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Just a Little thing...

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It starts with an inch.

 

Of Aaron moving closer and closer to him every night, pressing his body tight against his.

 

Of waking up in the middle of the night from a nightmare and reaching out for their skin to connect;his breath only calming when Robert has his arms wrapped tightly around him.

 

It's innocent and sweet and a far cry from all that Aaron is when their bedroom isn't draped in darkness.

 

Robert loves that he's the only one to see it. Loves that he's able to care for him in a way he's probably have never been cared for before.

 

..

 

It continues with a business trip.

 

With Aaron taking his time to let Robert go before he can close the car door behind him.

 

With Aaron scowling at him when he teases him about how clingy he's being and that maybe he should dig out the huge teddy bear they won once.

 

It's only a joke and he doesn't expects him to, but two days later when he gets home a night early, arriving close to midnight, the stuffed animal is in their bed and Aaron has his face pressed into its soft head.

 

Robert smiles. Wants to take a picture to remember the moment forever but he knows Aaron would probably kill him for it.

 

..

 

It's Sunday and neither of them feel like dragging their tired selves from bed; both happily content where they are. Downstairs, Liv is playing music and talking on the phone it seems. Here, under the warm duvet, Robert's deep into yet another Stephen King book while Aaron flicks through his phone.

 

Until Aaron scoots forward, leans his head against his shoulder and asks with a small sigh: ”Wanna read to me?”

 

Robert can't help raising an eyebrow. ”What? This? Thought you didn't like it.”

 

Aaron shrugs. ”Dunno. Read and we'll see.”

 

Robert complies, doesn't really mind the idea at all. It's nice sitting like this, relishing in his husband's company without interruptions. He reads until his throat is sore and Aaron has almost drifted back to sleep.

 

He kisses his forehead. ”I think it's time for breakfast baby.” He halts, caught off guard by the new word that has slipped so easy past his lips, trying to figure out how it feels and where it came from. In the end, he decides it doesn't matter, just that he likes it.

 

”The last of the cocoa puffs are mine!” Aaron yells, throws the duvet to the side and jumps out of bed.

 

..

 

Aaron grunts when he comes home, toes off his muddy work boots in a hurry, leaving them in a right mess next to the door, ready for anyone to trip over.

 

Robert wants to reprimand him for it but when he sees him flopping down on the sofa with an annoyed wrinkle cut deep between his eyebrows, he bites his tongue.

 

”Mad day?” He taps on Aaron's thigh so he'll move and his legs shift heavily onto the floor.

 

”Yeah” Aaron sighs. ”I'm fucking knackered.”

 

”You really shouldn't swear so much with Liv in the house you know.”

 

Aaron stares at him, unimpressed. ”She's not here, is she? Besides, I'm too tired to care right now.”

 

”Want some lasagna?” Robert thinks a change in subject might be best. Aaron's mood always tends to be worse when he's hungry. ”Then after, I dare you to a game,” he says, glancing at the Xbox, hoping that might cheer him up.

 

”You're on.”

 

The plan is terrible Robert realizes when they're three matches into Fifa and Aaron is about to lose – again. Maybe he should have played nice, let him win, but Aaron would see right through him and his winner instincts are too strong.

 

”Fucking hell. This is a fucking piece of shit,” Aaron screams, throwing the control onto the coffee table where it lands with a crash before bouncing down to the floor.

 

”Oi!” Robert yells back. ”Easy yeah!”

 

Aaron has his arms folded across his chest, looking like an angry cloud. ”You're not the one who's lost three times in a row. This is shite!”

 

Even Robert has a limit. ”Go to bed Aaron. You've been sulking all evening, no matter what I've tried. Just go to bed and sleep it off!” he shouts angrily.

 

Shocked, Aaron stares at him like he's trying to figure out what to do or say. After a long pause he huffs and stomps upstairs.

 

He has shouted at him for far less, but he feels just as guilty. Maybe even more, because this time they weren't actually arguing about something, this time Aaron had just had a rough day. After he's wrapped the lasagna in cling film and taken care of the dishes he heads up to find Aaron in bed. He's on his side, as far away from Robert's side of the bed as possible and the silent demonstration pains him.

 

”I'm sorry,” he says, sitting down beside Aaron. ”I know you've had a bad day. I didn't mean to yell, I just go frustrated.”

 

”S'fine” Aaron shrugs without looking at him.

 

”Tomorrow's another day.” He smiles, sure that after a good night's sleep they'll both feel better again. ”Did you brush your teeth?”

