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To those who wait - part 2

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Robert slowly blinks his eyes open. Above him is the concrete ceiling, a grey colour that Robert learned to loathe. He knows every crack, every little spot. In the corner sits the harvestman that moved in a few weeks ago. Robert calls him William in his head - he doesn‘t know why, really. 

He turns to the side, faces the wall now - concrete, grey, ugly - and focuses on the pictures there. His sister is there and her son, Harry. 

Seb. 

Robert‘s heart aches. It‘s an old pic, the boy is four, wearing a little football strip. At some point Rebecca stopped sending him new pictures - maybe because he never wrote back or called, maybe simply because she forgot as a consequence of her brain damage after the car accident. Robert doesn‘t know and he doesn‘t dare to ask. He‘s dying to know what he looks like or what his hobbies are now, but he’s got no right to intrude into Seb‘s life. His son is happy in Liverpool, that‘s what he knows from Vic who is still in contact with Rebecca every now and then. Seb is happy, that‘s what counts. The boy doesn‘t need a criminal as his father, doesn‘t need to deal with murder and prison.

And Robert’s guilt. He just would be probably getting bullied in school - ‘hey look, the boy with the killer dad’ - and Robert wants to spare him this humiliation.

Because that‘s what he is.

Robert swallows and takes a short moment to breathe, then his eyes are landing on the next picture. 

Aaron. 

Of course Aaron is there on his picture wall. Robert stares at the pic, he knows every little line, Aaron‘s smile, the curls on his head, the blue eyes - it‘s all imprinted on Robert‘s retina, it‘s there everytime he closes his eyes.

And that‘s good because the picture is fading slowly. 

11 years. 11 years without his love. Since he last held him in his arms. 

It hurts so much, it‘s a pain beyond words. There are no words for how much he’s missing Aaron. 

It was the right thing to let him go, let him be happy, back then. Robert knows that, he tells himself that every day. 

To be honest, he expected the love to fade with the months and years and years, to pale like the pictures on his wall, but he was a damn fool. It didn‘t fade. Never. Not for one day. 

Reaching out with shaky fingers, he touches the picture gently, like he does every morning and every evening before he falls asleep. 

Good morning, Aaron.

The unmistakingly clinking sounds of a key in the lock signalizes the start into the day. The cell door gets opened, 8am on the dot every day.

“It‘s time, lads!“ Reginald’s voice booms through the small room.

He is one of Robert‘s favourite guards and apparently in charge today. A kind man in his early 60‘s, counting the years to his retirement. There are horrible guards, too, of course, but Reginald became somehow his fatherly friend over the years.

Robert casts one last glance at Aaron before he gets up with a sigh. He climbs down the small ladder.

“Morning.“

“Morning.“

His cellmate is a bloke called Charlie, a total idiot, but harmless at least. It could have been worse. Charlie ended up in Robert‘s cell six years ago, after he robbed a bank. He even made it out of the building and into his car - and then he had an accident on the M62 which brought him to hospital first and to the Isle of Wight second. 

Robert and him will never be ‘friends’ or anything remotely close, they just stay out of each other's hair and that‘s good enough. 

On the way to the showers he has one of those moments where the whole situation hits him like a freight train. 

It‘s the silent scraping of shoes over the floor, the bowed heads, the hushed whispers.

In his head he hears Liv‘s annoying music, his husband‘s even more annoying video games and then Seb‘s giggle. Aaron‘s laughter. 

It was hardly ever silent in the Mill and damn, it was truly hard to get some alone time there. Lord knows how often he and Aaron got interrupted by someone or something.

And here he is, missing this. Missing this so much that it hurts.

It‘s a fucking irony: he is surrounded by people all the damn time. Day and night, there are always inmates or guards or therapists in the same room as him and still. 

Still. 

He‘s lonely. His best mate is a guard. 

Robert splashes cold water into his face and makes a quick job with his teeth. They don‘t have long for their morning routine, two guards are watching every move they‘re making. After all these years he’s made his peace with being constantly controlled. Yes, it‘s annoying, but at least he feels safe then.

After breakfast it‘s time to work. Robert spent the first years in the prison laundry until he got into the kitchen unit. And although literally anything was better than washing sticky bed sheets and sweaty clothes of his inmates, the kitchen isn’t heaven either. Robert loves cooking, always had a soft spot for throwing different ingredients together to create something new, to experiment with flavours and herbs and to spend a ton of money on organic, high quality products. 

