“It was a real pleasure having you two with us for the entire weekend,” Aidan’s father said, as they were both sitting on the porch, looking at the people passing by, a bit in a hurry after spending what must have been a lazy Sunday.
“And it was a pleasure for me to be here, and get to know you, Mr. Spark,” Heathcliff replied.
Joe waved. “Joe, please. We don’t do formal in this house too well.”
Heathcliff laughed. “Aidan struck me as preppy the first time I met him. I thought that was the result of a strict upbringing.”
Joe smiled. “Aidan struggled to get a good job. Or, should I say, what he thought to be a good job. He also thought that was part of the act. There are all these books he’s been reading. I guess he knows better now.”
“He is handsome. And looks great in a suit,” Heathcliff said, as he hurried to defend his lover.
“I wouldn’t contradict you. I want him to act more his age. All this struggle to appear more mature doesn’t become him. He has many other qualities.”
“That’s correct,” Heathcliff admitted.
“Heath, can I trust you to look after him? At least until he grows up a bit,” Joe said, placing one hand over Heathcliff’s forearm and looking him in the eyes. “You might have noticed that we had him late in life. We’re almost old enough to be his grandparents, not his parents.”
Heathcliff nodded. It wasn’t any of his business, but if Joe wanted to talk about that, he wouldn’t pretend he hadn’t noticed.
“That’s why we tended to be a little overbearing in raising him. For so many years, we tried to have a child, and, when he came to us, it was nothing short of a miracle. I’m sorry for burdening you with family history that doesn’t concern you.”
“There’s no burden. And I do believe every bit of family history should concern me since that is what we will be soon,” Heathcliff replied.
“That’s good. You are a good man, Heath, and I’m glad Aidan found you. I also trust you to let him spread his wings more than his mother and I. I realize that I’m asking you two contradicting things.”
“I think I understand completely where you’re coming from, Joe,” Heathcliff said. “And I want Aidan to grow and become the man he wants to be, too.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I really am,” Joe said. “Know that you two have our blessing, and that includes even letting Aidan take a few risks, now and then. Just pay no attention to what my wife wants to tell you. If it were up to her, Aidan would still be her baby.”
“And what do you mean by that?” Marianne asked, making both men turn into their seats. “Heath, make sure Aidan eats. He tends to skip meals when he’s focused on something.”
“That should be no problem,” Heathcliff replied with a smile. “Living healthy and teaching others to do that is, after all, my business.”
“I’m ready.” Aidan was the last to join them on the porch.
He had a small suitcase in his hand.
“Then we should be on our way? That’s all you’re taking with you?” Heathcliff asked, pointing at how light Aidan seemed to travel.
Aidan shrugged. “I thought about settling for only what’s really needed. Also, mom insisted on drying clean all my suits.”
“Good thinking. There won’t be much need for dressing formally for a while,” Heathcliff said.
“That’s what I thought.”
Aidan’s smile said everything that was left unsaid. Heathcliff stood up and stretched his hand; Aidan hurried to take it.
“It’s so good that you’re driving. The guy who brought me here must have taken his driving license in another universe. I’m glad I didn’t throw up even once on the way here,” Heathcliff joked.
“Did he drive too fast?” Aidan asked.
“Insanely. Well, it might have been my fault. I overpaid so that he could bring me here fast,” Heathcliff admitted.
“You don’t have to worry about that with me,” Aidan said. “We’ll make sure not to miss one stop. Did you hear that, mom and dad?” he added, louder this time, and turning toward his parents. “Heath, just tell them what a responsible driver I am.”
“He is responsibility incarnate behind the wheel,” Heathcliff said promptly. “One time, I noticed someone in their eighties driving past us. I think he could get a special prize for slow driving.”
Aidan scoffed and glared, but began laughing. “You don’t want me to get all fast and furious now, do you?”
“Of course not. I love you just the way you are. And don’t worry; your death metal playlist compensates for how slowly you’re driving,” Heathcliff joked again.
“Boys, have a safe trip back home.” Joe stood up and patted them both on the back.