 

Aaron nods but doesn't say anything more. Robert starts tucking him in, pressing the duvet tight under his body all the away around him until only his head sticks out. ”Snug as a bug now.”

 

Aaron has already closed his eyes. ”I'm sorry too,” he mumbles. ”No one takes care of me like you do. I'm sorry I don't appreciate it enough sometimes.”

 

Robert smiles and lets himself run a hand through Aaron's soft curls. ”What are husbands for eh?”

 

..

 

It doesn't really go beyond that; cuddles, and reading to Aaron from his book, and tucking him in at night. It's all rather effortless and nothing he really reflects much on as it streams seamlessly into the rest of their life.

 

Not even when Robert runs him a bath with bubbles, or reads him a bit from his book right before falling a sleep, or when he undresses Aaron before bed because he's too tired to do it himself, or when he hands him a toothbrush he's put toothpaste on himself does he reflect on it. Or when they're snuggled up in bed and Aaron will say something like 'I wove you' or 'Pwease wead to mwe' with a thick baby accent does he think about it. It's just a couples thing isn't it. Couples do all sorts of what might be considered weird things behind closed doors. He's just happy Aaron can be himself with him.

 

He's fairly sure Aaron doesn't think about it either, because it alls falls so naturally into their life there's no reason to give it much thought.

 

Not until one night when Liv is out with Gabby and they're flipping through whatever is on TV, trying to take their minds off the fact that Sarah is going through major surgery in the morning and they're both nervous about it. As is the rest of the family - which includes about half the village.

 

They end up watching the last half of the Lego movie and Aaron keeps moving closer and closer to Robert until he sits on his lap. Robert's arms move around his back and thigh, holding him secure while Aaron's face nuzzles into his neck. Soon, Aaron seems to have forgotten about the film and is suckling on Robert's skin a little below his ear.

 

”Hey, I thought you wanted to watch this,” he tries, bobbing his legs a little to get a reaction out of Aaron.

 

”Tijed” Aaron responds and goes back to suckling.

 

Robert doesn't argue, likes it too much when they're this close. ”Just don't give me a hickey, I have a meeting first thing tomorrow.”

 

Aaron sighs a little then and lets his neck go, perhaps not trusting himself not to suck light enough. He rests his head on Robert's shoulder instead and his attention falls back to the film.

 

Not even a minute passes before Robert hears another suckling sound. Looking down he sees Aaron sucking on his thumb and it's only then that Aaron stops what he's doing and flies out of Robert's knees and dives to the other side of the sofa, burying his head deep into the cushions.

 

”Hey, hey,” Robert tries to coax while peeling a hand away from his face to no avail. ”It's ok.”

 

”I'm a fucking freak Robert,” Aaron cries into the pillows.

 

”Don't say that about yourself, I don't want to hear it. You're not a freak!” Robert must have raised his voice enough because it makes Aaron turn over, his eyelashes wet from crying and it pains Robert to see.

 

”I don't know what's happening,” he whispers, looking like a lost little boy. ”I'm sorry. I didn't plan to do that.”

 

”It's ok, you got nothing to be sorry for. You're my baby aren't you?” Robert says before he has the chance to think of the meaning behind it.

 

Aaron carefully nods. Then laughs as Robert sticks a finger into his side, tickling him.

 

..

 

Robert reads about age regression. Wikipedia doesn't offer much information about it. Just two options of age regression in therapy and age play. And to him, it doesn't really feel like play, and he finds it hard to connect.

 

The site reads about it being a sexual thing for some – not to be confused with paedophilia – and a non-sexual thing for some. He doesn't even need to think back to know it's definitely not a sexual thing but when he does start thinking about it, he can see the pattern of needing comfort when being stressed or down. Those are the times Aaron has seemed to slip into his 'little space' as the site calls it and Robert agrees that it's a good name for it.

 

There's not an awful lot to read about it, not like there are on other sort of kinks, not that he wants to call it a kink really. That doesn't sit right.

 

There's even less to find about what he's feeling; the need to nurture and being the one Aaron can rely on.

 

..

 

Sarah's surgery goes well and she's on her way to recovery which has them relaxing.

After the thumb sucking, it takes a while before Aaron goes back into that space in his head again. Robert doesn't push him on the subject, knows he's embarrassed about it.

 

Aaron focuses on work instead, and on Liv, building her a custom dresser she's been nagging him about and finishing small details on the house here and there; the kitchen tiles still haven't been properly grouted.

 

..