Here though… yeah. Here he has to spend another morning peeling potatoes for hours

Robert hates potato peeling. It’s so dull and stupid and… it gives him too much time to think, actually. He can’t stop his stupid brain from wandering. Wandering through the thick walls straight across the country to the tiny village of his childhood.

He wonders if Aaron still lives in the Mill. 

He wonders if there’s still that old scooter under the staircase that only purpose was to look stylish.

He wonders if Aaron still sets an alarm in the middle of the night, just to get up to watch a stupid boxing fight. 

He wonders if Aaron stopped at some point using lime shower gel because it reminds him of Robert. 

The peeler cuts into his thumb and Robert curses out loud. He drops the potato and sucks the tip of his finger into his mouth. 

“Sugden?” the chef asks, looking at him.

“Cut,” he mutters around his thumb.

Someone hands him a cloth and he wraps it around his finger. Although Robert insists that it isn’t that bad, they send him to the nurse on duty. It’s a regulation that every injury has to be inspected and registered, no matter how minor it may be.

On his way he passes several guards who are eyeing him like a hawk as if he is a walking threat. Robert hates those looks, condescending and full of mistrust. 

There is mistrust everywhere, from the guards, the inmates - the air is thick and charged with it. It’s a horrible atmosphere behind the prison walls. 

It makes Robert ache. He misses soft looks, eyes so blue like the ocean, full of love and devotion. He misses gentle touches, hot hands on warm skin, setting his nerves on fire.

The loneliness truly is the worst.

Bhodi, the nurse, cleans the wound with a long practiced routine and puts a plaster on it. Robert tries not to feel like a 4-year-old, but doesn’t succeed, so he just grits his teeth and lets it happen. He doesn’t have a say anyway. 

On his way back to the kitchen he meets Reginald and the older man starts smiling when he spots him. 

“Robert,” Reginald greets him. 

He always uses his name, never the number. It makes something warm blossom in Robert’s chest.

“Reg,” he nods back. “How’s Clarice?” 

The guard groans and starts walking with him. “Urgh, god dammit. I forgot our anniversary and now she’s pissed off.”

Robert chuckles. “I reminded you last week!”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Reginald waves his hand dismissively. “Not you too, alright? I know, it was stupid, but I just forgot. Now the missus is probably giving me the evil’s until I retire.“

Robert smiles and shakes his head fondly. 

These short moments with Reginald are a true bright spot in this grey environment. They make him feel human.

“Have you thought about the letter?”

Robert sighs. “Don‘t.“ His heart starts clenching at Reginald‘s question.

He isn‘t ready for this, not now, not anytime soon. Robert thinks about the letter that is lying on the small desk in his cell, unopened. 

A bit of paper that might change everything.

“Robert.“ Reginald is putting a hand on his arm and they both stop walking. “I don‘t get it.“

And yeah, he gives him that, because nobody gets it. Charlie calls him insane.

Maybe he is. 

He looks down on the hand on his arm and then up in Reginald‘s face, where brown eyes under bushy grey brows are examining him with genuine interest.

Robert sighs. It‘s hard to explain. It‘s not rational why this letter is still untouched, he is aware of that, thank you. 

“This is your ticket out of here.“

It’s surely well-meant as an encouragement, but maybe that‘s exactly what scares him so much and that‘s why he still hasn‘t opened the application form for his parole.

What if he gets out? Where should he go? His family is in Emmerdale, but Robert isn‘t sure if he can move back there just like that. 

Aaron lives there.

Aaron and probably his boyfriend/husband/father of his beautiful children.

And of course, Robert wants him to be happy! He just can‘t handle seeing it. He can‘t. If there is someone else in Aaron‘s life, he can‘t-

Robert swallows, grits his teeth together when he feels his chin trembling. Crying in front of Reginald, in the middle of the open hallway where others might see him as well, is not an option. 

You don‘t cry in prison - except at night in your bed when it‘s dark.

Then there is Vic with Harry. His nephew, a boy he has never seen apart from pictures. His nephew whose father he killed. Harry is ten now and Robert wonders how much he knows, how much he understands about what happened back in 2019.

As far as Robert knows the Posner's live there as well. Wendy and Lee‘s brother - he doesn‘t even wanna think about facing them. 

The truth is, the thought of going back to Emmerdale is terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.

And then there is his son in Liverpool, but that‘s another problem, really. Robert doesn‘t know how to get in contact with him. He can‘t just call or drop by at his school - “hey Seb, it‘s your dad, you know, the murderer, what‘s up, buddy?” - can he?

