Aaron had never particularly enjoyed being touched when he was half asleep and just waking up. It left him feeling too vulnerable. But with Robert, somehow it felt different. Maybe it was because when they woke up, Aaron knew the time was limited and precious before Robert had to go back to his life and his reality. Aaron woke up with Robert’s hand drifting across his shoulder, then into his hair, fingers tangling in the curls.
“Morning,” Robert said, feeling Aaron wake up. He curled into Robert, all soft and warm and Aaron didn’t want to move from this hotel bed. “Don’t get comfy.”
“Why?” Aaron asked. Robert looked at his watch.
“I reckon John’s going to walk in in five minutes,” Robert said. “I’m late.”
“Then… get up?” Aaron suggested.
“It’s only a meeting with my mother,” Robert said. “She can wait. It’s not going to make a scene if I don’t show. Not in public anyway.”
“You don’t want to argue with your mum,” Aaron said.
“Oh well,” Robert said. And to be honest, Aaron didn’t want Robert to go, so he stopped arguing.
“You know,” Aaron said. “If we’re going to take advantage of your position…”
“Oh yeah, what do you want?” Robert said, amused.
“You’ve got guards everywhere,” Aaron said. “One of them could bring us a couple of coffees when we wake up.” Robert laughed.
“That’s what you want?” Robert said. He was used to people he got close to asking for favours, it almost always happened. And it was very… Aaron to ask for something so simple. He was very unmaterialistic, in a way that no one Robert had ever known before was. “I could probably arrange that.” Robert rolled on top of Aaron and kissed him deeply, Aaron’s arms coming around him and holding him tight.
As Robert had predicted, John knocked and came in. “Robert?”
“I’m not going,” Robert said, carrying on. The bedsheets were covering anything too revealing anyway.
“Robert, I can’t tell your mother that you didn’t turn up because you refused to leave this hotel room,” John said.
Aaron pushed Robert's shoulder. “Go on. Go.”
Robert’s forehead hit Aaron’s shoulder. “I don’t want to.”
“Stop sounding like you’re fifteen,” Aaron said, pushing Robert off him. “Go on, I can’t be the reason you stop your job.”
“Easy for you to say when you get to stay in bed,” Robert said.
“Oh yeah?” Aaron said. “If you think my life’s so easy, you get stuck under a car for ten hours a day, see how easy it is then?”
“Okay, that’s a point,” Robert admitted.
“I know you’d rather be here. I want you here, but I know that’s not how it works. See your mum,” Aaron said. “Although, I’d like a coffee,” Aaron added to John who smiled at him, a genuine small smile as he left. Aaron watched as Robert got dressed, having no intention of moving off the mattress.
“You smug git,” Robert said.
“Yeah,” Aaron said without shame. “A good night, good sex, a lay in, and I’m even getting coffee hand delivered.” Robert laughed. His clean white shirt from the wardrobe was left open a couple of buttons and Robert leaned over Aaron as John returned, kissing him deeply.
“Sod off,” Aaron said warmly. Robert smiled and left, being handed over to a driver. John stood there, putting a Costa coffee cup on the bedside table. “Aren’t you going with him?”
“No,” John said. “I’ve been on shift all night, I need some sleep.”
“Why guard him all night? I’m not going to kill him.”
“It’s not you I’m worried about,” John said. “There are a lot of people who’d enjoy hurting the establishment.”
“When did you stop being worried about me?” Aaron asked, choosing to ignore that “threatening the establishment” line. Because he couldn’t pull at that thread, he’d go crazy.
“I’m not sure,” John said. “I just… don’t worry about you. I get a good feeling from you.”
“That… is not reassuring,” Aaron said.
“Oh well,” John said. “Night.”
“Morning,” Aaron said as he left. The coffee was hot and delicious.
“Hi mum, can we make this quick?” Robert said in greeting. They had, ever since Andy’s death, made a point that they had a family meeting, just to check in with each other at least once a month, sometimes more. She didn’t want to lose another child, so she felt like she needed to check in with them more often. Vic was already there, stretched out on the sofa, eyebrow raised at Robert.
“You’re late,” Vic said.
“You’re lucky I turned up at all,” Robert said.
“Who’s the better offer then?” Sarah asked. “I’m not stupid, I know there’s someone.”
Robert glared at Vic. “Don’t look at me. You keep disappearing, she was bound to notice.”
“Just give me a name,” Sarah said. “I understand you keeping it quiet, but not from me. Unless there’s something wrong with her.”
“Would you believe me if I said she was shy?” Robert tried. Vic snorted. “She’s a commoner, and I don’t want to discuss it anymore, because I really want to go back to the hotel right now, and not be here.”
“Charming brotherly love, that,” Vic said, still glaring at him.
“Leave me alone,” Robert said. “I’ll tell you when I’m ready. I’m taking all the precautions, John barely leaves me for a moments peace, okay?”
Robert called Vic the next day. “Hi, you got a minute?”
“Yeah,” she said. “What’s up?”
“Do you want to go to Ireland?” Robert asked. “For work?”
“Er… no, not really,” she said after a moment. “Why?”
“One of us has to go,” Robert said. “I can take it, it’s fine.”
“When is it?”
“September,” Robert said. “Why?”
“You could make it your first official outing with your new girl,” Vic said. Robert stayed silent. “I know there’s someone hanging around.”
“Yeah, there is someone, but… that won’t happen.”
“Why?” Vic asked. “What’s wrong with her?”
