The Man I Love

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Getting Older

The bed was warm underneath him. The covers were soft as they sat atop him lightly. The light of the sun was kept at bay by the light-blocking curtains surrounding their windows.

Aiden took a deep breath, feeling relaxed and at ease. He could hear Kellen breathing softly beside him somewhere to his left. Warm covers, sleeping in late, and Kellen next to him: these were the types of mornings that he lived for.

His head was resting on something soft—the pillow presumably. Aiden smiled lazily without opening his eyes. His body felt warm and limber as he stretched languidly, trying not to move too much in case he woke Kellen.

Aiden yawned and shifted minutely, turning his head and cracking open his eyes. Kellen was still asleep, an arm carelessly thrown over Aiden’s stomach. They were laying so close that Aiden could feel Kellen’s breaths on his collarbone. Like every morning, Kellen looked like a tragic mess, his brown hair sticking up in odd directions and his clothing completely rumpled.

It was just as endearing now as it had been thirteen years ago. Aiden felt his heart skip a beat. Married for thirteen years. Together for nineteen.

Aiden had the urge to kiss Kellen again, but his husband didn’t get many days when he could sleep in like this. He looked so relaxed when he was sleeping, his chest rising and falling with every breath.

When Aiden shifted to get closer, Kellen grumbled in his sleep and scooted closer. Aiden smiled fondly, reaching up to trace his fingers up Kellen’s arm and over his shoulder. He moved to the man’s face, his fingers dancing over the line of Kellen’s cheekbone, down to his jawbone, up over his nose and over his eyebrows. Still, Kellen slept soundly.

Aiden moved his hands down over Kellen’s neck, touching his collarbones and down his pecks over his tee shirt. He smiled at the way Kellen’s shirt had ridden up to reveal his stomach, his sweats resting low on his hips. Aiden couldn’t resist the desire to touch one of those hip bones, but he stopped his path after that, trying to leave Kellen to sleep.

“Don’t stop,” Kellen mumbled lowly without moving.

“Did I wake you?” Aiden asked apologetically.

Kellen hummed deep in his throat, obviously barely awake. “Feels nice,” he murmured instead of answering.

Aiden chuckled, letting his hand stray over Kellen’s stomach slowly, tracing over his pelvis but avoiding going lower. He instead traveled up, pushing Kellen’s shirt up to feel his chest. His skin was warm.

Kellen let out a breath of satisfaction, humming lightly. “Aiden,” he said breathily, his eyes finally opening. There was a softness in his gaze as they landed on Aiden. “Morning, honey,” Kellen said, his voice hoarse with sleep.

“Morning,” Aiden said to him, kissing him gently for a second. He stretched his legs, rubbing his hand over Kellen’s heart with a gentle smile. “The girls will be up soon. Think we can get away with coffee and tea in bed before someone needs something?” he asked.

Kellen hummed. “We can try, but you’ll have to brave the kitchen on your own. It’s warm here,” he said with a tired sigh.

Aiden gave him a kiss and slipped out of bed, shivering at the rush of cold air that hit him.

Despite how tired Kellen was, he clearly noticed. “Told you,” he mumbled.

Slipping on a sweatshirt, Aiden rolled his eyes fondly and patted Kellen’s chest. “I’ll be back in a second.”

Kellen hummed lightly, closing his eyes again and settling back in.

Aiden smiled at his sleepy husband and opened the door, shutting it softly and making his way down the stairs. He didn’t even make it to the kitchen as he stopped short, blinking in surprise when Skylar intercepted him at the bottom.

“H-hey, dad,” Skylar said far too cheerily. Normally she had to be pulled out of bed kicking and screaming, but to be up earlier than him and running around in her pajamas on a day off? That was practically unheard of.

“Why are you awake?” Aiden asked curiously.

Skylar laughed awkwardly. “Oh, no reason. But uh, you and papa want coffee and tea, right? I’ll make it and bring it up.”

“Wait, Sky—” he started, but she’d already turned him around and put all of her weight, which wasn’t much considering she was a thin fourteen-year-old, and tried to shove him back up the stairs.

“Oh, don’t worry! You just go sit with papa and I’ll bring it up. I know how you guys drink it, so up you go,” she interrupted.

Aiden wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but from the sounds in the kitchen, he had a feeling Thea and Violet were doing something. He figured he’d leave them to it. “If I smell anything burning, I’m coming down before the smoke detectors go off.”

