skylar frowned. “I’ve been thinking about it. Today, one of the girls who’d been in the park was asking me why I couldn’t stay. So, you know, I said it was papa’s fault,” she admitted. She looked up at Aiden for a second before looking back down. “Anyway, she said papa was a loser and I got mad. I, uh, told her that her parents were the losers because they got stuck with her, but you and papa picked me.”

Aiden snorted in amusement, unable to help himself. That had to be the best insult to use when you were adopted. Skylar was much too clever for her own good. “Sky, do you mind if I ask why you were so mad at papa in the first place?”

She sighed. “Um… so, Ethan was going to be there, and some other girls from the soccer team, and I wanted to look good in front of them.”

“Ethan the boy that you like?” Aiden asked gently. When she nodded, he went on, “Sky, I get it. Parents can be embarrassing, even when we don’t mean to be. But you have to know that papa just wanted to keep you safe.”

“I know,” Skylar said, tapping her pencil on the counter. “Vi and Thea told me. And I know it wasn’t actually such a big deal. Ethan actually said it was cool of me to say what I said to that girl. But… now I feel bad about what I said to papa.”

Aiden patted her hand. “Sky, papa understands. He fought with his mom a lot too. But he’ll feel a lot better when you tell this to him instead of to me.”

“I wanted to tell him, but papa hasn’t been feeling well,” Sky murmured, looking in the direction of the stairs. “I shouldn’t wake him up.”

“Then how about I wake him up? He needs to come down to eat anyway,” Aiden suggested.

After a moment of contemplation, Sky nodded. “Okay… if he’s okay to come down to eat.”

Kellen was groggy, but awake when Aiden brought him down. After all the head pain, he looked more relieved to hear Skylar apologize to him and to talk with her than he did to feel better. Aiden smiled when they hugged.

Aiden couldn’t stop smiling when he and Kellen finally got some good sleep that night, Kellen’s breathing relaxed now as he wrapped his arms around Aiden from behind.

He and Kellen both slept better over the next week, which is why Aiden found himself feeling confused when he woke up at three in the morning on a weeknight.

“What the hell,” he murmured unhappily, unsure of why he could possibly he awake. Next to him, Kellen was breathing calmly next to him, his chest rising and falling with every breath. The room was dark. There was no noise in the house.

Aiden couldn’t figure out why he was awake, but this wasn’t the first time this happened. Every now and again, he’d wake up with the need just to check that the girls and Kellen were okay. It was something his mother used to do for him and his brothers, but it was only now that Aiden had his own girls that he understood her need to do it.

It didn’t happen often, but when it did, Aiden knew he wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep until he was sure everyone was alright. He gave Kellen another glance before he slipped out of bed lazily, heading out of their room and down the hall.

Thea was sleeping soundly like usual. Violet was too, her usual stacks of books on her dresser. When Aiden peeked in on Skylar, he opened the door wider, frowning when he saw her grimace from a nightmare.

It had been a while since the girls had nightmares, but they never went away entirely. When the girls were young, Aiden and Kellen often ended up comforting them at night. Sometimes, they’d dream about their mom, or about something happening to Aiden or Kellen or their sisters. Now, the nightmares were rare, but most people could never get rid of nightmares completely.

Aiden knew what to do. He stepped inside to shake her, calling her name to get her up. “Sky… Skylar… Skylar, it’s dad,” he murmured over and over again.

Finally, she woke with a start, her black hair splayed out messily in her ponytail and her eyes wild with panic. Aiden leaned back to give her some space, telling her, “Skylar, you’re alright. It’s just me.”

She didn’t answer right away, looking around the room like she was expecting something. Her gaze landed on Aiden, her eyes looking unfocused and panicked. “Dad, where’s papa?” she asked without preamble.

Aiden blinked in confusion. “Uh, he’s sleeping—”

She was out of bed in a flash, whizzing past him and out the door. Aiden was left wondering what exactly just happened, but he didn’t waste any time thinking about it. He padded along after her, calling her name as quietly as he could.

