It‘s his last days on the farm before school starts again and Aaron would give anything in the world to turn back time and relive it all over. Suddenly time is flying and how is it Friday already when Aaron swears it was Monday just fucking yesterday?!
Saying that this was the best summer break of his whole life is no exaggeration, although the competition is admittedly not very hard. He usually spent his holidays mostly in his room, gaming, browsing youtube, listening to music and repairing stuff every now and then.
This year he repaired a combined harvester and checked the other vehicles too, he learned how to fix a fence without a hammer and nails. And he learned stuff like the fact that the different egg colours of the chickens are genetic. Seriously, who knew?! Not Aaron.
He’s got a nice tan from the manual labour outside and also built a bit of muscle. Not to mention the cash he earned.
The best thing about his work on the farm was his co-worker though. Of course. And his plan of spending as much time with his boyfriend as possible worked out amazingly.
Being with Robert is so easy. For the first time since Aaron can remember it‘s easy being around someone. Robert gives him a whole new level of confidence with his affectionate looks, his slow kisses and words of praise that are coming just naturally over his lips every now and then.
“Oi, what‘s with you today?“ Robert nudges him with his elbow and smiles.
It‘s amazing really, how quick he can pick up on Aaron‘s moods. Like he‘s got a seismograph for his emotions or something.
“School starts in three days…“ Aaron says grumpily while he tries to lift a green plastic barrel with god knows what in it and groans.
Today‘s work must have arisen straight from Jack Sugden‘s sadistic streak. Tidying the shed.
‘The shed’ is a building the size of Aaron‘s living room at home and it‘s stuffed with all kinds of shit, Sugden senior hoarded over decades. Old bikes, broken mowers, dirty buckets, rakes, spades, discarded furniture and tools - so many fucking tools, most of them rusty. Under one pile of crap, Aaron discovers old animal feed. It looks like it’s from the last century and it’s god awful gross.
Okay, tidying the shed sucks massively, not to mention all the nasty spiders - fuck, Aaron hates spiders, spiders are just creepy fuckers - but aside sheds and spiders, that summer was the best he ever had and he doesn‘t want it to end! Soon he’ll be sitting in the classroom again, forced to read and write and to pretend he can read and write… He can basically feel the pressure already slowly sinking on his shoulders, dragging him down. That heavy fear of failing.
Failing right under Robert‘s eyes.
Robert is so determined to help him with his dyslexia, to make this work, and he is so confident about Aaron managing. Aaron wishes he had the same faith.
He‘s going to blow it and Robert will see him for what he is: a total loser. And then he will run for the hills, it‘s actually astonishing he didn‘t do it already.
He startles when he feels a hand on his forearm. Green eyes are looking at him with a mixture of expectancy and concern. Robert is clearly waiting for him to say something, but Aaron hasn‘t heard him asking a question.
Letting out a little sigh, Robert‘s shoulders sag and he looks more worried than waiting now.
“Sorry, I just… zoned out,“ Aaron mutters defensively and pulls at that stupid barrel again, not being able to hold Robert‘s gaze.
“Look. I know you’re worried. This isn’t easy with your dyslexia, I get it. But I think you really should tell the school, the teachers might-”
“Yeah, they might ask how I passed the tests so far and then I tell them what? That I cheated?!” Aaron snaps, regretting the harsh tone immediately.
Especially when he sees the flash of hurt showing on Robert‘s face. But they aren‘t talking about that sore topic for the first time and Aaron is just so tired of it.
“Can’t we just enjoy the last few days?”
Robert makes a big gesture of looking around in the stuffed, sticky and dirty shed and snorts. “Yeah, sure. Let’s enjoy it.”
“Well, you know what I mean,” Aaron says defensively. Enjoyment is a bit far fetched considering their current task, but still. He has a general point.
