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wouldn't it be nice if we were older

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Aaron's lips taste of salt, whether that’s from the chips he’d just devoured or Robert’s own tears he hasn’t figured out yet. The only thing he knows is that he wants to savour the taste, forever.

But that’s not how things go for Robert is it? Nothing in his life has even been forever. Not Pat, not Sarah, and now not Aaron.

They’re sat on the cliffside overlooking the beach. Their beach

They agreed to meet down here at sunset; have one last goodbye, Aaron had said. The skies a brave pink and there’s only the two of them in sight, the holiday park that changed Robert’s life just a mere few meters behind them,

It’s picturesque really.

Except it’s not because Robert’s eyes are stinging with unshed tears and Aaron’s hand is growing clammy in his own.

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, a holiday romance some may call it.

But it feels like so much more than that, it feels like soulmate.

 

 

---

 

 

Day one:

 

Robert was looking forward to his summer, having just turned 17, with new sense of freedom inspiring him, he'd made enough plans with his friends to last them a lifetime of summer holidays. Road trips, booze, girls, boys, fun. In that order.

But when he’d arrived home after his last day at college to find his Dad waiting for him at the foot of his room, his plans changed.

Nothing good ever came of a parental figure leaning against the doorframe to their son’s bedroom, Robert decided.

Because apparently Robert wasn’t allowed to have fun. No, instead he had to spend the next week cooped up in a dingy little caravan down in Croyde Bay. 

With his insufferable family.

The caravan itself had definitely seen better days, and Robert might need someone to pinch him, because he seriously can’t believe he’s missing his first lads holiday - if you could class camping as a holiday - for this. The terrible paint job has chipped all over, and there are cracked glass panes in the windows, broken by unruly tree branches.

“Andy! Robert! Come and look! It’s so lovely!” Victoria had beckoned them from the wooden terrace.

And even Robert couldn’t deny the view; depths of crystal clear sea and miles of rolling sands greeted him, while the burning sun soaked through his bones, leaving his body tingling with anticipation.

Maybe, just maybe, this holiday would be slightly bearable after all.

 

---

 

In the 24 hours notice he’d been given, Robert had devised a plan: he’d packed a couple of his favourite books, his Gameboy and a bottle of vodka - with the idea of hiding away in his room every night. While his family did, well, whatever it was people did for fun around here.

But he’d crashed at hurdle one - considering he was currently sat in the park's clubhouse, suffering second-hand embarrassment from the entertainment act - who was only entertaining for all the wrong reasons.

“Daddy! Daddy! Can I go to the arcade with my new friend, please?” Victoria whined, having exited the dancefloor with a plastic medal and a face covered in the sticky remains of pink candyfloss.

“No darling, it’s time to calm down now, don’t you think?” Jack protested.

“But Daddy! Her names Belle and she’s really nice. Please Daddy,” and even the coldest of people couldn’t say no to that toothy grin.

“Fine, but only if your Brother goes with you.”

And to say Robert leapt out of his seat is a slight exaggeration, but he’d rather done anything than listen to his Dad and Andy’s brain-numbing farm chatter.

 

---

 

“You on babysitting duty too?” A voice appeared behind him, and Robert instantly recognised the boy as the pretty fit one from the rowdy table in the corner.

“Well, believe it or not, I’m not here for the fun of it. How old do you think I am, five?” Robert snapped.

“Alright, no need to bite my head off”. Aaron muttered, and then, “Twat.”

“Sorry. Sorry, I’m just -”

“Insanely bored?”

“Yeah, yeah definitely bored, and a little insane come to think of it,” Robert said on a laugh. “Is that your sister then?”

“Uh no, my cousin. Sort of.” Aaron stated, and Robert figured it was probably easier not to ask.

“Challenge you to a game of Pacman” Robert suggested, praying that Aaron wouldn’t just laugh in his face for sounding so lame.

