Aiden made a face, looking down at the cards in his hand and back up at the center of the table. Cautiously, he placed his own card, leaning back. The eyes of his family stared at him from around the table.
Nikki paused before he slapped down her own card. “Draw four, dad,” she said proudly.
Ian groaned. “My own daughter,” he said dramatically, even while grabbing his own cards.
“Oh, suck it up,” Isaac shot back.
“Yeah, we all know who’s losing,” Lyla teased, eyeing the huge hand of cards Isaac had been forced to draw.
“I’m coming back from this. Underdog story,” Isaac assured them, easily finding a card to place down from the pile he was holding.
Kellen rolled his eyes at their antics, smiling from his spot beside Aiden. “This is what you guys do the weekend after Thanksgiving? Is this like an annual thing?”
“It’s more of a ‘occupy some time’ kind of thing,” Isaac joked. “What, have you done anything better?”
“No,” Kellen said simply. “Thanksgivings are awkward at my house.” He shook his head placing his own card down. “I get to see my grandparents, who are cool, but then my stepdad’s parents come down and… ugh.”
Aiden didn’t blame the man for putting it like that. He’d gone down with Kellen the day before Thanksgiving to see his family, and ended up meeting Maia’s and Rory’s grandparents while he was there. They treated Kellen like he didn’t exist, barely even acknowledging him at all. Kellen took it in stride, but Maia looked ready to do battle. Aiden had been right behind her.
“That bad?” Letta asked with a concerned frown. Her single card was on the table. She was close to victory and everyone was eyeing her.
“Let’s just say that I’m glad you guys didn’t mind me being here,” Kellen said easily. “Blue five…” he murmured, checking his cards.
Aiden saw his mother looking at Kellen in concern. She looked like she wanted to reach over and give him a hug. Aiden understood the feeling; Kellen’s family loved him, but his whole family situation was just so different than Aiden’s had been.
“Glad to have you here, Kellen,” Aiden’s dad said, adjusting Nikki on his lap.
Kellen gave him a grateful smile, looking tired from the migraine he’d had the day before. Luckily, it had only lasted throughout the day and not overnight, but that didn’t make it any easier for Kellen to deal with.
Aiden placed another card down, turning his head when the doorbell rang. They were gathered in his apartment that weekend, all of the people Aiden knew currently with him. He couldn’t think of anyone else who would come to see him, maybe besides Olivia and B.
“I’ll go. Jacob, watch my card,” Letta said, handing her single card to Aiden’s dad. He guarded it zealously from Nikki’s and Ian’s prying eyes.
Lyla made her move when Letta walked back in, a small frown on her face. “Um, Kellen. It’s for you actually.”
Aiden was sure that it had to be Olivia and B then, so he wasn’t expecting the visitors who appeared from behind Letta.
“Maia, Rory,” Kellen said in surprise, immediately getting up to greet them. “What are you two doing here?” Aiden could see the worried tension in Kellen’s shoulders.
His two sisters had guilty looks on their faces. Maia took a breath as if to prepare herself. “So… it wasn’t my fault.”
“So, it definitely was,” Rory added unhelpfully.
“You made it worse too!” Maia shot back, looking like a riled-up cat.
Rory rocked back on her feet. “Yeah, but you started it! You just had to yell.”
“Of course, I did! They were being fucking assholes—”
“Okay, okay, Maia,” Kellen admonished with his hands up as if to ward her off. “What happened?”
Maia went silent, but her face was red and she was looking anywhere but at her brother. “I may have… yelled at grandpa and grandma. And called them some… unkind things. And then I may have cried in my room when dad yelled at me and may have climbed out the window.” She scuffed her foot on the floor, looking down in embarrassment.
“I definitely followed after her,” Rory finished, looking much less guilty than her sister, although she still wouldn’t meet Kellen’s eyes. “We took a bus, if you’re wondering.”
Kellen huffed like the short conversation had tired him out. Instead of berating them for running off, he only said softly, “Come here,” and gathered the both of them up into a hug. They each clung onto him, holding tightly.
Aiden cleared his throat at the silence that had descended upon the rest of them. “Kellen’s sisters,” he explained shortly.
“His sisters,” Nikki mirrored, watching curiously.