 

Robert's away on another business trip, a night away in Scarborough. It's almost half eleven at night when Aaron sends him a picture. He's in bed. His one arm is slung around the teddy bear's neck and Aaron's thumb is back in his mouth.

 

”I miss you. This helps.”

 

He knows it took a lot for Aaron to admit that and he sends him three smiling emojis back. Before they have even been sent another message comes through.

 

”Do you think I'm weird? Whatever this thing is...”

 

”No. I think it's something you need. Something that makes you feel good. Nothing wrong with that. It makes me feel good too. I love taking care of you.” He attaches two hearts to the message.

 

”Thank you.”

 

..

 

He knows it's a risk and maybe Aaron will refuse to accept it but he really can't help himself from adding it to the shopping cart when he sees it. It's a black t-shirt, as if Aaron needs more of them, but this one has a picture of a teddy bear and a dummy on it and it's insanely cute that all he can think of is that it would be perfect for Aaron to sleep in.

 

He hides the package from him when it arrives, wanting to give it to him at the right moment.

 

Liv has gone to bed and Aaron's yawning around his latest DIY project, which includes a glue gun.

 

”Careful you don't burn yourself.”

 

He hasn't more than said it before Aaron hisses in pain and rushes to the tap and lets water rinse over it.

 

”Baby, what happened?” Robert asks worriedly, taking his hand to look at the damage. It's thankfully small but it's still enough to make his heart leap out of his chest seeing Aaron hurt.

 

”I'm ok.”

 

”Maybe we should go to bed though, it's getting way past bedtime.”

 

Aaron just nods and lets himself be led to the upstairs bathroom. ”I was too tired to use the glue gun,” he admits, sitting down on the toilet.

 

”Yes you were,” Robert agrees. ”You shouldn't be working so late. I should have made sure you went to bed earlier, you've been working so hard lately.” Robert prepares Aaron's blue toothbrush with toothpaste and comes to stand above him, his legs on each side of him. ”Open up.”

 

He's never tried brushing someone else's teeth before and it's more difficult than he thought it would be when the brush keeps slipping out of Aaron's mouth, brushing against his cheek instead. It makes them both giggle.

 

”I got a present for you,” he says when Aaron rinses his mouth.

 

”What is it?” Aaron asks excitedly, suddenly a lot more awake.

 

”Guess you have to follow me and find out.” Robert can't help but tease him, trying to disguise any nervousness he feels about the gift.

 

He pulls the small package out from his side of the closet and gives it to Aaron.

 

Unwrapping the gift, Aaron seems a little stunned when he unfolds the t-shirt.

 

”I thought maybe you could use it as a night shirt,” he stutters, unable to hide how nervous he is. ”It was so cute I had to get it, maybe it was a stupid idea,” he says, trying to take it from Aaron's hands but Aaron holds it away from him.

 

”No, I like it. It makes me really happy,” Aaron speaks quietly. He pushes the garment into Robert's hands. ”Can you dress me?” he asks coyly.

 

”Of course baby, anything you want.” Robert kisses him before pulling off the t-shirt he's currently wearing.

 

The new one is bigger on him and perfect for sleeping. ”It fits you great,” Robert tells him.

 

”It feels nice. Thank you-” Aaron cuts himself off as if he was about to say something and instead hides his face against Robert's chest.

 

”What happened?”

 

”Nothing.” Aaron shrugs. The soft voice is gone, replaced with the one he reserves for other people.

 

”No tell me. No secrets remember.”

 

Aaron shifts awkwardly, drags his foot in a circle on the floor. ”I wanted... I want to... ” He stops again, hangs his head down even lower.

 

”You can tell me. I won't laugh. It's ok.”

 

Aaron presses his forehead back into Robert's chest, sighs a little. ”It's stupid.”

 

”I'm sure it won't be. You can tell me anything, you know that.”

 

”When I'm like this.. you know... little.” It's the first time Aaron has called himself that, Robert acknowledges. “I think, I'd like to... It would be nice if I could...” Aaron takes a deep breath, stomps a little in frustration. ”Can I call you daddy?”

 

Robert can't help it, the corners of his mouth pull his mouth into a 1000 watt grin and he takes Aaron's head in both hands so he can make him look at him. Then he kisses him. ”Of course you can. Of course. I'd love that. You're my baby boy aren't you, of course I'm your daddy.”

 

Aaron smiles back then, his tensed shoulders dropping back down.

 

..

