It's Worth It
Aiden woke with a start. His heart was beating out of his chest with panic, his lungs filling with heavy breaths as his eyes settled on the ceiling. The… ceiling?
His mind wasn’t working quite right. It felt difficult to think, let alone to dispel the images still dancing beneath his eyelids. He could have sworn that… no, but that couldn’t be possible… could it?
Aiden swallowed nervously. He turned to look to his left where Kellen was sleeping, immediately letting out a breath of relief. With a shaky hand, Aiden ran a hand over his eyes, exhaling again. Kellen was there. Kellen was okay. Aiden had to watch him breathe for a minute before his mind seemed convinced of that fact.
It all seemed so real. Kellen had been… and Aiden hadn’t been able to…
“Honey…?” Kellen slurred, pushing himself up onto his elbows to blink blearily at him. “You okay?”
“I’m… I’m fine,” Aiden said, although the quick beating of his heart betrayed him when Kellen scooted over to rest his chin on Aiden’s chest.
“Did you have a nightmare?” Kellen asked, unable to stop himself from yawning. He could barely keep his eyes open, but was trying his hardest to give Aiden his utmost attention. Even in his sleepy state though, he saw through Aiden in an instant.
Aiden exhaled again, feeling the way his shirt stuck to his chest with sweat.
If Kellen minded, he said nothing. He only prompted, “Honey?” and rubbed his eyes to focus.
Swallowing, Aiden rolled over to get up, depositing Kellen back on his pillow. “I did. But I’m okay now,” he said truthfully. “I just need to get up for a second. Change my shirt.”
Kellen blinked blearily, his eyes looking heavier now that he was laying down again. “We can talk about it if you want,” he mumbled.
Aiden had to appreciate the effort Kellen was putting into trying to remain awake, but really, just seeing that Kellen was okay was enough for him to feel better. He leaned down to peck Kellen on the cheek. “Sleep, Kellen. I’ll be right back.”
“M’kay,” Kellen said lowly. “Everything’s okay, hun.”
“You’re here, the girls are here, everything’s okay,” Aiden repeated softly, pushing a hand through Kellen’s hair for only a minute before the man was back asleep.
He smiled fondly down at his husband, his heart beating at a more normal level now. He still needed to change his shirt though, and move around a little to shake the images from his mind.
Aiden didn’t have nightmares often, but when he did, his anxiety always tended to act up. He wouldn’t be able to sleep again until he did a quick check of the girls. But it wasn’t the girls that he dreamed about.
When he crawled back into bed, Aiden spent a minute just looking at Kellen, watching his chest rise and fall steadily. He didn’t know why he’d suddenly dreamt about Kellen getting hurt like that. Maybe it was residual anxiety from the man’s last migraine. Whatever it was, Kellen was okay and sleeping next to him.
Aiden nuzzled up next to Kellen, settling down with a contended sigh when the taller man wrapped his arms around Aiden in his sleep, burrowing his head into Aiden’s stomach. Aiden smiled to himself. He still couldn’t figure out how Kellen managed to slip down the bed every night, but like his other habits, it was endlessly endearing somehow.
With Kellen sleeping next to him, Aiden fell back asleep quickly. It was like that whole nightmare had never happened, like Aiden had never woken up with those disturbing images and a quickly beating heart.
He was barely awake when he felt Kellen wake early for work as usual, yawning and shuffling tiredly out of bed. In another ten minutes, Aiden could hear him humming in the shower, singing under his breath as the music in his blood suffused the early morning air of their home.
Aiden didn’t know when he fell back asleep, but he did know that he woke to Kellen shaking him gently. “Sorry, honey, but it’s time to get up. I let you sleep for as long as I could.”
“Right… work,” Aiden mumbled, sitting up with the same amount of disdain a person would put into ripping off a band-aid. He blinked and rubbed his eyes, yawning at the exhaustion weighing down his bones.