Kellen released his two sisters, clearly checking them over to be sure they were at least physically okay. “Well, I guess now you know why I used to get into screaming matches with mom. Is that what happened with your grandma and grandpa?”
Maia nodded shortly, frowning. “They were being jerks… I was right,” she pleaded, trying to make him understand.
Rory nodded along emphatically. “You should have heard what they said,” she added quietly. Despite Rory’s usually calm personality, it was clear that she was angry too.
Aiden was aware of his family listening in. Ian raised an eyebrow. “Kellen used to have screaming matches with his mom? I… can’t imagine it,” he whispered.
“I can,” Isaac said dryly. “You ever hear him yell, Aiden?”
Aiden hummed. “Not… in the context you’re asking about.” His brothers may have been more or less used to Kellen making teasing comments, but they definitely had no idea what to do when Aiden jumped in on it.
“Oh, good one, Aiden,” Maia interrupted, laughing at the look on Isaac’s face that said he clearly regretted his question.
“Did Kellen yell at you? You got in trouble,” Rory teased in a singsong voice, pointing at Isaac.
Kellen shook his head fondly, a smile gracing his features. “Okay, Metzler’s: these are my sisters, Maia and Rory.”
“I’m the older one,” Maia said cheerfully.
“Which you have to say because you’re short,” Rory taunted.
Maia looked like she was ready to do battle, but Kellen but his hand in between them. “Hey, enough. You two—” He frowned when his phone vibrated, pulling it out to check. “Mom’s texting.”
“We’re dead,” Rory supplied with a frown, looking truly nervous for the first time that night.
“Lie, please,” Maia begged, putting her hands together as if in prayer.
“Well, she needs to know that you’re here,” Kellen said to the two of them. “Besides, you’re probably already dead, Maia.” He gave her a sympathetic look. “But I can help you out if you tell me what happened,” he finished in an understanding voice.
Maia groaned, hiding her face in her hands. “I don’t even know if I remember it all.”
“I’ll fill in the gaps,” Rory said simply. “You were… loud. I heard it all.”
Maia looked even more embarrassed, if that was possible. Kellen nodded at the two of them. “Okay one of you let mom know you’re here. She’s worried. Uh, Aiden, we’ll talk in your room, okay?”
“No problem,” Aiden said. He got smiles and waves from both of Kellen’s sisters right before Kellen herded them out of the room. It was suddenly quiet again once the bedroom door shut.
“They seem… animated,” Ian mused. “Have you met them before, Aiden?”
“Sure, at Kellen’s birthday. They’re good kids. They love Kellen more than anyone, I’m pretty sure,” he said with a little smile.
“Does Kellen love them more than you?” Nikki asked with a curious frown.
Aiden chuckled. “We might be tied on that,” he responded. “Come on, Nic, your turn.”
They got back into the groove of playing, Aiden playing Kellen’s hand for him. He knew the others were just as curious about what happened with Maia and Rory as Aiden was, but they only had to wait about twenty minutes before Rory emerged again, a tiny frown on her face.
She covered up the frown pretty quickly upon seeing everyone, immediately shooting over to Aiden to give him a hug hello. Her smaller form was dwarfed by him, but the girl knew how to give a good hug. “Sorry for the trouble, Aiden,” she said with an apologetic smile.
“It’s not a problem, Rory. You and Maia are always welcome,” he said kindly to her. “Here, play Kellen’s hand for me.”
She sat next to him excitedly, introducing herself to the others. Nikki kept looking over to her, finally asking, “So, you’re Kellen’s sister?”
“That’s me,” Rory said with a wide smile. It reminded Aiden of Kellen’s. “And you’re Aiden’s cute little niece?”
Nikki smiled at the little compliment. “I guess that’s me. But… you’re a lot younger than Kellen is,” she added with an interested frown.
Rory nodded, watching Isaac place his card down. “Kellen is about ten years older than me. So, he takes care of me.”
Nikki took in the information, nodding to herself. After Rory placed a card, and Aiden did his, Nikki turned to her parents. “Mom, dad, can I please have a brother or a sister?”
Aiden felt a little bad for Letta, who sighed at the question. “Sweetie,” Letta said, composing herself, “your father and I don’t have any plans to have another baby.”
“But why not? Then I could take care of the baby,” Nikki said with a pout.
