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(You’ve Got The Love I Need To) See Me Through

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July

 

There he is again! Although it’s not even sure it’s a ‘he’ at all - could be very well a ‘she’ as well. Aaron called him Mr Squirrel regardless, because it kinda sounded better in his head. Mr Squirrel is sprinting across the lawn, from a row of trees on the right to a couple of bushes on the left. The little red fella is incredibly fast, it’s really impressive, but then he suddenly stops and lifts his head. The little snout points towards heaven and the bushy tail slowly raises until it’s standing upright. Aaron wonders if Mr Squirrel got wind of some other animal. Or a nut maybe. Can squirrels smell nuts? Probably. 

It’s a fascinating little animal and Aaron became rather fond of it during the past few weeks. Every now and then Mr Squirrel would show up, run across the green and climb up the trees. Aaron wonders if it’s happy. Can squirrels be happy? Or are they just hungry/not hungry, tired/awake, cold/not cold? Damn, squirrels are probably super happy animals anyway, he reckons. 

“Aaron?”

He startles slightly and looks to the front where Ms Finch is staring at him with her narrowed small eyes. Apparently he is supposed to say something, but for the life of him, he can’t tell what the stupid question even was. 

“Square root,” Holly whispers next to him.

Aaron clears his throat. “By...errm... using the square root?” His heart is thumping loudly in his chest at this hit or miss attempt.  

Finch narrows her eyes even further - seriously how is that possible?! - and flicks her gaze between him and Holly who is pointedly staring at the book on her table. Finally the teacher makes a noise that sounds very condescending, but then she continues with her monologue. 

Aaron lets out a quiet breath. It’s not long now until summer break, the tests are done and finished and most teachers are longing for the holiday just as much as the students. He looks to the left, past Holly and starts smiling. He cannot not smile.

Robert is sitting there, actually listening to Ms Finch and taking notes almost eagerly. He is the only one doing so, gaze switching between the whiteboard and his notes, pen flying over the paper, tongue sticking out between his lips. 

Something warm blossoms in Aaron’s belly and he bites his lip to suppress the smile that threatens to spread on his face. Robert‘s the most gorgeous boy he ever laid eyes on, with his thick, blond hair and those magical green eyes. And those lips, don‘t get Aaron started on the lips. They are soft and yet so firm at the same time and Aaron loves kissing them. 

They kiss a lot. Sometimes during lunch break behind the school building at the football pitch, sometimes after school in the library.

It‘s amazing. It‘s better than Aaron dared to hope in his wildest fantasies.

He always thought Robert would hate his guts, would think he‘s worth as much as the dirt on his shoe. Because Robert isn’t only cute, he’s also smart, the smartest person Aaron ever has met. And he liked being alone, spending all his breaks with his books rather than with people. So of course Aaron always imagined him being a snob, thinking he‘s above anyone else. 

Boy, had he been wrong. 

When Ashley Thomas paired them for the literature assignment a few weeks ago, Aaron was upset at first. It wasn’t just simple rage towards his teacher - although he really wished he could strangle the old fella at that moment - it was fear. He was fucking terrified. Working together with Robert Sugden of all people on a literature assignment… his secret was about to come out, Aaron was so damn sure of it.

And in the end it did come out, but not like he expected it. Never in a million years did he expect it. Robert wasn’t a snob, wasn’t looking down on him. If anything, Robert was shy and adorable and helpful and selfless. Of course he figured it out and made Aaron cry for the first time he can remember once his secret was out. An impossible weight taken off his shoulders.  

He is not alone anymore.

It’s unbelievable actually that Robert didn’t run for the hills as soon as he found out. It doesn’t make sense. Why should someone like Robert be interested in him? 

But Robert wanted him. Wants him.

And it was only down to him that Aaron got his first ever B in English Literature. He won‘t ever forget his beating heart and Ashley Thomas‘ pleased smile after their presentation. And then Robert initiated a steamy make out afterwards, to celebrate as he put it, and it all felt like the best dream Aaron ever had. 

Right at that moment Robert must have sensed the eyes on him, because he pauses his writing and glances over. Aaron sees him biting back a smile and blushing. God, he blushes so easily, it‘s adorable! 

Aaron‘s heart does a painful little flip and his belly tingles pleasantly. 

He‘s crushing so hard on Robert, he doesn‘t know what to do with himself most of the time. 

Time is stretching endlessly until lunch break and with one last look at the other boy, Aaron is rushing towards the football pitch. Once he gets there he throws his backpack away and pulls the hideous tie off. He loathes that awful school uniform, but only on himself that is, because when Robert comes around the corner a few minutes later, he can‘t help but think how utterly hot Robert looks wearing it. That nerd look really does things to Aaron. 

Robert smiles at him. “Hiya.“

Aaron doesn‘t respond, instead he‘s making a lunge at Robert‘s mouth, finally happily kissing his boyfriend again. The thumping heart in his chest, the warmth in his belly, the blood rushing south - this indescribable excitement is something he never wants to get used to. Robert tastes amazing and kisses him back with just the same urge. Only a second later hands are carefully touching his jaw, gently cradling his face and Robert makes a little humming noise that shoots like a hot dagger in Aaron‘s crotch. 

Eventually they pull back because the need for oxygen is unfortunately a thing.

“Hi,” Aaron gasps, staring at Robert’s rosy, wet lips that are slowly transforming into a soft smile.

“Hi,” the mouth says. 

He tears his eyes away from it, gaze slowly traveling up, over the nose and hundreds of adorable freckles to those wonderful, bright green-blue eyes. 

Aaron is pretty sure that he is in love. 

When he first saw Robert in class two years ago, something stirred inside him, a feeling that wouldn’t go away no matter how hard he tried. He thought Robert was cute. Which was nothing you’d think about another bloke normally, was it? Aaron caught himself glancing at Robert more and more frequently and not only did he stare at his face, he also checked out his butt in the school hallway. As soon as he realised it, a sudden heat flushed his body along with a fiery spike of arousal. 

Aaron was 15 and so far he wasn’t much interested in relationships or sex like most of his classmates and to be honest, he didn’t really care. Not getting close to anybody made it easier to hide his illiteracy and Aaron was more than fine with that.

But now the sight of Robert Sugden’s clothed arse made him hard in the middle of the school corridor. Aaron fled to the next toilet and locked himself up in a stall. He stared down at the visible bulge of his trousers with a mix of fear and anger, but also burning desire. 

Which, of course, led him right to the relationship with Holly Barton a few months later, because if Aaron was sure of one thing, then it was that he wasn’t gay. He loved football and cars and he couldn’t be gay, alright? 

“What?” Robert’s unsure laughter pulls him back from the past and Aaron realises that he had been staring, when he sees his boyfriend blushing again.

And oh yes, Aaron is gay and so, so in love with this adorable, precious boy! It’s way too early to tell Robert though, you can’t spring the L-word on someone after two weeks of dating, even Aaron knows that.

“Nothing,” he smiles and leans in for another kiss.

It’s how they spend their lunch break, kissing and talking and more kissing and like always, time’s up way too quickly. Robert pulls his phone out and they both glare ruefully at the merciless numbers on the display. 

“Time to go back,” he says quietly, already missing Robert’s body against his own. 

“Hey, uhm, I thought…” Robert starts, when he grabs his backpack from the ground and Aaron waits for him to continue. “Err. There’s a new Marvel movie coming out this week…”

“Oh yeah, the new Avengers, right? I saw a trailer on youtube, looks ace!”

“We could watch it together? If you want? On Friday?“ Robert asks, suddenly nervous, and only when Aaron notices his red glowing ears does he realise that this is a date.

Their first date!

Millions of little butterflies are flapping their wings excitedly in Aaron‘s belly and he doesn‘t even try to hold back the huge grin that spreads on his face.

“Yeah, sure. Cool.“

Robert beams back at him, mirroring that anticipation. Can it be Friday already?!

 

-    -

 

Time flies and suddenly it is Friday and Aaron is not ready! Biting his thumbnail, he‘s standing in front of his wardrobe, trying to figure out what to wear. Way too late he‘s realising that his clothing mostly consists of well worn black hoodies and black jeans and although that is his favourite combination, he‘s not sure if he should wear it tonight.

A date should be something special, shouldn‘t it? Aren‘t you supposed to wear something nice on a date night? All his date knowledge consists of what he saw in movies and there is always that breath hitching moment where the main characters meet for their date and always say something like ‘you look great’. 

Aaron is so fucked! 

He grabs his phone and opens whatsapp.

