The Man I Love

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Family Night

It was nice to be back home. As amazing as it was to throw a ball at 90 miles an hour, to hear the roar of the crowd and the chanting from the stands, and to breathe in the freshly cut grass or slide into a base, there was no better feeling than having a nice lazy morning in bed, Kellen right beside him.

Until the man’s alarm rang on his phone and Kellen groaned like a dying man.

“It’s earlyyyy,” Kellen whined, even while reaching over to turn it off.

“What time iz’it?” Aiden mumbled without opening his eyes.

Kellen breathed out like it took a lot of effort. “Early,” he pouted. Despite the complaining, he still hauled himself into a sitting position. He sat for a few seconds, taking it slowly and sighing like he’d love nothing more than to sleep for another few hours. Aiden heard him huff and stand, shuffling quietly. He could hear the man yawn widely too as he made his way to the bathroom, shutting the door with only a whisper of noise.

Sometimes Aiden wished that Kellen didn’t have to work so hard. It would have been nice to sleep in with him instead of being woken up by an alarm, although it was heartening that Kellen at least enjoyed his work. And that he cared enough about Olivia and B to make sure that they had a day off here and there by coming in as often as he could.

Aiden dozed while he listened to Kellen move around his apartment. The domesticity made him feel warm and comfortable as Kellen messed with the shower, humming lowly during his morning routine.

Even so early, there was always music in everything Kellen did. Aiden assumed Kellen thought he was quiet enough, and he hadn’t corrected the man. He liked the humming; it was lively and homey, filling the place with the low thrum of his voice.

It was sappy, he knew. It was probably sappy to feel so comfortable hearing the way Kellen made himself at home too, but Aiden couldn’t have cared less when he curled up into his bed, pulling the covers back over him as Kellen hummed some song lowly, trying to be quiet.

It had only been four days since Aiden had returned—and since Kellen had started coming to Aiden’s place to spend his evenings after work. This apartment that stayed empty most of the year was suddenly full of life with his boyfriend there with him.

Aiden blinked his eyes open when he felt Kellen kiss him on his temple and push his hair back. “I’ve got to go, hun,” Kellen said quietly.

Aiden hummed and opened his eyes to see Kellen standing over him with a fond smile on his face. “You’ll be back tonight?” Aiden asked, his voice scratchy.

“As always,” Kellen assured him. “We’re seeing your family tonight too, so I’ll definitely be on time.” He leaned in to give Aiden a kiss on the cheek, chuckling. “Get some more rest, honey. Love you.”

Aiden couldn’t help but to smile at the man’s soft voice. “Love you too, baby.”

Kellen gave him one more pat on the back, running his blunt nails down Aiden’s spine before he was out the door in a rush, leaving Aiden in the silence once again. After that, it was pretty much impossible to get back to sleep, no matter how early it was. Instead of staring at his phone mindlessly, Aiden sat up heavily with a wide yawn.

Now that the season was over, he didn’t have much to do during the days. Sometimes he went to the gym, others he sat at home cleaning or just catching up on shows he liked. Aiden’s favorite days by far were the ones where he went to visit Kellen, where he basically became an honorary employee of Kick Up Your Heels.

Olivia usually put him to work cleaning or helping her with basic math. B sometimes taught him some simple ballet moves, which required a surprising amount of stamina. If Kellen wasn’t teaching, he would show Aiden hip-hop or classical dancing.

It made Aiden wonder what it would be like if he really was retired. He wasn’t planning on such a drastic move yet, but sometimes, the thoughts hit him.

Thoughts about finishing his work and going to see Kellen. Or picking up his boyfriend to have dinner somewhere. Aiden thought about what job he would do too. It would be something he enjoyed, maybe something still related to baseball. Maybe Kellen could visit him sometimes then.

The thought made Aiden smile as he went around the apartment, making the bed, cleaning up, and doing a little baking for the hell of it. Everything he made may have been ugly, but it was all edible. Kellen found it endlessly amusing when his train wreck food actually tasted good.

