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The Love in your Eyes (5 times Aaron hated being at a wedding and 1 time he didn‘t)

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He came to town like a midwinter storm

He rode through the fields, so handsome and strong

His eyes was his tools and his smile was his gun

But all he had come for was having some fun

 

Mood board

Aaron Dingle hates weddings. No, scratch that, because that would be a simple understatement. He loathes weddings. 

Crying brides with fake hair and plastic nails, Aaron loathes it.

Pink flowers and white balloons, Aaron loathes it.

The stupid protocol and endless speeches, Aaron loathes it.

The obligatory first dance to either Dirty Dancing or Twilight, Aaron loathes it. 

Drunken men falling asleep at the tables while their wifes-slash-girlfriends are bawling to the Spice Girls, Aaron loathes it. 

Getting hit on twice every hour - loathe, loathe, LOATHE!

Lord help him, but right now is one of those moments again, when a young woman is approaching him, sipping her cocktail through a straw to prevent her red lipstick from smearing all over her face or something. Aaron does his best to ignore her as she’s standing next to him, although he can definitely feel her gaze on him. Getting eye fucked without wanting it is not nice. It’s not fun. It makes him uncomfortable, so he stares pointedly in another direction. 

Of course she can’t take the hint. 

Here we go,

he thinks when she leans over, closer than necessary, rubbing her breasts seemingly by accident against his arm. 

“Hi,” she breathes a nasty stench of alcohol and mouth odour right into his face.

Aaron values personal space a lot, thanks very much, so he steps back on instinct and stays quiet. 

She can’t take the hint.

“Just wan’ed ‘o say you’re doin’ a great job.” She’s slurring a little.

He gives her a quick thumbs up and focuses on the table in front of him again.

Guess what. She can not take the hint. 

“How’re you so good?”

The question makes him frown, because

I’m sorry, what now?

and eventually he does look at her. She’s got dark, shoulder long hair and is wearing way too much makeup. One strap of her dress slid down her arm and Aaron has to resist the urge to pull it back up. She sucks at the straw again and blinks up at him through her false lashes. 

Good God, he is so done with it. 

“That’s because I honestly don’t give a flying fuck,” he says truthfully and flashes her a brilliant smile before he turns back to his table again. 

She’s standing there for another five long seconds, until he sees out of the corners of his eyes how her face falls and she freaking finally takes the fucking hint!

She gives him an irritated look, before she weaves away. Aaron takes a deep breath and okay, fine, he does feel a tiny little bit bad for being so rude to her. It’s just her bad that she was the fifth woman who came onto him tonight and Aaron honestly wonders if he should put up a little sign ‘not interested’. 

“She looked upset!” 

Aaron jumps slightly, because he hadn’t noticed that Adam was suddenly standing next to him. He just shrugs instead of giving an answer. Apparently his best mate doesn’t need words to look at him exasperatedly. 

“Aaron, she’s one of the bridesmaids. Mate, we can’t…” Adam sighs and rubs his forehead. “We have to stay professional, please.”

“She was basically sexually harassing me or summat!” Aaron points stubbornly in the general direction where she left.

Adam gives him a look that pleads ‘don’t be the biggest inconvenience in my life, mate’. “Then you make a couple of minutes of small talk and let her down easily!” Adam over-accentuates the last part and makes a big gesture with his hand.

Small talk at a wedding, Aaron loathes it.

He groans, but then he deflates and nods sulkily. 

“Good lad,” Adam says, slapping his shoulder blade and walking off.

Adam Barton is the worst best friend ever.

Aaron really, really should have gotten out his pitch fork to shoo him out of his house when Adam approached him three years ago with the brilliant idea to start a business of their own. 

But Adam’s loveable cuteness and his huge puppy eyes and yes, also his sheer endless enthusiasm, made Aaron weak and lured him into the trap he finds himself in now. 

They own an event agency and at first they started with a whole portfolio of different events they offered to organise. And then one of their first clients happened to be a bride-to-be and they sorted the venue, the menu, the bar, the decorations, the music, the give-aways - they organised everything. 

To make an unfortunately very, very long story short: it got out of hand. 

Not because it was a disaster. Haha ha, oh no. It was perfect. A comprehensive success.

The happy bride recommended them in multiple wedding blogs and the guests also spread the words amongst other friends and before Aaron and Adam realised it, they were booked out with weddings for the rest of the year. 

And here he is now: Aaron Dingle, 25, wedding DJ, at your service.

It’s all Adam’s fault. Adam with big brown eyes and his innocent little face. 

They quickly figured that Adam was perfect to host the wedding parties. With his energetic, friendly and slightly eccentric personality it wasn’t a hardship, really. Aaron had the false expectation to be left alone behind his laptops, but of course he isn’t that lucky. People love the DJ and sadly they like to express it.

Some only want to make some small talk, maybe because they assume he might be lonely or bored standing alone at his laptops the whole evening. Spoiler: he’s not.

Others just hit on him rather bluntly - exhibit A left a few minutes ago. 

There are some perks of the job, Aaron is willing to admit that. During the week he can sleep as long as he wants to and since they always work with the same circle of caterers, decorators, magicians, clowns

Yes, some couples actually want a clown at their wedding, like what the fuck.

the organisation is a routine now. Just a ticking off of positions on their ultimate wedding checklist. So it isn’t hard work, really. And it brings good money, people are willing to pay insane prices when it comes to the happiest day of their lives. Actually working as a wedding planner and wedding DJ would be a nice job! Well. If it wasn’t for the, yeah, weddings. 

Fuck my life.

Aaron glances at the little clock on his macbook monitor. Urgh, it’s only half past 11! Oh God, how is that even possible, it feels like he is here for bloody ages already! Another three hours ahead. Three hours. He wants to bang his head on the table.

Instead he grits his teeth and fades Dua Lipa into Taylor Swift. In the beginning he tried to make the song transitions as smooth as possible and used a few effects to mix them together before he would fade out the first song completely. 

He quickly noticed that barely anyone gave a damn about it. Since then he just pulls one controller down and pushes the other up. 

The couple gave him a top100 list of their favourite songs and experience teaches that countless guests come up to him with their own music wishes, so Aaron never has to search long for the next title in his playlist. 

Sitting back on the stool, he sips his coke and lets his eyes aimlessly wander around. They are in a pretty modern town hall, but Priya, their decorator, created a small miracle and transformed that cold, clean hall into a bloody Disney Princess castle. Aaron almost choked on his lunch when he heard that the couple was actually spending so much money on flowers and decoration like others would do for a small car. 

He spots a blond head in the crowd and Aaron doesn’t know why but somehow that catches his eye. The blond hair belongs to a man on the dance floor and although he can’t see him fully and only from behind, it seems like he is having a good time. 

Men are a rare sighting on the dancefloor. They mostly come out only after midnight, when they successfully drowned their inhibition in enough alcohol. 

A group of women is leaving the dance floor and now Blond Bloke is right in Aaron’s focus. Broad shoulders are covered by a crisp white shirt and the rolled up sleeves show off tanned forearms. Aaron approves. A lot. His gaze travels further down and 

Whoah, hello there!

Aaron does recognise a nice arse when he sees one. And damn, is that one fine butt, swinging from side to side to the rhythm of the song. Such a perfect peach and Aaron can see the pants are honest to God straining over that much flesh that he wants to squeeze. He rakes his gaze over that man’s thick thighs and calves and back up.

That bloke is gorgeous from behind. 

And he’s dancing like an idiot. 

When the chorus is blaring, he waves his arms in the air and his whole body is shaking with it. Jesus Christ, Aaron bites back a laugh, because it looks that ridiculous.  This lad clearly has a thing for Taylor Swift and he doesn’t give a fuck what others think of him dancing along, considering he is currently the only man on the dance floor and not holding back in the slightest. It’s kinda impressive.

Aaron is so enamoured by Blond Bloke that he totally misses his cue to fade up the next song. Suddenly the song ends and 

Fuck!

a weird silence settles in - except from the constant noise of people talking. Aaron jumps up from his stool and leans over his laptops, feeling eyes burning on his skin and hearing the murmur of the people getting louder and louder and he just clicks without even reading on the next best title, which happens to be a classic tune from Madonna. His heart is pounding quickly in his chest and he takes a few deep breaths before he straightens back up. That never happened to him before. 

He immediately spots Adam’s frowning face in the crowd and shrugs - his best mate hopefully knows him long enough to translate the gesture as ‘sorry’.

Aaron checks on the crowd on the dance floor and sees them picking up their hip swings again.

Except Blond Bloke. 

Blond Bloke has turned around and is now looking at him, straight in the eye. And too often in his life Aaron fancied a guy from behind, but when he got a look at the face, he thought ‘okay, well, nevermind’.

But whoah, this man though! This man! His mouth is the first thing that Aaron zones in on, because those lips are lush and probably very kissable. And then that jawline, Jesus, it’s absolutely gorgeous and Aaron spots a cute, tiny dimple on the bloke’s chin. Finally their eyes lock and Aaron stops breathing for a moment. 

He’s beautiful. That man is absolutely stunning. 

He’s still standing there, just a little over 10 feet away, and whilst all the women around him are swaying, stomping and turning to the beat, Blond Bloke is motionless, just staring back. 

Aaron never had eye contact that intense ever before. It’s not just eye contact, at least not on his side. His body is flushing with heat and want and fantasises about walking over, kissing him and combing his fingers through those perfectly styled blond streaks.  

Suddenly Blond Bloke starts smirking, which gives him such a smug aura, and Aaron is torn between feeling caught out on his dirty thoughts and the urge to kiss that stupid crooked grin off the guy’s pretty face. 

Then the green eyes are dipping down to Aaron’s laptops and back up again. Blond eyebrows are rising, like asking a silent question. Aaron frowns and looks at his monitors and

Fuck!

‘La Isla Bonita’ is almost over! He needs to fade into the next song!

“Fuck!”

He can’t believe he was staring at the other man that long - for an entire song! How can four minutes have possibly passed already?! The seconds are ticking and ticking and literally the last moment he switches to Billie Eilish. It’s a pretty hard change from a classic pop to a modern chart tune, also totally off beat, but who cares?

Clearly not Aaron.

Searching in the crowd for Blondie, he realises with a sinking stomach that he must have left the dance floor, because he is nowhere to be seen. Shame. 

Deciding to ignore the pang he feels in his guts, Aaron clears his throat. 

Get a grip. Do your job. 

Right, exactly. He focuses back on his playlist, or at least he tries to do so. That image of the other man is still very present in his mind. Fuck, that was intense! Aaron isn’t one for flirting much usually, it doesn’t go well with his grumpy, drawn-back, just-leave-me-the-fuck-alone attitude. And that was almost more than flirting!

He wonders if the other man felt something similar, too. He wonders how obvious he was. He wonders if Blond Bloke could read from his face what he wanted to do to that sweet arse. 

Holy shit.

Fuck, his mind is in the gutter now, like really deep in the gutter. Concentrating on his DJing seems like an impossible task now and Aaron can’t stop himself from craning his neck and searching the town hall for a tall blond. 

Maybe he came across too strong, he wonders with a sinking feeling. Aaron knows first hand how annoying it is being treated like a fuckable piece of meat. God, he’s not better than all those people who are constantly hitting on him, is he? 

Time is passing and Aaron plays a few songs from the current music range, before he’s switching to a round of classic love ballads. Women are dragging their partners on their dance floor for a slow bop and it’s astonishing everytime how there are exactly two types of men: the ones with a slightly embarrassed expression who just long to go back to the bar to down another shot with the other boys and the ones who start excessively making out with their lady. 

There are people who claim that weddings are celebrations of stupid heternormative clichés and they were so right. And just to clarify, ‘people’ means ‘Aaron’, and yeah. He’s so right. It all is so predictable and he’s seen it too often, really. 

With every wedding slowly but surely he’s losing brain cells, Aaron reckons. 

Another music change, back to the 90s again. You can’t go wrong with the 90s, everybody seems to like those tunes.

Aaron wishes he had ear plugs. Ricky Martin is ‘Living la vida loca’ and frying his poor brain cells. The next four songs are queued up in the program and he looks up to check his audience. There is a good vibe tonight, the crowd obviously easy to please if those attempted latin hip swings are anything to go by.

Blond Bloke is back. 

And he actually does a decent latin hip swing! In his right hand he’s balancing a glass of what Aaron assumes is G & T, his sleeves are still rolled up, the front of his shirt is half hanging out of his pants and his feet are moving quickly over the wooden floor. 

It’s mesmerizing and Aaron finds himself staring again, simply because he can not NOT stare. 

The man does a 360 turn and while he’s doing so, his eyes lock with Aaron’s. The crooked smug smile appears again, as if he knows exactly what effect he has on Aaron! 

Aaron ducks his head and bites back a smile, feeling that skin of his getting hot. Blushing is something he normally doesn’t do - just like flirting. But well, it seems this stranger is bringing that out of him. 

As the 90s playlist continues Blondie is on the dancefloor, showing off his, let’s phrase it unconventional, moves. Then Aaron fades into another genre - classic rock - and the guy is gone again. 

Huh.

Aaron may be many things, but he’s not an idiot. In the following hour he figures out that Blonde Bloke has a particular soft spot for trashy pop music from the past century and obviously dislikes rock, modern and rap. 

Steeled with that useful knowledge Aaron rearranges the songs in his waiting list. And if he queues up Ricky Martin a second time only to see that ridiculous

(hot)

hip swing, then he would never admit it, of course. 

All he has to do is lean back and enjoy the show, literally. If one thing is for sure, like God-given, it’s the fact that no one can be attractive when dancing to ‘Cotton Eye Joe’. And yet, here is Blond Bloke, shaking his body and proving the universe wrong. Aaron sips his drink and tries to hide his smile behind the glass. There is something incredibly endearing about that man, it’s adorable and exciting and makes Aaron’s body buzz. 

He just wishes he could go over and ask for the lad’s name, but considering Blonde Bloke is probably someone’s plus 1 and getting a drink spilled in his face isn’t ranking too high on Aaron’s preference list, he stays where he is and sighs ruefully. 

A guy like that surely must be taken. Either that or straight. 

It’s always the same, but that won’t stop him from finally getting some fun out of a wedding job! 

“Hi!” someone shouts suddenly into his ear.

Aaron flinches and glares at the girl who just stepped up next to him. “What!” he barks over the loud music. 

Dear God, he isn’t ready for another bad attempt at flirting and Aaron steels himself for whatever comes next by taking a deep breath. 

“Can you play something from Nicki Minaj?”

Although he looks at her, he doesn’t really look at her, because in front of his inner eye Blond Bloke is waving his arms in the air and shaking that very edible arse.

“No.”

 

  • -    -

 

Sunday’s are bliss. 

Sunday’s are mostly spent under his blanket, enjoying the quiet, and only if needs must, Aaron peels himself out of the comfortably warm, incredibly soft, soul hugging safety of his bed. Like, to go for the toilet, which is so inconvenient on Sunday's. Sometimes on his way back he crashes on the couch and plays a little FIFA. Until he gets tired again and slips back into his bed. 

Usually he orders in and devours his pizza in bed. If he’s too lazy for even that, buttered toast will do. In bed. Crumbs are flying everywhere, but there is no one there to tell him off anyway, so who cares? 

His Sunday is sacred. 

 

  •  -     -

 

When he enters their office on Monday, he immediately wants to turn on his heel and head back home. 

Adam is already on the phone, having the device jammed between his ear and shoulder while he taps frantically on his keyboard. He looks annoyed and considering his best mate is a literal puppy who’s smiling all day and probably also in his sleep, him looking annoyed is rare and odd and if there is something that annoys Adam Barton it will most definitely gonna piss off Aaron Dingle. 

Priya Sharma is sitting at her desk, browsing through a catalogue with new ideas for bouquets. When she looks up to greet him, Aaron nods towards Adam. “Sup with him?”

Do I even wanna know?

he adds quietly in his head. 

She raises her hand and puts it next to her mouth as if to block her whisper from Adam’s phone customer. “Difficult woman again.”

Aaron rolls his eyes, firstly at her lousy attempt to keep her voice low and secondly at said difficult woman. The woman is a client who contacted them a few weeks ago and demands them to drop everything as soon as she calls. 

“No... yeah, but they have a really nice-” Adam starts.

“I’m not interested in NICE, Mr Barton!” the client shrieks so loud that even Aaron can hear it.

Adam winces and nearly drops the phone. He gives Aaron a look and they both roll simultaneously their eyes, before they put her on speaker.

“I want perfect . And I won’t settle for anything else.”

Honestly, it’s beyond Aaron what kind of man would want to get tied to this dragon. So far they have only spoken to her and Aaron supposes her husband-to-be doesn’t have much of a say at home. 

“Of course you do, Christine!” Adam says and Aaron thinks that if the wedding business dries out one day his mate could start another career in acting. “I will look for three other venues and send them to you ASAP. Let me just point out again, that we only have a few weeks until your big day and we are in the middle of the wedding season-”

“Don’t tell me things I already know.” She sounds tense. And she should be, because Adam and Aaron are the third wedding agency she hired. The first two didn’t do a proper job in her eyes and considering the time pressure, this is her final straw.

Somehow that doesn’t stop Christine from expecting a wedding in Kate-Middleton-style. 

“We are in the middle of the wedding season,” Adam repeats slowly, like he would speak to a stubborn child, “and the available locations are very rare.”

She breathes loudly into her phone. “Just send me something. Something bigger. Something more classy,” she demands. “And do it quickly. Money is not an issue.”

Urgh, Aaron hates people who talk like that. With another eyeroll he turns around to get a coffee from their small kitchen. 

When he comes back a few minutes later, Adam has ended the call and is rubbing his face exasperatedly with both hands. He groans.

Aaron feels bad for his best mate for a moment, but then he remembers that it was Adam’s idea to start this whole event business, and well.  

The phone rings again just as he’s sitting on his chair and booting up his computer. 

“You take that, I gotta look for the goddam Buckingham Palace for Christine,” Adam says sullenly.

“Why don’t you take it?” Aaron frowns over to Priya, who gives him the most unimpressed look while she keeps on flipping pages.

The telephone won’t stop ringing. 

So much for my authority as a boss. 

With a huff, Aaron grabs the handset. “Yes.”

There is silence on the other end of the line, but he can hear someone breathing.

Adam and Priya are staring at him, slowly raising their eyebrows in perfect sync. 

Aaron rolls his eyes, like he does a lot at work. And when he’s around his family, but that’s another issue.

“A-Team events, A & A create your perfect day, you’re speaking to Aaron, what can I do for you,” he rattles off deadpan.

God, he hates his job.

Chapter Text

It’s not Aaron’s job to judge the couples they plan the wedding celebrations for. He gets paid for organising and accompanying the festivities with atmospheric music. No one’s paying him for his opinion on the bride and groom. But damn, there are those moments when he wants to take either of them aside and ask them if they really, honestly have thought that whole thing of ‘til death do us apart’ through. 

Right now is such a moment.

And despite Aaron hating all the clichés that come along with the standard ceremony, he does believe in the value of marriage. It’s more than just a flashy party in a fancy outfit and showing off. 

Pierce Harris is showing off. 

His soon-to-be-wife, a shy woman with huge eyes that make her permanently look like a deer caught in the headlight named Rhona, is constantly clinging to his arm as if she could get lost without him. The man is walking around with broad shoulders and a puffed out chest, sporting the prigging expression of a classic macho man and Aaron does neither like nor trust him. Whenever they met before the wedding, Pierce made all decisions and Rhona just nodded along. Aaron wonders if she’s not allowed to have her own will and sadly it wouldn’t surprise him if that was actually the truth. This Pierce guy is bad news and he screams fifty shades of dodgy. Aaron even considers taking Rhona aside to talk to her. 

But then again, it’s just a feeling he has. And it would be overstepping the line by, like, a fucking huge step. Just because he doesn’t like someone. Aaron doesn’t like a lot of people, so he isn’t sure if he can really trust that nagging doubt in his guts. Besides, Adam would probably kill him if he did do that. 

And so Aaron stays quiet, although it makes him feel guilty and he hates it.

Rhona and Pierce will exchange their vows in one hour. Aaron sighs and looks around. The venue is a restaurant in Hotten, nothing too flashy, but far from an ordinary Yorkshire pub. There is a lot of gold and white decoration everywhere, clearly Priya’s attempt in upgrading the place. As usual she succeeded. 

The equipment for the ceremony is set up, Aaron just finished his last sound and light check. Adam makes sure his microphone is fully charged and the florist is arranging the last flower tubs. The couple booked a singer for the ceremony and she’s putting up her notes and humming a few tunes to warm up her vocal cords. It’s always busy before every wedding, but to be honest Aaron doesn’t mind at all. In fact, this is his favourite part of the day. 

The guests haven’t arrived yet, so it’s still relatively quiet and once Aaron’s equipment is ready, he takes a little walk around and checks if everything’s alright.

Normally, that is.

Today, Pierce is marching around, supervising everything as if he’s some sort of commanding officer and Aaron would rather steer clear of him, so he walks off to the backroom and opens the door energetic-

Whoah! What-!

The bride freezes in the middle of her move and stares at him with her huge, ever-shocked eyes. She is wearing nothing but a white corsage and a thong and is currently about to step into her dress.

“Get out!” Only then Aaron realises that there’s another woman in the room, crouching on the floor, holding said wedding dress. Probably the maid of honor. 

“Could have put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign or summat,” Aaron grumbles and points with his thumb towards the door handle. 

The second lady, a feisty one with long strawberry blonde hair is glaring at him, while Rhona is still standing not moving like a statue. “What the hell?! Get out!”

Just when Aaron wants to explain that he’s gay anyway, Maid of Honor is grabbing one of Rhona’s white shoes and threatens to throw it at him. He hurries to shut the door quickly, because those heels look damn sharp and murderous and he isn’t keen on finding out how unerring this woman’s right hand is. 

Well, that was awkward.

Taking a few deep breaths and shaking his head, Aaron tries to get his composure back. He feels like an idiot for stumbling into that room like that. Since he doesn’t trust himself to open more doors without knowing what’s behind them, Aaron makes his way to the backyard.

The restaurant has a quite lovely garden behind the building where they put up white bar tables and an outdoor bar for champagne and cocktails. He thought he would be alone here, but he is wrong - there is a guy, standing with his back to the door. 

When he hears Aaron’s footsteps he turns around and

Ohmygod. Fuck.

it’s that guy. Blond Bloke. Aaron stops dead in his tracks, just like his heart - before it takes a crazy leap and starts jackrabbiting painfully against his ribs.

Blond Bloke. It’s him. Definitely. Aaron hasn’t forgotten that face from the wedding four weeks ago. In fact it’s pretty much imprinted on his brain and he might or might not have jerked off in the past few weeks to the mental image of Blond Bloke and his lush lips doing explicit things to Aaron’s body. 

The other man seems just as surprised as Aaron for a moment, before his expression quickly smoothes and that tiny, smug grin appears.

“Well, if that isn’t the most enthusiastic wedding DJ in the whole of Yorkshire,” the guy says with a deep and sinful voice.

The hairs on Aaron’s arm are rising and a warm prickling feeling runs down his spine.

“What’re you doing here?” Whoah, that came out more gruffly than Aaron aimed for and he blames his non-expanding chest and tight throat for it.

“So first: I’m not the groom - thank God for that by the way - and second: I’m way too smartly dressed to be a waiter, so that leaves me being a… start gripping drumroll now…!” Then he  actually drums with his pointers against the edge of the table like a prat. 

Aaron rolls his eyes at the dramatics of the other man. 

A guest then.

He could have just said it, couldn’t he? Apparently not! “Alright, keep your hair on, Sherlock. No one likes a smartass.”

The smirk turns into a bright grin and small wrinkles around those incredibly green eyes are showing. “Is that so?” he asks cockily and leans one elbow on the table and gives Aaron the slowest once over he ever received. 

When his eyes land back on Aaron’s face, he’s hot all over and his brain is offline for a moment. No one ever has flirted with him like that. He clears his throat, because he‘s lost for words and that buys him some time. 

“So I take it you’re from the bride’s side?” 

Ah, safe topic switch. Smooth, Aaron. 

“Something like that, yeah. I’m Robert,” the bloke announces and offers his hand for a shake. 

Aaron closes the small gap between them and finally he gets a good close up of Blond Bloke’s

Robert’s

face. He is even more gorgeous than Aaron suspected from afar, how bloody unfair is that? From that perfectly styled hair over those bright eyes, shining like gemstones, to plump lips and a sharp jawline. The skin is freckled with little dots and moles.

Robert coughs and glances down. Aaron follows his gaze, blinking and feeling a little dazed. The hand is still stretched out and way too late Aaron realises that he is supposed to shake it! He wants to slap himself when he quickly complies like a total idiot.

Please, don’t let my hands be clammy!

Robert’s grip is warm and firm and dry and pretty much perfect and Aaron looks back up, because that face is like a magnet to his eyes.

“Are you gonna tell me your name or do I have to carry on calling you ‘hot DJ’ in my head?”

Well, Aaron does feel extremely hot right now, that is for sure! His body is burning and his skin is flushing with heat. He fears he might melt away any second. 

“Aaron.” He clears his throat again, because there is a weird chafing thing happening that he has no control over. 

“Aaron,” Robert repeats with sparkling eyes and God, has his name never sounded better! “Nice to meet you.”

They are still shaking hands and Aaron doesn’t want to let go, really. In fact, he wants to pull the other man even closer and kiss that smug confidence right off his beautiful face. 

Eventually the moment is broken when a waiter steps outside, balancing a tray with a single glass on it. Robert takes a quick step back and their hands slide out of each other's grip. 

“Your whiskey, Sir.” The glass with the brown liquid is being put on the table. “Anything for you?” The question is aimed at Aaron.

“Coke, please.”

The waiter nods and heads back in.

“Bit early for that, innit?” Aaron can’t stop the words from spilling out of his mouth. It’s true though. It’s just a little past lunch time. 

“Driving tonight, so gotta start early. Besides, this is my second wedding in four weeks...” Robert scoffs and takes the glass with his long, nimble fingers that Aaron is definitely not staring at-

God, look at those hands, that glass looks so tiny in those huge hands…

“... so I’d say I earned it.” He sips at the whiskey and his Adam’s Apple is bobbing up and down when he swallows. “I bet you’d have one too, if you were just a guest and not on duty.”