Marianne came to embrace them, holding each tightly until Aidan had to protest that they really needed to go. Heathcliff looked at that family image and felt his heart grow in his chest. To think that not more than thirty-six hours ago, he had no idea how to get Aidan back except for throwing himself at him and begging.
Several months later
“Are you sure we have everything ready? There’s nothing missing? No one?”
“Aidan, relax. I thought all the wedding jitters had worn off already. This is our party, and we should enjoy it.”
Aidan stopped for a second and laughed. He leaned into Heathcliff’s shoulder and sighed deeply. “I can’t believe it’s done. I mean we said all the words, and, by the way, you really did go over that top with that vow – I mean, were you trying to make me feel bad or something?”
“Aidan, Aidan,” Heathcliff tried to stop the cascade of words pouring from Aidan’s mouth, “your vow was amazing, and I would never try to make you feel bad. Actually, all I want is to make you feel good.”
“My vow was amazing? I basically said a few lame things like how I would love you forever and blah-blah-blah. You didn’t tell me that you were going all romantic and stuff. Who were you trying to impress, really?”
Heathcliff pulled Aidan close and kissed him. “You. I was trying to impress you.”
“Really? All you have to do to impress me is to cook naked in the kitchen or something.”
“Is that something you’re into?” Heathcliff questioned his husband. He had to get used to that, although he had practiced in his mind for the last few months.
“I might,” Aidan said quickly and looked away. “But no,” he added right away. “There are knives and hot oil that could jump out of a pan or something. You know what? You should wear more clothes than usual when you cook. I can’t let you do that wearing nothing but shorts.”
“Aidan, you sound like your mother now. And I do remember quite distinctly that you prefer me half-naked in the kitchen. All right, I didn’t know you would want me completely naked, but I will think about it. Plus, I’m a master cook. Nothing scares me.”
“Well, that may be it, but I might be in the mood to jump you instead of thinking about food. Then we might end up burning the food, and then the kitchen might catch on fire --”
“All right, bunny boy,” Heathcliff stopped him. “I can see that you’re still nervous. What’s this all about?”
Aidan hesitated for a second, then looked around as if any of the guests might try to overhear him, only to let out a sigh and whisper something quickly into Heathcliff’s ear.
“So, isn’t it great news?”
“Are you trying to tell me that, on our wedding day, you were busy calculating numbers?”
“What? You’re not happy we’re breaking even?” Aidan asked.
Heathcliff rolled his eyes. “Obviously, I married a workaholic. I will have to keep you in bed more.”
“I wouldn’t mind that,” Aidan replied. “It’s been three days since we --” he stopped himself in time.
Isabel was walking over to them, like a small-scale hurricane on high heels. “You guys, the ceremony was awesome!” She jumped into their arms, managing somehow not to topple any of them in the process. “And wow, Heath, that declaration of love!”
“I know, right?” Aidan said. “Totally extra.”
“Totally,” Isabel confirmed.
Heathcliff made a face.
“Totally cute, I mean,” Isabel added quickly. “Seriously, my dudes, it was an awesome ceremony, and this is an even more awesome party. I doubt I’ve seen so many gorgeous looking people in one place. My smartphone might catch on fire, so many pics I’ve taken. Heath, do you think you would be very, very, very upset if I sold a few – not the raciest ones, of course – to tabloids? A girl must make a living.”
“Isabel!” Aidan exclaimed in shock.
Both Isabel and Heathcliff started laughing. “Oh, no, he called you Isabel, not Bella,” Heathcliff said. “This means something’s about to go down.”
“How do you know that?” Isabel questioned.
“Well, whenever Aidan wants to draw my attention, he calls me Heathcliff Stone, like he’s some grandmother ready to scold a ten-year-old.”
“It’s because of his mom,” Isabel said, nodding in agreement. “If you two ever have kids, he’ll be the annoying dad, I’m sure.”
“Are you two done talking about me in the third person while I’m standing right here?” Aidan asked.
“Almost,” Isabel replied promptly. “Heath, have I ever told you about Aidan’s first crush? It was a guy --”
“It’s official,” Aidan stopped her. “On my wedding day, I will be carried away in cuffs for killing my best friend in a fit of anger.”