That was how Aiden ended up humming to himself in the kitchen, frosting some of the ugliest cupcakes out there. Really, he was frosting something closer to a pile of cupcake tops and crumbs, but it would look fine with frosting on top.

It would have looked fine anyway if Aiden hadn’t accidentally squeezed out a bunch of frosting when a pair of hands landed on his hips.

“Sorry,” Kellen apologized from behind him, his voice full of barely contained laughter. “I thought you heard me.”

“You so didn’t,” Aiden said, a hand to his heart to ask it to calm back down. He hadn’t even realized that it had been so long, but the autumn light was definitely waning.

Kellen chuckled, resting his chin on Aiden’s shoulder. The way Kellen was able to comfortably rest himself against Aiden’s back was a perk of having a boyfriend a couple inches taller. Of course, Aiden also loved plastering himself against Kellen, so height didn’t really matter. Especially as Kellen wrapped his arms around Aiden’s stomach softly.

“So, these look great,” Kellen said with a chuckle.

Aiden just smeared some frosting on the man’s cheek and squeezed the rest on top of the cupcake mess. “Well, my brothers are animals anyway, so they’ll eat it,” he said with an affirming nod.

He turned around in Kellen’s arms, leaning against the counter and pulling the man in to kiss him hello. Kellen smiled widely. “Sweet as sugar,” Kellen said with that smile still on his face. “So, we’ve done whipped cream in the bedroom. Are we moving to frosting next?”

Aiden raised his eyebrow in amusement, although he did have a moment where he thought about licking that frosting right off of the man’s cheek. “And what’s up with you today? You sound a little excitable.” He patted Kellen’s chest, trying to get him to calm down from whatever had him riled up.

Kellen actually blushed. Aiden had seen Kellen blush tons of times at compliments or when they were both tearing each other’s clothing off, but it had been a long time since he’d seen the man blush with no provocation at all.

“It’s stupid,” Kellen prefaced it with, smiling widely. “But, ah, you know how Nikki is in my Saturday class for hip-hop?”

Aiden nodded. His niece did Kellen’s hip-hop class on Saturdays and B’s ballet class on Tuesdays. She also had started doing Kellen’s classical dance class on Thursdays, intent on using all of her time on extra-curricular activities.

Well, she was only eight and she had about as much energy as Kellen, so it wasn’t like she lacked the time or the stamina. Aiden was more concerned about his brother and sister-in-law, both of whom were thrilled that Aiden was back if only so that he could drop off and pick up Nikki.

Kellen shuffled his feet, going on. “Well, when we started dating, you know she switched from calling me Mr. K to just Kellen. I guess she wasn’t thinking about it today and she called me ‘Uncle Kellen.’” Kellen was smiling lightheartedly.

“That’s not stupid,” Aiden said with a chuckle. “That’s adorable. What did she do after that?”

“She got embarrassed and apologized. She said she knew I wasn’t her uncle until we get married. She seemed pretty confident about us getting married by the way,” Kellen added with a hearty laugh. “Anyway, Nikki told me that she liked having me around like her Uncle Aiden and Uncle Isaac and kind of started thinking of me like another uncle. And I guess she sort of made me think about being married to you and having her for a niece and it made me happy.”

Aiden gave him a fond smile. He pulled his excitable boyfriend toward him for a long kiss, the idea of Nikki calling the man her uncle crossing his mind. There was a sort of permanence to it that made his heart beat quicker and that evidently made Kellen happy too.

He might have continued kissing Kellen all night when he reached up to touch his boyfriend’s cheek and frosting smeared all over his hand. Aiden could see the interested look in Kellen’s eyes right away and shook his head with a laugh, “If we start messing with the frosting now, we’ll both end up looking like a hot mess when we see my family.”

“I don’t know, I don’t think we’d make that big of a mess,” Kellen quipped lightly.