 

If Liv wasn't living with them, he's not sure how they'd act around each other when they're home. As it is now, he can feel himself holding back at times, and he can sense Aaron doing the same. The nicknames are mostly used in whispers in the privacy of their bedroom and Robert keeps inventing new ways of telling Aaron to go to bed without causing suspicion.

 

As excited they both are about this new thing that has them hooked, maybe it's good for them to have some balance, for Aaron at least not to be a five year old too much of the time.

 

Then again, why not just do what you like?

 

..

 

Aaron's outside when Robert gets home, cutting the grass that's gotten way too long. So unruly he's even heard Pearl complain about it.

 

He waves to catch his attention behind the noise and Aaron looks up and smiles at him, letting the lawn mower quiet.

 

”Hi Daddy,” he says using his adult voice and the juxtaposition is funny to his ears, yet so right.

 

Robert really does try to contain his excitement over the new gift he's hiding behind his back but it's hard and he almost bounces up to Aaron, not wasting time to hand him the little box he's picked out for it. ”I got you something.” He grins wide as Aaron opens the lid.

 

”Oh my...” Aaron's jaw drops and Robert can't help himself from laughing. ”Where did you find this?”

 

”Etsy. I thought this one suited you, we can get others too if you like this one. You wanted to try right, it wasn't just something you said?” he asks, suddenly feeling a little anxious.

 

”No of course I wanna try!” Aaron turns around so he has his back against the house and potential nosy neighbours. ”How's this!?” he grins, popping the dummy into his mouth.

 

It's green and black with a picture of a gameboy on it. ”Absolutely adorable.”

 

Aaron hugs him. ”I love it Daddy. Thank you,” he whispers against his neck.

 

..

 

He's not used to having Aaron leap into his arms but it happens one night when he comes home a little later than usual from work.

 

”Daddy!” Aaron calls out as he crashes into him, voice young. ”Liv and I had a fight and I sent her to mum's for the night.”

 

”Ok,” he says calmly, trying to take off his jacket while Aaron still clings to him. ”What did you fight about?”

 

”I tried to make her do homework, but she refused and I got annoyed. I know I shouldn't but she just drives me mad sometimes.”

 

”Was it maths again?” Robert asks sympathetically, knowing just how hard it is to make Liv do her homework, math is nearly impossible.

 

”Yes,” Aaron sighs.

 

”Well, since we have the house to ourselves, how about dinner, bath and a bedtime story?”

 

”Yay!!”

 

”Daddy's just gonna do some paperwork first, ok? You can figure out what you want for tea meanwhile.”

 

Aaron stomps in to the living room with a sulk. ”You're always working Daddy! And I want burger and potato wedges!”

 

Robert just chuckles as he follows after him. ”You thought of that one fast. Tell you what, if you'll be a big boy and help me make tea, we can take a bath sooner, okay?”

 

”Fiiine,” Aaron sighs a little, dragging out the word. ”But I want my dummy.”

 

”Go get it then.” Robert gives him a kiss.

 

He's bought him a green strap for his dummy so he won't drop it. Aaron's fiddling with the strap when he comes downstairs again. ”Daddy, help me. It's being stupid.”

 

Robert sits at their kitchen island, finishing up his paper work while he keeps a watchful eye over Aaron as he prepares the food. By experience, he knows he sometimes gets extra clumsy when he's in little space and he doesn't want any burned fingers.

 

It all goes without mishap, and soon Robert is cutting up his wedges for him. If they had had the house to themselves, Robert's sure he would have already bought Aaron a plate and cutlery set more appropriate for his age, but as it is now, he just have to eat with the adult fork and knife.

 

Afterwards, he lets Aaron bring his Lego into the bath to play with while he washes his hair and body. ”Daddy, that tickles!”

 

He brushes his teeth and dresses him in his favourite PJs, it's still the first t-shirt he bought him with the addition of pyjama bottoms with dinosaurs on. Aaron is pressed up to him, clutching a smaller teddy bear in his hand (Robert eventually grew tired of sharing the bed with the huge one!) as he reads him a bedtime story of Bob the builder.

 

”Time to sleep baby.”

 

”Five more minutes.” Aaron tries. He always does.

 

”Look at the time, it's already 9:35, that's already five minutes past your bedtime,” Robert explains holding up his phone. ”Come on, let's get you tucked in.” He nudges Aaron to lay back on his side of the bed. He starts to push the duvet close against his body just the way he knows Aaron likes it. ”You got Mr. Bear, and your dummy, time to sleep now.”