Robert softly smiles and closes the gap between them. “Only you would rather clean out that shitty shed than go to school,” his boyfriend chuckles and grabs Aaron’s shirt to pull him in for a quick kiss. “You’re such a weirdo sometimes.”
There is a spark in Robert’s green eyes and he’s still smiling and it’s clearly nothing but a little tease. A joke.
But Aaron would indeed rather clean out five goddamn sheds instead of going to school for even one day. He’d rather clean out pig shit than listen to Ashley Thomas’ endless monologues about English literature. He’d rather spend the whole day bent over a greasy motor of Jack Sugden’s farming machinery than attend one hour of Harriet Finch’s boring maths lessons. He’d rather be around cows than be forced to listen to the hollow blethering of his classmates.
That definitely does make him a weirdo. It has weirdo all over it.
It doesn’t help knowing that, unlike Aaron, Robert can’t wait to escape Emmerdale Farm and head back to Hotten High. Because Robert loves Thomas’ monologues and Finch’s trigonometry. He loves all the things Aaron hates.
And for now Robert finds that endearing, if that fond expression on his face and the soft kiss are anything to go by. However, Aaron can’t help but wonder when his boyfriend will realise that their differences aren’t cute, but downright annoying.
He forces a smile on his face and leans in for another kiss to shut up his stupid brain.
Today, even being in the shadows, just sitting and breathing, is a bloody straining task. It‘s hot and humid, a godawful combination Robert doesn‘t deal with well. But then again, who does?! According to the radio it‘s the hottest day of the year, absolutely unusual for September, but apparently wind from the Sahara hit the UK yesterday and while France was suffering with 40 degrees and more, Yorkshire wasn‘t that far behind with 32. The weather fascinated Robert a lot and he spent the vast amount of the morning reading everything his google research offered him. Only Aaron's short voice message ‘on my way‘ pulled him out of it. The following cold shower was definitely a waste of time, because Robert is sweating again already, feeling like he’s melting into the wooden bench he sits on.
When Aaron arrives at the farm on his bike, Robert’s heart does that little flip he knows well enough by now whenever he sees his boyfriend. Aaron‘s face is blotchy red and the shirt clings to his body, drenched in sweat. Robert steals a quick glance at Aaron‘s toned body and good god. He‘s so fucking hot, no pun intentended. The sight is mouthwatering and basically the stuff of Robert‘s wet dreams.
“Hiya,” Aaron replies, breathless from the ride.
They are standing there, only three feet apart, staring at each other with shy smiles on their faces and slightly swaying. Robert wants to kiss him so, so bad.
“Ready for the last day?” Robert asks.
Aaron pulls a face, but then he shrugs. “Guess so,“ he mutters and Robert definitely hears a question mark there. “So what are we doing today? D‘you have any plans?“
Robert starts grinning with giddy anticipation because indeed, he came up with a plan. “Come,“ he says ominously.
He leads Aaron across the yard and when he turns around to tell him something, he sees Aaron‘s eyes snapping up to Robert‘s face. Aaron was checking out his arse!
“Like what you see?“ Robert asks cockily, with a confidence he definitely didn‘t have a few months ago which is entirely an Aaron effect. Having a boyfriend is doing wonders for Robert‘s self esteem.
“Seen better,” Aaron shoots back, but his reddening ears are telling a different story.
Robert laughs and shoves him playfully and remembers only then where they are, in the middle of the yard, on display, where his dad or Andy could see them right now. As subtle as possible he takes a step away from Aaron again, the smile dying on his face.
“Alright?” Of course Aaron is taking notice anyway.
“Sure!” he replies cheerfully and adds: “Now come on.”
When they reach the stables a moment later, he opens the gate for Aaron to go in. His boyfriend hesitates for a brief moment before he walks past Robert. The temperatures are bearable inside and Robert takes a few deep inhales of the strong smell of hay and horses that he always loved and that will always be connected to his fondest childhood memories.
“So, uh, what are we doing here?” Aaron shifts on his feet, hands stuffed into the pockets of his shorts.