“I have a date tonight and I‘m freaking out. What am I gonna wear?“ he says into his phone.

Only seconds later a low ding signals a new message.

“Send me a pic of your wardrobe,“ Holly commands. 

Not beating around the bush, straight ahead to the topic, that‘s why he likes her. Feeling instantly ten times better, he snaps a pic and hits send, hoping that she‘d sort him out. Holly would know what to wear, women knew all about clothes, right?

Ding.

“It‘s all black, I can‘t see anything!“

Aaron groans and throws his phone on the bed and rubs his hands over his short hair. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. 

What if he shows up in his usual black hoodie and Robert is dressed up smart? He might think Aaron didn‘t make an effort, not to mention the awkwardness of the moment which could ruin the whole date. 

And, what‘s way worse is that nagging voice in his head that keeps telling him that Robert will see how it is: that he isn‘t in Robert‘s league. 

Ten minutes later he is still having his internal crisis when the doorbell rings. Since his father has gone to the pub - again - Aaron jumps down the stairs, wondering who it might be since he‘s supposed to meet Robert at the cinema. Maybe it‘s Mrs Walsh again with her bloody hairdryer. Aaron fixed that stupid thing twice already and he can‘t understand why she wouldn‘t just buy a new one. Old ladies and their weird habits. 

When he opens the door, Holly shoves past him, without so much as greeting him.

“What-?“ he asks dumbly, but she’s already halfway up the stairs. 

For a second he is rooted to the spot, totally bummed, before he springs to action and follows her. When he comes into his room, she is already flicking through his clothes, shoving the hangers from left to right quickly.

“Thought you could use my help,“ she informs him without really looking at him, too busy checking out his hoodies and letting out noises of disapproval. 

Aaron sinks down on his bed and watches her. His Ex is seriously trying to sort his outfit for his date - the situation might be extremely awkward, if they both weren’t truly and totally over each other. 

They weren’t in love or anything. She wanted to experiment and he tried to prove himself he wasn’t gay. Yeah, well, that didn’t work out, did it. 

When he tried to sleep with her, he couldn’t and there was a horrible moment of shame and humiliation where Aaron just wanted to die. But Holly told him that it didn’t matter and she wouldn’t tell anyone and it could happen to anyone. She was amazing that night, absolutely amazing.

He broke off with her the next day, because he really liked her, just not that way. To his surprise she wasn’t mad at him, instead she became his only friend and stayed a part of his life - and she did save his arse in school more times he can count.

“Soooo, a date huh?“ Holly asks after a moment of silence. 

He squirms on the bed. He should have known she‘s nosy. Settling for a humming noise he tries to make it clear that he‘s not keen on elucidating. 

“Who is it then? Someone from school?“ Of course she can‘t take the hint. She turns around and looks at him and Aaron feels his cheeks heating up. “Aw it‘s totally someone from school!“ she cooes. 

“Shut up,“ he mutters defensively. 

A part of him wants to tell her, wants to shout it from the rooftops for everyone to know: Robert Sugden is my boyfriend!

But they haven‘t talked about making it official yet and Aaron is scared to do something that Robert might be mad about later, so he presses his lips tightly together. 

“Where are your school uniforms?“ she demands to know all of a sudden.

“Err… drawer.“ He points to the furniture in question.

She‘s raising her neatly drawn eyebrows. “You keep your hoodies on hangers, while your uniform shirts are stuffed in a drawer?“ Holly is tsk-ing him. “Seriously, Dingle.”

Opening the first drawer, she makes a strangled noise at the sight of the mess inside.

“Oi, I love my hoodies.“ 

Aaron buys them from his own money. They might be all black, but some have white strings, others have black strings, some a slim fit, others are wide - there are differences, okay? The school uniform, however, he hates with a passion. 

At least Holly is dropping the 20 questions now that she‘s searching through his shirts.

“Is it someone from our class?“

Ok, no such luck then.

She pulls out a white shirt - they all look the same anyway! - and hands it over to him. Reluctantly he grabs it with two fingers.

“What am I supposed to do with that?!” he glares at the piece of clothing.

Holly rolls her eyes dramatically and sighs deeply. “Guess what!”

“Isn’t that a bit too much?”

She crosses her arms and gives him an unimpressed look until he caves and strips out of his hoodie. It’s not like she hasn’t seen him naked already. 

“Ohmygod, it’s not Sarina, is it?” Holly says suddenly, eyes widening. The thought seems to excite her, but it’s like a punch in the guts for Aaron. “Poor cow has had it bad for you for ages now!” She laughs. 

He hasn’t told her that he’s gay. No one knows, except Robert, of course. 

“No, she hasn’t,” he objects, frowning, while he pulls on the shirt. 

Sarina? The tiny brunette from the front row? As far as Aaron knows she hasn’t even looked twice in his direction since they’ve been sharing a class. 

“Urgh, Aaron, you’re so oblivious. Okay, if it’s not her, then… hmmm….” Holly thinks loudly until her face lights up once more. “It’s Kira!” She snaps her fingers. “Isn’t it? You two would be perfect for each other!”

Funny that Holly thinks that, considering Aaron hasn’t even spoken to Kira so far.

For a moment he debates if he should tell her that it’s not a girl at all, but then the courage is leaving him. His nerves are all over the place because of the date already and time’s ticking, he’s gonna have to leave soon. 

He closes the buttons with harsh little movements, trying to hide his shaking fingers and stays quiet.

“You’re really not gonna tell me, huh?” Holly pouts.

Aaron ignores her and looks into the mirror on the inside of his wardrobe. The white shirt builds a hard contrast to his dark jeans and Aaron feels weird. He never wore a shirt outside of school.

“I look like a waiter,” he says grumpily and pulls at the fabric.

“You look good.”

“I look like a weirdo from a cult.” 

Holly throws her arms up in the air. “Stop being difficult,” she prompts. “ A bit of gel in your hair and you’re good to go.” She ruffles his short curls and he pulls back with a wrinkled nose. 

“Oi, stop it!”

“Alright, my job is done,” she decides and gives him a pat on his shoulder. “But you will tell me who the mysterious girl is, yeah?” Holly points her finger at him and looks expectantly. 

Aaron swallows uncomfortably, but nods eventually. It’s gonna come out anyway sooner or later. 

“Okay. I’ll let myself out. You get that hair sorted, alright? Have fun! Bye!”

And with that Holly is gone just as quickly as she stormed in a few minutes ago. She’s absolutely crazy and that's probably why Aaron likes her so much. 

He stares at his reflection, still pulling at the shirt. 

It doesn’t help much. Aaron feels strange. This isn’t him, this is fucking masquerade.

With a frustrated groan he rips the shirt off again and slips into his black hoodie. The fabric hugs his body, warm and comforting. He instantly feels better, more like himself again.

Aaron lets out a long and shaky breath, trying to get his nerves under control. So, his outfit is nothing special by any means, but it’ll have to do. 

 

-    -

 

Robert is standing there in front of the ticket counters, waiting. Whenever he hears people entering the building he turns and cranes his neck to check, but so far Aaron hasn‘t shown up.

It‘s 10 past 7 already, but Robert tells himself not to freak out. There is no reason to freak out.

There are like thousands of possibilities why Aaron could be late, in fact, if Robert had a paper and a calculator he could project the chances…

Eventually he does freak out, because this is his bloody first date and his nerves are raw.

He wipes his clammy hands on his grey jumper and takes a deep breath, staring at the brown carpet. Pull yourself together, Robert. He can do this. 

When he looks up, there he finally is. 

There is a moment where his breath hitches, like in those corny highschool romance movies, when their eyes lock.  

He’s stunning. Aaron is wearing one of his black hoodies, it’s the one with the white strings that Robert loves the most. It highlights his shoulders and snuggles perfectly against his body. There is a bit of gel in his short hair too, giving him such a bad boy look that makes Robert heat up quickly. His heart stutters painfully in his chest at how hot his boyfriend looks. 

“Hiya,” Aaron smiles at him.

Every fibre of his body urges him to close the gap, take Aaron into his arms and kiss him. Just like all the other couples around them are doing. All the other heterosexual couples. 

Having a boyfriend and having a boyfriend in public are two very different things all of a sudden and the realisation hits Robert like a truck. 

Instead of greeting his boyfriend like he originally wanted to do, he settles for a quiet: “Hi.“


Aaron clears his throat, “You, uh…. You look amazing.”

He’s blushing then, not able to do anything against it, really. Getting such compliments is nothing he’s used to. Vic’s wardrobe advice is a hit as it seems, although Robert will never admit to her of course. He can do without her ‘I told you so’ attitude, thanks very much.