“I’d be hammered already,” Aaron says dryly, not even lying, and to his delight, Robert throws his head back and lets out a loud and deep laugh. 

“Are you telling me that you’re a wedding DJ… who doesn’t like being at weddings?” Robert says amused and raises his eyebrows. 

“I mean, the job has its perks.” With a hammering heart Aaron tries his best attempt in flirting and rakes his gaze over Robert’s body, just like the other man did earlier with him. Only Aaron feels a bit rusty in comparison. He is not a flirty person, alright?! 

If those slightly pink turning ears of Robert are anything to go by though, he didn’t do it so bad after all! 

“Yeah? Which are?” Robert takes another sip and licks with his tongue the remaining whiskey from his upper lip. 

“You know…” Aaron says vaguely, shrugging and pulling the corners of his mouth down. “... like getting free drinks…” Just on cue the waiter turns up with the coke and puts it on the table with flashing a smile, before he quietly disappears again. “Or like watching people…”

“Do you like watching people, Aaron?” Robert dips his voice a bit deeper and his green eyes are locking on Aaron’s.

They’re not just green, there is also a hint of blue…

“Some more than others, yeah.”

Especially those tall, blond blokes with tailored navy blue suits. 

Aaron grabs his glass like a lifeline. The cold feels heavenly in his sweating palm.

Behind him, clicking heels are announcing the approach of a woman. 

“Robert, there you are!”

Aaron turns around and spots the strawberry blonde maid of honour from earlier right in that moment when her eyes land on him. She stops on the spot and her face darkens.

Uh-oh.

“You!” she sneers and points at him. “You 're the voyeur!”

Her accusation hits him like a brick and he raises his hands in a defending gesture. “I- What? No?! I… didn’t-,” he stutters helplessly. It’s not every day you get called a pervert and Aaron kinda lacks experience in handling a delicate situation like that. 

“He walked in on us when Rhona was about to put on her dress and he kept lingering around like some perv!” the woman says to Robert, still pointing at Aaron. 

“I did not… linger!” Aaron frowns and turns around to Robert as if to get some support from him, only to find the bloody traitor chuckling like a smug douchebag extraordinaire. As if all of this was utterly hilarious to him. 

“You literally just told me you like to watch people,” Robert grins, shrugging casually and shoving his hands into the pockets of his pants like an innocent school boy, and yeah, he does enjoy the whole situation!

Oh, you smug, arrogant, cocky-

God, Aaron wants to kiss him so bad. 

“Only the blokes, alright?!” it bursts out of him. “I’m gay!” He keeps flipping his head back and forth to look at them both like the viewers of a tennis match.  

Robert barks out another laugh and the woman’s finger is slowly lowering. Her furious expression softens and the corners of her mouth are quivering as if she is trying to suppress a grin. 

“Okay. Fine!” she finally huffs. “But I’m keeping an eye on you! Anyway. Robert! I was looking for you. We need your helping hand, since all the others aren’t here yet!” 

The man in question downs his whiskey and slams the glass with a final bang onto the table, before he slaps the surface.

“Coming!” he says to the woman and then his eyes settle on Aaron again. “That was a very interesting conversation, Aaron. Thank you.”

He can’t remember when he’s ever been thanked for a little chat. If ever. His knees turn into jelly under the soft gaze of those shiny gemstones.

“Yeah. I’ll see ya,” he says and nods.

The cocky grin returns and when Robert walks past him, he says: “Oh, I’ll bet you do.” 

Aaron’s breath hitches. Then Robert goes back inside with the other lady and he is alone.

Did that really just happen?!

Scratching his eyebrow, Aaron stares at the door and then at the empty whiskey glass on the table. His whole body is thrumming and buzzing with excitement and he huffs out a little laugh when he replays the whole conversation in his head. 

That Robert-bloke has definitely got an ego as big as a house, that‘s for sure. Aaron can’t help but wonder what else about Robert might be big and he swigs down his coke in a poor attempt to cool himself off. 

 

  • -    -

 

Robert has no shame.

You know, dancing the Macarena should be forbidden, because it’s, like, against the Geneva Convention or something, and Aaron is like 80% sure there are online petitions solely for that cause somewhere!  

If not, maybe I should start one. 

Of course Robert is amongst the lines of women, moving his arms to the beat of the song and shaking his hips like a drunken duck before he jumps to switch direction. 

Aaron can not look away. 

Whenever Robert is facing him, their eyes lock and that smug expression never leaves that stupid, freckled face. Aaron sips his coke without letting Robert out of his gaze. Like prey. 

Such a fucking tease.

And no one can seriously blame him at this point for all the dirty thoughts he’s having, imagining having his way with the other man. How is anybody supposed to resist this?! 

The night is going okay all in all, just like the day in general. Only the ceremony itself was cringe-worthy, at least to Aaron, because that bad feeling intensified. He wondered if other guests felt something similar or if it was just him. Right before the exchange of the vows Aaron silently yelled at Rhona in his head to say ‘no’ into Pierce’ face and take to her heels. She didn’t. And now she’s Mrs Harris.

It’s time for another genre - no matter how much Aaron wishes to play cheesy 90s pop tunes all night long just for the blessing of ogling Robert shaking his arse, he knows he can’t do that really. So a bit of modern R’n’B it is. He queues up 10 songs, starting with Beyonce, before he puts his headphones down and leaves his table to order a new coke at the bar that he downs in one go.

Usually he doesn’t take many breaks, but once or twice Aaron needs a few minutes apart from the booming bass and the loud crowd. Knowing that half of the wedding party is in the backyard, he chooses the front door which leads to the parking lot. The night isn’t cold by any means, but the fresh air causes him to shiver after exiting the small overheated restaurant. Aaron takes a deep breath in, thankful for the much needed oxygen. 

“And here I thought I would be alone out here,” a voice makes him jump. 

Aaron glares in the direction where it came from and he’s not surprised at all to find Robert leaning against a silver Porsche, holding a bottle of water in his hand.

“And here I thought all the guests would prefer the backyard,” Aaron shoots back and walks over to him.

“Well, the exceptions prove the rule.”

There isn’t much light so Aaron can’t be 100% sure, but he thinks he feels Robert’s eyes travelling over his body again. And there is the same tingling sensation crawling up his spine as earlier. It’s weird, having this strong bodily reaction toward the other man who is basically a stranger. What does he know about Robert besides his name? Right, that he’s got shitty taste in music. 

“Just needed a moment of peace and quiet, I guess,” Robert adds and this might be the first time his voice sounds actually normal, genuine, without that tiny teasing undertone. 

“Same.”

Aaron leans next to him and then they are standing in silence. Leaning his head back, Aaron looks up into the night sky, but the light pollution in Hotten and a few clouds make it impossible to see any stars. Shame.

Somehow his thoughts wander back to Rhona and Pierce. Such a weird couple. They don’t seem to fit at all.

“How well do you know the groom?” he asks suddenly out of curiosity. 

Maybe he isn’t so bad and it’s all in your head, because you’re too touchy…

“Pierce? He’s a douche,” Robert says simply. “Why’d you ask?”

Aaron shrugs and starts nagging his lower lip. He’s not sure if he should talk about this with Robert, if he’s in the position to do so. He barely knows Pierce Harris. He only met him like 4 times, including today. But still…

“He’s a bit... off,” he says carefully and when Robert raises his eyebrows questioningly, Aaron sighs and deflates. “He gives me some serious creeper

abuser

vibes, I dunno.”

Aaron had his fair share of abuse with watching his mother becoming a totally different person under the constant control and influence of Gordon. And with suffering from abuse himself, in the most excruciating, unspeakable way possible. 

Harris gives him Gordon vibes. Aaron sees the same expression in Harris’ eyes like he did in his own father’s. He shivers at the unwanted memory and tugs at the collar of his shirt, because it’s suddenly suffocatingly tight. 

His thoughts aren’t something he wants to elaborate to a stranger like Robert and so he pushes them back and back to the very rear end of his mind where he doesn’t have to deal them. “Just… keep an eye on Rhona.”

Robert gives him a long look and from the corners of his eyes Aaron sees the muscles of his jaws twitching as if he’s grinding his teeth. Fearing that he’s maybe just paranoid, Aaron quickly adds: “Look, I know it’s not my place or anything, but I-” 

“No, it’s alright,” Robert interrupts him and then more quietly: “I get what you mean.”

Do you though?

He looks at the man, but Robert stares into the distance as if he’s lost in his own memories, before he swallows and casts a quick glance to Aaron. “Okay. I’ll talk to Vanessa, she is her best friend after all,” he says, letting out a long sigh. 

That must be the bride’s maid then, Aaron reckons. He nods in agreement, then they’re silent again. It’s a bit odd now, after they touched such a heavy subject, even if the biggest part remained unsaid. 

“So, as a wedding DJ who hates weddings…” Robert starts and his cheerful tone implies that he’s trying to change the subject, “how did you like this one? From one to ten, honest ranking.”

Aaron snorts. “Two. Tops.”

“Explain,” Robert says and takes a sip of his water.

The man radiates an exciting energy, a mix of authority and confidence, when he gives Aaron that short command which makes him think that Robert must be some sort of businessman.  

“Well, for one: the venue. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice restaurant, but it’s just… a nice restaurant, you know what I mean? I’ve seen it too often, mate. The decorations, the small menu cards, the balloons and all. This is the most standard wedding set up to ever exist. It totally lacks creativity. Personality. Where is the personality of the couple in there?” Aaron points towards the door. Robert doesn’t answer his question, since it was more or less rhetorical anyway, but he keeps listening intently, so Aaron goes on. “And then the ceremony.” He shakes his head. “He had to read his vows from a note. From a note, Robert.”

That causes the blond man to chuckle lowly. “Some people get nervous in front of crowds,” he throws in.

Aaron gives him a look. “Pierce Harris,” is all he says flatly. A lot of adjectives fit the bloke, ‘shy’ isn’t one of them. 

“Point taken.” Robert bows his head. 

“And even if…! Then, so what? Then you’re nervous, but shouldn’t you be able to come up with your vow naturally when you look into the other person’s eyes and express what you see in them? What you are for each other, wish for each other, what you’d do for each other?” 

Will I ever find a love like that?

Suddenly feeling a lump cutting off his ability to breathe, Aaron tries to swallow it down. It makes his throat ache. “Never trust a person who reads their vows from a paper like rattling off a phone number.” 

His heart is thumping rapidly and so loud that he worries if Robert might be able to hear it.

“Aaron…” Robert starts and his voice has dipped a bit deeper than normal. “Are you a romantic?”

The playful undertone is back and it’s obvious that he’s teasing, but Aaron just feels caught!  

Caught by a total stranger. He has talked to Robert… what, like 15 minutes in total or what?

 “What? No,” he scoffs and clears his throat. “I hate weddings.”

And he does. He does hate weddings. 

“So, you wouldn’t marry the man of your dreams? If he’d ask you to? Out of principle?” Robert has turned towards him and is watching him with genuine interest now. 

Aaron feels his cheeks heating up under the intensity of his gaze. “Lots of subjunctive there, mate,” he rasps.

“Hope the poor bloke knows how you feel about marriage...”

Shoving his hands into his pants, Aaron pushes himself off the car and kicks around the gravel with his shoes. “Yeah, well. Good thing there isn’t a bloke, I guess,” he mutters and avoids Robert’s gaze as best as he can.

That’s how it is: Aaron Dingle, eternal bachelor, no matter how hard his mum tried to set him up in the past.

And urgh, did she try that a lot. Too much, in fact. The thought alone about Alex the Weirdo still gives him the creeps. A guy who seemed quite nice in the beginning, so nice it was actually almost a bit dull, before he turned on a full-stalker mode and kept showing up unannounced at Aaron’s work or in the pub when he had a pint with Adam. He even came to a wedding once, making a scene and accusing Aaron of cheating on him - which - what the fuck?! - he didn’t. He broke off with Alex, naively thinking that was it. Of course, the other man kept stalking him until it got so out of hand that Aaron threatened to get a restraining order and Cain had “words” with Alex. Only then he backed off. 

Since then he's been single.

Eventually Aaron glances up briefly and he thinks he sees some kind of sparked interest in Robert’s green gemstones. But he’s not quite sure, maybe that’s just some sort of wishful thinking. Because damn, that cocky blond stranger is the first bloke in… ages who makes him want! Who has him longing for a touch or a kiss.  

He kinda wishes he could ask Robert if he’s single too, but he doesn’t know how without being blunt and coming on too strong. His inability to use words properly striking again. 

He must be single, why else would he flirt with you like that?

Right? 

“Aaron!”

Adam’s voice sounds stressed and Aaron quickly turns around to his mate, who is standing at the threshold of the door.

“What!”

“Can you hear that?” Adam asks.

Straining his ears, all Aaron can detect is the faint humming of engines from the cars passing on the street nearby and the animated chatter from the inside of the restaurant. But despite that, nothing unusual. 

“No?” he says irritably. Is there something he missed? “What is it?”

Adam flails his arms so hard he nearly trips over the little step. “The music, mate!”

The music?

The music!

The music stopped.

Fuck! Fuckfuckfuck!

This is the third time the other man distracted him in such a way he completely forgot his job. God damnit! He hurries to the entrance with muttered curses, ignoring Adam’s disapproving head shake, but not missing the cackling laughter of Robert behind him.

 

  • -    -

 

Time is flying when you are being captivated by a nice view, Aaron learns. They have booked the venue until 2am and now it is half past 1 already. Normally he is counting the minutes until he can grab his equipment and head home to his waiting bed for his beloved Sunday time out. Not today though. 

Robert is dancing again to JLo’s ‘Waiting for tonight’ and Aaron honestly admires his stamina. Of course his mind wanders immediately to the question if Robert has similar stamina in other domains.  

He can’t help it, the other man is flaming hot, alright, so sue him. 

His desire, however, is not just physical anymore. The little glimpses he got today of Robert’s personality were interesting and Aaron liked that slightly arrogant attitude, the little teasing undertones and that smirk that seems constantly to tug on the corners of Robert’s mouth. But he also liked that more serious side, the genuine interest and how he considered Aaron’s words about Harris without pressuring him to explain.

And he’d love to learn more about Robert. He psychs himself up to ask him for his number. 

Vanessa is entering the dance floor now, her make up still looks flawless, but she’s definitely lit by now. Her footing is unbalanced and her arm movements are uncoordinated. 

Aaron watches how she basically stumbles into Robert and the blond man laughs in return. He throws his head back and squeezes his eyes shut and he looks suddenly so much younger and carefree. He stabilises the maid of honour with a tight embrace for which he has to bend down, because she barely reaches his shoulders and she hugs him back, a blissful smile on her face. They start slowly swaying off beat to the up-tempo song in the middle of the party crowd. Like if they just dove into their own bubble. 

Aaron watches them talking, whispering into each other's ears.

He watches their faces, their smiles and relaxed mimics.

He watches two people sharing an intimate moment. 

How fucking stupid am I?!

It’s like someone poured a bucket of cold water over his head and that exciting tingling vanished from one second to the next and just left him… raw. Embarrassed. What the fuck was he thinking? Getting carried away after talking to some straight guy for a few minutes. 

Call him sulky, but Aaron switches his music programme to some K-Pop, even if he despises the genre himself, simply because he knows it’s gonna chase Robert off the dance floor. He can’t bear watching him and Vanessa any second longer.

The remaining time is being spent with excessive staring at his monitors and Aaron has to force himself not to seek out a tall blond bloke amongst the wedding guests. Sometimes he thinks he feels eyes on him, brilliant green eyes, but that’s probably just his imagination - like everything else that he read into his interactions with the other man. 

Adam has his last big appearance for the evening, when he announces they are nearing end of the evening. He asks the newlyweds to step forward and the guests to build a circle around them.  

“And now I want everybody to think about what you wish for our lovely couple and we’re going to pass all the positive energy and the love in this room onto Rhona and Pierce,” Adam says into his microphone with a bright smile. “May the memory of this special day light up your hearts throughout your journey of life!”

The audience is clapping and cheering and then Aaron starts ‘A thousand years’ by Christina Perri. As soon as the soft piano tunes are sounding, the guests fall silent again and everybody is putting their arms around the shoulders of their neighbour while the bride and groom are swaying in the center of the crowd.

They end every wedding party like this, it’s like a rite by now and it’s a proven success. The couples love that last dance and their guests get one last little highlight before the lights go out.

Needless to say that Aaron hates it. The song alone is doing his head in, it’s the epitome of every cheesy wedding cliché. 

Tonight he hates it even more, especially since he caught involuntarily a little glimpse of Robert standing arm in arm with Vanessa and another bloke.

Aaron starts packing all the parts of his equipment he doesn’t need anymore for this last song, because he really can’t wait to leave. Adam comes up to him and slaps his shoulder, that typical proud, but exhausted smile he always has on his face after another wedding night.

“What’s with you?” he asks Aaron.

“What’s with me?” he snaps and shoves his second laptop into the black leather bag. 

“You’re grumpy.”

Aaron rolls his eyes and scoffs. “I’m always grumpy.” 

Adam bites into a white pop tart he must have gotten from the midnight cake buffet and mumbles with his mouth full: “Yeah, but you’re, like, extra grumpy or summat.”

Tiny chunks are flying from his mouth in Aaron's direction and he pulls a face. This guy is his best friend, basically like a brother from another mother, but right now he doesn’t wanna elaborate his pathetic attempt at flirting with a taken man or his bad feeling regarding Perce Harris. 

He just wants to go home and hide under his blanket.

“You should smile more, mate,” Adam suggests, helpful as ever.

Aaron stops in his motion and turns towards him to lift the corners of his mouth and parts his lips until his teeth are showing. A frown forming on Adam’s forehead, his friend tilts his head like a confused puppy.

“Okay, stop doing that. Fuck. That’s creepy,” Adam decides.

With his friend’s permission, Aaron returns to his usual scowl and continues to roll up his cables with sharp movements. His mate gives him another friendly slap and walks away again. As soon as the song is over, Aaron sighs in relief and slams his macbook shut. 

Thank God, another dull workday is done.

Except…

This one wasn’t actually dull, was it.

Fuck, he really enjoyed those two encounters with Robert! And the eye contact during the whole evening. And even though he knows now that it was only one-sided, there was definitely a palpable pull towards Robert. As if he was just a compass needle and the other man the fricking north pole.  

Aaron sighs again, but this time in defeat. He’s been so stupid. 

“I thought I’d see you performing a happy dance when you’re finished.”

Aaron jumps and his heart skips a beat. “Fucking hell, get a bell around your neck or summat,” he mutters and rubs over his chest, feeling the erratic heartbeat underneath the fabric, before he pulls himself together. “I don’t dance,” he informs Robert shortly.

The other man doesn’t seem to mind his clipped tone, because he chuckles softly. “Of course you don’t.” He shakes his head and it‘s almost kind of fond. 

And Aaron does not want to find this adorable. He really doesn’t. 

The little light machine that is always placed in front of his monitors is the last item that he needs to put away and Aaron stares pointedly down at it when he pulls out the cords and grabs the case from underneath the table. 

Robert keeps lingering, which is kinda weird. What is doing here, standing silently next to Aaron? Hasn’t he somewhere to go now?

“I had fun tonight.”

That causes Aaron to look up eventually. There is no smug attitude in Robert’s voice, nothing playful, instead it’s soft. Like God help him, soft. And his green eyes are watching Aaron warmly, fond almost, flicking over his face as if they’re searching for something. 

Aaron feels that pull again, it’s like everything fades away around them and it’s just Robert and him, looking at each other, into each other's eyes. He doesn’t dare blink, fears it might break whatever is between them, so Aaron just stares. 

Until a movement behind Robert catches his attention. Vanessa is swaying on the spot next to one of the tables. 

“Robert!” she shouts and her eyes are fluttering. 

Someone’s hammered.

“She’s waiting for you.” Aaron nods in her direction, the words tasting bitter like acid.

The thought that Robert is going home with her is killing him. And the knowledge that he shouldn’t have such strong feelings for someone he basically knows nothing about isn’t helping at all.  

Robert turns around and sighs. “Yeah, duty calls, I guess,” he says wistfully.

Aaron frowns. “Duty?” 

“Since her wife had to work tonight, I jumped in as her plus one. Meaning I’m the chauffeur,” Robert huffs, but a little smile is tugging on the corners of his mouth. “What are friends for, eh?”

Wait, what. Wife?  Friend?

Aaron’s eyes are darting back and forth between Robert and Vanessa. So, does that mean they aren’t-

“Robble!” Vanessa mourns and hiccups.

Robert ducks his head. “I better get going before she can use more embarrassing nicknames… or before she gets worse and pukes in my car. She better fucking not do that.” He makes another pause, before he knocks on the DJ table. “Bye, Aaron.”

By the time Aaron has processed what Robert just told him - that he’s not together with Vanessa, that he had fun - and he finally remembers how to use his words, Robert is already gone.

Aaron stood there, turned into a pillar of salt, with an open gob like an idiot and just watched the other man leaving. Aaron just watched him leaving and now he’s gone.

He’s gone and Aaron has no phone number, no family name, whatsoever. 

Fuck.

Chapter Text

  1. And maybe I'm crazy

Oh it's crazy and it's true

I know you can save me

No one else can save me now but you




It’s not like Aaron isn’t trying.  

At first he tries to forget Robert. It shouldn’t be hard, considering the short amount of time he spent with the other man. And yet, he thinks about green eyes and freckles when he wakes up. He thinks about Robert and his stupid hip swing when he hears a catchy tune on the radio. He thinks about that cocky grin and constant tease when Adam cracks a flat joke in the office. He thinks about tanned forearms, thick thighs and a peachy arse when he’s under his cover and tugging frantically at his cock. 

The blond stranger never really leaves him. 

Then he tries to get in touch. He stalks Rhona on facebook because it’s the first thing that comes to his mind, but her profile is pretty much dead and she’s got only like 25 ‘friends’ - none of them are called Vanessa or Robert. 

Deciding he needs to take this to another level if he’s really serious about wanting to see the other man again, he calls Rhona.

Yes, I’ve reached that level of desperation. 

“Harris?”

“Hi, it’s Aaron.” He clears his throat and scratches his eyebrow feeling vulnerable somehow. “From, uh… A-Team events,” he clarifies. 

“Oh, is there something wrong with the payments?” Rhona says concerned, “Wait. Let me get Pierce to the-”

“No, no no no,” he hurries to say, “there’s nothing wrong with your payments. It’s uh… I need to talk to one of your guests? Robert? Couldyougivemehisnumberplease?” he just word-vomits the last part into the phone.

There is silence on the other end and all Aaron hears is his breath quickening and a swoosh in his ears from the rush of his own blood. 

“I’m sorry, I don’t…” Rhona says slowly, carefully. 

“Look, it’s okay if you won’t give me his number, I understand. Maybe you could pass him mine on?” He tries not to sound too desperate, but Aaron reckons he’s not very successful.

“I’d love to do that for you, Aaron, but I don’t have his number, I don’t think.”

Oh. Fuck.

“We aren’t close, really. He came as a plus one to our wedding.”

“Vanessa!” Aaron remembers, hope rising in his chest. “You could give her my number and she can contact him!”

Damn, he is grasping for straws and he knows it. Rhona's hesitance is obvious, she is probably wondering why he needs to talk to Robert. Not to forget, Aaron is still the guy who walked in on her while she was half naked like a creeper. Though in the end she agrees reluctantly and as soon as Aaron hangs up he starts checking his display. 

Now he just needs to wait. 

 

  • -    -

 

Robert doesn’t call or text. Not that day, not on the following days.

Maybe Rhona hasn’t called Vanessa after all.

Maybe Vanessa hasn’t passed Aaron’s number on to Robert.

Maybe Robert doesn’t want to contact him.

Maybe Aaron projected things

feelings

into their conversations that were never there to begin with.

Aaron doesn’t care. 

It’s fine.

 

  • -    -

 

It’s not fine! Fuck!

Why isn’t Robert calling him? 

Why can’t Aaron get him out of his system?

Fuck!

 

  • -    -

 

He must have been desperation driven when he agreed to meet his mum’s latest attempt to make him an ‘honourable man’.

What the hell, mum?

The bloke has brown hair instead of blond, uncoordinated curls instead of styled streaks, blue eyes instead of green, a beard instead of a chiselled, clean shaved jawline and his face is generally lacking in freckles. 

It’s not just the looks that are putting Aaron off, please, he isn’t that shallow. It’s also the incredible dullness of Ben Tucker. He’s just as dull as his name, really. 

They’re only 20 minutes into their date night and Aaron is already bored. The worst thing is Ben doesn’t get Aaron’s natural grumpiness and it’s hella awkward between them. To be fair, this is something that can be easily mistaken. Many people get the impression Aaron might be simply rude or blunt, whereas Robert on the other hand almost appreciated his trademark scowl and half-grunted answers and took it as a challenge. 

But Ben is dull and nothing like Robert and Aaron’s sarcasm doesn’t cause an echo, it falls on deaf ears. 

There is no tension, no sparks, no flirting and although he knows it’s unfair, Aaron can’t stop himself from comparing Ben to Robert.

This is a dead end.

The deadest of dead ends. This whole charade will never ever hit first base. Aaron isn’t willing to waste his time with pointless dates. 

“Look…” Aaron sighs at some point between the main course and desert and his shoulders drop. “This isn’t working.”

Ben frowns at him. “You don’t know that,” he objects, clearly offended. 

“I do know though,” Aaron frowns back and crosses his arms. “This isn’t working.”

“But you don’t even know me yet! We should get to know each other better and then we see where it goes.”

See, this is where Aaron disagrees. There should be at least some kind of attraction right from the start. When you look into the other person’s eyes, you should see more than the colour of the iris. 

“I'll tell you where it goes. It goes nowhere.” Aaron lifts his hand to sign the waiter that he wants to pay. 

Ben glares at him sulkily and for a second Aaron does feel a bit bad for letting Ben down the harsh way he just did. But then he remembers stalker-Alex and he won’t walk with open eyes into the same trap again and get involved with someone he has no genuine feelings for. He won’t.

He pays for them both, which is probably the least - and, well, also the maximum - he can do. Before he gets up and leaves, he stops and looks at Ben. “Seriously, it’s better this way, believe me.”