“We are going for a ride.”
“Yeah. No.” Aaron shakes his head. “Nh-nh. Nope.”
“Come ooon!” Robert grins teasingly. “It’ll be fun, I promise.”
Aaron looks at him like he lost his sanity. “You have a weird definition of fun. I’m not getting up on…” He points with his thumb to Vic’s horse. “...that.”
“No, you aren‘t” Robert agrees and then he smirks. “You’re getting up on that one.” He means Dumbledore, his stallion, who is huffing and nodding his head just like on cue.
Robert pats his neck and cheek.
“Are you kidding? This one is even bigger!” Aaron takes a step back and stares at the horse, his face a mixture of fear and disbelief. “I’m not riding a horse, Robert. I’m not. This is my final word.”
“Oh my god, it’s moving! It’s moving!”
20 minutes later, Aaron is on the back of a horse, holding the rein in an absolute death grip and regretting all life choices. Goddamnit, that beast is fucking tall, what if it throws him off and he crashes on the floor?
His boyfriend, the idiot, is doubling over, holding his belly and just laughing loudly.
“Robert!” Aaron snaps and startles the animal underneath him. The horse makes another sudden movement and Aaron shrieks in panic. He’s gonna fall and hit his head, his brain’s gonna be mush and-
He hears the sound of a camera clicking.
“Are you taking pictures?” he hisses at Robert.
“Sorry, sorry!” Robert wheezes and puts his phone away quickly, then he takes Dumbledore’s halter and makes a soothing noise. He’s still grinning though.
Idiot. Aaron hates him so much.
“You need to relax. He’s picking up on your tension,” is Robert’s unhelpful advice.
“Easier said than done,” he grumbles, but takes a few deep breaths and tries to force his muscles to unclench.
Robert is getting serious. “Look, if you really don’t wanna do this, we can stay here as well. Or take the bikes to go swimming,” he offers sincerely. “But there is something I wanted to show you and it’s a bit too far with the bikes…” The green eyes are looking up to Aaron, big and bright, the freckles on his nose and cheekbones are extra prominent at the end of the summer and Aaron knows he can never say no to this face.
His resistance is melting instantly.
“No it’s-... If you think this is safe, then we can try?” he decides. “Just... tell me what to do.”
Robert smiles at him. “Just sit and relax. I’m riding ahead on Vic’s horse, Dumbledore will follow.” He pats the stallion again. “He’s an old fella now, this one, totally gentle. Can’t hurt a fly.”
Aaron only hums then, not entirely convinced, but willing to push his dread aside. Then he watches how Robert walks over to the other horse, puts his right foot into the stirrup and pulls himself with one swift motion onto the saddle. Huh, that looked easy. And wow, so hot.
How Aaron ungracefully climbed the animal a few minutes ago shall never be mentioned again. Robert even had to get a ladder out of the shed and hold Aaron’s hand.
“Ready?” Robert has turned around to him.
Aaron sighs. “As I’ll ever be.”
His boyfriend laughs again, clicks his tongue, does a little thrust with his hip and his horse starts moving first, then Aaron’s stallion follows. He can’t believe he’s actually doing this. He’s seriously riding. Thank God no one except Robert is witnessing this embarrassing episode.
Never has Aaron felt more clumsy and awkward, no matter how often he tries to sync his body to the movement of Dumbledore. Robert‘s rolling his hips so effortlessly and smooth in comparison and Aaron can‘t help but stare at how sinfully sexy that looks.
He didn‘t know the whole clichéd cowboy thing really was a thing until now.
It takes a while for him to trust that animal under his arse, but after half an hour Aaron feels slightly safer, more at ease and enjoys their little trip more than he expected. He even is brave enough to lean forward and stroke the horse‘s warm and soft neck. “Brrr, shhhhh, brrrr.”
“What are you doing?“ Robert frowns and is suddenly somehow next to him.
