The Man I Love

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Overnight Drive

Aiden groaned at the incessant vibrations coming from his phone. He didn’t open his eyes, reaching out towards his nightstand blindly to shut the thing off. He groaned in frustration when he ended up dropping the phone and missing the call instead.

Aiden just would have left the phone there and gone back to sleep if it didn’t begin to ring again. Tiredly, Aiden leaned down, prying his eyes open to find the phone and answer with a muffled, “’lo?”

“Hey, dad,” Thea’s voice came out unsurely.

Aiden blinked, pulling the phone away to check who was calling. His eyebrows scrunched together when he saw his daughter’s name on the much too bright screen. “Thea…” he mumbled, clearing his throat and sitting up slightly. “I thought you were at Felix’s with Parker. Are you alright?”

Now that his mind was more awake, he felt his heart beat faster in fear. He and Kellen had told all three of their kids that if they ever found themselves in trouble, even in the middle of the night, that they could call and he or Kellen would be there. Especially now that Thea was getting older, they told her that even if she was drinking or doing anything else illegal, there would be no punishment and no questions asked if she called them up.

Getting a call in the middle of the night to go get her was a much better alternative than getting a call from a police officer or a knock at their door.

“I’m fine, dad,” she reassured him quickly, allowing Aiden to release a heavy breath. He looked to his left, seeing Kellen still fast asleep beside him as Thea continued talking, “We’re fine, really, but Felix, Parker, and me really need a ride. Can they sleep over tonight?”

Aiden exhaled. “Of course. Are you kids safe?”

“We are,” Thea said cautiously. She paused for a moment, but she went on without him asking, “We’re at the park near Felix’s house. Dad, we were going to stay, but… um… Felix’s parents are screaming at each other. It was actually really scary… I’ve never heard people yell like that, and then something broke and so we… left out the window. And I don’t want Felix to have to go back.”

Aiden took a breath, trying to process the influx of information. “Okay… okay I’ll come get you. They can sleep over. Give me twenty minutes, Thea. Stay safe and don’t leave that park.”

He could hear her release a breath of relief as he started getting out of bed, quickly pulling on a sweatshirt and sweat pants. Aiden hung up and turned to Kellen, who was still asleep. He shook his husband until Kellen blinked up at him unhappily.

“I have to go get Thea, Parker, and Felix,” he said without preamble.

It took Kellen a second to put it together, but when he did, he sat up right away. “Are they okay?”

“They’re fine,” Aiden told him quickly. “But Felix’s parents were apparently fighting with each other and breaking things and so they left. They’re out in the park so I have to go grab them.”

Kellen nodded distractedly. “I’ll make up some beds on the couch.” He yawned tiredly. “Drive safe, Aiden.” He pulled himself out of bed, patting Aiden on the shoulder and shuffling tiredly to find the extra pillows and blankets they had laying around.

Aiden was out the door by the time Kellen had made it to the closet. As tired as he had been ten minutes ago when he picked up the phone, he was more than awake now as he drove around the quiet streets with only his headlights and the streetlamps on every corner for company. The worry in his chest didn’t abate until he spotted the kids waiting for him like Thea said they’d be.

“Hey dad,” Thea said cautiously when she stepped in, shutting the door behind her.

Aiden quickly catalogued the three teens, his eyes roving over them for any sign of injury. Thea was slightly subdued, Parker was quiet and fidgety, and Felix was hunched over like he just wanted to disappear. But otherwise, all three kids were fine.

“You kids will stay with us tonight. You don’t need to tell me anything if you don’t want to, but I’m glad that you’re all safe,” he said firmly, pulling away. Idly, he wondered how they’d managed to slip away so easily.

When they all arrived back home, Aiden wasn’t surprised to see that Kellen had finished with the setup, or that his husband was standing tiredly at the bottom of the stairs, barely keeping his eyes open. Aiden turned to the kids. “Get some rest. We have the couch and floor set up. Feel free to get food or water if you need, and to wake us if there’s any trouble.”

Thea let her shoulders relax. “Thanks dad, papa.”