He burnt all the bridges in 2019 and now he fears it‘s too late to rebuild them. 

What if Seb resents him for what he‘s done? What if Seb hates him?

Robert swallows again, has to lower his eyes. 

“I‘ve been here long enough to know that look,“ Reginald says quietly. 

“I have nowhere to go,“ Robert whispers finally and can‘t prevent his voice from cracking. 

He‘s got nowhere to go. 

The only option is to start over somewhere new, but honestly, he is 44 now and starting over somewhere new, trying to rebuild the social life he once had, sounds so damn tiring. Robert doesn‘t have the energy for that.

So, all things considered, this life in here is safe. 

And Robert is aware that sounds insane. But he knows how to deal with life in prison: keep your head down, don‘t get involved in gangs or groups, stay away from certain people. After the first year that had been rough, he managed to get along. He accommodated. 

Reginald lets out a long sigh. “Robert.“ He pulls out a handkerchief and wipes over his forehead. The guard is one of those men who are always sweating no matter how warm or cold it is. “Of course you have somewhere to go. That sister of yours...what was it, Victoria?“

“Vic, yeah.“

“She is driving down here every four weeks only to see that ugly mug of yours,” Reginald tries a joke to ease the heavy mood, “I bet she‘d be happy to see you walking outta here. Free! As a free man.“

Robert shrugs, shifts on his feet. He knows his sister would be over the moon if he’d come back, she said it herself quite a few times during her visits. And Robert believes her, but still.

Harry. The Posner's. Aaron. 

Mostly Aaron. Fuck.

“I‘ll think about it.“ He says and he won‘t.

He said it before, just to cut unpleasant conversations short. Reginald‘s sad face tells him that he knows. 

“One and a half years until I retire, Robert,“ the older man gives him a long look, “I wanna see you walking out of here for good, before I do.“

His throat gets awfully tight, breathing becomes an incredibly difficult task. Out of all the people in here, this guard is the only person who cares about him, is the only person who treats him not like a number. This bloody guard of all people is his only friend.

Robert just nods like a robot, lets the words sink in. 

Reginald pats his shoulder. “C‘mon. You have to go back.“ He points with his raised chin in the direction of the kitchen.

“Sure. Thanks.“

Robert would give anything if he could just curl up on his bed and stare on his picture wall, instead the potatoes are waiting for him. He‘s dreading going back there, but he‘s got no choice. You don‘t have many choices inside, everything is scheduled, planned. What you‘re doing, what you‘re wearing, what you‘re eating, when you can shower. 

But that letter on his desk, the application form for parole, Robert thinks on his way to the kitchen, that‘s his choice. His choice alone. 