“Oh, I‘m making soothing noises.“
Robert snorts. “Well, stop that, it‘s not necessary.“
“Shut up, we‘re bonding,“ Aaron informs him and he smiles.
That earns him a head shake and a smile back.
Robert leads them into the woods where it‘s darker and cooler, the sunlight streaming through the leaves, and Aaron thinks about how he hasn‘t spent that much time outside in all his life before this summer.
His boyfriend talks about a new graphic novel he‘s reading and Aaron listens to him, the birds chirping, the rustling of the leaves and the sounds of the hooves on the ground. The whole scene is like a corny rom-com. For a brief moment Aaron wonders if all this is too good to be true. And then Robert smiles at him and the feeling subsides.
“Here we are.”
About an hour later they reach the place Robert wanted to show Aaron. The forest ends and the treeline frames a plateau, covered with dark green grass and daisies and bright buttercups. It offers a breathtaking view over the dales, over its mounds and woods, little villages here and there, stoney walls and several herds of sheeps. They hear distant sounds of animals and tractors, otherwise it’s just the singing of the birds and them.
Robert remembers how he came here with his mum, Andy and Vic and how they spent a lovely afternoon up here, on a picnic blanket and with way too much food. Robert remembers how they laughed and played cards. Robert remembers the easiness of the day, the playfulness, even between him and Andy.
Sometimes he thinks he saw the briefest flickers of sadness on Sarah‘s face and it didn’t make sense until she told them about her cancer only a few days later. In hindsight, Robert reckons his mum had already known she was ill.
It was never like that day again.
This place isn’t just a lovely piece of English nature, it helds a deeper meaning for him, one he hasn’t even told Aaron so far. Robert glances over to his boyfriend, suddenly worried that Aaron will ask him why they’re here and tell him how utterly boring this is. Maybe Aaron expected something more fun for their last day of summer, like going to the arcade or something. He is not known exactly as a nature lover after all. His boyfriend sits on Dumbledore and looks over the valley, his face giving nothing away and Robert’s heart suddenly runs double speed at how gorgeous Aaron looks.
“Sorry!” Robert blurts out and Aaron looks at him, frowning. “Sorry, if this is lame.”
Maybe, if they ride back now and jump on their bikes, they might make it to the arcade for an hour or so before they‘d have to head home for tea.
He slowly deflates, because he knows deep down that it’s way too late for that plan. They nearly need two hours to get back to the farm and considering the aftercare of the horses and the 30 minute bike ride to Hotten, it doesn’t make sense. It would be too late.
Robert’s cheeks are getting way too hot for his liking and he turns his head away.
“What?” Aaron wants to know.
He stares at the grass and the flowers, finding them extremely captivating.
“The view’s nice.” Aaron’s voice is so quiet, Robert wonders if he heard that right or if it’s just wishful thinking.
“Yeah?” he breathes and eventually turns back to him.
Aaron smiles then and if Robert wasn’t already head over heels for this boy, he’d fall right then and there.
“Now help me get off that beast, my arse hurts from the riding,” Aaron says, before he stills and blushes.
Like, his whole face turns bright red.
Robert chuckles, but then the laughter dies on his lips when he realises why Aaron was blushing.
Aaron is blushing because he’s thinking about sex.
Immediately Robert’s brain starts running a mile a minute. Does that mean Aaron thinks about them having, like, real sex? Does that mean he wants them having real sex?
Robert quickly slides off Vic’s horse, trying to hide his own burning face.
To be honest, he is quite happy with what they’re doing so far, if he’s honest. Kissing, cuddling, handjobs. The handjobs are so damn hot, he could lose his mind just thinking about the noises and the face Aaron makes when he cums. Or how amazing it feels having another person jerk him off. It was probably naive, but he always assumed it would be enough for Aaron, too.
Maybe he got it all wrong.