“It’s… too difficult to explain on the phone. Anyway, September’s ages away. We might not even be together by then.”
“She’s not the type to go to the press is she?”
“No,” Robert said surely. “Definitely not.”
“The journalists are going to pick up on the fact you have someone,” Vic said. “Sooner or later, they’re going to realise you’ve stopped going to clubs and bars, and they’re going to ask why.”
“Later it is then,” Robert said. “Leave it Vic. I know what I’m doing.” He didn’t. Not by a long shot did he have a clue what he was playing at, but he didn’t want her to worry on top of everything else. “What’re you doing?”
“Dress shopping,” she said. “We’ve got that banquet with the French ministers on Saturday.”
Shit. Robert had forgotten that and he’d made arrangements with Aaron. Damn it. “You have to go, Robert," she said to his silence.
“I know,” he said.
“You had plans, didn’t you?” Vic said.
“Yep,” Robert said.
“You could bring her,” Vic suggested.
“Yeah, right,” Robert said sarcastically. “Lets just throw the sharks at… her.” He hesitated just a fraction of a second, making sure not to let a “him” slip.” He’d planned a nice dinner for Aaron in a restaurant. He’d organised it perfectly, they had their own private room. Aaron would hate something too luxurious, so it was a relatively homely restaurant with good food and better beer, and John had already checked the CCTV situation and that no journalists or paparazzi could get to them. He should have known it was too good to be true. “I’ve got to go,” Robert said. He hung up, then called Aaron.
“Hi,” he said warmly.
“I’ve got to cancel Saturday,” Robert said. “I’m sorry.”
“Right,” Aaron said. “Why?”
“I forgot about a banquet I have to be at,” he said. “I’d much rather be with you, but I can’t.”
“Yeah, right,” he said sarcastically.
“No, I would,” he said. “You’re far better company than those stuffy arses. The only one there I can bear is Vic.”
“My sister,” Robert said.
“Oh, of course,” Aaron said. He’d temporarily forgotten Robert’s sister. “We could move it to Friday night instead?”
“I can’t,” Robert said with regret. "I'm already busy."
“Oh,” Aaron said.
“I want to see you before the banquet. I’ll have… maybe twenty minutes but I want to see you.”
“Okay,” Aaron said. “I want to see you too.”
“Good,” Robert said.
Aaron had text Robert, letting him know that Adam had left the flat. Thank God, because Aaron really didn’t fancy going to the hotel just for a glimpse of Robert which would be far too brief.
When he did arrive, Robert looked breathtaking, so much so that Aaron’s mouth hung open for a few seconds. “You look… wow,” Aaron said. Robert didn’t say anything, just put his hands on Aaron’s waist and kissed him. Aaron kissed along his jaw before whispering in his ear “God, I want to fuck you right now.”
Robert laughed. “I’m going to hold you to that one,” he said and Aaron smiled.
“You really have to go?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Aaron said. “I’m not thick, I know that you have obligations.” Robert closed his eyes, forehead resting against Aaron’s as his fingers started to push Aaron’s hoodie up, stroking his bare skin.
“Uhuh,” Aaron said. “You’re not turning me on, then leaving.”
“Spoil sport,” Robert said without heat. “You don’t know how much I want you.”
“I’ve got an idea,” Aaron said. “Call me after the banquet thing.”
“It’ll end late.”
“Call anyway,” Aaron said. “I’d…” he wanted to hear Robert’s voice, but didn’t quite know how to say it. Voicing his feelings had never been easy for him. “Please.”
“All right,” Robert said.
“Robert, we’ve got to go,” John said, knocking on the door once and looking at the pair of them. Aaron hadn’t even known John was here, but of course Robert wouldn’t be here alone. “The cars waiting.”
“Okay,” Robert said. He kissed Aaron once more before leaving, filled with regret.
True to his word, Robert did call Aaron after the banquet. Robert was well on his way to drunk and Aaron was very dozy so it was hardly a thrilling conversation, but Aaron was pleased nonetheless.
“It’s late,” Peter said. “What do you want?”
“Hang on, Jenn’s not here yet,” John said. They waited and within five minutes, Jenn came into the small room, one of the hidden nooks in the palace that security tended to use for meetings.
“What do you want?” Jenn asked. While John was in charge of all things related to Robert’s security, Jenn and Peter were the ones who also looked after Robert when John wasn’t on shift. He trusted both of them implicitly.
“We need a plan,” John said.
“This Aaron,” John said. “He isn’t going anywhere.”
“You don’t know that,” Jenn said. “It’s only been a few weeks.”
“When’s the last time Robert kept going back to someone?” John said. “It’s not like this is routine for him, you both know that.” John sighed. “You’ve been guarding him, do you think this ones different?”
“Yeah, I do,” Jenn said. “He is. I don’t know why, he doesn’t look like much to me, but he clearly does to Robert.”
“What do you suggest?” Pete asked.
“We need to be prepared,” John said. “The longer this carries on, the more likely it is the media are going to catch on, or get photos, or… something. They will find out eventually, and we need to be prepared for when they do.”
“You’re right,” Peter said. “Aaron is different to the others. Could we get rid of him?”
“No,” John said. “That wouldn’t solve the long term problem would it? If it wasn’t Aaron, it’d be someone else. All of us getting sacked won’t help.”
“What do we do?”
John felt old. It was going to be bad, he knew that. “Prepare for a media storm like you’ve never seen before.”