“Save your shitty speech,” Ben says snippily. “You aren’t that special, Aaron.” The look he gets is cold and hard and Aaron doesn’t really care, if he’s honest. Because if anything, Ben’s words are proving him right. 

Nodding one last time at the other man, he gets up and basically flees the restaurant. As soon as he steps outside he takes a deep breath. So he just blew a date because he’s crushing on a phantom called Robert that he will most definitely never see again. 

Brilliant.

His mum is gonna give him hell for it. 

Yeah. Aaron doesn’t really care about that either. 

 

  • -    -

 

Why didn’t I just ask for that stupid number?

When Robert came up to him to say goodbye it was the perfect opportunity to do so. It’s almost like Robert expected him to do so! The thought drives Aaron crazy. How the fuck could he let this chance slip? Only because of his stupid brain, how is that fair?!

He stares at his computer screen without really looking. A menu needs to be sorted with a catering company and another couple demanded a special animation programme for the kids - it’ll have to wait. Because a certain blond, freckled fella won’t stop occupying Aaron’s mind. 

It’s quiet in the office, apart from Priya’s fingernails clicking on the keyboard. She is on the other side of the room, pointedly ignoring him while she types. He can't blame her really, since he snapped at her like a moody terrier as soon as she approached him for the first time this morning. 

Why isn’t he calling?

Surely it’s Vanessa who holds his number back, having him filed under ‘pervert’ in her head. She probably doesn’t want her friend anywhere near Aaron. But Aaron isn’t a pervert! Why, oh why did he walk into that bloody room with Rhona and Vanessa? 

He is ready to rip his hair out in frustration, when the door swings open and Adam marches in, whistling a song and swinging his hips. His best mate is like that sometimes when he’s in a good mood. He comes into a room like a whirlwind with his loud and energetic presence and simply infects others with his spirit. Mostly because of that quality he became the popular wedding host that brings them job after job. 

Adam grabs Aaron’s shoulders from behind, squeezes, shakes him slightly and presses a wet kiss on his temple.

“Ew!” Aaron rubs with his hand over his skin and is grossed out to find actual spit on it. “Adam!”

“Stop pretending you’re not gagging for my kisses!” his mate teases him with a feral grin and walks over to Priya to greet her.

That causes Aaron to let out an offended huff - the closest he was to smiling all day.

Priya gets a more modest greeting, a quick peck on her black hair and she smiles up at him.

“So, did Christine agree to one of those new venues?” She wants to know.

Adam just had another meeting with that horrible client who doesn’t hesitate to call him even at 10pm if something springs to her mind. As if she was used to the fact that everybody is just sitting around just waiting for her orders. Aaron has never met Christine so far, but what Adam told him and what he heard over the phone isn’t very flattering.

“Better!” Adam laughs and pulls off his jacket to put it over the backrest of his desk chair. “The meeting got cancelled last minute. She got some nasty bug or summat. Probs hugging the bog as we speak.” He laughs again and Priya pulls a face. “Karma doing its beautiful thing.”

Karma.

The faintest of smiles dies on Aaron’s face, because of course his mind wanders immediately back to Robert. Has he done something to piss Karma off? With a sigh he leans back and stares at the ceiling. Urgh, he hates fucking Karma.

 

  • -     -

 

Kill me. Kill me now.

Aaron sends silent messages to his mate to come to his rescue, but Adam is five meters away, sorting tiny place cards and when he eventually looks up and in Aaron's direction he just waves and grins. Bless, he’s an idiot sometimes. 

So Aaron has to shift his gaze back to the bride who just won’t stop talking. She doesn’t stop. She doesn’t even breathe. How is that even possible? Why doesn’t she need oxygen? She should be dead by now. Instead she’s rambling and rambling and gesturing and laughing and touching Aaron’s arm…

“So what do you think, Aaron?” She flutes and looks at him with her big bambi eyes, smiling expectantly. 

...and damn, he’s got no clue what she’s talking about. He wasn’t prepared for the unlikely event of her stopping and asking him something.

“Absolutely, yeah. Yeah,” he says quickly and nods.

She tilts her head, the smile slowly dying and being replaced by confusion. “Well, that’s not helpful, Aaron. I asked you if you wanted the box trees in front of your DJ table or on the side.”

Box trees? What?

He stares at her like she is the first human being he’s ever seen. Who the fuck cares, if the trees are placed in front of his table or like 2 feet further. Well, definitely not Aaron. 

It’s another thing that irks him about weddings. The couples get lost in such random details that they forget the original purpose of the day - to celebrate love. Pure, eternal love. 

But one hour before she’ll exchange her vows Bernice’s thoughts are with the boxtrees. Alrighty then. 

“Err… on the side,” he says slowly, a silent question mark hanging in the air. 

The answer seems to be correct, because she beams at him with a megawatt grin and continues her monologue before she suddenly stops and shrieks so loud it makes his ears ring. It takes him a few moments to comprehend what happened. Apparently the groom arrived early and is standing in the door of the barn, looking like a kicked puppy while his soon-to-be-wife yells something about ‘bad luck’ and that he’s not ‘supposed to be here’. 

Aaron takes this as his cue to sneak off. 

Since the entry is blocked by the unfolding drama, Aaron retreats to the back of the barn, where the hay is piling up to the roof. 

He likes this venue a lot. It’s an old barn on the property of the groom, Andy, which gives the whole setting a personal and unique note. The dim light creates an intimate atmosphere and even Aaron can appreciate how those wooden tables and chairs with their floral decoration look like a romantic scene taken directly from those fancy magazines Priya is reading all the time. The best thing is the smell though. Aaron always loved the scent of hay. 

He sits down on one of the bales and watches the chaos in the front.

Shame he’s got no beer and nuts.

The bride is sniffing dramatically now and despite Andy’s and Adam’s best intentions to comfort her, it only seems to have the opposite effect. Two other people are entering the barn, a woman around his age with brown hair and

Robert!

That’s Robert! This is him! How is this even possible?!

Karma! I take everything back, you’re not a bitch, you’re bloody amazing!

His heart bumps heavily against his ribs as he watches how Robert walks over to Bernice, emanating that self-confident attitude that’s equally arrogant and fucking hot.

“What happened?”

His voice is so wonderfully deep with a soothing timbre swinging in it and Aaron can’t prevent that little shiver that runs down his spine when he hears it. 

“He shouldn’t be here!” Bernice sobs, pointing at Andy. “It’s bad luck! Everybody knows it’s bad luck!”

For a moment, Robert just stares at her and, bless him, his expression stays perfectly neutral. He’s probably a pro at playing poker. 

“We need salt,” he says suddenly and that finally causes Bernice to stop whining.

“What?” she asks.

“You need to throw salt over your right shoulder, it brings luck,” Robert explains like it’s absolutely obvious. 

“You mean, … like an antidote?” Bernice’s voice quivers.

Robert nods and rubs her arms reassuringly. Aaron snorts quietly and shakes his head.

“I’ll get some salt!” the brown-haired woman shouts and disappears.

In the meantime, Robert pulls out a hanky - an actual fabric one, Aaron notices, not just some paper tissue from the supermarket - and gently dries off the bride’s upset tears. When the woman is back with the salt, they all make a big act of throwing it through the air.

To please the salty God of luck. Or whatever. The fuck.

The last time Aaron has seen such a drama was in some random Hollywood comedy movie. It’s priceless. And also unbelievable... because it’s actually working. Eventually the bride calms down and she and Andy share a kiss that lasts exactly 0,24 seconds - to not ruin her makeup any further, of course. 

Jesus Christ. Aaron really doesn’t want to find out what it tastes like to kiss lipstick. Gross. Good thing he isn’t into that. 

Robert takes a look around in the barn and finally their eyes meet. He is too far away, but Aaron thinks he sees a tiny flicker of something in those bright, green eyes, but only for a short moment before the trademark smirk returns. The blond man lifts his chin, as if to greet Aaron in a ‘look-who’s-here’ mimic. Aaron mirrors the movement, like a challenge, like a tease and yes, there is that spark again that has been missing with Ben all along. 

Aaron feels a tingling sensation all over, like a million ants are crawling over his skin, and they are just standing on opposite sides of a barn. They aren’t even close.  

As the guests are slowly arriving, he starts wandering around in circles seemingly aimless, but in the end he’s standing right in front of Robert, it’s just inevitable. It’s that pull again. 

Hi. 

“You know, I might get the impression you’re stalking me,” Robert says in lieu of greeting and sips from his champagne, his left eyebrow slightly rising.

God, Aaron missed that sort of stupid teasing. 

“And you know, when I became a wedding DJ, I didn’t know I would have regulars,” he shoots back, because two can play that game. 

The glint in those green eyes and that little smile are indicating that Robert enjoys this just as much. Aaron receives another intense once over again. 

“So, you do actually have another suit, who would have thought?”

Looking down at himself, Aaron feels his cheeks getting hot. In fact, yeah, he only owns two suits and he alternates every week between wearing one and bringing the other to the cleaner’s. It’s not that anyone except him, Priya and Adam knows that! He usually meets their clients only once in his suit. 

Robert, however, must have seen him twice in the black suit. 

“Shut up,” he mutters, being double embarrassed now, not only because he got caught out by Robert, but also because he can’t come up with a better return. Urgh, it feels like he lost that round and he’s a sore loser.  

The low chuckle Aaron gets is worth it though. Robert squeezes his eyes shut and even wrinkles his nose for a tiny second. 

And Aaron is gone. 

Because that was cute!

The tingling intensifies in his belly, his heart is dancing in his chest and he tries his best to bite his lip and fight against that smile that threatens to spread on his face. Silence falls and they are sharing another look. Once again, it’s so intense that Aaron wonders what Robert might see in his eyes, if he could look down to his soul. It feels like it. Aaron feels stripped naked and raw under Robert’s gaze, which leaves him nervous, but also excited and giddy. 

He starts swaying without realising it, while his brain tries to come up with something they could talk about. Robert might leave any second, if he can’t keep the conversation flowing.

“Soooo…” he drags the word to buy some time. “Salt, huh?” This time he allows the grin to break through.

Robert laughs again and Aaron can’t help but stare at how gorgeous this man is. “It was genius, Aaron, you can admit it,” he says cockily, looking extremely pleased with himself.

“A bold lie and clear distraction tactic more like, you mean.”

“Excusez-moi?” Robert touches his chest in mock hurt, long, nimble fingers splayed over a well shaped torso.

Oh GOD, he speaks French. Fuck!

“Salt is a well-known remedy against bad luck and evil spirits in lots of cultures,” he informs Aaron and nods to emphasise his own words.

“Is that so?” Aaron pulls the corners of his mouth down and crosses his arms. “And you know that… why?”

“When I have a bit of free time on my hands I’d love to study Asian culture.” 

Aaron lifts his eyebrows slowly. 

Yeah, sure. 

Robert rolls his eyes. “I accidently switched on sumo fights on telly and saw them throwing salt into the ring before they fought. Then I googled it.”

This time Aaron throws his head back and laughs. Robert is so full of shit! 

“Robert, Andy needs ya!” A tiny brunette is suddenly standing next to them and Aaron recognises her at the woman who got the salt earlier. 

“Tell him, I’m coming, Vic.”

Her big eyes are darting between Robert and Aaron as if she is trying to figure out what’s going on between them, before she says ‘okay’ and leaves again. Instead of going after her, Robert stays where he is, never leaving Aaron’s line of sight. 

“Hope you put your dancing shoes on for tonight,” Aaron says, glancing down at Robert’s rather expensive looking brown leather shoes, taking the opportunity and letting his gaze shamelessly wander over that fancy suit that fits Robert’s edible body like a second skin. 

“I’ve always got my dancing shoes on,” the other man reassures him, “as long as the DJ’s playing some decent music.”

“Your definition of decent music is debatable,” Aaron smirks.

“I’ll have you know my taste is exquisite.” The spark is glowing in those green eyes.

Exquisite. Such a Robert-thing to say. 

It’s equally hot and annoying.

“Hmmm,” Aaron hums noncommittally and nods slowly. “So, what’s your favourite song then?”

Robert chuckles again and pushes his hands into the pockets of his pants. The movement does absolutely not cause Aaron to look down at his crotch. “I heard DJ Aaron doesn’t take music orders?”

“Well, I’ve been told exceptions prove the rule.”

His heart is apparently trying to burst in his chest by now and Aaron almost feels sick. He never flirted like this before and he hopes - prays - that he doesn’t make a total fool of himself. His intentions towards Robert must be crystal clear by now and putting his heart on the line like that is scary as fuck. 

Robert clicks his tongue. “Wanna know my favourite song?” He leans a bit closer as if he’s about to share a secret and suddenly he’s right up in Aaron’s personal space and so damn close! Aaron can basically count all the freckles splattered over nose and cheekbones. Robert licks his lips and looks him straight in the eye when he says: “I knew you were trouble.”

After one last smile, he’s gone and Aaron is standing there, absolutely unable to move. His body is flushing alternately hot and cold.

God, he wants Robert! He wants!

Jesus fucking Christ!

A sudden noise pulls him out of it and he blinks, dazed, realising that a group of guests has arrived in the meantime. During their conversation, Aaron totally has lost track of their surroundings. 

He hurries to the loo, locking himself into the stall and waits until his boner goes down. 

 

  • -     -

 

It’s one of the nicer ceremonies, Aaron has to admit. Bernice cries a lot and it’s obvious how much she loves Andy. At first sight they are a strange couple, the loud and extrovert, posh lady and the more silent, rough and muscle-bound farmer. But somehow they work. They are good together. 

“I had such a clear vision of how my life would be,” Andy says, facing his soon-to-be-wife and holding her hands tightly, “after I lost Katie I swore myself to never fall in love again…”

Oh.

Aaron didn’t know about that tragic backstory. He carefully fades up a slow piano melody as a background music for the groom’s vow. 

“... but then you came into my life like a whirlwind, totally unexpected and chaotic and full of energy. You were like a spark that infected me, making me feel alive when I was as good as dead inside.” Bernice sobs loudly. “And although I didn’t want to fall in love, I couldn’t stop it. You can’t control love, can you?” Another sob and a headshake. 

Aaron’s eyes travel from the bridal couple to the man next to the groom. Robert is standing there with straightened shoulders, being his brother’s best man, but he doesn’t look at Andy and Bernice, he’s staring right at Aaron. 

A shiver is running down his spine and warmth is spreading in his belly again. 

“And I do love you, babe,” Andy says, before he leans in for a quick peck. 

It’s Bernice turn to say her vows now, but she’s shaking like a leaf from crying and basically only gets the words ‘I love you’ out. Aaron finds it endearing, but also somewhat amusing. That woman is clearly something else and free of filters when it comes to the whole range of emotions, definitely not holding back anything. 

She is a bit over the top where Aaron is too drawn back. 

Oi, at least I’m trying, okay? he reminds his traitorous brain. His start with Robert wasn’t too bad, was it?

The ceremony continues and Aaron adds the music just like he discussed it with the couple beforehand. And even when he’s looking down at his monitors, he still can feel Robert’s eyes on him the whole time.

 

  • -    -

 

It’s time for the speeches - Aaron least favourite part of the things he hates. They are so redundant.

Things that could be expressed with a few sentences are dragged over fifteen minutes and longer, garnished with anecdotes that mostly aren’t funny, but simply embarrassing. It wouldn’t be that bad if it was only the bride or the groom holding a speech, but of course the father of the bride usually gets his monologue as well… and the best man… and the maid of honour..... Aaron has endured weddings with speeches longer than one hour in total. 

Aaron truly hates them.

Usually. 

Because today Robert is the best man and Robert gets up and starts talking and Aaron is hanging on his lips, mesmerized. He could listen to this deep, calm voice all day. And night.

“I was thinking about this speech a lot, what I wanted to say. It’s not a secret to you, I assume, that Andy and I didn’t get along for a long time. But I’m glad we’ve got past this, brother, and I’m honoured that you decided to make me your best man.” Robert reaches out and squeezes Andy’s shoulder, the sitting groom smiling up at him. “You asked me, of all people, to be your best man, when I really have a miserable track record when it comes to relationships.” The guests start murmuring, some are chuckling. Robert makes a short break until the room is quiet again. “So when I started writing this speech, I thought a lot about life in general and our purpose in life. I think the answer is love. But then I asked myself: What is love?”

Baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.

Aaron really, honestly hates his brain sometimes. Said brain comes to a screeching halt when Robert turns his head and looks him straight in the eye. 

“I think love is when you look into the other person’s eyes and see in them what you are for each other, what you wish for each other, what you would do for each other.” 

What?

Aaron’s breath hitches and for a long moment he forgets how to use his lungs completely. These are his words. He said that. He said it to Robert the last time they’d met at Rhona’s wedding, outside in the parking lot. And Robert remembered the words, as if he memorised them! 

All the time they are looking into each other’s eyes. There aren’t 90 other people in the barn, it’s just them. Aaron wants to kiss him so bad and hold him and talk to him and simply be with him.

He wants to be with him. 

“It’s special.” Robert clears his throat and blinks a few times, before he shifts his attention back to his brother and his wife. “Having this kind of connection is special. And you have it and I think it’s amazing. You found love at a time in your life when you both had basically given up on it, but fate decided to lead you on another path, a joined path and two broken pieces became a whole one again. I think the essence is not to give up on love, because love never gives up on you. It’s truly inspiring to witness.”

Robert smiles and Bernice sniffs again and fumbles around with a tissue. Otherwise there’s silence in the room and Aaron sees a lot of emotional faces, his own heart racing in high speed. 

“I’d like to raise a glass...” Robert takes his champagne goblet and the other guests are following his example. “To Bernice and Andy and the love in their eyes.”

“To the love in their eyes!” Someone shouts and others agree.

It’s like Aaron watches the scene in slow motion: the toast, the hugs of Robert and Andy and Robert and Bernice, the happy smiles all around him. 

The speech struck something inside of him. It touched something that he keeps normally hidden from others - even from his mum or Adam - behind annoyed eyerolls, grumpy frowns and sassy one liners. 

His core, his innermost desire. 

He’s in absolute awe of Robert’s words. 

And although it was definitely one of the shortest best man’s performances he’s ever witnessed, it was also the best. Personal. Honest. Perfect. 

He’s in absolute awe of Robert.

This is way past a bit of eyefucking. This is even way past crushing on someone. 

Aaron is falling in love. 

Or maybe he’s already fallen.

 

  • -    -

 

During dinner, Adam is leaning into Aaron, an arm lazily hung around his shoulders and won’t stop singing the praises about the beauty of Victoria Sugden. 

That’s Robert’s family name, he knows now. Sugden.

“God, she’s amazing. Mate, I mean…” Adam gestures into the general direction where Vic is sitting. “She’s so… ugh!” His mate is doing ridiculous heart eyes at her and Aaron just hopes he doesn’t look that stupid when he’s ogling Robert. “Look at her. How she eats that fish… That’s… that’s absolute…”

Gross.

“... grace!” Adam smiles dopily. “Right? She’s so classy.”

Aaron hums, pats his mate’s arm and wills him to shut up now. 

Next thing is he starts gushing about how she uses a napkin. 

Adam is known for crushing on women hard and quick and unfortunately it never lasts long, but this time, he insists looking at Victoria, it might be the real thing. 

Aaron puts on some quiet background music and dinner time is a typical break for Adam and him where they grab a few bites themselves and head outside. Today they both are staying inside of course, with Adam being busy mooning over Vic and Aaron being busy eying up Robert. Not that he’s going to tell his best friend about that. He isn’t as open and sharing as Adam, prefers to keep those things to himself.

Those things... as in feelings.  

This is so unlike him, walking around and falling in love with random strangers, he isn’t even sure if that’s normal. Can you fall for someone you barely know? What if Robert is totally boring or has annoying habits or is interested in completely different things to Aaron? 

He bites his lips and shakes his head at himself and his stupid reflections. Yeah, alright, they did flirt a lot, but it isn’t like Robert offered him a relationship. They are far from that. No need to allow his thoughts to run away with the possibility. It’s delusional. 

With the sudden urge to get some fresh air, he grunts out a ‘be right back’ and struts out of the barn. As soon as he’s outside he loosens his tie since it’s suffocating all at once. The sun is slowly setting and Aaron walks around the building to the west side, from where he can see the corn fields and the woods in the distance. Everything is tinted in soft orange-yellow light. 

It’s a beautiful view.

The sunrays are still warm on his face and Aaron closes his eyes and takes a few deep breaths, feeling his muscles slowly relaxing. 

“Best view in the Dales, I suggest you’d open your eyes.”

Aaron lets out a shriek that isn’t very manly and he probably would be embarrassed about it if he wasn’t too busy not having a damn heart attack. 

“Fuck!” he clutches his chest. “What did I say? Get a fucking bell!”

Robert smirks at him like a cheeky schoolboy and once again Aaron is mesmerized by the beauty of the man, especially in the evening glow. The freckles are standing out even more prominent than usual and the green eyes are looking like they’re drawn with water colours.

Best view in the Dales indeed.  

“This is one of my favourite spots. When I was a kid I used to come here a lot,” Robert continues and his expression gets more serious as he looks into the distance. “Especially in the summer. Mum and I loved watching the sunsets. She would prepare a picnic and we’d sit on the blanket until it got dark and chilly...”

His soft voice trails off. And wow, after the speech earlier this is the second glimpse of the real Robert, without the smug attitude and overall cockiness. 

Aaron imagines it - little Robert with his mother. From their meetings with Andy and Bernice he already knows that their parents have passed away and the thought makes him sad when he hears that heartwarming memory. Robert must really miss her. 

“Sounds great,” Aaron says, letting his gaze wander over the landscape with its little mounds and valleys. “So, this is all part of your farm?” Andy mentioned it in one of their previous talks. 

“This is Sugden land, yeah. Andy is running the farm now.”

“Let me guess: investment banker!” Aaron grins and points at Robert. 

The blond man snorts. “Nope, but nice try.”

“Insurance broker!”

“That’s cold, Aaron,” Robert touches his heart. “Not sure what you think of me. Who says I’m not still in the farming business?” 

That playful undertone is back and Aaron feels giddy, being brave enough to shoot back: “Oh, shut up. I bet you wear a damn suit when you prepare breakfast on a Saturday morning.”

Robert gasps, looking offended, but his sparkling eyes are betraying him and revealing how much he enjoys their little banter. “This is ridiculous!” he exclaims. “Don’t insult my suits, Aaron. Besides, I only put them on after breakfast of course, wouldn’t wanna get stains on them.”

Aaron can’t help but laugh at that, because seriously? He can imagine that actually being true. It would fit perfectly. 

“So, what is it that you do then?”

The smug smirk appearing instantly, Robert reaches into the inside of his jacket and pulls something out of the tiny pocket. He passes the item on to Aaron. “I’m a salesman.”

Aaron stares at the tiny paper with an open gob. It’s a business card. 

 

Robert J. Sugden

W.I. farming machinery

 

“You-,” Aaron shakes his head in disbelief. “You’re walking around with business cards at a wedding?” He’s not sure if he’s supposed to laugh or cry.

At least Robert has the decency to look somewhat caught. “Well, I always have a few in every suit I own...” He shrugs and Aaron thinks the tips of his ears start glowing, but he can’t be quite sure with the orange light of the sunset messing with his eyes. 

It’s fucking cute anyway. And I have his number now.

Aaron bites back the grin and tucks the card away, promising himself to save the number on his phone as soon as he’s alone. He actually got Robert’s number! Without even asking for it!

“So, Mr wedding-expert. What‘s today‘s verdict?“ 

That makes him snort, remembering all too well their conversation at Rhona‘s wedding. “It‘s not bad,“ he admits, because it‘s true. He does like the barn and the short speeches kinda broke the stiff protocol. The weirdest thing though is that the couple doesn’t seem to fit on the face of it, but somehow they oddly do! Their vows had been 

romantic

touching. But of course he’s not gonna admit that to Robert. “You know, as far as weddings can be okay,” he adds, if only to retain his reputation.

Robert looks at him and Aaron’s skin is heating up quickly, because it’s one of those looks again where it feels like the other man is seeing right into him. Aaron feels seen. The soft lips turn into a full blown smile and the green eyes are sparkling as if they just deciphered an enigma. 

Aaron can’t fight that smile that’s spreading on his own face and he ducks his head and scratches his eyebrow to hide his emotions and to get a damn grip again. Fuck, it’s like he is some love struck teenager. Which is a new experience, because he never was that when he actually was in his teenage years. Love was the last thing on his mind, back then. 

It’s that thought that sobers him up eventually. Great, just fucking great. 

Thanks, brain, for nothing.

Looking over the open land, Aaron tries his best not to think of that small townhouse with the tiny rooms, without any chance of escape. Of course he fails. Fuck, he even can smell the stale air. Still!

“Growing up here must have been amazing,” Aaron mutters, more to himself than to Robert, but of course the other man heard it.

“Well, where’s light, there’s also shadow.”

The tone is closed off now and the cryptic words make Aaron frown. His eyes flick back to the other man and he spots a vulnerability that wasn’t there before.

Maybe it has to do with that fallout with Andy Robert mentioned in his speech, or maybe it’s because of his parents passing away too soon. Aaron knows better than to press when it comes to family matters, so he just stays quiet, waiting if Robert is willing to elaborate himself. 

He isn’t and so they’re standing there in silence, watching the sun sinking slowly towards the line of trees. The sky turns from orange to an impressive neon glowing pink. It’s breathtakingly beautiful. 

As much as Aaron loves that playful tease between them, he finds he doesn’t mind the quiet either. It’s nice, just sharing this moment. Once again he wonders what Robert thinks about him, if he’s feeling that attraction and that magnetic pull as well. Aaron wonders what Robert sees when he looks into his eyes. 

“Can’t believe you stole my words,” he says, suddenly being reminded of it, “for your speech!” He turns towards Robert.

“Didn’t know you had a copyright on them,” Robert replies, clearly amused, “It was one of the very few things leaving your mouth that made sense so far, so don’t feel too flattered.”

For the tiniest of seconds, Robert’s eyes flick down to Aaron’s lips and back up to his eyes. It was a barely-there-moment, except it was.  

And then he realises how close the other man is, he’s right up in Aaron’s personal space and it wouldn’t take much to just lean in. God, he wants to kiss Robert so damn bad! 