Robert tells him the story about his mum, about their picnic, while they’re having a little picnic of their own in the shadows of the trees. Aaron wonders what it must be like, having a mum you’re close with. A mum that actually gives a toss about you.
His birth mum, Chas, left when he was so little he barely has any memories of her. She wrote him a few cards, but eventually they came less and less frequently until he didn’t receive them anymore at all. The other mum he knew left as well. Sandra took Aaron’s little sister but not him, but Liv was her bio child and Aaron just the kid of the ex, so he reckoned it made sense.
He was just a trouble maker, with bad grades and lacking manners and nobody ever saw more in him.
That beautiful boy he always ogled from afar in school, admiring his stupid, perfect hair and long limbs. Robert, with his sharp brain and his shy smile, who played at least three leagues above Aaron.
A few sun rays are hitting Robert‘s face through the leaves, giving him a sort of glow and his blond hair is falling in his face although he keeps running through it with his long fingers repeatedly. His big hands are moving constantly as he tells Aaron about his family. Today his eyes appear more blue-ish than green and those magical irises will never cease to amaze Aaron. Summer has basically doubled the amount of freckles on his nose and cheekbones and they are much more visible now on Robert’s tanned face.
He kisses Robert, how can he not? It’s a bit off, because he misses Robert’s mouth with his first lunge, but then Aaron adjusts and tries to limit the force of his action. The second attempt is better, much better, soft and slow and perfect.
“This was the best summer ever,” Robert whispers with a smile. Their faces are only an inch apart and his breath tickles Aaron’s face, warm and perfect.
“Yeah.” It really was.
Robert sits up. “I, uh, I…” He swallows before he shifts and pulls something out of the pocket of his jeans. “Since we’re talking about memories and stuff… I read this book recently where they carved their initials into a balustrade and... I thought…” He awkwardly waves the little item and then Aaron recognises it as a pen knife.
There is a painful stutter in his chest. “D’you want…?”
Robert glances at him shyly through his blond eyelashes. “Yeah, I mean, I wasn’t sure if you’d like the idea, but maybe-... if we’d pick a tree, or something…”
“Yes, let’s do this!”
Robert wants to engrave their initials at a place that’s special for him, how can he possibly think that Aaron might not like that? This is amazing!
They decide on a trunk right at the treeline, from where you can see over the Dales. Robert holds up the knife. “Would you? I value my fingers and would hate losing one.”
He wiggles his left hand in front of Aaron and fuck, Aaron does value those fingers as well. And all the good stuff they are able to do. How they feel on his skin. How they feel wrapped around his dick. How they’d feel in other places-
Aaron’s flushing hot, again.
“Gimme that,” he mutters, snitches the knife and starts scratching.
The thing is, he does think a lot about sex lately.
Back with Holly it all felt so pressured and forced and wrong until it climaxed in that embarrassing attempt to sleep with her. Or, it didn’t climax. To be precise. Holly and him didn‘t get nearly that far since Aaron couldn‘t even get hard enough. His failed test of proving himself that he was not a queer.
But with Robert it‘s nothing like that. It’s just so hot. So sexy. One special memory lives in Aaron‘s head rent-free, of him and Robert in the lake and Robert rubbing over his swim trunks, right across his hole…
The thought alone makes him shiver. Fuck.
He forces his mind back on the task ahead, but Robert decides to hug him from behind and the warm hands on his belly and the hot breath on Aaron’s neck are rather distracting.
Eventually, he finishes carving A+R into the wood and strokes with his fingers over it, pleased with the outcome. This is something that would be there forever. Or at least for a very, very long time. The rightness of the symbol hits Aaron to the core, because this is what he feels, what he wants. Him and Robert, forever.
He turns around and they look in each other's eyes, neither of them speaking. It’s one of those moments where words aren’t necessary.
Robert takes his face into both hands, the softest of smiles tugging on the corners of his mouth, giving his special turn-Aaron’s-knees-to-jelly-looks.