 

”Daddy... you won't ever leave me will you?”

 

Robert stops what he's doing and leans down to kiss away the worried frown. ”Never.”

 

”Promise?”

 

”I promise. Daddies never break promises.”

 

That seems to do the trick and Aaron closes his eyes.

 

”Goodnight baby.”

 

”Night daddy,” he says around the dummy, only making him sound cuter which makes Robert's heart melt. Aaron deserves the world and to be just who he wants and needs to be.

 

He leaves the light on his side of the bed on in case he wakes up and he's not there.

 

Robert stands in the doorway and looks at him and can't help thinking it's the most content he's ever seen him.

 

 

 

Of course, that's apart from the times when he's being an adult who lets Robert fuck his brains out.

 

But that's another story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

”...twenty three... twenty four... twenty FIVE! Here I come!”

Robert pushes himself away from the wall and spins around only to look at their empty living room. It looks exactly as it did twenty five seconds ago, no signs of anyone hiding. He feels a little silly when he pulls the curtains away and bends down to look under the sofa, because it's pretty obvious there, isn't where he's hiding.

”Daddy's gonna find you!” he shouts upstairs, voice playful, as he takes the spiral staircase two steps at a time.

Liv's room turns out to be empty and he leaves it with a frown and a reminder to himself that he should tell her to clean it. After a quick check behind the shower curtain in the bathroom, there is only one option left.

”I know where you are,” he singsongs as he passes the threshold to their bedroom. There's a huge pile of pillows on their bed that usually belongs elsewhere and the duvet is all bunched up next to it.
From it, a faint giggle.

”I can hear you,” he teases and the sweet sound becomes louder.

He gets on the bed, carefully knee walks up to the pile and watches it rise and sink slowly. Pulling a pillow away he reveals Aaron's grinning face, his cheeks pressed together by the tiny cave and eyes shining of joy. It's adorable really.

”Got ya!” he shouts excitedly and immediately dives into the pile to pull Aaron into his arms, both of them laughing.

He flips them over until Aaron is on top of him and he immediately presses his face into Robert's neck. Robert kisses his temple and holds him a little tighter against his chest, the way he likes it.

”Daddy...,” Aaron whispers after a few moments of silence, sounding a little tired.

”Mmm?”

”I'm hungry.”

”We ate an hour ago,” he chuckles. ”How can you be hungry again huh?”

Aaron pushes himself up on his hands, his weight nearly crushing Robert's thighs but he says nothing. ”I'm a growing boy,” he states proudly and it's so silly Robert can't help laugh at him.


Later, Robert is reading like most other evenings, and Aaron is awake past his bedtime - also like most other evenings. He's snuggled up close to Robert's side, munching on a juicy pear that spills on both his striped green pajama and their sheets.

Another reminder, only buy apples and bananas from now on.

It's when Robert reaches for some tissues he keeps in his drawer next to the bed that they hear the door slam.

”I thought she was staying at Gabby's?” Robert questions, closing the drawer and gently pushing Aaron away.

With a slight panic to his eyes, Aaron is staring up at him, the relaxed ease all gone. ”Don't let her in here, I'm not ready,” he says quickly and Robert understands. There's no question Aaron is the best brother within a 100 mile radius but it's not easy for him to switch between two completely different moods.

Downstairs, he finds Liv curled up on the sofa, crying into a pillow.

”Hey, what's the matter kiddo?”

She shrugs her shoulders, doesn't answer his question with any more than a quick glance. ”Where's Aaron?”

”Uhm.” He looks upstairs. This is always the hard part. ”He's sleeping, I don't want to wake him. He had a bad night”. She nods slowly, both of them aware that Aaron has bad days sometimes. He feels awful for using it in a lie and the way she looks at him he's convinced that she can tell he's being dishonest.

He wraps his arm across her shoulders, drawing her in as he sits down next to her. ”You can tell me, can't you?” he says, trying to distract them both. “I've had years of practice with Vic's problems you know.”

She looks at him, an unimpressed eyebrow raised. ”Weren't you off elsewhere when she grew up?”

Fair point.


After tea, Digestives, a comfortable shoulder and a listening ear, Liv finally closes her bedroom door behind her and Robert quickly brushes his teeth, pulse rising and chest tight, before he can do the same. Of course he's going to be there for Liv, but he doesn't like the thought of Aaron being left alone.