Do it! Just do it!

Every fibre of his body is aching to close that little remaining gap between them, to feel and kiss and take and give. And then he moves forward, very slowly. His eyes are scanning that freckled face, searching in the green eyes for something to stop him, but he only sees a wonderful softness and affection. He’s so close now, he can basically feel Robert’s body heat and his breath tickling on his face. His own breath hitches when the faint scent of perfume hits his nose. Robert smells amazing and Aaron wonders if he tastes just as good. 

He’s going to kiss him now! 

Aaron wets his lips in anticipation to make them smooth, for the perfect slide-

“Aaron!”

He jumps back and whips his head around right when Adam comes around the corner. 

“Oi, here you are! Showtime, sunshine!” his best mate beams at him like he hasn’t just ruined a fucking powerful moment.  

Aaron rubs the back of his head and exhales slowly. “Yeah, okay, right. Okay. Coming.” Adam just smiles, oblivious as ever and Aaron half turns back to Robert. “Uh, see you.” He doesn’t dare look him in the eye and hurries to follow his friend back into the barn.

He can’t believe this just happened. What a bummer. 

 

  • -     -

 

When Aaron types in ‘I knew you were trouble’ into the search bar, the programme is quick with its response. It’s a Taylor Swift song and at this point he isn’t even surprised. Of course, Robert J. Sugden is a Swifty. Good Lord, that guy really has no taste in music whatsoever.

Maybe Aaron could introduce him to some decent bands, like real musicians who are actually capable of playing instruments .  Like the Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys, AWOLNATION or Mumford & Sons. His brain is quick to provide images of him and Robert snuggled up under the blanket on a lazy Sunday, listening to low music while the rain is pelting against the window, their arms and limbs intertwined in a way that it didn’t matter where one body ended and the other started.

Nevertheless, he adds Taylor Swift to his playlist, simply because it was Robert’s wish and yes, Aaron wants to see him on the dance floor as much as possible tonight. He is selfish in that way. 

As predicted, right after the first sounds of the song came out of the speakers, Robert is there, shooting him a happy grin before he starts doing that weird thing with his body that is supposed to be dancing. 

Aaron doesn’t fight back the smile that spreads on his face, when he gets warm all over. It’s like Robert’s good mood is infecting him. Seeing Robert happy makes him happy. 

“We could go on double dates, mate! Imagine that!” Adam slaps his shoulder so hard, Aaron nearly trips.

He scowls at him, questioning once more why exactly he’s even friends with Adam Barton. “Dunno what you mean,” he grunts, except he does know.

“Oh c’mon, man! Stop shitting with me, I’ve seen how you’re looking at Vic’s brother.” 

Aaron tries to keep up that sulky frown, but Adam’s brown eyes are in full puppy mode and it’s hard to resist that. The truth is, he loves his idiotic friend. 

He deflates and sighs in defeat. “That obvious?”

“I’ve known you long enough.” Adam nudges him and winks. “You get the man and I get the girl and BAM! You’re officially my brother-in-law! How awesome is that, eh?” 

And here Aaron thought he got ahead of himself, but count on Adam to build not just castles in the air, but fucking palaces. He snorts. “You haven’t even talked to her!” he points out, shaking his head. 

“Details!” Adam waves him off. “She smiled at me, mate, should have seen it. She won’t be able to resist the Barton charm, no one can!”

His friend is so gullible most of the time, it leaves Aaron speechless. He can’t deny that he’s jealous of that. Not for the first time Aaron wishes he had at least a teeny tiny bit of the unwavering confidence his friend has. He probably would have kissed Robert already, but of course he is his own worst enemy. Knowing it doesn‘t make it any better. 

In fact, it sucks even more, because he knows it, but can‘t change it anyway.

The corners of his mouth start twitching as soon as he looks back at Robert. There is this fuzzy feeling again, that’s spreading from his belly, seeping through his veins until he feels it everywhere from head to toe. Even his scalp is tingling. 

“Geez, mate! You got it bad!” 

Aaron turns to face Adam and his friend is staring at him with a mixture of triumph and surprise and it annoys the hell out of him. He wasn’t aware that it was so obvious, Aaron always lived under the presumption of being able to keep his emotions to himself. 

“I don’t even know him,” he argues gruffly, not really sure who he’s trying to convince after all.

Fuck. I really got it bad.

It’s reached a point where he seriously can’t deny it anymore. If anything, Adam’s grin gets even wider. 

“I’d say time to change that, right, mate?” 

Adam slaps Aaron’s shoulder again, which causes him to roll his eyes and rub the sore spot. He definitely needs to tell his friend that he has to stop doing that all the damn time! Biting his lip, he thinks about Adam’s words. 

“You know what. Maybe you’re right,” he mutters to himself.

“Course I am!”

When Swifty finishes having trouble, trouble, trouble, Aaron switches to the Backstreet Boys, internally saying goodbye to a few more brain cells, but at least now he knew he’d get some reward for his suffering. No doubt this song would keep Robert on the dance floor. 

“I’m gonna woo Vic and you do the same with the bloke.” Adam nods enthusiastically. “We call it operation ‘Seduce Sugden siblings’!”

“We are not calling anything that, Adam,” Aaron informs him with a stern look.

Not that his mate is impressed with his scowl or anything. “Uh-huh, we do.” Adam raises his fist for a bump.

“I dunno why I’m friends with you.” Aaron crosses his arms and squints his eyes, trying to remember how the fuck it could have come this far. 

Adam barks out one his trademark laughs, loud and carefree, before he leans in and lowers his voice: “The Barton charm.”

Aaron shoves him away and bites the inside of his cheek to hide his amusement. Yes, he did have a crush on Adam and unfortunately his mate knows about that. Needless to say he loves to tease Aaron with it whenever he gets the chance. Since he is long, long, looooong and truly, completely over said feelings, Aaron doesn’t resent him for it and it’s like a running gag between them now.

Meanwhile, Robert performs movements that look a lot like they are part of an actual boy group choreography - with a 360 turn and everything - and the ladies around him are cheering and clapping.

Fuck, I do have a soft spot for idiots. 

 

  • -    -

 

He really, really wants to talk to Robert again, but something always comes in between as if the fucking universe is plotting against him as soon as he decided to make a proper move on the Robert. It’s just so damn typical!

At first he loses him out of his sight, because of course someone comes up to his table to slur a music order, breathing a disgusting stench of alcohol into his face. 

Then, when he takes one of his rare breaks, Robert is nowhere to be found and so Aaron is standing alone outside and staring at the stars, wishing the other man would be there with him. He had hoped Robert would sneak out after him, but he’s been here for over ten minutes now and he guesses chances of that happening are very slim. Aaron reckons he’s probably caught in some best man duty. 

It sucks.

He was hoping to finally get that kiss. To learn what Robert tastes like. How his lips feel. And God, Aaron wants his hands all over that body! They are itching with the need to touch. 

Instead he’s out here all by himself and frustrated to no end. 

After another five minutes he gives up and heads back in. The first thing he spots is Adam standing at the bar counter with none other than Victoria Sugden. She is laughing at something his mate must have said the second before and she is slightly touching his arm. When she turns to grab her glass, Adam gives Aaron a ridiculous thumbs up and grins like a loon.

Aaron forces himself to smile back. He tries to be happy for his best friend, seeing as it seems to go well between him and Vic, but bitterness is gnawing at him with sharp teeth. He wishes he could be the bigger person, but he just isn’t. It frustrates him even more. 

Amazing. A fucking mazing. 

He turns on his heel and checks the time, quickly estimating that he has about 10 more minutes until his presence is required at his laptops and so he makes his way to the portable toilet trailer they organised for the venue. What sounds pretty gross is in fact some total modern restroom that’s almost more fancy than his loo at home. 

Anyway, Aaron isn’t here to admire the bogs. He does his business quickly and washes his hands. Right when he wants to grab the paper towels to dry them off, someone grabs him from behind and shoves him back into the stall.

“What-”

The lock clicks behind him and Aaron swirls around, nearly tripping over the bloody toilet bowl. 

“What the hell-”

He’s being pushed against the wall and his head thumps hard against the plastic. Robert is only inches away from him, so close that Aaron can barely focus his eyes on the freckled face.

They are staring at each other, but nobody says anything, the only sound is their breathing - Aaron’s is getting louder and harsher with every inhale. Robert is so intense! He licks his lips and notices with utter delight those green eyes flicking down, pupils dilating slightly.

“I just…” Robert says with a voice that sounds more hoarse than normal, then he lunges forward and presses his lips on Aaron’s. 

All he can do is moan helplessly and fist Robert’s jacket. 

God, fuck yes.

Robert Sugden kisses like he flirts. Confident. Cocky. Playful. 

He nips at Aaron’s bottom lip and sucks it into his mouth to let his tongue run across it. A heartbeat later the tongue darts into Aaron’s mouth and he relaxes his jaw, letting the other man lick into him. His knees turn into jelly, because Robert tastes amazing! 

He can’t remember being kissed like that. Like a force of nature. Like a starving man. 

Hands are roaming his torso, are gliding up his stomach to his chest and when they’re cupping his pecs, Robert’s breath is hitching. Feeling brave and blunt, Aaron pushes his hips forward and grinds his crotch at the other man. He grins against those soft lips, feeling the effect he has on the blond man. 

Robert is hard.

Hard for him.

His hands are itching again and Aaron is more than happy to finally give in. He touches every inch of Robert’s body he can reach, silently bemoaning the inconvenience of clothes! He wishes he could feel Robert’s naked skin, he wishes he could check if he’s got freckles on his torso as well, he wishes he could trace them with his fingertips and kiss them, one by one. 

Next time. Next time.

This time a hard grasp at the butt will have to do. He squeezes and moans again, because fucking hell. That arse. Robert jerks and his boner pokes into Aaron’s hip.  

Robert pulls off his mouth and Aaron gasps for air.

“Fuck, Aaron.” It‘s barely a breath, but it sounds wrecked. Legitimately wrecked. 

“Yes!“ he whispers with his eyes closed.

Fuck Aaron, yes please. He is totally on board with that idea. 

Robert chuckles softly against his neck which makes him squirm, because it tickles him in the best imaginable way. A second later the mouth is on his skin, licking and sucking underneath Aaron‘s earlobe. 

His hands are still on Robert‘s butt and now he‘s pulling him forward, aggressively, demanding. Fuck, he wants! 

They start grinding at each other's groins, rubbing their bulges to get some heavenly friction. Aaron is leaking into his pants already and everything happens in light speed and he fears he might cum just like that, just from a bit of dry humping, but it‘s amazing and he‘s lightheaded and buzzing and every sense of him is heightened towards the other man, his lips and tongue, his hands rubbing over Aaron‘s nipples, his hard cock thrusting against him and God, fuck, it‘s so fucking good! 

“Ungh.“ He can‘t keep the noises in, it‘s like he lost control of his body by now. “Ah! Fuck!“

Robert quickly presses his palm on Aaron‘s mouth and that finally causes him to blink his eyes open. The formerly bright green eyes are staring at him through long blond lashes, dark and lust-filled. He breathes harshly against that hand underneath his nose, suddenly reminded of where they are. 

In a toilet. In a public toilet. At a wedding. Of Robert‘s brother. Where Aaron is working. Supposed to be working.

Fuck.

Lord help him, but it turns him on even more. It‘s so dirty. 

He needs to cum. Like, now. He needs to cum right now. Without breaking eye contact, Aaron rolls his hips again. He watches how Robert‘s eyelids are fluttering and how he grinds his jaws, fighting his own battle to stay quiet. 

Yes. C‘mon. Harder.

He pushes against Robert, squeezes his butt and pulls until they develop a steady rhythm of dry fucking. Aaron fantasizes how he could turn around and shove his pants down, offering his arse for Robert to take. And Robert would fuck him against the wall until he‘d see stars. 

Noise is increasing somewhere outside and Robert‘s hand is still covering up his mouth to suppress all of Aaron‘s little whimpers and needy whines.

“…why I don‘t like beer, mate.“

“Said no one ever, man. You don‘t like beer?!“

Two men are stomping into the trailer, loud and laughing. 

“Fuck no, makes me piss every five minutes.“

Robert and Aaron are freezing in their stall and Robert‘s eyes quickly flick to the door to check if it‘s actually locked, before his gaze lands back on Aaron‘s face. 

Zippers are being pulled down and fabric is rustling. Seconds later two streams are hitting the metal urinal and the sounds are incredibly loud in the tiny trailer.

Aaron barely dares to breathe. Not only because he doesn‘t wanna get caught, but also… the stench.

Urgh.

It‘s hella awkward, listening to other people pissing. The streams won‘t end.

How long are they pissing, what the hell?!

He wants them gone now.

One man sighs in relief when he finally releases his last spurts. 

“Let's hope they found the DJ by now.“

Aaron‘s heart stops.

“Yeah, would be a shitty ending to a good party, right?“

“I dunno man, ‘s fucking weird. Andy always said party‘s gonna be open end.“

The music.

His playlist. It must have stopped. Aaron lifts his wrist and stares at his watch. Yep, his 30 minute break ended like 5 minutes ago.

Fuck.

Fuck!

Adam will give him hell for that! Noooo, why is this happening to him! 

The zippers make noise again, then loud foot stamps and finally silence settles again.

Robert slowly releases his mouth and Aaron rakes his hands desperately through his hair.

“Shit. Fuck. Did you hear that?“ he asks with a harsh inhale. 

Which is, admittedly, a stupid question, because of course Robert has heard the entire thing! But thinking straight is a nearly impossible task when you’re in some kind of shocked state and your blood is pumping below your waistline. 

“Yeah, they didn‘t wash their hands, that‘s so gross!“ Robert pulls a face.

“Damnit, focus, Robert!“ he slaps the other man‘s chest and takes a few deep breaths to get a fucking grip. “I gotta go back.“

He looks ruefully at Robert, at his soft eyes, his dishevelled hair and his red, shiny lips. His balls are aching, still waiting to shoot their load, sadly they haven‘t got the memo so far. Just like his rock hard dick. 

How is he supposed to walk back into the barn like that? Plus, he leaked so heavily into his pants, he even fears a wet spot might be visible. God, this is awful, this is the worst! Robert looks down at his crotch in sympathy. 

“Be careful to not pierce someone with your lance.“ His helpful advice comes with his trademark smirk. 

Aaron shoots him an evil glare which, rude, only gets him a chuckle in return. Why did Robert recover that quickly anyway while he is still wheezing like he ran a damn marathon? Unfair!

He lunges forward without a warning and takes Robert‘s swollen lips, kissing that smugness right off his stupid, gorgeous face. His hand travels up to the blond hair, where he buries his fingers and pulls. 

The little shudder and the low moan of Robert is getting filed in Aaron‘s brain as useful information. 

For next time. 

He pulls back, full of regret of not being able to finish what they started. 

Next time.

Aaron opens the lock and walks out, leaving Robert behind, to make his way across the yard back to the barn.

People are running around and as he comes closer, Aaron hears Adam shouting his name. 

He sighs.

The boner still won‘t go down. It insists on getting back to Robert ASAP.

God, Aaron truly hates his job! 

Chapter Text

Don't speak, I know just what you're    sayin'

So please stop explainin'

Don't tell me 'cause it hurts




 

“Pint.”

Aaron climbs on the stool and leans his chin on his hand, waiting for his mum to pull him his well-earned beer. Chas Dingle, however, just crosses her arms and gives him a calculating look.

“What’s up with you?”

“It’s called thirst, mum,” he mutters and rolls his eyes. “You know, that’s why people come here.”

“No, oh no. Something’s up with you.” 

Now it’s not even a question anymore. For a moment Aaron debates if he should just leave again. His mother is like a terrier - if she bites into something, she won’t let go. 

“Something happened at work?” she wants to know.

He starts drumming with his thumb on the wooden counter and bouncing his left leg, otherwise he stays silent. At least she finally takes one of the glasses. 

“Is it that difficult woman again?”

Aaron drums louder and hums ‘I want to break free’ in his head. 

“Or are you having trouble getting new orders?” Chas is pulling the pint now and slowly, oh so slowly the glass is filling. “Or did Adam do something?”

I should just move. Get a nice apartment in Hotten. 

Seriously why is he still living in Emmerdale, he doesn’t even like the stupid, boring village with its narrow minded residents and his overly nosey family. 

“Oh my god,” Chas’ face lights up as if she just had a spontaneous suggestion and Aaron reckons that it can’t be a good sign. “It's about a man, isn’t it.”

Yep, not a good sign. Aaron’s heart takes a leap, but he forces his face to stay motionless. He doesn’t wanna talk about it, not with his best mate or with his mum. Especially his mum! Because of course it’s a man. And it’s not just a man, it’s the man. 

Robert J. Sugden.

 

The Robert Sugden that keeps occupying Aaron’s every waking thought. Right on Sunday, after Andy’s wedding, Aaron saved the number he got from the other man into his phone and wrote a short text.

 

so whats a farm machinery salesman doing on sunday? ironing ur suits?

its Aaron btw

 

He was curled up under his blanket, some re-run of The Simpsons flickering on his telly but it wasn’t like Aaron was paying attention to that screen anyway. Staring at his phone, he willed his display to lit up with a new incoming whatsapp from Robert. It took about 20 minutes until the reply came through. 

 

And let my cleaners go bankrupt because they’ll lose their best client? You’re being ridiculous again.

Also, I’m beginning to think you have a suit kink, Mr DJ.

 

Aaron was not, absolutely not blushing when he read the texts. Well, sue him, but Robert did look insanely hot in suits, okay? Aaron had eyes, alright, he could appreciate a nice look when he saw one. What followed after that was an ongoing exchange of messages. 

The other man continued to be snarky and witty and damn funny and Aaron found himself laughing out loud in his empty house more than once when he read Robert’s one-liners. The verbal ping-pong was not just entertaining, it was also highly informative. He learned about Robert’s daily schedule, when he got up, when he got to work, when he took his lunch break, when he finished work and when he went to bed. Because they kept texting throughout Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, sharing the most random messages, like ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ or ‘I’m stuck in traffic again’ or ‘hey, they just played Taylor Swift on the radio’. 

Robert loved Italian food, but wasn’t much of a fan of Sushi. Robert hated sports and collected graphic novels, his favourite book author was Stephen King and he once had held a Tetris high score for over two years in the arcade in Hotten when he was younger. It doesn’t have to be extra mentioned that Aaron teased him for hours with that knowledge, because Tetris! Seriously, Robert was such a granddad! 

The buzz was amazing, the conversation easily flowing between them and Aaron got more and more obsessive about the other man. He really, really needed to see him again. And so this morning Aaron ignored his rapidly thumping heart and typed out: 

 

do u wanna meet for dinner some time?

 

Afterwards he stared at his display and thought about deleting it again. 

It was more than obvious that this was an invite for a date and Aaron didn’t know if that was something Robert wanted, if he was honest. 

Between getting things to move forward a bit and putting Robert off by being too pushy is a fine line that he was afraid to cross. He didn’t want to appear pushy. 

Just when he was actually about to delete the text, the double tick turned blue and Robert was labelled as ‘online’. Aaron’s breath hitched and he waited for the reply with clammy hands. 

It didn’t come. 

 

And now, ten hours later, still nothing. In fact, Robert hadn’t written all day, which was a first since they started this. 

“It’s Ben, am I right?” his mother is going on, not giving up as usual. “Oh sweetheart.” She sighs, “Do you miss him?”

“Will you just stop now!” it bursts out of him. 

He hasn’t got it in him to talk about Ben now. Ben. Ben! Aaron already forgot about his dull existence altogether until Chas brought him up seconds ago. 

Who cares about Ben?

Except for his mum, that is. 

“But you never told me what happened on that date you had. Has he done something?”

“I told you to stop your stupid inquisition! What the hell is this, 20 questions or what!” he barks at her, his anger finally boiling over. 

Can’t she just get off his back! 

She’s pressing her lips together and puts the pint in front of him. “You can’t stop me from being worried.”

He knows why she is like this, knows that she will always feel guilty for what happened with Gordon, and of course he feels immediately bad for raising his voice against her, but still. He is 25, for heaven’s sake! He deserves some privacy. It’s his fucking right to keep stuff to himself, he doesn’t need to discuss his non-existent love life with his mother, thanks a lot. 

“There is no. Need. To. Be. Worried.” He emphasizes every word as he spits them out through gritted teeth, trying to check his temper. He isn’t keen on causing a scene in the pub. There are too many villagers around and he can do without the whispering behind his back. 

Maybe there is a simple explanation for Robert not answering. Maybe he just had a very stressful day at work. Maybe he typed out a reply and simply forgot to hit send - that happens sometimes, right?!

Or maybe he had a car accident on his way to work.

Or maybe he just doesn’t want to go on a date with you and doesn’t know how to let you down easily.

Fuck, he hates his goddamn brain. Always assuming the worst. 

And he hates even more that he can’t brush it off like it’s nothing. Those niggling doubts have gnawed their little teeth right into Aaron’s guts. 

He wishes Robert would text him, but at the same time he’s dreading the answer. It leaves him in limbo. 

“Pint, Chas.”

Cain is plopping on the stool next to him and leans on the counter with a sigh, before he’s turning to Aaron with his eyebrows drawn together.

“Oi, what’s up with you, sunshine?” Only Cain manages to lace his voice with actual concern and still scowl at you like you’re an inconvenience that he wants to eliminate with his bare hands. 

Aaron rolls his eyes. “Not you as well,” he mutters.

Cain flicks his gaze between him and his mother and decides to keep his mouth shut.

That’s why I like him the most.

Somehow his uncle gets him better than his own mum most of the time. Well, he’s just as grumpy as Aaron, so maybe they’re cast in the same mould. 

Chas stays silent as well, but she’s obviously still sulking if those tightly pressed together lips are anything to go by. The awkwardness between the three of them is palpable and Aaron decides to down his beer in one go. He bangs the empty glass on the counter right at that moment when Marlon emerges from the kitchen. 

“Aw, a little family gathering, how lovely!” the chef says cheerfully, oblivious as ever, and then his eyes are landing on Aaron. His dopey expression falls. “Hey, what’s up with-”

Fuck. Marlon, I swear to God if you finish that damn sentence…!

Aaron glares at him warningly.

“-uh, ah well, uh, nevermind!” Marlon hurries to say and waves him off, quickly plastering a bright smile back on his face.

The phone in his pocket is vibrating and Aaron lets out a long breath. His leg that never stopped bobbing up and down, doubles the speed. Without looking he knows it’s Robert. Adam is more of the caller type. He hates tapping texts, because he usually has too much to say and his thumbs can barely keep up with the speed of his brain.

No, the only person who sends messages to Aaron is Robert. 

He pulls the phone out by using his pointer and middle finger like tweezers and tries to ignore how clammy and slippery they feel. His heart relocates itself into his throat when he stares at the display.

 

Wow, that was a day from hell, I had…

 

That’s all he can read so far in the push up message on his lockscreen. No word about Aaron’s whatsapp this morning. He clicks on the screen to read the full text, maybe Robert responded to it in the hidden part of it.

 

Wow that was a day from hell, I had to deal with an upset client and a crisis on the supply front. How was your day?

 

His heart sinks right into his hot and heavy guts. Robert chose to ignore his dinner invitation completely. He hasn’t answered the question at all. Except - isn’t that an answer as well? Isn’t that Robert making his point perfectly clear? He wants no dinner, no date, no taking this whole thing to the next level. 

Sure, he had fun with all that flirting, he initiated that sexy encounter in the restroom trailer, but now? He clearly sees Aaron as nothing more than a mate, as someone who he talks to about his day and his hobbies. 

 

good

 

It’s a big, fat lie that’s what it is. But he doesn’t want Robert to know how much this hurts. Because it does hurt. Like a lot. 

Aaron knew all along that he fell too hard too quickly for a man he only met three times. He knew it but he had no power to stop it. It had to backfire spectacularly just like it did right now. The bubble he’s been floating in for the past few days since Andy’s wedding is finally bursting and leaving him crashing back on Earth. 

He’s mad at himself for asking for a date. Why, oh why did he sent that stupid message in the first place, if only he could take it back!

Another buzz from his phone and the tiniest of hopes is flaring up that Robert might pick up on the dinner with this new message.  

 

Okay. Gonna hit the pillow quite early today, speak tomorrow.

 

That’s it then. It’s okay. It’s fine. 

It’s fine. No big deal. 

He shoves his phone back into his pocket. They are going to speak tomorrow, just like Robert suggested and Aaron needs to stop being so goddamn touchy about the whole thing. 

Except.

Except he doesn’t want to speak to Robert like to some digital pen friend. He doesn’t wanna be mates with Robert. Fuck that.

He wants Robert. 

When he looks up, his mum and Cain are staring at him and Marlon has disappeared again. Aaron isn’t sure how long he was distracted with his phone or what the others must have seen in his face when he was reading those messages. 

What he definitely knows is that his mother is dying to know what’s going on and whom he’s texting. Just when Chas opens her mouth, Aaron jumps off the chair and basically flees from the pub, muttering a quick ‘bye, see ya’ as he can’t get away too fast from her, from his uncle and everybody else.

 

  • -     -

 

As if Aaron isn‘t suffering enough with his work, honestly. 

It‘s Friday evening and once more he is being forced to endure a wedding. This time he isn‘t working though, so that‘s a small upside because he is allowed to actually get wasted - which he totally plans. He is just an ordinary guest.

Still, it‘s an inconvenience. Friday nights are gaming nights with Adam and therefore treasured. 

Not tonight though.

Aaron sighs and grabs a glass of something from the tray a waiter is carrying. It‘s a colourful cocktail, red at the bottom, then it‘s fading into orange and yellow, before it turns green and blue on top. A freaking rainbow cocktail, Aaron wants to cry. Instead he just gulps the thing down, pulling a face when the sugary taste hits.

Sulkily he stares after the waiter who continues to make his way through the crowd wearing a superhero costume. 

Yep. A superhero costume.

And here Aaron thought he‘d seen everything already when it came to weddings. Apparently not. 

“Mate, this party is mint!“ Adam shouts into his ear and nearly trips over his own feet. 

Aaron wonders how many different meanings of the word ‘mint’ exist in the English language. Of course Adam is biased, since it‘s the wedding of his half-brother. 

Said half-brother who is approaching you from 12 o‘clock!