“Who would you kill on your special day if not your bestie?” someone intervened into the conversation.
Heathcliff turned to find Michael staring at them with a huge grin on his face. Apparently, there was also someone else there with them, even if he stood a little behind. “Mikey, Jess, I thought you guys would be already busy setting the dance floor on fire.”
“Not just yet,” Michael said. “We thought about dragging you all there, too.”
“Just so that you can brag that your boyfriend is a danseur?” Heathcliff half-smiled.
“That, of course, but also to ramp up the entertainment around here. Don’t you think it’s getting a little stale? Jess, what do you think?”
Isabel began squealing, taking all of them by surprise. “O. M. G. Jess! You’re that Jess! I saw you in Swan Lake! What an incredible performance!”
“Since when do you watch ballet, Bella?” Aidan asked.
“Since I’m taking classes,” Isabel said brightly.
“Are you abandoning me for ballet? You know fitness is better for the heart and overall shape.” Heathcliff pretended to be brokenhearted, placing a hand over his chest.
“If you forget all about Heath’s videos for ballet, I can only condone your choice, young lady,” Jess said ceremoniously, while obviously barely keeping from laughing. “Come on, boys and girls, are you ready to party like it’s 1877?”
“1877?” Heath asked in wonder.
“Ballet jokes,” Michael explained quickly. “Come on; we promise you we’ll play it nicely while parents are still awake.”
“Hmm, sounds promising,” Isabel said, patting her cheek with her smartphone. “What will happen once the parents go to sleep?”
“Well,” Michael said with a huge smile on his face, “after that, you will all learn why Jess leaving my club was the biggest loss since I decided to change the cocktail menu and get rid of choices such as Sex on the Beach.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Isabel asked, more and more intrigued. “Aidan, help. These guys are taking advantage that I don’t know a thing about what they’re talking about.”
“Jess used to be a cage dancer at Michael’s club,” Aidan explained.
“No way!” Isabel exclaimed. “Are you going to do some striptease routine once all the old people are gone?”
“Young lady, don’t talk about us as old people,” Aidan’s mother chided Isabel, making them turn.
The parents were in full formation, much to Heathcliff’s content. They seemed to have hit it all quite well, and his mother, in particular, enjoyed being treated by everyone like she was a movie star. Apparently, everyone wanted to know who Heathcliff Stone’s mother was.
Max and Hope were struggling to keep all their kids in check, as they rushed to them. “Are we all here? Good,” Hope said quickly. “I have no idea how much time I can keep the kids from running around and toppling the cake.”
“Is there a plan for them to do that?” Heathcliff asked.
“It’s in the works,” Hope replied promptly. “Let’s say it would be good if you had a plan B in case they succeed.”
“Why do I feel like we’re under assault?” Heathcliff asked, looking around. “Not that I don’t love you all, guys, but you are pretty much into my and my husband’s hair like you want something.”
“Of course we want something,” Max said promptly. “It’s a group hug! And a group picture!”
“Haven’t we taken like a thousand already?” Heathcliff asked.
“So? What’s one more?”
Heathcliff shook his head and pulled Aidan closer. Aidan took him by surprise and grabbed him hard, then placed a wet sloppy kiss on his lips, making everyone cheer. Even through his closed eyelids, Heathcliff could tell all cameras were on them. Well, he couldn’t be mad. After all, he was in love, and, like all celebrities, had had a hot affair with his babysitter. The only difference was that he had married him, too.
And that's all folks! (yeah, Looney Tunes channeling through me) Thank you so much for coming on this journey with me, it's been a real pleasure to have you on board! I like to address special thanks to all of you who commented, reacted, got frustrated, all along the way. You're the best audience an author could hope for! Also, I want to say a big thank you to @Thorn Wilde for teaching me some intricacies of the English language - and how to write in the literary form - that I had no idea existed.
That said, I hope you liked the ending! Aidan and Heath take a deep bow, too, and hug you farewell! If you have the time and the inclination, please rate and review. It would mean a lot to me!