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Not the only one

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“Hi this is Robert Sugden, my son Sebastian won’t be coming in today because he’s ill.” Robert told Seb’s school’s secretary. “He’s in miss Nicholson’s class.”

“Alright. I’ll pass on the message. Tell him to get well soon.”

“I will. Thanks.” Robert said and hung up.

He looked over his shoulder at his little boy asleep in his bed after crawling in with him in the middle of the night.  He’d been under the weather for a few days, but that morning he’d been burning up and feeling downright miserable so Robert had decided to keep him home from school.

Only the timing was less than ideal and he was in for a morning of making calls and sending emails to reschedule his meetings and apologise to his clients, hoping they’d understand.

His phone rang in his hand and he smiled when he saw Vic’s name on the screen.

“Hey, sorry for calling you that early just now.”

“It’s fine. I was up with Harry anyway.” Vic replied. “Is everything ok?”

“No.” Robert sighed. “Seb is sick so he’s staying home today. So you don’t have to pick him up this afternoon. Or watch him tonight.”

“Are you sure? He’ll be fine with us tonight, you know he will.”

“No I can’t ask you to do look after my sick kid. What if Harry gets his bug too?”

“But you were really looking forward to your date with that guy you’ve been seeing… what’s his name again? Andrew?”

“Aaron.” Robert corrected her, a smile tugging at his lips. Vic was right, he had been looking forward to it, he’d barely seen Aaron the past few weeks because work had kept them both busy, but tonight they were finally going out to dinner and Robert had planned to ask him to stay the night.

Only with a sick child those plans were off the table.

“I’m sure. I’ll just explain it to him. He’ll understand. Hopefully.”

“If he doesn’t he’s not worth your time.” Vic told him and after a minute of small talk they hung up and Robert braced himself for his next call.

They’d been officially together for a few months, and Aaron knew he had a son, but they’d never met, and Robert didn’t know how Aaron actually felt about kids.

He scrolled through his phone looking for Aaron’s number and hit call, hoping he didn’t have to find out what he’d do if Aaron wasn’t interested anymore.

“Hey you.” Aaron answered on the first ring. “Did you get your sister to do the school run today?”

“Uh no… not exactly…”

“Is everything ok?” Aaron asked, concerned. “You’re not calling to cancel on me are you?”

“I… uh…”

“You are cancelling…”

“I’m sorry…”

“Have you changed your mind about me? About us?”

“No! Absolutely not.” Robert stressed. “It’s just… well… Seb is sick so he’s home today. I can’t leave him.”

“Oh thank god. I thought you were breaking up with me.” Aaron sighed in relief but then realised what he’d said. “Sorry… that came out wrong. Is he ok? I mean… apart from not feeling well?”

“Yeah… I think it’s just a bug… Sorry.”

“Sorry for what? It’s not your fault your kid is sick. Tell him to get better soon from me.” Aaron told him. “Wait… he doesn’t know me.”

“He knows about you.” Robert said, a soft smile spreading over his face. “I told him a few days ago.”

“Yeah? What did he say?”

“Not much… He asked if that meant we kiss and when I said yes he didn’t stop giggling for an hour.”

Aaron chuckled

“I uh should let you go…” he said after a minute.

“Yeah… sorry again. I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

“Don’t worry, it’s fine. Seb should come first.” Aaron insisted. “Unless… do you need a hand with anything? Shopping?”

“I uh… yeah I suppose… I was just going to order something and then ask Vic to pick up some things when she does her own shopping.”

“What if I did your shopping? And then stop by after work and drop it off? That way we’ll still get to see each other and you’ll have food for your son. And yourself.”

“You’d do that?”

“Sure. There’s a big Tesco on my way home. Just send me the list.”

“But… Seb is home.”

“Yes. You’ve said…” Aaron trailed off. “I’m going to have to meet him eventually, so why not today? Unless you think he’s not up for it? Or you aren’t.”

“I am.” Robert replied right away. “I don’t know if Seb will be very good company… but I’d really like to see you tonight.”

“It’s a date then.” Aaron decided “I can be there at six, is that alright?”  

“Six is fine.” Robert said, a dopey loved up smile on his face. “See you tonight.”

The next few hours Robert busied himself with work while Seb slept. He’d taken his laptop to bed and just tried to focus on that instead of worrying about his son. And worrying if the two most important people in his life would get on.

“Daddy?” Seb croaked around noon and Robert looked up from his work.

“Hey mate. How are you feeling? Any better yet?”

Seb nodded but snuggled closer to his father, burying his face in Robert’s t-shirt.

“I’m hungry.”

“Yeah? What do you want?” Robert brushed his hair out of his face and felt his forehead, happy to find his temperature had gone down. “Do you want me to make you a sandwich?”

Seb nodded again.

“Alright. Chocolate spread or strawberry jam?”

“Chocolate.”

“Ok, I’ll be back in a minute. Do you want to watch a film while you eat?” Robert closed his work and turned on kids Netflix. “You pick something.”

Over the next few hours Seb started to feel better and Robert managed to convince him to have a bath and put on a clean pair of pyjamas.

It was nearing five o’clock when he realised he should probably prepare Seb for arrival of their guest. He paused the cartoon the boy was watching and sat down next to him on the sofa.