Skylar didn’t pause for a breath as she opened his bedroom door and flicked on the lights. Aiden blinked at the sudden brightness. Kellen didn’t even move until Skylar jumped up on the bed to shake him unforgivingly.

“Papa! Papa!” Skylar called before Aiden could tell her to calm down.

To his credit, Kellen sat up with urgency, his bleary eyes landing on Skylar and then Aiden. “Are we on fire? Wait, do I need your baseball bat? Is everyone okay?” Kellen looked ready to jump out of bed to do whatever he needed to do with his messy bedhead and in his rumpled t-shirt, but he wasn’t going anywhere when Skylar started crying and latched herself onto him.

Wrapping her arms around his stomach, Skylar held him tightly, sobbing loudly. Kellen looked panicked even as he held her, giving Aiden a confused look that clearly asked him what in the world was going on.

Aiden shook his head, distressed. He stepped up to sit on the bed next to Kellen and Skylar, watching Kellen rub Skylar’s back and whisper soothing words to her. “Skylar, sweetie, it’s okay. I’m right here.” She kept her arms wrapped around his waist, her sobs quieting down a little, but her grip not loosening one bit.

Kellen hugged her tightly, running his hand over her hair to calm her down. Aiden stayed seated quietly next to them, waiting until Kellen said, “Sky, what’s wrong? What happened?”

“Did you have a bad dream?” Aiden prompted gently, rubbing her back.

Skylar sniffed, burrowing her face into Kellen’s chest. She nodded and mumbled, “Papa, are you okay?”

Kellen answered right away. “Of course, I’m okay. I’m right here, Skylar.”

She sniffed again, staying silent for a while as she composed her thoughts. “I… I had a dream… and…” She started crying again, silently this time.

Kellen looked to Aiden with a frown, his eyebrow drawn together. Aiden gave him a sympathetic look and said to Skylar, “Sweetheart, take a deep breath. We can’t help if we can’t understand.”

Skylar nodded into Kellen’s chest again, taking a minute while they sat with her. As her breathing evened out, she went on, “I had a dream… where papa got… hurt, um, like Grandpa Kyle.” Kellen frowned, but didn’t say anything at her usage of the word “hurt” in place of what actually happened to Kellen’s dad. He only prompted her to go on. “And um… dad was crying in my dream and then I woke up and dad was there and you weren’t and…”

“Oh, sweetie,” Kellen said, pulling her up so he could look her in the face. “Skylar, I’m right here. Your Grandpa Kyle got into an accident, and I’m not saying that accidents don’t happen, but I’m perfectly fine. And dad’s okay too. We’re more worried about you.” He reached up to wipe her tears from her cheeks in a fatherly gesture, cupping her face in his hands.

“I know that you’re okay,” Skylar said, accepting the tissue Aiden handed to her. “But it all seemed so real…”

“It wasn’t, Sky,” Kellen assured her firmly. “I’m okay. Dad and I are here.” He patted Aiden’s chest. “We’re here to take care of you, so you don’t need to worry about us.”

She nodded, not looking convinced. Aiden pushed some stray hairs behind her ears. “Sky, were you worried about papa because of Grandpa Kyle?” He frowned idly, wondering how she could have connected those dots. Sure, Kellen and his dad looked alike as father and son, but the girls had never even met Kellen’s dad, nor had they been there when he died.

Skylar looked down as if ashamed, not noticing the worried frown on Kellen’s face. Refusing to meet his eyes, she bit her lip. “Um… not entirely.”

If Aiden didn’t know any better, he’d say she looked guilty. “What happened?” Aiden asked gently.

“So… the other day, we were looking at old pictures on the computer. We just found them randomly, honest, but we got distracted,” Skylar murmured. Her eyes cut to each of them before she went on, “And we, uh… there was an old video. Aunt Maia and Aunt Rory were really young, and they were in the hospital with you, papa.”

Aiden felt realization wash over him. He’d seen that video a long time ago, also finding it accidentally when they were moving into their house and Aiden was procrastinating unpacking. It was an old video that Maia and Rory took right after Kellen’s accident, when they were trying to cheer him up before he got discharged from the hospital.

