Aaron is staring at the monstrosity in front of him, a deep frown on his forehead, a glass of champagne in his hand.
People are talking animatedly around him and electronic music is playing. There is this constant awareness that he doesn‘t fit in, in those groups of mostly young, urban London hipsters with their huge glasses, eccentric makeup and colourful clothes. The champagne is giving him heartburn and it tastes nothing but bitter - Aaron never understood the appeal of bubbly, he‘d rather sip a beer now if he‘s honest.
He smiles anyway, because despite feeling a bit alien, he is bursting with pride.
It‘s the opening of Liv‘s exhibition and she did an amazing job.
Her impressive scrap sculptures express uniqueness and appear massive and fragile at the same time. At least this is what the little flyer guide says that Aaron read several times now. Oh dammit, he will never be one for the fine arts and he might not always get the meta levels of Liv’s works, but he has taste and her stuff is cool. It looks amazing.
He wanders around through the large room with its white walls and floor and interesting light design until he spots his little sister giving an interview to a very artsy looking bloke who is filming it with his iPhone.
God, Aaron is so proud.
The little girl with the chubby cheeks and the pony tail - the little girl who nicked his money and kicked Robert in his balls - is in the big city, working as an actual, respected artist.
As soon as she‘s finished she comes over to him and hugs him.
“And?“ she asks with glowing eyes.
“Well, I‘d say we‘re both successful in the scrap business,“ he teases her and she laughs. “No, seriously though. This is awesome.“ Aaron throws his arm around her shoulder and together they take the whole setting in. “I already took loads of pics and videos for the family in Emmerdale and Seb.“
“Course. They all are so proud of you. And Robert and me, of course.“
She smiles. “Speaking of your other half, where is he?“
“Last time I saw him he was discussing the ecological aspects of your art with a couple over there,“ Aaron tells her and points to the biggest sculpture in the middle of the gallery.
“So, it‘s a good day then?“
Aaron knows that Liv didn‘t ask about their short trip to London in general.
Right at that moment he spots Robert. He‘s still talking to that young woman and her partner, gesturing with his hands and smiling brightly. His cheeks are slightly rosy and he‘s wearing one of his best suits, the maroon one, and he looks absolutely handsome. Somehow Robert got even hotter with age, it‘s actually unfair.
“It is a good day,“ he confirms and squeezes her shoulder, his eyes never leaving Robert.
Liv nods. “Go on then. Go over to him. I‘ll speak to you later, yeah?“
He gives her a kiss on her temple before he releases Liv and when he walks away, there are already two young women waiting to talk to her.
“… it is kinda impressive how she picks up a random piece of metal, no matter in what shape it is, and sees something in it. The vision of creating something new,“ Robert says and then he sees Aaron approaching.
His green-blue eyes are sparkling and his smile gets even wider and hell, yeah. It is a good day. It is a fantastic day. And Aaron‘s heart leaps and warmth is spreading inside him.
“Aaron!“ Robert holds out his arm to put his hand on Aaron‘s lower back as soon as he‘s in reach. “This are Clara and Juste. Clara, Juste, this is the brother of the artist, Aaron, my husband.“
For a second, Aaron freezes before he shakes hands with the couple.
Robert called him husband.
And sure, Aaron labels Robert as his husband all the time - but only in his head. He didn‘t know that Robert is apparently doing the same?
Especially since they aren‘t officially married anymore.
“We were talking about this piece,“ Clara informs him and points towards the nearly four feet gigantic sculpture.
It‘s two people, two men, facing each other, their arms are entangled in a way that you can‘t really tell where one ends and the other starts.
The title of the art is ‘Strong‘ and Aaron heard other people whispering that it would be two fighters, maybe judoists or wrestlers. They probably haven’t read the small text on the pedestal that says:
Some fighters don‘t use fists
Some heroes don‘t wear capes
And while Aaron may not get the meta levels of all the artworks, he definitely gets this one.
It doesn‘t show fighters. It shows lovers.
And Aaron gets it, because it‘s them. Liv made him and Robert her centerpiece.
The small talk continues for another few minutes and then Clara and Juste bid their goodbye and walk off to the next sculpture.
Aaron turns to Robert and opens his mouth, but before he can say anything, Robert starts rambling. “Fuck, I‘m sorry. Look, I didn‘t mean to… I noticed that you tensed up when I told them you‘re my husband and I‘m so sorry. If I did hurt you, I didn‘t do it intentionally, it‘s just-”
“Shut up,“ Aaron smiles and Robert closes his mouth. He still looks nervous though. “You are my husband, Robert. You always were.“
Aaron leans in for a kiss. His stupid no PDA rule be damned, they are in London and he had champagne.
When he pulls back, Robert‘s lips slowly turn into a smile. “Hey, was that a poor attempt at proposing?“
“I thought it was actually decent,“ Aaron objects and butterflies are flapping their wings in his belly.
Being so close, he can see all the freckles speckled across Robert‘s beautiful face.
“I‘d have done it with a big gesture. Where are the fireworks? Why aren‘t we in the London Eye? Or on the Tower Bridge?“ Robert teases him.
Aaron does his infamous mouth shrug-slash-upside down smirk and nods slowly.
“Is that a poor attempt in saying yes?“ he asks back.
“Well, you know what they say…“ Robert starts swaying. “Third time‘s a charm.“
Today is a good day.