Luckily for Robert, Aaron seemed to be just as big of a gaming nerd as himself. And so they spent the next hour competing and bickering and laughing. Robert’s stomach hurt - in the best way - because Aaron laugh was infectious wasn’t it? As if little butterflies lived in his mouth, fluttering out carrying smiles on their wings and settling calmly on own Robert’s own tongue.

“You wanna get out of here?” Robert suggested.

“Aren’t we supposed to be keeping an eye on the girls?”

“Mate I haven’t seen them for about an hour, so we’re doing a pretty shit job anyway.”

“Fair point. Well, what are we waiting for then?” Aaron said, a look on his face which suggested he was about to get up to no good. Robert’s suspicions were confirmed when he watched Aaron jump over the unattended bar, swiping a couple of ciders.

And God, Robert loves a bad boy.

 

---

 

Once they made their way under the dark skies they chatted aimlessly about everything and nothing all at once.

Robert learnt that Aaron was here with a whole village of people, and just like himself, he did not at all desire to be. He learnt that Aaron likes cars, again, just like Robert. He learnt that Aarons funny, and kind, and looks sexy when he bites his lip. Which he does a lot - a nervous habit apparently. And Robert, well he takes pride in the fact he makes Aaron nervous. But considering there were butterflies wreaking havoc in his own stomach, he didn’t really have a leg to stand on.

Robert feels like they are balancing on the edges of a campfire. There is something between them that he can’t distinguish, something that he’s not sure he wants to distinguish. It was hot and fierce; it kept licking his skin tauntingly, warningly.

Robert knows he likes boys, boys and girls, he was sure of that. He’d tried to convince himself otherwise - tried for his Dad, for his pride, and for his place in the family - but there was no denying it. Especially not with Aaron stood before him, looking like that.

“Won’t your parents be wondering where you are?” Aaron questions innocently.

“My Dad? Nah I doubt it. He’s probably glad I’m not bothering him.”

“I’m sure that’s not true”

And Robert scoffs, but then he strokes his fingers over Aaron’s arm, he doesn’t want thoughts of his Dad to ruin this thing he’s got going on with Aaron. Robert can’t explain it, can’t explain why, but he trusts Aaron, has this sudden urge to open up to him.

“My Dad hates me. He thinks I’m this big family disappointment.”

Aaron moves his hand then, brings Robert’s own hand down from where it was resting on Aaron’s shoulder, tangles their fingers together and looks up to the sky.

“Well I think you’re pretty amazing”

“Oh really?” Robert teases, “Y’know what I think?”

“What?” Aaron questions, drags his eyes away from the sky and puts all of his attention on Robert.

The moon painted a soft strip of light on the angle of Aaron’s jaw and the tip of his nose. His lips, which were slightly parted, were cast in an ivory veil around the very edges. His eyelashes were a convex of fine strands that had a beautiful glow surrounding them. His eyes reminded him of the stars reflecting in the sea.

Robert takes a deep breath and, “I think I wanna kiss you”

Suddenly he feels like he’s on some stage - as if someone is directing them to perfection. There’s a soft gasp before contact, and Robert isn’t sure if it comes from him or from Aaron. All he knows is that one minute they’re leaning into a kiss and the next minute he’s snapped out of his journey to Aaron’s lips by the harsh sound of a gruff voice bellowing his name - his Dad demanding his attention.

And Robert’s about duck, only Aaron’s tugging at his hand, pulling him around the back of the clubhouse, shoving him against the wall.

Before Robert has a chance to register his surroundings a pair of lips are on his. The sea seemed to quiet around them; everything seemed to settle into a state of awe. A pair of thin lips move against his raw ones, so gentle. Robert can feel the force building behind the kiss, the soft sponging turning into the prizing of Robert’s lips open, and the sweeping of a wet tongue upon his. Aaron’s tongue palmed against his and his head twisted, the kiss deepening. Robert’s tongue traced the back of Aaron’s front teeth; he could taste the sweet tang of cheap cider and fresh mint. Aaron’s hand cradles the back of Robert’s head while his fingers thread through the silky strands. He would have been annoyed that Aaron was messing up his perfectly styled hair but Aaron’s tongue was in his mouth and that was enough of a distraction.