Kellen cupped his cheek. “Meet you downstairs. I’ll make sure the girls are ready to go.” With that, he left Aiden to get to it, his calm liveliness infectious even when Aiden was still half asleep.
He smiled as he watched Kellen walk out, his mind feeling like it was in a fog. That dream from last night didn’t seem possible. Kellen was with him, full of life as usual. Aiden wasn’t even sure if he’d really woken up last night or if it was something that he’d just imagined, not when he felt like he was still dreaming.
Aiden was on autopilot the entire morning. He wasn’t paying attention to anything he was doing, from his shower to getting dressed. Walking down to the kitchen, he did register Thea at the kitchen table with Felix and Parker, both of whom had slept over the night before—ostensibly, to work on a project together. Aiden was almost certain that they were just using the project as an excuse to hang out though.
“Morning, dad. Thanks for driving all of us today,” Thea greeted, adjusting the papers in her hand while Parker messed with the display on the table.
“Yeah, thanks Coach,” Parker said, pouting when Thea slapped his hand to make him stop touching their project. Felix just smiled and nodded, still shy despite the many times he had been over to the house by now.
“Not a problem. Of course, you’ll have to squeeze with so many of you here. Fight out the seating arrangements amongst yourselves,” Aiden let them know. He stepped over to get himself some coffee. Maybe he could gulp down a cup before he had to go, just to help him wake up a little.
He was met on the way by Kellen wearing a smile on his face and holding onto a travel mug. “Here you are, hun,” Kellen said. “Cream and a bit of sugar like you like it. You were running a little late today, so put it in a mug for you.”
Kellen was holding onto his own cup of tea. He took a sip of the still hot liquid, handing off the travel mug without flinching at the steam.
Aiden blinked, grabbing onto the mug. His heart suddenly felt too big. It was just a small gesture. Kellen made him coffee like he did on the mornings that he got up first. Aiden did the same thing for Kellen when Kellen couldn’t quite get out of bed.
But something about it happening today, after feeling so hazy all morning, made Aiden feel warmth in the pit of his stomach.
He was fully aware that the kids were right there and that they needed to get going, but Aiden didn’t care. He set the mug down and grabbed Kellen by the shirt, smashing their lips together passionately. Kellen made a noise of surprise, although he returned the kiss with just as much warmth.
Aiden didn’t let it go past a deep kiss, pulling back only a few seconds later without stepping away. Kellen had a dazed look on his face, a goofy smile lighting up his features.
“And what was that for, hun?” he asked in amusement.
Aiden only returned the smile, releasing Kellen’s shirt to place his hands on Kellen’s chest. “Just happy to be married to you,” he said cheerfully. He felt more awake as he finally took a step back and patted Kellen’s chest. Turning to the kids, he said, “I’ll just be a minute and then we can go.”
Kellen was looking at him in interest, smiling wryly to himself. He just took a sip of his tea and said quietly, “It’s a good day today” just before he noticed that he’d spilt his tea all over the counter when Aiden had grabbed him.
Aiden smiled as Kellen jumped to clean it up. It didn’t escape his attention that the kids were looking at him as he stepped past them, or that Kellen followed him upstairs afterwards.
Kellen caught him in a kiss before he could go grab the kids. “You sure you’re okay, hun?”
Aiden knew that Kellen was talking about his nightmare last night. While it bothered him then, having Kellen here with him now chased all those nightmares away. “I’m okay. It was just a dream last night,” he said sincerely.
Kellen gave him an “oh” like he’d just realized something. “Oh, good that did happen. Or, not ‘good,’ I suppose, but good to know I didn’t dream that,” he said with a wry smile. “But I’m glad that you’re okay, Aiden. I’d return that kiss with interest, but the kids are waiting.”
He only gave Aiden a short kiss instead and a smile that was too mischievous considering that they both had work to get to.