Aaron ducks his head and disappears between another group of people. Yeah, it‘s not his finest move, he is aware, thanks. Since he got here an hour ago he is avoiding the happy couple as best as he can. 

It‘s just so awkward. 

He slept with Finn. And that wasn‘t his finest move either, he‘s aware of that as well. But it was just a one off, ages ago. No feelings attached on both sides, but still. It‘s awkward. Not to mention the fight he once had with the other groom, Kasim. He‘d rather not think back to that awful episode.

All in all, if it wasn‘t for Adam and Finn being brothers and Aaron basically being an honourable member of the Barton clan, he wouldn‘t even have gotten an invite. As usual, it‘s all Adam‘s fault! 

Aaron walks aimlessly through the crowd, feeling slightly overwhelmed by the whole set up. The wedding ceremony itself happened earlier that day, pretty unspectacularly at the registration office with the closest family members, but the two grooms always planned a big party afterwards. Adam offered their professional help, but Finn insisted they wanted to organise it themselves. Besides, his brother should attend their celebration as a guest and not for work.  

The set up is, well, quite something. The Emmerdale Village Hall is decorated with inflatable palms, flamingos and unicorns for people to sit on, golden glitter canvas are covering the windows and on the ceiling aren’t two, but three disco balls turning. Most of the guests got glow sticks and wristbands at the entrance and now Aaron is walking through a mass of moving neon adornment. In between are those superhero waiters offering rainbow cocktails, either with or without alcohol.  

This is the gayest wedding I’ve ever been to.

How Superman, Spiderman and Batman are fitting in this colourful, trashy party concept? Aaron can only guess it was Finn’s idea. Guy’s a total nerd. At least, Finn and Kasim went all in and didn’t hold back, which, in a weird way, deserves kudos. The personality Aaron misses at so many other weddings is shining and sparkling wherever he looks. They definitely created a party that Emmerdale has never seen before. 

The music is changing to ‘Shake it off’ from Taylor Swift and great! Now Aaron is thinking of Robert again. Not that the blond man ever really left his mind. Still, he had been distracted until now and the emotions are hitting him once more. 

He misses Robert. 

There. That’s it. Texting is not enough. It’s not enough and Aaron’s heart was cracking a little bit more with every message he sent. And so he tried to hold himself back with a heavy heart and cut the amount of his whatsapps down. It‘s better this way. Pulling the cord now, before he‘s in it too deep.

Fuck, who are you kidding, you‘re already so deep in it you‘re drowning.

It’s not cool somehow that his brain likes to remind him of this fact. 

“Ah! Fuck!” A bloke just stepped on his foot, and damn, is he fucking heavy. It hurts! Aaron looks up right at the moment the man turns around to apologise.

He isn’t even surprised when he finds himself staring into green-blueish eyes. Of course it’s Robert, because Karma is a bitch and loves to mock him obviously. It loves to dangle that blond haired carrot in front of his nose, right there, but also out of reach. It’s kinda cruel, seriously. 

Robert‘s happy grin is slipping off his face, being replaced by surprise.

“Aaron!“

He thinks he hears his name more than he actually hears it, because the music is that loud. Not trusting his voice right now, Aaron manages a smile as a greeting. His heart speeds up against his will at the sight of the other man. 

Robert looks fantastic! And when Aaron thought suits really do fit him, his mouth runs dry when he stares at today‘s clothing. It‘s more casual - well, as far as one Robert Sugden can do casual that is. The sleeves of the light blue button up are rolled up to the elbows, the tie is missing and instead of a suit trousers he’s wearing tight jeans. 

Hot damn, Robert is edible. 

“I didn’t think they’d hire a wedding agency?” Robert shouts into his ear and Aaron does not sniff his perfume when he leans over. 

“They didn’t!” Aaron shouts back. “I’m here as a guest!”

Robert is staring at him like he wants to say something and then he looks around with a slightly frustrated expression, before he speaks up again: “Can we-… can we go outside?“ 

Aaron bites his lip and contemplates saying no for a second. He’s not sure what this is? Are they going to pretend he never sent the dinner invitation or what?

The simple truth is, however, he craves every second with Robert, his stupid wounded pride be damned. 

“Sure.“ He shrugs.

Aaron can be absolutely mature about the whole thing. Robert smiles at him and nods with his head towards the exit, before he takes the lead. On their way outside, Aaron sees him fetching a bottle of Vodka and two glasses. 

Stepping outside is a relief, really. The ear splitting music eases to a drumming bass and leaves a faint ringing inside Aaron‘s head. 

“Christ, 5 minutes longer and I would have lost my hearing forever.“ Robert shakes his head as if to clear his mind.

Despite his own ears hurting, Aaron can‘t stop himself from saying: “Aw, feel too old for the party? Should have taken those hearing aids out first, granddad.“

It‘s just - he loves to tease Robert with his age ever since he admitted being over thirty and having held that Tetris record during their whatsapp convos. 

“A granddad joke, seriously!“ The older man rolls his eyes. “And not even a funny one.“

“It is actually,“ he snickers. 

It‘s hard to be sulky about that unanswered message in Robert‘s presence. Damn, those green eyes make Aaron weak. Like turn-knees-to-jelly weak.

Robert huffs out an indignant sound and shoves the glasses against Aaron‘s chest for him to take them before he fills them with Vodka. 

“So, no driving duty tonight?” 

Oh, so casually smooth to find out if he‘s here with someone, nice.

Aaron is pretty pleased with himself. Robert freezes, looks up at him.

“No, I‘m taking a cab… uhm. You? Sorry, I should have asked…“

“‘S fine,“ Aaron smiles. “I live… uh, close.“ 

Like 100 meters down the road.

“AARON! Luv!“ 

Oh no. Hearing this voice calling him doesn’t bode well. As soon as his eyes find Faith on the threshold of the town hall, Aaron wants to face palm. His gran is decorated with a feather boa and glitter and slightly swaying.

“Your mum’s totally wasted and shooting the cat, I could use some help getting her home! Oh. Didn‘t see you got company,“ Faith is giving Robert a once over and her face lights up. “ Handsome company.“ 

Robert is shifting on the spot next to him and Aaron begs the universe to open a hole in the ground to swallow him up.

“Errr…“ The words get stuck in his throat when Faith starts walking towards them.

“Why don‘t you introduce us-”

Fuck, no!

“Go!“ he hisses at Robert and urges him to move, flight animal instincts kicking in. The alcohol in the glasses he‘s still holding is sloshing and spilling, but he has no time to care about that. “Quick!“

The other man shoots him a questioning look, but follows Aaron’s lead obediently. 

“Oi! Aaron!“ his nana is shouting behind him and he can hear her pout.

Nope. Sorry gran.

He‘s not really sorry. No way he can unleash his blunt grandmother on Robert, poor bloke might get traumatised for life.Thankfully Faith is getting the not-so-subtle hint and stops coming after them eventually. 

“And what about your mum?“ Robert asks and Aaron can‘t see his face in the dark, but he sounds highly amused. 

“If you‘d known my mum, you wouldn‘t ask that question,“ he mutters, shoving the man with him.

He thinks about taking Robert to his home since it’s literally just down the road, but his house is a mess unfortunately. Aaron thinks about the dirty cups on his coffee table in the living room, the used plates in the sink, his worn jeans hanging off the armrest of his couch and yeah. No. 

They end up at the bridge instead. It’s always been one of his favourite spots in Emmerdale. Shielded from other villagers by the lines of beautiful trees and the soft, soothing noise of the water underneath the base. On bad days he finds more peace here than in his own home where the walls are seeming to come suffocatingly closer. 

The place looks even more beautiful in the pale moonlight that’s reflecting on the surface of the stream, dark shadows framing the scenery.

After a moment of silence where Robert took everything in, he turns to Aaron and raises his eyebrows, a smirk on his face. “So that lady was….?”

Aaron groans. “My nana.”

The other man snorts and Aaron feels a blush creeping up his cheeks, so he presses one glass in Robert’s hand. 

“Your family seems quite interesting.”

“That’s one word to put it,” Aaron mutters and nods towards the Vodka. “C’mon then. To weird families!” he’s raising a toast to overplay his embarrassment.

Only when he sees Robert’s expression faltering, he realises what he just said. The man is an orphan, for fucks sake! He lost both parents and Aaron knows that, doesn’t he? But of course he has to put his foot in like that. Fuck, Aaron wants to kick his own arse for being an insensitive idiot!

“Sorry! I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“Don’t be. It’s fine.” Robert's voice sounds light and he shrugs easily, but even in the darkness Aaron can see that he’s, in fact, not fine.

Robert downs the drink in one go and Aaron does the same. The Vodka burns down his gullet, warming him from inside out, and he pulls at the face. 

“You must really miss your parents,” he says hoarsely before he can stop himself. 

“I miss my mum,” Robert says, the cheerful tone gone now, replaced by something nostalgic.  How he swiftly corrected ‘parents’ to ‘mum’ doesn’t go unnoticed, but Aaron isn’t commenting on it. So far Robert hasn’t mentioned his father at all and Aaron suspects there is a reason for it. “She was my stepmum, actually. But she’s the only mum I remember and the best one I could ever wish for. She treated me like I was her own.” He blows out a breath and puts the glass and bottle on the banister to shove his hands into his jeans pockets. “She died 21 years ago. Such a long time… They say time’s a healer and in some ways it is. But it doesn’t get easy, really, you know?”

He looks over the small river, his focus lost somewhere in his memories and Aaron can’t help but stare at the other man. 

Once more, Robert offers him a glimpse behind his cocky facade and Aaron feels himself drawn in again. The contrast between the snarky sarcasm and this softer side makes Robert the most interesting man he has ever met. 

“Yeah, I know.”

Time is not a healer at all as far as Aaron concerns. He wishes it was. 

Wordlessly he pours them another drink to stop himself from following that track of thought. 

“Sounds like she was a great lady.”

“She was. Whatever she did, she did whole-heartedly. Like with the little bookstore she owned,” Robert continues with a little smile, “It wasn’t big, but well sorted and lots of people would come regularly just to chat with her about literature and drink a tea or two. She always had the kettle on in the kitchenette in the back.” He lets out a quiet huff. “Mind you, it wasn’t a clever business strategy, because many of those clients left without buying something and she always struggled to keep the store in the black, but she loved what she did.”

“So that’s who you got your nerdy genes from,” Aaron opts for a little tease. This conversation got heavy quickly.

Robert surfaces from his memories and gives him a look. “There is no such thing, Aaron.”

And God, how his name sounds when he comes out of Robert’s perfect mouth! Aaron thinks he will never get enough of hearing it. 

“You talked about books a lot,” he says, remembering their whatsapp exchanges.

“Well… I did like the store a lot and might have or have not spent the better part of my childhood days between the comic racks…” Robert admits and that adorably playful smirk is back. “When I was little I wanted to own a bookstore myself.”

“So how did you end up as a farm machinery salesman then?” Aaron asks and sips his third Vodka. 

“My gorgeous suits would be totally wasted in a dusty bookstore, wouldn’t they?” Robert jokes, but then he gets serious again. A tiny frown is forming on his forehead and he lowers his gaze. “Honestly though. I don’t know actually…” His voice trails off and he looks lost for a moment. “I haven’t thought about it in ages…”

Suddenly, Aaron wants to hug him. Robert could use a little comfort, Aaron can sense it with every bloody cell of his body and he wants nothing more than to pull him into his arms.

But…

He still doesn’t know where they stand. They flirted, they made out, they texted. And then Robert ignored that goddamn message and now Aaron isn’t sure if his touch would be welcome. He hesitates and then the moment is over when Robert straightens his shoulders, clears his throat and gulps down his drink. 

“Anyway. Enough with sad stories. Let’s talk about this wedding instead. What’s today’s verdict?”

“Solid six I’d say.”

Robert raises his eyebrows. “Oh, that’s a surprisingly high ranking since I assume flamingos and glitter and superheroes aren’t up your alley.”

“Well, the fact that I got to see my uncle Cain’s shocked face when the Flash waiter flirted aggressively with him might have added one or two points,” Aaron chuckles. “It was priceless.”

“Sounds like your whole family is at this wedding. Are you related to Finn or Kasim?”

“No-” Aaron stops himself and frowns. “Actually, I’m not sure? Maybe? It’s hard to tell, in a village this size almost everybody is related somehow, I guess. Finn is Adam’s half brother.”

Robert nods along. “So you’re from here? Emmerdale is not far from the farm, only like 20 minutes. Can’t believe we've never met before this whole wedding marathon madness.”

“Yeah, uh… That’s probably because I lived with my father until I moved here permanently a few years back, when I was 17.”

Such a simple summary for the goddamn mess it was back then. The immense relief of having gotten out of there - and at the same time the struggle to fit in into this huge, chaotic Dingle clan. The feeling of belonging nowhere, the pressure rising and rising inside of him, threatening to tear him apart inside, because he bottled everything up until-

Stop going there. Enough with sad stories, you heard what Robert said.

“And then I spend a few years in France. But anyway, who says I don’t like superheroes?” Aaron says with forced cheerfulness and pushes every thought of his suicide attempt as far away as possible. 

Robert makes an approving noise. “DC or Marvel?” He smiles and opens the Vodka bottle once more. 

“Is this a trick question?”

The other man laughs at that and Aaron feels his chest loosen and warmth spreading at the sound. Robert then starts a monologue about the two superhero universes, he compares movies, where Marvel is one step ahead in his opinion, before he analyses the superpowers and abilities of single characters, where he sees DC winning, because Superman.  

It’s kinda amazing how they can switch easily from heavy to light hearted topics.

The unanswered whatsapp is long forgotten by now - Aaron cannot be mad at Robert when he is standing there and giving him a lecture about bloody comic books. He’s fucking adorable. A fucking adorable nerd.

“Oi!” Aaron interrupts him after something just clicked in his mind. “Is that how you know Finn and Kasim? Because you’re in that superhero thing-y club with Finn?”

He’s grinning like a loon when he sees Robert shifting from one foot to another, looking caught. “You make it sound like it’s some teenage malarky. It’s more like an association where reasonable grown-ups meet on a regular basis to discuss old and new-”

“It’s totally a club for nerds!” Aaron blurts out and snorts so hard, it actually makes him choking on air and coughing. 

“We prefer the term geeks,” Robert grumbles. 

Aaron stares at him for exactly 3 seconds in sheer disbelief, before they both start laughing frantically at the same time. 

It’s good, this. Laughing like this. Together. 

He simply loves spending time with Robert. And he loves him. As ridiculous as it may be after such a short amount of time. God, why is falling in love with Robert Sugden so damn easy? 

 

  • -     -

 

Aaron absolutely blames the alcohol and his hormones for the situation he finds himself in half an hour later. 

“Never have I ever... blamed a fart on a pet!” Robert snickers.

He’s dangling his legs like a big schoolboy above the stream. They are sitting now on the wooden planks. Aaron rolls his eyes and groans, but obediently downs his drink and feels the skin of his face starting to burn. Of course he is alone in this round. 

“What? Ohmygod Aaron!” The blond man is cackling so hard, he nearly falls over. 

It doesn’t need to be extra mentioned that Aaron hates playing Never have I ever. It’s so damn stupid. It’s childish. It’s embarrassing. 

But when Robert came up with the idea, his blond hair was slightly rumpled, his cheeks rosy and his grin bright and carefree and the alcohol was already clouding Aaron’s better rationality and fuck, Robert looked so young and beautiful.  

If I agree I get to know him better.

How was he supposed to say no to that? Honestly, he never stood a chance.

“Says the guy who admitted two minutes earlier that he peed in the shower once!” Aaron argues and hell yeah, he’s definitely getting to know Robert a lot better. “My mum was dating a vet, alright?” Aaron tries to justify it. “We had loads of old dogs around all the time, he did some kinda pet day care. They were smelly anyway, it was… convenient, alright?”

That only makes Robert laugh louder again instead of calming him down.

Aaron can’t hold back a smile although the joke’s on him - that happy sound of the other man makes him all fuzzy inside. And that has zero to do with the effects the alcohol is having on him by now. 

“Okay, my turn.” Aaron thinks of a new claim, while he refills his glass and bites his lip. “Never have I ever been skinny dipping.”

He thinks it’s kinda lame, unfortunately he isn’t as creative with his prompts as Robert. That’s why he is all the more surprised when Robert isn’t drinking with him. He almost spills the Vodka.

“You’ve never been skinny dipping?! You grew up on a farm!” 

Robert squirms on his spot, suddenly looking self-conscious. “It’s just… I don’t… I mean, there’s fish in there!”

“And?” 

“What if they…” Robert makes a hand gesture and stares at Aaron expectantly, but he only frowns back.

If they what now?

“Well, if they, you know… bite.”

“Bite?” Aaron echoes dumbly, surely missing a point that might be hidden somewhere. 

“You know…the....” Robert pointedly looks down to his crotch and Aaron follows his gaze. 

There is only so much self-restraint Aaron has at this point, with having eight shots - at some point he stopped counting - of Vodka. He ends up leaning with his head against Robert's shoulder, unable to hold himself upright anymore, his body shaking with laughter. He wipes tears from his eyes and snot is slowly dripping out of his nose. 

Robert is afraid of fishes.

Robert is afraid of fishes because he worries they might bite his dick .

Everytime Aaron tries to take a few deep breaths to calm himself down, that thought strikes him again and he can’t stop. He cannot stop.  

Robert waits patiently, sighing every now and then and shaking his head, and it takes a little eternity for Aaron to get his composure back. He can’t remember having a hysterical fit like that ever before. He’s never laughed so hard in his life. 

Eventually they continue that goddamn game. “Never have I ever cried during a movie.”

They both are drinking then and Aaron is dying to know which movie made the other man cry. Robert doesn’t come across like a ‘cryer’ with his cocky businessman attitude, although their last meetings and especially today suggest that there are many different layers of Robert J. Sugden underneath. 

“Tell me a movie that made you cry,” Robert beats him.

Aaron snorts. “It’s easier telling you a movie that didn’t make me cry, I suppose. I, uh… get easily emotional.” 

His own honesty is shocking to him. Lying would be so much less embarrassing, honestly. But somehow the truth is flowing out of him just like that. Maybe it’s the alcohol. Maybe it’s simply that deep wish of forming some kind of bond with the other man. He glances a side look at Robert and the beauty of him never fails to hit him anew. 

He wants to share his thoughts and emotions and secrets with Robert. Maybe not everything - yet. But still. 

It’s kind of an astonishing revelation actually. If anything, sharing is none of Aaron’s fortunes. More like the opposite.

But this is Robert.

And Robert managed to turn his world upside down in the shortest amount of time, things that had been settled for a long time are suddenly being rearranged. 

“Oh God, you even cried during Titanic, didn’t you?” 

Robert probably meant it as a tease, but… “It was fucking sad, mate,” Aaron mutters. When the blond man starts snickering, he continues: “That ship really sank. The things Cameron showed actually happened. The band played until the end, I mean, that’s bloody heartbreaking. And all those women and children that had to say goodbye to their husbands and fathers, probably knowing they’d never see them again? But they had to step back, didn’t they. Because there weren’t enough fucking boats to save them all and they had to sacrifice themselves for those they loved. And yeah, the whole ‘Jack-I’m-flying’ stuff is cheesy, I know, but the fact that Rose rather wanted to die with a man she only knew for… what? Like 2 days? Instead of marrying the wealthy arsehole and having an easy life… That’s...” 

Romantic. 

Kinda epic.

Aaron snaps his mouth shut so hard his teeth are clicking. Heat is creeping his cheeks, feeling he said too much, shared too much. Somehow this embarrassed him a thousand times more than admitting the farting. 

“...stupid,” Robert finishes quietly.

The green eyes are staring at the small river, but the expression on Robert’s face indicates that he’s lost in thoughts again.

“I’ve been in a relationship with a guy I didn’t love,” Aaron says, his hands gripping the glass tight as he takes a deep inhale. “Never again. I swore that to myself.”

The atmosphere has changed, it’s loaded with emotions. Gone is the easy fun of the stupid drinking game and Aaron nearly regrets that he started this. 

Robert turns towards him and the green eyes are looking right at him. Right through him. Searching. “You’re a helpless romantic, Aaron,” he says, sounding fond. “You try to hide it, but you’re not as good at it as you think.”

Aaron’s heart flips in his chest and clenches hard. There is no point in denying it, is there, because Robert is right, because Robert sees him. 

Kiss me. C‘mon. 

And as if the other man could read his thoughts he leans over and takes Aaron’s lips. The kiss is slow and sweet and nothing like the desperate snogging they did back at Andy’s wedding. Robert makes a soft noise through his nose and Aaron is melting against him. When Robert is pulling back way too early for Aaron’s liking, he’s chasing those soft lips with closed eyes, before he blinks them open. 

The beautiful face is still close and Aaron’s gaze traces the tiny wrinkles and soft lines around those green eyes and all those freckles he still can see despite the dim glow of the moon. 

The second time Aaron initiates the kiss, because he isn’t done with Robert yet. It’s still gentle and unhurried, it’s just kissing for the kisses’ sake, not a foreplay to something more. And it’s perfect, just them on the bridge, the water rippling underneath them and the moon shining above them.

It’s romantic.

And fuck yes, okay, Aaron is a helpless romantic, not wanting this moment to end. He carefully puts his hand on the back of Robert’s neck, feels the warmth and the softness of his hair. 

Again, they don’t go far when they move away from each other and Robert puts his forehead against Aaron‘s and closes his eyes. He lets out a little sigh. 

“Aaron…” It’s barely a whisper. “I don’t know what to do with you.”

The words are catching him off guard and he’s not sure how to reply to them. Like, is this good? Or bad? 

Can it be good, please?

He wants to tell Robert that he’s nervous, too. That there is no need to know everything right now at this early stage. They can figure it out together, right? 

Suddenly Robert pulls back, grabs the bottle to refill their glasses and his eyes are staying firmly down on the task of not spilling anything.

“Your turn,” Robert says and he means the drinking game as he raises his Vodka and points at Aaron. 

Aaron’s eyes are flicking between the alcohol and the beautiful man next to him. “Never have I ever…” he takes a deep breath, “...fallen in love at first sight.”

They are drinking both.

 

  • -    -

 

Hypothesis: the M62 is the worst motorway in the country.

 

google says it’s the M20

 

Fuck Google.

 

Aaron snorts quietly and smiles at his phone. They are back at their whatsapp exchange, sending back and forth messages throughout their day. Sometimes random little things, sometimes they get caught in deep discussions and Aaron has to stop himself from pushing things further. He won’t make that mistake again.

 

stuck in traffic?

 

Nothing’s moving since 20 minutes.

It’s hell.

 

put some music on

or wait

ur music probs only makes it worse

like time wont pass at all

 

Haha.

You’re so funny.

 

i know

its been said

 

Has it also been said that your grammar is horrible?

 

shut up and watch the road

 

  • -    -

 

bored

 

Aw. All the balloon artists and pop tarts already sorted for today? 😘

 

fuck u

and yes

 

😂

Here is a funny cat video to cheer you up.

 

Robert attached a youtube link and Aaron actually watches a 8 minutes 42 seconds long compilation of cats falling off things or slipping off things or driving around on robot cleaners. All in all, he had worse 8 minutes and 42 seconds today so he counts it as an improvement. He even smiled and snickered once which earned him a look from Adam across the tables. 

 

i hate cats

 

How can you hate cats?

 

Of course Robert likes cats, Aaron is not surprised at all. He‘s grinning at his display.

 

they r narcissistic arseholes

 

Oh, Aaron Dingle uses big words!

 

Aaron laughs out loud and Adam clears his throat and raises his eyebrows at him.

“Who is this?” his best mate asks and nods towards the phone.

“No one!” he says out of reflex, pulling the device closer to his chest although Adam can’t see his display anyway from where he’s sitting. The phone vibrates.

 

Cats are amazing by the way. Did you know they have more bones than humans?

 

“It’s totally someone!” Adam shouts with a wide grin on his face. 

“It’s not!” Aaron replies in a very mature way.

 

Meowing is a form of communication they only developed for humans.

 

“Come oooon!” Adam pleads. A pen is hitting Aaron’s forehead, causing him to mutter a swear word and rub the sore spot. “You’re smitten, mate!”

“I-... What? I’m not!” Aaron does his best to scowl.

 

Cats can sense earthquakes before they hit.

 

“Haha, you always forget I know you long enough to be immune to your whole… sulky… Grumpy McGrumperson attitude.“

Really, Adam?

Aaron rubs his forehead when another whatsapp comes in.

 

Are you impressed? You can admit it, you know. I promise it won‘t hurt.

Except your pride 😝

 

impressed by what

you googling stuff??

 

🙄

 

Aaron stifles a grin by biting on his lip. It’s not like he really hates cats, he could never hate an animal (except spiders, because they’re fucking evil), it’s just that he’s more of a dog person. Dogs are awesome. Clever and loyal. And he loves winding up Robert, it‘s so easy too. 

“Ah. Robert.“

Aaron jumps on his seat because Adam is suddenly right behind him, leaning over his shoulder and staring at the screen. 

Rude! What the hell?!

He shoves his mate away. Why is everyone constantly sneaking up at him, seriously? 

“And you‘re talking cats, how fascinating,“ Adam deadpans. “I, on the other hand, my moody friend…” He points at his own chest and Aaron rolls his eyes, “have a date with the lovely Victoria next week!“

The smile on Adam‘s face is brighter than the sun and rationally Aaron knows that he should be happy for him like a good friend would. But fuck, there is this pang in his chest that he can‘t deny feeling. 

Adam is going out with Vic on an official date, while he and Robert share funny youtube videos on whatsapp… 

Sure, there is the kissing. They kissed a lot on the night of Finn‘s and Kasim’s wedding - by the way one of the best weddings Aaron ever attended in hindsight. Which might or might not have a lot to do with said kissing that unfortunately found a natural ending when they both realised they were too drunk to take it to the next level. As much as Aaron wanted Robert - he didn‘t want him hammered on the bridge. At least not for the first time. He’s a romantic after all and that. So they parted with sweetly whispered ‘good nights’ and gentle pecks. 

Since then they are back to texting again. 

“Oi, c’mon, let’s go!” Adam pulls him out of his thoughts by slapping on his shoulder. 

“Go where?” Aaron frowns, not willing to move yet.