“Nikki,” Ian said softly, “babies are a lot of work. Especially for your mom, who has to actually have them.”
Rory leaned over Aiden to whisper something in Nikki’s ear. When she sat, Nikki’s next question was, “How about a dog?”
Ian gave Rory an unimpressed look. The younger girl only shrugged. “I got her down from baby to dog. You’re welcome. Oh, I’ve only got two cards left,” she said with a smile, thankfully shifting the conversation.
Aiden didn’t know how the conversation got to the point where his mother joked, “Oh, I always wanted a daughter,” but by that point, he was getting a little worried about Kellen and Maia.
He must have looked in the direction of his bedroom one too many times, since Rory nudged him and got up. “Aiden and I are going to check on those two.” He hadn’t expected her to include him, but he got up anyway, eyeing his brothers who were staring at his unguarded cards.
Kellen spared him a glance and a sad smile when he and Rory stepped in, focusing back on Maia who was crying to herself. She sniffed and picked up whatever she had been saying, “They were just being terrible and I couldn’t take it. I-I know I shouldn’t have yelled—I mean they’re my grandparents—but I couldn’t help it. I don’t like it when people say things like that. And then, and then, and then…” she sniffed heartily, more tears pouring out, “and then what if Rory or me is gay or bi or asexual or whatever and they hate us too? That’s not right.”
“Maia, your grandparents don’t like me for a lot more than that I’m bi,” Kellen said gently.
“But all of that is stupid too!” she said emphatically. “I don’t care that we don’t have the same dad. I don’t understand why other people care.” Her shoulders slumped heavily as she wiped her eyes suddenly.
Rory gestured for Aiden to sit next to Maia, standing in front of Maia herself. “I don’t get it either,” the little brunette said, “but I guess we’re supposed to be respectful anyway?”
“Even to people who don’t deserve it?” Maia mumbled.
“Even then,” Kellen said surely, patting Maia on the head. “Maia, if I got mad about every little thing mom or your grandparents or other people have said to me, then I’d still be that angry seventeen-year-old kid who didn’t want to come home to face mom.” He looked up to Aiden with a tiny smile. “Not that it wasn’t fun watching Aiden practice when I was avoiding her, but I don’t want you two to ruin your relationship with your family just because of me.”
Maia sniffed. “But… they shouldn’t be like this. It’s like they want us to choose between you and them. I know you and dad aren’t close, but he didn’t say anything to defend you.”
“Maia, it’s hard for people to argue with their parents. Well, most people,” Kellen responded with a shrug. “Your parents are good people, Maia. Maybe they can be a little bit set in their ways, but they love you.”
Maia didn’t seem to know what to say, thinking with a pout. Rory remained silent too. Aiden swallowed, taking a chance as he nudged Maia to get her to look at him. “Did you know that my dad was a little weird when I came out to him?”
“He was? But he seems so nice,” Rory mused, tilting her head in confusion.
“Exactly,” Aiden reassured her. “I love him so much, and it hurt when he had a hard time accepting me at first. But just because he needed some time doesn’t mean that he’s a bad person. Just like every mistake your parents and grandparents make doesn’t mean they’re bad people.”
Maia was looking up at him with big eyes that were red-rimmed with tears. Aiden felt himself flush in embarrassment, especially when Kellen shot him a proud look.
“But… are we wrong?” Maia asked desperately.
“Well… I mean, I don’t think your intentions are wrong,” Aiden started, thinking about how to phrase this, “but yelling at people doesn’t usually help.”
Kellen nodded along. “You girls have big hearts, and you don’t know how happy it makes me that you love me so much. But when you’re right, you’re right. You don’t always need to say it so everyone hears.” He leaned forward to pull Rory close, hugging Rory with one arm and Maia with the other. “I love you girls too.”
Aiden watched the moment with a small smile. He didn’t know what he should be doing, but Maia solved that problem for him. The girl jumped over to give Aiden a huge hug, wrapping her thin arms around his neck. “Thanks, Aiden,” she murmured.
“O-oh, I didn’t do anything,” Aiden stammered as she leaned back, wiping her eyes.
“You’re already basically my brother-in-law, so you’re part of the family too,” she said flippantly. “Not that you’d want to be part of our family after this display.” Her face heated up in embarrassment. “Your family must think I’m a basket case.”