Aiden chuckled under his breath, in a good mood the entire day. He knew that Parker and Felix gave him a curious look about it when he saw them later, but he paid them no mind. According to Thea, they were just always surprised when he was affectionate around Kellen. Apparently, it was strange seeing their coach doting on his husband.
Aiden could understand the sentiment. He was glad that Thea’s friends felt comfortable in his home though, enough to relax when they came over to do homework with Thea or to have dinner on some nights.
A few weeks later, they’d finished dinner and Kellen found Aiden in the kitchen doing the dishes. He didn’t say anything as he leaned against the counter, watching Aiden for a few moments.
Aiden bumped their hips together. “How was work today?”
“Same as usual,” Kellen said with a smile. He seemed content to sit in silence that day. It wasn’t a rarity for them to enjoy silence with one another after all these years, not that they stayed silent for all that long.
Aiden started smiling after a while, causing Kellen to give him a curious look and smile back. When a dish slipped from Aiden’s hand and into the sink, he jumped, causing Kellen to laugh. It was only when he continued laughing for over a minute that Aiden asked, “Was it really that funny?”
“I’m sorry,” Kellen said between laughs, not sounding sorry at all.
Aiden started laughing himself. “Stop it,” he said to Kellen. “You’ll make me snort.”
“Oh, but that’s funny,” Kellen maintained.
“Yeah, but if I do that, you’ll never stop laughing,” Aiden said, purposely calming himself down with a deep breath. He avoided looking at Kellen solely because he just knew the man’s face would break his serious façade.
Kellen hummed, breathing in deeply. “Okay… I think I’m good,” he said after a few minutes.
Aiden took his chance to look over at him. Kellen started laughing into his hand, and Aiden followed along with him. “You’re a train wreck,” he said to Kellen affectionately.
“Because I’m on fire?” Kellen joked.
Aiden rolled his eyes fondly as his husband deliberately tried to calm himself. “No, because you’re so hot,” he responded dryly, unable to keep the smile from his face.
Kellen chuckled to himself more calmly this time. “Alright, honey, tell me a less funny story to help me stop laughing.”
“I’m entertaining all the time, so I think you’re out of luck,” Aiden said as he washed another dish, setting it off to the side. “But alright, so today, I took attendance…” Kellen ended up laughing at his efforts to tell a deliberately boring story, almost doubling over by the end of it.
That was how Felix found them when he walked in. The kid stood there awkwardly for a second, apparently unsure of what he should do when he found the two of them having a casual conversation with one another.
“Do you need anything, Felix?” Aiden asked kindly, looking behind him.
Felix nodded, jumping at being addressed so suddenly. “I, uh, I actually had a question? It’s probably weird to ask.” He messed with his fingers, already turning to flee the room.
“Whoa, whoa,” Kellen interrupted him. “You can ask. We’re not that scary.”
Felix didn’t look too convinced, but he didn’t leave either. He stood still for a second, tapping his foot on the ground.
Aiden turned to him, pausing with the dishes. “Felix, you can ask if you’d like.”
“It’s, uh, just that Thea was telling us that you don’t fight a lot. With each other, I mean,” Felix amended. He cleared his throat, not adding to that statement. He took a deep breath, like that had taken a lot for him to say.
Aiden shared a look with Kellen and turned back to Felix. “I mean, that’s true, I guess. But every couple will fight at some point. We’re just not major yellers.”
Felix had a disbelieving look on his face. “It’s just kind of hard to imagine. Not yelling all the time.”
Kellen tilted his head, crossing his arms. He was obviously wondering why Felix was asking as much as Aiden was. Still, he said, “It’s not like we don’t ever yell. But your coach here doesn’t do well when I yell, and I don’t much like to lose my temper either. That’s why I tend to leave for a while when we’re fighting more seriously. To cool off.”
Aiden appreciated Kellen’s attempts to cool off more than he could say. He could certainly yell, they both could, but Kellen knew it would give Aiden a stomachache in the middle of any argument they were having. Then again, it was hard to stay mad when they had to stop their argument right in the middle for Aiden to run to the bathroom.