“Not from the frosting,” Aiden responded, unintentionally lowering his voice. “I doubt ten minutes together would use up all your energy tonight anyway.”

Kellen only laughed. “You’ll have to help me unwind later then,” he said easily, punctuating it with a quick kiss to Aiden’s cheek. “You have to admit that it would be hilarious to see your brothers’ reactions if we showed up looking like a mess though,” he said with another bark of laughter. “Oh, I’m going to have so much fun bothering them tonight.”

Aiden was pretty sure that his two brothers never would have survived if they’d been related to Kellen. As it was, Kellen masterfully found ways to mess with them even when Aiden wasn’t there.

It had the side effect of making his boyfriend friends with his siblings and their partners, but Aiden knew that Kellen mostly did it because he never got tired of reminding them that he was dating Aiden. Plus, he found it funny when they got flustered. It was no wonder Maia and Rory were so mischievous.

“I’m just going to clean up quickly and I’ll be ready,” Kellen said, practically skipping over to the bathroom.

Aiden shook his head in amusement. He still didn’t understand how a man who was dead to the world when he slept and who complained about waking up each and every morning could have so much energy. It was endearing, not to mention useful when it came to dealing with Aiden’s family.

The second they arrived at Ian’s place, Aiden was caught up in a hug with his oldest brother. “Aiden, it’s so good to see you,” the dark-haired man said, smiling happily.

“He missed you so much,” Letta, his wife, put in from beside him.

“Letta!” Ian whined as Letta went to wrap Aiden in a hug. She hugged him lightly, but her thin arms fooled no one; she was one tough woman. She reminded Aiden of his own mother, who was the sweetest woman with the force of a hurricane when she needed it.

“Did he complain to you?” Aiden asked the brunette woman jokingly.

She waved him off casually. “Oh, all the time. Of course, then Nikki would say that she missed you and I’d be here comforting them both,” she added with a teasing look to her husband.

“We’re so rubbing off on Letta,” a new voice said as Lyla, Isaac’s girlfriend, entered the room. The shorter woman gave Aiden a hug hello, her ponytail swishing. “I think we’ve corrupted her.”

Letta smacked the woman lightly with a stern look, making Ian smile.

“I think it was Kellen and Lyla. They’re clearly the biggest troublemakers,” Isaac put in as he walked up to give Aiden a hug. He was the only blonde of the group, his hair matching their mother’s.

Kellen put his hands up in surrender, stepping out from behind Aiden. “Hey, I’ll admit I get together with your girls from time to time. But that just means that they tell me all kinds of things about you.”

The comment made both Ian and Isaac freeze while Kellen had to work hard not to laugh. He turned to Aiden with a hand over his mouth. “Aiden, it’s so easy. It’s only been like fifteen seconds and I already got them.” He leaned on Aiden as he laughed, a relaxed gesture that made Aiden feel too warm even as the air outside was getting colder.

Letta laughed under her breath, pushing Kellen toward the kitchen. “Come on, you can put that dish in here. I’m guessing Aiden made it?”

Kellen only laughed harder at the assumption she made just by looking at the destruction on a plate that they were still calling cupcakes. Aiden rolled his eyes fondly as they stepped away, Lyla following behind.

“Wait, did you really tell him things?” Isaac called to her.

Lyla only shrugged and said, “Who knows?” with a wide smile on her face. She spun on her feet to follow the others into the kitchen. That was Lyla alright: goofy and a lover of jokes, even at her longtime boyfriend’s expense. She cared for him though, just like he cared for her. The family had a series of bets running on if they would ever get married or if the two of them were both too free spirited.

Aiden was left with his two older brothers, both of whom still looked slightly scared about what Kellen may or may not know.

“Whatever they tell him, he doesn’t tell me. If that makes you feel better,” Aiden quipped. He honestly had no desire to know what those three talked about if it had anything to do with his brothers. He really didn’t need those types of details. Kellen reassured him that Lyla, Letta, and even Olivia and B, were all sworn to secrecy about him though, which he hoped they stuck to.