“Aaron…” his voice is shaky and whatever he wanted to add stays unspoken.
Aaron nods anyway. “Yeah.”
They kiss again, slow and sensual at first, exchanging silent promises, but it heats up quickly. Soon Aaron finds himself pressed against the tree, Robert grinding against him. The knife is being dropped into the grass because he needs both of his hands to grab and pull and stroke and grope every bit of body he can reach.
Suddenly the perfectly soft lips are gone and Aaron traces the sensation, needs them back right now! He blinks his eyes open, a little dazed.
“This is good, right? What we’re doing?” Robert asks, unsure.
Aaron frowns. He’s got no clue what this is about.
“The kissing?” Robert clarifies and he keeps his gaze firmly on Aaron’s chest.
“Yes!” Aaron laughs, not really getting the question. Of course the kissing was good, it was phenomenal! How can Robert have second thoughts about that, when the evidence of how much Aaron approves of the kissing is very palpable. Below the waistband of his jeans. “So can we go back to doing it then?” he jokes and tries to kiss Robert again.
But his boyfriend pulls back completely, squirms out of Aaron’s embrace and starts pacing and rubbing his lips.
“No, I mean… this is… Is this enough?”
“Robert?” Now he is totally confused.
“I don‘t want sex! No, I mean, I do! But... you know…”
Aaron does not know, so he just stays silent and watches Robert’s face turn cherry pink while he’s struggling for words.
“Sex is great! Uh… I suppose? It’s not that I have, …like, lots of expertise. Except from-… I do like the… you know, the stuff we’re doing. And… that’s amazing. Seriously. But I dunno if I’m ready for the…uh… whole thing?”
For a brief moment he wonders if Robert’s referring to Aaron’s dick with the term “whole thing” and the thought is so silly, it makes him laugh. Too late he realises his mistake at how Robert’s expression falls, transforming into hurt. That sobers him up in a heartbeat.
“Hey, I’m not laughing at you!” Aaron says quickly and grabs his arm. “Honestly.”
“Yeah, well, we should go back to the horses anyway, so…” Robert turns to walk away, completely avoiding looking Aaron in the eye again.
“Robert.” He tightens his grip on Robert’s arm and pulls him back. “It’s okay.” Very slowly the green-blueish eyes are travelling up, over Aaron’s belly, chest, neck, until they land on his face. “It’s fine if you wanna wait,” Aaron emphasises.
Robert swallows. “But you would want to?”
“Gosh, yeah, you‘ve seen me checking out your arse!” Aaron half-jokes to dissolve the tension and he’s rewarded with a small smile on Robert’s face.
He would be lying if he said he didn’t feel a tiny pang of regret, because damn, just the thought about having sex with Robert drives him crazy. But then again… he’s not sure if he’s really ready for it either. Especially after that Holly disaster he wants to do this right this time. He doesn’t want it to be awkward and tense, wants it to be more than nervous fumbling.
“Seriously though. I don’t mind waiting. We wait until we’re both ready, yeah?” he asks.
Robert nods quickly, looking relieved. “Okay.”
“And we’re still doing the other stuff, right?”
“Absolutely!” Robert’s head bobs so fast, Aaron fears it might fall off.
“Good.” He pulls Robert flush against his body. “Where were we then?”
Robert takes a deep inhale. It smells of fresh paint, floor polish and books and it’s needless to say that he loves it. He smiles to himself, hearing Aaron’s voice in his head calling him a weirdo, while he walks down the school hallway.
The walls have new colours, everything else more or less looks the same. He spots familiar faces everywhere, most of them tired and grumpy. Robert, however, is wide awake. Since 5am to be precise. He was so excited, he barely slept.
It’s far away from the farm, Andy’s mean comments and his father’s emotionless glare, and finally he gets to do things he’s good at.