 

~~~

 

Robert is sitting there in the big common room, in his favourite spot in the corner. One inmate after another got called by the jailers, the area is slowly emptying out and getting quiet. 

Glancing at the clock on the wall, Robert starts jiggling his leg. It‘s visitor‘s day and Vic is usually on time, since the contacts are limited to a short time slot anyway. 

Her visits once a month are the only ones he gets and he probably wouldn‘t admit it to her, but that one hour means a fucking lot to him. 

Maybe she is stuck in traffic, he tells himself, there is probably a very simple reason for her being late. 

Or not coming at all today.

Just when he is about to lose hope, a guard comes in, looking around and then giving him a quick sign to get up.

“Visiting room!“

Ignoring the harsh tone, Robert complies quickly. Relieve is flooding through his body on the way to the white room with the various tables, where a lot of his inmates are already sitting and chatting with their partners, relatives or friends. 

His good mood sinks though, when he spots Vic talking to Reginald through the metal bars.

The guard opens the heavy door and Robert struts over to them. This can‘t be good, his sister talking to the old lad, and indeed, Vic‘s face looks tense and her eyes are big. She nods at something he is saying to her. 

Robert can only hope that it wasn‘t about him being released early. 

“Hi,“ he interrupts. 

Reginald gives him a meaningful glare before he walks wordlessly off.

Then Vic makes a lunge at him and hugs him. She‘s only 5 feet and 2 inches small, but her arms are almost crushing him. Robert hugs her back immediately, buries his nose in her brown hair, breathes her in.

The touch feels so good, Vic‘s body heat seeps through their clothes, warms him, and not only on the outside. Touches are rare, there is an occasional handshake, or when there is a medical reason like earlier from nurse Bhodi, but that‘s it mostly. 

This hug is the most physical contact he gets every month. It always ends too soon.

 Vic steps back and gives him a once over.

“You need to eat more,“ she sighs when they take their seats.

He huffs a laugh, because she always says that. Yeah, Robert lost weight - the result of the ever same boring food in here, he really can‘t bring himself to eat more than he already does.

“I mean it,“ she insists sternly, then her face softens again. “How are you?“

“Good, I‘m good.“ He shrugs. 

Now she huffs a laugh, because he always says that. It makes Robert grin. Although it‘s stupid, it‘s a bit like back when they were younger, back when times were good. It‘s a moment of normality he craves so much. 

“How are you? How is Harry?“ he smiles.

He gets a detailed update on Harry‘s school activities, on how Chas caught him and Eve drinking the remains of Whiskey bottles in the hallway behind the pub, on how he got grounded for 3 weeks for that. 

Robert chuckles and just leans back to let her voice wash over him, her animated talking is like a breath of fresh air, like a boost of energy, which he tries to soak up as much as he can. 

During this short visit time he always forgets his surroundings, it‘s just him and his little sis, having a nice chat. Robert is weirdly proud of her, Vic is doing great as a single mum.

He notices a bit too late, that she‘s got quieter and quieter, and now she‘s shifting on her seat and kneading her fingers. The little nervous signs are telling him that there‘s something she needs to get off her chest.

Robert’s heart sinks slowly. This has to do with Reginald and that talk they had. 

“Vic,” he sighs and rubs his forehead. Her eyes shoot up and she looks at him like a deer caught in the headlight. “Spill.”

“It’s probably nothing...anyway…” she says, flailing her hand, “but that guard, earlier? The older bloke?” Robert groans quietly. “He told me something, but I don’t know, it was a bit weird and probably I got it totally wrong...but he said, that you might be released early?” She chuckles nervously. “I mean, you would have told me that, right? If there was an opportunity to get you out of here in the next few months, you would take it, right?”

Her big brown bambi eyes are searching something in his face and he can’t hold that intense gaze, he has to lower his eyes.

“Robert!” she shrieks, having all the confirmation she needed.

Anger bubbles inside Robert. Reginald had no right to talk to Vic about his case without his consent. His only friend - at least sort of - in here and then he stabs him in the back like that.

Betrayed. 

That’s what he feels. Betrayed. There is no one to trust in prison.

“If there is something you can do to get out on parole, then please-”

“Stop it!” he cuts her off through gritted teeth.

His sister stops mid sentence, mouth opened, eyes wide in shock. Seconds of awful silence are passing and Robert hates that his one hour of normality and carefreeness he needs so desperately once a month is ruined like that. 

“I don’t-” she starts with a shaky voice and swallows, “I don’t understand it. The Robert I know would have done everything to walk out of here as soon as possible.”

Her words are hanging heavily in the air. Vic sounds disappointed, disappointed in him. His guts are turning and twisting slowly and painfully. 

“Well, that Robert died a long time ago,” he says bitterly. 

11 years ago, to be precise. 

“Rob…” Vic sighs and reaches out across the table, takes his hands and squeezes softly. “Don’t you wanna go home?”

She ducks her head to get eyecontact and he finally gives up and looks her straight in the eye.

“There is no home anymore, Vic.”

His home was the Mill. His home was Aaron.

It was the right decision to let him go, his brain insists stubbornly, but his stupid heart won’t get it. Robert feels like being ripped apart inside. 

“Maybe there is,” Vic says mystically, pulls her hands back and turns around to her handbag. “You know, there is a reason why I was a bit late today…” she starts and pulls some papers out of her leather case. She puts them on the table, almost carefully as if they are something fragile, then she slides them over the table.

These aren’t just papers, they’re letters.  

The envelope on top simply says ‘Robert’. 

Although it’s just that one little word, he recognizes that messy handwriting in a heartbeat. Too often, really way too often he had teased Aaron that he‘s got the writing of a 9-year-old. 

His heart clenches so sudden, feels like shrinking down to the size of a peanut, it cuts off his breath for a few long seconds. Robert’s whole body turns hot and cold.

There is not just one letter. There is an actual pile of letters. 

From Aaron. His Aaron. 

He doesn’t know what to feel. If he’s happy or scared as fuck. It’s a crazy mixture of both, two extreme emotions, battling inside him. His heart beats so loud and the blood is rushing in his ears that he doesn’t even realise at first that Vic is talking to him. 

“...said it’s a rule.”

“What?” he croaks out and his lips feel numb. He can’t stop staring at the white envelope with the blue letters on it.

“They opened them and checked them,” Vic admits, “when I got in here. Apparently they have to check if there’s a bloody rasp in them, or something. They said it’s a rule.”

Oh. 

Only now Robert realises they are already opened. A fact that feels like a stab in the chest. Knowing that someone of the guards read Aaron’s letters, Aaron’s thoughts, is such an intrusion of his privacy, it’s almost unbearable. 

He swallows.

“Please read them,” his sister pleads.

What if they say something, Robert doesn’t wanna read? What if Aaron tells him that he’s over him for good? What if Aaron tells him that he’s about to sell the Mill and move to South France with his handsome fiancé?

Robert squeezes his eyes shut and tries to stop this toxic spiral of thoughts. Surely Vic wouldn’t hand the letters over, if this was the case, would she. 

He finally lifts his gaze slowly, until it lands on her face again. There is a small smile tugging on the corners of her mouth, encouraging. 

“Please. Yeah?” she asks and nods.

“I’ll think about it,” he says, like he always says to Reginald, but this time he actually truly considers it.

 