“What would make you think we’re doing anything?” Skylar asked, not giving him a chance to answer. “Now, go on, go on, I’ll bring up the mugs.”

Aiden found himself reentering their bedroom with no mugs and feeling distinctly more confused than he had before. He shook his head and simply slid back into bed. Kellen shifted and said, “That was fast.”

“Uh, actually Sky said that she’d make the coffee and tea and bring it up for us,” Aiden said, still feeling uncertain.

Kellen blinked open his eyes. “Really?” he deadpanned in disbelief. He paused for a second. “Any idea what they’re doing down there?”

“Hopefully not setting themselves on fire,” Aiden mused. He didn’t smell any smoke, so that was a good start.

“Thea’s seventeen now, so I’m sure she’s watching them,” Kellen said, although he still sounded worried himself. “Do any of them know how to actually make the coffee?”

Aiden shrugged. “I guess we’ll see.” He kept an ear out for the girls, but leaned in close to Kellen, tracing over his chest and stomach in small circles like he’d been doing before. Kellen smiled at his ministrations, throwing an arm over his eyes and relaxing back into the pillows.

There was a knock a few minutes later, causing Aiden to straighten up. Kellen rubbed a hand over his eyes as Skylar opened the door with a nervous smile. She reached down to grab the two mugs in either hand and kicked open the door open wider, entering quickly.

“Tea for papa,” she said, handing Kellen the mug as he sat up on his elbow, thanking her. “And coffee for dad. I tried to make them right.”

Kellen took a sip and made a noise, blinking like there was alcohol in that tea. “Whoa, that’s sweet. Okay, I’m awake now.”

Skylar gave him a sheepish look, messing with her long black ponytail. “I just put sugar in there. I didn’t know how much you liked? Is it bad?”

“No, not bad,” Kellen said carefully. “But wow, yeah, this is all the sugar for me today.”

Aiden was almost nervous to taste his own coffee, but it looked normal enough. He took a sip slowly. It wasn’t full of sugar, although he tasted much more of the flavored creamer that he liked than actual coffee.

“Oh, I knew you liked that, so I just dumped a whole bunch in. How is it?” Skylar asked hopefully.

“Tastes just like hazelnuts,” Aiden said truthfully. “Sky, is everything okay downstairs?”

“Of course! Why would there be anything wrong downstairs? Just, uh, drink those and I’ll be back in a little while. Don’t come down,” she said sternly while trying to keep smiling. Skylar slowly backed out of the room, shutting the door behind her. Aiden could hear her footsteps as she ran down the stairs.

Kellen sat up more fully. “Aiden, I’ve been spoiled by the way you make my tea,” he joked. “Here, let me try your coffee.”

They traded cups. Aiden almost choked at the taste of pure sugar basically overriding the herbal flavors Kellen liked. Kellen nodded at the coffee though. “I’d drink this, you know, if I liked coffee.”

Aiden rolled his eyes. “It’s mostly creamer. I can’t even taste the coffee.”

“Exactly,” Kellen said with a chuckle. He placed their mugs on the nightstand and got up. “I’ll dump these to spare some feelings. Plus, I need to pee before any smoke alarms go off,” he said teasingly.

It stayed quiet for a while. Skylar asked them not to go downstairs, but it had been at least half an hour and Aiden honestly wished he’d stocked up on granola bars or something in his nightstand. He knew Kellen heard his stomach growl from his position laying atop Aiden while they watched SportsCenter on low.

“I’m sure they won’t be too much longer,” Kellen said, sounding like he was falling asleep again without his tea to help him wake.

Aiden let his fingers scrape up Kellen’s back and shoulders, watching the brunette hum in pleasure and snuggle into him. “I can wait to eat, but I think if they take any longer, you’ll be asleep again.”

“I’m definitely awake,” Kellen murmured completely unconvincingly.

Aiden patted his back. “Come on, up. Let’s go see what they’ve done and get you moving.”

Kellen wrapped his arms tightly around Aiden’s middle. “Noooo,” he whined. “Aiden, you’re so comfortable.”

“If you had one of those body pillows, you wouldn’t even know the difference,” Aiden said in amusement, although he didn’t move yet.

Kellen got up heavily, like it took a lot of work. He rubbed his eyes to meet Aiden’s gaze. “Trust me when I say that there’s no one like you, honey,” he said seriously, kissing Aiden fiercely on the lips.

Aiden moaned into it, his breath hitching as Kellen sat his weight atop him. The brunette pulled back with a teasing smile. “By the way, I did actually try using a pillow when you were gone for baseball. I still ended up with insomnia for the first week you were gone.”