“The meeting? I told you about earlier? Are you ever listening, man?”

Not really. 

Tuning the madness out is keeping him sane most of his workdays. But he darkly remembers something Adam said about that horrible client.

“Why do I have to go though?” Aaron whines. “You did all the talking with her so far!”

“Exactly. Now the dragon wants to meet you as well.”

Adam is giving him an expectant look while he’s waiting with the folder tucked under his arm, no doubt carrying information about the venue, different options for decorations, a check list for the ceremony and the offer from their best caterer. 

With a groan, Aaron gets up.

 

i still like dogs more

i’m a dogs person

 

The answer comes through when Aaron is still putting his jacket on. 

 

I’m versatile. 

 

Immediately his mind is in the gutter and he groans again. Fuck, Robert is killing him. 

 

  • -    -

 

They meet their client in a fancy restaurant in Leeds and Aaron knows as soon as he sees the building that she must have chosen this place, because this is one of the upper pricey establishments where you have to book your table like 6 weeks beforehand and definitely not Adam’s cup of tea. Or Aaron’s, but that doesn’t need to be extra said. He hates those places and the weird atmosphere in them. The amount of knives and forks and the food he can’t pronounce make him feel odd and insecure. 

It’s only for one hour, maybe one and a half, tops. You can do this. 

“Aaron,” Adam says and turns around, just right after they went in through the massive glass door. “Please. This is an extremely worthy client. Like, there is no price limit, okay? If we do this right, it’s going to be really beneficial. So please, can you be friendly for once?”

“I’m always friendly!”

As soon as the words are leaving his mouth, Aaron cringes. Meetings are his forte, sadly. The clients usually don’t do well with his attitude. And he knows it. And so does Adam. 

“Mate, I love you.” Adam gives him a small smile and pats his arm. “But you are a rude bastard on good days. Behave.”

Unfair, Aaron isn’t even allowed to sulk! His best friend is just marching of, craning his head and looking for the woman they are supposed to meet. 

“Table under reservation for White?” Adam asks one of the waiters who is wearing an actual bow tie around his neck. 

The man gestures to follow them and Aaron eyes the labyrinth of tables, stuffed with cloth napkins, shiny cutlery and huge flower arrangements. Classic music is softly playing, the conversations are quiet and the light is dim. Businessmen in suits are looking at them as they pass their tables. 

Aaron feels out of place already. 

The bar in the back of the room catches his eye. What is lined up on the shelf has to be the most impressive alcohol selection he has ever seen. And while Aaron is still staring at the armada of bottles, he notices from the corner of his eye that Adam has stopped.

“Adam, hello! Please meet my fiancé, Robert.”

Hearing the name alone makes Aaron smile, because of course he immediately thinks about his Robert and how he misses him and how he wants to be with him now, And so he turns his head and then everything stops. 

His heart stops. 

Green eyes are staring at him, wide and full of shock. 

His Robert.

Her fiancé.

This can’t be right, surely there are hidden cameras somewhere. This is a prank, has to be a prank! But all the colour has drained from Robert’s face and he looks caught, because fuck. He is engaged to the woman they have been called “dragon” for the past few weeks. 

“We already met at the wedding of Bernice and Andy,” Adam says somewhere next to him and his mate's voice sounds strained. “It’s nice to see you again, Robert.”

His best friend is here to witness this epic car crash of Aaron’s crush and suddenly humiliation is flushing through his veins like burning acid. 

“Oh right, of course. I totally forgot, such a shame I got sick and missed their big day!” Chrissie says, totally oblivious of the awkward tension around her. 

“This is my business partner, Aaron Dingle.” Adam turns towards him and his big, brown puppy eyes are filled with silent apologies and also pity and Aaron hates that look. “Aaron, this is Christine White.“

Don’t make me shake their hands, Adam, please. Just…

“I told you to call me Chrissie, Christine makes me feel so old!“ Chrissie says overly sweetly and sticks out her hand. “It’s such a pleasure to finally meet you, Aaron!” 

Aaron stares at those manicured fingernails and expensive jewellery before his gaze flicks to her left hand that’s resting elegantly on the table. The light is reflecting in the obscenely huge diamonds of her engagement ring. 

He wonders who proposed and if Robert knelt down in front of her. 

“Aaron,” Adam whispers.

Right, he is supposed to shake her hand. Moving is impossible though. Aaron can only stand there, frozen and stare at the hand that is decorated with Robert’s ring, that gets to hold Robert at night, that gets to touch his body in all intimate ways possible.

It all makes sense now. Why Robert didn’t want to go on a date with him - he couldn‘t without making his bloody wife-to-be suspicious!

‘I don’t know what to do with you.’

Oh God, Aaron had been so stupid. He was just a nice little distraction before Robert would tie the knot. Maybe he was just a little gay fooling around. 

No way he is going to sit down and discuss the details of the wedding ceremony with Robert and his fiancée. Adam can not expect that from him. 

Sorry, 

he mouths towards his friend when he turns around and walks away, downright fleeing from that bizarre scene. His eyes are filling with tears although he really doesn’t wanna cry now and he stumbles half blind towards the restrooms. 

They flirted and they kissed, they made out and Robert was just playing him all along. Aaron opens the tab with shaky fingers and splashes cold water into his face with harsh motions. He wishes he could wash away the hurt and humiliation that are tearing him apart. 

When the door opens, he expects Adam to check in on him, but instead it’s Robert, looking like a deer caught in headlights. 

“Aaron…” 

Fuck, it’s the soft voice and it makes Aaron’s whole body ache so damn much, he can hardly stand it.

“Shut up.” 

No, really. Robert needs to shut the fuck up. Aaron can’t stand it. Not now. 

“Aaron, please, I-”

“Shut up.”

I don’t wanna hear it.

Aaron lifts his hands and rubs over his hair, presses the heels of his palms against his temples and squeezes his eyelids together as if that could blend reality out. 

I shared all this personal stuff with him and I don’t even know who he is.

“I can explain…”

His fist hits Robert’s chin before he can even think about it. His pain, his fury, everything’s erupting in that punch. Robert is stumbling backwards, nearly tripping over his own feet at the sheer force of the assault.

Robert took him for a mug the whole time. Aaron’s ragged breathing is echoing loudly in the small tiled room, it’s deafening. His body is shaking with rage. 

“I didn’t know she hired you and Adam, I swear! I thought her wedding planner is a guy called Etienne!“ Robert’s voice is tinged with desperation, but also muffled, because he’s holding his sore jaw. 

Chrissie fired Etienne weeks ago and it makes Aaron wonder if these two aren‘t fucking talking about stuff like that.

“Is this supposed to make it any better?” he hisses and steps right into the other man’s personal space to shove him hard against the wall. “What fucking difference does that make?”

“I wasn’t playing you, Aaron, you have to believe me.”

He stares into those pleading green eyes, searching for the lie, because it has to be there, because Robert is fucking engaged to a beautiful woman and obvilously living a life that Aaron knows nothing about. 

He doesn’t find the lie. It’s one of those intense looks again, like Robert is touching his core and vice versa. And all he sees is that Robert is genuine. 

It confuses the hell out of him.  

What is this between us?

What is this between you and her?

Do you love her?

He wants to shout it in Robert’s face, but his throat is tight and his mouth won’t cooperate. With a short huff, he pushes Robert against the tiles once more before he lets go.

When Aaron met Robert all those weeks ago, he was that confident, cocky business-style person, bursting with self confidence. Nothing of that image is left now that Robert is slightly hunching up against the wall to stabilise himself, looking miserable and defeated, with his jaw already swelling. 

“You were never supposed to be more than a mindless flirt…” Robert whispers, sounding broken. 

Aaron’s heart breaks for him, for them, for what they had and what could have been. He just wants to cry somewhere alone and wail over his own wounded pride, but he can’t do that here right in front of Robert and everybody who might come in to take a leak. Without another word he’s marching to the door and almost rips off the bloody handle when he pulls it open.

He ignores Robert saying his name behind him like a plea, he ignores the looks he’s getting as he strides towards the exit. He definitely ignores the table where he knows Adam and Christine are sitting right now. Christine White, the ‘dragon’ without a price ceiling.

The fact that Rose rather wanted to die with a man she only knew for… what? Like 2 days? Instead of marrying the wealthy arsehole and having an easy life… That’s...

he had said to Robert when they were talking the other night. And he also remembers how Robert finished the sentence for him with a word that is curling itself around his lungs and squeezing tight, making it hard to breathe. 

...stupid.

Chapter Text

Chapter Text

I could make you happy,

Make your dreams come true

Nothing that I wouldn't do

Go to the ends of the Earth for you

To make you feel my love
To make you feel my love





 

Can we talk?

 

  • -     -

 

[Incoming call]

Robert Sugden

 

  • -     -

 

Please

 

  • -     -

 

Aaron, let me explain, please.

 

  • -     -

 

[Incoming call]

PainInMyArse

 

  • -     -

 

[Incoming call]

Robert Sugden

 

  • -    -

 

I know you’re angry. I get it. I just wanna talk to you.

 

Aaron throws his phone away, turns around and stares at the ceiling.

Angry….

Is he angry? He doesn’t know what he is, if he’s honest, but he's not angry. He was definitely furious back in that restaurant when he wanted to smack his fist in Robert’s face. That rage is gone now though, has just left his body like every other feeling and now he’s just hollow. 

He isn’t hungry, he isn’t motivated to leave his bed, but he isn’t quite bored either. He’s just… lying there. 

The past few weeks had been like a rush on endorphins, an excitement he never felt before. It was like someone moved a lever and made him another person. His run-ins with Robert may have been short, but so damn intense. And Aaron laughed and flirted and wanted…

...and now it’s all gone. Ripped away like a rug under his feet. Leaving him in limbo. The lever is switched off again. 

Aaron turns on his side and closes his eyes. He just wants to sleep and he will, eventually. He just has to wait long enough.

 

  • -     -

 

[Incoming call]

PainInMyArse

 

He stares at his display, debating whether to take Adam’s call or not. The thing is, he pretty much ghosted not only his best mate, but also his business partner and in consequence his own business. He’s not been at work for four days. In fact, he hasn’t even left the house for four days. He can’t blame his friend for worrying. With a sigh he slides the thumb across the screen.

“Adam.” He rubs his forehead, feeling a headache incoming.

“Fucking hell, Aaron!” Adam shouts into his ear so loud he flinches. “What the fuck, mate! Where the hell are you? How are you? You just went AWOL!”

Aaron swallows thickly. His mouth tastes awful. He isn’t sure when he brushed his teeth for the last time. “I’m at home.”

“I rang the doorbell yesterday but you didn’t open.” The accusation is audible.

“Yeah, I…” Aaron stops himself. Of course he heard the bell ringing, several times actually, but he just couldn’t bring himself to get up and answer the door. Besides, he feared it was his mother and facing Chas was the last thing he could handle right now. “I’m fine,” he says instead.

“Course you are,” Adam snaps, “you just disappeared for days, mate!"

“Sorry.”

His vision gets blurry and tears are burning in his eyes, his throat feels too tight all of a sudden. His family and Adam will always worry about him after what happened in Cain’s garage all those years ago. If it was the other way round, Aaron would have probably broken in to get into Adam’s house to check on him. 

“It’s not that bad,” he manages with a wobbly voice. “It’s-... I can handle it. It’s just… hard.”

He hears Adam sighing on the other end.  “Just don’t do this to me again. Just tell me if you need time off or something and you can have it.”

“Okay.” Aaron rubs his eyes and takes a deep inhale to get his shit together again. “Sorry for letting you hang with all the work. D’you want me to come in tomorrow?”

“No,” Adam says quickly - a bit too quick for Aaron’s liking. “Stay at home. Take your time, it’s alright.”

It sounds like his mate doesn’t even want him back in the office. There is only one reason Aaron can think of for that and putting two and two together isn’t hard. 

“The wedding is still happening.” He feels cold suddenly, despite lying in bed, snuggled up under his covers, and his chest gets impossibly tight. 

It takes a moment before Adam replies. “Yeah. We are just organising flowers and decorations.”

When he and Priya are already sorting the set up, Chrissie and Robert must have finally chosen a venue.

I punched him in the face and he went back to his fiancé and they continued with their wedding preparations.

“I see the meeting was successful then after all,” he forces the words out stiffly.

“I told Chrissie you had a migraine all day when Robert came back alone and I realised you must have been gone,” Adam explains and Aaron winces.

He does feel guilty for leaving his mate in this awkward position without saying a word, but back then there was no way he could have handled the situation other than fleeing. 

A little part of him wonders how Robert explained his swelling jaw to his fiancé, but whatever cheap lie it was - Aaron doesn‘t wanna hear so he doesn‘t ask. 

He wants to scream into his pillow in frustration, needing an outlet for the boiling, bubbling anger inside him, growing with every shaky breath he takes. Fuck, now he‘s angry again. After everything he talked about with Robert. After the goddamn speech Robert gave at his brother’s wedding about true love, about sharing a special connection. After sharing lingering looks and exchanging wonderful kisses.

How is this the same Robert Sugden that is still planning to marry Chrissie White?

Fuck you, Robert Sugden. Fuck you.

“I’m coming in tomorrow,” he hears himself say and his voice sounds strange in his own ears. 

Why should he be hiding in his own home and feeling miserable when the other man is out there looking forward to the bloody best day of his life, carrying on like nothing happened? Aaron grits his teeth. He needs to get a grip. 

“Aaron, I don’t think that’s nece-”

“I’m coming,” he spits out stubbornly. 

Adam sighs. “Okay.” It’s not like he needs his friend’s consent anyway, it’s Aaron’s business too after all. “Hey, I could come over tonight and shred your poor arse over a few hours of destiny2?”

Suddenly he’s overwhelmed with the love for his best mate. As annoying as Adam might be from time to time, he is like the closest thing to a brother he never had and even when everything else is falling apart, Adam will still be at Aaron’s side and support him as best as he can. 

“As if!” He tries to act perky, but he knows he’s only half succeeding. “You’re on. I’m gonna make you weep, mate.”

Lord knows Aaron could do with a little distraction. He only gets a laugh in return. “See you later, shitface.”

“Takes one to know one.”

That little banter - or maybe the anger, or maybe a combination of both - is exactly what he needed, because it does the trick - it breaks that vicious circle of dark thoughts and for the first time in days the fog in Aaron’s brain is lifted and he takes in his current state. 

It’s poor. He hasn’t showered or brushed his teeth, he only lived off pizza deliveries and his chocolate stash. After spending so much time lying without actually moving, his body is aching. His muscles are stiff and sore and his back downright hurts.  

Shit. 

Eventually he gets up and swings his legs out of his bed before there is a possibility of falling back into the rabbit hole again. It takes a moment for the room to stop spinning. The first thing he does is shower, long and so hot, his skin is red and sensitive when he’s finished.

Downstairs is a chaotic mess. With a deep sigh he starts tidying up, taking out the garbage and letting in some fresh air. Aaron hates cleaning the house and it usually makes him extra moody, but today it’s almost cathartic. 

By the time Adam comes around with a six pack under his arm and a dopey grin on his face, Aaron feels finally like himself again.

Robert Sugden is just a stupid crush, he can get past that. Fucking hell, he came back from worse, didn’t he. 

It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. 

 

  • -    -

 

Ha ha. Guess what.

Nothing is fucking okay.

He’s not sure how much time has passed since Aaron walked past Adam’s desk and got a glimpse of a paper with golden and green decorations, peaking through between a pile of files. Somehow it spiked his interest and since Adam and Priya are out to visit the venue of this week's wedding, he picked it up.

The dark green letters on the magnolia coloured, expensive looking paper are screaming at him. 

It’s an invitation. For Robert’s and Chrissie’s wedding. 

On November 20th, in nearly two months. 

Breathing gets harder and the paper is burning hot between his fingers, but Aaron can’t stop staring at the letters. 

“Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired,” he reads the lines above the names.

Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.

He frowns the longer he thinks about it, something irks him about that statement. That is not the definition of love, at least not for Aaron. Love is not the desire to be desired. It doesn’t sound right, isn’t it so much more? Is love not much more about giving than receiving? 

Love is putting the other person first always, because their happiness is your happiness. Love is sharing, the good and the bad. Love is being with someone, wanting to be with someone despite their flaws, accepting the person as a whole. Love is not demanding, never demanding. Love doesn’t have any conditions. True love is unconditional.

Aaron stares at the quote and wonders if this is the most crappy thing he has ever read on an invite. He is fairly certain it is. And deep down he knows that Chrissie must have chosen it. It really doesn’t sound like Robert. 

And yet he is going to marry her.

He is glad no one is around to witness his breakdown. 

Fuck, how is it even possible to fall for someone so deep so quickly! Aaron is angry at Robert, the universe and mostly himself. Throwing the card back on Adam’s table, he lets out a desperate noise and inhales loudly before he wipes his eyes with his sweater paws. He sniffs, once, twice, and goes back to his own desk.

They gave him new clients, a couple that want to get married next spring. They’ve sent an eMail requesting some sort of adventure wedding with quad bikes and that kind of stuff somewhere up in Scotland. That actually sounds fun and just Aaron’s type of thing.

He starts researching, throws himself into work without taking any breaks. It’s a small distraction at least. 

 

  • -     -

 

I guess I got the message. You don’t wanna talk.

I respect that.

But I have to try it one more time, okay?

Can we talk? Please, Aaron?

 

 

  • -    -

 

 

Okay. 

I’m sorry.

I know a crappy whatsapp message won’t express how sorry I am, but for what’s it’s worth, I really am. 

I’m sorry.

 

Aaron has reached the point where he wants to talk to Robert, wants to ask. What is he sorry about? About kissing him? About flirting with him? About still taking Chrissie White as his wife?  

What the fucking hell are you sorry about?

He wants to shout it in Robert’s stupid handsome face. However, Aaron is half a Dingle and the Dingles have their pride. And Aaron’s pride is bloody wounded. Biting the bullet is not an option, the pain is still too raw and his mental health still fragile.  

Not to mention his biggest fear - that his anger at Robert might crumble to dust and he might start begging for the other man to choose him over her, making a total mug of himself.

Aaron grits his teeth, rolls his shoulders and shoves the phone with a harsh motion back in his pocket. 

It won’t come to that. 

 

  •  -     -

 

“Hey. If you wanna take my car and drive back home, I’m not mad, you know. Priya can give me a lift, too.” Adam looks at him with huge puppy eyes. “I can always call Finn or Kasim to take over the DJ part. How hard can it be, eh?“ He aims for a light joke. 

Adam means well, deep down Aaron knows that, but the oozing pity is hardly bearable right now. 

“I’m fine,” he insists for the upteenth time, but he isn’t moving yet.

They are still in Adam’s car. About 5 minutes have passed since his mate switched the engine off, but both are just sitting there and staring. 

Adam is staring at him, his brown eyes not leaving Aaron’s face, constantly searching for the tiniest signs of a mental breakdown.

Aaron is staring at the gigantic castle that is looming in front of them. Allerton Castle. The castle where Chrissie and Robert are about to tie the knot. 

Today. 

Objectively it’s a beautiful castle. A Victorian Gothic estate from the 19th century, built of dark-coloured stone. Above the entrance porch is a tower rising. In the light of the rising sun on the clear blue Autumn sky it looks even more majestic. 

Aaron hates it. He hates the elitist flair, hates how the whole building is stinking of money and power. Fuck, he even hates the lovely weather. 

Fuck Chrissie White for getting her fucking Disney princess wedding like she always wanted. 

It‘s the jealousy, Aaron is aware, alright. It‘s not only about the aristocratic shit really, but she gets him. After all, Robert chose her. God, Aaron is so damn jealous, he‘s literally choking on it because his throat is so tight, it hurts. 

More minutes are passing and neither of them are moving. 

“Aaron…”

“No!“ he cuts him, raises his hand and takes a few deep breaths. 

You can do this. See it as some sort of closure.

“I can do it,“ Aaron says aloud.

That shall be his mantra today. With a sigh, he opens the door and gets out. It‘s very early and despite the sun already shining, the air is still crisp. The temperature drop is refreshing and clears his head a little. Aaron opens the trunks and grabs his equipment, while Adam takes their suits and then they make their way to the impressive castle. 

It definitely is the biggest wedding they have organised so far and Aaron gets how this is a huge step for their little business. A few more bookings and they’d be able to hire another person full time. Priya and Adam spent more time at Allerton castle lately than in their office to arrange a schedule for the big day and orchestrate the different suppliers. 

Right now, Chrissie is already here, getting professional makeup done in the Bridal Suite upstairs, a very ritzy room with loads of golden ornaments. The photographer should be taking first pictures of the happy bride-to-be and later a camera team will join him. Yes, Chrissie White wanted a video of the whole day and what Chrissie White wants, she gets. The ceremony itself will be shot with four cameras in total. Fuck, they are even going to fly around with a drone for ‘beauty shots’ of the 25 acres of the estate. 

Chrissie doesn’t seem to have the same worries like Bernice that seeing each other beforehand might bring bad luck, because according to her wish the first photoshoot with her and Robert is about to take place before noon. 

Then there will be a short lunch break.

After that the first guests are expected. Chrissie will celebrate with the ladies and champagne in the Bridal Suite, while the men are retreating to the Billiard room to play and have a Whiskey or two. 

Aaron hates how everything is scheduled, nothing is left to chance. 

The wedding vows will be exchanged in the Great Hall, a luxurious 70 feet high room at the centre of the castle. Aaron has only seen it in pictures so far and the real sight overwhelms him as soon as they step inside. They basically get swallowed up and thrown back in time to the 19th century by the dark wood panelling and the size of the grand staircase with its blood red persian carpet that leads straight to an arcade on the first floor.

Fucking hell.

“Impressive, right?” Adam whispers next to him.

Aaron only hums in return. He hates it. “Show me around,” he orders instead.

Adam leads him to the Ballroom, where the staff are currently setting the tables. Columns are rising and melding together in gothic arches, white plastering is covering the whole ceiling, huge chandeliers are providing a soft light. This is where the guests will have dinner and where Chrissie and Robert are going to cut the wedding cake. 

On the right side they left space for the musicians. The bridal couple chose a classical quartet to play music during the ceremony and dinner. Aaron will take over for the party around 9pm. 

Adam leads him through other rooms as well, equipped with historic furniture, the walls covered with silk wallpapers and ancient paintings in golden frames. Chandeliers, golden garnishment and more chandeliers. Aaron is way past the state of paying actual attention, every new impression is just merging with the previous ones. 

Big, plush, decadent. Too much of everything.

His head is already spinning and they haven’t even started working. They find Priya talking to someone who must be a staffer from the castle, Aaron assumes, and she waves in their direction with the clipboard she’s holding without stopping the flow of her words. It truly is the biggest and most important wedding they ever organised. 

For the sake of his business Aaron forces a smile on his face and straightens his back. 

It’s just today. Get through today. Get closure. Never see Robert Sugden ever again.

Repeating this over and over makes him feel slightly better and he turns around to enter the Great Hall again, when there is suddenly something in front of him and he’s basically crashing into it. He raises his hands out of reflex. They’re landing on a soft, blue fabric and Aaron realises he didn’t run into something, but someone. He stares at the chest and knows immediately whom it belongs to without even looking up, although said chest is covered by a well-worn, casual knitted jumper today instead of a crisp white shirt.

“Aaron...” His stomach twists and turns at the sound of the voice. Robert sounds so surprised which is ridiculous, really. “You’re here.”

“Course I am,” he presses out hoarsely and then he finally lifts his gaze. “You hired my wedding agency for your special day, remember?”

Aaron makes sure to put enough sarcasm and sharp edge into the words. Yes, this is him lashing out and no, Aaron is not proud of it, but it fucking hurts, it hurts like hell and he wants Robert to be hurting, too. It’s not fair that he is the one who suffers while the other man is living a goddamn Disney fairytale today. 

He could be the bigger man. Be professional and put on some fake facade.

Aaron Dingle isn’t capable of being any of that right now. 

Robert’s right hand is raised above his shoulder, holding up a suit bag. It doesn’t take a doctorate degree to know that his wedding suit is in there. The wedding suit he is going to wear to marry Chrissie White in a few hours.

If it wasn’t so heartbreaking, Aaron would laugh at this bizzare fuckery. 

Set on not showing his pain, Aaron stares him down, he doesn’t even so much as blink. Something in Robert’s expression flickers and Aaron watches how his blond brows are twitching, forming the tiniest of frowns. The broad shoulders are slumping and suddenly the other man looks five years older. The hand with the suit bag sinks slowly down until it’s more or less half lying on the floor.

“Careful,” Aaron says, pointing with his chin towards the suit. “Wouldn’t wanna get wrinkles in it.”

There is hurt in those green-blue eyes and they dart back and forth between Aaron’s as if they are searching for something. 

Aaron got what he aimed for, it was supposed to make him feel better but the satisfaction never happens. 

Robert takes a tiny step back and just when he opens his mouth toreply, a noise erupts in the Great Hall. It’s one of the staff members, hoovering the majestic red carpet. Aaron feels a rush of relief flooding his body at this interruption and he quickly moves past Robert, needing to get away from him and those green eyes with that haunting look, a mixture between sadness and desperation. 

There is a door that leads outside to the garden in the back and that’s where Aaron goes on stiff legs, seeking a bit of quiet and privacy to get his shit together again. He wanted to be alone, but no such luck today, because there are staff as well, arranging plants and cleaning the white benches. 

It’s a typical classic garden with marble statues, a small pond, gravel paths and neatly trimmed bushes. The grounds are perfect, like everything here is perfect and Aaron wants to scream his sheer frustration into the November air. 

He holds himself back because he doesn’t want to cause a scene, but it’s close. Instead he starts pacing, repeating his mantra, and the movement is a good outlet for his tension. 

Adam joins him and gives him a serious look. “I saw you with Robert. You okay?”

Aaron should have taken his friend’s offer and driven back home. Now it isn‘t an opportunity anymore. It would be like drawing in his horns and his damn pride won’t allow that. 

“I’m fine.”

What else is there to say? Adam stays silent and Aaron is glad that his mate doesn’t call him out on his weak lie. 

 

  • -    - 

 

One and half an hours later Aaron, finally dressed in one of his “work suits”, finds himself walking around with his phone and taking photos and short video clips, feeling like a total idiot. 