~~~

 

After the visiting time they go outside into the yard. It‘s a hot summer day and the inmates are mostly sitting in the shadows, playing cards, only a few hard-boiled hunks are training on the gym equipment in the sun.

Robert went to the most far away corner of the limited area. He‘s standing with his back against the wall of the building, staring up to the barbed wire on top of the grey concrete. 

Aaron wrote him. Not only one letter, a bloody lot of letters. Some look old, like really old, the paper is already yellowed. Robert hid them under his pillow before they were told to go outside. 

No way he could read them under the eyes of the other men or the jailers. He definitely needs privacy if he would to open them.

If.

Robert sighs and swallows against the lump.

11 years. 

Does Aaron still have his scruff? Does he still have his curls or is he back to using gel? 

God, Robert loved the gelled hair, it looked so ridiculously sexy and hot, but then again, the curls…. He closes his eyes, tries to remember how soft they were, how they tickled under his palm and in his face. 

He feels the burn, a telltale sign of tears, but he can‘t let them out, not here, not now. By counting to twenty he calms himself down, forcing his breathing to even out again. 

The rest of the day stretches and stretches, time simply won‘t pass, it‘s torture. During dinner, Robert gets so fidgety on his seat, two blokes ask him if he‘s alright. He just ignores them, including the stupid looks he gets in return. 

Charlie tries to initiate a little chit-chat when they are being sent back to their cell, but Robert only hums and nods without even listening. 

Normally he‘s dreading the moment where the key turns in the lock, the click echoing deafening in their small room. Today it can‘t come soon enough though. 

They go into their beds not long after, and while Robert just lays there, staring at the ceiling and tracing the cracks with his eyes, he listens to the muffled sounds of Charlie jerking off. 

It‘s part of his daily bedtime routine, unfortunately. Robert wishes he wouldn‘t hear it every night, but well, you can‘t hide from this in here. The only good thing is that he knows Charlie is going to fall asleep not long after he cums with a grunt. 

Today is no exception as predicted and as soon as the soft snoring stretches from the bed beneath him, Robert sits up, pulling the letters out with shaky hands. 

The sun is slowly going down and the tiny window only lets the last bit of daylight in to read them. He has to be quick, the nightlight they switch on in the cells won‘t definitely be bright enough to decipher anything.

Robert knows that, but still, he needs another two minutes to get his shit together. He stares at the envelopes as if they were a dangerous animal, as if they were a threat. 

After one deep breath, he carefully opens the first one, unfolds the paper. Aaron‘s writing fills the whole page. Some words are crossed out and it‘s so typically Aaron - Robert basically sees him sitting at the small desk in the bedroom and writing it, struggling to find the right words, frowning and putting out his tongue like he always did. 

He quickly presses his hand over his mouth to suppress the desperate sob that wants to burst out of him. 

 

Dear Robert,

This is the fourth attempt to write you this letter. I didn‘t know where to start. I still don‘t know to be honest. So I guess I’ll just start with what happened today, what who made me sit here in the middle of the night, chewing the end off that damn pen.

The truth is, I‘m scared. I don‘t know how much you know about me and I tried to ask Vic, but she just gave me hell for not asking you personally. She told me to pull my stupid head out of my arse and finally get in touch with you. Damn, how can such a small person be so bossy, I swear it gets even worse in time.

 

Robert takes a short break to breathe. Oh Vic. He lets out a little chuckle before he’s sobering up again. His whole body is aching to be near Aaron, to see him, to hear his voice, to feel his touch. 