There was the night. There were the stars. There was the sea. There was Aaron. And then there was Robert’s new found happiness, too.

 

 

---

 

 

Day two:

 

Robert wakes the next morning to the sun for the first time in forever, forgets for a second that he’s still in England - it feels like some miracle. The strong morning beams are flooding through the thin curtains and spilling all over the bedroom floor, bright rays like liquid gold.

It takes a minute for Robert’s memory to catch up with him, his mind still foggy with sleep; still in that bliss state of calm - usually before your clogs start turning and you remember you hate your life. Except this time, for the first time in his life, Robert wills himself to remember. To remember the musky smell of Aaron, to remember the feel of his chapped lips, to remember the sweet taste of his mouth.

To remember Aaron’s damn caravan number.

He comes up short; bloody idiot he thinks to himself, until he remembers the feel of Aaron slipping something into his back pocket last night.

A phone number.

He wastes no time in letting Aaron knows he’s found it.

 

Robert: What you up to later?

Aaron: Who’s this?

Robert: Unless you leave a copy of your number in everyone back pocket, I think you know exactly who this is.

Aaron: Idiot

Aaron: We’re having a pool day, not feeling it though. You fancy a wander around the village?

Robert: You bet. Meet you at the clubhouse at 11? x

Aaron: It’s a date ;) 

And fuck, Robert thinks.

 

Robert takes his time getting ready. He showers more thoroughly than he has in his life, he brushes, flosses, mouthwashes, does it all over again just to be sure - drowns himself in aftershave and spends an age styling his hair just right. He briefly wonders what Aarons wearing, hopes the hot sun has urged him to unwrap his strong arms from the tight material that was covering them last night. But imagination can only supplant Robert's curiosity for so long - he scoffs down his breakfast and makes a futile attempt at conversation. But andy’s on his case again, teasing Robert - pushing him - wanting a reaction - droning on about this being a family holiday. Apparently Robert isn’t allowed a life of his own.

He tells them he’s going out. Won’t take no for an answer.

“Aaron? And who the bloody hell is Aaron?” Jacks shouting, and honestly, Robert just wishes he’d learn how to talk without waking the whole damn park.

“He’s a mate. Vic’s friend's cousin, or whatever. He wants to show me around.”

“No.”

“No? This is my holiday too you know - I’m not just here to babysit!”

“Fine. Whatever. Do as you please Robert, as usual.”

And Robert would usually stay and argue his point, but it’s not worth it. Not when Aarons waiting for him.

 

---

 

They spend the day exploring, the unspoilt village is steeped in old-world charm and friendliness - he feels accepted here, they both do, content and at peace. Which is why Robert doesn't pull away when Aaron pries Robert’s hand open with his fingers, instead he welcomes it, ecloses their hands as one. They move through the streets together as the sun moves through the sky, and Robert thinks that his heart might be shining up there with it.

They grab an ice cream on the way back - Aaron choosing Vanilla, because he’s that classy, unlike Robert, who was much happier with his triple chocolate. No matter how much of a state he got himself into, half the contents in the cone slipping through and staining his white t-shirt.

Neither of them want the day to come to an end. Not ever. But it seems like Aarons not going to dwell on that just yet - since he’s dragging Robert along to his special place.

It doesn’t take long before Robert is regretting indulging Aaron. They’ve been walking for what feels like hours - and they’ve still got, what must be, over 200 steep steps ahead of them.

But once they make it to the top Robert understands. He understands what makes this place so special. It’s called baggy point, or something ridiculous like that, and there’s nothing to see but a rugged headland displaying breathtaking coastal, sea and farmland views. There’s a bench a the top, one of those brown wooden memorial ones with tired slats and a shiny brass plaque for someone’s late grandparents, married for decades. And once Robert’s caught his breath he grabs Aaron’s hand and plonks them down together. Fingers not once losing contact.

“S’gorgeous, isn’t it?” Robert says quietly.

