The Man I Love

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In a Few Years

Aiden’s first anniversary with Kellen coincided with the day he came out to his family. They went out for Chinese instead of eating it on the couch like they did the year before, but it didn’t matter to Aiden where they were. They could have been sitting on a park bench together huddled up to ward off the snow and Aiden was pretty sure his heart would still be beating out of his chest.

One year. They’d been together for one year. When they’d dated in high school, they’d broken up before they hit the year mark. It no longer made Aiden’s heart ache with guilt, but he still wondered what it would have been like to have made it to a year back then.

He wondered if it would have made his heart beat during easy conversation at dinner, or if it would have made his stomach rumble nervously, or if he would be weighing the pros and cons of making out with his boyfriend the second that they left the restaurant next to Kellen’s studio.

“You keep looking at me,” Kellen laughed as they walked slowly down the icy sidewalks, trying not to slip as the icy winds blew past them.

Somehow, Aiden had always associated Kellen with spring in his memories; that was when they met. But winter was when they got back together. The icy wind couldn’t put a damper on Aiden’s mood when he remembered that.

“I mean, you are nice to look at,” Aiden said with a cheesy smile.

Kellen rolled his eyes fondly and bumped his hip. “Oh, really? You’re sure that you’re not tired of me after a year?”

“I’m definitely sure,” Aiden responded immediately. He didn’t need even a second to think about it, his heart feeling big in his chest. His stomach flipped happily, if somewhat uncomfortably.

“Does your stomach hurt, hun?” Kellen asked in concern. “Did you have too much or is it not sitting well?”

For a second, Aiden thought Kellen had read his mind or something, but Aiden had just placed his hand on his stomach without thinking. “Oh, no, it’s not that. Just… my stomach’s been upset today.” He felt his ears flush in embarrassment as he admitted, “You know I’m not nervous around you anymore. But I don’t know, being with you for one year makes my stomach jump.”

He looked over to see Kellen smiling at him fondly now, a sweet smile on his face. Slowly, he backed Aiden up against the wall of the building next to them, gently pressing their bodies together underneath the light smattering of snow falling in the darkness.

Aiden could feel Kellen’s torso and stomach pressed against his as the man smiled happily, obviously unaware of the way Aiden’s stomach flipped again at their close contact. Or maybe he was perfectly aware from the way he leaned back to rest his hand over Aiden’s stomach soothingly.

“You’ve always had a nervous stomach,” Kellen said softly, kissing Aiden’s jaw. “You should have told me, hun. We could have stayed home and relaxed. You know I don’t care where we spend our time.”

“I know,” Aiden responded breathily, feeling too warm. He almost felt like he could feel Kellen’s hand through his coat. “But I think if we stayed home every time you made my stomach flip, then we’d never go out.”

Apparently, he’d said the right thing as Kellen wrapped his arms around Aiden’s neck, pressing them together more firmly. The snow started to settle on his head and shoulders, painting him with hues of white. Aiden could see the pleased look in the man’s eyes as Kellen gave him a sexy look. “Being with you makes me lightheaded,” Kellen said simply. “Do you know why?”

Aiden shook his head dumbly, enraptured by the man in front of him. Kellen hummed and went on, “Because you know just how to make me feel loved.” He kissed Aiden’s cheek, making Aiden shiver at the feeling of his cold nose.

He swallowed as Kellen leaned back. The only reason he didn’t pull the man in for another kiss was because he knew Kellen got cold easily and was probably already freezing in this weather. Plus, no matter how dark it was and how deserted the streets were, they were still in public.

“How’s your stomach, hun?” Kellen asked after a second, a tender look in his eyes.

“Better,” Aiden answered truthfully. “But, let’s go. Your nose is cold, and I’d like to make you feel loved with a lot less clothing on.”

Kellen laughed loudly, probably loudly enough to echo through the cold night. “We’d better get going then.” He grabbed Aiden’s hand, leading him away from the building surely, probably too surely.