“You too,” Robert says shyly, eyes glued to the ground until he lifts them for a quick look.

God yeah. So hot. 

After another short moment of nervous smiles and shy glances they finally make their way to the food corner. Robert bought their tickets online already and Aaron pays for their drinks and snacks. There are huge pictures of the various menus above the counter, which makes it easy for Aaron to decide. Cinemas are safe places, no need to worry about too many words and letters here, Robert reckons. They settle for a giant bucket of popcorn and a large coke, which basically comes in a bucket, too. 

He can‘t quite explain why the thought of sharing an overpriced, too sweet sugar syrup is something that makes his belly pleasantly tingle. 

It‘s romantic.

Robert wills his body to relax as they slowly walk towards their movie hall and he keeps chatting about the Marvel universe to distract himself. Aaron dutifully nods along, but stays quiet otherwise and too late Robert notices his mistake. He shuts his mouth with an audible click of his teeth, lowering his eyes guiltily.

“Sorry,“ he mutters.

“What? For what?“ Aaron frowns.

“For being a boring nerd.“

Robert turns away and shows his phone to the guy who scans the code of their tickets. He’s glad to avoid Aaron's eyes right now. Why does he always have to ruin a situation with his stupid rambling? For once he wants to be cool, only for once! 

When they walk up the dark alley into the theatre, Aaron leans over and whispers: “A superhot nerd, you mean.“ His breath tickles Robert’s neck. 

“Yeah?“ he whispers back and his heart nearly doubles its speed.

“Yeah.“

Their seats are in the last row and because it‘s a blockbuster movie, the hall is pretty crowded already. They snuggle into the soft chairs, munch the popcorn, share their huge drink and exchange some long and deep looks that make Robert feel hot and cold. Giddy. 

He‘s happy.

There is a short moment, between the commercials and the beginning of the movie, where all the lights go out and the whole room gets dark. Suddenly Robert is being pulled to the side and he turns his head to meet Aaron halfway across the armrest for a warm and dry peck. Soft and yet firm. It‘s only a short moment, a brief contact, but it’s enough to set Robert’s body on fire. The first scene is lighting up the theatre again and he sees Aaron smiling at him with that fond expression as if Robert was the most precious person he‘d ever seen. 

Robert finds that pretty hard to believe if he‘s honest and the gaze is almost too intense, so he squirms on his seat and casts his eyes to the front again. 

Five minutes later, Aaron sneaks his hand over and intertwines their fingers with a gentle squeeze. 

Robert’s heartbeat speeds up again, thumping loud and erratically in his chest. 

It‘s how they sit until the lights go on again three hours later.

 

-     -

 

They both don‘t want to head home right after the Avengers movie and that‘s how they end up on a public playground. It‘s still warm, one of those summer nights with no wind and temperature drop. The earth is charged with heat and the air smells sweet, crickets are chirping a loud concert. 

Aaron leads Robert into one of those wooden play houses and they curl up on the floor, finally, finally alone. Aaron immediately wraps his arms around him and takes a deep inhale. Robert hugs him back and then they sit there in silence, while their hands are carefully stroking arms and backs and chests. Although he has to sit slightly twisted on that hard and sandy floor and his left arsecheek is getting numb already, Aaron doesn’t want to be anywhere else in the world right now.

“Good first date?” Robert whispers.

“The best,” he sighs happily. 

“Good.” Robert kisses his hair and it’s such a sweet little gesture that causes Aaron to close his eyes and let out a shaky breath.

He turns his head and searches Robert’s mouth in the darkness. When their lips lock, he can’t hold back the little hum. His boyfriend tastes like coke and popcorn and perfection and Aaron opens his mouth to gently suck his lower lip in and nibble at it. 

“I can’t wait to go on loads of dates during summer break,” he whispers against Robert’s lips like he’s admitting a secret. 

“Yeah?” A little breath.

The holidays can’t come soon enough this year. Aaron is planning all sorts of scenarios in his head already and they all involve him and Robert spending every spare minute together.

“Usually I hate the summer break,” Robert says, after he pulled back again and they both gasped for air. “Because I have to help on the farm every day, while all the other kids can go swimming or do whatever they like.”

Aaron feels a pang of disappointment. Swimming was definitely on his list for this summer.

“But this year it won’t be that bad, I guess,” Robert’s voice is so low that Aaron has to strain his ears to hear him, “because I have you.”

His eyes are searching for Robert’s face, but it’s too dark to see the expression. He only sees the outline and the white of his eyes as a grey shadow. A hand is travelling up Aaron’s arm, over his shoulder and neck, until it rests on his jaw, warm thumb softly stroking his skin.

“We’ll spend lots of time together. We’ll find a way,” he promises. 

“I think I’m in love with you!” Robert blurts out and when Aaron’s breath hitches, he draws his hand back as if he got burnt. “I’m sorry! I… Sorry, I didn’t… It’s probably too early to say that….” he stammers and turns his head away.

“No! No… Just…” Aaron’s head is spinning, heat is spreading from his belly, setting his body on fire. 

Robert is in love with him! It’s the best thing Aaron has ever heard and from one second to another he feels like he’s floating. He can’t believe it! Robert is in love with him! 

>>>
Aaron climbs on his lap quickly and kisses him, this time more passionate, more urgent. He tries to put all his feelings that he can’t quite express with words into his movements, into his touches. The angle is better now to get his hands all over Robert and Aaron just goes for whatever his instincts tell him, because it feels so damn
right. 

He’s hard in seconds, his dick straining painfully against his skinny jeans and he moans into Robert’s mouth. 

That memory of their hot make out in his room a few weeks ago is living in his mind rent free, the glorious sound of Robert moaning is still ringing in his ears, the sight of him coming undone and cuming imprinted in his retinas. He wants him like that again.

“Can I jerk you off?” He is panting now, body trembling with arousal and excitement.

The dark silhouette nods and breathes just as hard. Aaron doesn’t waste another second, he goes straight for Robert’s fly with shaking fingers and opens the jeans quickly. Only a moment later he wraps his dry hand around the cock - hard, hot and twitching in his grip. It’s so damn hot. The typical smell of precome hits his nose and Aaron leans his forehead against Robert’s shoulder and inhales deeply. He takes a short time where he just sits there and marvels at the perfection of the moment. 

“Aaron… please…” Robert’s voice sounds wrecked.

The little ‘please’ has Aaron nearly spilling his load from his untouched cock into his pants. Holy Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Robert Sugden begging him to jerk him off. 

Aaron springs to life, lifts his hand to spit onto his palm. Not the best lube, but it’ll do. He rubs it all over Robert’s dick and spits a second time on it, to make the slide extra smooth, before he starts moving his arm. He tries different motions, different grips, little wrist circles, just what he prefers mostly and tries to identify from Robert’s noises what he likes the most.

It doesn’t take long for Robert to writhe underneath him, to bite his lips stifling his high pitched moans.

“Kiss me!” he groans suddenly, urgently. “Kiss me. I’m-... Aaron!”

Aaron smashes his mouth on Robert for a sloppy kiss, their teeth clicking and tongues swirling. Sensing Robert’s close he shoves his boyfriend’s jumper up and speeds his tugs up. Robert goes rigid and lets out a desperate whine, hot cum is spilling from his twitching cock. Aaron jerks him through it, milking him, feeling the jizz coating his hand stickily. When Robert gets soft and sensitive, Aaron shuffles back on the lap to go for his own cock.

Using Robert’s spunk as lube, he comes embarrassingly quick - Robert is still out of breath - and tries to keep his clothes clean as best as he can. 

Then they are both half lying, half sitting there, gasping for air, messy and sticky with cum. 

“Fuck,” Robert says after they’ve calmed down a bit, “that’s gross.”

<<<
Aaron starts snickering and Robert chimes in and soon they are both laughing hysterically. Yes, it is gross, but wow, did Aaron never feel happier in his whole life! The endorphins are flooding his system and he’s lightheaded and overall
buzzing, his skin turned into one tingling sensation.  

In the end they use Aaron’s undershirt to clean themselves up and throw it in the bin afterwards when they leave the playground, both still giggling.

Best first date ever. 

 

-     -

 

For the first time ever Aaron doesn’t feel alien and lonely, doesn’t feel like a freak who can’t read or write. For the first time ever the illiteracy doesn’t dominate his life. Instead there is this all consuming first love and the thought that he belongs somewhere, he belongs with Robert. 

He thinks it stays like this forever.

He should know better, but he’s only young and so, so naive. 