“I still maintain that your boyfriend scares me,” Isaac said in mock seriousness.

Ian shrugged. “Well, he’ll probably be around for the rest of our lives, so I’m sure we’ll be desensitized at some point.”

Aiden knew they were teasing, but the easy acceptance they had for Kellen never failed to make his heart beat faster.

His parents were the same way. The moment Aiden stepped into the kitchen, he could see his father giving Kellen a calm hug hello. Aiden smiled at the sight.

His father, the man who had a hard time accepting that Aiden was dating a man, had come a long way in the past almost-year. He actually had managed to become friends with Kellen, asking him about his dancing and bringing over food when Kellen was incapacitated with a migraine. It helped that Kellen had given Aiden’s parents a special dance lesson for their anniversary.

Aiden’s mother didn’t need any of that to warm up to Kellen though. She’d loved him the moment Aiden had told her that he loved the man, calling Kellen his sweetheart every time they spoke. She probably would have given him another hug if she hadn’t spotted Aiden.

“Sweetie, there you are,” she said happily, her blonde hair swishing as she stepped over to wrap Aiden in a strong hug that belied her thin frame. As always, Aiden relaxed in her hold. His mother may have been shorter and smaller than him now, but her hugs would always be just as strong and loving.

“Hey, mom,” Aiden said with a wide smile. He greeted his dad in turn as the man pulled him in for a strong hug, patting him on the shoulder.

“My son, back again,” his dad said by way of greeting. “I wish we could have seen you when you came down for Kellen’s birthday.”

“Yeah, you should have told us about that by the way,” Isaac said as he idly inspected the cupcake mess on the counter.

Aiden gave him a curious look, noticing the way Kellen rolled his eyes. “You remember, Aiden,” Kellen prompted. “These two got weird,” he said, indicating Ian and Isaac, both of whom looked away in embarrassment.

Now Aiden remembered. Long story short, his two brothers thought Kellen had been cheating on him when they saw the marks on his chest and back. Kellen had set them both straight instantly, but Aiden had still been annoyed by the whole thing.

That same annoyed look must have been on his face as Isaac defended, “Hey, you could have avoided that if you told us.”

Kellen just stepped over to Aiden and kissed him on the cheek. “It’s alright, hun. They just wanted to protect you.” He’d said the same thing to Aiden the first time they talked about it, which made him feel just a little better.

Nikki helped with that too. The little girl bounded in happily, jumping into Aiden’s arms for him to swing her around. He set her down as she gave him a cheerful, “Uncle Aiden!”

“Hey, Nic,” he said with a smile. “Did you know that your dad and Uncle Isaac are dorks?”

“Yeah,” she said much too easily, making Isaac laugh and putting this affronted look on her dad’s face.

“But I’m your dad, Nikki,” Ian tried.

Nikki wisely didn’t answer, although Letta had to work not to laugh. The little girl finally took mercy on her dad and said, “You’re totally cool, dad, don’t worry.”

Aiden wasn’t sure about whether she was joking or not, but he was pretty sure that Ian would never be able to catch a break when Nikki got older. He could barely handle her when she was eight.

The little girl gave Kellen a smile to say hello, probably still feeling awkward about calling him her uncle earlier.

“Hey again, kiddo,” Kellen said easily, not giving her even a second to feel uncomfortable. “How about we show your parents some moves I’ve been teaching you?”

That helped her relax. Kellen cheered her on with every successful move and twirled her for a few more. Aiden couldn’t help but to think about some point in the future when they had their own daughter and Kellen could teach her to dance.

If, he corrected in his own head. He was starting to get a little ahead of himself.

Sure, he and Kellen had discussed adoption, but that was still a long way away. Aiden would want Kellen to be Nikki’s uncle first before they were anyone’s parents, which meant being married to him, which meant—

“You look happy to be back,” his mother said, interrupting his train of thought.