Aiden figured that he’d distracted Kellen enough for the other man to forget that they were supposed to be walking slowly, which is how Kellen’s feet slipped out from under him after only about a step. Aiden heard his boyfriend yelp in surprise, falling backwards. Aiden wrapped his arms around Kellen to try and hold him up, but he didn’t have any traction either. He only ended up falling down right beside his boyfriend.

Aiden groaned at the cold, wet feeling under his butt. It felt like it had been a while since he’d fallen so spectacularly, his feet completely unsteady.

Kellen sat up shakily. The man only laughed loudly even as he tried to get his feet back underneath him. “Sorry,” he apologized, still laughing hysterically.

“Yeah, you sound sorry,” Aiden laughed back, struggling to get back on his feet. He helped Kellen up after him, unable to keep the smile off his face as Kellen kept laughing and slipping all over the ice.

They walked more carefully the rest of the way, slowly enough that Kellen’s nose was red by the time they made it to Aiden’s apartment. Aiden wasted no time in warming up his boyfriend with a deep kiss on the lips, pulling him close by the lapels on his jacket. Kellen’s hands moved quickly to unzip Aiden’s coat, one hand climbing up to Aiden’s neck—

Aiden yelped at the cold tingle of Kellen’s fingers. “Your hands are freezing!”

Kellen removed his hands, his eyes blown wide with lust and mirth. He hummed with a mischievous look in his eye. “Well then, until my hands warm up,” he started. He didn’t even need to finish the sentence as he put his hands behind his back purposely, giving Aiden a challenge.

It was impossible to resist. Aiden kissed Kellen forcefully, quickly unbuttoning the man’s coat. He nipped at his boyfriend’s neck, watching the way Kellen sighed contentedly, a low moan escaping from deep in his throat. He made sure to let his hands wander down Kellen’s chest and stomach teasingly, relishing in the way the man’s breath hitched.

Kellen grabbed onto the kitchen counter as Aiden backed him into it, swallowing heavily. He met Aiden’s eyes, saying nothing, but smirking in a way that made Aiden’s pants feel tight.

He ignored his own needs as he let his hands ghost over Kellen’s chest and stomach, reaching down to unbutton the brunette’s pants. “Think your hands will warm up by the time I’m done?” he asked, getting down onto his knees.

Kellen’s breath was coming in short gasps, his chest heaving in and out. His eyes watched as Aiden shoved his pants down. “I think you’ll be too hot to even notice by the time you’re done,” he responded, already sounding wrecked.

Aiden smirked, relishing in the way he could drive Kellen crazy with his mouth, or his hands, or even with just a gaze. Kellen’s face was flushed by the time Aiden stood to give him a kiss, the tension gone from his body.

“We should get out of these wet clothes,” Kellen mumbled, bringing his now-warm hands up to Aiden’s neck to pull him even closer. Those hands roamed over Aiden as he led Aiden into the bedroom, pushing Aiden onto the bed to straddle his hips.

Aiden swallowed in frustration as Kellen held onto his hips to stop him from bucking up. The brunette leaned down to kiss up his stomach, licking up his chest and over his muscles. Needless to say, Kellen could do more than make jokes with his mouth.

“You doing okay?” he asked Aiden, his hand reaching down to brush over Aiden’s jeans.

Aiden shuddered, unable to answer. Kellen smirked though, unbuttoning his pants and pulling them down for him. Aiden only had a second to feel relieved before Kellen had shucked off the rest of their clothing and pressed their bare skin together.

It was overwhelming. Aiden was pretty sure he saw white, and Kellen wasn’t in a much better state, practically jumping on Aiden again as soon as he was ready.

Aiden didn’t know how long they spent fooling around, but he did know that Kellen had relaxed next to them when they finished. “Happy anniversary, Aiden,” Kellen said, his chest rising and falling more calmly now.