Chapter Text

 

 

“Hiya, sorry, I can’t make it. I’m so sorry, Aaron. I wish I could, but my dad said he needed me today…” Aaron hears Robert’s voice tremble. “I’d rather be with you! It’s so unfair. We had a pretty bad fight, but he’s so damn stubborn.” Someone is shouting in the background, but Aaron can’t quite understand what was said. “I gotta go. I’m so sorry, Aaron. I’ll call you later, yeah?”

The voice message ends. Aaron throws his phone on his bed in frustration and glares angrily at the bag he just finished packing, with his swim trunks and towels. They wanted to go to a lake nearby today and made plans  days ago after the forecast predicted a new heat record. Disappointment settles heavy in his guts and he slumps down on his desk chair.

Robert warned him about it beforehand, told him about Jack Sugden coming up with all sorts of ‘jobs’ during the summer break and Aaron thought he was mentally prepared for a situation like this, but he’s still gutted. This wasn’t how this day was supposed to be. 

He downs an energy drink in one go and starts gaming, but he can’t focus on it really. His thoughts wander automatically to the mental image of Robert in swim trunks, torso glistening with water drops, wet hair standing up in different directions. 

Since their first date nothing has happened besides kissing and Aaron was hoping for a little repeat if he’s honest. Damn, he’s a 17-year-old with an animated sex drive, so sue him. He wants Robert. He misses Robert. 

After moping around for another hour, Aaron curses and gets up, grabs his phone, keys and wallet and hurries down the stairs. Without thinking too much about it, he takes his bike and makes his way through the heated streets of Hotten. The air stream is hot like a hairdryer and he’s quickly sweating. It gets better as soon as he leaves  town and rides along the fields and woods. Aaron is far from being a nature person, but even he can appreciate the beauty of the day: the clear, dark blue sky, the lush green trees to his left and the corn fields that seemed to stretch endlessly to his right. 

Finally he’s reaching his destination. Emmerdale Farm is a complex of different buildings, consisting of the stone farmhouse, a gigantic cow barn, a smaller barn for the various machinery, stables and a newer building in which the pigs were held. From what Robert told him, Aaron knows that there are more barns further outside in the fields. The Sugden’s land must be huge. 

He slows down, not really knowing what to do next exactly. He came here on a whim and now as he looks at the farm, he feels a bit lost. It’s the thought of getting a glimpse of Robert that keeps him going in the end. Maybe he can even steal a kiss?

 

-    -

 

“Aw, scared of breaking off your fingernails, princess?” Andy laughs and Robert hates him so much right, hates all of this goddamn shit.  

Just a moment ago, his brother thrust  two buckets at him that Robert could barely catch, because they were bloody heavy! 

They are filled with chicken feed, because this is his next job apparently. Count on Andy to find new tasks for him all day long. First the pigs, now the chickens, god, Robert is so done with it all. All he wanted was to spend the day with Aaron, go to the lake and swim a bit. Have fun.

Ogle his boyfriend’s half naked body. 

Just the stuff boys his age would do on a hot summer day during holidays! But no, he is stuck on this fucking farm, forced to do everything Andy and his dad tell him to. 

Robert wants to scream, wants to shout out his sheer frustration, but he doesn’t, he just glares at Andy and feels that anger boiling inside him. As soon as he can, he’s out of here, he vows to himself for like a millionth time and then his father and Andy can kiss his arse goodbye. He sure as hell won’t spend his life in barns and on tractors, he’d rather shove a rusty knife into his eye. Robert will make a career and he’s gonna earn proper cash, more money than his dad and brother can dream about. 

Without another word he leaves the shed where they store their fodder, knowing too well that an argument would do nothing but frustrate him even more. So he tries to swallow it down. Andy’s stupid remark was only one of many and nothing Robert hasn’t heard before - he ignored it before so he can do it again.

“Oi! Robert!”

Wait what?! Robert stops on his way to the coop and his head whips into the direction where the voice came from. He knows this voice. This raspy, sexy voice. 

Indeed, there is Aaron behind the barn, smiling at him and oh, he nearly drops the buckets, because the sight sets butterflies free in his belly. Robert quickly looks around before he hurries over.

“What are you doing here?” As happy as he is to see Aaron, he can’t hide the tremble in his voice.

What if his father sees him with his boyfriend?!

“Just visiting my mate, aren’t I?” Aaron says defensively and bites his lip. “I just...I wanted to see you.”

Robert melts, like downright melts then and there. Seeing Aaron Dingle bashful like that, glancing at him through his dark lashes, Jesus Christ.

“Come,” is all he says before he’s putting the buckets down and marching off along the walls of the buildings. 

There is only one place he wants to be right now with Aaron and so Robert leads him into the stables, his hideaway on the farm, since the horses were his mother’s favourite animals and she used to take them for regular rides. 

As soon as the wooden door is closed behind them, Aaron throws himself at Robert and kisses him.

“Aaron.” He squirms out of his boyfriend’s embrace. “I’m sticky and gross,” he says, cheeks glowing with embarrassment. Damn, he can smell himself.

“I don’t care,” Aaron says quickly. “I don’t care,” he repeats to emphasise his words and kisses him again as if to prove it.

It takes a moment until the resistance leaves Robert's body and he finally gives in and hugs Aaron back. A warm hand touches the back of his neck, pulls him closer and a finger is gently playing with his hair. Robert sags against Aaron and their mouths find each other, lips sliding sinfully slow. 

Suddenly there is a loud clang and acting on pure instinct and shock Robert shoves Aaron away, so hard, his boyfriend stumbles backwards. 

His heart misses a beat when Jack Sugden strides into the stables a second later.

“Robert? What are you doing here?” his father sounds clearly irritated. “I told you to feed the chickens!”

Robert is frozen on the spot, every muscle tense, too shocked to get his mouth cooperating to answer. Oh God, his dad almost walked in on him kissing a boy!

Only then Sugden senior notices his boyfriend and he scowls at Aaron. “And who are you?”

“I’m already done with the chickens,” Robert lies and Aaron pipes up in the same moment: “I’m a mate of Robert’s. From school.”

Aaron lifts his chin and takes a step towards his dad, raising his hand for a shake. “I’m Aaron. We met before, Mr Sugden. Robert and I did the English assignment together.” 

Jack Sugden is kinda scary with his piercing glare and his impressive size. Robert knows that, he has received that glare so, so often in his life already. His old man shakes Aaron’s hand then and Robert watches his knuckles turning white. The grip of a lifelong farmer, a tough man. Bless Aaron though, he manages to keep his face even, not even wincing a little bit.

“The assignment, huh? And what are you doing here, Aaron? Unfortunately my son is busy and has no time to laze around although sometimes I wonder if it's the only thing he’s good for.”

Robert lowers his head, the humiliation makes him sick to his stomach, being talked down like this in front of Aaron, fuck, this is the worst.

“Actually, I’m here to help. I’m looking for a job.”

Robert’s head whips up quickly and he stares at Aaron. 

“A job, is that so,” Jack Sugden murmurs and gives him a calculating once over.

“Yep, sir. I thought you might need a helping hand during summer.”

Robert’s heart is beating so loud in his chest that he fears for a moment his father might actually hear it. What the hell is Aaron doing?!

“Do you have any experience with manual labour?” Jack wants to know, flicking his gaze to his son. “Because I already have someone with two left hands and I can only hire you if you’re an actual help.”

Robert is shuffling on his feet, hanging his head even lower, if that is even possible. He feels so small right now, he just wishes the ground would open up and swallow him like that. Anything to escape this situation.

“Sure! I like repairing stuff, like cars. I’m a quick learner if you let me, Mr Sugden.”

“Fine. Let’s try this, we could do with some help, couldn’t we, Robert?” his dad slaps his shoulder so hard it causes him to wobble, green eyes firmly glued to the floor. “You can start on Monday, I’ll pay you five pounds per hour. Be here at seven, our day starts early. Robert, show him everything, will ya?”

After those words Jack Sugden turns around and leaves without a goodbye or whatever. When the door shuts behind him, Aaron lets out a long breath. 

“Hey, are you alright?” he asks softly and reaches out to touch Robert’s arm.

He jerks back and finally lifts his head. “What the hell are you playing at?” Robert shouts and he is so angry, he’s practically shaking.

Aaron takes a cautious step back. “I’m not playing anything, I just thought it would be perfect, if I-”

“Perfect?” Robert interrupts him and laughs bitterly. “Are you out of your fucking mind?”

