And after that? It doesn’t matter.
As long as they’re together.
Today. That’s what Aaron and Simon are focused on as they try to plan the best birthday in the history of ever, all for the little boy who has quickly become their world. Even if that means dealing with too-tight costumes, a cape that won’t behave, a meddlesome family . . .
. . . and a past that won’t stay there.
“Was it because I said I was glad you were nervous? I only said that because I am too, and didn’t want to be all nervy alone.”
“No, no, I got that. No problem.” He shrugged, feeling like his arms were no longer under his control. “I was thinking about your smile,” he offered his date, wanting to give the man the truth but maybe not the whole truth.
Which was surprising, considering that he was usually all about the overshare.
“In a good way, right? Not in a creepy way?” Simon asked with mock fear on his face, and joined Aaron when he began laughing.
“What, like the Joker?” Aaron asked, thinking of the gruesome, stretched smile of Batman’s foe. “Why so serious, Simon?”
“Well, this night took a turn.”
“Yeah, that’s probably something you should know about me,” Aaron admitted, grimacing a little.
“What do you mean?”
“You might have noticed that, ahh, I have a tendency to, umm, you know, sort of, redirect conversations.”
“To killer clown smiles?”
“Honestly, it’s usually to sex. Or sex-adjacent.”
“Sex-adjacent?” Simon tilted his head with the question, clearly trying to figure out what he was talking about.
“Yeah, like sex jokes. Sex positions. Sex stories.” He tapped the front of his forehead. “I have a dirty mind.”
“I hope you’re not afraid to use it,” Simon countered, making it clear that the idea of Aaron’s dirty mind was not a problem in the slightest.
“I’m usually not. With you, though . . .” He trailed off again, taking a deep breath and committing to what his mind was trying to get his mouth to admit. “With you, I find myself wanting to say different things, in the hopes I won’t scare you off.”
“It takes more than a dirty mind to scare me off someone I like.”
“Any kind of lair is probably questionable. I mean, no one ever has a good lair; it’s always an evil one. People who hate puppies and like bell peppers are also on the no list.”
“Wait, that’s kind of specific. Hate puppies and like bell peppers? Like, if I hate both, or like both, I’m okay?”
“What if I love puppies, but also like bell peppers? Does that make me a no? I could learn to hate bell peppers for you.” Aaron opened his eyes with what he hoped was earnestness. Feigned earnestness, though, because he really didn’t like bell peppers.
“Well, if you’re willing to train yourself away from the vegetable that shall not be named—”
“The Voldemort of the vegetable drawer?” Aaron interrupted.
“Yes, exactly. So, if you’re going to commit to hating them, we might be okay.”
Aaron wiped pretend sweat away from his forehead and laughed. “Crisis averted.”