It relaxes him somewhat when he finds Aaron fast asleep, his arm slung around his teddy bear and knees drawn close to his chest. The dummy has fallen out of his parted lips and he's snoozing lightly.
Robert rushes to undress and gets in next to him. He kisses Aaron's forehead carefully and pulls the duvet a little closer around them both, taking a moment to look at his relaxed frame. Maybe he worries for nothing.

It has been nine months already. Nine amazing months of growing closer, of laughter, and play. But it has also been nine months of sneaking around, of uncertainty, and stolen moments. No one knows, they've always been extremely careful. Times like tonight though, when Aaron can't leave his little space even if reality requires him to, well it always sort of makes Robert freak out and worry about being caught. He's never sure how to handle it.

Aaron stirs a little, rubs a knuckle at his eye. ”Daddy?” His rough voice juxtaposes the affectionate word.

”Shhh, go back to sleep,” he whispers, his voice wobbling slightly.

He's not sure how to talk about it with Aaron. If there is one thing he needs and deserves, it's an uninterrupted, happy childhood without having to worry about anything.


When it all started, Aaron's little side only really made an appearance when he was stressed or upset, or sometimes, his face red with anger about something.

These days, when it's just the two of them, it comes out more often than not. He's caught him a few times though at the scrapyard, looking at him from behind his desk, seen the way his mannerisms will shift. How he one minute will be frowning and muttering as he usually does out in the yard, to mumbling to himself, lips pursing a little, and eyes full of wonder, seemingly lost in his own little world. There's this sweet expression written all over his face that Robert can't get enough of.

Looking back, it seems so blurred and distant and weaved into rest of their life he isn't sure how it happened, how it became so often, or how he came to be a Daddy. It just sorta evolved naturally. A cuddle, a bedtime story, a softer voice. Then, different clothes and toys (the box under their bed just keeps growing), and recently, ordering a Happy Meal in the drive through after watching the early show of the latest animated film – them in the middle of a theater filled with kids and their parents. Aaron hadn't seemed to notice.

He's surprised by how it has all made him feel, the nurturing side of him coming out so easily. It makes him think that maybe he's not as hopeless as he once thought. He's capable of taking care of people instead of destroying them. Aaron has told him as much over and over again but it never really sticks. Not until now.

There are times, a quick flash of self-doubt, that sometimes makes him wonder what he's doing. But the doubt disappears as fast as it comes and he doesn't feel so weird about it. It's just them. And it works, what they're doing. In a way, they've become more comfortable with each other, more open.... more... in love even.

All of that is good of course. It's just... There are way too many people in their lives far too often and sometimes Robert just wants to be alone.


The portacabin is cold, the January winds sweeping straight through its thin walls and Robert shivers. Outside, Aaron is struggling to get a piece of metal loose from an old Volvo's motor. His face is red and for a moment Robert contemplates putting on some gloves and a high-vis and getting out there and helping, maybe that would thaw his frozen bones. Then, seeing as they're alone for the day, he has a better idea that doesn't involve him doing any manual labour.

”Baby, come here,” he calls, holding the door open just enough to stick his head out. Aaron looks up at him. He frowns but he's obviously sick of whatever he's struggling with because a second later he jogs up to him with a smile on his face.

”What Daddy?”

”I want a cuddle, Daddy's cold.”

A moment later, Robert is back in his chair but this time Aaron is curled up in his lap, his big jacket draped over both of them and his warm body is slowly heating Robert's. As always, Aaron has a hard time sitting completely still, and the jacket keeps sliding down and Robert keeps pulling it up. He's playing with the buttons on Robert's shirt, opening and closing them, sliding in a freezing hand to feel his chest, upon which Robert hisses. Then his fingers play with his earlobe, one of them twisting a strand of hair around it. Aaron bites his lip a little as he draw both hands through Robert's hair and gives a joyful chuckle as it probably stands on all ends. A little surprisingly, mid laugh, he dives in for a kiss with tongue and wet lips, and afterwards laughs a little louder as if he's done something he shouldn't.

It catches Robert off guard and he looks at Aaron who stills for a second before they both chortle at the same time, as if they'd been naughty school boys. They have shared affectionate pecks several times, but kissing beyond that or more aren't something they have ever done with Aaron in little space. Yet now, as Aaron goes in for a second kiss, smiling wide and parting his lips further, it doesn't feel as wrong as he thought it would. It's just nice, and comforting and easy. Even so, he lets Aaron be in charge, lets him push for more.

Aaron's fingers slip into his open shirt and pick at his naked skin again. It's still innocent and the second Aaron happens to moan, he pulls away, eyes all shy when he looks at Robert. He burrows his face against his shoulders.