“Do you remember when I told you about Aaron the other day? My boyfriend.” He started. It felt weird to discuss his love life with a six year old but Seb just nodded. “Well… I told him you’re poorly… and he wanted to come meet you and tell you to get better soon. Is that ok?”

“Aaron is coming here?”

“Yeah… in a bit.”

“Are you going to kiss him?” Seb asked, already grinning.  

Robert smiled.

“Maybe.”

Seb giggled and started making kissing noises at his dad.

“Just you wait until you’re older and you meet someone you want to kiss.” Robert said laughingly and tried to tickle the little boy but he jumped away from him.

“I’m never going to kiss anyone.” He insisted.

“You might change your mind about that in about 10 years.”

Seb crossed his arms in front of his chest.

“No I’m not!”

Before they had a chance to continue their argument, the doorbell rang.

“Is that Aaron?”

“I think so.” Robert replied and went to open the door, Seb trailing behind him.

“Hey, sorry I know I’m a little early but I knocked off early to get the shopping done and pick up some other things I thought Seb might like.” Aaron rambled before Robert had well and truly opened the door. “Also, hi.” He smiled and leaned in for a quick kiss hello.

“Hi.” Robert said softly and then glanced down at the bags at Aaron’s feet. “Did you buy the entire store?”

“No, just… a few things I remember liking when I was ill as a kid.”

“A few things? I don’t think I want to know what you’d call a lot of things then.”

Aaron rolled his eyes.

“Shut up, just help me carry these, alright? I nearly broke my back lugging them all the way to the door from my car.”

Robert laughed and picked up two bags.

“How is the patient?” Aaron asked and followed him into the house.

“Ask him yourself.” Robert replied, nodding at Seb who was watching them from the sofa. Too curious to really hide, too shy to really go meet Aaron.

Aaron put the bags on the kitchen counter and turned around.

“Hiya mate.” He greeted Seb, giving him a half wave. “I’m Aaron. Your dad told me so much about you. And I think he told you about me too, didn’t he?”

Seb nodded and wearily glanced between Aaron and his dad.

“Aren’t you going to say hello, Seb?” Robert pushed. “Where are your manners?”

“It’s ok. You don’t have to.” Aaron told him. “We can just hang out without all of that official stuff, can’t we?”

 Seb nodded again.

“So are you feeling better? Your dad said you had a sore throat so I brought some ice lollies. Though I didn’t know what flavour you liked so I just bought three different kinds.”

“Oh look Seb, it’s the rocket ice lollies you like.” Robert held up the box and Seb’s face lit up. “We can all have one after tea.”

“Oh come on Rob, let him have one now. The ice will make his throat feel better.” Aaron tried. “I used to love these whenever I was ill as a kid.” He told Seb. “Still do.” He winked and the boy laughed.  

“Fine.” Robert relented. “But you’re still going to have to eat something later. Aaron brought us all this healthy food, we’re not going to let it go to waste.”

“It’ll keep for a few days.” Aaron mock whispered to Seb as he handed him an ice lolly. “What are you watching?” He asked nodding at the paused cartoon on tv.

Seb turned around and started to excitedly tell Aaron all about the show and characters, and even showed him some of his action figures.

Aaron ooh-ed and aah-ed and asked questions in all the right places and Seb loved it all. He sat down on the back of the sofa as Seb turned his show back on and started telling him about the parts he’d missed.

Robert watched them while he put the shopping away and threw together a semi healthy meal for the three of them.

It turned out Seb and Aaron together were a force to be reckoned with, and they managed to convince Robert to sit down and eat in front of the TV with them, instead of at the kitchen table.

Seb insisted Aaron sat in the middle of the sofa so he and Robert could sit on either side of him.

As the night went on, Robert could tell Seb was getting sleepy. He’d gone almost completely quiet and didn’t even protest when Robert turned his cartoons off and put on some random nature documentary.

He got up from the sofa and patted Seb’s leg. The boy was struggling to keep his eyes open, snuggled up against Aaron’s side.

“I think it’s bedtime for you, mister.”

“No, I’m not tired.”

“Oh yeah, I can see that.” Robert said sarcastically, making Aaron laugh a little.

“It’s ok. Leave him be for now.” Aaron said, holding out his free hand for Robert.

“He’s got a perfectly good bed upstairs. Come on Seb. Up.”

Seb groaned and hid under Aaron’s arm.

If Robert was honest with himself, the fact that Seb was so comfortable around Aaron after just a few hours made his heart soar, but he felt he also had to at least try to keep up the pretence he wasn’t a complete pushover.

“Let’s just watch this for a bit.” Aaron suggested, reaching out for Robert again. “Let him sleep.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. He’s comfy now. It’s fine.”

Robert hesitated for a moment before sitting back down next to Aaron.

“You’re an enabler.” He said lovingly and pressed a kiss to Aaron’s lips. “He’s already got you right where he wants you.”

“It’s ok.” Aaron looked down at Seb who had shifted and was now sleeping with his head in his lap. “He’s a great kid. And I’m just glad he likes me.”

“Likes you? He adores you.” Robert said, looking at the two of them. “And he’s not the only one.”