“Yeah,” Aaron breaths out, seemingly speechless all of a sudden. But then he’d voiced his thoughts, told Robert that it was odd for himself to react with such awe when he’d woken up to the same view every morning for the last week, but it seemed different when it was Robert. “Everything's different when it’s with you,” Aaron finished.

And Robert could only nod in agreement, scared of his voice betraying him.

Now, though, a quiet had dawned upon the pair of them, and Robert took the opportunity to soak up the view for a small while. Robert’s arm was pressed up against Aaron’s, warmth seeping through him.

“Just like you.” Robert had blurted out suddenly, shattering the peace.

“What?”

“The view - it’s gorgeous - just like you”

“Shut up,” Aaron cried, whacked Robert on the arm and then buried his head in his neck.

“You are Aaron. You’re gorgeous. You’re funny. You’re special.”

“Don’t -”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t make me fall in love with you.”

The silence that followed was deafening.

 

 

---

 

 

Day three:

 

Robert knew it was too good to be true that he’d wake to sunshine two mornings in a row. Rain dusted the air  and the wind rattled the windows, tapping on them with its sharp claws.

He hated the uncertainty and the quiet and the disappointment. Robert was used to being the disappointment, not being the one to feel it.

So he decided to do what he did best: ignore it. If he ignored the pang in his chest then it would no longer be there. Right?

He’d only known Aaron not even two days, he needed to get a grip - pull himself together.

And he was doing a pretty good job of entertaining Victoria on the rainy morning - an even better job of forgetting Aaron. Well, that was until his phone illuminated the dimly lit room.

Aaron: I’m sorry.

Robert thought about ignoring him, knew this thing they were doing was only going to end in heartbreak - he heard his Dad’s voice in his head telling him to quit while he was ahead, just like he’d told him when Robert had confessed his dreams of going to university - but that voice had only spurred him on then, and it seemed to have the same effect now. Fingers rapidly typing out a response before his brain had the chance to catch up.

 

Robert: No, I’m sorry.

Aaron: I’m sorrier?

Robert: Fine, fine, you win. We good?

Aaron: Yeah. You around today?

Robert: For you, always

Aaron: Pack a beach bag and meet me down the bottom at midday x

Aaron: Don’t forget your suncream, blondie ;)

 

---

 

“So these are all really your family? You sure you didn’t just find half of them on the streets?” Robert asked as they made their way down to the beach, surrounded by what seemed to be half the guests at the caravan park.

“Oi!”

“Sorry,” Robert said on a laugh, “It must be nice, having all this family,” he added, voice taking a serious tone suddenly, laced with an underlying sadness.

“Hm, it depends. Sometimes it’s a nightmare, trust me. What about you, you not got a big family back at home?”

“Not anymore.”

“What do you mean?” 

“Nothing - nothing. Race you to those sand dunes over there,” Robert pointed in the distance, began running before he gave Aaron a chance to register what he’d said. It felt much like he was running from his problems - yet again.

Robert was embarrassed to admit Aaron had won, outran him - despite Robert’s head start. They both fell on the soft sand of the dunes, breathless and sweaty. The beach was packed - families and couples, runners and suffers, sea and sand. Robert watched on - reminiscing about the summer he spent learning to surf with his Mum, across in Cornwall.

“You can surf?” Aaron asked, making no attempt to hide the shook from his voice, “Is there anything you can’t do?”

Robert blushed under the praise, quickly diverted the conversation, “I can teach if you like?”

Robert took Aaron’s slight nod as a yes, “let’s see what equipment the surf school has got for us to borrow, shall we?”

“Sure,” Aaron replied, entirely not at all sure.

When they were fairly close to the sea, Robert went through the usual safety measures and tips with Aaron on dry land. He taught him about the lifeguarding process and the dangers, all that malarkey which Aaron only vaguely listened to because he was too busy staring at Robert’s red lips. Robert knew that Aaron wasn’t interested in the words, more so the movement of his mouth, and that with the knowledge he started moving his lips in a teasing way.