Adam is supervising the photoshoot with the photographer and the camera team in the garden and Priya is giving last instructions to the waiters while she’s waiting for the pyrotechnician. That’s right, a pyrotechnician. He is going to light up a ten minute firework show with music at 10pm. There is nothing left in the eternal wish list of traditional wedding shenanigans that Chrissie White didn’t tick off. Except maybe a bouncy castle, but Priya informed Aaron that there simply weren’t enough small kids amongst the guests so there was no need for it. 

His colleagues were busy with the real stuff and Aaron was ordered to do Social Media. Objectively he knows every business needs to be on a few Social Media platforms, especially wedding businesses, since the audience for that kind of content is immense and it is the easiest way of free advertising. 

Well, Aaron hates it. He hates Social Media in general. He tolerates whatsapp, but all the other shit he loathes. Luckily, Adam was on his side when Priya wanted to create another account on tic tac or whatever. He didn’t even know they were doing apps now as well. 

For the business’ sake he has to swallow his disapproval down and do the fucking job. Normally Priya would be in charge of their accounts, she just has the eye for a beautiful picture or the taste to create an instagram story that wasn’t cheesy. However, Aaron knows why he was given the task today and that was so he could avoid the happy couple as long as possible and besides it wouldn’t make much sense to take over what Priya and Adam had organised for weeks now.

So he sneaks around the castle, trying to be as invisible as possible and takes a few snaps and clips on his phone, before he retreats into one of the various rooms. Priya has given him detailed instructions of what to post and even sent a short text that he is supposed to copy and paste. 

Posting the article on their site is not the problem, he learns, it’s the fucking instagram story. Writing the text on the slides and trying to find some GiFs that don’t look like cheap shit has Aaron close to smashing his damn phone against the wall, the hardest part is the music though. He is tempted, like very tempted, to use Lily Allen’s ‘Fuck You’, but that would be rather counterproductive, wouldn’t it. 

It takes him over an hour to get the whole thing online and the only good part about it is that it has effectively taken his mind off everything.

Off Robert.

A quick glance at his watch tells him the guests must be here by now. It's only about fifty minutes until Robert Sugden will take Chrissie White as his lawful wedded wife. 

 

  • -    -

 

Aaron is a masochist.

He must be. What other explanation is there for him standing in the back, shifting awkwardly from one foot to the other and feeling like throwing up any second? He doesn’t even have an active part in the ceremony since the music will be performed live!

What the fuck am I doing here?

He should have jumped into the car and driven back to Emmerdale, without looking back. His stupid pride be damned. But now he’s here and he has to watch, see it with his own eyes. For closure. 

“Aaron! Hello!” Someone shrieks and a second later Bernice is hugging him.

She is a touchy-feely person with no understanding of personal space whatsoever, Aaron remembers all too well. Over her shoulder he sees Andy giving him a half sided shrug and an apologetic smile. 

“Bernice! Andy!” he forces out cheerfully and tries to wiggle free of her hug. “Good to see you both! You look…” Aaron is searching for words as he stares at her fascinator which is the size of a stork’s nest. “... like a natural beauty.”

He tries not to wince at his own words but only half succeeds. ‘Socially awkward’ doesn’t even cover it. 

Oh good Lord, send help.

The Almighty has mercy and help comes in the form of Victoria Sugden. Small, elegant and beautiful as ever and Aaron can definitely see why Adam has the hots for her. 

“Hi Aaron,” she smiles and they exchange a quick hug as well.

Her relationship with Adam is still fresh, but Aaron has met them both in a pub in Hotten once and somehow Robert’s sister managed it so that he didn’t feel like the third wheel. He really likes her.

Shame her brother isn’t as nice as she is.

His chest is clenching tight again and he really needs to stop having thoughts like that. It‘s not healthy.
If he only knew how. 

He clears his throat. “Have you seen Adam already? I know he was looking for you earlier.”

“Yeah. We, err, met.” She is blushing then like a fire engine and while Bernice lets out a little squeal, both Andy and he are grimacing simultaneously. 

“Aw, young love!” Bernice gushes excitedly and grins at Andy. “Remember when we were together for a few weeks and couldn’t keep our hands-”

“We should take our seats,” Andy suggests quickly, already shoving Bernice away, and Aaron silently agrees.

The Great Hall doesn’t offer enough space for all the 120 guests, so only 60 of the closest family members and friends fit in there. The rest will have to watch a livestream on a screen in the ballroom. Most of the people are still engrossed in conversation and standing in between the white chairs that are framing the red carpet, when Adam steps in front of the crowd along with the vicar. 

Aaron’s heart stops. 

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” his mate speaks out loud and the noise instantly decreases to a low murmur. “Welcome to Allerton Castle where we want to celebrate the wedding of Robert and Chrissie. I am Adam Barton, your host for the day. If you need anything or have a special request, don’t hesitate to ask me, I am happy to be at your service today. Now, please take your seats, the ceremony is about to start in five minutes.”

For a very long moment Aaron forgets how to breathe at all. This is it now. At some point his lungs start burning and his vision gets dizzy, only then he gasps in fresh air. He always thought being heartbroken was just a stupid expression, but it bloody feels like that. He feels like he’s breaking inside. 

Aaron retreats to the corner in the back, furthest away from the vicar and turns towards the wooden panels to hide his emotions from the crowd. He needs to pull himself together! 

The string quartet starts playing then, a soft classical tune and although Aaron isn’t into that kind of music, he finds it actually soothing. Just when he is about to get his composure back, the music changes and people turn around on their chairs to look up at the stairs.

This would be the entrance of the groom. From the corner where he’s standing, Aaron can only see the lower third of the stairs and he’s thankful for that. It gives him a moment longer to brace himself for the sight of Robert in his wedding suit. Not that it’ll help much, because it will hit him no matter how long he can prepare for it. 

Eventually Robert steps into his field of vision and that crack in Aaron’s heart is threatening to break his organ in two halves. The other man looks fantastic, there is hardly a word for it. The black tuxedo suits him amazingly and he’s walking down the aisle with so much confidence and pride and Aaron takes a look around at the people and he sees only happy faces. He spots another familiar person in the crowd - Vanessa, Robert’s best friend and she is beaming the brightest grin at him, radiating the typical happiness that Aaron has seen so often before.

And why wouldn’t she be? As Robert’s friend it’s normal that she is happy for him. He is about to marry the woman he loves.

Aaron wants to shrink himself to the size of a dust grain, just disappear.

Watching the wedding is a mistake, a big, big mistake. He can’t go through it. 

Maybe if I sneak out now-

The music changes again, to the famous Wedding March from Mendelssohn this time. Lots of brides who have a penchant for traditional weddings choose this one for their entance and Chrissie White is definitely no exception. The guests get up from their seats and look back up the stairs again. Some are gasping, others are already fishing for their hankies to wipe off the first tears.

Aaron can’t leave, he’s frozen to the spot. He can’t look away either. It’s like a horrible car crash. Robert’s head is still visible despite all the people who are standing now between them.

It’s the big moment where the groom looks at his bride, the devotion and love showing on his face. Most men even get more emotional at that moment than the actual exchange of vows. 

Robert, however, isn’t looking up the stairs like everybody else, he’s looking around in the room, his gaze wandering until…

Until his eyes land on Aaron. 

The thing is, Aaron always thought he would see something in those green-blue-ish eyes, something that mirrors his own feelings. Some sort of bond. Mutual affection. That all shattered to pieces when he met Chrissie. And Aaron wondered if he’d just imagined everything, like, if it all was just wishful thinking, the crush clouding his own better judgement. 

But here they are and Robert isn’t looking at his bride , he’s looking at Aaron

Robert’s facade is cracking and suddenly Aaron can see.

The longing.

The conflict.

The silent question.

Aaron’s heart stutters painfully and he takes a shaky inhale when he realises what that means. He thinks back to every encounter, every shared look, every bad attempt at flirting, the spark between them and the taste of Robert’s lips. 

None of it was one sided all along. 

It’s just a short moment, maybe two seconds, a few heartbeats, but for Aaron it feels like forever, before Chrissie White is reaching the bottom of the stairs, guided by her father. Robert’s eyes flick back to his bride as the two figures stride into Aaron’s bubble. Reality is crashing with full cruelty back onto him. 

Chrissie is smiling gracefully at her guests, clearly loving being the centre of the attention. Her father, a bloke named Lawrence, doesn’t look any less pleased. It’s not a secret the whole day is getting paid with his money. He is the biggest farm machinery seller in the country, but he made his real fortune - millions, rumour has it - with property dealing. 

The rest is like white noise, how Lawrence White hands over his daughter, how the two men shake hands, how the vicar starts the ceremony with his opening speech. 

“We gathered here today to celebrate one of life’s greatest moments, to witness Robert and Chrissie declaring their love for each other and uniting in marriage.”

Aaron can’t believe this is happening. Robert is making a mistake. This is a mistake! 

Every now and then Robert’s eyes would quickly dart around the room, only to linger on Aaron’s face for a second.

“Marriage is the promise between two people who love each other, who trust in that love, who honour each other and who choose to spend the rest of their lives together.”

Robert, please. Don’t do this.

“No matter what challenges you face in life, you will face them together, if you succeed, you will succeed together. If you fail, you fail together.”

Someone steps next to Aaron and a hand squeezes his shoulder. “D’you wanna leave?” Adam whispers.

Aaron doesn’t look at him. Neither does he need to see the pity nor can he take his eyes off the scene at the front. He just shakes his head like a robot. Because he’s a masochist. A deluded masochist, waiting for some sort of miracle like in a tacky Hollywood movie. 

“This ceremony will solidify a bond between you that already exists. It is a symbol of how far you’ve come since you got together. And now,” the vicar smiles, “the groom has a few words he wants to share with us.” He nods at Robert encouragingly. 

Where now Robert should start saying his wedding vow, silence is stretching that quickly becomes awkward. Aaron’s stomach rolls and twists while he keeps looking. Robert is clenching his jaw so hard the muscles underneath his temples are twitching and he’s staring at Chrissie so intensely as if he wanted to hypnotise her. 

“Robert?” Chrissie asks carefully.

She looks around at the guests with a small apologetic smile.

“Look at me!” Robert suddenly demands harshly.

“What?” she chuckles a fake laugh and continues to look at her family and friends with a slight head shake as if to say ‘you know what he’s like, always one for a dramatic moment’. 

“I said, look at me!” It’s a desperate shout now and Aaron’s breath hitches. 

The crowd starts murmuring, people are shifting in their seats and the vicar looks just as confused. 

“What’s he doing?” Adam whispers.

“Robert!” Chrissie hisses at the same moment, but at least she’s giving her attention back to her groom. She grabs one of his hands and gives it a slight shake. “Come on.”

The bridal couple continues their staring contest with Chrissie slowly but surely losing her patience. Robert’s eyes are darting back and forth, like he is searching for something he hopes to find in Chrissie’s face. And suddenly Aaron realises what’s going on. 

“I think love is when you look into the other person’s eyes and see in them what you are for each other, what you wish for each other, what you would do for each other.” 

His heart wants to thump itself out of his chest so hard it almost hurts. Aaron doesn’t dare breathe.

Yes. Come on.

“Robert!” the bride urges him on. “It’s time for your vow! What are the guests supposed to think?”

Aaron huffs and shakes his head again. Of course this is what Chrissie White worries about right now. What her guests are thinking. Not about her husband-to-be having some obvious internal crisis. 

Robert nods eventually, takes a step back and their joined hands are slipping off each other. 

He‘s got his answer. 

White senior takes this as his cue to rise from his chair. “What is going on? Robert? I demand to know it now!”

Robert takes a deep inhale, turns his head - but not towards the man who was supposed to be his father-in-law. His eyes lock with Aaron’s when he opens his mouth and says: “The wedding is off.”

All hell breaks loose. And that’s an euphemism. 

The guests are jumping up, noise erupts because everybody is talking at the same time. 

“What?! Oh no! You’re not doing this to me!” Chrissie White shrieks.

“This wedding is most definitely not off!” Lawrence White declares loudly. “Everybody sit down again.”

Robert straightens his back and squares his shoulders. “It’s off.”

“Are you insane?” Chrissie screams into his face and starts slapping her bouquet at his chest. 

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck,” Adam mutters next to him.

“You continue with the ceremony, now!” Lawrence barks at the poor vicar who is spluttering helplessly behind the bridal couple. 

“I-... I’m not… I don’t know…”

Aaron doesn’t blame him for being overwhelmed with the situation. He’s been at hundreds of weddings and hell, he’s never witnessed something like that either. Well, this definitely is a tacky Hollywood movie becoming reality and when Chrissie White always emphasised that she wanted a memorable wedding, she surely didn’t mean it like that.  

It’s chaos, absolute chaos everywhere. Except inside of Aaron. Warmth is spreading from his belly and a calmness is coming over him he hasn’t felt in ages, slowly expelling the anxiety and tension of the past months. No doubt Robert has just cancelled this wedding because of him. Because he remembered what he had said in his best man’s speech based on Aaron’s own words. Whatever Robert saw in Chrissie’s eyes - it wasn’t love. 

Maybe he does love me instead.

He doesn’t dare take it as a certainty yet. Not before he can talk to Robert. And God, does he want to talk to him now! He needs to talk to him! 

Adam is stepping to the front and raises his voice above the uproar. “I suggest we take a break at this point!” he says, slipping into his wedding host mode effortlessly. “How about you go upstairs into the Bridal Suite and talk,” he suggests in Robert’s and Chrissie’s direction before he addresses the guests again, “and the rest of us can have a little drink in the Ballroom.”

It’s an attempt to save this day for their business, but Aaron knows that train has left. Although he probably should be, he isn’t worried for his agency right now. In fact, it’s the last thing on his mind. 

It takes a long moment for the tumult to calm down. Family and friends only leave reluctantly, probably because they are afraid of missing a part of the show. A furious Chrissie basically drags Robert with her towards the stairs, closely followed by her father and Aaron manages to get one last quick look into Robert’s eyes.

It’s gonna be okay. I’m here. Everything’s gonna be okay.

Of course he doesn’t say it out loud, but he hopes Robert gets the message anyway. Lord knows he’s gonna need all the strength when he is about to stand his ground against the Whites. 

As soon as the door of the Bridal Suite is being shut, the shouting starts. Chrissie’s high pitched shrieking mixed with her old man’s overbearing manner to interfere. Aaron can’t make out the exact word being said upstairs, but it’s definitely nothing nice.  

Adam walks back to him after the last guest has left the room and gives him a long, exasperated look, before he sighs. 

What the fuck has happened in those past ten minutes? How bizarre was all this?! It feels so unreal and Aaron wants to pinch himself to check if this really, really happened or if he fell asleep during his instagram posting and dreamt the whole thing. 

“What the fucking hell was that!” Priya hisses, upset, when she joins them.

And, oh God, oh fuck, this is real. Robert just declared that he won’t marry Chrissie. 

Aaron is not sure what that means for Robert and him. But for the first time in months, he’s got hope. 

 

  • -    -

 

An hour later Chrissie storms down, dressed back in her normal clothes, the make up leaving black streaks on her cheeks where the tears were flowing. She flees from the castle without meeting anyone’s eyes.

Unsurprisingly Lawrence White follows a few minutes later, looking grim. He makes his way straight to Adam and Aaron and before either of them can say a word, he raises his hand to shut them up.

“I assume you noticed my daughter leaving,” he says and something in the way he speaks makes Aaron dislike him immediately. “And I expect you to handle this delicate situation as discreetly as possible. Let the kitchen, the staff and the pyrotechnician know that everything is cancelled. I already sent the photographer home and the videographer is packing the equipment away as we speak. The guests can finish their drinks and then I would appreciate it if they would leave as well and give us some privacy in the next few days. My daughter does not want to see or speak to anyone, she might even leave for a vacation. I am sure the guests will understand.” 

Adam just nods along, probably relieved that the old man has everything figured out already. Aaron hates the patronising tone and that look on White’s face, as if they aren’t worth the dirt under his shoe. He gets distracted though, when he sees another figure coming down the stairs.

Robert’s face is pale, but all in all he appears calm and collected. 

“You will regret this, Robert!” Lawrence sneers. The other man seems unfazed at the dark promise and walks towards the doors that lead into the garden. “Yes! Get out of here! And don’t show your face again anytime soon, I dare you!” Spit is flying from his lips, before Lawrence White suddenly remembers that he’s letting his facade slip in front of Aaron and Adam and he quickly schools his face to a neutral expression again. “What are you two still doing here? Didn’t I just give you tasks to do?” he asks sharply.

Aaron really wants to reply something then, because who the fuck does this old fella thinks he is? 

Go shove your fucking order where the sun-

But Adam, always knowing him so well, elbows his ribs and hurries to say: “Sure thing, Mr White. We’re on it.” Then he drags Aaron away from Lawrence. 

Only when they are out of sight and earshot, he stops and rubs his face. 

“Jesus, this is a fucking mess,” Adam groans and mutters to himself: “Where to start?”

It is a mess indeed. And Aaron gets how frustrated his mate must be after putting months of work into this day and being left with nothing but chaos to sort out. He bites his lip.

“You wanna go after him, don’t you?” 

“Yeah.”

He should stay though and help his business partner. It would be the right thing to do, the rational part of his brain insists. But his heart doesn’t give a fuck about his brain right now. 

Adam just nods, not surprised at all. “Okay. Me and Priya got this. Go on then.”

“Thanks, mate,” Aaron says relieved and when he’s already about to leave, he hears Adam grumble:

“This better be worth it, man. I demand double dates. And I wanna be your best man.”

Aaron just snorts and shakes his head. It’s all still so unreal. He doesn’t allow himself to think like that, he’s too scared to jinx it.

Find Robert, talk to him first.

Right. Of course when Aaron steps out in the garden, Robert is nowhere to be seen. He left the house a few minutes ago so he could basically be anywhere by now. Not wanting to waste any more time, Aaron wanders around and keeps looking everywhere. It doesn’t help that the garden of Allerton castle is fucking huge. 

“Robert?” he shouts a few times in different directions as he’s slowly running out of options. 

Maybe he took his car and left... I should check the parking lot.

Just when he wants to head to the other side of the building, he hears Robert’s faint voice: “Over here.”

He whips his head around to a group of trees on his right, not really a forest, but not a spinney either. Aaron walks over to where he suspects the voice came from and indeed, he spots the man sitting on the ground, knees drawn to the chest and hugging his legs. 

Robert keeps his eyes firmly on the ground in front of him and he looks tired. Without saying anything Aaron sits down beside him and pulls a face when his pants start soaking up the dampness from the earth immediately. 

For a moment they are just sitting there, breathing the cold November air in. Aaron isn’t sure what to say, really. Talking is sadly not his strong point, but Robert should know that by now.

“I don’t love Chrissie. I don’t think I ever have,” Robert says quietly into the silence.

Well, after the bombshell earlier Aaron expected as much, but he doesn’t comment on it. It feels like Robert isn’t finished yet. The next sentence surprises him though.

“My father messed me up, Aaron.”

Aaron shivers then, fights his own memories to stay locked in the depth of his mind and looks at Robert. He hasn’t mentioned his old man so far and now Aaron knows why. That sad expression on the freckled face breaks his heart. 

“He was just stuck somewhere in the 1970’s, a textbook example of a conservative patriarch who ruled over his family with a strict hand. The older I got, the more we fought and I never understood what mum saw in him, why she wouldn’t just take us kids and leave him and the goddamn yucky farm...” Robert’s voice trails off, his eyes are staring somewhere into the past. “And then, when Andy finished his school and told him that he wanted to follow in his footsteps, I got it. I saw the pride and the love on my father’s face and I realised… I was the problem. He just had a problem with me.” 

The little dimple on Robert’s chin starts to wobble and he blinks quickly. So far Aaron has seen his smug, snarky side, his dry humour and bright laugh, has seen him lost in thought and serious, but never like this. So vulnerable. He reaches out and puts his arm around Robert’s shoulder.

“Should have seen his face when I wanted to take dance lessons as a kid,” Robert goes on, bitterly, “I thought he was going to have a fit. He said that was stuff for girls and that was that, so I started spending my free time in my mum’s bookstore, you know, just to be away from home, and I dreamt about having my own one day, but when my father found out he was just laughing at me, brushed it aside as reverie.” He breathes out shakily. “And he didn’t take it well when he caught me with a guy and I told him I’m bisexual.”

Fuck, please tell me he didn’t-

“He leathered me.”

Aaron hates Sugden senior with a sudden passion. He only hopes his poor arse is burning in hell. 

“I never told that to anyone before.” For a brief second the green eyes are darting towards Aaron, but his head never moves. Aaron sees Robert’s Adam’s apple bob up and down when he swallows hard. “Everything he taught me was to man up, to stand my ground, to work hard, harder than anybody else. To aim for success. He said he wanted something to become of me and I think he really believed that. That he did it all for my best. And at some point I started to believe it too.”

Robert takes another break and Aaron knows first hand how hard it is to relive bad childhood memories. He doesn’t push, Robert needs to do this at his own time although the cold is slowly but surely seeping through Aaron’s suit and making him shiver.

The blond man clears his throat. “After he died, I did everything to achieve what he wanted for me. All I did… it was all about what he wanted and I dunno, somewhere on the way I lost myself. If that makes sense, you know.“ Robert does look lost, lost and small. A man his size shouldn’t be able to look so damn small, but apparently it’s possible. “I didn’t even notice before I met you and by then I was already engaged to Chrissie and she was planning this God awful travesty of a wedding,” he continues and lets out a bitter huff,  “you must hate me.”

Aaron has listened quietly so far, because it seemed like Robert needed to get this off his chest and Aaron is simply exceptionally bad with words. He sucks, he’s awkward and he knows it. But he can’t stay quiet any second longer.

“I don’t hate you, Robert,” he says fiercely and tries to pull the other man closer, but Robert shakes him off almost violently.

“I just got together with her, because I wanted her father’s place in the business one day!  All I wanted was a hand on their money, their power!” For the first time since he joined him out here, Robert looks at Aaron, eyes wide, chest heaving. 

The thing is, everyone knows Aaron hates a lot of things, that’s why they all classify him as a grade-A-grump. What barely anyone knows is that for the most part of his life the thing he hated the most was himself. Aaron has talked with his therapist about it, worked on it for years. He knows self-hate when he sees it. 

He can’t have that for Robert. He won’t allow it.

“But you called it off,” he says insistently. “You stopped it before it was too late.”

“Should have stopped it months ago. At the very least when she forbade me to invite Finn and the others from the comic association. She said there wasn’t enough space to fit them in as well, but I knew the real reason. She didn’t want the ‘gay weirdos’ at her precious, perfect wedding,” Robert spits out, shakes his head and lets out a long breath. “The club is the only thing I never gave up on. The only thing that’s still me. And she wouldn’t even allow me to have that today.” 

They both go quiet then again and Aaron isn’t sure what to say. From what Robert just told him, he reckons that Chrissie doesn’t really love Robert either or she wouldn’t have reacted like that. Not that Aaron is a relationship expert, but shouldn’t you support or at least respect your partner’s hobbies and interests even if you don’t share them? 

He makes a secret vow there and then.

I will never moan about Robert’s horrible taste in music. Or his comic club thing.

If there is a chance they might end up together, that is of course. 

“I’m glad you’re getting away from the Whites. Awful lot.” He shudders again, partly from the cold, partly from his pure disdain. 

Robert snorts. “120 people in there might disagree.”

“I don’t care about them and you shouldn’t either.”

I care about you,

is what he means to say.

The green eyes are on Aaron’s face again and the hard lines of Robert’s expression soften and there is that fond look that honestly turns Aaron into a puddle of goo. And he almost feels special for being on the receiving end of such an affectionate gaze. 

“I should thank you, you know.”

“Robert…” he mutters defensively and feels his cheeks already heating up. He’s never been good with praise. 

“No, seriously. If it wasn’t for you I would be married now to a woman I don’t even love. When you wrote that message about going for dinner…” Robert exhales loudly, “when I saw your message… I chickened out. Chrissie wouldn‘t stop talking about the wedding and I had Lawrence breathing down my neck all day and I felt so trapped! But I really wanted it, it almost scared me how much I wanted it. You made me question things, you made me see things differently. You reminded me of what’s important in life,” Robert insists with the world's softest voice and God, Aaron doesn’t know where to look or how to behave because it’s too much and he can’t handle it. 

His face must be beetred by now, so of course his mouth opens and he says something utterly stupid like: “That comic books and trashy music are better than money and flashy cars?”

It’s probably his weakest attempt of a joke ever, just a try to steer the conversation away from heavy feelings. At least it seems to work a bit, because Robert is laughing then. With closed eyes and a scrunched nose and it’s the most adorable thing Aaron has seen.

“Nah, flashy cars are still amazing,” he chuckles and smiles at Aaron, “but I actually am thinking about that bookstore again, yeah.” 

“Yeah?”

“Since I just lost my job anyway, the time is now, I guess.” Robert shrugs and he looks much better than a few minutes ago. 

Aaron nods. The time is now. He likes that thought. Suddenly he thinks back to all of Robert’s messages and calls he never answered and wonders if it never would have come this far if they would have just talked sooner. 

“I’m sorry,” he says, “for ignoring you, it’s just…” He shakes his head and bites his lip, struggling for words. It’s hard to make a point of how hurt he was, how heartbroken and jealous, without admitting how hard he fell for Robert already.

“I get it.”

They share another look, one of those intense ones. It’s hard to describe, Aaron is definitely lacking words for it. The world around them fades away and everything narrows down to those green-blue oceans of endless emotions and Aaron just feels drawn in, drowning. 

Just like that the atmosphere shifts completely. Butterflies are flapping their wings in Aaron’s belly, a sensation that grabs ahold of his body quickly and his breath hitches. 

Robert’s lips slowly twist into a smirk and his eyes start sparkling. There he is again, ladies and gentlemen, the smug bloke that spiked his interest right at the wedding where he first spotted him in the crowd. 

“Yeah, you were pissed off because you love me.”

Wh-... what?!

Aaron huffs and gapes at him, absolutely baffled at the sheer bluntness. Robert looks way too pleased right now and fuck, Aaron wants to kiss that self-satisfied grin off his face.

“How about we kiss and make up then?” he says without thinking and his heart beats suddenly somewhere up in his throat. 