They're quiet and when Aaron seems far too still and not wanting to stop hiding Robert says, ”It was nice. There is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Like almost every night, Robert is cooking. Aaron is usually in charge of washing up or mixing a salad or setting the table but tonight he and Liv are focused on the pieces of Lego strewn around the coffee table. It's the Transformers set Robert bought him for Christmas that is being demolished and reassembled for the millionth time. Aaron had been embarrassed when he had opened the gift but Robert had just smiled delightful to himself as it had been the perfect present for his little boy. Everyone had just labeled them nerds, shaken their heads and none had suspected a thing, that it might just be for a growing toy collection. Apart from a couple of jigsaw puzzles, the Lego sets are the only toys Aaron can play with openly.

”No, you're doing it wrong!” Aaron tells Liv, slightly more annoyed than what is necessary and Liv tuts at him.

”It doesn't matter if I use the blue or white piece here, they're the same size!” she argues back.

Robert chops a couple of carrots and pretends not to listen to the two of them. As long as he doesn't have to step on one of the pieces later he doesn't care how much they start shouting at each other.


He fantasizes about a hotel room for the two of them, but there are too many things hidden away in their bedroom they would miss and that he wouldn't necessarily want a cleaner to find if they brought them.

Maybe a hotel room for Liv would be better. Then again, the Dingles tend to open doors without knocking.

He books them a cabin a few miles out of Whitby. He makes sure it comes with a fire place because he's done with being cold.


Aaron carries the logs into the cabin while Robert unpacks the couple of cool bags they brought. It's enough food in them to last four weeks rather than four days.

”Do you wanna make a fire for us?” Robert asks as Aaron struggles to close the door behind him, a last load of chopped wood in his arms.

”Sure,” he says, smiling, and Robert can tell from his tone that he's about to slip into his five year old persona. ”Are we eating soon?”

Amused, Robert just shakes his head at the constant question. ”It's a good thing I packed food for a small army.”

Hidden away in one of the grocery bags is a wrapped gift. He picked it up yesterday when he did the shopping. A long time ago, he’d promised Aaron one, but he’d never gotten around to buying it. Considering they're never really alone at dinner time it just seemed unnecessary.

Aaron tears the green paper away and throws it into the fire.

It's a cutlery set, with a matching plate and a sippy cup. All decorated with green frogs. Sure, it's really for kids much younger than five but it's cute and if Aaron is willing he's hoping he can feed him with the fork. Wide-eyed, Aaron looks up at him from where he's sitting on the floor. ”I... can I eat with this all weekend?”

”That's the idea,” he smiles, a little taken by the way Aaron is looking at him, eyes innocent and kind.

Next, he unpacks Aaron's clothes, mostly soft onesies, a couple of his dummies, his favourite teddy bear, a Lego car set, a new kids' toothbrush and paste that he's never gotten to use before, his Lightning McQueen books, a Zootopia rucksack filled with various toys, colouring books and crayons and pens, and finally, a big blanket Aaron loves snuggling up in.

Symbolically, he leaves it all out in the open on the kitchen table.

When the fire gets going, Aaron immediately changes into one of his favourite onesies, footed pajamas with monkeys on it. He also takes the blue and brown dummy that matches and sits down at the table with the colouring books.

”Here, a banana for my little monkey.” Robert holds out the fruit for him to take but Aaron just stares at it.

”Can you mash it for me so I can eat it on my plate?” he asks, looking a little pleased with himself.

Robert tries watching the TV, but his gaze keeps averting to Aaron who is still colouring at the table, his legs swaying back and forth. He asked for juice in his cup and Robert can't help staring, fascinated every time he takes a sip. Every now and then he turns and holds up another drawing for Robert to look at. They used to be mostly black and grey, now they're full of colour.

He never really wants the weekend to end. Not that he wants to be a Daddy full time, he enjoys the adult version of Aaron way too much for that, but it's less stressful not having to hide away themselves, speak with low voices, or make sure every trace of their lifestyle is cleaned away before going to bed.

They make the most of the weekend and Aaron stays in little space until Robert opens the car door for him when they're back home.

Aaron stays adult and grumpy the entire week after they get back home. He gets it, Robert misses the simplicity of undisturbed life too.

”We'll sneak away more often, make a regular thing of it,” he suggests at the weekend and Aaron nods.

”I'd like that.”