Once they were in the water, Robert taught Aaron to balance on the board, where to put his hands and how to use his arse to his own advantage. The rest of the teaching seemed to go fine, but, of course, Aaron did not want to pass up on any possibility of Robert and himself touching, so he feigned uncertainty and an abominable amount of balance. With a bruised huff and a badly hidden lopsided smile, Robert slotted in behind Aaron. Hardly discreetly, Aaron pushed back against the lanky body behind him as he set his stance flush against Robert’s. It went on like that for a while, Robert found it hard to pull himself away from the body in skin-tight clothing, but eventually, he pried his mind away from other places and back to the swash of the sea.

The first few attempts, with Robert’s aid, did not exactly put Aaron in high spirits. It took him a while to even catch a wave while lying down, let alone standing up.

After a while, Aaron finally caught a wave. He wasn’t standing for long, and he soon topple off and caused his own wave of pain, but it was enough. He had, however temporarily stood up, grinning widely, entirely pleased with himself. Robert had nearly bowled him over as he swept him up, proud expression adorning his face. Robert, the newfound surfing instructor, spun him around, cheering happily along with the applauding froth upon the broken waves.

“I did it!” Aaron cheered excitedly as Robert plopped him back down on his feet.

Aaron’s hand slicked back Robert’s sodden hair from flopping onto his forehead. His fingers trickled down so that his thumb could press into the bone of his cheek. Robert’s smile was soft, caring. “You did so well, honestly, that was so good Aaron.”

Aaron’s top teeth scraped over his bottom lip as he smiled up at Robert. “Thanks.” Spontaneously, he lifted up onto his tiptoes and smacked his lips on Robert’s.

And Robert knew Aaron regretted his decision the second he heard his Aunt Charity wolf-whistle at them, a whole village worth of eyes on the pair.

 

 

They’d packed up not long after. Robert had been summoned by Aaron’s Gran, apparently she’d needed him to pack up the windbreaker, bend right over and dig it out of the wet sand, while she looked on. Robert found it hilarious but Aaron, well he wouldn’t want to ever be on the receiving end of his furious glare.

He took Aaron back to his caravan that night, surprisingly not with the intent of winding his Dad up, but because he couldn’t bare to part with Aaron just yet.

Victoria took a shine to Aaron almost instantly, and yeah - she was definitely Robert’s sister. And by some miracle she’d even managed to convince Jack to let Aaron stay for tea - Robert loved her, he really did.

“So Aaron, tell us a bit about yourself,” Jack struck up, the heat from the fish and chips almost clouding Robert’s view, “have you got yourself a girlfriend back home?” He’d asked so casually, while Robert nearly choked chip.

“Uh - yeah - yeah I have,” and if Robert wasn’t choking to death before, he certainly is now.

“Ah that’s wonderful, isn’t it Robert?”

“Yeah, it’s great” Robert replied while Aaron’s foot hooked around his ankle under the table.

“Maybe she has a friend for Robert?” Jack has questioned in Aaron’s direction.

“Oh I know just the person for Robert, Mr. Sugden”

The little bastard smirked across the table, and honestly, Robert wasn’t sure if he hated or loved Aaron more in that moment.

But when Aaron makes it up to Robert with the best blow job of his fucking life he decided it was the latter.

He loved Aaron.

 

---

 

They’ve only got two more nights here together, not that Robert’s been counting or anything. Roberts never believed in fate, or love at first sight, or living everyday as if it’s your last - not until Aaron. Which is why he sneaks Aaron back into his caravan at midnight, takes him to his room and locks the door carefully behind them.

They’re pressed together on the bed, a bottle of cheap vodka and a pack of playing cards between them. They’re pissing about, like best friends do, like lovers do.

Soon enough he’s got Aaron withering beneath him, half-heartedly telling Robert to stop his assault on Aaron’s thighs.  

"Piss off, you love it," Robert pouts.

"You love it, more like."

Robert softens for a bit, comes up and burrows his face into Aaron's neck, heart pounding out a rhythm of AaronAaronAaron in his chest. "Stop trying to distract me."

