Authors: Amylea Lyn
He only has one pair of jeans and two shirts. I want him to feel like he belongs, and celebrating his birthday will help. He needs a lot more stuff!”
Jake shrugged. “Sounds good. Let me go change out of these sweaty clothes and we’ll go. We could make a day out of it and go to dinner, too.”
Aiden beamed and jumped up to hug his thoughtful lover. “That’s a great idea.” He nuzzled into Jake’s warm neck. “You smell so good. All hot and
masculine,” he murmured, nipping the skin over Jake’s jumping pulse.
Jake laughed. “You may like my smell, but I don’t think others will. Sweaty man smell is only hot on pro-athletes.”
Aiden pulled back and pouted playfully. “Fine, I guess I’ll make this sacrifice for the delicate nature of society’s sense of smell. But only this once.”
“Thanks, baby,” Jake grinned, pulling Aiden’s pouting lip into his mouth. The kiss was slow and languid, but all consuming. So much so that neither heard that someone had walked into the room until a small cough brought them apart.
Pulling back, Aiden saw a very red Cael standing in the
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doorway to the kitchen, shuffling uncomfortably.
“Cael,” Aiden said with a smile. Cael grinned back sheepishly.
“Sorry,” he mumbled, a light blush running across those high cheekbones. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“No big,” Jake replied, walking over and patting the kid on the back. “I need to get changed before we go anyway.”
“Go?” Cael asked, looking between the two of them.
“We’re going somewhere?”
Aiden motioned for Jake to go before answering Cael’s question. “Yeah, we need to do some grocery shopping and pick up some other stuff. We figured we’d do that then go get some dinner. That sound okay to you?”
“Okay,” Cael replied, but he sounded kind of nervous.
Aiden knew he was still worried about his attacker being on the loose.
Aiden walked over and placed a comforting hand on Cael’s shoulder. “Cael, Jake and I don’t want you to be afraid. Max hasn’t been seen in the area in the whole time he’s been on the run. Plus, either Jake or I will be with you the whole time we’re shopping, okay?”
Cael nodded. “Okay, sorry. I know it seems silly that I’m scared.”
“No,” Aiden said, wrapping an arm around the small shoulders and giving Cael a loose hug. “He hurt you,
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and you have every right to be scared. Just know that Jake and I won’t let anything happen to you, not if we can help it.”
Cael smiled, relaxing. “I know, thanks. For everything, you know?”
Aiden smiled back. “I know. Now go grab your shoes; I’ll yell at Jake to hurry, and we’ll go.”
The ride to the store was rather quick, with Jake in the driver's seat singing at the top of his lungs to every song he knew the radio and making up words to the ones he didn’t. Cael was in the backseat, laughing so hard at the lyrics that he was holding his sides in pain. Aiden just shook his head, grinning. At least Jake wasn’t dancing, too; he normally did whenever the radio came on. Then again, with the way he was bouncing in his seat, one could beg to differ.
Inside the store, Cael stuck close, but as Aiden started asking him ideas for dinner ingredients, he slowly started to relax and have fun. Jake kept trying to sneak junk food in the cart; every time Aiden and Cael turned around there were donuts, cookies, candy, and cake mix.
Well, the cake mix was actually for Aiden, but he pretended he didn’t know how it got in the cart and kept it. Cael didn’t seem to notice.
Finally, Aiden sent Jake and Cael to go look at some shirts and pants for Cael while he said he needed to use the restroom. Instead, he went to the electronics department and looked over their options in music players.
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He finally decided on a ten gig iPod; that way he could get a gift card for the music store as well. Purchase done, he hunted down his two companions, finding them in the shoe department where Jake was insisting Cael pick out a new pair of tennis shoes to buy.
“It’s too much,” the kid was insisting, motioning toward the cart loaded with T-shirts, a couple long-sleeved shirts, pants, a few hoodies, socks, underwear, and a belt.
“They’re necessities,” Jake argued. “You need new clothes, and you need new shoes. We’re getting them.”
“You might as well agree with him, Cael,” Aiden cut in, before Cael could argue more. “He’s incredibly bullheaded when he wants something. There’s no arguing with him.” Jake just nodded, looking smug.