Kellen gave her a short hug, followed by Aiden as they both went up the stairs to fall into bed. As tired as Aiden was, he couldn’t fall asleep with thoughts of those kids whirring around in his head. Kellen clearly understood as he grasped Aiden’s hand atop the covers.

“They’re okay,” Kellen said quietly, looking into Aiden’s eyes.

“Physically,” Aiden murmured.

Kellen let his thumb trail over Aiden’s knuckles. “It must have gotten pretty bad for them to leave.”

“I’ve been keeping an eye on Felix,” Aiden said almost to himself. “He’s been okay… more sullen than usual. I’ve tried to help him feel comfortable talking to me, but it’s not like I can straight out ask him if his parents are killing each other in a divorce battle.”

Kellen huffed and touched Aiden’s cheek. “At least Thea called. And they’re all here now. We can’t fix what’s wrong at Felix’s place, but we can at least provide him with a safe place to come to.” He snuggled up close to Aiden. “You’re such a good coach, Aiden, so he trusts you. That’s a good thing.”

Aiden exhaled at the feeling of Kellen so close to him. “You’re right: that’s a good thing.” He paused. “It sounds like they got out of the window pretty easily.”

Kellen huffed out a laugh. “Let me tell you, it’s hard at first. Climbing in or out of windows takes real practice.”

“It must run in the family then,” Aiden said dryly, although he was smiling.

“You know I fell a few times,” Kellen chuckled. “It was especially tough at first. You know how nervous I was the first few times I climbed in your room. Honestly, I’m genuinely surprised your parents never caught me.”

Aiden smiled at this husband, feeling slightly calmer at the memories running through his mind. The first time Kellen admitted that he slipped, Aiden had told him he didn’t want Kellen getting hurt just to see him. Kellen had laughed lowly, put earphones in both their ears, and danced with Aiden in the middle of the night, just to show Aiden that he was fine. Dancing together in the dark while the world was otherwise silent was a memory he recalled fondly.

“We should dance together tomorrow,” Aiden mused sleepily.

Kellen reached up to run a hand through his hair. “You got it. Sleep now, honey,” Kellen said tiredly. “We’ll dance in the morning, and we’ll see if the kids want to share too.”

It was easier said than done to just relax and go to sleep, but Kellen moved his hand to run it over Aiden’s chest in a hypnotizing motion. Aiden actually might have fallen asleep before Kellen for once, listening to the man’s breaths and feeling the sway of his fingers.

He woke slowly the next day, unsurprised that they both got up late, and equally unsurprised to find Parker asleep on the couch. Aiden would admit that he hadn’t been expecting Felix to be awake though, reading a book that Violet had loaned him as they sat together on the armchair.

Violet looked up at him as he approached, not looking phased one bit by the presence of the two boys in the living room. “Morning, dad,” she greeted while Felix shrunk awkwardly.

“Morning, Vi,” he responded. “Papa’s making waffles today. Shouldn’t be long.”

She nodded silently, turning back to her book.

“Felix, you and Parker are more than welcome to eat as well, as always,” he made sure to say, stepping away to hopefully relieve some tension that Felix was feeling.

They had agreed not to bother Felix about his parents. They needed to know if he would be safe returning home, but they also understood that it wasn’t necessarily their place to pry. It wasn’t a situation they had encountered before as parents, which is perhaps why Aiden shared a look with Kellen to steel himself for the breakfast they were about to have.

Kellen only gave him an encouraging nod from where he was cooking, prompting him to sit down at their kitchen table like usual. Aiden was determined not to make anyone feel uncomfortable, least of all Felix and Parker when the two of them joined their kids as the table.

There was an awkward silence surrounding them as Thea and Parker shared a concerned look, although Felix didn’t look nearly as broken up as he had the night before. In fact, he appeared relaxed as he had a quiet conversation with Violet about the book he’d been reading.

Aiden smiled at the easy way Violet allowed the usually quiet boy to open up. Watching them talk to one another made it easy for Aiden to relax as well and to have a normal breakfast. Kellen sat next to him with more waffles, placing his hand on Aiden’s thigh to calm him down.