“We got into the habit of saying or messaging an ‘I love you’ when we leave in the middle of a fight too,” Aiden added. “That was back when we were long-distance. I guess we never dropped the habit.”
“Long-distance?” Felix asked curiously.
Aiden put the last dish up to dry, drying his own hands with a towel. “Sure. Kellen and I were long-distance for around six years. It’s easy to misinterpret or start arguments when you don’t see one another every day. So, if we had an argument and one of us hung up, we’d send an ‘I love you’ message. It’s kind of hard to stay angry for too long after that.”
Felix still looked skeptical. Kellen shrugged at him. “We’ve had a few big fights,” he mused, “but even those never went too far. Yelling, sure, but no throwing dishes or threatening divorce or anything.”
“You almost paced a hole in the carpet though,” Aiden recalled.
Kellen cracked a smile. “It was a blizzard outside. I couldn’t exactly cool off by taking a walk. Took us a day or two to solve that one, but it always works out in the end.”
It really did. Aiden reflected on the fact that even if they did fight, there was security in knowing that they would find a way to apologize. It didn’t make the actual arguing any easier or less stressful, but it did at least provide them with some light at the end of the tunnel. He needed that light when he slept on the couch and ended up in an even worse mood when he couldn’t fall asleep.
“But I don’t get it,” Felix maintained, distressed at his own lack of understanding. “You just… solve it? How?”
Aiden shared another look with Kellen. He shrugged at his student. “I don’t know. We just kind of talk with one another.”
He wasn’t sure why exactly Felix was so curious about all this, but Aiden didn’t mind sharing. Perhaps learning more about them would help Felix in what Aiden was starting to suspect was his home situation.
Felix covered his mouth with his hand, apparently thinking hard about it. “I guess that makes sense… it’s just that you guys seem so happy together that it’s weird to think of you fighting.”
“Good, that’s what we were going for,” Kellen said cheerily. “But fighting doesn’t mean divorce. Well, depending on the couple, I guess. And on how intense the fighting is.” He shrugged, looking to Aiden curiously.
Aiden nodded to him, but before either of them could ask about Felix’s interest delicately, Felix chuckled awkwardly and said, “I’d better get back to Thea and Parker. Uh, thanks.” He excused himself with hurried steps, almost slamming into the wall in his haste.
Kellen hummed once he had left the room. “Sounds like he might have a lot of fighting to deal with at home,” he hinted.
“I met his parents, but separately. They come to the games sometimes, although they’re never together,” Aiden mused. He frowned. “They seem like generally okay people… when they’re apart anyway.” Looking in the direction Felix left in, he said quietly, “I’ll keep an eye on Felix.”
Kellen nodded proudly, bumping their hips together with a small smile. “Aw, I bet you’re like the team dad.”
Aiden rolled his eyes, although he couldn’t keep the amused smirk off his face. “Does that make you the team mom for your dancers?”
“Obviously,” Kellen said easily, chuckling to himself. “I do happen to prefer being papa with you though.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” Aiden responded, giving him a quick kiss on the lips.
Kellen deepened that kiss, pulling him closer by the shirt. “Mmm if only the kids weren’t still up,” he said with a cute lilt to his voice. He patted Aiden’s cheek, stepping away. “Want to watch a movie?”
“Where you’ll fall asleep?” Aiden chuckled, although he didn’t protest. He let Kellen lead him to the living room where he had Kellen rest on his lap, falling asleep after only about fifteen minutes. Aiden drifted off at some point too, up until Thea woke him to ask for a ride home for Felix and Parker.
Kellen grumbled and went up to make sure Violet and Skylar were taken care of while Aiden did the driving. There was no better feeling than collapsing into bed with Kellen when he got home, humming happily when his husband turned the baseball game on for him and ran his hand through Aiden’s hair lovingly.
Yes, they fought sometimes, but to get even one night like this made the hard days more than worth it.