“No, they’re super nice! Aiden’s niece thinks we’re so great that she wants a sibling too,” Rory said with a wide smile.
Kellen raised his eyebrows. Aiden shrugged at him with an “I’ll tell you later” look.
Maia wiped her eyes again. “We’re going to be in so much trouble. Especially me.”
Kellen pushed her hair behind her ears. “I’ll try my best to help you out. You two can stay here tonight though. Aiden had a guest room.” He looked to Aiden pleadingly.
“You know you don’t have to ask, Kellen,” Aiden said with an amused smile. “You practically live here already, and I love your sisters.”
“You’re living here?” both girls said at the same time, their heads swiveling to Kellen so fast that Aiden worried for their necks.
Kellen held his hands up in a surrender gesture. “Hey, hey, relax. I just spend most evenings here when Aiden’s in town.”
“And that’s not basically living together?” Maia asked, giving her brother a disbelieving look.
Kellen didn’t seem to know what to say. Aiden chose not to mention that Kellen had clothing and a spare toothbrush at his place, along with the fact that the man knew where everything was, and that the two of them had established a domestic routine long ago.
“Just go out there and Aiden and I will make sure the guest room is set up for you two,” Kellen settled on, gently pushing his two sisters away.
“Here, I’ll introduce you to them. Aiden’s mom already loves us,” Rory said, grabbing her sister.
“B-but my eyes are red!” Maia protested nervously. “They’ll know I was crying.”
“I’m sure they already know,” Rory responded without a care in the world, dragging Maia out of the room.
Kellen let out a tired breath and fell backward on the bed. Aiden chuckled at him and patted his chest, lying down beside him. “You okay?” he asked.
Kellen breathed out. “I hate to see them so upset. Sometimes I feel guilty that those two get in so much trouble because they’re defending me.”
“They do it because they love you,” Aiden said simply. “You’re worth it, you know.” He rubbed his hand up and down Kellen’s chest in the same soothing way the man usually did for him, eventually resting it over the other man’s heart.
The gesture earned him a smile as Kellen turned so his eyes met Aiden’s. “It was nice to hear you talk about your dad.”
Aiden smiled at the compliment. “I’m surprised I said the right thing.” They were both silent for another moment, up until Aiden took a breath and said, “So, uh, I know they’re your sisters, but for a second there, it kind of felt a little like we could be like… dads together.”
Kellen leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. “We could have daughters. How many do you want?”
“Three?” Kellen laughed. “Did you just pick that randomly, or…?”
“I don’t know, I like three. I have two other siblings. You have two other siblings. It’s a good number,” Aiden justified.
Kellen was smiling beautifully now. “If any of them are like Maia and Rory, I think we’ll have our work cut out for us. I… didn’t even think about how much time we spend here, or that you spend at my place.” His voice had gone soft as he looked to Aiden.
Aiden gulped at the soft look in the man’s eyes, his brown hair mussed up. “Me neither. You think it counts as moving in if I’m gone so much?”
Kellen shrugged awkwardly from his position lying down. “I don’t know. All I know is that I’m comfortable with you, and that if we want to figure out the whole moving in thing, we can take our time.”
“Maybe we could look for our own place. Like, uh, instead of me moving into your place or you moving into mine, we could find another place. Together,” Aiden added, his face feeling much too hot.
Kellen answered him with a deep kiss, his hand brushing over Aiden’s chest just enough to make him shiver. “I’d show you how much I like that idea later, but even if my sisters didn’t hear us, you’d never be able to keep a straight face with how much they like to mess with you.” He chuckled under his breath, giving Aiden a quick kiss on the cheek when Aiden’s ears went red just at the thought.
“We should get the guest room set up,” Kellen said, groaning when he pulled himself up.
Aiden sat up beside him, smiling fondly at Kellen’s reluctance to move. “Tired already?”
“You relax me. That’s all your fault,” Kellen responded, leaning in to kiss him more deeply for just a moment. He got up and held out a hand for Aiden. “Let’s go make sure my sisters haven’t killed your brothers.”
They hadn’t, but they had taught Nikki a few things that made Ian look tired. Aiden smiled at the scene. Maia said it was like he was part of their family. It felt like those two girls were part of his family too. He looked over to Kellen, smiling at the thought of making it more official some day soon.