He can’t believe his boyfriend just did that! As if that short encounter wasn’t bad enough, no! Now Robert will have to suffer from embarrassment all summer and Aaron is going to witness every snarky comment, every joke on Robert’s expanse. Every time he fails doing a task to their satisfaction. Great, just bloody great.

“Robert, I don’t get it! Why are you so angry? I just wanna help you!” Aaron frowns at him, obviously confused.

How can he not get it? Didn’t he see what just happened with Robert’s father?!

Robert scoffs, shoving his hands into the pockets of his too big green overalls. “Yeah, cheers for that. Can’t wait to have you around when he and my brother make fun of me and mock me all day.” His voice is laced with bitterness and his cheeks are starting to burn. 

And that’s when the penny finally drops. The frown on Aaron’s forehead slowly disappears and is replaced by a soft expression. 

“I won’t let that happen,” Aaron says quietly and takes a step towards Robert again. The blue eyes are locked on his, determined. Stubborn. “I won’t.”

He reaches out carefully and pulls Robert into a hug. And Robert wants to believe him, he really does.

“Are you really sure you wanna spend your summer here? Working all day?” he mutters against Aaron’s neck, giving him a chance to back out. Seriously, he wouldn’t blame Aaron if he did.

“Gonna have the hottest co-worker in the UK, so it could be worse, I guess.”

Robert can hear that smile in his voice and the little tease works wonders on his stiff muscles. The tension is slowly draining from his body and he hugs him back.

“Sorry, my brother really isn't that hot.” 

They both chuckle at his weak joke. So, Aaron would rather spend his summer holidays working here on the farm than chill and sleep - only because of him! Robert has a hard time to get his head around that fact, because boy, the farm sucks big time! He reckons Aaron has no idea what he’d gotten himself into.

“Seriously though. You’re an idiot,” Robert whispers and buries his face against Aaron’s warm skin.

They keep standing there, wrapped up in a tight embrace, neither realising that they even started swaying slightly. 

 

-     -

 

So it turns out working on the farm… isn‘t that bad! It‘s actually pretty cool? Yeah, Aaron is surprised too because of that revelation, if he‘s honest. Sure, getting up in the middle of the night is a massive pain in the arse, but the actual work is interesting and has some real perks, like working outside most of the time and the fact that he learns so many new things. It turns out he really is good with his hands. 

The manual labour quickly becomes something he’s looking forward to every day. He‘s actually doing something, creating something, a result he can look at and say: I did that. It’s deeply satisfying. 

Of course the best thing is that he gets to spend all day with Robert. 

Today they’re being sent out to fix a fence, a job that is done fairly quickly, but instead of straight heading back, they just lay down on the grass and enjoy the sunshine for a while. 

Turning his head, Aaron watches Robert, who has his eyes closed and a small smile on his face. Aaron takes his time to stare at the freckles and the little moles and he wishes he could lean over and kiss them all. He doesn’t though, out here in the open, so close to the farm where Robert’s idiot brother might show up any second and so he settles for the next best thing: he takes Robert’s hand in his own and intertwines their fingers. 

The tiny smile turns into a full grin and Robert says without opening his eyes: “Soft lad.”

“Am not,” Aaron answers back.

“Hmmmm. You’re staring at me, aren’t you.” 

Smug fucker. Aaron quickly turns his head away. “Am not.”

They are silent again and Aaron thinks again about kissing Robert and then he thinks about how everything is so difficult for them, just because they’re two blokes. They can’t just be, no, they had to come out , declare their sexuality as if it was anyone’s damn fucking business. They won’t be able to simply hold hands in public like the hets are doing because it’s normal, no, they will always need to check where they are, whether it’s a gay friendly area, because otherwise some dickhead could feel offended and might attack them for who they are. 

It’s not fair. It’s not right. 

And it makes Aaron so damn angry. 

“What are you thinking about?” Robert asks him and tenderly strokes his thumb over Aaron’s hand. 

“Coming out.”

At that, Robert rips his eyes open and turns towards him. “You want to come out?”

“Noooo! I mean-,” Aaron stops himself, “Of course, one day I wanna come out, but… I was thinking about, you know, coming out in general. About the fact that we have to come out at all. It sucks.”

“Yeah,” Robert agrees quietly. “Although my sister and the guys from school took it surprisingly well…”

It’s true, apart from a few verbal insults in the hallway, Robert didn’t get harassed at school. If he did, Aaron would make sure it’s not gonna happen again. Like he did with Ross Barton, that plonker. Didn’t have such a big mouth anymore when he begged Aaron to stop. Well, he deserved every punch he got, as far as Aaron’s concerned. Ross hasn’t laid a finger on Robert since then. 

“Have you thought about telling Andy or your dad?” 

His boyfriend’s face darkens. “No.” He turns on his back again, avoiding Aaron’s eyes. 

The following silence clearly indicates that this is everything Robert is going to say to this question.

“I don’t know how my dad would react if he knew…” 

It really is hard to tell, because Gordon usually doesn’t care about him much, he’s busy with work and hitting the pub with his football buddies, mostly leaving Aaron to himself. The range of possible reactions varies from not giving a fuck to kicking him out. Aaron isn’t ready to find out what it’s gonna be. 

The mere thought about it seems crushing. Why does it have to be such a bloody big thing at all? It’s not fair!

“Fuck, this whole coming out shit sucks!” it bursts out of him and Robert grunts in affirmation. “I just wanna be with you without all the hassle.”

Robert squeezes his hand, murmuring something that sounds a lot like “soft lad” again. This time Aaron doesn’t object.

 

-    -

 

There doesn’t a day in his life go by where Aaron doesn’t think of Liv. He remembers how he was jealous at first, because his baby sister demanded all the attention of his father and Sandra and Aaron felt left out. But the older Liv got, she more and more reacted to him. Smiled at him, took his hand, wanted his toys, parroted the words he told her in that babbling baby style. Being a big brother, he found out, wasn’t so bad. He actually reaaly  liked it. Playing with her, reading stories for her, picking her up from nursery when Sandra didn’t feel like it. 

And then suddenly, from one day to another, she was just gone. Sandra packed her suitcase, her daughter and left her partner and his problematic, prepubescent rebel of a son. Fuck, did he hate her for it. Still does. The worst though is the fading memories of his little sister. Some moments are imprinted in his brain, he can see them in his mind's eye as if he’d watched a movie, can even hear her. But then again, he doesn’t remember her birthday - only that it wasn’t that long after his - or how old she is now and he feels guilty, because he should know stuff like that, right? 

Working on the Sugden farm is like having a younger sister again since Vic joins them every so often, bringing them snacks or iced soft drinks and Aaron likes that, likes her and her big gob. He likes it the most that she knows about them and they can just be around her, without worrying about letting their eyes linger too long or smiling  at each other too brightly. It’s nice and easy. 

“So who made the first move then?” Vic asks and bites into her toast.

Today she joined them for breakfast and now they’re sitting together in the shadows under a giant tree at the side of the house.

“Vic!” Bless his embarrassed boyfriend for blushing so adorably, Aaron wants to kiss him stupid.

“I bet it was Aaron,” Vic goes on, her mouth still full, nudging Robert’s side and grinning. “You were probably just happy mooning over him.” 

“I did not-... I wasn’t-” Robert splutters, face turning even more red.

Aaron smiles at the siblings, feeling a little pang in his chest about that special relationship he couldn’t have. He wonders how she’s doing these days. If she remembers him at all. Probably not, since she was too little when she left. He clears his throat that feels awfully tight now, but there is no need to dwell on sad memories when he can’t change reality anyway, so he forces his mind away from his past back to present and his boyfriend being all shy next to him. 

“Mooning over me, eh?” Aaron teases. 

“Shut up.” 

Loud footsteps are approaching and Aaron sees Robert immediately tensing and lowering his head.

“Breakfast‘s over,“ Jack Sugden declares shortly, leaving no room for objecting. “Get back to work now.“

“Everything alright?“ Vic asks, looking up at her dad with big eyes while Robert automatically starts packing the food back in the boxes. 

“No, the goddamn combine harvester is messing about.“ 

Aaron slowly swallows his food down. Jack wants to drive out on the field for the crop harvest at the end of the week, so this wasn‘t good at all and the old man looks pretty pissed. 

“Dingle!“ Robert‘s father says suddenly, his eyes piercing into Aaron‘s skin. “You said you know how to fix a car, right?“

He freezes on the spot.

“Yeah, a car dad! Not a combine harvester!“ Robert pipes up next to him.