Aiden smiled down at her. “I am. Long distance is a lot harder than I thought,” he murmured, looking back at Kellen as the man tried to show Ian a few moves so he could dance with his daughter. If Ian was trying to prove to Nikki and Letta that he was cool, his clumsy dancing certainly wasn’t the way to do it.

Aiden turned back to his mom with a fond smile lingering on his face. “Kellen’s worth it though.”

She patted his hand happily. “I’m glad. I was worried about you for so long, you know. Worried that you’d never accept yourself, that you’d never let yourself experience all the love I know you’re capable of.” She looked back at Kellen too, smiling at Kellen’s easy corrections for Ian. “But you don’t know how happy this makes me to see you boys together.”

His mother had known about Aiden’s relationship with Kellen even in high school. But she had never said anything. She stayed quiet about it for seven years until Aiden finally came out to her on his own terms. If there was one person who deserved all the happiness in the world, Aiden was sure that it was his mom.

“Kellen fits in here really well,” she added. “Your father has warmed up to him nicely.”

Aiden chuckled under his breath. “Nikki has too. Called him ‘uncle’ by accident today.”

His mother clapped her hands together happily. “Oh my gosh, that’s adorable,” she cooed.

“Don’t make her feel awkward about it though,” he warned, smiling at her reaction. It was the same reaction Kellen had.

She only waved him off. “Did I ever embarrass you when you were a kid?”

Aiden didn’t even need to think about it. “Yes,” he laughed. “Don’t you remember that time I flipped over a fence during a game and you ran over to see if I was okay?” At the time, it had been embarrassing to have everyone watching his mom rush over. Looking back, Aiden could see how much his mother had been worried about him.

“Hey, that was justified,” she said easily, laughing too. “You were lying there without moving after slamming your stomach into an iron fence. There were bruises on you for weeks!” she insisted. “Your dad told me I shouldn’t do it though.”

“I think you embarrassed Isaac worse when you yelled at him in front of his girlfriend. If that makes you feel better,” Aiden mused.

She laughed beneath her hand. “Oh, I remember that! The one who tried to sneak in and got punched by Ian when you screamed! At least Kellen always got the right window when he climbed in, but I’ve got to tell you: even though I knew you were seeing him, I never knew he was there.”

“We… had a lot of practice,” Aiden said cryptically, unwilling to enlighten his mother on just how many times Kellen had snuck up into his window.

She patted his arm. “I’ll take your word for it. Here, help me get the food set up. Jacob, you help too!” It was almost sweet to see the way his dad still smiled at his mom when he walked into the kitchen with her. Aiden smiled fondly; that was what he wanted out of his future marriage.

It was hard to stop smiling throughout dinner. The group of them were always so full of life, loudly making a fuss whenever they were all together. Aiden found it comforting to be surrounded by them again, holding onto Kellen’s hand as they all tried to talk over one another.

Aiden squeezed the man’s hand. He didn’t know why he did it, but he just felt the need to be close to his boyfriend. When Kellen gave him a questioning look, he kissed Kellen deeply, pulling back with a smile when he saw the mischievous look on Kellen’s face.

“Like what you see?” Kellen joked.

“I always do,” Aiden responded bashfully, low enough that the others couldn’t hear him.

Kellen patted Aiden’s thigh softly. “You sweet talker. I’ll bet I’m not so great to look at when I’m half dead in the mornings.”

“Hey, you barely awake and not showered yet is just as sexy as you ripping my pants off,” Aiden said playfully, yet seriously.

Kellen gave him an interested look. If Kellen kept his hand on Aiden’s thigh for the rest of the night, idly drumming his fingers with the music that practically thrummed through his blood, then no one needed to know.

They also didn’t need to know what Kellen did with Aiden when the two of them got home later that night. Suffice to say, Aiden finally wore down Kellen in the best way possible.

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