Aiden smiled at him, feeling completely satisfied. “Happy anniversary, Kellen. We should do this again next year.”

Kellen hummed, his eyes obviously growing heavy. “Already planning next year?”

“That okay?” Aiden asked softly as he turned to rest atop Kellen’s chest, wrapping his arms around the man’s stomach.

When Kellen laughed under his breath, Aiden could feel the vibrations underneath his cheek. “More than okay,” he said quietly, yawning.

Aiden kissed him chastely on his smooth chest. “Go to sleep,” he commanded.

Kellen only hummed underneath his breath before his breathing evened out. Aiden tightened his arm around the man, already smiling at the thought of having a two-year anniversary.

A few months later, when Aiden had to say goodbye to Kellen at the beginning of the baseball season, they did the same thing. They took it slow that night though, relishing in their last night together in what would be months.

The next day, as always, it was heartbreaking to leave. Aiden doubted that he would ever get used to leaving the man he loved or only speaking to him from over the phone, but it wasn’t like he was unhappy. There was no other feeling in the world quite like stepping out onto the field and breathing in that freshly-cut grass smell, although Aiden was pretty sure that being with Kellen was just as exhilarating.

Aiden felt that excitement three months into baseball season, just from the thought of talking to Kellen that night. He had to stop himself from running back to his hotel room to get on the phone more quickly, yearning to hear the man’s voice.

With another baseball season, he’d more or less adjusted back to having a long-distance relationship as well as he could. That didn’t mean that he wasn’t looking forward to every phone call like a lovestruck teenager though.

Opening the door to his room, Aiden listened to the phone ring. Usually, Kellen picked up right away, but it took a while for him to take the call this time.

Aiden didn’t think anything of it until he heard Kellen say, “Hey, hun” in a voice that sounded strangled and suffused with false cheerfulness.

“What’s wrong?” Aiden asked immediately, his smile fading as his heart sunk in his chest.

“Why would you think something was wrong?” Kellen asked as innocently as someone who sounded seconds away from tears could.

“Kellen,” Aiden said firmly, shutting his door and slipping his shoes off. He dropped the food he’d brought on the bed carelessly, sitting heavily as he waited for his answer.

All he could hear was Kellen taking a shaky breath on the other line. When the man spoke next, his voice was higher than usual. “It’s… nothing. It shouldn’t bother me….” He sniffed, taking another deep breath. “I… I was at my mom’s today. She’s on a cleaning kick and wanted me to take whatever junk I still wanted.”

Kellen paused, probably composing himself. Every second made Aiden’s chest beat harder as he tried to be patient, listening worriedly.

“I found a box of my dad’s things. That’s okay. I knew she still had some of his old things there, but there was a stack of letters that I’d never seen before. I…” Kellen’s voice cracked as he tried to clear it. “The letters, uh, he wrote them when he was in the hospital. Just before he died.”

“Oh, Kellen,” Aiden breathed out. “You read the letters?” he prompted gently. His heart was breaking with every second. He knew Kellen’s dad had lived a few days after his accident, and had even been awake before his organs gave out, but he never would have imagined that the man had been capable of writing coherently.

Kellen sniffed, taking a few deep breaths. “Aiden, he wrote them to me. He… apologized for leaving me and my mom. I… I…”

There was a muffled sob on the other line, like Kellen was trying to be quiet. Aiden’s throat felt too tight as he listened to the man that he loved hold back sobs. His hands itched to hold Kellen, to wipe away the tears, to tell him that it would be okay.

As it was, all he could do was ask, “Kellen, can you Skype me?”

“You don’t want to see me cry,” Kellen said weakly.

“I want to see you,” Aiden refuted as softly as he could. If he couldn’t be with Kellen physically, he wanted the man to at least see that he was there.

Kellen sniffed. There was a shuffle on the other line. “Hold on, honey.”