Thinking back to it, Aiden remembered being struck by Kellen’s injuries. He’d been bandaged around his head for the stitches, and had a black eye, steri-strips on his cheek, and various scratches and bruises all over his arms. He’d been smiling in that video, messing with young Maia and Rory, but he’d looked pretty bad.

Kellen must have realized what that video was too. “Sky, that was a long time ago,” he said quietly.

She nodded, wiping her eyes. “I know… that’s what Thea said. But… well, and then I thought of Grandpa Kyle and well…” She frowned, going silent.

“Is that why you girls have been checking in on us more these past few days?” Aiden asked, suddenly recalling how many times he’d turned around recently to find one of the girls watching.

Skylar didn’t answer, but that was enough of an answer. Kellen sighed like he was holding a heavy weight on his shoulders. “Skylar, I’m going to tell your sisters this tomorrow too, but that video was taken around twenty years ago. I know that I still have migraines from that accident, but I want you to look at me, okay? Do I look okay?”

She took a second to answer. “You look tired.”

Kellen chuckled to himself. “This is just my everyday face, sweetie. I have a daily amount of tired,” he joked. “But beyond that, what do you think? No scratches or anything?”

“No…” she mumbled, her eyes scanning over his arms and face.

“Now, look at your dad. Does he look okay?” Kellen prompted.

She did the same for Aiden, answering with a mumbled, “Yeah…”

“Then let’s stop worrying,” Kellen concluded. “Things happen, Sky. We can’t pretend that they don’t, but for right now, we’re okay.” He pulled her close for a tight hug, wrapping her up in a comforting squeeze.

They stayed like that for a while, up until Aiden noticed Skylar’s breathing evening out as she fell asleep. Kellen moved her gently so she was lying on the bed instead of on top of him, although her hands were still clutching his shirt.

It had been a while since one of the kids slept in the same bed with them, but Aiden remembered how it worked. He got up to grab the lights before he laid down gently, although he felt too awake to really go to sleep.

Kellen let out a breath, evidently unable to sleep himself. Aiden reached forward to grab his hand and murmured, “She’s okay.”

“She’s okay,” Kellen repeated softly. “Why do we still have that video?”

“Honestly, I forgot about it. Along with the tons of other pictures that we uploaded to the Cloud and never looked at again,” Aiden mused. “Besides your injuries though, it’s actually a cute video.”

That got Kellen to smile at least, even if it was a sad one. “Maia and Rory were doing everything in their power to get me to feel better. They went around to interview the nurse taking care of me—her name was Liz, I remember—and she played along like a champ. She would give them snacks and directed them to make a card for me to keep them busy.” Kellen huffed in amusement. “It’s really been twenty years… I wonder what Liz is up to now.”

“You should try to contact her,” Aiden suggested. “Tell her how much it meant to you that she treated your sisters so well.”

Kellen squeezed his hand. “She talked to me after her shift, actually. I was struggling with feeling happy at that point in my life, and she talked to me about it. Maybe I will look her up,” he said quietly to himself. “But we got off topic. Is this our fault?”

“That she saw the video? To be fair, Kellen, we didn’t even know it was there, or that they would go looking for it,” Aiden said smartly, even though he couldn’t help but to feel like a bad parent in that moment.

Kellen hummed. “That’s true enough.” He started playing with Aiden’s hand, tracing the creases in it. “I guess I feel guilty though? I don’t want the girls to be upset on my behalf.”

Aiden closed his eyes for a moment at the feeling of Kellen’s fingers gently tracing over his skin. “I feel guilty too. But if you think about it, they’re only upset because they love us so much. I was upset when I saw that video too.”

“I remember,” Kellen said, his eyes far away as he recalled. “I came over after work and you kept staring at me, kind of like the girls have been doing.”

“You did that for a while after my surgery too,” Aiden remembered. He’d given Kellen a kiss every time he’d noticed the brunette staring, earing himself a smile and reassuring his husband at the same time. Aiden had gotten a lot of kisses that week.

“Oh yeah,” Kellen mumbled, looking at Aiden with a wry smile. “We should talk to them in the morning, but if we’re okay, they’ll be okay too. Right?” he added unsurely.