Admittedly, summer has been much better this year. Aaron promised him he wouldn’t let him get pushed around by Andy or his dad and somehow he kept that promise. Jack Sugden was pleased with their work, he even said so one evening when they were sipping an ice cold orange juice when the work was done. The old man slapped Robert‘s shoulder with a smile on his face, causing Robert to shyly duck his head and blush.
And the fact that Ross Barton stopped bullying him at school after Aaron stepped up? Heaven. Just heaven. Not that Robert usually condones violence, but Barton had it coming, especially since Robert wasn’t his only victim.
This is going to be a good year, an amazing year. He just has this feeling.
He reaches his locker and smiles, thinking briefly about his mum when he opens the lock with the combination 2503. Her birthday. Robert opens his backpack, takes his notepad and a water bottle out and puts it on the small shelf. For a wild moment he wonders how it would be if he was to stick a little pic of Aaron on the inside of his door like he saw some straight couples were doing. It’s just a corny fantasy, of course, but Robert allows himself to get lost in it for a moment before he closes the door with a little sigh and takes a step back.
Only to step on something.
He quickly turns around, horrified at his own clumsiness. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I’m-... sorry.” He’s met with a girl, probably his age, staring at him.
“Don’t worry, it’s fine,” she says and smiles.
Robert does not recall seeing her before and he would definitely remember her, because that girl certainly is beautiful with her long hair and big eyes.
Her smile gets even wider. “Hi.”
Robert expects her to move along, now that he apologised, but instead she keeps smiling at him while she fiddles with the strap of her backpack. He’s not sure what to make of that, if he’s honest, he's at his wits’ end. Is he supposed to do smalltalk?
“Uh, so, are you new here?”
Oh smooth, Robert, his brain whispers. A classic opener.
“Yeah, I am! Can you tell me where I get my timetable and where I find my class? How does it work here?”
“Sure. They have these huge boards in the cafeteria and you look for your form and go to that board. There are name lists and you’ll find your form teacher and the classroom for your first lesson. You’ll get your timetable from your teacher later,” Robert explains and the girl nods along. “I can take you, if you want?” he offers. “I was on my way anyway.”
“Aw, thank you,” she smiles even wider now. “That’s so nice of you.”
On the way to the cafeteria, he cranes his neck to look for Aaron, but his boyfriend is nowhere to be seen.
Aaron‘s leaning against the outside wall of the school building, smoking a cigarette he scrounged of a bloke he knows from the footy team. He doesn’t have his own pack since he quit, technically. Robert doesn’t like the stench or the taste when they’re kissing and fuck, not even Aaron likes the taste! It’s disgusting.
But desperate times and that.
He needs it right now, the nicotine, hoping it’ll calm him down. The first day of the school year is always one of the worst. And at least the smoking gives him the chance to procrastinate longer before he goes in.
When he spots Holly walking past him, he flips the cigarette away and hurries up to her.
Holly doesn’t answer, keeps looking straight ahead and speeds up a little.
She stops so abruptly he nearly runs into her. “Oh, so now you remember me?” she sneers and if looks could kill, he’d have dropped dead on the pavement already.
And okay, since he spent all his free time with Robert, he barely had contact with her during the summer.
“C’mon, don’t be like this…” he mutters and ducks his head.
“Weeks, Aaron. You ignored my calls for weeks.” Holly crosses her arms.
He opens his mouth to object because that seems a little exaggerated, but then again, when he comes to think about it… He can’t even remember when he called her the last time. Aaron sighs. She’s the only person he has that the term ‘friend’ applies to and now that he’s realising he’s treated her like shit, he does feel guilty.
“Sorry?“ he offers. “Sorry.“
Her expression softens and she rolls her eyes exasperated. “You suck, Dingle.”