That was all he said for a few minutes, shuffling around while Aiden grabbed his computer, turned it on, and opened Skype. He only had to wait another minute until Kellen was online and they were looking at one another.

Aiden hung up the phone, watching Kellen do the same. It was clear that Kellen had been rubbing his eyes with how red they were. He was clutching a letter in his hand, holding it almost reverently.

“Hey, hun,” Kellen said with a tiny smile.

“Kellen,” Aiden said, and that was all it took. It was painful to see Kellen take in a stuttering breath, trying not to cry and failing miserably. Kellen may have been the type to laugh loudly, but when he was in pain, he always attempted be as unobtrusive as possible.

Aiden watched as his boyfriend clamped a hand to his mouth and just sobbed. He repeated any encouraging words he could think of, not that he could remember what he said later.

The only thing he remembered vividly was messaging Olivia and B, begging them to check on Kellen. He didn’t even know what they said in response when he refocused on his boyfriend. It broke Aiden’s heart not to be able to be there as Kellen tried to compose himself.

“My mom was supposed to give me these when I was eighteen,” Kellen finally got out, not wiping his tears away anymore. “She said she… forgot.”

Aiden got the feeling that Kellen was struggling with being angry with his mom and being sad about his dad. “Your dad wrote them for you?” he asked softly.

Kellen nodded. “He… it’s… I don’t think I can…”

“Hey, hey, it’s alright,” Aiden reassured him. “You don’t have to tell me about them.”

Kellen looked down at the letter in his hands again, no longer paying any attention to the tear tracks on his cheeks. He sniffed and grabbed a tissue, placing the letter down almost as if it would break. “I just… I was supposed to read these when I was eighteen. I’m twenty-five. I feel so bad that I missed them…”

“Sweetheart, your dad wouldn’t be angry that you didn’t read them on time,” Aiden said surely, the pet name slipping out.

“I know… but I’ve missed him for so long and there were these letters and I could have read them and…” Kellen took a deep breath, his hands over his eyes.

Aiden could only sit there on the other line, giving Kellen whatever time he needed. The man was so distraught that he evidently didn’t hear the door to his apartment open. Aiden heard it though. He heard the footsteps too as Olivia came into the shot and wrapped her arms around Kellen tightly. Her black hair shone in the light, violet streaks standing out against her pale skin when she shifted.

It was slightly disorienting when B picked up the computer Kellen had been using so she was in the shot. “We’ll take care of him now, Aiden,” she said surely. She looked to the side where Olivia and Kellen were. Aiden could hear Olivia whispering encouragements in the background. “We’ll let you know how he’s doing. Sorry we can’t do more.”

“It’s okay, B,” Aiden said with a tiny smile. “Sorry for interrupting your evening.”

“It’s Kellen. It’s not an interruption,” she said without any hesitation. “Talk later.”

She shut the computer screen, cutting off their call. It was suddenly quiet. Aiden couldn’t get the sounds of Kellen’s sobs out of his head though. He didn’t even feel hungry or tired anymore; just sad. His heart felt heavy in his chest, so heavy that it was probably sitting somewhere in his stomach by now.

Aiden had the desire to run around, to do something, anything to feel like he was useful. His stomach twisted uncomfortably, but he ignored it, staring up at the ceiling with a frown.

That was all he did for about an hour before he got a message from Olivia: He’s okay. He fell asleep, but don’t worry, we’ll take care of him! She punctuated her message with a determined smiley face and a picture.

Aiden smiled sadly at the image of Kellen laid out on the couch, a blanket draped over him and a pillow under his head. His eyes were puffy and red, but his face looked relaxed as he slept. He’ll have a crick in his back if you let him sleep on the couch, he replied.

Hey, without you here, we can’t pick him up :/ well, actually, B might be able to, but we don’t want to wake him. He’s tall, you know?

I know. Thank you, Olivia.

No problem. Silly Kellen- he probably didn’t want to bother B and me.

Oh, sorry- was it a date night for you two?