“Right,” Aiden said to him.

“It still breaks my heart when they have these dreams,” Kellen mumbled, adjusting carefully.

Aiden looked down to Skylar, who was sleeping soundly. “Mine too. But we’ve got her.” He reached forward to touch Kellen’s cheek, watching a smile grace his face. Aiden couldn’t kiss him without risking waking up Skylar, but that smile would be enough until the morning. “Better get to sleep, baby. You’ve got only… two hours to sleep.”

“Damn,” Kellen groaned, settling down himself. “Aiden, you’re going to have to make sure I wake up tomorrow.”

“I’m the husband and alarm clock? I’m living the dream,” Aiden joked, watching Kellen chuckle.

He smiled into his pillow when he heard Kellen’s breaths start to even out and his husband begin to relax, Skylar breathing calmly next to him. Aiden fell asleep quickly too, exhaustion catching up to him.

It felt like it had only been a minute before Aiden heard his alarm going off. It was harder to wake up than usual, but if it was hard for him, it was a monumental effort for Kellen. Aiden was sure that the only reason Kellen got up without a fight was because he was at least partially aware that Skylar was still sleeping soundly in the middle of the bed.

That didn’t mean Kellen was any more awake though. Aiden gave him a fond smile as Kellen fought to keep his eyes open the entire morning, standing there pliantly when Aiden rubbed soap over him underneath the spray of the shower water. While Kellen went to turn on the kettle for tea and the pot for coffee, Aiden woke Skylar and checked to make sure Thea and Violet were already up.

By the time Aiden got to the kitchen, he found his husband leaning against the counter, his chin in his palm and his eyes closed. “Kellen?” he ventured.

“Mmm,” Kellen hummed. “I’m awake.”

“I’m sure you are,” Aiden chuckled, grabbing the kettle from the stove and pouring Kellen his tea with sugar, using one of the many funky mugs Rory and Maia had gotten them. “Drink your tea,” he prompted, placing his mug down in front of the man.

“Aiden,” Kellen whined, not opening his eyes. “I will literally do anything if you let me sleep.”

Aiden ran his hand over Kellen’s hair. “Anything?”

“I mean, once I wake up, but yeah,” Kellen said, reaching out blindly to grab his mug. Aiden took mercy on him, scooting it forward.

“If you wake up now, I’ll give you a kiss,” Aiden teased, sighing in relief at the taste of his own coffee.

Kellen smiled sleepily, sipping at his tea. “Hmm, one kiss now… and I get to lie down in your lap during the next baseball game.”

“Deal,” Aiden chuckled. “As if that wouldn’t happen anyway.”

“I’m tired, Aiden, you can’t expect me to negotiate properly,” Kellen said, finally opening his eyes and standing up straight, a wry smile on his face. He leaned forward for his kiss, Aiden obliging happily.

They only broke apart when the girls appeared downstairs, running around to get something to eat before they had to rush off to school.

“Before school, quick, sit,” Kellen said, directing them all to the table. Thea and Violet looked up at him expectantly, although Skylar kept her focus on her cereal, already knowing what this was about. “I’ve been informed that you girls saw an old video of myself and your aunts?”

Thea put it together first. “Skylar!”

“How do you know it was me?” Skylar asked, offended.

Thea rolled her eyes. “You look completely guilty.”

“It doesn’t matter because you’re not in trouble,” Aiden interjected before they could go on. “We just wanted to reassure you girls that we’re both fine.”

Kellen nodded. “Girls, that video was over twenty years ago. And both your dad and I have been lucky enough to be fine since then. We just wanted to let you know that we’re okay and not to worry.”

“You sure that you’re okay?” Violet asked quietly.

Kellen touched her chin lightly. “Just fine. But I’ll be more okay if I get some hugs before we all leave for the day.” He got one from each of them, turning to Aiden before they both raced out the door. “I didn’t get your hug, hun.”

Aiden chuckled, giving him a quick hug and a kiss. He heard Kellen laugh lightheartedly before they were on their way as usual.

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