Cael glared at the two of them for a moment, then slowly smiled. “Fine, I want the ones with blue.”
“Good choice,” Jake declared, picking up a pair of size sevens and tossing them in the cart. “Now on to the beauty supplies!” Cael and Aiden shared a look as Jake took off, driving the cart like a race car through the crowd of shoppers.
After loading up on deodorant, toothpaste, and soap, they decided on sandwiches from the deli for dinner.
Cael was eager to get home and draw in his new sketchbooks.
Walking out, munching on their sandwiches, they were being loud and teasing each other when Cael suddenly
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“Cael?” Aiden asked. He followed Cael’s gaze to the side of the building, where an old man was sitting, huddled against the cool October air, looking both hungry and ashamed as he caught their eyes and looked away. The man was most likely homeless.
Cael began walking toward him. Aiden tried to call out, but Cael didn’t seem to hear him. Aiden had no choice but to follow him. Jake stayed put with the cart.
“Here,” Cael said, holding out the last half of his sandwich. The old man looked up, startled, then at the sandwich Cael held out. Ever so slowly, the old man reached out and took it.
Cael squatted down in front of the man, seeming to study him, but Cael’s eyes were blank. “Go home,” he whispered, low enough that no one but Aiden and the old man could hear. “They’ll forgive you. They miss you.” He rummaged in his pocket, pulling out a couple of quarters. “Call them, they’re looking for you…it’s time to go home.”
With that, he stood up and started walking back to Jake and the car. Aiden was stunned. He was sure he looked as surprised as the old man did, who looked down at the money and half-eaten sandwich with tears in his eyes.
Aiden slowly walked back toward the car, completely confused. Maybe Cael knew the man from his time on the street, but that didn’t seem likely. Other than saying what he did, Cael had done nothing to make Aiden believe he actually knew the older man. It was
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“What was all that about?” Jake asked, watching Cael walk ahead of them, humming some song Aiden had never heard.
Aiden just shrugged. “I have no clue.” He shook his head, deciding to think on it later when he was alone.
“Come on,” he said, injecting cheer into his voice.
“Let’s get this stuff loaded and into the car and home before all our ice cream melts.”
Jake gave him a look that said they would be talking about this later, then pushed the cart up ahead to Cael.
“Come on kid, if we let His Majesty’s mint ice cream melt, he’ll beat us,” Jake said in a loud whisper.
Cael giggled. “It might be worth it so he doesn’t eat that nasty stuff. Nothing edible should come in that color of green,” he whispered back in the same teasing tone. He turned back to Aiden with a mischievous look. He acted as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Maybe Aiden was just overreacting.
“Hey!” Aiden yelled in fake indignation. “I’ll have you know that I’ve been eating mint ice cream since before you were born!”
Jake laughed. “Way to age yourself, Doc.” Cael burst into a fit of giggles. Aiden chased them the rest of the way to the car.
Pulling out of the parking space, he glanced behind them back to the building, just in time to see the old homeless
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man shuffle over to the bank of payphones by the big cart return at the front of the store.
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Aiden heard the garage door open just as he was putting the final candle on the German chocolate cake he’d made for Cael’s birthday. He’d sent Cael and Jake out for pizza, claiming he was craving meat and red sauce.
He’d also sent them to pick him up some shampoo and light bulbs. He’s called them again after he was pretty sure they had left the store already, saying he also needed a new pair of hand tools for his garden. Jake had acted exasperated, but Aiden knew he was in on the scheme.
Cael hadn’t said anything all day about it being his birthday; neither had Aiden and Jake. Jake had been near bursting all day; the man was completely incapable of keeping a secret, but Aiden had insisted. He wanted Cael to know that they cared about him and wanted everything to be a surprise.
Aiden couldn’t wait for Cael to see the presents they had bought for him. Jake had the great idea that along with the iPod, they should get Cael some more art supplies since he liked drawing so much. Jake had found an easel at a second-hand furniture store and picked up six different sizes of canvases, acrylic paints and a complete set of art brushes. There was also a gift card for the art supply store, so Cael could get whatever supplies he wanted.