They were both thankful when Felix brought up the night before on his own volition. “Um, so, about last night…”

Thea took charge, grabbing Skylar and Violet and shooing them away amidst their protests. “You don’t even know what he’s talking about,” Thea said, crossing her arms as Skylar frowned at her.

“We know that they’re back here and something obviously happened,” Skylar argued, giving her sister a look that was clearly not amused.

Violet looked between them, frowning. “I’m sure that it’s personal, Sky,” she said, her eyes flicking to Felix and back again.

“Oh, they can stay,” Felix said after a second. “I already told Violet.” Without waiting for Thea to either kick out her sisters or to be surprised that her friend had already opened up to Violet, Felix said shyly, “Er, my parents have been fighting for a long time now. They weren’t even supposed to be together last night, but my mom came home for some reason and they kind of woke us up…” He winced like it was painful to recall.

Kellen leaned back. “Felix, are you safe at home?” he asked bluntly.

“They don’t hurt me,” he said quickly.

“Okay,” Aiden said calmly, “but if you don’t feel safe at home, at any time, you can come to us. We just want that to be perfectly clear.”

Felix looked between them. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but seemed to think better of it. “I… appreciate it,” he said after a minute or so. “I feel safe at home. I know they’d never hurt me. It’s just… when they yell at each other…” He frowned tiredly.

Kellen let out a breath. “Neither Aiden nor myself grew up with conflict like that, so I can’t say we relate. But we do realize this is stressful and that it’s got to be weighing on you.”

“If you ever want to get away from it all, you’re welcome here,” Aiden finished for his husband.

Felix nodded to himself. The girls were still standing around, listening. Parker hadn’t moved except to look at his friend sympathetically. Violet was the first one that moved. She stepped over to pat Felix’s shoulder calmly.

Felix swallowed and said bravely, “Thank you. I think they thought they were being quiet enough that we wouldn’t wake up. It’s still kind of early, so I’m not sure they know I’m gone…”

Aiden raised an eyebrow. “Be sure you text them? I’m sure no matter how much they’re fighting, they’ll be worried.”

The look on Felix’s face told him that he clearly wasn’t convinced, especially since he hadn’t yet received a call from either of his parents. Aiden only hoped that they were still sleeping.

Kellen cleared his throat. “Either way, as long as you’re safe, you don’t need to tell us anything that you’re uncomfortable saying.”

Felix nodded gratefully, a small smile gracing his face. “They’re good parents, really. But they fight over everything, including me. It’s kind of embarrassing honestly.”

Skylar tilted her head, a confused look on her face. “Didn’t… did mom used to fight? I was really little when she left us.” She frowned, trying to pull out a memory that escaped her.

Thea looked to her seriously. “Yeah, a lot. There was a lot of yelling before mom dropped us at a church, but I kind of made sure to keep you two occupied whenever mom lost her cool. There was so much yelling before Sky was born. Probably mom telling your bio dad that she was pregnant.” Thea shrugged as if it was inconsequential, but if she remembered that even now, it couldn’t have been easy to handle.

Aiden had almost forgotten though: the kind of life the girls had dealt with prior to being adopted. It had been almost ten years since then, ten years since they welcomed the girls into their home. Looking at them now, Aiden was happy with the life he’d provided them. He could only hope that they remembered the years fondly as well.

Violet frowned to herself. “I remember. It’s been a long time since then.” She nodded. “It’s nice here though, at home. You can always relax here too if you want, Felix, Parker. Sometimes dad and papa fight and it’s embarrassing, but it’s not too bad.”

Aiden looked to Kellen, wondering if they really were that embarrassing. Kellen just shrugged.

Felix only chuckled to himself. “I can’t imagine Coach and Mr. K fighting like my parents do.” He turned back to them. “But I’ll tell my parents where I am.”

He pulled out his phone while Violet, Skylar, and Thea sat down, relaxing back into their breakfast routine. When Felix returned, the atmosphere surrounding them was more casual. He fit in easily with their group, the tension slowly leaving his shoulders as they enjoyed a nice breakfast together.

Aiden grabbed Kellen’s hand, glad that all the kids were sitting safely in front of him. The two boys didn’t have to be his for him to care about their well-being, and from the way Kellen smiled, he knew his husband felt the same way.

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