 

I know you wanted me to look after Seb while you‘re gone, but and I tried, really tried at first, but I wasn‘t in a good place back then and I guess Rebecca had every right to stop Seb‘s visits in the village. And I can‘t blame her, the only one who is to blame is me. I‘m so sorry Robert, for letting you down, I wish I had better words to describe it. It just hurt so much, seeing Seb and knowing being reminded of the family we couldn‘t have.

 

The lines are getting blurry now. Robert isn‘t much of a crier normally, but this pain is more he can take. Damn, he wanted kids with Aaron so badly, he already imagined them running around in the backyard, swinging and playing in the sandbox, hearing their happy laughter.

How could Aaron think for one second that he would be angry or disappointed in him? Knowing Aaron let Seb go, just like he let Aaron go, makes him incredibly sad. God knows, letting Aaron and Seb go was the hardest thing he‘s ever done. 

Robert knows that pain. 

 

And then today something happened: I met him, Seb. Your Our little boy. I was in Liverpool because of the job, and there he was on the sidewalk. And he is amazing, Robert, he is so damn clever and funny and cheeky and he still has his red hair and freckles like you. He reminds me so much of you. We talked about you, you know? It was him who told me to write this letter. To let you know how I feel, he said. Did I mention how clever he is? 

 

Seb. Seb and Aaron.

He’d give anything to see this. His two favourite boys. Robert‘s hands are shaking and he wipes the tears away furiously. The light is almost gone and he needs to read this until the end!

 

He couldn’t know that this isn‘t I already wrote to you. I wrote letters to you all the time in the past 11 years, I just never sent them off. I was a damn coward, Robert and I‘m so sorry. 

But here I am now, determined to let you know the truth.

I‘m waiting for you until you come home to me again. I always waited and I‘ll wait however long it might take, because I never forgot.

You know.

 

A xx

 

The letter slips through Robert‘s clammy fingers, when the tears are finally spilling over. He opens his mouth to let out a silent scream, his lungs are burning suddenly with the lack of oxygen.

Aaron.

Aaron.

Aaron.

It‘s all he can think, like a broken record in his head. His wonderful, grumpy, loyal and stupid husband. So bloody stupid! 

Aaron was supposed to be happy, to not put his life on hold. Of course this is what he does.

Stubborn Dingle. 

Once the floodgates are open, Robert isn‘t able to stop. He cries all the tears he’s been pushing back in the past 11 years. It doesn‘t end. Whenever he thinks he calmed down, he sees Aaron and Seb in front of his inner eye and starts again. He‘s bawling his eyes out until the skin on his cheeks is sore from the salty tears.

Finally, when the moon is high on the sky and the dim night light in the cell is shining for hours already, it stops. Robert feels empty, but kinda good empty. Relieved.

Aaron is waiting for him.

He leans back on his small bed, puts his head on the horrible pillow he couldn‘t get used to in 11 years. Although he thought falling sleep would be impossible after this letter, his body decides to give his mind a break. While his limbs are getting heavy he rolls on the side and reaches out for the pile of letters. He puts his hand on them gently. He‘ll read them as soon as he can. 

Aaron is waiting for him.

He blinks, feeling his swollen eyelids, and the last thing he sees before they fall shut are his pictures on the wall.

Good night, Aaron.

 

~~~

 

The unmistakingly clinking sounds of a key in the lock signalizes the start into the day. The cell door gets opened, 8am on the dot every day.

Robert gets up from the chair he was sitting on. He woke up with the sunrise this morning and couldn‘t stay in bed so he got up and went down to the small desk.

Reginald pokes his head in. “Good morning, guys!“ he says and then raises his bushy eyebrows in surprise when he sees that Robert is already awake.

“Here.“ Robert walks to the door and hands over an envelope to the guard. 

Reginald flicks his gaze between the letter and Robert‘s face.

“Is this what I think it is?“ He narrows his eyes. 

“The application form to get parole,“ Robert confirms quietly, not wanting Charlie to overhear this conversation.

The older man‘s face genuinely lights up at this. “That’s unexpected? How come?“

Robert thinks about the letters he read in the past three hours. 

“There is someone waiting. For me. At home,“ he admits. 

He still can‘t believe it. During all those years Aaron waited for him. 

Reginald‘s eyes are sparkling. “Damnit, Robert! Next thing you tell me is you‘re actually filling in a visitor‘s order!“ The guard slaps him with the letter on the chest and makes him chuckle.

“You know what? I‘ll think about it,“ Robert winks.