All the gifts were wrapped and waiting on the kitchen table next to the cake, except the easel, which was hidden in the basement since it was too big to wrap.
“We’re home,” Jake called, coming through the garage
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“In here,” Aiden replied, nearly bouncing with anticipation. Jake sauntered in with everything needed from the store, followed closely by Cael, who was carrying the two boxes of pizza.
He froze in the doorway, eyes going wide.
Aiden and Jake smiled at him.
“Happy birthday Cael!” they called out in unison. Poor Cael was so shocked he actually dropped the pizza boxes, jumping when they landed with a
on the floor.
“W-what…?” he stuttered, staring at the pile of presents on the table with disbelief. Jake walked over to pick up the pizza while Aiden wrapped an arm around Cael’s shoulders.
“Did you think we didn’t know?” Aiden asked, leading Cael over to a chair at the table and making him sit.
Cael shrugged. “I didn’t think it mattered. You both have already done so much…”
“Bullshit!” Jake declared, setting paper plates and forks on the table. “You’re important to us. We do what we do
’cause we want to. We want to celebrate your birthday with you. We like you Cael; your birthday is important because you’re important.”
Cael blushed, but he was smiling with pleasure. “Thank you,” he said happily.
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“You’re welcome! Now open your presents so we can eat!” Jake said, shoving one of the smaller packages toward him.
Cael smiled, slowly unwrapping the gift, not tearing into the paper like other nineteen year olds might. Setting it to the side, he looked at the iPod with undisguised happiness.
“I’ve never had one of these,” he said. He picked up the gift card that had been wrapped with it.
“That’s so you can go online and buy some of your favorite songs. It’s fifty bucks worth.” Aiden explained.
Cael’s entire face lit up.
“Next!” Jake declared, pushing the wrapped canvases toward him. Cael laughed happily and unwrapped these gifts just as carefully as the first.
“Oh,” he whispered, staring at the six different sized canvases with awe.
“I think you’ll need these, too,” Aiden said, pushing over the wrapped paints and brushes.
“Wow, oh wow!” Cael kept whispering over and over, staring in shock at everything in front of him.
“Wait…” Jake said, jumping up and rushing out of the room. Aiden didn’t even think Cael noticed.
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Jake rushed back into the room carrying the easel. “If you’re going to have all the supplies, you’re going to need something to paint on.”
Cael stared at the easel for a long moment, then burst into tears.
Jake and Aiden shared a long look. What had they done wrong? Aiden held up his hand for Jake to give him a moment and knelt next to Cael’s chair.
“Cael?” he asked. “What’s wrong? Is it too much? We didn’t mean to upset you we just wanted to give you a real birthday.”
“It’s not that,” Cael hiccupped, looking up with tear-filled eyes. “I’ve haven’t had a birthday present since my parents died. It’s just…” He took a deep breath to try and calm himself. “What am I going to do with it all when I leave? I can’t take it with me.”
Until that moment, Aiden hadn’t realized that Cael thought he was going to have to leave. But really, why wouldn’t he? Neither he nor Jake had ever offered to let the kid stay past when it was safe and Max Haring had finally been caught. Also, they hadn’t mentioned the growing feelings between the three of them. Damn, they really screwed up on this one.
“Cael,” Aiden said, rubbing a soothing hand over Cael’s back. “You don’t have to go anywhere. When Max is finally captured and everything is safe, Jake and I were going to offer you a place to stay. We know you don’t have anywhere to go, and we want to help.”
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“I don’t want pity,” Cael replied, a defiant look in his wet eyes.
Aiden shook his head. “We weren’t offering any. We want you here, with us. We already feel like you’re a part of our family.”
“Really? You want me to stay?” Cael asked, looking back and forth between Aiden and Jake; both men nodded. “But what if I make you angry?”
Aiden was about to answer, but Jake beat him to it.
“Doesn’t matter, we’d never kick you out. Aiden and I argue all the time, doesn’t mean we don’t care for each other. The only way you’re going to leave is if you want to.”
Aiden nodded. “That’s right, but we’d really like it if you stayed.”
Cael shook his head. “You guys are too good to be true.
There’s got to be a catch; there’s always a catch. People aren’t this nice for nothing.”