Aaron softens right along with him when Robert pecks him on the nose, Aaron tries to deny the ridiculously soppy smile that takes over his face - he kisses him instead, just because he can, because they've had a few days of this pathetically domestic bliss now and Robert maybe wants another twenty years or so.

They're tipsy as fuck, is the thing. Robert knows they’re going to regret that last shot in the morning when he wakes up alone, with nothing but a throbbing headache to accompany him.

But Robert's heard that being drunk removes or lessens people's inhibitions, which is why he’d spent hours telling Aaron his whole childhood and everything that fucked him up, from start to finish - the duvet they were hiding under acting as a protective blanket for the pair. And then Aaron had done the same and they’d both ended up crying. It was to be expected. What Robert didn't expect, even from a slightly tipsy Aaron, was a promise, because Aaron had told him he doesn't believe in things like permanence and solidity, and most definitely not promises. His Mum had promised, his Dad had promised. They both broke that promise.

But he said it anyway, “I've just told you my whole past and I swear to god, Robert I promise you're going to be my whole future.”

And Robert’s heart fucking broke.

But now they’re here, Robert having marked every inch of Aaron, from between his legs to his warm mouth. I love you, Robert thinks, opens his mouth to say it but kisses him instead, bruises Aaron's and his own lips, trying to push the words into Aron’s mouth with his tongue. I love you I love you I love you.

Robert is struck by a wave, a tsunami, of feeling. It crushes him under its weight and sends his head spinning. Suddenly he can’t contain it anymore.

After a few moments, panting and with their foreheads still pressed together, he says it, utters the words that have been playing on his mind for days, “I think I love you.”

And suddenly everything falls into place for Robert, he imagines this is what it feels like when people return home after years of being missing, or what it feels like when those people in the movies meet their soulmate for the first time. It feels like perfect.

“I do love you Aaron, I know I do”

They should talk about it, definitely, figure things out, but kissing each other for hours, getting acquainted with each other’s bodies just seems like a better idea.

And when a panting moan arises in Aaron’s throat. "God, Robert. I - fuck - I want you. I want you so bad."

Who is Robert to deny him?

 

 

(They do talk about it, eventually, still tangled in the sheets and Robert has had to piss for hours now but even just leaving Aaron to go to the bathroom is too much. They talk about the future, and maybe they’re getting ahead of themselves, but they can’t help to dream about firsts: first road trip, first holiday, first family events, first homes, first everything. They talk and they laugh and they cry until Robert thinks he’s actually going to piss himself).

 

 

---

 

 

Day four: 

 

Friday comes around too quickly for Robert’s liking. He considers laying in bed all day, letting the darkness consume him. Considers standing Aaron up, getting in the car and driving away without so much as a goodbye - reckons it may be less painful that way. Robert had never had to say goodbye to anyone before, he hadn’t ever the chance to. Sure, he’d had people he cared about snatched away from him, in the cruellest of ways, but he’d never had to sit there and say goodbye. And in some twisted sense, he thinks maybe this is more painful.

But Roberts not a coward. Not anymore. He meets Aaron on their bench at six on the dot, he brushes his fingers over the memorial plaque and he wonders, a little morbidly, if people will build a bench for him and Aaron one day. The brisk sea air is whipping at his face, clambering along the shoreline, reminding him that is real and not just some horrid dream. The sun had started to set, the sky transitioning from a cool blue to and arrays of oranges and golds - and the closer the sun moves towards the horizon, the deeper in love Robert falls. They sit in silence for a while, a bag of salty chips between them, neither of them wanting to be the first to make this a reality. The crash of the ocean on rocks below hums like white noise, and Robert ponders the sea.

The sea was the kindest object of the world, Robert liked to think. It was always watching, yes, but never judging. It looked out with ever-changing blue eyes, sometimes soft, sometimes harsh. It could be flat when it fancied, slow and chilled. But it could be fierce, too. It could be wild, restless, and downright thrilling. The waves could crash with such force that you could be knocked over in one fell swoop. Just like Aaron had done to him - crashed into his life and knocked him flat.