Aiden kissed him again with a smile on his lips. He should have expected as much, to be honest. He also should have expected that the moment that they kissed the girls would call from downstairs.

Kellen chuckled. “We should have kissed like half an hour ago. I bet they would have called us earlier.” He rolled off of Aiden, stretching and yawning.

Aiden led the way downstairs, unsure of what they should be expecting when they turned the corner to their little dining table and kitchen. His eyes widened at the five plates set out, the dishes of waffles, eggs, toast, and bacon in the middle, and the various fruit toppings set around in whatever free space there was left.

The girls were standing by their chairs, smiling. “Surprise,” they said together, not all at the same time, but the spirit was there.

Kellen frowned. “We didn’t miss a birthday, did we? It’s July…”

“No, we got those,” Aiden wondered to himself. “School’s over for now too… our anniversary passed…”

“Yeah, but this is our anniversary,” Thea said, interrupting them. When they both remained silent, unsure of what she was talking about, she gave them a smile. “It’s the ten-year anniversary of when you adopted us.”

“We know we don’t normally celebrate or anything, but well,” Skylar started bashfully.

“We wanted a way to show you how happy we are that you’re our parents,” Violet finished for her bluntly as ever.

Thea nodded at her sisters. “We love you guys. So, we uh, tried to make breakfast. I think it turned out pretty well, even though it’s not too pretty…”

“It only took us so long because we burnt some things and had to clean up. Bacon grease is hard to clean,” Violet said, her eyes flicking to the sink where the dishes were drying nearby.

Aiden smiled at them. The girls had a way about them that made his heart feel full, a skill Kellen had mastered a long time ago as well. “Girls, you didn’t have to,” Aiden said, unable to stop the wide smile from gracing his face.

“This is so sweet,” Kellen said with a fond smile. “And aw, it’s so cute that you’re just like your dad—making not too pretty food.”

Aiden still felt the same pride in his chest at being compared to his daughters as he felt ten years ago when they first welcomed these three into their home. He couldn’t believe that it had been ten years. It felt like just a second ago when little seven-year-old Thea beamed at the prospect of having her own room, when Violet had gone with Kellen to the store for her first bookshelf, when Skylar had latched onto them for attention every time that they entered the room.

A sense of melancholy hit Aiden in the chest. He missed it when the girls were younger sometimes, and he just knew that it would be difficult to let go of Thea when she went to college in a year. It had been ten years with these three girls and looking at them now, Aiden knew he was so lucky to have them in his life. He and Kellen both were.

Kellen grabbed his hand, giving him a small smile to show that he understood. “Come here girls, we want hugs,” Kellen requested cheerfully.

The food was actually pretty good. It was loud as the five of them ate, reaching around each other, passing dishes around, and talking over one another.

Aiden wouldn’t have it any other way. He watched as the girls took it upon themselves to clean up too, sitting back with Kellen while they took their dishes and leftovers to the kitchen.

“They’re so grown up now,” Kellen said quietly, grabbing Aiden’s hand.

“Do you miss it? When they were little?” Aiden asked him.

Kellen hummed. “Of course, I do. But this is pretty great too, don’t you think? Seeing them grow up has been amazing, and I’m glad that we’re part of that.” He nudged Aiden lightly, his gaze trained on Skylar, who was trying in vain to reach the upper shelf to put the syrup away.

“They love us a lot,” Aiden observed. Thea took the bottle from her sister and did it. She requested Skylar wash a few dishes as payment. Violet busied herself with handling the leftovers, wisely not getting involved with the dish situation. “What are we going to do when they move out?”

“We’ll be okay,” Kellen said surely. “It’s another four years at least until Skylar moves out, and you’ll always have your kids that you coach, just like I’ll always have my studio. But even without all that, we’ll always have each other.”

Aiden looked to him, cracking a smile. “Hey, when all the kids move out, we’ll have the house to ourselves again.”

Kellen chuckled. “It’ll be quiet. But even when it’s quiet, I like it when I’m with you.”

“We’ll have to turn some music on and dance in the evenings,” Aiden said, giving Kellen a short peck on the lips.

“You’ve got it,” Kellen responded, sitting up when a few dishes clanged together and Skylar started yelling at her sister. “But for now, it looks like they still need us at least a little bit.”

He got up to go help the girls, holding out his hand for Aiden to take. Aiden smiled up at him, grabbing his hand to return to the kitchen with all the noise and life that was their family.

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