Kellen had told Aiden a few months back that B and Olivia were currently dating. They were taking it extremely slow and had reassured Kellen that it wouldn’t get in the way of work, not that Kellen was concerned.

He was more than happy for them. They didn’t know it, but Kellen had been talking to Aiden about potentially hiring a part-time fourth person so that Olivia and B could take days off together without leaving him stranded.

His phone chimed again. Yup! But Kellen’s more important. He’s our best friend.

Aiden smiled down at his phone, giving Olivia a short goodbye and laying down to sleep. He probably would have been better off staying awake considering how poorly he ended up sleeping. When his phone rang in the middle of the night, he jolted awake, answering without looking at it first.

“Hello?” he asked quickly.

“Still awake? Aiden, you’ll be exhausted tomorrow,” Kellen’s voice said on the other line. The playful quality in his voice had returned, even if it sounded like his nose was stuffed up and that he could rest for a week and it still wouldn’t be enough.

“You don’t sound much better,” he tried to say lightly.

Kellen chuckled breathily. “I’m okay now, Aiden. B and Olivia took my bed, but I can’t sleep any more anyway. So now I’m wide awake to talk to you until you fall asleep.”

“Kellen, you need to rest too—”

“I’m awake enough. I want to talk to you, so are you laying down?” When he got Aiden’s affirmative, he went on, “Now, you just relax and I’ll do all the talking.”

Aiden had sort of intended to stay awake, just to listen to Kellen talk. But with Kellen’s low tenor in his ear, Aiden felt his eyelids droop heavily. He fell asleep to Kellen’s voice that night, waking up with his phone underneath him the next day.

There was a message from Kellen waiting for him: Hope you slept well, Aiden. Actually, I was wondering something. Would you maybe want to read the letters my dad wrote to me sometime? I know it’s personal and all that, but I don’t know, it feels heavy to carry the weight of my dad’s last words all by myself.

Aiden was touched that Kellen had even thought of letting him read those letters. Those were something his dad had left him; Aiden never expected to see them. I don’t want to intrude, Kellen. I want you to really think about this, okay? And maybe when I’m back there with you, we can read them together and you can tell me more about your dad.

He only got a response a little while later when Kellen was on a break from work, but it made him smile fondly. I’d like that. Thanks, hun, for putting up with me. Sometimes I feel like I’m that clingy boyfriend who always needs reassurance.

For one, there’s nothing wrong with that, Aiden started, and two, I’m pretty sure I’m definitely the sap in this relationship. You know my team teases me for blushing at my phone? And what’s worse is that you’re not even sending dirty messages ninety percent of the time.

There was a distinct pause, giving Aiden a second to shower. When he checked his phone again, he flushed at an image of Kellen’s chest and stomach, followed by the message: Did you blush?

You asshole, Aiden responded jokingly. His face still felt hot. You’re laughing now, aren’t you?

Oh, I love you, Aiden. And yes, I am. Because you make me smile too, you adorable, sexy man. You don’t know how much I love that after over a year together, you still blush at my messages. I like that you’re a romantic by the way.

Aiden couldn’t stop smiling. He was about to respond, but in the next instant, another message came in which had a pleasantly vivid description of a few other things Kellen liked. Aiden’s first thought was, You’re lucky that I’m in my room, but jeez, I’m going to need another shower after this.

Then I’d better let you get to it, which Aiden easily read in Kellen’s jokingly fond voice. Thanks for being there for me. I love you, Aiden.

No need for thanks. I love you too, Kellen. Go back to work.

But I have to pay bills todayyyy.

Aiden rolled his eyes, feeling lighter now that he knew Kellen was alright. It didn’t make him feel any less exhausted, or any better that he wasn’t there to give his boyfriend a big hug, but it did make him sure of one thing:

He wanted to be home with Kellen sometime soon, for both the good times and the bad. A few years then. In a few years then, he’d be there.

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