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Aug 15, 2020 1:38 PM
'Chelledad rescues a Nova
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"Shh," Aaren soothes gently, tucking her in, and leaning down to kiss her forehead. "I got you, Sparky, just sleep, okay?"

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"Mmm," she hums, a smile stretching over her lips, looking nothing so much as peaceful. "Love you, Dad."

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"Love you too, Sparky."

He pauses, and shifts to lift the other side of the bed covers. "C'mon, Jitterbug," Aaren encourages. "Bed for you too."

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Lan smiles, and kisses Aaren's cheek as he slides into bed. "Night, Dad."

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"Sleep well, guys," Aaren says, finishing tucking Lan in.

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Nova's loitering in the doorway, looking...almost wistful, at how Aaren is being so gentle with Lan and 'Chelle and-

(And he wants that. He's never had anyone treat him like that in his life.)

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Aaren steps out the door, and smiles gently at Nova, before turning to pull the door gently closed, getting stuck for a moment just smiling at his two elder kids before he finally closes it. Then he turns to Nova, and catches sight of his expression.

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For half-a-heartbeat before Nova manages to blank his face, scared that his selfish desire for feeling as safe as 'Chelle and Lan obviously did with Aaren with...someone has been noticed.

He shouldn't want this. He won't get it.

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Aaren thinks for a moment. "Sweetheart?" he says carefully, and waits until he's sure he has Nova's attention. (Not that that is really something that's hard to be sure of, he's fairly sure he has nearly all of Nova's attention whenever he's moving in his vicinity.)

"I'm going to start by saying: you are not obligated to say yes, you are fully welcome to say no, I will not be angry, alright?"

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"I- as you say, sir?"

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He hopes that Nova will actually answer honestly, won't just say 'yes', and that if he does just agree, Aaren can read that from him.

"I would...like to give you a hug. If you would like a hug that is?"

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"I- um- uh, if you- want?"

(Nova seems very, very confused.)

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Aaren doesn't move to hug him, more concerned. "What's confusing you?"

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"I, um...what's a- I don't- a hug? sir?"

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Aaren takes a careful breath. "A hug is when you put your arms around someone, with the intent of...providing comfort, or affection. I can find you a dictionary definition if you want, but...it's always been. More of a feeling to me. You've seen me and 'Chelle, and me and Lan do it. And I suppose 'Chelle and Lan have kind of been existing in a semi-permanent hug like they normally do..."

He pauses. "Does that make sense?"

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"I- um- yes? Sir? I- I think. Thank you for- being patient, and- explaining it to me."

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"Of course I was, Nova. If someone doesn't know something you explain it. That's how it is here. And you don't ridicule them for not knowing. Okay?"

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Nova nods slowly. ...Maybe that's why Aaren wasn't...taking his due. Maybe he didn't know- (Nova didn't want to tell him.)

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Aaren gives Nova a moment to finish mulling that over.

"So. Would you like to try a hug? Still no obligation to say yes. Entirely your choice, and I will not be angry if you say no."

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Nova is still, obviously mulling that decision over in his head. After a moment he gives a tiny, very hesitant nod.

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"Alright," Aaren keeps his voice low and soothing. "I'm going to step a little closer to you."

And he does. He gently narrates and clearly telegraphs his moves until he is close enough to wrap his arms loosely around Nova. He warns him before he touches him, gives him a moment to process it, and then does just that. "There we go," he says gently, resting one hand very briefly in the back of Nova's head. "You're okay."

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And- he is. He feels- warm in a way that has nothing to do with heat. Feels the alien sensation of safety and comfort, even if he still can't identify them. (Feels selfish that he wishes this could last, that he wishes he could've had this instead of what he got, even if he knew he didn't deserve this.)

He can't quite bring himself to hug Aaren back, but does lean very slightly into him for a moment.

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Aaren waits until he feels Nova half start to pull away to step clear of his personal space. "Thank you for letting me show you that. I'm honoured." (He can tell that just confuses Nova more, and maybe he'll explain, one day, just how proud Aaren felt in the moment Nova trusted him enough to let him hug him for the first time.)

"Now head to bed, alright? Sleep well?"

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"I, um. Yes, sir. G'night. Uh. Sleep well-"

Nova starts into the room they'd shown him.

"I- uh, thank you. For. Showing me."

And, instead of waiting to see the response, he darts into his room, and trusts that he's at least allowed to shut the door.

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Aaren smiles fondly at the two doors, and then heads into his own room, sending off a text to Ange to find out if she's still awake. He could do with a council of war to figure out exactly what he was saying to Lan and 'Chelle about their drinking tomorrow. And also to enthuse down the phone about getting to hug Nova, and all the tiny little smiles Aaren had noticed over the day.

Tomorrow will be stressful, and he doesn't know what the future might hold, but today was good, and all three of his kids are tucked up safe.

And for now? For now, Aaren will take that as a win.

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