They have a nice dinner and become tipsy on a bottle of cheap plonk that David sells. Liv sighs at them when they act silly on the sofa and declares she is going out with Gabby who she apparently has made friends with again.

”You wanna go upstairs?” Aaron asks and it takes half a second for Robert to spring into action.

They're naked, kissing, hands grabbing and feeling and soon Robert's is wrapped around them both, drawing out moans.

”Daddy...” Aaron breathes and Robert immediately freezes, pushes him away, because...

That has never happened before. And he's not really sure if it's ok for it to.

Quickly, Aaron grabs his boxers and t-shirt and runs downstairs while Robert is still frozen to the spot on the bed.

He's clutching a pillow on the sofa when Robert comes down the stairs a few minutes later.

”This is why I don't drink wine,” he mutters.

Robert smiles gently and sits down next to him. ”At least it's better than whiskey.”

He gives Aaron a moment before he's brave enough to wrap his arm around his shoulders. ”You ok?”

”Dunno.” Aaron shrugs his shoulders, drawing his knees up. ”I never meant to say that. It just sorta came out.”

”It's fine.” It is, isn't it?

Robert can hear Aaron's breath quicken and the strain in his voice when he speaks, ”It's not... it's not the same,” Aaron blurts out. ”As...” he gestures with his hand in front of him and Robert watches his eyes fill with tears.

”I know,“ he says, not needing Aaron to fill in the blank.

”It's just... when, when you're nice, and it's warm, and I feel safe and good, I just... I don't know.” Aaron stops, leans forward and hides his face deep into the pillow.

”Go on,” Robert encourages, rubbing his back slowly.

”I'm not sure how to explain it.”

”Try.”

”Those feelings. It's kinda the same when I'm little. I let go then and I just... just do whatever comes naturally. Sex is sorta like that. You do what comes naturally. It just got mixed up, I'm sorry.”

”There's nothing to apologize for Aaron.”

He sits up and looks at Robert again. ”Can we just forget about it?”

They try to, but sex is a little awkward at first and he always feel like Aaron isn't there completely the first times after the incident. It doesn't matter how many times he tries to encourage him and reassure that it really was ok and nothing needs to change. The important thing is doing what makes him feel good and happy.

A month later, despite vowing to never do it again, it happens once more. This time Robert doesn't freeze. In fact, he just keeps going, doesn't make it into a big deal. Afterwards, he's not even sure Aaron was aware that he did it. Not until he curls up against him and starts crying and making more apologies that Robert has to refute.

Shame is an awful emotion he thinks.

It happens enough times that it becomes normal. They don't make it bigger or more complicated than it needs to be.


Robert prepares some warm milk and makes sure it's not too hot before giving Aaron a full bottle. Then he cuddles with him in bed as he drinks it. His arm is wrapped tight around Aaron's stomach and every now and then he presses a gentle finger into his side, making him laugh. He presses his nose into Aaron's loose curls, smelling shampoo and the lingering scrapyard smell that never really seems to fade. Dust and metal. Which should be awful but it's Aaron's smell and it's absolutely perfect.

They lie quiet like that until Aaron falls asleep and Robert takes the bottle out of his hand before kissing his forehead and tucking him in.

Sometimes, when it's this good and simple, it's easy to forget that this is not all of them. This is not the only way they show affection and this is not their entire world. It's in everything. The way Aaron kisses his cheek goodbye, how Robert cooks for him, or the way Aaron always takes the grocery bags from him if he sees him coming out of David's. The way he kisses him hello, or squeezes his shoulder in passing. Or when either of them smile at each other in the portacabin or across the Woolpack because Aaron has suddenly been roped into a Dingle meeting. It's the way Robert runs his hands through Aaron's soft hair. How he makes sure he has a glass of water on his bedside table, how they know when it's time to hold hands, or when the other is in need of a hug. The touches, and kisses, smiles, and soft looks. Fingers playing with each other on top of the kitchen table.

It's everywhere. Not just in these moment when he can stroke Aaron's cheek and look at him for as long as he likes without getting scolded at. Admire his boy and the way he embraces this life so beautifully.

It's also in the moments they share the day after. Curled up on the sofa, them on one end, Liv on the other. In the way Robert compromises because both siblings want to watch Downsizing. In the way Aaron keeps throwing popcorn into the air and trying to catch them on his tongue but mostly failing so most of them end up on the floor. It's in the way he has his head in Robert's lap and isn't afraid to be cuddled and kissed in front of his sister.

 

He's lucky. And really, really happy.

“Goodnight,” Robert whispers and turns the light off.