He hasn’t denied it and Robert lets out a low chuckle, a sound that makes Aaron fall in love with him again right then and there, before he leans closer until their noses are only two inches apart.

“How about you leave the one-liners to me?”

Aaron rolls his eyes.

Just kiss me already, smartarse. 

And Robert does just that. As soon as their lips connect, Aaron makes another secret vow that Robert can have all his stupid one-liners, his awful music, his own walk-in closet for his suits, his comic book nerds and basically everything he wants as long Aaron gets this. 

Finally.

Fucking finally.

He lifts his hand to grab Robert’s neck, to keep him there, never wanting to let go.

 

  • -     -

 

Twenty minutes later they walk back to the castle with their red and swollen lips turned into broad smiles. The sun is slowly setting and they are both freezing but happy. Aaron‘s not sure if his feet are actually touching the ground, because it’s like he’s flying. His body is rushing on a high of emotions. Everything is still so unreal. 

Only two hours ago he thought he was about to witness Robert getting married and now the groom is his boyfriend. At least Aaron thinks he is, they haven‘t talked about labels yet since they were, well, very busy kissing and holding each other. 

“Soooo….” he asks carefully, “what now?”

There is this little part of his stupid brain, nagging that it all might be a little too good to be true. 

“Now I’m gonna search for a new apartment. And I meant what I said earlier, I really want to open a bookstore,” Robert tells him and it isn’t quite what Aaron meant, but it still piques his interest. 

“Can you do that? Moneywise, I mean. When Lawrence just sacked you?” Aaron has no idea if Robert is loaded and he doesn’t care quite frankly. He’s just curious. 

The other man smirks at him, radiating his typical smugness. “Oh, I have some knowledge about his deals and the old fella will make sure I won’t start blowing the whistle on it, so he gotta pay me off and I ain’t cheap.”

Aaron nods, because yeah, that makes sense. It doesn’t surprise him that Lawrence White is playing dirty, people like him probably always do. 

“Hey.” Robert takes his hand and squeezes. “I have no regrets,” he says with his soft voice, “except that it took me so long.”

Barely registering his words, Aaron just stares down at their joined hands. He never did that before. Hand holding. It wasn’t his thing.

But maybe it is a thing now?

It doesn’t feel bad, in fact, it feels surprisingly good. Because yes, he belongs to Robert and Robert belongs to him and he likes that. 

“What?” Robert chuckles when he notices Aaron’s silence. “You’re not getting cold feet, now that your boyfriend is homeless and jobless, are you?” 

Aaron’s heartbeat reaches a whole new level of speed at those words and his ears start burning. And maybe it’s that word - boyfriend - or the touch of Robert’s hand, or maybe both, that gives him a little confidence boost to tease back: “Right now it’s okay actually, but I wouldn’t mind a foot rub every now and then.”

Robert leans closer as they walk over the threshold back into the castle. “Hmm, I know something else I could rub to make you hot.”

And just like that, the blood in Aaron’s body is rushing south at all those colourful pictures that are unfolding in his mind. He thinks back to Andy’s and Bernice’s wedding where they made out in the loo, how incredibly hot that was.

“Ew, what the heck! I’ll pretend I never heard that!”

Adam is only a few metres away, grimacing and Aaron’s cheeks are heating up even more while Robert seems totally smug. 

“Everything alright?” Aaron asks his friend, trying to steer the conversation into safe waters. He clears his throat and scratches his eyebrow. 

“It’s all sorted now. The last guests just left,” Adam informs them and steps closer. His eyes are landing on their intertwined fingers and he smiles.

“Are the rooms still booked?” Robert asks out of nowhere.

“Yeah. I tried to talk to the management, but it’s too late to cancel now. Why?“

Robert grins at Aaron then. “So, there is a suite waiting up there,” he practically purrs seductively, “fancy a little prince and knight roleplay?“ He wriggles his eyebrows, because yup, he is that ridiculous!

Aaron can’t believe Robert asked him to stay the night with this horrible pun. 

“Aaaaaaand that’s my cue to leave, byeee!” Aaron hears Adam say, but his eyes are glued on Robert’s handsome, freckled face and his cheeky smirk. 

“Shouldn’t we go on a date first?” he jokes. 

It’s not that he would mind spending the night with Robert - but this is the bloody wedding suite that was booked with Lawrence White’s money for his daughter and her groom and yeah, that kinda is a mood killer.

Robert sighs. “I forgot you are a romantic,” he says softly.

“That and…” Aaron shrugs, “I’m more into cowboy roleplay actually.”

He is quite pleased with his steady improving qualities in flirting when Robert laughs out loud and squeezes his hand. Maybe he isn’t such a lost cause after all. 

Robert, his boyfriend, pulls him into a hug and kisses his temple. It’s such a sweet little gesture that melts Aaron’s heart. 

Yes, deep down he is a romantic. 

It doesn’t need to be Paris at night or a ferris ride for him, because ew, he still hates clichés and stereotypes like the plague, but a gentle kiss on the temple… yes, that’s amazing.

He hugs Robert back, a huge smile threatening to tear his face in two, and strokes the broad back. Robert is still wearing his wedding suit. He can’t stop himself from imagining what he might look like if they were about to get married one day. Not that it really matters, he would marry Robert if he was wearing a bin bag.

Aaron knows his imagination is running riot again, but it’s hard to stop himself when the man he loves is still holding him tight and breathing into his hair. He closes his eyes. 

Robert is his future and there will be a time for those daydreams. 

But for now, this is fine. 

 

Chapter Text

Pardon the way that I stare, 

There's nothin' else to compare, 

The sight of you leaves me weak, 

There are no words left to speak

 


Leaves are rustling in the warm breeze and somewhere sheep are bleating. The corn is swaying softly, waiting to get harvested in the upcoming weeks and the shadows of the trees are slowly growing longer. Aaron is standing there on the small mound, just staring, soaking the view in and breathing deeply the clean air. It smells like flowers and earth, summer and home. He loves it here. 

The early evening sun is still hot on his skin and according to the weather forecast the temperatures won’t drop much as they expect the warmest night of the year. He closes his eyes and simply enjoys the sun rays on his skin.

Aaron has learnt to appreciate a perfect moment and this is definitely one of them. Where he just feels content. Present. Whole.

Arms are sneaking around his belly and another body is being pressed against his back.

Aaron’s current happiness might have to do a lot with that person behind him and he doesn’t bite back the smile that’s spreading on his face when he turns his head around. He blinks his eyes open and they are landing on his favourite face.

Hi.

Robert kisses his cheek and starts nuzzling Aaron’s scruff along the jawline, humming a pleased sound. The tickling sensation sends a shiver down Aaron’s spine. He grabs Robert’s hands, squeezes and in response the hug tightens. His stomach does a flip flop.

The muscles on his neck are getting sore, so he turns his head back to the front and Robert settles his chin on his shoulder. They are both overlooking the landscape in peaceful silence and Aaron doesn’t even notice at first that they started swaying at some point.

Robert’s inability to keep his hips still. 

Not that Aaron would complain about that.

“This is beautiful,” he says quietly.

“You are beautiful.”

Aaron snorts, because it’s such a Robert reply. 

One would assume Aaron got used to compliments over the years since sweet, little statements like that just naturally spill out of Robert’s mouth all the time, and he did to a certain degree, but it still makes him wanna squirm on the spot. 

Not as beautiful as you,

is on his tongue, but he doesn’t say it. 

Once they had an actual fight in the pub that started out of a whispered ‘I love you more’ moment and their friends officially declared them insane. 

“Oh God, get a room, guys, will ya?”

Robert lets go of him and Aaron misses the feel of his body already. They turn around and Adam is grinning back at them.

“Can we start, please? My feet are bloody killing me!” Vic moans and rubs her belly.

It only takes about a nanosecond before Adam joins in on giving her 37-weeks-pregnancy-bump a little massage. To no one’s surprise he is a total helicopter dad already.

Aaron looks from them over to Vanessa and her wife, who are currently snapping a family selfie with their son Johnny. When Aaron found out that it was Vanessa who didn’t pass his number on to Robert, he was pissed off at first, but she apologised and explained she was only trying to do the right thing. At some point along the way she became his friend too and Aaron likes the family a lot. Johnny even calls him ‘uncle Won’, the ‘r’ still too difficult for the little chap. 

Everybody is dressed up nicely for the nuptials and Aaron’s heart is impossibly swelling, overflowing with love and happiness. 

Jesus, Aaron is an emotional guy on a normal day, but today it’s like ten times worse. But he reckons it’s okay to be a bit sentimental. 

Since it’s his and Robert’s wedding day.  

“Okay then!” Robert gestures for Ashley to come closer and then he smiles at Aaron. “Shall we?”

Aaron takes a deep breath. “No.”

The vicar stops dead in his tracks, just like everybody else.

“Aaron?” Robert asks concerned and grabs his hand.

The green eyes are filled with a sudden fear and worry and Aaron puts him out of his misery quickly. “We are still waiting for guests to arrive,” he informs the group. 

“We are?” Robert frowns. “We said no Dingles. Don’t tell me you invited-”

“Robert,” Aaron chuckles. “relax.”

No Dingles today, that's what they both agreed on. Aaron is more than fine with it. Despite loving his mum - she is his mum after all - their relationship will always be rocky. Chas will be massively pissed when she learns that she was excluded, Aaron can see the storm already rising on the horizon and he will deal with that another day. They will do a little celebration where they invite his lot and Andy and Bernice, their friends and business partners, but today is supposed to be about them and only them and nobody else. He can’t deal with his mum and her sensitivities today. 

The only guests they wanted around are their best friends, their chosen families. 

So where the hell are they?!

Right at that moment, as on cue, they hear the motor of an approaching car. The parking area is on the other side of the barn, so they can’t see what’s happening, but they hear the engine being switched off and doors opening. 

Aaron feels Robert’s eyes on him and he knows he must have so many questions right now. Aaron gives him a reassuring smile, at least he hopes it is one. His own nerves are showing now. What if Robert hates his idea? Aaron might have ruined their big day and fuck, this would be the worst!  

Vanessa takes a peak around the corner and starts squealing, obviously having spotted the final guests. “Oh my god!” she shouts and clasps a hand on her mouth. 

Only a moment later Superman, Batman, Cyborg, Aquaman and The Flash are joining them.

Adam is chuckling and Vic’s mouth is twitching in amusement, but Aaron only has eyes for his fiancé. Robert’s mouth falls open and he stares at the superheroes in sheer disbelief. Then Superman waves around awkwardly and Robert throws his head back, laughing out loud. He’s scrunching his nose and Aaron melts inside at the sight. 

Robert looks at him and his eyes are shining brighter than the sun. He shakes his head fondly.

“Thank you,” he breathes out and grabs Aaron’s to pull him close for a kiss. 

“Well, you weren’t allowed to invite them to your first wedding, so I thought…” Aaron’s face is heating up quickly and he turns around to Finn and the others to avoid Robert’s gaze. 

They really put a lot of effort into their costumes, Aaron has to give them that. He’s not sure about Finn still wearing his thick, black glasses though… he gives more Clark Kent than Supes vibes like that, but well. 

“Hey.” A warm hand touches his cheek and turns his head back. Robert gives him one of his infamous soft smiles. “This is amazing.”

You are amazing.

Aaron ducks his head and bites his lip, his body feeling hot and fuzzy with love and relief that his little surprise went down well. 

“Well, are we complete then?” Ashley asks and his eyes land on Aaron questioningly. 

He gives a quick nod in return and the vicar steps up at them, clearing his throat. Next to him, Robert straightens his shoulders and shifts on his feet and suddenly Aaron’s heart is hammering quicker and harder with every passing second.

This is it now. He’s going to marry Robert now. 

He’s going to marry Robert!

He’s going to marry Robert!

Aaron’s stomach does a flip flop and there is a horrifying second where he fears getting sick, but then the feeling fades.

“Welcome everybody to this wonderful venue and what can be better than celebrating two people…”

Ashley’s words are washing over him, but Aaron can barely follow. He looks at Robert and his breath hitches.

He remembers how they stood here, all those years ago, at Andy’s and Bernice’s wedding, right at the exact same spot and admired the view over the fields. He remembers the story Robert told him about his mum, about their picnics. Making memories in the sunset. 

It’s what we do.

The sunlight is slowly turning orange now and bathing Robert in the warm colour. They make the freckles stand out even more prominent than usual and Aaron traces them with his eyes all the way to the mole on his left cheekbone that he loves to kiss on sweet, lazy Sunday mornings. The ocean green of Robert’s irises is reduced to huge, bright pastel rings around small pupils. Aaron’s fingers are itching to touch the blond hair, but he’s not allowed since his vain boyfriend

husband, soon

spent better part of his morning in the bathroom, styling every streak. It’s adorable, him being so extra with his hairstyle because Aaron loves him with whatever hair, really. 

Robert Sugden is a stunning piece of art. 

And Aaron can’t believe he’s marrying him. 

He still stares at Robert when he notices something’s different. Someone coughs quietly and yeah… it is quiet in general - despite the soft noise of the summer wind. Aaron blinks at the vicar, kinda dazed, and indeed Ashley has stopped speaking and gives him a little encouraging nod. 

Oh

Is it time for his vow already?!

They were arguing beforehand who would start saying their vow and Aaron insisted that it had to be him, obviously! Because Robert is going to say something so beautiful and heartwarming that Aaron will definitely start crying and then he won’t be able to get his own speech out. When he said as much, Robert just laughed and pulled him into a hug and called him an idiot. 

God, this is so out of Aaron’s comfort zone, even though they only have their closest friends around. 

“You know I’m not a fan of practiced speeches,” he starts and God, his voice is already shaky. Aaron takes a deep breath and Robert is beaming his brightest smile when he continues: “But… uh... I did sit down and think about what I wanted to say now… can’t say I succeeded though, because I came up blank.” 

Their friends are snickering behind them. 

“But I know you remember what we said when we met. That it should just take a look in the other person’s eyes to find the right words.” Robert nods. “I always said I don’t believe in love at first sight, but from the moment I spotted you in the crowd, doing what you think is dancing…”

Robert pulls a mock-offended face and someone - probably Vic, let’s be honest - cackles loudly.

“I felt there was something and you know what? I think it was love at first sight on my part, because I looked into your eyes and I knew you’re the one for me. I just-... I just love you, Robert.” 

Aaron bites his lip, suddenly overwhelmed with that way too huge feeling inside him that is cutting off his throat and the words are getting stuck. His eyes start watering. Of course he couldn’t say his vows without crying. 

“I love you when you wear your stupid elbow patches with pride and honestly no one is pulling off the granddad look as hot as you,” he blurts out the next best thing that comes to his mind and laughs through his tears. “And I love you when you listen to your awful music, because it makes you happy and I love seeing you happy. I even love you when we’re fighting, because you keep challenging me to rethink stuff.”

“He especially loves it when they’re making up, so I’ve heard…” Vanessa mutters loud enough for everybody to hear.

While the others are snickering, Aaron fears his ears are about to fall off any second with how hot they are burning. He’s just glad no one will notice it, because of the orange sunlight. He focuses on Robert instead and as soon as he sees the wobbly chin, the glassy eyes and the sweetest affection on his favourite face, the tears are streaming down Aaron’s cheeks and there is nothing in the world that could stop the flood. 

“I love you for being brave and opening your bookstore and turning it into a successful business. Your mum would be so proud…” 

Robert quickly lowers his gaze and sniffs. 

“And so am I. I’ll support you, always. As long as you’ll have me.”

Aaron shuts his mouth so hard his teeth are clicking and takes another deep breath. 

That’s all. Is that okay? Is that enough?

He can only hope so, because the chances that he gets out another word are close to none. Robert lifts his hands, cradles his jaw and gently wipes away the tears with his warm thumbs. Aaron closes his eyes for a brief moment and leans into the touch. 

“Thank you,” Robert says quietly and his voice is heavy with emotions. “I haven’t practised anything either, because I just wanna… say thank you. Thank you for saving me, literally saving me from a marriage I didn’t want and a life I resented. Thank you for supporting me with the store, for always being there for me. You were the best decision I ever made, Aaron.“

The freckled face swims away again, because Aaron can‘t hold those tears back no matter how hard he tries. Robert‘s smile is blurry. 

“You‘re amazing,” he goes on softly and chuckles, “I mean, you brought Superman to my wedding! And he’s holding hands with Aquaman!”

Aaron snorts and shakes his head at how ridiculous his soon-to-be-husband is. When he glances over to their guests, he does see Superman coupled with Aquaman, a.k.a. Finn and Kasim. If someone would have told Aaron a few years ago that Finn would be at his wedding one day, he would have laughed his arse off. Like, please. 

But here we are. And so is the Justice League. 

Well, minus Wonder Woman, because Vanessa flipped Finn off when he asked her to put on a costume. Not even the reason that it would ‘look freaking amazing on the pictures’ could convince her. They were plotting the surprise behind Robert’s back in the café and Vanessa just leaned back and said with a smug grin that she wouldn’t need a costume to be a Wonder Woman and if someone questioned it that they should simply ask her wife. Aaron almost choked on his bacon sarnie then. 

He looks around at the few people they wanted to join them today and yeah, it is an unlikely group, but somehow along the past few years they became family. 

Aaron wouldn’t want it any other way. 

“You’re amazing,” Robert repeats and his hands are still holding Aaron’s face, his thumbs are still caressing the scruff. “And I will keep saying this over and over until you believe me one day.” 

Of course Robert knows him like no one else ever will. He knows about Aaron’s past, about his insecurities and vulnerability that he usually hides from others behind his grumpy demeanour. “I love you.” 

The tears are still running when Robert slips the ring on his trembling finger, the silver band shining brightly in the sunlight and Aaron stares at it in awe. 

“I, Robert Jacob Sugden, take you, Aaron Dingle, to be my husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish always.”

Always. 

Looking up he is met with Robert’s soft eyes and small smile and trembling chin. It’s his turn now and he can barely remember the words of the vow, because everything is just so overwhelming and when he finally finds the words, he can’t get them out properly because his throat is so tight. 

In the end he manages somehow and their friends are chuckling in the background, but Aaron can’t bring himself to be embarrassed.

He’d never thought a wedding could be that nerve wracking. 

And then he’s married, like… he’s actually married! He can’t believe it.

“You may now kiss the-”

Ashley hasn’t finished his sentence and Robert is making a mad lunge at Aaron. He tumbles a step backwards, but big hands are stabilising him quickly. He laughs in Robert’s

my husband’s

mouth and grabs his jacket. Their first kiss as official husbands feels incredible. It’s perfect like always, but even better somehow. Robert’s lips are magical, it’s like they cast some spell over Aaron and all he can do is melt into the contact and forget everything around him. 

It’s the quiet cough of Ashley that brings him back down to Earth. Aaron pulls back reluctantly, with slightly burning ears and ducks his head. 

The first person to congratulate them is the vicar and he gives them a warm smile, before he leaves. Then they are surrounded by their friends and the superheroes and everything is just like a blurry movie. Aaron nods along to the conversation and focuses on that warm, strong hand that is holding his own and won’t let go. He fears he might just float away if it did. 

Aaron Dingle hated weddings. He loathed weddings.

And now he’s a married man. 

Adam throws an arm over his shoulder and shakes him. “Congrats, man. It was really touching to watch you weeping like a baby.”

Aaron laughs. “Shut up.” He elbows his mate playfully.

“No music, no flowers, no decoration - some kind of wedding planner you are,“ Adam jokes, causing him to roll his eyes. But hearing the same thing for months at work made him immune by now.

He looks at Robert, who is talking animatedly and laughing with the guys from his geek club, and then at their still intertwined hands.

“Why would I need all this,” he says, “when the only thing that matters is right here?”

 

-    -

 

They are finally alone and Aaron spreads out the picnic blanket they brought with them. The timing could not be better as the small clouds above them turn from white to pink and purple.

Robert sits down next to him and opens two beer bottles with swift motions before he hands one over to Aaron. 

“Cheers, husband.” Jesus, does saying that word feel good. 

“Cheers. Husband.” Robert smiles, probably thinking just the same.

They clink their bottles and take their first sip. 

Aaron leans his back against the barn and Robert ends up between his spread legs, lying with his back against his chest. They both take the view in, silently, and Aaron wonders if it’s like Robert remembers from the picnics with his mum. 

He looks over Robert’s shoulder down at his hand, at the ring on his finger and he takes his husband’s hand, feeling the metal bands clinging against each other.

“I love you,” he whispers and presses his nose into the blond hair.

It smells of shampoo and styling gel and Aaron takes a deep inhale. 

“I love you.” And after a little pause, Robert adds: “This is perfect.” Then he turns his head and they kiss again.

This time, they are blissfully alone and no one can interrupt their moment and it doesn’t take long for their lips to part and their tongues to meet. Aaron starts stroking over Robert’s broad, flat chest, down his belly and over his arms, loving how strong and big his husband feels under his touch.

 

>>>

He slowly moves his hand towards the waistband of Robert’s trousers, doesn’t stop there until he feels the zip and the hardening bulge underneath. 

Robert moans into his mouth and the sound alone sends a spark through Aaron’s body. The cock is quickly filling under his palm and he gently rubs the spot where it is straining against the fabric. Opening the fly without looking properly is a bit of a fumble, but he doesn’t want to break the kiss and eventually he manages. A moment later he wraps his hand around Robert’s rockhard dick. The soft gasp he gets in return is music to his ears. 

He jerks him off, slowly, sweetly, playing with the pressure and a little twist until Robert starts rolling his hips and breathing faster. His back is rubbing just the right way against Aaron’s crotch.

Robert pulls back and licks his spit-slick, red and swollen lips as if chasing the taste of Aaron on them. “Want you.” His eyes are filled with longing. “Fuck me.”

Never did they get rid of their clothes more quickly and finally they are lying on the blanket, bare skin on skin and the warm summer breeze is caressing them in the softest way. It’s a constant reminder that they are outdoors - which is not exactly one of Aaron‘s kinks, but it’s how they planned this, how he wanted it. 

He tries to push that paranoia someone might see them away - deep down he knows it’s not possible, because there is no house, no street on this side of the barn - and focuses on the man on top of him. 

Robert is grinding carefully, rubbing their dicks simultaneously and they both moan. 

Aaron puts two fingers into his mouth, sucks, licks, makes them as wet and dripping as possible, while Robert watches him with blown pupils and parted lips. Then Aaron reaches down and behind him, spreads him open with his palms and feels with slick fingers his hole twitching. 

“Aaron…” A whispered plea.

Carefully he pushes in and Robert is still loose from this afternoon, when they were putting their suits on and got distracted. No, they didn’t do the whole ‘don’t see each other before you get married’ circus - Bernice would probably suffer a minor meltdown if she knew. 

Oi, stop thinking about Bernice when your hot husband is lying naked on you!

Goddamnit, his brain is right, for once! Fuck traditions and stiff protocols, rules are there to bend and be broken.

Aaron uses his left hand to pull Robert down for a passionate kiss while he keeps opening him up. When he hits the prostate, Robert makes a high pitched, needy little noise and seriously, who needs music at a wedding, when you can get perfect sounds like this?! 

Aaron kisses down that sharp jawline to the soft and warm neck, where he smells of aftershave and Robert and everythinggoodintheworld.

I love you, I love you, Iloveyou

He gets absolutely lost in the feeling and when Robert finally sinks down on his cock, Aaron is close to cuming already. 

“Oh god,” he sobs out.

The colours of the sunset are reaching their peak of glowing and the heaven above them is burning, burning like Aaron’s body and it’s almost too much to keep his eyes open, but he forces them to, because Robert is on top of him fuck yes, that’s a sight! 

It’s the perfect moment captured in a perfect scenery.

“I’m fine with Robert,” his idiot husband groans with half lidded eyes while he waits for the sting to subside. “Always wanted to ride into the sunset.”

Aaron’s laughter ends in a broken moan when Robert starts rolling his hips. It doesn’t take long for Aaron to plant his feet on the ground and meet his movements with sharp thrusts. He pulls Robert down again, needing him close, and holds him while he fucks into him.

“Fuck.”

Robert’s dick is trapped between their bellies, getting the perfect friction from their sweaty bodies and Aaron knows Robert can cum just from that, he just needs to find the angle-

“Fuck, yes! Aaron!”

Yeah. C’mon.

Robert buries his face against Aaron’s neck, his breath is hot and ragged. His moans are getting louder and more desperate. It’s ending all too soon, but Aaron already feels the heat coiling in his guts and he knows he’s close.

He cums a few minutes later right before Robert, his eyes are rolling back into his skull and everything gets absorbed in an explosion of white heat. Robert is clenching around him, shivering and spilling between them. 

Aaron gasps for air and all he can do is hold on to Robert and he’s glad his husband is on top of him, grounding him with his weight.

<<<

Dazed, Aaron blinks his eyes open. The sky is blue again, the first stars blinking down on them.

That grin that’s spreading on his face is something he can’t control - he can’t control anything about his body right now! Robert’s heart is thumping rapidly against his own. 

It’s his favourite beat and the jerky breathing his favourite music.

Really deep thoughts for a DJ who just fucked his brain out, right? Seriously though, who needs all the fuss, when all that matters is just the two of them?

They end up snuggling under a blanket, not because it’s cold, but Aaron does feel a bit too naked and too exposed when the afterglow wears off. The wedding night will be spent here, at this special place, under the light of millions of stars and with a cooler full of beers and Aaron couldn’t imagine anything more romantic. 

“Sooooo,” Robert starts and turns his head to look at Aaron. “What is the verdict on today’s wedding?”

He asks that every weekend after Aaron comes home from another venue and it makes him chuckle. 

“Ten out of ten!” he answers without hesitating, meaning it wholeheartedly. He wouldn’t change anything for the world.

“So, you’d do it again?” Robert asks cheekily and smirks.

Aaron meets his eyes and gets lost in them once more. He knows Robert can look right into him right now and it might be terrifying, that thought of baring his soul to another person, but there is so much unconditional love in those green eyes that leaves no room for any doubts, insecurities or second thoughts.

It’ll always be you. It’ll always be a yes.

But Aaron is also a wedding DJ who hates weddings. 

“Fuck no. Once is enough.”

Robert laughs and Aaron smiles. This idiot is his, now and forever. It’s enough indeed.