But the thing Robert loved most about the sea was that it would never leave. Most things in life leave; practically everything does. People leave, walk away, forget, die. Things leave, get lost, get forgotten, decompose. But the sea, no, that always stays. Waves wash in and out but they always come back - no matter what.

He wishes he could say the same about Aaron. Or himself.

Robert couldn't help the tears filling his eyes, despite his inner resolve. His body betrayed him. His body yearned for Aaron. His eyes, his head, his heart. His intellect and emotions. He felt like he knew Aaron inside out, despite the limited time they’d had together. He wanted to see Aaron’s face again and again and again, all of his familiar angles, his eyelashes that fanned down his cheeks, the way he would purse his lips just before he laughed, his hands that were so animated, rough but gentle. He wanted it all.

And when he finally turned to face Aaron, he was greeting with red-raw eyes and a sad smile. If they were both this much of a mess before they’d done the talking, Robert dreaded to think what they’d be like by the end.

Robert hated seeing Aaron like this, couldn’t bare it, so he did what he does best and surged forward and smashed their lips together in a not so delicate manner. He pried open Aaron’s lips with his tongue, kissing him roughly - an attempt to lick out the remnants of sadness radiating from Aaron.

And he feels like an idiot that he’s this upset, that they’re both this upset. Because they are brand new, barely a few days in, but Robert can’t help but taste the concept of forever on Aaron’s tongue - and want to swallow it down in a wild flurry. Aaron feels permanent, solid, like something he’s been waiting for forever.

But they’re barely adults, barely old enough to be trusted with their own hearts, nevermind someone else's too.

"Please don't." Aaron mutters across Robert’s lips.

"Don't kiss you?"

"Don't stop."

Robert closes the gap again, surging forward to press his mouth to Aaron's. Its deep but it doesn't last too long before they part again, resting their foreheads together.

“I’m going to miss you so much” Aaron tries, his voice wavering.

“Me too. So, so much.”

“It’s not fair this, it’s fucking stupid.”

“I know,” Robert sighs, “but we’ll figure this out, I promise you Aaron." He lifts one corner of his mouth in a wry half-smile.”

“How Robert? How?”

He has a lot of really honest answers, but some of them come easier than others. He wants to say that he has no idea. That he's petrified and uncertain and angry at the world. But he doesn't say any of that - he can't be the one to make Aaron cry again.

“I don’t know yet okay? But it will work out,” Robert says instead of voicing his own fears, “It will. One day, one day there won’t be any distance. Okay?” And suddenly Robert’s thinking of Sarah - she once told him that if you want something so bad you won’t stop until you have it. And God, does Robert want Aaron.

“I’m gonna get myself a car yeah? I’ve already started saving, twenty-seven pounds and counting,” Robert adds, attempting to lighten the mood, “And then you won’t be able to get rid of me, honestly mate you’ll wish you ditched me when you had the chance.”

And finally, finally there’s a flicker of something other than sadness crossing Aaron’s features, his eyes crinkle and he leans into Robert. Who takes the opportunity to wrap his arm around Aaron’s broad shoulders.

“I think this might be my favourite place in the world.” Aaron express, sounding so much younger than his seventeen years.

“I think you might be my favourite place in the world, Aaron”

It seemed like the air around them had been set alight. They were encircled by a ring of flames. Where they would be, what they would have done by the time they had turned into scattered ashes, by the time they had their own memorial bench, neither knew. But they certainly wanted to find out.

Robert thinks of all the, potentially far fetched, things they have planned for the future, all the things they’re going to do and see and experience. Some things Robert can’t even imagine wanting with anyone; a house, a marriage, a few kids. Anyone but Aaron.

“I love you, you know?”

“I love you too.”

“Forever?” Robert questions

“Forever and day.”

Robert looks out to the sea once more - a sea nourished with loving tears - he wants to drown himself in promises, but even the sea crashes with an uncertainty. So he only promises Aaron two things; that he’ll have brought a car by the time Aaron’s birthday comes around and he’ll never slag butlins off again.