“I‘m not talking to you, am I, since you don’t understand anything about that, I‘m talking to Aaron.“ Jack‘s gaze doesn‘t even leave Aaron‘s face as he verbally slaps his son. 

Anger is boiling inside him against Sugden senior once more. He hates how he treats Robert, who did nothing at all to deserve this. 

“I know how to fix a car,“ he confirms, raising his chin. Ever the big gob before his brain can stop him. He won‘t back down or show any fear to Jack though. 

“C‘mon then,“ the farmer orders, jerking his head towards the machinery barn. 

Following Jack Sugden across the yard, Aaron feels his nerves vibrating with rising anxiety. Cars are hardly comparable with combine harvesters, are they?! But he had to play the big man in front of Robert’s dad, fuck. 

“I wanna see if we can fix it ourselves, before I ask a mechanic to look at it. Goddamn vultures with their insane call out charge and then the hours they work on it… complete waste of money when you can fix it on your own, right?”

Aaron doesn’t talk back, although he thinks it’s only fair that miles and hours are priced since they are experts and have to live off their job and maybe provide for a family. Good work should be paid, okay? Of course Sugden is one of those tightfisted old boys who’s not willing to spend a single penny until the shit is actually falling apart in front of him. 

After spending the morning in fierce sunlight, the barn is pitch black at first when Aaron enters. It‘s cooler here and smells like oil and petrol. When his eyes are slowly getting used to the dim light, he spots Andy at the thresher, fumbling around at the motor and cursing. 

Fuck, that machine is huge!

Aaron swallows hard. Suddenly something is shoved into his hands and when he looks down he sees it‘s a manual. 

A manual. With words. Letters. 

Heat spreads into his body like a wildfire, panic is paralysing him and for a moment he doesn‘t even know how to breathe. 

So many words. Letters are swimming away, blurring into each other and Aaron feels dizzy. Somewhere far away he hears people talking, but over the loud rushing of the blood in his ears he doesn’t get what’s being said. 

A hand on his shoulder startles him and he gasps a gush of fresh air into his aching lungs. 

“I’ll take this, “Robert says and carefully peels the manual out of Aaron’s clammy hands, “so you can have a look at the motor.” His greens are giving him a meaningful look and Aaron is suddenly on the edge of tears, he wants to cry at this sheer relief that Robert is saving him from this horrible situation. He continues to breathe shakily until he’s slowly calming down and nods.

“...he could do it better than me?”

“He said, he fixed cars already, it’s worth a shot.”

Andy and Jack are arguing and Robert’s brother doesn’t look happy, in fact he’s glaring at Aaron as if he kind of offended him.

“But he doesn’t know anything about farm machinery!” Andy points with his torch towards Aaron and whoa, thanks for nothing, Andy. Fucker.

“I said… it’s worth a try.” The old man’s voice is calm, extremely calm and he’s emphasising every word. No room left for backchat. 

Aaron isn’t interested in some sort of alpha-fight with Andy, especially not over something so stupid like a broken combine harvester, but he at least wants to check if he can fix this. 

Still trying to shake that panic off, he walks over to the motor and Andy huffs annoyed before he makes a big gesture in stepping aside, making room for Aaron and more or less throwing the torch at him.

He catches it, swallows and takes a cautious look at the motor, hastily trying to recall the things he knew about engines. It‘s a huge relief when he realises that this one is not so much different than the ones he fixed so far. This type of the John Deere is clearly an older one, which helps a lot, because all the mechanical elements are visible and not hidden under plastic. There is oil and dirt everywhere and Aaron has to use the torch to see anything at all.

“What’s the problem with it?” he asks absently while he scans the camshafts, cylinder heads, v-belts and cables, feeling calmer with every passing second. The strong smell of oil feels safe in a weird way. It’s crazy, as soon as his fingers are buried in the motor, his mind goes blissfully blank and his hands are moving like on autopilot. 

“The problem? It’s broken, that’s the problem! What fucking stupid question.” Andy snaps, obviously still dealing with his wounded pride.

Aaron rolls his eyes. “Is it not starting? Or is it making noises? That’s what I meant.” Idiot, he adds in his head. 

“It’s running, but it’s stuttering,” Andy says grumpily.

“Have you checked the injection pump?”

“Yeah, course I have. Don’t play smart! It’s the cam belt!”

Aaron tries to ignore him as best as he can while he’s touching the parts to have a better look. Then he kneels down on the dusty floor and lowers his head so he’s nearly laying on the ground. There is a wet spot underneath the engine, which confirms his suspicion. Patting the dirt off his overalls, he gets up and points the light back at the injection pump again. 

“Then you haven’t looked close enough,” he states, “It’s difficult to spot because of all the oil, but this o-ring is leaky.” Aaron points at the location for the others to see and turns around to look at them.

Jack takes a step closer and peers into the motor and Robert is smiling. 

“Can you fix it?” Jack Sugden wants to know.

“I can try, I did it with a car once.” Aaron is 95% sure that he can do it, because it’s really not that difficult. “I just need the spare.”

Andy's face twists and he crosses his bulging arms. If looks could kill, Aaron would drop dead.

 

-    -

 

The o-ring is a bloody tiny spare and Robert can’t believe that this little thingy tied up the whole machine. It took his father two days to get a new one from the retailer he trusts and now Aaron has his hands buried in the engine and fixing the broken part. Robert’s job is holding the torch and he’s glad to help somehow since he has absolutely no clue what the heck his boyfriend is doing. It looks rather complicated and Robert is impressed how calm Aaron is, how his fingers are moving like they know exactly what to do, it’s almost like he dove into another mindset when he started working on the engine. 

Robert wonders if that’s got something to do with dyslexia? He once read something about autistic people and their special abilities in a particular field, it was called savant syndrome or something like that. Maybe this applies on dyslexic people as well? Robert makes a mental note to google that later.

It’s quiet in the barn except for the occasional clatter of the tools and Andy’s muttered curses. He’s constantly breathing down Aaron’s neck and commenting on every move he makes. Robert wants to smack the torch over his thick head to shut him up. 

“Done.” Aaron straightens his back and cleans his oily hands on an old cloth.

Jack Sugden climbs up behind the steering wheel quickly, starts the motor and Robert holds his breath. The engine springs to life with a little stutter and then it’s rattling steadily and loudly. It sounds perfectly fine. 

“Ha!” his father exclaims cheerfully, exiting the cab again. “Sounds as good as new!” Dad wears a huge grin on his face, pats Aaron’s back and pulls him into a half hug. “Good job, son!”

Good job, son. Robert feels his chest tighten. Never have those words been addressed to him. And certainly not by his own father. No matter how good Robert’s grades are, no matter how hard he works on the farm, it’s never good enough. He’s never good enough. 

Andy is like a younger version of Jack Sugden, the one who’s going to inherit everything to continue his father’s path, and Vic is the little princess, daddy’s darling girl. Whereas Robert is… just there, another mouth to feed, an outsider living under the same roof.

“We will see how good it was when we’re on the fields for the harvest,” Andy mutters.

While the old Sugden is still gripping Aaron’s shoulders with a proud smile on his face, Robert turns around and leaves the barn without looking back. He can’t stand there and watch this any longer, he can’t stand this. There are footsteps behind him, but he doesn’t want to turn around, because his eyes start burning from tears and he doesn’t want anyone to see that.

 “What’s wrong? Robert?”

And he especially doesn’t want Aaron to see that. So he keeps walking on stiff legs. 

“Have I done something?” Aaron blurts out and grabs Robert’s arm to stop him.

“Not everything is about you, you know?” he snaps sharply without turning his head, and whoa, that came out harsher than he intended to. 

The hand slides off his sleeve and the footsteps are stopping and Robert immediately feels bad. Deep down he wants to apologise, but somehow the words get stuck in his throat. Everything inside him is just a mess and it’s too much. He needs a moment to calm down before he can think straight again. 

The stables are his sanctuary once more and Dumbledore greets him with a little huff and starts chomping at the bit. Robert strokes his forehead and his cheeks, overwhelmed with a wave of sadness breaking over him. God, he’s missing his mum so much. Misses her hugs and encouraging words and her proud smile. The world was so much easier when he was a little kid and Sarah tucked him in, gave him a kiss and told him everything was fine. 

He flinches when the door opens, fearing it might be his dad or Andy, but it’s Aaron who’s coming in, looking shy and nervous.

“D’you want me to leave?” 

Robert looks back at his horse. At least the need to cry is gone now and so he swallows and shakes his head. He hears the wooden gate closing with a loud creak and then Aaron comes over to him, sneaking his arms around him from behind. 