He scoffs, relieved, knowing he’s forgiven, and bumps her shoulder with his fist. “You suck yourself,” is his unoriginal comeback, but it makes her laugh anyway so mission accomplished. She never can hold a grudge for long. “How was your break?“
“Except for my mate ghosting me? Good, actually. Went with my mum for a holiday in Spain. What about your summer? How was it?“
“Yeah, alright.” Understatement of the century. Aaron bites on the inside of his cheek to prevent himself from grinning.
Holly glances at him and hums. “I bet you were hanging out with that mysterious girlfriend of yours.”
He coughs. “What?”
“You had a date, remember? I helped with your clothes. Don’t think I forget important stuff like that!” she teases. “C’mon, tell me about her! Are you still going out with her?”
God, he wants to tell her. He wants to tell her how amazing his boyfriend is, how smart and funny and fucking gorgeous. He wants to tell her that he’s in love and that this it, the real thing. Sometimes it’s like he’s bursting because he has no one to talk to about his feelings.
But then again, Aaron needs the right moment to do this. He can’t tell her he’s gay in passing, literally, as he holds open the school door for her to walk in, Holly is his ex after all. And deep, deep down, there is this fear that she might tell others and then boom. The whole school would know. Like with Robert. It only took one remark from Ross and half an hour later everybody was gossiping about his bisexuality.
Aaron thinks of his boyfriend stepping up, stepping in front of the whole class and demonstrating how brave he is with his coming out.
Aaron isn’t that brave.
The thought alone that his footy team would know about him terrifies the shit out of him. Surely they would bully him out of the team. He would lose the only thing that makes school bearable.
“Not much to tell,” he lies, guts turning slowly.
In the hallway he looks immediately for Robert, because even if he can’t hug or kiss him, seeing him might be enough. It’s like a punch in the guts to find the corridor nearly empty.
“Shit! ‘S almost 8!” Holly hisses with a look at her watch.
They hurry to the cafeteria where the name’s lists are displayed. As expected the amount of names and letters is overwhelming and Aaron has to swallow twice to erase that lump in his throat when they both start looking for their names.
“Oi! What are you staring at? You’re under D, like dickhead!” Holly jokes.
He blinks dumbly at the ‘W’ right in front of his eyes and chuckles, hoping to overplay his nerves.
“You can stop looking, I found ya,” she exclaims before his brain can produce a return. “We’re both in Thomas’ class again.”
Aaron pulls a face. “Fuck’s sake.”
Another year with the senile git, amazing. Before he can check if Robert is in his class as well, the bell rings. Although they are running to get from the cafeteria to the classroom, they are still on the stairway when it rings the second time.
When they stumble into class eventually, they’re both out of breath and giggling.
“Ms Barton. Mr Dingle.” Ashley Thomas greets them with a stern look. All the other students are staring at them, most of them amused, others tauntingly. “I see you two are continuing where you left off last year.”
Aaron’s eyes are landing on Robert’s face and he instantly feels a soothing warmth spreading from his belly. While his brain is imagining different scenarios of him walking over to kiss Robert, Mr Thomas points to two empty tables in the centre of the front row.
“You know the saying. The last shall be first,” he says.
Aaron groans and Holly doesn’t look amused either. This is the worst, it’s not even a table on the side with the window! Aaron won’t be able to watch Mr Squirrel anymore!
Well, the only upside is that he can sit next to Robert, so he tries to focus on that.
“Hi,” he whispers and slides on his chair.
“Hi.” Robert smiles at him, shy and gorgeous.
“Where were we…” Mr Thomas scratches his head and looks utterly confused for a moment.
“You wanted to introduce me?” a female voice pipes up from the back.
The teacher’s face lights up and he clasps his hand. “Yes, indeed. The new student in our class. Come forward, please.”
The voice, Aaron learns a moment later, belongs to an unfamiliar face. A skinny girl with long hair. Her big eyes are wandering around and when she looks at Robert, she starts smiling sweetly.
Aaron frowns, wondering if these two know each other, while the girl opens her mouth, her eyes never leaving Robert’s, and says: “Hi, I’m Rebecca White.”