“What’s wrong?” Aaron whispers against his neck and kisses him softly. Aaron’s body is pressing against his backside, warm and comforting, and Robert instantly relaxes into the touch and leans against him. “I know you said this isn’t about me…” The breath is tickling his skin. “But if I did something, I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry.”

“It’s not what you did, it’s what my dad did,” Robert says finally and adds bitterly: “Or, well, what he didn’t do.”

“Hm?” Aaron hugs him a bit tighter and his thumbs are drawing tiny circles on Robert’s belly.

“That ‘good job, son’ he said to you?” Aaron hums again, indicating he’s listening. “I wish he’d say that to me once,” Robert admits quietly and keeps petting Dumbledore’s smooth fur.

His boyfriend stills behind him and then he sighs. Aaron lays his head on Robert’s shoulder. “My father hasn’t said anything like that to me either. Fuck, he barely even looks at me, too busy spending all his money in the pub.”

“Father’s suck,” Robert blurts out and his voice breaks, feeling those tears welling up again. “Sorry for getting jealous.” He sniffs. 

Instead of answering, Aaron nearly crushes him with his embrace and murmurs softly that it’s alright. Something inside Robert’s chest loosens despite the death grip he’s in. It’s the reminder that he’s not alone, that Aaron gets it. And yeah, Robert misses his mum’s hugs and although this feels different, the effect is quite the same.

 

-     -

 

The combine harvester works without any antics and Sugden senior hired some additional seasonal workers who were more experienced than Aaron and Robert for the harvest, so that means more free time for the boys. 

Finally they are free to do what they want and so they head off to a small lake in the woods, a beautiful little piece of earth, with shallow shores and huge trees providing cooling shadows. Much needed on hot summer days like this. They spot other groups of teenagers and families, but eventually they find a perfect place, far away and hidden from view of the others behind a bunch of bushes. Aaron can’t wait to jump into the water with Robert. He throws his towel on the ground and starts eagerly pulling off his shirt. This is the summer he dreamt about!

Of course he hasn‘t reckoned on his boyfriend, who is holding up something in his hands that looks like a magazine. “Look, okay. Don‘t freak out… I bought you something.“

 Aaron freezes with the shirt half raised towards his chin.

“This is a car magazine-”

“I know what that is, Robert! I can see the Porsche on the front , I’m not stupid.” His hackles are rising while he slowly lowers his shirt again. He stares at the magazine and then at his boyfriend sullenly.  All he wanted was to spend a carefree time at the lake with his boyfriend, swimming and chilling, laughing and kissing a bit. Or… like... probably kiss a lot. Definitely kiss a lot. 

“Please… don’t be mad. I did some research…” Robert starts and if he wouldn’t be so goddamn freaky adorable with his shy blushing, Aaron would have brushed him off already. It’s hard to be mad at Robert when he is so fucking cute. “About dyslexia and how you can learn reading at any age.” Aaron eyes the magazine warily. “Well, they recommended you to go for something that you’re really interested in.” Robert’s skin colour turns into a deeper shade of red with every sentence and he fidgets with the pages nervously. “To, you know… make it more… fun.”

At least Robert didn’t buy one of those stupid kids books for first graders, he wouldn’t live that utter humiliation down. 

“I was thinking… we could read it together?” Robert suggests shyly. “I’d help you.”

“Can’t we just... “ Aaron moves his arm towards the water. “I just wanted to... “ One look in Robert’s hopeful green-blueish eyes and he deflates. “Okay.”

His favourite freckled face lights up and he gets a smile that’s so bright it’s almost blinding. Aaron tries to swallow his anxiety down, when they both get together on the towel and Robert opens the magazine. Aaron should have known that he wouldn’t give up on that topic, that Robert was determined to ‘help him’. The thought doesn’t sit right, it makes Aaron feel like a charity case and he doesn’t wanna be anybody's pity project, especially not Robert’s.

It’s humiliating.

“So, no stress. No worries, okay? There is no pressure. No time pressure, no teacher to grade you, no adult to judge you. Just you and me, okay?” Robert says with a sincere expression on his face, looking at Aaron intensely. 

Aaron harrumphs grumpily. Failing in front of his boyfriend doesn’t quite coincide with the sexy impression he secretly hopes to leave Robert with. He wants his boyfriend to find him hot and perfect, not some pathetic douche.

“Hey.” Robert leans in and gives him a short, but sweet kiss. “I’m not judging you. I never would. Your brain is just dealing with letters differently than mine and there are loads of techniques that can help to make it easier for you. We just gotta find the right one.”

Robert's certainty and calmness steals Aaron’s breath for a moment. How could he be so sure of that? Why was he so cool with it? Robert could have anyone he wanted, with his cute nerd look, his perfect slim body and those expressive eyes. Girl or boy. And here he is, willing to help Aaron learn to read.

He has to try this at least. 

There are so many letters. Big letters of the headline, tiny letters of the text and it all starts spinning and swimming. Aaron feels dizzy just from taking a quick look at the page, his stomach turns and he has to squeeze his eyes shut for a second.

“I can’t do this,” he grits out, anxiety going through the roof from one second to the next. 

He’s a failure. He’s failing in front of Robert. This is the worst.

“Wait.”

Robert grabs his backpack again and pulls out an empty, white sheet. Then he covers three quarters of the page so that only the headline and a picture of the Porsche 911 remains visible. 

“How’s that? The websites said it might be easier for you like this.”

Aaron swallows thickly and nods. It is better. A bit at least. Not so overwhelming. 

Pshroce 911 GT3 Frsit Tset: Tses teh wrlod on feri

What the hell is that supposed to mean? As usual, the mess of letters doesn't make sense to him. 

“Okay, let’s go through it, word by word.” Robert points to the first one. 

That one is fairly easy as Aaron knows ‘911’ is the model of the Porsche in the picture below.

“Porsche 911 GT3,“ he reads aloud and Robert nods, sliding his finger to the next word. So far so good.

Aaron focuses on every single word as best as he can, deciphering them letter by letter. It takes a moment and his heartbeat and his breathing speeds up against his will, when he basically feels the seconds ticking with every inhale and exhale. 

He knows he can read those stupid 7 words, but it takes time. Time that he normally doesn‘t have in school. It‘s an additional layer of pressure and increases his anxiety which leads to him needing even longer to get them damn letters make sense! It‘s a vicious cycle. 

“It‘s alright. Take your time. No pressure,“ Robert repeats quietly as if he just read Aaron‘s mind. 

After another long moment of staring at the headline again, willing the letters to form actual words, he starts slowly: “First… tests- test. Sets... the.. world… on fear-... fire.“

Robert beams at him as if Aaron just discovered the fifth dimension or something. “See? I knew you could do it!“ He lifts his hand to Aaron‘s neck, pulling him in to kiss him fiercely.

Aaron‘s stomach is doing a little flip, because kissing Robert sweeps him off his feet every time. Too perfect are those lips against his own, soft and moist, sliding gently, nibbling carefully. He feels Robert‘s thumb rubbing his neck, but all too soon the smooth sensation is gone and Aaron is chasing the warmth with closed eyes. He blinks his eyes open dazedly and is met with a fond smile. 

“Business before pleasure,” Robert says and taps at the page.

“So after every sentence I get a reward?“ Aaron asks eagerly. 

“Maybe after every paragraph.”

Aaron hums, eyes flicking down to those lush lips, rosy and shining. Although he truly hates reading, it just got a lot better.

 

-    -

 

When they are halfway through the article, Robert notices Aaron is on edge. It‘s a goddamn long article and deciphering word after word must take so much concentration and his boyfriend gets more and more frustrated. 

“I need a break,“ Aaron sighs, rolls over on his back and rubs his eyes with the balls of his palm.

Robert doesn’t even need to think about it, because he absolutely agrees. Reading shouldn’t be a sort of punishment, it should be fun. And speaking of fun… he glances at the lake and then at his boyfriend, before he goes on his knees and pulls his shirt off. The warm summer breeze hits his usually well hidden skin and Robert fights the urge to cover himself again, because yeah, he’s fairly in shape, but he isn’t a sporty person by nature and his body is far from toned. He’s self-conscious, especially since Aaron plays football and does some boxing in his free time.

Aaron finishes rubbing his face and drags his hands down his cheeks, pulling the skin with them. As soon as his blue eyes land on Robert, he stills. And then he sits up quickly, his gaze roaming Robert’s torso with an expression that could only be described as hungry, his tongue darts out and wets his lips. And holy shit, this is thrilling and exciting and Robert wants to kiss him, to pin him back down on the blanket and rub his body all over him.  

His blue swimming trunks are getting tight and the thin material doesn’t hide much, really. 

“Last one in the water has to carry all the stuff back home!” Robert shouts quickly and starts sprinting towards the shore, hoping that Aaron didn’t notice his bulge. 

“Wait… what?! That’s unfair! Oi!”

When Robert looks back over his shoulder, he sees Aaron nearly tripping as he tries to get rid of his tee. The sight makes him laugh, loud and carefree, before he jumps right into the cold water, head first. The cool sensation feels heavenly after the too warm summer air. He surfaces after a quick dive, shaking his wet hair and watches Aaron wading into the lake. The sunlight is reflecting on the water and bathing him in bright light. It’s the first time Robert has seen him shirtless and Aaron has that toned body he always imagined. And daydreamed about. He’s so bloody hot. The water temperature didn’t help with Robert’s boner at all, his dick is still straining against his shorts.

“I won!“ Robert smirks, trying to sound like he isn’t affected by the situation.

“You cheated.“ Aaron is coming closer now, smiling back at him, before he makes a sudden lunge and dunks him under water. When Robert appears again he’s puffing and wiping his face.

“Oh, you’ll regret that,” he threatens. 

Aaron raises his chin. “Uh-huh. Doubt it.”

It’s how the water fight starts. Robert gives as good as he takes and they both dowse each other, water is splashing everywhere. Their hysterical laughter echoes across the lake and Robert can’t remember when he was this happy. 

He used to come here alone, with a book as his only friend. 

And now he has Aaron. His friend. His boyfriend. His everything. Robert is a very lucky bloke, he knows that. And he‘s also pretty delusional for being so far gone on someone after that short time. It‘s not that he can help it though. It‘s not like he would wanna help it anyway. 

“Peace! Okay?“ he gasps, slowly swimming towards Aaron.

They both are totally out of breath, so eventually they make their way to the shallower parts closer to the shore. As soon as Robert’s feet touch the soft, muddy ground and he allows his body to relax, Aaron is on him again. This time the goal of his attack is Robert’s mouth though. Aaron’s lips taste like water.

“Wait…” Robert breaths. “What if anyone sees us?“ 

>>>
Aaron’s arms sneak around his body and Robert is being pulled into the reeds. He chuckles at how eager his boyfriend is. It’s good to know it’s not just him. Aaron’s body feels so warm in the cold water and whoa! It’s definitely not just just Robert, considering that hard dick that’s poking against his thigh.

Hands are stroking over his skin, exploring gently, and Robert shivers. The water intensifies every touch and he gets goose pimples all over, even on his neck. He kisses Aaron again, this time dipping out his tongue, needing more, and Aaron opens up and lets him in. He wraps his legs around Robert like a koala, pulling him closer, clinging to his shoulders and then he’s grinding himself slowly against Robert’s groin. The synthetic fabric provides a wonderful slide.

Robert wants to get his hands all over Aaron’s body, wants to feel every inch of bare skin, wants to map it, file it with all the sounds Aaron is making, the muffled moans and harsh breaths. 

And Robert wants. His head feels dizzy, almost like he’s drunk on lust, but maybe that makes him confident enough to move his hands further down and down until he grabs Aaron’s arse and squeezes. His boyfriend groans and jerks, cock rubbing against Robert’s.

It doesn‘t take long for them to hump each other desperately. 

Despite the cold water, Robert feels hot, like his whole body is on fire. 

And then three things are happening at the same time: Robert ends the kiss and starts mouthing along Aaron’s jawline to his right ear, where he sucks in his earlobe and nibbles gently. Aaron rolls his hips again and suddenly Robert’s fingers are pressing right against his hole. And he slams his dick hard and quick against Robert‘s stomach. 

The blue eyes are rolling back and Robert watches in awe how Aaron is coming undone and then coming with a little whimper on his lips. Mouth ajar and forehead twisted in a frown. Holy shit. 

He just came hands free. Aaron just came hands free from making out with Robert.

Holy shit.

“Oh fuck, Aaron,” Robert gasps with a high pitched voice.

This was the hottest thing he’s ever seen. He can’t hold back anymore, he needs, fuck, he needs more. Robert shoves his hand into his trunks and wraps his fingers around his cock, nearly sobbing in relief. 

It’s over in a few seconds and if Robert wasn’t floating in post-orgasmic heaven he might have been embarrassed about that. But damn. That was just too hot. 
<<<

“Sorry,” he hears Aaron muttering.

“What?” Robert wheezes, breathless. 

“I should have… you know…” 

Robert blinks confused, drifting, still riding on that high and obviously not knowing what his boyfriend is on about.

“...finished that for you,” Aaron adds and bites his lip.

Sometimes he wonders what’s going on in that head of Aaron’s and he shakes his head. “Come ‘ere, idiot.” Robert casts out all the worries with the softest kiss ever. 

 

-    -

 

He wishes they could stay in this perfect bubble forever, but eventually the water gets too cold and they both start shivering. Making sure all the evidence of their make out session is washed away first, they walk through the muddy shore back on dry land. Despite the warm air, Aaron is freezing like hell now, the long time in the cold lake taking its toll. 

He wraps the towel around himself and waits for the sun to heat him up again. His thoughts are back in the water, because that was so damn hot, especially when Robert grabbed his arse and touched his crack. Aaron isn‘t sure if he did that on purpose or if his hand somehow slipped, but fuck. That felt… incredible. It‘s too soon to get hard again, but Aaron is warming up quickly now as hot waves are emanating from his belly. 

He glances over to Robert, who is lying on his back with closed eyes, curled up in his towel like a burrito. His boyfriend is so fucking gorgeous and sweet, Aaron can‘t imagine ever getting tired of just looking at him. 

“I was thinking…“ Robert says right at that moment and blinks his eyelids open to smile at Aaron.

The green eyes are sparkling and Aaron‘s stomach does a little flip. Maybe Robert is up for a second round. Aaron definitely will be up for a second soon, just give him five minutes. He‘ll probably be able to hold out longer now that he already came once.

Aaron humms questioningly and starts leaning in. 

“...we should finish reading that article.“

Spoilsport. With a groan Aaron flops back on the ground and Robert cackles. The arsehole. 

“First business, then…“

Turns out, Robert is the reincarnated evil, because he actually makes Aaron read that whole article and it‘s a long article! In a tiny font. In the end Aaron is exhausted, but also a little bit proud of himself if he‘s honest. Robert tells him to relax and then reads the article to Aaron again. It‘s nice to lean back and listen to Robert‘s voice, so calm and soothing. All the thoughts in Aaron‘s brain slow down until he is simply just focussing on the voice, the text and his own breathing. 

When Robert reads it seems so easy, so flawless. How he emphasises some words and switches the pitch every now and then. 

Aaron is so mesmerised, he doesn‘t even realise that Robert already finished reading. 

“That was… okay? That we read this together? I didn‘t… like… force you to do anything, did I?“ Robert blurts out into the peaceful silence and his cheeks go pink. 

He looks seriously worried all of a sudden and Aaron quickly sits up, reaches out and squeezes Robert‘s hand.

“Totally okay,“ he reassures him and he really means it. 

Who knows, maybe, one day, with Robert‘s help… his reading might improve. When he looks into those green eyes, Aaron reckons anything might be possible with Robert by his side. His heart wants to beat its way out of his chest, it almost hurts. 

He loves this boy so fucking much. 

After another round of swimming - this time without a happy end, what a shame - the shadows are growing longer and the sun turns orange so they decide to head back to the farm.  

Aaron grabs all the towels and bags, then he follows a spontaneous idea and bends down to Robert‘s knees. He scoops him up in a bridal style.

“Aaron, wha-AAAAH!“

“Last one in the water carries all the stuff, you said that!“ Aaron pants out through gritted teeth, because damn, Robert is big! 

Aaron manages like ten feet before he breaks down. Robert is just too heavy. And they‘re both laughing like maniacs.

It‘s the best summer of Aaron‘s life. 

Chapter Text

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. 

“Aaron?“

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.

“What?“

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. 

“Hi!” 

“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.

Good boy. 

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.

“Nevermind.”

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.

“Yeah.”

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.

Oh.

Oh.

Sex.

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.

Except Robert. 

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.

“What’s up?”

“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.

Ow!”

Or someone. 

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. 

“Hi.”

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. 

“Hiya!”

Holly doesn’t answer, keeps looking straight ahead and speeds up a little.

“Holls?” 

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.

Oh.

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.”